Saturday, June 10, 2017

Will the Saudi-Qatar clash push Hamas into a dangerous corner?

From The Times of Israel, 7 June 2017, by Avi Issacharoff:

As Gaza’s economy sinks, its ruling terror group is at odds with much of the Sunni Arab world — and running out of options 

The former Qatari Emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, left, and Hamas political chief Ismail Haniyeh, right, arrive for a cornerstone-laying ceremony for Hamad, a new residential neighborhood in Khan Younis, Gaza Strip, October 23, 2012. (AP/Mohammed Salem)
The former Qatari Emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, left, and Hamas political chief Ismail Haniyeh, right, arrive for a cornerstone-laying ceremony for Hamad, a new residential neighborhood in Khan Younis, Gaza Strip, October 23, 2012. (AP/Mohammed Salem)

...Riyadh’s loathing for Doha is well known and longstanding. Despite their geographic proximity, or perhaps because of it, the two countries’ enmity is enormous.

Qatar’s flirting with Iran, Saudi Arabia’s greatest nemesis, its closeness to the Muslim Brotherhood, and of course, its founding of the Al-Jazeera satellite news channel in 1996, all turned Qatar into one of the most hated of Arab states among its fellow Sunni Arab regimes, especially in Riyadh and Cairo. 

Al-Jazeera transformed in the 2000s into a key tool for advancing the agenda of the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas at the expense of the Egyptian, Saudi and Palestinian governments.

Because of this protracted antagonism, any attempt to reduce the crisis between Qatar and six other Arab states to a mere scuffle over certain comments that may or may not have been said by Doha’s emir misses the significance of Riyadh’s move: It marks a bid to permanently change Qatar’s policies.

The Saudi regime’s conditions for reconciliation with Doha, presented on Tuesday by Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, are not trivial; they include ending Qatar’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas.

It’s hard to imagine Qatar making haste to meet such a demand. Qatar sees itself as the main patron of both movements and is widely seen in the region as their most enthusiastic backer. In recent days, Qatari authorities expelled eight Hamas activists, but these were members of Hamas’s armed wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades. The other side of Hamas, its politicians and top echelon of leaders, remains safely ensconced in Doha and continues to enjoy all the creature comforts the peninsula kingdom has to offer. The same goes for men of faith affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, such as the Egyptian-born cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi.

Hamas’s top officials now find themselves unexpectedly caught in the eye of the storm. On Saturday, Hamas leaders Yahya Sinwar, Ruhi Mushtaha, Tawfik Abu Naim and Marwan Issa left the Gaza Strip for meetings in Egypt, and they were supposed to continue from there to Qatar and Lebanon. One imagines these men are going through difficult days as they struggle to come to terms with the possibility that their most significant backer, as closely identified with its sponsorship of their movement as with its support for Barcelona Football Club, is liable to sever that lifeline because of the Saudi-Egyptian pressure.

This uncertainty leaves Hamas weaker and probably more susceptible to pressure. The next time Egyptian authorities negotiate with Hamas over the opening of the Rafah crossing or the easing of some other restriction as part of their blockade with Israel of the Gaza Strip, they are likely to find a more pliable partner in the talks than in the past.

Gaza is now in worse shape than ever before, and is likely to keep deteriorating economically in the near term due to economic steps being taken against the Hamas government by the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority, including ending the PA’s funding of Gaza’s electric bill and mandatory early retirements and pay cuts for PA employees in the Strip.

Yet for all that, if Hamas feels its back is to a wall, or that it is liable to lose its hold on Gaza because of either the Qatari-Saudi crisis or the PA’s economic actions, it may be tempted to reshuffle the deck by resorting to its favorite tactic – firing rockets into Israel

50 Years of Palestinian Rejection - And the world encourages it.

From Commentary magazine, 8 June 2017, by EVELYN GORDON:

Yuri Kochetkov/Pool photo via AP, File

The 50th anniversary of the Six-Day War, which fell this week, has sparked much hand-wringing about why Israel still controls the West Bank half a century later. By sheer coincidence, Haaretz reporter Amir Tibon produced a scoop this week answering that question. It detailed the precise offer the Obama administration made to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in the final stages of the peace talks it brokered, and how Abbas, once again, walked away without even deigning to respond.

In early 2014, as the end of the nine months of talks agreed to the previous July were drawing to a close, the administration began drafting a “framework agreement” that would serve as the basis for further talks. Tibon obtained two versions of the administration’s proposal.

