October 26, 2014
Poland seeks to reclaim heritage as Jewish haven
For 1,000 years Poland was home to one of the largest Jewish communities in Europe • Warsaw’s new Museum of the History of Polish Jews opens Tuesday • The project seeks to remember not just how Jews in Poland died, but how they lived.
Reuters and Israel Hayom Staff
Poland, the country on whose soil Nazi Germany carried out the darkest acts of the Holocaust, is starting to re-connect with its other role in Jewish history, as a home for 1,000 years to one of the world’s biggest Jewish communities.
The country will take a step in that direction next week with the opening of the main exhibition at Warsaw’s newly built Museum of the History of Polish Jews, a project that sets out to remember not just how Jews in Poland died, but how they lived.
Poland’s effort to reach out to its Jewish heritage, tentative and incomplete though it is, contrasts with the mood in other parts of Europe, where Jewish groups say Jews are subject to hostility and sometimes violent attacks.
Some in the Jewish community say Poland — site of the German occupation of the Warsaw ghetto and the Auschwitz, Treblinka and Sobibor camps where millions of Jews were killed — is now more welcoming than many Western European countries.
“When you take into account that Jews are being beaten up in the streets in Germany or France or Scandinavia, you even have synagogues being burned down, murders — we don’t have any of that,” said Piotr Kadlcik, vice president of the Jewish community of Warsaw, one of the country’s biggest Jewish groups.
“I think that right now it’s safer to walk around Warsaw in a yarmulke than it is in certain neighborhoods in Paris.”
On May 24, a man with a Kalashnikov rifle walked into a Jewish museum in Brussels and killed three people, while in July people protesting Israel’s campaign in Gaza — Operation Protective Edge — clashed with riot police outside two Paris synagogues.
Fear and shame
If Poland is, relatively, a haven for Jews, it may be because there are too few of them — 7,508 according to the 2011 census — to make them a big target, or because Poland has no sizeable Muslim community. In other countries, the perpetrators of some high-profile attacks on Jewish targets were Muslim.
It could also be that because the Holocaust has left such a deep stain on the way Poland is perceived, any steps to embrace the Jewish past, however small, feel like important progress.
On Tuesday, the presidents of Israel and Poland will lead the dignitaries at a ceremony to open the main exhibition at the Museum of the History of Polish Jews, in a glass-sided building on the site of what was Warsaw’s Jewish ghetto.
Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, program director of the Core Exhibition, said she hopes the museum will reach the Poles who, because of the Holocaust and persecution of Jews under communist rule, have suppressed their Jewish identity. They are estimated to number in the tens of thousands.
“One of the things which we were looking to do is for this museum to be transformative, to support the renewal of Jewish life, by showing those in Poland today who hid their Jewish roots that there is nothing to fear and nothing to be ashamed of,” Kirshenblatt-Gimblett said.
Kirshenblatt-Gimblett’s father grew up in Opatow, a town in southeastern Poland. He emigrated to Canada before the war. In 1942, the Nazis deported the town’s Jewish population to the death camp at Treblinka.
Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, for many years a professor at New York University, accompanied her father on his first trip back to his hometown in 1988.
Initially, she said, her father was a reluctant visitor, and local people kept their distance. But after a decade of visits, the townspeople started to embrace her father, and the Jewish history that he represented.
After one visit came a breakthrough: the town decided to commemorate the date of the 1942 deportations.
That experience, said Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, was a template for the role she hopes the museum will play in reviving memories.
Heroes and villains
The museum building was financed by the Polish state while the exhibition was funded by donors in Poland and abroad.
Exploring the history of Jews in Poland involves confronting uncomfortable truths. While Nazi occupiers carried out the Holocaust, at several points in their 1,000-year history in Poland, Jews were persecuted by their Polish neighbors.
The exhibition, a sequence of eight connecting galleries that use sound, atmospheric lighting and eyewitness testimony to evoke moments in Jewish history, deals with Poland’s own treatment of Jews by showing visitors the good and the bad, and letting them make up their own minds.
The section that deals with the war describes how some Poles made a living extorting money from Jews who were in hiding by threatening to expose them. It also describes how Catholic nuns risked their lives hiding Jewish children at a Warsaw orphanage.
The prejudice is not all in the past. A far-right movement on the fringes of Polish political life today is called Mlodziez Wszechpolska (All-Polish Youth). That is the same name as an anti-Semitic group that beat up Jewish students in Poland before World War II.
This year, at a Warsaw recreation ground where children were playing, one Polish father complimented an acquaintance on how his son had grown taller. “He’s shot up like a Jew’s commission,” the first father said. The comment, he said, was a figure of speech, not anti-Semitism.
Tad Taube, a U.S. entrepreneur who was born in Krakow, Poland, and as a young boy emigrated just before the Nazi invasion, is one of the principal donors to the museum.
He said it would be unrealistic to think anti-Semitism was not present in Poland, but it was gratifying that it was not as bad as in Western Europe.
He recalled traveling around Poland with Poland’s chief rabbi, Michael Schudrich, who wears religious dress.
“I often expected some kind of an incident or something to happen. Never happened. Never saw him approached in a negative manner or a threatening manner. So I think the Poles have sort of gone beyond that period of their history at this point.”
Goldfinger: the Bond Movie That Was Banned in Israel
The title role of Auric Goldfinger was played with unforgettable panache by Gert Frobe.
Frobe was a former member of the Nazi party before and during World War II.
As a result of this, Goldfinger was originally banned from Israel.
The truth was, Frobe had risked his life by hiding Jewish families
from the Gestapo during his Nazi days. After a Jewish family came forth
to publicly thank Frobe, the Israeli ban was officially lifted.
July 28, 2014
No War Is an Island
When Middle East Conflicts Become One
New York Times
David Brooks, Op-Ed Columnist
It’s amazing how much of the discussion of the Gaza war is based on the supposition that it is still 1979. It’s based on the supposition that the Israeli-Palestinian dispute is a self-contained struggle being run by the two parties most directly involved. It’s based on the supposition that the horror could be ended if only deft negotiators could achieve a “breakthrough” and a path toward a two-state agreement.
But it is not 1979. People’s mental categories may be stuck in the past, but reality has moved on. The violence between Israel and Hamas, which controls Gaza, may look superficially like past campaigns, but the surrounding context is transformed.
What’s happened, of course, is that the Middle East has begun what Richard Haass of the Council on Foreign Relations has called its 30 Years’ War — an overlapping series of clashes and proxy wars that could go on for decades and transform identities, maps and the political contours of the region.
The Sunni-Shiite rivalry is at full boil. Torn by sectarian violence, the nation of Iraq no longer exists in its old form.
The rivalry between Arab authoritarians and Islamists is at full boil. More than 170,000 Syrians have been killed in a horrific civil war, including 700 in two days alone, the weekend before last, while the world was watching Gaza.
The Sunni vs. Sunni rivalry is boiling, too. Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and other nations are in the midst of an intra-Sunni cold war, sending out surrogates that distort every other tension in the region.
The Saudi-Iranian rivalry is going strong, too, as those two powers maneuver for regional hegemony and contemplate a nuclear arms race.
In 1979, the Israeli-Palestinian situation was fluid, but the surrounding Arab world was relatively stagnant. Now the surrounding region is a cauldron of convulsive change, while the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a repetitive Groundhog Day.
Here’s the result: The big regional convulsions are driving events, including the conflict in Gaza. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has become just a stage on which the regional clashes in the Arab world are being expressed. When Middle Eastern powers clash, they take shots at Israel to gain advantage over each other.
Look at how the current fighting in Gaza got stoked. Authoritarians and Islamists have been waging a fight for control of Egypt. After the Arab Spring, the Islamists briefly gained the upper hand. But when the Muslim Brotherhood government fell, the military leaders cracked down. They sentenced hundreds of the Brotherhood’s leadership class to death. They also closed roughly 95 percent of the tunnels that connected Egypt to Gaza, where the Brotherhood’s offshoot, Hamas, had gained power.
Hamas needed to end that blockade, but it couldn’t strike Egypt, so it struck Israel. If Hamas could emerge as the heroic fighter in a death match against the Jewish state, if Arab TV screens were filled with dead Palestinian civilians, then public outrage would force Egypt to lift the blockade. Civilian casualties were part of the point. When Mousa Abu Marzook, the deputy chief of the Hamas political bureau, dismissed a plea for a cease-fire, he asked a rhetorical question, “What are 200 martyrs compared with lifting the siege?”
The eminent Israeli journalist Avi Issacharoff summarized the strategy in The Times of Israel, “Make no mistake, Hamas remains committed to the destruction of Israel. But Hamas is firing rockets at Tel Aviv and sending terrorists through tunnels into southern Israel while aiming, in essence, at Cairo.”
This whole conflict has the feel of a proxy war. Turkey and Qatar are backing Hamas in the hopes of getting the upper hand in their regional rivalry with Egypt and Saudi Arabia. The Egyptians and even the Saudis are surreptitiously backing or rooting for the Israelis, in hopes that the Israeli force will weaken Hamas.
It no longer makes sense to look at the Israeli-Palestinian contest as an independent struggle. It, like every conflict in the region, has to be seen as a piece of the larger 30 Years’ War. It would be nice if Israel could withdraw from Gaza and the West Bank and wall itself off from this war, but that’s not possible. No outsider can run or understand this complex historical process, but Israel, like the U.S., will be called upon to at least weaken some of the more radical players, like the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and Hamas.
In 1979, the Arab-Israeli dispute looked like a clash between civilizations, between a Western democracy and Middle Eastern autocracy. Now the Arab-Israeli dispute looks like a piece of a clash within Arab civilization, over its future.
June 16, 2014
The Pace of Obama’s Disasters
Bergdahl one week. Then Ukraine. Now Iraq. What could be next?
Wall Street Journal
Was it only 10 months ago that President Obama capitulated on Syria? And eight months ago that we learned he had no idea the U.S. eavesdropped on Angela Merkel ? And seven months ago that his administration struck its disastrous interim nuclear deal with Tehran? And four months ago that Chuck Hagel announced that the United States Army would be cut to numbers not seen since the 1930s? And three months ago that Russia seized Crimea? And two months ago that John Kerry’s Israeli-Palestinian peace effort sputtered into the void? And last month that Mr. Obama announced a timetable for total withdrawal from Afghanistan—a strategy whose predictable effects can now be seen in Iraq?
Even the Bergdahl deal of yesterweek is starting to feel like ancient history. Like geese, Americans are being forced to swallow foreign-policy fiascoes at a rate faster than we can possibly chew, much less digest.
Consider the liver.
On Thursday, Russian tanks rolled across the border into eastern Ukraine. On Saturday, Russian separatists downed a Ukrainian transport jet, murdering 49 people. On Monday, Moscow stopped delivering gas to Kiev. All this is part of the Kremlin’s ongoing stealth invasion and subjugation of its neighbor. And all of this barely made the news. John Kerry phoned Moscow to express his “strong concern.” Concern, mind you, not condemnation.
If the president of the United States had any thoughts on the subject, he kept them to himself. His weekly radio address was devoted to wishing America’s dads a happy Father’s Day.
Also last week, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria seized Mosul. Then ISIS took Tikrit. Then it was Tal Afar. Mass executions of Shiites in each place. The administration is taking its time deciding what, if any, aid it will provide the government in Baghdad. But it is exploring the possibility of using Iraq’s distress as an opportunity to open avenues of cooperation with Tehran.
So because the administration has a theological objection to using military force in Iraq to prevent it from being overrun by al Qaeda or dissolving into potentially genocidal civil war, it will now work with Tehran, a designated state sponsor of terrorism for 30 years and a regime that continues to arm Hezbollah in Lebanon, Islamic Jihad in Gaza and Bashar Assad in Syria, to help “stabilize” Iraq. At least the White House has ruled out military cooperation with Iran. But give it time.
Here, then, is the cravenness that now passes for cleverness in this administration: Make friends with a terrorist regime to deal with a terrorist organization. Deliver Iraq’s Arab Shiites into the hands of their Persian coreligionists, who will waste no time turning southern Iraq into a satrapy modeled on present-day Lebanon.
Deal brusquely with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki —who, for all his manifest shortcomings as a leader nonetheless wishes to be our ally—and obsequiously with an Iranian regime that spent the better part of the last decade killing American soldiers. Further alienate panicky allies in Riyadh and Jerusalem for the sake of ingratiating ourselves with the mullahs.
Hand those mullahs some additional strategic leverage as they head into the next (supposedly final) round of nuclear negotiations.
“We are, I am afraid, drifting in a state of semi-animation, towards the rapids.” Those where the words of Hugh Dalton, Clement Attlee’s chancellor of the exchequer, describing the state of Britain in the winter of 1947, on the eve of the end of Empire.
Back then, the U.K. had spent a quarter of its national treasure fighting World War II. It was still spending 19% of its GDP on its military budget. The coldest winter in its history had frozen the country’s stocks of coal, causing electricity blackouts and putting two million people out of work.
The U.S. faces no such crises today. Mr. Obama blew more money on his stimulus plan in 2009 than we had spent up until then on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan combined. Defense spending in the U.S. amounts to 4% of GDP. Our economy is sluggish, but it isn’t crumbling.
Yet when it comes to leadership, we have our very own Clement Attlee at the top, eager to subtract the burdens of international responsibility so he can get on with the only thing that really animates him, which is building social democracy at home. Actually, that’s unfair to Attlee, who could count on a powerful ally to pick up England’s dropped reins, rescue Europe, stop the Soviets. Mr. Obama’s method is to ignore a crisis for as long as possible, give a speech, impose a sanction, and switch the subject to climate change or income inequality.
America’s retreat needn’t end in tragedy, and even the Obama presidency is a survivable event. But the strategic blunders and international disasters are accumulating at an unsustainable pace. This is what the real post-American world looks like.
Incentives for Murdering Jews
It is a damning reflection on the civilized world that one rarely hears a word of condemnation of the criminal Palestinian society in which the murder of Jews is not only considered laudable, but has today effectively become a vehicle towards achieving upward social mobility, both socially and financially.Let us relate hypothetically to Ahmed, a typical youngster in a large and impoverished Palestinian family.Like his peers, Ahmed has been brainwashed – since kindergarten and throughout his schooling, by the mullahs at his mosque and in the daily media – into believing that the highest level of piety is attained by killing the Israeli enemy.He knows that if he were killed in attacking a Jew, he too would become a Shaheed – a martyr – and be compensated for his sacrifice by the rewards and pleasures bestowed on him in Paradise. Moreover, his family will be honored and receive a lifelong state pension from our “peace partner”, Mahmoud Abbas and the PA.Ahmed will recollect the interviews he watched on the PA state television of mothers displaying pride in their offspring’s sacrifice on behalf of Islam and their frequently expressed hope that some of their remaining children will follow the example of the blessed martyr.Furthermore, PA officials will ensure that even if he had brutally murdered innocent Israeli civilians, he would be portrayed as a saintly hero of the Islamic nation and Palestinian people. Ahmed’s family name would become memorialized as city squares, roads, schools, cultural centers and even football teams will be named in his honor.Of course, death is the worst outcome. If Ahmed is fortunate enough to be captured rather than killed, he gets to have the best of all worlds.His family will continue to visit him in prison where he is likely to receive better food than he had at home. He will even be provided with amenities such as television. Moreover, he will be able to educate himself and enroll in University courses and obtain a degree – which would have been inconceivable in his former habitatAnd for all this “suffering” the PA will pay him a handsome salary (using funds received from the US, EU and other donors) for every day that he remains in jail. In fact, the longer his sentence, the higher his monthly salary. In recent years the deterrent for terror attacks was further eroded as successive Israeli governments released large groups of brutal murderers, including cold-blooded killers of infants, in return for an Israeli hostage and more recently as a prerequisite to Abbas merely agreeing to negotiate with Israel. These releases have become such a routine that Ahmed is now confident that if imprisoned, it is highly unlikely that he would serve his full term.He sees that upon his release, instead of being obliged to express remorse for his crimes, Palestinian television audiences will approvingly entreat him to describe to them in detail the ghoulish murders he committed.Ahmed will hear how correspondents from Western newspapers, like Jodi Rudoren of the New York Times, wrote a lengthy article humanizing a released terrorist, the brutal murderer of an elderly Holocaust survivor. Rudoren noted that the murderer had been “demonized as a terrorist by the Israelis”, relating sympathetically to his complaint that as a national hero (he was elevated to the honorary rank of a PA brigadier general), the “$100,000 grants and monthly payments” received from the PA were insufficient to buy him an apartment.The Winograd Commission reviewing the Second Lebanon War explicitly urged the enactment of legislation to prevent the premature release of convicted terrorists because of political and other considerations. Alas, these recommendations were completely ignored, thus intensifying the incentive to murder Jews.It is inconceivable for a self-respecting country to behave in such a demeaning manner. Would the Obama Administration, which pressured our government to release these murderers, dare act in this fashion towards convicted mass murderers in their jails? And what hypocrisy! The US pressured us to release these monsters and yet cautioned us against releasing those who had murdered American citizens. And as a further sickening display of duplicity, the Obama administration even stooped to the level of exploiting Jonathan Pollard – who they should have been released many years ago – as a pawn to pressure us.Fifteen years ago, Prime Minister Netanyahu published a book warning that releasing terrorists would embolden extremists and encourage them to intensify their activities. Now he himself is doing precisely that.Nobody envies the pressures currently confronting our Prime Minister. There are unsubstantiated rumors that the Obama administration, which obscenely lays the blame on Israel for the failure to move forward in negotiations, has threatened that unless Israel toes the line, it will impose its own solution. There were also murmurs that the US could abandon support for Israel in international forums which would open up the doors for sanctions to be applied against us.Nor should one underestimate Netanyahu’s challenges in seeking to maintain a government comprised of parties which are all jockeying to maximize voter support for an election in the not too distant future.It has been claimed that Netanyahu chose to release terrorists rather than impose any kind of construction freeze, even in outlying settlements, in order to retain his coalition. Moreover, he was – and possibly still is – contemplating releasing Israeli Arab terrorists in order to placate the Americans and Abbas.The tension surrounding this issue reached boiling point after the murder of Baruch Mizrahi outside Hebron on Passover eve. When his murderer is ultimately apprehended, he will be sentenced to life imprisonment, but he will have grounds for confidently anticipating that within a few years, he too will be released and embraced as a hero by his people.That Abbas only mumbled that it would be premature on his part to condemn the latest murder until such time as a “full investigation of the incident was concluded” should be considered the ultimate affront.The onus rests on Netanyahu to display leadership. Continuing to release murderers undermines our national dignity and inflicts unbearable pain on families of victims.The erosion of deterrence now impinges directly on the security of Israeli citizens, which must be the primary concern of any government. The current trend is creating an environment where terrorists feel that the risks and penalties they are likely to incur in shedding Jewish blood have now been dramatically minimized.Netanyahu must reverse this policy of releasing murderers to placate the Americans and appease the Palestinians or he will be accused of standing by passively as increasing numbers of Palestinian Ahmeds feel that there is an incentive for them to murder Jews as a means of achieving upward social mobility and enhancing their family status.Failure to act now will compromise Netanyahu’s leadership and undermine his legacy.
Israel minister: Pollard opposes release for talks
The Arizona Daily Star
March 31, 2014
David Cameron orders inquiry into activities of Muslim Brotherhood
Review to look into party’s alleged links to extremism amid speculation group could be banned in Britain
Nicholas Watt, chief political correspondent
David Cameron has ordered Whitehall officials to launch an investigation into the Muslim Brotherhood – drawing on assessments by MI5 and MI6.
Speaking at a No 10 news conference, the prime minister said that the government was committed to encouraging people away from the path of extremism.
“We want to challenge the extremist narrative that some Islamist organisations have put out,” he told reporters following talks with new Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi.
“What I think is important about the Muslim Brotherhood is that we understand what this organisation is, what it stands for, what its beliefs are in terms of the path of extremism and violent extremism, what its connections are with other groups, what its presence is here in the United Kingdom. Our policies should be informed by a complete picture of that knowledge,” he said.
“It is an important piece of work because because we will only get our policy right if we fully understand the true nature of the organisation that we are dealing with.”
A No 10 source confirmed a report in the Times that the investigation is being launched as the prime minister faces pressure to follow the example of Egypt and Saudi Arabia, which claim that the Muslim Brotherhood uses London as a crucial centre for its activities, to ban the group.
The Times reported that MI6, Britain’s overseas intelligence agency, would examine claims that the Muslim Brotherhood was behind the bus attack in Egypt. MI5 will assess how many leaders have been based in Britain after last year’s coup in Egypt in which Mohamed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood president, was ousted.
The regime of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the head of the Egyptian armed forces who played a leading role in the overthrow of Morsi last year, has placed the former president on jail where he awaits trial for treason. Morsi was the candidate for the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice party for the 2012 presidential elections in Egypt.
Cameron ordered the investigation after it was concluded that Whitehall has insufficient intelligence about the Muslim Brotherhood’s activities in Britain and in Egypt. Downing Street has asked Sir John Jenkins, the British ambassador to Saudi Arabia to draw up a report on the Muslim Brotherhood’s “philosophy and values and alleged connections with extremism and violence”.
Sir Kim Darroch, the prime minister’s national security adviser, has already started work. A key role will be played by Sir John Sawers, the current chief of the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6), who served as UK ambassador to Egypt between 2001-03. Sawers, who had previously served as Tony Blair’s foreign affairs adviser in Downing Street, had strong contacts with the regime of the former president Hosni Mubarak.
The Muslim Brotherhood, which was founded in Egypt in 1928, was branded a terrorist group by the Egyptian authorities last year. It had been banned during most of the latter part of the 20th century up until the Arab spring which saw the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak as Egyptian president.
British officials are saying it is “possible but unlikely” that the Muslim Brotherhood will be banned in Britain on the grounds of terrorist links. Foreign Office officials figures have until now resisted proscribing the organisation on the grounds that that could encourage extremists. “The truth is that this is a large, disparate organisation that takes different forms in different countries,” an official told the paper.
The security services are said to take a more hardline view. Sir Richard Dearlove, the former head of MI6, has reportedly described the Muslim Brotherhood as “at heart a terrorist organisation”.
A Downing Street spokesman told the Times: “The Muslim Brotherhood has risen in prominence in recent years but our understanding of the organisation, its philosophy and values, has not kept pace with this. Given the concerns about the group and its alleged links to violent extremism, it’s absolutely right and prudent that we get a better handle of what the Brotherhood stands for, how they intend to achieve their aims and what that means for Britain.”
January 29, 2014
IDF chief: No matter who wins in Syria, Israel loses
Benny Gantz says the choice is between Assad and Iran or jihadist radicals with ties to al-Qaeda
Times of Israel Staff
IDF Chief of General Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz shared a bleak outlook on the internal conflict in Syria and its repercussions for Israel, characterizing the ongoing civil war as a lose-lose situation for Israel. “Heads or tails,” Gantz said, describing the almost three-year war in terms of a coin toss, “the result is negative either way.” “If [Syrian President Bashar] Assad survives he is beholden to the radical axis, to Iran and Hezbollah which bolster him,” he elaborated. “If Assad falls, he will be replaced by global jihadists or other organizations.” Even if Assad does emerge from the conflict on top, Gantz asserted, he will not regain full control of Syria, leaving the door open for other extremist elements. Speaking at an event at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, Gantz said that Israel’s strategic reality was changing, and the country would have to adapt. “Every one of our borders is tested more than in the past,” he said. “The [neighboring] nations as we know them and the borders as we know them exist de jure but it is doubtful that they exist de facto.”
A senior Israeli intelligence official told the Associated Press that more than 30,000 al-Qaeda linked fighters were active in Syria, a huge increase over previous Western estimates. He claimed that the Islamic rebel groups in Syria currently focused on toppling Assad intend to turn their sights on Israel after dispatching the Syrian government. “The longer the war in Syria continues, the more jihadists and radicals are coming to this territory,” the official said.
Kerry, the Palestinians and the Vietnam model
January 29th 2014
Israel’s Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon was recently asked to retract his accurate diagnosis of US Secretary of State John Kerry, but Kerry himself keeps getting away with being outrageous and embarrassing. Earlier this month (on January 2), he referred to Vietnam as a possible model for solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. If Vietnam is what Kerry has in mind, Israel has good reasons to worry.
In January 1973, the Paris Peace Accord officially partitioned Vietnam into two states: North Vietnam and South Vietnam. The agreement was immediately violated by the Communists, who attacked South Vietnam and conquered it within two years. Embattled in the Watergate scandal and driven from office in 1974, President Richard Nixon abandoned the South to its fate. At least one million South Vietnamese were sent to “reeducation camps,” an estimated 200,000 were executed, and millions fled their country on boats, with hundreds of thousands dying at sea.
Obviously, Kerry wasn’t thinking (for a change). But he should be thanked for accidentally reminding us that the Vietnamese precedent is precisely what the PLO means by “two-state solution.”
After Yasser Arafat took over the PLO’s leadership in 1969, he went to North Vietnam to study the strategy and tactics of guerrilla warfare waged by Ho Chi Minh. This is also when the PLO started translating the writings of North Vietnam’s General Nguyen Giap into Arabic. Arafat was particularly impressed by Ho Chi Minh’s success in mobilizing sympathizers in Europe and in the United States. Giap explained to Arafat that in order to succeed, he, too, had to conceal his real goal and should use the right vocabulary: “Stop talking about annihilating Israel and instead turn your terror war into a struggle for human rights,” Giap told Arafat. “Then you will have the American people eating out of your hand.”
What Giap taught Arafat is that, in asymmetric struggles, the militarily weaker side can win thanks to what became an integral part of warfare in the 20th century: the media. Ultimately, Vietnam defeated both France and the United States because Giap knew how to brilliantly manipulate the media in order to convince the French and the Americans that they were sacrificing their sons for an unjust and hopeless war. This is how Giap summarized his strategy: “In 1968 I realized that I could not defeat 500,000 American troops who were deployed in Vietnam. I could not defeat the 7th Fleet, with its hundreds of aircraft, but I could bring pictures home to the Americans which would cause them to want to stop the war.” It worked.
Giap not only taught Arafat the wonders of propaganda in the age of modern media. He also introduced him to the idea of “phased strategy.” What the Communist Vietnamese meant by “two-state solution” was the conquest of the south in phases: first sign a “two-state” agreement with the US, and then repeal it unilaterally by invading the south after the withdrawal of US forces.
This is how Arafat endorsed the phased “two-state” strategy. In June 1974, the PLO adopted the “Phased Plan.” It called for the establishment of a “Palestinian National Authority” in the West Bank and Gaza as a first step toward the “liberation of Palestine.” The Phased Plan was adopted in light of the Arab failure in the 1973 Yom Kippur War and in light of the success of the “two-state” strategy in Vietnam.
In an interview with Egyptian TV Orbit on April 18, 1998, Arafat confirmed that the Oslo Agreements with Israel were meant to implement the 1974 Phased Plan. In an interview published on June 24, 2001 in the Egyptian newspaper Al Arabi, Faisal Husseini declared that the Oslo Agreements were a “Trojan Horse,” the true purpose of which was the phased and total “liberation of Palestine” (the interview was published shortly after Husseini’s death). On September 23, 2011, PLO official Abbas Zaki declared on Al Jazeera that the PLO’s strategy is still to eliminate Israel in stages, but that saying so openly is unwise.
Mahmoud Abbas and other PLO leaders never pronounce the phrase “two states for two peoples.” They only use the expression “two-state solution.” What they mean by this “solution,” however, is not the end of the conflict after the establishment of two distinct nation-states, but a “two-state solution” Vietnam-style. This is why Abbas refuses to recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, this is why he insists on invading Israel with the descendants of the 1948 Arab refugees, and this is why he flatly rejects the idea of a Jewish minority in a Palestinian state.
There is really no reason for Mr. Kerry to apologize. Rather, he ought to be thanked for reminding us of the Vietnam “peace agreement” and of what the PLO means by the “two-state solution.”
Dr. Emmanuel Navon heads the Political Science and Communications Department at the Jerusalem Orthodox College and teaches International Relations at Tel-Aviv University and at the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center. He is a Senior Fellow at the Kohelet Policy Forum.
Ariel Sharon: His Eye Was Not Dim
January 13, 2014
Ariel Sharon often seemed bluff and simple, and he would play that role: in discussions with his kitchen cabinet down at his ranch (they called it the “farm forum”), he would react to some erudite advice by saying: “I am a simple farmer, not a professor. Explain that again, in simple terms so even I can understand it.”
But Sharon was not so simple: he was at different times clever, smart, devious, emotional, unemotional, funny, dry, tough, compromising, unyielding. He was a pariah who transformed himself by the end of his public career into an extremely successful politician and widely admired statesman. Nicknamed the “bulldozer” for both his physical appearance and his military tactics, in politics he was unpredictable and wily. A hero of the right for decades until his decision to withdraw from Gaza in 2005, the “father of the settlements” pulled all the settlements out of Gaza and became very briefly the hero of the “peace camp.” This founder of the Likud Party pulled Likud apart and founded a new party called Kadima when his plans required it. At one point he lacked a majority in his own cabinet to pass the Gaza withdrawal plan, so he summoned two unconvinced ministers to his office—to fire them so he would have the majority in a smaller cabinet. They knew what was coming so they refused to meet with him, whereupon he fired them by fax. It was not easy to get around Ariel Sharon once he had made up his mind.
All these contradictions made him a fascinating man to watch and to deal with. Yet he really was, I think, a simple man at root. He saw himself as a Jew whose job it was to protect the Jewish state. In early 2003, President George W. Bush sent deputy national security advisor Steve Hadley and me (I was the senior Mideast official on the NSC) to meet with him, hear him out, and see what he thought of the various peace plans. Was he open to compromises? What he told us, according to my notes of the meeting, was this:
I took risks personally but never took any risks with the security of the State of Israel. I appreciate Arab promises but will take seriously only tangible performance. For tangible performance I will take tangible steps. Israel is a tiny small country. From the Jordan River to Jerusalem is only 17.5 miles. Before 1967, the Knesset was in range of machine guns south of Jerusalem. From the Green Line to Tel Aviv is 11 miles. From the sea at Netanya to Tulkarm is 9 miles. Two-thirds of the Jewish population lives is a narrow strip on the coastal plain. Between Haifa and Ashdod, which is 80 miles, is two-thirds of the Jewish population, our only international airport, and most of our infrastructure. All of that is overlooked by the hills of Judea and Samaria.
I am a Jew above all and feel the responsibility to the future of the Jewish people on my shoulders. After what happened in the past, I will not let the future of the Jewish people depend on anyone, even our closest friends. Especially when you saw the crowds cheering Saddam who killed even members of his own family and government. With the deepest friendship and appreciation, we do not choose to be the lamb, but not the lion either. I will not sacrifice the nation. I come from a farm family who settled here but I deal with these problems with a cold mind. I met with the Pope, who said this is Terra Sancta to all, but Terra Promisa for the Jews only.
So: “a Jew above all” who wanted Jews to be able to make their own decisions and protect themselves in their sovereign state. I often thought he divided the world into two groups, Jews and all the rest, the latter being further divided into real friends like George W. Bush and real enemies—like most of the Arabs. On this he was unsentimental in the extreme. In the summer of 2005 Sharon gave then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice a tour of his ranch, after which the Israeli and American teams sat down for a meal. Sharon sat silently for a while, as he often did, eating huge amounts of food while he listened to the conversation. Several of the Israelis were criticizing the Palestinians and their leaders harshly: their actions, their political culture, their history. Eventually Sharon jumped in and said, “I am going to defend the Palestinians. I have known the Palestinians my whole life. I was raised with them here. Of all the Arabs, the Palestinians are the most talented, and they have the best sense of humor. But there are two problems: their desire to murder and their taste for Jewish blood; and their treacherous ingratitude.”
It was an extraordinary moment, for we were discussing the Gaza withdrawal and Palestinian Authority’s take-over of Gaza for most of the meal. We were arguing about what exactly the PA security forces were doing, and not doing, and how to force them and/or help them to do more. But here was a remarkable glimpse of the layers underneath, at what Sharon really thought he was dealing with. He wanted peace, he was taking enormous political risks for peace, but it was clear—as I thought about his remark over and over—that to him the best that could be hoped for was an armed peace. Whatever dreams others may have had about a new Middle East, Sharon saw his work as defending Jews from people who would murder them, as they had been murdered throughout history. Now Jews had a state and they could and would defend themselves, and he would create new lines and new separations that would, he hoped, make that perpetual task far easier.
As to where those lines should be, Sharon was as expert as anyone in Israel. Flying in a helicopter over the land, he would point out settlements he had planned or encouraged. But he did not need the flight; he knew the map, in detail. If we asked why the fence line had to go this way and that near some Palestinian village, curving instead of straight or straight instead of curving, he would tell us about the hills and the streams, the elevations and the shapes; he loved the land of the land of Israel with passion. He had seen that land as a soldier, worrying about Syrian troops coming down from the north, Jordanians coming from the east, and Egyptians from the south. As prime minister he used to say, when challenged on changing some position he had taken before as a soldier or civilian, that “what you see from here is not what you see from there.” But wherever he sat he always saw things as a soldier, worrying about Israel’s lines of defense—military and political.
His pullout from Gaza won him accolades from many governments, starting with our own and the Europeans. When he went to the UN General Assembly in September 2005 his dance card was full: everyone wanted to see Sharon, the old bull, the warrior-turned-peacemaker, the guy who had done something no other Israeli leader could have managed. That last was true, and Sharon used to tell me, “the left can’t do anything and the right won’t. If I don’t do it, it won’t ever be done. If I am defeated in this, no one will ever try it again.”
But Sharon had a long memory, and he knew that many of those paying tribute in 2005 had once viewed him as an untouchable. Even in America: In 1991, when Sharon had visited the United States as Minister of Housing, not a single U.S. official would meet with him formally. He had taken the blame for the failures of the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon—he had been defense minister—and the massacre of Palestinians in two Lebanese refugee camps by Christian militiamen was deemed a stain not only on his leadership but his character. On that trip, he was not invited to one U.S. Government office. Through the intervention of friends, HUD Secretary Jack Kemp finally agreed to see Sharon in the lobby of the hotel where he was staying. By 2004, the President of the United States was calling him “a man of peace” and Sharon no doubt enjoyed it. The idea that all insults bounced off harmlessly was, I think, entirely false; Sharon liked being liked, and he especially liked it when an American president trusted him, confided in him, and supported him. He enjoyed those days at the UN in New York. They did not go to his head, because he was too old for that, but you could not gain influence with him by blasting him—only by trusting, arguing, talking, trying. President Bush knew that and it worked, or anyway worked unless Israeli security was in Sharon’s view directly at stake. He fought the intifada his own way, from building the security fence despite American doubts to surrounding Yasser Arafat at his headquarters in Ramallah and cutting off his electricity. Bush used to urge Sharon: “Don’t kill Arafat, Ariel; don’t kill him, it’s not smart.” Sharon would nod and grunt—but never promise. After Arafat’s death in 2004, Bush thanked Sharon for restraining himself. Sharon smiled broadly this time and said, “Well, sometimes God helps.”
What were Sharon’s plans? He left no memoir or notes, so we can only speculate. Most of his closest collaborators agree that he wanted to set Israel’s borders before he left office; he wanted to act, not wait for the Palestinians. He did not think Arafat’s successor, Mahmoud Abbas, was a bad guy, but neither did he think Abbas would lead the Palestinians anywhere. This likely meant pulling settlements back to the fence line, securing the major settlement blocs for Israel in perpetuity, keeping the Israel Defense Forces in the Jordan Valley so as not to replicate what had happened in south Lebanon (and would soon happen in Gaza): when the IDF pulled out, terrorists moved in. Then someone could negotiate peace and a final status agreement some day, maybe in a few decades, maybe when the Messiah came. But meanwhile Israel would have secure borders and the key settlement blocs would permanently be part of the country. This is why he thought his exchange of letters with Bush in 2004 was a triumph: for the first time an American president said there was no “right of return” for Palestinian “refugees” and that, as Bush’s letter put it, “new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centers” would have to be reflected in any peace settlement. There would be no return to what are usually called “1967 borders” but that Bush rightly called the 1949 armistice lines.
That day, April 14, 2004, was certainly one of Sharon’s happiest: in Washington, with a friendly president, with America on his side and backing his plans, and of course away for a while from Israel’s incessant political battles. Sharon’s comprehension of English was imperfect—Condi Rice once said he was the only person she ever met who spoke English better than he understood it—so he wasn’t immediately certain that the language Bush was using was everything Sharon had been led to expect. His staff later told us that Sharon was only convinced when an inveterate enemy of his in the Israeli press bitterly described the whole thing as a Sharon triumph. If that enemy was sour, Sharon could be sweet.
But this was Ariel Sharon; sweetness might have been nice, security was everything. Three weeks before visiting the White House, on March 22, he authorized the assassination of Sheik Ahmed Yassin, the leader of Hamas. And three days after the White House ceremonies on April 14, he authorized the killing of Abdel-Aziz Rantisi, who had replaced Yassin. There were protests everywhere, but those really did bounce off Sharon; terrorists who killed Jews had to be stopped. This was his job as prime minister.
Bush liked Sharon for many of the same reasons he liked Tony Blair or John Howard in Australia: they were people who got themselves elected not to enjoy life but to accomplish things. They were willing to take political risks to do what they thought right. Sharon as prime minister certainly met that test, though it cost him the support of many of his old friends in Israeli politics—not least among the settlers, who saw him as a traitor to the cause. During the Gaza withdrawal period, Sharon’s security was stepped up. “I’ve spent my life protecting Jews, and now I have to be protected from Jews,” he told me sadly at the time. He fully understood the bitterness many old allies felt, but Sharon the general was making a tough, unsentimental assessment of where Israel’s interests and security lay, and then acting.
He would calculate the balance of forces, and weigh the costs and benefits. And once he made that strategic calculation and decided what to do, it was all a matter of tactics and he would select the best one and press ahead. If you got in the way—whether you were an Egyptian army, Palestinian terrorists, or Israeli political foes—you were, as the nickname suggested, likely to be knocked over. He would drive right through you. What he did not calculate at all was how he looked, how the polls would be affected, whether his image would suffer.
In December 2005, his chief of staff came to Washington and told us Sharon wanted to move forward, to set Israel’s final borders—by negotiation if possible, unilaterally if as Sharon feared the Palestinian leaders would not be willing to sign anything. On December 18, Sharon suffered a small stroke, losing consciousness briefly. He was hospitalized for only two days. When he emerged, President Bush called him. “I will rest for a few days and then get back to work,” he told the president. The president told him to be careful: “We need you healthy; don’t work too hard. Keep rational hours! Watch what you eat. I want to see a slimmer Sharon! We need your leadership and your courage to get to peace.” Sharon replied that the two of them can accomplish many things; “I have no doubt I can move forward,” he said, “as long as the terror stops; Israel will not cooperate with terror.” That was the last time they spoke.
On January 4, 2006, at his ranch, Sharon suffered the massive stroke from which he never recovered. His death was expected, and we in Washington laid plans for the funeral; the president intended to go. I wrote a eulogy for the president to read at the funeral, and kept the final version, worked over by the speechwriters, with me over the next few months so it would be handy when Sharon died:
Ariel Sharon also knew this land as a soldier. He enlisted in the struggle for a Jewish homeland as a boy … fought in all of Israel ’s wars … and was severely wounded in battle. Over an army career, he became familiar with every inch of the terrain. He knew how high the hills were … how broad the rivers … where enemies would be likely to hide or strike. And knew he that the land he loved needed both swords and plowshares to prosper in an environment always harsh and often hostile. Ariel Sharon was a brilliant general—and led Israel to some of its most celebrated victories. His experience also taught him the costs of war. In his autobiography, he wrote that “at the age of twenty, most of my friends were dead.” Because he understood these costs, he believed so deeply in keeping Israel strong. Because he understood these costs, the man who made his reputation in battle would also leave his mark as a peacemaker.
In his pursuit of peace, Prime Minister Sharon proved as daring and resourceful as he had been as a general and tank commander. As leader of his nation, he made decisions that caused him great personal pain—and that he knew would be unpopular with many who had been his closest supporters. Yet he stood by his decisions, for this warrior did not dream of more victory in battle; he dreamed of peace for the people he led. And when he committed Israel to a new plan for peace, he did so on the same terms that he had insisted on throughout his life – from a position of strength.
