Friday, August 23, 2013

Mordechai Kedar: The Current Scenario in Egypt - Radicalization and Escalation

by Mordechai Kedar

Read the article in Italiano (translated by Yehudit Weisz, edited by Angelo Pezzana)

The crisis in Egypt is deepening, and both sides of the conflict are becoming increasingly entrenched in their positions. The fatalities that have occurred among Mursi supporters as well as among the military people causes both sides to act on the basis of their hearts and emotions, and not from logic. Both sides think "We'll show them" and "we will break them", the Egyptian public scene is crashing, representatives of foreign companies are leaving in droves, and everyone blames everyone else for the miserable situation.

The vice president, Mohamed al-Baradei, resigned and fled the country, because he saw that Egypt is sliding into a swamp of blood, fire and tears, where dozens of people are killed in the streets every day, the economy is collapsing, and the solution to Egypt's problems seems farther away than ever. Al-Baradei may be put on trial for treason because he fled from Egypt and evaded his responsibilities.

The army detained Mohammed Badie, the Supreme Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood organization, for two weeks, suspected of inciting the masses to violence and bloodshed. If he actually is put on trial, the Brotherhood and their supporters will most likely not stand by passively and watch, but will envelop the country in another wave of violence.

Another very disturbing phenomenon has been happening recently - the destruction of museums and the theft of antiquities. Some thieves steal exhibits in order to sell them for a small fortune on the black market to collectors; mainly gold coins, statuary and sarcophagi, which were recovered from ancient tombs from the days of the pharaohs. But along with the theft is another phenomenon: the destruction of exhibits, vandalism for its own sake, stemming from the deep hatred that radical Muslims feel toward the cultures that preceded Islam, and especially the Pharaonic culture which Islam considers to be heretical. We saw something similar in March of 2001 in Afghanistan, when the Taliban destroyed the two enormous statues of Buddha in Bamiyan Valley.

The international sphere is also undergoing a major shake-up: the United States' plan to put the Brotherhood in power has failed, but the White House and the State Department continue to issue pronouncements of support for the Muslim Brotherhood and objects to the army's actions, including the arrest of Badie. It may be that Mubarak will be freed from the defendant's box and the heads of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mohamed Mursi and Mohammed Badie, will take his place. It seems like Washington fell asleep on the 30th of June and still has not awakened to the new situation.

General al-Sisi and his comrades are not giving in to American pressure, and despite the good relations between the Egyptian military and the United States, al-Sisi refuses to accept Obama's calls, and when the Americans issue declarations opposing the army's acts, al-Sisi becomes angry. He places his definition of Egyptian interests over Obama's definition of Egyptian interests. Al-Sisi sees the dismal failures of the United States Middle East policy in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Iran, and he understands that he should not allow the Americans to influence events in Egypt, otherwise it may become another link in the chain of failures.

However, even al-Sisi will not be able to forestall the waves of terror, which might bring Egypt to a state similar to that in Syria or Iraq. The neighboring countries - Libya and Sudan - as well as the Sinai Peninsula, are full of weapons of all sizes and types, and the border with these states is long and porous. Egypt could become a magnet for jihadists from the entire Muslim world, who will want to enforce Islam on the country exactly as they did in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in Syria and in Libya. Egypt may also become a victim of "international terrorism", with car bombs, suicide attacks, assassinations of senior figures, attacks on military bases, trains, bridges (and there are many in Egypt), electrical lines and dams. Egypt could become a hell for its residents, especially for the Christian Copts, who are already trying to figure out how they can continue living in a country where about sixty churches were burned down in the space of one week .

The world had better get used to the scenario of radicalization and escalation of the internal situation in Egypt, so that they will not be surprised when it happens, and I hope that I may be proven wrong.

The International Arena

It is interesting to see how the world lines up - with al-Sisi or against him: his main opposition is the United States, or more accurately, President Obama and the State Department.  But on the other hand, there are many others in the United States who support the military and the steps that it is taking against the Muslim Brotherhood. Israel supports the military, but Europe thinks that the military acted in an anti-democratic manner when it removed the Brotherhood from power. Obama, the State Department and Europe want democracy at any price, even at the price of transfer of power - by democratic elections, of course - to an Islamist body that does not relate at all to any of the democratic values: the rule of law, separation of powers, rights of minorities, women's rights, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom to assemble, freedom of religion and freedom from religion. Al-Sisi knows better than they do what is right for Egypt and what is not.

Erdoğan - Mursi's ally and an anti-Semite for many years - tells the world that Israel is actually behind the revolution against his Brothers. As a result, he gets a cold shoulder both from the United States and from Egypt as well. It is conspiracy theory interspersed with allusions from the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" and Erdoğan issues these declarations loudly and clearly. In light of  these words, the prime minister of Israel should rethink his apology to Turkey for the Mavi Marmara incident.

But most interesting is Saudi Arabia's position: it supports the military and al-Sisi and objects to the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood. Saudi Arabia is even willing to donate money to substitute for the loss of American financial aid, if the United States stops its support for Egypt and its military as a result of Mursi's removal. The Saudis take this position in clear and audacious opposition to the president of the United States, and there are two reasons that Saudi Arabia does not hesitate to take these steps: the Saudis feel that President Obama does not understand anything about the principles that rule the Middle East so he prefers the Muslim Brotherhood over other groups for no good reason, and the second is that the Saudis are angry at Obama for not taking any effective steps against the Iranian nuclear program, which frightens the Saudis perhaps more than it frightens Israel.

