Archive for the ‘Moty & Udi’ Category

Jewish politics are local, too

Sunday, August 21st, 2011

I had intended to use this cartoon to illustrate an article about the Tel Aviv tent protest. But if all politics are local, that goes for Jewish politics too. What’s true for Moty and Udi’s generation is also true for American Jews. So I am going to write about local, and American, Jewish politics.

On Thursday, Israel suffered a painful shock when terrorists murdered 8 Israelis, including a pair of kindergarten teachers on vacation with their husbands and Pascal Avrahami, a 49-year old father of three sons who was a member of the police counterterrorism unit (yamam) that was primarily responsible for stopping the attack, keeping a small disaster from becoming a large catastrophe. My own son, who served with him, went to Avrahami’s funeral on Friday.

Since then, over a hundred rockets have fallen in Israel, killing one or two (reports are unclear) and injuring dozens, including small children (see The Muqata for a minute by minute account of events). There is a possibility of serious escalation.

So — to get local — I was upset, although not surprised, when I went to a Friday night service at our Reform temple and these events were not mentioned. The service was, as always, very upbeat and musical. Prayers were said for local people that were ill, and yahrzeits and recent deaths were commemorated, again as always. But not a word about what was happening in the Jewish state.

Let me say as strongly as possible that I am not criticizing the rabbi of the congregation. I’m convinced that he is personally pro-Israel. He is brand new in Fresno and is just getting to know the members and their politics. He has heard that they are quite contentious — probably he has heard somewhat exaggerated stories about their differences — and he has said that his job is to bring people together, not to push them apart.

Discussion of Israel has become taboo in many Jewish circles, like politics and religion at the boarding house dinner table. Danny Gordis recently wrote that at one rabbinical seminary,  a “campus dean actually instructed students to cease all e-mail discussion of Israel, while every other political topic remained fair game.” A rabbinical seminary!

So one can’t blame the rabbi for not wanting to touch an issue that might fracture his congregation.

And yet, this is a Jewish congregation and Israel is the state of the Jewish People.  Yes, some members have relatives in Israel that they are worried about, but this is emphatically not about that. It is about whether there is a special connection between our Jewish congregation and the Jewish state. Dozens of innocent people were also killed this week by terrorists in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Thailand, Nigeria and Algeria, but isn’t Israel special to us? Or is it ‘just another country‘?

The Torah is central to all forms of Judaism. It’s a lot of things — a moral and legal code, a history book, a theological tract — but more than anything else, it’s a book about a relationship. And this relationship has three poles: God, the Jewish People, and the Land of Israel. What about the last two?

Danny Gordis argues that liberal Judaism has lost its way, rejecting “the sense that no matter how devoted Jews may be to humanity at large, we owe our devotion first and foremost to one particular people—our own people.” This, combined with some pernicious post-modernist reasoning, has brought us to the absurd situation in which the leaders of the anti-Zionist movement in the West are mostly Jews!

And it has brought the Reform movement in the US (URJ) to the point that it would choose J Street and New Israel Fund activist Rabbi Richard Jacobs as its president. Most tellingly, URJ leaders were shocked at the controversy their decision gave rise to. A rabbi close to the process told me that they were blindsided by the political criticism. In effect, they said “we need this guy’s organizational skills and he’s not that far out politically — what’s their problem?”

Jewish groups in the US are often distinguished by the degree to which they follow the commandments:  how they observe Shabbat, kashrut, how they dress, etc. But in my opinion these differences are unimportant compared to the wide gulf that separates those congregations that identify primarily as part of the Jewish people from those that see themselves as human beings who are secondarily of the Jewish persuasion.

I don’t think, incidentally, that all Reform congregations must fall on the universalist side of that divide, despite the URJ’s  Rabbi Jacobs. But I do think that every congregation, including the one I belong to, needs to ask itself how important the Jewish People and the Land of Israel are to them.

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Moty & Udi and the Arab Spring

Monday, August 15th, 2011

The view of the unrest in the Arab world that’s presented in some of the media is remarkably far from reality. In a recent NPR program, the significance of Hosni Mubarak’s trial was discussed by several commentators:

After Egyptians toppled President Hosni Mubarak in February, many thought that their revolution, driven by peaceful, mass demonstrations, would be duplicated elsewhere in the Middle East with the same powerful results.

All too soon, they saw on their TV screens that would not be the case, as uprisings in Libya and Syria brought bloodshed and slaughter. That led to uncertainty and fear in Egypt, because many agree with activist Hossam al-Hamalawy, who says that Egypt’s revolution cannot fully succeed on its own.

“You cannot build a democracy in a country where you are surrounded by a sea or an ocean of dictatorships,” he said.

In the meantime, many who brought about Egypt’s revolution began to lose hope. They watched as the Supreme Military Council, which now holds power, cracked down on protesters and slowed down change, says Hossam Bahgat, the director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights.

“There were many days and weeks in which many of us felt our transition is being blocked by the interim forces,” he said.

But then Mubarak was put on trial, wheeled into the courtroom on a hospital bed, and put in a cage used for common criminals. It shocked Egypt and the wider Arab world, says Bahgat.

“Seeing Mubarak on trial will strengthen the popular demand for a democracy and dignity and full accountability,” he said. And, he added, it could also “further terrify these autocrats and once again deliver the message that their days in power are numbered” …

According to Fawaz Gerges, director of the Middle East Center at the London School of Economics, what is taking place across the Arab world is a genuine revolution.

“There is a new order in place. And I think there’s a rupture,” Gerges said. “The rupture that has to do with the mood and psychology of the Arab people. Citizens who are empowered, emboldened. They have rights as opposed to being subjects, ruled by their powerful leaders like Mubarak.”

The message in this is that there are two alternatives: the old order, represented by Mubarak, Qaddafi and Assad, and the new one, characterized by “democracy and dignity and full accountability” and “citizens who are empowered, emboldened. They have rights as opposed to being subjects.”

Of course there is another alternative: that is that these conservative dictatorships will be replaced by revolutionary Islamist regimes. This is precisely what happened in Iran in 1979.

