Monday, August 31, 2009

No Peace Without Syria.

by Michael Totten


“No war without Egypt, no peace without Syria.” — Henry Kissinger

European Union Foreign Policy Chief Javier Solana flew to Damascus this weekend to cajole Syria into reentering peace talks with Israel. He’s going to go home disappointed, if not now, then later, just as every other Western diplomat before him has failed to put an end to the perpetual Arab-Israeli conflict. Bashar Assad couldn’t sign a peace treaty with Israel even if he wanted to — and he doesn’t want to.

Assad’s late father and former President Hafez Assad imposed his dictatorial “emergency rule” on Syria in 1963, and he and his son have justified it ever since by pointing to the never-ending war with the state of Israel. Many Syrians have grown weary of this excuse after more than four decades of crisis, but Assad would nevertheless face more pressure to loosen up his Soviet-style system without it.

An official state of war costs Assad very little. His army does not have to fight. His father learned the hard way in 1967 that Israel could beat three Arab armies, including his own, in six days. Assad can only fight Israel through proxies like Hamas and Hezbollah, but that suits him just fine. Gaza and Lebanon absorb Israel’s incoming fire when the fighting heats up.

Assad gains a lot, though, by buying himself some legitimacy with the Muslim Brotherhood.

Syria’s fundamentalist Sunnis have long detested his Baath Party regime, not only because it’s secular and oppressive, but because its leaders are considered heretics. The Assads and most of the Baathist elites belong to the Alawite religious minority, descendants of the followers of Mohammad ibn Nusayr who took them out of mainstream Twelver Shiite Islam in the 10th century. Their religion has as much in common with Christianity and Gnosticism as it does with Islam, and most Syrians find it both bizarre and offensive that the Alawites are in charge of the country instead of the majority Sunnis.

In 1982, the Muslim Brotherhood took up arms against the regime in the city of Hama. The elder Assad dispatched the Alawite-dominated military and destroyed most of the old city with air strikes, tanks, and artillery. Rifaat Assad, the former president’s younger brother, boasted that 38,000 people were killed in a single day. Not once since then have the Muslim Brothers tried to rise up again.

In his book From Beirut to Jerusalem, Thomas Friedman dubbed the senior Assad’s rules of engagement “Hama Rules.” They are the Syrian stick. The carrot is Assad’s steadfast “resistance” against Israel. No Arab government in the world is as stridently anti-Israel, in both action and rhetoric, as Assad’s. There is no better way for a detested Alawite regime to curry favor with Sunnis in Syria and the Arab world as a whole than by adopting the anti-Zionist cause as its own.

Earlier this year, I met with Lebanon’s Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, who asserted that the Alawite regime is actually afraid of signing a peace treaty with Israel. As the leader of a religious minority himself, Jumblatt knows better than most how risky it can be to cross the majority.

“Suppose,” he said, “we go ultimately to the so-called peace. Then later on, what is the purpose of the Syrian regime? What is Assad going to tell his people? Especially, mind you, he is a member of the Alawite minority. This minority could be accused of treason. It’s not like Egypt or Jordan whereby the government has some legitimacy. Here you get accused of treason by the masses, by the Sunnis. So using classic slogans like ‘Palestine will liberate the Golan with Hezbollah’ is a must for him to stay in power.” Syria’s Alawite elites understand this very well, even if Western diplomats like Javier Solana do not.

“When Hafez Assad was about to fix up the so-called settlement through Bill Clinton,” Jumblatt continued, “and before they met him in Geneva, a prominent Alawite officer in the Syrian army came to Assad and said, ‘What are you doing? We will be lost if you make peace. We will be accused of treason.’”

I don’t know for sure whether Syria’s Sunni Arabs — who make up around 70 percent of the population — would actually accuse Assad of treason and seriously threaten to remove him from power if he signed a peace treaty. But that’s how many Alawites see it. As “infidels,” they don’t feel they have the legitimacy to force Sunni Arabs to make peace with Israel. That is a risky business even for Sunni Arab leaders, as the assassination of Egypt’s Anwar Sadat shows.

Most of Syria’s Alawites live along the Mediterranean coast away from the Sunni heartland. They could, at least theoretically, be separated from Syria into their own Alawite nation. The Middle East would probably be a safer place if they were. They did have their own semi-autonomous government under the French Mandate between 1930 and 1937, and again from 1939 to 1944, but their Latakia region has been a part of Syria ever since.

Such a nation almost certainly would make peace with Israel, at least eventually, if it wasn’t ruled by Assad and his thuggish clan. Arab Nationalism would lose its appeal among a people that would no longer need to demonstrate belonging to an ethnic majority to make up for its status as a religious minority. The strident anti-Zionism of the Sunni “street” could likewise ease. A free Alawite state might even be a natural ally of Israel for the same reasons the Middle East’s Christians and Kurds tend to be.



Michael Totten

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.


