Friday, July 2, 2010

Facing A Changed Game


by Professor Louis Rene Beres


The 'Obama Doctrine' and Israeli Strategic Planning


The high-minded centerpiece of Barack Obama's still-emerging strategic doctrine is "a world free of nuclear weapons." Although plainly misconceived - this presidential policy expectation is both unattainable and undesirable - Israel can hardly ignore it. On the contrary, planners in Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv will now have to self-consciously fashion and possibly reconcile Israel's own strategic doctrine with the new American ideas.

Doctrine is a net. In the interpenetrating worlds of war and peace, only those who cast will catch. Without an appropriate and up-to-date doctrine that takes Washington into close account, the IDF will be unable to conform its essential order of battle to the constantly changing and increasingly lethal requirements of the regional Middle-East battlefield. At a minimum, Prime Minister Netanyahu will need to consider that the new START agreement between the U.S. and Russia effectively leaves the wider threat of nuclear terror unrelieved.

What should be done?

First, Israeli strategists must now look directly at their country's principal existential threats, and identify these perils, promptly and openly, as the dominant object and rationale of their inquiries. Will the "Obama Doctrine," with its expressly-diminished reliance on nuclear deterrence, be helpful or harmful in coping with these threats?

Second, Israeli strategists must understand: (a) Israel is a system; (b) existential threats confronting Israel are interrelated (synergistic); and (c) effects of these complex threats upon Israel must be examined together. How will these effects be impacted by the new strategic doctrine in Washington? If necessary, how should Israel compensate for any expanded security vulnerabilities?

Third, Israeli strategists must understand that the entire world is best understood as a system, and that the disintegration of power and authority structures within this wider macro-system will impact, with enormous and at-least partially foreseeable consequences, the Israeli micro-system. How will this impact be enlarged or reduced by President Obama's now-codified unwillingness to respond to lower-order (chemical or biological) attacks with nuclear reprisals?

Fourth, the Obama Doctrine does not provide any real guidance on how to deal with those states and sub-state organizations that may not be subject to deterrent threats. This brings to mind the core security problem of prospective enemy irrationality. How should Israel's own critical plans for dealing with non-rational adversaries be affected by the Obama Doctrine, especially where these adversaries (e.g., Iran) may soon become nuclear?

Fifth, long-term, Israeli strategists must learn to consider seemingly irrelevant literature, real literature, not the narrowly technical materials normally generated by military thinkers, but the genuinely creative and artistic product of writers, poets and playwrights. The broadly intellectual insights that can be gleaned from this real literature may ultimately provide a far better source of strategic understanding than the visually impressive but often misleading matrixes, mathematics, metaphors and scenarios of the "experts."

Sixth, Israeli strategists need to acknowledge the occasional advantages of private as opposed to collective strategic thought. They should be reminded of Aristotle's prescient view: "Deception occurs to a greater extent when we are investigating with others than by ourselves, for an investigation with someone else is carried on quite as much by means of the thing itself." There is a correct time for collaborative or "team" investigations, but in certain matters concerning Israeli security, as in all science generally, one may sometimes discover optimal conceptual value in the private musings of single individuals. This observation refers especially to strategic doctrine.

Seventh, Israeli strategists now need to open up, again, and with greater diligence and formal insight, the major policy question of nuclear ambiguity. Possibly under growing pressure from Washington's Obama Doctrine to denuclearize (will Obama now start pushing Jerusalem to sign the NPT?), they will have to understand that re-examining the "bomb in the basement" is not just an academic exercise. Such re-examination would come at exactly the time that a new American strategic guidance would most likely condemn any Israeli disclosure. How, then, should Israel balance its ritual obeisance to Washington with its more obvious and indisputably primary need for survival.

Eighth, again with a clear view to changing nuclear doctrine in the United States, Israeli strategists will need to widen their consideration of far broader questions of nuclear weapons and national strategy. Ideally, this would be done in consonance with all of the other above-listed strategic studies requirements. Key issues here will be nuclear targeting doctrine, preemption and ballistic missile defense, positions that will surely be impacted by the Obama Doctrine.

For Israel, national survival is more problematic than ever. Following the Obama Doctrine and the new START agreement, Prime Minister Netanyahu should ensure that his own strategic planners take careful and immediate note of pertinent game changes.



LOUIS RENE BERES (Ph.D., Princeton, 1971) is Professor of Political Science and International Law at Purdue University. He is also Strategic and Military Affairs columnist for The Jewish Press in New York City. In Israel, he was Chair of Project Daniel. Professor Beres was born in Zurich, Switzerland, on August 31, 1945, and is the author of numerous books and articles dealing with international relations and strategic studies.

