Obama says nothing about Palestinians– because Indyk says Netanyahu has Congress in his ‘back pocket’

US Politics
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White House lawn, Wednesday (photo by White House fotog Chuck Kennedy

Shocking headline in the New York Times’ story by Helene Cooper on Obama’s speech to the Reform Jews yesterday: “In Obama Speech on Israel, No Mention of Palestinians” 

In a speech Friday to the convention of the Union for Reform Judaism, Mr. Obama sought to counter Republican criticism that he had been more supportive of the Palestinian cause than Israel by outlining how he had fought for Israeli interests over the last three years, providing unprecedented military and security aid and defending Israel on the world stage. …

What Mr. Obama did not get into much was any real discussion of the Palestinian issue, which has been stuck in neutral since his speech at the United Nations General Assembly in September, when he said he would not back Palestinian statehood in the Security Council.

Actually there were three mentions in the speech, here, but all pro forma:

And that’s why, as President, I have never wavered in pursuit of a just and lasting peace — two states for two peoples; an independent Palestine alongside a secure Jewish State of Israel.  (Applause.)  I have not wavered and will not waver.  That is our shared vision.  (Applause.)

Now, I know that many of you share my frustration sometimes, in terms of the state of the peace process.  There’s so much work to do.  But here’s what I know –- there’s no question about how lasting peace will be achieved.  Peace can’t be imposed from the outside.  Ultimately, it is the Israelis and the Palestinians who must reach agreement on the issues that divide them.  (Applause.)

And the fact that peace is hard can’t deter us from trying.  Because now more than ever, it’s clear that a just and lasting peace is in the long-term interests of Israel.  It is in the long-term interests of the Palestinian people.

Meanwhile Politico’s Joel Brinkley says that Israel has become a wedge issue in the campaign between Democrats and Republicans, with Israel lobbyists afraid it is about to be politicized, no longer bipartisan. And though Obama is saying nothing to alienate Jews, his aides are enraged by Israel’s refractory behavior. He’s saying nothing because even Martin Indyk says Congress is in Israel’s back pocket.

administration officials are seething over Israel’s refusal to negotiate with its neighbors — even as the tumult of the Arab Spring imposes increasing and unprecedented isolation on Israel. Meantime, Israeli legislators are proposing and enacting repressive laws that even Israel’s attorney general is calling improper and unconstitutional….

“Deep frustration and anger is welling up in the minds of some administration officials,” observed Aaron David Miller, who was an adviser on Middle East policy for six secretaries of state.

But not in Congress. In fact, said Martin Indyk, who twice served as ambassador to Israel, among some administration officials “there’s a sense that Israel is not acting in its own best interests.” Still, Israel’s right-wing government can do more or less what it wants “because they know they have Congress in their back pocket.”

Why is Congress in Israel’s back pocket? Is this about campaign contributions?

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  1. rensanceman
    December 16, 2011, 6:54 pm

    The I/P issue is one that Obama has failed most miserably. I believed that the U.S. finally had a President who had vision with principles to match to break the death grip of AIPAC on our foreign affairs but, whore that he seems to be, we witness a humbled, ball-less man who deems political expediency more important than visionary leadership with our Nation’s interests to protect. Providing the bunker busters to Israel will further embolden Israel to attack Iran. And as for the Palestinian issue we still hear talk of a “peace process” which only provides a protective front for more settlements to be built, and further talk of a “two state” strategy that I believe can be considered all but dead. Unfortunately the alternative to Obama would be a Gingrich type which would bring Armegeddon to the world.

    • MRW
      December 16, 2011, 9:02 pm

      I’m not so sure that he’s failed miserably. Look at the rope he’s doled out, and Netanyahu has wrapped himself in it. We’ve seen more movement in the last two years than during eight years of Bush, and Kristol’s recent hysterical ECI ad notwithstanding, Israel did it to itself. The Israel Lobby may have bought Netanyahu’s 29 standing ovations in Congress, and Netanyahu may have thought he paid Obama back for snubbing him in April 2009–no freier he!–but maybe they’re being skunked by someone whose combat style is Ju-jitsu.

      • pabelmont
        December 17, 2011, 9:35 am

        From your mouth to God’s ear, but I’ll believe it when I see it. Obama cannot act strongly against Israel (say, at the UN) until November 2012, adn then the mid-term elections are only 2-years away!.

