Subscribe to The Jewish Standard free weekly newsletter

 
Blogs
 

entries tagged with: Hosni Mubarak

 

100 Jewish leaders score Mubarak on Darfur

_JStandardWorld
Published: 21 August 2009

On the eve of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s visit to the White House, 100 American Jewish leaders criticized him for recently hosting a visit by Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for his role in the Darfur genocide.

One hundred Jewish leaders, including three local rabbis, signed a letter of protest to Mubarak, which was sent to the Egyptian embassy in Washington on Monday, the eve of Mubarak’s Aug. 18 visit to the White House.

“Bashir should be behind bars, not treated as if he is a respected international leader, “ said Rafael Medoff, director of the Washington-based David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, which organized the protest.

The Jewish leaders urged Mubarak “to declare that Bashir will no longer be welcome in Egypt, and that Egypt will cooperate in efforts to implement the International Criminal Court’s arrest warrant.” They also wrote that “the warm welcome Bashir was given in Egypt evokes painful memories of the sheltering of fugitive Nazi war criminals in Egypt after the Holocaust.”

The Jewish leaders’ letter is part of the Wyman Institute’s “Bashir Watch,” a project that tracks Bashir’s travels and urges governments to treat Bashir as a pariah and cooperate in efforts to arrest him.

The signatories on the letter, representing a broad religious and political cross-section of the American Jewish community, include senior leaders of the Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, and Reconstructionist movements; senior past or present officials of the American Jewish Congress, the Anti-Defamation League, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the National Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism, the Foundation for Jewish Culture, the Jewish Educators Assembly, and other organizations; and prominent rabbis from coast to coast.

Among them were Rabbis Randall Mark of Cong. Shomrei Torah in Wayne and president of the North Jersey Board of Rabbis; Ronald Roth of the Fair Lawn Jewish Center/Cong. B’nai Israel; and Eliezer Diamond, a Teaneck resident who is associate professor of Talmud and Rabbinics at the Jewish Theological Seminary.

Mubarak was visiting Washington as part of President Obama’s push to accelerate a resumption of Israeli-Arab peace talks. The White House wants Egypt to help press the Palestinians back to the table and to persuade other Arab nations to make conciliatory gestures to Israel.

Mubarak met Monday morning with an array of leaders from Jewish groups who told him that conciliatory measures from Arab nations, including allowing Israeli overflights and expanding business ties, would help Israel make concessions. Arab states and the Palestinians first want Israel to commit to a settlement freeze.

“He said he believes that Israel has to do its share,” said one participant who spoke on condition of anonymity because the meeting was off the record. “I hope we delivered the message that, not that we disagree with that, but that the Israeli public needs to see a changing wind blowing in the Arab world that would create a better context for hard decisions.”

The meeting also covered expanding ties between Israel and Egypt and presenting a united front against Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons program.

Egypt’s role in attempting to broker the release of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier held captive in the Gaza Strip since 2006, was discussed as well. (See page 6.)

JTA/David Wyman Institute

 
 

Israeli-Palestinian preview

Who’s coming to dinner at the White House?

WASHINGTON – The White House dinner on Sept. 1, prior to the official launch of renewed Palestinian-Israeli talks, will be key to outlining the contours of the negotiations.

“The dinner will help to restore trust,” Dennis Ross, the Obama administration’s top Iran policy official, said in a conference call last Friday with Jewish organizational leaders.

Unless, that is, it turns into a food fight.

Until the dinner, the exact issues to be negotiated will remain unknown. What we do know is who will be there and where they’re coming from. Here’s a preview.

Benjamin Netanyahu – Israeli prime minister

The proposed talks will mark the second time that the 60-year-old Netanyahu has engaged in negotiations with a Palestinian partner under U.S. pressure. Last time, in 1997, while facing then-President Bill Clinton and the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, Netanyahu ceded a degree of control around Hebron to the Palestinians. He has since suggested that he regrets the concession: He was recorded as telling a grieving settler family in 2001 that his agreement was little more than a ruse to keep a hostile administration at bay. Also, his revered father, Benzion Netanyahu, was known not to be happy with the concession.

image
Israeli Prime Minister Bejamin Netanyau, right, seen here with U.S. special envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell in Jerusalem on Aug. 11, welcomed Mitchell’s announcement of new direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians. Moshe Milner/GPO

Having completed a slow climb back to the premiership after his plunge in popularity following his first term, from 1996 to 1999, Netanyahu reportedly sees himself in a much stronger position vis-à-vis Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and President Obama than he was with Arafat and Clinton.

Netanyahu wants to get security issues out of the way before he talks final-status issues like Jerusalem, borders, and refugees. Making sure that he has a plan to protect Israelis will be key in the effort to pitch concessions to an Israeli public still wary of the pounding Israel took after it withdrew unilaterally from Gaza in 2005.

