Sunday, May 30, 2010


Foundation For the Defense of Democracies
Claudia Rosett,   
With a flotilla of "peace activists" steaming toward the blockaded Gaza strip, Israeli authorities have been worrying about a showdown turning into a public relations disaster. That's a sorry reflection not on Israel but on the willingness of a world audience to swallow almost any amount of propaganda, if it comes with a Gaza label.

The basic narrative spun by the organizers of this "freedom flotilla" is that some 700 "activists" from dozens of countries have boarded eight or nine ships filled with tons of "humanitarian aid." Their mission is to run the Israeli blockade, "break the siege of Gaza" and "establish a permanent sea lane between Gaza and the rest of the world." The umbrella website for this venture is labeled "The Free Gaza Movement," and on it the "Free Gaza Team" of the "Freedom Flotilla Coalition" professes a dedication to nonviolence and respect for universal human rights.

All that might make sense if Gaza were a peaceful and democratic enclave, unreasonably walled up by its neighbors. But there's some important information that the flotilla crew omits. Gaza is a terrorist enclave. Gaza is controlled by an Islamist terrorist group, Hamas. And Hamas is: backed by Iran; headquarters some of its leaders in terror-sponsoring Syria; has a busy and violent history of suicide bombings, shootings and rocket and mortar attacks; and is dedicated in its charter to the destruction of Israel.

That is what the blockade is all about. It didn't happen because the neighbors decided to victimize Gaza. Rather, it is Hamas-run Gaza that threatens the neighbors, and for that matter, is hostile generally to liberal, western societies.

Recall that in 2002, trying to stop the violence of Yasser Arafat's second intifada, former President George W. Bush proposed a "roadmap" for peace between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. In the multilateral haggling that followed, Israel in pursuit of that peace withdrew in 2005 from Gaza--a move that required Israeli authorities to forcibly drag some Jewish residents from their homes. But peace did not follow. In the ensuing Gaza elections in January 2006, Palestinian voters gave a large majority to Hamas. Five months later an Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, was kidnapped into Gaza. Today, almost four years later, he has still not been released.

In 2007 Hamas in a bloody coup ousted the remaining parliamentarians of the rival Fatah party and after a spree of murdering fellow Palestinians took complete control of Gaza. During 2008, according to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, terrorists in Hamas-run Gaza fired 1,750 rockets and 1,528 mortar bombs into southern Israel. This was a gross and deliberate provocation which the United Nations and its constituent members of the so-called international community did nothing effective to stop. In late December 2008 Israel finally launched Operation Cast Lead, sending troops into Gaza for just over three weeks to try to shut down the attacks.

Hamas has not renounced its aim of destroying Israel. On the contrary, Hamas has been receiving military training and smuggled weapons from Iran, where the nuclear-wannabe rulers have openly expressed interest in wiping Israel off the map. In February 2009 Hamas leader Khaled Meshal, who operates out of Damascus, openly praised Iran for helping Hamas fight Israel.

That's the context in which the blockade on Gaza needs to be understood. For that matter, Egypt has also had miseries enough with Hamas to find it worthwhile maintaining the blockade, though this seems to be of less interest to the "freedom flotilla" crowd.

Who are these "activists," exactly? That seems to be something of a moving target. News outlets have been giving numbers ranging from 600 to 800, aboard either eight or nine ships, coming from such places as Greece, Algeria, Ireland and Turkey. The blockade busters include the requisite Nobel Peace laureate, Irishwoman Mairead Corrigan-Maguire. From Gaza, John Ging, head of the U.N.'s Palestinian refugee agency (UNRWA) has strayed outside his theoretically apolitical brief in order to applaud the flotilla. The Free Gaza website features video messages offering a bon voyage from such hoary fixtures of the lynch-Israel gang as Noam Chomsky, and one of the U.N. Human Rights Council's favorite Israel-haters, Richard Falk.

Under the heading "Donate" the Free Gaza site makes special mention of a "major donation" from Malaysia, "thanks to the passion for justice" of former Malaysian Prime Minister Mohamad Mahathir and his wife. An excited Al Jazeera reporter, in an English-language broadcast Thursday, made a point of mentioning contributions of some sort from Bahrain, Kuwait and Yemen. And among the cheerleaders for this effort is former British parliamentarian George Galloway, who perhaps has more time to devote to Hamas-run Gaza now that he no longer has the option of consorting with Iraq's late dictator, Saddam Hussein.

