Saturday, August 14, 2010

Failure of US policy in Lebanon


The sniper fire directed at IDF soldiers by the Lebanese Armed Forces on Tuesday, which killed Lt.- Col. Dov Harari and seriously wounded Capt. Ezra Lakia, has spurred a flurry of speculation about the precise causes of the incident.

UNIFIL made it clear that Lebanese forces were to blame for the attack....
...In the four years since the Second Lebanon War, much has happened to undermine the uneasy quiet that prevailed until this week between Israel and Lebanon. But none of it has to do with Israeli actions. Most of the reason for the exacerbated tension lies in the inspiring, funding, training and arming of Hizbullah by Iran and Syria.

And some of it has to do with the US’s and Europe’s ineffective Middle East policy.

Unimpeded by America or Europe and with massive Iranian backing, Hizbullah has consolidated its military and political hegemony in Lebanon. Syria, meanwhile, has fully reinstated its military and political presence after being temporarily expelled from Lebanon by the March 14 Alliance.

Formed by Saad Hariri, Druse leader Walid Jumblatt and others after the February 14, 2005, assassination of Saad Hariri’s father, the Alliance had hoped to transform Lebanon into the Arab world’s first truly free democratic state. But the Second Lebanon War, sparked by Hizbullah aggression, diverted attention and energy from the movement’s push for an independent Lebanon, and in 2008 it effectively capitulated to Hizbullah and Syria.

Ostensibly, it was Saudi Arabia, the patron of present Prime Minister Saad Hariri, that pushed for reconciliation with Syria and Hizbullah. But in reality, this macabrely sycophantic act, in which Hariri the son courted his father’s murderers, is the direct result of the US’s weakening position in the region.

The Saudis, Hariri, and the courageous Jumblatt, whose war-hardened Druse community fought the Party of God to a standstill in May 2008, have come to the realization that with the US and Europe out of the picture in Lebanon, it would be suicidal to stand up to the Iran-Syria-Hizbullah axis, which is increasingly being joined by Turkey. In light of US passivity, meanwhile, the Saudis hope to maintain a semblance of influence in Lebanon by improving relations with Syria. Just this week, Saudi King Abdullah met with President Bashar Assad of Syria in Beirut.

The US refrained from providing the March 14 Alliance with crucial support when it needed it most, missing an historic chance to encourage the creation of new, democratic momentum. The Obama administration’s attempt to “engage” Damascus, instead of sanctioning it for tightening its ties with Teheran and turning Lebanon into a satellite state, has failed miserably. Nor have the US or Europe taken steps against Hizbullah, a key member of the Lebanese government, for bullying the UN peacekeeping forces in Lebanon that are responsible for the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701.

AGAINST THE backdrop of this dismal US track record in Lebanon, it was not surprising that, in response to Tuesday’s deadly incident at the border, Washington declined to take a firm stand against Lebanese forces.

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said, “We deeply regret the loss of life; we urge both sides to exercise maximum restraint to avoid an escalation and maintain the cease-fire that is now in place.” Even UNIFIL was more robust than that, conveying the message that if the Lebanese Armed Forces fired into Israel again – the IDF was targeted beyond the border fence but inside Israeli territory – the IDF would blow up its border positions, and flatly rejecting Lebanon’s suggestion that the peacekeepers should be doing the IDF’s gardening work at the border.

The truth is that it is the US, not “both sides,” that can do the most to avoid further escalation in Lebanon.

Washington should take steps to strengthen moderate Lebanese forces while imposing sanctions against the extremists. Otherwise, Israel will be forced, against its will, to fill the vacuum where a robust and savvy American Middle East policy ought to be.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Turkey defies US sanctions on sending fuel to Iran


...Ankara will continue to permit Turkish companies to sell gasoline to Iran, despite US sanctions against fuel exports to Islamic regime, Reuters reported on Wednesday.

