Monday, June 10, 2013

Syria crisis shows why Israel must remain strong

From JPost, 9 June 2013, by ALAN DERSHOWITZ:
Whether Syrian death toll is 80,000 or 100,000, this figure is more than all people killed in nearly a century of conflict between Israel and its enemies, including several wars and thousands of acts of terrorism.

Fareed Zakaria explained why neither side in the Syrian conflict is likely to surrender: “People fight to the end because they know that losers in such wars get killed or ‘ethnically cleansed.’” In this kind of war the worlds “ethnically cleansed” do not mean displaced or made refugees. They mean, as Zakaria further explained, massacred: “Then you have phase 2, which is the massacre of the Alawites, the 14 percent of Syria that has ruled and that will be a bloodbath.”

Nor will the massacres and bloodbaths be limited to combatants, or even civilian officials, if the past is any indication.

Babies, women, the elderly and everyone else will become targets of the vengeful blood lust. Already somewhere between 80,000 and 100,000 Syrians have been killed, the vast majority of them civilians. According to United Nations investigators, some have been killed by chemical weapons and thermobaric bombs (that suck the oxygen out of the lungs of everyone in the area). There have been at least 17 massacres between mid-January and mid- May of this year alone. And there is no sign that the bloodshed is abating.

Whether the death toll is closer to 80,000 or 100,000, this figure is more than all the people killed in nearly a century of conflict between Israel and its enemies – a conflict that includes half a dozen wars and thousands of acts of terrorism and reprisals.

Even if one credits the worst allegations against the nation state of the Jewish people, Israel has killed fewer civilians since it came into existence 65 years ago than any country in history facing comparable threats over so long a time frame. The world seems unaware of this remarkable fact, because the media and international organizations focus far more on Arab and Muslim deaths caused by Israel than on those caused by fellow Arabs and Muslims.

Neither is Syria the first bloody battleground on which Arabs have massacred Arabs and Muslims have massacred Muslims. Black September in Jordan, the protracted war between Iran and Iraq, the civil war in Lebanon, and the killings in post-Saddam Iraq are only some of the bloodiest battles that resulted in [some 12-14 million Muslims killed at the hand of other Muslims]..

Imagine then what would happen if Israel were ever to lose a war with its Arab and Muslim enemies (as it almost did when it was attacked on Yom Kippur in 1973 by the Egyptian and Syrian armies.) The hatred directed against Jews in general and Israel in particular by Israel’s enemies is far more malignant than the animosity between Sunni and Shia Muslims or between Muslim and Christian Arabs. It is taught in schools, preached in mosques and repeated in the media. There would be no mercy shown. Israeli armies would not be allowed to surrender and be repatriated, as the Egyptian army was when it was trapped in Sinai at the end of the 1973 war.

Israeli civilians would be targeted as they already have been by Hamas and Hezbollah rockets fired in the direction of large population centers. The goal of the first war against Israel, as expressed by one of its leaders, was “this will be a war of extermination.” The desire for revenge has only grown over the course of further warfare and more defeats.

Every Israeli lives under the grim shadow of this reality. Nor do they count on timely outside intervention to prevent massacres. Remember, this is a nation built on the memory of the Holocaust, during which the world – including the United States, Great Britain and Canada – shut their gates on those seeking to escape genocide.

That is why Israel will never surrender and will always fight to the end. That is why Israel needs a nuclear deterrent, unsatisfactory as it may be in a part of the world where suicide in the name of Islam is a virtue to so many of Israel’s enemies. That is why Israel must always maintain a preventive option, whereby it attacks the enemy military that is poised to attack Israeli civilians. That is why Israel must always maintain qualitative military superiority over the combined resources of its enemies. This is also why Israel should make every reasonable effort to make peace ...but without sacrificing its security and its ability to successfully resist attack.

The first duty of every democracy is to protect its civilians against enemy attack. Thus far, Israel, though vastly outnumbered, has done a good job. The changes now occurring in the Arab and Muslim world make Israel’s future somewhat less certain, as does Iran’s movement toward nuclear weaponry capable of inflicting a second Holocaust on Israel’s six million Jews and one million Arabs.

