16 April 2010

My Response to Ronald Lauder's Letter

Here we go.
I figure this is the only way to respond to this letter.
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15 April 2010
Dear President Obama:
SO FAR SO GOOD.
I write today as a proud American and a proud Jew.
GO ON. I AM WITH YOU. I TOO LOVE BEING AMERICAN AND JEWISH (AND I LOVE ISRAEL!)
Jews around the world are concerned today. We are concerned about the nuclear ambitions of an Iranian regime that brags about its genocidal intentions against Israel. We are concerned that the Jewish state is being isolated and delegitimized.
I AM SO THERE.
Mr. President, we are concerned about the dramatic deterioration of diplomatic relations between the United States and Israel.
YES.
The Israeli housing bureaucracy made a poorly timed announcement and your Administration branded it an “insult.”
FIRST MISTAKE. IT WAS NOT POORLY TIMED. IT WAS THE RESULT OF AN UNDISCIPLINED FOREIGN MINISTRY AT A TIME OF THE GREATEST HISTORICAL IMPORTANCE FOR ISRAEL AND ITS IMAGE ON THE INTERNATIONAL STAGE. IT WAS AN INSULT. JOE BIDEN IS SUCH A PROVEN, DEEP FRIEND OF THE JEWISH PEOPLE AND ISRAEL. TO NOT SIMPLY ADMIT THAT AT THIS POINT IN THE LETTER IS SIMPLY WAY TOO DEFENSIVE AND UNBECOMING AN INTERNATIONALLY IMPORTANT ORGANIZATION LIKE THE WORLD JEWISH CONGRESS. JOE BIDEN WAS EMBARRASSED. ERGO: INSULT. ADMIT IT, RONALD. PLEASE.
This diplomatic faux pas was over the fourth stage of a seven stage planning permission process – a plan to build homes years from now in a Jewish area of Jerusalem that under any peace agreement would remain an integral part of Israel.
THIS IS CLASSIC HASBARAH (PROPAGANDA.) BUILDING IN JERUSALEM IS NOT SOME MUTUALLY AGREED UPON SET OF PRINCIPLES. IT IS A HIGHLY POLITICIZED, UNEVENLY APPLIED SET OF MUNICIPAL LAWS, BACKED UP BY A NATIONAL POLICY AND GENERALLY FUNDED BY IDEOLOGICALLY DRIVEN, RIGHT-WING DEMAGOGUES FROM THE UNITED STATES (IRVING MOSCOWITZ (PROFITS FROM CASINOS) AND SHELDON ADELSON (DITTO). IT REMAINS, FOR MORE THAN HALF OF AMERICAN JEWRY, AN EMBARRASSMENT AND A SHAME WHEN THEY ACTUALLY SEE THE FACTS ON THE GROUND. THE PARTICULAR HOUSING PROJECT ANNOUNCED DURING BIDEN'S VISIT WAS ONLY *PART* OF THE ISSUE WHILE THE PRINCIPLE REMAINS--A BLATANT SERIES OF LAND-GRABS TO PREVENT AN MEANINGFUL PALESTINIAN DEVELOPMENT IN EAST JERUSALEM. IT'S INSULTING TO MOST INTELLIGENT MINDS TO SAY SIMPLY, "OH, THIS IS STAGE 4 OF 7--WHAT'S THE PROBLEM?" VERY DISINGENUOUS. NOT APPRECIATED, RONALD.
Our concern grows to alarm as we consider some disturbing questions. Why does the thrust of this Administration’s Middle East rhetoric seem to blame Israel for the lack of movement on peace talks? After all, it is the Palestinians, not Israel, who refuse to negotiate.
THERE IS OBFUSCATION HERE. NEGOTIATION REFUSALS HAVE A LONG HISTORY AND IT EXTENDS IN BOTH DIRECTIONS. IS RONALD NAMING SPECIFIC LEADERS? SPECIFIC ATTEMPTS AT NEGOTIATION? DOES HE LACK THE EXACT INFORMATION? THESE ARE ATTEMPTS TO ACQUIRE RHETORICAL POINTS THROUGH NON-SPECIFIC GENERALIZATIONS BUT NOT PARTICULARLY HELPFUL. HAVING SAID THAT--IF PALESTINIANS WOULD STOP ACTING LIKE IDIOTS AND BLOWING THEMSELVES UP OR LAUNCHING ROCKETS FROM GAZA AND EMBRACING NON-VIOLENT RESISTANCE, THEY LIKELY WOULD HAVE TOPPLED THE OCCUPATION LONG AGO.
Israel has made unprecedented concessions. It has enacted the most far reaching West Bank settlement moratorium in Israeli history.
THINK "IT'S THE ECONOMY STUPID." AS IN, IT'S THE OCCUPATION, STUPID. OR, IT'S NOT THE MORATORIUM STUPID. 43 YEARS SINCE THE SIX-DAY WAR. WHO CARES ABOUT MORATORIUM? RONALD--UPDATE.
Israel has publicly declared support for a two-state solution. Conversely, many Palestinians continue their refusal to even acknowledge Israel’s right to exist.
TRUE. AND MANY ISRAELIS REFUSE TO ACKNOWLEDGE PALESTINE'S RIGHT TO EXIST. AND ABBAS AND FAYYAD ACCEPT A TWO-STATE SOLUTION. DRAW.
The conflict’s root cause has always been the Palestinian refusal to accept Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people. Every American President who has tried to broker a peace agreement has collided with that Palestinian intransigence, sooner or later. Recall President Clinton’s anguish when his peace proposals were bluntly rejected by the Palestinians in 2000. Settlements were not the key issue then.
