Friday, August 15, 2014

Roots of Hatred: National Review looks at Nazis, Islamists

by David Pryce-Jones

Amin Al Husseini with one of his Nazi Muslim Troops
Amin Al Husseini with one of his Nazi Muslim Troops
In Islamic societies, Jews are still widely thought of as people of bad character who cannot help engaging in criminal conspiracy. Muslims are advised several times in their canonical writings and by Middle Eastern rulers that the rightful ordering of the world depends upon destroying Jews for fear Jews may destroy them. Recent times have fueled this murderous fantasy. The Jewish state is conceived as the outcome of a criminal conspiracy involving Britain and now the United States. Merely by existing, Israel turns up side down the superiority that Muslims believe is their God-given due and induces a sense of shame that must be wiped out by whatever means are available. Huge crowds assemble to shout “Death to America! Death to Israel!” They mean it.
Ayatollah Khamenei, the “Supreme Leader” in Tehran, describes Israel as “a cancerous tumor” that must be removed. One spokesman of his says that “Zionist officials cannot be called human,” while another goes further, finding “jurisprudential justification” to kill all Jews. The Turkish prime minister is not so far behind in his enmity. All over the region, imams are preaching that Jews are descendants of pigs and apes. Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist militia in Gaza, has the intention to annihilate Israel written into its foundational charter. Their Palestinian rivals on the West Bank treat as national heroes those who have killed an Israeli. Sunni Islamists fighting in Syria promise that after they have settled the score with the Shiites, it will be the turn of the Jews.
…the pathological incitement to mass murder owes more to the recent history of European politics and ideology than it does to religious faith.
Barry Rubin, who recently died at age 64, was a professor involved in the cut-and- thrust of Arab–Israeli polemics; his co-author, Wolfgang Schwanitz, is in the same field. Their new book puts the case that the pathological incitement to mass murder owes more to the recent history of European politics and ideology than it does to religious faith. A combination of accident, superstition, and misjudgment left the Arabs losers rather than winners in the two world wars, and no one among them has yet been able to devise a way to be rid of the consequences.

Early chapters of the book show things beginning to go wrong in the 19th century, with the ambition of Germany’s Kaiser Wilhelm to have an empire that rivaled imperial Britain. For the purpose, Germany was to acquire a hold over Ottoman Turkey by training its army and building its railway system. The Kaiser appeared so enthusiastic about Islam that he was rumored to have converted. Fifty-seven professorships were established in 21 universities to provide the expertise necessary if Germany was to increase its presence in the Middle East. With the onset of World War I, German strategists planned to undermine the British by appealing to Muslims everywhere to acknowledge the Ottoman sultan as their caliph and volunteer for jihad in his name. Christians, in short, were provoking Muslims to fight other Christians, leading to the disastrous slaughter and expulsion of a million or more Armenians by the Ottoman Turks. When the British paid the Arabs of Arabia to drive the Ottomans out of the Levant, Christians were provoking Muslims to fight one another. Treating Arabs with hostility, Britain inspired the nationalism that was soon to be her empire’s undoing.

One of the rising generation of Arab nationalists was Haj Amin al-Husseini (al-Husaini in Rubin and Schwanitz’s spelling). Several biographies and studies have already established the immense harm this single-minded and violent man did, above all to his own people. A well-connected Palestinian from Jerusalem, Haj Amin was a natural adventurer whose career is a genuine example of constant criminal conspiracy. As a junior officer in the Ottoman army, according to Rubin and Schwanitz, he became a paid agent of the British, recruiting about 1,500, mainly Palestinians, to fight the Otto mans. Wrongly believing him to be trustworthy, the British rigged his election to be the grand mufti of Jerusalem. This position further enabled him to accumulate enough money and power for the next step of betraying the British. In all but name, he became the dictator of Palestine.
…All over the region, imams are preaching that Jews are descendants of pigs and apes.
Between the wars, Palestinians had to decide how to handle Jews seeking to escape from Nazism to the homeland the British had promised them. From the outset, Haj Amin launched all-out confrontation that could end only with an absolute winner and an absolute loser. Any Arab disposed to compromise was murdered on his orders. Had the Jews not been obliged to mobilize in self-defense, they might have been absorbed and the Jewish state would then not have come into being.

Once in power after 1933, Adolf Hitler set about another and more intensive promotion of German interests in the Middle East. A reliable network was set up of officials, Nazi Party members with local connections of one sort or another, and intelligence agents under cover as scholars or archaeologists. Among the well-known figures were Fritz Grobba, the ambassador in Baghdad, and Paula Koch, a nurse and a spy in Aleppo. Others are more obscure but nevertheless important, for instance Willi Steffen, a Nazi as well as the head of a Christian mission who became “a key figure in planning how to make Iraq into a German client state.” In the Beirut area alone, there were 36 agents. Subsidies were paid to anyone in a position to damage British interests. Four thousand rifles and ammunition were smuggled via Saudi Arabia to the Palestinians.

On the principle that my enemy’s enemy is my friend, Haj Amin hurried to offer Hitler his allegiance. Both men hoped to benefit from making the British position in Palestine untenable, and both anticipated doing down the Jews. After encouraging the Palestinians to revolt and then participating in the fiasco of the pro-Nazi uprising in Iraq, Haj Amin fled to Berlin, where he was to spend the rest of the war. He was given a palatial house, a capital sum of 100,000 reichmarks, and a monthly income of 20,000 more. In an exchange of letters and at subsequent meetings face to face, he and Hitler assured each other of their common hatred of Britain and of the Jews. He and the leading Nazi exponents of racism and anti- Semitism, Josef Goebbels and Alfred Rosenberg, indulged in mutual admiration.
…Thoroughly researched and closely argued…
In July 1943, Heinrich Himmler confided to him that 3 million Jews had already been murdered. Adolf Eichmann was Himmler’s man in charge of the logistics of genocide, and, according to an Eichmann aide with no reason to lie, he escorted Haj Amin in person on an inspection of the killing centers of Auschwitz and Maidanek. It was entirely in keeping with Haj Amin’s conspiratorial character that he wrote secretly to the Yugoslav Communist Josip Tito, asking to be put in touch with the Soviets. He did his utmost to ensure that no Jew was spared in the Holocaust, and furthermore arranged that when the Germans won the war they would ex tend genocide to the Jews of the Middle East. In which case, as Haj Amin later exulted, “no trace would have been left of Zionists in Palestine and Arab areas.” In the judgment of Rubin and Schwanitz, Haj Amin was Hitler’s most important non-state ally.

