Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Jeremy Corbyn and the Socialism of Fools

From WSJ, Sept. 10, 2018, by Walter Russell Mead:

At the root of his bigotry is a Marxist hatred of capitalist U.S. ‘imperialism.’

Jeremy Corbyn, Sept. 10.
Jeremy Corbyn, Sept. 10. 

That Jeremy Corbyn, who hopes someday to occupy the office previously held by Winston Churchill, Benjamin Disraeli and William Pitt, is an anti-Semite seems no longer in question. No anti-Israeli terrorist entity is too drenched in Jewish blood for him to cheer on. Hamas, Hezbollah, the mullahs of Iran—their sins against freedom of speech, against freedom of assembly, and against women and gays may be crimson, but if they hate the Jewish state enough, Labour has a leader who will wash them as white as snow.

But not all anti-Semites are alike. Different forms of anti-Semitism can have very different consequences. What kind does Jeremy Corbyn profess, and how does it relate to the rest of his worldview?

Mr. Corbyn and his colleagues in the hard-left Labour elite are, above all, modern. They don’t hate the Jews for killing Christ as medieval Christians did. They don’t think the Jews use the blood of gentile children to make matzoh. Whatever some of the less enlightened members of Mr. Corbyn’s base among the British Muslim community may think, the secular Labour elite doesn’t blame the Jews for rejecting Muhammed.

Nor is their hatred racial. Mr. Corbyn’s worldview is blinkered and sadly skewed, but he is neither wicked nor delusional enough to imagine that the Jewish “race” is competing with the “Aryan” Anglo-Saxons to dominate the world.

It is Zionism that drives Mr. Corbyn’s anti-Jewish passion. He is not anti-Israel because some or even many of Israel’s policies are wrong. He is existentially anti-Zionist. He does not believe that the Jewish people are a nation. From this point of view, the notorious U.N. Resolution 3379 of 1975 got it exactly right: Zionism is racism, and the Jewish state is racist to the core.

What elevates the Jewish state from an irritation to an obsession in the Corbynite world is Israel’s relationship with the U.S. The U.S. is the center of international capitalism. Destroying American capitalism and the imperialist system it imposes on the world is the overarching goal of the Marxist zealotry that drives Mr. Corbyn’s worldview and justifies his sympathy for otherwise dubious regimes. The Iranian mullahs may hang homosexuals and stone the occasional adulteress, but in the all-important struggle against American imperialism and its Zionist sidekick, they are a natural and necessary part of the Resistance.

It’s a short step for hard-left Labour from hating Israel to finding “Zionist” conspiracies on every side. Marxism typically rejects liberal democracy as a sham. Rich and powerful capitalists make all the big decisions: They control the political parties, they control the press, and they use the facade of democratic politics to amuse, befuddle and ultimately control the masses. From this standpoint, conspiracy thinking isn’t a sign of ignorance or emotionalism; to the contrary, perceiving the hidden plots of our true rulers is a necessary and vital step in seeing through the myth of liberal democracy.

The hard-line Marxist and the classic anti-Semite agree that the world is really run by a cabal of greedy men behind closed doors. But where the Marxist sees capitalist string-pullers, some of whom may happen to be Jewish, the anti-Semite sees only Jews. This is the meaning behind the famous statement, once popular on the European left, that anti-Semitism is the “socialism of fools”: the anti-Semitic conspiracy theories are too narrow and miss the real point.

But for Jeremy Corbyn and his Labour colleagues, the perceived special relationship between American imperialism and Zionism collapses the distinction between the socialism of fools and the “real” thing. The urban legend that “the Jews” control America’s Middle Eastern policy and that Jewish power forces the U.S. to march in lockstep with right-wing Israeli governments is also an organizing principle of the Corbynite worldview. The supposed control exerted by Zionist Jewish billionaires over American politics makes the fight against imperialism also a fight against a powerful Jewish conspiracy.

Those ideas, as any serious student of American politics or of the American Jewish community knows, are nonsensical. In every presidential election of the 21st century, American Jews have given significantly more money and votes to Democratic than to Republican candidates. If the American Jewish community controlled American politics, President Trump would still be hosting a television show and there would be no U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem.

Yet myths are no less powerful because they are false. Mr. Corbyn’s outlook will lead any government he forms into deep trouble and frustration, but that in itself won’t keep him out of Downing Street. Liberalism today may face its deepest crisis in the country that gave the liberal tradition to the world.

Shutting Down the PLO

From WSJ, Sept. 10, 2018, by The Editorial Board:

The U.S. stops indulging Palestinian hostility to Israel.

The Washington office of the Palestine Liberation Organization.
The Washington office of the Palestine Liberation Organization. 

The Trump Administration is blowing the whistle on the Palestine Liberation Organization, and it would be hard to identify a more overdue reality check in U.S. foreign policy.

The Administration announced Monday that it is closing the PLO’s Washington office, citing lack of progress on peace negotiations. The PLO began as a terrorist organization but was allowed to open an office in Washington in 1994 after the Oslo accords produced hope for a new era of reconciliation between the PLO and Israel.

That hope has never been fulfilled, notably since the late PLO leader Yasser Arafat began the second intifada after walking away from the historic and generous Israeli peace offer brokered by Bill Clinton in 2000. Long-term indulgence of the PLO’s recalcitrance has had the effect of allowing a toxic and reflexive anti-Israel sentiment to build in international institutions, not least among academics and students on U.S. campuses.

The Trump Administration has tried to revive the Israeli-Palestinian talks, but it has also shown less tolerance for Palestinian resistance. Last November Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas used his speech at the United Nations to call for the investigation and prosecution of Israeli officials by the International Criminal Court (ICC). The Trump Administration said then that the PLO’s Washington office was at risk of closure.

Mr. Abbas’s call for an investigation of Israel by the ICC was consciously provocative, and the PLO’s Washington office would have known that. The U.S. Congress said in 2015—before Donald Trump became President—that the Secretary of State was required to certify that the PLO wasn’t trying to use the ICC against Israel.

In a speech Monday to the Federalist Society, White House National Security Adviser John Bolton made clear the U.S. will push back hard against any ICC investigation involving members of the U.S. military or the country’s allies.
“The United States... will use any means necessary to protect our citizens and those of our allies from unjust prosecution by this illegitimate court. We will not cooperate with the ICC.”
Meanwhile, late last month the U.S. announced it is permanently cutting funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, or UNRWA, a primary source of Palestinian financial support for decades. The numbers are significant. The U.S. decision will cut off more than $300 million from UNRWA’s $1.24 billion budget. By now the U.N. agency is essentially a shadow government in the Palestinian-held territories. In Gaza alone, there are 274 UNRWA schools with a student population of 280,000.

The point of all this isn’t to be vindictive but to show Mr. Abbas and the PLO that they can't continue to underwrite anti-Semitic textbooks and anti-Israel terrorism without consequences. If the Palestinians want to be treated with the respect of a peace partner, they have to first show a desire for peace.