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


No Shortage of ‘Barbarians’ to Oppose Peace


by Jonathan Tobin


New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman closes his column today by quoting Haaretz's Akiva Eldar, who believes Israel's right-wingers hold on to the "no's" of their Arab antagonists for dear life. To bolster this argument, Eldar quotes Greek-Egyptian poet Constantine Cavafy's poem "Waiting for the Barbarians," in which a Byzantine narrator asks, "What's going to happen to us without barbarians?"

While Friedman devotes his space on the op-ed page to a 700-word mash note to Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, the Eldar column he quotes is devoted to resurrecting one of Friedman's own publicity stunts — the so-called Saudi peace proposal of 2002 — and representing it as an example of how Israel has turned down a chance to end the conflict. That bit of nonsense, which was first broached in a Friedman column, supposedly offered Israel the recognition of the entire Arab world as long as it surrendered every inch of land it won in the 1967 Six-Day War. That this so-called peace proposal also included the demand that Israel allow millions of the descendants of Palestinian Arab refugees to "return" — which would mean an end to the Jewish state — is a mere detail that can be ignored as far as Eldar is concerned. In other words, rather than a peace proposal, it was merely a demand for a unilateral Israeli surrender.

Even Friedman doesn't talk much about the Saudi initiative anymore, but that doesn't stop Eldar from pretending that it was a genuine opportunity for peace.

As for Friedman, his enthusiasm for Fayyad and his new Palestinian bureaucracy and security force is unbridled. But contrary to the implication of his column, Israel is not only willing to talk to Fayyad; it is his greatest booster, as the "hard-line" Netanyahu government has closed checkpoints and done all in its power to keep the PA government going.

But the problem for Fayyad as well as for Israel is those barbarians who Eldar pretends don't exist anymore. The Islamist terrorists of Hamas hold Gaza in a totalitarian grip that has been strengthened by international support for lifting the Israeli and Egyptian blockade of the region. And Fayyad and his boss, PA President Mahmoud Abbas, remain on their perches in the West Bank largely due to the protection and patronage of Israel's security forces, which keep Abbas's own Fatah terrorists and the threat of Hamas at bay.

If the terrorists of Hamas and Fatah were tiny and relatively harmless factions without a following in Palestinian society, Eldar and Friedman might well be right to deride Israel for fearing a barbarian threat from extremists. But as both of them well know, it is Fayyad and the fraction of the Palestinian public that supports "Fayyadism" — as Friedman likes to call it — that is the minority phenomenon and the supporters of violence and rejection of Israel's legitimacy that are the overwhelming majority. That's why Abbas and Fayyad (who has lately tried to burnish his image in the Palestinian street by staging public burnings of Israeli goods he wants his people to boycott) won't negotiate directly with Israel and actually turned down the offer of a state that included the Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem as well as Gaza and the West Bank from Netanyahu's predecessor Ehud Olmert only two years ago. They know that if they ever accepted an Israeli peace offer, their future in Palestinian politics, not to mention their lives, would be in great danger.

Far from fearing a barbarian threat that no longer exists, the real barbarians are still very much at Israel's gate and have their hands around the throats of Palestinian moderates. Until that changes, far from being the truth-telling realists they claim to be, Friedman and Eldar remain mere fantasists with an ideological axe to grind against Netanyahu.


Jonathan Tobin

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Israel’s fateful withdrawal


by Gabriel Siboni


Lebanon exit marked zenith of Israel's shift from offensive to defensive posture


The withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000 constitutes a significant and special event; an attempt to shape our security reality in the north unilaterally, while aiming to elicit broad international recognition.


The withdrawal marked the zenith of a significant change in the characteristics of Israel's security doctrine. It appears that we still cannot formulate a clear answer to the question of whether it was a planned move that stemmed from strategic-political thinking, or whether it stemmed from the "peer pressure" that dominated the public discourse in previous years.


It is possible that the withdrawal's execution in practice, with all parties being surprised by the timing (including the IDF, South Lebanon Army, and Hezbollah) had some weight in respect to entrenching the attitude to the pullout both within the Israeli public and among Hezbollah members. Yet more than anything else, the withdrawal indicted a doctrinal change whereby Israel shifted from an offensive to a defensive approach.


Israel's security strategy was set by Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion and premised on a defense strategy that allows for offense as a systematic-tactical component; hence, Israel developed offensive perception vis-à-vis terror organizations. Over the years, the IDF continuously implemented an offensive military policy that did not allow the terror threat to develop. This offensive approach maintained a low-level threat.


