Tag: Palestinians

TENSIONS RISE BETWEEN ISRAEL & IRAN OVER TEHRAN’S SYRIAN ADVENTURES

AS WE GO TO PRESS: MISSILE STRIKES ON SYRIAN MILITARY BASE KILL DOZENS — Missile strikes on Syrian bases overnight killed dozens of pro-regime forces, raising the risks of a wider regional war just weeks after Israel was blamed for hitting an air station in the country used by Iranian elite forces. “Enemy missiles” targeted military bases in Aleppo and Hama, Syrian state news agency SANA reported Monday. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 27 people, most of them Iranians, were killed. The base in Aleppo is also widely thought to be used by Iranian forces and allied militias. Syrian media close to the regime of President Assad said photos from the site revealed Israel as being behind the attack, purportedly using GBU-39 bombs fired by F-35 jet fighters. Israeli military declined to comment, in line with a policy of neither confirming nor denying strikes in Syria. (Wall Street Journal, Apr. 30, 2018)

 

Threatening Regional Storm Clouds: Isi Leibler, Israel Hayom, Apr. 25, 2018 — Notwithstanding the exuberance of Israelis at the jubilant 70th Independence Day celebrations, justified in light of Israel’s extraordinary achievements and progress on both the diplomatic and defense fronts, the Jewish state will be facing major challenges over the next few months.

Stopping the S-300: Editorial, Jerusalem Post, Apr. 28, 2018— Russia’s s-300 surface-to-air missile platform is one of the most sophisticated air defense systems in the world.

Tensions Intensify As Israel Endeavors To Keep Iran From Growing A Second Proxy State On Its Border: Yaakov Lappin, IPT News, Apr. 27, 2018 — Tensions between Iran and Israel have risen significantly following a military strike on an airbase in central Syria this month that targeted an Iranian military presence.

220 Airstrikes on Palestinians; World Yawns: Khaled Abu Toameh, Gatestone Institute, Apr. 26, 2018— While all eyes are set on the weekly demonstrations organized by Hamas and other Palestinian factions along the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel…

On Topic Links

Who are Iran’s 80,000 Shi’ite Fighters in Syria?: Seth J. Frantzman, Jerusalem Post, Apr. 28, 2018

Donald Trump, Syria and the Prevention of Genocide: Louis Rene Beres, Arutz Sheva, Apr. 25, 2018

Nobel Knock-Offs and the Syrian Chemical Weapons Charade: Charles Bybelezer, The Media Line, Apr. 26, 2018

How Hezbollah Will Use Foreign Fighters to Conquer Lebanon: David Daoud, Ha’aretz, Apr. 27, 2018

 

THREATENING REGIONAL STORM CLOUDS

Isi Leibler

Israel Hayom, Apr. 25, 2018

Notwithstanding the exuberance of Israelis at the jubilant 70th Independence Day celebrations, justified in light of Israel’s extraordinary achievements and progress on both the diplomatic and defense fronts, the Jewish state will be facing major challenges over the next few months.

Until recently, largely due to the effective diplomacy of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel was in an ideal situation, receiving the support of the Trump administration as well as enjoying a unique relationship with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin. This, despite Putin’s determination to retain influence in Syria and his wish not to breach his cordial relations with the Iranians who, for their own reasons, have played a key role in assisting him to save Syrian President Bashar Assad from oblivion. However, this has encouraged the Iranians to overtly create military bases in Syria while shamelessly and repeatedly proclaiming their determination to wipe Israel off the map, which Israel regards as serious, potentially existential threats.

Until now, frequent consultations between Israel and Russia have served to avoid conflicts. Israel refrained from engaging in activities intended to bring about regime change or threaten Russia’s regional interests. In turn, the Russians did not react to Israel’s repeated bombing incursions in Syria to neutralize arms shipments to Hezbollah or prevent the Iranians from advancing toward its northern borders. Unfortunately, Israel is now finding it extremely difficult to maintain these delicate balances. Assad’s employment of chemical weapons against his own citizens has outraged the international community which, until only recently, had been passive while hundreds of innocent civilians were butchered weekly by Assad’s forces.

U.S. President Donald Trump, who, to Israel’s dismay, had announced his intention to withdraw all American troops from Syria, then reversed his decision and succeeded in persuading the French and British to join him in a joint military intervention to punish the Syrians. It was a strictly limited operation in which four major installations were destroyed with minimal casualties because the Syrians were made aware of the potential targets and evacuated them in advance. It was not an attempt to achieve regime change. But even this limited operation contrasted starkly with former President Barack Obama’s cowardly failure to follow up previous threats when the Syrians engaged in chemical warfare.

However, the tension between Israel and the Iranians has escalated. The Iranians have been employing Lebanese and Palestinian surrogates to carry out their terror activity and in February, in what was their first direct attack on Israel, the Iranians dispatched a drone from one of their Syrian air bases carrying explosives intended to devastate a location in Israel. It was shot down by an Israeli Apache helicopter. Israel made it clear that Iranian bases in Syria were unacceptable and launched a retaliatory raid, targeting the major T4 air base in central Syria and in which an F-16 fighter jet was lost. In a second wave of strikes, Israel destroyed a significant percentage of Syria’s air defenses, which also incurred Iranian casualties. Although no Russians were injured, the Putin government criticized Israel for this foray. Following the Syrian chemical attack on April 9, Israel was alleged to have launched additional long-range surface-to-air missiles, which were said to have destroyed the Iranian control center and killed 14, including seven Iranians, one of whom headed the drone unit. The Russians protested and the Iranians swore to retaliate.

Against the backdrop of these tensions on the Syrian front, early this month Hamas initiated a campaign in which it enlisted thousands of Gaza residents to breach the Israeli border. Hamas gunmen and fighters hurling Molotov cocktails were interspersed with the civilian demonstrators. The IDF took defensive action, using live gunfire where necessary against those using assault weapons or trying to penetrate the borders. Thousands were injured and dozens, primarily identifiable Hamas terrorists, were killed. Despite photographic documentation of the violence, the employment of human shields including women and children, and the repeated statements by Hamas leaders that the objective was to bring back the refugees and destroy Israel, the U.N. Security Council sought to condemn Israel for responding “disproportionately.” The resolution was vetoed by the U.S. The atmosphere throughout the region is extremely tense and Israel is girding itself for the possibility that war could erupt at any time on any front…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

 

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STOPPING THE S-300

Editorial

Jerusalem Post, Apr. 28, 2018

Russia’s s-300 surface-to-air missile platform is one of the most sophisticated air defense systems in the world. It is for that exact reason that Israel and the united states have worked tirelessly over the years to prevent its delivery to Iran and why Israel is now working to stop it from getting to Syria. The real question concerns Russia’s intentions and why it recently announced its intention to deliver the system to the Bashar Assad’s military.

What makes the s-300 a cause of such concern in Israel is that it has the reported ability to track up to a hundred targets simultaneously while engaging up to 12 at the same time. It has a range of about 200 kilometers and can hit targets at altitudes of 27,000 meters. Moscow has already deployed the system in Syria – as well as the more advanced s-400 – but they are under the control of the Russian military. The new systems would be given to the Syrians.

This poses two problems for Israel. First is the possibility that it will be used to shoot down Israeli aircraft. Due to its long range, it can reach deep into Israel and hit planes taking off and landing at Ben Gurion Airport, not to mention Israel Air Force jets operating over Syria. In addition, there is the possibility that Syria will transfer the system to Hezbollah in Lebanon, further undermining Israel’s operational freedom and aerial superiority in the region. In Israel, there have traditionally been two schools of thought with regard to the severity of the s-300 threat. On the one hand, there are those like former air force commander Maj.-Gen. (res.) Ido Nehushtan who said a few years ago: “We need to make every effort to stop this system from getting to places where the IAF needs to operate or may need to operate in the future.”

Other officials have been less concerned and claim that … if and when the s-300 is delivered to Iran or Syria, Israel will be able to develop an electronic warfare system to neutralize it. The problem is that delivery of this system to Syria could lead to a war. Defense minister Avigdor Liberman told Ynet last week that if the s-300 is used against Israel, “we will act against it.” Moscow has reportedly warned of catastrophic consequences if Israel attacks the system once it reaches Syria.

Russia’s aim seems to be, on the one hand, an attempt to bolster the regime of Bashar Assad that it has been fighting to keep in power for the last few years. At the same time, it wants to use the threat of delivering the system to Syria as diplomatic leverage in its dealings with the United States over the future of the middle east. What Israel will do if the s-300 is delivered to Syria remains to be seen. It will have to navigate between destroying a system that could significantly under – mine its capabilities and at the same time avoiding a direct military confrontation with Moscow.

Russia should be careful. It is true that it has deployed significant military assets in Syria, but Israel has proven over the last few years that a Russian presence does not stop it from acting against strategic threats. The IAF has carried out more than 100 strikes against targets in Syria in recent years, most recently, according to foreign sources, on an Iranian drone base. Russia should not be allowed to get away with whatever it wants in Syria. US president Donald Trump has already accused Vladimir Putin of responsibility for allowing Assad to gas his own people, but he needs to keep the pressure on the Russian leader to stop the delivery of the s-300.

It is in Israel’s interest that Syria be stabilized, but it is in the world’s interest that weapons do not proliferate to terrorist groups and terrorist regimes. Giving the Syrian military the s-300 achieves the exact opposite. The world needs to act now to stop that from happening.

 

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TENSIONS INTENSIFY AS ISRAEL ENDEAVORS TO KEEP IRAN FROM GROWING A SECOND PROXY STATE ON ITS BORDER

Yaakov Lappin

IPT News, Apr. 27, 2018

Tensions between Iran and Israel have risen significantly following a military strike on an airbase in central Syria this month that targeted an Iranian military presence. Iran blames Israel for the strike and is threatening to respond. But this incident is merely a symptom of a much larger event unfolding in the region, which is Iran’s pursuit of a grand, expansionist plan for the Middle East, and Israel’s determination to disrupt this dangerous process.

Media reports speculated about what was hit at the T4 Syrian airbase on April 9. One report said it was an Iranian surface-to-air missile system, while others suggested it was an Iranian armed drone program. What’s clear is that several members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) were killed in the attack on the airbase, and Iran quickly blamed the strike on Israel. Since then, Iranian officials have unleashed a series of threats, promising retribution.

In response, the Israeli defense establishment appears to have sent its own warning, reportedly releasing maps of Syria that show the location of Iranian military assets, thereby reminding the Iranians of what they stand to lose if this conflict escalates. Israel’s Defense Minister, Avigdor Liberman, responding to a flurry of Iranian threats on Tel Aviv and Haifa, told a Saudi media outlet that any attack on Tel Aviv would be answered by a retaliatory strike on Tehran.

Yet these events, while indicating a surge in tensions, are actually part of a wider and more disturbing picture. Iran is following a grand, long-term plan made up of multiple stages, which is designed to make it the dominant Middle Eastern power, able to activate armies of terrorist-guerilla forces. Iran is working patiently toward this goal, employing the ‘strategy of a thousand cuts’ to move into Syria.  Ideologically, Iran remains committed to the idea of exporting the Shi’ite Islamic fundamentalist revolution, as espoused by the regime, far and wide. From the start, it cast itself “as an Islamic Revolution for Muslims throughout the world.”

The Islamic Republic continues to view the doctrine of its founding father and first Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khomenei, as a cornerstone for its policies, Doron Itzchakov, a research associate at the Begin Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University in Israel, told the Investigative Project on Terrorism. Khomenei preached “Shi’ite activism,” and set up a regime based on defining the enemy as the West and Israel, Itzchakov said. Khomenei also called for spreading the “Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist” model, which the regime in Tehran bases itself on, far and wide. Later on in his life, Khomenei called for the establishment of a “resistance axis,” a call that today provides legitimacy for the IRGC’s subversive activities across the region.

The Iranian regime also creates its own definition of “repressed” and “repressor,” and uses that as a justification for spreading its influence and military activities, Itzchakov said. Iran’s religious elite use the Islamic Revolution of 1979, and the eight-year long Iran-Iraq war, as proof of divine backing, and they regularly make use of concepts of defensive and offensive jihad to justify Iran’s activities, he added.

To be sure, some segments of Iran’s population do not buy into the regime’s position, and have recently become more emboldened to say so. Chanting “not Gaza, not Lebanon, I give my life for Iran,” Iranian protesters, driven by major economic troubles, recently made it clear they oppose spreading out in the region and investing treasure for that purpose, before the protests were crushed.

Despite such protests, the Iranian regime continues to exploit deep-rooted hatred for Israel, a hatred that was embodied by Khomeini, as “a mechanism to prove that it is sticking to his path, and therefore, when it comes to Israel, there is a consensus among the various factions in the Iranian regime,” Itzchakov added. Iran relies heavily on Khomenei’s tenets, but there is no doubt that its program to spread Iranian hegemony in the area stems “from geopolitical and geo-strategic motivations, which illustrate its ambition to lead the Muslim world,” he said.

This strategy, if successful, would turn Iran into an actor to be reckoned with: a state able to control large swaths of territories beyond its borders. As part of that vision, Iran is creating a land corridor linking Tehran to the Mediterranean Sea, via Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon – a corridor it could use to move military forces and proxies. The IRGC was once limited to being the overseer of ground operations in Syria, organizing, supporting, and advising the combatants fighting for the Assad regime. But now, it is attempting to set up its own permanent military presence in Syria.

Iran would like to flood Syria with more radical Shi’ite armed proxies, and insert its own military capabilities as well. This vision, if left unchecked, could lead to the creation of Iranian air force bases, and naval ports appearing in Syria. The land corridor could be used to move Iranian military formations into Syria. All of this would turn Syria into one big Iranian forward base, allowing it to threaten Israel in an unprecedented manner. Meanwhile, Iran seems willing to wait patiently for the nuclear deal to expire, so that it can reactivate the program from a position of greater military and economic strength, and eventually produce nuclear weapons…[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

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220 AIRSTRIKES ON PALESTINIANS; WORLD YAWNS

Khaled Abu Toameh

Gatestone Institute, Apr. 26, 2018

While all eyes are set on the weekly demonstrations organized by Hamas and other Palestinian factions along the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel, as part of the so-called March of Return, a Palestinian refugee camp near Damascus is facing a wide-scale military offensive and ethnic cleansing by the Syrian army and its allies. The war crimes committed against the Palestinians in Yarmouk camp have so far failed to prompt an ounce of outrage, much less the sort of outcry emerging from the international community over the events of the past four weeks along the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel.

The international community seems to differentiate between a Palestinian shot by an Israeli soldier and a Palestinian shot by a Syrian soldier. In the first case, Hamas and several Palestinian groups have been encouraging Palestinians to march towards the border with Israel, with some even trying to destroy the security fence and hurling stones and petrol bombs at Israeli troops. The organizers of the Gaza demonstrations say their real goal is to “achieve the right of return and return to all of Palestine.”

Dozens of local and foreign journalists have shown great interest in the “March of Return.” Reporters from different parts of the world have been converging on the Gaza Strip and the border with Israel to report about the weekly demonstrations and clashes between Palestinians and Israeli soldiers. How many journalists, though, have traveled to Syria to cover the plight of the Palestinians in that country? A small handful, perhaps? Why? Because the Palestinians who are being maimed and murdered in Syria are the victims of an Arab army — nothing to do with Israel.

Yarmouk camp was once home to some 160,000 Palestinians. Since the beginning of the civil war in Syria, however, the number of residents left in the camp is estimated at a few hundred. On April 19, the Syrian army and its allies, including the Russians, launched a massive offensive against opposition groups and Islamic State terrorists based in Yarmouk. Since then, 5,000 of the 6,000 residents left in Yarmouk have fled the camp, according to the United Nations and human rights organizations. Most of the camp’s houses have been destroyed in the past few years as a result of the fighting between the Syrian army and opposition groups that found shelter inside Yarmouk.

Yarmouk has been under the full siege of the Syrian army since 2013, a situation that has caused a humanitarian crisis for the residents. According to some reports, the situation has gotten so bad that residents living there have been forced to eat dogs and cats to survive. In the past week, at least 15 Palestinians have been killed in airstrikes and artillery shelling on Yarmouk.

According to the London-based Action Group for Palestinians of Syria, 3,722 Palestinians (including 465 women) have been killed since the beginning of the civil war in Syria in 2011. Another 1,675 are said to have been detained by the Syrian authorities, and another 309 are listed as missing. More than 200 of the Palestinian victims died because of the lack of food and medical care, most of them in Yarmouk. Since the beginning of the civil war, some 120,000 Palestinians have fled Syria to Europe. An additional 31,000 fled to Lebanon, 17,000 to Jordan, 6,000 to Egypt, 8,000 to Turkey and 1,000 to the Gaza Strip. On April 24, Syrian and Russian warplanes carried out more than 85 airstrikes on Yarmouk camp and dropped 24 barrels of explosives; 24 rocket and dozens of missiles were fired at the camp. A day earlier, Syrian and Russian warplanes launched 220 airstrikes on Yarmouk camp. The warplanes dropped 55 barrels of dynamite on the camp, which was also targeted with 108 rockets and missiles.

According to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), the conflict in Syria “continues to disrupt the lives of civilians, resulting in death and injuries, internal displacement, extensive damage to civilian infrastructure and persistent humanitarian needs. Affected communities suffer indiscriminate violence, restrictions on their freedom of movement and continued violations of international humanitarian and human rights law. Palestinians are among those worst affected by the conflict.” UNRWA said that of the estimated 438,000 Palestine refugees remaining inside Syria, more than 95% (418,000) are in critical need of sustained humanitarian assistance. Almost 254,000 are internally displaced, and an estimated 56,600 are trapped in hard-to-reach or wholly inaccessible locations.

The silence of the international community to the war crimes being committed against defenseless Palestinians in a refugee camp in Syria is an insult. Dropping barrels of dynamite on houses and hospitals in a Palestinian refugee camp is apparently of no interest to those who pretend to champion Palestinians around the world. Nor does the issue seem to move the UN Security Council. But the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel: for the world, that is where the real story is unfolding. Certainly not in Syria, where Palestinians face ethnic cleansing on a daily basis…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

 

Contents

On Topic Links

Who are Iran’s 80,000 Shi’ite Fighters in Syria?: Seth J. Frantzman, Jerusalem Post, Apr. 28, 2018—There are 80,000 Shi’ite militiamen, trained and recruited by Iran, in Syria. Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon displayed a map Thursday at the UN, asserting that some of them were being trained several kilometers from Damascus. “They are trained to commit acts of terror in Syria and across the region,” he said.

Donald Trump, Syria and the Prevention of Genocide: Louis Rene Beres, Arutz Sheva, Apr. 25, 2018—President Donald Trump recently announced his intention to get out of Syria, “very soon.” The president’s stated intention here could soon run starkly counter to this country’s urgent obligations under the binding international law.

Nobel Knock-Offs and the Syrian Chemical Weapons Charade: Charles Bybelezer, The Media Line, Apr. 26, 2018—As most of the local media was focusing on the brouhaha over Natalie Portman’s snub of Israel – that is, her refusal to attend a ceremony in Jerusalem to receive the Genesis Prize, the publicity stunt its founders have dubbed the “Jewish Nobel” – another entity, with an authentic Nobel Prize, was finally granted access by Russia, Iran and the Assad regime to the Syrian town of Douma, the site of an April 7 chemical attack.

How Hezbollah Will Use Foreign Fighters to Conquer Lebanon: David Daoud, Ha’aretz, Apr. 27, 2018—Hezbollah has promised that ‘thousands’ of foreign Shi’ite fighters will deploy to Lebanon to fight Israel in the next war. They’ll use conflict as cover to bring them into Lebanon – and they won’t leave.

Prof. Frederick Krantz: Obama, Kerry Threaten Israel’s Security By Linking “Peace Process” & Geneva P5+1 Negotiations With Iran

As the US and the UN P5+1 foreign ministers resume negotiations in Geneva with Iran over its  nuclear status,  Israel’s fate hangs  in the  balance.   The fix seems to be in–Obama clearly is ready to make a deal with Teheran “moderates”, one which Israel’s Netanyahu (seconded, mirabile dictu, by the Saudis) has already clearly denounced as a sell-out. 

   (As I write, news of the French foreign minister’s surprising withdrawal from what he terms a “con game” is being carried by the media—but will this opposition be enough to derail the deal?)

    In apiece published three months ago, I examined Foreign Secretary Kerry’s odd nine-month ultimatum-limit for an agreement with Abbas and the Palestinians, and related it to the growing crisis over Teheran’s rapidly accelerating nuclear program.

   It already was clear that containment, alluded to both by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Hagel Obama, and not military intervention, was Obama’s decided policy.  And, despite pious affirmations of Israel’s right to make its own defense decisions, President Obama and Administration officials  repeatedly underlined US unhappiness with any prospective unilateral Israeli action against Iran.

   I concluded then that what was really at stake between Jerusalem and Washington, was not direct US military action, but the US stance towards Israel if Israel in fact acted against an Iranian nuclear capacity.  In other words, a threatened US lining-up with the already-negative European Union states and their increasing delegitimation campaign against Israel.

   Such a threat, I argued, would also explain another mystery, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s sudden caving in to US Secretary of State Kerry’s pressure to agree to resume negotiations with the hostile Palestinians, as well as his striking pledge—despite almost unanimously negative Israeli public opinion–to release up to 104 convicted Palestinian terrorist murderers, as an unreciprocated initial concession. 

   My earlier analysis has now been borne out by a series of statements Kerry recently made: in Rome with Netanyahu at the end of October, again last week while he was in Jerusalem, Ramallah (wearing a green tie!) and Jordan, and in a joint Israeli-Palestinian television interview just before the resumption of the Geneva P5+1 negotiations with Iran.

   In all these venues, Kerry repeatedly threatened Israel, but not the Palestinians, with dire consequences  were the peace talks to break down.

   Kerry clearly warned that failure of the peace process risked European political and economic marginalization of Israel (and, implicitly, US support for it), and would also create a third Palestinian intifada. In the TV interview, Kerry came down hard on Israel, urging it to end its West Bank “settlements” and “perpetual military occupation” of Judea and Samaria, and explicitly noting that a direct consequence of the talks’ failure “will be an increasing campaign of delegitimization of Israel that has been taking place in an international basis”. 

    In all these remarks, there were no strictures against Palestinian obduracy, the PA’s antisemitic media propaganda, refusal to relinquish insistence on “the right of return”, or to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. (Indeed, so unbalanced were his remarks that one observer wondered if he had become Abbas’s Foreign Minister.)

    Obama now is seen by Israel (and by Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states) as having  compromised his clear pledge that there would never be an Iranian nuclear weapon (just as he reneged on his “red line” post-poison gas attacks commitment to bomb Syria). Instead, he and Kerry—again in concert with Russia–have rushed into direct negotiations with the mullacratic dictatorship, and actively cooperated with Iranian President Rouhani’s diplomatic “charm” campaign.

   (Details leaking our of Geneva indicate a first-stage deal which would see Teheran cease production of 90% enriched uranium but continue refining 3% uranium and    bomb-grade plutonium [while the heavy-water reactor at Arak , for more plutonium, continues to be built]. In return, the U.S. and allies would, as a first step, release some currently escrowed Iranian funds and ease banking restrictions. 

   Netanyahu, as noted earlier [and, evidently, the French foreign minister] denounced this as a sell-out, not least because it leaves Iran’s nuclear facilities intact—achieved stockpiles of fissionable materials are untouched, and 3% uranium can quickly be ginned up to “break-out” weapons-grade by the Iranians’ increasing, and increasingly efficient, centrifuges, 10,000 of which would remain in place).

  That these two processes—peace-process pressure on Israel and the rush to a negotiated diplomatic “settlement” with Iran—are connected and overlap is shown precisely by the nine-month ultimatum given Israel.  Obama wants a diplomatic victory before Israel feels it must move against Teheran: and nine months from the July, 2013 beginning of Israeli-Palestinian talks will put us at  March, 2014. This is the date by which most informed experts see Teheran as achieving clear nuclear break-out, with enough enriched uranium for one or more nuclear weapons. Hence  March, 2014—five months away–is also Israel’s own terminus ad quem for a decision on military action.

    Here, note that a final Iranian-European-U.S nuclear deal before March, 2014 would, politically, make a subsequent Israeli military move against Iran more difficult.  Such an act would be represented as an aggression threatening “peace” both with the Palestinians and the Iranians, and alienating Europe and the UN and, clearly, Obama’s America as well. 

   To summarize: “Peace” between Israel and the Palestinians, and a diplomatic deal with the Iranians, are related; they are obverse sides of the same coin, the building-blocs of Obama’s (and Kerry’s) second-term foreign policy.  They are also key to Obama’s post-Presidential legacy, offsetting his dismal record of failures elsewhere—Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, Syria, Russia. 

   (They may also be crucial not only to John Kerry’s eligibility for a Nobel prize, but   to his viability, should Hillary falter, for a second run at the U.S. presidency in 2016.)