Islamism is waxing strong in the Middle East today. Lebanon, a weak democracy, has been all but taken over by the Islamist Hizballah. In Turkey, formerly a secular democracy, the ruling Islamist AKP has systematically crushed its secular opposition in the military and the legal system, has deliberately wrecked its relationship with Israel, and is making noises about intervening in Syria (such intervention would be on behalf of Sunni Islamists, not democrats). In the Palestinian arena, only US dollars and IDF soldiers prevent the radical Islamist Hamas, which already controls Gaza, from getting control of all the territories.

Destabilizing forces are at work in Egypt, the largest Arabic-speaking nation in the Middle East:

Egyptian troops escorted by tanks entered the Sinai Peninsula region on Friday in an attempt to put an end to the anarchy that has erupted there since the fall of the Mubarak regime.

The aim of the operation was to halt Bedouin control of the northern Sinai area, which allows for the transfer of weapons to the Gaza Strip through underground tunnels…

In July, five people were killed when dozens of gunmen tried to storm a police station in al-Arish. The gunmen and hundreds more, reported to be Islamists, were wearing black and carrying black flags reading “There is no God but God.” Egypt’s military has detained 15 people suspected of involvement in clashes between gunmen and police in northern Sinai, including 10 Palestinians.

Following the attack flyers were distributed in the peninsula, threatening more attacks on police. The flyers were signed “Al-Qaida in Sinai.”

What’s coming in Egypt? Barry Rubin tells us that it’s the Muslim Brotherhood:

The West is still in denial about the Brotherhood’s role in Egypt. Many Egyptians are just becoming resigned to living in a country that’s increasingly Islamist, more Islamic-oriented, and perhaps even run by the Brotherhood. I don’t think the Brotherhood is about to take power in Egypt. I think it is about to become the single most powerful organization in Egypt and that it will play a central role in writing a new constitution and taking over institutions. More likely, within five years the Brotherhood will either be running Egypt or engaged in a very bloody battle to seize control over the state.

Democracy is not even one of the contenders, especially when you consider the fact that Egypt will soon be facing significant problems feeding its people.

In Syria, it appears that Assad and his regime understand that they are in a fight for their lives (literally). They are pulling out all of the stops, sending tanks against civilians, bombarding cities from naval vessels, etc. When the dust clears either Assad will remain (unlikely) or he will be replaced by those forces strong enough to take power. It’s not clear yet who this will be, but I think we can be sure it won’t be the Facebooking students.

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Moty & Udi: A country with normal problems

Monday, August 1st, 2011

This week’s cartoon is about the affordable housing protests that are currently taking place in Tel Aviv. There is no doubt that a young couple simply cannot afford to buy or even rent an apartment in many parts of Israel. There are a lot of reasons for this — simple supply and demand, the lack of a stable rental market (most rentals are temporary, the owner of the property being abroad or waiting for his children to get married, etc.) — but it is a fact.

Our cartoonist wishes to draw attention to another side of the protests. For example:

“My Israel” (Hebrew site here) is an umbrella organization that specializes in the use of social media to spread the message of its member groups. Although Israelis would call it ‘right-wing’, that’s misleading to English-speakers — ‘Zionist’, ‘pro-IDF’ and ‘pro-settlement’ would be more accurate.

My Israel offered on Friday to join the protest, on condition that the national anthem would be sung. However, on Saturday night, it announced that housing protest leader “Daphni Leef’s people evaded and evaded” committing to singing Hatikva at the event in Tel Aviv.

“This should be a protest for all Israeli organizations, Left and Right, because centralization and monopolies do not know the difference between right and left wing,” My Israel chairwoman Ayelet Shaked said. “Therefore, we decided [on Friday] to join the struggle.”

However, the “minimum requirement for joining should be obvious. The protest’s purpose and participants should be Israeli, and its organizers should not stop demonstrators from singing Hatikva, as they did last week,” Shaked said…

“We are not willing to join a protest that aims for anarchy and pointlessly harming the government ‘because Bibi [Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu] is bad’ and that is lead by anti-IDF and anti-Israel elements. We would be happy to work side by side with leftwing Zionists who support the State of Israel, but think territory should be given up. They are our brothers, even if we disagree with them,” My Israel explained…

My Israel wrote that the activists involved in the housing protest “do not want Israel to be a Jewish state.”

On Friday, Ma’ariv columnist Kalman Liebskind listed various leaders of the housing protest and their associations with left-wing organizations and parties, such as Leef, a film editor for the New Israel Fund, Yehudit Ilani of the Balad Party, and Alon Lee Green of the Hadash Party.

Jerusalem Post

Balad and Hadash are parties with mostly Arab memberships (Hadash is the Israeli communist party). And the New Israel fund is an American NGO which consistently supports anti-Zionist causes in Israel. It is absolutely not an exaggeration to say that these elements “do not want Israel to be a Jewish state.”

The less-extreme opposition is also hitching a ride on the anti-government aspect of the protest:

Addressing the social struggle and demands for social justice vocalized in protests and tent protests across the country, opposition leader Tzipi Livni said that “Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is not the solution, he’s the problem” …

While acknowledging that protesters don’t want to hand their struggle over to any political party, something she praised, Livni said that “at the end of the day, this is a problem that will have to be solved politically.”

The opposition leader also called on the prime minister to cancel the Knesset’s scheduled summer recess. Livni also said she hopes that elections come soon, saying, “Israel deserves [an opportunity] to change this government.”

PM Netanyahu is putting forward a plan to improve the housing market and reduce the cost of living in general.

All this goes to show that Israel can be a normal country with normal problems when the pressure of the security situation is relaxed, if only temporarily.

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Moty & Udi: Nothing wrong with self-defense

Monday, July 25th, 2011

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The United Nations deferred the release of its findings on Israel’s deadly seizure of a Gaza-bound Turkish ship to give Jerusalem and Ankara more time to mend fences.

An inquiry set up by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had been due to publish a report on the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident Wednesday, but Israeli officials said the release was moved to Aug. 20.

The report has been postponed repeatedly while Israel and Turkey, both of which have delegates on the U.N. panel under former New Zealand Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer, pursue bilateral reconciliation talks.

I wouldn’t put it that way, folks.

The report has been delayed because it would cut the ground out from under the absurd Turkish position, which is that Israel needs to ‘apologize’ for several of its soldiers defending themselves in the only way possible, from beaten and stabbed to death.

