politinfo

Trying to make sense of a meshuga planet

Robert Baer’s proposed solution and UNSCR 242

This is an update to my earlier post about Baer’s book The Devil We Know: Dealing With The New Iranian Superpower.

As with his other books, I enjoyed the parts where Baer describes his own experiences. When he talks about his fallen colleagues (Baer is an ex-CIA who served in the Middle East, including Lebanon in the 1980s), it is truly touching.

He makes some very good points, but at times I find myself questioning his conclusions and recommendations, especially when he attempts to play prophet.

He sees a possible conflict the US vs. Iran as either
(1) a 30-year war, which may turn into a 100-year war, or
(2) the US acknowledging the “devil we know” as a “new superpower” and making peace with Iranian mullocracy/Revolutionary Guard regime according to its new dominating status: guarantee its security, lift the sanctions, jointly patrol the Gulf, give them a role in Iraq and Afghanistan, and basically let them spread their influence as far as they wish, including Iran’s takeovers from Bahrain to Iraq to Mecca to Lebanon to Gaza.

Baer prefers to deal with the Shia (whom he describes as a closed and secretive society, but ultimately rational, pragmatic and disciplined) rather than with the Sunnis (lacking central power/doctrine and often turning radical, e.g. uncompromising “takfiris”, who see the world strictly in black & white). He seems to take a defeatist position: we’ve already lost, and we don’t even know it (book title notwithstanding). According to him, Iran has perfected modern warfare in Lebanon and Iraq via proxies (Hezbollah, Iraq’s Shia majority & the Kurds) and by consorting with Russia and China. Characteristically, ch. 5 is entitled: “Lethal and Elusive: Why Iran’s Weapons and Tactics Make It Unconquerable – Even Without Nukes.”

But the biggest surprise for me was his recommendation for Israel: give up the alleged nukes and implement UNSCR 242 – I italicized the verb because Baer seems to (mis)understand it as endless Israeli concessions. He should know better: the resolution is so short that I will quote it in its entirety here:

The Security Council,

Expressing its continuing concern with the grave situation in the Middle East,

Emphasizing the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war and the need to work for a just and lasting peace in which every State in the area can live in security,

Emphasizing further that all Member States in their acceptance of the Charter of the United Nations have undertaken a commitment to act in accordance with Article 2 of the Charter,

1. Affirms that the fulfillment of Charter principles requires the establishment of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East which should include the application of both the following principles:

(i) Withdrawal of Israel armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict;

(ii) Termination of all claims or states of belligerency and respect for and acknowledgement of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every State in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force;

2. Affirms further the necessity

(a) For guaranteeing freedom of navigation through international waterways in the area;

(b) For achieving a just settlement of the refugee problem;

(c) For guaranteeing the territorial inviolability and political independence of every State in the area, through measures including the establishment of demilitarized zones;

3. Requests the Secretary-General to designate a Special Representative to proceed to the Middle East to establish and maintain contacts with the States concerned in order to promote agreement and assist efforts to achieve a peaceful and accepted settlement in accordance with the provisions and principles in this resolution;

4. Requests the Secretary-General to report to the Security Council on the progress of the efforts of the Special Representative as soon as possible.

Note the absence of “the” in 1(i) and… not a word about the Palestinians, who were not a party in 1967 Six-Day War.
Here is one decent analysis
Here is another.

May 31, 2009 Posted by | Arab-Israeli Conflict, Iran | , , , | Leave a comment

Why it’s wrong to restrict natural growth

I feel ashamed that Obama administration chose to make demands of a total “freeze” of Jewish communities in historical Jewish homelands of Judea and Samaria – that, if implemented, would affect even the “natural growth,” i.e. without expanding their boundaries.

Historical record of those who imposed demographic/territorial restrictions on Jews (and Jews alone) is abysmal: from medieval expulsions & ghettos to German policies of Schutzjuden, to the Russian Pale of Settlement, to the horrors of the 20th century, to 2005 Israel’s expulsion of Jews from Gaza, which resulted in Hamas’ putsch.