Bringing peace to his people was his life’s work, and Ariel Sharon kept at it up to the moment of his stroke. His energy and determination were a source of inspiration to men many years his junior. As the Scriptures say of Moses, his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated.
Sharon left the political scene in his prime, not physically but politically: on top of Israeli politics, a leader whom opponents and rivals feared and whom everyone understood was almost unstoppable. Sharon was born on a moshav in 1928, two decades before the state. The Israel he leaves finally, today, is a tower of strength and stability in a region being torn apart. Many Israelis contributed their lives to that achievement, but very few can match the contribution of Arik Sharon.
About the Author
Elliott Abrams is senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. He served as deputy assistant to the president and deputy national-security adviser in the administration of President George W. Bush. He is the author, most recently, of Tested by Zion, published by Cambridge University Press.
January 6, 2014
Israeli Official Points to ‘Incitement’ by Palestinians
The New York Times
Middle East Desk
JERUSALEM — Adolf Hitler is quoted on the websites of Palestinian Authority schools. A young girl appears on Palestinian television, describing Jews as “barbaric monkeys, wretched pigs” and the “murderers of Muhammad,” the Islamic prophet. Maps on the Facebook page of the Palestinian presidential guards do not show Israel. President Mahmoud Abbas himself embraced as “heroes” released Palestinian prisoners who killed Israelis.
These are among dozens of examples highlighted by Israeli officials in a new presentation documenting negative statements about Israel and Jews in official Palestinian Authority media and textbooks. As Secretary of State John Kerry departed here on Monday after an intense four-day push for a framework agreement outlining prospects for a peace deal, Israeli leaders said that such statements had not abated since negotiations began this summer and did not bode well.
“The general phenomenon is very clear: They are poisoning Palestinian children with deep hatred of Israel and the Jewish people,” Yuval Steinitz, Israel’s minister of strategic affairs, said on Monday as he showed the presentation to international reporters. “At the end of the day, let’s assume we’ll be able to resolve all the technical issues, which are extremely complicated. Are we going to get genuine peace, or just a piece of paper?”
The 2010 song, “When We Die as Martyrs,” is cited as influential among Palestinian children in Israel’s report.
Video by a Jordanian production company “Bird of Paradise.”
The presentation, which Mr. Steinitz delivered at an Israeli cabinet meeting on Sunday, is part of an intensifying campaign in which he, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and others have emphasized what they call “incitement” as a prime obstacle to peace. It underpins their increasing demand for Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, which they argue is the only way they will be assured that an agreement will end the long-running conflict.
Palestinian leaders dismiss the renewed focus on incitement as a ruse to distract from disagreements over issues including borders, the future of Jerusalem and the rights of refugees. They say that Israel has refused to reconvene a committee, which included Americans, that was established in 1998 to deal with incitement but disbanded after two years and about 20 meetings.
“If there is any incitement against Israel, this is a forum where they can provide it officially, and we can do the same,” said Majdi Khaldi, a diplomatic adviser to Mr. Abbas. “Why do we have to continue just complaints from one to the other? It’s better for all to go to the trilateral committee, and that will solve the whole issue.”
Asked about reviving the committee, Mr. Steinitz said Monday that it had been “completely useless” and would not help because the problems were coming from Palestinian government sources, not rogue individuals.
Mr. Khaldi says the problems go both ways. He pointed out that Israel’s foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, has repeatedly accused Mr. Abbas of “diplomatic terrorism,” and said he also saw Israel’s continued construction in West Bank settlements and military raids on Palestinian cities as forms of incitement.
Xavier Abu Eid, a spokesman for the Palestine Liberation Organization, noted that weather maps in Israeli newspapers do not demarcate Palestinian territory, just as maps cited in Mr. Steinitz’s report do not show the land divided.
Incitement is an issue as old as the conflict itself. An unusually comprehensive recent study of Israeli and Palestinian Authority textbooks found that each presented the other side as the enemy, but that the Palestinian books contained more negative characterizations. David Pollock, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy who in September published a 172-page study of the issue, said that while incitement had decreased markedly since the second intifada, or Palestinian uprising, a decade ago, it persists.
“There are ups and downs, there are exceptions,” Mr. Pollock said in an interview, “but unfortunately I think it is true that the official Palestinian media continue to incite against Israel and to claim that all of Palestine belongs to the Palestinians. There’s almost no positive discussion of peace, two peoples, any of that sort of favorable or even just moderate messages about Israel.”
On the Israeli side, Mr. Pollock said, “what you have are unofficial, extremist fringe individuals” whose statements are “disowned and discouraged, for the most part,” by government leaders.
Mr. Steinitz’s ministry has four people working full time tracking incitement, and since 2009 it has issued quarterly reports trying to quantify it. Mr. Steinitz said that numbers for the fall of 2013 were not yet available, but that “amazingly, surprisingly, since the resumption of the negotiations we see even more incidents.”
On the Nov. 2 anniversary of the Balfour Declaration of 1917, in which Britain endorsed the idea of a Jewish state in Palestine, the website of Mr. Abbas’s presidential guards posted bloodied pictures of Arthur Balfour, the British foreign secretary for whom the declaration is named, and Israeli prime ministers under the banner, “A promise from one who did not own it to one who did not deserve it,” according to the presentation.
The same site, on the Nov. 29 anniversary of the 1947 United Nations vote to partition Palestine, had a headline, “Palestine Is Not to Be Divided,” with a map that did not show Israel. The presentation also included a picture of a Nazi flag hung in the West Bank village of Beit Ummar in October.
And there was a November video on a website of Mr. Abbas’s Fatah faction in which masked members of its military wing threatened to kidnap Israeli soldiers and showed off weapons, singing, “With these rockets we will liberate Jerusalem, with these rockets we will crush the Zionist enemy.”
Mr. Steinitz said that Mr. Netanyahu had shown Mr. Kerry some of these examples during a recent meeting in Rome. The prime minister also complained about incitement in an August letter to Mr. Kerry, and has frequently raised the issue in his public statements since the negotiations began.
“This Palestinian government incitement is rampant,” Mr. Netanyahu said at a joint appearance with Mr. Kerry when he arrived here on Thursday. “Instead of preparing Palestinians for peace, Palestinian leaders are teaching them to hate Israel.”
The demise of Pax Americana
The US remains the most powerful actor in the world. But last week, American credibility was shattered.
November 14, 2013
What happened in Geneva last week was the most significant international event since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. The collapse of the Soviet Union signaled the rise of the United States as the sole global superpower. The developments in the six-party nuclear talks with Iran in Geneva last week signaled the end of American world leadership.
Global leadership is based on two things – power and credibility. The United States remains the most powerful actor in the world. But last week, American credibility was shattered.
Secretary of State John Kerry spent the first part of last week lying to Israeli and Gulf Arab leaders and threatening the Israeli people. He lied to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and the Saudis about the content of the deal US and European negotiators had achieved with the Iranians.
Kerry told them that in exchange for Iran temporarily freezing its nuclear weapons development program, the US and its allies would free up no more than $5 billion in Iranian funds seized and frozen in foreign banks.
Kerry threatened the Israeli people with terrorism and murder – and so invited both – if Israel fails to accept his demands for territorial surrender to PLO terrorists that reject Israel’s right to exist.
Kerry’s threats were laced with bigoted innuendo.
He claimed that Israelis are too wealthy to understand their own interests. If you don’t wise up and do what I say, he intoned, the Europeans will take away your money while the Palestinians kill you. Oh, and aside from that, your presence in the historic heartland of Jewish civilization from Jerusalem to Alon Moreh is illegitimate.
It is hard to separate the rise in terrorist activity since Kerry’s remarks last week from his remarks.
What greater carte blanche for murder could the Palestinians have received than the legitimization of their crimes by the chief diplomat of Israel’s closest ally? Certainly, Kerry’s negotiating partner Catherine Ashton couldn’t have received a clearer signal to ratchet up her economic boycott of Jewish Israeli businesses than Kerry’s blackmail message, given just two days before the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht.
Kerry’s threats were so obscene and unprecedented that Israeli officials broke with tradition and disagreed with him openly and directly, while he was still in the country. Normally supportive leftist commentators have begun reporting Kerry’s history of anti-Israel advocacy, including his 2009 letter of support for pro-Hamas activists organizing flotillas to Gaza in breach of international and American law.
As for Kerry’s lies to the US’s chief Middle Eastern allies, it was the British and the French who informed the Israelis and the Saudis that far from limiting sanctions relief to a few billion dollars in frozen funds, the draft agreement involved ending sanctions on Iran’s oil and gas sector, and on other industries.
In other words, the draft agreement exposed Washington’s willingness to effectively end economic sanctions against Iran in exchange for Iran’s agreement to cosmetic concessions that will not slow down its nuclear weapons program.
Both the US’s position, and the fact that Kerry lied about that position to the US’s chief allies, ended what was left of American credibility in the Middle East. That credibility was already tattered by US fecklessness in Syria and support for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.
True, in the end, Kerry was unable to close the deal he rushed off to Geneva to sign last Friday.
Of course, it wasn’t Iran that rejected the American surrender. And it wasn’t America that scuttled the proposal. It was France. Unable to hide behind American power and recognizing its national interest in preventing Iran from emerging as a nuclear armed power in the Middle East, France vetoed a deal that paved the way a nuclear Iran.
Kerry’s failure to reach the hoped-for deal represented a huge blow to America, and a double victory for Iran. The simple fact that Washington was willing to sign the deal – and lie about it to its closest allies – caused the US to lose its credibility in the Middle East. Even without the deal, the US paid the price of appeasing Iran and surrendering leadership of the free world to France and Israel.
Just by getting the Americans to commit themselves to reducing sanctions while Iran continues its march to a nuclear weapon, Iran destroyed any remaining possibility of doing any serious non-military damage to Iran’s plans for nuclear weaponry. At the same time, the Americans boosted Iranian credibility, endorsed Iranian power, and belittled Israel and Saudi Arabia – Iran’s chief challengers in the Middle East. Thus, Iran ended Pax Americana in the Middle East, removing the greatest obstacle in its path to regional hegemony. And it did so without having to make the slightest concession to the Great Satan.
As Walter Russell Mead wrote last week, it was fear of losing Pax Americana that made all previous US administrations balk at reaching an accord with Iran. As he put it, “Past administrations have generally concluded that the price Iran wants for a different relationship with the United States is unsustainably high. Essentially, to get a deal with Iran we would have to sell out all of our other allies. That’s not only a moral problem. Throwing over old allies like that would reduce the confidence that America’s allies all over the world have in our support.”
The Obama administration just paid that unsustainably high price, and didn’t even get a different relationship with Iran.
Most analyses of what happened in Geneva last week have centered on what the failure of the talks means for the future of Obama’s foreign policy.
Certainly Obama, now universally reviled by America’s allies in the Middle East, will be diplomatically weakened. This diplomatic weakness may not make much difference to Obama’s foreign policy, because appeasement and retreat do not require diplomatic strength.
But the real story of what happened last week is far more significant than the future of Obama’s foreign policy. Last week it was America that lost credibility, not Obama. It was America that squandered the essential component of global leadership. And that is the watershed event of this young century.
States act in concert because of perceived shared interests. If Israel and Saudi Arabia combine to attack Iran’s nuclear installations it will be due to their shared interest in preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear arsenal. But that concerted action will not make them allies.
Alliances are based on the perceived longevity of the shared interests, and that perception is based on the credibility of international actors.
Until Obama became president, the consensus view of the US foreign policy establishment and of both major parties was that the US had a permanent interest in being the hegemonic power in the Middle East. US hegemony ensured three permanent US national security interests: preventing enemy regimes and terror groups from acquiring the means to cause catastrophic harm; ensuring the smooth flow of petroleum products through the Persian Gulf and the Suez Canal; and demonstrating the credibility of American power by ensuring the security of US allies like Israel and Saudi Arabia. The third interest was an essential foundation of US deterrence of the Soviets during the Cold War, and of the Chinese over the past decade.
Regardless of who was in the White House, for the better part of 70 years, every US government has upheld these interests. This consistency built US credibility, which in turn enabled the US to throw its weight around.
Obama departed from this foreign policy consensus in an irrevocable manner last week. In so doing, he destroyed US credibility.
It doesn’t matter who succeeds Obama. If a conservative internationalist in the mold of Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy or Ronald Reagan is elected in 2016, Obama’s legacy will make it impossible for him to rebuild the US alliance structure. US allies will be willing to buy US military platforms – although not exclusively.
They will be willing to act in a concerted manner with the US on a temporary basis to advance specific goals.
But they will not be willing to make any longterm commitments based on US security guarantees.
They will not be willing to place their strategic eggs in the US basket.
Obama has taught the world that the same US that elected Truman and formed NATO, and elected George H.W. Bush and threw Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait, can elect a man who betrays US allies and US interests to advance a radical ideology predicated on a rejection of the morality of American power. Any US ally is now on notice that US promises – even if based on US interests – are not reliable. American commitments can expire the next time America elects a radical to the White House.
Americans uninterested in surrendering their role as global leader to the likes of Tehran’s ayatollahs, Russia’s KGB state and Mao’s successors, must take immediate steps mitigate the damage Obama is causing. Congress could step in to clip his radical wings.
If enough Democrats can be convinced to break ranks with Obama and the Democratic Party’s donors, Congress can pass veto-proof additional sanctions against Iran. These sanctions can only be credible with America’s spurned allies if they do not contain any presidential waiver that would empower Obama to ignore the law.
They can also take action to limit Obama’s ability to blackmail Israel, a step that is critical to the US’s ability to rebuild its international credibility.
For everyone from Anwar Sadat to South American democrats, for the past 45 years, America’s alliance with Israel was a central anchor of American strategic credibility. The sight of America standing with the Jewish state, in the face of a sea of Arab hatred, is what convinced doubters worldwide that America could be trusted.
America’s appalling betrayal of Jerusalem under Obama likewise is the straw that has broken the back of American strategic credibility from Taipei to Santiago. If Congress is interested in rectifying or limiting the damage, it could likewise remove the presidential waiver that enables Obama to continue to finance the PLO despite its involvement in terrorism and continued commitment to Israel’s destruction. Congress could also remove the presidential waiver from the law requiring the State Department to move the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. Finally, Congress can update its anti-boycott laws to cover new anti-Israel boycotts and economic sanctions against the Jewish state and Jewish-owned Israeli companies.
These steps will not fully restore America’s credibility.
After all, the twice-elected president of the United States has dispatched his secretary of state to threaten and deceive US allies while surrendering to US foes. It is now an indisputable fact that the US government may use its power to undermine its own interests and friends worldwide.
What these congressional steps can do, however, is send a message to US allies and adversaries alike that Obama’s radical actions do not represent the wishes of the American people and will not go unanswered by their representatives in Congress.
Obama Turns on Israel
National Review Online, The Corner
November 8, 2013
Barack Obama’s March 2013 trip to Israel had a too-good-to-be-true feel about it. While barely pressuring on Israel, he instructed Palestinians not to set preconditions for negotiations and admonished them to “recognize that Israel will be a Jewish state.” It felt out of character, suggesting a price to be paid later.
Well, that price has now, eight months later, been revealed and it has two components. If I might paraphrase the U.S. position: “First, sit by quietly as we reach an accord with Tehran that freezes but does not dismantle its nuclear buildup. Second, stop the illegitimate residential construction on the West Bank or the Palestinian Authority will, with American acquiescence, start a third intifada.”
Israeli responses to the two demands have been stark, blunt unlike anything in memory. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu blasted the prospective Iran deal as a “monumental mistake” and after meeting with Secretary of State John Kerry warned:
I reminded him that he said that no deal is better than a bad deal. And the deal that is being discussed in Geneva right now is a bad deal. It’s a very bad deal. Iran is not required to take apart even one centrifuge. But the international community is relieving sanctions on Iran for the first time after many years. Iran gets everything that it wanted at this stage and pays nothing. And this is when Iran is under severe pressure. I urge Secretary Kerry not to rush to sign, to wait, to reconsider, to get a good deal. But this is a bad deal, a very, very, bad deal. It’s the deal of a century for Iran; it’s a very dangerous and bad deal for peace and the international community.
Economy and Commerce Minister Naftali Bennett was even more direct, even raising the prospect of an Iranian nuclear bomb destroying New York City:
These critical days in November will be remembered for years to come. The Free World stands before a fork in the road with a clear choice: Either stand strong and insist Iran dismantles its nuclear-weapons program, or surrender, cave in and allow Iran to retain its 18,500 centrifuges. Years from now, when an Islamic terrorist blows up a suitcase in New York, or when Iran launches a nuclear missile at Rome or Tel Aviv, it will have happened only because a Bad Deal was made during these defining moments.
Like in a boxing match, Iran’s regime is currently on the floor. The count is just seconds away from 10. Now is the time to step up the pressure and force Iran to dismantle its nuclear program. Not to let it up. It would be dangerous to lift the sanctions and accept a deal which allows Iran to retain its entire uranium-production line. It would be dangerous because Iran would, a year, two or three from now, just turn everything back on and obtain a nuclear weapon before the world can do anything to stop it. It is not enough to shut off the centrifuges. They need to be completely dismantled. We call upon the West to avoid signing a Bad Deal.
Israel’s responsibility is to ensure the security of its citizens and that is exactly what we will do. We will never outsource our security.
On the Palestinian issue, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon took the lead:
There is no need to fear threats of whether there will or won’t be a third intifada. We have been in an open and ongoing conflict [with the Palestinians], which as far as the Palestinians are concerned does not end in 1967 lines. There is Sheikh Munis, [their name for] Tel Aviv, Majdal, [their name for] Ashkelon. We got out of the Gaza Strip and they continue to attack us. They raise their youth to believe that Haifa and Acre are Palestinian ports and more. There is no sign of compromise here. … We will have to be smart, and not fear threats of whether there will or won’t be a third intifada.
I wrote before the last presidential election that “Israel’s troubles will really begin” should Obama win second term. At Obama’s second inauguration, I predicted that he, “freed from re-election constraints, can finally express his early anti-Zionist views after a decade of political positioning. Watch for a markedly worse tone from the second Obama administration toward the third Netanyahu government.”
That moment is now upon us.
Obama’s Back-Door Dealing with Iran
American Center for Democracy
November 8, 2013
for his Iranian interlocutors: The U.S. wants to peacefully resolve the dispute over Tehran’s nuclear program” and “is ready to deal.” The article also mentions that former UN Ambassador Susan Rice was charged with conveying much the same message to the Iranian UN ambassador during her stint there.To veil their intentions Obama’s staff used the United Nations Association, Asia Society vice president Suzanne DiMaggio, and the Council on Foreign Relations in efforts to bring Rouhani and Obama face-to-face during the recent UN General Assembly meeting. The Journal noted, “U.S. diplomacy has also been aided by Hossein Mousavian, a former top Iranian diplomat and now a visiting scholar at Princeton University.”Obama himself recently admitted that soon after his inauguration, he wrote to Iran’s Supreme Leader, to lay out his intentions for rapprochement with Iran. It’s no wonder, then, that just before Obama’s 2012 reelection White House adviser-in-chief Valerie Jarrett, who has childhood friends in Iran-some in influential positions, decided to leak the news that the White House was near a deal with Tehran. She wanted to assure the boss’s reelection by producing good news. Now we know that she had the evidence to show this if Obama had allowed it.
Hillary Clinton Counters Israeli Stance on Palestinians and Iran
Washington Post Staff Writer
April 24, 2009
Progress on establishing a Palestinian state must go “hand-in-hand” with efforts to stem Iranian influence in the Middle East, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said yesterday, implicitly rejecting the emerging position of the new Israeli government.
Aides to Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said this week that the Israeli government will not move ahead on the core issues of peace talks with the Palestinians until it sees progress in U.S. efforts to stop Iran’s suspected pursuit of a nuclear weapon and limit Tehran’s rising influence in the region. Netanyahu, who is skeptical of efforts to create a Palestinian state, plans to visit Washington next month; aides said he was preparing to outline his emerging policy to President Obama.
Asked about those comments during an appearance before a panel of the House Appropriations Committee, Clinton said she did not want to “prejudge the Israeli position until we’ve had face-to-face talks.” But she then cautioned that Israel was unlikely to gain support for thwarting Iran unless there were visible efforts to achieve Palestinian statehood.
Clinton noted that every Arab official she has met with “wants very much to support the strongest possible policy toward Iran.” But, she said, “they believe that Israel’s willingness to reenter into discussions with the Palestinian Authority strengthens them in being able to deal with Iran.”
She said the Obama administration was seeking to coordinate the Arab and Israeli positions so the unusual dynamic of unity on Iran could be exploited. “We have to sort of get everybody together in one place, which hasn’t yet happened, to figure out how that can proceed,” she said.
Clinton took flak from some lawmakers about the administration’s efforts to keep its options open regarding the creation of a Palestinian unity government. The government is split between Fatah, which controls the West Bank, and Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip. Hamas, which the State Department considers a terrorist group, won Palestinian legislative elections in 2006, but the United States has refused to deal with the group until it meets conditions, including recognition of Israel.
Clinton indicated that if a unity government is formed, the administration would be willing to deal with that government, even if it contained Hamas ministers, as long as the government agreed to those conditions, much as the United States currently deals with the elected Lebanese government in which the militant group Hezbollah controls 11 out of 30 cabinet seats. But several lawmakers, including Rep. Nita M. Lowey (D-N.Y.), chair of the foreign operations subcommittee, and Rep. Mark Steven Kirk (R-Ill.) indicated that the House may seek to restrict aid to the Palestinian Authority, which would limit the administration’s flexibility.
Global Ramifications of the Anti-Muslim Brotherhood Campaign in Egypt
November 1, 2013
Since General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi overthrew Mohamed Morsi on July 3, the military-led government has been engaged in a ferocious crackdown of the Muslim Brotherhood and more broadly of Islamists (though some, like the Salafis of the Nour party, playing their hand carefully, have generally avoided trouble so far).
Not only has this assault been violent, with hundreds of deaths, and legal, with the Brotherhood banned and its top leadership jailed, but it has also been broadly cultural, economic, and religious. Even the mildest approbation of the Muslim Brotherhood can get one in trouble, with one’s neighbors if not with the state. A very large swath of the population supports the crackdown and pushes for it. A few of the many, many examples:
- Mohammed Youssef, the Egyptian kung fu champion, found his gold medal taken away and himself banned from competitions after he expressed support for Mohammed Morsi by wearing a T-shirt with the pro-Morsi symbol of an open palm and four fingers.
- Gen. Mohamed Farid el-Tohamy, Mubarak’s anti-Islamist honcho, is back after 2½ years of disgrace and investigation. He is now reputed to be the main advocate and implementor of the attempt to destroy the Muslim Brotherhood. “He was the most hard-line, the most absolutely unreformed,” says one Western diplomat on background. “He talked as if the revolution of 2011 had never even happened.”
- The secular activist Ahmed Belal, with support from the Rebellion movement, called for a boycott of Muslim Brotherhood-owned business, causing them major financial losses. Some Salafi-owned business have it even worse, being not only boycotted but set on fire .
- After parents complained that the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated school principals and teachers were inciting violence against the police and military, the Ministry of Education fired 95 of them .
How this effort fares has vast importance not just for Egypt but far beyond. Should the crackdown succeed in isolating, weakening, and destroying the Islamists, then others will replicate it elsewhere. But should it fail, the campsign will be discredited and will not be repeated.
Therefore, all of us who want to see the barbaric Islamist movement destroyed must support the Sisi crackdown, even if we distance ourselves from some of its tactics.
(November 1, 2013)
Clinton Foundation Received Millions from Saudis, Qatar, Iran
In addition, a senior Muslim Brotherhood operative recently arrested in Egypt worked for years at the Clinton Foundation.
October 9, 2013
A senior Muslim Brotherhood (A worldwide Islamist organization founded in Egypt in 1928 by Hassan al-Banna that seeks to implement Sharia-based governance globally) operative recently arrested in Egypt worked for years at the William J. Clinton Foundation. The Clinton Foundation has also received millions of dollars from Saudi Arabia, Qatar and a foundation that is an Iranian regime front.
The current Egyptian government, which was put in power after the military overthrew the Muslim Brotherhood, has launched a sweeping crackdown on the Brotherhood and calls it a terrorist organization.(Jihad A holy war waged against non-Muslims on behalf of Islam considered to be a religious duty; also, a personal struggle in devotion to Islam) One of the senior officials arrested is Gehad el-Haddad.
From 2007 to 2012, el-Haddad was the Egyptian director for the Clinton Foundation. El-Haddad’s father is Essam el-Haddad, a member of the Brotherhood’s Guidance Bureau.
While he worked for the Clintons, El-Haddad began working in May 2011 as a senior adviser for the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood’s political wing, the Freedom and Justice Party. Apparently, the Clinton Foundation had no problem with his side-work and continued to employ him.
After he left the Clinton Foundation, el-Haddad became a senior adviser to the Muslim Brotherhood directly and became a member of the Steering Committee for the Brotherhood’s Renaissance Program, a plan to institute Sharia law in Egypt. He then became a spokesperson and media strategist for Mohammed Morsi’s successful presidential campaign.
To put it simply, the Clinton Foundation’s former Egyptian official is a big shot in the Muslim Brotherhood. And only one month after he departed the Foundation, Morsi spoke at the Clinton Global Initiative.
It’s reasonable to speculate that the idea for that came from el-Haddad, but there’s another Brotherhood-linked individual that works at the Foundation: Huma Abedin.
The Clarion Project has reported extensively on Abedin, such as how she served as an assistant-editor of an Islamist journal from 1996, when she became a White House intern, until 2008, when she became Deputy Chief of Staff to Hillary Clinton, then-Secretary of State. The journal was put together by several members of Abedin’s immediate family, including her mother, a prominent member of the Muslim Sisterhood.
While working in the State Department, Abedin was also a consultant to the Clinton Foundation and worked for Mrs. Clinton directly, outside of the governmental duties. Abedin was given special treatment by Mrs. Clinton to permit her to do this. Abedin did not disclose this consulting work.
The Clarion Project also discovered that the Clinton Foundation received a large donation from the Alavi Foundation, a front for the Iranian regime that sought to advance the regime’s point of view. Alavi’s financial disclosures show a $30,000 donation in 2005.
A recent statement from the Alavi Foundation refers to a donation to the Clinton Foundation to help victims of Hurricane Katrina.
Additionally, CNN reported in 2008 that the Clinton Foundation received millions of dollars from figures close to the governments of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar. All three have long used their oil wealth to finance pro-Islamist sentiment. Qatar is a major supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Influences like these help explain why the Clinton State Department towed a pro-Brotherhood line.
Hillary Clinton is, by far, the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016 with every poll showing her winning the general election, usually by a very comfortable margin.
With money and influences like these, we can expect the same if she becomes president.
The End of the Muqawama? Hamas and Hizbollah Face Reform or Collapse
Unknown – Unknown
October 9th, 2013
Current discourse on Palestinian and Lebanese social networks indicates that a surprising trend has emerged over the past six months with potential momentous consequences for Israel’s security concept and the strategic challenges before it. The violent resistance (muqawama) against Israel by Hizbollah and Hamas has lost its legitimacy in Lebanese civil society and Palestinian society, respectively.
The two movements were founded, Hizbollah in the early 1980s and Hamas in the late 1980s, as Islamic resistance movements based on the principle of violent struggle as both a vision and a means of freeing Arab lands from the “Zionist occupation.” The widespread support, sympathy, and admiration they earned over the past 30 years, domestically and in the Arab world, have dissipated. Since the onset of the “Arab Spring” these two movements have lost much of their political power, the support of Arab public opinion, and most important, their domestic support.
“The Enemy Within”
One of the most evident results of the “Arab Spring” has been the shift in focus by Arab civil societies from outside to inside – from foreign policy to domestic affairs. Civil society in the Arab world is demanding the redressing of injustices. Nationalism and Islamism have been replaced by a demand for democratization, rights, and freedom.
The Gazan and Lebanese civil societies, which have experienced civil wars and violent struggles against Israel, are not eager for revolutions or the collapse of the political and social structures. Moreover, as reflected in the social media discourse, neither the Palestinians nor the Lebanese believe any longer in violent struggle as a successful and legitimate means of achieving their political, socioeconomic, and national reforms. Trend analysis of the social networks among over one million Palestinians (which represents approximately 35 percent of the Palestinian population) and half a million Lebanese (15 percent of the population) reveals that for the first time in the past 30 years, the “enemy from within” (Hizbollah and Hamas) is regarded as more dangerous than the “from without” (Israel).
Civil society in Lebanon in large, including parts of the Shiite population, now reflects overwhelming opposition to Hizbollah’s policy in Syria and Lebanon. The announcement by US President Obama in late August that the US intended to launch a military strike againsrt Syria exposed the depth of the domestic Lebanese criticism of Hizbollah. Many Lebanese politicians attacked the organization’s policy, and Hizbollah ally Michel Aoun, a member of the March 8 Coalition, announced that if Hizbollah intervened in Syria during an American attack, he would withdraw from – and thereby dissolve – the coalition. Many TV channels mobilized to exert massive public pressure on Hizbollah not to intervene in the Syrian civil war, and many commentators and interviewees publicly opposed any Hizbollah military action against Israel. The public “turned its back on Hizbollah,” and some even tweeted that “Hizbollah is more dangerous to Lebanon than Israel.” Indeed, Israel has become marginal to the domestic Lebanese discourse, with the three main themes of being the Syrian civil war and its effect on Lebanon; the deteriorating security situation and the domestic ethnic Lebanese struggle; and the domestic effect of Hizbollah’s political weakening.
A similar picture applies to Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The wave of revolutions in the Arab world has brought about a change in domestic Palestinian discourse: from a focus on “Israel, the enemy without” to “Hamas, the enemy from within;” from a discussion of a violent nationalistic struggle to a discussion of rights, freedom, and a better standard of living. Internet discourse reveals that for the first time since the establishment of Hamas, a majority of the Gaza population want to overthrow the Hamas regime. This is the first time that Gazan public opinion has indicated that the public regards Hamas’ policy as a greater threat than Israel to their well being.
The collapse of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt has accelerated the process, and made it unmistakably clear that the slogan “Islam is the solution” hasn’t achieved economic prosperity either in Egypt or the Gaza Strip. On the contrary; the situation in Gaza is deteriorating. The Egyptian military has launched an unprecedented attack on Hamas in Gaza, from its leadership to tunnels to weapons smuggling and to the terrorist factions jockeying between the Gaza Strip and Sinai. A “buffer zone” between Egypt and the Gaza Strip was created, and public opinion in Egypt has even begun to demand collective punishment of Gaza: no fuel, gas, or food. The border crossing between Gaza and Egypt is almost completely closed (except for special cases), and Egyptian state media (both social networks and the press) have declared that Hamas is a “terrorist entity” and Gazans are “terrorists.” They have even stated that Hamas and Gaza currently constitute a danger to the national security of Sinai and Egypt.
“The Enemy Without”
A majority of Lebanese civil society currently regards the civil war in Syria, Syria’s political dissolution, and the consolidation of the radical al-Qaeda-affiliated movements there as the true dangers to Lebanon’s stability and security. For its part, Hizbollah is concerned about the survival of the Assad regime, the weapons smuggling routes from Syria to Lebanon, and the effect of a future settlement in Syria. While Israel is not considered a threat to Hizbollah’s survival at present, a collapse of the current system in Syria and the emergence of a new order that includes Sunni jihadist movements on the Lebanese border jeopardizes the security of Lebanon in general, and that of Hizbollah and the Shiite population in particular. In addition, among Shiites and Hizbollah supporters, muqawama has been demoted to third place on the list of priorities, following Hizbollah’s intervention in Syria and efforts to ensure the survival of the Assad regime, and internal Lebanese politics and issues related to the Shiite population and the Sunni jihad movements. When the Lebanese public speaks about the external enemy, it therefore does not refer to Israel. Some Lebanese regard the Assad regime as a threat, while others fear the radical Sunni jihad movements currently operating in Syria.
The vast majority of social discourse in the Gaza Strip currently concerns Egypt and its policy towards Gaza. Many on the networks assert that the policy of the Egyptian military toward Gaza is tougher than that of Israel. The Gazan public objects to “Egyptian abuse” and the harsh sanctions imposed on the Gaza Strip, which are turning it into a prison with lengthy power outages and at times no clean water. Sentences like “Egypt has become Gaza’s jailer” and “They are starving and punishing us” are seen frequently on the social networks. Most of the demonstrations today in the Gaza Strip are staged on the Rafah border, whether they were initiated by Hamas or by Gazans demanding change. And as with Lebanon, Israel has been relegated to fourth place in the public discourse behind a) Egyptian policy toward Gaza; b) the deteriorating economic situation; c) the civilian protest against Hamas; d) Israel. If the “enemy from within” is Hamas, the “external enemy” is now Egypt, not Israel.
Reform vs. Collapse
Current domestic discourse on the two muqawama movements on Palestinian and Lebanese social media suggests only two options for the future of these movements: reform and transformation or collapse. Hizbollah is the element with the most military power in Lebanon; the same is true for Hamas in Gaza, and therefore no local movement or militia is capable of challenging or overthrowing either resistance movement. Nevertheless, without international, Arab, or domestic political legitimacy, these two movements lack socioeconomic power, and thus lose their ability to exert political influence in the areas under their control. According to domestic social media discourse, if elections were held today in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip, Hizbollah and Hamas would not win. This is the first time that this widespread public sentiment has been sounded, along with the sense that an attempt by these organizations to divert public attention from their weakness through another round of violence against Israel would only hasten their collapse.
Is this the End of the Muqawama?
The discourse on the social networks thus points to three conclusions. The first: The Lebanese and Gazan publics no longer believe that the violent struggle is an effective means of realizing their social, economic, and national aspirations. In the dialogue on the social networks, a public demand for a violent struggle against Israel no longer exists. Two, both movements are losing their political power. The slogans used by Hamas and Hizbollah, “Islam is the solution” and “ideology built on violent struggle,” are rapidly losing their legitimacy. Finally, the two movements will have to reform their internal and external policies. Otherwise, they are likely to collapse.
The Wall Street Journal
How Not to Negotiate With Iran
The threat of force will do far more than gifts and sweet talk.
October 7, 2013
“We know that deception is part of [Iran’s] DNA.” So said Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman last week, testifying to Congress about the next round of negotiations with Tehran over its nuclear programs. So why is Ms. Sherman pleading with Congress to delay imposing additional sanctions for the sake of what she called “confidence building”?
How depressingly predictable: Iran lies and prevaricates—about the breadth of its nuclear programs; about their purpose; about the quality of its cooperation with U.N. nuclear watchdogs; about its record of sponsoring terrorism from Argentina to Bulgaria to Washington, D.C.; about its efforts to topple Arab governments (Bahrain) or colonize them (Lebanon); about its role in the butchery of Syria; about its official attitude toward the Holocaust—and the administration thinks priority No. 1 is proving its own good faith.
Last month, the administration returned to Iran a 2,700-year-old silver cup shaped like a mythological griffin, which had been stolen from a cave in Iran a decade ago before it was seized by U.S. customs. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei must have been moved to tears.
At least the griffin beat the key-shaped cake National Security Adviser Robert McFarlane brought with him in the 1980s in what would become the Iran-Contra debacle. That episode provides a useful lesson in how not to negotiate with Iran, and from the most unexpected source: Hasan Rouhani, now Iran’s president, then deputy chairman of the Majlis, the Islamic Republic’s parliament.
In August 1986, an Israeli agent named Amiram Nir, posing as a U.S. official, met Mr. Rouhani in Paris at a meeting orchestrated by an Iranian-born arms dealer named Manucher Ghorbanifar. Nir wore a recording device, and details of the talk eventually came into the possession of Israeli military reporter Ron Ben-Yishai. The episode has since been reprised in the Israeli press, most recently by reporter Mitch Ginsburg for the Times of Israel.
Iran was then trying to obtain missiles from the U.S. (with Israel acting as an intermediary) in exchange for the release of Americans held hostage by Iranian-backed proxies in Lebanon.
The missiles were provided but the hostages were not—a victim, by some accounts, of hard-line opposition within Iran to the more pliable course advocated by Mr. Rouhani. So it goes with Western outreach to Iranian moderates: It always fails, though whether it’s on account of the moderates being duplicitous or powerless is a matter of debate. Maybe Mr. Rouhani isn’t “a wolf in sheep’s clothing,” as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says. Maybe he’s a sheep among wolves.
If so, he’s a very canny sheep. “If you don’t bare sharp teeth before [Ayatollah] Khomeini,” he advised Nir, “you’re going to have troubles all over the world. If you threaten him with military force, he’ll kiss your hand and run.”
Elsewhere in the conversation, Mr. Rouhani suggested a strategy for getting the hostages released. “If for instance, you said to [Khomeini], ‘You must release all of the hostages in Lebanon within five days. If not—we’ll deal you a military blow and you will be responsible for the results,’ do it, show that you are strong, and you will see results.”
And there was this: “If we analyze Khomeini’s character, we will see that if someone strong stands opposite him, he will retreat 100 steps; and if he is strong and someone weak faces him, he will advance 100 steps. Unfortunately, you have taken a mistaken approach. You have been soft to him. Had you been tougher, your hand would be on top.”
Mr. Rouhani’s analysis of Khomeini’s mind-set would soon find tragic confirmation. On July 3, 1988, the USS Vincennes mistook an Iranian jetliner for a fighter jet and shot it down, killing nearly 300 people. Khomeini, who was sure the incident was no accident, thought Washington intended to enter the Iran-Iraq war on Saddam Hussein’s side. Just 17 days later, on July 20, Khomeini accepted a humiliating cease-fire with Iraq: “Unhappy am I that I still survive and have drunk the poisoned chalice,” he said in a radio address.
Khomeini is long dead, but the regime’s mentality of yielding only to intense pressure and credible threats of force remains the same. So how should the U.S. negotiate? Mark Dubowitz, who helped design some of the most effective sanctions against Iran from his perch at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, offered this:
“Effective on October 16, any financial institution providing Iran with access to, or use of, its overseas financial reserves for any purpose with the exception of permissible humanitarian trade will be cut off from the U.S. financial system.” The idea is to push forward what Mr. Dubowitz calls Iran’s “economic cripple date”—the moment when it runs out of foreign reserves—ahead of its “undetectable breakout date”—the moment when the regime can build a bomb in secret before the West can stop it.
I have my doubts about the use of sanctions as the main tool to change Iran’s behavior. But if the administration means to use them as the weapon of choice, they should at least use them aggressively. Negotiations with Iran resume Oct. 15. Mr. Dubowitz’s Oct. 16 deadline will do more to get their attention than griffins, cakes or other pathetic diplomatic sweeteners.
Netanyahu: For peace, Palestinians must recognize Jewish homeland
Bar-Ilon University, The Begin-Sadat Center
Oct. 6, 2013
Prime Minister Netanyahu speaking at Bar Ilan, October 6, 2013. Photo: Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO
There will be no peace with the Palestinians until they recognize the Jewish right to a homeland in Israel, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Sunday night at Bar-Ilan University.
“A necessary condition to getting a true solution [to the Israeli-Palestinian] conflict was and remains clear as the sun: ending the refusal to recognize the right of the Jews to a homeland of their own in the land of their fathers,” he said. “That is the most important key to solving the conflict.”
Netanyahu’s words came at the start of a conference marking 20 years since the founding of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, the site of Netanyahu’s famous “Bar-Ilan speech” from four years ago where he stated his willingness for a two-state solution.
Those who anticipated that he might use the same venue to again break new ground on the Palestinian issue were disappointed.
Rather then present a “vision” speech of where he thought the negotiations with the Palestinians were headed, Netanyahu used the opportunity to emphasize that a Palestinian recognition of Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people was a necessary condition to any agreement.
Since the first Arab attack on a home housing Jewish immigrants in Jaffa in 1921, the root of the conflict has not been the “occupation,” the “territories” or the settlements, but rather an Arab refusal to recognize the Jews’ right to a sovereign state in their historic homeland, he said.
