BigMo’s Blog

Politics and Economics in Israel

Israel Proposes Palestinian Statehood

Israel is facing an unprecedented diplomatic challenge. The current government has had to contend with a host of plagues, most of which are the result of poor decisions made by previous Israeli governments. The disastrous consequences of the withdrawal from Gaza, the fallout from Operation Cast Lead, the fallout from the Mavi Marmara Flotilla, and finally an American government that is not unsympathetic to Palestinian pleadings. Nonetheless, the Likud coalition cannotcontinue to blame previous governments. It must act. The Palestinian Authority (PA), has announced its intention to obtain a UN General Assembly (UNGA) resolution in favor of Palestinian statehood. Israel should propose the resolution to the UNGA in September.

Palestinian diplomats are traveling across the world attempting to rally support for their initiative. This effort has been five years in the making – ever since Mahmoud Abbas succeeded Yasser Arafat as leader of the PA.  The Palestinians automatically have the support of the nations that belong to the Arab League and the Islamic Organization Conference – a total of  1/3 of the UN’s member states. Their support is strong across Africa and Latin America. Thus, with at least one hundred nations in favor of such a resolution, its passage is a given.

The support of forty European and Western-oriented states is what is critical to the PA. So far, the diplomatic efforts of the US and Europe to deflect the Palestinians from approaching the UN in September have failed. They understand that such a move is likely to decrease the possibilities for a settlement, not increase them.  Given this reality, the North Atlantic bloc will focus on crafting a vaguely-worded resolution. However, the PA needs more than just another resolution endorsing previous UN Security Council (UNSC) resolutions. Any resolution that merely endorses UNSC 242, 338 and the moribund Oslo Process would – regardless of how many votes it garners – actually be a diplomatic defeat for the Palestinians.

There are four key points the Palestinians want included in a resolution. 1) a state with the June 1967 borders; 2) East Jerusalem as the capital of this state; 3) the “return” of Palestinian refugees; and 4) the branding of Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories as “illegal.” Inclusion of these four points would constitute a diplomatic grand slam, and as noted above, is already guaranteed the support of at least 100 of the UN’s 180 member states. An additional point, calling on UN member states to provide the Palestinians with assistance in establishing their independence would also be a key feature of any resolution.

Can the Palestinian Authority accept a limited resolution? This would be a terrible defeat for the PA, a defeat upon which Hamas would try to capitalize.  This would inevitably lead to another bloody round of fighting. Similarly, a resolution that calls only for modification of the 1967 borders and a Palestinian capital in Jerusalem would be Pyrrhic victory. Hamas would instantly brand the PA’s acceptance of such a resolution as a betrayal of Palestinian rights. This would signal the end of the reconciliation agreement, and another round of violence.

This is why Israel should take the lead and propose a resolution that would significantly alter the dynamics of the conflict, and seriously limit the Palestinian Authority’s options. It will instead focus on a Palestinian state within secure and contiguous borders, and recognition of the borders established as a result of the armistice agreements signed with Arab states in 1949 and 1950. The main features of this would be similar to the Palestinian-sponsored resolution, but would slant the outcome even more heavily in Israel’s favor:

