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Ashley Faintuch

David Bedien, our veteran Israeli correspondent


by Rhonda Spivak, May 18, 2011

I decided to book a ticket to the AIPAC conference several weeks ago because I think that in the next few months the State of Israel will face especially significant challenges –which could well affect the future of the Jewish people. In order to be able to bring our readership first hand unique independent analysis of events, there is nothing like being on the ground.
According to AIPAC, “Outside of the State of the Union address, the AIPAC Policy Conference is the largest annual bipartisan gathering of U.S. senators, representatives, administration officials, diplomats, and foreign ambassadors.”


I never had any expectation that Obama would be at AIPAC, which will be attended by about 11, 000 people and crawling with reporters. Although it was known that Netanyahu was coming, there had been no mention of Obama at all on the AIPAC website even as a possible attendee. But something happened this past week and the President decided to attend (more on this in a moment). AIPAC only sent out the announcement to the press about this on May 16.

Ashley Faintuch, a business administration student at University of Winnipeg and a CJPAC fellow, with a keen interest in Middle East politics will be joining me as media for the Winnipeg Jewish Review in Washington. This will enable us to effectively double our coverage of the AIPAC conference- which is brimming with first rate experts on the “Muddle” East. (i.e. Mr. Jim Woolsey, Former Director, Central Intelligence Agency The Honorable Martin Indyk, Vice President for Foreign Policy, Brookings Institution; Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel, Mr. Dan SenorAdjunct Senior Fellow for Middle East Studies, Council on Foreign Relations,Mr. Paul Begala, Democratic Political Analyst and CNN Contributor, etc.)

Ashley and I will be further joined by veteran reporter David Bedein of the Israel Resource News Agency who is based in Jerusalem, and is a special Israeli correspondent for the Winnipeg Jewish Review.  
We will aslo be joined by Geoege Baumgarten, a seasoned reporter based at the United Nations, who has a wealth of experience on the workings of the UN, and is the UN special correspondent for the Winnipeg Jewish Review.
Our team of four intends to work independently and collaboratively to bring you what we anticipate will be insightful, and interesting  analysis. Please check back regularly next week to read our postings.
This is not just any ordinary year. In September, PA President Mahmoud Abbas, who has now reconciled with Hamas will go to the UN to ask it to unilaterally declare a Palestinian state based on the 1949  armistice lines. The US administration has indicated that it does not support this unilateral Palestinian move, but no doubt Obama will be pressing Israel to put forth some sort of generous peace plan or proposal that will attempt to coax Abbas back to the negotiating table. It is also possible that Obama will try to pressure Netanyahu to negotiate with a Fatah-Hama unity government (although I can’t see how he could convince Netanyahu of that—without making his government fall.)
Our Israeli correspondent David Bedein has been working extensively on the issue of what will happen to Palestinian Authority forces, trained by the United States and Canada in the event that a Palestinian state is not reached through a bilateral agreement with Israel. If a Palestinian state is declared unilaterally, without Israel’s agreement, will the PA forces continue to co-operate with Israel, or will they turn their arms against Israel (in addition to releasing Hamas prisoners/terrorists now in PA jails)? Bedein has been documenting why he thinks that PA forces will in all likelihood turn against Israel (which is why his website picked up an article I wrote about Gershon Baskin from the Israel Palestine Centre for Research and Information telling the J-street conference that as of September the PA forces will cease their security co-operation with Israel if their demands aren’t met.)
The response of President Obama to the issue of a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state at the UN will be crucial in determining how this will all play out.  So far, only Germany and most recently Italy have come out against a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state, but other countries, including England and France seem to be leaning in favour of it, and also appear to  want to push Israel into negotiating with a PA- Hamas government. (Canada may well join Germany and Italy in opposing a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state.)
However, there are those, including Ha’aretz in this morning’s editorial, that believe that without committing Israel to a two state solution based on the 1967 borders with some land swaps, Netanyahu will isolate Israel to the point of having European and other countries enforce economic sanctions against it.
Yet, Aaron David Miller, a former US Middle East peace negotiator who is now with the Woodrow Wilson Center, called Abbas’s decision to enter a unity government with Hamas “a large gift” to Netanyahu.

“It’s almost inconceivable that any pressure could be applied right now,” he said. “Even if you’re critical of Israel, you’re going to be hard-pressed to exert leverage at a time when Hamas is... praising Osama bin Laden.”
Prime Minister Netanyau will address the joint Houses of the United States Congress on May 24, one day after he addresses the AIPAC conference on May 23. Obama is up first addressing the conference a day earlier.
The left of centre J-Street Lobby group wants Obama to put down his own peace plan and essentially impose it on the parties
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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.