Saturday, June 27, 2009

Hillary is wrong about the Settlements, the U.S. and Israel reached a clear understanding about natural growth.

 

by Elliott Abrams

Mr. Abrams, a senior fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, handled Middle East affairs at the National Security Council from 2001 to 2009.

Despite fervent denials by Obama administration officials, there were indeed agreements between Israel and the United States regarding the growth of Israeli settlements on the West Bank. As the Obama administration has made the settlements issue a major bone of contention between Israel and the U.S., it is necessary that we review the recent history.

In the spring of 2003, U.S. officials (including me) held wide-ranging discussions with then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in Jerusalem. The "Roadmap for Peace" between Israel and the Palestinians had been written. President George W. Bush had endorsed Palestinian statehood, but only if the Palestinians eliminated terror. He had broken with Yasser Arafat, but Arafat still ruled in the Palestinian territories. Israel had defeated the intifada, so what was next?

Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, President George W. Bush, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Jordan's King Abdullah, June 4, 2003.

We asked Mr. Sharon about freezing the West Bank settlements. I recall him asking, by way of reply, what did that mean for the settlers? They live there, he said, they serve in elite army units, and they marry. Should he tell them to have no more children, or move?

We discussed some approaches: Could he agree there would be no additional settlements? New construction only inside settlements, without expanding them physically? Could he agree there would be no additional land taken for settlements?

As we talked several principles emerged. The father of the settlements now agreed that limits must be placed on the settlements; more fundamentally, the old foe of the Palestinians could -- under certain conditions -- now agree to Palestinian statehood.

In June 2003, Mr. Sharon stood alongside Mr. Bush, King Abdullah II of Jordan, and Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas at Aqaba, Jordan, and endorsed Palestinian statehood publicly: "It is in Israel's interest not to govern the Palestinians but for the Palestinians to govern themselves in their own state. A democratic Palestinian state fully at peace with Israel will promote the long-term security and well-being of Israel as a Jewish state." At the end of that year he announced his intention to pull out of the Gaza Strip.

The U.S. government supported all this, but asked Mr. Sharon for two more things. First, that he remove some West Bank settlements; we wanted Israel to show that removing them was not impossible. Second, we wanted him to pull out of Gaza totally -- including every single settlement and the "Philadelphi Strip" separating Gaza from Egypt, even though holding on to this strip would have prevented the smuggling of weapons to Hamas that was feared and has now come to pass. Mr. Sharon agreed on both counts.

These decisions were political dynamite, as Mr. Sharon had long predicted to us. In May 2004, his Likud Party rejected his plan in a referendum, handing him a resounding political defeat. In June, the Cabinet approved the withdrawal from Gaza, but only after Mr. Sharon fired two ministers and allowed two others to resign. His majority in the Knesset was now shaky.

After completing the Gaza withdrawal in August 2005, he called in November for a dissolution of the Knesset and for early elections. He also said he would leave Likud to form a new centrist party. The political and personal strain was very great. Four weeks later he suffered the first of two strokes that have left him in a coma.

Throughout, the Bush administration gave Mr. Sharon full support for his actions against terror and on final status issues. On April 14, 2004, Mr. Bush handed Mr. Sharon a letter saying that there would be no "right of return" for Palestinian refugees. Instead, the president said, "a solution to the Palestinian refugee issue as part of any final status agreement will need to be found through the establishment of a Palestinian state, and the settling of Palestinian refugees there, rather than in Israel."

On the major settlement blocs, Mr. Bush said, "In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949." Several previous administrations had declared all Israeli settlements beyond the "1967 borders" to be illegal. Here Mr. Bush dropped such language, referring to the 1967 borders -- correctly -- as merely the lines where the fighting stopped in 1949, and saying that in any realistic peace agreement Israel would be able to negotiate keeping those major settlements.

On settlements we also agreed on principles that would permit some continuing growth. Mr. Sharon stated these clearly in a major policy speech in December 2003: "Israel will meet all its obligations with regard to construction in the settlements. There will be no construction beyond the existing construction line, no expropriation of land for construction, no special economic incentives and no construction of new settlements."

Ariel Sharon did not invent those four principles. They emerged from discussions with American officials and were discussed by Messrs. Sharon and Bush at their Aqaba meeting in June 2003.

They were not secret, either. Four days after the president's letter, Mr. Sharon's Chief of Staff Dov Weissglas wrote to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that "I wish to reconfirm the following understanding, which had been reached between us: 1. Restrictions on settlement growth: within the agreed principles of settlement activities, an effort will be made in the next few days to have a better definition of the construction line of settlements in Judea & Samaria."

Stories in the press also made it clear that there were indeed "agreed principles." On Aug. 21, 2004 the New York Times reported that "the Bush administration . . . now supports construction of new apartments in areas already built up in some settlements, as long as the expansion does not extend outward."

In recent weeks, American officials have denied that any agreement on settlements existed. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated on June 17 that "in looking at the history of the Bush administration, there were no informal or oral enforceable agreements. That has been verified by the official record of the administration and by the personnel in the positions of responsibility."

