Saturday, February 28, 2009
Prime minister-designate tells Washington Post he intends to 'advance Palestinian economic development while continuing political talks'. Adds: Syria talking peace but enabled Hizbullah to arm itself with tens of thousands of rockets
"There is broad agreement inside Israel and outside that the Palestinians should have the ability to govern their lives but not to threaten ours," Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu told the Washington Post.
In the interview, published Saturday, the Likud leader said "I propose a (new) way, which I believe can achieve progress: to continue political talks and at the same time advance the economic development that has begun and also strengthen the Palestinian security forces.
"I personally intend to take charge of a government committee that will regularly address the needs of the Palestinian economy in the West Bank," he told the American newspaper, adding that economic and political progress go hand in hand.
"In the recent conflict, the West Bank did not boil over. The people there cared about the loss of life in Gaza, but they said, 'We do not want to go that route. We have the beginnings of economic development in Jenin and we do not want an Islamic fundamentalist regime.' They'd like a society with law and order," he said.
Asked whether he thought Israel's recent militarily offensive in Gaza ended prematurely and that Hamas should have been toppled, Netanyahu said "Hamas is incompatible with peace. I hope that the Palestinians in Gaza find the ability to change this regime because we want to have peace with all the Palestinians.
"Right now, what we should do is enable humanitarian aid to flow into Gaza but not in such a way as it enables Hamas to buy more rockets," he said.
Referring to the indirect peace talks between Israel and Syria, Netanyahu said "Syria so far has been talking peace but has enabled Hizbullah to arm itself in contravention of UN Security Council resolutions with tens of thousands of rockets. Since the second Lebanon war it (has) hosted (Hamas leader) Khaled Mashaal and other terrorist leaders and closely cooperated with the ayatollah regime in Iran against the interest of regional peace.
"I would talk to Syria about abandoning these courses of action and building confidence that they really want to move toward peace. So far they're not giving that impression," he said.
Iranian strongman Akbar Hashemi Rasanjani sets a trap
The Friday sermon delivered by former Iranian president Akbar Hashemi Rasanjani in Tehran on Feb. 27 embodied an incentive and a catch for US president Barack Obama, condemned Israel and threatened Russia.
He said: "…we don't make false promises. Therefore I declare that Iran's nuclear plan is not to build weapons… and we are ready to prove it in negotiations." Indicating Israel, he said: "'You are planting a false notion in public minds." Addressing the Russians, he said bluntly that "…even if they don’t' deal with the [Bushehr] project, we can finish it on our own."
The Iranian leader closest to supreme ruler Ayatollah Ali Khameni had in fact issued Tehran's first explicit invitation to Obama to open direct negotiations which promised an Iranian pledge not to build a nuclear weapon.
That was the incentive. But ...He was saying in typical Rafsanjani shorthand that Tehran was willing to kick off the bargaining with a pledge not to develop on nuclear weapons, provided Washington agreed to the Islamic Republic retaining the capability to do so.
This formula would reduce the Tehran-Washington talks to haggling over where to place the cutoff point in the Iranian program.
The Iranians would demand to be allowed leeway for completing a bomb within four to six months; the Americans would likely insist on halting the program two to-three years short of a military capability, and the negotiations would end in a compromise.
Rafsanjani employed this verbal tactic on the strength of the information about the Obama administration's position gained from informal preliminary Iranian-US contacts in the last two months. Tehran believes the US president needs Iran's help in the Afghan War and would therefore be flexible in his dialogue with Iran. They calculate that he would go an extra mile for the sake of showing he had managed to arrest the Islamic Republic's march toward a nuclear weapon.
Israel is adamantly opposed to this formula, certain Tehran will use it as a blind to forge ahead secretly until its clandestine bomb and warhead projects are close to assembly at short notice...
Friday, February 27, 2009
Some of the folks who voted for Tzipi Livni or the luckless candidates to her left - whose electoral prospects she greedily devoured - are inveterate "Kumbaya" singers. No matter how hard and insensitively reality slaps them in the face, they still naively prefer the pose of pious believers in the honorable intentions of a genocidal enemy whose openly declared and entirely unconcealed aim is to obliterate them. The world may be a tad unkind, but the optimistic sham of unwavering trust in human goodness is too good to give up.
These sorts are the pushovers on whom the manipulators count. Just listen to how Tzipi played them for suckers on the eve of Election Day. Quoting without any embarrassment from one of Israel's more inane and sickeningly cloying songs, "The Children of Winter 1973," she delivered, without apparent inhibition, the following syrupy lines: "We promised you a 'dove with an olive branch'; we promised you 'a dove and peace at home' and I tell you: There is a dove on the windowsill."
She piled on the saccharine: "The dove of peace is perched on our windowsill and we now need to decide whether we open the window and let her in, despite all misgivings, or whether we slam that window shut." And for those who still didn't get it, Livni underscored her last-minute seemingly ideological message: "The choice before the voters is a state that says 'yes' to peace or 'no' to peace - a state of fear or a state of hope."