The report is said to conclude that Israel’s blockade of Gaza is legal, and that the Turkish state had direct involvement in the flotilla and the militant IHH that provided the thugs who attacked the boarding party, as I wrote at the time. It also reportedly says “the IDF acted ‘too soon’ and with excess force,” but after all — this is the UN we are talking about.

If this is correct, then the report shows that the Mavi Marmara incident did not ‘just happen’. While it could perhaps have been prevented by better intelligence and planning on the Israeli side, it was clearly designed by the Turkish leadership to further widen the breach between Israel and Turkey which was initiated by Turkish PM Erdoğan when he walked off the stage at Davos in January 2009, after accusing Israel of murder:

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Erdoğan has threatened to downgrade diplomatic relations with Israel even further if Israel does not meet his demands:

In a speech to a conference of foreign ambassadors to the Palestinian territories in Istanbul, Erdogan condemned the continuing blockade of Gaza as “illegal and inhuman,” and said the Palestinians’ troubles were Turkey’s troubles, and would not go neglected.

Erdoğan opened his speech by naming each of the men killed in the raid on the Mavi Marmara ferry, which led the activists’ flotilla. “We have not forgotten, nor will we forget, the self-sacrifice of our brothers, their memories and the massacre they were subjected to,” he said.

Turkey withdrew its ambassador to Israel after the incident in May 2010, suspended military cooperation, and closed its airspace to Israeli military aircraft. It wants Israel to apologize for the killings, pay compensation to the families, and end the embargo of Gaza. — Jerusalem Post

Since Erdoğan’s AKP has been in power in Turkey, he has systematically stripped power from secular and military elements who were responsible for relatively good relations with Israel. With the AKP victory in recent elections, he’s moved Turkey even farther from the West and closer to Iran. There is no reason to think that relations will improve in the foreseeable future, and any gesture on Israel’s part will only be interpreted as an admission of guilt or a sign of weakness.

Israel’s Attorney General supposedly advised PM Netanyahu to apologize in order to prevent the filing of lawsuits against IDF soldiers. In other words, Israel should plead guilty for a crime it did not commit because otherwise it might have to defend its soldiers against equally false accusations. Anyway, who’s to say that there won’t be lawsuits in any event, especially if there is an official admission of guilt to serve as grounds for them?

One of the main thrusts of the propaganda war against Israel has been to delegitimize any use of force in self-defense. This was the theme after the 2006 Lebanon war as well as Operation Cast Lead in 2009-10. This is more than just an attempt to damage Israel by making it harder for her to protect herself. It is intended to humiliate and criminalize the state itself.

Note also that Erdoğan demands an end to the blockade of Gaza. The Mavi Marmara incident already was used by the Obama Administration to force Israel to loosen the blockade, which was originally intended as a way of pressuring Hamas economically. The objective now is only to prevent massive amounts of weapons from reaching Hamas.

The Turkish regime has rejected compromises, such as an ‘expression of regret’. This is just as well, since anything Israel agrees to will be spun as an admission of guilt. The best thing that can happen at this point is that negotiations on this issue will end with no result. There is no possible upside for Israel.

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Detailed results of Pal-Arab poll even worse than I thought

Thursday, July 21st, 2011

I discussed this recent poll last week, based on a Jerusalem Post report. Today, the complete polling data has been released.

The results show that the great majority of Palestinian Arabs do not support the idea of a peaceful two-state solution. Some of the numbers that I note are these:

  • 52% agree that they “do not accept a two-state solution,” while only 44% said they accepted it
  • 56% are “not so certain that Israel will exist 25 years from now as a Jewish state with a Jewish majority
  • Only 7% agreed that “Israel has a permanent right to exist as a homeland for the Jewish people” while 84% thought that “over time Palestinians must work to get back all the land for a Palestinian state”
  • 92% thought that Jerusalem should be the capital of Palestine while only 3% thought it should be shared

These last three points imply that the two-state solution, where it is accepted, is only accepted as a tactical station on the way to the elimination of the Jewish state, part of the implementation of the PLO’s ‘phased plan‘.

Attitudes towards Hamas seem to indicate that Palestinians approve of its approach to the Jews and Israel, although they don’t want to be ruled by it. Most do not reject partnering with an explicitly genocidal, terrorist group:

  • 81% support the agreement between Fatah and Hamas
  • Of those, 74% would continue to support it even if it resulted in reduction of aid
  • 55% of those who support the agreement believe it will make peace between Israel and the Palestinians less likely

But Hamas is not a popular choice to rule ‘Palestine’. When asked who they would vote for if elections were held today, 46% chose Fatah and only 17% Hamas. Nevertheless, the basic ideas of Hamas are popular:

  • 73% said they “believed” the quotation from the Quran in the Hamas covenant that “The Day of Judgment will not come about until Muslims fight the Jews, when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Muslims, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him… “
  • 80%: “For our struggle against the Jews is extremely wide-ranging and grave, so much so that it will need all the loyal efforts we can wield, to be followed by further steps and reinforced by successive battalions from the multifarious Arab and Islamic world, until the enemies are defeated and Allah’s victory prevails.”
  • 62%: “When our enemies usurp some Islamic lands, Jihad becomes a duty binding on all Muslims. In order to face the usurpation of Palestine by the Jews, we have no escape from raising the banner of Jihad. We must spread the spirit of Jihad among the (Islamic) Umma, clash with the enemies and join the ranks of the Jihad fighters.”

Interestingly, violence as a tactic is not so popular.

  • ‘Only’ 45% agreed with the Hamas  Covenant statement that “Peace initiatives, the so-called peaceful solutions, and the international conferences to resolve the Palestinian problem, are all contrary to the beliefs of the Islamic Resistance Movement. There is no solution to the Palestinian problem except by Jihad.
  • Only 32% say that they would support a Third Intifada.

Some have suggested that this indicates a hopeful trend toward compromise and coexistence. But I think that we can see by the continued rejection of Israel’s existence, the support for the antisemitic Hamas platform, and the implication that a two-state solution is a stage in the acquisition of all of the land, that this is only a tactical decision — a recognition that the diplomatic offensive has brought them closer to their goal than the intifadas or Hamas’ rocket attacks (of course, a certain degree of violence is needed to move the diplomatic track along).