For this coalition to describe itself as affiliated in any way with "freedom" is an abuse of the term. Likewise, the show of bringing tons of "aid" is hollow at best. Israel, in an attempt to head off a confrontation, offered to let the Gaza flotilla unload its cargo at an Israeli port and have the goods delivered (after inspection) to Gaza by land. The flotilla folks weren't interested. Nor were they willing, despite their avowed love of universal human rights, to try pressuring Hamas to let them bring letters and food to the kidnapped Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit.

This ship convoy is not about freedom and not about aid. It is patently about helping Hamas and harming Israel. What's crazy is that the free world would leave Israel to grapple alone with this latest propaganda onslaught. In saner times this "freedom flotilla" would be a public relations disaster all by itself.

Claudia Rosett, a journalist in residence with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, writes a weekly column on foreign affairs for Forbes.

When Bibi Meets Barack: What Will Happen in Their Upcoming Meeting?

Why was Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu suddenly invited to meet with President Barack Obama next week? There are three very different reasons.

One is the Obama Administration's realization that its harsh policy toward Israel has been mistaken and has yielded it no diplomatic benefit. Another is he knowledge that this policy is very unpopular among Americans in general as well as American Jews in particular. With November elections coming up, the White House wants to cut its losses.

There is also, however, a third reason which relates to substantive issues. The White House wants to hear from Netanyahu what his views and plans are regarding negotiations with the Palestinians. The Obama Administration is eager for progress on indirect talks, hopeful of moving to direct talks (which Netanyahu very much wants to do), and is also looking at longer-range possibilities.

My view is that Netanyahu should stress the following: Israel wants peace and is willing to agree to a two-state solution. But here's what we want in return, so go to the Palestinians and see what they are willing to give in exchange for an independent state.

At this point, he explains the need to recognize Israel as a Jewish state; demilitarization of any Palestinian state (which I would call "nonmilitarization," meaning that it keeps existing security forces but doesn't build separate, conventional armed forces); that any agreement will permanently end the conflict and all Palestinian claims; and that all refugees must be resettled in the state of Palestine. He must also explain in detail what Israel wants in terms of security guarantees.

To a lesser extent, Netanyahu can discuss his views on borders. But his task is to break the pattern in which only Palestinian demands are considered and debated. In this context, the question is only what will Israel give, never what it will get in exchange.

This is a reasonable set of demands and one that the Palestinian Authority (PA) would be able to meet if it were a "normal" political entity seeking a permanent two-state solution.

Unfortunately, the leadership-and even more those who stand behind them in Fatah-wants to wipe Israel off the map and get everything. But that's a lesson that the Obama Administration has to learn for itself.

The current PA strategy is to pretend cooperation but ensure that, in effect, the talks are sabotaged. It hopes at some point next year to go to the United States and Europeans to claim that since Netanyahu won't make a deal they should recognize a unilateral Palestinian declaration of independence or force Israel to accept a Palestinian state with no concessions by the PA. This probably won't work, though there are enough hints to the contrary to persuade the PA that this kind of strategy is its best bet.

The point for Netanyahu, then, is to express his total cooperation with peace efforts. If the PA refuses direct negotiations and rejects reasonable offers he must show that this will not be Israel's fault.

Another approach suggests that Netanyahu should offer some kind of interim solution in which the PA would become a de facto state leaving Jerusalem, borders, and most other issues for the future. I think this would be a disastrous error, in essence giving the PA what it wants first without it having to make any compromises. No matter what time limit or conditions are put on the plan, once there is a Palestinian state recognized by the entire West and a full member of the UN, all such limitations will erode away.

Remember the issue here is not what a final diplomatic solution would look like but what negotiating posture Netanyahu will take in his White House visit.

Two other points must be mentioned. Netanyahu will show appreciation for the U.S. efforts on sanctions, but what longer-range strategy does he advocate? Probably, here, he will learn more about U.S. views on containment and strategy if and when Iran gets nuclear weapons as well as further unilateral sanctions. He is going to have to listen and evaluate what this approach means for Israel, especially in considering whether or not Israel should attack Iranian facilities at some point in the future.

