Saturday, February 14, 2009

U.N. Delegates Laud Chinese Death Penalty and Internet Censorship

From a UN Watch email briefing, 13/2/09:

"U.N. rights council becoming Mutual Praise Society," says UN Watch 125-page report, featured in Reuters, Associated Press, South China Morning Post, Canadian Press, Deutsche Presse-Agentur, Ottawa Citizen, United Arab Emirates' The National...

GENEVA, February 12, 2009 — Delegates to a U.N. meeting this week on China's human rights record praised Beijing for practicing the death penalty, imposing internet censorship, and for being a "moral and ethical country."

While Western countries challenged China, many others congratulated it. Egypt lauded China's "endeavor to protect human rights and socio-economic development" and said "we understand the need of China to keep the death penalty." Iran congratulated China's "efforts to promote human rights" and, citing "the negative impact of the internet," encouraged China to tighten censorship to prohibit "defamation of religion." Cuba praised China for being an "exceptional country," and urged it to enforce "stict compliance with law. . . to prevent people disguised as human rights activists from trying to destroy the state."

China's review came under the U.N. Human Rights Council's flagship review mechanism, known as Universal Periodic Review (UPR).

According to a new 124-page study by the Geneva-based UN Watch, a human rights monitoring group, only 8 of the 47 member states of the Council, including Canada, France and Britain, took a constructive approach to scrutinizing each other’s human rights records since UPR began last year.

Entitled “Mutual Praise Society,” the report found that the peer review sessions of the Council are being misused by countries to praise allies and criticize enemies instead of highlighting genuine cases of abuse.

UN Watch rated the performance of 32 other countries—including Russia, Iran, China and Cuba—as detrimental to destructive. The report evaluated 300 speeches made by 55 countries, including several that participate in the council as non-voting observers.

Major newswires and newspapers around the world -- from the Persian Gulf to Hong Kong to Canada -- quoted UN Watch's report. Click here to see the worldwide media coverage.

While the U.N. promised to reform itself with a procedure that would hold all countries to account on an objective and equal basis, and help human rights victims worldwide, instead the council has turned into a mutual praise society, giving a free pass to the world’s worst abusers.

In the current session alone, we saw Libya praise Cuba for "promoting freedom of thought and expression," when Havana continues to keep human rights defenders and journalists behind bars, and Chinese praise for Saudi Arabia's record on women’s rights, when they can neither vote nor drive a car.

But it’s not just repressive regimes protecting each other. Many democracies, too, are failing to review countries seriously, with some—like India, South Africa and Uruguay—undermining the process by congratulating countries for practices that deserve condemnation.

Click here to see the report’s key findings and recommendations.

Click here to download a pdf version of the full 125-page report.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Habayit Hayehudi wants broad government

From Ynet News, 13/2/09, by Amnon Meranda:

Religious party's top three members meet with Likud Chairman Netanyahu, tell him they will recommend President Peres appoint him to form new coalition. 'We said we would like Kadima to be part of the government as well,' says MK Orlev

After meeting with Shas, Yisrael Beiteinu and National Union members, Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu met Friday with representatives of the religious Habayit Hayehudi party which gained three mandates in Tuesday's elections.

Habayit Hayehudi Chairman Prof. Daniel Hershkovitz and his two comrades who will sit with him in Israel's 18th Knesset, Zvulon Orlev and Uri Orbach, were expected to take part in the meeting.

MK Orlev told Ynet after the meeting, "Netanyahu made it clear to us that we would be part of any government he forms.

"We told him we would like Kadima to also be part of the next government, headed by Netanyahu, out of our concern for the State of Israel and the government's stability over time, and as long as the basic guidelines agreed upon don’t contradict those of Habayit Hayehudi's platform."

Orlev said Netanyahu responded by saying that he too was interested in a government which would be as wide as possible.

Prof. Hershkovitz defined the meeting as excellent. "Reliability is part our ways, and that's why we'll recommend Netanyahu. Our demands will be raised during the coalition negotiations."

Seeking unity
Likud officials were disappointed to learn the results of the soldiers' votes announced Thursday did not give them any more seats and that Kadima would remain the largest faction in Knesset.

Friday's meeting does not rule out the possibility that Netanyahu may attempt to unite the Likud and Habayit Hayehudi factions in order to become the largest faction in Knesset.

While certain right-wing parties were unclear on whether they would recommend Netanyahu to form the government, Habayit Hayehudi sources told Ynet on Friday morning that they told Netanyahu they would recommend him to President Shimon Peres.

"This is what we promised our voters, and we won’t deviate from this promise," a source said. "Nonetheless, we will raise our demands during the coalition negotiations."

Habayit Hayehudi sources confirmed to Ynet that Likud members unofficially contacted them regarding the possibility of a union. However, the sources stressed it was too soon to discuss, saying, "It's an egg that hasn't yet hatched."

Meanwhile, Minister Ze'ev Boim (Kadima) told Ynet, "Everything should be done in order to assemble a stable government for the good of that State and governmental stability."

Boim said he opposed having Kadima in the opposition, and said, "It is preferable that (Kadima Chairwoman Tzipi) Livni forms the government, but even if she doesn't, Likud and Kadima should reach an agreement and form a stable government."

Kobi Nahshoni and Attila Somfalvi contributed to this report

Rise in antisemitic attacks 'the worst recorded in Britain in decades'

From The Guardian, Sunday 8 February 2009, by Mark Townsend, crime correspondent:

British Jews' safety fears grow ...Police patrols have been stepped up in Jewish neighbourhoods following the most intense period of antisemitic incidents to have been recorded in Britain in decades.

Safety fears are so acute that reports have emerged of members of Britain's Jewish community fleeing the UK with antisemitic incidents running at around seven a day this year.

