Archive for June, 2008

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



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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