Yet so many in the international community seem unsympathetic to Israel’s situation. Whenever it seeks to defend its civilians, by attacking military targets, though inadvertently killing some civilians on occasion, there is a disproportional outcry against the Jewish state. Selective boycotts, divestment and other sanctions are directed only at Israel by people ranging from Alice Walker to Steven Hawking. Israel must not allow these immorally selective threats of delegitimation to deter it from protecting its citizens against the threat of Syrian-type massacres.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Obama: Wounded...and dangerous

From Caroline Glick, June 7, 2013:
US Secretary of State John Kerry looks like a bit of an idiot these days. On Monday he announced that he will be returning to Israel and the Palestinian Authority and Jordan for the fifth time since he was sworn into office on February 1. That is an average of more than one visit a month. 
And aside from frequent flier miles, the only thing he has to show for it is a big black eye from PLO chief and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. 
When Kerry was here last month he unveiled a stunning plan to bring $4 billion in investment funds to the PA. If his plan actually pans out, its champions claim it will increase the PA's GDP by a mind-numbing 50 percent in three years and drop Palestinian unemployment from 21 to 8 percent. 
Standing before world and regional leaders on May 26, Kerry said plaintively, "This will help build the future. Is this a fantasy? I don't think so." 
Abbas and his underlings wasted no time, however, in demonstrating that indeed, Kerry's plan is fantasy. Abbas appointed Rami Hamdallah, a Fatah apparatchik with perfect English, to replace America's favorite moderate Palestinian, Salam Fayyad, as PA prime minister. 
As The Jerusalem Post's Khaled Abu Toameh has pointedly explained, Hamdallah was appointed for two reasons. First, to facilitate Fatah's absconding with hundreds of millions of dollars in donor aid to the PA and to Palestinian development projects precisely of the type that Kerry hopes to finance with his $4b. grant. The second reason Abbas appointed Hamdallah the English professor from Nablus was because his language skills will enable him to make American and European donors feel comfortable as his colleagues in Fatah pick their taxpayer- funded pockets. 
Aside from mooning Kerry in the middle of his speech in Jordan, Abbas couldn't have thought of a more graphic way to show his contempt for Kerry and the Obama administration. 
But that wasn't the only thing the Palestinians did. Again, as Abu Toameh has reported, the popular Palestinian response to last week's World Economic Forum in Jordan, where Abbas and Kerry rubbed elbows with President Shimon Peres and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, was to attack the businessmen who accompanied Abbas to the conference. Their crime was meeting with Israeli businessmen who came to the conference in Peres's entourage. Led by Fatah activists, Palestinian writers, unions and others also went after Palestinian businessmen from Jenin who went to Haifa to meet with Israeli businesspeople at the invitation of Haifa's Chamber of Commerce. The "anti-normalization" crowd is calling for Palestinians to boycott Palestinian businesses that do business with Israelis. 
And again, that isn't all. At the PLO's birthday celebrations this week, Abbas said that the group's 1964 charter reflects the will of the Palestinian people. That charter calls for the destruction of Israel. It was written three years before Israel took control of Judea, Samaria and northern, southern and eastern Jerusalem.
But wait, there's more. The Palestinian leadership attacked Kerry personally and his plan as an attempt to bribe them. They promised that while they will happily take the money, $4b. measly dollars won't convince them to moderate one iota. They still demand that Israel release all Palestinian terrorists from its jails, agree to its demographic destruction through the so-called "right of return," or unfettered immigration of millions of foreign Arabs to Israel, and the surrender of all of Judea, Samaria and northern, southern and eastern Jerusalem to the PLO as a precondition to beginning negotiations. 
And for all that, Kerry responded by applauding Hamdallah's appointment and announcing he will return here next week and is planning to roll out his own comprehensive peace plan very soon. 
Israeli leaders for the most part have reacted to Kerry's constant harping by rolling their eyes. He seems like a complete lunatic. Obviously he will fail and the best thing we can do is smile and nod, like you do when you are dealing with a crazy person.
Even when Kerry claimed that the reason Israelis aren't interested in peace is that we have too much money to care, we didn't take offense. Because really, why take anything he says seriously? And aside from that, they ask, what can the Obama administration do to us, at this point? Every single day it becomes more mired in scandal. 
The Guardian's revelation Wednesday that the US government has been confiscating the phone records of tens of millions of Americans who use the Verizon business network since April is just the latest serious, normal-presidency destroying scandal to be exposed in the past month. And every single scandal - the IRS's unlawful harassment and discrimination of conservative organizations and individuals, the Justice Department's spying on AP journalists and attempt to criminalize the normal practice of journalism through its investigation of Fox News correspondent James Rosen - makes it more difficult for President Barack Obama to advance his agenda. 
As for foreign policy, the whistle-blower testimony that exposed Obama's cover-up of the September 11, 2012, al-Qaida attack on the US Consulate and CIA annex in Benghazi has caused massive damage to Obama's credibility in foreign affairs and to the basic logic of his foreign policy. 
