Archive for June, 2008

Results of the prisoner swap will be felt in the future

Monday, June 30th, 2008

News item:

Hamas on Monday said it was emboldened by Israel’s decision to trade Hezbollah terrorist Samir Kuntar for Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev.

Gaza strongman Mahmoud Zahar, speaking to the independent Al-Quds radio station, said Hamas would take advantage of this decision “to release people Israel accused of having blood on their hands like Samir Kuntar. We have to take advantage of this to release our prisoners”…

Amos Gilad, a retired general involved in the Egyptian-brokered negotiations to free Schalit, told Army Radio that Sunday’s cabinet decision would have no effect on the talks.

“Hamas’s demands regarding Gilad Schalit have been known for some time,” he said before Zahar spoke. “They haven’t been influenced by the contacts with Hezbollah.”

Yes, their demands have been known for some time. The difference is that now they can be sure that they will be met.

Here’s the deal that Israel made with Hezbollah:

According to the resolution that was approved by an overwhelming majority of 22-3, Israel will receive Goldwasser and Regev, as well as a Hezbollah report on the disappearance of airman Ron Arad, captured in Lebanon in 1986, and the remaining body parts of soldiers killed during the Second Lebanon War.

In exchange, Israel will release Lebanese terrorist Samir Kuntar, responsible for the brutal deaths of four Israelis in Nahariya in 1979; four Hezbollah fighters being held by Israel; dozens of bodies of infiltrators and terrorists, including eight Hezbollah men; and information that will be given to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on the disappearance of four Iranian diplomats in Beirut in 1982, during Israel’s invasion.

After these exchanges are made, Israel is to release an undetermined number of Palestinian security prisoners. According to the cabinet resolution, the number of prisoners to be released, as well as their identities, will be determined by Israel. Hezbollah, according to government sources, demanded the release of 700 Palestinians, something that Israel did not agree to.  — Jerusalem Post

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert explained:

Olmert, in his lengthy comments to the cabinet, summarized the agonizing moral question lurking behind the decision, saying that “there is no escape from dealing with the fundamental and essential issue of what the obligation is for a country which sends its soldiers into battle, and they are taken captive while in its service.”

Olmert said that while the country’s values demanded that no soldier be left behind, “over the years we also learned that this obligation has limits. A country must have limits even when dealing with the price of freedom for soldiers, and the price for their very lives.” Indicating that once this deal, and the deal for the release of Gilad Schalit, were done with, Israel would establish new game rules for dealing with prisoner swaps, he said there was a need to set “organized, agreed-upon and firm procedures to deal with this issue in the future, and we will do so soon.”

Olmert said that he struggled with the question of whether holding out now would have brought about a better deal, and that he concluded that if Israel followed that path it could well face a situation similar to the situation it faces with [missing IAF navigator Ron] Arad – that the fate of the missing soldiers would not be known for decades.

Olmert also said that it was not a ‘good’ decision, that there can be no good decision in this situation. Of course he is right about this. An operation to return a soldier from the battlefield, dead or alive, justifies a very high price, and there are plenty of cases in which such a price has been paid under fire by the comrades of a captured, wounded or dead soldier.

The problem in this case is that it is not a fixed price. It is an open-ended commitment to pay a similar price every time an Israeli falls into enemy hands. Saying that there will be a set procedure for dealing with such situations in the future is meaningless: if the government could not withstand the pressure today, what will change if there are guidelines?

There was a guideline that Israel would not make trades for prisoners with ‘blood on their hands’, but this has been officially changed in connection with the Schalit negotiations so that those convicted murderers who did not actually pull the trigger themselves could be released. Leaving aside the fact that this means that the planners of suicide operations like the Passover Seder Massacre are now eligible (one assumes that those who blew themselves up are not), Kuntar very literally had the blood of 4-year old Einat Haran on his hands. Very literally. So much for guidelines, for ‘next time it will be different’.

When will the next ‘next time’ be? How hard is it to grab some Israeli kids traveling in India or Thailand?

I’ve made these suggestions before, but here they are again:

  • Israel must establish and carry out a death penalty for terrorist murder. So there will be no Kuntars to exchange.
  • The government needs to stop worrying so much about international reactions to its actions and do what’s necessary to survive. The enemy’s success at asymmetric warfare depends on Israel’s bending to pressure to avoid civilian casualties.
  • Asymmetric warfare also depends on keeping the level of conflict low enough so that the victim cannot bring its superior firepower to bear. Therefore, Israel should escalate the conflict.