That was how Livni herself characterized the contest - a showdown between proponents of peace and those she dubbed its opponents. That isn't our hairsplitting inference. That's her own unequivocal formulation. Therefore, the inescapable conclusion is that what she labels the "peace camp" (and we charitably include Labor and Meretz on her side even though they wouldn't recommend her for the premiership) failed to convince the majority of Israelis. There is no getting away from that.
No amount of cerebral acrobatics can now help Livni dodge the fact that she herself, and no other, defined the election as a referendum on "Kumbaya" peace. The preponderant likelihood that her overnight conversion to the "Kumbaya" view of our existential struggle is little more than an unabashedly cynical opportunistic ploy is beside the point. She specifically delineated the alternatives, and if any shred of intellectual honesty may be presumed to still guide her, she must admit that the alternative she championed was defeated.
It's tempting to argue that the majority of Israelis saw the light at last and finally ditched the "territories for peace" delusion. That may be too much to expect from an electorate whose anyway short memory is mercilessly distorted by monolithic leftist media. But it's no stretch to assume that most Israelis couldn't for the life of them spot that white dove pecking at their window.
To most of them, Livni sounded plainly preposterous when she pompously pontificated about the tangible option of peace at a time when rockets still rain on the South. Operation Cast Lead came and went, and we're back where we were. Livni yet again managed to railroad us to a resounding diplomatic defeat (two years after applauding herself for UN Resolution 1701 that aggravated the pre-Second Lebanon War mess).
IT WOULD be heartening to assume that most Israelis had thoroughly reassessed our ordeals since Oslo's unpardonable infliction - one of history's most unmitigated follies. It would be heartening to assume that they realized with their heads, as distinct from their occasionally manifested gut instinct, what an ongoing disaster was spawned by the wholesale importation of terrorists strategically bent on obliterating Israel and tactically exploiting every ceded bit of land as a terror base.
It would be heartening to assume that the masses now logically grasp that peace isn't a sacrifice-craving Moloch and that terror victims aren't "the victims of peace."
It would be heartening to assume that it rationally dawned on the majority of our compatriots that the notion of buying peace with pieces of homeland and vital security assets is a contradiction in terms, unimplemented anywhere else on earth.
But we'll happily make do with the smaller satisfaction of a more limited psychological awakening. Israel's viciously vilified self-defense in the South proved to most Israelis that, contrary to leftist dogma, a military solution does exist. It was aborted by the very neo-Osloites who for years brainwash us, insisting there's no choice but to appease mortal enemies. The premature pointless halt to a successful operation was presumably supposed to hone the contention that we can't win militarily. Plebian common sense failed to fall for this.
Benighted commoners evidently suspect that peace is possible only after the enemy is trounced, and that the leftist substitute of backing off and retreating meekly to square one only promises us endless inconclusive war and attrition.
The voters, who weren't beguiled by Tzipi's invisible dove, weren't enticed by her worn cliche that "restraint is strength." In the Mideast especially, this is an absurd hypothesis, bound to broadcast weakness to a region in which you are ruthlessly kicked when you're down. Not resorting to one's available power only produces more carnage. Eight years of self-control vis-a-vis Gazan rocket barrages only made a bad situation worse. So did the recent "truce," which reinforced and rearmed Hamas.
SUBCONSCIOUSLY MOST Israelis deduce that Livnite prattles about Israel only having a bone to pick with Hamas, but not Gazans, is hokum. Entire Gazan generations are reared on toxic hatred and outright Judeophobia. From the cradle, they're incited to slaughter and dedicated to our destruction. No rousing choruses of "Kumbaya" from them. Refusal to face this reality is perhaps the severest leftist cognitive dissonance syndrome.
It paralyzes Israel's leadership and renders it incapable of compellingly insisting on our right to defend ourselves even against populations that daily bomb our towns, that transform homes into arsenals, that strap children with explosives, that misuse hospitals, schools and mosques, that deliberately plan to do to us far worse than what our hesitant response unintentionally delivers to them. Gazans get a mere drop of their own medicine, but we obsequiously apologize to a hostile world.
Ordinary Israelis sense this even if they haven't translated their intuition into systematic doctrines. They weren't seduced by Tzipi's siren rendition of "Kumbaya." They saw through the insincerity and rejected the idiom for idiocy. Tzipi's sappy peace'n'love Pollyannaism was too artificial for the silent majority, which, to its own detriment, imprudently gave pseudo-peace a chance for too many blood-soaked years.
As Tzipi belted out her proverbial "Kumbaya," the lyrics people heard were: "Someone's spinning, Lord... Someone's scamming, Lord."
Attention Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
Thursday, February 26, 2009
AUSTRALIA has been singled out as a target for "forest jihad" by a group of Islamic extremists urging Muslims to deliberately light bushfires as a weapon of terror.
US intelligence channels earlier this year identified a website calling on Muslims in Australia, the US, Europe and Russia to "start forest fires", claiming "scholars have justified chopping down and burning the infidels' forests when they do the same to our lands".
The website, posted by a group called the Al-Ikhlas Islamic Network, argues in Arabic that lighting fires is an effective form of terrorism justified in Islamic law under the "eye for an eye" doctrine.
The posting - which instructs jihadis to remember "forest jihad" in summer months - says fires cause economic damage and pollution, tie up security agencies and can take months to extinguish so that "this terror will haunt them for an extended period of time".
