Archive for May, 2011

Five years of darkness for Gilad Shalit

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

Gilad Shalit’s fifth anniversary as a captive held incommunicado by Hamas will arrive next month. It is generally thought that he is in an underground bunker somewhere in Gaza. Hamas has not allowed him visits from the Red Cross, or to communicate with his family, in contravention of the Geneva Convention.

Former Israeli Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi said that it was almost impossible to use military force to free him:

Ashkenazi explained during an address at a business forum at Bar Ilan University, where he was awarded an honorary doctorate, that Hamas is hiding the young soldier in a way “that makes it almost impossible” for the IDF to find him.

“We do not know where he is,” Ashkenazi said.

“It must be admitted that we cannot use military force to release Shalit… It is my dream to see a helicopter landing at the Erez Crossing with [him] and I phone his parents to inform him that we have freed him,” Ashkenazi confided.

I can understand that he might be in a booby-trapped location such that even if the IDF knew where he was they would be unable to rescue him. But someone knows where he is. The IDF has sources in Gaza, and they have the ability to bring Hamas operatives out and question them. How can it be “almost impossible” to find him?

The former IDF chief said that if a military option could not be found to free the captive soldier, then Israel would have to admit that “a reasonable price” would have to be paid.

The ‘price’ won’t be ‘reasonable’. That’s the whole idea. The price will be that Israel meets one of the main demands of the Palestinian Arabs: it will ultimately release all Arab prisoners, no matter what they’ve done. Once an exchange like the one Hamas has proposed is made, the whole enterprise of arresting terrorists and confining them will fall apart.

[An aside: Ashkenazi’s dilemma is not exhaustive. I wonder if the option of pressuring Hamas by threatening its leaders (and carrying out the threats if he is not released) has been tried. They are quite prepared to send compromised women, mentally handicapped teenagers and others on suicide missions, but are they really prepared to become martyrs themselves?]

Today, since Hamas has become a full partner in the Palestinian Authority, the PA has assumed responsibility for Shalit. Not only the leaders of Hamas, but those of the PA are responsible for the ongoing war crime that is Shalit’s cruel captivity. In fact Gilad’s parents sent a letter to the US Congress asking that PA funding be cut off until he is freed.

The official PA position, according to negotiator Nabil Shaath, seems to be that there is nothing wrong with continuing to hold Shalit hostage! It’s remarkable the way the world pretends that the PA is better than a bunch of gangsters, and keeps on paying them, training their army and providing them with weapons.

In September, these liars, terrorists and murderers will be asking the UN to help them take a chunk of the Jewish National Home and create a pretend state that will be a base for more terrorism and murder.

Why not remind UN delegates — not that it will change what these corrupt parasites do, but it might embarrass them a little — that they are legitimizing gangsters?

Here is a billboard that a young Israeli-American named Gal Sitty wants to put up facing UN headquarters in Manhattan:

Gal Sitty's billboard

Gal Sitty's billboard

Sitty has set up a site at which people can contribute to the campaign to set up the billboard. As of today (May 26) there are pledges for $4,696 out of the $10,000 needed.

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Not-so-magnificent obsession

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

Yaakov Kirschen, the Dry Bones cartoonist, was here recently, and I would put what he said this way: 95% of the debate about the Middle East conflict focuses on 5% of the problem:

We are obsessed with the Palestinian Arabs.

Israel is threatened far more by Iran, Syria and Hizballah than by Hamas and Fatah. The radicalization of Egypt — it will soon be Islamist or radical nationalist — is a source of concern. The entire Arab world, 22 nations of 350 million people, plus Iran, plus Turkey, do not agree that there should be a Jewish state in the Middle East, and some of them are doing their best to put an end to it.

The root of the conflict is not the borders between Israel and ‘Palestine’, nor even whether or not there is a ‘Palestine’. It is the fact that the Arab world — actually, most of the Muslim world — does not accept a Jewish state in the Middle East, never has, and it seems never will.

The Palestinian Arabs with their nakba myth, their absurd escalating demands, their culture of cruelty, violence and death, their alternation between whining that they are victims and perpetrating murder, their position as an object of worship by the antisemitic Left — all of this is a sideshow, albeit an ugly one.

