Archive for December, 2008

Hamas must be eliminated

Tuesday, December 30th, 2008

“There is no one in the world that understands why Hamas is continuing to fire rockets at Israel…the firing defies reason and logic, and it doesn’t stand a chance.” — Shimon Peres, quoted in the Jerusalem Post

Peres is incorrect. Anyone who understands Palestinian psychology understands exactly why Hamas continues to fire rockets at Israel. Barry Rubin has explained it in numerous articles (for example, here and here), but possibly Peres doesn’t read Prof. Rubin. Here is a quick summary:

  1. Economic improvements or even getting a Palestinian state are not important. What is important is progress toward regaining Palestinian honor by driving the Jews out of the Middle East.
  2. As a corollary to the above, Palestinians that advocate compromise with Israel are considered traitors to the cause. The more radical you are, the more admired.
  3. ‘Moderation’  in Western terms is the same as ‘giving up’ for Palestinians. And one must never give up: after all, it took a hundred years to kick the Crusaders out of Palestine.
  4. For Hamas, all of the above is demanded not only by honor, but by Islam as well.

Yes, Hamas could stop firing rockets and then Israel would have to stop bombing it. Indeed, if Hamas would restrain itself and its associated factions from terrorism, Israel would open the crossings and life would be much better for everyone in Gaza (not to mention Israelis within rocket range).

To go even further, if Hamas would simply pronounce the formula of recognition for Israel, acceptance of prior agreements and renunciation of terrorism it could obtain a controlling role in the Palestinian Authority and receive huge amounts of money from the West. But to do so, or even pretend to do so, would be unthinkable, and Hamas would lose the support that it has gained by being pure and uncompromising.

This is actually something that I like about Hamas. Their honesty works to their disadvantage. Yasser Arafat made great gains for his movement — he weakened Israel, obtained money and arms, developed several private armies and terrorist gangs, and took control of territory that had been in the hands of Israel simply by lying.

Arafat took advantage of — I have to say this — ignorant people like Shimon Peres who believed that Arafat wanted a Palestinian state living at peace with Israel, who could not imagine that he would be irrational enough to prefer privation and war to prosperity and peace. Despite the fact that there were plenty of Arabic speakers around to translate and plenty of physical evidence that he was financing terrorism, they insisted on believing his soothing remarks made in English. But his people understood his calls for jihad quite well. Hamas is apparently incapable of this kind of dissimulation.

The lesson of this, which may be lost on Peres but I hope is clear to Israel’s decision-makers, is that Hamas must be eliminated. It is not possible to ‘moderate’ Hamas because it will not compromise its goal, which is the destruction of Israel. Any truces or deals made with Hamas will be tactical, temporary pauses in the struggle which they will not give up.

Simply put, it’s us or them. Now is the time to make sure that it will be us who survives.

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The Gaza war

Sunday, December 28th, 2008

“War, what is it good for? Absolutely nothin’!” — Edwin Starr, 1970

Some wars are absolutely necessary, though, and this is one of them.

The struggle to kick the Jews out of the Middle East has been led by various entities with the help and connivance of others since the beginning of the 20th century. In the 1930’s it was the Mufti and his followers. Later Egypt and Syria (primarily) picked up the standard, both by making war directly on the Jewish state and by supporting various Palestinian terrorist factions, notably the PLO.  Today it’s Iran.

Iran, which until very recently was flush with oil money, may be more dangerous than Nasser’s Egypt was. It will certainly become so the day it becomes a nuclear power. Today’s Iranian strategy is to weaken Israel through asymmetric low-level conflicts with non-state proxies such as Hamas and Hezbollah, and ultimately to destroy Israel in a regional war in which the primary weapon will be short and long-range missiles fired from Syria, lebanon, and even Gaza.

But Israel is far too strong to be defeated in such a war today. Her enemies understand that quite well despite the bombastic propaganda they broadcast. They prefer to continue applying military and diplomatic pressure to weaken Israel and strengthen its antagonists Hamas and Hezbollah, as well as to press the campaign to delegitimize Israel throughout the world and reduce her support — especially in the US.

The plan includes psychological warfare against Israel, to cause Jews to emigrate, to weaken their commitment to military service and to make them lose confidence in the very proposition that Israel can maintain herself in the Mideast. The Hamas rocket attacks, although they have killed ‘only’ about 16 Israelis since 2001, have had a great deal of effect. The fundamental purpose of a state is to protect its citizens, and it appeared that Israel was incapable of doing that.

What has happened this week is that Hamas — or whoever is calling the shots — miscalculated. Perhaps they believed their own propaganda that Israel was politically incapable of fighting, that the army was not better prepared than in 2006, that Israel was not psychologically capable of accepting the casualties that an all-out war with Hamas would entail, that Gaza was no different than Lebanon, that world opinion could be mobilized to end any conflict to their advantage, that they had built up their military strength and fortifications enough to resist anything the IDF was likely to throw at them.

As a result they expected that nothing would happen, or that Israel’s response would be ineffective. They chose a convenient pretext to resume rocket attacks, which had slowed during the ‘calm’ that had been in effect, firing over 100 rockets into Israel last week. But Israel already had contingency plans in place and they have been activated.

The official goals of the operation are to end the rocket fire, destroy the stockpiles and stop the weapons smuggling that has enabled Hamas to build up its capabilities. Unofficial goals may include crippling Hamas by killing its leadership. Even more important, I think, is to restore the ability to deter aggression from the proxies, the gradual escalation of which has been chipping away at the self-respect of the Jewish people, the very heart of Zionism.