But the deeper reason for the great hatred between Saudi Arabia and the Brotherhood is cultural: Saudi Arabia is Wahhabi Salafi, while the Brotherhood represents modern political Islam. The difference is simple: the Brotherhood wants to take the religion that was founded in the desert of the seventh century and adapt it to modern society of the twenty first century, while the Salafis want to take society and the state from the twenty first century and adapt it to the religion and culture of the desert of the seventh century. There is no way to bridge between these two antithetical cultural approaches, therefore the Salafis prefer secular military rule rather than modern style Islamic rule, which is contrary to its Salafi style.

From the Water, Not from the Diving Board

 Here, the question arises of what is good for Israel, and how Israel can - if at all - influence the events in Egypt.

The Middle East has some traits that we have still not become accustomed to: Israel is considered an illegitimate entity, so anyone that Israel supports loses legitimacy. Therefore in any conflict in the Middle East between side A and side B, if Israel wants to bolster side A, it must declare that it supports side B. Thus side B will lose legitimacy and side A will be strengthened. Did you get it? The same is true for the United States.

Another feature that is difficult to become accustomed to is the political dynamic of the Middle East, especially since the beginning of the "Arab Winter". Yesterday's friend becomes today's opponent, and today's enemy can become tomorrow's friend. Israel has an interest in the Egyptian military succeeding in the battle for Egypt, therefore it is logical to support it in the world capitals. But it could very well be that tomorrow this army might bring in large forces to Sinai, which is against the peace agreement, claiming that they are engaged in a "war on terror". It may also declare a suspension of the peace agreement, in order to calm the Egyptian street. Will we say that the military is friendly then too?

The public declarations about "the Israeli interest in maintaining the peace agreement" causes untolled damage, because this gives our enemies to understand that there is a vulnerable point where they can apply pressure on us since there are among us those who are willing to give everything in exchange for a piece of paper that has the word "peace" written on it, and they are even willing that "sacrificial victims for peace" will die. We ourselves raise the price for peace to a level that we cannot afford.

The conclusion from all of the aforesaid is that Israel must support its friends behind the scenes, not under the spotlight and with microphones. No one really loves us in this region, even if we support them. Discrete acts will not damage our friends for cooperating with us, and we will not be vulnerable to the fallout of a "flop" if it turns out that the party that we supported, like the Christians in Lebanon, indifferently stick a knife in our back.



Dr. Kedar is available for lectures

Dr. Mordechai Kedar
( is an Israeli scholar of Arabic and Islam, a lecturer at Bar-Ilan University and the director of the Center for the Study of the Middle East and Islam (under formation), Bar Ilan University, Israel. He specializes in Islamic ideology and movements, the political discourse of Arab countries, the Arabic mass media, and the Syrian domestic arena.

Translated from Hebrew by Sally Zahav with permission from the author.

Additional articles by Dr. Kedar

Source: The article is published in the framework of the Center for the Study of the Middle East and Islam (under formation), Bar Ilan University, Israel. Also published in Makor Rishon, a Hebrew weekly newspaper.

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

Dore Gold: Have the Fundamentals of Israel’s Strategic Environment Inextricably Changed?

by Dore Gold

There is a view that developments since the advent of the Arab Spring have completely altered the way Israel should look at its national security needs for many decades to come. The old strategic assumptions that guided Israeli thinking, according to this thesis, are not going to become relevant again. In order to evaluate this idea, it is necessary to keep in mind that there are certain constants in  Israel’s security predicament that are not going to be altered even with the developments the Middle East is witnessing.   

    For Israel remains a small state surrounded by states that have a combined population of 300 million, in territories that are hundreds of times the size of Israel. As a result, Israel’s military assets may be seen as geographically concentrated in a limited area, while neighboring Arab states have been able to disperse launch sites, weapons depots, and military bases across a vast expanse of territory.

    While some neighboring armies have been badly degraded by internal conflicts, it would be a cardinal error to base national planning on a temporary snapshot of reality. For example, Iraq is planning to modernize its ground forces and convert its army from a counterinsurgency force to a force with maneuver warfare capabilities based on new armored and mechanized formations. There are estimates that it will have over 2,000 main battle tanks by the middle of the next decade.

    The Gaza Strip has been flooded with Iranian and Libyan weapons. In the West Bank, where Israel holds on to the outer perimeter of the territory in the Jordan Valley, the same weaponry has not reached terrorist organizations. Global jihadists have been unable to reach the West Bank in order to reinforce their Islamist compatriots, as they did in Syria, Iraq, and Libya. Thus, territorial considerations remain applicable to the new threats.

    The present wave of anti-regime rebellions is loosening central government control over large parts of several Arab states. This has created a vacuum that is being filled by regional terrorist organizations like al-Qaeda and its affiliates. This process has become accentuated in Egypt, especially in the Sinai Peninsula. Countering terrorist organizations by simply deterring the governments of the countries in which they are situated is likely to prove an inadequate strategy.

    The pressures Israel faces at this time to agree to a full withdrawal from the West Bank and to acquiesce to the loss of defensible borders pose unacceptable risks for the Jewish state. They also stand in contradiction to the international commitments given to Israel in the past.

Constants in Israeli Defense Policy Planning

There is a view that developments since the advent of the Arab Spring have completely altered the way Israel should look at its national security needs for many decades to come. The old strategic assumptions that guided Israeli thinking, according to this thesis, are not going to become relevant again. In order to evaluate this idea, it is necessary to keep in mind that there are certain  constants of Israel’s security predicament that do not change with the kinds of political shifts that the Middle East is witnessing.   

For decades Israeli defense policy planning has been predicated upon certain constants that have not changed. Israel is a small state with roughly 8 million citizens. It is surrounded by states that have a combined population of 300 million, in territories hundreds of times the size of Israel. As a result, Israel’s military assets may be seen as geographically concentrated in a limited area, while neighboring Arab states have been able to disperse launch sites, weapons depots, and military bases across a vast expanse of territory.