        Israel never, never, never injures itself in a way to excite punishment from the international community because that community is too scared, too powerless, too un-organized, tpp under the USA’s thumb, and — let’s be frank here for a moment — why should they care to exert themselves to save Palestine’s skin?

      • American
        December 18, 2011, 12:21 am

        I don’t think Obama gave them the rope on purpose…., I think Israel did it to themselves.

    • ToivoS
      December 16, 2011, 9:10 pm

      I disagree with this assessment. I think Obama’s biggest error was to even try to influence Israel. When he proposed the settlement freeze my first reaction was I hope he cleared that with the lobby. I presumed that Axelrod and Emanuel had worked something out in advance. Turns out they hadn’t and the lobby turned on Obama and forced him to retreat. At the time I felt Obama should be using his powers to help Americans. For him to continue fighting the lobby he would have just used up too much political capital and accomplished nothing else. The IP conflict was just not worth the political price. A good health care bill for Americans would have been more worthwhile.

      If he had simply ignored Israel and let her do what she does would have been preferable. She is on a self destructive course and just letting her go would accelerate that process. It was not in Obama’s interest to save Israel from herself. As it turned out Netanyahu succeeded in humiliating Obama and he had nothing positive to show for it. The lobby is just too powerful for the president to defy them. With silence they would not have been in a position to attack him as they have.

      • MRW
        December 17, 2011, 4:04 am

        “At the time I felt Obama should be using his powers to help Americans.”

        So did I.

      • American
        December 18, 2011, 12:15 am

        “The lobby is just too powerful for the president to defy them”

        Crap.
        The Lobby could be easily defeated. But it would take a President who actually cares about the country, not a politician whose main goal is just ‘to be’ President and get money for a re-election.

        If I were Obama or if I were running I would welcome the press and media and my opponents bringing up Israel because my response would start off…………

        “There are some candidates for President and some people in congress who think a foreign country’s welfare and security should come ahead of Americans….I do not. The welfare of America and Americans comes first with me.” All American resources should be directed to improving their lives. And their needs, hopes and dreams will be what my decisions and policies are based on. They will not be based on what a foreign country, be they friend or foe, or what the friends of that foreign country want.”

        The lobby would be fucked, congress would be fucked, the zios would be fucked, the christian fundies would be fucked, Israel would be fucked.

        And I would sit back and collect 70% of the votes in the election. And now is the perfect time to do it, conditions are perfect. Except as I said it would take man with balls and real desire to serve this country. Not your typical self serving cheapo politician. Unfortunately self serving cheapo politicians is all we have right now.

      • ToivoS
        December 18, 2011, 6:42 pm

        American – I too have shared that fantasy. Not too sure it would work though.

    • Citizen
      December 16, 2011, 9:30 pm

      Obama was given a “sit down” by somebody after his Cairo Speech. I read insiders know that if POTUS does not do something about a key issue in his or her first year in office, it won’t be done unless in the last year of a second term. That’s seems a recipe for kicking I-P down the road, exactly what Israel wants.

      • Charon
        December 17, 2011, 12:02 am

        If Obama sticks around for another term, I don’t expect anything to change regarding I/P. If anybody among the ruling class has a conscious, and if there is any force of ‘good’ left in Western leaders, we probably wouldn’t even know about it. I have a funny feeling that it isn’t just their careers they worry about if you know what I mean. If there is somebody out there who sees where this is going and has the ability to ‘play the game’ and actually do something about it, I hope they would focus on disarming Israel’s nukes. Both the ones inside of Israel and the ‘second strike’ ones that allegedly exist like in secret submarines.

        Equally important would be locating any ‘surprises’ they’ve left behind. Like the ones of the “Biscopic camera” variety that Magna BSP makes.

  2. Dan Crowther
    December 16, 2011, 7:21 pm

    campaign contributions, religious zealotry, inherent racism, political ideology and I would say, fear.

    Is that the same Indyk who lambasted Mearsheimer, Walt and Judt for talking of “Jewish Control” at the London Review of Books a few years ago? My….

    • Citizen
      December 16, 2011, 9:32 pm

      Yep, the five horsemen of the Apocolpyse. Fear is biggest, and baddest and invisible and infects the other four.

