Archive for November, 2008

Trading away Israel’s deterrent

Sunday, November 16th, 2008

Thanks to prolific commenter Shalom Freedman for calling this current item to my attention:

The Middle East is in danger of accumulating large stocks of nuclear material over the next decade that could be used to produce over 1,700 nuclear bombs, a U.S. research center has projected in a newly released report.

The Institute for Science and International Security [ISIS], headed by David Albright, one the world’s top experts on nuclear weapons and the prevention of nuclear proliferation, recently released its report urging president-elect Barack Obama to take a number of measures to avoid such an outcome, including convincing Israel to halt production of its nuclear weapons.

“The Obama administration should make a key priority of persuading Israel to join the negotiations for a universal, verified treaty that bans the production of plutonium and highly enriched uranium for nuclear explosives, commonly called the Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty (FMCT),” the institute argued. “As an interim step, the United States should press Israel to suspend any production of fissile material for nuclear weapons…” — Ha’aretz

The UN’s nuclear ‘watchdog’ Mohammed ElBaradei was even more forthright in 2004:

“This is not really sustainable that you have Israel sitting with nuclear weapons capability there while everyone else is part of the non-proliferation regime,” ElBaradei told The Sydney Morning Herald.

ElBaradei said Muslims in the surrounding region resented Israel’s nuclear arsenal and wanted it to be part of the non-proliferation program.

“It is a very emotional issue in the Middle East,” ElBaradei said.  — Ha’aretz

Emotional indeed. ElBaradei went on to say that he was ‘encouraged’ by Iran’s agreement to suspend enrichment (remember that?),

But he warned that getting Tehran to give up any ambition to develop nuclear weapons would depend on whether Israel was brought into the equation…

Commenting on Israel’s stance that a comprehensive peace settlement must be in place before nuclear disarmament could go ahead, ElBaradei recommended a compromise.

“My take on this is that we will probably need to do the two together in tandem,” he said. “You need a security structure to undergird, if you like, protect, that peace process.”

The idea that Iran is building nuclear weapons to protect itself against aggression from Israel is beyond absurd — except perhaps in the halls of the UN. And the suggestion that Israel should give up her last-ditch deterrent against an attack with weapons of mass destruction — which have been stockpiled by her enemies — while she is effectively at war, is nothing less then a demand for national suicide. But ElBaradei is a UN man and an Egyptian to boot, so what else should one expect?

The ISIS report is another matter. There’s no doubt that it will be taken seriously by the incoming administration. Although it does not call for Israel to divest herself of existing weapons now, this is the ultimate goal:

To reduce the risk of proliferation in the Middle East and help lay the basis for a regionwide nuclear weapon free zone (NWFZ), the United States must ensure that plutonium is not separated from irradiated reactor fuel, insist on adequate international inspections of these countries, including the adoption of the Additional Protocol, and develop mechanisms to remove spent fuel from the region.  [my emphasis]

“These countries” include “Iran, Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Iraq … Israel [and] Turkey”.  This is another example of the “you guys stop fighting” syndrome, which everyone remembers from his or her schooldays, in which the authority figure makes no attempt to distinguish between the bullies and the bullied.

It’s safe to say that if there is one country in the world which actually needs nuclear weapons it’s ‘the Jew among nations’, Israel. And although it sounds naive in today’s media climate, the truth is that Israel would like nothing more than to live at peace with her neighbors, while they would like nothing more than to destroy her. 

The argument that proliferation would be reduced if Israel gets rid of her capability would only be true if her enemies sought nuclear weapons out of fear that Israel would attack them. But the majority of Israelis and their leadership have made it clear that they do not want to expand the territory under their control.  And Israel has acted in a way consistent with this belief, shedding the Sinai and Gaza and leaving southern Lebanon.

