Archive for January, 2009

Israel must stand up to international lynch mobs

Friday, January 30th, 2009

News item:

Israel reacted furiously to a decision by a Spanish judge on Thursday to open a probe of seven former top security officials for alleged war crimes in the 2002 bombing in Gaza that killed top Hamas terrorist Salah Shehadeh as well as 14 other people and is considering appealing the move.

The investigation has been ordered against National Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, who was defense minister at the time; Likud Knesset candidate Moshe Ya’alon, who was chief of General Staff; Dan Halutz, then commander of the air force; Doron Almog, who was OC Southern Command; then-National Security Council head Giora Eiland; the defense minister’s military secretary, Mike Herzog; and Public Security Minister Avi Dichter, who was head of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency)…

Should the Spanish judge, Fernando Andreu, choose to issue an international arrest warrant for any of the Israelis in question, they could be arrested upon arrival in any European Union member state.

A furious reaction is appropriate. The fact that Israel alone is treated this way for defending herself against murderous terrorism, when so many real crimes and abuses of human rights are perpetrated throughout the world, is an indication that there are other, darker, motives than a concern for human rights at work.

But it’s not surprising. The degree of Israel-hatred in some places has truly reached psychotic levels. What is shocking is this:

The Justice Ministry rejected allegations that it had failed to take seriously a request from Spanish authorities to turn over key documents connected to the targeted killing of Shehadeh.

It issued a statement on Thursday night saying that “the Spanish authorities asked to receive materials in the course of January, and because of the large quantity of the material in question, the preparation of the documents has continued until now.”

According to Justice Ministry spokesman Moshe Cohen, “In consultation with all of the relevant people in different government ministries, it was decided – in an exceptional decision – to comply with the Spanish judge’s request to acquire documents concerning legal proceedings in Israel regarding the Shehadeh affair.

“To our regret, the Spanish authorities did not wait to receive the materials from Israel, and have already published their decision,” he wrote. “There is no doubt that the very issuance of this suit constitutes a cynical and political attempt by private anti-Israel interests to take advantage of the Spanish judicial system to butt heads with Israel.”

Question to Justice Ministry and Moshe Cohen: Are you out of your minds?

Of course Israel should not “take seriously” a request from a deranged lynch mob to provide documents for their kangaroo court!

Does anybody actually think that any such proceeding would be fair? Do they remember the ruling of the International Court of ‘Justice’ that Israel’s security barrier is illegal — a ruling that was made without any consideration of the terrorism it was built to prevent?

How can Spain or Europe in any sense have jurisdiction over a sovereign nation such as Israel? “The judge is acting under a doctrine that allows prosecution in Spain of such an offense or crimes like terrorism or genocide, even if they are alleged to have been committed in another country.” What arrogance — and coming from the people that give us the Spanish Inquisition and the rape of Meso-America!

Even to consider providing documents for such a proceeding is to accept the premise that it is in some sense legitimate.

Why don’t the Spanish authorities ask Russia to turn over “key documents” regarding to its actions in Chechyna? Or indict Omar al-Bashir for Sudan’s genocide in Darfur? More to the point, why don’t they prosecute Ismail Haniyeh and Khaled Meshaal for the countless war crimes committed by Hamas? Here are a few of them (courtesy of Elder of Ziyon):

  • Deliberately targeting civilians
  • Attacking from within civilian areas and civilian structures, including hospitals and mosques
  • Using humanitarian symbols for attacks, such as by transporting terrorists in ambulances
  • Direct and public incitement to genocide
  • The systematic attacks against civilians upgrades that war crime into a crime against humanity
  • The recruitment of children into the conflict
  • Firing at the enemy while wearing civilian clothes
  • Wearing the uniforms of the enemy
  • Shooting rockets with phosphorus payloads deliberately at civilians
  • Not adhering to international standards on the treatment of prisoners of war
  • Immediate execution of alleged “collaborators” without a trial
  • Deliberately placing military targets, such as weapons caches and rocket launchers, among civilians

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Hamas and Thomas L. Friedman

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

Thomas L. FriedmanThomas L. Friedman is on a tear again. In the past week, he’s published two columns in the NY Times in which he prescribes a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (“This Is Not a Test“, Jan. 24; and “Abdullah II: The 5-State Solution“, Jan. 27).

To his credit, he mentions Iran as part of the problem. But his diagnosis is otherwise faulty and his proposed treatment will likely cause serious harm to his patient.

Friedman believes that “we’re at a hinge of history”, the possibility of a two-state solution is fading fast, and if it does not come about, the result will be disastrous for Israel and the Palestinians:

We’re getting perilously close to closing the window on a two-state solution, because the two chief window-closers — Hamas in Gaza and the fanatical Jewish settlers in the West Bank — have been in the driver’s seats. Hamas is busy making a two-state solution inconceivable, while the settlers have steadily worked to make it impossible.