  3. john h
    December 16, 2011, 7:52 pm

    Why is Congress in Israel’s back pocket? Is this about campaign contributions?

    Of course. And it’s about its own self-delusion on the whole Middle East.

  4. MRW
    December 16, 2011, 8:32 pm

    Why is Congress in Israel’s back pocket? Is this about campaign contributions?

    No, it’s because Israel’s package is so big, there’s no room in the front pockets.

  5. Bill in Maryland
    December 16, 2011, 9:07 pm

    President Obama:

    And that’s why, as President, I have never wavered in pursuit of a just and lasting peace — two states for two peoples; an independent Palestine alongside a secure Jewish State of Israel. (Applause.)

    Obama is helping to prop up The Two State Solution just like Bernie was during that notorious weekend, despite starting to smell a bit, out of moral cowardice and political ambition. President Obama, if there is a miracle and God grants you a second term, “Earn it” please on the I/P issue.

    • dahoit
      December 17, 2011, 11:18 am

      Whats the opposite of miracle?A plague?This guy is a plague,and any hopes of his reelection as the lesser of two evils will only bring US more plague.(I’m thinking of the Egyptian plagues sent to them,allegedly by Yahweh.)

  6. dumvitaestspesest
    December 16, 2011, 9:09 pm

    Israel’s back pocket has to be very big and very stretchy.
    Even though, oh my , it must be very uncomfortable , for all those few hundred congressmen to sit there. Snug like bug in a rug.

  7. Krauss
    December 16, 2011, 9:40 pm

    “Why is Congress in Israel’s back pocket? Is this about campaign contributions?”

    The way you phrased the question… it’s too easy and you know it. But I can’t resist.

    “Phil, have you started peddling those pernicious conspiracy theories about those omnipotent and reactionary Christian Zionists again?

    You know, the kind of people who simply happen to be active donors and have a few editors/prominent journalists on their side. That’s all there is to it.

    Haven’t you demonized them enough? Have you no shame? Your bigoted Christophobia, frankly, is starting to get uncomfortable!”

  8. Richard Witty
    December 16, 2011, 10:00 pm

    The only two groups, the only perspectives that haven’t failed on the Israel/Palestine issue are the peaceful settler movement, and the discipline non-violent Palestinian human rights movement.

    The rabid settlers, in attacking the Israeli police and army, have lost a great deal of Israeli and west sympathy. The angry dissenting movement (in contrast to the disciplined non-violent movement) has lost ground in most areas of the world, except where anger drives politics over reason and fairness.

    • James North
      December 16, 2011, 10:21 pm

      Richard Witty said, ‘Look at this!

      The only two groups, the only perspectives that haven’t failed on the Israel/Palestine issue are the peaceful settler movement

      ‘Don’t you admire my breathtaking distortion: “the peaceful settler movement.” !!! Hundreds of thousands of Israelis violate international law by stealing land in occupied Palestine, where they are protected by the Israeli army and police, and I call them “the peaceful settler movement.” And I praise them!!
      ‘What’s that Yiddish word to describe what I’m doing here?’

      • Richard Witty
        December 16, 2011, 10:40 pm

        The peaceful settlement movement is distinct from the rabid settler movement that undertakes “price tag” operations.

        They are protected and do not provoke except by their presence (which you consider a provocation, may you never be held to such a standard “that your presence/existence is itself a provocation”).

        As such, they grow in geographic range, grow in number, grow in political influence, grow in legitimacy.

        Similarly, the peaceful Palestinian solidarity human rights effort grows in presence, number, political influence, legitimacy.

        It is consistently the raging that is illegitimate and dismissed.

        Clear enough for you?

      • eljay
        December 17, 2011, 11:05 am

        >> The peaceful settlement movement … do not provoke except by their presence (which you consider a provocation, may you never be held to such a standard “that your presence/existence is itself a provocation”).

        “Their presence” is far outside of partition borders. “Their presence” is part of Israel’s ON-GOING campaign of theft, colonization and occupation (among other things). “Their presence” is illegal, immoral and unjust.

        But RW defends illegality, immorality and injustice. His Zio-supremacist colours shine a little brighter every day.

      • Donald
        December 16, 2011, 11:27 pm

        “the peaceful settler movement.”

