Saturday, August 8, 2009

Judea and Samaria - A Wake Up Call.


by Yoram Ettinger


The public debate on the future of Judea and Samaria is top heavy with sound bites, but very low on serious examination of national security implications. Conventional wisdom suggests that ballistic missiles and advanced military technologies have undermined the importance of ground barriers, such as the mountain ridges of Judea and Samaria. Is that true?


The US – which has the most sophisticated military power – operates more than 100 overseas military bases and installations, which control significant ground and waterways. Notwithstanding the nuclear and ballistic threats, the US recognizes the fact that all wars have been conventional. Hence, the critical role played by ground forces and ground barriers.


The October 2003 issue of the US Army's The Land Warfare Papers highlights the vitality of ground forces and ground barriers: "During the Afghan campaign of 2002 [and Iraq's war of 2003], precision air strikes were critical, but they neither annihilated opposition nor finished the enemy…In the 1999 Kosovo conflict, the air war created the conditions for negotiation, but it was the ground forces that created stability….In 1995, in Serbia, the threat of airpower did not significantly deter Serbia. It took the ground forces to create the conditions for the Dayton Accords. In 1991, months of strike operations did not achieve a decision [in the Gulf War].  The four day ground war led to Iraqi surrender…. [In 1989, in Panama], the surrender of Noriega was the result of soldiers on the ground…. Ground forces can both destroy and occupy… sustain land dominance and achieve a lasting decision… Remote precision strikes will not achieve such capabilities…." Marine Corp General, J.N. Mattis, Commander of the US Joint Forces Command, reiterated the aforementioned conclusions in his August 14, 2008 Memorandum.


Missiles destroy, but ground forces occupy and bring enemies to submission.  Thousands of missiles would devastate Tel Aviv, but a few hundred Arab tanks in Israel's coastal plain would doom the Jewish State. Such an observation underlined assessments, made by US Generals, on the indispensability of the mountain ridges of Judea and Samaria.  For instance, Lt. General Tom Kelly, Chief of Operations in the 1991 Gulf War: "I could not defend this land [Israel] without that terrain [Judea and Samaria]… The West Bank Mountains, and especially their five approaches, are the critical terrain. If an enemy secures those passes, Jerusalem and Israel become uncovered. Without the West Bank, Israel is only 8 miles wide at its narrowest point. That makes it indefensible…."


On June 29, 1967, General Earl Wheeler, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs-of-Staff, submitted to President Johnson a document on "The Minimum Requirements for Israel's Defense." According to Wheeler, the historical, geographic, topographic, political and military reality of the Middle East behooves Israel to control the mountain ridges of Judea, Samaria and the Golan Heights. In fact, the dramatic technological upgrading of Arab military forces, since 1967, has made surprise offensive (e.g. 1973) swifter, ballistic missiles significantly more destructive and precise, population centers and IDF bases more vulnerable and the deployment of reservists (75% of Israel's military force!) much slower and problematic.  Hence, the dramatically increasing importance of the mountain ridges of Judea and Samaria in blocking and delaying a surprise invasion, providing Israel's reservists with more time for deployment (Without reservists, Israel would be lethally inferior to invading Arab forces).


100 US retired Generals and Admirals signed a public advertisement in October 1988, contending that Israel should not withdraw from Judea and Samaria – which could not be demilitarized effectively - lest it fails to provide security to its people. The late Admiral "Bud" Nance defined Judea and Samaria's eastern mountain ridge (3,000 foot steep slope), dominating the Jordan Valley, as "the most effective tank barrier" and the western mountain ridge (2,000 foot moderate slope), over-towering Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, as "a dream platform for invasion to the narrow coastal plain."


How vulnerable is pre-1967 Israel, which is dominated by Judea and Samaria topography, which is surrounded by a most violent, unstable, unpredictable and unreliable neighborhood, which has not experienced intra-Arab comprehensive peace or intra-Arab compliance with most agreements for the last 1,400 years, which has never tolerated wishful-thinking? 