"Imagine if, after all the losses caused by such an event, a jihadist organisation were to claim responsibility for the forest fires," the website says. "You can hardly begin to imagine the level of fear that would take hold of people in the United States, in Europe, in Russia and in Australia."
With the nation heading into another hot, dry summer, Australian intelligence agencies are treating the possibility that bushfires could be used as a weapon of terrorism as a serious concern.
Attorney-General Robert McClelland said the Federal Government remained "vigilant against such threats", warning that anyone caught lighting a fire as a weapon of terror would feel the wrath of anti-terror laws....
...The internet posting by the little-known group claimed the idea of forest fires had been attributed to imprisoned Al Qaeda leader Abu Musab Al-Suri. It said Al-Suri had urged terrorists to use sulphuric acid and petrol to start forest fires.
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
The cover-up on Durban II's anti-Semitic agenda.
The Obama administration's decision to join the planning of the U.N.'s Durban II "anti-racism" conference has just taken a new twist: cover-up. On Friday, State Department officials and a member of the American Durban II delegation claimed the United States had worked actively to oppose efforts to brand Israel as racist in the committee drafting a Durban II declaration. The trouble is that they didn't.
The Feb. 20 State Department press release says the U.S. delegation in Geneva "outline[d] our concerns with the current outcome document" and in particular "our strong reservations about the direction of the conference, as the draft document singles out Israel for criticism." One member of the delegation told The Washington Post: "The administration is pushing back against efforts to brand Israel as racist in this conference." In fact, tucked away in a Geneva hall with few observers, the U.S. had done just the opposite. The U.S. delegates had made no objection to a new proposal to nail Israel in an anti-racism manifesto that makes no other country-specific claims.
Getting involved in activities intended to implement the 2001 Durban Declaration--after seven and a half years of refusing to lend the anti-Israel agenda any credibility--was controversial to be sure. But late on Saturday Feb. 14, the State Department slithered out a press release justifying the move. It claimed that "the intent of our participation is to work to try to change the direction in which the Review Conference is heading."
Following what was clearly a planned public relations exercise, Washington Post columnist Colum Lynch championed the U.S. bravado in an article based on the story orchestrated by the American delegates. In his Feb. 20 article entitled: "U.S. Holds Firm on Reparations, Israel in U.N. Racism Talks," he fawned: "The Obama administration on Thursday concluded its first round of politically charged U.N. negotiations on racism, pressing foreign governments ... to desist from singling out Israel for criticism in a draft declaration to be presented at a U.N. conference in April."
The reality, however, was nothing of the sort. Instead, Obama's Durban II team slipped easily into the U.N.'s anti-Israel and anti-Jewish environs, taking the approach that "fitting in" was best accomplished by staying silent.
On Tuesday, the Palestinian delegation proposed inserting a new paragraph ...[which] claims that the Palestinian people are victims of Israeli racism and demands that all U.N. states provide protection from the affronts of the racist Jewish state.
Furthermore, the new Palestinian provision "Calls for ... implementation of international legal obligations, including the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on the wall..." This is a dramatic attempt to change an "advisory opinion" into a "legal obligation"--a status which attaches to no advisory opinion. The ICJ decision, which advises that the Israeli security fence is illegal, has always been rejected by the United States--hitherto. And with good reason. The Egyptian judge had voiced his opinion on the result before the case was even heard, in his capacity as a leading Egyptian diplomat. The terms of reference from the General Assembly who asked for the decision, and the documents they laid before the Court, predetermined the outcome. And as the strong dissent by the American judge and Holocaust survivor Tom Buergenthal pointed out, the Court came to its preposterous conclusion that "the right of legitimate or inherent self-defense is not applicable in the present case" without considering "the deadly terrorist attacks to which Israel is being subjected."
But when the Palestinian delegation laid their new proposal before the drafting committee, what did Obama's team do? Nothing, absolutely nothing. They made no objection at all.
It is impossible to argue that their silence was unintended. Over the course of the week's negotiations the American delegation had objected to a number of specific proposals. ...
...Their silence when it came to Israel was, therefore, deafening. It also had the very concrete result of not placing the Palestinian paragraph in dispute, and the diplomatic rule of thumb is that paragraphs that have not been flagged as controversial cannot be reopened for discussion, as negotiations finalize an end product.
The Obama team was not only silent on the new "Israel is racist" language, it also said nothing when faced with Holocaust denial. Negotiators from the European Union suggested on Wednesday a new provision to "condemn without reservation any denial of the Holocaust and urges all states to reject denial of the Holocaust as an historical event, either in full, or in part, or any activities to this end." Iran--whose president is a Holocaust-denier--immediately objected and insisted that the proposal be "bracketed" or put in dispute. The move blocked the adoption of the proposal and ensured another battle over the reality of the Holocaust in April--at these supposedly "anti-racism" meetings. After Iran objected, the chair looked around the room, expecting a response. He said: "Is there any delegation wishing to comment on this new proposal by the European Union? It doesn't seem the case. We move on." U.S. delegates said nothing, even after the prompt.
