Saturday, October 29, 2011

Gilad Shalit - Who's Blurring the Lines?

by Ari Abramowitz, Jeremy Gimpel, Eli Ben-Ze'ev

Ari Abramowitz, Jeremy Gimpel, Eli Ben-Ze'ev


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

The Status Quo With Syria is Best For Israel

by Efraim Inbar

The widely accepted “land for peace” paradigm for peace with Syria entails great military risks and may invite aggression against Israel, while the potential political dividends of a peace treaty are limited. Moreover, the status quo, based on a defensible border, is both sustainable and preferable to any alternative. Even without taking into consideration current political volatility in the region, retaining the Golan Heights is more important than a peace treaty. Therefore, Israel should adopt a new paradigm for relations with Syria–a “peace for peace” formula, even if peace is unlikely to emerge any time soon.


Ever since Syria’s loss of the Golan Heights to Israel in the June 1967 War, this strategic area has been a bone of contention between the two states. Immediately after the war,Israel offered to withdraw from the Golan Heights in exchange for a peace treaty but was rebuffed. Subsequently,Israel began to establish a civilian presence, and in December 1981 decided to extend Israeli law to the area–a de facto annexation.

Since 1992, when Yitzhak Rabin became prime minister, almost all Israeli governments have negotiated directly or indirectly with Syria in an attempt to reach peace between the two states within the framework of the “Land for Peace” formula. The formula’s assertion was that peace between the two states–perceived as an important step in stabilizing the Arab-Israeli arena–required ceding the Golan Heights to Syria.[1] Israeli leaders have displayed a willingness to withdraw from all or parts of the Golan Heights in exchange for a peace treaty accompanied by security arrangements,U.S. political and/or military involvement, as well as American incentives. So far these efforts have not succeeded due to reluctance on both sides to sign a deal. Generally, Israeli diplomatic efforts since the 1990s have oscillated between the Syrian and the Palestinian tracks.

The current difficulties to make “progress” on the Israeli-Palestinian track, a reflection of deep structural problems,[2] could renew some interest on part of Israel and/or the international community in pursuing the Israeli-Syrian track. Yet Syria is currently in turmoil and nobody knows what will happen there, which puts peace negotiations on the back burner. If the situation in Syria calms down, and there is no Islamist regime in Damascus, calls for a return to negotiations are likely.

Yet the accepted “Land for Peace” paradigm with Syria entails great military risks and may invite aggression, while the potential political dividends of a peace treaty are limited. Moreover, the status quo, based on a defensible border, is both sustainable and preferable to any alternative. Even without taking into consideration current political volatility in the region, retaining the Golan Heights is more important than a peace treaty. Therefore, Israel should adopt a new paradigm for relations with Syria–a “Peace for Peace” formula even if peace is unlikely to emerge any time soon.


The Golan Heights is a rocky plateau, mostly ranging from about 1,300 to 3,300 feet (400 to 1,000 meters)–an area totaling 695 square miles (1,800 square kilometers). The Jordan River and the Sea of Galilee mark its western border, the Yarmuk River demarcates its southern end, and the watershed line and the Rokad River border it to the east. The 9,232 foot (2,814 meter) high Mount Hermon (partially in Israeli territory) marks the northern end of the Golan Heights. The Golan Heights dominate the Jordan River valley, the Israeli Galilee to its west, and is only some 37 miles (60 kilometers) from Damascus, to its east.

Militarily, withdrawal from the Golan Heights is extremely problematic. Its control gives Israel several important advantages and has enabled Israel to maintain stability along this border. Indeed, despite the absence of a peace treaty, and despite the regional tensions that eventually led to violent clashes between Israel and Arab actors, the border between Israel and Syria has remained quiet since 1974. Even the military confrontation between Israeli and Syrian units in 1982 in Lebanon did not extend to the Golan.

The current border along the watershed line–the eastern hills of the plateau–is the best line of defense against a conventional military attack from the east.[3] Such an attack would need to overcome the topographical superiority of the defensive force, as the terrain requires the attacking side to channel its forces in between the hills, allowing a small defense force to repel an attack and buy time for sending reinforcements. In 1973, the Golan’s terrain enabled 177 tanks to stop approximately 1,500 Syrian tanks giving Israel critical time to call up its reserve formations.[4] A ground attack could hardly be successful and could not be sustained for long without taking the hills that Israel presently controls.

No other line in the plateau can confer such defensive advantages as the current border and as the land west of the current line goes downward toward the Golan’s cliffs and the Jordan River. A withdrawal from the Golan would place Israeli troops at its bottom, about 660 feet (200 meters) below sea level, with a very steep gradient toward the plateau at about 1,300 feet (400 meters) above sea level. Recapturing the territory in a crisis would thus be a very complicated military operation.

Control over the Golan enhances the safety of the strategic Haifa Bay area on the Mediterranean coast by extending the distance from Syrian positions to about 55 miles (90 kilometers). The Haifa Bay area is an important concentration of industry. It also hosts one of the two main Israeli ports. The bay area is part of the vital triangle (Jerusalem-Tel Aviv-Haifa) that holds most of the country’s infrastructure and population.

An Israeli military presence in the Golan also prevents the creation of an indefensible pocket in the narrow strip (about 4.3 miles or 7 kilometers wide and 16.3 miles or 26 kilometers long) in the Upper Galilee, the northernmost part of Israel, an area sandwiched between Hizballah-controlled southern Lebanon and the Golan. Tens of thousands of Israeli citizens in this pocket could be easily disconnected from Israel and taken hostage in the case of a coordinated attack by Syria if in control of the Golan and by the Iranian-inspired Hizballah.[5]

Israel’s presence on one of the peaks of Mount Hermon (6,506 feet or 1,983 meters) also provides it with useful intelligence gathering capabilities, enabling the use of electronic surveillance deep into Syrian territory and providing early-warning capacity in case of an impending attack. Similarly, the topographical superiority of the current defense line provides better capabilities for acquiring targets. The use of precise guided munitions (PGMs), in particular, requires good intelligence since sight lines are extremely important for electronic warfare.

Alternatives to the intelligence stations, such as Airborne Warning and Control Systems (AWACS) and/or Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAVs), are not adequate. In contrast to an installation on a mountain, they cannot carry heavy equipment such as big antennas, and they can be shot down by anti-air missiles. Moreover, the amount of time they are in the air and able to provide intelligence is limited. Weather conditions may also influence the survivability of airborne systems. Surveillance satellites provide know-how primarily about static targets but are not useful for providing tactical intelligence. Even communication satellites have disadvantages when compared to ground-based stations.[6]

The proximity of the Golan to Damascus(about 37 miles or 60 kilometers) has a tremendous deterrence value because it puts the capital, the nerve center of the Syrian regime, within easy reach of Israeli military might. Moving the Israel-Syria border westward denies Israel of this option and reduces deterrence, which, in turn, invites aggression.