U.S. Military Looks Toward Greece Amid Strains With Turkey

From WSJ, Sept. 11, 2018, by Nancy A. Youssef:

Talks proceed on expanded operations, including using more air and naval bases

Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, greets the staff of Navy Adm. Evangelos Apostolakis, chief of the Hellenic National Defense General Staff, at the Ministry of Defense in Athens on Sept. 4.
Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, greets the staff of Navy Adm. Evangelos Apostolakis, chief of the Hellenic National Defense General Staff, at the Ministry of Defense in Athens on Sept. 4. 

ATHENS—The U.S. military is in talks to expand its operations in Greece, including using more air and naval bases here, signaling a potential move toward the eastern Mediterranean amid growing tensions with Turkey, officials said.

There are both geopolitical and geographical factors that make Greece an appealing site for the U.S. military, the officials said. Politically, U.S.-Greek relations are at an apex and both nations have concerns about their North Atlantic Treaty Organization partner, Turkey, U.S. officials said. Geographically, Greece has ideal weather for year-round flight training, and is home to both Greek and NATO bases.

Perhaps most importantly for the U.S., both the current Greek government as well as its leading opposition are receptive, U.S. officials said during a visit in recent days. Officials said they see an opportunity for increased use of Greek facilities and for staging more troops here on a temporary basis.

“The geography of Greece and the opportunities here are pretty significant,” Marine Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters traveling with him, citing Greece’s proximity to U.S. operations in Syria and North Africa.

The U.S. has begun expanding its use of Greek bases. This spring, unarmed MQ-9 Reaper drones began operating out of Greece’s Larisa Air Force Base.

... the 2016 attempted coup by opponents of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s purchase of Russia’s S-300 missile system and U.S. support in Syria of Kurdish fighters, a group whose members Turkey considers terrorists, have all contributed to tensions between the two countries, heightening Greece’s appeal.

Since 2015, the Turks have added restrictions to the kind of operations the U.S. can conduct out of Incirlik. In response, the U.S. has shifted its resources to places like Qatar to conduct operations in Syria.

For years, the U.S. military has used the naval base at Greece’s Souda Bay, on the coast of Crete, the only port in the region that has the water capacity for aircraft carriers to dock. In May, the carrier USS Harry S. Truman conducted a four-day port visit in Souda Bay. The following month, President Trump’s plane stopped into Souda Bay to refuel en route to the talks in Singapore with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

But Souda Bay now is at capacity, one U.S. official said, leading to demand for other options.

For Greece, more U.S. port visits and training exercises would mitigate the security threat from Libya and Turkey, the latter about which Greece is “deeply worried,” the U.S. official said. On Sunday, Greek officials said they arrested two Turkish military personnel for illegally trying to cross the border, and later released them, an incident that prompted statements by the armies of both countries.

Greece is “looking around this neighborhood and recognizing the same instability…that we have,” the official said.

Greek diplomatic officials didn’t directly address the military cooperation talks, but noted the country is strategically situated and already meets the NATO defense spending target of 2% of its gross domestic product.

At an event in the city of Thessaloniki this month, Greek Minister of Defense Panos Kammenos praised U.S.-Greek relations through the decades. “We will move together to the future,” he said. “Military agreements expand and this will help Greece in being a strategic partner throughout the Mediterranean.”

The region also is the focus of other big powers. China has expanded its footprint in the eastern Mediterranean and Russia uses Syria as a key staging area for its operations in the region. Greece also has a longstanding relationship with Russia.

Regardless, Greece is “a pretty good bet,” the U.S. official said.

Stronger US Resolve in the Middle East

From BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 942, September 7, 2018, by Prof. Hillel Frisch:

US Special Operations Forces in Iraq
-photo via Wikimedia Commons

...The latest example of Donald Trump’s single-minded purpose in the Middle East is his decision to continue to maintain a small but highly selective US military presence of some 2,000 troops in Iraq.

The official justification for this decision is the need to continue the fight against the remnants of ISIS across the northern reaches of Iraq. No one should be fooled by this as the threat that ISIS and its predecessors posed to the US was neutralized long ago by an effective homeland security agency.

... the real reason why the US is staying put in Iraq is to prevent it from becoming an Iranian client state, as Lebanon has become and as Syria might soon become. 

The investment of 2,000 troops, most of whom serve as advisors and trainers of the Federal Army of Iraq, is worth its price in gold in achieving this objective compared to the 100,000 American troops who were on the ground before the massive withdrawal in 2010...

The rivalry for control over Iraq between the US and its allies and Iran is not only military (with the US supporting the strengthening of the Federal army and the Iranians attempting to sap its strength by enhancing the power of the militias) but political as well.

In the recent elections, the US was clearly rooting for the success of Abadi’s “Victory” coalition while the Iranians even more bluntly backed the “Conquest” coalition, headed by the leader of the largest Shiite militia, a former exile in Tehran and an Iranian stalwart.

The official results will only intensify the underlying rivalry between the two external powers. Abadi’s coalition did less well than the Iranian-led coalition. Fortunately, Abadi has a slightly better chance of wooing the third-largest coalition of parties whose support is essential to forming the new government.

Unfortunately for the US, this third bloc is headed by a mercurial former Shiite militia leader, Muqtada al-Sadr, who as leader of the al-Mahdi army in the first years of the American invasion fought bitter battles against US forces. Campaigning on an anti-Iranian ticket, he recently backtracked to attack Abadi for making a statement that Iraq will abide by the Americans’ renewed sanction regime on Iran, a move that shows he is playing hard to get to increase the price of his coalition’s loyalty.

The good news for the US and the coalition of Arab Sunni-led states anxious to contain Iran is that the Arab Shiites of Iraq wish to preserve their independence from Iran and fear their close foreign neighbor more than the distant US.

Rational economic interests go a long way towards explaining why this is the case. Iraq produces more oil than Iran, 4.3 million barrels per day compared to 3.2 million for Iran (though with smaller known reserves and significantly less gas). Why would the 40 million Iraqis, hard pressed from long and bitter internecine fighting, want to share their wealth with 80 million Iranians?

Yet, more spiritual considerations (not entirely divorced from mundane material concerns) also indicate an Iraqi Shiite identity jealous of its independence from Iran and its clerical leadership. A search in Google Trends of Ali Sistani, the Shiite leader in Iraq, reveals almost total lack of interest in this personality in Iran, yet great popularity in Iraq, Bahrain, and Lebanon. Ayatollah Khomeini and his ideological principle of vilayat-e-faqih – the idea that all legislation and actions of the Islamic regime must be vetted by the Supreme Spiritual Leader – are highly popular in Iran but have little currency in Iraq.

This underlying quest for independence from Iranian tutelage justifies President Trump’s wager that 2,000 troops might be worth maintaining to prevent the new fall of Baghdad. The least it could do is stave off the Iranians sufficiently for Iraq’s government and citizens to decide for themselves what the nature of their relationship with Iran will be.