   Jerusalem, from Obama’s perspective,  stands in the way of both goals. This explains the clear Obama-Kerry readiness to pressure Israel both into an rushed and unstable peace agreement, and into living with the existential threat of an Iranian bomb. Extricating America from Middle East entanglements by playing to Muslim regional interests should also be related to Obama’s wider diplomatic plan, the much-vaunted new “pivot” to Asia.

    Here, if Obama can dissuade Israel from acting against Iran, so much the better; if not, and Israel acts despite his pressure, he can then support European sanctions,  abandon Jerusalem at the UN, and, finally, wash his hands of the uncooperative Jews and their pesky Prime Minister.

   Who is the loser here? Certainly not the Iranians, who would get the easing of sanctions while maintaining their nuclear infrastructure intact. Not the Palestinians, who will either get a sweet, and easily abrogable, “peace” deal (division of Jerusalem, restriction of “settlements”, financial aid, etc.) or an excuse for evading responsibility for a negotiations breakdown. Indeed, as usual, such a breakdown would enable them both to avoid accepting the small, demilitarized state-let they have never wanted and recognizing Israel as a legitimate, and permanent, Jewish state.

   Obama—especially given the weak and divided domestic opposition—is a winner here, not a loser. His appeasement of Iran in solidarity with Western Europe and Russia would be represented, like the Syrian debacle, as a diplomatic triumph, peace in our time. 

   No—the real potential losers are the Jewish state, and the American people.   Were Israel to accept being outmaneuvered it would have to live with the dangers of an eliminationist nuclear Iran as the new regional hegemon; and if it did finally move unilaterally–and remember, the window for such action is closing very quickly–it would, even if successful, face opprobrium and punishment not only from Europe and the UN, but also—and most importantly–from its sole current ally, the U.S. 

   And the American people? Sacrificing democratic Israel would mean they would have to face an inward-turning loss of their own democratic vitality, a declining world role, the rise of increasing tensions and instability in the Middle East, Africa and Asia, and—if domestic economic and social stagnation and political paralysis continue and even deepen—rising internal tensions and divisions as well.

      Still, “winning” in such circumstances is ambiguous.  If Obama and the Europeans  persist in isolating Israel, they may just engender what they are seeking to avoid: forced to choose this spring to choose between possible nuclear destruction at the hands of the messianic and antisemitic Iranian regime and suffering Western sanctions, one assumes (hopes?) Netanyahu will choose sovereign national Jewish survival.  And Israel’s resistance to Western pressures here would, if successful, also   have consequences insofar as the Palestinian issue is concerned.

    Israel going it alone against the Iranians, and in opposition to the US, is a nightmare scenario indeed. That it is even thinkable is a measure of the immense diplomatic-political distance travelled in the last five years of Barack Hussein Obama’s Presidency.  Will Israel find the strength to act alone, despite threats? Will the U.S. Congress find a leader able to rise to the occasion across party lines and oppose Obama’s abandonment of Israel, appeasement of Iran, and weakening of America’s position in the world?

   Finally, will the poorly-led and divided North American Jewish world—remembering in this Hannukah season the valiant struggle of the Maccabees against foreign oppression—now wake up, and come to the defense of the Jewish state?   

                                   (Prof. Krantz is Director of the Canadian Institute for
                                 Jewish Research, and Editor of its ISRAFAX magazine).

MIDDLE EAST “PEACE PROCESS” KERRY AND OBAMA’S M.E. PEACE MIRAGE: A DEAL WITH IRAN—AND WITHDRAWAL FROM THE REGION

We welcome your comments to this and any other CIJR publication. Please address your response to:  Rob Coles, Publications Chairman, Canadian Institute for Jewish Research, PO Box 175, Station  H, Montreal QC H3G 2K7 – Tel: (514) 486-5544 – Fax:(514) 486-8284; E-mail: rob@isranet.org

 

 

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John Kerry’s Middle East Dream World: Jackson Diehl, Washington Post, Nov. 10, 2013 —  Imagine a world in which the Middle East is not descending into carnage and chaos but is on the brink of a monumental series of breakthroughs.                                                                                           No Illusions Concerning the Obama Administration: Isi Leibler, Jerusalem Post, Nov. 11, 2013 — Israel is heading for what could be its most severe confrontation with the United States, despite reassuring words from the Obama administration to the contrary.

Israel: The Impudence Accompanying Betrayal: Barry Rubin, Jerusalem Post, Nov. 17, 2013  — I’ve always been amazed anyone thought the United States would ever act against the Iranian nuclear threat.

The Arab-Israeli Peace Process Is Over. Enter the Era of Chaos: Lee Smith, Tablet, Oct. 30, 2013— This past weekend the White House clarified yet again what’s been apparent to everyone in the Middle East for quite a while now: The United States wants out, for real.

 

On Topic Links

France Calls on Israel to Halt Settlements: Ruth Bender, Wall Street Journal, Nov. 18, 2013

The Kerry Fiasco: Jerold S. Auerbach, American Thinker, Nov. 17, 2013

Hamas and the “Peace Process”: Shoshana Bryen, Frontpage, Nov. 1, 2013

There Will Be War: Mike Konrad, American Thinker, Nov. 15, 2013

        

 

JOHN KERRY’S MIDDLE EAST                                                                DREAM WORLD                                                                               Jackson Diehl

Washington Post, Nov. 10, 2013

 

Imagine a world in which the Middle East is not descending into carnage and chaos but is on the brink of a monumental series of breakthroughs. By next spring, Iran’s nuclear program will be secured and Egypt will be a liberal democracy. Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad has stepped aside. And, not least, Israelis and Palestinians have settled on the terms for a Palestinian state. This is the world that John Kerry inhabited as he shuttled across the world last week: a fantastical realm created by his billowing vision of what he can accomplish as secretary of state. Meanwhile, on this planet, aid agencies reported starvation and an outbreak of polio in Syria; Egypt’s last elected president was put on trial; Israeli and Palestinian leaders described their U.S.-brokered peace talks as broken; and France’s foreign minister suggested the would-be accord with Iran was “a fool’s game.”

 

Call it Kerry’s Magical Mystery Tour. On Nov. 3 in Cairo, he announced that “the road map [to democracy in Egypt] is being carried out to the best of our perception,” after failing even to mention the politicized prosecution of deposed president Mohamed Morsi. On Tuesday, Kerry offered the following explanation of why the Syrian peace conference he’s pushing will succeed: “The Assad regime knows full well that the purpose of” the conference is “the installation of a provisional government.” And “the Syrian government has accepted to come to Geneva.” It apparently follows that Assad will show up and placidly agree to hand over power. If not, Kerry ventured, “the Russians and the Iranians . . . will make certain that the Syrian regime will live up to its obligation.” Kerry’s optimism was far from exhausted. His next stop was devoted to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, both of whom had broken a vow of silence to say the negotiations Kerry persuaded them to begin in July had gone nowhere. Not to worry, said Kerry: “I am convinced from my conversations” with them “that this is not mission impossible; this can happen.” All this was before his weekend trip to Geneva for what became a failed attempt to close a deal with Iran on its nuclear program. Kerry’s conclusion: “I can tell you, without any reservations, we made significant progress.”

 

Stipulated: The mission of the U.S. secretary of state is to tackle big problems diplomatically, even if it means taking on missions impossible. Still, it’s hard to think of a previous chief of Foggy Bottom who has so conspicuously detached himself from on-the-ground realities. To those outside the Kerry bubble, Egypt is ruled by a regime more repressive than any in decades, with a muzzled media and thousands of political prisoners. Syria is mired in an anarchic struggle whose most likely winners appear to be Assad and al-Qaeda, with neither inclined to negotiation. Israelis and Palestinians are further apart on the terms for a settlement than they were at the turn of the century. And the emerging conditions for a deal with Iran threaten to drive a wedge between the United States and some of its closest allies.

 

This raises the question: Does Kerry really believe his rhetoric? In fact, it appears he does, particularly on the Israeli-Palestinian account. Desperate for a legacy at the end of his long career, the former senator has convinced himself that a) the terms for a settlement are readily apparent and b) he has the political skills to convince Netanyahu and Abbas to accept them. Kerry, like President Obama, also is convinced that detente, if not a “grand bargain,” has all along been possible between the United States and Iran, if only the right people (like him) are at the table.

 

Other Kerry stances are the logical result of Obama’s decision to radically retrench U.S. policy in the Middle East. Obama decided at summer’s end to restrict U.S. activity to “core interests” that don’t include the defense of democracy, preventing humanitarian catastrophe or ending “someone else’s civil war.” That means that Kerry, who once pushed to arm the Syrian opposition as a way of “changing Assad’s calculations,” is left with little recourse other than to plead with Russia and Iran to accomplish what the United States will not. Faced with Obama’s dictum that U.S. cooperation with Egypt’s military will continue, Kerry must pretend that the generals are installing a democracy and pray that they take the cue.If any one of Kerry’s dreams comes true, the world would be better off, so I hope skeptics like me will be proved wrong. If not, this secretary of state will be remembered as a self-deceiving bumbler — and his successor will have some large messes to clean up.                                                                      

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                  NO ILLUSIONS CONCERNING THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION

Isi Leibler

Jerusalem Post, Nov. 10, 2013

 

Israel is heading for what could be its most severe confrontation with the United States, despite reassuring words from the Obama administration to the contrary. President Barack Obama’s policies have led to a US retreat at all levels in the global arena, particularly in the Middle East where his disastrous policy of “engaging” with rogue states coincided with alienating, even abandoning, traditional US allies like Egypt and Saudi Arabia. His administration has also totally failed to mitigate the rampant bloodshed, with hundreds of civilians being killed daily in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere in the Arab world.

However, despite all evidence to the contrary, the administration persists in its mantra that the principal problem in the Middle East is the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and displays a determination to impose a settlement on Israelis and Palestinians. It does so – even setting aside the problem of Hamas – despite the fact that the undemocratic Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, whose term expired years ago, is neither willing nor has the authority to make any meaningful concessions to Israel.

The US chooses to disregard to the extreme intransigence of the Palestinians and the massive ongoing incitement by the PA against Israel and continues to pressure the Israelis, their only regional democratic ally, to make additional unilateral concessions, many of which have long-term negative security implications for the future viability of the Jewish state. US Secretary of State John Kerry presents himself as a “friend” of Israel. Yet his offensive off-the-cuff remarks not only depict him as somewhat of a buffoon, but demonstrate that he now openly sides against Israel in the confrontation with the Palestinians.

He utterly failed to act as an honest broker in his November 6 joint interview with Israel’s Channel 2 News and PA TV, when he targeted Israel for criticism and failed to even relate to Palestinian intransigence. He provocatively asked “whether it [Israel] wanted a third intifada,” which he declared would eventuate if the talks failed. He warned that the Palestinians would “wind up with a leadership committed to violence.” Following a meeting in Bethlehem with President Abbas, brushing aside the venomous incitement to hatred manifested daily by the PA, Kerry stated unequivocally that “President Abbas is 100% committed to these talks.” He reiterated that the US considers construction in settlements, including Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem, to be “illegitimate,” and went so far as to state that Israel was sending “a message that perhaps you are not really serious.” He never even referred to the PA demand that Palestinian refugees and their 5 million descendants be given the right of return to Israel. He refused to confront the Palestinian leadership over their refusal to reconcile themselves with the reality of Israel as sovereign Jewish entity.

There have been hints, subsequently denied, that if progress was not achieved by 2014, the US would propose bridging proposals – an ominous signal to Israel. Kerry also threatened that if Israel could not find an accommodation, the US would not be able to deter the rest of the world from imposing real sanctions against Israel. Such remarks effectively guarantee Palestinian intransigence by declaring that after the talks collapse, the world will in any event seek to impose a solution on Israel and shall not blame the Palestinians for once again reverting to terrorism. And this is following Israel’s capitulation to intense American pressure resulting in the outrageous release of Palestinian mass murderers who were subsequently glorified by the Palestinians as heroes.

These statements by Kerry parallel other negative vibes from the US: Obama’s failure to condemn Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s provocative anti-Semitic remarks and the repudiation of his commitment to set aside the confrontation with Israel after Netanyahu had been pressured to apologize to him; the US effort to divert attention from its cyber-attacks on the French government’s communications network by hinting that the Israeli Mossad was to blame; and, most damaging of all, despite deliberate Israeli silence over the issue, the formal US announcement that Israel was responsible for bombing the Syrian military base in which missiles en route to Hezbollah were located. That is not how one treats an ally.

Over the past few months, there has been immense pressure directed at Israel and American Jews to ease up on Iran. Although accused of seeking to sabotage American diplomacy with the “moderate” President Hassan Rohani, Netanyahu has never challenged the role of diplomacy. He merely reminded the Americans of the proven duplicity of the Iranians and Rohani himself as he engages in protracted negotiations while proceeding to advance Iran nuclear status. On the basis of Obama’s recent track record, Israelis were increasingly skeptical as to the fulfillment of his repeated commitment to employ military force if necessary to prevent the Iranians from becoming a nuclear power.

These concerns were confirmed when, despite repeated assurances by Kerry that “no deal is better than a bad deal,” the US and the Europeans (other than France) demonstrated a willingness despite all evidence to the contrary to ease the sanctions on the Iranians without receiving anything tangible in return. Clearly, the US administration lied when it promised to brief Israelis in advance of any deal, so as not to surprise them, and gave repeated reassurances that short of an agreement by the Iranians to end their nuclear objectives, no partial deal was contemplated.

A shocked and distraught Netanyahu publicly admonished Kerry for making a “monumental mistake,” accusing him of providing the Iranians with “the deal of the century” and “in no way reducing their nuclear enrichment capability.” Netanyahu stated that under such circumstances, Israel did not consider itself bound by any agreement between Tehran and the six world powers and “will do everything it considers necessary to defend itself and the security of its people.” There is of course the outside possibility that by the time the talks resume next week, Netanyahu’s warnings are heeded and a Munich-like capitulation is averted. But we should be under no illusions.

The next three months will be seriously challenging for Israel. Prime Minister Netanyahu will need to marshal all his resources and seek to salvage what he can of the likely capitulation to the Iranian mullahs in a deal which in no way guarantees that the centrifuges will not soon again resume spinning. In addition, Israel must resist American pressures to make further concessions to the Palestinians which may well have devastating repercussions our future security. To confront these threats, it is imperative that the prime minister devise a strategic plan, engaging the broadest possible coalition, providing a united front, and work closely with the American Jewish community and other pro-Israel groups to orchestrate a major campaign to enlighten the American public and seek congressional support to rein in the appeasers.

For American Jews, this will be a real test of their commitment to the security of the Jewish state. There have been conflicting reports that leading Jewish organizations and representatives of the administration had agreed to defer for two months efforts to intensify sanctions on Iran, but this was adamantly denied by AIPAC and AJC spokesmen. Regrettably, American Jews committed to the security of the Jewish state appear to be heading toward a direct confrontation with an administration willing to diplomatically abandon Israel and appease the most lethal global terrorist state. ADL head Abe Foxman predicted that Kerry’s “outrageous behavior” and his “chutzpah” in lecturing Israel about peace would unite the American Jewish community. The question is will they have the courage to stand up and be counted?

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ISRAEL: THE IMPUDENCE ACCOMPANYING BETRAYAL

Barry Rubin

Jerusalem Post, Nov. 17, 2013

 

I’ve always been amazed anyone thought the United States would ever act against the Iranian nuclear threat. There was never any chance that such a thing would happen. Moreover, there was never any chance the US would let Israel attack Iran. In a Huffington Post article by Steven Strauss, the author quotes Netanyahu: “‘I believe that we can now say that Israel has reached childhood’s end, that it has matured enough to begin approaching a state of self-reliance…. We are going to achieve economic independence [from the United States].’ Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to a Joint Session of the United States Congress – Washington DC, July 10, 1996 (Source: Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs).” Unfortunately, today, almost 20 years later, this is not a fair statement to quote.

Strauss continues: “In 1997, Israel received $3.1 billion in aid from the US. In 2012, Israel was still receiving $3.1 billion annually in US aid.” This, however, is not an appropriate comparison today. Let us look at the current situation: Egypt will receive $2b. in US aid; Saudi Arabia will receive military aid, as will the anti-Assad Syrian rebels; Turkey will receive billions of dollars and probably military equipment.

Moreover, the US and Europe will also reach out to Iran, and Hezbollah and Syria will receive aid from Iran. In addition, the Palestinians have not made the least bit of commitment on a two-state solution . In other words, only Israel would lose. And this is “childhood’s end”? Strauss further notes, “Israel has become an affluent and developed country that can afford to pay for its own defense.” But the point is that other hostile countries will receive more, while Israel will get the same amount. He continues, “…Israel has a well developed economy in other ways.” But again, Israel will be placed at much more of a disadvantage.

The article’s claim that, “Other countries/ programs could better use this aid money,” does not state the reality. “Even domestically, the aid that goes to Israel could be useful. Detroit is bankrupt, and our Congress is cutting back on food stamps, and making other painful budget cuts.” Again, the US does not face immediate threat from its neighbours, while Israel does. Moreover, this argument is shockingly implying that Israel is stealing money from poor people in the US. “Israel and the United States have increasingly different visions about the future of the Middle East,” the article continues. But again, so what? This is absolutely irrelevant. A major (bipartisan) goal of the United States has been the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” Once again, this is a policy that is impossible to implement, but the United States is going to try to force it on Israel anyway. Note that the less security the US and the West provide to Israel, the more difficult it becomes to secure or promote a two-state solution.

Strauss adds, “However, the current Israeli government is clearly not committed to the US vision, and has done everything possible to sabotage American efforts.” The problem with this last point is that the Palestinians have always tried to sabotage this. If this concept hasn’t gotten across in the past quarter century, I can’t imagine when it will get across. The current Israeli government has tried for many years to achieve a two-state solution and has made many concessions. And if Secretary of State Kerry can’t take Israel’s side on this issue, then I can’t imagine how decades of US policy has been carried out. To say that the Israeli government is not committed is a fully hostile statement. This claims Israeli settlement and not Palestinian intransigence has blocked the peace process. Note that the author of this article has “distinguished” credentials: “Steven Strauss is an adjunct lecturer in public policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.” Yet if this is what the US government understands, things will end badly.

Moreover, the issue of Iran and nuclear weapons is not the important point; rather, it is the transformation of the US Middle East position that is significant. I do not believe there is any chance Iran will use nuclear weapons. The problem is that this is reversal of US policy. In other words, it is like going back to 1948 and opposing partition. Finally, what this is all about is money and greed. Many European countries are drooling at the money to be made. For example, Vittorio Da Rold writes (Il Sole 24 ore), “Italian SMEs are hoping for a rapid agreement on the Iranian nuclear issue in order to return as soon as possible to trade without limits with Tehran and the rich Iranian market in hopes of finding new markets in a time when the European market flirts with deflation.”

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THE ARAB-ISRAELI PEACE PROCESS IS OVER.                                ENTER THE ERA OF CHAOS

Lee Smith

Tablet, Oct. 30, 2013

 

This past weekend the White House clarified yet again what’s been apparent to everyone in the Middle East for quite a while now: The United States wants out, for real. “There’s a whole world out there,” National Security Adviser Susan Rice told the New York Times, “and we’ve got interests and opportunities in that whole world.”

 

To judge by the president’s decision making, Egypt and Syria apparently are no longer important parts of that world, nor is the shakeout from the Arab Spring, or preserving Washington’s special relationship with the Saudi oil kingdom, or other familiar features of American Middle East policy, like democracy promotion, which have been taken for granted by locals and the rest of the world alike. What matters seems to be getting out of the region faster, by making a snap deal with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani over Tehran’s nuclear program. But yeah, administration sources told the Times almost as an afterthought, we still care about the peace process.

 

The problem is that a deal with Iran, when taken together with a U.S. withdrawal from the region, means the end of the peace process. As an Israeli official visiting Washington told me last week, one result of the administration’s minimalist regional profile is that the Arab allies of the United States—from Jordan and Egypt to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Cooperation Council states—will no longer enjoy the luxury of being able to count on the United States to pursue and protect their national interests, which means that they’ll have to do it themselves in a region where, as President Barack Obama said in his speech at the U.N. General Assembly meeting last month, the leaders “avoid addressing difficult problems themselves.”

 

What that means is that Washington’s Arab partners who are most concerned about Iran, like Saudi Arabia, now have a choice: They can defend themselves with all the weaponry the American defense industry has sold them over the years—or they can get someone else to do it. If most Arab regimes never really cared that much for the Palestinians in the first place, they clearly had even less use for the Israelis. But in the wake of a bad American deal with Rouhani, the Israelis may come in quite handy, as the only local power capable of standing up to a nuclear-armed Iran or stopping the Iranian nuclear program in its tracks…

 

What’s clear amidst all this traffic is that the Israeli-Palestinian peace process is presently the least important and least bloody conflict in the region, after the Syrian civil war, the Libyan civil war, Iraq’s violent partition, Egypt’s military crack-down, etc. From the point of view of national realpolitik, the only people who should be thinking long and hard about the end of the Arab-Israeli peace process are American policymakers.

 

Maybe it’s good news then that the lake of crocodile tears shed for 80 years over the Palestinian cause is about to evaporate into the thin desert air because the United States is leaving, and the Arab regimes obviously have more important things to worry about now—like their own security and survival. Yet from an American standpoint the end of the peace process is unfortunate—and not because it was ever likely to bring about peace between Arabs and Israelis, or usher in a reign of good feeling and peaceful relations across the Middle East….

[To read the full article, click on the following link – ed.]

 

                                                 Contents

 

 

On Topic

 

France Calls on Israel to Halt Settlements: Ruth Bender, Wall Street Journal, Nov. 18, 2013 — French President François Hollande Monday called for the "complete halt" to the building of Israeli settlements during his first visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories since taking office.

The Kerry Fiasco: Jerold S. Auerbach, American Thinker, Nov. 17, 2013 — Who could have imagined it? Secretary of State John Kerry is making his predecessor James Baker seem like Israel's best friend.

Hamas and the “Peace Process”: Shoshana Bryen, Frontpage, Nov. 1, 2013 — The Palestinians have thrown a monkey wrench in the works again –  as they have a pattern of doing every time the “peace process” is supposed to be close to “solving” the problem.

There Will Be War: Mike Konrad, American Thinker, Nov. 15, 2013 —  What was going through the President's head when he eased up on sanctions on Iran?

 

On Topic Links

 

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THE PEACE-PROCESS BLUES: ONE-STATE’S OUT, TWO STATES TOO; PALESTINIANS LIE, ABBAS’ NOT LEGALLY “PRESIDENT” & JORDAN’S PRO-ISRAEL: SO, WHAT’S LEFT? THE STATUS QUO!

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 Download an abbreviated version of today's Daily Briefing.

 

Contents:

 

 

Contents:

The One-State IrresolutionDavid A. Halperin & Danielle Spiegel Feld ,Times of Israel, Sept. 19, 2013—Ian Lustick’s requiem for two-states, “Two-State Illusion,” which was prominently featured in this weekend’s New York Times, was a pitiful illustration of the absurdity of arguments for a one-state “solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.


Israel Should Annul the Oslo AccordsDanny Danon, New York Times, Sept. 20, 2013—This month marks 20 years since the signing of the first of the Oslo Accords between the State of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization. Two decades after Yitzhak Rabin and Yasir Arafat stood on the White House lawn with President Bill Clinton, Israelis and Palestinians are again in the midst of the umpteenth round of negotiations.

 

Deceitful Palestinian Statements as Strategic WeaponsDr. Manfred Gerstenfeld, Israel National News, Sept. 23, 2013Interview with Michael Widlanski: History has shown that the Arabic messages to their own people is their true approach.”   "Palestinian leaders have developed ambiguous messages as strategic weapons to disarm, demoralize and deceive foes while gaining third-party support. They use duplicitous statements for different audiences in the tradition of taqiyya—the art of dissimulation.

 

Palestine’s Democratic DeficitNeville Teller, Jerusalem Post, Sept. 22, 2013—Back in New York, accompanied by his prime minister, is the president of the Palestinian Authority (PA) – or the State of Palestine, as the PA decided to rename itself last April, following its upgrade to “non-member observer state” at the UN General Assembly.

 

Does Jordan Want Palestinians in Control of the Border?Khaled Abu Toameh, Gatestone Institute, Sept. 20, 2013 —Palestinian Authority Pesident Mahmoud Abbas says that the Palestinians will not accept any Israeli presence along the border between a future Palestinian state and Jordan. But the question is whether Jordan really wants to have Palestinians on its borders.