Again, the American silence must have been deliberate. ...The manipulation of Holocaust remembrance--knowing that Israel is the bulwark of the Jewish people against "never again"--is as cynical as it gets.
...State department officials and U.S. delegates to Durban II's planning committee insist that their minds have not been made up. Friday's State department press release said "the United States has not made a decision about participating in the Durban Review Conference or about whether to engage in future preparations for the Conference, but the work done this week will be important information for taking these decisions." Similarly, The Washington Post reports, quoting an American delegate: "This is a fact-finding mission; it's just a first step ... Negotiations will probably resume in March or early April."
The strategy is painfully obvious--spin out the time for considering whether or not to attend the April 20 conference until the train has left the station and jumping off would cause greater injury to multilateral relations than just taking a seat.
The delay tactics are indefensible. The U.S. administration attended four full days of negotiation. During that time they witnessed the following:
- the failure to adopt a proposal to act against Holocaust denial,
- a new proposal to single out Israel, which will now be included in the draft without brackets,
- broad objections to anything having to do with sexual orientation,
- vigorous refusal by many states to back down on references to "Islamophobia" (the general allegation of a racist Western plot to discriminate against all Muslims), and
- numerous attacks on free speech.
This "dialogue" is not promoting rights and freedoms. It is legitimizing a forum for disputing the essence of democracy, handing Holocaust deniers a global platform and manufacturing the means to demonize Israel in the interests of those states bent on the Jewish state's destruction.
But you can be sure that the State Department report now on Obama's desk reads "can't tell yet, don't know, maybe, too early to tell." Why?
If the Obama administration does not immediately announce that its foray into the morass of Durban II has led it to decide this is no place for genuine believers in human rights and freedoms, there is only one conclusion possible. His foreign policy of engagement amounts to a new willingness to sacrifice Israel and an indeterminate number of American values for the sake of a warm welcome from the enemies of freedom.
*Anne Bayefsky is a senior fellow of the Hudson Institute, director of the Touro Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust and editor of www.EYEontheUN.org.
The UN Relief and Works Agency is systematically providing political cover to Hamas, a senior government official told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday, lashing out at the agency for passing a Hamas letter to US Sen. John Kerry when he visited Gaza last week.
UNRWA head Karen AbuZayd gave the letter to Kerry, along with other material, during his brief visit Thursday to the Gaza Strip. The letter, written by a Hamas Foreign Ministry adviser and later disavowed by the Islamist group, was addressed to US President Barack Obama.
Kerry, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, handed the unopened letter to the US Consulate in Jerusalem. Kerry told Fox News that he never read the letter because it was sandwiched among other promotional papers the UN had given him.
"Unfortunately, there is a pattern here," the senior Israeli official said.
"That no one finds it strange that UNRWA, whose mandate is humanitarian, is the vehicle through which Hamas passes messages on to the US, just shows where UNRWA is at."
Furthermore, the official said, UNRWA was lobbying around the world for governments to drop the international community's three preconditions to talking with Hamas - that it recognize Israel, disavow terrorism and accept previous Palestinian-Israeli agreements.
It is not clear how this, or calls by UNRWA for an "independent international investigation" into alleged Israeli war crimes in Gaza, fell within the organization's mandate, the official added....
...UNRWA has also come under criticism from Israeli officials who say it is parroting the Hamas line.
The senior Israeli official said that during Operation Cast Lead, UNRWA adopted Hamas's position of calling for a cease-fire without any preconditions, such as an end to the weapons smuggling and the missile fire on Israel.
"They just echoed Hamas's positions," the official said.
Likewise, the official said that the organization was very critical of Israel's actions during the war. At one point, UNRWA spokesmen indicated that at least 40 refuge-seeking civilians were killed on January 6 in a UNRWA school facility in Jabalya. ... this was an example of how UNRWA routinely and uncritically adopted Hamas' narrative and claims of casualties.
According to the IDF, only three civilians and eight to 10 Hamas gunmen were killed near the school. The IDF said that an IDF unit that came under fire from a Hamas cell near the school returned fire. No shell hit the school.
The UN issued a revised report earlier this month admitting that as the result of a "clerical error," it was mistaken when it reported that the compound itself was shelled....
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Among the reasons for the decay and marginalization of the Israel Labor Party are its abandonment of collectivist ideology (including the values of military service and settling the Land of Israel), distancing from Jewish traditional values, identification with the wealthy, abandonment of Jerusalem, and identification with the failed Oslo peace process. The party also failed to stay in sync with demographic changes in Israel.
...the once hegemonic party in the Israeli political system – the Israel Labor Party – ended up in 2009 as only the fourth largest party, with a meager 13 Knesset seats. Meretz, to the left of Labor, fared even worse, barely obtaining 3 seats in the Knesset.
... the 2009 elections have witnessed the culmination of an historic process of decline, beginning with the 1977 political upheaval when Labor lost the election to the Likud Party for the first time. This heralded the gradual decay, and eventual marginalization, of the Labor Party.
One main reason for this is the fact that the Labor Party has lost its most important political asset: identification with the establishment and building of the State of Israel. The two main activities in this endeavor – military service and the settling of the Land of Israel – were gradually given up by Labor and its supporters.