The immediate question for Netanyahu is whether or not he’ll extend the self-imposed, partial, 10-month settlement construction freeze that is set to expire in late September. If he doesn’t, Abbas has said he’ll quit the talks.

Mahmoud Abbas – Palestinian Authority president

Abbas, 75, is a successor to Arafat who has been far less problematic for his Western allies but far less esteemed by the Palestinian people. His nadir came when Hamas militants drove the Palestinian Authority out of Gaza in a bloody coup in 2007. Since then, Abbas has endeavored to reestablish his Fatah party and the Palestinian Authority as the inevitable repository of Palestinian ambitions for statehood.

Negotiations are the only way for Abbas and his prime minister, Salam Fayyad, to demonstrate to the Palestinian people that diplomacy trumps violence as a means to statehood. Abbas insists that Israel agree to a permanent settlement freeze, and he wants to make sure the talks get to the final-status issues as soon as possible so he can show his constituents that he is reaping the benefits of cooperation.

Barack Obama – president of the United States

It is tempting to cast the haste with which President Obama, 49, has organized these talks for early September as a sign of his panic at the prospect of November congressional elections that seem likely to result in losses for the Democratic party.

However, such an analysis would ignore the fact that Obama was pressing hard for talks months ago, when his approval ratings were much higher; it would also disregard America’s broader foreign policy strategy in the region. For the United States, having the talks now gives Netanyahu a reason to extend his settlement moratorium and thereby sustain Arab support for U.S. policies elsewhere in the Middle East. This support is seen as key while Obama attempts to juggle other crises in the region, including Iraq’s vexed attempts to set up a government and the simmering concern over Iran’s accelerating nuclear ambitions.

A peace treaty also would signal U.S. strength in the region; a Palestinian state would allow Arab governments some leeway in explaining to their populace why they are aligning with a U.S. effort to isolate the Iranian theocracy.

The U.S. posture has been to insist that these are direct talks, but Obama has not been shy about threatening direct intervention if there are stumbles.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Jordanian King Abdullah II

The United States sees both these figures as critical to making the talks — and, eventually, Palestinian statehood — work.

Egypt maintains some sway over Hamas, and controls access to a major entry into Gaza. Jordan has been deeply involved in helping to train the P.A. police force, and would be a natural outlet for a resurgent Palestinian economy. Both countries are Israel’s only neighbors officially at peace with the Jewish state.

Mubarak, 82, is known to be ill and eager to transfer power smoothly to his son, Gamal Mubarak; containing the Gaza problem and playing a role in birthing a Palestinian state would provide a much-needed boost to Mubarak rule.

Abdullah, 48, is also eager to contain Islamist extremism and has in recent years positioned his regime as a bridge between the West and the Muslim world. The emergence of a Palestinian state in the west bank would also help to quell the notion that Abdullah’s kingdom, where the majority of the population is Palestinian, should be the Palestinian state.

Hillary Clinton – U.S. Secretary of State

Clinton, 62, is set to play the role of the primary broker at the peace talks. Beginning Sept. 2, she will host the first substantive talks Israeli and Palestinian leaders will have had since 2000. That is a sign of Obama’s increasing confidence in his one-time bitter rival for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Clinton aides have leaked to the press their frustration with the perceived limits on her role, saying she has been kept out of the big games. That is changing, as evidenced not only by her newly central role in these talks, but also in her recent front-line exposure as she urged her former Senate colleagues to support new arms treaties with Russia. Israelis have been hoping for Clinton’s return, despite her role in March in dressing down Netanyahu over Israel’s announcement, during a visit by Vice President Joe Biden, of a large housing start in eastern Jerusalem. Clinton long has been seen as having strong emotional ties to Israel — ties that Israelis feel Obama lacks.

It probably doesn’t hurt that she spent part of her daughter Chelsea’s wedding this summer carried aloft in a chair during the dancing of the hora.

JTA

 
 

Unrest in Egypt could lead to Israel’s worst nightmare

JERUSALEM – For Israel, the popular uprising against the Mubarak regime raises the specter of its worst strategic nightmare: collapse of the peace treaty with Egypt, the cornerstone of its regional policy for the past three decades.

That is not the inevitable outcome of the unrest; a modified version of the Mubarak government could survive and retain the “cold peace” with Israel. But if, in a worst case scenario, democratic or Islamic forces were to come to power denouncing Israel and repudiating the peace deal, that could herald the resurrection of a major military threat on Israel’s southern border.

The largely American-equipped and American-trained Egyptian army — by far the most powerful military in the Arab world — numbers around 650,000 men, with 60 combat brigades, 3500 tanks, and 600 fighter planes. For Israel, the main strategic significance of the peace with Egypt is that it has been able to take the threat of full-scale war against its strongest foe out of the military equation. But a hostile regime change in Cairo could compel Israel to rethink its military strategy, restructure its combat forces, and, in general, build a bigger army, diverting billions of shekels to that end with major social and economic consequences.