These statements are incorrect. Not only were there agreements, but the prime minister of Israel relied on them in undertaking a wrenching political reorientation -- the dissolution of his government, the removal of every single Israeli citizen, settlement and military position in Gaza, and the removal of four small settlements in the West Bank. This was the first time Israel had ever removed settlements outside the context of a peace treaty, and it was a major step.

It is true that there was no U.S.-Israel "memorandum of understanding," which is presumably what Mrs. Clinton means when she suggests that the "official record of the administration" contains none. But she would do well to consult documents like the Weissglas letter, or the notes of the Aqaba meeting, before suggesting that there was no meeting of the minds.

Mrs. Clinton also said there were no "enforceable" agreements. This is a strange phrase. How exactly would Israel enforce any agreement against an American decision to renege on it? Take it to the International Court in The Hague?

Regardless of what Mrs. Clinton has said, there was a bargained-for exchange. Mr. Sharon was determined to break the deadlock, withdraw from Gaza, remove settlements -- and confront his former allies on Israel's right by abandoning the "Greater Israel" position to endorse Palestinian statehood and limits on settlement growth. He asked for our support and got it, including the agreement that we would not demand a total settlement freeze.

For reasons that remain unclear, the Obama administration has decided to abandon the understandings about settlements reached by the previous administration with the Israeli government. We may be abandoning the deal now, but we cannot rewrite history and make believe it did not exist.

 

Elliott Abrams is a senior fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, handled Middle East affairs at the National Security Council from 2001 to 2009.

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

 

Demilitarized Palestinian State?

 

by Prof. MK Arieh Eldad

 

Once upon a time, there was such a state.

 

"I don't think there's a Palestinian nation. There's an Arab nation. I don't think there's a Palestinian nation. That's a colonial invention. Since when were there Palestinians? I think there's only an Arab nation. Until the end of the 19th century, Palestine was the southern part of Greater Syria."

 

If I had said this, I would undoubtedly be called a Jewish nationalist, a racist, and worst of all - detached from reality.  Yet, note well, these words were spoken by former MK Dr. Azmi Bishara in an interview with Yaron London several years ago.  Bishara is a leader of Israeli Arab citizens who openly identify with the enemy, and who was forced to flee Israel under suspicion of aiding Hizbullah in wartime.


When Benjamin Netanyahu delivered his Bar-Ilan speech
, he could have used these words.  He could have ripped the mask of deception from the terrible historical lie that we have taken to our hearts as if it were written on the Tablets of the Law given at Sinai.  "Two States for Two Nations" has become holy dogma and anyone who challenges its validity is suspected of blasphemy.


But even if we assume that Netanyahu wished to speak in terms acceptable to Europe and the United States, rather than to fight a battle which he considered lost, still it would have been better had he not deceived his listeners with the scam known as "a demilitarized state."


When I heard the speech, my initial reaction was: "There ain't no such animal."  Of course, I don't mean nano-states such as Andorra or the Vatican, which have themselves chosen not to maintain an army.  There is no real state in the world defined as a demilitarized state.  And Netanyahu did not make do with a misleading general statement, he went into details: the state won't have missiles and rockets and planes, and will not be able to sign treaties.

 

The more I listened to this and said to myself that there is no such thing, I was reminded of something quite bothersome.  Was there once such a state?  And then one of my friends reminded me there had been.


"It will be forbidden to Germany to maintain or build fortifications... in this territory (West of the Rhine).... It is forbidden for Germany to maintain an army.... the German army will not include more than seven infantry divisions.... It is forbidden for Germany to import or export tanks or any other military hardware.... The German naval forces will be limited and are not to include submarines.  The armed forces of Germany will not include any air forces.... In the political realm, Germany is forbidden to enter into any treaty with Austria."


So it was written and sealed in the Treaty of Versailles.  The treaty was signed on June 28, 1919, as part of the Paris Peace Conference following the First World War. Essentially, Germany became a demilitarized state and was also limited from a political perspective.

 

So what happened?  Did the "demilitarized" status prevent the Second World War and, worst of all, the destruction of European Jewry?

 

By 1922, an agreement between Russia and Germany had been signed in the Italian city of Rapallo.  The agreement was open and met the terms of the Versailles Treaty, but the conference that prepared it was secret; and there, Soviet Russia and Germany agreed on joint establishment of weapons factories, poison gas and ammunition.  German army officers were sent to Russia to be trained in the use of weapons that were forbidden to be maintained in Germany. In Germany, civilian factories were refurbished into arms factories, funded, as it were, by private individuals, not the state.


When I heard about the widespread activity of Jews in the Obama court and about the extreme anti-Israeli stance they are taking
, and about the anger of the extreme Left in Israel over Netanyahu's speech - in that he did not express a willingness to take in Arab refugees, give away Jerusalem and dismantle settlements, all as a prepayment for negotiating with the enemies of Israel - I again thought of the Rapallo TreatyIt was the Jewish foreign minister of Germany, Walther Rathenau, who stood behind the agreement that years later gave Nazi Germany its powerful war machine.  And it was Erhard Milch, the son of a Jewish father, who subverted the Versailles Treaty and, in the guise of civilian aeronautic companies and flying clubs, established Lufthansa, which during the war became the Luftwaffe, the German air force that in weeks overcame Poland and France and bombed London in the BlitzThe Jewish people can be trusted to bring forth warped members who will arm the "demilitarized Palestinian state", if one should ever come to be.