Arrested after the war, he conspired with the Allies to escape trial. Returning to the Middle East, he immediately mobilized Palestinians all over again to fight the emerging state of Israel.  Obsession drove him to keep promising what he could not perform. The Muslim troops that he had been able to enroll in the German army were a mixed and untrained lot unable to back up his words with action. Drumming the Palestinians into battle against Jews determined to do or die, he made certain that they, and then other Arabs as well, were absolute losers. Hitler had similarly misled and abused the German people.

In common with Haj Amin, innumerable Arabs had concluded that Hitler would and should win the war. Two final chapters are devoted to the fallout of this wishful mistake. Germans compromised by their Nazi past took refuge in Arab countries. Among them were Walter Rauff and Alois Brunner, two of the more sinister practitioners of genocide. Fugitive and unrepentant Nazis were saying what many in the Middle East wanted to hear, namely that dictatorship is better than democracy and that it is only right and proper to kill Jews. Rubin and Schwanitz take care to make a necessary distinction: Haj Amin and his successors and imitators are not themselves actual Nazis, but the process of interaction led them to adopt whatever they found congenial in that inhuman ideology.
…Muslims in the grip of murderous fantasy should take the indispensable first step by looking at the big historical picture and doing some serious rethinking.
Thoroughly researched and closely argued, this book exposes the reality that the selfsame follies and crimes that wrecked the continent of Europe are now wrecking the Muslim Middle East. The stalemate will endure until rationality ultimately breaks through primitive misrepresentation. Rubin and Schwanitz are suggesting that Muslims in the grip of murderous fantasy should take the indispensable first step by looking at the big historical picture and doing some serious rethinking.

Originally posted at the National Review site here.

David Pryce-Jones


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

Michael Curtis: Israel in the Face of Aggression

by Michael Curtis

At the outset the obvious should be stated, as Abraham Lincoln stated it in his Second Inaugural Address on March 4, 1865. There was no moral equivalence between the two sides in the Civil War. One side would make war rather than let the nation survive, and the other would accept war rather than let it perish.

There is no moral equivalence between the objective of the terrorist group Hamas to kill as many Israeli civilians as possible and the response of Israel to stop the flow of thousands of rockets directed against it. The directive to massacre all Jews is unmistakable in the Al-Aqsa TV (Hamas) broadcast of July 20, 2014. It called on Jihad fighters “to enter settlements (towns in southern Israel) to kill them all… they are all invaders, they are all criminals… have no mercy on them.”

Nor is any moral equivalence present in the desire of Israel to settle the Arab Israeli conflict by peace negotiations without conditions, and the refusal of Palestinians authorities to do so.         

On one side of the equation is the focus of Hamas, whether its political or military wings or its religious council (Majlis al-Shura), on destruction, and continuation of violence, even massacre, against Israeli citizens, rather than concentration on building a progressive prosperous society, in spite of obvious problems. The fighting in Gaza has revealed the wastage by Hamas of the human resources and the material, bought from funds given by the international community. 

The funds have been used to buy sophisticated machinery and thousands of tons of cement and other materials in order to obtain rockets and to build a network of underground tunnels from which to attack Israeli civilians. The network of the tunnels, of which so far 32 have been destroyed, has cost at least $90 million. Each tunnel has used amounts of construction materials that could have been used to build 86 homes, seven mosques, six schools, or 19 medical clinics. In addition, 160 exploited children have died while being used to build them.

On the other side, if not without blemish and being subject to objective and appropriate criticism, is the constructive record, the process of nation building, of the State of Israel. Since 1948 this has continued in spite of the relentless hostility of the Arab world, of bigoted bias, discrimination, and use of double standards by the “international community,” and the deceptive Palestinian Narrative of Victimhood that projects Palestinians as the most grievous victims in the world.

That process of successful nation building with all the diversity -- religious, ethnic, and economic -- in Israeli society, continues even though unacknowledged by much of the media, mainstream churches, human rights activists who decry Israel’s attempts at self-defense. Little or no attention is paid to the remarkable innovative activity of Israel, in areas of high tech companies, medical research, pharmaceuticals, health care, cyberspace, drip irrigation, electronics, or academic scholarship.

Of the making of books on Israel there is no end, but, in view of the Hamas brutality and hatred, it is refreshing to read a new book, Israel since the Six-Day War, written by Leslie Stein, the Australian historian. It provides an up-to-date broad survey,  precisely and clearly written, of the struggle of Israel to overcome the Arab aggression against it and survive as a Jewish state. Based on secondary sources, the book, though it has a long chapter on social and economic developments, is essentially concerned with Israel’s actions and policies in dealing with the threats against it and the efforts to reach peace with the Arab states and the Palestinians.

Those threats have been based on hatred of Israel, and often of Jews. That hatred has been inculcated from Palestinian kindergartens on. Schoolbooks show maps of “Palestine” that include all of what is Israel. It is sickening that Palestinian groups engage in Holocaust denial or distortion. Palestinian Authority broadcasts have denied the Holocaust death camps and excused them as “disinfecting sites,” and that Hamas documentaries explained that it was Jewish leaders who planned the Holocaust.

