Saturday, April 7, 2012

Two States, ‘Secure Borders’ and the Tooth Fairy

by Martin sherman

As time goes by and events consistently refute their dogmatic doctrine, "two-staters" are looking more and more like “flat-earthers.”
If a Palestinian state is established, it will be armed to the teeth. Within it there will be bases of the most extreme terrorist forces, who will be equipped with anti-tank and anti-aircraft shoulder-launched rockets, which will endanger not only random passers-by, but also every airplane and helicopter taking off in the skies of Israel and every vehicle traveling along the major traffic routes in the coastal plain.

Even if the Palestinians agree that their state have no army or weapons, who can guarantee that a Palestinian army would not be mustered later to encamp at the gates of Jerusalem and the approaches to the [coastal] lowlands.

– Shimon Peres

My column last week was largely a historical account of the monumental failure of the endeavor to implement a two-state approach following the 1993 Oslo Agreements. This column will focus more on some of the conceptual defects and inconsistencies that made past failure – and will make future failure –inevitable.

Two kinds of ‘two-staters’

In principle there are two categories of “two-staters:” (a) Those who insist that in their version of a two-state solution, “secure/defensible” borders for Israel are an indispensable imperative; and (b) Those for whom “secure/defensible” borders appear to be consideration of minor–if any–significance in their vision of the two-state arrangement.

Arguably one of the most eminent spokesmen for the first category is Harvard’s Alan Dershowitz; while the second category includes figures such as Peter Beinart, and groups such as J-Street and the Geneva initiative, endorsing the Obama-prescription that the frontiers of the Palestinian state be based on the indefensible 1967-lines with “agreed” (read “minor/cosmetic”) land swaps.

To assess the ramifications of these two schools of thought (or rather “wishful thinking”), it is necessary to comprehend clearly the geo-political significance of the territory ear-marked by them for the putative Palestinian state east of the 1967 frontier.

This is crucial for a responsible risk-assessment on the part of anyone professing pro- Israel credentials. For one would hope that– whatever their political proclivities – they would be mindful not only of the cost of error, but also of the probability of success, of any proposed policy option–particularly in the light of the failed optimism of the past.

‘An arrow aimed at Israel’s heart’

“An arrow-head aimed at Israel’s very heart with all the force of the Arab world behind.”

These words, conveying the danger entailed in the establishment of a Palestinian state, are not those of a radical right-wing rejectionist, but of 2006 Israel Prize (Law) laureate, Prof. Amnon Rubinstein, who served as an MK – and education minister–for the dovish Meretz party.

They are of course very apt, for as I have reiterated in previous columns, any territorial configuration even remotely acceptable to even the most moderate of Palestinians would allow them topographical command the all of the following: Most major airfields in the country (civilian and military) – including the only international airport;

• Major sea ports and naval bases;
• Vital infrastructure systems/installations;
• The sweet water system; • Main land (road and rail) transportation axes –including the Trans-Israel Highway;
• Principal power plants;
• The nation’s parliament, crucial centers of government and military command; • Eighty percent of the civilian population and of the commercial activity in the country.

All of these would be in range of weapons being used today against Israel from territory transferred to Palestinian control–making the notion of “demilitarization” largely irrelevant (something on which I will elaborate in a future column).

Peril presaged

This ominous prospect can no longer be dismissed as “right-wing scaremongering,” for it reflects no more than proven past precedents.

Indeed it was clearly predicted in vivid detail by none other than Nobel laureate Shimon Peres who expressed his skepticism regarding the credibility of any prospective peace partner. In a more perceptive era, before of political correctness eclipsed political truth and facts succumbed to fads, he cautioned: “The demilitarization of the West Bank seems a dubious remedy. The major issue is not [reaching] an agreement on demilitarization, but ensuring its actual implementation in practice. The number of agreements which the Arabs have violated is no less than number which they have kept.”

Presciently, he warned that if a Palestinian state were established “in a short space of time, an infrastructure for waging war will be set up in Judea, Samaria [note the non-compliance with the newly proposed “Beinartian” terminology] and the Gaza Strip. Israel will have problems in preserving day-to-day security....

In time of war, the frontiers of the Palestinian state will constitute an excellent staging point for mobile forces to mount attacks on infrastructure installations vital for Israel’s existence, to impede the freedom of action of the Israeli air-force in the skies over Israel, and to cause bloodshed among the population.”

In similar vein – and similarly prior to the advent of Oslo-mania, which relegated common sense to “rejectionism”– Amnon Rubinstein cautioned “Israel will neither be able to exist nor to prosper if its urban centers, its vulnerable airport and its roads, are shelled….

This is the terrible danger involved in the establishment of a third independent sovereign state between us and the Jordan River.

What are ‘secure borders’?

It is the combination of geographic proximity to, and topographical dominance over, Israel’s urban megatropolis in the coastal plain that makes a Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria so potentially perilous. It is this fact – with all its politically-incorrect ramifications– that has brought a host of security experts – Israeli and American – to the conclusion that for Israel to maintain secure borders it must retain control of wide swathes of territory between the 1967 Green Line and the Jordan River.

The most recent study, updated in 2011, authored by five former IDF generals – including a former chief of staff and the current national security adviser–stipulated that “secure borders” necessitate Israeli control of the highlands in the West Bank, the Jordan Valley and the entire air space from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River.

This coincides in large measure with Yitzhak Rabin’s vision of the permanent solution with Palestinians, articulated in his last address to the Knesset, a month prior to his assassination. In the speech, significantly delivered after being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and being feted around the world as a valiant warrior for peace, Rabin proclaimed that “the security border of the State of Israel will be located in the Jordan Valley, in the broadest meaning of that term.” He endorsed the retention of Israeli sovereignty over large tracts of land on the highlands including the settlements of “Gush Etzion, Efrat, Beitar and other communities… which are east of what was the “Green Line” and urged “the establishment of blocs of settlements in Judea and Samaria [again note the noncompliance with the newly proposed “Beinartian” terminology].”

242 and ‘secure borders’

This prescription for “secure borders” presented by an array of Israeli experts – with nary a radical right-wing religious rejectionist among them –closely reflects the findings of an earlier study of Israel’s security requirements, made by the US Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The study was referred to in an article published in 1993 by Eugene Rostow, former US under-secretary of state and one of the principle authors of UN Security Council Resolution 242. According to Rostow, the study “is useful in interpreting Resolution 242 because it reveals… what the US government had in mind in pushing the resolution through.”

He went on to observe that “[t]he study advised …that the security of Israel required Israel to receive [substantial] parts of the territory of the West Bank as essential to its defense” and pointing to the wide-ranging consensus on this, remarked: “In fact, all the studies of the Israeli security problem reached the same conclusion – from the security point of view, Israel must hold the high points in the West Bank and areas along the Jordan River.”

He summed up stating: “I do not know if the Joint Chiefs of Staff would draw a different map today, but I doubt is very much.”

Findings of subsequent studies provide strong support for his assessment.

Clueless, conniving, corrupt?

What does all this mean for the two previously delineated categories of “two-staters”? It perhaps simpler to begin with the second category–those who minimize (or disregard) the issue of “secure borders” for the Jewish state and are willing to accept withdrawal to the 1967 “Auschwitz” borders – with or without minimal adjustments.

Clearly in light of the potential perils these lines portend for Israel, this is a proposal comprises – at best – a gamble of epic proportions.

Its endorsement portrays its proponents as either clueless, conniving or corrupt: clueless because they are unaware of the mortal dangers their suggested policy entails; conniving because – although they may be aware of these dangers – they persisting in collaborating with Israel’s adversaries to advance their pernicious agenda – equipped with nothing more than naiveté and alleged goodwill (read “wishful thinking”) to prevent the lethal consequences of their implausible political credo; corrupt because are advancing a policy that clearly menaces the security of Israel and safety Israelis in exchange for benefits – material or otherwise – from foreign sources with interests often divergent from those of Israel.

Of course, there is always an outside chance that the Hamas and Islamic Jihad will miraculously morph into a benign liberal social-democratic party, but are these “ two-staters” seriously suggesting that we “bet the farm” on that? Are the “enlightened” proponents of this version of the two-state paradigm suggesting that Israel base its policy on the wildly improbable? Surely prudence dictates heeding the accumulated lessons of past experience and the proven patterns of previous behavior?