In past Arab-Israeli wars, these asymmetries were exploited by Arab military forces, which enjoyed quantitative superiority of active service military formations. Israel’s strategy was based on the need to withstand an attack by numerically greater forces while its reserve formations were being mobilized in roughly 48 hours. At times of increased tensions, Israel’s adversaries were always tempted to exploit these asymmetries and launch a surprise attack. Terrain, topography, and strategic depth were essential considerations influencing Israel’s ability to defend itself in these scenarios, and to stabilize the core of the Middle East.
Is the Era of Land Warfare Over?

There are new strategic uncertainties in the Middle East that make it difficult to know exactly what kinds of threats Israel will face in the future. There are voices now asserting that the era of classical threats to Israel posed by land armies has completely ended. Some neighboring armies, they note, have been badly degraded by internal conflicts. With no superpower competition, there is no equivalent to the Soviet Union, which poured arms into the Middle East during the Cold War in order to buy influence.

That description of Israel’s strategic reality is only true for the short and medium term, however. It would be a cardinal error to base national planning on a temporary snapshot of reality, for Middle Eastern states can be expected to rearm and again build up their conventional forces, initially, in order to bolster their ability to protect their regimes internally and to suppress restive minorities.

At a later stage, these armies could be used to threaten vulnerable neighbors, as in the past. For example, Iraq is planning to modernize its ground forces and convert its army from a counterinsurgency force to a force with maneuver warfare capabilities based on new armored and mechanized formations. There are estimates that it will have over 2,000 main battle tanks by the middle of the next decade. Thus, military asymmetries are likely to remain one cause of regional instability in the future. Anyone assuming that the era of land warfare is over would be making a cardinal mistake.
The Rise of the New Terrorist Threat

Before Middle Eastern states recover their full military potential, terrorist organizations are likely to pose the most immediate threat behind the outbreak of conflict in the Middle East. Yet it is important to note that terrorist organizations today can pose a serious threat to a conventional army. Using asymmetric tactics, they operate from populated areas, and are prepared to use civilians as human shields. This strategy limits the ability of conventional forces to use their full firepower without causing unacceptable civilian casualties.

In its wars in territories from which the IDF withdrew, particularly in South Lebanon and Gaza, Israel found itself unfairly accused of using disproportional force, although its operations were not much different from those of Western forces in Iraq or Afghanistan. When the UN Human Rights Council appointed the Goldstone Commission, it accused Israel of deliberately targeting civilians, a charge Justice Richard Goldstone subsequently rejected. While the commission’s initial findings were discredited, Israeli strategy had to adapt to a new reality in which its military operations would be increasingly under an international magnifying glass, further challenging its freedom of action to deal with terrorist threats.

What this meant in practical terms was that future Israeli governments could not simply withdraw from territories under the assumption that if terrorist organizations subsequently took control over them, the IDF could easily re-enter them and eliminate the threat they posed. In other words, it remains necessary to have a defensible border so that Israel can physically prevent an unacceptable threat against its interior from developing, rather than assume that the IDF can conduct raids into those territories in order to uproot any hostile forces there. 
Political Constraints in Fighting Terrorism

Another factor that will influence Israel’s future strategy against terrorism is the political-military impact of peace agreements themselves, which Israel should continue to seek with its neighbors. In the 1950s when the Syrian Army attacked Israeli villages from the Golan Heights, the IDF often responded by using its forces to eliminate Syrian military positions from which Israel had come under fire. But more recently, when southern Israel was attacked by al-Qaeda affiliates from the Sinai Peninsula, the IDF did not want to take military action that violated Egyptian sovereignty and threatened the 1979 Egyptian-Israeli Treaty of Peace.

As long as the Arab states effectively controlled their territories along Israel’s borders, the IDF faced no dilemmas of this sort, with the notable exception of Lebanon, where the authority of the central government collapsed decades ago, resulting in repeated conflicts over time. But with the advent of the Arab Spring, whatever limited stability the rest of the Middle East was able to gain has been badly undermined, posing new types of challenges for Israeli security.

For example, Israel could find itself in a situation in which jihadist organizations repeatedly attack Israel from territories belonging to states that have a formal peace treaty with Israel but are powerless to stop the attacks. What if a future Palestinian state was taken over by Hamas or quickly evolved into a failed state unable to maintain order and prevent attacks. Would Israel re-invade the territory of a state with which it had signed a peace agreement? Would the international community recognize its right of self-defense? If Israel was protected by a defensible border, it would be more difficult for such a threatening scenario to develop in the future in a critical area like the West Bank.

Regardless of how future scenarios might develop, the failure to halt the infiltration of advanced weapons to terrorist groups could have devastating consequences for Israel. In the Gaza Strip, where Israel gave up the Philadelphi Corridor along the border with Egypt, the area has been flooded with Iranian and Libyan weapons. In the West Bank, where Israel holds on to the outer perimeter of the territory in the Jordan Valley, the same weaponry has not reached terrorist organizations like Hamas or Islamic Jihad.

It must be remembered that many terrorist groups like Hizbullah, and to a lesser extent Hamas, have acquired many of the attributes of a conventional army, obtaining from their Iranian sponsors advanced weapons, the likes of which terrorist groups never had access before, including shore-to-ship missiles, shoulder-fired anti-aircraft weapons, and unmanned aerial vehicles. Hizbullah also has an arsenal of ballistic missiles and rockets larger than that of most states in the Middle East. Its acquisition of weapons of mass destruction in the future cannot be ruled out.