Around 270 cases have been reported in 2009, according to figures compiled by the Community Security Trust (CST), the body that monitors anti-Jewish racism, with most blamed on anti-Israeli sentiment in reaction to hostilities in Gaza. Attacks recorded during the first Palestinian intifida of the late 1980s averaged 16 a month.

Scotland Yard is understood to have placed prominent Jewish communities on heightened alert, while the Association of Chief Police Officers' national community tension team is responding to intelligence by issuing weekly patrol directives to chief constables instructing them of threats to Jewish communities in their areas.

Incidents recorded by the CST include violent assaults in the street, hate emails and graffiti threatening "jihad" against British Jews. One disturbing aspect involves the targeting of Jewish children. A Birmingham school is investigating reports that 20 children chased a 12-year-old girl, its only Jewish pupil, chanting "Kill all Jews" and "Death to Jews". In another incident a Jewish schoolgirl reported being bullied at a non-Jewish school because of the Gaza conflict.

CST spokesman Mark Gardner said the current fear of persecution was so profound that some members of the Jewish community were seeking to emigrate to countries where they felt more secure, such as Israel, the United States or Australia. "I know two families, one of which has already moved and the other which is in the process of moving, who don't see the point of putting up with this," he added.

This week the CST will publish its annual report on antisemitic incidents for 2008, which will reveal that around 550 were recorded in the UK last year, slightly less than the record of 594 in 2006, when Israel and Lebanon waged a brief but bloody war.

Veteran director and actor Steven Berkoff recently explained the anti-Israeli reaction over Gaza by saying: "England is not a great lover of its Jews. Never has been".

Some within Britain's 350,000-strong Jewish community accuse the government of not doing enough to condemn the increase in antisemitism. However, the Board of Deputies of British Jews said it had recently received a letter from the communities minister, Hazel Blears, stating that she was "deeply concerned about the dramatic rise in antisemitic attacks in the UK".

Mark Frazer, spokesman for the Board of Deputies, said: "We are seeing an unprecedented level of attacks directed at the Jewish community, both physical and verbal. It is incumbent upon us all to isolate and marginalise those who would derail the legitimate political debate with an extremist and hateful ideology." Recorded attacks have centred on the Jewish communities of Golders Green and Hampstead Garden Suburb in north London.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Israel in 2009: A One-Block State of the Right

From BESA Center Perspectives Papers No. 67, February 12, 2009, by Hillel Frisch*:

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: The election result this week confirms the emergence of a one-block, right-of-center dominant political reality in Israel; a fact that is likely to dominate for many years to come. Kadima's electoral achievement is ephemeral; it masks the deeper and much more enduring socio-political ascendancy of the political right, both nationalist and religious. Both Livni and Netanyahu failed to sufficiently appreciate this reality, and as a result, made strategic campaign mistakes.

... More than 60 percent of the electorate voted for parties on the nationalist, right and religious side of the political spectrum.

...Emerging now is the potential for a one-block dominant variant: a soft right-wing block that spells an end to the Oslo era of grandiose peacemaking with the Palestinians.

(I say "soft right wing" because even parties of the Israeli right wing, with the exception of the tiny National Unity party, today espouse diplomatic positions that characterized the Labor Party before the Oslo peace process.)

...Both leading candidates made strategic mistakes ...he sought to move to the center by attacking and marginalizing the far right-wing within his party. Presumably the move to the center was the lesson he learned from his 1999 election failure against Barak. However, Netanyahu failed to fathom the extent to which the Israeli electorate had moved to the right, due to accumulated waves of Arab violence – the al-Aqsa Intifada, and the Lebanese and Gaza wars. Netanyahu thus deserves a failing grade for strategic acumen; a worrisome failure for Israel's likely prime minister.

Livni scores little better for much the same reason. She should have moved to the center, when in fact she moved to the left. She drew off votes from Labor without increasing the size of the center-left bloc she could lead....

As a member of the former ruling triumvirate and of the once hegemonic Labor Party, Ehud Barak still deserves mention. Barak has outstanding virtues: he was an excellent soldier, IDF chief-of-staff, and Minister of Defense. But he's no politician or statesman. In many ways, Barak should have bolted to the Likud long ago and sought to make Likud more centrist.

... Livni's Kadima became a yuppie, Ashkenazi, secular party; which strategically is the wrong image. Abraham Lincoln long ago said that God loves the common man, since he made so many of them. This is especially true of the Jewish Israeli electorate.

The Israeli common man is today mostly to be found in the Likud, Shas and Israel Beiteinu parties. ...supporters mostly of Sephardic origin ...In short, the two blocs represent two markedly different cultures: a warm, traditional and brotherly culture, which includes the Russian variant – which is the dominant culture in Israel; versus a cold, achievement-oriented, secularized culture. Netanyahu is an oddity within his own block (but so was Menachem Begin).

Livni also made the strategic mistake of writing off the religious public, and by so doing, strengthened the center-right and religious alliance that has dominated Israel for most of the past 25 years. Of course, Livni should not take all of the blame. Ultra Orthodox parties certainly prefer a male prime minister to a female one, the biblical Prophetess Devorah notwithstanding.

...The one-block, right-wing-dominant state could have major bearing on Israel's relations with the United States. Tensions can be expected between an Obama administration that has announced its intention to refocus on Israeli-Palestinian peace, and a Likud-led government.

Such fears are probably exaggerated, because the Obama administration will soon realize that the Hamas-Fatah civil war makes anything other than conflict management unattainable. Therefore, Israel and the US should get along fine, albeit, bumpily. In any case, both will be absorbed by their common major concern – preventing a nuclear Iran. To meet that threat, a one-block dominant right-wing government in Israel is as good as any other.

*Prof. Hillel Frisch is a senior research associate at the Begin-Sadat (BESA) Center for Strategic Studies, and the co-editor of the upcoming book Israel at the Polls.

