Archive for the ‘My favorite posts’ Category

Gaza war and aftermath will be unique

Monday, February 18th, 2008

The Jerusalem Post reports:

Israel is considering a large-scale incursion into the Gaza Strip during which it would present an ultimatum to the international community for the deployment of a multinational force as the only condition under which it would withdraw, defense officials have told The Jerusalem Post…

While Defense Minister Ehud Barak has said numerous times that a major operation in Gaza is inevitable, the IDF has been reluctant to recommend such an incursion for a number of reasons, especially the lack of a clear exit strategy.

Without a multinational force on the ground and with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party too weak to retake control of Gaza, a large operation seems unlikely…

“We are talking about the Second Lebanon War model,” a defense official said. “To go to war and tell the world that if they want a cease-fire and for us to leave then they will need to send a force to replace us.”

I hope it will not be precisely that, where the multinational force is incapable of preventing the enemy from rebuilding its capabilities, and indeed ends up protecting it from Israel. There will have to be several differences:

First, Hamas will have to be completely crushed, its weapons and infrastructure destroyed. It will have to be liquidated as a functioning organization. In Lebanon, although Hezbollah suffered severe losses, Nasrallah remains in control, Hezbollah fighters are returning to South Lebanon, and there are installations north of the Litani river where UNIFIL is not deployed.

Second, Israel will need to take control of the Gaza-Egypt border. In Lebanon, UNIFIL has not been willing or able to keep supplies from flowing across the Syrian border.

Even so, I see some serious problems:

The war itself will be fought in the glare of TV lights, against a very media-savvy enemy. This will be the most thoroughly covered war in history, even more than the 2006 war. Every civilian casualty or damage to property will be multiplied by 10 in the unfriendly media. International reactions will be quickly fed back via the US and Israel will be forced to back off in critical situations. The only way to avoid this will be to seal off the strip, shut down communications and exclude the press. Is this even possible?

What will happen to the thousands of Hamas fighters that Israel will capture? Will they be imprisoned? Where? For how long? Who will guard them? And what happens when they are released?

Peacekeeping forces are known to be very risk-averse. How will they prevent terrorist attacks on Israel? It’s easy to go somewhere, fire rockets, and run away. How will the multinational force prevent this? And if not, how will Israel be able to respond? She will certainly lose the freedom of action in Gaza that she now enjoys.

It’s often said that generals always prepare to fight the last war. One naturally thinks of things like new weapons in this connection, but there are other kinds of change to be taken into account too, such as the evolution of war from a primarily military struggle in which armies fight battles into one in which the political and media aspects overshadow fighting as the primary determinants of the outcome.

There is no question that Israel has a great advantage in the ‘fighting’ part. The question is whether or not she can modernize and improve her abilities to fight in the political and media theaters as well.

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Three myths about Israel and the Palestinians

Saturday, January 26th, 2008

Every once in a while it’s necessary to argue against some of the myths that have become current. Here are three such myths:

Myth no. 1: The Israel-Palestinian conflict is between Israel and the Palestinians.

Actually, the conflict pits Israel against the Arab world, and against the forces of Sunni and Shiite Islamism. All of the above have never accepted the idea of a Jewish state in the Mideast and wish to eliminate it. The US supports Israel where it sees a congruence of national interests; there is by no means unqualified support, and at this moment these interests are perceived by many in the US administration to be growing farther apart.

Among those who wish to destroy Israel are Iran and Saudi Arabia. These nations have invested a lot of oil money in terrorist organizations such as Hamas and Hezbollah which are doing their best to destabilize the region (e.g., in Lebanon and the Palestinian Authority) and to kill Israelis. They also fund massive media and propaganda campaigns around the world, carry on diplomatic offensives against Israel, and support jihadist groups in various places, which — while they may not directly target Israel — use terrorism to try to influence Western nations’ policy toward her.

