Saturday, March 8, 2014

Will Obama Blame Israel for Abbas’ ‘No?’

by Jonathan S. Tobin

According to today’s New York Times, the conceit behind President Obama’s recent attacks on Israel was to redress what he felt was an imbalanced approach to American diplomacy. Apparently the president thinks Secretary of State John Kerry has been too nice to the Israelis during the course of his effort to revive peace talks with the Palestinians. Thus, the president has decided to play “bad cop,” to Kerry’s “good cop” in dealings with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. While the president’s assumption of the role of the bully in his Bloomberg interview with Jeffrey Goldberg was entirely convincing, the Israelis may be forgiven for wondering when the good cop will start making nice with them. This is, after all, the same secretary that has threatened Israel with boycotts and even a third intifada if they were not sufficiently forthcoming in the negotiations, leaving the impression that the American tandem was conducting a coordinated campaign of pressure rather than a more nuanced effort to convince Jerusalem to make concessions.

Having paid for Palestinian participation in the talks with the release over 100 terrorist murderers and reportedly already conceded a withdrawal from at least 90 percent of the West Bank once the talks began, the Israelis had good reason to be surprised by Obama’s decision to pile. But while Washington has been obsessively focused on forcing the Israelis to accept a two-state solution and a framework for negotiations that they have already agreed to, the administration seems equally determined to ignore what the Palestinians are doing. Thus the statements from Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas, who received fulsome praise from the president for his commitment to peace, that he will never agree to a key element of Kerry’s framework is being ignored by the White House.

In a statement released by the official PA press agency WAFA, Abbas reiterated what he has been saying for months. He will not sign on to any framework, let alone a peace treaty that recognizes Israel as a Jewish state. In Abbas’ words, “There is no way. We will not accept.” The question now is what are Obama and Kerry going to do about it? Their answer will speak volumes not only about the future of Kerry’s talks but their commitment to a genuine peace that will ensure rather than endanger Israel’s survival.

Abbas’ latest “no” leaves President Obama and Kerry with a crucial choice.

They can insist that Abbas budge on the Jewish state issue because they know that without it the Palestinians are not conceding the end of the conflict. Unless Abbas says those two little words it will be obvious that despite Obama’s praise for him, he is just as committed to a vision of Palestinian nationalism that is inextricably tied to a war on Zionism as was his predecessor Yasir Arafat. By walking away from the talks over this point, Abbas will be delivering the fourth Palestinian no to an Israeli offer of statehood after previous rejections in 2000, 2001 and 2008.

If so, Obama will be placed in a position where he would be obligated to place the blame for Kerry’s failure just as President Bill Clinton had to blame Arafat for the collapse of the 2000 Camp David Summit as well as the subsequent Taba Conference. But given his antipathy for Netanyahu, the Israelis have to be wondering whether the president will find some reason to let Abbas off the hook.

Even worse is the possibility that they will cave in to Abbas’ demands rather than sticking to their commitment to Israel on the Jewish state issue.

While the Palestinians’ unwillingness to give up their hope of swamping Israel with refugees via a “right of return” and the pressure exerted on the PA from Hamas and Islamic Jihad has always made Kerry’s effort seem like a fool’s errand, he has conducted himself as if the chances for success were good. That’s why he readily accepted the notion that the Palestinians would acknowledge Israel as the Jewish state because in exchange for such a statement they would be rewarded with the territory and sovereignty they say they want.
In other words, while Kerry has always been prepared to give the Palestinians a peace deal that was more favorable to their ambitions than to Israel’s rights, he was still insisting that the end result must be genuine peace rather than a pause in the conflict. If his framework is altered to allow Abbas to avoid saying those two words, Kerry is aware that Israel can have no confidence that it will get peace no matter how much land they give up.

Obama and Kerry believed their bad cop/bad copy routine would be enough to bludgeon the Israelis into giving away the West Bank and perhaps even a share of Jerusalem and they appear to be right about that assumption. But, like all other would-be Middle East peacemakers they forgot or ignored the need to get the Palestinians to agree to peace.
If the administration allows Abbas to escape accountability on this crucial point it will expose their peace efforts as worse than a sham.  As I wrote yesterday, the Jewish state is not a contrived controversy but a concept that lies at the heart of the conflict. Israelis have repeatedly shown their willingness to take risks for peace but the Palestinians are still stuck with a historical narrative that won’t allow them to give up their dream of Israel’s extinction.
Abbas has no intention of ever signing a peace treaty with Israel or granting it legitimacy as a Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn or how much of Jerusalem they obtain. But if the United States can’t be honest about this even when Abbas gives them a flat no to one of the basic principles of peace, then it is clear that the purpose of the negotiations isn’t a resolution of the conflict but another excuse to bash Israel. If, after Kerry’s mission fails or even if it continues on terms that are incompatible with peace, Israelis should expect to be blamed no matter what they have conceded or how many times Abbas has said no. But so long as Abbas refuses to say two words, those charges will be lies.