        I had to read that a couple of times before it sank in. It’s been a very long time since Richard said something that surprised me, and wouldn’t you know it? He surprised me by being even worse than usual. Perhaps he misspoke. But it would be consistent with his shift towards a pro-settler perspective.

        “The angry dissenting movement”, on the other hand, is Richard’s usual disdain for people who criticize human rights violations by Israel.

      • eljay
        December 16, 2011, 11:37 pm

        >> ‘ … Hundreds of thousands of Israelis violate international law by stealing land in occupied Palestine, where they are protected by the Israeli army and police, and … I praise them!! What’s that Yiddish word to describe what I’m doing here?’

        “personal spiritual discipline”

        (Yes, I know, that’s three words. So sue me. ;-) )

      • Richard Witty
        December 17, 2011, 11:09 pm

        Its an observation only.

        Who else do you think is gaining ground?

        You did read that the non-violent non-antagonistic forms of dissent are gaining ground.

        The violent and angry consistently alienate more than they inspire.

      • Donald
        December 18, 2011, 12:42 pm

        “Its an observation only.”

        It’s a tendentious and inaccurate way to put it. The “peaceful” settlers are there because the IDF enforces apartheid at gunpoint. The objection of the “peaceful” settlers is that the “violent” settlers shouldn’t attack the IDF.
        Furthermore, you are equating “violent settlers” who actually hurt people with “angry” dissenters who use harsh language, while the “peaceful” settlers are the supposed good guys. I guess they never use angry language then. You know that’s BS. You also know that they are profiting from apartheid.

        In a way this is worse if you meant it as observation. It shows that you see the world in strange distorted ways. We knew that already, but it seems to be getting worse.

    • ToivoS
      December 16, 2011, 11:07 pm

      “peaceful settler movement”. Now that is a good one. A nonviolent thief is I suppose better than a violent one. Let us praise Bernie Madoff — he used no violence in his thievery and should be commended for his nonviolent peacefulness. A model that all bankers should emulate. Hum, I guess they already do. Well let us praise their nonviolence.

    • Charon
      December 17, 2011, 12:13 am

      Peaceful settlers? I just threw up in my mouth a little. ALL the settlers are hostile. Doesn’t matter if they act peaceful. There actions, as in settling an occupied territory beyond the green line is provocative and hostile. There is no rationalization for this. Any settler claiming to want peace is a hypocrite. Because they are a settler.

      Occasionally they use the ‘give back Texas’ excuse. The difference is huge. There are laws in place that prevent war-conquered territory from being annexed and laws that prevent an occupying power from settling in the territory they occupy. Israel has violated a crapton of laws and nobody seems to care. Not only that, most of this settler activity has taken place in my lifetime and I consider myself a young person. This is recent-recent history. If they were seriously peaceful they would GTFO

      • dahoit
        December 17, 2011, 11:22 am

        Not least that all Texans are (allegedly)protected equally by the US Constitution,and the fact that even Mexican Americans would prefer being US citizens than living in the hellhole of Mexico,destroyed by neolibcon capitalism,which is now consuming US.

    • Polly
      December 17, 2011, 1:17 am

      “peaceful settler” is an oxymoron and “non-violent Palestinian human rights” means, I guess Palestinians who keep their bitching to themselves and wait till the bulldozers arrive?

  9. Cliff
    December 16, 2011, 10:43 pm

    “peaceful settler movement”

    Wow, Witty. New low for you. New low.

    • Ramzi Jaber
      December 17, 2011, 9:11 am

      ROTFLMxxO… “peaceful settler movement”. Now I see why you call yourself Witty… NOT!!! Did your AIPAC masters ask you to try a new balloon? This is more laughable than trying to defend Zionism as not being racism.

      Let me tell you Witty about your “peaceful settler movement”. Since the very first day these “peaceful settlers” stole my house and my land and killed my family members and relatives and friends, they had WEAPONS. Growing up, every time I walk in the souk of my town or down the main street or in the hills and valleys, I run into your “peaceful settlers” all armed with Uzis and M16s and other military gear. In addition to their own weapons, they were always protected by the Zionist criminal military (which I call Israel Demolition/Destruction Forces since they are defending nothing but rather killing and stealing and destroying). Your “peaceful settlers” were just a few years older than me, in their mid teens. Their sight and behaviour and arrogance and strutting around and threatening postures were intended to instil fear in all Palestinians. An they did. And I was so ashamed to be afraid. And I was so humiliated not to be able to push back and defend my country and my people and my family.

