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Germany Deems Settlements the Cause of Middle East Turmoil

Along with 13 other members of the United Nations Security Council – that is everyone, discounting U.S. president Obama – Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany voted in favor of a resolution deeming Jewish settlements outside of pre-1967 borders, illegal.

Germany historically has voted ‘nay’ or abstained from voting in any laws criticizing the Jewish State. Chairman of the German Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, Ruprecht Polenz, told the New York Times’ Judy Dempsey:

“the vote was highly unusual…It means that Chancellor Angela Merkel is trying to explain to the Israeli government that with the extraordinary changes taking place across the Middle East, time is not on its side when it comes to resolving the conflict with the Palestinians…”

Merkel’s calling Jewish settlements the true flashpoint of the conflict is a misnomer. The source of the conflict really goes back to the beginning of the 20th century; and some would argue it is really a metaphysical phenomenon, one that Germany knows better than anyone else in the world.

When Netanyahu caught wind of Merkel’s change of heart he furiously phoned the Chancellor to make clear his grievance. The conversation leaked to Haaretz:

Merkel replied to Bibbi’s complaint:

“How dare you?”

“You are the one who has disappointed us. You haven’t made a single step to advance peace.”

Last year, the German Parliament unanimously passed a resolution criticizing the blockade of Gaza and Israel’s storming of the Mavi Marmara.

Israeli and German relations are now the rockiest they have been in some 63 years.

Don’t Mess with Lieberman

When a “hot-tempered” Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman threatened Syria he was not necessarily expressing the sentiments of every representative of the Jewish country.

Last Thursday Lieberman warned Syrian President Bashar Assad, that in the event of a war with Israel,

“not only will you lose the war, you and your family will no longer be in power.”

During a business conference at Bar Ilan University, Lieberman said,

“Whoever thinks (Israeli) territorial concessions will separate Syria from the axis of evil is mistaken. Syria must be made to understand that it has to relinquish its demand (that Israel cede) the Golan Heights.”

His chutzpa is to be admired, but he was undermined by his colleagues:

“The foreign minister is busy with internal politics rather than diplomacy,”

Minorities Minister Avishay Braverman (Labor Party) said to a cultural forum in Ramat Hasharon on Saturday:

“Given Israel’s sensitive position in the international community, we are in need of diplomacy and a responsible and prudent foreign policy, not a policy that is driven by domestic political considerations.”

It is not that Lieberman’s sentiments were disagreeable, but it took Prime Minister Netanyahu to clear things up:

“Israel aspires to peace accords with all of its neighbors. We have done it with Egypt and Jordan and we can do it with Syria and the Palestinians…There are conditions for this. Negotiations must take place without preconditions that mean huge concessions on Israel’s part ahead of time. Also, the accord must finally be accompanied by security agreements in order to last for generations.”

Netanyahu also presented to his cabinet his plan to limit dependence on oil:

“Certain countries which control oil support terror…This is a global problem that requires international effort. I spoke of this with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, the Polish prime minister, and others, and they have expressed interest in this issue…This is an effort that will not bear fruit within the next two or three years, but within a decade we may reach a solution, for example on the issue of dependence on oil for transportation.”

Et tu, Cheney?

Cheney in RamallahNo sooner had the fine china been put away for German Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.S. Presidential candidate John McCain at Jerusalem hotels like the Kind David at Jerusalem hotels like the King David, when U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney came to town. Cheney, also back from a quick trip to beleaguered Iraq (where U.S. forces have just suffered their 4,000th war casualty) stopped off in Israel to visit both with Israeli and Palestinian officials.

Not exactly “Mr. Personality”, Cheney reiterated previous remarks by both McCain and Sec. of State Condoleezza Rice (who was also here recently) in respect to American support of a two state solution and a full partnership with Israel. Cheney also pulled no punches when he mentioned that Iran was not only a danger to Israel but to America and the non-Islamic world at large. This also was not anything new as both Senator McCain and Sec. Rice had made similar remarks.

