BigMo’s Blog

Politics and Economics in Israel

Terrorism: by the Numbers

Recently, several high-ranking US military officials have made statements suggesting that the safety of US forces stationed throughout the Middle East is contingent on the successful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Terrorism throughout the region, according to them, is directly correlated to this conflict.

However, international statistics and the trend of international statistics does not support this viewpoint.

In January 2010, there were 37 reported terrorist attacks or attempted attacks in the world. Of these, 27 attacks involved Muslims killing other Muslims or Muslims killing non-Muslims. That is to say, 72% of all terrorism involved Muslims as the primary belligerent, and almost as often, as the primary victim. No Israelis and no Jews were killed.

In February 2010, there were 39 reported terrorist attacks or attempted attacks in the world. Of these, 35 attacks involved Muslims killing other Muslims or Muslims killing non-Muslims. That is to say, 89% of all terrorism involved Muslims as the primary belligerent, and almost as often, as the primary victim. One non-Jewish Israeli was killed.

In March 2010, there were 43 reported terrorist attacks or attempted attacks in the world. Of these, 37 attacks involved Muslims killing other Muslims or Muslims killing non-Muslims. That is to say, 86% of all terrorism involved Muslims as the primary belligerent, and almost as often, as the primary victim. Two Israelis and one citizen of Thailand were killed by terrorist acts against Israel during this period.

In April 2010, there have been 69 reported terrorist attacks or attempted attacks in the world. Of these, 46 attacks involved Muslims killing other Muslims or Muslims killing non-Muslims. That is to say, 66% of all terrorism involved Muslims as the primary belligerent, and almost as often, as the primary victim. No Israelis and no Jews were killed.

Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan accounted for 107 of the 188 reported acts of terrorism during this time period. And let us not forget, there are still four more days remaining in the current month. By a strange coincidence, the United States has occupation troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, and uses Pakistan as a supply corridor to Afghanistan. The United States has also involved itself in shoring up the Pakistan’s beleaguered government in its internal war against Muslim extremists. Countries in which the US has advisers and combat forces averaged 27 terrorist attacks per month, accounting for 57% of all terrorist attacks.

From these numbers, one can easily conclude two things: Muslims account for 77% of all reported terrorist attacks (we’ll get back to this in a moment), and Muslims attack countries supported by the United States or occupied by the United States 37 times more than they attack Israel. And it is most likely that these numbers are under-reported! In this study, “state-sponsored” terrorism is not included. Thus, when Syria assassinates a Lebanese politician, it doesn’t count.

A third thing one might conclude is that US generals don’t know squat about terrorism. Neither does their Commander-in-Chief.

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April 26, 2010 Posted by | Israel, Middle East | Leave a comment

A Turning Point?

Rehovot, Israel
25 March 2010

We have reached a turning point, perhaps even a parting of the ways. We do not need to mince words in a vain attempt to curry favor, be politically correct or excuse our actions. We need to act deliberately and decisively to secure our homeland, the land that our forefathers built, our birthright.
America has been our ally for over forty years. Now, she is spiritually, morally and economically fatigued. America is also unreliable.

There are many root causes of this spiritual, moral and economic decay – too many to explicate in detail. Of course, as America’s ally, it is our duty to point out that our once-great friend has fallen on hard times. Of course, it is our duty to try and help as best we can. However, one does not buy an alcoholic a drink on the promise that he will stop drinking tomorrow. One does not buy a junkie a fix on the promise that he will stop abusing drugs tomorrow.

The years after World War II were supposed to be the “American Century.” This “century” only lasted thirty years, America’s empire crumbling with the defeat in Vietnam. President Ronald Reagan tried – and to a large measure succeeded – to restore America’s legacy as the leader of the Free World and Western Civilization. However, his victory was squandered in the excesses of the presidency of Bill Clinton. Interestingly enough, it is the former president’s wife who now helps chart the course for another president bent on squandering America’s influence and power.

President George W. Bush awoke reaped the whorl-wind of American blindness and excess on September 11, 2001. He spent seven years rebuilding the walls, repelling the barbarians and re-establishing America’s military predominance. However, this was not enough. Americans grew weary of the struggle and longed for the go-go years of Bill Clinton when everything – everything – was for sale.

Barack Obama was elected on a campaign of hope and change. Hope for a better future and the willingness to make the changes to secure that future. However, if the last year has proven anything, it is that this hope does not extend to Israel and that any change is only for the worse. America’s interests are self-serving and demand too many sacrifices of others.

Israel must sacrifice defensible borders to an enemy that daily pronounces its intent to destroy her. Israel must ignore provocations and the preparations of her enemies. Israel must surrender her capital, our Holy City of Jerusalem, to the same enemy that barred us from our Holy Sites for centuries, burned our Houses of Worship and desecrated the tombs of our Honored Dead.

All this is being asked of Israel, so that America can retreat from Afghanistan and Iraq in relative ease. All this is being asked of Israel, so that America can borrow enough money for its shattered healthcare system. All this is being asked of Israel, so that Barack Obama can secure his legacy as the man who betrayed an ally to its enemies. Yes, we have reached a turning point.