      That was then. That was when we believed Israel had a “heart” and will withdraw by itself… How delusional we were. We’ve come now a long way where I so much adore, admire, respect, and is inspired everyday by the new generation of Palestinians who is fighting back. A generation that is better than mine and my parents’s and grandparents’ generations. A generation that had enough. A generation that has no fear. A generation that is redeeming our respect and dignity.

      So go ahead Witty and talk about your “peaceful settler movement”. It is a figment of your Zionist racist imagination. All settles are criminals, murderers, thieves, rapists, arsonists, and more. There is no peace about them, in them, by them, or from them. They are destroying any possible peace and will set the region aflame. Maybe only then will the Zionist racist entity be sent into the dustbin of history as what happened to all racist and fascist movements before it.

      • James North
        December 17, 2011, 10:34 am

        Richard Witty said, ‘Oops, I forgot real Palestinians like Ramzi Jaber visit Mondoweiss, with eloquent first-hand testimony about what occupation really means. I, on the other hand, haven’t been to Israel/Palestine since 1986, and even then only briefly.
        ‘I’ll try and ignore Ramzi Jaber. On the plus side, my offensive comment about “peaceful settlers” succeeded in one of my main aims here at Mondoweiss: drawing attention to myself. Mooser regularly points out that my jealousy of Phil Weiss and the esteem in which he is held just jumps off the page.’

      • Richard Witty
        December 17, 2011, 11:12 pm

        I forgot that people here can’t distinguish between an observation and clarification and an advocacy.

        But, I was serious about the “may you never be judged on the may you never be held to such a standard “that your presence/existence is itself a provocation”.

        Do you think that you understood what I was saying before you shot, or did you understand clearly?

  10. DICKERSON3870
    December 16, 2011, 11:04 pm

    RE: “Why is Congress in Israel’s back pocket? Is this about campaign contributions?” ~ Weiss

    MY COMMENT: Phil! How dare you! Das ist verboten! Verboten! Verboten! Verboten!*

    SEE: Gingrich comments on Palestinians a “play” for “Jewish” money, former strategist says, by Ali Abunimah, 12/13/11

    (excerpt) Newt Gingrich, the US Republican presidential hopeful and former House Speaker who said Palestinians are an “invented people,” was making a “play” to attract “Jewish” money to his campaign, a former close associate said today.
    Reacting to Gingrich’s comments on the Palestinians, Matt Towery, a conservative columnist who served as a campaign strategist for Gingrich in the 1980s, told CNN’s Saturday Morning News:
    The Republican primary is one in which primarily you have money coming from pro-Israelis and in Jewish organizations and that[s] a play for that money. And you’re really are not going to have a whole lot of folks involved from either the Arab world or from any area that might be affected by these comments that are going to be voting in any of these primaries any time soon.

    [*] It is generally considered taboo in the United States and even evidence of “anti-Semitism” to talk about the influence of “Jewish” or pro-Israel money in elections. That a former Gingrich advisor and well-known Republican pundit is doing so openly is a notable development…

    SOURCE – link to networkedblogs.com

  11. john h
    December 17, 2011, 12:00 am

    Meanwhile, have we overlooked why this speech was made, and its possible significance?

    After months of relentless and often ruthless Republican attacks on his record and faced with prognostications of pollsters and pundits of the potential Jewish flight from his camp, Obama used his appearance before an excited home crowd to send a clear message to his concerned supporters and to his cocky critics.

    Obama’s long years and close relationships with his numerous Jewish friends and financial supporters in Chicago were prominently on display in his speech, and he knew how to touch all the right buttons of his Reform and liberal Jewish audience: to speak tough on Iran, to pledge undying devotion to Israel, to claim that his Administration has done more for Israel’s security than any other.

    Indeed, they must have been tearing their hair out, the Republicans, to see the audience give wave after wave of ecstatic applause and standing ovations to the man who, as Mitt Romney put it, “threw Israel under a bus” – especially after weeks of having fallen over themselves to express their undying love and uncritical support for the Jewish state.

