Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Barry Rubin: Why the Israeli-Palestinian Agreement Is Absurd

by Barry Rubin

It makes sense that the Israel-Palestinian agreement is being made with Obama and Kerry in charge. The deal offers a kind of neo-mandate, with an American presence entrenched in the Jordan Valley for the next 10 years.  That’s no joke.
Let’s look at a different but parallel “pacification” effort and see what happened there. The Afghanistan peace talks with Taliban have gone absolutely dreadfully, and President Karzai is very dissatisfied. The results are–not surprisingly–unsatisfactory.
Let’s consider casualties in that case and a couple of others.
As of the end of 2013, roughly 3,000 Western troops have been killed in Afghanistan. Western forces will retreat with their tails between their legs and will probably abandon the government to horrible massacres and long wars following a Taliban victory.
Since the start of the ongoing civil war in Syria, there have been about 200,000 casualties–mostly civilians. A truly staggering number.
The population of the West Bank is about 3.1 million; if losses will be proportional to those in neighboring nations, the cost of American soldier’s lives would be high.
So, if the Obama/Kerry peace deal does go through, what would the risks be?
  • Dozens of Israeli civilians would be at risk of being killed by cross-border Palestinian-Arab and Islamist terrorist attacks, even if the settlements did not exist.
  • And of course, how fast would U.S. troops respond to such attacks?
  • Might there be an intifada in Jordan, a neighboring country with a Palestinian majority and a very strong Muslim Brotherhood opposition?
  • Remember too that the peace treaty would be incomplete, unable to involve the Hamas-led Gaza Strip. And incomplete peace treaties cannot stand.
In the Gaza Strip, there are more than 1.6 million people under the rule of Hamas. This government will do everything it can to sabotage the peace process. And U.S. help to the PA will be presented as collaboration with the infidels. There is no possibility of their participation in this agreement. That means that even in the best of circumstances, even if the PA is at peace with Israel, Hamas will be in an ongoing war with Israel.
So what great advantage is peace with the West Bank and war with Gaza?
It is predictable that Hamas will attempt to carry out cross-border raids and fire missiles at Israel. What is the U.S. position on that? Is the United States at war with Hamas? CIA director John Brennan, the architect of Obama ideology, publically–but not officially–has said that he wants to make peace with Hamas.
Is the PA going to cooperate with Hamas or at least radical segments of the PA? Remember during the Second Intifada, from 2000 to 2005, Fatah did cooperate with Hamas.
Moreover, if Fatah were to change its policy, it might get support from countries such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and so on. Turkey, for example–which is now a conduit for the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, Salafists, and al-Qa’ida obtaining arms–knows that most of its policy with the Arabs will be dependent on its degree of support to the Palestinians, including cooperation if there is a Palestinian state. The fact is that Turkey has pinned its hopes on Turkish influence in the Arab world, and to associate with aggressive support of Palestine would be key to its popularity. What if aid from Turkey and these other countries prepares Palestine to fight?
What is the United States, an ally with Israel, going to do if Palestine is created by its own agreement but wages a war of terrorism against Israel?
By the way, let’s remember that Mahmoud Abbas will probably be replaced in the next few years. It is very hard to predict whom he will be replaced by, but the most popular candidate is a serious hardliner.
Shaykh Abd al-Muhsin al-Mutairi stated, “Oh servants of Allah, how saddening and very painful it is to see many Muslim youths glued to TV screens at cafes or at home, passionately watching entertainment shows, like the Football World Cup, in despicable subjugation to the abominations of the other nations–as if we were not a nation with a brilliant history and a lofty civilization.”
And guess who they blame?
“The Jews were successful in preoccupying the Muslim youth–except those protected by Allah–with the most inane matters, distracting them from important things…”
It is important to understand that millions of people believe this–thoroughly and completely–and can be motivated by these kinds of arguments to the point of killing or supporting terrorism. This is reality; even if it is not unanimous, it is a major motive. If you don’t understand that a majority of people in the Arab-Islamic world believe this, you cannot understand this is the majority view. Certainly Obama and Kerry do not understand this.
So, what are the potential issues that stem from this mindset?
  • Any Muslim killed by a Christian American soldier will be a reason for revenge. This is to engage in a blood feud. Even if a terrorist band has captured a kindergarten and shot children, there will be sympathy in the streets among Arabs and Muslims. If Palestinians are killed by Americans, there will be retaliation.
  •  A terrorist attack at a Kansas airport, Boston, or Fort Hood would be viewed as justification for causalities in Palestine.
  • Remember that the prospects for Arab terrorist movements are much better than Afghan ones, because they have many weapon suppliers–including Libya, Lebanon, al-Qa’ida, Syria, and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.
  • Also, in comparison with populated Afghan villages, Palestinians are concentrated in villages and small towns. Let us consider the American patrol knocking down doors in Jordan Valley towns.
In short, an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement is not going to be a picnic. Hamas and likely Fatah as well will attempt to kill Americans and commit terrorism. Forget Iranian nuclear weapons; this will be a war of AK-47s and rockets from Gaza. Does Obama Care?
This is definitely a war in which America will get bogged down, or the United States may stay a few years and leave. Just look at the situation in Afghanistan–either this agreement will never be implemented or it will be a disaster.