We must prepare ourselves to defend and secure what is rightfully ours, and by whatever means necessary.  Israel is Jerusalem, and Jerusalem is all of Israel.  The words that Jabotinsky wrote over 80 years ago are as alive and pertinent today as they were then:”The Torah and sword were both handed down to us from heaven.”

March 26, 2010 Posted by | Israel, Obama | Leave a comment

It’s all in the timing

Rehovot, Israel
21 March 2010

So much in life is about timing. Five minutes can make the difference between catching the bus and making it to work on time or missing the bus and having to endure the wrath of an irate boss. A one-week vacation can be a welcome respite from work (and the aforementioned irate boss). Three months, well, what can one expect from three months?

For the next three months, Israel can expect to endure a publicly televised and coordinated policy assault from the Obama administration in Washington. Forty years of American policy in the Middle East will be thrown overboard – along with Israel’s security – in order for the Obama administration to achieve its ill-conceived foreign policy objectives. Why three months?

After the American July 4th celebrations, campaigning for the mid-term congressional elections will hit full stride. At stake is the Democratic Party’s on-going control of the House of Representatives and Senate. While the Democrats are almost ensured of retaining a majority in the House, the Senate may be up for grabs.

If the Senate falls into Republican hands, the first two years of President Obama’s administration will end with scant few accomplishments. Despite having controlled both the White House and Congress, Obama will have precious little to show for it, except a still floundering economy and a bevy of dictators contemptuous of America’s resolve. Commentators and pundits will begin to write him off as a lame-duck, a “one-term wunderkind.”

President Obama can expect no help on the economic front. The US economy will not suddenly begin creating 500,000 per month. Housing prices will not recover their pre-depression values. The stock market may rally, but it must essentially climb 50% just for the average investor to get back to where he stood two years ago. China will not reverse its currency policy and cheap goods subsidized by the Communist regime will continue flooding into American stores, thus sending dollars overseas and draining American industries.

President Obama can expect no foreign policy dividends either. The American body count in Afghanistan will continue to rise. Iraq has reached equilibrium of sorts, sectarian violence only claiming a hundred lives or so every week. Iran has, as expected, skillfully eluded Obama’s grasp. There are no objectives in Africa, Asia, Europe or South America that would fire American voters with a sense of accomplishment. Only the Israeli-Palestinian conflict holds such “promise.”

This is why Obama must push it as much as possible.

However, by July 4th the President Obama will be called upon by his party to deliver the votes – and the more important dollars – that the congressional campaigns require. This will require the president to withdraw from foreign policy and concentrate on domestic policy. Certainly, in districts in Baltimore and Detroit, Florida and California, New York City and Philadelphia, the president and his minions will raise the Middle East in order to wring money out of Arab and Jewish voters.

He must not be allowed to succeed! Here is what you can do.

1. Register to vote: either as an independent or a republican.
2. Contribute what you can – be it financially or otherwise – to non-Democratic Party candidates.
3. Make your voice heard for those candidates: bumper stickers, signs in front yards, editorials to newspapers, write your own blog supporting the candidate, call into radio talk shows.
4. In November, get out and vote! Get your siblings, parents and children of voting age to the polls. Get your neighbors and co-workers to the polls.

Every day Hamas and the Palestinian Authority utter the most despicable anti-Semitic lies since Adolf Hitler. Neither President Obama nor his Jewish capos, David Axelrod and Rahm Emanuel, react.

Every day Hamas and the Palestinian Authority inculcate school children with hatred towards Israel and the Jewish People. There is no censure, no protest from Washington.

Every day, the Israel Defense Forces uncovers and foils another terrorist attack. President Obama does not object to Palestinian terror directed at Israel or the Jewish People.

All it takes for evil to succeed is for people of good character to sit idly by and do nothing. Act!

March 21, 2010 Posted by | Israel, Middle East, Obama | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Who’s the bigger idiot?

Joe Klein recently interviewed President Barack Hussein Obama for Time Magazine.  Klein’s softball questions and lack of follow-up questions, challenging this soon-to-be one-term wonder, left me asking a simple question: Who the bigger idiot?

It is Klein, who allows himself to be used? Is it Time, for publishing such drivel? Is it Obama, who ladles out this self-serving drivel? Or it the people who will, inevitably, vote for him again?  Here it is, word for word.

Klein: My sense of it is that [U.S. special envoy to the Middle East George] Mitchell spent a number of months negotiating a settlement deal and saw some progress from the Israelis and kind of got blinded by that, because he didn’t see that it wasn’t sufficient progress for the Palestinians.

Obama: I’ll be honest with you. A) This is just really hard. Even for a guy like George Mitchell, who helped bring about the peace in Northern Ireland. This is as intractable a problem as you get. B) Both sides — the Israelis and the Palestinians — have found that the political environment, the nature of their coalitions or the divisions within their societies, were such that it was very hard for them to start engaging in a meaningful conversation. And I think that we overestimated our ability to persuade them to do so when their politics ran contrary to that. From [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud] Abbas’ perspective, he’s got Hamas looking over his shoulder and, I think, an environment generally within the Arab world that feels impatient with any process.