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My worst nightmares are their reality

Saturday, June 28th, 2008

Tomorrow (Sunday) the Israeli cabinet is expected to decide whether to free the brutal multiple murderer Samir Kuntar in return for two Israeli soldiers, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev — or their bodies, since there has been no sign of life from them since their capture by Hezbollah two years ago. At the same time, indirect negotiations are underway with Hamas to free Gilad Schalit, who has been held in Gaza for an even longer time, in return for hundreds of prisoners — including the planners of the Passover Seder Massacre in Netanya of 2002, where 30 were murdered by a suicide bomber.

Both the left-of-center Ami Isseroff (“Hezbollah prisoner swap: it’s not too late to save our boys and girls“) and the right-wing Caroline Glick (“Not a personal affair“) have argued eloquently against agreeing to the deals. They point out the obvious:

  • that if the deals are made, the kidnappings will have accomplished their purpose and will certainly be followed by more of the same;
  • that the return of a living, unrepentant, murderer for the bodies of Israelis will establish that terrorist kidnappers needn’t even keep their captives alive in the future; and
  • that the hundreds (perhaps more than a thousand) Hamas prisoners that would be released in a deal for Schalit, prisoners who were taken in operations in which Israeli soldiers lost their lives, would certainly go on to kill many more Israelis.

Yes, it is correct that Jews are required to reedem captives; the obligation derives from Abraham’s redemption of Lot from captivity (Gen. 14). But is there an obligation to redeem present captives (or their remains) if that act is certain to lead to captivity and death for more Jews in the near future? Glick writes,

That Israel will pay a price in blood if the deals go through is a certainty. That more Israelis will meet the fates of Schalit, Regev and Goldwasser is a certainty. The only thing we do not know today is the names of the victims. They could be any one of us. Indeed, they are all of us. For all of us are equally targeted simply by virtue of the fact that we are Israelis.

The situation of the families is tragic, and we who are not in their position may not criticize them for their efforts in trying to save their loved ones. My own son was part of many missions in South Lebanon before the withdrawal in 2000, often in close proximity to Hezbollah positions. My worst nightmares became horrible reality for these families.

The Israeli government must not give in to the pressure to make these trades, so that more nightmares do not become real.

Update [29 Jun 0823 PDT]: Of course the cabinet has decided (by a vote of 22-3) to swap a live, undoubtedly grinning Kuntar for the bodies of Regev and Goldwasser.

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Oh no! Fatah fires rockets behind Hamas’ back!

Thursday, June 26th, 2008

Does anyone take this seriously?

The Hamas government in the Gaza Strip voiced its rage on Thursday after Gaza militants fired two rockets into southern Israel Thursday, causing no injuries but further straining a shaky, week-old truce between Israel and the Gaza rulers. [my emphasis]

The militant group Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, affiliated with Hamas rivals Fatah, claimed responsibility for Thursday’s Qassam strikes. In a statement carried by the official Palestinian news agency Ma’an, Hamas warned the militant factions against violating the terms of the cease fire with Israel, saying such violations harmed the Palestinian national interest. Hamas also threatened to take the necessary steps against the violators. — Ha’aretz

1) The truce has been reported as ‘strained’ almost since the beginning. When do we decide that it’s been broken?

2) Fatah did it? But Fatah are the ‘moderates’ who control the PA, and who are paid by the US to be Israel’s friends. By the way, did you know that PA employees in Gaza, those who work for Fatah and Hamas alike, are also paid from PA funds? So my tax dollars bought those Qassams.

3) By the way, speaking of money, did you know that Israel is helping Hamas launder huge sums of money that are being smuggled into ‘blockaded’ Gaza?  This is a truly amazing story, from Elder of Ziyon.

4) Can you just pick up a pack of rockets at your local Qassam shop and fire them without Hamas’ permission? When Hamas was annoyed at Fatah operatives during the takeover last summer, they shot them in the kneecaps and threw them off tall buildings. Will they do this again? Why would the Fatah people take such a risk to shoot a few rockets unless they had Hamas’ approval? Come on, folks!

5) This is for Ha’aretz: why do you use the word ‘militants’ in the English version of this story? In Hebrew you just referred to Fatah’s al-Aqsa Brigades. If you really need to insert some kind of description, they are terrorists.