If Hamas continues to obtain and use longer- and longer-range rockets, there is no way any Israeli government can or will tolerate independent Palestinian control of the West Bank, because a rocket from there can easily close the Tel Aviv airport and shut down Israel’s economy.

And if the Jewish settlers continue with their “natural growth” to devour the West Bank, it will also be effectively off the table. No Israeli government has mustered the will to take down even the “illegal,” unauthorized settlements, despite promises to the U.S. to do so, so it’s getting hard to see how the “legal” settlements will ever be removed. What is needed from Israel’s Feb. 10 elections is a centrist, national unity government that can resist the blackmail of the settlers, and the rightist parties that protect them, to still implement a two-state solution. — “This Is Not a Test

Friedman really wants to show that ‘fanatical’ settlers are an equal part of the reason that a two-state solution is difficult, but that’s untrue. “Natural growth” refers to the construction of homes within the boundaries of existing settlements, and ones that are unlikely to be evacuated, mostly near the green line or close to Jerusalem. This process is not ‘devouring’ the West Bank, although he is correct that the failure to remove admittedly illegal outposts damages Israel’s credibility.

Most Jewish residents of the West Bank are not ‘fanatical’, and could be persuaded to move to Israel proper — if they believed that they would be treated fairly, unlike the displaced Gaza settlers, and if they believed that the result of their sacrifice would actually be an end to the conflict.

But although Palestinian propaganda continually blames the settlements, the real problem is that there is no reason to think that another partition would bring peace.

The difficulty posed by Hamas is huge. If Hamas had control of the West Bank, they would not need longer-range rockets to wreak havoc in the most populated parts of Israel. The Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority (PA), propped up by the US and EU and protected from Hamas by the IDF, is weak, corrupt and unpopular. Its American-provided arms did not help it to stand up against Hamas in Gaza and will not do so in the West Bank, especially since many of its personnel would prefer to switch than fight.

Even if  a takeover were not assured, the militant stance of Hamas defines Palestinian ‘patriotism’. Today, Fatah is not prepared to end the conflict, continuing to insist on resettlement of millions of Arabs with refugee status in Israel and refusing to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. This intransigence is in part a result of its desire to appear no less militant than Hamas, as Friedman correctly notes, although there is reason to think  that no Palestinian leadership could survive if it did not maintain these positions.

Compared to these issues, the settlements fade into insignificance.

So, what to do about Hamas? This is where Friedman displays a surprising lack of understanding of the nature of Hamas:

The Palestinians are so fragmented politically and geographically that half of U.S. diplomacy is going to be about how to make peace between Palestinians, and build their institutions, so there is a coherent, legitimate decision-making body there — before we can make peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

Second, Hamas now has a veto over any Palestinian peace deal. It’s true that Hamas just provoked a reckless war that has devastated the people of Gaza. But Hamas is not going away. It is well armed and, despite its suicidal behavior of late, deeply rooted.

The Palestinian Authority led by Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank will not make any compromise deal with Israel as long as it fears that Hamas, from outside the tent, would denounce it as traitorous. Therefore, Job 2 for the U.S., Israel and the Arab states is to find a way to bring Hamas into a Palestinian national unity government. — “This Is Not a Test

Friedman seems to recognize that Hamas is an obstacle to peace, but he thinks that the solution is to embrace it!

Hamas has never, ever compromised its principles, which it holds with true religious fervor. When Hamas won the PA legislative election in 2006, the Quartet (comprised of the US, UN, EU and Russia) was prepared to support a Hamas-led PA government if it would recite a formula including recognition of Israel’s right to exist, acceptance of prior agreements between Israel and the PA and renunciation of violence. Hamas refused to agree to this and thereby forfeited huge sums of international aid. Thus the process of its marginalization in the PA began, ultimately resulting in the violent coup in Gaza.

As I’ve written numerous times, Hamas cannot be moderated by the responsibility of governing because the goal of Hamas is not to create a Palestinian state which it will govern. Rather, Hamas wishes to place all of historic Palestine under Islamic rule, ultimately to become part of a worldwide Islamic caliphate. Hamas is committed to doing this by means of violent Jihad. All this appears in the Hamas Covenant and on the lips of Hamas spokesmen.

The only ‘peace agreement’ with Israel that Hamas has ever countenanced was a hudna or temporary, strategic truce. Such a truce would last only until Hamas felt itself strong enough to defeat Israel, would require Israel to withdraw to the 1967 borders, release all Palestinian Prisoners, and grant a ‘right of return’ to ‘refugees’. It would emphatically not include elements of recognition of Israel or renunciation of the right to ‘resist’.