The first, dating from February 2014, contained a relatively balanced mix of concessions to Israeli and Palestinian demands. For instance, it stipulated a border based on the 1967 lines, as Abbas demanded, but said Palestinian refugees and their descendants would have no “right of return” to Israel, as Israel demanded. It rejected a permanent Israeli military presence in the Jordan Valley, thereby pleasing Abbas. It also pleased Israel by saying the talks must result in a Palestinian state alongside “Israel, the nation-state of the Jewish people.” It also left a few issues open: On Jerusalem, for instance, it merely restated both sides’ aspirations.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave verbal consent to the document. Then, on February 19, Secretary of State John Kerry presented it to Abbas, who went ballistic. His primary objection, U.S. officials told Tibon, was that the issue of Jerusalem was left open. Abbas wanted the U.S. to commit to giving him half the city.

So the Americans revised the document to accommodate more of Abbas’ demands. The new version, written in March, explicitly said East Jerusalem must become the Palestinian capital, thereby prejudging the outcome of one of the talks’ most sensitive issues. It also made several other concessions to the Palestinians, such as adding a statement asserting that the talks’ goal was “to end the occupation that began in 1967,” the implication being that the conflict isn’t one for which both sides share blame, but an evil unilaterally perpetrated by Israel against innocent Palestinians.

Similarly, whereas the February document said the border would be based on the 1967 lines with 1:1 land swaps that would “take into account subsequent developments” since 1967, this phrase was dropped in the March version. In other words, the February version said the border would be adjusted to accommodate the major settlement blocs, while the March version allowed Abbas to continue demanding that hundreds of thousands of Israelis be uprooted from their homes.

Thus, what started out as a relatively balanced document in February had morphed by March into one that clearly tilted toward the Palestinians. So how did Abbas respond to these concessions? He neither accepted the document nor rejected it; he “simply didn’t respond,” Tibon reported.

This, of course, is exactly what happened the last time Abbas received an offer complying with almost all his demands. 

In 2008, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert offered him 93 percent of the West Bank with 1:1 land swaps for the remainder, plus all of Gaza and most of East Jerusalem, with Muslim control over all the city’s holy sites, including the Western Wall (Olmert proposed governing the sites with a five-member committee comprising representatives of Palestine, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Israel, and America, thereby guaranteeing the Muslims an automatic majority). But Abbas never responded; he simply walked away. Only nine months later did he tell the Washington Post’s Jackson Diehl that he rejected the offer because “the gaps were wide.” Perhaps he would have said the same of Obama’s offer had Diehl interviewed him again.

This is also what happened when Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and U.S. President Bill Clinton made a similar offer to Yasser Arafat in 2000-01. 

Arafat walked away without even making a counterproposal and then launched a lethal terrorist war against Israel, killing over 1,000 Israelis in the next four years.

And that’s without even mentioning all the previous examples, like the Arabs’ rejection of the UN partition plan in 1947, or their adoption of a policy of “no peace, no recognition and no negotiations” with Israel at the Khartoum summit three months after the Six-Day War.

In other words, there’s one very simple reason why Israel still controls the West Bank: The Palestinians have consistently refused repeated offers to give it to them.

But there’s an important supporting reason as well: Palestinians feel they can get away with serial rejectionism because the world always responds by blaming Israel, as the Obama Administration did.

Addressing the Senate in April 2014, for instance, Kerry famously declared that Israel’s announcement of new construction in Jerusalem had caused the talks to go “poof,” carefully neglecting to mention that by this point, the talks were dead anyway since Abbas had already rejected the administration’s best offer. The excuses administration officials gave Tibon were equally ridiculous. Abbas, they said, was “disappointed” that Netanyahu had delayed releasing some two dozen Palestinian prisoners—as if that were ample grounds for rejecting an offer of statehood. They also said Abbas wasn’t sure Obama could “deliver” Netanyahu. But Netanyahu said yes to the February proposal without being sure Obama could deliver Abbas – which it turns out he couldn’t; why was it unreasonable to expect Abbas to go out on a similar limb?

The problem isn’t just Palestinian rejectionism. It’s that the rest of the world actually encourages this rejectionism by ensuring that the diplomatic price is always paid by Israel, and never the Palestinians themselves. The Palestinians have quite reasonably concluded that they can play this game ad infinitum, until the world eventually pressures Israel to accept even those Palestinian demands that would entail committing national suicide, like the “right of return.”

