Archive for September, 2011

China, Israel and Iran

Saturday, September 24th, 2011

The writer is an old friend of mine. I received this recently and thought it was clever, thought-provoking, and deserving of a wider audience. For what it’s worth, I would not expect Israel to strike Iran except to preempt an imminent attack.

PaRDeS of Chinese Mideast expert Yin Gang’s statement to Yossi Melman of Ha’aretz

by ‘Altalena’

To underscore China’s unique diplomatic policy, Yin made the following surprising statement: “China is opposed to any military action against Iran that would damage regional stability and interfere with the flow of oil. But China will not stop Israel if it decides to attack Iran. For all these reasons, Israel and the Middle East need a country like China. Israel needs China’s power.”

— Ha’aretz: ‘China will not stop Israel if it decides to attack Iran

Interpreting Yin’s statement using rabbinic Judaism’s traditional “pardes” (Hebrew for “paradise”) method of Torah exegesis:
  • Peshat (פְּשָׁט) “simple” or direct meaning.
  • Remez (רֶמֶז) “hint” or deep meaning beyond the literal sense.
  • Derash (דְּרַשׁ) from darash: “inquire”— the comparative meaning, as given through similar occurrences.
  • Sod (סוֹד) “secret” or the mystical meaning, as given through inspiration or revelation.

The plain-truth peshat is that China needs a stable flow of Mideast oil . . . would take no action if Beijing were to learn that Israel was about to hit Iran . . . and should be regarded as a player by the countries of the Mideast.

The word-to-the-wise remez is that China could stop Israel from hitting Iran if it wanted to.

The subtext derash is that China is a great power whose needs Israel should take strongly into account when deciding what to do about Iran–not just, as may currently be the case, the views of the conventional big dogs, the US, the EU, Russia, and the Arab countries.

The eyes-only sod is that Beijing would be POSITIVELY THRILLED AND UTTERLY DELIGHTED if Israel were to kneecap Iran, which would result in a more stable supply of cheaper oil for China, as Iran with its limited reserves and high but dwindling population wants the highest possible price ASAP (in contrast to the Saudis, who want a moderate price over a very long term because their population is low and their reserves are huge) to serve the needs of those Iranians who are now alive and the few progeny who will survive them; aprés them le deluge.

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Palestinian program: to end the Jewish state

Saturday, September 24th, 2011
Mahmoud Abbas speaks at Fatah convention in 2009 in front of an image of his mentor, Yasser Arafat

Mahmoud Abbas speaks at Fatah convention in 2009 in front of an image of his mentor, Yasser Arafat

In my last post, I discussed President Obama’s speech at the UN. Today I want to quote a few snippets from the speech of Palestinian ‘president’ Mahmoud Abbas to the same body and elucidate the meaning therein:

I confirm, on behalf of the Palestine Liberation Organization, the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, which will remain so until the end of the conflict in all its aspects and until the resolution of all final status issues, the following:

Whatever the significance of the ‘reconciliation’ between Fatah and Hamas, Hamas is not a member of the PLO. Hence it is possible for the PLO to maintain its distance from a group which is generally recognized in the West as terrorist and racist, and with which Israel and many other nations will not negotiate. Although the PLO is also a terrorist and racist organization, it has officially denied this and its denials have been (foolishly) accepted by Israel and others.

1. The goal of the Palestinian people is the realization of their inalienable national rights in their independent State of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital, on all the land of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, which Israel occupied in the June 1967 war, in conformity with the resolutions of international legitimacy and with the achievement of a just and agreed upon solution to the Palestine refugee issue in accordance with resolution 194, as stipulated in the Arab Peace Initiative which presented the consensus Arab vision to resolve the core the Arab-Israeli conflict and to achieve a just and comprehensive peace. To this we adhere and this is what we are working to achieve. Achieving this desired peace also requires the release of political prisoners and detainees in Israeli prisons without delay.

The Palestinians as well as all the Arab states have always interpreted resolution 194 as calling for the ‘return’ of all Arab refugees and their descendants to ‘their original homes’ in Israel. It is important to realize that this is an inseparable part of their demand for statehood. It is one of the primary reasons — if not the primary reason that previous Israeli offers of as much as 97% of Judea/Samaria and large parts of Jerusalem were not accepted in 2000, 2001 and 2008.

