Saturday, November 9, 2013

Dore Gold: The Assault on Resolution 242

by Dore Gold

With unconfirmed rumors appearing in the press about what is likely to happen in the peace process in the months ahead, now is the time to recall exactly what Israel's rights are in its territorial dispute with the Palestinians over the future of the West Bank. 

Those rights were first enshrined in the most famous and important U.N. resolution in the peace process, U.N. Security Council Resolution 242. This month marks the anniversary of the resolution. The first draft was proposed on Nov. 7, 1967, while the final draft was adopted unanimously by all 15 Security Council members on Nov. 22 that year. 

Understanding the significance of Resolution 242 is not an exercise in the study of some obscure aspect of decades old diplomatic history. Over the years the resolution evolved into the basis of the entire peace process, including the 1979 Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty, the 1991 Madrid peace conference, the 1993 Oslo Accords, the 1994 Jordanian-Israeli peace treaty, and draft agreements with Syria. Back in 1973, on the eve of the Geneva Peace Conference, the U.S. even provided a letter of assurance to Israel that it would prevent any party from tampering with Resolution 242. Israeli diplomacy sought to protect Resolution 242 as though it was a crown jewels of the Jewish state.

Resolution 242 is best known for its famous withdrawal clause, which did not call on Israel to pull back to the pre-war 1967 lines. While the Soviet Union insisted that the resolution specifically call for "a withdrawal from all the territories occupied" by Israel in the Six-Day War, the U.S. and Britain countered with very different phraseology that was reflected in the final draft, that was eventually adopted by all 15 members of the Security Council. It would only state that there had to be a withdrawal "from territories." 

The U.S. and Britain recognized that the pre-1967 line had only been an armistice line from 1949 and was not a final international border. Indeed, Article 2 of the original 1949 Armistice Agreement between Israel and Jordan clearly stipulated that it did not prejudice the territorial "claims and positions" of the parties since its provisions were "dictated exclusively by military considerations." 

The battle over the language of the withdrawal clause was not just conducted by overly legalistic advisers to the British and American missions to the U.N.; everyone understood that these distinctions had enormous significance, for they went all the way to the apex of power in both Washington and Moscow and were settled in direct communications between President Lyndon Johnson and Prime Minister Alexei Kosygin.

The British, under Prime Minister Harold Wilson, were the main drafters of Resolution 242. Their Ambassador to the U.N. in 1967, Lord Caradon, clarified what the language of the withdrawal clause meant in an interview published in 1976 in the Journal of Palestine Studies: "We could have said, 'Well, you go back to the 1967 line.' But I know the 1967 line, and it’s a rotten line. You couldn’t have a worse line for a permanent international boundary. It’s where the troops happened to be on a certain night in 1948. It’s got no relation to the needs of the situation. Had we said that you must go back to the 1967 line, which would have resulted if we had specified a retreat from all the occupied territories, we would have been wrong." 

Any Israeli withdrawal had to be to "secure and recognized borders," as the resolution stated.

Lord Caradon's American counterpart, Arthur Goldberg, fully supported this interpretation repeatedly over the years, such as in his 1988 statement: "The resolution stipulates withdrawal from occupied territories without defining the extent of withdrawal." Goldberg was a legal scholar who served previously on the U.S. Supreme Court, before coming to the U.N. 

Others backed his interpretation as well. The senior U.S. figure in the State Department with responsibility for the Middle East, Joseph Sisco, went on NBC's Meet the Press on July 12, 1970, and also said: "That resolution [242] did not say 'withdrawal to the pre-June 5 lines.''' In short, there was no argument about how Resolution 242 should be interpreted. Israel had rights to retain some West Bank territory, so that at the end of the day it could obtain defensible borders in any future political settlement.

By the way, it is notable that according to Resolution 242, Israel was entitled to this territory without having to pay for it with its own pre-1967 territory. There were no land swaps in Resolution 242. Nor was there any corridor crossing Israeli sovereign territory so that the West Bank could be connected to the Gaza Strip (just as there is no land corridor across Canada connecting Alaska to the rest of the U.S.). These diplomatic innovations were thought of by negotiators in the 1990s, but Israel in no way is required to agree to them, according to Resolution 242. In his memoirs, Abba Eban, then Israel's foreign minister, described the readiness of the U.S. and Britain, in particular, to agree to a revision of the pre-war boundaries as a "major breakthrough" for Israeli diplomacy.

Yet there were also efforts underway over the years to erode this Israeli achievement. Some diplomats argued that the French version of the resolution said "from the territories," rather than "from territories." Anglo-American diplomacy had carefully avoided the definite article in the English version. Whether the French version was a translation mistake or a consequence of how French grammar deals with abstract nouns didn't matter. Resolution 242 was negotiated in English, and 10 out of 15 members of the U.N. Security Council were English-speaking countries. Thus the English version of Resolution 242 was the decisive version to work with. 

In 1970, British Prime Minister Wilson had been replaced by Edward Heath. In January 1973, Britain joined the European Economic Community, leading to a major erosion of its position on Resolution 242. On Nov. 6, 1973, in the aftermath of the 1973 Yom Kippur War, the EEC issued a joint declaration which reflected its own growing sense of vulnerability to threats of an Arab oil embargo. It was a time when no European state would even allow U.S. cargo aircraft with badly needed spare parts for the IDF to refuel on their way to Israel -- only Portugal agreed, but insisted on the U.S. using its airfield in the Azores. Europe as a collective felt it needed to appease the Arab oil-producers. As a result, the EEC declaration, which now included Britain, explicitly stated that Israel had to withdraw to the armistice lines of 1949. Under pressure, the British abandoned the essence of a resolution that they themselves had drafted six years earlier.

One of the intriguing aspects of Resolution 242 was that it said nothing about Jerusalem. In a letter to The New York Times on March 6, 1980, Arthur Goldberg wrote: "Resolution 242 in no way refers to Jerusalem, and this omission was deliberate." He explained that he never described Jerusalem as "occupied territory." Goldberg was reacting to the policy of the Carter administration, which was criticizing Israeli construction practices in east Jerusalem and misrepresenting Israel's legal rights. Goldberg believed that the status of Jerusalem had to be negotiated, but he insisted that "Jerusalem was not to be divided again."

Israel itself may have contributed to confusion about its rights in Jerusalem. The 1993 Oslo Accords formally recognized Jerusalem as a subject for future final status negotiations. Yet that did not mean that Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was prepared to re-divide Jerusalem. Negotiability was one thing; withdrawal was something else. In his final Knesset address, on Oct. 5, 1995, one month before he was assassinated, Rabin declared: "The borders of the State of Israel, during the permanent solution, will be beyond the lines which existed before the Six-Day War. We will not return to the June 4, 1967 lines." Rabin spoke the language of Resolution 242. He added that Israel would retain "a united Jerusalem."