However, since the 1990s, many in the Israeli elite believed that modern technology diminished the strategic value of land, leading to a willingness for territorial concessions. Shimon Peres, for example, argued at times that holding on to territories was less necessary given modern technology and the ability of missiles to fly over physical barriers.[7] According to this thinking, strategic depth and defensible borders became a strategic anachronism.[8] The notion of defensible borders, which in the past emphasized topographical features, acquired a new meaning ascribing political elements greater importance. It was argued that only the borders agreed upon were secure. Arab acquiescence was, therefore, more important than the military potential of a particular line drawn on a map. In the opinion of then Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Amnon Shahak, a Syrian embassy in Israel was more important than an early warning station,[9] while Maj. Gen. Zeev Livneh stated that “peace is the best security.”[10]

Simplistic slogans about the decreasing value of territory and topographical assets in light of recent technological advances ignore the fact that military technology has continuously fluctuated, occasionally favoring defensive postures or offensive initiatives. Each weapons system eventually has a counter weapon. For example, the firepower of machine guns was neutralized by tanks, which in turn were threatened by anti-tank missiles, which then triggered the recent emergence of sophisticated tank defense systems. The technological race is complex, and contemporary technological advantages are always temporary since new technology is constantly developing.[11] Moreover, the technological offense-defense balance is not the primary factor in determining military outcomes–topographical constants can be a highly valuable asset. Militaries around the world still confer great importance to the topographical characteristics of the battlefield. The design of Israel’s northeast border should not be shaped by ephemeral current technologies that seem to grant advantages to Israel defensive capabilities. It is important to remember that the history of warfare shows that technological superiority and better weapons are not enough to win a war.[12]

Various security arrangements to compensate for withdrawal from the Golan are quite problematic.[13] For example, the demilitarization of the Sinai (125 miles or 200 kilometers wide), which has had a stabilizing effect on Egyptian-Israeli relations, cannot be emulated in the 16-mile-wide (25 kilometers) Golan. The Sinai demilitarization prevents a surprise attack from either of the two states, because the distance created by this buffer zone translates into warning time. In contrast, the small width of the Golan plateau is not enough to provide advanced warning of an imminent attack. The main fear is that a Syrian surprise attack–facing no opposition due to the demilitarization of the Golan Heights–could, in just a few hours, enable the positioning of several armored divisions at the western ridge of the Golan Heights–the area that controls the northern part of Israel.

The assumption that Israel would be able to preempt such a move is flawed. Syria could erode demilitarization arrangements by salami tactics (minor violations of demilitarization that cumulatively and significantly change the status quo). Moreover,Israel might not always be aware of violations, as there is no way to erect foolproof verification mechanisms. In addition, Israel may not have an early strategic warning regarding Syrian plans to take over the Golan and might not be able to successfully reconquer the Golan Heights. The staging areas of the IDF west of the Jordan River would be effectively within firing range of artillery and missiles, which would slow an Israeli response to recapture the Golan Heights. Last, Israel may not have the freedom of action to use military force, as international circumstances may have a curtailing effect.

Extending demilitarization eastward into Syria is not a realistic option due to the proximity of Damascus. After all, a strong military presence in the capital is the mainstay of the regime. Unfortunately, the control of the Golan Heights is a zero-sum game.

Defensible borders are particularly needed due to the deterioration of Israel’s broad geostrategic position since the mid-1990s. Two of Iran’s allies, the rising power in the Middle East, Syria and Hizballah, are on Israel’s northern border. Moreover, Turkey, another non-Arab rising Middle East power, has turned anti-Israeli.[14]

Furthermore, the uncertainties surrounding the stability of Israel’s neighboring regimes dictate great caution and little faith in security arrangements that are driven by transient political considerations. The Alawi regime in Syria is also facing growing domestic opposition, a large part of which is the Muslim Brotherhood.[15] The prospects for the empowerment of liberal elements in Syria are very low. A “democratic peace” with Syria is highly unlikely in the near future. Moreover, the Arab liberal circles have so far hardly shown a conciliatory disposition toward Israel. In fact,Israel was very fortunate not to conclude a deal with Syria by ceding the Golan Heights, as the future of the regime is not clear and its intentions toward Israel or those of its successor are uncertain.


The most important reason Israel should reject the “Land for Peace” formula is that Syria has very little to offer. The Syrians cannot offer more than the “cold peace” delivered by Egypt, meaning a formal promise to refrain from using force against Israel, coupled with a high level of hostility in the state-controlled media and official organs and almost no “people-to-people” interactions. Moreover, such a “peace” does nothing to reform the education system, which ensures that past stereotypes of Jews and Israel are transferred to the next generation. This makes transition from “cold peace” to war easier. The eradication of defensible borders will also make such a transition to war less costly for Syria.

The peace with Egypt, the strongest and most important Arab state, likely warranted territorial largesse in order to achieve a breakthrough in Arab-Israeli relations; yet the price for a peace treaty with Syria several decades later, when Israelis a much more entrenched and accepted reality in the region, should not be as high. Egypt violated the Arab taboo concerning Israel and “deserved” suitable compensation.Syria’s change of course toward Israel many years after Egypt is less valuable.

Peace with Syria will not trigger recognition of Israel on part of the rest of the Arab world, which has gradually entered into varying types of peaceful interactions with Jerusalem. Arab states no longer fear a Syrian veto on relations with Israel. The PLO entered into agreements with Israel in 1993 without any coordination with Damascus; as did Jordan in 1994. In fact, the Saudi peace initiative, which was adopted by the Beirut Arab Summit (the Arab League Peace Initiative) in March 2002, indicates the willingness of the current Arab elites to come to terms with Israel. This is not necessarily a one-way historic process, but Syria’s influence on future developments in the Arab world is limited. Moreover, its political stability is at stake nowadays, further reducing its regional clout.

Just as peace with Syria will hardly change Israel’s regional standing, it will not improve Israel’s international status as sometimes advocated. The resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which entails far more complex issues than just an inter-state territorial dispute, could positively affect Israel’s international position, but not peace with Syria.

Factors at play several decades ago, which favored Israel’s acquiescence to a peace deal with Egypt based on the “land for peace” formula, have lost their relevance. In the late 1970s, Israel was interested in buttressing Egypt’s change in orientation from pro-Soviet to pro-American. Yet in the twenty-first century, the Soviet Union no longer exists. Furthermore, it is very unlikely that the United States will go to great lengths to compensate Israel for the loss of the Golan Heights, something it was prepared to do in the framework of the Egypt-Israel peace treaty.

Today, a peace treaty with Syria would have only a marginal impact on the regional balance. The belief that Israeli territorial concessions will dissuade Syria from continuing its relationship with Tehran is baseless. Since the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty, Syria has seen Iran as its strategic partner, countering Israel’s might and making this one of the most stable relationships in the Middle East. In reality, Syrian President Bashar al-Asad has clearly stated several times that Syria’s foreign policy will not be held hostage to an Israeli-Syrian agreement.[16]

It is doubtful whether Syriais ready to change its foreign policy orientation in exchange for receiving the Golan. Damascus has refrained from realignment on many occasions. U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger tried unsuccessfully to move Syria toward a pro-American orientation after the 1973 October War. Under more auspicious international circumstances, immediately after the end of Cold War,U.S.Secretary of State James Baker tried again but failed. Even when Washington was clearly the hegemonic power, Syria preferred not to be in the American camp.Syria also resisted the pressure to change course from the two George W. Bush administrations.

This regime shares the anti-Americanism of similar dictatorships, such as those in Havana and Pyongyang, where there is a genuine dislike of the United State sand opening up to the West is a mortal danger to these despotic regimes. Anti-Americanism is widespread in both Syria’s and Iran’s ruling elite, who see themselves as leading agents in creating a new world order in which the United States has a much more limited role.[17] In the Middle East, fomenting feelings against America and Israel also helps secure greater legitimacy for these regimes.[18]

Moreover, why would Bashar al-Asad, or any successor, jump on the American wagon at a time when the United States has displayed weakness. America’s foreign policy toward the Middle East, particularly since the events of the 2011 Arab Spring, projects hesitance and lack of clarity. U.S. President Barack Obama advocated engagement toward Iran, set firm dates for withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan, and deserted Husni Mubarak and Mu’amar Qadhafi–steps that have been almost universally construed in the Middle East as signs of weakness. Moreover, the Obama administration made many gestures toward Syria[19] without Damascus modifying its alliance with Iran or its support for terror organizations in Lebanon,Iraq, and among the Palestinians. A declining United States is not a desirable ally by the power politics prism of Syria’s rulers.

