Saturday, May 21, 2011

'Obama Sides with the Palestinians' - Again

by Lauri B. Regan

So I read the headline on Drudge Report just moments after President Obama delivered his second Middle East (and hundredth campaign) speech on Thursday. Of course, this should be no surprise to anyone paying attention to Obama's Mideast policy over the past two and a half years. Nor should it be a surprise to anyone who cared about this issue enough to investigate Obama-the-candidate in the lead-up to the election. It was clear then, and remains unquestionable today, that Obama is simply the most anti-Israel U.S. president (and that includes Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush) in history.

On the homepage, the headline was slightly different: "Obama Shocker: Backs Palestinians, Tells Israel to Pull Back to '67 Borders." I respectfully disagree -- this was as predictable as the sun rising every morning and setting every evening. But what is not clear is whether or not American Jews will interpret Obama's speech as insightfully as those reporting on it from the right side of the aisle. For the majority of American Jews are liberal, do not take kindly to the reporting of Fox News and The Drudge Report, and are ill-informed on the impact of Obama's words and actions vis-à-vis Israel's survival.

Obama and his advisors and speech writers are no dummies. They ensured that they threw in enough carrots to cover up Obama's long-term plans for a two-state solution. Give this guy another four years and you can be sure that the gloves come off and any U.S. support for Israel at the U.N. is gone, a two-state plan will be forced on Israel, and another U.S. ally is thrown permanently (or at least until Obama is out of the White House) under the bus.

In his speech, Obama segued from discussions of the Arab Spring and related Mideast issues to the Palestinian/Israeli peace process with the following line: "Let me conclude by talking about another cornerstone of our approach to the region, and that relates to the pursuit of peace." In a nutshell, the cornerstone of Obama's approach to the region is to create peace between Israel and the Palestinians, and everything else will just fall into place. This lack of peace is the cause of all of the region's problems. And this has been the ideological driver of this administration's foreign policy in the area. It is not only that Obama wants to go down in history as accomplishing the achievement of which none of his predecessors were capable. Obama truly believes the words he spoke during his campaign that "[t]his is the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal."

Obama, the great healer, has every intention of throwing Israel under the bus since that pesky little country is preventing him from achieving the idolatry of the world's populations (and justification for the Nobel Peace Prize prematurely bestowed upon him). But he cannot do so while working toward a second term. So in one breath, he proposed that Israel pull back to the '67 borders, while in another, he suggested that Israel's borders must be defensible. He then mentioned contiguous Palestinian borders, ignoring the fact that it would be impossible for Israel's borders to then remain contiguous or defensible.

Obama also described Palestinians "suffering the humiliation of occupation" and stated that "[t]he dream of a Jewish and democratic state cannot be fulfilled with permanent occupation." These statements effectually delegitimize the legitimate Israeli claim to Judea and Samaria, and yet, in the next breath, Obama stated that "[f]or the Palestinians, efforts to delegitimize Israel will end in failure." Once again, only the great One has this special gift of speaking out of both sides of his mouth while the masses fawn at every last word.

One of my favorite lines of the speech was when Obama stated that "[t]he international community is tired of an endless process that never produces an outcome." Here, it is clear that it is Obama and his cronies who are tired of the process. And it is no wonder, since they made it the cornerstone of the administration's Mideast policy without any clue whatsoever as to the history of the region and its peoples or the real possibilities of achieving this goal.

The possibility of four more years of Obama is a real issue for American Jews to consider. The Wall Street Journal published an article Thursday entitled "Jewish Donors Warn Obama on Israel." The article discussed the risks of Obama losing financial support due to his positions on Israel. And it is clear that Obama's speech today was the first step in his campaign to address that concern. Tackling the concerns of one donor who suggested that Obama "be 'extremely proactive' in countering the perception in the Jewish community that Mr. Obama is too critical of Israel," Obama threw out this line:

[O]ur friendship [with Israel] is rooted deeply in a shared history and shared values. Our commitment to Israel's security is unshakeable. And we will stand against attempts to single it out for criticism in international forums.

Of course, that sentence was followed with a "but" stating that Israel "must act boldly to advance a lasting peace." There was no mention of the numerous peace offers, land concessions, and failed attempts by Israel to reach an agreement in prior negotiations.

According to the WSJ article, Obama has started his full court press with the Jewish community by reaching out to Penny Pritzker, his 2008 national finance chairwoman, to talk with Jewish leaders. Ms. Pritzker stated that "I do think there's an education job to be done, because there's lots of myths that abound and misunderstandings of the administration's record. [...] The campaign is aggressively getting the information out there."

There they go again. Those ignorant Americans just cannot seem to get the facts right. They have misunderstood the well-intentioned and pro-Israel Obama administration, and they need to be educated -- through what I would label a "misinformation" campaign consistent with Obama to date.

The scary part of the article was the suggestion by one Jewish Obama fundraiser "that most Jewish voters [are] concerned about many issues, not just Israel." And clearly that is the case because 78% of them voted for the man who hung out with domestic terrorists, black liberation theologists, and anti-Semites, and who had Palestinians from the West Bank making campaign calls for him just prior to the 2008 election. In support of this notion, the article includes a reference to former Mayor Ed Koch, who was considering voting for a Republican in 2012, apparently feeling that Obama was "hostile to Israel," but who changed his mind when he realized that the House proposed privatizing Medicare for people under age 55. Now there's a Jew with his priorities exactly where 78% of his fellow American Jews are -- focusing on preserving socialism rather than Israel's survival.

Obama will be speaking before the pro-Israel group AIPAC on Sunday. Three years ago, candidate Obama also spoke before thousands of American Jews at the annual AIPAC conference and made the pledge that Jerusalem would remain undivided. Within 24 hours, in the face of Muslim backlash, Obama retreated from that promise. American Jews must not forget that again and again, Obama sides with the Palestinians.


Lauri B. Regan

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

Bibi Lets Obama Have it - Diplomatically Speaking

by Rick Moran

And The One was stewing. You could almost see the steam coming out of those Dumbo ears of his when Prime Minister Netanyahu turned the tables on the president and began to lecture HIM. From ABC News:

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seemed to think he needed to educate President Obama on some issues today, so in the Oval Office he described in some detail to the president a history of the refugee problem in the region dating back 63 years, as well as his view on the need for Israel to be able to defend itself in the context of thousands of years of Jewish suffering.

"We don't have a lot of margin for error," Netanyahu said to the president. "Because, Mr. President, history will not give the Jewish people another chance."

Netanyahu, whose father is a retired academic, offered the president repeated history lessons, saying Jews have "been around for almost 4,000 years. We have experienced struggle and suffering like no other people. We've gone through expulsions and pogroms and massacres and the murder of millions. But I can say that even at the dearth of -- even at the nadir of the valley of death, we never lost hope and we never lost our dream of reestablishing a sovereign state in our ancient homeland, the land of Israel."


Netanyahu said that "while Israel is prepared to make generous compromises for peace, it cannot go back to the 1967 lines, because these lines are indefensible, because they don't take into account certain changes that have taken place on the ground, demographic changes that have taken place over the last 44 years."

In 1967, Netanyahu said, "Israel was all of 9 miles wide -- half the width of the Washington Beltway... So we can't go back to those indefensible lines, and we're going to have to have a long-term military presence along the Jordan."

The topper came when Bibi told the president, "Hamas has just attacked you, Mr. President, and the United States for ridding the world of bin Laden. So Israel obviously cannot be asked to negotiate with a government that is backed by the Palestinian version of al-Qaida."

It will be fascinating to watch the dueling speeches at AIPAC - Obama on Sunday and Netanyahu on Monday - as well as listening to Bibi's Joint Session of Congress speech on Tuesday. Expect more war of words from both men as Netanyahu exposes Obama's pandering to the Arabs as the naive maneuverings of a rank amateur.


