Archive for November, 2010

J Street calls for imposed map

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010

The main thing to keep in in mind about the phony ‘pro-Israel’ lobby J Street is that it is a creature of the Obama Administration.

So what are we to make of the latest J Street initiative, which appears to call for the US to impose a map on Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA)?

…whether direct talks resume or not, we believe the time has come for American efforts to shift from a heavy focus on getting the parties to decide whether to keep talking – to one that puts fundamental choices squarely before the parties about whether and how to end the conflict.

Therefore, we believe that it is time for the Obama Administration to adopt a “borders and security first” strategy that focuses on delineating a permanent border between Israel and a future state of Palestine, based on 100 percent of the land beyond the 1967 Green Line with one-to-one land swaps, as well as finalizing the necessary security arrangements for a two-state agreement.  Such a strategy should be adopted with or without a 90-day extension of the limited moratorium on settlement construction.

Setting an agreed-upon border would both create positive momentum to address other final status issues and eliminate the issue of settlements as a barrier to continued negotiations, as Israel and the Palestinians would be able to build where they please within their established borders.

Let’s look at what they are asking for:

First, J Street is prepared to give up on the idea of direct talks, which means they realize (correctly) that there is no intersection between Israeli and Arab bottom lines, and that therefore the talks cannot succeed.

This is because the Arab leadership doesn’t accept the existence of any Jewish state, and so the only way to proceed is to keep (more or less) the status quo while helping the Arabs learn that they need new and different leaders. But of course neither J Street nor the administration gets this.

So they are suggesting that the border be delineated now. This is the important part of the proposal (I’ll get to the “security arrangements” later). Once a map has been drawn and somehow given legitimacy, then the argument that the 1949 lines are not borders goes away. One side is Israel, the other becomes Palestine. At this point there would be no obstacle to declaring the Arab state.

One would expect that the land swaps would be defined so as to keep some of the large settlement blocs in Israel. At best, perhaps a hundred thousand Jews would have to leave their homes in what would be ‘Palestine’. Of course, no Arabs will be forced to move, regardless of boundaries. After all, that would be racism [sarcasm alert].

Needless to say, this is a bad outcome for Israel, which loses control of the territory in return for basically nothing: no recognition of Israel as Jewish state, no renunciation of further claims or ‘right of return’, and no end of conflict. Consider also that only about 8,000 Israelis were evacuated from Gaza, and the social repercussions continue today. Multiply that by at least 12. And I haven’t even mentioned Jerusalem, the holy sites, etc.

Although they say that it will create “momentum to address other final status issues” it will do the opposite. Once Israel relinquishes control of the land, the Arabs have no reason to give up anything. What would it get them?

What about the “security arrangements?” Well, this is supposedly what Israel gets. Israel’s concerns about a Gaza-like terror state being established a couple of miles from its international airport can’t be denied. Unlike the Gaza strip, it would be an internationally recognized state which can make treaties and invite foreign armies, etc. So there has to be a way to guarantee Israel’s security, or at least to pretend to do so, once she has been forced to live within indefensible borders.

This is especially true because once the IDF leaves the territories, there will be nothing to prevent a takeover by Hamas (the ‘Palestinian security forces’ will not stand for a day).

So there will be some kind of guarantee, perhaps involving NATO peacekeepers or even Americans. But none of these will be prepared to die for Israel, and either they will be gone after the first large-scale terror attack against them, or they will be as ineffective as UNIFIL is in enforcing the arms blockade against Hizballah.

Understand that the concern for security is lip service. What is important is to create ‘Palestine’. That is the objective of the Obama Administration.

So the interesting question is “why is J Street floating this idea?” Are they announcing the administration’s intent? Or is it just a threat — this is what will happen if we don’t get a freeze?

My guess is that it is actually the position of the administration. The freeze seems to be a non-starter, with the PA refusing to accept it unless it explicitly mentions Jerusalem. Not to mention the fact that the Palestinians have no incentive to restart talks if the alternative — as J Street suggests — is an imposed map!

What I would like Israel to do is agree to the freeze on condition that the Arabs commit in advance that any agreement must include the following:

  • Recognition of Israel as the state of the Jewish people
  • Renunciation of all Arab claims against Israel, including for ‘right of return’
  • Agreement that the treaty marks the end of the conflict

It seems to me that these principles represent the minimum requirements for a treaty that will actually be a peace agreement, and not simply the document of surrender that the Arabs have been demanding. Otherwise, talking about borders is premature.