In respect to relations between Israel and the Palestinians, Cheney said that in order for peace to be achieved, “some painful concessions need to be made”. Now, here is the kicker question in this remark: painful for whom? Israel, the Palestinians (the West Bank Palestinians, that is ) or for those nasty people called Hamas who nobody wants to deal with, except people like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hassan Nasrallah, that is. And we might as well throw in people like Ayman al-Zawahiri, Al Qaeda’s No. 2, and even more nasty than Osama bin Laden, so they say. Cheney’s visit with Palestinian President and Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas was also a bit lackluster, but what could one expect, since any rational person knows who the most powerful Palestinian leader really is.

Cheney has been behind much of America’s five plus year Iraq experience that is being “commemorated” today with the announcement of the 4000th slain U.S. combat soldier. Not as bad as Vietnam, which had at least 40,000 dead GI’s after the same 5 year period. But these new war dead are bad enough for a much scaled down professional military that requires it’s thinly spread-out troop contingents to spend at lest two duty tours in either Iraq or Afghanistan – take their choice.

As for Cheney’s short trip here, it will most likely be his last to the region, although his boss, President George W. Bush plans to be back in Israel to help celebrate the upcoming 60th Independence celebration. Busch better not plan to be here at the same time that former Beatles greats Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr plan to be here too, as they will surely upstage him.

Oh what the heck. The fact that he’s still alive with half a heart left feebly beating is a triumph in itself! Dick Cheney doesn’t need to worry about such things as upstaging the Beatles, since he won’t be attending the party.

Merkel’s Knesset Tour

German Chancellor Angela Merkel did have her say in the Knesset, including a few halting words in Hebrew, thanking Israeli parliamentarians for giving her the honor of speaking before them. Although her address was received courteously by a nearly full MK delegation, there were several who were absent due to their unwillingness to hear her address in German, the same language spoken so fiercely once by another German Chancellor, Adolf Hitler.

This address was the crowing point of her visit, which is the third she has made since becoming Germany’s leader. Her predecessor, Gerhard Schroeder, did not visit Israel even once during his 7 year term from 1998 to 2005. Although Ms. Merkel appears to be very much aware of her country’s dark past, and it’s responsibilities towards preventing such an occurrence like the Holocaust from ever occurring again, she is also probably aware that as much as she would like to, she cannot guarantee that her countrymen and women will not one day forget the period that has gone down as one of the darkest annals in world history. Some of her remarks, during her 40 minute speech in regards to German responsibility for these events are noted here:

“You may think what you want about Israel and the Jews. Many media and others in Germany defame Israel. Yet I wish, publicly, to show on behalf of the German people our responsibility for the acts of our Nazi forebears, whom we elected. I want to do that in many ways, and my visit to Yad Vashem and my speech in the Knesset – which you may strongly dislike – best symbolize this. ”
I dealing with her personal awareness to her responsibilities concerning the Holocaust, she added:

“Since the war, Germany has been welcomed back into the family of nations and has again become a major political force. However, many abroad wonder how much of the criminal past is still latent within us, and when and to what extent it will reemerge. My frequent visits to Israel – and the nature of our relations with it – also show that I am well aware of that.”

In the end, Merkel’s speech before the Knesset can only be interpreted that as much as she and many other Germans would like to prevent new upsurges in German Antisemitism, she simply cannot be responsible for what will transpire in the future. It will not be long before everyone directly involved in the period of 1938 to 1945 will be dead; and this includes both the victims as well as their tormentors.

When this happens, it will be much easier for historians, in both Germany and elsewhere, to attempt to re-write history as there will be no witnesses around to prove it otherwise. Although there are plenty of photographs, records (the Nazis were excellent record keepers) and other material around, the longer time passes, the less this information will be believed as actual fact.

This is the reality of historical events, including one as awesome and as tragic as the Holocaust. But in a country like Germany where many people are trying to forget what their parents and grandparents did in WWII, history could very well be “re-written” in order to satisfy the nationalistic norms of future generations.