The hatred reached a low point in encouraging acts of suicide bombers, and then expressing adoration of the actors. That adoration is even extended to the terrorists who carried out the massacre of 11 Israeli athletes at the Summer Munich Olympic Games on September 5, 1972.

Israel has defended itself and has been prepared to make peace as it did with Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994. The peacemaking procedure should be an exemplar for the Palestinians to follow: negotiation, conciliation, arbitration. Israel offered to return the Golan Heights it had captured in 1967 in return for peace but Syria refused the offer. Similarly, Israeli prime ministers Barak in 2001, and Olmert in 2008 offered peace, but were turned down.  

Stein deals with the issues facing Israel in nonpolemical fashion as its population has grown from 650,000 in 1948 to eight million today. One is reminded of the heavy cost paid by Israel in defeating the Arab invasion, by armies of Syria, Transjordan, Iraq, and Egypt with a contingent from Saudi Arabia, in 1948 when 6,000 of its soldiers, one per cent of the population, were killed. Then, and as now by Hamas in Gaza in 2014, Arab aggression has been the cause of hostilities. No Arab country, except Jordan and Egypt, has been interested in real peace with Israel.

Nor has the Arab world ever acknowledged its responsibility for creating the Palestinian refugee problem caused by its invasion of Israel. It was Jacob Malek, the Soviet Union’s delegate to the United Nations, who asserted, “The existence of Arab refugees in the Middle East is the result of Arab attempts to scuttle the UN General Assembly’s decision regarding Palestine.” The contrast is startling between the refusal of the Arabs to resettle Palestinians, and the conduct of Israel that has assimilated and integrated Jews from all over the world, especially those from Arab countries, a million from Russia and 125,000 from Ethiopia, and has faced the task of incorporating diverse elements, Israeli Arabs and ultra-Orthodox Jews in its society.

Nor has there been any moral equivalence in the tactics of Israelis and Palestinians towards each other. Perhaps few of the millions of people waiting to undergo security examination at airports remember why this is necessary. Palestinian groups made the hijacking of planes an art form. Between 1968 and 1977 those groups attacked 29 civilian passenger planes. In July 1968 an El Al plane en route from Rome to Lod (now Ben-Gurion) airport was hijacked, and its Israeli passengers detained in Algeria. In February 1970, a Swiss passenger plane was blown up by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP) group.  

The most dramatic single event was the hijacking in June 1976, by the PFLP, together with the members of notorious German Baader-Meinhoff terrorist gang, of an Air France plane en route from Ben-Gurion Airport to Paris: the plane was taken to Benghazi, Libya before landing at Entebbe Airport, Uganda. The successful rescue of the Israeli hostages by an Israeli unit did lead to the death of the unit’s commander, Yonatan Netanyahu, brother of the present prime minister. The most gruesome event was the murder of Leon Klinghoffer, a disabled retired Jew who was murdered and thrown overboard by Palestinian terrorists who had taken over the cruise ship Achille Lauro in October 1985.  

It is interesting to compare the views and actions of U.S. Presidents on Israeli policies. Jimmy Carter in 1978 depicted Israeli settlements in “occupied territories” as contrary to international law and an obstacle to peace. Richard Nixon was the first President to visit Israel and Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin thought he was the most well-disposed president towards Israel. President George H.W. Bush in 1991 claimed, somewhat incorrectly, that Israel had benefitted from U.S. soldiers risking their lives in Iraq to defend Israel in the face of Iraqi Scud missiles. This was indeed one of the lowest points in U.S.-Israeli relations. Bill Clinton in December 1998 issued a plea for the PLO to amend its Charter. President Obama called for a freeze on Israeli settlement construction.

Pessimism is not a worthy political disposition, but to quote Lincoln again, “with high hope for the future, no prediction is ventured.” At present, there is little indication that the Palestinian Authority, let alone Hamas, is genuinely willing to accept Israel’s existence as a Jewish state. One can acknowledge that Palestinians may be genuinely troubled and offended by Israeli roadblocks and IDF patrols, but equally they should recognize that Israel before the 1967 war did not covet land claimed by Arabs. Its modest aims have always been to extricate itself from the threat of extinction. That remains the case in the Israeli response to Hamas aggression.

Michael Curtis


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

Putting Israel's Self-Defense in Context

by Louis René Beres

Israel's operations against Hamas are perfectly legal.

An Israeli tank moves into position near Israel and Gaza border, Friday, July, 18, 2014. Israeli troops pushed deeper into Gaza on Friday to destroy rocket launching sites and tunnels, firing volleys of tank shells and clashing with Palestinian fighters in a high-stakes ground offensive meant to weaken the enclave's Hamas rulers. Israel launched the operation late Thursday, following a 10-day campaign of more than 2,000 air strikes against Gaza that had failed to halt relentless Hamas rocket fire on Israeli cities. .(AP Photo/Dusan Vranic)

Israel is not guilty of a disproportionate response in Gaza.

Almost everyone, it seems, is more or less upset that Israel seeks to defend itself against indiscriminate Hamas rocket attacks. Those who speak self-righteously in the name of some mythical “international community” – including the U.N. secretary general – are generally candid about their irritation. It is not really Israeli self-defense that they oppose, or even Operation Protective Edge in particular, but rather the alleged “disproportionality” of Israel’s military operations in Gaza. 

From the standpoint of pertinent international law, these criticisms are sorely mistaken. The legal standard of proportionality in the law of armed conflict has nothing to do with equal levels of suffering. If it did, virtually all major allied military operations during World War II would have been flagrantly "disproportionate." 

Properly legal determinations of proportionality can never be made in an historical or geopolitical vacuum. Instead, they must always take into account the decipherable extent to which an adversary (especially a terrorist adversary, whose every action is illegal by definition) has committed prior or ongoing violations of the law of war. 

