Archive for February, 2013

Why some Israelis welcome rocket attacks

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013
Israel's Iron Dome antimissile system fires an interceptor at Palestinian rocket

Israel’s Iron Dome antimissile system fires at a Palestinian rocket last November

Here is a report posted today on an Israeli blog called The Muqata:

Due to the rising tensions in the countries neighboring Northern Israel, the IDF has recently positioned multiple “Iron Dome” anti-rocket systems around Israel’s north.

Some of the installations are nearby to Israeli Arab villages, and NRG/Maariv reports that today a group of Israeli Arabs cursed the IDF soldiers manning the installation, and pelted them with rocks till the police arrived. …

The question is, why would Israeli Arabs hurl curses, harass and stone IDF soldiers — when the anti-rocket system protects them as well.

The answer depends on understanding the phrase “Israeli Arab” and other names for the same thing.

An Israeli Arab is an Arab who lived (or his ancestors did) in the area that became Israel in 1948. He has the right to vote in Israeli elections, utilize Israeli health care, receive state funds for schools, etc. He is neither required to sing “Hatikva” nor to serve in the IDF, but is expected to be loyal to the state and not assist its enemies or engage in terrorism.

In recent years some former Israeli Arabs have come to prefer to be called “Palestinian citizens of Israel.” They reject the description “Israeli” because for them there is no legitimate country called ‘Israel’. They define themselves as members of the ‘Palestinian people’, which has created itself entirely in opposition to the idea of Israel. Palestinian Arabs (inside and outside of Israel) believe an invented version of history in which a flourishing ‘Palestinian’ society was usurped by Zionist colonialists, culminating in a mass expulsion (the nakba). Here is a more accurate historical account.

In any event, these ‘Palestinians’ long for the day that the usurpers will be eliminated, the ‘refugees’ will ‘return’ (a discussion of the ‘refugees’ is here) and the beautiful pre-Zionist ‘Palestine’, which never existed, will be re-established. Some, who have adopted the Islamist ideology of Hamas — there is an “Islamic movement in Israel” which represents this ideology among the Arab population of Israel — believe that the Jews should be entirely driven out of the land, even killed.

As citizens of Israel these ‘Palestinians’ enjoy the highest standard of living of any Arabs in the Middle East, as well as more personal and political freedom. But they will not feel fulfilled in a political/ideological sense until the Jewish regime is replaced by an Arab or even Islamic one.

So what’s a few rocket attacks if they will help end Zionism and bring the millennium?

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Obama, Hagel, State Department stuck in 1970’s

Tuesday, February 5th, 2013
Lining up to buy gas in New York City, 1973

Lining up to buy gas in New York City, 1973

The very first post that I wrote in this blog back in 2006 was about the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group and its non-sequitur assertion of the “linkage theory.” You will recall that the war in Iraq was going badly at the time, with Sunni and Shiite ‘insurgents’ killing large numbers of each other’s people as well as American soldiers. Here’s part of what they said:

Iraq cannot be addressed effectively in isolation from other major regional issues, interests, and unresolved conflicts. To put it simply, all key issues in the Middle East—the Arab-Israeli conflict, Iraq, Iran, the need for political and economic reforms, and extremism and terrorism—are inextricably linked. In addition to supporting stability in Iraq, a comprehensive diplomatic offensive—the New Diplomatic Offensive—should address these key regional issues. By doing so, it would help marginalize extremists and terrorists, promote U.S. values and interests, and improve America’s global image…

The United States will not be able to achieve its goals in the Middle East unless the United States deals directly with the Arab-Israeli conflict. There must be a renewed and sustained commitment by the United States to a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace on all fronts: Lebanon, Syria, and President Bush’s June 2002 commitment to a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine.

This was followed by a series of specific recommendations to “solve” the conflict, by forcing Israel to give up all territory it took control of in 1967, including the Golan, Judea and Samaria, and eastern Jerusalem. Of course this didn’t happen, and the bleeding in Iraq was stanched by the ‘surge’, the temporary deployment of additional troops plus the strategy of buying the support of indigenous Sunni elements in Iraq.

