Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Obama intifada?

 

by Melanie Phillips

 

Are we seeing the beginning (heaven forbid) of the Obama intifada?

 

The escalating Arab rioting today in Jerusalem and the West Bank is undoubtedly being stoked up by the fact that the Obama administration has turned so viciously against Israel. Doubtless as a result the Arabs now smell victory within their grasp and may now unleash another wave of violence against Israelis.

 

Every single one of their recent 'grievances' is not just fabricated but stands history and justice on their heads. The ostensible cause of today's rioting, the re-opening yesterday of the ancient Hurva synagogue in the heart of the Jewish quarter of Jerusalem's Old City, is a typical example of this fanatical moral and historical inversion. The Hurva has been under reconstruction for years. The Palestinian campaign of incitement over it carries the message that Jews cannot build places of worship in their own city. And before anyone says any of Jerusalem is 'occupied Palestinian territory', it is not and never was 'Palestinian'. In every single attempt to resolve the Middle East impasse, Jerusalem was always regarded as a special case on its own; and from the mid 19th century onwards it has had uninterruptedly a Jewish majority.

 

The Hurva synagogue has been rebuilt, moreover, because it was twice destroyed by Muslims. Its history, as recounted by Leo Rennert, is testimony both to the uninterrupted presence of Jews in Jerusalem and to the uninterrupted attempts by Muslims to remove that presence:

 

   The Hurva was the the Jewish landmark in Jerusalem in the 19th and early 20th centuries. It was a magnet for early Zionists, religious and non-religious. Theodore Herzl was a visitor, and so were many other Jewish notables from far and wide. The first synagogue on the site was built in 1701. Jews had obtained a loan for its construction from Muslims. But Jerusalem's Jewish community, mired in poverty, couldn't repay the debt, so Muslim creditors destroyed the synagogue.

 

But Jewish residents, with some outside help, rebuilt the Hurva and turned it into a magnificent landmark...that is, until 1948, when less than two weeks after Israel declared independence, Jordanian forces moved into the Old City and destroyed the Hurva -- with only the great arch left as a reminder of its former glory. And so it remained for six decades. From 1948 until 1967, Jews were barred by Jordan from even approaching the Hurva ruins, just as they were barred from praying at the Western Wall. After Israel captured the Old City in 1967, the Hurva Arch stood for many years as a stark reminder of a sad chapter in Jewish history.

 

Then a meticulous rebuilding and renovation effort was begun several years ago. It culminated on March 15, 2010 in the official reopening of the Hurva as an exact replica of the 19th-century synagogue, including the surviving Arch, which is now a permanent part of the new Hurva. Henceforth, it won't just be a dramatic reminder of the past; it will resume its age-old function as a place of worship.

 

And once again it is the target of Muslim attempts to exterminate the Jewish presence in Jerusalem. Yet Obama, who accuses Israel of frustrating the 'peace process' by building in east Jerusalem by agreement with his own administration, is silent over this inflammatory and disgusting Palestinian attack on a Jewish place of worship. It would seem that for Obama 'peace' means the surrender of Israel to Arab violence.

 

As former New York mayor Ed Koch has said, the pressure the US is now bringing to bear upon Israel is unforgiveable.  It is an astonishing demonstration of cynicism and malicious intent. Noah Pollak says that Obama is trying to get rid of Netanyahu by pushing him into a corner. But much worse still, Obama's deliberate decision to escalate what was at most a tactless but minor diplomatic blunder by Israel makes America an accessory to the violence that is now taking place and may get worse. Even this Ha'aretz writer thinks so:

 

      But perhaps what is most important is this: Palestinians see the Obama administration's decision to attack Israel as an invitation to adopt a more confrontational line. A previous settlement slowdown led Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to exploit the opportunity and make any new negotiations conditional on a total freeze in construction, including in east Jerusalem.

 

      Now signals from Washington have led his political faction, Fatah, to start picking its own fight. A few days ago Prime Minister Salam Fayad called on Palestinians to rally to the Temple Mount to 'defend Al-Aqsa' after Israel announced the dedication of a synagogue 'next door to the Al-Aqsa mosque'. Even the most secular of Palestinian politicians, PLO executive committee chairman Yasser Abed Rabo, joined in the condemnations and warned of an escalation.

 

      The need to defend Al-Aqsa is more than a little exaggerated. The synagogue in question is not on the doorstep of the mosque. It is in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City on a site it has occupied for more than 300 years. But the PA has smelled blood. It understands that the international community will not concern itself with secondary details, such as the fact that the synagogue in question has would no doubt remain in Israeli territory under even the most generous future peace agreement. So why not start a riot and blame the Israelis, especially when the U.S. government is doing the same.

 

Precisely.  Middle America, those millions of mainly Christian souls who are Israel's staunchest supporters in the world, should be made aware of what their President is doing – turning the United States into a betrayer of democracy, human rights and the Jewish people to become no less than an accessory to terror.

 

Melanie Phillips

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

 

 

Jerusalem.

