Archive for August, 2008

Barak’s generous offer was not a myth

Monday, August 25th, 2008

Sometimes you have to repeat the same facts over and over, because the other side never stops lying about them.

A case in point is the Clinton-Barak offer to Yasser Arafat in December 2000. Supporters of Israel have held that the offer was more than fair, an indication that Israel was prepared to make real sacrifices for peace, and that Arafat’s rejection of it and the ensuing intifada were proof of Palestinian unwillingness to accept any reasonable compromise.

Arafat — and since then Jimmy Carter and other supporters of the Palestinian cause — have claimed that the offer was not reasonable at all. For example, Lawrence Davidson — who, incidentally will be presenting several papers at a forthcoming conference sponsored by the California State University Fresno Middle East Studies Program — wrote the following:

The “generous offer” has been disproved by both American and Israeli experts. For instance, among others, Robert Malley, President Clinton’s advisor on Israeli-Arab affairs who was at Camp David II; Ron Pundak, Director of the Peres Center for Peace; Professor Jeff Halper (Ben Gurion University); Uri Avnery, head of Gush Shalom, Israel’s foremost peace organization; and finally Ehud Barak himself has twice (in the New York Times of May 24, 2001 and in the Israeli hebrew newspaper Yedi’ot Ahronoth of August 29, 2003) denied that his offer was anywhere near “generous.”

What did Barak really offer? According to the above reports his offer gave the Palestinians a little over 80% of the West Bank carved into nearly discontinuous cantons. The Israeli government would have controlled all the Palestinian borders (none of which would touch on another Arab state), it would have controlled the air space above the Palestinian territory, most of the major aquifers, retained sovereignty over East Jerusalem, maintained almost all Israeli settlements and access roads, controlled immigration into the Palestinian “state,” and retained the Jordan Valley through an indefinite “long term lease.” This is an offer that no Israeli would ever accept. However, most Israelis and Americans do not know these details and believe instead in the myth of generosity. — Davidson, “Orwell and Kafka in Israel/Palestine

Before discussing the substance of Davidson’s allegation, let’s look at his sources.

Ron Pundak was one of the Oslo agreement negotiators, but he was not present at Camp David. His 2001 article “From Oslo to Taba: What Went Wrong?” appears to be Davidson’s source for the above. Pundak unsurprisingly argues that Oslo was a great idea, but it failed due to “miscalculations and mismanagement” on both sides, especially by former PM Binyamin Netanyahu and Barak. He does not specifically cite a source for the 80% figure, but a map included is an “approximation based on Israeli and Palestinian sources”.

Robert Malley was at Camp David as a special assistant to President Clinton. He is highly controversial today because he favors recognizing Hamas and calls for Israel to negotiate directly with Hamas. His 2001 article “Camp David: The Tragedy of Errors” (with Hussein Agha) appears to be Davidson’s source. In it, Malley explains that Barak’s positions were always presented verbally in terms of what he would agree to if there were a final agreement, because of his [justified] fear that the Palestinians would ‘pocket’ any concrete written proposal and then use it as a starting point for further demands. What Barak was in fact prepared to accept then appeared as American ‘ideas’ from the mouth of President Clinton. Malley argues that therefore there was actually no ‘real’ offer other than some ‘bases for negotiation’ which were in the 90% range. He sees this as justification for the Palestinian claim that this was Barak’s best offer. But this is not the case by Malley’s own account of Barak’s negotiation technique!

Jeff Halper and Uri Avnery, with all due respect (not much) were not in a position to know what was offered at Camp David and are partisans of the Palestinian cause. Halper is presently in Gaza as part of the “Free Gaza” mission.

Now, what about the most interesting source, Ehud Barak himself? Try as I might, I could not find a mention of Barak in the New York Times archive on May 24, 2001 (nor could I find the Yediot reference). However, the following appears in an August 6, 2001 interview with Clyde Haberman of the Times:

When those negotiations collapsed, Israelis and American officials, including President Bill Clinton, put the blame squarely on Mr. Arafat. But newly published accounts [Malley, Agha and Pundak?] offer a different perspective. They say that all the parties at Camp David share responsibility, among them Mr. Barak for supposedly overbearing negotiating tactics.