The effort to erode Israel's rights recognized in Resolution 242 has continued. Over the past few years, the Middle East Quartet suggested to Israel that if it would say that the basis of the negotiations would be the 1967 lines, then Mahmoud Abbas would come back to the negotiations. This strategy didn't work back then and contradicted Resolution 242. 

Ultimately, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry succeeded in restarting negotiations without making the 1967 lines the basis of a final settlement. As Israel engages in the current sensitive talks with the Palestinians, it is imperative that it recall its legal rights, especially to those states who voted for Resolution 242 but now demand that Israel withdraw to the 1967 lines, contrary to what the U.N. originally established.

Dore Gold


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

Obama Turns on Israel

by Daniel Pipes

Barack Obama's March 2013 trip to Israel had a too-good-to-be-true feel about it. While barely pressuring on Israel, he instructed Palestinians not to set preconditions for negotiations and admonished them to "recognize that Israel will be a Jewish state." It felt out of character, suggesting a price to be paid later.

Well, that price has now, eight months later, been revealed and it has two components. If I might paraphrase the U.S. position: "First, sit by quietly as we reach an accord with Tehran that freezes but does not dismantle its nuclear buildup. Second, stop the illegitimate residential construction on the West Bank or the Palestinian Authority will, with American acquiescence, start a third intifada."

Israeli responses to the two demands have been stark, blunt unlike anything in memory. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu blasted the prospective Iran deal as a "monumental mistake" and after meeting with Secretary of State John Kerry warned:
I reminded him that he said that no deal is better than a bad deal. And the deal that is being discussed in Geneva right now is a bad deal. It's a very bad deal. Iran is not required to take apart even one centrifuge. But the international community is relieving sanctions on Iran for the first time after many years. Iran gets everything that it wanted at this stage and pays nothing. And this is when Iran is under severe pressure. I urge Secretary Kerry not to rush to sign, to wait, to reconsider, to get a good deal. But this is a bad deal, a very, very, bad deal. It's the deal of a century for Iran; it's a very dangerous and bad deal for peace and the international community.
Economy and Commerce Minister Naftali Bennett was even more direct, even raising the prospect of an Iranian nuclear bomb destroying New York City:
These critical days in November will be remembered for years to come. The Free World stands before a fork in the road with a clear choice: Either stand strong and insist Iran dismantles its nuclear-weapons program, or surrender, cave in and allow Iran to retain its 18,500 centrifuges. Years from now, when an Islamic terrorist blows up a suitcase in New York, or when Iran launches a nuclear missile at Rome or Tel Aviv, it will have happened only because a Bad Deal was made during these defining moments.
Like in a boxing match, Iran's regime is currently on the floor. The count is just seconds away from 10. Now is the time to step up the pressure and force Iran to dismantle its nuclear program. Not to let it up. It would be dangerous to lift the sanctions and accept a deal which allows Iran to retain its entire uranium-production line. It would be dangerous because Iran would, a year, two or three from now, just turn everything back on and obtain a nuclear weapon before the world can do anything to stop it. It is not enough to shut off the centrifuges. They need to be completely dismantled. We call upon the West to avoid signing a Bad Deal.
Israel's responsibility is to ensure the security of its citizens and that is exactly what we will do. We will never outsource our security.
On the Palestinian issue, Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon took the lead:
There is no need to fear threats of whether there will or won't be a third intifada. We have been in an open and ongoing conflict [with the Palestinians], which as far as the Palestinians are concerned does not end in 1967 lines. There is Sheikh Munis, [their name for] Tel Aviv, Majdal, [their name for] Ashkelon. We got out of the Gaza Strip and they continue to attack us. They raise their youth to believe that Haifa and Acre are Palestinian ports and more. There is no sign of compromise here. … We will have to be smart, and not fear threats of whether there will or won't be a third intifada.
I wrote before the last presidential election that "Israel's troubles will really begin" should Obama win second term. At Obama's second inauguration, I predicted that he, "freed from re-election constraints, can finally express his early anti-Zionist views after a decade of political positioning. Watch for a markedly worse tone from the second Obama administration toward the third Netanyahu government."

That moment is now upon us.

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


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

Kerry’s Slander of ‘Illegitimate’ Israeli Settlements

by P. David Hornik


The Israeli-Palestinian “peace talks” have reportedly hit a rough patch. The talks on Tuesday were said to have “ended in a row, with raised voices and the exchange of verbal insults.”

It started last week when Israel released the second batch of Palestinian security prisoners, all of whom were serving time for murder or attempted murder. They were welcomed as heroes in Ramallah. Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas shook each freed prisoner’s hand, and they were awarded generous cash grants on top of the stipends they already receive.

Meanwhile, in an attempt to allay outrage particularly on the more right-leaning side of his coalition, Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu announced the building of 3500 housing units for Israelis—all of them either in East Jerusalem or West Bank (Judea and Samaria) settlement blocs. Several Israeli officials claimed the Palestinian side had already consented to such construction as a quid pro quo for the prisoner releases.

Tuesday’s dustup in the talks was said to have erupted over that issue. The Palestinian negotiators claimed their side had never agreed to such a quid pro quo and slammed the construction itself. Many reports said the talks on the whole were on the verge of collapse.

A few hours later, on Tuesday afternoon, U.S. secretary of state John Kerry arrived in Israel in an effort to salvage the situation.

He lost no time taking the Palestinian side.

For one thing, he claimed that “at no time” had the Palestinians consented to any Israeli building beyond the 1949 armistice lines—even, it was implied, as a concession in return for Israel’s wholesale freeing of terrorists.

Kerry also stated, immediately after discussions with Abbas: “Let me emphasize at this point the position of the United States of America on the settlements is that we consider them…to be illegitimate.”

Considering that about half a million Israelis now live in Jerusalem neighborhoods that are dubbed “settlements” and in West Bank communities, which include full-fledged towns like Modi’in Illit (pop. 59,000), Beitar Illit (pop. 46,000), Maale Adumim (pop. 39,000), Ariel (pop. 18,000) and others, and considering that in some of these areas Israelis are subjected to frequent, potentially lethal rock- and firebomb-throwing attacks, along with actual lethal and near-lethal shooting, beating, and stabbing attacks in recent months (here, here, here, and here), the charge that all Israeli Jewish residence in these places is “illegitimate” is serious indeed and seemingly incendiary and dangerous.

Kerry is not the first Obama-administration official to have used that term to describe communities comprising half a million Israelis; others were his predecessor as secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, and, while she was UN ambassador, Susan Rice.