We should wish the efforts of Chancellor Merkel well, and hope that her successor will carry on her efforts to insure Germany’s responsibility in preventing such an occurrence from reoccurring, not only by her countrymen, but from those in other countries as well, especially ones like Iran, with whom Germany has good trading and diplomatic relations. For as the time worn saying goes, “he who does not learn from history is doomed to repeat it”.

A German In The House: Merkel in Israel

Merkel in IsraelGerman Chancellor Angela Merkel arrived in Israel on Sunday for the start of a three day visit to both Israel and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. This is Merkel’s second visit to Israel since being elected Chancellor; and one of her agendas includes addressing the Knesset on Tuesday. Appearing with Prime Minister Olmert shortly after her arrival, Merkel said that her country is strongly committed to Israel’s defense, and added that “a threat to Israel is also a threat to us”.

Merkel went on to mention that she plans to put more effort into confronting the threat that Israel faces from Iran, which many say is Israel’s greatest threat today. Merkel’s address, in German, before the Knesset on Tuesday has upset some Knesset members, as well as many Holocaust survivors still alive and living in Israel. The address will be the first by a German head of state since diplomatic relations were established between the two countries in 1965. Since then, Israel and Germany enjoy thriving trade relations, and victims of the Holocaust, and their families have received more than 18 billion Euros ($25 billion) in retribution payments.

Germany has tried to promote the cause of peace between Israelis and Palestinians, which has often been problematic due to continuous acts of violence between the two entities, as well as Israel’s polices dealing with settlements in what the Palestinians consider to be occupied land. The German Republic’s relations with the Hamas controlled sector of the Palestinian Authority has become even more problematic, and she has no plans to visit Gaza during her visit.

Merkel’s visit will coincide with the visit on Tuesday of U.S. Senator and Republican Presidential candidate John McCain, who is presently on a “surprise visit” to Iraq. McCain is a strong supporter to America’s continued involvement in Iraq, and even commented recently that as far as he is concerned, American troops “will stay in Iraq for even a hundred years if they need to”. McCain is also said to be a strong supporter of Israel, which probably explains his desire to come here for a firsthand look regarding the situation. Whether the two will meet while McCain is in Israel is not known.

It will be interesting to see what kind of response Merkel receives when she does address the Knesset in a language that bring back only the darkest memories to Israel’s more than 200,000 Holocaust survivors. However, as German is her native tongue, many people believe that Chancellor Merkel has the right to speak in this language during her Knesset address, and it must be noted that Israeli leaders have spoken to German government bodies in Hebrew in the past.

German Youth Suffering Holocaust Fatigue

A report issued by a German Foreign Ministry delegation that deals with teaching the lessons of the Holocaust to German school children said that many children in the country are becoming weary of this subject, even to the point that they may be suffering from what is now being called “Holocaust fatigue”. The report was given by Dr. Benedikt Haller, a Foreign ministry official who is involved in relations with Jewish organizations in respect to issues involving the Holocaust and anti-Semitism.

German Youth Suffering Holocaust FatigueThe gist of the problem, according to Haller, revolves around a new generation of educators who believe that German children “must know the truth about what happened in their country before and during WWII”. Previously, not all the actual details had been conveyed to schoolchildren, perhaps for the reason that their parents and others of the same age group were embarrassed by what had happened during the Holocaust. This new idea of literally “bombarding” German children with literature dealing with this subject has now worked in reverse of what it was intended to do.

An example of this feeling was expressed in a recent cartoon in Der Speigel, one of Germany’s top newspapers. In this cartoon, a young, bewildered German student is standing in a bookstore that is literally crammed with books and other literature dealing with the Holocaust. This cartoon ironically came out on the 60th anniversary of Adolf Hitler’s rise to power.

A specially designed comic book, entitled “The Search”, has recently been introduced into German school curriculum, and deals with Jewish children of about the same age who became victims of the Holocaust. German schoolchildren are required to read the book and afterwards discuss it in class. German kids then give their ideas of what they would have done if in the same situation.