Obama Administration's Arab-Israeli Policy Adjustment: Out of the Frying Pan Into the.Saucepan

by Barry Rubin

The Obama Administration is slowly adjusting its policy on Arab-Israeli issues but doing so in a way that ensures it still won't work. They understand they were doing it wrong, they still don’t understand what they were doing wrong.

Briefly, in phase one the administration demanded Israel unilaterally stop construction on settlements in the West Bank, activity which not only all previous U.S. presidents in practice accepted but so did the Palestinians. By accepted, I don’t mean the Palestinians didn’t complain about it but that fact never stopped the negotiations’ process for 15 years. Obama has now achieved a full stop to the bilateral talks.

Once the United States raised the bar, the Palestinian Authority and Arab states could do no less. Now negotiations are frozen while construction isn’t.

In phase 2, U.S. policy did more unintentional damage, even though the shift was in the right direction. It asked Arab states and the Palestinians to give some confidence-building measure to Israel. They said “no,” and probably they would have done so under any conditions. That was predictable but it leads to an interesting and extremely important point.

Everyone speaks of how popular President Barack Obama is, and when it comes to the Middle East this is exaggerated. But the key word here isn’t “popular” but “credible.”

“I like you but I’m not going to bet on you,” is the way it could be expressed. If you are perceived as weak, it doesn’t matter if they think you’re a nice guy. In Middle East politics, nice guys really do finish last.

Once the whole Arab world plus Iran plus Israel defies you and you just smile and nod and don’t do anything about it, you’re credibility is even lower. Perhaps it will stay that way for four or eight years.

Now we are in Phase 3, characterized by bubbly optimism from Washington—everything’s going well, everyone’s cooperating—but still quite out of tune with reality. I have noted that false optimism--pretending progress is being made when it isn’t--can in part be a good strategy. But the administration is going about it in a way that ensures failure.

How? In the “Godfather,” Don Vito Corleone made people an offer they couldn’t refuse. If they do, they know he will back up his proposals with power. Obama makes people offers they’ll never accept. Not only do they know they'll get away with it but they can expect he will offer them even more afterward.

Don Corleone said, "Keep your friends close and your enemies closer." Obama says, in effect, treat your friends badly and your enemies well. As a result, friends are going to think about moving into a less close relationship.

In addition, you don’t set preconditions on Arab-Israeli negotiations if you ever want them to get started. Since both sides aren’t eager to negotiate they will seize on the preconditions as excuses or use them to demand more. Successful negotiations--the first Camp David meeting, the 1991 Madrid conference--were held without any serious preconditions.

And so it sends the wrong signal when State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said August 27 that the United States would be flexible on pre-negotiation conditions for the parties because it is signalling that conditions can exist.

Middle East translation: I can use the fact that there are pre-conditions to say “no” and I can use the fact that you are flexible to ask for more.

President Obama, if you want negotiations, get rid of preconditions and bring the parties together. (It wouldn’t work any way but you’re the one who wants talks so make them happen.)

Crowley also said:

"We put forward our ideas, publicly and privately, about what it will take for negotiations to be restarted, but ultimately it'll be up to the parties themselves, with our help, to determine whether that threshold has been met."

Ah, so the administration is leaving it in Palestinian hands to decide if they’ve gotten enough to talk? That’s an open invitation to get all sorts of demands from them. The problem that Obama hasn’t understood yet is that when you basically renounce force and threats, apologize, and say that the United States is just another partner in the world, you’ve given away the power you need to get things done.

Finally, the administration has no idea that even if Israel were to give a partial freeze, the Palestinians would demand a full one. If Israel gave a full one, the Palestinians would make up stories about construction or add in a demand for no remodeling or renovations on existing apartments.

The situation regarding the Obama administration in the Middle East today is something like putting a child who is still learning the rules up against the world’s greatest poker players. For the first six months of a new president that is an understandable problem but if it continues longer the feeble condition of this administration's foreign policy starts to seem permanent.

Reportedly, the administration wants a breakthrough in September. Why? It will look good during the UN General Assembly session and, more important, it will be in place when Obama asks for tougher sanctions against Iran.

Good luck.


Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal.
Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.


Column One: The Rigged Game.


by Caroline Glick


On Tuesday the Guardian reported that the Obama administration is now making Israel an offer it can't refuse: In exchange for a government order to freeze construction for Jews in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, the administration will adopt a "much tougher line with Iran over its alleged nuclear weapons program."


Israel should refuse this offer.


What the Guardian account shows is an Obama administration looking to blame Israel for the failure of its policy of attempting to appease the likes of Iranian dictator Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.


Come September, US President Barack Obama is going to have a difficult time of it. He set a September deadline for his strategy of diplomatically courting the mullahs. This policy involves deferring further sanctions against Teheran and all but openly renouncing the option of using military force to destroy Iran's nuclear installations while waiting politely for the mullahs to sit down for tea with US officials.