And on the Israeli front — although the Israelis, I think, after a lot of time showed a willingness to make some modifications in their policies, they still found it very hard to move with any bold gestures. And so what we’re going to have to do — I think it is absolutely true that what we did this year didn’t produce the kind of breakthrough that we wanted, and if we had anticipated some of these political problems on both sides earlier, we might not have raised expectations as high. Moving forward, though, we are going to continue to work with both parties to recognize what I think is ultimately their deep-seated interest in a two-state solution in which Israel is secure and the Palestinians have sovereignty and can start focusing on developing their economy and improving the lives of their children and grandchildren.

BigMo: Wow! The Middle East is really hard! What is this, a 6th grade geography test? Europe was a snap, but the Middle East? Wow, man, it was really hard . . . SuperBama had fifteen months on the campaign trail to brush up on the capitals, major rivers, etc., but it is really hard.

BigMo: “if we had anticipated some of these political problems . . . ” isn’t that kind of like, well, the job of the president and his staff? SuperBama took office almost a full three months before Binyamin Netahahu’s coalition was formed. That should have been more than ample time to get a subscription to the Jerusalem Post – or read a cable from the ambassador in Tel Aviv.  Of course, when you spend all your time mugging for the cameras, who has time to read?

January 24, 2010 Posted by | Israel, Middle East, Obama, Palestine | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Moral Relativism, Redux

Here we go again!
The Goldstone Report on the Israel’s actions in Operation Cast Lead have cast a serious pall over the country’s image.  There are numerous controversies during this short, but intense conflict.  There was the number of “civilian” casualties (for some reason, most terrorists don’t like to be identified by wearing uniforms), the “wanton” destruction of “mosques” (which doubled as weapon depots) and civilian property (which also served as Hamas’ bases) and the alleged targeting of UNWRA installations (also used by Hamas as staging areas for attacks).

In a perfect world there would be no war.  However, as we all know, we live in a less than perfect world.  There are conflicts. When faced with the necessity to take up arms and defend one’s home, family and way of life, does one toss his or her moral code aside and do “whatever necessary” to win?  No, this would diminish to a degree the value of those things for which one is fighting. However, Israel actually raised the moral bar in how such a conflict should be conducted – America and Russia should take note.

Not that Robert Goldstone recognized this.  No, his report is one-sided, filled with lies, half-truths and omissions.  It is part and parcel of the Islamic fundamentalist propaganda campaign.  It should be lumped in with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s denials of the Holocaust; the “Zionism is Racism” slur perpetrated by the PLO and Soviet Union; and the Crusader blood libels.

What should we expect?
What should we expect from the men and women we’ve asked to defend us? Can their officers possibly describe to them every situation they might encounter on the battlefield and how to act? Can we expect a young man, who has been trained to act with deadly force, to reflect on the potential morality of every order at the risk of his own life? Actually, Israel does ask this of its soldiers!

We expect the political echelon to formulate clear and well thought-out policies. We expect the general staff to see to prepare and plan. We expect officers to lead their men courageously. We expect them to win. And yes, we expect them to act in the spirit of the moral values which we have asked them to defend. However, there are limitations to this, especially when fighting a barbaric, cruel enemy.

In the midst of battle, we cannot ask an infantry platoon to act as if they are freshmen philosophy students.  An army must fulfill its basic functions.  Or the enemy’s army will fulfill its basic functions and we will be the worse-off for it.  Western societies have come to view every field of human endeavor as one in which all players should have an equal chance to win.  However, war is a zero-sum game: there must be a loser.  I’m glad it was Hamas!

It’s all just a matter of opinion, isn’t it?
Moral relativism is the viewpoint that moral judgment regarding a person’s behavior depend on whether the person believes his actions to be right or wrong.  This view is commonly expressed as “there is no right or wrong, it’s all only a matter of opinion.”  Acceptance of this view is tantamount to saying that morality has no validity.  Taken to its obvious conclusion, there is nothing objectively wrong with one person torturing and killing another, as long as the individual committing these acts sincerely believes that they are not wrong.

“Cultural relativism,” is the view that moral judgments and rules reflect the cultural context from which they are derived and cannot be applied to other cultures or societies. Some who hold this view are skeptical about even the possibility of saying that slavery is wrong in a slave-holding society! Let’s give this a modern spin.

If I am born and raised in a culture that accepts strapping dynamite to my chest and blowing myself up in a supermarket as a legitimate method of protest, then this act cannot be condemned from a moral viewpoint.  It is part of my culture, and you as an outsider have no moral grounds to condemn my act.

The Price of Tea in China
So, what has all this to do with the price of tea in China? This: moral relativism is a weapon that wounds twice.  First, the person or group subjected to the attack is injured.  Second, the moral relativists – the apologists who often sit safely ensconced in university campuses, television studios and trendy coffee houses – demean and dishonor the victims and their own society.

The vast majority of the IDF acted with great restraint.  Enemy wounded received medical treatment.  There were many instances of soldiers risking their lives to remove women and children from harm’s way.  Many times soldiers held their fire, attempting to ascertain who or what was in a building, and in the process exposing themselves to danger.

