Monday 1 February 2010

The 10th Herzlia Conference 2010 - Day 2.

TZIPI LIVNI, the Leader of the Opposition, was the opening speaker to a packed auditorium.

Her points were that Israel represents the values of the United States in the Middle East being a democratic Western country.

There is a difference of opinion in Israel over what are Israel's interests. This dIsagreement makes for difficulties in the decision making process.

Israel and the States share a strategy against terror and are active in the war against terror.

Externally, Iran presents an extreme ideology that not only tHreatens Israel. It also tHreatens America. In fact, it tHreatens the whole area. America must help to eNlist the moderate Arab countries who pErceive the same dangers from an extreme Iran.

Peace with the Palestinians represents the interests of Israel. Israel will have no choice but to give up certain territories.

It is in Israel's interest to remove Syria from the circle of extreme countries such as Iran. Again, these are shared interests with America.

It is a bad policy for the Israel Government to say to America, "You help us with Iran and we will help you with the Palestinians".

Iran is a global problem - not only Israel's. Peace with the Palestinians is in Israel's interest and should not be conditional on other problem areas. A peace agreement with them should not be pOrtrayed as a fAvour to the U.S.. We should keep our strategic partners happy.

What needs to be done? We should sit with the U.S. Administration and discuss how to work together to prevent Iran from going nuclear. Sanctions are an obvious factor.

Israel needs the Security Council to iMpose sanctions and other steps against the Iranian regime.

We need the U.S. to eNlist the pRagmatic Muslim world against the eXtremists.

We should outline to the U.S. Administration the deal breaking options from the Israel side in nEgotiations with the Palestinians.

The Palestinians have to accept that Israel is the Jewish state as a condition. Denying this leads to a continuation of a conflict between two states.

The refugee problem must be solved in the context of their return to their own Palestinian state, not to Israel.

There should be no nAtionalistic demands from Arabs living in Israel.

We can not create another terrorist state on land that we transfer to them. Not only Israel but the U.S. and the whole world do not need another Islamic terror state in the Middle East or, as in Lebanon, where a radical entity controls the country and the Government is not free.

We have to aGree future borders iRrespective of the views of those in theaudience whether settlements make you happy or angry.

We should not make pRonouncements of what we will or will not do in advance of peace talks.

We do not make sacrifices as a fAvour to the Palestinians or to the President of the United States but for ourselves. I know there will be a price to pay.

However, we do not hand the keys over to Hamas.

DANNY AYALON, Deputy Foreign Minister, join ALFRED MOSES of UN Watch, JAMES CUNNINGH AM, the U.S. Ambassador to Israel, MALCOLM HOENLEIN, of the Conference of Major American Jewish Organizations, in a panel to address IS THE US-ISRAEL RELATIONS STILL SPECIAL?

This question did not arise two years ago. It came about due to two elections in the States and Israel which introduced two new leaders.

Benjamin Netanyahu's accepted a 2 State solution, an economic 'bottom up' plan for the Palestinians of the West Bank, a temporary settlement freeze, and an invitation to the Palestinian leadership to join him in peace talks, yet these gestures did not bring him any kudos.

Bad relationships with the Us Administration is bad for Israel and does not help to Imprice the Israeli Prime Ministers popularity at home. However, the reverse was true with Netanyahu, whose popularity Gained when he refused to accept Obama's demand to totally stop all settlement activity.

In his opening remarks, ALFRED MOSES cOmplimented the scale and scope of the Herzlia Conference saying that America does not have a conference that comes close to the Herzlia event.

He felt that Obama or Netanyahu will not make much of a Differnece to US-Israel relations. It goes Beyind the leaders. This is critical for Israel. Israel is seen as a democratic Western country sharing American values.

Support for Israel has been rock solid from 1967 to 2010 with 46% sympathetic to Israel and less than 10% sympathetic to the Palestinians among American public opinion. 30%, however, do not care for either side. People in the U.S. do not see Israel-Palestine as a central world issue. It does not make the Top 5.

America, however, does see Israel as being on the right side of the war against terror that plagues Americans Increasingly.

Overwhelingly American Jews support Israel despite the fact that 78% of them voted for Obama and only 22% for McCain. Traditionally, American Jews vote Democrat.

Yet the US-Israel relationship remains special.