Jonathan S. Tobin


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Israel’s Homicidal Peace Partner

by Daniel Greenfield

Solomon Yahya was born in Yemen in 1915. He worked as a gardener for forty years in Israel. Even long after retirement he continued doing the work that he loved. A month before the Madrid Conference at which Israel was forced to negotiate with the PLO, he was stabbed to death in a public park.

He was 76 years old.

Solomon had escaped Muslim persecution in Yemen, where the last remaining Jews live in a ghetto, only to be murdered by a Muslim terrorist in his own country.

At the end of last year, Solomon’s murderer, Abu Mohsin Khaled Ibrahim Jamal, was freed by Israel as a “confidence-building” measure to bring Mahmoud Abbas, the leader of the Palestinian Authority, to the negotiating table.

Most of the prisoners released along with Solomon’s murderer had also killed civilians; their victims included Steven Rosenfeld, an American immigrant, a mother of seven and a history professor.

The release of the murderers, negotiated by Kerry, was praised by a State Department spokeswoman as “a positive step forward.”

Mahmoud Abbas appeared together with Solomon’s murderer as well as two other killers and called them heroes and their release “a day of our joy for our nation.”

During his visit last year, Obama had told a handpicked Israeli audience, “I genuinely believe that you do have a true partner in President Abbas.” Obama’s true partner refused to even show up for peace negotiations until the murderer of a 76-year-old gardener was released.

And Obama and Kerry backed Abbas’ demands.

In an interview this week before Netanyahu’s latest visit, Obama said that Abbas is “ sincere about his willingness… to shun violence” and claimed that “this is a rare quality not just within the Palestinian territories, but in the Middle East generally.”

Abbas had been Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority for a decade and President of the Palestinian Authority since 2005. He has been negotiating with Israel for over two decades and yet the most that Obama can say is that Abbas is willing to shun violence at some point in the future.

Meanwhile the Chairman of the PLO possessed of that “rare quality” of sincerely shunning violence has continued overseeing a war against Israel.

The State Departments lists the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, a wing of Abbas’ Fatah party, as a Foreign Terrorist Organization for its multiple suicide bombings and rocket attacks. Abbas owes his political power in part to the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade which had endorsed his candidacy at a crucial point.

A year ago, Abbas had pledged to continue in the path of two leaders of Hamas, the head of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade and George Habash of the PFLP. Abbas had called Hitler’s Mufti, Hajj Amin Al-Husseini, who encouraged Hitler to carry out the Holocaust, one of the first pioneers of the Palestinian revolution.

But Obama continued singing Abbas’ praises, “You’ve got a partner on the other side who is prepared to negotiate seriously, who does not engage in some of the wild rhetoric that so often you see in the Arab world when it comes to Israel… for us to not seize this moment I think would be a great mistake.”

Meanwhile around the time of Obama’s visit last year, Abbas had told Russia Today, “As far as I am concerned, there is no difference between our policies and those of Hamas.”

Abbas insists that he has the same policies as Hamas. Who is Obama to disagree with Abbas’ self-assessment?

While Abbas is canny enough to refrain from Ahmadinejad’s tantrums, his regime maintains a tight grip on the media which describes Jews as pigs, monkeys and rats. Calls for violence are constant and this is not mere rhetoric but linked to the training and celebration of terrorists as the Palestinian Authority commemorates the death of terrorists, their release from prison and exhorts its youth to imitate them.

The Palestinian Authority isn’t really an embryonic state so much as it is an oversized employment agency for terrorists spending much of its budget on paying the salaries of terrorists on the loose and in prison. Terrorists and their families live in special housing and enjoy a variety of benefits in a system that encourages, executes and rewards the terrorism that is its only real identity.

Abbas has chosen to stop running for office. The elected legislature hasn’t sat in a long time. Instead decisions are made by the PLO Council exposing the fact that the Palestinian Authority is just the PLO.

In his current interview, Obama said, “Abbas is getting older, and I think nobody would dispute that whatever disagreements you may have with him, he has proven himself to be somebody who has been committed to nonviolence and diplomatic efforts to resolve this issue.”

if Abbas were prepared to “negotiate seriously,” he wouldn’t need to be bribed to come to the negotiating table, bribed again at the negotiating table and then bribed to come back to the negotiating table after stomping out over some manufactured crisis

During his visit last year, Obama had said that, “Peace will have to be made among peoples, not just governments… The days when Israel could seek peace simply with a handful of autocratic leaders are over.”

A year later, Obama is disavowing his own words and urging Israel to seize the opportunity to negotiate a peace treaty with an aging autocrat on the tenth year of a four year term.

If Israel doesn’t seize the opportunity to reach an agreement with the 78-year-old Abbas, who has lived two years longer than Solomon Yahya, then we are supposed to believe that peace is all but doomed.

