Archive for September, 2013

A three-state solution

Friday, September 20th, 2013

The Palestinian problem can be solved, but the only way to do it is to work within the situation on the ground today.

I won’t hide my bias: the primary objective is a secure Jewish state of Israel. And while I believe that we must treat the Palestinian Arabs decently, that doesn’t include accepting their false historical narrative of Jewish guilt and Arab ownership of the land of Israel.

Ideology-based approaches ranging from annexing all of Judea and Samaria to handing all of it over to the PLO with or without a ‘right of return’ will not achieve this goal.

The much-reviled Meir Kahane said that the survival of a Jewish state was inconsistent with its having non-Jewish citizens. I wouldn’t go that far, but I do think that a) if the percentage of non-Jewish citizens goes beyond a certain point — and Israel is close to that point today — it will be destabilizing, and b) Israel’s political system cannot tolerate anti-Zionist parties or politicians.

It is also becoming clear that the US is not and — unless there are significant changes here — will not be an honest broker between Israel and the PLO. The American bottom line, since the 1970’s, has been that Israel must withdraw from all territories captured in 1967. This is inconsistent with Israel’s security, which requires defensible borders. It is also becoming more and more clear that US commitments cannot be relied upon.

Other nations and international institutions that could replace the US as a broker are even more anti-Israel. To some extent this is because Israel is perceived as an agent of the US, but it is unlikely that this can be turned around in the near future.

Therefore, Israel has two options: maintain the status quo, or act unilaterally.

What would such unilateral action look like?

Israel declares that since the PLO has abrogated the Oslo accords by continued violations such as terrorism, incitement and non-recognition of Israel, as well as by declaring a state of ‘Palestine’ and obtaining UN recognition of it, Israel will no longer be obligated by them. Israel will end financial and security cooperation with the PLO.

Israel annexes (perhaps with some adjustments) “Area C,” those parts of Judea and Samaria which it deems essential for security purposes, or which have large Jewish populations. This area contains most of the Jews in the territories and very few Arabs.

Israel commits to providing full security and services to Jews living in areas that were outside the Green Line.

Israel declares that its actions are legally grounded on its right to all of Judea and Samaria as expressed in the Palestine Mandate, and its right to defensible borders as expressed by UNSC resolution 242.

Israel adopts the policy that it will not supply water or electricity nor will it allow land transport of goods to Gaza when there is hostile activity emanating from there. This includes rockets, attempts at infiltration, tunneling under the border fence, etc.

Israel reaffirms the annexation of Jerusalem, although it might abandon outlying Arab neighborhoods. Arab residents of Jerusalem who have not accepted Israeli citizenship are required to accept it and affirm loyalty to the state, or they will be required to leave, with compensation of course.

Present Arab citizens of Israel will not be required to affirm loyalty to the Jewish state, but anti-Zionist candidates will not be allowed to hold elective office. Arab citizens of Israel will be eligible to receive compensation if they declare that their conscience does not permit them to live under Jewish sovereignty.

This is not simple, but neither is keeping the status quo. Here are some of the problems that would have to be worked out:

There are some important Jewish sites in Arab-populated areas, such as Joseph’s tomb, which is near the Arab city of Shechem. Hevron, where the cave of Machpela is located, is also home to a significant Jewish community. Under the Oslo accords, the PA is supposed to allow Jews to visit these sites; but in fact it is very difficult and dangerous — IDF protection is required, and there have been numerous instances of Arab violence, including murders, at these places.

Without IDF protection, the PLO in Judea and Samaria could fall to Hamas. I am not sure that this would necessarily be a disaster, since the PLO is no less committed to Israel’s destruction than Hamas. A true liberal Palestinian regime desirous of peace is highly unlikely to come about regardless of Israel’s actions.

The Arab entity that would be created by an Israeli withdrawal would be in a state of war with Israel. The boundaries would have to be designed to ensure that it could not be a strategic threat.

Israel would have to be prepared to take preemptive action against terrorism, both in the new Palestinian entity and Gaza. It could not be allowed to develop military capabilities under the cover of ‘cease-fires’ as happened in Gaza.

Some additional comments:

In the long term, Israel needs to reduce its dependence on the US, which is both becoming less friendly to Israel and less able to project power in the Middle East. Israel should do its best to obtain good relations with China, and as much as possible with non-Islamist Muslim regimes.

I am not opposed to democracy. But it is not an all-or-nothing concept. A country can still be democratic while maintaining boundaries beyond which political expression may not go. In the case of Israel, these limits should exclude the position that Israel is not the state of the Jewish people. All democracies in fact have such limits, so why not make them explicit?