National Union says may not support Netanyahu

From Ynet News, 12/2/09, by Kobi Nahshoni:

Likud chairman meets with right-wing party's representatives, asks them to recommend to president to let him form new government. 'No one will recommend him so that Livni can sit in his government,' says party leader Yaakov Katz

Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu met Thursday morning with representatives of the National Union and to ask them to recommend that President Shimon Peres task him with forming the new government, but the right-wing party has apparently decided to keep all options open.

"We are not in anyone's pocket and may not recommend anyone to the president," National Union Chairman Yaakov Katz told Ynet before the meeting.

A scheduled meeting between Netanyahu and representatives of the Habayit Hayehudi [Jewish Home] party has been postponed to next week.

..."If we have the slightest doubt that as a result of our recommendation Bibi will be sitting in the next government with (Kadima Chairwoman) Tzipi Livni and negotiating Annapolis, another Arab country between the sea and the Jordan River, giving away parts of the Land of Israel and dealing improperly with the outposts, the chances we'll recommend him are close to nothing.

..."...He can have an excellent government of 65 supporters which will function four full years, but I don’t know if he has the power and courage to do so. ...this may cause him to lose not only our recommendation, but that of Shas, United Torah Judaism and Habayit Hayehudi as well. No one will recommend him to find themselves outside, with Tzipi Livni inside the government." ...

Consensus forming on Likud-led unity gov't

From THE JERUSALEM POST Feb. 12, 2009, by Gil Hoffman:

The Likud and Kadima will be able to form a government together under the leadership of Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu, on the basis of equality between the two parties, senior officials in both parties said Wednesday.

...senior Kadima officials said they were well aware that Peres would ask Netanyahu to form a government because of the Right bloc's 65-55 advantage over the Left, and that if Likud offered Kadima a sweet deal, they should take it.

Netanyahu's associates revealed that he would be willing to give Kadima the same number of ministries as the Likud, including two of the top four cabinet positions. Likud would get the premiership and the Treasury, while Kadima could be given the Foreign and Defense ministries.

"We're ready to be very generous to Kadima in plum portfolios and power, to lock them into our government," a source close to Netanyahu said. "You have to pay a price to get that kind of stability, and I think he would be willing to pay a heavy price."

While some top officials in Kadima expressed interest in such a deal, others said the party should go to the opposition in order to present itself as an alternative to Netanyahu and wait for the public to grow frustrated with the exclusively right-wing coalition that Netanyahu would be forced to form.

Netanyahu told the Likud faction on Wednesday that "if Kadima will rise above political interests and spin, and will concern itself with what is good for the country, they will join our government."

Channel 2's Amnon Abramowitz reported that Peres would actively attempt to persuade whoever he appointed to build a coalition to fulfill the will of the public by forming a national unity government.

...Speculation by political pundits that Peres will lock Livni and Netanyahu in a room until they reach agreement about serving together in a national unity government is somewhat premature, Peres's aides said.

According to Peres's spokeswoman Ayelet Frish, the president has no intention of dealing with any aspect of the new government prior to February 18, when the official election results are to be published....

Greer Fay Cashman contributed to this report.

Livni should consider sitting in the opposition

From Ynet News 12/2/09, by Attila Somfalvi:

Political sources estimate Peres will task Netanyahu with forming next government; Kadima official says Livni 'should not necessarily be dragged into Netanyahu government that also features Shas, Lieberman'

...Political establishment sources estimate that, barring any unforeseen developments, President Shimon Peres will eventually task Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu with establishing the next government.

...Netanyahu met with Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman and Shas leader Eli Yishai, and later told a Likud faction meeting that he would work diligently to guarantee that they would join the coalition as soon as possible.

.. political sources said [Lieberman] has already struck a deal with Netanyahu to ensure that the Likud chairman would be tasked with forming the next government.

Political sources postulated that Netanyahu will go to great lengths to include Kadima in his government, and may guarantee Livni's party as many as eight important ministerial portfolios towards this end.

[A] Kadima official said Chairwoman Livni should "seriously consider the possibility of sitting in the opposition, and not necessarily be dragged into a Netanyahu government that also features Shas, Lieberman, and possibly united Torah Judaism." ...

The Geographic Imperative

From Ynet News, 5/2/09 [before elections], by Martin Sherman:

....keep in mind Israel's tiny dimensions ...

If a Palestinian state is established, it will be armed to the teeth. Within it there will be bases of the most extreme terrorist forces, who will be equipped with anti-tank and anti-aircraft shoulder-launched rockets, which will endanger not only random passers-by, but also every airplane and helicopter taking off in the skies of Israel and every vehicle traveling along the major traffic routes in the coastal plain (Shimon Peres – Tomorrow is Now).

... With very few exceptions, it has become virtually unchallenged accepted wisdom that, eventually, Israel will have to withdraw from large portions - if not all - of the "West Bank". Invariably, it is the Demographic Imperative that is cited as the incontrovertible reason for such withdrawal being not only desirable, but unavoidable. While not wishing in any way to diminish the very real gravity of this problem and the threat it poses for the future of Israel as the nation-state of the Jews, the public should be aware that there is another equally grave - and more immediate – imperative that militates strongly against such withdrawal.

This is the Geographic Imperative. As Hans Morgenthau - arguably the most prominent of the "founding-fathers" of the discipline of international politics as a field of intellectual endeavor given to systematic rational analysis - unequivocally points out, this is a crucial element in the national power of any state and comprises two components: territorial size and topographical structure. These factors determine to a large - albeit not exclusive – degree, the strategic vulnerability of a country i.e. the ease with which vital strategic targets within its borders can be struck.