Insincere or inconsistent

The other class of “ two-staters ”–those who claim they insist on “secure borders”– are if anything, more exasperating. Take, for example, the following excerpt from Dershowitz’s The Case for Peace, which shows that he is keenly aware not only of dangers that might arise from a Palestinian state but that the Palestinian signatory to any “two-state” agreement would be powerless to ensure his contractual commitments, even if he sincerely wished to:

A Palestinian state will not soon secure the monopoly on the use of arms. Terrorists organizations and militias – such as Hamas, Al-Aqasa Martyrs Brigades, Islamic Jihad and others – will continue to have access to weapons of all kinds. Even if the Palestinian state renounced all support for terrorism, other states, most particularly Syrian and Iran, will likely continue to arm terrorist groups dedicated to Israel’s destruction. Nor is it out of the question that someday Hamas might gain control over the Palestinian government, either by means of a coup, or an election, or some such combination of both. Israel cannot be asked to accept a fully militarized Hamas state on its vulnerable borders.

In many ways, this is a stunning admission for a “two-stater.”

Given the clear recognition of the potential dangers, several trenchant questions arise: In light of the plausible scenarios he himself raises, what are the geographical parameters that Dershowitz proposes to provide Israel with “secure borders”? What Palestinian could survive–politically or physically–the wrath of his rivals, were he to accede to frontiers that would provide Israel with “secure” borders that even remotely approach the parameters set out by military experts? And if such borders are politically unfeasible, why advocate entering into an arrangement with some Palestinian counterpart who – by Dershowitz’s own admission – may not be able to prevent the onset of situations which – by Dershowitz’s own admission – are intolerable…and far from improbable.

So is it just me or are “secure-border-two-staters” seriously advancing a policy that is either unattainable politically or unachievable geographically? And if so, why? Are they being mindfully insincere or mindless inconsistent?

To be continued...

Much of which needs to be said about the dangerous and detrimental delusion of the two-state paradigm, and the corrosive consequences it has had on Israel, its national security, its diplomatic standing, its international legitimacy and the level and vibrancy of its public discourse, has still been left unsaid.

Indeed, as time goes by and events consistently refute their dogmatic doctrine, “ two-staters ”– seemingly oblivious to the facts and dismissive of the dangers – are looking more and more like “flat-eathers.”

But as Pessah is almost upon us and as I do not wish to incur the wrath of my very patient editor, I will defer further discussion for a future opportunity.

Martin sherman


- Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Holding back on Syria Just Helps Iran close in on Nukes

by David Ross Meyers

For more than a year, the international community has dithered and delayed action to stop the bloodshed in Syria, and there is no end in sight. UN-envoy Kofi Annan just announced plans to hold talks with Iran, which has been one of Assad’s most ardent supporters and arms suppliers.

Annan’s trip is a fool’s errand because Iran has no interest in seeing the international community take action against Assad. In fact, Iran has been one of the biggest beneficiaries of the world’s inaction in Syria.

The Iranian regime has seen a world community unwilling and unable to stop a ruthless dictator from killing his own people. And Iran’s leaders have likely concluded that the international community will never take meaningful action to stop its nuclear weapons program.

The reasons for the world’s inaction in Syria are myriad.

Major powers such as Russia and China would apparently rather see Assad murder his own people than see Syria become a precedent for possible action against their autocratic regimes. The Arab League is divided among sectarian blocs and seems weary of Western military intervention after Libya.

Syria is a major player in the region, and there is fear of who (or what) would fill the void left by Assad. The West is also concerned about arming and aiding Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups in Syria. Finally, the thought of Assad using chemical weapons (or those weapons falling into the wrong hands) has also delayed action.

But there are equally strong arguments for taking bolder action in Syria. Among them, the need to protect the Syrian people in their struggle for freedom and democracy. The fact that our past tolerance for Middle Eastern autocrats created resentment that fueled the rise of anti-Western terrorism and extremism in the region. And concern that if Assad falls without our help, we may not have influence with the new Syrian government as it democratizes.

The situation in Syria is complex. But it should be easy for the world community to take decisive action to stop a despot from killing his own people. It has not been. The Annan peace plan is going nowhere, and its best-case scenario is probably one where Assad remains in power. Russia and China continue to block any meaningful action at the UN. And the Arab League has been unable to find consensus on how to stop the slaughter.

This inaction is disastrous for the people of Syria. But it’s also disastrous for the world, because it will embolden Iran in its pursuit of a nuclear weapon.

The inaction in Syria demonstrates how difficult it is to find consensus on dealing with autocratic regimes in the Middle East– and it will be even harder to find consensus on Iran.

If the U.S. can’t get international support to stop the bloodshed in Syria, it’s almost a guarantee we won’t be able to get international support for meaningful sanctions on Iran.

Russia and China have publicly opposed stringent sanctions, and China just announced that it will continue buying Iranian oil. Even our allies such as India and South Korea appear hesitant to stop doing business with Iran. Granted, sanctions were never likely to stop Iran’s nuclear weapons program. Iran’s Foreign Minister, for example, recently declared "sanctions may have caused us small problems, but we will continue our [nuclear] path." But in the wake of China’s announcement, it’s becoming clear that effective multilateral sanctions will never materialize.

Critics of my argument will say that the U.S.-European sanctions have forced Iran to the negotiating table. They would be wrong. While Iran may be at the negotiating table, it has no interest in stopping its nuclear weapons program. The regime in Tehran has repeatedly said as much. As it has done in the past, Iran will offer false or meaningless concessions in a bid to delay international action as it continues to develop its nuclear program.

Even The New York Times editorial board has recognized the limits of a diplomatic approach. In a recent column, the Grey Lady conceded that they didn’t “know if there is any mix of sanctions and diplomacy that can persuade the mullahs to abandon their nuclear ambitions.”

The mullahs will simply use negotiations and the promises of concessions as an excuse for their allies to oppose further action against Iran.

Furthermore, the lack of consensus on Syria and recent statements by foreign leaders demonstrate there will never be international consensus for a military strike if diplomacy fails. Russia’s Foreign Minister recently warned the West against an attack on Iran’s nuclear program and said it would violate international law. Countries such as China have also publicly opposed military action against Iran’s nuclear program.

The world’s inaction in Syria is also benefiting Tehran because it has demoralized democracy activists inside Iran. Regime change in Tehran is probably our best chance of avoiding a nuclear Iran. That’s why the world’s appalling response to the 2009 Green Revolution was one of the biggest foreign policy errors in recent memory. Had the Green Revolution succeeded, there’s a good chance the Iranian weapons program would now be defunct. Instead, the mullahs continue to press ahead with the program.

And thanks to the world’s dithering on Syria, we’re unlikely to see any new democratic movement arise in the country. The Iranian regime has spent the past three years jailing and murdering prominent dissidents. And now, after seeing the world fail to react to the 10,000 dead in Syria, the Iranian people know that the international community will not come to their aid if they rise up again.

All of this means that Iran will continue pressing ahead with its nuclear program. And it means that a military attack, which the international community fears so much, might unfortunately become the only realistic option for stopping the program. The international community continues to oppose any action on Iran without UN support. But because of its failure to achieve consensus on issues such as Syria, action outside of the UN appears more likely.

David Meyers is a New York-based political commentator, lecturer, and consultant. From 2006 to 2009, David worked in the West Wing of the White House, and was later a speechwriter in the United States Senate. For more, visit his website:


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

Caroline Glick: The Eternal Liberation Movement

by Caroline Glick


Jewish liberation is far from complete

Hamas terror boss Fathi Hamad is a notable figure. Hamad is both the director of Hamas's al-Aksa television station and the terror group's "minister" of the interior and national security. His double portfolio is a clear expression of the much ignored fact that for terrorists, propaganda is inseparable from violence.

Hamad's key posts make him a man worth listening to. His statements necessarily indicate Hamas's general direction.

On March 23, Hamad was interviewed by Egypt's Al Hekma television station. The interview was translated by MEMRI.

Hamad made two central points. First, he claimed that the Palestinian war against Israel is the keystone of the global jihad. Second, he said the Palestinians are not a distinct people, but transplanted Egyptians and Saudis.

In his words, "At al-Aksa and on the land of Palestine, all the conspiracies, throughout history, have been shattered - the conspiracies of the Crusaders, and the conspiracies of the Tatars. At al- Aksa and on the land of Palestine, the Battle of Hattin was waged. The [West] does not want this noble history to repeat itself, because the Jews and their allies would be annihilated - the Zionists, the Americans and the imperialists.