The Arab ‘refugees’ are not Israel’s problem. Both Arabs and (a greater number of) Jews were displaced in 1948. While some of the original Arab refugees could have been allowed to return after 1948 if the Arab nations had wished to make peace, their actions and the subsequent actions of the international community made it impossible. Today the descendents of these refugees are their responsibility, and should be resettled.

Today, the top priority must be the Iranian threat. The status quo in the territories will have to be maintained until Iran is dealt with. I believe that Israel will act alone, and a successful strike will also greatly strengthen its position on other issues.

Update [2008 PDT]: Israel’s Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon also wants to end Oslo, but sees a different solution. And he also used the phrase “three state solution!” No, I didn’t read his piece before I wrote this (and he probably didn’t read mine).

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Iran for Palestine?

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013

Leftish Israeli journalist Ben Caspit thinks that he knows what is going on between Obama and Netanyahu, and he may very well be right:

So what is the grand plan? In broad strokes, its tenets are as follows. This is a plan hatched between the US administration and Netanyahu, with Palestinian knowledge as well as the tacit knowledge of other elements in the Middle East. Its general underlying principle is “Iran for Palestine.” US President Barack Obama pledges, by also giving his own personal guarantee, to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear capability. In return, Netanyahu will reciprocate by awarding him a diplomatic achievement vis-a-vis the Palestinians. We have seen the first step in this direction in recent weeks in the arrangement Obama has worked out to disarm Syria of its chemical weapons. Netanyahu did not speak against this arrangement, partly because he has received US assurances that this will not be a precedent, that the Iranian issue is entirely different from the Syrian one and that the “credible threat” of a military strike on Syria still remains on the table.

Netanyahu is unable to reach a permanent status agreement with the Palestinians. Everyone in Ramallah, Washington, Jerusalem and the settlements knows that. According to the plan, at some point in the negotiations all the parties will have reached this conclusion, and at that juncture the Americans will lay out their alternative proposal. It will consist of a permanent arrangement in phases, beginning with an interim arrangement between Israel and the Palestinians in the setting of which a Palestinian state will be established under temporary borders.

Netanyahu hopes that he will not have to evict any settlements in the framework of this arrangement and that the Palestinian state will be established in areas A and B, which are under Palestinian security or civilian control. The United States will give the Palestinian Authority (PA) guarantees that this is not the final arrangement but rather an interim stage that is limited in time. The issues of Jerusalem, the refugees and final borders will be postponed to later stages. The Palestinian state will be recognized by the United Nations, with the support of Israel, which will withdraw to the separation fence line.

If true, this explains a lot, including Netanyahu’s agreement to a shameful prisoner release last month. It also explains why Washington continues to push Israel to negotiate with the PLO, despite the ample evidence that a real final agreement is unreachable. This plan achieves the multi-decade high-priority US policy goal of getting Israel out of the territories, without a final agreement. And getting Israel out is what Obama and the State Department care about, more than almost anything.

A deal with the PLO as described above would be very bad for Israel’s security, since a sovereign Palestinian state in Judea/Samaria that the IDF can’t enter without violating the UN Charter will become a terrorist base far more dangerous than Gaza. And delaying the intractable issues of Jerusalem, refugees, etc. until after Israel withdraws from much of the territory means that Israel will lose its leverage on them when they are finally laid on the table.

I understand why Netanyahu thinks the problem of Iran is of overriding importance, because it is. But of course there is one literally fatal flaw in the logic that would trade submission to the PLO for US action on Iran.

Even given the best of intentions, today’s US cannot be trusted to keep its commitments. If there is one lesson from the shockingly incompetent fumble of the Syrian situation, it is that one cannot count on America. And we cannot assume the best intentions from Obama, whose anti-Israel bias has been evident from the very beginning of his presidency.

Recent overtures between Obama and Iranian President Rouhani indicate that Obama is prepared to accept some kind of diplomatic ‘solution’. But it is certain that Iran will not agree to anything that will deny it the weapons that it has been struggling to develop, despite international condemnation and economic sanctions, for more than a decade. As in the case of Syria, Obama wants an excuse to declare victory. But only a credible threat of military force will succeed in getting Iran to dismantle its weapons program.

A PLO terror state a few miles from its population center or an Iranian bomb are both unacceptable to Israel. There is no way it can trade one of these for the other — it is not in Obama’s power, nor does he desire, to keep such a bargain.

The proposed American deal, if it is as described, is a chimera. Israel needs to take the hard road, to destroy Iran’s nuclear program itself and to keep sovereignty over the territories, at least for the near future.

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JFNA out of date on ‘peace process’

Monday, September 16th, 2013

The organized American Jewish community seems to operate on a time delay. It is about 20 years behind reality.

