The Iran deal: Anatomy of a disaster

By Charles Krauthammer, syndicated columnists and Fox News contributor, for the Washington Post (April 9):

Negotiations . . . to prevent an Iranian capability to develop a nuclear arsenal are ending with an agreement that concedes this very capability . . .

Henry Kissinger and George Shultz, the Wall Street Journal, April 8.

President Obama speaks at the White House about the Iranian nuclear talks. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais / ASSOCIATED PRESS)

President Obama speaks at the White House about the Iranian nuclear talks. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais / ASSOCIATED PRESS)

It was but a year and a half ago that Barack Obama endorsed the objective of abolition when he said that Iran’s heavily fortified Fordow nuclear facility, its plutonium-producing heavy-water reactor and its advanced centrifuges were all unnecessary for a civilian nuclear program. The logic was clear: Since Iran was claiming to be pursuing an exclusively civilian program, these would have to go.

Yet under the deal Obama is now trying to sell, not one of these is to be dismantled. Indeed, Iran’s entire nuclear infrastructure is kept intact, just frozen or repurposed for the length of the deal (about a decade). Thus Fordow’s centrifuges will keep spinning. They will now be fed xenon, zinc and germanium instead of uranium. But that means they remain ready at any time to revert from the world’s most heavily (indeed comically) fortified medical isotope facility to a bomb-making factory.

And upon the expiration of the deal, conceded Obama Monday on NPR, Iran’s breakout time to a nuclear bomb will be “almost down to zero,” i.e., it will be able to produce nuclear weapons at will and without delay.

And then there’s cheating. Not to worry, says Obama. We have guarantees of compliance: “unprecedented inspections” and “snapback” sanctions.

The inspection promises are a farce. We haven’t even held the Iranians to their current obligation to come clean with the International Atomic Energy Agency on their previous nuclear activities. The IAEA charges Iran with stonewalling on 11 of 12 issues.

As veteran nuclear expert David Albright points out, that makes future verification impossible — how can you determine what’s been illegally changed or added if you have no baseline? Worse, there’s been no mention of the only verification regime with real teeth — at-will, unannounced visits to any facility, declared or undeclared. The joint European-Iranian statement spoke only of “enhanced access through agreed procedures,” which doesn’t remotely suggest anywhere/anytime inspections. And on Thursday, Iran’s supreme leader ruled out any “extraordinary supervision measures.”

The IAEA hasn’t been allowed to see the Parchin weaponization facility in 10 years. And the massive Fordow complex was disclosed not by the IAEA but by Iranian dissidents.

Yet even if violations are found, what then? First, they have to be certified by the IAEA. Which then reports to the United Nations, where Iran has the right to challenge the charge. Which then has to be considered, argued and adjudicated. Which then presumably goes to the Security Council where China, Russia and sundry anti-Western countries will act as Iran’s lawyers. Which all would take months — after which there is no guarantee that China and Russia will ratify the finding anyway.

As for the “snapback” sanctions — our last remaining bit of pressure — they are equally fantastic. There’s no way sanctions will be re-imposed once they have been lifted. It took a decade to weave China, Russia and the Europeans into the current sanctions infrastructure. Once gone, it doesn’t snap back. None will pull their companies out of a thriving, post-sanctions Iran. As Kissinger and Shultz point out, we will be fought every step of the way, leaving the United States, not Iran, isolated.

Obama imagines that this deal will bring Iran in from the cold, tempering its territorial ambitions and ideological radicalism. But this defies logic: With sanctions lifted, its economy booming and tens of billions injected into its treasury, why would Iran curb rather than expand its relentless drive for regional dominance?

An overriding objective of these negotiations, as Obama has said, is to prevent the inevitable proliferation — Egypt, Turkey, the Gulf states — that would occur if Iran went nuclear. Yet the prospective agreement is so clearly a pathway to an Iranian bomb that the Saudis are signaling that the deal itself would impel them to go nuclear.

You set out to prevent proliferation and you trigger it. You set out to prevent an Iranian nuclear capability and you legitimize it. You set out to constrain the world’s greatest exporter of terror threatening every one of our allies in the Middle East and you’re on the verge of making it the region’s economic and military hegemon.

What is the alternative, asks the president? He’s repeatedly answered the question himself: No deal is better than a bad deal.

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Holocaust remembrance

A powerful op-ed with an important conclusion.

Summary:

The Jerusalem Post reflects on the Holocaust, and finds that little has changed: “We are surrounded by enemies who bay for Jewish blood and teach their tots – a hairbreadth away from Israel – that Jews are descended from monkeys and pigs and should be wiped out.” Linking anti-Israel sentiment to anti-Semitism, the editor states: “The sad fact is that we are accused of being Nazis by Nazi-torchbearers who vilify us in Joseph Goebbels’s Big-Lie tradition,” and concludes: “Our struggle for survival is hardly over.”

Survivors of the former Nazi German concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz arrive to the former camp in Oswiecim.. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Survivors of the former Nazi German concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz arrive to the former camp in Oswiecim.. (photo credit: REUTERS)

The Jerusalem Post (April 16) —  Even those who were tiny babies then – hidden from the Nazi extermination apparatus that hunted diligently for every last Jew – are elderly today, 70 years after the Third Reich was vanquished.

Soon no one who was alive then will be around to help counter the lies of Holocaust-deniers or the deliberate trivialization and kitschy universalization of the lessons the Holocaust ought to impart to our nation of survivors.

The inexorable march of time is already leaving its stamp even on attitudes here, in Israel, including on Holocaust Remembrance Day. This morning, as we stand in silent vigil for the 6,000,000, there will be those among us tempted to ascribe it all to a one-off regime from long ago, not particularly relevant to today and now.

But, all around us, the hate still thrives and that there are no bounds to the lengths that haters will go to rationalize and justify it.

The falsehoods disseminated by the Nazis and their avid collaborators have been adapted to mutating historical agendas, but the grotesque displays of hypocrisy are no different. The Jewish state is as defamed and demonized as the so-called “Jewish race” had been in order to pave the way for industrialized genocide.

Like their predecessors, the Jewish state’s would-be annihilators posture as morally upright members of the international community and blame the victim for a monstrously magnified set of “unforgivable” sins.

This is evident in many ways, including in ways Israelis have grown accustomed to ignoring. Yet what we ignore and dismiss matters. Campaigns such as that orchestrated against the scheduled appearance in Israel next month of British megastar Robbie Williams are anything but trivial.

BDS groups pressuring Williams accuse Israel of “extreme, racist dehumanization of Palestinians in Israeli society, which has reached a fever pitch. In Israel, politicians and pundits in The Times of Israel and The Jerusalem Post have called openly for genocide of Palestinians and right-wing Israelis are adopting neo-Nazi insignia.” There is more, much more, in the same vein.

The lie matters because it facilitates the application of double standards against Israel.

Its ultimate logic is that of the ayatollahs who sponsor Holocaust-caricaturizing contests and who declare that their aim to obliterate Israel is “nonnegotiable.” The world’s presumed enlightened democracies not only fail to protest but they appease the Tehran regime and essentially allow it to underpin its intentions with nuclear weapons.

The battle against “the Zionist entity” called Israel was never limited to this country. More than two decades ago the Iranians carried it to far-off Argentina where they carbombed a Jewish community center and murdered scores of innocents for no other crime than being born to Jewish parents.

This scenario was reenacted over and over abroad – most recently at Toulouse’s Jewish school, Brussels’ Jewish museum, a kosher supermarket in Paris and a Copenhagen synagogue. No gripes against Israel can disguise the lethal Judeophobia.

We are surrounded by enemies who bay for Jewish blood and teach their tots – a hairbreadth away from Israel – that Jews are descended from monkeys and pigs and should be wiped out. Their Holocaust-era leader Haj Amin al-Husseini is still revered in their midst.

He was an avid Nazi collaborator who spent the war years as Adolf Hitler’s personal guest in Berlin, recruited Muslims to the SS, plotted the extension of the “final solution” to the Middle East, scuttled any plan even to rescue small Jewish children and at the war’s end sealed the fate of Hungarian Jewry.

He was declared a wanted war criminal but escaped back here to participate in the assault (merely three years post-Holocaust) on the newborn Jewish state (to which Husseini recruited Bosnian SS veterans). It is no accident that Nazis like Alois Brunner (Adolf Eichmann’s assistant) found refuge in Arab lands and that unrepentant Nazi scientists collaborated in outfitting the Arab world with weaponry against Israel’s Jews.

The sad fact is that we are accused of being Nazis by Nazi-torchbearers who vilify us in Joseph Goebbels’s Big-Lie tradition. Our struggle for survival is hardly over.

