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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Hamas Lobby

Gloria Center

By Jonathan Spyer *
April 22, 2009

A meeting was meant to take place on Wednesday, April 22nd, in the Grimond Room at Portcullis House, adjoining the House of Commons in London. The planned meeting was titled "Talk with Hamas" and was meant to feature a video link to Damascus.
Khaled Mashaal, leader of Hamas, was supposed to address members of Parliament and journalists via the link, but he failed, due to a technical glitch.
This planned meeting was the latest event in an ongoing and organized campaign to break the Western boycott of Hamas and transform policy toward the organization. Much energy is being expended in the UK.
But London is only a way station, with the real prize being the transformation of the US stance.
This campaign is part of a larger effort to change the way that the West sees Islamist movements - and by doing so to bring many of the arguments made by such movements into the mainstream.
Who is behind this effort? The invitation to MPs to the Mashaal meeting came from the office of Independent MP Clare Short.
However, it was issued in the name of John, Lord Alderdice. This name immediately offers a pointer. Alderdice, a veteran Northern Irish politician, is head of the board of advisers of an organization called Conflicts Forum.
Conflicts Forum is jointly led by Alistair Crooke and Mark Perry. Crooke is a former British intelligence officer, while the US-based Perry is described by the organizations website as a 'military, intelligence and foreign affairs analyst'.
It describes its aim as opening "a new relationship between the West and the Muslim world."
What this anodyne phrase means in practice is revealed in a remarkably frank document published by this group, in which it explains the means it intends to use to bring about the basic change in perception that will bring Hamas and Hizbullah into the mainstream.
The document notes the need to build a "link-up between activist groups and mobilizers of opinion in order to shift the debate on Islamism from a predominantly defensive posture to a positive assertion of Islamist values and thinking."
It suggests "articulation of Hamas's and Hizbullah's values, philosophy and wider political and social programs... Being more proactive in statements and rephrasing discourse to focus on the positive aspects of Islamist ideology."
The Conflicts Forum publication lays down a precise strategy for the promotion of Hamas and Hizbullah in the West - of which the meeting in the British Parliament forms a part.
The various PR devices suggested include "Use influential individuals - key Muslim personalities... use the Internet, DVD, interviews, podcasts... Link with mass organizations in Western countries - social movements, trade unions - to challenge hegemonic discourse. Approach editors of established journals... with a view to the possibility of them doing a special issue on Islamist thinking or on particular issues."
Undoubtedly, the attempted video link between Hamas HQ in Damascus and the Grimond Room in Portcullis House was meant to be a worthy contribution to this extensive effort to "re-brand" Hamas and Hizbullah.
The UK, and the EU as a whole, remain committed to the Quartet conditions which Hamas must meet to become a partner for dialogue. Hamas (or at least its "military wing") remains on the EU list of proscribed terror organizations.
A cursory observation of the backers of Conflicts Forum, however, reveals a curious paradox. In January 2007, the group proudly announced that it had been awarded a grant of €500,000 by the EU, to develop "more inclusive and legitimate approaches to transforming the Middle East conflict." More specifically, the project entails the "engagement" of "faith-based movements."
So the EU, while currently opposing "engagement" with Hamas, also appears to be offering financial support to a body engaged in lobbying for the organization.
How important are the efforts of Conflicts Forum and its associated groups? Are initiatives such as Wednesday's planned meeting likely to have a tangible effect on policy?
Britain has, of course, already announced that it intends to hold talks with Hizbullah. On Hamas, however, no immediate significant shift in British government policy looks likely.
The Hamas Lobby is busy and active. It encompasses former senior diplomats such as Sir Jeremy Greenstock, as well as the Conflicts Forum nexus.
Foreign Secretary Miliband has praised the Egyptian role in managing dialogue with Hamas in the following terms: "Others speak to Hamas. That's the right thing to do, and I think we should let the Egyptians take this forward."
A knowledgeable source noted that many in the Foreign Office consider that engagement with the group is a "matter of time."
Still, for as long as the US remains firmly committed to insisting that Hamas first abide by the three Quartet conditions (committing to nonviolence, recognizing Israel and accepting previous agreements and obligations), the UK is unlikely to openly break ranks. Differences might well surface if a Palestinian unity government were to be formed. But this too currently looks highly improbable.
Ultimately, the main obstacle to the success of Lord Alderdice, Clare Short and their friends in Conflicts Forum may well be the nature of their client. Hamas leaders have an unfortunate tendency to be candid regarding their movement's goals. This makes presenting the "positive aspects of Islamist ideology" something of a challenge.
Hamas "Foreign Minister" Mahmoud Zahar, for example, speaking last week, stated bluntly that "[Hamas] will never recognize the enemy in any way, shape or form."
A few months ago, the same speaker asserted that "they [Jews] have legitimized the murder of their own children by killing the children of Palestine... They have legitimized the killing of their people all over the world by killing our people."
Spinning statements of that kind into moderation would pose a challenge to the smoothest of PR operators. But as the planned Portcullis House meeting showed, Hamas possesses an experienced, well-oiled, well-funded (largely by the European taxpayer) lobby in the heart of London, in which it may take justifiable pride.
Jonathan Spyer is a senior research fellow at the Global Research in International Affairs Center at the Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya

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Monday, April 20, 2009

The Confrontation Con-Game

By Barry Rubin*
17 April, 2009

http://www.gloria-center.org/Gloria/2009/04/The-Confrontation.html

There are many people eager to see President Barack Obama and his administration bash Israel, or predict that has already happened. But the administration has yet to make any significant direct anti-Israel actions or statements. I expect this widely predicted conflict isn’t going to take place.
Let me repeat the word "direct." Inasmuch as the U.S. government gives up too much to Iran, Syria, and radical Islamists, it hurts Israel’s interests, as well as those of most Arab governments and the United States itself.
Still, what’s happened so far is being taken out of context by those who want a U.S.-Israel confrontation because they hate either Israel or Obama. This could, of course happen but hasn’t yet.
The story contrasts with U.S.-Europe relations. Obama’s trip to Europe was a failure. To everything he asked—a parallel strategy for dealing with economic troubles, getting Turkey into the European Union, or more help in Afghanistan—the Europeans said "no." Then everyone proclaimed the visit a great success.
With Israel, it’s the opposite in which nothing actually goes wrong but is made to seem that way. Let’s look at the examples and defuse some supposed bombs.
--Endorsing a two-state solution is hardly an attack on the Netanyahu government. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu doesn’t oppose a two-state solution—and hasn’t for 12 years--but emphasizes this would only happen if and when a Palestinian leadership proves its credibility and makes a decent offer.
This raises an extremely important point. Israeli policy shouldn’t consist of saying, "We want peace and a two-state solution" ten times a day. It should incorporate its own demands that the PA lives up to commitments and that any negotiated solution include Palestinian as well as Israeli concessions.
Giving the Palestinians a state is conditional on that happening, not a blank check given whatever they do. There’s nothing wrong with Israel demanding reciprocity. The strategy of offering everything and demanding nothing neither made Israel popular nor brought about a negotiated solution.
--U.S. engagement with Iran: While this is risky and likely to give the Iranian regime time to develop nuclear weapons administration statements say the purpose of engagement is to stop its progress. I’m not sure that a Bush administration would be doing much more. The key point will be whether the Obama administration ever concludes Iran’s regime doesn’t intend to change its behavior.
Vice-President Joe Biden’s statement opposing an Israeli attack on Iran was in the framework of the Bush administration stance that Israel should give diplomacy more time to work. It doesn’t close off a U.S. shift at some future point when this is an immediate issue.
--Obama’s endorsement of the Saudi plan as a positive element in the peace process is nothing new either.
--The administration apparently will boycott the Durban-2 hate-fest. If it returns to the UN’s anti-human rights’ council the test will be whether U.S. diplomats really wage a battle there.
--While talking a great deal about engagement with Syria, the administration has not made any concessions and the Syrian regime is visibly upset. Jeffrey Feltman, the man in the State Department most supportive of Lebanese sovereignty and skeptical about the Syrian regime and Hizballah, is assistant secretary of state for Near East affairs. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has also expressed critical reservations about the Syrian regime.
--Only one high-level presidential appointment, White House advisor Samantha Powers, is clearly anti-Israel.
--Money for Gaza. The administration appropriated a huge amount of money for Gaza reconstruction but the conditions on not giving it to Hamas seem serious and there’s been no rush to send the funds.
An extremely important factor here is that in fact it is the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas, not Israel, are the barriers to peace. An Obama presidency would be far more dangerous if there was a PA determined to say anything to get a state, get U.S. pressure Israel to massive concessions, and then break its word.
But that’s not the case. The PA will criticize Israel but offer nothing. It won’t provide a moderate alternative program to Hamas, stop incitement, accept resettlement of Palestinian refugees in a Palestinian state rather than Israel, make any territorial concessions, or agree that a two-state solution permanently ends the conflict. And it won’t accept Israel as a Jewish state alongside a Palestine which—according to the PA’s own constitution—is an Arab and Muslim state.
It’s entirely predictable that the PA won’t give those who want to ram through a two-state solution based only on Israeli concessions the bare minimum they need to make such a strategy credible. The same point applies to Syria and the Golan Heights.
Given that situation, there won’t be any serious broad collision between the United States and Israel over the peace process, whatever smaller storms erupt from time to time as they have done with previous administrations.
Why are direct U.S.-Israel relations relatively secure? Aside from the other side’s intransigence, which will inhibit U.S. policy from giving them more, is a very specific factor. Obama was historically anti-Israel but learned in the campaign that he could insult large sections of the American people and abandon the most basic assumptions of American patriotism and get away with it.
In contrast, though, he learned that it is too politically costly to attack Israel.
This isn’t to say that there aren’t administration policies that damage—indirectly but seriously—Israel’s security. First and foremost, is a strategy that will give Iran the time needed to develop nuclear weapons. At the same time, the Obama administration approach will embolden radical, terrorist, Islamist forces in the region and demoralize relatively moderate Arab regimes.
Ironically, the biggest loser from Obama’s policy is not Israel but the Arab states and peoples threatened by Iran and Syria, Hizballah and Hamas.
_______________________________________________________________________________________________________