Hamas is a terrorist organization with no interest in peace with Israel.  It could easily proclaim its willingness to abide by the agreements that the Palestinian Authority (PA) signed with Israel.  It could easily stop shelling Israeli towns and cities.  It could easily acknowledge Israel’s right to exist. Hamas does none of these things.

Hamas smuggles weapons and ammunition into Gaza, in contravention of past Israeli-PA agreements and flouting international law.   It does so brazenly, offering reporters tours of tunnel digging and smuggling operations. It fires missiles and mortar shells at Israeli towns.  Hamas members dress their children in suicide bomber “costumes.”  It sends the mentally impaired to infiltrate Israel wearing suicide belts – murder belts, actually.  During Operation Cast Lead, missiles were stored in schools, weapons fire was directed from the minarets of mosques and attacks were launched from schools and hospitals.

This is their “culture,” their “moral code.”

October 5, 2009 Posted by | Israel, Middle East, Palestine | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Taking the Diplomatic Offensive

In military affairs, Israel has always succeeded when it takes the offensive.  It is time for Israel to take the offensive diplomatically. According to reports in the media, Israel is about to pull-out of the northern part of Ghajar and UNIFIL will police the town. Handing the town over to the UN is a poor choice when there is a much better option available. Israel should make an offer – very publicly – to cede southern Ghajar in exchange for Lebanon dropping its claims to Shebaa Farms.

The citizens of Ghajar will be given a choice: become Lebanese citizens or remain Israeli citizens. Those choosing to become Lebanese, would exchange their Israeli identity cards for Lebanese-issued ones. Those choosing to remain Israeli citizens would be offered a relocation package similar to those received by settlers in Gaza. A “national service” component could be added for the hard work of building a new community.

There are several arguments against taking this diplomatic initiative. Detractors will point out that Iran and Syria are likely to do everything in their power to prevent such a deal from ever occurring, let alone being given a serious hearing. Resolving the Ghajar / Shebaa Farms issue would eliminate all of Hezbollah’s claims as “protector of Lebanon.” Weaken Hezbollah weakens Iran and Syria. And weakening Iran and Syria further weakens Hezbollah.

However, both the current regime in Teheran and its Hizbullah proxies are in a certain degree of disarray due to elections in both countries. Have the internal protests and power-struggles weakened the regime? Absolutely not. Have the caused it to focus its attention inward? Absolutely, yes. Furthermore, with the Obama administration pressing Teheran to enter into negotiations over its nuclear program, now would be the wrong time for Ahmadinejad to stir-up trouble in Lebanon.

Syria is engaged in a slow, step-by-step process of re-engagement with the West. There has been a constant stream of European and American diplomats in and out of Damascus. The message to Assad has been clear: Iran or us. His country is impoverished and isolated from other Arab states. Allowing Lebanon to negotiate with Israel would, on the one hand, further isolate his regime. On the other hand, Assad would likely claim – and Washington would like deliver – substantial diplomatic, economic and political benefits if Syria were to take a benign role.

Detractors will also say that no Arab government will be willing to cede any land to Israel, period. They might be right. If they are, wouldn’t it be to Israel’s advantage to point this out now, over a square miles of valueless real estate, rather than get embroiled with the Palestinians? A Lebanese refusal would put those exerting pressure on Israel to make compromises elsewhere into an embarrassing position.

A third argument against doing this is the potential of the residents of Ghajar voting en masse to become Lebanese citizens. Polling in Israel over the last five years has shown an increasing number of Arab citizens do not want to live with Jews (and vice versa). This would certainly be a black eye for Israel, at a time when it is least needed. On the other hand, what if they decided to stay? Wouldn’t this be an equal or greater black eye for Arab nationalists and Islamists?

It is a long shot. However, it has enormous potential and very little downside risk. Obtaining a Lebanese concession on the Shebaa Farms area, aka, Har Dov, gives Israel a key route into the Golan and will bolster Israel’s bargaining position vis-à-vis Syria. Finally, the process of could conceivably serve as a template for the re-alignment of borders in the West Bank / Judea & Samaria. It’s time for Israel to take the diplomatic offensive!

August 7, 2009 Posted by | Israel, Middle East | , , , | Leave a comment

Unintended Consequences

President Obama would do well to take a step back from his six-month policy of pressuring Israel to make unwarranted concessions and consider the “Law of Unintended Consequences.” After little more than a half-year in office, the US has better relations with almost every country in the world, except the one that has been its most faithful ally for the past forty years – Israel. That is not to say that his policies have borne fruit everywhere: Afghanistan, Iran, North Korea and Venezuela continue to be thorns in the American side.

Meanwhile, his administration’s unrelenting pressure on Israel is leading to the formation of a grand coalition of conservative and right-wing political parties. There is an increasing movement within the right-wing of the Kadima part to split and join Likud, bringing with them 7 – 9 mandates in the Knesset. Likewise, about one-third of the practically defunct Labor party, led by Defense Minister Ehud Barak, is growing increasingly alienated from party activists and second-tier leaders.

If these factions were to join with Likud, this new entity would have between 37 and 39 mandates in the Knesset. Furthermore, a coalescence of the center-right conceivably opens the door for the two settler-dominated parties with their seven mandates to join a future coalition, creating a center-right bloc of 44 to 46 seats. This would allow it to resist some of the more extreme demands from Aguda, Shas and Israel Beitanu; it may even allow for the dismissal of one of these parties from the current coalition.