...Tupras, Turkey's sole oil refiner and gasoline exporter, expressed little fear of retribution from US Treasury officials who have the power to ban sanctions violators from accessing the US banking system or receiving US contracts. "For us, Iran is more important than America because we get crude oil from them. We don't get anything from America," a Tupras official was quoted as saying.

Turkey importance as a gasoline supplier to Iran has increased over the past month as US sanctions have deterred other foreign suppliers.

Iran’s gasoline imports fell 50 percent last month as sanctions spurred traders to halt supplies, according to Energy Market Consultants Ltd.

Iran received about 60,000 barrels a day in July, compared with 120,000 in May, according to Vijay Mukherji, a London-based research associate at EMC. The consultant revised its earlier estimate of 65,000 to 70,000 barrels a day.

“International trading companies have pulled back,” Mukherji said. “The US, Europe and the UN are aiming to cut Iran off. They just don’t want them to get any oil-product supplies.”

US President Barack Obama signed legislation on July 1 that punishes foreign suppliers of Iran’s gasoline and blocks access to the American financial system for banks that do business with the country. Gasoline sanctions weren’t mandated by the UN or imposed by the European Union.

Shipments of the fuel are now dominated by Turkish and Chinese companies, Mukherji said.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Doctors Without Scruples

From Blogs, Sunday Aug 01, 2010, by Alan M. Dershowitz:

...Doctors Without Borders suddenly erects borders when it comes to Israeli doctors who flew to the Congo to treat 50 local villagers who had been severely burned. The Israeli volunteers worked around the clock, treated the burn victims and trained local doctors to perform skin grafts, and donated tons of medical equipment.

But the bigoted Doctors Without Borders refused to work with them and treated them "as though we were occupiers."

This should not surprise people who have been following Doctors Without Borders over the years. Dr. Marie Pierre Allie, President of the french branch of the organization, said that Israel's self defense actions in Gaza were actually worse than the Darfur genocide in the Sudan. Only a blind moonbat could even make such a comparison!

As one critic put it well, these are doctors with borders but without scruples...

Palestinians fight to preserve the “Occupation” until Israel is destroyed

From JCPA Global Law Forum, 22 July 2010, by Jonathan Dahoah Halevi*:

... The dual-headed Palestinian regime in Ramallah (Fatah) and in the Gaza Strip (Hamas) totally rejects [a]proposal to recruit the European Union to build power stations to supply electricity, desalination stations and a sewage treatment plant...

The arguments against exercising Palestinian independence resemble each other. Nabil Abu Rudeineh, spokesperson for the Palestinian presidency at Ramallah, views [the] plan as a plot "against the Palestinian people's aspirations for unity, liberty and independence" ... Ahmad Assaf, spokesperson for the Fatah organization that props up the Palestinian Authority, argued that the Gaza Strip is still under "Israeli occupation" and so it will remain, because the Strip constitutes a single geographic unit with the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Sami Abu Zuheiri , a Hamas spokesperson, explained that "although Gaza was liberated in practice from the military and settlement presence, it is still from a legal and practical standpoint under occupation" and the ...initiative is "an attempt to elude the responsibility imposed on the occupation." Abu Zuheiri argued that Israel, "the occupying country," must continue to provide for the Gaza Strip's needs including food, electricity, and fuel.

The Hamas position exemplifies one of the major absurdities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Hamas, which took pride in liberating the Gaza Strip from the Israeli occupation via Jihad, is struggling with all its might to preserve the "Israeli occupation" of the Gaza Strip and obligate Israel to continue transferring supplies to an entity that avowedly declares that it will liberate all of Palestine, liquidate the State of Israel, and kill and expel its Jewish inhabitants.

Hamas receives support for its position from international human rights organizations (Amnesty, Human Rights Watch), Palestinians and Israelis. These, similar to Hamas, vigorously argue that Israel is still "an occupying force" and therefore it must concern itself with "the security and welfare of the Gaza residents." Unfortunately, the position of the human rights organizations on which Hamas relies raises substantial questions. If Israel is still an "occupying force” in the Gaza Strip, as they contend, why do these organizations not demand that Israel exercise its obligation to assure the security of the Gaza residents and operate against the Hamas regime, that is gradually applying Islamic law in the Gaza Strip while flagrantly trampling human rights, suppressing the opposition with an iron hand and by executions?