The width of the 8-16 mile sliver along the Mediterranean equals 1/90 of the width of Texas, the length of DFW Airport, the distance between JFK and La Guardia airports, between Wall Street and Columbia University and between the Pentagon and Mount Vernon, a round trip between RFK Stadium and Kennedy Center and less than the width of Miami, San Francisco and Washington, DC.


During the 1995 Bosnia conflict, the US Army declared a 16 mile "Killing Zone," in order to secure the personal security of its soldiers.  Would Israel's 8-16 mile pre-1967 waistline suffice to secure the national security of the people of the Jewish State?



Yoram Ettinger

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



The Stratagem Behind The Convention.


by Israel Harel


The Israeli right is once again up in arms, but then, it always rushes in first. Yet this time, the disappointment is also evident in the more pragmatic camp. (Kadima MK Avi Dichter, for instance, said the statements by Fatah leaders send the organization back 20 years.) After all the praise that successive Israeli leaders have heaped on Fatah's peace-loving leaders, they are repaying us with statements about continuing the armed struggle.


But if that is the direction Fatah's convention is taking, why is the government even allowing the thousands of Fatah members to come to Bethlehem? After all, the result will be a crude anti-Israel extravaganza. One can easily imagine, people are saying, how Likud would have reacted if a leftist government had allowed proven terrorists to convene a mere bowshot from Jerusalem and inflame themselves with rhetoric about resuming the armed struggle.


Is this yet another situation in which "only Likud can do it?" Since it was proved this week that we have a macho prime minister (who forced a majority of both his party and coalition to vote for the land privatization law and the so-called Mofaz law), one must conclude that Benjamin Netanyahu deliberately allowed the thousands of delegates to flock to the Fatah convention. But he was not trying to achieve a reputation for openness and meeting the enemy halfway: His main goal was to extract proof from the Palestinians - proof that would convince Israeli public opinion in particular - on whether we are really dealing with "moderates" here.


Therefore, he ordered that they be allowed to gather and bare their teeth: The dynamic of rhetoric and competition over leadership jobs would do the rest. Indeed, this goal was already achieved in the warm-up phase, before the convention even started - as the open concern expressed this week by members of Israel's moderate camp amply demonstrates. True, there was a nonnegligible risk that the Palestinians would not supply the goods. But now that they are supplying them, in spades, the achievement is complete.


This success was achieved mainly thanks to the Israeli peace camp's veteran dialogue partners. A week before the convention, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) - who is received with the honor reserved for heads of state not only at the King David Hotel, but also at the White House, the Elysee and Buckingham Palace - declared that the Palestinians reserve the right to engage in armed resistance. Were it not for the impressive skill at machinations that our government has demonstrated since it was established, it would have hastened to announce that if this is how the leader of the moderates talks, the convention will result in escalated violence, not progress toward peace, and therefore, Israel will refuse to allow the delegates to enter Bethlehem.


That would have been logical, no? But since Israel's real goal is the exact opposite - namely, to highlight that even the Palestinians' most moderate wing is characterized by inherent aggressiveness - Abu Mazen enabled that goal to be achieved even before the convention opened.


So did Jibril Rajoub, who allowed the highlights of his convention speech ("the military option has not been abandoned") to be published and thereby showed his claws. Now Israel can prove who this man, this fixture at peace conferences both in Israel and throughout the world, really is: He was and remains a terrorist.


But the Israeli media did not fall into this trap. As longstanding and loyal Fatah supporters, they understood that the Palestinians had played into the hands of the rightist government. So, as is their wont, the media demonstrated responsibility by trying, as they have so often in the past, to play down their darlings' warlike statements. Yet the harsh public reactions show that this time, unlike in the past, the media have not managed to tip the scales. The Fatah convention, at least from the standpoint of Israel's interests, is proving a success whose importance would be hard to overstate.