 

Islam's Tenuous Connection

 

by Eli E. Hertz

Despite 1,300 years of Muslim Arab rule, Jerusalem was never the capital of an Arab entity, nor was it ever mentioned in the Palestine Liberation Organization's covenant until Israel regained control of East Jerusalem in the Six-Day War of 1967.

Overall, the role of Jerusalem in Islam is best understood as the outcome of political exigencies impacting on religious belief.

Mohammed, who founded Islam in 622 CE, was born and raised in present-day Saudi Arabia; he never set foot in Jerusalem. His connection to the city came years after his death when the Dome of the Rock shrine and the al-Aqsa mosque were built in 688 and 691, respectively, their construction spurred by political and religious rivalries. In 638 CE, the Caliph (or successor to Mohammed) Omar and his invading armies captured Jerusalem from the Byzantine Empire. One reason they wanted to erect a holy structure in Jerusalem was to proclaim Islam's supremacy over Christianity and its most important shrine, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

More important was the power struggle within Islam itself. The Damascus-based Umayyad Caliphs who controlled Jerusalem wanted to establish an alternative holy site if their rivals blocked access to Mecca. That was important because the Hajj or pilgrimage to Mecca was (and remains today) one of the Five Pillars of Islam. As a result, they built what became known as the Dome of the Rock shrine and the adjacent mosque.

To enhance the prestige of the 'substitute Mecca,' the Jerusalem mosque was named al-Aqsa. It means 'the furthest mosque' in Arabic, but has far broader implications, since it is the same phrase used in a key passage of the Quran called "The Night Journey." In that passage, Mohammed arrives at 'al-Aqsa' on a winged steed accompanied by the Archangel Gabriel; from there they ascend into heaven for a divine meeting with Allah, after which Mohammed returns to Mecca. Naming the Jerusalem mosque al-Aqsa was an attempt to say the Dome of the Rock was the very spot from which Mohammed ascended to heaven, thus tying Jerusalem to divine revelation in Islamic belief. The problem however, is that Mohammed died in the year 632, nearly 50 years before the first construction of the al-Aqsa Mosque was completed.

Jerusalem never replaced the importance of Mecca in the Islamic world. When the Umayyad dynasty fell in 750, Jerusalem also fell into near obscurity for 350 years, until the Crusades. During those centuries, many Islamic sites in Jerusalem fell into disrepair and in 1016 the Dome of the Rock collapsed.

Still, for 1,300 years, various Islamic dynasties (Syrian, Egyptian, and Turkish) continued to govern Jerusalem as part of their overall control of the Land of Israel, disrupted only by the Crusaders. What is amazing is that over that period, not one Islamic dynasty ever made Jerusalem its capital. By the 19th century, Jerusalem had been so neglected by Islamic rulers that several prominent Western writers who visited Jerusalem were moved to write about it. French writer Gustav Flaubert, for example, found "ruins everywhere" during his visit in 1850 when it was part of the Turkish Empire (1516-1917). Seventeen years later Mark Twain wrote that Jerusalem had "become a pauper village."

Indeed, Jerusalem's importance in the Islamic world only appears evident when non-Muslims (including the Crusaders, the British, and the Jews) control or capture the city. Only at those points in history did Islamic leaders claim Jerusalem as their third most holy city after Mecca and Medina. That was again the case in 1967, when Israel captured Jordanian-controlled East Jerusalem (and the Old City) during the 1967 Six-Day War. Oddly, the PLO's National Covenant, written in 1964, never mentioned Jerusalem. Only after Israel regained control of the entire city did the PLO 'updated' its Covenant to include Jerusalem.

 

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

 

Friday, March 19, 2010

Obama Looks Weak in the Middle East.

 

 

Why pick on our friends but not our enemies?

 

by Lee Smith

 

Foreign policy expert Walter Russell Mead has joined Thomas Friedman and others in congratulating the Obama administration for condemning Israel over the announcement it was building 1600 apartment units in East Jerusalem.

 

"The Obama administration had no choice but to respond strongly," Mead writes. "Otherwise the administration would have looked weak and irresolute and the repercussions throughout the world could well have been grave."

 

But in the Middle East, nothing reeks of weakness more than lashing out publicly at an ally. The administration is well aware of this, because it has endured the insults of virtually every one of its Arab allies (all except for Egypt). Most recently, for example, Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal criticized Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to her face, explaining that the United States's proposed sanctions against Iran were too little, too late.

 

On top of that, the White House has gladly swallowed the far worse taunts of actual adversaries, like Iran and Syria. At a Damascus banquet featuring Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Hezbollah's Hassan Nasrallah, and Hamas's Khaled Meshaal, Syrian President Bashar Assad openly mocked Clinton: he joked that he had misunderstood her demands that Syria distance itself from Iran, so instead, said Assad, he was waiving visa requirements for the Islamic Republic.