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Yarmouk exposes callous double standards of ugly Israel bashers

Jewish News (UK) (April 14) — If there were an award for double standards, for getting crazily angry about some people’s behaviour while turning a blind eye to other people’s behaviour, anti-Israel activists would win it every year.

These are people who take to the streets to march and holler whenever an Israeli warplane leaves its hangar, yet who say next to nothing about the militarism of France, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and too many other states to mention.

They bang on endlessly about Israel being an apartheid state, yet through BDS they have created a system of cultural apartheid. In their eyes, culture created by us, or by China, or by Zimbabwe, is fine, but culture produced by them, those nasty Israelis, must be hounded out of theatres and galleries lest it infect us all with its contagious Zionism.

These are activists who cry “Censorship!” when a conference of theirs is pulled, as happened at Southampton University recently. Yet they spend the rest of their time agitating for the No Platforming of Israeli representatives on campus and for the shutting down of pro-Israel university societies. “Free speech! (For nice people like me, not for rotters like you)” — that’s their fantastically hypocritical motto.

And now we can see that their double standards extend even to the people they claim to care for: the Palestinians.

Even here, even on the question of Palestinian suffering, anti-Israel activists only care some of the time. If you’re a Palestinian whose life is made harder by Israeli forces, they’ll share pictures of you, march in the streets for you, write tear-drenched tweets about you. But if you’re a Palestinian under threat from a non-Israeli force, forget about it. You’re on your own.

This has become clear in recent days, following reports that the Islamic State’s deathly grip now reaches into the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk in Syria.

Yarmouk has suffered terribly since the start of the Syrian Civil War. It has been the scene of deadly fighting between the Western-backed Free Syrian Army and forces loyal to Assad. Thousands have fled: it is thought the camp’s population has fallen from 100,000 to just 20,000 since 2012. Now, making this bad situation hellishly worse, the Islamic State reportedly controls 90% of the camp and is thought to have massacred citizens.

Where is the Twitter outrage? The talk of holding public protests? The angry articles by Palestinian solidarity activists? The discussions about sending aid to Yarmouk, as those preening politicians, authors and others did in relation to Gaza in 2010?

All these things are conspicuous by their absence. The deprivations of the Yarmouk Palestinians don’t seem to have pricked Western radicals’ conscience, certainly not in the way the Gaza war did last year.

Scour the Twitter feed of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and you will find no mention of Yarmouk. There are stories about Israeli forces stopping a Palestinian school bus for two hours, but nothing about the reported shooting and even beheadings of Palestinians in Yarmouk. These guys should seriously consider a name change: how about ‘Solidarity For Some Palestinians’?

The implicit and ugly separation of Palestinians into worthy and unworthy camps, into groups we should be worried about (the ones impacted upon by Israel) and groups we shouldn’t be so worried about (those impacted upon by anyone other than Israel), is not new.

In Western radical circles, there’s long been a habit of getting angry about some attacks on Palestinians but not others. Few Palestine solidarity campaigners lose much sleep over the bloody expulsion of the PLO from Jordan in 1970 or the Tel al-Zaatar massacre in Lebanon in 1976, when around 2,000 Palestinians were killed by Lebanese forces. But they will talk endlessly about the history of Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians.

What explains this double standard? It’s because, today, what gets dressed up as “Palestinian solidarity” is nothing of the sort. This is no longer a movement devoted in any serious way to assisting the Palestinians; rather, it’s become all about demonising Israel, turning it into a whipping boy for the sins of history that right-minded Westerners can yell about and rage against and ostentatiously oppose.

For these campaigners, Palestinians are, in essence, political props, bit-part players in Western activists’ own narcissistic desire to find one evil entity that they can pin every global problem on. The driving force here isn’t concern for Palestinians — it’s the need of increasingly rootless, ideas-lite, post-Cold War leftists to find one allegedly black-and-white morality play in which they can be the good guys.

Palestinians are wheeled on, not as a real people capable of determining their own affairs, but as permanent victims whose suffering is cynically used by Westerners to boost their own sense of moral righteousness and their fury with Israel and what they think it represents: the excesses of colonialism, of modernity, of the West itself.

So for them, Palestinians who find themselves under attack from Israel are useful tools, nice additions to their invented moral drama, but Palestinians who are screwed over by the Islamic State, or by some other non-Israeli force, are not so useful. And thus those Palestinians suffer largely in silence.

The cynicism and callousness of modern-day Israel-bashers have been graphically exposed by Yarmouk.

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The Iranian Revolution Lives!

By David Brooks for The New York Times (April 10):

Beyond all the talk of centrifuges and enrichment capacities, President Obama’s deal with Iran is really a giant gamble on the nature of the Iranian regime. The core question is: Are the men who control that country more like Lenin or are they more like Gorbachev? Do they still fervently believe in their revolution and would they use their postsanctions wealth to export it and destabilize their region? Or have they lost faith in their revolution? Will they use a deal as a way to rejoin the community of nations?

We got a big piece of evidence on those questions on Thursday. Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, delivered his first big response to the sort-of-agreed-upon nuclear framework. What did we learn?

First, we learned that Iran’s supreme leader still regards the United States as his enemy. The audience chanted “Death to America” during his speech, and Khamenei himself dismissed America’s “devilish” intentions. When a radical religious leader uses a word like “devilish,” he’s not using it the way it’s used in a chocolate-cake commercial. He means he thinks the United States is the embodiment of evil.

Second, we learned that the West wants a deal more than Khamenei does. “I was never optimistic about negotiating with America,” he declared. Throughout the speech, his words dripped with a lack of enthusiasm for the whole enterprise.

President Obama is campaigning for a deal, while Khamenei is unmoved. That imbalance explains why Western negotiators had to give away so many of their original demands. The United States had originally insisted upon an end to Iran’s nuclear program, a suspension of its enrichment of uranium, but that was conceded to keep Iran at the table.

Third, we learned that the ayatollah is demanding total trust from us while offering maximum contempt in return. Khamenei communicated a smug and self-righteous sense of superiority toward the West throughout his remarks. He haughtily repeated his demand that the West permanently end all sanctions on the very day the deal is signed. He insisted that no inspectors could visit Iranian military facilities. This would make a hash of verification and enforcement.

Fourth, we learned that Khamenei and the U.S. see different realities. It’s been pointed out that Iranian and American officials describe the “agreed upon” framework in different ways. That’s because, Khamenei suggested, the Americans are lying. “I’m really worried as the other side is into lying and breaching promises. An example was the White House fact sheet,” he said. “This came out a few hours after the negotiations, and most of it was against the agreement and was wrong. They are always trying to deceive and break promises.”

Fifth, Khamenei reminded us that, even at the most delicate moment in these talks, he is still intent on putting Iran on a collision course with Sunnis and the West. He attacked the Saudi leaders as “inexperienced youngsters” and criticized efforts to push back on Iranian efforts to destabilize Yemen.

The foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan, characterized Iran’s recent bellicosity this way: “It’s about Iran believing in exporting the revolution. It’s part of their regime, a part of their ideology.”

Khamenei’s remarks could be bluster, tactical positioning for some domestic or international audience. But they are entirely consistent with recent Iranian behavior. His speech suggests that Iran still fundamentally sees itself in a holy war with the West, a war that can be managed prudently but that is still a fundamental clash of values and interests. His speech suggests, as Henry Kissinger and George Shultz put it in a brilliant op-ed essay in The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday, that there is no congruence of interests between us and Iran. We envision a region of stable nation-states. They see a revolutionary anti-Western order.

If Iran still has revolutionary intent, then no amount of treaty subtlety will enforce this deal. Iran will begin subtly subverting any agreement. It will continue to work on its advanced nuclear technology even during the agreement. It will inevitably use nuclear weaponry, or even the threat of eventual nuclear weaponry, to advance its apocalyptic interests. Every other regional power will prepare for the worst, and we’ll get a pseudo-nuclear-arms race in a region of disintegrating nation-states.

If President Obama is right and Iran is on the verge of change, the deal is a home run. But we have a terrible record of predicting trends in the Middle East. Republican and Democratic administrations have continually anticipated turning points in the Middle East: Republicans after interventions, Democrats after negotiations. But the dawns never come.

At some point, there has to be a scintilla of evidence that Iran wants to change. Khamenei’s speech offers none. Negotiating an arms treaty with Brezhnev and Gorbachev was one thing. But with this guy? Good luck with that.

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The “historic” agreement that ignores history

No-one agrees on what was agreed with Iran, but in any case the precedents are hardly encouraging.