Is the description accurate? The question is complicated by the fact that it has never been clear what “illegitimate” means. If it’s code for “illegal,” the legality of Israeli communities beyond the 1949 armistice lines (often called the “1967 borders”) has been affirmed by international-law experts Eugene Rostow, Stephen Schwebel, Julius Stone, and others.

And as noted by Alan Baker, a former legal adviser to the Israeli Foreign Ministry and former Israeli ambassador to Canada:
The Palestinian leadership, in the still valid 1995 Interim Agreement (Oslo 2), agreed to, and accepted Israel’s continued presence in Judea and Samaria pending the outcome of the permanent status negotiations, without any restriction on either side regarding planning, zoning or construction of homes and communities.
So if these Israeli communities are legal under international law, and the Palestinian side is on record accepting their existence and development in an internationally ratified document, it is hard to see what the “illegitimacy” charge is supposed to indicate.

Meanwhile neither Kerry nor any other Obama-administration official has been heard to even question the “legitimacy” of the Palestinian Authority publicly celebrating, lauding, and financially rewarding freed murderers of Israelis. It was, indeed, Kerry himself who severely pressured Israel (see here and here) to take the measure of freeing them in the first place.

In other words, a bad stench of twisted morality arises from Kerry’s ongoing push for “peace.”

“I can tell you,” Kerry said this week in Israel, “that President Obama and I are determined, and neither of us will stop in our efforts to pursue the possibility (of peace).”

Can peace be built on the glorification of murder and on the defamation of half a million people who are already under attack?

P. David Hornik


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

Kerry Blames Israel for Stealing "Palestinian" Land and not Making Peace, Warns of New Intifada if Israel Doesn't Make Concessions

by Robert Spencer

Outrageous myopia borne of a steadfast refusal to acknowledge the reality of the "Palestinian" jihad and its ultimate goal, which is the total destruction of Israel. "Frustrated Kerry’s peace critique a heavy slap in Netanyahu’s face," by Raphael Ahren for the Times of Israel, November 7:
On Wednesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his old friend John Kerry in Jerusalem that he was concerned about the peace process, and asked the visiting US secretary of state to “steer [the Palestinians] back to a place where we could achieve the historical peace that we seek.” John Kerry quickly responded by lauding both sides’ “good faith,” and said he was “very confident” the negotiations would succeed. But on Thursday, he loosened the diplomatic straitjacket, and we all got a much better look at what John Kerry really thinks about progress — and blame — in the new peace effort he worked so strenuously to revive a little over three months ago. He turned directly to the Israeli and Palestinian peoples and showed them rather more of his true colors. To the prime minister, it is safe to assume, they did not look particularly blue and white.
For the first time since he managed to restart the talks in July, Kerry dropped his statesman-like public impartiality, and clearly spoke from the heart — and what emerged were a series of accusations that amounted to a forceful slap in the face for Netanyahu. It was a rhetorical onslaught that the prime minister cannot have expected and one he will not quickly forget.
In an extremely unusual joint interview with Israel’s Channel 2 and the Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation, a patently very frustrated Kerry basically blamed the Israeli government for stealing the Palestinians’ land and the Israeli public for living in bubble that prevents them from caring much about it. If that wasn’t enough, he railed against the untenability of the Israel Defense Forces staying “perpetually” in the West Bank. In warning that a violent Palestinian leadership might supplant Mahmoud Abbas if there was not sufficient progress at the peace table, he appeared to come perilously close to empathizing with potential Palestinian aggression against Israel.
“If we do not resolve the issues between Palestinians and Israelis,” Kerry warned credibly early in the interview, “if we do not find a way to find peace, there will be an increasing isolation of Israel [and an] increasing campaign of delegitimization of Israel.
“If we do not resolve the question of settlements,” he continued more dramatically, “and the question of who lives where and how and what rights they have; if we don’t end the presence of Israeli soldiers perpetually within the West Bank, then there will be an increasing feeling that if we cannot get peace with a leadership that is committed to non-violence, you may wind up with leadership that is committed to violence.”
He is dreaming. The "Palestinians" don't have leadership now that is committed to non-violence. The hateful rhetoric on official Palestinian Authority TV alone abundantly establishes that.
Later, he elaborated, with increased dismay, over continued Israeli settlement expansion: “How, if you say you’re working for peace and you want peace, and a Palestine that is a whole Palestine that belongs to the people who live there, how can you say we’re planning to build in a place that will eventually be Palestine? So it sends a message that perhaps you’re not really serious.” Kerry seemed to place the blame for the failure to make rapid and major progress in negotiations overwhelmingly on Israel, with no acknowledgement of two intifadas, relentless anti-Israel incitement in the Palestinian territories, the Hamas takeover of Gaza and the constant rocket fire from the Strip.
In lamenting the IDF’s presence in the West Bank, he positioned himself directly opposite Netanyahu, for whom an ongoing Israeli security presence in the Jordan Valley is a stated crucial condition for an agreement. Perhaps more surprisingly, he showed no evident internalization of the danger of a Hamas takeover in the West Bank were the IDF to withdraw, disregarding a widely held concern — borne of the rapid ease with which Hamas swept Abbas’s forces aside in Gaza in 2007 — that the official Palestinian Authority forces alone would not be able to hold sway.
His comments indicating an assessment that Israelis are unrealistic about where the region is heading seemed particularly bitter. “The alternative to getting back to the talks is the potential of chaos. I mean, does Israel want a third Intifada?” Kerry asked rhetorically, before lashing out at ordinary Israelis. “I know there are people who have grown used to this,” he said referring to the current relatively peaceful stalemate. “And particularly in Israel. Israel says, ‘Oh we feel safe today. We have the wall, we’re not in a day-to-day conflict, we’re doing pretty well economically.’
“Well, I’ve got news for you,” he said, apparently addressing the Israeli public. “Today’s status quo will not be tomorrow’s or next year’s. Because if we don’t resolve this issue, the Arab world, the Palestinians, neighbors, others, are going to begin again to push in a different way.”
As if any Israeli concessions could really keep that from happening.
That line of thinking reflects much international conventional wisdom on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — the assumption that Israel could attain peace with the Palestinians if only it wanted to, but that it just doesn’t want to enough. Many Israelis, Netanyahu most certainly among them, would counter that Israel cannot impose terms on a Palestinian leadership that, among numerous other problematic negotiating positions, still demands a “right of return” that would constitute suicide for the Jewish state. Many Israelis, their prime minister among them, too, would note that Israel is only too aware of how easily the relative calm could deteriorate, and thus are wary of relinquishing territory to a Palestinian leadership that, relatively moderate though it may be, might not be in a position to retain power and honor any accord amid the sweeping Middle East instability....
And it isn't moderate now.