This is the “nightmare scenario” for Barack Obama, a truly right-wing government in Israel with a solid parliamentary majority.  Obama’s  administration was pushing for a Kadima-led government before ballots were even cast in Israel back in February. How did this situation come about? It is the Law of Unintended Consequences in action.

In the waning days of the Bush 43 administration, erstwhile Kadima leader Tzipi Livni was treated with more pomp-and-circumstance than a lame-duck foreign minister with meager accomplishments deserved. Meaningless treaties between the US and Israel vowing to combat terrorism and weapons smuggling were signed. These treaties did not stop one katyusha rocket from being smuggled or launched at Israel. These facts were not lost on the Israeli public.

When Barack Obama was sworn in as his country’s forty-fourth president, his administration very publicly began to brow-beat Israel, in the midst of its own general election. Their favorable disposition to the untried and untested Livni was made clear to all. The left-leaning broadcast media in Israel, as well as the left-leaning newspaper were full of dire predictions regarding the consequences of a Netanyahu-led government. These facts were not lost on the Israeli public.

What was the result? The Israeli public overwhelmingly voted for center-right and right-wing parties, handing the center-left and left-wing one of their worst defeats since Menachem Begin’s 1977 triumph.

As pointed out by numerous commentators in Israel, and now increasingly in the US, Obama’s next mistake was to unilaterally abrogate past “gentleman’s agreements” between the US and Israel on settlements, and make US opposition to settlements the salient feature of his new foreign policy.

As Daniel Pipes has shrewdly observed, this was combined with an approach that attempted to neutralize domestic support for Israel in the US. So far, this has generated few dividends. Obama has failed to deliver on both Iran and a more conciliatory Palestinian Authority. This, combined with the pressure on Israel, is starting to erode his own domestic support among the American Jewish community.

Will the Likud successfully split the Kadima and Labor parties? It is more likely to happen with Kadima, which unlike all other Israeli parties has no ideological, ethnic or religious platform. Many see it as being led by opportunists. Furthermore, it has yet to establish a coherent program that it can promote in contrast to Likud policies.

Yet, Israeli politics are among the most dynamic and ideologically based in the world, and what is certain is that there will be several more twists and turns before the final act is played out.

August 4, 2009 Posted by | Israel, Middle East | , , , | Leave a comment

A Third Intifada?

August 4, Fatah – the ruling faction within the Palestinian Authority, opened its sixth party general assembly. Let’s ignore the fact that this is only the sixth general assembly in its 45-year history. Let’s ignore the fact that arcane and arbitrary rule-making muzzle many of its younger members. Instead, let’s just take a look at a couple of quotes from today’s opening session.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas condemned Hamas, calling the group “revolutionaries” and “men of darkness.” Yet, sixteen years after the Oslo Accords, nine years after the second Intifada and three years after losing control of Gaza to Hamas, the Palestinian Authority itself continues to act as a revolutionary organization plotting a coup d’état in a basement.

Senior Fatah official Jibril Rajoub said his organization will never abandon the option of armed struggle. “Resistance was and is a tactical and strategic option of the struggle are part of Fatah’s policy” which Israel must acknowledge

The Palestinian Authority – which to all intents and purposes means Fatah – refuses to mature into a government capable of handling even basic services as trash collection. Of course, if it did manage to effectively deal with something as “complex” as the collecting garbage on a regular basis, the PA would have a serious problem on its hands. Palestinians might actually expect them to deliver on an entire myriad of problems that the PA has been ignoring for years. Problems that have no connection to their self-continued conflict with Israel.

Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz responded to early reports on Sunday that the Fatah would update its political platform against recognizing Israel as the Jewish state during its general assembly. “The draft version for Fatah’s meeting is a declaration of war against Israel,” Katz said during a Likud ministers’ discussion ahead of the weekly cabinet meeting. “Fatah’s unwillingness to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, the demand for a withdrawal to the 1967 borders and a complete right of return for Palestinian refugees is tantamount to wiping out the State of Israel from existence.”

Former Shin Bet chief, current Knesset Member, Avi Dichter (Kadima) echoed his comments Monday night. “Fatah’s statements are clearing the way to what may eventually be the third intifada. Once you say that the fight will go on by all means necessary – anyone in their right mind understands that spells an armed conflict. Such a decision by the congress would send us years back.”

Dichter also addressed reports suggesting Fatah may reaffirm and update sections of its charter, particularly those objecting to any recognition of Israel as the Jewish homeland. “It is very clear, even now, that the Palestinians have no intention of missing an opportunity – to miss an opportunity,” he said. If the Palestinians have a cardinal rule, this is it.

If Operation Cast Lead proved anything, it is that the Israel Defense Forces is more than capable of handling the Palestinians. Bluff and bravado are no match for skill and determination. A Netanyahu government is also more likely to prosecute such a military action to its logical conclusion, unlike the craven former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

August 4, 2009 Posted by | Israel, Middle East, Palestine | , | Leave a comment

Is America’s de facto Alliance with Israel over?