Far from accepting Obama's offer, the Iranians have spit on it. Indeed, they have been too busy brutalizing their own people and building bombs and missiles to even respond to him directly. Instead, they have signaled their contempt for Obama by promoting known arch-terrorists to high office. For instance, Ahmadinejad just appointed Ahmad Vahidi, the suspected mastermind of the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish center in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people and the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia where 19 US servicemen and women were murdered to serve as defense minister.


In support of Obama's appeasement efforts, both the House and the Senate Foreign Relations committees set aside veto-proof bills that would place sanctions on companies exporting refined fuel to Iran. But Congress, now on summer recess, reconvenes in September and members are anxiously awaiting a green light from the White House to put the bills before a vote.


So unless something saves him, Obama will look like quite a fool next month. His appeasement policy has given the mullahs eight precious months of unimpeded work at their nuclear installations. Their uranium enrichment facility at Natanz is now operating some 5,000 centrifuges, with another 2,400 centrifuges about to go on line. That is an eightfold increase in centrifuge activity from a year ago.


Obama now turns to Israel to avoid embarrassment. If he can convince Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu that the White House will only get serious about Iran's nuclear weapons program if Netanyahu freezes Jewish building in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem, then Obama can present his sudden willingness to sign on to veto-proof congressional sanctions legislation not as a consequence of his own failure, but as a result of Israeli pressure.


If Obama succeeds in getting Netanyahu on board, the American media discussion of sanctions will focus on the issue of Israeli power over US policy. The so-called Israel lobby will be pummeled as pundits argue about whether Obama was right or wrong to succumb to Israeli pressure to support congressional sanctions. No one will remember that Obama was forced to support the sanctions because he had no other choice, since next month his engagement policy will become indefensible.


On the other hand, if Israel refuses to play ball and doesn't provide Obama with a concession which he will be "forced" to pay for with a harder line on Iran, then he will still have to adopt a harder line. In this case, however, it will be attributed to the failure of his appeasement policy toward Iran rather than to the success of his Middle East diplomacy against Israel.


Obama's apparent interest in setting Israel up as the fall guy for the failure of his engagement policy is the same policy he will doubtless follow if matters continue on course and Teheran acquires nuclear weapons. At that point, Obama can be counted on to claim that it was Israel's recalcitrance in the negotiations with the Palestinians or the Syrians or the Lebanese that forced the mullahs' hands. That is, he will say it is the absence of "progress" in the "peace process" due to whatever imagined Israeli intransigence that made it impossible for the Iranian "moderates" to convince the "hardliners" to give up their nuclear weapons program.


In Obama's defense, it should be noted that at least he worries about being embarrassed by the failure of his Iran policy. He knows that the overwhelming majority of Americans consider Iran to be an enemy of their country. In a poll of US voters taken in May, some 80 percent of Americans claimed that a nuclear-armed Iran would constitute a threat to US national security and 57% said that Israel would be justified in launching a preemptive strike against Iran's nuclear installations.


Things are different on the other side of the Atlantic. Obama's European counterparts do not face a comparable situation. They have no reason to fear being embarrassed when and if Iran emerges as a nuclear power, because their constituents view Israel as threat equal to or greater than Iran.


European politics - particularly as they relate to the Middle East - are not informed by rational interests so much as they are defined by attitude. Facts today mean little in Europe. They are easily crushed under the weight of the fantasies that dominate European political discourse.


The main fantasy governing Europe's attitude toward the Middle East is the belief in Israeli militaristic venality, fundamentalist messianism, and territorial greed. It is this fantasy that protects European leaders from the need to account for their six years of failed appeasement toward Iran, during which Iran has made its swiftest progress toward completing its nuclear weapons program.


It is the predominance of anti-Israel attitudes throughout the continent that enables European leaders to make light of the Iranian nuclear threat even as ever growing swathes of the continent fall within the range of the Islamic republic's ballistic missiles.


mere glance at the daily Middle East coverage of your standard European newspaper suffices to demonstrate the depths of Europe's obsession with hating Israel. The absence of peace is always Israel's fault. The fact that the Arabs have never accepted Israel's right to exist is either whitewashed or justified. So too, Arab terrorism is explained away while every act - small and large - that in any way asserts Israel's right to defend itself is pounced upon as proof of Israel's criminality and brutality.


Case in point is an interview Intelligence Minister Dan Meridor gave to Der Spiegel's diplomatic correspondent Erich Follath ahead of Netanyahu's visit to Germany this week. The entire interview consisted of interchanges like the following:


Follath: You blame Palestinian intransigence [for the absence of peace]. Western leaders are, of course, demanding that the Arab side compromise on some issues. But they are also putting pressure on Israel to make concessions, as well, especially when it comes to its aggressive settlement policy in the West Bank.


Meridor: There is no such policy.