  • A Palestinian state within secure and contiguous borders.
  • Recognition of the 1948 Egyptian-Israeli armistice lines as the border of the Gaza area. This could also include the official demarcation of the Gaza-Israel maritime border, thus putting Lebanon on the hot seat.
  • Recognition of the 1948 Jordanian-Israeli armistice lines from Al Burj eastward to the Dead Sea, with modifications in the Eshkolot, Sansana, Tene, Shaniand Mezadot Yehuda areas as the permanent border of Israel and the Palestinian area of Judea & Samaria.
  • A corridor between the Palestinian area in Judea & Samaria and Gaza, under Palestinian control, albeit with Israeli sovereignty, will be stipulated. The route of the corridor, as well as overall engineering design, environmental impact and construction will be in accordance with Israeli laws and regulations. Note: this is already part of Oslo.
  • A six-month moratorium on residential building in areas of Judea & Samaria that are outside the “Greater Jerusalem Basin.”
  • Designation of the “Greater Jerusalem Basin” to include all of 1948 Jerusalem, as well as the neighborhoods of Gilo, Har Homa, East Talpiyot, Ramat Eshkol, French Hill, Ramat Shlomo, Ramat Allon, Pisgat Ze’ev, Neve Ya’akov, the Etzion Bloc and the Great Ma’ale Adumim area. The Arab villages of Anata, Hizma, Ar-Ram, Az-Za’ayyem, Sur Bahir and Al-Balad should be excluded from the Basin, as should the settlement of Atarot.
    • Performing a census of the population in the Greater Jerusalem Basin.
    • Issuing special identity cards for the population.
    • Establishing regulatory mechanisms for the administration of 1) Antiquities, 2) Residential building, 3) Commercial & industrial building, 4) Education, 5) Energy, 6) Environment, 7) Telecommunications, 8) Tourism, 9) Transportation, 10) Labor and Social Affairs, 11) a Coordinating Administration responsible for the overall functioning of the other ten areas listed.
    • Judicial matters (appointment of judges, establishment of courts, credentialing of attorneys, legislative matters) will be under the exclusive domain of the Israeli government.
    • Security will be under the exclusive domain of the Israeli government.
    • Taxation will be under the exclusive domain of the Israeli government.
    • A plebiscite to be held in six months, in which all persons of voting age with a valid Greater Jerusalem Basin identity card will participate, to decide as to whether the Greater Jerusalem Basin will be under full Israeli sovereignty or continue to exist as outlined above.

Such a resolution – sponsored by Israel – would simultaneously create a separate identity for Jerusalem and at the same time ensure its indivisibility and Jewish majority. It would enshrine the democratic principle of “one-man, one-vote,” while at the same time preempting Palestinian attempts to signify alter Jewish demographic control. It would also give token victories to the Palestinians in terms of Jerusalem and settlements, albeit temporary ones that would expire in six months.

This would compel the Palestinians to the negotiating table. If not, a new status quo will be established – one given the imprimatur of the UNGA. If they fail to return to the negotiating table, Israel can hold the plebiscite, whose outcome is already assured. The Palestinians will have little recourse at the UN, and six months from September the US will be fully engaged in a presidential election.

Such a resolution – sponsored by Israel – would effectively diminish the Quartet, the UNGA and subsidiary bodies of the UN from initiating diplomatic and political proposals that invariably run counter to Israeli interests. Furthermore, it would significantly degrade the diplomatic and political achievements that the Palestinians have achieved over the last six years. It would ensure that Jerusalem and its surrounding environs remain intact and, at a minimum, under Jewish sovereignty.

July 29, 2011 Posted by | Middle East | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Israel, Palestine and the UN

Israel is facing an unprecedented diplomatic challenge at the UN this fall. The current government has had to contend with a host of plagues, most of which are the result of poor decisions made by previous Israeli governments, but not all. The disastrous consequences of the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip (Sharon), the fallout from Operation Cast Lead (Olmert/ Barak/ Livni), the fallout from the Mavi Marmara Flotilla (Netanyahu/Barak), and finally an American government that is not unsympathetic to Palestinian pleadings. However, in order to capitalize on this situation, the Palestinians must control a number of factors: diplomatic, economic, military and political.

Strategic Strengths and Weaknesses. The combined economic strength of both Gaza and the West Bank (excluding Jewish developed areas) is approximately 1/40th of Israel’s. Economically, there is no contest. A similar situation exists on the security level. While much commotion has been made about the success of the PA’s American-trained security forces, it must be remembered that we are talking about approximately 2000 security forces. Israel deployed only 10,000 troops in Operation Cast Lead in 2008 and was able to effectively control all of Gaza – and Hamas had an equal number of combatants at its disposal. Politically, the PA is much more unified than Bibi Netanyahu’s coalition government in Israel. However, this agreement has not benefited the PA at all.