[READ: No Endgame in Gaza

In the case of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and also “moderate” Fatah, there is incontestable evidence that these terrorists are systematically guilty of perfidy, a specific and egregious violation of the law of war involving, in this particular case, deceptions that knowingly endanger noncombatant populations. Once again, with very little objection from the "international community," Palestinian "freedom fighters" have been firing intentionally at vulnerable Israeli civilians from Gaza schools and hospitals. As for heroic Hamas leader Khaled Mashal, he prefers conspicuous safety in Qatar, to becoming a shahid, or martyr. Palestinian martyrdom is reserved by Hamas for Gaza's endlessly manipulated and impoverished masses, those who are most plainly unable to migrate to the more pleasingly wealthy Arab oil states. 

Deception can be acceptable in armed conflict, but portions of the law of war, specifically the Hague Conventions, still disallow placement of civilians among military assets or personnel. Further prohibition of perfidy can be found in the protocols added to the Geneva Conventions in 1977. These incontrovertible rules are also binding on the basis of customary international law, which is included in the authoritative inventory of legal sources defined at Article 38 of the Statute of the International Court of Justice. 

Perfidy is identified as a “grave breach” of the law of war at Article 147 of Geneva Convention No. IV. The effect of perfidy committed by all Palestinian terrorists in Gaza – especially their widespread resort to human shields – is to immunize Israel from legal responsibility for any counter-terrorist harms done to Arab civilians. Even if Hamas and Islamic Jihad and Fatah did not deliberately engage in perfidy, any terrorist-created link between civilians and insurgent warfare would still grant Israel full justification for defensive military actions. 

[SEE: Cartoons on the Middle East

Israel should not be granted a free hand in its applications of armed force any more than any state should. But the reasonableness of these particular applications should always be evaluated against the specific background of unreconstructed Palestinian perfidy. 

Viewed against the landscape of extensive and unapologetic terrorist crimes in Gaza, Israel is not guilty of “disproportionality.” All combatants, including the terrorizing insurgents in Gaza, are required to comply fully with the law of war. This key expectation stems not only from the so-called “Martens Clause,” which makes its first appearance in the Preamble to the 1899 Hague Convention No. II, and stipulates that that the right of belligerents to adopt means of injuring the enemy is not unlimited, but also from Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions of August 12, 1949. And it is found at the two binding protocols to these Conventions.
It is always very tempting for those who know absolutely nothing about international law to lash out viscerally at Israel. Yet, trained legal scholars always understand the profound jurisprudential significance of context. Correct judgments under international law are never made in isolation. It is apparent, then, that any seemingly disproportionate use of force by the Israel Defense Forces is actually the outcome of prior perfidy committed by Palestinian terrorist forces in Gaza. Also significant is that in any careful comparison to the U.S.-led war on terror recently underway in Iraq and Afghanistan, Israeli counter-terrorist operations remain very deliberately limited.
[GALLERY: Cartoons on Afghanistan

Faced with Palestinian terrorists in Gaza who still make no secret of their literally genocidal intentions, Israel displays persistently marked restraint. In contrast to the witting indiscriminacy of Arab terrorists in Gaza, and to undisguised Palestinian perfidy, Israel actually takes great care to minimize civilian harms. This self-imposed Israeli limitation on armed force is codified and followed, even when the consequent risks to IDF soldiers are significantly multiplied and enlarged. 

Israel has an absolutely unqualified right under international law to protect its citizens. In exercising this "peremptory" right, its use of military force has remained measured and controlled. It is, therefore, finally time for the international community to dispel all crudely propagandistic fabrications of Israeli “disproportionality.”

Louis RenĂ© Beres, professor of political science and international law at Purdue University, is the author of many books and articles on nuclear strategy and nuclear war, including several very early works on nuclear terrorism.


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

Robert Spencer: UK government “encouraging Hamas to fire at Israel”

by Robert Spencer

If Hamas attacks Israel with rocket fire and Israel retaliates, the British government has threatened to suspend some arms exports to Israel. This is, as Yuval Steinitz points out here, tantamount to inviting Hamas to launch new jihad attacks against Israel, knowing that the response from the West will be more excoriation of Israel, not resistance to jihad terror.

“UK Govt ‘Encouraging Hamas To Fire At Israel,’” by Tom Rayner, Sky News, August 12, 2014 (thanks to Hiro):
An Israeli cabinet minister has accused the UK government of ‘encouraging’ Hamas to re-start rocket fire from Gaza, following a decision to suspend some arms exports to Israel if fighting resumes.
On Wednesday night, the Department of Business confirmed it would freeze 12 licenses for arms export contracts of UK companies to Israel if “significant hostilities resume”.
Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz said the decision was “exceedingly odd” and warned it could be a motivation for Hamas to refuse an extension of the ceasefire, which came into effect on Sunday night.
“I tell you honestly, I heard it, but although I have a PHD in Philosophy, I didn’t understand it. What is the message? I want to understand what is the message?”, said Mr Steinitz, addressing the Jerusalem Press Club.
“If this is the message it’s exceedingly odd, I don’t believe that this is the message.
“If Hamas will resume rocket launching at our cities tonight. If Hamas will choose to resume the fighting and the rocket attacks against Israeli civilians then Britain will put some restrictions on defense cooperation with Israel?
“I hope this is not the message because this could be very encouraging for Hamas to resume fire.”
The announcement by Business Secretary Vince Cable followed a review of licensed exports to Israel ordered by Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond.
The review found 12 contracts related to components and parts that could be used by the Israeli military as part of its operations in Gaza.
Arms export licenses can be suspended by the UK if there is clear risk the exported goods might be used in actions considered to be political repression, or could provoke or prolong a conflict.
“The UK Government has not been able to clarify if the export licence criteria are being met. In light of that uncertainty we have taken the decision to suspend these existing export licenses in the event of a resumption of significant hostilities”, said Mr Cable.
He added: “In the event of the renewal of significant hostilities, the Government’s concern is that it may not have sufficient information to determine whether the license assessment criteria have been contravened.
“For example, whether a serious violation of international humanitarian law has occurred and whether equipment containing UK components has been used. It therefore would suspend licenses while it establishes more information.”…

Robert Spencer


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

Israel Outflanks White House in Pressing Gaza Strategy

by Adam Entous

JERUSALEM—White House and State Department officials who were leading U.S. efforts to rein in Israel's military campaign in the Gaza Strip were caught off guard last month when they learned that the Israeli military had been quietly securing supplies of ammunition from the Pentagon without their approval.