The opportunistic invocation of the linkage theory during the Iraq war crisis was yet another example of its persistence, despite the fact that even before the “Arab Spring” there was no reason to believe that it was true. Today it has been further falsified by events, as Jeffrey Goldberg made clear recently in a discussion of Chuck Hagel, another linkage theory advocate:

Come with me on a quick tour of the greater Middle East. The Syrian civil war? Unrelated to the Palestinian-Israeli peace process. The slow disintegration of Yemen? Unrelated. Chaos and violence in Libya? Unrelated. Chaos and fundamentalism in Egypt? The creation of a Palestinian state on the West Bank would not have stopped the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak, nor would it have stopped the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood. Terrorism in Algeria? Unrelated. The Iranian nuclear program? How would the creation of a Palestinian state have persuaded the Iranian regime to cease its pursuit of nuclear weapons? Someone please explain. Sunni-Shiite civil war in Iraq? The unrest in Bahrain? Pakistani havens for al-Qaeda affiliates? All unrelated.

I’ll add that with regard to Iran, the theory is not only wrong, it is backwards — rather than the Israeli-Palestinian conflict influencing Iran to misbehave, Iran exacerbates the conflict by financing Palestinian terrorists!

As recently as 2010, President Obama professed belief in some form of the linkage theory, and Goldberg correctly asks,

Hagel wants to lead the U.S. Defense Department. I would like to know if he still believes in linkage. More important, I would like to know if Obama is still captive to this same, flawed concept.

The linkage theory was always a good excuse to pressure Israel, because it was an appeal to American interests, not Arab or Palestinian ones. This was especially useful between 1973 and the 1990’s when Arabs and Palestinians had a very poor image in the US, being associated with astronomical oil prices and terrorism. Since Oslo, it’s become more acceptable to say things like the following (from Obama’s notorious 2009 Cairo speech):

On the other hand [compared to the Holocaust!], it is also undeniable that the Palestinian people – Muslims and Christians – have suffered in pursuit of a homeland. For more than sixty years they have endured the pain of dislocation. Many wait in refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza, and neighboring lands for a life of peace and security that they have never been able to lead. They endure the daily humiliations – large and small – that come with occupation. So let there be no doubt: the situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable.

Suddenly, it’s all about caring for the Palestinians. But why are the Palestinians in particular so deserving of help compared to other groups around the world, many of whom are much worse off?

Since 1967 and especially since 1973, US policy has consistently aimed to drive Israel back to 1949 lines. The arguments publicly made for this policy are intended to convince, but I don’t believe are actually the driving force behind it. There is of course the professional dislike of the Jewish state found in the State Department, going back to 1948 and Secretary Marshall and before. But I think there is something more concrete, too.

After the 1973 war, the Arab members of OPEC announced an embargo of oil to the US and other countries they deemed to have supported Israel:

Implementation of the embargo, and the changing nature of oil contracts, set off an upward spiral in oil prices that had global implications. The price of oil per barrel doubled, then quadrupled, leading to increased costs for consumers world-wide and to the potential for budgetary collapse in less stable economies. Since the embargo coincided with a devaluation of the dollar, a global recession appeared imminent. U.S. allies in Europe and Japan had stockpiled oil supplies and thus had a short term cushion, but the longer term possibility of high oil prices and recession created a strong rift within the Atlantic alliance. European nations and Japan sought to disassociate themselves from the U.S. Middle East policy. The United States, which faced growing oil consumption and dwindling domestic reserves and was more reliant on imported oil than ever before, had to negotiate an end to the embargo from a weaker international position. To complicate the situation, OPEC had linked an end to the embargo to successful U.S. efforts to create peace in the Middle East.

Needless to say, the US promised to give the Arabs what they wanted, and the embargo was lifted. But since then, we have kept our promise to our Arab ‘allies’, even as they have less and less influence on the price and supply of oil. Saudi lobbying and influence (directly and via oil companies) have effectively held our feet to the fire.

Now that the US is closer to energy independence, importing less oil now than at any time since 1987 (and more of that from Canada than anywhere else), the Saudis do not have anywhere near the leverage that they had in 1973.

Why don’t our policies reflect this?

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Syria is unlikely to retaliate against Israel (Updated)

Sunday, February 3rd, 2013
An Israel Air Force F15

An Israel Air Force F15. For all their bluster, Israel’s enemies fear its power.

There are various news reports (one example is here) viewing the tension between Israel and Syria with alarm following the Israeli raid on (at least) a Syrian shipment of advanced antiaircraft missiles intended for Hizballah.