The years of our war on terror are replete with examples of offensive operations against terror groups in Egypt, Jordan, and Lebanon. These operations assisted Israel in suppressing and maintaining terror groups' capabilities at a low and relatively stable level, while creating a complex security reality that was limited to borderline communities.


Yet the longer the IDF stayed in Lebanon, the more we saw a gradual process of abandoning the offensive approach and adopting a clear defensive posture. The number of offensive operations declined, the operational freedom of commanders on the ground was considerably limited, and every operation produced limitations for future operations. As a result of this, we saw the emergence of an operational reality that made it difficult to continue adopting the offensive approach. All this was happening against the backdrop of a society that focused its discourse on our casualties in Lebanon.


Narrow defensive approach

As noted, the withdrawal from Lebanon marked the zenith of this process. Israel withdraw to a defensive line, completely ended its offensive activity, and shifted to a policy of "containment" that sought to limit any event to the local level, without attempting to target the broader circles of the threat, and without aiming to affect its development in the mid and long term.


This was a narrow defensive approach, which completely contradicted the IDF's fundamental doctrine adopted since the state's establishment. About six months after the withdrawal, Israel was given the opportunity to produce a deterring offensive equation in the face of the Mount Dov abduction. However, this opportunity was missed when with the exception of some impassioned words and plenty of assessments nothing happened. The result was that Israel and the IDF continued to deepen the "containment" policy."


Many reasons were given for this: For example, the battle against the Palestinians, and the desire to refrain from expanding the scope of confrontation. However, this policy allowed terror groups to develop uncontrollably over time. Hezbollah, for example, acquired numerous rockets and missiles.

The containment policy drew to an end in the Second Lebanon War, when the Israeli government realized that it was no longer possible to maintain this policy, and that its price is greater than its benefit. The same was true for Operation Cast Lead, after the Israeli government decided to embark on an assault following years of rocket attacks.


It is incumbent upon us at this time to clarify to what extent we see a fundamental change in perception, rather than a limited repair job. I am hopeful that we shall go back to a more offensive policy in safeguarding the State of Israel's security interests.


Dr. Gabriel Siboni heads the Military and Strategy research program at the Institute for National Security Studies.

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In praise of wars of choice


by Israel Harel


Whoever declares in advance that he is abandoning Israel's traditional combat doctrine - one founded on preemptive counterattack - is actually inviting the enemy to launch its own first strikes.


Moshe Sneh, one of the leaders of the Haganah, Israel's pre-independency underground army , was once sent to explain to the Palmach, its strike force, why the pre-state leadership was following a policy of restraint in the face of incessant terror attacks. The authorities' usual explanation - undefined "diplomatic considerations" - seemed weak even to him. "Unconvincing excuses," he wrote in a memo to himself. "I'll have to raise my voice!"

That is exactly what Ehud Barak did this week on the stage of the Institute for National Security Studies. In a long, apologetic and at times embarrassing talk, the defense minister tried to rationalize each and every military failure attributed to him. These include beating a hasty exit from Lebanon, failing to respond to the subsequent killing of three soldiers and the abduction of their bodies to Lebanon (after pledging that no restraint would be shown against such attacks following the pullout ), a limp-wristed response to the terror war ignited by Yasser Arafat ("It's ludicrous," Barak loudly asserted, "to link the 2000 withdrawal from Lebanon with the outbreak of the second intifada" ), and even mistakes in the handling of May's flotilla raid.

Only when speaking of the first Lebanon war did Barak lower his voice. He glossed over his own command failings on the eastern front and focused on criticizing the war's strategic goal (as he defined it: the war's architects, prime minister Menachem Begin and defense minister Ariel Sharon, never defined it in this way to either the cabinet or the Israel Defense Forces ). This goal, he said, was effecting geopolitical change by banishing Fatah to Jordan, where it would unseat the Hashemite regime and create a Palestinian state. In that way, he continued (echoing a widespread but unfounded conspiracy theory ), Sharon hoped to prevent the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank.

The war's secondary aim (again, as Barak defined it ) also served the defense minister as a basis for his military doctrine: We must not intervene in a neighboring country's internal affairs. Fact: We failed in our attempt to put our Christian allies into power in Lebanon.

The view Barak espoused - that Israel must not wage war to bring about geostrategic changes - is fundamentally flawed. Yet many influential politicians and intellectuals, as well as military chiefs both past and present, have been beholden to this same error. This view has turned into official policy because many of its proponents were personally burned in the first Lebanon war.