Netanyahu said that the Arab revolutions of the past two years – which he called the most significant events in the region in 20 years – have laid to rest the “sacred cow” that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was the heart of the instability in the Middle East.
Today, he said, it is “tough to say this without sounding absurd.”
It is now also the time, he said, to kill the “sacred cow” that the “occupation” was the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Netanyahu spent a number of minutes during his address, which lasted some 30 minutes, discussing the links of the head of the Palestinian national movement in the pre-state days – Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini – with the Nazis. He reminded his listeners that the mufti visited Adolf Hitler in 1941 and promised his aid in getting Muslims to enlist in the SS in the Balkan states, and in the Nazi propaganda efforts.
Husseini, he said, is still an admired figure among Palestinians.
“That is what needs to be uprooted,” he said.
Netanyahu brought up the mufti, however, more to refute comments Iranian President Hassan Rouhani made in New York two weeks ago than to slam the current Palestinian leadership.
During a television interview, Rouhani acknowledged Nazi crimes against Jews, though he would not use the word “Holocaust.”
Netanyahu pointed out that Rouhani then quickly pointed out that it was forbidden to let the Zionists exploit the Nazi crimes to oppress the Palestinians.
“Despite what Iranian representatives and others say,” the prime minister said, “Zionist leaders did not use the Holocaust to destroy the Palestinian national movement.
The opposite is true. The leader of the Palestinian movement at that time, Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini, is the one who preached and worked to carry out the Holocaust to destroy the Zionist movement.
“And it almost worked,” Netanyahu said. “European Jewry was destroyed, with the help of the mufti, but Zionism was not destroyed; Israel was established.”
The goal of Iran today was to control the Middle East and beyond, and to “destroy the State of Israel. That is not speculation, that is the goal,” he said.
Repeating arguments he made last week at the UN, Netanyahu dismissed the notion that Iran was merely seeking nuclear energy for peaceful means, saying that countries that want to harness nuclear energy for civilian needs do not insist on enriching uranium and building plutonium reactors, elements not needed for civilian nuclear purposes but only to build nuclear weapons.
“The international community’s position toward Iran needs to be: We are willing to come to a diplomatic solution – but only one that will dismantle from Iran its capabilities to develop nuclear weapons. That means no centrifuges for enriching uranium and no plutonium reactor,” he said.
Earlier in the day, at the weekly cabinet meeting, Netanyahu stressed he was not against diplomacy with Iran, but rather wanted to ensure that negotiations with Iran will lead it to a halt of uranium enrichment.
Netanyahu, in his first meeting with his cabinet since meeting US President Barack Obama in Washington and saying a day later at the UN General Assembly last week that Israel would “stand alone” against Iran if need be, said he had a long, in-depth conversation with Obama about Iran and that they agree on the need to halt the Islamic Republic’s uranium enrichment.
“Iran claims that it wants this capability for nuclear energy for peaceful needs,” he said. “Seventeen countries in the world produce nuclear energy for peaceful needs without one centrifuge or enriching uranium.”
Netanyahu, who only recently began publicly saying that the sanctions on Iran were making a serious dent, said that the sanctions were “working,” and were “just a moment before achieving their goal.”
Sanctions must not be removed before Iran dismantles its enrichment capabilities, he said.
October 7, 2013
Speech of his life and ours
In his speech at Bar-Ilan University’s Begin-Sadat center on Sunday, Benjamin Netanyahu the politician disappeared, and in his stead Netanyahu the statesman came to the podium; Netanyahu the leader, who stands in front of his nation and the world to speak the truth, his and ours, like a prophet or a preacher at the gates.
He did not attempt to emulate the United States’ President by spreading false hopes of an agreement with the Iranians, but gave a harsh, biting speech that would have made Barack Obama squirm in his chair. Netanyahu did not overlook the Iranian problem, but took hold with both hands and presented it to the world in all its naked, painful truth. Netanyahu opted to risk his relationship with Obama in order to tell the world: Beware the machinations of the Iranians.
Netanyahu spoke specifically about the evidence for the existence of a military nuclear program — including both centrifuges and a plutonium reactor– in his best effort the throw a wrench into the negotiations with Iran. With such evidence made public, no negotiations could demand less than what Netanyahu demanded in his speech, or so he hopes.
With regards to the Palestinian, we again saw the proud Jew, who against all opponents unequivocally demands the existence of the Jewish people in their land: You must recognize Israel as the Jewish state with a right to its country. If you do not recognize it you will not have peace. This is a legitimate demand, important, honest, and truthful, but the Arabs will never agree to it for several reasons.
1. Muslims believe that the religion of Judaism was cancelled out when Christianity arose, and the same happened to Christianity when Islam arrived. And if Judaism is null and void, then how can the Jews come and say that they have a holy land all for themselves?
2. For the Arabs, the Jews are not a nation but a religious community assembled from various ethnicities and countries where Jews have lived for hundreds of years. So if they are not a nation why do they need Israel?
3. According to the Quran, the land of Israel is an Islamic holy land, therefore no Muslim authority will recognize a Jewish state in Israel.
4. Jerusalem is the eye of the storm: According to Islam, there cannot be Jewish sovereignty in Jerusalem, because such an event would signify that Judaism has risen from the grave after Islam had abolished it.
All these reasons prevent an Islamic recognition of Israel as a Jewish state from ever taking place. By insisting on recognition and stalling negotiations in a single spot, Netanyahu has succeeded in delaying the rise of a Palestinian state via an agreement with Israel for several years.
Without a doubt, this was the heart of Netanyahu’s speech, a speech which positions him as a leader and a statesman with a worldview suited to the Middle East, one that both our friends and enemies can value and cherish. To give up on one’s rights is contemptible, while to insist on them is honorable. Netanyahu, and us along with him, stands worthy of respect in the Middle East, and his opinion and positions must be considered.
Mordechai Kedar is Director of the Center for the Study of the Middle East and Islam (under formation) at Bar-Ilan University, Israel
America and the good psychopaths
October 4, 2013
In his speech on Tuesday before the UN General Assembly, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu tried to get the Americans to stop their collective swooning at the sight of an Iranian president who smiled in their general direction.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” the premier warned, “I wish I could believe [President Hassan] Rouhani, but I don’t because facts are stubborn things. And the facts are that Iran’s savage record flatly contradicts Rouhani’s soothing rhetoric.”
He might have saved his breath. The Americans weren’t interested.
Two days after Netanyahu’s speech, US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel issued a rejoinder to Netanyahu. “I have never believed that foreign policy is a zero-sum game,” Hagel said.
Well, maybe he hasn’t. But the Iranians have.
And they still do view diplomacy – like all their dealings with their sworn enemies – as a zero-sum game.
As a curtain raiser for Rouhani’s visit, veteran New York Times war correspondent Dexter Filkins wrote a long profile of Iran’s real strongman for The New Yorker. Qassem Suleimani is the head of the Revolutionary Guard Corps. It is the most powerful organ of the Iranian regime, and Suleimani is Iranian dictator Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s closest confidante and adviser.
Rouhani doesn’t hold a candle to Suleimani.
Filkin’s profile is detailed, but deeply deceptive. The clear sense he wishes to impart on his readers is that Suleimani is a storied war veteran and a pragmatist. He is an Iranian patriot who cares about his soldiers. He’s been willing to cut deals with the Americans in the past when he believed it served Iran’s interests. And given Suleimani’s record, it is reasonable to assume that Rouhani – who is far more moderate than he – is in a position to make a deal and will make one.
The problem with Filkin’s portrayal of Suleimani as a pragmatist, and a commander who cares about the lives of his soldiers – and so, presumably cares about the lives of Iranians – is that it is belied by the stories Filkins reported in the article.
Filkins describes at length how Suleimani came of age as a Revolutionary Guard division commander during the Iran-Iraq War from 1980 to 1988, and how that war made him the complicated, but ultimately reasonable, (indeed parts of the profile are downright endearing), pragmatist he is today.
As the commander of the Revolutionary Guards, Suleimani commands the Syrian military and the foreign forces from Iran, Hezbollah and Iraq that have been deployed to Syria to keep Bashar Assad in power.
Filkins quotes an Iraqi politician who claimed that in a conversation with Suleimani last year, the Iranian called the Syrian military “worthless.”
He then went on to say, “Give me one brigade of the Basij, and I could conquer the whole country.”
Filkins notes that it was the Basij that crushed the anti-Islamist Green Revolution in Iran in 2009. But for a man whose formative experience was serving as a Revolutionary Guards commander in the Iran-Iraq War, Suleimani’s view of the Basij as a war-fighting unit owes to what it did in its glory days, in that war, not on the streets of Tehran in 2009.
As Matthias Kuntzel reported in 2006, the Revolutionary Guards formed the Basij during the Iran-Iraq War to serve as cannon fodder. Basij units were made up of boys as young as 12.
They were given light doses of military training and heavy doses of indoctrination in which they were brainwashed to reject life and martyr themselves for the revolution.
As these children were being recruited from Iran’s poorest villages, Ayatollah Khomeini purchased a half million small plastic keys from Taiwan.
They were given to the boys before they were sent to battle and told that they were the keys to paradise. The children were then sent into minefields to die and deployed as human waves in frontal assaults against superior Iraqi forces.
By the end of the war some 100,000 of these young boys became the child sacrifices of the regime.
When we assess Suleimani’s longing for a Basij brigade in Syria in its proper historical and strategic context – that is, in the context of how he and his fellow Revolutionary Guards commanders deployed such brigades in the 1980s, we realize that far from being a pragmatist, Suleimani is a psychopath.
Filkins did not invent his romanticized version of what makes Suleimani tick. It is a view that has been cultivated for years by senior US officials.
Former US ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker spoke at length with Filkins about his indirect dealings with Suleimani through Iranian negotiators who answered to him, and through Iraqi politicians whom he controlled.
Crocker attests that secretary of state Colin Powell dispatched him to Geneva in the weeks before the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 to negotiate with the Iranians. Those discussions, which he claims involved the US and Iran trading information about the whereabouts of al- Qaida operatives in Afghanistan and Iran, could have led to an historic rapprochement, Crocker claims. But, he bemoans, hope for such an alliance were dashed in January 2002, when George W. Bush labeled Iran as a member of the “Axis of Evil,” in his State of the Union address.
Supposedly in a rage, Suleimani pulled the plug on cooperation with the Americans. As Crocker put it, “We were just that close. One word in one speech changed history.”
Crocker told of his attempt to make it up to the wounded Suleimani in the aftermath of the US-led overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq in 2003. Crocker was in Baghdad at the time setting up the Iraqi Governing Council. He used Iraqi intermediaries to clear all the Shi’ite candidates with Suleimani. In other words, the US government gave the commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards control over the Iraqi government immediately after the US military toppled Saddam’s regime.
Far from convincing Suleimani to pursue a rapproachment with the US, Crocker’s actions convinced him that the US was weak. And so, shortly after he oversaw the formation of the governing council, Suleimani instigated the insurgency whose aim was to eject the US from Iraq and to transform it into an Iranian satrapy.
And yet, despite Suleimani’s obvious bad faith, and use of diplomacy to entrap the US into positions that harmed its interests and endangered its personnel, Crocker and other senior US officials continued to believe that he was the man to cut a deal with.
The main take-away lesson from the Filkins profile of Suleimani is that US officials – and journalists – like to romanticize the world’s most psychopathic, evil men. Doing so helps them to justify and defend their desire to appease, rather than confront, let alone defeat, them.
Suleimani and his colleagues are more than willing to play along with the Americans, to the extent that doing so advances their aims of defeating the US.
There were two main reasons that Bush did not want to confront Iran despite its central role in organizing, directing and financing the insurgency in Iraq. First, Bush decided shortly after the US invasion of Iraq that the US would not expand the war to Iran or Syria. Even as both countries’ central role in fomenting the insurgency became inarguable, Bush maintained his commitment to fighting what quickly devolved into a proxy war with Iran, on the battlefield of Iran’s choosing.
The second reason that Bush failed to confront Iran, and that his advisers maintained faith with the delusion that it was worth cutting a deal with the likes of Suleimani, was that they preferred the sense of accomplishment a deal brought them to the nasty business of actually admitting the threat Iran posed to American interests – and to American lives in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Expanding on Bush’s aversion to fighting Iran, and preference for romanticizing its leaders rather than acknowledging their barbarism, upon entering office Barack Obama embraced a strategy whose sole goal is engagement. For the past five years, the US policy toward Iran is to negotiate. Neither the terms of negotiation nor the content of potential agreements is important.
Obama wants to negotiate for the sake of negotiating. And he has taken the UN and the EU with him on this course.
It’s possible that Obama believes that these negotiations will transform Iran into a quasi-US ally like the Islamist regime in Turkey. That regime remains a member of NATO despite the fact that it threatens its neighbors with war, it represses its own citizens, and it refuses to support major US initiatives while undermining NATO operations.
Obama will never call Turkey out for its behavior or make Prime Minister Recep Erdogan pay a price for his bad faith. The myth of the US-Turkish alliance is more important to Obama than the substance of Turkey’s relationship with the United States.
A deal with Iran would be horrible for America and its allies. Whatever else it says it will do, the effect of any US-Iranian agreement would be to commit the US to do nothing to defend its interests or its allies in the Middle East.
While this would be dangerous for the US, it is apparently precisely the end Obama seeks. His address to the UN General Assembly can reasonably be read as a declaration that the US is abandoning its position as world leader.
The US is tired of being nitpicked by its allies and its enemies for everything it does, he said. And therefore, he announced, Washington is now limiting its actions in the Middle East to pressuring its one remaining ally, Israel, to give up its ability to protect itself from foreign invasion and Palestinian terrorism by surrendering Judea and Samaria, without which it is defenseless.
Like his predecessors in the Bush administration, Obama doesn’t care that Iran is evil and that its leaders are fanatical psychopaths. He has romanticized them based on nothing.
Although presented by the media as a new policy of outreach toward Tehran, Obama’s current commitment to negotiating with Rouhani is consistent with his policy toward Iran since entering office. Nothing has changed.
From Obama’s perspective, US policy is not threatened by Iranian bad faith. It is threatened only by those who refuse to embrace his fantasy world where all deals are good and all negotiations are therefore good.
What this means is that the prospect of Iran becoming a nuclear power does not faze Obama. The only threat he has identified is the one coming from Jerusalem. Israel the party pooper is Obama’s greatest foe, because it insists on basing its strategic assessments and goals on the nature of things even though this means facing down evil.
A sad statesman
At UN, Netanyahu spoke to a world that refused to listen
Whether credible or not, the Israeli military threat made a major comeback in New York on Tuesday.
October 2, 2013
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to the UN General Assembly Tuesday night very different from his previous ones: It lacked reproach, gimmicks and thrills. The arguments were factual and germane. Passion was kept at bay. It was clear that the Israeli statesman speaking to a thinly populated hall in New York, and to an anemic American public opinion, was a sad statesman. Once again, Bibi was telling the truth. Once again Bibi was analyzing the strategic situation precisely. But this time even he didn’t believe that someone would listen to him. He didn’t even try to score an emotional goal and conquer the audience. In almost morosely quiet tones he said what he had to say to a world that refused to listen.
Netanyahu arrived very late to the United Nations – after Iranian President Hassan Rohani defined the arena, after the international community chose to believe Rohani, after the United States sank deeply into domestic crisis. Netanyahu arrived in the United States very late. After America had begun treating Israel like an old-fashioned Taiwan that was heaping obstacles in the way of the romance heating up with a rising Eastern power. And so Netanyahu was such a different Netanyahu than the Netanyahu of the past. After the will-he-attack/won’t-he-attack drama seemed to have dissipated, he is not being taken seriously. After the smiling Rohani stole the show from him, Netanyahu is yesterday’s news. Even his Republican friends are preoccupied with matters decidedly un-Churchillian. Not to mention his Democratic adversaries. Not to mention the Europeans, the Russians and the Chinese. Only the Sunni Arabs are left on the side of the Israeli prime minister. Only those pro-American neighbors who despair of America are full partners to Bibi’s existential anxiety over Iran.
Make no mistake: Beneath Netanyahu’s undramatic speech hides great drama. The plot is not fading, it is thickening. What Netanyahu said yesterday is that it’s all or nothing. Either a major deal with the Iranians, or an Israeli action. There will be no partial deal, Israel’s prime minister said. Either sanctions or us. Either the international community pushes Iran to the wall, or Israel will strike. Whether credible or not, the Israeli military threat made a major comeback in New York on Tuesday. The Iranian season has returned.
There were three chilling moments in Netanyahu’s speech. The moment the speaker described his grandfather, beaten senseless by European anti-Semites; the moment the speaker made clear that if Israel is forced to stand alone, it will stand alone; and the moment the speaker quoted the prophet Amos. For a change, the high point of Bibi’s speech was in fact its Hebrew point. If the ancient people living in Iran have any sort of doubt about it, they should carefully read the ancient words of the leader of an ancient people living in Zion: “And I will plant them upon their soil never to be uprooted again.” The people of Israel have come home never to be uprooted again, Netanyahu said – and he meant every word. All or nothing, he said. All or nothing.
Bibi the Bad Cop
Can Israel Prevent a Deal With Iran?
October 1, 2013
Most of the world is applauding the thaw between the United States and Iran. Then there are the Arabs and Israelis. Their reaction is dread, and with good reason: neither trusts U.S. President Barack Obama to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon or from at least acquiring the capability to produce one. Israel, which has a wide base of political support in the United States, will try to stymie any nuclear deal it sees as too lenient — but that won’t be easy.
In his speech to the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered messages that few wanted to hear. He reminded the world that the Iranians have lied before, warned that they may well be lying still, and claimed that they have done nothing to earn credibility. He said that Iran should first be made to comply with the International Atomic Energy Agency and UN resolutions, which it has defied for decades — most notably by developing clandestine, unsafeguarded sites and by continuing the enrichment of uranium. Netanyahu is setting forth standards for a nuclear agreement that are far tougher than the Obama administration believes can be negotiated and, as a result, are not even being sought.
The hard part for Israel comes next, when the world’s leaders have returned home. The recent debate over Syria — when the administration backed away from using force, Congress seemed on the verge of voting against the use of force, and opinion polls showed the public against any military involvement — has seriously undermined the credibility of the U.S. military option. What will Israel’s approach be in the coming months, when Washington’s position — whatever its rhetoric — has moved from “all options are on the table” to a blind pursuit of diplomacy?
The first thing the Israelis will do is repeat, over and over again, their arguments against trusting Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. They will remind U.S. and EU officials, journalists, and anyone who will listen that he is not a reformer but a regime stalwart who, as secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, had the job of buying time for the nuclear weapons program.
Now the Israelis must fix bleak smiles to their lips and say that they hope for the best — all the while wringing their hands about the likely terms of the deal.
Second, they will make the case that any deal should have very tough standards. In this sense, Israel will be forced to be the bad cop, and to enlist other bad cops in Europe and in the U.S. Congress. If Israel had its way, Iran would have to fully account for its past (secret) work on a warhead, stop its centrifuges, stop enriching uranium and ship its existing stockpiles out of the country, prove it has no alternate route to nuclear weapons through plutonium work at the Arak facility, dismantle the underground site at Fordow, and cease the conversion of first-generation centrifuges to more efficient second-generation ones. It seems very unlikely that the United States and the other P5+1 countries will, for one thing, demand an end to all enrichment inside Iran; on all these conditions, in fact, compromise is more likely than the fulfillment of Israel’s demand that all nuclear activities stop. If a full stop to the Iranian program is judged by Washington to be unattainable, Netanyahu will argue that Iran should be held to its own claim that it needs nuclear technology for nuclear power; in that case, it would need only uranium enriched to about 3.5 percent, very few centrifuges (and those in one location that is declared and inspected), and only a tiny stock of enriched uranium.
Third, Israel will ask that sanctions be strengthened, and that the Obama administration not be allowed so many waivers to permit other countries to flout the sanctions regime, until Iran actually changes its conduct — not just promises to change it. That is, sanctions should be reduced in the coming months only in exchange for Iran’s exporting enriched uranium, warehousing centrifuges, and providing truthful information about the military aspects of its nuclear program.
Finally, Netanyahu will ask that the military option be strengthened, not weakened. Here, Washington’s rhetoric matters, but it could do far more to bolster the now-diminished credibility of its threat to use force by carefully leaking information about U.S. military preparations or by positioning forces so that they could strike Iran should it be necessary. But the Israelis may guess that they won’t get much here, so a more promising line may be to ask Washington to help them enhance their own capabilities — by providing more bunker-buster bombs and more air refueling tankers. The idea would be to demonstrate that, at least for Israel, all options are in fact on the table, and that the Americans like it that way.
The first three steps could be taken without the approval of the Obama administration — in fact, they are steps meant to limit U.S. flexibility. The fourth step would require the Obama administration’s approval and action. If Israel plays its cards right, it might be able to convince Washington to help with the fourth step by promising to refrain from the first three. That is, Israel could say it can live with the possibility of Iranian cheating and moving closer to a bomb only if its own military option grows stronger.
Israel does retain one option for stymying the negotiations if they appear to be heading for what Israelis would view as a bad deal, one that would allow Iran to escape sanctions and creep closer to a bomb. That is for Israel to attack Iranian nuclear sites. Its ability to do so is already being narrowed considerably by the diplomatic thaw, because it is one thing to bomb Iran when it appears hopelessly recalcitrant and isolated and quite another to bomb it when much of the world — especially the United States — is optimistic about the prospect of talks. A window for an Israeli attack might open up if the talks bogged down and Western negotiators suggested that the Iranians were refusing to compromise, perhaps speculating that the Supreme Leader and the Revolutionary Guards did not want a deal after all. But Rouhani and his foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, are probably too smart to allow such pessimism to creep into Western ranks.
In short, the Israelis find themselves in a far worse position now than they have been for several years. There was no way for them to avoid this situation other than attacking last year; bombing Iran when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was president would have been more defensible in the court of global public opinion. Now they must fix bleak smiles to their lips and say that they hope for the best — all the while wringing their hands about the likely terms of the deal. Given that Israel may have little ability to persuade the Western negotiators to be tough, its best path for now is to appeal to Americans, especially in Congress, to refuse to lift sanctions until Iran makes significant concessions.
Here, the Syria episode might actually help Israel, since it increased mistrust about the Obama administration’s handling of foreign policy, even among Democrats. Refusing to lift sanctions and adopting tougher rhetoric toward Iran would not be partisan issues. Plenty of Democrats think that those actions are both good politics and good policy.
The Israelis have a difficult task ahead. They do not wish to play the bad cop role in an American game with Iran — and, in fact, the metaphor is misleading. In the good cop/bad cop routine, both officers are on the same team and are carefully coordinating their approaches. In this case, the Israelis fear, the bad cop wants to see the criminals jailed, and the good cop is open to a sweet plea bargain. If that’s what the Iranians get, they will sit back and smile while the United States and Israel end up in a bitter argument.
President Obama and Israel: Looming Confrontations
September 29, 2013
One might have hoped that Obama’s calamitous mishandling of recent Middle East crises, climaxing with his disastrous response to the Syrian use of chemical weapons, would have taught him a few lessons on regional politics.
Regrettably, his address to the United Nations General Assembly last week proved otherwise. By reverting to his original Cairo speech – insisting that resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian peace “would have a profound and positive impact on the entire Middle East and North Africa”, Obama has caused many Israelis not merely to question his competence but also his real intentions towards Israel.
The notion that the stability of the entire Middle East region hinges on the resolution of the Israeli –Palestinian conflict, is utterly absurd. Our conflict has no bearing on the complex and far more problematic conflicts and pressure points surrounding us: the struggle between Sunnis and Shiites, the resurgence of Al Qaeda, the rise of the Moslem Brotherhood, the persecution and murder of Christians throughout the Moslem world, the threat of a nuclear Iran, the chaos in Libya and Yemen, the upheavals in Egypt, the global Islamic terror attacks extending from New York to Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Mali and most recently Kenya, and above all, the carnage in Syria. To place responsibility for regional stability on Israel in the midst of this chaos is a terrible misreading of reality.
To compound matters, President Obama linked the Iranian nuclear threat and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, treating them with equal importance – a clear signal that the US expects Israel to make major concessions to the Palestinians in return for “undertakings” to prevent the Iranians from obtaining a nuclear bomb.
Prime Minister Netanyahu must have been bitterly disappointed. He has bent over backwards in efforts to please Obama. At Obama’s urging he extended a humiliating apology to Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan for the killing of the Turkish terrorists seeking to violently breach Israel’s maritime arms blockade against Gaza. Yet, when Erdogan subsequently refused to fulfill his undertakings, Obama failed to even reprimand him.
Netanyahu outraged most Israelis by capitulating to extreme US pressure by releasing Palestinian terrorists, many of whom were mass murderers.
He also encouraged AIPAC to support the President in Congress on the Syrian issue – an act which backfired after Obama equivocated, and then withdrew his request for Congressional support.
Yet Obama disregarded all Netanyahu’s efforts and once again left him in the cold. Ignoring the asymmetry of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, he complimented both parties for “having demonstrated a willingness to take significant political risks” – explaining that Israel had released large numbers of hard-core terrorists (an act which no US government would conceivably contemplate) and bracketing this with the reciprocal Palestinian “concession” – to engage in negotiations with the Israelis! Does he really believe that Israel releasing mass murderers and the Palestinians consenting to engage in negotiations amount to equivalent political risks?
When Obama glibly proclaimed that “friends of Israel, including the United States, must recognize that Israel’s security as a Jewish and democratic state depends upon the realization of a Palestinian state”, he ignored the dangers Israel would face, if as is almost certain, Palestine became a failed rogue state and served as a launching pad for terrorists and states like Iran committed to its destruction. Nor did Obama even mention the visceral hatred and incitement to violence which continues to be promoted at all levels of PA society, making genuine peace inconceivable.
Obama’s desperate renewed “appeal” to the Iranians, pleading with them to engage in dialogue and foolishly reiterating that he did not consider regime change as an objective was also profoundly disappointing..
The new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, in stark contrast to his deranged predecessor, Ahmadinejad, has launched an extraordinary charm offensive. Cynically oozing goodwill, he referred to the employment of nuclear weapons as a crime against humanity and sought to divert attention from the Iranian nuclear threat by demanding that Israel join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty with other “enlightened” states like Iraq, Syria and Libya. With a forked tongue, he conveyed reassuring messages, encouraging protracted negotiations.
It should be recalled that in 2005, whilst serving as national security adviser and head nuclear negotiator, Rouhani brazenly lied concerning Iran’s genuine nuclear intentions. And just prior to departing for New York, he was photographed speaking at a military parade in front of a sign that read “Israel must cease to exist”.
Nor despite all his sweet talk, has Rouhani offered a single concession. Clearly, he is eager to talk and negotiate. But unless the Ayatollah decides otherwise, the centrifuges will continue spinning until Iran achieves its nuclear objective.
Yet, sensitive to his master Ayatollah Khomeini or a backlash from his hardline opponents in Iran, Rouhani humiliatingly spurned a pathetic US effort to orchestrate an “impromptu” handshake at the UN, stating that it would be premature. That did not deter Obama from telephoning him as he was about to leave for Iran, congratulating him on his election and praising his “constructive statements” on the nuclear issue.
The US and Europe are desperate for a face-saving situation to avoid confrontation with the Iranians. They ignore the ultimate result of the buildup of underground nuclear facilities and ballistic missiles.
Furthermore, the bitter reality is that after Obama’s inept zigzagging in relation to Syria, his threat that the US is “determined to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear bomb” and will if necessary “use all elements of our power, including military force”, ring hollow and is unlikely to be taken seriously by the Iranians – or anyone else.
It must be deeply frustrating for Netanyahu to see the rogue state of Iran courted by the US and Europe, whilst Israel, a democracy and genuine ally of the US is treated so shabbily. The chilling parallels with the betrayal of Czechoslovakia and Chamberlain’s policies of appeasement and “peace in our time” in the late 1930s will prey on our minds in the months to come.
Netanyahu will seek to pierce through Rouhani’s sweet talk at the UN. . He will raise skepticism about Rouhani’ tactics and urge the world to prevent the Iranians from emulating the North Koreans, who achieved their nuclear objectives by similar means. He will also demand full transparency and verification, should any agreement be reached with Iran. For these expressions of objective reality and bare security necessities, he will undoubtedly be depicted as a spoiler by naive and euphoric US and global leaders seeking justification for their inaction against Iran.
He will also resist pressures from the Obama administration for additional fundamental unilateral concessions to the Palestinians. But unlike his political opponents on the right accusing him of cowardice, Netanyahu – as all Israeli leaders since the time of Ben Gurion – realizes that Israel is dependent on a superpower and that today the support of the US both politically and militarily is crucial. Netanyahu also recognizes that for all his failings, Obama with the strong encouragement of Congress continues to provide Israel with the military necessities that no other nation could provide.
Israel has a vested interest in a strong America employing its superpower status to maintain global stability. We are not obliged to behave as a vassal state. But we must act prudently. Whilst resisting pressures to concede on matters impacting on our security, we must demonstrate our appreciation of American support and be willing to make concessions on issues which Americans perceive as impacting on their interests.
The next 9 months will be challenging, especially if President Obama retains his fixation that he can resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict by May 2014. There is no basis for any realistic settlement beyond an interim arrangement. Even aside from Hamas and the extraordinary turbulence in the region, it is inconceivable that an agreement could be achieved concerning issues such as the Arab refugee right of return. If Abbas himself was willing to compromise (and he is not), he would be assassinated within a matter of days.
This is a time for our leaders, including President Peres as well as the Likud hawks, to stand united. Repeated statements refuting the positions adopted by the Prime Minister, calling for annexation of territories or opposing a two state solution, undermine our global position. Such behavior enables the Palestinians to distort reality and shift the blame on Israel for the inevitable breakdown which will result from their intransigency and refusal to genuinely coexist with us.
It is unconscionable that even during this turbulent period with the upheavals in Syria and Egypt, the Obama administration blinds itself to the real barriers to peace and exploits the Iranian nuclear threat as a vehicle to pressure Israel to maintain this Alice in Wonderland negotiation charade. By demanding that we make further unilateral territorial concessions in the absence of ironclad security (which is currently impossible) the US is pressuring us to gamble with our lives and future.
The Price of Ignoring Mideast Reality
President Obama’s plan on Syria will fail for the same reason the Oslo Accord did.
Sept. 17, 2013
Forty years ago Israel blundered disastrously on the eve of the Yom Kippur War because its military leaders had a concept about the circumstances in which it might be attacked, and the concept was wrong. Twenty years ago, Israel blundered disastrously by signing the Oslo Accord, because its political leaders had a concept about what it would take to get peace, and the concept was wrong.
Beware of policy makers bearing concepts.
That’s worth pondering as the Obama administration peddles another concept—that a deal with Russia will lead to disarmament by Syria—as a reason to call off military strikes. But agreements are not achievements, wishes are not facts, and theory is not reality.
In 1973, what Israeli military planners called Ha’Conceptzia—the Concept—was that Egypt would not attack without Syria, Syria would not attack without Egypt, and Egypt lacked the long-range bombers and ballistic missiles it would need to retake the Sinai Peninsula. It was a comforting syllogism that allowed Israel to dismiss accumulating evidence of an impending attack, including a personal warning from Jordan’s King Hussein, as nothing more than psychological warfare.
The flaw with the Concept was the Concept: Theory provides vision at the expense of clarity. It also obstructs thought. Had the Egyptian goal been to retake the entirety of the Sinai, Anwar Sadat would never have ordered an attack.
But Israel’s planners broadly failed to foresee that the Egyptians might be prepared to forgo the hopeless military objective of retaking all of Sinai for the feasible one of retaking some of it; that Sadat could use limited military means to land a decisive psychological and political blow. The Israelis also neglected to take account of the possibility that the Egyptians could turn the Concept to their own advantage. The Concept made no allowance for the reality that humans are intelligent and nature is adaptive.
In that sense, the Concept was like every grand theory that ignores its own role in reshuffling assumptions and reshaping incentives. It was the same story with next grand Concept, when an Israeli government determined that peace was in its hands to give, and that what it chose to give was what the other side would be willing to accept.
The signing of Oslo, under Bill Clinton’s big shadow on the White House lawn, is widely remembered as a moment of hope. In fact it was an act of hubris.
Yitzhak Rabin (who would pay for Oslo with his life) thought he could deputize Yasser Arafat as his sheriff, so that Israeli soldiers would no longer have to go door-to-door in Gaza and the West Bank. Shimon Peres imagined a new Middle East in which Arab states would be falling over themselves to strike trade deals with Israel. Some architects of the Accord thought the Palestinians could be bought off on the cheap, with autonomy instead of statehood, with Ramallah as the capital instead of Jerusalem, with Hamas permanently suppressed, with the refugee issue taken off the table. Others believed the Israeli public could gradually be brought around to concede things they never would have agreed to at the start.
Dissimulation was thus the essence of what came to be known as the peace process. But the Concept behind Oslo was that Israelis and Palestinians would accept their assigned roles—that they could be acted upon without reacting in turn.
Arafat’s assigned role was to become governor of an inoffensive Arab statelet. He, however, thought of himself as the second coming of Saladin, the Muslim hero who captured Jerusalem from the Crusaders. The Israeli public was assigned the role of providing democratic assent to territorial concessions that previous Israeli governments had said for 25 years would be suicidal. But the purpose of democracy is to give people a chance to contest their leaders. And Palestinians were given the role of being Arafat’s sheep, with no interests, opinions or prejudices of their own. But Palestinians know otherwise.
Oslo failed for the same reason Israel’s military assumptions 20 years earlier had failed: It assumed a world in which people had no agency, enemies had no cunning and circumstances remained static. The world’s not like that. And while John Kerry was attempting to reanimate the spirit of Oslo before he got distracted by Syria, the Accord must rank as the greatest diplomatic debacle in modern Mideast history.
Until now, that is. The Obama administration has given up on exacting some tangible price on Bashar Assad for using chemical weapons, in exchange for a promise by Russia that it will intervene to remove those weapons.
And so it begins again. We substitute the Concept for reality. We imagine that those to whom the Concept applies will behave as we expect, or demand, or wish. We neglect how the existence of the Concept changes incentives. We lull ourselves into thinking that the logic of the Concept is the way of the world.
And then the Concept blows up in our face. Don’t expect Barack Obama to pay a political price for the latest installment of peace in our time.
Scoring the Syria Deal
Putin, Assad, and Iran gain; Obama, Turkey, and Israel lose ground.
National Review Online
September 17, 2013
Diplomacy has never witnessed anything like the dizzying and erratic sequence of events relating to Syria that began on Wednesday, Aug. 21 and ended 3½ weeks later, on Saturday, Sept. 14. Who won, who lost? It’s too soon for a definite answer, but Bashar al-Assad is in the driver’s seat, suggesting that he, Putin, and the mullahs will gain while Obama, Erdoğan, and Israel will lose.
To start, a sketch of recent events:
Aug. 21: A chemical attack took place against civilians in Ghouta, near Damascus, presumably carried out by Syria’s Assad regime.
Aug. 28: Barack Obama indicated an intent to use force against the Assad regime to punish it for the chemical attack.
Aug. 31: Obama retreated and asked Congress for authorization to use force, something he did not have to do.
Over the next week, in an unexpected development, popular and congressional opposition to a strike grew to the point that it became clear that Obama would not get the authorization he sought.
Sept. 9: Secretary of State John Kerry promised an “unbelievably small” attack and off-handedly commented that international control of Syrian chemicals could obviate the need for an attack. The Russians picked up on and ran with the latter remark.
Sept. 10: Obama rescinded the threat to attack the Syrian government and withdrew his request from Congress.
Sept. 14: The U.S. and Russia governments signed the “Framework for Elimination of Syrian Chemical Weapons” http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2013/09/214247.htm to “ensure the destruction of the Syrian chemical weapons program (CW) in the soonest and safest manner.”
Logo of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, founded in 1997.
Let’s start by assessing choices facing the two main actors in this drama:
Bashar al-Assad: The framework permits him to make the key decisions that drive the process, subject to the influence of his patrons (Moscow and Tehran) and his advisers (the Assad clan). He has two options, to comply or not to comply with the US-Russian framework and the demands of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which regulates the chemical-weapons treaty Syria has promised to join. As a tactically incompetent leader, his actions are difficult to predict but I expect him not to comply because: (1) He needs these weapons to preserve his regime. (2) The civil war underway in Syria facilitates thwarting the OPCW. (3) Obama’s record suggests he won’t strike in retaliation. (4) Saddam Hussein set an appealing precedent, whereby Iraqi “cat and mouse” games slowed down and obstructed a similar regimen to destroy weapons of mass destruction in the 1990s.
Pope Francis called for a global day of fasting and prayer for Syria.
Barack Obama: Already in a corner because of his “red line” threat of August 2012, the U.S.-Russian agreement is a double-or-nothing gambit that places the American president at the mercy of his Syrian counterpart. If Assad complies, Obama becomes a foreign-policy genius for ridding Syria of chemical weapons without a shot. But if, as is far more likely, Assad does not comply, Obama must attack the regime to preserve his credibility, regardless of how much this runs contrary to the wishes of his leftist base and congressional opinion, the United Nations, the pope, et al., and even if it strengthens the jihadis in Syria and embroils the United States in an unwanted long-term military operation. I expect Obama will attack but without causing real damage to his own popularity or the Assad regime.
In short, I predict Assad will not comply and Obama will symbolically attack. Assuming this scenario, it means for the major actors:
Bashar al-Assad: He crows about surviving an American onslaught and is the stronger to this.
Barack Obama: His foreign policy credibility sinks and that of the United States with him, especially vis-à-vis the Iranian nuclear buildup, at least until 2017.
Vladimir Putin: Whether Assad complies or not, whether Obama attacks or not, the Russian president can’t lose. Rather, he has become eligible for the Nobel Peace Prize. He is the big winner.
Iran: Tehran gains, confident that its own nuclear infrastructure is safe from an American strike, unless Obama tears the Assad regime to bits.
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: The reverse: the Turkish president, as leader of the international war party, he loses unless Obama seriously attacks Assad.
Israel: Along with Obama, Israel gains if Assad complies. But it loses if Assad does not, as is likely.
We end with two ironies: The U.S.-Russian agreement does not solve the crisis, but delays and deepens it. Obama’s almost nonchalant “red line” statement of a year ago was the obscure mistake that could precipitate the great foreign-policy fiasco of his presidency.
Daniel Pipes is president of the Middle East Forum and author of three books on Syria. © 2013 by Daniel Pipes. All rights reserved.
‘Israel wanted Assad gone since start of Syria civil war’
September 17, 2013
“Tehran-Damascus-Beirut arc is the greatest danger,” says outgoing Israeli envoy to US Michael Oren.
“Bad guys” backed by Iran are worse for Israel than “bad guys” who are not supported by the Islamic Republic, Israel’s outgoing ambassador to the US Michael Oren told The Jerusalem Post in a parting interview.
Oren, in the interview that is to be published in full on Friday, traced the evolution of Israel’s message on Syria during the three weeks of the chemical weapons crisis.
“The initial message about the Syrian issue was that we always wanted [President] Bashar Assad to go, we always preferred the bad guys who weren’t backed by Iran to the bad guys who were backed by Iran,” he said.
This was the case, he said, even if the other “bad guys” were affiliated to al-Qaida.
“We understand that they are pretty bad guys,” he said, adding that this designation did not apply to everyone in the Syrian opposition. “Still, the greatest danger to Israel is by the strategic arc that extends from Tehran, to Damascus to Beirut. And we saw the Assad regime as the keystone in that arc. That is a position we had well before the outbreak of hostilities in Syria. With the outbreak of hostilities we continued to want Assad to go.”
Amid reports that Assad may be moving some of his chemical weapons arsenal out of the country, Oren reiterated Israel’s position that it will not tolerate attempts to transfer these arms – or game changing weapons – to Hezbollah.
“The chemical weapons were an American red line, it wasn’t an Israel red line,” Oren said. “Our red line was that if Iran and Syria try to convey chemical weapons or game changing weaponry to Hezbollah or other terrorist organizations, that Israel would not remain passive. We were prepared to stand by the red line, and still are.”
Oren, who said he could not verify reports Assad was already moving his arsenal, stressed that “he is not moving them out to Hezbollah.”