 

On Topic Links

 

Tackle Incitement, Stop the KillingsDavid Horovitz, Times of Israel, September 23, 2013

Israel Wants Peace. PeriodIsrael Kasnett, Aljazeera, Sept. 13, 2013
A Palestinian State with Temporary Borders – A Historical CatastropheElyakim Ha’etzni, Israpundit, Sept. 18, 2013
The Fables of Saeb ErakatVictor Sharpe, Canada Free Press, August 22, 2013
The Causes, Consequences and Cures for Palestinian Authority Hate SpeechDavid Pollock, The Washington Institute, Sept. 2013
Could the Failure of the Oslo Process Doom Israel’s Friendship with Jordan?Assaf DavidTablet Magazine, Sept. 23, 2013


 


THE ONE-STATE IRRESOLUTION
David A. Halperin and Danielle Spiegel Feld
Times of Israel, Sept. 19, 2013

 
Ian Lustick’s requiem for two-states, “Two-State Illusion,” which was prominently featured in this weekend’s New York Times, was a pitiful illustration of the absurdity of arguments for a one-state “solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. At the most basic level, what one-state advocates like Lustick are calling for is not actually a solution to the conflict. Instead, as Lustick makes clear, the hope is that the absence of diplomacy will “set the stage” for an escalation in the conflict – “ruthless oppression, mass mobilization, riots, brutality, [and] terror” to be precise – which, in turn, “might be the route to Palestinian independence.” Stated otherwise, Lustick’s plan is to set aside diplomacy, stir up another violent explosion, and hope that through “blood and magic” a Palestinian state may someday emerge from the rubble.
 
Plainly this is a ridiculous proposal. Particularly given the sectarian civil wars broiling across the Middle East it is unbelievably foolish to predict that Israelis and Palestinians would ever give up their independent national aspirations or that a joint state would ever be peaceful.
 
In fact, Lustick’s lopsided treatment of the right to self-determination demonstrates well why the one-state approach is all but guaranteed to produce perpetual strife. While Lustick shows an admirable concern for the idea of Palestinian self-determination, he attaches no importance whatsoever to the idea that Jewish residents of the area should enjoy the same right. Instead, he asks the reader to accept the fact that “Israel may no longer exist as a Jewish and democratic vision of its Zionist founders” and that this would not be “the end of the world.” This double-standard makes no sense and would be greeted with the utmost hostility by Israel’s Jewish inhabitants.
 
There is simply no way to explain why Palestinian self-determination should be assigned the highest importance, while the Jewish right of self-determination is completely dismissed. If vindicating the right to self-determination is important – which we strongly believe it is – the one-state “solution” can never offer anything more than an unsatisfactory half-solution.
 
Lustick attempts to prove that the single state he and the others promote could actually be harmonious, but he’s far from convincing. The “strange bedfellows” he predicts will emerge “once the two-state fantasy blindfolds are off” are not merely strange, they are also virtually unimaginable. For instance, he posits that “secular Palestinians in Israel and the West Bank could ally with… non-Jewish Russian speaking immigrants,” which, incidentally, is among the most conservative demographic groups in Israel; he also predicts that “Israelis who came from Arab countries might find new reasons to think of themselves not as ‘Eastern,’ but as Arab.” Given the fact that many of Israel’s “Eastern” Jews either fled or were expelled from Arab states, it’s ludicrous to forecast such an identity shift taking place.
 
Finally, Lustick comes up far short of proving that the current peace negotiations are merely an exercise in futility and only ends up illustrating just how illogical his arguments are. One of the key pieces of evidence he marshals to try to prove this point is that both Israelis and Palestinians currently hold “contradictory fantasies” as to what two states would look like. But this line of reasoning completely overlooks the fact that the reason we need negotiations is because, while the parties agree that two-states is the desired outcome, they disagree as to what two-states would look like. If they agreed on both the fact that two-states were the ideal and how these states should look, we wouldn’t need negotiations in the first place. In short, proponents of one-state such as Lustick have a long way to go before they can make a persuasive case that the idea of a single state offers a “noncatastrophic path[] into the future.”
 
One-staters like Lustick may themselves oppose the Zionist goal of creating a Jewish and democratic state. They may not care that implementing the one-state solution would once again return the Jewish people to their historical role as a people without a land of their own, a people denied the right to self-determination. They may not be troubled by the prospects of casting the Holy Land into a state of perpetual conflict either. But for all who do care about these things, the alternative to two-states would be anything but “noncatastrophic.” We must continue to do our utmost to ensure such a “one state” never comes to be.
 


David A. Halperin and Danielle Spiegel-Feld are Executive Director and Associate Director of Research & Policy of Israel Policy Forum

 
 

 
This month marks 20 years since the signing of the first of the Oslo Accords between the State of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization. Two decades after Yitzhak Rabin and Yasir Arafat stood on the White House lawn with President Bill Clinton, Israelis and Palestinians are again in the midst of the umpteenth round of negotiations.
 
Despite these efforts, true peace seems as distant as it did before the secret talks in Oslo were revealed to the world. The government of Israel must admit that we made a mistake and declare that the Oslo process has failed. Only by officially annulling the Oslo Accords will we have the opportunity to rethink the existing paradigm and hopefully lay the foundations for a more realistic modus vivendi between the Jews and Arabs of this region.
 
Despite attempts to rewrite recent history by fringe elements, the failure of the Oslo framework cannot be attributed to a lack of will and persistence by Israel. What didn’t we try? We attempted direct negotiations, third-party mediators, public conferences and back-channel talks. We staged withdrawals and unilateral disengagements, established joint Israeli-Palestinian military patrols in Gaza and deployed American-trained security forces in the West Bank. None of this worked.
 
The P.L.O., and later the Palestinian Authority, never truly accepted that Israel, as the national state and homeland of the Jewish people, was here to stay. No amount of impressive ceremonies, cosmetic changes to the P.L.O. charter and Palestinian doublespeak to Western media outlets about their commitment to peace was able to change this grim fact.
 
To understand the mind-boggling scope of Oslo’s failure, it is best to look at the statistics. According to the organization B’Tselem, during the first Palestinian intifada in 1987, six years before Mr. Rabin’s attempt to recast the archterrorist Yasir Arafat as a peacemaker, 160 Israelis were murdered in Palestinian terror attacks. In the mid- to late-1990s, as successive Israeli governments negotiated with the Palestinians, and Mr. Arafat and his cronies repeatedly swore they were doing their utmost to end terrorism, 240 Israelis were brutally killed as suicide bombs and other heinous terrorist acts targeting unarmed civilians were unleashed in every corner of our nation.
 
Things did not get better after Prime Minister Ehud Barak made the Palestinians an offer in 2000 that, judging by his landslide defeat in the election a few months later, was way beyond what most Israelis supported. Between then and September 2010, 1,083 Israelis were murdered by Palestinian terrorists.The Oslo process did not bring peace; it brought increased bloodshed. We must end this farce by announcing the immediate suspension of the accords. Little impact would be felt by average Israelis and Palestinians. Those who would suffer most would be full-time negotiators like Martin S. Indyk and Saeb Erekat, who would find themselves out of a job after 20 years of gainful employment in the peace process industry.
 
What should replace Oslo’s false promise? We should implement what I have called a “three-state solution.” In the future, the final status of the Palestinians will be determined in a regional agreement involving Jordan and Egypt, when the latter has been restabilized. All the region’s states must participate in the process of creating a long-term solution for the Palestinian problem.
 
In the short term, the Palestinians will continue to have autonomy over their civilian lives while Israel remains in charge of security throughout Judea and Samaria, commonly referred to as the West Bank. Following an initial period, the Arab residents of Judea and Samaria could continue to develop their society as part of an agreement involving Israel and Jordan. Similarly, Gaza residents could work with Israel and Egypt to create a society that granted them full civil authority over their lives in a manner that was acceptable to all sides.
 
Most veterans of the peace process will mock this proposal, protesting that there is no way it would be accepted by the Palestinians. Their argument may seem convincing today, but as I often remind my critics, our region is unpredictable. Had you told any Middle East expert five years ago that two successive Egyptian presidents would be deposed and Bashar al-Assad’s regime would be in the midst of a bloody civil war, you, too, would have been mocked. Things change. We can make them change.
 
I am aware that even if the Palestinians accepted this plan, we would still have to deal with a fundamentalist Hamas regime in Gaza and continuing instability in Egypt. No plan for Israeli-Arab peace can be fully implemented until these issues are resolved. In the short term, Israel’s only option is to manage this conflict by refusing to compromise when it comes to the security of Israeli citizens. At the same time, our government should take all steps possible to improve the economic well-being of the Palestinians.
 
The dissolution of the Oslo Accords would serve as the official act validating what we already know — that this failed framework is totally irrelevant in 2013. Once the Palestinians were ready to sit down and seriously discuss how our two peoples, through this new paradigm, could live side by side in peace and prosperity, they would find willing partners across the political spectrum in Israel.
 
It may not be the utopian peace promised to all of us on that sunny day in September 1993, but in the harsh realities of the Middle East, this may be the best we can hope for and the sole realistic chance for our children to grow up in a world less violent than previous generations have had to endure.
 
Danny Danon is a member of the Knesset and the deputy defense minister of Israel.
 
Contents

 

Interview with Michael Widlanski: History has shown that the Arabic messages to their own people is their true approach.”
 
"Palestinian leaders have developed ambiguous messages as strategic weapons to disarm, demoralize and deceive foes while gaining third-party support. They use duplicitous statements for different audiences in the tradition of taqiyya—the art of dissimulation. This is an Islam-approved application of lying to defeat enemies. When conversing in English they may sound peace-loving. Yet they simultaneously broadcast bellicose messages to Arabs in Arabic.
 
“This method of destructive ambiguity was practiced already by the pre-war Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Haj Amin al Husseini. He was heavily involved in spreading false messages about Jews ‘trying to conquer the Temple Mount’ in the early 1920's and later in propaganda broadcasts for the Nazis. Fatah leaders, particularly Yasser Arafat and Mahmud Abbas, follow in Husseini’s footsteps using ambiguity.”
 
Dr. Michael Widlanski is the author of "Battle for Our Minds: Western Elites and the Terror Threat". He teaches at Bar Ilan University and was Strategic Affairs Advisor in Israel’s Ministry of Public Security editing the Orient House Archives of the PLO. He will be Schusterman Visiting Professor at the University of California, Irvine 2013-14.
 
“Communication and especially dissimulation were major motifs in Arafat's life and career. He became leader of the PLO through the microphone and pen and not through the rifle. Arafat became head of Fatah by gaining newspaper attention in Egypt in the 1950's. In 1968, he became the undisputed leader of the PLO after skillful press exploitation of the ‘Battle of Karameh.’
 
“From 1968 through 1974, Fatah/PLO made it clear that it wanted to replace Israel with a ‘democratic Palestine.’ This was a euphemism for what former PLO leader Ahmad Shukeiry had declared: ‘…destroying Israel and driving the Jews into the sea.’ Beginning in 1974, the PLO further ‘moderated’ its tone, but not its real goal. It adopted the ‘Strategy of Stages’ and declared that it would try to gain parts of Palestine/Israel via peaceful means. Thereafter it would employ arms for the final battle. Arafat and Abbas refined this strategy further over the years.
 
Hamas has been more direct than Fatah/PLO in declaring its goals and tactics – destroying Israel with the force of arms. It has since learned from Arafat and Abbas. In recent years, Hamas, too, has had spokesmen who suggest that it might consider letting Israel survive if and when it withdraws to the 1949 armistice lines or the 1947 partition lines.
 
“Despite all claims to the contrary, no PLO leader has given up demands for Palestinian ‘refugees returning to their homes’ in Israel. Yet many prominent Israelis and Americans also promote this fallacy. Arafat, Abbas and negotiators like Yasser Abd-Rabbo, Nabil Sha'ath and Ahmad Qrei'a –also known as Abu 'Ala – have publicly and repeatedly repudiated such Israeli claims on the refugees issue made by Ehud Olmert, Tzippy Livni and especially Yossi Beilin and Shlomo Ben-Ami.
 
“Israel fails in its external communications partly because there is no unified Israeli view."
“Similarly, claims by many Israelis and Americans that the PLO has agreed to recognize and accept Israeli settlement blocs in return for ceding territory in Israel to Palestinian sovereignty, have been repudiated. This is also true about claims that the PLO leadership is willing to accept Israeli control of some holy places in eastern Jerusalem and that Ramallah or Al-Azzaria would serve as a Palestinian capital. Abbas repeatedly told Arab media—as late as August 2013—that there will be no Jews living in Palestinian territory and that Jerusalem will be the Palestinian capital.
 
“Abbas told an Israeli interviewer that he did not want to return to Safed. Thereafter, he declared to Arab interviewers that all Arabs could decide where and when they would go. He specifically said all refugees would have the ‘right” to return to their homes.
 
“Claims that the PLO has amended its charter are false as well. The ‘ceremony’ in 1998 concerning this is deemed a stage act by Palestinians, even though it was sanctioned by Bill Clinton and Benjamin Netanyahu. Leading Palestinians—such as Palestinian National Congress speaker Salim Za'anoun—say that the PLO charter still stands.
 
“Periodically, Arafat and Abbas said that they ‘recognize Israel.’ They thereafter explained in Arabic that they recognize the fact but not the right of Israel's existence. They further rebuff any attempt to recognize Jewish sovereignty or even Jewish nationalism. Abbas has repeatedly rejected Netanyahu's demand that the PLO accept Israel as a predominantly Jewish state. The PLO leadership until today approves maps and text books that refer to all of “Palestine” including Tel Aviv and Haifa, as Arab. Many Israelis and Westerners prefer to believe that PLO leaders ‘do not mean what they say’ in Arabic. However, history has shown that the messages to their own people is their true approach.”
 
Widlanski concludes: “Israel fails in its external communications partly because there is no unified Israeli view. Every struggle has a mental aspect. This is particularly true in battles involving terror. In order to win, Israelis have to educate themselves about the real Palestinian goals and tactics.”
 


 

DOES JORDAN WANT
PALESTINIANS IN CONTROL OF THE BORDER?

Khaled Abu Toameh
Gatestone Institute, Sept. 20, 2013

 
Palestinian Authority Pesident Mahmoud Abbas says that the Palestinians will not accept any Israeli presence along the border between a future Palestinian state and Jordan. But the question is whether Jordan really wants to have Palestinians on its borders. In private off-the-record meetings, top Jordanian officials make it crystal clear that they prefer to see Israel sitting along their shared border.
 
Speaking at a university graduation ceremony in Jericho, Abbas stated that the borders of the Palestinian state would stretch from the Dead Sea in the south and through the Jordan Valley all the way up to the town of Bet She'an in the north. "This is a Palestinian-Jordanian border and that is how it will remain," Abbas said. "The responsibility for security along the border will be in the hands of the Palestinians."
 
Abbas's remarks came in wake of leaks by Palestinian officials to the effect that at the current US-sponsored secret peace negotiations, Israel is demanding full control over the border with Jordan in any peace settlement with the Palestinians. Israel, of course, has its own reasons for refusing to cede control over the strategic Jordan Valley.  Israel's main concern is that the border with Jordan will be used by Palestinian terror groups and Islamist fundamentalist organizations to smuggle weapons and terrorists into the West Bank and Israel.
 
However, there's another reason why Israel remains strongly opposed to surrendering control over its border with Jordan to the Palestinian Authority or a third party. It is no secret that the Jordanians have long been worried about the repercussions of the presence of Palestinians on their border.
In a recent closed briefing with a high-ranking Jordanian security official, he was asked about the kingdom's position regarding the possibility that Palestinians might one day replace Israel along the border with Jordan. "May God forbid!" the official retorted. "We have repeatedly made it clear to the Israeli side that we will not agree to the presence of a third party at our border."
 
The official explained that Jordan's stance was not new. "This has been our position since 1967," he said. "The late King Hussein made this clear to all Israeli governments and now His majesty, King Abdullah, remains committed to this position." Jordan's opposition to placing the border crossings with the West Bank under Palestinian control is not only based on security concerns. Of course, Jordan's security concerns are not unjustified, especially in light of what has been happening over the past few years along the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt.
 
The Egyptians are now paying a heavy price for neglecting their shared border with the Gaza Strip over the past few decades. This lapse has seen Sinai emerge as a hotbed for Al-Qaeda-linked terror groups that are now posing a serious threat to Egypt's national security.
 
Besides the security concerns, the Jordanians are also worried about the demographic implications of Palestinian security and civilian presence over the border. Their worst nightmare, as a veteran Jordanian diplomat once told Israeli colleagues during a private encounter, is that once the Palestinians are given control over the border, thousands of them from the future Palestinian state would pour into Jordan.
 
The Jordanians already have a "problem" with the fact that their kingdom's population consists of a Palestinian majority, which some say has reached over 80%. The last thing the Jordanians want is to see hundreds of thousands of Palestinians move from the West Bank or Gaza Strip into the kingdom.
 
Although the Jordanians are not part of the ongoing peace talks between the Palestinian Authority and Israel, they are hoping that Israel will not rush to abandon security control over its long border with the kingdom. Understandably, the Jordanian monarchy cannot go public with its stance for fear of being accused by Arabs and Muslims of treason and collaboration with the "Zionist enemy."
 
The Egyptians today know what the Jordanians have been aware of for a long time — that a shared border with Fatah or Hamas or any other Palestinian group is a recipe for instability and anarchy. The Egyptians surely miss the days when the Israel Defense Forces were sitting along the border between Egypt and the Gaza Strip. Even if Abbas's forces initially manage to maintain security and order along the border with Jordan, there is no guarantee as to what would happen in the future.
 
Between 2005 and 2007, Abbas's security forces were in control of the main border crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt — before they were expelled by Hamas. It is in Israel's interest to have stability and calm in Jordan. Undermining Jordan's security would create many problems for Israel. To prevent such a scenario, Israel, if and when it reaches a deal with Abbas's Palestinian Authority, needs to take King Abdullah's fears and interests into consideration.

Contents


 

PALESTINE’S DEMOCRATIC DEFICIT
Neville Teller
Jerusalem Post, Sept. 22, 2013
 

Back in New York, accompanied by his prime minister, is the president of the Palestinian Authority (PA) – or the State of Palestine, as the PA decided to rename itself last April, following its upgrade to “non-member observer state” at the UN General Assembly.
 
President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah will be attending sessions of the UN General Assembly, and also a meeting of the ad hoc Liaison Committee comprised of donor countries that finance the PA.  A meeting with President Obama is also scheduled, for discussions about the Palestinian-Israeli peace negotiations. What the two presidents are most unlikely to include on their agenda is the decidedly shaky ground on which Abbas is standing, democratically speaking.
 
The “State of Palestine” that Abbas is intent on establishing, comprises the West Bank, east Jerusalem, and the Gaza strip. The convenient fiction, adopted on all sides, is that Abbas as president of the PA can negotiate on behalf of all Palestinians because the PA is the “sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.”
 
But the 1.4 million Palestinians who occupy the Gaza strip are not ruled by Abbas and his government but by Hamas, which does not recognize Mahmoud Abbas as president of the PA, rejects the peace process out of hand, and would not under any circumstances conform to any agreement that Abbas might reach with Israel.  Abbas may propose that Gaza be included as part of a putative sovereign Palestine in a two-state solution, but Hamas would have to be dislodged from Gaza before that could be realized. How is this to be accomplished? That is the elephant in the negotiating room.
 
Hamas is indubitably an extreme Islamist and terrorist organization which, although winning a majority in the last democratic Palestinian elections held in 2006,  refused to participate with Fatah in a national unity government, and seized power in Gaza in a bloody coup d’état. Nevertheless it has a certain point in challenging the legitimacy of Mahmoud Abbas’s presidency of the PA.
 
After Yasser Arafat's death in 2004, Mahmoud Abbas was endorsed by Fatah's Revolutionary Council as its preferred candidate for the presidential election scheduled for January 9, 2005. Although Hamas boycotted the ballot, Abbas was elected with a convincing majority as president of the PA for a four-year term. His term of office therefore ended on January 9, 2009.
 
Hamas maintained that from the moment Abbas’s mandate expired, Aziz al-Dewik, the speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council, should have become interim president until new elections could be held. At the time, Fatah argued that the Palestinian election law calls for presidential and parliamentary elections to be held simultaneously, four years after the date of the later of those. Since parliamentary elections were held in 2006, a year after the presidential ones, new elections for both should have been held in January 2010. And indeed, in one of a wearisome succession of abortive reconciliation talks between Hamas and Fatah held in Egypt in March 2009, the two sides agreed to hold joint elections by January 25, 2010.
 
They never happened. The PA government decided to postpone them, arguing that it wanted to safeguard national unity. As a matter of interest, in December 2010 the Palestinian High Court ruled that once the cabinet calls for elections, it does not have authority to cancel them. So the cancellation of the elections was itself illegal.
Subsequent intra-Palestinian political disputes between Fatah and Hamas meant that presidential and parliamentary elections were postponed time after time. Finally, in November 2011 an election date of May 4, 2012 was agreed between Fatah and Hamas. Once again, however, a squabble erupted, and a further delay was announced. The election would now be held some time after June 2012.
 
In February 2011, following the resignation of Saeb Erekat as chief negotiator for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, the PA executive committee announced that elections would be held before October that year. The reaction? Fawzi Barhoum, a spokesman for Hamas, said that Abbas did not have the legal right to announce elections.
"Hamas will not take part in this election. We will not give it legitimacy. And we will not recognize the results." It did not take place.
 
In October 2011, Abbas sent a further proposal to Hamas for a general election, preferably to be held in early 2012. The proposal was rejected. Following last year’s upgrade of Palestine to non-member observer state status in the UN, the PA proposed that general elections should follow in 2013, in line with the latest unity talks between Fatah and Hamas. But no date has yet been set, and an election this year now seems impossible.
 
Meanwhile, Abbas sails serenely on, acknowledged on all sides as President of the PA, or President of the State of Palestine, depending on one's preference.  It is as if George W Bush, who became president of the United States in 2005 – the same year that Mahmoud Abbas became PA president – was somehow able to by-pass the elections of 2007 and 2011 and cling to office, and was still US President. The analogy may be fanciful, it could never happen – within the United States.  But it virtually has happened within the Palestinian body politic, and it illustrates how far along the democratic road Palestinians have yet to travel.
 
In the meantime, as president de facto, if not in all eyes de jure, Abbas continues to formulate a new PA government from time to time. After weeks of waiting and speculating, an incoming administration – the 16th since the formation of the PA – was sworn in on September 19. It turned out to be a carbon copy of the outgoing one. Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and his 24 cabinet ministers, who together had formed the previous government, were sworn in anew in front of the president in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
 
If the president’s own legitimacy is questionable, how stands the government that he swears in? Or any agreements that he reaches on thorny political issues?  Or his authority in respect of that section of territory over which his writ does not run?
Palestine’s democratic deficiencies may yet prove to be a hurdle too high for the peace process to surmount.
 
The writer is the author of One Year in the History of Israel and Palestine (2011).
 

 

 

Tackle Incitement, Stop the KillingsDavid Horovitz, Times of Israel, September 23, 2013—It’s 20 years after that hesitant Yitzhak Rabin handshake with Yasser Arafat on the White House lawn, and tragically little has changed. Palestinians are again killing Israelis — an off-duty young soldier lured to the West Bank on Friday, an on-duty young soldier cynically shot down by a sniper in the West Bank on Sunday.

 

Israel Wants Peace. PeriodIsrael Kasnett, Aljazeera, Sept. 13, 2013—Jerusalem – Israel wants peace. Period. The Jewish people have never held a desire to rule over others and this remains true today. Not only are we ohev shalom ["lovers of peace"], but we are also rodef shalom ["active pursuers of peace"].

 

A Palestinian State with Temporary Borders – A Historical CatastropheElyakim Ha’etzni, Israpundit, Sept. 18, 2013—With the closing year, we are witnessing the weakening of President Barack Obama and the embarrassing differences revealed between him and his Secretary of State, John Kerry.  The result, a temporary alleviation in Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s situation, is no cause for satisfaction given the fact that both sides are despicable butchers and radically hostile to Israel. 

 

The Fables of Saeb ErakatVictor Sharpe, Canada Free Press, August 22, 2013—I wrote an article once titled: Lies, Damned lies, and Palestinian Propaganda in Descending Order. That title paraphrased 19th century British Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli’s aphorism: Lies, damned lies, and statistics in descending order.

 

The Causes, Consequences and Cures for Palestinian Authority Hate SpeechDavid Pollock, The Washington Institute, Sept. 2013 —As of mid-2013, while U.S. secretary of state John Kerry shuttles around the Middle East trying to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, the issue of hate speech and incitement continues to cloud his efforts. (Into from larger study of 128pp)

 

Could the Failure of the Oslo Process Doom Israel’s Friendship With Jordan?Assaf DavidTablet Magazine, Sept. 23, 2013—The two-decade-old formula of “two states for two peoples” is dead, and the Arab Spring witnessed its funeral. What seemed, less than three years ago, a powerful show of citizen agency throughout the region has instead devolved into uncertainty, bringing chaos to the doorstep not just of Israel but of the West Bank and Jordan as well.

 

 

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“SYRIA” IS DISINTEGRATING, AS OBAMA JILTS OPPOSITION, CHRISTIANS FLEE, KURDS EMERGE–WESTERN PROMISES “A JOKE”, ISRAEL ONLY RELIABLE FORCE

We welcome your comments to this and any other CIJR publication. Please address your response to:  Ber Lazarus, Publications Chairman, Canadian Institute for Jewish Research, PO Box 175, Station  H, Montreal QC H3G 2K7 – Tel: (514) 486-5544 – Fax:(514) 486-8284; E-mail:  ber@isranet.org

 

 

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Syria's War Splits Nation into 3 Distinct Regions: Zeina Karam, Real Clear World, Aug. 5, 2013— More than two years into Syria's civil war, the once highly-centralized authoritarian state has effectively split into three distinct parts, each boasting its own flags, security agencies and judicial system.