Robert Spencer


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

Battered Country Syndrome

by Rabbi Steven Pruzansky

hat tip to Sefton Bergson for calling this article to my attention

As a young attorney a few decades ago, I was trying a case of child neglect in the Family Court. The mother testified (trying to excuse her neglect) that she had been beaten regularly by her husband — weekly or monthly — for six or seven years. "Did you ever call the police?" I asked. "No." "Well," I said trying to impeach her credibility, "why would you stay for years with a man who was beating you?"

The wrath of the court fell on me. I was called to the bench, where the judge asked me: "Counselor, haven't you ever heard of the 'battered wife syndrome'?"

Indeed, I hadn't, but quickly gained an education. There are women, I was told, who routinely live with abusive husbands. They stay because they can't afford to leave, because they always think the situation will improve and the last beating is the last beating (until the next one, and that becomes the "last" one), because there can be long periods of domestic tranquility punctuated by explosions, or because they have low self-esteem and on some level "feel" that they deserve the beatings by provoking their malevolent husbands or by not being sufficiently good wives.

Obviously, it is irrational, and almost inexplicable to an outsider with a healthy psyche and a normal, healthy way of looking at the world.

Welcome to Israel, afflicted with the "battered-country syndrome." There is really no rational explanation why a nation would enter into negotiations with an enemy sworn to its destruction, when any outcome of those negotiations will redound to its detriment, and almost immediately. Furthermore, the very notion that Israel should have to bribe its evil interlocutors to come to the negotiation table by releasing another 104 murderers of Jews is beyond bizarre, beyond explanation, and only attributable to a virulent strain of a mental illness that is unprecedented and, as yet, untreatable. It is painfully obvious that no other country on earth ever has or ever will agree to liberate the murderers of its own citizens simply to purchase the right to have an enemy negotiate them into further concessions and weakness.

It is mind-boggling. How would the US respond if Iran insisted, as the price of negotiations on its almost-finished nuclear program, that the US release Dzokar, the Boston Marathon bomber? The depraved absurdity speaks for itself. And Israel is releasing 100 Dzokars.

Note as well that the Obama administration, in pressuring Israel to free terrorists, refused to release Jonathan Pollard imprisoned now for almost 29 years. They would not consider it, despite the fact that Pollard has no blood on his hands, unlike the Arab murderers being released some of whom were involved in absolutely brutal slayings of innocent civilians. Only Israel, suffering from the battered-country syndrome. (And what does it say about the Arab society that demands freedom for these killers and celebrates them as heroes? But that is a different syndrome altogether.)

Israel's response can only be the result of a mental illness because neither the negotiations nor the release make any sense — in timing or in execution. The Middle East is aflame — a tinderbox of violence and hatred. Three times as many Syrians have been killed by each other in the last two years than "Palestinians" have been killed by Israelis in 65 years, and few of those Palestinians were innocent of any wrongdoing. Egypt is in the midst of a civil war. Northern Africa is Islamasizing. Jordan fears for its future, as the unrest to its north and the radicalization of Islam that surrounds it threatens the stability of its monarchy. Gasoline prices in the United States have doubled — yes, doubled — since Obama took office.

And John Kerry can find nothing better to do than browbeat Israel into negotiations with its enemy, and at the price of freeing murderers as well? Kerry has made six trips to the region in his attempts to jumpstart these talks, which do not lead to a good place for Israel. There are only two possibilities ahead: either Israel makes more territorial concessions that further weaken it, strengthen the Arabs, and demoralize its Jewish population, or Israel makes no concessions and is blamed for the lack of peace in the Middle East and beyond. How is it possible that its government can be so obtuse and behave in such a shameless way?

Surely, PM Netanyahu knows the disadvantages of pandering to terrorists; he even wrote a book on it. And, of course, he has long insisted, quite passionately and eloquently, as is his wont, that "there will be no pre-conditions for negotiations!" That robust declaration, apparently, holds true — until it doesn't. Does he believe that peace will come as a result of these talks? Does he believe that the US will give Israel a green light to attack Iran, or even attack Iran themselves? Does he believe that Israel cannot any longer bear the absence of negotiations? Does he believe that the same three people who failed in their last round of negotiations five years ago will now suddenly succeed, and the Arabs will morph into the Swiss? Does he believe that the European Union will renounce their hateful boycott of Israel? (Why not make that an Israeli pre-condition for negotiations??)

None of the above is credible in the least, and the ongoing weakness is only attributable to the battered-country syndrome. Just like the battered-wife blames herself for the violence, thinks she can improve the situation by making unilateral changes, lacks self-esteem, and therefore endures the violence, injury, emotional and verbal abuse and degradation that is her fate — so too Israel.

Only a country that lacks self-esteem willingly surrenders its land to its enemies; that diminished self-worth is only possible among those who deny the divine promise of the land of Israel to the Jewish people. Only a battered-country blames itself for Arab unhappiness and discontent, and thinks it can solve all its neighbors' problems. Only a battered-country will tolerate rockets on its citizens' heads, endure terror for years without responding, and then regret and apologize for its forceful response when it does happen. (Just like the battered wife will often regret defending herself against her abusive husband.)

Just like battered women have been known to seek out cosmetic surgery in order to please their husbands (new face, new look, new start), so too, only a battered country will make surgically excise parts of its homeland in order to please, or even just temporarily mollify, its abusers. And just like the battered wife always feels that relief is just around the corner, so too the battered country feels that peace is attainable, juuuuuuuuuuuust around the corner. It's entirely visible, like any mirage.

The battered wife accepts repetitive cycles of abuse and tranquility, but always lives in fear of the abuse and thinks she can somehow avert it by changing something, anything. But the same story repeats itself again and again — like here, the same faces emerge once again: Livni, Molcho, Erakat, Indyk. Expect Dennis Ross to make a cameo, and Shimon Peres to take a bow at some point. And where is Hanan Ashrawi?

The battering husband never makes concessions, because he thinks he does nothing wrong. Fault lies only with the misbehaving, unsatisfying, failed wife. So, only Israel, the battered country, must make concessions. The only Arab concession —having to sit in a room for a short time with the accursed Jews — is bought at the price of freeing murderers of Jewish men, women and children. The battered country makes concessions in order to forestall terror and violence, because it thinks that it is responsible for the distress of the "husband," and because it does not really believe it is entitled to a peaceful, tranquil existence, a normal life, as other countries have. It does not really believe it deserves such a life, and so it does everything it can to undermine it, and at every opportunity.

And then the terror resumes, and the heartbreak of expulsions and the denial of rights to its citizens recur. Just like the battered wife often takes out her frustrations on her children (as in the case above), so too the battered country abuses its citizens, expels them from their homes, expects to stomach terror, massacres, bombings and shootings, and exults in its victimization. After all, it deserves it.

The battered country, like the battered wife, thinks it cannot live without the "husband." But the healthy know that the dependency is unhealthy and reversible. Thus, every country pressured by the Obama administration thumbs its nose at it; only the battered country is incapable of standing up for its interests and saying a polite "no."