Finally, Netanyahu is going to have to use all his smoothness and charm to educate his interlocutors about what the Middle East is really like without ever hinting that he is being patronizing or arrogant. That's a tall order but if any Israeli can do that, Netanyahu can.

In contrast to the last visit, where he was received quite rudely, this one is set to be a love fest publicly. Eventually, we will find out whether it was that way privately as well.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Obama gets OK on boosting Israel against rockets


U.S. House of Representatives approves Obama request for 205 million dollars to spur production of system to counter short-range rockets like those used by Hamas and Hezbollah.

By ReutersThe U.S. House of Representatives approved President Barack Obama's request for 205 million dollars to spur Israel's production of a system to counter short-range rockets of the type used by Hamas and Hezbollah.

The authorization for the extra funding was part of a defense spending bill that would provide 726 billion dollars next year for U.S. national defense programs, including funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The House gave the bill final passage on Friday by a vote of 229 to 186.

The Senate Armed Services Committee likewise voted to provide 205 million dollars for the Israeli system, known as "Iron Dome," panel chairman Carl Levin told reporters on Friday.

Levin said he hoped his committee's bill would reach the Senate floor before the July 4 Independence Day recess.

A congressional staff member said the request for the funding "seems to have come directly from the commander in chief," Obama. It was not entirely clear what prompted it.

Produced by Israeli state-owned Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd., Iron Dome uses small radar-guided missiles to blow up Katyusha-style rockets with ranges of between 3 miles and 45 miles (5-70 km), as well as mortar bombs, in mid-air.

Its development was spurred by the 2006 conflict in Lebanon with Hezbollah, and the Gaza Strip war against Hamas a year ago. In both cases, Israeli towns within reach of short-range rockets were in some ways defenseless.

A White House spokesman, Tommy Vietor, said earlier this month Obama recognized "the threat missiles and rockets fired by Hamas and Hezbollah pose to Israelis."

"As a result, he decided to seek funding from Congress to support the production of the Iron Dome system," Vietor said.

Two Iron Dome batteries are under construction, an Israeli defense official said in February. Designed to be towed by vehicle, they will be available for any Israeli front at a few hours' notice.

The Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency has three initiatives with Israel to boost its home-grown capability to defend against short- and medium-range ballistic missiles.

The so-called David's Sling Weapon System is for short-range defense; the Arrow Weapons System targets medium-range missiles; and the Arrow-3 interceptor is an upper-tier system under development.

The United States is also developing interoperability between the U.S. ballistic missile defense system and the Israeli architecture to make sure Israeli systems can be stitched in to a global umbrella.

In addition, the Obama administration is working toward a Middle East missile defense that envisions adding an advanced radar site in a Gulf state to one already in Israel to thwart any Iranian attack, U.S. officials have told Reuters.

The House voted to authorize 10.3 billion dollars for ballistic missile defenses overall, 361.6 million dollars more than Obama's request. The extra funds will strengthen defenses against "the most immediate threats from nations such as Iran and North Korea," said Rep. James Langevin, the Strategic Forces subcommittee chairman.

The Middle East in May 2010: An Assessment

By Professor Barry Rubin

Why am I writing so much about U.S. policy and less about developments within the region itself lately? Because in a real sense not that much is happening right now in the region. A colleague remarked to me today that the world's political weather is set by the U.S. president. This seems very true right now.

Recently, there was a bit of a war scare regarding the Israel-Lebanon border. Yet there was never any chance of a shooting conflict. Syria and Hizballah don't want one at present. They are too busy taking over Lebanon and are holding their fire for the possibility in future of an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear facilities.

There's also a lot of noise about Israel-Palestinian Authority indirect negotiations. But nothing is happening or going to happen there either. The closer you get to the two sides--and the further from the discussion in the Western media and capitals--the more obvious is that reality.

Regarding Israeli politics, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's coalition is solid. The Kadima-led opposition is very quiet and not making any strong points. Netanyahu's government is going to continue for quite a while.

Nor have there been any big changes in the internal stability of Arabic-speaking countries, though we are all waiting for the coming transition in Egypt. Turkey's regime continues to march it in the direction of greater Islamism, though the outside world seems to take little notice. Lebanon's "progress" in the direction of Syria-Iran control is clearer. And it is now clear that the Iranian regime has defeated the opposition for the forseeable future, which probably means a bundle of years.