 

Syrian Christian Towns Emptied by Sectarian Violence: Ruth Sherlock, The Telegraph, Aug. 2, 2013 —Tens of thousands Syriac Christians – members of the oldest Christian community in the world – have fled their ancestral provinces of Deir al-Zour and Hasakah in northeastern Syria, residents have said. "It breaks my heart to think how our long history is being uprooted," said Ishow Goriye, the head of a Syriac Christian political Hasakah.

 

Syrian Rebels' Turn for the Jilt: David Ignatius, Real Clear World, July 18, 2013—One of the worst recurring features of U.S. foreign policy is a process that might bluntly be described as "seduction and abandonment." Now it's happening in Syria.

 

Another Display of Israel’s Strategic Value: Evelyn Gordon, Commentary, May 23, 2013—The ongoing debate about whether America should intervene in Syria highlights an important point about Israel’s unique value as a U.S. ally: It is the only American ally in the Middle East willing and able to serve American interests by projecting power independently, rather than waiting for American troops to ride to the rescue.

 

On Topic Links

 

Across Forbidden Border, Drs. in Israel Quietly Tend to Syria’s Wounded: Isabel Kershner, New York Times, Aug. 5, 2013

Fleeing Syria, Palestinians Find Little Support from Their Brethren in Lebanon: Claire Duffett, Christian Science Monitor, Aug. 3, 2013

What's Behind Recent Rebel-Qaeda Tensions in Syria?: Michael Weiss, NOW Lebanon, July 19, 2013

Riyadh, Ankara Call on Al-Qaeda to Declare War on Syrian Kurds: FARS News, Aug. 4, 2013

The Latest Syrian Sideshow: Al-Qaeda vs. the Kurds: Michael Weiss, Real Clear World, July 25, 2013

 

 

SYRIA'S WAR SPLITS NATION INTO 3 DISTINCT REGIONS

Zeina Karam

Real Clear World, Aug. 5, 2013

 

More than two years into Syria's civil war, the once highly-centralized authoritarian state has effectively split into three distinct parts, each boasting its own flags, security agencies and judicial system. In each area, religious, ideological and turf power struggles are under way and battle lines tend to ebb and flow, making it impossible to predict exactly what Syria could look like once the combatants lay down their arms. But the longer the bloody conflict drags on, analysts says, the more difficult it will be to piece together a coherent Syrian state from the wreckage.

 

"There is no doubt that as a distinct single entity, Syria has ceased to exist," said Charles Lister, an analyst at IHS Jane's Terrorism and Insurgency Center. "Considering the sheer scale of its territorial losses in some areas of the country, Syria no longer functions as a single all-encompassing unitarily-governed state."

 

The geographic dividing lines that have emerged over the past two years and effectively cleft the nation in three remain fluid, but the general outlines can be traced on a map. The regime holds a firm grip on a corridor running from the southern border with Jordan, through the capital Damascus and up to the Mediterranean coast, where a large portion of the population belongs to President Bashar Assad's Alawite sect. The rebels, who are primarily drawn from Syria's Sunni Muslim majority, control a chunk of territory that spans parts of Idlib and Aleppo provinces in the north and stretches along the Euphrates river to the porous Iraqi border in the east. Tucked into the far northeastern corner, meanwhile, Syria's Kurdish minority enjoys semi-autonomy.

 

Those contours provide the big picture view. The view from the ground, however, is slightly muddied. While Sunni rebels control large swathes of Syria's rural regions in the north, the government still controls provincial capitals there, with the exception of Raqqa city and parts of Aleppo city. The regime also still retains some military bases and checkpoints in the overwhelmingly rebel-held countryside, but those are besieged and isolated and supplies for troops are air-dropped by helicopters or planes.

 

Moreover, the opposition movement itself is far from monolithic, and there have been increasing outbursts of infighting between al-Qaida affiliated extremists and moderate rebel groups, as well as between Kurds and rebels of a radical Islamic bent. That violence holds the potential to escalate into a full-blown war among armed opposition factions.

 

The Assad regime has made headway in recent months in the strategic heartland of Homs, clawing back territory long-held by rebel fighters. Those gains have helped the government secure its grip on Damascus and the pathway to the coast. They also have reinforced opposition accusations that Assad's military is driving out local Sunni communities to try to carve out a breakaway Alawite enclave that could become a refuge for the community if the regime falls.

 

For now, Assad's overstretched and war-weary troops appear unable to regain the vast territories they have lost to rebels and jihadists who now control oil wells and other key resources such as dams and electricity plants in the north and east. Black al-Qaida flags that carry the Muslim declaration of the faith now fly over many areas there, as a way to mark their turf distinctly from the three-starred green, black and white flag flown by the various rebel brigades that make up the loose-knit, Western-backed Free Syrian Army. In the north, fighter brigades have set up judicial councils known as Shariah courts that dispense their own version of justice based on Islamic law, including in some cases, executions of captured regime soldiers and supporters.

 

In the northeast, Kurdish flags now flutter proudly over buildings after the country's largest minority carved out a once unthinkable degree of independence. Kurds, who make up more than 10 percent of Syria's 22 million people, were long oppressed under Baathist rule. Now, they have created their own police forces, even their own license plates, and have been exuberantly going public with their language and culture. Schoolchildren are now taught Kurdish, something banned for years under the Assad family's rule.

 

"While there are shifts in momentum on the battlefield, Bashar Assad, in our view, will never rule all of Syria again," Jay Carney, the White House spokesman, told reporters in Washington last month.

The comments appeared to leave open the possibility that while Assad has lost control over large parts of the country, he may well be able to hang on and even expand his core territory in the future.

 

This view has been reinforced recently with steady regime gains in and around the capital Damascus, and in Homs province, a strategic linchpin linking Damascus with predominantly regime strongholds on the Mediterranean coast. Homs is a crossroads, and if the regime were to secure its hold on the city – where a few rebel-held neighbourhoods are holding out – it would put it in a stronger position to strike out at the opposition-held axis running through the middle of the country.

 

Already, the government has been successful in clearing key routes leading to the Alawite community's heartlands of Tartus and Latakia, which have been largely spared the fighting in other parts of the country. Recent visitors to Tartus speak of beaches dotted with swimmers and night clubs packed with revelers. "It's like stepping into another world, completely sealed off from the rest of the country," said one Syrian in Beirut, who recently arrived from the Syrian coast and spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation.

 

Despite the geographic split into three regions, none of the sides can speak of confidently retaining the terrain they control. Northern Latakia, for instance, has a notable presence of Islamic extremists, while in the capital, Damascenes live in constant fear of a repeat of the so-called "Damascus Volcano," when rebels briefly overran several neighborhoods in an assault in the summer of 2012. Mortars launched from rebel-held pockets around the capital constantly crash into the city, killing and wounding people.

 

In rebel held areas, regime warplanes swoop down at random, dropping bombs over targets that often kill civilians instead. The rebels have proved they are able to strike back despite significant advances by the military that have bolstered the confidence of the regime. Rebels on Thursday sent a wave of rockets slamming into regime strongholds in Homs, triggering a succession of massive explosions in a weapons depot that killed at least 40 people and wounded dozens, according to opposition groups and residents.

 

The conflict has laid waste to the country's cities, shattered its economy and killed more than 100,000 people since March 2011. The bloodshed also has fanned sectarian hatreds, and many fear that the divisions now entrenched in a country where Alawites, Sunnis, Shiites, Druse and Christians coexisted for centuries will make it hard in the future for people to reconnect as citizens of a single nation.

 

Syria's partition into mini-states is an ominous scenario for a country that sits along the Middle East's most turbulent fault lines. Any attempt to create an official breakaway state could trigger a wave of sectarian killings and have dangerous repercussions in a region where many religious, ethnic and tribal communities have separatist aspirations.

 

Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi author and columnist, argued in a recent article that at least one of Syria's neighbors will benefit if the dividing lines harden. "It is an ideal solution for Israel which will benefit from Syria's division into three weak rival states that will never again represent a strategic threat for Israel," he wrote in an article that appeared in the pan Arab Al Hayat newspaper Saturday [Aug 3].

Contents

 

 

SYRIAN CHRISTIAN TOWNS EMPTIED BY SECTARIAN VIOLENCE

Ruth Sherlock

The Telegraph, Aug. 2, 2013

 

Tens of thousands Syriac Christians – members of the oldest Christian community in the world – have fled their ancestral provinces of Deir al-Zour and Hasakah in northeastern Syria, residents have said. "It breaks my heart to think how our long history is being uprooted," said Ishow Goriye, the head of a Syriac Christian political Hasakah. Mr Goriye, told The Daily Telegraph how, over the past two years he has watched as Christian families from Hasakah pack their possessions on the rooftops of their vehicles and flee their homes "with little plan to come back".

 

Conflict in the area, desperate economic conditions, lawlessness, and persecution by rebel groups born from the perception that Christians support the regime, remain the main reasons for why Christian families are fleeing the area. The growing presence of radical jihadist groups, including al-Qaeda, has also seen Christians targeted. "It began as kidnapping for money, but then they started telling me I should worship Allah," a male Christian resident of Hasakah who was kidnapped by jihadists said. "I was with five others. We were tied and blindfolded and pushed down on our knees. One of the kidnappers leant so close to my face I could feel his breath. He hissed: 'Why don't you become a Muslim? Then you can be free'."

 Another Christian in Hasakah said he knew of "five forced conversions" in recent weeks.

 

Mr Goriye's Christian 'Syriac Union' party has long been in opposition to President Bashar al-Assad's regime. While speaking to The Telegraph, its members were loath to criticise the opposition rebels, but many confessed that the situation had become "too bad" not to talk about it. Hasakah and other towns in northeastern Syria have long been one of the main population centres for Christians, who make up approximately 10 per cent of the country's population. Residents estimate that at least a third of Christians in northeastern Syria have fled, with few expecting to return.

 

One Hasakah resident who has now escaped the area said: "Rebels said we had to pay money for the revolution. My cousin is a farmer, and wanted to check on his land. I warned him he should take armed security but he refused. A group kidnapped him in the barn of his farm. We had to pay $60,000 [£52,000] for his release. They are milking the Christians".

 

Though accused by some opposition groups of supporting Mr Assad, much of Syria's Christian community has avoided "choosing sides" in the war, seeking self-preservation in neutrality. But the strategy has left Christians defenceless in the face of sectarian attacks and the lawlessness that now define rebel-held areas. Last year, when government forces pulled out Hasakah province, leaving the terrain in the hands of Kurdish groups and Sunni opposition rebel, Christians became an easy target. A Christian man calling himself Joseph and living in Hasakah said: "The only unprotected group are the Christians. The Arabs had arms coming from Saudi and Qatar, the Kurds had help from Kurdistan. We had no weapons at all."

 

Local residents said many Christians had tried to join the rebellion against President Assad, but their efforts were marginalised early on by sectarian minded Sunni rebel groups. Joseph added: "We are not with the regime. Many times the Islamists didn't want us to join them in the demonstrations. We tried to participate but we were not given a role. It felt as though it was a strategy to force Christians out of the revolution".

Bassam Ishak, a Christian member of the main opposition bloc the Syrian National Coalition, who comes from Hasakah, said he and his colleagues had tried "several times" to approach western officials asking for weapons for Christian groups to defend their areas.

 

"The West wants to arm the seculars or 'West friendly' people, well we, the Syriac Christians those people. We want arms to protect our communities," he said. "We spoke to western diplomats asking for help, and everyone ignored us".

 

Contents
 

 

SYRIAN REBELS' TURN FOR THE JILT

David Ignatius

Real Clear World, July 18, 2013

 

One of the worst recurring features of U.S. foreign policy is a process that might bluntly be described as "seduction and abandonment." Now it's happening in Syria. The seduction part begins with an overeager rhetorical embrace. Nearly two years ago, on Aug. 18, 2011, President Obama first proclaimed "the time has come for President Assad to step aside." He didn't back up his call for regime change with any specific plan, but this hasn't stopped him from repeating the "Assad must go" theme regularly ever since.

 

The next stage is a prolonged courtship with ever-deeper implied promises and commitments. The CIA began working with the Syrian opposition in 2011, and has been providing training and other assistance. When the Syrian opposition was wooed by other suitors (say, Turkey and Qatar), the United States chased those rivals away with renewed avowals of affection.

 

Then comes the formal engagement. On June 13, the White House announced it would provide military aid to the Syrian opposition because the Assad regime had crossed a "red line" by using chemical weapons. The rebels began preparing warehouses to receive the promised shipments — hopeful that at last the United States was serious about its intentions. And then? Well, this is a story of unhappy romance, so you know what comes next. It's what 19th-century English novelists called "the jilt." To quote a New York Times story published last weekend, it turns out "that the administration's plans are far more limited than it has indicated in public and private."

 

Imagine for the moment that you are a Syrian rebel fighter who has been risking his life for two years in the hope that Obama was sincere about helping a moderate opposition prevail not just against Assad but against the jihadists who want to run the country. Now, you learn that Washington is having second thoughts. What would you think about America's behavior?

 

Let me quote from a message sent by one opposition member: "I am about to quit, as long as there is no light in the end of the tunnel from the U.S. government. At least if I quit, I will feel that I am not part of this silly act we are in." A second opposition leader wrote simply to a senior American official: "I can't find the right words to describe this situation other than very sad."

 

An angry statement came this week from Gen. Salim Idriss, the head of the moderate Free Syrian Army. After Britain, like the U.S., backed away from supplying weapons, he told the Daily Telegraph newspaper: "The West promises and promises. This is a joke now. … What are our friends in the West waiting for? For Iran and Hezbollah to kill all the Syrian people?"

 

What's happening in Syria isn't a pretty sight, as the moderates struggle to survive without the expected Western aid. Last week one of Idriss' commanders, Kamal Hamami, was gunned down in Latakia by extremists linked to al-Qaeda. This week, the same extremist group overran a Free Syrian Army warehouse just south of the Turkish border. Having spent hundreds of billions of dollars to stop al-Qaeda in faraway Afghanistan, you might think the U.S. would try to check the terrorist group in Syria, but no.

 

The moderates are trying to hold on as the country crumbles. In the Bustan al-Qasr neighborhood of Aleppo, a Free Syrian Army commander named Abdel-Jabbar Akidi has tried to prevent extremists from blockading food supplies to civilians who have supported the regime. He's also trying to stop a war between rival Shariah courts in the northern suburbs of Aleppo. This is a commander who has been pleading for almost two years for serious help from the West, apparently in vain.

 

The story that's playing out now in Syria is so familiar that it's almost a leitmotif of American foreign policy. Washington wants to see a change of government so it encourages local rebels to rise up. Once these rebels are on the barricades, policymakers often get cold feet, realizing that they lack public support. This process happened in the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, the Bay of Pigs in 1961, the Prague Spring of 1968, the contras program in Nicaragua in 1984. It happened in Lebanon, Laos, southern Iraq … make your own list.

 

At the end of 19th-century novels, the seducer who abandons his flirtation usually gets what he deserves: He is shamed and ultimately ruined, while virtuous and steadfast characters are rewarded. But it doesn't happen that way in foreign policy.

 

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ANOTHER DISPLAY OF ISRAEL’S STRATEGIC VALUE

Evelyn Gordon

Commentary, May 23, 2013

 

The ongoing debate about whether America should intervene in Syria highlights an important point about Israel’s unique value as a U.S. ally: It is the only American ally in the Middle East willing and able to serve American interests by projecting power independently, rather than waiting for American troops to ride to the rescue.

 

One of the most bizarre features of Syria’s ongoing civil war is the widespread assumption that outside intervention against the Assad regime will come from the U.S. or not at all. After all, the rebels’ main backers include two American allies with powerful militaries, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Turkey has one of the region’s largest armies, significantly larger than Syria’s; moreover, as a NATO member, it’s equipped with state-of-the-art Western weaponry. Saudi Arabia has been a major purchaser of the best American weaponry for years, including fighter jets, missiles and airborne warning and control systems. Both have billed Assad’s departure as a major national interest. Yet never once have they suggested that their combined air forces could use Turkey’s bases to impose a no-fly zone over part of Syria; they take it for granted that if military intervention is to happen, America will have to do it. And so does Washington.

 

In contrast, Israel has always insisted on taking sole responsibility for its own defense, and is consequently both willing and able to take independent military action. And because its interests in the region often overlap with those of its American ally, such action often ends up serving American interests. That was true in the Cold War, when Israeli battles with the Soviet Union’s Arab proxies repeatedly proved the superiority of American over Soviet arms. It was true when Israel bombed Iraq’s nuclear reactor in 1981: Had it not thereby stopped Saddam Hussein from acquiring nukes, an American-led coalition wouldn’t have been able to oust his forces from Kuwait a decade later. And it was true when Israel bombed Syria’s nuclear reactor in 2007: Today, Americans are sleeping better because they don’t have to worry about al-Qaida-linked militias in Syria getting their hands on nuclear materiel.

 

Thanks to Israel, America never had to face a choice between taking military action against Syria or Iraq itself or letting a hostile dictator acquire nukes. But because its other Middle Eastern allies aren’t willing or able to act independently, it does face that kind of choice in Syria today: either take military action itself, or see its credibility in the region shredded by allowing Assad to survive despite President Barack Obama’s repeated statements that he must go–with the attendant risk that some of its regional allies will switch sides and align instead with Russia and Iran, who have proven their willingness to support their Syrian ally to the hilt.

 

This understanding of Israel’s unique value was precisely what led to yesterday’s astounding 99-0 Senate vote on a resolution pledging American support for Israel if it is compelled to take independent military action against Iran’s nuclear program. The senators understand that despite Congress’ best efforts, sanctions may fail to halt Iran’s nuclear drive; that the Obama administration may ultimately prefer to avoid military action, even though a nuclear Iran would be disastrous for America’s interests in the region; and that none of the Arab countries that have vociferously lobbied Washington to attack Iran would ever do so themselves. But they know that Israel really might. And through this resolution, they were expressing their appreciation of the only Middle Eastern ally America has that is willing to act independently to advance shared regional interests.

 

Contents

 

Across Forbidden Border, Doctors in Israel Quietly Tend to Syria’s Wounded: Isabel Kershner, New York Times, Aug. 5, 2013—The 3-year-old girl cried “Mama, Mama” over and over as a stranger rocked her and tried to comfort her. She had been brought from Syria to the government hospital in this northern Israeli town five days earlier, her face blackened by what doctors said was probably a firebomb or a homemade bomb.

 

Fleeing Syria, Palestinians Find Little Support from Their Brethren in Lebanon: Claire Duffett, Christian Science Monitor, Aug. 3, 2013 —Every morning, residents of Ain al-Halwah, Lebanon’s largest Palestinian refugee camp, scour the scattered leaflets advertising jobs for painters and menial laborers. Their ranks include both Palestinian refugees recently arrived from Syria and those who have lived in Lebanon for decades.

 

What's Behind Recent Rebel-Qaeda Tensions in Syria?: Michael Weiss, NOW Lebanon, July 19, 2013— The last week was a busy one for internecine warfare among Syrian rebel groups. First, Kamal Hamami, or Abu Bassir al-Ladkani, a member of the 30-man Supreme Military Command (SMC) of the Free Syrian Army, was killed on July 11 while traveling in northern Latakia.

 

Riyadh, Ankara Call on Al-Qaeda to Declare War on Syrian Kurds: FARS News Agency, 2013—Saudi Arabia and Turkey have ordered Al-Qaeda-linked terrorist groups in Syria to target Syrian Kurds after the latter renewed allegiance to the Damascus government and declared strong opposition to Ankara's plan for the Kurdish population in the region, media reports said.

 

The Latest Syrian Sideshow: Al-Qaeda vs. the Kurds: Michael Weiss, Real Clear World, July 25, 2013 — I recent months, the Syria crisis has begun to transform itself from a fairly intelligible civil war of rebel versus regime into a series of belligerent sideshows that do little but vitiate the overall struggle against the Assad regime. 

 

 

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MIDDLE EAST WATER — THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM — A SOURCE OF CONFLICT & OF JOY…MAYIM, MAYIM B’SASON

Download a pdf version of today's Daily Briefing.

 

Contents:                          

 

 

Ode to the Hebrew Language: Baruch Cohen, CIJR, May 8, 2013— This language is poetry, The language of Moses, Abraham, David and Ben Yehuda

 

How Water Became a Weapon in Arab-Israeli Conflict: Yochanan Visser, Jerusalem Post, Mar. 3, 2013—One of the results of the refusal to cooperate with Israel is that almost all of the 52 mcm of waste water generated by the Palestinian population flows untreated into Israel and the West Bank, where it contaminates shared groundwater resources. Nevertheless, the Palestinians claim that Israel is blocking their waste water infrastructure.

 

A Parched Syria Turned to War and Egypt May Be Next: Mitch Ginsburg, Times of Israel, May 9, 2013—Some look at the upheaval in Syria through a religious lens. The Sunni and Shia factions, battling for supremacy in the Middle East, have locked horns in the heart of the Levant, where the Shia-affiliated Alawite sect has ruled a majority Sunni nation for decades.

 

Getting Drunk on Water: Rabbi Ian (Chaim) Pear, Joyous Judaism, Dec. 21, 2007—The classic proof for this connection — that water and joy share an intimate relationship — is the water drawing ceremony that used to take place in the Temple area during the fall festival of Sukkoth. 

 

 

On Topic Links

 

 

Touring Israel's Ancient Water Systems: Tsvika Tsuk, Israel Parks

Watering a Thirsty Planet: I.C. Mayer, Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Feb. 20, 2011

The Issue of Water between Israel and the Palestinians: Israel Water Authority, March 2009

The Politicization of  the Oslo Water Agreement (dissertation): Lauro Burkart, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies,Geneva Switzerland, 2012

Political Currents of Water Mgt: Israel, Palestine, and Jordan: Jay Famiglietti,National Geographic, May 13, 2013

Water: Facts about Israeli and Palestinian Use: The Israel Project,  March 22, 2013

 

ODE TO THE HEBREW LANGUAGE

Baruch Cohen CIJR, May 8, 2013

 

This language is poetry

The language of Moses, Abraham, David and Ben Yehuda

A brass trumpet blasting the cosmos destined to pour out floods of rage

Against the world’s abuses and indifference.

 

This language, this Hebrew language destined to pour out a flood of rage

Against the world’s indifference.

Thus, this language written with letters of fire is poetry!

It is a call from heaven to praise life.

 

Top of Page

 

 

HOW WATER BECAME A WEAPON IN ARAB-ISRAELI CONFLICT

Yochanan Visser

Jerusalem Post. Mar.3, 2013

 

The conflict between the Palestinians and Israel is fought on many fronts nowadays. This is the result of a change in strategy decided on by the current Palestinian Authority leadership in 2008. A 2008 report by The Palestinian Strategy Group, which advises the PA, called “Regaining the Initiative” formed the basis of this strategic overhaul in PA politics vis-à-vis Israel.

 

According to the report, the negotiation route standard between 1988 and 2008 was to be shut down indefinitely and terror (termed “resistance” by the PSG) would be replaced by a more sophisticated “threat power.” This would entail the refusal to cooperate and the push for boycotts. Another important element in the new strategy was eliciting more third-party support and ensuring the Palestinian discourse would be the primary viewpoint in the discussion about the “Palestinian national project.”

 

Cognitive warfare, a form of propaganda, has become a successful element in this Palestinian attempt to elicit third-party support. Disinformation about the Israeli settlements in the West Bank spearheaded this campaign. Today much of the world is convinced that the Israeli settlements are the main reason for the absence of peace.

 

But in many other fields, too, the Palestinian discourse dominates the international attitude toward the Palestinian- Israeli conflict. The dispute about the water resources in the West Bank is a good example. The international community has been willfully misled by Palestinian propaganda on water issues.

 

Until now much of the literature about the water conflict followed either the Palestinian discourse (vast majority) or the Israeli discourse (small minority).

 

However, a thesis titled “The Politicization of the Oslo Water Agreement,” written by Lauro Burkart, a Swiss graduate of the Institute of International and Development studies in Geneva gives a more accurate and impartial picture of the topic of the scarcity of water in the Palestinian Authority.

 

Burkart interviewed many key players in the water conflict, Palestinians and Israelis as well as representatives of NGOs and the donor countries. He also examined many original documents such as the minutes of the meetings of the joint Israeli Palestinian Water Committee (JWC).

 

Here are some of the most important conclusions in Burkart’s thesis:

 

• The goals of the Oslo II water agreement have been reached regarding the quantities of water provided to the Palestinian population (178 mcm/year in 2006). The Oslo water agreement estimated that demand would eventually reach 200 mcm/year.

 

• The JWC functioned well in the first years following signature of the agreement, but since 2008 cooperation has come to a halt.

 

• The facts disseminated by the Palestinians, international organizations and donors about the root causes of the water scarcity in the West Bank are incorrect.