Shimon Peres’ remark quoted by Shula in the cartoon above was likely based on questions about what the highest priority of a new Palestinian government should be. Depending on the way the question was asked, 75 or 83% said that it was to “create new jobs.” But although some of the other alternatives offered related to Israel — one was “get Israel to lift roadblocks and ease movement” — there was none that was even close to “promote the elimination of Israel in favor of a Palestinian state from the river to the sea,” which I believe would be a clear winner.

If you think that I’m mistaken, here are some other results, shocking in what they imply about the Palestinian Arab mindset:

  • When asked to quantify their feelings about various people and institutions on a scale of 1 to 100 (100 is the most positive), Dalal Mughrabi got a mean rating of 69.84 — higher than Fatah (61.18) or Hamas (39.85). She was second only to Yasser Arafat, who received 88.92. Dalal Mughrabi was the terrorist who led the Bus of Blood attack in 1978 which killed 36 people, 13 of them children. Jews, on the other hand, got a 4.9 rating and Israel a 1.82. A “two state solution with independent Palestinian state side-by-side with Israel as a Jewish state” was given 19.12.
  • 62% think that kidnapping Israel soldiers and holding them hostage is right
  • An incredible 29% think that “the killings in Itamar,” where five members of a Jewish family, including a 2-month old baby were viciously stabbed to death, were right!
  • 61% think that naming streets after people like Dalal Mughrabi is right
  • 53% think that teaching songs about hating Jews in Palestinian schools is right
  • 72% think that denying that Jews have a history going back thousands of years in Jerusalem is right
  • 22% think that firing rockets at Israeli cities and citizens is right (my guess is that many who disagree do so for tactical reasons)
  • 56% favor the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit and 51% oppose his release.

These are the people that President Obama thinks “must have the right to govern themselves, and reach their full potential, in a sovereign and contiguous state” next door to a truncated Israel. Let’s hope they never reach their “full potential” for evil, which is truly remarkable.

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Moty & Udi: On having what it takes

Monday, July 4th, 2011

I’m reading Yehuda Avner’s book, The Prime Ministers. Avner worked closely with Prime Ministers Levi Eshkol, Golda Meir, Yitzchak Rabin and Menachem Begin. He held positions as a speechwriter, ambassador to several countries, etc., and met some of the personalities that played a major role in the events of the time. Avner finds good qualities in all of the Prime Ministers for whom he worked — he certainly admired Rabin, but he clearly loved Menachem Begin, a man who understood traditional Judaism as well as the practical realities of governing the state, who was equally at home with diaspora Jews and sabras, a man who lived humbly and was unfailingly polite to everyone he encountered regardless of their importance.

All four of the above put the welfare of the state of Israel and the Jewish people far above above any personal or partisan goals. None of them sought personal aggrandizement or became wealthy during their political careers. Things have changed, haven’t they? Compare Begin with a Peres or an Olmert!

The comparison with American presidents is hard to avoid as well. Most of our recent leaders have been mediocrities without substance, sold to us by campaigns crafted to project appropriate messages to multiple sectors of the electorate, to take advantage of our electoral system, a combination of Madison Avenue,  Hollywood and the arcane world of shadowy political consultants.

In office, they affect the trappings of emperors, flying here in there in astronomically expensive movements with huge entourages. Those that are not multi-millionaires shortly become such.

Some have suggested that excessive grandiosity in the behavior of leaders, the building of massive edifices, etc. are signs of decadence and incipient decay in institutions like corporations or nations. Makes sense to me.

It might be, at least in America, that the selection process makes it almost certain that we will get a vain, cardboard figure, likely to put the lowest forms of partisan politics and his personal well-being above the good of the nation. Because of its small size and the existential nature of the problems it faces, it may still be possible for Israel to have a man like Begin become Prime Minister.

Of course you can’t expect that a prime minister or president can, like Udi, have zero interest in politics. But I think that the most important qualities of a leader have little to do with politics. They are dedication to an ideal which transcends ambition for fame, historical recognition, wealth, etc.; the highest degree of personal integrity, humility, and the ability to maintain those characteristics despite the temptations of office. A tendency to want to think things through oneself rather than rely on experts helps, too, as John F. Kennedy famously found out after the Bay of Pigs.

Examples of leaders with these qualities are Begin and Rabin, and in America, Harry S. Truman. All of them made mistakes, but all of them also displayed the integrity essential for leadership, something rare indeed.

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Moty & Udi: A creative scenario

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011

Judah Rosenthal, who draws Moty and Udi, has been away for a few weeks, busy illustrating a book, work that he gets paid for (unlike Moty and Udi). I’m glad he’s back.

Like Shula, I’m going to be creative today. Here is a little science fiction set in the near future:

***

June 21, 2013, 6 months into Barack Obama’s second term.

Secretary of State Power has announced that she will be coming to the region to visit the Sunni and Shiite caliphates (in Turkey and Iran respectively). She’ll also visit Palestine and the Islamic Republic of Egypt, with a stopoff in occupied Israel to visit the troops and investigate the humanitarian crisis there.

Flashback to September, 2011:

Lebanon introduces a Security Council resolution calling for Israel to withdraw from all of Judea, Samaria Eastern Jerusalem, and designating that area as the Palestinian Homeland. President Obama offers Israel a deal:

The US will veto the resolution if Israel will agree to an aggressive timetable to vacate most of the territories (he will allow Israel to keep the large settlement blocs and some parts of eastern Jerusalem). Obama offers to set up early-warning stations in the Jordan Valley, manned by US troops. Obama makes it clear that if Israel does not agree, the US will abstain.

Israel agrees. The resolution is withdrawn — Obama would prefer not to have to veto it and Lebanon obliges — and the first withdrawals are scheduled for January 2012. The PA announces that it is declaring a state with provisional borders and announces that any land evacuated by Israel will become part of Palestine.

Right-wing parties criticize Netanyahu but most accept that the alternative would have been worse and the government stays in place.

Egyptian elections are held. The largest single bloc of seats is gained by the Muslim Brotherhood, which easily puts together a coalition of smaller parties.

Bashar al-Assad retains control of Syria, by viciously suppressing his enemies, particularly Sunnis. Turkey warns Assad that it won’t tolerate what it (ironically) calls ‘genocide’.