The greater irony here — and what underscores the illness —is the superfluity of it all. Israel is today living in relative peace and prosperity, much more than any other nation in the region and more than in most of the world. The "Palestinians" are a spent force, characterized by Bret Stephens in the Wall Street Journal just three weeks ago as a "boring" people, whose affairs do not really interest the world or have any impact on global affairs. Watching the Israeli news the last few days, it was surprising that these negotiations barely rated mention in the first half-hour. The only outcry — from the pockets of normalcy that remain — was over the impending release of the Arab murderers. The cause of the Palestinians is not even in the top five interests of the Arab world today; it is probably not in the top fifty of important world concerns.

So why do it?

The Oslo process also began when the Arabs were in political decline. Their civil war had petered out, with Israeli casualties in the years before Oslo numbering annually in the twenties. (After Oslo, there was an awful spike in terror and casualties.) Now again, terror is at an all-time low, notwithstanding the recent increase in shootings, stabbings, and, in the last few days again, rockets. Why should Israel indulge Kerry, revive the dormant Arab cause, punish its own citizens, and weaken itself in the process? Why not just do as the battered wife should do — leave her abusive husband until he gets help, or just leave him altogether — as in "peace is not possible in this generation with these Arab leaders; let us focus instead on co-existence"?

It is inexplicable, as inexplicable as the battered country syndrome.
Rabbi Steven Pruzansky was trained as a lawyer and is an ordained Rabbi. After practicing law for thirteen years, he served as Rabbi at Congregation Etz Chaim in Kew Gardens Hills, New York. He has been the spiritual leader of Congregation Bnai Yeshurun in Teaneck, New Jersey since 1994. Contact him at


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

How Islam’s Drug Trade is Destroying Cities and Countries

by Daniel Greenfield


Iran has a serious drug problem. Afghanistan is a serious drug problem. What happens when they overlap? Hell on earth.
The number of drug users in Afghanistan is estimated to be as high as 1.6 million, or about 5.3 percent of the population, among the highest rates in the world. Nationwide, one in 10 urban households has at least one drug user, according to a recent report from the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs. In the city of Herat, it is one in five.
From 2005 to 2009, the use of opiates doubled, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, putting Afghanistan on par with Russia and Iran, and the number of heroin users jumped more than 140 percent. Most drug experts think the rate of drug use has only increased since then.
“This is a tsunami for our country,” said Dr. Ahmad Fawad Osmani, the director of drug demand reduction for the Ministry of Public Health. “The only thing our drug production has brought us is one million drug users.”
In rural areas, the problem is expected to be worse. In some villages, the rate of drug use is as high as 30 percent of the population, based on hair, urine and saliva samples taken by the authors of the urban study. And drugs not traditionally in wide use here, including crystal methamphetamine, are now figuring in the problem as well.
The head of the counternarcotics ministry in Herat says there are 60,000 to 70,000 addicts in the province, though some health officials figure the number is closer to 100,000. In the capital, roughly 8 percent of the population uses drugs, the new international report found.
Long a staging area for men who work as day laborers in Iran, Islam Qala is now also a frequent waypoint for addicts returning to Herat. Most of the men say they picked up their habits while in Iran. The authorities there, struggling to deal with a widespread drug crisis of their own, are quick to banish Afghan addicts back across the border by the thousands, and the deported people stream back into Islam Qala six days a week.
In Herat’s capital, addicts fill the streets and parks, begging from pedestrians and motorists with relentless persistence. Pockets of the city have been transformed into junkie ghettos, like Kamar Kulagh, a roadside slum of sandbags, rocks and rags.
On a recent day, the faint outline of figures crawled through the bleached landscape, situated to the side of a highway on the northern edge of the city. Broken glass covered the hillside leading down to the encampment.
Azim Niazi, 30, shuffled through the village clutching two bags bulging with empty bottles, recycling them to pay for a drug habit that he said he had picked up as a laborer in Iran.
Wahid Ahmad, 27, who said he had been living there since he was deported from Iran two years ago, joined him.
Though many of the addicts in Herat came by way of Iran and Islam Qala, others decided to stay nearer the border — or are simply unable to make their own way anymore.
“His friend will die tomorrow,” said Mr. Niazi, pointing to a man, a skeleton cloaked in skin, lying in a sliver of shade nearby.
Left unmentioned in the New York Times story is that Afghanistan was an Islamic country and Iran is an Islamic country and their rulers found the drug trade convenient.

The drug trade helps fund Islamic terrorism and spreads its dealers/agents around the world. But it also backfires, spreading around at home and making a mockery of Islamic values.

Islamic terrorist groups need easy drug money, but dealers are often the first to get addicted to their own product and even when the fighters don’t come down with addictions, the production leads to local sales.

The Soviet Union dreamed of using drugs to subvert Western societies. It had some success, but Russian drug use rates are horrifying. Drug use has been traditionally widespread in Muslim societies anyway as a consequence of banning alcohol, but their role in the international drug trade has made things that much worse.

Factor in Islamic terrorist groups whom it’s sometimes hard to tell if they’re drug dealers occasionally playing terrorists or terrorists playing drug dealers, and things get truly nasty.
”The entire region is addicted, whole villages,” Islam Qala elder Arbah Shahabuddin says.
At one home, a woman answers the door and runs to get her husband, Dad Mohammad, who was getting high. Mr Mohammad, 35, says he has been using heroin for seven years.
His wife, Bibi Gul, complains that her husband beats her every day and takes money from their children to feed his addiction.
Mr Mohammad just stares into the distance, smiling.
This is your country. This is your country on Islam.

Daniel Greenfield


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

Where is Fathi al-Obeidi?

by Joe Herring & Dr. Mark Christian

As we breeze into the second year of Obama-administration stonewalling on Benghazi, details surrounding the abject abandonment of American citizens under fire in that Libyan outpost remain scarcer than hen's teeth. 

The developments in the story have trickled out, effectively distracting from the larger picture.  Of the reported 37 Americans trapped inside the consulate and CIA annex buildings in Benghazi, congressional investigators to date have been permitted to speak to nary a one. 

The CIA weakly maintains that "CIA employees are always free to speak to Congress if they want," yet sources familiar with CIA internal operations indicate that operatives in the know on Benghazi are being intimidated into silence through an unprecedented schedule of polygraph examinations, in some cases as often as monthly.

Clearly, if we are to understand what really happened in Benghazi, we will have to tap non-CIA/ State Department sources.

Perhaps the best available source is Fathi al-Obeidi, the head of the Libyan Special Forces militia unit tasked by the Libyan government with rescuing U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens along with any other Americans in peril.  Al-Obeidi, according to Sky News Arabia, later met the American security forces from Tripoli at the Benghazi airport and transported them to the stranded Americans at the CIA annex, where the "second phase" of the attack occurred.

