BigMo’s Blog

Politics and Economics in Israel

Lost in Translation: Tony Blair on Obama

On 25 May, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair gave a speech to an audience of business leaders at London’s Royal Institution, stating that US President Barack Obama is “frankly worried about the position that Israel is in.” Of course, Blair currently serves as the Quartet’s (the U.S., the EU, the United Nations and Russia) senior mediator. His American counterpart, George Mitchell, resigned last month. Blair described Obama’s initiative as “an attempt to fill a vacuum which he sees as dangerous, particularly dangerous for Israel in the run-up to September,” when the UN is expected to take up the issue of Palestinian statehood. [1]

Later that same day Blair gave an interview to Britain’s Channel 4 News, saying that it was too early to tell how the recent Fatah / Hamas reconciliation would affect the peace process, but that “it could be positive if there is a genuine reconciliation around principles that promote peace”.[2]  Really? Unless Hamas gives up all of its core principles such as the establishment of an Islamic state and the destruction of Israel, the reconciliation is unlikely to resemble even vaguely that looks like a commitment to peace.

Obviously, this is Blair’s attempt to shore-up the American administration shoddy performance during the last two weeks of May. In the short span of two weeks, Obama once again failed to impress the Arab world,[3] alienated American voters who support Israel’s positions 2:1, and Netanyahu himself[4] delivered a backhand comeuppance in front of an exuberant US Congress. Blair’s insistence on Obama’s already rejected plan was a great example of keeping on the same page with the US, but hardly anything more.

The Quartet would like Israelis (not necessarily including Netanyahu) to believe that a “diplomatic tsunami” will hit Israel in September. Netanyahu has dutifully flown from one European capital after another expressing his dismay that such a resolution would even be brought to the floor of the UN General Assembly (UNGA). Yet, the Israeli Prime Minister knows that this is already a fait accompli. The Palestinian Authority has committed itself to this; they have the backing of the 22-member Arab League and the backing of the 57-member Organization of the Islamic Congress (OIC).[5]

However, we are forced to ask a simple question: hasn’t Israel already been hit with dozens of UN tsunamis? Since 1947, the UN has passed over 200 different resolutions regarding Israel or regarding Israel and its neighbors.[6] The vast majority of these have been against Israel, including such memorable UN classics as:

 

  • UNGA 138 condemning Israel for bringing Nazi mass-murdered Adolf Eichmann to trial (after all, he only killed Jews)
  • UNGA 3379 equating Zionism with racism
  • UNGA 38/9 condemning Israel for bombing Saddam Hussein’s nuclear reactor at Osirak
  • UNGA 38/85 condemning Israel’s consideration of building a canal linking the Mediterranean Sea and Dead Sea (obviously, Zionists are not even allowed to consider matters, let alone act on them)

A diplomatic tsunami? Really? The truth of the matter is that one day after any UNGA resolution recognizing the Palestinians’ right to an independent state nothing will really change, except for the worse. Any UNGA resolution is likely to trigger a series of political, economic and security sanctions – by Israel against the PA. It is also likely to trigger a third Intifada – rebellion by the Palestinians. This would most likely bring about a total collapse of the entire Palestinian enterprise.

As Yediot Ahronot (Israel’s largest daily paper) columnist, Sever Plocker has pointed out, “The second Intifada contradicted and disproved two basic assumptions, axioms almost, which were commonly accepted at its outset and end. The first one: Economic prosperity brings peace. The second one: Terrorism cannot be defeated by force.”[7] Indeed, there was an economic expansion was underway prior to the second Intifada; it did not lead to a clamoring for peace. Militarily, the PLO was defeated, broken.

While the Palestinian economy in Judea and Samaria has prospered under the tutelage of Salam Fayyad, it has not resulted a clamoring for peace from the Palestinian middle-class. Despite America and Jordan training PA forces, five battalions will offer a few days of resistance and then be slaughtered by a vengeful IDF. Israel has grown adept at fighting irregular forces in both the small villages and urban landscapes that predominate in Judea & Samaria.

Mr. Blair and Mr. Obama can make all the speeches they want. They can wring their hands in mock concern all they want. However, we need to put things in perspective. The PA is based in the city of Ramallah, in the West Bank. It has been there since 1993. From 1982 until 1993, it called itself the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), and was based in Tunis, Tunisia. Did some deus ex machina transfer it to Ramallah? No, it was created by the 1993 Oslo peace accords between Israel and the PLO. In other words, the Palestinians’ greatest diplomatic achievement was obtained by negotiating with the Israelis.