From WSJ, Sept. 7, 2018, by Sune Engel Rasmussen in Beirut and Michael R. Gordon in Washington

Iran is signaling that it will buck U.S. efforts to roll back its military presence in the Middle East, moving to cement foreign alliances and continuing to project power abroad despite sanctions that have helped put intense pressure on its economy.

Tehran signed a long-term security pact with Syria in August, and has kept up the flow of arms and financial support to proxy forces around the region, according to U.S. officials and a person close to Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia...

Members of Iran-backed Iraqi paramilitary units in Baghdad in June.
Members of Iran-backed Iraqi paramilitary units in Baghdad in June. 

Iran’s defiant stance comes as its currency plummets and foreign investors pull out, largely due to rising tension between Washington and Tehran. In May, President Trump pulled the U.S. out of the 2015 nuclear deal, which administration officials indicated was part of a broader effort to curtail Iran’s activities in the Middle East, and said he was reimposing sanctions.

“In my judgment, what Iran is doing today is simply a continuation of what they have been doing for a long time, which is to harden themselves, build what alliances they can and prepare for the day” when conflict with the U.S. might erupt, Lt. Gen. Michael Nagata of the National Counterterrorism Center said at a conference Wednesday hosted by the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington think tank.

U.S. officials acknowledge Iran hasn’t stepped back from its assertive posture and say Iranian shipments of missiles and some advanced arms around the region have even accelerated. But they also note that the toughest sanctions are yet to come.

Iran has long sought to spread military power and political clout beyond its borders. 

  • It is a major backer of the Assad regime in Syria, which is gearing up for what could be a decisive battle in its more than seven-year war with rebels. 
  • Iran has also long supported Shiite militias in Iraq, and 
  • has been accused in recent years of supplying arms to Houthi rebels in Yemen fighting a coalition led by Iran’s rival, Saudi Arabia...
  • Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia is central to Tehran’s strategy, and it has spearheaded Iran’s intervention in Syria on behalf of the Syrian regime. Iran has maintained its financing for the militia’s war effort, according to the person close to the group...

Iran’s economy, however, is under growing stress. The value of the rial has fallen almost 70% this year, from 45,000 to the dollar in January to 140,000 on Wednesday, a historic low. The Iranian parliament’s research center forecasts the economy to shrink between 3.8% and 5.5% in the coming Iranian fiscal year, which starts next March.

A Houthi fighter secured a June rally in San’a, Yemen.
A Houthi fighter secured a June rally in San’a, Yemen. 

...Iranian analysts also say that many of Tehran’s foreign operations are also inexpensive, allowing it to pick its fights and prod its enemies.

...While Tehran has rebuffed the Trump administration’s demands that it withdraw from Syria, it has pulled its forces out of the southwestern areas near the Israeli border at the behest of Russia, which sought to accommodate Israeli concerns.

Yet such moves are an example of Iranian “strategic patience,” not a withdrawal... “Iran might have decided to slow down. But it’s a passing phase.”

From WSJ, Sept. 9, 2018, by Michael R. Gordon:

In the spring, President Trump ...vowed to quickly wrap up the fight against Islamic State and bring the troops out “very soon.”

...Now, with a climactic battle looming for Syria’s plan with Russia and Iran to retake rebel-held Idlib province, Mr. Trump is making a course correction—in tune with national-security officials determined to push back against longstanding adversaries.

The administration is keeping 2,000 U.S. troops in Syria, imposing sanctions on businessmen close to President Bashar al-Assad’s regime and plunging more deeply into diplomacy.

President Trump, shown addressing a rally in Billings, Mont. on Thursday, is making adjustments to U.S. policy in Syria.
President Trump, shown addressing a rally in Billings, Mont. on Thursday, is making adjustments to U.S. policy in Syria. 

The principal objectives are to roll back Iran’s role in Syria and ensure that Islamic State can’t make a comeback, U.S. officials say.

Ousting Mr. Assad, who has succeeded in strengthening his hold on power over two U.S. administrations, is no longer a U.S. priority, senior officials acknowledge. But U.S. officials are still trying to foster a more inclusive political arrangement inside Syria while breathing new life into the nearly moribund international negotiations over the country’s future.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani met in Tehran on Friday, with the Turkish president, to discuss the future of Syria’s Idlib province.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani met in Tehran on Friday, with the Turkish president, to discuss the future of Syria’s Idlib province. 

...The Trump administration’s evolving strategy has three main components.

On the military front, the administration’s new emphasis on delivering Islamic State an “enduring defeat” will extend the deployment of U.S. troops at least into next year, U.S. officials said.

The legal mandate for keeping U.S. troops in Syria is still linked to support of Kurdish and Arab fighters who are trying to finish off Islamic State. But the move has implications for the diplomatic wrangling over the country’s future as extending the U.S. mission against Islamic State will also prolong the presence of U.S. forces and their Syrian allies in oil-rich areas of eastern Syria that the Assad regime is eager to control...

On the diplomatic front, the Trump administration has sought to reassure nervous allies that the U.S. intends to be active in the deliberations over Syria’s future, isn’t rushing to disengage militarily and is prepared to impose costs if the Assad regime and its Russian and Iranian allies proceed with the Idlib offensive.

That message was delivered this month on a trip to Israel, Jordan and Turkey by James Jeffrey, the former U.S. ambassador who has been named as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s new special envoy for Syria, and Joel Rayburn, who moved to the State Department from the White House National Security Council.

The administration hasn’t said publicly what actions it might take if the Idlib offensive goes ahead, even without the use of chemical weapons. But it sent a signal on Thursday of what might be in store by imposing sanctions on several Syrians and Lebanese citizens who have supported Mr. Assad, including Muhammad al-Qatirij, whom the Treasury Department said is facilitating fuel shipments to the Assad regime from Islamic State-controlled territory.

There have been other signals as well: On Friday, the U.S. Central Command announced the start of a live-fire exercise involving more than 100 Marines in southern Syria near the al Tanf base, which is occupied by a small U.S. force. Iran and Russia have demanded the Americans vacate the base, near the border with Jordan and Iraq.

Finally, Mr. Trump’s forays into public diplomacy have changed, at least for now. Instead of trumpeting the imminent departure of U.S. troops this month, he urged Mr. Assad not to “recklessly attack” Idlib...

For now, Mr. Trump appears to be persuaded that withdrawing from Syria quickly could play into his adversaries’ hands. Maintaining the president’s backing for his new Syria strategy may be its proponents’ biggest test.

Cutting UNRWA’s Support Is a Necessary Step despite expert advice

From BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 941, by Maj. Gen. (res.) Gershon Hacohen, September 6, 2018*:

UNRWA elementary school in Gaza
photo by Muhammad Sabah

With the sole exception of Palestinians, international law does not grant refugee status to generation after generation of any group until the end of time. The American decision to cut funding to UNRWA is therefore a correction of a false reality that was established with the aim of perpetuating, rather than solving, the Palestinian refugee problem.