But when Barack Obama makes a speech or Tom Friedman writes an article about the Middle East, their remarks about Israel are all about its conflict with the Palestinian Arabs.

Because of this misplaced focus, it’s possible for Obama to say that an agreement between Israel and the PA — in which Israel gives up land and security, of course — is urgent. Actually, as Barry Rubin says, this is the worst time for Israel to make concessions:

But remember that this is all part of Obama’s wider theme: It is in Israel’s interests to make a lot of concessions as fast as possible so that the Israel-Palestinian conflict will end and then Israel (with reduced territory and a new hostile, much bigger, neighbor!) will be more popular in the world and more secure in the Middle East.


The moment when Israel is about to have three radical Islamist neighbors is not the time to make concessions to a fourth, half-Islamist, half-radical nationalist one.

This seems so obvious, but it’s a point that’s always missed. And the reason is that people think that it’s all about big, bad Israel and the poor Palestinian Arabs. In reality, the Palestinian Arabs are mostly an excuse, a club to hit Israel with.

The conflict is much broader than that. And if you look at the big picture you see that Israel is not the bully it’s made out to be. And you see that if you want to calm things down, you need to go to the source of it, which is in places like Iran and Syria — not Jerusalem, Ramallah and Gaza.

If I could, I would make Obama, Friedman, et al, all go up to the blackboard and write this 10,000 times:

The root of the conflict is Arab/Muslim rejectionism. The root of the conflict is Arab/Muslim rejectionism.The root of the conflict is Arab/Muslim rejectionism.The root of the conflict is Arab/Muslim rejectionism.The root of the conflict is Arab/Muslim rejectionism.The root of the conflict is Arab/Muslim rejectionism.The root of the conflict is Arab/Muslim rejectionism.The root of the conflict is Arab/Muslim rejectionism.The root of the conflict is Arab/Muslim rejectionism.The root of the conflict is Arab/Muslim rejectionism.The root of the conflict is Arab/Muslim rejectionism.The root of the conflict is Arab/Muslim rejectionism.The root of the conflict is Arab/Muslim rejectionism.The root of the conflict is Arab/Muslim rejectionism.The root of the conflict is Arab/Muslim rejectionism…

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Bibi and Barack

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011
How they spent their early 20's: Binyamin (Bibi) Netanyahu and Barack Obama

How they spent their early 20's: Binyamin (Bibi) Netanyahu and Barack Obama

I’ll admit it, this picture, which is all over the net, is a cheap shot. Maybe there’s a picture of Bibi clowning around at a party somewhere, or one of a young Obama hitting the books. But nevertheless, it tells us something about the worlds that these two men grew up in.

Barack Obama would have been 20 in 1981. The US was more or less at peace, and anyway there hadn’t been a military draft since 1972. The Iranian hostages were finally released in January, John Hinckley shot President Reagan in March, and Israel destroyed Iraq’s Osirak atomic reactor in June. AIDS, the IBM PC and Metallica all made their first appearances in 1981.

Bibi’s 20th birthday came in October 1969. By this time he had already been serving in a special forces unit for two years, fighting the War of Attrition — a war that most Americans never heard of — that was Nasser’s way of emphasizing the Arab world’s rejection of any compromise with the Jewish state. In 1972 he was wounded in an operation to rescue passengers of a hijacked Sabena flight (his brother, Yonatan, was killed in a similar rescue mission in Entebbe in 1976). Bibi also fought in the Yom Kippur war in 1973. In the fashion of many Israelis, he deferred his university education until after military service.

The young Netanyahu learned first hand about the hatred that the Arab world bore for Israel. And quite likely his military experience was also responsible for his oft-articulated belief that the only way to ensure the security of the Jewish people is for them to have the ability — both the weapons and the strategic position — to defend themselves.