Follath: You don't regard new settlements in the occupied territories as being a major stumbling block in the peace process?


Meridor: That's exactly why we aren't building new settlements. We haven't approved any.


Follath: You are sidestepping the issue. US President Barack Obama wouldn't urge Israel to stop its settlement policies if he didn't have a reason to do so...


Meridor: What you describe is neither the official policy of Prime Minister Netanyahu nor the official policy of the government."


Follath's questions, and his dogged determination to ignore everything that Meridor said reflect this general European propensity to embrace the fantasy of Israeli criminality over the reality of Israeli willingness to do just about anything for peace.


Israel has for years based its public diplomacy regarding Teheran's nuclear weapons program on successive governments' assessments that given Iran's global reach and the threat it poses to global security, states will be more willing to act to prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons than they are to acknowledge Palestinian terrorism which is employed almost exclusively against Israel. What Israeli leaders - including Netanyahu - have failed to recognize is that the antipathy of Europeans toward Israel is so great that they are willing to explain away Iran's nuclear weapons program because it is aimed first of all against Israel.


Case in point is yet another screed by Follath published in Der Spiegel in June. There he characterized Netanyahu and Ahmadinejad as "twins," who are united in their "apocalyptic religious visions."


As Follath sees it, both are equally responsible for the rising likelihood of war between Israel and Iran that is liable to suck in countries around the region and the world. As far as he - and his loyal readers - are concerned, Israel and Iran deserve each other.


Such views inevitably temper any propensity European leaders may have to act against the Islamic republic. This was demonstrated by German Chancellor Angela Merkel during her appearance with Netanyahu in Berlin on Thursday. Merkel rejected Israel's comparison of Iran's stated aim of destroying Israel to the Shoah, saying, "There is no comparison between the Holocaust and the Iranian nuclear program."


If there is no comparison, then Germany, which she claimed is duty bound to defend Israel due to the Holocaust, has no obligation to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power.


But if Merkel is wrong, and as a result of the lackadaisical attitude she, her European colleagues, and the Obama administration have adopted, Iran acquires nuclear weapons and as promised, uses them to commit a new genocide of Jewry, she has no reason to worry. The anti-Israel attitude now rampant in Europe will ensure that she will pay no price, and will not even be embarrassed for her failure to heed the warnings.


Case in point is the newest Swedish media blood libel against Israel, and the numerous blood libels - most prominently France 2's Muhammad al-Dura blood libel from September 2000 - that preceded it. Stories like Aftonbladet's fiction of IDF theft of Palestinian organs and France 2's false allegation that the IDF murders Arab children sell newspapers and raise television ratings because the popular animus against Israel is so great that people are willing to buy newspapers and watch television networks that propagate obvious lies that feed this irrational hatred. Indeed, it pays to disseminate such lies.


France 2's Charles Enderlain, the father of the al-Dura lie, just received France's L├ęgion d'honneur from President Nicolas Sarkozy. Then, too, anti-Israel activist Felicia Langer just received Germany's Federal Cross of Honor, and Israel-hater and former Irish president Mary Robinson was just awarded the US Presidential Medal of Freedom.


The lesson of all of this for Israel is clear. Whether Netanyahu is dealing with Obama or European leaders, the game is rigged against us. Any move that Israel makes toward these leaders will simply facilitate their further castigation of the Jewish state and support their clear intentions to do nothing to prevent Iran from acquiring the means to destroy Israel.


As we have been all too often in our history, today Israel stands alone against our enemies. We can either defeat them, or we can be defeated. The choice is ours.



Caroline Glick

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.


Sunday, August 30, 2009

The source of Obama's anti-Israel policy.


by  E.W. Jackson Sr.

Like Obama, I am a graduate of Harvard Law School. I too have Muslims in my family. I am black, and I was once a leftist Democrat. Since our backgrounds are somewhat similar, I perceive something in Obama's policy toward Israel which people without that background may not see. All my life I have witnessed a strain of anti-Semitism in the black community. It has been fueled by the rise of the Nation of Islam and Louis Farrakhan, but it predates that organization.

We heard it in Jesse Jackson's "HYMIE town" remark years ago during his presidential campaign. We heard it most recently in Jeremiah Wright's remark about "them Jews" not allowing Obama to speak with him. I hear it from my own Muslim family members who see the problem in the Middle East as a "Jew" problem.

Growing up in a small, predominantly black urban community in Pennsylvania, I heard the comments about Jewish shop owners. They were "greedy cheaters" who could not be trusted, according to my family and others in the neighborhood. I was too young to understand what it means to be Jewish, or know that I was hearing anti-Semitism. These people seemed nice enough to me, but others said they were "evil". Sadly, this bigotry has yet to be eradicated from the black community.