Once upon a time, kibbutz members were disproportionately represented in IDF officer ranks. This is no longer so. The social composition of the officers' course for the ground forces that ended in February 2009 was typical of recent years. Nineteen percent of the graduating class defined themselves as modern Orthodox. A senior officer called them "the new kibbutzniks."
Similarly, the intensive settlement activity under the guidance of Labor-led governments basically ended in 1977, leaving settlement within and beyond the Green Line to other elements in Israeli society.
The military is still the most respected institution in Israel. A majority of Israelis, though ready for re-partition of Israel, regard settling the Land of Israel an important Zionist value. Labor foolishly allowed modern Orthodox and right wing circles to adopt and commandeer important national symbols – which were once clearly associated with the party that founded the state.
Another important Zionist symbol deserted by Labor is Jerusalem, united in 1967 under Labor reign. The recent elections were also about keeping Jerusalem united under Israel's sovereignty. Labor Party leader Ehud Barak's willingness to divide Jerusalem at the 2000 Camp David Summit stunned many Israelis. As a matter of fact, over two-thirds of Israelis oppose any division of the city and are ready to continue armed conflict with the Palestinians in order to maintain the status quo. It is political folly to underestimate the great appeal of Jerusalem for most Jews...
...Thus, Labor abandoned collectivist ideology, distanced itself from Jewish traditional values, and discarded socialism. Parallel to this, Labor shifted to the left of center on issues of war and peace vacating the center to the Likud.
Moreover, Labor became associated with the "peace process," beginning with its initiation of the Oslo accords. Yet, the Oslo process was fraught with uncertainties, and eventually failed. This has been the verdict for several years now by a majority of Israelis, even those that originally supported the daring diplomatic experiment. The so-called "peace camp" in Israeli politics has been largely discredited. The results of the 2003, 2006, and 2009 elections reflect this judgment. Society was generally ready to "give peace a chance," but Labor gradually lost their support for the process. At the same time, many messianic doves (an almost extinct species in Israel) now prefer to cast their votes for parties to the hard left of Labor.
In point of fact, Ehud Barak strongly fell out of favor by the unreformed doves in 2001 after he coined the "no partner" phrase (following the breakdown of the 2000 Camp David summit, which shattered most illusions about the capability of the Palestinian national movement as a partner in the peace process.)
Finally, Labor failed to stay in sync with demographic changes in Israel. Gradually, Israel's Sephardic population is now a majority, and they have displayed a tendency to vote in large numbers for the opposition to Labor. The demographic picture significantly changed again after the Russian immigration of the 1990s. Immigrants from the former Soviet Union have displayed a preference for right-wing parties. Labor's pool of support thus remained primarily Ashkenazi, older, and middle- to upper-class. Labor has been increasingly flirting with Israel's Arab community to gain additional votes. Relying on the Arab vote, however, is the worst image a party can have in the Israeli Jewish public. Ironically, the Arab citizens refrained from voting Labor because it largely supported the use of force against Palestinian terrorism.
Consequently, the Labor Party of 2009 is a party with a glorious past, but a very dim future.
*Efraim Inbar is professor of political science at Bar-Ilan University and director of the Begin-Sadat (BESA) Center for Strategic Studies.
...Had there been a direct contest for prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu would indisputably have defeated Tzipi Livni by a margin of at least 2 to 1.
Precisely 12 months ago I wrote a column in the Jerusalem Post arguing that a unity government was desperately needed, not only to cope with external threats but also in order to deal with long overdue reforms to the electoral system and a wide variety of social problems that remained in limbo because of the veto powers of small one-dimensional parties. Today the vast majority of the nation recognizes the critical need for a unity government.
Yet unfortunately we are witnessing a disgraceful repeat performance of politicians, immediately after being elected, ignoring their obligations to their constituents and shamelessly displaying a willingness to promote their petty personal ambitions above the national interest.
To his credit, Netanyahu recognizes the need for a unity government. Despite resentment within his own party and anger from some of his potential coalition partners, he magnanimously offered Kadima an equal number of senior Cabinet portfolios to Likud. Yet Tzipi Livni had the chutzpah to demand a Prime Ministerial rotation as though the electorate was equally divided between those endorsing her policies and those promoted by the national camp. To further complicate matters, Avigdor Lieberman of Israel Beiteinu tried to leverage his position by playing both parties against each another.
There is thus a real danger that if these self serving intrigues continue, the new government could again become dependant on the whims of small parties motivated exclusively by their own narrow interests. If this happens, the nation would soon be confronted with yet another election.
The next few years may well determine the long-term future of the Jewish state. Our most immediate challenge is the existential threat facing us from a nuclear Iran. That alone demands a broadly based government enabling critical decisions in this area to achieve the widest possible national consensual endorsement.
Netanyahu is pragmatic and will continue peace negotiations. But unlike his predecessors he has pledged that he will not compromise over defensible borders or make further concessions without reciprocity. He is also expected to implement a regime of deterrence needed to protect Israeli citizens.