Israeli Ambassador Thanks Obama, Netanyahu Warns Mitchell

Monday, April 20, 2009
 
Israeli Ambassador Thanks Obama

Sallai Merido, U.S. Ambassador to Israel, in his opening statement before a meeting of ADL, the Jewish Anti-Defamation league, this morning thanked President Obama for refusing to allow U.S. Participation in the Durban proganda show.
President Obama said, "As long as the participants are using the conference as a Forum to single out Israel the U.S. will not participate.They did this before in 2001 and the U.S. walked out. Since they are using 2001 as a start, we see no point in participating since we disagree on their views about Israel, our closest ally."

In discussing Iran he, the Ambassador said, "We agree with President Obama that Iran's policy is a threat to peace and stability."
President Obama has said, "We will do everything in our power to prevent Iran
from gaining nuclear weapons.

In other news, as we have predicted, the Palestinian Authority has rejected
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s condition for moving ahead on
negotiations to establish "two states for two peoples."
PA spokesman Nabil Abu Rudaineh on Thursday night slammed Netanyahu’s insistence that the PA first accept the concept of Israel as a Jewish State before Israel continues talks.
Netanyahu told United States Middle East envoy George Mitchell earlier in the evening that Israel is willing to discuss the creation of a PA State – but only if the PA recognizes Israel as a Jewish State."Israel expects the Palestinians to first recognize Israel as a Jewish State
before talking about two states for two peoples," Netanyahu said.
The Fatah-led PA government based in Ramallah has agreed in the past to recognize Israel, but not as a Jewish State.
Hamas in Gaza, meanwhile, still refuses to recognize Israel at all, referring
to the Jewish State only as "the Zionist entity" whenever it must discuss Israel.
Mitchell was also warned by Netanyahu that the "two-state solution" requires the cooperation of Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.
The prime minister told the U.S. envoy that Israel must have guarantees that a new PA state will not turn Judea and Samaria into a terrorist enclave asHamas terrorists have already done in Gaza.
There are concerns that Hamas is making inroads into Judea and Samaria as they did in Gaza, and there can be no deals with Hamas terrorists.

