Canadian Institute for Jewish Research
L'institut Canadien de Recherches sur le Judaisme
Strength of Israel will not lie

Month: July 2012

NO ILLUSIONS ABOUT EGYPT, BROTHERS — COPTIC CHRISTIANS, LIKE JEWS BEFORE, FACE TRAGIC FATE

NO ILLUSIONS ABOUT EGYPT
Isi Leibler

Jerusalem Post, July 26, 2012

 

The government of Israel is making all the right noises and appropriate statements expressing hope that the new government of Egypt will maintain the cold peace.

 

But we should be under no illusions. Even the greatest optimists cannot gloss over the reality that the Islamic forces of the Muslim Brotherhood seeking to control Egypt are committed to ultimately revoking the peace treaty. Their motives stem not merely from nationalist xenophobia but are deeply rooted in fanatical extremist Islamic ideology which is infinitely more intense and inflexible. Although Mubarak treated Israel like a pariah and exploited popular anti-Semitism, in comparison to these Islamic zealots, he would be considered a “liberal”.

 

The Moslem Brotherhood is the organization which spawned Hamas and remains adamantly committed to wiping the “Zionist entity” off the face of the map. This was reiterated last month by its leader Mohammed Badie, who called for “imposing Muslim rule throughout Palestine” and “freeing it from the filth of Zionism”.…

 

Its leaders, who during World War ll allied themselves with the Nazis, are notorious for promoting rabid anti-Semitism. The imams continuously remind their followers that Jews are the descendants of apes and pigs and deserve to be killed as enemies of the Prophet Mohammed. They have a long tradition of assassinating opponents, terrorism and suicide bombings.

 

However, the Moslem Brotherhood is pragmatic and politically savvy and thus disinclined to overplay its hand, initially avoiding extreme behavior which could result in a break with the US and Western countries and lead to a total meltdown of the already disintegrating Egyptian economy. They recognize that Mubarak’s ouster was principally propelled by economic factors and that if they are to retain power they must feed 80 million Egyptians.

 

US Administration spokesmen are burying their heads in the sand when they imply that once the Brotherhood is in control it is likely to act responsibly and provide a pluralistic environment for Egyptians. Even more absurd are the reassurances that it is undergoing a liberal transformation and committed to maintaining a democratic system of government. Similar delusionary nonsense was disseminated about Hamas when it “democratically” gained control of Gaza.…

 

The reality is that democracy cannot survive in a society dominated by Islamic extremists who brook no opposition. Indeed, much as we despise authoritarian, dictatorial and even totalitarian regimes, precedents clearly indicate that a regime ruled by Islamic fanatics is likely to be far more oppressive than a military autocracy.

 

Although weakened, the military did dissolve the Islamic fundamentalist dominated parliament and still represents a barrier to total Moslem Brotherhood control. But it is likely to avoid a direct confrontation unless it is confident it has public support. In this explosive environment, US pressure on the military to stand down can only serve to further undermine Western interests and lead to intensified oppression.

 

We should not expect newly elected President Mohamed Morsi to be a moderating influence. His recent undertakings to act on behalf of the entire Egyptian people are totally out of synch with his long standing record of support for hard line Brotherhood policies.…

 

Morsi, who refused to accept a congratulatory call from Prime Minister Netanyahu, stated that he would honor Egypt’s existing international agreements including the peace treaty with Israel. Yet he repeatedly includes the caveat that it is necessary to re-examine the 1978 Camp David agreements and that if Israel’s leaders (who he previously referred to as “vampires” and “murderers”) did not keep their commitments to the Palestinian people, Egypt was not obliged to honor the peace treaty. Oft repeated chants expressed at his rallies included “Morsi will liberate Gaza “, “Jerusalem will become the capital of the United Arab nation” and “death for the sake of Allah is our most lofty aspiration”.

 

Setting aside the current “standoff” with Israel, there is every likelihood that at a future time of his choosing, like Arafat, Morsi is likely to suggest that the Prophet’s violation of the Treaty of Hudaybiya in 629 AD on the grounds that agreements with infidels and Jews need not be honored, was a historical precedent that could be applied against Israel.…

 

Now, notwithstanding undertakings to Jewish leaders that he would not invite Morsi to the White House unless he made a public commitment to genuinely adhere to the peace treaty with Israel, Obama has announced that he will be hosting the man who will urge him to release an unrepentant major global terrorist leader.

 

We in Israel are on the front lines. We may enjoy relative tranquility from Egypt in the short-term due to the prevailing chaos and restraints from the military. However, Hamas now feels confident that in the event of a future clash with Israel, Egypt is likely to provide it with maximum support and may ultimately even join it in confronting us.

 

This means that our border with Egypt will need to be strongly secured and Israel must gird itself for an increase in terrorist attacks emanating from the Sinai Peninsula. These are likely to include missile attacks, making the relationship with Egypt extremely fragile.

 

The only bright side of this dismal picture is the awareness by our adversaries of incredible power of the IDF. This ultimately represents the greatest deterrent against further deterioration or escalation of assaults against us.

 

THE PLIGHT OF EGYPT’S COPTIC CHRISTIANS
Raymond Ibrahim

FrontPage Magazine, April 2, 2012

 

The following interview with Freedom Center Shillman Journalism Fellow Raymond Ibrahim was conducted by Wolff Bachner.

Most of us in the West have little knowledge of what life is like for Christians in the Muslim world. Take for example, the Coptic Christians, who were once the dominant religious group in Egypt. Previously the mainstay of their nation, Copts are now living as an oppressed minority, denied religious freedom and equal status in Egyptian life. The Copts are routinely denied meaningful employment and may not hold positions in the Egyptian Civil Service. Copts are refused permission to build new churches and even a request to renovate a church that is badly in need of repair can lead to an outbreak of severe Muslim violence against the Copts. Recently, there have even been calls for a return to collecting Jizya from the Copts, a tax that the Qur’an instructs Muslims to charge to all Dhimmis (non-Muslims) whenever Muslims are in power.

To give our readers an accurate picture of the situation in Egypt, we asked Raymond Ibrahim to answer several questions about the Coptic Christians. Raymond is the son of Coptic Christian parents who were born in Egypt and he has firsthand knowledge about Coptic life under Islam.

1. Who are the Coptic Christians and what is their history?

The Copts are the indigenous inhabitants of Egypt, before the Arab/Muslim invasion around 641 A.D.  The word “Copt” simply means “Egyptian”; however, because all Egyptians were Christian in the 7th century—Egypt was a major Christian center, so much so that Alexandria vied with Rome over ecclesiastical leadership—”Copt” also became synonymous with “Christian.” In short, the word Copt is similar to the word Jew: both words convey a people and a religion. Tradition teaches that St. Mark, author of the Gospel of the same name, proselytized the pagan Egyptians of the 1st century; by approximately the 3rd century, Christianity was the dominant religion; and by the 7th century when Islam burst into Egypt, Christianity was THE religion.

2. When did persecution of the Copts begin and why?

Muslim persecution of the Copts begins with the Islamic invasion. It is true that, at the time, the Copts were already under nearly a decade of persecution by the Byzantine Empire over doctrinal disputes. However, with Islam’s entry, the persecution took on a different shape, and grew steadily worse, until the modern era and the age of colonialism. At first, and because the Copts were the majority people of Egypt, they were merely deemed a subject race, to be heavily taxed and kept in line by their Muslim overlords. Over the years, however, their subject status came to be codified in what is seen as Islam’s divine and immutable law, or Sharia.

3. What is Life like for a Copt today in Egypt?

There are approximately 10 million Copts in Egypt, roughly 12% of the population. This is not an insignificant number. In fact, in the entire Middle East, Copts make for the largest Christian minority. Accordingly, the everyday average Copt is not “persecuted”; however, everyday forms of discrimination are common (for instance, only Muslims get hired for the best jobs, and so forth). The problem, though, is that persecution of the sort that occurred centuries ago—for instance, the ongoing attacks on churches—is on the rise, unsurprisingly so, considering the overall Islamization of Egypt in recent decades, culminating with Islamists, who were once in jail for their extremist views, now sitting in Egypt’s new parliament.

4. What can the Copts do to protect their lives and preserve their religion? What does the future hold for the Copts? Can they survive in the Middle East and remain faithful Coptic Christians?

 

This is difficult to answer, as there are several variables and contexts.  For starters, emigration is not the solution for most Copts; not only is it impractical for 10 million people to pack up and leave, many Copts do not wish to abandon Egypt, seeing it as their home more than Muslims; some even say they would rather die than abandon their motherland.  Their best bet is for a secular and free government to form; the sort of government the youth who initiated the Revolution wanted. Of course, with each passing day it becomes clear that it is the Islamists, the Muslim Brotherhood followed by the Salafis, who will play the greatest role in shaping Egypt’s future.

 

Still, there are many secular Egyptian’s who oppose the Islamists just as much, if not more than the Copts.  Copts need to—and often do—ally with these parties, which stress, not “Muslim” or “Christian” as an identity, but “Egyptian.” For the bottom line is, an Islamist government will not only be bad for Christians, but secularized Muslims as well, and these are not an insignificant group.  Likewise, though this is out of the hands of Copts and seculars, U.S. diplomacy could help empower the former, though the Obama administration appears more interested in aiding Islamists like the Muslim Brotherhood.  So, overall, it is a bad situation, though only the future can tell what will ultimately happen, though one is not optimistic.

 

HOW MOHAMMED MORSI, EGYPT’S FIRST ISLAMIST PRESIDENT, INTERPRETS SHARIA LAW WILL BE A CRUCIAL TEST
Michael Nazir-Ali

The Telegraph, June  30 2012

 

Egypt is going to be a test case. A declared Islamist has been elected president and any parliament in the foreseeable future is likely to have an Islamist majority. Not only is Egypt the most populated country in the Arab Middle East, it also has the largest number of Christians in the region and a sizeable secularised middle-class in the cities. What happens there will have implications for much of the Arab and Muslim worlds.

 

So will it be another Iran, with minorities and professional people leaving in significant numbers, or is there a way of being Islamist that prevents such an exodus?

 

We must be wary of cosmetic gestures and false accommodation. Mohammed Morsi’s promise of having a non-Islamist prime minister, with a Christian and a woman as vice-presidents, whilst welcome, says nothing about any Islamist system which may yet be put in place. It is good that he has had an early meeting with Christian leaders but it remains to be seen whether Muslims and Christians will continue to be regarded as equal citizens.

 

The key to answering some of these questions lies in the place Sharia is likely to have in a future Egypt. We should not be in any doubt that it will have a prominent role. Already, under the previous regime, and because of Islamist pressure, the constitution was changed from recognizing it as one of the sources of law to being the sole source of all law. It is difficult to imagine an Islamist government settling for anything less. The question is what will be the extent of implementing such an understanding of Sharia, how will it be interpreted and what effects will it have on minorities.

 

Many observers of events in Egypt were surprised by the strength of Wahhabi-Salafism there. This group wants nothing less than a Saudi-style system with women behind the veil, minorities reduced to the discriminatory dhimmi status and harsh punishments for those who drink alcohol, dress “immodestly” or violate the sexual code of Islam. Any overtures in this direction will surely result in panic amongst Christians, the extinction of tourism and an Iran-like isolation of Egypt. Unlike Iran, Egypt cannot rely on oil and the new regime will have to weigh very carefully what impact its actions have on the economy.

 

Another, very different, scenario is, however, also possible. Egypt has a long history of Islamic scholars seeking to understand Sharia in terms of contemporary conditions and a concern for the common good. Muhammad Abduh (d.1905), the Grand Mufti, who is venerated by both the Salafis and the Muslim Brotherhood, wanted a “pure” Islam as well as one which was compatible with reason and the conditions of the modern world. He wanted to do away with traditional interpretations of Sharia and favoured a radical reconstruction of Islamic law.…He argued for a legal system which would take Sharia into account but in which considerations of the common good would be of primacy importance.

 

This tradition of thought has been followed in Egypt by notable leaders such as Rashid Rida, Al-Azhar and the present Grand Mufti, Sheikh Ali Gomaa. The last two have pioneered new approaches to the notorious Islamic law on apostasy. Instead of the three days traditionally allowed to the apostate from Islam to repent or face execution, Al-Azhar scholars have argued that such a person should be allowed a lifetime to repent.…

 

The West has been obsessed by the idea of a secular-led “Arab Spring” but, in fact, there never was such a thing. The revolutions, throughout the Arab world, have been led by Islamist-minded movements of one kind or another. Secular opponents of the ancien regime have joined in the overthrow of a dictatorship but their options for the future appear limited.