 

Burkart writes: “It is not the Israeli occupation policy but the Palestinian political resistance against joint management and cooperation that is responsible for the relatively slow development of the Palestinian water sector and the deteriorating human rights situation in the Palestinian Territories” and “There is convincing evidence of mismanagement within the Palestinian Water Authority (PWA).”

 

He cites the pro-Palestinian NGO Aman, that concluded that there is “no clear legal separation between the political and executive levels within the Palestinian water institutions. To date there is no real functioning water law. Furthermore the National Water Council is not meeting and not functioning well.”

 

Although the PWA embarked on an institutional reform process in reaction to international critics such as the World Bank this did not solve the issue of mismanagement within the institution. The head of the Palestinian Hydrology Group called the reform a “fundraising mechanism.”

 

The PWA also did not manage to gain control over many municipalities (where Israel has no control) due to the autocratic and undemocratic manner in which they are managed. These power holders did not want to lose control of the water systems since it was one of the main services provided by the municipalities.

 

As a result the water supply is not centralized and illegal drilling is rampant. The fact that the PA pays most of the water bills of the Palestinian population gives no incentive for saving and leads to an unreasonable use of water in the domestic sphere as well as in the agricultural sector.

 

Burkart also interviewed Dr. Shaddad Attili, head of the PWA, who was appointed in 2008. Attili, a Fatah member, is responsible for the de facto ending of the cooperation with Israel in order to bolster Palestinian water rights claims. He did this to strengthen the position of Fatah after the Hamas victory in the Palestinian elections.

 

This policy is conducted at the expense of the marginalized and peripheral Palestinian population which is suffering from water shortages. Burkart writes that the abundance of donor money allowed Atilli to continue the noncooperation strategy which has lead to a complete stagnation of the water negotiations during the past five years.

 

One of the results of the refusal to cooperate with Israel is that almost all of the 52 mcm of waste water generated by the Palestinian population flows untreated into Israel and the West Bank, where it contaminates shared groundwater resources. Nevertheless, the Palestinians claim that Israel is blocking their waste water infrastructure.

 

The facts are that most of the Palestinian waste water treatment and reuse projects have already received foreign funding and were supported by Israel.

 

The PA, however, has not taken sufficient action to execute those projects. Instead the PA claims Israel is demanding an unreasonably high level of treatment (BOD 10/10).

 

A JWC memorandum of understanding from 2003, however, which was signed by both parties, agreed on a gradual process to achieve this standard (starting with BOD 20/30).

 

Following a meeting in November 2011 between Colonel Avi Shalev of the Civil Administration and PWA officials about the implementation of Palestinian water projects, Israel offered to finance water and waste water projects that would serve Palestinian communities in the West Bank. The Palestinians didn’t respond.

 

Another solution that could solve the water crisis in the PA is seawater desalination. In fact Israel made an offer to the Palestinians to build a desalination plant in Hadera south of Haifa and pump the desalinated water to the northern West Bank. The Palestinians rejected this solution since it would put Israel in an upstream position to the West Bank. Another reason for this rejection has to do with water rights since the Palestinians claim the Mountain Aquifers.

 

Attili even withdrew a PWA expert team from an Israeli desalination program using the argument that Israel had unilaterally destroyed a number of illegal wells on the West Bank. This proved to be another example of Attili’s propaganda campaign.

 

Israel responded after Attili complained about the wells in a letter to the international community. The decision to shut down these wells was taken by the Joint Water Committee. After that several reminders were sent to the PWA which reiterated its intention to execute the JWC decision. Nothing happened, however. Four years after the decision was taken Israel decided to execute the decision since illegal drilling diminishes the amount of water produced by legal wells and damages the main aquifers.

 

It is obvious that Attili’s non-cooperation strategy is connected to the overall change in strategy vis-à-vis Israel in 2008 by the PA. Water has become a weapon against the so-called Israeli occupation.

 

Unfortunately Attilli has been able to convince the international community that Israel is to blame for the slow development of the Palestinian water sector. A good example is Abdelkarim Yakobi, the project manager in the department of water, transport and energy at the Office of the EU representative for the West Bank and Gaza. Yakobi, who was interviewed by Burkart, also blamed Israel for the slow development of the Palestinian water sector.

 

This is strange; if a Swiss graduate was able to get access to all the relevant information, why did the European Union, with all of its resources, not do the same? Had it done so there is no doubt the EU would have found out who really is to blame.

 

The EU has allocated funds for at least seven waste water treatment plants. It is reasonable to assume that the Europeans would have some oversight on the execution of these projects – so why did they not demand accountability from the PWA? In fact the PA has now been given a free pass to use water as a weapon against Israel. By doing so, the international community is in fact contributing to the aggravation of the conflict and harming the interests of the Palestinian population.

 

 

A PARCHED SYRIA TURNED TO WAR AND EGYPT MAY BE NEXT

Mitch Ginsburg

Times of Israel, May 9, 2013

 

Some look at the upheaval in Syria through a religious lens. The Sunni and Shia factions, battling for supremacy in the Middle East, have locked horns in the heart of the Levant, where the Shia-affiliated Alawite sect has ruled a majority Sunni nation for decades.

 

Some see it through a social prism. As they did in Tunis with Muhammad Bouazizi — an honest man who couldn’t make an honest living in this corruption-ridden part of the world — the social protests that sparked the war in Syria started in the poor and disenfranchised parts of the country. And others look at the eroding boundaries of state in Syria and other parts of the Middle East as a direct result of the sins of Western hubris and Colonialism.

 

Professor Arnon Sofer has no qualms with any of these claims and interpretations. But the upheaval in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East, he says, cannot be fully understood without also taking two environmental truths into account: soaring birthrates and dwindling water supply.

 

Over the past 60 years, the population in the Middle East has twice doubled itself, said Sofer, the head of the Chaikin geo-strategy group and a longtime lecturer at the IDF’s top defense college, where today he heads the National Defense College Research Center. “There is no example of this anywhere else on earth,” he said of the population increase. Couple that with Syria’s water scarcity, he said, “and as a geographer it was clear to me that a conflict would erupt.”

Arnon Sofer, a longtime professor at the IDF's National Defense College, sees a link between the war in Syria and the water shortages there (Photo credit: Moshe Shai/ Flash 90)

 

The Pentagon cautiously agrees with this thesis. In February the Department of Defense released a “climate-change adaptation roadmap.” While the effects of climate change alone do not cause conflict, the report states, “they may act as accelerants of instability or conflict in parts of the world.” Predominantly the paper is concerned with the effects of rising seas and melting arctic permafrost on US military installations. The Middle East is not mentioned by name.

 

But Sofer and Anton Berkovsky, who together compiled the research work of students at the National Defense College and released a geo-strategic paper on Syria earlier in the year, believe that water scarcity played a significant role in the onset of the Syrian civil war and the Arab Spring, and that it may help re-shape the strategic bonds and interests of the region as regimes teeter and borders blur. Sofer also believes that a “Pax Climactica” is within reach if regional leaders would only, for a short while, forsake their natural inclinations to wake up in the morning and seek to do harm.

 

Syria is 85 percent desert or semi-arid country. But it has several significant waterways. The Euphrates runs in a south-easterly direction through the center of the country to Iraq. The Tigris runs southeast, tracing a short part along Syria’s border with Turkey before flowing into Iraq. And, aside from several lesser rivers that flow southwest through Lebanon to the Mediterranean, Syria has an estimated four to five billion cubic meters of water in its underground aquifers.

 

For these reasons the heart of the country was once an oasis. For 5,000 years, Damascus was famous for its agriculture and its dried fruit. Since 1950, however, the population has increased sevenfold in Syria, to 22 million, and Turkey, in an age of scarcity, has seized much of the water that once flowed south into Syria.

 

“They’ve been choking them,” Sofer said, noting that Turkey annually takes half of the available 30 billion cubic meters of water in the Euphrates. This limits Syria’s water supply and hinders its ability to generate hydroelectricity.

 

In 2007, after years of population growth and institutional economic stagnation, several dry years descended on Syria. Farmers began to leave their villages and head toward the capital. From 2007-2008, Sofer said, over 160 villages in Syria were abandoned and some 250,000 farmers – Sofer calls them “climate refugees” – relocated to Damascus, Aleppo and other cities.

 

The capital, like many of its peer cities in the Middle East, was unable to handle that influx of people. Residents dug 25,000 illegal wells in and around Damascus, pushing the water table ever lower and the salinity of the water ever higher. This, along with over one million refugees from the Iraq war and, among other challenges, borders that contain a dizzying array of religions and ethnicities, set the stage for the civil war. Tellingly, it broke out in the regions most parched — “in Daraa [in the south] and in Kamishli in the northeast,” Sofer said. “Those are two of the driest places in the country.”

 

Professor Eyal Zisser, one of Israel’s top scholars of Syria, agreed that the drought played a significant role in the onset of the war. “Without doubt it is part of the issue,” he said. Zisser did not believe that water was the central issue that inflamed Syria but rather “the match that set the field of thorns on fire.”

 

Since that fire began to rage in March 2011, the course of the battles has been partially dictated by a different sort of logic, not environmental in nature. “Assad is butchering his way west,” Sofer said. He believes the president will eventually have to retreat from the capital and therefore has focused his efforts on Homs and other cities and towns that lie between Damascus and the Alawite regions near the coast, cutting himself an escape route.

 

Sofer and Berkovsky envision several scenarios for Syria. Among them: Assad puts down the rebellion and remains in power; Assad abdicates and a Sunni majority seizes control; Assad abdicates and no central power is able to assert control. The most likely scenario, Sofer said, was that the Syrian dictator would eventually flee to Tehran. But he preferred to avoid that sort of micro-conjecture and to focus on the regional effects of population growth and water scarcity and the manner in which that ominous mix might shape the future of the region.

 

Writing in the New York Times from Yemen on Thursday, Thomas Friedman embraced a similar thesis, noting that the heart of the al-Qaeda activity in the region corresponded with the areas most stricken by drought. Sofer published a paper in July where he laid out the grim environmental reality of the region and argued that, as in Syria, the conflicts bedeviling the region were not about climate issues but were deeply influenced by them.

 

Egypt, Sofer wrote, faces severe repercussions from climate change. Even a slight rise in the level of the sea – just half a meter – would salinize the Nile Delta aquifers and force three million people out of the city of Alexandria. In the more distant future, as the North Sea melts, the Suez Canal could decline in importance. More immediately, and of greater significance to Israel, he wrote that Egypt, faced with a water shortage, would likely grow more militant over the coming years. But he felt the militancy would be directed south, toward South Sudan and Ethiopia and other nations competing for the waters of the Nile, and not north toward the Levant.

 

As proof that this pivot has already begun, Sofer pointed to Abu-Simbel, near the border with Sudan. There the state has converted a civilian airport into a military one. “The conclusion to be drawn from this is simple and unequivocal,” he wrote. “Egypt today represents a military threat to the southern nations of the Nile and not the Zionist state to the east.”

 

The Sinai Peninsula, already quite lawless, will only get worse, perhaps to the point of secession, he and Berkovsky wrote. Local Bedouin will have difficulty raising animals in the region and will turn, to an even greater degree, to smuggling material and people along a route established in the Bronze Age, through Sinai to Asia and Europe.

 

Syria, even if the war were swiftly resolved, is “on the cusp of catastrophe.” Jordan, too, is in dire need of water. And Gaza, like Syria, has been battered by unchecked drilling. The day after Israel left under the Oslo Accords, he said, the Palestinian Authority and other actors began digging 500 wells along the coastal aquifer even though Israel had warned them of the dangers. “Today there are around 4,000 of them and no more ground water. It’s over. There’s no fooling around with this stuff,” he said.

 

Only the two most stable states in the region – Israel and Turkey – have ample water.

 

Turkey is the sole Middle Eastern nation blessed with plentiful water sources. Ankara’s control of the Tigris and the Euphrates, among other rivers, means that Iraq and Syria, both downriver, are to a large extent dependent on Turkey for food, water and electricity. That strategic advantage, along with Turkey’s position as the bridge between the Middle East and Europe, “further serves its neo-Ottoman agenda,” Sofer said.

 

He envisioned an increased role for Turkey both in the Levant and, eventually, in central Asia and along the oil crossroads of the Persian Gulf, pitting it against Iran. Climate change, he conceded, has only a minor role in that future struggle for power but it is “an accelerant.”

 

Israel no longer suffers from drought. Desalination, conservation and sewage treatment have alleviated much of the natural scarcity. In February, the head of the Israel Water Authority, Alexander Kushnir, told the Times of Israel that the country’s water crisis has come to an end. Half of Israel’s two billion cubic meters of annual water use is generated artificially, he said, through desalination and sewage purification.

 

For Sofer, this self-sufficiency is an immense regional advantage. Israel could pump water east to Jenin in the West Bank and farther along to Jordan and north to Syria. International organizations could follow Israel’s example and fund regional desalination plants, which, he noted, cost less than a single day of modern full-scale war.

 

Instead, rather than an increase in cooperation, he feared, the region would likely witness ever more desperate competition. Sofer said his friends see him as a sort of Jeremiah. But the Middle East, he cautioned, is a region where “leaders wake up every morning and ask what can I do today to make matters worse.”

 

 

GETTING DRUNK ON WATER

Rabbi Ian (Chaim) Pear

Joyous Judaism, Dec. 21, 2007

 

Last night was the first really good rain of the season here in Israel –  and I use the word ‘good’ purposely.  After all, the rain last night was not just strong and steady, but it — like all rain here — was also good for Israel.   On one level — the physical level — understanding why this is so is probably fairly obvious: Rain nourishes the land, from replenishing Israel’s drinking water resources to enabling the growth of agriculture.  Without rain, we can’t survive — and so it certainly is very good when rain comes along.

 

I would like to talk about how this rain — and water in general — is also good for Israel on a spiritual level.   To many, this assertion, too, may appear fairly obvious; after all, our sacred sources are replete with references to the value of water – water symbolizes Torah, rain is viewed as a sign of blessing, and praying for rain is considered the paradigmatic means to cry out to God and deepen one’s relationship with the Creator.  I would like to, however, discuss a less well known connection between water and spirituality — namely that water is the source of the deepest form of joy in Judaism.

 

The classic proof for this connection — that water and joy share an intimate relationship — is the water drawing ceremony that used to take place in the Temple area during the fall festival of Sukkoth.  During this ceremony, water was drawn in golden vessels from the Siloah well just outside of the old city in Jerusalem, then accompanied with much fanfare and shofars blasting to the Temple area, and ultimately poured over the holy Alter in an elaborate and majestic way.  Celebrations throughout the day before and night (and day) afterwards accompanied this process.  As the Talmud describes:

 

The entire city of Jerusalem glowed with light during this time thanks to golden candlesticks more than 70 feet high filled with golden bowls of holy oil.  The greatest Sages would participate joyfully in the celebration, performing the most extraordinary feats. Some of them would bear burning torches in their hands while singing Psalms and other praises of G-d. The Levites would play many various musical instruments, including harps, lyres, cymbals, and trumpets.  The great Sage Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel rejoiced at the water festival by juggling eight lighted torches; he would also kiss the ground as he did head stands, a feat which no one else could do.  Reb Levi used to juggle in the presence of Rabbi Yehuda HaNassi with eight knives. Shmuel would do the same with eight glasses of wine, without spilling any of their contents. Rabbi Abaye would juggle before Rabbi Rabba with eight eggs.  Rabbi ben Chanania said, “When we used to rejoice at the place of the water-drawing, our eyes saw no sleep.” It is explained that the entire day was occupied with holy activities, so that the participants in the simcha were busy from day to night.

 

Sounds like a great party, huh?  The Talmud certainly thought so, and thus declared: ”Whoever never witnessed the Simchat Beit Hashoeva – The Joyous Celebration of Drawing of Water – has never in his life seen true joy.”

 

Now while I am all for a good party, it strikes me that there are at least two problems with the description above.  First, isn’t the declaration of the Sages that “one who has not witnessed the Drawing of Water Celebration has never seen true joy” a little exaggerated?  Surely there must be other times of great joy in the lives of people; births, weddings and other personal, communal and national celebrations are but a few possibities.  We, of course, can dismiss the statement of our Sages as simple hyperbole, but is there also a way to understand it literally?

 

Second, and this question is not mine but rather the query of Rabbi Aron Soloveitchik, why is it that water is the source of all this joy?  Wouldn’t it make more sense if some other liquid, something more regal – like holy oil — or more celebratory — like wine — was the medium poured onto the Temple’s Alter?  After all, throughout our sacred texts we have a number of examples of how precious these latter liquids?  Olive oil, for example, is used to light the Menorah inside the Temple (and of course is the hero of the Chanuka miracle, a source of millenia of joy); wine, meanwhile, is described by the book of Psalms  as the source that ”gladdens the heart of man.”  Surely either of these liquids — both of which are more expensive, more rare and more valued by all — would have made a better choice to celebrate rather than simple water (which also, at least in those days, was basically free to all)?  So again, why is it that water is the source of all this joy?

 

Rabbi Soloveitchik answers as follows:  Yes, wine is a source of joy, just as the psalmist says it is.  And yes, imbibing it has the power to cause one to celebrate … and that’s the problem.  Wine is an outside factor that produces joy, and thus the joy that is produced is often outside the person him or herself.

 

Water, in contrast, does not produce any effect whatsoever on the person.  Nor is it something overly special — like olive oil in those days — that one would innately rejoice over possessing it.  It was everywhere, as common as … well, as common as water.  Therefore, if one was able to appreciate the water — despite it’s mundaneness — well, then, the resultant joy would not have been produced from the outside but rather something that emanated from within the person.

 

Water is a basic building block of life, and obviously we could not survive without it.  But because it is so basic we often forget about just how precious it really is.  Being joyous over it, therefore, is not obvious … just as it is not obvious to celebrate all things that are common and part of our everyday existence — our families, our friends, our daily routine, the little moments. 

 

Just imagine, though, if in spite of the fact that feeling uncontrollable joy over these basic things is not obvious we felt such joy nevertheless.  Just imagine, if in spite of the fact I always see my family, and I always do many of the same things each day — and thus these things are not special in the sense that they are not unique nor rare — just imagine if I nevertheless always felt a great joy in expereincing them.  Just imagine if everytime I saw my family it was like the first time (or some other special time) I saw them — like the day I married to my wife, the moment my child was born, the reunion with my parents after a long absent.  If that were the case, certainly I would not only live a more joyous life on a regular basis, experiencing joy thoughout the day, but I would also be able to even heighten the sense of joy when experiencing things that are less common.  If I learn how to appreciate my child everyday and not just on her birthday, or at her wedding, or at some other special time, then certainly I will appeciate these latter moments with even greater intensity and joy when they do arrive.

 

And that’s the lesson of water.  Yes, compared to wine and oil, it’s cheaper and less special.  And yes, water in itself — unlike wine — does not produce joy.  To be able to celebrate water, then, is a very high level; it means one has achieved an existential state of joy, one not dependent on outside forces, not wine nor the occurrence of some special event.  No, all such a person needs are the basics in life, the water in life.

 

Now we can understand the statement of the Talmud much better.  They were not saying that someone who never witnessed this particular ceremony never saw true joy in his life; rather, they were saying that someone who cannot find joy in the celebration of water alone — someone who cannot find joy in the common, everyday experiences – well then, this person will never experience true joy — even at uncommon moments.  Their joy will be the joy of wine – of needing an outside element — and that is incomplete.

 

If, however, such a person finds joy in everyday living, his potential for joy throughout life becomes unlimited.

 

And that’s something to celebrate. 

 

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______________________________________________________

 

On Topic
 

Touring Israel's Ancient Water Systems: Tsvika Tsuk, Israel Parks — “To each of the dwelling-places, both on the summit and around the palace, as well as in front of the wall, he (Herod the great) had cut in the rock a number of capacious cisterns, as reservoirs of water; thus securing a supply as ample as is derived from fountains”.  (The Jewish War by Josephus Flavius, book 7, chap. viii, 3).

 

 

Watering a Thirsty Planet: I.C. Mayer, Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Feb. 20, 2011— Israel's advanced approaches to water scarcity position it perfectly to tap into markets targeting the world's most rapidly depleting resource. Israel may be a land of milk and honey, but it is not blessed with an abundance of fresh water resources. In fact, the Sea of Galilee is the country's only natural lake and the rivers in Israel are quite modest in scale.

 

The Issue of Water between Israel and the Palestinians: Israel Water Authority, March 2009—The purpose of this document is to examine the issue of water between Israel and the Palestinians by presenting the existing water agreements and modes for implementing them, as well as stating the principles of both sides for coping with the shortage of water, currently and in the future.

 

The Politicization of  the Oslo Water Agreement (dissertation): Lauro Burkart, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies,Geneva Switzerland, 2012—Political events in the aftermath of the second Intifada led to a radicalization of the positions. This resulted in a politicization that is particularly driven by the Palestinian political leadership.

 

Political Currents of Water Management: Israel, Palestine, and Jordan: Jay Famiglietti,National Geographic, May 13, 2013—The geopolitics of water management in the Middle East are primarily governed by the basic distribution of freshwater resources: there are vast differences between the naturally available water resources in the region. Layer to this the additional complexity of political stability, financial assets, and other socioeconomic factors, and the potential for improved transboundary water management in the Middle East becomes vastly complicated.

 

Water: Facts about Israeli and Palestinian Use: The Israel Project,  March 22, 2013—Israel is in full compliance with the terms for water use and supply as outlined in the Oslo II peace process and delineated in the Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement. In fact, Israel provides 30 percent more water to the Palestinians than required, with the total amount of water available to them exceeding agreed-upon terms.

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Visit CIJR’s Bi-Weekly Webzine: Israzine.

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CIJR’s ISRANET Daily Briefing attempts to convey a wide variety of opinions on Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world for its readers’ educational and research purposes. Reprinted articles and documents express the opinions of their authors, and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research.

 

 

Ber Lazarus, Publications Chairman, Canadian Institute for Jewish ResearchL'institut Canadien de recherches sur le Judaïsme, www.isranet.org

Tel: (514) 486-5544 – Fax:(514) 486-8284 ; ber@isranet.org

ISRAEL’S ELECTION: DEMOCRACY STRONG AS NETANYAHU WIN IN OFFING — IRAN REMAINS KEY, AS OBAMA, EUROPEAN PRESSURES LOOM

 

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Making Conservative Choices: David M. Weinberg, Jerusalem Post, Jan. 20, 2013—Israelis will elect a conservative government this week because they think it prudent to do so, not because they are “turning inwards” or backwards or developing antidemocratic tendencies. They want Binyamin Netanyahu, not Tzipi Livni (or Shimon Peres, or any other candidate of the Left), to lead the country, because caution – not hollow and unsubstantiated hope – is the prevailing watchword.

 

Weak Netanyahu Finish Suggests Unwieldy Coalition: Joshua Mitnick, Wall Street Journal, Jan 18, 2013—There is little question Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud Party will emerge at the head of a ruling coalition when Israelis vote in nationwide elections on Tuesday. But polls also show his campaign is limping to the finish line amid falling support, which is likely to leave him weakened and heading a coalition more fragile than the current one.

 

Unseating Netanyahu a Tricky Game: Matthew Fisher, Postmedia News, Jan. 20, 2013—Having led every poll taken from the beginning to the end of a national election campaign that has lasted for months, Benjamin Netanyahu appears poised to be re-elected as Israel’s prime minister on Tuesday. But in Israel, where any of the 34 parties that are contesting the election get more than two per cent of the vote gets seats in the Knesset, election day is the first part of what is a long, tortuous electoral dance.

 

 

On Topic Links

 

 

 

Israeli Electoral Politics – A Guide for the Perplexed: Gil Hoffman, Jeruslaem Post, Jan. 10, 2013

Zionism’s New Boss: Liel Leibovitz, Tablet Magazine, Jan. 14, 2013

A Far-Right Israeli Electorate?: Lee Smith, Tablet Magazine, Jan. 16, 2013

Netanyahu Coalition Forming Dilemmas: Joseph Puder, Front Page Magazine, Jan. 21, 2013

PA Hopes Syrian 'Red Herring' Discredits Netanyahu at Polls: Chana Ya'ar, Israel National News, Jan. 21, 2013

The Bennett Threat – and Why the Pols are Scared: Moshe Dann, Jerusalem Post, Dec. 31, 2012

 

 

 

 

 

MAKING CONSERVATIVE CHOICES

David M. Weinberg

Jerusalem Post, Jan. 20, 2013

 

Israelis will elect a conservative government this week because they think it prudent to do so, not because they are “turning inwards” or backwards or developing anti-democratic tendencies. They want Binyamin Netanyahu, not Tzipi Livni (or Shimon Peres, or any other candidate of the Left), to lead the country, because caution – not hollow and unsubstantiated hope – is the prevailing watchword. It’s important to say these things, because in the global punditocracy there is an inaccurate narrative taking root, to wit Netanyahu’s reelection means that Israel being overrun by Right-wing and religious fanatics, and that it is choosing isolationism over opportunities for peace.