In the early 1960s, then US President John F. Kennedy sold Israel its first modern, American-made weapon system. The Hawk anti-aircraft missiles were a defensive system, so Kennedy could credibly argue that he was restoring the balance of power among the players in the region. So it began.

Right up to the Six Day War, Israel had a marriage of convenience with France. France badly needed allies in its failing attempt to hold onto its overseas empire. It was slowly stripped of the Suez Canal, then Algeria (with Indochina falling in between, although that had little to do with Israel). Rather, the relationship with Israel was one way of punishing Arab nationalists for humiliating France.

After the Six Day War, America realized that there was a democratic, West-leaning country with a superb military in a strategic location. Add some domestic support from a coalition of Jewish Americans, Christian Conservatives and WWII vets who saw the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps first hand and, presto chango: Allies!

Fast forward 40 years.  America has won the Cold War – indeed with steadfast support from Israel in the UN, and at times, in places where Americans would have stood out and been noticed.  Israel “field-tested” numerous American wepaons system and made them better, increasing the appeal of American technology to countries sitting on the ideological fence.  Israeli technology created much of how the Internet works – an Internet that was the central nervous system of the telecommunications revolution of the last twenty years.

However, the USSR is gone.  AWACS, F15s and Smart bombs are of limited use against a sniper hiding in a mosque or a young man willing to strap 20 pounds of TNT to his chest.  Technology has diffused around the globe.  And the current Administration in Washington, D.C., is re-calibrating its relationship with Israel.

An Israel that is at odds with its Arab neighbors who supply America with its oil.  An Israel that finds the same difficulty fighting the sniper and the young suicide bomber with its American-made weapons.  An Israel whose technological prowess now routinely butts heads with American corporate interests.  An Israel, which though part of the liberal democratic tradition, looks increasingly Jewish and increasingly different from America – regardless of how “American” Israelis want to be.

June 29, 2009 Posted by | Israel, Middle East | | Leave a comment

PM Netanyahu’s Speech – Official Translation

Honored guests,

Citizens of Israel.

Peace has always been our people’s most ardent desire. Our prophets gave the world the vision of peace, we greet one another with wishes of peace, and our prayers conclude with the word peace.

We are gathered this evening in an institution named for two pioneers of peace, Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat, and we share in their vision.

Two and half months ago, I took the oath of office as the Prime Minister of Israel. I pledged to establish a national unity government – and I did. I believed and I still believe that unity was essential for us now more than ever as we face three immense challenges – the Iranian threat, the economic crisis, and the advancement of peace.

The Iranian threat looms large before us, as was further demonstrated yesterday. The greatest danger confronting Israel, the Middle East, the entire world and human race, is the nexus between radical Islam and nuclear weapons. I discussed this issue with President Obama during my recent visit to Washington, and I will raise it again in my meetings next week with European leaders. For years, I have been working tirelessly to forge an international alliance to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

Confronting a global economic crisis, the government acted swiftly to stabilize Israel’s economy. We passed a two year budget in the government – and the Knesset will soon approve it.

And the third challenge, so exceedingly important, is the advancement of peace. I also spoke about this with President Obama, and I fully support the idea of a regional peace that he is leading.

I share the President’s desire to bring about a new era of reconciliation in our region. To this end, I met with President Mubarak in Egypt, and King Abdullah in Jordan, to elicit the support of these leaders in expanding the circle of peace in our region.

I turn to all Arab leaders tonight and I say: “Let us meet. Let us speak of peace and let us make peace. I am ready to meet with you at any time. I am willing to go to Damascus, to Riyadh, to Beirut, to any place- including Jerusalem.

I call on the Arab countries to cooperate with the Palestinians and with us to advance an economic peace. An economic peace is not a substitute for a political peace, but an important element to achieving it. Together, we can undertake projects to overcome the scarcities of our region, like water desalination or to maximize its advantages, like developing solar energy, or laying gas and petroleum lines, and transportation links between Asia, Africa and Europe.

The economic success of the Gulf States has impressed us all and it has impressed me. I call on the talented entrepreneurs of the Arab world to come and invest here and to assist the Palestinians – and us – in spurring the economy.

Together, we can develop industrial areas that will generate thousands of jobs and create tourist sites that will attract millions of visitors eager to walk in the footsteps of history – in Nazareth and in Bethlehem, around the walls of Jericho and the walls of Jerusalem, on the banks of the Sea of Galilee and the baptismal site of the Jordan.

There is an enormous potential for archeological tourism, if we can only learn to cooperate and to develop it.

I turn to you, our Palestinian neighbors, led by the Palestinian Authority, and I say: Let’s begin
negotiations immediately without preconditions.

Israel is obligated by its international commitments and expects all parties to keep their commitments.

We want to live with you in peace, as good neighbors. We want our children and your children to never again experience war: that parents, brothers and sisters will never again know the agony of losing loved ones in battle; that our children will be able to dream of a better future and realize that dream; and that together we will invest our energies in plowshares and pruning hooks, not swords and spears.

I know the face of war. I have experienced battle. I lost close friends, I lost a brother. I have seen the pain of bereaved families. I do not want war. No one in Israel wants war.