Israel Harel

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


Friday, August 7, 2009

Israel and the 'realists'.


by Caroline B. Glick

Voices in America calling for downgrading US relations with Israel seem to multiply by the day. One of the new voices in the growing anti-Israel chorus is the Atlantic's well-respected military affairs commentator Robert Kaplan. This week Kaplan authored a column for the magazine's online edition entitled, "Losing patience with Israel." There he expressed his support for the US to downgrade its relations with Israel while pressuring Israel to allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons and facilitate the establishment of a Judenrein Palestinian state.

Although Kaplan's piece adds nothing new to the current pile-on against Israel, it is a relatively concise summary of the so-called "realist" view of Israel and for that reason it is worth considering his arguments. As Kaplan sees things, the US's experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan in the eight years since the Sept. 11 attacks have transformed America's interests and goals in the Middle East. The frustrations in Afghanistan and the combat losses in Iraq have rendered "the search for stability, rather than democracy, paramount, and created a climate in which interests are to be valued far more than friends."

The notion that friends and interests may actually not be in conflict is roundly rejected by Kaplan, particularly in the case of Israel. Kaplan gives three reasons that the US's alliance with Israel no longer serves its interests. First, he repeats the familiar "realist" claim that the only way for the US to build good relations with the Muslim world is by distancing itself from Israel.

Second, he argues that after Sept. 11, the US was wrong to believe that it shares common interests with Israel. Whereas Israel's interests would be served by preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, in Kaplan's view, the US can afford to look on a nuclear-armed Iran with indifference. On the other hand, an Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear installations can place US forces in Iraq at risk. Hence, as far as Kaplan is concerned, US interests are best served by allowing Iran to become a nuclear power and preventing Israel from doing anything to stop Iran from becoming a nuclear power.

The third reason that Kaplan views Israel as a strategic liability to the US in this new era of "realism" is because it is no longer a strong military power. As he put it, Israel's failure to defeat Hizbullah and Hamas in its recent wars in Lebanon and Gaza "reduced its appeal."

Like his anti-Israel colleagues in Washington, Kaplan claims that his is a "realist" approach to the region. But this is untrue. The realist foreign policy doctrine assumes that all nations' foreign policies reflect their national interests rather than their sentiments. That is, in determining their foreign policies, states are not motivated by their passions, but by rational choice.

Beginning in the first Bush administration, Arabists like former US secretary of state James Baker began co-opting the realist label. In so doing, they sought to obfuscate their sentimental pro-Arab views of Israel behind the veneer of rational choice. Specifically, they popularized the anti-realist notion that due to their emotional rejection of Israel, Arab and Muslim states will not support America unless it puts the screws in Israel.

The realist foreign policy doctrine rejects this notion out of hand. Given its assertion that states base their foreign policies on unsentimental assessments of their national interests, true realists would argue that there is no rational bar to enemy states sharing the same allies if doing so advances their national interests. And they would be correct. Indeed, examples of such behavior abound.

India and Pakistan are enemies and yet they both ardently seek closer ties with the US. So too, China has massively expanded its ties to the US since 1971 despite US sponsorship of Taiwan.

The same is also the case with the Arabs and Israel. Contrary to the Arabists' impassioned claims, the waxing and waning of America's relations with Arab states over the years has borne little to no relation to the state of America's relations with Israel.

The US and the Saudis have been strategic allies for upwards of seventy years. These ties have been based on their mutual interest in the free flow of Saudi oil. US-Saudi ties have been consistently maintained regardless of the vicissitudes of Washington's views of Jerusalem, or even of Washington's views of Saudi Arabia.

In 1972, when Egyptian president Anwar Sadat kicked the Soviet military out of Egypt and began moving Egypt towards the US, the US was rapidly expanding its strategic ties to Israel. Sadat's decision to switch Cold War camps was a product of his own assessment of Egypt's national interests.

In December 2003, Libya paved the way to renewing its diplomatic relations with the US by agreeing to disarm from its illicit nuclear program. Libya's action came at a time of unprecedentedly warm US-Israel relations. Libyan dictator Muammar Khadafi made his move because of the US invasion of Iraq, not because of US ties to Israel.

