Archive for August, 2010

Direct talks are dangerous

Tuesday, August 24th, 2010

Although the “direct talks” between Israel and the Palestinian Authority cannot possibly lead to a peace agreement — here’s a good explanation of why — many observers think they are at least harmless.

They aren’t. The trouble is that the non-existent possibility of success will be used — is already being used — as a club to beat Israel. For example:

With the imminent onset of long-sought direct talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, the US administration expects that neither side will take any measure to poison the atmosphere or derail the talks, a senior American official said on Tuesday.

The official, in a briefing in Jerusalem with Israeli journalists, was asked repeatedly, and in various permeations, how the administration would react to an end to the settlement housing-start moratorium on September 26. The official would not answer directly, but only repeated the mantra about Washington expecting that both sides not do anything to harm the atmosphere or derail the talks. The official then went to Ramallah for a similar briefing with Palestinian reporters.

On Monday, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said the moratorium issue would be a topic of discussion when Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and PA President Mahmoud Abbas meet with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to launch the direct talks next Thursday in Washington.

“We are very mindful of the Palestinian position and once we’re now into direct negotiations, we expect that both parties will do everything within their power to create an environment for those negotiations to continue constructively,” Crowley said when asked about the Palestinian threat to quit the talks if the moratorium was not renewed.

In other words, the US will not permit the official building freeze in Judea/Samaria or the unofficial one in East Jerusalem to expire, because that would tend to ‘derail’ the talks (prediction: the phrase ‘derail the talks’ will soon become as popular in administration-speak as ‘bolster Abbas’ and ‘end the settlements’).

And here’s another prediction: the PA will not be required to do anything. You might think that calling Jews apes and pigs would tend to derail things, but you can bet that this kind of vicious incitement will continue. Watch carefully and see. One might also think that the least the PA could do would be to admit that whatever will be left of Israel after the next partition will belong to the Jews, but they won’t even say that.

Once the pointless exercise begins, expect that any form of self-defense by Israel — intercepting new flotillas, shooting back at Hizballah, whatever — will immediately be met with a threat by the PA to leave the talks and American pressure to submit, lest a display of backbone cause a massive derailment, even a train wreck.

There is another problem. This is not the more-or-less toothless Bush Administration, or Bill Clinton, who quite honestly thought he could bring peace to the Middle East.

This is a White House suffused by anti-Zionist ideology whose objective is to get Israel back to the 1949 armistice lines regardless of the consequences for Israel’s security. We can expect that there will be an attempt to create a Palestinian state by fiat, while Israel’s security concerns will be met with some form of international guarantees. As has always happened in the past — the most recent example is UNSC resolution 1701, which was supposed to prevent Hizballah from rearming — such guarantees will prove to be worthless. Goodbye peace, hello war.

I assume that PM Netanyahu got into this in return for promises regarding American action against the Iranian nuclear program, which Jerusalem views as a much bigger threat than anything else. It remains to be seen if the US will live up to this commitment. Precedents aren’t good, starting with the US promise in 1956 to guarantee free passage for Israel in the Strait of Tiran, up to the promises made by President Bush to PM Sharon in 2004.

Frankly, if Jewish and Israeli history teaches us anything at all, it is that we have to rely on ourselves — not our friends, and even less so those who manifestly are not our friends. And that includes the present US administration.

Update [25 Aug 1635 PDT]: I said to watch carefully for continued incitement by the PA. Well, we didn’t have to wait long!

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J Street: slimier than we thought

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

Jeremy Ben Ami’s job is to sell administration Middle East policy to Jews.

This is not so easy to do when said administration is the most anti-Israel one since 1948.  How do you sell a policy whose primary goal is to gain approval in Riyadh, the world capital of antisemitism, to Jews?

Actually, it’s easy when your customers are Jews who have had their collective Jewish historical memory wiped clean by the unprecedented paradise in which Jews have lived in the US since 1945. The American people gave us a tremendous gift by treating us more or less like anyone else legally, economically, politically and even socially — not to mention playing a major role in defeating Hitler. Many of them even like and admire us.

There has never been another time or place in Jewish history that even comes close. No matter how benign the ruler or how wealthy the community, diaspora Jews have never been able to forget that they were diaspora Jews. Until now. And now they are forgetting in droves.

Ben Ami had no trouble at all getting plenty of Jewish support for his phony “pro-Israel” group, J Street, from culturally amnesiac  ‘progressives’ of Jewish descent. And they happily do the administration’s work in promoting its Saudi agenda. For example, when it was convenient to manufacture a break in US-Israeli relations in order to impose a freeze on Jewish construction in Israel’s capital, J Street was there (see Lenny Ben-David’s investigative report):

The 1,600 Jerusalem apartments would become the anvil on which the administration would forge a pliant Israel. The message would have to be amplified, and for the White House, the pro-Obama, purportedly pro-Israel J Street was a perfect vehicle.