 

The lesson being that there is no political power that can prevent a sovereign state from doing whatever it wants.  Netanyahu knows that if ever a Palestinian state should, Heaven forbid, be established, Israel will not be able to declare war on it if it should choose, for instance, to sign an international tourism agreement with Cyprus or a transfer-of-technology agreement with Iran. If pipes are manufactured in Tulkarm, Israel will not be able to start a war that can be justified in the eyes of the world if steel cutters turn the pipes into Kassam rockets.  Since nothing other than Israeli force could possibly preserve demilitarization, Netanyahu is deceiving the people of Israel and promising them something that cannot be delivered.

 

But all of the above is not the main thing.  The main thing is that Netanyahu has recognized the right of Arabs to establish a sovereign state in our homeland.  None of his conditions and reservations can hide this abominationWhoever recognizes the right of his enemy to establish a state in his homeland has abandoned all principle and all that is left to do is argue over the price. Whoever has left his religion and changed his faith cannot insist on observing the commandments of what is no longer his faithWhoever has abandoned his patrimony has no basis on which to insist on continuing to build on its lands.

 

 

 

Prof. MK Arieh Eldad

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

 

Friday, June 26, 2009

Barack Obama vs. International Law

 

by Caroline B. Glick

True champions of law should demand the American president end his administration's contempt for the US's actual — rather than imaginary — legal obligations

US President Barack Obama consistently couches his demand that Israel prohibit Jewish people from constructing or expanding our homes and communities in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria in legal-sounding language. Obama has called settlements "illegitimate." And he has said that Israel "has obligations under the road map," while referring disparagingly to "settlements that, in past agreements, have been categorized as illegal."

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Obama's Middle East envoy George Mitchell have repeatedly uttered similar statements.

By characterizing its demand that Israel prohibit Jews from building homes in Israel's capital city and its heartland as a legal requirement, the Obama administration portrays Israel as an international outlaw. After all, if building homes for Jews is a crime, and Israel is not prohibiting Jews from building homes, then Israel is at best guilty of enabling a crime to take place, and at worst, it is a criminal state.

It makes good political sense for the Obama administration to make its case against Israel in this fashion. According to a survey of US public opinion published in early 2006 by the Boston Review, whereas only seven percent of Democrats support going to war to spread democracy — versus 53 percent of Republicans; 71 percent of Democrats — versus 36 percent of Republicans — support going to war to help the United Nations "uphold international law."

What this poll shows is that for Obama supporters, the idea that Israel should be treated poorly because Israel is in breach of international law resonates deeply.

The problem with the Obama administration's characterization of a ban on Jewish building in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria as an Israeli legal obligation is that Israel has never taken upon itself a legal obligation to prohibit such building activities. Israel has never signed an agreement that has characterized any Jewish communities as "illegal."

Moreover, both former prime minister Ariel Sharon's chief of staff Dov Weisglass and former president George W. Bush's deputy national security advisor for the Middle East Elliot Abrams have gone on record stating that Sharon's much vaunted decision to curtail Jewish building in Judea and Samaria, (never Jerusalem), in line with the road map negotiating framework was based on a series of explicit understandings with the Bush administration that spelled out the scope of Jewish building that Israel would maintain for the duration of the peace process. As Abrams wrote on Thursday in the Wall Street Journal, "Not only were there agreements, but the prime minister of Israel relied on them…"

Then too, since the road map was approved as a mere government decision — as opposed to an international agreement — the Netanyahu government has no legal obligation to actively advance it. Indeed, if it wishes, it can abrogate Israel's acceptance of the document at any time simply by calling for another vote.

More importantly perhaps from the Obama administration's perspective is that the road map itself lacks the force of international law. Although it was adopted by the UN Security Council, it was not adopted as an internationally binding document under Chapter VII of the UN Charter. Consequently, Israel has no international legal obligation to end Jewish construction in Judea and Samaria or Jerusalem. Like the US, Israel is a signatory to the 1976 International Convention for Civil and Political Rights, which among other things prohibits all forms of discrimination against people on the basis of religion and nationality. Consequently, Israel is barred from discriminating specifically against Jews who wish to build homes on legally controlled lands in Judea and Samaria. As a binding treaty, this convention takes precedence over the non-binding road map. Indeed, given the road map's prejudicial position on Jewish building it can be reasonably argued that the road map itself calls for a breach of international law.

Finally, there is always the claim made by Israel's critics that Jewish communities located beyond the 1949 armistice lines are illegal by dint of the Fourth Geneva Convention from 1949. That Convention prohibits an occupying power from transferring parts of its population to occupied territory. Legal authorities have long disputed whether this Convention is applicable to Judea and Samaria, but even if it is applicable, according to Prof. Avi Bell from Bar Ilan University Law School, it "only proscribes state actions."

Bell explains, "The Fourth Geneva Convention does not purport to limit in any way what individual Jews may or may not do on their legally held property or where they may or may not choose to live."