Naivete Kills

By Barry Rubin *
April 14, 2009

It never ceases to amaze me that people who know nothing about the Middle East, in this case Roger Cohen but many other names come to mind, can suddenly proclaim themselves experts and make the most elementary errors involving the lives of other people.
It also never ceases to amaze me that people can visit a country, especially a dictatorship, be wined and dined, handed a line and believe it so thoroughly that their mind is closed ever after. Recently, I met a young man who helped me understand this phenomenon better.
He worked on Afghanistan and took exception to my saying that there was no way that Western intervention was going to make that a stable and moderate country.
It was too geographically diverse, bound by traditional culture, beset by conflict, and economically underdeveloped to achieve that condition. And no matter how much money was poured in to train its army to be efficient or to finance its government to be honest and effective, the situation would not change drastically.
He responded with some heat that after the Soviet withdrawal that the Communist government Moscow had established lasted three years, proving how good the Afghan army could be.
That argument surprised me since——like so many I hear nowadays——it was so easy to refute, indeed containing within itself its own refutation.
My response was simple: so, in effect, what you are saying is that if the Western forces are withdrawn then the Taliban will take over within three years. In short, this is precisely the kind of thing I was saying. I think that the mainstream view of the Middle East is so reinforced by its hegemony in the discussion, so underpinned by cultural and ideological assumption (which it isn’’t even aware of making) that one often hears such weak or, in other cases, factually inaccurate statements.
The idea of free debate is to test and correct our views. Yet when there is such hegemony in academia and——to a lesser extent——the mass media , for one viewpoint that set of arguments is weakened simply because it dismisses all challenges without even considering them.
Later that day, I had a chance to talk further with this young man, who was very sincere and dedicated to his studies.
He had spent a lot of time in Afghanistan.
And it quickly became clear what that meant.
He argued passionately that the West must overthrow the current government and install others who, he said, were honest and would provide the country with a great government. Upon further discussion, it turns out that these were powerful people from wealthy families who had courted him. They had invited him to their palatial homes, wined and dined him, and flattered him. ""You understand our country,"" they had said in admiring terms.
In some cases, though not this one, aside from access and flattery, career promotion opportunities and money are also offered. One might speculate——this is just a thought——that women are used to being courted and have learned how to discount flattery to a greater extent. Men, however, are probably especially prone to such appeals as they are used to colder treatment by their fellows. At any rate, we see this constantly.
One young scholar, given unprecedented access to write the biography of a ruthless dictator, gushes at how wonderful he is.
Roger Cohen of the New York Times, goes to Iran, they treat him well and thus he deduces that the mullahs have only benign intentions. Robert Leiken, totally ignorant about the region and succumbing to similar treatment by the Nicaraguan Contras, meets the Muslim Brotherhood and——with no knowledge of what they write in Arabic——believes everything they tell him and describes them as moderate.
I also think such a process went on when Iraqi exiles assured American interlocutors that Iraq was just waiting for America to liberate it, that all would go smoothly, they would then take power and be moderate and stable democratic friends ever after.
As I write these words, I see an article in the Los Angeles Times that provides a terrific example of this phenomenon* about David Lesch, a man with no real knowledge of the region who was chosen to be the biographer of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Asad. Lesch hero-worships the dictator who, in a real sense, made his career. "
"He is very low-key, he is a very amiable, very humble individual, not intimidating at all," Lesch says.
He admits that he wouldn’’t get tough with Bashar: "It would do damage to this access, which will be far worse than bringing it up." And he talks more like a fan for a rock star than a serious analyst of regional politics: "
"He values my opinions and ideas."" How pitiful, how easily deceived.
Yet in dealing with Iran and Hamas, Hizballah and Syria, Muslim Brotherhoods and assorted other dictators and anti-democratic movements or states, how often this happens.
This article is positively embarrassing and the fact that Lesch, the article’s author, and the Los Angeles Times don’t see this is an important sign of how seriously mainstream journalism and academic Middle East studies have gone off the rails.
Why is the gap between reality and perception so much wider on the Middle East than on other subjects or areas of the world? It would take a book to give a proper answer but here are some admittedly too-brief and incomplete talking points:
1. High level of partisanship, making even the simplest statements of fact controversial at times. 2. Indoctrination on campuses to an extraordinary extent.
3. Since so much is written about the region——often bad material--people think they know everything, a mistake less likely to occur in more ""obscure"" places.
4. The need for special knowledge to understand the region which should not——but is——often lightly disregarded.
5. A complex historical picture which people may ignore since history is not deemed to be important.
6. The importance of cultural differences in understanding the region at a time when, according to PC, everyone is supposed to be seen as being exactly the same. A letter by Iranian-American academic in the New York Times this week asserts that it’’s ridiculous to claim Iranian regime nuclear weapons are threat because Iranian mothers want good lives for their children and living standards have gone up.
7. The importance of ideology which is discounted as an influence creating totally different world views, at least among regimes. (See point 6, above).
8. Precisely because the threat from the region and in it is so high there is a tendency either to claim no threat exists or that it can be easily defused through understanding and concessions.
9. The hysteria about alleged Islamophobia and misuse of the concept of racism which makes it somewhere between hard and impossible to have a serious discussion of these issues.
10. Failure to understand the difference between what's said in English or in Arabic and Persian, discounting the latter as of no importance. People have a right to be foolish and naïïve. But they have no right to misdirect national policies and risk——or cost——the lives of hundreds and possibly damage the lives of millions on the basis of their own stupidity.