For example, the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) operates a program called the “Israel Action Network,” which is intended to “counter assaults made on Israel’s legitimacy.” In its latest newsletter (July 29, 2013),  we find this fulsome statement:

“The American Jewish community has long sought a peaceful resolution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, one which can only be achieved through direct negotiations between the parties. We are pleased by the announcement that senior Israeli and Palestinian officials will return to the table for direct final status talks this week in Washington,” said JFNA Board of Trustees Chair Michael Siegal. “The Jewish Federations are especially grateful for the relentless efforts of the U.S. leadership, and specifically Secretary of State John Kerry for continuing on his mission to create this historic opportunity, in the face of skepticism. Prime Minister Netanyahu will no doubt have to continue to make difficult – and often controversial – decisions and sacrifices in the coming weeks and months, but we have no doubt that as he does, he will remain committed – as we are – to the security of the Jewish state. We both praise and respect him for this, and encourage President Abbas to show the same level of leadership going forward.” …

Added JCPA [Jewish Council for Public Affairs, a subsidiary of JFNA] President Rabbi Steve Gutow, “This is a great achievement for Secretary of State Kerry who invested so much time and diplomatic effort in finally bringing Israel and the Palestinians back to the negotiating table. Two states for two peoples cannot be achieved without strong U.S. leadership, and we are thankful to Secretary Kerry and President Obama for their leadership. But the hard work is just beginning. As we move forward, we urge all who want peace to support these negotiations and to encourage reconciliation, not division.”

I think that we would be hard pressed to find more than a few percent of Israelis that believe that there is the slightest chance of a real peace agreement with the PLO, whose demands on the issues of borders, refugees, Jerusalem, etc. are as far or farther from Israel’s bottom lines as ever.

Much has happened since 1993, including at least 1,400 Israelis murdered by Palestinian terrorists. One of the most disquieting phenomena has been the continued anti-Israel and anti-Jewish incitement in the Palestinian media — in particular those outlets controlled by the PLO and Hamas. Today, some 62% of the population of the Palestinian Authority say that suicide bombings against civilians are often (37%) or sometimes justified. Only 16% reject this tactic entirely!

It has also become clear that the PLO, a corrupt and criminal enterprise, is not capable of creating a viable state, even if it were capable of defending itself against Hamas, something that it depends on the IDF to do for it.

Today, the PLO continues to create obstacles to the negotiations and leak them to the media, because it is not interested in any deal that Israel would agree to. It would prefer that the talks fall apart and Israel be blamed. For its part, Israel’s government has agreed to play by US rules, because it wants US support on other issues, like Iran. But it has no illusions.

Let me put it another way: like most ordinary Israelis, most government officials do not believe that the ‘peace process’ is anything other than a dead end and a tool to force them to make concessions to the Palestinians. But they feel that they have no choice but to participate at this very dangerous time.

The US administration and the State Department keep selling this rancid product long past its expiration date because of promises made to the Arab nations after the 1973 oil boycott. They must understand the impossibility of ‘success’, if this means a peaceful state alongside Israel. Either they are like the dog that chases cars without a plan of what to do if he should catch one, or they are lying about their concern for Israel.

It is much clearer today than it was in 1993 that this path to peace is a mirage. Israelis noticed, but JFNA hasn’t. Possibly one of the reasons is Rabbi Steve Gutow, who, in addition to being President and CEO of JFNA’s JCPA (which calls itself “the representative voice of the organized American Jewish community,” although how it determines what its constituents think isn’t clear), was the “founding executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC),” whose mission is to increase Jewish support for Democratic candidates and policies.

Rabbi Gutow thus unsurprisingly supports the administration’s Mideast policy, but presenting it as the opinion of the Jewish community is a stretch — and his position is a huge political conflict of interest.

It also appears that JFNA has a policy of not supporting projects across the Green Line, although some funds may reach the communities there indirectly (I was once told by a JFNA employee that “not one dollar” of contributions is spent in the territories).

Most ordinary Israelis know that settlements are not the cause of the conflict nor the reason it continues. They remember that Palestinian terrorism predated ‘occupation’, and that the worst terrorism followed concessions to the PLO. They know that Israel is not building new settlements, or even expanding the boundaries of old ones. They know that Israel has abandoned settlements for ‘peace’ in Gaza and Sinai and would do it again if it believed there would be peace.

They know that the real obstacle to peace is Arab hatred for Jews and rejection of Jewish sovereignty.