"Thus, the conspiracy is very clear. Al-Aksa and the land of Palestine represent the spearhead for Islam and for the Muslims. Therefore, when we seek the help of our Arab brothers, we are not seeking their help in order to eat, to live, to drink, to dress, or to live a life of luxury. No. When we seek their help, it is in order to continue to wage Jihad."

Hamad next explained, "Brothers, half of the Palestinians are Egyptians and the other half are Saudis. Who are the Palestinians? We have many families called Al-Masri, [Egyptians] whose roots are Egyptian. Egyptian! They may be from Alexandria, from Cairo, from Dumietta, from the North, from Aswan, from Upper Egypt. We are Egyptians."

What Hamad's interview tells us is that today Hamas - the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood - is more interested in unity with Muslim Brotherhood-dominated Egypt than with Fatah. Whereas in the past it joined Fatah in obscuring the direct link between the jihad against the Jews and the jihad against the non-Muslim world, today it seeks to emphasize the connection. To this end, Hamas is willing to abandon the myth of Palestinian nativism and acknowledge that the Palestinians are an artificial people, invented for the purpose of advancing the global jihad in the key battlefield of Israel.

Hamad's statements underscore a widespread sentiment among Israelis about the revolutions now tearing apart the Arab world. That sentiment is that while the results of these revolutions will be catastrophic in the medium and long term, in the short term they bring respite to Israel. With Arab regimes - new and old - struggling to consolidate power, they have little time or energy to devote to their war against Israel.

In this situation, the thinking goes, Israel should be able to devote its attention to attacking Iran's nuclear facilities.

Unfortunately for Israel, while the Arab world is increasingly uninterested in the Palestinian war against Israel, Europe and the American Left are more than happy to pick up the slack.

Consider two recent events. First, two weeks ago the UN Human Rights Council voted to launch a commission whose goal is to criminalize Israel for the existence of Israeli communities beyond the 1949 armistice lines.

The council's decision to form a new kangaroo court to criminalize Israel was not the result of the Arab diplomatic war against Israel. It is the consequence of the European diplomatic war against Israel. It is Europe, not the Arabs that has barred Israel from caucusing with its UN regional group - the Western European and Others Group. By barring Israel from the caucus, the Europeans have denied Israel the ability to make its case to other UN member nations.

For its part, the Obama administration pays lip service to the need to end the Human Rights Council's obsessive war against Israel. But at the same time, it has effectively joined that war by legitimizing the anti-Israel council both by joining it, and by refusing to use its membership as leverage to coerce the council into abandoning its campaign against Israel.

Following the council's vote to form a new Goldstone-style commission to attack Israel, the State Department issued a statement in which it claimed that due in part to US membership in the council, the council had been spurred to "action on a series of important human rights situations around the world."

Then there was last Friday's Global March to Jerusalem, in which a consortium of protesters organized by Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, Iran and the international Left intended to storm Israel's borders and fill the state with hostile foreigners.

As Ribhi Halloum, the coordinator of the march said last year, the goal of the GMJ was "to move the right of return possessed by Palestinian refugees from theory to practice."

In a press conference in Amman days ahead of the operation, Halloum said that organizers expected for two million people to mass at Israel's borders and attempt to breach them.

In the end, the GMJ failed to mount its planned invasion. The sum total of the day's events amounted to several violent local demonstrations by Palestinians in Judea and Samaria joined by foreign and Israeli leftists. Israel's borders were not breached.

The GMJ's failure to achieve its aims owed to the same pan-Arab distraction that Hamad tried to address in his interview with Egyptian television.

But while the Syrians, Egyptians, Jordanians and Lebanese have more urgent business to attend to, the international Left has intensified its own campaign against Israel.

Leading anti-Israel, (and anti-Jewish) leftists including George Galloway, Desmond Tutu, Mairead Maguire, Noam Chomsky, Jeremiah Wright, Cindy Sheehan and Medea Benjamin served as members of the GMJ's various organizing committees. These self-proclaimed human rights activists had no problem with the fact that the Iranian regime took a central role in organizing the operation or that the clear goal of the campaign's Muslim organizers is the destruction of Israel.

To the contrary, this goal is now openly shared by growing numbers of Western leftists. In an op-ed on the Guardian's online opinion forum, Sarah Colborne, a member of the GMJ's organizing committees and its national coordinator for the UK as well as the director of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign in the UK wrote, "The struggle for Palestinian rights is at the core of the global movement for social and economic justice."

Judith Butler, one of Colborne's American counterparts, has opined that "understanding Hamas, Hezbollah as social movements that are progressive, that are on the Left, that are part of a global Left, is extremely important."

So just as Hamas's Hamad claims that the jihad on Israel is the key campaign of the global jihad, Hamad's Western partners claim that destroying Israel is the key to the Left's campaign for socialism.

Disturbingly, the international Left is receiving indirect support for its goal of destroying Israel's sovereignty over Jerusalem, (and through it, destroying Israel), from the US government. Just days before the GMJ failed to unravel Israel's physical control over Jerusalem, in a jaw-dropping exchange between State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland and AP reporter Matthew Lee, Nuland refused to say that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.

The US has always been deeply hostile to Israel's sovereignty over Jerusalem. Beginning in 1950 the State Department directed US diplomats to discourage other governments from establishing their embassies in Jerusalem. But while the US has always undermined its own alliance with Israel by aligning its policy on Jerusalem with Israel's worst enemies, under President Barack Obama, the US's willingness to express this hostility has been unprecedented.

This hostility has been demonstrated most famously by Obama's demand that the government stop respecting Jewish property rights in the city.

It has also been given graphic expression by the administration's decision to move the Consular Section of the US Consulate in Jerusalem from an Arab neighborhood in eastern Jerusalem to the site that Israel allocated for a new US embassy.

The site is located in the Jewish Arnona neighborhood in western Jerusalem.

Israel allocated the land to a future US Embassy after Congress passed the US Embassy Act in 1995 which obligated the US government to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The site was chosen, among other reasons, because its location in western Jerusalem put it outside the dispute regarding whether or not Israel will retain sovereignty over eastern, southern and northern Jerusalem in a hypothetical peace treaty with the Palestinians. The US government uses the non-resolution of the Palestinian conflict with Israel as its justification for refusing to accept Jewish property rights in those areas of the city.

The US Consulate in Jerusalem is not subordinate to the US Embassy in Tel Aviv. It presents itself as the unofficial US embassy to the non-existent state of Palestine. By utilizing the site in western Jerusalem allocated for a future embassy as an extension office of the consulate, the Obama administration made clear its rejection of Israel's right to sovereignty over all of Jerusalem. And in light of the US law that recognizes Jerusalem as Israel's capital and orders the government to relocate the embassy to Jerusalem, the Obama administration not only indirectly legitimized the cause of those who seek the destruction of Israel.

It did so in contempt of US law.

In truth, there is nothing new about the West's rejection of Israel's right to sovereignty or even to its support and sponsorship for the Arab war for the destruction of Israel. Such animosity predates not only the 1967 Six Day War. It predates the establishment of Israel.

British Col. Richard Meinertzhagen, who served as an intelligence officer in wartime and post-World War I Mandatory Palestine, made this point clearly in his memoir Middle East Diary.

Meinertzhagen wrote that the first Arab terror assaults on Jews under the British military government were instigated by the British military. Just before Easter in 1920, British military authorities contacted future Nazi agent Haj Amin el Husseini and encouraged him to attack the Jews of Jerusalem.

They told him, "He had a great opportunity at Easter to show the world that the Arabs of Palestine would not tolerate Jewish domination in Palestine... and if disturbances of sufficient violence occurred in Jerusalem at Easter, [the British High Commanders] would advocate the abandonment of the Jewish home."

Today, the Jewish people begin their week-long celebration of Passover, the Jewish festival of freedom. This evening we will read in the Haggada that our fight for freedom is an eternal struggle.

When we assess the global nature of the current assault on Jewish freedom and sovereignty in our country, we see the truth of that message.

While our present circumstances give us much to celebrate, the work of Jewish liberation is far from over.

Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.

Caroline Glick


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

President Scofflaw

by James Lewis

I've seen many debates about the war powers of the U.S. Congress, but I've never seen an American president openly laugh at the idea of seeking congressional approval for a major U.S. military assault on another country.

Obama did it with Libya, Yemen, Somalia, and Kenya and tried it in Syria. But not in Iran.