The Turkish AKP government removes the last vestiges of secularism from its armed forces and judicial system. Although it did not get a 2/3 majority in elections which would allow it to automatically replace the constitution, it prepares to submit a new constitution to a national referendum.

January 10, 2012.

Israel begins to evacuate smaller settlements, while continuing talks with the US about the timetable and exactly what will be included in its withdrawal. The process is destructive to Israeli society, pitting Right against Left and deepening divisions. It is expensive and creates much human misery. The PA claims that it is not moving fast enough, that the US is biased toward Israel and is not holding it to the agreement.

The Egyptian government schedules a referendum on a new constitution, which calls for all legislation to be ‘grounded in’ Shari’ia. It further relaxes restrictions on its border with Gaza. There are several attacks perpetrated by terrorists crossing the Israel-Egypt border.

Israel and the PA make an agreement for a prisoner exchange for Gilad Shalit. Israel releases 1,000 prisoners, including Marwan Barghouti. Shalit goes home at last.

PA elections are held. Hamas wins a small majority of seats. Barghouti is chosen as a compromise President.

May 1, 2012.

Barghouti protests Israeli incursions into what it calls “Sovereign Palestinian territory” in Judea and Samaria. Fatah officials understand that the IDF is keeping them alive. Nevertheless, Obama sharply criticizes Israel, and the IDF’s activities there become reactive rather than pro-active.

Islamic Jihad in Gaza takes credit for a Qassam missile that makes a direct hit on a bus at a kibbutz next to the border, killing 20. IAF bombs PIJ targets in Gaza, warns Hamas that it is responsible. Hamas claims that its people have been hit, and fires rockets. Iron Dome intercepts many, but not all. Thousands of residents of southern Israel in shelters.

Egypt adopts new, Islamist constitution. Obama congratulates Egypt on peaceful process.

May 3, 2012.

Hamas rocket-firing continues. Israel bombs Hamas targets, begins to prepare for major incursion. Obama and the Egyptian President warn Israel not to invade Gaza. Egypt moves tanks and artillery into the Sinai. Barghouti arranges cease-fire with Hamas, then demands acceleration of withdrawals in return.

A seismic event is detected in Iran. US, Israeli and Russian monitors believe it is a nuclear test, but don’t make this public.

November 6, 2012.

Barak Obama is re-elected. He gets 78% of the Jewish vote.

January 20, 2013.

Barack Obama is inaugurated for his second term. Hillary Clinton is replaced by Samantha Power as Secretary of State.

February 4, 2013.

Power meets with Barghouti; they issue joint demand that Israel make more rapid progress in evacuating Judea and Samaria. Security Council resolution calling for immediate withdrawal and declaring Palestinian homeland is re-introduced.

Turkey adopts new, Islamist constitution. Obama congratulates Turkey on peaceful process.

February 15, 2013.

Security Council votes. US abstains, and the resolution passes. Power makes a speech in which she says that we gave Israel every chance to comply, but the Palestinian people have waited long enough. Obama says nothing. US Jewish leaders are shocked, shocked.

Terrorism against Israeli settlements increases. When the IDF goes after perpetrators, Power warns Israel to desist from ‘aggression’ in the territories.

February 28, 2013.

A security council resolution calling for economic sanctions against Israel and an arms embargo in order to “protect the Palestinian people” is introduced.

March 15, 2013.

The US votes for the resolution and it passes. Pro-Israel forces in US Congress are furious, but US is embroiled in the Venezuelan missile crisis as well as trying to get the remainder of its troops out of Afghanistan and Iraq alive, and there just isn’t room to worry about Israel.

April 4, 2013.

Another mysterious seismic event in Iran. Definite confirmation of a test of an operational nuclear weapon.

Israel sends its Foreign Minister to the US to beg for action against the Iranian bomb. But the administration had long since decided that the world would have to accept a nuclear Iran. FM argues that Iran is expected to attack Israel in the immediate future. FM is told not to worry.

April 5, 2013.

Israeli commandos attack the US X-band radar facility in the Negev, putting it out of commission (the X-Band radar is manned by US personnel — it is off-limits to Israelis — and it can detect a plane or missile taking off anywhere in the country).

Israel bombs nuclear installations in Iran. At the same time it attacks missile launchers in Lebanon.

Hizballah launches a massive missile barrage at Israel. Many of the missiles are intercepted, but there is a huge amount of damage and thousands die. After 3 days, 90% of Hizballah’s missile capability is destroyed. Hassan Nasrallah and most of Hizballah’s high officials and commanders are dead, buried in a slagheap that was their bunker. Hizballah is out of the war.

Palestinian Arabs in Gaza and Judea/Samaria fire rockets and infiltrate into Israel to carry out terror attacks.

Iran attempts to fire intermediate-range ballistic missiles at Israel. Most are destroyed at launch. None hit their targets. They keep trying.

April 6, 2013.

A furious Obama demands an immediate cease-fire. He calls the attack on the X-band radar ‘an act of war’, and recalls the USS Liberty incident. The security council meets in emergency session.

Israel activates non-nuclear focused EMP (electromagnetic pulse) weapons over major Iranian cities and military installations,  frying almost every electrical and electronic device in the country. Automobiles stop running, radios and telephones go silent, even streetlights go out. Oil and water pumps stop turning. Nobody is directly injured, but Iran has been set back 150 years in a few milliseconds.

April 9, 2013.

The dramatic part of the war is over, but the IDF fights bands of terrorists all over the country, while still trying to evaluate the massive damage to life and infrastructure suffered from the missile attacks. Stunned Iranians are trying to figure out how they will get food and water with most of the means of communications and transport non-functional.

April 15, 2013.

The Israeli PM explains that he had no other choice to save his nation short of full-scale nuclear war, but world reaction against Israel is furious. The Lebanese and Palestinians are claiming huge casualty numbers, and most people believe that Israel used a nuclear weapon against Iran. Egyptians are demonstrating in the streets, calling for an immediate invasion of Israel. Many Egyptian volunteers go to join Hamas forces, until the government, afraid of retaliation, shuts the border.

Public opinion in Europe, especially the UK, is massively anti-Israel. People are prepared to believe any story, no matter how horrible or how irrational, and there is no shortage of those prepared to tell such stories. The Guardian has huge headlines accusing Israeli and IDF leaders of mass murder.