What’s next?

This morning there was a news item that the IAF had destroyed 40 smuggling tunnels in 4 minutes. Like the punchline of the unpleasant lawyer joke (“What do you call 500 dead lawyers at the bottom of the ocean?”)  this is only a good start. There are literally hundreds of such tunnels, and the only way to eliminate them will be on the ground. I expect that also there will be special forces operations — they may already be underway — to capture or kill Hamas leaders or even to free Gilad Schalit. And of course many of the rocket launchers and their operators will have to be taken out on the ground.

Israel has said that civilian casualties are light, but we can expect that Hamas and friends will be screaming ‘massacre’ as they did in 2003 when they invented the ‘Jenin Massacre’.  There are already demonstrations all around the world and among Arab citizens of Israel in opposition to the attack. I am waiting for Peace Fresno to mobilize in opposition to the ‘holocaust’.

It seems that this time Israel has done its diplomatic homework. Non-hostile governments so far have of course called for an end to the fighting, but also indicate understanding of Israel’s position. Hamas is also not everyone’s favorite social club; for example, the Mubarak regime’s most dangerous internal enemy is the Muslim Brotherhood which gave birth to Hamas. Many developed countries have had enough of Islamic terrorism.

I’m convinced that the team of Ehud Barak and Gabi Ashkenazi can achieve their military objectives given the appropriate amount of time. As always, it will come down to a race between the progress of the IDF and media-fueled diplomatic pressure to back off before a conclusive victory is obtained.

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Antisemitism has irrational — and political — roots

Friday, December 26th, 2008

Recently I wrote that evildoers like Bernard Madoff and the Rubashkins reflect badly on the Jewish people. Well, they do, but I think they have very little effect on the prevalence of anti-Semitisim, despite the horror stories being circulated.

What they have done is cause an increase in antisemitic expression by giving antisemites something to talk about. David Duke is never one to miss an opportunity. What else is new?

Anti-Semitism, and indeed, all group hatreds, are irrational. A rational antisemite would have to prove that Jews are in general more dishonest than non-Jews, and there is no such proof. Certainly one Bernie Madoff out of  13 million Jews is statistically insignificant, no matter how expensive or well-publicized his crimes are.

Not that it isn’t annoying. I imagine that many African-Americans slapped their foreheads when Rep. William Jefferson (D-LA)  was found with $90,000 of cold cash in his freezer. But it didn’t prove anything about anyone other than Jefferson (and any co-conspirators he may have had).

But nobody suddenly became a racist because of Jefferson and nobody became an antisemite because of Madoff. And unfortunately, very rarely does someone stop being one as a result of rational argument.

The very irrationality of group hatreds — which are possibly vestiges of the group behavior of primates — give them power to stir the emotions. This is why anti-Semitism is so popular with dictatorial regimes, who depend on emotions like fear and hatred to control and motivate their populations.

And this — the deliberate stirring of atavistic emotions for political purposes — is probably the major source of antisemitism today. In particular, Iranian and Arab regimes — including the Palestinian Hamas and Fatah — deliberately promulgate the most disgusting, emotionally powerful antisemitic myths of the Middle Ages and Nazi era in order to create new antisemites, antisemites who will be prepare to fight and die for their irrational feelings.

Sometimes one can see their intentions in the myths they choose. It is very important for Ahmadinejad to talk about Jewish ‘control’ of the US, for example, because he needs to arouse hatred of his greatest enemy — the US — as well as of Jews and Israel.

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Christmas and Halloween presents to the anti-Semites

Wednesday, December 24th, 2008

Sholom Rubashkin, CEO of kosher meat provider Agriprocessors was arrested on October 30 and charged with violations of immigration and child labor laws. In 2004, Agriprocessors was also the subject of a shocking undercover video made by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, in which animals were slaughtered in cruel (and according to many authorities, non-kosher) methods.

And Bernie Madoff needs no introduction.

Rabbi Shmueley Boteach said,

…in sharp contrast to what is developing in the kosher meat industry, there has been no move afoot to establish something akin to “Hechsher Tzedek,” a rabbinic certificate of ethical excellence, for financial institutions. After all, how is it that when so many of the people going to jail on Wall Street turn out to be Jewish, the Modern Orthodox and Conservative movements have not immediately launched a campaign, as they are doing with kosher meat, to evaluate firms that invest Jewish money to ensure that they conform to the highest ethical norms in terms of treatment of employees and overcompensation of dead-beat executives?

Boteach’s intent was to contrast the attitudes of liberal Jews (for Boteach, Modern Orthodox is liberal) toward a corrupt kosher butcher with those toward a corrupt financier, but I’m more interested in the similarities than the differences.

There are anti-Semitic stereotypes about Jews. We all know what they are. One is that there are a disproportionate number of unethical Jews in  business and finance. Is it true? Probably not, but it’s impossible to tell. There are plenty of non-Jewish corporate criminals to go around. Let’s not forget Enron’s Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling (although their Jewish CFO, Andy Fastow, went to jail too), WorldCom’s Bernie Ebbers, Tyco’s L. Dennis Kozlowski and Mark Swartz, or Adelphia’s John and Timothy Rigas.

Unfortunately, Jews are noticeable (and if people don’t notice, the anti-Semites help them notice). One Madoff or Rubashkin cancels a thousand honest and decent people.

