Archive for November, 2008

What do you have to do to be called a terrorist?

Saturday, November 29th, 2008

After a three-day standoff with militants ended amid a fire Saturday at the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower Hotel, the removal of the bodies from the wrecked 105-year-old landmark began… 

On Wednesday night, when a married couple in their 70s went to their third-floor window to see what was happening after hearing gunfire, the attackers blazed away with assault rifles, killing them both. Shards of glass still hung in the panes on Saturday.

When several attackers seized a Jewish outreach center, Nariman House, on Wednesday, neighbors mistook the initial shots for firecrackers in celebration of India’s imminent cricket victory over England. But then two attackers stepped out on a balcony of Nariman House and opened fire on passers-by in an alley nearby. They killed a 22-year-old call center worker who was the sole financial supporter of his widowed mother.

When a tailor locked up his store for the night, half a block from the Taj Hotel, a gunman spotted him and killed him instantly, said Rony Dass, a cable television installer. “We still don’t know why they did this,” he said, mourning his lifelong friend. Somini Sangupta and Keith Bradsher, NY Times

What do you have to do to be called a terrorist?

This question comes to mind when the word ‘militant’  is used in almost all of the media accounts of the Mumbai attacks.

In addition to the usual targets of  Westerners and Jews, the gunmen murdered anyone available — old men and women, anybody they felt like shooting.

When terrorists detonate a bomb, they know they are going to kill indiscriminately, but they don’t usually look their victims in the eye. In many cases these terrorists carefully aimed at their victims, most of whom were ordinary Indians.

“One man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter”, Jeremy Bowen of the BBC famously said, no doubt having in mind Palestinian terrorists and thereby proving himself a moral idiot. I suppose his logic is that he would prefer not to offend anyone, no matter how ignorant that person may be.

But for whom are the Mumbai terrorists ‘freedom fighters’?

Is it necessary to call them ‘militants’ so as not to offend the homicidal sociopaths among The Times’ readership? How many of them could there be?

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The Saudi Initiative

Friday, November 28th, 2008

What’s so wrong with the ‘Saudi initiative’ (more correctly, the Arab League initiative)? Couldn’t issues like the ‘return’ of descendants of Arab refugees be negotiated into return to the Palestinian state and compensation? After all, it does represent a breakthrough in that for the first time the Saudis seem to be saying that under some circumstances they would recognize Israel.

Caroline Glick makes the problem clear, when she writes,

With his enthusiastic embrace of the so-called Saudi peace plan, Olmert is committing Israel to accepting the Arab narrative of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

The Saudi plan is predicated on the wholly mendacious claim that there has never been any Arab aggression against Israel – only Israeli aggression against Arabs and legitimate Arab resistance to Israel. With Olmert now giving his stamp of approval to the Saudi plan, he is denying the country its moral right to defend itself both militarily and diplomatically. [my emphasis]

Leaving Olmert aside (how wonderful if this were possible in more than rhetoric!),  her point is well taken. The text of the Arab League approved version of the initiative and the original Saudi version can be found here: “The Arab Peace Initiative“.

There are several reasons that Glick is correct. Consider the introduction and point 1 of the proposal:

Reaffirming the resolution taken in June 1996 at the Cairo Extra-Ordinary Arab Summit that a just and comprehensive peace in the Middle East is the strategic option of the Arab countries, to be achieved in accordance with international legality, and which would require a comparable commitment on the part of the Israeli government [introduction]

[The Council of Arab States] requests Israel to reconsider its policies and declare that a just peace is its strategic option as well. [point 1, my emphasis]

In other words,  the Arab states have chosen the ‘strategic option’ of  seeking peace through (their interpretations of) relevant UN resolutions, but Israel has not and must ‘reconsider’. The implication is that the Arabs want peace and Israel does not.

The second point describes the concrete steps that Israel must take — indeed, as the proposal has been presented by the Arabs, must complete — before the Arabs will take action:

I- Full Israeli withdrawal from all the territories occupied since 1967, including the Syrian Golan Heights, to the June 4, 1967 lines as well as the remaining occupied Lebanese territories in the south of Lebanon.  [note that this includes all of East Jerusalem -- ed]

II- Achievement of a just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem to be agreed upon in accordance with U.N. General Assembly Resolution 194. [This has always been interpreted by the Arabs to mean that all 4-5 million Arabs claiming refugee status have a right to choose between compensation or 'returning' to Israel proper -- ed]

III- The acceptance of the establishment of a sovereign independent Palestinian state on the Palestinian territories occupied since June 4, 1967 in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

And here is the third point:

Consequently, the Arab countries affirm the following:

I- Consider the Arab-Israeli conflict ended, and enter into a peace agreement with Israel, and provide security for all the states of the region.

II- Establish normal relations with Israel in the context of this comprehensive peace.

The third point begins with the word ‘Consequently’, and the Arabs have made it clear that it is to be understood in a temporal as well as a logical sense — “after the above Israeli actions and as a result of them”. Before discussing the content of the third point, let’s look at the implications of this.

One would expect in a compromise made between equals that steps would be taken by both sides simultaneously, or perhaps with each side making a concession in turn. This gives the impression that neither side is admitting that its present position is untenable, but rather that they are moving together in a cooperative fashion. It also has the practical effect of enabling either side to stop the process if it feels that the other is not living up to its commitments.

But the Arab initiative is exactly the opposite. Israel is required to make all the concessions before the Arab states must do anything. This is reasonable only if we understand the first part — in which Israel must “reconsider its policies” as follows: Israel admits that her policies were wrong and agrees to redress the injustices. Then, and only then, will the Arab states grant ‘peace’ (we’ll discuss what this might be later).

So what exactly is Israel asked to redress?

  • By full withdrawal with no adjustments or compromises, Israel admits that the 1967 war was a war of aggression by Israel against the Arabs.
  • By ‘return’ or compensation of  ‘refugees’ Israel accepts that the consequences of the 1948 war are her responsibility. Everyone agrees that if the ‘refugees’ were allowed into Israel it would be the end of the Jewish state. But it’s also true that accepting responsibility for the refugees by compensation — even if not one ‘returns’ — is an admission of guilt.

So Israel is expected to admit her guilt and sole responsibility for the conflict, and give up everything concrete — land, and possibly even her nation itself. As Glick points out, Arab war and terrorism against Israel are therefore excused because they constitute morally and legally (by the Arabs’ interpretations of UN resolutions) justified resistance against an aggressor.