Moreover, the expectation that Damascus will stop interfering in Lebanese affairs following a peace deal with Israelis far-fetched. Lebanon is still of great importance to Syria, and it is unlikely that any Syrian leader will relinquish the option to intervene in Lebanese politics. Yet this influence has its limits. Hizballah is the strongest organization in Lebanon and seems to be under greater influence of Iranthan Syria.[20] The inability of Damascus to deliver Hizballah casts doubt on the feasibility of a long-standing Israeli condition for a peace–a peaceful border with Lebanon.

An issue so far ignored in the discussions of Israeli-Syrian relations is Damascus’ nuclear aspirations.Syria attempted to build a nuclear reactor for plutonium production with the help of North Korea and Iran, which was destroyed by an Israeli air strike in September 2007. The fact that a state of war exists between the two states made it easier for Israel to preempt and to end Syria’s nuclear endeavor. Paradoxically, a peace treaty could facilitate the spread of nuclear technology into Syria. Foreign suppliers would become less hesitant to provide sensitive equipment and technology to a state formally at peace with its neighbors. Moreover, it would be more difficult for Israel to attack a nuclear installation of a state with which it were formally at peace.

In addition,Israel generally has little to gain from limited economic or cultural interactions with Syria, which could result from a peace treaty. Any Syrian regime is unlikely to welcome open borders and free movement of people and goods with Israel. Syria has not opened up to globalization and has remained poor, an unappealing market for most Israeli products. Taking into consideration a realistic assessment of the advantages of an Israel-Syria peace treaty, the inevitable conclusion is that its benefits are not very enticing, particularly if it entails a withdrawal from the Golan Heights.


Maintaining the status quo seems to be a more promising option than a peace treaty based on “peace for land.” The status quo has provided for a quiet border since 1974. Since 2006,Syria has released many statements about “resistance” to the Israeli occupation of the Golan, but no action resulted. The status quo proved tenable since the early 1970s, longer than the period Syria ruled the Golan Heights.

The status quo on the Golan is primarily a result of Israel’s military superiority and its deterrence. As long as the power differential between Israel and Syria continues, there is little chance for a Syrian challenge to the status quo. In world politics, the designation of borders has always partly been a function of power relations–the weaker side generally accommodates the stronger side. A survey of almost 100 territorial disputes shows a tendency for resolution by force of arms–power politics. In most cases, the stronger and victorious power simply dictates who rules over the disputed territory. Negotiated settlements, such as the Israeli-Egyptian peace agreement, are rare events.[21]

Many assume that the Syrians would never accept less than the entire Golan Heights as a condition for a peace treaty. Yet Syria has been seen to behave pragmatically and bow to superior power. When confronted with international determination to force Syria out of Lebanon in 2005, Syria backed down. Similarly, apprehensions about U.S.power in the 1990s and about American intentions after September 11, 2001, led the Syrian regime to exercise caution and limited cooperation with America.[22]

Moreover, in the Syrian-Turkish territorial dispute over the Alexandretta region, Syrian behavior has confirmed the capacity for pragmatism. In official maps of Syria to this very day, the Alexandretta region, annexed by Turkey in 1939, is demarcated as part of Syria.[23] Despite the fact that Syria has regarded this annexation as an unlawful Turkish occupation of Syrian land, it realized Turkish military superiority and thus never threatened to go to war in order to regain the lost territory.[24] Moreover, this territorial dispute did not prevent Damascus from having diplomatic relations with Ankara. Following this power politics example, the territorial dispute between Israel and Syria should not serve as a pretext for not having diplomatic relations with a much stronger Israel.

Indeed,Syria is militarily weak and its offensive ground capabilities are particularly limited. Yet Syria has developed a large missile arsenal, and most of Israel has been within range for over a decade. It is also very advanced in the area of chemical weapons. Much of this arsenal includes inaccurate missiles, which are primarily a terror weapon against civilian populations. Only improvements in the accuracy of these missiles could turn them into an effective threat to Israeli strategic installations. Although Syria has acquired more advanced capabilities to defend itself from an Israeli air attack, its missiles are still not immune to Israeli strikes. The September 2007 air strike deep inside Syria, against the partly constructed nuclear reactor, showed a modicum of Israel’s air force capabilities.

Yet an Israeli-Syrian military large-scale encounter cannot be ruled out if the United States and/or Israel are seen to be weak, or in the case that Syria wants desperately to disrupt the status quo. While Syrian ground forces are unlikely to create a serious military threat when Israel controls the Golan, Syria could launch missile salvos against Israeli population centers. The success of these missile attacks would depend on Israel’s capability to suppress the fire by attacking the launching sites and to develop an effective active and passive defensive missile shield. It is likely Israel could neutralize much of the potential missile damage by offensive and defensive measures if it were to allocate resources wisely.[25]

Syria could also challenge the status quo by occupying a small area in the Golan Heights(a mehtaf in Israeli strategic parlance) and then repelling Israeli counterattacks to take it back.Syria could also initiate a static war of attrition, though Israeli determination and strong riposte to provocations–including willingness to escalate–would likely bring a quick end to such warlike actions. Israeli control of the Golan is particularly valuable in this type of challenge. The control of the Golan justifies the potential price of an Israeli-Syrian War in the future. Yet such a price could be lowered significantly by wise military preparations and clear political resolve not to relinquish the Golan Heights even at the prospect of war.

Syria may be able to heighten the price it extracts from Israel by enlisting Hizballah and Hamas for a coordinated military effort against Israel.Iran could be expected to lend it support, although it might hesitate to be directly involved in military operations. This is a scenario that Israel obviously has to prepare for. As noted, an enhanced defensive posture, a willingness to escalate and/or launch preemptive strikes, should be part of the response.

In the spring of 2011,Syria allowed unarmed civilians (Palestinians) to march toward the border on the Golan in an attempt to cross it. The purpose of this unusual activity was to divert attention from the suppression of the opposition to the regime and to espouse its commitment to the Palestinian cause. While initially caught by surprise,Israel was successful in repelling these marches.

Another reason the status quo has been maintained is the lack of international interest in the territorial dispute between Israel and Syria, especially compared to Israel-Palestinian issues. Many other interstate territorial disputes generate limited international interests and the status quo persists. For example, Russia’s rule of the South Kuril Islands (since 1945), India’s control of Kashmir (since 1947), Morocco’s annexation of the Western Sahara (since 1975), and Armenia’s conquest of Nagorno Karabakh (since 1994) have been challenged for many years by their neighbors with little success. Today,Syria has little diplomatic leverage to enlist the international community to force Israel to withdraw from the Golan.

Syria’s influence has also waned in the region. Syria, once the champion of the rather defunct Pan-Arab ideology, carries little weight currently in the Arab world. Moreover, many Arab states share deep concerns about Syria’s strategic relationship with Iran and Teheran’s rising power in the Middle East, strengthening the heterodox non-Sunni arc extending from Iran to Lebanon. They view Israel as a strategic ally facing a potential nuclear Iran, which reinforces Israel’s reluctant acceptance by the Arab elites. The telegrams sent by American diplomats from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and other pro-Western Arab states, as reported by the WikiLeaks organization, clearly show that these countries are much more concerned about a nuclear Iran than the Palestinian issue.[26] The “occupation of the Golan” has even less political resonance, and Syria is unlikely to harness any support for military action to recover the Heights.

