Browsing Posts published in September, 2009

On Saturday, September 26th, Israel’s Ambassador to the United States, was the “Saturday Profile” in The New York Times.

Ambassador Oren II

Ambassador Oren’s profile took the reader on a personal road through his life, stating that “the hardest thing about becoming Israel’s ambassador to the United States was giving up his American citizenship, a solemn ritual that involves signing an oath of renunciation. ”

To read more about Ambassador Oren’s journey to the Embassy in Washington, DC, click here.

As the UN discusses the Goldstone Report, Defense Minister Ehud Barak took the bold step to set the record straight and speak directly to the people in a published op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, declaring, “It was my duty as defense minister to stop Hamas rockets.” 

Ehud Barak

At the U.N., Terrorism Pays

This week the United Nation’s Human Rights Council produced a 600-page report alleging that Israel carried out war crimes in Gaza. The Goldstone Report—named for its chief investigator Richard Goldstone—also asserts that Israel’s motives for its operation against Hamas nine months ago were purely political. I am outraged by these accusations. Let me explain why.

It is the duty of every nation to defend itself. This is a basic obligation that all responsible governments owe their citizens. Israel is no different.

After enduring eight years of ongoing rocket fire—in which 12,000 missiles were launched against our cities, and after all diplomatic efforts to stop this barrage failed—it was my duty as defense minister to do something about it. It’s as simple and self-evident as the right to self-defense.

While such logic eluded Mr. Goldstone and his team, it was crystal clear to the thousands of Israeli children living in southern Israel who had to study, play, eat and sleep while being preoccupied about the distance to the nearest bomb shelter. When I accompanied then-presidential candidate Barack Obama on his visit to the shelled city of Sderot, he said “If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I’m going to do everything in my power to stop that. And I would expect Israelis to do the same thing.” Too bad the Human Rights Council wasn’t listening.

Whenever we are forced to defend our own lives, it is our obligation to do so in a way that ensures that the lives of innocent civilians on the other side are protected. This duty becomes extremely difficult when we have to face an enemy that intentionally deploys its forces in densely populated areas, stores its explosives in private homes, and launches rockets from crowded school yards and mosques. In Gaza, we reached out to the civilians via millions of leaflets, telephone calls and text messages urging them to leave areas before we acted.

So when the Goldstone mission gathers testimony from local residents in Hamas-ruled Gaza, but forgets to ask them whether they happened to notice any armed Palestinians during the Israeli operation, or didn’t realize that its impartially chosen witnesses happened to be known Hamas operatives according to Israeli intelligence, I begin to question the methodology of such a “fact-finding” effort.

Although I am incensed by the Goldstone Report, I must admit that I was not surprised. It is, more than anything else, a political statement—not a legal analysis.

This shameful document was produced by the Human Rights Council, a body whose obsession with Israel has led it to produce more resolutions condemning Israel than all other countries combined. By its lights, the evils of Israel far outweigh those of countries like Burma, Sudan and North Korea.

In its blind zeal to demonize Israel, the council has produced a document that undermines every other democracy struggling to defend itself against terrorism. The message broadcast by this report to the new world order? Terrorism pays.

Yet, an accusation, however ludicrous, is still an accusation, and it mustn’t remain unanswered.

If the U.N. or anyone else has complaints, they should direct them towards the Israeli government. I have in-depth knowledge about the extent of the Israel Defense Forces’ (IDF) efforts to reduce civilian casualties, and I am convinced that the actions our government took are equal to or exceed actions taken by the armed forces of any other democratic nation. Strikes against extremely valuable Hamas targets were aborted in mid-operation due to the unexpected presence of civilians.

Hundreds of thousands of warnings of impending IDF activity were provided to the population by leaflet, radio, telephone and text messages. Humanitarian supplies were allowed to flow into Gaza despite the fact that Hamas shelled the convoys and confiscated the aid they carried.

Israel is not perfect. As much as we as a society try to uphold the IDF’s ethical code, mistakes sometimes happen and deviations from procedure occur. Whether we like it or not, Israel is one of the most scrutinized countries in the world. And when we are told that things may not be right, we check it out and, when necessary, prosecute those involved. We are now pursuing two dozen criminal investigations regarding events that occurred in Gaza. We don’t need the Human Rights Council, Richard Goldstone, or anyone else to teach us how to maintain the democratic principles which are our lifeblood.

As sobering as the thought may be, terrorists will welcome this report. It has made their work much easier, and the work of their potential victims more difficult.

I believe that the time has come for us to put an end to this calculated erosion of common sense. The nations that share democratic values must not allow themselves to be handcuffed by the abusive application of lofty ideals. Democracies should be concentrating on defending themselves from extremism—not from accusations by kangaroo courts.

Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Nearly 62 years ago, the United Nations recognized the right of the Jews, an ancient people 3,500 years-old, to a state of their own in their ancestral homeland.

I stand here today as the Prime Minister of Israel, the Jewish state, and I speak to you on behalf of my country and my people.

The United Nations was founded after the carnage of World War II and the horrors of the Holocaust.  It was charged with preventing the recurrence of such horrendous events.

Nothing has undermined that central mission more than the systematic assault on the truth. Yesterday the President of Iran stood at this very podium, spewing his latest anti-Semitic rants.  Just a few days earlier, he again claimed that the Holocaust is a lie.

Last month, I went to a villa in a suburb of Berlin called Wannsee. There, on January 20, 1942, after a hearty meal, senior Nazi officials met and decided how to exterminate the Jewish people. The detailed minutes of that meeting have been preserved by successive German governments. Here is a copy of those minutes, in which the Nazis issued precise instructions on how to carry out the extermination of the Jews.   Is this a lie?