It’s also appropriate to mention Syria and Egypt, which are presently stockpiling large quantities of weapons, including sophisticated weapons whose only use would be against Israel, and — especially in the case of Syria — have large stocks of chemical and biological weapons.

The role of the Palestinians — and we must also include a large proportion of the so-called “Israeli Arabs” who today see themselves as Palestinians first — is as a growth medium for the terrorist militias. For this reason, their general condition is kept as miserable as possible and their sense of victimization nurtured, both in terms of their historical grievances and their present treatment by Israel. As I’ve said before, the Palestinians’ function is to be the point of the spear to be driven into Israel.

Myth no. 2: Israel is much more powerful than the Palestinians

An understanding of Myth no. 1 above shows that this is more irrelevant than false. The IDF is more than a match for the terrorist militias — although Hamas and Hezbollah are presently developing professional, well-trained and well-equipped armies that are a far cry from Arafat’s guerrillas. But much of the danger comes from the connections of the terrorist militias to their patrons — as demonstrated by the second Lebanon war — and from the potential of these patrons’ direct involvement. Iran’s soon-to-be nuclear capability and Syria’s chemical rockets stand behind this threat.

Continuing terrorism against Israel, while it may not be as dramatic as the invasions of 1973, can have the effect of harming Israel’s economy and morale, weakening her and reducing ability to fight a major war when it comes.

The small physical size of Israel has made her civilian population vulnerable to short-range rocket attacks from outside her borders which are very difficult to prevent, and which — because the terrorists are non-state proxies — can continue without international pressure to stop them even though they are war crimes under international law. Israel, on the other hand, is highly limited in how it can respond, especially by the US. This tips the balance of power against Israel.

Myth no. 3: Israel uses its power to oppress the Palestinians

One of the strategies used by Israel’s enemies is to create and capitalize upon as much ‘oppression’ as possible. So Israel is forced to establish roadblocks in the West Bank to prevent suicide bombers from crossing into Israel proper, and then the Palestinians relate stories of pregnant women giving birth there, etc.

Another example is the regular protests against the security fence by Palestinians and their ‘international’ supporters, designed to both draw attention to Israel’s security measures, to present them as oppression, and to provoke Israel into responding as violently as possible to create more incidents. If there are not enough real incidents, they exaggerate and sometimes entirely fake them.

On a much larger scale, Hamas provoked Israel into the partial blockade of the Gaza strip by firing thousands of rockets into Sderot and environs. Hamas then exaggerated the privations of the Gaza residents and quite successfully presented this to the international media. The recent ‘blackout’, in which Hamas pretended that a cutoff of diesel fuel caused a major power outage, while the strip still was receiving 75% of normal electricity supply from Israel and Egypt, was a major propaganda triumph.

The Left in Israel and progressives around the world call for an ‘end to the occupation’ because they think that a solution to the conflict will be more likely if the Palestinians are freed from ‘oppression’. But they do not understand that the ‘oppression’ is actually desired and indeed often created by the anti-Israel forces as a tool to get the West to force Israel to make concessions. Once the concessions are made — this is what the progressives don’t understand — the ‘oppression’ always appears somewhere else or in another form, requiring more concessions.

So, for example, when Israel withdrew from South Lebanon and went to great lengths to get the UN to certify the border, Hezbollah discovered the Shebaa Farms as a pretext to claim that Israel still occupies Lebanon.

And when Israel withdrew from 100% of Gaza but found it necessary to control the borders to prevent terrorism, the Palestinians complained that they were in a “huge open-air prison”. Hamas also fired mortars at the crossing points in order to force their closure, so they could blame Israel for more ‘oppression’. Finally they fired rockets at Sderot until Israel, prevented by the human-shield tactic from massive retaliation, responded with the blockade (which of course was not complete for humanitarian reasons anyway).

If Israel were to completely withdraw to the 1967 lines, there is no doubt that the internal ‘oppression’ of the “Palestinian citizens of Israel” would then come to the fore (not that this is being ignored today).