Moreover, global jihadists have been unable to reach the West Bank in order to reinforce their Islamist compatriots, as they did in Syria, Iraq, and Libya. What a rejuvenated al-Qaeda needs to wage war against Israel is access to its interior, which it has been unable to obtain as long as the IDF controls the vital strategic buffers that surround it. In short, the territorial considerations that were relevant for defending Israel from a massive ground attack in the 1970s remain applicable to the new threats now becoming more prominent.
The Rising Profile of the Islamists and the Muslim Brotherhood and its Allies

What makes this concern with the rise of terrorism in the Middle East even more compelling is the fact that the strongest political forces vying for power in the Arab world today, seeking to replace the current regimes there, are tied to the Muslim Brotherhood network. In the 1960s, Arab nationalism provided the glue for military coalitions against Israel. In today’s Middle East, Islamism could also provide the basis for hostile coalitions that first will threaten moderate Western allies, and later pose a new challenge to Israel itself. As in the era of Nasserism, Islamism is a hegemonial force that does not accept national boundaries.

This is already evident in Egypt, where the Muslim Brotherhood had an extremely low profile when President Mubarak was toppled, but since that time its role in Egyptian politics has grown substantially,1 leading to the election of a Muslim Brotherhood president. While the movement suffered a serious setback in July 2013 with the fall of Mohamed Morsi, the situation remains fluid and it is difficult to predict whether or not the Muslim Brotherhood will be able to make a comeback in Egypt. Even before the current wave of uprisings, after 2006, Turkey became a new center of Muslim Brotherhood activity, hosting its global network in high-profile conferences in Istanbul.2

The Muslim Brotherhood stands out as one of the main political forces behind the wave of protests that took place in Jordan, as well.3 Indeed, Jordanian Prime Minister Marouf Bakhit charged that the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood was taking orders from the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Syria.4 Historically, the Muslim Brotherhood has provided the ideological underpinnings for the leading figures in global terrorism, from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to Osama bin Laden.

In the last few years, with the rise of leaders like Muhammad Badie in Egypt and Hammam Sayid in Jordan, the Muslim Brotherhood has come under a more extremist leadership, which still embraces hardline doctrines against the West and a commitment to jihadism.5 Both the Egyptian and Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood branches, as well as Hamas, attacked the U.S. for eliminating Bin Laden.6

Even if the Muslim Brotherhood does not return to power in Egypt at this point, it will undoubtedly become part of future political coalitions that will move many neighboring countries into a much more hostile stance against Israel and even one supportive of militant action against the Jewish state. The hostility of the Muslim Brotherhood to Israel should not be underestimated. It is frequently forgotten that Hamas, which regularly launches rocket attacks deliberately aimed at Israeli population centers, is, according to its own charter, the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Muhammad Badie in late 2010 issued a weekly message in which he plainly stated that the way forward on the Palestinian issue is not through negotiations, but rather by returning to jihad and martyrdom (istishhad).7 Thus, it should come as no surprise that the Muslim Brotherhood’s second-in-command announced in February 2011 that the movement will seek to cancel the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel.8

It should always be remembered that the struggle with Israel is only a small portion of the Muslim Brotherhood’s overall strategy that makes it a hostile movement, for its ultimate goal is to create a new caliphate which will become the basis of a global Islamic state.9
Muslim Brotherhood Regimes Providing Support to Jihadists

At a minimum, Muslim Brotherhood regimes can be expected to provide support and even sanctuary to terrorist groups engaging in active conflict with Israel. The first Muslim Brotherhood regime, under Sudanese leader Hassan Turabi, hosted both Hamas and al-Qaeda in the early 1990s, and allowed them to set up training bases.

In January 2011, Mohamed Morsi escaped an Egyptian prison with a number of leading jihadists, like Ramzi Mahoud al-Mowafi, who served under Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan and later became a senior commander for the jihadist insurgency in the Sinai Peninsula after his prison escape.10

Under the Morsi regime, the Muslim Brotherhood pardoned jihadists and let them out of prison, like the leader of Gama’a Islamiyya, who was behind the 1997 Luxor massacre. Also released was Muhammad al-Zawahiri, a Salafi jihadist who was the younger brother of al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. Morsi also sought the release of the blind cleric, Sheikh Omar Abderrahman, who planned the first World Trade Center attack in 1993. He also pressed the Egyptian military to accept jihadists into Egyptian military academies. In short, when in power, the Muslim Brotherhood proved itself to be a key ally of the jihadist organizations. 

Second, the present wave of anti-regime rebellions is loosening central government control over large parts of several Arab states. This has created a vacuum in many areas, which is being filled by regional terrorist organizations like al-Qaeda and its affiliates that seek to establish new sanctuaries beyond the reach of pro-Western Arab military establishments. This process in which Middle Eastern states are showing signs of fragmentation is already evident in Yemen, Libya, and Syria. It has become accentuated in Egypt, especially in the Sinai Peninsula, where the Bedouin have drawn closer to Hamas in a number of acts of sabotage against the Egyptian gas pipeline, which supplied both Israel and Jordan.

During the Iraq War, al-Qaeda in Iraq sought to set up a forward position in the Jordanian city of Irbid. Al-Qaeda in Iraq also set up a Syrian affiliate, Jabhat al-Nusra, which has sought to infiltrate Jordan. Jordanian security forces have overcome these challenges, but Israel has to recognize that in the Middle East today the proliferation of such groups is on the rise and the ability of states, whether friendly or adversarial, to control the spread of terrorist groups is declining. Countering terrorist organizations by simply deterring the governments of the countries in which they are situated is likely to prove an inadequate strategy.

Third, the undermining of the internal stability of Sunni Arab states is occurring as Iran seeks to consolidate its regional hegemony in the entire Middle East. While Iranian interests may be affected by the continuing rebellions in the Arab world, especially in Syria and Hizbullah- controlled Lebanon, Tehran stands to be a major beneficiary of the current instability in critical countries like Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen.

