Archive for November, 2013

Arafat rises from the dead, again

Friday, November 8th, 2013
The Arafats, Suha and Yasser.

The Arafats, Suha and Yasser.

Earlier this year, Yasser Arafat’s body was exhumed after his widow, Suha, claimed that she had evidence that he had been poisoned. She produced some personal items that he had used shortly before his death, and brought them to Al Jazeera, which hired a Swiss laboratory to look for traces of poison. They claimed to find traces of radioactive Polonium 210. So tissue samples were taken from Arafat’s body and sent for analysis to the original lab and two others.

The Swiss have released a report that their study ‘reasonably supports’ the theory that Arafat was poisoned with Polonium 210. A Russian lab reported that it did not find any Polonium in the samples, and then retracted its statement. And a French lab has yet to report.

Naturally, Israel is the prime suspect. But there are so many problems! For one thing, Israel had no reason to kill Arafat at that point. He was trapped in his muqata in Ramallah and not likely to last very long in any case. And if Israel had decided to poison him, why would they use Polonium, which is hard to get, dangerous to administer, and so radioactive that it would easily be detectable? There are much better poisons.

Then there’s the difficulty of  detecting Polonium. Polonium has a half-life of 138 days. This means that unless enough had been fed to Arafat to make him shine with a blue glow of radiation, the amount that would be left in his body after 8 years would be extremely hard to detect today. Don’t take my word for it, read this article by a physicist.

And we mustn’t forget that the tissue samples were taken from Arafat’s exhumed body by Palestinian doctors. Hmm — is there a chain of custody issue here? Do you think the same folks who brought us Mohammad al Dura would stoop at salting the samples a bit?

And what about Suha’s ‘discovery’ that the underwear, headscarves and toothbrush that she had lovingly preserved for 8 years had traces of Polonium in them? If even one nanogram of Polonium — that’s 0.000000001 gram — was left in Arafat’s boxers, then they would have contained 0.002 grams 8 years previously. That’s as radioactive as 10 grams — a huge amount — of radium! That underwear would have been deadly. And yet Suha kept it around the house.

So, although most of the media will tell you that it has been ‘proven’ that Arafat was poisoned with Polonium and that Israel did it, the chances of this being true are very, very small.

But nowadays, facts have little to do with what people believe. And they will believe this really stupid, clumsy lie.

Having said that, Arafat was responsible for the deaths of literally thousands of Israelis and countless Arabs, several wars, and arguably was responsible for making reconciliation and peace between Israel and the Arabs impossible. Israel should have killed him, many years ago. He should have been hanged like the vicious war criminal that he was, for crimes against humanity.

Just like Hitler, Arafat’s legend animates haters everywhere. His body rots, but his evil lives.

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A deal — and then a war

Thursday, November 7th, 2013
Churchill

Churchill. Is his kind of leadership extinct in the West?

Benjamin Weinthal:

The Islamic Republic of Iran has laid a foundation to impose its will on the U.S. and continue its illicit nuclear-weapons program. The elements of a negotiated agreement outlined today in Geneva show the Obama administration engaging in concessionary bargaining with a rogue regime.

Abbas Araqchi, Iran’s deputy foreign minister, declared the U.S. and its partners “accepted the framework of Iran’s proposal,” the components of which entail sanctions relief in exchange for Iran’s suspension of some elements of its nuclear program.

There is no sign that Iran is willing to permanently stop its uranium enrichment, close its Arak and Fordo nuclear facilities, and ship its already 3.5 percent–enriched uranium outside of the country.

Moreover, there is no definitive method of verification to ensure that Iran’s clerical regime — a notoriously deceptive group — will comply with an agreement (Remember the North Korean debacle.)

In choosing to grant Iran concessions, the U.S. ignores that it has crucial economic leverage to dismantle Iran’s nuclear program. Bloomberg recently reported that “Iran’s economy will contract 1.5 percent this year after shrinking 1.9 percent in 2012,” while Trevor Houser, an economics expert, says, “Right now, Iran needs to sell its oil far more than the rest of the world needs to buy it.”