Stung by the criticism, the former prime minister asked for time to make his case against what he called the ”gossipizing of history.” He has never been one to admit mistakes freely, and he was no different today when he said, ”I can answer almost every gossip item.”

He had offered the Palestinians more than any Israeli leader ever, he said, but his ”peace partner” chose to turn his back.

But there is a highly specific and authoritative source for the details of the offers. Dennis Ross was the chief Middle East negotiator for both Presidents George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton. He was intimately involved in the negotiations from start to finish. Here is what he said about the final Clinton-Barak offer:

In actuality, Clinton offered two different proposals at two different times. In July, he offered a partial proposal on territory and control of Jerusalem. Five months later, at the request of Ehud Barak, the Israeli prime minister, and Arafat, Clinton presented a comprehensive proposal on borders, Jerusalem, Palestinian refugees and security. The December proposals became known as the Clinton ideas or parameters.

The Clinton parameters would have produced an independent Palestinian state with 100 percent of Gaza, roughly 97 percent of the West Bank and an elevated train or highway to connect them. Jerusalem’s status would have been guided by the principle that what is currently Jewish will be Israeli and what is currently Arab will be Palestinian, meaning that Jewish Jerusalem — East and West — would be united, while Arab East Jerusalem would become the capital of the Palestinian state…

Since the talks fell apart, there has emerged a mythology that seeks to defend Arafat’s rejection of the Clinton ideas by suggesting they weren’t real or that Palestinians would have received far less than what had been advertised.

Arafat himself later claimed he was not offered even 90 percent of the West Bank or any of East Jerusalem. But that was myth, not reality.


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Ships of fools arrive!

Sunday, August 24th, 2008

The ships of fools have arrived in Gaza, giving rise to a massive lack of interest in most places. The Jerusalem Post reports

Speaking from Gaza on Sunday, Ben-Gurion University professor Jeff Halper told The Jerusalem Post that he hoped to cross back into Israel via Erez Crossing on Tuesday, while his colleagues, a group of activists who arrived in Gaza’s port on Saturday, would began a “revolving ferry from Cyprus to Gaza.”

Halper, an articulate former American, has been fighting for the Palestinian cause for decades, aggressively pushing the envelope between dissent and treason. It’s really remarkable that a country which, in Halper’s words is “one of the world’s strongest and most ruthless military powers” hasn’t yet put a bullet in the back of his neck, thrown him into the sea from an aircraft or simply locked him up and thrown away the key. He probably thinks this is because his martyrdom would be embarrassing, but actually it is because Israel is not really all that ruthless.

In any event, even if consorting with the hostile terrorist entity Hamas does not constitute treason — it ought to — Halper has certainly violated multiple laws and should be arrested and prosecuted if he attempts to re-enter Israel (hmm — there’s an idea: don’t let him back).

Asked about criticism from Gaza Palestinians who said that his group brought far less humanitarian supplies with them than was initially expected, Halper dismissed the idea that the group’s only goal was a humanitarian one.

“This trip wasn’t humanitarian,” he said. “It was political. The point was to break the siege and change Israeli policy in Gaza. It wasn’t a one-time thing. We are going to continue bringing boats into Gaza, and those will have humanitarian assistance on board.” Halper said that the first two boats brought small quantities of humanitarian supplies, including hearing aids to be distributed at a Gaza hospital, as to not arrive empty-handed. But the boats, he said, would have to keep coming in.

Quite ironic that the Palestinians complained that the boat was loaded with ‘activists’ rather than supplies! Of course, they really have a surfeit of ‘activists’, and especially don’t need ones who, while they are prepared to applaud murderous violence when committed by Palestinians, aren’t much good for firing rockets or sniping themselves.

In any event, Halper is correct that the trip was entirely political. From an economic point of view, the boats would be a highly expensive way to transport supplies and people into or out of Gaza, compared to the massive subterranean infrastructure underneath the Egyptian border.

Reading the self-important prose of the activists, especially the fulsome Lauren Booth  has been illuminating. Here’s a photo of one of them expressing her love for her Palestinian brothers and sisters. As the saying goes, it’s worth a thousand words.