This also explains why no matter how much aid is given to the Palestinians, their condition never seems to improve.

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Reuters inverts reality

Friday, January 25th, 2008

Reuters has gone completely over the top. They are no more reliable or less biased than Al-Jazeera — indeed, they are worse because everyone understands Al-Jazeera’s point of view, while some still take Reuters seriously.

Yesterday I mentioned several incidents in the ongoing war between Israel and Palestinian terrorists. In one case two border police officers were ambushed and shot, one fatally. In the other, two Hamas terrorists infiltrated a school in Kfar Etzion and started stabbing people; they were overpowered and killed by two of the teachers.

Get ready for this. Here is how Reuters reports these incidents:

Two Palestinians, Israeli killed in W.Bank incidents

JERUSALEM, Jan 24 (Reuters) – Jewish settlers shot dead two Palestinians and gunmen killed an Israeli border policeman in two separate incidents in the occupied West Bank on Thursday, medical and security services said.

Note that the headline and the story mentions the Palestinians first, and does not suggest that they were doing anything other than minding their own business when (in highly emotive language) the “settlers shot [them] dead”.

Police said Palestinian gunmen shot an Israeli paramilitary border policeman near the Shuafat refugee camp near Jerusalem and that he died of his wounds at the scene.

A woman, also from the Israeli security services, received moderate to serious gunshot wounds in the same incident, a hospital spokeswoman said.

Israel Radio reported that a large number of police and soldiers were combing the area, searching for the gunmen.

OK, although I’m not sure what the faintly disreputable word ‘paramilitary’ is supposed to add. Now let’s get to how the Palestinians died, five paragraphs into the story:

In the second incident, settlers overpowered and shot dead two Palestinians who infiltrated a Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank, an army spokeswoman said.

Israel radio said the Palestinians had stabbed two settlers at the Kfar Etzion settlement, not far from Bethlehem, before being shot, and a hospital spokeswoman in Jerusalem said the settlers’ injuries were light to moderate. [my emphasis]

Just in case you might have mistakenly thought that they were humans living in a kibbutz, the article uses the words ‘settlers’ and ‘settlement’ no less than six times.

The “Palestinians” — who should be called ‘terrorists’ if anyone should — disabled an alarm system and cut the perimeter fence at the kibbutz, which houses a yeshiva operated by the famed Talmudic scholar, Adin Steinsaltz. Dressed in stolen IDF uniforms, they sneaked into a meeting of teachers and attempted to stab them; they were shot by one of the teachers. Similar infiltrations have resulted in numerous Israeli deaths.

Just a word about the ‘settlement’ of Kfar Etzion. It was originally founded on legally purchased land by Yemenite Jews in 1927, abandoned several times due to Arab attacks and rebuilt. Finally, in 1948 Kibbutz Kfar Etzion was overrun by the British-commanded Jordanian Arab legion. Here is an account of what happened:

On the 13th of May the defenders of Kfar Etzion surrendered to the Legion. The Legion honored the surrender, though Arab irregulars continued to fire for some time. The defenders gathered in front of the school and put down their weapons. They were photographed by someone in a kaffiyeh (Arab headdress and European suit). Then an armored car, apparently belonging to the Legion, approached and opened fire, and other Arab attackers opened fire with submachine guns and grenades. Some survivors claimed Legion soldiers were not involved, others insisted that they were. Survivors all recall that that the Arabs were screaming “Deir Yassin.” All accounts agree that Legion officers rescued several survivors.

About 50 defenders escaped to the cellar of the old German monastery that was within the grounds, and tried to defend themselves there. The Arab attackers finished them off with hand grenades and then blew up the building, which collapsed over them. All but about five defenders were eventually killed. In all, about 128 defenders were massacred by the Palestinian Arab irregulars or the Jordan Legion, counting those who had escaped to the basement of the monastery. Some accounts do not count these people as “massacred” and estimate that fifty were massacred. However, those who fled to the basement were given no chance to surrender. One of the survivors, a woman, was taken to a field to be raped by two Legion soldiers, but saved by an officer. About 157 Jewish defenders died in the final battle for Gush Etzion, including those killed in the massacre.