6) Everyone predicted this. Everyone knew that there would be terrorism during the ‘truce’ and Hamas would point its finger at someone else.  Everyone knew that there would be tremendous pressure on Israel not to retaliate. Everyone knew all kinds of reasons why the truce was a horrible idea. The Chief of staff and the head of the internal security service (Shabak) were opposed. And yet Israel agreed.

This is actually a positive development, because it might shorten the ‘truce’.

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Barn gases and murder in stages

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

This guy Ami Isseroff claims to be a left-winger. Whatever he is, he is dead on with this piece.

Humans have a great capacity for accommodation. After you work in a barn for a while, you don’t notice the smell. This normally adaptive capability can be lethal.

Read the rest here: “Gaza Cease Fire: Slow Murder?

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What’s scary about Obama?

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

Dry Bones: Obama makes me nervous

Obama makes me nervous (courtesy Dry Bones blog)

What’s scary about Obama?

Barack Obama has certainly done his best to allay our fears. Public comments at a Cleveland synagogue and at the AIPAC convention, if not the stuff of dreams, were no less pro-Israel than those of Bush or McCain. I get emails every other day from the Obama campaign refuting this or that scurrilous rumor.

Jewish support is very important to Obama, because it is concentrated in critical states like Florida and Ohio, where — thanks to an electoral system matched in its dysfunctionality only by that of Israel — a few swing voters can affect the outcome of a national election.

Michael Freund wrote,

Early last month, you’ll recall, headlines blared in the US and Israeli press trumpeting the results of a Gallup survey conducted back in April which found that American Jews preferred Democratic hopeful Barack Obama by a margin of 61 to 32 over his GOP rival.

For many observers, it seemed to confirm the time-honored tradition that American Jews continue to remain solidly in the Democratic camp. After all, a two-to-one margin represents a fairly compelling advantage.

[But a decline] became apparent in another, more recent Gallup poll published on June 5, which showed that the race for support among American Jews has begun to tighten, with Obama now leading McCain by a margin of 57 to 35.

That represents a narrowing of the gap from 29 to 22 points in just one month…

Moreover, this latest poll was conducted after it had become clear that Obama was set to be the Democratic nominee, whereas the previous survey took place when Hillary Clinton was still very much in the race as well…

Sure, you might be thinking, but he is still getting 57 percent of the Jewish vote in the latest poll, and that is still a healthy majority. That may be true, but consider the following: both Bill Clinton and Al Gore each won approximately 80 percent of the Jewish vote when they sought the presidency. And even the dour and uninspiring Democratic candidate John Kerry was able to take home 75 percent in the 2004 contest.

Freund thinks that the Wright issue hurt Obama among Jews, and this is undoubtedly true. But that has pretty much blown over by now. He also mentions Obama’s flip-flop over the status of Jerusalem. But I doubt that anyone took his original statement seriously; I know I didn’t.

My own feeling is that it has more to do with a perception that the Democratic Party has moved to the left generally. And today the extreme Left is often antisemitic and always violently anti-Israel. While Jews are still predominately liberal on economic and social issues, they are very sensitive to even a whiff of antisemitism, and there are certainly elements on the left wing of the Democratic party — you will recall that Al Sharpton was allowed to give one of the opening speeches at the 2004 Democratic convention — that give a Jew pause.

Some of them are quite outspoken, in places like MoveOn.org’s forums, the Daily Kos, and personal diaries found on MyBarackObama.com pages; and right-wing bloggers have been gleefully drawing attention to them (in the case of the Obama sites, moderators have tried to delete them before they are noticed). Although many Jews, especially younger ones, feel less connection with Israel than in the past, they are not dumb enough to miss the connection between violent hatred of Israel and antisemitism.

Perhaps it is not so much Obama himself — who is not antisemitic and who supports Israel as much (or as little) as any other mainstream American politician — but rather that Jews are finally starting to grasp the fact that since 1967 the primary source of antisemitism has shifted from the Right to the Left. And perhaps they prefer the uninspired economics  of John McCain to what they fear a Democratic victory would drag along with it. Certainly some of Obama’s anti-Israel advisers and former advisers like Rob Malley, Samantha Power, and Zbigniew Brzezinski have fed this worry.

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A grain of truth, a silo of wishful thinking

Tuesday, June 24th, 2008

I am going to repeat a comment made by Shalom Freedman on my previous post (“Sarkozy almost gets it“), because I think it raises a question that deserves a post of its own. Freedman said,

It may be that the ascent of ‘Hamas’ means in effect there will be no real negotiations for years to come. How to convince the Americans and Europeans of this is another question.