If we join hands and work together for peace, there is no limit to the development and prosperity we can achieve for our two peoples – in the economy, agriculture, trade, tourism and education – most importantly, in providing our youth a better world in which to live, a life full of tranquility, creativity, opportunity and hope.

If the advantages of peace are so evident, we must ask ourselves why peace remains so remote, even as our hand remains outstretched to peace? Why has this conflict continued for more than sixty years?

In order to bring an end to the conflict, we must give an honest and forthright answer to the question: What is the root of the conflict?

In his speech to the first Zionist Conference in Basel, the founder of the Zionist movement, Theodore Herzl, said about the Jewish national home “This idea is so big that we must speak of it only in the simplest terms.” Today, I will speak about the immense challenge of peace in the simplest words possible.

Even as we look toward the horizon, we must be firmly connected to reality, to the truth. And the simple truth is that the root of the conflict was, and remains, the refusal to recognize the right of the Jewish people to a state of their own, in their historic homeland.

In 1947, when the United Nations proposed the partition plan of a Jewish state and an Arab state, the entire Arab world rejected the resolution. The Jewish community, by contrast, welcomed it by dancing and rejoicing.

The Arabs rejected any Jewish state, in any borders.

Those who think that the continued enmity toward Israel is a product of our presence in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, is confusing cause and consequence.

The attacks against us began in the 1920s, escalated into a comprehensive attack in 1948 with the declaration of Israel’s independence, continued with the fedayeen attacks in the 1950s, and climaxed in 1967, on the eve of the six-day war, in an attempt to tighten a noose around the neck of the State of Israel.

All this occurred during the fifty years before a single Israeli soldier ever set foot in Judea and Samaria .

Fortunately, Egypt and Jordan left this circle of enmity. The signing of peace treaties have brought about an end to their claims against Israel, an end to the conflict. But to our regret, this is not the case with the Palestinians. The closer we get to an agreement with them, the further they retreat and raise demands that are inconsistent with a true desire to end the conflict.

Many good people have told us that withdrawal from territories is the key to peace with the Palestinians. Well, we withdrew. But the fact is that every withdrawal was met with massive waves of terror, by suicide bombers and thousands of missiles.

We tried to withdraw with an agreement and without an agreement. We tried a partial withdrawal and a full withdrawal. In 2000 and again last year, Israel proposed an almost total withdrawal in exchange for an end to the conflict, and twice our offers were rejected.

We evacuated every last inch of the Gaza strip, we uprooted tens of settlements and evicted thousands of Israelis from their homes, and in response, we received a hail of missiles on our cities, towns and children.

The claim that territorial withdrawals will bring peace with the Palestinians, or at least advance peace, has up till now not stood the test of reality.

In addition to this, Hamas in the south, like Hezbollah in the north, repeatedly proclaims their commitment to “liberate” the Israeli cities of Ashkelon, Beersheba, Acre and Haifa.

Territorial withdrawals have not lessened the hatred, and to our regret, Palestinian moderates are not yet ready to say the simple words: Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people, and it will stay that way.

Achieving peace will require courage and candor from both sides, and not only from the Israeli side.

The Palestinian leadership must arise and say: “Enough of this conflict. We recognize the right of the Jewish people to a state of their own in this land, and we are prepared to live beside you in true peace.”

I am yearning for that moment, for when Palestinian leaders say those words to our people and to their people, then a path will be opened to resolving all the problems between our peoples, no matter how complex they may be.

Therefore, a fundamental prerequisite for ending the conflict is a public, binding and unequivocal Palestinian recognition of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people.

To vest this declaration with practical meaning, there must also be a clear understanding that the Palestinian refugee problem will be resolved outside Israel’s borders. For it is clear that any demand for resettling Palestinian refugees within Israel undermines Israel’s continued existence as the state of the Jewish people.

The Palestinian refugee problem must be solved, and it can be solved, as we ourselves proved in a similar situation. Tiny Israel successfully absorbed tens of thousands of Jewish refugees who left their homes and belongings in Arab countries.

Therefore, justice and logic demand that the Palestinian refugee problem be solved outside Israel’s borders. On this point, there is a broad national consensus. I believe that with goodwill and international investment, this humanitarian problem can be permanently resolved.

So far I have spoken about the need for Palestinians to recognize our rights. In am moment, I will speak openly about our need to recognize their rights.

But let me first say that the connection between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel has lasted for more than 3500 years. Judea and Samaria, the places where Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, David and Solomon, and Isaiah and Jeremiah lived, are not alien to us. This is the land of our forefathers.

The right of the Jewish people to a state in the land of Israel does not derive from the catastrophes that have plagued our people. True, for 2000 years the Jewish people suffered expulsions, pogroms, blood libels, and massacres which culminated in a Holocaust – a suffering which has no parallel in human history.

There are those who say that if the Holocaust had not occurred, the state of Israel would never have been established. But I say that if the state of Israel would have been established earlier, the Holocaust would not have occurred.

This tragic history of powerlessness explains why the Jewish people need a sovereign power of self-defense.

But our right to build our sovereign state here, in the land of Israel, arises from one simple fact: this is the homeland of the Jewish people, this is where our identity was forged.