 

"The President of the United States cannot afford to look like a patsy," writes Mead. "Any American president needs to be seen as a figure who commands respect." Well, sure. But it is not clear why that respect should come at the expense of our allies instead of our enemies.

 

 

Lee Smith

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

 

When Dedicating a Synagogue Is a War Crime.

 

by Noah Pollak

Yes, really. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights — one of a myriad of NGOs waging a war of delegitimization against Israel — has issued a press release declaring that:

The inauguration of a Jewish synagogue in East Jerusalem [sic] is considered a form of settlement activity, and thus constitutes a war crime under international humanitarian law.

Of course, this was not the inauguration of a synagogue — it was the rededication of a synagogue that dates to the Ottoman empire and was destroyed by the Jordanians during their occupation of Jerusalem. The Hurva synagogue was built in the 1860's (even then on the ruins of a synagogue that had been built during the previous century) and demolished intentionally by the Arab Legion in 1948, during the War of Independence. Oh, and I almost forgot: it's not in "East Jerusalem" — it's in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City. Just a stroll away from the Western Wall, whose existence by this logic is also a war crime.

But this is not just another anecdote in the larger story of the derangement of the human-rights world. It is an example of how American and European money is funding the delegitimization campaign against Israel and the spreading of false war-crimes charges. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights is bankrolled in part by the Open Society Institute (George Soros) and the Ford Foundation. (Click here for the complete list, including the European donors.) It would be time well spent for U.S.-based Jewish organizations to apply pressure to OSI and the Ford Foundation on the question of why they're funding an organization claiming that the revival of a centuries-old Jerusalem synagogue is a war crime.

 

Noah Pollak

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

 

A Middle East Without American Influence?

 

That's the logical outcome of the Obama administration's current policies.

 

by Lee Smith

 

Last week, one of Syria's government news organs riffed on the title of my book The Strong Horse: Power, Politics, and the Clash of Arab Civilizations. "The American president," Al Tharwa wrote, "was betting on the sick horse." Instead of siding with Syria's Hamas allies, Obama was backing the Palestinian Authority and its leader, Fatah's Mahmoud Abbas. From Damascus' perspective, the description also applies to the United States' other Arab allies, like Saudi Arabia and the Gulf sheikhdoms, as well as to Egypt and Jordan. These states are ready to be put out to pasture, while it is Iran's "axis of resistance," including Hezbollah and Hamas, as well as Syria itself, that represents the rising power.

 

OK, maybe the regime in Damascus hasn't actually read my book. I lifted the title from Osama Bin Laden, anyway. "When people see a strong horse and a weak horse," said Bin Laden, "by nature, they will like the strong horse." But the Syrian appraisal confirms my thesis—in the Middle East, political power is the prerogative of those who take it and maintain it by both the appearance and application of force. In this instance, unfortunately, what's good for my book is very bad for U.S. interests and allies—and for American citizens.

 

As it turns out, the Syrians have a point. Saudi Arabia has the world's largest known oil reserves, and Egypt is the most populous Arab state, but they are no longer regional powerhouses, at least in the way the Arabic-speaking Middle East has typically registered power over the last 60-plus years—that is, as willingness to fight Israel. Cairo and Amman have peace treaties with Israel, the Palestinian Authority is involved in an on-again-off-again peace process, while Riyadh has opted to remain on the sidelines. This collective weakness is just the way that Washington ordained it four decades ago.

 

In the middle of the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, Henry Kissinger airlifted arms shipments to Israel in order to guarantee an Israeli victory that for a time had seemed uncertain. Kissinger's strategic intention was to show the Arabs that as long as Washington stood behind Israel, there was no way they could ever defeat the Jewish state. If they wanted concessions from Israel, they would have to petition the Americans for it, a prerogative that made Washington not merely a great power but a power broker. By breaking the Arabs, the United States made itself the regional strong horse.

 

Of course, with those arms shipments, Kissinger meant to drive home another lesson as well, this one to Israel—in effect, that Washington held the power of life and death over the Jewish state and that Israeli leaders had best keep in line. This arrangement—Israeli strength and Arab weakness—secured what some have called the Pax Americana of the Middle East. After Egyptian President Anwar Sadat jumped from the Soviet side to the American one after the '73 war, our regional hegemony was never again seriously contested—until now.

The new catch phrase in the Middle East is strategic realignment. Broadly speaking, this means that the balance of power is shifting from the U.S.-backed regional order to the axis of resistance. Some commentators, like Robert Malley, have argued alongside the Syrians that the Obama administration should drop its old allies—the sick horse—for new friends among the axis of resistance. From a certain perspective, it appears that the White House has done just that, albeit unintentionally.