In this environment, a narrow government would embolden our enemies and intensify the dangers confronting us. In addition, we require a united front in the face of demands that even our friends may seek to impose on us. While there is still hope that the US under Obama will stay the course, there are already disconcerting murmurs emanating from the new Administration which represent cause for concern. They include the lamentable decision to continue US involvement with Durban 2 and a number of recent chilling remarks by Obama's Middle East Peace Envoy George Mitchell which suggest a major tilt in policy is in the offing. Clearly the new government may be obliged to withstand pressures from friends as well as foes. At such a time it would be disastrous a to have a government in which decisions affecting our complex relationship with the new US Administration were to be determined by a narrow majority subject to veto from small parties.
A broad unity government dominated by the two larger parties would also provide common ground for devising constructive economic policies to minimize the impending fallout from the global financial meltdown without being subject to the traditional extortion from minority parties. Such a government could also introduce the long overdue electoral reforms to stabilize the system and prevent small one-dimensional parties from being able to veto desperately needed changes.
The government could ensure that Israelis who are not halachically Jewish will be enabled to institutionalize their marital bonds. They could also overcome the outrageous barrier to genuine conversions currently being inflicted on the nation by the haredi dominated religious courts. It could review the burgeoning haredi draft exemptions, introduce a form of national service for all Israeli citizens and at the very least, provide benefits to Israelis who serve in the IDF. It could also implement Netanyahu's commitment to upgrade the educational system and infuse it with greater Jewish heritage and Zionist content.
The problem of the increasing radicalization of Israeli Arabs and their attitude towards the state could be rationally considered. There is nothing "racist" in holding Israeli citizens accountable if they indulge in treasonable activities, especially during a time of war. If this were to be accompanied by an effort to also raise the standard of living of Israeli Arab citizens, such a program would be endorsed by the vast majority of Israelis.
These are only some of the burning issues that only a broadly based unity government could successfully implement.
The bulk of Kadima Knesset representatives comprise of former members of Likud. To use an understatement, their political principles in the past proved to have been extremely malleable and there is absolutely no ideological barrier for the vast majority to find common ground with their former colleagues and join a unity government. How Kadima members who served previously under Netanyahu can refer to their former party colleagues as extreme right wingers is bizarre. If fact, if anything, key party members like Shaul Mofaz and Tzahi Hanegbi would be politically more inclined to the right than the average Likud Knesset member.
This is surely a time for Kadima members to prioritize the national interest and create a broad national unity government which will provide the people of Israel with the leadership to which they are entitled.
Tzipi Livni, you will go down in history as the great spoiler because of an unreasonable personal ego if you reject this opportunity to assume a constructive role and contribute towards achieving desperately needed security and stability for the nation. It will be an act of national betrayal if you personally torpedo this unique opportunity to create a genuine Zionist national unity government which would at long last be enabled to deal constructively with the burning problems facing the nation both externally and internally. Now is the time for you to stand up and be counted. Do not inflict despair on the people of Israel.
Prof. Uzi Arad, founder of the Herzliya Conference and the tough former head of Mossad research, is not usually given to soul searching. The audience of VIPs that listened to his farewell speech on leaving Herzliya for a top security job therefore reacted to his public expression of anxiety with stunned silence.
"I lie awake at night," Arad confided, "fretting over Israel's mishandling of the present danger from Iran. We have wasted precious years doing little about this danger; many in our political elites are ignorant, are in denial and cynical. They are deluded by a false messianic fervor, an irrational pursuit of peace. This prevents them from tackling the real dangers facing us."...
...America: A freight train is heading your way and you're standing right on the tracks, looking in the wrong direction.
...Today, US policy ... motto might be, "The nice will inherit the Earth," as the Obama administration tries to prove that it's not like that mean old Bush.
Before we get to the oncoming train, consider two small but indicative examples.
Scene 1: The UN committee planning the Durban-2 pro-racism - I mean "anti-racism" - conference. Libya chairs the committee, Iran is the vice-chair, Cuba, the rapporteur, and Russia is presiding. The plan is designed to ensure that the conference limits free speech, bashes Israel and enshrines Muslims as the world's only and perpetual victims.
The US representative stands to propose amendments. Is the speech a thunderous denunciation of dictatorship and a defense of liberty? Not exactly. Here is the key sentence:
"I hate to be the cause of unhappiness in the room... I have to suggest [amendments] and I offer my sincere apologies."
How's that for speaking softly and carrying a big pillow? (US president Theodore Roosevelt a century ago famously described diplomacy as "speaking softly and carrying a big stick.")
Scene 2: The camera pans and the screen fills with an invitation to a conference being held by the Brookings Institution in Washington. The purpose is defined as asking, "How should Europe engage Russia to put relations between the West and Russia on a more positive and sustainable basis?" There is no room for pressure, opposition or criticism as part of the package; no hint of the need for flexibility to be accompanied by toughness.
Russia invaded Georgia, fought a surrogate war against Azerbaijan, blackmailed Ukraine and Lithuania. It has opposed sanctions on Iran, sold huge amounts of arms to Syria and committed real human rights' violations in Chechnya. It is the dawning of the age ...of Aquarium, in which the sharks are put in charge.