The US administration’s decision to cut funding for UNRWA is a bold decision that should have been made in the last century. The Palestinian refugee phenomenon is not unique in human history, but the international approach to it – especially in its treatment by the UN and its institutions – deviates from any universally accepted measure.

Nevertheless, Israeli security experts warn against the consequences of this decision, which they believe may undermine stability. This is a classic response of experts who cling to a familiar reality rather than take necessary steps that venture into an unknown.

This response reflects natural human anxiety about changing reality. Consider workers who inform management that they need a raise. The management is faced with a dilemma. To cover the cost of a wage increase, there would have to be a corresponding increase in the price of the products, which could drive buyers towards the competition. If no corresponding increase in the price of the products is made, production will cease to be profitable. Either way, the factory will face difficulties and might close down. In view of these concerns, the management might refuse to raise the workers’ wages, warning: “You are marching towards an abyss.”

This is a classic, rational dynamic that causes people to avoid taking a step that, while desirable, could have risky consequences. Karl Marx presented this behavior as a surrender to what he called “false consciousness.” The workers continue to be exploited through the argument that they are better off preserving the existing situation.

A change in an undesirable reality begins, therefore, when people are willing to shake off their familiar understanding of reality in anticipation of a new and potentially better one. Such daring requires the willingness to pay the possible price of disrupting an existing system. Moses faced such a difficulty when he went to Pharaoh with the demand “Let my People go.” Pharaoh’s immediate response created an even more difficult situation for the Israelites, leading Moses to complain to God: “Why did you send me to Pharaoh?”

This dynamic is familiar to every leader who would introduce change. Experts will always be on hand to supply convincing reasons why the status quo should be preserved, with all its problems. Because it is familiar, it is labeled the lesser evil.

Here lies the substantive difference between the vantage point of experts – such as intelligence officers who are responsible for warning about what could happen if a familiar, stable pattern is disrupted – and that of leaders. 

While a leader must pay close attention to the warnings of experts, he must have the boldness to act when necessary to change realities that require correction. 

As David Ben-Gurion said, experts specialize in what has already happened – not what is going to happen.

*Maj. Gen. (res.) Gershon Hacohen is a senior research fellow at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies. He served in the IDF for forty-two years. He commanded troops in battles with Egypt and Syria. He was formerly a corps commander and commander of the IDF Military Colleges.

Time for Hamas to lose in the Israel-bashing casino

From BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 940, September 5, 2018By Prof. Hillel Frisch*:

IDF artillery forces fire into the Gaza Strip as part of Operation Protective Edge, 2014
- photo by IDF via Wikimedia Commons

The accumulated deterrence achieved in the three previous rounds of wide-scale fighting between Israel and Hamas in 2008-9, 2012, and 2014 has come to a temporary halt. Israel must start preparing for a massive fourth round – a round in which Israel will, one hopes, replicate the cumulative deterrence it scored against the Arab States in 1973. This would mean subjecting Hamas to a threshold of pain sufficiently unbearable to induce it to stop fighting Israel altogether. 

The three previous rounds of wide-scale fighting between Israel and Hamas, in 2008-9, 2012, and 2014, can be seen in retrospect as a winning streak for Israel. Every round secured greater deterrence. Before the 2008-9 round, Hamas launched on average 1,000 missiles per year, but that figure declined to 400 between the first and second rounds in 2012, and then to fewer than 250 between 2012 and 2014.

Then, after 2014, “the land became quiet for nearly four years” (in Scriptures, it was usually forty).

Fewer than 80 missiles were launched during that period, most if not all by the wayward Salafi organizations, which is why many of them fell in Gaza itself. There were no casualties and almost no damage from these launchings. The professionals with the real firepower in Gaza – Hamas, the effective ruler of the Strip; and Islamic Jihad – stayed out of the fray.

This relative peace changed dramatically after the initiation of the “March of Return” violence at the end of March 2018.

Why the change? And why is Hamas winning this latest round of violence after having been intimidated for so long?

There’s a clear answer. Hamas was finding it increasingly difficult to stave off pressure from thousands of families whose sons were not released in the 2011 Shalit deal nearly seven years ago. Hamas leaders live in an area where they meet their constituency at every turn, in the refugee camps where many live, in the mosques, and in the universities and colleges. To be clear, their constituency is not the general public, for whom Hamas cares nothing. It is the hard core of 50,000 or so families in Gaza who support Hamas and Islamic Jihad through thick and thin.

The solution to the accumulating pressure was the “March of Return” campaign.

It was members of this constituency who came to the security fence every Friday afternoon (especially late in the afternoon, when the sun, which sets in the west, blurs the vision of the IDF soldiers facing it). It was they, or a few hundred of them, who were willing to put themselves at risk confronting the IDF. Among them were professional Izz al-Din troopers who dashed to, and sometimes through, the fence to destroy any equipment left in the area. They were easily identifiable by their fit physiques, purposefulness, agility, and speed – truly, the “Nukhba” (“elite”), Hamas’s crack troops.

The total number of people who participated in the “march” is 20,000 at the most (and is probably substantially fewer). The figures were subsequently exaggerated by both Hamas and the IDF. Even if accurate, this figure means that 98.5% of the population of Gaza and over 90% of the relevant age cohort (15-35) stayed home.

Worse, the expectation that West Bankers, Arab Jerusalemites, and even Israeli Arabs would do battle with Israeli security forces during the campaign failed miserably. The months that followed were the quietest by far in these areas since 2013, when terrorism picked up once again in the Jerusalem area and other sites in Israel.

Hamas was faced with the question of what to do next. Not only did pressure from the families of the prisoners increase, but others in the hard core wondered why they should be the only Hamas adherents to take any risks, especially since they have been paid only 40% of their salaries since 2014.

The leaders of Hamas took a risky decision – to escalate with missiles, but in a very selective and limited way. It was risky because Hamas not only well remembered 2014 but knew it was facing a new Minister of Defense who talks and acts like Putin and who has vowed in the past to destroy Hamas rule in Gaza.

The move to escalate was a gamble, and Hamas won. The key to its success was its calculation to limit the missiles to the Gaza envelope.

Hamas, who are experts in Israeli politics, calculated that striking the 20,000 Israeli inhabitants who live in the Gaza area is worth less than a seat in the Knesset during an election year. Expanding the strikes to Ashdod, Ashkelon, or Beersheba, mainstays of Likud support, would have forced the Netanyahu government to respond in a massive way. This is why Hamas did not strike wider.

The Israeli government responded just as Hamas hoped it would – with limited, tit-for-tat strikes in which Israeli civilians and military personnel paid a higher and higher price.

This is not acceptable. Israel must start preparing for a massive fourth round. There’s simply no other way.

The alternative is brokering a prisoner deal that will soon be followed by more rounds of limited Hamas violence conducted to achieve other demands – and the list is a long one, from terminating limitations on Gaza fishing (read, enhancing the possibility of arms smuggling from the Syrian coast), or lifting limits on dual-purpose imports such as cement and steel beams (for underground tunnels and missile storage facilities).