RONALD, ON ONE HAND YOU ARE CORRECT. ON THE OTHER HAND, LET ME TELL YOU A STORY. ARIEL SHARON, BEFORE HIS STROKE, CAME TO THE REALIZATION, FROM THE HARD RIGHT (SIMILARLY TO YITZHAK RABIN) THAT CHANGING PALESTINIANS' MINDS WAS NO LONGER THE PRIORITY--PRESERVING ISRAEL'S DEMOGRAPHIC AND MORAL INTEGRITY WAS. TWO STATES MEANS WE CAN MAKE OURS BETTER AND BETTER EACH DAY AND IF *THEY* WANT TO FESTER AWAY IN DISILLUSIONMENT, THAT'S THE WAY THE AUTONOMOUS COOKIE CRUMBLES.
They are not the key issue now.
AND YET, THEY ARE. BECAUSE THEY REPRESENT A JEWISH REFUSAL TO COMPROMISE, PRECISELY WHAT YOU CRITICIZE AMONG PALESTINIANS.
Another important question is this: what is the Administration’s position on Israel’s borders in any final status agreement? Ambiguity on this matter has provoked a wave of rumors and anxiety. Can it be true that America is no longer committed to a final status agreement that provides defensible borders for Israel? Is a new course being charted that would leave Israel with the indefensible borders that invited invasion prior to 1967?
I THINK THAT THE ANSWER TO THIS QUESTION IS *NO*. IN FACT, I DON'T EVEN KNOW WHY THIS WAS WRITTEN EXCEPT FROM A PLACE OF MISINFORMATION. WEIRD. I READ STUFF ALL OVER. WHO HAS INDICATED THIS?
There are significant moves from the Palestinian side to use those indefensible borders as the basis for a future unilateral declaration of independence. How would the United States respond to such a reckless course of action?
RECKLESS COURSE OF ACTION. I TRULY WONDER WHAT ISRAEL WOULD DO IN A SIMILAR POSITION. WOULD LAUDER ENTERTAIN A U.N. VOTE? SEEMS A FAIR QUESTION TO ASK. DID AMERICA ASK BRITAIN FOR PERMISSION? I MEAN, ON A CERTAIN LEVEL, AFTER 43 YEARS SINCE THE SIX-DAY WAR, WHAT MIGHT THE SOLUTION BE?
And what are America’s strategic ambitions in the broader Middle East? The Administration’s desire to improve relations with the Muslim world is well known. But is friction with Israel part of this new strategy? Is it assumed worsening relations with Israel can improve relations with Muslims? History is clear on the matter: appeasement does not work. It can achieve the opposite of what is intended.
APPEASEMENT? THIS IS A VEILED REFERENCE TO VICHY FRANCE. LOW BLOW. ASKING IF FRICTION IS PART OF A STRATEGY IS FAIR, HOWEVER. ON ONE LEVEL, I AGREE WITH LAUDER BUT WE HAVE DIFFERENT CONCLUSIONS. MIGHT OBAMA BE CALIBRATING BY SHOWING THE MUSLIIM WORLD THAT HE CAN *ATTEMPT* TO OR *POSITION HIMSELF* TO BE FAIR BY DEMONSTRATING THAT HE'S UNAFRAID TO CHALLENGE A SACRED ALLIED RELATIONSHIP? AND HERE'S WHERE OBAMA GETS TREATED UNFAIRLY. I REMAIN CONVINCED THAT HE IS PRO-ISRAEL--VERY PRO-ISRAEL--AND HE UNDERSTANDS ISRAEL'S DILEMMAS. HE IS MERELY SAYING THAT (AND HE MAY BE WRONG BUT HE MAY BE RIGHT) THAT THE TIME HAS COME TO MOVE TOWARD PEACE AND THAT IF ISRAEL (IN THE POWERFUL POSITION VIS A VIS PALESTINIANS) DOES NOT DO SO, IT IMPERILS ITS OWN WELL-BEING.
And what about the most dangerous player in the region? Shouldn’t the United States remain focused on the single biggest threat that confronts the world today? That threat is a nuclear armed Iran. Israel is not only America’s closest ally in the Middle East, it is the one most committed to this Administration’s declared aim of ensuring Iran does not get nuclear weapons.
OBAMA HAS SHOWN JUST THIS WEEK HIS WILLINGNESS TO BE TOUGH ON IRAN. MORE POWER TO HIM.
Mr. President, we embrace your sincerity in your quest to seek a lasting peace. But we urge you to take into consideration the concerns expressed above. Our great country and the tiny State of Israel have long shared the core values of freedom and democracy. It is a bond much treasured by the Jewish people. In that spirit I submit, most respectfully, that it is time to end our public feud with Israel and to confront the real challenges that we face together.
RONALD--IN THE END, WE AGREE!!!
Yours sincerely,
Ronald S. Lauder
President
World Jewish Congress
YOURS SINCERELY
ANDY BACHMAN
RABBI
BROOKLYN

