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Coming from the lips of Jimmy Carter this is a real mouthful. My personal respect for Carter has never been high and it went into the toilet after he published his latest anti-semitic diatribe, Palestine: Peace not Apartheid. But, that being said, Carter’s conclusions here may be partially right.He comes down hard on George II for his policy of pre-emptive war in the case of Iraq. The disastrous results in Iraq after causing the collapse of the Saddam government were predicted during his father’s Gulf War in the early 90’s. George I stopped short of going straight to Baghdad when he clearly could have done so so as not to destabilize the country. George I’s son just wasn’t that smart.

Carter’s view of the Middle East, however, is generally tainted by his latent, though certainly not vocal until recently, anti-semitic Baptist foundations. Baptists tolerate Jews so long as they need Jews to gather again in Israel to hasten the second coming of the Messiah. Carter, actively sought peace in Israel, I would argue to hasten this ingathering of the Jews, where George II seems to be more willing to let the Israelis address the issue of war and peace on their own.

As Iraq proves, one cannot interfere in essentially local disputes by forcing compliance from afar. We tried this in Iraq and found that it simply didn’t work. Carter tried this in Israel and found that it didn’t work either.

Israel and the Palestinians must solve their own problems. I do not believe that will happen so long as either side has not had enough of war, death and destruction. No amount of outside interference or help will move the process forward until both sides have simply had enough. That is not yet the case. But we also know that it is possible in that one need only look at the recent developments in Northern Ireland to witness the results of exhaustion.

clipped from www.iht.com
LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas: Former President Jimmy Carter says President George W. Bush’s administration is “the worst in history” in international relations, taking aim at the White House’s policy of pre-emptive war and its Middle East diplomacy.
The criticism, which a biographer says is unprecedented for the 39th president, also took aim at Bush’s environmental policies and the administration’s “quite disturbing” faith-based initiative funding.
“I think as far as the adverse impact on the nation around the world, this administration has been the worst in history,” the Nobel Peace Prize winner told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in a story that appeared in the newspaper’s Saturday editions. “The overt reversal of America’s basic values as expressed by previous administrations, including those of George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon and others, has been the most disturbing to me.”
Carter also lashed out Saturday at British prime minister Tony Blair.

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Seed Newsvine

Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff write in Haaretz:

If someone were to offer Ehud Olmert the possibility of drawing a thick, black line through all of the events of the past year, presumably the prime minister would gladly accept it. It isn’t just the war in Lebanon. It is also the affair of the abduction of Corporal Gilad Shalit two and a half weeks earlier, and the failed “Summer Rain” military operation in the Gaza Strip in the wake of the kidnapping, which did not bring Shalit back and did not yield any other significant accomplishments.

Here are two of the outstanding statements from that period that Olmert would no doubt prefer to forget: On June 26, one day after Shalit was abducted: “The question of the release of [Palestinian] prisoners [in return for Shalit] is not at all on the agenda of the government of Israel.” On July 1, a statement from the Foreign Ministry on Olmert’s behalf: “There will not be any deal. The soldier Shalit will be released, or else we will be compelled to act to release him.” Behind the scenes Olmert’s people were constantly briefing and reminding journalists: The aim is to break the old rules of the game. Israel will act so that the terror organizations, first in the territories and afterward in Lebanon, will lose the desire to abduct more people.

Since then more than eight months have elapsed. The appetite of the would-be abductors has perhaps been tempered – in light of the many losses among the Palestinians and the Lebanese – but the incentive is still there. Israel is now negotiating the release of thousands of prisoners in return for Shalit, Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, in two separate channels.

The numbers reported here seem to be a bit excessive. 1400::1 is a very high price to pay for a prisoner exchange with no assurances that this behavior will cease, that rockets will no longer be targeted from Gaza into Israel, with no declaration of both the de jure and de facto existence of Israel (what other state requires this of their neighbors?) As regular readers of this blog know, I am not opposed to the notion of negotiation with one’s political enemies. It must be clear, however, that any negotiations that occur do not amount to a list of demands by one side as a take-it-or-leave-it proposition. 1400::1 or even 1400::3 borders on a take-it-or-leave-it demand.

It is clear that negotiations require two sides that are willing to engage each other in meaningful talks. No reasonable person can enter talks that place demands so far out of reach that they don’t pass the giggle test. All one can do is giggle at a demand that 1400 prisoners, each with, to use the Israeli phrase, blood on his hands, in exchange for from 1 to 3 kidnapped soldiers. The demand is simply ridiculous.

If Hamas truly intends to negotiate with Israel as its leadership has indicated in recent days then it is up to that leadership to drop their ridiculous take-it-or-leave-it demands and sit down as honest negotiators. Both sides should negotiate hard, but reasonably. Most importantly, both sides must be willing to make concessions to the other, small ones that can be monitored and deemed successful at first, and then larger ones. In the end, neither side can resort to violence the second one does not get its own way. It is time for a new way of thinking, for the playground bullies to stand aside and let the people negotiate an end to nearly a century of violence.