*<http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-syria-scholar14-2009apr14,0,1440821.story>

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Islamists of the World Unite; You Have Nothing to Lose Except Any Pretext of Being Moderate

By Barry Rubin

It’s a development of tremendous importance and you probably won’t be hearing about it from anywhere but here.
Mahdi Akef, supreme guide of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, has defied his own country’s government to ally himself with Hizballah. What makes this such a remarkable and high-risk step?
--The Muslim Brotherhood is Sunni Muslim; the Lebanese Hizballah group is Shia. Brotherhood leaders do not view Shia Islamists as brothers and in the past have been alarmed at the rising power of Shia forces in Lebanon and Iraq.
--Hizballah is a client of Iran’s regime. As a Shia and non-Arab power, Iran is not on the Brotherhood’s Ramadan greeting card list.
--Egypt’s government has just announced a major Hizballah effort to destabilize the country by staging terrorist attacks there. Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah has openly called for the overthrow of Egypt’s regime. He has now acknowledged connections with the arrested terrorists, though he claims their mission was to help Hamas and attack Israel. The Egyptian government has rejected this justification. As a result, siding with Hizballah risks a government-sponsored wave of suppression against the Brotherhood.
--This step also makes the Brotherhood look unpatriotic in Arab and Sunni terms to millions of Egyptians by siding with Persian Iranians and Shia Muslims.
--Akef’s statement tears the chador off the pretension that the Brotherhood has become moderate. Of course, while not engaging in political violence within Egypt, it has long supported terrorism against Israel and the United States (in Iraq). Now, to this is added backing an Iran-Syria takeover of Lebanon and at least the image of accepting armed struggle against the Egyptian government by others.
--And most importantly of all, Akef has endorsed the strategic line of the Iran-Syria-Hizballah-Hamas axis in open defiance of not only Egypt’s government but of the country’s national interests as well.
What did Akef and his colleagues say that was so significant? The story is told in the London-based Arabic newspaper Al-Sharq al-Awsat, April 15. Put into a seemingly innocuous framework of supporting the Palestinians, the Brotherhood’s new line ends up in some shocking conclusions.
Akef said that Hamas should be supported, “By any means necessary.” The implication is, since the Brotherhood has always favored abrogation of the Egypt-Israel peace treaty that Egypt should go to war with Israel on behalf of the Palestinians. A Brotherhood government would probably do just that.
Hussein Ibrahim, deputy leader of the Brotherhood’s parliamentary bloc, which includes about 20 percent of the legislators, in calling for full Egyptian support of Hamas, stated, "Our enemy and Hizballah's enemy are the same." That enemy would seem to be Israel. But is Israel the only such enemy?
Akef took Hizballah’s side against Egypt’s rulers. Since Hizballah leader Nasrallah had denied he was doing anything against Egypt, everyone should take his word for it rather than that of Egyptian President Husni Mubarak.
In a statement to Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, Akef said there were two competing camps in the region, respectively waving the banners of “cooperative resistance” and of the “protection of the state's sovereignty." Countries like Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia are rejecting Iranian influence and Islamist takeovers in the name of their own continued sovereignty.
Yet “resistance” is the basic slogan of the Iranian-led coalition. Akef insisted that he didn’t seek to compromise Egypt’s sovereignty. But asked how he could reconcile these two “axes” and why Egypt should help Hizballah he responded:
"There are two agendas [in the region]…an agenda working to protect and support the resistance against the Zionist enemy, and an agenda that only cares about satisfying the Americans and the Zionists."
Any Arab listener must take this to mean that there are the properly struggling forces—Iran, Syria, Hamas, Hizballah—and the vile traitors—Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and the Iraqi government.
Ibrahim made another telling statement in saying that the Muslim Brotherhood "do not see any contradiction in supporting the resistance and protecting the state's sovereignty. We are in support of the resistance, in Gaza, and Palestine, and Lebanon….”
Why, however, did he include Lebanon? After all, the overwhelming majority of Lebanese Sunnis oppose Hizballah, viewing it as an arm of Syrian-Iranian power. The apparent answer is that Hizballah is fighting Israel and that the Palestinian issue overrides every other consideration.
Yet the Brotherhood is making choices. It certainly doesn’t support the Palestinian Authority, controlled by nationalist forces, but only the Islamist Hamas. And it opposes having an independent Palestinian state created through a peace process with Israel.
Moreover, so what if both Hizballah and the Brotherhood support Hamas? One would expect that the Brotherhood would feel itself engaged in a battle of influence with Hizballah as to who would be Hamas’s patron, and that of a supposed future Islamist Palestine. Could Brotherhood leaders not have noticed that in Lebanon there is no Hamas among Palestinians there because Iran and Hizballah seek to control them directly?
Under cover of supporting “the Palestinians,” then, the Brotherhood’s priority is on backing Islamist revolution in Iraq, Lebanon, among the Palestinians, Egypt, and elsewhere. The Brotherhood doesn’t engage in violence not out of principle but because the Egyptian government is too strong, the Brotherhood is too weak, and it hopes to make gains through elections aided by “useful idiots” in the West.
If it feels the power balance shift in the future, it would have no compunction about launching a revolution. And as it gains in power, the extremism of its program will be more openly exposed.
When Ibrahim says, "Our enemy and Hizballah's enemy are the same," it sends two messages to the Egyptian government and those who oppose an Islamist Egypt. First, that enemy includes the Egyptian regime itself. Second, the Brotherhood’s friends and Hizballah’s friends are also the same.
In this analysis, the conclusion is inevitable: who is fighting the hardest and being the most intransigent? The “resistance” led by Iran, which may have nuclear weapons in a year or so.



