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Sunday, November 29, 2009


Judge Stephen Wilson Keeps Alleged Murder by the Aryan Brotherhood Under Wraps


When an L.A. federal judge closed his court to the public to hear a case in which a widow had charged the feds with wrongful death in her husband’s murder while doing time in prison, some experts called the judge’s action rare or unconstitutional. Even a federal security officer passing by the sealed courtroom found the move odd.
The secret hearing was the latest twist in the tale of the violent deaths of Irv Rubin and Earl Krugel, two local Jewish Defense League activists arrested in 2001 for a plot to bomb a Culver Citymosque — both of whom died while in custody.
Krugel’s widow, Lola Krugel, wants to know how and why her husband, a Reseda dental technician, was placed in an exercise yard with David Frank Jennings, a known skinhead and alleged Aryan Brotherhood acolyte, who crushed Krugel’s skull with a chunk of concrete just three days after Krugel arrived.
On July 21, 2009, in the ornate downtown L.A. courtroom of U.S. District Judge Stephen V. Wilson, those matters were closed to the press and public.
The two were arrested for conspiring to blow up the Westside mosque and the office of Lebanese-American congressman Darrell Issa.
Then both ended up dead.
Rubin’s shocking 2002 jailhouse suicide came first. He was being held on charges for the bomb plot, and his trial was still a long way off, when officials say he managed to slash his throat with a prison-issued razor, then somehow jumped 18 feet from an upper floor of downtown’s federal Metropolitan Detention Center, dying after nine days in a coma.
Then came Krugel’s even more unsettling death on November 4, 2005, as he started his 20-year sentence in a medium-security federal prison in Phoenix but was promptly bludgeoned to death.
The apparent assailant, 30-year-old Jennings, was an alleged member of the Aryan Brotherhood, a feared prison gang. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, its members comprise less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the nation’s prison population but commit 18 percent of all prison murders. The Brotherhood is primarily a crime syndicate that runs prison drug trafficking and prison prostitution, but it carries a nasty racist overlay.
Attorneys for Lola Krugel, the spirited and elfin woman who is Earl’s widow, allege that the U.S. government is culpable for her husband’s death. She did not want to be quoted, but her suit charges that prison officials failed to classify Jennings as an Aryan Brotherhood member despite his gang tattoos.
But within minutes of the start of the late-July trial, as Benjamin Schonbrun, the widow’s attorney, questioned former prison employee Thomas Bond about Jenning’s tattoos, Judge Wilson ordered the court cleared — bending to U.S. government attorneys, who wanted internal prison procedures, such as identifying gang members and gang tattoos, to remain secret.
(The federal government is so obsessed with secrecy in this case, that in a hallway of the federal building, when Assistant U.S. Attorney David Pinchas was asked by L.A. Weekly for his name, he only reluctantly provided it.)
In a statement later, Schonbrun said Wilson acted “without a fair hearing to permit anyone to dispute the necessity for a secret trial. When a federal judge can close an entire trial and exclude our free press, our society suffers.”
Strangely enough, a court order issued by Wilson himself, and publicly available, reveals many key prison procedures that had been expected to come out at the hearing. Moreover, the Aryan Brotherhood tattoos that the federal attorneys are so reluctant to discuss in public were found by the Weekly, readily accessible, on a Web page hosted by the Arizona Department of Corrections.