I often hear that nothing that Jews do can possibly affect what antisemites say about them, and this is true.  But what Jews do can affect what normal people think. Madoff and Rubashkin each violated numerous commandments — the Torah explicitly commands that employees must be treated justly, cruelty to animals is forbidden, and of course the injunction לא תגנב [You shall not steal] is found in the Ten Commandments. Madoff’s crime is especially heinous because so many charities suffered at his hands, but both of them blackened the name of the Jewish People.

There is no central authority in Judaism, so it’s not possible to cut someone off from his people or put him to death by stoning, two biblical punishments that might be applied to [alleged, but I believe them to be guilty] criminals like these. To be fair, Rubashkin seems to have some supporters, although like Boteach they mostly talk about his treatment — especially a particularly stupid statement by prosecutors — and not his actions.

It is disappointing that so few Orthodox authorities have disputed the technical kashrut of Agriprocessors’ meat (no, I’m not a rabbi, but I challenge anyone to watch the video and explain how what appears there is kosher slaughter). Although Rubashkin was arrested for other crimes, like Madoff, Agriprocessors defrauded Jews — those who thought they were buying kosher meat.

Madoff doesn’t seem to have any supporters, possibly because he stole from everyone. His own sons contacted the FBI after Madoff admitted the fraud to them.

Bradley Burston said that Madoff was a Christmas present to anti-Semites. I suppose the timing of Rubashkin’s arrest would make him a Halloween present.

Sholom Rubashkin does the 'perp walk'

Sholom Rubashkin does the ‘perp walk’

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The pragmatic fanaticism of Hamas

Monday, December 22nd, 2008

The so-called ‘truce’ or ‘calm’ between Israel and Hamas seems to be over, with tens of rockets daily flying into Israel from Gaza. Israel’s government has apparently decided to take some kind military action; allowing Hamas to bombard Israelis is not an option any longer.

To answer the question “what should Israel do?” we first need to ask what Hamas is doing and what it wants. Bradley Burston presents the view of Gen. (ret.) Shmuel Zakai:

Israel must … understand that Hamas is a pragmatic organization, Zakai continues. “The moment that the organization understands that Qassam fire is contrary to its interests, it will stop the fire…

“An integrated approach, on the one hand, includes demonstration of military might, a demonstration of the heavy price Hamas would have to pay if the firing continues, and on the other hand, also using a carrot, to cause Hamas to understand that refraining from firing exactly serves their interests.

He believes that Hamas would have – and still would – accept a bargain in which Hamas, the only power who holds sway over the multiplicity racketeers and gunmen of Gaza’s many armed groups, would halt the fire in exchange for easing of the many ways in which Israeli policies have kept a choke hold on the economy of the Strip.

Gen. Zakai is right and wrong. He is right that Hamas is pragmatic — in a sense. But he is wrong in thinking that Hamas would consider improving Gaza’s economy to be in its interest. Here is how Barry Rubin sees Hamas:

From a Western moderate pragmatist standpoint, Hamas’s decision [to end the cease-fire] makes no sense for several reasons:

  • Hamas cannot defeat Israel militarily. Thus, fighting won’t improve Hamas’s strategic situation or bring victory.
  • Israeli counterattacks will cause both injuries and material damage in the Gaza Strip, inflicting big costs on Hamas’s domain and subjects.
  • Returning to warfare will ensure Hamas remains politically isolated and blocks international recognition or aid that would help its cause or end economic sanctions against the Gaza Strip.
  • Going back to fighting makes certain that the Gaza Strip faces continued, even heightened, reductions in the material let in, thus ensuring more Palestinian suffering there.

And Hamas is seemingly making three additional mistakes regarding timing.

The first is that it is ending the cease-fire while George W. Bush is president. Certainly Israel feels freer to hit back at Hamas now than after Barack Obama is inaugurated simply because the new administration would want to avoid a crisis before it consolidates its plans and team. Also, the US is likely to prefer quiet as it begins withdrawing from Iraq.

Second, the cease-fire is being suspended on the eve of a major Palestinian crisis as Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas announces a self-extension of his term in office. One might think Hamas would prefer to keep the Israel front quiet for a while to focus on battling Fatah and the PA.

Finally, there’s the Israeli election campaign. While this doesn’t make large-scale retaliation inevitable, such a move would make the current government more popular with the electorate.

Therefore, Hamas’s behavior, an outside observer can easily conclude, seems stupid. But having built a mass movement, sizable army, seized the Gaza Strip and built broad support throughout the Arab and Muslim worlds, Hamas may be composed of genocide-oriented fanatics but not fools. What then explains this apparently silly behavior?

Here’s a case study of how Middle East politics really work:

  • Hamas really believes its own propaganda, expecting victory despite the odds. Costs and casualties are irrelevant. The battle will go on until total victory even if that takes decades. This indicates Hamas will not moderate – the same applies to Hizbullah, Syria and Iran.
  • At the same time, Hamas is not only indifferent to its own people’s welfare, it [is] actually seeking to inflict suffering on them as a political strategy. The worse off Palestinians are, Hamas believes, the more likely they will fight and die. This “the worse things are, the better they are” is the exact opposite of Western perspectives.

But Hamas goes even further. It knows suffering can be blamed on Israel. Western pragmatists reason that obviously the Palestinians must prefer peace, prosperity and statehood. Rejectionism must then be due to desperation and the lack of a good offer or faith in the West. In fact, though, the situation is not due to our mistakes but to their deliberate choices.