Al-Obeidi was on hand for the entire second attack and functioned as the only eyes and ears on the ground for both the American government and the Libyans.  Al-Obeidi was there when the first American was shot.  Al-Obeidi personally helped pull him behind cover. 

Fathi al-Obeidi was also there when a second member of the American Security force was blown off the roof of the safe house, later noting his surprise at the accuracy of the attacker's weapons (attackers whom he described as more than one hundred highly trained militiamen). 

Al-Obeidi also witnessed a third American receive a gunshot wound, a man who eventually ended up at Walter Reed Military Hospital.  Al-Obeidi mentioned this third wounded American the day following the attack, but that knowledge didn't become "exclusive breaking news" in America until ten months later.

Al-Obeidi was the first to report how many people were in the safe house when the attack began.  He was told to bring transport for ten individuals, and according to contemporary news accounts (translation required), he instead encountered thirty-seven trapped Americans.  Within four hours of the conclusion of that day's events, Al-Obeidi spoke to the media, even commenting on social media as to the importance of his role.  Unfortunately, he has been silent ever since.

After nearly twelve months of handwringing by the Obama administration, formal charges were filed against the leader of the Benghazi contingent of the Ansar al-Sharia militia, an Iranian-financed group of Islamist mercenaries.  According to the New York Times, the leader, Ahmed Abu Khattalah, has been charged with murder, though at this point the charges remain sealed and he remains a free man, walking the streets of Benghazi.

Journalists from around the world have found and interviewed Khattalah, who is making no effort to conceal himself, but our government thus far has seen no compelling reason to actually arrest the man allegedly responsible for leading the Benghazi attack.  Given the circumstances, it is not unreasonable for the average American to suspect that the Obama administration has something to fear from the information Khattalah and Al-Obeidi might provide under oath.

Al-Obeidi shouldn't be difficult to find, either.  Just a few weeks after the Benghazi attack, Al-Obeidi met with CIA operatives who reportedly recruited him to lead a new rapid reaction force to be trained by U.S. Special Forces as part of an $8-billion initiative to stand up a functioning security apparatus in Libya.  I would imagine we have some idea as to where we send his paycheck.

While the lack of investigative zeal on the part of the Obama administration raises reasonable suspicions of a cover-up in progress, it doesn't explain why. 

It has become clear that Ambassador Stevens was conducting "gun-running" operations through Benghazi to supply rebel fighters in Syria with modern advanced weaponry.  While the details may remain in dispute, the fact of the operation is not.

After the raid on 9/11, weapons seized by the attacking Ansar Al-Sharia militia were rumored to have been transported to a Sudanese weapons factory, where they could be transferred to the control of Hezb'allah, the Iranian-backed Lebanese force that has entered the Syrian conflict on the side of the Assad regime.  This weapons shipment is reported to have contained 400 surface-to-air missiles.

The presence of these particular missiles could explain the unprecedented cooperation given to Israel by the Saudis, who opened their airspace to facilitate the late October 2012 attack on that same Sudanese weapons factory.

Some have speculated that the reason for the administration's slow-walking of the Benghazi investigation is to hide the possibility that these 400 missiles are presently in the hands of al-Qaeda forces who are aligned with the rebel factions in Syria.

This theory fails on a few fronts, not the least of which concerns why militant groups would steal weapons that are already slated for shipment to them.  Likewise, if the weapons were under the control of the rebel-aligned operatives of al-Qaeda, then what motivation would the Saudis have for assisting Israel in destroying weapons that are already in the hands of those who serve Saudi interests against the Assad regime?

It appears to be more plausible that the entire Benghazi/Syrian arms operation had been compromised by Russian intelligence, and the 9/11 attack was mounted to intercept the weapons intended for the rebels, and redirect them to either the Assad regime itself or to Hamas in Gaza for use against Israel should the conflict widen.  This would serve Russian interests by once and for all halting the massive arms shipments funneled through Benghazi to Turkey, and from there to the Syrian rebels.

Clearly, in the eyes of the Russians, the Benghazi gun-running represented an unacceptable intervention by the Americans in the Syrian civil war.  Russian President Vladimir Putin had repeatedly warned Obama not to meddle in the Syrian conflict.  It was widely discussed among the attendees of the G20 summit that Putin feared that the fall of the Assad regime would result in yet another unstable Islamist government, as had already resulted from the other "Arab Spring" revolts.

In fact, the case can be made that only the Russians would've had the intelligence capabilities to sniff out the specifics of the Benghazi operation with sufficient specificity to interdict the operation and seize the weapons in transit. 

Ansar Al-Sharia has no such intelligence capability, nor do the Libyan militias in the area, or even Hezb'allah.  However, the Iranian-backed militias could function as proxy forces in service of Russian aims. 

Could the Turkish ambassador's September 11 visit to the Benghazi mission have been to warn Ambassador Stevens that the Russians were fully aware of his operation? 

Ambassador Stevens met with several people during his time in Benghazi.  It is possible that one of them was senior Lebanese security official Major General Wissam al-Hassan, who was absent from Lebanon at the time, with no official record of his whereabouts on and around September 11, 2012.

Al-Hassan, no friend of Syria or Hezb'allah, headed up the investigation into Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri's assassination that laid the blame at Bashar al-Assad's feet. 

With Hezb'allah fighting on the side of Assad, his victory would certainly represent a threat to Lebanese stability, providing Syria with outsized influence in a nation whose leader they had already assassinated.

If Al-Hassan had discovered that the Russians were onto the Benghazi operation, recognition of the shift in power that would result would have been reason enough for him to add his own warning to that of the Turkish ambassador.

Little more than a month after Benghazi, Al-Hassan was assassinated in a bomb blast that was almost certainly detonated by Hezb'allah, at Syrian request.  Perhaps this was his punishment for attempting to deny Hezb'allah and Assad their 400-missile prize. 

As interesting as all this is, however, it doesn't explain why Obama abandoned American citizens to the ferocity of terrorist attackers when it has been shown that there were multiple assets that could've come to their aid.

Assume for a moment that the Benghazi raid was in fact, a Russian proxy operation.  This circumstance alone would explain the reluctance of Obama, Panetta, and Hillary to engage the Russian-backed forces in defense of an illegal and compromised CIA operation.  Under that scenario, it would appear that Obama made the decision to sacrifice the lives of as many as 37 Americans to avoid stoking conflict between the U.S. and Russia.

Perhaps the reluctance of the Obama administration to reveal any particulars regarding Benghazi stems from attempts not to hide their involvement in illegal weapons shipments, but rather to conceal yet another instance of Putin making Obama pay for incompetence and weakness on the world stage.  Embarrassment is a powerful deterrent to disclosure, especially for a leader with more than a hint of narcissism.

