The Day In Israel: Fri Oct 30th, 2009

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Ha’aretz reports that the Holocaust-denying leader of the PA who has not ruled out “resistance” against Israel is allegedly deeply suspicious of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and is losing faith in his intentions to reach a peace agreement.

Ok, I’m paraphrasing but you hopefully get my point.

Updates (Israel time; most recent at top)

1:26PM: Lebanon’s ambassador to the United Nations has warned that Israel is planning to attack his country.

Presumably after we stop planning to attack our own.

7:25AM: A number of US senators visiting Israel seem to understand the insanity that is the Goldstone Report.

In the wake of the Goldstone Report and amid the nuclear threat from Iran, 10 state senators, through the American-Israel Friendship League and the National Conference of State Legislatures, are on a study tour of Israel.

With a jam-packed itinerary, the NCSL delegation is meeting with officials such as Ron Dermer, senior adviser to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, and Daniel Taub, director-general of the Foreign Ministry’s Law Division.

No. 1 on the meeting agenda? Goldstone.

According to Georgia State Sen. Don Balfour, president of the NCSL, the Goldstone document is misunderstood in the United States.

“Yesterday we had a meeting about the Goldstone Report. The average American says, ‘Hey, war crimes? [with a shocked look on his face],’ but then you read it and you see almost everything we [US] do is a war crime.

“Sometimes there are civilian casualties, which is horrible. But is that a war crime? If so, that changes the way we define war,” he said.

If indeed the IDF is accused of war crimes, “Every soldier is going to be a war criminal. If you bomb an al-Qaida terrorist and one of their family members dies, that would be a war crime,” Balfour said.

(Indeed John Bolton, a former American ambassador to the UN, has argued that the Goldstone Report has strong implications for the future of the US and warfare. “In the UN, Israel frequently serves as a surrogate target in lieu of the US, particularly concerning the use of military force preemptively or in self-defense,” Bolton wrote in an October 19 Wall Street Journal op-ed. “Accordingly, UN decisions on ostensibly Israel-specific issues can lay a predicate for subsequent action against, or efforts to constrain, the US. Mr. Goldstone’s recommendation to convoke the International Criminal Court is like putting a loaded pistol to Israel’s head – or, in the future, to America’s.”).

On September 29, 32 US senators signed a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urging the Obama administration to block any punitive measures against Israel at the UN on account of the report.

Sponsored by Johnny Isakson (R-Georgia) and Kristen Gillbrand (D-New York), the letter focuses on Israel’s right to protect itself after years of rocket attacks from Gaza.

The US State Department has criticized the “one-sided mandate” of the Goldstone Report and cited “serious flaws” in the investigation.

Balfour said he agreed with the US government’s disapproval of the Goldstone Report, saying, “I wouldn’t even say that the report is one-sided. It is perverted and it changes the game of war.”

Meetings with Israeli politicians have been eye opening for the state senators, who have learned about Israel’s past, present and future pressing issues, he added.

During a meeting at the Knesset on Wednesday, the senators heard an MK describe the battle of Jenin in 2002. In the midst of the second intifada, the IDF entered a refugee camp that had served as the launching site for many terrorist attacks. Rumors circulated that the ensuing battle had been a “massacre” against the Palestinian people.

The Knesset member explained, however, that the army went door-to-door looking for terrorists rather than immediately bombing a suspected house. The IDF put soldiers at risk to save Palestinian bystanders. This was the kind of information that slipped through many media reports, Balfour said.

He added that during the Second Lebanon War in 2006, “People will read an article and say, ‘Israel bombed Lebanon?!’ What they do not know, however, is Lebanon sent 10,000 bombs [to Israel],” he said, referring to mortar shells and Katyusha rockets.

If Mexico were to fire rockets into the United States, Balfour said, the US would probably react after one or two rockets hit. Americans simply do not realize that thousands of rockets have been launched into Israel, prompting a reaction.

In the case of Goldstone, many Americans are also not aware that the IDF warned civilians to leave areas where gunmen were operating. Balfour praised the army for dropping leaflets and urging civilians to evacuate. “People don’t do that kind of thing historically,” he said.

Moving forward, the problem facing politicians worldwide was how exactly to define a war crime, he went on. Balfour suggested a definition, one from Operation Cast Lead itself.

“When they set up terror missiles next to a school, on top of a hospital, in front of a kindergarten, that ought to be a war crime,” he said. “When they set up missiles on schools and hospitals, you eventually have to take those missiles out.”

Meetings with Israeli officials have enhanced the senators’ understanding not only of the Goldstone Report, but of how it directly impacts the Israeli people and government, he said. The delegation is focusing on education and cooperation, and meetings have been informational, without political pressure of any sort.

The state senators will not only go home with a greater knowledge of Israel, but a greater knowledge of America, he said. “The goal of the trip is to become familiar with Israel – the issues and the country,” Balfour said. “Israel gives us perspective on how to solve our problems. We will go back wondering and thinking how we can work similarly.”

7:20AM: Yesterday, I posted the Daily Show interview with palestinian politician Mustafa Barghouti and anti-Israel activist Anna Baltzer.

Anyone watching the interview and not familar with Baltzer’s real views may have been under the impression that Baltzer is “pro-peace” rather than “anti-Israel.”

Not so much.

Viewers knowledgeable in Middle Eastern affairs are probably familiar with Barghouti, a moderate member of Fatah and one of the prominent Palestinian signatories of the Geneva Initiative, an unofficial peace plan drafted by Israelis and Palestinians. But the name Baltzer may not ring a bell.

A 29-year-old Columbia grad and Jewish American, Baltzer says on numerous videos posted on YouTube that she became a pro-Palestinian activist after visiting the area and witnessing Palestinian plight.

At one point during the interview, Stewart asked Barghouti and Baltzer whether they believed in Israel’s right to exist.

While the Palestinian Barghouti has publicly supported Israel’s right to exist, Baltzer has said she believes having a Jewish State in the Middle East is unjust.

Here’s what she said in May 2008 at a University of California, Irvine pro-Palestinian rally under the header of “Never again? The Palestinian Holocaust.”

“What Israel is doing is doing to the Palestinian people is not a perversion of what Israel could be or should be,” she said at the UC-Irvine event. “It is an inevitability of having a Jewish state in a place where the majority of the people who have rights to the land are not Jewish.”

During the interview Baltzer evaded Stewart’s question regarding Israel’s right to exist, choosing instead to focus on human rights violations by Israel against Palestinians.

6:10AM: Swedish “journalist” Donald Bostrom, who in August accused IDF soldiers of harvesting organs from palestinians, is scheduled to arrive in Israel for the Dimona Media Conference.

It will be interesting to see if he wakes up drugged and in an ice-filled bathtub.

6:00AM: Former Australian Foreign Minister Gareth Evans has confirmed that Israeli and Iranian officials did in fact meet at a nuclear non-proliferation conference in September in Cairo, despite Iranian and Israeli denials.

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