In the case of the 2007  bombing raid on a nuclear installation, the regime did its best to minimize reports about it, first ignoring them, then stating that Israel had bombed an empty spot in the desert, and finally admitting that something was hit, but insisting it was an unimportant military construction site.

But this time they are publicly talking about the attack and threatening Israel. Does this mean that Assad intends to retaliate?

While I could be wrong, I think it is unlikely. The situation today is considerably different than in 2007. Then, Assad was firmly in control. It was in his interest to appear as strong as possible vis-a-vis Israel. He knew that Israel would be the winner in a direct confrontation, so the most reasonable course of action was to try to minimize the loss of face.

Today, Assad is fighting for his life, against forces that he has called “terrorists,” but which include much of his own population supported by Turkey, Qatar and others. It is important to him to promote the narrative that his ‘legitimate’ regime is under attack by outsiders, rather than the one that he is bloodily suppressing a popular rebellion (the truth is that it is a bit of both).

By announcing that Syria has been attacked by the bête noir of all Arabs and Muslims, Israel, he lends credence to the image of himself as a victim of a conspiracy of outside forces.

Now would be a highly inconvenient time for Assad to fight a war with Israel, and he knows that. The real threat for Israel today comes from Iran, via Hizballah. I remain convinced that war with Hizballah is inevitable, and anything Israel does to prevent it from adding to its stock of weapons from Syria’s will pay off when it finally breaks out.

Update [4 Feb 0906 PST]: It’s interesting to note that Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoglu is using the affair in exactly the same way, but in reverse: he accuses Assad of having a “secret agreement” with Israel! Apparently, you  can’t go wrong in the Muslim world by associating your enemies with Israel.

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Seven uses for Israel’s newfound energy wealth

Friday, February 1st, 2013


On the one hand, Israel is on the verge of a positive development whose importance is hard to underplay. As Caroline Glick described it,

This weekend Israel reportedly conducted its first successful test pumping of natural gas from the offshore Leviathan natural gas field. In the next four years, Israel will become a major natural gas exporter and will make great strides in developing its recently discovered shale oil deposits. Israel’s emergence as an energy exporter will have a transformational impact on Israel’s economic independence and long-term viability. [my emphasis]

But on the other hand, the security challenges Israel faces today from Iran, Hizballah, Egypt, Hamas, etc. have never been greater. The international delegitimization campaign against it, led by the UN and financed to a great extent by the European Union continues to gather steam. Jew-hatred and anti-Zionism have merged, with the former gaining cover from the latter, creating the least favorable social climate for the Jewish people since WWII. Academia is almost universally hostile, and Israel (and Jewish students) are attacked more viciously on college campuses than ever.

So how can Israel’s new energy resources be given a “transformational impact” on these problems? Here are a few ideas:

First, Israel should make mutually beneficial agreements with the major transnational energy companies. It should be made clear that these deals are contingent on their support for Israel’s political goals. It certainly worked for the Arabs — I remember Exxon Corporation publicly calling for a more “even-handed” approach to the Middle East immediately after the war in 1973. I have often speculated that the influence of these companies has been responsible for the irrational but unswerving US policy to try to reverse the outcome of the 1967 war.

Second, Israel should give generous gifts of its soon-to-be-available gas and oil dollars to major universities in Europe and the US, to establish departments of Jewish and Israel studies. These departments should be staffed by academics who do not hate Israel and the Jewish people (I’m sure they can be found, especially when there are endowed chairs for them to sit in).

Third, Israel should build a massive satellite TV/radio/Internet channel, broadcasting in multiple languages to all parts of the world. This channel should present entertainment, news and cultural programming attractive to as wide a range of viewers/listeners as possible. Again, media people who who have positive attitudes will appear when the opportunities for employment do.

Fourth, Israel should create independent think-tanks and scientific institutes in major democratic countries which will produce papers and articles — academic and popular — on important topics. Some proportion of the jobs in these institutes should be reserved for retired politicians.

Fifth, Israel should award international prizes for achievement in scientific and cultural fields.

Sixth, Israel should establish an institute for technical training where promising students from developing nations can come and study at no cost.

And seventh, despite all this, Israel must maintain and improve its military capabilities to deter aggression and terrorism.

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