 

Whereas upon examination it is clear that the Obama administration is wrong in insinuating that Israel is in breach of its international legal commitments through its refusal to bar Jewish construction in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem, the Obama administration's own policy towards the Palestinians places it in clear breach of both binding international law and domestic US law.

On September 28, 2001, the UN Security Council passed binding Resolution 1373. Resolution 1373, which was initiated by the US government, and was passed by authority of Chapter VII, committed all UN member states to "refrain from providing any form of support, active or passive, to entities or persons involved in terrorist acts."

Resolution 1373 further required UN member states to "deny safe haven to those who finance, plan, support, or commit terrorist acts or provide safe haven" to those that do.

In 1995 the US State Department acknowledged that Hamas fits the legal definition of a terrorist organization. Today, due to its policies towards Hamas, the Obama administration is in breach of both Resolution 1373 — that is, of international law — and of US domestic law barring the provision of support and financing to foreign terrorist organizations. According to an internal State Department document cited Wednesday by the Atlas Shrugs website, the US has already transferred or is in the process of allocating $300 million dollars to Gaza through USAID and the International Committee for the Red Cross. Since Hamas controls "humanitarian" organizations in Gaza, and Hamas has openly and repeatedly stolen "humanitarian aid," there is little doubt the transfer of funds to Gaza constitutes indirect assistance to Hamas and is therefore prohibited by Resolution 1373 as well as by domestic US statute.

The Obama administration is further in breach of international and domestic US law due to its attempts to coerce Israel into opening international passages between Israel and Gaza to enable trade and commerce with Hamas-controlled Gaza and to end or curtail travel restrictions for people between Gaza and Israel. Resolution 1373 stipulates that all states must "Prevent the movement of terrorists or terrorist groups by effective border controls." Given the fact that the Gaza side of the border is controlled by a terrorist organization, any significant relaxation of Israeli border controls puts Israel at risk of facilitating the movement of terrorists and permitting direct and indirect support to terrorists.

So too, Resolution 1373 requires all states to "Ensure that any person who participates in the financing, planning, preparation or perpetuation of terrorist acts or in supporting terrorist acts is brought to justice." Yet rather than calling on Israel to arrest all persons working with Hamas and operating in its territory, the US itself pledged $900 million to rebuilding Gaza. Moreover, it is demanding that Israel allow the importation of dual use materials like cement into Gaza which will enable Hamas to rebuild its infrastructures that were destroyed during Operation Cast Lead. It is also attempting to coerce Israel into transferring cash to Hamas-controlled banks in Gaza.

Then too, as Dan Diker reported in a study published by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, US-supported Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad recently acknowledged that the US-financed PA continues to pay the salaries of Hamas terrorists.

 

Multiple news reports in recent days have indicated that the Obama administration is working to facilitate the establishment of a Palestinian government that will include Hamas. US efforts to legitimize the incorporation of a terrorist group in a Palestinian government are a severe violation of US and international law. This is the case since it would clearly involve aiding a designated terrorist organization and helping to provide it with a safe haven.

Hamas itself is not the only terrorist organization to which the Obama administration is providing assistance — again, in apparent breach of international and US law. The administration is also aiding Hizbullah in various ways. Ahead of his June 4 address in Cairo, Obama met with members of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood at the White House. He also invited members of the Muslim Brotherhood to be present at his speech.

Shortly before the White House meeting, Egyptian legal authorities alleged that the Muslim Brotherhood provided material support to Hizbullah terrorists in Egypt. These Hizbullah operatives — and their Muslim Brotherhood partners — were allegedly engaged in a plot to commit massive terrorist attacks in Egypt whose goal was the illegal overthrow of the government. That is, the Muslim Brotherhood was allegedly involved in a terrorist conspiracy led by Hizbullah -- a designated foreign terrorist organization. Furthermore, the plot was apparently hatched by Iran — which the US State Department has designated as state sponsor of terrorism.

By meeting with representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood suspected of providing material support to a designated terrorist organization, Obama was arguably illegally providing indirect assistance to Hizbullah — again in breach of Resolution 1373 and US domestic law.

Then there is the US's direct assistance to the Lebanese military. During the 2006 war between Israel and Hizbullah, the Lebanese military provided direct assistance to Hizbullah operatives in carrying out their illegal war against Israel. Since then, continued and expanding Hizbullah influence over the Lebanese military has been copiously documented. Consequently, by providing direct US military assistance — including weapons — to the Lebanese military, the US government is arguably in breach of Resolution 1373 and domestic US law.

Going back for a moment to the Palestinians, Hamas of course is not the only terrorist organization that is materially assisted by the Obama administration's policies. As Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook wrote in the Jerusalem Post last month, the US is financing the construction of a Palestinian computer center named for arch Fatah terrorist Dalal Mughrabi who led the 1978 bus bombing on Israel's coastal highway in which 37 civilians including 12 children and US citizen Gail Rubin were murdered.

As Marcus and Crook note, the 2008 US Foreign Operations Bill bars US assistance to the Palestinians from being used "for the purpose of recognizing or otherwise honoring individuals who commit or have committed acts of terrorism."