 

When the Obama administration promised to engage the adversaries that the Bush White House had isolated, U.S. allies followed the strong horse's lead and also changed course. Most notably, the Saudis patched things up with the Syrians after five years of intra-Arab discord. Riyadh pushed its Lebanese allies to reconcile with Damascus, and with Beirut's pro-democracy and pro-United States March 14 movement now all but dead, Washington no longer has a Lebanese ally. When President Barack Obama indicated that the most important thing concerning Iraq was to withdraw U.S. forces, the Syrians and Saudis found a shared interest in attacking Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. Even as Maliki, his Iraqi security officials, and Gen. Raymond Odierno, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, explained that the Syrians were behind a series of mega-terror attacks in Baghdad, the White House hushed them up for fear that identifying Syria as responsible for the attacks would jeopardize its efforts to engage Damascus. It is lost on no one in the region that Washington left two allies out on their own. But it gets worse.

 

Some U.S. commentators have praised the Obama administration's recent condemnation of Israel for announcing, during Vice President Joe Biden's visit, that it intended to build 1,600 apartment units in East Jerusalem. The White House's response, they argue, sends a strong message that Washington won't be bullied. In the Middle East, however, there is nothing that reeks so much of weakness as beating up on an ally in public. Moreover, this tongue-lashing comes shortly after the White House swallowed the open taunts of its adversaries. At a recent Damascus banquet featuring Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Hezbollah's Hassan Nasrallah, and Hamas' Khaled Meshaal, Syrian President Bashar Assad openly mocked Secretary Hillary Clinton. He joked that he had misunderstood her demands that Syria distance itself from Iran, so instead, said Assad, he was waiving visa requirements for visitors from the Islamic Republic of Iran.

 

Of course, Washington shaming Israel will please the Arabs—even U.S. allies like Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and Cairo, Egypt, that cheered on Jerusalem when it took on Iran's assets Hezbollah and Hamas. Remember, the Arabs have been compelled by the American strong horse to swallow their pride for decades. But given that Arabs do not air their own dirty laundry for fear it will make them look weak, our public humiliation of an ally will earn us only contempt.

 

But here's the most important thing: Even if you discount the centrality of shame and honor as operative principles in the Middle East, the Obama administration has blundered by jeopardizing not Israel's stature but our own regional interests and the Pax Americana that has been ours over the last 35 years. Our position in the region depends on every actor there knowing that we back Israel to the hilt and that they are dependent on us. Sure, there are plenty of times we will not see eye-to-eye on things—differences that should be resolved in quiet consultations—but should any real distance open up between Washington and Jerusalem, that will send a message that the U.S.-backed order of the region is ready to be tested. And that's exactly what the axis of resistance is seeing right now.

 

The recent U.S.-Israeli contretemps is not about progress on the Palestinian-Israeli peace process. It is about Iran. The Obama administration has all but announced that it has resigned itself to an Iranian nuclear program and that it is moving toward a policy of containment and deterrence. We will extend a nuclear umbrella to protect our Arab allies in the Gulf, says Secretary of State Clinton, and we will continue to give Israel security guarantees. And, anyway, says Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair, the Iranians are probably years away from building a deployable nuclear weapon. In rattling Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's cage, the Obama administration was warning Israel not even to contemplate an attack on Iran.

 

Of course, really effective deterrence would require us to make sure that our Israeli allies were perceived as highly volatile and unpredictable actors who might just take matters into their own hands and bomb Iran's nuclear sites. That scenario would have a better chance of cornering Iran and its allies, compelling them to seek relief from us, the rational senior partner. Instead, we've just pulled off the strategic equivalent of beating our pit bull on a street corner to show the neighborhood tough guys that we mean business.

 

President Obama is not intentionally trying to sacrifice our position in the energy-rich and strategically vital Middle East, but his policies may well lead to that. Strategic realignment doesn't just mean that Washington gets to trade in one set of allies for another. It means that the American order of the region will be superseded by a new order in which we will play a secondary role at best. More likely, as Ahmadinejad and Assad say, it will mean a Middle East without American influence.

 

Such a prospect is not impossible, for victory does not always go to the smartest—or even to those who have the most airplanes, the most military bases, and the best technology. It goes to those who do not hesitate to impose their wills on the world in order to reshape it to their liking. It goes to the strong horse. Who is the sick horse? From the perspective of our adversaries, that would be us.

 

 

Lee Smith

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

 

Why Obama is waging war on Israel.

 

by Caroline B. Glick

There are five explanations for president's behavior. And they are not mutually exclusive


Why has US President Barak Obama decided to foment a crisis in US relations with Israel?

Some commentators have claimed that it is Israel's fault. As they tell it, the news that Israel has not banned Jewish construction in Jerusalem — after repeatedly refusing to ban such construction — drove Obama into a fit of uncontrolled rage from which he has yet to recover.

While popular, this claim makes no sense. Obama didn't come to be called "No drama Obama" for nothing. It is not credible to argue that Jerusalem's local planning board's decision to approve the construction of 1,600 housing units in Ramat Shlomo drove cool Obama into a fit of wild rage at Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

Obama himself claims that he has launched a political war against Israel in the interest of promoting peace. But this claim too, does not stand up to scrutiny.

On Friday Obama ordered Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to present Netanyahu with a four-part ultimatum.