I see the following problems with the new Obama/Clinton stance:

1. It violates the understandings negotiated between the previous US administrations and the govt of Israel. A dangerous precedent.

2. To prohibit even the natural growth within already established communities is an illogical and cruel restriction. Even left-wing Ehud Barak agrees that it is wrong.

3 & 4. I agree with Herb Keinon and Elliott Abrams: it won’t bring peace any closer and will only increase tensions between Israel and the US: Analysis: Is Obama looking for a fight over ‘natural growth’?:

“A ‘settlement freeze’ would not help Palestinians face today’s problems or prepare for tomorrow’s challenges,” Elliott Abrams, the deputy national security adviser under former US president George Bush, wrote in April in The Washington Post.

“The demand for a freeze would have only one quick effect: to create immediate tension between the United States and Israel’s new government,” he wrote. “That may be precisely why some propose it, but it is also why the Obama administration should reject it.”

Abrams proved prophetic: the issue has indeed created immediate tension with the US, not over illegal outposts – Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has made it clear he will remove them – but over “natural growth” in the settlements. …

Even if Israel succumbs to ever-increasing and ever-ridiculous demands, Gaza will be still under uncompromisingly genocidal Hamas jihadis, the Palestinian Authority-run schools, mass media and mosques will be still full of incitement against Jews and Israel, Hezbollah will not go away, etc.

5. Finally, and most importantly, it pushes public attention away from the real threat in the region: Iran.

So far Obama’s policies of befriending enemies and antagonizing allies are a big flop. BTW, Bibi deserves credit for standing up against huge pressure.

UPDATE
Abbas wants US to oust Netanyahu
Background: The documents President Obama apparently decided to ignore
Barry Rubin: What’s Unsettling about Obama’s Policy Toward Settlements

May 29, 2009 Posted by | Israel | , , | 1 Comment

US-funded PA names a center “after the martyr Dalal Mughrabi”

How many times we hear that the PA is “too weak” to act decisively against terrorism? No amount of money, equipment and training seems to make any difference. And so, apologists of PA’s inaction come up with never-ending demands of concessions and “gestures” from Israel (not that these make any difference, either).

Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook (of Palestinian Media Watch) ask in JPost: Will the US follow its laws and suspend funding to Abbas? The article proves that Palestinian leadership consistently makes incitement of violence against Jews and Israel their first choice. The full article has more evidence.

As US President Barack Obama prepares to welcome Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to Washington this week, and US lawmakers debate the proposed $900 million aid package to the PA, it is once again using its money to proclaim that killing Israeli woman and children is heroic.

The PA chose to name its latest computer center “after the martyr Dalal Mughrabi,” who led the most deadly terror attack in the country’s history. Her 1978 bus hijacking killed 37 civilians, 12 of them children, including American photographer Gail Rubin. The new center is funded by Abbas’s office, which is bolstered by Western aid money. (Al-Ayyam, May 5).

US law prohibits the funding of Palestinian structures that use any portion of their budget to promote terror or honor terrorists. But $200 million of the US’s proposed $900m. aid package is earmarked to go directly to the Abbas government, which regularly uses its budget to honor terrorists. In fact, this latest veneration of Mughrabi is not an isolated case, but part of a continuing pattern of honoring terrorists that targets children in particular.

Last summer the PA sponsored “the Dalal Mughrabi football championship” for kids, and a “summer camp named for martyr Dalal Mughrabi… out of honor and admiration for the martyr.” It also held a party to honor exemplary students, also named “for the martyr Dalal Mughrabi,” under the auspices of Abbas and at which Abbas’s representative “reviewed the heroic life of the martyr [Mughrabi] (Al-Hayat al-Jadida, July 23, 24 and August 8, 2008). All these PA-funded activities were to teach kids that a killer of women and children is a role model.