All of these examples disprove the Arabists' most ardently held conviction. And the fact that this conviction is so easily refuted raises the question of why the belief that the US's alliance with Israel harms its ability to maintain and expand its alliances with Muslim and Arab states holds such currency today. The fact that US President Barack Obama and his senior foreign policy advisors are themselves Arabists no doubt is a significant contributing factor to the increased popularity of fake realism. But their hostility towards Israel doesn't explain how Israel's adversaries continue to successfully hide their Arabist ideology behind the "realist" label.

The sad truth is that for the past sixteen years, the greatest champion of the view that Israel is a strategic liability rather than a strategic asset for the US and that the US gains more from a weak Israel than a strong Israel has been Israel itself. Successive governments in Jerusalem from the Rabin-Peres government to the Barak, Sharon and Olmert governments all embraced the Arabist view that regional stability and hence Israeli security is enhanced by a weakened Israel. Ehud Olmert's much-derided 2005 assertion that "We are tired of fighting, we are tired of being courageous, we are tired of winning, we are tired of defeating our enemies," was simply a whiney affirmation of Israel's leaders' embrace of the Arabist worldview.

Kaplan cited Israel's incompetent handling of the war with Hizbullah in 2006 and its bungling of the campaign against Hamas in Gaza this past December and January as proof of the Arabist claim that it is a strategic burden. What he failed to recognize was that the Olmert government made a clear decision not to win those wars. Doing so would have exposed as folly the government's central assertion that Israel is better off being weak than strong. In light of this, it is obvious that the Arabist desire to see Israel weakened is not supported by Israel's performance in Lebanon and Gaza. Israel's performance in Lebanon and Gaza was a consequence of its leaders' adoption of the Arabist worldview. Had they rejected it, the results of those wars would likely have been much different.

So too, Israel's leaders' adoption of the Arabist view caused the Rabin-Peres government to empower and legitimize terrorists from Fatah and the PLO in the 1993 Oslo accord. It similarly convinced the Barak government to surrender of south Lebanon to Hizbullah in 2000, and it persuaded the Sharon government to surrender of Gaza to Hamas in 2005. In each case, buying into the Arabist view that stability is enhanced through Israeli weakness rather than strength, Israel exacerbated regional instability and imperiled its own citizens by empowering its enemies at its own expense. Most devastatingly, the Sharon and Olmert governments imperiled Israel's very survival by deciding from 2003 through 2008 to trust the US, Europe and the UN to prevent Iran from acquiring the means to destroy the Jewish state.

Today with Iran on the cusp of a nuclear arsenal, Fatah openly calling for a renewal of the Palestinian jihad against Israel, Hizbullah pointing its expanded missile arsenal at Tel Aviv and Dimona, and the Obama administration, with the help of an ever-expanding chorus of foreign policy "realists" advocating full-blown appeasement of both Iran and the Palestinians at Israel's expense, it is clear that the time has come for Israel to end the Arabist charade. The time has come for Israel to stop being an engine of its own demise.

The Netanyahu government has a clear choice before it. On the one hand, it has Defense Minister Ehud Barak calling for business as usual. This week Barak recommended that Israel preemptively surrender to the Obama administration and accept its demand that Israel capitulate to Fatah. On the other hand, Ministers Yuli Edelstein and Yisrael Katz pointed out that at its leadership conclave in Bethlehem, Fatah exposed itself as an implacable enemy of Israel. Both Edelstein and Katz demanded that the government stop pretending Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas is a moderate who is interested in peace and expose him for the fraud that he is.

Edelstein and Katz are right. It is vital for Israel to stop catering its foreign policy rhetoric to the preferences of its Arabist camp. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu must courageously acknowledge that Fatah remains a terrorist organization dedicated to Israel's violent demise. But more important than harsh words about Fatah are actions against Iran. With a growing international consensus that Iran has passed the point of no return on its nuclear program and will produce nuclear bombs in the next six to twelve months if left to its own devices, it is clear that as far as Iran is concerned, words are of no value today. Only actions count.