Gaddafi is dead, Libya is a disaster, and no one has gotten any answers. Other than that contemptuous laugh. The media don't even dare to ask questions. They are afraid of retaliation.

I haven't seen an American president openly pressure the U.S. Supreme Court to protect his party's takeover of one-seventh of the American economy.

As Charles Krauthammer pointed out regarding the assertion of Federal jurisdiction made by Obama:

If [being born] ... means entering the market, Congress is omnipotent, authorized by the commerce clause to regulate "every human activity from cradle to grave."

I have not seen any American administration publicly claim its powers to rule by arbitrary decree about illegal immigrants, like a European despot.

I have not seen an American president take over banks and auto companies on behalf of his political friends, like the United Auto Workers.

I have never seen a U.S. president give open approval to a campaign of law-breaking and sometimes violent "occupations" -- as this White House has done with sixty organized leftist mobs around the country, with the ACORN voter fraud group.

I have never seen an administration that scapegoated the democratically elected opposition as "extremist." This administration has.

Obama is the first American president to assert that "international permission" beats the U.S. Constitution.

I have not seen a U.S. Justice Department that openly approved weapons-smuggling to the Sinaloa drug cartel, resulting in many Mexican killings.

I have never seen a politician who ran on an anti-war platform defend targeted assassinations by executive order like AG Holder just did.

On Fox News, Judge Napolitano sums it up:

I think the president is dangerously close to totalitarianism[.] ... A few months ago he was saying, "The Congress doesn't count, the Congress doesn't mean anything, I am going to rule by decree and by administrative regulation."

Now he's basically saying the Supreme Court doesn't count. It doesn't matter what they think. They can't review our legislation. That would leave just him as the only branch of government standing.

The old word "scofflaw" denotes not just a lawbreaker, but somebody who mocks the law. American admire rebels, but not if they exercise vast and untrammeled power. Not when the sheriff takes the law into his own hands.

James Lewis


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

The Muslim Brotherhood’s Charm Offensive in Washington

by Jacob Laksin

Khairat al-Shater, Muslim Brotherhood presidential candidate.

The Muslim Brotherhood’s American charm offensive got off to a rough start this week. Members of the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), the Brotherhood’s political wing, arrived in Washington D.C. this week for a series of meetings with U.S. officials, media, and think tanks, with the purpose of presenting a moderate image of the Brotherhood and allaying fears that it will impose Sharia law and threaten Egypt’s minority groups, including secularists and Coptic Christians. Instead, the Brotherhood’s delegation was confronted with news that, back in Egypt, those fears were being confirmed.

Over the weekend, the Brotherhood announced that it would field a candidate in May’s presidential election, breaking an earlier pledge not to do so. Given the Brotherhood’s political and organizational clout, the candidate, businessman and Brotherhood bigwig Khairat al-Shater, is now considered the frontrunner, reinforcing concerns that the Islamist group wants to completely dominate the Egyptian parliament. Worse still for the Brotherhood’s supposedly moderate image was that al-Shater made it expressly clear that his “first and final project and objective” would be to impose Sharia law on the country. Already, he has stirred controversy in Egypt by lobbying for the support of Egypt’s hard-line Salafist clerics, offering them effective approval over all legislation to make sure that it is compliant with Sharia.

That left the Brotherhood’s delegation scrambling to sanitize al-Shater’s statements. Asked to account for its political about-face, and one that seemed likely to bring to power a committed proponent of Sharia law, the Brotherhood’s visiting delegation tried to make light of the news. Abdul Mawgoud Dardery, one of the lawmakers in the delegation, insisted that the Brotherhood was committed to a “civil state” and was only seeking to implement the “principles” of Sharia law rather than its strict application. “The principles are universal: freedom, human rights, justice for all. This is the priority of the Freedom and Justice Party,” Dardery said at an event at Georgetown University. Sharia, in short, was not the Brotherhood’s primary concern in post-Mubarak Egypt.

But that dubious pretense became virtually indefensible on Wednesday, when an Egyptian court sentenced a 17-year-old Christian boy to three years in jail for the crime of publishing cartoons mocking the prophet Mohammed on his Facebook page. The Sharia-inspired sentence came in the aftermath of a wave of attacks on Christians by Muslim mobs, in which Christian homes were burned and Christians were injured. The violence highlighted the pressing worry that Egypt’s Christians could lose their rights under a Brotherhood-led regime. Christians have already been shut out of the political process, and Christian parties have responded by quitting a working group drafting the country’s new constitution, saying that their concerns were being ignored. Their departure represents a growing political disenfranchisement that gives the lie to the Brotherhood’s claim of seeking “justice for all.”

The rift between the Brotherhood delegation’s assurances of moderation and the reality of the nascent government the Brotherhood has come to dominate is now all too apparent. One of the government’s first acts, for instance, was to announce that it would prosecute 43 Germans and Americans working for pro-democracy NGOs in Egypt. Although the groups had been working in Egypt for years, the foreign workers – among them Sam LaHood, the son of U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood – were indicted by Egyptian courts for operating without a license and barred from leaving the country. The politically charged prosecutions strained U.S.-Egyptian ties and threatened the $1.6 billion in American aid that Egypt receives annually, but the Brotherhood defended them as a proper response.

Ironically, among the more outspoken defenders of the crackdown on pro-democracy groups was Abdul Mawgoud Dardery, the same Brotherhood lawmaker who is leading the Brotherhood’s PR tour this week. When the prosecutions were announced, Dardery insisted that they were justified because the pro-democracy groups were working toward “a type of democracy that will not bring Islamists to power, and this is wrong.” Dardery thus confirmed what was already obvious: The Brotherhood supports democracy only to the extent that it brings the Brotherhood to power. Abroad, of course, Daredy tells a different story.

How convincing this two-faced act has been in the U.S. is unclear. For its part, the White House has tried to downplay the significance of the Brotherhood’s visit. Still, the unprecedented access that the Brotherhood’s delegation has been afforded, including meetings with officials at the National Security Council and the State Department, can only serve to boost its domestic legitimacy. Nor did it hurt the Brotherhood’s image that the Obama administration, rather than condemning its decision to run a presidential candidate despite promising to abstain, praised the Brotherhood’s candidate as a more moderate alternative to the Salafist candidate in the race.

Yet that’s a distinction with little substantive difference. As the Brotherhood has amply demonstrated during its brief time in office – and as its latest publicity stunt cannot obscure – when it comes to their views on secular democracy and religious pluralism, the differences between the Brotherhood and its Islamist rivals are few indeed.

Jacob Laksin


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

The New York Times’ Charlie Brown

by Bruce Thornton

For decades now too many Western politicians, diplomats, and pundits have played Charlie Brown to the Palestinians’ Lucy. No matter how many times the Arabs have invited Westerners to kick the football of “land for peace,” only to jerk the ball away at the last minute, there remains no end of Westerners eager to line up and take another try no matter how many times they land flat on their backs.

Thomas Friedman might hold the record for falling for this trick. Just recently he endorsed a call by jailed terrorist murderer Marwan Barghouti for a “non-violent” uprising against Israel “with civil disobedience or boycotts of Israel, Israeli settlements or Israeli products.” Friedman does have one condition for his support: that the Palestinians present “a detailed map of the final two-state settlement they are seeking.” In the same column, Friedman also endorsed the view that creating a Palestinian state can create peace and stability by providing an alternative “model” to the Islamist states coming into being as a result of the “Arab Spring” uprisings: “the rise of Islamists in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and Syria, Israelis and Palestinians” create “a greater incentive than ever to create an alternative model in the West Bank — a Singapore — to show that they [Israelis and Arabs], together, can give birth to a Palestinian state where Arab Muslims and Christians, men and women, can thrive in a secular, but religiously respectful, free-market, democratic context, next to a Jewish state.”

No better example of the persistent hold of received wisdom and unexamined assumptions can be found than Friedman’s column. The biggest assumption, of course, is that a critical mass of ordinary Palestinian Arabs––as opposed to the duplicitous or Westernized elites Friedman talks to––want a state more than they want to destroy Israel. If we attend to deeds rather than deceitful words, the evidence that the destruction of Israel trumps acquiring a state is overwhelming. For starters, Palestinians have squandered every opportunity to create their own state, beginning with the U.N.’s 1947 partition plan. As Efraim Karsh writes of the rise of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, “Had Arafat set the PLO from the start on the path to peace and reconciliation, instead of turning it into one of the most murderous terrorist organizations in modern times, a Palestinian state could have been established in the late 1960s or the early 1970s; in 1979 as a corollary to the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty; by May 1999 as part of the Oslo Process; or at the very latest with the Camp David summit of July 2000.”