For Israel, the biggest question is the future orientation of Iraq, where the Iranians have been supporting a number of key Shiite parties.11 Those Iraqi politicians who are prepared to oppose Iranian encroachments have only done so with strong U.S. backing.12 But after the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, what is to prevent Iraq from falling into Iranian hands? For the last number of years, Lebanese Hizbullah has also been active in Iraq, training Shiite militias, along with Iranian Revolutionary Guards. As Iran’s regional power grows, Iraq is likely to evolve into an Iranian satellite state and re-engage, in some form, in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Iraq is not far away from Israel; it is roughly 210 miles from the Iraqi border to the Jordan River.

It has not gone without notice that Saudi Arabia has reinforced its northern border with Iraq, considering that it too cannot be certain what Baghdad’s future orientation will be. Israel, as well, cannot rule out Iraq, under Iranian influence, re-engaging in the Arab-Israeli conflict. In 1948, 1967, and 1973, Iraq took part in the war effort along Israel’s eastern front by consistently dispatching one-third of its ground forces. In 1991 Baghdad launched missiles against Israeli cities. Regardless of the form it takes, if the rejuvenation of Israel’s eastern front is even a remote possibility, how can Israel be expected to fully withdraw to the 1967 lines and abandon its right to defensible borders?
Undermining a Negotiated Peace

To conclude, the pressures Israel faces at this time to agree to a full withdrawal from the West Bank and to acquiesce to the loss of defensible borders pose unacceptable risks for the Jewish state. They also stand in contradiction to the international commitments given to Israel in the past. These recognized that Israel did not have to agree to a full withdrawal from this territory.

Additionally, the 1993 Oslo Agreements envisioned a negotiated solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Borders were to be decided upon by the parties themselves and not be imposed by international coalitions or by unilateral acts. In fact, those commitments to a negotiated solution of the conflict appeared explicitly in the 1995 Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement. Notably, that agreement bears the signatures of President Bill Clinton and officials from the European Union and Russia, who acted as formal witnesses.

What is clear today is that the Palestinian leadership under Mahmoud Abbas has had a questionable interest in a negotiated solution to its conflict with Israel. Until the intervention of Secretary of State John Kerry, Abbas piled up preconditions for any negotiation with Israel. He preferred to see the international community impose territorial terms that are to its advantage without having to formally declare an end to the Arab-Israeli conflict, and without having to recognize the rights of the Jewish people to a nation-state of their own.

The idea that the EU or other international actors would dictate to Israel recognition of the pre-1967 lines and set the stage for an imposed solution may serve the Palestinian interest, but not the interest of achieving real peace. European support for such initiatives would contravene the very peace agreements they signed in the past as witnesses. It would set the stage for further Palestinian unilateralist initiatives at the UN and deal a virtually fatal blow to any negotiations.

Finally, it must be added that the people of Israel have undergone a traumatic decade and a half. For the most part, they passionately embraced the promise of the 1993 Oslo Agreements and yet, instead of peace, they saw their cities attacked repeatedly by waves of suicide bombers that left over 1,000 Israelis dead.

Israelis took further risks and supported a unilateral disengagement from the Gaza Strip in 2005, only to find that there was a five-fold increase in rocket fire against Israeli population centers in the year that followed. Longer-range rockets poured into Hamas-controlled Gaza, as Iran exploited the vacuum created by Israel’s withdrawal.

The people of Israel have an inalienable right to security and to certainty that the mistakes of recent years will not be repeated. The full withdrawal from the Gaza Strip must not be attempted again in the West Bank, especially given what is happening today across the Middle East region. For those reasons, Israel must not be asked to concede its right to defensible borders.

1. Michael Slackman, “Islamist Group Is Rising Force in a New Egypt,” New York Times, March 24, 2011.
2. “Islam and the Arab Revolutions,” The Economist, April 2-8, 2011. See also, “Energized Muslim Brotherhood in Libya Eyes a Prize,” CNN, March 25, 2011.
3. Ranya Kadri and Isabel Kershner, “Protestors Rally into Night in Jordan,” New York Times, April 1, 2011.
4. Taylor Luck, “Gov’t, Islamists in ‘Dangerous Game,’” Jordan Times, April 1, 2011.
5. For a discussion about the more extremist trends in the Muslim Brotherhood, see Shadi Hamid, “A Radical Turn for the Muslim Brotherhood?” Brookings Institution, June 26, 2010; and Jonathan D. Halevi, “Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood: In Their Own Words,” February 6, 2011, Jerusalem Issue Brief, Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. Hammam Sayid was known before his election as head of the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood to have made statements in support of Osama bin Laden; see al-Hawadeth, September 24, 2001.
Regarding the harder line of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood under its new leader, see Nour Malas, “Brotherhood Raises Syrian Profile,” Wall Street Journal, May 17, 2011.
6. Jonathan D. Halevy, “Who Else Is Condemning the U.S. for Killing Bin Laden?” Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs blog, May 5, 2011.
7. Muhammad al-Badi’ – Weekly Message, December 23, 2010 (from the Muslim Brotherhood website in Arabic).
The entire Umma [the Islamic people], and not just the Palestinian Authority, is being asked to return to true fundamental principles, that must guide the [handling of the] Palestinian problem, so that it won’t be forgotten. Therefore, relating to negotiations, to recognition [of Israel], to reconciliation [with Israel], or establishing a Palestinian state in the ‘67 borders as an axiom, is a big mistake, for the Land of Palestine is Arab and Islamic land, on which their holy sites [of the Muslims] are located. The Jihad for the return of this land is an obligatory commandment incumbent on the entire Arab and Islamic nation….Palestine will not be liberated by hopes and prayers, but rather by Jihad and sacrifice, and we call all Brothers in Palestine to return to national unity, on the basis of resistance, for that is the only way to recover Palestine. Jihad is victory or martyrdom for Allah.
(For the complete text in Arabic, see asp?ArtID=76669&SecID=213).
8. Rashad al-Bayumi, the Muslim Brotherhood’s second-in-command, announced in an interview with Japanese TV (and cited by al-Hayat, March 2, 2011) that the group would join a transitional government in order to cancel the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel, as it “offends the Arabs’ dignity and destroys the interests of Egypt and other Arab states.”
9. Eric Trager, “The Truth about Egypt,” World Affairs, August 15, 2013.
10. Mohamed Fadel Fahmy, “The Jihadist Threat in Egypt’s Sinai,” Al-Monitor, July 22, 2013.
11. Michael Gordon, “Meddling Neighbors Undercut Iraq Stability,” New York Times, December 5, 2010. Gordon refers to a WikiLeaks U.S. cable from November 13, 2009, according to which Iran was spending up to $200 million annually on political groups in Iraq.
12. Frederick Kagan and Kimberly Kagan, “Stand with Iraq,” Weekly Standard, April 18, 2011.