Thus, the PA’s strength is in its diplomatic strategy. This is exactly where Israel is weakest. The PLO – the Palestinian Authority’s forerunner – has spent the last forty years developing a network of relationships across the Arab and Muslim worlds, as well as across the LDCs (Less Developed Countries) of Africa. Although it has lost the support of the formerly communist East European nations, it still has significant backing in Russia, as well as China, Cuba and Venezuela. Latin American nations have started aligning themselves with the Palestinians due to a combination of economic and regional political circumstances.

Is this situation a recipe for disaster? Given the current realities there is a high probability that some sort of military confrontation will take place. This probability exists on every path that either the Israeli or the Palestinians might choose to take. The question thus becomes, who will decide when and where it will occur? If so, preparations must be made at all levels – diplomatic, economic, political and security – to minimize its impact. Israeli leaders should be under no illusion that there will be a sudden realization across the world that Israel is the besieged party in this conflict. Western principles of democracy, freedom of speech, freedom religion, due process, etc. are given only lip service by Western politicians. These are forgotten, unknown or despised concepts for ¾’s of the world’s states.

The PA intends to seek a resolution from the UN in favor of Palestinian statehood at the next General Assembly session. Palestinian diplomats are traveling across the world attempting to rally support for their initiative. The support of the nations that belong to the Arab League and the Islamic Organization Conference (IOC) – a total of more than 1/3 of the UN’s member states – is a given. Likewise, there is strong support across Africa and Latin America due to a variety of factors. Thus, with at least one hundred nations in favor of such a resolution, its passage is a given.

The support of forty European and Western-oriented states is what is critical to the PA. In order to garner their support, any resolution must be carefully worded. The PA needs more than another General Assembly resolution endorsing peace based on previous UN Security Council (UNSC) resolutions, particularly 242 and 338. Any resolution that merely endorses UNSC 242, 338 and the moribund Oslo Process would – regardless of how many votes it garners – actually be a diplomatic defeat for the Palestinians.

There are four key points the Palestinians want included in a resolution. 1) a state with the June 1967 borders; 2) East Jerusalem as the capital of this state; 3) the “return” of Palestinian refugees; and 4) the branding of Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories as “illegal.” Inclusion of these four points would constitute a diplomatic grand slam, and as noted above, the Palestinians are already guaranteed the support of at least 100 of the UN’s 180 member states. An additional point, calling on UN member states to provide the Palestinians with assistance in establishing their independence would also be a key feature of any resolution.

Western capitals are currently not receiving these key points very well. The Americans and Europeans will never convince Israel to return to what Golda Meir described as the “suicide borders” of 1967. Given the fact that Hamas has launched over 12000 projectiles into Israel after Israel withdrew is a fact not lost on either the Americans or Europeans – except for the most Anti-Semitic left-wing extremists among them. However, the Americans and Europeans are looking for one side or another to indicate a small degree of compromise.

Just as the June 1967 borders are a non-starter, so is the return of Palestinian refugees, which would create a demographic and economic catastrophe. The return of any significant number of the so-called refugees to Israel would create a demographic and political nightmare. However, Israel is at least technically capable of absorbing immigration on an economic level. The Palestinian Authority – completely dependent on Israel for collecting 70% of its tax revenues and dependent on the US & Europe for $1 billion annually (four times more than the Arab states combined donate) – would completely collapse.

Europeans are not opposed to the idea of dividing Jerusalem, however. Jewish neighborhoods and cities north, south and east of Eat Jerusalem complicate this question, another reason the Palestinians will seek to have the “settlements” declared illegal. All Western governments have stated that the “settlements” are illegal. This is despite the fact that the legal status of the settlements is murky, at best. (Again, Western governments are only too willing to look the other way as Third World dictatorships chip away western concepts such as the due process and the sovereignty of law.) Thus, on two issues (Jerusalem and Settlements) the Palestinians can look forward to significant support.