Furthermore, not a single one of the human rights organizations suggests the necessary conditions for the conclusion of the "occupation," but all are demanding that it should be extended by a full opening of the border. This position constitutes a paradox because if Israel was to lift the siege pursuant to the human rights organizations' demands (including the naval siege and control of airspace), then the occupation is presumed to have concluded, and therefore Israel will no longer be under the obligation to concern itself with the Gaza population. Even currently there is no real effective Israeli "siege" and the Gaza Strip is not a "prison," as the data of the Hamas government on the transit of goods (imports of $1 billion per year) and people (scores of thousands, including personnel of the Hamas military wing) via the border with Egypt will attest.

Egypt as well is interested in the continuation of the occupation and it once again warns Israel that it should not dare rid itself of it. The official explanation explicitly clarifies the official Egyptian policy: "...One must not agree to this, because this will provide Israel with an excellent escape outlet from the strait of the occupation and transfer its repercussions to Egypt, and this could result in the liquidation of the Palestinian problem."

Given this background, the question of why everybody is so enamored of the Israeli “occupation" is accentuated. Why are the Palestinians still adamant in their opposition to receiving total independence, at least at the first stage, on part of Palestinian territory? A possible key to the answer to the question was provided by Prof. Anat Biletzki, formerly the chairperson of the B’tselem organization, who warned in a lecture at MIT in 2007 of the danger that the Palestinian leadership, due to its fatigue, might agree to the establishment of a Palestinian state on part of Palestinian soil and two-state solution. Biletzki argued that only the solution of a single state in the entire territory of Palestine can provide a just and realistic solution, and she then proceeded to sharply criticize the preparedness of Prof. Sari Nusseibeh to forgo the refugees' right of return.

This is primarily the guiding logic behind the position of the Palestinian leadership that has not renounced the idea of liberating Palestine in its entirety. Five years have elapsed since the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and the Hamas government continues to preserve the refugee camps despite their crowded conditions and immense deprivation, and continues to demand international assistance to help them via UNRWA. Housing refugees in the areas of the settlements that were vacated in Gaza (or by the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank) will not impair the right of the refugees to raise their right of return during negotiations, just as the rights of Palestinians defined as refugees living in cities and abroad is not impaired. However the objective of both the Palestinian Authority and the Hamas government is identical, namely, keeping the lava of the refugee problem at full boil, as this constitutes the key to the ultimate objective of the historic Palestinian odyssey – the liquidation of the State of Israel as a Jewish state. This is the real reason behind the Palestinian love affair with the "Israeli occupation." Hamas wants to eat out of Israel's hand and then proceed to eat the hand itself and the entire body. Israel's opposition to placing the noose over its neck with its own hands is depicted by Hamas as a violation of international law.

*Lt. Col. (ret.) Jonathan D. Halevi is a senior researcher of the Middle East and radical Islam at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. He is a co-founder of the Orient Research Group Ltd. and is a former advisor to the Policy Planning Division of the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Israel threatens boycott of UN investigation

From WJC, 10 August 2010:

Israel has threatened to pull out of a UN inquiry into the IDF raid on the Gaza-bound ‘Freedom Flotilla’ after the UN secretary-general said there was no agreement that the panel would refrain from calling Israeli soldiers to testify. Last week, Jerusalem agreed to participate in the UN probe. Officials said Israel's agreement was conditional on the panel relying on reports from Israel's own military inquiry, not direct testimony from IDF soldiers.

However, at a press conference at UN headquarters on Monday, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was asked whether he agreed not to call Israeli soldiers before the panel. "No, there was no such agreement behind the scenes," he replied.

In response, the Netanyahu’s office issued a harsh statement. "Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu makes it absolutely clear that Israel will not cooperate with, and will not take part in, any panel that seeks to interrogate Israeli soldiers.”