But what we also have to understand (I do not say that we have to accept it) is that there is absolutely no one in the world who agrees with the position that Judea and Samaria are Eretz Yisrael and should and must belong to the State of Israel. The ‘occupation’ mantra is not simply accepted by our haters but rather by every government, meaning the United States, we are strongly allied with.

So we those people who truly care about Israel and the land of Israel, and who at the same time want peace — must understand the contradiction and difficulty of our own position. I find something deeply objectionable when I am pleased that once again ‘Hamas’ or ‘Fatah’ have revealed themselves to be incorrigible terrorists.

It is almost as if I am frightened by the idea that there may be Palestinians (I am not sure there really are any) who want a true peace with Israel. I see something at fault in my, and in may I say ‘our attitude’ here.

While I find dangerous the attempt by some of our leaders to make the Palestinians, Fatah, for instance ‘kasher’ for real peace negotiations when they are not — I also am not at ease with my own attitude.

That is, what if the Palestinians agreed to a demilitarized state in the great part of Judea and Samaria and Gaza — agreed truly to an end of the conflict — agreed to recognize Israel as a Jewish state and not to try to undermine it demographically or otherwise — what if the Palestinians said that they truly wanted to focus on building their own society and care for the well-being of their own people?

I wonder if I would change my own traditional view about our need to keep almost all of Judea and Samaria and say — we’ll keep the large Jewish population centers, the areas vital to security and that’s all.

There is something essentially Jewish about this statement, the attitude that one always has to examine oneself, one’s behavior and one’s beliefs. Can you imagine an Arab writing something like this?

Freedman, who is what they call in Israel ‘religious’, feels a very strong connection to the entire Land of Israel. After all, Abraham  is buried in Hevron, not Dizengoff Center. God did not mention the Green Line to Moses.

What I think he is saying is that he understands the grain of truth that the Left has fixated upon, which is that real peace would justify real sacrifice. And there is a tremendous tension between this and Freedman’s desire as a Jew for the Land of Israel to be in Jewish hands (or even accessible to Jews — which it was not from 1948-1967).

Someone who thinks that the Torah is just a story doesn’t feel the same tension. Although such a person may want to hold on to the territories for security reasons, he will not really understand the sacrifice that the ‘peace process’ calls for. So the secular Left, while prepared to make concessions in the area of security, thinks that they are manageable. What a religious person gives up is much greater, something that many secular Israelis have absolutely no grasp of. When someone says “yes, it’s improbable that the Palestinians are serious, but we have to try” he is asking someone else to make a huge sacrifice toward his dubious experiment.

But in any event, although even a religious person may come to think that it would be worth sacrificing the territories for real peace, the stubborn, brute, undeniable fact is that there are no Palestinians that both want to and are capable of making this bargain. And there are not likely to be any in the near future.

There are many reasons for this: Palestinian society is dominated by gangs with guns, Palestinians universally believe that all of Israel belongs to them, Palestinian culture sees honor and ‘justice’ as more important than economic development (especially when the ones saying this have guns and can take what they want), Palestinians see any compromise as emasculation, Islamists among them believe that a Jewish state in Palestine is forbidden by Islam, etc. Palestinian educational, religious and media institutions, supported by outside rejectionist forces, have nutured and encouraged these tendencies in their most radical forms and continue to do so.

So although the major premise that says that ‘real peace would justify great sacrifices’ may be true, the minor one that ‘real peace is achievable’ is not only not true, it’s not even imaginable with today’s Palestinians. This is where the Left mixes its grain of truth with a whole silo full of wishful thinking.

Hamas does do us a service when it makes explicit the almost universal Palestinian position that there can be no permanent peace with Israel, only temporary utilitarian truces. If this will help convince the US and the Europeans that continued pressure on Israel for concessions will have the effect of destabilizing the region, so much the better.

To return to the tension between his desire for peace and his connection to Eretz Yisrael that Freedman feels, I can only say that there is in no sense a real choice that he needs to make.  And I am not sure how hard we are required to struggle with questions whose chances of becoming relevant are close to zero.

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Sarkozy almost gets it

Monday, June 23rd, 2008

French President Nicolas Sarkozy is visiting Israel and has made several statements that are quite positive. For example,

“I reiterate here in the clearest manner: As far as France is concerned, a nuclear Iran is totally unacceptable,” Sarkozy declared. “France is determined to continue to lead, along with its partners, a policy that integrates gradually intensifying sanctions with openness, in case Iran chooses to honor its international obligatons.”