With this argument, Obama admits implicitly that the Palestinian Arabs of Gaza and the West Bank don’t want peace. If they did, they never would have voted for Hamas. The Palestinian Authority isn’t told to seize an opportunity with Barak or Netanyahu. The diplomats are confident that any Israeli Prime Minister will negotiate because a real country is more than the sum of its leaders.

The same isn’t true of the Palestinian Authority. In a poll, 87.7% of Palestinian Arabs agreed that Hamas terrorism was the best way to achieve independence. 70% do not believe that peace talks will work.

Obama doesn’t want to discuss that 87.7% and instead pimps an elderly terrorist leader who is more interested in helping his older son retain his monopoly on cigarettes in the West Bank and his younger son cash in on USAID money than doing anything that would destabilize the comfortable status quo—such as making peace with Israel.

Abbas isn’t Israel’s peace partner. He hasn’t even been able to make peace with other Palestinian leaders. Like every other terrorist leader, he perpetuates a war against Israel to cash in on the conflict.

Daniel Greenfield


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A State of all its Nationalities?

by Dror Eydar

1. The relatively new line in the political controversy going on in Israeli society becomes clearer with the passage of time. This line can be drawn relative to the demand for recognition of Israel as a Jewish state as preliminary, inviolable condition for any future peace agreement. The left wing's contention is that we do not need Palestinian approval for our identity as a Jewish country. The Palestinians themselves claim, using sophistry, that they recognize us according to the name by which we are known in the world: the State of Israel.
This refusal, which seems a trivial matter (one might ask our opponents: What difference does it make? Say that you grant the recognition and get what you want) is the tip of the iceberg of the conflict. Not a territorial conflict -- that we could have solved a hundred years ago and after -- but one of principle: Does the Jewish nation have any right to this land, at least as much as those who are negotiating with us? Or it is only because the Jews cannot be forcibly expelled? What about the elegant claim that considering that more than six million Jews live on this expanse of land, the other side recognizes, under duress and ex post facto, the political entity known as Israel? Take good note: some may define the phrase "recognize Israel" as "recognizing Israel's right to exist," but not recognizing the Jewish people's right to a state in this land.
Those who favor the two-state solution say that without a peace agreement, Israel risks the danger of a binational state in which two nationalities of equal size exist between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. The doomsayers speak of a Jewish minority controlling an Arab majority, as happened in South Africa, which would be the death knell of Israeli democracy.
Let us leave aside the demographic statistics that show differently, or at least are controversial, and ask: Couldn't a binational state exist even within tiny Israel's borders? Even now, the more combative of Israel's Arab citizens are talking about cultural autonomy that goes as far as political autonomy. During the recent decades, parts of the Jewish intelligentsia have been working to undermine the idea of Jewish national feeling. Only last week Haaretz, which has been fighting against that idea for many years, ran articles that view such feeling as "racism" and "fascism," and as resembling the character of the Third Reich's regime. The word "Jew," with its various diversions, causes profound anxiety to this group. As far as it is concerned, conversational Hebrew and some dry studies in Judaism are enough to express the ethnic identity of Israel's Jewish population.
This view matches the mood of some segments of American Jewry that are moving away from any real Jewish identity and, as proof of their loyalty to universal and non-particularist (read: Jewish) values, criticize Israel without letup and see it as the root of (all) evil.
2. A new idea about Israel's identity -- "a state of all its citizens" -- started spreading in the 1990s. This is the idea that informs the New Israel Fund and a plethora of other nongovernmental organizations, many of which are anti-Israel. It is a purely Israeli idea, and relative to other terms from the field of political science, it has hardly been used in academic debates that are not connected with Israel.
The idea seems harmless enough. What could be wrong with a state that takes care of all its citizens? But we know that Israel takes care of all its citizens equally, as anchored in its law and its institutions, even if at times its expression on the practical plane leaves something to be desired (and as far as that goes, non-Jews are not the only ones to suffer; so do other groups within Jewish society).
The clear meaning of the phrase "a state of all its citizens" is that Israel should no longer be a Jewish and democratic state, but a state that contains several national identities equally. That is why the idea should really be called "a state of all its nationalities." In such a state, no preference would be given to the Jewish people and its culture. The flag and the national anthem would be changed, and the Law of Return would be repealed. Even now, a battle against Israel's Jewish identity is in progress. Every year, tens of millions of euros and dollars are funneled into a fight whose purpose is to change the country's Jewish character.
The moment a peace treaty is signed, we will not be left in peace. The heavy artillery that had been focused on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will be turned inward, and the pressure will become far greater. The boycott, divestment and sanctions movement will keep on doing its abominable work, and Israel will continue to be called an "apartheid state" because it "prefers" one nationality at the expense of another. The world will discuss the Law of Return as a racist law that violates human rights. The anarchists will move from the separation barrier in Bilin to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, and most of the Israeli media will support, as is its boorish wont, the stripping away of Israel's Jewish identity.
The Palestinians, for their part, will announce that although the territorial conflict has been resolved, Israel is not free of guilt: Within its borders once lived the oppressed Palestinian people, who were "exiled and expelled" by the Zionist army. So, they will say, it is only right that the Palestinian minority living in Israel be given national rights equal to those of the Jews. We can continue this scenario, since it is no dream. We have only to open our eyes and listen to Ahmad Tibi and Saeb Erekat and Mahmoud Abbas and the representatives of Adalah -- The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, and the officials of the New Israel Fund, and read the hundreds of articles in Haaretz and Yedioth Ahronoth.
3. Several things must be done to counter this evil and ensure true peace instead of the fantasies of those who have forgotten their people and their country. Here are three.
First: Pass the Basic Law: Israel as the National Home of the Jewish People as soon as possible. The purpose of a national home is to provide a legitimate space for the blossoming of a specific, distinct culture, particularly when the culture differs from that of the nations among which it stayed during certain periods of its history -- and where, by most accounts, it was stifled and oppressed. The justification for a national home -- and all the more a state for the Jewish people -- increases exponentially according to the degree of tangible and possible threat against the Jews as a nation and as a culture. Dr. Assaf Malach showed convincingly in his doctoral work that the moment we start removing Jewish markers from the public space in the name of civic neutrality, we lose the basis for having a national home. If we confine Israel's Jewish character to the flag, the national anthem and the Law of Return, we will lose the justification for these things as well, since if the national home is not supposed to express the culture of the Jewish people, then why not allow everybody to identify with the flag and the national anthem?
Second: The demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as the Jewish state must never be dropped. To put a conclusive end to the conflict, the Palestinian side must recognize the Jewish people's right to its own national home at least in some part of the historic Land of Israel. Otherwise, the conflict will continue.
Third: National feeling and thought must be encouraged, and knowledge of the historical national tradition of the Jewish people and the differences between it and other national viewpoints must be expanded. Mostly, we should not let the contemptible attempt to compare Jewish national feeling to well-known racist theories upset us. National feeling is a deep and noble thing, and even if it has been expressed in terrible ways, we must not give it up. Rather, as with any good thing, we must beware of the radical fringe and of alien, dubious viewpoints. And the main thing is to have no fear at all.