Obama, the former law professor, never tires of invoking international law. And yet, when one considers his policies towards Israel on the one hand, and his policies towards illegal terrorist organizations on the other, it is clear that Obama's respect for international law is mere rhetoric. True champions of law in both Israel and the US should demand an end to his administration's contempt for the US's actual — rather than imaginary — legal obligations.

 

Caroline B. Glick is the senior Middle East Fellow at the Center for Security Policy in Washington, DC and the deputy managing editor of The Jerusalem Post.

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

 

Israel's Reliable Friend: The President Proposes but Congress Disposes.

 

by  Yoram Ettinger

 

President Obama and his advisors pressure Prime Minister Netanyahu to avoid intensive contacts with Congress.  They claim that such contacts would undermine the Presidency, and would therefore damage US-Israel relations.  However, refraining from such contacts would demote Congress into a "Supporting Actor", and thus would be an insult to the American People, to its representatives on Capitol Hill and to the US democracy, which regard Congress as a "Co-Starring Actor." In the long run, it would degrade vital Israeli interests and weaken US-Israel relations.

 

In 1992, I was told by then Majority Leader, Senator George Mitchell: "Doesn't Israel realize that the US is not a monarchy and that the President is strong but not omnipotent?!" And, in fact it was Congress – and not the President – that stopped US military involvement in Vietnam (Eagleton Amendment), Angola (Clark Amendment), Nicaragua (Boland Amendment), forced the USSR to let the Jews go (Jackson-Vanik Amendment), approved emergency aid to the former USSR (Aspen-Nunn Amendment), toppled the White regime in Pretoria (Anti-Apartheid Act), provided Israel with emergency assistance following the 1991 Gulf War in defiance of Bush/Baker, etc.

 

Recent Israeli governments have underestimated the power of Congress, as a result of the highlighted global profile of the President.  Still, a US President is powerful, but – unlike Israeli Prime Ministers – he is not the chairman of his party and not the leader of his congressional slate. He does not anoint the Speaker, majority leaders and committee chairs.  And he does not determine which bills should pass in Congress.  The President is one of three arms of government, which are equal in power and independence.  He is constrained by the decentralized Federal system, by an effective Separation of Powers and by an elaborate system of checks and balances, which are designed to prevent tyranny. The President initiates and executes policy, but Congress – which is featured in the first article of the US Constitution - possesses the "Power of the Purse" and the authority to change, suspend and initiate policy, prevent senior presidential appointments and add and eliminate government departments and agencies.  While the relative presidential weight increases during national security crises, the relative weight of Congress is upgraded during financial crises. The confrontational/defiant nature of the President-Congress relationship, constitute a significant watchdog over US democracy.

 

Israel's government assumes that the Congressional Democratic majorities provide President Obama with a "free ride." However, Senator Robert Byrd, President Pro-Tempore of the Senate has persisted in quipping at Democratic and Republican presidents: "Legislators are the servants of the Constitution, not the servants of the President."  Former Speaker, Democratic House Member Tom Foley, advised President Clinton in 1993 not to take House and Senate Democratic majorities for granted: "We won't be able to support all your ambitious policies, because our political life expectancy (running every two years) is different than yours (running every four years)." Clinton ignored the advice and caused the Democratic Party crash in the November 1994 election. The loyalty of the 535 federal legislators – who represent districts and states more than political parties – is first and foremost to their constituents, to the Separation of Powers and to the independence of the Legislature and only then to the President.  Therefore, over 30 Democratic House Members supported the impeachment of Clinton, many Democrats opposed Clinton's free trade initiatives, caused Obama to rescind the appointment of anti-Israel pro-China Chas Freeman, forced Obama to boycott the UN Durbin II Conference and are not automatic supporters of Obama's proposals to close down the Guantanamo jail, to bail out Wall Street and the Detroit car makers, dramatically increase the national debt, etc. As the November 2010 congressional elections approach, and as economic recovery is further delayed, the more dependent Obama becomes on a willing Congress and the more independent and defiant will the legislators become. 

 

In 1891, six years before the First World Zionist Congress, in defiance of the US Department of State, 400 US dignitaries co-led by the Speaker of the House and the Chairman of the House International Relations Committee signed the "Blackstone Memorial," which called for a Jewish national home in the Land of Israel. In 1922, 26 years before the establishment of the Jewish State, The US House and Senate unanimously passed a Joint Resolution, reaffirming congressional support of a Jewish State between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean.

 

The enhancement of Israel's critical interests and the demonstration of respect towards the US democracy, behoove Israel's Prime Minister to cultivate ties with Congress - the most authentic representation of the US public, equal in power to the President, a bastion of support for closer US-Israel ties, which appreciates the unique covenant binding the US and the Jewish State: Democracy, shared Judeo-Christian values, mutual regional and global threats and joint strategic interests.

 

 

Yoram Ettinger

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

 

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Whether or not the street protests continue, the power of the Ayatollahs is on the wane.

 

by Edward Luttwak

At this point, it is only the short-term future of Iran's clerical regime that remains in doubt. The current protests can be repressed, but the unelected institutions of priestly rule have been fatally undermined, and in the meantime, the Tehran government may be largely paralyzed anyway. Each of these things has its own dynamic and timetable, but this is not a regime that can last many more years.