France, he said, “is Israel’s friend, and will always stand by her side when her security or existence are threatened. Those who scandalously call for the destruction of Israel will always, always, find France blocking their path.”  — Jerusalem Post

But that’s not all he said:

“The truth is that Israel’s security will only be guaranteed when we see, finally, a neighboring Palestinian state,” Sarkozy told the Israeli Parliament in Jerusalem today on the second day of his three-day visit that includes a stop in Bethlehem, in the Palestinian Territories…

Sarkozy, the first French leader to speak to the Knesset since Francois Mitterrand in 1982, called for the “total and immediate stop of settlements expansion.” — Bloomberg

‘Settlements’, he clarified, include Jewish neighborhoods of East Jerusalem, and ‘expansion’ means any construction in these neighborhood, even if their borders are not expanded at all.

While Sarkozy appears to be a big improvement over Chirac from an Israeli point of view, nevertheless he seems to share the US State Department’s position that any Israeli presence across the green line ‘prejudges’ the final borders and is therefore unacceptable.

Considering that the territories passed from the British Mandate through an illegal Jordanian occupation beginning in 1948 — one imposed by force and characterized by ethnic cleansing of Jewish inhabitants — and finally were legally occupied by Israel as the outcome of  a war of aggression against Israel in 1967, there is no reason that Arabs should be permitted to build anything in the territories any more than Jews.

Of course the truth is that the Europeans as well as the State Department have long since prejudged the issue themselves, and are of the opinion that the cease-fire lines of 1967 represent the only legitimate borders of the State of Israel, and that what lies outside of them is “Palestinian land”, as the BBC would say. This is demonstrated by the complaints of Condoleezza Rice and President Sarkozy about ‘settlement expansion’.

The friendly Sarkozy, like the less-friendly Rice, wishes to impose a settlement on the Israelis and Palestinians in which Israel will be returned to 1967 borders. A promise to this effect was made by Henry Kissinger to the Iraqi ambassador in 1975, and apparently the commitment has been ‘inherited’ by the leader of the Arab world today, Saudi Arabia. In any event, it has become a foundation stone of US and European policy.

It’s interesting that Kissinger said that Israel could be reduced in size to ‘historic proportions’ (I presume he is not referring to the historic proportions of King David’s time), thus ignoring the part of UN resolution 242 which calls for secure borders.

Unfortunately, because of the ascendancy of Hamas and for other reasons, it it not possible to create a Palestinian state in the territories today, consistent with Israel’s security. And even if it were possible, the 1967 borders certainly don’t meet the criterion of being ‘secure’.

The best approach for the West, including Sarkozy and the US, would be to recognize that they have put the cart before the horse in demanding a Palestinian state.

To reverse Sarkozy’s statement, I would say that peace and a Palestinian state can only come into being when Israel’s security is assured, and that means that Iran and others must give up their radical rejectionism of Israel and stop trying to destroy the Jewish state, and that Hamas and Hezbollah must be disarmed or destroyed.

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Iranian strategy and Israeli response

Sunday, June 22nd, 2008

IAF F-15I

IAF F-15I

News item:

Iran’s defense minister has warned of an “unlimited destructive” response if they are attacked by Israel, according to Iranian State TV Sunday.

Mostafa Mohammad Najjar said Sunday that “Iran will strongly counter any hostile action with a destructive response, considering all options regardless of time and place.”

Najjar called a recent Israeli military exercise a “psychological operation” saying Iran will not initiate any tension or conflict.

US military officials on Friday said they believed the large-scale IAF exercises were aimed partly at warning Iran of its capabilities to attack Teheran’s nuclear sites.

Despite all of its bluster about wiping Israel off the map, and all of its antisemitic insults, the Iranian regime is actually afraid of Israel.

Unlike some, I do not think that the Iranian strategy against Israel is to directly attack it with nuclear bombs. This is 1) because Ahmadinejad has clearly explained his (non-nuclear) strategy, and I tend to believe megalomaniac antisemites (like Hitler) when they threaten Jews; and 2) because Israel retains a very powerful second-strike capability which could quite literally send Iran “back to the stone age” in the immortal words of General Curtis LeMay.

The Iranian strategy appears to be to destroy Israel by conventional means, so as not to trigger a nuclear response. To this end, Iran is sponsoring a massive buildup of missile forces in Syria, Hezbollah-dominated Lebanon, and Hamas-controlled Gaza.