If the Palestinians actually wanted peace, they’d do a deal regardless of how the rest of the world behaved. If the world behaved differently, the Palestinians might eventually conclude that a deal was in their interests. But as long as neither of these two conditions is met, there’s every reason to think that in another 50 years, we’ll be reading more hand-wringing articles about why Israel still controls the West Bank.

Common Sense Trumps Ideology

The US President is the first Western leader to stand up and announce that the whole sick business of terrorism has to stop. He means it.

...In his first four months of office, Donald Trump has made any number of false steps, but the actions for which he is most disliked have for the most part been effective and shrewd. His celebrated tweets about London Mayor Sadiq Khan are a case in point. Khan had told the press in response to a bombing in New York’s Chelsea neighborhood that “part and parcel of living in a great global city is [that] you’ve got to be prepared for these things,” to which Trump tweeted, “You’ve got to be kidding!”

European governments are resigned to a certain level of terrorism as the price of tranquil relations with large Muslim populations that harbor significant numbers of terrorist sympathizers and with Muslim regimes that support terrorist groups — Qatar, for example, which has backed both Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. Kahn was not condoning terrorism but expressing the prevailing view that reducing terrorism to an infrequent occurrence is the best that can be hoped for.

By singling out London’s Muslim mayor, Trump rubbed in the point he made to Muslim leaders meeting in Saudi Arabia last month: the United States will not tolerate terrorism, and it will not tolerate the toleration of terrorism. “Drive. Them. Out,” Trump said. “Drive them out of your places of worship. Drive them out of your communities. Drive them out of your holy land, and drive them out of this Earth!”

In some respects, Trump’s view is narrowly American: with its relatively small Muslim population and enormous security budget, the United States can compel its own Muslim communities to do just that. That is much harder in England or the European continent, where very large and extensively radicalized Muslim populations overwhelm the resources of security services.

Turkish President Recep Erdogan and Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani attend a joint press conference following their meeting in Doha, Qatar in December 02, 2015. Source: Youtube screen grab of footage by Stringer / Anadolu Agency
President Recep Erdogan and Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani hold a press conference in Doha, Qatar on December 02, 2015. Source: Youtube screen grab of footage by Stringer / Anadolu Agency

But there is a broader strategic issue involved in Trump’s tangle with London’s mayor, and it reflects on his support for the diplomatic isolation of Qatar by other Arab states. The botched American interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan disenfranchised the Sunnis of Mesopotamia and the Levant, destroying the one stable Sunni regime in the region, namely that of Saddam Hussein.

It left the Sunnis to fend for themselves through non-state actors including al-Qaeda and ISIS. Both Washington and the Sunni regimes, including Turkey – and Saudi Arabia – responded to this disaster by dealing with non-state actors (that is, terrorists) where it suited them.

Under the Bush Administration, Gen. David Petraeus spent hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies to buy the Sunnis’ temporary quietude – thereby preparing the ground for a Middle Eastern equivalent of the Thirty Years’ War. The CIA (under Petraeus and others) armed Syrian rebels, mainly al-Qaeda affiliates with a spare business card reading “Moderate Muslim.”

The Saudis helped pay for it, and members of the royal family wrote checks for Sunni terrorists from the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt to Uyghur rebels in Western China. The Qatari royal family dallied with the Brotherhood, Hamas, and Iran.

I do not know what Lt. Gen. (ret) Michael Flynn might have done wrong, or what ultimately may happen to him, but there is no doubt as to what he did that was right: he provoked Barack Obama into firing him by exposing America’s covert support for the Sunni irregulars who would coalesce around ISIS. He was the sole senior figure in the US intelligence establishment to break omertà and reveal that the Sunni terror problem was being amplified by serial stupidity on the part of the United States.

Trump was the first Western leader to stand up and announce that the whole sick business had to stop. All of the nation-builders, responsibility-to-protectors, human rights fanciers and democracy promoters looked with cold blood on the devastation wrought by their blunders.

They had left Syria, Libya, Sudan and Yemen shattered, Iraq in a permanent confessional war, and perhaps a million civilians dead — half a million in Syria since 2011, 300,000 in South Sudan since 2013, 150,000 in Iraq, and about 10,000 each in Yemen and Libya. Trump wants to stop the bloodshed, but humanitarian calculation is not his only motive.