The government had appointed the retired senior diplomat Joseph Ciechanover to join the UN panel and was preparing for the start of its deliberations on Tuesday when Ban made his remark, throwing plans into turmoil...

New war crimes charges in Germany against a former Nazi death camp guard

From WJC, 10 August 2010:

A 93-year-old man living in southern Germany could be charged with participating in the murder of Jewish prisoners in the Nazi slave labor camp Treblinka I during World War II. According to the news magazine ‘Der Spiegel’, prosecutors in Munich are to decide soon whether to bring charges against a man identified as Alex N. for his alleged activities as an SS guard of the camp. Born in Ukraine and having lived in the Bavarian city of Landshut since the end of the war, N. was granted German citizenship in 1991.

Investigators at the Central Office for the Investigation of Nazi Crimes in Ludwigsburg provided information leading to the current investigation. The slave labor camp was located near the death camp Treblinka II, in Nazi-occupied Poland.

Alex N., who reportedly trained at the same Nazi SS facility as Ivan (John) Demjanjuk, offered testimony at the Demjanjuk trial in Munich last February. Demjanjuk is charged with helping to murder 27,900 Jews at the Sobibor death camp. Alex N. reportedly has bragged over the years about having shot Jews.

A few weeks ago, Germany filed charges against another witness in the Demjanjuk trial, Samuel Kunz, 90. He was charged with helping to murder 430,000 Jews in the Belzec death camp in occupied Poland. [My grandmother Chaie Lieblich, and uncle Moniek Lieblich, and possibly my grandfather Zvy Lieblich, were murdered at Belzec- SL] Two men under investigation died recently, never having stood trial: former SS officer Erich Steidtmann, 95, of Hanover, and Adolf Storms, 90.

A third case reportedly is now under investigation in Bavaria. Klaas Carel F., 88, was convicted in the Netherlands of murdering 22 civilians. He fled from a Dutch prison in 1952, and has been living in the Bavarian city of Ingolstadt. Prosecutors are looking into whether they can sentence him based on the Dutch conviction.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A war fought on false assumptions cannot be won

From an open letter 25 July 2007 by General Ya'alon to former British PM Blair:

I appreciate your willingness to join the attempt to solve the 100-year-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict. ...I fear that you ... are brooking failure, unless you abandon a number of misconceptions that, though widely held, are erroneous and not helpful in bringing a solution to this conflict.

You have repeatedly said that solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a prerequisite for Middle East stability. ...but it is entirely false. The Middle East is riven by multiple clashes that have nothing to do with Israel (even though some of the actors in them do exploit the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for their own aims). To name a few examples, the Jewish state plays no role in the conflicts between the Shi’a and the Sunni, between Persians and Arabs, or between Arab nationalists and Arab Islamists.

The basic assumption of many in the West (and in Israel) is that Israeli territorial concessions are the key to progress in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Again, completely false. The reality is that we are confronting an ascendant Jihadist Islam that believes that it is leading the battle against Israel and the West. In this context, Israeli territorial or other concessions—whether made unilaterally or according to an agreement-- simply fill the Jihadists’ sails: They reinforce the Jihadi belief that Israel and the rest of the West are weak and can be conquered by military means. Not only are Israeli territorial concessions not the key to solving the conflict, they actually make it worse.

It is important, nonetheless, to note that the majority of Israelis supported Israel’s unilateral withdrawals from Lebanon in 2000 and from Gaza in 2005; they (mistakenly) believed that meeting Hezbollah and Palestinian territorial demands would nullify the cause of the conflict. The result was clear: The Hezbollah and Palestinian reactions made plain that the central conflict in our region is not territorial—it’s ideological. And ideology cannot be defeated by concessions. It didn’t work in the lead-up to the Second World War and it won’t work today.

Putting aside Jihadist Islam and its war on the West and on Israel, I would encourage you to reconsider one of the major aspects of the conventional wisdom vis a vis the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: Many in the West and in Israel believe that the problem between Israel and the Palestinians is “the Occupation.”