The recently signed reconciliation agreement creates significant hurdles for both parties. While the agreement makes perfect sense from a Hamas view point, it has already given the Palestinian Authority (created by the Palestine Liberation Organization – the PLO) headaches. Hamas has refused in every statement it has issued since the reconciliation pact was signed to move to a more moderate, i.e. Palestinian Authority position. Thus, Hamas maintains, even enhances, its credibility as the party “confronting Israeli occupation.” The PA bears the costs. Israel has suspended the transfer of tax revenues and Abbas & Co., have been engaged in a diplomatic rear-guard action ever since the reconciliation agreement was signed.

Can the PA be induced to abandon the reconciliation agreement? This is not likely due to a number of factors. The on-going political unrest in the Arab world is having a profound affect on the Palestinian psyche. The Palestinian people in both Gaza and the Occupied Territories want to see more progress. Neither Hamas nor the PA were able to co-opt the limited popular demonstrations in Gaza and the West Bank, but they were not harmed by their abbreviated nature. Neither side can be certain of such an outcome if the demonstrations are re-launched.

Egypt has stopped being exclusively pro-PA and is now taking measures that significantly strengthen Hamas politically and materially. Meanwhile, there has been an increase in antipathy towards the Palestinians in Jordan, which is having an effect on the PA. The Syrian regime has been too pre-occupied with its own domestic problems to weigh in on matters, but occasionally points an accusatory finger at Hamas representatives in Damascus. If it were to annul the agreement, the PA’s credibility as a politically-mature institution capable of governing and independent state would suffer greatly.

Can the Palestinian Authority accept a resolution that calls only for modification of the 1967 borders and a Palestinian capital in Jerusalem? This is not likely, as Hamas would instantly brand the PA’s acceptance of such a resolution as a betrayal of Palestinian rights. This would signal the end of the reconciliation agreement. The PA would much rather receive “only” one hundred votes than have Hamas, and by extension Iran, Syria and Hezbollah aligned against it. A watered-down resolution would almost certainly trigger another round of fighting in Gaza, as Hamas attempts to prove it is more capable of fighting for Palestinian rights than the Palestinian Authority.

May 13, 2011 Posted by | Middle East | , , , , | Leave a comment

A Diplomatic Offensive

15 May 2010

What Israel needs right now is a dramatic diplomatic offensive. The goals of this diplomatic offensive are two-fold. The first is to change dramatically the perception of Israel in world opinion. The second is to achieve a strategic breakthrough in the current stalemate vis-à-vis the Palestinians and Syrians. What is notable is that the first goal can be achieved without achieving the second goal; whereas achieving the second goal automatically assures achieving the first goal.

It may seem strange to state that the first goal is to achieve a dramatic change in world public opinion. However, given the recent tilt in world public opinion, this is desirable. Restoring Israel’s public image to its previous status would be a serious set-back to the radical Arab and Muslim states that have sought, and to a certain degree been successful, to de-legitimize Israel. In addition, the restoration of Israel’s public image to its previous status would fortify the country in terms of negotiations with the Palestinians and Syrians.

As for the second goal of achieving a strategic breakthrough in the current stalemate vis-à-vis the Palestinians and Syrians, we must remember that neither of them recognize Israel’s right to exist, Israel’s right to define itself as a Jewish State and the alliances that both the Palestinians and Syrians have forged with radical Arab and Muslim states. All of these factors point to the likely failure of any negotiations, unless there is an equally radical breakthrough in Arab cultural and political thinking.

So, how should this diplomatic offensive proceed? I propose the following steps.

  • Israel should meet Hamas’ demands and release all the prisoners on Hamas’ list without any preconditions regarding to where they will be released. In return, Gilad Shalit will be released and sent home. Israel should insist that the released prisoners not return to terrorist activities, but in reality, both Israel and the Palestinians know that this condition cannot be enforced. We all know that there are numerous precedents for this: Israel has agreed to lop-sided prisoner exchanges before.

Hamas would benefit from such a move instantly, and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas would be just as quickly undermined. In order to burnish his credentials, Abbas would be compelled to publicly and loudly demand Israeli acceptance on a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital and the right of return for refugees. All of these are obvious non-starters, as far as Israel is concerned. When Abbas makes these statements, as surely he must after a prisoner swap, Jerusalem would have proof that Abbas is not willing to negotiate in good faith.