The Security Council accuses Israel of aggression. Secretary of State Power makes an impassioned speech in which she calls Israel a rogue state, and says that the Palestinians are in danger of genocide. The Council decides to send troops to protect the Palestinians.

April 25, 2013.

Troops from the US, France, Turkey and the UK arrive in Israel. They set up a caretaker government under a High Commissioner to administer the country. Members of the Israeli cabinet and General Staff are arrested on suspicion of war crimes.

***

This is just one possible universe of many. My creative imagination is not much better than Shula’s — who knows if what will really happen will be better or worse? It will certainly be more complicated — I left out the actions likely to be taken by Syria, Turkey, etc.

I learned two things from the exercise above: one is the importance of the US administration. If you think it’s hostile now, wait until its second term, if it gets one.

The other is that the information war is critical to the overall outcome. In my scenario, Israel fought a defensive — if preemptive — war, and in military terms, was victorious. But the political outcome was just the reverse.

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Moty & Udi: Can this marriage be saved?

Saturday, April 30th, 2011

Nobody expects the marriage (the Fatah/Hamas one, not the royal one) to last. My view is that it is a marriage of convenience, planned to present the Palestinian Arabs as speaking with one voice just long enough to get the state of ‘Palestine’ declared.  Afterward, there will be a divorce and a violent custody battle over ‘Palestine’. One could imagine the IDF taking sides against Hamas in this one.

Some analysts don’t agree. They think that adding Hamas to the mix will make it harder to get recognition for ‘Palestine’. After all, Hamas won’t agree to recognize Israel and give up terrorism, etc., and the US and EU are insisting that any Palestinian government do so. But in my opinion, the EU is already beginning to weaken. Although the US could have been counted on in the past, we really can’t predict what this administration will do.

One partner in the marriage has already been shown (Gaza, 2007) to be an abusive spouse. So far, the only thing that has prevented Hamas from taking over in Judea and Samaria has been the presence of the IDF, which almost every night arrests Hamas operatives there. You know what will happen if the IDF withdraws!

There are some bright spots. “Joe Settler” points out that a married couple shares their liabilities as well as their assets. When Hamas joins the PA, then the PA becomes responsible for Gilad Shalit. Can a responsible government justify holding an innocent citizen of another country incommunicado, for ransom, for almost five years? Not to mention the rockets that are still being fired into southern Israel by Hamas.

The Fatah/PLO faction is clearly in a giddy honeymoon state. Here’s what one PLO diplomat told a friendly reporter:

The new Palestinian government will respect all previous PLO agreements, including the Road-map commitment to an end to violence and the Arab Peace Initiative, and it will move toward establishing a Palestinian state on 1967 borders … How could the EU come out against a government that has the same policies as the EU itself on this region? I don’t think that is an option.

Hamas as a movement might have a document calling for armed struggle, but as part of a unity government, it will have to respect the law and it will have to respect the Roadmap … Israel is saying we have to choose between peace and Hamas. But Hamas is part of Palestinian society, it’s part of our people. They must respect the choice of the Palestinian people and see Hamas as part of the [final?] solution, not part of the problem.

That’s interesting, since even the PLO never lived up to Roadmap obligations to stop terrorism and incitement, and Hamas has already made clear that they will not compromise their genocidal principles.

I also like the part about Hamas being “part of the solution,” but the Israeli response that the Arabs must choose between Hamas and peace is, well, stupid. The PA voted against peace in 2000 at Camp David, in 2008 when it rejected Olmert’s proposal and just last year when it refused direct negotiations with Israel. And Fatah, the dominant PLO faction, rejected peace at its convention in 2009 when it adopted a resolution reaffirming its commitment to armed resistance. So don’t bother saying “the Palestinians must choose.” They’ve chosen, over and over, with and without Hamas.

So, Can This Marriage be Saved? Who cares, they’re both jerks.

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Moty & Udi meet a rabbinical student

Saturday, April 2nd, 2011

Yesterday I mentioned an article by Rabbi Daniel Gordis that I found positively shocking (although on second thought, not so surprising). Gordis, a Conservative rabbi who made aliyah to Israel from the US in 1998, tells us about some American rabbinical students:

Item: Not long ago, a student at one of America’s recognized rabbinic schools sent a note to the school’s e-mail list saying that it was time to buy a new tallit.  Seeking advice about what to buy and where to get it, the student noted that there was only one stipulation – the tallit could not be made in Israel…

Item: Also not long ago, other rabbinical students were discussing how to add relevance to their observance of Tisha Be’av. They began to compile a list of other moments in history that should be mourned. One suggested that 1948 be added. Because of the Nakba? No, actually. It was time, this student said, to mourn the creation of the State of Israel.

Item: A rabbinical student in Jerusalem for the year chose to celebrate his birthday in Ramallah, accompanied by fellow students. There they sat at the bar, with posters (which they either did or didn’t understand) extolling violence against the Jewish state on the wall behind them, downing their drinks and feeling utterly comfortable. Photographs of the celebration got posted online.

What is common to the soon-to-be-rabbis in these stories is not that they are ‘peaceniks’ who think that the road to peace runs through Israeli concessions to the Palestinians. No, they are simply anti-Israel (or, in the last case, at least indifferent to its survival).

Rabbis are an extreme example, but — as I wrote in my “Beinartism” post yesterday — the relationship with the US is essential to Israel’s survival, and the phenomenon of anti-Zionist American Jews is more dangerous to it than numbers might suggest.

Beinartism — the view that the state of Israel is not worthy of support because it allegedly is (or is becoming) an undemocratic, theocratic and morally corrupt state — is a particularly ugly ploy, because it proposes that Jews should not support Israel because Israel does not exemplify Jewish values. So it has a particular appeal for liberal rabbinical students whose idea of Jewish values is that they are synonymous with secular humanistic ones.

***

The movement to delegitimize Israel has thus found an argument that specifically targets Jews. But of course the idea that Israel is becoming a Fascist state is useful practically everywhere in the West. A reader expressed concern to me today about a recent poll, which purportedly illustrates how “young Israelis are moving much further to the right politically”:

The study found that 60 percent of Jewish teenagers in Israel, between 15 and 18 years old, prefer “strong” leaders to the rule of law, while 70 percent say that in cases where state security and democratic values conflict, security should come first.

