Ed: 36: May/2011
Amid efforts to relaunch and sustain Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, Israel's claim for recognition as a Jewish State continues to generate controversy. While Israel's leaders have insisted that such recognition is fundamental to any peace agreement, Palestinian and other Arab leaders have responded to the claim with consistent and widespread antipathy. To begin to explore how this issue might be appropriately addressed in the context of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, we must consider the nature and legitimacy of the interests at stake and examine the alternatives for addressing them.
Probably no document in the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict has done more damage to the reputation of Israel, nor contributed more to the international campaign to boycott and delegitimise it, than the Goldstone Report. That is why Justice Goldstone's mea culpa in a Washington Post op-ed on 1 April was so breathtaking.
Richard Goldstone, chair of the commission which authored the UN Human Rights Council's (UNHRC) Goldstone Report into the Gaza War of 2008-09, has now conceded that, regarding Israel, "if I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document."
In particular, he now agrees that the most inflammatory and absurd of the report's conclusions - that Israel deliberately targeted Palestinian civilians "as a matter of policy" - is baseless. He also concedes that Israeli authorities are reasonably investigating every specific allegation of misconduct by its soldiers during the Gaza war. Hamas, by contrast, he points out, has done "nothing."
Unfortunately, Justice Goldstone's change of heart cannot undo the massive, irreparable damage he and his co-commissioners originally inflicted through their report. This damage is not only to Israel's reputation but also to Middle East peace prospects, and to the very notion of a responsible and universal system of international law.
While other mosques, together with temples, churches and synagogues, routinely welcome members of the public, a mosque associated with the infamous Sheikh Tajeddin el-Hilaly and an association which has been identified with the controversial and self-contradictory Keysar Trad had more reason than most to display openness and engagement.
There was no possible mistake; the Hamas operative who fired it hit exactly what he was aiming at - a clearly identifiable, distinctively yellow school bus.
This was not a weapon Hamas could ever hope to manufacture for itself in Gaza. In fact, the Kornet is made only in Russia by KBP Industries, and then sold only under licence from the Russian Government - usually exclusively to states.
So how did Hamas get one? Very likely from Syria, which has bought Kornets from Russia, and is known to pass on advanced weapons to terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah. It was probably smuggled via Egypt and through the tunnels under the Sinai border into Gaza.
In significant contrast to his initial report, Goldstone now asserts that civilians were not intentionally targeted by Israel as a matter of policy during the Gaza campaign and that estimates of Palestinian civilian casualties may have been exaggerated.
Netanyahu has been under pressure from some of his aides to preempt the Palestinian initiative with a diplomatic plan of his own. If he has indeed been working on such a plan, the Prime Minister has been doing a good job keeping it secret.
These starry-eyed, bewildered justifications of the regime's current response are due to the fact that the majority of observers hold the belief that Assad is indeed a "reformer". Seen through this lens, Assad's actions would indeed appear baffling. Why wouldn't this "reformist" President simply reform? This question drove the analysts to speculate feverishly about hypothetical centres of power that may have prevented him from acting on his repressed reformist impulse. In its more laughable forms, this line of thinking led some analysts to "advise" Assad to "split" with his own regime.
Neither Saudi Arabia - which bankrolls much in Bahrain, from items on the national budget to King Hamad's personal Boeing 747-400 aircraft - nor the UAE seem amenable to the notion of Bahrain being a test case for the Obama Administration's policy of promoting universal freedoms of political expression.