DANNY AYALON said that the US-Israel relationship tRansends Governments. It is a mUtual aDmiration between peoples. Israel and the U.S. are natural partners. This goes beyond the Administration.

Despite hIccups, U.S. supports the one true democracy in the Middle East. This gives the U.S. The added value. It does not change this value according to political winds as do other countries.

Ayalon added that the Israeli Government sees the current U.S. Administration as a friendly one.

Therefore, the special relationship is still strong.

Ayalon closed by insisting that all the Israeli Coalition parties would like to see a renewal of the peace process.

MALCOLM HOENLEIN asked why does this Administration differ from other Administrations?

His answer was, basically, that it does not. It is still 'a work in progress'. Obama spoke about the special relationship a number of times.

The U.S. may be moving towards iSolationism but the numbers are still strong for Israel.

JAMES CUNNINGHAM said that two new Administrations set out with new goals. Obama came in with great energy to tAckle some of the biggest issues faced by a new President for decades.

In Cairo, Obama told the Muslim world that the bond with Israel was unbreakable. He called on the Muslim world to rEcognise Israel.

Dialogue with Israel includes major issues such as iran, missile defense, attempts to dElegitimise israel in the light of Goldstone, and rEcognising Israel as the Jewish State.

The peace talks, he said, have not produced a breakthrough as the U.S. had hOped. It was disappointing, Cunningham said, the President Obama did not mention Israel in his State of the Union Address. The only foreign policy issue he raised was Iran.

The U.S. Ambassador was asked how Obama would respond to auNilateral move by Israel against Iran. He answered by saying that Israel has the right to defend itself .. He hOped that conflict can be avoided but the U.S. will stand fIrmly with Israel.

Alfred Moses said that the only effective and clear sAnction would be a naval bLockade on Iran.

He was not sure that this was likely.

Ayalon said it was to get sanctionsworking quickly. He did not believe that China would iSolate itself within the UN Security Council so he was hopeful that sanctions would be approved there.

Malcolm Hoenlein said that opportunities were missed to seriously support the people of Iran who had bRavely stood up against their regime. There was still time to support the Iranian people in their protests against their leadership.

In a past meeting with Trent Lott (Republican) and Tom Dashell (Democrat) Dashell told him that, in the case of Israel, there were no Republicans or Democrats.

WINNING THE BATTLE OF THE NARRATIVE was a panel discussion on the subject of cOmmunicating the message, or making the case for Israel.
I enjoyed the comments of JOSEF JOFFE, the editor of Die Zeit who outlined the battle of legitimacy from Durban 2 to the universities and media.
"Anti-Israel is, like its cousin Anti-Semitism, eNdemic.
"Would you have the same attention to the subject if the Israeli side were Muslim or Arabic? Probably not. This is a useful argument that Exposes the anti-Semitism behind the global protests and Delegitimization of Israel.

For the Palestinian Arab leadership pRovocation that Draws massive Israeli response, fighting in densely populated civilian areas is a in-win situation for them.
"Why does it take Israel so long, sometimes six to eight weeks, to come up with a response? Why wait until the conflict is over before trying to explain motives?"
"Israel knows what is going to happen tomorrow so why do not they prepare themselves mediawise in advance", according to Joffe.
"Goldstone comes along .. You do not sulk and pout. You prepare and act."

For a positive narrative, people should read Dan Senor's book, ' Israel - The Start Up Nation'.
This is essential reading for making the case for Israel.
Senor tells of the twin miracle of how bereft immigrants from Eastern Europe socialist society turned into a modern dynamic and successful Western nation. Israel is the most successful country outside the U.S..
Transforming a nation is a universal message and an inspiration.

IDO AHARONI from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs opened with a joke about three Israelis who landed at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris.
"Nationality?" asked the immigration official. "Israeli", they said.
"Occupation?" the official asked.
"Oh no," said one Israeli. "We are only here for a few days .."

Universally, Israel's DNA is defined by the conflict. When Israel is allowed to communicate to the world it's about the conflict. Literature and Israeli movies are only about the conflict.
It is as if nothing else exists in Israel. You have to do beyond the conflict to win friends and influence people.
Conflict management only can not help you leapfrog to a more positive narrative.