What is known is that in June 2004, before Jennings was moved to the prison in Phoenix, where he allegedly murdered Krugel, Kimberly L. Beakey, the Bureau of Prison’s “designator of inmates” for the Western region, initially qualified Jennings as a “high-security inmate” — but then “flexed down” Jennings to medium security so he could participate in a drug-abuse rehab program that is unavailable in maximum-security prisons.
Bureau of Prison documents show that Jennings had described himself as a member of the Aryan Brotherhood and wore its tattoo — so Beakey specifically noted that further investigation of Jennings was required upon his arrival in Phoenix.
If Jennings was in the Aryan Brotherhood, federal rules required that he be committed to maximum security. At issue at last month’s trial was whether Bond and another prison officer who saw Jennings upon his arrival in Phoenix did enough research before allowing Jennings into the general population, and into the yard where he is believed to have bashed in Krugel’s head.
n 2005, then–Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregory Jessner said the only way to break the gang was to seek the death penalty against its members for its frequent killings inside prisons. Adding time to already-lengthy sentences did nothing — the gang leaders still found ways to order murders in jail, Jessner said.
Jessner and a team of attorneys obtained a federal racketeering indictment against 40 Aryan Brotherhood members and their associates, 21 of whom were up for the death penalty — the biggest death penalty case in U.S. history. Yet in L.A. late last month, within 24 hours of the secret two-day trial that Wilson insisted upon, Wilson ruled that the government was not culpable for Krugel’s slaying. Even Wilson’s legal basis for the decision is under seal and a secret — and lawyers for the Los Angeles Times are challenging the blackout.
“The bar for winning prison-conditions challenges is extremely high,” notes Sharon Dolovich, a UCLA Law School professor. “Legal standards put a very strong tilt on the scale [in favor of] correctional officers.” Among judges, she says there is a “strong tendency to defer to prison officials.”
Speaking in general, Dolovich says that if a prisoner is known to have targeted white supremacists, prison officials have an obligation to protect that prisoner, who could easily be singled out by the white supremicists, who are common inside prisons.
Judge Wilson knew Jennings had been classified as a skinhead, but before the trial he ruled, “there was no indication” that any inmates were threatening Krugel with ‘bodily harm.’ ” He dismissed the widow’s contention that prison officials should have tried to protect Krugel simply because other prisoners believed a false rumor that Krugel had attempted to “blow up mosques, but he fucked up by blowing up a skinhead shack instead.”
“I think that’s absurd,” Dolovich says of the judge’s ruling. All the news headlines over Krugel and Rubin’s botched conspiracy, “would be sufficient to create a threat” to Krugel inside the prison.
A California prison expert, Dolovich paints a harrowing picture in which gangs rule their prison subcultures in this state. She says that to survive, prisoners must join with those of their skin color, and overcrowding can stretch resources so thin that guards can’t always protect everyone.
“In a lot of cases, the violence that is directed at other prisoners is directed by [gang] leadership,” she says. “The person who does the killing may have nothing against the person they’re killing but has been so ordered to act by their leadership. In many cases, individual prisoners have a hard time resisting what the leadership says because [if they refuse], they’ll be the next victim.”