According to newly released White House visitor logs, J Street’s president, Jeremy Ben-Ami, and vice president of policy and strategy, Hadar Susskind, came to the White House to meet with officials in the White House Office of Public Engagement, headed by Obama’s close friend and adviser Valerie Jarrett.

On March 11, and then again on March 12, the logs show Ben-Ami set a meeting for March 15 in the Old Executive Office Building with Danielle Borrin, who served on the vice president’s staff and in Jarrett’s office. On March 17, another meeting was set in the West Wing, the White House’s inner sanctum, for the next day with Tina Tchen, Jarrett’s principle deputy and director of the White House Office of Public Engagement…

On March 15, the day it met with Borrin, J Street issued a statement on the “escalation of U.S.-Israel tensions” warning that Israel’s “provocative actions undermine the peace process” and weaken the American attempts “to build a broad international coalition to address the Iranian nuclear program.” Parroting Emanuel’s strategy for crisis management, the J Street memo declared:

Bold American leadership is needed now to turn this crisis into a real opportunity to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The memo, in effect, called for an imposed American solution:

We urge the United States to take this opportunity to suggest parameters to the parties for resuming negotiations — basing borders on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed land swaps, with the Palestinian state demilitarized and on territory equivalent to 100% of the area encompassed by the pre-1967 Armistice lines.

Serving as a stalking horse for the President, J Street came out in support of the construction of the ‘Ground Zero mosque’. This despite the fact that the project’s initiator, the supposed ‘moderate’ Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, will not say that Hamas is a terrorist organization, although Hamas is all about killing Jews and liquidating the Jewish state.

Not all of J Street’s support comes from progressive Jews. It gets plenty of help from Arab and Muslim donors who are not so confused about their interests. J Street has a PAC which supports candidates for public office. It is must report all contributions it receives, unlike the main J Street organization which is not required to do so. Look at some of the contributors to the J Street PAC here and ask yourself: why they would support a ‘pro-Israel’ organization?

Some of the donations are small, but remember we don’t know what they may have contributed to J Street itself. As of July this year the J Street PAC distributed more than $650,000 to 61 candidates, like Joe Sestak, who signed a controversial letter accusing Israel of ‘collective punishment’ in Gaza.

Wake up, American Jews. Don’t buy what J Street and Obama are selling. Don’t assume that the exceptional case of the past 65 years in America represents a new paradigm — look at Malmo, Sweden, for example, where Jews are fleeing because of rising antisemitism.

The best way to ensure the preservation of the Jewish people is to support a strong Jewish state. J Street would like us to abandon Israel, and put our trust in the good will of people like President Obama and even Feisal Abdul Rauf, the ‘moderate’ Muslim.

It isn’t a difficult choice when it’s put like that, is it?

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Everyone knows…or do they?

Saturday, August 21st, 2010

…everyone knows what a two-state solution looks like and the general formula for getting there… the tough thing is marshaling the necessary political will.James A. Baker, one of the original sources of the Administration’s policy to force Israel and the Palestinian Authority into a ‘peace’ agreement, February 2010

So, it starts again. The US will sit the Israeli PM down with a Palestinian Arab ‘leader’ who represents almost no one, and whose regime is paid for by the US and protected by the IDF. Since its inception said regime has told its people that Jews are descended from monkeys and pigs, that the greatest Palestinian heroes are terrorists who murder Jewish children, that Palestinian children should aspire to martyrdom, and that in the future Israel will be destroyed and replaced by an Arab state.

This Palestinian Authority (PA) has said over and over that it will not recognize Israel as a state belonging to the Jewish people. It demands a ‘right of return’ to Israel for Arab ‘refugees’ and requires that any peace agreement must include a transfer of all the area of the Palestinian Mandate east of the 1949 armistice line, including all of East Jerusalem. It insists that every Jewish resident of this area be removed, while calling Arabs who live in Israel the ‘owners’ of the land.

Israel is prepared to agree to a sovereign Palestinian state in the region, although with a few limitations (demilitarization, retaining control of airspace, security presence in the Jordan Valley, etc). One would think that if the PA actually wanted a state, they would agree. After all, if ‘Palestine’ can live peacefully alongside Israel, one would expect that ultimately the restrictions would be lifted. Of course the PA rejects them out of hand.

Speaking of Palestinian demands, Israel has some demands too. For example, that an agreement recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people, that so-called ‘refugees’ be resettled in ‘Palestine’ or Arab nations and that the Palestinians will finally agree to end their claims against Israel — to end the conflict.

Naturally, the PA categorically rejects all of these. It is probably true that no Palestinian leader could accept them and survive, politically or physically.