 

Every effort must now be made to encourage a view of Islam, and particularly of Sharia, which can lead an open and tolerant Egypt. What Egypt does today will be globally significant tomorrow.

 

Abduh held that the unchanging principles of Islam should be related to changing circumstances. The protection of the person, of reason, of property and of the family can provide the basic principles around which Egyptian law is developed. What is urgently needed is a reaffirmation of the principle that there will be one law for all Egyptians which will seek to accommodate the consciences and beliefs of different elements in society.

 

The Church should beware of accepting a situation where it is allowed its own law, provided that…[s]ome kind of a Bill of Rights may be a first step. The armed forces cannot be the sole guarantors of a plural Egypt; political parties, government institutions and, in particular, Islamic organizations must commit themselves to such a vision. The alternative can be seen in many parts of the Muslim world and it is not attractive. Egypt deserves better.

THE FUTURE OF ISRAEL POLITICS & THE LEVY REPORT: TOWARDS A TWO PARTY STATE? A TWO STATE SOLUTION?

Dear Readers:

 

   Today marks a major moment in the life of the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research.  Our talented current Publications Editor, Charles Bybelezer, is leaving for Israel. He has been responsible for the unerringly on-topic, wide-ranging, and clearly focused Daily Isranet Briefings you have received in recent years (as well as for our ISRAFAX quarterly print journal and annual Commemorative Book).

 

   Charles is taking up a new position as an editorial staff writer with the Jerusalem Post. This is a wonderful and richly deserved opportunity for Charles, an immensely promising and eloquent young writer. Widely-read, analytically incisive, and Jewishly learned, he is, as a committed Zionist, an ardent supporter of our democratic, Jewish state.

 

   All of us at CIJR are delighted for him, and know he is going to be a major resource at the Jerusalem Post and an outstanding figure in the centrally important field of intelligent, informed and hard-hitting Israel advocacy.

 

   And, even as Charles leaves, we are also delighted to welcome our new Publications Editor, Ber Lazarus. Trained as a sociologist, with a creative career in social work, and an accomplished artist as well, he is also an able websight designer and blogger.

 

   Ber is an untiring Israel advocate, and an effective pro-Israel writer in his own right.  Not least, he is also an activist, most recently in support of the brave St. Denis Street merchants in Montreal fighting a vicious boycott campaign against Israeli-made products.

 

   As a proudly pro-Israel academic research center now in its twenty-fifth year, CIJR early recognized that one of its key functions should be the training of able, informed and highly motivated staff. We are proud to have helped shape Israel advocates who can think, write, and speak clearly and forcefully. 

 

   The war being waged today in the media, on campuses, and in   international institutions seeks to delegitimate Israel. This is a key front in the ongoing campaign against the Jewish state, a war of ideas which,  given the approaching Iranian nuclear weapon, we must win.

 

   We know that Charles, in Israel, and Ber, in Canada, will be making solid contributions to this crucially important goal.  CIJR wishes all the best to Charles, with whom we shall remain in close touch, and welcomes Ber, whom we know will also be a major asset to CIJR and to the Jewish people  

 

 

Prof. Frederick Krantz, Director
Canadian Institute for Jewish Research,

Editor, Daily Isranet Briefing

THE REGION: THE FUTURE OF ISRAELI POLITICS

Barry Rubin
Jerusalem Post, July 29, 2012

 

“Can’t anybody here play this game?”—Casey Stengel, New York Mets’ manager.

Stengel’s complaint is the precise description of Israeli politics nowadays. To a remarkable extent—and this has nothing to do with his views or policies—Binyamin Netanyahu is the only functioning politician in Israel today. No wonder he is prime minister, will finish his current term, and almost certainly be reelected in 2013.

 

Consider the alternatives.

 

The number one such option is Shaul Mofaz who is head of Kadima. Mofaz was a competent general but is a dreadful politician. He may be the least charismatic man I’ve ever met. Tzipi Livni, his predecessor, was a disaster as leader of the self-described centrist party.…

 

• Although her party had one seat more than Netanyahu’s in the 2009 election, Livni bungled the chance for some kind of coalition or rotation agreement. True, Netanyahu held the upper hand and had no incentive to give up much but that was all the more reason for her to offer him a good enough deal so she wouldn’t be totally thrown into fruitless opposition.

 

• As leader of the opposition, Livni was a total failure, never providing a good counter to Netanyahu’s positions and showing signs of personal panic that shocked people. Even the anti-Netanyahu media couldn’t rally behind her.…

 

Mofaz’s record is quite bad, too. In fact, as one Israeli joke puts it, in terms of damage, Mofaz accomplished in three months what it took Livni 18 months to do. He said he would never leave Likud for Kadima, and then did so a few hours later. He said he wouldn’t join Netanyahu’s coalition, then he did, and then he announced he was leaving not too much later over the issue of drafting yeshiva students.…

 

Then there’s the Left.

 

The Labor Party has split, with the smaller, more national security-oriented faction led by Defense Minister Ehud Barak sticking with Netanyahu’s coalition. That group should also disappear in the next election.

 

 

The remaining party has veered to the Left and put the priority on domestic social issues. That might well revive the party—especially with the defection of lots of Kadima voters—but it won’t win them an election. The party is now led by Shelly Yechimovich, whose career experience consists of having been a radio journalist and has never been a cabinet member.

 

Of course there were social protests in Israel last year about high prices for some consumer goods and for apartments. These are genuine problems. But these are the result of economic policies that also brought Israel one of the best records of any developed country in the world during the international recession.

 

And the fallout from the Arab Spring puts national security issues front and center once again.

 

Along with this has been the collapse of the social protests. Last year the movement could mobilize hundreds of thousands—though the media exaggerated its size—and had broad public sympathy across the political spectrum.

 

Now it is reduced to a few thousand at most. Why? Because the loony leftists ousted the moderate leadership which had some realistic proposed solutions.…

 

There are three key factors necessary to understand contemporary Israeli politics.

 

First, Netanyahu is not seen by the electorate generally as being right-wing and hawkish but as being centrist. He has successfully been developing this posture now for about 15 years without much of the Western media appearing to notice.

 

Second, Israelis don’t really see the likelihood that different policies are going to make lots of Arabs and Muslims love Israel, or bring peace with the Palestinians or end the vilification of Israel in the Left. All of those things were attempted by means of Israel taking high risks and making big concessions during the 1992-2000 period. Israelis remember—even if others don’t—that this strategy doesn’t work.

 

Third, there are no other politicians who are attractive as potential prime ministers.

 

We now know that US President Barack Obama’s administration thought that he was going to overturn Netanyahu and bring Livni to power on a platform of giving up a lot more to the Palestinians on the hope that this would bring peace. The editorial pages of American newspapers and alleged experts still advocate this basic strategy.

 

They couldn’t possibly be less connected to reality.

 

TWO-PARTY POLITICS

Editorial|
Jerusalem Post, July 23, 2012

 

The latest in a series of political crises afflicting Kadima has made the problems of being a centrist party in our political system abundantly clear.

 

The two veteran parties, the Likud and Labor, to a large extent like the Republicans and the Democrats in the US represent the two mainstream positions on cardinal issues such as security and socioeconomics.

 

The ideological room between them is simply too narrow and insubstantial to allow for a third party.

 

Disingenuous attempts have been made—particularly by Yair Lapid, head of the next up-and-coming superfluous centrist party, Yesh Atid—to paint Labor chairwoman Shelly Yechimovich as a radical socialist who is opposed to free market enterprise, while Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has been portrayed as a heartless neoconservative.

 

But in reality the differences between Yechimovich’s social-democratic platform and Netanyahu’s more conservative stance are not so marked, and are similar to the differences that split Democrats and Republicans. Kadima has never fully articulated a distinct socioeconomic platform, while the nuances distinguishing Lapid’s socioeconomic platform from Yechimovich’s do not justify the creation of a separate party.

 

On security issues, Kadima has not brought to the political discourse any new ideas either. Kadima supporters such as Ariel Sharon’s confidant and adviser Dov Weissglas, claim that Sharon created the party because he felt shackled by the Likud’s ideological constraints. After implementation of the pullout from the Gaza Strip and parts of northern Samaria in 2005, Sharon was fast losing support within the Likud, though his popularity soared among the general public. This was only natural since the sort of unilateral dismantling of Jewish settlements—without receiving any Palestinian commitments—was diametrically opposed to the Likud’s ideology.

 

Indeed, it was Labor’s Amram Mitzna—not Sharon—who led his party into the 2003 national elections on a platform of unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. If implementation of the disengagement was so important to Sharon, he could have returned to Labor, where he began his political career.

 

To this day Kadima’s stance on security is indistinguishable from Labor’s. Chairman Shaul Mofaz’s peace proposal—which calls for the immediate establishment of an independent, unarmed Palestinian state in part of the West Bank and Gaza and entering negotiations with Hamas, if the terrorist organization wins another Palestinian election—could easily be adopted by Labor.

 

Centrist parties, such as David Ben-Gurion’s Rafi, Yigael Yadin’s Democratic Movement for Change, Avigdor Kahalani’s Third Way, and Yitzhak Mordechai and Amnon Lipkin Shahak’s Center Party, never represented substantial political or ideological positions not given expression in either the Likud or Labor.…History has shown that centrist parties are not only superfluous, they are detrimental to political stability.

 

Over the past few decades the size of the two largest political parties has steadily decreased from around 40 MKs on average to fewer than 30, in large part due to the creation of various short-lived centrist parties. Election reforms such as the raising of the 2-percent threshold for entry to the Knesset and the institution of regional elections for some Knesset seats would go a long way toward improving political stability.

 

But so would a good dose of humility. And it might even be in politicians’ best interests to cooperate. A recent survey found that a Center-Left party (Labor) led by Yechimovich, Lapid and Tzipi Livni would garner 40 Knesset seats.

 

A Knesset resting on two strong political parties—one Center-Left and one Center-Right—would foster a more stable political environment while at the same time give expression to two clear political agendas. With talk of early elections in the air, serious thought should be given to taking the steps necessary to make a quasi-two-party system a reality.

 

BAKER DEFENDS LEVY REPORT IN LETTER TO US JEWS
Tovah Lazaroff

Jerusalem Post, July 23, 2012

 

Attorney Alan Baker has defended the government-initiated report he co-authored that calls to authorize West Bank outposts.

 

In a letter to the Israel Policy Forum [see “Link” below—Ed.] last week, former Foreign Ministry legal adviser Baker said the so-called Levy report does not close the door to a Palestinian state, and offers Israelis and Palestinians pragmatic solutions to land dispute issues.

Related:

 

Earlier this month, the New York-based forum sent a letter [see “Link” below—Ed.] to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, urging him to reject the report on the outposts penned by a three-member legal panel led by former Supreme Court justice Edmond Levy. The other two panel members were Baker and former Tel Aviv District Court deputy president Tehiya Shapira.

 

More than 40 US Jewish leaders signed the letter, stating they were “deeply concerned” by the report, which said that under international law Israel did not occupy the West Bank and had a legal right to build settlements there. The US Jewish leaders said they were concerned that government approval of the report would “place the two-state solution, and the prestige of Israel as a democratic member of the international community, in peril.”…

 

In his letter to the Israel Policy Forum, Baker said he did not believe the US Jewish leaders had read his report. Had they done so, he said, they would not have warned that authorization of the document imperiled a two-state solution.

 

The report’s affirmation of Israel’s legal and historic rights to the West Bank “is not different from Israel’s policy statements over the years, including speeches by all of Israel’s leaders and ambassadors in the UN, as well as in official policy documents issued over the years by Israel’s Foreign Ministry,” Baker wrote. There is nothing in the report that imperils the two-state solution, he said, and added, “The opposite is in fact the case.”

 

The report stated that despite Israel’s legal and historic claim to sovereignty over the area, consecutive Israeli governments have preferred to negotiate with the Palestinians to find a solution to sovereignty issues in the West Bank. “This is completely compatible with the address by Prime Minister Netanyahu to the US Congress last May,” Baker wrote.

 

Lastly, he noted that the document, released earlier this month, offers pragmatic solutions to issues of outpost authorization and land disputes with Palestinians. It suggests the creation of a civilian court to adjudicate such disputes. “The report stresses the need to ensure that genuine land-ownership rights of the local Palestinian population are respected by all related authorities and individuals,” Baker said.

 

“Without in any way doubting the deep commitment of all the signatories to Israel’s well-being as a Jewish and democratic state, it is to be regretted that they have permitted themselves to be drawn so hastily into criticizing the Levy report, without justification,” Baker said….