TWO MONTHS AGO, 31 years to the day after the Mughrabi murders, PA TV broadcast a special program celebrating the terror attack, calling the killing of 37 civilians “one of the most important and most prominent special operations… carried out by a team of heroes and led by the heroic fighter Dalal Mughrabi” (PA TV March 11).

In 2002, US money funded renovations of the “Dalal Mughrabi school for girls.” After PMW alerted the US State Department to Mughrabi’s terrorist past, the funding was cancelled. Within 24 hours, the PA said the name would be changed, and the American money was reinstated. Once the work was completed, however, the school was renamed for the terrorist. It bears Mughrabi’s name to this day.

AT A RECENT hearing of the House Appropriations Committee, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pledged: “We will work only with a Palestinian Authority government that unambiguously and explicitly accepts the Quartet’s principles, [including] a commitment to nonviolence.” And it’s not just Clinton’s pledge. US law interprets nonviolence to include not honoring terrorists: “None of the [US]… assistance under the West Bank and Gaza program may be made available for the purpose of recognizing or otherwise honoring individuals who commit, or have committed acts of terrorism” (2008 Foreign Operations Bill Sec. 657.B – C.1). This latest glorification of the terrorist Mughrabi, coming as Congress considers the administration’s latest request to fund Abbas, imposes a profound responsibility on Congress. But it also creates a unique opportunity.

Will the US follow its own laws, and insist that the PA stop turning killers of women and children into heroes and role models before it receives another cent of US money? Congress and Obama can send a message to the PA that the US will not fund the PA, or any part of its budget, until it proves that it has ceased promoting terrorist murderers as heroes and role models. It can demand a statement from Abbas – in public, in Arabic and in the PA media – that murdering Israelis is terror, that terrorists are neither heroes nor holy martyrs and that they will no longer be honored.

Or they can send a different message to Abbas: that raising another generation of Palestinian children to the values of hate, murder and martyrdom is acceptable to the US – so acceptable that the US is even willing to fund it.

May 28, 2009 Posted by | Palestinians | , , , | Leave a comment

The unbearable lightness of being [irresponsible]

As always, an insightful article by Barry Rubin: How Can Israel depend on those who have Proven Undependable?

Back in 1993, when the “peace process” began, President Bill Clinton told a press conference that Israel was ready to take risks for peace and he told Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, “If you do that, my role is to minimize those risks.”

One of the most important elements in contemporary Israeli thinking is the irony of those words. Clinton, of course, meant them and his intentions were good. But looking back from 2009, the risks taken by Israel and the concessions it has made have repeatedly plagued the country and cost the lives of thousands of its citizens.

Not only has the United States—and the Europeans who made similar pledges—failed to minimize the costs of this process but in most cases they have not even acknowledged it. Israeli concessions have not, as was expected, led to increasing support and public respect, quite the opposite.

Anyone who wants to deal with the conflict today must acknowledge and deal with this experience but we find that it is not happening. In the statements of Western leaders and in the media, what we usually discover is that such matters are either not mentioned at all or only passed over in ritualistic fashion. There is much talk about Israeli concessions and responsibilities, virtually none about Palestinian ones.

Thus, the two-state solution (TSS) or stopping settlement construction or removing roadblocks are spoken about as if these things alone will bring peace. There is little about a Palestinian Authority (PA) end to incitement to murder Israelis and denial of Israel’s right to exist (which goes on daily) or better security efforts, or agreement to end the conflict or to resettle refugees within a Palestinian state. There is little acknowledgement that Hamas’s control of the Gaza Strip is not just an inconvenience but an almost total roadblock for any hope of peace.

Note well, these are not “hawkish” or “anti-peace” arguments. Anyone who wants to make progress must deal with them very seriously. If these issues are ignored, failure is inevitable.

Read the entire article.