Rick Moran

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

The New Arafat

by P. David Hornik

The United States believes that negotiations should result in two states, with permanent Palestinian borders with Israel, Jordan, and Egypt, and permanent Israeli borders with Palestine. The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps…. The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves, and reach their potential, in a sovereign and contiguous state…. The full and phased withdrawal of Israeli military forces should be coordinated with the assumption of Palestinian security responsibility in a sovereign, nonmilitarized state….

These words from President Barack Obama’s speech on Thursday are the most chilling message ever sent by a U.S. president to Israel, and possibly by any head of government to a supposed “ally.” It is often mentioned that, soon after the Six Day War of 1967, the then Israeli foreign minister Abba Eban referred to those 1967 lines as the “Auschwitz borders.” It is also often mentioned, as Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu did after his meeting with Obama on Friday, that these borders leave Israel all of nine miles wide at one of its most populous points.

Under Obama’s dispensation, Israel is left with these borders and no others. A “full and phased withdrawal of Israeli military forces” from the West Bank means no Israeli military presence in the Jordan Valley, stipulated as essential in all Israeli military assessments, and certainly not in the West Bank’s mountain ridge, where the 1967 U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff study, as well as a 1974 follow-up study by the U.S. Army’s Command and Staff College, also viewed an Israeli military presence as strategically indispensable.

Moreover, the two parts of the Palestinian state, the West Bank and Gaza, are supposed to be “contiguous,” a demand that Yasser Arafat used to raise in Oslo-era negotiations with Israel. A glance at a map of Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza reveals that demand as little less than astounding. There is no way to make the West Bank and Gaza contiguous except by some sort of passageway connecting the two, slicing Israel in half, creating a security nightmare and a compromise of Israel’s integrity and sovereignty such as exists in no country of the world and that Obama, it is safe to say, would not contemplate for a moment regarding the United States or any part of it.

Note also Obama’s use of “nonmilitarized,” which in the lingua franca is distinctly different from the “demilitarized” frequently used by Netanyahu. A nonmilitarized Palestinian state would probably be formally denied heavy weapons like tanks and planes, while maintaining ground forces of some sort (clearly necessary, at the very least, to maintain public order). Yet, apart from the fact that demilitarization agreements have a history of crumbling—let alone in the volatile and violence-ridden Middle East—even modestly armed Palestinian forces on the mountain ridge overlooking Israel’s coastal plain could make life intolerable for the country. They could do so by:

* Sniper fire. The West Bank terrain is so close to Jerusalem that snipers could shoot into Israel’s capital itself—as they did during Israel’s 1948-1949 War of Independence, forcing one-quarter of the Jews then living in the city to flee it, and as they did frequently from East Jerusalem into West Jerusalem in the succeeding years. Since the 2005 withdrawal from Gaza, sporadic sniper fire at Israeli farms along the Gaza-Israel border has created a serious security problem. In 2008 a volunteer worker at one of those farms was killed by sniper fire. West Bank snipers would also be well in range of major Israeli traffic arteries.

* Rocket fire. Whether openly perpetrated by a Palestinian government or by rogue—or subtly tolerated—terrorist forces, the 1967 borders entail a nightmare of vulnerability to rocket fire for Israel. Even cheap, homemade Qassams could reach, for instance, the coastal town of Kfar Saba, Jerusalem, and Ben-Gurion International Airport. In other words, even mere Qassams could create a strategic threat to government buildings in Jerusalem and to the airport, Israel’s only link with the outside world (not to mention shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles). As for somewhat longer-range Katyusha rockets, they could reach Tel Aviv, Beersheva, most of Israel’s airbases, and much more.

* Terrorist infiltrations. Although since the 2005 disengagement Israel has mostly been able to stop terrorist incursions from Gaza—though not always, as in the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit and killing of two other soldiers in the 2006 Kerem Shalom attack—the West Bank border is, again, vastly longer, more meandering, and incomparably more difficult to police. Indeed, from 1949 to 1967 when the West Bank was in Jordanian hands, the permeability of that border exacted a death toll from terrorist infiltrations for Israel.

If these problems are generally—but, as noted, not necessarily—on a tactical level, gravest of all would be Israel’s radical strategic vulnerability in the situation envisaged by Obama. Even a Palestinian state that more or less complied with “nonmilitarization” could allow—or be forced to allow—Arab armies from the east to traverse the short distance to Israel’s coastal plain, where a mere nine-mile push by a tank force would suffice to sunder Israel and put an end to Jewish sovereignty. Would Israel’s large, capable army be able to stop the invasion? Very likely not—because the bulk of that army consists of reserve forces, which require 48 hours for a full mobilization. An Arab force could cross the West Bank in much less time. Meanwhile the reserve forces rushing along exposed arteries to exposed mobilization centers would be subject to various forms of debilitating fire—very likely including missile barrages from states and terror enclaves bordering Israel.

It is inconceivable that, in Obama’s meetings with Netanyahu and other top Israeli officials since becoming president, these and similar points have not been raised. What is chilling to the bone, then, is that his words on Thursday reveal that they have made no impression on him. He either is so dominated by the notion of Palestinian victimhood that he cannot contemplate—despite the rather voluminous evidence to the contrary—Palestinians constituting a threat to Israel; or he does not care. Was Netanyahu, in his talk with him, able to bring Obama back to earth? There is no way of knowing. What is clear is that this is the time for Israel’s real friends to show their mettle by expounding the truth and effectively opposing the president’s designs.


P. David Hornik

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

Hear No Middle East, See No Middle East

by Barry Rubin

President Barack Obama’s speech on Middle East policy did more damage to U.S.-Israel relations than anything said by any previous president during the almost forty-year alliance between the two countries. Yet, ironically, the speech wasn’t intended to be on Israel at all; Obama apparently thought he was being friendly toward Israel; and the point that created the biggest controversy was something that the president didn’t even say.

The crisis, then, was caused by three factors: The ignorance of the Obama Administration over the issues involved; Obama’s chronic lack of friendliness toward Israel; and his refusal to recognize the threat from revolutionary Islamism.

His speech mainly focused on a totally uncritical evaluation of the current upheavals in the Arab world. The idea that Egypt is about to become a radical state, that the Egypt-Israel treaty is jeopardized, and that Israel is now facing the prospect of a renewed enemy to its southwest with twelve times its own population simply has not entered Obama’s calculations.

In other words, Obama is asking Israel to make risky concessions at the very moment when its security situation is potentially at its worst in the last thirty years. The assumption that Arab states would not launch a conventional war on Israel—which has prevailed since Egypt moved toward peace in 1978—no longer holds.

The fact that the president blithely sees no danger whatsoever from the Egyptian situation or the current upheavals in the region—a point that was the main theme of his speech—reduces his credibility with Israel to zero.

A second factor that makes Obama’s timing dangerously thoughtless is that he is rewarding the Palestinian Authority (PA) after it made a cooperation deal with the revolutionary Islamist group Hamas. Of course, Hamas is an openly antisemitic organization that makes no secret of its refusal to recognize Israel, its pride in committing terrorism, and its intention to commit genocide against Israel’s Jews.

Obama did take a stronger stance against the merger than the U.S. government has done previously. But so what? He has taken no sanctions against the PA for engaging in a merger that virtually tears up the Israel-PLO agreement of 1992. He doesn’t even criticize the PA for doing so. Hamas is for Israel what al-Qaida is for America.

In practice, Obama accepts the entry of Hamas into the PA government, just as he accepts that of Hizballah into Lebanon’s government, and the Muslim Brotherhood into Egypt’s government. While the president’s rhetoric on Israel and the Palestinians is studiously “even-handed” his policy is clearly on the other side, that of Israel’s and America’s enemies.

I don’t think Obama realizes this fact. But who cares? That’s what he’s doing and it is catastrophic for the United States, its Arab allies, and Israel. .

