Archive for April, 2007

Strangling for peace

Monday, April 30th, 2007

Here’s some vibrant imagery from Veronique de Keyser, a Belgian member of the European Parliament:

Addressing a European Left Group hearing on the situation of Palestinian political prisoners last week, De Keyser deplored the “passivity” of the European Parliament on the Palestinian issue, and hailed the “moderation and maturity” of the Palestinians.

“I wonder how they are able to limit violence in the territories given the background,” the Socialist politician said. “If the Israeli ambassador comes in the future to speak of Israel’s security, I feel like I want to strangle him.” [my emphasis]

She seems to have a ‘thing’ for this particular metaphor, because she also said:

One must wring the neck of the European and German culpability on the Shoah.

No, I do not understand why she appears to have rubbed charcoal on her cheeks in the photo.

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Hamas and the Barbary pirates

Monday, April 30th, 2007

Hamas is pushing hard for international recognition of the Palestinian government that it heads. Yet their behavior is not that of a responsible party (much less a nation) but rather resembles that of the Barbary pirates:

[Hamas leader Khaled] Mashaal said that kidnapped Israeli soldier Cpl. Gilad Shalit will not be released until Israel yields to Palestinian demands. “If the enemy insists on continuing to refuse to free our prisoners, I am saying here that we have every capability to do again what we have done before…”– YNet

There are indeed similarities between the Palestinians and the Barbary pirates. For example, does this not sound like present-day Gaza?

The payment of blackmail, disguised as presents or ransoms, did not always secure safety. The most powerful states in Europe condescended to make payments to them and to tolerate their insults. Religious orders—the Redemptionists and Lazarists — were engaged in working for the redemption of captives and large legacies were left for that purpose in many countries. — Wikipedia

And consider the response from a representative of Tripoli when asked in 1786 why his agents preyed on American ships:

That it was founded on the Laws of their Prophet, that it was written in their Koran, that all nations who should not have acknowledged their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take as Prisoners, and that every Musselman [Muslim] who should be slain in Battle was sure to go to Paradise.

Nothing’s changed in 221 years.

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Winograd report blames more than just officials

Monday, April 30th, 2007

Where's the shame?The Winograd Commission report on the Second Lebanon War has been officially released. As expected, it primarily blames PM Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Amir Peretz, and former Chief of Staff Dan Halutz for the poor outcome.

Olmert, to his credit, said that he “accepts responsibility”. But not so much to his credit, he does not offer to resign — as many Israelis, both to his right and to his left, have demanded.

More important than the assignment of blame to particular individuals is this, from the report:

The IDF was not ready for this war. Among the many reasons for this we can mention a few: Some of the political and military elites in Israel have reached the conclusion that Israel is beyond the era of wars. It had enough military might and superiority to deter others from declaring war against her; these would also be sufficient to send a painful reminder to anyone who seemed to be undeterred; since Israel did not intend to initiate a war, the conclusion was that the main challenge facing the land forces would be low intensity asymmetrical conflicts.

Given these assumptions, the IDF did not need to be prepared for ‘real’ war. There was also no urgent need to update in a systematic and sophisticated way Israel’s overall security strategy and to consider how to mobilize and combine all its resources and sources of strength – political, economic, social, military, spiritual. cultural and scientific – to address the totality of the challenges it faces. [my emphasis]

A number of Israeli voices have explained in detail the cultural phenomenon that lies behind this failure: the wishful thinking by many, especially the academic and political elite, that because Israel seemed so like the US or a European country, it was possible to forget the dangerous neighborhood in which she lives. For example, see Ari Shavit: A Spirit of Absolute Folly, published last August in Ha’aretz.

I’m uncharacteristically optimistic that this war has really served the function of the proverbial “wakeup call”, and that now not only the IDF but Israeli society in general is coming to understand that the time to relax their guard and be a ‘normal’ nation has not yet arrived.

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A completely different universe

Sunday, April 29th, 2007

MK Yossi Beilin of the left-wing Meretz party at Abie Natan’s 80th birthday party:

Beilin said that Natan’s ambitions were “closer than ever” to being realized. “All of the Arab countries are willing to make peace with us,” Beilin said. “Peace is within touching distance.”

He is not even on another planet, but in a completely different universe.

Crunch time for Israel and Hamas in Gaza

Sunday, April 29th, 2007

By Vic Rosenthal

A recent article on ZioNation titled “Israel’s strategy: Gaza and beyond“, by Ami Isseroff, is a must-read. The writer shows that Israel’s military options in dealing with the continuing rocket fire and build-up by Hamas in Gaza are quite limited:

Israeli analysts are insisting that a confrontation with Hamas in Gaza is “inevitable.” On this issue at least, Hamas agrees with Israelis. They believe an Israeli invasion is only a matter of time, and they are, for their own reasons, doing everything possible to hasten the time, as well as to prepare for it. Hamas is provoking Israel with rocket attacks and planning more kidnappings of Israelis, like the one that was foiled recently. At the same time, they are smuggling in increasing quantities of arms, preparing either for defense or for a new “Intifada,” or both…

The only military action that would eliminate the rocket threat and the threat of kidnapping and other actions is total conquest of Gaza. Militarily that is not a major operation for the IDF, though it would involve a significant number of casualties. Diplomatically it is at present out of the question…

Moreover, if Israel were to re-occupy the Gaza strip, what could it do with it and for how long could it occupy it? …The result of such an invasion would only be a forced withdrawal by Israel, allowing Hamas to proclaim another “victory” for “steadfastness” and “resistance.”

Non-military solutions are just as limited. Isseroff suggests that the best option is

…to try to promote Abbas and the moderates and get them back into power in place of the Hamas. Without Hamas competition in the “hate Israel contest,” Palestinians will, it is hoped move to a more moderate position, and Fatah/PLO, which has an increasingly vested interest in a genuine peace process, will help to lead them there.

Unfortunately, he then goes on to show that this is unlikely to work either. It requires at least a moderately non-corrupt Fatah which will care more about the Palestinian people than about feathering personal and family nests, and a modicum of international cooperation:

  • Fatah must show evidence of real reorganization and of a genuine effort to curb corruption in its ranks…
  • Public opinion and international policy must be united and steadfast in understanding the real goals of the Hamas, and in refusing to grant it legitimacy as long as it upholds genocidal, racist policies and continue to practice terror. The support given Hamas by “moderate” Arab states and by the Norwegian and Swiss governments is incompatible with this goal and is sabotaging the already slim chances for peace.