Thus, Hamas can well conclude that the best way to put pressure on Israel and – in its own mind at least – gain Western help is to be more radical, not more moderate.

Then, too, setting off a crisis, Hamas expects, will draw peacekeepers like hardworking ants, giving press conferences in which they will insist that “something must be done to defuse the crisis.” That “something” usually seems to be unilateral Israeli concessions. In short, the international community may rush in to save Hamas or the Palestinians in spite of themselves.

At the same time, though, Hamas believes that its intransigence and aggressiveness will increase support in the Arab and Muslim worlds. As with Hizbullah, waging a war and portraying it as victory – even though the facts are otherwise – makes one a hero and attracts financing. This is also a judgment regarding Palestinian responses. More popular support can be garnered by producing martyrs than by producing higher living standards. Thus, Hamas will do better in its rivalry with the PA by fighting Israel than by fighting poverty.

Hamas’ pragmatism is not the pragmatism of someone like Gen. Zakai, who naturally sees the welfare of one’s civilian population as a high-priority goal. But it is actually a pretty clear-headed understanding of what is required to defeat a liberal democracy like Israel and a corrupt secular nationalism like Fatah.

The best strategy for Israel is not a large-scale ground invasion, and especially not one which ends in a reoccupation of Gaza. This would give the maximum advantage to Hamas, which cares little about military casualties and actually welcomes civilian ones.

I vote for decapitation: kill the Hamas leaders and destroy as much military infrastructure as possible without causing mass civilian casualties.

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Obama Mideast policy: an optimistic view

Wednesday, December 17th, 2008

Yesterday I wrote a very pessimistic piece about the pressure that I expected the Obama administration to put on Israel for an immediate withdrawal from the West Bank. Here’s a much more reassuring view of the same issues.

Let’s hope he’s right and I’m wrong.

Not the Center of the World
by Barry Rubin

Israel isn’t going to be the center of the world for the Obama administration and that’s a good, if ego-disappointing, thing. Both the pro-Israeli right’s paranoia and the wishful thinking of the anti-Israeli left in the United States (and, in the latter category, Europe plus the Middle East as well), are operating out of expectations rather than the actual situation.

What can be safely assumed is something along the following lines:

  • The Obama administration will put the main emphasis on domestic issues rather than foreign policy. It faces humongous problems at home and has gigantic ambitions to change America, for better or worse.

Of course, foreign policy has a way of imposing itself on the White House through crises, though many of these might not come from the Middle East or at least the part where Israel is located. Still, what this means is that presidential prestige won’t be involved at high levels or consistently to wage campaigns unless really deemed unavoidable.

  • The administration’s Middle East priority will be dealing with Iraq. If you want, you can add Afghanistan and possibly Pakistan. The key point, though, is that withdrawing at least American combat troops successfully from Iraq, no matter how many months it takes precisely, must top the list. This will take massive amounts of policymaker time and political capital, both domestic and international.
  • No doubt there will be much apparent activity on peace process stuff including endless delegations, speeches, and other showpieces. Nevertheless, the administration will put little effort behind it. Many academics, journalists, and ideologues haven’t yet gotten the word but the kind of Washington types who will actually make government decisions understand this issue isn’t a panacea for all problems, Middle East or global.
  • They also know there aren’t quick or easy solutions. So while the Obamaists criticized Bush for not doing enough on the issue, deep down they know that not a lot could be done. Policymakers, and especially Secretary of State-designate Hillary Clinton, aren’t going to waste time on issues that won’t make them look successful.
  • Consequently, there will be no all-out effort to pressure Israel into major concessions because everyone who counts knows these aren’t going to lead anywhere.
  • Rather, the administration will certainly expect Israel to keep things quiet so as not to interfere with its Iraq strategy.
  • Periodically, Hillary will make some demand on Israel regarding minor points in order to make her look good and give the illusion of success and progress. She’ll be angry if she doesn’t get what she wants. But what she will want will be fairly petty stuff.
  • And she isn’t going to make nice with Hamas and Hizballah, whatever the administration does with Iran and Syria.
  • If Bibi Netanyahu is Israel’s next prime minister there’s certainly potential for friction between him and Obama. But if Israel has a national unity government, Bibi continues talks with the PA, seeks to strengthen it against Hamas, and even keeps chatting with Syria–even knowing these negotiations won’t lead anywhere–bilateral relations should be okay.
  • This administration will probably never support an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear facilities, but if Israel’s leaders deem such a strike necessary for national survival, they should go ahead anyway and the relationship will weather the crisis.
  • The long-touted idea of creating a U.S. Middle East coordinator has run into trouble because Hillary and others won’t give away turf to someone who reports directly to the president. Such a person wouldn’t influence Afghanistan or Pakistan policy (which might get a separate coordinator) or the withdrawal from Iraq (which will have its own czar as well as being overseen by NSC chief General James Jones), nor in dealing with Iran (which remains with Hillary). It isn’t even clear if that person would get the Syria portfolio. So they’d end up as a sort of equivalent of former British prime minister Tony Blair, running around cajoling people to be friends.
  • The administration will try to engage Syria and Iran but won’t get anything real out of them. Let’s see how long it takes the administration to realize this.
  • Even Arab states have largely stopped their old propaganda line: “Solve the Arab-Israeli conflict and all other problems will disappear. Of course, there’s a wide gap between what’s said in private and in public.