Globes (April 12) — By this time hordes of commentators have chewed over Mr. Obama’s “historic” agreement. Some aspects, however, have been overlooked or misinterpreted:

1. It is not an agreement. It is a “framework” for an eventual agreement to be forged in the period between now and June 30th when the actual “agreement” is to be signed.

2. There is no agreement as to what was agreed. At least three versions of the framework are in circulation: that of the State Department, that of the French and that of the Iranians. They disagree fundamentally on what was agreed.

3. Why does Iran need all those “research and development” nuclear facilities that were apparently agreed to by the six negotiating powers? For nuclear power? That technology is many decades old and can be bought off the shelf from the Russians, the French, the Americans or elsewhere. For medical research? That would require one small facility. Then what for? Why, for the development of the capacity to make nuclear weapons, of course. There is no other possible use.

4. Military facilities are left out of the “agreement”. Why? Military facilities can be used to achieve nuclear “breakout” as well as civilian facilities.

5. Finally, according to the State Department version, Iran will achieve nuclear breakout within two to three months. Come again? If they are right that means that the Iranians will achieve breakout BEFORE June 30th! So what is the point of the whole exercise?

In 1994 President Clinton made a television address from the White House remarkably similar in wording to that of Mr. Obama following the Lausanne meetings. What was it about? It celebrated an “agreement” reached with North Korea to end that country’s nuclear weapons program. Subsequently North Korea violated every aspect of that agreement with impunity, and is now a nuclear power.

The same will happen again with Iran unless (1) sanctions are maintained and strengthened leading to regime change in Iran or (2) military force is used to destroy or seriously damage Iran’s nuclear facilities.

The alternative is living (or dying) with a nuclear weapons-capable fanatical, tyrannical, aggressive regime much more dangerous for the rest of the world than North Korea will ever be.

Too bad the meetings weren’t held in the holy city of Qom. In that case the comparison with the betrayal of Czechoslovakia by the British and French in 1938 would have been even more perfect. That famous meeting, leading to an “historic” agreement, was of course, held in Munich, birthplace of the Nazi Party.

Norman A. Bailey, Ph.D., is Adjunct Professor of Economic Statecraft at The Institute of World Politics, Washington, DC, and teaches at the Center for National Security Studies and Geostrategy, University of Haifa.

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Israel sets out key changes for a better deal with Iran

Minister lists components of a more effective agreement, including no Iranian R&D on centrifuges, ‘anywhere, anytime’ inspections; poses 10 questions about current ‘irresponsible’ framework

US State of Secretary John Kerry with Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon (left) Minister Yuval Steinitz (second left), and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on May 23, 2013. Photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/ POOL/ FLASH90)

US State of Secretary John Kerry with Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon (left) Minister Yuval Steinitz (second left), and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on May 23, 2013. Photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/ POOL/ FLASH90)

The Times of Israel (April 6) — Israel on Monday set out a series of requirements and changes that it said could turn the framework agreement reached last Thursday by US-led negotiators with Iran into a more acceptable final deal.

It also issued a document posing 10 questions that it said underlined “the extent of the irresponsible concessions given to Iran” in the agreement, and that it claimed made clear “how dangerous the framework is for Israel, the region and the world.

The document was distributed by Israel’s Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz, a Likud party member and confidant of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Meeting with reporters in Jerusalem, Steinitz demanded a series of changes to close key loopholes as the final terms are negotiated ahead of a June 30 deadline. He presented the demands after Netanyahu reiterated in a series of US TV interviews on Sunday that Israel does not oppose any deal with Iran, but rather demands a “better deal.”

The changes set out by Steinitz include:

  • Barring further Iranian R&D on advanced centrifuges
  • Significantly reducing the number of centrifuges Iran would have available to press back into service if it violates the deal
  • Shuttering the Fordo underground enrichment facility
  • Requiring Iran’s compliance in detailing previous nuclear activities with possible military dimensions
  • Shipping its stockpile of lower-enriched uranium out of the country
  • Ensuring “anywhere, anytime” inspections of Iran’s facilities.

Such changes, said Steinitz, would render a final deal “more reasonable.”

The document distributed by Steinitz (see accompanying PDF here) reiterated Netanyahu’s assertion that “a better deal” can and must be reached. It protested that the framework agreement reached in Lausanne, Switzerland, and hailed by President Barack Obama as “historic,” “ignores the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear program to Israel.” By contrast, it charged, “great consideration” was given to Iran, “an enemy of the Unites States, whose regime, even during the negotiations, continued to conduct aggression in the region and to call for the destruction of Israel.”

It charged that “the framework deal does not block Iran’s path to the bomb. By removing the sanctions and lifting the main restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program in about a decade, this framework paves Iran’s path to a bomb.”

Apart from what it called “the significant differences in the parties’ interpretations of the framework – reflected in the conflicting statements and ‘fact sheets’ they issued” — the Israeli document posed the following 10 questions:

1. Why are sanctions that took years to put in place being removed immediately (as the Iranians claim)? This would take away the international community’s primary leverage at the outset of the agreement and make Iranian compliance less likely.

2. Given Iran’s track record of concealing illicit nuclear activities, why does the framework not explicitly require Iran to accept inspections of all installations where suspected nuclear weapons development has been conducted? Why can’t inspectors conduct inspections anywhere, anytime?

3. Will Iran ever be forced to come clean about its past nuclear weaponization activity?

4. What will be the fate of Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium?

5. Why will Iran be allowed to continue R&D on centrifuges far more advanced than those currently in its possession?

6. Why does the framework not address Iran’s intercontinental ballistic missile program, whose sole purpose is to carry nuclear payloads?

7. Following Iranian violations of the framework, how effective will be the mechanism to reinstitute sanctions?

8. What message does the framework send to states in the region and around the world when it gives such far-reaching concessions to a regime that for years has defied UNSC resolutions? Why would this not encourage nuclear proliferation?

9. The framework agreement appears to have much in common with the nuclear agreement reached with North Korea. How will this deal differ from the North Korean case?

10. Why is the lifting of restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program in about a decade not linked to a change in Iran’s behavior? According to the framework, Iran could remain the world’s foremost sponsor of terror and still have all the restrictions removed. Instead, the removal of those restrictions should be linked to a cessation of Iran’s aggression in the Middle East, its terrorism around the world and its threats to annihilate Israel.”

The document ended with the assertion that “the alternative to this framework is a better deal, one that will significantly dismantle Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, bring about a cessation of its aggression in the region and terrorist activities around the world, as well as end its efforts to destroy Israel. The framework deal does not block Iran’s path to the bomb. By removing the sanctions and lifting the main restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program in about a decade, this framework paves Iran’s path to a bomb. The result will be a dramatic increase in the risks of nuclear proliferation and an increase in the chances of a terrible war.”

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The 5 Major Threats Facing Israel this Passover

IDF blog (April 6) — Passover is a special time of the year in Israel. As we celebrate and remember how we freed ourselves from slavery and escaped persecution to return to the land of Israel, we also look towards the future and the challenges that we will face down the road. These are the security threats facing Israel and its citizens as they celebrate Passover with their families.

tmp640078776201379841The Egyptian Border: Quiet on the Southern Front

The Egyptian Sinai has witnessed a revival of terrorist activities since the beginning of 2010. The wave of violence reached a peak level last year. The Ansar Bait al-Maqdis extremist militant group – which recently pledged allegiance to the Islamic State – has been active in the area, leading many attacks against Egyptian Security Force outposts spread out across the Sinai Peninsula, killing many in the process.

This resurgence of terrorist activity has forced the IDF to build a new security fence on the 200 km border between Israel and Egypt. The fence has recently been completed and is monitored 24 hours a day by the IDF’s highly trained personnel. Although it seems that the Ansar Bait al-Maqdis organization has chosen to focus its efforts on the Egyptian Security Forces, it may prove inevitable that they will try and attack Israel and the IDF troops standing guard on the border like other terrorist organizations have done in the past few years.

The Gaza Strip: Rebuilding Terror

Both Hamas and the Islamic Jihad, the terrorist organizations in control of the Gaza Strip, have made significant efforts in the past months to rebuild their military capabilities destroyed by the IDF during Operation Protective Edge. Despite the lack of resources in the Gaza Strip, Hamas has allotted a huge amount of its funds, manpower and equipment to restoring its weapons arsenal. The military buildup is particularly shocking when considering the continuing delays in the reconstruction of the civilian infrastructure of the Gaza Strip. This clearly shows that Hamas’ main priority is the rehabilitation of its military and terrorist capabilities even at the expense of civilian needs.