After the illegal 19-year Jordanian occupation ended in 1967, Kfar Etzion was rebuilt yet again.

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Bolton talks about the NIE

Sunday, January 20th, 2008

When the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) came out in December 2007, I was struck by the emphasis placed on its first sentence — “We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003 Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program” — in all major media reports, and the almost universal conclusion drawn that the US was not going to take serious action, military or diplomatic, to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons (see “The NIE: read past the first line“).

The New York Times wrote in an editorial,

Tehran, we are now told, halted its secret nuclear weapons program in 2003, which means that President Bush has absolutely no excuse for going to war against Iran.

…and, therefore, far less leverage to get effective sanctions applied. The overwhelming reaction in the press and foreign and domestic political circles was similar: the US is backing off on stopping Iran’s nuclear program.

I argued at the time that anyone actually reading the NIE (the non-classified part that was released) would get the impression that the likelihood of Iran developing deliverable nuclear weapons in the next few years is still as great as ever.

Former UN Ambassador John BoltonToday former US ambassador to the UN John Bolton said the same thing in a Jerusalem Post interview:

…the NIE “doesn’t say what you probably think it says. Once you get past the first sentence or two, it doesn’t come out that different from the 2005 NIE. All of the attention was focused on the one finding that [Iran halted the weapons-building] aspect of the weapons program, even though later they say that they only have ‘moderate confidence’ that this suspension has continued. That’s a polite way of saying they don’t have a clue what the situation is.”

The document also defines the weapons program as “actual weaponization, that is, fabrication – only a tiny sliver of the total activity required for a country to have a nuclear weapons program. It still remains entirely within Iran’s discretion when and under what circumstances it proceeds to a nuclear weapons capability.”

Iran, it is well known, is continuing with the other parts of the job — the preparation of nuclear explosive material, and the development of delivery systems.

Bolton also expressed his opinion about who was responsible for the release of the report and its wording:

“I know the people who wrote this intelligence estimate,” Bolton continued. “They are not from our intelligence community. They’re from our State Department. It was a highly politicized document written by people who had a very clear policy objective.”

Said objective, in my opinion, being to placate Iran in return for a reduction of the level of violence by Iranian-influenced Shiite forces in Iraq. Has it worked? Maybe:Moqtada al-Sadr

Gen. David Petraeus has been deservedly praised for tamping down violence in Iraq, but an unlikely character deserves some credit— [Shiite militia leader Moqtada al-] Sadr. Five months ago the firebrand cleric ordered his followers to lay down their arms, and they’ve largely obeyed…

In early December Sadr issued another decree, urging his followers to focus on prayer and religious studies. He’s leading by example. Senior clerics close to Sadr, who did not want to be named speaking about their boss, confirm that he himself is studying to ascend to the rank of ayatollah, using books, CDs and even texts on the Internet. — Newsweek

If this is the correct analysis, then the maneuver provides a short-term gain for a lame duck administration. But it may yet create a much bigger problem for the next President, for the Mideast, and indeed for all of us.

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Barack Obama’s Zbig problem

Sunday, January 6th, 2008

Barack ObamaRecent events make it clear that a Barack Obama presidency is not a long shot. It is a real possibility. A combination of Republican weakness, Obama’s personal attractiveness, and the fact that many Americans see him as the candidate of change — and nobody doubts that we need that — puts him in a very strong position today.

So it’s very important for those of us who are concerned about US policy in the Mideast, particularly toward Israel and the Palestinians, to understand where he is coming from on this issue, and perhaps to educate him about the history and current facts about it — because he may be the “decider” next year.