In reality, though, Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia are scared of Islamism; Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia are afraid of Iran, Shia Muslim power, and Islamism; smaller Gulf states are just interested in making money and living well (not that there’s anything wrong with that); Lebanese are desperately trying to survive an Iran-Syrian onslaught; and Iraqis are trying to end their internal conflict and build a stable government.

That doesn’t mean regional leaders won’t keep using Israel as scapegoat. They’re unable and unwilling to make peace; but they don’t want war either and are more interested in getting U.S. protection from Tehran than a Palestinian state. They’ll simultaneously be pleased if Israel destroyed Iran’s nuclear facilities and denounce Israel for “aggression.” Why not have your baklava and eat it, too?

We’re in a new Middle East, or rather a battle between two new Middle Easts. This isn’t the old Middle East of Arab nationalist regimes striving for regional hegemony and using the Palestinians as a tool in that battle. Nor is it the new Middle East of 1990s’ hopes for peace and democracy.

The choice is between the Iran-Syria model for a region of “resistance” (fighting Israel and America as top priority; installing Islamist regimes) and that of Arab states resisting Islamism and Iranian hegemony.

Anyone unprepared to deal with these realities is incapable of understanding what’s going on now and what will happen in coming years. The Obama administration is wrong in making conciliation with sworn, ideologically sincere enemies its main theme rather than building a united front against radical Islamism and Iranian imperialism. At the same time, though, it doesn’t seem to be intoxicated with the bash-Israel-and-save-the-world fantasy.

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

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Israel’s new reality

Tuesday, December 16th, 2008

News item:

The UN Security Council approved a resolution Tuesday stressing that the Israeli-Palestinian peace process initiated by the United States last year is irreversible and urging intensified efforts to achieve peace throughout the Middle East.

The vote was 14-0, with Libya abstaining because the resolution did not condemn Israel’s “siege on the Gaza strip” and intensified settlement activities.

The resolution, co-sponsored by the United States and Russia, backs “the determined efforts” by Israel and the Palestinians to conclude a peace treaty and fulfill the vision that they can live peacefully side by side as independent democratic states.

Translation: the US and the ‘quartet’ will force Israel back to pre-1967 borders, soon.

With the accession of the Obama administration, we can expect that the White House and Defense Department will be on the same page with the State Department about this. Therefore, this will happen. It will happen even if the Likud wins the upcoming elections and forms a right-wing coalition, and even if the handful of American Jews who disagree burn tires in the streets of Brooklyn.

At a minimum it will mean a withdrawal from most of the West Bank, possibly allowing for minor border adjustments to include some major settlements in Israel. It’s not clear when/if the Golan will go back to Syria and it’s not clear what else the ‘peace’ treaty will dictate about refugees, the Temple Mount, etc.

The position of the Right that Israel must retain all of the Land of Israel is moot. It will not happen. The position of the Center (that’s me) that Israel must not withdraw from any territory until there is a Palestinian leadership that actually is prepared to live at peace is moot. There will not be time. The position of the Left that such a withdrawal would be a Good Thing, is … about to be proven wrong.

Tens of thousands of Jewish residents will be relocated, the exact number being dependent on the aforementioned border adjustments, because ‘Palestine’ must be Judenrein (even though Arabs can be full citizens of Israel). If the experience of the 8,000 Jewish residents of Gaza is a guide, this will be at least a disaster  (I don’t know what it will be if there is violent resistance, as did not happen in Gaza).

The puppet Fatah government of the West Bank, even if it is protected by NATO troops will either fall and be replaced by Hamas, or it will be “unable to control” terrorist elements. Israel will therefore be sandwiched between terrorist proxy armies on her northern, southern and eastern borders. The narrow 9-mile wide ‘waist’ of Israel near Kfar Saba, the so-called “Auschwitz borders” will return.

So what must Israel do before this comes to pass? Several things come to mind:

  • The security fence should be completed, and Israel should seek US support for it to mark the eastern border.
  • The IDF should develop strategies for fighting terrorism from the West Bank without the ability to maintain a permanent presence there.
  • The IDF should develop strategies to decisively defeat Hamas and Hezbollah.
  • The state should prepare for an influx of former settlers who must be provided with housing and jobs. Israel should demand sufficient compensation from the Quartet to ensure that what happened to former Gaza residents will not happen again (and their needs must finally be met).
  • The state should expect the demands of the Israeli Arabs for ‘national rights’ to take center stage once the ‘occupation’ can’t be used as the explanation for Arab ‘anger and frustration’.

These are dark times for the Jewish State. In a sense, I agree with the despicable PM Olmert when he says that Israel has to live with a reality that includes giving up the territories.

The difference is that Olmert pretends that Israel has some volition in the matter, and that it is possible to achieve ‘peace’ — whereas I see that Israel has no more choice than Czechoslovakia did in 1938, and must prepare for war.

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No room for Jews

Monday, December 15th, 2008

Ahmed QureiYesterday I wrote that the Palestinians have never negotiated, that they have not reduced their demands since the ‘peace’ process — first Oslo and now Annapolis — began.  Here’s some more evidence:

There will be no room for Jews or settlements in the West Bank because their presence there will always be an obstacle to peace with Israel, Ahmed Qurei, head of the Palestinian Authority negotiating team, said at the weekend…

“Initially, Israel sought to annex 7.3 percent of the West Bank,” he disclosed. “Then it went down to 6.8%. Of course we completely rejected this idea…”

The chief Palestinian negotiator also said Israel agreed to take in 5,000 Palestinian refugees over a five-year period, but this was rejected by the Palestinians…

Qurei said the Palestinians have also rejected the idea of land swap with Israel. How can we give up any part of Jerusalem?” he asked. “For us Jerusalem is not only a spiritual or cultural or historic center, but also the economic center of the future Palestinian state. The settlements surrounding the city will make it hard for millions of Arabs, Muslims and Christians to visit Jerusalem in the future.”