Israel’s PM Netanyahu responded to the news,

The proposal would allow Iran to retain the capabilities to make nuclear weapons. Israel totally opposes these proposals … I believe that adopting them is a mistake of historic proportions.

That is more or less the whole story. There will be more details, but it seems that the US, which could stop Iran from building nuclear weapons, has decided not to. Not only will it not make a credible military threat, it has folded even before exhausting the option of sanctions.

Saudi Arabia understands. It is now either on the verge of procuring nuclear capability from Pakistan, or has already done so.

This feels so … 1938. A vicious civil war chews up a country, which is serving as a proxy for the major combatants, who are arming themselves for the big show. The ‘responsible’ nations of the world try to defuse an aggressor’s violence by a policy of appeasement. Trita Parsi asks “Do we want a deal or a war?” but maybe we’ll make a deal and get a war anyway.

Netanyahu has been accused of ‘overreacting’, he’s been called ‘shrill’ and his demand that sanctions be increased rather than reduced until Iran actually dismantles its program is said to be ‘unreasonable’. He is “out of step,” say diplomats. I am sure they said the same about Czech President Edvard Beneš in 1938.

Netanyahu is quite rational, aware of the danger facing his country from the fanatically anti-Israel regime in Iran, whose officials have said over and over that they intend to destroy it. And now they are getting nuclear weapons. How is he supposed to sound?

Netanyahu is on a collision course with the US. The US will do practically anything to keep Israel from attacking Iran, and will punish her if she does. And Netanyahu sees that he simply will have no choice but to attack Iran.

Keep in mind that most of those, like Meir Dagan, that opposed an attack did so because they thought that the diplomatic option might work, not that Iran could be allowed to have the bomb. And diplomacy — tough sanctions — might have worked, if it were not for the cowardice, ignorance and stupidity of the Obama Administration.

But it is not going to be tried. There is going to be a deal. And then there is going to be a war.

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Adapt or die

Tuesday, November 5th, 2013

In several recent posts (here, here, here) I’ve argued that US policy has taken a serious turn against Israel with the Obama Administration.

Now the question becomes “how can Israel act to protect herself?”

There are two important aspects of the situation: the administration’s objectives, and what kind of pressure it is prepared and able to apply in order to attain them. I’ve argued these propositions in detail before, and I am just going to summarize them now:

1. The administration seems to have decided that the cost of keeping Iran from getting nuclear weapons is too great, and therefore that its interests are best served by a rapprochement with the regime. This places it in direct conflict with Israel, which is committed to stopping Iran by force if necessary.

2. The administration is ideologically pro-Palestinian. It also believes that it can score a propaganda coup by being responsible for the creation of a Palestinian state. Finally, a major US diplomatic priority since the 1973 Arab oil boycott has been to fulfill its promise to the Arabs to reverse the outcome of the Six Days War. Since the PLO is uninterested in peace and will use Israeli concessions to facilitate terrorism, and since it is likely to be replaced by Hamas in any case, this is another area of conflict with the US.

The significant difference between the Obama Administration and its predecessors is its acceptance of anti-Israel narratives and ideology, and an unconcern for Israel’s security. Both a nuclear Iran and a Palestinian state as the US envisages it will be disastrous for security.

The US can apply pressure in many ways, but in general they seem to be these:

On the Iranian issue, the policy seems to be to promise that Iran will not get a nuclear weapon while at the same time acting to restrain Israel from taking action. This restraint can go from simple jawboning to threats to reveal Israel’s plans to Iran in advance, something which could increase Israel’s losses tragically.

Regarding the Palestinians, the threats seem to be that economic pressure will be applied by its European trading partners, boycotts will be encouraged, etc. And there is also the ultimate threat that if Israel doesn’t voluntarily make a deal with the PLO, one will be imposed, with an American proposal that will be passed by the Security Council and can be enforced by economic sanctions.

So what can Israel do?