A hostile government in Cairo could also mean that Egypt would be aiding and abetting the radical Hamas regime in neighboring Gaza, rather than, as at present, helping to contain it.

Worse: If there is a domino effect that also leads to an anti-Israel regime change in Jordan, with its relatively large Islamic political presence, Israel could find itself facing an augmented military threat on its eastern border, too. That could leave it even worse off than it was before 1977, facing a combined military challenge from Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and the Palestinians — with the added menace of a fundamentalist Iran that seeks to acquire nuclear weapons.

The strategic importance of the peace with Egypt has come to the fore during a number of crises over the past decade. Without it, the second Palestinian intifada (2000-2005), the Second Lebanon War (2006), and the Gaza war (2008-2009) could easily have triggered wider regional hostilities. But in each case, in the teeth of region-wide popular sentiment against Israel, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak adamantly rejected calls to commit Egyptian soldiers to the fray. On the contrary, Mubarak was critical of Hezbollah in Lebanon and of Hamas in Gaza for provoking senseless killing, and he played a significant role in achieving postwar ceasefire arrangements. “Not everything Mubarak did was right,” President Shimon Peres declared Monday. “But he did one thing for which we all owe him a debt of gratitude. He kept the peace in the Middle East.”

Because Mubarak has served as a bulwark against regional chaos and was for decades a central pillar of American strategy against the radical forces led by Iran, Israelis found it baffling that President Obama turned his back on the embattled Egyptian leader so quickly. Pundits argued that Obama’s stance sent a deeply disconcerting message to America’s moderate allies across the region, from Saudi Arabia to Morocco, that they, too, might be as peremptorily abandoned in time of need. That message, the pundits said, might drive those equally autocratic leaders elsewhere for support, even possibly toward America’s regional foe, Iran. Secondly, the pundits insisted that by distancing himself from Mubarak, Obama was encouraging the would-be revolutionary opposition in Egypt in a gamble that could prove counterproductive to American and Western interests. Clearly, the American president was hoping for democracy in Egypt and a concomitant increase in popular support for America across the region.

In his Cairo speech in June 2009, Obama offered the Muslim peoples of the Middle East a new beginning. Now, he seems to be using the Egyptian crisis to underscore that appeal to the Muslim masses. But Israeli pundits warn that this is most unlikely to work. They maintain that instead of democracy in Egypt, there could well be a two-stage revolutionary process — an initial quasi-democracy, overtaken within months by the emergence of an autocratic Islamic republic under the heel of the Muslim Brotherhood. It would be similar to what happened when the United States supported pro-democracy forces against the Shah in Iran in the 1970s, only to see the emergence of the fundamentalist ayatollahs. Moreover, in the event of an eventual Muslim Brotherhood victory, the big regional winner would be fundamentalist Iran.

Israeli diplomats across the globe have been instructed to quietly make the case for the importance of stability in Egypt. Careful not to exacerbate an already delicate situation by saying anything that might be construed as support for one side or the other, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has merely reaffirmed Israel’s desire to preserve regional stability. But it is safe to assume that his government would be relieved to see power remaining in the hands of Egypt’s current ruling elite — say, through a peaceful handover to Mubarak’s recently appointed vice president, Omar Suleiman.

The Israeli hope is that Suleiman, the former head of Egypt’s intelligence services and a major player in everything related to Egyptian-Israeli ties, would be able to continue Egypt’s pro-Western alignment and its support for the peace deal with Israel, while allowing a greater degree of democracy in Egypt and pre-empting the rise of an Islamic republic. But it is unclear how much popular support he can muster, given his close ties down the years with Mubarak, who seemingly overnight has become the most hated man in Egypt.

However the events in Egypt play out, they will clearly have an impact on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. The very notion of a threat to the peace with Egypt will almost certainly further reduce the Netanyahu government’s readiness to take risks for peace. In a news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Jerusalem on Monday, Netanyahu re-emphasized the importance he attaches to the security element in any peace package — “in case the peace unravels.” As for the Palestinians, the Egyptian protests could trigger Palestinian demonstrations pressing for statehood — without peace or mutual concessions.

As usual, events seem to be reinforcing both sides of the Israeli political divide in their core beliefs. The right is already saying that Israel should not make peace unless it can be assured of ironclad security arrangements, and the left maintains that if only Israel had already made peace with the Palestinians and the Arab world, then popular unrest such as the protests in Egypt would not be potentially so earth-shattering.

Either way, the events in Egypt are not good news for those advocating Israeli-Arab peacemaking. They could push efforts to resolve the conflict back several decades.