Abbas implies that everyone of Palestinian descent has ‘rights’ to live in Israel, even those who are presently living in Judea, Samaria or Gaza:

The time has come to end the suffering and the plight of millions of Palestine refugees in the homeland and the Diaspora, to end their displacement and to realize their rights, some of them forced to take refuge more than once in different places of the world. (my emphasis)

Other PLO officials have been even more specific, stating that ‘refugees’ in the Palestinian state will not get Palestinian citizenship. Statehood, they want to make 100% clear, will not terminate refugee status or allow for their resettlement anywhere other than Israel.

The ideas of hereditary refugee status, refusal of resettlement, and a ‘right of return’ have never been accepted before in the history of refugee situations since WWII. And yet, the Arabs take this as a given. Of course this demand is nothing more than a demand to dissolve the Jewish state.

The issue of the prisoners is very important and is always mentioned. Although some may legitimately be called ‘political prisoners,’ many are murderers or responsible for causing grievous bodily harm to Israelis. Although Abbas claims that

4. Our people will continue their popular peaceful resistance to the Israeli occupation and its settlement and apartheid policies and its construction of the racist annexation Wall,

these violent prisoners will be soldiers in the continued ‘resistance’ after the Palestinian state is declared. Of course, he fails to mention Gilad Shalit who is being held for ransom simply because he is an Israeli and whose conditions of imprisonment are far worse than those of the Arab murderers in Israeli jails.

3. We adhere to the option of negotiating a lasting solution to the conflict in accordance with resolutions of international legitimacy. Here, I declare that the Palestine Liberation Organization is ready to return immediately to the negotiating table on the basis of the adopted terms of reference based on international legitimacy and a complete cessation of settlement activities.

“Resolutions of international legitimacy” refers to the SC and GA resolutions that Abbas expects from the UN. With these in hand he is prepared to negotiate with Israel from a starting point of a ‘Palestine’ that includes all of Judea, Samaria and Gaza, with its capital in Jerusalem (“Al-Quds Al-Sharif”), and with a precondition that all “settlement activities” will end.

Consistent with his mention of the Arab Initiative, I understand this as the ‘implementation phase’ — the process of the evacuation of all Jewish residents of the territories, as well as the realization of the ‘rights’ of all ‘Palestinian refugees’ to settle in Israel or receive compensation. This is all he is prepared to ‘negotiate’!

None of this, he claims, violates the Oslo agreements:

2. The PLO and the Palestinian people adhere to the renouncement of violence and rejection and condemning of terrorism in all its forms, especially State terrorism, and adhere to all agreements signed between the Palestine Liberation Organization and Israel.

But the 1993 Declaration of Principles, the main part of the Oslo agreement, says that

It is understood that the interim arrangements are an integral part of the whole peace process and that the negotiations on the permanent status will lead to the implementation of Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973)…

It is understood that these [permanent status] negotiations shall cover remaining issues, including: Jerusalem, refugees, settlements, security arrangements, borders, relations and co-operation with other neighbours, and other issues of common interest.

In other words, following resolutions 242 and 338, Israel will get “secure and recognized boundaries.” And the actual borders (etc.) will be determined by the permanent status negotiations between Israel and the PA — not the UN. So in fact the Palestinians are not adhering to previous agreements.

Abbas concluded the main part of his speech with a remarkably offensive passage, beginning thus:

I come before you today from the Holy Land, the land of Palestine, the land of divine messages, ascension of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and the birthplace of Jesus Christ (peace be upon him), to speak on behalf of the Palestinian people in the homeland and in the the Diaspora, to say, after 63 years of suffering of the ongoing Nakba: Enough. It is time for the Palestinian people to gain their freedom and independence. (my emphasis)

For Abbas, there is no Jewish connection to the Holy Land. And his program is a program to end the “ongoing Nakba” of 63 years: Jewish control of any of it.

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Obama’s pro-Israel speech

Thursday, September 22nd, 2011
Mahmoud Abbas reacts to President Obama's UN speech. What could he have been expecting?

Mahmoud Abbas reacts to President Obama's UN speech. What could he have been expecting?

When I read the part of President Obama’s speech to the UN yesterday (May 21, 2011) that dealt with Israel and the Palestinians — which, by the way, was only a small part of it — I was surprised.

I had read Palestinian and Israeli reactions to it first, and judging from them, I would have thought it represented a major tilt toward Israel. But what I saw in the text was more or less a reiteration of prior positions. So why was Mahmoud Abbas covering his eyes, and why did Israeli PM Netanyahu thank Obama so effusively? Let’s look at what Obama said — and didn’t say.