  • Thirty days after this release, providing that there has been no escalation in Palestinian violence and terrorism, Israel should unconditionally release all remaining Palestinian prisoners.

At first, this may seem to be a radical change in Israeli policy. However, there is a precedent for this too. When the British Mandate ended in May 1948, the British released all Jewish prisoners. If we accept Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s statement made at Bar Ilan University in 2009, Israel accepts a two-state solution. It is inconceivable that Israel would continue to hold thousands of Palestinian prisoners after the successful conclusion of peace negotiations and the establishment of a Palestinian state. This would also undermine Abbas, as this second prisoner release would be announced shortly on the heels of the first.

  • Thirty days after this second prisoner release, Israel should state that it will send a delegation to negotiate unconditionally with the Palestinians and Syrians. It should be stated that this delegation will arrive in a specific city, probably some location in Switzerland, on a specific date. The government of Israel recognizes all previous pronouncements made by Palestinian and Syrian leaders as simply “public statements of intended negotiating positions.”

If this diplomatic offensive were put into action later this month, Israel would effectively change world public opinion by the end of August. However, there is more. Israel also needs to increase the heat in America, China, Europe and Russia regarding Iran. As I have noted in editorials posted here in the past, there are already signs that any successful diplomatic solution to Iran’s nuclear development program will inevitably involve Israel signing the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. If this is inevitable, Israel should use this to its advantage. Here is how to do that:

Early in the month of August, Israel should invite the head of the IAEA to Israel for a “discussion.” This discussion should be treated with all seriousness and the head of the IEAE should be afforded all honors typically reserved for a Head of State. Israel should use this as an opportunity to impress upon him the unique historical position of our country. The agenda for this visit includes:

  • The Prime Minister, the Minister of Energy, the Minister of Science and a full military honor guard, receiving him at Ben Gurion Airport;
  • A tour of the Weizman Institute, particularly its Physics Department;
  • A tour of the Nahal Soreq nuclear research facility;
  • After this, the IEAE chief should be driven south and be given a tour of Kibbutz Yad Mordechai, showing him how deeply the Egyptian army penetrated into Israel in 1948. After this, a tour of Sderot.
  • In the evening, the IEAE chief should have dinner with the President and the Prime Minister.
  • On the morning of the second day, the IEAE chief should be given a full tour of Yad Vashem and be invited to lay a memorial wreath.
  • After this, he should meet for several hours with the ministers of Science and Energy and provide them with a information regarding the process for applying for membership to the IEAE. While all of this is well known, it would be a tremendous public opinion coup.
  • Early in September, before the United Nation’s annual General Assembly meeting, Israel should announce that it is formally inviting an “advance team” from the IAEA to come to Israel to start preliminary preparations for Israel’s application for membership in the IEAE.

It should be clearly stated however, both publicly and in private meetings with the leaders of America, China, Europe and Russia, that any UN resolutions against Israel’s interests would be regarded with the utmost severity. Such resolutions would have a negative impact on both negotiations with the Arabs and signing the NPT. Examples of anti-Israel resolutions would include recognition of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, and further talk about alleged Israel war crimes during Operation Cast Lead. If the autumn UN General Assembly passes without incident, then in October the IAEA “advance team” would arrive in Israel for what will be the first of many meetings.

While all this is going on, the Israeli government should keep up a steady drumbeat pointing out how consistently America has supported Israel in the past, and how Israel has been a faithful ally. It should be pointed out that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East, and as such, it is the vanguard of Western civilization and values. It should be pointed out to every audience that peace with Egypt and peace with Jordan was achieved through direct negotiations and mutual recognition. It should be pointed out to every audience that the Jewish people have had a cultural, historical and religious connection to the Land of Israel for over 2000 years. It should be pointed out that Israel has the right to live in peace in secure and recognized borders, and that it has the right to use all means to defend itself and its citizens.