Hmm, can you say “false dichotomy?” Surely the best possible situation would a rule of law with strong leadership. But the pollsters — financed by a German foundation, by the way — suggest that they are incompatible. Maybe it would be clearer if the question were written this way: whom do you trust more to protect you, the IDF or Israel’s left-leaning Supreme Court?

The security question is similar. If  you live in Sderot and rockets are falling in your neighborhood, does it make you ‘right-wing’ if security is your no. 1 issue? Anyway, why does it conflict with democracy? A similar question is asked about the ‘peace process’ vs. “Israel’s national interests.” Are you surprised that “national interests” came out more important?

Here’s more:

Among Jewish youths, support for the definition of Israel as a Jewish state as the most important goal for the country grew from 18.1 percent in 1998 to 33.2 percent last year, the survey reports. At the same time, there has been a consistent drop in those who back the importance of Israel’s identity as a democratic country – from 26.1 percent in 1998 to 14.3 percent in 2010.

I speculate that the increase in support for Israel as a Jewish state has something to do with recent attacks on this idea — from Palestinian leaders who refuse to recognize it as such — and also to recent expressions of Jewish leaders regarding its importance. In any event, this is a positive development! What is the alternative to a Jewish state?

I’m not sure how they obtained the figure for a drop in those who “back the importance of Israel’s identity as a democratic country,” but the poll itself (available here in Hebrew) indicates that 80% of Israeli Jews between the ages of 21-24 found it either ‘very important’ (63%) or ‘pretty important’ (17%). Only 4% selected ‘not important’ (numbers are similar or better for other age groups).

I’m not worried about Israel’s democracy. Who does claim to be worried is the Left in Israel, as represented by Ha’aretz, who see a continuing decline in those likely to vote for their candidates. But this is a result of the hard lessons Israeli voters learned from Oslo, the withdrawal from Gaza, etc.

In fact, what is actually happening here is that Israel’s democratic tradition is asserting itself.

Israeli policy — even under ‘right-wing’ governments, is still following the path established by the Labor government in 1993.  Most Israeli governments have been far more willing to make concessions to the Palestinians than the Jewish population would like, and it can be argued that they far exceeded their mandates, even to the point of deceiving the people about their intentions.

The always-failing ‘peace process’ has been kept alive by money and pressure from Europe and pro-Arab elements in the US,  but a popular reaction has developed in Israel among the people who have to pay the price in security.

You can call it a ‘turn to the right’ if you wish. But those who applaud democracy should view it as a turn toward making policy more accountable to the popular will.

Moty & Udi: Contingencies

Friday, March 25th, 2011

One of the things they stay up nights to do in the kiriya, the IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv, is contingency planning. What if Hizballah and Hamas launch their missiles in a coordinated attack? What if the new Egyptian government allows Hamas to get even more sophisticated weapons (this one appears to be moot already)? And so forth.

I hope that the policy people are doing similar planning. For example, what if the UN — in the form of the Security Council or the General Assembly — recognizes the state of ‘Palestine’ according to the 1949 lines?

Actually, I don’t think the question is a ‘what if’ — it’s a ‘when’. And when is probably before the end of 2011.

Although a UNSC resolution could have ‘teeth’ that a GA resolution normally wouldn’t, like the imposition of sanctions on Israel if it doesn’t agree to dismantle settlements within some time frame, even a GA resolution can be used as a justification for action by member states, even military action, as Jerusalem Post editor David Horovitz explains here.

But, you say, they can’t do that — the territory is disputed, it is part of the original Palestine Mandate, there are numerous resolutions calling for agreement between all concerned parties, etc.

Forget it. It doesn’t matter. Nations will do what they want and create legal justifications afterward. This is always how it has been. And Palestinian statehood is a (really bad) idea whose time has clearly come.

As I’ve said before, this would be very disadvantageous to Israel compared to the status quo or even to a negotiated pullout — which would be bad enough. It would include no concessions to Israel’s security needs, such as control of the Jordan Valley, a demilitarized ‘Palestine’, control of airspace, etc. And it would not force an end to further Arab claims on Israel, such as the demand to resettle ‘refugees’ in Israel. Even if lip service were given to these issues, that’s all it would be — there would be no concrete guarantees.

Another possibility is that the UN might not impose the ‘solution’ itself, but rather give the job of working out the messy details to another entity, like the Quartet. The difference between this and the Road Map would be that this new Mandatory Power would have the ability to force the parties to accept its dictates.

Ehud Barak has suggested that it’s still possible to prevent this by getting the Arabs to agree to bilateral negotiations now:

“Israel’s de-legitimization is in sight. It’s very dangerous and requires action,” Barak stated. He warned against an attempt to push Israel into the same corner South Africa once occupied.

“A political initiative will minimize the chances along the way. We have not tried to put all core issues on the table in the past two years. Israel must say it is ready to discuss security borders, refugees and Jerusalem and it will get a chance. If it fails, responsibility will be placed on the other side.” — YNet

The problem with this is that from the Arab point of view there’s no reason to make a bilateral agreement. If the objective were the rational maximization of benefits to both sides, the kind of “New Middle East” that Shimon Peres envisaged, then this would be the way to go. But the objective of the Arab side is different. In fact, they are prepared to make significant sacrifices in almost every area in order to bring about the end of the Jewish state. They don’t want to maximize their benefits, they want to weaken Israel as much as possible.

They know that in areas related to Israel’s security they will get a better deal from the UN, the Quartet or anyone else than they will from Israel. So the probability of meaningful negotiations is zero.

It’s likely that the UN will want to ‘unify’ the Palestinians, and certainly both factions will pretend to get along well enough to permit this. My guess is that without the IDF to protect it, Fatah is history, unless perhaps it gets new leadership. But as I argued recently, it really doesn’t matter which faction ultimately gets control of the Palestinian entity — both are committed to the elimination of the Jewish state.

Right now the question is what to do about Hamas. Should Israel exercise restraint, knowing that Hamas will ramp up terrorism? Or should it invade Gaza again to re-establish deterrence?