But Friedman thinks that Hamas can be moderated, although it would be ‘tricky’:

But bringing Hamas into a Palestinian unity government, without undermining the West Bank moderates now leading the Palestinian Authority, will be tricky. We’ll need Saudi Arabia and Egypt to buy, cajole and pressure Hamas into keeping the cease-fire, supporting peace talks and to give up rockets — while Iran and Syria will be tugging Hamas the other way.

Leaving aside the question of how moderate the “moderates” are, the very statement of this plan reveals its impossibility. Hamas has always opposed peace talks, and violent jihad — with rockets or anything else — is its raison d’être. I wouldn’t expect a lot of help from the Mubarak regime, which views Hamas — the offspring of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood — as an enemy.

There is no doubt that an attempt to meld the weak Fatah and the strong Hamas into a “national unity government” would result in nothing less than a Hamas government — and this wouldn’t even require Hamas to exert itself to overthrow the PA by force!

And a Hamas government is an Iranian-controlled one.

Most Westerners and probably most Israelis would prefer some form of two-state solution to a continued state of war or that idea beloved by the far Left, the “one-state solution”. But it should be absolutely clear that the presence of Hamas — either as a regime which controls the area in which 40% of the Palestinians live or, worse, as part of a “unity government” as Friedman suggests — makes any form of peace impossible.

The reality of the situation is not pretty, which is why so many insist on denying it.

There is a solution to this, which is that Hamas has to go. Israel had a good start on this with Operation Cast Lead, but depending on your interpretation of events, either stopped or was made to stop fighting early, while Hamas was still firmly in control.

If Mr. Friedman would like to see a two-state solution, or indeed any form of peace in the Mideast which includes a Jewish state, he will urge world governments to reject Hamas and to support Israel in a renewed military campaign to permanently remove Hamas from power, disarm it, and punish it so severely that Palestinians will understand that Hamas-style violent ‘resistance’ will not succeed in getting the Jews out of the Mideast.

While this may not be a sufficient condition to bring about a peaceful two-state solution, it is certainly a necessary one.

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The enemy of my enemy is…still my enemy

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

The complex relationship between Fatah and Hamas is often not understood, especially during the recent war when Fatah people in the Gaza strip were being crippled (shot in the legs or having their hands broken) or murdered by Hamas at the same time that official Fatah statements accused Israel of committing war crimes.

Some historical background: in January 2006, Hamas won the Palestinian Authority (PA) elections with 74 seats out of 132 (Fatah got 45). On February 19 Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh formed a coalition government with Fatah. However, international donors refused to continue funding the PA unless Hamas would agree to the three conditions of recognition of Israel, acceptance of prior agreements between Israel and the PA, and renunciation of violence.

Hamas refused, and sanctions were placed on the PA. In mid-2007, Hamas took over the Gaza strip in a violent coup, killing many Fatah supporters. The PA has since set up an ‘emergency’ government that does not include Hamas, funded primarily by the US and the EU. 

Fatah vs. Hamas: be my brother or I’ll kill you

By Barry Rubin

There was an election on Hamas’s mind when it canceled the ceasefire with Israel, leading to the Gaza war. But it wasn’t the February Israeli election but rather the January Palestinian non-election.

Four years ago, Mahmoud Abbas was elected leader of the Palestinian Authority (PA) for a two-year term. Two years ago, Hamas won a majority in the Palestinian parliamentary election. Hamas then made a coalition agreement with its rival Fatah, which previously controlled the PA. Shortly thereafter, Hamas staged a bloody coup and threw Fatah out of the Gaza Strip. But Fatah, and Abbas, still controls the internationally recognized PA and the West Bank.

While Hamas and Israel went to war, Israel and the PA remained at peace. The war had nothing to do with Israel-Palestinian relations as such but as a response to Hamas’s extremism, rejecting not only any comprehensive peace agreement with Israel but even a real truce. How, then, does this triangular relationship figure in Palestinian politics?

Analysts have generally ignored the proximity of Hamas’s decision for war to its impending January 2009 showdown with Abbas, Fatah, and the PA. It was widely predicted that Abbas was going to announce that, given the impossibility of holding new elections, he would simply extend his term for another year.

The event was expected to mark a major widening of the rift between the two groups. Hamas, it was thought, would declare Abbas a usurper, name its own candidate for “president,” and the establishment of two rival Palestinian governments would be complete.

Even before that date, the PA had apparently enjoyed some real success—with Israeli help—in reducing Hamas’s organization on the West Bank, ensuring any takeover bid there would be impossible, and making progress toward restoring order and even improving the economy.

Hamas no doubt saw choosing war as a way of upstaging Abbas, showing that it was the real fighter for Palestinian rights (principally the right to wipe Israel off the map), and even attracting support from some Fatah men who concluded that Hamas was macho and their own organization was too meek. In effect, it was a reiteration of traditional Palestinian politics in which those who take the most extreme action, evidence the greatest intransigence, and kill the most Israelis prove their credentials for leadership.