Ambassador Chris Stevens was tortured and murdered by al-Qaida terrorists who owed their freedom of operation to the Obama administration. If it hadn't been for Obama's decision to bring down the regime of Muammar Gaddafi, who had been largely harmless to the US since he gave up his illicit nuclear weapons program in 2004, those al-Qaida forces probably wouldn't have be capable of waging an eight-hour assault on US installations and personnel in Benghazi. 
With the Benghazi scandal hounding him, the Syrian civil war and, for the past week, the anti-government protests in Turkey all exposing his incompetence on a daily basis, these Israeli leaders take heart, no doubt in the belief that Obama's freedom to attack us has vastly diminished. 
Although this interpretation of events is attractive, and on its face seems reasonable, it is wrong. 
And it would be a devastating mistake for Israeli leaders to believe it. 
Since he entered office, Obama has responded to every defeat by doubling down and radicalizing.
When in 2009 public sentiment against his plan to nationalize the US healthcare industry was so high that Republican Scott Brown was elected senator from Massachusetts for the sole purpose of blocking Obamacare's passage in the US Senate, Obama did not accept the public's verdict. 
Instead he used a technicality to ram the hated legislation through without giving Brown and the Senate the chance to vote it down. 
And now, as his Middle East strategy of appeasing Islamists lies in the ruins of the US Consulate in Benghazi and in the cemeteries interning the Syrians murdered in sarin gas attacks as Obama shrugged his shoulders, Obama is again doubling down. On Wednesday he announced that he is elevating the two architects of his policy to senior leadership roles in his administration. 
Obama's appointments of UN Ambassador Susan Rice to serve as his national security adviser, and of former National Security Council member Samantha Power to serve as ambassador to the UN, are a finger in the eye to his critics. These women rose to national prominence through their breathless insistence that the US use force to overthrow Gaddafi in spite of clear evidence that al-Qaida was a major force in his opposition. 
Power is reportedly the author of Obama's policy of apologizing to foreign countries for the actions of past administrations. Certainly she shares Obama's hostility toward Israel. And she has been outspoken in expressing her negative opinions. 
In a nutshell, Power's vision for US foreign policy is a noxious brew of equal parts self-righteousness, ignorance and prejudice. And now she will be responsible for defending Israel (or not) at the most hostile international arena in the world, where Israel's very right to exist is subject to assault on a daily basis. 
Obama's decision to appoint Rice and Power in the face of the mounting scandals surrounding his presidency generally and his foreign policy particularly is not the only reason Israeli leaders should not expect for his weakened political position to diminish Obama's plan to put the screws on Israel in the coming years. There is also the disturbing pattern of the abuse of power that the scandals expose. 
To date, all administration officials questioned have denied that Obama was in any way involved in directing the IRS to use the tax code to intimidate with the aim of discrediting and destroying conservative organizations and donors. Likewise, they say he played no role in the Justice Department's espionage operations against American journalists, or in the intentional cover-up of the al-Qaida assault on US installations and personnel in Benghazi. But mounting circumstantial evidence indicates that this is not true.  
White House visitor records show that IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman visited Obama's White House 157 times. His predecessor Mark Everson who served under president George W. Bush only visited the White House once. 
So, too, as Andrew McCarthy reported last month in National Review, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney admitted that Obama spoke with then secretary of state Hillary Clinton at 10 p.m. on September 11, 2012, during the al- Qaida assault in Benghazi. 
It was after that phone conversation that the administration changed its talking points about the nature of the assault, purging details on the identity of the perpetrators and blaming an unrelated Internet movie trailer for inciting the attack. 
The one thing all the scandals share is a single-minded willingness to pursue radical goals to the bitter end. The IRS's targeting of conservatives was an appalling abuse of executive power, unlike anything we have seen in recent history. The passage of Obamacare in the face massive public opposition was another means to the end of destroying his opponents. 
The cover-up of the Benghazi attack was a bid to hide the failure of a policy in order to double down on it - despite its failure. The only reason you would want to double down on an already failed policy is if you are ideologically committed to a larger goal that the failed policy advances. 
The similarities of the pattern of behavior in all of these actions, as well as the circumstantial evidence already unearthed, indicate strongly that despite the denials, Obama was in fact involved and may have directed the actions of all of his underlings in all of the scandals now unfolding.
What this means for Israel is we cannot be lured into complacency by Kerry's buffoonery or Obama's apparent political weakness. This is a man who is most dangerous when attacked. And this is a man who is absolutely committed to his ideological agenda. We had better be ready, because if we are not, we won't know what has hit us.