JTA Wire Service

 
 

Post-Mubarak, Obama embraces Middle East reform

Ron KampeasWorld
Published: 18 February 2011

WASHINGTON – A combination of calculation, luck, and principles is steering the Obama administration to emphasize democracy and human rights in the Middle East in the post-Mubarak era.

On Tuesday, President Obama laid out a revamped strategy that takes into account U.S. strategic interests in the region while also emphasizing the need to accommodate uprisings that have swept away governments in Egypt and Tunisia, as well as protests nipping at U.S. allies in Barhain, Jordan, and Yemen.

News Analysis

“I think my administration’s approach is the approach that jibes with how most Americans think about this region, which is that each country is different, each country has its own traditions,” Obama said at a White House news conference that was supposed to have been devoted to his proposed budget.

“America can’t dictate how they run their societies, but there are certain universal principles that we adhere to,” he said. “One of them is we don’t believe in violence as a way of — and coercion — as a way of maintaining control. And so we think it’s very important that in all the protests that we’re seeing in — throughout the region — that governments respond to peaceful protesters peacefully.”

image
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in a news briefing Monday following her meeting with House Speaker John Boehner on Capitol Hill at which she cited change in Egypt as a reason for not slashing foreign spending. State Department

The shift from a policy that had emphasized working with powers that be in the region to one urging accommodation of human rights on the ground resulted in part from the high-risk game Obama played as the grass-roots effort to unseat President Hosni Mubarak after 30 years of rule unfolded in Egypt.

Obama administration officials, including Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, at first had expressed confidence in Mubarak, a longtime ally valued in part for maintaining peace with Israel.

When Mubarak proved defiant, however, and offered only limited concessions to protesters, the White House managed to get out a condemnation in the narrow window before it became clear that Mubarak was on his way out.

On Feb. 10, after Mubarak repeated that he would stay until September, Obama put out a statement within an hour calling on Egyptian authorities “to spell out in clear and unambiguous language the step-by-step process that will lead to democracy and the representative government that the Egyptian people seek.”

Within a day Mubarak had resigned, and the White House was able to bask in the impression that its most recent statement had urged him to go — pronto.

That has led to a dynamic of Washington pressing for greater liberties throughout the region while gently reminding the parties that the United States will continue to preserve its interests, said Steve Clemons, an influential foreign policy analyst who has attended National Security Council meetings on Egypt.

“The focus now is to preserve core national interests with other governments, particularly in the Middle East, and at the same time not to put ourselves at odds with publics in the Middle East,” he said.

That means insinuating reminders of where American interests lie in the regions into the same statements that uphold the rights of protesters to call their governments to account.

Obama in his remarks Tuesday was careful to praise Egypt’s transitional military government for offering reassurances that it would preserve the peace treaty with Israel — a signal to candidates in Egyptian elections to take place later this year that the United States would expect the same assurances from an elected government.

“There’s still a lot of work to be done in Egypt itself, but what we’ve seen so far is positive,” Obama said. “The military council that is in charge has reaffirmed its treaties with countries like Israel and international treaties.”

More such pronouncements expressing U.S. strategic interests should be forthcoming, said Steve Rosen, a former top analyst with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

“There’s great anxiety in Israel about all this, although the Israelis have restrained themselves,” Rosen said. “The simple reality is Israel and America’s alliances are with the thin strata of the elite, not with the masses.”

Rosen said that Republicans are not checking Obama because they are under the influence of the party’s neoconservative wing, which for ideological reasons also is embracing the pro-democracy forces in the region.

“Lacking any kind of criticism for its failure to bring up strategic issues, the administration has had a free ride politically,” he observed.

In at least one area, Iran, the Obama administration is using its embrace of democratization to advance strategic goals. Obama and Clinton have referred to the success in Egypt as an example that should spur forward similar protests this week in Iran.

“We have sent a strong message to our allies in the region, saying let’s look at Egypt’s example as opposed to Iran’s example,” Obama said. “I find it ironic that you’ve got the Iranian regime pretending to celebrate what happened in Egypt when, in fact, they have acted in direct contrast to what happened in Egypt by gunning down and beating people who were trying to express themselves peacefully in Iran.”

Administration officials also are using the crises and change in the region to hit back at congressional Republicans who before the upheaval spoke of slashing foreign assistance. Clinton made the Middle East changes a focal point of her congressional meetings this week.

“Events in Egypt show how important it is that we have a global diplomatic presence, a presence that will be ready to handle crises, prevent conflicts, protect American citizens overseas, and protect American economic and strategic interests,” Clinton said after meeting Monday with Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio), the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.

JTA Wire Service

 
 

Signs of awakening in the Arab world?

 
 
Page 1 of 1 pages
 
 
S M T W T F S
1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
28 29 30