At the moment, then, the main battle is being fought over the region's head, so to speak, regarding Iran's nuclear program. That involves U.S. policy and the question of sanctions. The foundation for the future--and it might be a very weak one--is being laid down in these maneuvers. For the failure to establish strong sanctions indicates that it is unlikely U.S. policy will be able to build a strong containment strategy in the era when Iran does have these weapons.

If you've been following my writings, you understand that doesn't mean Tehran will fire off nuclear-armed missiles, just that Tehran will try to gain hegemony in the Middle East. It won't succeed but it will make progress in that direction.

In the longer term, I'm reaching two conclusions. First, we should be devoting our research to what the region would look like when Iran has nuclear weapons. Second, I don't believe that Israel is going to attack Iran, and my conclusion is that this is a correct decision. I'll be talking more about these points in the coming days.

Saturday, May 22, 2010


SATURDAY, MAY 22, 2010

IDF versus Hamas

Recently emails have been circulating showing images and purveying views that present a distorted portrayal of Operating Cast lead, the Israeli response to thousands of terrorist assaults, including thousands of missiles fired from Gaza into Israeli population centers.

I'd like to thank Augean Stables for this excellent analysis.

It may be four weeks later, but we now have some important information from the Israeli army on civilian casualty figures during Operation Cast Lead. They weigh in with a highly detailed report.
See Yaakov Katz: World duped by Hamas’s false civilian death toll figures
David Horovitz: Analysis: Counted out: Belatedly, the IDF enters the life-and-death numbers game
The Elder of Zion: The UNRWA school story was a lie
Basing its work on the official Palestinian death toll of 1,338, Levi said the CLA had now identified more than 1,200 of the Palestinian fatalities. Its 200-page report lists their names, their official Palestinian Authority identity numbers, the circumstances in which they were killed and, where appropriate, the terrorist group with which they were affiliated.
The CLA said 580 of these 1,200 had been conclusively “incriminated” as members of Hamas and other terrorist groups.
Another 300 of the 1,200 - women, children aged 15 and younger and men over the age of 65 - had been categorized as noncombatants, the CLA said.
In other words, in terms of identifiable dead according to this report, two-thirds were valid targets of the assault, one-third collateral damage. This is the opposite of the impression given by the claims of the PCHR:
While the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, whose death toll figures have been widely cited, reports that 895 Gaza civilians were killed in the fighting, amounting to more than two-thirds of all fatalities, the IDF figures shown to the Post on Sunday put the civilian death toll at no higher than a third of the total.
The implications here are enormous, particularly given the vastexpressions of hatred of Jews and Israelis that the MSM coverage of this conflict — what Shmuel Trigano called a “media progrom” — provoked around the world, much of it based on imagining and believing the damage caused to civilians was “absolute carnage.”
If, indeed, both in the specific figures now presented — two-thirds military death rate, rather than the two-thirds civilian mortality rate as reported by both Palestinian “human rights groups” and journalists — then the situation changes dramatically.
Actually, given how often the media told us that Gaza was the most densely-concentrated population in the world, and that an aerial attack could not help but cause great collateral damage to the civilians, we would expect a very high rate of civilian casualties. Perhaps one of the reasons that the Palestinian figures strike so many as reliable, is that they are actually fairly conservative in terms of collateral damage in aerial attacks on areas densey populated with civilians.