    Obama’s message was crystal clear: “I have not yet begun to fight”.

    link to haaretz.com
    link to haaretz.com

  12. Avi_G.
    December 17, 2011, 4:26 am

    Peace can’t be imposed from the outside. Ultimately, it is the Israelis and the Palestinians who must reach agreement on the issues that divide them. (Applause.)

    Obama must think people in the Middle East are clueless idiots. Even the 13-year-old kid in Karak, Jordan knows that the United States sides with Israel 99.99% of the time. Even he knows that when it comes to peace processing, the Palestinians are on one side of the table, while Israel and the US are together on the other side of the table.

    If Obama were honest with himself, he would make it clear that the US has tilted the scales in favor of Israel. But, he won’t. Instead, the world gets to hear this nonsense about the two parties negotiating among themselves.

  13. MRW
    December 17, 2011, 4:39 am

    Chemi Shalev, one of john h’s links above, in his Haaretz interview with Deborah Lipstadt:

    Lipstadt described US Ambassador to Belgium Howard Gutman’s controversial comments about the causal connection between the Arab-Israeli conflict and Muslim anti-Semitism as “stupid”, adding that “he sounded as if he was rationalizing anti-Semitism.” But, she said, the reaction to his statements had also been “over the top.”

    Lipstadt decried the “hysteria” and “neuroses” of many Jews and Israelis who compare the current situation in Europe and in the Middle East to the Holocaust era. “People go nuts here, they go nuts. There’s no nuance, there’s no middle ground, it’s taking any shade of grey and stomping on it. There are no voices of calm, there are no voices of reason, not in this country, not in Israel. ”

    “This is the kind of thing that scares me,” she said. “Jews have always been neurotic – I mean everyone’s neurotic, we just recognize it more – but we’ve raised our neuroses to a level that’s not healthy. We should eschew hysteria, but we don’t. Hysteria is never useful.”

    The New York-born Lipstadt said that President Barack Obama’s “flatfooted” handling of Israel at the beginning of his term “gave an opening to Republicans in America and to ‘Republicans’ in Israel.” She said that “more and more Jews are scared and here’s someone [the Republicans, CS] who is going to protect them. It’s so over-the-top irrational.”

    Scared of what?

    • dahoit
      December 17, 2011, 11:36 am

      Lipstadt;Wasn’t she the one who killed free speech in Europe?And you can bet they are working on it here.
      Flatfooted treatment of Israel?Obviously just another sayanim liar with the common affliction relative to Zionists today,not neuroses,but insanity.This feather has wholeheartedly backed Israel to the hilt,despite flowery words for the gullible.

      • Tristan
        December 17, 2011, 3:36 pm

        Lipstadt has made a career of accusing people of Holocaust Denial. She called Jimmy Carter a Holocaust Denier! Norman Finkelstein doesn’t seem very fond of her, calling her a “know-nothing” and “thick-headed”.

  14. Justice Please
    December 17, 2011, 7:52 am

    Good questions, Phil.

    But it’s not just Congress which is populated by Zionist shills. The administration has its own share of them, and Obama is very much responsible for their appointment. Susan Rice, Victoria Nuland, Hillary Clinton, and until a few months ago, Rahm “I like to visit the Golan Heights on an IDF helicopter” Emanuel. Oh, and Eliott Abrams, and Douglas Feith.

  15. Ramzi Jaber
    December 17, 2011, 8:50 am

    The most powerful person in the world kisses the feet of the criminal Zionist state and endorses its illegal activities. Shameful.

    Yes Phil, there is a strong Zionist lobby in America with LOTS of money. That’s why. And it’s getting stronger due to the ignorance and racism of the Zionist Christians. Doubly shameful.

  16. Ramzi Jaber
    December 17, 2011, 9:22 am

    Is it just faintly possible that a light breeze of change is beginning to blow out there??? May I dream a bit?

    Martin Indyk saying this, IMAGINE! This is the Zionist of Zionists, the AIPAC guy since early 80s who then founded WINEP (an AIPAC baby and front) and also became US ambassador to Israel.

    Obama saying “Ultimately, it is the Israelis and the Palestinians who must reach agreement on the issues that divide them.” is a charade. Israel convinced the West that that’s the only way and then it goes around ensuring an agreement never occurs. Israel was founded by the UN – there was NO AGREEMENT with the Palestinians on stealing our land and giving it away to Zionists from Europe. Palestine will soon be founded by the UN. Keep going President Abbas!

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