Now let’s look at what Israel gets, assuming that there still is an Israel after the implementation of point 2.

The conflict will be ‘ended’ — there will be no more fighting. There will be ‘normal relations’. The Arabs will ‘provide security’ for all states in the region.

There is no mention of recognition, even less recognition as a Jewish state. Will Israel even have a role in ‘providing security’ for herself? This is a surrender, not a treaty between equals.

The Arab nations have lost every war they fought against Israel and have had the West save them from suffering the consequences of defeat time and again. Yet they try to dictate terms of surrender as though they had been victorious! What arrogance and chutzpah!

But some say that regardless of all this, Israel should take the proposal seriously, at least as a starting point for negotiations. After all, it is the first time the Arabs — in particular the Saudis –have admitted that under some conditions they will live at peace with Israel. This reminds me of a joke: a man proposes marriage to a woman, who responds “I’ll marry you when Hell freezes over!” So the man goes home and tells his mother, “she hasn’t accepted yet but we have a starting point for negotiations. There are some conditions under which she’ll marry me.”

The only form of this initiative that Israel should be prepared to  use as a basis of negotiations should be one turned upside down. Something like this:

Whereas the Arab nations recognize that the state of Israel is fully legitimate and entitled to define itself as a Jewish state for the Jewish people, they agree to end the conflict.

In return, insofar as the Arabs, Iranians and their proxies will prove that they have actually renounced war and terrorism, Israel will negotiate a two-state solution with the Palestinians — those who accept the legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish state.

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AP stories distort, distort, distort

Thursday, November 27th, 2008

The media coverage of the Palestinians seems to be based on the idea that nothing can possibly be their own fault. Every problem they have is a direct result of Zionist colonialism. That’s nonsense. But every story like this buttresses the position of those who want to solve all the problems by making the Zionists go away.

None Dare Call it News Coverage

By Barry Rubin

I realized something important when reading a relatively marginal feature story from the Associated Press.

It shows us that Palestinians don’t really exist as a society but only as a set of victims. By definition, all — or to be fair, almost all, of their problems are said to come from Israel. Yet since the continuation of the conflict and their difficult situation comes first and foremost from within Palestinian politics and society, this kind of interpretation makes it impossible to understand why there is no peace, no Palestinian state, and no end of violence.

Karin Laub, “Amid poverty, a Renaissance villa in the West Bank,” November 26, 2008, provides a great opportunity to talk about the problems within Palestinian society. The story is about a “Palestinian tycoon [who] has created a tranquil paradise on a Holy Land mountaintop, with a replica of a famous Renaissance villa, sculpted gardens and a wrought-iron pavilion that once belonged to a nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte.”

We are immediately told, however, that this is to be compared, not to the impoverishment of his own society but rather to guess-who: “But even one of the West Bank’s richest men cannot entirely shut out Israel’s military occupation, army bases and Israeli settlements occupy hills surrounding the 100-acre estate.”

Note that the mere existence of Israeli installations nearby is the “terrible” thing that allegedly cancels out this individual’s Garden of Eden. Not that there is any direct effect, but the message is that all Palestinians are a subject people, no matter how rich they are. He may never meet an Israeli, he may live in a situation where he can accumulate wealth and act as a lord, he may live under Palestinian Authority rule but — we are told — this is deceptive. Because nothing matters but Israel’s presence, even if it is barely in sight.

I have learned not to take even the most basic claims of AP for granted so I do not assume that there are “army bases” or settlements in the area.

Only afterward however are we informed that maybe, just maybe, there is something wrong with this conspicuous display of wealth in the Palestinian context:  “And some say such a display of wealth, the honey-colored Palladian mansion is visible for miles, is jarring at a time of continued economic hardship. At the foot of the mountain in Nablus, unemployment runs at 16 percent and the mayor says 40 percent of the 180,000 residents live in poverty.”

Jarring? How about asking the most basic questions, the kind that would be asked in covering any other society on earth?

The person in question is Munib Masri. The Masris are a large clan closely associated with Fatah and the Palestinian Authority (PA). We are given the bare facts — he was close to Arafat, he formed a development company. But the points are made with the greatest possible delicacy: “Critics say some of the profits were made possible by a lucrative telecommunications monopoly the company held for several years.”

We are not told from whence this monopoly came — from the PA. The word corruption is never mentioned. Such a lack of curiosity about the sources of his wealth does not accord with journalistic practices in covering other stories.

Indeed, the story of the telecommunications monopoly is one of the best-known stories of corruption among Palestinians. How PA and Fatah factions competed over the loot, how Arafat intervened directly into the issue.

But for AP it is a story untold. The story should be as follows:

  • The Palestinian upper economic and political class cares nothing for its own people.
  • In its fourteen-year rule of the West Bank, the PA has focused on looting it rather than on raising living standards and providing good government.
  • Billions of dollars in international aid donations have disappeared, probably paying for a large portion of Masri’s mansion.
  • The PA’s failures are blamed on Israel both by the PA itself, Western governments, and the international media.
  • Palestinian suffering is not primarily due to Israel but to their own leaders.
  • A lot of Israel’s success has been due to Jews around the world making both investments and donations.  Palestinians have not been forthcoming in supporting their own “state,” a point well-known in Palestinian circles (an exception here, of course, is in backing Hamas’s terrorist campaign in recent years).
  • Anyone who keeps their eyes open will see other huge, albeit less impressive than this one, mansions in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Even other members of Masri’s own family have been criticized for their ostentation. While this estate may be the most extreme case, it is hardly an exception in that regard.
  • Wealthy Palestinians do not give charity to help their poorer cousins. The PA doesn’t even have a comprehensive tax system. Thus, the international community is left to support the Palestinians, and their oversized security apparatus.
  • Violence sponsored by the PA was responsible for destroying the chance for their people to work in Israel, hitherto a major aid to their economy; the destruction of infrastructure; and the hesitation of investors, who are also put off by the PA’s corruption and incompetence.
  • Intransigence and the failure to reach a compromise solution stem from the Palestinian leadership, including Masri’s buddy, Arafat.

Meanwhile, despite the hints in this article about a stifling Israeli occupation, Masri has no difficulty in proposing huge projects costing more than a half billion dollars. I suspect that these projects will never materialize but will be scams for ripping off foreign aid money.  “Masri remains optimistic, even though independence appears no closer than when he first returned to the West Bank.”  Hm, I wonder why they haven’t achieved it yet. I sure won’t learn it from AP coverage.