First, Israel should reduce the ability of the US to gather intelligence on its activities. Recent revelations of the NSA’s worldwide spying abilities are indeed disquieting, and the fact that Israel is listed by the CIA as a “key target” for surveillance along with China, Russia, Iran, Pakistan, and Cuba is shocking. The American-operated X-band radar located in the Negev, ostensibly to provide early warning of Iranian rockets, is said to be able to detect anything taking off from anywhere in Israel, even a small drone. Even the kiriya, Israel’s ‘Pentagon’ in Tel Aviv, is suspected of having been penetrated and bugged.

Israel’s counterintelligence apparatus should be mobilized to root out spies and harden communications facilities. It’s not possible to stop the flow of data, but it can be reduced. The radar should be removed — Israel can use its own capabilities to detect Iranian rocket launches. Resources should be dedicated not only to planning how best to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities, but how to do it so that the US will not know about it until it is too late.

Second, Israel should take its case against a deal with the PLO to the American people and Congress, who remain pro-Israel. Israel today does almost nothing in the area called ‘public diplomacy’, telling its story and combating the daily assaults of delegitimization and demonization coming from its enemies (and ‘friends’, like the Obama Administration, J Street, etc.)

Where are the pro-Israel NGOs? Where are the million-dollar grants to universities to set up departments of Israel and Jewish studies? Where are the Zionist films, the speakers crisscrossing the continent? Where is the TV network to compete with al Jazeera, now deploying in the US? Where is the counterforce to the NIF? It’s embarrassing to compare the millions spent by the Europeans to subsidize anti-state organizations inside Israel and the pittance spent by Israel to influence the American people, who are the only force that can restrain Obama at this point.

Third, Israel should reduce its economic dependence on the US and Europe. It should develop markets in the Far East and India, which are not in the grip of anti-Israel ideology or Holocaust guilt. It should not be afraid of angering Europe, because only national suicide would be enough to appease it in any case. The best thing Israel can do in Europe is to encourage its remaining Jews to make aliyah.

Fourth, Israel needs to end its own uncertainty about its legitimacy. The government needs to unequivocally assert its right under international law to settle Jews in the territories, and to keep Jerusalem united under Jewish control. Although it is possible for Israel to voluntarily cede some disputed territory to the Palestinians in return for a real peace, it’s absurd to begin negotiations by granting Arab claims. Land swaps, therefore, which are based on the assumption that the Arabs have a right to all the disputed territory and should be compensated if they give any of it up, should be off the table.

The world is a different place, now that America is withdrawing from leadership, embracing its enemies and hurting its friends. Israel must adapt to survive.

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US policy: pretend to support Israel, work against her

Sunday, November 3rd, 2013

I am not happy to be writing this post. I hope that what I write will turn out to be wrong. But as time passes it seems that the puzzle pieces are falling into place, and I don’t like the picture that is emerging.

One of the hardest things to understand about US policy has been the unrelenting pressure on Israel to cede territory to the Palestinian Authority, which is identical to the terrorist PLO. Following the Arab oil boycott of 1973, it was understandable that the US would want to appease the Arab oil-producers; and in the early years of the Oslo period, policymakers might have believed that they could make the Arabs happy while at the same time get points for bringing peace to a troubled region. They might have actually believed the ‘linkage theory’, that the Palestinian issue was the root of the Israeli-Arab conflict, which was in turn the source of most of the instability in the Middle East.

But the deceptions of Yasser Arafat and his heirs, 9/11, the rise of Hamas, the emergence of Iran as a nuclear power, and most importantly the laughably named ‘Arab Spring’, have laid bare the bankruptcy of this conceptual scheme. It must be clear by now to even the most obtuse of US officials that 1) it is impossible that Israeli territorial concessions will end the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, and 2) that the Palestinian issue is one of the least important faults in the quake-prone Mideast. This is just as well because the present negotiations between Israel and the PA have absolutely no possibility of success as a result of the Arabs’ maximal demands.