Since the dawn of time, countries have waged wars of choice to effect geopolitical change. And even the enlightened among them do so to this day. Right now, there are soldiers fighting in Afghanistan from the United States, Britain, Germany, The Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, France, Spain, Australia, New Zealand and dozens of other countries, even Jordan and Turkey. Are these countries - particularly those who deride our existential battle as illegitimate - fighting to protect their very existence, or to protect their citizens from rockets fired at their population centers? No, they are sacrificing their soldiers' lives thousands of miles from home to deprive one Afghani regime of power and grant it to another.

Iraq and Afghanistan are thus two of the clearest wars of choice imaginable. The hypocrisy of those countries that criticize us for taking elementary measures of self-defense - like stopping the flotilla to Gaza - even as they regularly kill innocent civilians is clear for all to see.

Israel's doctrine of renouncing, a priori, any initiated war - in part because those who established this doctrine, like Barak, suffered traumatic military and personal failures in the first Lebanon war (when six Israeli divisions, an air force in unchallenged control of the skies and an unopposed navy were unable to defeat numerically inferior Palestinian militias with inferior equipment ) is also mistaken in that it deprives the country of the ability to effect a strategic surprise.

Whoever declares in advance that he is abandoning Israel's traditional combat doctrine - one founded on preemptive counterattack - is actually inviting the enemy to launch its own first strikes, with all the attendant hardships they create. During the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Golda Meir and Moshe Dayan chose to absorb the first blow instead of being the first to strike, lest they be perceived as having launched a war of choice. The cost of the war price rose accordingly.

Do we now intend to absorb the first blow from Iran? Because this time the price is liable to be so terrible that it seems doubtful that Israeli society - given the stunning lack of fortitude it has displayed in recent days over a single captive soldier - would be able to bear it.


Israel Harel

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Hizbullah's troublesome Turkish embrace

Michael Young

Hizbullah has been terribly excitable in recent weeks. It has threatened, condemned, demanded, and warned, all suggesting the party is not quite relaxed about the prevailing political situation.

First it was the party’s ambiguities about the ships to be sent from Beirut to Gaza; then its tough position on the offshore oil dispute with Israel. Then it was Hizbullah MP Kamel al-Rifai promising that the party would soon “confront American defamation campaigns” and prepare a list of individuals, parties and clubs collaborating with the US. And this week villagers in the south, in actions very likely orchestrated by Hizbullah, blocked roads and attacked UNIFIL vehicles. This came after an Alfa employee was arrested allegedly for being a Mossad spy, allowing Hizbullah to caution that Israel controls the Lebanese telecoms sector.

Hizbullah’s message is clear: the enemy is everywhere. For a party that needs enemies to survive, this is understandable. However, there is something deeper at play, a malaise with the fact that the situation in Lebanon and the Middle East is not to the party’s liking.

Hizbullah appears to have been put out by the Turkish reaction to the Gaza flotilla incident a few weeks ago. While many in the West saw only Ankara’s hostility against Israel, the perspective from the region was different, and played itself out against a backdrop of Arab fears of Iran’s rising power; or less subtly, Sunni Arab fears of Shiite Iran.

The Palestinian issue is at the heart of the so-called “resistance agenda,” which Hizbullah claims to embody best. Since 2005, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has used the Palestinians as a battering ram to enhance Iran’s legitimacy among the Arabs, while delegitimizing the Arab’s own passive regimes. But now Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has stepped in and the Arabs, their sectarian impulses kicking in, have elected Turkey as their foremost champion. 

Turkey’s push on the Palestinian front may lead in several directions that Hizbullah finds worrisome. For starters, Erdogan has arrogated the right to speak in the name of Hamas, recently declaring that the movement is not a terrorist organization. Given Turkish influence over Syria, which hosts Hamas’ leader Khaled Meshaal, this throws a new variable into Hizbullah’s relation with the Palestinian Islamist movement.

Nor could Hizbullah’s secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah, have failed to notice the sudden outpouring of enthusiasm in Beirut for Turkey after the Gaza incident, especially from the likes of Prime Minister Saad Hariri and Walid Jumblatt. Their endorsements were implicitly and even explicitly directed against Iran’s way of doing things in the Middle East. Saying yes to Turkey has become shorthand in Lebanon and the region for saying no to Iran and its allies. 