And why have the Palestinians consistently rejected these opportunities for a state? One simple reason: an absolute rejection of the legitimacy of Israel and its right to exist. This rejection of Israel is obvious in the non-negotiable demand of a “right of return” for the ever-growing number of “refugees,” a demand that if granted would create a demographic WMD that would destroy Israel as a Jewish state. Nor is this rejection of Israel a consequence of Arafat’s failures as a leader, as compared to the “moderate” Mahmoud Abbas: “For all their drastically different personalities and political styles,” Karsh writes, “Arafat and Abbas are warp and woof of the same fabric: dogmatic PLO veterans who have never eschewed their commitment to Israel’s destruction and who have viewed the ‘peace process’ as the continuation by other means of their lifelong war.”

Thus in the 2007 Annapolis Conference, when Israeli president Ehud Olmert offered a Palestinian state on 97% of the West Bank on the condition of Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, Abbas turned him down, demanding again the “right of return,” the euphemism for the slow-motion demographic destruction of Israel. So too in 2009, when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu demanded recognition of Israel as a condition for negotiations, Abbas responded, “A Jewish state, what does that suppose to mean? You can call yourselves as you like, but I don’t accept it and I say so publicly.” Netanyahu’s repeat offer a few months later was scorned throughout the Arab world. American “ally” Hosni Mubarak said that “no one will support this appeal in Egypt or elsewhere.” Chief Palestinian “peace negotiator” Saeb Erekat said that Netanyahu “will have to wait 1,000 years before he finds one Palestinian who will go along with him.” In August of that year, as Karsh concludes this history of rejection, Fatah’s general congress “reaffirmed its long-standing commitment to the ‘armed struggle’ as ‘a strategy, not tactic . . . in the battle for liberation and for the elimination of the Zionist presence. This struggle will not stop until the Zionist entity is eliminated and Palestine is liberated.’” Given this six-decade-long irredentist history, what sort of “detailed map of the final two-state settlement” does Friedman think the Palestinians will offer to earn his endorsement of their protests?

Even more delusional, however, is Friedman’s idea of a Palestinian state becoming a Middle East “Singapore,” where “Arab Muslims and Christians, men and women, can thrive in a secular, but religiously respectful, free-market, democratic context, next to a Jewish state.” Where does Friedman find in any Muslim Middle East country the cultural or religious foundations for such a state? Where in the region is there even a “secular” state? The recent revolts have eliminated the barely secular state like Egypt. Turkey has been secularizing for eight decades, and it’s becoming more Islamist, not less. Or where are Christians “respectfully” treated? On the contrary, they are fast disappearing from the regions of Christianity’s birth, those few remaining subject to increasing violence and persecution. More broadly, where in Islam can Friedman find the foundational principles of liberal democracy, such as separation of church and state, recognition of universal human rights, secular law, or free speech? And if a “partly free” regime, as Freedom House calls it, like Singapore is Friedman’s model, where can he find in Islam the intellectual freedom and dynamism, scientific rationalism, respect for contracts and laws apart from tribe or sect, and all the other constituents of a free-market economy? Surely if an Islamic state could achieve these boons that Friedman believes a Palestinian state would provide, the region wouldn’t be the intellectually stagnant and intolerant, repressive backwater that it is.

A Palestinian state has always been the Arab pretext for attacking Israel, one that plays to Western goods like nationalist self-determination that are not native to Islam, or exploits Western self-loathing based on the presumed historical sins of imperialism and colonialism. The hatred of Jews, however, can be found throughout Islamic theology and history, justified as the proper response to those who rejected Allah and his prophet. And it can be found everywhere in the Muslim Middle East, including the West Bank, where anti-Semitic eliminationist rhetoric is commonplace in government media and school curricula. To believe that Palestinian rejection of Israel is a consequence of “settlements” or “refugees” or the lack of a state instead of reflecting this long, theologically sanctioned, anti-Jewish tradition requires a leap of faith that would, like Charlie Brown’s, be funny if it wasn’t so deadly.

Bruce Thornton


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Short Supply, Not Middle East Tensions, Push up Oil Prices

by David P. Goldman

"Right now the key thing that is driving higher gas prices is actually the world's oil markets and uncertainty about what's going on in Iran and the Middle East, and that's adding a $20 or $30 premium to oil prices," President Obama said March 23. It's complete and utter nonsense. Oil is trading in lockstep with expectations for economic growth, as reflected in stock prices. There's not a shred of evidence that geopolitical uncertainty has added a penny to the oil price. Obama's $20 to $30 per barrel risk premium is a number pulled out of a hat, without a shred of empirical support. In effect, the President is blaming Israel for high oil prices.

On April, 3, Vice-President Biden blamed higher oil prices on "talk about war with Iran"; fear that Iran might "take out the Saudi oil fields and Bahraini oil fields"; the Arab Spring movement; "war in Libya"; the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood; and a potential for unforeseen political unrest, such as "chaos in Russia." It's all complete and utter nonsense. Oil prices are going up because the world economy is consuming more oil and supply has not increased to meet the demand – in part because the Obama administration discourages North American energy development, most recently by stopping the proposed Keystone pipeline from Canada. It's easier to blame foreign phantoms for high gas prices at the pump than the administration's business-killing politics

One might argue that the market should price strategic risk into the oil price, but the fact is that markets are not especially good at assigning prices to possible events whose probability can't be measured.

Chart 1: Oil Price vs. S&P 500, Past Three Years

Source: Bloomberg

During the past three years, oil prices have tracked equity prices almost perfectly, with a regression coefficient of nearly 90%. (For statisticians, the correlation of daily percentage changes in the two markets is 51%). Equity prices embody expectations of future economic growth, and higher growth means more demand for oil. If oil supply cannot keep up with demand—because the Obama administration has restricted development, among other factors—the oil price goes up.

If it walks like a duck, flies like a duck, quacks like a duck and correlates in first differences, we can say with confidence that it is a duck. The price of oil tracks economic growth expectations. Growth expectations, moreover, provide such a complete explanation of oil prices that it is statistically absurd to seek for another reason.

There are even stronger grounds to reject Obama's unsubstantiated, self-serving claims about a supposed risk premium in the oil price. Oil price risk is traded every day, in the form of options on the oil price. A hedger or speculator can buy the right to purchase oil at a fixed price over a specified time period. The price of oil options expresses the market's perception of risk of a big move in the cost of oil.

Traders express option prices in terms of "implied volatility," that is, the probability of a big move—the more likely the price is to move, the costlier the option. An implied volatility of 20% for a 12-month option, for example, means the market assigns a probability of about two-thirds that the price will move by 20% in either direction.

Chart 2: S&P 500 Risk vs. Oil Risk

Source: Bloomberg

The cost of hedging against changes in the oil price tracks the cost of hedging the S&P 500 just as closely as oil prices track stock prices. What's more, the cost of hedging against an oil price spike is trading at a three-year low.

The problem is not risk, but supply. When demand increases, we observe in Chart 3, prices trend to rise faster than demand, because supply is relative inelastic (it can't quickly expand to meet additional consumption). The only way to reduce gas prices is to drill for more oil.

Chart 3: Oil Price vs. Global Oil Demand, 2011 to 2012

David P. Goldman


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Anti-Israel Incitement Pops Up On the Left

by Jonathan S. Tobin

Democrats got a reminder of just what the far left wing of their party is thinking these days when a debate among contenders for their party’s nomination in the race to replace retiring Senator Joe Lieberman was overshadowed by vicious anti-Israel rhetoric on the part of one of the candidates. Candidate Lee Whitnum called frontrunner Rep. Chris Murphy a “whore” because of his support for Israel. She also referred to another candidate as “ignorant” during the course of the debate that was televised by the local NBC affiliate.

Whitnum, the sole focus of whose campaign is hatred of Israel, is a marginal player at best in a Democratic race that centers on the competition between Murphy and former Connecticut Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz. But her ability to get on the stage and spout bile against the Jewish state and its supporters is something of a victory for the Occupy AIPAC crowd and a warning to both Democrats and Republicans about their obligation to denounce anti-Semitic agitators who seek to worm their way into the mainstream.