Barry Rubin

Source: http://www.gloria-center.org/2013/12/why-the-israeli-palestinian-agreement-is-absurd/

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

Seeing is Believing

by Dr. Haim Shine

Has Justice Minister Tzipi Livni joined Yedioth Ahronoth's official choir? Livni, too, has begun working against the country and its ability to survive in a hostile world. One can become chronically depressed by the apocalyptic prophecies about what will be in store for us if we continue to insist on our right to the land of Israel and to life as a free people in our own homeland. If David Ben-Gurion had thought accordingly, we would still to this day not have a country. And if the Irgun underground fighters had suffered from such a defeatist spirit, the British would still be here.

Tzipi Livni openly declares that Israeli citizens, even those living in Tel Aviv, can expect boycotts, ostracism and a fatal blow to the economy if the government does not acquiesce to the dictates and desires of the Palestinians and the Americans. The justice minister has yet to internalize that Ehud Olmert is no longer prime minister and that the willingness to retreat and pack up the national flag has been replaced with a principled stance, vision and security arrangements for the many generations of Jews to come. In the past, too, we have been threatened, but we are still here, growing stronger.

We returned to Israel to be a free people in our own homeland, not to build a Diaspora community which bases its moves on the whims of one lord or another. Despite the spirit of gloom espoused by Yedioth's pundits, the Zionist vision is coming to fruition, the land of Israel is being built and we have every reason to be optimistic. Despite the impression that certain media outlets are trying to create -- the people are strong, determined and wiser from their experiences. They understand better than some government ministers that by succumbing we only increase the other side's tenacity, and that all of our past capitulations have not led to conciliation or peace -- but rather to painful military campaigns. 

The Americans are very open to hearing the voices emanating from Israel. But Livni's comments only serve to drive them to apply more pressure. Any expression of weakness invites added pressure to achieve something. They need a diplomatic victory like they need air, after the entire world has discovered that its arrangements with Syria and Iran are, for all intents and purposes, worthless.

Moshe Dayan, in his eulogy in 1956 to Roi Rothberg, who was killed by an Arab sniper in Nahal Oz near Gaza, said: "The yearning for peace deafened his ears, and he didn't hear the sound of death lying in ambush." The disingenuous calls for peace emanating from within us could mislead the public and weaken its resolve. I often wonder how people, who are considered intelligent, can blind themselves to reality. Our fortune is that today's leaders understand the illusion of peace is as dangerous as war.

Dr. Haim Shine

Source: http://www.israelhayom.com/site/newsletter_opinion.php?id=6863

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

Has Israel Made Sacrifices for Peace?

by Jonathan S. Tobin

One of the clichés of commentary about the Middle East is the idea that it is time for the people of Israel to put their fears aside and make needed sacrifices for peace. That was the conceit of some of President Obama’s remarks when he visited Israel earlier in 2013 despite the fact that he couched this advice with some badly needed support for Israel’s right to exist and to defend itself. But the president and those who have expressed this sentiment both before and after his remarks ignored the fact that Israel has made many such sacrifices and risks for the sake of peace. In the 20 years since the signing of the Oslo Accords, Israel has withdrawn from territory only to learn that land-for-peace deals with the Palestinians generally translate into an exchange of land for terror, not a cessation of the conflict. And yet no number of concessions has ever been seen as enough to remove the onus from Israel. It is in this context that the latest Israeli concessions must be understood.

The price that Israel was asked to pay to get the Palestinian Authority back to the negotiating table after years of their boycotting such talks was the release of terrorist murderers. The first batch of killers was set free in the fall. The second group is due to be freed today and it is expected that they, like the others before them, will be greeted as heroes by not just the Palestinian people but also the PA leadership, including its head Mahmoud Abbas. When Secretary of State John Kerry was asked about the pain Israelis felt about this spectacle in November, he dismissed the concern while expressing no sympathy or understanding. As far as he was concerned, Palestinians who murder Jews in cold blood belong to a different category of terrorists than those who kill Americans and whom the U.S. would never consider releasing.

But to bring home just how egregious is a peace process that is built upon such a shaky edifice, here, courtesy of the Times of Israel, is a list of each one of the killers who will be released today, with their crimes and the identity of their victims. While no one should expect that this gesture, any more than the ones that preceded it, will be enough to silence those who call for Israelis to make such sacrifices, anyone who dares to make such a statement should be forced to read it and ponder how a Palestinian government that embraces such people and holds them up as role models in their official media could actually be a partner for peace.