But there’s more! In his speech Obama took a tough verbal stance against the PA’s plan to get the UN General Assembly to grant Palestine independence unilaterally in September. That this is a total violation of all agreements made by the PLO and PA since 1992 doesn’t seem to register with Western governments, though almost all of them will vote against it.

While it is nice to know that the Obama Administration will vote against the proposal—one can’t take anything for granted with this president—that’s not what’s most important. In line with his principle of not taking leadership, Obama isn’t lobbying strenuously to press other countries to oppose the measure or the PA to drop the idea, and certainly isn’t threatening to punish them if they do.

Thus, this fiasco, which destroys even the chance for any Israel-PA talks in 2011 and perhaps for far longer, is partly the result of American passivity.

Yet the list of administration mistakes on these issues is still not complete. In his speech, Obama proposed a plan. Again, he tipped his hat at Israel by saying that he wouldn’t try to impose a solution—no doubt thinking that would win him praise from Israel—but then made a proposal that totally tramples on Israel’s interests.

Obama’s idea was that Israel would withdraw from the remainder of the West Bank and turn it over to the PA in exchange for unspecified security guarantees. Palestine could become a state and the issues of Jerusalem and refugees would be postponed.

The effect of such an outcome would be to throw away all of Israel’s leverage on the remaining issues; free the Palestinians to do what they wanted; and exchange real strategic assets (land) for promises written on paper (security guarantees). Given the PA’s past practices and the European-American implementation of their own pledges, that would be very flimsy paper indeed.

Then there is Obama’s refusal to give credit to Israel for the ways it has already shown its desire for peace, readiness to make concessions, and willingness to take risks in order to resolve the conflict. He never mentions that Israel has already withdrawn from the Sinai Peninsula, returned small amounts of territory to Jordan, pulled completely out of Lebanon and the Gaza Strip, and given the PA all the Arab-populated portions of the West Bank (except a small area in Hebron).

Most annoying of all, in discussing what Israel has done “wrong” in the speech he said that Israeli settlement activity is continuing. Since Israel froze construction for nine months at Obama’s request (and the PA then refused to talk) one might expect some gratitude on the president’s part for Israel’s cooperation and some criticism for the PA’s refusal to do what Obama asked.

If Obama refuses to acknowledge, much less reward, Israeli cooperation and concessions in the past, Israelis and Israeli leaders know that he won’t do so in future. If Obama refuses to maintain past U.S. pledges to Israel—like the country being able to annex settlement blocs and support for Israel being recognized by the PA as a Jewish state in a peace agreement—Israelis have no faith in any promises including security guarantees he offers in future.

Given all this, it is ironic that the big controversy was regarding Obama’s sentence on borders. What he said is completely in line with past U.S. policy. He didn’t demand Israel return to the 1967 borders but called for those serving as the basis of an agreement with mutually agreed changes. So Israel would have to accept any future borders. Since Israel won’t agree to return to the 1967 borders, then, that will never happen.

Israel is not going to allow a president with no credibility, who clearly doesn’t understand what’s at stake, fails to support his Arab allies, is soft on his Iranian and Syrian enemies, doesn’t learn from his past errors, is sacrificing U.S. interests in the region, and pays no attention to what’s happening in Egypt, to determine its future.

And it isn’t just Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who thinks that way. There’s a national consensus on the issue. For almost two and a half years, Israel has played along with Obama, working hard to avoid friction, because the relationship with the United States is of tremendous importance. There was some hope that Obama would learn from experience or, at least, the bilateral relationship could muddle through his four-year term.

Now, however, in large part because of the revolution in Egypt definitely headed toward radicalism and probably toward Islamism, and the PA’s readmission of Hamas—as well as Obama’s failure to learn much about the Middle East and Israel’s situation—that effort has come to an end.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal, and a featured columnist at PajamasMedia His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center is. His PajamaMedia columns are mirrored and other articles available here.


Barry Rubin

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

A Story of How Deep the Palestinians Have Sunk Into the Moral Abyss

by Dr. Arieh Eldad

I was instrumental in establishing the Israeli National Skin Bank, which is the largest in the world. The National Skin Bank stores skin for every day needs as well as for war time or mass casualty situations.

This skin bank is hosted at the Hadassah Ein Kerem University hospital in Jerusalem where I was the Chairman of plastic surgery. This is how I was asked to supply skin for an Arab woman from Gaza , who was hospitalized in Soroka Hospital in Beersheva, after her family burned her. Usually, such atrocities happen among Arab families when the women are suspected of having an affair.

We supplied all the needed Homografts for her treatment. She was successfully treated by my friend and colleague, Prof. Lior Rosenberg and discharged to return to Gaza. She was invited for regular follow-up visits to the outpatient clinic in Beersheva.

One day she was caught at a border crossing wearing a suicide belt. She meant to explode herself in the outpatient clinic of the hospital where they saved her life. It seems that her family promised her that if she did that, they would forgive her.

This is only one example of the war between Jews and Muslims in the Land of Israel. It is not a territorial conflict. This is a civilizational conflict, or rather a war between civilization & barbarism.

Bibi (Netanyahu) gets it, Obama does not.


Dr. Arieh Eldad

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

Israel and the WikiLeaks Cables

by Jonathan Spyer

The U.S. diplomatic cables published by Wikileaks include a considerable number of communications by American diplomats stationed in Israel, and an even larger number dealing with Middle Eastern issues of direct relevance and interest to Jerusalem. In a few cases, the revelations are of genuine and deep significance, offering a real addition to the understanding of the political and strategic processes in Israel and the broader Middle East. This article considers the cables directly focusing on Israel and the discussion they have provoked both in Israel and internationally.

It should be borne in mind throughout that the cables are not a gateway to the unchallengeable “truth” regarding regional processes. Nor do they represent the totality of possible interactions between the countries concerned, nor the highest possible level. Direct contacts between heads of state, the level at which key strategic decisions are likely to take place, will not be recorded in the reporting of U.S. diplomats back to the State Department in Washington. Still, the cables represent insight into the nature of U.S. reporting from the region, and some contain new information and evidence of real significance.


Surprisingly few of the cables released so far have focused directly on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. A number of cables do, however, depict the importance Arab leaders attach to a solution of the conflict. An article by Matt Duss provides examples of cables in which Arab leaders directly related to the Israel-Palestinian conflict.[1] Yet it is worth noting that four out of the six articles cited herein in fact discuss the issue of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the context of a discussion on Iran and how to counter Iranian efforts to build its regional influence. A considerable number of cables, however, focus on the Hamas enclave in Gaza and its relations with Israel. In this regard, the cables have yielded nothing truly ground-breaking, but help cast further light on processes that had previously received little media coverage.

Among the most important revelations to have emerged from the leaks is the fact that Israel sought to coordinate its far reaching military operation in Gaza in late 2008 with both Egypt and the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority. In a confidential telegram sent from Tel Aviv, then Deputy U.S. Ambassador Luis Moreno noted that Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak told a visiting congressional delegation that Israel had asked both Egypt and the PA if they would be willing to take control of the Gaza Strip once Hamas was defeated. Barak noted that both had declined. PA officials denied this version of events.

An additional cable quoted Shabak (Israel’s security agency) head Yuval Diskin as saying that in 2007 Fatah had asked for Israel's help in countering the growing strength of Hamas. Diskin told U.S.
officials, "They are approaching a zero-sum situation, and yet they ask us to attack Hamas…. They are desperate." He also praised his organization's "very good working relationship" with Mahmoud Abbas' security services, which involves substantial intelligence sharing.