Iraqi soldiers pose with the Islamic State flag. Photo: Reuters, Zohra Bensemra
Iraqi soldiers pose with the Islamic State flag. Photo: Reuters, Zohra Bensemra

The sectarian war in the Middle East has to stop because it has become a Petri dish breeding jihad from the Caucasus to Southeast Asia. Russia had any number of reasons to step into Syria, but the decisive factor is that thousands of Russian Muslims were fighting there and returning to Russia to wreak mischief.

China feared not only for the Muslim Uyghurs of its westernmost province but also for the stability of Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines. Where the Sunni jihad drew on the support of Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, Russia and China quietly backed Iran as it recruited cannon fodder for the Syrian war from the Shi’ites of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The Levantine and Mesopotamian wars have metastasized and now threaten to become a Eurasian war. That is the fault of sorcerers’ apprentices in the American foreign policy establishment – which should be kept in mind whenever the punditeska attacks Donald J. Trump.

It takes refined intellect and profound scholarship to rationalize the mayhem that the foreign policy establishment has inflicted on the world in the name of nation building, human rights, and similar humbug. An entire generation of diplomats, soldiers and professors has devoted itself to this sort of rationalization. 

The intellectual caste thinks Trump is the man who put the “dumb” into oderint dum metuant (let them hate so long as they fear). On the contrary: They are the malady for which Donald Trump is the cure.

There is no way to end the conflict without an agreement with Russia and China, who are backing Iran’s intervention in Syria as much as Washington backed the Sunni rebels fighting the Bashar al-Assad regime. That means both sides must leash their own dogs. Saudi Arabia is not an American ally except of convenience.

The two countries find each other’s culture, political systems and religion utterly repugnant, but are tied together by practical interests. The same applies to Iran and Russia, who are allies of convenience. Persians and Russians have hated each other since the Russians appeared on the scene.

President Trump sent a clear message to America’s Muslim clients in Saudi Arabia: No more double games with non-state actors will be tolerated. Making a horrible example of Qatar is an obvious first step. The little Gulf monarchy perched on a giant gas bubble rates its own Wikipedia entry on “Qatar and state-sponsored terrorism.”

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is another matter. According to senior Chinese officials, Saudi royal family members are funding every radical madrassa in Asia, including those in Xinjiang Province. When Chinese diplomats have complained to the Saudi government, it has denied knowledge of the funding, while turning a blind eye to the “charitable contributions” of some of it members. No doubt the Saudis will have to arrange some one-way trips to the Rub’ al Khali.

Nonetheless, a negotiation of this sort is the only alternative to the spread of bloodshed and chaos across the Eurasian continent. It will require the major powers to deal with some of their own friends quite harshly. And it will be messy, if it succeeds at all. From the outside, some of the most carefully crafted maneuvers will seem like improvisation, and some outright blunders will be repurposed as masterstrokes.

In return, Russia will have to tighten the leash on Iran. Between Russia and China, which dominates Iran’s foreign trade, there is sufficient leverage to put the Shi’ite power in its place. Persuading the Russians to do so, and to do so without cheating, is a challenge.

Moscow and Beijing distrust the United States and suspect that it promoted Sunni jihadists in order to make trouble for them (that idea has indeed occurred to some people in Washington and its environs). They are tempted to use American weakness not only to advance their own interests but to embarrass the United States.

Healthy common sense is a far better guide to strategy than the ideological obsessions of the discredited elite. Here I am with Millwall and Trump. I don’t care if nobody likes us. Trump is nonetheless iterating towards the right thing.

Friday, June 09, 2017

Saudi Arabia: 'Qatar must stop supporting Hamas'

From Ynet News, 6 June 2017, by Roi Kais:

In light of the sharp diplomatic crisis in the Gulf, the Saudi foreign minister declares 
'Qatar is undermining the Palestinians and Egypt with support for the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas'; 
he makes it clear that ending support for terrorism is a critical step in trying to resolve the crisis.

Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir said on Tuesday, "Qatar must stop supporting Hamas." This was against the background of the deepening crisis in the Gulf, in which six countries, led by Saudi Arabia and Egypt, isolated the Qatari emirates.

"Enough is enough," said the Saudi ambassador to Paris and made it clear that ending support for terrorist organizations is a critical step on the part of Qatar to restore relations between the two countries.