While all this has been said before, the message has not been articulated clearly, consistently and continuously. It is time to do that.
Talking points should be sent weekly, perhaps even daily to the Israeli embassy in Washington, as well as all consulates in the United States. The emissaries of the Jewish Agency should also be drafted into this campaign. Israeli ministers should visit Jewish communities throughout the United States, focusing their appearances in electoral districts held by the Republican Part and electoral districts that the Republic Party stands a god chance of winning in Congressional elections in November.

One hundred and twenty-eight Israeli corporations are listed on the NASDAQ stock exchange. Certainly, all 128 of these corporations have a vested interest in going to the United States and meeting with the officials of the NASDAQ stock exchange, as well as other corporate leaders and public officials. Equally, they have a vested interest in strengthening and improving commercial and diplomatic relations between Israel and the United States. These Israeli corporate leaders should be “drafted” into this campaign, and coached as to what they should say in all their public announcements while they are in the United States.

These diplomatic initiatives and the public relations “offensive” in the US, will dramatically improve Israel’s status in world public opinion and put the Obama administration on the defensive. And what of the second stated goal, achieving a strategic breakthrough in the current stalemate vis-à-vis the Palestinians and Syrians? A shift in Israel’s status would almost automatically entail a downgrading of the Arabs’ status. This might be enough to compel them to negotiate seriously. As was stated at the outset of this position paper, negotiations are likely to fail unless there is a radical breakthrough in Arab cultural and political thinking. However, Israel should not pay the price for Arab intransigence.

May 14, 2010 Posted by | Middle East | , , , , , | 1 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

Call Abbas’s Bluff

Jerusalem Post reporter Khaled Abu Toameh wrote a piece that appeared in the paper’s on-line edition on November 8th entitled “Abbas’s big bluff” in which he analyzes Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas’s decision to hold new presidential and parliamentary elections January 24th as one of his strangest moves since succeeding Yasser Arafat five years ago. It might seem strange, but actually, it is quite consistent with the character and quality of Palestinian leadership.

Simply stated, the Palestinian leadership is devoid of quality and utterly lacking in character. It is a cancer on the Palestinian people (who really don’t seem to care that they have a cancer), and on the Middle East.

This should come as no surprise to anyone. Fatah and Hamas, vying for leadership of this stillborn entity, are stocked from bottom to top with murderers, thugs, thieves and liars. Even the communist parties that ruled the USSR and its satellites during the Cold War could boast of competent technocrats. Perhaps with the exception of Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, the dictator who has driven one of the more prosperous countries of Africa into abject poverty and despair, there is not a less-skilled group of “leaders” in the world.

As Toameh points out, Hamas has already made it clear that it won’t participate in the elections. It has declared that it won’t allow the vote to take place in the Gaza Strip and would punish any Palestinian there who is involved. This shouldn’t surprise anyone, let alone Mahmoud Abbas. As far as Hamas is concerned, there was an election, they won, why bother having another?

If the elections take place as planned, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank will become even more politically estranged than they already are. As Hamas legislator, Salah Bardaweel explained: “Abbas will then become the mayor or governor of the West Bank.”

Abbas’s decision to call the new elections came after the Egyptians failed to broker an agreement between Hamas and Fatah. The two rival parties were supposed to sign a “reconciliation” accord in Cairo last month. Hamas backed out at the last minute: better to rule in Gaza than serve in Ramallah. Toameh states that Abbas would be best served by maintaining the status quo, which allows him at least to argue that he’s a democratically-elected president.

However, most educated people in the world have come to realize that “Arab democracy” is an oxymoron. Israeli politicians should stop their hand wringing and just tell Abbas: resign, go into retirement, and write your memoirs. We’ll handle things.

November 8, 2009 Posted by | Middle East | , , , , | 1 Comment

Never Mssing a Chance to Miss a Chance

There is an old saying, “Every people gets the leaders it deserves.” If this is true, one has to wonder what dark stain the Palestinians have on their political souls that have cursed them live with the so-called leadership of the PLO and Hamas. A quick examination reveals that they have followed murderers – plain and simple – murderers, and allowed themselves to be plundered by these so-called leaders.