Muhammad Yusuf Adnan Elafandi, arrested May 13, 1992, for stabbing two youths in Jerusalem. After the attack, his life was saved by an Israeli woman who defended him from a lynch mob. He was convicted of attempted murder. The woman who saved his life, Bella Freund, was the subject of a song by the hip hop band Hadag Nahash, in collaboration with rocker Barry Sakharof.
Farid Ahmed Shahade, arrested February 16, 1985, for the murder of Yosef Farhan, a suspected collaborator with Israel, in Jaffa.
Yakoub Muhammad Ouda Ramadan, Afana Mustafa Ahmad Muhammad, and Da’agna Nufal Mahmad Mahmoud, arrested April 1, 1993. The three were convicted of stabbing Sara Sharon, 37, to death in Holon on January 20, 1993.
Abu al Rub Mustafa Mahmoud Faisal and Kamil Awad Ali Ahmad, convicted of murder in the killing of 20-year-old IDF soldier Yoram Cohen in a shootout in the West Bank town of Jenin. Ali Ahmad was also convicted of kidnapping, torturing and murdering 15 Palestinians suspected of collaborating with Israel. Faisal was convicted of manslaughter in four of those cases.
Damara Ibrahim Mustafa Bilal, arrested June 16, 1989, and convicted of murdering Steven Friedrich Rosenfeld, 48, a US-born immigrant to Israel. Damra and several others accosted Rosenfeld outside the West Bank settlement of Ariel, grabbed the knife he was carrying, and stabbed him to death with it. His body was found on the following day by a Palestinian shepherd.
Abu Mohsin Khaled Ibrahim Jamal, arrested April 10, 1991, and convicted of murder. Abu-Muhsan ambushed Shlomo Yahya, a 76-year-old gardener, in a public park in Moshav Kadima and stabbed him to death.
Tamimi Rushdi Muhammad Sa’id, convicted of kidnapping and murdering Hayim Mizrahi at a Palestinian-owned farm outside the settlement of Beit El, where Mizrahi lived, in 1993. Mizrahi had come to the farm to shop for eggs.
Silawi Khaled Kamel Osama, one of three Palestinians convicted in the murder of Motti Biton. Similar to Mizrahi, Biton was shot while he was shopping for groceries in a Palestinian-owned store. Afterwards his wife, who was in the car outside, fired at his attackers, who detonated a pipe bomb and fled. Biton was gravely wounded in the attack and died in an Israeli hospital three days later. Osama was also convicted of murder and manslaughter in the deaths of four Palestinians suspected of collaborating with the authorities.
Sawafta Sudqi Abdel Razeq Mouhlas, who stabbed Yosef Malka (Malkin) to death on December 29, 1990, during an attempt to rob his home in Haifa.
Barham Fawzi Mustafa Nasser, arrested December 20, 1993, for the murder of Morris (Moshe) Edri. Nasser, a former employee of Edri, 65, ambushed Edri and stabbed him in the back. After he was apprehended, he said he had carried out the murder to prove that he was worthy of joining Hamas.
Yusuf Ahmed Nu’aman Al-Shalvi, Mahmad Anis Aiman Jaradat, and Ahmad Yusuf Bilal Abu-Hassin, convicted of murdering multiple Palestinians suspected of collaborating with Israel.
Mahmad Naim Shawmra Yunis, convicted of murder in the death of Yossef Hayun, a police sapper who was killed while attempting to disarm a bomb in Moshav Shekef in June 1993.
Mahmud Muhammad Salman, arrested May 6, 1994, and convicted in the murder of Shai Shoker. Salman strangled Shoker with a shoelace outside Tira on February 2, 1994.
Ahmed Ibrahim Jamal Abu-Jamal, convicted of attempted murder. Abu-Jamal was slated for release in 2016.
Mahmoud Ibrahim Abu-Ali Faiz, convicted of murdering Ronny Levy.
Zaki Rami Barbakh Jawdat, convicted of murdering Yosef Zandani.
Mustafa Ahmed Khaled Jumaa, convicted of aggravated assault, up for release in 2014.
Abu Hadir Muhammad Yassin Yassin, convicted of murder. Yassin shot Yigal Shahaf, 24, in the head while Shahaf and his wife were walking through Jerusalem’s Old City toward the Western Wall. Shahaf died in hospital on the following day. The murder weapon had been bought from a Jewish Israeli. Yassin was slated for release in 2016.
Muammar Ata Mahmoud Mahmoud and Salah Khalil Ahmad Ibrahim, convicted of murdering Menahem Stern, a history professor at Hebrew University. Stern, 64, a winner of the prestigious Israel Prize, was stabbed to death while walking to work at the university’s Givat Ram campus on June 22, 1989. A monument in his memory figures in a scene from the prize-winning Israeli film “Footnote.” Ibrahim was also convicted in the murder of Eli Amsalem. In addition, the two murdered a Palestinian suspected of collaborating with Israel, Hassin Zaid.
Taqtuq Lutfi Halma Ibrahim, arrested March 3, 1989, and convicted of murder in the shooting of IDF soldier Binyamin Meisner, on February 24, 1989, in Nablus.

Jonathan S. Tobin

Source: http://www.commentarymagazine.com/2013/12/30/israels-sacrifices-for-peace-prisoner-release-terrorism-israel-palestinians/

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

Murderers or Houses: Kerry’s V.A.T. on Peace

by Eugene Kontorovich

The release of unrepentant Jew-killers from Israeli prisons to keep the engine of the peace process running has left many, even those sympathetic with the Jewish presence in Judea and Samaria, angrily wondering why Prime Minister Netanyahu did not accept a settlement freeze instead. There is a good reason, even for those not generally sympathetic to the Jewish presence: unlike the other concessions, a settlement freeze implicitly concedes Israel’s chief negotiating positions before even sitting down at the table.

The first thing to say is that the position Israel was put in by Secretary of State John Kerry and the Palestinians was fundamentally unjust. Israel is forced to make sacrifices even for the “privilege” of participating in peace negotiations to whose ultimate goal is “painful sacrifices” by Israel. In Israel, politicians talk about paying “the price” for peace. Kerry has put a price on paying the price: a value-added tax on peace.

Moreover, if the occupation were so terrible (or real) one would think Abbas would be in a hurry to get to the bargaining table without any preliminaries. This suggests Abbas is not in such a hurry to get an “end of the occupation” so much as particular tactical wins. Moreover, the fact that a top priority for Abbas is the release of mass murders so they can be feted and remunerated shows that “peace” is not vaguely on the horizon, regardless of whether a Kerry diplomatic achievement is. If Bibi partied down with Jewish terrorist Baruch Goldstein, it would be the end of his career.