Dror Eydar


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Obama's 'If not Now, When? '

by Yoram Ettinger

U.S. President Barack Obama assumes that regional and global circumstances are now conducive for a peace accord between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. According to Obama, such a peace accord would require Israel (once again) to undertake tangible, critical, territorial concessions, in return for (once again) intangible Palestinian commitments. "If not now, when? " he asked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in a March 2, 2014 interview.
However, the editorial headline of the March 3, 2014 Washington Post, a solid supporter of Obama, stated: "President Obama's foreign policy is based on fantasy." According to the Washington Post, "For five years, President Obama has led a foreign policy based more on how he thinks the world should operate than on reality. It was [supposedly] a world in which 'the tide of war is receding.' Secretary John Kerry displayed this mindset, [saying that] Russia's invasion of Ukraine is a 19th century act in the 21st century. ... Unfortunately, Russian President Putin has not received the memo on the 21st century behavior. Neither has China's President Xi Jinping, who is engaged in gunboat diplomacy against Japan and weaker nations of Southeast Asia. ... Assad is waging a very 20th century war against his own people."
Thus, Obama considers the non-Palestinian-related Arab Tsunami a transition towards peace and democracy, in spite of the proliferating conflicts throughout the globe. Therefore, he pressures Israel to retreat and concede, in defiance of the receding tide of peace and democracy in the boiling globe and the tectonic Middle East. Contrary to the early assessments of the "Arab Springers," the real Middle East is increasingly stormy, ruthless, oppressive, Islamist, anti-American, intolerant, fragmented, unstable, unreliably treacherous and violently unpredictable. Moreover, Obama bullies Israel to conclude a peace agreement in a region which has never experienced comprehensive intra-Muslim/Arab peace; a region that has always displayed intra-Muslim agreements signed on ice, rather than carved in stone; a region which features prominently in the clash of civilizations between Western democracies and rogue Islamic regimes.
Although the rising tide of global and regional disorder, restlessness, uncertainty, terrorism and savagery warrant a higher security thresholds and more caution -- especially for a besieged nation in a conflict ridden neighborhood -- Obama leans on Israel to assume dramatic risks and lower its guards. Israel is urged to undertake a lethal retreat from the mountain ridges of Judea and Samaria, which over-tower Jerusalem and the 9-15 mile sliver along the Mediterranean, the majority of "pre-1967 Israel," including Tel Aviv, Haifa, Ben-Gurion International Airport and 80 percent of Israel's population and civilian infrastructures.
Obama expects Israel to trade high-ground topography for high-tech military systems and security arrangements, devised by American generals, who led the failed efforts to snatch Iraq and Afghanistan out of the jaws of Islamic terrorism and Iranian radicalism. Israel is expected to entrust its own national security to the goodwill of its Arab neighbors and international guarantees, at a time when both are exposed as nonviable. At a time when a posture of deterrence is increasingly critical for one's survival -- especially in the Middle East -- Israel is pushed to erode its own posture of deterrence, and to transform itself from a producer -- to a consumer -- of national security, from a strategic assetto a strategic burden.
Israel is expected to subordinate its own threat-assessment to assessments made by the U.S. foreign policy establishment, whose track record in the Middle East has been systematically flawed, worthy of the March 3, 2014 Washington Post criticism: opposing the establishment of the Jewish state; overestimating Arab muscle and underestimating Jewish muscle; courting the anti-U.S., radical President Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt; betraying the Shah of Iran and facilitating the rise of the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini; punishing Israel for destroying Iraq's nuclear reactor and collaborating with Saddam Hussein (until the day of the August 1990 invasion of Kuwait); embracing Yasser Arafat as a man of peace; providing a tailwind for the Gaza takeover by Hamas; heralding Hafiz and Bashar Assad as potentially peaceful, constructive and reformist leaders (until the eruption of the civil war in Syria); deserting pro-U.S. Hosni Mubarak and courting anti-U.S., transnational Muslim Brotherhood terrorists; potentially, transforming Iran from a controllable tactical threat to a non-controllable strategic, nuclear, apocalyptic threat, etc.
Obama contends that Israel is, now, increasingly threatened by international isolation and the Arab demographic time bomb. However, notwithstanding the anti-Israel diplomatic talk, the strategic walk is steadily and dramatically pro-Israel, highlighting the Jewish state as a key player in the world of commercial and defense high tech, a most attractive site for overseas investments, a preferred partner for scientific, technological, agricultural and medical cooperation and the most respected authority on military operations, intelligence and training. Contrary to conventional wisdom at the White House, there is no demographic machete at the throat of the Jewish state. Israel is not threatened by an Arab demographic time bomb; Israel benefits from an unprecedentedly robust Jewish demographic tailwind.
"If not now, when?!" behooves the U.S. and Israel to heed, now, the advice of the March 3 Washington Post editorial -- refraining from a policy that subordinates grim and complicated reality to pleasant and oversimplified wishful thinking -- lest they undermine their own long term, strategic, vital interests.