More generally, what does it mean for Hizbullah if Turkey displaces Iran and the party itself as the main spokesmen for the Palestinian cause – all the time remaining friendly with Tehran and even defending it internationally? What it means, in tangible terms, is that the Turks have a greater say in matters of war and peace in the region when it comes to Israel. It also means they will examine more closely how actions by Iran, Syria, and Hizbullah might affect Turkey’s interests. That complicates matters for Hizbullah, because suddenly the party’s freedom to use Lebanon on Iran’s behalf as an instrument of deterrence against Israel is lessened.

Even internally the situation has shifted. Hizbullah has growled in recent weeks that any domestic attempt to use possible indictments by the Hariri tribunal against the party might provoke a new onslaught against the Sunnis, similar to that of May 2008. But how realistic is that today? Not very. Hariri has played the Turkish card to the hilt, and the sudden consolidation of Sunni local and regional solidarity in favor of Palestine and against Iran, in many ways default positions for the community, greatly constrains Hizbullah.  

And so, Hizbullah watches with trepidation as new actors are hijacking its symbols. If Turkey emerges as a new power, what will it mean for Syria’s dependency on Iran? The thought of an emerging alignment of Sunni-dominated states in which an unabashedly Muslim Turkey, led by moderate Islamists, seizes the choice role, is not something reassuring for Tehran, which still considers the weak states of the Gulf as an open field for Iranian hegemony.   

This is what explains Hizbullah’s sudden burst of paranoid energy. By artificially playing up dangers left and right, the party is trying to reposition itself, both within the Shiite community and in Lebanese society, as the vanguard force defending against Israel and the United States. Hizbullah thrives on conflict, but Erdogan threatens to take the conflict card out of the party’s hands and play it at a table where Hizbullah cannot compete, and where Iran might lose out.  

Above all, Hizbullah is concerned about its latitude to retaliate against an Israeli or American attack against Iran. Turkey may be critical of Israel, but it hasn’t severed diplomatic ties. It could come to play a crucial role as mediator to head off a Lebanese-Israeli confrontation, while also using its sway over Damascus to hold Syria in check.

Turkey has a contingent in UNIFIL, whose term was extended only last week. That southern villagers should be raising the heat on the international force now does not appear to be a coincidence in light of the decision. The party cannot afford to attack the Turks head on, but by discrediting the UN mission, Hizbullah may be out to undermine any eventual Turkish role, especially in conjunction with the UN, as the go-between with Israel over Lebanon.

Fear those closest to you, the saying goes. Hizbullah has never seemed so destabilized as when facing the troublesome Turkish embrace.



Michael Young is opinion editor of THE DAILY STAR.

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Russia Engages Hamas


by Barry Rubin


Wow, I’m not used to my predictions coming true this fast! In a meeting with a diplomat, I said that one of the most important features of the Middle East soon would be a Russian alliance with the Islamist forces. Russia was already Syria’s arms’ supplier and ally, Iran’s friend (though it did support limited sanctions because there are other interests it must consider), and now is working with Hizballah. It was only a matter of time, I added, before Russia took a pro-Hamas stance as well.


I walked home quickly, sat down, and opened my computer and here it is:


“Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said...that his country was doing the right thing in its direct talks with the Hamas organization. `Yes, we are holding talks with Hamas – because it was elected by a large Palestinian majority in free elections, according to all elements….’’’


But this is okay says Lavrov, because Moscow is telling Hamas to become moderate and is even “witnessing positive movements."

If you believe that Russia is going to persuade Hamas to be moderate, I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you. What is clear, however, is that Hamas has convinced Russia to be even more extreme in its Middle East policy.

And by the way, if Lavrov read this blog he'd know that the Hamas regime was not elected by a large Palestinian majority, it was imposed in a violent coup.

This is not the first such Russia-Hamas meeting but now it is a formal and publicly declared diplomatic action.

In theory, the United States should approach Moscow and say that it is really unhelpful and the U.S. government is ticked off about it. But just after a successful meeting with the Russian president and ignoring the arrest of a huge Russian spy ring in the United States, President Barack H. Obama will do nothing. This is a mistake as it tells Russia once again that it again trample on U.S. policy at no cost whatsoever. Signal sent: Russia strong; America weak. America must listen to Russia; Russia doesn't have to listen to America. Once again, the White House won't even notice that this failure has happened, much less correct it.

A Russian alliance with the main revolutionary Islamist bloc led by Iran is now an established fact. Of course, Moscow won’t do everything Tehran wants but it will do a great deal in that direction. Will the U.S. government notice that even if Russia voted for the UN sanctions it is still subverting U.S. regional policies in a dozen other ways? No. And when Russian companies break the UN sanctions for which Moscow voted Washington won’t notice that either.