Monday, November 16, 2009

Clinton: Tough Talk, Few Results

Posted by michaelblackburnsr on November 5, 2009

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s tense exchanges with Pakistani civilians and Arab diplomats over a harrowing week of foreign stops exposed the confining limits of her office.
On her most ambitious and contentious overseas trip as secretary of state, Clinton had to resort to damage control after she appeared to mangle the Obama administration’s message on frozen Mideast peace talks.
And while she scored points back home by standing up to angry Pakistanis who confronted her about drone-launched U.S. missile strikes, her blunt questioning of the resolve of Pakistan’s government exposed American impatience with the country’s incremental steps against terrorists.
In each case her extraordinarily public approach to diplomacy – for better or worse – reflected not only her personal style but also President Barack Obama’s promise to reach out openly to friend as well as foe.
What remains less clear is whether Clinton’s hot-button politician’s persona works any better at producing international results – let alone clarity – than a more classic diplomat’s cooler tact.
There were no breakthroughs, and it’s too early to know how her public and behind-the-scenes performances in Pakistan, Abu Dhabi, Israel, Morocco and Egypt will play out. But Clinton emphatically followed through on a pledge she made last month when she said the time had come for the U.S. government to communicate more aggressively abroad and challenge U.S. critics on their own turf.
From here on, she said then, “we’re going to be in the mix and we’re going to be in the mix every day.”
It is a boldly political take on taking on the world, and Clinton is relying on some of her old campaign trail tricks and moxie to press America’s case.
In Pakistan, she aggressively sold the administration’s stance against al-Qaida during several crowded “town hall” public forums that had been her stock-in-trade during the 2008 presidential primary run against Obama.
But despite finding some success in Africa and Asia earlier this year communicating Clintonian warmth with foreign audiences, Lahore was not Portsmouth, N.H.
And a brash in-your-face style that won voters’ hearts and minds in the U.S. may have come off as confrontational to skeptical Pakistan civilians who responded in kind.
In Lahore, Clinton certainly won domestic consumption brownie points by saying what many Americans have complained about for years – that Pakistan’s government had done little to root out al-Qaida’s upper echelon.
“Al-Qaida has had safe haven in Pakistan since 2002,” she said bluntly. “I find it hard to believe that nobody in your government knows where they are and couldn’t get them if they really wanted to. And maybe that’s the case. Maybe they’re not getable. I don’t know.”
Pakistan’s leaders were not pleased – waiting until Clinton departed to slap back. But even when she had a second chance to scale back her remarks, Clinton softened them only by a hair.
She also dinged Pakistan’s leaders for diminishing their standing in Washington by complaining about tough new conditions set by Congress for providing billions in new aid.
“For the United States Congress to pass a bill unanimously, saying that we want to give $7.5 billion to Pakistan in a time of global recession when we have a 10 percent unemployment rate, and then for Pakistani press and others to say, ‘We don’t want that,’ that’s insulting,” she said.
That wasn’t what the Pakistani government wanted to hear, but it seemed to reflect Clinton’s determination to show the Pakistanis that they can complain about U.S. counterterrorism tactics and about strings attached to U.S. aid – but not without hearing the administration’s own concerns.
Clinton’s toughened public stance was less in evidence, though, when she turned to the stymied Mideast peace process. Instead of bluntness, she struggled repeatedly to cater to both Israeli and Arab concerns, making no headway in getting either side to move closer.
In Jerusalem, trying to mollify Israeli reluctance to agree to halt all future settlements as a pretext to renewed peace talks with Palestinians, Clinton floated an Israeli proposal that would restrain – but not stop – more West Bank housing.
Palestinian and Arab diplomats reacted with outrage, and the Clinton who had been tough in Pakistan was forced to backpedal. Arab officials questioned whether the U.S. had tilted toward Israel and abandoned its position that continued Israel settlements are illegitimate and must be brought to a full stop.
Clinton’s comments reflected a realization within the Obama administration that conservative Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government will not accept a full-on settlement freeze and that a partial halt might be the best lesser option. Her appeal seemed designed to make the Israeli position more palatable to the Palestinians and Arab states.
Clinton had traveled to the region reluctantly, concerned her visit might be perceived as a failure without clear results, according to several U.S. officials. She agreed to meet Israeli and Palestinian leaders after pressure from the White House, according to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal administration thinking.
In Marrakesh, Morocco, two days after her controversial comments in Jerusalem, Clinton issued what she called a clarification. But she was dogged by questions about the settlements issue for the rest of her time abroad.
Asked Wednesday before departing for Washington what she believed she had accomplished, Clinton focused on the depth of the challenges she faced, not on what the trip delivered – or failed to deliver.
“Every issue that we touched on during this trip is complicated and difficult,” she said. “Each requires patience, perseverance and determination to see them through. If these were easy questions with simple answers, I wouldn’t have made this trip.”

EDITOR’S NOTE – Robert Burns has been covering national security and military affairs for The Associated Press since 1990.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Earl served in the U.S. Navy and in the Yom Kippur War

Earl was a man of incredible courage.
He volunteered for the navy, he paid his own way to Israel to fight for the Jewish State against the hordes of Jew Hating Arab killers.
His motto, our motto, "Never again" meant more than just words.
It meant self defense, and defense of the weak and helpless.
Earl was not a man of violence, although he was a 3rd degree martial artist.
I am told that he moved like a gazelle.
He struck in battle like a tiger, and yet, he would never, ever, harm an innocent person.
During Earl's time in the belly of the goyim beast, before he was condemned to death by vindictive gentiles, he protected other inmates, and counseled Irv Rubin.
Irv said to me, "He is my teacher and my big brother."
He was the same to me.
A great man, that was Earl Leslie Krugel.