In Chicago, the anti-Jewish sentiment among black people is even more pronounced because of the direct influence of Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam. Most African Americans are not followers of "The Nation", but many have a quiet respect for its leader because, they say, "he speaks the truth" and "stands up for the black man". What they mean of course is that he viciously attacks the perceived "enemies" of the black community – white people and Jews. Even some self-described Christians buy into his demagoguery.

The question is whether Obama, given his Muslim roots and experience in Farrakhan's Chicago, shares this antipathy for Israel and Jewish people. Is there any evidence that he does. First, the President was taught for twenty years by a virulent anti-Semite, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright. In the black community it is called "sitting under". You don't merely attend a church, you "sit under" a Pastor to be taught and mentored by him. Obama "sat under" Wright for a very long time. He was comfortable enough with Farrakhan – Wright's friend – to attend and help organize his "Million Man March". I was on C-Span the morning of the march arguing that we must never legitimize a racist and anti-Semite, no matter what "good" he claims to be doing. Yet a future President was in the crowd giving Farrakhan his enthusiastic support.

The classic left wing view is that Israel is the oppressive occupier, and the Palestinians are Israel's victims. Obama is clearly sympathetic to this view. In speaking to the "Muslim World," he did not address the widespread Islamic hatred of Jews. Instead he attacked Israel over the growth of West Bank settlements. Surely he knows that settlements are not the crux of the problem. The absolute refusal of the Palestinians to accept Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state is the insurmountable obstacle. That's where the pressure needs to be placed, but this President sees it differently. He also made the preposterous comparison of the Holocaust to Palestinian "dislocation".

Obama clearly has Muslim sensibilities. He sees the world and Israel from a Muslim perspective. His construct of "The Muslim World" is unique in modern diplomacy. It is said that only The Muslim Brotherhood and other radical elements of the religion use that concept. It is a call to unify Muslims around the world. It is rather odd to hear an American President use it. In doing so he reveals more about his thinking than he intends. The dramatic policy reversal of joining the unrelentingly anti-Semitic, anti-Israel and pro-Islamic UN Human Rights Council is in keeping with the President's truest – albeit undeclared – sensibilities.

Those who are paying attention and thinking about these issues do not find it unreasonable to consider that President Obama is influenced by a strain of anti-Semitism picked up from the black community, his leftist friends and colleagues, his Muslim associations and his long period of mentorship under Jeremiah Wright. If this conclusion is accurate, Israel has some dark days ahead. For the first time in her history, she may find the President of the United States siding with her enemies. Those who believe as I do that Israel must be protected had better be ready for the fight. We are.



E.W. Jackson is Bishop of Exodus Faith Ministries, an author and retired attorney.
Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.



Settlements and Peace: Incentives and Obstacles.


by Raphael Israeli


One of the tenets of the current conventional wisdom has been that “the settlements are obstacles to peace”, as if without settlements on the West Bank and Gaza peace would have descended on earth. We know that prior to the 1967 War there were no Israeli settlements, except for the Israeli towns and villages within Israel, and those too were never recognized by the Arabs, who claimed that they also were “occupied territory”. The great blessing of the present settlements in the West Bank and Gaza is that they displaced their predecessors, the old established settlements in Israel proper, from the epithet of “occupied”, except  in the eyes of   the Hamas, the PLO and other Arab parties, who continue to teach that both are occupied territory. Thus, the present international psychosis about “imminent peace if settlement activity is ceased”, sounds as hollow as, but less funny than a bad joke.


In other words, with or without settlements, the negative attitudes of the Arabs towards Israel have never depended on the fortunes of Jewish settlement on any parts of the land. For under any circumstances, and within any boundaries, it was always Jewish rooting  in the land  which signaled to the Arabs permanence, hence it generated total rejection. No better proof than that is the present state of affairs, where the “moderate” PA still teaches its children that Israeli cities like Haifa and Tel-Aviv are Palestinian cities, while the Hamas altogether proclaims the total uprooting of the Jewish state from  the “Arab land” of Palestine,  a waqf  (holy endowment ) in their eyes, on both sides of the late “green line” which only in Israeli eyes used to separate between Israel and Palestinian land.


In 2000, during the second Camp David, Arafat had been offered by Ehud Barak an almost total withdrawal of Israel from 95% of the territories, in return for his commitment to the finality of the dispute, but he refused because in his eyes, such a withdrawal would not have put an end to Israel’s rootedness in the land, even if the almost totality of Palestinian territory were to be restored to him. In Gaza, Israel went further by evacuating completely the Israeli settlements, not only ceasing construction in them, and the result was not the promised peace once those settlements were uprooted, but more war and death against the Israeli villages and towns around Gaza. This meant that, far from considering the boundaries of Israel Proper immune to Arab fire, if it only retreated from those “peace threatening” settlements, the latter were considered a legitimate prey for more attacks. 