The long-term plan is to weaken Israel through low-intensity, asymmetrical conflict, while strengthening these proxy forces. Ironically, this process works in synergy with pressure initiated by Iran’s enemy Saudi Arabia and applied via the US for Israel to concede territory to the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank. Although the US and the Saudis wish to establish a countervailing power to the presently Iranian-backed Hamas, this will most likely fail and result in Hamas control of the PA.

At some point, think the Iranians,  the combination of proxy strength and Israeli weakness will tip the balance of power against Israel.

Iran’s nuclear program is intended to enable Iran to project its power more effectively in the region at the expense of Saudi Arabia and the US, so as to get control of Middle Eastern oil reserves and a stranglehold on the world economy. Ultimately, Iran wishes to reduce the US to a second-rate power with little influence beyond its borders. It will probably not be necessary for these weapons to be actually exploded anywhere for them to be an effective deterrent to Western interference with Iran’s plans.

Goals are both economic and political, with the added benefit of fitting the Islamist program of establishing a Shiite Caliphate in the Mideast and regaining lands lost to Islam. The destruction of Israel is a way station to this destination, for reasons both strategic  — Israel is militarily quite powerful and an ally of the US — and religious.

An Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear facilities will be quite damaging to Iran’s policy. It will provoke regional conflict before the proxies of Hamas and Hezbollah are strong enough to assure victory, which may greatly reduce or even destroy their capabilities. It will delay the acquisition of nuclear weapons by Iran for at least some years, and make the program even more expensive.

Iran will be expected to respond to an Israeli attack by activating its proxies. Therefore if Israel does attack Iran, she should strike the proxies — Hezbollah, Syria, and Hamas — simultaneously, in order to suppress the response. In addition, Israel will need to do what she has so far not done, which is to allocate the necessary resources to protect the home front against the inevitable missile attacks.

Such a confrontation would be very painful for Israel. In order to be successful, Israeli society will have to be fully mobilized for this struggle. There are political, economic and social factors in Israeli society — for example, the concentration of wealth in a few (private) hands, an incompetent and corrupt government, an increasingly hostile Arab minority, a delusional Left with disproportionate power via the media and judicial system  — which work against success.

There is another alternative, which is to continue to do what Israel has been doing, to deal with the various proxy threats as separate and distinct, to think that Syria will be made less — rather than more — dangerous if she is given the Golan Heights, to allow Hamas and Hezbollah to build up their forces, to pretend that rational appeals for a mutually beneficial peace will be attractive to Iranian satellites, and to depend on the US and the rest of the international ‘community’ to prevent Iran from getting nuclear capability.

The first alternative has a small chance of success. But then, this could have been said in 1948 and 1967.

The second has none at all.

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The wages of sin

Friday, June 20th, 2008

I’ve been profoundly shocked by the developments of the past few weeks: the negotiations with Syria over the Golan heights, the really disastrous decision to agree to a cease-fire with Hamas in Gaza, the offer to the Hezbollah-dominated government of Lebanon to surrender the Sheba farms area, and who knows what secret proposals made to the Palestinian Authority.

“The Olmert-Livni-Barak-Yishai government’s liquidation sale of Israel’s strategic assets opened officially this week. Iran’s proxies have pounced on the merchandise”, writes Caroline Glick,  and she is entirely correct.

But there’s more than just the practical issue of strategic weakness here. There is a psychological/cultural issue which is hugely damaging to Israel as well. After all, Hamas, Fatah and Hezbollah have gotten to the position they are in today by means of terrorism, by killing Israelis — and, in the case of Hezbollah, by murdering Jews worldwide. Syria has indirectly been responsible for terrorism in Israel by its support of Hezbollah and Hamas, and is threatening mass murder with its chemically armed rocket force.

Israel’s behavior is understood by them and by the world as no more or less than surrender. It doesn’t matter if the Israeli government claims that the deals are actually in Israel’s interest — of course they are not — but even if they were, everyone would understand them as capitulations. Terrorism clearly works, and given that, there is no incentive to try anything else. Combine this with the Arab attitude that compromise is castration, and you have a recipe for continued violence.