In practice, though, Hamas played into Abbas’s hands. Now he has the perfect rationale to insist that elections cannot be held—which is, of course quite true–and he must remain as leader for the indefinite future.

Despite this, the relationship between Hamas and Fatah remain quite complex. It seems bizarre that Hamas set off a civil war, murdered Fatah men in cold blood, and kicked the group out of Gaza yet still most of Fatah is ready to forgive it.

There is a strong likelihood that if given the choice, Fatah leaders—though not necessarily Abbas himself—would prefer conciliation with Hamas, which would make any peace with Israel impossible—to making a diplomatic deal with Israel and getting a Palestinian state.

From Israel’s standpoint, of course, how can it negotiate any comprehensive solution with the PA when it cannot deliver half of the territory, people, and armed men who are supposed to be bound by such an agreement? Moreover, the possibility that either Hamas will overthrow Fatah at some future point or even that the two will join together in a new war against Israel rather puts a damper on Israeli willingness to make concessions.

The paradox of a simultaneous blood feud and brotherly love relationship between the two Palestinian organizations is explained by the supposed sanctity of being fellow Arabs, Muslims, and Palestinians, coupled with a deep and abiding loathing of Israel.

Yet this also coexists with such deep Fatah anger at Hamas that interviewed Fatah cadre told reporters that they were glad Israel was trouncing Hamas in Gaza Strip. The solution of this paradox was for the official PA line to be: it’s all Hamas’s fault but there should be an immediate ceasefire and Israel is behaving in a beastly way.

This approach is strengthened by the fact that most Arab states and a surprising amount of the media (albeit in many cases the two are identical) are taking a similar line. Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the smaller Gulf states and more—pretty much all the leaders except for Syria—hate Hamas. They see it as an agent of Iran, meaning a friend of their Islamist opponents.

If Fatah were more adept politically, it could benefit from this situation. A clever and active policy would combine an energetic campaign to unite the Arab states behind the PA, while persuading the UN and West that they should ensure its restoration to power in the Gaza Strip as the “legitimate government.”  The Fatah underground in the Gaza Strip would be reinforced and figure out some way (even with a little secret coordination with Israel) to oust Hamas and seize power at least in sections of the territory.

Yet both the PA and Fatah lack the will power and political skill to take advantage of such a promising situation. They are sitting back and hoping that someone—though not Israel—will give them back the Gaza Strip on a silver platter. The problem also includes their lack of charismatic leadership and failure to deal seriously with the problems that led them to being kicked out by the election: corruption, incompetence, and the failure to articulate a moderate vision of achievable peace with Israel.

No outside power, including Israel, and no amount of money can make up for the shortcomings of the PA and Fatah.

Thus, it is much easier for Hamas to lose the war than for the nationalist forces to win.

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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Barbarism vs. civilization

Monday, January 26th, 2009

Louis MichelHere’s an EU official with surprising good sense:

“At this time we have to also recall the overwhelming responsibility of Hamas,” Louis Michel, European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, told reporters.

“I intentionally say this here — Hamas is a terrorist movement and it has to be denounced as such,” Michel said as he visited the town of Jabalya in northern Gaza.

“Public opinion is fed up to see that we are paying over and over again – be it the [European] commission, the member states or the major donors — for infrastructure that will be systematically destroyed,” he said.

Reuters quoted the EU official as saying that the Islamic group had used civilians as “human shields” by placing operatives in residential areas, and said that the years of terrorist rocket-fire on southern Israel served as a “provocation.”

The report also quoted Michel as saying that, “When you kill innocents, it is not resistance. It is terrorism.” — Jerusalem Post

If there was ever a situation in which the international community should intervene to bring about ‘regime change’, it’s the case of Hamas.

  • Hamas is an aggressor, employing terrorism against the civilian population of its neighbor, against which it has declared unending war.
  • Hamas regularly cripples, tortures and murders its Palestinian opposition.
  • Hamas rule systematically oppresses Christians, women and homosexuals. Hamas’ charter is essentially racist and antisemitic, and calls for violent jihad until Israel is destroyed.
  • Hamas represents a severely retrograde interpretation of Islam which is opposed to the Enlightenment values adopted in the West over the last several centuries, values of tolerance, democracy, equality, justice, honest scientific enquiry and liberal education. This form of Islam is also committed to violent expansion of its sphere of influence, and if allowed to flourish, promises continuous war such as that which characterized the Middle East in the Seventh Century.

The question of Hamas is the question of barbarism vs. civilization. It’s that simple.

The IDF was close to removing Hamas from power when it terminated its campaign prematurely. My guess is that this was the result of international pressure, with the new US administration at the top of the list of those applying said pressure. What a pity that the world was not prepared to allow Israel to finish what Hamas started.

Nope, instead they are going to do what the West always does: try to pay the problems to go away.