Senator Lindsey Graham reported that the American public would finally hear from three survivors of the Benghazi attack who are slated to testify before Congress in a closed hearing.  I wouldn't bet that Al-Obeidi will be among them.

Joe Herring writes from Omaha, Nebraska and welcomes visitors to his website at  Dr. Mark Christian is the executive director at the Global Faith Institute, a convert to Christianity, and a former member of the Muslim Brotherhood.


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

Kerry's Antagonism Unmasked

by David M. Weinberg

Until this week, most Israelis thought of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry as a naive nice guy. His ardent enthusiasm for basically impossible peace talks with the Palestinians was viewed as stop-gap diplomacy, at best; a fool's errand, at worst.

But Thursday night, in his joint television interview to Israeli and Palestinian television, we "discovered" a different Kerry: nasty, threatening, one-sided, blind to the malfeasance and unreliability of Palestinian leaders, and dangerously oblique to the explosive situation he himself is creating. 

Channeling the Palestinian line, Kerry showed no appreciation whatsoever for Israel's positions and concerns (aside from the usual throw-away vague protestations of concern for Israel's "security").

His warnings about the coming isolation of Israel and of a third intifada unless Israel quickly allows the emergence of a "whole Palestine" and ends it "perpetual military occupation" of Judea and Samaria amount to unfriendly pressure. Worse still, Kerry is trading treacherously in ugly self-fulfilling prophecy. 

There was always a high probability that the Palestinians would eventually use the predictable collapse of the talks as an excuse for more violence and renewal of their lawfare against Israel in international forums. Now they have John Kerry's seal of approval for doing so.

Kerry has basically laid out the Obama administration's understanding (dare I say, acceptance) of the campaign to delegitimize and isolate Israel -- unless Israel succumbs to Palestinian and international dictates for almost complete Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and Jerusalem.

Kerry is effectively telling the Palestinians that they should make sure the talks fail, and then Israel will be forced to give in.

So now the Palestinians know clearly what to do. They don't really want a circumscribed, hemmed-in, mini-state of the like that Israel could agree too. They have never wanted the "sovereign cage" of a Palestinian state that Israel can contemplate (as Ahmad Khalidi and Saeb Erekat have categorized the generous Barak and Olmert proposals). What they have always wanted is "runaway" statehood, and the total delegitimization of Israel, alongside an ongoing campaign to swamp Israel demographically and overwhelm Israel diplomatically.

Strategically then, there is no good reason for Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to agree to any negotiated accord with Israel. An accord will hem in Palestinian ambitions. An accord will grant Israel the legitimacy that Kerry warns we are losing. An accord will grant Israel the legitimacy "to act in order to protect its security needs," as Tzipi Livni keeps on saying.

Obviously then, Abbas knows what to do. By stiffing Israel and holding to his maximalist demands, Abbas pushes Israel into Kerry's punishment corner. He spurs on the isolation of Israel that Mr. Kerry is oh-so-worried-about. He creates ever-greater pressure on Israel to concede ever more to Palestinian ambitions.

In short, Kerry's onslaught last night only encourages Palestinian obduracy, and strips the peace process of any realism.

Over the past 30 years, Israelis have shifted their views tremendously. They've gone from denying the existence of a Palestinian people to recognition of Palestinian peoplehood and national aspirations; and from insisting on exclusive Israeli sovereignty and control of Judea, Samaria and Gaza to acceptance of a demilitarized Palestinian state in these areas. Israel has even withdrawn all-together from Gaza, and allowed a Palestinian government to assume authority over 95 percent of West Bank residents. Israel has made the Palestinian Authority three concrete offers for Palestinian statehood over more than 90 percent of West Bank territory plus Gaza.

Palestinians have made no even remotely comparable moves toward Israel.

What Kerry should be doing is disabusing the Palestinians of the notion that they can fall back on bogus, maximalist demands as their uncompromising bottom line. He should be dialing down Palestinian expectations and bringing Palestinians toward compromise, no less than Israelis. He should be pressing them to close the "peace gap" by accepting the historic ties of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel and the legitimacy of Israel's existence in the Middle East as a Jewish state (and that, in principle, includes Judea and Samaria). 

He should be calling on them to renounce the resettlement of Palestinian refugees in pre-1967 Israel, and to end their support for and glorification of Palestinian suicide-bombers and missile launchers against Israel's civilian population, and to end the anti-Semitic and anti-Israel warlike propaganda that fills the Palestinian airwaves. 

Kerry should make clear to the Palestinians that if they don't compromise with Israel, the world will stand by Israel, will not isolate Israel, and will not tolerate Palestinian violence against Israel.

Instead, Kerry chose to launch a full-bore attack on Netanyahu and on all Israelis who (in Kerry's words) pig-headedly "feel safe today" and "feel they're doing pretty well economically." He laid out the consequences for Israel of disobeying America (no safety and no prosperity). He laid out no similar consequences for the Palestinians if they remain intransigent.

So much for the notion of honest broker.

David M. Weinberg


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

Why Russia Critiques the Idea of American Exceptionalism

by Veronika Kyrylenko

Russia has never been particularly sympathetic to the Western civilization and its leader, the United States. Almost 50 years of the last century had lasted in the global confrontation of the Cold War, which repeatedly threatened to grow into a "hot" state. During the Cold War, the Soviet Union created lots of "black" myths about the West and its set of values. It has been more than 20 years since the collapse of the Soviet Union, but certain ideological myths continue to dominate the minds of Russians. And the rhetoric of the Russian leaders provokes an escalation of the anti-Western sentiments among the people. 

This logic of events is quite predictable: the creation of an "enemy" image became a favorite technique of propaganda in the political, economic, and social conditions which exist in modern Russia. First of all, the growth of the social and emotional uncertainty caused by the spread of fear of real or fictitious threats, allows firstly, to effectively control people, consolidating them around a political leadership of a country, in which people hope to find protection from threats. Secondly, it diverts people's attention from problems of economic and social nature. Also, the actualization of the image of the "enemy" in the mass consciousness connects all the troubles that occur or may occur with actions of the "enemy."