Under normal circumstances, whenever two sides enter into an agreement/contract, there is some kind of “or else” clause and the side that does not uphold its obligations has to pay. Curiously, when it comes to repeatedly failing Mid-East “peace process”, there’s no responsibilities and no consequences.

Hordes of conceit “peacemakers” keep giving promises they do not care to keep, because whatever happens, they still look good: if they can put a positive spin on it, they will take full credit; if the situation gets worse, well, they made an attempt of a noble mission and got a photo-op. Since no one is held responsible for their flawed plans, these plans tend to grow increasingly fanciful and delusional – such as recent Jordan’s Abdullah’s “57 state-solution” which the Arab League quickly rendered stillborn.

So when the next peacemaker pushes Israel to take even more risks while making questionable promises, let’s make sure there is “or else” clause.

May 26, 2009 Posted by | Arab-Israeli Conflict | | Leave a comment

Antisemitism on campus: UC Irvine

Case study: psychological projection

Unfortunately, UC Jihad is back. StandWithUs reprints an article Protecting Hate at UC Irvine by Neelie Genya Milstein, a UCI student.

Imagine walking on a campus past buildings where you have taken numerous classes with many peers, past the Student Center where you have eaten lunch many times, past all the familiar places where you have felt safe and accepted. Now imagine walking by those same places and seeing blood-stained flags of a nation that is part of your identity. Posters with “anti-hate = anti-Israel” and “Stop Israeli Genocide” parade in front of you. Displays surround you with images of cruel IDF soldiers, dead Gazans, Anne Frank — a symbol of Jewish tragedy — wearing a kaffiyeh, and of Israel’s barrier to protect Jews from terrorism, labeled an “apartheid wall.” It is as if everything Israel and Jews ever stood for is racism, bloodshed and war. You are a Jew; a proud Jew, a proud supporter of Israel. Now you are seen as nothing but a racist murderer on your own campus.

When I first walked onto campus and saw the Israeli flag blowing in the wind, ripped and blood-stained, I was filled with anger, sadness, and helplessness. I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs, “These are lies. This is disgusting!” I didn’t scream, but I trembled with rage at the Muslim Student Union (MSU), and even more, at the UCI administration for standing by as their students are humiliated, chewed up and spit out, and depicted almost as animals.

Anyone who knows Israel’s history knows of its challenges, triumphs and mistakes. I refuse to accept vicious propaganda that demonizes Israel. I refuse to accept desecration of cherished symbols of Jewish identity. I recognize that freedom of speech entails freedom to preach hate, lies and prejudice, but I am repulsed. The MSU depicts the suffering caused by Israel’s recent war with Hamas, but it never acknowledges the reasons for Israel’s actions, the suffering of Israelis, Hamas’ goal to destroy Israel, or the tactics Hamas used, such as human shields, that raised the civilian toll. I, along with Israelis and the Jewish world, grieve for the innocent civilians who died. Why doesn’t the MSU show equal concern for Jewish fears and suffering? Could they share Hamas’ view that whenever an Israeli man, woman, or child is killed, it should be cause for celebration and passing out candy?

I have been told to censor myself so that potential students are not afraid to come to UCI, but I have had enough censorship. With truth comes power, not fear. The MSU’s hate is dangerous. I have been in Jewish private schools since second grade and I have always been taught that hatred is wrong. I know that Israelis are taught not to hate Arabs, and that Jewish national identity demands equal protection for Muslim religious identity. I know that UCI’s Jewish students never even thought of retaliating with a weeklong campaign of “The World Without Mecca” or “Palestinian Nationalism=Islamic Terrorism and Racism.” Then I came to UCI, and found that my fear of hatred was more than justified. At UCI, hate is a yearly event that lasts for a week. It isn’t just any hatred. It is hatred directed at me, my friends, my community and my history.