An additional revelation concerned the issue of Iranian arms supplies to the Hamas enclave in Gaza. A cable dated January 22, 2009, contains details of a request from the U.S. government to Sudan to stop flights entering their country carrying Iranian military equipment bound for Hamas.
[2] It was later reported that in January, Israeli aircraft mounted a long-range bombing mission against an arms convoy in Sudan's Red Sea province. A number of additional cables reveal evidence of Egyptian fears of smuggling into Gaza and the Iranian role in this. One such cable describes then-Egyptian President Husni Mubarak as possessing a visceral hatred for Iran because of its attempts to “destabilize Egypt and the region.”[3]

The cables indicate that at least some in Israel's security establishment did not view the prospect of a Hamas-ruled Gaza with unadulterated dread. One cable revealed details of a conversation between then-U.S. Ambassador Richard Jones and then-Military Intelligence Head Amos Yadlin. Yadlin argued that a Hamas takeover might have positive effects, since Israel would then be able to relate to Gaza as an unambiguously hostile entity. Yadlin also assumed that Israel would be able to deal successfully with a West Bank PA run by Fatah.

The cables also give some hint as to the measures Israel is taking in order to weaken the Hamas entity in Gaza. One cable noted a plan devised by Counterterrorism Bureau Chief Danny Arditi, according to which a new Palestinian intelligence monetary unit would be established to receive additional funding from the United States and the EU, while the amount of funds transferred monthly to the Gaza Strip would be downsized. Another noted Israeli intentions of keeping the Gazan economy under pressure, without ever causing its absolute collapse. The cable dealing with this issue, dated November 3, 2008 (i.e., immediately prior to Operation Cast Lead), defines the goal of the Israeli blockade as keeping the Gaza economy "at its lowest possible level without getting a humanitarian crisis." Of course, the blockade has since been substantially eased.

Additional cables point to what is apparently an accusation of corruption at the Karni Crossing into Gaza in the period prior to Hamas’ seizure of power in the Strip. According to a cable published by the Norwegian Aftenposten newspaper, the United States had serious concerns that Israeli officials were asking U.S. distributors “special fees” at the crossing to pay in order to be permitted to take merchandise into the Strip. A cable authored by then-U.S. Ambassador to Israel Richard Jones maintained that U.S. businessmen were asked to pay more than $3,000 to transfer merchandise into the Gaza Strip. These “special fees,” according to Jones, constituted as much as 75 times the standard processing fee as quoted by Israeli government officials. According to the document, the individuals seeking the bribes were not Israeli officials, but rather were representatives of “companies working as middlemen for military and civilian officials at the terminal.”


A number of cables focus on Israeli policy vis-à-vis Iran, and some new details have been made available. It has of course been widely noted that one of the most significant aspects of the Wikileaks cables was the very large amount of evidence yielded regarding the deep concerns felt by Saudi Arabia and a number of Gulf Arab countries toward Iran and its regional ambitions.

Many Israeli commentators and officials have seen the cables showing regional concerns regarding Iran as offering a certain vindication of the Israeli stance on the region, which locates the Iranian threat as the central dynamic of the Middle East. Following the release of the first cables, one Israeli columnist, Sever Plocker, wrote, “If WikiLeaks didn't exist, Israel would have had to invent it." Plocker specifically focused on what he regarded as the gap between the public pronouncements of Arab leaders, which more often than not highlighted criticism of Israel, and the discussions revealed in the cables, in which Iran was the focal point. A headline in the Haaretz newspaper focusing on the same issue concluded unambiguously that “everyone hates Iran.”

This has led to various suspicions of nefarious links between the Wikileaks organization and Israel being raised in parts of the Middle East media. Such allegations have never been accompanied by any proof, and subsequent leaks have portrayed revelations that are hardly of use to Israeli public diplomacy--from the allegations of low-level corruption at the Gaza crossings, noted above, to cables depicting tough Israeli policies regarding restriction of goods into Hamas-controlled Gaza. Nevertheless, these accusations are likely to remain in circulation. Again, it is the evidence of Arab concerns over Iran that is seen by enemies of Israel as most beneficial to Israel's cause in the information emerging from the leaks, rather than any information directly relating to Israel and its activities.

Regarding cables dealing with Israel and Hizballah, three cables focusing on Hizballah stand out. The pro-Hizballah newspaper al-Akhbar was one of the outlets to which Wikileaks chose to leak cables. Lebanon is currently in a state of political tension as the country awaits a possible issuing of indictments against individuals suspected of involvement in the murder of former Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri in 2005.

Among the cables published by al-Akhbar was a dispatch from the U.S. Embassy in Beirut dated March 2008. The cable depicts then-Lebanese Defense Minister Elias Murr apparently issuing advice or requests to Israel via the United States regarding possible future large-scale military operations against Hizballah. The writer of the cable suggests that:

Murr is trying to ascertain how long an offensive would be required to clean out Hizballah... The LAF will move to pre-position food, money, and water with these units so they can stay on their bases when Israel comes for Hizballah--discreetly, Murr added… For Murr, the LAF's strategic objective was to survive a three week war “completely intact” and able to take over once Hizballah's militia has been destroyed.

This cable offers additional tangible evidence of the depth of mainstream Arab opposition to Iran and its proxies in the region. These revelations are adding to tensions in Lebanon, since for Hizballah and its supporters, they indicate the depth of the enmity in which they are held by other Lebanese. Yet the cables may also assist Hizballah in its current attempts to portray its domestic opponents as allies of Israel.

An additional cable depicts a conversation in 2008 between Murr and American diplomats in Beirut, in which the Lebanese defense minister advised Israel to “avoid two things” when it came for Hizballah. In the memo, Murr said that Israel "must not touch the Blue Line or the UNSCR 1701 areas as this will keep Hizballah out of these areas," referring to the area south of the Litani River. Second, Israel "cannot bomb bridges and infrastructure in the Christian areas."

The Murr cables have been highlighted by al-Akhbar, in order to place pressure on anti-Hizballah forces in Lebanon and to depict March 14 officials as stooges of Israel and the United States. These communications constitute perhaps the most immediately explosive of the Wikileaks revelations.

The cables on Lebanon provide additional important details regarding the depth of Iranian penetration of Lebanon. A cable dated October 23, 2008, offers evidence of the presence of Iranian Revolutionary Guards and Qods force officers in Lebanon during the 2006 war with Israel, and of Iranian misuse of the Iranian Red Crescent organization for the smuggling of weaponry bound for Hizballah into the country at that time.

Regarding Iran, the cables reveal fascinating details of Israel's preferred strategy for conducting the struggle against the Teheran regime, which is openly pledged to Israel's destruction. An August 2007 cable, published by the Guardian, reports on a meeting between Mossad Chief Meir Dagan and U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns. The cable contains a list of the “five pillars” of Israel's policy on Iran, as outlined by Dagan. These were: political measures, covert action, encouraging regime change, sanctions, and counter-proliferation. According to the report, Dagan said that these different aspects should be pushed simultaneously, with greater attention given to exploiting weak spots and ethnic tensions, which could help bring about regime change. The cable added that the covert action element would not be discussed in the larger group meeting.

This document is of importance in that it showcases a more comprehensive and sophisticated Israeli policy toward Iran than had hitherto been revealed. Rather than taking the zero-sum view that Iran’s nuclear ambitions would either be stopped militarily or that Iran would acquire a nuclear capacity, Dagan reveals the broad contours of an analysis that sees the Iranian regime as vulnerable on a number of points--both internationally and domestically--and that evidently intends to assert pressure on all of these.

An additional cable reveals U.S. suspicions that some Israeli warnings about Iran were exaggerated in terms of their timeline and were intended to goad the United States into military action. There are also some details regarding Israeli arms purchases. One cable shows Israeli concerns at the possibility of the U.S. planned sale of F-15s to Saudi Arabia. Another discusses the delivery of GBU-28 bunker-busting bombs to Israel. The cable notes that "the transfer should be handled quietly to avoid any allegations that the United States Government is helping Israel prepare for a strike against Iran."