Israel's willingness and capacity to effectively strike Iran's nuclear installations will be the ultimate proof that Arabists like Kaplan are wrong to castigate Israel as a strategic burden. By freeing itself, the region and the world from the threat of a nuclear armed Iran, Israel will strike a blow not only at Iran's ability to wipe it off the map, but at the threefold contentions of the false realists.

An Israeli strike would prevent a regional nuclear arms race by freeing Arab states of the need to develop their own nuclear arsenals and so prove that a strong Israel enhances regional stability. An Israeli strike will rebuild Israel's eroded deterrent posture and put paid the notion that Israel is no longer a military power to be reckoned with. And the destruction of Iran's nuclear capacity will weaken Iran's military posture throughout the region and so weaken its terror proxies from Iraq to Lebanon to Gaza to Afghanistan. In short, a successful Israeli strike on Iran's nuclear installations will demonstrate to real rather than fake realists that a strong Israel is indispensible to regional stability and international security.

In 1995, Kaplan published a critical book about the Arabist elite at the State Department in which he condemned their simplistic foreign policy outlook. No doubt an Israeli body-blow to the Arabist worldview will compel Kaplan and other new members of the anti-Israel camp to reconsider their views.


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.


Deadly Connections - States that Sponsor Terrorism.


by Daniel Byman
New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007. 375 pp. $30 ($18.99, paper)

Reviewed by Boaz Ganor

Until the mid-1990s, international terrorism was generally considered to be state-sponsored. At one extreme, terrorist organizations motivated by communist ideology were receiving support from the USSR. The Soviets regarded these organizations as proxies—an inexpensive tool to promote the superpower's interests all over the world and in conflict areas in particular. Such affiliated organizations could both challenge Soviet enemies and preserve and promote Soviet dominance and influence in conflict areas. For other states, such as Iran, Syria, and Libya, terrorism was considered a low-risk tool that could achieve various goals inexpensively in both the international and regional arenas.

Global jihadi terrorism, however, highlighted by the atrocity of the 9/11 attacks, may be a sign of the growing decline in the importance of state-sponsored terrorism. After the attacks of 9/11, Al-Qaeda's organization was less hierarchical, much more amorphous, and seemingly disintegrated. Al-Qaeda was paving the way toward a complex, global jihadi network constructed out of allied organizations, local and independent networks, and indoctrinated individuals. This network is characterized by loose connections between network nodes and a lack of strict hierarchy, concrete decision-making processes, or efficient command and control systems.

In his important book, Deadly Connections: States that Sponsor Terrorism, Byman, senior fellow at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy, reassesses the role states play in the realm of terrorism, arguing that their importance has not been diluted but strengthened. Even Al-Qaeda, Byman stresses, relied heavily on states, first working with the Islamist regime in Sudan and then becoming closely intertwined with Afghanistan's Taliban in 1996. Investigations of the September 11 attacks suggest that an operation of such scale and lethality would have been far more difficult to execute had Al-Qaeda lacked its haven in Afghanistan.

According to Byman, there are many different reasons why states support terrorists. Among them, he explains that terrorists offer alternative means for states to influence their neighbors, topple a hostile adversary regime, counter U.S. hegemony, or achieve other aims of state. Support for terrorism is cheaper than developing conventional military capabilities, and it allows states to influence events far beyond their borders. Supporting terrorists can also serve a broader range of regime objectives from the domestic to ideological.

From the organization's perspective, terrorists enjoying state support are far less vulnerable in the face of countermeasures initiated by a target regime. The victim state is less capable of delivering a knockout blow to the terrorist group, disrupting logistics, discrediting its cause, or otherwise defeating it. This is why terrorist groups receiving state support usually flourish, becoming more deadly and less vulnerable to arrest or disruption.