In a few sentences we have the Palestinian position: no compromise on borders, refugees or Jerusalem.

No room for Jews. It has a familiar ring to it.

It’s instructive to ask exactly what justifies Qurei’s stubbornness.

One of the places that the Palestinians do not wish to compromise on is Kibbutz Kfar Etzion, south of Jerusalem. Part of the Palestine Mandate from 1917 to 1948, and the Ottoman empire before that, it was purchased from local Arabs and settled by Yemenite Jews in 1927.  They lived there on and off (they were driven out several times by Arab riots) until 1948 when the invading Jordanian army overran it and executed all but four of its defenders. All of the West Bank and East Jerusalem were made Jew-free by the Jordanians, who illegally occupied the area until 1967, when the kibbutz was reestablished.

So please explain, Mr. Qurei, where the Palestinian claim comes from. And explain why it is that if Kfar Etzion did become part of your state, there would be no room for Jews in it. Will Palestine be a racist apartheid state?

He has an answer for this:

Our experiences have taught us that it’s impossible to coexist with these settlers. We still remember the [Tomb of the Patriarchs] massacre in Hebron in 1994 and the daily attacks carried out by settlers in Hebron, Nablus, Kalkilya and other places.

In other words because a Jew, Baruch Goldstein, acted like an Arab terrorist (after which he and his act were denounced by all but a tiny sliver of Israel’s population), and because some Jewish settlers have become hostile in the face of constant hostility from Arabs — that is, because they have behaved like the imperfect human beings that they are — Jews are not permitted to live in Kfar Etzion?

Does Mr. Qurei have the moral authority to argue that Jews must be expelled (again) from Kfar Etzion because of the settlers’ behavior when his national heroes are murderers like Samir Kuntar and Dalal Mughrabi?

Does he have the moral authority to worry about access to Jerusalem for “Arabs, Muslims and Christians” when Israel has allowed access to the holy places for all faiths, even after Jews were not permitted to set foot in East Jerusalem during the Jordanian occupation?

Does he have any moral authority at all when his PLO has been the world leader in terrorism and murder since the 1960’s?

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Prisoners guilty of attempted murder to be released

Sunday, December 14th, 2008

News item:

( The High Court ruled Sunday that the government is legally allowed to release 230 terrorists on Monday as a “good-will gesture” to the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority. The government approved the release last week.

The court rejected an appeal from the Land of Israel Legal Forum, which argued that Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert should not be allowed to release the terrorists as their release is a step with long-term implications. Olmert should not be allowed to make decisions with a long-term impact because he merely a caretaker Prime Minister, Forum attorneys said.

Another group that attempted to prevent the release was the Almagor umbrella group of terror-victim organizations. Almagor Director Meir Indor pointed out that approximately 80 percent of released terrorists have resumed their terror activities…

If Israel is getting anything in return for these ‘gestures’, it isn’t apparent. Almagor (which has the photographs of 179 Israelis murdered since 2000 by released terrorists on its site) says that 143 of the prisoners to be released were arrested for attempted murder and almost all of them were arrested since 2006. This sounds to me like a somewhat high-risk group.

Olmert has released several hundred terrorists and pardoned hundreds more, in an attempt to strengthen PA Chairman Abbas and promote negotiations with the PA….

Abbas says there will be no peace with Israel until all terrorists are released from Israeli prisons, including those guilty of dozens of murders. [my emphasis]

I submit that there have been no negotiations with the Palestinians in a normal sense of  ‘negotiations’ since the ‘process’ began back in the early 1990’s, and so there’s nothing to promote. Real negotiations comprise both sides moving toward each other’s position, step by step. The Hebrew phrase is masa umatan — taking and giving.

The Palestinians have never given anything, ever. Even the promise made in 1993 to change the PLO charter so that it would not call for the violent destruction of Israel was never fulfilled.

Abbas continues to insist on all prisoners being released, on all refugees ‘returning’ to Israel, on every inch of land occupied in 1967 being transferred to the Palestinians. The official Palestinian media continues to incite hatred, despite countless promises to stop. Nothing has changed since the days of Arafat.

Meanwhile, Israel only gives. Land is transferred, prisoners released. Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem is de facto surrendered.

The Palestinians and their friends will tell you that Israel is confiscating land, building ‘new’ settlements, etc. But actually more and more territory is coming under their control; and it’s certain that the Obama administration wants to push this to the limit in 2009.

Caretaker PM Olmert is working harder than he ever did to ‘negotiate’, despite the fact that the majority of Israelis have shown — the Likud is way ahead in pre-election polling — that they do not approve of the direction the government is going. Better he should spend his time planning strategy for the felony trial he will shortly face.

If you were Abbas, would you do anything differently? All he needs to do is wait.

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NATO can’t replace the IDF

Friday, December 12th, 2008

Little by little, it’s becoming clear that the Obama policy toward the territories will be this:

  • Minimize Israel’s footprint in the West Bank, preferably to the pre-1967 border,
  • Establish a Palestinian state, and
  • Police the arrangement — protect Israel from terrorism and the terrorists from Israel — with international troops stationed in the West Bank.