Despondent? Don’t be. The good news is that the fourth round may be like the fourth round against the Arab States, the Yom Kippur War. There was no change in the level of hatred of Israel among the Arab states when they made the decision to end war-making against the Jewish State. It was sheer pain that made the Yom Kippur War the last in which the Arab states actively sought war with Israel.

The fourth round with Hamas might generate the same kind of thinking. Its members will no doubt continue to hate the Jews and the Jewish State as much as before, but the pain might prove sufficiently unbearable to induce a change in behavior if not a change of heart.

*Prof. Hillel Frisch is a professor of political studies and Middle East studies at Bar-Ilan University and a senior research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies.

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Israel 25 Years after the Oslo Accords: Why Israelis Shy from Victory

Pipes-Hospital-(1).jpgA cardiologist at Hadassah Hospital cares for a Palestinian baby. Many Israelis wrongly assume that if Palestinians gain sufficiently from the economic, medical, legal, and other benefits that the Jewish national revival brings them, they will relent and accept the Jewish presence.

...Prosperity Doesn’t End Hatred
Many Israelis assume that if Palestinians gain sufficiently from the economic, medical, legal, and other benefits that Zionism brings them, they will relent and accept the Jewish presence. Based on a Marxist assumption that money matters more than ideas, this outlook holds that fine schools, late-model cars, and handsome apartments are the antidote to Palestinian nationalist dreams. Like Atlantans, prosperous Palestinians will be too busy to hate.


This idea began over a century ago, peaked around the time of the Oslo accords in 1993, and is closely associated with then-foreign minister Shimon Peres, author of the book, The New Middle East. Peres aimed to turn Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinians into a Middle East version of Benelux. More grandly, his vision hoped to emulate the French-German accord following World War II when economic ties served to end a historic enmity and form positive political bonds.
In this spirit, Israeli leaders have long worked to build the West Bank and Gazan economies. They lobbied foreign governments to fund the PA. They helped Gaza by subsidizing water and electricity, also facilitating water desalination plants. They proposed international support for an artificial island off the Gaza coast with a port, airport, and resort. They even gave Gaza a gas field.
But this effort failed, spectacularly so. Palestinian fury against Israel remains undiminished. Further, goodwill gestures have been met, not with gratitude, but with rejection. For example, upon the unilateral withdrawal of all Israelis from Gaza in 2005, their greenhouses were turned over to the Palestinians as a goodwill gesture, only to be immediately looted and destroyed.
Perhaps most egregious are the instances of Palestinians treated in Israeli hospitals who show their gratitude by attempting to murder their benefactors. In 2005, a 21-year-old Gaza woman was successfully treated in Beersheba for burns from a gas-tank explosion; she then returned the favor by attempting to attack the hospital as a suicide bomber. In 2011, a Gazan mother whose infant lacked an immune system and who was saved at an Israeli hospital announced on camera that she wanted him to grow up to be a suicide bomber. In 2017, two sisters entering Israel from Gaza, so one of them could receive cancer treatment, attempted to smuggle explosives for Hamas.
Why the failure? The French-German model included a factor absent from the Israeli-Palestinian theater: The defeat of the Nazis. Conciliation occurred not with Hitler still in power but after he and his goals had been pulverized; in contrast, the great majority of Palestinians still believe they can win (i.e., eliminate the Jewish state). They also view efforts at building their economy with suspicion, as Israel sneakily achieving hegemonic control.
As early as 1923, the Zionist leader Vladimir Jabotinsky predicted this failure, calling it infantile “to think that the Arabs will voluntarily consent to the realization of Zionism in return for the cultural and economic benefits we can bestow on them.”
More broadly, increased funding for the Palestinians has not built consumerism and individualism but rage. As one might expect, helping an enemy develop its economy while war is yet underway means supplying it with resources to continue the battle. The money has gone to incitement, “martyr” inculcation, guns, and attack tunnels. Steve Stotsky proved a decade ago the remarkably close correlation between funding for the Palestinian Authority and attacks on Israelis; each additional $1.25 million in aid, he graphed, translated into the killing of an additional Israeli.
Steve Stotsky proved a decade ago the remarkably close correlation between funding for the Palestinian Authority and attacks on Israelis; each additional $1.25 million in aid translated into the killing of an additional Israeli.
Despite perpetual disappointment, Israeli belief in Palestinian prosperity leading to conciliation lives on. Obviously, victory has no appeal to Israelis hoping, however forlornly, for the magic of late-model cars. Wars end, historical experience shows, not by enriching the enemy but by depriving it of resources, reducing its military capabilities, demoralizing its supporters, and spurring popular revolt.[12] Toward this end, armies over the ages cut supply routes, starved cities, established blockades, and applied embargoes. In that spirit, were Israel to engage in economic warfare by withholding tax money, denying entry to laborers, and ending sales of water, food, medicine, and electricity, its actions would lead to victory.
As to the argument that Palestinian economic despair leads to more violence: This is a canard. Only people who still hope to win continue with violence; those who have lost, give up, lick their wounds, and begin to rebuild around their failures. Think of the American South in 1865, Japan in 1945, or the United States in 1975...
Timid Security Services
Two Israeli security establishments exist side-by-side: a fight-to-win one dealing with Iran and other distant enemies; and a defensive, police-style one dealing with Palestinians. The former seeks victory; the latter seeks calm. It is Entebbe vs. Jenin. It is stealing Iran’s nuclear archive vs. letting kite arsonists ply their trade.