Reality Raises It's Head and the Media Wakes Up About the Obama Administration's Middle East Failure

By Barry Rubin*

There’s something big happening in the air regarding American media coverage of the Obama Administration. With the Washington Post in advance, the New York Times waking up the tiniest bit, the Los Angeles Times trailing far behind, and a lot of other newspapers getting tough, reality is seeping into their coverage. Even the Boston Globe, America's most liberal newspaper, is strongly criticizing Obama.

The Globe remarks:

"It takes more than scripted eloquence for presidents to connect with their fellow Americans. It requires a visceral ability to grasp the scope of tragedy, calculate its impact on the national psyche, and react swiftly to it. Ronald Reagan did it after the Challenger explosion....So did Bill Clinton, after the Oklahoma City bombings."

After all, the president didn't go to the celebrations commemorating the fall of the Berlin Wall; or the christening of the USS New York with steel from the World Trade Center and families of those murdered in that building attending; or visit the Fort Hood wounded; or even treat the latest attack with due seriousness. And of course his Arab-Israeli policy in his ruins while the Iran issue is making a fool out of the administration.

On foreign policy, more and more things are becoming harder to deny:

--The Obama Administration has failed to charm any Arab states or Iran into changing their policy, even to a tiny extent.

--Iran doesn’t want to make a deal over its rush to get nuclear weapons.

--Engagement with Syria is going nowhere while Damascus continues to help murder American soldiers in Iraq without any Administration criticism or protest.

--Despite its over-ambitious goals and arrogant boasts, the administration has failed completely to advance any Israel-Palestinian peace process.

--Israel is proving flexible while the Palestinian Authority refuses even to talk no matter how much the Administration panders to and coddles it.

--The administration has no strategy in Afghanistan and can't make up its mind.

As the Obama Administration’s first year in office comes toward an end, it has failed, failed, failed, in the Middle East.

Then there's the Washington Post which strongly criticized his policy on the Israel-Palestinian peace process one daybashed his peace process policy and today they go after his Iran policy. The alarm clock is going off.

On November 6, the Washington Post ran a critical editorial on Obama's Iran policy--under the subheadline "How much longer should the Obama administration tolerate the regime's intransigence?--warning that the administration is helping the Tehran regime's strategy of stalling for time and avoiding more sanctions while crushing the opposition. "And each day Iran's known centrifuges produce another six pounds of enriched uranium."

And the editorial has a devastating conclusion:

“The Obama administration and European governments have set the end of the year as a deadline for the transfer of the uranium out of Iran and for progress in the overall negotiations. But the administration must consider whether it makes sense to grant the regime two more months of grace. On Tuesday, after all, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei publicly rejected the overtures he said he had received from President Obama, declaring that negotiating with the United States was ‘naive and perverted.’ On Wednesday, the opposition protesters chanted: `Obama, Obama -- either you're with them, or with us.’ Sooner rather than later, Mr. Obama ought to respond to those messages.”

Just 48 hours earlier, the Washington Post looked at the peace process issue in an article and an editorial. Both reflect this new thinking, breaking from a slavish regard from the inexperienced Obama as the closest thing on the planet to a diplomatic deity.

The writer, Glenn Kessler, does a good job with an article tellingly entitled, “Administration missteps hamper Mideast efforts.” Let me first get out of the way my criticisms as they show some consistent problems in coverage of the Middle East, then talk about all the good things in the article.

Kessler first interviews one Daniel Levy. Mr. Levy has no serious training on Middle East politics and is merely just another left-wing activist who never utters a word of anything except criticism of Israel and never has anything particularly insightful to say. Is this really the best expert that the Post can come up with? True, Levy—who is rather generously described as “a veteran Israeli peace negotiator”—worked a while as a low-level assistant for Yossi Beilin, leader of Israel’s far left-wing—but his emergence into being what sometimes seems like the media’s favorite pundit on these issues in Washington is rather ludicrous.

Mr. Levy’s only "accomplishment" in recent years is reportedly to have co-founded—along with a former Arab lobbyist--J Street, the new anti-Israel but pretending-to-be pro-Israel lobby.

Having said that, what Kessler actually published of his remarks isn’t so bad, which probably reflects more credit on Kessler.