On other issues, Oren – who has contact in Washington with some ambassadors from Persian Gulf countries – said that that “in the last 64 years there has probably never been a greater confluence of interest between us and several Gulf States. With these Gulf States we have agreements on Syria, on Egypt, on the Palestinian issue. We certainly have agreements on Iran. This is one of those opportunities presented by the Arab Spring.”
Also, calling “overblown” reports that young American Jews were becoming distant from Israel, Oren sounded an upbeat and optimistic note about the future of American Jewry.
“Certain physicists say that the universe is expanding and contracting at the same time, the same thing is true of the American-Jewish community,” he said. “This means that it is contracting through assimilation, but there is a core of the American-Jewish community coming out of day schools, Orthodox environments, Jewishly educated and deeply connected to Israel and the Jewish people. And that core is expanding.”
“I am actually optimistic about the future of American Jewry,” he said. “I don’t know whether American Jewry will be the same size as it is now in some 30 years, but it will be more Jewishly educated, committed and attached to Israel.”
Forget Syria, Target Iran
The Washington Times
September 9, 2013
Here’s advice to the members of the United States Congress as they are asked to endorse an American-led attack on the government of Syria:
Start your consideration by establishing priorities, clarifying what matters most to the country. The Obama administration rightly points to two urgent matters: stopping the Iranian nuclear buildup and maintaining the security of Israel. To these, I add a third: reestablishing the U.S. deterrent credibility laid low by Barack Obama himself.
Note that this list conspicuously does not mention the Syrian regime’s chemical arsenal (the largest in the world) or its recent use. That’s because those pale in horror and in danger by comparison with the nuclear weapons now under construction in Iran. Also, the attack in Ghouta, Syria, on Aug. 21 was appalling, but not worse than killing a hundred times more civilians through other means, including torture. Further, that attack breached multiple international conventions, but surely no one expects “limited strikes” to restrain desperate dictators.
The Congressional debate on Syria takes place just as the ancient, Aramaic-speaking,
Syrian Christian town of Maaloula has fallen to an Al-Qaeda-linked jihadi group.
How best, then, to achieve the real priorities concerning Iran, Israel, and U.S. deterrence? Several options exist. Going from most violent to least, they include:
1. Knock off the Assad regime. Attractive in itself, especially because it takes out Tehran’s No. 1 ally and disrupts supply lines to Hizbullah, this scenario opens a can of worms: anarchy in Syria, foreign intervention by neighbors, the prospect of Al-Qaeda-connected Islamists taking over in Damascus, hostilities against Israel on the hitherto-quiet Golan Heights, and the dispersal of the regime’s chemical weapons to terrorist organizations. Overthrowing Bashar al-Assad threatens to recapitulate the elimination of long-standing dictators of Iraq and Libya in 2003 and 2011, leading to years, or even decades, of instability and violence. Worse yet, this outcome could rejuvenate the otherwise dying career of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the bully of Turkey, currently nearly overwhelmed by his missteps.
2. Bust the regime’s chops without overthrowing it – the Obama administration proposed approach. This scenario takes us no less into the unknown: evidence exists that the Assad regime does not worry about the U.S.-led “punishment” but already plans to use deploy chemicals again, perhaps against civilians, as does Tehran against American targets. Further, as I have pointed out, a limited strike can lead to “violence against Israel, an activation of sleeper cells in Western countries, or heightened dependence on Tehran. Surviving the strikes also permits Assad to boast that he defeated the United States.” This step risks almost as much as overthrowing Asad without the benefit of getting rid of him, making it the worst of these three options.
3. Do nothing. This scenario has several disadvantages: letting Bashar al-Assad get away with his chemical attack; eroding Obama’s credibility after his declaring the use of chemicals a “red line”; and strengthening the hardliners in Iran. But it has the even greater advantages of not further inflaming an already combustible war theater, maintaining the strategically beneficial stand-off between regime and rebels, and, most importantly, not distracting Washington from the really important country – Iran.
By all accounts, the mullahs in Tehran are getting ever closer to the point where they at will can order nuclear bombs to be made and readied for use. Unlike the use of chemical weapons against Syrian civilians, this prospect is a matter of the most direct and vital personal concern to Americans, for it could lead to an electromagnetic pulse attack on their electrical grid, suddenly returning them to a nineteenth-century economy and possibly a couple of hundred million fatalities.
Such prospects make the methods by which Syrians kill each other a decidedly less vital matter for Congress than Iranian plans to bring the United States to its knees. In this light, note that Barack Obama has followed his fellow Democrat Bill Clinton in a readiness to use force where American interests precisely are not vitally involved – Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Haiti, Libya, and now Syria. Need one really argue that American troops be deployed only to protect their own country?
While the Saudi foreign minister and the Arab League haughtily demand that “the international community” do its duty and stop the bloodshed in Syria, this American suggests that Sunni Muslims who wish to protect their kin in Syria do so with their own plentiful petrodollars and large armies.
In this light, I recommend that Congress reject the sideshow proffered by the administration and instead pass a resolution endorsing and encouraging force against the Iranian nuclear infrastructure.
Mr. Pipes (DanielPipes.org) is president of the Middle East Forum and author of three books on Syria. © 2013 by Daniel Pipes. All rights reserved.
Verify chemical weapons use before unleashing the dogs of war
President, Foundation for Democracy in Iran
August 29, 2013
The Obama administration has selectively used intelligence to justify military strikes on Syria, former military officers with access to the original intelligence reports say, in a manner that goes far beyond what critics charged the Bush administration of doing in the run-up to the 2003 Iraq war.
According to these officers, who served in top positions in the United States, Britain, France, Israel, and Jordan, a Syrian military communication intercepted by Israel’s famed Unit 8200 electronic intelligence outfit has been doctored so that it leads a reader to just the opposite conclusion reached by the original report.
The doctored report was leaked to a private Internet-based newsletter that boasts of close ties to the Israeli intelligence community, and led to news reports that the United States now had firm evidence showing that the Syrian government had ordered the chemical weapons attack on August 21 against a rebel-controlled suburb of Damascus.
The doctored report was picked up on Israel’s Channel 2 TV on Aug. 24, then by Focus magazine in Germany, the Times of Israel, and eventually by The Cable in Washington, DC.
According to the doctored report, the chemical attack was carried out by the 155th Brigade of the 4th Armored Division of the Syrian Army, an elite unit commanded by Maher al-Assad, the president’s brother.
However, the original communication intercepted by Unit 8200 between a major in command of the rocket troops assigned to the 155th Brigade of the 4th Armored Division, and the general staff, shows just the opposite.
The general staff officer asked the major if he was responsible for the chemical weapons attack. From the tone of the conversation, it was clear that “the Syrian general staff were out of their minds with panic that an unauthorized strike had been launched by the 155th Brigade in express defiance of their instructions,” the former officers say.
According to the transcript of the original Unit 8200 report, the major “hotly denied firing any of his missiles” and invited the general staff to come and verify that all his weapons were present.
The report contains a note at the end that the major was interrogated by Syrian intelligence for three days, then returned to command of his unit. “All of his weapons were accounted for,” the report stated.
The New York Times reported this morning that the White House is now backing off its claims to have a “smoking gun that directly links President Bashar al-Assad to the attack.”
The new argument is more deductive: since the Assad regime has chemical weapons and chemical weapons were used in Mouadhamiya, therefore the Syrian regime must have been the ones to use them.
But even that line of reasoning falls down when confronted with evidence known to the U.S. intelligence community, and presumably, to Congress.
An Egyptian intelligence report describes a meeting in Turkey between military intelligence officials from Turkey and Qatar and Syrian rebels. One of the participants states, “there will be a game changing event on August 21st” that will “bring the U.S. into a bombing campaign” against the Syrian regime.
The chemical weapons strike on Moudhamiya, an area under rebel control, took place on August 21. “Egyptian military intelligence insists it was a combined Turkish/Qatar/rebel false flag operation,” said a source familiar with the report.
The White House has gone to great lengths to shut down any independent investigation of the facts.
A UN inspection team was on the ground in Damascus on August 21 when the Moudhamiya attack occurred, where they were awaiting authorization from the Syrian government to visit sites of earlier alleged chemical weapons attacks.
Once word of Moudhamiya broke and the inspectors announced they planned to refocus their investigation on the fresh attack rather than the earlier ones, the White House was telling the UN to back off from gathering the facts.
According to Monday’s Wall Street Journal, a senior administration official called UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon before the inspectors ever left Damascus, “telling him the inspection mission was pointless and no longer safe.”
The inspectors attempted to visit Mouadhamiya on Monday to examine victims, but were turned back by sniper fire in the no man’s land between government and rebel positions on the outskirts of Damascus. After replacing their bullet-ridden armored car, they inspectors drove into Mouadhamiya for a hurried inspection of victims presented to them by rebel forces.
But even that inspection turned out to be inconclusive, which may be why the Obama White House didn’t want it to proceed.
The UN Special Envoy for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, was circumspect in speaking to reporters yesterday on what the inspectors had actually found on the ground.
“With what has happened on the 21st of August last week, it does seem that some kind of substance was used that killed a lot of people: hundreds, definitely more than a hundred, some people say 300, some people say 600, maybe 1,000, maybe more than 1,000 people,” Brahimi said.
But he would not say that the substance was the deadly nerve agent Sarin, or describe how it was delivered.
Earlier inspections by the United Nations were also inconclusive. In May, a member of the United Nations commission investigating chemical weapons in Syria said there was “strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof” that sarin gas had been used in Syria against civilians.
“What appeared from our investigation was that it was used by the opponents, by the rebels,” said Carla DelPonte, a former Swiss Attorney General and prosecutor with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.
“I was a little bit stupefied by the first indications we got … they were about the use of nerve gas by the opposition,” she added.
Agents provacateurs are as old as warfare itself. What better than a false flag attack, staged by al Qaeda and its al Nusra front allies in Syria, to drag the United States into a war?
The brutality of the Syrian regime’s assault on its own people is indefensible. But given the inevitable backlash from Iran and the possibility of spillover into Israel, we should gather the facts before unleashing the dogs of war.
Kissinger: Yes, there is a good option for Syria
September 2, 2013
But the West is wrong to think it has no good options. It has a superb and just option, one that will let history unfold as it should have long ago. That option — to break up Syria into coherent nations — was proposed earlier this summer by former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in a gathering at the Ford School.
“First of all, Syria is not a historic state. It was created in its present shape in 1920, and it was given that shape in order to facilitate the control of the country by France,” he began, explaining the root of the present crisis.
“Secondly, it’s a country that is divided into many ethnic groups, a multiplicity of ethnic groups, and that means that an election doesn’t give you the same results as in the United States because every ethnic group votes for its own people … Moreover these ethnic groups are very antagonistic to each other. You have Kurds, Druzes, Alawites, Sunnis and 10 to 12 Christian ethnic groups.”
The notion that these groups could ever get together and form a coalition government, as proposed in the Western media, is not only unrealistic but “inconceivable,” says Kissinger. “On the whole it is an ethnic and sectarian country… it is now a civil war between sectarian groups.”
Kissinger believes Syria should and will break up in some fashion — indeed, the independent-minded Kurds have already created a de facto state with a potent military, the Druze have their own militias and Assad’s ruling Alawites, in preparation for a retreat to their traditional homelands should they lose the civil war, have heavily fortified Alawite territory. This break up, sooner rather than later, is Kissinger’s preferred outcome yet the West is misguidedly acting to thwart it.
Plan A for the West, President Obama explained this week, would be “a shot across the bow” — limited bombing to teach Assad a lesson while allowing him to remain in power. This plan, many believe, not only risks a larger war by a panicked Assad but also could backfire by enhancing Assad’s stature at home and in the Arab world, in that he could claim to have withstood an attack by the combined colonial powers.
So what would the effect be if the Western nations chose neither the do-nothing option nor a risky military attack but adopted instead a Kissinger-inspired Plan B — a principled declaration that they favour a division of Syria into its constituent nations, starting with an independent Kurdish state in what is now Syrian Kurdistan?
Without dropping a single bomb, this declaration would create a win for the Kurds, a pro-Western people who are also one of the largest ethnic groups in the world without a state of their own. It would create a win for the West, who would now have a pro-Western state in what has long been hostile territory. It would create a humiliating loss for Assad, who would be seen to have presided over the dismemberment of his country. And most importantly in meeting the West’s immediate security needs, it would send a chill through Iran’s mullahs, who have to date been impervious to Western boycotts and other attempts to end Iran’s drive for nuclear weapons. Iran, which has Kurds of its own along with other restive minorities, would now contemplate the prospect of the dismemberment of its own state – Iran’s dominant Persians represent only about 60% of the country’s population. A Western declaration of support for Iran’s Kurdish minority would deter the mullahs as nothing else has.
Well, yeah. But for the United States’ word to mean something, wouldn’t they have to be seen as willing to back it up?
Half Measures In Syria?
Intervening now is a good start, but our moral and strategic imperatives demand more.
Council on Foreign Relations
August 31, 2013
As it becomes increasingly obvious that President Obama has decided to attack Syria with cruise missiles and perhaps a bit more, those of us who have been urging a stronger stand on Syria for two years should be very pleased. This is what we’ve asked for, isn’t it? It isn’t, and I can’t muster more than one or one and a half cheers. Why not?
Real American security interests are at stake in Syria and have been from the start. Iran and the terrorist group Hezbollah, which together have an enormous amount of American blood on their hands, have sent troops to Syria to win a war there. Russia has provided a constant flow of arms to the regime. They all consider their control of Syria important, and they are right: If they lose the control they have through Bashar Assad, their position in the entire Middle East is badly weakened — and ours is strengthened. This is a proxy war, with them on one side, and American allies — Jordan, Israel, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE — on the other. It is in the interest of the United States to win this fight, and we should want Iran, Hezbollah, and Russia to lose.
Second, there is a growing humanitarian disaster: 100,000 dead at a minimum, plus millions of refugees and displaced persons. The suffering has already spilled over into Jordan and Lebanon, with more to come.
The problem with the Obama administration’s probable reaction over the next few days is that it appears likely to address neither of these issues, and instead focus narrowly on another: Assad’s use of chemical weapons.
But what about our strategic interests? If our strikes are limited to Assad’s chemical-weapons assets, we leave his war machine intact — including the air power that is one of his main advantages. We make it no less likely that our enemies — Russia, Iran, Hezbollah, Assad — will win this proxy war and greatly strengthen their position in the Middle East — preserving Iran’s only ally in the region, which affords them ports in the Mediterranean and a border with Israel (via Hezbollah in Lebanon).
I give the administration some credit: It would be far worse to do nothing and prove that we have no credibility and need not be feared under any circumstances whatsoever. But the Russians and Iranians and their terrorist allies will not be defeated unless we show greater determination and greater willingness to act. For a start, the Obama administration should destroy not only Assad’s chemical stocks but his air power as well — bases, helicopters, jets. That would be the way to show American power in the Middle East is still to be reckoned with, to instill fear in our enemies, and to hearten our allies.
The Implications of Obama’s Failure in Egypt
August 29, 2013
To date, US President Barack Obama’s efforts to appease or engage Islamists have either failed or backfired. US influence in the Mideast is at an all-time low and Islamic fundamentalism continues to gain strength at an alarming pace.
Egypt, which until a year ago was regarded by the US as an ally, is perhaps the most dramatic example of Obama’s complete failure to understand the nature of the region and the steps that must be taken to stabilize it. The current horrors and barbarism in Syria should not divert attention from events in Egypt, the outcome of which is likely to have a major impact on the entire region.
Obama’s first blunder in Egypt was the antagonism he displayed toward President Hosni Mubarak. Immediately following his first election, Obama insisted on inviting members of the outlawed Moslem Brotherhood to his Cairo address. As a result, Mubarak boycotted the event.
Obama displayed the full extent of his contempt for Mubarak when the public riots first erupted against the Egyptian regime when he called on him to step down immediately. This provided an opening to the Islamists and sent shock waves throughout those Arab regimes that regarded themselves as US allies.
While there is no disputing that Mubarak was an odious authoritarian leader, he was considered a moderate within the context of the Arab world, a loyal ally of the US, and a combatant of Islamic terrorism — facts whose implications Obama either inexplicably failed to grasp or naively chose to ignore.
The Obama administration’s greatest failure with regard to Egypt has been its inexcusable and naive mischaracterization of the Moslem Brotherhood. The Moslem Brotherhood is a fanatical Islamist organization, established in 1928 with the objective of imposing medieval Islamic sharia law throughout the world, employing violence and terror to achieve the goal. The organization was suppressed for most of its 85-year history, and many of its leaders were jailed in Egypt during the Mubarak era.
The Brotherhood opposes freedom of religion and incites hatred against Christians and Jews, demanded the death penalty for apostates, homosexuals and adulterers and has relegated women to third-class status. It engineered the assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat.
Despite this damning record, the Obama administration has inexplicably characterized the Moslem Brotherhood as a moderate movement and suggested that it could become part of a multicultural, Egyptian democratic government that could collaborate with other secular, liberal political streams.
Obama could not have been more wrong. When Mohamed Morsi, one of the Moslem Brotherhood’s leading members took over the reins of government (gaining just 25% of the electoral vote due to the organizational chaos of his opponents), he began purging non-Brotherhood government officials and replacing them with Islamists and their cronies.
Instead of focusing on stabilizing the economy and reaching out to other factions, his new parliament concentrated on outlawing foreign languages in state schools and sanctioning female genital mutilation. During Morsi’s brief tenure, Islamists made major inroads in the Sinai and the provinces where radical elements succeeded in killing Egyptian military and police, murdering Christian Copts, who comprise 10% of the population, and burning and desecrating more than 50 of their churches.
President Morsi would have confronted the US and introduced amendments to the Egypt-Israel peace treaty, had Egypt’s economic crisis not demanded his full attention. Much like Hitler, Morsi moved determinedly toward dictatorship.
Meanwhile, the vast majority of Egyptians became enraged. More than 30 million people signed a petition calling for Morsi to step down. Minister of Defense, General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who Morsi had appointed, demanded that the government be more inclusive. But Morsi ignored the calls, and the army intervened. Violence erupted, he and other Moslem Brotherhood leaders were arrested, and more than a thousand Brotherhood supporters were killed in riots. Egyptians strongly supported the army and its imposition of martial law. As of now, the military has the upper hand and violent resistance from Brotherhood elements has apparently been suppressed.
Throughout this period of chaos and collapse, the Obama administration did nothing more than call for a re-instatement of a democratic government that never existed. In their last conversation, Obama assured Morsi that he continued to regard him as the democratically elected President of Egypt. While Obama hitherto had avoided severing relations with Egypt, he outraged many Egyptians by criticizing General El-Sisi, but supporting the repressive and murderous Moslem Brotherhood, whose stated objective is the transformation of Egypt into an Islamist state.
In contrast to Obama’s fantasies, Israeli leaders are focused on realities and fully aware of the risks that Egypt’s instability poses to Israeli security. They recognize that a fanatical Islamic dictatorship allied with an organization that created Hamas and utterly committed to the elimination of Jewish sovereignty, is a disastrous scenario.
However, Israel has also learned from experience that the enemy of our enemy is not necessarily our friend. Mubarak had exploited anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism amongst the Egyptian people in order to divert attention from economic and domestic problems.
There is thus always a remote possibility that a desperate Egyptian military government could turn on Israel to divert attention from domestic problems. (Indeed, some elements within the Tamarod movement, which facilitated the military coups, have displayed anti-Semitic tendencies and called for an end to dependence on the US and the severing of ties with Israel, and Al Ahram, the most widely circulated Egyptian daily newspaper, has warned of a “Zionist-American-Muslim Brotherhood conspiracy against Egypt.”)
Nonetheless, we recognize that a military regime is far preferable to a Moslem Brotherhood dictatorship that created Hamas, considers Israel Moslem territory that must one day be regained, and is notorious for its feral anti-Semitism, with its leaders continuously referring to Jews as “the descendants of apes and pigs” and “vampires”.
However, the Egyptian military has already reined back Hamas and closed many of the tunnels through which arms were being transferred to Islamic extremists in Sinai. There are also reports of close cooperation between Israeli and Egyptian military authorities in neutralizing threats from terrorists in Sinai.
In Egypt today the choice between the Egyptian army and the Moslem Brotherhood is clear. Despite the justifiable repugnance of military juntas, there should be no equivocation. While the Obama administration obsessively attempts to impose democracy on a society that lacks democratic political experience, it is potentially enabling the most populous Arab state to be controlled by tyrannical, Jihadist autocrats.
By failing to support the Egyptian military, the US may also be fostering Egypt’s economic and social collapse. That Obama is considering abrogating economic aid to Egypt suggests that the US has not absorbed the lessons arising from Jimmy Carter’s naïve and disastrous approach to Iran, which paved the way for the ayatollah’s takeover. Without urgent, remedial aid to Egypt, which depends on imports for the bulk of its food and is rapidly running out of hard currency, total economic meltdown, hunger, riots and even civil war are likely.
In addition, ongoing US pressure to “democratize” Egypt could enable Putin to restore the Russian-Egyptian nexus which prevailed prior to Sadat’s break with the Soviet Union.
Instead of seeking to impose democracy from without, the US should support Egypt’s military government as a mechanism for forestalling the transformation of Egypt into a breeding ground for Jihadists and Al Qaeda.
Democracy is a gradual process which can only be developed from within and only after the formation of a functioning government authority. The majority of the Egyptian people are clearly totally opposed to an extremist Islamic takeover. The US and the West should welcome the collapse of the Moslem Brotherhood regime, as it represents a major blow to the globalization of Islamic fundamentalism — the greatest threat to the Western world and international stability.
Saudi Foreign Minister Sau’d Al-Faisal: The West Is Covering Up And Even Encouraging The Crimes Of The Muslim Brotherhood In Egypt
The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI)
August 20, 2013
On August 19, 2013, following his Paris visit the previous day, during which he met with French President Francois Hollande to discuss the situation in Egypt, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Sa’ud Al-Faisal released a number of statements to the official Saudi news agency. In the statements, he expresses his full support for the demonstrations in Egypt that led to the ouster of president Muhammad Mursi, and also for the road map presented by Egyptian Defense Minister Gen. Al-Sisi, which calls, inter alia, for early presidential elections in Egypt.
Al-Faisal goes on to say that these demonstrations reflect the will of 30 million people, and that “this uprising cannot in any way be described as a military coup.” He says that the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) had refused to heed the will of the people and that it had rejected all mediation initiatives aimed at resolving the crisis. He says that the Egyptian government’s decision to disperse the MB sit-ins in Cairo was the right one, and blames the MB for the current violence across Egypt.
Also in his statements, Al-Faisal castigated the West and the international community, claiming that it looks like they are seeking to cover up the MB’s crimes and even to encourage the MB to continue committing them. He hints that this position is hypocritical, pointing to the contrast between the international community’s stance on Egypt and its disregard of the massacre in Syria. “Where is the concern for human rights and the sanctity of blood [when it comes to the] carnage that is taking place every day in Syria?,” he asks. He states further that what is happening in Egypt is terrorism that must be fought with all possible force and determination, and that his country will stand by Egypt, and will not permit the international community to play with its destiny.
The following are excerpts from an English-language version of the statements published by the Saudi news agency.
Saudi Foreign Minister Sa’ud Al-Faisal (image: English.al-akhbar.com)
“The Uprising Of 30 Million Egyptians Cannot In Any Way Be Described As A Military Coup”
“The fact is that what is happening in the sisterly Arab Republic of Egypt today reflects the will of 30 million Egyptians who, on June 30 , expressed their desire to conduct early presidential elections as an inevitable result of the deterioration of economic, political and social conditions, which led all political and social leaders and forces to meet and announce a new road map leading Egypt to safety. [This,] after the former presidency refused to respond to the wishes of millions of Egyptian people. The roadmap included the amendment of the constitution and the holding, on specific dates, of presidential and parliamentary elections involving all political forces. The uprising of 30 million Egyptians cannot in any way be described as a military coup, for military coups take place under the cover of darkness. In addition, a civilian presidency took power in Egypt, in line with the Egyptian constitution.
“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia views with much regret the events and developments that are happening in Egypt today, which amount… to a war in the streets, the destruction of public and private property, the terrorizing of citizens, the loss of innocent lives, and the burning of whole governorates of Egypt by a movement [i.e., the Muslim Brotherhood] that refuses to respond to the Egyptian popular will and rejects all reconciliation initiatives launched by Sheikh Al-Azhar in addition to Arab and international appeals. They sat in squares of Egypt, paralyzed life in the surrounding areas, terrorized the population, amassed weapons and ammunition, used women and children as human shields in an attempt to win the sympathy of the public, and continued [their] sit-ins for more than forty days. [This] conflicts with the peaceful [nature] of sit-ins, and is incompatible with all international laws [guaranteeing] freedom of opinion and human rights, which prohibit and criminalize [acts of] terrorizing citizens and attacking their property with the force of weapons and disabling and paralyzing life. This is not what is called for by the principles of democracy or human rights.
”[Let me] indicate another fact, [namely] the Egyptian Government’s strenuous attempts to clear the sit-ins by various peaceful means and through negotiations, but unfortunately, these efforts were met with intransigence and rejection and even with violence through the use of weapons and Molotov cocktails against police officers and citizens alike.
“Praise should be expressed for the actions of the Egyptian government and its ability to clear [the squares] in a short record time with the lowest number of losses. I say this not as a hypothesis, but as a reality… documented in sound and image.
“What we are unfortunately witnessing today – the initiative by the opponents [of the current Egyptian authorities] to burn mosques, churches, military installations and police stations and to terrorize innocent people in an attempt to turn the crisis into a war in the streets, as well as the synchronization of this mob’s activity with the terrorist acts in the Sinai – confirms that the source [of all this violence] is one. This matter causes sorrow and grief. It’s not acceptable by any domestic and international principles and laws, and it is incompatible with peaceful protests, taking into account that the laws of all countries in the world unequivocally prohibit any demonstrations or armed threat to the security of citizens or to public property or the disrupting of the life or the interests of citizens.”
“Where Is The [International] Concern For Human Rights And The Sanctity Of Blood… In Syria?”
“Unfortunately, we see today international positions which have taken a strange course of ignoring these irrefutable facts and [instead] focus on general principles, as if they want to cover up the crimes that these opponents [of the current Egyptian authorities] are committing, the burning of Egypt and the killing of its people, and even [want] to encourage these parties to persist in such practices. Regrettably, we see that the international position towards the current events in Egypt is contrary to the attitudes towards the events in Syria. Where is the concern for human rights and the sanctity of blood [when it comes to the] carnage that is taking place every day in Syria, which has led to the killing of more than one hundred thousand Syrians and the destruction of Syria as a whole, without [us] hearing [even a] whisper from the international community, which adheres to human rights [only when this suits] its interests and whims.
“If these attitudes continue, we will not forget them in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and they will not be forgotten by the Arab and Muslim world. This time will be [remembered] as the time in which rights were violated with feeble pretexts that can neither be accepted by the mind nor satisfy the conscience. Those who ignore these facts and [hide] behind flimsy propaganda and lies, we will not consider [their attitude to be a reflection of] good faith or ignorance. We will consider it as an attitude hostile to the interests of the Arab and Islamic nations and their stability. Egypt will not be harmed while the Kingdom and the Arab nations remain silent. This is a nation with strong faith, peoples and potential… All countries that take such negative attitudes toward Egypt should know that the blaze and ruin will not be limited to Egypt alone, but will reflect on all those who have contributed or stood [idly] by [in the face of the] problems and disorders taking place in Egypt today…”
“What Is Happening In Egypt Is Nothing But Terrorism”; Saudi Arabia Will Stand By Egypt
“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, [on the other hand], had to take an honorable and correct attitude. Egypt is considered the most important and largest Arab country, and the Kingdom cannot allow its destiny to depend on erroneous estimates. Therefore, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King ‘Abdallah bin ‘Abd Al-‘Aziz, conveyed last Friday a strong, clear and explicit message [reflecting] his Islamic behavior, which makes him always stand by those who are right without care for interests or ephemeral gains. The Kingdom asked only that the Egyptian people and Arab and Islamic nations stand [united], as one man, and that reason and wisdom prevail, so as to maintain the security and stability of Egypt… As for those who announced, or hinted, that they would stop their aid to Egypt, [I hereby say that] the Arab and Islamic nation is rich in its sons and its abilities, and will not be tardy in granting aid to Egypt, for our destiny is one and our goal is one.
“What is happening in Egypt is nothing but terrorism which does not seek the good [of Egypt], and it must be confronted with all force and firmness, otherwise terrorism will realize its plans to harm Egypt and its stability. The King has demanded non-interference in the internal affairs of Egypt, and that this matter should be left to its people and leadership, for they know more than others about the affairs of their country.”
 Spa.gov.sa, August 18, 2013. The text has been edited for clarity.
 It should be noted that the last sentence in the above paragraph did not appear in the English version of the statements that was published by the Saudi news agency; however, it appeared in the Arabic version published in several Saudi papers. See, for example, Al-Hayat (London), Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), Al-Watan (Saudi Arabia), August 20, 2013.
‘Hidden Jews’ of Poland visit
Nissan Tzur, Jerusalem Post
August 15, 2013
16 Poles who recently discovered their Jewish roots after being raised Catholic arrive in Israel for a special seminar by the Shavei Israel organization.
KRAKOW – A group of 16 young ‘hidden Jews’ – Poles who have recently discovered their Jewish roots after being raised Catholic – arrived in Israel on Wednesday to participate in a specially designed seminar in Jerusalem put on by the Shavei Israel organization.
During and after World War II, many surviving Jews in Poland chose to hide their Jewish identity from their children, to save them from the Nazis and later from the Communist regime. In recent years, many young Poles who grew up as Catholics are discovering their alternate lineage.
Shavei Israel is a non-profit organization that was founded and is chaired by Michael Freund, who immigrated to Israel from the United States.
The organization aims to strengthen the connection between the descendants of Jews and the state of Israel and is active in nine countries.
The participants from Poland, between the ages of 18 and 35, came primarily from Krakow, Katowice, Warsaw, Lodz and Gdansk. For many, it is their first visit to Israel.
“There is a growing thirst among young Poles with Jewish roots to learn more about their Jewish religious and cultural heritage,” said Freund.
The unique program designed by Shavei Israel will assist these young Polish-Jews in discovering more about their roots and learning more about ancient and modern-day Israel. Run by Polish speaking rabbis and educators, topics that will be covered are the laws of Shabbat, the upcoming festivals of Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and Succot, and the weekly Torah portion. The participants will also enjoy daily lessons in spoken Hebrew and tours of various sites in Israel such as Jerusalem, the Dead Sea and Masada, the Sea of Galilee and Safed, known as “the City of Kabbala.” They will also visit Yad Vashem and Mount Herzl.
“This awakening would have been unthinkable just 25 or 30 years ago,” Freund said.
“Since the downfall of Communism, an increasing number of Poles have sought to reclaim and affirm their Jewish identity. We owe them any assistance we can give them.”
Freund added that “with the start of the new Jewish year just a few weeks away, it is fitting that these young Poles have come to Israel to rekindle their bond with the Jewish people.”
Freund said that the participants represent the future of Polish Jewry, a community on the rise “despite decades of suffering and persecution.”
“There can be no sweeter revenge for what was done to us seven decades ago in Poland than to reconnect as many of these young Polish Jews as possible with the state of Israel and the Jewish people.”
There are approximately 4,000 Jews registered in Poland, but experts suggest there may be tens of thousands who to this day are either still hiding their identities or unaware of their family’s heritage. In recent years, a growing number of them, known as the “Hidden Jews of Poland,” have begun to return to Judaism.
Egypt Looks to Dissolve Muslim Brotherhood After Sweeping Arrests
August 17, 2013
CAIRO — Egyptian authorities rounded up more than 1,000 Islamists and began considering legally dissolving the Muslim Brotherhood as the party defiantly called for a week of nationwide protests starting on Saturday. Among those arrested was the brother of al-Qaida head Ayman al-Zawahiri.
The move came after Friday’s death toll in protests added another 173 people killed to the more than 600 slain earlier in the week. More than 1,300 have been wounded in clashes around the country with almost half of the injured from central Cairo violence alone.
Egyptian Prime Minister Hazem el-Bablawi proposed Saturday the legal dissolution of the Muslim Brotherhood and the idea is being studied by the government, a spokesman for the government said. The proposal was made to Egypt’s ministry of social affairs, which licenses non-governmental organizations, spokesman Sherif Shawky said.
Shortly after, Egyptian police exchanged gunfire with supporters of ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi who were holed up inside a Cairo mosque that has been a center of the protests, an Agence France Presse correspondent reported. The reporter said gunmen inside the mosque were trading fire with police outside.
The correspondent said police stormed the Fath mosque and security forces fired tear gas. In the process, they managed to drag outside seven or eight men and were then confronted by angry neighborhood residents who attacked them with sticks and iron bars. Police fired in the air in a bid to disperse the mob.
The clashes push Egypt ever closer to anarchy. The Brotherhood announced a series of daily rallies over the next six days, starting on Saturday.
The interior ministry said more than 1,000 Muslim Brotherhood “elements” had been arrested, accusing members of Morsi’s movement of committing acts of terrorism during the clashes.
Among those arrested was Mohamed al-Zawahiri, brother of al-Qaida head Ayman al-Zawahri, a security source told Agence France Presse. The brother was arrested in his home district of Giza, adjacent to the capital, the source said.
The Brotherhood, which ruled Egypt for a year until the army removed Morsi on July 3, urged its supporters back onto the streets to denounce the military takeover and the subsequent crackdown on followers of the nation’s first freely-elected president.
“Our rejection of the coup regime has become an Islamic, national and ethical obligation that we can never abandon,” said the Brotherhood, which has accused the military of plotting the downfall of Morsi last month to regain the levers of power.
Many Western allies have denounced the killings, including the United States, but Saudi Arabia threw its weight behind the army-backed government on Friday, accusing its old foe the Muslim Brotherhood of trying to destabilize Egypt.
Violence erupted across Egypt after the Brotherhood, which has deep roots in the provinces, called for a “Day of Rage.” Automatic gunfire echoed around the capital throughout Friday afternoon, army helicopters swooped over the roof tops and at least one office block was set ablaze, lighting up the night sky long after the violence had subsided.
“We will not leave the squares. And we will not be silent over our rights, ever,” said Cairo resident Abdullah Abdul Fattah, adding that he was not a Brotherhood voter.
“We are here because of our brothers who died,” he said.
Among the dead was a son of Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Badie, who was killed in Cairo in Friday’s violence. Ammar Badie, 38, died after being shot during a protest in Ramses Square, the Muslim Brotherhood said on its Facebook page. The whereabouts of Mohamed Badie, who is the Islamist movement’s General Guide and facing official charges for inciting violence, are unknown.
An interim cabinet, installed by the army after it removed Morsi during rallies against his often chaotic rule, has refused to back down. It has authorized police to use live ammunition to defend themselves and state installations.
After weeks of futile, political mediation, police moved on Wednesday to clear two Brotherhood protest sit-ins in Cairo. Almost 600 people, most of them Islamists, were killed in the mayhem. With no compromise in sight, the most populous Arab nation — which is often seen as leading events in the entire region — looks increasingly polarized and angry.
“Egypt fighting terrorism,” said a new logo plastered on state television, reflecting tougher language in the local media that was once reserved for militant groups such as al- Qaida.
The government said in a statement it was confronting the “Muslim Brotherhood’s terrorist plan.”
Undermining Brotherhood pledges of peaceful resistance, armed men were seen firing from the ranks of pro-Morsi supporters in Cairo on Friday. A security official said at least 24 policemen had died over the past 24 hours, and 15 police stations attacked.
The Brotherhood suggested the gunmen had been planted by the security forces, saying it remained committed to non-violence.
Witnesses also said Morsi backers had ransacked a Catholic church and set fire to an Anglican church in the city of Malawi. The Brotherhood, which has been accused of inciting anti-Christian sentiment, denies targeting churches.
Christians make up roughly 10 percent of Egypt’s 84-million population and the Coptic Church authority issued a statement on Friday saying it “strongly supports the Egyptian police and armed forces.”
The streets of Cairo fell quiet after nightfall, with the government warning the dusk-to-dawn curfew would be vigorously enforced. Neighborhood watch schemes sprouted up, and residents stopped and searched cars driving past their communities.
Egypt has lurched from one crisis to another since the downfall of the autocratic Hosni Mubarak in 2011, dealing repeated blows to the economy, particularly tourism.
Mubarak faces trial on charges of complicity in the deaths of protesters in 2011, but the chaos sweeping the country even postponed court proceedings in his case Saturday. The adjournment meant that Mubarak’s next court date will coincide with the beginning of another trial of Muslim Brotherhood leaders.
Meanwhile, the world community continues to respond to the unrest.
The European Union asked its states to consider “appropriate measures” to take in reaction to the violence, while Germany said it was reconsidering its ties.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro recalled his ambassador to Cairo on Friday and called for Egypt’s ousted president Mohammed Morsi to be reinstated. Maduro accused the United States and Israel of being behind Morsi’s ouster as well as revolts in other countries such as Syria.
The Venezuelan government has maintained close relations with Middle Eastern countries, particularly Iran. It was also a close partner of Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi who was killed in a popular revolt in 2011.
© 2013 NewsmaxWorld. All rights reserved.
For The First Time, American Loan Guarantees For Jordan
August 15, 2013 1
Yesterday the United States announced that it would guarantee up to $1.25 billion in loans to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.
The announcement from the State Department said this:
The United States today re-affirmed its strong commitment to the people of Jordan by signing a sovereign loan guarantee agreement with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. The United States’ guarantee makes it easier for the Government of Jordan to borrow money from international capital markets and provide critical services to its citizens as it enacts economic reforms while also hosting more than half a million refugees fleeing the violence inside Syria. The signing of this loan guarantee agreement fulfills the commitment made by President Obama in Amman, Jordan, March 22, 2013, when he announced his intention to work with Congress to provide loan guarantees to Jordan this year. This will be the first U.S. loan guarantee to the Government of Jordan. Pursuant to the loan guarantee agreement, the United States would guarantee repayment of principal and interest on the issuance of up to a $1.25 billion, seven-year Jordanian sovereign bond.
Jordan’s prime minister had this to say:
Prime Minster Abdullah Ensour, who signed the agreement on behalf of the Jordanian government, said this guarantee, which aims to support the economic and financial reform effort in Jordan, demonstrates the US’s outstanding support to Jordan by helping the country to fulfill its financing needs from international markets at better terms. In a speech after the signing ceremony, Ensour noted that the US Government, acting through USAID, plans to provide guarantees on Jordanian government bonds for the amount of US $ 1.250 billion for a period of up to 7 years. He pointed out that this loan guarantee agreement will enhance Jordan’s ability to borrow from international markets, while reducing its financing needs from the domestic market, providing room for the private sector to obtain the funds it needs to thrive. Ensour said this agreement will also allow Jordan to obtain external financing with competitive interest rates at par with US Government borrowing, which will reduce the Jordanian government debt service payments….
This is a very smart move by the Obama administration, providing tangible support for Jordan as it faces the problems arising from a region in turmoil–in Jordan’s case, turmoil that has saddled it with over a half million Syrian refugees and huge additional energy costs (because the pipeline from Egypt is not operating). Support for stability and prosperity in Jordan is a clear American interest, as the administration and both parties in Congress recognize.
Perhaps It’s Not Her Man Huma Stands By
Lt. Colonel James G. Zumwalt, USMC (ret)
August 8, 2013
Huma Abedin — wife of candidate for New York City mayor and disgraced former U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y. — is confounding political analysts.
Why, after her husband recently admitted on the campaign trail he had continued his sexting exploits subsequent to resigning from office in 2011, would she continue to stand by her man. There may be something much more valued to Abedin than a psychotic husband causing her to do so.
If one drew lines from opposite ends of a graph to illustrate U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East under U.S. President Barack Obama and Abedin’s increasing influence with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, convergence occurs with a major change in such policy. An earlier effort to explore Abedin’s influence was curbed by supporters waving the flag of political correctness, suggesting her ties to Islam and certain questionable organizations remained off limits for discussion.