Indeed, if Israel did not have nuclear capability, then it would be advantageous for her enemies to obtain it themselves, since it could then be used against Israel without fear of a counterstrike! Furthermore, if Israel gave up her deterrent it would increase the possibility of a chemical/biological attack, which historically has been deterred by fear of a nuclear response.

The ISIS report, in its narrow focus on the sheer quantity of nuclear material in the region without considering the ramifications of who possesses it and what they might do with it, does not do the cause of peace any favors.  In fact, the argument is so bad that one suspects that it is being made now and in this form to act as support and cover for a deal in which Israel’s deterrent will traded for an Iranian promise.

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Who will Obama’s tough diplomacy be tough on?

Saturday, November 15th, 2008

Baker, Brzezinski, Malley, Mearsheimer, Scowcroft, Walt, etc. have all been called foreign policy realists. What are they being realistic about?

In connection with the Middle East, there are apparently two things:

  1. There are far more Arabs and Persians than Israelis. There are 24 Arab nations in the Middle East and Africa with about 325 million people (Iran has another 70 million).  On a map large enough to show them all, Israel with its 6 million people is almost invisible.
  2. About 56% of the world’s petroleum reserves are found in five Arab countries and Iran.

Now it so happens that almost all 25 nations — their leadership and the man in the street — are more or less hostile to Israel, from the openly confrontational Iran and Syria to the ‘cold peace’ of Egypt and Jordan. The realists believe that facts 1) and 2) above imply that American policy should tilt toward these nations and against Israel.

There are other facts, but because they do not bear on questions of power they are not taken into account by realists. Examples of such facts are that Israel is the most free and democratic nation in the Mideast, that Israel is entirely legitimate under a fair reading of international law, and that despite pro-Arab historical revisionism, the existence of a Jewish state in the land of Israel is morally justified.

And then there is one more fact that does not appear on realist radar: the intentions of many of the state and non-state players in the Mideast toward Israel are frankly genocidal.

All these are irrelevant to the realist who is only concerned with hard relationships of power and economics. However, there are some power-related facts that have kept Israel alive despite almost continuous challenges from her enemies. One of the most important ones is the impossible-to-ignore Israeli nuclear deterrent. Although a weapon of absolute last resort, it gives Syria, for example, with its tens of thousands of conventional and biochemical warheads aimed at Israel, something to think very carefully about. I suggest that even mighty Russia can’t entirely ignore this factor.

The realist point of view seems to have taken hold of Bush Administration policy. It was expressed in the Iraq Study Group report of December 2006, and is the driving force behind the ‘Annapolis process’, whose goal is to create a Palestinian state, above all. Judging by President Elect Obama’s choice of advisors and by reading between the lines of his very guarded comments, it appears that his administration is likely to be even more ‘realistic’ about the Mideast than this.

During the campaign Obama advocated engagement of nations hostile to both the US and Israel such as Iran and Syria, and the exercise of ‘tough diplomacy’ to achieve such goals as ending the Iranian nuclear weapons program. Critics asked exactly what leverage we would have in diplomatic talks, given that we have made it clear that military options and actually painful sanctions are off the table. There has been no clear answer.

What we didn’t ask was “who will the ‘tough diplomacy’ be tough on?” And the answer isn’t ‘Iran and Syria’.

Caroline Glick writes,

By pressuring Israel to cede land to Syria and the Palestinians, Obama’s apparent foreign policy will provide Iran with still more territory from which to attack Israel both through its terror proxies and with its expanding ballistic missile arsenal. By embracing the Syrian regime in spite of its support for terrorism, its nuclear proliferation activities and its subversion of Lebanon, the incoming Obama administration will embolden Syria to increase its subversion of Lebanon and Iraq, while strengthening its ties to Iran still further.

As for direct talks with Iran itself, the question immediately arises, what could Obama offer Teheran in exchange for an end to its nuclear program that Bush hasn’t already offered?

What it can offer is Israel.