Barack Obama, on the other hand, went to Columbia University where he studied International Relations. Maybe he slept through the class on Arab intentions toward Israel, or, more likely, there wasn’t one. Little is known about his activities and associations, although he did take a literature course from Palestinian advocate and world-class fraud Edward Said, who — along with another activist, Rashid Khalidi, then running a Palestinian news agency in Beirut — would later become his friend.

After graduation, Obama worked at several jobs, primarily as a ‘community organizer’, and later continued to Harvard Law School, where he “found his political voice.” Although he was very articulate, some credited his political success to his ability to hide his personal opinions, to be whatever his listeners wanted him to be.

Netanyahu is also a good speaker, but unlike Obama, has always been outspoken about where he stands on a particular issue. So, after Obama’s recent speech in which he both protested his support of the Jewish state of Israel and presented a plan to help the Arabs destroy it, Netanyahu directly confronted the President:

So we can’t go back to those indefensible lines, and we’re going to have to have a long-term military presence along the Jordan. I discussed this with the President and I think that we understand that Israel has certain security requirements that will have to come into place in any deal that we make.

The second is — echoes something the President just said, and that is that Israel cannot negotiate with a Palestinian government that is backed by Hamas. Hamas, as the President said, is a terrorist organization committed to Israel’s destruction.  It’s fired thousands of rockets on our cities, on our children.  It’s recently fired an anti-tank rocket at a yellow school bus, killing a 16-year-old boy.  And Hamas has just attacked you, Mr. President, and the United States for ridding the world of bin Laden…

The third reality is that the Palestinian refugee problem will have to be resolved in the context of a Palestinian state, but certainly not in the borders of Israel.

The Arab attack in 1948 on Israel resulted in two refugee problems — Palestinian refugee problem and Jewish refugees, roughly the same number, who were expelled from Arab lands.  Now, tiny Israel absorbed the Jewish refugees, but the vast Arab world refused to absorb the Palestinian refugees.  Now, 63 years later, the Palestinians come to us and they say to Israel, accept the grandchildren, really, and the great grandchildren of these refugees, thereby wiping out Israel’s future as a Jewish state.

So it’s not going to happen. Everybody knows it’s not going to happen.  And I think it’s time to tell the Palestinians forthrightly it’s not going to happen.  The Palestinian refugee problem has to be resolved.  It can be resolved, and it will be resolved if the Palestinians choose to do so in a Palestinian state.  So that’s a real possibility.  But it’s not going to be resolved within the Jewish state.

It was suggested that Bibi had gone too far, even to the point of calling his polite but firm disagreement a ‘tantrum’.

Something tells me that this time, the pressure will mount more on Bibi than Barack. His behavior these last 48 hours has verged on, if not been, petulant. A foreign leader (no less one of a state whose existence depends on the United States) isn’t supposed to talk like that to a president. — Michael Tomasky, “Bibi’s White House Tantrum”

OK, now look at the picture.

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The whole story in one line

Sunday, May 22nd, 2011

Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon recently tweeted (I know, it sounds so ridiculous) this:

הסכסוך אינו סכסוך טריטוריאלי ועל כן המו”מ לא יכול להתבסס על סוגיית שטח

Which means,

The conflict is not a territorial conflict, so negotiations cannot be based on the issue of territory.

This is the whole story in one line.

Today I attended a talk by Yaakov Kirschen, the Dry Bones cartoonist. He said the same thing in slightly different words:

Everyone is upset about Obama’s mention of 1967 lines. This is irrelevant. The only issue, and one that he did not mention, is that the Arab world does not recognize the Jewish state of Israel as a native part of the Middle East.

This is what ‘recognition’ means.

It is what Arafat never changed the PLO charter to include, despite the fact that he agreed to do so in the Oslo agreements and despite pleas from President Clinton that he do it.

It is what the Arab Initiative does not offer — it refers only to “normal relations” even after Israel has withdrawn to aforesaid insecure borders.

It is what Mahmoud Abbas meant when he refused to say that Israel was the state of the Jewish people.

And despite the fact that President Obama claims to accept this principle himself, he proposes that the Palestinian Arabs be granted sovereignty without agreeing to accept the idea — in particular without saying that millions of descendants of 1948 refugees do not have a ‘right’ to the place now called ‘Israel’.