As Israel’s first Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion proclaimed in Israel’s Declaration of Independence: “The Jewish people arose in the land of Israel and it was here that its spiritual, religious and political character was shaped. Here they attained their sovereignty, and here they bequeathed to the world their national and cultural treasures, and the most eternal of books.”

But we must also tell the truth in its entirety: within this homeland lives a large Palestinian community. We do not want to rule over them, we do not want to govern their lives, we do not want to impose either our flag or our culture on them.

In my vision of peace, in this small land of ours, two peoples live freely, side-by-side, in amity and mutual respect. Each will have its own flag, its own national anthem, its own government. Neither will threaten the security or survival of the other.

These two realities – our connection to the land of Israel, and the Palestinian population living within it – have created deep divisions in Israeli society. But the truth is that we have much more that unites us than divides us.

I have come tonight to give expression to that unity, and to the principles of peace and security on which there is broad agreement within Israeli society. These are the principles that guide our policy.

This policy must take into account the international situation that has recently developed. We must recognize this reality and at the same time stand firmly on those principles essential for Israel.

I have already stressed the first principle – recognition. Palestinians must clearly and unambiguously recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people. The second principle is: demilitarization. The territory under Palestinian control must be demilitarized with ironclad security provisions for Israel.

Without these two conditions, there is a real danger that an armed Palestinian state would emerge that would become another terrorist base against the Jewish state, such as the one in Gaza.

We don’t want Kassam rockets on Petach Tikva, Grad rockets on Tel Aviv, or missiles on Ben-Gurion airport. We want peace.

In order to achieve peace, we must ensure that Palestinians will not be able to import missiles into their territory, to field an army, to close their airspace to us, or to make pacts with the likes of Hezbollah and Iran. On this point as well, there is wide consensus within Israel.

It is impossible to expect us to agree in advance to the principle of a Palestinian state without assurances that this state will be demilitarized.

On a matter so critical to the existence of Israel, we must first have our security needs addressed.

Therefore, today we ask our friends in the international community, led by the United States, for what is critical to the security of Israel: Clear commitments that in a future peace agreement, the territory controlled by the Palestinians will be demilitarized: namely, without an army, without control of its airspace, and with effective security measures to prevent weapons smuggling into the territory – real monitoring, and not what occurs in Gaza today. And obviously, the Palestinians will not be able to forge military pacts.

Without this, sooner or later, these territories will become another Hamastan. And that we cannot accept.

I told President Obama when I was in Washington that if we could agree on the substance, then the terminology would not pose a problem.

And here is the substance that I now state clearly:

If we receive this guarantee regarding demilitirization and Israel’s security needs, and if the Palestinians recognize Israel as the State of the Jewish people, then we will be ready in a future peace agreement to reach a solution where a demilitarized Palestinian state exists alongside the Jewish state.

Regarding the remaining important issues that will be discussed as part of the final settlement, my positions are known: Israel needs defensible borders, and Jerusalem must remain the united capital of Israel with continued religious freedom for all faiths.

The territorial question will be discussed as part of the final peace agreement. In the meantime, we have no intention of building new settlements or of expropriating additional land for existing settlements.

But there is a need to enable the residents to live normal lives, to allow mothers and fathers to raise their children like families elsewhere. The settlers are neither the enemies of the people nor the enemies of peace. Rather, they are an integral part of our people, a principled, pioneering and Zionist public.

Unity among us is essential and will help us achieve reconciliation with our neighbors. That reconciliation must already begin by altering existing realities. I believe that a strong Palestinian economy will strengthen peace.

If the Palestinians turn toward peace – in fighting terror, in strengthening governance and the rule of law, in educating their children for peace and in stopping incitement against Israel – we will do our part in making every effort to facilitate freedom of movement and access, and to enable them to develop their economy. All of this will help us advance a peace treaty between us.

Above all else, the Palestinians must decide between the path of peace and the path of Hamas. The Palestinian Authority will have to establish the rule of law in Gaza and overcome Hamas. Israel will not sit at the negotiating table with terrorists who seek their destruction.

Hamas will not even allow the Red Cross to visit our kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit, who has spent three years in captivity, cut off from his parents, his family and his people. We are committed to bringing him home, healthy and safe.

With a Palestinian leadership committed to peace, with the active participation of the Arab world, and the support of the United States and the international community, there is no reason why we cannot achieve a breakthrough to peace.

Our people have already proven that we can do the impossible. Over the past 61 years, while constantly defending our existence, we have performed wonders.

Our microchips are powering the world’s computers. Our medicines are treating diseases once considered incurable. Our drip irrigation is bringing arid lands back to life across the globe. And Israeli scientists are expanding the boundaries of human knowledge.

If only our neighbors would respond to our call – peace too will be in our reach.

I call on the leaders of the Arab world and on the Palestinian leadership, let us continue together on the path of Menahem Begin and Anwar Sadat, Yitzhak Rabin and King Hussein. Let us realize the vision of the prophet Isaiah, who in Jerusalem 2700 years ago said: “nations shall not lift up sword against nation, and they shall learn war no more.”

With God’s help, we will know no more war. We will know peace.

June 15, 2009 Posted by | Israel, Middle East, Palestine | , , , , | Leave a comment