Georges-Elia Sarfati is Professor of Linguistics at the University of Clermont Ferrand in France. In his recent interview entitled Language as a Tool against Jews and Israel, he talks about Europe, but this universally applies to antisemites anywhere (the emphasis is mine):


“Europe created Nazism, totalitarianism, racism and colonialism. Linguistically, we see what we might call a ‘displacement,’ or in psychological terms, ‘projection.’ All these traumatizing elements in Europe’s history are redirected toward Israel.

“Theologically speaking, this recalls the mechanism of the scapegoat. The latter is loaded with everybody’s sins, and then expunged. This biblical gesture is taken over by anti-Zionism. With all its verbal violence it constructs a despicable image of the state of Israel.”

How to React?

When asked how Jews and their allies should relate to the discourse, Sarfati quotes from his book: “This Judeophobia…should be judged as a pornographic vision: the speakers, listeners and those who watch it, all enjoy it.” He points out that one should not fall into the trap by starting to respond to one’s enemies’ arguments.

“If the anti-Zionist says the Zionist state is a fascist or a Nazi state, it would be mistaken to answer ‘How could you say such a thing? Israel has been the victim of fascism.’ That will only lead to the anti-Zionist’s next slogan: ‘The victims have become perpetrators.’ Entering into such debates is useless.

“One can reply that by using the equation ‘Zionism is fascism’ the anti-Zionist has become a successor of Hitler’s tradition. His slogan says Zionism and Israel are the movers of the absolute evil. It recycles what the Nazis said about the Jews. Racism dehumanizes a certain segment of humanity in order to justify its expulsion before its destruction. The latter is then covered up as a goal of public health.” Sarfati explains: “In this way, language serves the perfect crime. That is why the anti-Zionist discourse hardly speaks about Zionism, but is very telling about anti-Zionists.”

RELATED:
Collective Psychological Processes in Anti-Semitism by Avner Falk

May 25, 2009 Posted by | Antisemitism | , , , | Leave a comment

Andrei Sakharov’s widow Yelena Bonner speaks out

IsraelNN published excerpts from Yelena Bonner’s moving speech at Oslo Freedom Forum:


Read Sakharov’s Memoirs. It’s a pity his Diaries haven’t been translated; they were published in Russia in 2006. Apparently, the West isn’t interested now in Sakharov.

The West isn’t very interested in Russia either, a country that no longer has real elections, independent courts, or freedom of the press. Russia is a country where journalists, human rights activists, and migrants are killed regularly, almost daily. And extreme corruption flourishes of a kind and extent that never existed earlier in Russia or anywhere else. So what do the Western mass media discuss mainly? Gas and oil — of which Russia has a lot. Energy is its only political trump card, and Russia uses it as an instrument of pressure and blackmail… Russia will remain the way it is now for decades, unless there is some violent upheaval.

…They say people are coming together — but in reality, they are growing apart. And that isn’t because an economic depression suddenly burst forth, and swine flu to boot. [It] began on September 11, 2001. At first, anger and horror was provoked by the terrorists who knocked down the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center and by their accomplices in London, Madrid and other cities, and by the shahids, suicide bombers who blew themselves up at public spaces like discotheques and wedding parties, whose families were rewarded $25,000 each by Saddam Hussein.

Later, Bush was blamed for everything, and as always, the Jews — that is, Israel… So it is about Israel and the Jews that I will speak… At one time, the Nobel Peace Prize was the highest moral award of our civilization. But after December 1994, when Yasser Arafat became one of the three new laureates, its ethical value was undermined. I haven’t always greeted each selection of the Nobel Committee of the Norwegian Storting with joy, but that one shocked me. And to this day, I cannot understand and accept the fact that Andrei Sakharov and Yasir Arafat, now posthumously, share membership in the club of Nobel laureates.

In many of Sakharov’s publications… [he] wrote and spoke about Israel. I have a collection of citations of his writing on this topic. If it were published in Norway, then many Norwegians would be surprised at how sharply their contemporary view of Israel differs from the view of Sakharov. Here are several citations from Sakharov: …

“All wars that Israel has waged have been just, forced upon it by the irresponsibility of Arab leaders.” “With all the money that has been invested in the problem of Palestinians, it would have been possible long ago to resettle them and provide them with good lives in Arab countries.”