It is important to understand Abedin’s “bloodline.” While it shouldn’t be taken as an indictment of her beliefs, it does reflect possible influences at an early age molding her core belief system. It is the direction she chose to go once emancipated, however, that is telling about the impact family influences may have had in honing her core beliefs.
A July 24 National Review article addresses this bloodline.
To understand it, we begin with Abdullah Omar Naseef, a Saudi supporter of the late Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida.
A staunch Islamic extremist, Naseef founded a think tank, the Institute of Muslim Minority Affairs, in 1978. He recruited Abedin’s father, Zyed Abedin, an educator born in India and living in the United States, to assist in the effort in Saudi Arabia.
As reported by investigative journalist Andrew McCarthy, even today IMMA’s focus remains on promoting the Saudi Ministry of Religious Affairs’ foreign policy “to grow an unassimilated, aggressive population of Islamic supremacists who will gradually but dramatically alter the character of the West.”
Naseef also co-founded the Rabita Trust, established in 1988, allegedly for charitable purposes but later found to be funding terrorist groups. The United States designated Rabita a foreign terrorist organization, freezing its assets in 2001.
IMMA later published a journal, for which Zyed Abedin was editor. Although Zyed Abedin ran JMMA, Naseef influenced it via his relationship with the World Assembly of Muslim Youth, “a virulently anti-Semitic and Shariah-supremacist organization” that managed the publication. When Zyed Abedin died in 1993, his Pakistani wife, Huma’s mother, Saleha Mahmood Abedin, took control.
Saleha Abedin is a promoter of the Muslim Brotherhood and violent jihad. She directs an organization — the International Islamic Committee for Woman and Child linked to the Union for Good — also an FTO. The union is headed by Muslim Brotherhood’s Sheik Yusuf al-Qaradawi who, during the U.S. occupation of Iraq, ordered fatwas against U.S. troops. Allegedly a women’s rights activist, Saleha Abedin promotes those “rights” as defined by Shariah law, thus justifying the abuse of wives, female genital mutilation and other repressive horrors.
Born in the United States, Huma Abedin was raised Muslim in Saudi Arabia. She returned to the United States to attend college at George Washington University in 1994. There she became an executive board member of the Muslim Student Association, a national organization and foundation of Muslim Brotherhood’s U.S. network. The MSA has an indoctrination program “designed to ensure with absolute certainty that there is conformity to the movement’s ideology and a clear adherence to its leadership’s authority.”
Of note too is that in early 2001, the late American-born terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki became GWU’s MSA spiritual guide, while simultaneously counseling some of the 9/11 terrorists.
McCarthy notes, “MSA gave birth to the Islamic Society of North America, the largest Islamist organization in the U.S. Indeed the MSA and ISNA consider themselves the same organization. Because of its support for Hamas (a designated terrorist organization that is the Muslim Brotherhood’s Palestinian branch), ISNA was named an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation case, in which several Hamas operatives were convicted of providing the terrorist organization with lavish financing.”
In 1996, Huma Abedin became a White House intern working for first lady Hillary Clinton. They formed a close bond resulting in Abedin becoming Clinton’s chief of staff during her 2008 presidential campaign run and her top staffer and adviser when Clinton became secretary of State in 2009.
Having ties to Islamic extremist influences, Abedin should have been thoroughly investigated for a position requiring a high-level security clearance. But, again, inexplicably, she was cleared with minimal vetting.
Abedin married Weiner, who is a Jew, in July 2010. Interestingly, while Islam permits Muslim men to take non-Muslim spouses, it prohibits Muslim women from doing so. Thus, such a union should have generated outrage from a Muslim world prone to lash out over anything. But strangely, nothing was heard — not even from Abedin’s Islamist mother.
Two years after the Clinton-Abedin team took office, the United States made a major change in its foreign policy toward the Muslim Brotherhood. In June 2011, it threw its ally, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, under the bus, embracing the Muslim Brotherhood — with whom all communication had previously been suspended due to its suspected terrorist activities — and several of its positions contrary to U.S. interests.
With Clinton’s departure from State, Abedin may only temporarily be out of the classified information loop. Standing by her man may well be driven by her desire to get back into it, hitching a ride either on Clinton’s 2016 presidential bid train or the constantly derailing Weiner train she still hopes may lead to higher office.
But that desire may well be Muslim Brotherhood-driven.
The Right Moment for Israel’s Danny Danon?
The Washington Times
August 5, 2013
He’s hardly alone, as many observers (including myself) are outraged by this move. But Danon, 42, has a unique place in this debate because he (1) sits in Israel’s parliament as a member of Netanyahu’s Likud Party, he (2) is chairman of Likud’s powerful Central Committee, and he (3) serves as Israel’s deputy minister of Defense. In American terms, his criticism resembles Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s 2010 interview mocking Vice President Joe Biden. But McChrystal was gone within days whereas Danon continues to gain influence and stature.
Danon (right) is widely seen as a thorn in Netanyahu’s side, as in this Ha’aretz cartoon.
Danon’s ability to denounce his own prime minister’s actions points to his not being a routine politician. Three qualities stand out: a devotion to principle, a mastery of tactics, and the ability to articulate a vision.
Danon has remained true to the core principles of his party and his country. His righteous opposition when his party makes mistakes – such as the 2009 freeze on building residences for Jews on the West Bank or accepting the two-state solution – shows a strength of character. As he points out, “It’s not easy being in a room of thirty people, alone saying no.”
His rise through Israel’s national camp institutions reveals tactical skill: serving as assistant to Uzi Landau, as head of the World Betar Organization, then head of the World Likud Organization, as organizer of street protests and challenger to the prime minister for the party’s leadership. These efforts culminated in his strong showing in his party’s electoral list (coming in No. 5) and the jaw-dropping 85 percent of the vote he won in elections to lead Likud’s Central Committee. With reason, the Forward newspaper calls him “a master of social and conventional media” and the Times of Israel deems him “a major stumbling block toward Palestinian statehood.”
Yitzhak Shamir, Israel’s last principled prime minister, left office in 1992.
Finally, the vision: Its fullest articulation is found in his 2012 book, Israel: The Will to Prevail (Palgrave), where he sketches an ambitious and contrarian view of his country’s foreign policy. Arguing that “history shows us Israel is often better off when she acts on her own behalf … even if that means contravening the wishes of U.S. administrations,” he concludes that the Jewish state “fares best when she makes decisions based on her own best interests.” Jerusalem, he holds, should pursue its goals “with or without backing from her allies.” This argument, commonplace enough for most states, is audacious in the case of small, beleaguered Israel.
Danon’s moment may have arrived. As Netanyahu appears to be making excessive and immoral concessions to the Palestinian Authority, Danon has emerged as a leading dissident ready to challenge his prime minister (remember “lunacy”). Should Netanyahu feel no longer welcome in his own party and leave it to found a new one (following exactly in Ariel Sharon’s 2005 footsteps), Danon will be a potential candidate to lead Likud and win a subsequent election.
One sign of his rise is the invective used against him. Justice Minister Tzipi Livni coined the term “Danonism” and demanded that Netanyahu reject it. Gideon Levy, an extreme left columnist for Ha’aretz newspaper, disdainfully but fearfully writes that “little Danny Danon will be big, the sugar of the Israeli right. … [he] will go far.”
Daniel Pipes (right) testifying before the Knesset’s Immigration,
Absorption and Diaspora Affairs Committee,
chaired by Danny Danon (left), in March 2012.
Looked at in historical perspective, since the taciturn but principled Yitzhak Shamir left the prime ministry in 1992, his six successors variously engaged in political betrayal, ethical corruption, and delusional egotism. Sharon (2001-06) abandoned his electoral mandate to the point that he had to flee his own party, even as his financial shenanigans had him in constant trouble with the law. Ehud Olmert (2006-09) had to resign due to a cloud of corruption charges. Focused on the Iranian threat, Netanyahu did well since 2009 but his recent offer of 104 murderers disturbingly contradicts the electoral platform of a half year ago.
On a personal note, through the two decades since Shamir, I have constantly looked for someone with the character, energy, skills, and vision to lead Israel. I have known Danon since 2009 and have concluded that he has the necessary qualities. I hope and expect he stays true to his principles and rises to the point where he can end the recent desultory politics of the Jewish state and bring them in line with the country’s many remarkable achievements. Much hangs in the balance.
Mr. Pipes (DanielPipes.org) is president of the Middle East Forum. © 2013 by Daniel Pipes. All rights reserved.
Bibi and the true believers
Aug 2013, 2013
Standing next to US Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday morning, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni gushed that through his indefatigable efforts to bring Israeli and Palestinian officials to Washington, Kerry proved that “nothing can stop true believers.”
As usual, the cognitively challenged Livni told us something she hadn’t intended to say. The term “true believer” was coined by Eric Hoffer in his classic work The True Believer from 1951, which Livni has obviously not read. Hoffer’s epic study of the psychological roots of fanaticism described a true believer as a person so fanatically committed to a cause that no amount of reality can make him abandon it.
And that just about sums up Kerry, and the man he works for, US President Barack Obama.
Kerry visited Israel six times in the four months leading up to the meetings in Washington this week, during which Americans, Palestinians and Israelis discussed the size of the table they will be sitting around in the coming discussions.
During the same four months, the Syrian regime used chemical weapons against its opponents on multiple occasions. Most recently, they gassed Palestinians in Yarmuk refugee camp outside Damascus, killing 22 people.
During those four months, al-Qaida strengthened its control over the Syrian opposition groups fighting the regime.
During those four months, the Syrian civil war became a focal point of a wider Sunni-Shi’ite religious war that has already spread to Lebanon and Iraq. In its post-US-withdrawal role of Iranian satrapy, Iraq has allowed Iran to use its territory and airspace to transfer war materiel to the Syrian regime.
During those four months, the Obama administration decided to begin arming the al-Qaidadominated rebel forces. It has also deliberately raised the risk of a Syrian-Israeli war by informing the media every time that Israel attacks missile sites in Syria.
Also during the four months that Kerry obsessed over convincing PLO chief Mahmoud Abbas to send his representative to Washington, Egypt experienced its second revolution in which, buffeted by millions of demonstrators who filled the squares of Egypt’s cities, the Egyptian military overthrew the US-supported Muslim Brotherhood regime.
The Obama administration was quick to jump onto the bandwagon of the first Egyptian revolution in January 2011. That revolution led to the military’s ouster of then-president Hosni Mubarak, a staunch US ally, and so paved the way for the totalitarian and deeply popular Muslim Brotherhood to rise to power.
When the Brotherhood became subject to its own revolution due to its incompetent handling of Egypt’s failed economy and its single-minded focus on transforming Egypt into an Islamist state as quickly as possible, the Obama administration was confounded. Speaking to The Wall Street Journal this week, a senior administration official expressed complete befuddlement at events in Egypt. “None of us can quite figure this out,” the official said. “It seems so self-defeating.”
And that is the thing of it. In its support for the Brotherhood, the administration was implementing its wholly unfounded, dead-wrong ideological belief that the Muslim Brotherhood is a progressive, “largely secular” organization that is dedicated to good works. And now that the Egyptian military, supported by about half of the Egyptian people, has rejected the Brotherhood, its actions are incomprehensible to the Obama administration.
In the face of massive documentary evidence, and facts on the ground, (Egypt has run out of food, and rather than get them some, overthrown president Mohamed Morsi rammed through a totalitarian Islamist constitution), the Obama administration still clings to its ideological belief that the Muslim Brotherhood is a positive, progressive, “largely secular” organization that is devoted to good works for the poor.
So, too, in Syria. The administration thinks it is okay to fund the Free Syria Army, because its leadership is dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood.
Owing to the administration’s blind faith in its belief that the reason that the US is hated in the Muslim world is because it has opposed populist Islamist forces, Obama and his advisers think it makes sense to arm those forces in Syria now – so long as the Muslim Brotherhood is able to hide the fact that it is dominated by al-Qaida for a sufficient number of news cycles to sell this fiction to the media.
The administration’s faith in Islamist reasonableness holds for the Shi’ite Islamists just as strongly as it does for the Sunni Islamists. This is why it maintains its commitment to negotiating with Iran’s fanatical regime about its nuclear weapons program, despite overwhelming evidence that the Iranians are using the negotiations as a means to develop their bomb in peace.
This week David Albright and Christina Walrond at the Institute for Science and International Security in Washington published a deeply disturbing report. They explained that based on what we know, Iran will reached “critical capacity” in its nuclear program by mid-2014. Albright and Walrond defined critical capacity as “the technical capability to produce sufficient weapongrade uranium from its safeguarded stocks of low enriched uranium for a nuclear explosive, without being detected.”
Albright and Walrond then explained the many ways Iran can speed up the process, and hide its achievement from the international community for long enough to make it too late to conduct military strikes on their nuclear facilities to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power.
In other words, they told us politely, and diplomatically, if urgently, that we have arrived at the moment of decision. Will the US or Israel strike Iran’s nuclear installations to prevent it from becoming a nuclear power, or will Iran become a nuclear power? If we wait much longer, we won’t have sufficient time to act.
But for Kerry and his fellow true believers the most urgent priority was to convince the Palestinians to sit in the same room as Israelis. And this week they scored a great victory for US foreign policy by achieving their goal.
In her brief remarks, not only did Livni inadvertently tell us that Kerry is a fanatic. She also told us that she is a fanatic.
Livni said, “[I]t took more than just a plane ticket to be here today. A courageous act of leadership by Prime Minister Netanyahu that was approved by the Israeli government made this visit here and the beginning of the negotiation possible.”
The “courageous act” she referred to was the government’s decision to release 104 “Palestinian prisoners” from Israel’s prisons. The demand for their freedom was the obstacle Abbas placed in the way of Livni acquiring her long-sought-after plane ticket to peace talks and five star receptions at Kerry’s Washington mansion.
The 104 “prisoners” are made up of Palestinians and Israeli Arabs. They are not car thieves or pickpockets. They are monsters with human faces. All 104 are serving life sentences for murder or attempted murder. Their crimes were gruesome acts of barbarism marked by demonic cruelty.
Yusef Said al-Al and Ayman Taleb Abu Sitteh stabbed David Bubil and Haim Weitzman to death and mutilated their bodies, cutting off their ears as souvenirs.
Three other “Palestinian prisoners” hacked four teenagers to pieces, killing them with pitchforks, hatchets and knives.
Thirteen-year-old Oren Baharmi was raped and murdered by Amad Mahmad Jamil Shehada.
And the list goes on and on, and on.
There was nothing even vaguely courageous about Netanyahu’s decision to release these monsters.
There was nothing even vaguely courageous about his cabinet members’ decision to vote for their release. Theirs was an act of utter cravenness. They dishonored the victims, the victims’ families and the nation as a whole.
And they endangered the country. According to the Almagor Victims of Terror organization, from 2000 to 2005, 180 Israelis were murdered by Palestinian terrorists released by Israel in previous “deals.” And those terrorists had been imprisoned for non-lethal actions, (i.e., without blood on their hands).
The fact that Netanyahu and his ministers passed this decision simply to provide a sufficient payoff to Abbas for him to send Saeb Erekat to Washington to talk about nothing with Livni, makes their actions, not only craven, but insane.
Livni’s obscene characterization of this cowardly, life-threatening injustice as a “courageous act,” exposes her as well as a true believing fanatic.
Only a fanatic could say such a thing.
In his remarks, Kerry said that the talks about the size of the table are going to bring about a situation where Israel will achieve, “not just the absence of conflict, but a full and lasting peace with the Arab and Muslim nations.”
Like Kerry’s demand that Israel free the terrorists, this statement bespeaks an underlying fanatical dementia. Regarding the “Arab and Muslim nations,” in Syria, neither the al-Qaida forces nor the regime have mentioned anything about putting down their weapons if Israel coughs up Jerusalem and Elon Moreh. The same goes for Hezbollah, Iran and their friends and enemies warring for power throughout the region.
As for the Palestinians, if they were interested in “lasting peace” with Israel, they wouldn’t demand freedom for terrorist murderers. Moreover, while Kerry was exulting in his brilliant success, Abbas announced that in his version of “lasting peace,” Jews will be wiped off of the map of Palestine.
As Abbas put it, “In a final resolution, we would not see the presence of a single Israeli – civilian or soldiers – on our lands.”
So again, while Kerry and Livni see rainbows and unicorns, Abbas sees a Jew-free Palestine, with the 600,000 Jews of Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria rendered homeless refugees to make room for his anti-Semitic fiefdom.
It is not surprising that Kerry, Obama and Livni are going along with this obscenity. It is not surprising that fanatics who pray to the god of the two-state solution think it is courageous to free Jewish-baby killers. It is not surprising they think the most important thing on the international agenda is to secure Israel’s surrender of land, our legal rights, and our ability to defend ourselves to a terrorist group that hates Jews so much it requires all of us to be gone before it will do us the favor of accepting sovereignty.
What is surprising – and frightening – is that Netanyahu, who is not a true believer, and knows that they are true believers, is going along with this.
Netanyahu knows that Israel cannot survive without Judea and Samaria. He knows what the Muslim Brotherhood is. He knows the nature of the Iranian regime. He knows that the PLO is no different from Hamas. Their goal is the same – they want to destroy Israel.
Netanyahu knows that Obama is hostile to Israel and that he will not lift a finger to block Iran from becoming a nuclear power.
So why is he going along with their insanity? In bowing to US pressure and approving the release of 104 terrorist murderers from prison, Netanyahu behaved like a coward. In bowing to US pressure not to bomb Iran’s nuclear installations, Netanyahu is being a coward.
The most important question for Israel today then is whether our leader is capable of being anything else.
Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.
Analysts predict Iran able to produce atom bomb by mid-2014
July 31, 2013
Iran expected to achieve “critical capability” to produce sufficient weapon-grade uranium think tank says.
Iran is expected to achieve a “critical capability” to produce sufficient weapons-grade uranium by mid-2014 without being detected, the Institute for Science and International Security said in a report on Tuesday.
According to the Washington-based think tank, Iran would achieve this capability by implementing its existing plans to install thousands more IR-1 centrifuges at its declared Natanz and Fordow centrifuge sites.
To counteract this development, the ISIS recommended that the International Atomic Energy Agency increase inspections of Iranian centrifuge facilities to at least twice per week.
“However,” ISIS warned in its July report, “there is an inherent limitation and dilemma to increasing the rate of inspections, despite their importance.”
If the United States and Israel hesitate to strike out of fear of facing international opposition, the ISIS warned, “Iran could have time to make enough weapons-grade uranium for one or more nuclear weapons.”
According to the report, breakout times at critical capability would be “so short” that there would not be enough time to organize an international diplomatic or military response.
“IAEA inaction or caution could make an international response all but impossible before Iran has produced enough weapons-grade uranium for one or more nuclear weapons,” the ISIS report stated.
In its recommendations, the ISIS suggested increasing the frequency of inspections and pushing for remote monitoring of the nuclear sites as conditions for progress in negotiations.
“The point is that by themselves these measures are not sufficient if Iran reaches critical capability,” the report cautioned.
According to the ISIS, there are reasons to conclude that Iran could now be building a new centrifuge plant, “based primarily on Iranian officials’ past statements.”
A new plant could produce sufficient weapons-grade uranium relatively quickly if the centrifuges worked well, the ISIS reported.
“The immediate priority must be limiting the number and type of Iran’s centrifuges at Natanz, Fordow, or a site not yet finished,” the ISIS stated, calling on the P5+1 negotiators to achieve the suggested conditions and prevent the progression of the Iranian nuclear program.
The Boring Palestinians
If this were a TV drama, it would be ‘The X-Files’ in its 46th season.
Bret Stephens from the Wall St. Journal
July 15, 2013
Sufian Abu Zaida is a well-known Palestinian nationalist who worked closely with Yasser Arafat and sits on the Fatah Revolutionary Council, the ostensible legislative branch of the Palestinian Authority’s ostensible ruling party. Though he spent years in Israeli prison on terrorism charges, he has long been considered a relative moderate for his participation in various peace initiatives.
These days Mr. Abu Zaida is an unhappy camper, but not because of the Israelis.
“Honestly, no one ever dreamt we would reach this situation of concentration of authorities and senior positions in the hands of one person,” he wrote about Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in a recent op-ed published on several Palestinian websites.
“The President today is the President of everything that has to do with the Palestinian people and the Palestinian cause. He is the president of the Palestine Liberation Organization, the State of Palestine and the Palestinian Authority. He is the president of the Fatah movement and general leader of the [security] Forces. And as the legislative council is now suspended, he issues laws and has practically replaced the council.”
Mr. Abu Zaida goes on to complain of the pervasive toadyism among Palestinian ministers and officials, their “impotence and fear” in the face of Mr. Abbas’s every decision and appointment. “One of the main reasons that made President Abbas a natural candidate after President Arafat passed away is that many had thought Abbas’s management would be different than Arafat’s,” he notes. Yet now the president “holds authorities that Arafat in all his greatness and symbolic importance didn’t hold.”
Oh, well: Just another aging strongman in another squalid Mideast dictatorship. What else is new? It isn’t going to keep John Kerry—a fool on a fool’s errand—from making his sixth visit in as many months to try to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. It won’t keep the Palestinian Chorus from its weekly hymnals of pity and cant.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
And yet for all its presumed importance, the Palestinian saga has gotten awfully boring, hasn’t it? The grievances that remain unchanged, a cast of characters that never alters, the same schematics, the clichés that were shopworn decades ago. If it were a TV drama, it would be “The X-Files”—in its 46th season. The truth is out there. Still. We get it. We just don’t give a damn anymore.
Little wonder that when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was interviewed over the weekend by CBS’s Bob Schieffer, the topics were Iran, Egypt and Syria, with no mention of Palestinians. Granted, news is a fickle business and what bleeds leads, but the omission was telling all the same. The region is moving tumultuously forward. Israel is dynamic, threatened, divided, innovative, evolving. Egypt careens between revolution and restoration. Lebanon is on the brink, Iran is on the march, Syria is in its agony. America is beating a retreat.
Only the Palestinians remain trapped in ideological amber. How long can the world be expected to keep staring at this four-million-year-old mosquito?
For the usual stalwarts and diehards, the answer will always be: as long as it takes. Palestinians will say it’s on account of their supposedly unique experience of injustice and oppression. Professional peace processors think it’s because of the supposed centrality of the Palestinian drama to all other Middle Eastern conflicts. The Israeli left and its sympathizers in the West are convinced that Palestine is the key to Israel’s survival as a Jewish and democratic state.
All of which is stale bread. Take the most jaundiced view of Israeli behavior toward the Palestinians over the past dozen years: Does it hold a candle to what Bashar Assad does in any given week to his own people in Homs and Aleppo? Take the most exaggerated view of the dearness of Palestine to Egyptians on the streets of Cairo or Turks in the squares of Istanbul: How does their sympathy for Gaza compare with their outrage toward their own governments?
As for the view that Israel needs to separate itself from Palestinians for its own good, that’s as true as it is beside the point. The issue for Israel isn’t whether it has a theoretical interest in a Palestinian state. It does.
But everything hinges on whether such a state evolves into another Costa Rica—or descends into another Yemen. So far the evidence points toward Yemen. Is it any wonder that, given the choice between a long-term moral threat to their character as a state and a near-term physical threat to their existence as a nation, ordinary Israelis should be more concerned with the latter?
Two days after the publication of Mr. Abu Zaida’s op-ed, WAFA, the official Palestinian news agency, carried a rebuttal signed only by “The Security Establishment.” It denounced Mr. Abu Zaida for serving “a foreign agenda” and being a tool of “enemy media.” Then it sang Mr. Abbas’s praises in a style worthy of Egyptian state media under Hosni Mubarak.
It was a characteristically thuggish performance, which unwittingly proved Mr. Abu Zaida’s point. If Palestinians want to be interesting again, and worthy of decent respect, they could start by not playing to tin-pot type.
The Times of Israel
July 17, 2013
The first casualty of the EU settlement directive: John Kerry
Europe’s new ban further reduces chances of drawing the PA back to negotiations; it also reminds Israel that it can’t forever ignore the ‘shrapnel in the butt’
US Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts to revive talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority suffered a serious blow on Tuesday. But this time it wasn’t the Palestinians or the Israelis who derailed the process, but the US’s ostensible ally in the quest for peace, the European Union.
You don’t have to be a dyed-in-the-wool Likudnik to understand that the clear and immediate effect of the EU’s new policy directive barring cooperation with Israeli entities over the pre-’67 line will be to prompt the hardening of the already inflexible Palestinian position regarding new talks.
Publication of the new directive coincided with Kerry’s latest visit to the region in his indefatigable bid to restart the talks. Some voices in Israel have hinted that the EU decision was taken in coordination with the US administration, and even with Kerry’s approval, with the goal of pressing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to show greater conciliation in dealings with the Palestinians or at least to slow construction in the settlements. This notion seems fanciful.
Kerry, who is thoroughly familiar with the Israel-Palestinian arena, would know that the PA is now even less likely to abandon its pre-conditions to new talks. If anything, it will only add new ones. And the conditions that the PA is presenting are not realistic: not merely Israeli acceptance of the pre-’67 lines as the basis for negotiation, but also a complete freeze on building over the ’67 lines, and the release of all prisoners arrested before the Oslo accords.
The EU decision comes at a critical juncture in the US-led effort to resume talks. And rather than pushing both sides towards greater flexibility, the EU is essentially saying to the Palestinians, “No need to hurry. Whatever you don’t get by negotiations, we’ll be sure to attain for you by force [of economic sanctions].”
Predictably, the Palestinians rushed to praise the EU move. The PA did so, and so too did Hanan Ashrawi, the representative of the PLO’s executive committee, who described the new directive as a qualitative development in the EU position. The Palestinians, said Ashrawi, have been demanding for a long time that the nations of the world translate into action their decisions on the issue of settlements, and make plain to Jerusalem that there is a price to pay for its activities. She also urged other nations to take similar steps.
Ashrawi is right: That is indeed the Palestinian position. And now the Palestinians have no particular incentive to agree to return to the negotiating table. With regard to the international community, time is working for the Palestinians and against Israel, whose standing is gradually and relentlessly eroding.
Israel, for its part, has no reason to be too surprised by the EU move. The EU is simply punishing Israel’s decision-makers for having done everything possible to ignore Europe when it comes to the peace process.
Apart from the immediate damage done to Kerry’s efforts, it must be said, the EU has achieved something that Palestinian and American diplomats have been unable to do for a long time: It has returned the Palestinian issue, and the arguments surrounding settlement, to the top of the Israeli agenda.
It is difficult to recall the last time that news bulletins here opened with issues such as building in the territories and the need to return to negotiations with the Palestinians. Yet that is what’s been happening for the last two days.
Suddenly the Israeli public and its apathetic government ministers are discovering that this Palestinian issue, this “shrapnel in the butt” as Jewish Home leader and Economics Minister Naftali Bennett recently described it, can cause real difficulties when it comes to sitting down. Or settling.
Kerry pushes Israel to consider Arab League peace plan
July 17, 2013
After meeting with Arab League officials and Abbas in Amman, US Secretary of State urges Israel to “look hard” at Arab peace initiative; Israeli officials say plan is fine as basis of discussion, not a dictate.
US Secretary of State John Kerry urged Israel from Amman on Thursday to carefully consider the 2002 Arab League peace initiative, in a comment that could presage this initiative becoming part of the terms of reference for restarting Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
“Israel needs to look hard at this initiative, which promises Israel peace with 22 Arab nations and 35 Muslim nations – a total of 57 nations that are standing and waiting for the possibility of making peace with Israel,” he said in Amman, where he met officials from Arab League member countries and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
The plan, put forward by Saudi Arabia at an Arab League summit in Beirut in 2002, offered full recognition of Israel but only if it returned fully to the June 4, 1967 lines, including on the Golan Heights and in east Jerusalem, and to a “just solution” for Palestinian refugees. Softening the plan three months ago, a top Qatari official raised the possibility of land swaps in setting future Israeli-Palestinian borders.
Israeli officials pointed out that Jerusalem never rejected the plan, and that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has said consistently that if the initiative is the basis of discussion, it is acceptable, but if it is considered a take-it-or-leave-it dictate, it is unacceptable.
“Israel never rejected the plan,” the official stressed. “Our position has been nuanced.”
Kerry voiced confidence he was on track toward achieving soon a resumption of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, saying gaps had been greatly narrowed.
“We have been able to narrow these gaps very significantly. And so we continue to get closer and I continue to remain hopeful that the sides can soon be able to come and sit at the same table.”
His meeting with Abbas in the Jordanian capital was Kerry’s second in as many days. It was to be followed, according to a Palestinian official, by a briefing on the US proposals that Abbas will give to other PLO leaders on Thursday ahead of a decision on whether they should resume negotiations with Israel.
The Arab League endorsed Kerry’s peace efforts Wednesday, saying in a statement carried on the Jordanian news agency that it hoped this could lead to a two-state solution.
The statement said that the Arab League delegation in Amman affirmed “its support for Kerry’s great efforts to revive peace talks between the Palestinian and Israeli sides and pointed out that the ideas put forward by Kerry before the committee provide the ground and a suitable environment to start negotiations, especially in new and important political, economic and security issues”.
The League delegation “expressed hope that this will lead to a launch of serious negotiations to address all final status issues to end the conflict and achieve a just and comprehensive peace between the Palestinians and Israelis which will bless the region with security, stability and prosperity.”
The delegation emphasized “its commitment to the Arab peace initiative, stressing that any future agreement must be based on a two-state solution through the establishment of an independent Palestinian state on the lines of the fourth of June 1967 with a limited exchange of territory of the same value and size”.
The League officials expressed “appreciation to President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry for their efforts and their commitment to achieve peace” and also “their commitment to achieving a just and comprehensive peace in the Middle East in cooperation with the United States and with all relevant parties.”
Neither US nor Palestinian officials have given details of the discussions between Abbas and Kerry, who is making his sixth visit to the region since he took office in February.
Israeli officials declined to comment on the matter until after the PLO leaders make their decision.
A positive Palestinian decision, if one were to emerge on Thursday or soon thereafter, would be the first tangible sign of progress in Kerry’s nearly six-month drive to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, now largely overshadowed by upheaval in Egypt and civil war in Syria.
“The president will present the offer made to him by Mr. Kerry in order to make a decision about it,” Wasel Abu Youssef, a Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) official, told Reuters in Ramallah of Abbas’s plan to brief PLO colleagues on Thursday.
Israeli officials said they were unaware of any plans by Kerry to visit Israel on his latest trip.
The Economic Blunders Behind the Arab Revolutions
by David P. Goldman
The Wall Street Journal
July 12, 2013
Sometimes economies can’t be fixed after decades of statist misdirection, and the people simply get up and go. Since the debt crisis of the 1980s, 10 million poor Mexicans—victims of a post-revolutionary policy that kept rural Mexicans trapped on government-owned collective farms—have migrated to the United States. Today, Egyptians and Syrians face economic problems much worse than Mexico’s, but there is nowhere for them to go. Half a century of socialist mismanagement has left the two Arab states unable to meet the basic needs of their people, with economies so damaged that they may be past the point of recovery in our lifetimes.
This is the crucial background to understanding the state failure in Egypt and civil war in Syria. It may not be within America’s power to reverse their free falls; the best scenario for the U.S. is to manage the chaos as best it can.
Of Egypt’s 90 million people, 70% live on the land. Yet the country produces barely half of Egyptians’ total caloric consumption. The poorer half of the population survives on subsidized food imports that stretch a budget deficit close to a sixth of the country’s GDP, about double the ratio in Greece. With the global rise in food prices, Egypt’s trade deficit careened out of control to $25 billion in 2010, up from $10 billion in 2006, well before the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak.
In Syria, the government’s incompetent water management—exacerbated by drought beginning in 2006—ruined millions of farmers before the May 2011 rebellion. The collapse of Syrian agriculture didn’t create the country’s ethnic and religious fault lines, but it did leave millions landless, many of them available and ready to fight.
Egyptians are ill-prepared for the modern world economy. Forty-five percent are illiterate. Nearly all married Egyptian women suffer genital mutilation. One-third of marriages are between cousins, a hallmark of tribal society. Only half of the 51 million Egyptians between the ages of 15 and 64 are counted in the government’s measure of the labor force. If Egypt counted its people the way the U.S. does, its unemployment rate would be well over 40% instead of the official 13% rate. Nearly one-third of college-age Egyptians register for university but only half graduate, and few who do are qualified for employment in the 21st century.
That is the tragic outcome of 60 years of economic policies designed for political control rather than productivity. We have seen similar breakdowns, for example in Latin America during the 1980s, but with a critical difference. The Latin debtor countries all exported food. Egypt is a banana republic without the bananas.
The world market pulled the rug out from under Egypt’s mismanaged economy when world food prices soared beginning in 2007 in response to Asian demand for feed grain. Meantime, the price of cotton—on which Mr. Mubarak had bet the store—declined. Now Egypt’s food situation is critical: The country reportedly has two months’ supply of imported wheat on hand when it should have more than six months’ worth. For months, Egypt’s poor have had little to eat except bread, in a country where 40% of adults already are physically stunted by poor diet, according to the World Food Organization. When the military forced President Mohammed Morsi out of office last week, bread was starting to get scarce.
Since 1988, Bashar Assad’s regime misdirected Syria’s scarce water resources toward wheat and cotton irrigation in pursuit of socialist self-sufficiency. It didn’t pan out—and when drought hit seven years ago, the country began to run out of water. Illegal wells have depleted the underground water table. Three million Syrian farmers (out of a total 20 million population) were pauperized, and hundreds of thousands left their farms for tent camps on the outskirts of Syrian cities.
Assad’s belated attempt to reverse course triggered the current political crisis, the economist Paul Rivlin wrote in a March 2011 report for Tel Aviv University’s Moshe Dayan Center: “By 2007, 12.3 percent of the population lived in extreme poverty and the poverty rate had reached 33 percent. Since then, poverty rates have risen still further. In early 2008, fuel subsidies were abolished and, as a result, the price of diesel fuel tripled overnight. Consequently, during the year the price of basic foodstuffs rose sharply and was further exacerbated by the drought. In 2009, the global financial crisis reduced the volume of remittances coming into Syria.”
The regime cut tariffs on food imports in February 2011 in a last-minute bid to mitigate the crisis, but the move misfired as the local market hoarded food in response to the government’s perceived desperation, sending prices soaring just before Syria’s Sunnis rebelled.
Economic crisis set the stage for political collapse in Egypt and Syria, even if it wasn’t the actual spur. The two Arab states are, of course, not the only nations ruined by socialist mismanagement. But unlike Russia and Eastern Europe, they have no pool of skilled labor or natural resources to fall back on. In this context, Western concerns about the niceties of democratic procedure seem misguided.
The best outcome for Egypt in the short run is subsidies from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states to tide it over. Egypt’s annual financing gap is almost $20 billion, and it is flat broke. The price of such aid is continuing to sideline the Muslim Brotherhood, which the Gulf monarchies consider a threat to their legitimacy. The Gulf states have pledged $12 billion in response to Morsi’s overthrow, averting a near-term economic disaster. That’s probably the best among a set of bad alternatives.
Syria may not be salvageable as a political entity, and the West should consider a Yugoslavia-style partition plan to stop ethnic and religious slaughter. Even the best remedies, though, may come too late to keep the region from deteriorating into a prolonged period of chaos.
Mr. Goldman, president of Macrostrategy LLC, is a fellow at the Middle East Forum and the London Center for Policy Research.
Complete the Islamists’ Defeat
Foreign Policy Research Institute
On July 8, the Obama administration finally did the right thing in Egypt—by not calling what Mohamed Mursi’s historically huge opposition rightly hails as its “corrective revolution” a coup. Thus it prevented the automatic cutoff of America’s $1.6 billion of mostly military aid, without which our connection to the largest Arab state (and perhaps the Suez Canal) would be lost. But it would be a grave mistake if the U.S. should insist that the aid would continue only if everyone –the deposed Muslim Brotherhood (and other Islamists) among them—is included in the now-rebooted “transition to democracy.” Nor should the Egyptians want to go to this route. Such would be an historic error that will sabotage whatever good might come from the already diminished influence which that aid buys – as well as from the heroic actions of the Egyptians themselves.
In addition to Egypt’s probable lack of enough secular and civil society to create a genuine democracy, the seemingly imminent civil war would not permit that transition to happen, at least not now—and perhaps not ever. With Monday’s opening clash in front of the Ministry of Defense that left roughly fifty Islamists dead and one soldier slain, after numerous other killings over the year of MB rule, and culminating in scenes such as the murder of opposition teens by throwing them off of an Alexandria rooftop last week, the much-feared Algeria 1992 redux may already have begun.
Yet as tragic—and even heartless—as this might seem, it would be better to have that civil conflict now then to wait until the Islamists are better armed and prepared, especially having been invited back into power to share the running of the state. That will give only them both renewed legitimacy and access to material resources that they do not deserve—and which the last year shows they will only abuse.
Luckily, the cost of keeping of them out may not in fact be civil war. That twenty-two million Egyptians signed the petition to oust Mursi circulated by the ad hoc group, Tamarod (“Rebel,” with which the now “old” youth movements of January 25th 2011 belatedly joined forces), and that as many evidently marched to bring him down, as compared to the relative smallness of the protests demanding his return, shows a catastrophic loss of the MB’s base. This only confirms the trend seen in the halving of votes for it between the 2011-12 parliamentary elections and Mursi’s squeaker (possibly rigged) election victory for president in June 2012. From the beginning of the uprising against Mubarak until roughly ten days ago, the Islamists drew much, much larger crowds than their detractors—now the opposite is true, in apparently gargantuan proportions. And even the ease with which the army swept away the once awe-inspiring MB machine may provoke many of those formerly in its thrall to dump it in favor of the “strong horse” that bucked it off last week.
That said, for most of the June 30 demonstrators, it was arguably more the desperate economy than the MB’s ideology that brought them to the streets. According to a Pew poll published April 30, 74 percent of Egyptian Muslims want the shari’a (Islamic law) to rule the land—which is the heart of the MB’s program. Moreover, if large-scale fighting does break out, the military might split, making the scene more like Syria than Algeria.
Nonetheless, the MB’s attempt to Islamistize (as I term it) every institution of Egyptian life—from the judiciary (which Mubarak found annoyingly independent, but—unlike Mursi—did little to change), to the educational system and the military, and all things in between—turned off even many pious Egyptians. Add to that its open alliance with convicted terrorists (releasing dozens of them from prison, trying to get the “Blind Sheikh,” Omar Abdel-Rahman and his friends out of our prisons, conspiring with Abdel-Rahman’s organization, al-Gama’a al-Islamiya to attack the U.S. embassy in Cairo and perhaps even in Benghazi last September 11 in a bid to pressure us to free him—even appointing a member of the group to be governor of the province where it carried out the devastating Luxor Massacre in 1997—and finally declaring jihad on the Assad regime in Syria), and there is simply no place for the MB and its Salafi allies (including those, like the Nour Party, have tactically turned against him now) in public life.
Add as well the numerous Coptic Christians (and finally Shi’ites, four of whom were hacked to death in Giza in June) murdered by the MB and the Salafis, with the obvious cooperation of official security forces, not to mention the scores of demonstrators butchered with blades or birdshot by the Brotherhood’s militia long before the army finally moved, offer ample proof of this truth. Indeed, the idea of taming these jihadis—and that’s what they call themselves—on the totally discredited theory that the responsibility of power will “moderate” them, is an idea only mad enough to be believed by world leaders, star journalists and Middle East experts in droves.
Hence neither the principal warning to General Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi—Mursi’s Islamist, American-trained Defense Minister and military chief that turned against him (perhaps as much to protect the MB’s Islamist program from the damage Mursi’s leadership was inflicting on it as any other obvious motive) nor his own policy, ought to be about political inclusion (at least not of Islamists). Rather it should be to safeguard the still-vulnerable secular civil society and the nation’s Christians and other minorities, rather than persecuting them as even the army, itself riddled with Muslim militants and their sympathizers, did even before Mursi.