Since then, there have been a dozen minor agreements. There has also been one Intifada in which the PLO tried to gain by force when Israel rejected its sham diplomacy. This September, the PLO will again attempt to gain through maneuver that for which it refuses to negotiate. Of course, it would be unfair to blame Mr. Blair for the Palestinians’ obstruction and duplicity. As the Quartet’s ambassador, he does not formulate policy. He does not control a vast aid budget, nor can he levy sanctions. He cannot bestow the prestige of attendance at a Royal wedding.

However, he does have an obligation – a moral obligation – to speak the truth. The situation will only change when the Quartet develops the intestinal fortitude and political will to confront the truth: the Palestinians refuse to negotiate with Israel because they do not want peace with the Jewish state. If Mr. Blair were to speak this truth, instead of acting as Mr. Obama’s faithful interpreter, he might well lose his job. Then again, if he were to speak this truth, he will likely save thousands of lives.

[1] http://www.washingtonpost. com/world/business-not-bombs-mideast-envoy-tony-blair-addresses-economic-foundations-of-peace-process/2011/05/26/AGHT1oBH_story.html?wprss=rss_world

[2] http://www.tonyblairoffice.org/news/entry/tony-blair-changes-in-region-make-negotiation-more-urgent-not-less/

[3] https://themiddleeasthotspot.wordpress.com/2011/05/20/cairo-ad-nauseum/

[4] https://themiddleeasthotspot.wordpress.com/2011/05/26/netanyahu%E2%80%99s-consistency-an-historical-message-for-the-future/

[5] http://www.oic-oci.org/topic_detail.asp?t_id=5229&x_key=Palestine

[6] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_United_Nations_resolutions_concerning_Israel

[7] http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3558676,00.html

June 1, 2011 Posted by | Middle East | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Netanyahu’s consistency: an historical message for the future

If you are a foreign policy analyst, newspaper editor, pundit or just political junkie like myself, the last few days have been a real treat. From 19 May to 24 May, two world leaders – one the leader of the world’s only superpower and the other the leader of the world’s most historic people – made speeches, held press conferences and addressed some of the most influential and powerful political bodies in the world. There is a school of thought that says history is best understood by examining its records: treaties, laws and speeches. Whether one accepts this belief or not, the speeches made by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have been a model of historical consistency.

It began on 19 May. President Obama made a major foreign policy address at the US State Department (see https://themiddleeasthotspot.wordpress.com/2011/05/20/cairo-ad-nauseum/). He stated, in short, that the 1967 borders of Israel should be the future borders of a Palestinian state. This has long been a demand of the Palestinian Authority and its predecessor, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). To be fair, ever since the Oslo Accords were signed in 1993 it has been tacitly acknowledged that a Palestinian state would exist somewhere inside those borders. However, President Obama’s remarks crossed a line that no previous American president had: he publicly endorsed a key demand of the Palestinian Authority – and just days before the Israeli Prime Minister was due to arrive in the US.

Netanyahu’s office released a reply the same day, and battle lines were drawn. The Prime Minister’s response foreshadowed the themes that would be repeated and expanded upon in three more speeches over the coming days. First, any future Palestinian state would not come about at the expense of Israel’s security: Israel would not withdraw to the 1967 borders. Second, major Israeli population centers beyond the 1967 lines would be incorporated into Israel’s final borders. Third, that the solution to the Palestinian refugee problem would be within Palestinian borders, not Israel’s. There would be no “right of return.”

The Prime Minister also showed some of his card-playing skills in the press release of 19 May. It mentioned commitments made by a previous US president in 2004 and alluded to the overwhelming support of both US Houses of Congress. If President Obama reneges on the commitments of former President George W. Bush, what credibility does President Obama or any future American president have? Moreover, while he may be the leader of the world’s only superpower, President Obama still must contend with a US House of Representatives and US Senate that are in the hands of his Republican opposition.