And to switch to the broader picture, consider another Karin Laub effort, “Abbas ads make appeal to Israelis,” November 21, 2008. The subtitle is, “The Palestinian’s ads detail withdrawal terms first offered in a 2002 Arab Peace Initiative.” Well, if the ads detail the terms, Laub certainly doesn’t.

The 12-paragraph story never gets around to telling us what’s in the offer and why Israel has a problem with it. The only reference to that point says, “An Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank, Gaza and parts of Jerusalem would bring them recognition by the Arab world.”

Of course, Israel has already withdrawn from all of Gaza, but at any rate it would have been easy for Laub to mention that the terms are for Israel to leave all of the West Bank and all of east Jerusalem, not one centimeter less. She merely had to insert the word “all.” The point is that the way it is worded makes the offer seem more attractive than it is.

But that’s not the worst part. Laub doesn’t mention that the plan also demands that all — there’s that word again — Palestinians who ever lived in any part of what is now Israel and all their descendents must be allowed to ‘return’ to Israel. That’s a few million people.

To distort points of fact about the terms is scandalous and shameful. A couple of decades ago, AP would have issued a correction. But that’s not the way things are done nowadays, is it? Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni is only paraphrased as saying “its positions on key issues such as final borders, the status of Jerusalem and the fate of Palestinian refugees are not acceptable.” There’s no explanation as to why it is, presumably lest Israel’s rejection be understood as a rational response.

And as always there is no mention of Palestinian refusal to meet Israel’s needs. As always, we aren’t even told about such things, which Abbas’s adds don’t mention: end of incitement to terrorism, a declared end to the conflict, no foreign troops on Palestinian soil. One might think that an ad campaign by the PA would say something about Palestinian positions.

The article concludes, “Many Israelis are also skeptical about a peace deal, in part because the embattled Abbas no longer speaks for all Palestinians.”

Thank goodness that while it is impermissible to criticize the PA or Fatah, at least the media can talk about Hamas. We are then given a decent description of it as an  “Islamic extremist group” which staged a “violent 2007 takeover, two years after a unilateral Israeli withdrawal from the territory,” and its firing of “thousands of rockets and mortars on Israeli border towns since the pullout.” The article then notes, “Israelis fear a West Bank withdrawal could bring more attacks.”

Of course, that’s in the last paragraph. But two more reasons for Israeli skepticism should also be added: the failure of the PA to keep its past promises and its demands that Israel give everything without offering anything itself.

Can we coin a phrase here? Much of the coverage can be called “anti-news” because it is deceptive nature. Perhaps there should be little labels affixed, like those on cigarette packs: Warning! Reading this article can be hazardous to your intellectual health.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), with Walter Laqueur (Viking-Penguin); the paperback edition of The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan); A Chronological History of Terrorism, with Judy Colp Rubin, (Sharpe); and The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley). To read and subscribe to MERIA and other GLORIA Center publications or to order books, visit http://www.gloriacenter.org.

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A lesson for Jews from Mumbai

Thursday, November 27th, 2008

As I write, news reports indicate that hundreds are dead and injured in Mumbai. Indian commandos are about to storm the Chabad house there, where it appears that Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg, his wife Rivka and an uncertain number of others are being held hostage by terrorists (their small son was reportedly rescued early on).  It’s painful but impossible to stop trying to keep up with events as this horrible but familiar story unfolds.

I’m sure when it’s over the ‘mujahideen’ that perpetrated this atrocity will explain that they had important ‘political’ motives. What political imperative made them include the Chabad house as a target? Is Chabad someow a representative of the Zionist entity that is denying ‘human rights’ to Palestinians, who are themselves no strangers to this kind of ‘political’ activity?

No, let’s face it, we know why the Chabad house was attacked.

It would be good if the various camps among Israelis and Jews everywhere would pay attention and understand that after all this time they are not a ‘normal’ people in the eyes of the world. This is why there needs to be a state of Israel that can defend itself and indeed, defend the Jewish people.

Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg

Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg

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Olmert is really finished this time

Wednesday, November 26th, 2008

Israel’s attorney General, Menachem Mazuz, has informed Prime Minister Olmert that he will likely be indicted for systematically billing multiple agencies to pay for private trips abroad (Ha’aretz, AG plans to indict Olmert over double-billing affair). This would be the first time a sitting Israeli PM was indicted.

There is no law in Israel which demands that the PM resign if he is merely indicted for a serious crime (he would need to be convicted), although Olmert has said that he would step aside if indicted. If he does resign or declare himself incapacitated, the ‘designated acting PM’ is Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, and she would take the position of PM for up to 100 days. New elections are already scheduled for February.

Previously Olmert promised to quit after the Kadima primary in September, assuming that the winner could form a coalition. Livni won, but for various reasons — in particular because the Shas party escalated their demands for tribute — she was not able to do so. Olmert then chose to stay on. My guess is that Olmert is looking for a way to hang on even now, unless things get a lot worse. A spokesman said that “…in this case the prosecution is presenting a one-sided, incorrect version of the events that is destined to crack and collapse.”

Polls show that the coming election may be close, although the Likud party of Binyamin Netanyahu presently has the advantage. That could change, and there is also the possibility of a unity government. In any event, there’s no question that Tzipi Livni today would be much more effective as PM than Olmert, the lamest of ducks.

There have been suggestions that the Obama administration wants to get moving immediately after his inauguration on a far-reaching ‘peace’ plan. Olmert has already made inappropriate statements about what Israel should be prepared to accept in negotiations with the Palestinians, statements which will be construed as bottom lines when serious negotiations resume with the new administration.

Considerations of national interest as well as decency and self-respect demand that Olmert step down now.

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Robert M. Gates: another realist joins Obama’s team

Tuesday, November 25th, 2008

The NY Times is reporting that Barack Obama will ask Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates to stay on. Who is Robert M. Gates, and how does he fit with Obama’s other advisors, particularly in respect to relations with Israel?

Robert Gates visits Bahrain, Dec. 2007

Robert Gates visits Bahrain, Dec. 2007

Gates is 65, a career CIA man who joined the agency in 1966 and served as its director from 1991 through 1993. In 1979 he was Special Assistant to the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs in the Carter administration. In 2004 he co-chaired — with Zbigniew Brzezinski — a Council on Foreign Relations task force which issued a report called “Iran: Time for a New Approach“. Much of the material in the report is informed and unexceptionable. But where Israel is concerned there are some jarring moments.