First, Israel must cancel the approval of the housing units in Ramat Shlomo.

Second, Israel must prohibit all construction for Jews in Jerusalem neighborhoods built since 1967.

Third, Israel must make a gesture to the Palestinians to show them we want peace. The US suggests releasing hundreds of Palestinian terrorists from Israeli prisons.

Fourth, Israel must agree to negotiate all substantive issues, including the partition of Jerusalem, (including the Jewish neighborhoods constructed since 1967 that are now home to more than a half million Israelis), and the immigration of millions of hostile foreign Arabs to Israel under the rubric of the so-called "right of return," in the course of indirect, Obama administration-mediated negotiations with the Palestinians. To date, Israel has maintained that substantive discussions can only be conducted in direct negotiations between Israeli and Palestinian officials.

If Israel does not accept all four US demands, then the Obama administration will boycott Netanyahu and his senior ministers. In the first instance, this means that if Netanyahu comes to Washington next week for the AIPAC conference, no senior administration official will meet with him.

Obama's ultimatum makes clear that mediating peace between Israel and the Palestinians is not a goal he is interested in achieving.

Obama's new demands follow the months of American pressure that eventually coerced Netanyahu into announcing both his support for a Palestinian state and a ten month ban on Jewish construction in Judea and Samaria. No previous Israeli government had ever been asked to make the latter concession.

Netanyahu was led to believe that in return for these concessions Obama would begin behaving like the credible mediator his predecessors were. But instead of acting like his predecessors, Obama has behaved like the Palestinians. Rather than reward Netanyahu for taking a risk for peace, in the model of Yassir Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas, Obama has pocketed Netanyahu's concessions and escalated his demands. This is not the behavior of a mediator. This is the behavior of an adversary.

With the US President treating Israel like an enemy, the Palestinians have no reason to agree to sit down and negotiate. Indeed, they have no choice but to declare war.

And so, in the wake of Obama's onslaught on Israel's right to Jerusalem, Palestinian incitement against Israel and Jews has risen to levels not seen since the outbreak of the last terror war in September 2000. And just as night follows day, that incitement has led to violence. This week's Arab riots from Jerusalem to Jaffa, and the renewed rocket offensive from Gaza are directly related to Obama's malicious attacks on Israel.

But if his campaign against Israel wasn't driven by a presidential temper tantrum, and it isn't aimed at promoting peace what explains it? What is Obama trying to accomplish?

There are five explanations for Obama's behavior. And they are not mutually exclusive.

First, Obama's assault on Israel is likely related to the failure of his Iran policy. Over the past week, senior administration officials including General David Petraeus have made viciously defamatory attacks on Israel insinuating that the construction of homes for Jews in Jerusalem is a primary cause for bad behavior on the part of Iran and its proxies in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Syria and Gaza. By this line of thinking, if Israel simply returned to the indefensible 1949 armistice lines, Iran's centrifuges would stop spinning, and Syria, al Qaida, the Taliban, Hizbullah, Hamas and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards would all beat their swords into plowshares.

Even more important than its usefulness as a tool to divert the public's attention away from the failure of his Iran policy, Obama's assault against Israel may well be aimed at maintaining that failed policy. Specifically, he may be attacking Israel in a bid to coerce Netanyahu into agreeing to give Obama veto power over any Israeli military strike against Iran's nuclear installations. That is, the anti-Israel campaign may be a means to force Israel to stand by as Obama allows Iran to build a nuclear arsenal.

For the past several months, an endless line of senior administration officials have descended on Jerusalem with the expressed aim of convincing Netanyahu to relinquish Israel's right to independently strike Iran's nuclear installations. All of these officials have returned to Washington empty-handed. Perhaps Obama has decided that since quiet pressure has failed to cow Netanyahu, it is time to launch a frontal attack against him.

This brings us to the third explanation for why Obama has decided to go to war with the democratically elected Israeli government. Obama's advisors told friendly reporters that Obama wants to bring down Netanyahu's government. By making demands Netanyahu and his coalition partners cannot accept, Obama hopes to either bring down the government and replace Netanyahu and Likud with the far-leftist Tzipi Livni and Kadima, or force Yisrael Beitenu and Shas to bolt the coalition and compel Netanyahu to accept Livni as a co-prime minister. Livni of course, won the Obama's heart when in 2008 she opted for new elections rather than accept Shas's demand that she protect the unity of Jerusalem.

The fourth explanation for Obama's behavior is that he seeks to realign US foreign policy away from Israel. Obama's constant attempts to cultivate relations with Iran's unelected president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Ahmadinejad's Arab lackey Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, and Turkey's Islamist Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan make clear that he views developing US relations with these anti-American regimes as a primary foreign policy goal.

Given that all of these leaders have demanded that in exchange for better relations Obama abandon Israel as a US ally, and in light of the professed anti-Israel positions of several of his senior foreign policy advisors, it is possible that Obama is seeking to downgrade US relations with Israel. His consistent castigation of Israel as obstructionist and defiant has led some surveys to claim that over the past year US popular support for Israel has dropped from 77 to 58 percent.