Since then the Obama administration has tightened its control on arms transfers to Israel. But Israeli and U.S. officials say that the adroit bureaucratic maneuvering made it plain how little influence the White House and State Department have with the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu—and that both sides know it.

The munitions surprise and previously unreported U.S. response added to a string of slights and arguments that have bubbled behind the scenes during the Gaza conflict, according to events related by senior American, Palestinian and Israeli officials involved.

In addition, current and former American officials say, U.S.-Israel ties have been hurt by leaks that they believe were meant to undercut the administration's standing by mischaracterizing its position and delay a cease-fire. The battles have driven U.S.-Israeli relations to the lowest point since President Barack Obama took office.
Now, as Egyptian officials shuttle between representatives of Israel and Hamas seeking a long-term deal to end the fighting, U.S. officials are bystanders instead of in their historic role as mediators. The White House finds itself largely on the outside looking in.
U.S. officials said Mr. Obama had a particularly combative phone call on Wednesday with Mr. Netanyahu, who they say has pushed the administration aside but wants it to provide Israel with security assurances in exchange for signing onto a long-term deal.
As a 72-hour pause in the fighting expired at midnight Wednesday, a senior Hamas official said negotiators agreed to another cease-fire, this one of five days. There was no immediate confirmation from Israel or Egypt.
The frayed relations raise questions about whether Mr. Obama and Mr. Netanyahu can effectively work together. Relations between them have long been strained over other issues, including Mr. Obama's outreach to Iran and U.S.-backed peace talks with the Palestinians.
Today, many administration officials say the Gaza conflict—the third between Israel and Hamas in under six years—has persuaded them that Mr. Netanyahu and his national security team are both reckless and untrustworthy.
Israeli officials, in turn, describe the Obama administration as weak and naive, and are doing as much as they can to bypass the White House in favor of allies in Congress and elsewhere in the administration.
While Israeli officials have privately told their U.S. counterparts the poor state of relations isn't in Israel's interest long term, they also said they believed Mr. Netanyahu wasn't too worried about the tensions. The reason is that he can rely on the firmness of Israeli support in Congress, even if he doesn't have the White House's full approval for his policies. The prime minister thinks he can simply wait out the current administration, they say.
"The allegations are unfounded," said Israel's ambassador to the U.S., Ron Dermer. "Israel deeply appreciates the support we have received during the recent conflict in Gaza from both the Obama administration and the Congress for Israel's right to defend itself and for increased funding of Iron Dome."
A senior Obama administration official said the White House didn't intend to get into a "tit for tat" with the Israelis when the war broke out in Gaza. "We have many, many friends around the world. The United States is their strongest friend," the official said. "The notion that they are playing the United States, or that they're manipulating us publicly, completely miscalculates their place in the world."
American officials say they believe they have been able to exert at least some influence over Mr. Netanyahu during the Gaza conflict. But they admit their influence has been weakened as he has used his sway in Washington, from the Pentagon and Congress to lobby groups, to defuse U.S. diplomatic pressure on his government over the past month.
Tensions really started to flare after Israel launched Gaza ground operations July 17 and the civilian death toll started to rise sharply, prompting U.S. officials to complain that Israel wasn't showing enough restraint. Israeli officials rejected that notion, saying Hamas was using civilians as human shields.
U.S. officials say Mr. Netanyahu told them he was interested in a cease-fire from the start, but the two sides clashed over the process of achieving one and the players who would take part.
Bracing for a longer military campaign than expected, Israel approached the Defense Department within days of the start of the ground fighting to request money for more interceptors for the Iron Dome, which shoots down rockets aimed at population centers.
After consulting with the White House, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told aides to submit a proposal to Congress for $225 million.
Within the administration, the request was deemed noncontroversial because the Iron Dome was defensive and couldn't be used in Gaza ground fighting, U.S. officials said.
In meetings at the Pentagon, the State Department and the White House, Israeli officials told the Americans Israel had enough Iron Dome interceptors for the current Gaza operation, but wanted to replenish its stocks, according to U.S. officials who attended. So with Israel's consent, the administration didn't seek immediate emergency funding, Pentagon officials said, adding that they expected Congress to approve the request sometime in the fall.
Unknown to many policy makers, Israel was moving on separate tracks to replenish supplies of lethal munitions being used in Gaza and to expedite approval of the Iron Dome funds on Capitol Hill.
On July 20, Israel's defense ministry asked the U.S. military for a range of munitions, including 120-mm mortar shells and 40-mm illuminating rounds, which were already kept stored at a pre-positioned weapons stockpile in Israel.
The request was approved through military channels three days later but not made public. Under the terms of the deal, the Israelis used U.S. financing to pay for $3 million in tank rounds. No presidential approval or sign-off by the secretary of state was required or sought, according to officials.
A U.S. defense official said the standard review process was properly followed.
While the military-to-military relationship between Israel and the U.S. was operating normally, ties on the diplomatic front were imploding. For the Americans, they worsened dramatically on July 25, when aides to Secretary of State John Kerry sent a draft of a confidential cease-fire paper to Mr. Netanyahu's advisers for feedback.
The Americans wanted the Israelis to propose changes. The U.S. didn't intend or expect the draft paper to be presented to the Israeli cabinet, but that was what Mr. Netanyahu did. U.S. officials say Mr. Netanyahu's office breached protocol by sending back no comments and presenting the paper to the cabinet for a vote.
The paper was also leaked to the Israeli media. U.S. officials say they believe the Israeli government publicly mischaracterized Mr. Kerry's ideas with the intent of buying more time to prosecute the fight against Hamas because Israeli officials were angry over outreach by Mr. Kerry to Qatar and Turkey.
Israel and Egypt had sought to sideline Qatar and Turkey—two countries that backed Hamas—rather than increase their influence. U.S. officials say Mr. Kerry reached out to the two because they had leverage with Hamas that would be critical to getting the group to agree to another cease-fire.
From Israel's perspective, Mr. Kerry's cease-fire draft reflected an approach "completely out of sync with Israel, not just on a governmental level but on a societal level," said Michael Oren, a former Israeli ambassador to the U.S. under Mr. Netanyahu.
"The best thing that Kerry can do is stay out... We need time to do the job, we need to inflict a painful and unequivocal blow on Hamas. Anything less would be a Hamas victory," Mr. Oren said.
The watershed moment came in the early morning in Gaza July 30. An Israeli shell struck a United Nations school in Jabaliya that sheltered about 3,000 people. Later that day, it was reported in the U.S. that the 120-mm and 40-mm rounds had been released to the Israeli military.
"We were blindsided," one U.S. diplomat said.
White House and State Department officials had already become increasingly disturbed by what they saw as heavy-handed battlefield tactics that they believed risked a humanitarian catastrophe capable of harming regional stability and Israel's interests.
They were especially concerned that Israel was using artillery, instead of more precision-guided munitions, in densely populated areas. The realization that munitions transfers had been made without their knowledge came as a shock.
"There was no intent to blindside anyone. The process for this transfer was followed precisely along the lines that it should have," another U.S. defense official said.
Then the officials learned that, in addition to asking for tank shells and other munitions, Israel had submitted a request through military-to-military channels for a large number of Hellfire missiles, according to Israeli and American officials.
The Pentagon's Defense Security Cooperation Agency, or DSCA, was about to release an initial batch of the Hellfires, according to Israeli and congressional officials. It was immediately put on hold by the Pentagon, and top officials at the White House instructed the DSCA, the U.S. military's European Command and other agencies to consult with policy makers at the White House and the State Department before approving any additional requests.
A senior Obama administration official said the weapons transfers shouldn't have been a routine "check-the-box approval" process, given the context. The official said the decision to scrutinize future transfers at the highest levels amounted to "the United States saying 'The buck stops here. Wait a second…It's not OK anymore.' "
White House and State Department officials were worried about public reaction.
The Palestinians, in particular, were angry, according to U.S. diplomats.
"The U.S. is a partner in this crime," Jibril Rajoub, a leader in Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's Western-backed Fatah party, said of the decision to provide arms to Israel during the conflict.
Even as tensions with the White House and the State Department were spilling over, Israeli officials worked to expedite the Iron Dome money on Capitol Hill.
Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona said Israeli officials told lawmakers the money was urgently needed because they were running out of interceptors and couldn't hold out for a month or more.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, said Congress's goal in approving the money quickly on Aug. 1 was to send a message to the administration to stop calling Israel out about civilian casualties.
A senior Republican congressional aide said Israeli officials told senators they wanted the money sooner rather than later. He said Israel's main purpose in accelerating the vote in Congress to before legislators' August recess was to provide an overwhelming "show of support" for the military operation.
The last straw for many U.S. diplomats came on Aug. 2 when they say Israeli officials leaked to the media that Mr. Netanyahu had told the U.S. ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, that the Obama administration was "not to ever second-guess me again" about how to deal with Hamas.
The White House and State Department have sought to regain greater control over U.S.-Israeli policy. They decided to require White House and State Department approval for even routine munitions requests by Israel, officials say.
Instead of being handled as a military-to-military matter, each case is now subject to review—slowing the approval process and signaling to Israel that military assistance once taken for granted is now under closer scrutiny.
A senior U.S. official said the U.S. and Israel clashed mainly because the U.S. wanted a cease-fire before Mr. Netanyahu was ready to accept one. "Now we both want one," one of the officials said.
A top Israeli official said the rift runs deeper than that. "We've been there before with a lot of tension with us and Washington. What we have now, on top of that, is mistrust and a collision of different perspectives on the Middle East," the official said. "It's become very personal."
—Joshua Mitnick contributed to this article.