When it comes to repression, the Islamic Republic has a spectrum of security instruments that can be used synergistically: the regular national police for routine crowd control without much use of force; riot police units with batons that can beat up some demonstrators to discourage others; the much more brutal, under-class Basij militiamen who enjoy hitting and even shooting more affluent Iranians; and finally the not-incompetent technical arm of the regime which blocks cellular service to disrupt demonstrations, disrupts internet services and intercepts opposition communications.

Mousavi rejects the orders of Supreme Leader Khamenei, who must be obeyed If violence were to escalate very greatly, Pasdaran revolutionary guard troops with their wheeled armored vehicles might also be called in - at some risk to the regime, given that one unhappy losing presidential candidate, Mohsen Rezaee, was their long-term commander, though he left 12 years ago. The alternative of calling in the regular army with its tanks would be much more risky: the loyalty of the generals is unknown.

What has undermined the very structure of the Islamic Republic is the fracturing of its ruling elite. It was the unity established by its founder Ayatollah Khomeini that allowed the regime to dominate the population for almost 30 years, and it has now been lost. The very people who did much to create the institutions of priestly rule are now destroying their authority.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's leading rival for the presidency, Mir Hossein Mousavi, was prime minister from 1981 to 1989 when the Islamic Republic acquired its administrative structure, including its unelected head, the Supreme Leader, who commands all and must be obeyed in all things. But Mousavi now flatly rejects the orders of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to accept Ahmadinejad's re-election.

In this, Mousavi is joined by another losing candidate, former Speaker of the Majlis (parliament) and pillar of the establishment Mehdi Karroubi, and a yet more senior founder of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. President from 1989 to 1997, among other things Rafsanjani is the chairman of the Assembly of Experts, whose 86 members choose the Supreme Leader and can ostensibly remove him.

During the campaign, Ahmadinejad accused Rafsanjani and his children of corruption in the harshest terms on live television. If Ahmadinejad's re-election is to be "definitive" and even "divine" as the Supreme Leader has declared, Rafsanjani would have to resign from all his offices, and his children would have to leave Iran. Instead he is reportedly trying to recruit a majority of the Assembly of Experts to remove Khamenei, or at least force him to order new elections.

The other key undemocratic institution that makes the Islamic Republic what it is - and that Mousavi and Rafsanjani among others helped to create - is the 12-member Guardian Council that can veto any laws passed by the Majlis, and has the power to reject any candidate who presents himself for election (only Islamists qualify). In recent years, it has persistently sided with the extremists and Ahmadinejad, using its veto powers very aggressively.

Supreme Leader Khamenei logically chose the Guardian Council to deal with the election dispute. The council announced that it might recount 10 per cent of the  ballots, and summoned Ahmadinejad's rivals: Mousavi himself, Karroubi, and Rezaee. All three men rejected the recount offer and only Rezaee went before the Council; Mousavi and Karroubi simply refused to appear, explicitly denying its authority as well as that of the Supreme Leader.

That is highly significant because with its elected president and parliament, Iran would be a normal democratic republic were it not for the office of the Supreme Leader and the Guardian Council - the latter are the Islamic Republic.

In theory, if Ahmadinejad, Khamenei and the extremists of the Guardian Council were all replaced by consensus figures, the Islamic Republic could continue as before. In practice that is impossible.

It is not for the distinctly uncharismatic and only marginally moderate Mir Hossein Mousavi that huge numbers of Iranians have been demonstrating at the risk of beatings and worse. His courage under pressure has certainly raised his popularity, but he is still no more than the accidental symbol of an emerging political revolution, chosen because he was the least extremist candidate that the Guardian Council would allow.

It is perfectly evident that after years of humiliating social repression and gross economic mismanagement, the more important part of Iran's population - the less uneducated, less poor, less passive, and most productive - have mostly turned their backs on the entire regime.

Even if personally religious or actually devout, they now reject the entire post-1979 structure of politicized Shi'a Islam with its powerful Ayatollahs, ubiquitous, officious Hojatollahs, strutting Pasdaran guards, low-life Basij militia, and exceedingly wealthy Islamic foundations with lots of well-paid priestly executives.

Many Iranians once inclined to respect clerics in general, now view them as generally corrupt, including the Ahmadinejad supporters who greatly applauded Khamenei's attacks on Ayatollah Rafsanjani.

Had Mousavi won the election, he would have introduced modest steps to liberalize the system - allowing women to go out with uncovered heads, for example. But such steps would only have triggered demands for more change, eventually bringing down the entire system of clerical rule.

Some clerics have long said that men of religion should give up political power

In the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev's initially very cautious reforms designed to perpetuate the Communist regime ended up destroying it in less than five years. In Iran, the system is much newer, and the process would have been faster.

Some important clerics, including Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, have long said that men of religion should strive to regain popular respect by voluntarily giving up political power, and that may provide a way out eventually.