Last, the Alawi regime might have an interest in preserving the status quo despite its calls to return the Golan Heights to Syrian sovereignty. The continuous conflict with Israel grants legitimacy to the Alawi minority rule by providing them with patriotic Arab credentials. The struggle against the Jewish state provides pretexts for the regime’s failures in the economic arena and its infringements on human rights. As long as the state of formal war continues with Israel, the regime has a convenient excuse for stifling dissent.[27] The conflict with Israel is also useful in legitimizing the preferential economic treatment given to the military, which is the mainstay of the regime.

Yet Syria is not interested in a large scale confrontation with Israel, because a military debacle could threaten the regime’s stability. It has also refrained from a low-intensity conflict because it fears escalation, which has been the typical Israeli response in such situations. Therefore, the mix between a publicly belligerent posture against Israel, bleeding Israel by proxies, and inaction along the Golan may well be optimum for Syria’s rulers.[28] The years of quiet along the Israel-Syrian border possibly reflect a tacit agreement for the status quo.

It is difficult to gauge how a new regime, if the Alawi regime crumbles, will act toward Israel. Current Syrian capabilities are not likely to change within a short time. While Syrian capacity to challenge the status quo remains limited, its political desire to do so may increase. Neither an Islamic Sunni revolutionary regime nor a proto-democratic Syrian state is likely to pursue peaceful relations with Israel or display territorial flexibility on the Golan. While a new leadership will probably focus on domestic challenges, revolutionary regimes generally tend to display warlike behavior in the immediate years after taking power.[29] Even if the weak democratic elements in Syria succeed in generating a democratization process, against all odds, it is potentially dangerous for its neighbors. While a democratization process is laudable, empirical evidence shows that states in transition to democracy are more war-prone than others.[30] Therefore, defensible borders remain important.


The expectations of the international community for an Israeli-Syrian deal are almost universally based on the “Land for Peace” formula, which does not serve Israel’s interests. Indeed, most Israelis favor staying in the Golan even if this prevents a peace treaty with Syria. Public opinion polls of recent years show 60-70 percent of Israelis oppose any concession on the Golan Heights.[31] A withdrawal from the Golan will therefore be hard to sell to the Israeli public.

Giving up the Golan plateau would deprive Israel of its best defense against a potential Syrian aggression; it signals Israeli weakness and undermines Israel’s deterrence. Designing borders in accordance with current, but changing, military technology and with transient political circumstances is strategically foolish. Moreover, the expected returns to Israel from a peace treaty with Syria are meager. Syria is unlikely to align itself with pro-Western Arab states and to abandon its alliance with Iran in return for Israeli territorial concessions. Its ability to “deliver” Hizballah in Lebanon is also questionable. Moreover, a peace treaty is not going to affect the diplomatic fortunes of Israel in the region and in the world.

A strong Israel can maintain the status quo that serves Israel’s best interests. While the possibility of disrupting the status quo by military means exists,Syria fears escalation and Israel’s power. ForIsrael, retaining the Golan is more important than reaching a peace treaty with Syriain the foreseeable future.

Therefore, Israeli policies toward Syriashould be guided by power politics, similar to how most territorial disputes are conducted.Israel should insist on a new paradigm, “peace for peace,” which rests on defensible borders. The demand for secure borders seems reasonable and is rooted in international resolutions such as UNSC Resolution 242. The political unrest and volatility in the region, including questions about the foreign policies of Israel’s neighbors, similarly prescribe against taking any significant security risks.


[1] Ariel Sharon was the only prime minister (2001-2005) that refrained from talks with Syria. For a review of Israel-Syrian negotiations, see Itamar Rabinovich, “A ‘Track in Waiting’: The Prospects of New Israeli-Syrian Negotiations,” The Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs, Vol. 3, No. 3 (2009/5769), pp. 7-13. For a political history of Syria see, Barry Rubin, The Truth About Syria (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2007).

[2] Jonathan Rynhold, The Failure of the Oslo Process: Inherently Flawed or Flawed Implementation? Mideast Security and Policy Studies, No. 76 (Ramat Gan,Israel:Begin-SadatCenter for Strategic Studies,Bar-IlanUniversity, March 2008).

[3] For a recent discussion on the military value of the Golan Heights, see Maj. Gen. (ret.) Giora Eiland, Defensible Borders on the Golan Heights (Jerusalem: Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, 2009).

[4] See Chaim Herzog, The War of Atonement. October 1973 (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1975), pp. 55-115.

[5] Point brought to the attention of the author by Mark Langfan.

[6] This has been emphasized to by Haim Rosenberg, former Director of Long Range Planning atRafael,Israel’s Weapon Development Authority.

[7] Shimon Peres and Arye Naor, The New Middle East (New York: Henry Holt, 1993), pp. 77-78.

[8] For an analysis of the new perceptions of national power, see Efraim Inbar, “Contours of Israel’s New Strategic Thinking,” Political Science Quarterly, Vol. 111, No. 1 (Spring 1996), pp. 48-51.

[9] Arye Kaspi, “Interview with Amnon Shahak,” (Hebrew) al-Hamishmar, April 25, 1993.

[10] Bamachane (Hebrew), May 25, 1994.

[11] For the relationship between technology and war, see Martin Van Creveld, Technology and War: From 2000 B.C. to the Present (New York: The Free Press, 1989).

[12] For the overstated importance of technology in shaping military outcomes, see Keir A. Lieber, War and the Engineers: The Primacy of Politics over Technology (Ithaca,NY: Cornell University Press, 2005).

[13] For an analysis of security arrangements, see Omer Bar Lev, Military Settlement in the Golan Heights and the Modern Battlefield (Hebrew) (Tel Aviv: Sifriat Poalim Publishing House, 1999); For an evaluation of the chances for arms control in the Middle East, see Efraim Inbar and Shmuel Sandler, “The International Politics of a Middle Eastern Arms Control Regime,” Contemporary Security Policy, Vol. 16, No. 1 (April 1995), pp. 173-85.

[14] For the new orientation on Turkish foreign policy, see Efraim Inbar, “Israeli-Turkish Tensions and Their International Ramifications,” Orbis, Vol. 55, No. 1 (Winter 2011), pp. 135-42.

[15] Since May 2011, Turkey under Recip Tayyip Erdogan’s AKP Islamist party has helped Islamist elements in forging a coalition that could topple the Alawi rule. Anthony Shadid, “Unrest Around the World Endangers Turkey’s Newfound Influence,” New York Times, May 4, 2011; David Rosenberg, “Turkey’s Middle East drive falters in Arab Spring,” Jerusalem Post, May 8, 2011.

[16] See Ian Black, “Syria’s Strongman Ready to Woo Obama with Both Fists Unclenched,” The Guardian, February 17, 2009,

[17] “Ahmadinejad and Assad: Iran and Syria Are Leading a New World Order; The Time of America and the West Is Over,” May 26, 2009,

[18] Barry Rubin, “The Real Roots of Arab-Anti-Americanism,” Foreign Affairs, Vol. 81, No. 6 (November/December 2002), pp. 73-85.

[19] For a list, see “Our New Friend–Syria,” JINSA Report, No. 917, August 19, 2009,

[20] “Top Defense Official: Syria Losing Clout over ‘Hezbollahstan’,” Haaretz, September 8, 2009,

[21] Saul Cohen, The Geopolitics of Israel’s Border Question (Jerusalem: JCSS and Jerusalem Post, 1986), pp. 8-9.

[22] Rubin, The Truth About Syria, p. 260.

[24] See Daniel Pipes, “Is the Hatay/Alexandretta Problem Solved?” The Lion’s Den, January 10, 2005,

[25] See Uzi Rubin, The Missile Threat from Gaza: From Nuisance to Strategic Threat, Mideast Security and Policy Studies, No. 87 (Hebrew) (Ramat Gan,Israel:Begin-SadatCenter for Strategic Studies, December 2010).