Adam Entous


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Give This Young Israeli a Few Minutes of Your Time

by IsraelVideoNetwork



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Mordechai Kedar: Has Qatar Knuckled Under?

by Mordechai Kedar

A Lebanon-based media network report in Arabic seems to indicate this.

Written for and Translated by Arutz Sheva

Much has been written in the past year about the part Qatar plays in the conflict over the status and role of the Muslim Brotherhood, the movement that presents a non-tribal Islamist alternative to tribal loyalties and ideological parties in the Arab world. 

For the past two years, the controversy has centered on the role of the "Brothers" in Egypt, on former president  Mohamed Morsi's legitimacy and the legality of General Sisi's new government as of July 2013. Qatar has been the main source of support for the "Brothers" and their Palestinian offshoot, Hamas, for the last two decades.

Leading the opposition to Qatar's policies was Saudi Arabia, and Sisi joined that opposition when he deposed Morsi. The relations between Qatar and its opponents reached a new low in March 2014, when the Saudis, Egypt and the United Emirates recalled their ambassadors from Qatar. Later, there were reports of a Saudi armed force concentrated on Qatar's border that would have invaded the recalcitrant emirate, had Qatar not been under the protective shade of the United States, which has its main Persian Gulf airbase in Qatar as well as strong economic and institutional ties with it.

Qatar has been the main supporter of Hamas for years, providing funds and a venue for Hamas leadership after it left Damascus, while granting political backing to the movement and its rule in Gaza. Several years ago, Turkey joined the Hamas supporters axis, sometimes joined by Iran –  the latter motivated by its hatred of Israel and/or its hostility to the Saudi regime.