 

 

Israel Policy Forum Letter to Netanyahu Concerning Levy Report

July 13, 2012

The Honorable Benjamin Netanyahu
Prime Minister of the State of Israel

Dear Mr. Prime Minister:

As strong advocates for Israel’s security and well-being as a Jewish and democratic state, we are deeply concerned about the recent findings of the government commission led by Supreme Court Jurist (Ret.) Edmund Levy. We fear that if approved, this report will place the two-state solution, and the prestige of Israel as a democratic member of the international community, in peril.
As you boldly stated in your address to the United States Congress last May, “I recognize that in a genuine peace, we’ll be required to give up parts of the ancestral Jewish homeland.” As you said clearly, doing so is not easy. While the Jewish people indeed share a biblical connection to the lands of Judea and Samaria, you told Congress, “there is another truth: The Palestinians share this small land with us. We seek a peace in which they’ll be neither Israel’s subjects nor its citizens. They should enjoy a national life of dignity as a free, viable and independent people living in their own state.”
Securing Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state requires diplomatic and political leadership, not legal maneuverings. We recognize and regret that the Palestinian Authority has abdicated leadership by not returning to the negotiating table. Nonetheless, our great fear is that the Levy Report will not strengthen Israel's position in this conflict, but rather add fuel to those who seek to delegitimize Israel’s right to exist. At this moment, it is more critical than ever that Israel strengthen its claim in the international community that it is committed to a two-state vision, which is, in turn, central to Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state.
We are confident that with your deep understanding of the gravity of this situation, and your unprecedented political strength, you will ensure that adoption of this report does not take place.

Sincerely,

Karen R. Adler
Jack C. Bendheim
Michael Berenbaum
Howard M. Bernstein
Charles R. Bronfman
Steven M. Cohen
Rabbi Marion Lev Cohen
Lester Crown
Thomas A. Dine
Rabbi David Ellenson
Edith Everett
Susie Gelman
E. Robert Goodkind
Stanley P. Gold
Rabbi Daniel Gordis
David A. Halperin
Harold R. Handler
Alan S. Jaffe
Peter A. Joseph
Rabbi Jeremy Kalmanofsky
Peter S. Kolevzon
Steven C. Koppel
Burton Lehman
Marvin Lender
Geoffrey H. Lewis
Deborah Lipstadt
Rabbi J. Rolando Matalon
Harriet Mouchly-Weiss
Burt Neuborne
Bernard Nussbaum
Richard Pearlstone
Marcia Riklis
Rabbi Jennie Rosenn
David Sable
Rabbi David Saperstein
Jeffrey R. Solomon
Joel D. Tauber
Melvyn I. Weiss
Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie
Michael D. Young
Lawrence Zicklin
 

Affiliations provided below for identification purposes only

Karen R. Adler (New York, NY) – Chair, Executive Committee of the Jewish Communal Fund

Jack C. Bendheim (New York, NY) – President & Chairman, Phibro Animal Health Corp.; former Chairman, IPF

Michael Berenbaum (Los Angeles, CA) – Director of the Sigi Ziering Institute: Exploring the Ethical and Religious Implications of the Holocaust at the American Jewish University; former Project Director of the US Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC

Howard M. Bernstein (Los Angeles, CA) – Emeritus Member of Board of Governors of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion; Honorary Board Member, Wilshire Boulevard Temple

Charles R. Bronfman (New York, NY; Montreal) – Chairman, Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies

Rabbi Marion Lev Cohen (New York, NY) – Board Member, Israel Policy Forum; Director of Adult Engagement, Central Synagogue

Steven M. Cohen (New York, NY) – Director of the Berman Jewish Policy Archive at New York University

Lester Crown (Chicago, IL) – Chairman of Henry Crown & Co.; Crown Family Philanthropies

Thomas A. Dine (Washington, DC) – Former Executive Director of AIPAC

Rabbi David Ellenson (New York, NY) – President, Hebrew Union College –Jewish Institute of Religion

Edith Everett (New York, NY) Co-founder and President, Everett Family Foundation

Susie Gelman (Washington, DC) – Immediate Past President, Jewish Federation of Greater Washington

Stanley P. Gold (Los Angeles, CA) – Chairman Emeritus, Jewish Federation of LA; President and CEO, Shamrock Holdings

E. Robert Goodkind (New York, NY) – Partner, Pryor Cashman LLP; former President, American Jewish Committee (’04-’07)

Rabbi Daniel Gordis (Jerusalem) – Senior Vice President and the Koret Distinguished Fellow at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem

David A. Halperin (New York, NY) – Executive Director, Israel Policy Forum

Harold R. Handler (New York, NY) – Former President, JCC in Manhattan; Former Chairman, Jewish Communal Fund; Board Member, Israel Policy Forum

Alan S. Jaffe (New York, NY) – President, Jewish Community Relations Council-NY; former President, UJA-Federation-NY; former Chairman, Proskauer

Peter A. Joseph (New York, NY) – Chairman, Israel Policy Forum

Rabbi Jeremy Kalmanofsky (New York, NY) – Temple Ansche Chesed

Peter S. Kolevzon (New York, NY) – Founding Chair and Past President, JCC in Manhattan

Steven C. Koppel (New York, NY) – Partner, JonesDay; Member, International Board of Governors, The Peres Center for Peace

Burton Lehman (New York, NY) – Former Chair and Member of the Board of Governors of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute Religion

Marvin Lender (Connecticut) – Former National Chairman, UJA

Geoffrey H. Lewis (Boston, MA) – Board Member, Israel Policy Forum

Deborah Lipstadt (Atlanta, GA) – Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish History and Holocaust Studies at Emory University

Rabbi J. Rolando Matalon (New York, NY) – Congregation Bnai Jeshurun

Harriet Mouchly-Weiss (New York, NY) – Board Member, Israel Policy Forum

Burt Neuborne (New York, NY) – Professor of Law, NYU

Bernard Nussbaum (New York, NY) – Former White House Counsel (’94); Partner, Wachtell Lipton, Rosen & Katz

Richard Pearlstone (Aspen, CO) – Former Chairman, Jewish Agency

Marcia Riklis (New York, NY) – Board member, Israel Policy Forum; General Campaign Co-Chair, UJA Federation-NY

Rabbi Jennie Rosenn (New York, NY) – Program Director, Jewish Life and Values, Nathan Cummings Foundation

David Sable (New York, NY) – Former Executive Board Member, UJA Federation-NY

Rabbi David Saperstein (Washington, DC) – Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism

Jeffrey R. Solomon (New York, NY) – President, Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies

Joel D. Tauber (Southfield, MI) – Former Chairman, National UJA; former National Chairman of Tel Aviv University: American Council

Melvyn I. Weiss (New York, NY) – Board Member, Israel Policy Forum

Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie (New York, NY) – President Emeritus, Union for Reform Judaism

Michael D. Young (New York, NY) – Board Member, Israel Policy Forum

Lawrence Zicklin (New York, NY) – Former President, UJA Federation-NY

Source: Israel Policy forum

Posted in Uncategorised

Alan Baker Letter in Response to the Israel Policy Forum

Mr. Peter. A. Joseph, Chairman, Israel Policy Forum

Mr. David A. Halperin, Executive Director, Israel Policy Forum

July 18, 2012

 

Dear Mr. Joseph and Mr. Halperin,

Permit me to introduce myself. I am Ambassador Alan Baker, a Member of the Edmond Levy Commission established to examine the status of building in Judea and Samaria and to make recommendations to the government on this and related issues.

As you may know, I am the former Ambassador of Israel to Canada and former Legal Adviser to Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In the latter capacity, since the early ‘90’s I have served as a member in the Israeli delegations to the peace process negotiations with Israel’s neighbors, including the negotiation and drafting of the various agreements between Israel and the PLO.

I read with considerable dismay the letter to Prime Minister Netanyahu, dated July 13, 2012, sponsored by IPF and signed by 41 prominent personalities in the US Jewish Community, urging him to reject the Levy Commission's findings and recommendations.

Rather than responding to each individual signatory directly, I am forwarding this response to you both, as Chairman and Executive Director respectively of IPF, in the hope that you will ensure that it is circulated among all the other signatories to the letter.

From the content and tenor of the letter, I suspect that the signatories are basing themselves on selective media reports and other sources that in fact bear no relation whatsoever to the actual content of the Levy Commission report itself. This is perhaps understandable because, to the best of my knowledge, no English language version of the Report exists (apart from a translation by me of the brief summary of the basic conclusion and recommendations).

Accordingly one may presume that none of the signatories have actually read the content of the Report.  In this context, one may wonder on what basis 41 prominent, important and responsible leaders of the U.S. Jewish Community could seriously proffer criticism of a report that they have not read and presume to advise the Prime Minister of Israel to reject it?

Permit me, with respect, to presume that had the signatories read the report, they would not find any reason to claim, as stated in the letter, that the Report "will place the two-state solution, and the prestige of Israel as a democratic member of the international community, in peril".

Similarly, the description of the Report as "legal maneuverings", and as something that will "add fuel to those who seek to delegitimize Israel's right to exist", other than insulting to myself and the other members of the Commission in light of our respective contributions to the welfare and prestige of Israel, is totally devoid of any basis.

The central and reasoned conclusion of the Report reaffirming the legal and historic rights and claims of Israel with regard to the area and the nature of Israel's presence therein, is no different from Israel's policy statements over the years, including speeches by all of Israel's leaders and ambassadors in the United Nations, as well as in official policy documents issued over the years by Israel's Foreign Ministry.

There is nothing in the report that could in any way be interpreted as placing the "two-state solution" in peril. The opposite is in fact the case. The Report reiterates, in its paragraph 9 that despite Israel’s well-based and solid legal and historic claims to sovereignty over the area, and the right of Israelis to settle therein in accordance with the requisite legal norms and requirements, as set out in the body of the report, consecutive Israeli governments have chosen to opt, and continue to opt in favor of conducting bone fide and pragmatic negotiations with the representatives of the Palestinian people and the Arab states, with a view to determine the fate of the area. This is completely compatible with the address by Prime Minister Netanyahu to the U.S. Congress last May, quoted in your letter.

The main body of the Levy Report deals with practical ways of resolving the outstanding issues concerning planning, zoning and building in the area, in light of the confusing situation in this field that has developed over the last few years. The Report proffers recommendations for adjudicating land-ownership disputes between Palestinian and Israeli claimants – all with a view to ensuring just, proper and fair administration.

The report stresses the need to ensure that genuine land-ownership rights of the local Palestinian population are respected by all related authorities and individuals. It refers to the need for protection of parks and nature reserves, as well as ensuring that all residents of the area – Palestinians and Israelis – are dealt with by the authorities in a fair and proper manner in accordance with all accepted humanitarian norms and principles of justice and due process.

In light of the above, it is difficult to understand the reasoning, if any exists, behind the fears expressed by the signatories that the report will add fuel to those who seek to delegitimize Israel's right to exist.

With great respect, it is surely the publication of incorrect and ill-advised assumptions regarding the Report, including those echoed in the above-noted letter, that adds the fuel to those who seek to delegitimize Israel's right to exist.

Without in any way doubting the deep commitment of all the signatories to Israel’s well-being as a Jewish and democratic state, it is to be regretted that they have permitted themselves to be drawn so hastily into criticizing the Levy Report, without justification.

 Needless to say I place myself at the disposal of IPF and all the signatories to the letter, in order to assist those interested in understanding the content of the Levy Commission Report.

I am copying this letter to Prime Minister Netanyahu.

Sincerely,

 

Alan Baker, Ambassador, Advocate,

Member of the Levy Commission

Posted in Uncategorised

Levy Report Legal Argumnts on the Legal Status of Settlements in Judea & Samaria

Translation of the Levy Report legal arguments found in Elder of Ziyon Blog

 

Having considered the approaches presented before us [from the Left and from the Right], we think a reasonable interpretation of the standard term of "occupation", with all the obligations arising from it, in the provisions of international law is intended to apply for short periods of occupation of a territory of a sovereign state until the end of the conflict between the parties and the return of the land or any other negotiated agreement regarding it.

 

But the Israeli presence in Judea and Samaria is significantly different: the possession of the territory continues for many decades, and no one can predict its end, if at all; the territory was conquered from a state (the Kingdom of Jordan) whose sovereignty over the territory has never been firmly legalized, and in the meantime it even renounced its claim of sovereignty; the State of Israel claims sovereign rights to the territory.

 

As for Article 49 of the Geneva Convention, many have interpreted it, but it seems the dominant view is that  the article indeed was meant to resolve the harsh reality imposed by some states during the Second World War, when they expelled and forcibly transferred some of their inhabitants to the territories they had occupied, a process which was accompanied by a substantial worsening of the condition of the occupied population (see this HCJ ruling and this article by Alan Baker).