Hezbollah

Gates and Brzezinski are quite clear about what Hezbollah is and Iran’s relationship to it:

Among the most troublesome practices of the Islamic Republic is its sustained and prolonged support for militant anti-Israeli groups and terrorists. Among these, Iran’s sponsorship of Hezbollah remains the most significant. Iranian officials founded the group and continue to provide training, intelligence, arms, and financing twenty years later…

Hezbollah’s track record as one of the world’s foremost terrorist organizations is indisputable: until 9/11, its 1983 attack on barracks housing U.S. Marines held the record for causing the largest loss of U.S. lives as a result of a terrorist attack. As a consequence of this attack and several other suicide bombings carried out by Hezbollah operatives during that period, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage characterized the U.S. stance toward Hezbollah in late 2002 as a “blood debt.” In the 1980s, Hezbollah was responsible for aircraft hijackings as well as kidnappings of U.S. citizens and other Westerners who were then held as hostages. In addition, Hezbollah operatives, along with four Iranian officials, have been indicted by Argentina in connection with the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center that killed eighty-five people…

[Iranian] President Khatami has met with [Hezbollah's] secretary general, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, several times in Lebanon and in Tehran, commenting recently that the group has a “a natural right, even a sacred national duty” to defend Palestinians against Israel. [pp. 33-4]

But they continue,

…it is highly improbable that Iran can be persuaded or compelled to completely renounce its proxy. Still, some measure of Iranian flexibility may be possible even with respect to Hezbollah. Since 9/11, Iranian leaders have repeatedly advocated that Hezbollah exhibit restraint in its armed struggle against Israel, and have also hinted that a resolution to the Shebaa Farms territorial dispute could set the stage for Hezbollah to abandon its paramilitary activities. [p. 34]

If Iranian leaders have wanted restraint, they certainly haven’t demonstrated it by arming Hezbollah with the thousands of missiles used in the 2006 war, by training its armed forces, and by building it a state-of-the-art command and control system which Israel reportedly was unable to penetrate. Since 2006, Iranian efforts on Hezbollah’s behalf have redoubled.

The Shebaa Farms issue is simply a pretext for Hezbollah’s aggression against Israel. The area is tiny, totaling about 8 square miles, and has practically no strategic importance. Israel’s position is that it was part of Syria before 1967, and is now part of the occupied Golan Heights. Hezbollah claims that it was Lebanon’s and that therefore Israel is still occupying Lebanon; this then justifies its ‘resistance’.  When Israel left southern Lebanon in 2000, it requested that the UN delineate the border just to forestall this sort of pretext; unfortunately, the status of the Shebaa Farms remained unsettled.

Gates and Brzezinski should know this. Suggesting that handing Hezbollah yet another victory, this one over 8 square miles, would impel it to give up its ‘paramilitary activities’ — in fact a massive war-making machine with (today) more than 40,000 missiles, miles of fortifications, etc. — was beyond absurd, even in 2004.

The linkage theory and the Palestinians

Gates, along with Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft, advocates the ‘linkage theory':

The United States should resume an active involvement in the Middle East [Israeli-Arab] peace process and press leading Arab states to commit themselves to providing genuine, substantive support for both the process and any ultimate agreements. Iranian incitement of virulent anti-Israeli sentiment and activities thrives when there is no progress toward peace. Efforts to curtail the lows of assistance to terrorist groups must be coupled with steps to offer a meaningful alternative to the continuing cycle of violence. A serious effort on the part of Washington aimed at achieving Arab-Israeli peace is central to eventually stemming the tide of extremism in the region. [p.7, my italics]

Imposing a ‘peace’ deal that is strategically disadvantageous to Israel and which does not eliminate the rejectionism that is the root of the hostility of the Palestinians — as well as the Arab nations and Iran — would bring the opposite of peace. Gates and Brzezinski have it backwards: the italicized sentence above should read “There can be no progress toward peace while Iranian (and other) incitement of virulent anti-Israeli sentiment and support of terrorism against Israel continues.”

Gates and Brzezinski also seem to think that Palestinian terrorism is caused by the 1967 occupation and would stop if there were progress toward ending it:

Although it is substantial, Iranian assistance does not constitute the primary factor in the existence or operations of Palestinian terrorism, however. Absent a return to discernible progress toward  peace settlement between Palestinians and Israelis and/or a meaningful commitment by the Palestinians to abandon violence against civilians as their primary means of confronting Israeli occupation, these groups and their abhorrent activities are likely to persist. [p. 36, my italics]

But since it should be obvious that Palestinian ‘resistance’ is aimed at the ‘occupation’ which began in 1947, and not 1967 — terrorist groups like Hamas have been quite up-front about this — ‘progress toward a peace agreement’ does not tend to quiet them. Indeed, these groups violently oppose agreements like the Oslo accords because they oppose any solution which leaves Israel standing within any borders.

Iranian nukes

Gates served on the Iraq Study group, which recommended trading Israeli concessions to Syria for calm in Iraq and ‘engagement’ with Iran. He’s been in the forefront of those urging that the US should not take military action nor permit Israel to do so in order to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Nevertheless he recently said that

I have not by any means given up on the possibility that the Iranians can be pressured into arrangements that salve their national pride but provide a verifiable way of demonstrating that they don’t have a nuclear-weapons capability and are not building one. — Newsweek

Since it’s obvious that there’s no possibility of getting real economic sanctions against Iran, what’s left to ‘pressure’ them with? Maybe a deal in which Israel gives up her nuclear deterrent in return?

As I’ve previously written, Mr. Obama’s foreign policy team appears to have what I would consider an anti-Israel tilt.  It will be very interesting to see whether Hillary Clinton, who has been very pro-Israel in her senatorial role, will  oppose or go along with this tendency.

Update [26 Nov 1009 PST]: Barack Obama is expected to name retired Marine Corps General James L. Jones as National Security Advisor. Jones has advocated sending NATO troops to the West Bank and has criticized Israel for placing obstacles in the path of the US project of arming and training Palestinian Authority (i.e., Fatah) forces. See Steve Rosen’s blog here.