US policy is putting the emphasis on conciliation with Iran and Syria, and a soft line toward Pakistan, despite its lack of cooperation on fighting terrorism against India or in Afghanistan.
The only thing you can do with a strategy of carrots without sticks is to make carrot cake. Now consider what is sneaking up on the US government as it hands out candy:
On March 29, local elections will be held in Turkey. If the current government wins these municipal races, especially in Ankara and Istanbul, the country will be encouraged to go even further down the road toward Islamic extremism. Whatever happens internally (where the nature of Turkish society forces it to go more slowly), Ankara's foreign policy is increasingly aligned with that of the radicals in the region - not only Hamas but also Syria and Iran. Turkey's many friends are hoping that moderation and its traditional political virtues win out. But what's happening there may well be the most important political event in the Middle East since the Iranian revolution 30 years ago. Think of what it means if, in whole or even in part, Turkey goes from the Western to the radical camp; clearly this is a world-changing event.
Then on June 7 come the Lebanese elections. Given the vast amounts of money they have spent, their use of violent intimidation and demoralization due to the Western abandonment of the moderates, it is likely that Iran's Syrian clients will take over Lebanon's government. This does not mean domination by Hizbullah but by four allied forces: pro-Syrian Sunni politicians; Michel Aoun's Christian forces; and the two Shi'ite groups, Hizbullah and Amal. Already, Lebanon's president and former armed forces' commander Michel Suleiman is very close to the Iran-Syrian orbit. This doesn't mean that Lebanon will be annexed or militarily reoccupied by Syria, or that Lebanon will become an Islamist state internally. But it does mean that Lebanon will become a reliable ally of what Syrian President Bashar Assad calls "the resistance front."
In the region, these two developments will be perceived as two big victories for Teheran, and a sign that the Islamist-radical side is the wave of the future.
And what is the United States doing to fight, stop or manage this visible crisis?
FINALLY, ON June 12, presidential elections will take place in Iran itself. The likelihood is the reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, either fairly or through manipulation of the ballot. The Iranian ruling establishment, which might have been persuaded to endorse a less extreme candidate if there had been enough Western pressure to make the incumbent look bad, has backed an openly aggressive anti-Semite. Even though Ahmadinejad is not the real ruler of Iran, he and his allies are working to make him so. And of course his reelection means not only that Iran is waging a campaign to get nuclear weapons, it will mean that it is moving at the fastest possible speed, with the least likelihood of compromising and the most probability of using such a weapon (or forcing Israel to act militarily to stop the process). By years' end, or shortly after, Iran might have an atom bomb.
In short, 2009 is looking like a year of massive defeat for the US and its friends in the Middle East. Meanwhile, Washington is blind to this trend, pursuing a futile attempt to conciliate its enemies, losing time and not adopting the policies desperately needed.
Instead, the US should make itself leader of a broad coalition of Arab and European states, along with Israel, to resist Islamism and Iranian ambitions.
Alas, the new administration is fooling around while the region burns.
Turn around! Turn around!
*The writer is director of the Global Research in International Affairs Center at IDC Herzliya and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs Journal.
Monday, February 23, 2009
VIENNA (Reuters) - U.N. inspectors found graphite and more uranium traces in test samples taken from a Syrian site Washington says was a covert graphite nuclear reactor almost built before Israel bombed it, officials said on Thursday.
... one senior U.N. official said the discovery of additional uranium traces was "significant." That, together with graphite traces that are undergoing more tests, raised pressure on Damascus to provide evidence for its denials of wrongdoing.
The IAEA's November report said the site bore features that would resemble those of an undeclared nuclear reactor.
Thursday's report said Damascus, in a letter to the IAEA this month, had repeated its position that the desert complex destroyed by Israel, known as al-Kibar or Dair Alzour, in September 2007 was a conventional military building only.
But Syria, it said, was still failing to back up its stance with documentation or by granting further access for IAEA sleuths to the bombed location and three others cited in U.S. intelligence handed to the U.N. watchdog last year.
....The United States says its information indicates the site was a reactor that was close to being built with North Korean assistance and designed to produce plutonium for atomic bombs.
...Syria has also been asked to explain why it landscaped all four sites in question to alter their look after inspectors asked to examine them.
Following closed meeting with Livni, Prime minister-designate convinced Kadima won't join Likud-led coalition...
Prime-Minister designate Benjamin Netanyahu and Kadima Chairwoman Tzipi Livni met at Jerusalem's Inbal Hotel Sunday night for the first time since the recent general elections and just two days after President Shimon Peres tasked the Likud leader with forming the next government.
...However, Netanyahu later told aides he was convinced Kadima would not join a Likud-led coalition, adding that "nothing will come out (of the negotiations)."
...According to the Kadima leader, nothing had changed during the meeting. "There is no reason to assemble negotiating teams," she said.
A Netanyahu aide said "there were agreements on certain subjects, but Livni was adamant on the subject of two states for two peoples. Netanyahu told Livni she should not latch onto this formula at this time and that other ways could be found to define the political subject with the Palestinians."
Netanyahu reportedly guaranteed Livni a key role in the next government. "I intend to conduct negotiations with the Palestinians which you will participate in," he told her.
