Archive for January, 2009

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.


  • 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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