I think most people in the US and Israel understood this from 1948 to 1993. It was clear to everyone that the Arabs wanted Israel replaced by an Arab state, and they were ready to fight to make this happen. But when Arafat lied about his aims, Israelis sick of war and wanting to finally be ‘normal’, jumped at the chance to believe him.

Now, after Arab terrorism has claimed more than a thousand Israeli victims, most realize that it was all a trick. Unfortunately, in America and Europe and among Israel’s extreme Left, it’s easy for those who (for various reasons) want to see Israel out of the territories to insist that the principle is fine, it’s just that Israel hasn’t made enough concessions. They will continue to say this until there isn’t anything left to concede.

Recognition is everything. But if we are realistic we know that neither Hamas, Fatah nor any other Arab nation is prepared to grant it today — even the ones that are allegedly at ‘peace’ with Israel. The Arab world hasn’t changed its position since 1948.

As Danny Danon argues, the Arabs will abrogate the Oslo agreements by unilaterally seeking recognition of statehood at the UN. It can also be argued that the countenancing of terrorism by the PA, the Hamas-Fatah agreement and the refusal to provide recognition of Israel also constitute a rejection of Oslo.

It’s not possible to continue pretending that there is a path to peace through negotiation with the Fatah-Hamas Palestinian Authority. Obama’s plan only makes things worse by moving the US closer to the Arab position. Time for Plan B:

Let’s accept that the root of the problem (Kirschen said this, too) is the Arab refusal to accept a Jewish state in the Mideast and work on that.

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Obama’s policy is different — and terrible for Israel

Friday, May 20th, 2011

Yesterday I wrote about President Obama’s Israel-Palestine proposal. I tried to be fair, indicating what I thought were the good and bad points. I thought I was finished with it, but apparently not.

Overall, it represents a change in American policy that is a change for the worse. If implemented as described, it would be a disaster for Israel.

I should have known that the usual suspects would spin it as in fact pro-Israel. I am really, really sick of hearing those words.

Let me take a random example. David A. Harris of the National Jewish Democratic Council, in an article titled “Condemning the President” that was also sent by email to its members, said this:

It’s laughable to suggest that President Obama insisted Israel return to 1967 lines, or that he said anything different from the policies of Presidents Bush and Clinton before him.

President George W. Bush similarly said that prior armistice lines should be used as a basis for talks almost six years ago today—while standing next to PA President Mahmoud Abbas.

Diplomatic statements are carefully calibrated, and what may seem to be small differences in wording can represent big changes in policy. Let’s look at exactly what Obama said,

The United States believes that negotiations should result in two states, with permanent Palestinian borders with Israel, Jordan, and Egypt, and permanent Israeli borders with Palestine.  We believe the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states.  The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves, and reach their full potential, in a sovereign and contiguous state.

And here is what it means:

1. Israel will not have a border with Jordan. Thus the idea that Israel will maintain control of the Jordan Valley, considered essential for strategic reasons, is ruled out.

2. The borders will be based on 1967 lines. The position of every American government until now has followed UNSC resolution 242, that borders will be negotiated between the parties (at Oslo, Israel agreed to negotiate with the Palestinians in place of Jordan). The “1967 lines” are the 1949 armistice lines, which neither Israel nor the Arabs have ever treated as anything other than accidental.

But by saying that negotiations will be based on the lines and the Palestinians will be compensated by ‘swaps’ — land from pre-1967 Israel — the President implies that Judea and Samaria belong to the Palestinians today, and that Israel must pay for any of it that they keep.

This is a far cry from resolution 242, which recognized that the 1949-1967 lines were not “secure and recognized boundaries” and that such boundaries need to be negotiated.

3. The state of Palestine is understood to include Judea, Samaria and Gaza (the issue of Jerusalem is left for later in Obama’s proposal). Demanding that it be “contiguous” is a demand that Israel be cut in half.

Previous proposals — which were never accepted — called for some form of ‘free passage’ between Gaza and Judea/Samaria. This is a much less stringent requirement than a demand for territorial contiguity (it could theoretically be met by a bus or railway line).