Two days later, these same men sat together for several hours and discussed the status of American-Israeli relations, the stalled peace talks, and wider developments in the region. At their joint press conference afterwards, the Prime Minister returned to and expanded on the themes his office annunciated just two days earlier. “Israel is prepared to make generous compromises for peace,” but would not accept the indefensible 1967 borders. He stated quite clearly that Israel’s pre-1967 geography precluded any possibility of this. In addition, he stated very forcefully, “we’re going to have to have a long-term military presence along the Jordan.” He didn’t say “we would like to have” or “it would be a good idea,” but decisively, we are going to have it.

Perhaps to allay concerns that a major rift was growing between the two allies, Prime Minister Netanyahu acknowledged the President’s statement regarding Hamas. Scorning it as “the Palestinian version of al-Qaeda” (see https://themiddleeasthotspot.wordpress.com/2011/05/22/pity-poor-president-obama/) he indicated that Israel could not be asked to negotiate with a terrorist organization. Only weeks before, Hamas terrorists had killed a teenage boy with a deliberate rocket attack on a school bus and then condemned America for the killing of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

Finally, echoing his statement of 19 May, the Prime Minister said, “the Palestinian refugee problem will have to be resolved in the context of a Palestinian state” not within Israel’s borders. He also raised, perhaps for the first time by an Israeli prime minister, the issue of Jewish refugees. It is little known outside of Israel, but in the period from 1948-1952 Israel absorbed over 900,000 Jewish refugees from Arab states. People who had been stripped of almost all of their possessions and subjected to dictates reminiscent of the recently defeated Nazi Germany.

On 24 May, the Prime Minister forcefully repeated Israel’s position in front of a partisan audience at the America Israel Public Affairs Committee’s (AIPAC) annual policy conference. He evoked the shared commitment to democracy and liberty, reminding those assembled that the ideas of all mean being “created in God’s image, that no ruler is above the law, that everyone is entitled to justice” originated in biblical Israel. These ideas are finally coming to the Arab world, he said, noting the unrest that has rocked the region and toppled two Arab autocrats. Pointing out that the region’s problems are not rooted in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but in the lack of freedom in the Arab world, he proclaimed, “Israel is what is right about the Middle East.”

Finally on the same day, Benjamin Netanyahu had the rare privilege, although it was the second time he has enjoyed such an honor, of addressing a joint-session of the US Congress. Immediately, he played his “Congress card” saying, “And I do see a lot of old friends here. And I do see a lot of new friends here. Democrats and Republicans alike.” The message was clear: my support in your Congress, unlike yours, President Obama, is deep and bipartisan. Applause interrupted the Israeli Prime Minister’s speech more than they had interrupted the President’s State of the Union address four months earlier. Later on in his speech, he would thank President Obama for leading the international effort to impose sanctions on Iran, and pointedly thanked Congress for passing “even tougher sanctions.”

Once again, he noted the region’s turbulence, the “epic battle” unfolding “between tyranny and freedom” and reminded America’s congressional representatives that the outcome of this battle is never certain. Indeed, twice it was lost in the region: in Iran in 1979 and Lebanon in 2010. He made a point that, “Of the 300 million Arabs” in the region, only the one million in Israel “enjoy real democratic rights.” He could have easily added that if there was freedom of press in the Arab world, his words would ring true in every home from Sudan to Syria, from Algeria to Oman.

Again, he clearly stated Israel’s policies: ‘yes’ to a Palestinian state, ‘no’ to the 1967 borders. Israel will incorporate major settlement blocs into its final borders, including Jerusalem. The Palestinian refugee problem will be solved within the context of a Palestinian state, not within the borders of Israel. Finally, that the Palestinian state that emerges will be demilitarized, and that Israel will maintain a long-term military presence in the strategic Jordan River valley.

May 26, 2011 Posted by | Middle East | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Pity poor President Obama

Pity the poor politician. Reading the newspaper over breakfast, he sees his policies assailed from both Left and Right. Pundits – who always know better two days after a decision is required – double-guess him. Of the many editorials that appear in the op-ed pages, few are supportive. And that is just what our tormented public servant must contend with over his morning coffee!

Of course, we really don’t pity him. First, he asked for the job. He raised money, campaigned, traveled from one end of the state to the other and back because he wanted this responsibility. Second, he is financially compensated for his efforts by the taxpayers. The non-financial perquisites – cars, planes, personal security teams, and an official residence – are also courtesy of the taxpayer. So, perhaps we have a right to expect greater consistency, a higher level of performance, more so than we might demand of ourselves.