An important cable also sheds some light on the January, 2010 bombing of an Israeli diplomatic convoy near the Allenby Bridge in Jordan. IDF Chief of Staff Lieutenant-General Gabi Ashkenazi told UN official Michael Williams that Israeli intelligence had assessed that the attack was likely the work of Hizballah, as part of its attempt to avenge the 2008 killing of the movement's military commander, Imad Mughniya. The prevailing opinion in the media at the time was that the attack was probably the work of Sunni Islamist extremists.


The Arab states’ concern over the nature and extent of Iran’s regional ambitions was well-known prior to the release of the leaked cables. Many analysts had spoken of a Middle East “cold war” pitting Iran and its allies against a loose coalition of pro-Western regional states including Egypt and Saudi Arabia, with Israel as a de facto member of this coalition. The leaked cables, however, provide new evidence of the central importance of this process in the eyes of regional leaders, their deep concern at Iranian advances, and the quite radical measures some regional leaders are prepared to consider in order to stop Iran.

The cable on this subject that has received most attention is the report sent by U.S. Special Adviser on Iraq David Satterfield on April 20, 2008. The cable is concerned with a visit by U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker and General David Petraeus to Riyadh.[5] The most widely reported and explosive element of this cable was a statement by Saudi Ambassador to the United States Adel Jubair in conversation with the U.S. chargé d'affaires, which recalled the Saudi king's “frequent exhortations” to the United States to “attack Iran and so put an end to its nuclear program.”[6] The King told the United States, to “cut off the head of the snake,” according to Jubair. This call for U.S. military action was echoed by another senior Gulf figure, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Shaykh Muhammad bin Zayid, who in a March 2006 meeting with CENTCOM commander John Abizaid, urged that “action” be taken against Iran and its president that year or the following year.[7] The Crown Prince added that he was “unwilling to wait much longer.” An additional recommendation for military action against Iran appears in a cable dated May 16, 2005.[8] Bahraini King Hamad also calls for military action against the Iranian nuclear program, in a cable dated November 4, 2009.[9] In a conversation with CENTCOM commander General David Petraeus, the king “forcefully” urges that the program be terminated using “whatever means necessary,” adding that “the danger of letting it go on is greater than the danger of stopping it.”

While the exhortations to military action against Iran have for obvious reasons attracted a large amount of media attention, the perhaps more significant aspect for serious researchers is the context in which they appeared. All four of the recommendations quoted below appeared in the context of a more general expression of acute concern conveyed by the aforementioned officials regarding the Islamic Republic’s ongoing campaign of regional subversion. The sheer volume of such expressions by Arab leaders in this regard, in their conversations with their U.S. interlocutors, is extremely striking, as is the variety and geographic spread of examples cited.

From Egypt, Lebanon, and Jordan, via Iraq, to the Gulf and Afghanistan, the statements of Arab leaders and senior officials cited in the leaked cables depict their deep concerns about Iranian interference in internal political processes and about the nature of Iran's ambitions and its regional strategy.

There is insufficient space here to provide a comprehensive picture of Arab statements in this regard, due to the sheer volume (and it is worth noting that Wikileaks has released only a fraction of the total 250,000 cables in its possession). A number of representative examples must therefore suffice.

In a conversation with U.S. Chief of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen, Egyptian Intelligence Chief Umar Suleiman noted that Iran is "very active" in Egypt and that it is providing Hamas $25 million per month. Suleiman asserts that Iran has tried to transfer payments to the Kassam Brigades in Gaza, which Egypt has prevented.

He also notes Egypt's apprehending of what he describes as a large "Hizballah cell" on its soil (the 49-man cell apprehended by the Egyptian authorities in April 2009) and reports of Iranian efforts to recruit among Sinai Bedouin. Suleiman tells Mullen that Egypt has begun a "confrontation with Hizballah and Iran." He mentions that his service has begun to recruit agents in Syria and Iraq, and says that Egypt has sent a clear message to Iran that if it continues to interfere in Egypt, Egypt will interfere with Iran.

Saudi King Abdallah challenges then-Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki on the issue of Iran's "interference in Arab affairs." In particular, the Saudi king criticizes Iranian interference in Palestinian affairs and its support for Hamas. Mottaki protests that “these are Muslims.” Yet the Saudi king reiterates that the Palestinians are “Arabs,” and adds, “You as Persians have no business meddling in Arab matters.”

The cables detail Arab complaints in particular of Iran's extensive interference in Iraq, an issue that repeatedly comes up in Arab conversations with senior U.S. officials. They also quote the Saudi king's assertion of Iranian aid to the Houthi rebels in Yemen, outline Iranian and Syrian involvement in illegal arms transfers from North Korea, and describe the extensive involvement of Revolutionary Guards personnel in shipping weapons to Hizballah during the Second Lebanon War (using the Iranian Red Crescent relief organization as a cover).

In a document dated February 22, 2010, UAE Foreign Minister Shaykh Abdallah bin Zayid al-Nahyan discussed Iran with a four-member Congressional delegation.[10] Again, a similar litany of concerns and complaints is heard. The problem, the guests are told, “goes far beyond nuclear capabilities.” The foreign minister lists areas of Iranian influence as “Afghanistan, Yemen, Kuwait, Bahrain, the Eastern Province of KSA, and Africa” (specifically mentioning Nigeria specifically). Similar concerns over Iranian regional involvement are heard in cables featuring Jordanian,[11] Omani,[12] Kuwaiti,[13] and Qatari[14] officials.


The release of the Wikileaks cables is an event of profound importance. It provides a certain degree of insight both into the process of Middle East policymaking itself and into the kind of work performed by U.S. embassies in informing their governments regarding the key political events in their areas of operation.

With regard to Israel, the cables depict a situation in which Iranian regional ambitions are the key foreign policy challenge facing the country. The cables show the extent to which Iranian ambitions now overshadow smaller conflict arenas in which Israel finds itself, for example in the ongoing conflict with the Palestinians and in the challenge posed by Hizballah in Lebanon. The cables also indicate the extent to which Iranian ambitions have transformed the nature of regional politics, with Israel acting together with key Arab states in efforts to frustrate Iranian ambitions.

Last, of course, the cables offer a glimpse into the very wide discrepancy between the public discourse on regional affairs to be found in the regional media and the true interests of Arab elites. By contrast, when expressed in private, Israeli positions largely resembled the public stances of Israeli governments.

*Dr. Jonathan Spyer is a senior research fellow at the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya. His first book, The Transforming Fire: The Rise of the Israel-Islamist Conflict, was published in 2010.


[1] Matt Duss, November 29, 2010, “What Do The Cables Tell Us About ‘Linkage’?” The Wonk Room,

[2] “US Embassy Cables: Clinton Asks Sudan to Block Iranian Arms Supplies to Hamas,” The Guardian, December 6, 2010,

[3] “US Embassy Cables: Hillary Clinton Woos Prickly Egyptians,” The Guardian, November 28, 2010,

[4] “US Embassy Cables: Iran Abuses Iranian Red Crescent to Send Agents and Weapons Overseas,” The Guardian, November 28, 2010,

[5] “David Petraeus,” The Guardian,

[6] “US Embassy Cables: Saudi King Urges US Strike on Iran,” The Guardian, November 28, 2010,

[7] “US Embassy Cables: Abu Dhabi Favours Action to Prevent a Nuclear Iran,” The Guardian, November 28, 2010,

[8] “US Embassy Cables: Emirati Crown Prince Broaches Invasion of Iran,” The Guardian, November 28, 2010,

[9] “US Embassy Cables: Bahrain King Says Iranian Nuclear Programme Must Be Stopped,” The Guardian, November 28, 2010,

[10] “US Embassy Cables: UAE Fret over Iranian Meddling,” The Guardian, November 28, 2010,

[11] “US Embassy Cables: Jordan Wary of US Engagement with Iran,” The Guardian, November 28, 2010,

[12] “US Embassy Cables: Omani Official Wary of Iranian Expansionism,” The Guardian, November 28, 2010,

[13] “US Embassy Cables: Kuwait Wary of Iranian Influence,” The Guardian, November 28, 2010,

[14] “US Embassy Cables: Qatari Prime Minister: 'Iranians Lie to Us',” The Guardian, November 28,2010,


Jonathan Spyer

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

Obama's Abandonment of America

by Caroline Glick

I was out sick yesterday so I was unable to write today's column for the Jerusalem Post. I did manage to watch President Obama's speech on the Middle East yesterday evening. And I didn't want to wait until next week to discuss it. After all, who knows what he'll do by Tuesday?