The Israeli Left and a bunch of European-paid anti-state NGOs make a lot of noise here, far out of proportion to the degree to which they represent opinion in Israel (hardly at all). I suggest that US leaders of supposedly pro-Israel organizations ignore them and pay attention to what ordinary Israelis say out loud (and officials say quietly in private).

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Quote of the week: Rand Paul

Friday, September 13th, 2013

Yes, he said this.

The question is — was it a metaphor, or was it intended literally?

Here it is, from a Buzzfeed article which suggests that he should be taken very seriously as a politician:

Paul also finds plenty to dislike in his own party’s approach to beating the war drum — particularly the theological overtones of the Bush years. In a strikingly candid speech last year at the Value Voters Summit, Paul, a Presbyterian, cited his religious beliefs while declaring, “I’m not a pacifist. But I do think it unacceptable not to hate war.”

He elaborated to BuzzFeed: “I think some within the Christian community are such great defenders of the promised land and the chosen people that they think war is always the answer, maybe even preemptive war. And I think it’s hard to square the idea of a preemptive war and, to me, that overeagerness [to go to] war, with Christianity.”

I’m hoping for a clarification.

Easy fast, everyone!

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USS Obama steams out of Middle East

Wednesday, September 11th, 2013

Obama & Putin cartoonWho would have thought that the twelfth anniversary of 9/11, when America was attacked by the barbarians of the Middle East, would mark our full-scale retreat from that region?

We certainly haven’t done very well for ourselves or our friends there since then.

Thanks to a dysfunctional political system, we ended up with two of the worst presidents in American history, one incompetent and the other — how else can I put it? — anti-American.

It took us almost ten years to kill the seventh-century fanatic that murdered 3000 Americans. We engaged in an extended, expensive and mostly unnecessary conflict in Iraq, while Iran was allowed to develop nuclear weapons. We sent our troops to risk their lives for undefined objectives. We helped our enemies like Erdoğan, the Muslim Brotherhood and the PLO, and hurt our allies, like Israel. We totally misread the so-called “Arab Spring.”

We did not support the Iranian opposition when young people were shot down in the streets in 2009-10. We took the side of Turkey in the Mavi Marmara incident of 2010, forcing Israel to end its economic warfare against Hamas. We helped depose Mubarak and then supported the radical Muslim Brotherhood as his replacement. We have forced Israel into a destructive ‘peace process’ and encouraged the PLO’s unrealistic demands.

But for sheer bumbling, nothing matches our response to Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons. President Obama threatened to take action, explained in excruciating detail the “unbelievably small” attack that he planned, which would nevertheless not be a “pinprick,” delayed for several weeks while waiting for Congress to advise him (although as of yesterday he “hadn’t decided” if he would take its advice).  Finally, he handed off the initiative to Russia’s Vladimir Putin, probably guaranteeing that Assad will stay in power.

“Big deal,” you say. “Syria will continue to be a mess and we won’t get stuck in it.” Not exactly. Actions have consequences. Putin now understands that the US will not interfere with anything he wants to do in the Middle East, including build an alliance with our greatest enemies:

Russia will supply Iran with a modified version of the vaunted S-300 anti-aircraft system as well as build a new nuclear reactor for the Ayatollah’s regime, the Russian daily Kommersant business newspaper reported Wednesday.

The report comes hot on the heels of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s diplomatic proposal to place Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles under international supervision and thus avoid a U.S. strike on Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces. Kommersant reported that the deal between Moscow and Tehran was formulated as part of Russia and Iran’s “commonality of views on the situation in Syria.”

The S-300 is considered a game-changer, which will make any attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities much more difficult. Israel and the US had pressured Putin to hold off on delivering the system. Now he is sending Iran a system that will be “even better than the ones Iran originally bought.” The only bright side of this is that it may accelerate the timetable of an Israeli strike — we certainly can’t expect Obama to do it!

We can also assume that Obama’s weakness will encourage Iran. I have argued before that nothing less than a credible threat of force could induce Iran to abandon its nuclear program. But if Obama is not prepared to take a much less serious action against the far less dangerous Assad regime, what can we expect toward Iran?

Iran will not give up “one iota” of its nuclear rights, Iranian President Hasan Rouhani said in a speech to clerics, the Iranian Mehr news agency reported on Tuesday.

Rouhani’s comments were made as Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton prepared to meet in New York later this month to discuss Tehran’s nuclear program. …

While the West considers Rouhani to be moderate, his recent statements on Iran’s nuclear program have caused concern, as the rhetoric is similar to that of his predecessor in office, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The US is steaming full speed out of the Middle East. The Syria debacle will likely be noted by future historians as the point at which the US decided that it would no longer try to influence matters there, and when the Russians seized the opportunity to take the reins.

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