One of the most important contributions Byman makes is to show the need to distinguish between different levels of state involvement in terrorism. By grouping all states actions with regard to terrorism in a single category, he argues, we ignore different motivations and cannot craft effective solutions. Byman offers six categories of state support to terrorism:

  • Strong supporters — highly committed to the terrorist groups and able to offer significant resources;
  • Weak supporters — states with few resources to offer support;
  • Lukewarm supporters — those that favor the terrorists or their cause in general but do little to advance it directly;
  • Antagonistic supporters — states that seek to control the group or weaken its cause;
  • Passive supporters — those that turn a blind eye to their activities, usually because many people in their society favor the group; and
  • Unwilling hosts — a state that is too weak to stop the terrorists within its borders.

This classification system is particularly helpful when analyzing measures against states that sponsor terrorism.

Byman uses his classification system to analyze several case studies reflecting different levels of state involvement in terrorism: Iran and Hezbollah; Syrian and Palestinian terrorist organizations; and Pakistani ties to organizations operating out of Kashmir. All these cases provide further support for Byman's argument that states still play an important role in promoting regional and international terrorism.

He argues against state support for terrorist groups not only on moral grounds but because it makes the groups far more capable and less vulnerable to counterterrorist efforts. Interestingly, however, Byman finds that a state's influence sometimes leads a terrorist group to moderate its activities or become more pragmatic. This may occur when a sponsor state fears reprisal or even escalation from the terrorist's target state. States may rein in their proxies in order to limit damage to their reputation if they feel that terrorism would lead to a direct military clash, or if they feel their proxies are not trustworthy. States may also see terrorists as a potential threat to their own interests should the organization become strong enough. For example, Syria's changing attitude toward the Palestinian Fatah organization reflects this process.

Some groups also narrow the limits of their activities as a result of state support. For example, state support may make a terrorist group less likely to use chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear weapons. In other cases, states reduce or end their support for terrorist groups due to changes in their own goals, outside pressure, or, more rarely, because the terrorist group itself changes. Examples include Libya and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP/GC, Jibrill Group), as well as Iraq and Abu Nidal.

Many proxy organizations, therefore, find that they pay a high price for the support that they receive from a state: A group which is perceived as being controlled by a foreign power loses its credibility. A state may turn terrorist groups against each other or may even crack down on a terrorist group it once supported. Syria played such a role in the 1970s when it demanded the Palestinian PFLP/GC fight against the Fatah organization during the Lebanese civil war, or when it promoted a revolt in Fatah against Yasser Arafat in Lebanon after the 1982 Lebanon war. Byman, therefore, argues that many of the most capable terrorist groups walk a thin line between accepting the myriad of benefits of state support and maintaining their own independence.

In conclusion, Deadly Connections offers a detailed analysis of its subject and is a must-read on the subject of the relationship between states and terrorist groups. By developing a consistent methodological platform, Byman provides guidelines for analyzing state involvement in terrorism, guidelines that should prove helpful in creating more efficient counterterrorism policies and strategies.


Boaz Ganor is the founder and executive director of the International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism and associate dean of the Lauder School of Government and Diplomacy at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, Israel.

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


The 'other Israel'.


by Yoram Ettinger



‘War-torn’ land is in fact economic, scientific, cultural powerhouse



1. Bankruptcy rate in Israel is one of the lowest in the world (19% increase during the first half of 2009), compared with the US - 45% increase, Spain - 58%, Spain - 75% and Switzerland - 15% (Yedioth Ahronoth, July 27, 2009).


2. The Tel Aviv Stock Exchange has rebounded to its September 10, 2008 (meltdown) level, scoring a 50% surge (Yedioth Ahronoth, July 27).


3. Sequoia Capital and Tanya Capital led a $15.5MN round of private placement by Israel's Kontera (Globes, July 24). Intel Capital, Cisco, Greylock Ventures and Menlo Ventures participated in a $13MN round by Israel's AeroScout (Globes, June 29). The Boston-based media giant, Medtronics, invested over $10MN in the Israeli VC fund, TriVentures (Globes, June 23). Motorola Ventures, Stata Venture Partners, Argonaut and Walden participated in a $10MN 4th round by Israel's Amimon (Globes, July 15). Arts Alliance Digital Ventures invested $9MN in Israel' YCD Multimedia (Globes, June 23). Innogest, Italy's largest venture capital fund, invested $8MN in the Israeli-Italian company, beeTV (Globes, June 4). The Boston-based Globespan Capital and Spark Capital invested $7.5MN in Israel's 5min, their 3rd investment in Israel (Globes, July 24).