Dore Gold


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

Obama's Foreign Fiasco

by Daniel Pipes

It's a privilege to be an American who works on foreign policy, as I have done since the late 1970s, participating in a small way in the grand project of finding my country's place in the world. But now, under Barack Obama, decisions made in Washington have dramatically shrunk in importance. It's unsettling and dismaying. And no longer a privilege.

Whether during the structured Cold War or the chaotic two decades that followed, America's economic size, technological edge, military prowess, and basic decency meant that even in its inactivity, the U.S. government counted as much or more in world developments than any other state. Sniffles in Washington translated into influenza elsewhere.

Weak and largely indifferent presidents like Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton mattered despite themselves, for example in the Iranian revolution of 1978-79 or the Arab-Israeli conflict in the 1990s. Strong and active presidents like Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush had greater impact yet, speeding up the Soviet collapse or invading Afghanistan and Iraq.

But now, with Barack Obama, the United States has slid into shocking irrelevance in the Middle East, the world's most turbulent region. Inconstancy, incompetence, and inaction have rendered the Obama administration impotent. In the foreign policy arena, Obama acts as though he would rather be the prime minister of Belgium, a small country that usually copies the decisions of its larger neighbors when casting votes at the United Nations or preening morally about distant troubles. Belgians naturally "lead from behind," to use the famed phrase emanating from Obama's White House.

Obama's 2009 speech in Cairo was a very long time ago.

Qatar (with a national population of 225,000) has an arguably greater impact on current events than the 1,400-times-larger United States (population: 314 million). Note how Obama these days takes a back seat to the emirs of Doha: They take the lead supplying arms to the Libyan rebels, he follows. They actively help the rebels in Syria, he dithers. They provide billions to the new leadership in Egypt, he stumbles over himself. They unreservedly back Hamas in Gaza, he pursues delusions of an Israeli-Palestinian "peace process." Toward this end, the U.S. secretary of state made six trips in four months to Israel and the Palestinian territories in pursuit of a diplomatic initiative that almost no one believes will end the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Doha, now more influential than Washington in the Middle East.

Meanwhile, the U.S. secretary of defense called Egyptian leader Abdul-Fattah al-Sisi 17 times in conversations lasting 60-90 minutes, yet failed in his pleas that Sisi desist from using force against the Muslim Brotherhood. More striking yet, Sisi apparently refused to take a phone call from Obama. The $1.5 billion in annual U.S. aid to Egypt suddenly looks paltry in comparison to the $12 billion from three Persian Gulf countries, with promises to make up for any Western cuts in aid. Both sides in Egypt's deep political divide accuse Obama of favoring the other and execrate his name. As dozens of Coptic churches burned, he played six rounds of golf. Ironically, Egypt is where, four long years ago, Obama delivered a major speech repudiating George W. Bush policies with seeming triumph.
Woodrow Wilson (1913-21) was the first of four Democratic presidents greatly to increase the power of the state.
Obama's ambitions lie elsewhere - in augmenting the role of government within the United States, as epitomized by Obamacare. Accordingly, he treats foreign policy as an afterthought, an unwelcome burden, and something to dispatch before returning to juicier matters. He oversees withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan with little concern for what follows. His unique foreign policy accomplishment, trumpeted ad nauseam, was the execution of Osama bin Laden.

So far, the price to American interests for Obama's ineptitude has not been high. But that could change quickly. Most worrisome, Iran could soon achieve nuclear breakout and start to throw its newfound weight around, if not to deploy its brand-new weapons. The new regime in Egypt could revert to its earlier anti-Americanism and anti-Zionism; already, important elements in Egypt are calling for rejection of U.S. aid and termination of the peace treaty with Israel.

As an American who sees his country as a force for good, these developments are painful and scary. The world needs an active, thoughtful, and assertive United States. The historian Walter A. McDougall rightly states that "The creation of the United States of America is the central event of the past four hundred years" and its civilization "perturbs the trajectories of all other civilizations just by existing." Well not so much perturbation these days; may the dismal present be brief in duration.

Daniel. Pipes ( is president of the Middle East Forum. © 2013 by Daniel Pipes. All rights reserved.


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NYT Perfumes Palestinia​n Aggression

by Leo Rennert

On Tuesday, Aug. 20, Israeli troops entered a Jenin neighborhood in the West Bank to arrest a member of the Islamic Jihad terrorist group suspected of planning drive-by shootings of Israeli civilians and soldiers. 

However, before they could accomplish their mission, the Israeli soldiers ran into a live-fire ambush by armed Palestinians who shot at them from rooftops and other cover. The Palestinians also piled on with rocks, firecrackers and explosive devices. 

In returning fire, the Israeli team killed one Palestinian, while also managing to arrest the Islamic Jihad terrorist. Two Israeli soldiers were injured, as well as two other Palestinians. 