Still, why did Bibi take this option, of all the bad ones presented to him? We know he is not a slave of the settlers: he has imposed a construction freeze before, for 10 months, simply to entice Abbas to the table. It did not work, Abbas ran down the clock, and demanded an extension. So that has been tried.

But aren’t houses less important than justice for the murdered? Of course. However, unlike the release of terrorists, a construction freeze is fundamentally related to the substance of the negotiations themselves. That is, of all the proposed “gestures,” the freeze would not only be problematic in itself, but would have Israel start negotiations on its back foot.

Not allowing Jews to build houses in most of Jerusalem, in settlement blocs like Gush Etzion, Maale Adumim, and elsewhere that would surely remain under Israel sovereignty sends one message: we have absolutely no right to be here. We are trespassers. It is one thing to say the Palestinians can have a state because of demographic reasons, international pressure, and so forth. It is another thing to say we are trespassers in the Old City of Jerusalem and Hebron, where Jews lived until being expelled by Arab armies and mobs. A settlement freeze in effect agrees to the 1967 lines as the basis for negotiations–which even if it were a good idea, is a lot more than a “gesture of good faith.” It is one thing to say these territories should become Palestinian territory. It is another to say Israel took them from the Palestinians, that they always were, as Abbas claims, Palestinian territory.

Of course, the way the narrative of the peace process is structured, Israel should not be surprised at the pay-to-play. And for this situation, the tireless proponents of “peace” bear primary responsibility. If, as the left argues, Israel needs peace more than the Palestinians need it, no wonder the Palestinians will charge Israel heavily for the privilege of giving them a state.

That is indeed why the Palestinian demands go far beyond the end of occupation or having an independent state. The right of return? What does that have to do with the end of occupation? A capital in Jerusalem, which no Arab state has had? An end to Jewish control over the Holy Basin? Nothing to do with an independent state. These are additional political add-ons. Sovereignty over the Jordan Valley? Ditto; almost no Arabs (or Jews) live there; control over it is a territorial demand rather than an independence-related one.

Interestingly, the Labor Party, while favoring a two-state solution, was until recently against icing the cake–against the division of Jerusalem, ceding sovereignty over Jerusalem, and a right of return. Yet in succeeding rounds of peace negotiations, they have accepted all three in some form. This erosion of their position is natural. Once peace is defined as an existential Israeli interest–once Israeli politicians have resorted to the cheap tactic of threatening apartheid and illegitimacy–there is nowhere back to go, only forward with endless concessions.

Eugene Kontorovich

Source: http://www.commentarymagazine.com/2013/12/30/murders-or-houses-kerrys-v-a-t-on-peace/

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

Putin's no-win Situation

by Kim Zigfeld

Desperate to salvage his pet project of staging the Olympic Games from a public relations nightmare, the Russia dictator Vladimir Putin began releasing numerous political prisoners last week. But even as he did so, an expected wave of terrorist attacks began sweeping the country, leaving the prospects for Putin's propaganda games exceptionally bleak.

The native denizens of the Caucasus region believe that Putin is staging the Olympics on holy land, essentially their ancestral burial grounds, and they are outraged. What's more, Putin has failed to quell the separatist movement that has been roiling the region ever since he came to power. These powerful twin forces give rise to inevitable efforts by terrorists to use violence to undermine and destroy the Olympic effort, something the rebel leader Doku Umarev has openly promised.

Over the weekend, not one but two massive terrorist explosions rocked Volgograd, formerly Stalingrad, the closest major Russian metropolis to the Olympic venues in Sochi. Using suicide bombers, first the terrorists struck the main train station and then a bus in a crowded marketplace. In all, more than 30 residents were killed and dozens more injured. The successful attack on the train station was particularly unnerving, since it was guarded and had metal detectors.

There are two theories regarding the Volgograd attacks: One holds that the attacks were diversionary, designed to draw Russian security forces away from Sochi so that a bigger attack can be carried out there; the other holds that the terrorists don't intend to strike Sochi, but to strike the Russian heartland which has been left largely defenseless as massive security forces are concentrated on Sochi.

Putin faces a no-win situation: If he cracks down hard enough in Sochi, he may prevent terror acts at the Olympic venues but he will destroy the Olympic spirit, just as the terrorists desire, and he'll leave the Russian heartland wide open to monumental attacks that will make Russians ask why he would sacrifice his own people for a public-relations campaign and show of ego.

What's particularly disturbing about this risk of terrorism at Sochi is that it has been clearly understood from the moment Russia bid for the games. Instead of looking to make peace in the region, Putin has pursued a policy of crackdown and confrontation that has only worsened animosities and added fuel to the terrorist fire. And Putin can hardly be blamed for wanting the games to stoke his massive ego. The International Olympic Committee and the leaders of the Western democracies are deeply complicit in the creating this horrible risk to Olympians and spectators because they should never have awarded the games to Russia.

Even without the terrorist threat, however, the Putin games face devastating peril on the public relations front because of the innumerable political prisoners the dictatorial regime has seized since Putin came to power. Clearly aware of the risk he faces, Putin has begun releasing some of the prisoners hoping to blunt international scrutiny during the games.

The contrast could not have been more stark in regard to three of those freed activists. One, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, sold out to the Kremlin in order win freedom. The other two, Maria Alekhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova of the Pussy Riot performance art collective, held out and continued to confront the Kremlin, winning freedom anyway.