Given Israel's minuscule territorial dimensions, this is a consideration that assumes acutely critical importance – and is one which needs to be adequately addressed before any responsible Israeli government can contemplate relinquishing control of Judea and Samaria (the “West Bank”) to a Palestinian regime. For from the slopes of limestone hills that rise just beyond 1967 frontier and comprise much of the territory designated for the envisioned Palestinian state, all of the following objectives will be within easy range of weapons being used today against Israel from territories previously relinquished to Palestinian rule (or rather to Palestinian misrule?):
• Major airfields (civilian and military) including the country’s only international airport
• Major sea ports and naval bases
• Vital infrastructure installations (power transmission, water systems, and communication networks)
• Main land transport routes (road and rail)
• Principal power plants
• The national parliament and most government ministries
• Crucial centers of civilian administration and military command
• 80% of the civilian population and of the commercial activity in the country.

...In light of recent hostilities, the risk of these dangers materializing can no longer be dismissed as unsubstantiated speculation or malicious scaremongering ...

Indeed, looking that this graphic evidence, it is not difficult to understand why even Prof. Amnon Rubinstein, who held a number of ministerial portfolios on behalf of the leftist Meretz faction, including the post of minister of education, once felt compelled to warn that a Palestinian state in these areas "is liable to be an arrow-head aimed at the very heart of Israel with the full force of the Arab world behind it." ...

An Escalating Regional Cold War

Very brief excerpts only, from Hudson New York, February 6, 2009, by Yigal Carmon*, President, The Middle East Media Research Institute [follow the link to the full paper, complete with references]:

The recent Gaza war was portrayed by the international media as a local military conflict between Israel and Hamas. However, this war, like the 2006 war in Lebanon and various other military and political events in the last three decades in the Middle East have a common denominator - namely, all stem from the conflict between revolutionary Iran and the Saudi Kingdom and the respective camps of each. This conflict is key to understanding the Middle East in the 21st century.

This Saudi-Iranian conflict ...began with the Islamic Revolution in Iran, led by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. ...The conflict has now escalated into an actual cold war, and is reflected in the emergence of two distinct blocs in the Middle East: the Iranian axis (comprising Iran, Syria, Qatar, Hizbullah and Hamas) and the Saudi-Egyptian camp, with which most of the other Arab countries are identified.

This schism, and cold war, will have a major impact on the local, regional, and international level, severely restricting options for diplomatic activity, to resolve the intra-Palestinian rift, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the problem of a nuclear Iran.

The 2009 Gaza War: Timeline
The Gaza war broke out on December 27, 2008, after Hamas leader Khaled Mash'al refused - reportedly on orders from Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki- to attend talks for a Cairo-brokered intra-Palestinian agreement. Instead, he announced in Damascus that the tahdia (calm) with Israel had ended and would not be renewed, as his men in Gaza fired dozens of rockets into southern Israel.

As soon as the fighting started, Syria and Qatar attempted to convene an emergency Arab League summit in order to help Hamas. This move was blocked by Egypt and Saudi Arabia ...Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said at a closed meeting with E.U. foreign ministers that "Hamas must not be allowed to emerge triumphant from the present confrontation."

Nevertheless, Qatar and Syria persisted in their efforts ...This clash ended with a victory for the Saudi-Egyptian camp, in that the summit, held in Doha, was convened in the absence of a legal quorum. To the dismay of some Arab countries, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was invited to attend the summit as an observer. Also present as an observer was Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who expressed total support for Hamas.

To reinforce its political victory, the Saudi-Egyptian camp enlisted international support by summoning all European leaders to a special weekend meeting at Sharm Al-Sheikh, on Sunday, January 18, 2009. The summit was attended by the main European leaders, which rallied to show its endorsement of the Saudi-Egyptian camp.

...On January 18, Hamas was compelled to accept the ceasefire declared unilaterally by Israel the day before, as well as Egypt's mediation in the intra-Palestinian talks - two demands it had categorically rejected prior to the war.

It can therefore be said that, unlike the 2006 war in Lebanon and the subsequent clash, in 2008, between Hizbullah and the March 14 Forces, which ended in Lebanon's falling under the control of Hizbullah and the Iranian-Syrian axis, the Gaza war yielded an achievement for the opposite side. It ended with Hamas defeated on the ground and with a political victory for the Saudi-Egyptian camp on the regional level.

The Iranian-saudi/shi'ite-sunni Rivalry in the Wake of the 1979 Islamic Revolution
The Iranian-Saudi conflict is rooted in Iran's aspirations to regional hegemony - both geostrategic and religious - which pose a threat to Saudi Arabia. From the onset of the Islamic Revolution era and Ayatollah Khomeini's rule (1979-89), Iran's attitude to Saudi Arabia was marked by ideological and political enmity, stemming from the historic religious, social, and ethnic rift between the Sunni-Wahhabi Arab society and the Shi'ite Persian one. The Sunnis perceive the Shi'ites as a political sect that seceded from Islam, while the Shi'ites regard the Sunnis, and especially the Wahhabis, as a radical apostate political sect that has taken over the Muslim holy places.

This rivalry, which emanates from revolutionary Iran's competition with Saudi Arabia for the leadership of the Muslim world, reached its height in 1984, when thousands of Iranian pilgrims rioted in the streets of Mecca, calling for the overthrow of the Saudi regime. The Saudis forcibly quelled the riots, closing Mecca to Iranian pilgrims for several years. The Iranian threat also prompted the Saudis to support Iraqi president Saddam Hussein in the Iran-Iraq war.

The wave of solidarity with Iran's Islamic Revolution in the Sunni world prompted Saudi Arabia to exert great efforts in strengthening Sunni Islam in general and Wahhabi Islam in particular. To this end, Saudi Arabia acted mainly on two levels: giving massive support to the jihad in Afghanistan throughout the 1980s until the Soviets were defeated, and investing billions of dollars, over two decades and more, in establishing and maintaining schools, mosques, and other educational and religious institutions in Sunni communities worldwide. These efforts reversed much of the popularity of the Iranian revolution.