But aren’t the Russians worried to back radical Islamists because of its own Islamist problem? On the contrary, one advantage of doing so is to buy off Iran from backing these revolutionary groups inside Russia.


One more step in the erosion of U.S. credibility and power in the world. Yawn!

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.

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Netanyahu must play for time


by Caroline B. Glick

Leaked Washington memo, days before Bibi heads to Washington, only reinforces proof of the obvious


Just ahead of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's trip next week to Washington, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas went on a charm offensive towards the Israeli media. On Tuesday Abbas invited representatives of the Hebrew-language press to his office in Ramallah and assured them of his good intentions towards Israel.

We have been here before. In Netanyahu's last go-around as Prime Minister, it seemed like every time he was due to visit Washington, then president Bill Clinton's advisors would set up a meeting for Abbas's predecessor Yassir Arafat with the Israeli media. Arafat would talk about how much he wanted peace with Israel, and how he was just waiting for Netanyahu to agree to embrace the cause of peace.

The peace-crazed Israeli media enthusiastically reported Arafat's lies to the Israeli people without questioning either Arafat's motives or his honesty. Has they exhibited even a minimal amount of journalistic competence, they would have at least checked to see what the Arafat-controlled Palestinian media was reporting about their meeting with the "Rais."

But that would have ruined their Netanyahu-bashing narrative. And so the Israeli public was denied knowledge that not only did the Arafat-controlled Palestinian media fail to report their meeting, Arafat's newspapers and television broadcasts routinely told the Palestinian people that there could be no peace with the Jews. Indeed, they daily exhorted the Palestinians to view the destruction of Israel as their greatest goal.

In a similar manner, this week as Israel's newspapers published ecstatic headlines about Abbas's moderation and desire for peace, the Abbas-controlled Palestinian media made no mention of the meeting. Moreover, in recent weeks, the Abbas-controlled Palestinian media have been intensifying their incitement against Israel and Jews.

As Palestinian Media Watch reported this week, on Tuesday Abbas-controlled PATV aired a sermon by the PA's Mufti Sheikh Muhammad Hussein. The mufti said, "The Jews, the enemies of Allah and of His Messenger, the enemies of Allah and of His Messenger! Enemies of humanity in general, and of Palestinians in particular... The Prophet says: 'You shall fight the Jews and kill them...'"

Similarly, last week PATV re-broadcast a "documentary" film in which all of Israel is described as "occupied Palestine." In one excerpt cited by PMW, the film's narrator asserts, "The West Bank and Gaza have another section in Palestine which is the Palestinian coast that spreads along the [Mediterranean] sea, from ...Ashkelon in the south, until Haifa, in the Carmel Mountains.

"Haifa is a well-known Palestinian port. [Haifa] enjoyed a high status among Arabs and Palestinians especially before it fell to the occupation [Israel] in 1948. To its north, we find Acre. East of Acre, we reach a city with history and importance, the city of Tiberias, near a famous lake, the Sea of Galilee. Jaffa, an ancient coastal city, is the bride of the sea, and Palestine's gateway to the world."

Tuesday, the moderate Abbas told his Israeli guests that he's ready to hold direct negotiations with Netanyahu as soon as the premier gives him his positions on borders and security. As Abbas's full statement made clear, what he means by that is that he will negotiate with Netanyahu after the latter agrees to adopt his predecessor Ehud Olmert's position on borders and security. Those positions included an Israeli withdrawal to the 1949 armistice lines — including the division of Jerusalem — and the stationing of foreign forces along the border with Jordan.

For its part, the Obama administration is putting its own pressure on Netanyahu to make Abbas — and US President Barack Obama happy. Over the past several weeks the administration has been pressuring Netanyahu to extend the ten-month prohibition on Jewish construction in Judea and Samaria beyond its scheduled September end date. As a sweetener to help Netanyahu swallow this strategically and politically disastrous pill, Obama and his aides claim that an extension of the draconian, bigoted policy would serve as a confidence building measure to convince Abbas to begin direct negotiations with Israel.

In Obama's bid to convince Netanyahu extend the Jewish building ban we see the foreign policy equivalent of a used car salesman's attempt to sell the same customer the same lousy car twice — using different lies each time.

Last year, Obama and his advisors justified their demand that Netanyahu act to strangle the Jewish communities of Judea and Samaria by claiming that doing so would make the Arab world to begin normalizing its relations with Israel. Obama's Jewish surrogate former congressman Robert Wexler told Netanyahu last July that in exchange for barring Jews from building kindergartens in Israel's heartland, Israel would see twenty Arab embassies opening in Tel Aviv.