When using this term ("Occupation"), most people in the West and in Israel are referring to the lands Israel conquered in the 1967 defensive war known as the Six-Day War. But when many Palestinians--and some Israeli Arabs as well--use the term, they are referring to all of the land of Israel ("from the sea to the river," from the Arabic, "Min al-baher ila al-naher"). If the problem between Israel and the Palestinians was just the '67 territories, and the solution was dividing the land (as was proposed by the British Mandate in 1937, by the U.N. in 1947 and by the Prime Minister of Israel in 2000), then the conflict would have ended long ago. The heart of the problem is that a Palestinian leadership willing to recognize Israel as an independent Jewish state has not yet risen. The most central aspect of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is that Fatah, Hamas, and even some Israeli Arabs are not willing to recognize the Jewish people’s right to an independent state--recognition which was granted by your predecessors during the British Mandate through the "Balfour Declaration," and which has been affirmed again and again in the international arena.

Another misconception stems in part from the inability of many in the West and in Israel to see the region as it is, not through their own Western perspectives. Looking through Western glasses, many are adamant in their belief that economic development is an engine capable of neutralizing nationalistic and religious feelings, which will bring peace, which will in turn bring security. If you still believe this, I recommend that you read the words of David Ben-Gurion at the opening session of the Knesset in 1960 on this subject, in which he called those advocating this approach the "na├»ve Zionists." Those still clinging to this misconception must then demand that the Palestinians explain what they did with the $7 billion they received over the last few years. Seven billion reasons for economic progress—and yet: Why did they destroy the Erez industrial zone? Why do they attack the passages in the Gaza strip? Why is the Palestinian economy in shambles? Why are they so much worse off under the rule of the Palestinian Authority than they were prior to Arafat and his cronies assuming power in May 1994?

A final—and fatal--misconception is the belief that the Palestinians want and have the ability to establish a state that will live in peace alongside the state of Israel. The clear-eyed among us understand that this hope has been dashed. Arafat established a gang rule that refused to take responsibility for its people and accept accountability for their welfare. Mahmoud Abbas did not and does not want to take responsibility and enjoys his “weakness”—and the results are apparent. A society that educates and encourages a culture of death is a society with a built-in mechanism for self-destruction. We need simply to look at the sad case of the Gaza Strip: Palestinian nationalists won, received overwhelming political and economic support from the global community and from Israel, and the miserable outcome is apparent to all.

And, so, Mr. Blair, looking towards the future and in light of the experience of the last decade, do you see a chance for a politically and economically sustainable and viable Palestinian state in the '67 territories? In light of the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip and the behavior of Fatah, do you think there is a chance for the creation of a political entity that is not hostile to Israel (and to Jordan) in the '67 territories? And is it in the interests of Britain and the West to bring such an entity into existence?

Given the rather bleak picture, what course of action do I recommend?

Mr. Blair, you must refrain from pressuring Israel, which will offer only short-term accomplishments. Instead, you must try to convince the Palestinians to commit to a long term strategy--a strategy based upon the educational, political and economic reforms that will enable the establishment of a civil society that cherishes life and not death, that values human rights and freedom, and that develops a middle class and not a corrupt, rich elite. Don't waste money on strengthening Abu-Mazen or his security organizations. Direct funds toward educational reform and toward encouraging small businesses in order to facilitate the growth of a middle class, which is the core of civil society.

At the same time, act to solve the Palestinian refugee issue through humanitarian means: Establish an international fund that will offer refugee families an appropriate sum to aid in their resettlement and integration ($100-200,000 per family), on the condition that acceptance of this sum represents the resolution of their refugee status. Don't be tempted to grab short-term—and short-sighted-- “gains,” such as demanding that Israel uproot settlements or refrain from military activity in Palestinian towns. As I wrote, Israeli concessions will be viewed as yet another victory for Islamist Jihad. If you press for the cessation of IDF activity in Palestinian areas, you will encourage a renewal of the terror war we in Israel endured beginning in September 2000. Who better than you--who sent the British army to Afghanistan to prevent terror attacks in London, Madrid and New York--understands that the best defense is a good offense, including the freedom to intercept and arrest terrorists while they are still in their hideouts.