Saudi-Iranian enmity declined during the term of Iranian president Hashemi Rafsanjani, and declined even more during the presidency of his successor, Mohammad Khatami. During Khatami's presidency, Iran strove to rejoin the international community by relaxing its efforts to export the revolution and by seeking to reconcile with its neighbors in the Gulf.

The Escalation of the Conflict During ahmadinejad's Presidency
With Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's rise to power in 2005, the conflict reemerged, with greater intensity. Ahmadinejad reverted to Iran's previous policy of anti-Saudi hegemony, by pushing the export of the revolution, and promoting a messianic Shi'ite vision ...

...Ahmadinejad's declarations about restoring the glory of the Shi'ite Persian Empire in the region, and the revival of the revolutionary rhetoric by other Iranian leaders - all backed by the regime's leading ayatollahs - were perceived by the Arab countries, and especially by Saudi Arabia, as a reemergence of the Iranian threat.

The religious-ideological threat was compounded by Iran's attempt to position itself as a regional military superpower, and by its determination to develop nuclear capabilities in addition to its long-range missile capabilities. Iran's insistence on developing nuclear technology despite international opposition was perceived by the Sunni Muslim world as a threat to it.

Iran Extends Its Influence Into the arab World
Another factor contributing to the conflict was Iran's effort to increase its influence throughout the Arab world. ...Saudi Arabia responded by increasing its support for the Sunni minority in Iraq, for various Muslim and Christian forces in Lebanon, and for others who were confronting Iranian threats in their territory (e.g. in Yemen, Sudan, and Palestine).

The military and political achievements of Hizbullah, Iran's proxy in Lebanon, during the 2006 war and in the 2008 Doha agreement (which de facto gave Lebanon to Hizbullah's control) were likewise perceived as part of Iran's bid for regional hegemony ...

... Saudi columnist Muhammad bin Ali Al-Mahmoud described Iran's policy under Ahmadinejad, stating : "... the emergence of a Nazi-like atmosphere ... ...octopus-like expansion ...Iran wants to control the region, not by spreading its ideology... but by maintaining armed organizations [in Arab countries]... it violates their loyalty to their homelands, replacing it with loyalty to Iran. This, especially since Iran is a country that does not spread tolerance or a culture of moderation, but... a culture of one-sided hegemony, as part of a racist effort to impose a kind of occupation..."

...Saudi columnist 'Ali Sa'd Al-Moussa wrote that the Arab countries were being subjected to "Persian colonialism," as evidenced by the Iranian "cantons and districts on the map of the Arab world..." He added: "Iran has become a major and central player in Arab politics... Today we are seeing new signs of Persian colonialism..."

The Emergence of the Iran-syria-Qatar-Hiz-bullah axis
As part of Iran's bid for regional hegemony, a political and military axis has formed, comprising not only Iran and the Shi’a in Iraq, Lebanon, and Yemen, but also various Sunni forces that have an interest in opposing Saudi Arabia and Egypt. It was during the 2006 Lebanon war that a distinct Iran-Syria-Qatar-Hizbullah axis first emerged to oppose the Saudi-Egyptian camp. At a later stage, this axis expanded to include Hamas, which has in recent years received increasing support from Iran, as well as from the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. Lately, Syria and Iran have been striving to add Turkey to their ranks, and have met with some cooperation on the part of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Saudi Arabia, for its part, has been trying to pry some of Iran's Sunni allies away from it.

...Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad a September 2008 interview with Iran's Al-Alam TV: "The strategic ties [between Syria and Iran] have proved to be of importance for the region in recent decades, but their real results have emerged [only] in the last 10 years. These include the victory of the resistance in Lebanon, and the unswerving fortitude of the resistance in Palestine since the Intifada, which began in 2000… We see before us a black slate dotted with bright spots that were once tiny but are now steadily increasing in size. This underscores the importance of [Syrian-Iranian] cooperation and the correctness of the political policy of Syria and Iran. Many countries that once objected to this policy are now beginning to realize its correctness, and to pursue a similar policy themselves…"

The 2009 Gaza War Deepens the schism between the Two Camps
Just prior to its outbreak, the two camps engaged in reciprocal verbal attacks. Syria and Iran accused Saudi Arabia and Egypt of pursuing a pro-Israeli and pro-American policy and of sabotaging the efforts of the resistance movements...

...After the war, the Iranian leaders boasted of the support they had given to Hamas ...

...The pro-Saudi camp, for its part, accused Hamas of serving Iranian and Syrian interests rather than those of the Palestinians. ...Senior Palestinian Authority officials likewise pointed to Iranian involvement in Gaza...

After The War - The schism between the Two Camps is an acknowledged fact
The Western media has largely ignored the new reality in the Middle East - namely, the schism and the escalating cold war between the two camps - as well as the far-reaching political implications. However, in the Arab world, this reality has become a publicly acknowledged fact, and is being intensely discussed.

Nasrallah's deputy Sheikh Na'im Qassem explained that Hizbullah was proud to belong to the Iranian axis, which was hostile to the U.S. and its Arab supporters.…

...Dr. Majed Abu Madhi, columnist for the Syrian government daily Al-Ba'ath and lecturer at the University of Damascus, argued that the war in Gaza had exposed not only the rift in the Arab world between the regimes that support the resistance and those that oppose it, but also the conflict between the rulers who object to the resistance, and their peoples who support it. He wrote: "It has become patently clear which countries support the resistance. It has also become patently clear which [Arab] regimes are the ones that the U.S. calls 'moderate' -[those that] oppose the resistance and even conspire against it. ..."

The saudi Camp: Iran Is Responsible for the Rift in the arab World
The pro-Saudi camp accused Iran of causing the rift in the Arab world. Saudi Foreign Minister Saud Al-Faisal said that the current disagreement among the Arabs was the result of "intervention by non-Arab forces" in Arab affairs - referring to Iran. During the Kuwait economic summit, Egyptian President Mubarak likewise hinted at Iranian interference, when he accused "internal and external" forces of dividing and weakening the Arab world.