Emir of Kuwait and Saudi king (Photo: Twitter)
Emir of Kuwait and Saudi king (Photo: Twitter)

"We have decided to take steps to make it clear that enough is enough," Jubeier told reporters in Paris. "No one wants to hurt Qatar, but it must decide whether it is going in one direction or the other, and I hope that the cost of the economic damage that will be caused to Qatar will convince it to go in the right direction and stop supporting organizations like the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas."

Jubeir added that Qatar was actually undermining the Palestinian Authority and Egypt by supporting these organizations and the "hostile media"—apparently referring to the Al-Jazeera network.
...At the same time, Kuwaiti Emir Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah arrived in Jeddah to meet with the King of Saudi Arabia and try to advance a solution to the crisis with Qatar. Kuwait managed to resolve a similar dispute about three years ago, and before his arrival in Jeddah, he also discussed the issue with his Qatari counterpart in the hope that he would not take steps that could lead to escalation...

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

NGO Links to Middle East Terror

From the Middle East Quarterly, Summer 2017, by by Gerald M. Steinberg and Joshua Bacon:

By 1948, sixty-nine NGOs had formal consultative status at the U.N. By 2015, the number was more than four thousand, many of which emphasize "universal human rights" in their mission statements.
In theory, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that promote human rights and humanitarian aid are at the opposite pole from terror groups. NGOs gain moral and ethical legitimacy as platforms for promoting the "inalienable rights of all members of the human family."

However, some prominent NGOs have employed individuals linked to terror organizations, formed alliances with such groups, supported their radical and violent agendas, and channeled humanitarian aid into terror activities. They are also political participants in conflicts, acting on behalf of terror groups or their political wings. These links are inherently incompatible with the emphasis on peace, security, and universal ethics that make up the core of NGO claims to legitimacy and influence.

These NGOs and their supporters must be held morally accountable while funding for these organizations must be critically considered.

By 1948, sixty-nine NGOs had formal consultative status at the U.N. By 2015, the number was more than four thousand, many of which emphasize "universal human rights" in their mission statements.

NGOs as Political Actors

NGOs with global impact emerged in tandem with the United Nations and were designed to support the norms and institutions of the post-World War II era, including democracy, human rights, and economic development. By 1948, sixty-nine NGOs had formal consultative status at the U.N.; by 2015, the number was over four thousand, many of which emphasized "universal human rights" in their mission statements.

Muhammad Halabi, World Vision NGO's Gaza director, is accused by Israel of having funneled 60 percent of funds into Hamas coffers.

The growth of this "NGO industry" and of power exerted outside democratic and governmental frameworks has been facilitated by large-scale funding, provided both privately and from governments through various humanitarian aid and human rights frameworks. For instance,

World Vision, whose Gaza director is accused by Israel of having funneled 60 percent of funds into Hamas coffers, has an annual worldwide budget of $2.8 billion, including major grants from governments....

Follow the link to the full article which identifies dozens of NGOs with strong links to terrorism.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Fifty Years After the Six-Day War

From The Washington Times, June 5, 2017, by Daniel Pipes:

Israel's military triumph over three enemy states in June 1967 is the most outstandingly successful war of all recorded history. The Six-Day War was also deeply consequential for the Middle East, establishing the permanence of the Jewish state, dealing a death-blow to pan-Arab nationalism, and (ironically) worsening Israel's place in the world because of its occupation of the West Bank and Jerusalem. did a spectacular battlefield victory translate into problems that still torment Israel today? Because it stuck Israelis in an unwanted role they cannot escape.

First, Israeli leftists and foreign do-gooders wrongly blame Israel's government for not making sufficient efforts to leave the West Bank, as though greater efforts could have found a true peace partner. In this, critics ignore rejectionism, the attitude of refusing to accept anything Zionist that has dominated Palestinian politics for the past century. Its founding figure, Amin al-Husseini, collaborated with Hitler and even had a key role in formulating the Final Solution; recent manifestations include the "anti-normalization" and the boycott, divestment, and sanction (BDS) movements. [Arab] Rejectionism renders Israeli concessions useless, even counterproductive, because Palestinians respond to them with more hostility and violence.

The Israelis vastly increased (the lined area) the size of Jerusalem on unifying it.

Second, Israel faces a conundrum of geography and demography in the West Bank. While its strategists want to control the highlands, its nationalists want to build towns, and its religious want to possess Jewish holy sites, Israel's continued ultimate rule over a West Bank population of 1.7 million mostly hostile Arabic-speaking, Muslim Palestinians takes an immense toll both domestically and internationally.