One year ago, I stood at this podium and I called for an independent Palestine. I believed then, and I believe now, that the Palestinian people deserve a state of their own. But what I also said is that a genuine peace can only be realized between the Israelis and the Palestinians themselves. One year later, despite extensive efforts by America and others, the parties have not bridged their differences. Faced with this stalemate, I put forward a new basis for negotiations in May of this year. That basis is clear. It’s well known to all of us here. Israelis must know that any agreement provides assurances for their security. Palestinians deserve to know the territorial basis of their state.

Well, Abbas should have liked that. Obama emphasized his commitment to a Palestinian state and reaffirmed the plan that he put forward in May, pre-1967 lines plus swaps — and everything else in that plan, which I and many others felt represented a aharp pro-Palestinian shift in the US position.

Now, I know that many are frustrated by the lack of progress. I assure you, so am I. But the question isn’t the goal that we seek — the question is how do we reach that goal. And I am convinced that there is no short cut to the end of a conflict that has endured for decades. Peace is hard work. Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the United Nations — if it were that easy, it would have been accomplished by now. Ultimately, it is the Israelis and the Palestinians who must live side by side. Ultimately, it is the Israelis and the Palestinians — not us –- who must reach agreement on the issues that divide them: on borders and on security, on refugees and Jerusalem.

Abbas has known for months that the US opposed a unilateral declaration of statehood at the UN. There is nothing new here. Did Abbas harbor a secret hope that Obama would finally hand him Israel on a silver platter, with no compromises required? If so, where did he get that idea? Certainly not from the public statements of the President, which — no matter how pro-Palestinian they may have been — always called for an agreement between the parties.

We seek a future where Palestinians live in a sovereign state of their own, with no limit to what they can achieve. There’s no question that the Palestinians have seen that vision delayed for too long. It is precisely because we believe so strongly in the aspirations of the Palestinian people that America has invested so much time and so much effort in the building of a Palestinian state, and the negotiations that can deliver a Palestinian state.

But understand this as well: America’s commitment to Israel’s security is unshakeable. Our friendship with Israel is deep and enduring. And so we believe that any lasting peace must acknowledge the very real security concerns that Israel faces every single day.

Again, this is precisely what he said in May. But what comes next is interesting — not because there is any substantive policy change, but because of the tone:

Let us be honest with ourselves: Israel is surrounded by neighbors that have waged repeated wars against it. Israel’s citizens have been killed by rockets fired at their houses and suicide bombs on their buses. Israel’s children come of age knowing that throughout the region, other children are taught to hate them. Israel, a small country of less than eight million people, look out at a world where leaders of much larger nations threaten to wipe it off of the map. The Jewish people carry the burden of centuries of exile and persecution, and fresh memories of knowing that six million people were killed simply because of who they are. Those are facts. They cannot be denied. (my emphasis)

Here Obama recognizes:

  1. The wider context of the conflict. It is not all about the Palestinians getting their ‘rights,’ an Israeli Goliath persecuting an Arab David. Israel is tiny, surrounded by hostile neighbors with large populations. It is in danger.
  2. The fact of hateful  incitement against Israel and Jews by both the Palestinians and Israel’s other neighbors.
  3. The part played by specifically Palestinian terrorism — the rockets and suicide bombers.
  4. The real threat of Iran.

This directly contradicts the line of the anti-Zionist Left in the US and Europe.  It must have infuriated Obama’s friend Rashid Khalidi. And it isn’t the sort of thing advisers like Samantha Power would be likely to agree with.

And now comes the real zinger:

The Jewish people have forged a successful state in their historic homeland. Israel deserves recognition. It deserves normal relations with its neighbors. And friends of the Palestinians do them no favors by ignoring this truth, just as friends of Israel must recognize the need to pursue a two-state solution with a secure Israel next to an independent Palestine.

Although it is again not new in US policy, this indicates an understanding of the Israeli demand that Israel must be recognized as the nation of the Jewish people. It is in direct contradiction to the Palestinian position that there is no Jewish people (only a religion), and that Israel in fact ‘belongs’ to the Palestinian Arabs who should have the right to ‘return’ to their ‘original homes’ in Israel (where probably less than 1% of today’s ‘Palestinians’ ever lived).