Editorials in newspapers associated with the Saudi-Egyptian camp stated that Iran was sowing division in the Arab world as part of its plan to achieve regional hegemony, and accused Arab forces such as Syria and Qatar of cooperating with this plan. ...

"The Trojan Horse" - Qatar's Role in Con­solidating the Iranian axis
It should be noted that Qatar has played a crucial role in exacerbating the rift in the Arab world by initiating the January 16, 2009 Doha summit, to the dismay of Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Qatar's inviting of Iranian President Ahmadinejad to the summit against the will of several Arab countries (such as the UAE, which responded by canceled its participation) clearly identified the summit as a convention of the Iranian-Syrian axis. The summit's pro-Iranian and anti-Saudi orientation was underscored by the fact that it called on Egypt to revoke its peace agreement with Israel, and on Saudi Arabia to withdraw its initiative for peace with it.

After the war ended, Hamas leader Khaled Mash'al thanked Qatar for its support for his movement during the fighting...

Two Camps, Two Contrasting approaches to the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict
Iran's and Syria's support of the resistance, as well as Egypt's and Saudi Arabia's support of a peace agreement with Israel, can both be understood in light of the Iranian - Saudi schism.

The Saudi camp's opposition to Hizbullah during the 2006 war, and its opposition to Hamas during the Gaza war, were both part of its conflict with Iran. Likewise, the Saudi camp's determination to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is meant to strengthen its position vis-à-vis Iran and its allies. Egypt is demanding to sponsor the intra-Palestinian dialogue and the current arrangements between Gaza and Israel, in order to prevent Iran from taking over Gaza via Hamas. Saudi Arabia, for its part, is striving to promote its peace initiative with Israel as a strategic option that will consolidate its position vis-à-vis the Iranian axis - at the same time as this axis attempts to undermine the Saudi position through its support for the resistance against Israel.

...The Iranian axis contends that the correct course of action vis-à-vis Israel is resistance. Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad declared the Arab Peace Initiative "dead," and coined a new phrase by defining the resistance as "a way to achieve peace," explaining that "peace without resistance is surrender."...

...The Saudi-Egyptian camp, on the other hand, opposed the resistance strategy, and rejected calls to sever ties with Israel or withdraw the Arab Peace Initiative. The Saudi foreign minister said, "The Arab Initiative is still relevant," adding that it "places Israel under considerable pressure."

Some even called to return to the original version of the Saudi Peace Initiative, before amendments were introduced in 2002 in response to demands by Syria, such as a clause acknowledging the Palestinian right of return....

*Y. Carmon is the President of MEMRI; Y. Yehoshua is Director of Research at MEMRI; A. Savyon is director of MEMRI's Iranian Media Project; and H. Migron is a Research Fellow at MEMRI

2009 Election results

From JPost 11/2/09 [based on 99% of actual votes - IDF and absentee votes, still to be counted]:

Bibi or Tzipi?

Martin Sherman’s* lowdown of the Israeli general elections, from The Acorn (India) 11/2/09:

...Bibi (Mr Netanyahu) is by far the most talented politician presently in the system. He was a brilliant foreign minister and a very competent finance minister (although too much Friedman and too little Keynes in his mix for my personal taste) and as a prime minister was far better than was given credit for.

He is however an anathema to the media who will maul him whatever he does—or doesn’t do. This will make it very difficult for him to operate as he is will be under tremendous pressure—particularly internationally. Thus I am very concerned over his resolve. In the past he has not been the free of blunders and has often snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

Ms Livni is all spin and no substance and a stunning example of the success of failure in Israeli politics. Her success is inexplicable in terms of any rational calculus. On a party level, the platform she was elected on in 2006 proved to be a delusional disaster.

Her party was wracked by corruption scandals and led the country to two non-victories in poorly managed wars which it itself initiated. In the personal level she has shown herself to be devoid of any qualities that could conceivably justify her as a choice of leader.

By abandoning her 2003 electoral pledges not to support unilateral withdrawal she proved that she has no intellectual integrity or commitment to principles. This might have been excused in the utilitarian world of politics if the policy she abandoned her principles for proved to be a stunning success. However it was a crushing failure, proving that she also has no political wisdom or judgement.

Again this might have been excused in the utilitarian world of politics if she proved to be a astounding success in the sphere of practical policy implementation—but the present unprecedented assault on Israel can only be described as a diplomatic debacle, which, as foreign minister for the last three years Livni must take responsibility for. Her main asset was the aversion people have to Bibi, especially among the supposedly “intellectual” elites here—for whom he is a red flag...

*Dr. Martin Sherman acted as a ministerial advisor in the 1991-2 Shamir government. He also served for seven years in various defense related capacities and now teaches political science at Tel Aviv University. His works have been published in academic journals such as Journal of Strategic Studies, Journal of Theoretical Politics, International Journal of Intelligence and Counter Intelligence and Nations and Nationalism. He is the author of two books on international conflicts (Macmillan UK). Dr. Sherman is also a member of the advisory board of the Nativ journal in which he has published frequently.

Which coalition?

From a JPost online poll, 11/2/09:

Which [central] political players would you rather see forming a coalition?

  • Likud, Shas and Israel Beiteinu 40%
  • Kadima, Likud and Labor 16%
  • Kadima, Labor, Meretz and Arab parties 15%
  • Kadima, Likud and Israel Beiteinu 12%
  • Likud, Kadima, Shas and Israel Beiteinu 10%
  • Likud, Labor, Shas 4%
  • Other 3%
  • TOTAL VOTES: 6322

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

UNRWA and its terrorist clients

Videos from Road90:

  • UNRWA: Lords of Misery [click here] - 6:33 minutes

  • Palestinian children trained to kill [click here] - 6:32 minutes

  • Silent Exodus of Jewish Refugees [click here] - 6:40 minutes

  • Hamas Execution of Fatah Members in Gaza (Banned on YouTube) [click here] - very brief

  • GAZA - JENIN: same lies? [click here]

Livni may not be able to form gov't

From JPost, Feb 10, 2009 by JPOST.COM STAFF:

...due to the dramatic rise in support of the Likud and Israel Beiteinu compared with the previous election, it seemed that Likud Chairman Binyamin Netanyahu would have a better chance than Kadima head Tzipi Livni of forming the next coalition.