An interesting photograph surfaced on Twitter the other day. It showed a blonde-haired surfer dude in shades riding a bright green racing motorcycle down a highway. He's wearing only a bathing suit and flip-flops, no helmet, and he has a large Siberian husky behind him in the girlfriend position. Needless to say, the husky has no helmet either.

Looking at the photograph, you asked yourself: Does he love or hate that dog?

Because one wrong move, of course, and the dog is a pancake. It can't exactly wrap its paws around the biker's waist and securely clasp its hands together like a girlfriend might do, and it can't exactly understand the type of risk it is facing should the slightest little thing go wrong. Suppose the dog suddenly forgets he's going 75 miles an hour and decides to go chase a squirrel?

But the dog does seem rather sanguine and relaxed zipping along at high speed, one could almost think it's having fun. Of course, appearances can be deceiving, particularly where a creature with low intelligence is involved.

One can ask the same question about Vladimir Putin: Does he love or hate Russia?

Putin has his country in retrograde. He has restored almost every aspect of the failed Soviet dictatorship, from the stagnating economy to the political repression to the cold-war provocations which include militarizing the Arctic and repeatedly buzzing the U.S. with nuclear bombers. The only important difference is that instead of the Comintern, Putin has the Russian Orthodox Church.

Here's Putin in a nutshell: As the economy tanked, the Russian ruble hit its lowest value in four years, a stunning one-third down from 2008. Putin's response? All he could manage was to roll out a new symbol for the currency, in other words to wallpaper over massive cracks in the economic foundation just as his Soviet ancestors used to do.

And, of course, as his approval ratings continue to plunge along with his economy, Putin is also aggressively pursuing the Soviet tactic of liquidating his critics, like Khodorkovsky, Alekhina and Tolokonnikova. But his decision to host the Olympics handed the activists just the leverage they needed to wedge themselves out of the neo-Soviet gulag. Whether they'll be able to remain at liberty after the games conclude is anyone's guess.

With Khodorkovsky, Putin succeeded brilliantly. After ten years in prison, the former oil magnate and the first man to seriously challenge Putin's authority, his company gone into Putin's pocket, Khodorkovsky finally broke. He agreed that if released he would leave the country and cease opposition to Putin, and promptly did just that. He even called for the world to let the Winter Olympics unfold in Russia as if Putin weren't hurling his country back into its terrifying and failed past at breakneck speed. It was one of the most nauseating moments in all of Russian history. 

The darkness would have been unbearable had it not been for the brilliant light cast by Alekhina and Tolokonnikova. Unbowed after 20 months at hard labor in Putin's gulag, the pair of performance artists turned human rights activists had used hunger strikes and international pressure to pressure the Kremlin toward prison reforms, and Tolokonnikova's first words as she first tasted free air were: "Russia without Putin!" They called their release a "PR stunt" and said they'd have preferred to serve out their sentences.

Simply glowing with their newfound power and gravitas (world-famous artists around the globe had rallied to their cause after they were arrested for staging a protest against Putin's cozy relationship with the church by singing a satirical song in a church), the pair vowed to remain committed to blocking Putin's path towards national disaster.

Within days of each other, Khodorkovsky and Alekhina & Tolokonnikova held press conferences. The contrast could not have been more stark. From abroad, ensconced in a $5000 per might luxury hotel room, the aging Khodorkovsky promised he would not challenge Putin and called for an end to protest activity at the Winter Olympics in Sochi. From Russia, the young and glowing Alekhina & Tolokonnikova vowed to continue battling Putin until he's removed from power.

So Putin faces extensive pressure from both civil society and barbaric terrorists. He may have bitten off more than he can chew with his Sochi bid, already the most financially profligate in world history, staged at time when the economy is foundering. This year's Olympics will be among the most dramatic in history, and there is little chance the drama will be to Putin's liking.

Follow Kim Zigeld on Twitter @larussophobe.

Source: http://www.americanthinker.com/2013/12/putins_no-win_situation.html

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

France: The Looming Battle over Muslim Integration

by Soeren Kern

Among the long list of recommendations...the panel says that public schools in France should be taught in Arabic and African languages rather than in French.
"It would no longer be up to French immigrants to adopt French culture, but for France to abandon its own culture, language, history and identity to adapt to other people's cultures." — Jean-François Copé, UMP Party.
Instead of integration, "parallel societies are forming that continuously distance themselves from each other." — Alain Finkielkraut, author of L'identité malheureuse.

A panel appointed by French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault to review France's integration policies has urged the government to implement a "new form of secularism" that would raise the profile of Islam in public life—in order to improve the integration of Muslim immigrants.

Among a long list of recommendations aimed at "recognizing the richness of multiple identities," the panel says that public schools in France should begin allowing Muslim pupils to wear headscarves in class (clothing that has been outlawed since 2004), and that courses should be taught in Arabic and African languages rather than in French.

The panel also recommends a number of other multicultural changes that would provide greater recognition to the "Arab-oriental dimension" of France's national identity. These include changing street and place names, overhauling the history curriculum taught in schools and creating a special day to honor the contribution of immigrant cultures.

More notably, the panel says that authorities and the media should be prohibited from referring to people's nationality, religion or ethnicity in public, and that the government should create a new law that would make "racial harassment" a punishable offense.

The controversial recommendations are contained in a series of five documents that were discretely posted on the prime minister's official website in November, but only came to public attention on December 12, after an exposé by the French daily newspaper, Le Figaro.