Michel announced €58 million ($74 million) in emergency aid Monday for Palestinians.

Around €32 million ($41.7 million) of the aid package will go to alleviate immediate needs in Gaza such as shortages in drinking water, food and medical supplies. Another €20 million ($26 million) will go to projects in the West Bank, the remaining €6 million ($7.8 million) to Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon.

The European Commission last month approved €3 million ($3.9 million) in emergency aid for Gaza.

Lip service is being given to the idea that money and supplies will only be use to ameliorate living conditions and rebuild damaged civilian infrastructure, but does anyone really believe that Hamas, which tightly controls the Strip, will not divert what it wants for its own purposes?

Here’s an exercise for further thought: what prompted the international pressure? Was it the highly effective atrocity propaganda? Was it the violent demonstrations? Was it the threats coming from Saudi Arabia? Was it the general climate of Israel-hatred in Europe and on the Left in the US? Or all of the above?

What motivates civilized people to stand against civilization?

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A mistake with long-term consequences

Sunday, January 25th, 2009

It is absolutely incredible that Israel sought a cease-fire with Hamas instead of finishing it off.

Talks between senior Hamas members and Egyptian officials in Cairo on a new cease-fire arrangement for the Gaza Strip continued late Sunday night amid an apparent disagreement over the length of the truce.

The Egyptians are demanding a truce of a number of years’ duration, while Hamas spokesman in the Gaza Strip, Ayman Taha, said the group would agree to a cease-fire of no more than between one year and 18 months. Another Hamas spokesman, Ismail Radwan, said a long-term cease-fire “kills” the right to resistance by the Palestinians. — Ha’aretz

Hamas has always been open and direct about its intentions. They have never pretended that a cease-fire is anything other than a temporary pause to regain strength, never suggested that they would accept the presence of the Jewish state. Now they say that they believe they will be ready for the next round in about a year and so that’s how long the want the cease-fire to be.

One may ask “why do they care? — they can always break an agreement.” True, but they need to send a message to their constituency, a message that they are uncompromising in their ‘resistance’.

This message is not lost on the West, either, but apparently as time passes and the outrageous becomes usual, the unthinkable becomes thinkable and Hamas appears more and more a legitimate authority.

What I fear, and expect, is that the Mitchell mission — while it, too, will fail — will legitimize Hamas as the address for negotiations while doing so. And the same can be said for the ‘reconstruction’ of Gaza, which by the way will require a lot of cement and iron “rebar” that will end up in bunkers and tunnels.

Hamas will not go away on its own, Hamas cannot be ‘moderated’ and Hamas will always be hostile. There simply is no solution for Hamas short of removing it from power and disarming it. The IDF was well on the way to doing that, and doing it efficiently with minimal casualties among its soldiers and Gaza civilians, despite the huge outcry in the Israel-hating media.

The fact that this was not carried to completion will simply mean that the confrontation, with all the dangers and costs entailed will have to happen again. And again, and again until it is actually finished.  Someone mentioned the film “Groundhog Day” in this connection.

I am afraid that the premature termination of Operation Cast Lead will go down in history as another catastrophic mistake by Israel, along with the 1982 decision to allow Arafat to escape from Beirut alive, the Oslo accords and the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza.

I think that many Israelis understand this and will punish the perpetrators harshly at the polls in the coming election. I hope so.

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A quick quote

Friday, January 23rd, 2009

From the Jerusalem Post:

“Whoever thinks that it will be easy for Israel with Netanyahu as prime minister is wrong. It will be hard because it seems that Netanyahu’s policies will be in direct contrast with those of Obama,” [Labor MK Isaac] Herzog told Army Radio. “That’s how I see it.”

…and this is supposed to be a reason to vote against Netanyahu?

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Only three days, but I’m already sorry

Friday, January 23rd, 2009

Palestinian coffee mugThis morning I watched a TV news program which headlined “The honeymoon is over”. They were talking about Barack Obama’s relationship with the US Senate, but I was thinking about his Mideast policy. Some honeymoon — I want an annulment!

Even before he took office, it appears that he ordered Israel to stop the Gaza campaign prematurely and to have its troops out before his inauguration. As a result, Hamas remains in power with the ability to restart rocket attacks at any time, is industriously resuming weapons smuggling and taking charge of reconstruction activities to solidify its hold on the Strip.

Since Israel was not allowed to continue the operation long enough to rescue Gilad Schalit, there’s talk about a deal involving the release of thousands of prisoners in return for his freedom.

Then the President called for Israel to open border crossings into Gaza for ‘humanitarian reasons’.

In other words, Obama is in effect forcing Israel to meet Hamas’ demands throughout the war: withdrawal of troops, opening of the crossings, and massive prisoner release.