[26] See Uzi Rabi, “The WikiLeaks Documents and the Middle East,” Tel Aviv Notes, December 9, 2010.

[27] John Myhill, “The Alawites and Israel,” BESA Perspectives Papers, No. 137 (May 2011),; see also Alasdair Drysdale and Raymond A. Hinnebusch, Syria and the Middle East Peace Process (New York: Council of Foreign Relations Press, 1991), p. 42.

[28] See Rubin, The Truth About Syria, pp. 10, 110-12; Ron Tira, Forming an Israeli Policy Toward Syria (Hebrew) (Tel Aviv: Yediot Aharonot, 2000), p. 80.

[29] Stephen M. Walt, “Revolution and War,” World Politics, Vol. 44, No. 3 (April 1992), pp. 321-68.

[30] Edward D. Mansfield and Jack Snyder, “Democratization and the Danger of War,” International Security, Vol. 20, No. 1 (Summer 1995), pp. 5-38.

[31] Yehuda Ben-Meir and Olena Bagno-Modavsky, Vox Populi: Trends in Israeli Public Opinion on National Security 2004-2009, Memorandum 106 (Tel Aviv: INSS, November 2010), p. 12.

Prof. Efraim Inbar is professor of Political Studies at Bar-Ilan University and director of the Begin-Sadat (BESA) Center for Strategic Studies.

The author wishes to thank Avi Bell, Hillel Frisch, Avi Kober, Saul Koschitzky, Yedidia Koschitzky, Shmuel Sandler, and David Weinberg for their useful comments. Thanks also to Diana Gross and Timothy McKinley for their research assistance.


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

What Does Prince Sultan's Death Mean for Saudi Society?

by Ali Alyami

The passing of Crown Prince Sultan has the potential either to enhance political progress or to advance the creation of a theocratic state that could make today's Saudi Arabia look like a full-fledged democracy. Both of these possible outcomes will depend on who succeeds King Abdullah and how much power he will have. This is a question being contemplated by Saudis, most critically by the increasingly restless youth, but also by those who support political participation, codified rule of law, and women's and religious minorities' rights. The most daunting fear is the possibility that the Minister of Interior Prince Naif could ascend to the throne, if he can outlive the aging and ailing King Abdullah. To the Saudi people's chagrin, the passing of Crown Prince Sultan and the king's deteriorating health make it more and more likely that Prince Naif will be the next Saudi king despite his unpopularity domestically, regionally, and globally.

Because of looming domestic, regional, and global challenges currently facing the Saudi regime, Naif is considered by King Abdullah and some senior members of the ruling family to be the right man to rule Saudi Arabia after Abdullah. This is thanks to Naif's heavy-handedness; and his strong support for, and affiliation with, the religious establishment -- especially the mentally ill religious police, and his control of the entire Saudi security apparatus. All of this makes Naif the most powerful, envied, loathed, and feared man in the country. In addition, Naif may not face opposition from the international community, even the West, despite the fact that they know he poses real threats to their interests, democratic systems, and national security. Stability in Saudi Arabia, presently the largest oil exporter, supersedes all other considerations: any major disruption in oil production and shipment from that area could create global economic havoc and unmanageable consequences. This situation will continue until a reasonably priced alternative to oil is available.

What is being myopically and dangerously overlooked, not because of ignorance but because of this disconcerting necessity, is that Naif's ascendance to the throne could potentially spawn and expedite that which some Saudi royals and the international community are hoping to avoid -- instability in Saudi Arabia. Prince Naif will be presiding over a fast-changing, more restless society that is less fearful of authority. The majority of the Saudi people, like the rest of the Arabs and others, is yearning for a better alternative to their oppressive regime and its outmoded, unresponsive, and dysfunctional institutions. It is estimated that between 60-70% of the Saudi population are under 30 years of age and that 43.2% for men and women in the 20-24 age category are unemployed. This is a "ticking bomb" that will explode unless long-term, well-paying jobs are created and made available to them; government handouts will not silence them for long.

Further, the Saudi people have more access to each other and to more domestic, regional, and global information than at any time in their history. They are among the most frequent users of the unstoppable social media that they make the most of to vent, pass time, and to discuss social, gender, political, and religious issues that were taboo before the arrival of modern technology. Unless tangible social, political, economic, and religious reforms are implemented, the people will use social media to organize an uprising against the system that is holding them back, despite Western experts' unfounded doubts.

Women of all ages make up some of the most active groups in Saudi Arabia. Many demonstrate in front of Prince Naif's Ministry of Interior on a daily basis to demand the release of their loved ones incarcerated without charges or trials by Naif's police. Some are demanding equal access to education and job opportunities. Some are demanding the removal of the male guardian system and others are demanding the removal of the business manager system (Saudi businesswomen are forced to hire a male to manage their businesses for them.) The most vocal and fearless among Saudi women are those who demand the right to drive. A number of them have gone behind the wheel and have been imprisoned and interrogated, but continue their demands undeterred. Naif does not think much of women. He believes that they should stay home, producing and grooming generations of "good men." He sees women as the property of men, stating, "Any man who accepts his wife or daughter to work as secretaries for other men has lost his manhood."

Even though Naif may be the ruthless prince who can guarantee his family's safety, keep its unruly members in line and maintain the temporary stability of the country through sheer force, he might be the least suitable man to rule Saudi Arabia, especially at this time of restlessness and escalating demands for change. These demands come from a generation of men and women who are disconnected from the world into which Naif and his aging brothers were born, grew up and still live. He will strengthen the religious establishment to intimidate the populace to keep them in check as he has done all his life. A more theocratic and dangerous Saudi Arabia is inevitable under Naif. Ironically, it is the West's need for Saudi money and Saudi oil might people [sic] Prince Naif to the Saudi throne.

Ali Alyami


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

From an Arab Spring to an Islamist Winter Demonstrators Dispatched by Mosques

by Khaled Abu Toameh

The "revolutionaries" who sodomized [Editor's Note: The claims of sodomy are still under investigation] and lynched Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi chanted the famous Islamic battle cry "Allahu Akbar!" [Allah is Greater].

When the leaders of the revolution announced Gaddafi's death at a press conference, even secular Muslim journalists started chanting "Allahu Akbar!"

A few days later, the leader of Libya's National Transitional Council, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, declared at a rally in Benghazi that his country would now become an Islamic state.

"As a Muslim country, we have adopted the Islamic Sharia as the main source of law. Accordingly, any law that contradicts Islamic principles with the Islamic Sharia is ineffective legally."

At this stage, it is still not clear what version of Islamic law the new rulers of Libya are planning to enforce.

Will Libya take example from Iran, Sudan and Saudi Arabia where adulterers are stoned to death and convicted thieves have their hands cut off and beheaded in public squares?

Or will Libya endorse a more "moderate" version of Islam, as is the case in many Arab and Islamic countries?

Either way, what is clear by now is that the post-Gaddafi Libya will be anything but a secular and democratic country, but one where there is no room for liberals and moderates.

Those who thought the Arab Spring would bring moderation and secularism to the Arab world are in for a big disappointment.

The results of the first free elections held under the umbrella of the Arab Spring have now brought the Islamists to power in Tunisia.

But the Islamists who won the election in Tunisia are already being accused by their rivals of being too "moderate" because they do not endorse jihad and terrorism against the "infidels."

What happened to all those young and charismatic Facebook representatives who told everyone that the uprisings would bring the Western values and democracy to the Arab countries? Some of the secular parties that ran in the Tunisian elections did not even win one seat in parliament.

What many Western observers have failed to notice is that most of the antigovernment demonstrations that have been sweeping the Arab world over the past ten months were often launched from mosques following Friday prayers.

This is especially true regarding Egypt, Yemen, Syria and Jordan.