In my opinion, it is consistency (or its lack thereof) and level of performance (or the unevenness thereof) that bothers voters more than the salary and other perks. A politician who sticks by his principles and matches effective policies to his beliefs is, with a bit of luck, often successful. A politician who dithers back and forth between positions and who fails to create and implement effective policies is scorned.

I will offer today’s punditry, and call on the op-ed page of Israel’s largest daily newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth, for the editorial. One of the editorials, “Obama’s False Comparison”, chides the US President for not extending his reasoning to its ultimate conclusion. Hanoch Daum writes that Barack Obama is “pained by the suffering of Israelis, but also by the suffering of Palestinians. For Obama, Israeli parents who lost their children and Palestinian parents who lost their children are two sides of the same equation . . . the pain felt by parents who lost their children is the same.”

If we were to extend this line of reasoning further, as Daum rightly does, “the suffering of the children who lost their parents in the September 11 disaster is similar to the pain felt by bin Laden’s young children after they lost their father, who was killed without a trial.” Daum rhetorically asks why the US president does not have the same Osama bin Laden’s children, whose assassination Obama ordered?

The answer is clear: “because protecting American citizens is more important” to Obama than the pain of al Qaeda orphans. After all, al Qaeda orphans do not make campaign contributions or vote; the children of the 9/11 victims can, do and will. Politics is not Pythagorean logic, and there are some parallels one cannot draw. Daum has the freedom of being an editorialist; President Obama the not-so-enviable task of reconciling Israelis and Palestinians.

However, if President Obama is truly interested in ending the suffering of Israeli and Palestinian children, of ensuring that neither Israeli nor Palestinian parents are bereaved, an effective policy would start with the truth. As Daum notes, Israeli children are “suffering as result of harsh, direct Palestinian belligerence. Palestinian terrorists are trying to deliberately hurt them. The children of Gaza, on the other hand, are suffering indirectly, only because Israel needs to defend itself. Both sides are suffering as result of Palestinian terrorism.”

Making high-minded speeches about borders, land swaps and two-states for two-peoples is empty rhetoric as long as half of the Palestinian political establishment is active supporting terrorism.

May 22, 2011 Posted by | Middle East | , , , , | Leave a comment

Israel, Palestine and the UN

INTRODUCTION
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 SITUATION AT THE UN
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.

PALESTINIAN POLITICS
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

The New anti-Semitism

A day ago, a friend sent me an article from a Spanish writer named Sebastian Vilar Rodriguez that was published in a Spanish newspaper on Jan. 15, 2008. The argument that he puts forth isn’t exactly new; it’s been circulating for several years. It attempts to explain the anti-Semitic – thinly veiled as anti-Israel – policies that the European Left has been pushing.

Rodriguez central tenet is that in order to atone for the sin of the Holocaust, Europeans have thrown aside their own beliefs. That: “. . . under the pretense of tolerance, and because we wanted to prove to ourselves that we were cured of the disease of racism, we opened our gates to 20 million Muslims, who brought us stupidity and ignorance, religious extremism and lack of tolerance, crime and poverty, due to an unwillingness to work and support their families with pride.” Having sown these seeds, the only ‘logical’ course is to harvest the crop.

Thus, leftist European politicians routinely ignore acts of terrorism, murder and the wholesale distortion of history in order to appease their collective guilt. ‘If only we could give the Palestinians a state, then all would be forgiven.’ Of course, this state comes at a price: Israel. And so very slowly, they grind their bitter harvest.

It is beyond the scope of a mere blog posting to explain “traditional” pre-war European anti-Semitism. Several hundred books have been written on that subject. There are though, in my opinion, several factors beyond collective European guilt that explain “modern” European anti-Semitism. Briefly, these are as follows.

Israel attempts to define itself as a democratic Jewish state. Israel is saying in essence, our teleological path is complete without your history. In contrast, many European politicians (and most American ones) call out to their ‘Judeo-Christian’ heritage. Detractors claim that this is done solely to win ‘Jewish votes.” However, there really isn’t much of a ‘Jewish vote’ in most European countries these days, and the Muslims will outnumber Jews in America before the end of the decade. Does anyone see an American politician citing ‘Islamic-Christian’ values?

Not only has Israel defined itself as a Jewish democracy, it has been a tremendously successful one. At times, almost too tolerant. Only a few days ago, did Israeli legislators make it illegal to protest the founding of the State of Israel in Israel. What did they do? Legislation is now on the books that fines(!) municipalities and civic associations that budget funds for such activities. And those convicted of treason are no longer entitled to a state-funded pension.