Various schemes to keep the land and defang an enemy people – by integrating them, buying them off, dividing them, pushing them out, or finding another ruler for them – have all come to naught.

Third, the Israelis in 1967 took three unilateral steps in Jerusalem that created future time bombs: vastly expanding the city's borders, annexing it, and offering Israeli citizenship to the city's new Arab residents.

In combination, these led to a long-term demographic and housing competition that Palestinians are winning, jeopardizing the Jewish nature of the Jews' historic capital. Worse, 300,000 Arabs could at any time choose to take Israeli citizenship.

These problems raise the question: Had Israeli leaders in 1967 foreseen the current problems, what might they have done differently in the West Bank and Jerusalem? They could have:
Made the battle against rejectionism their highest priority through unremitting censorship of every aspect of life in the West Bank and Jerusalem, severe punishments for incitement, and an intense effort to imbue a more positive attitude toward Israel.
Invited back in the Jordanian authorities, rulers of the West Bank since 1949, to run that area's (but not Jerusalem's) internal affairs, leaving the Israel Defense Forces with only the burden to protect borders and Jewish populations.
Extended the borders of Jerusalem only to the Old City and to uninhabited areas.
Thought through the full ramifications of building Jewish towns on the West Bank.

And today, what can Israelis do? The Jerusalem issue is relatively easy, as most Arab residents have not yet taken out Israeli citizenship, so Israel's government can still stop this process by reducing the size of Jerusalem's 1967 borders and terminating the offer of Israeli citizenship to all the city residents. Though it may lead to unrest, cracking down on illegal housing sites is imperative.

The illegal buildings in the "refugee camp" of Shuafat, located within Jerusalem's 1967 borders.

The West Bank is tougher. So long as Palestinian rejectionism prevails, Israel is stuck with overseeing an intensely hostile population that it dare not release ultimate control of. This situation generates a vicious, impassioned debate among Israelis (recall the Rabin assassination) and harms the country's international standing (think of U.N. Security Council Resolution 2334). But returning to 1949's "Auschwitz lines" and abandoning 400,000 Israeli residents of the West Bank to the Palestinians' tender mercies is obviously not a solution.

Instead, Israel needs to confront and undermine Palestinian rejectionism, which means convincing Palestinians that Israel is a permanent state, that the dream to eliminate it is futile, and that they are sacrificing for naught. Israel can achieve these goals by making victory its goal, by showing Palestinians that continued rejectionism brings them only repression and failure. The U.S. government can help by green lighting the path to an Israel victory.

Only through victory can the astonishing triumph of those six days in 1967 be translated into the lasting solution of Palestinians accepting the permanence of the Jewish state.

The Over-Dramatization of Israel’s “Dilemma”

From BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 479, May 28, 2017, by Dr. Max Singer*:

Israel is not facing a dilemma about how much, if any,  land to give up from the West Bank, because the Palestinians will not agree to take land and cannot be forced to do so. 

The Palestinian community sees peace with Israel as defeat in their 100-year struggle. Continued Israeli occupation is one of the Palestinians’ best weapons against Israel, and they will not give it up while their war to eliminate Israel continues. 

Israelis should recognize that since the Palestinians are forcing Israel to continue the temporary but long-term occupation, Israelis need to 

  1. cooperate in reducing the moral and other costs of that occupation; and
  2. stop telling the world that Israel could choose to end the occupation. 
The occupation, like the need for military strength and to absorb casualties, is part of the price Israel has to pay to live here. Maturity means being able to go forward with no solution in sight.

Ehud Barak recently had a long review in Haaretz of Micah Goodman’s important new book, Catch 67, to which Goodman responded the following week. Goodman argues that Israel’s 1967 victory created a “catch” or trap reflected in Israel’s current dilemma, in which both sides (the Israeli political left and right) are correct. Barak disagrees. In his view, the choice is clear: the left is correct.

Both Barak’s own view and his telling of Goodman’s ignore the reality of Israel’s actual choices today. We are not facing a dilemma about giving up territory. We are facing a distasteful task, and a need for patience over a period of decades.

Israel does not now have a choice about giving the Palestinians land or creating a Palestinian state; Israel is therefore not facing a dilemma.

While there are undoubtedly peace-seeking Palestinians, as a community, the Palestinians have not even begun to discuss the possibility of making a peace that accepts Israel and ends the Palestinian effort to gain all the land “from the river to the sea.” Nor have they begun public discussion of the possibility of most of the “refugees” settling outside Israel. Without debate among Palestinians, there is no way they can give up their determination to destroy Israel and make a genuine peace.