Like any good politician, he hasn’t said too much about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, except that he favors a two-state solution. He did make a slightly more specific comment which I discussed last week, in which he seems to hold a position much like the Ayalon-Nusseibeh plan: there will be a division ‘based on’ the 1967 borders with land swaps to allow Israel to keep highly populated settlement areas and the Palestinians to get Arab areas within the Green Line in return, and the right of return for Arab refugees will be limited to the Palestinian state.

We can quibble about the details of such an agreement, but the overriding problem today is that a) there isn’t a unitary Palestinian entity that can negotiate such a settlement for all Palestinians, and b) no imaginable Palestinian leadership would (or could) accept it. A solution that is — given the players — unobtainable is not a solution.

So while this might be imaginable as an acceptable outcome (I will not get into that now), simply presenting it as a policy is absurd unless a way of achieving it is specified. Saying “we’ll negotiate with everybody” is a cop-out and possibly dangerous.

Zbigniew BrzezinskiAnd then there’s the Zbig problem.

Zbigniew Brzezinski, former national security advisor to Jimmy Carter, was chosen by Obama as a top advisor on foreign policy. I am not going to try to guess what is in Brzezinski’s head or Obama’s, but here are some of Brzezinski’s public statements:

Given that the Middle East is currently the central challenge facing America, Professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt have rendered a public service by initiating a much needed public debate on the role of the “Israel lobby” in the shaping of U.S. foreign policy. — Zbigniew Brzezinski, A Dangerous Exemption

I hate to say this but I will say it. I think what the Israelis are doing today for example in Lebanon is in effect, in effect–maybe not in intent–the killing of hostages. The killing of hostages. Because when you kill 300 people, 400 people, who have nothing to do with the provocations Hezbollah staged, but you do it in effect deliberately by being indifferent to the scale of collateral damage, you’re killing hostages in the hope of intimidating those that you want to intimidate. — Speech, July 20, 2006

Israel desired or favored the destruction of Iraq by the United States. Now it doesn’t hide its preference for the United States doing something to Iran, even though Israel itself has a powerful nuclear retaliatory capability. — Speech, June 12, 2007

We pressed the Palestinians to have elections in which the Hamas would participate. Hamas did win those elections. We were the ones who made that possible. So I think at some point we have to be prepared to conduct some sort of a dialogue with Hamas, perhaps informal, then increasingly formal.

Prime Minister Begin, whom I knew well, he told me personally that he didn’t think there was such a thing as a Palestinian, that there was no Palestinian nation, and that he was adamantly against two states coexisting in the space of the former mandate of Palestine, namely Israel and Palestine.

Yet we continued dealing with that government. We negotiated with it. We gave it a lot of economic assistance. And in the course of years, the Likud government itself came to accept the idea of two states within the territory of the former mandate of Palestine, coexisting with each other. — Interview, Online Newshour, July 18, 2006

The current crisis poses a grave threat to United States interests. One can argue forever as to whether Yasir Arafat or Ariel Sharon is more responsible for its eruption. — NY Times Op-ed, April 7, 2002

There’s a great deal of similar material available. Brzezinski supports the pernicious, even anti-Semitic Mearsheimer and Walt, he accuses Israel of ignoring collateral damage and in effect committing war crimes in Lebanon, he perpetuates the false and dangerous accusation that Israel is in some sense responsible for the US being in Iraq, and — time and again — he declares a moral equivalence between Israel and her terrorist opponents — Hamas and Arafat.

Brzezinski is very smart, and usually includes statements that suggest an understanding of Israel’s need for security. However, there’s no question that the policies that he will advocate will be to Israel’s severe disadvantage.

We don’t need another James A. Baker in a critical position in a future Obama administration. Obama has received criticism from pro-Israel voices like Alan Dershowitz about Brzezinski. The Obama campaign has responded that the criticism is politically motivated and coming from supporters of Hillary Clinton.

Regardless, Brzezinski’s slant is clear from his own words.

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