Not surprisingly, the proposals to develop an "inclusive secularism" in France have sparked a firestorm of criticism.

Jean-François Copé, the leader of France's main opposition party, the conservative UMP, said in a statement that the proposals are "explosive and irresponsible" because they replace "the one and indivisible French Republic with a motley assembly of communities, ethnicities and groups of all kinds." According to Copé:
"This report is an attempt to make multiculturalism the new model for France. It would no longer be up to immigrants to adopt French culture, but for France to abandon its own culture, language, history and identity to adapt to other people's cultures...I cannot accept that we build a society where 'responsibilities' are completely replaced by 'rights.' French voters should know that in this report the word 'responsibility' appears only 13 times, while the word 'right' is repeated 440 times."
Copé also accused the government of using the report to deliberately drive voters towards the anti-immigration National Front (FN) party in order to weaken the UMP.

The leader of the FN, Marine Le Pen—who has attained record-breaking popularity due to her criticism of runaway immigration—said the report's recommendations are "a very grave provocation" and implementing them would be tantamount to "a declaration of war on the French people."

The negative reaction to the report has put the ruling Socialists on the defensive.

French President François Hollande—the most unpopular French president on record, with approval ratings well below 30%—has distanced himself from some of the more explosive recommendations contained in the report, which he says do "not at all represent the government's position." Hollande also denies that the ban on Islamic veils in schools will be reversed.

Ayrault, who originally commissioned the report in July 2013 to recommend ways to "get the republican model of integration working again because it has broken down," said there are no plans to drop the headscarf ban. "Just because I receive a report does not make it government policy," he said.

A woman in a headscarf and full-face covering at a demonstration in Paris. (Photo credit: Ernest Morales)

Nevertheless, the report's recommendations are supposed to form the basis of future reforms ostensibly aimed at better integrating Muslim immigrants. These reforms will eventually be put to a vote in the French Parliament sometime during 2014.

In the face of public outcry, however, Ayrault cancelled a public seminar that had been planned to discuss the report's recommendations, which will now be debated in a closed-door meeting tentatively set for January 9, 2014.

Other key Socialists have also distanced themselves from the recommendations, including Thierry Mandon, the spokesman for the Socialist group in the National Assembly, the lower house of the French Parliament.

"I do not envision that we will return to the law on the veil," said Mandon, who compared Hollande and Ayrault to over-eager students who go too far and end up with "extremist" formulas that will lead to the "de-Republicanization" of France.

In any event, the report has opened yet another chapter in the long-running debate over multiculturalism in France, which has the largest Muslim population in Western Europe.

The debate pits the Socialist supporters of multiculturalism in France against the Conservative republican camp, which is concerned about the steady disintegration of French society due to mass immigration, and which is calling for the return to the traditional values ​​of the French Republic.

Opinion polls show that a majority of people in France believe that multiculturalism has gone too far.

According to a poll published by Le Figaro in October 2012, 60% of French people believe that Islam has become "too visible and influential" in France and 43% consider the presence of Muslim immigrants to be a threat to French national identity, compared to just 17% who say it enriches society.

In addition, 68% of people in France blame the problems associated with Muslim integration on immigrants who refuse to integrate, and 52% blame it on cultural differences. The poll also shows a growing resistance to the symbols of Islam. Nearly two-thirds (63%) of French people say they are opposed to Muslim women wearing the veil or Islamic headscarves in public, and only 18% say they support the building of new mosques in France.

France has a long tradition of secularism in public institutions, especially in public schools where the absence of religion has long been considered essential to the country's ideals of equality and freedom of conscience.

In September 2013, the government introduced a "secularism charter" for schools. The document—which is to appear in a prominent location in all of the 55,000 public schools in France—would serve to remind students and teachers of a list of secular principles underpinning the separation of mosque and state.

Although the initiative has enjoyed a generally positive reception, many observers say they doubt Hollande has the political will actually to enforce secular principles in French schools, with or without a charter.

This skepticism stems from the circumstance that Muslim children constitute an increasingly large proportion of the 10 million students in the French public school system—and because Muslim parents make up an increasingly important voting bloc in French politics. Muslims, in fact, cast the deciding vote that thrust Hollande into the Elysée Palace in May 2012.

With major municipal elections in France coming up in March 2014 and European parliamentary ballots in May, speculation is rife that the flailing Hollande is seeking to leverage the debate over multiculturalism to further endear himself to Muslim voters.

But the French philosopher and essayist Alain Finkielkraut says multiculturalism and runway Muslim immigration are responsible for the destruction of French national identity.

In a politically incorrect interview with the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel on December 6 to discuss his latest book, "L'identité malheureuse" [The Unhappy Identity], Finkielkraut says European elites have consistently misrepresented multiculturalism as the model for the future. Instead, he says, "mistrust prevails, communitarianism is rampant—parallel societies are forming that continuously distance themselves from each other."

According to Finkielkraut:
"Immigration used to go hand-in-hand with integration into French culture. That was the rule of the game. Many of the new arrivals no longer want to play by that rule. If the immigrants are in the majority in their neighborhoods, how can we integrate them? … Many Muslims in Europe are re-Islamizing themselves. … The left does not want to accept that there is a clash of civilizations."
Finkielkraut sums it up: "I am of the opinion that our generation's task is not to recreate the world, but to prevent its decline. … I become sad and feel a growing sense of anxiety. Optimism would seem a bit ridiculous these days. I wish the politicians were able to speak the truth and look reality in the face. Then, I believe, France would be capable of a true awakening—of contemplating a policy of civilization."