In most countries the Majority do not care about the conflict. In France 26% side with Israel as opposed to only 9% for the Palestinians, but 75% do not care either way.

The conflict is not a relationship builder. There is a need to restore Israel's relevance in the world by showing it as a great product. Whether it's art, weather, natural beauty, science, hi-tech, Israel has a lot to offer.

EYAL ARAD said that Israel's image is like the weather. "Everyone talks about it but nobody does anything about it".
The media Obsessively cover Israel. It's a fact. For media, bad news is good news. Seen how they rush to Earthquakes. Disasters sell newspapers. "Jews are news - so bad Jews make great news". If they do not exist the media has to create them", said Arad.
"Let's use the opportunity that everyone is looking at us to create a better image," he suggested. The problem is that we do not know what we want. Is it Aliyah? Tourism? Investment?

IDO AHARONI of the Foreign Ministry continued this theme with an anecdote from Alice in Wonderland.

"When Alice fell down the hole she did not know where she was so she asked the rabbit which way to go.
"Where do you want to get to?" the rabbit asked.
" I don't know ', she said.
"Then it does not matter which way you go!" said the rabbit.
That is how it is with policy. Israel does not yet know which way to go. So many voices from various Ministries and NGOs expound differing messages against the Palestinians single message - victimhood.

Israel finds itself fighting a delegitimatisation campaign against it. It is essential to coordinate a global campaign. This needs discipline. If the message is not coordinated from within it can not be conveyed externally.
A concise and constant message is required.

MARTIN KACE of Empax asked "What is a brand?"
He answered that a brand, when it comes to a nation, must be true. One does not go to Establishing truth when one does not go to other countries to find out the truth about yourself. This can only be done from honest debate from within.
"We are Preoccupied with how we are perceived," Kace explained. "We do not have narrative that is relevant today. We are not speaking with a voice that expresses what we are as Israelis."
The Palestinians own the narrative and the pictures. Israel beyond the conflict is, currently, a fiction.

"To say we are just like everyone else is wrong", said Kace. "We are unique".
"How do you make a positive message by embracing the conflict?" he asked.
"Our prowess is conducted with style. Conflict brings out the brilliance in us. An perfect example is the military field hospital in Haiti which was born out of conflict yet produced wonderful humanitarian benefits and showed us in a positive light.
We are reluctant warriors who persevere and produce and develop amazing universal benefits for all ".

Israel's image must be based on personality and attractiveness. Without attraction you are not in the branding business.

A two-pronged agenda is needed.
1. Research and a rapid response team for conflict management.
2. Identify the authenticity of Israel and promote it holistically.

Ido Aharoni said that Israel's number one branding agency is BIRTHRIGHT ISRAEL. Their young visitors tell us that Israel is a life changing event!

WINNING THE BATTLE OF THE NARRATIVE moved into another auditorium and a new panel.

DR. NOAM LOMELSHTRICK LATAR of the IDC outlined the importance of using social networking to get the message to a huge number of people.
450 million people use Facebook.
78% of the 18 to 34 year olds watch TV on the web.
The paper media is in decline.

It is vital to expand the way we communicate.

"Can a Government conduct an effective campaign via the web?
The answer is no," said Dr.Latar.
"This would be condemned as propaganda and lack credibility. The Government must recruit NGOs in an effective campaign fand have them use social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, blogs such as this, and other such outlets.
Governments have to hire professionals to adopt the message that goes out via all the social networks.

LIOR CHOREV disclosed that 70,000 internet users were following the Herzlia Conference live. Discourse between human beings and not authorities succeeds in getting your point across. The Palestinians use this successfully. We have the skill but not the strategy.

GIDI GRINSTEIN of the Reut Institute told us that, since World War 2, more states than collapsed politically than militarily.
This is the aim and the danger of the delegitimization campagin against Israel.
When under attack by social networks Israel needs to develop its own network campaign.
This has not been properly exploited.
The Foreign Ministry have 220 diplomats around the world with no budget . This vastly reduces the effectiveness of Israel's message.
Social networking is cheap and more effective.