Israel has absorbed millions of refugees and created a vibrant, diverse culture that recognizes and accepts several core political and social concepts. Wave upon wave of immigration has eroded the core values of European culture. The immigrants come from every corner of the world, are of every race. And while the immigrants Europe takes in also are from every corner of the world and are of every race, they shut themselves into self-imposed ghettos.

Israel’s economy and inventiveness have become synonymous with high tech, biotechnology, medicine and telecommunications. One can hardly say this of Greece, Ireland or Spain – where coincidentally some of the strongest proponents of the new anti-Semitism are to be found. Israel leads the world in patents per capita, percentage of GDP spent on civilian R&D, the number of books published per capita, and routinely has nominees for the Nobel Prize.

There is Israel’s military strength to be considered. Yes, Israel does purchase the best weapons it can. Then again, so do the Arab countries – purchasing tanks, helicopters, jets and missiles from the USSR (now Russia), China, Britain, France and even the US. Arab countries outspend Israel on military purchases. However, they would be wiser to just burn their petrodollars in a bonfire. Every time they attack, Israel wins.

How galling it must be for the European Left. To realize that a people that once were so dependent on whatever crumbs of sympathy they cared to let fall to the floor are now capable of taking care of themselves. And quite capably, too.

Now, Israel has proven energy reserves. Enough natural gas for the next twenty years at least. There is abundant oil shale, as well, made accessible for the first time with new recovery technologies.  What has the Prime Minister of Israel proposed doing with the royalties from this? Why, spend it on education, of course!

In summary, Israel’s democracy, economy, successful absorption of immigrants, technology and military prowess all stand in sharp relief to the malaise that hangs over Europe. To quote Rodriguez, “we have exchanged culture for fanatical hatred, creative skill for destructive skill, intelligence for backwardness and superstition.” The more the European Left is forced to look and the consequences of their policies, how these policies are ravaging Europe’s once-great cities, is it any wonder that they are embittered? Unfortunately, the European Left has deluded itself.

There are a few brave leaders remaining in Europe who are trying to address this. They have analyzed the situation, sorting fact from emotion, truth from distortion. It is a difficult undertaking, and they are beset on all sides by those with vested interests in seeing Europe destroy itself with misguided policies. Yet, they have come to the conclusion that the only right thing to do, the only thing that as Europeans they should do, is to support Israel.

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

The Palestinian Price Tag

For several years now, since the first sanctions were imposed on Iran for defying the International Atomic Energy Association’s rules, there has been an on-going discussion of military action. A variety of scenarios have been circulated regarding American and/or Israeli air strikes. Some analysts contend that Iran’s nuclear program is too advanced and too far-flung to destroy. Others contend that it hinges on just a few critical sites. Regardless of the level of success, pundits agree that if Israel attacks Iran, Iran will strike at Israel in response.

If the US is seen as involved, the Iranian response will include the various Gulf kingdoms aligned with the US using missiles, possibly armed with chemical or biological weapons. Others predict that Iran will unleash its puppets, Hamas and Hizbullah, and their arsenals of short-range missile. A regional war involving several countries has been forecast, as well as a global wave of terror. Any combination of these is also possible. The Iranian response will undoubtedly be violent, but it will be brief as it is ineffective.

Any solid military analysis of the situation leads to the conclusion that Israel, acting alone, is capable of inflicting enormous damage on Iran. Using just conventionally armed aircraft and missiles, Israel would be able to destroy at least six critical Iranian nuclear facilities in one blow. It could also inflict heavy damage of Iranian petroleum facilities, further delaying an Iranian rebuilding effort.

Having clearly demonstrated that it is militarily superior to every country in the region, and having destroyed the single existential threat that (currently) exists, Israeli leaders would be hard-pressed to claim any additional security concerns. The price tag of success will be a Palestinian state. And there will be intense international pressure for this to occur immediately.

Without American support, Israel would be diplomatically isolated. Traditionally anti-Israel bodies, such as the UNHRC, would be mobilized to condemn Israel. Claims would be brought to the International Court of Justice. UN Security Council resolution would pile up fast. Various treaties and pacts currently under discussion between Isreal and a host of nations would be shelved, if not scrapped outright. If Israel acts alone, it will need to have the diplomatic muscle of the United States behind it in order to deal with the aftermath.