Is the "two-state solution"still on the agenda? ...does it matter?

From the Times of Israel, June 8, 2013, by Times of Israel staff and Raphael Ahren:

After Danny Danon [says] that majority in coalition would block Palestinian state, ...PM wants to resume talks right away and discuss ‘all issues’
The Prime Minister’s Office on Saturday firmly distanced itself from comments made to the Times of Israel by Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon that a strong majority in the government and the coalition oppose a two-state solution with the Palestinians and would block the creation of a Palestinian state if such a proposal ever came to a vote.
Danon’s comments “do not represent the position of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the government of Israel,” the sources said in response to Danon’s interview, which was published on Thursday. Taking the highly unusual step of contacting The Times of Israel during Shabbat to make Netanyahu’s position clear, the sources went on to say that the prime minister “is interested in a resumption of negotiations without preconditions,” and that his positions regarding support for a two-state solution remain in force.
“Netanyahu calls on the president of the Palestinian Authority to restart talks without delay at which all issues will be raised to discussion,” the sources said. “The Palestinian Authority will raise its demands, and Israel will raise its demands which include, among others, stringent security arrangements, recognition of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people, and the declaration of an end to the conflict.”
The sources indicated that it was very important that Netanyahu’s position be prominently restated.
It would appear that Danon’s comments, which have been widely reported, have discomfited the prime minister and caused dismay in the international community, exposing the government’s internal divide on the issue just as US Secretary of State John Kerry heads back to the region on June 11-12, for his fifth visit since taking office, in an effort to get Israel and the PA back to the negotiating table. Earlier in the week, Kerry warned that this might be the last chance to secure a two state solution. “The status quo is simply not sustainable,” Kerry said. “We will find ourselves in a negative spiral of responses and counter-responses that could literally slam the door on a two-state solution.”
Danon’s statements to The Times of Israel came in his first major interview with an Israeli news outlet since he became deputy minister.
“Look at the government: there was never a government discussion, resolution or vote about the two-state solution,” Danon said. “If you will bring it to a vote in the government — nobody will bring it to a vote, it’s not smart to do it — but if you bring it to a vote, you will see the majority of Likud ministers, along with the Jewish Home [party], will be against it.”
Danon further said that Netanyahu calls for peace talks despite his government’s opposition because he knows Israel will never arrive at an agreement with the Palestinians. “Today we’re not fighting it [Netanyahu’s declared goal of a Palestinian state], but if there will be a move to promote a two-state solution, you will see forces blocking it within the party and the government,” Danon said.
The deputy minister said “there is no majority for a two-state solution” among the 31 lawmakers that make up the Likud-Yisrael Beytenu Knesset faction. The Likud party’s central committee, about 10 years ago, passed a motion against the creation of a Palestinian state, Danon said, adding that “legally” the party was opposed to the concept of two states for two people.
In a much touted 2009 Bar-Ilan University speech, Netanyahu in principle agreed to a Palestinian state, on the condition that it be demilitarized and it recognizes Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people. In recent weeks the prime minister has vowed to cooperate with US efforts to restart peace negotiations and has repeatedly called on Palestinian leaders to resume talks without preconditions.
But several key members of the current government, including Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin, Deputy Transportation Minister Tzipi Hotovely, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, Deputy Knesset Speaker Moshe Feiglin, coalition chairman Yariv Levin and other senior Likud MKs, are staunchly opposed to a two-state solution, advocating instead the partial or complete annexation of the West Bank to Israel. The entire 12-member Jewish Home faction, including three ministers, likewise rejects the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza.
The members of the remaining parties in the coalition — Yesh Atid and Hatnua — endorse a two-state solution, yet together have merely 25 Knesset seats, compared to a combined 43 mandates of Jewish Home and Likud-Beytenu.
Speaking to The Times of Israel in his Knesset office, Danon said that there is currently zero debate about the two-state solution within the Likud because there is no “viable partner” on the Palestinian side and it seems unlikely that peace talks would resume any time soon.
If Kerry were to get the talks restarted, however, and Netanyahu and the Palestinians agreed on the implementation of a two-state solution, “then you have a conflict” within the government, Danon said. “But today there is no partner, no negotiations, so it’s a discussion. It’s more of an academic discussion.”
Asked whether Netanyahu truly is in favor of a two-state solution, Danon replied that the prime minister tied the creation of a Palestinian state to conditions he is certain the Palestinians will not agree to. “He knows that in the near future it’s not possible.”