Activist expressing love

Update [26 Aug 1439 PDT]: Halper has been arrested trying to cross into Israel.

A spokeswoman for protesters who defied a blockade of Gaza by entering by sea said one was arrested after returning to Israel by land. Angela Godfrey-Goldstein said that Jeff Halper, an Israeli citizen, was detained by police after he passed through the Erez crossing. Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said Halper was taken to a police station in southern Israel Tuesday. — Jerusalem Post

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The end of the line for Nasrallah?

Friday, August 22nd, 2008

Nasrallah: worried for good reason?Hezbollah is ignoring a fundamental principle, which is that if you plan to hurt an enemy you should not warn him in advance:

“Hizbullah will soon avenge the assassination of Imad Mughniyeh,” said Sheikh Ahmad Morad, a member of the Hizbullah leadership in southern Lebanon. “The revenge will be shocking and huge surprises are in store,” he added. “We will not allow Israel and its generals to enjoy stability…”

On Wednesday, the Prime Minister’s Office issued a renewed warning to Israelis abroad regarding Hizbullah’s intent to attack and possibly abduct Israeli citizens around the world. — Jerusalem Post

One thing to keep in mind is that Hezbollah is now a major component of the Lebanese government, and holds a veto power in the cabinet. In fact, the government has issued ‘guidelines’ which include this:

Lebanon, its army, its people and its resistance [Hezbollah] have the right to take action to liberate lands that have remained occupied at the Shaba Farms, the hills of Shuba village and the northern portion of the village of Ghajar, with all legitimate means possible, and to resist Israeli aggression.

There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that these ‘occupied’ areas — which are not considered part of Lebanon even by the UN — are simply pretexts to justify continued terrorism against Israel and Israelis. The assassination of Mughniyeh (for which Israel has denied responsibility) is just another pretext.

The various non-Hezbollah factions in Lebanon understand quite well that if Israel responds to Hezbollah actions, it won’t be just Hezbollah that suffers, just as anti-Nazi Germans didn’t escape the disaster of WWII. The parallel is quite close, too, considering that Hitler was appointed Chancellor after receiving about 1/3 of the popular vote, which is about the degree of support Hezbollah and its allies enjoy in Lebanon. But they have little leverage over Hezbollah and its Iranian and Syrian backers.

Historically the Arabs have been overconfident in their ability to confront Israel militarily.  They have interpreted the 2006 Lebanon war as a historic change in the balance of power, and have convinced themselves that Hezbollah’s forces are now the equal of the IDF. This is not the case. Lessons were learned, weaknesses corrected and plans made. If there is a next round — and a massive terror operation by Hezbollah could trigger one — then there is no doubt that the outcome would be much more favorable to Israel.

The real unknown (at least to me) in the equation is whether international forces (mainly, but not only, the US) will allow Israel to fight long enough to inflict permanent damage on Hezbollah. In 2006 Hezbollah was quite unpopular among US policymakers. I am not sure to what extent this still holds, since it seems that US policy toward Hezbollah’s patron Iran has undergone a shift since then.

Other issues include the presence of semi-hostile UN forces in Lebanon, the likelihood of a simultaneous outbreak of hostilities with Hamas, and the need to deter Syria from intervention. But I’m sure that all of this has been taken into account.

As I’ve written, Hezbollah and Hamas are probably more dangerous to Israel in the next few years than a nuclear attack from Iran. Israel’s leaders know this and know that they cannot permanently live under the threat of thousands of Hezbollah missiles.

My guess (as a very amateur psychologist) is that the characteristic Arab need to overcompensate for feelings of inferiority will cause Hezbollah to strike. An Israeli response may well mark the end of the line for Nasrallah.

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Will the US help Israel bomb Iran?

Wednesday, August 20th, 2008

Boeing KC-767 Tanker

Boeing KC-767 Tanker

Possibly this is the “unspecified military equipment” that the US did not wish to provide to Israel:

During his most recent visit to the US earlier this month, Defense Minister Ehud Barak requested that America sell the IAF several Boeing 767 refueling planes. However, the White House refused, as it was not prepared to seem as though it was aiding a potential attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities, the report said.