The security establishment being defensive matters hugely because often it has the final say on Palestinian policy as shown by the Temple Mount incident in July 2017.[17] After Palestinian jihadists killed two Israeli policemen with weapons hidden in the sacred esplanade, the Israeli government placed metal detectors at the entrance to the Temple Mount, a seemingly uncontroversial step. But Fatah demanded their removal, and despite Israel’s populace and politicians overwhelmingly wanting the metal detectors to stay, the devices quickly disappeared because the security establishment—including the police, the border police, Shabak, Mossad, and the IDF—warned that leaving them in place upset the Palestinians and would prompt violence, chaos, and even a collapse.
After Palestinian jihadists killed two Israeli policemen at the Temple Mount, the Israeli government placed metal detectors at the entrance. When Fatah demanded their removal, the security establishment warned that leaving them in place would prompt violence and chaos.
The security services want to avoid knife stabbings, suicide bombings, a missile barrage from Gaza, and an intifada. Most of all, they fear the collapse of the Palestinian Authority or Hamas, requiring a return to direct Israeli rule over the West Bank and Gaza. As Einat Wilf puts it:
"If the defense establishment thinks that … funds to Gaza are buying it calm, it will do anything possible to ensure that the funds keep flowing, even if that means that the calm is purchased at the cost of a war that will go on for decades."
In prioritizing calm, the security services reject tough measures and see victory as unattainable.
This timidity explains many otherwise surprising facts about the Israeli government, specifically why it:
* Permits illegal buildings
* Turns a blind eye to the theft of water and electricity
* Avoids steps that might provoke the Palestinian leadership’s anger, such as obstructing their off-the-books income, applying the law, reducing their prerogatives, or punishing them
* Opposes the U.S. government slashing aid to the Palestinians 
* Does not stop the destruction of Temple Mount archeological treasures
* Releases convicted murderers and the bodies of dead murderers
* Allows Hezbollah to acquire over100,000 rockets and missiles, then developed plans to evacuate a quarter-million Israelis in the event of war.
* For decades encourages funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine (UNRWA).
This caution has several causes: First, Israeli governments built on multi-partner coalitions tend, in Jonathan Spyer’s description, “to avoid focus on long term strategic issues, in preference for addressing immediate threats.” Why address a problem when you can kick it down the road?
Second, the Israeli security services take pride in their dealing with the here and now, not abstractions. Leah Rabin, wife of Yitzhak Rabin, once explained his mentality: “He was very pragmatic, hated to deal with something that would happen years down the road. He only thought of what would happen now, in the very near future.” Or, in the immortal command of a lieutenant to his troops, “Secure the area until the end of your shift.”
Third, just as police see criminals as incorrigible troublemakers, so wizened Israeli security chiefs view Palestinians as animal-like adversaries. Unable to imagine the Palestinians doing anything but attacking
Israelis, they reject the goal of victory; can lions attain permanent victory over hyenas? Security types often sound like Leftists, but they are emphatically not. Long and bitter experience, not misty idealism, defines their attitudes. That is why Commanders for Israel’s Security, a group of nearly 300 retired IDF officers who reached the rank of general, representing 80 percent of those in that category, argues for a two-state solution, nearly twice that of the general Israeli Jewish population.
Fourth, Israeli security professionals generally find current circumstances acceptable and do not want change. The PA under Mahmoud Abbas, for all its deficiencies (and contrary to the Arafat era) is a partner. Yes, it incites murder of Israelis and delegitimizes the State of Israel, but better these aggressions than to risk punishing Abbas, reducing his standing, and fomenting an intifada. This attitude leads to caution about change, skepticism toward a more ambitious approach, and reluctance about initiatives that might provoke Palestinian ire.


Fifth, because Palestinians lack military power, they are seen as criminals more than as soldiers; accordingly, the IDF has turned from a military force into a police force, complete with a defensive mentality. Generals seek victory, but police chiefs aim to protect lives. Saving lives translates into seeing stability as a goal in itself. Generals do not enter battle with the goal of saving the lives of their soldiers, but that is how a police chief sees an encounter with criminals. Sixth, the Four Mothers Movement of 1997-2000 traumatized the IDF by managing to spark an emotional backlash against the occupation of southern Lebanon, leading to an ignominious withdrawal.[26] This emphasis on saving soldiers’ lives rather than on achieving strategic goals remains an abiding worry for the IDF leadership.
In all, the main opposition to Israel’s victory comes not from the hapless Left but from the security services. Fortunately, the defense establishment has dissenters who both seek political leadership and Israel’s victory: Gershon Hacohen, who calls for political leaders to exercise independent judgment, is a good example; Yossi Kuperwasser is another.
All who hope for a resolution of the Palestinian problem should urge the Israeli government to squeeze the PA and Hamas. This also suits Palestinian interests, liberating them from their obsession with Israel, so they can build their own polity, economy, society, and culture. Everyone gains from an Israel victory and a Palestinian defeat...
Daniel Pipes (, @DanielPipes) is president of the Middle East Forum and publisher of the Middle East Quarterly.

Why Did Rabin Fall for he Oslo Accords?

From Middle East Quarterly Fall 2018 Volume 25: Number 4, SEPTEMBER 01, 2018, by EFRAIM KARSH:

Precisely two decades after the failure by the Golda Meir government to identify a willing Arab peace partner triggered the devastating 1973 Yom Kippur war, another Labor government wrought a far worse catastrophe by substituting an unreconstructed terror organization committed to Israel’s destruction for a willing peace partner. Instead of ending the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the “Oslo peace process” between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) created an ineradicable terror entity on Israel’s doorstep that has murdered some 1,600 Israelis, rained thousands of rockets and missiles on the country’s population centers, and toiled tirelessly to delegitimize the right of the Jewish state to exist.

(Left to right): PLO chairman Yasser Arafat, Israeli foreign minister Shimon Peres, and prime minister Yitzhak Rabin accept the 1994 Nobel Peace prize in Oslo. Instead of peace, two of Israel’s foremost security and foreign policy veterans created an ineradicable terror entity on Israel’s doorstep.

How did this come to pass? Why did two of Israel’s foremost security and foreign policy veterans—Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres—lead Israel into what a prominent PLO official candidly described as a Trojan horse designed to promote the organization’s strategic goal: “Palestine from the [Jordan] river to the [Mediterranean] sea”—that is, a Palestine in place of the state of Israel.
Eyes Wide Shut
PLO chairman Yasser Arafat was a diehard man of war who made violence, dislocation, and mayhem the defining characteristics of his career. In 1970, he nearly brought about the destruction of Jordan. Five years later, he helped trigger the horrendous Lebanese civil war, one of the bloodiest conflicts in modern Middle Eastern history, which raged for more than a decade and claimed hundreds of thousands of innocent lives. In 1990-91, he supported the brutalization of Kuwait by Saddam Hussein, at an exorbitant cost to the Palestinians living there, thousands of whom were murdered in revenge attacks while hundreds of thousands more were expelled after Kuwait’s liberation. In between these disasters, Arafat made the Palestinian national movement synonymous with violence and turned the PLO into one of the world’s most murderous terror organizations with the overarching goal of bringing about Israel’s demise.
How, then, did the Rabin government come to believe in the instantaneous transformation of the man and his organization into dedicated agents of peace? ...
In Peres’s view, by joining the Oslo process, Arafat and the PLO had become partners to a momentous historical odyssey; and as long as this partnership remained intact, its success was a foregone conclusion:
"I think what is really important for a peace process is the creation of a partner, more than a plan [b]ecause plans don’t create partners, but if you have a partner, then you negotiate a plan. …When I was thinking about the peace process, I knew in my heart that the greatest problem is how to transform Arafat from the most hated gentleman in this country, and himself with an array of very strange ideas, into a partner that we can sit with, and make him become acceptable to our people— maybe not beloved but at least accepted." 
But what if the would-be partner failed to act out the role ascribed to him? What if his “array of very strange ideas” proved impermeable to change? Peres’ response: “We close our eyes. We don’t criticize because, for peace, we must produce a partner.” 