The US and EU would not be overly concerned with the long-term consequences of either a Palestinian state or how such diplomatic pressure might effect Israel’s geo-strategic psychology. The conflict will have sent oil prices to the $150/barrel range – or higher. Energy shortages will cripple the already sluggish global economy. World financial markets will be in turmoil. The US and EU will act hastily to prevent further economic damage. It will not be a time to worry about demographics, Riparian water rights or political stability (Palestinian).

NATO, perhaps with a token Russian presence, would deploy troops over most of the West Bank as an interim measure, probably within a month of the UNSC imposing a ceasefire on all the belligerents. Israel would withdraw the bulk of its forces, probably over a period of 3 – 6 months. The smaller settlements would be dismantled and their occupants transferred to Israel proper or the so-called large settlement blocs. There may be a token exchange of territories and populations between Israel and the nascent Palestinian state.

What would happen to Jerusalem? That depends on how quickly and quietly Israeli leaders agree to the deployment of NATO troops, removal of settlements and the re-drawing of boundaries. Quick accession to these demands might assure continued Israeli sovereignty over most of Jerusalem, with a minimal international presence with very limited authority. Israeli delay could result in Jerusalem being partitioned.

Israeli leaders face an excruciating dilemma. It is universally agreed that sanctions will not dissuade the Iranians from developing a nuclear capability. Unless publicly forced to face the clearest evidence of Iranian intentions, the Obama administration will not act militarily. Thus, Israel must act on her own.
However, military success will also result in the creation of a Palestinian state that is economically and politically unstable, as well as violent. This is likely to remain the situation for at least a decade, meaning that there will be no “peace dividend” for Israel. The question now becomes, not will Israel act, but when? And have Israeli leaders considered how they – and the citizens of Israel – will contend with the aftermath?

October 1, 2010 Posted by | Middle East | , , , , | Leave a comment

A Diplomatic Offensive

Rehovot
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

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

No MidEast Accomplishments? No surpise!

As all good bloggers are accustomed to doing, I have multiple methods of keeping track of the number of “hits” my postings receive. First, there is the stat-tracking on the blog’s host site. Second, there are the automatic notifications from the discussion boards on which I post links. Third, there is my friend Frank. Frank often tells me how bad (the term he often uses is “POS!”) such a particular piece was.

Recently, it seemed that a lot of older postings were receiving increased hits, and I wondered why. Perhaps the holiday season had caused them to reflect on the state of humanity? Could it be that people had suddenly taken an interest in world affairs? Or was it more likely that a string of terrorist attacks – I refuse to use the Obama administration’s epithet “extremists” – had jarred people of their “historical moment” infatuation with Barack Hussein Obama?

Had they suddenly realized what a terrible mistake they just might have made that fateful first Tuesday in November 2008? Yes, I think they are beginning to realize that.

BHO came to office with no real plan to govern. He had no idea how to fix the economy, no I idea how to fix America’s healthcare crisis, no idea how to stop global warming, and certainly not even a gram’s worth of sense as far as foreign policy is concerned.

Let’s be fair. No one really has an idea how to fix the economy; it has never been broken like this before. America’s healthcare system is a mess, but one that could easily be solved by eating at McDonald’s ten fewer times each week and exercising. The demise of the world’s economies has at least delayed the melting of the polar icecaps. However, the Middle East is more than the Arab-Israeli conflict.

President Obama’s simplistic reduction of the matter to one of Palestinian statehood obscures numerous problems. Oil wealth is not evenly distributed and the have’s are not sharing with the have-not’s. There is a burgeoning demographic crises, with the number of 18-24 year olds increasing. This demographic is the cannon-fodder for extremist movements. There is the conflict between Shi’ite and Sunni Islam, 14 centuries in the making. Arab, Persians and Turks have been fighting for dominance over the region for almost the same period of time.

I have tried numerous times to parse President Obama’s foreign policy vis-à-vis this region. Is he truly simplistic and naïve? Does he hold the view that the US cannot continue to act as the world’s policeman? Is he just trying to keep the lid on the pot? All of these explanations may be true; none of them may be. One certainty is, that after a year in office he has accomplished little, excepting reducing America’s standing with allies and bolstering the prestige of its enemies.