 

In fact, clever pundits like David Remnick of The New Yorker and Ari Shavit of Haaretz have tried to portray the current Israeli election campaign as a historic choice between two competing narratives: that of the isolationist-nationalist Israeli Right, and the liberal-democratic-peace-seeking Israeli Left. But these brainy journalists are all-too-slick and only superficially sophisticated. The dichotomous moment they have summoned-forth is false, and their reading of Israeli society and polity is terribly off-base. Very few Israelis see things the way Remnick and Shavit do.

 

Israelis don’t see themselves as standing at a historic juncture. They don’t believe that Middle East circumstances are ripe for peace. Given Oslo’s sorry 20-year record, they are indeed wary of Palestinian statehood. They know that withdrawal from the West Bank at present would be suicide, given the Islamic blitzkrieg across the Mideast, along with Abbas’ weakness and Hamas’ ascendency in the Palestinian arena. They still pine for peace, but given the situation in Sinai, Gaza, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Iran (and Ramallah), sadly they expect conflict.

 

And so, the Israeli public overwhelmingly does not buy the well worn argument, advanced obstinately by the Left and the international community, that the peace process is stuck because of settlements or lack of Israeli diplomatic flexibility. They simply feel that caution militates against dramatic diplomatic moves at this time. They are waiting-out the Arab Spring and other storms, taking no irresponsible risks, and voting for steady hands at the helm of state.

 

That is why Tzipi Livni’s “I can bring the peace” messaging never took hold during the current campaign. It is important to reiterate that Israelis are not becoming callously defiant of the world and the Palestinians, nor wildly “annexationist.” They are not making a grand choice this week between good and evil, between peace and war, between liberalism and fascism. They are simply choosing responsible government. And what they assume will emerge from the election is a go-slow Netanyahu government with parties of both the Zionist Right and Left; another complicated coalition government, with built-in checks and balances.

 

One thing is for sure: Israelis don’t buy the doomsday scenarios drawn by Remnick and Shavit, or by some Diaspora Jewish leaders like Eric Yoffie of the Reform movement or Daniel Sokatch of the New Israel Fund, about Israel forfeiting its democracy, becoming a Spartacus state, or losing its global friends.

 

So why the apocalyptic analyses? Unfortunately, I sense that the Israeli and American-Jewish ideological Left has gone stir-crazy with Netanyahu hatred. They can’t accept the fact that the political Left’s 20-year-long crusade for Palestinian statehood has been proven bankrupt; they can’t stand the fact Netanyahu is going to be reelected; and they are setting a trap in which to bring him crashing down.

 

By positing that Israel is at an apocalyptic crossroads, and that Israel is pig-headedly making wrong and dangerous choices, the stage is set for “wiser” actors to intervene “to save Israel in spite of itself.” This is the upshot of Jeffrey Goldberg’s celebrated Bloomberg News column, in which he describes the lack of trust and frustration in the White House concerning Netanyahu. Netanyahu just “doesn’t understand what Israel’s best interests are,” Goldberg has Obama saying, and “his conduct will drive Israel into grave international isolation.”

 

With such isolation, even from the United States, Israel won’t survive, Goldberg (or Obama) opines. “Israel’s own behaviour poses a long-term threat to its existence.” Therefore, real friends have to step in to save Israel from itself, by imposing a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – which is the swift establishment of a full-fledged Palestinian state. For Israel’s own good, of course.

 

Like Peter Beinart before him, Goldberg says that Obama is not going to directly pressure Israel on this matter, and this seems correct. Instead, Obama has outsourced the Palestinian issue to the Europeans. Europe is going to take the lead in wedging Israel into a corner against its own self-perceived interests (but in reality “for its own good”) – with Obama “leading from behind.” This explains the overwhelming European vote at UN in November in favor of upgrading the status of “Palestine,” even though Washington was opposed (at least in public) to the move and voted against it.

 

Nevertheless, Obama didn’t seem too upset with the Europeans for voting against Israel and the US. Like I said, it’s called outsourcing the pressure on Israel to Europe. The next European move (with Obama “leading from behind”) will be an attempt to impose an internationalized framework for Israeli-Palestinian talks with terms of reference that basically settle everything in advance in favour of the Palestinians (1967 lines, etc.) The Palestinians will be forgiven for their unwillingness to enter direct and unconditional negotiations with Israel. Europe will dispense with insistence on that venerable principle of the peace process. After all, they no longer trust Israel to do what is in its own best interests (to withdraw), even if there were direct talks.

 

So best just get on with it and impose the outlines of a “settlement” in indirect consultations or an international forum. And besides, the main point of the process will not be real negotiations or true peace, but the dethroning of Netanyahu.

 

The author is director of public affairs at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, 

 

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WEAK NETANYAHU FINISH SUGGESTS UNWIELDY COALITION

Joshua Mitnick

Wall Street Journal, Jan 18, 2013

 

There is little question Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud Party will emerge at the head of a ruling coalition when Israelis vote in nationwide elections on Tuesday. But polls also show his campaign is limping to the finish line amid falling support, which is likely to leave him weakened and heading a coalition more fragile than the current one….

 

One coalition possibility is an alliance with centrist parties that could push for domestic economic reforms and also support diplomacy with the Palestinians. That would be a salve to Mr. Netanyahu, who is grappling with a looming fiscal austerity plan and increased international isolation, including strained ties with President Barack Obama.

 

But the most apparent option—easier to form, but more challenging to govern—would be a far-right coalition that opposes a Palestinian state. Such a coalition would likely be more fractious and unstable than the current multiparty coalition led by Mr. Netanyahu's center-right Likud Party and the ultranationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party, which with smaller religious and far-right parties currently controls 66 of the Knesset's 120 seats.

 

Following Tuesday's vote, should Mr. Netanyahu's bloc add the projected seats of four smaller right-wing and religious parties, it would maintain its 66-seat majority, according to a Smith Institute poll for the Israeli financial daily Globes. Some five center-left parties would control 44 seats, according to the poll, and Arab-Israeli parties would control 10 seats. Other polls have shown a religious-right bloc could hold from 63 to 69 seats.

 

Mr. Netanyahu's re-election bid has been bolstered by the lack of any formidable rival and a fragmented center-left opposition. His campaign ads tout him as a strong leader keeping the Jewish state stable amid regional turmoil. For the most part, the opposition has shied away from challenging his assertions that the Palestinians are to blame for the peace-process impasse, and that Arab Spring tumult demands that Israel approach new concessions with skepticism. "The major macro issues aren't being debated here to the point that it might have been, if you had two popular leaders from major parties," said Amir Mizroch, the editor of the English edition of Israel Hayom.

 

The closest challenger is Labor Party chairwoman Shelly Yachimovitch, whose party would capture about half as many seats as Mr. Netanyahu's Likud, according to the polls. A former television and radio host, Ms. Yachimovich has struggled to persuade the Israeli electorate that she is qualified to be prime minister. She has vowed not to join a government led by Mr. Netanyahu. Her support has been eroded by two center-left parties. One is led by Tzipi Livni, the former foreign minister who has made restarting peace talks the center of her campaign. A second, headed by former news anchor Yair Lapid, has also skirted foreign policy. The three camps have sparred over whether to form a collective front to face Mr. Netanyahu.

 

Center-left parties are largely to blame for the absence of a foreign-policy debate, said Ari Shavit, a columnist at the liberal Ha’aretz paper. These parties, he said, have focused on domestic issues rather than formulating a fresh pitch on peace. "The old peace ideology collapsed, and it was never replaced," he said….

 

Polls show Mr. Netanyahu is losing support to politicians on the right. His merged party slate with Avigdor Lieberman—who stepped down from his post as foreign minister just last month after a fraud indictment—is running at about 15% below the parties' current 42 seats in the outgoing parliament, polls show. The beneficiaries have included the pro-settler Jewish Home party and its charismatic leader, Naftali Bennett, who opposes a Palestinian state and supports annexation of most of the West Bank.

 

Although a coalition of Likud-Beiteinu, Jewish Home, Shas and United Torah Judaism would be the easiest option for Mr. Netanyahu, "few in the political establishment are willing to bet on this outcome, mainly because with this composition, it will be impossible to pass a dramatic budget cut, to pass new laws on equally sharing the burden [created for subsidies and draft exemptions for the ultra-Orthodox] and to respond to the international pressure on holding negotiations with the Palestinians,'' wrote Zeev Kam, in the Maariv newspaper.

 

Such a coalition could also make it difficult for Mr. Netanyahu to find common ground among a large number of parties, especially among foreign-policy moderates queasy about joining a hard-line coalition. "Netanyahu called elections, but he might end up with a worse situation that he ended walking out of, with less power than he had in the last government," said Reuven Hazan, a political-science professor at Hebrew University.

 

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UNSEATING NETANYAHU A TRICKY GAME

Matthew Fisher,

Postmedia News, Jan. 20, 2013

 

Having led every poll taken from the beginning to the end of a national election campaign that has lasted for months, Benjamin Netanyahu appears poised to be re-elected as Israel’s prime minister on Tuesday. But in Israel, where any of the 34 parties that are contesting the election get more than two per cent of the vote gets seats in the Knesset, election day is the first part of what is a long, tortuous electoral dance. What follows will be days and perhaps weeks of horse trading as Netanyahu scrambles to find the numbers to form a stable right-wing or centre-right coalition government from among the eight or nine parties expected to win more than a few of the parliament’s 120 seats.

 

“Even if he is re-elected, what kind of a coalition will Netanyahu have? What kind of coalition can he build?” asked Eytan Gilboa, director of Bar-Ilan University. “I think he will have a rough time of it because his position will probably not be as strong as it was in the last election. At the end of the negotiations Netanyahu may find himself in a weak, problematic position.”

 

Polls taken last week indicated that the 63-year-old Netanyahu, his right-wing Likud Party and its strongly nationalist partners, Yisrael Beiteinu, led by [former] Foreign Minister Avigdor Leiberman and strongly backed by Israel’s one million Russians, have been losing support. Nevertheless, the partners were still expected to end up on top. A poll by the Ha’aretz daily gave them as many as 32 seats. Labour, whose leader Shelly Yacimovich has already declared her party will not be part of a Netanyahu-led coalition, was a distant second with about 17 seats….

 

What really matters on election night is how the right-wing religious bloc stacks up against the centre-left-Arab bloc. Polling has suggested that the right-left split may be closer than seemed likely a few months ago. If the pollsters are right, Netanyahu and his likely coalition members appear set to control 63 seats to about 57 seats for the opposition.

 

The biggest election-day drama may turn out to be the size of the bite taken out of Likud’s vote by the hard right, Jewish Home Party (Bayit Yehudi). It is a new party led by Naftali Bennett, a charismatic 40-year-old newcomer to electoral politics who lived for several years as a young boy in Montreal where, according to Ha’aretz, he and his family became religiously observant. Some years after returning to Israel he became a special forces officer and war hero in Lebanon. After that he became a high-tech millionaire. Between 2006 and 2008 he served as Netanyahu’s chief of staff before the two men had a falling out that was never fully explained by either but has been the subject of considerable media speculation.

 

“I think Bennett is real. The question is how many seats is he going to get and how many votes will he take away from Netanyahu,” said Gilboa. “Bennett has adopted a clever election strategy. He says Netanyahu will be prime minister. I will support him and join his coalition. But he is also suggesting that he will constrain Netanyahu. “It has been effective so far. Likud has attacked Bennett lately because it has become concerned by him. It may harm Netanyahu, but that will not effect the right-wing bloc that much because the right-wing vote stays in the bloc.”

 

Bennett has outflanked Netanyahu, who also had a distinguished military record in the special forces, by being even stronger than his former boss on what many Israelis regard as the core issue of retaining West Bank settlements. Sensing the political danger posed by Bennett, who had said he wants to be “a third hand on the wheel” on the wheel of Netanyahu’s coalition government, the prime minister told the Jerusalem Post that “you know that you have to have two steady hands of one driver on the wheel, and if you have other people grab the wheel, pretty soon the car overturns.”

 

The future of the settlements, the lack of peace talks with Palestinians and the issue of whether Israel should attack Iran’s nuclear programme may have vexed U.S. President Barack Obama and the Jewish Diaspora in the United States. Opponents and some columnists in Israel have severely criticized Netanyahu for baldly appearing to back Obama’s Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, in last fall’s American elections. Furthermore, the Israeli media have made much of private remarks allegedly made by Obama to the effect that Netanyahu was “moving his country down a path towards near-total isolation,” by approving the further expansion of a major settlement near Jerusalem….

 

Sensing an opportunity at the other end of the political spectrum, Bennett has run front-page ads saying, “as Israel faces unparalleled international pressure, Prime Minister Netanyahu will need a large Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home) by his side.” But none of this appears to have made much of a difference to many voters. Their leading concerns have been with the growing deficit, education, health, social justice, the cost of housing, high taxes and the economy generally.

 

Labour has, with some success, stayed clear of such issues as national security and foreign affairs, which usually figure prominently in Israeli elections. They have stressed economic issues. But this can be a tricky game. Whatever Netanyahu’s weaknesses because he is too strong or too soft on issues involving the Palestinians and the Iranians, he has presided over one of the world’s more successful economies at a time when many countries have dire economic problems.

 

As politicians elsewhere have learned again and again, it is difficult to unseat an incumbent when the economy is doing well.

 

 

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Israeli Electoral Politics – A Guide for the Perplexed: Gil Hoffman, Jeruslaem Post, Jan. 10, 2013—There was good news and bad news this week for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. On the one hand, a failed effort by former foreign minister Tzipi Livni to begin a process intended to unite the three parties on the Center-Left after the January 22 election helped Netanyahu’s Likud Beytenu stop its tailspin in the polls and win back two seats it had lost to its satellite parties.

 

Zionism’s New Boss: Liel Leibovitz, Tablet Magazine, Jan. 14, 2013—Under rookie politician Naftali Bennett, religious Zionism is finally becoming Israel’s political mainstream. Naftali Bennett’s press conference late last month was to the Israeli election cycle what a high-speed car chase is to a middling Hollywood action movie. With the chronicle of Bibi Netanyahu’s re-election more or less foretold, Israelis were vying for a shot of adrenaline that would rescue what had otherwise become a bloodless procedural, and Bennett was on hand to deliver.

 

A Far-Right Israeli Electorate?: Lee Smith, Tablet Magazine, Jan. 16, 2013—Perhaps Bibi’s infamous bluster has had its purpose. While his belligerent rhetoric unnerves his many critics, including world leaders, it’s helped keep Israel out of armed conflict. He has presided over more economic success and less war than almost any other Israeli leader in history.

 

Netanyahu Coalition Forming Dilemmas: Joseph Puder, Front Page Magazine, Jan. 21, 2013—The question Israeli political pundits ask regarding the upcoming January 22, 2013 Knesset (parliamentary) elections is not what party will be asked by President Shimon Peres to form the next government,  nor are they asking who will be the next Prime Minister of Israel. The operative question is which parties will join Netanyahu’s Likud-Beitenu to form the next coalition government.  The answer to that will determine the direction and the likely policies of the next Netanyahu government.

 

PA Hopes Syrian 'Red Herring' Discredits Netanyahu at Polls: Chana Ya'ar, Israel National News, Jan. 21, 2013—On the eve of Israel’s national elections, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas is doing his best to discredit Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, claiming the Netanyahu government approved entry of 150,000 Syrian refugees into Judea and Samaria.

 

The Bennett Threat – and Why The Pols Are Scared: Moshe Dann, Jerusalem Post, Dec. 31, 2012—Naftali Bennett is a product of Israeli society; articulate and smart, a Sayeret Matkal veteran, he’s an insider that understands what’s going on. He is also a financial success. But that is not what makes him dangerous to the establishment. The threat he poses stems not so much from his ideology, but rather from the fact that that he actually has one, that he articulates what he believes and stands for.

 

 

 

Visit CIJR’s Bi-Weekly Webzine: Israzine.

CIJR’s ISRANET Daily Briefing is available by e-mail.
Please urge colleagues, friends, and family to visit our website for more information on our ISRANET series.
To join our distribution list, or to unsubscribe, visit us at http://www.isranet.org/.

The ISRANET Daily Briefing is a service of CIJR. We hope that you find it useful and that you will support it and our pro-Israel educational work by forwarding a minimum $90.00 tax-deductible contribution [please send a cheque or VISA/MasterCard information to CIJR (see cover page for address)]. All donations include a membership-subscription to our respected quarterly ISRAFAX print magazine, which will be mailed to your home.

CIJR’s ISRANET Daily Briefing attempts to convey a wide variety of opinions on Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world for its readers’ educational and research purposes. Reprinted articles and documents express the opinions of their authors, and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research.

 

 

Ber Lazarus, Publications Editor, Canadian Institute for Jewish ResearchL'institut Canadien de recherches sur le Judaïsme, www.isranet.org

Tel: (514) 486-5544 – Fax:(514) 486-8284 ; ber@isranet.org

AS EGYPT’S ECONOMY TANKS & IRAN TIES WORSEN, SUDAN’S SHADOW FALLS OVER CHRISTIANS’ SITUATION

Download Today's Isranet Daily Briefing.pdf 

 

Contents:                          

 

(Please Note: articles may have been shortened in the interest of space. Please click link for the complete article – Ed.)

 

 

Morsi, Egypt Face Economic Meltdown: Felix Imonti, Al-Monitor, Jan. 8, 2013—Six months of street violence over the preparation of the constitution has led to the neglect of an economy. The budget deficit rose by 38%, or $13.1 billion over six months, the Egyptian pound slipped 6% against the US dollar, unemployment rose from 8.9% to 12.4% and GDP growth fell from 5.0 to 0.5%.

The Enduring Egypt-Iran Divide: Mehdi Khalaji, Washington Institute, Dec. 31, 2012—Initially, the Muslim Brotherhood's ascent to power in the aftermath of the massive popular protests that toppled Morsi's predecessor, Hosni Mubarak, inspired hope of renewed diplomatic ties with Iran. But, despite shared ideological principles, significant political obstacles continue to inhibit bilateral cooperation.

 

A 'Sudanese Genocide' in Egypt?: Raymond Ibrahim, Front Page Magazine, Jan 4, 2013—The current tensions in Egypt between the Muslim Brotherhood-led government and a fragmented populace that includes large segments of people who oppose the Islamization of Egypt—the moderates, secularists, and Christians who recently demonstrated in mass at Tahrir Square and even besieged the presidential palace—is all too familiar. One need only look to Egypt's immediate neighbour, Sudan, and its bloody history, to know where the former may be headed.

 

On Topic Links

 

 

Qatar to Egypt $2.5-Billion Lifeline Props Up Pound: Yasmine Saleh & Patrick Werr, Globe and Mail, Jan. 8, 2013

Cables Show State Department Disregarded Muslim Brotherhood Threat: John Rossomando, Investigative Project on Terrorism, Jan. 8, 2013

Preacher Alarms Many in Egypt with Calls for Islamist Vice Police: Egypt Independent, Jan. 9, 2013

Morsi Manages Egypt’s Economic Decline: Nervana Mahmoud, Al-Monitor, Jan 7, 2013

Diving Currency Adds to Egypt's Woes: Matt Bradley, Wall Street Journal, Dec. 30, 2013

Egyptian Cleric Threatens Egypt's Copts with Genocide: Raymond Ibrahim, Gatestone Institute, Dec. 28, 2012

 

 

 

MORSI, EGYPT FACE ECONOMIC MELTDOWN

Felix Imonti

Al-Monitor, Jan. 8, 2013

 

It took a mere 20% of the electorate to bring into effect the new constitution. Eighty percent of voters either rejected it or did not vote — for whatever reason . The obsession that Morsi had with imposing the constitution has placed him in the middle of a political minefield. Six months of street violence over the preparation of the constitution has led to the neglect of an economy that has come to a near halt. The budget deficit rose by 38%, or $13.1 billion over six months, the Egyptian pound slipped 6% against the US dollar, unemployment rose from 8.9% to 12.4% and GDP growth fell from 5.0 to 0.5%.

 

Added to those problems, foreign reserves were halved with the flight of capital and the transfer of savings abroad. The outflow led to the imposition of currency controls at the end of December, when reserves had diminished to $15 billion, enough to finance only three months of imports. Egypt runs a 50% trade deficit that used to be offset by earnings from tourism and remittances from workers abroad, but the tourists are staying away and economic conditions around the world make it more difficult for Egyptian workers to find employment.

 

Due to the political instability and the worsening financial plight of the government, Standard & Poor's downgraded Egypt's credit standing to B-minus, six levels below credit grade. Before the downgrade, Egypt paid 13.54% for a one-year treasury bond. After the downgrade, the sale of bonds was cancelled to avoid higher interest rates. Credit swops show Egypt ranking among the ten worst credit risks, along with Greece and Pakistan….

 

The certain rise in import prices will increase the inflation rate above the current level of 4.1%. The impact could be offset by expanding subsidies, which would increase the budget deficit beyond the current 10%. Already, subsidies form 30% of the budget; and it is that which the International Monetary Fund (IMF) expects the government to reduce in order to qualify for the $4.8 billion loan. Terms for the loan had been settled after a year of negotiations only to be cancelled by the Morsi government, which feared increased taxes and reduced subsidies would spark more riots before the vote on the referendum. The IMF loan is critical for acquiring the additional $10 billion from the European Union, the African Development Bank and other sources. Without it, Egypt will be frozen out of the international financial markets.

 

As most of the Egyptian government debt is owed to domestic banks, those banks face insolvency. The National Bank of Egypt, Banque Misr SAE and Commerce International Bank have been downgraded in anticipation of a government default. Egypt suffers from a shortage of investment capital due to the lack of savings. Only if there is an influx of foreign direct investment can Egypt expect to see capital available for economic expansion. That, however, is being stifled by the unrest and the effort by groups inside Egypt to reverse the sale of state enterprises made during the Mubarak regime.

 

Starting in 2004, the Mubarak government embarked upon an economic-reform and privatization program. Over the next four years, $9.4 billion in state industries were sold to foreign and domestic buyers. The GDP growth rate rose from 4.1% to 7.2%. Foreign reserves expanded from $16 billion to $34 billion. Even during the global economic crisis of 2010, the economy continued to expand at 5%, but all of that came to an abrupt halt when the mobs flooded into Tahrir Square.

 

Now, some of the sales are being reversed. Foreign investors are viewing them as future risks better avoided. Foreign direct investment is only 16% of what it was in 2007, and much of that is in the petroleum sector.

 

A bad situation is being made worse by spreading worker discontent. Workers are demanding the right to unionize and to strike. Their call for “bread, freedom and justice” was for them the purpose of the revolution. Instead, the Morsi government is breaking up strikes with the police and has jailed union activists just as the Mubarak government had done before. If anything, workers are complaining that Morsi’s administration is worse than what was overthrown.

 

Most businesses are small. Yet, it is they that are providing the bulk of Egyptian employment. Business owners are complaining that the new government is doing nothing to reduce the suffocating regulations and corrupt bureaucracy. If they try to raise capital to invest, they are forced to compete with the government borrowing to finance its growing budget deficit or with the large private and state corporations that are given preference.

 

Whatever the ideology expounded, the Muslim Brotherhood is comprised mainly of professionals, with many involved in businesses. Like the crony capitalists of the Mubarak era, the government has become an instrument to protect their interests.

 

Back in November, Morsi seized power and moved to block the Constitutional Court to save his concept of democracy. There is nothing to say that he will not break the labour unions to save his vision of the economy. He should look very carefully at the mere 20% of the voters who supported his constitutional efforts and realize that he has been given a warning. The people of Egypt are not marching in his parade.

 

Felix Imonti is the retired director of a private equity firm where he was an investment strategist for seven years. 

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THE ENDURING EGYPT-IRAN DIVIDE

Mehdi Khalaji

Washington Institute, Dec. 31, 2012

 

Despite ideological affinities between the Muslim Brotherhood and Tehran, political disagreements make a rapprochement unlikely. Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi may look besieged at home, but by brokering a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in November, he enhanced his diplomatic stature mightily across the entire Middle East. Indeed, as 2012 comes to a close, Egypt's centrality to regional diplomacy has been restored. The big question for 2013 is whether Morsi will follow his achievement in Gaza by tackling another major diplomatic challenge: rebuilding relations with Iran after more than three decades of animosity.

 

Initially, the Muslim Brotherhood's ascent to power in the aftermath of the massive popular protests that toppled Morsi's predecessor, Hosni Mubarak, inspired hope of renewed diplomatic ties with Iran. But, despite shared ideological principles, significant political obstacles continue to inhibit bilateral cooperation.

 

Relations between the two countries collapsed in 1980, after Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini came to power in Iran's Islamic Revolution and severed ties in response to Egypt's formal recognition of Israel the previous year. Egypt's then-president, Anwar El Sadat, granted the exiled Shah of Iran permission to live in Egypt, and supported Iraq in its eight-year war with the Islamic Republic. The Shah was ultimately buried in a mosque in Cairo….

 

Islamists in Iran and Egypt have a strong ideological connection. They share anti-Israel sentiment, and support Hamas against the secular-nationalist Fatah in the Palestinians' internecine struggle. Committed to governance under Sharia (Islamic law), they both view Western culture as a threat.