Peres fully lived up to this principle, going out of his way to deny, dilute, and whitewash the countless Palestinian violations of the accords, or indeed—anything that alluded to the PLO’s continued commitment to Israel’s destruction. “The right of return is in my view an Arab dream that is bound to remain a dream,” he dismissed the Palestinian euphemism for Israel’s destruction through demographic subversion as late as September 2001, after the issue had been instrumental in wrecking both the July 2000 Camp David summit and President Clinton’s proposed peace plan several months later. “I thought then, just as I think today, that one can solve problems without giving up the dreams."
Peres was similarly delusional about the PLO’s failure to abolish the clauses in the Palestinian covenant calling for Israel’s destruction, as required by the Oslo accords. Thus, for example, when the speaker of the Palestinian National Council (PNC), the PLO’s semi-parliament, conditioned the covenant’s amendment on fresh Israeli concessions, Peres dismissed his demands out of hand. “We did not sign an agreement with the PNC speaker. We signed it with the PLO leadership and it is incumbent upon them to ensure its implementation,” he argued, as if it were not the PNC that had adopted the covenant in the first place in 1964, revised it in 1968, and was the only body legally authorized to execute the required amendments. Small wonder that when Arafat informed him on May 4, 1996, that the covenant had been amended, Peres instantaneously lauded the alleged move as “the most important event in the Middle East in a hundred years” though it quickly transpired that no such amendment had actually taken place. Indeed, the covenant, with its plethora of articles calling for Israel’s destruction, stands unrevised to this very day.
When, in May 1994, Arafat told a closed meeting of Muslim leaders in Johannesburg that the Oslo accords were a temporary arrangement designed to bring about Israel’s eventual demise, urging them to help spark a pan-Muslim jihad against Israel, Peres excused the comments as reflecting Arafat’s tortuous adjustment to the new reality while Beilin brushed the remarks off as “silly words.”

In May 1994, Arafat told a closed meeting of Muslim leaders that the Oslo accords were a temporary arrangement designed to bring about Israel’s eventual demise, urging them to spark a pan-Muslim jihad against Israel.

...[Beilin predicted] that “the greatest test of the accord will not be in the intellectual sphere, but will rather be a test of blood.” Should there be no significant drop in the level of violence and terrorism “within a reasonable period of time” after the formation of the Palestinian Authority, he argued, the process would be considered a failure, and Israel would have no choice but to renege on the Oslo accords. “This will only be a means of last resort,” he said. “But if we realize that the level of violence does not subside, we will not be able to proceed, and will most certainly not implement the final-status agreement. And should there be no choice, the IDF will return to those places which it is about to vacate in the coming months." 

Egyptian president Anwar Sadat (right) shakes hands with Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin, Jerusalem, November 20, 1977. Following the signing of the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty in March 1979, Rabin believed that the greatest remaining threat to Israel’s national security was Syria and that a Syrian-Israeli agreement was also likely to pave the road for peace with Lebanon and the Palestinians.
Twenty-five years and thousands of deaths later, with the Gaza Strip transformed into an entrenched terror entity and Israel experiencing horrific waves of terrorism as never before, there is no doubting the abysmal failure of this “test of blood.” Yet rather than reconsider his disastrously flawed premises in the face of their horrendous cost, let alone follow his own pledge to stop the process in such circumstances, Beilin, like other “peace camp” acolytes, continued to willfully ignore the Palestinians’ wanton violation of contractual obligations while blaming Israel for the stalled process. This, despite the public endorsement of the two-state solution by five successive Israeli prime ministers: Shimon Peres, Ehud Barak, Ariel Sharon, Ehud Olmert, and Benjamin Netanyahu.
Rabin’s Reversal
If Peres and Beilin’s self-delusion can be partly explained, if not condoned, on ideological grounds, Rabin’s behavior seems nothing short of the extraordinary. Unlike Beilin, he did not equate peacemaking and reconciliation with appeasement and self-flagellation; unlike Peres, he had no pipe dream of a budding “New Middle East.” Rather he was a quintessential representative of the “activist” approach to the Arab-Israeli conflict dating back to Zeev Jabotinsky and David Ben-Gurion, which upheld that peace would only follow upon Arab realization of the inability to destroy Israel by force of arms. And since the March 1979 Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty had removed the largest and most powerful Arab state from the circle of war, Rabin believed that Israel’s top strategic priority was to neutralize the remaining greatest threat to its national security: Syria. A Syrian-Israeli agreement, he reasoned, was also likely to pave the road for peace with Lebanon, long under Damascus’s tutelage, and with the Palestinians, who would have no choice but to fall in line with their stronger Arab allies.
It was only upon realizing that President Hafez Assad would not take the plunge despite Israel’s readiness to withdraw from virtually the entire Golan Heights that Rabin turned his sights to the Palestinian track. ...

Yossi Beilin (right) with Mahmoud Abbas, then the PLO signatory for the Oslo accords. Rabin’s lack of faith in Oslo was a corollary of his distrust of Shimon Peres and Beilin, whom he labelled “Peres’s poodle.”


Above all, Rabin’s readiness to embrace Oslo was grounded in his conviction in the reversibility of the process. As he told a high-ranking consultation shortly before departing for the Washington signing ceremony:
"An agreement with the Palestinians is reversible. An agreement with Syria is irreversible. Should the Palestinians cause trouble, we will reenter [their territory]. This is our backyard. But if we give the Golan Heights to Syria, we will have to launch a full-fledged war [should Damascus violate the agreement]." 
...On October 20, 1994, a week after delivering his toughest reprimand of Arafat following the murder of twenty-one people in a suicide bombing on a Tel Aviv bus, Rabin stated that it would be a mistake to blame the PA for the rampaging terrorism. At a press conference with Arafat on January 19, 1995, he went further by claiming that Israel did not expect watertight guarantees on the halt of all attacks from PA-controlled territories. When three days later nineteen Israelis were murdered in a suicide bombing at the Beit Lid junction in central Israel—with Arafat publicly applauding the atrocity—Rabin temporarily banned Palestinian movement from the territories to Israel and threatened that “we will not be able to move forward unless we are confident that the personal security [of Israelis] is assured." 

At a press conference with Yasser Arafat, January 19, 1995, Rabin claimed that Israel did not expect watertight guarantees on the halt of all attacks from PA-controlled territories

Yet for all his exasperation, he could not bring himself to break with Arafat. When Israeli president Ezer Weizmann, himself a leading proponent of Israeli-Palestinian reconciliation, called for a response to the Beit Lid massacre by halting the Oslo process, Rabin was reportedly “livid,” though some of his ministers backed the suggestion and even Uri Savir, Oslo’s chief negotiator, warned, “We need a profound change of direction to make the next stage a success."
This was not the first time that Rabin rejected the idea of constraining Arafat’s power. In 1994, he had declined a request by the two most prominent “inside” politicians, Faisal Husseini and Hanan Ashrawi, to assist with the creation of a democratic regime in the territories that would replace the corrupt and oppressive rule established by Arafat and his Tunis cronies. The idea was to hold proportional elections for a legislative council, after which the winning party or parties would form a government. This was naturally anathema to Arafat, who insisted on presidential elections where his victory was a foregone conclusion. Rabin dutifully complied, turning down the proposal.
Having ruled out the possibility of a more democratic and less militant Palestinian regime likely headed by the local leadership he had preferred in the first place, Rabin stuck with Arafat, whom he considered, in a curious twist of logic, both a tacit supporter of terrorism and a peacemaker. Acknowledging that Arafat had made no serious effort to fight terrorism or to enforce law and order in Gaza, he nevertheless insisted that “there is no other partner ready to make peace … [or] negotiating with a partner who is ready to make peace … We must abide by our commitments provided Arafat will contain the terrorism emanating from the territories under his control." 