These issues come on the eve of German’s Chancellor Angela Merkel’s planned visit to Israel in which she addressed the Knesset in her native language – German. This has already been criticized by some officials in Israel, while others do not have a problem with it as German is, after all, Merkel’s native tongue. The German Chancellor visited Israel not long after she took up her post, and visited the Holocaust memorial at Yad Vashem. Her uncomfortable feelings regarding her country’s past were very evident during this visit.

A new Holocaust remembrance and memorial office is soon to be opened in Berlin, which Haller is very proper since Berlin was the city where the Holocaust actually began during the1930’s and where acts of genocide against were later planned.

If German children are taught less about their country’s darker past, it could later reflect on how they feel about Israel and Jews in general, and could result in a rise in antisemitism in Germany. And as the well said saying goes: “he who forgets the lessons of history is doomed to repeat them”.

No Gays or Nukes in Iran

Many were ‘delighted’ to hear Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declare that “there are no homosexuals in Iran” at his appearance before a selected audience at New York’s Columbia University of Monday, September 24. Many more were even more thrilled to hear him say before the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday that “the nuclear issue is now a closed subject and will only be discussed within the framework of the IAEA”. All this is good to know, and makes everyone who hasn’t been following this absurdity more apt to eat their Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes without burping. I think that the most reassuring statement yet by the visiting Iranian leader was in regards to his grand visions of the future, Some of these ‘visions’ include a demise of Western powers, especially the United States; and the creation of an Israel-less Palestine, to be brought about by “democratic referendum” .

With all this “good news”, why are a lot of people, even the leaders of countries like France and Germany so worried? I’m not referring to this boogeyman’s usual enemies like the U.S. and Israel. I’m referring to former friends of the Islamic Republic like France and Germany, both of whose leaders used their forum opportunity before the General Assembly to speak out against the dangers of Iran becoming a nuclear power. Why this new stance by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French president Nicolas Sarkozy? This is something that had previous only been espoused by people such as U.S. President George Bush and Former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair (especially following the Iranian ‘detainment’ of several of Her Majesty’s naval personnel).

And why was Columbia University President Lee Bollinger so “frank” when introducing his special guest as “a cruel and petty dictator”? Perhaps people are finally starting to wake up in regards to the potential danger of this man who doesn’t seem to give a ‘didly squat’ concerning reactions to his ideas for a new world order. As he later said himself, when addressing the world body: “the age of the empires are over”. I presume that by ’empires’ he was referring to his adversaries, and not to his own country, formerly known as Persia, and once one of the greatest empires in the world. In fact, the Persian Empire once threatened to overwhelm the entire known world, and was only held back by the combined efforts of 300 of Grecian King Leonidas’ personal warriors, and the victory of the Grecian naval fleet over the Persians at Thermopylae.

All that was a long time ago, however, and now a new religious imperial threat, in the form of militant Islam, threatens to once again overwhelm much of the modern “Known World”.

It is truly amazing that a demigod such as Ahmadinejad can come to a place like New York and express his views within the combined aspects of free speech and diplomatic immunity. It’s the policy of diplomatic immunity that has caused so many problems in the past, especially during the Cold War between the West and the Soviet Union. Diplomatic immunity has allowed people traveling with diplomatic passports to get away with virtually anything – even murder. As long as two countries are not in an actual state of war with one another, their representatives can freely come and go as they please under the guise of diplomatic immunity.

Besides proudly saying that homosexuality does not exist in his country (or heterosexuality either, unless people are married); he also said that all groups living in Iran, including women and minorities such as Jews have democratic freedoms and “proportional representation” in parliament.

With all this “good news”, why are so many so anxious for Mr. Ahmadinejad and his entourage to go back to where they came from? It’s early Autumn in New York; but from a political point of view for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, it might as well be the dead of winter.