Along with the major diplomatic defeats above, there are the smaller but particularly painful ones called ‘prisoner exchanges’, in which numerous convicted terrorist murderers are released in return for kidnapped or dead Israelis. Ami Isseroff writes,

It is not a matter of putting “honor” or “justice” or “revenge” above human compassion. The problem is not the release of prisoners with “blood on their hands.” Rather, it is the blood of our soldiers and civilians that will be spilled in the next kidnapping. The success of the Goldwasser-Regev kidnapping will certainly engender yet another one, just as the success of the previous kidnapping, in which Hezbollah traded the degenerate Elhanan Tannenbaum and some dead soldiers for many live prisoners, was probably the decisive factor in motivating the kidnapping of Goldwasser and Regev. How many people will die because of the next kidnapping, and how many will be kidnapped?

Again, Israel teaches her enemies that the wages of sin are very good indeed. You want land, international recognition and immunity from retaliation? Fire rockets into Israel. You want your operatives freed and various other concessions? Kidnap an Israeli.

When will the ghetto-mentality Jews that are making decisions for the state of Israel learn that — especially in the Middle East, but in reality everywhere — the powerless are treated with contempt, and a nation afraid to use her power is in fact powerless?

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Israel’s strategic position damaged by truce, Hezbollah gains

Thursday, June 19th, 2008

Mahmoud Abbas, leader of the Fatah faction and President of the Palestinian Authority (PA), is presently being kept in power in the West Bank by the IDF, which has prevented the popular Hamas from developing a powerful military force there. Now it appears that he thinks that he sees a way to gain an advantage from the truce between Israel and Hamas in Gaza:

Abbas, on a visit to Yemen on Thursday, was quoted as saying he welcomed the Gaza cease-fire and was now open to the formation of a national unity government with Hamas.

Earlier this week, Fatah officials announced that Abbas would soon visit Gaza for the first time since Hamas’s violent takeover of the territory in June 2007, and that a reconciliation between Hamas and Abbas’s Fatah faction was under way.

Two weeks ago, Abbas formed a committee of senior officials to prepare for “national dialogue” with Hamas – spurred by a plan presented a few months ago by Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh. — Jerusalem Post

My guess is that Abbas thinks that the US and Europe are prepared to accept a Hamas presence in the PA, despite the fact that Hamas has not and will not agree to recognize Israel, renounce violence, and accept previous agreements (the Oslo accord) between Israel and the PA. Abbas expects that language will be found to finesse these issues, now that Israel and Hamas are not actually fighting. And Abbas expects that a modus vivendi between Fatah in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza can be reached which will enable him to remain in control of the West Bank and, at least in title, of the PA.

Hamas for its part will be happy to defer its desire to crush Fatah and take over full control of the Palestinian movement for a while, in return for the international recognition and legitimacy that it will get from this agreement.

It’s quite likely that if Hamas can restrain itself and its allies from restarting violence against Israel we will shortly see a reopening of the crossing between Gaza and Egypt, marking — at least implicitly — the international community’s acceptance of Hamas as something more than an outlaw terrorist group, if less (for now) than a legitimate governing power.

While Israel understands that the truce does not include the West Bank — that is, that it can continue to operate against terrorists from Hamas, Fatah’s al-Aqsa brigades, or other factions — Hamas has said that it will not tolerate IDF actions against its members there. And since the truce agreement did not include the release of kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Schalit, we can expect many Hamas members currently imprisoned by Israel to be released in the inevitable trade.

It appears that Israel’s effort to isolate Hamas has failed, and the opportunity for a military solution has passed as well. The next confrontation will likely be between a truncated Israel and a Hamas-dominated Palestinian Authority.

This disaster has been accomplished by the Olmert administration that also allowed Hezbollah to survive the Second Lebanon War, a fact which made the recent takeover of the Lebanese government possible. Now Hezbollah appears to be on track to receive the Sheba Farms area and possibly more as part of the fallout from the botched war.

We can say that in many ways Israel’s strategic position is worse than it has been at any time in the past several decades.

At the same time, Hezbollah is reportedly planning to attack Jewish targets throughout the world, demonstrating the truth of the Zionist principle that the security of Jews everywhere depends on the strength of the Jewish state.

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Dealing with the Devil

Tuesday, June 17th, 2008

Hamas childNews item:

A Hamas spokesman said Tuesday that his organization is committed to an Egyptian-mediated truce deal with Israel set to go into effect Thursday. Sami Abu Zuhri said Hamas will commit to the “zero hour” declared by Egypt…

The MENA agency report cited an unnamed high-level Egyptian official as saying that both sides “have agreed on the first phase” of an Egyptian package to end the violence in the coastal strip.