A day before I was in Wannsee, I was given in Berlin the original construction plans for the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. Those plans are signed by Hitler’s deputy, Heinrich Himmler himself.  Here is a copy of the plans for Auschwitz-Birkenau, where one million Jews were murdered.  Is this too a lie?

This June, President Obama visited the Buchenwald concentration camp.  Did President Obama pay tribute to a lie?

And what of the Auschwitz survivors whose arms still bear the tattooed numbers branded on them by the Nazis? Are those tattoos a lie?  One-third of all Jews perished in the conflagration.  Nearly every Jewish family was affected, including my own.  My wife’s grandparents, her father’s two sisters and three brothers, and all the aunts, uncles and cousins were all murdered by the Nazis.  Is that also a lie? continue reading…

Israel has gone to great lengths to improve the conditions in the Palestinian Authority.

To learn more about these efforts, visit: Supporting Palestinian Capacity
Building: Israel’s Efforts in Supporting the Palestinian Economy, Civil Affairs and
Security Reforms

Building PA Capacity

Sderot Child

As the Goldstone Report was released on September 15th, it must be reminded that even before the investigation, the mission ignored the thousands of Hamas missile attacks on civilians in southern Israel which made the Gaza Operation necessary.

Both the mandate of the Mission and the resolution establishing it prejudged the outcome of any investigation, gave legitimacy to the Hamas terrorist organization and disregarded the deliberate Hamas strategy of using Palestinian civilians as cover for launching terrorist attacks.

The unbalanced nature of the resolution establishing the Mission was the reason that so many States on the Council, including all member states of the European Union, Switzerland, Canada, Korea and Japan, did not support it, and why many distinguished individuals, including former High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson, refused invitations to head the Mission.

Notwithstanding its reservations, Israel will read the Report carefully – as it does with all reports prepared by international and national organizations. Israel is committed to acting fully in accordance with international law and to examining any allegations of wrongdoing by its own forces.

Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has launched a special website which provides factual information addressing the legal and political context of the conflict in Gaza, the issue of Gaza war crimes, the issue of human rights and the investigations into the Israeli military conduct during combat.

The website discusses various issues relating to the Israeli military operation undertaken by the Israel Defense Force (IDF), better known as “Operation Cast Lead” or “The Gaza Operation” in December 2008-January 2009.

The website can be found at:

http://www.mfa.gov.il/GAZAFACTS

On Sunday, September 13, 2009, as George Mitchell traveled to Israel to further advance negotiations, Israel’s Consul General in New York, Asaf Shariv, published an op-ed in the New York Daily News regarding the often misunderstood issue of settlements.

Israeli settlements: a red herring, not the key to peace

By Asaf Shariv

U.S. special envoy George Mitchell has just arrived in the Middle East with the mission of jumpstarting peace talks. On the top of his agenda, yet again, will be a push to freeze or roll back Israeli settlement activity.

However, this issue is deeply misunderstood. Though settlements are long held up as a prime obstacle to peace, that’s a gross distortion that glosses over Palestinian rejectionism.

A quick glimpse at history tells the whole story. Two decisions gave modern international recognition to the bond that has existed between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel for thousands of years. The right of the Jewish people to its own independent state was recognized in the Balfour Declaration of 1917; it was reaffirmed in the 1947 UN resolution declaring the Land of Israel home to the Jewish people.

It is a sad historical fact that both were roundly rejected by the Arabs, who launched a war against the newborn Jewish state.

There were no settlements in 1948. Yet we immediately found ourselves fighting for our lives. And if no Israelis lived outside of Israel’s tiny borders until 1967, it makes one wonder what the Palestine Liberation Organization intended to accomplish when it was founded … in 1964.

Needless to say, we survived. Ever since 1948, Israel has sought an end to the conflict, its leaders extending their hand to all neighboring states and their peoples in an offer of peace.

It was for the sake of peace that in 1982 Israel’s government evacuated thousands of Jews from their homes in Sinai as part of a sustainable peace treaty with Egypt. The broad Arab war against Israel continued.

Four years ago, in late August 2005, Ariel Sharon tried to salvage the hope for peace with the Palestinians. He was even prepared, despite constant terrorism, to accept the assumption that what the Palestinians truly desired was self-determination and their own independent state – not the elimination of Israel.

I watched Sharon struggle to make one of the most difficult decisions he had ever had to make – to unilaterally leave Gaza. It was heartrending to see Jews forced from their homes by order of the Jewish state.

At first it reminded us of the 1982 evacuation of the Sinai, except this time peace did not follow. Quite the opposite – practically as soon as the gate closed behind us, Palestinians in Gaza destroyed what we had left behind and began to fire thousands of rockets into southern Israel. Our children could no longer play in their playgrounds; they never knew when the next rocket would strike.

As terribly as our people have suffered since 2005, it pales in comparison to the brutality we have witnessed in Gaza, aimed at the Palestinian people by Hamas. Political opponents have been tortured and thrown from windows; rival factions have forced children to literally stand between them and bullets; innocent Palestinians have been blown up by explosives stored – or manufactured – in neighboring houses. This is what the Palestinians made of their newly Jew-free home.

It is time to realize that the settlements won’t settle it, after all.

Peace in the Middle East does not hinge on settlements. And in Israel, a country governed by democracy and rule of law, a country that has made and will still make sacrifices for peace, settlements are no obstacle to progress.

We Israelis cannot afford the luxury of seeing the world in black and white. We know that peace will not be found at either extreme. What the Palestinians need now is leadership that understands this as well, and is brave enough to establish an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel, the nation-state of the Jewish people.

History has shown that settlements don’t stand in the way of peace. Continued rejection of our unalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, however, just might.

Shariv is the Israeli consul general in New York. From 2002-2007 he served as personal media adviser to Prime Ministers Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert, and was a member of the special task force that worked with the U.S. government.