The second interviewee is Ghaith al-Omari, a former advisor to Palestinian Authority (PA) leader Mahmoud Abbas. Omani is listed as “advocacy director,” a title which makes him sound like something less than a scholarly expert, for the American Task Force on Palestine. This is an interesting group since it seems to be the PA's semi-official voice in Washington. As such, it might be slightly more moderate than J Street. Watch what this group says closely.

[Pairing an anti-Israel person who can be portrayed as an Israeli with an official Palestinian spokesman is the kind of phony "balance" too often employed in the media.]

Nevertheless, with Omari, too, Kessler gets reasonable quotes, though he lets him get away with one outright falsehood. Quoting the article:

“He [Omari] said that things have improved in the past nine months, including getting a reluctant Israeli government to embrace the idea of talks.”

Funny, the truth is the exact opposite. The Israeli government has never said anything but that it is ready to negotiate right away and without preconditions with the PA. This kind of outright and demonstrable lie should not be presented without being questioned.

Having said all that, however, Kessler has written a very good article. In fact, I think that his account of what has happened so far this year is worth quoting at length. [But don’t stop reading here because I’m going to get to the Post’s editorial afterward. So skip this section if you think you know all these points already]:

“The administration's key error, many analysts say, was to insist that Israel immediately freeze all settlement growth in Palestinian-occupied territories. The United States has never accepted the legitimacy of Israeli settlements, but the Obama administration took an unusually tough stance. It refused to acknowledge an unwritten agreement between Israel and Bush to limit growth in settlements, with Clinton leading the charge to demand a full settlement freeze.

“U.S. officials say that in the wake of the war in the Gaza Strip in the winter, they wanted to send a signal of toughness and push both sides to take positive steps to build an atmosphere for talks. By that measure, there has been some progress: Israelis and Palestinians have been deep in conversations trying to set the parameters for negotiations.

“But Abbas, emboldened by the U.S. rhetoric, announced that he would not begin negotiations until settlements were frozen. Facing Israeli opposition, the administration appeared to back off the demand for a full settlement freeze, first exempting East Jerusalem and then signaling approval of an Israeli plan to exempt nearly 3,000 housing units on the West Bank.

“Meanwhile, Abbas got into political trouble at home when he succumbed to U.S. pressure to delay U.N. consideration of a report accusing Israel of war crimes in Gaza; he later reversed himself. When Clinton met him Saturday and pressed him to accept the limited Israeli settlement plan as a basis for talks, he refused.”

What makes this analysis especially interesting is that it shows how the administration itself has messed up. I’d like to add though that while the administration has agreed to let Israel finish ongoing construction, the agreement seems to be for an absolute freeze on the West Bank. The only difference is that instead of the freeze taking effect on, say, January 1, it will take place—just to pick a date—around May 1 or so. In fact, then, it is a “full settlement freeze,” just one that is delayed a bit.

So to imply that the United States made some huge concession to Israel or that Israel is getting away with anything is misleading. Obama wanted a full freeze. He got one. And if nothing happens to advance negotiations--though we don't know this--it's possible that the agreement includes Israel's reservation that it will restart in the future. But it's not clear whether that's true and no one seems to be saying so.

The article’s end is a bit more typical of what’s wrong with the usual coverage, in which only Palestinian complaints and demands are highlighted:

“Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, mused…about the end of the dream of a Palestinian state and scoffed at the Obama administration's notion of baby steps to talks. `As to the baby steps, we begun taking them in 1990-1991, and we have been crawling for 19 years,’ he said. `We need youthful steps to end the occupation and establish a Palestinian state.’"

How about a balancing quote pointing out that the Palestinians could have had a state in the late 1970s (Egyptian President Anwar al-Sadat's initiative), the early 1980s (Reagan Plan), the early 1990s (U.S.-PLO dialogue), and the mid-1990s or right after 2000 ("Oslo" process) if they didn’t keep rejecting all offers and instead choosing the path of intransigence and violence?

Or how about a balancing quote saying that there should be faster action to get rid of Hamas and end terrorist attacks as well as demonization of Israel? Why is it we only hear about what the Palestinians want (or demand) and never about Israel's desire for full recognition as a Jewish state, territorial swaps on the West Bank, ample security guarantees, an end to the conflict, and resettlement of all Palestinians in Palestine?