Do not be tempted to talk to Hamas, even in the face of British pressure (for some, such as British Gas, this pressure stems from economic interests that trump moral ones). For the sake of Palestinian society, Hamas and its ideology must be defeated. You are being sent to address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but you must not be led astray: This is not the most significant conflict today. That distinction belongs to the battle between Jihadist Islam and the West; Israel is merely one theater where that fight is being waged. The West cannot overcome Jihadist Islam without overpowering the regimes, organizations and ideologies that support and feed it—and Hamas is one of the brightest jewels in that crown.

...I have the greatest respect for you as a leader. You bravely and boldly led your country and army in a preventative war against Jihadist Islam, but, unfortunately, were unable to persuade the international community-- and particularly the United Nations—of the urgency of dealing with those who threaten the world order. As long as the international community attacks and condemns Israel--a country defending itself from intentional attacks on civilians waged by those who use their own people as human shields—rather than isolating and punishing states like Iran and Syria and organizations like Hezbollah and Hamas, the West will not win.

Unfortunately, even in your country, you have failed in this respect. Although though several legislative changes followed the terror attacks there, there are still Islamic “charities” active in Britain that raise funds to support terrorist groups. In addition, though the terrorist attacks in London and Glasgow made clear to your fellow countrymen that the forces attacking them are not rooted in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and although we Israelis are doing our best as a country and an army to win this war while remaining true to our values, we hear the voices blaming Israel. The voices in the media, in British politics, and in academia are rising in volume and in conviction—even as they continue to miss the point in the most grandiloquent manner imaginable.

You must be the countervailing voice, offering vision, clarity and leadership. A war fought on false assumptions cannot be won...

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Outpouring of Support from Western Australia

From FOIWA, 8 August 2010:

1500 West Australians, including over 100 Federal and State Parliamentarians and community leaders converged on the Victory Life Centre in Osborne Park to stand up and support Israel.
The Centre's main auditorium, which seats 800 was quickly filled to capacity, and the second overflow auditorium (linked by video to the proceedings) was also soon overflowing, requiring a third overflow room to be hastily set up in the lobby of the centre.

Attendance at the pre-Launch seminar and book launch were also attended beyond all expectation. Clearly there is a quiet but powerful bond between Western Australia and and Israel. All that was needed was an opportunity to express that feeling, and Western Australia responded resoundingly.

The event was chaired by inaugural Chairman of the FOIWA, Bob Kucera (former State Minister) and Vice Chairman, Ray Halligan (former State Upper House Member).

The dignitaries in attendance and the apologies were too many to mention. Apologies included Hon. Julie Bishop, Deputy Leader of the Opposition. Her statement of support was given by Ray Halligan.

Bob Kucera passionately expressed the importance of support for Israel as a "friend in need" and urged everyone present to join the organisation and look forward to hearing quality speakers, seminares and being kept informed.

Foreign Minister Stephen Smith re-iterated Australia's support for Israel's right to live in peace and security, from the outset and across the political spectrum.

Michael Keenan, Federal Member for Stirling; Shadow Minister for Justice and Customs urged all Australians to support Israel, especially our leaders. he also delivered a message of support from the Leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbot.

Michael Sutherland MLA, Deputy Speaker of the State Legislative Assembly, and Kate Doust MLC, Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the State Legislative Council; Shadow Minister for Energy; Science and Innovation, who are co-conveners of the State Parliamentary Friends of Israel both spoke of their recent study tour of Israel and urged all West Australians to join the organisation and help it work for peace.

The event was concluded by Israel's Ambassador to Australia, Yuval Rotem who took the podium to a standing ovation, in a spontaneous, emotional expression of warmth. His thanks to Western Australia was underlined by a video address from Jerusalem by Danny Ayalon, Deputy Foreign Minister of Israel.