Recruiting and training adolescents has also been one of Hamas’ top priorities. According to Hamas, the military training camps opened by the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades has trained more than 17,000 adolescents between the ages of 15 and 17. They received basic and advanced military training (including the abduction of IDF soldiers and exiting terror tunnels) as well as intense religious indoctrination.

Similarly, senior Hamas officials recently emphasized the need to open new fronts against Israel in the next round of fighting and has encouraged the surrounding Arab nations to join the fighting. Special emphasis was placed on Syria and Lebanon: senior Hamas official Mahmoud al-Zahar called on the authorities in Syria and Lebanon to permit Hamas to set up military units in the refugee camps. He asked these authorities to do so in order to “manage the resistance from northern Palestine and participate with us in the liberation [of Palestine].” Furthermore, Hamas spokesmen have stated that during Operation Protective Edge, terrorists from the organization’s military wing already launched rockets into northern Israel from Lebanese territory, and implicitly called for the expansion of this phenomenon for the next confrontation.

Judea and Samaria: A Renewal of Palestinian Violence

Since Operation Brother’s Keeper, and the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers, Hamas has tried to rebuild its infrastructures of terror in the Judea and Samaria area. Regular arrests of terrorist cells planning to kill Israeli civilians have taken place.

As a part of the wave of violence that began last October, on the morning of November 18 five Israelis were killed and seven injured when two terrorists carried out a massacre during morning prayers at a synagogue in Har Nof, Jerusalem.

Also, Palestinians who illegally entered Israel have carried out two stabbing attacks in Tel Aviv. On November 9, an IDF soldier was stabbed to death by a Palestinian terrorist in the Tel Aviv Ha-Hagana train station, and on the morning of January 21, 2015, a Palestinian terrorist injured twelve people in a stabbing attack on a bus in Tel Aviv.

Another type of lethal threat that Israel has faced in recent months is car-ramming attacks that took place in Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria. These attacks have been praised by Hamas and amongst the Palestinian population on social networks.

Firebombs and stone-hurling have also continued throughout the past month. On December 25, a molotov cocktail was thrown at an Israeli vehicle and caused severe burns to an 11 year-old Israeli girl and lightly injured her father.

The Syrian Border: The War Next Door

The UN’s peacekeeping force stationed in the Golan Heights on the Israeli-Syrian border that was taken hostage by the al-Nusra Front in September 2014 is a recent example of the nearness of the Syrian Civil War and terrorist organizations to Israeli territory.

The fighting around the town of al-Quneitra has caused the sporadic errant fire of rockets and explosives towards Israel. The last time such an attack occurred was on January 27, 2015, when two rockets hit Israeli territory. Sporadic fire in this area resulted in the injury of an IDF soldier in early September 2014. Earlier that year in June, a 15 year-old Israeli teenager was killed by an explosion along the border, in which two other individuals were injured.

Additionally, military aircraft have occasionally crossed into Israeli territory. On September 23, 2014, a Syrian Air Force airplane crossed into Israeli territory, and was shot down by an IDF Patriot anti-aircraft missile. Earlier, On August 31, 2014, an unmanned aerial vehicle attempted to infiltrate Israeli airspace and was directly targeted by a Patriot anti-aircraft missile.

The Lebanese Border: The Hezbollah Threat

Though Hezbollah is also present in the Syrian Golan Heights as a part of its military involvement meant to aid Bashar al-Assad’s regime in the Syrian Civil war, Hezbollah’s stronghold remains southern Lebanon. The terrorist organization has repeatedly used its infrastructure located in the area for lethal purposes.

On January 28, two IDF soldiers were killed in a missile attack that targeted their patrol on the Israeli side of the Lebanese border. Hezbollah claimed responsibility for this attack.

The attack revealed that despite UN Resolution 1701 – which stipulates that no armed forces other than the Lebanese Army should be present in southern Lebanon – Hezbollah has maintained its military capabilities in the area. Additional intelligence has estimated that Hezbollah maintains approximately 30,000 fighters, and a stockpile of 170,000 rockets pointed at Israel. Those rockets can reach any point on the map of Israel, and Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s leader, recently claimed that “Israel can’t even imagine the size of our arms stockpile.”

As Jews across the world and Israel plan to celebrate the holiday of Passover, it is important to remember that a number of threats still endanger the civilians and soldiers of Israel. Imminent hazards from the Sinai Peninsula in the south, Judea and Samaria in the east, and Syria and Lebanon in the north surround Israelis on all sides. Despite this, the IDF stands ready on all fronts to defend the Israeli population and Jews worldwide.

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Jews are behind all bad in the world, says preacher on PA TV

Palestinian Authority TV host and Muslim preacher:

“If a fish in the sea fights with another fish… the Jews are behind it”

“Humanity will never live in comfort as long as the Jews are causing devastating corruption throughout the land. Humanity will never live in peace or fortune or tranquility as long as they are corrupting the land.”

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Palestinian Media Watch (March 30) — The Jews are behind all that is wrong in the world, according to the host of a weekly Palestinian Authority TV program on  Islam. Even when fish fight in the sea, “the Jews are behind it,” said the Muslim preacher and professor of Quranic Studies, Imad Hamato. To back up this Antisemitic hate speech, Hamato went on to say that the Quran teaches that  humanity will never “live in comfort… peace or fortune or tranquility” as long as “the Jews are causing devastating corruption throughout the land.” The solution for Muslims, according to the professor, is to fight  Jews: “Our real Jihad is to take revenge.”

“Humanity will never live in comfort as long as the Jews are causing devastating corruption throughout the land. Humanity will never live in peace or fortune or tranquility as long as they are corrupting the land. An old man told me: If a fish in the sea fights with another fish, I am sure the Jews are behind it. As Allah says: ”Every time they kindled the fire of war [against you], Allah extinguished it. They strive throughout the land [causing] corruption, and Allah does not like corrupters” (Sura 5:64).”

[Official PA TV, Feb. 27, 2015]

Only a month prior to Hamato’s statement, Palestinian Media Watch reported on a cleric on official PA TV who taught that Jews are “apes and pigs” whose “hearts were sealed by Allah.”

Antisemitism is a central component of PA ideology. In February, the Fatah-run TV channel Awdah broadcast a PA TV documentary that justifies the persecution of European Jews throughout history as an act of self-defense. According to the documentary, the Jews caused Europeans to suffer, who as a result wanted to get rid of the Jews. Therefore, according to the PA, European countries supported the establishment of the State of Israel.

Click here for full article.

New Poll Shows What a Majority of Palestinians Think About Peace With Israel

A Palestinian man waves his national flag and shouts slogans during clashes with Israeli forces at the Nahal Oz crossing with Israel, east of Gaza City, on Sept. 27, 2013. (AFP / Getty Images)

A Palestinian man waves his national flag and shouts slogans during clashes with Israeli forces at the Nahal Oz crossing with Israel, east of Gaza City, on Sept. 27, 2013. (AFP / Getty Images)

TheBlaze (March 26) — A majority of Palestinians say they support rocket attacks on Israel and nearly half favor renewing an armed intifada, according to a new public opinion poll.

The poll from the Ramallah-based Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research released Tuesday found that 68 percent of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza said they support launching rockets from Gaza at Israel if Israel does not lift its Gaza blockade.

The poll also found that 48 percent said they support returning to an armed intifada, or uprising, in the absence of viable peace negotiations.

Sixty-eight percent of Palestinians surveyed said they favored “popular nonviolent resistance.”

“A majority of 74 percent favors Hamas way of resisting occupation. … Furthermore, 56 percent favor the transfer of Hamas’ armed approach to the West Bank and 40 percent oppose that,” the center noted.

The survey interviewed 1,262 adults in person in the West Bank and Gaza between March 19-21, with a margin of error of 3 percent.

Click here for full article.

The Libyan Quagmire

By Col. (ret.) Dr. Jacques Neriah for Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (March 25):

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  • Arab civil wars seem to follow a pre-designed pattern. Once the conflict in a particular Arab country bursts open, the country splits into two areas (sometimes more), with separate capitals and separate ethnicities.
  • Libya is no exception to this rule. Since the overthrow of Libya’s ruler Muammar Qaddafi in October 2011, Libya has fallen into chaos in which armed militias govern their own patch of territory.
  • A multitude of armed groups has emerged since the overthrow of Qaddafi, some of them merging with one another, others fighting for supremacy in defined geographical areas. Three main groups are fighting for control of Libya – militias, government forces, and the Islamic State.
  • Libya is not only a gateway to Europe, but also to three North African states (Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia) and a clear threat to Egypt. The huge arsenal left by Qaddafi has been looted, and arms have found their way through smuggling networks to Syria, Iraq, Hamas in Gaza and also to Nigeria and most of the Sahel countries.
  • A force of African states has already engaged with terror militias. A force from moderate Arab Sunni states is under discussion.
  • The Islamic State’s infiltration into Tunisia and Algeria could definitely pose a threat to European and U.S. interests. In such a situation the West would be forced to consider a more immediate and aggressive attitude towards the terrorists’ haven in Libya.