If we compare them with WW II (Dresden, Tokyo) or even Vietnam, these casualty figures are astoundingly low for civilian casualties, which run in the 80-99% range. Even if we compare them with NATO in Belgrade or the US in Mosul, the lowest figures for such activity on record outside of Israel, then the Israeli army outperforms virtually every military on record in the world for its ability to minimize civilian casualties.
(It’s not clear whether the rough comparison the study makes with American figures in Iraq is a sop to American sensibilities, or a fair equivalence. My impression is that acceptable US collateral damage rates, certainly in target killings, is considerably higher than Israel’s.)
When we add to that, the well-known practice of Hamas to hold civilians captive in areas of conflict in order to increase the number of their fatalities, one might consider the Israeli achievement in Gaza — how to minimize civilian casualties while attacking an insufferably vicious enemy who hides in their midst while attacking you — one of the most extraordinary in the relatively recent history of international humanitarianism under conditions of war.
The report presents a revealing difficulty in establishing figures (all statistics are sketches of reality, no more):
Counted among the women, however, were female terrorists, including at least two women who tried to blow themselves up next to forces from the Givati and Paratroopers’ Brigades. Also classed as noncombatants were the wives and children of Nizar Rayyan, a Hamas military commander who refused to allow his family to leave his home even after he was warned by Israel that it would be bombed.
Now there’s a category to identify: Palestinian civilian casualties directly caused by Palestinian initiatives. It could include everything from this case and others of holding civilians hostage, to actual murdering of Palestinians by other Palestinians.
It is, alas, a safe bet to predict that this is a form of warfare that the rest of the world will be seeing a great deal more of in the coming years and decades, all along the bleeding borders of Islam. In that context, it’s probably safe to say that the Israeli achievement will hold up remarkably well in comparison even with military operations in the 2010s and 20s.
So again, I ask the epistemological questions: “Why should the outside observer attribute more credibility to the figures provided by the Israeli army?” Why credit these figures? When will the report be released? Or will it?
How much epistemological priority do we accord, for example, to this revision of the casualty figures from the now notoriously-misreported UN School massacre from 43, most civilians, to 12, three civilians?
As an example of such distortion, he cited the incident near a UN school in Jabalya on January 6, in which initial Palestinian reports falsely claimed IDF shells had hit the school and killed 40 or more people, many of them civilians.
In fact, he said, 12 Palestinians were killed in the incident - nine Hamas operatives and three noncombatants. Furthermore, as had since been acknowledged by the UN, the IDF was returning fire after coming under attack, and its shells did not hit the school compound.
“From the beginning, Hamas claimed that 42 people were killed, but we could see from our surveillance that only a few stretchers were brought in to evacuate people,” said Levi, adding that the CLA contacted the PA Health Ministry and asked for the names of the dead. “We were told that Hamas was hiding the number of dead. 

Saturday, May 8, 2010

What Next in the War on Terror?

They believe in a religion that is grounded in the 13th century.
If someone insults the pope, he doesn't send people out to kill you.
If you insult a Rabbi he doesn't send people out to blow you up.
These people do.
Their beliefs haven't evolved like Christianity and Judaism.
Those two are thousands of years old.
Islam is 700 years old.
A guy, usually a minority, gets drawn into or is a member of the community of Islam and typically is doing okay in America, then he has marital problems, and financial problems.
He gets depressed and wants to die, and rather than die a loser, he can die as a hero.
They convince themselves that they are acting as weapons of Islam.
We kill some Muslims in Afghanistan and they try to kill some of us.
Sometimes they use this as an excuse for their own failures .
Sometimes their frame of mind is, "They killed a hundred of us, in this or that village so we are going to kill a hundred of them."

We need to fight these Jihadi with power and vigor.
We have to be honest with each other, Islam, or at least a significant portion of it, has declared those who don't follow their religion to be the enemy.
They don't wish to be brought into the 21st Century, they think the 13th century was better.
They see influence with their atavistic religion as blasphemy.
Their beliefs codify oppression of Jews and Christians, and returning woman to the "good old days", when one could beat and rape his wife, and she was a slave.
That's the bottom line.
As you can plainly see in Afghanistan and Gaza, when this portion of Islam gains power they are brutal to the extreme.

To me, however, the most obvious crimes of these Islamic  Republican Governments or regimes is their treatment of women.

The religion is primitive
We have to fight them, but I do think one idea might help a little.
We should change our role in Afghanistan to where we are bombing less and causing less casualties.
We should, the civilized world, tell the Muslim countries that are brutalizing and enslaving women, that this is a crime, and we are not  going to tolerate it.
The burka is not a fashion statement, it is a sign if inferiority, a sign of submission.
In Afghanistan women are forced to wear burkas that cover them head to foot, with a small gauze outlet, so that a man can't get a good look at her eyes and be tempted to rape her.

Their have been women in Islamic countries that have been sentenced to be publicly whipped, after reporting a rape.
Because Islamic judges determined that the women in question seduced the rapist by, perhaps a glimpse of hair, or not having the gauze over her eyes, or dancing.

Some people have said to me, "Well, that's their custom, it's not up to us to make them change their customs."

If their customs allow them to brutalize woman and girls, and basically prevent a female from having any opportunities in life other than having babies on demand, and their customs allow men to beat women for whatever reason,
 We have every right in the world to interfere.