Despite the dangers of growing violence, the removal of Mohamed Mursi is a truly promising moment for Egypt—and should be for us all. The Islamists have suffered their first great setback since the launching of the Arab Spring, one that threatens all their gains everywhere, from Cairo to Tunis, Tripoli to Benghazi, from Aleppo to Sanaa, and even perhaps to their Turkish neighbors in Ankara and Istanbul who have really begun to rebel under Recep Tayyep Erdogan’s slier version of MB rule. Egypt has a long, long way to go to create a truly open, prosperous, and democratic society, and the path may be even more bloody, but only now does she have even the slightest chance to succeed. This is what we should be focused on now, rather than expecting a smooth, stable democracy while placating the forces of darkness–who can never be appeased.
Raymond Stock is a Shillman/Ginsburg Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum, and a former Visiting Assistant Professor of Arabic and Middle East Studies at Drew University.
Israel’s reviled strategic wisdom
On Wednesday, Egypt had its second revolution in as many years. And there is no telling how many more revolutions it will have in the coming months, or years. This is the case not only in Egypt, but throughout the Islamic world.
The American foreign policy establishment’s rush to romanticize as the Arab Spring the political instability that engulfed the Arab world following the self-immolation of a Tunisian peddler in December 2010 was perhaps the greatest demonstration ever given of the members of that establishment’s utter cluelessness about the nature of Arab politics and society. Their enthusiastic embrace of protesters who have now brought down President Mohamed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood regime indicates that it takes more than a complete repudiation of their core assumptions to convince them to abandon them.
US reporters and commentators today portray this week’s protests as the restoration of the Egyptian revolution. That revolution, they remain convinced, was poised to replace long-time Egyptian leader and US-ally Hosni Mubarak with a liberal democratic government led by people who used Facebook and Twitter.
Subsequently, we were told, that revolution was hijacked by the Muslim Brotherhood. But now that Morsi and his government have been overthrown, the Facebook revolution is back on track.
And again, they are wrong.
As was the case in 2011, the voices of liberal democracy in Egypt are so few and far between that they have no chance whatsoever of gaining power, today or for the foreseeable future. At this point it is hard to know what the balance of power is between the Islamists who won 74 percent of the vote in the 2011 parliamentary elections and their opponents. But it is clear that their opponents are not liberal democrats. They are a mix of neo-Nasserist fascists, communists and other not particularly palatable groups.
None of them share Western conceptions of freedom and limited government. None of them are particularly pro-American. None of them like Jews. And none of them support maintaining Egypt’s cold peace with Israel.
Egypt’s greatest modern leader was Gamal Abdel Nasser. By many accounts the most common political view of the anti-Muslim Brotherhood protesters is neo-Nasserist fascism.
Nasser was an enemy of the West. He led Egypt into the Soviet camp in the 1950s. As the co-founder of the Non-Aligned Movement, he also led much of the Third World into the Soviet camp. Nasser did no less damage to the US in his time than al-Qaida and its allies have done in recent years.
Certainly, from Israel’s perspective, Nasser was no better than Hamas or al-Qaida or their parent Muslim Brotherhood movement. Like the Islamic fanatics, Nasser sought the destruction of Israel and the annihilation of the Jews.
Whether the fascists will take charge or not is impossible to know. So, too, the role of the Egyptian military in the future of Egypt is unknowable. The same military that overthrew Morsi on Wednesday stood by as he earlier sought to strip its powers, sacked its leaders and took steps to transform it into a subsidiary of the Muslim Brotherhood.
There are only three things that are knowable about the future of Egypt. First it will be poor. Egypt is a failed state. It cannot feed its people. It has failed to educate its people. It has no private sector to speak of. It has no foreign investment.
Second, Egypt will be politically unstable.
Mubarak was able to maintain power for 29 years because he ran a police state that the people feared. That fear was dissipated in 2011. This absence of fear will bring Egyptians to the street to topple any government they feel is failing to deliver on its promises – as they did this week.
Given Egypt’s dire economic plight, it is impossible to see how any government will be able to deliver on any promises – large or small – that its politicians will make during electoral campaigns.
And so government after government will share the fates of Mubarak and Morsi.
Beyond economic deprivation, today tens of millions of Egyptians feel they were unlawfully and unjustly ousted from power on Wednesday.
The Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists won big in elections hailed as free by the West. They have millions of supporters who are just as fanatical today as they were last week. They will not go gently into that good night.
Finally, given the utter irrelevance of liberal democratic forces in Egypt today, it is clear enough that whoever is able to rise to power in the coming years will be anti-American, anti- Israel and anti-democratic, (in the liberal democratic sense of the word). They might be nicer to the Copts than the Muslim Brotherhood has been. But they won’t be more pro-Western.
They may be more cautious in asserting or implementing their ideology in their foreign policy than the Muslim Brotherhood. But that won’t necessarily make them more supportive of American interests or to the endurance of Egypt’s formal treaty of peace with Israel.
And this is not the case only in Egypt. It is the case in every Arab state that is now or will soon be suffering from instability that has caused coups, Islamic takeovers, civil wars, mass protests and political insecurity in country after country. Not all of them are broke. But then again, none of them have the same strong sense of national identity that Egyptians share.
Now that we understand what we are likely to see in the coming months and years, and what we are seeing today, we must consider how the West should respond to these events. To do so, we need to consider how various parties responded to the events of the past two-and-ahalf years.
Wednesday’s overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood government is a total repudiation of the US strategy of viewing the unrest in Egypt – and throughout the Arab world – as a struggle between the good guys and the bad guys.
Within a week of the start of the protests in Tahrir Square on January 25, 2011, Americans from both sides of the political divide united around the call for Mubarak’s swift overthrow.
A few days later, President Barack Obama joined the chorus of Democrats and Republicans, and called for Mubarak to leave office, immediately. Everyone from Sen. John McCain to Samantha Power was certain that despite the fact that Mubarak was a loyal ally of the US, America would be better served by supporting the rise of the Facebook revolutionaries who used Twitter and held placards depicting Mubarak as a Jew.
Everyone was certain that the Muslim Brotherhood would stay true to its word and keep out of politics.
Two days after Mubarak was forced from office, Peter Beinart wrote a column titled “America’s Proud Egypt Moment,” where he congratulated the neo-conservatives and the liberals and Obama for scorning American interests and siding with the protesters who opposed all of Mubarak’s pro-American policies.
Beinart wrote exultantly, “Hosni Mubarak’s regime was the foundation stone – along with Israel and Saudi Arabia – of American power in the Middle East. It tortured suspected al- Qaida terrorists for us, pressured the Palestinians for us, and did its best to contain Iran.
And it sat atop a population eager – secular and Islamist alike – not only to reverse those policies, but to rid the Middle East of American power. And yet we cast our lot with that population, not their ruler.”
Beinart also congratulated the neo-conservatives for parting ways with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu who counseled caution, and so proved they do not suffer from dual loyalty.
That hated, reviled Israeli strategy, (which was not Netanyahu’s alone, but shared by Israelis from across the political spectrum in a rare demonstration of unanimity), was proven correct by events of the past week and indeed by events of the past two-and-a-half years.
Israelis watched in shock and horror as their American friends followed the Pied Piper of the phony Arab Spring over the policy cliff. Mubarak was a dictator. But his opponents were no Alexander Dubceks. There was no reason to throw away 30 years of stability before figuring out a way to ride the tiger that would follow it.
Certainly there was no reason to actively support Mubarak’s overthrow.
Shortly after Mubarak was overthrown, the Obama administration began actively supporting the Muslim Brotherhood.
The Muslim Brotherhood believed that the way to gain and then consolidate power was to hold elections as quickly as possible. Others wanted to wait until a constitutional convention convened and a new blueprint for Egyptian governance was written. But the Muslim Brotherhood would have none of it. And Obama supported it.
Five months after elections of questionable pedigree catapulted Morsi to power, Obama was silent when in December 2012 Morsi arrogated dictatorial powers and pushed through a Muslim Brotherhood constitution.
Obama ignored Congress three times and maintained full funding of Egypt despite the fact that the Morsi government had abandoned its democratic and pluralistic protestations.
He was silent over the past year as the demonstrators assembled to oppose Morsi’s power grabs. He was unmoved as churches were torched and Christians were massacred. He was silent as Morsi courted Iran.
US Ambassador to Egypt Anne Patterson and Obama remained the Muslim Brotherhood’s greatest champions as the forces began to gather ahead of this week’s mass protests. Patterson met with the Coptic pope and told him to keep the Coptic Christians out of the protests.
Obama, so quick to call for Mubarak to step down, called for the protesters to exercise restraint this time around and then ignored them during his vacation in Africa.
The first time Obama threatened to curtail US funding of the Egyptian military was Wednesday night, after the military ignored American warnings and entreaties, and deposed Morsi and his government.
This week’s events showed how the US’s strategy in Egypt has harmed America.
In 2011, the military acted to force Mubarak from power only after Obama called for it to do so. This week, the military overthrew Morsi and began rounding up his supporters in defiance of the White House.
Secretary of State John Kerry was the personification of the incredible shrinkage of America this week as he maintained his obsessive focus on getting Israel to make concessions to the Palestinians.
In a Middle East engulfed by civil war, revolution and chronic instability, Israel is the only country at peace. The image of Kerry extolling his success in “narrowing the gaps” between Israel and the Palestinians before he boarded his airplane at Ben-Gurion Airport, as millions assembled to bring down the government of Egypt, is the image of a small, irrelevant America.
And as the anti-American posters in Tahrir Square this week showed, America’s self-induced smallness is a tragedy that will harm the region and endanger the US.
As far as Israel is concerned, all we can do is continue what we have been doing, and hope that at some point, the Americans will embrace our sound strategy.
Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.
Living in a Backwards World
July 2nd, 2013
A new meme or figure of speech has begun to circulate among conservative writers and thinkers with increasing frequency and appositeness—namely, that we are living in a world turned upside down, to cite the title of a major book by Melanie Philips, itself derived from Christopher Hill’s study of revolutionary 17th century in England. (The term “world” is used by these writers to refer primarily to the Western sociopolitical domain or provinces thereof.) Almost everywhere we look we see this trope corroborated by extensive empirical testimony, of which I will flag only a few significant instances.
It is a world, as we have just seen, in which respectable and knowledgeable anti-jihadist freedom fighters Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller are forbidden entry to the U.K. as disturbers of public order and social peace while avowed terrorists are welcomed into the country and allowed to live handsomely on the public dole. It is in this same benighted nation that anti-Sharia activists Tommy Robinson and Kevin Carroll of the English Defence League are arrested for entering a Sharia-controlled zone in Tower Hamlets, a borough of London, on their way to Woolwich to honor Drummer Lee Rigby, slaughtered by Islamic terrorists. As reported on The Gates of Vienna website, “the Metropolitan police have now taken on the responsibility of enforcing the borders of these shariah-controlled zones, applying the rules laid down by the Islamic inhabitants.”
It is a world in which courageous media analyst Philippe Karsenty, who has shown beyond doubt that the infamous al-Dura event implicating Israel is an out-and-out hoax perpetrated by France 2 TV, finds himself convicted by the French courts for defamation—the Dreyfus affair redux. The Court of Cassation’s decision to remand the case to the Court of Appeals, which had originally acquitted Karsenty and then overturned its prior verdict, is not only “outrageous,” as Karsenty justifiably claimed, but legally problematic. As the JTA news source reported, “In returning the case to the appeals court, the high court said the appeals court had overstepped its bounds in ordering France 2 to send it the rushes of the report.” In other words, from the perspective of the High Court, soliciting evidence is impermissible. Shades of Canada’s Human Rights Tribunals and Supreme Court decision, which regard truth as unacceptable in their proceedings if it offends a member of a designated minority group. The same travesty exists in many European nations.
It is a world in which the adherents of catastrophic global warming deliberately ignore the massively accumulating evidence to the contrary and politicians are inaugurating policies, based on a fraudulent and corrupted science, that promise to destroy their economies.
It is a world in which powerful Democratic politicians in the U.S. oppose Voter ID laws on the grounds that such legislation would discriminate against black minorities. The facts that (1) I.D. is required for almost every other form of access to official institutions irrespective of caste or color, and that (2) the absence of such laws results directly in voter fraud and the skewing of electoral results, almost always in the Democrats’ favor, are conveniently forgotten or intentionally suppressed.
It is a world in which Iran chairs the UN Conference on Disarmament and Syria was recently a member of the United Nations Human Rights Committee.
It is a world that has fallen in love with a manifestly false Palestinian narrative to which it unthinkingly subscribes and that adamantly refuses to consult the historical muniments that are readily available to any interested mind—in other words, a Euhemeristic world that interprets “myths as traditional accounts of historical persons and events” (Merriam-Webster).
It is a world that insists on portraying Islam as a “religion of peace” when a prodigious number of its expressions in the theological canon, in the jurisprudential literature, and in actual and undeniable events on the domestic and international stages indisputably indicate the complete reverse. In this world, minority cultures and especially the Islamic community are, in effect, given precedence over the heritage cultures. Here the West could learn from Vladimir Putin who, in an address to the Duma on February 4, 2013, stated in part: “In Russia live Russians. Any minority, from anywhere, if it wants to live in Russia…should respect the Russian laws. If they prefer Sharia Law, then we advise them to go to those places where that’s the state law…we will not grant them special privileges, or try to change our laws to fit their desires, no matter how loud they yell ‘discrimination’. We better learn from the suicides of America, England, Holland and France, if we are to survive as a nation.”
Experiencing terrorist atrocities on our own soil; remarking how Islamic-inspired anti-blasphemy laws are gradually encroaching upon the bedrock principle of free speech; noting the rising incidence of Jew-baiting and antisemitic propaganda among Islamic groups and organizations; and witnessing the epidemic of Muslim rapes of non-Muslim girls and women in Australia, Britain and Scandinavia (to name only the most prominent examples), we know—or should know—that Putin is absolutely right. The ignominy is only compounded by the shameful response of our media and government apparatchiks who dismiss, cover over or explain away these abominations as the fault of an uncaring society that treats its immigrants badly.
Such instances of sheer malfeasance and, not to put too fine a word upon it, utter stupidity can be multiplied at will, leading many conservative writers to re-interpret George Orwell’s 1984, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, Arthur Koestler’s Darkness at Noon and Jean Raspail’s The Camp of the Saints not as mere dystopian novels prone to exaggeration but as prophetically accurate visions of the future—a future which has become the present. I would add to this apocalyptic library Samuel Butler’s 1872 novel Erewhon, describing a world in which everything is done backwards and inefficiently. (“Erewhon” is “Nowhere” spelled approximately backwards.)
In Erewhon, for example, there are no machines (cf. our mounting legislation against successful industries in favor of unworkable “renewable resources”); coinage is trimmed (cf. our sinking currencies); offenders against the law are coddled as ill (cf. our pampering of lawbreakers as suffering victims of social indifference or oppression); the ill are regarded as felons (cf. the innocent are often criminalized); and so on ad nauseam. We live in a backwards world in which the decent are regarded as indecent, defenders of western institutions are considered as terrorists, correct naming is derogated and often prosecuted as slander and “hate speech,” violence is justified if committed by our enemies, unseasonable cold weather is interpreted as an infallible sign of global warming—the beat goes on.
It should be clear by this time that we have lost our bearings and have sacrificed both our sense of reality and our survival as a genuinely liberal culture on the altar of unreflected sentiment, a reluctance to deal with or even recognize unequivocal evidence, and a wholly mistaken conception of our fundamental interests. We have, for the most part, colluded in an agreement that upside down is right-side up, backwards is forwards, and madness is sanity, as if we had been stricken by the ideological version of the Black Plague. It is a world gone perhaps irreversibly mad, for certain forms of madness may be untreatable—in which case we are truly lost. Of course, the world has never been in its right mind, but we can say that the comparatively more enlightened sectors in the West have at least perambulated canzicrans, sideways like a crab.
Today, sideways would be a blessing, for we are moving inexorably backwards—toward the infancy of the mind, toward the re-medievalization of power relations, toward cultural dissolution, toward a renewed primitivism issuing in civilizational suicide, in short, toward our contemporary Erewhon, our “Nowhere,” which is also an anagram for: “Now here.”
Should Egypt’s Morsi Stay or Go?
by Daniel Pipes
July 1, 2013
I was not present in Egypt yesterday, June 30, but I watched some of the wall-to-wall broadcasts on Egyptian television of packed squares and streets across the country, of gesticulating orators, defensive government spokesmen, and articulate commentators. The demonstrations across the country were, by consensus estimates, 7 to 10 times larger than the biggest anti-Mubarak crowds in early 2011. They dwarfed street rebellions such other those in Iran in 1979 or Peking in 1989. Simply put, they were probably the largest political demonstration in human history.
I was moved by the humanity of the crowds and (sometimes despite myself) thrilled by their centrism and constructive outlook. Who could have imagined a mere year ago, when Mohamed Morsi supposedly won the presidential election, that this massive Rebellion would be served up as his anniversary present, as he cowered behind walls in a distant palace?
The day also raised two policy thoughts:
The American role: Time and again, commentators brought up the vital importance of the U.S. government in the drama of the day. One person, for example, counted four main actors: the demonstrators, the president, the military, and Washington. Crowds expressed anti-Obama feelings; at least one much-photographed bi-lingual sign provided an English translation: “OBAMA SUPPORTS TERRORISM.” (Morsi’s critics routinely call him a terrorist.)
A sign in Cairo’s Tahrir Square announcing that “Obama Supports Terrorism” in English and Arabic.
The message from Egypt was crystal clear: It’s time for the administration to stop coddling Morsi and to get behind the millions of protestors. But will the geniuses in the White House, the State Department, and Embassy Cairo hear? Obama’s initial response today was tepid but at least mildly in the right direction: “Our commitment to Egypt has never been around any particular individual or party. Our commitment has been to a process.”
Whither Morsi: Awesome and satisfying as the June 30 rejection of Muslim Brotherhood rule was, what should come next is not obvious. Emotionally, I want Morsi and his foul crew gone as soon as possible from the corridors of power. Tactically, however, I fear that, once they are dispatched, the politically obtuse military leadership will likely muck things up and the opposition will be unable to unify or to handle the looming economic disaster. If Egypt’s pain is to have benefit, it would be by discrediting Islamism. For that to happen, it’s probably better that Morsi linger in office and be ascribed responsibility for the hunger and other disasters ahead.
I write this with trepidation, as always when the heart and mind disagree. (July 1, 2013)
Obama’s war of ideas
June 28, 2013
The IRS vs. Pro-Israel Groups
Their applications for tax-exempt status are routed to an antiterrorism unit.
June 17, 2013
Applications of pro-Israel groups for tax-exempt status are routinely routed to an antiterrorism unit within the Internal Revenue Service for additional screening, according to the testimony of a Cincinnati-based IRS agent.
Asked whether Jewish or pro-Israel applications are treated differently from other applications, Gary Muthert told House Oversight Committee investigators that they are considered “specialty cases” and that “probably” all are sent to an IRS unit that examines groups for potential terrorist ties.
Muthert, who served as an application screener before transferring to the agency’s antiterrorism unit, was interviewed in connection with the committee’s investigation into the IRS’s discrimination against conservative groups. As a screener, Muthert flagged tea-party applications and passed them along to specialists for further scrutiny.
Asked by investigators whether “all pro-Israel applicants went to the terrorism unit,” Muthert responded, “Probably . . . foreign activity, pro-Israel — if it is any type of foreign activity, it will go to the antiterrorism area.” Screeners like Muthert must consult the list of the Office of Foreign Assets Control, the Treasury Department office that enforces economic and trade sanctions, and “the terrorist list . . . because a lot of organizations will create charities to funnel the money to terrorist countries.” In further questioning, Muthert was more categorical, saying that pro-Israel groups get “not so much additional scrutiny, just more procedures.”
“More review?” an investigator asked.
“Clearly, correct,” Muthert responded.
The IRS’s practices as described by Muthert touch on a political debate that has been raging in the United States and Israel since 2009. That’s when Washington Post columnist David Ignatius noted that opponents of Israeli settlements were fighting against tax exemption for groups that raise charitable contributions for organizations that support Israeli settlements. “Critics of Israeli settlements question why American taxpayers are supporting indirectly, through the exempt contributions, a process that the government condemns,” Ignatius wrote.
On March 27, 2009, the day after Ignatius’s article appeared, the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) filed a spate of administrative complaints with the Treasury Department and the IRS, alleging that pro-Israel groups raising funds for settlements in the West Bank were supporting “illegal and terrorist activities abroad.” Later that year, in October, the ADC said that it was waging an ongoing legal campaign against the IRS for what the ADC regarded as violations of the tax code by some pro-Israel groups.
The following year, in 2010, a New York Times report observed that “donations to the settler movement stand out because of the centrality of the settlement issue in the current [American-Israeli] talks and the fact that Washington has consistently refused to allow Israel to spend American government aid in the settlements.” The article quoted State Department officials complaining about the American dollars flowing to Israeli settlers. “It’s a problem,” a senior State Department official told the Times. The implication was that it may be wrong to grant tax-exempt status to groups devoted to causes that undermine administration policy. Relying on information in the Times article, the left-leaning advocacy group J Street called on the Treasury Department to investigate whether pro-Israel organizations collecting tax-deductible gifts for schools, synagogues, and recreation centers in the West Bank had broken the law by supporting certain Israeli settlements.
Throughout this debate, whether pro-Israel groups have been receiving additional scrutiny from the IRS has remained unclear. But in 2010, after the pro-Israel organization Z Street applied for tax-exempt status, the IRS sent it requests for further information. Z Street sued the IRS in October 2010, claiming it was targeted merely for being connected to Israel. According to court documents, an IRS official told the group that its application was delayed because it was assigned to a “special unit” to determine “whether the organization’s activities contradict the Administration’s public policies.”
Certainly, charities based in the United States have funneled money to Israeli charities that are controlled by terrorist groups in Israel. But those charities have not been of a pro-Israel bent. The most-high profile case is that of the Holy Land Foundation, the Texas-based charity whose employees were indicted in 2004 for using the group as a front to provide material support to Hamas.
The policy that the applications of pro-Israel groups be examined by the IRS’s antiterrorism unit was instituted “probably years ago,” according to Muthert in his testimony. That testimony leaves unclear whether the news coverage in 2009 and 2010 prompted the scrutiny to which groups like Z Street say they have been subjected, or whether every nonprofit group whose application indicates it may engage in foreign activity, regardless of the country, is put under the microscope.
According to Muthert, it’s the latter, and he denies that pro-Israel applications are treated differently from those of other groups that claim they plan to engage with foreign countries. “It has to do with money laundering and things, because a lot of organizations will create charities to funnel the money to terrorist countries,” he explained. “So it is not so much Israel. It is just foreign countries.”
Eliana Johnson is media editor of National Review Online.
The Washington Times
June 5, 2013
In a typically maladroit statement, U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry recently complained that Israelis are too contented to end their conflict with the Palestinians: “People in Israel aren’t waking up every day and wondering if tomorrow there will be peace because there is a sense of security and a sense of accomplishment and of prosperity.”
While Mr. Kerry misunderstands Israelis (Palestinian rejectionism, not prosperity, caused them to give up on diplomacy), he is right that Israelis have a “sense of security and … of prosperity.” They are generally a happy lot. A recent poll found 93 percent of Jewish Israelis proud of be Israeli. Yes, Iranian nuclear weapons loom and confrontation with Moscow is possible, but things have never been so good. With thanks to Efraim Inbar of Bar-Ilan University for some of the following information, Let us count the ways.
Israel has more children per capita than any other advanced country.
— Women need to give birth to 2.1 children to sustain a country’s population; Israel has a birthrate of 2.65, making it the only advanced country to exceed replacement. (The next highest is France at 2.08; the lowest is Singapore at 0.79.) While Haredis and Arabs account for some of this robust rate, secular Jews are the key.
— Israel enjoyed a 14.5 percent growth of gross domestic product during the 2008-12 recession, giving it the highest economic growth rate of any OECD country. (In contrast, the advanced economies as a whole had a 2.3 percent growth rate, with the United States weighing in at 2.9 percent and the Euro zone at minus 0.4 percent.) Israel invests 4.5 percent of GDP in research & development, the highest percentage of any country.
— Due to major gas and oil finds, Walter Russell Mead observes, “the Promised Land, from a natural resource point of view, could be … inch for inch the most valuable and energy rich country anywhere in the world.” These resources enhance Israel’s position in the world.
Natural gas from Israel’s Tamar field has just begun flowing to customers.
— With Syria and Egypt consumed by internal problems, the existential threat they once posed to Israel has, for the moment, nearly disappeared. Thanks to innovative tactics, terror attacks have been nearly eliminated. The IDF has outstanding human resources and stands at the forefront of military technologies; and Israeli society has proven its readiness to fight a protracted conflict. Mr. Inbar, a strategist, concludes that “the power differential between Israel and its Arab neighbors is continuously growing.”
The Palestinian diplomatic focus that dominated the country’s politics for decades after 1967 has receded, with only 10 percent of Jewish Israelis considering negotiations the top priority. Mr. Kerry may obsess over this issue but, in the acerbic words of one politico, “Debating the peace process to most Israelis is the equivalent of debating the color of the shirt you will wear when landing on Mars.”
— Even the Iranian nuclear issue may be less dire than it appears. Between the vastly greater destructive power of Israel’s nuclear arsenal and its growing missile defense system, military analyst Anthony Cordesman predicts that an exchange of nuclear weapons would leave Israel damaged badly but Iranian civilization destroyed. “Iranian recovery is not possible in the normal sense of the term.” Maniacal as the Iranian leadership is, will it really risk all?
— Successes of the “boycott, divestment, and sanctions” movement are pretty meager (Stephen Hawking snubbed the president’s invitation! A United Nations body passed another absurd condemnation). Israel has diplomatic relations with 156 out of the United Nations’ 193 members. Looking at multiple indices, Mr. Inbar finds that, globally, “Israel is rather well integrated.”
— In public opinion surveys in the United States, the world’s most important country and Israel’s main ally, Israel regularly beats the Palestinians by a 4-to-1 ratio. And while universities are indeed hostile, I ask handwringers this question: Where would you rather be strong, the U.S. Congress or the campuses? To ask that question is to answer it.
— Ashkenazi-Sephardi tensions have diminished over time due to a combination of intermarriage and cultural cross-pollination. The issue of Haredi nonparticipation is finally being addressed.
— Israelis have made impressive cultural contributions, especially to classical music, leading one critic, David Goldman, to call Israel a “pocket superpower in the arts.”
The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, founded in 1936 is a leading cultural institution.
Listen up, anti-Zionists and antisemites, Palestinians and Islamists, extreme right- and left-wingers: You are fighting a losing battle; the Jewish state is prevailing. As Mr. Inbar rightly concludes, “Time seems to be on Israel’s side.” Give up and find some other country to torment.
Mr. Pipes(DanielPipes.org) is president of the Middle East Forum. © 2013 by Daniel Pipes. All rights reserved.
A Continued Rise in Anti-Semitism
The United States Dep’t. of State
Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and LaborInternational Religious Freedom Report for 2012
This report also documents a continued global increase in anti-Semitism. Holocaust denial and glorification remained troubling themes, and opposition to Israeli policy at times was used to promote or justify blatant anti-Semitism. When political leaders condoned anti-Semitism, it set the tone for its persistence and growth in countries around the world. Of great concern were expressions of anti-Semitism by government officials, by religious leaders, and by the media, particularly in Venezuela, Egypt, and Iran. At times, such statements led to desecration and violence. In Venezuela, the government-controlled media published numerous anti-Semitic statements, particularly in relation to opposition presidential candidate Henrique Capriles, a Catholic with Jewish ancestors. Separately, during an anti-Israel protest in November, a group of individuals gathered outside a synagogue chanting anti-Jewish slogans and throwing fireworks. In Egypt, anti-Semitic sentiment in the media was widespread and sometimes included Holocaust denial or glorification. On October 19, President Morsy said “Amen” during televised prayers in Mansour after an imam stated, “Oh Allah … grant us victory over the infidels. Oh Allah, destroy the Jews and their supporters.” This is a common prayer in Egyptian mosques and came in a litany of other prayers. Also in October, Muslim Brotherhood Supreme Guide Mohamed Badei made several anti-Semitic statements, including saying in a sermon that was also published online that “It is time for the Muslim [nation] to unite for the sake of Jerusalem and Palestine after the Jews have increased the corruption in the world….” He added that “Zionists only know the way of force.”
In Iran, the government regularly vilified Judaism. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad continued to question the existence and the scope of the Holocaust, and stated that “a horrendous Zionist clan” had been “ruling the major world affairs” for some 400 years, while Vice President Mohammad-Reza Rahimi publicly blamed the “Zionists” for spreading illegal drugs around the world. In Tunisia, Salafists (fundamentalist Sunni Muslims) attacked synagogues and issued anti-Semitic messages, as did some imams during Friday prayer sermons. Certain Salafist imams preached anti-Jewish and anti-Christian messages, including calling for the killing of non-Muslim citizens. Police arrested five persons, including one police officer, for allegedly plotting to kidnap Jews in Zarzis in October for ransom.
In Ukraine, vandals desecrated several Holocaust memorials. In May, in Russia, vandals painted a swastika on a St. Petersburg synagogue’s fence, and in July, vandals painted a swastika on a synagogue wall in Irkutsk.
Even well into the 21st century, traditional forms of anti-Semitism, such as conspiracy theories, use of the discredited myth of “blood libel,” and cartoons demonizing Jews, continued to flourish. An anti-Semitic cartoon appeared in a major newspaper in Argentina, and a member of the Golden Dawn party in Greece read from the notorious Tsarist forgery, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, during a parliamentary session. In a worrisome sign, such anti-Semitic and xenophobic parties gained seats in parliaments, and a rise in violent attacks on Jews in Europe included several shocking incidents. Hungary saw continued racist commentary by an openly anti-Semitic political party with seats in parliament, the Jobbik Party, and also witnessed an attack on a member of the Jewish community outside of a prayer house in Budapest. In France, an Islamist extremist killed a rabbi and his two children, along with another student, outside a Jewish school in Toulouse. While a number of governments took active measures to combat anti-Semitism, this pernicious evil continued to spread.
A Global Tsunami of Anti-Semitism
May 28, 2013
Participants at the fourth conference of the Global Forum for Combating anti-Semitism, held under the auspices of the Foreign Ministry this week in Jerusalem, will be provided with data highlighting the accelerated global erosion of the status of Jews and Israel.
In the post-Holocaust era, many had predicted, mistakenly, that the world’s oldest hatred would recede, even anticipating that anti-Semites would soon become an extinct species. Instead, defaming Jews has emerged as the greatest global political growth industry – a virtual tsunami. In fact we are witnessing a resurrection of the medieval paranoia which effectively blamed Jews for all the disasters of mankind.
The most concentrated venom is relentlessly directed against ‘the state of the Jews’ (anti-Israelism) which is now the principal vehicle employed to demonize Jews. It dominates debates at the UN and other international organizations where rogue states and barbaric regimes seek to delegitimize the state of the Jews.
The bias and double standards against Israel became so intense that the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) decided to explicitly define such behavior as anti-Semitic (see page 29).
The escalation of Jew hatred over recent years has been greatly accelerated by the economic meltdown and surge in unemployment throughout Europe. Such an environment breeds xenophobia which, since time immemorial, was always directed against Jews, exploiting them as scapegoats.
The era of the internet and electronic global communications has been a boon to Jew baiters, enabling them to globally disseminate their hatred instantly and effectively.
New varieties of Judeophobia have emerged and integrated with the traditional anti-Semitism which had been temporarily muted due to revulsion at the horrors of the Holocaust. The new blend fuses traditional right wing religious, racial and economically inspired hatred of Jews with leftist varieties which now dominates indigenous Western anti-Semites. Ironically, the left bases its demonization of the Jewish state on bogus Israeli human rights violations whilst avoiding condemnations of Arab anti-Semitism and abdicating its traditional long standing role of purporting to champion rights of the oppressed and condemning human rights violations – an area in which the Arab world excels.
The greatest outpouring of anti-Jewish hatred emanates from the newly empowered Moslem countries with its combined population of 1.6 billion. In conjunction with their diasporas in Western countries, they frenziedly promote a devilish brew of unique Islamic anti-Semitism combined with the traditional Western varieties. They depict Jews as vampires; descendants of apes and pigs; evil creatures disseminating AIDS; the masterminds behind 9/11; etc. Their incitement is at least as potent as the worst Jew-hatred promoted during the Nazi era. In addition, the Jihadist component has been the principal element stoking the escalation of global violence, terror and murder against Jews.
We also witnessed the emergence of Jewish anti-Semites, who are now increasingly promoted to the forefront by our enemies as representing “decent” Jews. They legitimize Holocaust inversion as a vehicle to besmirch their kinsmen – comparing Israelis to Nazis and Palestinians to Jews during the Holocaust.
The hatred has reached epic levels in Europe, the continent whose soil was drenched in Jewish blood only 70 years ago and ironically today commemorates an annual Holocaust Memorial.
Incredibly, European Jewish communities probably face greater anti-Semitism today than prior to the Holocaust. Then, at least liberals and much of the left were willing to condemn the Nazis and speak out on behalf of Jews. Today, under the guise of promoting human rights, the left is usually heading the anti-Jewish pack.
This is cogently summarized in the introduction to Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld’s new book “Demonizing Israel and the Jews” where he states “today well over 100 million Europeans embrace a satanic view of the state of Israel. They believe that Israel is exterminating the Palestinians… This current widespread demonic view of Israel is an imitation of the diabolical beliefs about Jews which many held in the Middle Ages, and those promoted more recently by the Nazis and their allies”.
Opinion polls confirm that nearly 50% of Europeans regard Israel as a greater threat to the peace and stability of mankind than North Korea, Iran or Syria.
There is also increasing anti-Jewish street violence in European cities, much of which is understated as hooliganism. In many cities Jews are advised not to wear kippot (Jewish skullcaps) or other signs of Jewish identification.
In France, the aggressive approach of sectors of Islamic migrant communities has resulted in murders.
Attitudes in the UK have also dramatically changed as reflected in the frenetic and shameful hostility and bias towards Israel and the Jews expressed by the bulk of the media.
These attitudes even permeate the British judiciary, with one judge acquitting a group which had vandalized products designed for Israel on the grounds that it was engaging in justified opposition to the “occupation”. More recently a judge upholding the right of UK Teachers Union to boycott Israel condemned the plaintiff for behaving inappropriately by suggesting that Israel was relevant to the Jewish religion. The UK Protestant Churches have reverted to their former hostility to the Jews with some even challenging Israel’s legitimacy.
Even Germany, despite its special relationship with the Jews, has been displaying signs of growing anti-Semitism and Holocaust fatigue.
Other European countries are witnessing a resurgence of xenophobia and neo-Nazism. The situation in Hungary is especially stark where Jobbik, the Nazi party whose supporters proudly chant Heil Hitler and other Nazi slogans, gained 17% of the vote. In Greece its Neo-Nazi counterpart “Golden Dawn” recently polled 12% of the vote.
Belgium, Holland and the Scandinavian countries, especially those hosting substantial Muslim immigrant communities with electoral clout, have also registered major upsurges in anti-Semitism.
In these communities, many Jews are in denial. Leading somewhat cloistered lives and not personally encountering anti-Semitism, they refuse to acknowledge the intense hostility saturating their societies.
The greatest impact is on the younger Jewish generation whose parents grew up in an environment in which they took pride in their Judaism and association with Israel. But in a climate in which the media and society continuously bombard them with defamatory reports about Israel Jewish pride and dignity is undermined and increasing numbers of younger Jews seek anonymity. Some even engage in anti-Israeli rhetoric to attain social acceptability.
Such a pariah lifestyle is not an environment likely to inculcate a positive Jewish identity and there is now serious concern about the long-term survival of many established Jewish communities.
Some read the writing on the wall and recognize that there is no future for their children in Europe, and contemplate emigration or encourage their children to leave.
There is no denying the fact that the government of Israel has badly mishandled the situation. It has merely paid lip service to the problem and its diplomats abroad ceremoniously condemn anti-Semitism. But there has been no real effort to coordinate a global campaign to confront the hostility and systematically promote our position in the battle of ideas in which the struggle against anti-Semitism should have been a priority.
The Israeli government’s hosting of a global conference with endless speeches on anti-Semitism every three years is surely not the answer. What is required is the creation of a global operating center to coordinate an ongoing campaign to combat the plague. However, there is no indication of any intention to create a permanent Secretariat to deal with the issue.
There are many talented diaspora Jews and non-Jewish friends willing to cooperate with us in such a project. This is one area in which the resources of major US Jewish agencies like the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee, with numerous years of experience and engagement in this arena, could provide considerable assistance.
Yet, to date we have failed to take effective action to confront this scourge which in the long run extends beyond Jew hatred and will damage Israel no less than diaspora Jews. Many Israeli leaders fail to appreciate that the battle for the mind, which we are losing, is an extension of the military conflict.
The writer’s website can be viewed at www.wordfromjerusalem.com.
Dumb and Dumber
David P. Goldman
May 20, 2013
Rarely have both parties been as unanimous about a development overseas as they have in their shared enthusiasm for the so-called Arab Spring during the first months of 2011. Republicans vied with the Obama Administration in their zeal for the ouster of Egypt’s dictator Hosni Mubarak and in championing the subsequent NATO intervention against Muammar Qaddafi in Libya. Both parties saw themselves as having been vindicated by events. The Obama Administration saw its actions as proof that soft power in pursuit of humanitarian goals offered a new paradigm for foreign-policy success. And the Republican establishment saw a vindication of the Bush freedom agenda.
“Revolutions are sweeping the Middle East and everyone is a convert to George W. Bush’s freedom agenda,” Charles Krauthammer observed in February 2011. “Now that revolution has spread from Tunisia to Oman,” Krauthammer added, “the [Obama] administration is rushing to keep up with the new dispensation, repeating the fundamental tenet of the Bush Doctrine that Arabs are no exception to the universal thirst for dignity and freedom.” And William Kristol exulted, “Helping the Arab Spring through to fruition might contribute to an American Spring, one of renewed pride in our country and confidence in the cause of liberty.”
They were all wrong. Just two years later, the foreign-policy establishment has fractured in the face of a Syrian civil war that threatens to metastasize into neighboring Iraq and Lebanon and an economic collapse in Egypt that has brought the largest Arab country to the brink of state failure. Some Republican leaders, including Sen. John McCain and Weekly Standard editor Kristol, demand American military intervention to support Syria’s Sunni rebels. But Daniel Pipes, the dean of conservative Middle East analysts, wrote on April 11 that “Western governments should support the malign dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad,” because “Western powers should guide enemies to stalemate by helping whichever side is losing, so as to prolong their conflict.” If Assad appears to be winning, he added later, we should support the rebels. The respected strategist Edward Luttwak contends that America should “leave bad enough alone” in Syria and turn its attention away from the Middle East—to Asia. The Obama Administration meanwhile is waffling about what might constitute a “red line” for intervention and what form such intervention might take.
The once-happy bipartisan consensus has now shrunk to the common observation that all the available choices are bad. It could get much worse. Western efforts have failed to foster a unified leadership among the Syrian rebels, and jihadi extremists appear to be in control of the Free Syrian Army inside Syria. Syria’s war is “creating the conditions for a renewed conflict, dangerous and complex, to explode in Iraq. If Iraq is not shielded rapidly and properly, it will definitely slip into the Syrian quagmire,” warns Arab League Ambassador Nassif Hitti. Iraq leaders are talking of civil war and eventual partition. Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, meanwhile, warned on May 1, “Syria has real friends in the region, and the world will not let Syria fall into the hands of America, Israel or takfiri [radical islamist] groups,” threatening in effect to turn the civil war into a regional conflict that has the potential to destabilize Turkey. And the gravest risk to the region remains the likelihood that “inherent weaknesses of state and society in Egypt reach a point where the country’s political, social and economic systems no longer function,” as Gamal Abuel Hassan wrote on May 28. Libya is fracturing, and the terrorists responsible for the September 2012 Benghazi attack are operating freely.
This is a tragic outcome, in the strict sense of the term, for it is hard to imagine how it could have turned out otherwise.
* * *
In January 2012, after the first hopes for Arab democracy had faded, former Bush Administration official Elliot Abrams insisted:
The neocons, democrats, and others who applauded the Arab uprisings were right, for what was the alternative? To applaud continued oppression? To instruct the rulers on better tactics, the way Iran is presumably lecturing (and arming) Syria’s Bashar al-Assad? Such a stance would have made a mockery of American ideals, would have failed to keep these hated regimes in place for very long, and would have left behind a deep, almost ineradicable anti-Americanism.