Whitnum’s candidacy is more or less the embodiment of the Walt-Mearsheimer conspiracy theories. She is obsessed with AIPAC and Zionism and spends a great deal of space on her campaign website trying unsuccessfully to assert that she is not an anti-Semite. But at least she comes by her bias honestly. According to her biography, her father was a British military officer who served in Palestine during the 1940s when the U.K. was preventing Jews from immigrating to their homeland and assisting Arabs in their efforts to prevent Israel’s birth.

Murphy rightly denounced Whitnum’s comments saying, “This is in our national security interest, ultimately in the interest of U.S. taxpayers to have a strong relationship with Israel and I think it is worth saying on this stage that a lot of her comments have been out of bounds and over the line.” He also said he was reconsidering his support for allowing marginal candidates access to the debates.

Support for Israel in the United States is bipartisan and encompasses a broad coalition of members of both parties including liberals and conservatives. But the virus of hate is alive and well on the margins, especially the far left where, as the Occupy Wall Street protests proved, Jew-hatred seems not far below the surface.

Jonathan S. Tobin


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Dems Turn Passover Into Obama Worship

by Jonathan S. Tobin

One of the most disturbing aspects of modern American Jewish life is the almost obsessive desire of many Jews to universalize every aspect of Jewish belief while downplaying the original meanings of customs and ritual. Leftist Rabbi Arthur Waskow help set this in motion decades ago with his “Freedom Seder” in which he hijacked the Haggadah recited by Jews on Passover to promote other causes. Since then, transposing the seder in order to morph the Jewish holiday that celebrates the freedom of the Jewish people into something that has nothing to do with the Jews and Judaism has become so commonplace it is something of a cliché.

This year, there are more egregious examples of this trend. The National Jewish Democratic Council has published a new version of the “Four Questions” from the Haggadah that is a paean, not to the liberation of the Jews from Egypt, but to the wonders of Barack Obama, to whom the NJDC directs Americans to express thanks rather than their Creator. One need only read the NJDC’s questions to understand their desperation to make up for three years of Israel-bashing by President Obama as well as to get a feel for the attitude of the group toward the president that can only be characterized as worshipful.

The president’s shaky record on Israel — which was made all too clear by the constant fights and sniping against the Jewish state that only abated once his re-election campaign began — has made it imperative for Democrats to pretend as if the administration’s stands on Jerusalem, the 1967 borders and years of failed engagement with Iran never happened. They can rightly claim he has not trashed the alliance with Israel and has even done the right thing at the United Nations and continued to fund programs begun under his predecessor like the Iron Dome missile defense system (which Obama falsely claims credit for initiating). He has also said all the right things about stopping Iran’s nuclear threat though his actions (and a series of insidious leaks from his staffers) have demonstrated that he is more concerned about stopping Israel from defending itself than actually doing something about Iran.

The NJDC’s questions also attempt to use Passover to promote their party’s stands on ObamaCare and the defense of entitlement spending that is bankrupting the nation. There is nothing wrong with Democrats taking those positions if that’s what they believe, but the attempt to link these partisan stands on divisive issues — about which Jews as well as non-Jews can disagree — with Judaism is absurd.

An old joke about Reform Judaism had it that the movement’s concept of the faith was merely the Democratic Party Platform with holidays thrown in. As unfair as such a characterization was, it appears the NJDC wants to go it one better by attempting to transform Jewish holidays into partisan talking points. Such things show no respect for Judaism by trivializing the Exodus as merely an excuse for political rhetoric.

Passover is the occasion for Jews to remember their liberation from Egypt and to embrace not only the gift of freedom but also the ability to worship God and His laws as a people. While seders are appropriate moments to remember those in need as well as other Jewish communities — such as that in Israel — which are assailed by foes, it is not the time to be delivering obsequious paeans to American politicians, no matter which party they belong to. That sort of absurd distortion of the festival of freedom bears a closer resemblance to idol worship than it does to Judaism.

Jonathan S. Tobin


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Thursday, April 5, 2012

CIA: Iran Expands Program But No Nukes?

by Jonathan S. Tobin

The evidence of a major expansion of Iran’s nuclear program is a matter of record as far as the CIA is concerned, but the spy agency is still claiming Tehran hasn’t decided to build a bomb. Yesterday, COMMENTARY contributor Bill Gertz wrote in the Washington Free Beacon about the CIA’s official report to Congress on arms proliferation which was delivered in February but which hasn’t come to the attention of the public until now. The report states the bare facts about Iran’s program that are by now a matter of public knowledge since the International Atomic Energy Agency has been putting out regular bulletins about their damning findings.

The acknowledged facts are these: the Iranians have expanded their nuclear infrastructure and continued nuclear enrichment. They have constructed advanced nuclear centrifuges and bringing them online. Even more ominously, a new underground nuclear facility at Fordow has begun production of “near-20 percent enriched uranium,” the material that can be used to produce bombs. But as Gertz noted, the CIA’s report did not note the questions raised by the IAEA about weaponization research that is believed to be going on in Iran.

That omission is a crucial point in evaluating the CIA’s stance on Iran’s nuclear program. The agency has grudgingly noted the way Iran has proceeded with its nuclear build-up. But it is still sticking to its largely discredited 2007 National Intelligence Estimate that claims the Iranians are not building a bomb. In order to maintain that stance, it must ignore or downplay any evidence that points to weaponization.

As even the New York Times noted last month, American intelligence is still recovering from the black eye it received from its mistakes about Iraq’s weapons stockpile. But the agency’s decision to try to avoid making the same mistake on Iran has led them to buy into an equally fallacious mindset. Moreover, criticisms that the Iraq intelligence was influenced by the politics of the Bush administration is more than matched by the pressure coming from the Obama White House to downplay worries over Iran’s nukes that lend weight to calls for more action and less talk about the threat.

While American intelligence may have been guilty of overselling the threat from Iraq, it now appears to be doing everything possible to avoid taking the blame for a confrontation with Iran. But what the spooks seem to be forgetting is that as bad as the spanking over its Iraq errors was, it will be nothing compared to the anger that will come down on them should their optimistic assessments about Iran be proven false. Moreover, as bare bones as the CIA’s latest report may be, it contains enough to be someday thrown in their faces as proof that they knew the nature of the Iranian threat but refused for political or institutional reasons to draw the right conclusions.

Jonathan S. Tobin


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Another Unforced Obama Error on Egypt

by Jonathan S. Tobin

Yesterday, I wrote about the Obama administration’s decision to back the Muslim Brotherhood’s bid for a monopoly on power in Egypt. The rationale behind this startling decision was the possibility that an even more extreme Islamist appeared likely to win the upcoming presidential election. But now it appears that the candidacy of Sheik Hazem Salah Abu Ismail, the Salafi leader who appeared to be taking the country by storm, is in jeopardy.

If so, and the possibility that the most radical Islamist in the race will not be running Egypt has receded, the question for Washington is how President Obama’s foreign policy team — which met this week with a delegation of radical Islamists from the Brotherhood in the White House — proposes to walk back their latest unforced error on Egypt? Given the dangers that would accrue from the Brotherhood adding the presidency to their control of Egypt’s new parliament, it looks as if the administration has given sanction to a development that will alter the political landscape of the Middle East in a manner that will severely diminish American influence and increase the possibility of more Islamist violence against Israel.

The problems of Sheik Ismail provide a bit of comic relief to an otherwise grim situation in Cairo. The radical leader is an ardent foe of the United States, but it appears that his mother, who went to California to be with Ismail’s sister who had previously immigrated there, obtained American citizenship before she died. If so, that would contravene a law passed last year that mandated that the parents of any Egyptian president must not have any other passport. Should the charge be true and Ismail is forced to leave the contest, that would be a huge victory for the Brotherhood and their candidate, wealthy businessman Khairat Al Shater.

But this is nothing for the United States to cheer about. Though the White House may be buying into the Brotherhood’s assurances of moderation and devotion to peace and stability, a closer look at Al Shater reveals that the Islamist group hasn’t really changed its stripes. As Bret Stephens wrote earlier this week in the Wall Street Journal, the Brotherhood candidate is anything but moderate on the question of Middle East peace and doesn’t sound like someone the White House should be rolling out the red carpet for:

On the subject of Israel, Mr. Shater noted that the killing of Hamas’s Ahmed Yassin was “a heinous crime corresponding to the perfidious nature of the Zionist enemy.” As for negotiating with Israel, he called it “mindless”: “The only way” to deal with the Jewish state, he insisted, “is jihad.” He faulted “the enemies of Islam” for trying to “distort and remove [jihad] from the hearts and minds and souls of Muslims.” He blasted the U.S. for preventing “the Islamic nation in its entirety” from eliminating “the usurper Zionist enemy.”