He has also praised the Arab League / Saudi ‘peace’ initiative, which is simply a restatement of Arab demands for Israeli surrender (he said it contained ‘constructive elements’ but in any recognizable form it would be a disaster).

And finally, he announced that George Mitchell, who inspired the policies — the Mitchell plan, the Tenet plan, the Roadmap, and the Annapolis process — that increasingly force Israel to make concrete concessions to the Palestinians while requiring only lip-service from them in return — will be his special envoy to the Mideast.

Nope, I’m not happy with this marriage at all. Actually, I almost didn’t show up at the altar: on the eve of the election, I wrote (“Who do you want to make that midnight call?“):

Which brings me to the coming war between Israel and the Iranian proxies, Hamas and Hezbollah. When it breaks out President Obama or President McCain will have to make a decision:

Should the US allow Israel — which has made great strides in military preparedness and has gotten rid of most of the culprits of the 2006 debacle — to defeat her enemies? Or should the US hold Israel back, producing another stalemate and a huge political victory for Iran?

I guess we know which path President Obama has taken.

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Schalit remains in captivity while Hamas recovers

Thursday, January 22nd, 2009

I’ve mentioned this before, but only in passing:

Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Thursday said that Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip has increased the chances for reaching a deal that will bring about the release of captive soldier Gilad Schalit in the near future… [my emphasis]

Despite his assessment that a deal could be reached shortly, Barak said that “Jerusalem, but not only Jerusalem, will have to make difficult decisions” in order to bring about Schalit’s release from captivity. — Jerusalem Post

Exactly why does he think this is true?

What bargaining points does Barak have today that he didn’t have before? Can he threaten an invasion if Schalit is not released? No, because everyone knows that Mr. Obama will not permit it. Can he threaten to have Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh killed? No, because everyone knows that if he wasn’t targeted during the war, Israel must want him alive.

How, exactly, did the war strengthen Israel’s hand? So Hamas now knows that the IDF can kick its butt — it also knows that it will not be allowed to do so.

We are back to arguing over how many murderers need to be released in order to get a hostage back.

Thirteen Israeli soldiers will not be coming back, no matter what.

Meanwhile,

  • Hamas still controls Gaza.
  • Hamas still has the ability to fire rockets at Israel.
  • Hamas is still receiving supplies through undamaged parts of the Sinai Subway, as work to repair collapsed tunnels continues apace.
  • 90% of the literate world (and all of the illiterate) is convinced that Israel is a bloody murderer of women and children, despite the fact that this is false and that for once Israel’s PR mechanisms functioned well — they were just overwhelmed.
  • Schalit is still a hostage. The only hope is that the IDF acquired intelligence in Gaza that will make an operation to rescue him possible. But as time passes, this becomes more and more unlikely.

Speaking of arms smuggling, here’s what Gen. Giora Eiland told the Jerusalem Post about that:

To be polite, the Egyptians are telling us stories and we are deluding ourselves. Egypt was not effective in the past. It doesn’t care about weapons in Gaza.

The smuggling tunnel apparatus also features drugs and televisions and mobile phones, and keeps whole tribes in business. So either Egypt has to truly confront this whole industry or pay off the smugglers. And I’m not sure it’s going to do that.

As for the dramatic signing of an agreement between Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and the previous secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, intended to stop the smuggling, well, without being rude, it’s not serious and it’s not significant. [my emphasis]

So why did Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni fly to Washington last week?

AP video of Hamas rebuilding Sinai Subway

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Tough years ahead for Israel

Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

From the Jerusalem Post:

The peace agreements reached in Northern Ireland are proof that “there is no such thing as a conflict that can’t be ended,” George Mitchell, the man widely touted as US President Barack Obama’s choice for new Middle East envoy, told The Jerusalem Post last month.

Mitchell, Washington’s special envoy to the Northern Ireland peace negotiations that led to the Belfast Agreement in 1998, spoke to the Post during a visit here last month to take part in a conference on US-Israeli relations at Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies (INSS).

“I understand the people in the Middle East are discouraged,” Mitchell said. “I understand your feelings. But from my experience in Northern Ireland, I share the feeling that there is no such thing as a conflict that can’t be ended. Conflicts are created by human beings, and can be ended by human beings. It may take a long time. But with committed, active and strong leadership, it can happen here in the Middle East.” (my emphasis)

This is one of those propositions which is either true but trivial or interesting but false. The trivial interpretation makes it appear plausible, until you realize that what is really intended is something else.

Of course all conflicts are created by human beings and therefore can be ended by them. This is the true, uninteresting part. The expansionist designs of Adolf Hitler created a bit of a conflict in Europe, and as a matter of fact this conflict was ended by human beings. But I don’t think Mitchell wants to see that kind of conflict resolution applied to the Middle East.