Soeren Kern is a Senior Fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute. He is also Senior Fellow for European Politics at the Madrid-based Grupo de Estudios Estratégicos / Strategic Studies Group. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.
Source: http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/4113/france-muslim-integration

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

Lebanese Forces Fire at Syrian Aircraft in Lebanese Airspace

by Caroline Akoum

Clash is first time Lebanese military has responded to cross-border attacks

Sacks of bread and other relief material are prepared ready for transportation to Syrian refugees encamped in Arsal, in the Lebanese Bekaa valley, on December 17, 2013 (AFP PHOTO/IBRAHIM CHALHOUB)
Sacks of bread and other relief material are prepared ready for transportation to Syrian refugees encamped in Arsal, in the Lebanese Bekaa valley, on December 17, 2013 (AFP PHOTO/IBRAHIM CHALHOUB)

Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat—Military sources in Lebanon told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Lebanese army fired for the first time at Syrian military aircraft which violated its airspace on Monday morning. 

The sources said the army fired machine guns at Syrian military helicopters which attacked targets in Khirbet Daoud, near the settlement of Arsal, in the Beqaa Valley.

This was the first time Lebanese forces had fired at Syrian aircraft since the start of the Syrian conflict, despite reports of numerous Syrian raids on Lebanese territory.

Arsal is a predominantly Sunni Muslim village in northeast Lebanon. Its residents are seen as sympathetic to the uprising against the Alawite Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad. The area is also home to many Syrian refugees who have fled the war across the border. 

Ahmad Al-Flaiti, an MP and deputy mayor of Arsal, told Asharq Al-Awsat that “Syrian aircraft hovered for many hours through the night over the area Khirbet Daoud where some 500 Syrian families have taken refuge, and bombed it.”

Flaiti said “they tell us they are fighting terrorists, so, let them tell us what their targets are and where are they?” 

He also said that he feared that the camps housing Syrian refugees could become targets of Syrian bombardment at any time.

Sources said Syrian military aircraft fired missiles at a delegation from a Syrian village on their way to Arsal to attend a funeral. They said three people from Arsal were waiting for the delegation near Al-Rahwa area when they were attacked by Syrian aircraft.

This is the first retaliation by the Lebanese army against Syrian forces, although the area has come under Syrian army attack on a number of occasions, the last of which was last October, when a bus carrying injured people from inside Syria was attacked.

Lebanese army commanders said a Syrian helicopter violated Lebanese airspace near the Arsal area and fired two missiles towards the center of the town. The army command added that “army units in the area took defensive measures to respond immediately to any further violations.”

Lebanese President Michel Suleiman in June delivered a letter to the Arab League’s representative in Lebanon, and another to UN’s special coordinator for Lebanon, Derek Plumbly. 

Suleiman “informed them of the Syrian violations which Lebanon demands will not be repeated.” He pointed to violations of Lebanese borders by all warring sides in the Syrian conflict and called for the UN secretary-general to be informed of the issue and to raise the issue with the UN Security Council.

Caroline Akoum

Source: http://www.aawsat.net/2013/12/article55326240

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Kerry's Framework Proposal could be Explosive

by Shlomo Cesana, Mati Tuchfeld, Daniel Siryoti, Eli Leon and Yoni Hirsch

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is expected to present a framework proposal to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas later this week • PMO: At no stage was there an agreement to free Israeli Arab prisoners.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry [Archive]
Photo credit: Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO

Shlomo Cesana, Mati Tuchfeld, Daniel Siryoti, Eli Leon and Yoni Hirsch

Source: http://www.israelhayom.com/site/newsletter_article.php?id=14393

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

Red versus Blue States: A Divide Worth Having

by J. Robert Smith

It's hit the radar at the Washington Post, a liberal establishment mainstay, meaning liberaldom is or will be engaged. The "it' is the increasingly stark divide between the nation's red and blue states. Conservative states continue to track right, while blue states are becoming more liberal. Texans and Californians, for example, inhabit different worlds, and the differences are growing. The suspicion is that liberals are nervous about the divide breaking against them. 

Dan Balz, who wrote the Post article about the growing red-blue divide, gets it wrong in his lead. Penned Balz:
Political polarization has ushered in a new era in state government, where single-party control of the levers of power has produced competing Americas. One is grounded in principles of lean and limited government and on traditional values; the other is built on a belief in the essential role of government and on tenets of cultural liberalism.
With freedom, party control -- red or blue -- represents an end-result, not a first cause. "Single-party control" hasn't "produced competing Americas." Differences among Americans have engendered different Americas. Balz concedes as much later in his article:
In many more states, however, citizens are being governed by a philosophy and a set of policies that conform more closely to public opinion within their borders. That has accelerated the trend toward more-partisan governing, and as Ronald Brownstein and Stephanie Czekalinski wrote this year in National Journal, it is sometimes "straining the boundaries of federalism."
Much of the Brownstein and Czekalinski article bemoans that conservative states haven't gotten with the liberal program. It appears to chafe both that red states haven't tagged along with enhanced gun control, are tightening abortion restrictions, aren't promoting same-sex marriage, and aim at implementing dramatic reforms ranging from taxes to schools to public unions.