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Nidal al-Mughrabi, reporting for Reuters writes:

Hamas signaled a willingness on Wednesday to negotiate over the list
of Palestinian prisoners it wants Israel to release in exchange for a
captive Israeli soldier, but ruled out major changes.


The fate of Corporal Gilad Shalit, seized by Gaza militants 10
months ago, is expected to dominate talks planned for Sunday between
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud
Abbas.

Israeli leaders have rebuffed the prisoner list submitted by Hamas,
which leads the Palestinian government, because it includes many
militants deemed to have “blood on their hands” for attacks against
Israelis.

I am generally a supporter of Israel, less for political reasons than for personal ones. I am, however, bothered by the current standoff between the Olmert government and Hamas. Not unlike the Democratic leadership of the House and Senate rejecting negotiations with George II, the current Israeli (tentative) rejection of the Hamas list is self-defeating.

What has become clear is the fact that the Israeli position of the Iron Wall, a strategy adopted at the inception of the country, designed to communicate the notion that Israel is so strong militarily that to resort to force will only bring a devastating response, is no longer operative. Palestinian resistance no longer respects the Iron Wall and has invented ways to resist that lead to the condition of Israeli isolation.

What is the harm in talking? The Israeli response is that talking has not worked in the past. Promises made by the Palestinians have never been kept. Unilateral withdrawal from Gaza was met with continued rocket fire into Israel from Gaza. And so on…How can we trust that we will not be fed more of the same? It seems to me that this is the wrong position simply because it perpetuates the now with no possibility for a better future.

The Palestinians are not without blame here. Certainly as an occupied people they have chosen to respond to the occupation with violence and hate. The rhetoric that flows from the Palestinian camp is not reassuring to Israeli leadership.

Trust, however, is not something that develops immediately, especially after so many years of violence and mistrust. But, in the words of Hillel, “If I am not for myself, who will be? If I am only for myself, what am I? If not now, when?” The road to peace is not easy, but it is something that must start NOW. Outright rejection of talks with Hamas regarding the release of Shalit is a self-defeating decision. Israel must not enter talks with blinders on, that would be self-destructive. But, small steps forward seem to be not only in order but may be the only way out of the Middle Eastern mess.

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Vice President Dick Cheney accused U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday of “bad behavior” on her Middle East trip, saying she bungled a message for Syria’s president that was later clarified by Israel.

Cheney harshly criticized Pelosi’s visit to Syria this week and declared in an interview, “The president is the one who conducts foreign policy, not the speaker of the House.”

Of all people to complain about Speaker Pelosi’s Middle Eastern trip! Cheney, one of the war profiteers, is, of course, correct that the president is the one who is supposed to conduct foreign policy–with the advice and consent of the Senate, a constitutional barrier the president no longer has in his back pocket. Bush’s idea of foreign policy seems to be more or less–more troops, more money, more bombs, more deaths, more destruction –less talk, less truth, less democracy, less trust among our remaining friends. The Bush more or less pursuit of foreign policy seems to be no policy at all; rather it appears to be one new strategy for success supplanted by another leading to failure and more still failure; a seat of one’s pants approach to foreign policy. For Cheney, and architect of the Bush non-policy (a colleague of mine disagrees and calls the Iraq policy the first Oedipal War (after all, Saddam did try “to kill my daddy!”), to complain about one who is constitutionally third in line for the presidency seeking meaningful discussions with those with whom we might disagree is simply disingenuous.

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Pelosi Brings Peace Message to Assad

The Chicago Tribune reports:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi held talks with Syria’s leader Wednesday despite White House objections, saying she pressed President Bashar Assad over his country’s support for militant groups and passed him a peace message from Israel.

Place this along side the Bush remarks that insisted that sending delegations to Syria simply doesn’t work. So here is a question for you. Is it sending delegations that doesn’t work or is it that Assad and any other sane leader in the world knows that talking to Bush is something like talking to a wall. In Bush’s words..You’re either with us or against us. For Bush there is not now nor has there ever been a middle ground. There is no respect paid to cultures outside our own. The insensitivity of Bush and his neocon cronies is barbaric.

Now who the heck knows if Pelosi’s visit to Assad will be productive. In fact, that will be left to time, to the Syrians and the Israelis and other players in the Middle East. But the fact remains that refusal to engage in discourse, in dialog with the other is the surest way to not make any progress at all.

As the isolation of Syria begins to crumble, no thanks to Bush, the hopes for peace in the Middle East are raised. I applaud Pelosi’s courageous stance as she begins to open doors that Bush has kept closed and locked for the past six years.

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