The IAF has a great need of the planes, as the ones currently used by the air force are extremely old.

Last week, Barak told Army Radio that the US had made it clear it was opposed at the present time to military action against Teheran…

[A US State Department spokesman said] that “the US is committed to Israel’s security” and that “the US would defend Israel from any attack from Iran.”– Jerusalem Post

The US cannot ‘defend’ Israel from a nuclear attack by Iran. Antimissile systems are not 100% reliable, even for long-range missiles, and there are other ways to deliver a bomb. The US can threaten Iran that if they attack Israel they will pay a price. But given the ‘realist’ policy that seems to be determining US policy and is likely to continue to do so in the next administration (see Caroline Glick: “Iran’s American Protector“), can Israel count on this as a real deterrent? Would you?

The US has several reasons to oppose an Israeli attack on Iran:

  1. Iran would retaliate against the US as well as Israel, possibly interfering with passage of oil tankers through the Strait of Hormuz as well as by ordering up terrorist attacks against American interests from its terror subsidiary, Hezbollah.
  2. Iran would make things more difficult for the US in Iraq, from which it hopes to withdraw, by encouraging allied Shiite groups to attack Americans and Sunnis.
  3. Some American policymakers believe that it is more important for America to have good relations with Iran than with Israel. In particular, they are concerned that Iran will ally herself with Russia to oppose American influence in the region.

Both Israel and the US are endangered by an Iranian nuclear bomb, but simply by virtue of geography Israel’s red line will be reached sooner. Therefore there will come a time when Israel feels that she has no alternative but to attack Iran while at the same time the US will oppose it.  The US will suggest that the danger is not as great as it seems, that possibly diplomacy can defuse the crisis, that it will threaten Iran, etc. There is a strong parallel here to the events immediately preceding the 1967 war, including possibly the mischievous activity of the Russians.

An Israeli attack without help from the US in the form of landing rights at US bases, the 767’s mentioned, etc. will be more difficult. But if (when) the point is reached that there is no alternative, then it — like the bombing of Egypt’s airfields in 1967 — will be undertaken regardless of difficulty. This may turn out to be more uncomfortable for the US in the long run.

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The rest of the story

Tuesday, August 19th, 2008

One wonders how much of this — and similar arrangements today — is simply a product of cowardice and expediency, and how much comes about from a degree of approval for the goals, if not the means, of the terrorists.

Francesco Cossiga, former president of Italy, confirmed that his country for years provided Palestinian terror groups with sanctuary and allowed them to set up domestic bases in a secret deal according which the terrorists promised not to target Italian interests…

“The terms of the agreement were that the Palestinian organizations could even maintain armed bases of operation in the country, and they had freedom of entry and exit without being subject to normal police controls, because they were ‘handled’ by the secret services,” the former President wrote…

The pact with the Palestinians didn’t turn out too well for Italy. Palestinian factions are blamed for attacks against Italy in the 1970s and 80s, including an attack at Rome’s airport, its main synagogue, and the hijacking of the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro in which the Palestinian terror pushed overboard a wheelchair bound American Jew, Leon Klinghoffer. Cossinga also said that Palestinian groups were to blame for a devastating 1980 explosion at an Italian train station that killed 85 people and wounded some 200. He said that was likely a “work accident” by Palestinians transporting explosives into Italy. — Israel Insider

Terrorist Abu AbbasYou may recall that the Achille Lauro hijackers sailed to Port Said, Egypt, and after negotiations were allowed to board an Egyptian airliner bound for Tunisia. US President Reagan sent naval aircraft after them, and the plane was forced to land at a NATO base in  Sicily. After a standoff between Italian police and greatly outnumbered US Navy SEALS, the Italians took custody of the prisoners — except for their leader “Abu Abbas” who was allowed to go to Tunisia.  A few of the hijackers were tried, but most ‘escaped’.

Abu Abbas ultimately was captured by the US in Iraq, where he died in captivity.

As Paul Harvey would say, “Now you know… the rest of the story.”

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