January 2, 2010 Posted by | Middle East, Obama | , , , , | Leave a comment

Nuclear Tap Dance

When will the other shoe drop?

In May of this year, one potential piece of Barack Obama’s “comprehensive” peace plan emerged.  It was given very little coverage outside of the Middle East.  On May 5, 2009, the US Assistant Secretary of State Rose Gottemoeller urged Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea to sign the non-proliferation treaty. One hundred eighty six nations have.  This includes Iran, which is flagrant violation; and Libya, which was “scared straight” by former President George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq in 2003.

At that time Uzi Even, a former Knesset member and scientist at the nuclear reactor in Dimona, said the statement by the assistant secretary of state is indicative of a change in the US’ policy towards Israel regarding its nuclear capabilities.  “In the past there was an informal agreement between the US and Israel; the Americans knew Israel possessed nuclear arms but looked the other way,” he said, “now the US is breaching this agreement.”   This would not be the last time the Obama regime has unilaterally attempted to re-write its relationship with Israel.

Even suggests that Israel must change its deliberately vague nuclear policy and sign the NPT, which would place Dimona under international supervision.  This would also allow Israel to develop nuclear weapons, at least theoretically.  However, Israel declaring its nuclear program is unlikely to have a positive effect on the stability of the region.  Arab states would then argue that Israel must disarm before any other issues can be discussed – including the dismantling of the Iranian program.

The other shoe drops

This past week, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit appealed to the UN Security Council to put Israel’s nuclear program under international supervision and set a timeframe for a nuclear-free Middle East.  In a letter to the 15-member council last week, Aboul Gheit highlighted that Israel has not signed onto the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) adding: “Israel’s nuclear capabilities cannot evade world attention.”

The resolution, passed at the end of the annual general assembly of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna on September 24, also demands that Israel open its nuclear reactor in Dimona to international inspectors.  Thus, the Egyptians have successfully put Israel’s nuclear program on the agenda.

In the first resolution, a majority of 49 countries passed.   The majority included all the members of the Arab League and the bloc of developing nations.  Opposing the resolution were 45 Western countries, including the European Union and the United States.  There were 16 abstentions.
Although the US and Europe attempted to back Israel, the result was a foregone conclusion.  The institutions the West created in the aftermath of the Second World War were hijacked years ago.  Gotemoeller’s little speech was picked up by Egypt and they ran with it.

Bargaining Chips

If Israel were to sign the NPT treaty, it would theoretically open the door to IAEA inspections.  This means Dimona, the site of most of Israel’s nuclear research activities, as well as several smaller facilities, such as Nahal Sorek. The reasoning goes like this: if Israel were to sign and admit inspectors, it would put pressure on Iran to give IAEA inspectors access to Iranian facilities, and also put pressure on them to start abiding by previously agreed upon limitations.  However, reason and Iran seldom go together.

If it were reasonable, wouldn’t it have responded to the first round of sanctions? What about the second round and third rounds of sanctions, which it ignored?  Reason would also dictate that with 120,000+ US troops based in countries on its eastern and western borders, Iran would act cautiously.  That hasn’t fazed the Iranians, either.  In fact, America, weary of both wars, their costs and their casualties, would like nothing better than to leave both Iraq and Afghanistan.  It knows it cannot do either, as Iran is poised to fill the vacuum should America leave precipitously.

However, let’s get back to the dance.  Increasingly, the Americans and the moderate Arab camp are viewing the Israeli nuclear program as a bargaining chip.  Why not?  It’s a good one that the so-called moderate Arab states can collect on twice.   If Israel is compelled to “come clean” on its nuclear program and weapons, immense pressure could be brought to bear on Iran. While Israel would still retain a strategic advantage, the extent of its capabilities would become known, giving the moderate camp more leverage on a host of issues: weapon purchases, their own nuclear plans and a Palestinian state.

If there were a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East, it would benefit Israel and all other nations as well.  If such a prohibition were coupled with a ban on the development of biological and chemical agents, along with missile technology, it would actually be to Israel’s advantage.  Unfortunately, the US and its European allies seem to have lost the testicular fortitude necessary to take action when even their most basic ideas and values are under attack. Obama only wags his finger at tyrants in Damascus and Teheran and mutters “tsk, tsk, tsk” under the chorus of change.

September 28, 2009 Posted by | Middle East, Obama | , , , | 1 Comment