Now we know that one of the most powerful levers, which acted upon President Sadat to venture into Israel in 1977 and sign peace with it, was his real fear that had he  procrastinated  any longer, the Israeli settlements in the Sinai, which comprised the townships of Ophira and Yamit and a score of other successful farming settlements, and housed several thousand  Israelis, might grow into cities which no one would be able to uproot if they were allowed to develop into counting  in the tens of thousands of inhabitants. He understood that what happened to Ashkelon and Jaffa after 1948, could also apply to the Sinai if enough years were permitted to elapse, accompanied  by a strong settlement movement  which would signify a road of no return.  Conversely, when Sadat committed himself to peace, he could still ensure, after a mere 15 years of  Israeli settlement,  that the process was still reversible.


The Palestinians and the Syrians have failed to learn that lesson. They thought that they had nothing to lose by waiting, because their territories were “inalienable” and they had nothing to lose by procrastinating in the peace process.  The fact that in both cases they lost territories as a result of their aggression in 1967, did not impress them at all, because they were convinced that when they regain their strength their vacant “occupied territory” was awaiting them to retake possession  of it. Under that thinking, not only did they become obtuse to the possible cost of aggression, which might have otherwise deterred them from another war in case they should loose it again, but they were encouraged to try repeatedly, assured that no risk of loss was involved. Therefore no deterrence was ever built into this strategy, while if Israel signaled that those who launch war can be made to pay the price of loosing territory as a result, and those who fail  to embrace a  peace settlement can forfeit parts of their territory, her deterrence might be reactivated.


Just like at the end of World War !!, when the boundaries of aggressive Germany were  curtailed and those of her victims were expanded at her expense,  in order to ensure peace, so must Israel signal her desire to retain permanently parts of those territories, not merely as a punishment to the aggressors, but mainly as a deterrence to the aggressor and as a price for their aggression and for the cost of war they precipitated on Israel. Until a peace is reached, only an intensive settlement activity by Israel can act as a strong enough incentive for the Arabs  to hurry to peace before  the land becomes irretrievable. So, just like in Sadat’s case, where Israeli settlements were one of his most powerful  incentives to come to terms, so they will operate in the Palestinian and Syrian cases.


Based on the Gaza   precedent, every evacuated Israeli settlement, which was a model of productivity and creativity, was turned into rubble and became an artillery base to harass Israel Proper, after it was taken over by the Palestinians. This showed that the Arabs did not struggle for the land, which had been improved and upgraded by the Israeli farmers, in order to put it to use for peaceful and human development, but just in order to  deny it to the Jews and gnaw deeper into the process of uprooting  and delegitimizing them in the land. It is then evident that a miscalculated and hasty retreat from the West Bank and the Golan, would turn our country  into a war zone,   while no resettlement of the evacuated land would be put  to anyone’s benefit. Only if the Arabs stand to lose when they attack, would they be likely to avoid aggression; and only when some of their lost lands become unredeemable, would they rush to settle peacefully before it is too late.



Raphael Israeli teaches Middle East at Hebrew University, Jerusalem.


Friday, August 28, 2009

The Middle East Matrix.


by Mark B. Kaplan

End the illusion of illegal occupation.


What if everything you think you know to be true is a lie, and everything you see is just an illusion? Sounds like a promo for The Matrix, but this is the reality of life in the Middle East. The rules that apply to other countries strangely change when applied to Israel. Israel becomes subject to "international law" based upon a legal foundation of facts that don't exist; Israel has leaders, but the leaders would rather suffer the existence of abusive friendships than fight back and protect their children.

The United States is leading the crusade against Israel. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are not only demanding Israel freeze all "settlement construction", including natural growth, but that Jewish rights be curbed in Jerusalem. Obama is also calling Israel's presence in Judea and Samaria an "occupation."

Yes, Israel does have rights under international law, and the Arab propaganda accusation of Israel's illegal occupation of Palestine is another falsehood that needs to end. Israel's government has never stood up for Jewish land rights. Can it be that they don't even know what those rights are?

It's frustrating to see Israeli leaders refuse to challenge the false accusations. The fact is that international law does have a lot to say about Israel's rights in Judea, Samaria and beyond. Israel's leaders, President Obama, and the entire world body should look to international law before declaring that Israel should freeze construction, or even worse, surrender portions of the Jewish National Homeland.

Jerusalem attorney Howard Grief spent twenty five years researching Israel's legal rights under international law. Grief summed up Israel's legal rights in a new 700-page book entitled, The Legal Foundation and Borders of Israel under International Law. According to Grief, Israel and its legal borders were supposed to be set by the historical formula adopted by the Supreme Council of the Principal Allied Powers at the San Remo Peace Conference in April 1920. Those historical borders were supposed to encompass the Biblical formula of "from Dan to Beersheba." Unfortunately, the French and the British conspired to cut off large portions of Jewish national land before the ink on the Mandate was dry.