It said the first phase is a “mutual and simultaneous calm” in the Gaza Strip which will start 6 a.m. Thursday…

 Government spokesman Mark Regev would also not confirm or deny a deal. “What is important is not only words but deeds,” Regev said. “If there is a total absence of terror attacks from Gaza into Israel and if there is an end to arms buildup in Gaza Strip and movement on the hostage Gilad Schalit that will indeed be a new reality.”

This sounds like the “first phase” will include stopping the rocket fire into Israel in exchange for Israel stopping incursions and air activity in Gaza. It may also include opening crossings into Gaza, etc. It will be interesting to see if Hamas will commit to making other factions like Islamic Jihad behave.

Unfortunately it also appears that Schalit’s release is not included. No doubt Hamas will only agree to free him in connection with a huge prisoner release.

Does Israel have the means to verify that arms smuggling has stopped? Probably only partially, if at all. So Hamas will continue to arm, even if an agreement to stop will be part of a later phase. And there are plenty of other things to keep them busy, like training and building fortifications.

What does Israel get? As long as the cease-fire lasts, freedom from rocket and mortar attacks.

What does Hamas get? Time to rebuild, to arm, and to train. Probably more, not less, smuggling. And most importantly, the ability to claim that they are a responsible governing power and to move toward international respectability.

The day that Hamas gets international recognition will be a black day for Israel. The next step will be a takeover of the Palestinian Authority — after all, they won the last election and are far more popular than Fatah, as well as militarily stronger. Such a takeover will put the arms that have been given to Fatah in Hamas hands, and will be analogous to the recent putsch in Lebanon which gave de facto control of the government and army to Hezbollah.

If the IDF is forced to withdraw from most of the West Bank, perhaps in the context of a ‘peace’ agreement, then Israel will be faced with hostile and frankly genocidal Iranian proxy regimes on its northern, southern and eastern borders.

Earlier Tuesday, during a session of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi said that Israel was on a “collision course” with Hamas and that he adopted the stance of intelligence officials, who believed that a truce would be short and fragile.

“The IDF will respect a cease-fire but is also getting ready for a large-scale military operation in the Gaza Strip,” Ashkenazi added.

The real question is not if Israel will directly confront Hamas, but when. Anything that makes Hamas stronger or deters Israel — such as the improved military capability and increased respectability for Hamas that will result from a cease-fire — will make the inevitable confrontation more costly.

A cease-fire is a very bad idea whose time has apparently come.

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Who owns the word ‘peace’?

Sunday, June 15th, 2008

There was a time when people who were in favor of legalized abortion were called ‘pro-abortion’, and those who opposed it ‘anti-abortion’. But ‘pro-abortion’ sounded a little harsh, so the term ‘pro-choice’ was invented. The idea was supposedly that they do not especially like the idea of abortion, but are in favor of allowing women to choose it, if they, er, so choose.

But this was also a  stroke of PR genius, because it makes their opponents ‘anti-choice’, which has very negative, authoritarian connotations. Partly in self-defense and partly to emphasize the fact that they were also opposed to physician-assisted suicide, etc., the previously anti-abortion people became ‘pro-life’.

This was even better than ‘pro-choice’ because it made their opponents either ‘anti-life’ or, better yet, ”pro-death’!

In any event, my head spins when I hear either ‘pro-choice’ or ‘pro-life’, and I have to take a second to translate it back into the much easier-to-understand terminology of pro- and anti-abortion.

Now, why am I talking about this? Because the same thing has happened to the word ‘peace’, which has been appropriated by the Left. In the context of the Mideast, being ‘pro-peace’ means being in favor of Israel making concessions.

Peace Now, Jewish Voice for Peace, Gush Shalom, the “pro-Israel pro-peace” J Street — all call for an Israeli withdrawal from the territories, the return of the Golan to Syria, negotiations with Hamas, etc.

Would these policies bring peace? Probably not. Returning the Golan to Syria, for example, would probably increase the chances of war by improving Syria’s strategic position. Negotiating with Hamas would strengthen Hamas and make it more likely for Hamas to get international recognition without mitigating its commitment to destroy Israel.  Withdrawal from the West Bank would lead to a Hamas takeover there. These events would lead away from peace, not toward it.

But my opposing the policies of the ‘peace camp’ makes me ‘anti-peace’ or even ‘pro-war’. What nonsense! Who gave the Left title to the word ‘peace’?

Those who advocate a posture of strength, not concessions are actually pro-peace. Perhaps the others should be called ‘pro-appeasement’ or even ‘pro-surrender’.

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