The neoconservatives mistook a tubercular fever for the flush of youth in the Arab revolts, to be sure, but they read the national mood right—as did the Obama Administration.
There were dissenters, of course. Daniel Pipes warned against pushing Islamists toward elections, writing in 2005:
When politically adept totalitarians win power democratically, they do fix potholes and improve schools—but only as a means to transform their countries in accordance with their utopian visions. This generalization applies most clearly to the historical cases (Adolf Hitler in Germany after 1933, Salvador Allende in Chile after 1970) but it also appears valid for the current ones.
Henry Kissinger excoriated the Obama Administration for toppling Mubarak, arguing that no other force in Egypt could stabilize the country. Francis Fukuyama broke with his erstwhile neoconservative colleagues in 2004, after hearing Vice President Dick Cheney and columnist Charles Krauthammer announce the beginning of an American-led “unipolar era.” “All of these people around me were cheering wildly,” Fukuyama remembers. “All of my friends had taken leave of reality.”
It is a widespread misimpression (reinforced by conspiracy theorists seeking the malign influence of the “Israel Lobby”) that the neoconservative movement is in some way a Jewish thing. On the contrary, it is a distinctly American thing. As the born-again Methodist George W. Bush said in 2003, “Peoples of the Middle East share a high civilization, a religion of personal responsibility, and a need for freedom as deep as our own. It is not realism to suppose that one-fifth of humanity is unsuited to liberty; it is pessimism and condescension, and we should have none of it.” The Catholic neoconservative and natural-law theorist Michael Novak put it just as passionately in his 2004 book The Universal Hunger for Liberty: “The hunger for liberty has only slowly been felt among Muslims. That hunger is universal, even when it is latent, for the preconditions for it slumber in every human breast.”
By contrast, Israelis were overwhelmingly pessimistic about the outcome of the Arab revolts and aghast at the celerity with which Washington dumped Mubarak. “The message to the Middle East is that it doesn’t pay to be an American ally,” a former Israeli intelligence chief told me in 2012. Although the prominent Soviet refusenik-turned-Israeli-politician Natan Sharansky believed in a universal desire for democracy, the vast majority of Israeli opinion thought the idea mad. As Joshua Muravchik wrote in 2011, the Arab Spring:
precipitated a sharp split between neoconservatives and hard-headed Israeli analysts who had long been their allies and friends. While neocons saw democratization as a balm to soothe the fevered brow of the Arab world, Israeli strategists (with the notable exception of Natan Sharansky) thought this utterly naive. Their message in essence was this: you do not know the Arabs as we do. Difﬁcult as their governments are to deal with, they are more reasonable than their populations. Democratization of the Arab world would lead to radicalization, which would be a bane to you and us.
The Israelis are accustomed to living with long-term uncertainty; Americans want movies with happy endings. The alternative to the Bush Freedom Agenda or Obama’s proposed reconciliation with the Muslim world would have been ugly: the strategic equivalent of a controlled burn in a forest fire, as Daniel Pipes proposed—prolonging conflict, at frightful human cost, as the Reagan Administration did during the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s. It was one thing to entice prospective enemies into a war of attrition in the dark corners of the Cold War, though, and quite another to do so under the klieg lights. The strategy might have been correct on paper, but Americans are not typically in the market for pessimism.
The American public fell in love with the young democracy activists who floated across the surface of the Arab revolts like benzene bubbles on the Nile. More precisely, Americans fell in love with their own image, in the persons of hip young Egyptians who reminded them of Americans. Conservatives and liberals alike competed to lionize Google sales manager Wael Ghonim. Caroline Kennedy gave him the JFK Profiles in Courage Award in May 2011. He made Time magazine’s list of the world’s 100 most influential people. The conservative Lebanese scholar Fouad Ajami kvelled in the Wall Street Journal:
No turbaned ayatollah had stepped forth to summon the crowd. This was not Iran in 1979. A young Google executive, Wael Ghonim, had energized this protest when it might have lost heart, when it could have succumbed to the belief that this regime and its leader were a big, immovable object. Mr. Ghonim was a man of the modern world. He was not driven by piety. The condition of his country—the abject poverty, the crony economy of plunder and corruption, the cruelties and slights handed out to Egyptians in all walks of life by a police state that the people had outgrown and despaired of—had given this young man and others like him their historical warrant.
Republican hawks advocated the furtherance of the Arab Spring by force of arms, starting with Libya. On Feb. 25, 2011, a month after Mubarak’s fall, Kristol’s Foreign Policy Initiative garnered 45 signatures of past officials and public intellectuals “urging President Obama, in conjunction with NATO allies, to take action to end the violence being propagated by the regime of Muammar al-Qaddafi.” Three weeks later a NATO force led by the United States intervened. By September, the Qaddafi regime was beaten, and Robert Kagan lauded President Obama in the Weekly Standard: “By intervening, with force, the NATO alliance not only saved the people of Libya and kept alive the momentum of the Arab Spring … the end of Qaddafi’s rule is a great accomplishment for the Obama administration and for the president personally. Furthermore, the president deserves credit because his decision was unpopular and politically risky.” A month later the victorious rebels put the cadavers of Qaddafi and his son on public view.
The national consensus behind the Arab Spring peaked with the Libyan venture. Elliot Abrams was in a sense right: To intimate that democracy might not apply to Arabs seems to violate America’s first principle, that people of all background have the same opportunity for success—in the United States. It seems un-American to think differently. Isn’t America a multi-ethnic melting pot where all religions and ethnicities have learned to get along? That is a fallacy of composition, to be sure: Americans are brands plucked out of the fire of failed cultures, the few who fled the tragic failings of their own culture to make a fresh start. The only tragic thing about America is the incapacity of Americans to comprehend the tragedy of other peoples. To pronounce judgment on other cultures as unfit for modernity, as Abrams wrote, seems “a mockery of American ideals.”
The neoconservatives triumphantly tracked the progress of what they imagined was Arab democracy. After Iraq’s March 2005 elections, Max Boot wrote:
In 2003, more than a month before the invasion of Iraq, I wrote in the Weekly Standard that the forthcoming fall of Baghdad “may turn out to be one of those hinge moments in history—events like the storming of the Bastille or the fall of the Berlin Wall—after which everything is different. If the occupation goes well (admittedly a big if), it may mark the moment when the powerful antibiotic known as democracy was introduced into the diseased environment of the Middle East, and began to transform the region for the better.” Well, who’s the simpleton now? Those who dreamed of spreading democracy to the Arabs or those who denied that it could ever happen?
Similarly, in April 2011, Kristol wrote:
The Arab winter is over. The men and women of the Greater Middle East are no longer satisfied by “a little life.” Now it’s of course possible that this will turn out to be a false spring. But surely it’s not beyond the capacity of the United States and its allies to help reformers in the Arab world achieve mostly successful outcomes. … And who knows? Helping the Arab Spring through to fruition might contribute to an American Spring, one of renewed pride in our country and confidence in the cause of liberty.
Writing in the Weekly Standard in September of that year, Robert Kagan was so confident of the march of democracy that he proposed to throw the Jordanian monarchy under the bus after Mubarak, despite Jordan’s longstanding alliance with the United States.
Even when Islamists trampled the democrats in the aftermath of Mubarak’s fall, the foreign-policy consensus held strong. The Obama Administration courted Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, while Republican sages argued that Islamist rule, while suboptimal, nonetheless represented progress on the road to democracy. Joshua Muravchik pooh-poohed the risks of the Muslim Brotherhood role in a September 2011 essay: “[I]t seems unlikely that the Egyptians, aroused as they are and having lived through the Nasser experience, would succumb to a new despotism. The most likely force to impose it, the Muslim Brotherhood, has been having trouble keeping its own members in line, much less the rest of the country.” Muravchik wrote:
Perhaps the most important of the region’s hopeful signs is the rebellion in Syria. Who would have thought that Syrians, of all peoples, would have earned the world’s admiration? Yet it is hard to think of many cases in which nonviolent protestors have exposed themselves to shoot-to-kill security forces for months on end without being cowed into surrender. If these brave people persevere and drive the Assad dynasty from power, that itself would go far toward making the Arab Spring a net beneﬁt for the region and the world.
But the democracy enthusiasts missed a crucial feature of the Arab Spring: The toppling of Hosni Mubarak and the uprising against Syria’s Basher Assad occurred after the non-oil-producing Arab countries had lurched into a dangerous economic decline. Egypt, dependent on imports for half its caloric consumption, faced a sharp rise in food prices while the prices of cotton and other exports languished. Asia’s insatiable demand for feed grains had priced the Arab poor out of the market: Chinese pigs were fed before Egyptian peasants, whose labor was practically worthless. Almost half of Egyptians are functionally illiterate, and its university graduates are unqualified for the global market (unlike Tunisians, who staff the help desks of French software firms). Out of cash, Egypt faces chronic food and fuel shortages and presently is on life support through emergency loans from its neighbors. The insoluble economic crisis makes any form of political stabilization unlikely.
Egypt’s Exports, Imports and Trade Balance
(Source: Central Bank of Egypt)
Syria’s economic position is, if possible, even worse. Yemen is not only out of money, but nearly out of water. Large portions of the Arab world have languished so long in backwardness that they are beyond repair. After the dust of the popular revolts dissipated, we are left with banana republics, but without the bananas.
It is a salutary exercise to consider the views we hold with impassioned conviction and ask: “What would it imply if we are wrong?” Neoconservatives of all stripes believed with perfect faith that the desire for liberty is a universal human impulse, requiring only the right institutions to reinforce it. The Obama Administration believed that all cultures have equal validity and that—as Obama said early in his presidency—that he thinks of American exceptionalism the same way that the Greeks think about Greek exceptionalism. In both cases, Republicans and Democrats believe that there is nothing inherently unique about America—except that this country was the first to create the political framework that corresponds to the true nature of every human being.
Kristol’s 2011 assessment of the Arab Spring was erroneous, but he was right to link America’s state of being to events in the Middle East. We stumbled by national consensus into a strategic morass, from which there is no apparent exit, in the naïve belief that under every burka was a prospective American ready to emerge like a butterfly from a chrysalis.
But if large parts of the Muslim world reject what seemed to be an historic opportunity to create democratic governments and instead dissolve into a chaotic regime of permanent warfare, we might conclude that there really is something different about America—that our democracy is the product of a unique set of precedents, the melding of the idea of covenant brought here by radical Protestants, the traditions of Anglo-Saxon democracy, and the far-reaching wisdom of our founders. To present-day Americans, that is an unnerving thought. We do not wish upon ourselves that sort of responsibility. We eschew our debts to deep traditions. We want to reinvent ourselves at will, to shop for new identities, to play at the cultural cutting-edge.
What these events might teach us, rather, is that America really is exceptional and that there is no contradiction in cultivating our democracy at home while acting elsewhere in tough-minded pursuit of our security interests.
David P. Goldman, Tablet Magazine’s classical music critic, is the Spengler columnist for Asia Times Online, associate fellow at the Middle East Forum, and the author of How Civilizations Die (and Why Islam Is Dying, Too) and the essay collection It’s Not the End of the World, It’s Just the End of You.
Islam vs. Islamism
The Washington Times
May 13, 2013
What motives lay behind last month’s Boston Marathon bombing and the would-be attack on a VIA Rail Canada train?
Leftists and establishmentarians variously offer imprecise and tired replies – such as “violent extremism” or anger at Western imperialism – unworthy of serious discussion. Conservatives, in contrast, engage in a lively and serious debate among themselves: some say Islam the religion provides motive, others say it’s a modern extremist variant of the religion, known as radical Islam or Islamism.
As a participant in the latter debate, here’s my argument for focusing on Islamism.
Cairo’s Al-Azhar Mosque, completed in 972, represents one height of Muslim culture.
Those focusing on Islam itself as the problem (such as ex-Muslims like Wafa Sultan and Ayaan Hirsi Ali) point to the consistency from Muhammad’s life and the contents of the Koran and Hadith to current Muslim practice. Agreeing with Geert Wilders’ film Fitna, they point to striking continuities between Koranic verses and jihad actions. They quote Islamic scriptures to establish the centrality of Muslim supremacism, jihad, and misogyny, concluding that a moderate form of Islam is impossible. They point to Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s deriding the very idea of a moderate Islam. Their killer question is, “Was Muhammad a Muslim or an Islamist?” They contend that we who blame Islamism do so out of political correctness or cowardliness.
To which, we reply: Yes, certain continuities do exist; and Islamists definitely follow the Koran and Hadith literally. Moderate Muslims exist but lack Islamists’ near-hegemonic power. Erdoğan’s denial of moderate Islam points to a curious overlap between Islamism and the anti-Islam viewpoint. Muhammad was a plain Muslim, not an Islamist, for the latter concept dates back only to the 1920s. And no, we are not cowardly but offer our true analysis.
And that analysis goes like this:
Islam is the fourteen-century-old faith of a billion-plus believers that includes everyone from quietist Sufis to violent jihadis. Muslims achieved remarkable military, economic, and cultural success between roughly 600 and 1200 c.e. Being a Muslim then meant belonging to a winning team, a fact that broadly inspired Muslims to associate their faith with mundane success. Those memories of medieval glory remain not just alive but central to believers’ confidence in Islam and in themselves as Muslims.
The modern Muslim trauma begins: Napoleon at the Battle of the Pyramids, 1798, as imagined by Antoine-Jean Gros.
Major dissonance began around 1800, when Muslims unexpectedly lost wars, markets, and cultural leadership to Western Europeans. It continues today, as Muslims bunch toward the bottom of nearly every index of achievement. This shift has caused massive confusion and anger. What went wrong, why did God seemingly abandon His faithful? The unbearable divergence between premodern accomplishment and modern failure brought about trauma.
Muslims have responded to this crisis in three main ways. Secularists want Muslims to ditch the Shari’a (Islamic law) and emulate the West. Apologists also emulate the West but pretend that in doing so they are following the Shari’a. Islamists reject the West in favor of a retrograde and full application of the Shari’a.
Bernard Lewis published a book in 2001 titled What Went Wrong.
Islamists loathe the West because of its being tantamount to Christendom, the historic archenemy, and its vast influence over Muslims. Islamism inspires a drive to reject, defeat, and subjugate Western civilization. Despite this urge, Islamists absorb Western influences, including the concept of ideology. Indeed, Islamism represents the transformation of Islamic faith into a political ideology. Islamism accurately indicates an Islamic-flavored version of radical utopianism, an -ism like other -isms, comparable to fascism and communism. Aping those two movements, for example, Islamism relies heavily on conspiracy theories to interpret the world, on the state to advance its ambitions, and on brutal means to attain its goals.
Supported by 10-15 percent of Muslims, Islamism draws on devoted and skilled cadres who have an impact far beyond their limited numbers. It poses the threat to civilized life in Iran, Egypt, and not just on the streets of Boston but also in Western schools, parliaments, and courtrooms.
Our killer question is “How do you propose to defeat Islamism?” Those who make all Islam their enemy not only succumb to a simplistic and essentialist illusion but they lack any mechanism to defeat it. We who focus on Islamism see World War II and the Cold War as models for subduing the third totalitarianism. We understand that radical Islam is the problem and moderate Islam is the solution. We work with anti-Islamist Muslims to vanquish a common scourge. We will triumph over this new variant of barbarism so that a modern form of Islam can emerge.
Mr. Pipes (DanielPipes.org) is president of the Middle East Forum.
A Syrian official called an attack Sunday on the nation’s military research facility a “declaration of war” by Israel.
In an exclusive interview with CNN hours after a series of massive explosions illuminated the predawn sky in Damascus, Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal al Mekdad said the attack represented an alliance between Islamic terrorists and Israel.
“When they attack, this is a declaration of war. This is not something that is (new),” al Mekdad said. “We dealt with this on several occasions, and we retaliated the way we wanted, and the retaliation was always painful to Israel, and they will suffer again.”
The Israeli military would not confirm or deny the Syrian claim that Israel had fired rockets that hit a research center in the Damascus suburb of Jamraya.
Syrian official: Israel has declared war
“We do not comment on these reports at all,” an Israeli military representative said.
A report on Syrian state-run TV claimed that the Israeli rocket attack on the research center aided rebels, who have been battling government forces in the region.
After an emergency meeting of Syria’s Cabinet on Sunday, Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi said on state television that the attack “opens the door wide open for all possibilities” but did not specify what those possibilities would be.
An Israeli Army official told CNN that two rocket interception batteries have been deployed to northern Israel.
Missile defense system a game changer, Israelis say
And the Israeli Airport Authority said Sunday that it had closed northern airspace over the country to civil aviation flights.
The reported attack comes shortly after U.S. officials first told CNN that the United States believes Israel conducted an airstrike against Syria.
Two U.S. officials told CNN on Friday that Israel apparently launched an airstrike into Syria on Thursday or Friday. Based on initial information, the United States does not believe Israeli warplanes entered Syrian airspace to conduct the strike.
The Israeli military did not comment on the U.S. claim of an airstrike. But Israel has long said it would target any transfer of weapons to Hezbollah or other terrorist groups, as well as at any effort to smuggle Syrian weapons into Lebanon that could threaten Israel.
“We are watching everything when it comes to the movement of these types of weapons. We have the means to do that,” a senior Israeli defense official told CNN’s Sara Sidner on Sunday. The official is not authorized to speak to the media.
Shaul Mofaz, a lawmaker in Israel’s Knesset, told Israeli Army Radio that Israel isn’t meddling with Syria’s civil war. But Israel must protect itself from Lebanese militants, he said.
“For Israel, it is very important that the front group for Iran, which is in Lebanon, needs to be stopped,” Mofaz said.
“Everything that goes into the hands of Hezbollah is not directly related to the rebels. Israel never interfered in the past or today in their actions. Nevertheless, I need to say that Hezbollah is deeply involved up to its neck in what is happening in Syria. Hezbollah helps the Iranians navigate against the rebels.”
Hezbollah did not immediately comment after Sunday’s claims.
Lebanese President Michel Suleiman condemned the attack Sunday, claiming that Israel had used Lebanese airspace to strike Syria.
The president said he was “not surprised at Israel’s onslaught against Syria,” Lebanon’s government news agency reported.
Syria: Israel has targeted the defense facility before
Sunday’s report is the second claim by Syria this year of a strike against the government defense research facility,
In January, reports surfaced that Israeli warplanes targeted the Jamraya research facility. The Syrian government has said that airstrike killed two workers and injured five others.
The Other Bluffer
Barack Obama isn’t the only world leader issuing threats that he won’t execute.
April 29, 2013
Until not long ago, Israelis remained prudently coy about whether they would strike Iran’s nuclear facilities. More recently, prominent Israelis have voiced doubts about whether Israel can strike those facilities, at least in any way that would make a lasting difference to Tehran’s bid to acquire nuclear weapons.
Essentially, they’re saying it’s all a bluff.
The transition marks another decline in the quality of the Jewish state’s deterrence. This would be bad news in better circumstances. Considering the way the Obama administration is acting with respect to Syria, it’s much worse than that.
That’s because President Obama has now made it clear that, when it comes to rogue regimes and weapons of mass destruction, he’s exactly the bluffer he promised he wasn’t. He warned repeatedly that the use by Bashar Assad’s regime of chemical weapons against the Syrian people was a red line, a game changer, a thing “we will not tolerate.” And he responded to the regime’s use of chemical weapons by doing nothing. This is supposed to be the guy who has Israel’s back and will never allow Iran to get a nuclear weapon?
What’s Fuhgeddaboudit in Yiddish?
That’s a lesson that needs to sink in fast with Israeli decision makers. Israel has justified reservations about taking anything except covert or surgical action against Iran and Syria. Among those reservations: the limits of its military capability; its vulnerability to counterstrikes; its diplomatic isolation; the displeasure of the Obama administration.
Above all, Israelis have shied away from action on the theory that Mr. Obama’s red lines were real, even if he drew them further down field than Israel would like. What’s the point of rushing to do something yourself at great immediate risk, when you can wait for someone else to do it, at much less risk to them or to you, a little later?
Sound logic, one flaw: There is no someone else. Israelis are now watching how the administration reacts when a rogue regime crosses the president’s red lines. It calls for a U.N. investigation to corroborate the findings of Western intelligence agencies. It justifies the exercise in the name of international consensus. It emphasizes the need to avoid the mistakes of the Iraq war.
That’s the path the administration is traveling in the Syrian chemical-weapons case, and things will only get worse. As the Assad regime realizes it can use these weapons without international penalty, it will unleash them again. Sooner or later it will figure out that the more widely it uses them, the quicker it can kill enemies at home and deter enemies abroad. A twofer. The administration will go from arguing that it’s too soon to intervene in Syria, to arguing that it’s too late.
What Israel gets from this is a chemical-weapons free-fire zone on its Syrian border, along with the growing likelihood that the weapons will reach Hezbollah’s hands along its Lebanese border. On the plus side, Israel also gets an arms deal from the administration. But the deal consists of selling Israel stuff it already has or doesn’t particularly need, like aerial tankers and V-22 tilt-rotor aircraft, while withholding stuff it doesn’t have and dearly needs, like large bunker-busters and the means of delivering them.
Meanwhile, Israel faces an Iran that, according to former military intelligence chief Amos Yadlin, has already crossed the nuclear red line Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu drew at the U.N.’s General Assembly last September. Did Mr. Netanyahu draw that line as a means of warning Iran, or of goading the U.S. to act?
If it was the latter, it was a bad bet. Mr. Obama will treat evidence of Iran’s impending nuclearization the way he has looked at Syria’s use of chemical weapons, demanding a standard of proof that will be impossible to meet until it is too late to do much about it. And as in Syria, the longer he searches for proof, the tougher the military options will become.
If it was the former, however, then Israel had better be prepared to act. Soon. A threat that cannot be executed should never be issued. It invites contempt from friend and foe alike. If Mr. Netanyahu really has been bluffing all along, he’ll go down as the man who made Ehud Olmert look good.
Israel’s military planners have now had more than a decade to plan an attack on Iran. Let’s assume their capabilities are better than advertised. (Can a country that can come up with Iron Dome be incapable of producing the required bunker busters?) Let’s assume also there’s a known-unknown in this plan, an element of surprise that will take even the most hardened war-gamers by surprise.
It had better work. Because Israel cannot live with a nuclear Iran. Because Israel should know by now that this American administration will not be coming to its rescue. Because the purpose of a Jewish state is never having to rely for survival on the kindness of others, even ones so charming and solicitous as Barack Obama.
Viscount Samuel, Meet Secretary Hagel
April 25, 2013
Sir Herbert Samuel.
Emerging from intense controversy, the British politician Herbert Samuel (1870-1963) was appointed the first High Commissioner of Palestine, where he served 1920-25. A Jew and an influential Zionist, Samuel bent over backwards not to favor the Yishuv, to the point that he forwarded the interests of the Palestinians most hostile to the Jewish presence. Most notoriously, Samuel appointed Amin al-Husseini as mufti of Palestine, a position which Husseini used to become the most powerful figure in the mandate and the Palestinian who did the most-ever damage to Zionism (yes, even more so than his nephew Yasir Arafat).
This century-old history comes to mind in watching the first months in office of Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. During his confirmation hearings, Hagel denounced many of his prior statements about Israel and Iran and then, as I have noted elsewhere, he chose to have his first face-to-face meeting in March with a foreign counterpart with Israel’s Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
Despite major cuts to the American defense budget, Hagel promised in his meeting with Barak his intent to ensure continued funding for the Iron Dome and Arrow missile defense systems. Pentagon press secretary George Little explained that “during the meeting, Hagel expressed his strong commitment to Israel’s security, including maintaining Israel’s qualitative military edge and continued U.S. support for missile and rocket defense systems in spite of fiscal constraints.” Little also reported Hagel’s saying that he and Barak have had an outstanding working relationship.
Hagel also had warm words for Israel: “I appreciate the strategic relationship between our two nations and look forward to strengthening cooperation between the two defense establishments.”
Hagel has now gone to Israel – his first visit to a foreign country other than Afghanistan, where he focused on U.S. troops – and met with the leadership. He both did things and said things that please Israel. Here is the New York Times account, “Hagel, in Israel, Presses U.S. Agenda on Deterring Iran”:
Mr. Hagel, who was subject to intense, even hostile scrutiny during his confirmation process over whether he was sufficiently supportive of Israel, hailed the “very special relationship” between the United States and Israel. He also repeatedly emphasized Israel’s right to defend itself “in a very dangerous, combustible region of the world.” …
Mr. Hagel acknowledged that there might be “minor” differences between the United States and Israel on the timeline in which Iran might develop nuclear weapons. “I think it’s important that we all keep our eye focused on the objective,” he said. “And there is no daylight there at all — that Iran is prevented from acquiring that nuclear capacity.” …
During his travels, Mr. Hagel will be pushing forward with a $10 billion arms package intended to further increase Israel’s military edge over other powers in the region while also bolstering the armed forces of two important Persian Gulf allies, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Included in the weapons deal for Israel are tilt-rotor Osprey aircraft, which can be used for transporting troops and patrolling borders and nearby seas, as well as advanced radars for Israeli warplanes. …
And two systems to be sold to Israel — a new generation of aerial refueling tankers and advanced missiles that home in on radar signals to destroy air-defense sites — would be important in any attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. Mr. Hagel said the weapons sales served as “another very clear signal to Iran.”
Binyamin Netanyahu and Chuck Hagel, best of friends.
Here is Hagel’s statement before a meeting with Netanyahu (I bolded some words that bear special attention):
I’ve always appreciate this country, the people, the leadership and the courage that you represent and what has been produced in Israel. It is a model for the world, and the relationship between our two countries, just as you have noted, is as strong as it’s ever been, not only measured by the military-to-military, all the other metrics that apply to relationships, but as you also noted, Prime Minister, it is based on common values and respect for others, and that is the foundation of any relationship. …
This is a time when friends and allies must remain close, closer than ever. I’m committed to continue to strengthen this relationship, secure this relationship, and as you know, one of the main reasons I’m here is to do that. … I was able to take a long tour up in the north and the eastern borders here, and once again it reminds me of the dangers and difficulties and challenges. But I believe together, working with our allies and our friends, we will be able to do what is right for your country, my country, and make this region a better region and a more secure region, and make Israel more secure.
Hagel then answered press questions and become buddies with the IDF. Israel Hayom reports:
On Monday, Hagel was asked whether he believed it would be advisable for Israel to attack Iran on its own. “That calculation has to be made by Israel,” he replied after noting, “Israel is a sovereign nation; every sovereign nation has a right to defend itself.” Hagel did not mention a concern that U.S. officials have voiced in the past—that an Israeli strike would run the risk of igniting a wider war that could draw in the U.S.
Hagel wrapped up his three-day trip to Israel by visiting a special forces unit that trains military dogs to find hidden explosives and weapons. He mingled with the soldiers and watched a brief demonstration of the dogs’ skills.
We’re likely to hear more friendly words for Israel when Hagel addresses the Washington Institute for Near Eastern Policy on May 9 in a speech titled “U.S. Defense Policy in the Middle East.” (Historically, American politicians make pro-Israel pronouncements before pro-Israel organizations.)
Time to confront Obama
April 26, 2013
The time has come for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to confront US President Barack Obama.
A short summary of events from the past three days: On Tuesday morning, the head of the IDF’s Military Intelligence Analysis Division Brig. Gen.
Itay Brun revealed that the Syrian government has already used “lethal chemical weapons,” against Syrian civilians and opposition forces. Brun described footage of people visibly suffering the impact of chemical agents, apparently sarin gas.
Hours later, US Secretary of State John Kerry said Netanyahu had told him on the telephone that “he was not in a position to confirm” Brun’s statement.
It is hard to imagine the US was taken by surprise by Brun’s statement. Just the day before, Brun briefed visiting US Defense secretary Chuck Hagel on Syria. It is not possible he failed to mention the same information.
And of course it isn’t just the IDF saying that Syrian President Bashar Assad is using chemical weapons. The British and the French are also saying this.
But as a European source told Ma’ariv, the Americans don’t want to know the facts. The facts will make them do something about Syria’s chemical weapons. And they don’t want to do anything about Syria’s chemical weapons.
So they force Netanyahu to disown his own intelligence.
Thursday afternoon, in a speech in Abu Dhabi, Hagel confirmed, “with some degree of varying confidence,” that Syria used chemical weapons, at least on a “small scale.”
What the administration means by “some degree of varying confidence,” is of course, unknowable with any degree of varying confidence.
Then there is Iran.
Also on Tuesday, the former head of IDF Military Intelligence, Maj.-Gen. (res.) Amos Yadlin, said that Iran has already crossed the red line Israel set last year. It has already stockpiled 170 kg. of medium-enriched uranium, and can quickly produce the other 80 kg. necessary to reach the 250 kg. threshold Netanyahu said will mark Iran’s achievement of breakout capability where it can build a nuclear arsenal whenever it wants.
Yadlin made a half-hearted effort Wednesday to walk back his pronouncements. But his basic message remained the same: The die has been cast.
Due to American pressure on Israel not to act, and due to the White House’s rejection of clearcut reports about Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium, Iran has crossed the threshold. Iran will be a nuclear power unless its uranium enrichment installations and other nuclear sites are destroyed or crippled. Now.
True, the Americans set a different red line for Iran than Israel. They say they will not allow Iran to assemble a nuclear bomb. But to believe that the US has the capacity and the will to prevent Iran from climbing the top rung on the nuclear ladder is to believe in the tooth fairy – (see, for instance, North Korea).
Iran has threatened to use it nuclear arsenal to destroy Israel. Have we now placed our survival in the hands of Tinkerbell? And yet, rather than acknowledge what Iran has done, Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon carry on with the tired act of talking about the need for a credible military option but saying that there is still time for sanctions and other non-military means to block Iran’s quest for the bomb.
Perhaps our leaders are repeating these lies because they want to present a unified US-Israel front to the world. But the effect is just the opposite.
What their statements really demonstrate is that Israel has been brought to its knees by its superpower patron that has implemented a policy that has enabled Iran to become a nuclear power.
Indeed, the US has allowed Iran to cross the nuclear threshold while requiring Israel to pretend the course the US has followed is a responsible one.
The announcement that the US has agreed to sell Israel advanced weapons specifically geared towards attacking Iran should also be seen in this light. Israel reportedly spent a year negotiating this deal. But immediately after its details were published, the US started backing away from its supposed commitment to supply them. The US will not provide Israel with bunker-buster bombs.
It will not provide Israel with the bombers necessary to use the bombs Israel isn’t getting. And anyway, by the time Israel gets the items the US is selling – like mid-air refuelers – it will be too late.
When, after overthrowing Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq, the US failed to find chemical weapons in the country, then-president George W. Bush’s Democratic opponents accused Bush of having politicized intelligence to justify his decision to topple Saddam. In truth, there is no evidence that Bush purposely distorted intelligence reports. Israel’s intelligence agencies, and perhaps French ones, were the only allied intelligence arms that had concluded Saddam’s chemical weapons – to the extent he had them – did not represent a threat.
The fact that Bush preferred US and British intelligence estimates over Israeli ones doesn’t mean that he politicized intelligence.
In contrast, what Obama and his advisers are doing represents the worst case of politicizing intelligence since Stalin arrested his senior security brass rather than heed their warnings of the coming German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941.
Never in US history has there been a greater misuse and abuse of US intelligence agencies than there is today, under the Obama administration.
Take the Boston Marathon bombings. Each day more and more reports come out about the information US agencies had – for years – regarding the threat posed by the Boston Marathon bombers.
But how could the FBI have possibly acted on those threats? Obama has outlawed all discussion or study of jihad, Islamism, radical Islam and the Koran by US federal government agencies. The only law enforcement agency that monitors Islamic websites is the New York Police Department.
And its chief Ray Kelly has bravely maintained his policy despite massive pressure from the media and the political class to end his surveillance operations.
Everywhere else, from the Boston Police Department to the FBI and CIA, US officials are barred from discussing the threat posed by jihadists or even acknowledging they exist. People were impressed that Obama referred to the terrorist attack in Boston as a terrorist attack, because according to the administration-dictated federal lexicon, use of the word terrorism is forbidden, particularly when the act in question was perpetrated by Muslims.
Then there are the Palestinians. On Thursday, it was reported that in the midst of everything happening in the Middle East, Obama is planning to host a peace conference in Washington in June to reinstate negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
The terms of reference for the conference are reportedly the 2002 Arab League “peace plan.”
Among other things, that plan requires Israel to accept millions of hostile foreign-born Arabs to whatever rump state it retains following a “peace” agreement with the PLO. In exchange for Israel agreeing to destroy itself, the Arab peace plan says the Arabs will agree to have “regular” relations with Israel. (“Regular” by the way, is a term devoid of meaning.) During his visit here last week, Kerry announced that the new US policy towards the Palestinians is to pour billions of dollars into the Palestinian economy. Among other things, the administration is going to convince US companies like Coca-Cola to open huge plants in Judea and Samaria.
Sounds fine. But as usual, there is a catch. The administration wants US firms to build their factories in Area C, the area of Judea and Samaria over which, in accordance with the agreements they signed with Israel, the Palestinians agreed Israel should hold sole control.
In essence, the policy Kerry announced is simply an American version of the EU’s policy of seeking to force Israel to give up control over Area C.
Area C, of course, is where all the Israeli communities are, and almost no Palestinians live.
Those Israeli communities and the 350,000 Jews who live in them are the strongest assertion of Israeli sovereign rights to Judea and Samaria. So the EU – and now the Americans – are doing everything they can to force Israel to destroy them. The campaign to coerce Israel into surrendering its sole control over Area C is a central component of that plan.
It cannot be said often enough: The administration’s focus on the Palestinian conflict with Israel in the midst of the violent disintegration of the Arab state system and the rise of jihadist forces throughout the region, coupled with Iran’s steady emergence as a regional power, is only understandable in the framework of a psychiatric – rather than policy – analysis.
For the past five years, perhaps Netanyahu’s greatest achievement in office has been his adroit avoidance of confrontations with Obama. With no one other than the US willing to stand with Israel in public, it is an important national interest for Jerusalem not to have any confrontations with Washington if they can possibly be avoided.
This attempt to avoid confrontations is what made Netanyahu agree to Obama’s anti-Jewish demand to deny Jews their property rights in Judea and Samaria in 2010. This is undoubtedly what stood behind Netanyahu’s decision to apologize to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan during Obama’s visit to Israel last month. That apology constituted a moral abandonment of the IDF naval commandos who Netanyahu’s government sent – virtually unarmed – to face Turkish terrorists affiliated with al-Qaida and Hamas aboard the Mavi Marmara terror ship.
To a degree, all of Netanyahu’s seemingly unjustifiable actions can be justified when weighed against the need to avoid a confrontation with America.
But by now, after five years, with Iran having passed Israel’s red line, and with chemical weapons already in play in Syria, the jig is up.
Obama does not have Israel’s back.
Contrary to the constant, grinding rhetorical prattle of American and Israeli politicos, Obama will not lift a finger to stop Iran from becoming a nuclear power. He will not lift a finger to prevent chemical weapons from being transferred to the likes of al-Qaida and Hezbollah, and their colleagues in Syria, or used by the Syrian regime.
From Benghazi to Boston, from Tehran to Damascus, Obama’s policy is to not fight forces of jihad, whether they are individuals, organizations or states. And his obsession with Palestinian statehood shows that he would rather coerce Israel to make concessions to Palestinian Jew-haters and terrorists than devote his time and energy into preventing Iran from becoming the jihadist North Korea or from keeping sarin, VX and mustard gas out of the hands of Iran’s terrorist underlings and their Sunni competitors.
No, Israel doesn’t want a confrontation with Washington. But we don’t have any choice anymore.
The time has come to take matters into our own hands on Syria and Iran. In Syria, either Israel takes care of the chemical weapons, or if we can’t, Netanyahu must go before the cameras and tell the world everything we know about Syria’s chemical weapons and pointedly demand world – that is US – action to secure them.
As for Iran, either Israel must launch an attack without delay, or if we can’t, then Netanyahu has to publicly state that the time for diplomacy is over. Either Iran is attacked or it gets the bomb.
The Evil in Boston
To see human carnage is to understand it; to understand it is to have no real words for it.
Wall Street Journal
April 22, 2013
Before we move on from Boston—move on from psychoanalyzing the Brothers Tsarnaev, and their parents; move on from fretting about when, exactly, Dzhokhar should have his Miranda rights read to him; move on from the (irrelevant) history lesson about Chechnya; move on from the speechifying about the importance of tolerance; move on from the search for terrorist connections, Islamist influences and personal motives; move on, period—let’s remind ourselves just what this duo was up to on the afternoon of April 15, 2013.
It wasn’t merely to terrorize, though that was a big part of it. It wasn’t merely to kill, though they succeeded there, too, with names that should not just go down the memory hole: Krystle Campbell, 29, a restaurant manager; Lu Lingzi, 23, a Chinese graduate student at Boston University; Martin Richard, 8, a boy from Dorchester; and Sean Collier, 26, an MIT police officer ambushed by the brothers three days later.
The main intention, certainly the main effect, was to send a thousand tiny metal knives flying at supersonic speeds in every direction from the blast. That is what Palestinian “engineers” do when they add nails and ball bearings—and, sometimes, rat poison—to the vests of suicide bombers. These are maiming operations, in their own class of cruel. It’s what the Tsarnaevs had been up to for many weeks, perhaps months, probably without misgivings or second thoughts.
Imagine the hours spent building the bombs. The innocent-seeming trip to a store to buy those Fagor-brand pressure cookers. (Was a salesman on hand to explain the difference between the “Rapid Express,” “Futuro” or “Chef” lines?) The more furtive search for the ideal explosive. (Did the Tsarnaevs come across the “Do-It-Yourself Gunpowder Cookbook,” bizarrely available on Amazon?) The purchase of nails, ball bearings, and other small, pointed metallic pieces at some hardware store. The mixing of the ingredients, the construction of the triggers, the testing of the timers, the fitting into the backpacks.
Also, the thought given to where to plant the bombs, and when: Better near the finish line, where the crowds will stand closer together; better late in the race, so fewer police would be paying close attention to a couple of guys in baseball caps.
And then the explosions. And the panic. And the cascade of blood on the street.
A friend of mine, a doctor in Boston, had the task of triaging victims of the bombing as they arrived at the hospital where he works. “It smelled like lots and lots of fresh blood,” he said. “Part of that was the amount of blood being lost. Part of that was the amount of blood being poured into people.” This, too, was a desired effect, central to the Tsarnaevs’ plan.
I have my own experience of what a bombing of this sort looks like. In January 2004 I was living in Jerusalem when a suicide bomber blew himself up on a bus down the street from my apartment. I was on the scene in about three minutes.
“The ground was covered in glass; every window of the bus had been blasted,” I wrote later that day. “Inside the wreckage, I could see three very still corpses and one body that rocked back and forth convulsively. Outside the bus, another three corpses were strewn on the ground, one face-up, two face-down. There was a large piece of torso ripped from its body, which I guessed was the suicide bomber’s. Elsewhere on the ground, more chunks of human flesh: a leg, an arm, smaller bits, pools of blood.”
Rereading these lines all these years later, I’m struck by how far they fall short of capturing my memory of the event, of the experience of it. But human carnage is beyond description, a fact known mainly to those—now including several hundred people in Boston—who have seen it for themselves. To see it is to understand it; to understand it is to have no real words for it.
That’s why so much of the commentary about Boston seems so curiously off point. It treats the horror of what was done, and the nihilism that was required to do it, as mere givens. Why spend any time staring mutely into the abyss when we could be speaking sagely about, say, the alienation of angry young Muslim men? Or the pros and cons of Twitter during the course of a manhunt? Or, for that matter, the uplifting example shown by the people of Boston in caring for the wounded and keeping their cool while the Tsarnaevs were still on the loose?
Aren’t these all fitter subjects for a constructive discussion?
Maybe they are. But we cannot begin to comprehend what happened in Boston until we think longer about the evil that has been done there. Before you go into constructive mode, reflect on what, and who, has been destroyed. Ask yourself: By whom? In whose name? For the sake of what?
