Archive for January, 2010

Israel sends aid to Haiti — Arabs and Turks don’t

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

Following the disaster in Haiti, China, the US, Canada, Britain, Spain, Iceland, Portugal, Russia, Taiwan, Venezuela, Mexico, Cuba, France, Switzerland, Germany, Sweden and of course Israel all have medical or rescue personnel on the ground there, or on the way. IDF medical teams who will set up a field hospital are already in the air.

The nations listed above and many others as well as international organizations, India, Australia, Norway, Italy, the EU, the Netherlands, Finland, Ireland, and South Korea have all pledged tens of millions of dollars and Euros (the US is tied for the biggest pledge with the World Bank at $100 million each).

But what’s missing? How about the countries swimming in our petrodollars, Saudi Arabia, Iran? The UAE has promised fifty tons of supplies. Nothing so far from any other Arab or Muslim nations. Where is that great humanitarian Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who was so concerned about the ‘disaster’ in Gaza, now that a real disaster has occurred? Oh, he’s sent Turkey’s ‘condolences’! Does he remember that after a deadly earthquake in 1999, Israel sent its rescue and medical teams to Turkey as well?

It is ironic that Israel, almost universally vilified on ‘humanitarian’ grounds, and despite its small size and lack of resources, is in fact always among the first to help in natural disasters worldwide!

Update [18 Jan 1931 PST] Various Turkish news sources now state that the government of Turkey has decided to send significant aid to Haiti.

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Arming Lebanon is arming Hizballah

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

A few days after the start of the Second Lebanon War, on July 14, 2006, Hizballah fired an Iranian copy of the Chinese C-802 anti-ship missile, making a direct hit on the Israeli Navy’s corvette Hanit. The ship was seriously damaged; four sailors were killed and several others injured.  It was remarkable that the Hanit managed to stay afloat, and even returned to Ashdod under its own power. Although the ship had sophisticated anti-missile capabilities, the systems were turned off, either because the crew did not believe that Hizballah had such a missile, or because they wanted to reduce the chance of accidentally firing at nearby Israeli aircraft. Several officers were disciplined as a result of the affair.

The damaged INS Hanit, at Ashdod.

The damaged INS Hanit, at Ashdod.

A short time later, the IAF bombed several coastal radar stations belonging to the Lebanese army. It’s thought that they provided tracking data to Hizballah. In 2006, Hizballah had far less power and control in Lebanon than it does today. Nevertheless, probably one-third of the Lebanese Army in 2006 consisted of Shiites who might be sympathetic at least to Hizballah.

Today Hizballah has complete freedom of action in Lebanon, and all but controls the government — and the army. It is hard to believe that arms supplied to the Lebanese army could be kept from Hizballah:

In early December, the Lebanese parliament gave a vote of confidence to the government of Saad Hariri and approved a government platform that allowed Hizbullah to maintain its arms in defiance of UN Security Council resolutions.

From that time, which also included a declaration that Hizbullah had a mandate to defend Lebanon from Israel, “there has been a great deal of concern here,” one [Israeli] official said.

The main concern, the official said, is weaponry being provided or pledged by the US. The issue is likely to be raised during the expected meetings here Tuesday with US National Security Advisor James Jones.

The US has long provided military assistance to Lebanon. Over the past years this military assistance has included aircraft, tanks, artillery, small boats, infantry weapons, ammunition, Humvees and cargo trucks. The US is expected to provide the Lebanese army with 12 Raven unmanned reconnaissance and surveillance aircraft in the coming months. — Jerusalem Post [my emphasis]

Since 2006, under the worthless nose of the UN, Hizballah has been rebuilding and rearming with weapons supplied by Iran through Syria. Most analysts believe that Hizballah is far stronger, both in its short, medium and long-range rocket forces and in its ground fortifications, than it was in 2006 (of course Israel has learned lessons from that conflict too).

Barring an unforeseen stroke of luck, like a revolution in Iran which would pull the rug out from under her proxies, a further conflict between Israel and Hizballah is inevitable (if you think Hizballah will become moderate in middle age, see Barry Rubin’s argument to the contrary here).

So it would behoove the US administration, if its protestations about caring for Israel’s security are actually meaningful, to find another market for military hardware than Lebanon.

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Palestinians: tell us what you really think

Monday, January 11th, 2010

Yesterday afternoon I attended a talk given by Rabbi David Saperstein of the Union for Reform Judaism’s Religious Action Center. He is, of course, a proponent of the ‘peace process’; indeed, he thinks that the only way that Israel can survive is by pursuing a two-state solution — a compromise that will satisfy Israel’s need for security and the Palestinians’ national aspirations.