Even if all protests are repressed, Supreme Leader Khamenei is now in the impossible position of having to support a president whose authority is not accepted by much of the governing structure itself - even the rather extremist Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani has declared that the vote counting was biased. So Ahmadinejad cannot really function as president even if he remains in office - for one thing, the Majlis parliament is unlikely to confirm his ministerial appointments.

If therefore Khamenei is not removed by the Assembly of Experts and Ahmadinejad is not removed by Khamenei, the government will continue to be paralyzed. That will only accelerate the erosion of the machinery of priestly rule. Iran's great good fortune is that below it, the essential democratic institutions are up and running, and need only new elections for both the Majlis and the presidency. 

 

by Edward Luttwak

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

 

Silence Is Not Neutrality.


by Michael Rubin


Obama needs to support freedom in Iran

 

Over the weekend, both conservative columnist George Will and former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan argued that conservative criticism of President Obama's rhetorical restraint amidst the Iranian protests was unwarranted.

"The president is being roundly criticized for insufficient rhetorical support for what's going on over there. It seems foolish criticism," Will said.

"To insist the American president, in the first days of the rebellion, insert the American government into the drama was shortsighted and mischievous," Noonan wrote. "The ayatollahs were only too eager to demonize the demonstrators as mindless lackeys of the Great Satan Cowboy Uncle Sam, or whatever they call us this week."

Both Will and Noonan are right that Obama should not endorse former Prime Minister Mir-Hossein Mousavi, but the president should certainly speak up for the principles of freedom, liberty, and free elections. He should point out that Afghans, Iraqis, Pakistanis, and Turks — almost all of Iran's neighbors — have freely chosen governments, and that this is a right that the Iranian people should also enjoy. Indeed, he can cite the Iranian legacy of elections going back to the constitutional revolution early last century. Right now, the Iranians are suffocating under a media blackout. In Tehran during the 1999 student uprising, I remember the frustration in the streets at the lackluster international response, especially as Iranian state television began broadcasting forced confessions.

If Obama were to get on Radio Farda or Voice of America Persian service and speak directly to the Iranian people, if he were to admit he was wrong to have implied that the supreme leader was their legitimate spokesman, that might have tremendous effect. Ilya Zaslavsky, a democratic-bloc leader in the Soviet Congress of People's Deputies, credited Ronald Reagan rather than Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev with originating the perestroika reforms.

If Obama is going to shirk his duty, then it is time for the Congress to speak up. In the early 1970s, as now, many in the foreign-policy establishment opposed any freedom-and-democracy agenda, but congressional activism helped overcome their resistance. Henry Kissinger opposed the 1974 Jackson-Vanik Amendment, which linked trade with the Soviet Union to that country's treatment of Jewish emigration, for fear that it could disrupt other diplomatic initiatives; but dissidents — not just Jewish ones — in the Soviet Union subsequently acknowledged how important that bill's passage was. We should all be thankful that Ukrainians did not heed Pres. George H. W. Bush's advice to work within the Soviet framework in his infamous "Chicken Kiev" speech.

Will the Iranian government try to taint the protestors as lackeys of the United States? Yes. But they will do this regardless of whether Obama speaks up. Former Carter aide Gary Sick and pro-engagement voices like Trita Parsi and James Dobbins condemned George W. Bush's democracy assistance, saying that it sparked the Islamic Republic's crackdown on civil society. The crackdown had begun years before, however, and had been foreshadowed by Hamid Reza Taraqi, the head of the hard-line Islamic Coalition party, before any U.S. initiative was announced. Too often, critics of White House policy exculpate the worst regimes in order to score political points.

The Islamic Republic's attacks on peaceful dissent are nothing new. The regime has always blamed Great Britain, the United States, Bahais, Zionists, and/or Jews for every ill that befalls the country. When the leadership claims God's mantle, it is hard to accept accountability for the failure of leadership; it is far easier to find straw men to blame.

Don't underestimate the Iranian people, however. The protestors are no longer supporting former Prime Minister Mir-Hossein Mousavi; they are chanting "Death to the Dictator" [Khamenei]. They are opposing the Islamic Republic. While conspiracy theories loom large in Iranian culture — indeed, Iranians poke fun at their conspiratorial nature in often-humorous ways — the Iranian people can separate the wheat from the chaff. Those inclined to believe Kayhan, the Islamic Republic News Agency, or the Fars News Agency will do so no matter what we do. Those disinclined will not swallow regime propaganda simplemindedly.

Obama promised to transform America's image in the world. Excising freedom and liberty from our brand is not the way to do it. Remaining silent is not neutral; it is casting a vote for the status quo, including the primacy of the supreme leader and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. It is time for Obama and Congress to speak loud and clear in defense of freedom.

 

Michael Rubin, a senior editor of the Middle East Quarterly, is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a senior lecturer at the Naval Postgraduate School.

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

 

Where is Everyone?

 

by Ben Caspit and Ben-Dror Yemini

 

Tell us, where is everyone?  Where did all the people who demonstrated against Israel's brutality [sic.T] in Operation Cast Lead, in the Second Lebanon War, in Operation Defensive Shield, or even in The Hague, when we were dragged there unwillingly after daring to build a separation barrier between us and the suicide bombers, disappear to? 