…Now, a new motif is fashionable (in fact it’s an old one): ‘Two states for two peoples.’ It sounds good. And there is no controversy in the peace-making Quartet, made up of the U.S., the UN, the EU, and Russia (some great peace-maker, with its Chechen war and its Abkhazian-Ossetian provocation). The Quartet, and the Arab countries, and the Palestinian leaders (both Hamas and Fatah) put additional demands to Israel. I will speak only of one demand: that Israel accept back the Palestinian refugees. And here a little history and demography are needed.

According to the UN’s official definition, refugees are considered those who fled from violence and wars, but not their descendants who are born in another land. At one time the Palestinian refugees and the Jewish refugees from Arab countries were about equal in number — about 700-800,000. The newly-created state Israel took in Jews (about 600,000). They were officially recognized as refugees by the UN Resolution 242, but not provided with any UN assistance. Palestinians, however, are considered refugees not only in the first generation, but in the second, third, and now even in the fourth generation. According to the UN Works and Relief Agency’s report, , the number of registered Palestinian refugees has grown from 914,000 in 1950 to more than 4.6 million in 2008, and continues to rise due to natural population growth. All these people have the rights of Palestinian refugees and are eligible to receive humanitarian aid.

The entire population of Israel is about 7.5 million, of which there are about 2.5 million ethnic Arabs who call themselves Palestinians. Imagine Israel then, if another five million Arabs flood into it; Arabs would substantially outnumber the Jewish population. Thus, created next to Israel will be a Palestinian state cleansed of Jews, because in addition to the demand that Palestinian refugees return to Israel, there is also the demand that Judea and Samaria are cleansed of Jews and turned over to Palestinians – while in Gaza today there is not a single Jew already.

The result is both strange and terrifying, not only because Israel will essentially be destroyed… Because the plan “two states for two peoples” is the creation of one state, ethnically cleansed of Jews, and a second one with the potential to do the same thing. A Judenrein Holy Land – the dream of Adolph Hitler come true at last. So think again, those who are still able, who has a fascist inside him today?

And another question that has been a thorn for me for a long time. It’s a question for my human rights colleagues. Why doesn’t the fate of the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit trouble you in the same way as the fate of the Guantanamo prisoners?

You fought for and won the opportunity for the International Committee of the Red Cross, journalists, and lawyers to visit Guantanamo. You know prison conditions, the prisoners’ everyday routine, their food. You have met with prisoners subjected to torture. The result of your efforts has been a ban on torture and a law to close this prison. President Obama signed it in the first days of his coming to the White House…

But during the two years Shalit has been held by terrorists, the world human rights community has done nothing for his release. Why? He is a wounded soldier, and fully falls under the protection of the Geneva Conventions. The Conventions say clearly that hostage-taking is prohibited, that representatives of the Red Cross must be allowed to see prisoners of war, especially wounded prisoners, and there is much else written in the Geneva Conventions about Shalit’s rights.

The fact that representatives of the Quartet conduct negotiations with the people who are holding Shalit in an unknown location, in unknown conditions, vividly demonstrates their scorn of international rights documents and their total legal nihilism. Do human rights activists also fail to recall the fundamental international rights documents?

And yet I still think (and some will find this naïve) that the first tiny, but real step toward peace must become the release of Shalit. Release – and not his exchange for 1,000 or 1,500 prisoners who are in Israeli prisons serving court sentences for real crimes.

Returning to my question of why human rights activists are silent, I can find no answer except that Shalit is an Israeli soldier, Shalit is a Jew. So again, it is conscious or unconscious anti-Semitism. Again, it is fascism.