Yoram Ettinger


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Abbas: "No Way" He'll Recognize Jewish State

by IPT News

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is rejecting a key demand of the United States and Israel as part of ongoing peace talks that would lead to the creation of a Palestinian state.

"They are pressing and saying, 'no peace without the Jewish state,'" Abbas said in remarks released Friday by the official Palestinian news agency WAFA. "There is no way. We will not accept."

Recognizing Israel as a Jewish state is believed to be part of the blueprint for an agreement developed by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. He hoped to win endorsements from Israel and the Palestinians on an outline for a peace agreement by the end of next month.

President Obama has repeatedly referred to Israel as the Jewish state, most recently in his State of the Union speech in January. Still, in an interview with journalist Jeffrey Goldberg, Obama cast Abbas as a political moderate and put the onus on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to sign on to the proposals.

"There comes a point where you can't manage this [conflict] anymore, and then you start having to make very difficult choices," Obama said.

Abbas' statement shows that Obama's message was misdirected.

Abbas is scheduled to visit the White House March 17. Many Palestinians and their supporters believe that yielding on Israel's Jewish identity would forfeit leverage on any Palestinian "right of return." Kerry's blueprint reportedly includes provisions allowing thousands of Palestinians to live inside Israel, but not near the tidal wave Palestinians demand. The volume that Palestinians seek could threaten Israel's Jewish majority.

In his remarks, Abbas indicated Palestinians might turn to "popular resistance" to gain concessions. And he would again try for recognition of a Palestinian state at the United Nations.

Israel's foes also promise a more aggressive campaign to boycott Israel products and try to force institutions to divest from companies doing business in Israel. It is significant to remember, therefore, who is saying "no way" to the new proposals.

In a speech Monday at the American-Israel Public Affairs Council's annual meeting, Netanyahu praised the U.S.-led effort, spoke of the mutual benefits peace could bring the region and challenged Abbas to respond in kind.

"Just as Israel is prepared to recognize a Palestinian state, the Palestinians must be prepared to recognize a Jewish state," Netanyahu said. "President Abbas, recognize the Jewish state, and in doing so, you would be telling your people, the Palestinians, that while we might have a territorial dispute, the right of the Jewish people to a state of their own is beyond dispute.

"You would be telling Palestinians to abandon the fantasy of flooding Israel with refugees, or amputating parts of the Negev and the Galilee. In recognizing the Jewish state, you would finally making clear that you are truly prepared to end the conflict. So recognize the Jewish state. No excuses, no delays, it's time."