The Arabs seem to have defined the problem as Israel’s possession of Arab land. Israel needs to take control of the story and bring it back to reality, which is that the problem is Arab aggression against the legitimate state of Israel.

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Worms then and now

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010

Pirkei Avot (Chap. 5, Mishna 8 — h/t Lise):

Ten things were created at twilight on the eve of the first Sabbath:
the mouth of the earth (Numbers 16:32);
the mouth of the well (Numbers 21:16);
the mouth of the ass (Numbers 22:28);
the rainbow;
the manna;
Aaron’s staff;
the Shamir, writing;
the inscription on the tablets of the Ten Commandments;
and the tablets themselves.
Some also include the evil spirits, the grave of Moses, the ram of Abraham; and others add the original tongs, for tongs must be made with tongs.

So what is the Shamir? Rabbi Dovid Rosenfeld explains,

The shamir was a type of worm which produced a highly corrosive substance. The Talmud writes that it was used to hew stones for the Temple’s construction or engrave inscriptions on the stones of the High Priest’s garments (Sotah 48b). It used a force which emanated directly from G-d, and was used in the construction of the Temple — the structure which enabled G-d’s Divine Presence to dwell in the physical world.

Wikipedia provides this additional speculation:

For storage, the Shamir was always wrapped in wool and stored in a container made of lead; any other vessel would burst and disintegrate under the Shamir’s gaze.

The Shamir was either lost or had lost its potency (along with the “dripping of the honeycomb”) by the time of the destruction of the First Temple at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar in 586 B.C.

Noting the conditions under which the Shamir was stored when not in use, controversial theorist Immanuel Velikovsky posited that the Shamir’s true nature was radioactive. Velikovsky hypothesized that the Shamir was a small sample of a naturally occurring radioactive isotope, possibly radium, though he fails to explain how this would cut material.

Worms are in the news today

Iran’s nuclear project is suffering serious technical problems, evidenced by the recent shutdown of hundreds or even thousands of its uranium-enrichment centrifuges. Analysts suggest that the Stuxnet computer worm is the cause. Stuxnet has turned out to be far more sophisticated and targeted than heretofore thought:

Technical analysis shows that Stuxnet contains two different digital warheads that are obviously unrelated. The warheads are considerably different in structure and run on different platforms…

It appears that warhead one and warhead two were deployed in combination as an all-out cyber strike against the Iranian nuclear program. None of the targets, which are detailed below, can be categorized as critical infrastructure; both are dedicated military targets.

Warhead one is running on Siemens S7-315 controllers. It contains the much-quoted DEADFOOT sequence, first discovered by us on Sep 16 2010, where control is temporarily taken away from the legitimate program. Code analysis shows that warhead one manipulates an array of up to 186 high-speed drives attached to up to six Profibus segments. In essence, the manipulation is cycling drive speeds (RPM) between low values and high values. For a gas centrifuge, this will sooner or later result in cracking the rotor, thereby destroying the centrifuge…

Warhead two is running on a Siemens S7-417 controller. It has no obvious relation to warhead one in structure, configuration and timing. The configuration that warhead two is looking for matches that of a steam turbine controller as it is used in power plants, such as the Bushehr nuclear power plant. — Ralph Langner, German software engineer (h/t,Yochanan Visser)

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NY Times comes out against democracy

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010

The NY Times doesn’t even pretend to hide its bias any more:

JERUSALEM — Israel’s right-leaning Parliament approved legislation late Monday that could hamper the leadership’s ability to seal future peace deals with the Palestinians or Syria.

The measure requires that any peace deal involving the ceding of territory annexed by Israel — namely East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights — must be put to a national referendum.

The West Bank, which Israel never annexed, does not fall within the scope of the legislation, but it would include other pieces of sovereign Israeli territory that might be ceded in the context of land swaps in a peace agreement.

East Jerusalem became part of Israel in 1980, with the passage of the Basic Law — Jerusalem. Although the Golan Heights was not actually annexed, Israeli law and administration was extended to it in 1981.

The new law says that if the Knesset approves such a deal by a simple majority but by less than a 2/3 vote, there must be a popular referendum before it can be implemented.