and Shabbat Shalom to one and all!

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm having a life-long anxiety attack over Israel. Having grown up in a Jewish community I have a great love and respect for the Jewish people. Many of my oldest and dearest friends are Jews. But the Government of Israel seems to be doing everything in it's power to insure hatred will continue. The wall, these development projects, housing soldiers in Palestinian homes, blocking needed goods and services to Gaza. It's an arrogance that I can't condone and don't understand. Israel calls itself a democracy, but if that were true, the Prime Minister would be named Muhammed, not Benjamin. Until the American Jewish community stands up and tells Israel it will not support these actions - to the point of pulling funding, it's going to continue.

I know it's not an easy choice and the ramifications of a weak Israel are dire, but this just can't go on.

Amanda said...

I'm sorry to say that comments like anonymous scare me, it is not solely Israel's fault, there are two sides here and everyone always expects Israel to do more than we expect the Palestinians to do. I agree peace is needed and concessions need to happen in order for that to happen...but they MUST happen on both sides. And just like I sometimes expect my older son to turn the other cheek when his brother does something to him, we are doing that to Israel, and you know what, my younger son is almost 13, he too is equally responsible now and shouldn't get a buy any more; same with the Palestinians and other Israeli neighbors.

Andy, I obviously know your heart is in the right place, but I too think you are being too hard on Israel.

Anonymous said...

"OBAMA HAS SHOWN JUST THIS WEEK HIS WILLINGNESS TO BE TOUGH ON IRAN."

Obama has simply expressed a determination to seek sanctions - much watered down and without China or Turkey - through the U.N..