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US to Israel: don’t fight back

Monday, November 24th, 2008

News item:

“Hizbullah has three times the ability it had before the Second Lebanon War and now has 42,000 missiles in its possession, as opposed to the 14,000 it had before the war,” [Defense Minister Ehud] Barak said in a Knesset speech, warning that Hizbullah’s recent maneuvers south of the Litani River were a liability for Lebanon. “In practice, UN Resolution 1701 isn’t working, and Hizbullah’s integration within the Lebanese republic exposes Lebanon and its infrastructures to a more massive hit in the event of a future standoff.” — Jerusalem Post

It’s doubtful that the US administration will see it this way. Rather, I think that Hezbollah has achieved sufficient ‘integration’ with (read: control of) the Lebanese government and army to do whatever it wants while still maintaining its status as a non-state entity from any point of view other than Israel’s.

As a result, there’s very little chance that Israel will be given a free hand to respond to almost any provocation as it was for a few weeks in 2006.  Even if there is a massive rocket attack on civilian targets in Israel, the US is unlikely to permit a response that targets Lebanese infrastructure or causes any significant civilian casualties. And since Hezbollah has gone to some trouble to build its facilities in civilian areas, this restriction will make an effective counteroffensive even more difficult.

The propaganda debacle of 2006 in which Israel received almost all of the blame for the war — although she was attacked first and became the target of literally thousands of missiles —  has almost guaranteed that restraint will be quick and sure if another round appears to be starting.

But it gets worse:

The US has requested that Israel refrain from embarking on any large-scale operations during the last weeks of the George W. Bush administration, Time magazine reported Monday evening. The magazine quotes an unnamed Israeli source at the Defense Ministry as saying, “We have been warned off.”

IDF officials hinted in the past that a preemptive attack on Iran’s nuclear installations might be timed to take place before the inauguration of US President-elect Barack Obama. Obama is slated to take office on January 20…

The call for restraint, according to Time, also included a request to avoid a large incursion into the Gaza Strip – an option that has again been floated recently by Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni in light of signs that the truce between Israel and Hamas, which has held for five months, is beginning to disintegrate. — Jerusalem Post

Israel is a tiny country and highly vulnerable. Her enemies have numerically superior armed forces and the ability to absorb many more casualties. As a result a fundamental defensive strategy has always been preemption. Even more so than in the past, the current situation — in which Hamas is developing a capability similar to that of Hezbollah, Syria has chemical-biological warheads pointed at Israel and Iran is developing nuclear weapons — does not lend itself to a ‘let them hit first’ approach.

The Obama doctrine appears to be that Israel will not be permitted to preempt. Unfortunately, he will have plenty of leverage to control Israel’s behavior and very little on Hezbollah, Hamas, Syria and Iran.

What is missing from this policy — that is, the real policy, not the campaign statements about Israel’s security being paramount — is an understanding of the moral asymmetry of the conflict: the fact that Israel struggles for her life while her enemies fight to destroy her.

But Barack Obama will not hear this from Zbig Brzezinski, Brent Scowcroft, Robert Malley, Samantha Power, James Jones, etc.

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Hints of Obama Mideast policy are less than encouraging

Sunday, November 23rd, 2008

Brzezinski (left) and ScowcroftVarious sources are reporting that Barack Obama is consulting with Brent Scowcroft, National Security Advisor under the Ford and Bush I administrations. Scowcroft has always been a big proponent of the ‘linkage theory’, in which it is claimed that ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is key to solving most or all of the problems of the Mideast.

Now Scowcroft, together with Zbigniew Brzezinski,  a former Carter advisor with an unclear Obama connection who is quite hostile to Israel (see “Barack Obama’s Zbig problem” for some Brzezinski quotes) has written a short op-ed in the Washington Post which some consider a “first draft of an Obama plan” for Israeli-Palestinian peace.

Here is how Scowcroft and Brzezinski summarize today’s version of the linkage theory:

Resolution of the Palestinian issue would have a positive impact on the region. It would liberate Arab governments to support U.S. leadership in dealing with regional problems, as they did before the Iraq invasion. It would dissipate much of the appeal of Hezbollah and Hamas, dependent as it is on the Palestinians’ plight. It would change the region’s psychological climate, putting Iran back on the defensive and putting a stop to its swagger.

There are two false assumptions that underlie this argument. The first is that there is a way to resolve the ‘Palestinian issue’ by both sides making (or being forced to make) some reasonable compromises. No Palestinian leadership which is prepared to give up the right of return or full sovereignty in East Jerusalem can possibly survive today. And given a choice between those who advocate practical cooperation between a Palestinian state in the territories and Israel and those who promise “armed struggle” which might last hundreds of years to dislodge the Zionists from the Mideast, most Palestinians will choose the latter  option (see “What drives Palestinian politics?“).

The second (as I’ve written so many times) is that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is between Israel and the Palestinians — ignoring the role played by Iran in supporting, arming and financing the terrorist proxies that it intends to use to destroy Israel. Hamas and Hezbollah are not “dependent on the Palestinians’ plight”. The ‘plight’ has been created and nurtured by Israel’s enemies as a diplomatic tool and reservoir for cannon fodder. Hamas and Hezbollah, rather, are dependent on Iranian money and weapons.

Let’s suppose that nevertheless, the US forces Israel and the Palestinian Authority to accept a ‘solution’ along the lines of the one that Scowcroft and Brzezinski are suggesting:

The major elements of an agreement are well known. A key element in any new initiative would be for the U.S. president to declare publicly what, in the view of this country, the basic parameters of a fair and enduring peace ought to be. These should contain four principal elements: 1967 borders, with minor, reciprocal and agreed-upon modifications; compensation in lieu of the right of return for Palestinian refugees; Jerusalem as real home to two capitals; and a nonmilitarized Palestinian state.

How would this put Iran on the defensive? Only the presence of the IDF in the West Bank prevents a Hamas takeover today. A Fatah-dominated state would probably last only a few weeks or months, and would be followed by a situation like that in Gaza today. Israel would then be sandwiched between Iranian-controlled Hezbollah and Syria in the north and Iranian-supported Hamas in the south and east. On the contrary, Iran would ‘swagger’ even more.

But Scowcroft and Brzezinski have a solution to the Hamas problem:

Something more might be needed to deal with Israeli security concerns about turning over territory to a Palestinian government incapable of securing Israel against terrorist activity. That could be dealt with by deploying an international peacekeeping force, such as one from NATO, which could not only replace Israeli security but train Palestinian troops to become effective.

Leaving aside the irony that NATO troops might include those from traditionally anti-Semitic Eastern European countries, can we expect that they would put their lives in danger to protect Israel any more than the UN forces in Lebanon have done? What will happen the first time a Hamas suicide bomber kills 15 or 20 NATO soldiers?