Click here for full article.

Congress Totally Cool With Israel Spying on U.S. Officials Negotiating With Iran

1427291213664.cachedThe Daily Beast (March 25) — Israel is spying on the U.S.-Iranian nuclear talks? No problem, key Democrats and Republicans in Congress say. “I don’t look at Israel or any nation directly affected by the Iranian program wanting deeply to know what’s going on in the negotiations – I just don’t look at that as spying,” said Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.). “Their deep existential interest in such a deal, that they would try to figure out anything that they could, that they would have an opinion on it….I don’t find any of that that controversial.”

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) on Tuesday joked that he was more concerned that Israeli intelligence hadn’t shared what they learned with him. “One of my reactions was, why haven’t they been coming up here sharing information with me? I mean Israel. I haven’t had any of them coming up and talking with me about where the deal is, so I was kind of wondering who it was they were meeting with. I kind of feel left out.”

If anything, lawmakers said they were perturbed that the Israelis were being accused of spying. Learning the details of the nuclear talk, lawmakers argued, was more like information gathering. “To use the word ‘spying,’ that is a pejorative accusation. That’s not the phrase I would use to describe what I read,” Kaine said. Several lawmakers interviewed said that the Israeli government had not told them anything they weren’t already aware of in broad strokes. “No one from Israel has told me anything that I haven’t already known,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).

A senior congressional staffer called administration allegations of Israeli spying “deeply irresponsible innuendo and destructive hearsay,” adding that “these unsubstantiated allegations are all the more galling in light of the fact that this administration has leaked, consistently and aggressively, details of Iran proposals to the front page of the New York Times and other news outlets, as well as to sympathetic think-tankers and pro-Iranian groups outside of government.”

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Krauthammer: No peace in our time

Dr Charles Krauthammer is a syndicated columnist and Fox News contributor.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reacts as he visits, on March 18, 2015, at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem following his party Likud's victory in Israel's general election. (Thomas Coex/ AFP/ Getty Images)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reacts as he visits, on March 18, 2015, at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem following his party Likud’s victory in Israel’s general election. (Thomas Coex/ AFP/ Getty Images)

The Washington Post (March 20) — Of all the idiocies uttered in reaction to Benjamin Netanyahu’s stunning election victory, none is more ubiquitous than the idea that peace prospects are now dead because Netanyahu has declared that there will be no Palestinian state while he is Israel’s prime minister.

I have news for the lowing herds: There would be no peace and no Palestinian state if Isaac Herzog were prime minister either. Or Ehud Barak or Ehud Olmert for that matter. The latter two were (non-Likud) prime ministers who offered the Palestinians their own state — with its capital in Jerusalem and every Israeli settlement in the new Palestine uprooted — only to be rudely rejected.

This is not ancient history. This is 2000, 2001 and 2008 — three astonishingly concessionary peace offers within the past 15 years. Every one rejected.

The fundamental reality remains: This generation of Palestinian leadership — from Yasser Arafat to Mahmoud Abbas — has never and will never sign its name to a final peace settlement dividing the land with a Jewish state. And without that, no Israeli government of any kind will agree to a Palestinian state.

Today, however, there is a second reason a peace agreement is impossible: the supreme instability of the entire Middle East. For half a century, it was run by dictators no one liked but with whom you could do business. For example, the 1974 Israel-Syria disengagement agreement yielded more than four decades of near-total quiet on the border because the Assad dictatorships so decreed.

That authoritarian order is gone, overthrown by the Arab Spring. Syria is wracked by a multi-sided civil war that has killed 200,000 people and that has al-Qaeda allies, Hezbollah fighters, government troops and even the occasional Iranian general prowling the Israeli border. Who inherits? No one knows.

In the last four years, Egypt has had two revolutions and three radically different regimes. Yemen went from pro-American to Iranian client so quickly the United States had to evacuate its embassy in a panic. Libya has gone from Moammar Gaddafi’s crazy authoritarianism to jihadi-dominated civil war. On Wednesday, Tunisia, the one relative success of the Arab Spring, suffered a major terror attack that the prime minister said “targets the stability of the country.”

From Mali to Iraq, everything is in flux. Amid this mayhem, by what magic would the West Bank, riven by a bitter Fatah-Hamas rivalry, be an island of stability? What would give any Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement even a modicum of durability?

There was a time when Arafat commanded the Palestinian movement the way Gaddafi commanded Libya. Abbas commands no one. Why do you think he is in the 11th year of a four-year term, having refused to hold elections for the last five years? Because he’s afraid he would lose to Hamas.

With or without elections, the West Bank could fall to Hamas overnight. At which point fire rains down on Tel Aviv, Ben Gurion Airport and the entire Israeli urban heartland — just as it rains down on southern Israel from Gaza when it suits Hamas, which has turned that first Palestinian state into a terrorist fire base.

Any Arab-Israeli peace settlement would require Israel to make dangerous and inherently irreversible territorial concessions on the West Bank in return for promises and guarantees. Under current conditions, these would be written on sand.

Israel is ringed by jihadi terrorists in Sinai, Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Islamic State and Iranian proxies in Syria, and a friendly but highly fragile Jordan. Israelis have no idea who ends up running any of these places. Will the Islamic State advance to an Israeli border? Will Iranian Revolutionary Guards appear on the Golan Heights? No one knows.

Well, say the critics. Israel could be given outside guarantees. Guarantees? Like the 1994 Budapest Memorandum in which the United States, Britain and Russia guaranteed Ukraine’s “territorial integrity”? Like the red line in Syria? Like the unanimous U.N. resolutions declaring illegal any Iranian enrichment of uranium — now effectively rendered null?

Peace awaits three things. Eventual Palestinian acceptance of a Jewish state. A Palestinian leader willing to sign a deal based on that premise. A modicum of regional stability that allows Israel to risk the potentially fatal withdrawals such a deal would entail.

I believe such a day will come. But there is zero chance it comes now or even soon. That’s essentially what Netanyahu said Thursday in explaining — and softening — his no-Palestinian-state statement.

… Blaming Netanyahu for banishing peace, however, is mindless.

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Israel’s election aftermath: With eyes wide open

Herb Keinon is the leading journalist at the Jerusalem Post (March 20):

BibiWins… The public knew very well of the tensions with Obama, and what another Netanyahu term would do to ties with his administration. The public knew very well that the EU may possibly level sanctions again settlement products. The country knew very well that Netanyahu could deepen Israel’s isolation, energize the Palestinians to redouble their diplomatic campaign, and give the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement more ammunition and momentum.

Yet the country still went to ballot box and voted for Netanyahu and the parties on the Right.

The Zionist Union’s Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni held out a promise of an Israel that would once again be accepted in the world, that would not have to dwell alone, that would be respected in the world’s capitals because it would take the diplomatic initiative.

The country either didn’t believe the message, didn’t think it was possible, or a little of both. When evaluating this week’s election results, it is important to widen the lens and look at longer-term trends. And the longer trends show that the Left has not won an election in this country since Ehud Barak in 1999.

The country has changed dramatically since then – both demographically and in terms of outlook.

Demographically, the numbers of those making up the core constituencies of the Right – the religious, the immigrants, those living in the periphery – have grown; while the urban, secular, Ashkenazi numbers making up the Jewish Left have not kept pace.

And in terms of outlook, the terrorism unleashed by the second intifada – followed by mini-wars in Lebanon (2006) and Gaza (2008- 2009 and 2014) – and endless rockets and missile attacks all over the country have had a huge impact.

Israelis feel insecure. This is not made-up, it’s not hype, it’s not phony or fear-mongering. It’s real, and it comes from kids getting kidnapped and murdered, rockets falling into living rooms, and passersby getting stabbed. To understand Israel circa 2015 is to understand that insecurity; and to understand why the country votes as it does is also to understand that insecurity.

To try to combat those insecurities with talk about economic security, diplomatic security or peace negotiations just doesn’t resonate – and it hasn’t resonated since 1999.

To talk to the public using the same language used in 1999, before the intifada; or even in 2009, before the Arab Spring and the titanic changes in the region, does not work. The country has changed; the country’s mentality has changed.