The Principal Allied Powers at San Remo established the Mandate System that created Mesopotamia (Iraq), Syria, Lebanon, and the Jewish National Home in Palestine. The result of the illegal French-British land deals and the British criminal malfeasance in administering the Mandate was the removal of the northern Galilee, Golan and 78% of Palestine, which today is Jordan. However, the final borders of the Mandate include Judea, Samaria, and all of Jerusalem. Israel's presence in those areas cannot be considered an occupation. The legal title belongs exclusively to the Jewish People.

The Mandate for Palestine was for the exclusive benefit of the Jewish People. No other beneficiary is named in the Mandate. Non-Jewish inhabitants of Palestine were guaranteed the civil and religious rights due to any minority living in a democracy. These rights do not include the right to autonomy. If they did, then every religious group would have the right to an autonomous state.

The British never intended on leaving Palestine for the Jews. Despite their obligations under the Mandate, British actions prevented Palestine from becoming Jewish.

Two years prior to the Balfour Declaration, in which the British committed to use their best endeavors to establish a Jewish country in Palestine, the British signed the secret Sykes-Picot Treaty with France, which called for conquering and dividing Palestine between the two signatories. That treaty was eventually declared illegal, but until that point, creating the Jewish state would have violated the treaty. When the British were appointed the administrators of the Mandate, they succeeded in forcing the French out of Palestine.

The Jews remained the obstacle for British plans to keep Palestine. The British knew Palestine could not be turned over to the Jews until the Jews became the majority in Palestine. The British, rather than fulfill their obligation to assist Jewish immigration, instituted the White Papers that severely limited Jewish immigration and where Jews could settle. When the British finally proposed to end the Mandate, they recommended a partition in which the Jews and Arabs would each receive portions of the land, and the British would keep Jerusalem (the grand prize) and the Negev (where the British expected to find oil). The UN rejected the British plan.

The British purposely change the demographics in Palestine to prevent the Jews from becoming the majority. They also turned a blind eye to illegal Arab immigration. Joan Peters, in her book From Time Immemorial, cites the lack of British documentation regarding illegal Arab immigration into Mandate Palestine. Peters quotes a 1934 article in which the governor of the Hauran region complained of the Arab flight to Palestine, saying, "In the past few months from 30,000 to 36,000 Hauranese (Syrians) had entered Palestine...." The official British records say the number of non-Jewish immigrants for the entire year of 1934 was 1,784. This tells us that an overwhelming number of Arabs identifying themselves as "Palestinians" from "time immemorial" illegally immigrated to Palestine during the Mandate.

Furthermore, the Mandate (Article 5) stipulated that "no Palestine territory shall be ceded or leased to, or in any way placed under the control of, the Government of any foreign Power." This means that under international law, no one can force the Jewish State to cede any land that is legally recognized as belonging to the Jewish homeland. This renders the 1947 UN Partition Plan an illegal resolution.

The US may not care about International law unless it's in its own interest, but every American high school graduate knows that the US Government must follow Constitutional law, right?

Apparently not.

In 1924, the US signed a treaty with the British in which the Mandate was adopted as part of the treaty. Article VI of the US Constitution calls a treaty the "Supreme Law of the land." The rights conveyed through the treaty still stand, including the prohibition to cede Jewish land, as well as the right of settlement.

Obama's demand that Israel halt settlement construction violates the 1924 treaty. President Obama has no right, under US law, to call Israel's presence in Judea and Samaria an "occupation." Additionally, the establishment of an Arab state within the legal boundaries of Israel is a violation of Jewish rights under both international and US law. Therefore, the "Roadmap to Peace" (which expired in 2005) also violates the United States Constitution.

The Justice Now! organization has begun work to take legal action to compel the Obama administration to stop violating the 1924 treaty. Justice Now! Director Dr. Michael Snidecor compares Obama's demands to a situation in which the British would say they are no longer honoring the 1783 Paris Treaty that granted the thirteen colonies independence, and instead are giving the land to a Native American nation. Justice Now! is also enlisting congressional support to demand Obama obey his own country's laws, as well as international law regarding Israel's rightful borders.

Bringing the Jewish People's rights before the legal system, where propaganda will lose to factual evidence, will end the illusion of illegal occupation and firmly establish the Jewish Nation's legal rights to all of Israel. Once the propaganda is proven to be a lie, then perhaps, just like in The Matrix, the Jewish People will also be able to stop the bullets of anti-Zionism in mid-air. Then, legal and just solutions can be found to end nearly a century of war and bloodshed.



Mark B. Kaplan

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.


Thursday, August 27, 2009

Let's Pretend We're Making Arab-Israeli, Israel-Palestinian Peace.

by Barry Rubin

Here’s one of my favorite stories explaining how the Middle East works. It was told by Muhammad Hussanein Heikal, the famed Egyptian journalist. Like all Heikal’s stories, it may or may not be true, which is also part of the lesson being taught.