When the current round of hostilities between Hamas and Israel broke out, the Qatar-Turkey Axis immediately placed itself on the side of Hamas, while on the opposing side stood the anti-Muslim-Brotherhood -and-Hamas Axis, consisting of Egypt Saudi Arabia, the United Emirates and Jordan. America attempted to help the Qatar Axis, but retreated when faced with strong criticism, both from Israel and Congress. The Palestinian Authority is torn between its desire to see Israel destroy Hamas and its pity for the Gazans who are paying with their blood for the Hamas takeover of their lives - and deaths.

When the possibility of ceasefire negotiations was broached, rivalry broke out between the two sides over who would head them and who would be able to sway the agreement in the direction he preferred. As the days went by, it became clear that the solution would depend on the result of the duel between the Saudi King and the Qatar Emir, with the winner designing the future of any agreement between Israel and Hamas.  

On August 9, 2014, It became obvious that the winner was the Saudi King and the Egypt-Emirates Axis, the group opposed to Hamas, although not openly supporting Israel. Saudi victory over Qatar and its supporters was certain when last weekend, the Emir could be seen rushing to Riyadh, the capital of the country that opposes his nation's activities.

Qatar's surrender reached world consciousness mainly by way of Al Mayadeen, the media channel that has placed itself in opposition to Qatar's Al-Jazeera.

For example, Al-Jazeera, Qatar's media channel, calls the president of Egypt "El Sisi", avoiding the title "President", because Qatar still sees Mohammed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood champion, as the lawful president of Egypt. As opposed to Al-Jazeera, Al Mayadeen uses the title  "President Sisi".

Al  Mayadeen was founded two years ago in Lebanon by a former Al-Jazeera reporter , Ghassan Ben Jeddou, who handed in his angry resignation from  Al-Jazeera because of the network's political stand on Saudi Arabia and the takeover of Bahrein during the "Arab Spring.". Al Mayadeen is suspected of being prejudiced against Qatar and its policies. However, now that there is a proliferation of Arab media channels that are free of government censorship, the only way a network can succeed is if its reports are seen as trustworthy. The above means that the information that follows reporting on the Qatari Emir's visit to Riyadh, his meeting with the Saudi King and the words exchanged during the meeting,  is not totally reliable.

Note: My interpretations are in the parentheses.

On August 9th, Al Mayadeen reported in Arabic: "The Emir of Qatar told the Saudi King that his country is not in favor of forming alliances (i.e. Qatar is giving up the leadership of the Axis it led up to now). Gaza has become everyone's focus (i.e. we know that Saudi Arabia does not care about Gaza's fate)…".

"The Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim Ben Hamad Ben Khalifa El Thani, said that he has arrived (i.e. was forced to crawl) to Riyadh in order to meet the Saudi King Abdallah ben Abed Elaziz, because he (the Qatari Emir)  knows well the loyalty of the Saudi King to the Arab Nation (i.e. to Saudi Arabia, its friends and their interests alone) and the trust he places in him and he will tell him (the king) what is going on in Gaza (i.e. the catastrophe Israel is wreaking on Hamas and Qatar) out of fear that we will lose our way  (i.e.Israel will win).

"Qatar does not have a policy of forming alliances (Qatar is sorry it led an alliance against the Saudis) even though there was once someone in Qatar who acted like a megalomaniac on the subject of Qatar and its size (severe criticism of Sheikh Hamad, the present Emir's father and of Sheikh Hamad's Foreign Minister, who took a politically arrogant line towards the Arab world and Saudi Arabia in particular, despite the fact that Qatar is a tiny Emirate. The Qatari Emir understands that without this criticism, or true repentance, the Saudi King will give him short shrift.).

Al Mayadeen continues: "The Qatari Emir made it clear to the Saudi King that Qatar is worthless if it does not belong to the Gulf Emirates (here he is begging the Gulf nations to allow their ambassadors return to Qatar) or its Arab partners (i.e. we are sorry for the anti- Egypt, Jordan and PA policies we espoused). Both sides (i.e. Axes) complement one another (i.e. our Axis surrenders to yours).

"The Qatari Emir told the Saudi King in plain language: Qatar is willing to follow in your footsteps and heed your instructions (i.e. totally abrogates its independent policies of the last few years) in order to ease the suffering of the Palestinian people (i.e. to salvage Hamas' rule over the Palestinians who serve it as human shields).

"The Qatari Emir added: 'In the face of the immense magnitude of the crimes and war of destruction going on in Gaza (and the danger that the Gazans will rebel against Hamas rule), there is no reason for Egypt (and its backer, Saudi Arabia) to insist on an initiative (i.e. conditions for surrender) that doesn't meet the minimum expectations and demands of the Palestinians (read Hamas), especially now that Israel needs a ceasefire (i.e. Israel can continue fighting on and on because of the Israeli public's support for their government). 

"'I don't see how the Egyptians can bring themselves to shut out the Hamas movement. Let us put aside, my lord (!!!), our reckoning with Hamas (and the crimes it committed against Egypt and the Palestinians) for a future date (and then we will forget about them) and stand with the Palestinian people who stand behind Hamas (bearing knives) and support Hamas' demands (to end the siege).'"  

"'I have come to you, my lord (!!!) in order to hear good tidings (now that we have surrendered and ended our policy of supporting Hamas) that will save us from the situation we are in now (i.e. the isolation we brought on ourselves by supporting  the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, which is on the verge of collapse).'"

Al Mayadeen reports that the meeting between the Saudi King and the Qatari Emir was just ten minutes long, and does not bring the response of the Saudi King - who may have remained silent throughout.