What I think he is suggesting is that all conflicts can be solved by diplomacy, leading to compromise. And this proposition is false. It is false when the needs or desires of the two sides contradict one another, when there is no common ground on which to find a compromise.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is such a case. One side desires to keep its autonomous Jewish state in historical Palestine, within some to-be-negotiated borders.The other side cannot accept such a state of any size, within any borders. For example, a sticking point has always been the almost 5 million Arabs that claim refugee status, because their admission to Israel would end the Jewish state.

I believe that the approach of the Obama administration will be this: assume that the Jews and Arabs will not work it out by themselves, and impose a solution.

The formula for it will be something like the Clinton-Barak plan, comprising near-1967 borders, Jewish withdrawal from Arab areas, division of Jerusalem by populations with the Arabs getting the Har haBeit [Temple Mount] with some arrangement for Jews to visit the Kotel [Western Wall], and a recognition of the refugees right to ‘return’ with a limit on the number that will practically be allowed into Israel.

The ax will fall despite protestations from both sides. But this doesn’t mean that the consequences for or the behavior of both sides will be the same.  The blow will be quite painful for the Jews in a concrete sense, while perhaps only in an ideological one for the Arabs.

At least ten times as many Jews will be relocated from the West Bank than were from Gaza. The security situation will be far worse than it is today, and if there is a successful Hamas takeover in the West Bank, Israel will be surrounded by hostile Iranian proxies on three sides. If the Golan heights is returned to Syria, then a whole new front for terrorism — the Israeli towns and kibbutzim in the valley below — will be opened up.

Israel will not be an ‘occupier’ of the West Bank, but as in the case of Gaza and Southern Lebanon, pretexts will be found to insist that Israel is still ‘oppressing’ Palestinians — any security measure, in proportion to its effectiveness, will be deemed ‘oppression’ — and terrorism against Israel will continue.

If international forces are used to guarantee security, they will be far more effective at preventing Israeli responses than terrorist attacks.

Politically, the Jews will find that the goalposts have moved. Any settlements that remain outside the 1967 boundaries, even if the Arabs have been compensated in some way, will become sore points like the Shabaa Farms in the Golan Heights. Refugees who have not been allowed to enter Israel — although they have the theoretical ‘right of return’ — will petition (and ‘resist’) in order to actualize that ‘right’. Left-wing Israelis and others who have been saying all along that the problem is ‘the Occupation’ will have to find another explanation for Arab terrorism (they will).

Israeli Arabs will become more and more radicalized, and Arabs and their international supporters will press the case that this “captive population” is also being denied its natural rights to self-determination and freedom while it lives in a Jewish state whose anthem is Hatikvah and whose emblems are those of Judaism.

But (unlike the Jews who will have evacuated ‘Palestine’) they will not accept another nakba or a ‘transfer’, so the only solution can be that the specifically Jewish character of Israel must change — the flag, the anthem, the law of return, etc. Arabs inside and outside the state of Israel will become more and more ‘frustrated and angry’ at this colonialist oppression, and will express themselves in the usual way.

Huge quantities of money will have to be provided to compensate Arab ‘refugees’ who  can’t enter Israel and Jews who can no longer live in ‘Palestine’. Ineffectual UN or NATO troops will also need to be fed. Until donors realize that Palestinian leaders do not actually want development, large sums will be squandered and stolen in an attempt to create a Palestinian economy. The US Treasury seems to be able to produce astronomical sums ex nihilo to fertilize banks with, so one presumes that this will come from a similar source, at least until the US economic crisis causes it to turn inward. Military assistance to Israel will drop precipitously, since it is assumed that it will not be needed in the new era of ‘peace’.

While all this is going on, Iran and Russia will not have been idle in their campaign to reduce American influence in the Mideast and ultimately to push the US out. The US will be less and less able to pay for the projection of power in the region and more and more willing to think about withdrawal. After all, by now Iran will have nuclear weapons.

Have I left anything out?

Perhaps at this point the Obama administration — or the next one — will wish for a strong ally, someone to depend on in the Middle East.

But it won’t find one.

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To Israel: stop trying to be nice

Tuesday, January 20th, 2009

Some Israelis still don’t understand what they are facing.

In an effort to show the ordinary Gazans that the war was not aimed against them, Israel on Sunday opened a regional medical clinic for the people of Gaza in the huge new passenger terminal at the Erez border crossing.

By Monday afternoon only three patients had shown up for treatment, according to medical officials there, none of them casualties of the war.

There have been efforts to try to make the place cheerful, with colorful plastic jungle gyms for children. But when a group of children passed through on Monday, all cancer patients on their way to a hospital in East Jerusalem, the parents accompanying them had stony expressions on their faces, and the jungle gyms and a table of Israeli candies and snacks were left untouched. — NY Times

There is no way that Israel can be ‘nice’ to the Palestinians and defuse their hatred. With the Gaza war apparently over, the situation in the real world is strategically almost the same as before, although Hamas has lost some (replaceable) weapons and personnel.