At the same time, propaganda aims to idealize the deeds of a current government. The media actively describes the achievements of a wise leadership, praises the personal and professional qualities of the leaders. And, of course, it is necessary to constantly demonstrate the successful struggle against the "enemy", constantly reminding people about "enemy's" cruelty and aggressiveness. Here are just a few statements of Vladimir Putin,  Russia's three-time president, who is well-known for his anti-Western rhetoric: "Let us not forget that the United States is the only country that has ever used nuclear weapons, and used it against non-nuclear country. We will always respond to the threats that arise around our borders"; "It seems to me our partners don't want allies, they need vassals, they want to rule, but Russia doesn't work that way"; "During the presidency of Bill Clinton they bombed Yugoslavia and Belgrade, Bush sent troops to Afghanistan, then under the totally false pretext, they sent the troops to Iraq, eliminated all Iraqi leadership -- even children from the family of Saddam Hussein have died. Now they turn on Libya on the pretext of protecting the civilian population. But during the bombing of the territory they kill the civilian population. Where is any logic and conscience in this? There is neither." And finally: "I would rather disagree with a case he (President Obama) made on American exceptionalism, stating that the United States' policy is "what makes America different. It's what makes us exceptional." It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation." Add to these words Putin's own actions: the Dima Yakovlev Act, the Snowden's case, Russia's irreconcilable position in the Security Council, and demonstrative support of non-democratic regimes.

Second, and equally important, this rhetoric aims to reconstruct the lost image of Russia as a world superpower whose cooperation would be necessary to resolve any major international conflict.

The constant criticism of the United States adds political weight to Russia in the eyes of its own people and abroad. So we need to analyze whether Russia is really "rising from its knees," as the pro-Kremlin media say, and what real achievements Putin's "not exceptional but unique" regime can demonstrate.

Political system: a blooming kleptocracy

The current Russian political regime can be described as a kleptocracy. Kleptocracy and total corruption in the state system of Russia are the foundation of the regime. In merging of the government branches concentration of power in the hands of one political party, it becomes a serious threat to any further development of democratization whatsoever. Now, Russia has returned to the system of so-called government "feeding", in which government officials receive a symbolic salary or do not receive it at all, and "feed" themselves and their families by demanding bribes from the residents of a territory under their jurisdiction.

Just as centuries ago, "the tsars' men" lived much better than their official salaries allowed, and were not ashamed to show off their wealth. This kleptomaniac class is the social foundation of the regime. It is no coincidence that the label of "party of crooks and thieves" is so easily associated with the ruling party --"United Russia." If the Kremlin really wanted to jail all corrupt officials, it would need to destroy its social base, which generally supports the hierarchy of state power. So, there is no war against corruption in Russia, but a political fight for more influence and money between members of the corrupted clans. The fighting of the "Kremlin Bulldogs" has become public, and it is a clear sign of Putin's weakness. For fourteen years, ever since he came to power, he was able to remain "above the fight": he kept the balance between the court rivals, played the role of a judge, who, thanks to his unquestionable authority, resolved disputes, reconciled and punished those who played too rough. Now Putin has taken the side of the "Hawks". And when the time comes to look for candidates of Putin's successors, the deciding vote will be cast by the anti-Western conservatives.

Economic system: the neo-Soviet model

Naturally, the obvious shortcomings of the political system fully effect the economy: currently, Russia occupies 139th place out of 185 countries according to the Index of Economic Freedom and is classified as a "mostly not free" country. According to Transparency International report, Russia is ranked 133rd among the 174 countries on the level of corruption in the economy.

At the same time, the structure of the economy remains essentially Soviet: the main industries are extractive (oil, gas, chemicals, and metals), as well as heavy and defense industries. Light and food industries are falling far behind. Despite the general increase of the production, the Russian economy continues to focus on the production of raw materials.

Although general economic growth is quite rapid, this has little effect on the welfare of the broad masses of Russia. Poverty has become chronic: many retirees (an average pension does not exceed 3,000 rubles, or $93) and low-skilled workers in depressed regions live in poverty. It is important to bear in mind that Russia artificially understates its poverty level. For example, if in the U.S. a person is considered to be poor if he or she earns less than $1,000 a month, in Russia this amount is just $200.

To overcome poverty and the deep economic stratification of the population it is very important to maintain economic activity, to develop a small business, to involve the widest possible range of people in the business -- the only way a considerable number of the Russians can increase their wealth. But over the past decade, the number of small businesses in Russia fiailed to increase, and now there are just one million. It can be assumed that Russian leadership does not try to support the development of middle class, since a vast middle class is a typical foundation of real democracy. The middle class is a bearer of the values of freedom and human rights, and rapidly responds when these rights are violated. Putin's regime just does not need this in Russia.

Social system: poverty, alcoholism, demographic decline

There are a number of social issues in Russia, and lots of them are not being addressed and are growing more and more critical. All kinds of policies and measures taken by the government have not given any meaningful results. Below, we cite the results of the research of N. P. Popov, Ph.D.

The main social problem is poverty, as we pointed out above.

Next problem is alcoholism. According to the UN data, the consumption of 8 liters of alcohol per person a year leads to a degradation of the nation. According to the official Russian data, this number reaches 18 liters per person a year, and according to the unofficial data it is more than 20 liters. People are dying in large numbers from general alcoholism. Over 80% of population consumes alcohol, a third regularly drinks vodka. Sociologists connect a significant increase of alcoholism in Russian society at the end of the last century with the massive worsening of the quality of life for tens of millions of people. Public disorder, along with social and economic insecurity and uncertainty, have contributed to a significant increase of public demand for alcohol, the use of which for many serves as a means of escape from reality, "overcoming" discomfort and stress, "forgetting" difficulties and concerns.

The other problem is the consumption and distribution of drugs. During the last ten years, the consumption of drugs in Russia has increased tenfold, while in the United States during this period it has decreased by half. The number of addicts registered in the dispensaries is 550 thousand people, and it is estimated that there are 5 million drug addicts, or more than 7% of the population between the ages of 11-40.

Inevitably, all of these factors affect the demographics. Since 1992, the mortality curve went up sharply and crossed the birth rate (in sociology, this phenomenon is called the "Russian Cross"). Since then, the death rate exceeds the birth rate constantly, sometimes by as much as half. According to the official prognosis, if this trend continues, by 2025 the population would be reduced to 120 million people, and by some estimates, down to 85 million (now the population of Russia is 143.4 million).

So, the U.S. and its allies are seen as the cause of all these and many other problems. It does not matter how often and how loud the Kremlin carries on about the dark conspiracies of Washington. No anti-Western propaganda would ever resolve the critical problems facing millions of Russians every single day. Moscow may criticize the idea of American exceptionalism as much as it wants, but secretly it hopes to regain the former exceptionalism of the Soviet Union and dreams of its vanished imperial power. However, while this is not achievable, we will continue to hear harsh criticism from Moscow.

Finally, we have to note that such a wave of anti-Western rhetoric was partially provoked and even somehow encouraged by Washington -- the more the top political leadership of the U.S. makes concessions to Moscow, more it forgives or ignores the unfriendly antics of Russia, the more this behavior is assessed as a weakness of the opponent, and the more active and bolder Russia behaves.

Veronika Kyrylenko


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