IPT News


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Britain: Mass Immigration Leaves Towns and Cities 'Unrecognizable'

by Soeren Kern

"The free market to which our EU partners are fundamentally committed has turned out to have rather different and serious implications in the UK. The fundamental mistake was to expand the EU to include 100 million people with a standard of living of about one quarter of ours." — Migration Watch UK.

Net immigration to the United Kingdom surged to 212,000 in the year ending September 2013, a significant increase from 154,000 in the previous year, according to the latest official statistics.

The new immigration data cast considerable doubt on a pledge by Prime Minister David Cameron to get net migration—the difference between the number of people entering Britain and those leaving—down to the "tens of thousands" before the general election in May 2015.

According to the latest Migration Statistics Quarterly Report (MSQR), published by the Office for National Statistics on February 27, some 532,000 people migrated to the UK in the year ending in September, up from the 497,000 people who arrived during the previous year, while 320,000 left the country, down from the 343,000 the previous year.

The number of EU citizens arriving in the UK rose to 209,000, up from 149,000 the previous year, while immigration of non-EU citizens was 244,000, down from 269,000 the previous year.

Most of the immigrants to the UK from the EU were from economically troubled countries, including Bulgaria, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Romania and Spain. Most of those arriving from non-EU countries were immigrants from Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

The latest immigration data has been met with criticism from across the political spectrum.

The Labour Party's shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, said the government's targets were "in tatters" and its policy was "a mess." She added: "David Cameron promised, 'No ifs, no buts,' to cut net migration to the tens of thousands, yet these figures show net migration has gone up and is now more than twice that figure. Only five months ago, [Home Secretary] Theresa May said that the government had been 'so successful' they should 'get out there and shout about it.' There will be no shouting from ministers today."

The scene at London's Heathrow Airport in 2012, at the the UK Border Agency's passport check. (Image source: Eugene Kaspesrky)

UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage, who is campaigning for Britain's exit from the EU, said: "These latest figures show just how out of control the government is when it comes to controlling immigration in and out of the UK. It is utterly pointless setting immigration targets when you can't even decide who comes in to this country. Until we end the open-door immigration policy with the EU and take back full control over our borders nothing can really be done. It's all smoke and mirrors."

Speaking at the UKIP's spring conference on February 28, Farage said that parts of Britain have become "unrecognizable" due to the impact of mass immigration over the past decade.

"In scores of our cities and market towns, this country, in a short space of time, has, frankly, become unrecognizable. Whether it is the impact on local schools and hospitals, whether it is the fact that in many parts of England you don't hear English spoken any more, this is not the kind of community we want to leave to our children and grandchildren."

Farage also said he believes the largest-ever "migratory wave" to Britain is still to come and that the three main political parties in the country are doing nothing to prevent it. According to Farage, Britain has been "betrayed" by "a political class that has sold out to Brussels," resulting in the loss of control over the UK's borders.

A growing number of British voters seem to agree with Farage that immigration is one of the biggest problems facing their society, according to a flurry of surveys and research reports about the current state of affairs in Britain.

A report entitled, "State of the Nation: Where is Bittersweet Britain Heading?" shows that one in three Britons believes that tension between immigrants and people born in Britain is the primary cause of conflict in the country, and well over half regard it as one of the top three causes.

The report also shows that a high proportion of British voters are pessimistic about the British economy (50%), and three-fourths believe there is a severe housing shortage, due in large measure to uncontrolled immigration. More than half (56%) say the current economic crisis will leave Britain weaker for years to come and nearly half (46%) say Britain is heading in the wrong direction.

The findings mirror the results of the British Social Attitudes Survey, an official study conducted annually, which polls Britons on their attitudes about a number of social issues.

The 2012 edition of the survey—which was focused on the impact of immigration—found that Britons are far more strongly opposed to immigration, particularly from Muslim countries, than they have been at any time in recent memory. The document states that 75% of Britons would like to see a reduction in immigration, and that 51% would like to see a large reduction. Moreover, 52% of respondents believe that immigration has a negative economic impact, and 48% believe that it has a negative cultural impact.

The latest immigration are sure to fuel the debate over Britain's future relationship with the European Union. (Cameron has pledged to hold a referendum over the issue in 2017 if the Conservatives retain power.)

According to MigrationWatch UK, an independent think tank that focuses on immigration and asylum issues, the latest immigration figures "are clearly bad news for the government." In a press release, MigrationWatch wrote:

"It is indeed hard to deny the growing tension between the very strong public desire to control and reduce immigration and our continued membership of the EU. The free movement to which our EU partners are fundamentally committed has turned out to have rather different and serious implications for the UK. The fundamental mistake was to expand the EU to include 100 million people with a standard of living of about one quarter of ours."

Anti-EU and anti-immigrant sentiment among British voters has contributed to UKIP's surge in opinion polls ahead of European elections set for May 22.