Of course, I would have preferred an unequivocal statement that the Palestinians must recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish People. Nevertheless, I see the statement that Israel is our historic homeland as very significant. This may have been the moment that Abbas put his hand over his eyes.

And what didn’t he say?

He did not mention settlements or construction therein. He did not blame Israel or PM Netanyahu for the failure of bilateral negotiations. He did not make any new demands on Israel.

From a diplomatic point of view there is absolutely nothing new. But in a rhetorical sense, it was a very pro-Israel speech.

So we’re left with this question:

Was this a true expression of heretofore hidden warmth toward the Jewish state and its leadership, a warmth which was definitely not present in Obama’s Cairo speech, his Arab Spring speech, or his treatment of Netanyahu on several occasions?

Or was it a cynical exercise to mollify pro-Israel American voters who have found his policy abhorrent, a carefully crafted way to give the impression of a changed policy without actually changing it?

You decide.

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How to end the refugee problem

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011
Palestinian refugees in a Lebanese camp

Palestinian refugees in a Lebanese camp

Yesterday I suggested that (among other things) there needs to be a major change in world policy toward ‘Palestinian refugees’. Today I want to elaborate on this.

In 1948, somewhere around 600,000 Arabs (serious estimates range from 550,000 750,000) left their homes as a result of the war. It is a fundamental part of Palestinian mythology, abetted by the remarkable dishonesty of the so-called ‘new historians’ (see Efraim Karsh’s books on the subject, here and here) that these refugees were all forced out of their homes at gunpoint, but in fact most of them fled simply to avoid the expected war. Lack of leadership helped — wealthy Arabs left first, some to summer homes in Beirut — and in many cases they were encouraged to do so by the local leadership and by propaganda from the Arab nations.

The Palestinian narrative is based on the idea that Israel’s creation was a nakba, or catastrophe for the ‘Palestinian people,’ that it was a deliberate crime against them, and that Israel must make it right by accepting a ‘right of return’ for the refugees and all of their 4.5 million descendants, whereby they could “return to their original homes” inside Israel or receive compensation.

There are several inconvenient facts that this narrative ignores, in addition to the fact that there was no attempt to expel Arabs en masse. For one thing, the Palestinian Arabs initiated hostilities against the Jewish population in 1947 (I am ignoring the various ‘riots’ and pogroms that they perpetrated from about 1920), and their allies invaded the area with the exit of the British in 1948. If it is possible to assign responsibility for the war and the nakba, it is not the Jews that bear that responsibility.

It is also important, if we are discussing compensation, to recall that about 800,000 Jews were in one way or another forced out of Arab countries before, during and after the 1948 war, usually bringing only the clothes on their backs. Countries that had flourishing communities of hundreds of thousands of Jews lost almost all of them. For example, the Jewish population of Iraq went from 150,000 to 100 between 1948 and 2003.

It is also important to compare the way Palestinian refugees have been treated by international institutions with the way other refugee problems have been solved. Most refugee situations — like that of the millions, especially Jews that were made homeless by WWII as well as the Jewish refugees from Arab countries — were resolved in a few years, primarily by resettlement.

In the case of the Arab refugees, a special agency, UNRWA was created just for them. Refugee status — for the first and only time in the history of the UN — was made hereditary. Host nations refused to grant the refugees and their descendents citizenship, kept them in UN-funded camps, and in many cases denied them opportunities for education or employment that were available to non-Palestinians. The condition of the refugees in Lebanon has been compared to South African apartheid!

When Israel took control of the Gaza strip in 1967, Israelis were horrified by the conditions of the refugees in the formerly Egyptian-controlled camps. Israel actually built new housing for them, but the PLO and UN prevented the refugees from occupying it.

While the refugees and their descendents are not permitted to be absorbed by their host countries, UNRWA continues to support them on the international dole, providing aid to families on the basis of size — thus creating an incentive for ‘refugee’ families to have many children. UNRWA’s budget is in excess of $1.2 billion per year, much of which, naturally, is paid by the USA.

The Palestinian Authority has indicated that if they are granted statehood there will be no change in the status of refugees, even those that live in the area that they expect to become part of their state. They will not get Palestinian citizenship, and the UN will continue to support them. The only solution for them that is acceptable to the Palestinians and the Arab states is their ‘return’ to their ‘original homes’ in Israel.