I was allowed to ask one question, and I made the same argument that I did in “Mitchell fails to understand Palestinian goals” I asked him:

What if it turns out that Israeli security is incompatible with Palestinian aspirations?

As long as that is true, then there cannot be a stable two-state solution. The Palestinians will either not agree to, or not abide by, any agreement that allows Israel to continue to breathe. We saw how the former option played out in 2000, when Arafat rejected a two-state solution in favor of war.

In my question I brought up the Pew Global Attitudes Project survey of June 2007 as evidence that not only the Palestinian leadership felt this way, but also the grass roots. An overwhelming 77% said that Palestinian aspirations and Israel’s existence could not coexist.

“No,” he said, “that survey was misinterpreted. It asked a question about whether Palestinians thought Israel would give them their rights, not whether they could ever get them while Israel exists.” And went on to other things.

Well, decide for yourself. Here is the question from page 118 of the survey linked above:

Q.60 Which statement comes closest to your opinion? 1) A way can be found for the state of Israel to exist so that the rights and needs of the Palestinian people are taken care of OR, 2) the rights and needs of the Palestinian people cannot be taken care of as long as the state of Israel exists?

And here is the answer: 16% chose statement 1), 77% chose statement 2), and 7% did not know or chose not to answer.

The next question also tells us a lot about the Palestinian mindset:

Q.61 Who is mostly responsible for the fact that the Palestinians do not have a state of their own – Israelis or the Palestinians themselves?

47% felt that Israel was primarily responsible and only 10% blamed the Palestinians. The others divided up into 15% who blamed both sides, 13% the Arab nations, 10% the always-handy US (probably because we supported Israel), and a total of 6% who found other culprits or didn’t know. What’s remarkable — and an indication of what a friend who is an AA member calls ‘an alcoholic personality’ on their part — is that so few were prepared to take any responsibility, especially after 2000.

Now, for those who say “that was Arafat, this is today”, I submit the following:

[Last] week Palestinian Authority [PA] Chairman Mahmoud Abbas once again honored the memory of the terrorist Dalal Mughrabi – this time by sponsoring a ceremony celebrating the 50th anniversary of her birth. Mughrabi led the worst terror attack in Israel’s history in 1978, when she and other terrorists hijacked a bus and killed 37 civilians. Present at the ceremony were Palestinian dignitaries and a children’s marching band. Earlier this year, Abbas sponsored a computer center named after Mughrabi…

The text on the giant banner carrying Mughrabi's portrait at the birthday ceremony read: Under the auspices of President Mahmoud Abbas The Political and National Education Authority Ceremony on the anniversary of the birth of the bride of the cosmos The Shahida (Martyr) Dalal Mughrabi.

The text on the giant banner carrying Mughrabi's portrait at the birthday ceremony read: Under the auspices of President Mahmoud Abbas The Political and National Education Authority Ceremony on the anniversary of the birth of the bride of the cosmos The Shahida (Martyr) Dalal Mughrabi.

A movement characterized by terrorism which continues to glorify murderers as its greatest heroes — and they don’t see why their problems are to a great extent their own responsibility!

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A new conflict with Hamas on the horizon?

Sunday, January 10th, 2010

News item:

On Sunday, Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yom-Tov Samia, the former head of the Southern Command who continues to function as the current head’s deputy in the reserves, hinted at the possibility that the IDF will conquer the Philadelphi Corridor in the future.

In an interview with Army Radio, Samia said that in a future conflict, Israel would take over “specific territory” in Gaza that would help reduce Hamas’s “oxygen supply.” Contacted later in the day, Samia refused to specify which territory he had referred to.

“We are facing another round in Gaza,” said Samia, who during Cast Lead functioned as the deputy to OC Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Yoav Galant. “I am very skeptical about the chance that Hamas will suddenly surrender or change its way without first suffering a far more serious blow than it did during Cast Lead.”

The blow, he said, would be “more focused with long-range results including the conquering of territory that Hamas will understand it lost as a result of its provocations. We need to create a situation which reduces its oxygen supply.” [my emphasis]

Note that Maj.-Gen. Samia does not discuss the option of overthrowing Hamas and destroying its leadership. I presume that there are two main reasons for this: the expected number of IDF and Palestinian casualties (who will all be claimed to be civilians) from the required penetration into the center of Gaza City — which probably would mean bloody fighting in tunnels and bunkers — and the need for Israel to take responsibility for filling the resulting administrative vacuum.

But Hamas will not ‘surrender or change its way’ no matter how serious a blow it suffers, as long as that blow is nonfatal. So a ‘Cast-Lead plus’ would only provide temporary breathing space, and the repercussions in the information arena would be as severe or worse than they were last winter.