The PLO – re-styled since the Oslo Accord of 1993 as the “Palestinian Authority” has had sixteen years to build a functioning government and state, but cannot even collect the garbage on time. The PLO’s princes of terror, ensconced in official positions and granting themselves titles as if they had already achieved their long-sought after state, have systematically looted foreign aid and ruined the economy of the West Bank. Hamas, on the other hand, has erased every sign of development, prosperity, hope and democracy from the area it controls, the Gaza Strip.

One certainly cannot say that the Palestinians are uninformed. Ironically, they enjoy a degree of freedom of the press unavailable to the rest of their Arab brethren. Hamas and the PLO operate rival cable television and radio networks that the average Palestinian has no trouble receiving. This, by the way, is thanks to the electricity that Israel supplies. The Palestinian Authority has failed to build a single power plant capable of supplying even the smallest village.

Likewise, Palestinians have access to dozens of newspapers. Each supports the position of one of the alphabet soup of political parties: DFLP, Hamas, PFLP, Fatah, etc. They even have access to Israeli and Jordanian newspapers on a daily basis, not to mention broadcasts from Israel and Jordan. It might be time-consuming to tease the facts out of the opinions, but this is a responsibility that a citizen – any citizen – must take upon himself: critical thinking. It cannot be delegated, subcontracted or outsourced.

Unfortunately, it would seem that critical thinking is not the Palestinian people’s strong suit. If it were, after sixteen years, one would think that they would reject the incompetence and plundering of the PLO. One would think that they would reject the murder and Islamizing (the two often go hand-in-hand), not to mention the international isolation, that Hamas has visited upon them.

People in East Germany, Romania, the Philippines and many other nations have risen up and forced out cruel despotic leaders. The Free World congratulated them, supported them and welcomed all these countries into the ranks of democratic nation-states. The Arab people, and the Palestinians in particular, seem to lack the moral courage to take it upon themselves and make the difficult decisions that come with liberty and self-governance.

November 8, 2009 Posted by | Middle East, Palestine | , , , | 1 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

The Long Spiral Down

Qalqilya, West Bank/Judea & Samaria
Dateline: 31 May 2009

Two Hamas gunmen, three Palestinian policemen and a passerby were killed in gun battles in the West Bank on Sunday, when Palestinian Authority (PA) security forces loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah faction, which administers the West Bank, raided a neighborhood in the city of Qalqilya to arrest gunmen of the rival Hamas group, which rules the Gaza Strip. This follows raids by PA security forces the previous day, which netted 22 Hamas supporters.

Tensions have been high between the rival parties since Hamas seized the Gaza Strip in June 2007 after routing Fatah forces loyal to Abbas. The June 2007 coup d’état culminated in summary executions of PA security force members in the streets of Gaza City. Several incidents in which Fatah supporters were thrown to their death from the roof tops of high-rise apartment buildings were documented and even caught on film.

This past winter, the Israeli government attempted to end Hamas rocket fire on southern Israel. Operation Cast Lead (OCL) was a partial success, with an uneasy – and unofficial – truce going into effect in January. After OCL, Hamas admitted to having executed or knee-capped approximately 20 more Fatah supporters DURING the fighting with Israel. This is the kind of state America and Europe would like to see established on Israel’s borders.

Why are European, and now American leaders, so eager to embrace such a terrorist organization? Hamas violently seized power. Hamas used the territory it controls to launch a guerilla war against the sovereign territory of Israel. Hamas has used the territory it controls to undermine the authority of another Arab state, Egypt. Hamas violently suppresses political opposition. Hamas continues to plot the demise of the Palestinian Authority in Area A of the West Bank/Judea & Samaria.

Could it be that Gordon Brown, Nicolas Sarkozy and Barack Obama have come to the conclusion that Western Civilization no longer needs to defend its values of secularism, pluralism, and individual liberty? Are terrorism, murder, authoritarianism and censorship the new values of London, Paris and Washington, D.C.? Has the “Free World” concluded that a state like Israel, which proclaims these same values and struggles daily to uphold them is no longer worthy of their support? Or have the so-called leaders of Western Civilization grown tired and weak of upholding the freedoms they supposedly cherish?