But they have an answer for this too:

To date, the weakness of the negotiating parties has limited their ability to come to an agreement by themselves. The elections in Israel scheduled for February are certainly a complicating factor, as is the deep split among Palestinians between Fatah and Hamas. But if the peace process begins to gain momentum, it is difficult to imagine that Hamas will want to be left out, and that same momentum would provide the Israeli people a unique chance to register their views on the future of their country. [my emphasis]

Here we have the persistent nonsense that Hamas will become ‘more moderate’ if given a chance to participate in a peaceful Palestinian state. But Hamas’ entire reason for being is to replace Israel with an Islamist Arab state, and to do it by force of arms. If it’s not enough to read Hamas’ charter, then consider its actions since it took control of Gaza. Either Scowcroft and Brzezinski are astonishingly naive (I doubt it) or they know what the outcome would be and find it acceptable.

And this fits in with the broad outlines of the approach toward the Middle East which has all along been urged by Scowcroft and Brzezinski (along with others that have been associated with Obama, such as Robert Malley, Samantha Power, Gen. James Jones, etc.). And that is that US policy has been ‘unbalanced’ in the pro-Israel direction (Brzezinski has even blamed the Jewish Israel lobby for this), and that American interests call for a tilt in the other direction.

One thing that all of the Arab states and Iran can agree on is that Israel should go back to pre-1967 lines. This is not because they have a great deal of compassion for the Palestinians — real, practical Palestinian interests would best have been served by making peace with Israel years ago — but because they believe correctly that it would greatly weaken Israel strategically. This will be the case until there is a popular Palestinian leadership that actually is prepared to live alongside Israel in peace — and that does not seem likely in the foreseeable future.

I would like to believe that Obama will not choose people from the Brzezinski-Scowcroft camp as his Mideast policy advisors. He took Dennis Ross with him when he visited the region before the election, and Ross is both fair and experienced in dealing with the Palestinians. But so far what has come out is not encouraging.

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Some clues about dealing with Gaza

Friday, November 21st, 2008

Normally I don’t bother with Larry Derfner because he is almost a caricature of the extreme anti-Israel Israeli. But his latest piece, “Clueless in Gaza” illustrates a few things in addition to the fact that Israel’s commitment to freedom of speech is formidable (and that Derfner’s choice of titles is unoriginal).

Derfner argues that the ‘siege’ of Gaza is ineffective, immoral and provides a propaganda advantage to Hamas. He suggests that

…what we should do about Gaza is finally, genuinely, end the occupation. Let the people there come and go by sea and air like people do in a free country. Let the trucks go through Israel into Gaza with no more than normal inspection.

As for Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the other terrorist groups – we are beating the living hell out of them. Maybe they’re more afraid of us than we are of them. Maybe if we keep in mind the stark imbalance of power in our favor, we can go back to the cease-fire and avoid the “big operation” everyone’s predicting….

I repeat: The war Israel is fighting with Gaza is the most one-sided war on earth. If the point is to end it, or at least begin to end it, the ball is not in Hamas’s court – it’s in ours.

Let’s begin at the end. Is it a one-sided war? Derfner writes as though the conflict between Israel and Hamas is actually between Israel and Hamas. He ignores the very significant fact that Hamas — and Hezbollah, and Syria — are just the point of the spear which is wielded by Iran. The Palestinians are happy to play this role because they think that they can turn the clock back to 1947.

By presenting one aspect of the larger conflict out of context, Derfner — and most of the anti-Israel Left — can say that a powerful Israel is oppressing a powerless Arab population. But considering the forces arrayed against Israel, it is not one-sided at all.

Is the blockade immoral? Derfner claims along with Hamas that civilians are suffering greatly. But everything imaginable, including zoo animals and designer jeans, has been smuggled through the Sinai Subway.  Derfner criticizes Israel for crying ‘Pallywood’, but do not pictures show candlelit Hamas meetings with bright daylight showing around drawn curtains? Other photos show fully-stocked Gaza markets. It is true that Hamas’ top priority for allocating resources is its army, but this is hardly Israel’s fault.

Is the blockade ineffective? On this point I have to agree with Derfner. They are getting weapons and supplies through the massive subway to Egypt (towns in the northern Sinai are having trouble getting fuel because it is all being smuggled into Gaza).   ‘Humanitarian’ shipments of cement have been diverted by Hamas into building an “underground city” of bunkers and missile launchers. Army radio reported that aerial photography shows almost no evidence of above-ground construction taking place since cement imports resumed in July. The blockade is neither bringing down Hamas nor keeping them from arming, training and building fortifications.

But the answer is not to go back to the cease-fire, which is simply a way for Hamas to prepare for war without Israeli interference.

The one fundamental, irreducible, undeniable fact is that Hamas, with Iranian backing, is getting militarily stronger every day and fully intends to be part of a major assault against Israel — probably in concert with Hezbollah and Syria — when it is ready.

Unlike Israel’s Arab neighbors and Iran, there is no possibility of making peace with Hamas. Hamas’ very reason for being is to pursue the replacement of Israel with an Islamist Arab state by armed conflict. They do not deny this and the only option they offer for ‘peace’ is a temporary truce.

The question is not “will there be a war with Hamas?” but rather “will the war be at a time and in a manner of Israel’s choosing or that of Hamas?”

Israeli policy so far has been to put off the confrontation as long as possible. This is understandable, since it is expected to be be bloody and expensive for both sides. But it is an irrational policy because the balance of power is moving against Israel in many ways: Hamas is building up its offensive and defensive capabilities, Hamas and its supporters are making their case effectively in the media (which will translate into more foreign pressure on Israel), and the US is about to install an administration which will be even more likely than the present one to intervene to prevent Israel from obtaining a conclusive victory over Hamas.