Do people want peace, even people on the Right? Certainly (though there are vastly different ideas of what it is worth to sacrifice to get that peace). Do they think it is possible right now, in this neighborhood, with a weak man at the head of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank; and with Gaza ruled by Hamas, which just a few months ago was busy burrowing tunnels to attack Israeli communities nearby? No.

Using slogans from a different era holding out the prospects of negotiations toward a two-state solution just doesn’t cut it in a country where so many people – because of what they have themselves experienced and seen – feel that train has long ago left the station.

Herzog and Livni tried to frame the campaign as one between hope and fear. They could provide hope, Netanyahu only fear.

But the problem is that Israelis live here – here – in the real Middle East. And when they hear Netanyahu talking about the threat from Iran, the threats of a region completely unhinged, the threats of terrorists wielding knives, guns or rockets, they don’t see him as a maniac from another planet, but as someone who is actually reading the intelligence briefings and looking out the window. They think he is telling the truth.

Those seen as crazy are those promising peace for withdrawal, or giving up land for favor in the eyes of the world. “The people went to bed hoping for change, and woke up with a Netanyahu government,” read a curious headline over an Haaretz op-ed piece online on Wednesday.

Curious because it was the people who went to bed hoping for change, it turns out, who went to the polls earlier in the day and voted for the Netanyahu government.

Why? Because they live here, in the middle of the real Middle East, not an idealized or fantasized one, but the real Middle East, the one currently engulfed in flames.

They voted for Netanyahu because after nine years of experience with him, knowing well his pluses and minuses, they believe he can keep those flames at bay, even if he alienates some friends in the process.

And if he does alienate friends in the process, and there are economic and diplomatic prices to pay, the country said on Tuesday it feels those prices could – and even should – be borne.

Click here for full article.

 

The Year the Arabs Discovered Palestine

Daniel Pipes — Today is the day when a Palestinian state was nearly declared – for the third time.

On October 1, 1948, the mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin Husseini, stood before the Palestine National Council in Gaza and declared the existence of an All-Palestine Government.

In theory, this state already ruled Gaza and would soon control all of Palestine. Accordingly, it was born with a full complement of ministers to lofty proclamations of Palestine’s free, democratic, and sovereign nature. But the whole thing was a sham. Gaza was run by the Egyptian government, the ministers had nothing to oversee, and the All-Palestine Government never expanded anywhere. Instead, this façade quickly withered away.

Almost exactly forty years later, on November 15, 1988, a Palestinian state was again proclaimed, again at a meeting of the Palestine National Council.

This time, Yasser Arafat called it into being. In some ways, this state was even more futile than the first, being proclaimed in Algiers, almost 3,000 kilometers and four borders away from Palestine, and controlling not a centimeter of the territory it claimed. Although the Algiers declaration received enormous attention at the time (the Washington Post’s front-page story read “PLO Proclaims Palestinian State”), a dozen years later it is nearly as forgotten as the Gazan declaration that preceded it.

In other words, today’s declaration of a Palestinian state would have retreaded some well-worn ground.

We do not know what today’s statement would have said, but like the 1988 document it probably would have claimed that “the Palestinian Arab people forged its national identity” in distant antiquity.

In fact, the Palestinian identity goes back, not to antiquity, but precisely to 1920. No “Palestinian Arab people” existed at the start of 1920 but by December it took shape in a form recognizably similar to today’s.

Until the late nineteenth century, residents living in the region between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean identified themselves primarily in terms of religion: Moslems felt far stronger bonds with remote co-religionists than with nearby Christians and Jews. Living in that area did not imply any sense of common political purpose.

Then came the ideology of nationalism from Europe; its ideal of a government that embodies the spirit of its people was alien but appealing to Middle Easterners. How to apply this ideal, though? Who constitutes a nation and where must the boundaries be? These questions stimulated huge debates.

Some said the residents of the Levant are a nation; others said Eastern Arabic speakers; or all Arabic speakers; or all Moslems.

But no one suggested “Palestinians,” and for good reason. Palestine, then a secular way of saying Eretz Yisra’el or Terra Sancta, embodied a purely Jewish and Christian concept, one utterly foreign to Moslems, even repugnant to them.

This distaste was confirmed in April 1920, when the British occupying force carved out a “Palestine.” Moslems reacted very suspiciously, rightly seeing this designation as a victory for Zionism. Less accurately, they worried about it signaling a revival in the Crusader impulse. No prominent Moslem voices endorsed the delineation of Palestine in 1920; all protested it.

Instead, Moslems west of the Jordan directed their allegiance to Damascus, where the great-great-uncle of Jordan’s King Abdullah II was then ruling; they identified themselves as Southern Syrians.

Interestingly, no one advocated this affiliation more emphatically than a young man named Amin Husseini. In July 1920, however, the French overthrew this Hashemite king, in the process killing the notion of a Southern Syria.

Isolated by the events of April and July, the Moslems of Palestine made the best of a bad situation. One prominent Jerusalemite commented, just days following the fall of the Hashemite kingdom: “after the recent events in Damascus, we have to effect a complete change in our plans here. Southern Syria no longer exists. We must defend Palestine.”

Following this advice, the leadership in December 1920 adopted the goal of establishing an independent Palestinian state. Within a few years, this effort was led by Husseini.

Other identities – Syrian, Arab, and Moslem – continued to compete for decades afterward with the Palestinian one, but the latter has by now mostly swept the others aside and reigns nearly supreme.

That said, the fact that this identity is of such recent and expedient origins suggests that the Palestinian primacy is superficially rooted and that it could eventually come to an end, perhaps as quickly as it got started.

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Daniel Pipes: Americans Battle the Arab-Israeli Conflict

A great article if you want to understand people who are pro-Israel and anti-Israel in the US. The same explanations and conclusions can be made about the people who are anti-Israel in Europe.

By Daniel Pipes for Middle East Quarterly (March 11):

Texas senator Ted Cruz meets with Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu in Israel, January 11, 2013.

Texas senator Ted Cruz meets with Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu in Israel, January 11, 2013.

When, in the midst of the 2014 Hamas-Israel war, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration briefly banned American carriers from flying to Israel, Sen. Ted Cruz (Republican of Texas) accused Barack Obama of using a federal regulatory agency “to launch an economic boycott on Israel, in order to try to force our ally to comply with his foreign policy demands.”[1] In so doing, Cruz made an accusation no Israeli leader would dare express.

This is hardly unique: Over the years, other American political figures, both Republican (Dan Burton, Jesse Helms, Condoleezza Rice, Arlen Specter) and Democrat (Charles Schumer), have adopted tougher, and sometimes more Zionist, stances than the Israeli government. This pattern in turn points to a larger phenomenon: The Arab-Israeli conflict tends to generate more intense partisanship among Americans than among Middle Easterners. The latter may die from the conflict but the former experience it with greater passion.

More Anti-Israel than the Arabs

Americans who hate Israel can be more volubly anti-Zionist than Arabs. At a memorable Washington dinner party in November 1984, hosted by the Iraqi embassy for the visiting foreign minister Tariq Aziz, two tipsy American press grandees admonished and even insulted this emissary of Saddam Hussein for being insufficiently anti-Israel. Helen Thomas of United Press International complained that Iraq had not retaliated against Israel after the destruction of the Osirak nuclear reactor in 1981.[2] When Aziz tried brushing off her criticism, she scornfully accused the Iraqi regime of cowardice: “Just yellow, I guess.” Later the same evening, Rowland Evans of the syndicated Evans and Novak column, interrupted Aziz when he called the Iran-Iraq war the most important issue in the Middle East, shouting at him to tell Secretary of State Shultz that the Arab-Israeli conflict was his main concern.[3] The late Barry Rubin, who was present, subsequently commented: “Unaccustomed to being attacked for excessive softness on Israel, Aziz looked astonished.”[4]

In 1993, Edward Said of Columbia University castigated Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasir Arafat for entering into the Oslo negotiating process. Meanwhile, Anthony B. Tirado Chase, an analyst of Said’s writings, found that “Said’s rejectionism speaks for few in the West Bank or Gaza.”[6]

… In 2009, after a lecture tour of American universities, the Palestinian journalist Khaled Abu Toameh observed that

there is more sympathy for Hamas there than there is in Ramallah. … Listening to some students and professors on these campuses, for a moment, I thought I was sitting opposite a Hamas spokesman or a would-be-suicide bomber. … What struck me more than anything else was the fact that many of the people I met on the campuses supported Hamas and believed that it had the right to “resist the occupation” even if that meant blowing up children and women on a bus in downtown Jerusalem.[8]

 

Even more ironically, Abu Toameh found that many of the Arabs and Muslims on American campuses “were much more understanding and even welcomed my ‘even-handed analysis’ of the Israeli-Arab conflict.” Along the same lines, the historian Bernard Lewis notes that “Israelis traveling in the West often find it easier to establish a rapport with Arabs than with Arabophiles.”[9]

Conversely, Lewis notes the viciousness of some Westerners residing in the Middle East:

Time and time again, European and American Jews traveling in Arab countries have observed that, despite the torrent of broadcast and published anti-Semitism, the only face-to-face experience of anti-Semitic hostility that they suffered during their travels was from compatriots, many of whom feel free, in what they imagine to be the more congenial atmosphere of the Arab world, to make anti-Semitic … remarks that they would not make at home.[10]

One symptom of this: The recent Hamas-Israel war prompted anti-Israel hate demonstrations, some violent, on the streets of many Western cities, while—with the exception of territories under Israeli control—the Arab street remained largely calm.