How does a newspaper report such an incident? It would seem that the proper and logical way to communicate what happened is to make clear to readers who started the exchange of fire -- in this case, Palestinians attacked Israeli security personnel -- and who then was forced to engage in defensive actions. 

But not at the New York Times, which did its best to play down Palestinian aggression, while falsely painting Israelis as aggressive killers. 

Thus, the headline: "Palestinian Is Killed in Raid by Israel in West Bank camp." Readers who only look at the headline -- and they often outnumber readers who delve into the actual article -- would be left with a false impression that Israel was the aggressor, killing a Palestinian whose identity as a terrorist is also crucially missing. 

Jodi Rudoren, the Times' Jerusalem bureau chief and author of the article, similarly serves up an upside-down narrative in her lead paragraph -- a Palestinian portrayed as victim of Israel amid toned-down aggressive Palestinian actions. 

Her lead paragraph reads as follows: "Israeli soldiers killed a young Palestinian man early Tuesday during a confrontation in the Jenin refugee camp in the northwestern West Bank, as troops arriving to arrest an Islamic Jihad member suspected of planning terrorist attacks were greeted by violent protesters, Israeli officials said." 

In Rudoren's account, there was no aggressive, life-fire ambush, only a "confrontation." The Israeli troops were not greeted by gunshots, rocks and explosive devices -- only by "violent protesters" -- a mild euphemism. Nor is there any indication that the United States, the European Union, and Israel regard Islamic Jihad as a terrorist organization. 

It's not that Rudoren hides what actually happened. But like Sheherazade's veils, she waits and reveals telling details only farther down in the article. Again, how many readers get that far?

As for example the placement of this quote from Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, an IDF spokesman: "It seems when you're shot at, you shoot back. It's pretty professional. We expect our troops to be able to respond and defend themselves in life-threatening circumstances." 

The problem is that the only readers to see this quote is that very small minority that peruses the entire article from start to finish. Colonel Lerner's quote, you see, is found only in the very last paragraph -- the 12th paragraph of a 12-paragraph story. 

Rudoren may think she's provided "all the news that's fit to print." What matters more, however, is whether that news is fairly and objectively arranged and presented to readers. Whether, as a whole, it's a true slice of history. On that basis, Rudoren and the Times fail spectacularly.

Leo Rennert is a former White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief of McClatchy Newspapers


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Fort Hood Trial: Don’t Say the “T” Word

by Deborah Weiss


The Fort Hood shootings constituted the largest massacre on a military base in the history of the United States. There is overwhelming evidence that the defendant’s motivations were religious in nature.  But as the trial ensues, the US government continues to bend over backwards to avoid calling the massacre an act of Islamic terrorism, consistent with Islamist demands not to associate Islam with terrorism.

On November 5, 2009, Army Major and psychiatrist Nidal Hasan took his semi-automatic pistol and headed to the Soldier Readiness Processing Center on the military base at Fort Hood.  There, soldiers were being cleared for deployment to Afghanistan and Iraq.  Hasan fired a spray of bullets killing 13 people and wounding over 30 others.  It was the worst massacre on a military base in US history.

Hasan had purchased a gun that would be efficient in a high-target environment and attended weeks of target practice.

Two days prior to the blood bath, Hasan gave away his furniture, disseminated business cards that read Soldier of Allah, and emailed Al-Awlaki saying he looked forward to joining him in the afterlife.

Dressed in traditional Islamic garb, Hasan appeared at the Fort Hood military base prepared to fulfill his Islamic duty to defend his Muslim brothers.

Upon his arrival to the scene, he bowed his head in prayer, then jumped up and screamed “Allahu Akbar” (Allah is the greatest!) before unloading his ammunition at unarmed soldiers.

Reports indicate that army officials were cognizant of Hasan’s increasing radicalization since 2005.  Hasan had given a seminar which revealed his Islamist ideology, during which he justified suicide bombings.  He also expressed increasing ambivalence about serving in the military since the US was “killing Muslims”.

Additionally, an investigation discovered conclusive evidence that Hasan had significant email communications with Anwar Al-Awlaki, a prominent Al-Qaeda operative who was a target of  Obama’s targeted killing drone program.  Hasan’s emails asked whether it was acceptable to kill innocents during jihad and when suicide bombings were justifiable.  He also regularly visited jihadi websites which condoned suicide bombings.

Hasan was charged in a Military Court under the Uniform Code of Military Justice with 13 counts of pre-meditated murder and 32 Counts of attempted murder.

He appeared before a board of mental health professionals to determine his fitness to stand trial.  At his hearing, Hasan confessed to the murders and claimed he did it to “defend Taliban leadership.”  He showed no remorse.  Never-the-less, the board ruled he was sane.

Hasan is representing himself at trial.  The trial commenced August 6, 2013.  During Hasan’s opening statements, he confessed the murders and blatantly asserted his jihadi motives.  He explained that he had “switched sides” and regards himself as mujahideen.

The prosecution has had almost 90 witnesses and Hasan has engaged in virtually no cross-exam.  Some believe that he is purposely leading a strategy of defenselessness in order to achieve martyrdom.  Though he denies it, Hasan’s past statements indicate that he wished he had been killed so he’d become a martyr and that government execution would still qualify him as such. 

So the question remains, how should Hasan’s mass murder be characterized?

An independent commission conducted an investigation of the Fort Hood shootings. DoD released its report in January 2010.  It found that the Pentagon was unprepared to defend itself against internal threats.  DoD and other government agencies have characterized the massacre as “workplace violence” and omitted any mention of Islamist ideology or terrorist behavior.

The leaders of the investigation stated that their concern was “actions and effects, not necessarily motives”.  And, Army Chief of Staff General George W. Casey proclaimed that “as horrific as this tragedy was, if our diversity becomes a casualty, I think that’s worse.” 