 

We see demonstrations here and there, but these are mainly Iranian exiles.  Europe,

in principle, is peaceful and calm.  So is the United StatesHere and there a few dozens, here and there a few hundreds.  Have they evaporated because it is Tehran and not here?

 

All the peace-loving and justice-loving Europeans, British professors in search of freedom and equality, the friends filling the newspapers, magazines and various academic journals with various demands for boycotting Israel, defaming Zionism and blaming us and it for all the ills and woes of the world—could it be that they have taken a long summer vacation? 

 

Now of all times, when the Basij hooligans have begun to slaughter innocent civilians in the city squares of Tehran?  Aren't they connected to the Internet?  Don't they have YouTube?  Has a terrible virus struck down their computer?  Have their justice glands been removed in a complicated surgical procedure (to be re-implanted successfully for the next confrontation in Gaza)?  How can it be that when a Jew kills a Muslim, the entire world boils, and when extremist Islam slaughters its citizens, whose sole sin is the aspiration to freedom, the world is silent?

 

Imagine that this were not happening now in Tehran, but rather here.  Let's say in NablusSpontaneous demonstrations of Palestinians turning into an ongoing bloodbath.  Border Policemen armed with knives, on motorcycles, butchering demonstrators.  A young woman downed by a sniper in midday, dying before the cameras.  Actually, why imagine?  We can just recall what happened with the child Mohammed a-Dura.  How the affair (which was very harsh, admittedly) swept the world from one end to another.  The fact that a later independent investigative report raised tough questions as to the identity of the weapon from which a-Dura was shot, did not make a difference to anyone.  The Zionists were to blame, and that was that.

 

And where are the world's leaders?  Where is the wondrous rhetorical ability of Barack Obama?  Where has his sublime vocabulary gone?  Where is the desire, that is supposed to be built into all American presidents, to defend and act on behalf of freedom seekers around the globe?  What is this stammering?

 

A source who is connected to the Iranian and security situation, said yesterday that if Obama had shown on the Iranian matter a quarter of the determination with which he assaulted the settlements in the territories, everything would have looked different.  "The demonstrators in Iran are desperate for help," said the man, who served in very senior positions for many years, "they need to know that they have backing, that there is an entire world that supports them, but instead they see indifference.  And this is happening at such a critical stage of this battle for the soul of Iran and the freedom of the Iranian people.  It's sad."

 

Or the European Union, for example.  The organization that speaks of justice and peace all year round.  Why should its leaders not declare clearly that the world wants to see a democratic and free Iran, and support it unreservedly?  Could it be that the tongue of too many Europeans is still connected to dark places?  The pathetic excuse that such support would give Khamenei and Ahmadinejad an excuse to call the demonstrators "Western agents," does not hold water.  They call them "Western agents" in any case, so what difference does it make?

  

To think that just six months ago, when Europe was flooded with demonstrations against Israel, Leftists and Islamists raised pictures of Nasrallah, the protégé of the ayatollah regime. 

 

The fact that this was a benighted regime did not trouble them.  This is madness, but it is sinking in and influencing the weary West.  If there is a truly free world here, let it appear immediately!  And impose sanctions, for example, on those who slaughter the members of their own peopleJust as it imposed them on North Korea, or on the military regime in Burma.  It is only a question of will, not of ability.

 

Apparently, something happens to the global adherence to justice and equality, when it comes to Iran.  The oppression is overt and known.  The Internet era broadcasts everything live, and it is all for the better.  Hooligans acting on behalf of the regime shoot and stab masses of demonstrators, who cry out for freedom.

 

Is anything more needed?  Apparently it is.  Because it is to no avail.  The West remains indifferent.  Obama is polite.  Why shouldn't he be, after all, he aspires to a dialogue with the ayatollahs.  And that is very fine and good, the problem is that at this stage there is no dialogue, but there is death and murder on the streets.  At this stage, one must forget the rules of etiquette for a moment

 

The voices being heard from Obama elicit concern that we are actually dealing with a new version of Chamberlain.  Being conciliatory is a positive trait, particularly when it follows the clumsy bellicosity of George Bush, but when conciliation becomes blindness, we have a problem.

 

The courageous voice of Angela Merkel, who issued yesterday a firm statement of support for the Iranian people and its right to freedom, is in the meantime a lone voice in the Western wilderness. 

 

It is only a shame that she has not announced an economic boycott, in light of the fact that this is the European country that is most invested in building infrastructure in Iran.  She was joined by British Foreign Secretary Miliband.  It is little, it is late, it is not enough.  Millions of freedom seekers have taken to the streets in Iran, and the West is straddling the fence, one leg here, the other leg there.

 

There is a different Islam.  This is already clear today.  Even in Iran.  There are millions of Muslims who support freedom, human rights, equality for women.  These millions loathe Khamenei, Chavez and Nasrallah too.  But part of the global left wing prefers the ayatollah regime over them.  The main thing is for them to raise flags against Israel and America

 

The question is why the democrats, the liberals, and Obama, Blair and Sarkozy, are continuing to sit on the fence.  This is not a fence of separation, it is a fence of shame.

 

 

Ben Caspit and Ben-Dror Yemini 

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

 

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