Of course not only did that not happen, moments after Netanyahu announced the prohibition on Jewish building, Obama's peace mediator George Mitchell claimed that his massive and unprecedented concession was insufficient. Channeling Abbas, Mitchell declared that the US expects Israel to agree to destroy all the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria and withdraw to the indefensible 1949 armistice lines. Weeks after Netanyahu's concession in Judea and Samaria, the administration began its onslaught against Jewish building in Jerusalem.

As the minutes tick by towards Netanyahu's visit with Obama at the White House, Netanyahu is signaling that he is willing to buy the same used car a second time. Although Netanyahu continues to insist that he will not accept preconditions for negotiations, he has empowered Defense Minister Ehud Barak to take a leading role in contacts with the PA.

Wednesday Barak announced that he will be holding direct talks with Israel-boycotting PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad in the coming days. Earlier this week Barak effectively announced his support for an Israeli withdrawal to the 1949 armistice lines even without a peace treaty. In a media interview Barak claimed that that the unilateral withdrawals from Gaza and South Lebanon were great achievements that should be repeated.

Netanyahu's desire to avoid a confrontation with the Obama administration is understandable. Given the nature of the Israeli media, Netanyahu would certainly pay a political price if he were to be blamed for making the administration turn against Israel. But the truth is that today more than ever, Obama shares Netanyahu's desire to avoid an open clash.

The midterm Congressional elections are just four months away and Obama's Democratic colleagues are running scared. Polls show that the Democratic Party is likely to lose control over the House of Representatives. The Democrats will also likely see their control over the Senate weakened if not lost. As the Wall Street Journal's political analyst John Fund reported this week, out of 70 competitive Congressional districts, the Democrats will likely lose 60 and so lose control over the House.

Going into such a problematic electoral season, the last thing Obama needs is an open confrontation with Israel. A new row with Netanyahu will not only harm Democrats in key states like Florida, New York, New Jersey, Illinois and Pennsylvania. It will harm the Democrats' fundraising efforts among Jewish American donors. Over the past several months there have been repeated reports that Jewish Americans are drastically cutting back their donations to Democrats. The current trend will likely escalate if Obama forces Netanyahu into a corner next week.

What this means is that Netanyahu is well placed to stand up to Obama's pressure. If he plays his cards wisely, he can say no to Obama and avoid an open confrontation. For instance, instead of agreeing to extend the building prohibition, Netanyahu should say that he is willing to discuss that demand in face-to-face negotiations with Abbas. Rather than agree to Abbas's preconditions, Netanyahu should say that he is willing to listen to Abbas's position in face-to-face negotiations. And so on and so forth. Such statements by Netanyahu will take the pressure for making concessions off him and put Obama and Abbas on the spot.

Even more importantly, it will buy Israel time. And buying time should be Israel's chief goal with respect to Washington today. Since taking office, Obama has repeatedly demonstrated that he will not reconsider his fundamentally hostile view of Israel. Obama's basic belief that Israel's strength and size are to blame for all the violence and radicalism in the Arab world is not subject to change regardless of how clearly and continuously events on the ground prove it wrong.

Even worse for Israel, Obama is not alone in this view. Indeed, as a report in Foreign Policy this week makes clear, Obama's position on Israel is moderate when compared to the positions being staked out in influential policy circles in the US military.

Wednesday Foreign Policy published the content of a memo written last month in the US Military's Central Command. The memo, a "Red Team," assessment of how the US should position itself vis-a-vis the likes of Hamas and Hizbullah, reveals that among key members of the US policy-making community, Israel is viewed with extreme hostility.

The leaked memo reportedly reflects the views of a significant number of senior and mid-level officers in Centcom, including large numbers of intelligence officers, as well as a significant number of area analysts stationed in the Middle East. It argues that it is wrong for the US to lump jihadist movements like Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, al Qaida and Hizbullah in one group.

Dismissing the significance of the identical religious dogma that stands at the root of these movements, the memo asserts that Hamas and Hizbullah are pragmatic and important social forces with which the US must foster good relations. The memo calls for the US to support the integration of Hizbullah forces into the Lebanese military. It also calls for the US to encourage and permit the integration of Hamas forces into the US-trained Palestinian security forces.

As far as Israel is concerned, the memo blames the Jewish state for the US's failure to date to adopt these recommended policies. Moreover, the memo's authors condemn Israel's maritime blockade of Gaza as keeping "the area on the verge of a perpetual humanitarian collapse."