The Legality of Israeli Settlements

From American Thinker, May 24, 2013, by Michael Curtis:
...The question of whether Israeli settlements are immoral or politically unwise or present an obstacle to any peace process is arguable. However, what has been most important for many in the international community is the illegality of the settlements according to international Law...
Many resolutions by international bodies have considered the settlements to be illegal. The most recent critical report was presented in January 2013 by a panel set up by the United Nations Human Rights Council. The panel of three judges, headed by Christine Chanet of France determined that the settlements violated the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949. Moreover, Judge Chanet said that according to Article 8 of the statute of the International Criminal Court the actions of Israel constituted "war crimes."
It is appropriate to pay due respect if not total reverence to the historical as well as the political context in two ways: the relevant international agreements; and the facts on the ground. The crucial San Remo Treaty of 1920 that wrote the charter of the League of Nations dealt with the territory of the recently collapsed Ottoman Empire, and created a political structure in a geographical area it called "Palestine." The Mandate was given to Britain in 1922 by the League of Nations. Article 6 of the Mandate said that the Administration of Palestine, in fact Britain, "shall encourage close settlement by Jews on the land including State lands not required for public use." It did not speak of Jewish settlement on the east bank because Britain had established there a new entity, the emirate, later the kingdom, of Jordan.
The Palestinian Mandate recognized the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine, and called for the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people without specifying borders. The so-called "Green Line" is not a border but is where the contending armies stopped fighting and accepted a cease-fire in the war of 1948-49. It has no administrative, geographical, or topographical significance.
A simple definition of an Israeli settlement is a residential area built across the Green Line. This ignores the existence of Jewish settlements before the State of Israel was established. They include others such as Hebron, many centuries old, the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem, and those established during the British Mandate, such as Neve Ya'acov, north of Jerusalem, the Gush Etzion bloc in the West Bank, some north of the Dead Sea, and Kfar Darom in the Gaza region. The only political body that prohibited Jewish settlement was the Jordanian administration, which between 1949 and 1967 claimed to have annexed the West Bank.
The simple definition also disregards the variety of the settlements. Some are small farming communities and frontier villages; others are urban suburbs, or towns, such as Modi'in Illit, Maale Adumim, and Betar Illit, with a considerable population. Some have been established for security reasons. A considerable number are outposts, small, unauthorized settlements, a few mobile homes, usually on hilltops.
Currently there are some 121 settlements and more than 100 unauthorized outposts. East Jerusalem and the adjacent West Bank blocs of Givat Zeev and Maale Adumin are on the West side of the line. Israel withdrew all the settlers from Sinai in 1982 and the 8,000 settlers from the Gaza Strip in 2005. About 534,000 now inhabit the settlements which occupy less than three per cent of the disputed land.
Critics of the settlements have always referred to Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. The controversial interpretations of it concerning the actions of Israel are ironic in view of the reality that it was adopted to prevent crimes such as the Nazi deportation of European Jews to their deaths. Article 49 (1) prohibits "Individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of the Occupying Power or that of any other country, occupied or not." In addition, Article 49 (6) states "The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies."
About this argument a number of responses can be made.
  • First and most important, no Israeli is being deported or transferred to the settlements; for various reasons Israelis are going to them voluntarily. Some stem from economic factors with settlers taking advantage of public and private incentives and beneficial mortgages. Others have been set up by religious members of Gush Emunim (Bloc of the Faithful) who view themselves as returning to the biblical Jewish homeland.The areas of the settlements are neither under the legitimate sovereignty of any state, nor on private Arab land. They are also not intended to displace any Arab inhabitants nor have they done so. This was shown in 2012 by the Israeli High Court when it ordered the evacuation of settlers from illegal homes in Ulpana, an unauthorized outpost on the outskirts of Beit El.
  • Secondly, no Palestinian Arab is being deported from place of residence to anywhere else.
  • Thirdly, no crime, much less a "war crime" has been committed.
  • Fourthly, on a technical level the Geneva Convention applies to actions by a signatory "carried out on the territory of another." Article 49 speaks of a "High Contracting Party" with a sovereign claim to territory. The West Bank, as Eugene W. Rostow stated in article on April 23,1990, "is not the territory of a signatory power, but an unallocated part of the British Mandate."
The competing claims of Israel and Palestinians and other Arabs can only be resolved by peaceful negotiations. If Palestinians can make legitimate claims to the disputed land so can Israel by virtue of its historic and religious connections. The international community appears to have forgotten the clear statements of the various Armistice Agreements of 1949 which provided that the Armistice Demarcation lines were "not to be construed in any sense" as political or territorial boundaries." No provision of those Agreements was in any way to prejudice the rights and claims of the parties in "the ultimate peaceful settlement of the Palestine problem." The Israeli presence in the disputed areas is lawful until a peace settlement, because Israel entered them lawfully in self-defense.