The more Obama fills newspaper headlines with allegations that Israel is responsible for everything from US combat deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan to Iran's nuclear program, the lower those numbers can be expected to fall. And the more popular American support for Israel falls, the easier it will be for Obama to engineer an open breach with the Jewish state.

The final explanation for Obama's behavior is that he is using his manufactured crisis to justify adopting an overtly anti-Israel position vis--vis the Palestinians. On Thursday The New York Times reported that administration officials are considering having Obama present his own "peace plan." Given the administration's denial of Israel's right to Jerusalem, an "Obama plan," would doubtless require Israel to withdraw to the indefensible 1949 armistice lines and expel some 700,000 Jews from their homes.

Likewise, the crisis Obama has manufactured with Israel could pave the way for him to recognize a Palestinian state if the Palestinians follow through on their threat to unilaterally declare statehood next year regardless of the status of negotiations with Israel. Such a US move could in turn lead to the deployment of US forces in Judea and Samaria to "protect" the unilaterally declared Palestinian state from Israel.

Both Obama's behavior and the policy goals it indicates make it clear that Netanyahu's current policy of trying to appease Obama by making concrete concessions is no longer justified. Obama is not interested in being won over. The question is what should Netanyahu do?

One front in the war Obama has started is at home. Netanyahu must ensure that he maintains popular domestic support for his government to scuttle Obama's plan to overthrow his government. So far, in large part due to Obama's unprecedented nastiness, Netanyahu's domestic support has held steady. A poll conducted for IMRA news service this week by Maagar Mohot shows that fully 75 percent of Israeli Jews believe Obama's behavior towards Israel is unjustified. As for Netanyahu, 71 percent of Israeli Jews believe his refusal to accept Obama's demand to ban Jewish building in Jerusalem proves he is a strong leader. Similarly, a Shvakim Panorama poll for Israel radio shows public support for Kadima has dropped by more than 30 percent since last year's elections.

The other front in Obama's war is the American public. By blaming Israel for the state of the Middle East and launching personal barbs against Netanyahu, Obama seeks to drive down popular American support for Israel. In building a strategy to counter Obama's moves, Netanyahu has to keep two issues in mind.

First, no foreign leader can win a popularity contest against a sitting US president. Therefore, Netanyahu must continue to avoid any personal attacks on Obama. He must limit his counter-offensive to a defense of Israel's interests and his government's policies.

Second, Netanyahu must remember that Obama's hostility towards Israel is not shared by the majority of Americans. Netanyahu's goal must be to strengthen and increase the majority of Americans who support Israel. To this end, Netanyahu must go to Washington next week and speak at the annual AIPAC conference as planned despite the administration's threat to boycott him.

While in Washington, Netanyahu should meet with every Congressman and Senator who wishes to meet with him as well as every administration member who seeks him out. Moreover, he should give interviews to as many television networks, newspapers and major radio programs as possible in order to bring his message directly to the American people.

Obama has made clear that he is not Israel's ally. And for the remainder of his term, he will do everything he can to downgrade US relations with Israel while maintaining his constant genuflection to the likes of Iran, Syria, the Palestinians and Turkey.

But like Israel, the US is a free country. And as long as popular support for Israel holds steady, Obama's options will be limited. Netanyahu's task is to maintain that support in the face of administration hostility, as he implements policies towards Iran and the Arabs alike that are necessary to ensure Israel's long-term survival and prosperity.

 

Caroline B. Glick is the senior Middle East Fellow at the Center for Security Policy in Washington, DC and the deputy managing editor of The Jerusalem Post.

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

 

What About The Arab Apartheid?

 

by Khaled Abu Toameh

How come the Lebanese students who recently talked about Israel's "war crimes" in the Gaza Strip during Israel Apartheid Week on many North American college campuses had nothing to say about the fact that tens of thousands of Palestinians have been massacred in Lebanon over the past four decades?

Dozens of refugees were killed and hundreds wounded in the three-month offensive that also destroyed thousands of houses inside the refugee camp. Reporters said it was the worst internal violence in Lebanon since the civil war that hit the country between 1975-1990. And just three years ago, the Lebanese Army used heavy artillery to bomb the Nahr-al-Bared refugee camp in north Lebanon.

Yet who has ever heard of a United Nations resolution condemning Syria or Lebanon for committing horrific atrocities or discriminating against the Palestinians?

The Lebanese, Syrian and Jordanian students and professors who took part in the anti-Israel events on campuses have clearly "forgotten" that their regimes probably have more Palestinian blood on their hands than Israel. In the early 1970s, the Jordanians slaughtered thousands of Palestinians in what has become known as Black September. Can somebody point to one United Nations resolution condemning that massacre?

And where was the United Nations when Kuwait and several Gulf countries expelled more than 400,000 Palestinians in one week? The exodus took place in March 1991, after Kuwait was liberated from Iraqi occupation. Ironically, the first week of March is being celebrated on university campuses as Israel Apartheid Week with no reference to the mass expulsion of Palestinians from the Gulf.