Before we get into what the speech means for Israel, it is important to consider what it means for America.

Quite simply, Obama's speech represents the effective renunciation of the US's right to have and to pursue national interests. Consequently, his speech imperils the real interests that the US has in the region - first and foremost, the US's interest in securing its national security.
Obama's renunciation of the US national interests unfolded as follows:

First, Obama mentioned a number of core US interests in the region. In his view these are: "Countering terrorism and stopping the spread of nuclear weapons; securing the free flow of commerce, and safe-guarding the security of the region; standing up for Israel's security and pursuing Arab-Israeli peace."

Then he said, "Yet we must acknowledge that a strategy based solely upon the narrow pursuit of these interests will not fill an empty stomach or allow someone to speak their mind."

While this is true enough, Obama went on to say that the Arabs have good reason to hate the US and that it is up to the US to put its national interests aside in the interest of making them like America. As he put it, "a failure to change our approach threatens a deepening spiral of division between the United States and Muslim communities."

And you know what that means. If the US doesn't end the "spiral of division," (sounds sort of like "spiral of violence" doesn't it?), then the Muslims will come after America. So the US better straighten up and fly right.

And how does it do that? Well, by courting the Muslim Brotherhood which spawned Al Qaeda, Hamas, Jamma Islamiya and a number of other terror groups and is allies with Hezbollah.

How do we know this is Obama's plan? Because right after he said that the US needs to end the "spiral of division," he recalled his speech in Egypt in June 2009 when he spoke at the Brotherhood controlled Al Azhar University and made sure that Brotherhood members were in the audience in a direct diplomatic assault on US ally Hosni Mubarak.

And of course, intimations of Obama's plan to woo and appease the jihadists appear throughout the speech. For instance:

"There will be times when our short term interests do not align perfectly with our long term vision of the region."

So US short term interests, like for instance preventing terrorist attacks against itself or its interests, will have to be sacrificed for the greater good of bringing the Muslim Brotherhood to power in democratic elections.

And he also said that the US will "support the governments that will be elected later this year" in Egypt and Tunisia. But why would the US support governments controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood? They are poised to control the elected government in Egypt and are the ticket to beat in Tunisia as well.

Then there is the way Obama abandoned US allies Yemen and Bahrain in order to show the US's lack of hypocrisy. As he presented it, the US will not demand from its enemies Syria and Iran that which it doesn't demand from its friends.

While this sounds fair, it is anything but fair. The fact is that if you don't distinguish between your allies and your enemies then you betray your allies and side with your enemies. Bahrain and Yemen need US support to survive. Iran and Syria do not. So when he removes US support from the former, his action redounds to the direct benefit of the latter.

I hope the US Navy's 5th Fleet has found alternate digs because Obama just opened the door for Iran to take over Bahrain. He also invited al Qaeda - which he falsely claimed is a spent force - to take over Yemen.

Beyond his abandonment of Bahrain and Yemen, in claiming that the US mustn't distinguish between its allies and its foes, Obama made clear that he has renounced the US's right to have and pursue national interests. If you can't favor your allies against your enemies then you cannot defend your national interests. And if you cannot defend your national interests then you renounce your right to have them.

As for Iran, in his speech, Obama effectively abandoned the pursuit of the US's core interest of preventing nuclear proliferation. All he had to say about Iran's openly genocidal nuclear program is, "Our opposition to Iran's intolerance - as well as its illicit nuclear program, and its sponsorship of terror - is well known."

Well so is my opposition to all of that, and so is yours. But unlike us, Obama is supposed to do something about it. And by putting the gravest threat the US presently faces from the Middle East in the passive voice, he made clear that actually, the US isn't going to do anything about it.

In short, every American who is concerned about the security of the United States should be livid. The US President just abandoned his responsibility to defend the country and its interests in the interest of coddling the US's worst enemies.

AS FOR ISRAEL, in a way, Obama did Israel a favor by giving this speech. By abandoning even a semblance of friendliness, he has told us that we have nothing whatsoever to gain by trying to make him like us. Obama didn't even say that he would oppose the Palestinians' plan to get the UN Security Council to pass a resolution in support for Palestinian independence. All he said was that it is a dumb idea.

Obama sided with Hamas against Israel by acting as though its partnership with Fatah is just a little problem that has to be sorted out to reassure the paranoid Jews. Or as he put it, "the recent announcement of an agreement between Fatah and Hamas raises profound and legitimate questions for Israel."

Hamas is a jihadist movement dedicated to the annihilation of the Jewish people, and the establishment of a global caliphate. It's in their charter. And all Obama said of the movement that has now taken over the Palestinian Authority was, "Palestinian leaders will not achieve peace or prosperity if Hamas insists on a path of terror and rejection."

Irrelevant and untrue.

It is irrelevant because obviously the Palestinians don't want peace. That's why they just formed a government dedicated to Israel's destruction.

As for being untrue, Obama's speech makes clear that they have no reason to fear a loss of prosperity. After all, by failing to mention that US law bars the US government from funding an entity which includes Hamas, he made clear that the US will continue to bankroll the Hamas-controlled Palestinian Authority. So too, the EU will continue to join the US in giving them billions for bombs and patronage jobs. The Palestinians have nothing to worry about. They will continue to be rewarded regardless of what they do.

Then of course there are all the hostile, hateful details of the speech:
He said Israel has to concede its right to defensible borders as a precondition for negotiations;
He didn't say he opposes the Palestinian demand for open immigration of millions of foreign Arabs into Israel;
He again ignored Bush's 2004 letter to Sharon opposing a return to the 1949 armistice lines, supporting the large settlements, defensible borders and opposing mass Arab immigration into Israel;
He said he was leaving Jerusalem out but actually brought it in by calling for an Israeli retreat to the 1949 lines;
He called for Israel to be cut in two when he called for the Palestinians state to be contiguous;
He called for Israel to withdraw from the Jordan Valley - without which it is powerless against invasion - by saying that the Palestinian State will have an international border with Jordan.

Conceptually and substantively, Obama abandoned the US alliance with Israel. The rest of his words - security arrangements, demilitarized Palestinian state and the rest of it - were nothing more than filler to please empty-headed liberal Jews in America so they can feel comfortable signing checks for him again.
Indeed, even his seemingly pro-Israel call for security arrangements in a final peace deal involved sticking it to Israel. Obama said, "The full and phased withdrawal of Israeli military forces should be coordinated with the assumption of Palestinian security responsibility in a sovereign, non-militarized state."

What does that mean "with the assumption of Palestinian security responsibility?"

It means we have to assume everything will be terrific.

All of this means is that if Prime Minister Netanyahu was planning to be nice to Obama, and pretend that everything is terrific with the administration, he should just forget about it. He needn't attack Obama. Let the Republicans do that.

But both in his speech to AIPAC and his address to Congress, he should very forthrightly tell the truth about the nature of the populist movements in the Middle East, the danger of a nuclear Iran, the Palestinians' commitment to Israel's destruction; the lie of the so-called peace process; the importance of standing by allies; and the critical importance of a strong Israel to US national security.

He has nothing to gain and everything to lose by playing by the rules that Obama is trying to set for him.


Caroline Glick

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

Friday, May 20, 2011

George Mitchell’s Mideast Failure

by Seth Mandel

Now that Mideast envoy George Mitchell has officially left the position, it is a fitting time for officials to learn the three key reasons he failed.