 

Iran has made some efforts to establish stronger economic relations with Egypt's Islamist government and, in turn, cement a powerful anti-Israel front in the region. Iran's attempt to strike a deal to sell Egypt crude oil would also help the Iranian government to cope with economic sanctions imposed by the United States and the European Union. But, although Iran's oil minister, Rostam Qassemi, said in October that negotiations were underway, Egypt's minister of petroleum and mineral resources, Osama Kamal, quickly disavowed any such deal.

Beyond economics, Khamenei has an emotional attachment to Egypt. A student of the Egyptian style of Koran recitation, he gathers Koran reciters from Egypt, as well as from other Islamic countries, in his home every Ramadan. More important, his outlook has been heavily influenced by the writings of Sayyid Qutb, the Egyptian theoretician of the Muslim Brotherhood. Prior to the revolution, Khamenei translated three of Qutb's books into Farsi.

 

Despite these ideological affinities, political disagreements make a rapprochement unlikely. The Muslim Brotherhood considers itself the bastion of modern political Islam, and believes that it should assume a leadership role for all Islamist groups and states. For his part, Khamenei describes himself as the "leader of the Islamic world," and calls Iran its "mother city" (Umm al Qora).

 

Moreover, the Sunni-Shia divide could pose a major challenge for Egypt-Iran relations. The Muslim Brotherhood is working to strengthen ties with Sunni allies, such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and even Turkey, rather than with Iran's Shia regime, which threatens Sunni regimes by exporting revolution and pitting Shia minorities against their governments.

 

In fact, since Mubarak's ouster, anti-Shia propaganda has gained traction in the Egyptian public sphere, with books alleging Shia corruption of Islam's true meaning filling the shelves of Cairo's bookstores. But this campaign largely reflects the growing influence of Egypt's Sunni allies — particularly the Gulf monarchies, led by Saudi Arabia — rather than a genuine threat from Egypt's small and quiescent Shia community….

 

These countries then export their anti-Shia discourse to countries, like Egypt, that do not necessarily have a history of Sunni-Shia conflict. Indeed, many of Cairo's cultural landmarks, for example, were built under the Shia Fatimid Caliphate. And, before last year's revolution, Egypt was considered one of the most Shia-friendly Sunni countries in the Arab world. But the Muslim Brotherhood remains financially dependent on the Gulf monarchies, which are using Egypt as a platform for their anti-Shia, anti-Iran agenda.

 

The most urgent dispute between Iran and Egypt, however, relates to Syria. During its years in opposition, the Muslim Brotherhood considered Iran's Islamic Revolution an example of how a transnational Islamist government might assume power. But, in the face of a popular uprising in Syria, Iran has supported the brutal, repressive policies of President Bashar al-Assad's regime. As a result, Islamists in Egypt are beginning to view Iran as a status quo power, not an agent of revolutionary change.

 

Furthermore, the flow of military supplies from Iran, together with battlefield support for Assad's regime from Iran's Lebanese proxy, Hezbollah, reinforce the perception of a Sunni-Shia conflict in Syria. In this context, the collapse of Assad's regime would likely exacerbate tensions between Iran and Egypt — especially given that Syria's Muslim Brotherhood, the leading opposition group, would likely play a strong, even dominant, role in a new Syrian order.

 

For now, Egypt's government is putting national interests ahead of pan-Islamist aspirations. Rather than inciting an escalation in fighting between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, Egypt worked with the US and other regional allies to broker a cease-fire. By contrast, Iran's military leaders boasted about their support for Hamas, offering no indication that they wanted the fighting to end.

 

Less than two years after Egypt's revolution, Morsi's government is struggling to address domestic challenges, including the proliferation of armed radical groups in Sinai. But, as regional tensions continue  to rise, the chances of an Egypt-Iran detente are likely to deteriorate.
 

Mehdi Khalaji, a Qom-trained Shiite theologian, is a senior fellow at The Washington Institute.

 

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A 'SUDANESE GENOCIDE' IN EGYPT?

Raymond Ibrahim

Front Page Magazine, Jan 4, 2013

The current tensions in Egypt between the Muslim Brotherhood-led government and a fragmented populace that includes large segments of people who oppose the Islamization of Egypt—the moderates, secularists, and Christians who recently demonstrated en mass at Tahrir Square and even besieged the presidential palace—is all too familiar. One need only look to Egypt's immediate neighbour, Sudan, and its bloody history, to know where the former may be headed.

 

The civil war in Sudan, which saw the deaths of millions, was fundamentally a by-product of an Islamist regime trying to push Sharia law on large groups of Sudanese—Muslim, Christian, and polytheist—who refused to be governed by Allah's law, who refused to be Islamized. Although paying lip-service to pluralism and equality in the early years, by 1992, the Islamist government of Khartoum declared a formal jihad on the south and the Nuba, citing a fatwa by Sudan's Muslim authorities which declared that "An insurgent who was previously a Muslim is now an apostate; and a non-Muslim is a non-believer standing as a bulwark against the spread of Islam, and Islam has granted the freedom of killing both of them."

 

In other words, Khartoum decreed that: 1) It is simply trying to do Allah's will by instituting Islamic Sharia law; 2) Any Sudanese who objects—including Muslims—is obviously an infidel; 3) All such infidels must be eliminated. Accordingly, countless people were butchered, raped, and enslaved—all things legitimate once an Islamic state declares a jihad. While South Sudan recently ceded, the Nuba Mountains in the north is still continuously being bombarded.

 

Now consider how the above pattern—false promises of religious freedom, followed by a Sharia push and a declaration that all who oppose it, including Muslims, are infidels and apostates to be killed—is precisely what has been going on directly to the north of Sudan, in Egypt.

First, although Muhammad Morsi repeatedly promised that he would be a president who represents "all Egyptians" during presidential elections, mere months after coming to power, he showed that his true loyalty—which should have been obvious from the start, considering that he is a Muslim Brotherhood leader—was to Sharia and Islamization.

Even so, Egyptians did not forget that Morsi, during presidential elections, had said the following in a video interview:

 

The Egyptian people are awake and alert—Muslims and Christians; and they know that, whoever comes [to become Egypt's president], and does not respect the rule of law and the Constitution, the people will go against him. I want the people immediately to go against me, if I ever do not respect the law and Constitution.

 

Accordingly, when Morsi aggrandized himself with unprecedented presidential powers, and then used these powers to sidestep the law and push a Sharia-heavy Constitution on Egypt, large segments of the Egyptian people did rise against him; at one point, he even had to flee the presidential palace. And just as in Sudan, Morsi's Islamist allies—who, like Morsi, during elections spoke glowingly of Egyptian unity—made it a point to portray all those Egyptians opposing Morsi, the majority of whom are Muslims, of opposing Islam, of being apostates and hypocrites, and thus enemies who should be fought and killed.

 

Radical online cleric Wagdi Ghoneim, for instance, incited Muslims to wage jihad on and eliminate anyone protesting against Morsi, adding that any Muslim found protesting is, in fact, an apostate hypocrite, who wants to see Islam wiped out of Egypt. He justified the jihad on such Muslims by quoting Quran 66:9: "O Prophet! Strive hard against the infidels and the hypocrites, and be firm against them." He added that the hypocrites were supported by "Crusader Christians" (a reference to the Copts) and "debauched" liberals and seculars—all of whom must also be fought and even killed.

 

As for those Muslims who were protesting but were still "true" Muslims, Ghoneim portrayed them as being misguided—asking them, "Why are you siding with crusaders and infidels against Sharia?"—and thus also needing to be fought until they come to their senses.

 

He correctly pointed out that Islam forbids true Muslims from fighting each other—despite the fact that history (and current events) are replete with Muslims slaughtering each other—and rationalized his call to fight fellow Muslims by quoting Quran 49:9: "If two factions among the believers fight, then make settlement between the two. But if one of them oppresses the other, then fight against the one that oppresses until it returns to the ordinance of Allah." In this context, the moderate Muslims opposing Sharia are the ones "oppressing the other"—the true Muslims, Morsi and his supporters, who want Sharia, that is, who want to "return to the ordinance of Allah."…

 

Egypt is still not Sudan, but it is going down the same path and following the same pattern, specifically, an Islamist government trying to Islamize society, and characterizing as infidels and apostates all who resist. Undoubtedly Egypt's Islamist government will continue to try to Islamize all walks of Egyptian life; undoubtedly there will be those who reject it. The question is, will their resistance ever be staunch enough to prompt the government to act on the aforementioned fatwas, formally declaring all those Egyptians opposing Sharia as infidels and apostates to be hunted down and eradicated with impunity? Only time will tell.

Raymond Ibrahim is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center and an Associate Fellow at the Middle East Forum.

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Qatar Throws Egypt $2.5-Billion Lifeline to Prop up Pound: Yasmine Saleh & Patrick Werr, Globe and Mail, Jan. 8, 2013—Qatar threw Egypt an economic lifeline on Tuesday, announcing it had lent Egypt another $2-billion and given it an extra $500-million outright to help control a currency crisis. Political strife has set off a rush to convert Egyptian pounds to dollars over the past several weeks, sending the currency to a record low against the U.S. dollar and draining foreign reserves to a critical level.

 

Cables Show State Department Disregarded Muslim Brotherhood Threat: John Rossomando,

Investigative Project on Terrorism, Jan. 8, 2013—The Obama administration chose to listen to voices suggesting that Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood was moderate rather than those who warned it would resort to violence if it came to power, cables obtained by the Investigative Project on Terrorism show.

 

Preacher Alarms Many in Egypt With Calls for Islamist Vice Police: Egypt Independent, Jan. 9, 2013—Many Egyptian viewers were horrified when preacher Hesham al-Ashry recently popped up on primetime television to say women must cover up for their own protection and advocated the introduction of religious police.

 

Morsi Manages Egypt’s Economic Decline: Nervana Mahmoud, Al-Monitor, Jan 7, 2013—As fear for the economy grows in Egypt, a comparison to the conditions faced in the ’70s and early ’80s becomes more plausible. How far will the economy deteriorate? Can Morsi’s team save it? Every household ponders these questions while watching a devalued Egyptian pound and witnessing the hike in food prices.

 

Diving Currency Adds to Egypt's Woes: Matt Bradley, Wall Street Journal, Dec. 30, 2013—Egypt's currency plumbed new depths on Sunday as policy makers tried to reassure the public and investors that they can prevent a full-scale currency devaluation while still repairing Egypt's budget deficit. The country's worsening economic crisis comes after President Mohammed Morsi isolated his political opponents to push through Egypt's Islamist-leaning constitution, sparking weeks of riots, protests and political uncertainty.

 

Egyptian Cleric Threatens Egypt's Copts with Genocide: Raymond Ibrahim, Gatestone Institute, Dec. 28, 2012—Islamic leaders continue to portray the popular protests against President Morsi and his recently passed Sharia-heavy constitution as products of Egypt's Christians. 

 

 

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WHILE WORLD CONCERN GROWS OVER SYRIAN CHEMICAL WEAPONS, & ASSAD’S “PEACE PLAN” OFFERS USUAL BRUTALITY, BASHAR’S STILL THERE

Download Today's Isranet Daily Briefing.pdf 

 

Contents:                          

 

(Please Note: articles may have been shortened in the interest of space. Please click link for the complete article – Ed.)

 

Hints of Syrian Chemical Push Set Off Global Effort to Stop It: Eric Schmitt and David E. Sanger, New York Times, Jan 7, 2013—In the last days of November, Israel’s top military commanders called the Pentagon to discuss troubling intelligence that was showing up on satellite imagery: Syrian troops appeared to be mixing chemicals at two storage sites, probably the deadly nerve gas sarin, and filling dozens of 500-pounds bombs that could be loaded on airplanes.

 

Assad Offers Only More Of The Same – Mukhabarat Brutality: Hassan Hassan, The National, Jan 7, 2013—The world still blinks every time that Bashar Al Assad speaks, as if it has not learnt anything from 21 months of violence. In his speech yesterday [Jan 6] – his ninth since the uprising began – the dictator offered a plan that would include a lengthy, complicated process of gradual change and "truth and reconciliation".

 

Syria: Why Assad May Yet Claim Victory: Simon Tisdall, The Guardian, Jan 7 2013—Reacting angrily to President Bashar al-Assad's speech on Sunday calling for an end to the rebellion, the US State Department said the Syrian leader was "detached from reality". But much the same might be said of the US and of Assad's other Western and Arab foes, and with greater justification.

 

On Topic Links

 

The Endgame in Syria is Nowhere In Sight: Kenneth Bandler, FoxNews, Jan 4, 2013
Strategic Briefing on ‘Jabhat al-Nusra’: Noman Benotman and Roisin Blake, Quilliam,  Jan 8, 2013

Hezbollah Sent 5,000 Fighters to Help Assad, Daily Reports: Elhanan Miller, Times of Israel, January 8, 2013

A Syrian Way Out of The Civil War: David Ignatius, Washington Post, Jan 4, 2013

Syrian Refugees Attack Aid Workers in Jordanian Camp Over Terrible Conditions: Dale Gavlak, National Post, Jan 8, 2013

A Two-Year Travelogue From Hell: Christoph Reuter, Der Spiegel, Jan 4, 2013

Assad and the U.S. Are Blind To Reality in Syria: Editorial, Washington Post, Jan 7, 2013

UN: Million Syrians Short of Food: YNet News, Jan 8, 2013

Fighting Flares in Palestinian Camp in Damascus: YNet News, Jan 8, 2013

 

 

 

HINTS OF SYRIAN CHEMICAL PUSH
SET OFF GLOBAL EFFORT TO STOP IT

Eric Schmitt And David E. Sanger

New York Times, Jan 7, 2013

 

In the last days of November, Israel’s top military commanders called the Pentagon to discuss troubling intelligence that was showing up on satellite imagery: Syrian troops appeared to be mixing chemicals at two storage sites, probably the deadly nerve gas sarin, and filling dozens of 500-pounds bombs that could be loaded on airplanes.

 

Within hours President Obama was notified, and the alarm grew over the weekend, as the munitions were loaded onto vehicles near Syrian air bases. In briefings, administration officials were told that if Syria’s increasingly desperate president, Bashar al-Assad, ordered the weapons to be used, they could be airborne in less than two hours — too fast for the United States to act, in all likelihood.

 

What followed next, officials said, was a remarkable show of international cooperation over a civil war in which the United States, Arab states, Russia and China have almost never agreed on a common course of action. The combination of a public warning by Mr. Obama and more sharply worded private messages sent to the Syrian leader and his military commanders through Russia and others, including Iraq, Turkey and possibly Jordan, stopped the chemical mixing and the bomb preparation. A week later Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said the worst fears were over — for the time being.

 

But concern remains that Mr. Assad could now use the weapons produced that week at any moment. American and European officials say that while a crisis was averted in that week from late November to early December, they are by no means resting easy. “I think the Russians understood this is the one thing that could get us to intervene in the war,” one senior defence official said last week. “What Assad understood, and whether that understanding changes if he gets cornered in the next few months, that’s anyone’s guess.”

 

While chemical weapons are technically considered a “weapon of mass destruction” — along with biological and nuclear weapons — in fact they are hard to use and hard to deliver. Whether an attack is effective can depend on the winds and the terrain. Sometimes attacks are hard to detect, even after the fact. Syrian forces could employ them in a village or a neighbourhood, some officials say, and it would take time for the outside world to know….

 

The Obama administration and other governments have said little in public about the chemical weapons movements, in part because of concern about compromising sources of intelligence about the activities of Mr. Assad’s forces….The head of Germany’s foreign intelligence service, the BND, warned in a confidential assessment last month that the weapons could now be deployed four to six hours after orders were issued, and that Mr. Assad had a special adviser at his side who oversaw control of the weapons, the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel reported. Some American and other allied officials, however, said in interviews that the sarin-laden bombs could be loaded on planes and airborne in less than two hours. “Let’s just say right now, it would be a relatively easy thing to load this quickly onto aircraft,” said one Western diplomat.

 

How the United States and Israel, along with Arab states, would respond remains a mystery. American and allied officials have talked vaguely of having developed “contingency plans” in case they decided to intervene in an effort to neutralize the chemical weapons, a task that the Pentagon estimates would require upward of 75,000 troops. But there have been no evident signs of preparations for any such effort. The United States military has quietly sent a task force of more than 150 planners and other specialists to Jordan to help the armed forces there, among other things, prepare for the possibility that Syria will lose control of its chemical weapons.

 

Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, was reported to have traveled to Jordan in recent weeks, and the Israeli news media have said the topic of discussion was how to deal with Syrian weapons if it appeared that they could be transferred to Lebanon, where Hezbollah could lob them over the border to Israel. But the plans, to the extent they exist, remain secret….

 

In response, Syria has reached deeper into its conventional arsenal, including firing Scud ballistic missiles at rebel positions near Aleppo. Over the past week a new concern emerged: Syrian forces began shooting new, accurate short-range missiles, believed to have been manufactured in Iran. None had chemical warheads. But their use showed that the Syrian military was now deploying a more accurate weapon than the notoriously inaccurate Scud missiles they have used in previous attacks.

 

As the fighting has escalated, American and other allied officials have said that government troops have moved some of the chemical stockpiles to safer locations, a consolidation that, if it continues, could actually help Western forces should they have to enter Syria to seize control of the munitions or destroy them. Syria’s chemical weapons are under the control of a secretive Syrian air force organization called Unit 450, a highly vetted outfit that is deemed one of the most loyal to the Assad government given the importance of the weapons in its custody.

 

American officials said that some of the back-channel messages in recent weeks were directed at the commanders of this unit, warning them — as Mr. Obama warned Mr. Assad on Dec. 3 — that they would be held personally responsible if the government used its chemical weapons.

 

Asked about these communications and whether they have been successful, an American intelligence official said only, “The topic is extremely sensitive, and public discussion, even on background, will be problematic.” Allied officials say whatever safeguards the Syrian government have taken, there remains great concern that the weapons could fall into the hands of Islamist extremists fighting the government or the militant group Hezbollah, which has established small training camps near some of the storage sites.

 

“Militants who got their hands on such munitions would find it difficult to deploy them effectively without the associated aircraft, artillery or rocket launcher systems,” said Jeremy Binnie, a terrorism and insurgency specialist at IHS Jane’s Defense Weekly. “That said, Hezbollah would probably be able to deploy them effectively against Israel with a bit of help.”

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ASSAD OFFERS ONLY MORE OF THE SAME:
MUKHABARAT BRUTALITY

Hassan Hassan

The National (UAE), Jan 7, 2013

 

The world still blinks every time Bashar Al Assad speaks, as if it has not learnt anything from 21 months of violence. In his speech yesterday [Jan 6] – his ninth since the uprising began – the dictator offered a plan that would include a lengthy, complicated process of gradual change and "truth and reconciliation". That would, in theory, lead to a new coalition government and a new constitution.

 

The speech was preceded by an aggressive two-week diplomatic campaign by the regime's allies and the UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi. That renewed push for diplomacy followed 140 countries' recognition of the National Coalition as the sole representative of the Syrian people, NATO Patriot missiles and military personnel that were dispatched to Turkey's border, and pledges of increased support for the opposition.

 

The diplomatic overture by the regime is part of a Russian-backed plan that would keep Al Assad in power until presidential elections in the summer of 2014. And the diplomacy appears to have succeeded in slowing down aid to the rebels, with reports that arms supplies are drying up. But the speech yesterday should remind the world that this dictator has no place in a future Syria and that support for the rebels is the only way forward.

 

Russia probably pressured Al Assad to announce a plan of reconciliation. But the speech sounded more vindictive, dismissive and exclusivist than even his previous bombast. For example, he said the plan was directed only at segments of the opposition, and that "those who reject the offer, I say to them: why would you reject an offer that was not meant for you in the first place?" In other points, he emphasized vengeance rather than reconciliation. He also blamed the rebels for the destruction of infrastructure and for cutting off electricity and communications.

 

"Syria accepts advice but never accepts orders," he said. "All of what you heard in the past in terms of plans and initiatives were soap bubbles, just like the [Arab] Spring." It was clear that he tried to sound steadfast, but his voice betrayed him several times. And before his departure from the room, the crowds chanted "may God protect you" – a chant that is used when someone is threatened. The usual party line is "with our soul and blood, we sacrifice ourselves for you".

 

Why would the regime offer a plan now, when it has not made a single meaningful concession since the beginning of the uprising? The violence would never have reached such staggering levels had Al Assad offered reasonable reforms from the beginning. Any hope that he can engineer an end to the violence is an illusion, which will only prolong and worsen the crisis. If anything, the speech showed that the regime will not change its policies except under duress.

 

The aim seemed to be threefold: to create the impression that the rebels refuse political settlements; to add to the world's reluctance about arming the rebels; and to question the legitimacy of the National Coalition as the sole representative of the Syrian people. The proposal of a new constitution is merely a red herring. Syrians did not rise up against the constitution, nor have they demanded constitutional change. People rose up against brutality, and the fact that the existing constitution was never honoured – the mukhabarat apparatus has dominated almost every aspect of Syrian life. The immediate cause of the uprising in Deraa was the mukhabarat, who arrested and tortured school boys for writing anti-regime graffiti and then humiliated their families.

 

Nor did Syrians rise up to be included in a coalition government. Any government that includes these same criminals will be no different. People rose up against the security apparatus that has plagued Syrian society, prevented progress, infringed on individual and public liberties, and tortured and killed tens of thousands of Syrians. These crimes, so obvious during this uprising, have been a normal state of affairs even during periods of calm. If a transition does not affect Al Assad, the mukhabarat apparatus and the army structure, then what does it offer?

 

Compromise does not exist in the regime's lexicon: political settlement means surrender, dialogue means subjugation, and a Syrian-Syrian solution means leaving Syrians to the regime's mercy. If the world wants to help Syrians, there is only one way: step up support for the rebels. The Assad speech was a sign of desperation. Recent moves, including the recognition of the opposition and the pledges of support, can work. More support for the rebels only increases the chances of a political settlement, which might even include safe passage for Al Assad. But a solution cannot come on his terms.

 

To be helpful, support for the rebels cannot simply prolong the fighting. The rebels need to be able to tip the balance. As the situation stands now, the regime may be able to fight for years, not just months…

 

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SYRIA: WHY ASSAD MAY YET CLAIM VICTORY

 

Simon Tisdall

The Guardian, Jan 7 2013

 

Reacting angrily to President Bashar al-Assad's speech on Sunday calling for an end to the rebellion, the US state department said the Syrian leader was "detached from reality". But much the same might be said of the US and of Assad's other western and Arab foes, and with greater justification. After two years of bloody attrition, the unpalatable truth is Assad is still in power, shows no sign of heeding demands to quit and is far from beaten. The evolving reality is that Assad may yet see off his many enemies and claim victory in Syria's civil war.

 

Explanations for this remarkable feat of survival lie not with Assad's personal abilities, which are limited, nor with the durability of his domestic supporters, who are in the minority, nor with the president's ruthlessness in prosecuting the military campaign. More potent has been his subtler achievement in convincing would-be western interventionists that awful though he is, what might follow him would almost certainly be worse. When leading Washington commentators such as David Ignatius [Washington Post] start talking up a "truth and reconciliation" process, you kind of know the battle is lost.

 

This process of geopolitical re-education – it might be termed psychological counter-insurgency – has been gradual but highly effective. One powerful aspect is the highlighting of the growing role of Islamist fundamentalists inside Syria, whom Assad regularly decries as foreign terrorists threatening the Syrian nation. This jihadi "scare factor" is rooted in last February's video message by the al-Qaida leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, in which he called on pious Muslims, primarily Sunnis living in Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan and Iraq, to help destroy the Syrian regime.

 

"Since then, the message has spread further afield, and the lure of joining the jihad in Syria against a Shia dictator is drawing in young men from around the world," said analyst Tobias Feakin in The Australian. Rising numbers of volunteers, estimated at up to 2,500 in total from as far away as Indonesia and Xinjiang in China, have dispersed in myriad suspect groups including the Free Syrian Army, Liwa al-Islam, Katibat al-Ansar, Ahrar al-Sham and Jabhat al-Nusra, which has close links with al-Qaida in Iraq.

 

The dawning realisation that Syria was not another Egypt or Libya, whose revolutions produced relatively clear-cut results, and that it might well become another failed state, harbouring al-Qaida fanatics bent on global confrontation, has had a big impact on western opinion, not least in the US….

The West's hedging of bets over Syria has become glaring in recent months even as its rhetoric has intensified. Political demands, principally that Assad step down immediately and without preconditions, have become ever more inflexible.

 

Led by France, the western position is that nothing less than regime change at the top will do. But at the same time, the argument about doing what needs to be done militarily and logistically to ensure that objective, for example by arming the rebels, seems to be over – and the rebels are the losers. Despite the rebooting of opposition forces under the umbrella Syrian National Coalition, weapons supplies and financial aid are drying up. Even the Sunni Gulf states seem to be having second thoughts as they contemplate a post-Assad Syria sliding into post-Saddam style anarchy.