Palestinian Authority negotiator Saeb Erekat is opposed because,

Ending the occupation of our land is not and cannot be dependent on any sort of referendum.

Translation: “It’s mine, give it to me.” We’ve seen this argument before.

Opposition politicians are opposed because, in the words of Kadima leader Tzipi Livni,

It is about decisions that should be taken by the leadership that understands the scale of the problems and is privy to all their aspects… The people are not a substitute for such leadership.

Translation: “We know what’s good for you.” But the history of the ‘peace process’ and the wars that followed showed that they don’t. In the famous words of Barack Obama, “elections have consequences,” and the Israeli electorate expressed their clear belief that the left-wing parties did not have their confidence after the débacles of Oslo and Gaza.

The NY times dislikes the idea, because it might “hamper” the God-given right of the Obama Administration to squeeze Israeli politicians until the blood flows.

You see, the administration’s bullies can threaten the Prime Minister and others in private, with actions that the American people — and Congress — would find repulsive. We’ve seen hints of this already in suggestions that the US might not veto a Security Council resolution establishing a Palestinian state on the basis of the 1949 lines, something that could lead to economic sanctions or even military force against Israel.

A referendum would wreck this strategy. Any threats would have to be public ones.

The Times faithfully reflects administration thinking on this issue, and the attitude toward democracy is telling.

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Logic and peace

Monday, November 22nd, 2010

The mysterious Elder of Ziyon, one of the smartest guys around, has written an excellent article called “The If-Then Fallacy.”

The fallacy consists of inferring that if Israel makes some kind of concession, then the Arabs — and the interested bystanders such as the EU, UN, media, US administration, etc. — will respond positively. Mr. Ziyon gives several examples in which this did not occur, the withdrawal from Gaza being a prominent one.

It was suggested that if Israel would withdraw, then not only would Gaza no longer be Israel’s problem, but Israel would be rewarded diplomatically for taking risks for peace. Israel did withdraw, at great social cost — a price the former residents of the settlements there are still paying. The result was that Hamas stepped up its rocket attacks, bringing about a war for which Israel was blamed (and unfairly vilified). And the world still believes that the Gaza strip is Israel’s responsibility!

The unsound inference made in such if-then propositions depends on a hidden premise: that the Arabs have some positive objective in their relations with Israel like peace, economic development, a Palestinian state, etc. If that were the case, then perhaps Israeli concessions would lead to an improvement in relations.

But this premise is false. Neither the leadership of the Palestinian Arabs — Hamas or Fatah — nor the majority of the ‘Palestinians in the street’ has these things as a primary goal. This is obvious with Hamas, who enjoy publicly saying it, but it is not hidden very deeply by the leaders of Fatah either. Their overriding policy objective is the elimination of Israel and the establishment of Arab control over all the territory presently occupied by it.

This was the objective in 1948, and it was Arafat’s objective. Nothing has changed.

This is why all of the peace processing and all of the initiatives by Israel and the West have been fruitless. This is why the Obama Administration’s plan to create a Palestinian state by pressuring Israel will either fail or will be disastrous for Israel. It is irrational to try to negotiate borders while one party remains committed to the destruction of the other party.

And this is the reason that it is essential that a prospective peace partner be prepared to say, in Arabic as well as English, that Israel is the state of the Jewish people.

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Why I am pro-settler

Sunday, November 21st, 2010

I have something to tell you: I am pro-settler.

OK, you are not surprised. But considering the amount of vitriol poured out every day on settlers and settlements, I thought I needed to explicitly say this.

For example, here is how Naomi Paiss of the putatively pro-Israel New Israel Fund (about which I wrote yesterday) justifies boycotting ‘settlement’ products and artistic activities beyond the Green Line:

The settlements are not in Israel. They represent not “just” a blot on Israel as a just and decent nation, and a terrible danger to its survival, but also the waste of billions of shekels for security, expensive bypass roads, government-subsidized construction and mortgages, and more. Those are shekels that could be used to build a more prosperous and socially just Israel. Refusing products and services made in the settlements, and opposing government expenditures there, is well within the rights of every organization and individual who intends to influence the Israeli government to finally abandon the quixotic and immoral settlement enterprise.