Support for UKIP has risen from around 3% in 2010 to about 13% in the latest surveys. This puts UKIP in third place behind the Labour Party (38%) and the ruling Conservatives (33%) but ahead of the coalition-government's junior partner, the Liberal Democrats (10%).

UKIP—which is campaigning on a platform to end "open-door immigration" and to withdraw from the EU—already has 13 elected representatives in the European Parliament, but has never won a seat in the British parliament.

Farage is hoping that strong poll results in the EU elections in May will give his party the momentum it needs to become a major force in British politics. In many ways, this is already happening.

In recognition of the UKIP's growing popularity, the British media regulator Ofcom introduced new rules on March 3 that will require commercial broadcasters such as ITV and Channel 5 to show at least two parliamentary election broadcasts by the UKIP in the run up to the European elections.

Ofcom said that UKIP should now be recognized as a "major party" along with Labour, the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, as it has "significant aggregate support across England, Wales and Scotland."

Farage sums it up this way: "These elections, in many ways, will be an opportunity for us to tell the political class where to go."

Soeren Kern is a Senior Fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute. He is also Senior Fellow for European Politics at the Madrid-based Grupo de Estudios Estrat├ęgicos / Strategic Studies Group. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter.


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Nigeria's New "Middle Belt"

by Alan Craig

During a priority-setting session, "equal opportunity for all tribes or groups," "job creation," "better education," and "recognition of excellence" were rated significantly higher than "defeat of Boko Haram," perhaps because that is seen primarily as the job of the military.

The security situation across northern Nigeria is unstable-to-terrible. The Islamists of the Boko Haram group have threatened to eradicate Christianity through a campaign of violence against Christians and churches, and have killed 2,000 people including moderate Muslims in four years.

Further, the next federal elections are planned for just twelve months' time; during the last ballot in 2011 the re-election of Christian presidential candidate, Goodluck Jonathan, resulted in the death of 800 Christians and other minorities and the destruction of up to 300 churches at the hand of rioting Muslim protestors in the twelve northern Sharia states.

Nonetheless, Dr. Bala Takaya, vice-president of Nigeria's Middle Belt Forum, former head of the Department of Political Science at Jos University and alumnus of the London School of Economics, is hopeful. Speaking to the media outside the second Stefanos Foundation conference for the country's northern ethnic minorities -- an initiative of Gatestone Institute held in Abuja recently -- he claimed that the northern minorities are becoming stronger and more united. "We have come of age," he said.

Inside, he had reminded the gathering how for a hundred years the minorities in Muslim-majority northern Nigeria had been oppressed and held back both by the Fulani Islamic elite and, until independence in 1960, by the British colonial masters. But now better education, increasing consciousness and hard-won political experience has resulted in the grass-roots growth of a "Middle Belt" identity separate from the dominant Fulani-Hausa Muslim culture. "The yoke is broken. The shackles are being thrown off. The time is now," he told delegates.

In line with the governance structure imposed by colonial administrators, Nigeria -- at 170 million, Africa's most populated country -- is frequently recognized as two separate regions with a common border and a joint federal government: and the larger but more dispersed mainly-Muslim North, and the geographically smaller but more intensely populated Christian-majority South.

Ethnically the North is dominated by Hausa tribal language and culture, while the South is identified with the main Yoruba and Igbo tribes.

A religious-ethnic map of Nigeria. (Image source: Wikimedia Commons)

But these political and ethnic monoliths betray an on-the-ground diversity that is politically inconvenient and therefore regularly ignored. It has been calculated that there are over 800 different tribal and linguistic groups across the country. A recent book by the journalist Rima Shawulu Kwewum, for instance, calculates that Bauchi State -- the seventh largest of Nigeria's 37 states – has ninety ethnic groups and nationalities, while Adamawa and Taraba States have over a hundred. For many Nigerians the local tribe is a prime source of identity.

Nowhere is tribal attachment stronger than in the polyglot southern areas of Northern Nigeria – the "Middle Belt" of the country which was first tentatively claimed as a separate collective entity as long ago as the 1930s. Comprising mainly Christian and Traditional African (British administrators called them "Pagan") tribes, 'Middle Belters' -- who are found indigenous in even the most northerly Sharia states of Borno, Yobe and Kebbi -- have increasingly asserted their ethnic distinctiveness, and rejected northern Fulani/Hausa hegemony with its second class dhimmi status for non-Muslims.

"(We have) historically found solidarity and expression in feelings of alienation and deprivation based on [our] crude and systematic subordination, oppression, suppression and exploitation," explained a Middle Belt Forum leaflet some years ago. MBF counters the oppression today by "promoting freedom..., respect for human rights, human dignity and the sanctity of human lives".

But ethnic diversity can be a weakness: tribes frequently have a history of local disagreement and even fighting among them. Unity may be strength but cooperation is not necessarily easy.