Someone please do a count of how many times key media outlets mention the Palestinian list and the Israeli list of what should be in a peace agreement. I wouldn't be surprised if the first outran the second by a ten-to-one margin.

Now for the Post’s editorial whose title, “The Mideast Impasse” could have been used at any time in the last 60 years! In contrast to Omari, it makes clear who is to blame for the impasse:

“Palestinian President [sic] Mahmoud Abbas has participated in peace negotiations with five Israeli governments that refused to halt Jewish settlement construction. Yet Mr. Abbas has rejected an appeal from the Obama administration to start talks with the center-right coalition of Binyamin Netanyahu, putting one of the administration's primary foreign policy goals on indefinite hold. The reason: `America cannot get Israel to implement a settlement freeze,’ a statement said.

“Has Mr. Abbas suddenly realized that settlements are the key obstacle to a Palestinian state? Hardly: In private, senior Palestinian officials readily concede that the issue is secondary. Instead, the Palestinian pose is a product of the Obama administration's missteps -- and also of the fact that the opportunity Mr. Obama said he perceived to broker a two-state settlement is not so visible to leaders in the region.”

Here we have the two key themes I keep trying to get across: peace is very distant and everyone in the region (but not in the West) knows it, and the Palestinians are the ones mainly at fault. It also includes the Obama administration’s responsibility.

The editorial continues that neither Abbas nor Arab leaders “seems to share Mr. Obama's notion that the time is ripe for a deal.” It also sagely adds: “The Obama administration's working assumption has been that energetic diplomacy by the United States could induce both sides to move quickly toward peace. In fact, progress in the Middle East has always begun with initiatives by Israelis or Arabs themselves.”

But then, since it is impermissible not to end with anything but an optimistic conclusion that there is an easy way out, the editorial goes on:

“At the moment, the most promising idea comes from Mr. Abbas's prime minister, Salam Fayyad, who has vowed to build the institutions of a Palestinian state within the next two years, with or without peace talks. Negotiations between the current Israeli and Palestinian leaders could provide indirect support for that initiative, even if there is little progress. But the administration would do well to refocus its efforts on supporting Mr. Fayyad.”

So we still have some "Old Think," as Russians called Communism in the Perestroika era. It is not quite permissible to suggest the administration might “refocus its efforts” on supporting Israel. And of course the Fayyad solution is an illusion. He has no power, might get kicked out at any moment except that his remaining in office is a condition for continued Western aid, the violent tendencies in the Fatah leadership could launch warfare and wipe out progress at any moment, and the PA has failed to build institutions for 15 years so what leads anyone to believe they will change now?

Still, at least this kind of analysis is on the same planet as the real Middle East, which is a step forward.

If you find these articles useful and interesting, please read and subscribe to Barry Rubin's blog, Rubin Reports, at <>:

Friday, November 06, 2009

Earl Krugel Lives

This is the 4th year since the passing of Earl Krugel.
The years have not made the loss any easier.
Earl was a man, a mensch, a Jew, who lived, first and foremost, to defend the rights of others to live in peace and freedom.
The 24th of this month is Earl's birthday, a day more of celebration than the day, the 4th, that he was taken from us in the same month of November.

His memory lives in our hearts.

Monday, November 02, 2009

And Now the Truth Becomes Clear: Hillary Clinton Announces that the Palestinians are the Obstacles to Peace

Earl Krugel had a keen grasp of the intricate issues in the Middle_East.
He was not fond of what the Clinton's did at Oslo, but he understood strategic manuevering, and he understood Arab psychology.
I think he would have liked Obama, as he enjoyed people with high intellects, especially when
they supported the State of Israel.

BTW, I'd like to give a shout out to Lola Krugel, who Earl told me he loved with his entire heart.

By Barry Rubin*

Yesterday I discussed the significance of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s praise for Israel’s policy during her trip to Jerusalem, saying Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had offered unprecedented concessions to get peace talks started again.
We don’t know what the plan is though there are hints that Israel agreed to stop all construction on the West Bank once the 3,000 apartment units now being constructed were completed and that this freeze would not apply to construction in east Jerusalem. This is indeed a major concession on Netanyahu’s part and once again puts the lie to the claim that he is inflexible or hard line (though no doubt we will still daily see this in media coverage).