The Centcom memo also condemns Israel's July 2006 decision to respond to Hizbullah's unprovoked bombardment of northern Israel and its unprovoked cross-border attack against an IDF patrol in which five soldiers were killed and two were kidnapped and subsequently murdered. Denying Hizbullah's subservient relationship with the Iranian regime, the report claimed that Israel's decision to use force to defend itself against Hizbullah's acts of war served to strengthen Hizbullah's ties to Teheran.

What this memo shows is that Israel has little hope of seeing a change for the better in US policy in the near future and its best bet today is to play for time. Next week at the Oval Office Netanyahu should capitalize on his advantage four months ahead of the Congressional elections and put the burden on Obama and Abbas to show their good intentions.

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.


Why aid the enemy?

Israel has every right to close its border to a belligerent neighbor intent on eradicating it.


Bowing to misguided international pressure, particularly from the West, the government lifted nearly three years of restrictions on civilian goods allowed into the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. The restrictions had been imposed in reaction to the repeated launching of missiles into the Negev. This decision hardly makes any strategic sense because it helps Hamas, an ally of revolutionary Islamist Iran. Both are anti-Western forces focused on destroying the Jewish state.

The easing of the blockade reflects the success of a Hamas propaganda campaign to depict the situation in Gaza as a humanitarian disaster.

While Gaza is not prospering, the standard of living there is generally higher than in Egypt – a little-noticed fact. The ability of this Goebbels-type propaganda to entrench a tremendous lie in the consciousness of the international community testifies to the continued vulnerability of naive Westerners to sophisticated psychological warfare, and to the complicity of much of the Western press in this enterprise.

The step taken by the government also significantly helps Hamas strengthen its grip on Gazans, as it controls the distribution of any goods entering its territory. Moreover, even if Hamas allows for a general improvement in the daily lives of all Gazans, this reduces the incentive for regime change, which should be part of the Western goal. Strengthening this radical theological regime in the eastern Mediterranean defies Western rational thinking.

The entrenchment of Hamas rule in Gaza amplifies the schism in Palestinian society and strengthens Hamas’s influence in the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority. It is also a slap in the face of PA President Mahmoud Abbas, who demanded the blockade’s continuation. Hamas’s achievement here further undermines whatever ability – albeit a very limited one – the Palestinian national movement had to move toward compromise with the Jewish state.

THE INTERNATIONAL pressure that led to the decision also indicates a gross misunderstanding of Israel’s predicament and its legitimate right of self-defense. Israel totally disengaged from Gaza in 2005, hoping that the Gazans would focus their energy on state-building and achieving prosperity.

Gazans could have decided to try to become a Hong Kong or a Singapore.

Yet Hamas turned Gaza into a political entity engaged in waging war on the Jewish state by launching thousands of missiles with the specific intention of harming civilians.

Ironically, Hamas demands that Israel allow a supply of goods into the Strip.

It is legally and morally outrageous to claim Israel is responsible for the Gazans, who are no longer under occupation and who have supported the rule of Hamas in great numbers.

After the 2005 withdrawal, Israel’s responsibilities – stemming from previously being an occupying power – ended.

Since Gaza is an enemy country, it does not deserve any special treatment from Israel beyond its legitimate steps taken in pursuit of selfdefense.

Israel, like any other sovereign state, has every right to close its border with a belligerent neighbor.

Moreover, it has no obligation to provide water, electricity, fuel or access to food and/or medical supplies to its enemies. Why on earth should it aid those that want to eradicate it? The bewildering and hypocritical international response to Israel’s attempts to prevent war material from reaching Gaza, as manifested in the criticism surrounding the Gaza flotilla incident, should be of great concern to Jerusalem. Again, we see the successful application of propaganda whose objective is to deny Israel its legitimate right of selfdefense.

This campaign is part of a larger plan designed to neutralize the superior capacity of the West, and Israel in particular.

Instead of easing the blockade, the government should have announced its intention to exercise its sovereign right to close the border with Gaza and halt the transfer of any goods to its enemy within several months.

Israel must make clear to the world that it refuses to accept responsibility for the welfare of Gazan residents, particularly since they are employing violence against the Jewish state.

The period leading up to the actual border closure should be used to establish alternative routes of supply via Egypt, which also borders Gaza.

Egypt is unlikely to welcome such a development because it prefers to keep the Gaza hot potato in Israel’s lap. However, the Egyptians are much more adept at dealing with the Gazans, whom they ruled in the past.

The Palestinians in Gaza and elsewhere are not only Israel’s problem, but constitute a regional headache.

is professor of political studies at Bar-Ilan University and director of the Begin-Sadat (BESA) Center for Strategic Studies.

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