Thanks to the Arab Spring, the Islamists in these countries are beginning to emerge from their hiding places to become legitimate players in the political scene.

The writing on the wall is very big and clear. In a free and democratic election, those who carry the banner of "Islam is the Solution" will score major victories in most, if not all, the Arab countries.

The Palestinians were the first to experience this new trend back in 2006, when Hamas defeated the secular Fatah faction in a free and fair parliamentary election held at the request of the US and the EU.

The leaders of the Arab Spring have failed to offer themselves to their people as a better alternative to the Islamists. As far as many Arabs are concerned, this is a faceless Facebook revolution that has failed to produce new leaders. The Arab Spring is becoming the Islamist winter.

Khaled Abu Toameh


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Reward for the Next Kidnapped Israeli Soldier

by P. David Hornik

In the aftermath of the Gilad Shalit​ deal, in which last week Israel freed 477 security prisoners (to be followed by 550 more) for its kidnapped soldier, a prominent Saudi has called for more kidnappings.

Ynet describes Awad al-Qarni as “a famous Muslim cleric who often guests on TV shows and operates his own website.” He’s also a standard anti-Semite; asked in 2006 to explain the U.S. invasion of Iraq, he pointed to the “Jews in the American administration—I mean the Likud Jews, the extreme right wing over there…. Some of the top American officials have Israeli citizenship. Some of them were top officials in Israel….”

Al-Qarni is offering $100,000 to any Palestinian who kidnaps another Israeli soldier. He says he’s doing so in response to an ad by an Israeli family offering a similar sum for anyone who catches a terrorist who murdered their relative in 1998.

While Western minds might note a moral asymmetry between having a murderer and an ordinary soldier as the target, Al-Qarni’s Facebook post on the matter had already “received more than 1,000 likes and extensive coverage in Hamas-affiliated newspapers in Gaza.”

Al-Qarni’s offer is part of a wave of enthusiasm for the release of so many murderers in the Shalit deal. Ahmad Jabari, head of Hamas’s military wing, said Hamas would “continue to abduct Israeli soldiers and officers as long as there are Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.” Hamas TV proclaims that abducting six more soldiers is all that’s needed. A spate of maverick, spontaneous terror attacks on the West Bank may also be connected to the triumphant mood.

In Israel the picture is different. Tuesday last week, the day of Shalit’s return to Israel, set a record for Israeli TV watching with over three million viewers out of a population of less than eight million. But the joy felt by most Israelis that day has given way to some hard soul-searching about the “next kidnapping.”

The Israel Defense Forces reportedly views the threat of another kidnapping as “concrete” and is considering ways to prevent “the abduction of living soldiers…at any cost.” That includes, if necessary, risking an abducted soldier’s death by “opening fire at the abductors’ vehicle.” The “guiding principle” here is that “a dead soldier is better than a kidnapped soldier [for whom] Israel…will be forced to pay a heavy price….”

And soon the Shamgar Commission, set up in 2008 after Israel’s previous lopsided prisoner deal, is supposed to hand its recommendations to the government. A lively debate has already started about a possible legislated stipulation to keep future hostage deals to a 1:1 ratio. Skeptics say it won’t work because future governments would still succumb to the same sorts of pressures that led to the Shalit and other exchanges.

In the larger perspective, Israel is still in a process of learning how to live in a region where, to put it gently, universal values don’t always prevail. The laudable social solidarity, the profound concern for the individual soldier, that has produced the now famous—or infamous—prisoner deals has to be balanced with a more sober policy that can prevent or defeat extortion.

P. David Hornik


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Gifts for Terrorists: Your Tax Dollars at Work

by Arnold Ahlert

Most Americans either intuitively or consciously understand that money collected from them in taxes is fungible, meaning that, while it may be collected under the auspices of paying for one thing, it may actually end up paying for something else. In early October, Congress apparently began recognizing the consequences of such fungibility when they put a hold on $200 million in aid to the Palestine Authority (PA). Unfortunately, as columnist Debbie Schlussel reveals, last year’s grant of $100 million to Palestinians via the federal government’s USAID program has helped to underwrite a particularly egregious enterprise: gifts provided by Hamas to terrorist mass murderers released in exchange for Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

Each of these thugs was given $2000 and a Nokia X3 cellphone, no doubt as a reward for their efforts to exterminate Jews. Who are these prisoners? Men like Yehya Sinwar, 49, who helped establish Hamas’s military wing in Gaza as well as its internal security apparatus, which killed Palestinians suspected of collaborating with Israel. He was serving four life sentences for his involvement in the 1994 kidnapping and murder of Israeli soldier Nachshon Wachsman. As far as Sinwar is concerned, kidnapping or capturing Israeli soldiers “is the best news in the universe, because [a Palestinian prisoner] knows that a glimmer of hope has been opened for him,” he told The New York Times.

Other hard-core terrorists among the 477 prisoners released include: Walid Anajas, 31, who was serving 36 life sentences for his role in two suicide bombings at Jerusalem’s Café Moment and the Rishon LeZion pool hall in which a total of 27 Israelis were killed; Husam Badran, who helped plan four suicide bombings during the Second Intifada, killing a total of 81 Israelis; Ahlam Tamimi, proud of being the first female Hamas combatant, who was serving 16 life sentences for her role in the 2001 attacks on a Sbarro pizzeria in Jerusalem, killing 15; Nasser Yataima, who received 29 life sentences for planning the bloody Passover bombing of the Park Hotel in Netanya, killing 30; and Abd Al-Hadi Ghanim, who received 16 life sentences for grabbing the steering wheel of a bus en route to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, steering it into a ravine, killing 16 people on board during the first Intifada in 1989.

Adding insult to injury, Sinwar and his fellow terrorists were greeted like heroes upon their release. And in a perverse bit of reporting, The New York Times acknowledged the “progress” Hamas had made between the time Sinwar was incarcerated and his release, noting that “he came home to a world he could not possibly have imagined during his long incarceration. As a young guerrilla fighter, he had collected knives and guns. But as he was driven from the Egyptian border to Gaza City on Tuesday, he saw thousands of Hamas fighters lining the highway, carrying automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades and driving pickup trucks mounted with heavy machine guns.”

How much of that “progress” was funded by U.S. taxpayers is impossible to determine. How much aid we provide to Palestinians in general, however, is not. A report released this month by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) reveals that since the mid-1990s, “the U.S. government has committed over $4 billion in bilateral assistance to the Palestinians,” who, the report also noted, “are among the world’s largest per capita recipients of international foreign aid.” Furthermore, from FY2008 to the present, “U.S. bilateral assistance to the West Bank and Gaza Strip has averaged over $600 million, including annual averages of over $200 million in direct budgetary assistance and over $100 million in non-lethal security assistance for the PA in the West Bank.” The United States is also “the largest single-state donor to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).” This is despite the fact that the actual benefit of such aid to US interests “remains a polarizing question, particularly with respect to its presence in Hamas-controlled Gaza.”

The ostensible rationale for providing such aid? Incredibly, the first of three reasons given in the report is “Combating, neutralizing, and preventing terrorism against Israel from the Islamist group Hamas and other militant organizations.” The other two reasons are equally pie-in-the-sky suspensions of reality: “Creating a virtuous cycle of stability and prosperity in the West Bank that inclines Palestinians–including those in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip–toward peaceful coexistence with Israel and prepares them for self-governance,” and “Meeting humanitarian needs and preventing further destabilization, particularly in the Gaza Strip.”