I think even members of the pro-Zionist Left (I think NIF has crossed the line, although they would deny it) more or less share this viewpoint. Here’s a snippet from Rabbi Eric Yoffie of the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ). Keep in mind that Rabbi Yoffie is much closer to the center than Paiss and even some other members of the URJ leadership:

Settlement leaders are idealistic, often brave, and deeply committed to their goals. But what they are fighting for is not the State of Israel, whose urgent political and diplomatic needs they ignore. It is not the citizens of Israel, whose lives and future are endangered by the path that the settlers advocate. And it is not Zionism, which calls for democratic principles that they reject.  What they are fighting for is settlements – which have become their god.

There are lots of threads here. One is that settlements are ‘not Israel’. Another is that they are bad for Israel. Yet another is that they — and by implication, those who live in them — are ‘immoral’.

The source for the ‘not Israel’ theme is the obligatory mantra chanted in every BBC report or NY Times article that mentions settlements, that they are “illegal under international law.” I am not going to present a detailed argument in opposition; it has been done competently with appropriate historical background by Nicholas Rostow here. Rostow gives both sides of the argument, and it’s clear which would prevail before an unbiased judge. Suffice to say that the terms of the mandate gave Jews a right to settle in these areas which has not been revoked; that the armistice lines established in 1949 have never been recognized as permanent borders; and that the fourth Geneva Convention — neither in language nor in intent — does not apply.

So they are legal. Are they ‘bad for Israel’? Yoffie seems to think they are because they are an obstacle to peace. This too, is a tired argument which is easily refuted. Has not Israel dismantled settlements and withdrawn from territory in the name of peace? Has not Israel proposed, at least twice in the last ten years, to withdraw from almost all of Judea and Samaria in return for peace, and have not the Arabs refused these offers, primarily because they did not include a return of ‘refugees’ to  pre-1967 Israel?

A recent poll of Palestinian Arabs has shown that 60% of them view a ‘two-state solution’ as a stepping stone to the replacement of Israel with an Arab state, 58% believe that “now is a time for armed struggle”, only 23% believe that Israel has a permanent right to exist, and 66% believe that “over time Palestinians must work to get back all the land for a Palestinian state.” Perhaps we are looking for obstacles to peace in the wrong place?

Although Paiss and Yoffie call settlements ‘dangerous’, the evacuation thereof without a true peace partner would be much more dangerous to security, as the withdrawal from Gaza illustrated.

It may be that what most of those who say that settlements are dangerous mean is that permanent possession of the territories would either make Israel ultimately become an Arab state or lose its democratic character.  But there are lots of possible solutions to this problem, whereas there’s no solution besides war to a terror state next door to the most populous part of Israel.

So finally, they are left with the ‘immorality’. That might mean that they think it’s ‘Palestinian land’ that the settlers have ‘stolen’. Which is mostly nonsense, since almost all settlements are built on state or purchased land, the armistice lines aren’t borders, etc. Naturally, the Arabs claim that everything is theirs and it was all stolen, but that goes for Tel Aviv, too.

Another reason settlers might be ‘immoral’ is that they “deny the Palestinian Arabs dignity and self-determination.” But they don’t — they simply want to live in peace in the historic Jewish homeland, alongside the Arabs, who have been trying to murder them for at least a hundred years, whose leaders refused every offer of partition or compromise. In fact the Arab struggle against Jewish self-determination is the initial cause of the conflict and what sustains it.

Historically, whenever the Arabs had the upper hand, they massacred Jews (as in Hebron in 1929 or Gush Etzion in 1948) or drove them out (the Old City in 1948). The Jordanians made stables out of synagogues and latrines out of Jewish gravestones. Who is trying to deny what to whom?

According to Yoffie, settlers can’t be Zionists because they reject democracy. Should they embrace ‘democracy’ in the form of giving up their own rights, accepting the rule of the Arabs whose heartfelt desire is to kill them or kick them out of the land of Israel? That wouldn’t be very Zionistic, would it?

The anti-settler people would probably say that I’m a racist, just like the settlers. But who denies Jews the right to live in the area “they want for their future state?”  Who has decreed a death penalty for those who sell land to Jews? Who does drive-by shootings on the roads (hence the ‘bypass roads Paiss criticizes), and who stones Jewish vehicles and tries to lynch their occupants? Who broadcasts anti-Semitic propaganda in their official media?

Who are the racists here?

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