More Zionist than the Israelis

Similarly, American supporters of Israel tend to stake out more ardently Zionist positions than do Israelis. In 1978, Richard Nixon complained that “the problem with the Israelis in Israel was not nearly as difficult as the Jewish community here.”[11] In 1990, Israeli journalist Yossi Melman was surprised to find a Jewish audience in Texas taking a harder line against the Palestinians than he did himself; he responded with alarm when one young man asserted, referring to a fracas with the Israeli police that left nineteen Palestinians dead, “I do not feel sorry for those Palestinians who were killed. The Israeli police should have shot a thousand of them,” and no one in the audience took issue with him.

In 2000, Said complained that Zionist groups in the United States have views “in some way more extreme than even those of the Israeli Likud.”[12] Also in 2000, when Israel’s prime minister offered unprecedented concessions on Jerusalem, Malcolm Hoenlein, vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, criticized his efforts “to take away or compromise Jewish sovereignty over the Temple Mount and turn it over to the jurisdiction of the United Nations or the Palestinian Authority.” Later, he warned, “all of us will have to answer to our children and grandchildren when they ask us why we did not do more to stop the giving away of Har haBayit [the Temple Mount].”[13]

Polling by the American Jewish Committee regularly finds American Jews more skeptical than their Israeli counterparts on the question of the efficacy of diplomacy with the Arabs.[14] At the same time, for an American to be pro-Israel means liking all Israelis; starting with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and Christians United for Israel, pro-Israel organizations offer unconditional support to Israel. Many American Jews go further: With neither their own lives nor those of their children at risk in the Israel Defense Forces, they do not publicly disagree with Israeli government decisions. By contrast, ranking Israelis repeatedly demand that Washington pressure their own government into taking steps against its wishes. Most famously, in 2007, David Landau, editor of Haaretz newspaper, told then-U.S. secretary of state Condoleezza Rice that Israel was a “failed state” and implored her to intervene on the grounds that Israel needs “to be raped.”[15]

Explanations

Three reasons account for American partisans adopting stronger positions than their Middle Eastern counterparts:

Pure passion: Abu Toameh notes: “Many of the Palestinian Authority and Hamas officials … sound much more pragmatic than most of the anti-Israel, ‘pro-Palestinian’ folks on the campuses.” That is because they have real-life decisions to make with which they must live. Israelis and Arabs maintain a patchwork of relationships and daily life that softens the harshness of rhetoric. In contrast, pure passion tends to reign in the West. Most Israelis have contact with Arabs, something few American Zionists do. Similarly, a fair number of Egyptians, Jordanians, Lebanese, and other Arabs come into contact with Israelis. For Middle Easterners, the enemy is human; for Americans, the opponent consists of two-dimensional political adversaries.

This even applies to so monstrous a dictatorship as Saddam Hussein’s. As Barry Rubin commented about the experience of Tariq Aziz at dinner: “Perhaps it was easier to deal with the inner circles of Saddam’s regime, where fear bred discipline, than with these wild, unpredictable Americans.”[16]Two examples: Pro-Israel and anti-Israel Americans never need to cooperate on joint water supplies.Ismail Haniya, a prominent leader of the Hamas terrorist organization dedicated to Israel’s elimination, has three sisters who emigrated from Gaza to Israel, live as citizens there, and have children who served in the Israel Defense Forces.[17]

Solidarity: Israelis argue mostly with other Israelis and Arabs with Arabs; but in the United States, pro-Israelis argue with anti-Israelis. Israelis and Arabs in the Middle East feel free to disagree with their own side more than do their U.S. partisans. When a left-wing Israeli criticizes the Netanyahu government’s policy, he disagrees with the Likud Party; when a left-wing American Jewish figure does the same, he attacks Israel. The former debates are within the framework of Israeli policymaking, the latter in the arena of American public opinion. Melman noted that “we Israelis have the luxury of expressing ourselves more frankly than many American Jews” and explained this by noting how “American Jews fear that their public criticism [of Israel] might be exploited by professional critics of Israel. Hence, most American Jews prefer to conceal their disagreements about Israel.” Mattityahu Peled, a left-wing Israeli gadfly, similarly observed that the pressure on Jews who hold dissenting views in the United States “is far greater than the pressure on us in Israel. … probably we in Israel enjoy a larger degree of tolerance than you here in the Jewish community.”[18]

Best-known policy issue: In the Middle East itself, other issues—civil wars in Syria and Iraq, the Saudi vs. Qatar vs. Iran rivalries, water problems—compete with the Arab-Israeli conflict for attention. But in the United States, the Arab-Israeli conflict is far better known than any other issue and thus dominates the discussion. As a result, the lines of debate are far more clearly etched: When the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) conquered Mosul in June 2014, no one knew what to do. But when Hamas launched rockets against Israel a month later, the facts and arguments were reassuringly familiar.

Conclusion

Arab-Israeli partisanship fits a broader pattern in which distance turns greys into blacks and whites, increasing political passions. In the case of the Contra war in Nicaragua, the journalist Stephen Schwartz writes that, on the one side, “Sandinistas often commented to me that they were put off to realize that their Democrat supporters in Washington employed a bloodthirsty rhetoric that would never have been heard in the towns of Central America.” When asked about this, a Sandinista explained: “We have to face death, and it makes us less willing to speak idly about it; but they enjoy talking about a death they will never risk or inflict on others.”[19]

The same reluctance applied on the other side, Schwartz found. A Contra supporter explained: “Our families are split by this conflict, and we do not feel the aggravated sense of rage displayed by foreigners about the war here. In fighting, we may have to kill, or be killed by, a relative with whom we grew up. It is not something that fills us with enthusiasm.”

In other wars where combatants live in close proximity to each other but their supporters do not, a similar pattern has emerged: Civil wars in Vietnam, Ireland, and Bosnia come immediately to mind. Commenting on the Spanish civil war, Trotsky observed that the rhetoric in London was far more extreme than the reality in Barcelona.

In conclusion, this pattern runs contrary to the general assumption that the frenzied combatants in a war need cool-headed outsiders to help guide them to resolution and peace—an assumption that sometimes leads to the unfortunate decision to put ignoramuses in charge of diplomacy and policy. In fact, the locals may see the problem more lucidly and realistically than their foreign friends. It is time for foreigners to stop assuming they know how to achieve the region’s salvation and instead to listen more to those directly involved.

Daniel Pipes is president of the Middle East Forum. DanielPipes.org

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Dershowitz: Supporters of deal are strengthening Iran’s negotiating position

Alan Dershowitz is an American lawyer, jurist, author, and political commentator. He is a scholar on United States constitutional law and criminal law. He spent most of his career at Harvard Law School where in 1967, at the age of 28, he became the youngest full professor of law in its history.

2994By Alan Dershowitz for The Jerusalem Post (March 11) — Despite repeating the mantra that “no deal is better than a bad deal” with Iran, the United States seems to be negotiating on the basis of a belief that the worst possible outcome of the current negotiations is no deal. Many supporters of the deal that is now apparently on the table are arguing that there is no realistic alternative to this deal. That sort of thinking out loud empowers the Iranian negotiators to demand more and compromise less, because they believe—and have been told by American supporters of the deal—that the United States has no alternative but to agree to a deal that is acceptable to the Iranians.

A perfect example of this mindset was the Fareed Zakaria Show this past Sunday on CNN. He had a loaded panel of two experts and a journalist favoring the deal and one journalist opposed. This followed Zakaria’s opening essay in favor of the deal. All those in favor made the same point: that this deal is better than no deal, and that any new proposal—say to condition the sunset provision on Iran stopping the export of terrorism and threatening to destroy Israel—is likely to be rejected by Iran, and is therefore, by definition, “irrational” or “unproductive,” because it would result in no deal.