The first is that success in one context not only doesn’t guarantee success in another situation, but it often guarantees failure. Some thought Mitchell was the right choice to lead Israeli-Palestinian peace talks because of his experience negotiating the 1998 Good Friday agreement between the British and the Irish. But the truth is, Mitchell’s success in Ireland doomed him to failure in the Middle East.

That’s because Mitchell was bound to try and translate his work in Ireland to negotiations with the Israelis and Palestinians. Walter Russell Mead has a typically thoughtful and comprehensive rundown at The American Interest of why the peace processes are so unlike each other, but it basically boils down to four major differences: territorial maximalists in Ireland were few and far between compared to the Arab-Israeli conflict; there were effective governments and institutions on both sides—something the Palestinians have yet to produce; all indications are that anti-Israel violence will continue no matter what; and the international community was willing to play a constructive role in the Irish situation.

On that last point, it is worth quoting Mead at length: “The Irish weren’t secretly funding radical and rejectionist nationalist terror groups. Iceland and Denmark weren’t funding Irish terrorists to advance their own agendas. France wasn’t encouraging the IRA to fight on as a way of containing Britain. Catholics around the world weren’t demonstrating and raising money for Irish annexation of Ulster; the Pope wasn’t issuing encyclicals affirming the religious duty of Catholics to fight to kick the heretics out. (A few grizzled US-based Irish emigrants raised money for the IRA, but this is nothing compared to what groups like Hamas get from abroad.) The European Union wasn’t condemning British war crimes in Ulster and passing resolutions in favor of Irish grievances.”

In September, the Washington Post’s Jackson Diehl had already heard enough of Mitchell’s constant references to his past. Israelis and Palestinians, Diehl said, “appear to be doomed to listen to Mitchell draw parallels between their conflict and that of the Irish at every possible opportunity. ‘I have in the past referred to my experience in Northern Ireland,’ Mitchell said at a press conference in Jerusalem on Wednesday, following the latest round of talks between Binyamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas. No kidding. Mitchell has brought up his previous experience as broker in virtually every media briefing he has conducted since his appointment by President Obama in January 2009.”

The argument that Mitchell was trying to make—that he can get anyone to strike a deal because he once got two sides to strike a deal—was “alarmingly reductionist,” Diehl said.

And reductionist thinking is the opposite of what is needed in the Middle East. That’s because of the second lesson this and future administrations must learn from Mitchell’s failure: Negotiating this conflict, as President Obama said while thanking Mitchell for his efforts, is “the toughest job imaginable.” This is, unfortunately, the opposite of the attitude most negotiators bring to the table.

Diplomats believe the outline of a deal is clear: borders along the June 1967 lines with land swaps, the division of Jerusalem, and the return of a symbolic number of the descendents of those who may have once qualified for refugee status in 1948.

All that is required then, in that scenario, is to get and keep the two sides talking. Elliot Abrams, in an interview with the Jerusalem Post after the Bush administration left office, effectively rebutted this argument.

“But it seemed to me that the opposite view was right: that if everybody knows what a deal has to look like, and year after year and decade after decade, it is not possible to reach it, isn’t it obvious that it’s because neither side wants that deal?” Abrams said. “Now, the reasons for not wanting it can vary, and they can also change over time, but it does seem to me that if everybody knows what the options are, and the most Israel can offer is less than the least the Palestinians can accept, the solution is not close at hand.”

Abrams was right. It’s not that those parameters aren’t reasonable—they are, which is what makes them so consistently alluring to negotiators. It’s that Israeli leaders have regularly made that offer to the Palestinians, who have never shown any indication that they will accept them. Which is why increased pressure on Israel is silly and counterproductive—the third lesson of the Mitchell debacle.

There are few constants in the Arab-Israeli conflict that can help a negotiator plan a strategy. Foremost among them is what Hillary Clinton said in an interview with the New Yorker in 2007: “You do not get people into a process or to the table to make any kind of tough decisions, including compromises, unless the other side knows that your commitment to Israel is unshakable.”

There are two noteworthy parts to that quote that make it a concise expression of one of the basic rules of the Middle East. The obvious one is the unshakable commitment to Israel. That is the first requirement for productive negotiations—a lesson the Obama administration should be learning from all this. The tangible sacrifices in any deal are being made by Israel—often at a serious risk to the security of the Jewish state. Those sacrifices will not be made in isolation.

But also remarkable is the phrase “the other side”—which Clinton uses here to refer to the Palestinians. The special relationship between Israel and the U.S. was not an accident. It developed because the two countries have shared values and shared strategic goals. The same cannot be said of Arafat’s PLO, Abbas’s PA, or Hamas—the progression of Palestinian power has been consistent on this score.

The concept of an “even-handed” approach by the U.S. defies common sense, and will only reinforce intransigence on the Palestinian side, as it has thus far into the Obama administration’s failed attempts at peacemaking; not only has the PA refused to participate in direct negotiations with Israel, but Palestinian leaders are threatening unilateral declaration of a state—an abrogation of previous agreements and two decades of peacemaking efforts in the region.

Politico called Mitchell’s departure a “low point” in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. But if American policymakers learn these three lessons, it will at least begin moving back in the right direction.


Seth Mandel
is a writer specializing in Middle Eastern politics and a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Horowitz Freedom Center.

- Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Dark Forebodings of the Arab Spring

by Ben Shapiro

For a free night at the local Hilton, an exclusive interview, and a chilled bottle of wine, the New York Times’ Thomas L. Friedman will come to your country and portray you as a beacon of reason or freedom in a dark world. He’s done this for Saudi Arabia, for China, for Iran. Now he’s doing it for the Arab Spring.

The Arab Spring, says Friedman, “leaves me with a smile on my face and a pit in my stomach.” The smile comes from “witnessing a whole swath of humanity losing its fear and regaining its dignity.” The pit comes from “a rising worry that the Arab Spring may have been both inevitable and too late.” Friedman believes that the Arab Spring is a flourishing of freedom throughout the Middle East, an “existential” awakening. How does he know that? Because one of his Libyan friends told him so: “A Libyan friend remarked to me the other day that he was watching Arab satellite TV out of Benghazi, Libya, and a sign held aloft at one demonstration caught his eye. It said in Arabic: ‘Ana Rajul’ — which translates to ‘I am a man.’ If there is one sign that sums up the whole Arab uprising, it’s that one.”

Well, no. If there’s one sign that sums up the entire Arab uprising, it’s this one: a picture of Mubarak with a Jewish star across his forehead. This is an anti-tyrant movement, yes – it’s driven by anger over poor living standards and lack of economic opportunity. But it’s much more than that – it’s a pan-Islamic, anti-Semitic, anti-Christian movement based on a Nasser-esque Pan-Arabism.

Friedman misses the point of the “I am a man” sign. Being a man in the Muslim world is not about acting as a free agent. It is about taking your place amongst your fathers in the pantheon of Islamism. When you become a man in Islam, certain obligations fall upon you: the obligation of circumcision, the obligation to pray five times a day, the obligation to undergo ritual washing. When you become a man in Islamism, certain attendant obligations fall upon you as well: you must hate Israel with all your heart and all your soul; you must despise Christians; you must believe that America is responsible for the world’s ills. The same protesters who claim they are men rape Lara Logan while shouting “Jew, Jew!” They burn down Coptic Christian churches in Cairo. They embrace the Muslim Brotherhood.

Republicans and Democrats both buy into the starry-eyed Woodrow Wilson philosophy that all human beings yearn to be free in the Western, liberal fashion. George W. Bush stated in his second inaugural address, “Eventually, the call of freedom comes to every mind and every soul.” Barack Obama has said much the same thing.

There is no doubt that every human being wants to be free. But free to do what? Western freedom is based on the notion of individualism – the idea that we should each make our own choices. But Islamic freedom denounces such freedom as impure and problematic. Essentially, Islam contends that submission to Islam is the source of freedom – freedom from the un-Islamic parts of human nature.