Caroline Glick writes (“Netanyahu’s Grand Coalition“),

People who have been in close contact with Obama’s foreign policy transition team have privately acknowledged that the widespread belief that Obama will move swiftly to put the screws on Israel is fully justified. According to one source who has spent a great deal of time with the transition team since last month’s US elections, Obama’s people are “scope-locked” on Israel.

The source reports that Gen. Jim Jones, Obama’s designated national security adviser, is Israel’s most outspoken critic. The source, who held a two and a half hour meeting with Jones, told his associates that Jones is keen to deploy NATO forces, perhaps including US troops, to Judea and Samaria.

Jones’s plan, which is vociferously opposed by the IDF, would make it impossible for the IDF to carry out counterterror operations in the areas. As a practical matter, the lives of hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens who live in the areas would be imperiled. Just as Hizbullah has used UNIFIL forces in south Lebanon as a shield from the IDF behind which it has rearmed and reasserted control over the border zone, so too a NATO force would facilitate an empowerment of Hamas and Fatah, which would unify, arm and organize free from the threat of IDF counterterror operations.

It should be obvious that the plan cannot possibly work. Here are a few of the reasons:

  • The IDF prevents terrorist attacks by intercepting  terrorists before they strike, sometimes as they are on the way to their targets. This is made possible by excellent intelligence gathering by the Shabak (Internal Security Service) in the territories. NATO could not possibly do as well, even if they were as motivated, which they will not be. Will they hire local Palestinians to be interpreters and interrogators?
  • The natural lack of motivation — why should, for example, Polish, Romanian, Lithuanian or Turkish troops (just a few random examples from NATO’s 26 member nations) risk their lives to prevent terrorism against Israel?
  • NATO troops will be at the mercy of suicide terrorists and can be forced to leave at any time. What will happen the first time a truck bomb wipes out a whole platoon of them? What if some of these are Americans?
  • Politically it is impossible to make a Palestinian government out of Fatah, which has no support from Palestinians who are not on its payroll. How long will foreign troops have to stay?

As Glick points out there is real danger that the Fatah and Hamas factions — neither of whom is committed to living at peace alongside Israel, regardless of what Fatah spokesmen say in English — will overcome their differences (at least in a working agreement), which would combine the resources of Fatah (arms and cash provided by the international community) with the fanatical commitment to Israel’s destruction that characterizes Hamas.

All this because the Obama team believes that once the ‘peace’ agreement is made, the Arab and Muslim world will end the conflict with Israel — and will have no further reason to oppose the US, which they supposedly do because we support Israel.

It should be obvious that the opposite will occur. Any border issues will immediately become of greatest importance to the Arabs. Demands for ‘return’ of ‘refugees’ will escalate. We will start hearing even more about the ‘plight’ of the Israeli Arabs, trapped in a Jewish state which  denies their ‘basic political rights’. Israel will be expected to release every last Palestinian prisoner, regardless of his or her crime. Anti-Israel and anti-Jewish incitement in the Arab and Iranian media will continue, just as it did after the ‘peace’ treaty between Israel and Egypt or the withdrawal from Gaza. Once 1967 has been reversed, the focus will move to 1948.

Israel will make practical sacrifices that will prove deadly for some of her citizens, and peace will be no closer.

And what will the US get from all of this? Iran’s main geopolitical goal — to replace the US as the controlling power in the Mideast — will not go away. Indeed, one of Iran’s stumbling blocks has been US-aligned Israel, and anything that weakens Israel helps Iran.

Terrorists everywhere will be encouraged because it will clear to them that no matter how the US or Israel try to spin the withdrawal from the territories, it was violence and threatened violence that brought it about.

Obama seems to understand the idea that ultimately he is responsible for the outcome of his policies. He is also reportedly a quick study. It is to be hoped that he will come to the understanding that his advisors are leading him down a dangerous path before too much damage is done.

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Spy vs. spy

Friday, December 12th, 2008

News item:

The United States routinely attempts to gather information on Israel’s assumed atomic arsenal and secret government deliberations, a new official history of Israel’s intelligence services, reviewed by Reuters, says.

While espionage by allies on their friends is not uncommon, a new Israeli state-sponsored publication acknowledges it openly.

The book “Masterpiece: An Inside Look at Sixty Years of Israeli Intelligence,” claims American spy agencies use technologies like electronic eavesdropping, and specially trained staff located in the US embassy in Tel Aviv, for “methodical intelligence gathering.” [my emphasis]

Arrest one and send him to prison for life, based on secret evidence.

Then see if Bush will pardon Jonathan Pollard before he leaves office.

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Demography is Destiny

Thursday, December 11th, 2008

After 9/11 there was a running dispute over the question “Do they hate us for what we do, or because of who we are?” Liberals tended to suggest that a history of Western colonialism and exploitation, combined with poverty, disease and technological backwardness in the Muslim world were the root causes of the conflict, whereas conservatives saw it as ideological — they hate us because of our freedom, democratic institutions, sexual equality, etc.

If you ask Gunnar Heinsohn, he would say that both explanations are wrong.

Heinsohn is a proponent of the ‘youth bulge’ theory which holds that a great deal of war, terrorism, genocide and general violence are a result of young men who have no place in their societies. In societies where the eldest son inherits land or position from his father, the younger ones need to make a place for themselves, often violently.