Finally (Barry Rubin calls this the “wooly mammoth in the living room”) there is Hamas, which controls all of the Gaza strip (40% of the Palestinian population) and has many friends in the area supposedly governed by the PA. Hamas doesn’t agree that Jews can be allowed to live anywhere in the Middle East, is committed to violent genocide and supported by Iran. They also oppose the PA — they killed a bunch of the Fatah opposition in 2005 when they took over Gaza — and would happily take over all of Judea/Samaria as well.

Only the IDF prevents them from doing that today. Who will protect a sovereign ‘Palestine’? The PA army being trained by the US? That plan is working so well in Iraq and Afghanistan, isn’t it! Or maybe the UN? Just look at the result of that approach in Lebanon. If Hamas takes over, what stops them from inviting in Syrian or Iranian forces? This is a formula for a bloody regional war.

Please, tell me again what “everyone knows.”

There is an asymmetry between the Israeli and Palestinian positions. Israel says “we think the Palestinian Arabs have as much of a right to a state as we do, and we’re prepared to compromise as long as it doesn’t mean committing suicide.” The PA, on the other hand — and I’m not even referring to Hamas here — thinks that a Jewish state is historically illegitimate, and it’s time for the US and the international community to give it over to its ‘rightful owners’.

The premise that the Palestinian Arabs have a ‘right’ to anything, given the historical record, is actually pretty dubious. But Israel has moved a long way toward an accommodation, even despite the vicious war of 2001-2003 — some call it the ‘Oslo war‘ — in which the Palestinians demonstrated their contempt for a previous offer of a sovereign state.

The difference in Israeli and Palestinian outlooks is nicely caught by Rubin, who writes,

Is “comprehensive peace” in the interest “of all people in the region?” [the words of US envoy George Mitchell] On one level that seems obvious but on the level of actual reality it is completely false. Consider this: having peace in Europe was arguably in the interests of everyone at all times between, say, between 1337 (start of the Hundred Year’s War between England and France) and 1990 (the Cold War’s end), yet nonetheless there wasn’t peace much of the time.

Why is that? Because there were ideologies, nations, and leaders who thought there was something more important than peace: gains, victories, land, glory, the will of the Creator of the Universe, and other things. Moreover, they perceived that triumph was easy and that they could have everything they wanted. This worldview does not characterize the position today of, at most, more than 10 percent of Israelis (or Americans and Europeans for that matter) but does characterize the position of more than 95 percent of Arabs, Middle East Muslims, and Palestinians.

Rubin thinks that the US is naive about the way in which ideology drives the Muslim nations of the Middle East, and projects Western views of interests where they are inapplicable:

An element of this doctrinaire, deterministic “even-handedness” and “mirror-imaging” practices by Western governments today is to misunderstand much about the Middle East (and Israel as well) to the point that they fail in their efforts and stumble into crises. This point also applies to their understandings of Islamism, Iran’s ambitions, the internal problems of Iraq and Afghanistan, and much more. These mistakes cost lives and produce strategic disasters.

Iran, Syria, Hamas, Hizballah, and most of the PA’s own Fatah rulers don’t think a “comprehensive peace” is in the interests of Palestinians, much less all the peoples of the region. They believe that anyone who does think so should be murdered. They are certain that the elimination of Israel, which they do not number among the “peoples of the region” is in everyone’s interest.

I think this is true to a great extent, but I’m a bit more cynical. I think that US officials understand the Palestinian Arabs better than they let on. I believe that much of what appears to be foolish naivete is actually pap for public consumption, masking the consistent US policy — strongly influenced by Saudi Arabia — to shrink Israel to 1949 lines with little regard for the cost to Israel’s security (think about James A. Baker’s business relationship with the Saudis).

These negotiations have very little upside for Israel. They are very unlikely to lead to a peace agreement for the reasons above. And if somehow there were an agreement it, would make the threat of a Hamas takeover and subsequent war greater rather than less. Although the obstacles to peace are primarily on the Palestinian side, efforts will be made — by the Arabs and anti-Israel elements in the US and Europe — to blame Israel, and to force concessions that at best will weaken her, and at worst will get people killed.

Here’s my advice for Israeli negotiators in what is probably a no-win situation: don’t give up anything without getting something in return. When they demand an extension on the freeze on construction east of the armistice line, you demand recognition that Israel is the state of the Jewish people.

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Our next president must be a strategic thinker

Friday, August 20th, 2010

It’s remarkable how bad we are at strategic thinking:

The US strategy was to bring democracy to Iraq and by doing so, inspire democratic revolutions throughout the Arab world.

Although inspiring, it was wrong first and foremost because it was predicated on ignoring one of the basic dictates of strategy. It failed to recognize that there were other forces in the region.

It failed to anticipate that every US move would be countered by an Iranian move. And in failing to recognize this basic strategic truth — even though it has been staring them in the face — the Americans aggressively pursued a strategy that became more and more irrelevant as time went by. — Caroline Glick

I’m not going to analyze the (wrong) decision to go to war in Iraq or the mistakes made afterward. I want to talk about strategic thinking and leadership in general.