A corollary to 1) is that concessions by Israel will not improve its security, but will damage it, possibly leading to another regional war. It is also true that it is less and less important for the US economy to appease the oil producers by sacrificing Israel — Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states are much more concerned about rising Iranian power, and in its response to this the US is disappointing them. And in the mid-to-long run, new oil reserves outside of the region will reduce their leverage.

Another confusing issue is US policy toward Iran. As this analysis shows, Iran is making steady progress toward nuclear weapons. It is very, very close. Yet the US has chosen to go along with Iran’s delaying tactics instead of increasing pressure. It even seems to be about to weaken sanctions without Iran taking real steps away from its goal. This policy directly contradicts the administration’s stated objective that Iran will not be allowed to go nuclear.

What’s going on?

Friday I wrote that the White House and State Department see Israel more as an enemy than as an ally, despite the attitudes of the great majority of Americans. But while the ‘friendship’ of the US with Israel has always been overstated, this administration represents something new. I think that it has moved significantly beyond its predecessors, and that anti-Israel elements, for the first time, are determining the direction of US policy. I believe that part of the overall strategy — which also includes alignment with Islamist regimes in opposition to traditional conservative Arab dictatorships and monarchies — is to oppose the continued existence of a Jewish state.

In my opinion, the President as well as his closest advisers and cabinet members not only see a divergence between US and Israeli interests, but are ideologically disposed to be anti-Israel. This is not really surprising, given the cultural, academic and political (New Left) backgrounds of the major players.

Considering that the American people and the Congress would not countenance outright hostility, they are acting against Israel indirectly, while at the same time giving the impression of support. This is a very serious claim to make and I don’t make it lightly. But it is the only way I can explain the behavior of the administration.

Our approach to the Palestinians can be explained in part by ideology: the administration really believes that, in the President’s words, “the Palestinians deserve a state,” and accepts the narrative of the Palestinian Arabs as an oppressed indigenous minority who ought to be protected. Condoleezza Rice, not a member of this administration but one who shares this point of view, once explicitly compared the Palestinian cause to the US civil rights movement.

Part and parcel of this ideology is to minimize Israel’s security concerns: since the Palestinians are presented as a weak minority, they can’t really threaten Israel. And since Israelis are seen as the ‘bad guys’, their security problems are viewed as their own fault, punishment for being colonialist oppressors. And in the final analysis, the administration’s empathy is with the Arabs, not the Jews. So it becomes possible to rationalize pressuring Israel to make dangerous concessions.

Another cause of the tilt toward the Arabs is simply the desire of the administration to ingratiate itself with the Muslim world — especially including Islamist circles — a program which the President initiated in Cairo shortly after his inauguration, and in which he has persisted. As every Muslim leader well knows, there is no better way to stir up emotions in the street than to attack Israel. What’s new is that now the West, including the US, has caught on and is trying to use this tactic.

Finally the Palestinian issue can be used as a lever in connection with the other major Mideast concern of the administration: Iran.

The administration seems to see a nuclear-armed Iran as a fait accompli, and has decided to make the best of it by aligning itself with the Iranian regime rather than opposing it. The US is not prepared for and cannot afford another war in the Middle East, particularly against a country that specializes in exporting terrorism around the world. So the decision has been made to appease.

From the Israeli point of view, the Iranian bomb is not acceptable. The policy of the Netanyahu government is that it will do whatever is necessary to stop it, including military action if there no alternative. The US, which no longer sees Israel as an ally and is afraid of angering Iran, therefore has adopted a policy of favoring Iran on this issue, acting to restrain Israel and to permit Iran to obtain nuclear weapons or at least a rapid breakout capability.

And this is where the Palestinian issue kills two birds with one stone: hurting the Jewish state overall, and providing a way to weaken PM Netanyahu politically so he can be replaced by a leader who is more compliant, particularly on Iran. This is why the administration chose to pressure Netanyahu to take the very unpopular step of releasing prisoners who convicted murderers.

Caroline Glick has suggested that the leverage the US has over Netanyahu stems from the Iranian situation. According to Glick, the US threatens that if the PM does not do what he is told, the US will “tip Iran off to an impending Israeli strike on its nuclear facilities.” This may seem far-fetched, but it explains the series of leaks from the White House that have followed actions taken by Israel.