One is left to wonder how such nonsense can sustain itself, especially when one considers that as recently as two weeks ago, it was reported that PA President Mahmoud Abbas will resume efforts to meet with Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal for “renewed talks on ways of achieving unity” between the two factions. This reality makes an utter mockery of the CRS report which states that “Because of congressional concerns that, among other things, funds might be diverted to Palestinian terrorist groups, U.S. aid is subject to a host of vetting and oversight requirements and legislative restrictions.” Schlussel explains that such vetting “is minimal and on the surface only” and that “we don’t have the guts to end it, but for a few Republicans, led by Florida Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who are trying to stop this.”

Ros-Lehtinen, who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, has seen through this charade for months. Back in May, about a week after Fatah and Hamas announced their intention to form a unity government, Ros-Lehtinen was emphatic about refusing to release taxpayer funds to “whatever hybrid marriage, whatever Rubrik’s cube” is used to rationalize such funding. The particular rationale the Obama administration is trying foist on Congress? As long as Hamas doesn’t “control” a unity government, American taxpayer dollars can keep flowing. Ros-Lehtinen wasn’t biting. “That’s not what the law says,” she explained. “I don’t care if there is one or five or hundreds of members of Hamas, no U.S. funds can go to the PA. Call it what you want…Be fools if you want. But we will hold the Obama administration’s feet to the fire.”

As of the beginning of October, the funds remain unreleased, something characterized by the Palestinian Authority as “collective punishment” in response to Abbas’ bid for statehood at the U.N. “It is another kind of collective punishment which is going to harm the needs of the public without making any positive contribution,” said Palestinian Authority spokesman Ghassan Khatib Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY), member of the House Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia, was unimpressed, telling a group of congressmen and Jewish organization leaders that “there may need to be a total cutoff of all aid to the Palestinians for pursuing [the U.N. route to statehood] which is very dangerous and ill advised.”

Bradley Goehner, communications director of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs confirmed Congress’s stance on the issue. “There is an informational hold on the funding,” he noted. “The Chairman (Ros-Lehtinen) and other Committee Members are seeking further details about how funds have been used in the past, how they will be used, safeguards, and the system in place to phase the Palestinians away from dependency on the U.S. This is a tool of Congressional oversight.” Goehner then spoke directly to the issue. “Members believe that the funding cannot be considered in a vacuum, and that the PA’s activities at the UN, its arrangement with Hamas, and its failure to recognize Israel’s right to exist as Jewish State must all be taken into consideration,” he said.

Yet the Obama administration remained adamant. “We still have some money in the pipeline but the concern is that if we don’t get this going with the Congress in short order there could be an effect on the ground,” said State Department​ spokeswoman Victoria Nuland. Former president Bill Clinton​ also expressed the idea that Congress should allow the Obama administration to call the shots on funding. “Everybody knows the U.S. Congress is the most pro-Israel parliamentary body in the world,” said Clinton. “They don’t have to demonstrate that.”

Perhaps not. But considering the level of Israeli support demonstrated by an Obama administration willing to countenance the funding of a federally-designated terrorist organization, as long as they don’t control a Palestinian unity government, Congress remains a counter-weight to the kind of faculty lounge, pseudo-intellectualism that afflicts the president and his enablers. All one has to do is substitute the word “Nazi” for “Hamas” and consider if funding a Fatah-Nazi unity government–as long as the Nazis are in the minority, of course–would make any sense. As to the inevitable comparison that progressives will make about the fact that we give foreign aid to Israel, thus it is only “fair” that we fund Palestinians, the response is simple: as of now, neither Fatah nor Hamas recognizes Israel’s right to exist, and the latter’s charter of existence calls for the annihilation of the Jewish state and the extermination of Jews.

U.S. taxpayers helping to provide cellphones and cash to facilitate that ambition isn’t fair. It’s obscene.

Arnold Ahlert


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

Oslo’s Epidemic of Rape

by Bruce Bawer

Back in May it was reported that every rape assault in the city of Oslo in the last five years had been committed by a person with a “non-Western” background – a Norwegian euphemism for Muslim. Now it turns out that there have already been twice as many rape assaults in Oslo so far this year as there were in all of 2010. At least one member of Parliament, André Oktay Dahl of the Conservative Party, calls the situation “critical” and is brave enough to acknowledge that many of the perpetrators come from cultures “with a reprehensible attitude toward women.”

The Conservative Party has proposed several measures to combat what is being described as a rape epidemic: more money for the police; more police in the streets and doing investigations; faster results from DNA tests; the introduction of volunteer auxiliary police. There is something to be said for these proposals. Policing in Norway is a scandal. This summer it was reported that police departments all over Norway were so short-handed that they were unequipped to deal with the armies of drunks staggering home from bars on weekends after closing time. It was also reported that only fourteen of 430 new graduates of Norway’s police academy had been offered jobs.

The scandalous fact is that Norway, for all its wealth, has chosen not to invest overmuch in law and order. The very idea is simply too reactionary-sounding for the ’68-ers and their heirs in the political and bureaucratic corridors of power. As I wrote elsewhere a few months ago, “Norway wastes millions of kroner ever year on ‘development aid’ that ends up largely in the pockets of corrupt African dictators; it pours millions more into the pockets of non-Western immigrants who have become masters at exploiting the welfare system; for heaven’s sake, the Norwegian government even funds anarchists. It’s not entirely misguided for a Norwegian citizen to feel that his tax money is going less to fight the crime that threatens his home, his self, and his business than to support criminals.”

So Norway needs more cops – there’s no question about that. At the same time, beefing up the police force wouldn’t even begin to address the problem that’s at the root of the country’s growing rape crisis: the presence in Norway, and especially in Oslo, of ever-growing numbers of people who have nothing but contempt for Western culture, who have absolutely no concept of respect for members of religions other than their own, and who have been brought up on the idea that women who dare to walk the street alone and without veils covering their faces deserve to be violated.

Not so very many years ago, Oslo was virtually a rape-free city, inhabited by people who had been brought up on civilized notions of mutual respect and tolerance. No longer. Over the years, the incidence of rape has risen steadily. A wildly disproportionate number of the perpetrators are “rejected asylum seekers” – which may sound puzzling unless you are aware of the perverse state of affairs whereby even persons officially rejected for asylum in Norway are still allowed to stay. And the increasing temerity of the rapists – who know very well that they will probably not be caught, and, if caught, will not be severely punished – is reflected in the fact that the most recent rape (in which two men assaulted a 21-year-old woman) took place virtually in the backyard of the Royal Palace.

Oslo is, of course, not alone in having undergone this cultural sea change: many major cities in Western Europe have experienced similar transformations. Yet it now appears that the incidence of rapes in Oslo has now eclipsed that in the other two Scandinavian capitals, Stockholm and Copenhagen. This is quite an achievement, given that Oslo has traditionally been the smallest and sleepiest of these three cities – the least cosmopolitan, the one that feels more like a safe small town than a European capital. In fact, it turns out that the incidence of rape in Copenhagen has been on the decline. It is perhaps not entirely coincidental that Denmark, for the last decade, has also been the country with the most sensible immigration and integration policies in Western Europe. (Nor is it coincidental that the other Scandinavian capitals have twice as many police per inhabitant as Oslo does.)

A glimpse of the official mentality that makes this steady rise in rape statistics possible was provided in an article that appeared in the Norwegian daily Dagbladet on October 25. It appears that in the summer of last year, the same paper ran a story about Abdi, a Somali immigrant, then 24 years old, who since coming to Norway as an asylum seeker had committed 14 robberies, been incarcerated, become a narcotic, and lived on welfare. On June 3, 2010, Dagbladet reported, an Oslo court had ruled that Abdi, who is not a Norwegian citizen, should be returned to Somalia. Now, however, that ruling has been overturned by an appeals court. Abdi’s lawyer was jubilant, saying that this decision “is important for many Somalis in this country.” (Of all immigrant groups in Norway, Somalis are among those with the lowest employment and highest crime rates.) The lawyer chided Norway for having shown “an ugly face in this case” by planning to return her client to Somalia, but she expressed hope that given the new decision Norway would “change its practice” – presumably meaning that no amount of unsavory activity would make it possible to kick an immigrant out.