There’s a kind of arrogance that often characterizes Western leaders: they think that they are the only actors. In their minds their opponents only absorb whatever is done to them, and don’t have the ability to respond creatively or to anticipate our moves.

Yes, I know that a great deal of energy supposedly goes into thinking about “if we do x, then they will do y, after which we can do z…” etc. But it doesn’t seem to show in practice. The debacle in Iraq is a perfect example. Or take Israel allowing the return of Yasser Arafat in 1993, and its evacuations of South Lebanon in 2000 and Gaza in 2005. What did they think the other side would do?

The problem is that policy in a democracy is made by politicians. By definition they are creatures of appearance rather than reality, of the next election rather than the longer term.

The developing struggle between the West and radical Islam is characterized by an unbalance of forces. We have a huge advantage in brute power. The US military can vaporize anything anywhere in the world on command — think about what a single aircraft carrier can do, even if limited to conventional weapons. On the other hand, the enemy has a different kind of advantage: they are patient (they think in historic terms, not only the next election) and their leaders are strategic thinkers.

Democracies select their leaders by their ability to be attractive to the appropriate coalitions. Dictatorships and terrorist groups vet them through a brutal process of intrigue. It’s only accidental — especially today, when candidates are sold to the public like long-distance carriers — when a US president happens to be capable of strategic thought. On the other hand, you don’t get to be the leader of Iran or al Qaeda — or Russia, for that matter — by being strategically challenged.

Maybe we should require candidates to demonstrate an ability at chess along with public speaking?

On 9/11, I thought: that’s it. Whoever did this is going to find out that they pulled the tail of a gigantic tiger. We are going to tear them up like we did the Nazis and Imperial Japanese.  But that isn’t the way it turned out, and the reason seems to be a failure of leadership — primarily, a failure to think strategically, but not only that.

I am not suggesting that we give up our democratic process in order to produce more effective leaders. We certainly don’t want an Ahmadinejad or a Stalin, regardless of their chess-playing skills (Stalin may or may not have been a strong player, though Soviet citizens were told that he was). But we need to stop electing people for stupid reasons, like ‘I would like to have a beer with this guy’, or ‘it’s time for a black president’.

We are entering a critical period for the West. US leadership will have a decisive effect on the outcome. Here is what I’m looking for in the next president (and may he come speedily in our day):

A sense of history: Middle Easterners — Arabs and Israelis both — are better at this than us.

Strength of character: what JFK learned from the Bay of Pigs: tell the ‘experts’ to go to Hell.

Involvement: think Truman or Nixon. Like them or not, they took the job seriously.

And of course, the ability to play chess better than the Persians, Arabs, Russians and Chinese.

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The BBC breaks out

Thursday, August 19th, 2010

Despite the anti-Israel culture of the BBC, some journalistic blood apparently still flows in their reporter Jane Corbin, who presented a documentary about the Mavi Marmara affair called “Death in the Med” on the Panorama program this week.

Although the program gives far too much exposure to the repulsive American psychopath Ken O’Keefe, the facts of the events that transpired on May 31 are more or less correctly presented. Video of the ‘activists’ cutting up the ship’s rails for weapons, and of course the attack on the soldiers was shown. Near the end, Corbin says,

At the end of the day the bid to break the naval blockade wasn’t really about bringing aid to Gaza. It was a political move designed to put pressure on Israel and the international community. The price was high — nine people died — but the outcry assured that the flotilla achieved its aim: the IHH presented the dead as martyrs for the cause of Gaza.

Heavy stuff for the BBC!

Corbin allows Israeli Gen. Giora Eiland, who led the IDF investigation of the incident, to suggest that the Turkish government was well aware of the violent plans of the ‘activists’. She mentions the UN investigation, but does not draw the reasonable conclusion from the evidence in the program that the Turkish regime should be investigated — and held responsible for the deaths of the nine IHH ‘activists’ as well as the serious injuries to several Israelis.

Although one doesn’t normally congratulate someone for doing their job, the BBC is more like a drug addict that has been screwing his up for some time. It deserves credit for breaking free.

Of course, the usual suspects are absolutely livid. How dare Corbin and the BBC stick up for the Jew Among Nations, whose function is to be beaten bloody (like the naval commandos) for their satisfaction! You can see the comments here (the BBC has removed the usual obscene ones). Although  I didn’t count them, about 90% of them refer to the ‘shocking pro-Israeli bias’ of the show, etc.

O’Keefe, apparently a celebrity in the UK (he would be considered a clear nutcase in the US) plans to demonstrate at the BBC this Sunday.

Here are the two parts of the program, about 15 minutes each, if you care to watch.

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