Here are some possible solutions to the problem of Gaza:

  1. Derfner’s solution: Surrender, present Hamas with another victory. First they drove Israel out of Gaza by force of arms, and now they’ve “broken the siege”. The result will be the worldwide legitimization of Hamas, which will likely push Fatah aside as the representative of all Palestinians. Their military buildup will continue even more rapidly. At some point there will be a coordinated attack on Israel by Hamas and Hezbollah and possibly Syria, supported and commanded by Iran.
  2. Cut off Medusa’s heads: Kill as many of Hamas’ leaders as possible with targeted strikes. Keep doing this as they appoint new ones.
  3. Apply a real blockade: Invade the Philadelphi corridor (the area along the Gaza/Egypt border), destroy the tunnels, end all commerce and transit with Gaza, cut electricity and water. Starve them out (possibly with some targeted assassinations of Hamas leaders). Tell Ban Ki-Moon and the EU to go to hell — Israel is at war and Hamastan is the enemy. How is this different from the strategic bombing done by the Allies in WWII?
  4. Confront Hamas: Invade Gaza, crush Hamas completely. Kill as many fighters and leaders as possible. Tell Condoleezza Rice or President Obama’s Secretary of State to go to hell. Disadvantages of this are that there would be many casualties on both sides, a way would have to be found to keep Hezbollah (etc.) from joining in, and the US might not agree to go to hell. Possibly the moment for this has passed.
  5. Do nothing but hope for the best: Hamas will get stronger. The international community will continue to apply pressure to weaken the blockade until Hamas will declare victory. Little by little it will become legitimate in the eyes of the world. At some point there will be a coordinated attack on Israel by Hamas and Hezbollah and possibly Syria, supported and commanded by Iran.

There is no doubt in my mind that Israel, under Olmert — who is Prime Minister until February at least — has chosen strategy 5. It is guaranteed to fail as badly as 1; indeed, there is very little difference between them in practice.

What needs to happen is some variation or combination  of 2-4, and it needs to happen before January 20 when the new US president takes office. Does anyone believe that it will?

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The raison d’être of the state of Israel

Wednesday, November 19th, 2008

The menorah, symbol of the state of IsraelForeign Minister Tzipi Livni got this right:

International acceptance of Israel’s right to exist is not enough, the world must accept Israel as a Jewish state, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said Wednesday to the thousands of Jewish American leaders who had come to Jerusalem for the General Assembly of the United Jewish Communities.

“The world is willing to defend the right of the state of Israel to exist, this is the part of the requirement that the [Mideast] Quartet demands [of] Hamas. But I would like to add two more words to this demand of the quartet: They need to accept the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state,” she said.  — Jerusalem Post

Unfortunately, she said it to the wrong audience. She should say it to the UN and to every foreign leader that she deals with, and in particular to Mahmoud Abbas and Salaam Fayad of the Palestinian authority, to Saudi Arabia, and to the leadership of the Israeli Arabs all of whom have categorically refused to accept this.

First of all, let’s get straight what a Jewish state is and is not. It is not a theocracy like Iran; its leaders are democratically elected from all segments of the population. It is not a state governed by halacha [Jewish law] analogous to Islamic states such as Iran or Saudi Arabia in which the legal system is based upon shaaria. Although family law in Israel is in the domain of religious authorities (but not only  Jewish ones — Muslims, Christians and others also follow their traditions and authorities in this area), this is in no way essential to the Jewishness of the state.

The definition of the Jewish state is that it is the political realization of the Jewish people in the historical land of Israel —  am yisrael b’eretz israel. Anti-Semites, extreme leftists and other enemies of the Jewish state understand this and try to attack the concept of the Jewish people or the provenance of the Jews in the land of Israel. But the more scientific evidence — evidence from modern genetics and archaeology — is uncovered, the more unfounded these claims are seen to be.

It is instructive that so many find the idea of a Jewish state — even a democratic one in which non-Jews can vote — so unacceptable, so 19th century or worse, and at the same time do not complain about the myriad absolute monarchies and dictatorships, the nationalistic states of Europe, the Islamic republics and kingdoms, and the states (like the UK) with established religions.

Palestinians do not accept that Israel is a Jewish state because they believe that Jewish control of the land is illegitimate. They don’t accept the Zionist claim to purchased land, the Balfour declaration of 1917, the UN partition decision of 1947 or the outcome of the War of Independence that followed. They do not accept any responsibility for the consequences of their actions and those of their allies that caused their nakba. They are historically, legally and morally wrong about this but I and no one else will convince them of it, since — even among the secular Palestinians, in a sense — this has become a religious issue. This fact has had and will continue to have tragic consequences.

Nevertheless it is the responsibility of Israel’s leadership to insist upon the concept of the Jewish state in every venue. Nothing is more important for, as Livni said, this is “the raison d’être of the state of Israel.”

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Trading away Israel’s deterrent

Sunday, November 16th, 2008

Thanks to prolific commenter Shalom Freedman for calling this current item to my attention:

The Middle East is in danger of accumulating large stocks of nuclear material over the next decade that could be used to produce over 1,700 nuclear bombs, a U.S. research center has projected in a newly released report.

The Institute for Science and International Security [ISIS], headed by David Albright, one the world’s top experts on nuclear weapons and the prevention of nuclear proliferation, recently released its report urging president-elect Barack Obama to take a number of measures to avoid such an outcome, including convincing Israel to halt production of its nuclear weapons.

“The Obama administration should make a key priority of persuading Israel to join the negotiations for a universal, verified treaty that bans the production of plutonium and highly enriched uranium for nuclear explosives, commonly called the Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty (FMCT),” the institute argued. “As an interim step, the United States should press Israel to suspend any production of fissile material for nuclear weapons…” — Ha’aretz

The UN’s nuclear ‘watchdog’ Mohammed ElBaradei was even more forthright in 2004:

“This is not really sustainable that you have Israel sitting with nuclear weapons capability there while everyone else is part of the non-proliferation regime,” ElBaradei told The Sydney Morning Herald.

ElBaradei said Muslims in the surrounding region resented Israel’s nuclear arsenal and wanted it to be part of the non-proliferation program.

“It is a very emotional issue in the Middle East,” ElBaradei said.  — Ha’aretz

Emotional indeed. ElBaradei went on to say that he was ‘encouraged’ by Iran’s agreement to suspend enrichment (remember that?),

But he warned that getting Tehran to give up any ambition to develop nuclear weapons would depend on whether Israel was brought into the equation…

Commenting on Israel’s stance that a comprehensive peace settlement must be in place before nuclear disarmament could go ahead, ElBaradei recommended a compromise.

“My take on this is that we will probably need to do the two together in tandem,” he said. “You need a security structure to undergird, if you like, protect, that peace process.”

The idea that Iran is building nuclear weapons to protect itself against aggression from Israel is beyond absurd — except perhaps in the halls of the UN. And the suggestion that Israel should give up her last-ditch deterrent against an attack with weapons of mass destruction — which have been stockpiled by her enemies — while she is effectively at war, is nothing less then a demand for national suicide. But ElBaradei is a UN man and an Egyptian to boot, so what else should one expect?

