President Obama held a media availability today with the Palestinian Authority's Mahmoud Abbas, and answered questions about the Mavi Marmara incident. His comments were about what you would expect, which is to say, vapid: I think everybody, people in Israel, people in Turkey, people within the Palestinian territories, certainly people here in the United States, want to know the facts of this tragedy -- what led to it, how can we prevent it in the future. And I think -- I've said to the Israelis directly and certainly my team has communicated the fact that it is in Israel's interest to make sure that everybody knows exactly how this happened so that we don't see these kinds of events occurring again. And we expect that -- the standard that was called for in the U.N. Security Council to be met. Actually, what happened aboard the Mavi Marmara is now well known; what we need is not an international investigation, but rather a leader who is willing to tell the truth about Hamas and its supporters. Obama continued: The question now is how do we create a different framework so that people in Gaza can thrive and succeed, so that extremists are isolated as opposed to having an excuse for engaging in violent activities, but also how do we do it in a way that Israel's legitimate security concerns are met. But of course, extremists don't need an excuse to commit violence; and in Gaza, terrorists are not isolated, they are popular. More of this in a moment. With respect to the broader issue of lifting the blockade, as I said before, I think the key here is making sure that Israel's security needs are met but that the needs of people in Gaza are also met. And it seems to us that there should be ways of focusing narrowly on arms shipments, rather than focusing in a blanket way on stopping everything and then, in a piecemeal way, allowing things into Gaza. As so often with Obama, you wonder
Hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists have gathered in the Mediterranean and, after meeting up at sea, are proceeding toward Gaza in a "flotilla" of six ships. According to news accounts, the passengers aboard the ships include a co-Nobel Peace Prize winner from Northern Ireland--no surprise there--an "Israeli legislator," which I assume means an Arab member of the Knesset, a Holocaust survivor--who, I think, should know better--and "peace" activists from various countries. The ships are carrying food, cement, medical supplies and toys in an entirely symbolic effort to lift the Israeli blockade of Gaza.
We wrote yesterday about the six-ship flotilla of left-wing "peace activists" who were trying to end the Israeli/Egyptian blockade of Gaza. Israeli officials said that the ships would be taken to an Israeli port and that food, medical supplies and so on would be delivered to Gaza by a land route. But that isn't what the activists wanted; their interest wasn't in supplying Gaza, which is easily done, but in provoking a confrontation for propaganda purposes.
The Jerusalem Post has published an extremely interesting interview with Israel's Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe "Bogie" Ya'alon. Ya'alon is the former head of Military Intelligence, Israel Defense Forces OC Central Command, and chief of the IDF General Staff. Jerusalem Post interviewers David Horovitz and Herb Keinon point out that Ya'alon speaks about Israel's current challenges vis- -vis the Palestinians, Iran and the Obama administration from a position of knowledge and experience. In the question and answer session with which President Obama concluded his closing remarks at the nuclear summit in Washington last week, Obama aimed in part at formulating the national interest of the United States in the resolution of the Israel-Palestinian conflict: "It is a vital national security interest of the United States to reduce these conflicts because whether we like it or not, we remain a dominant military superpower, and when conflicts break out, one way or another we get pulled into them. And that ends up costing us significantly in terms of both blood and treasure." Here is a particularly pointed exchange with Ya'alon that alludes in part to this proposition and others circulated among the left insofar as Israel is concerned: Jerusalem Post: How concerned are you by the argument heard increasingly in the US that we are endangering the lives of US soldiers? Moshe Ya'alon: That is first and foremost a manipulation, and a lie. The truth is the complete opposite. If we are seen as standing firm against the jihadists, against Hamas and Hizbullah, that serves the US interests. And if we are seen as weak, whether in Lebanon, Gaza, or in Judea and Samaria, that harms US interests. It is
Israel must eventually give Palestinians their independence, Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak said in an interview. "The world isn't willing to accept, and we won't change that in 2010, the expectation that Israel will rule another people for decades more," he said.
The Obama administration's attacks on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shouldn't obscure the fact that Netanyahu's government has taken three significant steps in an effort to improve relations with the Palestinians. First, Netanyahu publicly endorsed Palestinian statehood. Second, Israel agreed to a10-month freeze on new Jewish construction in the West Bank. Third, Israel took a series of measures to improve the economy of the West Bank. These included removing roadblocks and checkpoints, extending the opening hours and improving efficiency at the Jordan crossing points, and easing the transfer of goods to the Palestinian areas via Israel. In addition, the government has encouraged Israeli companies and international firms to do business in the territories. According to Israeli Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, these measures have helped produce a growth rate in the West Bank of more than 10 percent over the past 12 months. Unfortunately, Israel has received no positive gestures from the Palestinians in return. To the contrary, as Steinitz points out, even as Israel encourages countries to do business in the West Bark, the Palestinians are urging the same countries to boycott the Israeli economy. And, of course, the Palestinians have refused to resume "peace" talks. Accordingly, Steinitz proposes that Israel cancel the 10-month freeze on new Jewish construction in the West Bank if the Palestinian Authority does not agree to resume peace negotiations within a month or two. The idea is a sensible one. It would put the ball in the Palestinian court, where it belongs after Israel has made the series of concessions/gestures described above. And it would force Obama, if he is actually interested in peace talks as opposed to hammering Israel, to devote some serious attention to the Palestinian side of the equation. Finally, it would demonstrate to the Palestinians that their strategy of responding to I