When Muammar Qadhafi first became Libya’s dictator, Heikal was dispatched to meet and evaluate him by Egypt’s ruler, Gamal Abdel Nasser. After returning to Cairo, Heikal was quickly ushered into the president’s office.

“Well,” said Egypt’s president, “what do you think of Qadhafi?”

“He’s a disaster! A catastrophe!”

Why,” asked the president, “is he against us?”

“Oh no, far worse than that,” Heikal claims to have replied. “He’s for us and he really believes all the stuff we are saying!”

The point was that the Egyptian regime took the propaganda line out of self-interest that all Arabs should be united into one state under its leadership, all the Arab monarchies overthrown, Israel wiped off the map immediately, and Western influence expelled, but it knew itself incapable of achieving these goals and to try to do so would bring disaster. Indeed, when Nasser had tried to implement part of this program in 1967, he provoked Israel into attacking and suffered his worst disaster.

Come to think of it, Arab regimes are still playing this game of systematically purveying radicalism, hatred, and unachievable goals to distract their populace, excuse their own failings, focus antagonism against foreign scapegoats and seek regional ambitions.

Western governments do this kind of thing a bit differently.

In this regard, recent statements by a number of leaders including President Barack Obama, prime ministers Gordon Brown and Benjamin Netanyahu, and others, establish an important principle:

Actually achieving Middle East peace is of no importance. The only thing that is important is saying that progress is being made and that peace will come soon.

I don’t mean that as a statement of cynicism but as an accurate analysis of what goes on in international affairs at present. What’s achieved by pretending there is progress and there will be success? Some very real and—in their way—important things:

--World leaders are saying that they are doing a great job, doing the right things, remaining active and achieving success.

--By saying peace is near, the issue is defused. Why fight if you are about to make a deal?

--Israel (and anyone else from the region who joins in—see below) shows that it is cooperating so others should be patient and not put on pressure.

--Since the West is taking care of business, Arab states supposedly will feel comfortable working with it on other issues, like Iran for example.

I want to stress that this behavior is not as silly as it might seem. Often this is how indeed politics do work. Moreover, pretending is better than a sense of desperation which would lead to very bad mistakes being made by energetically doing stupid and dangerous things. Certainly, it inhibits strong pressure or sanctions against Israel.

The freeze on construction within settlements is a scam. If Israel gives something on this issue, the Western governments declare victory and go home, so to speak. That doesn’t mean there aren’t reasons for not doing so, but the virtually open cynicism of the U.S. and European strategy is striking.

When the U.S. president portrays the possibility of two tiny states, Oman and Qatar, letting one-man Israeli trade offices re-open as a major triumph in confidence-building , despite being his sole achievement after months of top-level diplomacy, what can one do but snicker?

Finally, since Israel-Palestinian peace is not within reach, pretending it is while knowing the truth is not such a bad alternative. It is certainly progress since the Obama administration came into office and originally pursued a policy based on the idea that it could achieve peace in a matter of months.

What is the downside here?

There are three problems. The first is if Western leaders believe their own propaganda. Because if peace is “within reach” but isn’t actually grasped, then someone must be blamed. That someone will, of course, be Israel.

Why? Because if the West blames the Palestinians, leaders presume that Arabs and Muslims will be angry and not cooperate on other matters. There could be more terrorism and fewer profitable deals and investments. They gain nothing.

But if they insist that everything is going well there is no need to blame anyone. This is the phase we are now entering.

The second problem, however, is that neither the Palestinians nor Arab regimes will join in the optimism. Their line is: The Palestinians are suffering! The situation is intolerable! Something must be done! And since we will make no concessions or compromises, the only solution is for the West to pressure Israel to give more and more while getting nothing in return.

Since this is not going to happen too much if Israel resists, they fall back on their alternative approach. Ok, so since you aren’t forcing Israel to give us what we want you have to give us other things, like money and you cannot demand we help you.

The best outcome is that certain Arab states, since they have other interests at stake, will downplay the conflict altogether and focus on more pragmatic needs. The radicals—principally Iran and Syria—will never do so, of course, and will claim that the situation shows how the West cannot be trusted and must be defeated.

What’s the third problem? That certain actions which might promote regional stability, or even Arab-Israeli peace, are not taken. These include two especially important tactics:

--More energetic efforts to overthrow the Hamas regime in the Gaza Strip. As long as Hamas is running about half the Palestinian territories and outflanking Fatah in militancy, there won’t be any peace. Keeping Hamas from taking over the West Bank, isolating it, and maintaining sanctions against it is a good policy and can preserve the status quo. It is not, however, the best policy and the pressure on Hamas could erode over time.

--More pressure on the Palestinian Authority (PA) to moderate and compromise. The PA and its positions are the main barriers to peace. As the PA possibly becomes more radical, the likelihood of violence increases. Thus, while in the short- to medium-run the “feel good” and status quo policy may work, it also has risks and limits.

Still, it is the best that can be expected at present.




Barry Rubin

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.