RON PROSOR, Israel's Ambasador to Britain said that the Foreign Ministry's Hasbara does not have to be apologetic. He said there were four main warfronts in Britain:

1. Media. Britain rules the Airwaves with the BBC and Sky based in London as are the major English speaking broadsheets.

2. Universities. Students come from around the world and they join the university political movements. The liberal left, together with the radicals, abuse academic freedoms to delegitimize Israel.
It hs been impossible for Prosor to visit campuses without been greeted by noisy and sometimes violent protests. Jewish students feel threatened. This is a blueprint for the U.S. and it is taking root there .

3. NGOs such as Oxfam, Christian Aid, Amnesty are based in London. They are active daily with Parliament, the media, communities, promoting their agendas whcih is broadly anti-Israel.

4. Lawfare. The British legal sytem is being abused in order to bring arrest warrants and charges against Israelis in Britain

In conclusion Prosor said it is impossible to fight delegimization without the resources to do so.

LORNA FITZSIMONS told of her remarkable story of going from being a Labor MP for Rochdale and, as a Christian, to head the prominent pro-Israel Jewish lobby group BICOM.
About Israel's narrative she said that credibility was the key word. Credibility of the messenger, and credibility of the message. Once you have your message keep repeating it constantly. It works for the Palestinians. It will work for Israel.

There seems to be a better understanding in the Israeli Government for the need to seriously address Israel's image and to improve its narrative. This may be a result of the siege mentality from the growing threats of delegitimization but steps are being taken to improve Israel's strategy in facing these challenges.

The highlight events of the Conference take place in the evening.

PROSPECTS OF PEACE was the final program on Day 2.

SHAUL MOFAZ said he had a master plan to instigate a two state solution. This is a two stage plan.

Stage 1 will require Israel to withdraw to defenceable borders while the Palestinians will have a state with provisional borders on 60% of the West Bank containing 90% of the population.

Stage 2 will give the Palestinians additional territory which will be the same size as in 1967 but not the same borders.

The current Government, he said, did not have a plan and we are forced to take steps that are not in our best interest.

No Israeli Government is going to remove 240,000 citizens from their homes in the West Bank. Clearly the major center there will remain as part of Israel.

Negotiating with a master plan gives hope to both sides. Mofaz said he saw no signs of peace without such a plan.

Hizbollah and Hamas are preparing for the next round in the conflict. Without a peace plan we will not see the current calm situation continuing.

Peace with the Palestinians is the key to peace with other Arab neighbours.

An interesting interchange between ELLIOTT ABRAMS and DAN KURTZER evolved around the Arab initiative.
"Arab peace initiatives were not born out of sudden love of Israel", said Kurtzer "rather as a need to free up conflict management so that they can deal with the Shiite-Sunni conflict".

Retrospectively, it was a mistake for Clinton in 1997/8 not to bring the moderate Arab states into the peace process.
If you honor the Arab world there will be an Arab partner to facilitate the peace process for the Palestinians.

On the other hand, ELLIOTT ABRAMS said that Arab support did not bring Arafat to agree at Camp David, nor Abu Mazen at Annapolis.

Obama concluded that freezing all settlement activities would be a way to bring the Arab states onboard. This, it turned out, was not a realistic assessment.

Abrams reminded us that no Arab leader had set foot in the West Bank.
Arabs, he said, can contribute to the Palestinians society from the bottom up. It will never work at the negotiating table.

Contributing to this discussion DAN SCHUEFTAN, the Director of the National Security Studies Center at the University of Haifa, said that the Saudis wanted us to sign on the bottom line their Peace Initiative without having us discuss or negotiate the terms.

According to Schueftan the situation for peace is weaker today. The radicals are perceived in the Arab world as winning.
The Americans have reached a dead end in the peace process. There is no new peace initiative. The global balance will be with the radicals.
The unchallenged successes of Iran , Hizbollah, Hamas, Syria show that the radicals are winning. Turkey has moved towards Iran. and Syria.
The West has no operative answer to this threat.

As for Israel, long range rockets can reach Israel's major cities from Iran, Lebanon, and also from Gaza.
Goldstone will prevent Israel from responding effectively against violence and, if Israel does respond, it will be condemned.

Based on the above what can be done.
"We need to change the paradyms," said Schueftan.
"How did we live for generations without peace agreements? Is it tolerable to live in a state of no war and no peace? Unilateralism is not a bad policy. Is Israel better without Gaza than with it? I believe that Israeli society is stronger without Gaza than with it".