  • According to Channel 1, the right-wing bloc won 63 Knesset seats and the left wing 57;
  • Channel 2 predicted 64 for the right and 56 for the left; and
  • Channel 10, like Channel 1, predicted 63 and 57.

...Once the final results of the election are known, President Shimon Peres will begin a round of consultations with party leaders, to hear who they are recommending for prime minister. In the past, the task of forming a coalition has been given to the head of the largest party.

But election legislation gives Peres wide leeway, and he can grant the first opportunity to the party leader who he judges has the best chance in forming a government, even if that party did not earn the most mandates in the election.

The three exit polls, on average, found Shas to be the fifth largest party with 9-10 seats (12 in current Knesset), followed by United Torah Judaism with 5 (6), Meretz 4-5 (5), Chadash 4 (3), Jewish Home 3-4 (5), National Union 3 (2), Balad 2-3 (3) and UAL with 2-4 mandates (4 in current Knesset).

Following the closing of polling stations around the country, the final voter turnout stood at 65.2 percent of the eligible 5.2 million voters, the Central Elections Committee (CEC) said on Tuesday night.

The turnout was slightly higher than the previous election in 2006, but lower than the voter turnout in the 2003 election.

2006 saw the lowest turnout rate in Israeli history, with only 63.55% of voters casting their ballots by the day's end. The previous record had been set in the 2003 elections, with a 67.8 percent voter turnout

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Ynet poll: Kadima first past the post; Labor crashes

From Ynet News, 10/2/09:

...according to Rafi Smith poll commissioned by Ynet; Kadima wins 28 Knesset seats, Likud comes in second with 26, Lieberman third with 16, Labor crashes to 14

...However, it appears that the rightist bloc won more Knesset seats than the leftist camp ... Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu delivered at crunch time to become Israel's third-largest party, while Ehud Barak's Labor party sustained a harsh blow. Exit polls by Israel's major television channels showed similar results

...Below are the complete results of the Smith-Ynet poll:
  • Kadima 28
  • Likud 26
  • Yisrael Beiteinu 16
  • Labor 14
  • Shas 10
  • United Torah Judaism 6
  • Hadash 5
  • Jewish Home 4
  • United Arab List – Ta'al 4
  • Meretz 4
  • National Union 3

According to Channel 1, Kadima won 30 Knesset seats, Likud won 28 mandates, Yisrael Beiteinu won 14 seats, and Labor ended up with 13 mandates.

Channel 2's exit poll predicted that Kadima won 29 Knesset seats, Likud came in second with 27 mandates, Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu won 15 seats, and Labor won 13 mandates.

According to Channel 10, Kadima won 30 Knesset seats, Likud won 28 mandates, Yisrael Beiteinu won 15 seats, and Labor won mandates.

'Celebration of democracy'
The turnout rate, which reached nearly 60% by 8 pm, exceeded that of the 2006 elections, dispelled fears that the inclement weather would keep potential voters indoors. The final turnout rate was 65.2%, compared to 63.2 in 2006....

Monday, February 09, 2009

Not so different (?)

From an emailed paper, 9/1/09, by Barry Rubin, director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal:

...Compared to the past, there’s far less difference between the three main parties. This is largely due to the objective situation, which is rather inflexible.

...The dominant theme in international media coverage is to say Israelis are moving toward the right. ... the real Israeli move has been toward the center, which is represented not only by Kadima and Likud but also by Labor. The great majority of Israelis are about to vote for parties close to centrist positions [more] than at any time in history...

...What have Israelis learned over the last decade that shapes their thinking?
  • ...Palestinians and Syrians are unwilling and unable to make peace.
  • ...Fatah is still full of extremism and its leadership is too weak and too hardline itself to make a comprehensive peace agreement.
  • We viewed the rise of Hamas as a group dedicated to permanent war with Israel and its seizure of one-half of the Palestinian-ruled territories, using land from which Israel withdrew as a base for attacks.
  • We experienced the continuing hatred of the Arab world and Muslim world toward Israel, largely undiminished by Israeli concessions.
  • We observed Iran’s rise as a power, potentially nuclear armed, whose regime explicitly seeks Israel’s extinction.
  • We noted the world didn’t reward Israel for making concessions and taking risks. Indeed, the more Israel gave, the higher the degree of slander and hostility rose in many sectors.

As a result of this, there has arisen in Israel a national consensus around the following points:

  • Israel wants peace and will make real concessions for true lasting, stable peace and a two-state solution
  • Few think the Palestinian leadership—PA, Fatah—is willing or able to make such an agreement for decades. The same applies to Syria.
  • As a result, any real changes on Jerusalem, the Golan Heights or West Bank settlements are far off.
  • No deal can be made with Hamas. But Hamas isn’t going to disappear either. The same applies to Hizballah.
  • The key point is to defend Israel and its citizens so they pursue their normal lives.
  • Iran is a real danger and when it appears about to get nuclear weapons, a big decision will have to be made on attacking these facilities.

As a result of this national consensus—accepted by Labor, Likud, and Kadima, along with many others—the next government can be a national unity government. Whoever becomes prime minister would do well to bring in one or both of the other two main parties. What is Israel’s consensus policy for the next government?