This visit, however, also may be a major turning point in both U.S. policy and public perceptions of the problem regarding the peace process.

At the center of this stands the Number One Paradox of the issue, in some ways of all Middle Eastern politics: Why is it that although the Palestinians complain that they are suffering from a horrible occupation and not having a state of their own they are not in any hurry to make a peace agreement, end the “occupation,” and get a state.

The main answer is that the dominant Palestinian view is still the desire to win a total victory and wipe Israel off the map. The back-up stance is that any peace agreement must not block the continued pursuit of that goal. And the back-up position to that is to reject strong security guarantees, recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, an unmilitarized Palestinian state, settlement of Palestinian refugees in Palestine, territorial compromise or exchanges, and indeed any concession whatsoever.

There are two implications of this:

--The Palestinians are at fault for the failure to achieve peace.

--There isn’t going to be any Israel-Palestinian peace in the near- or even medium-term future.

If you understand the preceding 176 words then you understand the issue comprehensively.

The president of the United States has said that he wants talks resumed immediately and believes it possible to make a breakthrough. The Palestinian leadership is thwarting him on both points. In other words, they are responsible for the failure of a major U.S. policy.

Following Clinton’s visit, Palestinian Authority (PA) leaders have restated their refusal even to talk with Israel. They also claim that Netanyahu is refusing to discuss some issues in the talks, though the Israeli prime minister has simply not made such statements. In fact, as the Washington Post reported, November 1:

“The Palestinian position, if anything, appears to have hardened in recent days, leaving Israel to portray itself as the more willing partner.”

Well, Israel is the more willing partner, isn’t it? That’s the point that breaks the apparent paradox of suffering Palestinians yearning for peace but being thwarted by Israeli intransigence.

One point in the Post article, however, is just flat wrong:

“Israel promised to halt settlements under previous international agreements, and Palestinian officials say they want those promises fulfilled.”

In fact, at the time it signed the original peace process agreement—often called the Oslo accord—in 1993, that’s 16 years ago—Israel put forward its interpretation of the agreement. It said that there would be no new Jewish settlements and no geographical expansion of existing settlements. But Israel made it clear that it would continue to build apartments on existing settlements. That position was not challenged by the Palestinians at the time and it has never held up talks before now.

Indeed, another Washington Post article of November 1, this one by Howard Schneider, pointed out—though only indirectly—why things got even worse:

“However, Obama's election raised expectations among Palestinians and throughout the Arab states that the peace process would yield quicker results from an administration willing to openly criticize Israel and, it seemed, elevate Palestinian interests.”

More than that, it was the Obama Administration which called for a total freeze, distances itself from Israel, and took other steps leading the PA and Arab states to believe that by being intransigent they could get Washington to deliver Israel on their own terms. In other words, while everyone is being too polite to say so, the Obama Administration was responsible for the situation deteriorating.

Now both Egypt and Jordan have come out in support of the PA position, also setting themselves on a collision course with Washington, that there should be no talks at all until all construction on settlements stops without exception, including anything now being completed and all building in east Jerusalem. There is no chance Israel is going to agree to that; there is no chance the Obama Administration will demand it.

And so we have come to the point where it is becoming clear even to those who have been ruled by wishful thinking that there is not going to be any peace and that the Palestinian-Arab side is responsible for this situation.

It is quite probable--and this is extremely important to understand--that there is nothing the Obama Administration can say or do in order to make them change their mind. After all, this is the ideal position from the standpoint of the PA, Egypt, Jordan, and others. Refuse to support talks, reap benefits by showing their militancy, and be able to blame it on Israel.

After all his efforts and alleged popularity, Obama has absolutely zero credit and no leverage in the Arabic-speaking world.

How is this going to affect Obama Administration policy and thinking?

If you find these articles useful and interesting, please read and subscribe to Barry Rubin's blog, Rubin Reports, at :

Irv Rubin and Earl Krugel