It’s not an easy question. The precedents of Cast Lead and the Mavi Marmara show that international pressure to stop before Hamas is completely neutralized will be immense, and condemnation afterward will be severe. It would certainly reinforce the movement for the UN to establish a Palestinian state. In fact, regardless of how careful the IDF is to prevent civilian casualties, accusations of massacres and war crimes will be made loudly and immediately. These could even conceivably be used to justify intervention according to the model of Libya, that is, the need to ‘protect’ Arabs from Israel. It’s also been suggested that Israeli action against Hamas would strengthen the hand of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.

On the other hand, Hamas is getting stronger every day, thanks to the porousness of the Egyptian border, and fully intends to use its weapons against Israel. Maybe it’s a good idea to nip them in the bud before they become a part of ‘unified Palestine’.  War with Hamas is unavoidable. If not now, when?

Of course, any such campaign would have to be carried to completion. Do Israel’s leaders have the guts to do this in the face of pressure from the US? How far would the US and Europe go to stop it? Can Hizballah be deterred from joining in?

Lots of questions.

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Moty & Udi: at the Purim party

Saturday, March 19th, 2011

Not everyone is a Star Wars fan, but we are all familiar with the double standard under which it is just fine to accuse ‘Zionists’ of every despicable behavior imaginable, while it is considered inappropriate — and often dangerous — to talk about the Arab and Muslim propensity to terrorism.

For example, a newspaper in the UK has had a complaint filed against it at the Bedfordshire police department because it published a piece by Melanie Phillips containing this:

Today the massacred Fogel family was buried in Jerusalem. And as anticipated, the moral depravity of the Arabs is finding a grotesque echo in the moral bankruptcy and worse of the British and American ‘liberal’ media – a sickening form of armchair barbarism which is also in evidence, it has to be said, on the comment thread beneath my post below.

Overwhelmingly, the media have either ignored or downplayed the atrocity – or worse, effectively blamed the victims for bringing it on themselves, describing them as ‘hard-line settlers’ or extremists. Given that three of the victims were children, one a baby of three months whose throat was cut, such a response is utterly degraded.

The complainant, the head of an organization called “Muslims4UK,” Inayat Bungalawa, said

Her words went far beyond just denouncing the killings. It was a far more generalised racist outburst against Arabs as a whole.

Well, Bungalawa has a blog of his own, called “Inayat’s Corner,” and a filthy little corner it is indeed. Here are some quotations I found there without looking very hard:

(3/11) The Israel lobby views any progress made by UK Muslims in this country’s political life as being against their interests. The only permissible Muslims are those who are prepared to remain silent about the crimes perpetrated by the apartheid state of Israel.

(2/11) Robert Halfon [a British MP] – you are a total and utter coward, much like the members of the murderous Israeli Defence Forces. Whereas the IDF like to hide inside their tanks while firing shells at little children, you hide inside the House of Commons while making your libellous comments.

(10/10) David Cameron spoke out against any calls to punish Israel for its continuing occupation of Palestinian lands, its illegal Jewish settlements, its cruel and barbaric treatment of the besieged and repeatedly bombed people of Gaza and its known stockpile of nuclear weapons.

(9/10) Four Israeli land-thieves killed

All the main news outlets are currently carrying the story of the killing of four Israeli colonist-settlers yesterday by the military wing of the Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, near the Palestinian city of Hebron.

(5/10) It is not difficult to imagine that the UK govt’s reaction would have been rather different if it had been, say, Iran that had massacred a group of aid volunteers [on the Mavi Marmara].

If we had the kind of hate speech and libel laws here as they do in the UK (thank goodness we don’t), I’d file a complaint against Bungalawa on behalf of Israel and the IDF.

Almost everything he says is anti-Israel, but I’ve excerpted only those quotations which appear libelous. He is also remarkably rude to Melanie Phillips — perhaps she should sue him too?

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Moty & Udi: Zionism and religion

Saturday, March 5th, 2011

A couple of years ago a guy asked me to contribute to a project to make a film about why Israel should hold on to the territories. “We’ll give strategic, political and biblical reasons,” he said. I disagreed — I thought biblical arguments would hurt his cause. “After all, anyone who will listen to them is either an Orthodox Jew or an Evangelical Christian, and almost all of them are already on our side,” I told him. “You’ll just turn off the secular people.”

But now I’m not so sure. Because this is actually what the conflict is about. There is a reason that we haven’t been able to reach a compromise on borders, refugees, Jerusalem, etc. There is a reason that Arabs are prepared to die for al-Aqsa and Jews want to live in Hevron (other than “why shouldn’t they?” which is also a pretty good reason). There is truth in the remark of PLO official Abbas Zaki, whom I quoted in my post “The Jews and the Land”, that Zionism will collapse if we leave Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem, because our relationship to these places is at the heart of Zionism.

Secular Europeans — which today is most of them — and Americans don’t get it. To them, religious beliefs, especially religious beliefs that affect real actions in the world and not just abstract talk, are irrational or worse.  But these beliefs are among the strongest motivators of human behavior.

Religious wars are stupid and pointless, they say. But war is rarely rational, despite the attempts of politicians to make it so. Religious belief is the model for all ideology — today’s progressive secular humanism that animates many of Israel’s left-wing critics is no more rational or better examined than Judaism or Islam.

The struggle for Jerusalem is an ideological one — and the struggling ideologies are religious.

An aside: People often distinguish between ‘religious’ (dati) and ‘secular’ (hiloni) Israelis. What I think they really mean are ‘observant’ and ‘not-so-observant’. I think a majority of the so-called ‘secular’ Israelis, as I wrote previously, have a strong — I would even call it ‘religious’ — connection to the Land of Israel, even if they rarely go to a synagogue and drive on Shabbat.

If we want to make people see our side of the argument, we have to be honest about what we are fighting for and why. We have to be honest about our ideology and our values, and about our story.

The most convincing of the spokespeople for the Arabs are the Islamists. That’s one reason their philosophy has been wildly successful in recent years. I was once told by a Palestinian Muslim (who at least purported to favor coexistence between Jews and Arabs) that he felt much more comfortable with religious settlers than left-wing academics. Why? “They believe in God,” he said.

The story of the Jewish people is written in the Torah. You can treat it as concretely or abstractly, as literally or allegorically as you wish, but it is the most fundamental source of the Zionist idea (even if Herzl wouldn’t have agreed).

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