Over the past few years, Obama’s top nuclear nonproliferation adviser, Joe Cirincione, has repeatedly advocated placing Israel’s nuclear arsenal on the negotiating table and offering it up in exchange for an Iranian pledge to end its nuclear program. Defense Secretary Robert Gates – whom Obama is considering retaining – insinuated in his 2006 confirmation hearings that Iran is only building nuclear weapons to defend itself against Israel. Gates, it should be recalled, has been instrumental in convincing Bush not only not to attack Iran’s nuclear installations, but not to support an Israeli attack against Iran’s nuclear installations. [my emphasis]

So that’s the gist of it (but read all of Glick’s excellent article). Of course Obama and his officials will continue to insist that the security of Israel is paramount, and that the US will not allow it to be compromised — just as he did during his campaign.  But there’s no question that an Israel without its nuclear deterrent would shortly cease to exist.

While this may not be the intention of Barack Obama, it is a consequence of the realist policy — in essence, to sacrifice the interests of small and economically insignificant Israel in favor of those of the massive oil powers of the region. And those interests include the elimination of Israel.

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Same idea, diffferent year

Friday, November 14th, 2008

On May 10, 1933, books from university libraries all over Germany were burned by Nazi students and officials. Books were chosen to be burned because of their ‘un-German’ content or Jewish authorship:

In a symbolic act of ominous significance, on May 10, 1933 the students burned upwards of 25,000 volumes of “un-German” books, presaging an era of state censorship and control of culture. On the night of May 10, in most university towns, nationalist students marched in torchlight parades “against the un-German spirit.” The scripted rituals called for high Nazi officials, professors, rectors, and student leaders to address the participants and spectators. At the meeting places, students threw the pillaged and unwanted books into the bonfires with great joyous ceremony, band-playing, songs, “fire oaths,” and incantations. — Wikipedia

Frederick William University in Berlin — now called Humboldt University — held a major book-burning that evening in the Platz am Opernhaus (today called the Bebelplatz) that is next to the University. Here is how it looked that evening in 1933:

Nazi bookburning at Platz Am Opernhaus

Nazi bookburning at Platz Am Opernhaus (Bebelplatz), May 10, 1933

Today’s young Germans seem to have lost little of their anti-Semitic enthusiasm. On Sunday, Germans observed the 70th anniversary of Kristallnacht, which many consider the official Nazi expulsion of the Jewish people from the human race.  On Wednesday an Exhibit in the Humboldt University lobby called “Betrayed and Sold” about the looting of Jewish businesses by the Nazis was destroyed by rioting high school students and left-wing activists.

Although the protest was supposedly about such things as class size, matriculation exams and school staffing, the students nevertheless expressed themselves about other issues:

[University President] Christoph Markschies told The Jerusalem Post that one of the protesters in the lobby of the university said “Damn Israel” when asked by another student to “stop” vandalizing the exhibit…

“Friendship with Israel is part of the HU’s identity,” said Markschies, adding that “no one can tell me that the exhibit was damaged because it was a mistake”…

Niklas Wuchenauer, a pupil in Berlin and spokesperson for the protest group “Tear down the educational barriers,” told the Post that “we regret that the exhibit was damaged or destroyed.”

When asked about the “Damn Israel” statement, Wuchenauer said the statement is not anti-Semitic and simply means it “would it have been more meaningful if the UN had not created two states in 1947 and had integrated the Jews into one state.”Jerusalem Post

Bebelplatz student demonstrationI see. A German destroys an exhibit about the persecution of Jews by Germans in the 1930’s, before there was a state of Israel, in order to suggest that there should not be a state of Israel. One could not possibly ask for a clearer example of the relationship between extreme hatred of Israel and anti-Semitism.

Here is how the Bebelplatz looked this week, 75 years and 6 months after the bookburning. Same idea, different year.