 

This interpretation is supported by a number of sources: the authoritative interpretation of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), responsible for implementing the Fourth Geneva Convention, which states regarding the purpose of article 49 of the Convention:

 

It is intended to prevent a practice adopted during the Second World War by certain Powers, which transferred portions of their own population to occupied territory for political and racial reasons or in order, as they claimed, to colonize those territories. Such transfers worsened the economic situation of the native population and endangered their separate existence as a race.

 

Lawyers Prof. Eugene Rostow, Dean of Yale Law School in the US, and Prof. Julius Stone confirmed that Article 49 is intended to prohibit the same inhuman acts committed by the Nazis, i.e. a massive transfer of people into the occupied territories for the purpose of destruction, slavery or colonization:

 

[T]he Convention prohibits many of the inhumane practices of the Nazis and the Soviet Union during and before the Second World War – the mass transfer of people into and out of occupied territories for purposes of extermination, slave labor or colonization, for example….The Jewish settlers in the West Bank are most emphatically volunteers. They have not been "deported" or "transferred" to the area by the Government of Israel, and their movement involves none of the atrocious purposes or harmful effects on the existing population it is the goal of the Geneva Convention to prevent. (Rostow)

Irony would…be pushed to the absurdity of claiming that Article 49(6), designed to prevent repetition of Nazi-type genocidal policies of rendering Nazi metropolitan territories judenrein, has now come to mean that…the West Bank…must be made judenrein and must be so maintained, if necessary by the use of force by the government of Israel against its own inhabitants. Common sense as well as correct historical and functional context excludes so tyrannical a reading of Article 49(6.) (Julius Stone)

 

We do not believe that one can draw an analogy between this legal provision and those who sought to settle in Judea and Samaria not as a result of them being "deported" or "transferred" but because of their world view – to settle the Land of Israel.

 

We did not ignore the view of those who think that one should interpret the Fourth Geneva Convention as also prohibiting the occupying state to encourage or support the transfer of parts of its population to the occupied territory, even if it did not instigated it (on this issue see note 13here).

 

But even if this interpretation is correct, we would not change our conclusion that no analogy should be drawn between Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention and Jewish settlement in Judea and Samaria, in light of the status of the area under international law, and for that matter a brief history is required.

 

On 2 November 1917 lord James Balfour, the British foreign minister, issued a declaration that "His Majesty's Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine", the document which was addressed to lord Rothschild read:

 

His Majesty's Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.

 

In this declaration Britain recognized the Jewish people's right to the Land of Israel, and even expressed its willingness to advance a process that will eventually lead to the establishment of a national home for them in this part of the world.

 

This declaration appeared, in a different version, in the declaration of the San Remo peace conference in Italy which laid the grounds for the Mandate for Palestine which acknowledged the Jewish people's historic connection to Palestine (see Preamble):

 

The Mandatory will be responsible for putting into effect the declaration originally made on November 2, 1917, by the British Government, and adopted by the other Allied Powers, in favour of the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country…
Recognition had thereby been given to the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine and to the grounds for reconstituting their national home in that country.

 

It should be emphasized here that in the Mandate (as well as in the Balfour Declaration) only the "civil and religious" rights of the inhabitants of Palestine are mentioned as rendering protection, and there is no mention of the national rights of the Arab people. And concerning the actual implementation of this declaration article 2 of the Mandate says:

 

The Mandatory shall be responsible for placing the country under such political, administrative and economic conditions as will secure the establishment of the Jewish national home, as laid down in the preamble, and the development of self -governing institutions, and also for safeguarding the civil and religious rights of all the inhabitants of Palestine, irrespective of race and religion.

 

And in article 6 of the Mandate it says:

 

The Administration of Palestine, while ensuring that the rights and position of other sections of the population are not prejudiced, shall facilitate Jewish immigration under suitable conditions and shall encourage, in co-operation with the Jewish agency. referred to in Article 4, close settlement by Jews, on the land, including State lands and waste lands not required for public purposes.

 

In August 1922 the League of Nations approved the Mandate which was given to Britain, and thus the Jewish people's right to settle in the Land of Israel, their historic homeland, and to establish their state there, was recognized in international law.

 

To complete the picture, we'll add that with the establishment of the United Nations in 1945, the principle of recognition of the validity of existing rights of states acquired under various mandates, including of course the rights of Jews to settle in the Land of Israel by virtue of the above documents, was determined in article 80 of its charter:

 

Except as may be agreed upon in individual trusteeship agreements…nothing in this Chapter shall be construed in or of itself to alter in any manner the rights whatsoever of any states or any peoples or the terms of existing international instruments to which Members of the United Nations may respectively be parties.

 

In November 1947 the General Assembly adopted the United Nations committee's recommendation to divide the Land of Israel west of the Jordan river into two states: one Arab and one Jewish. 

 

But the plan was never implemented, and therefore was not binding under international law, since the Arab states rejected it and started a war to prevent its implementation and the establishment of a Jewish state.

 

The outcome of the war set the political reality from now on: the Jewish state was established within the lines drawn after the war.

 

However, the Arab state was not established, and Egypt and Jordan controlled the territories they occupied (the Gaza Strip, Judea and Samaria).

 

Later, the Arab states, which did not recognize the consequences of the war, demanded the armistice agreement include a statement  [*] saying that the cease-fire line should not be construed in any way as a political or territorial border.

 

Nevertheless, in April 1950, Jordan annexed the West Bank, unlike Egypt, which has never claimed sovereignty over the Gaza Strip.

 

However, Jordan's annexation was not accepted on any legal basis, and most Arab countries opposed it, until in 1988 announced that Jordan does not see itself as having the status of that area (on this issue see chief justice M. Landau's comments in this HCJ ruling; and this HCJ ruling).

 

Thus the original legal status of the territory was restored , namely, a territory designated as a national home for the Jewish people, who had a "right of possession" to it during Jordanian rule while they were absent for several years due to a war imposed on them.

 

 

Together with the international commitment to govern the territory and ensure the rights of the local population and public order, Israel also had the full right to claim sovereignty over these territories, and all Israeli governments believed so, but they chose not to annex them and take a pragmatic approach in order to allow for peace negotiations with representatives of the Palestinian people and the Arab states.

 

 

Israel therefore did not see itself as an occupying power in the classical sense of the word, and so never saw itself committed to the Forth Geneva Convention with regards to Judea, Samaria and Gaza.

 

It should be added here that the Israeli government did indeed ratify the Convention in 1951 but since it was not adopted by the Knesset (on this issue see this and thisHCJ rulings) it merely issued a statement saying it will voluntarily implement the humanitarian provisions of the Convention (hereherehere and here).

 

As a result, Israel implemented a policy that allows the Israelis to live voluntarily in accordance with rules prescribed by the Israeli government and supervised by the Israeli legal system, while the continued presence is subject to the outcome of the negotiation process.

 

In light of the aforesaid, we have no doubt that from the perspective of international law, the establishment of Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria is legal, and therefore we can proceed to discussing this question from the perspective of domestic law.

 

[…]

 

NOTE:

 

[*] According to article II (2) of the Armistice Agreement with Jordan:

 

 …no provision of this Agreement shall in any way prejudice the rights, claims and positions of either Party hereto in the ultimate peaceful settlement of the Palestine question, the provisions of this Agreement being dictated exclusively by military considerations.

 

According to article VI (9) of the agreement:

 

The Armistice Demarcation Lines defined in articles V and VI of this Agreement are agreed upon by the Parties without prejudice to future territorial settlements or boundary lines or to claims of either Party relating thereto.

 

Posted in Uncategorised

The Levy Report: Legal Argumnts on the Legal Status of Settlements in Judea & Samaria

Having considered the approaches presented before us [from the Left and from the Right], we think a reasonable interpretation of the standard term of "occupation", with all the obligations arising from it, in the provisions of international law is intended to apply for short periods of occupation of a territory of a sovereign state until the end of the conflict between the parties and the return of the land or any other negotiated agreement regarding it.o

 

But the Israeli presence in Judea and Samaria is significantly different: the possession of the territory continues for many decades, and no one can predict its end, if at all; the territory was conquered from a state (the Kingdom of Jordan) whose sovereignty over the territory has never been firmly legalized, and in the meantime it even renounced its claim of sovereignty; the State of Israel claims sovereign rights to the territory.

 

As for Article 49 of the Geneva Convention, many have interpreted it, but it seems the dominant view is that  the article indeed was meant to resolve the harsh reality imposed by some states during the Second World War, when they expelled and forcibly transferred some of their inhabitants to the territories they had occupied, a process which was accompanied by a substantial worsening of the condition of the occupied population (see this HCJ ruling and this article by Alan Baker).

 

This interpretation is supported by a number of sources: the authoritative interpretation of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), responsible for implementing the Fourth Geneva Convention, which states regarding the purpose of article 49 of the Convention:

 

It is intended to prevent a practice adopted during the Second World War by certain Powers, which transferred portions of their own population to occupied territory for political and racial reasons or in order, as they claimed, to colonize those territories. Such transfers worsened the economic situation of the native population and endangered their separate existence as a race.

 

Lawyers Prof. Eugene Rostow, Dean of Yale Law School in the US, and Prof. Julius Stone confirmed that Article 49 is intended to prohibit the same inhuman acts committed by the Nazis, i.e. a massive transfer of people into the occupied territories for the purpose of destruction, slavery or colonization:

 

[T]he Convention prohibits many of the inhumane practices of the Nazis and the Soviet Union during and before the Second World War – the mass transfer of people into and out of occupied territories for purposes of extermination, slave labor or colonization, for example….The Jewish settlers in the West Bank are most emphatically volunteers. They have not been "deported" or "transferred" to the area by the Government of Israel, and their movement involves none of the atrocious purposes or harmful effects on the existing population it is the goal of the Geneva Convention to prevent. (Rostow)

Irony would…be pushed to the absurdity of claiming that Article 49(6), designed to prevent repetition of Nazi-type genocidal policies of rendering Nazi metropolitan territories judenrein, has now come to mean that…the West Bank…must be made judenrein and must be so maintained, if necessary by the use of force by the government of Israel against its own inhabitants. Common sense as well as correct historical and functional context excludes so tyrannical a reading of Article 49(6.) (Julius Stone)

 

We do not believe that one can draw an analogy between this legal provision and those who sought to settle in Judea and Samaria not as a result of them being "deported" or "transferred" but because of their world view – to settle the Land of Israel.

 

We did not ignore the view of those who think that one should interpret the Fourth Geneva Convention as also prohibiting the occupying state to encourage or support the transfer of parts of its population to the occupied territory, even if it did not instigated it (on this issue see note 13here).

 

But even if this interpretation is correct, we would not change our conclusion that no analogy should be drawn between Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention and Jewish settlement in Judea and Samaria, in light of the status of the area under international law, and for that matter a brief history is required.

 

On 2 November 1917 lord James Balfour, the British foreign minister, issued a declaration that "His Majesty's Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine", the document which was addressed to lord Rothschild read:

 

His Majesty's Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.

 

In this declaration Britain recognized the Jewish people's right to the Land of Israel, and even expressed its willingness to advance a process that will eventually lead to the establishment of a national home for them in this part of the world.

 

This declaration appeared, in a different version, in the declaration of the San Remo peace conference in Italy which laid the grounds for the Mandate for Palestine which acknowledged the Jewish people's historic connection to Palestine (see Preamble):

 

The Mandatory will be responsible for putting into effect the declaration originally made on November 2, 1917, by the British Government, and adopted by the other Allied Powers, in favour of the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country…
Recognition had thereby been given to the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine and to the grounds for reconstituting their national home in that country.

 

It should be emphasized here that in the Mandate (as well as in the Balfour Declaration) only the "civil and religious" rights of the inhabitants of Palestine are mentioned as rendering protection, and there is no mention of the national rights of the Arab people. And concerning the actual implementation of this declaration article 2 of the Mandate says:

 

The Mandatory shall be responsible for placing the country under such political, administrative and economic conditions as will secure the establishment of the Jewish national home, as laid down in the preamble, and the development of self -governing institutions, and also for safeguarding the civil and religious rights of all the inhabitants of Palestine, irrespective of race and religion.

 

And in article 6 of the Mandate it says:

 

The Administration of Palestine, while ensuring that the rights and position of other sections of the population are not prejudiced, shall facilitate Jewish immigration under suitable conditions and shall encourage, in co-operation with the Jewish agency. referred to in Article 4, close settlement by Jews, on the land, including State lands and waste lands not required for public purposes.

 

In August 1922 the League of Nations approved the Mandate which was given to Britain, and thus the Jewish people's right to settle in the Land of Israel, their historic homeland, and to establish their state there, was recognized in international law.