Salam Fayyad and the “Major Blow” to Peace
Khaled Abu Toameh
April 17, 2013
The claim that Fayyad’s resignation is a major blow to the peace process is not only untrue, it is ridiculous. These claims are intended to create the impression, totally false, that were it not for Fayyad’s resignation, the peace process would have been salvaged. The truth is that Abbas was the one who decided to boycott the peace talks until Israel met his conditions.
How can Salam Fayyad’s resignation as Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority be considered a setback for the peace process when he had never been involved in the negotiations with Israel in the first place?
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas never consulted with Fayyad about the peace process with Israel. Over the past five years, the two men hardly even spoken to one other.
After Fayyad’s resignation last Saturday, many Western journalists and political analysts rushed to describe the move as a “major blow to the Middle East peace process and US efforts to revive the stalled peace talks between the Palestinian Authority and Israel.”
One headline featured: “Salam Fayyad Resigns: Peace Process On Hold.”
A BBC correspondent described Fayyad’s resignation as a “major blow for US efforts to restart the long-stalled peace process with Israel.”
Another British journalist, commenting on the resignation, said: “Mr. Fayyad’s departure is a big blow to the peace process, which has been given fresh impetus in since last month’s visit to the region of Barack Obama.”
But those who are fearful about the future of the peace process clearly do not know what they are talking about.
As prime minister of the Palestinian Authority, Fayyad was never involved in any of the peace talks with Israel.
Fayyad himself once explained that ever since the signing of the Oslo Accords about 20 years ago, it was the PLO, and not the Palestinian Authority, that was conducting peace talks with Israel.
Moreover, Fayyad was never involved in the Palestinian leadership’s decision-making process regarding the peace process.
The only people Abbas consulted with were PLO and Fatah loyalists. Decisions regarding the peace talks with Israel were always taken either by Abbas alone or in coordination with members of the PLO Executive Committee and the Fatah Central Committee.
Fayyad never belonged to any of these two Palestinian key-decision-making bodies.
The overall policies and strategies of the Palestinian Authority were never part of Fayyad’s responsibility.
Important decisions were always taken only by Abbas and a handful of his trusted aides, who never deemed it necessary to consult with their prime minister.
Even when Fayyad opposed Abbas’s bid for Palestinian statehood at the UN General Assembly in November 2012, no one in the Palestinian Authority took his stance seriously.
During the past five years, Abbas and his inner circle succeeded in turning Fayyad into a prime minister whose powers were limited only to economic issues; or as some Palestinians used to say, “Fayyad served more as a mayor than as a prime minister.”
Even if Fayyad had stayed in office, there is no reason to believe that the chances of reviving the peace process would have been better.
How could Fayyad have salvaged the peace process when the decisions were made only by Abbas and his top aides?
Was anyone expecting Fayyad openly to challenge Fatah, the PLO and other Palestinians by returning to the negotiating table on his own?
The Americans and Europeans seem to have forgotten that Fayyad represents a political list that won only two seats in the 2006 parliamentary elections.
Although there are some who praise his efforts to build state institutions and a fine economy, they also seem to be turning a blind eye to Fayyad’s lack of grassroots support among Palestinians.
Fayyad’s departure from the scene will have no impact on the peace process because the decision on this issue was never in his hands.
Besides, Fayyad’s credibility has been severely undermined by US and European efforts to keep him in power against the wishes of Abbas, Fatah and many Palestinians.
The claim that Fayyad’s resignation is a major blow to the peace process is not only untrue, it is ridiculous. Such claims are intended to create the impression, totally false, that were it not for Fayyad’s resignation, the peace process would have been salvaged.
The truth is that Abbas was the one who decided to boycott the peace talks until Israel meets his conditions, including a full cessation of settlement construction and recognition of the pre-1967 lines as the future borders of a Palestinian state.
Abbas has been boycotting not only Israel, but also his prime minister — who finally grew tired of the Palestinian Authority president’s efforts to undermine and discredit him.
Fayyad’s Exit Signals Oslo’s Bankruptcy Contentions
Jonathan S. Tobin
April 14, 2013
The resignation of Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad is a pivotal moment in the history of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Given that it is the product of an internal Palestinian political struggle rather than one in which Jews and Arabs are grappling for power, that may seem an exaggeration. But its significance should not be underestimated. The exit of the Palestinian technocrat lays bare the collapse of what the New York Times called “Fayyadism”—the hope that Palestinian nationalism would be refocused on development and coexistence rather than violence. Without the fig leaf of responsibility that Fayyad provided for the PA, the idea that it is anything but the same corrupt regime fatally compromised by connections with terror rings false.
The inability of Fayyad to either generate much public support among the people of the West Bank or to use his credentials as a respected international figure to outmaneuver Abbas is a tragedy for the Palestinian people. His failure dooms them to a choice between the venal and incompetent cadres of Fatah or the bloody Islamist tyranny of Hamas (which has always regarded the banishment of Fayyad from office as a precondition for any unity scheme with Abbas an d the PA). That is unfortunate. The only question is whether those pushing Israel to further empower the now Fayyad-less PA will draw the only possible conclusion from these events and understand that the two-state solution that could conceivably solve the conflict must await a sea change in Palestinian politics that will allow another Fayyad to emerge and succeed.
There will be those who will inevitably blame Israel for Fayyad’s resignation since many in the world are incapable of interpreting any event that is construed as negative without seeing it as a manifestation of the malign influence of the Jewish state. But this is nonsense. Fayyad has always had the strong support of both the United States (under both the George W. Bush and Obama administrations) and of Israel, which despite its suspicions about the PA has seen him as an essential interlocutor and partner. His problem is that Abbas’s Fatah Party viewed him as an obstacle to both their drive for political hegemony in the West Bank as well as to the continuation of their crooked patronage schemes that diverted foreign aid money into the pockets of their leaders. As Jonathan Schanzer, who understands Palestinian politics as well as anybody writing about the subject in the West, wrote on the Foundation for Defense of Democracies blog this week as events unfolded:
With the most powerful faction in the West Bank gunning for Fayyad, it is likely a question of when, not if, the Palestinian premier departs. This would be a blow to Palestinian reform efforts, but also shine a spotlight on the leadership deficit in the West Bank.
It should be conceded that for those who see the question of Israeli-Palestinian peace solely from the frame of reference of the Jewish state’s problems in controlling large numbers of Arabs, the question of who runs a Palestinian government has always been considered irrelevant. Peace Now and other groups that venerated the Oslo Accords and the peace process were perfectly willing to hand over territory to a murderer and thief like Yasir Arafat and opposed all efforts to hold him accountable. So it should be anticipated that they, and others who push for Israeli withdrawals in order to weaken the Jewish state rather than to supposedly strengthen it by ending the “occupation,” will not care much whether the face of Palestinian nationalism is Fayyad, Abbas (currently serving the ninth year of the four-year term as president that he was elected to) or one of Hamas’s Islamists.
But the lack of a Fayyad matters because without him or someone like him, there is no pretense that what the peace processers seek to create in the West Bank is not a state living in peace with Israel (no matter where its borders are drawn) or its other Arab neighbors but a kleptocracy run by terrorists. If it is the former, then there is no doubt that a majority of the Israeli people would be willing to make painful compromises to achieve peace. If it is the latter, that is not only bad news for the Palestinian people who must suffer the depredations such tyrants will impose on them but it is also a guarantee that the terms of any peace deal signed with them will not be observed.
This conundrum goes to the heart of the original motivations behind the Oslo process that created the PA in 1993.
Shimon Peres may have conceived the Oslo process as a path to a “New Middle East” in which Israel and a Palestinian state led by Fayyads would create a Benelux-like enclave in the Middle East. The late Yitzhak Rabin went along with Peres’s Oslo gambit from a different point of view. He thought handing the territories over to Arafat would work because the old terrorist would be willing to settle for statehood in only part of the country and would then be free to quash Hamas and any other terrorists without the interference of a Supreme Court or gadfly groups like B’Tselem that inhibited Israeli counter-terror measures.
As it turns out, both of these men were wrong. Peres’s hopes about what the PA would become were delusional. But the hard-boiled Rabin was just as wrong to think a Palestinian state led by corrupt terrorists isn’t antithetical to the entire concept of two states for two peoples living alongside each other in peace. That was just as true for the slightly more presentable Abbas and his Fatah colleagues as it was for Arafat. This has already been amply demonstrated, first by Arafat’s use of terrorism and then by what has happened in Gaza where an independent Palestinian state in all but name already exists.
Fayyad’s tragedy was not just that both Fatah and Hamas wanted to be rid of him but that he was a man with virtually no support among ordinary Palestinians. So long as shedding Jewish blood is the main factor that gives a Palestinian political party credibility, men like Fayyad will have no chance no matter how much they are applauded by Americans or Israelis. The collapse of his effort to change Palestinian politics is therefore a key moment that should signal to the world that it must dispense with the theories of both Peres and Rabin and cease ignoring reality in favor of illusions.
That is something that groups and governments determined to keep funneling cash into the coffers of the PA and to push Israel to make concessions to it must understand. Until they do, the discussion about the peace process will continue to be a tragic waste of time and effort.
140,000 Canisters of U.S. Teargas to Egypt’s Morsi
April 14, 2013
The Egyptian publication Al-Masry Al-Youm reports that the U.S. government has supplied five containers carrying 140,000 teargas canisters to Egypt’s Interior Ministry. It further reports that this shipment left Wilmington, Delaware, on Mar. 14 aboard the SS Jamestown and that it has just arrived the port of Suez. They cost the Egyptian government just under US$2.5 million. According to ministry spokesperson Hani Abdel Latif, said that the ministry imported the grenades in order to protect state facilities.
Although shocking, this should not come as a surprise: On Feb. 25, 2013, the State Department spokesman confirmed that “we have approved an export license for the shipment of U.S.-manufactured nonlethal riot control agents to the Egyptian Government.” He added that “No U.S. security assistance funds have been used for the purchase of these products” and “we condemn any misuse of these products, of teargas that can result in injury or unlawful death, and any such misuse would jeopardize future exports.”
Comments: (1) I have waited six days to see if either government would deny that 140,000 canisters were delivered but neither has, suggesting this is an accurate number. (2) The transfer of this arsenal of crowd-control weapons reveals the depth of the Obama administration’s collusion with the wretched Morsi regime. (3) This idiocy alone justifies the title of my lecture in Washington on Apr. 16, “Amateur Hour: The Obama Administration’s Middle East Policy.” (April 14, 2013)
Al-Monitor Turkey Pulse
April 10, 2013
After the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident and its diplomatic fallout, many debated long and hard whether Israel or Turkey most needed the other. When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered an official apology to Turkey on March 22, another type of debate ensued. Turks presumed that Israel decided that it could not bear the loss of Turkey as an ally, even if a frosty one, and therefore extended the apology. In Israel, meanwhile, the issue became that the Turkish government seemed to be deceiving the public in its statements on the apology. After spending nearly a week in Israel and having conversations with numerous diplomatic sources, the following is what I gathered about the state of Turkish-Israeli relations.
First of all, Israel prefers to have Turkey on its side, but that does not necessarily mean that its survival depends on good relations with the Ankara government. “The past three years have shown us that we don’t necessarily need each other,” an Israeli diplomatic source told Al-Monitor. “We extended our political and diplomatic relationships with Greece, Greek Cyprus, Bulgaria, Romania and Serbia — that is, mainly the Central European countries — and we don’t really feel isolated at all.” Another diplomatic source asserted to Al-Monitor, “The apology was the right thing to do, and we did it. We could have done that before, but the negotiations did not yield results then.”
Second, Israeli diplomatic sources caution that Turkey is providing an incorrect explanation of the apology by suggesting that Israel lifted the blockade on Hamas-controlled Gaza because of Ankara’s strong stand on the need for an apology. They say the restrictions were lifted soon after the Mavi Marmara incident and that there is nothing new being allowed to flow into Gaza that would support the Turkish government’s assertions.
“What has been made possible today that was not possible about a month ago or a year ago? Well, the answer is ‘Not much,’” an Israeli diplomatic source told Al-Monitor. “There’s a permanent process of easing the restrictions. It has been going on for a while. Today anything can be imported into Gaza except military materiel. The strict restrictions are imposed on things that come out. You cannot allow people to come out of a territory that is governed by a government that declares war on you. And that restriction has not changed.”
“There is something that has been concealed from the Turkish public opinion,” contended an Israeli source. “Of course, Gaza has borders with both Israel and Egypt. They both impose restrictions on the borders. On the Egyptian side, this has been the permanent policy both under [former president Hosni] Mobarak and [President Mohammed] Morsi, which means this is perceived by Egyptians as serving their interests. This is something important to ponder when you speak about the situation in Gaza. If Gaza under Hamas has become a danger to Egypt under two very different regimes, then there must be something bad going on in Gaza, and Turkish people are not [being] told about it. To accuse Israel and Israel alone of imposing a siege is telling half the truth, and telling half the truth is worse than a lie.”
Third, one can no longer speak of an Israeli-Turkish bilateral relationship. The government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan has made it clear that good relations with Israel will be conditioned upon Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. Also relevant to relations is that both Turkey and Israel need the support of the White House for their own domestic political needs as well as for their individual security reasons. Thus, given that Ankara is not really talking about reestablishing close bilateral ties with Israel, the situation has evolved into a four-way, codependent relationship among Turkey, Israel, the United States, and Palestine.
“We have noted that the current Turkish government seems to think that Israel is not an important ally, and in fact, is not an ally at all,” an Israeli diplomatic source said. “Therefore it should not be taken into consideration as an important part of the puzzle of Turkey’s regional diplomacy. This downgrade of relations not only has become dramatic, but it has also taken at times very ugly forms in certain statements.”
Although the Turkish political establishment and the public continue to ponder the death of the nine Turkish citizens on the Mavi Marmara after the Israeli apology, there is a sense of hurt feelings among Israelis from the Turkish leadership’s verbal assaults. Moreover, Israelis emphasize that to them, the activists in the flotilla were not peaceful, and had vigorously attacked the Israeli commandos. There is intense suspicion about the intentions of the Turkish government, and many, in government and on the street, wonder whether they will ever be able to again trust Turkey.
Fourth, this perception goes to the heart of US Secretary of State John Kerry’s discussions with the Turks and Israelis over a potential Turkish role in Palestinian-Israeli peace talks. From the Israeli perspective, it is Ankara that wants to be instated as a partner in the talks and that the Americans support the idea. One knowledgeable Israeli source speculated that the United States might be assuming that if Ankara participates in trying to help bridge differences between the Palestinians and Israelis, it will start to act more responsibly, restrain itself from bad mouthing Israel and start balancing its current unequivocal support for Hamas. “But it is going to be difficult to find [traction] for such a thought here,” the source said.
Senior Turkish diplomatic sources told Al-Monitor that Turkey is more self-confident and more proactive than ever in the region, and it does not believe any longer that its role as mediator means it must maintain an equal distance from both sides or be neutral. “We certainly have an idea about the way forward between the Israelis and Palestinians, and we also would like Israel to understand that the Palestinians are not alone,” the source revealed.
The Israelis who spoke with Al-Monitor do not doubt that there is a role for Turkey in peace talks, but they question what in particular it might be. One source pointed out, “Egypt is no longer the leader of Israeli-Palestinian talks, and there is a vacuum there,” waiting to be filled. For now, both Turkey and Egypt seem to have better ties with Hamas in Gaza than they do with the Palestinian Authority (PA), and the Israelis say Egypt delivering messages to Hamas serves Israel’s interest. Turkey does not have good standing in Ramallah despite statements to the contrary by the PA under pressure from Ankara. Indeed, the PA is concerned about the strong support of Erdogan for Hamas and believes that Ankara favors the Islamist movement.
One Turkish diplomatic source informed Al-Monitor that he had received information that the Palestinians would in coming months resolve their differences, at which time Erdogan would travel to Gaza to celebrate the reconciliation. While Israeli diplomatic sources counsel caution about such optimism, they question why Erdogan would choose to go to Gaza instead of Ramallah. “If Erdogan wants Hamas to take over the West Bank as well, he is on the right track,” a diplomatic source said. All in all, however, Israeli sources indicated that they do not expect an Erdogan visit to Gaza will become a reality for one simple reason: Egypt won’t allow it to happen. In any case, Kerry has advised Erdogan against a Gaza visit, and Ankara made it clear that one will not take place at least until after the prime minister visits the White House on May 16.
Moreover, the Israelis question Turkey’s understanding of mediation and whether Ankara can rewrite the rules and theories on how to conduct business concerning the crucial matters involved. The Israeli diplomatic sources asserted that a mediator has to be trusted and must prove its usefulness to both sides. “If the party in question is not seen as useful to one of the negotiating parties, why would they use them as a mediator?” The issue in the current situation, the same source explained, is not whether Turkey remains neutral, but that it does not offer a friendly environment for Israel and that that is unacceptable.
“It’s natural for Turkey to feel more sympathetic toward Palestinians. No one will begrudge Turkey for that, but that does not mean that it has to bad mouth Israel publicly or it has to deny aggressions against Israel, such as rocket launching by Hamas, or that it can be uncritical of Hamas’ destructive declared intentions toward Israel,” a diplomatic source told Al-Monitor. “As long as Turkey does that, it can feel righteous, but it will achieve nothing in terms of mediation because how will it be useful or trusted?”
In addition, the Israelis say, if Erdogan is sincere in assuming a role in peace talks, he must understand that he needs to win over the Israeli public so the Israeli government can engage seriously. That said, if Turkey succeeds in convincing Hamas to accept the conditions laid out by the Quartet (the European Union, Russia, the United Nations, and the United States) — that it recognize Israel, renounce violence and adhere to previous diplomatic agreements — no one will say “No, thanks” to such a contribution. In Israel, however, no one even considers that Erdogan can assume such a constructive role given that he has said numerous times that Turkey considers Hamas a legitimate organization fighting against occupation and that he has never publicly criticized Hamas for firing rockets into Israel.
Fifth, the Israelis made it abundantly clear that Israel does not feel dependent on a route through Turkey to deliver newly discovered natural gas on the eastern Mediterranean to international markets. They highlight two points: Israel has not yet decided whether it will export any of the gas, and if so, how much, and Israel takes the issue of safety seriously, noting that any pipeline between Turkey and Israel must cross through the territorial waters of Lebanon and Syria. “Last year, our pipeline with Egypt came to a complete halt after 30 years not because of Morsi . . . , but because of the fiftieth or sixtieth terrorist attack. So, maybe other options are safer for us,” one Israeli told Al-Monitor.
Sixth, the Israelis underlined that Turkey and Israel have a substantial common interest in preventing the Syrian crisis from spilling over into their territories as well as preventing the proliferation of arms and potential chemical weapons because of it. “There is so much we can do together if we start really cooperating on this issue,” one Israeli diplomatic source said to Al-Monitor. “We’re already in the post-Assad era while he is sitting in Damascus.” The sense here is that there won’t be a central government in Syria for a long time and that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad sort of remaining in power today really does not mean much at all.
Last but not least, Israeli sources highlighted that Turkey is dependent on Israel for transporting exports. “Turkish export routes to the east used to go through Syria, to the East and to the Gulf. That’s not possible anymore. Turkish exports are shipped to the port of Haifa, where they’re loaded onto trucks, which cross Israel and then go to Jordan, and then from Jordan, they are shipped to the Gulf and to the East,” said one source. “Israel has now become a [pivotal] point for Turkish exports. It’s good, but no one wants to talk about it publicly. Why not? There is nothing to be ashamed of.”
Will Fayyad Resign?
April 11, 2013
Reuters reports that “Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad offered his resignation to President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday following a rift between the two men over government policy….”
Fayyad has offered to resign before, but there is reason to think that President Abbas will accept the offer this time. There is no love lost between Abbas’s Fatah Party and Salam Fayyad, and what aid donors appreciate most–the fight against corruption, the effort to build efficient and effective government institutions, the desire to insulate Palestinian security forces from Fatah politics–are just the things about Fayyad that Fatah pols appreciate least.
Nor is there a replacement available who has Fayyad’s stature and integrity. This will affect aid donors, who will wonder just what will become of their money if Fayyad is not there to watch over the PA budget. It will also affect the attitude of Israelis toward the PA, for Fayyad has personified a business-like approach to building real Palestinian independence that does not threaten Israeli security.
If Fayyad is, now, pushed out of the prime minister post, there will be many recriminations about who and what lost the opportunity for progress that his years in the post provided. Some will even be justified, and that is a subject I will revisit here if Fayyad goes. His departure would be a major event in Israeli-Palestinian relations.
Obama to Palestinians: Accept the Jewish State
By Daniel Pipes
One key shift in U.S. policy was overlooked in the barrage of news about Barack Obama’s eventful fifty-hour visit to Israel last week. That would be the demand that Palestinians recognize Israel as the Jewish state, called by Hamas leader Salah Bardawil “the most dangerous statement by an American president regarding the Palestinian issue.”
Title page of Theodor Herzl’s 1896 book,
“Der Judenstaat” (“The Jewish State”).
First, some background: Israel’s founding documents aimed to make the country a Jewish state. Modern Zionism effectively began with the publication in 1896 of Theodor Herzl’s book, Der Judenstaat (“The Jewish State”). The Balfour Declaration of 1917 favors “a national home for the Jewish people.” U.N. General Assembly resolution 181 of 1947, partitioning Palestine into two, mentions the term Jewish state 30 times. Israel’s Declaration of Establishment of 1948 mentions Jewish state 5 times, as in “we … hereby declare the establishment of a Jewish state in Eretz-Israel, to be known as the State of Israel.”
Because of this tight connection, when Arab-Israeli diplomacy began in earnest in the 1970s, the Jewish state formulation largely disappeared from view; everyone simply assumed that diplomatic recognition of Israel meant accepting it as the Jewish state. Only in recent years did Israelis realize otherwise, as Israeli Arabs came to accept Israel but reject its Jewish nature. For example, an important 2006 publication from the Mossawa Center in Haifa, The Future Vision of Palestinian Arabs in Israel, proposes that the country become a religiously neutral state and joint homeland. In brief, Israeli Arabs have come to see Israel as a variant of Palestine.
Awakened to this linguistic shift, winning Arab acceptance of Israel no longer sufficed; Israelis and their friends realized that they had to insist on explicit Arab acceptance of Israel as the Jewish state. In 2007, Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert announced that unless Palestinians did so, diplomacy would be aborted: “I do not intend to compromise in any way over the issue of the Jewish state,” he emphasized. The Palestinian Authority immediately and unanimously rejected this demand. Its head, Mahmoud Abbas, responded: “In Israel, there are Jews and others living there,. This we are willing to recognize, nothing else.”
Netanyahu and Olmert agree on the need for Palestinian recognition of Israel as the Jewish state.
When Binyamin Netanyahu succeeded Olmert as prime minister in 2009, he reiterated this demand as a precondition to serious negotiations: “Israel expects the Palestinians to first recognize Israel as a Jewish state before talking about two states for two peoples.” The Palestinians not only refused to budge but ridiculed the very idea. Again, Abbas: “What is a ‘Jewish state?’ We call it the ‘State of Israel.’ You can call yourselves whatever you want. But I will not accept it. … It’s not my job to … provide a definition for the state and what it contains. You can call yourselves the Zionist Republic, the Hebrew, the National, the Socialist [Republic] call it whatever you like, I don’t care.”
Only six weeks ago, Abbas again blasted the Jewish state concept. The Palestinian rejection of Jewish statehood could not be more emphatic. (For a compilation of their assertions, see “Recognizing Israel as the Jewish State: Statements” at DanielPipes.org.)
American politicians, including both George W. Bush and Obama, have since 2008 occasionally referred to Israel as the Jewish state, even as they studiously avoided requiring Palestinians to do likewise. In a typical declaration, Obama in 2011 sketched the ultimate diplomatic goal as “two states for two people: Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland for the Jewish people and the State of Palestine as the homeland for the Palestinian people.”
Barack Obama changes U.S. policy in a speech
at a convention center in Jerusalem.
Then, in his Jerusalem speech last week, Obama suddenly and unexpectedly adopted in full the Israeli demand: “Palestinians must recognize that Israel will be a Jewish state.”
That sentence breaks important new ground and cannot readily be undone. It also makes for excellent policy, for without such recognition, Palestinian acceptance of Israel is hollow, indicating only a willingness to call the future state they dominate “Israel” rather than “Palestine.”
While not the only shift in policy announced during Obama’s trip (another: telling the Palestinians not to set preconditions for negotiations), this one looms largest because it starkly contravenes the Palestinian consensus. Bardawil may hyperbolically assert that it “shows that Obama has turned his back to all Arabs” but those ten words in fact establish a readiness to deal with the conflict’s central issue. They likely will be his most important, most lasting, and most constructive contribution to Arab-Israeli diplomacy.
Mr. Pipes is president of the Middle East Forum. © 2013 by Daniel Pipes. All rights reserved.
Obama’s Visit to Israel: A Turning Point?
March 24, 2013
Both American and Israeli leaders must have heaved sighs of relief as Air Force One departed from Ben-Gurion Airport with President Obama’s visit culminating on a high note for both parties.
Obama engaged in an unprecedented charm offensive in order to overcome the intense Israeli distrust towards him stemming from his initial efforts to appease the Arabs by “providing daylight” between the US and Israel. To that end, four years ago in Cairo, he groveled to the Moslem world and basically endorsed the Palestinian narrative. Subsequently he demanded a unilateral settlement freeze including the Jewish suburbs of East Jerusalem, issued one-sided condemnations of Israel and repeatedly snubbed Prime Minister Netanyahu.
What particularly rankled Israelis in his Cairo speech was his attribution of the creation of Israel to the Holocaust, effectively ignoring the Jewish links with Eretz Israel for 3000 years.
His first speech on arrival at the airport totally repudiated this. He related movingly “to the Jewish homeland” in which Jews prayed and tended the land for 3000 years, describing the rebirth of the Jewish state as an unparalleled historic act of redemption. He subsequently said that Israel was the guarantor that a future Holocaust would never recur. He reaffirmed that “the US is proud to stand with you as your greatest ally and your greatest friend”, describing the “unbreakable” US-Israel alliance as “eternal”.
He subsequently visited the Israel Museum where he viewed the Dead Sea Scrolls –- evidence of the historical linkage between Israel and the Jewish people. He also visited the graves of Zionism’s patriarch, Theodor Herzl directly repudiating Erdogan’s outrageous remarks against Zionism in order to facilitate Netanyahu’s unsavory back down to Turkey which realpolitik demanded for tangible strategic reasons.
Obama repeated his mantra opposing settlement expansion and calling for implementing the two-state solution. He irritated many Israelis by referring to Palestinian suffering without relating it to terrorism and incitement as well as praising the PA as a genuine peace partner. But for the first time he explicitly urged the Palestinians to accept Israel’s offer of negotiating without preconditions. He also made no demands on Israel for further unilateral concessions and hinted but avoided explicitly repeating his former demand that the indefensible 1949 armistice lines with swaps serve as a benchmark for negotiations. Of course, that may be resurrected at a future date.
Israelis remain somewhat queasy as to Obama’s ultimate intentions regarding Iran. Whilst expressing hope that diplomacy could still succeed, he reiterated that he was not bluffing when he vowed as a last resort, to exercise all options to prevent the Iranians from achieving nuclear status, but still declined to set deadlines. There are also concerns that the US may agree to a partial deal in which the Iranians would be permitted to develop medium enriched uranium enabling them subsequently to create a bomb within a very short time span.
Yet on the positive side, a nuclear Iran is now recognized as a threat to the US and the West. And for the first time, Obama stated explicitly that the US accepted and respected Israel’s right to take whatever steps deemed necessary to defend itself – a clear message to the Iranians that if they maintained their current course, the US would not block an Israeli strike.
If after his repeated undertakings, Obama fails to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear bomb, he would lose enormous global credibility amongst friends and foes alike and irretrievably tarnish his legacy.
It would however be premature for Israelis to conclude that Obama’s intensively friendly statements and hugs signify a reversal of his political approach.
Even on this visit, unlike Presidents Clinton and Bush, he refused to address the Knesset – the embodiment of Israel’s democratic ethos; declined to visit the Kotel and the Temple Mount to avoid compromising US policy which stipulates that these are disputed areas; and excluded Ariel University students from his address.
American Jewish journalist, Jeffery Goldberg, who is close to Obama, described his views on Israel as being more akin to Israel’s far left newspaper, Ha’aretz, than the political mainstream. His administration is thus likely to remain isolationist and continue to appease rather than confront Islamist regimes.
Some suggest that he seeks popular support in order to renew pressure on Israel to make further unilateral concessions and accept his formula based on the indefensible pre-1967 borders. There is already talk of Secretary of State John Kerry reintroducing the Arab League ‘peace initiative’ based on 1967 borders and repatriation to Israel of Arab refugees.
But Obama is a pragmatist and aware that opinion polls demonstrate that Americans today are more supportive of Israel than ever before and that ongoing confrontation with the Jewish state would create needless problems in Congress where he faces crucial challenges. Indeed, on the eve of his visit over three quarters of the Congress petitioned him to stand by Israel. He has probably also concluded that one sided pressurizing of Israel has been counterproductive.
Some Israelis will dismiss his utterances as mere platitudes and warn against becoming bedazzled by a false dawn. But the political gravitas of such statements should not be underestimated. Never has an American president spoken out with such commitment and passion about Israel and effectively identified himself with the Zionist vision.
He also repudiated calls from the far left, including Israeli so called “peaceniks” and Jews like J Street, urging him to employ “tough love” and pressurize Israel. More importantly he conveyed a powerful message to the Islamists.
Indeed, without suggesting that Israelis were transformed overnight into fans, his unprecedented passionate Zionist speeches and extraordinary efforts to overcome the personal animus with Netanyahu did more than merely ease acute concerns. At least symbolically, they represented a sea change and will historically be recorded as the highlight of his visit.
Politicians must be judged by their actions. Whilst the selection of Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense, uncertainty over timing in relation to Iran, the Administration’s infatuation with Abbas and the ongoing US “engagement” with undemocratic Islamist regimes remain grounds for concern, the powerful messages of friendship and support directed towards us by an American President are of enormous significance.
Prime Minister Netanyahu, who only days earlier succeeded in cobbling together a government, must be immensely satisfied with Obama’s extraordinary public displays of friendship. Netanyahu spoke for the entire nation when conveying gratitude for US military support which despite the tensions, actually expanded under the Obama administration.
However, most Israelis appreciate that we cannot subcontract our security to any third party – not even the United States – and must rely on our own defensive capabilities.
In the short term, achieving a peace settlement remains a mirage. However, transitory agreements can be implemented which would improve the relationship between Palestinians and Israelis.
The new Israeli government is in an ideal position to move in this direction. If instead of pressuring Israel to commit to final borders or make further unilateral concessions, the Obama administration endorsed its efforts to create interim or partial agreements providing the Palestinians with improved quality of life, this would represent considerable progress. Over time, it may even encourage the emergence of a moderate Palestinian leadership willing to negotiate towards a comprehensive peace settlement.
What President Obama Should Say In Israel
Consul on Foreign Relations: Pressure Points
March 18, 2013
The President leaves for Israel tomorrow. Here are eight suggestions for what he should say when there. No doubt his speechwriters could improve on the language, but these are thoughts it would be very useful for him to express. Such statements would have a serious impact in Israel and in the entire Middle East. Of course, it would be even better if these thoughts really reflected the President’s views and policies.
1.Appreciating Israel: This is not my first trip to Israel nor is it my last. I look forward to the day when, as a former President, I can come here with my children to show them the land of the Bible—and show them the miracles that have been created here by your hands since 1948.
2.Getting the History Right: The ties of the Jewish people to this land go back thousands of years, and on Monday millions of Jews in Israel and out will repeat at Passover seders what their forbears said while living in exile century after century: “Next Year in Jerusalem.”
3.Understanding and Standing by Israel: I understand that, of all the nations of the earth, only Israel faces threats to its very existence and still faces neighbors who refuse to recognize its existence. That is why my administration has maintained with Israel the closest intelligence and military cooperation ever. And only one nation faces an unending barrage of one-sided, unfair attacks in the United Nations system month after month. As long as I am president, we will consider standing by Israel to fight off military and diplomatic attacks not as a burden but as an honor.
4.Noting the Neighborhood: The United States will use its all influence to maintain the peace treaties you have with Jordan and Egypt. And we will work together closely with you to prevent the carnage in Syria, and the assembly of terrorists gathering there, from flowing over your border or from destabilizing Lebanon or Jordan.
5.Crediting Israel: I know that Israelis long for peace, and have made effort after effort to achieve it—most recently in the offers your leaders made to the Palestinians in 2000 and 2008. I regret that those offers were rejected and I understand that Israel does not share the blame for this.
6.Resuming Pragmatic Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations: Nothing should be allowed to prevent Israeli and Palestinian negotiators from resuming their work. Even if a comprehensive peace is not possible during my period as president, progress is: an improvement in the way Israelis and Palestinians share this land between the Jordan River and the Sea, and work together to provide prosperity and security for both populations.
7.Warning Iran: Let me say to the rulers of Iran what I have said in Washington, and now repeat from Jerusalem: while I am president you will never get a nuclear weapon. All the sacrifices you are making will be in vain, because the United States will prevent you from reaching that goal. What lies ahead for Iran may be an agreement, or other, much worse alternatives—but not possession of a nuclear weapon.
8.Remaining in the Fight Against Terrorism: The United States is withdrawing forces from Iraq and Afghanistan, but we are not withdrawing from the ideological and the military battle against Islamic extremists and terrorists. In this you and we are the closest of allies and will remain so. Our enemy is not a religion, but extremists who would use violence to impose their rule and their religious views on others. Together we will remain in this struggle, for as many years as it takes.
The President should read the George W. Bush speech to the Knesset in 2008; that is the competition he is up against. But I believe these eight points would take him very far toward persuading many Israelis that he wants bilateral relations to be vastly better in his second term than they were in his first.
Israel as a weapon of mass distraction.
Why on earth is Obama going to Israel?
by Alexander H. Joffe
The Times of Israel
March 12, 2013
Why exactly is President Obama going to Israel? A variety of theories have been advanced as to why he is making the trip now and what might be accomplished.
Some have suggested that Obama needs to reassure Israel, to hold their hands and tell them that the US-Israeli relationship is special. This suggests that Obama cares about Israeli feelings, at least in the sense that positive sentiments advance policy goals, and that Israelis might be thus comforted by his presence. But the record of bad relations between Obama and Netanyahu is too long, and the fact that Obama is on record saying that Israelis don’t know what is best for them, whereas he does, has mitigated whatever good vibrations he might spread now.
Others have suggested that Obama is going to take advantage of the unique circumstances of weakness in the Arab world in order to force progress in Israeli-Palestinian relations. But the Palestinian Authority is again engaged in fruitless reconciliation talks with Hamas and has accused Israel of sabotaging those talks with back channel contacts with Hamas. It has also orchestrated violent protests against Israel in advance of Obama’s trip to create a price tag for its cooperation. The idea that Obama holds a strong hand falls short.
Still others believe the visit is a kind of reset, an opportunity to rebuild relations badly damaged by the misstep of forcing Israel to adopt a construction freeze that was neither asked for nor reciprocated by Palestinians, as a condition for resuming negotiations. Given the appointment of Chuck Hagel to be Secretary of Defense, despite revelations regarding his peculiarly obsessive hostility towards Israel and near indifference towards other issues, this rings particularly hollow.
On the whole, the timing of the visit is so inauspicious as to arouse suspicion that a change of American policy is indeed in the making. Consider the Middle East scene today. The Egyptian military is making veiled threats against the American-supported Muslim Brotherhood Morsi government. The civil war in Syria is spreading into Lebanon. The threat of an Islamist takeover in Jordan has never been greater. And Iran, with the help of North Korea, inches ever closer to a nuclear weapon.
Nothing suggests the administration changing its policies on these realities. The US Government continues to support Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey in supplying the increasingly Islamist dominated rebels in Syria, and now will provide non-lethal aid directly. No meaningful pressure has been exerted on Egypt to change course, to push economic reforms or lessen growing repression against Christians and liberals. Jordan is, as ever, almost completely off the American radar. And while the sanctions policy against Iran has hurt the middle and lower classes, it has only increased the regime’s belligerence. The idea that Obama is coming to Israel to inform it of significant policy changes is the most far-fetched interpretation of all.
So why now? The simplest explanation may be the best; that in his second term Obama has less to lose and will at least gain a badly needed American PR boost by finally going, and that, in the absence of overt embarrassments, the trip will be deemed a success.
Based on the administration’s habit of doubling down on bad calls, chances are that the news Obama is bringing is a commitment to more of the same. A trip half way around the world for those reasons will undramatic as it is unproductive, and for that reason we should expect the trip to be couched in terms of “unprecedented security cooperation” between Israel and the US, and “being on the same page about Iran.” Photo-ops and talking past one another will be the norm. The stage has been set by the announcement that the US will keep funding joint development of anti-missile programs regardless of sequestration budget cutbacks. But the question of what might be accomplished remains.
But at another level the visit is dangerous. For one thing it will inevitably expose just how out of sync the US is with Israel as well as the region. The bad chemistry between Obama and Netanyahu will produce awkward body language when they meet. American spokesmen will visibly dance around unwanted questions regarding Hamas and Hezbollah, or Muslim antisemitism. The famously aggressive Israeli press will analyze Obama’s every move and every word, as will the Palestinian press. And despite carefully stage-managed meetings with selected groups, groups of Israelis and Palestinians are likely to loudly protest, causing embarrassment all around.
But the real impact of the Obama visit to Israel will not be in Israel but rather in Arab and Muslim countries. After all, it is in those countries that Obama has arguably (and if popularity polls are to be believed, unsuccessfully) invested the most political capital, and it is there that his trip to Israel will create the most disappointment and resentment. The ‘Arab Street’ will want to see overt confrontation between Israel and the US and will be disappointed when it doesn’t appear. More nuanced observers in those societies will assume other forms of American pressure on Israel, because they desire it, and then will be disappointed when evidence does not quickly appear. And virtually all local observers, especially in government ministries and official media, will obsess over the visit as a welcome respite from the situations in Syria and Egypt. The near tragic element of Obama’s visit and its timing then is that it plays directly into the region’s traditional use of Israel as a weapon of mass distraction.
Obama’s visit, by virtue of being routine and ill-timed has the potential to feed the region’s worst instincts. Disappointment with Obama will quickly turn to the default setting of blaming Israel. Is that Obama’s true goal, a back handed form of incitement? Probably not. Nothing in the Obama’ administration’s international dealings suggests this level of sophistication; its manufacture of resentment is generally reserved only for the Republican Party. But that will be one of its effects and it will, in all probability, set back the cause of peace, and that of addressing the region’s other issues.
Alex Joffe is a historian and archaeologist. He is a Shillman-Ginsburg Fellow of the Middle East Forum.
PA portrays Israel in a positive light
The Palestinian Authority daily newspaper seldom prints positive articles
about Israelis and almost never portrays those they call “settlers” in a positive
The following is the article from the official PA daily: [Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, March 5, 2013]
Headline: “Settler and peace activist Rabbi Menachem Froman has passed away”
“Yesterday, well-known Israeli Rabbi Menachem Froman, who maintained friendships with Palestinian officials, passed away at the age of 68 after a long battle with
the [cancer] disease – as reported by the Israeli media. Menachem Froman was born in 1945 in Mandatory Palestine. He was the Rabbi of the
Tekoa settlement located in the southern part of the occupied West Bank and worked vigorously towards a peaceful solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
According to Rabbi Froman, the Jewish and Muslim spiritual leaders are the most appropriate people to find a solution which will lead to peace, since this conflict
has a religious nature. Based on this view, he maintained ties with PLO leaders, specifically with historical leader Yasser Arafat, and also met with leaders of the Hamas movement.
Froman is the founder of the peace movement, Land of Peace, whose members are both settlers and Palestinians. He criticized the violations committed by the most extreme
settlers against Palestinian targets, and visited a few vandalized mosques to express solidarity. Rabbi Froman used to stress that he is willing to live in a Palestinian state in
the event that Jewish settlements in the West Bank would be evacuated. Froman, who fell ill with a type of cancer, hoped to ‘be capable of contributing to peace until his final breath.'”
by Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik