Archive for November, 2009

Bill Clinton pushes false State Department line

Saturday, November 14th, 2009

One sometimes forgets what a fool Bill Clinton was capable of being. And then he reminds us:

“In the last 14 years, not a single week has gone by that I did not think of Yitzhak Rabin and miss him terribly,” Clinton told a VIP gathering at the Yitzhak Rabin Center in Tel Aviv.

“Nor has a single week gone by in which I have not reaffirmed my conviction that had he not lost his life on that terrible November night, within three years we would have had a comprehensive agreement for peace in the Middle East.”  — Ha’aretz

Oh really? What does Clinton think Rabin would have added to the already over-the-top offers made to the Palestinians at Camp David and Taba that would have caused Arafat to accept them?

Does he think Arafat would have refrained from sponsoring terrorism and educating a generation to be suicide bombers if Rabin had been alive? Does he think that any of the clear messages sent by the Palestinians to this day, that the only ‘peace’ deal that they would accept is unconditional surrender, would have not been sent if Rabin were around?

Either he really is a fool and actually believes this, or he is helping push the current State Department line (after all, his wife is the Secretary) that the reason that there isn’t ‘peace’ is that Israel isn’t giving up enough. Just like the helpful media, Clinton is reinforcing the message that the problem is Israel’s intransigence rather than Palestinian anti-Zionism.

“If you want it, it is no legend,” Herzl said. Unfortunately, this inspiring proposition is only sometimes true. Some people want a peaceful two-state solution next week, but this is one of those times that reality intervenes, and it doesn’t matter how much one wants it, it remains a dream.

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Straining those unbreakable bonds

Friday, November 13th, 2009

On November 1,

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said … at a press conference in Jerusalem that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s statement on limiting construction in the settlements was “unprecedented.”

A senior government source in Jerusalem said Clinton told the prime minister, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Defense Minister Ehud Barak that she had demanded that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas remove his preconditions and renew talks immediately. — Ha’aretz

But 9 days later,

The United States does not accept continued Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank, a senior U.S. state department official has said, adding that Jerusalem’s commitment to restrain settlement activity is not enough.

In an address to the Middle East Institute, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs William J. Burns on Tuesday said that the Obama administration does not “accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements.”

“We consider the Israeli offer to restrain settlement activity to be a potentially important step, but it obviously falls short of the continuing Roadmap obligation for a full settlement freeze,” he said. — Ha’aretz

What a difference a bit more than a week makes! During those 9 days, two main things happened. Mahmoud Abbas threw a tantrum and threatened to quit or even to dissolve the Palestinian Authority (PA), and the State Department fell in love with the Fayaad plan to declare a Palestinian state in two years.

Let’s face it, the State Department doesn’t give a rat’s tuchas about security for Israel. Their goal is always stated in terms of “two peaceful states, side by side”, but what they care about  is the Palestinian state. Burns gave the usual meaningless nod toward America’s connection with Israel, but you can see that it’s the Arab state that he’s salivating for:

A Jewish state of Israel, with which America retains unbreakable bonds, and with true security for all Israelis; and a viable, independent Palestinian state with contiguous territory that ends the occupation that began in 1967, that ends the daily humiliations of Palestinians under occupation, and that realizes the full and remarkable potential of the Palestinian people…

The good news is that he said “A Jewish state” and that he mentioned 1967 — after all, if he had just said “the occupation”, Palestinians would assume that he meant the ‘occupation’ that dates from 1948.

The rest is bad: ‘contiguous’ means that Israel, which has itself been contiguous since 1948, would be cut in half. Ending the “daily humiliations” means stopping the security measures that keep Israelis alive. And what would be the realization of the “full and remarkable potential of the Palestinian people?” I’ve written about that on several occasions, for example here and here and here.

It’s interesting and typical that Israel gets abstract promises about ‘unbreakable bonds’ — what does this mean when the US consistently breaks commitments and modifies its demands in response to Arab tantrums? — and Palestinians get the most concrete thing of all, land.

His mention of the Roadmap is also worth notice, since he conveniently ignores the fact that the PA, too, has obligations under the Roadmap,  like ending anti-Israel incitement. This is a good way to test the PA’s intentions, because it’s easy for them to do — the PA media are tightly controlled by the leadership. But even this they haven’t done.

The way the meeting between President Obama and PM Netanyahu was carried out this Monday night was more evidence that Israel’s “unprecedented” concession was not enough. Caroline Glick described it thus:

It isn’t every day that you can see an American president leaving the prime minister of an allied government twisting in the wind for weeks before deciding to grant him an audience at the White House.

It isn’t every day that a visiting leader from a strategically vital US ally is brought into the White House in an unmarked van in the middle of the night rather than greeted like a friend at the front door; is forbidden to have his picture taken with the president; is forced to leave the White House alone, through a side exit; and is ordered to keep the contents of his meeting with the president secret.

In response to raised eyebrows, statements were issued by both parties that the discussions were “positive”, and the State Department released one photo. But this is not how the Prime Minister of, say, France would be treated.

Although Burns also said the US would put pressure on both sides, it seems that all the Arabs have to do is say ‘no’, and Israel gets the punishment again.

Maybe relations between the US and Israel are not quite at a historic low point as some have suggested, but the “unbreakable bonds” certainly seem to be fraying.

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France, for sale as usual

Thursday, November 12th, 2009

This is a couple of days old, but it illustrates something important:

France fears that Israel no longer desires a Middle East peace deal, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said on Tuesday, adding that Paris remained deeply opposed to settlement building in the West Bank…

Speaking on France Inter radio, Kouchner made clear he was not expecting any swift break through in Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.

“What really hurts me, and this shocks us, is that before there used to be a great peace movement in Israel. There was a left that made itself heard and a real desire for peace,” Kouchner said.

“It seems to me, and I hope that I am completely wrong, that this desire has completely vanished, as though people no longer believe in it,” he added. — Ha’aretz

I can only understand this in one of two ways: either Kouchner and his boss are really, truly idiots who are incapable of perceiving the simple facts of the conflict and recent events; or, they are deliberately presenting a completely false view in order to make political points with foreign and domestic anti-Zionists.

The remark is infuriating, particularly the statement that Israelis in general don’t want peace, and the implication that only the Left is capable of it. The lack of peace is war — does he think Israelis want more war, after 61 years of it? Look at the behavior of Hamas and Hezbollah and ask who wants war!

The “desire has completely vanished”, he says. Something has vanished, but it’s not the desire for peace or even the Left, which is still around. What “people no longer believe in” is the idea that peace will come from giving up land and security to the Palestinians.

This was tested —  how it was tested! — by the Oslo accord, which took on faith the idea that the PLO, too, was interested in a peaceful two-state solution. Thousands of Israelis and Palestinians are dead now, because this false proposition was embraced — with some pushing from a naive US President — by Israel.

It was tested further by the withdrawal from Gaza, which brought even more war. Has Kouchner been asleep since 1993? How else can we understand his shock that Israelis no longer think that there is a Palestinian leadership that will return concessions with peace?

Why, after all this, is he surprised and hurt that Israelis are tired of taking risks, when the payback for it since 1993 has been suicide bombings and Qassam rockets? Kouchner should be glad that Israel’s present government is prepared to say more than “to hell with you” to the Palestinians.

One wants to ask what world he lives in.

Of course, the answer is “one in which 30% of the population of France is Muslim”. And one in which the following is true:

Saudi Arabia is our third-leading oil supplier, after Norway and Russia. In 2004, our exports reached €1.3 billion and our imports stood at €3.1 billion. Our sales are based on intermediate goods, consumer goods and capital goods. With market share moving between 4 and 5%, France is the Kingdom’s eighth-largest supplier. Saudi Arabia is our fourth-biggest customer in the region, after Turkey, Iran and the United Arab Emirates.  — France-Diplomatie

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Strange ‘signals’ and meetings in the night

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

News item:

Opening up hope for some sudden progress on the Syrian front, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu sent a verbal message to Syria on Wednesday, when he told French President Nicolas Sarkozy he would be happy to resume peace talks with Syria anytime, anywhere and without preconditions, a government source said…

On Tuesday in Brazil, President Shimon Peres said, “I call from here to President Assad: come, enter direct negotiations with us immediately. With no mediations, with no preconditions, with no levels, and with no delay…”

Defense Minister Ehud Barak said in Tel Aviv on Wednesday night, “It is possible and important to negotiate with Syria. In any situation we have to preserve our security interests, but we must not treat lightly the peace signals that have come from Damascus of late.”

Peace signals? How about this one:

On Wednesday, according to AFP, Assad gave a nod in Israel’s direction when he said, “We do not put forward conditions on making peace.” But in the same breath, he added that, “The essence of peace is not just negotiations but rather, resistance as well.” Assad said armed conflict and peace talks were parts of the same “axis” to recover legitimate Palestinian rights.

Just like Hamas, Assad can always be counted on to tell us what he’s really thinking!

He has, in a few words, presented the Arab strategy to dismember Israel: flip back and forth between military (and terrorist) pressure and diplomacy. Wars, even if Israel ‘wins ‘ them, provide opportunities to get the West to force Israel to make concessions.

Look at how Hamas, objectively beaten (although unfortunately not crushed) in Operation Cast Lead, has Goldstoned Israel into a corner. One wonders what it will have to do to get a US veto of a Goldstone-report-inspired resolution in the Security Council.

The prospect of yet another round of negotiations with Syria now has appeared on the horizon. Barry Rubin has argued in detail in his book “The Truth about Syria” that although Syria would like to get the Golan Heights back, Assad is not prepared to make peace in return. This is because his regime depends on the continued conflict with Israel to stay in power, to hold back demands for political reform and economic improvement, and to satisfy his patrons in Iran — from which he gets far more benefits than he could from Israel and the US.

But if this is the case, then Israel is wasting her time and energy, as well as taking risks. Would it be better to fight another war with Hezbollah or even Syria with or without the Golan? Is there any doubt? So why bother negotiating when all you can do is weaken yourself?

One reason — and I’m not a diplomat so I don’t really understand this — is that a country claiming to want peace gets diplomatic points, even if they really don’t want peace (like Syria) or if  (like Israel) they know that it’s not possible today. Have to get those points.

Another may be something that I hinted at above: the price for a US veto of an anti-Israel resolution in the Security Council. Or maybe even (I’d like to believe this, but I doubt it) real US action against Iran’s nuclear program.

Maybe that’s what the mysterious meeting between Netanyahu and Obama Monday night was all about.

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Obama blind to jihad, terrorism

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009

What was the motivation of Nidal Hasan, the Ft. Hood shooter? Is it that hard to determine?

We know that Hasan attended a mosque in Virginia in 2001 where the imam was Anwar al-Awlaki:

Mr. Awlaki is a leading light among militant Sunni preachers seeking to reach out to English-speaking Muslims and encourage them to engage in jihad in the West. He’s at the forefront of the effort to create more “homegrown” jihadis, whose language skills and passports help them operate in the US and Europe. — Dan Murphy, Christian Science Monitor

We know that Hasan has since been in contact with al-Awlaki. We know that Hasan was opposed to Muslim soldiers fighting for the US “against Muslims”. We know that Hasan expressed radical Islamic ideas, and uttered the phrase “Allahu akbar” when he opened fire:

Relatives and friends said in interviews that Major Hasan had become unhappy with his seven-year commitment to the Army, which had provided him with his medical training. They said he had grown more openly vocal in his opposition to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and had also become more religiously observant, often praying five time a day at a local mosque. He began his rampages, according to witnesses, by bowing his head as if praying and saying, “Allahu akbar” — “God is Great.”

Former classmates in a master’s program at a military college said that Major Hasan had expressed anti-American views, justified suicide bombings and contended that Islamic law took precedence over the Constitution, but that their complaints to faculty about his views did not result in any action against Major Hasan. — NY Times

It seems correct, even obvious, that this was an act of jihad. Was it a terrorist attack? Well, all but one of the victims were soldiers, so it could be considered an act of war. But since it took place far from a battlefield, and since the victims — his fellow American soldiers — were unarmed, it’s not a stretch to call it ‘terrorism’.

Let’s see what President Obama thinks. Here is a snippet from an interview broadcast on Good Morning America today:

Jake Tapper: What separates an act of violence from an act of terrorism?

Barack Obama: In a country of 300 million people, there are going to be acts of violence that are inexplicable. Even within the extraordinary military that we have.  There are going to be instances in which an individual ‘cracks’. I think the questions that we’re asking now — and we don’t yet have complete answers to — is, is this an individual who’s acting in this way, or is it some larger set of actors. You know, what are the motivations?

So according to the President, a) Hasan’s actions are ‘inexplicable’, and b) ‘terrorism’ is only terrorism when the perpetrator is a card-carrying member of an organization such as al-Qaeda. Possibly even evidence of a phone call from Bin Laden is needed.

This afternoon, in his address at the memorial service in Ft. Hood, Obama said,

It may be hard to comprehend the twisted logic that led to this tragedy… [b]ut this much we do know: No faith justifies these murderous and craven acts. No just and loving God looks upon them with favor.

The NY Times writer continued,

As he rejected the logic of Islamic extremists like the one who had been in contact with Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the Army psychiatrist accused of the killings, Mr. Obama offered no judgment on whether the incident should be viewed as linked to terrorism…

The president also dealt only obliquely with the sensitive question of Muslims serving in the American military. Senior Army officers have expressed concern about a backlash, but Mr. Obama did not use the opportunity to address that directly and never used the word “Muslim” in his address.

Hard to comprehend?

Actually, it’s simple. Most Muslims believe that they are obligated to fight if Muslims or Islam are threatened in a Muslim land; this is called “defensive jihad“. Fighting Americans in Afghanistan would fall into this category. In the view of al-Qaeda and other militant groups, defensive jihad can include fighting an aggressor in his own land, and ‘aggression’ doesn’t even need to mean invasion; Bin Laden managed to see US policy in 2001 as ‘invasive’ enough to justify the 9/11 attacks.

Hasan’s mentor, al-Awlaki, holds this view. Indeed, he called Hasan a hero:

Nidal Hassan is a hero. He is a man of conscience who could not bear living the contradiction of being a Muslim and serving in an army that is fighting against his own people. This is a contradiction that many Muslims brush aside and just pretend that it doesn’t exist. Any decent Muslim cannot live, understanding properly his duties towards his Creator and his fellow Muslims, and yet serve as a US soldier. The US is leading the war against terrorism which in reality is a war against Islam. Its army is directly invading two Muslim countries and indirectly occupying the rest through its stooges. [this text was also found in the Google cache of the now-defunct blog “anwar-alawlaki.com”, along with laudatory comments by readers — ed]

What I find “hard to comprehend”, even “inexplicable”, is the pusillanimous response of our president, after the most serious terrorist attack on American soil since 9/11. What could he possibly be thinking?

The President walks past a memorial to murdered soldiers; he cannot or will not say what killed them

The President walks past a memorial to murdered soldiers; he cannot or will not say what killed them (NY Times photo).

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