Now let’s look at what President Bush said, which Harris claims was ‘similar’:

Any final status agreement must be reached between the two parties, and changes to the 1949 Armistice Lines must be mutually agreed to. A viable two-state solution must ensure contiguity on the West Bank, and a state of scattered territories will not work. There must also be meaningful linkages between the West Bank and Gaza.

My analysis:

1. The final borders, which are understood to be different from the 1949 lines, must be mutually agreed upon. That’s exactly what resolution 242 said. There is no presumption that the territories to the east are Palestinian, as there is in Mr. Obama’s formulation.

2. The “West Bank” part of Palestine must be contiguous. There is no requirement that all of Palestine, including Gaza, has to be — only “meaningful linkages” are required. Israel need not be cut in two.

Yes, you can say the statements are ‘similar’. But there are very significant differences. Harris also listed a number of Obama’s feel-good remarks, which did not represent concrete commitments.

And that’s not all. Harris did not mention the most dangerous part of the proposal, which represents a huge shift in US policy.

Until now, it’s been understood that nothing is permanent until the main final-status issues are resolved. So while more than 95% of the Arab population of Judea and Samaria today is under Palestinian Authority control, it is not a sovereign state and will not be, under Oslo, until the status of Jerusalem, refugees, etc. are settled to the satisfaction of both parties. But here is the Obama proposal:

As for security, every state has the right to self-defense, and Israel must be able to defend itself -– by itself -– against any threat.  Provisions must also be robust enough to prevent a resurgence of terrorism, to stop the infiltration of weapons, and to provide effective border security.  The full and phased withdrawal of Israeli military forces should be coordinated with the assumption of Palestinian security responsibility in a sovereign, non-militarized state.  And the duration of this transition period must be agreed, and the effectiveness of security arrangements must be demonstrated.

These principles provide a foundation for negotiations.  Palestinians should know the territorial outlines of their state; Israelis should know that their basic security concerns will be met.  I’m aware that these steps alone will not resolve the conflict, because two wrenching and emotional issues will remain:  the future of Jerusalem, and the fate of Palestinian refugees.  But moving forward now on the basis of territory and security provides a foundation to resolve those two issues in a way that is just and fair, and that respects the rights and aspirations of both Israelis and Palestinians.

This means that Israel will give up territory permanently to a sovereign Palestine before the issues of Jerusalem and refugees are agreed upon! This means that Israel will have zero leverage in subsequent negotiations over these issues, in which Palestine will of course push its maximal demands — demands which, if met, include the loss of the Jewish people’s holiest sites, and the resettlement of millions of ‘refugees’ in Israel and its conversion to an Arab-majority state.

And these claims against Israel will be pressed by a sovereign Palestine in international fora such as the UN, the International Court of Justice, etc. — exactly as Mahmoud Abbas has said would happen if he is successful in getting a unilateral declaration of Palestine via the UN in September!

There’s even more wrong with this proposal, if we look at what Obama did not say. He did not say that the US would live up to its promises in President Bush’s 2004 letter, in particular that the US would oppose resettlement of refugees in Israel.  And here is what he said about the incorporation of the racist, genocidal Hamas in the future Palestinian government:

Recognizing that negotiations need to begin with the issues of territory and security does not mean that it will be easy to come back to the table.  In particular, the recent announcement of an agreement between Fatah and Hamas raises profound and legitimate questions for Israel:  How can one negotiate with a party that has shown itself unwilling to recognize your right to exist?  And in the weeks and months to come, Palestinian leaders will have to provide a credible answer to that question.

Nice sentiments, but where is the statement that the US demands that Hamas agrees to recognize Israel, renounce violent ‘resistance’, etc. before it can take part in the Palestinian government?

In fact, the reference to “com[ing] back to the table” seems to imply that Palestine will receive sovereignty before the Palestinians will be required to provide an unspecified “answer” to the question of Hamas! This, too, represents a major change of US policy.

I’ve said that the Obama Administration is the worst one for Israel since its founding in 1948. Now I think I’ve proved that.

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