Source: http://aawsat.com/english/news.asp?section=1&id=16390
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), with Walter Laqueur (Viking-Penguin); the paperback edition of The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan); A Chronological History of Terrorism, with Judy Colp Rubin, (Sharpe); and The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley). To read and subscribe to MERIA, GLORIA articles, or to order books, go to http://www.gloria-center.org

Thursday, April 9, 2009

First White House Seder

(President Obama hosts a traditional Seder dinner in the Old Family Dining Room of the White House on Thursday
night, April 9, 2009. Some friends and White House employees and their families joined the Obama family.
Official White House photo by Pete Souza)

Last year Obama promised his staff that next year...they would observe Passover in the White House.
This event is widely viewed as part of the expression of President Obama's love for the Jewish People and Israel.

Happy Passover!!!!!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

A New Government

By Barry Rubin*

In the Israeli political game, there are some things too important to play with. Has the new Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu safeguarded Israel’s security and foreign relations while meeting party and coalition needs, and what is the likely result of this new government’s policies internationally?
Netanyahu had to put together a complex web of parties and personalities to get a Knesset majority. The result is a cabinet with more ministers than Jerusalem has rabbis.
Yet equally impressive is that of the 30 ministers, almost half of them will deal with some element of national security or foreign policy. Is this a formula for chaos? Possibly.
Avigdor Lieberman as foreign minister seems a recipe for disaster. The main problem is not so much Lieberman’s views but the world’s perception in which Lieberman has replaced Netanyahu as the Western media’s favorite “extremist hawkish racist warmonger ultranationalist.” Funny, none of those terms are ever applied to Arab or Iranian leaders.
To some extent, this new demonized personality takes pressure off Netanyahu who looks virtuous by comparison. Perhaps one day the world will even understand that he’s a centrist.
The second problem is Lieberman’s lack of experience—I refrain about making a comparison on this point with the current American president—and undiplomatic mien. The fact that his English is insufficient could be an advantage as Foreign Ministry translators may sometimes be able to recast his words into safer form. He loves being controversial, not a good characteristic for a foreign minister.
Those who know say he can be intelligent and engaging in private. Yet he’s unlikely to be given a chance to show these traits. Or to put it another way, it may be a race between Lieberman and other leaders as to who can insult each other first.
We should remember, however, that when opposition leader Tsipi Livni of Kadima says that Lieberman’s being foreign minister shows she was right not to join the government, that if she’d joined the government Lieberman wouldn’t be foreign minister.
How has Netanyahu tried to cushion this problem? First, to a large extent, he’ll be his own foreign minister. He’s quite good at being articulate and charming.
The other factor, however, is that Lieberman will be guided—if he’s wise enough to listen—by one of Israel’s most able diplomatists, former Ambassador to the United States Danny Ayalon, a member of Lieberman’s party, who will be deputy minister of foreign affairs. Ayalon’s interventions will be critical for Israel’s international policy and reputation.And let’s not forget still another articulate and competent person who will be the closest thing to a hasbara minister: Yuli Edelstein (Likud). Formerly a courageous Soviet refusenik, he will be minister for Jewish Diaspora affairs and for national public relations plus chairman of the Israel Broadcasting Authority and the government’s international spokesman. Edelstein is poised to be a big success and represents about the highest government commitment in history to telling Israel’s story and making its case abroad. Equally remarkable, is that aside from this international affairs quartet is the fact that there are no fewer than seven individuals, three of them former high-ranking army officers, who will deal directly with strategic matters.
At their head, of course, is Defense Minister Ehud Barak, leader of the Labor party, who is very professional. Whether or not he has made a great prime minister, he is someone who makes you feel more secure in that critical office.
As his deputy minister of defense, Barak has his fellow Labor party member and former deputy chief of staff, Matan Vilna'i, another very capable man. Then there is a third general, former chief of staff Moshe Ya’alon of Likud who has strategic affairs, whatever that means.
Speaking about cabinet posts of unclear definition, there’s Yitzhak Aharonovitch (Israel Beiteinu), a former Border Police commander and deputy commissioner of police at Internal Security and the hardline but nice guy Uzi Landau (Israel Beiteinu) at National Infrastructure. Finally, there is moderate but nice guy Dan Meridor as minister-without-portfolio for intelligence agencies.
There are two ways to look at all this. One is that there are too many people who will be scrabbling for turf. The other way is that Netanyahu will have a general staff with some very talented people to use as his advisors and to give them special tasks. The truth is that while there’s unused additional talent in Labor, Kadima’s participation in the coalition—which I’d personally prefer—wouldn’t exactly bring in great talents. Livni would be preferable to Lieberman at the Foreign Ministry but is not exactly another Henry Kissinger. She’s never achieved a single success in any area of diplomacy. Shaul Mofaz is capable but no better than the three other former generals already in this cabinet. Nachman Shai would be a good spokesman. And that’s about it for Kadima. As a whole, this is a pretty moderate foreign affairs and security cabinet with a lot of experience and professionalism. Except for the potential Lieberman time-bomb—and that’s a big potential problem for sure—it is a solid team.
And except for Uzi Landau, this group is hardly hardline, especially compared to past cabinets under Likud prime ministers. Does this security-foreign affairs cabinet support a two-state solution? Overwhelmingly, yes. It first wants to make sure—quite a reasonable demand—that the Palestinians accept such an outcome, which is far from clear.Now if Lieberman can only resist the temptation to indulge his appetite for mischief, some good may come of this government.
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), with Walter Laqueur (Viking-Penguin); the paperback edition of The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan); A Chronological History of Terrorism, with Judy Colp Rubin, (Sharpe); and The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley). To read and subscribe to MERIA, GLORIA articles, or to order books, go to http://www.gloria-center.org
The Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center
Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya, P.O. Box 167, Herzliya, 46150, Israel
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Monday, April 6, 2009