 

To complete the picture, we'll add that with the establishment of the United Nations in 1945, the principle of recognition of the validity of existing rights of states acquired under various mandates, including of course the rights of Jews to settle in the Land of Israel by virtue of the above documents, was determined in article 80 of its charter:

 

Except as may be agreed upon in individual trusteeship agreements…nothing in this Chapter shall be construed in or of itself to alter in any manner the rights whatsoever of any states or any peoples or the terms of existing international instruments to which Members of the United Nations may respectively be parties.

 

In November 1947 the General Assembly adopted the United Nations committee's recommendation to divide the Land of Israel west of the Jordan river into two states: one Arab and one Jewish. 

 

But the plan was never implemented, and therefore was not binding under international law, since the Arab states rejected it and started a war to prevent its implementation and the establishment of a Jewish state.

 

The outcome of the war set the political reality from now on: the Jewish state was established within the lines drawn after the war.

 

However, the Arab state was not established, and Egypt and Jordan controlled the territories they occupied (the Gaza Strip, Judea and Samaria).

 

Later, the Arab states, which did not recognize the consequences of the war, demanded the armistice agreement include a statement  [*] saying that the cease-fire line should not be construed in any way as a political or territorial border.

 

Nevertheless, in April 1950, Jordan annexed the West Bank, unlike Egypt, which has never claimed sovereignty over the Gaza Strip.

 

However, Jordan's annexation was not accepted on any legal basis, and most Arab countries opposed it, until in 1988 announced that Jordan does not see itself as having the status of that area (on this issue see chief justice M. Landau's comments in this HCJ ruling; and this HCJ ruling).

 

Thus the original legal status of the territory was restored , namely, a territory designated as a national home for the Jewish people, who had a "right of possession" to it during Jordanian rule while they were absent for several years due to a war imposed on them.

 

 

Together with the international commitment to govern the territory and ensure the rights of the local population and public order, Israel also had the full right to claim sovereignty over these territories, and all Israeli governments believed so, but they chose not to annex them and take a pragmatic approach in order to allow for peace negotiations with representatives of the Palestinian people and the Arab states.

 

 

Israel therefore did not see itself as an occupying power in the classical sense of the word, and so never saw itself committed to the Forth Geneva Convention with regards to Judea, Samaria and Gaza.

 

It should be added here that the Israeli government did indeed ratify the Convention in 1951 but since it was not adopted by the Knesset (on this issue see this and thisHCJ rulings) it merely issued a statement saying it will voluntarily implement the humanitarian provisions of the Convention (hereherehere and here).

 

As a result, Israel implemented a policy that allows the Israelis to live voluntarily in accordance with rules prescribed by the Israeli government and supervised by the Israeli legal system, while the continued presence is subject to the outcome of the negotiation process.

 

In light of the aforesaid, we have no doubt that from the perspective of international law, the establishment of Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria is legal, and therefore we can proceed to discussing this question from the perspective of domestic law.

 

[…]

 

NOTE:

 

[*] According to article II (2) of the Armistice Agreement with Jordan:

 

 …no provision of this Agreement shall in any way prejudice the rights, claims and positions of either Party hereto in the ultimate peaceful settlement of the Palestine question, the provisions of this Agreement being dictated exclusively by military considerations.

 

According to article VI (9) of the agreement:

 

The Armistice Demarcation Lines defined in articles V and VI of this Agreement are agreed upon by the Parties without prejudice to future territorial settlements or boundary lines or to claims of either Party relating thereto.

 

Posted in Uncategorised

TISHA B’AV & THE IOC: IGNORING ’72 ISRAELI MARTYRS AND TERRORISM AS MORAL, POLITICAL FAILURES

CANADIAN INSTITUTE FOR JEWISH RESEARCH

 

TISHA B’AV: THE NINTH OF AV
Baruch Cohen

 

Tisha B’av (The Ninth of Av) is the traditional day of mourning for the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. Today, our enemies are calling again for the destruction of our Temple, Israel’s Capital, the Capital of the Jewish People: Jerusalem.

 

We, today’s Jews, must not forget or ignore the ongoing calls to destroy Israel and Jerusalem. Tisha B’av must be a clear reminder; we must alert our people, and the world, to the real danger which the State of Israel faces.

 

Tisha B’av recalls the terrible price, the enormous sacrifices, paid during our history, for our existence as Am Israel, and for the State of Israel. Today, Am Israel Chai, the people of Israel Lives!

 

Zionism, more than any other movement in our modern history, has successfully brought us together—Orthodox, ultra-Orthodox, socialist, liberal, right-winger, left-winger. We are Am Ehad, one people, and we have One Israel, One State.

 

Strong, and always united, together, under one indestructible Rock, one flag, one unique banner of Zionism: we are the People of Israel, the State of Israel.

 

Am Israel Chai!

 

Long live the Eternal People and the State of Israel!

 

(Baruch Cohen is Research Chairman at the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research.)

 

[In a sad Tisha B’Av moment the London Olympics
begin without recognizing Israel’s 1972 martyrs—Ed
.]

 

FORMER OLYMPIAN ALON REMEMBERS ‘72 MASSACRE
David Roumani

Jerusalem Post, July 19, 2012

 

As this year’s Israeli delegation [of Olympic athletes] prepares to head to London to compete in the 2012 Olympics, [they] will surely remember the courageous athletes from the ‘72 Munich Games.

An event that took place Tuesday evening [July 17] in Talpiyot shed light on what the Olympics represent.

“The Olympics are a symbol of freedom and peace between nations” said Dan Alon, an Olympic Fencer from the ‘72 Israeli delegation, to a large crowd at the Association of Americans & Canadians in Israel (AACI).

Alon, a survivor of the Munich Massacre, is featured in the documentary “The Eleventh Day: The Survivors of Munich ‘72”

Alon began fencing when he was only twelve years old and quickly made a name for himself, earning bragging rights as Israel’s Junior Champion, and following national service, Israeli’s National Champion.

Born in Tel Aviv, Dan, like many other athletes today, had a singular dream—to participate in the Olympics.

Dan spoke to the crowd about his own experiences at the Olympics, and recounted the horrific events that occurred.

Weightlifters, Moshe Weinstein, and Joseph Romano, both whom Alon called, “Tremendous human beings, and very dedicated athletes,” tried to fight off the terrorists, and as a result lost their lives.…

For the Israeli delegation, the Olympics wasn’t just a competition, it was a chance to show the world that the nation of Israel was thriving. Alon expressed that being the first Israeli team to compete since World War II was a once in a lifetime opportunity “to show the world, that we are here, and still alive!”…

Athletics competitions are decided by mere milliseconds of a difference. A few milliseconds was the difference that some of the Israeli Olympians had, to try and save their teammates.

Though the games continued after the terrible massacre, according to Alon, “some of the players from various countries decided that in light of what had happened, they would pack their bags and return home—for this I applaud them.”

For Alon, and other Israeli Olympians, one of the most important aspects of the Olympics is that they know the people of Israel will always be by their side. Some of the pain and suffering he felt returning to Israel after the massacre was alleviated when he stepped off the plane.

“When we land[ed] at the airport, and I [saw] these beautiful Israeli people, waiting for us—thousands of them, it was something I will never forget.”

(Dan Alon was CIJR’s special guest at the Institute’s 2006 Annual Gala celebration)

THE INTERNATIONAL OLYMPIC
COMMITTEE STAYS TRUE TO FORM
Abraham Cooper

National Post  Jul 27, 2012

I remember that sunny summer afternoon in 1984, standing on Pico Boulevard in West Los Angeles, transfixed as the Olympic Flame passed by, on the final leg of its international journey. It was making its way from the Santa Monica Pier (carried there by, you guessed it, former USC great O.J. Simpson) en route to the 1960 Decathlon Gold Medalist, Rafer Johnson, who would ascend the stairs of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and rekindle the flame on the site of the 1932 Games.

It was an exciting moment for everyone in our neighborhood, young and old. Truth be told, that Torch symbolizes everything that is great about the Olympics. But even before the opening ceremonies, controversies enveloped the 1984 Games.

For one thing, there was the tit-for-tat Soviet-led 14-nation boycott in response to the U.S.-led boycott of the 1980 Games over the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan. … And there was the refusal of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to honor 11 Israeli athletes brutally murdered during the 1972 Munich Games by Palestinian terrorists. It was just one of the many opportunities for the IOC to address the pain of the families of the slain athletes and to correct its disgusting behavior in Munich, when it initially refused to delay the games even for an hour when the atrocity came to its ignoble end on a nearby military airfield.…

Given what happened in 1984, it came as no surprise that this year, the IOC is shamelessly refusing Barack Obama’s request and those of decent people everywhere to invest in a moment of silence at the Games in London for those 11 souls. In doing so, today’s IOC leadership displays a remarkable continuity with immoral decisions of the past. At the 1936 Munich Games, for instance, the IOC delivered on a golden platter what Adolph Hitler desired: international legitimacy despite his regime’s barbaric anti-Jewish racist laws.

What purpose would a moment of silence at the 2012 London Games serve? It would send a message that, at the Olympics at least, it is not geopolitical business as usual; that the memory of murdered Israeli athletes would be as valued as other Olympians who died; and that the Olympics would not cave to a two-tiered system, driven by Arab and Muslim nations.

So this year, since the spineless IOC President won’t, we will join NBC’s Bob Costas’ for an on-air minute of silence, and suggest we all add a second Minute of Silence—for the death of the Olympics Flames’ promise of a level moral playing field for all.

A NEWSMAN’S OLYMPIC STAND
David Feith

Wall Street Journal, July 20, 2012

What are the Olympics for? Awesome displays of physical ability, mainly, but with a heavy helping of politics—from mere kumbaya globalism to notorious whitewashes of Nazism and Communism. On rare occasion, though, the Games inspire displays of sound political judgment. This year’s first medalist in that category is television anchor Bob Costas.

The NBC veteran has revealed that his broadcast of the July 27 opening ceremony will include a minute of silence for the 11 Israeli Olympians murdered by Palestinian terrorists at the Munich Games 40 years ago—a minute of silence that the International Olympic Committee has refused to arrange on its own. Mr. Costas explained to Hollywood Reporter magazine: “I intend to note that the IOC denied the request. Many people find that denial more than puzzling but insensitive.” So he’ll tell viewers “here’s a minute of silence right now.” Judging from the 2008 ceremony, 35 million Americans could be watching.

Mr. Costas is hardly alone in finding the Munich killings worthy of commemoration. Others who have spoken up include President Barack Obama (“absolutely,” the White House said Thursday), all U.S. senators, every Australian and Canadian parliamentarian, Germany’s foreign minister and some 100,000 online petitioners. But none has shaken the IOC from its decades-long refusal—and none has Mr. Costas’s opportunity to impose an unofficial but almost uniquely high-profile minute of silence.

The IOC, for its part, contends that it is simply upholding Olympic tradition. “The [slain athletes’] families were repeatedly told by long-time IOC President Juan Samaranch that the Olympic movement avoided political issues,” historian Deborah Lipstadt wrote in Tablet magazine this week. “He seemed to have forgotten that at the 1996 opening ceremony he spoke about the Bosnian war. Politics were also present at the 2002 games, which opened with a minute of silence for the victims of 9/11.”…

To be sure, the IOC is upholding tradition in treating the Munich massacre as a mild nuisance best forgotten. This tradition dates back to the day of the attack, when officials agreed to suspend competition only after an international outcry, nearly 12 hours after the Israelis were first killed or taken hostage. “The Games must go on,” IOC President Avery Brundage said the next day, and countries’ flags weren’t to be flown at half-mast because 10 Arab nations had objected. Ever since, the case against a minute of silence has rested largely on fears of an Arab boycott.…

The Munich attack was an unprecedented media event—likely more so than its perpetrators could have even dreamed, as it unfolded over almost 24 hours of live television. It ended with now-famous words from Jim McKay of ABC news: “Our worst fears have been realized tonight. They’ve now said that there were 11 hostages—two were killed in their rooms yesterday morning, nine were killed at the airport tonight. They’re all gone.”

Before his death in 2008, McKay spoke frequently about Munich, sometimes alongside relatives of the slain athletes. (“That day was the end of innocence in sports,” he wrote in 2002.) Now Bob Costas takes up McKay’s admirable tradition—before tens of millions of TV viewers.

HOW DARE THE WORLD SHUN ISRAEL ON TERRORISM
Jose Maria Aznar

Times of London, July 24, 2012

When we are about to mark the 40th anniversary of the terrorist attacks at the Olympic Village in Munich, in which 11 Israeli athletes were killed by Palestinian terrorists, it is a real paradox to see Israel excluded from the first meeting of the Global Counter-terrorism Forum.