Earlier, Livni told a Kadima faction meeting that the party would not sit in a coalition together with Netanyahu's "natural partners", including the rightist factions and the religious Shas Party.
She was backed my most fraction members, but Minister Shaul Mofaz, placed second on Kadima's Knesset roster, said "there is no exaltation in the opposition. The citizens want us to have an impact, and we won't let the extreme right lead the process."
Sunday, February 22, 2009
Last weekend, a conference held under the title "Gaza the victory" took place at hotel near Istanbul's Ataturk airport. The conference brought 200 Sunni clerics and activists together with senior, Damascus-based Hamas officials.
Closed meetings held after the main conference sessions focused on the creation of a "third jihadist front" against Israel - the first two being Iraq and Afghanistan, in the view of the conference delegates. The gathering was addressed by Muhammad Nazzal, a top Hamas official from Damascus.
In an echo of the attempts by Islamists across the Middle East to pressure Egypt during the recent Gaza operation, Nazzal called on regional governments to "open the borders and let the fighters through."
The gathering in Istanbul is significant for two reasons. First, it showcases the continued efforts by Islamist movements to present the Gaza events as a watershed dividing the path of "resistance," which they favor, from the path of "collaboration" that they accuse leading Arab states of following.
Second, and perhaps more important, the location of the conference is a further indication of the move of the Islamist AKP government in Turkey toward a more and more open alignment with anti-Western and anti-Israeli forces in the region.
The conference organizers themselves were aware of the significance of the event's location. One of them told a BBC journalist attending the event, "During the past 100 years relations [between Arabs and Turks] have been strained, but Palestine has brought us together."
Speakers at the conference made constant reference to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's decision to storm off the stage in protest during a recent debate in Davos, Switzerland, on the Gaza operation.
The current Turkish government's willingness to engage with and host regional and Palestinian Islamist forces is not new. Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal made a controversial trip to Ankara less than a month after Hamas's victory in Palestinian Legislative Council elections in January 2006. Interestingly, Mashaal was asked to come directly by the AKP government, after the more secular-minded Turkish Foreign Ministry refused to extend an invitation to him.
At the time, some analysts sought to present the invitation to Mashaal as a one-off gesture without deeper significance for the Israeli-Turkish relationship. Subsequent events have disproved this interpretation.
Turkey's response to the Gaza offensive has highlighted a deep rift in relations. Erdogan in the course of the operation questioned Israel's UN membership. The atmosphere in Turkey during Operation Cast Lead became deeply charged against Israelis and Jews - with a number of ugly incidents recorded across the country. Erdogan attended the emergency summit in Doha on January 16 that was convened by Syria and Qatar to offer support to Hamas.
Turkey's courting of Hamas and hosting of Islamist gatherings form part of a more general regional policy pursued by the AKP government in Ankara. The AKP seeks to build Turkey's regional "strategic depth" - in its preferred phrase - by building up relations with Syria and Iran. This is presented as a desire to counter-balance, rather than replace, Ankara's already deep links with the West.
However, in the current situation of sharp polarization and cold war in the region, it is becoming increasingly unfeasible for countries to maintain close relations with both the US-led and the Iranian-led camps. The prospect of Turkey moving toward the Iranian-led alliance can no longer be dismissed as fanciful.
Turkish analysts have noted the rise of a "Muslim nationalist" orientation in the country, of which the political dominance of the AKP over the last half decade forms the political expression.
From this perspective, a regional policy which stresses alliances with other Muslim governments and movements across the region is a natural choice. Growing warmth in Turkey's relations with Iran and Syria, and the sympathy shown their key client organization Hamas last weekend in Istanbul are all elements of this emerging policy.
Of course, it is much too soon to write off the relationship between Turkey and Israel. There are powerful forces within the country which oppose the AKP's "strategic depth" orientation. Nevertheless, Turkey's position on recent events has brought great cheer to the Iranian-led camp, and is leading to corresponding new efforts at courtship from Teheran.
Senior Iranian officials praised Turkey's stance during the Gaza crisis, and called for a strategic alliance between the two countries. Yahya Safavi, former commander of the Revolutionary Guards and now security adviser to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, said earlier this month that "Erdogan's... courageous words at the Davos summit against the war crimes of the Zionist regime... are evidence of the Islamic awakening among the Turkish people - a result of the influence of Iran's Islamic Revolution."
Majlis speaker and former nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani visited Turkey during the Gaza crisis, holding closed talks with Erdogan. Following the meetings, both men called to enhance the already extensive economic links between Iran and Turkey.
Where is Turkey heading?
What can be said with certainty is that Ankara's long-maintained policy of equidistance between Israelis and Palestinians has been dispensed with by the current leadership. The AKP government is aligning itself not only with the Palestinians, but with Hamas. In the longer term, this may portend a slow shift toward greater alignment with the Iranian-led regional alliance. Such a shift, if it occurs, will be of primary significance to the strategic balance in the region.
(Translations of comments by Iranian officials by Memri.)
*Jonathan Spyer is a senior researcher at the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, IDC, Herzliya. He will visit Australia as a guest of the Australia/Isrel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) in March 2009. Watch your local press for opportunities to hear him speak.