The upshot of this position is that Iran essentially gets a veto over any proposal, but the United States does not get to make new proposals. If it were true that this deal is better than no deal, it would follow that any proposed change in this deal that Iran doesn’t like is a non-starter.

That’s why Netanyahu’s reasonable proposal that the sunset provision be conditioned on changes in Iranian actions and words has been poo-pooed by the so called “experts.” They haven’t tried to respond on the merits. Instead they are satisfied to argue that Iran would never accept such conditions, and therefore the proposal should be rejected as a deal breaker.

This is the worst sort of negotiation strategy imaginable: telling the other side that any proposal that is not acceptable to them will be taken off the table, and that any leader who offers it will be attacked as a deal breaker. This approach—attacking Netanyahu without responding to his proposal on their merits—characterizes the approach of the administration and its supporters.

We will now never know whether Iran might have accepted a conditional sunset provision because the advocates of the current deal, both inside and outside the administration, have told Iran that if they reject this proposal, it will be withdrawn, because it endanger the deal. What incentive would the Iranians then have to consider this proposal on its merits? None!

The current mindset of the deal’s advocates is that the United States needs the deal more than the Iranians do. That is why the United States is constantly leaking reports that the Mullahs may be reluctant to sign even this one-sided deal which has shifted perceptibly in favor of the Iranian position over the past several months. But the truth is that Iran, which is suffering greatly from the combination of sanctions and dropping oil prices, needs this deal—a deal that would end sanctions and allow it unconditionally to develop nuclear weapons within ten years. That doesn’t necessarily mean they will accept it. They may push for even more compromises on the part of the United States. The reality is that we are in a far stronger negotiating positon that advocates of the deal have asserted, but we are negotiating from weakness because we have persuaded the Iranians that we need the deal—any deal—more than they do.

Most Israelis seem to be against the current deal, especially the unconditional sunset provision. Author David Grossman, a left-wing dove who is almost always critical of Netanyahu, has accused the United States of “criminal naiveté.” He opposes Netanyahu’s reelection but urges the world to listen to what Netanyahu told Congress.

“But what [Netanyahu] says about Iran and the destructive part it is playing in the Middle East cannot and should not be ignored,” Grossman said. “Netanyahu is right when he says that according to the emerging deal there is nothing to prevent the Iranians from developing a nuclear bomb once the deal expires in another 10 years, and on this matter there is no difference in Israel between Left and Right.”

There are considerable differences, however, between the Obama administrations’ negotiating position and the views of most Israelis, Saudis, Emirates, Egyptians and Jordanians—as well as most members of our own Congress. We can get a better deal, but supporters of a deal must abandon their unhelpful public claims that the current deal is the best we can get.

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Poll: 84% of Americans oppose terms of Iran nuclear deal

Majority of US voters support using military action to stop Tehran from obtaining nuclear weapons, Fox News survey finds.

Netanyahu Congress Speech March 2015The Times of Israel (March 9) — The majority of Americans do not believe the Obama administration has been aggressive enough in its effort to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, and overwhelmingly reject the terms outlined in the prospective deal it is pursuing with Tehran, a poll found recently.

According to a survey conducted ahead of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s March 3 speech to the US Congress, 57 percent of American voters asked said that the United States was not doing enough to stop Iran from advancing toward a nuclear bomb.

The poll, commissioned by Fox News, found 84% of voters thought it was a bad idea to allow the Iranians to obtain nuclear weapons in 10 years, in return for agreeing to freeze their program now.

Some 55% of the 1,011 polled said it would be a “disaster” if Iran obtained nuclear weapons, while 40% categorized it as “a problem that could be managed.”

Last week, Netanyahu delivered a speech to US lawmakers warning of the dangers posed by Tehran’s apparent pursuit of nuclear weapons.

In his speech, Netanyahu called the emerging deal “very bad” and said it “paves the path” for Iran to get a bomb.

The poll found 56% of voters thought it was a good idea for House Speaker John Boehner to independently invite Netanyahu to Washington to address lawmakers without the approval of the White House, versus 27% who disagreed with the move. Fifty-five percent also agreed with the Israeli prime minister.

… Nearly two thirds of voters (65%) said they supported the US using military force if necessary to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.

Some 41% thought the Obama administration “is not supportive enough” of Israel, while another 35% say the Washington’s support is “just right.”

Finally, a 59% majority said that Obama was a weak negotiator with foreign leaders, up from 54% from last year.

The poll was carried out by Republican and Democratic research groups and had a margin of error of three percentage points.

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Krauthammer: Netanyahu’s Churchillian warning

By Charles Krauthammer for the Washington Post (March 5):

Netanyahu Congress Speech March 2015

Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to Congress was notable in two respects. Queen Esther got her first standing O in 2,500 years. And President Obama came up empty in his campaign to preemptively undermine Netanyahu before the Israeli prime minister could present his case on the Iran negotiations.

On the contrary. The steady stream of slights and insults turned an irritant into an international event and vastly increased the speech’s audience and reach. Instead of dramatically unveiling an Iranian nuclear deal as a fait accompli, Obama must now first defend his Iranian diplomacy.

In particular, argues The Post, he must defend its fundamental premise. It had been the policy of every president since 1979 that Islamist Iran must be sanctioned and contained. Obama, however, is betting instead on detente to tame Iran’s aggressive behavior and nuclear ambitions.

For six years, Obama has offered the mullahs an extended hand. He has imagined that with Kissingerian brilliance he would turn the Khamenei regime into a de facto U.S. ally in pacifying the Middle East. For his pains, Obama has been rewarded with an Iran that has ramped up its aggressiveness in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Gaza and Yemen, and brazenly defied the world on uranium enrichment.

He did the same with Russia. He offered Vladimir Putin a new detente. “Reset,” he called it. Putin responded by decimating his domestic opposition, unleashing a vicious anti-American propaganda campaign, ravaging Ukraine and shaking the post-Cold War European order to its foundations.

Like the Bourbons, however, Obama learns nothing. He persists in believing that Iran’s radical Islamist regime can be turned by sweet reason and fine parchment into a force for stability. It’s akin to his refusal to face the true nature of the Islamic State, Iran’s Sunni counterpart. He simply can’t believe that such people actually believe what they say.

That’s what made Netanyahu’s critique of the U.S.-Iran deal so powerful. Especially his dissection of the sunset clause. In about 10 years, the deal expires. Sanctions are lifted and Iran is permitted unlimited uranium enrichment with an unlimited number of centrifuges of unlimited sophistication. As the Wall Street Journal’s Bret Stephens points out, we don’t even allow that for democratic South Korea.

The prime minister offered a concrete alternative. Sunset? Yes, but only after Iran changes its behavior, giving up its regional aggression and worldwide support for terror.

Netanyahu’s veiled suggestion was that such a modification — plus a significant reduction in Iran’s current nuclear infrastructure, which the Obama deal leaves intact — could produce a deal that “Israel and its [Arab] neighbors may not like, but with which we could live, literally.”

Obama’s petulant response was: “The prime minister didn’t offer any viable alternatives.” But he just did: conditional sunset, smaller infrastructure. And if the Iranians walk away, then you ratchet up sanctions, as Congress is urging, which, with collapsed oil prices, would render the regime extremely vulnerable.

And if that doesn’t work? Hence Netanyahu’s final point: Israel is prepared to stand alone, a declaration that was met with enthusiastic applause reflecting widespread popular support.

It was an important moment, especially because of the libel being perpetrated by some that Netanyahu is trying to get America to go to war with Iran. This is as malicious a calumny as Charles Lindbergh’s charge on Sept. 11, 1941, that “the three most important groups who have been pressing this country toward war are the British, the Jewish and the Roosevelt administration.”

In its near-70 year history, Israel has never once asked America to fight for it. Not in 1948 when 650,000 Jews faced 40 million Arabs. Not in 1967 when Israel was being encircled and strangled by three Arab armies. Not in 1973 when Israel was on the brink of destruction. Not in the three Gaza wars or the two Lebanon wars.

Compare that to a very partial list of nations for which America has fought and for which so many Americans have fallen: Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Vietnam, Korea, and every West European country beginning with France (twice).

Change the deal, strengthen the sanctions, give Israel a free hand. Netanyahu offered a different path in his clear, bold and often moving address, Churchillian in its appeal to resist appeasement. This was not Churchill of the 1940s, but Churchill of the 1930s, the wilderness prophet. Which is why for all its sonorous strength, Netanyahu’s speech had a terrible poignancy. After all, Churchill was ignored.

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