Although there are more than 400,000 Palestinians living in Lebanon in twelve refugee camps -- which human rights organizations and Palestinians say have the worst living conditions of all the refugee camps in the Middle East -- as in most of the Arab countries, these Palestinians have been assigned the status of "foreigners," a fact which has deprived them of health care, social services, property ownership and education.

Even worse, Lebanese law bans Palestinians from working in many jobs. This means that Palestinians cannot work in the public services and institutions run by the government such as schools and hospitals. Unlike Israel, Lebanese public hospitals do not admit Palestinians for medical treatment or surgery.

Can somebody imagine the outcry of the international community if Israel's parliament, the Knesset, passed a law today prohibiting Arabs from working in certain professions or receiving medical treatment? Ironically, the Arab citizens of Israel enjoy more rights in the Jewish state than their Palestinians brothers do in any Arab country.

The same applies to Palestinians living in most of the Arab countries. While Israel has never stripped its Arab citizens of their citizenship, Jordan has begun revoking the Jordanian citizenship of thousands of its citizens who are of Palestinian descent. Jordan was the only Arab country that has ever granted Palestinian Jordanian citizenship. In recent years, however, the Jordanians appear to have regretted that decision.

As for the rest of the Arab countries, Palestinians can only dream of obtaining citizenship. It is almost impossible to find a Palestinian with Egyptian or Moroccan or Kuwaiti citizenship.

Is it not absurd that Jordan and Egypt have been arresting Palestinians who demonstrate in support of their brothers in the West Bank and Gaza Strip or collect donations for them while Israeli citizens hold almost daily protests inside Israel in solidarity with the Palestinians?

And is it not ironic that the government of Binyamin Netanyahu is doing more to boost the Palestinian economy in the West Bank than any Arab country? .

At first glance, it looked as if the students who were distributing leaflets and posters that depicted the suffering of Palestinians inside Israel and the Palestinian territories, particularly those living in refugee camps, were actually talking about the suffering of Palestinians in their own countries - Lebanon and Egypt.

How come there was no talk on these campuses about the plight of Palestinians living in most of the Arab countries, where they have been subjected to discrimination, massacres and intolerance? 

Perhaps the time has come to start paying attention to the plight of the Palestinians in the Arab world.

Perhaps the time has come for these students and professors behind Israel Apartheid to consider holding not Arab Apartheid Week, but a year-long seminar to discuss repression and discrimination against Palestinians living in various Arab countries. Of course one week would not be enough for this topic and that is why there is need for a whole year.

We have heard enough how "awful" Israel is. Let us take a look now at what is happening to the Palestinians in the Arab world. Or is something the organizers of Israel Apartheid Week do not want to hear about?

 

Khaled Abu Toameh

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

 

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Why What General Petraeus said is Wrong about the Middle East (or is it just being misinterpreted?)

 

by Barry Rubin

General David Petraeus is a smart guy, one of the smartest in the U.S. government at present. But he's no Middle East expert. Let's examine two remarks he made in his congressional
testimony. Before we do, though, promise me you will read paragraph 17 because there's a very explosive point made there you won't find anywhere else. Agreed? OK, let's go.

Please note, by the way, that what he actually said is far milder than earlier leaks claimed. In addition, of course, Petraeus has to support White House policy, whatever he really thinks or knows. The Defense Department's recent Quadrennial review, also written to please the White House, contained not one mention of Iran's drive to get nuclear weapons or the threat of revolutionary Islamism.  And he also has advisors who tell him the wrong stuff.

Statement One:

"A credible U.S. effort on Arab-Israeli issues that provides regional governments and populations a way to achieve a comprehensive settlement of the disputes would undercut Iran's policy of militant 'resistance,' which the Iranian regime and insurgent groups have been free to exploit."

On the surface this makes a lot of sense. But let's examine it closely. Let's assume there is a comprehensive settlement to which the Palestinian Authority (PA) agrees. It isn't going to happen but this is for demonstration purposes.

In order to get an agreement, the PA would have to make some concessions, let's keep them to the minimum for our discussion. At a minimum, it would have to say that the conflict is at an end, recognize Israel, renounce Palestinian claims to all of Israel, and agree to settle all Palestinian refugees in Palestine. In addition, it might have to make some small territorial swaps, not get every square inch of east Jerusalem, and agree to some limits on its military forces.

What would happen?

First, none of this would apply to the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. Hamas, Hizballah, Syria, Iran, Muslim Brotherhoods, and many others would renounce this as treason. Hamas would continue to attack Israel; its forces in the West Bank would stage cross-border raids into Israel and try to seize power in the West Bank.

Would the kind of people who are now prone to support revolutionary Islamism then say: "What a fair settlement. This settles all our grievances. Thank you, America for being so wonderful!"