The significance of the detailed report is in the total subjugation of Qatar to Saudi Arabia, of a young and inexperienced Emir to an older and wiser king. What brought about this abject surrender is the combination of Israeli determination and the geography of Gaza, an area under siege even if the present siege is removed, with Israel on one side, Egypt on the other and only the sea – blockaded as well – as a way to find refuge.  Qatar's peninsula is in a similar position: one can reach the rest of the continent from Qatar only by way of hostile Saudi Arabia or by way of the sea. If not for the American presence there, Saudi Arabia could crush the Qatar regime within a few hours as it did to Bahrain in 2011.

If it is true that the Emir visited Riyadh and if the text of his monologue, as reported by Al Mayadeen, is accurate, we are about to face a new constellation of forces in the Middle East: Saudi Arabia, a tribal monarchy with an Islamic cast – has become the leading force, Israel is closer to the winning axis and the US is on the losing side. The Iran-Syria-Iraq Axis is under pressure because of the IS Jihadists and the US is attempting to bolster up its status by using air power against IS.

There are voices calling on Israel to take advantage of this new situation, go ahead with the Arab peace initiative whose origin is in Saudi Arabia, leave Judea and Samaria and establish a Palestinian state with Mahmoud Abbas that will be part of the new array of forces, united against a weakened Hamas and Qatar.

The idea is a good one, except that carrying it out is problematic: coalitions and alliances in the Middle East are exactly like the sand dunes that mark this region of deserts; today they are here and by tomorrow the wind has blown them somewhere else. In the past, there were those who advised Israel to hurry to make peace with Assad while he was still powerful, even if that meant giving up the Golan Heights. And where is Assad today, pray tell? And what would have happened had Jabhat El Nusra or the Islamic State taken over the Golan, able to look down at Tiberias and aim weapons at its residents?

The Middle East seesaw is weighted on the Saudi-Egyptian side now, but it is not at all clear whether that coalition will continue directing the Middle East in another year or two. Israel must not be tempted to place its future and security in the hands of a temporary coalition, no matter how good it is.

Israel must act on the basis of long term planning that centers on Israel and its territorial possessions, not on the changing alliances of the sand dunes of the Middle East.

Mordechai Kedar


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A Case for Kurdistan

by Bruce Walker

Most nations in the Middle East – Iraq, Syria, Iran, Turkey – are quilts of national and religious minorities.  Each of these four nations has within its borders unhappy Kurds, who want nothing more than their own self-governing Kurdistan.  While America has historically helped the Kurds, we have also, too often, treated Kurds as if they were pawns in some geopolitical chess game.

We would be wise to reconsider that whole strategy and support the broad Kurdish desire for an independent homeland.  This might antagonize Turkey, an ally of America in the Cold War and a nation relatively resistant to Islamic extremism, but this “ally,” once a rare friend of Israel in the Middle East, has become increasingly hostile to the Jewish state and friendly towards Palestinian terrorism.

Nearly all the Kurds of the Middle East live in four countries: Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria.  The 15 million Kurds in Turkey, if these people acquired their independence because of the support of America, would surely be more pro-Israeli that the current Turkish government.  Iraq has about 7 million Kurds, and effective independence for these Kurds is already being thought about seriously.  Iran has about 8 million Kurds, and no nation is more hostile to our goals than Iran.  Syria is a human rights and political disaster.  Its 3 million Kurds can only be better off in a new Kurdistan. 

Kurdistan would help our purposes in the region.  Kurds oppose Arab imperialism.  They are not Arabs, and throughout history, Kurds have suffered from various types of regional imperialism.  The Kurds are more religiously tolerant than most Muslims and resist Islamic radicalism.  Although most Kurds are Sunni Muslims, there are Kurdish Yazidis, Kurdish Yarsans, Kurdish Jews, Kurdish Zoroastrians, and Kurdish Christians.  The stark division of the sexes in orthodox Islamic regimes does not exist among Kurds.  To these people, who have struggled so long to have a nation, Kurdish independence trumps religious militancy.

All the Kurds want is to be able to live in their own homeland after thousands of years under other rulers and to live in peace with their neighbors.  The case for Kurdistan has strong similarities to the case for Israel in 1948.  These Kurds want a homeland so that they can live without persecution in a nation that is their own, and Kurds have no more aggressive designs on neighboring nations that the Jews of 1948 had toward the Arab states.  Like the Jews of Israel since independence, Kurds would be robust defenders of their own independence. 

In other respects, Kurdistan would be like that other nation in the Middle East that has worked: Lebanon.  This “Switzerland of the Middle East” combined prosperity, freedom, and neutrality.  The Lebanese, like the Kurds, were a people made up of different religions who had decided to live in peace.  As long as that modus vivendi existed, Lebanon was a happy island of tranquility inside a troubled region.  Indeed, Kurdistan might well pick up the role once played by Lebanon in the region.

The oil revenues of northern Iraq would provide the Kurds with a good chance to replicate the prosperity that once made Lebanon the envy of everyone in the region, including Israel.  Kurdistan might provide a refuge for persecuted people in the Middle Eastern – like Iraqi Christians – to establish an unmolested life while still remaining in the region.  These minorities often are the educated professionals who stabilize and pacify countries while also providing economic flexibility and hope.

This free Kurdistan would also make clear that our support for nations that manifest the long-suffering aspirations of peoples who have been unjustly denied their own nation is a universal principle, not one applied exclusively to Israel.  This has, in fact, been American policy for a long time.  The “Captive Nations” of the old Soviet Union were supported by a long train of bipartisan American political support.

We have likewise supported the end of Serbian domination of the old Yugoslavia by the birth of new true nations from this old unhappy federation.  Today we recognize not only the Ukrainians as occupying the moral high ground, but the Tibetans as well.  This has been a guiding principle of our nation almost since its inception.

Sometimes, in foreign policy, it is possible to simultaneously do the right thing and the smart thing.  Helping bring Kurdistan into this world does both.

Bruce Walker


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