Palestinian Moderates Want Peace--With Hamas, Not Israel

Palestinian Moderates Want Peace--With Hamas, Not Israel
Barry Rubin*
March 22, 2009
http://www.gloria-center.org/gloria/2009/03/Palestinian-moderates.html
To see what’s happening—and what’s wrong—with Palestinian politics, consider Muhammad Dahlan. In him is embodied the ideological and strategic straitjacket, preventing Palestinians from making peace and getting a state of their own.
Dahlan, 48, is one of the two most able young Fatah leaders, the other being Marwan Barghouti. Dahlan, an architect of the first intifada in the late 1980s, became PLO and Palestinian Authority (PA) leader Yasir Arafat’s favorite proteges. A decade later, however, Dahlan broke with Arafat because he thought his boss was letting Hamas get too strong. If Arafat had heeded him, Fatah and the PA would be far better off today.
For many years, Dahlan was the key PA-Fatah “general” battling Hamas in the Gaza Strip. So when Hamas totally defeated Fatah in a 2007 coup and seized control there, Dahlan was responsible for the debacle. Now he’s back as special advisor to PA leader Mahmoud Abbas.
Aside from his anti-Hamas credentials, Dahlan has been considered a relative moderate on the peace process. But what does this mean in practice? Dahlan told al-Sharq al-Awsat that the second (2000-2005) intifada and terrorism against Israeli civilians harmed Palestinian interests. His critique, though, was based not on moral considerations but because such acts hurt the Palestinian image and made Israel react more toughly.
He also complains that the uprising lacked a clear goal. Yet Dahlan never defines what that objective should have been. Here’s the movement’s fatal flaw. Neither he nor the PA nor Fatah tell Palestinians to accept Israel’s existence and build their state alongside it in permanent peace. Such a notion is outside the actual Palestinian debate.
Next, Dahlan talks of his hatred for Hamas but not because it blocks any deal with Israel. He accuses Hama of murdering hundreds of Palestinians; being an Iranian tool, a gang that is building a radical Islamist state in Gaza.
So what’s his solution? Merely that Hamas and the PA unite. Yet, given what Dahlan says about Hamas, what possible joint strategy and activities could such a coalition pursue?
Clearly, peace with Hamas is more important for Dahlan than peace with Israel. And make no mistake: these two alternatives are mutually exclusive.
Indeed, Dahlan is ready to do anything to cooperate with Hamas, as long as it accepts the PA and Fatah as leading partner. He explains the PA won’t ask Hamas to recognize Israel’s right to exist. Fatah isn’t bound either to any PA recognition of Israel and, “as a resistance organization,” can continue attacking Israel whenever it chooses.
Why, then, has the PA agreed to accept Israel’s existence? Dahlan says: only to get international aid money and support. If this is how Dahlan thinks, his comrades’ views are more extreme. The inescapable implication is that if the PA ever signs a peace treaty with Israel—though don’t hold your breath—and gets a Palestinian state whose capital is east Jerusalem this would not block Fatah or Hamas from continuing armed struggle.