Thirty-four years have passed since the day when I came to this city to represent my husband, Andrei Sakharov, at the 1975 Nobel Prize ceremony. I was in love with Norway then. The reception I received filled me with joy. Today, I feel Alarm and Hope (the title Sakharov used for his 1977 essay written at the request of the Nobel Committee).

Alarm because of the anti-Semitism and anti-Israeli sentiment growing throughout Europe and even further afield. And yet, I hope that countries, their leaders, and people everywhere will recall and adopt Sakharov’s ethical credo: “In the end, the moral choice turns out to be also the most pragmatic choice.”

I hope they listen. Here’s the speech in original Russian.
BTW, Andrei Sakharov was not Jewish, but he perfectly understood the importance of Israel. I highly recommend his memoirs.

May 24, 2009 Posted by | Yelena Bonner | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What does it take to become a state

As early as 1920, the Palestinian Jews developed viable democratic institutions consistent with a modern nation state: the Histadrut, Va’ad Leumi, Sokhnut, Haganah, and decades later, these centralized quasi-governmental organizations indeed served as a foundation for the Jewish state. Free press (such as The Palestinian Post), egalitarian culture, education (Hebrew U.), industrial and agricultural infrastructure (kibbutzim) also flourished.

Instead of helping to create the Jewish state (the Mandate prescribed “a national home for the Jewish people”), the British actively forestalled it. Efforts of the mandatory power were more along the lines of creating the Arab one (e.g. in 1922 the Brits gave away Trans-Jordan, constituting 75% of the Mandate territory, to the Hashemite Arab dynasty, and increasingly restricted Jewish immigration – especially during the Holocaust years! – but never Arab immigration).

What were the Palestinian Arabs doing during the 1920s? They were rioting, led by the jihadi-du-jour, such as the future Nazi mufti Hajj Amin al-Husseini and Izz ad-Din al-Qassam. No viable Palestinian Arab institutions were created.

Even later, during the occupation by Egypt and Jordan (1949-1967), nothing resembling a Palestinian state was created and there were no complaints then…

Fast forward to 2009. Several departments within the UN are dedicated exclusively to the Palestinian Arab cause, billions of dollars have been donated by the gullible West, and the whole world (except for the Palestinian leaders themselves) seems to crave for a Palestinian state – some insist that it already exists and hurried to recognize it – but, as in the 1920s, the Palestinian Arabs are still disunited, disassociated from reality and irrelevant to anything other than a rallying cry against Jews. Their institutions are either corrupt and dysfunctional (Fatah) or openly terrorist and totalitarian (Hamas). As in the 1920s, their culture is still imbued with radicalism, violence, and cult of death and martyrdom. None of these helped: the Arab League, Organization of Islamic Conference, individual Arab/Muslim countries, the Quartet, the Soviet Union/Russia, the European Union, individual European countries, the US, the UN…

Until the Palestinians themselves seriously engage in constructive – rather than destructive – statecraft, all efforts from the outside will fail.

Gerald F. Seib writes in his When is a Palestinian State Really a State?

What does it mean to call a nation a state?

The Israeli prime minister is willing to cede land, and flatly says he has no desire for Israel to govern Palestinians any longer.

The problem, in his mind, is that people are throwing around the word “state” too freely and allowing for too many assumptions about what that word means. Being a state means running your own affairs, picking your own leaders, and having your own economic system—none of which Netanyahu appears to have any problem with when it comes to the Palestinians.

But when people say “state,” Netanyahu worries, they also are implying a self-governing unit that can raise an army, acquire weapons from abroad and control its own borders. And those aspects of statehood, the Israeli leader argues, are non-starters for Israelis, and not just Israelis of his own Likud party.

Oh, and he also thinks there is ambiguity about what Palestinians really mean when they say they accept the state of Israel. He thinks they need to accept not just that there will be a country called Israel, but accept that it will be, specifically and eternally, a Jewish state.