But Balz is really only partially wrong about the power of political parties (or more specifically, politicians), though I doubt he'd appreciate why. Brownstein and Czekalinski indirectly furnish the why:
Yet the general scope of congressional lawmaking and judicial decisions through the 20th century was to narrow the differences among the states. That was both because Washington assumed more power to set national standards (on environmental regulation, wage and hour laws, and racial equality, for instance), and because the Supreme Court established more national rights that overrode variations in state law (on everything from school desegregation to abortion and interracial marriage).
Stated another way, progressives, through the federal courts, principally, and legislatively, began the process nearly a century ago of breaching constitutional limits that thwarted ambitious politicians and factions from crimping liberties and imposing themselves through government. Politicians and parties today are better able to manipulate the system and impose themselves because constitutional constraints have loosened; that loosening has occurred in states, too.

Be that as it may, the government and policies Texans get fairly mirror what Texans want. Ditto Illinoisans, who get the profligate, overtaxed, indebted, and overregulated state they inhabit. New Yorkers and Californians get lenient abortion laws and same-sex marriage because, generally speaking, liberal social milieus are, at least, tolerable to most of them. Kansans and Idahoans, on the other hand, are socially more conservative, and their state laws regarding abortion and homosexual unions reflect that conservatism.

Brownstein and Czekalinski lament the long gone days when governors "were generally not the most partisan but those who most creatively blended ideas from the two parties." Of course, that pragmatism tended to favor liberalism, in that Republican governors were unlikely to challenge the reigning liberal orthodoxy -- accept one governor who became president, Ronald Reagan. Reagan's profound influence on the reinvigoration of conservatism nationally and in the states merits not a word from Brownstein and Czekalinski.

Differences among the states are good for Americans, and should be welcome to those of us who want more, not less, federalism. States as laboratories of democracy, per Jefferson, permit us to see which worldview is superior, the conservative or liberal one. Or states simply provide the societies that Americans of different stripes desire to inhabit. States that are starkly different in their relationships to liberty give Americans' choices.

But Balz's Post article hints that liberals are uneasy with the growing red-blue divide among states -- and not for the "good government, let's split our differences" trope Balz offers, but because "experiments in democracy" might lead to choices that the left would prefer not be made: either the overturn of liberal dominance in blue states or the continued - if not accelerated -- drain of productive citizens and enterprises from liberal states. (See Joel Kotkin's article, "Blue States Double-down on Suicide Strategy" at Forbes.)

Without overdoing the comparison, liberals may be discovering that they have a dilemma similar to that of the old communist regimes: the ambitious don't often stay where liberty is constricted or outright denied (though crony capitalism and big government have their adherents among the ambitious, for they see the potential to profit from either or both).

Clearly, Maryland isn't East Germany, but neither is it Texas. While Texas thrives mainly due to less government and free enterprise, Maryland is a federal government outpost; its economy relies heavily on federal spending, directly or indirectly. Its counties bordering or near the District of Columbia are bedroom communities for legions of federal workers and government contractors. The same thing can be said about northern Virginia.
Wrote Balz:
The values that underpin these governing strategies reflect contrasting political visions, and the differences can be seen in stark terms in the states. In a red state such as Texas, government exists mostly to get out of the way of the private sector while holding to traditional social values. In blue states such as California and Maryland, government takes more from taxpayers, particularly the wealthy, to spend on domestic priorities while advancing a cultural agenda that reflects the country's growing diversity.
So be it. Californians and Marylanders order their state as they see fit, though continuing to gouge the "wealthy" (liberally defined in blue states) leads productive citizens to find their ways elsewhere. Not for nothing have mostly blue states lost population and congressional representation every decade for a long time (why else are liberals so keen on opening the borders to illegals if not to find ways now and in the future of boosting their political clout?). New Yorkers and Pennsylvanians have sought more than sunshine and milder winters down south and out west: they've sought opportunities free from onerous taxation and red tape.

The left has long sought to nationalize government, which means a subordination of the states. In the meantime, liberals aren't blind to the advantages red states enjoy over blue states, in terms of siphoning off blue states' productive citizens and enterprises. Liberals see where many businesses choose to relocate. They appreciate that red states are often more affordable to Americans.

Critical to the nation's ongoing experiments in democracy is the imperative to roll back intrusive -- and often coercive -- national government. Washington is an informal ally of blue states, like Maryland, at the expense of red states, via legislation, court rulings, or executive fiat. What Washington can't annex from states outright, it uses taxpayers' dollars to leverage compliance with federal rules and regulations.

The Obama presidency has been largely an attempt by the left to reenergize and reassert national government at the expense of true federalism. President Obama is the "anti-Reagan." The left wants leftism regnant in every state and locality and is using a bolder national government to impose itself.

But the left's error may be in thinking that conservative Americans will eventually go quietly into the good night, permitting the left to work its will. Big fights loom if the left continues to try to ram its agendas down the throats of red state Americans (ObamaCare is a first critical battle). There's now a long history of leftism in America. The right's rejection of leftism is grounded in the left's demonstrated failures and in cultural and societal constructs that conservative Americans view as wrong-headed and deficient. The lines have been drawn and set.

Yet the betting is that the left will continue to plot and plan its assaults on federalism (on liberty itself), with the backing of federal courts too often, congressional Democrats and the president almost always. Tumult and protracted conflict -- and one hopes, eventual defeat -- will be the left's rewards.

J. Robert Smith

Source: http://www.americanthinker.com/2013/12/red_versus_blue_states_a_divide_worth_having.html

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