This initiative, led by the United States and attended by 29 countries and the European Union, took place last month in an effort to improve the co-ordination of counter-terrorism policies at global level. Why wasn’t Israel invited? The meeting was held in Istanbul and no one wanted to “provoke” the host, the Islamist Government of the Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Worse still, in July, the forum organised its first victims-of-terrorism meeting. Not only was Israel excluded, but Israeli victims had no place in its official speeches. When we see deadly terrorist attacks such as the recent one in Bulgaria, targeting tourists simply because they were Israeli, the marginalisation of Israel is totally unacceptable.

As a terrorism victim myself, who was fortunate to survive a car-bomb attack, I cannot understand or justify the marginalisation of other terrorist victims just for political reasons. If we extrapolate Israel’s experience of slaughter to Britain, it would mean that in the past 12 years about 11,000 British citizens would have died and 60,000 would have been injured in terrorist attacks. In the case of the United States, the figures would be 65,000 dead and 300,000 injured. Israel’s ordeal is far from insignificant.

It is even more poignant if one considers Israel’s willingness to face up to terrorism and the practical experience that it has acquired to defeat it. Israel has much to contribute in this area and everyone else has a lot to learn if we really want to defeat the terrorists.

Fiamma Nirenstein, the vice-president of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Italian Chamber of Deputies (and a member of the Friends of Israel Initiative) has made a proposal that is as fair as it is attractive—to hold a moment of silence at the London Olympics in memory of the 1972 massacre. Remembering is important, first, because of the victims, but also because many Europeans adopted the wrong attitude towards Palestinian terrorism after the Munich attack. The culprits who were arrested were later quietly released for fear of further attacks. And because of that initial fear the terrorists knew how to take advantage of the situation and to press for more rewards.

I have experienced terrorism at first hand. Many of my friends and some political colleagues have been killed by terrorists whose only merit was to have a hood, a gun or a bomb. Nonetheless, even in the most difficult times, I have always believed that weakness and appeasement are the wrong choices. Terrorism is not a natural phenomenon; it doesn’t happen spontaneously; its not something ethereal. It can and must be fought using all the tools provided by the law and democracy—and most importantly, it can be defeated if there is the will to defeat it. Israel has provided ample proof that it possesses that will, since its own existence is at stake.

To marginalise or isolate Israel to avoid irritating Turkey is a big mistake.…Isolation not only renders Israel weaker against its enemies, but also makes all Westerners weaker. And the practitioners of terrorism know all too well how to exploit our differences.

Remembering Munich 40 years on should be a useful reminder of our successes and failures. It should help us to enhance our collective abilities to fight terrorism. Israel is key in this fight. Israel is a part of the West. Israel is not the problem; it is part of the solution. We will become the problem if we continue to cold-shoulder Israel, the country most affected by terrorism and, possibly, the one that knows best how to defeat it.

(Jose Maria Aznar was Prime Minister of Spain from 1996 to 2004
and is chairman of the Friends of Israel Initiative.)

SINAI TODAY: OLYMPIC GAMES AND ‘ILLEGAL OCCUPATION’
Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein

Jerusalem Post, July 26, 2012

…As the nations of the world gather for the Olympic Games, flags wave proudly in the wind, representing the more than 200 participating countries. Every flag represents a country marked by borders which determine the athletes’ nationality.…

What makes these nations different? Who drew up these borders in the first place? They were drawn up arbitrarily by force of circumstances; is that enough to form nationhood? Evidently, it is: So much hinges on a border, which is merely an imperfectly—and often capriciously—drawn line.…

Among the many national flags at the Olympic Games, there is one that represents the most ancient of the nations, the only one which exists with its original land, language, religion and values as it had when it was born thousands of years ago: Israel. It is also the only country on earth whose original borders are not artificially nor arbitrarily created by human beings but delineated clearly in the Bible, a book which came into the world more than 3,330 years ago, authored by G-d Himself. As the Torah states (Numbers 34:1-12): “G-d spoke to Moshe saying… This is the land that shall fall to you as an inheritance… Your southern border shall be from the edge of the Dead Sea to the east…

“The border shall go around from Atzmon to the stream of Egypt. The western border shall be for you the Mediterranean Sea… This shall be for you the northern border… The border shall descend and extend to the bank of the Kinneret Sea to the east.

“The border shall descend to the Jordan [River], and its outskirts shall be the Dead Sea…”

In 1947, the United Nations allocated a much smaller portion within these borders as the area for the modern State of Israel. Since the Six Day War many countries have declared Israel’s presence in the West Bank an “illegal occupation.”…

How is it possible that the only nation in the world whose borders are not arbitrary, and who has an ancient, unbroken connection to its land is accused of illegal occupation? It is a particularly bitter irony when young nations of the world, barely a hundred years old themselves, accuse the oldest nation of all of colonialism, and deny its right to exist within its ancient borders.…

The audacity of those who contest Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is historically bizarre and unconscionable. Three thousand years ago the great capitals of today did not even exist; there was no London, Paris, Washington or Moscow—but Jerusalem was a Jewish city, and it was the capital of the Jewish state. Since the Roman conquest of Israel about 2,000 years ago, Jews mention the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple at every wedding and funeral… in every prayer service and every time we say Grace after Meals. If Jerusalem is not the capital of the Jewish people and the Jewish state, then the very concept of a capital city has no meaning.

The Olympic Games officially open on the 27th of July. It is remarkable that on the Jewish calendar this date corresponds to Tisha B’av—the very day which, more than any other, demonstrates the eternal Jewish connection to Jerusalem and Israel. It is the fast day on which we mourn the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple some 2,500 years and then again, almost 2,000 years ago.…

It is not only a day of sorrow, but also of repentance and reconnection with the Divine moral mission and destiny of the Jewish People. There is a well-known legend of Napoleon Bonaparte walking into a dimly lit synagogue on Tisha Be’av night. He asked why the congregants were sitting on the floor… mourning the destruction of Jerusalem and their Temple some 1,800 years before. Reportedly, Napoleon then said that a nation which remembers and is connected to its historic mission and destiny in such a way will one day regain its land, Jerusalem and its Temple.

Perhaps this year the kings, presidents and world leaders gathered in London for the Olympic Games will follow in the footsteps of Napoleon and find a synagogue to enter on Tisha B’av. Maybe then they will finally appreciate the eternal Jewish connection to Israel, Jerusalem and the values of the Torah…that [have] sustained the oldest, most resilient and ever-vital nation on earth, which has seen so many others burst onto the stage of history only to disappear forever. Maybe then they too will glimpse the truth of the world’s eternal nation.

(Warren Goldstein is chief rabbi of South Africa.)

Reflections for Tisha B’Av, David M. Weinberg

Tisha B'Av, the mournful commemoration of Jewish national destruction and self-destruction which falls this weekend, hasn’t quite reached the status of Yom Kippur as a day of reflection and repentance. But it should. Especially here in modern Israel.

We are repeating so many of the mistakes made by our ancestors in the First and Second Jewish Commonwealth periods; mistakes which have, in past, brought about social decay, moral decline and political disintegration.

All of us ought take a spell from our regular regimen this Sunday, have a seat on the floor, and take a hard, contemplative look at the social or political group we each respectively belong to, and at the state we are building. Or should I say — at the state we are in danger of mangling into ruin.

Of course, doing so requires a capacity for self-criticism and a hefty dose of humility. In Israel these days, humility is in short supply.

The rich and the successful, and the politically powerful, exude a preening pride and overbearing self-confidence that leaves no room for self-doubt, change or compromise. Israelis are, as a rule, unrepentantly certain that their individual viewpoint is absolutely correct, barring all others.

Nevertheless, our society as a whole has a few things to mend. Among the issues we all might want to reflect about this Tisha B'Av are:

  • Violence in society: We’re cavalierly murdering each other in disputes over beach chairs, parking spots, and TV programs. Last week, yet another husband murdered his wife. To that, you can add over 20,000 cases of violence within the family each year; 60,000 burglaries; 14,000 drug related offenses, and so on.

Who is going to act to reduce the violence in our schools? Fifty percent of our kids have experienced classroom violence in grades six through ten; 45% report “a lot” of hooliganism, bullying or property destruction in their school; and 14% have required medical attention from injuries sustained in school violence.

  • Economic injustice in society: The average gross income among the top decile of Israelis — the richest ten% of the population — is 48 times the average income in the lowest decile. Put another way, 25 times more money goes to the richest fifth of the population than to the poorest fifth. There is not one Western country, not even the U.S., which comes even close to Israel in the inequality of income distribution. Who is going to ensure socio-economic justice?
     
  • Educational failures: Seven percent of our youth drop-out of school every year in grades nine through eleven — that is 20,000 kids. In Sderot the drop-out rate is a whopping 21%; 28% in Netivot. New immigrants are also dropping out of high school at a higher-than-acceptable rate. Only 48% of high school students pass their matriculation exams. Who is going to overhaul our educational system?
     
  • Hatred sowed by politicians: Once upon a time we tended to chalk-up the rough talk to Israeli ‘character’ and shrug it off. But the disgraceful level to which some politicians have sunk over the past year — particularly in the debate over draft of Haredi men — is alarming. Moderation, nuance, restraint and reasonableness have become orphan concepts in this country’s political landscape. The prevailing culture is 'kasach' — unbridled, untamed confrontation. It’s no wonder that there is no exact Hebrew translation for ‘civility’ and ‘subtlety’. We probably wouldn’t know what to make of the words or how to apply them.

So on Tisha B'Av it’s worth remembering that a previous Jewish commonwealth disintegrated, our sages say, because everybody hated each other. And because leaders led the vulgarization of society, instead of preventing it. Thus we need leaders who eschew inflammatory, seditious demagoguery.

We ought to be able draft many haredim, for example, without demonizing them. The opposition ought to be able to challenge the prime minister for national leadership without having to portray him as a profligate liar in order to get across its messages of hope and peace. The politics of defamation have been tried before in this country with disastrous and tragic results. Beware.

  • Jewish and Zionist identity of society: The attenuation of a proud Zionist-Jewish perspective in our schoolbooks, media, culture and arts scene dangerously threatens to strip us of the moral strength necessary to persevere in the continuing struggle for Israel’s place in the Middle East. It is time to stop and ask ourselves: Has our heightened capacity for self-criticism gone too far? Isn’t it time to re-energize our national spirit with a little historical perspective that allows us to recognize the essential morality of the Jewish return to Zion?

What better moment than Tisha B'Av to remind ourselves of our unassailable and unmatchable claim to Jerusalem; to reaffirm the deep roots of Jewish identity and Israeli nationality that run through ancient Jerusalem — far beyond the practical calculus of municipal demographics, security concerns and political timetables?

So this Tisha B'Av, let us recommit ourselves to an overhaul of society: to more refined use of language in public discourse, just a little less hacking at each other politically, a touch more tolerance in education, more honesty in business and increased philanthropy, a crackdown on crime, fairer distribution of the national burden, more concern for the widow, orphan and unemployed, and some reverence for heritage and Zionist achievement.

Source: IsraelHayom

LE THÉÂTRE DE L’ABSURDE : ASSAD, L’OUEST ET LA DÉGRINGOLADE DE LA SITUATION SYRIENNE

 

 

 

 LES MASSACRES EN SYRIE NE FONT QUE COMMENCER

Guy Millière

dreuz.info, 25 juillet 2012

Il se peut que le régime de Bachar Al Assad en Syrie s’effondre bientôt. Pour ce qui me concerne, j’ai des doutes quant à ce point. Je pense que le régime va tomber, mais que sa chute ne sera pas nécessairement aussi rapide que certains l’imaginent.

De fait, la logique du clan Assad est simple et appliquée depuis longtemps : tenir le pays par la terreur et réduire à néant toute forme d’opposition. Cette logique a été appliquée par Assad père, comme elle a été appliquée depuis plus d’un an par Assad fils. Les massacres accomplis depuis plus d’un an par Assad fils impliquent une logique binaire ; soit Assad fils tue, soit il est tué. Il a tant massacré désormais que la haine contre lui ne pourrait se laver que dans le sang. Davantage de sang encore. Et si ce n’est le sang de Assad fils lui-même, ce sera celui de son clan. On peut s’attendre à un acharnement jusqu’au bout. L’utilisation en dernier recours d’armes chimiques et bactériologiques n’est pas à exclure : Assad l’a d’ailleurs évoquée en cas d’intervention « étrangère ».

On doit ajouter qu’Assad et son régime représentent pour l’Iran islamiste un allié essentiel, dont dépend aussi la survie du Hezbollah au Liban. L’Iran fera tout pour qu’Assad ou son clan ne tombe pas, ou pas complètement, et l’Iran actionne déjà le Hezbollah à cette fin. Il a envoyé aussi sur place des Gardiens de la Révolution.