Moreover, although as Stephens notes, some of the things the candidate says are pleasing to Western ears, there’s no denying his goal is to impose Islam on every aspect of Egyptian society. If, in the most optimistic scenario, the Brotherhood wants to emulate Turkey rather than Iran, that means the transformation of a secular Western ally into an Islamist nation that will always be hostile to U.S. interests and peace.

Yet, by diving into the election and giving the Brotherhood its seal of approval, the White House may have once again undermined any hope that the military or secular moderates could hold off the Islamist surge.

The list of administration errors on Egypt is long. It refused to promote democracy or human rights while Hosni Mubarak still ruled, but then compounded that error by quickly dumping Mubarak. It repeated that pattern by seeking to attack the military government that succeeded Mubarak and then appeased them by continuing the aid in the face of provocations. Now, it has put its chips on the Brotherhood even though there is still a chance it can be stopped. After all this, the only question is what Obama blunder will be next?

Jonathan S. Tobin


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U.S. Government and Media Cheer Muslim Brotherhood Regime in Egypt

by Barry Rubin

A year ago we were told that Egypt was going to become a moderate democratic state ruled by hip Facebook kids. Now we are told that we should be grateful Egypt is going to become a moderate Islamist republic ruled by the Muslim Brotherhood.

The Western media and governments have made terrible mistakes that will destabilize the Middle East — even more — for the rest of our lives, oppress tens of millions of people, cause tens of thousands to flee their countries, and cause thousands to die.

Here is the prime example of that situation at this moment.

As the Muslim Brotherhood openly bids for a monopoly of power in Egypt, the U.S. government is once again supporting the Brotherhood rather than the moderates or army. The Muslim Brotherhood, you see, is supposedly fighting the Salafists, so they are the “good Islamists.” It is like backing a Stalinist Communist Party to keep the Trotskyites out of power, even though the former group is the real threat.

The Muslim Brotherhood, breaking previous promises, is running a candidate for president of Egypt: Deputy Supreme Guide Khairat el-Shater. Shater wasn’t even at the press conference announcing his candidacy. Supreme Guide Muhammad al-Badie — the true architect of Egypt’s 2011 revolution, though few in the West understand this — read a letter by Shater saying he was merely complying with the Brotherhood’s decision.

“We decided that Egypt now needs a candidate from us,” said Mohamed el-Morsi, president of the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party. But he added, “We have no desire at all to monopolize power.”

As for not seeking to monopolize power? That’s what the Brotherhood gave as an explanation when it was only running candidates for a small portion of seats, then half of them, then every one. Each time, they explained they weren’t running a candidate for president because they didn’t want a monopoly on power.

How can the Brotherhood hold the presidency, control parliament, and write the constitution, and still not have a monopoly on power?

The New York Times has basically endorsed el-Shater and the Brotherhood, calling him “the group’s most important internal advocate for moderation and modernization,” and adding that “many American officials who have met with Mr. Shater … have praised his moderation, business savvy and effectiveness.”

It sums him up as “a conservative but a pragmatist,” which is more than it will probably grant Mitt Romney.

The newspaper does briefly report that Egyptian liberals are getting suspicious about the Brotherhood, and that Shater helped kick “moderates” out of the group. But it quickly recovers, explaining that Egyptians have nothing to complain about since they will have a choice between — what I will call — supposedly “liberal” Shariah, “moderate” Shariah, and “hardline Shariah” candidates:

The Brotherhood’s entry into the race also turns the election into a debate over the future of the Islamist political movement that is sure to resonate in the region. Mr. Shater faces Islamist rivals to his left and right — one a more liberal former Brotherhood leader (Aboul Fotouh), the other an ultraconservative Salafist.

Not exactly.

It works like this: The Brotherhood puts its organization, prestige, and voting base behind one candidate; the Salafist party puts the same behind another. So where will the “liberal” Islamist end up at the polls? Well here’s a hint: in the parliamentary elections, the Brotherhood got almost 50 percent, the Salafists received 25 percent, and the liberal Islamic party got … 1 percent.

While Shater is now defined as the “good guy,” the bad guy is Hazem Salah Abu Ismail. Indeed, the Times explains, even the U.S. government backs Shater since he is needed to beat Abu Ismail. This is why “the United States offered signs of tacit approval over the weekend when the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s largest Islamic group, broke its pledge not to field its own candidate.”

This argument is pure nonsense. After all, if the Brotherhood had thrown its support behind a nationalist or moderate non-Islamist candidate, that person would have buried Abu Ismail in a landslide!

Abu Ismail is evil because he is “an old-school Islamist” who wants to abolish Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel, treat the United States as Iran does, and take away women’s rights.

In contrast, though, Shater is new, a media star, pragmatic, and a moderate Islamist who wants to abolish Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel, treat the United States as Iran does, and take away women’s rights.

It is one thing to back a pro-American dictator or army who may be oppressive at home. It is another thing to back moderate democracy advocates who may be weak and lose. But how can U.S. policy back an anti-American extremist who will be oppressive at home and trample on U.S. interests?

How can the New York Times call the anti-American, anti-Semitic, genocide-advocating, anti-woman, and anti-Christian Brotherhood merely a “religious and anti-colonialist movement”? How can the Washington Post, whose coverage is better, refer to the Brotherhood as a “long-oppressed Islamist group”?

Meanwhile, the non-Islamist moderates continue to commit political suicide. Their latest brilliant move is to embrace that old Arab strategy that has always proven to be disastrous: the boycott. They discovered that the 100 members of parliament chosen to write a new constitution were almost all Islamists. That shouldn’t be surprising, since these two parties have 75 percent in the lower house and even more in the upper house.

So now instead of fighting tooth and claw over every sentence of the new constitution, forcing the Islamists to make some compromises — or at least, if they refuse, to become exposed for their true nature — the moderates have walked out entirely.

Between a catastrophic U.S. policy and a dumb-as-rocks Egyptian moderate strategy, Egypt should be an Islamist state in practice within one year. Then the Middle East is set for decades of turmoil while the United States faces its worst setback in the region since Iran’s revolution more than three decades ago.

Barry Rubin


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MB Presidential Candidate Pledges to Implement Sharia in Egypt

by Andrew G. Bostom

As reported by The Washington Post today (4/4/12), recently announced Muslim Brotherhood (MB) candidate for the Egyptian Presidency, Dr. Khairat Al-Shater, Deputy Chairman of the MB, has affirmed his commitment to implementing Sharia -- Islamic Law -- in post-Mubarak Egypt.

Yesterday (Tuesday 4/3/12) El-Shater met with the Jurisprudence Commission for Rights and Reform. This umbrella group of Islamic scholars, including MB and Salafist party representatives, was established after last year's uprising against President Hosni Mubarak as a coalition to represent the popular traditionalist Islamic political factions. According to the Post report,

The group, called the Jurisprudence Commission for Rights and Reform, said in a posting on its Facebook page that el-Shater promised that, if elected, he would form a council of clerics to review legislation to ensure it adheres to Islamic Shariah law.

Predictably, the Post also reports, "A Brotherhood spokesman could not immediately confirm the offer."

Al-Shater's promise to the Jurisprudence Commission for Rights and Reform served as a reminder of the MB's 2007 political platform that included a similar provision, mandating that parliament consult with a religious council of clerics when drafting legislation to assure compliance with Islam's religio-political totalitarian Sharia. Salient features of the 2007 180-page draft platform included the proposed the establishment of the Supreme Council of Clerics, to whom the Egyptian president and legislative branches must defer on issues of conformity to the Sharia. The platform document also stated that women and non-Muslims were barred from serving as president of Egypt, and further stipulated that international agreements signed by past governments -- including the 1979 Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty -- were to be reexamined and brought to a public referendum.