The FBI determined that because Hasan had no co-conspirators, further investigation was unnecessary.

In his public address and at the eulogy, President Obama also refused to acknowledge the role of Islamic terrorism in the massacre.

Yet motive is what distinguishes one type of homicide from another.  A homicide victim is equally dead regardless of motive.  But our legal system and moral code mandate that intent be taken into account when determining what, if any punishment should be accorded.

The omission of the terrorist motives in the Fort Hood massacre is resulting in the denial of purple hearts for the fallen soldiers, and a denial of medical benefits and financial compensation for the survivors.

Though the UCMJ does not have terrorism in its code as a possible charge, the military court could have waived jurisdiction, allowing Hasan to be prosecuted in Federal Court where a charge of domestic terrorism would have been in order.

Even if Hasan was not criminally charged with terrorism, the government could make a political determination that this was a terrorist act, allowing the victims to be properly compensated.  DoD officials claimed that Hasan could have argued he couldn’t get a fair trial due to accusations of criminal liability.

However, Hasan has already admitted criminal guilt.  Therefore, it is more likely that the government’s characterization of the massacre as workplace violence was made in line with its pattern of denial regarding Islamist ideology.

This Administration has rewritten all national security training material to delete all reference to Islamic terrorism and has launched an aggressive campaign of interfaith dialogue and  “peer pressure and shaming” to stifle all debate on the issue of Islamism.

The Administration has also formed close alliances with Islamist organizations in a quest to silence all speech critical of Islam, in a manner tantamount to blasphemy codes.

Free speech constitutes a human right and is critical to maintaining the cause of freedom.  It is especially important to allow open debate on the nature of national security threats and their motivational ideology.

Denying the threat of Islamic radicalism has consequences.  Resulting policies hamper America’s ability to defeat those that wish us harm.  Whether the Benghazi attacks, the Fort Hood massacre or other Islamic terrorist attacks, most Americans realize that purging the language does not eradicate threats.

This awareness does not apply to the Administration, however, where the folly continues.

This article was commissioned by The Legal Project, an activity of the Middle East Forum.

Deborah Weiss, Esq. is a regular contributor to FrontPage Magazine and the Washington Times.  She is a contributing author of “Saudi Arabia and the Global Islamic Terrorist Network” (Palgrave MacMillan, 2011).  A partial listing of her work can be found at


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Where Muslims Can Speak Freely in the Middle East

by Khaled Abu Toameh

Today it has become evident that that leaders and members of the Islamic Movement in Israel enjoy more freedom and rights than the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Jordan, and even -- under the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank -- Hamas.
Arab journalists and columnists in Israel have been expressing their views about the Egyptian crisis without fear, while their colleagues in Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority are afraid to speak their mind.

Israel, for example, is one of the few countries in the Middle East where Muslims are permitted to demonstrate in favor of ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood organization.

This is not because Israel supports Morsi or the Muslim Brotherhood; it is because the Muslim protesters know that in a democratic country like Israel they can hold peaceful demonstrations and express their views without having to worry about being targeted by the authorities.

Israel has become a safe place not only for Arab Christians, but also for Muslims who wish to express their opinion away from intimidation and violence.

While pro-Morsi demonstrators are being shot, wounded, arrested and harassed in Egypt, the Palestinian Authority-controlled territories and some Arab countries, in Israel they are free to stage protests and express their views even in the heart of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

In Israel, pro-Morsi demonstrators even feel free to chant slogans against Israel and the U.S., and to hoist Hamas flags.

For the past five weeks, thousands of Muslim worshippers have been using Friday prayers at the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem to organize demonstrations in support of Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood.

On August 17, thousands of Muslims demonstrated in Nazareth to voice support for Morsi. They also chanted slogans denouncing the "military coup" in Egypt, dubbing army commander Abdel Fattah al-Sissi a U.S. agent.

On August 15, one day after the violent crackdown on Morsi supporters in Cairo and other Egyptian cities, in which hundreds of Egyptians were killed, some 150 members of the Islamic Movement in Israel staged a protest outside the Egyptian embassy in Tel Aviv.

Muslim Israeli Arabs protest in front of Egypt's embassy in Tel Aviv, August 15, 2013.

Not a single Muslim has been hurt or arrested in Israel for demonstrating in favor of Morsi.
By comparison, the Palestinian Authority, which has come out in support of the ouster of Morsi, continues to crack down on Muslims who voice solidarity with the deposed Egyptian president.

While mosque preachers in Israel are free to express their views about the Egyptian crisis, their colleagues in the West Bank have been warned by the Palestinian Authority government against speaking out in favor of Morsi. Two preachers from the Jenin area who dared to violate the ban were quickly detained by Palestinian Authority security forces.

Earlier this week, Palestinian Authority security officers arrested two Palestinians for expressing public support for Morsi.

While Muslim Brotherhood leaders have been thrown into prison in Egypt, Raed Salah and Kamal al-Khatib, the leaders of the Islamic Movement in Israel, continue to lead normal lives and organize various political activities around the country.

One of them, Islambuli Badir from Tulkarem, was detained for manufacturing and marketing a perfume named after Morsi. The second, Mahmoud Ayyad, a poet from Bethlehem, was taken into custody for wearing a shirt with a portrait of Morsi.

Last week, Palestinian Authority policemen used force to break up a pro-Morsi rally in Hebron. Two local journalists, Akram al-Natsha and Mahmoud Abu Ghania, complained that the policemen threatened and insulted them during the confrontation.

Today it has become evident that leaders and members of the Islamic Movement in Israel enjoy more freedom and rights than the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Jordan and even -- under the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank -- Hamas.

Khaled Abu Toameh


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