L’attentat anti-israélien commis en Bulgarie constitue un signe sanglant de l’Iran en direction d’Israël, en quelque sorte « sommé », sur un mode barbare, de ne pas œuvrer pour la chute d’Assad ou de son régime. Assad et son régime sont aussi un allié essentiel pour la Russie qui fera elle-même tout pour ne pas perdre sa base à Tartous.

Il faut noter, par ailleurs, que, de l’autre côté, ceux qui font face à Assad et à son régime ne sont, pour l’essentiel, pas des démocrates et des modérés, et qu’on trouve parmi eux, tel un vecteur décisif, les Frères musulmans, déjà au pouvoir au Maroc, en Tunisie et en Egypte, et financés par le Qatar. On trouve aussi des gens venus d’al Qaida et d’autres factions islamistes.

La victoire de ceux qui font face à Assad et à son régime, je l’ai écrit dans un article précédent, serait celle d’islamistes sunnites. Et ces islamistes sunnites sont divisés en multiples factions qui ne forment pas une armée cohérente et n’ont pas une position stratégique précise.

Outre les acteurs déjà cités, d’autres acteurs jouent un rôle dans le chaos qui prend forme.
La Turquie soutient les opposants sunnites à Assad et aimerait jouer un rôle dans la Syrie d’après Assad, mais la Russie ne veut absolument pas que la Turquie joue le moindre rôle et accroisse son importance régionale. Les tirs contre des avions turcs étaient un signe en direction de la Turquie, signe voulu sans doute par la Russie.L

’Arabie Saoudite préférerait les Frères musulmans au clan Assad, mais craint en même temps l’islamisme incarné par les Frères musulmans et, surtout, une recrudescence des actions d’al Qaida. Elle finance le régime en place au Caire aux fins que le pouvoir des Frères musulmans en Egypte ne devienne pas trop absolu, et aux fins que cela ait un effet de relative modération sur les Frères musulmans en Syrie.

Les journalistes occidentaux qui s’enthousiasment devant l’Armée syrienne libre et voient en elle des « résistants » montrent qu’ils n’ont décidément rien compris à l’offensive islamiste qui a embrasé la région. Les dirigeants européens qui ont paru espérer une « solution négociée » ressemblent à un ensemble d’imbéciles pathétiques : on se demande s’ils n’ont rien compris ou s’ils font seulement semblant de ne rien comprendre.

Ils parlent maintenant de mise en place d’un conseil politique de transition pour gérer l’après Assad, ce qui équivaut de leur part à prendre leurs désirs pour des réalités, car Assad n’est pas tombé. Ils pensent aussi pouvoir unifier des gens qui n’ont quasiment aucun point commun entre eux : comment comptent-ils concilier les positions de ceux qui ont tout misé sur le clan Assad et l’alliance avec l’Iran et la Russie avec celles d’islamistes sunnites absolument hostiles à l’Iran ? Il n’y a pas de réponse à la question.

L’administration Obama, qui a espéré une « solution négociée » aussi, ou tout au moins l’a proclamé, fait face à une situation délicate : après avoir abandonné l’Irak à l’Iran et être en voie d’abandonner l’Afghanistan aux talibans, après avoir permis l’arrivée au pouvoir des Frères musulmans au Maroc, en Libye et en Egypte, après avoir soutenu le régime Assad, pour apaiser l’Iran, et après avoir voulu soutenir discrètement les factions sunnites en paraissant espérer stupidement un compromis avec la Russie (un régime Assad sans Assad avec participation de factions sunnites), après avoir semblé se résigner à un repli du clan Assad sur les régions alaouites incluant Lattaquié et Tartous, préservant ainsi la Russie et l’Iran tout en donnant satisfaction aux sunnites ailleurs dans le pays, après avoir misé sur le plan Annan, n’a plus guère de solution de rechange. Parier sur un conseil politique, comme les Européens ? Assortir celui-ci d’un conseil militaire où se retrouveraient généraux « rebelles » et généraux fidèles au régime (a-t-on le droit de sourire ?). Donner des armes aux opposants à Assad, mais pas trop, car ce sont aussi des armes données à des djihadistes ? Intervenir pour que les armes chimiques et bactériologiques soient séparées d’Assad comme de ses ennemis ? Comment ?

C’est peu dire que l’administration Obama patauge et se trouve face à une réalité inextricable qu’elle a laissé se créer, et où elle ne maîtrise rien. Pour peu qu’on ajoute à l’équation la complexité religieuse et ethnique syrienne, la réalité présente apparaît plus inextricable encore.

Le pays comprend tout à la fois la minorité alaouite chiite qui s’appuie sur le clan Assad majoritaire dans la région côtière de Lattaquié, détentrice des principaux leviers de commande du pays jusque voici dix-huit mois, et exposée aux pires représailles en cas de chute du régime, une majorité arabe sunnite largement acquise aux Frères musulmans, mais aussi des minorités chrétiennes qui ont tout à craindre d’une victoire des sunnites, car elles étaient « protégées » par le régime, une minorité Druze au sud Ouest, qui a elle aussi tout à craindre d’une victoire sunnite, pour les mêmes raisons que les Chrétiens, une minorité kurde au Nord Est, enfin, qui se sent plus proche des kurdes irakiens, iraniens et turcs que du gouvernement de Damas et des islamistes sunnites, et qui elle-même a tout à craindre d’une victoire sunnite.

Des ramifications régionales peuvent survenir. L’armée turque, tout en ayant renoncé à intervenir directement en Syrie après l’ « avertissement » russe est prête à réprimer un soulèvement kurde, et des troupes sont massées à la frontière turco-syrienne. Un écrasement des alaouites pourrait entraîner un soulèvement des sunnites libanais, tentés déjà, se dit-il, par une révolte contre le Hezbollah, qui serait tenté alors d’écraser cette révolte dans le sang. Une victoire des Frères musulmans en Syrie aurait certainement des répercussions en Jordanie, où les Frères musulmans ont déjà montré qu’ils entendaient prendre le pouvoir.

Que peut envisager l’Iran s’il se trouve confronté à la chute d’Assad ? Pas des attaques directes contre Israël, non. Mais des attentats ou des tentatives d’attentats anti-israéliens, sans aucun doute. Et une accélération de ses programmes nucléaires. L’activation du Hezbollah contre Israël ? Je ne le pense pas non plus, mais a-t-on affaire à des acteurs rationnels ?

Les armes bactériologiques et chimiques peuvent-elles tomber entre les mains du Hezbollah et d’al Qaida ? Cela ne peut être totalement exclu. Israël surveille étroitement ces armes, mais la moindre faille de surveillance peut se révéler fatale.

Comment limiter les dégâts ? Quiconque appellerait la Maison Blanche se verrait répondre : « il n’y a pas d’abonné au numéro que vous avez demandé ».

A mes yeux, c’était mieux quand il y avait un Président des Etats-Unis à la Maison Blanche. Mais ce n’est que mon avis. S’il y avait un Président des Etats-Unis à la Maison Blanche, nous n’en serions, de toute façon, pas là. Ce n’est, là encore, que mon avis.

Le seul point positif, si l’on peut dire, dans cette sordide et sanglante affaire, est qu’on diabolise un peu moins Israël en Europe, et qu’on ne parle plus guère du « processus de paix » et de la nécessité de créer un « Etat palestinien ». On ne doit, pour autant, pas s’y tromper : à la moindre opportunité, la diabolisation d’Israël reprendra, le « processus de paix » reviendra, l’ « Etat palestinien » sera à nouveau évoqué. Le 8 juillet dernier, Jose Manuel Barroso, Président de la Commission Européenne était à Ramallah et a déclaré que « le processus de paix et l’Etat palestinien ne devaient pas devenir les orphelins du printemps arabe ».

Alors que des carnages avaient lieu un peu plus au Nord, il osait parler encore de « printemps », de « processus de paix » et d’ « Etat palestinien ». Des hommes de cette carrure méritent de passer à la postérité, et s’il y avait un livre des records pour l’infamie et la stupidité, il y aurait toute sa place, au tout premier rang.

A SYRIE MENACE ISRAËL DE SES ARMES CHIMIQUES…

Caroline Glick

upjf.org, 25 juillet 2012

Je voyage en ce moment et me suis trouvée hors circuit pendant ces derniers jours. Mais j’ai remarqué deux choses qui méritent d’être soulignées. D’abord, la Syrie. On a rapporté aujourd’hui que le régime syrien menace Israël avec des armes chimiques. Selon l’article de Reuters : Le porte-parole du ministre des affaires étrangères Jihad Makdissi a déclaré que l’armée ne pourrait pas utiliser des armes chimiques pour écraser des rebelles mais pourrait les utiliser contre des forces étrangères au pays.

« Aucune arme chimique ou bactériologique ne sera jamais utilisée… pendant la crise en Syrie, quels que soient ses développements » a dit Makdissi. « Ces armes sont stockées en sécurité par les forces militaires syriennes et sous leur supervision directe et ne seront jamais utilisées, à moins que la Syrie ne soit confrontée à une agression extérieure ».

Bien sûr Israël n’a pas menacé d’attaquer la Syrie. Au contraire Israël a fait savoir clairement qu’il se réserve le droit d’user de la force pour empêcher le parrain du terrorisme assiégé Bashar Assad de transférer ses armes chimiques et biologiques au Hezbollah en Iran.

Et maintenant la Syrie répond en menaçant d’attaquer Israël avec des armes chimiques. Je ne veux pas banaliser cette menace en la minimisant au niveau politique. Ainsi dès le début, il est crucial que nous reconnaissions exactement à quel point ces choses sont devenues sérieuses.

D’abord il y a l’Iran. L’Iran, via le Hezbollah, vient de massacrer des touristes israéliens en Bulgarie. L’Iran a probablement dépassé le point de non retour pour son programme d’armes nucléaires. Ainsi désormais, quand nous parlons d’option militaire pour empêcher l’Iran d’acquérir des armes nucléaires, la seule option viable est de tuer la vaste majorité des scientifiques nucléaires d’Iran.

Un ou deux types de haut vol ne seront pas assez.  Aujourd’hui, tous ceux ayant connaissance du savoir-faire nucléaire en Iran devraient être marqués d’une cible sur la tête et être tués. Rien de moins que cela ne marchera si nous sommes déterminés à empêcher l’Iran de devenir une puissance nucléaire.

J’ignore s’il est possible de réaliser cela. Et j’ignore s’il est possible de trouver et de détruire les armes chimiques et biologiques de Syrie. Mais exactement comme l’Iran l’a fait avec son programme d’armes nucléaires, la Syrie a pointé ses armes sur la tête d’Israël.

Nous savons où ils veulent en venir. Et si Israël doit survivre à ce tsunami islamiste, les choses vont sûrement devenir hideuses, très violentes et très vite. Pour faire face à ces menaces massives, Israël pourrait véritablement utiliser le soutien des USA même si cela n’est que rhétorique.

Maintenant que nous avons éclairci cela, nous devons reconnaître comment il se fait que nous soyons parvenus à cette période incroyablement dangereuse. Commençons par la Syrie. Au cours de la fin de semaine, le principal titre au sujet de la réponse des USA à la guerre en Syrie a été que les USA sont préoccupés par une action unilatérale d’Israël.

Le gouvernement syrien commet chaque jour des massacres. Ses opposants, de leur côté, affirment de plus en plus ouvertement leur idéologie jihadiste, poussant les Chrétiens de Syrie à fuir leurs foyers, et la minorité alaouite à craindre pour sa vie. Mais ce qui inspire le plus de crainte aux Américains, c’est que ces groupes concurrents des parrains du terrorisme et d’assassins de masse trouveront leurs arsenaux détruits par Israël par un acte d’autodéfense. Si cela résonne familièrement, c’est bien le cas. C’est après tout le principal souci d’Obama au sujet de l’Iran et de son programme d’armes nucléaires. 

S’adressant à des journalistes lors d’une conférence de presse lundi, les adjoints à la politique étrangère d’Obama ont proclamé qu’il « reste du temps et de l’espace » (quoi que cela signifie), pour parvenir à une sorte d’accord avec l’Iran.

Il est important de noter que dans le meilleur des cas, cet accord ne mettrait pas fin  au programme d’armement nucléaire de l’Iran. Il pourrait temporairement ralentir l’enrichissement de l’uranium de l’Iran mais ne le ferait probablement même pas. A ce stade, l’accord le plus probable n’aurait aucun impact quoiqu’il en soit sur la progression de l’Iran vers un arsenal nucléaire mais servirait à ralentir l’imposition de sanctions sur les exportations de pétrole iranien.