 

Israel's decision to build border defenses across the Golan and Turkey's deployment of Patriot missiles along its border symbolize this shifting reality. The aim now is not to liberate Syria but to isolate it and quarantine it and to contain the contagion. The fact that the US and Britain have looked on as a second UN peace mission by Lakhdar Brahimi runs into the sand (the first, led by Kofi Annan, collapsed last year), the fact that no substantive pressure has been put on Russia's Vladimir Putin to drop his Syrian diplomatic protection racket, the fact that military intervention is publicly and noisily ruled out and the fact that no concerted international humanitarian relief effort has been mounted to assist Syrian refugees in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan all point to one conclusion: that the west is not serious about enforcing Assad's demise. It is a message that Assad has undoubtedly heard.

 

"Despite the efforts of Brahimi – and also of more sympathetic powers such as Russia and China, as well as Assad's Lebanese ally, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah – to promote a negotiated settlement, the regime has shown no interest in acceding to a democratic transition that would lead to its ouster. And its leaders believe they are fighting the rebels to a stalemate," said Tony Karon in Time. Joshua Landis, a Syria expert at the University of Oklahoma, told Karon that, whatever the US state department might say, the fact is that Assad is not budging.

 

Landis said:

 

    "Absent some dramatic increase in external intervention, Assad could still be there in 2014. There's nothing obvious in the current dynamic that's going to force him out. He has barricaded the major cities with layers of security, allowing the impoverished periphery of some to fall into rebel hands, but then using his air power and artillery to devastate those neighbourhoods. Almost two years into the uprising and despite the rebels' recent momentum, they have not yet taken full control of a single major city or town.

    Despite the confident predictions coming from the rebels and their backers, nobody in the opposition today can explain how they're going to win. The regime has the unity, it has all the heavy weapons. Many of the rebels continue to operate on the assumption that the US will intervene to tip the balance for them."

 

But despite all the huffing and puffing in Washington (and London), decisive intervention is extremely unlikely. It is time the likes of Obama and William Hague admitted this reality and started dealing with what is, rather than what might have been.

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The Endgame in Syria is Nowhere In Sight: Kenneth Bandler, FoxNews, Jan 4, 2013—Wither Syria? Some observers interpreted UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi’s visit to Damascus and certain Russian statements as proof positive that the Syrian conflict will be resolved soon. It will not. Predicting that the endgame for Syria is imminent, it turns out, is wishful thinking.

 

Assad And The U.S. Are Blind To Reality In Syria: Editorial, Washington Post, Jan 7, 2013—Syrian President Bashar al-Assad delivered a speech Sunday that had the virtue, at least, of offering clarity. No, he insisted, he would not step down. He would not negotiate with the rebels who control much of the countryside and parts of major cities. He would not consider the compromise “transition” proposal being pedaled by a U.N. envoy with the backing of his ally Russia, as well as the United States. Instead, he said, he would fight to the end against “enemies of God and puppets of the West.”

 

A Two-Year Travelogue From Hell: Christoph Reuter, Der Spiegel, Jan 4, 2013—We've driven along this road once before, in April 2012, which these days seems like an eternity ago. At the time, there was still electricity here, and people still lived in Taftanas, Sarmin, Kurin and other villages in Idlib Province, in northern Syria. But now, in December 2012, entire villages are empty and pockmarked with bullet holes, their residents having fled from airstrikes, hunger and frigid temperatures.

 

Syrian Refugees Attack Aid Workers in Jordanian Camp Over Terrible Conditions:Dale Gavlak, National Post, Jan 8, 2013—Syrian refugees in a Jordanian camp attacked aid workers with sticks and stones on Tuesday, frustrated after cold, howling winds swept away their tents and torrential rains flooded muddy streets overnight

 

A Syrian Way Out of The Civil War: David Ignatius, Washington Post, Jan 4, 2013—To help oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, an opposition group has drafted a plan for a transitional justice system that would impose harsh penalties against die-hard members of his inner circle but provide amnesty for most of his Alawite supporters.

 

Hezbollah Sent 5,000 Fighters to Help Assad: Elhanan Miller, Times of Israel, January 8, 2013—Some 5,000 Hezbollah combatants entered Syria in December to aid the faltering regime of Bashar Assad, a Saudi daily reported on Monday. According to Al-Watan, a government daily, four “support battalions” comprising at least 1,300 soldiers each had succeeded in killing some 300 rebel soldiers in recent weeks as battles raged between government and opposition forces around the capital Damascus.

 

Strategic Briefing on ‘Jabhat al-Nusra’: Noman Benotman and Roisin Blake, Quilliam,  Jan 8, 2013—‘Jabhat al-Nusra is one of the most publicised rebel groups in the current Syrian crisis, despite having a relatively small membership – a result of their hard-line ideology and guerrilla tactics, and because of the mystery surrounding their activities – mystery which only serves to increase the level of fear amongst many sectors of Syrian society and the international community.

 

UN: Million Syrians Short of Food: YNet News, Jan 8, 2013—About one million Syrians are going short of food, most of them in conflict zones, due to government restrictions on aid distribution, the United Nations said on Tuesday. The UN's World Food Program (WFP) is handing out rations to about 1.5 million people in Syria each month, still short of the 2.5 million deemed to be in need.

 

Fighting Flares in Palestinian Camp in Damascus: YNet News, Jan 8, 2013—Representatives of Palestinian factions in Syria are calling for an immediate cease-fire after fighting flared at a refugee camp in Damascus. Activists say five people were killed in the Yarmouk camp Tuesday, including four who died when a shell struck their street and a fifth shot by a sniper. The fighting pits gunmen loyal to President Bashar Assad against rebels, who now control much of the camp.

 

 

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COMING JAN. 22 ELECTION: AS ISRAEL, REFLECTING STATUS QUO, SHIFTS TO RIGHT,  OUTLINE OF EMERGENT “TWO-PARTY SYSTEM” DISCERNABLE

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Contents:                          

 

 

(Please Note: some articles may have been shortened in the interest of space. Please click on the article  link for the complete text – Ed.)

 

 

Why Israel Has Shifted to the Right: Jonathan S. Tobin, Commentary, Dec. 20, 2012—If liberal American Jews weren’t already dismayed about the fact that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is a shoe-in to be re-elected in next month’s election, the latest political news out of Israel may give them conniption fits. The results of new polls show that Netanyahu’s Likud and its coalition partners are set to exceed the strong governing majority they had in the current Knesset.

 

Israelis: No More ‘Big Ideas to Alter Status Quo’: Evelyn Gordon, Jerusalem Post Magazine, Jan. 3, 2013—Yet if you look at what Netanyahu hasn’t done, his popularity becomes instantly understandable. He didn’t sign a breakthrough “peace” agreement that created a terrorist quasi-state in the West Bank, from which Palestinian suicide bombers and gunmen proceeded to slaughter over 1,300 Israelis in a little over a decade.

 

Israel’s New Two-Party System: A Force For Extremism: Donniel Hartman, Jerusalem Post, Jan. 3, 2013—A new feature has emerged in Israeli politics this election season: the evolution of our political culture into a de facto two-party system similar to the Republican and Democrat divide in the US, referred to here as the Right and the Center-Left.

 

 

On Topic Links

 

 

 

A Dose Of Nuance: Not Just France With Humous: Daniel Gordis, Jerusalem Post, Dec. 13, 2012

Say No To Hallucination Dealers: Dan Margalit, Israel Hayom, Jan. 4, 2013

Shamir: If  Convicted, My Leader [Liberman] Must Leave Politics: Ron Friedman, Times of Israel, Jan. 4, 2013

Likud Rises as Leftists Vow No Coalition: Maayana Miskin, Israel National News, Jan. 4, 2013

A Labor-Habayit Hayehudi Alliance?: Mati Tuchfeld, Israel Hayom, Jan. 4, 2013

 

 

 

 

WHY ISRAEL HAS SHIFTED TO THE RIGHT

Jonathan S. Tobin

Commentary, Dec. 20, 2012

 

If liberal American Jews weren’t already dismayed about the fact that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is a shoe-in to be re-elected in next month’s election, the latest political news out of Israel may give them conniption fits. The results of new polls show that Netanyahu’s Likud and its coalition partners are set to exceed the strong governing majority they had in the current Knesset. But the really interesting numbers are those that show that the main party to the right of the Likud—the Habeyit Hayehudi or Jewish Home Party–is on track to be the third largest in the next parliament with only Likud and Labor (set to finish a distant second) ahead of it.

 

This will give residents and supporters of the settlement movement an even louder voice in the next Knesset than their already healthy contingent in the current one. This will be interpreted by some on the left as a sign of Israel’s depravity or indifference to peace. But the reason for it is clear.

 

Whereas in Israel’s past it could be asserted that the Likud represented Israel’s right-wing constituency, it has, to the shock and dismay of many in the left-wing Israeli media, become the center. That is not because more Israelis are supporters of increasing settlement throughout the West Bank. They are not. Rather it is due to the fact that the Israeli center as well as even many on what we used to call the Israeli left, have given up on the Palestinians. They know that neither Fatah in the West Bank nor Hamas in Gaza will ever recognize Israel’s legitimacy no matter where its borders are drawn. So they have abandoned those parties that hold onto the illusion of peace in favor of those with a more realistic vision while those on the right are now embracing parties like Habeyit Hayehudi in order to hold Netanyahu’s feet to the fire and prevent him from making concessions that will neither entice the Palestinians to the negotiating table nor increase its popularity abroad.

 

Habeyit Hayehudi is the beneficiary in part of the merger of the Likud with Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beitenu. Rather than polls showing Likud getting as many seats as the two parties got in the last election, it is registering a loss of several places as some nationalist voters abandon the new conglomerate for its more ideological rival to the right. Though the enlarged Likud will still gain several seats from the mark it won in the 2009 vote that brought Netanyahu back into power and make it by far the largest in the Knesset with 35, Habeyit Hayehudi is set to get 12 with another pro-settlement party getting another two. That will double the number of seats those smaller parties won four years ago. Combined with the Orthodox religious parties, that will give Netanyahu nearly 70 seats out of 120 next year even before any of the centrist members join him as some undoubtedly will do.

 

Habeyit Hayehudi also has the advantage of a new leader in the 40-year-old Naftali Bennett. He is the son of American immigrants who is a former chief of staff to Netanyahu and who earned great wealth through the sale of his Internet security firm. In him, Israel’s nationalist camp now has an articulate and savvy figure who can say things about the Palestinians that Netanyahu, who, as David Horovitz of the Times of Israel pointed out in an insightful analysis, cannot utter for fear of worsening relations with the United States.

 

Bennett’s powerful position, which will be enhanced by a Cabinet portfolio that he will demand and get, will make the next Knesset harder for Netanyahu to manage. The absence of several Likud moderates who have been replaced by more nationalist and younger figures on the party’s Knesset list will also ensure that the prime minister will not be straying far from the wishes of his voters the way some of his predecessors have done.

 

This won’t necessarily mean that Netanyahu will move to build throughout the West Bank the way Bennett would like. But it will strengthen his resolve to continue to do so in Jerusalem and its suburbs as well as the major settlement blocs that Israel will hold onto even in the theoretical scenario where the Palestinians finally give in and accept a two-state solution.  That will lead to much gnashing of the teeth on the part of liberal Jews who are uncomfortable with Netanyahu, let alone those to his right. But those who lament this development should understand that the Israeli people are making this choice with their eyes wide open.

 

Even Labor, the party that is historically associated with the peace process, has more or less abandoned the issue of reconciliation with the Palestinians in this election and instead is concentrating on economic and social justice issues. Those lists that are still devoted to the peace process, including the new party led by former foreign minister Tzipi Livni, have been thoroughly marginalized.

 

Unlike most Israelis, many if not most American Jews and many non-Jewish friends of Israel haven’t drawn conclusions from the last 20 years of failed peace processing. They cling instead to the fables about the Palestinians that once fueled the post-Oslo euphoria in Israel but which have now been discarded there.

 

 

 

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ISRAELIS: NO MORE ‘BIG IDEAS TO ALTER STATUS QUO’

Evelyn Gordon

Jerusalem Post Magazine, Jan. 3, 2013

 

Writing in The Jerusalem Post on Friday [Dec. 28], Donniel Hartman lamented the lack of “new ideas” in this election campaign. Campaigns, he proclaimed, should be a time for politicians to put forth “noble and naïve ideas,” to compete over “new ways to change the status quo;” a campaign that doesn’t do this is “dangerous for Israel and its future.”

 

Hartman’s plaint is a perfect snapshot of the thinking that has made Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu the unchallenged king of Israeli politics. Because for 20 years, Israelis have suffered through a succession of prime ministers who not only produced, but implemented, “noble and naïve ideas” to “change the status quo.” And what Israelis discovered is that such ideas are frequently far more “dangerous for Israel and its future” than the cautious conservatism Netanyahu epitomizes.

 

This isn’t to imply that Netanyahu has no ideas. He actually has quite a few, and many are even good ones. But none are of the big, radical, “noble and naïve” type. What he has consistently proposed, over two terms of office, is cautious, incremental change that will hopefully leave the country a bit better than he found it, but probably won’t affect a major revolution. And Israelis confidently expect the same from a third term.

 

Ironically, Netanyahu’s discomfort with big, radical ideas led him to a landslide loss in 1999, when Israelis opted for a rival who promised a host of them: unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon, a final-status agreement with the Palestinians, a socioeconomic revolution that would finally “get the old woman out of the hospital corridor,” and more.

 

Yet that very same aversion to big, radical ideas is why he enjoys massive margins of support today. A Haaretz poll last week, for instance, asked respondents which party leader they trusted most on security, economics and diplomatic negotiations. On all three issues, Netanyahu outpolled his nearest rival by more than 2:1; on security, the margin was more than 4:1.

 

If you look merely at what Netanyahu has done, these numbers seem almost incomprehensible. After all, he hasn’t won any wars or thwarted any major security threat; the high cost of living and other economic problems sparked the biggest socioeconomic protests in decades last year; and not only has he failed to negotiate any major diplomatic agreements, but much of the world holds him responsible for this failure.

 

Yet if you look at what Netanyahu hasn’t done, his popularity becomes instantly understandable. He didn’t sign a breakthrough “peace” agreement that created a terrorist quasi-state in the West Bank, from which Palestinian suicide bombers and gunmen proceeded to slaughter over 1,300 Israelis in a little over a decade. He didn’t unilaterally withdraw from Lebanon or Gaza, thereby abandoning them to the rule of terrorist organizations that have subsequently fired more than 16,000 rockets at Israel. He didn’t launch a grand diplomatic summit that ended up sparking a terrorist war. He didn’t conduct any failed wars, in either the military or the public-relations sense. He didn’t propose any sweeping territorial concessions that, had they been accepted, would have proven as detrimental to Israel’s security as every previous such concession has.

 

In short, unlike his predecessors, he produced no big ideas for changing the status quo – no “peace agreements,” no unilateral withdrawals, no sweeping final-status proposals, no failed wars “to destroy Hezbollah or Hamas once and for all” (a wildly inappropriate aim if you’re unwilling to do what’s necessary to achieve it). And Israelis, battered and shell-shocked by the disastrous consequences of all these previous big ideas, are grateful for the quiet his cautious, risk-averse policies have produced. But it’s not just that his aversion to grandiose ideas has prevented any major new disasters. It’s that by eschewing such big ideas, he has managed to implement modest but significant improvements.

 

On the security front, he has a laudable track record on counterterrorism. During his first term, he reduced terrorist deaths by 70 percent, from 211 in 1993-96 to 63 in 1996-99. During his current term, he kept terror at the relatively low level inherited from his predecessor.

 

Economically, for all the real problems that sparked last year’s socioeconomic protests, Israel is doing well compared to the rest of the West. Its 7% unemployment rate is vastly better than the Eurozone average of 11.7%; in some Eurozone countries, like Spain and Greece, unemployment has soared to over 25%. The Eurozone has also experienced zero or negative growth for the last four quarters; Israel, by contrast, posted growth of about 3.3% this year.

 

And diplomatically, Netanyahu succeeded in getting the world to impose much tougher sanctions on Iran, something all his predecessors signally failed to do. Indeed, even his most bitter opponents find themselves forced to acknowledge his achievements. Here, for instance, is what columnist Ari Shavit of the far-left Haaretz wrote in October: “Netanyahu's government … correctly focused on the Iranian nuclear challenge and acted against it with skill and ingenuity, most of the time. It led a necessary reform of higher education and an important reform of preschool education, paved roads and built railway lines.”

 

And here’s Haaretz editor-in-chief Aluf Benn, writing two weeks ago: “[Netanyahu] said he'd mobilize international public opinion to escalate the sanctions against Iran and prepare the Israel Defense Forces for attack, and he did. He said he'd act to raise the Palestinians' standard of living, and it rose. He spoke out against unilateral withdrawals, and he didn't withdraw. He promised that Israel's students would reach the top 10 in international exams, and their performance has improved. He wrote he would take care of the crime families, and they've dropped out of the public agenda.”

 

Like many Israelis, I think Netanyahu could and should have done far more to address Israel’s numerous domestic problems, and I’m disappointed that he didn’t. Nevertheless, one could do far worse than making some modest improvements while avoiding any major disasters. And after two decades of “noble and naïve” ideas that left the country battered and bloody, Israelis understand this quite well. That’s why most are breathing a quiet sigh of relief at the prospect of four more years without them.

 

 

 

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ISRAEL’S NEW TWO-PARTY SYSTEM: A FORCE FOR EXTREMISM

Donniel Hartman

Jerusalem Post, Jan. 3, 2013

 

A new feature has emerged in Israeli politics this election season: the evolution of our political culture into a de facto two-party system similar to the Republican and Democrat divide in the US, referred to here as the Right and the Center-Left. There are indeed two sectorial groups outside this divide – haredim and Arabs. The former, however, will join either of the two “parties,” depending on which is willing to greater serve the interests of its sector, while the latter always remains in the opposition.

 

It is true that these two parties are divided into multiple mini-parties. However, the fact that the two major parties (the Likud and Yisrael Beytenu) on the Right have amalgamated, and the third (Bayit Yehudi) is running on the platform of being their coalition partner, while on the Left, politicians are jumping from sub-party to sub-party, avoiding a formal unification primarily because of ego, are all evidence of the fact that the old multiple party system is dead.

 

Voters and politicians are no longer loyal or bound to a sub-party but to the larger party bloc, and shift their affiliations freely within this bloc without feeling any remorse or nostalgia. The sub-party is but a means and a platform to serve them without any ability to generate sustained loyalty. Thus, for example, Amir Peretz can wake up in the morning as one of the leaders of the Labor Party and go to sleep at night as one of the leaders of The Tzipi Livni Party (Hatnuah), itself formed by Livni, the former leader of the Kadima Party. Those who see all of this as opportunism fail to realize the profound shift within Israeli political culture from the multiparty to the two party system.

 

Similarly, the dramatic growth in popularity of the heretofore religious-Zionist sectorial party, the Bayit Yehudi, with the support of secular former Likud loyalists, the significant infiltration into the Likud Knesset candidates list of individuals and ideologues who are using the Likud base to mainstream positions which in the past were the domain of the extreme Right, and on the Left, with the disintegration of the popular base of Kadima, the largest party in the last Knesset, and its redistribution within the Center-Left “party,” are again evidence of the fact that the electorate is thinking within the context of a two-party model, with the sub-parties being merely the vehicle du jour to best represent their core commitments.

 

While this emergence of a two-party system generates greater clarity for the electorate and promises stability for the government, the fact that, as distinct from the United States, it is based on sub-party components, creates a foundation for a particularly toxic and destructive phenomenon. Because most voters are already clearly aligned within one of the two blocs, the main campaigns of the sub-parties are not against those within the other bloc but within their own. This reality generates a move to unnecessary radicalism, as each sub-party attempts to brand itself as unique.

 

In the current election season, the right-wing “party,” which will win the next election, is plagued by a competition amongst its sub-parties as to who is more “pro-settlement,” more “anti-Mahmoud Abbas” and more vociferous in protecting and caring for the “Jewish Israel.”

 

In the past, the conventional wisdom was that you could only win an election in Israel from the Center. While Binyamin Netanyahu, from the perspective of those on the Left, is clearly on the Right, the cornerstone of his political success was his laying hold to the position of the Center- Right. His embrace of Bennie Begin, with his steadfast commitment to democracy and liberalism, and Dan Meridor, a longstanding supporter of both of these values, as well as moderation in foreign policy, together with his 2009 Bar-Ilan University speech and ongoing vetoes of most of the anti-democratic legislation put forward by the Knesset, all served to make Netanyahu both electable and acceptable to a broad spectrum of Israelis on both sides of the political divide.

 

In this campaign, however, not only is Netanyahu going into the electoral battle without the above allies, but more and more of his party members believe that the most effective way to combat the Bayit Yehudi is to outflank it on the Right. In this context, the Bar-Ilan speech accepting a two-state solution in theory is now a liability, and spokespeople for the heretofore center-right Likud allow themselves to vocalize a nationalistic, xenophobic and at times even anti-democratic rhetoric that in the past never would even have been considered.

 

One of the lessons of the recent US election is that you cannot win the country from either extreme, and the Republican Party, if it wants to return to power, will have to look carefully at the consequences of a platform that represents the radical Right within the party. The advantage that the Republican Party has is that it lost the election. There is nothing like the harsh reality of failure to generate reevaluation and refocus.

 

In the Israeli dual-party, sub-party system, however, such a corrective does not exist. The right-wing party will win on the basis of a center-right majority within Israel. However, this center-right will be governed by individuals and platforms which represent extreme sub-party ideologies. There are some who find comfort in the belief that election rhetoric does not represent day-after Election Day policies. This is the case only when there are moderating forces at the table. In our frenzy to win the sub-party battles, however, we have stacked the deck against moderation, and I am fearful that we lack the internal forces to heal ourselves.

 

As we move toward the end of the election season it is critical that Center-Right voices emerge with moral and ideological clarity, compelled by a vision of what will be good for the country, regardless of its significance in the sub-party conflict. It will be a mistake if these voices remain silent, waiting to emerge in the safety of the day after the elections. A culture, rhetoric and public discourse about policy are taking root in these elections which will not be easily uprooted. As our rabbis teach us, if not now, when? Every day that this discourse is allowed to rule dramatically changes not the outcome of this election but the future of Israeli society.

 

Finally, sub-parties on the Center-Left must enter into the fray, not as voices in the opposition but as unabashed coalition partner aspirants. The cynics will say that in doing so they are expressing a void of values and a commitment to power over ideology. Nothing could be further from the truth. Politics is about using power to actualize ideology. In the new Israeli two-party system, we don’t need a national unity government. We need sub-parties from both “parties” to join together to save us from ourselves.

 

Rabbi Dr. Donniel Hartman is president of the Shalom Hartman Institute.

 

 

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A Dose Of Nuance: Not Just France With Humous: Daniel Gordis, Jerusalem Post, Dec. 13, 2012— What Jewish vision animates your social goals for Israel? If you’ve got nothing to say about that, why should any of us vote for you? Are you saying anything about your vision for this country that you couldn’t say if you were running for office in France, or Sweden or Denmark? Anything at all about the Jewish nature of this country? If you did, I might just vote for you.

 

Say No To Hallucination Dealers: Dan Margalit, Israel Hayom, Jan. 4, 2013—A voice is needed that combines bravery, prudence, strength and cool-headedness. A voice is needed that warns the young, engaged in their own personal problems, against false prophets. A voice against those who promise everything for free. A voice against those who prattle on in the language of charlatans about how, if we just let them, they can bring peace now or redeem the entire land.

 

Shamir: If  Convicted, My Party Leader [Liberman] Must Leave Politics: Ron Friedman, Times of Israel, Jan. 4, 2013—Rookie politician says public servants who’ve faltered should make way for those who haven’t; accuses Netanyahu of flip-flopping on Palestinian state

 

Friday Polls Show Jewish Home Surge May Have Been An Outlier: Joshua Davidovich, Times of Israel, Jan. 4, 2013—Right-wing party seen getting 13-14 seats, and not 18 predicted by Israel Radio poll a day earlier. Both polls show the joint Likud-Yisrael Beytenu joint list leading the pack, with 36 seats according to Maariv, and 34 according to Israel Hayom. The ruling party had been predicted to get over 40 seats in early preelection polling, but recent polls have shown it bleeding voters on the right to Jewish Home.

 

Likud Rises as Leftists Vow No Coalition: Maayana Miskin, Israel National News, Jan. 4, 2013—Likud Beytenu regains losses in the polls, ending with enough support to win 36 Knesset seats, according to a new poll released Friday by Maariv/nrg. Left-wing parties say they will try to thwart a coalition.

 

A Labor-Habayit Hayehudi Alliance?: Mati Tuchfeld, Israel Hayom, Jan. 4, 2013—Habayit Hayehudi Chairman Naftali Bennett isn't ruling out the possibility of joining forces with Labor Chairwoman Shelly Yachimovich • In the meantime, he is trying to keep Eli Ben-Dahan and Orit Struck, fellow party members that he views as too extreme, under wraps.

 

 

 

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