But psychologically, thanks to the continuous barrage of atrocity propaganda, ten times worse on Arab media than in the West (which was bad enough), Israel’s image as desiring peace — if indeed anything was left of it — has suffered yet another blow.

Even if CNN could sneak a camera crew through the checkpoints, it’s hard to imagine they would produce anything like what’s on Al-Jazeera – an all-day, ever-shifting drama that throws war in your face with all its gruesome cruelty. It is openly partisan, almost never showing Israeli deaths or injuries. It is also provocative and upsetting in a way that looks nothing like news in the West. Their broadcasts routinely feature mutilated corpses being pulled from the scene of an explosion, or hospital interviews with maimed children, who bemoan the loss of their siblings or their parents – often killed in front of their eyes. Al-Jazeera splices archival footage into the live shots, weaving interviews and expertly produced montages into a devastating narrative you can follow from the comfort of your own home. — Eric Calderwood

Keep in mind that the IDF fought with a concern to reduce what is euphemistically called ‘collateral damage’ that was unprecedented in modern warfare, and, given the nature of the enemy, was relatively successful at doing so.  Hamas’ cynical use of the population as human shields should have been the real atrocity story.

But also keep in mind that in the information-psychological war, truth doesn’t matter. Perception and belief is everything.

So another huge helping of hatred was added to the already enormous heap that has been growing since — oh, maybe for 100 years at least.

There is no way to change this. Trying just makes you look weak and guilty.

In light of the above, here are some suggestions for Israelis in their relation to Palestinians:

  • Stop saying that you want peace with them. What you want is for them to leave you alone, and if they don’t, they’ll be sorry. Respect is superior to affection, and more achievable.
  • Stop providing ‘humanitarian’ aid. Help is perceived as weakness. The Arab world and the EU can help Palestinians, since they are responsible for encouraging the behavior that gives rise to their ‘plight’.

And above all,

  • Stop feeling guilty. Most of what you are accused of you didn’t do, much is exaggerated, some is necessary and a very small part is caused by the frustration and anger (sound familiar?) of a nation that has been under attack for its entire existence.

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The era of tough love

Monday, January 19th, 2009

Israeli tanks leave Gaza

Israeli tanks leave Gaza after Cast Lead

The Gaza War, Operation Cast Lead, is history. Israel is rapidly pulling out its troops, saying that they will be out by the time Barack Obama is sworn in as President of the US.

Wait a minute. Reread the sentence above. Hold that thought.

Israel ended the operation early, while Hamas still had the ability to fire rockets (indeed, rockets were fired after the truce went into effect). Estimates vary, but a significant part of the Sinai Subway — Hamas’ smuggling route under the Egyptian border — is still operational. The IDF killed several hundred of Hamas’ estimated 20,000 soldiers and a few of its commanders, and destroyed large numbers of buildings and large amounts of weapons and supplies.

In a remarkably dubious statement, Israeli officials said that the operation “created ‘better conditions’ for negotiations over the release of kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Schalit”.

Better? Can you imagine that the Hamas which is claiming victory and accepting congratulations from its patron Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will demand a lower price now? Why should it? Israel’s done her worst and Hamas is still standing.

Gaza is a mess. Now it will be rebuilt, and of course so will Hamas’ capabilities. The vague Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni brought back from Washington is a joke, a piece of paper that is only as good the desire of US allies, including Egypt, which has already refused to allow foreign troops in her territory, to take concrete steps to stop weapons smuggling. Who will confront Hamas, any more than the UN confronted Hezbollah in Lebanon?

The question which I kept asking myself as this played out was why. Why did Israel bring an operation that was successfully progressing, with (despite the worldwide pro-Hamas propaganda campaign) a not-unreasonable number of IDF and civilian casualties, to a premature end? Why did Israel stop before Hamas headquarters was penetrated, before Schalit was rescued, before the tunnels were destroyed, even before the rockets stopped falling? What did Israel have to lose? No matter what she did, the media would continue to accuse her of the bloodiest campaign since Genghis Khan.

I believe that the answer lies in the first sentence of this post. I believe that when Livni went to Washington supposedly for that silly MOU she got something else as well: an ultimatum from the new administration that the IDF had better be out before the inauguration, or else.

Now the people who have all along been blaming ‘Israeli intransigence’ for the intractability of the conflict, like Gen. James Jones and Dan Kurtzer,  are getting their chance to make policy. After a while they will learn the real reason: the Arab-Persian refusal to countenance any Jewish state, regardless of borders, in the Middle East. Too bad their education will be paid for in Israeli blood.

Welcome to the Obama Administration, the era of ‘tough love’.

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‘Impartial’ UN transports terrorists in ambulances

Monday, January 19th, 2009

Next time you hear casualty figures, etc. from the supposedly impartial UN, remember this:

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