This is why, according to many delegates, the Gatestone-Stefanos conferences have been important, unique and timely. The events are the first grass-roots initiative for local people rather than state politicians, although some key public figures have attended too. The aim is to find common interest and facilitate local collaboration between minority groups in fifteen of the nineteen northern states. The emphasis is on training: appointing local coordinators, drawing up action plans, planning networking opportunities and setting time-lines.

Despite the tension, the conferences have been calm and focused. During a priority-setting session, "equal opportunity for all tribes and groups," "job creation," "better education," and "recognition of excellence" were rated significantly higher than "defeat of Boko Haram," perhaps because that is seen primarily as the job of the military.

Although the events were about asserting minorities' human rights in the Muslim north, the mood was conciliatory; the organizers anticipate that some marginalized Muslim tribes will join the initiative too in due course. National unity and "One Nigeria" were, informally, the conference strapline; peace-making and nation-building at the local level were the task in hand.

"Middle Belt is in the middle of the country," said Dr. Takaya. "We are the glue that holds north and south Nigeria together."

Alan Craig


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Russia's Power Play in Ukraine

by James M. Waurishuk

With the intentional sinking of the anti-submarine vessel Ochakov by the Russian Navy in the straits that connect the Black Sea with Lake Donuzlav, Valdimir Putin prevents the Ukrainian navy ships from leaving their base and entering the Black Sea.  Likewise, the storming of Ukraine's Belbek Air Base in the Crimean city of Sevastopol provides further evidence of Moscow's intent.

The Ochakov in 1982
What we are also observing is Moscow’s slow, calculated and systemic destruction, dismanting, and consolidation of the Ukraine’s military weapons, military structure, and capability.  This effort is to ensure or reduce the possibility and, or likelihood of a both opposition and nationalist Ukrainian forces and independent citizens engaging in armed uprising or civil war against Russian forces. 

Putin’s goal and objective of hegemony over Moscow’s once former satellite, the breadbasket region and birthplace of the former Russian and Soviet empires, is his desired end-state.  As this process takes place, Moscow will leverage the West’s hollow warnings and diplomatic dissertations to sustain its stance from a position of strength, economically, politically and to some degree militarily. 

James M. Waurishuk is a retired USAF Colonel  


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Saudis Name Muslim Brotherhood a Terrorist Group

by Rick Moran

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia named the Muslim Brotherhood and two other Islamist groups fighting Bashar Assad's rule in Syria as terrorist groups. They also ordered individuals from the Kingdom who have flooded into Syria since the revolution began, to come home in 15 days or face imprisonment.


The move represents a major escalation against the Brotherhood of deposed Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi and indicates rising concern in Riyadh over the potential risks to domestic security of Saudi extremists fighting in Syria.
Riyadh staunchly supports Sunni-led rebels battling to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad but has long feared blowback from radical jihadist groups, particularly after a spate of attacks by a local Al-Qaeda franchise from 2003 to 2006.
Friday's move comes two days after Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates recalled their ambassadors from Qatar, which supports Islamists groups in the region and was a backer of the Brotherhood.
A list published by the interior ministry designates as terrorist organisations the Brotherhood, Al-Nusra Front, which is Al-Qaeda's official Syrian affiliate, and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a rogue group fighting in both Syria and Iraq.
Also blacklisted are Shiite Muslim rebels known as Huthis in northern Yemen and "Hezbollah inside the kingdom," a reference to a little-known Shiite group in` overwhelmingly Sunni Saudi Arabia.
The interior ministry, in a statement carried by state media, said it will prosecute anyone backing these groups "financially or morally", or who express sympathies for them or seek to promote them through media and social networks.
It also forbids "participation in, calling for, or incitement to fighting in conflict zones in other countries."
Saudis fighting abroad were given a 15-day ultimatum Friday to return home or face imprisonment.
Prison also awaits anyone calling for demonstrations or taking part in them, the ministry said.
And analysts warned of the effect of that on civil liberties.
"There is fear that the text will be interpreted in such a way to muzzle freedom of expression," said sociologist Khaled al-Dakheel.
Last month, King Abdullah already announced jail terms of up to 20 years for belonging to "terrorist groups" and fighting abroad and tough sanctions for anyone backing the incriminated organisations.
Rights group Amnesty International sharply criticised that decree, saying it could be used to suppress peaceful political dissent because the law used an "overly vague definition of terrorism."

The Saudis are apparently trying to clean up the opposition to Assad while guarding against a terrorist boomerang at home. King Abdullah has come under increasing pressure from the west to refrain from supplying arms to designated terrorist groups. The move by the Gulf states to pressure Qatar to stop funding Syrian terror groups may also be part of an effort to make it easier for the west to supply better weapons to Syrian rebels.

One problem with the new Saudi policy is that al-Nusra is probably the most effective military force fighting against Assad. Cutting them off weakens the overall effort to defeat the Syrian government and their Hezb'allah allies. Evidently, Abdullah thought the danger to the Kingdom outweighed any advantages on the ground that al-Nusra gave the anti-Assad forces.

Rick Moran


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