The New York Times had an interesting piece a few days ago on how the administration's approach toward Iran is unlikely to deter it from its current path.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/13/us/13iht-politicus.html

And Benny Morris has an article about it in the L.A. Times today, though his is more personal.

D.S.

Anonymous said...

"TRUE. AND MANY ISRAELIS REFUSE TO ACKNOWLEDGE PALESTINE'S RIGHT TO EXIST. AND ABBAS AND FAYYAD ACCEPT A TWO-STATE SOLUTION. DRAW."

Draw? I disagree.

Abbas walked away from Olmert's peace offer, and rejection of Israel's right to exist still dominates Palestinian society.

The majority of Israelis do accept a Palestinian state. They are just more conflicted over Jerusalem, and no longer believe they have a true peace partner on the other side after violence and suicide bombings (something you touch on in passing, and attribute to stupidity, rather than what it really is: Islamic fundamentalism).

And obviously, you're not above low blows. Right-wing nebbish Irving Moskowitz might revolt you with the way he makes a living, but George Soros didn't exactly make his billions from kosher business practices. And he truly has made some bizarre politic statement. I've never heard you speak of being "embarrased" by him.

You make some good points, but your political commentary is just as ideologically driven, and even as angry, as anybody's.

Andy Bachman said...

Anonymous-I believe all recent polling indicates that the *majority* of Palestinians accept the two-state solution and therefore Israel's right to exist. We see these polls over and over. It's the leaders who are at fault here.

The way Moskowitz makes a living--and both his and Adelson's record on treatment of employees does indeed revolt me, as does their clear disregard for Palestinian neighborhoods that they are using the power of the state to take over. In this weekend's Haaretz Zeev Sternhell's op-ed is worth a read.

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/pages/ShArtVty.jhtml?sw=zeev+sternhall&itemNo=1163467

In it he argues that the double-standard of Israel getting to use deeds from the Ottoman era to take over Sheikh Jarra while Palestinians who have deeds for homes in Baka but *can't* use them is simply unjust. So things like that do evoke some anger and you're right, I might tamp it down. But I am trying not to be ideological here--only fair.

Having said that, I will investigate Soros and see if I agree with you.

Anonymous said...

Hi Andy:

Just me. I was anonymous. Forgot to sign.

Actually, a recent poll of Palestinians shows that a majority reject the two state solution.

http://www.imra.org.il/story.php3?id=47709


As far as your take on Sheikh Jarra, I agree with you. Leon W. had a wonderul piece last week that voiced the same opinions.


And thanks for providing additional info on these casino guys and their business practices. I didn't realize what they were about, and I agree that using money to help hard righters in Israel derail a two state solution is repugnant.

As for your statement on Obama being "tough" with Iran, I'm in complete disagreement. Since coming into office, Obama has given at least three deadlines that have come and gone, none of which he's backed up with any action whatsoever - including sanctions - and virtually no mainstream reporters have called him on it. Ironically, now there is quite a bit in the news, including in the New York Times, about how he oversold the successes of the nuclear summit, and sanctions with Iran are unlikely to work.

The Financial Times had a very interesting piece about Obama's handling of foreign policy. Evidently, the rumblings in Washington are that he is essentially making all the decisions himself, without a "Kissinger" type of advisor who has more experience. This is unprecedented.

Here is a piece about how his administration is running a very tight ship, giving reporters access in return for favorable coverage.

http://www.thewashingtonnote.com/archives/2010/04/communications/

I bring this up because I find that too many people who really love Obama, fail to look at him critically at all. And I feel your statement about him being tough with Iran falls into that category.

Anyway, he still has time, and none of us knows what is going on behind the scenes.

So, the verdict on the effectiveness of his foreign policy is still out.

David S

Andy Bachman said...

I think, David, if you dig a bit deeper, you'll see that the polling mostly shows a clear majority of both Israelis and Palestinians accept two states. See Israel Policy Forum and Haaretz polling done with Dahaf in Tel Aviv.

As to the FT piece, I read that. There's a debate, obviously about it all. I agree that the effectiveness is still open to debate but Bush didn't get anywhere with Iran and while Obama waited to start to get tough, he's now increasingly employing that strategy. We'll see indeed.