The problem with this assertion was, of course, that Arafat was not trying to make peace or curb terrorism. In April 1995, Maj. Gen. Shaul Mofaz, commanding officer of Southern Command, described Gaza as a hotbed of terrorism and questioned the PA’s ability to fight terrorism in the West Bank once it took control of the area at the end of the year. In the same vein, the head of the military intelligence research department estimated that once the IDF withdrew from the West Bank’s populated areas, the PA would lose all remaining incentives to fight terrorism. This stark prognosis was corroborated by a senior Gaza police officer who revealed that mass arrests carried out by the PA after major terror attacks were “a big show” for Israeli and American consumption, with most detainees released shortly after their arrest having promised not to engage in future acts of terrorism.
Even Lt. Gen. Amnon Shahak, the IDF’s chief-of-staff and Rabin’s protégé, who had carried out delicate political and diplomatic missions on the prime minister’s behalf, warned the Knesset’s foreign affairs and defense committee on August 23, 1995: “If the PA will not act decisively against Palestinian terrorism, everything we are doing now will fail.” Two weeks later, as the Interim Agreement was about to be signed in Washington, the head of the military intelligence research department argued that the PA intensified its anti-terrorist measures only when it feared Israeli retribution. “For Arafat,” he added undiplomatically, “peace is shit.”
Ignoring the considered opinions of his most senior military advisers, Rabin signed the Interim Agreement on September 28, 1995. When questioned about the prudence of this move by American Jewish leaders, he exploded and told the Israeli press, “One should not waste any time on them. They are pariah Jews. They will be judged by Jewish history.” This outburst, however, seemed to reflect Rabin’s inner doubts about his latest move rather than an unwavering conviction in it. Shortly afterwards he confided to Nobel Peace Prize laureate Elie Weisel, “Initially, I thought that Arafat was the solution. Now I am convinced that he is the problem.” 
Rabin’s Real “Peace Legacy”
In the decades attending Rabin’s assassination on November 4, 1995, an extensive “peace legacy” associated with his name has been created, transforming him from “Mr. Security,” as he had been widely known prior to Oslo, into an indefatigable “peacenik,” who would leave no stone unturned in the tireless quest for reconciliation. Had it not been for his assassination, ran a common argument, the peace process would have made substantial progress if not been brought to fruition.

Shimon Peres (standing) shakes hands with Jordan’s King Hussein during Yitzhak Rabin’s funeral, November 6, 1995. Rabin did not embrace Oslo out of a burning desire for peace but was maneuvered into it by Peres, hoping that it would help consolidate Israel’s security.
Reality, of course, was quite different. Rabin had never been a member of the “flower generation,” to use Henry Kissinger’s handy quip, but a hardened security man who viewed peace through this prism rather than the other way around. He did not embrace Oslo out of a burning desire for peace but was maneuvered into it by his lifetime nemesis, hoping that it would help consolidate Israel’s security yet lacking a clear idea where the process was headed or, indeed, should be headed. As his widow put it shortly after his assassination, “He was very pragmatic, hated to deal with something that would happen years down the road. He only thought of what would happen now, in the very near future. As far as I know, he did not have a very clear picture of what the final-status agreement would look like.”
Had it been up to Rabin, he would have avoided Oslo altogether in favor of an Israeli-Syrian agreement, and in its absence, a deal with the West Bank and Gaza leadership. As it were, not only did he not view the process in anything remotely reminiscent of the posthumous idealism misattributed to him, but the farther he walked down that path, the greater his disdain for his “peace” partner became—and the lesser his inclination for concessions. He repeatedly lamented that had he known in advance Arafat’s real intentions, he would have never signed the Oslo accords, telling confidents and subordinates (including Henry Kissinger, Tel Aviv mayor and former comrade in arms, Shlomo Lahat, and head of military intelligence Moshe Yaalon) of his intention to revisit, if not abandon, the process after the 1996 elections.
It is doubtful whether Rabin would have indeed disengaged from Oslo in the rather unlikely event of his reelection (at the time of his assassination, he was trailing Netanyahu in most polls, in some by as many as thirteen points) —something that even Netanyahu found impossible to do. It is clear, however, that his perception of the broad contours of the final-status arrangement, as presented in his October 5, 1995 Knesset defense of the Interim Agreement he had signed the previous week, was far more restrictive than that of any of his successors, Netanyahu included.
Rejecting the two-state solution altogether, Rabin foresaw “an entity short of a state that will independently run the lives of the Palestinians under its control” within narrower boundaries than the pre-June 1967 lines. The Jordan Valley area, “in the broadest sense of the word,” was to constitute Israel’s security border, and a united Jerusalem “comprising Maale Adumim and Givat Zeev” was to remain under Israel’s sovereignty. 
It is a historical irony that it was Benjamin Netanyahu, who had vehemently opposed the Oslo process from the outset, who publicly announced Israel’s support for the creation of a Palestinian state, both in his June 2009 Bar-Ilan speech and May 2011 address to a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress. In doing so, he went further not only from Rabin’s “Palestinian entity short of a state” but also from Peres’s preferred vision of peace. For, contrary to the conventional wisdom, Peres did not consider the creation of a Palestinian state an automatic, or even desirable, consequence of the Oslo process. Rather he subscribed to Labor’s old formula of a Jordanian-Palestinian confederation, which he sought to sell to Rabin, Arafat, King Hussein, presidents Bill Clinton and Egypt’s Husni Mubarak, and Morocco’s King Hassan II, among others.
It was thus Beilin who shrewdly steered his two superiors towards a path they had not planned to take despite his keen awareness of the untrustworthiness of the “peace” partner. As he put it on one occasion:
"I never had any illusions regarding Arafat. I never considered him an important world leader. I think he has committed numerous follies. He could have achieved a lot for his people many years ago, and his personal record includes almost every possible mistake … But since I have only Arafat, despite all the stupidities he utters, I must negotiate with him." 
This approach probably makes the Oslo process the only case in diplomatic history where a party to a peace accord was a priori amenable to its wholesale violation by its cosignatory. There have, of course, been numerous agreements where one or both parties acted in bad faith. The September 1938 Munich agreement, to give a prime example, was conceived by Hitler as a “Trojan Horse” for the destruction of Czechoslovakia, a strategy emulated by Arafat fifty-five years later with the Oslo process. But while there was little Czechoslovakia could do given its marked military inferiority and betrayal by the international community, in Oslo, it was the stronger party that allowed its far weaker counterpart to flaunt the agreement with impunity—with devastating consequences that would haunt both sides for decades to come.
Efraim Karsh, editor of the Middle East Quarterly, is director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University and emeritus professor of Middle East and Mediterranean studies at King's College London