The ISIS report is another matter. There’s no doubt that it will be taken seriously by the incoming administration. Although it does not call for Israel to divest herself of existing weapons now, this is the ultimate goal:

To reduce the risk of proliferation in the Middle East and help lay the basis for a regionwide nuclear weapon free zone (NWFZ), the United States must ensure that plutonium is not separated from irradiated reactor fuel, insist on adequate international inspections of these countries, including the adoption of the Additional Protocol, and develop mechanisms to remove spent fuel from the region.  [my emphasis]

“These countries” include “Iran, Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Iraq … Israel [and] Turkey”.  This is another example of the “you guys stop fighting” syndrome, which everyone remembers from his or her schooldays, in which the authority figure makes no attempt to distinguish between the bullies and the bullied.

It’s safe to say that if there is one country in the world which actually needs nuclear weapons it’s ‘the Jew among nations’, Israel. And although it sounds naive in today’s media climate, the truth is that Israel would like nothing more than to live at peace with her neighbors, while they would like nothing more than to destroy her. 

The argument that proliferation would be reduced if Israel gets rid of her capability would only be true if her enemies sought nuclear weapons out of fear that Israel would attack them. But the majority of Israelis and their leadership have made it clear that they do not want to expand the territory under their control.  And Israel has acted in a way consistent with this belief, shedding the Sinai and Gaza and leaving southern Lebanon.

Indeed, if Israel did not have nuclear capability, then it would be advantageous for her enemies to obtain it themselves, since it could then be used against Israel without fear of a counterstrike! Furthermore, if Israel gave up her deterrent it would increase the possibility of a chemical/biological attack, which historically has been deterred by fear of a nuclear response.

The ISIS report, in its narrow focus on the sheer quantity of nuclear material in the region without considering the ramifications of who possesses it and what they might do with it, does not do the cause of peace any favors.  In fact, the argument is so bad that one suspects that it is being made now and in this form to act as support and cover for a deal in which Israel’s deterrent will traded for an Iranian promise.

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Who will Obama’s tough diplomacy be tough on?

Saturday, November 15th, 2008

Baker, Brzezinski, Malley, Mearsheimer, Scowcroft, Walt, etc. have all been called foreign policy realists. What are they being realistic about?

In connection with the Middle East, there are apparently two things:

  1. There are far more Arabs and Persians than Israelis. There are 24 Arab nations in the Middle East and Africa with about 325 million people (Iran has another 70 million).  On a map large enough to show them all, Israel with its 6 million people is almost invisible.
  2. About 56% of the world’s petroleum reserves are found in five Arab countries and Iran.

Now it so happens that almost all 25 nations — their leadership and the man in the street — are more or less hostile to Israel, from the openly confrontational Iran and Syria to the ‘cold peace’ of Egypt and Jordan. The realists believe that facts 1) and 2) above imply that American policy should tilt toward these nations and against Israel.

There are other facts, but because they do not bear on questions of power they are not taken into account by realists. Examples of such facts are that Israel is the most free and democratic nation in the Mideast, that Israel is entirely legitimate under a fair reading of international law, and that despite pro-Arab historical revisionism, the existence of a Jewish state in the land of Israel is morally justified.

And then there is one more fact that does not appear on realist radar: the intentions of many of the state and non-state players in the Mideast toward Israel are frankly genocidal.

All these are irrelevant to the realist who is only concerned with hard relationships of power and economics. However, there are some power-related facts that have kept Israel alive despite almost continuous challenges from her enemies. One of the most important ones is the impossible-to-ignore Israeli nuclear deterrent. Although a weapon of absolute last resort, it gives Syria, for example, with its tens of thousands of conventional and biochemical warheads aimed at Israel, something to think very carefully about. I suggest that even mighty Russia can’t entirely ignore this factor.

The realist point of view seems to have taken hold of Bush Administration policy. It was expressed in the Iraq Study Group report of December 2006, and is the driving force behind the ‘Annapolis process’, whose goal is to create a Palestinian state, above all. Judging by President Elect Obama’s choice of advisors and by reading between the lines of his very guarded comments, it appears that his administration is likely to be even more ‘realistic’ about the Mideast than this.

During the campaign Obama advocated engagement of nations hostile to both the US and Israel such as Iran and Syria, and the exercise of ‘tough diplomacy’ to achieve such goals as ending the Iranian nuclear weapons program. Critics asked exactly what leverage we would have in diplomatic talks, given that we have made it clear that military options and actually painful sanctions are off the table. There has been no clear answer.

What we didn’t ask was “who will the ‘tough diplomacy’ be tough on?” And the answer isn’t ‘Iran and Syria’.

Caroline Glick writes,

By pressuring Israel to cede land to Syria and the Palestinians, Obama’s apparent foreign policy will provide Iran with still more territory from which to attack Israel both through its terror proxies and with its expanding ballistic missile arsenal. By embracing the Syrian regime in spite of its support for terrorism, its nuclear proliferation activities and its subversion of Lebanon, the incoming Obama administration will embolden Syria to increase its subversion of Lebanon and Iraq, while strengthening its ties to Iran still further.

As for direct talks with Iran itself, the question immediately arises, what could Obama offer Teheran in exchange for an end to its nuclear program that Bush hasn’t already offered?

What it can offer is Israel.

Over the past few years, Obama’s top nuclear nonproliferation adviser, Joe Cirincione, has repeatedly advocated placing Israel’s nuclear arsenal on the negotiating table and offering it up in exchange for an Iranian pledge to end its nuclear program. Defense Secretary Robert Gates – whom Obama is considering retaining – insinuated in his 2006 confirmation hearings that Iran is only building nuclear weapons to defend itself against Israel. Gates, it should be recalled, has been instrumental in convincing Bush not only not to attack Iran’s nuclear installations, but not to support an Israeli attack against Iran’s nuclear installations. [my emphasis]

So that’s the gist of it (but read all of Glick’s excellent article). Of course Obama and his officials will continue to insist that the security of Israel is paramount, and that the US will not allow it to be compromised — just as he did during his campaign.  But there’s no question that an Israel without its nuclear deterrent would shortly cease to exist.

While this may not be the intention of Barack Obama, it is a consequence of the realist policy — in essence, to sacrifice the interests of small and economically insignificant Israel in favor of those of the massive oil powers of the region. And those interests include the elimination of Israel.

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