  • To stress that we want peace, are ready for a Palestinian state, aren’t responsible for the conflict and violence continuing. T
  • o maintain deterrence and defend ourselves.
  • To preserve the best possible relations with the United States, Europe, and other countries as long as it does not involve risks to Israeli national interests and citizens.
  • Security cooperation with the PA to prevent terrorist attacks on Israel in exchange for helping them economically and against Hamas to ensure that it doesn’t take over the West Bank. Without illusions regarding Fatah and the PA, this effort seems to be working.
  • To decide when to strike back at Hamas—and potentially Hizballah—based on any attacks on us. Precise response depends on timing, opportunity, and their behavior.
  • To work for the isolation of Iran, Hizballah and Hamas.

Where are the main differences among the leading parties? They are more atmospherics than real: offering small concessions; making small demands. If much of the election revolves around personalities that is because strategy and policy are not hugely different among them. Bibi isn’t going to embark on a settlement-building campaign; Tzipi isn’t going to give away east Jerusalem.

And that’s a good thing for whatever faults they have, this trio is basically making appropriate responses to the situation.

What do you think? Please use the comments facility to share your thoughts...

Quote for this year ...

"No people in history have ever survived who thought they could protect their freedom by making themselves inoffensive to their enemies."

...Dean Gooderham Acheson (April 11, 1893 – October 12, 1971), American statesman and lawyer; as United States Secretary of State in the administration of President Harry S. Truman during 1949–1953, he played a central role in defining American foreign policy during the Cold War.

Actions and reactions

From an Analysis in THE JERUSALEM POST, Feb. 8, 2009, by Herb Keinon:

On innumerable occasions over the last 15 years, since the signing of the Oslo accords, Israel has been warned by both the well-meaning and the patronizing that it had better watch its steps, lest it radicalize the Palestinians.

Don't expand settlements....

Don't respond harshly to the petrol-bomb throwing, drive-by shootings and suicide bombings of the second intifada....

Don't react to the unrelenting Kassam fire that followed the 2005 disengagement....

Don't bury hope under retaliatory actions.

Don't create more despair by trying to protect yourself.

Build confidence, don't push the Palestinians to the wall

...don't create another generation that will only want to die to destroy Israel.

What we didn't hear much of during this period, however, were entreaties to the Palestinians not to take actions that would radicalize Israeli society, that would rob it of hope, that would push it to despair of ever reaching a peace agreement in the region.

One didn't hear Western leaders and learned columnists warning the Palestinians that their unrelenting terror would ...push Israel to the wall, that it would ram to the right a generation of Israelis who grew up under the cloud of suicide bombers and Kassam rockets.

On Tuesday, the chickens will most likely come home to roost. To rework a phrase from US President Barack Obama's inaugural address, after having its outstretched hand met continuously over the last 15 years by a clenched fist, the Israeli public - if the polls are to be believed - is now clenching its own fist in return.

Palestinian actions over the last 15 years have transformed Israeli society, and the country has gone from believing in the 1990s that it had reached safe shores and had been accepted in the region, to believing in 2009 that no matter what it does - be it negotiating a peace deal based on ceding some 95 percent of the territories, or unilaterally evacuating settlements - it will not be accepted in the region.

...So as a result, we are facing a situation where ...the right-wing bloc will most likely be strengthened considerably, as the Left is simply melting away.

The major polls published Friday ...showed that while Likud and Kadima are in a very tight race, the Right bloc is leading the Left bloc by a significant margin of about 65 Knesset mandates to 55. But that is a bit misleading. If you subtract the 10 Arab party mandates, then the Right-Left gap among the Jewish population is even greater - 65-45. And that is definitely not an even split.
...Nothing epitomizes this right-wing shift better than the rise of Avigdor Lieberman. Ten years ago, his ideas about redrawing Israel's map to exclude the Israeli Arabs and to draw inside the settlements were considered beyond the pale, nearly unthinkable. Now so many people are now thinking the unthinkable that Lieberman's Israel Beiteinu party is poised to possibly become the third-largest party in the country.

And it is not only the Palestinians who bear a great deal of responsibility for this fundamental shift in the country's mood; so do the politicians of the Israeli Arab parties.

For the last 15 years, the ticket for political success on the Israeli Arab street seemed to be strident rhetoric against the state. The more angry and bitter the rhetoric, the better the Arab parties - competing among themselves - seemed to do at the polls among the Arab voters.

The problem is that it was not only the voters in Umm el-Fahm, Kafr Kana and Rahat who were listing to the diatribes of Balad's Azmi Bishara and UAL-Ta'al's Taleb a-Sanaa and Ahmed Tibi; so were the residents of Tel Aviv, Modi'in and Jerusalem. So when Lieberman runs on a ticket demanding loyalty to the state, his words are falling on ears extremely weary of Bishara, Sanaa and Tibi's tirades.

Nearly every action has a reaction. Everyone has been so concerned over the years about what reaction Israel's actions would generate among the Palestinians, that they overlooked the degree to which Palestinian and Israeli Arab actions have caused a reaction among the Israeli public. But if the polls of the last few days prove even a somewhat accurate predictor, that right-wing reaction will become clear for all to see when the country wakes up Wednesday morning.

Shouts for coexistence at Lieberman speech

Amazing!!! Even before the election Lieberman is is having a positive effect...see this from Ynet News, 3/2/09, by Yael Branovsky [my own emphasis added - SL]:

Arab Israelis protest outside Haifa conference hosting Yisrael Beiteinu leader, some shouting slogans in Russian..."... we will live here together ...Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies."

The atmosphere became heated when a group of Lieberman supporters arrived on the scene, singing "no citizenship without loyalty." Police separated the more belligerent individuals on each side.

Jafar Farah, director of the Mossawa Center - the Advocacy Center for Arab Citizens in Israel – was arrested during the rally for suspicion of assaulting police officers. He was later released to house arrest by the Haifa Magistrates' Court.

...Lieberman said that the Likud party intended to support his party's platform and implement a loyalty test to citizens. ...