While to many Western observers such a reaction would seem logical this is not what would happen. The Western onlooker is assuming a pragmatic, facts-based response rather than an ideological response based on massive disinformation by governments, media, religious leaders, and political movements.

They would say, paraphrasing the words of an ancient Chinese military theorist: The enemy retreats, we advance. They are weak and fearful. The day of victory is near! They would denounce the puppet Palestinian state as a Western lackey. They would redouble their efforts to sabotage the settlement.

Moreover, it would change nothing regarding their goal of overthrowing their own governments.

What about the U.S. effort being "credible?" Credible to whom? It might be credible to the New York Times but will it be credible to al-Safir in Lebanon, to pick a newspaper at random? No matter how hard the United States tries it will not satisfy the criteria of those who profoundly mistrust America as inevitably infidel, imperialist, or both. It might be credible to an upper middle class intellectual in Cairo who has been educated in the West but will it be credible to the masses who believe in conspiracy theories?

Would people in Egypt or Jordan not support the Muslim Brotherhoods there, to give only one example, because there was a "credible" peace process? Would anyone in Iraq or Afghanistan behave differently at all, distracted by their struggle to gain or hold power and to fight communal rivals because of such a "credible" process? The idea is absurd.

And if what Petraeus says on this point is true, why aren't the regimes—and the PA, too--doing everything in their power day and night to bring about such a settlement? Why do they just keep repeating: You owe us, it's all your fault. Solve the problem?

Why didn't, say, Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip trigger a rush by Arab regimes to help establish and maintain a stable, moderate regime there?

PARAGRAPH 17
BUT WAIT! There's something remarkable here. Why should we assume--as most people remarking on the testimony have--that a "credible" effort means pressuring Israel for concessions? Actually, if there's going to be a credible effort it requires pressuring the PA, which has been the main force opposing a serious peace process. Remember it was the PA who wrecked the peace process in 2000, and it was the PA which refused to negotiate for 14 months. Maybe there is no credible process because the current U.S. government has never once publicly criticized the PA! So, how about this: In order to have a credible effort, the U.S. government must tell the PA to stop incitement to murder Israelis, to start preparing their people for a two-state solution, to agree to compromises of its own. That's the most important step to having a credible effort. Petreus never said that it is Israel which is blocking such an effort. And it isn't Israel. Of course, Petraeus never said it was Israel's fault. Perhaps he knows that. After all, if Israel doesn't build one more apartment in east Jerusalem--something the PLO agreed it could do in 1993 as part of the framework for negotiations, something the U.S. government accepted last November--nothing would change.

Here's Petraeus's second statement:

"Additionally, progress on the Israel-Syria peace track could disrupt Iran's lines of support to Hamas and Hizballah."

Why would this be so? What does Hamas care about the Israel-Syria track? Why should Iran give less support to Hizballah as a result? After all, Hizballah is trying to take over Lebanon, not the Golan Heights.

Presumably, the subtext here is that Syria would be so happy to be making progress that it would subvert Iran's relationship to Hamas and Hizballah. But why should Damascus undercut its relationship with Tehran just to have talks with Israel? Shouldn't we remember the 1991-2000 period when there was "progress on the Israel-Syria peace track" and yet it had no effect on Syria's relationship with Iran or the two Islamist revolutionary movements?

The truth is that Syria knows it can give support to these groups and hold negotiations with Israel. True, Syria would not foment an attack by Hizballah on Israel that would set off a war (which it did foment in 2006) but it isn't doing that any way. Hizballah is busy trying to take over Lebanon. The best guarantee that Hizballah won't attack Israel at least for a while is the drubbing it received at Israel's hands in 2006, even though Hizballah will never admit that.

Let's suppose there would be intensive Israel-Syria talks. Would that reduce by one dollar or by one gun the support Iran is giving to Hamas and Hizballah? Of course not.

Of course, to be fair to Petraeus, he only said "could" disrupt not would disrupt.

Oh and another "Paragraph 17":

Might not progress on the Israel-Syria track require a tougher U.S. stand on Syria so that Damascus would understand that it cannot back Hizballah (disrupting Lebanon) and Hamas (helping to make any Israel-Palestinian peace process impossible) while still getting U.S. concessions. How about, U.S. to Syria: If you ever want to get the Golan Heights back you better change your policy!

So perhaps Petraeus could be interpreted in a totally different way.

Yet the telling thing about the kind of points made by Petraeus--at least as they are generally interpreted--is that they are ridiculously easy to puncture. That shouldn't be surprising. These claims have been made repeatedly for decades and have always proven wrong. I wonder if he knows that also.

Like so much said about the Middle East, the two statements by Petraeus analyzed above--at least as they are generally interpreted (yes, the repetition is on purpose) might make sense to someone who wandered off the street into the middle of the movie and who hadn't seen the first hour. Moreover, since there is close to a monopoly in the universities and mass media, where contrary arguments like those I've made above virtually never appear, it is even easier to reach such wrong conclusions.


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.

 

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