Over thirty years ago, in 1979, Hava Lazarus-Yafeh described the perverse phenomenon -- borne of complete Western rejection -- that nevertheless caused an "amalgamation" of Islamic and Western values in the warped political language of Islam's contemporary theocrats. The Muslim Brotherhood -- then and now -- represents the apotheosis of that totalitarian Islamic trend:

When calling for an Islamic totalitarian Republic, wherein the ulama [scholars of Islam] hoped to restore God's will in history, they used Western concepts of democracy, liberty, equality etc.... All of these contemporary religious leaders in Islam were raised and nourished by the literary activity of the Modernists who consciously blurred the differences between East and West. Hence we may understand the unintelligible [note: to Westerners with their wits about them!] phenomenon of the Muslim Brotherhood, for example, talking about Islamic democracy and freedom while cultivating a vision of an Islamic State, which is certainly a far cry from any Western democracy.

Andrew G. Bostom


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Sharia in America — on The Glazov Gang

by Jamie Glazov

Robert Spencer, Bruce Thornton and Nonie Darwish recently joined The Glazov Gang to discuss The Islamic War on Free Speech in America. All three parts of this three-part series can be found below. Part I deals with The Islamic War on Free Speech in America, Part II focuses on Trayvon Martin, Race Hustlers and Media Bias and Part III sheds light on Robert Spencer’s new book: Did Muhammad Exist?

Part I:

Part II:

Part III:

Jamie Glazov


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Obama’s Knife in Israel’s Back

by David Meir-Levi

In his March 28th article, “Israel’s Secret Staging Ground,” in Foreign Policy, Mark Perry revealed previously secret information about Israel’s dealings with Azerbaijan; and many are now of the opinion that his article was in reality Obama’s knife in Israel’s back. According to Perry, four unnamed senior diplomats and military intelligence officers leaked information indicating that Israel has purchased air force bases in Azerbaijan for use in preparation for an attack on Iran.

The likelihood that it is mere coincidence that four senior diplomatic and military intelligence sources separately leaked the same information at the same time is very small. So John Bolton holds Obama responsible. Bolton suggests that because Obama’s private efforts to prevent an Israeli attack on Iran have failed, he decided to ratchet up the pressure on Israel by revealing sensitive, secret information that, once available to Iran, will make an Israeli offensive less likely to succeed, and thus be a deterrent to such an offensive.[1] This is surely not the sort of thing that a head of state does to an ally; but it might be the sort of thing that an unconscionably Machiavellian President running for re-election might do if he perceives that an Israeli strike on Iran might be a political liability for him.

The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry denies any collusion with Israel, and, indeed, Azerbaijan is a rather unlikely ally for the Jewish state; but Wikileaks gives a solid basis for such collusion, the motivation for which may be Azerbaijan’s perception of Iran as an existential enemy.

Some Israeli analysts deride the very idea that Israel could be in league with Azerbaijan for a variety of strategic and tactical, military, logistical and political reasons, including the fact that an Iranian revenge attack on Azerbaijan’s oil production facilities could easily destroy the country’s entire economy.

But these commentators all miss the point. It does not matter whether or not the information is correct. Those who leaked it presumably thought that it was. It does not matter that the President says that he did not knife Israel in the back and has “no interest” in leaks of this kind, or that “…the US is crawling with thousands of intelligence and former intelligence officials.” The buck stops at Obama’s desk. He is the Commander-in-Chief of those thousands. Yet his response is dismissive, nonchalant, and insouciant: hardly the appropriate attitude when an ally’s secret defensive plans have been compromised, with potentially existential consequences.

In the context of a broader perspective this incident takes on rather dire dimensions, as it is the latest in a long line of anti-Israel statements and actions originating with Obama or with those working close to him.

This past February Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta told Iran that he thinks Israel will strike as early as April. So Israel’s ally tells Israel’s enemy when Israel will strike. Surely, for Iran, this is “news you can use.” Was this just a gaff, or was it an intentional leak meant to undermine Israel’s military options? Panetta answers to Obama, but Obama seems to be insouciant, saying nothing.

Another problem regarding Obama’s silence is the recent flap about a State Department official’s refusal to acknowledge that Jerusalem is the official capital of Israel. This official is not to blame. She was merely conforming to the directives of her employer, the U.S. Department of State, which, despite Congress’ Jerusalem embassy act of 1995, and the recent Supreme Court decision recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, continues to ignore U.S. law. The State Department answers to the President, and the President is silent, insouciant, on this issue.

But he did have something to say about the status of Jerusalem on the White House website. Not too long ago Obama himself ordered the removal of all references to “Jerusalem, Israel” from the White House website, replacing them with “Jerusalem.” What could be Obama’s motive for divesting Israel of its capital, and Jerusalem of its Jewish state? Connecting some recent dots will offer an answer to that question.

To a mostly Jewish AIPAC audience on June 4, 2008, front-running Presidential candidate Obama announced that “Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel and it must remain undivided.” But only a few days later, after being assailed by Arab-American and Palestinian spokespersons, he told a mostly Arab audience that “…it’s going to be up to the parties to negotiate.” [2] To which audience did he lie?

But as the world had already learned a few months earlier, he was willing to divide not only Jerusalem, but all of Israel. In January, 2008, Obama said he supported the division of Israel into two parts by a Palestinian state.[3] This stunning comment came as Obama, struggling to articulate his stance on key Mideast issues, asserted that “The Palestinians have a legitimate concern that a state have a contiguous coherent mass that would allow the state to function effectively.” Was Obama not aware that a land corridor between Gaza and the West Bank would effectively cut Israel in half, making it incoherent and non-contiguous, divided into northern and southern portions? Was this merely the gaff of an inexperienced, flustered and geographically challenged presidential candidate trying to accommodate Arab-American voters, or was Obama stating a priority that presaged a series of later presidential anti-Israel words and deeds?

Looking back a bit further into Obama’s not-too-distant past, one may be able to find the likely answer to these questions.

During his presidential campaign (2007-08) he revealed to the press the names of those to whom he would look for guidance on Middle East issues, his “brain trust” as it were: Zbigniew Brzezinski, Anthony Lake, Susan Rice, Bettylu Saltzman, Robert Malley,[4] and Samantha Power, among others – a dream team for the anti-Israel crowd at home and abroad. Given his choice of advisors, it was not difficult to predict that he would be no friend of Israel.

And speaking of advisors, let’s recall Obama’s mentor and spiritual guide, the Reverend Dr. Jeremiah Wright who glad-handed and honored the notorious anti-Israel and anti-Jewish and anti-homosexual Louis Farrakhan, and who is still active in anti-Israel activities with his most recent participation in the planning of the “Global March on Jerusalem” (GMJ). Did Obama sit in Wright’s fire-and-brimstone anti-Israel church and never inhale?

It is also important to recall Obama’s comfort and conviviality with Arab and Arab-American anti-Israel leaders[5], some of whom saw him as a friend of “Palestine” whom they could trust to take strong pro-Palestinian positions once in the White House. Such leaders included the likes of Edward Said, Rashid Khalidi and Ali Abunimah. Obama’s attendance at a vociferously anti-Israel celebration with these and other Palestinian-American leaders back in 2003 was apparently something of a political embarrassment to Obama during his election campaign, so much so that The Los Angeles Times withheld the video of his participation.

It was at this event that Obama is said to have told Ali Abunimah not to press him about Palestinian issues, explaining that he would be able to do more for the Palestinians once he is elected a U.S. Senator. Obama later denied saying that, but Abunimah never publicly retracted the statement and alluded to it several times in public appearances where he expressed his disappointment in Obama’s positive statements about Israel.

Obama’s comment to Abunimah was an eerie precursor to his recent “hot mike” gaff with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. Just as he did not want his voting constituency to know what he planned to do for the Palestinians once elected to the U.S. Senate, so too does he not want the American public to know what sort of flexibility toward Russia he looks forward to, regarding missile defenses, once elected to his second term as President. Obviously in both cases the nature of this post-election flexibility is something that, if known, would reduce his chances of being elected.

Given the above, it may be premature to suggest that Obama wants Iran to win, but clearly he wants Israel to lose.


[1] See for a comprehensive summary of the damage that this leak may cause for Israel. For the most detailed, in-depth and objective summary and analysis of the issue of why an Israeli attack on Iran may create problems for the USA and constitute a liability for the President see .

[2] The video of that speech is no longer available on line but see excerpts at ; and for the flip-flop when speaking to Arab audiences see: and

[3] Originally published with video in Israel Insider, Jan. 29, 2008. The article and video are no longer on line, but available at .

[4] But see for a summary of his defenders on the issue of his attitude toward Israel.

[5] For details of Obama’s connections to radical Islam, CAIR and Farrakhan see; ;; and (for his wife’s connections too).

David Meir-Levi


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