4. Intel Vice President for Technology and Manufacturing Group and General Manager of Intel Israel (6 plants, 6,500 employees!), Maxine Fassberg: "We have developed breakthroughs in Israel that have changed the face of computerization…In Israel, we are developing and manufacturing network and communication products as well as microprocessors – in parallel to spearheading the mobile domain in Intel Corp. Among the technologies developed here are MMX, which constitutes the basis of the Pentium processor, platforms for Intel Centrino mobile computers and the Intel Core 2Duo processor. In addition, the first fast Ethernet and first wireless LAN (Local Area Network) were developed here…(Jerusalem Post, May 23, 2009).


5. The Med's best-kept secret (excerpts of Willy Stern, The Weekly Standard, July 27, 2009):


"Perhaps nowhere else on the globe does there exist a greater discrepancy between perception and reality than Israel. The press portrays the country as a savage land racked by war and terrorism... The reality, though, is a country of 7.4 million people whose stock market and economy are humming along quite nicely (at least in contrast to the rest of the globe) and whose citizens revel in their chic Mediterranean lifestyle…


"In Israel, life goes on. The Western newspapers just don't notice… Israel today has become a vibrant, functioning jewel of a nation tucked into the eastern flank of the Mediterranean. Tel Aviv looks more like San Diego or Barcelona than Baghdad or Kabul. On a recent five-mile run along Tel Aviv's Gordon Beach, I saw Israeli yuppies cycling the boardwalk on $1,500 Italian mountain bikes, teenagers in full-body wetsuits surfing the breakers, a deep-cleavaged Russian model (nobody seemed to know her name) doing a photo shoot in a skimpy bikini whilst middle-aged Israeli men with potbellies and hairy chests shamelessly gawked, rows of high-priced yachts docked at the Tel Aviv marina, an endless stream of private planes on final approach to small Sde Dov Airport, and two Israeli soldiers in drab green uniforms making out in the sand and drinking Heineken. A nation at war? It seemed more like high season at Coney Island


"Israel has a world class cultural scene. Want to see Franco Zeffirelli and Daniel Barenboim? No problem. The Alvin Ailey Dance Company visits. The opera plays to audiences at 97 percent capacity. Even at lower pay, (Israel) attracts the best talents from around the globe…


"Israel enjoys top universities, upscale restaurants, million-dollar homes, hoity-toity architecture, and the like. In the fourth quarter last year, when the global economy went all to hell, Israel's annual, quarter-over-quarter rate of GDP was only off 0.5 percent, the best figure in the industrialized world. (The United States was off 6.3 percent and Japan 12.1 percent.) 'Think about the resistance of our economy in recent times,' suggests Zvi Eckstein, deputy governor of the Bank of Israel. 'Our prime minister (has a stroke). The war in Gaza. The war in Lebanon. The government gets replaced. But we've maintained a stable macroeconomic structure and a strong high-tech sector…'


What's the secret? A very conservative banking system…No mortgage crisis…A current account surplus since 2003…Negligible inflation…Prudent governmental fiscal policy… Healthy integration into the world economy. Last year, 483 Israeli high-tech companies raised a whopping $2.08BN (only US companies raised more). All the major tech players – Google, Microsoft, IBM – have large research centers in Israel. They go where the talent is…'Israel is today the third-hottest spot (after Silicon Valley and Boston) for high-tech venture capital in the world…' Israel produces more science papers per capita than any other country. Israel lags behind only the United States in number of companies listed on NASDAQ. Twenty-four percent of Israel's workforce has a university degree; only the United States and Holland have a higher number. Israel leads the world in scientists and technicians per capita…


"The cell phone? Developed in Israel. Ditto for most of the Windows NT operating system and for voice mail technology. Pentium MMX Chip technology? Designed in Israel. AOL Instant Messenger? Developed in Israel. The list goes on. Firewall security software originated in Israel. The latest breakthrough is the "PillCam," a video camera that can be swallowed and aids physicians in diagnosing intestinal cancer…it seems the other Israel - the land not of terrorists but of milk and honey and goats - may finally be being discovered."