DANNY ROTSCHILD said that the Arab peace intitiatives is a way for Arab nations to participate in the peace process and a good thing. Only negotiating with the Palestinisn will produce peace. Most Israelis will say that, after withdrawing from Gaza and getting rockets, they have lost trust. Israelis want to see what they will get before making any future move.

No Palestinian leader is capable of taking hard decisions without the support of the Arab states. Morocco, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt have close reasons to be involved. They can guarantee the terms that must be agreed by any Palestinian leader to a peace agreement. Without this no Palestinian leader can sell a peace agreement to his people.

Some of the Arab countries will also be asking for compensation for hosting Palestinian refugees for decades as part of any peace agreement.
There is a clear interest of the moderate Arab states in a peace settlement due to the threat from the growing radical elements in the region.

"Any Arab intervention is a win-win situtation", concluded Rotschild.

AMOS GILEAD is the head of the Political-Military Branch of the Ministry of Defence. He is an important conduit between the Israeli Government and neighbouring Arab countries and is closely involved in Israel's security and defence.

He reported that the unprecedented performance of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank against Hamas is to prevent a Hamastan there. They lost out big time in Gaza an they are determined that it won't happen in the West Bank. There is an unwritten war going on between the PA and Hamas.

'We should be cautious about rushing into peace negotiations too early", he warned.
"Direct negotiations that fail can be worse than no negotiations at all. Failure in peace talks is a victory for the radicals."

He also viewed that the PLO will not be able to sign an agreement while Hamas is strong.
Israel cannot change the security arrangements in the territories as long as another Hamastan is a real threat.

"Improve the condition of the Palestinians with the 'bottom up' policy and don't waste time entering into peace negotiations", was Gilead's advise.

Some interesting closing remarks included

ELLIOTT ABRAMS. "Israel and the Palestinians negotiated for twenty years while Israel expanded settlements so why not now? The settlements are no reason or precedent why Abu Mazen cannot continue talks with Israel."

MALCOLM HOENLEIN responded with "Twenty years of settlement activity may not have impeded negotiations, but maybe they impeded an agreement".

ELLIOTT ABRAMS returned with "Nothing that Barak offered Arafat at Camp David would have persuaded Arafat to sign an agreement. Nothing that Olmert offered Abu Mazen would have persuaded him to sign an agreement. The Palestinians have proven themselves incapable of signing an agreement with Israel".

"The problem is not the settlements. The problem is security."

DANNY ROTSCHILD. "Separation from the Palestinians and final status agreement including defined borders is vital for Israe to maintain its Jewish democratic and security needs".

AMOS GILEAD. "We cannot put our trust in international forces to guarantee our security. I don't want to mention countries, there may be representatives in the audience, but their contribution is worthless to our security needs".

The keynote speaker for the evening was DAN MERIDOR who is the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Intelligence and Atomic Energy.

His talk concentrated on the danger of Iran and the Palestinians.

In front of an audience of diplomats, including the American Ambassador, he said that there is a perception in Iran and the region that America is an empire of the past and is weakening.
Nuclear Iran will cause a shift in the Arab world and this is already taking place. If Iran wins this contest with America the resultl be destabilisation.
If Iran wins a contest against the American will this will be even more dangerous for the world as it would have defeated the greatest world power.
This is a contest that America has no alternative but to win.

Looking reality in the face with the Palestinians, Israel tried hard under Olmert to reach an agreement and failed. Is there an ideological rift in Palestinian society. Their demands are enigmatic. Is Abu Mazen going for 1967 borders? Or is it 1948?
"It is not clear to me, even today, if it's 67 or 48", declared Meridor.

Regarding the proposal to stop settlement building Meridor said "Why should Jewish construction stop and not Arab construction?"

As long as the Palestinians think that outside parties will coerse Israel they will do nothing.
"In fact maybe Abu Mazen thinks that doing nothing is not a bad policy for the Palestinians. He gains the world sympathy, Governments and NGOs pump billions of dollars at him, he doesn't have to be accountable for internal development. He is getting by quite nicely without a state."

In conclusion, Meridor said that Israel knows how to give territory for peace.
"Begin did it with Sadat of Egypt. Rabin did it with Jordan. We will know how to make peace with the Palestinians."

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