Gilad Schalit Day 286 – Pair Of Glasses

Gilad Shalit Ynet Picture
Gilad Shalit was kidnapped 286 days ago today. Together with Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev (269 days), the guys are missing and we wait for their return. Read more about them here.
I read today that Gilad Shalit received his reading glasses. The glasses were sent to him 2 months ago by his father Noam, and he reportedly received them 2 weeks ago through Egyptian mediators. It took almost 2 months to get him a pair of reading glasses. I guess the Palestinians just don’t get it…

The Palestinians are tired of this whole hostage “thing” though and that is supposedly the good news. In a recent visit of the Chancellor of Germany, Angela apparently was mostly talking about Shalit and gave little attention to the Palestinian political issue to the extent that made the Palestinian very “disappointed”. She also didn’t hide her disappointment from Abu Mazen’s impotence and lack of ability in the Shalit kidnapping. I am sure that the Palestinians would like to get this whole “messy kidnapping thing” out of the way, after all, its difficult to be taken seriously as an actual law biding country when you go around kidnapping soldiers. Look at Iran, the spiritual and ideological leader, the sponsor, even he had to return the British hostages.

Springtime in Deutschland and the 2006 World Cup

Soccer Fan 2006Copyright: AFP / afp.com

Ah, Spring! That time of year when everything is renewed and a young man’s (and woman’s) fancy turns. Though actually occurring in late Spring the 2006 World Cup Football competition brings many people together every four years to watch the games and drink gallons of beer and other potions of alcoholic content. With the fest being held this year in Germany, especially in such emotionally sensitive cities like Berlin and Nuremberg, this year’s competition could turn out to be more than just ‘interesting’, to say the least.

To add to the cauldron of ethnic and regional strife that often accompanies this month long competition, this year’s event may have some even stronger ‘spices’ added if Iran’s President Mahmoud Admaninejd decides to ‘pitch up’ for the games, should his country’s team make it into the second round of the competition. What has previously been a ‘competition’ between inebriated fans from countries like the U.K. and Ireland, and other fans on the European mainland, may turn into something a bit different this year. With Germany’s win over Costa Rica, seen by many as a triumph of Northern Europeans over ‘others’, the addition of the Iranians may make the coming days even more controversial, should Mr. Ahmadinejab actually show up.

In previous World Cup competitions, problems with violence, or ‘hooliganism’ has often resulted in both wide scale injuries and property damage being inflicted by people who appeared to come to the host country to do nothing but wreak mayhem and wind up filling up that country’s jails. Germany has been bracing itself for months for this year’s contest, and Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government realizes the sensitivities involved in it being held in Germany.
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Schulz on Hamas, flinching, Buchanan probation and the Marshall Plan

By Denis Schulz

“Everybody is saying exactly the same thing,” said U.S. Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, “There has got to be a peaceful road ahead. You cannot be on the one hand dedicated to peace and on the other dedicated to violence. Those two things are irreconcilable.” That makes sense. The U.S. will not send taxpayers’ money to Hamas.

German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, said “continued cooperation (with the Palestinian Authority) will only be possible under three conditions: Hamas needs to recognize the existence of Israel; Hamas has to prove that the use of violence is out of the question, and Hamas needs to respect and accept steps in the peace process reached so far.” It’s the same thing here. Germany will not aid or abet Hamas.

French Foreign Minister, Philippe Douste-Blazy, said, “I say to Hamas: meet your responsibilities, choose dialogue and not violence. Hamas must recognize the Oslo accords.” That makes it a threesome. French francs will not be making their way to Hamas.

Kofi Annan, U.N. Secretary-General, said, “If Hamas transforms itself from an armed movement into a political party respecting the rules of the game. I think the international community should be able to work with them.” Ah, yes, the ring is closing around Hamas. No aid in this direction either.

Javier Solana, foreign policy boss of the European Union, said, “All the ideas we have put on the table have been around for a long time, so I think it’s reasonable to put these ideas and sentiments from the international community publicly so (Hamas) understands very well the position we have.” Once again no aid for Hamas!

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