The appeals court’s basis for its decision to let Abdi stay in Norway was that it might be dangerous for him to live in Somalia. Whether letting him stay in Norway might make life dangerous for Norwegians didn’t seem to enter into the court’s calculus. It’s not only the courts, to be sure, that are at fault in this sort of situation. In such cases, the media almost invariably step in and bombard the public with shameless propaganda designed to stir up sympathy for the miscreant in question. So it was with the Dagbladet article the other day, which sought to present Abdi as repentant, reformed, and reflective – indeed, almost sagacious and saintly. He was represented as having claimed that he has turned over a new leaf and that he now wants to help wayward immigrant kids to straighten out. He also supposedly said that he wants to study to be a sociologist (which, the more one thinks about it, sounds potentially even more dangerous than if he decided to persevere in his life of crime).

So it goes in Norway in the year 2011. Oslo is undergoing a rape crisis. There is a good deal of chatter about it and many proposals and counter-proposals for solutions. But until the authorities begin to take the welfare of law-abiding citizens as seriously as they take the welfare of criminal foreigners, the problem will only grow worse.

Bruce Bawer


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

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Limits of Limited War

by Taylor Dinerman

Since 1945, we have lived through a time when, thanks to the Cold War nuclear standoff and US military supremacy, there have not been any all-out wars. This relatively happy time, however, might be coming to an end.

Carl Von Clausewitz, in his classic study, "On War," pointed out that there are conflicts "where a decision [meaning a decisive, total victory] is not the objective." This is a good description of what we now call "Limited War," that is to say, a war of attrition fought with a relatively low level of violence but a high level of politics and propaganda . Limited war is what we are now seeing in various degrees in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Kashmir, the Arab-Israeli conflict and wars in Africa. These limited wars endure because one, or sometimes both, parties to the conflict cannot inflict total defeat on their enemy, but at the same time, cannot bring themselves to make peace. These wars, therefore, go on and on and on at a low level of violence, with no end in sight.

Clausewitz also stated that "the history of war, in every age and country, shows not only that most campaigns are of this [limited] type, but that the majority is so overwhelming as to make all other campaigns seem more like exceptions to the rule." Substitute the word "war" for "campaigns," and one can see that all, or almost all, of the wars being fought today are of the limited kind.

In a limited war, the principal goal of at least one of the forces involved is to preserve itself and its freedom to be able go on fighting. To put it another way, the commander's intention is to maintain an Army "in being." George Washington's main strategy against the British was keeping his Army intact, and thus keeping up long-term pressure on the British to give up and go home.

Today's Taliban and other Islamist groups are keeping their various wars going in the hope that their Western enemies will one day get tired and disappear

What makes 21st century limited wars different from those fought by Europeans and Americans in the 18th century, is that they are now fought using limited means for unlimited ends. For the Islamists, their unlimited end is the destruction of the current Muslim nation states and their replacement by a Islamist Caliphate, and eventually, the global military triumph of their religion. For the West, the unlimited goal is that of a world order based on democracy and human rights.

In the Arab-Israeli conflict, Hamas and the bulk of the Palestinian Arab population have the "unlimited" goal of wiping Israel off the map. The Israeli goal is to survive as a Jewish state inside "secure and recognized borders, " -- a limited strategic objective. This asymmetry between Israel's virtually unlimited military power but limited strategic goals on the one hand, and Arab military weakness but unlimited strategic objectives on the other, is typical of the majority of post-1945 wars.

Soviet imperialist Communism is perfect example of an unlimited Utopian strategic goal in its wish to transform the world into a new, universal communist state. The USSR was prevented from directly achieving this objective by US military, economic and political power. Instead, the militarily weaker Soviet Union turned to supporting dozens of small-scale, anti Western wars around the world, from Vietnam to Central America to Africa to the Palestinians and West Germany. The men in the Kremlin excelled, at least for a while, at using limited violence in pursuit of unlimited ends.

America's limited wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya are currently being fought in an unprecedentedly restrained way. The complex US rules of engagement ensure that every bomb, every rocket, every missile and almost every bullet fired is subject to legal review, both before and after combat. America's NATO allies all have placed similar limits on their own use of firepower.

The enemies in these wars, however, may not be supervised by battalions of lawyers the way that American and other Western forces are. They are sometimes restrained, nevertheless, at least theoretically, by their need to avoid antagonizing the local populations they are trying to control. Yet as we have seen in Algeria, Iraq and elsewhere, Jihadis tend to end up attacking the people they are supposedly trying to enlist. In Afghanistan, as Jihadi bombs have killed far more civilians than have members of the Afghan or NATO armed forces, the Islamists sometimes refer to their casualties as "involuntary martyrs."

Since 2001, the Jihadis have failed to carry out any large scale attacks on US soil. There is no indication, however, that they are going to stop trying to replicate the 9/11 attacks, or at least inflict enough damage on the Americans to remind them that they are still at war with Muslim extremists and their allies. In this instance, the Islamists are not limited by any need to conciliate a local Muslim population, but by their lack of capability.

As the ultimate purpose of the Jihadists -- to establish a global Caliphate -- is unlimited, it is likely that eventually, the Jihadis will carry out an attack, or a series of attacks, that will match the size and violence of their ambition. They may be deterred by the fear of US or Western retaliation, but that is not certain. The spectacle of American and allied internal political bickering since 9/11 must certainly have encouraged the Jihadis to imagine that limited, and occasionally clumsy, US and Western responses, are the worst they can expect.

Another major attack on the lines of 9/11 might provoke a response from America or its allies far more violent and unconstrained than anything seen so far. This may in part be caused by budget cuts which reduce the number and accuracy of the West's precision weapons and which will lead to a substantial increase in so-called "collateral damage."

This economic factor, brought on by current US budget cuts, may play a greater role in future conflicts than it did in the recent past. An extremely violent, short -term, relatively unrestrained air campaign, such as the one President William Jefferson Clinton unleashed against Serbia in 1999, is less expensive than a than a long, drawn -out, limited military operation, especially one that requires large numbers of ground troops. Although the 1999 air campaign failed to destroy the enemy's deployed forces in Kosovo, it did wreck large parts of Serbia's civilian infrastructure. It was this destruction that forced the Belgrade government to surrender.

That kind of campaign, with few limits, may be a far better model for future US operations than the one being followed now in Afghanistan and Iraq. It will, however, be bad news for the proponents of the so-called "Humanitarian War." Humanitarian restraint has long been used as a tool against people who are thought to be susceptible to its appeal to cripple their ability to defend themselves against aggression.

One occurrence, from the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944, is an early example of how the idea of humanitarian war could be used against Americans by appealing to their supposed desire to keep civilian casualties to a minimum. During the siege of the Belgian town of Bastogne, the German commander sent a message to the surrounded Americans demanding that they surrender. The German General threatened to annihilate the town with his artillery and then added, "All serious civilian casualties caused by this artillery fire would not correspond with well-known American humanity;" however the American commanding General, Anthony McAuliffe, refused to surrender, writing in reply:

"To The German Commander: Nuts. The American Commander."

When a German officer asked what "Nuts" meant, the American replied, "It means, Go to Hell."

As wars become more bitter and drawn out and levels of both violence and violent propaganda increase, and as more international and media pressure direct our allies and us to surrender in the name of humanitarian concerns, we can only hope that our Wester[n] leaders will say the same.

Taylor Dinerman


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