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A slow, incremental defeat

Thursday, November 13th, 2008

Ami Isseroff has written the best analysis I’ve seen of the military-political bind that Israel finds herself in vis-a-vis Hamas (and Hezbollah, for that matter). As he shows, the problem of Gaza is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in microcosm. Israel must develop a consistent  long-term strategy — and then take action. Today she simply responds to events which are choreographed by her enemies. The result is a slow, incremental defeat.

This is a must-read.

Gaza events: Israeli-Palestinian conflict in miniature

By Ami Isseroff

Those who want to learn from history can get a whole education from recent events in Gaza. The Hamas government or their allies or a splinter faction or someone, dug a tunnel into Israel in order to kidnap Israeli soldiers. By luck, Israel found out about the tunnel and destroyed it, triggering rocket and mortar fire into Sderot and Ashkelon. These were not just little Qassam rockets, but professional Grad – upgraded Katyushas, falling in Ashkelon. Israel responded by firing at the “militants” launching the rockets. Next, IDF killed four “militants” about to plant a bomb near the Kissufim crossing.

While all this show was going on, and not by coincidence, the Quartet held a meeting upholding the Annapolis “process.” At the same time, a group of European MPs landed in Gaza to show their support for the genocidal Hamas. Mr Ismail Hanniyeh, the “good cop” told them the Hamas would make a truce with Israel if Israel withdrew to the 1967 lines. Presumably the truce would look like the current lull and would be kept in the same way. Hanniyeh forgot to tell the MPs that the deal would include Right of Return for Palestinian refugees, which would destroy the state of Israel as a Jewish homeland. Moreover, the “bad cop,” Mahmoud Zahar, promptly announced that no such truce was currently on offer, a retraction that got less publicity.

Israeli PM Olmert told IDF troops that a clash in Gaza was “unavoidable”. Since the clash is ongoing that hardly required the prophetic vision of Isaiah, but it is likely that Ehud Olmert meant a more major clash might ensue.

What can we learn from this confused babel? A number of points emerge which characterize most relations with the Palestinians since 1994, and in particular those with the late Mr. Yasser Arafat‘s government and the Hamas government in Gaza.

Continue reading this article

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Salaam Fayad’s spiritual inferiority complex

Thursday, November 13th, 2008

News item:

Jerusalem is holy to two religions – Islam and Christianity, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salaam Fayad said at the UN-organized interfaith peace conference on Wednesday night. Fayad failed to mention the importance of Israel’s capital to the Jewish people, Israel Radio reported.

I suddenly understand. They are absolutely eaten up with jealousy because they believe that in fact the Jews really do have a covenant with Hashem and they don’t. It just annoys the hell out of Muslims that we got there first. So they build mosques on top of our holy places and then, like Yasser Arafat, argue that there never was a Jewish temple there.

And not just Muslims. How else can you explain the historical anger of Christians when faced with stiff-necked Jews who balk at taking the next ‘logical’ step and accepting the Savior? Doesn’t it just make you want to burn someone at the stake when he punctures your pretenses? You are nothing more than a wannabe, the Jew seems to say.

In fact, this applies to secular anti-Semites too, although they would never admit to a feeling of spiritual inferiority. But what else motivates someone like Shlomo Zand to (incompetently) try to prove that today’s Jews are not descended from the biblical inhabitants of the land of Israel? Face it, Shlomo, you feel inferior, incomplete, so you need to try to take away what the others have and you don’t.

Assimilationists say that Jews would be better off hiding their smug stubbornness. Why make everyone mad by running around claiming to have an exclusive relationship to God? The problem with this approach is that after a while you forget that this relationship exists.

I see this as the key to understanding how the Jewish people will (or will not) survive, and how there can be something that unites Jews of all degrees and kinds of observance.

Those like Fayad are not just trying to take the land of Israel away from the Jews and ‘occupy’ it. They are trying to break the connection between the Jews, God, and the land. If they are successful, the Jewish people will not simply be dispersed yet again, they will disappear.

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