Would cutting the lifeline of the “Sinai Subway” alone be enough to take down Hamas? Maybe, but I doubt it. Maintaining the occupation zone along the border indefinitely would be dangerous and provide a focus for never-ending ‘humanitarian’ complaints.

The consideration of casualties is important, but casualties will mount quickly enough if there has to be a mini-war every year or so. That’s a much more costly alternative in every way than one campaign which ends in victory — as should have happened in Cast Lead.

So we need to ask, who would run Gaza if Hamas were gone? The UN? Worthless. It would serve as cover for Hamas to recreate itself, just as it has for Hezbollah in Lebanon. The Egyptians? Why would they? What would they gain from it except trouble?

The Palestinian Authority (PA) has said that it doesn’t want to return to Gaza on the backs of Israeli tanks, but given the huge amount of international funds that would flow in to rebuild it, perhaps a way could be found. Possibly the cooperative security model used in Judea and Samaria, which has so effectively reduced terrorism from there, could be made to work in a PA-controlled Gaza.

I don’t know enough of the details to know if it’s practical, but it seems like the only solution. Hamas-ruled Gaza is like an infection that is periodically lanced but never cured.

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Mitchell fails to understand Palestinian goals

Saturday, January 9th, 2010

Quoted in Steve Rosen’s blog, a snippet from an interview with US Mideast envoy George Mitchell:

George Mitchell: …Israel annexed Jerusalem in 1980….for the Israelis, what they’re building in, is in part of Israel. Now, the others don’t see it that way. So you have these widely divergent perspectives on the subject. …The Israelis are not going to stop settlements in or construction in East Jerusalem. They don’t regard that as a settlement because they think it’s part of Israel….

Charlie Rose: So you’re going to let them go ahead even though no one recognized the annexation.

GM: When you say let them go ahead, it’s what they regard as their country. They don’t regard — they don’t say they’re letting us go ahead when we build in Manhattan or in the Bronx or —

CR: But don’t the international rules have something to do with what somebody can do to define as their country?

GM: There are disputed legal issues. .. And we could spend the next 14 years arguing over disputed legal issues or we can try to get a negotiation to resolve them in a manner that meets the aspirations of both societies. [my emphasis]

This is remarkable, both because Mitchell appears to understand and appreciate the Israeli position, and because he doesn’t spout the usual rubbish about ‘settlements are illegitimate’ that we’ve heard from both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

But unfortunately, Mitchell understands the Palestinians less well. Here’s some more, and we can see where his understanding goes off the rails (the full transcript of the interview is here):

GM: Keep this in mind, the Israelis have a state, a very successful state.  They want security, which they ought to have… The Palestinians don’t have a state, they want one, and they ought to have one.  We believe that neither can attain its objective by denying to the other side its objective.  The Palestinians are not going to get a state until the people of Israel have a reasonable sense of sustainable security.  The Israelis on the other hand are not going to get that reasonable sense of sustainable security until there is a Palestinian state.

Mitchell seems to think that the Palestinian objective is a state in the territories. There are at least three really good arguments that this is false:

  1. They had numerous opportunities, the most recent and advantageous being Olmert’s 2008 offer, to have such a state and they refused to take them.
  2. They continue to put obstacles in the path of negotiations that would lead to a state, such as insisting on preconditions like a construction freeze in Jerusalem.
  3. When they speak in Arabic, they do not say that they want a state in the territories, they say that they want to replace Israel with their state. Here’s just one of many possible examples.

It often happens that one fails to understand as a result to listening to words and ignoring actions, or vice versa. But if one doesn’t pay attention to either actions or words and makes judgments based only on what one wishes were true, then misunderstanding is guaranteed.

Here’s a good example of what Barry Rubin often talks about, the Western propensity to think that everyone shares your goals and priorities. Who wouldn’t see a peaceful state and economic progress in their interest, suggests Mitchell:

CR: Why do you believe [a two-state solution is] possible?

GM: Because it’s in the best interests of the people on both sides… Despite the horrific events of the past half century, all of the death, all of the destruction, all of the mistrust, and all of the hatred, a substantial majority on both sides still believes that’s the way to resolve the problem.

It all depends on how you define best interests. If you ask most Palestinians, they will say that carrying on the war for as long as it takes for them to get ‘their land’ back is much more important than a stable, peaceful state and economic prosperity without ‘their land’. And Mitchell is quite wrong about what a majority of Palestinians think: in 2007, 77% of Palestinians said that “the rights and needs of the Palestinian people cannot be taken care of as long as the state of Israel exists” (Pew survey, 6/27/07). And their attitudes, if anything, have become more hardened since then.

So I don’t think Mitchell’s approach is going to work, and his vaunted persistence will not help so long as he doesn’t see that there is no middle ground between Israel’s security and Palestinian aspirations:

The latter  preclude the former.

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