There are many who believe that just that has happened: Western Civilization has begun a long, slow death spiral. It no longer has the cultural, economic or military will to defend itself. Israel is just one small “outpost” in the sea of Islamic Civilization and a tactical “advance to the rear” might by the old men in America and Europe a few years of peace and quiet. Perhaps, but not likely.

May 31, 2009 Posted by | Middle East | , , , , , | Leave a comment

An Action-packed Spring

Key Dates to Watch

There are a number of key dates coming up on calendars throughout the Middle East in the upcoming months. American President Barack Obama will be hosting an official visit of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on May 18. Some time between now and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ May 28 official visit to Washington, D.C., the Palestinian leader will be forming a new government. It will most likely be without archrival Hamas. Elections will be held in Lebanon on June 7, followed shortly thereafter in Iran on June 12. Fun, Fun, Fun!

The likely winners of all this activity, both diplomatic and electoral, are likely to be the world new media. These talking heads will undoubtedly be racking up thousands upon thousands of airline miles from flights and hotel stays. Hotels and restaurants won’t due to badly, despite the fact that media-types are poor tippers. Despite the hundreds – perhaps thousands – of airline tickets sold, the world’s airlines will continue to struggle.

What?! Won’t there be any new diplomatic breakthroughs? How about some new treaties being signed? Certainly there will be at least one or two electoral upsets, right? Not likely, not likely and – wait for it – not likely.

Most likely Diplomatic Outcomes

Prime Minister Netanyahu will unveil his long-awaited plan for re-starting dialogue with the Palestinians, which will be received in Washington with some form of “cautious optimism.”  It will also be received with some form of “restored hope,” just as is everything that crosses the American President’s path is.   He will also ask President Obama to set a time-table for negotiations with Iran on the nuclear issue, which the latter has already refused to do.  Finally, the Prime Minister will try to pick-up a few gadgets for the boys back home (KC-135 refueling tankers, more bunker-buster bombs, some B2s, etc.)

President Abbas will unveil his standard list of complaints against Israel and reject the latest Israeli peace plans as inadequate.  Palestinian diplomacy is more akin to Japanese kabuki theater than it is to diplomacy: everyone knows the story line, the choreography and the limited skills of the actor. Finally, the Palestinian President will ask for 1) more financial aid, 2) more training for his “army,” and 3) a guarantee of asylum should #1 and #2 be ineffective in staving off a Hamas takeover.

Expect Obama to take a vacation at Camp David sometime in early June.

Most likely Electoral Outcomes

The electoral campaign in Lebanon has been refreshingly non-violent, so far. This should end about 10 minutes after they finish counting the ballots.  If Hizbullah does as well or better than the last parliamentary election, they will claim that they deserve to be included in the ruling coalition with senior ministries going to their party. If Hizbullah does as well or worse than the last parliamentary election, they will claim that they deserve to be included in the ruling coalition with senior ministries going to their party.  Get the picture?  They’re like Israel’s Kadima Party, except they have guns and aren’t afraid to use them.

As for Iran, there’s not much polling data to go by.  There are two official candidates.  Supreme Leader (Ayatollah) Ali Khamene’i picked the Guardian Council (a select group of clergy), who approves all the presidential candidates and decides who is fit to run for office (sort of like the relationship between the Christian fundamentalists and the Republic Party). So, whoever wins is going to be “kosher” by the standards of the Islamic Republic.  If Hizbullah actually does do as well or better than last time in the Lebanese elections, this might be a boost for the Iranian incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Should Hizbullah “win” in Lebanon and Ahmadinejad win in Iran, Henry Kissinger will probably be getting a call from President Obama.  The President will explain to our dear old friend that the advice he’s been getting from Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden and George Mitchell hasn’t really helped him all that much.  Henry is still working off the frequent flyer miles he earned in the Nixon adminstration.

May 2, 2009 Posted by | Middle East | , , , , , , | Leave a comment