This attitude fits perfectly with the fact that even today the PA does nothing to prepare its people for peace and compromise. The claim that a Palestinian state should and will some day encompass all of Israel is maintained by schools, sermons, leaders, and media. It is contained, too, in the demand for a “right of return”—flooding Israel with several million Palestinians—as more important than getting a state where refugees can be resettled in a country of their own.
No wonder every poll shows overwhelming Palestinian support for armed attacks on Israeli civilians and little backing for a compromise peace that would end the conflict forever.
Of course, there won’t be a Fatah-Hamas unity deal since Hamas won’t give up control over the Gaza Strip and neither faction will accept the other’s rule. But Dahlan is saying that on anything concerning Israel, Fatah is ready to accept Hamas’s view rather than demand the Islamist group moderate.
The idea that the world should encourage a PA-Hamas merger is one of many ridiculous notions connected to the fantasy that Palestinian leaders are ready for comprehensive peace with Israel. If there’s unity, Dahlan, Barghouti, and others will join Hamas in launching new waves of armed struggle.
The PA’s current rulers tell the West (but not their own people): We want a two-state solution based on peace with Israel. In contrast, Hamas says: We will only accept total victory and Israel’s destruction.
Dahlan and Barghouti have another viewpoint. They advocate armed struggle to force Israel from the West Bank and back to pre-1967 borders. At that point, they say, they’d make a peace deal in which they imposed their own terms. Of course, if they were to win such a victory who can say they’d stop there? And even if they accepted a two-state solution, they would leave the door open for a two-stage solution in which Israel would disappear.
This doesn’t mean Israel can’t work with the PA and Fatah on immediate issues. The basic deal is that the PA gets international funds and Israel’s support for keeping power on the West Bank in exchange for reducing anti-Israel terrorism to the minimum and keeping Hamas at bay. If there’s a PA-Hamas deal, Israel has no further interest in cooperating with the PA.
There will never, however, be a comprehensive peace agreement ending the conflict as long as Hamas’s motto is: “Today the Gaza Strip and today all of Israel,” while Fatah and the PA say, “Today, the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and tomorrow Israel.”
If even Muhammad Dahlan can’t go visibly further than that, any overall peace process is, unfortunately, a mirage.


Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), with Walter Laqueur (Viking-Penguin); the paperback edition of The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan); A Chronological History of Terrorism, with Judy Colp Rubin, (Sharpe); and The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley). To read and subscribe to MERIA, GLORIA articles, or to order books, go to http://www.gloria-center.org
The Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center
Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya, P.O. Box 167, Herzliya, 46150, Israel
info@gloria-center.org- Phone: +972-9-960-2736 - Fax: +972-9-960-2736

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Sustain the Status Quo?

Although the current staus quo in Israel could be sustained, perhaps indefinitely, I think in the interest of self-defense Israel should annex Gaza, Judea, Samaria and the Glolan Heights.
Palestininians who swear allegiance to the State of Israel should be allowed to remain, those who will never accept a Jewish State should be compensated for the costs and logistics of immigration to Jordan or wherever else they wish to reside.
The world should assist in these costs.
During the next major escalation Gaza should be returned to Israeli control and along with Judea, Samaria and the Golan Heights .
These seem to me defensible borders.
Those knowledgeable about this situation have been saying for 40 years that the Palestinian leadership will never agree to recognizing Israel and ending hostilities.
The Palestinian people might agree to it, but I wonder if that is even a safe subject to discuss in Judea, Samaria and so on, wherever Palestinians congregate.
It certainly would not be a topic of discussion that I would feel comfortable having in Gaza if I were an Arab.
For decades now youth have been corrupted in PA schools, their minds warped, to the point that otherwise carefree and intelligent young people are brainwashed, they are, in a sense, Manchurian Candidates.
But I don't see them accepting a Jewish State on what it seems to me, and someone can correct me if I'm wrong, they believe is their country.
They will accept what they are given, no strings attached, like Gaza, but they won't take anything that requires them to accept the Jewish State.I guess what I and more and more people are advocating is pretty much basic Kahane.
Minus the religion, and I think within limits, Arabs who live in Israel and wish to remain as Israeli citizens should be allowed to stay.
Here is the question, do Bush and Obama say to Israel something like, "Look, be generous. Make yourselves look magnanimous, offer them the whole kit and kaboodle, throw in half of Jerusalem. You know and I know that they can't accept a deal that includes renouncing violence and recognizing Israel's right to exist."
Of course both Bush and Obama are aware of this truth.We've seen it over and over again.That's the way the "game" is played.
My deepest sympathy and condolences go out to the family of Shlomo Nativ, OBM.

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