In a talk he gave Thursday at Israel’s RAFAEL  (Armaments Development Authority), Heinsohn described the options open to superfluous young men in youth-bulge societies:

  1. They emigrate, i.e. opt for colonization without bloodshed.
  2. They engage in crime and decimate each other in gangs.
  3. As young officers they stage coups in the army, where promotion is rare for them.
  4. They engage in civil war or revolutions, masking their ambitions behind selfless service for true gods, tormented peoples, brotherly values, etc.
  5. They oust minorities from their jobs by genocide or expulsion.
  6. They engage in cross-border warfare to find their place through bloody colonization or again genocide.

In the case of blocked emigration youth bulge territories can never exist without killing, so to speak, but will always oscillate from gang wars to terror, civil war, genocide and war.

Heinsohn didn’t invent the youth bulge theory, but he has generalized it and applied demography to explain various historical events — the Crusades, major wars, etc. He thinks that the existence of a youth bulge — which he defines as “growing  population with at least 30 per cent of males aged 15 to 29″ is an almost certain predictor of violent instability in a society.

And nobody has a bigger youth bulge than some of the Arab societies that have recently been focal points for terrorism and violence.

The age distribution of  a population at a given time can be shown graphically a diagram called a ‘population pyramid’. You can create them yourself from the US Census Bureau’s International Database. Here is one for a country that is highly unlikely to be the source of the next Mongol horde, Germany:

Germany: population 2008

In Germany the ratio of men aged 40-44 to boys  from 0 to 4 is about 1 to 0.5. The problem in Germany and many other European countries is to find young people to do the work to to support the growing number of retirees. Young people are not faced with a lack of high-status positions to move into as their elders move out of them — rather, there are not enough skilled young people to take over from the older generation. Heinsohn calls a graph shaped like this an indicator of  ‘demographic capitulation’, the shape of a society in decline.

Now let’s look at the profile of Saudi Arabia in 2001, the source of most of the 9/11 hijackers:

Saudi Arabia: population in 2001

Saudi Arabia has about 3.2 boys from 0-4 for every one 40-44 year old.  And 31% of Saudi males are in the dangerous 15-29 age group. Because of the huge discontinuity around ages 30-40, there are few positions available for young men to step into; and Saudi society has not invested in the kind of social infrastructure that might help provide high status positions. To add insult to injury, there are not enough women to go around in the 20-35 year old groups.

One of the most extreme examples of a youth bulge is the Gaza strip:

Gaza: population 2008

In Gaza there are 4.2 boys in the age group 0-4 for every man aged 40-44! Today there are about 222,000 men from 15-29, which is about 29% of the male population. The huge bulge in the younger age groups will ensure a supply of fighting men for years to come. Gaza is an example of ‘demographic armament’, says Heinsohn.

It’s not only a question of numbers. Soldiers from Western democracies tend to be only sons so the society is less willing to risk them. And they have something to lose at home so they are less likely to take risks:

With 31m fighting-age males aged 15 to 29 in 2008, Afghanistan and Pakistan combined are almost just as strong as the USA with 33m. But for a future war the Afghanis and Pakistanis still have 41m boys aged 0-14 in reserve, while the Americans can only count on 31m, of whom a quarter are overweight. While, according to 2008 statistics, the Americans are only sons, Afghanistan’s and Pakistan’s 41m boys under 15 include 26m who are also fed and loved but hardly have any chances of a future career. This situation is similar to that of Europe in 1914-1918, when ten million young men were sent to the slaughter. They were born in the 1890s when European women – with the exception of France – had as many babies as the women from Gaza and Afghanistan have today but did not have back then.

Of course the West has superior technology. But this can be offset by asymmetric warfare:

Only if youth bulge warriors seek a pitched battle, can a western high-tech soldier deal with large numbers of them from his bomber turret or missile launcher. But in close quarters combat or on nation building missions he is doomed to fail. This is the crucial disadvantage of western democracies after 1950: They are part of a demographic imbalance with foes whose second to nth sons can fight until death without endangering the survival of their home country while losses on their own side will demographically exterminate whole families.

Paradoxically, Western attempts to ameliorate conditions in the third world often make things worse. A paradigm case is the operation of UNRWA (UN Relief and Works Agency) in Gaza and Palestinan refugee camps elsewhere.  UNRWA provides welfare services to Palestinians which encourage them to have as many children as possible; but there is no infrastructure of jobs to absorb them. As the population grows, UNRWA simply asks for more money, creating a completely dependent society whose sons are angry and seeking status and meaning in life. They often find it in the terrorist militias or criminal gangs.

So how can the explosive power of Gaza be defused? In the long run, ending the UNRWA policy of rewarding unrestricted population growth will work, but it will take 25-30 years before the huge number of today’s children reaches an age at which they become less dangerous. In hindsight, Israel made a great error by permitting the hostile UNRWA — 90% of its employees are Palestinian ‘refugees’ themselves — to create the demographic bomb.

From a military point of view, Israel would be foolish to invade and re-occupy Gaza. There simply are not enough Israeli soldiers to do this and Israel’s technological advantage would be reduced insofar as the fighting becomes more close-quarters. Suicide terrorism against occupiers becomes possible as a result of the pathologically high motivation of young men with nothing to lose. Any incursions should be short and with well-defined objectives. An overall strategy of containment with surgical actions when necessary to counter particular threats is probably the best approach.

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