Last week, Israel bombed a Syrian military base in Latakia in order (it is assumed) to destroy a shipment of Russian-supplied surface-to-air missiles bound for Hizballah. As happened at least three or four times in the recent past, Israel kept quiet about the operation so as not to force Bashar al-Assad retaliate to save face.  And as happened each time before, American officials leaked the  information that Israel was responsible to the media.

Israeli media reported that officials were angry, but were puzzled by US motives for the leaks. They are not puzzling, however, if they are seen as warnings to Israel that the US is aware of everything it is doing and is prepared to make its secrets public.

I think that the greatest danger to Israel in the coming years is not an outright nuclear attack from Iran — Iran is deterred by the threat of massive retaliation — but rather the more conventional violence of Hamas, the PLO and Hizballah, protected by an Iranian nuclear umbrella. While these forces are probably not capable of overrunning Israel, they are capable of severely damaging its economy and demoralizing the population, causing emigration of its elites and ultimately its end as a Jewish state.

The policies of the US, which aim to force Israel back to pre-1967 boundaries and deprive it of strategic depth, destroy Zionist ideology, facilitate the establishment of a  terror state on the doorstep of Israel’s population center, and permit Iran to develop a nuclear umbrella are exactly appropriate to weaken Israel and make the above scenario possible.

It’s with great sadness that I am beginning to think that this is the deliberate intention of the Obama Administration.

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America’s split personality about Israel

Friday, November 1st, 2013

Psychologists dislike the popular definition of ‘schizophrenia’ as ‘split personality’, but it works well as a description of the relationship of the US to Israel.

On the one hand, there is a large majority of the American population that feels very positively toward Israel, and believes strongly that we should support it. And this is reflected in the US Congress.

On the other hand, there are the State Department and intelligence establishment, which — if they would speak candidly — would say that the creation of a sovereign Jewish state in the Middle East was a mistake, and one that is inconvenient for American interests. As the ‘experts’ in foreign affairs and the source of advisers on these matters, they set the tone for the whole Executive Branch.

While the Obama Administration may be the most unfriendly since Israel’s founding, no prior administration was remarkable for its pro-Israel policies, thanks to the influence of these ‘professionals’. Even when the President himself was very favorable to Israel (Harry Truman, George W. Bush), support was spotty at best.

This position, over the years, has been nurtured by the racist regimes of the Mideastern oil producing nations, who have used their petrodollars effectively to this end. The distribution of energy resources is changing now, with large reserves of oil and gas found in the US, Canada, Australia and even Israel, but much of the damage has been done, with vicious anti-Israel ideologues ensconced in government and universities.

The positive side of the split personality expresses itself in large amounts of military aid (which after all is aid to defense contractors in the US) and pro-Israel congressional resolutions — which, like the one to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem, are often ignored or circumvented by the administration.

The negative side is exemplified by the obsessive and unrelenting pressure on Israel to abandon the territory gained in the 1967 war, and, as I mentioned yesterday, the repeated interventions to prevent Israel from obtaining a decisive military victory, something which guarantees a continuous series of wars and skirmishes.

While the Oslo accord was an Israeli mistake — one of the worst in its history — it provided an opening for American support of the PLO, which was previously treated as a terrorist gang. And we jumped right in, even to the point of providing training to their nascent army!

There is plenty of evidence that the Executive Branch sees Israel as an enemy nation. There is the disproportionate sentence given to Jonathan Pollard — disproportionate, that is, for someone spying for an ally rather than an enemy. There is the incredible fact that Israel is listed by the CIA as a “key target” for surveillance along with China, Russia, Iran, Pakistan, and Cuba (Angela Merkel is way down on the list).

President Obama likes to talk about the “unbreakable bond” between the US and Israel, and his “unshakeable commitment” to Israel’s security, but his actions belie these words.

Update [2355 PDT]: Yet again the US has leaked information damaging to Israel’s security!

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