We have the duty to interfere.
Women's groups in Afghanistan have ask for protection, what the military calls security.
      One important factor in our thinking should be a consideration of what the impact of casualties will be over time.
A certain amount of innocent people will be killed in any type of warfare, what is the impact of that going to be?
Imagine you are sitting at home, you haven't done anything harmful, and suddenly a missile crashes through your roof and wipes out half your family.
Then you walk up and down the street, and your neighbors homes have been bombed too.
People are killed and crippled all around you.
Then imagine the military shows up and says, "Well, we were after so and so, and to get to him we had to soften up this area. Sorry. It's for a good cause."
Or, "We shelled your house by mistake."
I'm just wondering, will we be creating as many terrorists as we kill?
I'm just wondering what the ratio would be, 10 terrorists for every innocent person we shell?
Less or more?

Afghanistan is asymmetrical warfare, we are not going to conquer the Radical Islamicists in the usual sense of the word.
What we may need to do in Afghanistan is change the focus of the mission from killing Taliban members to protecting the people of Afghanistan.
Afghanistan women's groups have asked for security, for protection of the schools where girls are learning, for the first time in their lives, many of them.
They have been told that we can't afford it, or in the words of one Congressman, "We expect you to take care of that yourselves."
If we were dealing directly with women's rights, at least the women of Afghanistan would support us.
Slavery is wrong, whether the slave is black or white or male or female.
The literal enslavement of women in Afghanistan  is a horror that goes unremarked upon for the most part.

I saw an interview with an Afghanistani woman recently, she had 8 kids, she didn't want anymore, but her husband did.
She was asked, "Who will make the decision?"
She pointed to her husband and said, "He does. We have no choice."
The  reporter, a woman, asked, "Do you know what rape is?"
The woman's eyes grew large, and she looked uncomprehending, "No." she answered, quietly.

This abuse of human beings should be stopped.
That should be the focus of our efforts in Afghanistan.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Aid to Gaza from Israel

We need to make sure the world has the opportunity of at least being exposed to the truth.
What they decide to do in response may be unpredictable, but they won't be able to say say they were misinformed.
In the years since Gaza was handed over to the Arabs it has been one problem after the other.
First Hamas wins a small election, they then take over all of Gaza in a coup, then they bomb Israel.

Even after all of this, Israel basically takes care of Gaza.

 Palestinian Authority residents of Gaza received more than 13,000 tons of humanitarian aid last week via the various crossings from Israel, according to the IDF Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (CoGAT).

A total of 619 trucks bearing 13,593 tons of supplies delivered various foods and other goods into the region. Among the supplies provided were 76 truckloads of fruits and vegetables, 27 truckloads of wheat, 34 truckloads of meat, chicken and fish products, 45 truckloads of dairy products, 16 trucks of sugar, 50 trucks of clothing and shoes, and 37 truckloads of hygiene products.
In addition, 114 truckloads of animal feed were transferred via the conveyor at the Karni Crossing.
At the Nahal Oz fuel terminal, 1,461,000 liters of diesel fuel were pumped into the region's tanks for the power station, while an additional 293,796 liters of diesel fuel were pumped in for transportation purposes. Also, 44,704 liters of gasoline and 919 tons of cooking gas were transferred via the fuel terminal as well.
Traffic was brisk at the Erez Crossing as well: 378 medical patients and their escorts crossed into Israel from Gaza to obtain medical treatment, including those who continued on to Judea and Samaria. An additional 111 PA Arab residents of Gaza entered Israel for various other reasons as well, as did 231 staff members of international aid organizations. Meanwhile, 160 international staff members entered Gaza, also through the Erez terminal. (
 rockets into peaceful Israeli cities

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

What Do the New Israel-Palestinian Indirect Talks Mean?