The key question is this: Is the difference over what it means to establish a Palestinian state a semantic distinction, or a deep substantive divide? That’s the nub of the matter, and the issue that Obama’s special Middle East peace envoy, George Mitchell, will have to parse out.

The Netanyahu formulation would seem to leave plenty of room to agree to the formation of a self-governing, independent Palestinian entity of some kind. One journalist suggested to a senior Israeli official Tuesday that maybe it’s time to revive a term of art that has been used in the past to describe the goal of talks: formation of a “demilitarized Palestinian state.” The Israeli official nodded knowingly, but didn’t bite on the suggestion.

May 22, 2009 Posted by | Arab-Israeli Conflict | , | 1 Comment

Giving credit when it is due

I admit I often criticize Mr. Obama’s choices and especially disfavor a growing cult of personality being whipped up by some of his rabid fans. But today I’d like to commend him for the plan for fuel economy and emission standards. Thanks for making a long overdue step in the right direction.

May 21, 2009 Posted by | Alternative energy | Leave a comment

Don’t count on Russia in opposing Iran

WINEP published Will Russia Help the United States with Iran? by Mark N. Katz

To me, this reminds Russia I know (expletives omitted here, emphasis added below).

Russia’s recent decision not to sell the S-300 antiaircraft missile system to Iran (at least for now) raised hopes that Moscow would cooperate more fully in the effort to prevent Tehran from developing nuclear weapons. Recent statements from Russian leaders indicating that they were on board with the U.S. strategy further buoyed optimism. Despite these promising signs, however, there is strong reason to doubt that Moscow’s cooperation will continue.

Like Europe, Israel, the United States, and most Arab governments, Russia does not want Iran to acquire nuclear weapons. The expectation that this will lead to joint Russian-American cooperation, however, is seriously mistaken. Moscow does not want Iran to either voluntarily renounce or be forcefully prevented from acquiring nuclear weapons if — as Moscow fears — this results in a diminution of Russia’s value to Iran as a protector or partner. Even a nuclear-armed Iran would be preferable to Moscow than this prospect.

Putin & Ahmadinejad

Embrace

Moscow has little interest in working with Washington to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons for two important reasons:

First, Moscow has reasonably good — though not untroubled — relations with Tehran. Russian firms profit from selling arms and nuclear technology to Iran, and Russian petroleum firms are actively seeking to invest in the Iranian oil and gas sectors. Moscow is also deeply appreciative that Tehran has not supported Chechen or other Muslim rebels in Russia, or challenged Moscow’s influence in Central Asia and the Caucasus.

Moscow does not want to jeopardize any of this by seriously cooperating with Washington against Tehran. What Moscow would prefer instead is that others — the United States, Europe, Israel, or some combination — take the lead in confronting Tehran on the nuclear issue. If they succeed in getting Iran to halt its efforts, then Russia gains by avoiding the strategic challenge of having another nuclear power in its neighborhood. But if they fail to halt this activity, Moscow prefers that these actors — and not Russia — be the focus of Iran’s ire. This is especially true if Iran actually acquires nuclear weapons.

May 20, 2009 Posted by | Russia | , , , | Leave a comment

U.S. Congress bail out for Palestinians: $865 M

I guess the American financial system and the economy are doing just peachy if the U.S. can afford to throw so much money away – although financing terrorists is even worse than throwing money away.

House approves $865 million for Palestinians

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The U.S. House of Representatives approved the Obama administration’s request for $865 million in assistance for the Palestinians.

The funds approved May 14 include $300 million in humanitarian assistance for the Gaza Strip, which is controlled by Hamas, a terrorist group, and more than $100 million for training a security service answering to the more moderate leadership of the Palestinian Authority.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton pledged to Congress that the Gaza funds would be subject to strict restrictions and would not reach Hamas.

Did you expect her to say otherwise? The real question is: just how is this going to be enforced?

May 19, 2009 Posted by | US foreign policy | , , | Leave a comment