Everyone, from Barack Obama and Ban Ki-Moon on down (or up) knows that a ‘return’ of up to 4.5 million hostile Arabs to Israel would simply be the end of Israel. And yet, although they know this, and although at the same time they purport to be committed to Israel’s security, they do not call for change in the pernicious Arab refugee system!

Everyone also agrees that a solution to the Isareli-Arab conflict will require a solution to the refugee problem.  So here is a restatement of my simple proposal to solve this problem for once and for all:

  1. Palestinian refugee status will be given only to those Arabs who actually left their homes during Israel’s War of Independence. It will no longer be hereditary.
  2. The remaining refugees will receive services from UNHCR, which serves all other kinds of refugees.
  3. UNRWA will be abolished.
  4. Former refugees will be given all the rights and privileges of citizens of their host countries. The system of ethnic apartheid which exists in Lebanon, Syria, the PA, the Gaza strip and (to a lesser extent) Jordan will be dismantled.
  5. The UN may give humanitarian aid to the host countries in order to aid in the absorption of the former refugees, but will not directly maintain them. Aid will be carefully targeted, monitored and strictly limited in duration.

This will be a large undertaking, but it is absolutely necessary for there to be peace in the Middle East. Just as world Jewry collected funds to help the European Jewish refugees after WWII and the Jews from Arab lands after 1948, we can expect that the Arab countries will invest some of their petrodollars into helping their Palestinian brothers.

After all, they do care about the Palestinians — don’t they?

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A proposal for the civilized world

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

It’s a reality-based proposal, for once:

WHEREAS the PLO has shown itself to be a racist organization whose ultimate goal is to destroy Israel, and whose proximate intent is to ethnically cleanse Jews from their historic homeland; and,

WHEREAS the Palestinian Authority (PA) now includes Hamas as well, a just-as-racist terrorist organization that right now this minute is engaged in terrorism against Israel; and,

WHEREAS nevertheless the Gaza strip is separately governed and in fact the ‘President’ of the PA is not able to set foot there; and,

WHEREAS the ‘President’ of the PA’s term expired months ago and the PA can’t hold elections because Hamas would win them; and,

WHEREAS the only thing keeping the PA from being entirely overwhelmed by Hamas is the IDF; and,

WHEREAS everyone knows that the PA has no economy, no real institutions, is entirely dependent on huge amounts of money from the UN, EU and US (the Arabs also make promises but don’t pay), and cannot possibly constitute a viable state; and,

WHEREAS the PA states that it will not grant citizenship to Arab refugees, even those within its borders; and,

WHEREAS  the only function of ‘statehood’ is to provide a platform for continued legal, diplomatic and terrorist warfare against Israel; and,

WHEREAS the plan to grant statehood to what is in essence a bunch of terrorist militias and corrupt functionaries is not conceived out of actual concern for the welfare of Palestinian Arabs, but rather from an irrational antisemitic hatred for the Jewish state;

THEREFORE the civilized world:

a) rejects the idea of statehood for the PA, and calls for an immediate end to aid to the PA other than temporary humanitarian aid to residents;

b) outlaws the PLO as a racist and terrorist organization and demands that its terrorist militias disarm;

c) declares that the status of ‘Palestinian refugee’ only applies to those Arabs who left their homes in 1948 and not their descendents, with said descendants being granted the status of ‘normal’ residents of their place of residence;

d) calls for the abolition of UNRWA, and placing the 1948 refugees under UNHCR, like all other refugees;

e) declares that the Hamas regime in Gaza is a terrorist, racist, aggressor entity which shall be quarantined until the rogue Hamas regime is replaced and its military forces disbanded and disarmed;

f) reaffirms UN resolutions 242 and 338 and calls for three-party negotiations between Israel, Jordan and representatives of the residents of Judea and Samaria to determine the status of the territories based on demographic considerations and the need for all states to have secure and recognized boundaries;

g) declares that the state of Israel has a legitimate right of self-defense against aggression from Hamas, Hizballah or anyone else, and affirms that it will stand behind Israel if she is attacked;

h) affirms that Israel is the state of the Jewish people with all that entails, and that while it is required to protect the civil rights of all of its inhabitants (suffrage, housing, education, economic opportunity), it is not required to provide for expression of the nationalistic aspirations of ethnic minorities, except insofar as they may be permitted to emigrate if they choose;

i) demands that the UN abolish its “Division for Palestinian rights” and end its annual “Day of solidarity with the Palestinian People,” since these are simply expressions of the Arabs’ racist project to expel the Jews from the Middle East.

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