May 4, 2010

The question of the day is whether the Israel-Palestinian Authority (PA) indirect talks will make progress in the "peace process" or result in failure. One wonders at this point how many naive people believe that peace is at hand, and how many misled people think that the lack of peace is Israel's fault.
What is needed to understand the issue is precisely what is not presented by policymakers, academics, and all-too-much of the mass media: The PA neither wants nor is capable of delivering a compromise peace agreement.
Radicalism within its ranks, in public opinion, and the ever-present challenge from Hamas ties the hands of leaders who are not so moderate themselves.
Belief that if they continue the struggle or keep saying "no" or subvert Western support for Israel they will get everything they want without giving up much is too tempting.
But can these specific talks at this specific time bring progress or failure?
Depends on what you mean by "progress"; depends on what you mean by "failure."
If one believes there will be a comprehensive peace agreement, then the result will be failure because the PA didn't want a comprehensive agreement to begin with, and both internal politics and intoxication in believing the Obama Administration will give them what they want is going to result in even more intransigence.
If the United States wants to impose a solution, the PA, sensing this will make sure the talks fail, have no incentive to make a deal. And any attempt after that by--let's be honest here--people who really don't understand the issues or how the region's politics work would bring disaster in the longer run.
If, however, one wisely uses the talks to reduce tension betwen the two sides and deal with more immediate problems that can be resolved--economic growth, security cooperation, ways to make the Palestinian Authority more stable politically, better for its people, and able to survive the Hamas challenge--the talks could be beneficial.
From an Obama Administration standpoint, if it takes a bow on its "great" work in getting indirect talks going (after its policy contributed to delaying them so long), it will be happy and find the talks beneficial for itself. It will also believe that the talks will soothe Muslims and Arabs, making its own policy task easier on other issues by getting Arab state support for, say, what the United States is doing with Iran sanctions or Iraq withdrawal or reducing terrorism against Americans. This is doubtful but it will make the administration, and perhaps its constituents, feel better.
If the talks become direct ones, then the world will rejoice, forgetting that this merely returns the situation to what existed--without great progress--in 2008. Indeed, direct Israel-Palestinian talks have been going on now for 17 years, with Israel offering a Palestinian state as an outcome of talks during that entire period, and offering the immediate opportunity for the Palestians to get a state with its capital in east Jerusalem and the equivalent of all the West Bank and Gaza Strip 10 years ago.
And, by the way, when will any Western mainstream media actually report what Israel wants in a peace settlement: security guarantees, dropping of all further Palestinian claims, a non-militarized state without foreign armies on its soil, resettlement of all Palestinian refugees in Palestine, and recognition of Israel as a Jewish state in response to recognition of Palestine as an Arab state? Might these things be just as relevant as Palestinian demands for a state, the dismantlement of Jewish settlements, and territorial demands?
Until Western leaders understand why there hasn't been progress and set their policies accordingly how could there be any real success in resolving this issue?

*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

Monday, May 3, 2010

Obama Administration Continues to Supply Israel With Weapons

By Barry Rubin

I have repeatedly pointed out that as of now the Obama Administration has never put any material pressure on Israel. There are wild rumors and irresponsible materials floating around to the contrary. They aren’t true.

As proof, for example, take the article by Barbara Opall-Rome in Defense News, May 3, 2010, “U.S. Backs Israeli Munitions Upgrades.” She writes of “ever-expanding bilateral security ties unharmed by the unusually high-profile political rift” that took place temporarily.

In fact, the United States is equipping Israel with GBU-39 Small Diameter Bombs for its F-15I fighter-bombers and this will be followed by the same system on F-16I planes. These 250-pound bombs are called bunker busters because they are smart bombs that will go through more than six feet of reinforced concrete.

In addition, Israel has equipped F-15Is to carry the 5,000-pound-class GBU-28 Hard Target Penetrator, designed to burrow 100 feet into earth or 20 feet into concrete.

The Israel Air Force is also receiving the Laser-Guided Joint Direct Attack Munitions (LJDAM), developed by Boeing Integrated Defense Systems and Israel's Elbit Systems and able to direct smart bombs more accurately.

To put it bluntly, GBU-39s can be used against simpler installations like arms-smuggling tunnels dug by Hamas between Egypt and the Gaza Strip along with Hizballah field fortifications.

The GBU-28s could be fired at stronger Hizballah installations. They could also be used on Iranian nuclear weapons or missile installations some day. Clearly, the U.S. government is neither urging nor advocating such an action and may never do so. But it has not blocked the possibility in terms of weaponry either.

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), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). His new edited books include Lebanon: Liberation, Conflict and Crisis; Guide to Islamist Movements; Conflict and Insurgency in the Middle East; and The Muslim Brotherhood. To read and subscribe to MERIA, GLORIA articles, or to order books. To see or subscribe to his blog, See Rubin Reports.

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