There is zero chance that there could be a real peace agreement now regardless of how much land Israel would be willing to give up.. A true two-state solution would finally defeat Palestinian and Arab efforts of a century, and they are not yet ready to accept defeat. Whatever disagreement there is among Israelis about how much land, if any, Israel should give up to get  peace, that disagreement is not what is standing in the way of peace.

Theoretically, there are two other possibilities that might create a dilemma for Israel about giving up land. The first would be an agreement with the Palestinians to take over some of Judea and Samaria without making a full peace with Israel.  The second would be a unilateral action by Israel to separate the peoples and end the occupation without Palestinian agreement.

For the reasons discussed below, neither of these is a realistic possibility regardless of how much of Judea and Samaria Israel is willing to give up.  Again, no real dilemma.

The Palestinians have a voice in what happens. The choice they have made is to force Israel to “occupy” them, because they want to keep up the struggle to destroy Israel.  Being a victim, an “occupied people,” improves their diplomatic position, causes Israel pain, and provokes internal conflict within Israel. These effects are bad for Israel and good for the Palestinians. Indeed, the more harmful they are for Israel, the more desirable they are for the Palestinians.

There would have to be a lot more disadvantages to the status quo for the Palestinians before they would give up such a weapon against Israel to improve their living conditions. This is especially true for the Palestinian leadership, which suffers less from the status quo than most Palestinians and benefits more from the continuation of the conflict.

But if the Palestinians will not make an agreement that would sacrifice the advantage of forcing Israel to be an “occupier”, is there any way that Israel can force them to do so by taking unilateral action to separate the peoples? This idea appealed to Sharon, and so he organized Israel’s “disengagement” from Gaza. Some Israelis say the withdrawal was a good idea that only worked out badly because it was done unilaterally. But why should we think the Palestinians would have agreed to arrangements that would have been better for Israel? They consider themselves to be at war with us. They want to cause us pain and put us at a disadvantage, and are willing to accept casualties and suffering to do so.

Gaza was simple, but the West Bank is complicated. There is no way Israel can separate itself from the Palestinian population in the West Bank without Palestinian agreement. This is because of Israel’s military need for access to the Jordan Valley, which would be true even if there were no settlement blocs.

Even if all the ideological settlements and hilltop outposts were gone, no unilateral Israeli withdrawal could produce a stable new status quo that we could impose on the Palestinians. Also, Israel is still regarded internationally as occupying Gaza even though it has withdrawn completely. The same would be true for Judea and Samaria after an Israeli unilateral withdrawal. The Palestinians would insist that they are still occupied and would take steps to force Israel to act in the evacuated areas.

So the Palestinians have us trapped. Although we have committed ourselves to the principle that the occupation in Judea and Samaria is temporary, we will be stuck with it for a long time. We also have to continue taking casualties and sending our children to become soldiers and to kill people. We were not given our home on a silver platter.

This reality means that the question of what land we should give up is a question for the fairly distant future. When there is a real possibility for improving things by giving up land, conditions in our region and perhaps the world will be unpredictably different than they are today. Our disagreements over how much land, if any, to give up make no difference right now. We are not facing a practical dilemma.  There is no reason we should continue to beat up each other about what land, if any, we should be willing to give up for what benefits.

A solid majority of Israelis and our government have decided that Israel should be willing to give up most of Judea and Samaria in order to have peace, and perhaps even to separate ourselves from the Palestinians without peace. An even bigger majority is opposed to any withdrawals while the Palestinian community is in its current state. Therefore it is not true that our conflict with the Palestinians is the result of a stubborn or selfish insistence on holding onto all of the land of Israel. But there is nothing we can do at present to implement our willingness to give up most of the West Bank.

What can we do to make things better while we are living with the status quo?  First, if we recognize that the Palestinians will not give us any way of getting out of being “occupiers,” we can work together, left and right, to reduce the moral and other harm of the “occupation.”  And we can stop the internal name-calling and harsh charges against each other for not trying hard enough to end the occupation. We shouldn’t be fighting over something we have no power to change. The energy used for such fights should be directed towards making the occupation less harmful.

Our diplomatic position would also improve if there were fewer Israelis blaming one another for the continued occupation when Israel has no choice in the matter.