Many in the West wonder why so many would embrace such a restrictive notion of freedom, but the answer is simple: while the human heart desperately wants freedom, it also desperately wants group identity. We all want to be members of a community: a religious community, an ethnic community, or a national community. Our deep and abiding need for group identity leads us to join churches and synagogues, to go to group schools, and even to go to movies with others and follow sports teams. We would rather be part of an arbitrary group – of, say, Lakers fans – than to be part of no group at all.

This is why American nationalism – patriotism — is important and unique: it unifies us in individualism. We can all feel like part of something larger while pursuing our own individual goals. American nationalism recognizes our desire for group identity while making individualism an intrinsic part of that group identity. That is why American exceptionalism is exceptional, and not like Greek exceptionalism or German exceptionalism.

The Islamic world, by contrast, seeks unity in submission. Individualism is not a part of Islamic exceptionalism as a general rule. Whereas in America, individualism and community work in tandem to promote a unity of purpose geared toward freedom, in the Arab and Muslim world, individualism and community are directly opposed to one another. In this world, becoming a “man” – an individual – requires you to surrender the possibility of independent thoughts about Israel, Christians, Western rights and liberties. Community trumps individualism.

Hence the dramatic misreading of the Arab Spring by people such as Friedman. oie. The Arab Spring is not about substitution of individual liberty for tyrannical control – it is about the substitution of one version of tyrannical control for another version.


Ben Shapiro is an attorney and writer and a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, and author of the upcoming book “Primetime Propaganda: The True Hollywood Story of How The Left Took Over Your TV” from Broadside Books, an imprint of HarperCollins.

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

Obama’s Unrealizable Middle East Perestroika

by Stephen Brown

President Barack Obama’s speech on the Middle East on Thursday shows, if anything, that he is still a leftist who has yet to be mugged by Middle Eastern reality.

While Obama accurately listed the symptoms of the ailment crippling Middle Eastern development, such as bribery, tribalism, religious sectarianism, lack of basic economic and political rights, and citizens simply not having enough to eat, his analysis did not touch on the sickness itself, namely, Arab religious and cultural backwardness. As a result, the cures Obama put forward to assist the Arab countries’ transformation to rights-respecting, democratic states, without addressing the roots of the societal illnesses, are doomed to failure.

“We will continue to make good on the commitments I made in Cairo – to build networks of entrepreneurs and expand changes in education; to foster cooperation in science and technology; and combat disease,” Obama confidently remarked. “Across the region, we intend to provide assistance to civil society, including those that may not be officially sanctioned, and who speak uncomfortable truths. And we will use technology to connect with – and listen to – the voices of the people.”

But Arab misery does not lie in a lack of entrepreneurs, science and technology cooperation or medical facilities, but rather in the inability of a crippled culture to meet the demands of the modern world. And since Arab countries cannot meet these demands, they are destined to experience, except possibly for the few oil-rich states, more political instability, poverty and hunger.

Egypt, the heart of the Arab world and one of two countries Obama cited in his speech (the other being Tunisia), where the American effort “to promote reform across the region and to support transitions to democracy” will begin, is dangerously unstable. To begin with, it is estimated that 35 percent of all Egyptians and 45 percent of women are illiterate among a population of 80 million, the Arab world’s most populous state.

The inequality of women, the abolition of which is a precondition to any society’s progress, is deeply embedded in Egypt’s culture. An indicator of this strong, cultural backwardness regarding women’s status is that ninety-six percent of married Egyptian women have been subjected to female genital mutilation. And Egyptian mothers believe they are being progressive when they have a doctor perform the painful, dehumanizing procedure on their daughters rather than an untrained local. The columnist Spengler (a literary pseudonym) questions the doctors who carry out a shocking 75 percent of all FGM acts in the Nile nation:

“What does this say about the character of the country’s middle class?” writes Spengler, who also criticized Western news outlets for not reporting on this during Egypt’s recent political troubles.

Economically, the Arab countries’ problems are almost insurmountable. Obama’s speech pointed out 400 million Arabs export goods equal in value to those of one European country, Switzerland. Even more troubling, Arab countries do not have the corporations that can provide their numerous unemployed young people with jobs, leaving them to act as an unstable and dangerous force.

“The private sector in the Muslim countries has… languished and lags behind others in the emerging markets,” writes Ali A. Alawi in his book The Crisis Of Islamic Civilization. “Very few Muslim companies in the Muslim world have the weight to compete seriously or to bring innovations into the global markets. Of the twenty largest corporations in the Muslim world, seventeen are oil and gas companies, in most cases state-owned.”

Alawi goes even further when he states that Islamic civilization is a dying civilization, which has not created much of importance in centuries. And Alawi states there is no returning to greatness, since Muslims have distanced themselves so much from their great past’s Islamic roots. Overall, Alawi maintains, “The Muslim innovative capacity has degraded in a fundamental sense.”

So it is questionable whether the innovation and creativity Obama needs to launch the Arab countries in the new, positive direction of modernity even exists, which would cause all reform plans to be stillborn. Mohamed ElBaradei, the Egyptian opposition leader, blames the backward, learning-by-rote education system for the Arab world now being a “collection of failed states who add nothing to humanity or science.” But unlike Alawi, ElBaradei believes democracy will change this.

The lack of strong economies has also left the Middle East, especially Egypt, currently facing a grave danger to social stability in the form of a food crisis. Rising food prices have driven millions of Arabs into destitution where many now eat only once a day, if that. With food prices expected to rise even higher this year and foreign currency-poor Arab governments, like Egypt’s, unable to buy food on the international markets, mass starvation in Egypt and other Middle Eastern countries is a distinct possibility, making regional reform difficult, if not impossible.

But it is in the area of religious tolerance where Obama’s hopes for reforming the Middle East will shatter decisively. While Obama said he will work to see “that all faiths are respected and that bridges are built among them” and Coptic Christians “have the right to worship freely in Cairo,” he pathetically failed to call for religious equality and to insist on an end to state-regulated anti-Christian religious discrimination.

Here’s the harsh reality staring us in the face and that Obama is blinding himself to: A poll taken last year indicated a majority of Egyptians believe in sharia law punishments, while 95 percent said “it’s good Islam plays a large role in politics.” The fact that a majority of those polled also believed in democracy indicates Egypt is on the road to becoming a democratically-elected Islamic state, where Western reforms will not be welcome.

And Egyptians may soon get their desired Islamic government. The Muslim Brotherhood announced recently it has formed a political party, which is expected to win Egypt’s next election. Extremists like the Brotherhood feel a need to Islamicize everything and believe the Koran contains all the answers. Such a poisonous political culture will maintain Egypt’s discriminatory, two-tier citizenship status, Muslim and non-Muslim, and keep the country a prisoner of rigid extremist doctrines.

Such a development will prevent Egypt from developing a positive and rich cultural, spiritual and economically-advanced society, since equality of all people is essential to a country’s prosperity and well-being. By electing an Islamist government, Egyptians will also prove, contrary to Obama’s wishful thinking, that they do no want to embrace modernity.

But the situation is even more serious than that. In Arab countries where extremists like the Muslim Brotherhood come to power, an environment of fanaticism will be created. Violence, as Egypt saw recently in the Coptic church burnings in Cairo, will become the order of the day.

It is Obama’s stunning non-recognition of this deeply embedded, Muslim extremist drive to destroy those who are different that also emerged in his speech when he called for Israel to return to its 1967 borders. This statement once again confirmed his credentials as a leftist ideologue who believes Israel is to blame for those who work to exterminate it. And despite his “assurances” of Israel’s security, the 1967 borders would be indefensible. This leads one to understand that it is not the Arab world that so much needs reforming as the destructive world outlook of an American president.


Stephen Brown

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