C’est à dire qu’à ce point, si l’on parvient à un accord avec tout le « temps et l’espace » disponible pour Obama, un tel accord bénéficiera seulement à l’Iran, y compris en faveur de son programme d’armes nucléaires, qui je le répète, ne sera pas annulé, arrêté ou diminué. Beaucoup de gens ont critiqué Obama en arguant qu’il n’a aucune politique pour la Syrie. Mais en vérité, il en a une. Il considère la Syrie comme il voit l’Iran. Dans les deux cas, son principal souci est d’empêcher Israël de se défendre.

OBAMA’S IRAQ ABDICATION: THE REGIONAL CONSEQUENCES

IRAQI DISTRESS SIGNALS
Editorial
Wall Street Journal, July 25, 2012

Meanwhile, back in Iraq. As Syria’s civil war worsens and the U.S. watches mostly from the sidelines, violence is escalating again in another Middle East country from which President Obama has disengaged.

At least 115 Iraqis died on Monday in terrorist strikes on military and police posts and Shiite civilians. The al Qaeda affiliate in Iraq on Saturday all but announced what was coming, but Iraqi security forces were unable to stop some 40 coordinated and deadly attacks. Monday was the bloodiest day of the year, and June the second deadliest month since U.S. forces left in December.

Though al Qaeda is clearly making a comeback, Iraq isn’t yet close to the vicious sectarian bloodshed of five years ago. There’s no broad Sunni insurgency, and al Qaeda commands no territory and little popular support. The immediate insurgent goal seems to be to embarrass Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and promote more sectarian strife.

Mr. Maliki hasn’t helped his own cause. In the worst days of the 2007 civil war, Mr. Maliki was a strong partner for the U.S. who contributed to the defeat of the insurgency. But for the past seven months—almost to the day of the complete American military withdrawal—he has been in a power struggle with just about everyone.

The Prime Minister, a Shiite who holds a thin majority in parliament, started by going on the offensive against Sunni political competitors. In December, the government issued an arrest warrant on terrorist charges for the Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, who fled to the autonomous northern region of Kurdistan. The move rekindled Sunni fears of a Shiite takeover.

Baghdad and the Kurds, meantime, are battling for control of oil fields in the north. The dispute tars the one bright economic spot in Iraq, the oil industry. With production falling in the north, exports will be down for the third straight month in July, after hitting a postwar record of 2.5 million barrels per day in April.

The U.S. abdication in Iraq has compounded those fissiparous tendencies. The Obama Administration last year made little serious effort to keep a smaller contingent of noncombat troops in Iraq beyond the 2011 withdrawal deadline. An American presence had calmed sectarian fevers and gave Mr. Maliki more confidence to share power.

But the White House priority was a total withdrawal it could point to as a promise kept to the political left as the re-election campaign neared. Now the U.S. has little leverage as the factions compete for power and self-preservation in a region where Iran now counts for more than America does.…Mr. Obama took the U.S. out of [Iraq] cold turkey and has since shown no interest in a crucial Middle East country where so much American blood was shed. The last U.S. ambassador left Baghdad in early June, and the Administration has no replacement on deck.

The abandonment of Iraq is consistent with the Administration’s response to the 17-month conflict in Syria. President Obama says “the tide of war is receding,” but you wouldn’t know it from the arc of instability that is forming from Lebanon, through Syria, Iraq and into the Persian Gulf.

A ‘RESPONSIBLE’ END TO THE IRAQ WAR?
Thomas Joscelyn

Weekly Standard, July 24, 2012

In a web video released Monday, the Obama campaign celebrated the withdrawal of American forces from Iraq. “As your commander in chief, and on behalf of a grateful nation, I’m proud to finally say these two words, and I know your families agree—welcome home. Welcome home,” Obama says in a clip from a speech he gave at Fort Bragg in December. The president repeats that phrase again for dramatic effect, “Welcome home.”

Also on Monday, al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) launched a lethal series of attacks—the largest coordinated assault by the group in some time.… AQI is gaining ground once again, both in Iraq and in Syria, where a new front for jihad has opened up for al Qaeda and affiliated parties.

And that highlights the basic problem with President Obama’s political argument. For months, the president has argued that he “responsibly” ended the war in Iraq.…But what does that mean? Is it responsible to oversee the withdrawal of all of America’s combat forces regardless of on the ground realities? Apparently so.

It is understandable that a sizable number of Americans want to see U.S. forces come home. But that doesn’t mean our enemies are going home. They fight on, as the head of al Qaeda’s Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) reminded everyone in a video released this past weekend. “Our war with you has only begun, so wait,” Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, the head of the ISI said in a message. It was a taunt clearly aimed at the U.S. as al Baghdadi…promised: “The mujahideen have launched after your armies, and have swore to make you taste something harder than what Osama [bin Laden] had made you taste.  You will see them in your home, Allah permitting.”

AQI doesn’t have to launch attacks against the U.S. in order to cause major headaches for the international community. For instance, the Obama administration has argued that AQI’s push into Syria (where it had a sizable logistical network even before the rebellion against Assad began) means that America cannot arm any of the anti-Assad rebels.

“We believe that al Qaeda in Iraq is extending its reach into Syria,” Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told the Senate Armed Services Committee in February.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, echoed Clapper’s testimony during an interview on CNN. “There’s indications that al Qaeda is involved and that they’re interested in supporting the opposition,” Gen. Martin Dempsey argued. “There’s a number of players…   and until we’re a lot clearer about…who they are I think it would be premature to talk about arming them.…”

Of course, there are actors other than al Qaeda fighting the wounded Syrian regime. The rebellion was not started by al Qaeda. But al Qaeda still has decent cards to play in Syria and Iraq whereas America’s hand is undoubtedly much weaker now. Whatever one thinks of the war in Iraq, the simple fact of the matter is that without some U.S. combat forces on the ground America has no ability to fight AQI and affiliated groups directly.

IRAQI IRONY
Victor Davis Hanson

National Review, July 26, 2012

Amid all the stories about the ongoing violence in Syria, the most disturbing is the possibility that President Bashar Assad could either deploy the arsenal of chemical and biological weapons that his government claims it has, or provide it to terrorists.

There are suggestions that at least some of Assad’s supposed stockpile may have come from Saddam Hussein’s frantic, eleventh-hour efforts in 2002 to hide his own arsenals of weapons of mass destruction in neighboring Syria. Various retired Iraqi military officers have alleged as much. Although the story was met with general neglect or scorn from the American media, the present U.S. director of national intelligence, James Clapper, long ago asserted his belief in such a weapons transfer.…

Another staple story of the last decade was the inept management of the reconstruction of Iraq. Many Americans understandably questioned how civilian and military leaders allowed a brilliant three-week victory over Saddam to degenerate into a disastrous five-year war before the surge finally salvaged Iraq.…The press…charge[d] that the singular incompetence or malfeasance of Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld led to the unnecessary costs in American blood and treasure.

But perhaps that scenario needs an update as well. Journalist Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s new book, Little America: The War Within the War for Afghanistan, is a blistering critique of the Obama administration’s three-year conduct of the Afghanistan war.…Chandrasekaran chronicles stupid decisions, petty infighting, arrogance, and naïveté.…

So was the know-it-all reporter right.… And will the media revise their earlier criticism and concede that George W. Bush’s problems in conducting difficult wars in the Middle East were inherent in the vast differences between cultures—fault lines that likewise have baffled even Barack Hussein Obama, the acclaimed internationalist and Nobel laureate who was supposed to be singularly sensitive to customs in that part of the world?

In 2008, we were told that Predator drone attacks, renditions, preventive detentions, military tribunals, the Guantanamo detention center, and the surging of troops into difficult wars were all emblematic of Bush’s disdain for the Constitution and his overall ineptness as commander-in-chief. In 2012, these same continuing protocols are no such thing, but instead valuable anti-terrorism tools, and seen as such by President Obama.…

The moral of the story is that history cannot be written as it unfolds. In the case of Iraq, we still don’t know the full story of Saddam’s WMD, the grand strategic effects of the Iraq War, the ripples from the creation of the Iraqi republic, or the relative degree of incompetence of any American administration at war in the Middle East—and we won’t for many years to come.

SYRIA’S KURDS STAND ALONE AFTER
REJECTING REBELS AND REGIME
Aymenn Al Tamimi

National, July 23, 2012

Developments in Syria and Iraq have led some to speculate that the birth of an independent Kurdish state might be at hand. A closer analysis shows that a united Kurdistan is still unlikely, although a separate semiautonomous Kurdish community in Syria, with some parallels to the Kurdish Autonomous Region in Iraq, is a growing possibility.

In Syria, Kurds are sitting on the sidelines of the uprising against the Damascus regime. Indeed, the Free Syrian Army has accused members of the militant Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) of hindering its operations in some areas against the Assad regime, according to the Kurdish website Rudaw.net. Leaders of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), which is affiliated with the PKK, have made it clear that they will not tolerate the spread of Syria’s conflict into the Kurdish-dominated areas of Syria.

The PYD stands separate from the Kurdish National Council, a coalition of 11 Kurdish parties in Syria that has ties to the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq. But leaders of the Kurdish National Council have also indicated to Rudaw that they are aiming to keep Kurdish areas free from fighting between the regime and the rebels.

The Kurdish groups are far from united on most issues—the KNC has in the past clashed with the PYD, but since Syria’s unrest began last year, the two factions have “signed an agreement sponsored by the Iraqi Kurdish leadership to prevent intra-Kurdish tensions”, according to Jonathan Spyer, an analyst at the Israel-based Global Research in International Affairs Center.

This, Mr Spyer writes in the Jerusalem Post, ensures “de facto Kurdish control of a large swathe of Syria’s north-east and the placing of this area off limits to the insurgency against the Assad regime for the foreseeable future”.

Syria’s Kurds are not, by and large, supporters of President Bashar Al Assad, but their scepticism about the Syrian opposition is understandable. For one thing, rebel fighters in Syria have the support of Ankara, which has a bad reputation regarding Turkish Kurds in matters of civil and cultural rights.

In addition, whenever Kurdish groups have tried to engage the Syrian opposition about the shape of a post-Assad Syria, talks have always broken down. The main issue is that the opposition refuses to drop the identification of Syria as an Arab nation (as evinced in the country’s official name: “Syrian Arab Republic”) and accept that Kurds are a distinct people. Thus ended the recent Cairo meeting of anti-Assad groups, attended by the KNC.

With Syrian Kurds declining to choose between Mr Al Assad and the opposition, the idea of a de facto Kurdish autonomous area in the Al Jazira area of north-east Syria becomes a possibility.…

It does not follow, however, that the Syrian Kurds will join with Iraq’s Kurdish Regional Government to form an independent Kurdish state straddling the northern part of today’s Iraq-Syria border.

Evidently, Iraq’s Kurdish leadership would like to win independence from Baghdad eventually, although that is rarely stated explicitly. But economic independence is a prerequisite, and Syria’s Kurdish areas would have little to offer the Iraqi Kurds in that regard.

Most of Syria’s remaining oil reserves are located in the Sunni Arab tribal areas around Deir Ezzor. Nor does Syria’s Kurdish region have access to ports that could allow Iraq’s Kurds to set up an independent pipeline to transport petroleum to the international market.

There was considerable media coverage of an agreement signed in May between Turkey and the Kurdistan Regional Government of Iraq, covering two pipelines that carry oil and gas from the Kirkuk area to the Turkish Mediterranean port of Ceyhan.

Numerous reports portrayed this deal as incurring the disapproval of the Iraqi government in Baghdad. The implication was that Turkey and the KRG had agreed, without Baghdad’s permission, to set up these pipelines.

Some commentators saw the deal as part of a Turkish strategy to deepen economic ties with Iraqi Kurds. This was seen as a sign that the Turkish government had warmed to the idea of potential Kurdish independence.

However, as the analyst Joel Wing of the blog Musings on Iraq noted, this analysis gets the basic facts wrong. The Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipelines are under the control of the oil ministry in Baghdad, and so the KRG agreement with Turkey must have had central government approval to some degree. After all, Baghdad provides 95 per cent of the KRG’s annual budget.

Note that the Kurdish areas of Turkey constitute at least 50 per cent of the dreamed of Kurdistan. Ankara would not welcome an independent Kurdish state just south of its border, believing that such a state would increase the possibility of a Kurdish revolt in Turkey’s south-east. One of the Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipelines was shut down on Saturday after an explosion that Ankara blamed on Kurdish rebels. That fraught relationship does not appear to be improving any time soon.

As long as Turkey remains opposed to Kurdish independence and the KRG lacks opportunities to break its financial reliance on Baghdad, an independent Kurdistan will remain a remote prospect.