For the longer term, we  should do whatever we can to make the Palestinians and the Arab world more willing to give up their determination to destroy us.  Being nicer to them might help, although that is not usually a very effective strategy in the Middle East. It may be more useful to let them see that we are not riven by internal division or unable to bear the moral burden of being occupiers, so we are as willing as they are to continue living with the status quo indefinitely. The US could help by replacing false “even-handedness” with a truth-telling strategy that shows the Arab world that the US will not help them destroy Israel.

Many Israelis argue that we have to find a solution for our conflict with the Palestinians, and some insist that the problem is urgent (“Peace Now.”) But the experience of Israel’s first sixty years should teach us that patience is an advantage and perhaps even a necessity. What entitles us to have a solution available?

This is not to argue that the status quo does not have dangers. Israel is not safe. We are strong but also vulnerable, and quite capable of making decisive mistakes. But eagerness to settle our conflict with the Palestinians will not make us safe. Neither will anything else. Keeping our home here requires that we accept dangers and human costs of all kinds.

Dr. Max Singer
*Dr Singer, a founder and senior fellow of the Hudson Institute, is a senior fellow at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University in Israel.

Monday, June 05, 2017

As an Arab, I am embarrassed by the Six-Day War

From Times of Israel, 4 June 2017, by Fred Maroun*:
Fred Maroun
Fred Maroun

On the fiftieth anniversary of the Six-Day War, I commemorate with my Jewish friends. Before the war, Jews around the world feared what would happen to the Jews of Israel as they were surrounded by Arab armies and as the Arab leaders drummed up anti-Semitic hatred. But Israel stunned the whole world and particularly Arab leaders when it initiated a preventative attack, and when its young army vanquished much bigger and more experienced Arab armies in the short space of six days.

I am happy for my Jewish friends, but at the same time, as an Arab, I am embarrassed. I am not embarrassed that we lost. We deserved to lose, and I cannot even think of the massacres that may have ensued if we won. I am embarrassed that we started the war in the first place. An unnecessary war that followed 19 years after another unnecessary war that we also lost.

I am embarrassed that we let hatred drive our decision to go to war. I am embarrassed that we did not take Israel’s offer right after the war to make peace in exchange for land. I am embarrassed that since then, Egypt’s and Jordan’s realization of the foolishness of war was not matched by the rest of the Arab world, particularly my own country of Lebanon.

I am embarrassed that we never made a single credible comprehensive offer of peace to Israel. I am embarrassed that still today, 69 years after our first war against Israel, we still use the Palestinians as pawns in our war of hatred.

I am embarrassed that instead of denouncing the hatred, much of the world has joined with us in attacking the Jews’ right to self-determination.

I am embarrassed that I, and the few other Arabs who stand up to hatred, cannot do much more than speak up, and that we have not moved to action even our fellow Arabs who live comfortably in the West.

I am embarrassed as a citizen of the West because we pay lip service to Israel but we cannot provide substantial support to Israel, for example against the Arab attempts to rewrite the past and erase the Jewish history of Jerusalem.

I am embarrassed that we in the West are too beholden to Arab dictators to even take the symbolic step of recognizing that Jerusalem is an indivisible part of Israel.

I am embarrassed to ethnically belong to a group that thrives on hatred and to geographically belong to a group that appeases haters.

I am embarrassed to belong to a human race that has learned nothing from the lessons of the past and that continues to let antisemitism fester and grow.

I am embarrassed that I cannot write these words in an Arab publication or even in a mainstream Western publication because hatred and appeasement are too strong.

But there is something that I can do, and it is to fly in the face of every Arab tyrant and every Arab hatemonger, and to write the truth where I can, because unlike the vast majority Arabs who see the truth and yet remain silent, I refuse to be silenced, and that is something that I am proud of.

So, to my Jewish friends, on the fiftieth anniversary of the Six-Day War, I say, you have a lot to be proud of, not only from those six days, but from everything that your people did before and after. All the hatred in the world cannot take that pride away.

*Fred Maroun is a Canadian of Arab origin who lived in Lebanon until 1984, including during 10 years of civil war. Fred supports Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state, and he supports a liberal and democratic Middle East where all religions and nationalities, including Palestinians, can co-exist in peace with each other and with Israel, and where human rights are respected. Fred is an atheist, a social liberal, and an advocate of equal rights for LGBT people everywhere. Fred Maroun writes for Gatestone Institute.