Yoram Ettinger

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


Thursday, August 6, 2009

The U.S.-Israeli Dispute over Building in Jerusalem: The Sheikh Jarrah-Shimon HaTzadik Neighborhood Part I


by Nadav Shragai


1st part of 2


• The Sheikh Jarrah-Mt. Scopus area - the focus of a dispute between the Obama administration and Israel over building housing units in the Shepherd Hotel compound - has been a mixed Jewish-Arab area for many years. The Jewish population is currently centered in three places: around the tomb of Shimon HaTzadik (a fourth century BCE high priest), the Israeli government compound in Sheikh Jarrah, and Hadassah Hospital-Hebrew University on Mt. Scopus.


• During Israel's War of Independence in 1948, 78 doctors, nurses and other Jews were murdered on their way to Hadassah Hospital when their convoy was attacked by Arabs as it passed through Sheikh Jarrah. Mt. Scopus was cut off from western Jerusalem and remained a demilitarized Israeli enclave under UN aegis until it was returned to Israel in 1967. The area discussed here has for decades been a vital corridor to Mt. Scopus.


• To ensure the continued unity of Jerusalem and to prevent Mt. Scopus from being cut off again, a chain of Israeli neighborhoods were built to link western Jerusalem with Mt. Scopus, and Hebrew University and Hadassah Hospital were repaired and enlarged. Today both institutions serve hundreds of thousands of Jewish and Arab residents of the city.


• Many observers incorrectly assume that Jerusalem is comprised of two ethnically homogenous halves: Jewish western Jerusalem and Arab eastern Jerusalem. Yet in some areas such as Sheikh Jarrah-Shimon HaTzadik, Jerusalem is a mosaic of peoples who are mixed and cannot be separated or divided according to the old 1949 armistice line.


• In the eastern part of Jerusalem, i.e., north, south and east of the city's 1967 borders, there are today some 200,000 Jews and 270,000 Arabs living in intertwined neighborhoods. In short, as certain parts of eastern Jerusalem have become ethnically diverse, it has become impossible to characterize it as a wholly Palestinian area that can easily be split off from the rest of Jerusalem.


Private Jewish groups are operating in Sheikh Jarrah seeking to regain possession of property once held by Jews, and to purchase new property. Their objective is to facilitate private Jewish residence in the area in addition to the presence of Israeli governmental institutions. The main points of such activity include the Shepherd Hotel compound, the Mufti's Vineyard, the building of the el-Ma'amuniya school, the Shimon HaTzadik compound, and the Nahlat Shimon neighborhood. In the meantime, foreign investors from Arab states, particularly in the Persian Gulf, are actively seeking to purchase

Jerusalem properties on behalf of Palestinian interests.



Israel's Right to Build in Its Capital

An Israeli plan to build 20 housing units in the Shepherd Hotel compound in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of Jerusalem has added a new dimension to an already complex dispute between the Obama administration and Israel over continued construction in eastern Jerusalem.(1) Washington is insisting that Israel freeze all building in Sheikh Jarrah, as it occasionally has done in the past regarding other areas in the eastern part of the city. Israel, however, refuses to waive the Jewish people's historical and legal right to live in all parts of Jerusalem, the capital of the State of Israel.(2) In eastern Jerusalem, i.e., north, south and east of the city's 1967 borders, there are today some 200,000 Jews and 270,000 Arabs living in a mosaic of intertwined neighborhoods.(3)


Disagreements between the U.S. and Israel over building in eastern Jerusalem are not new. In the 1970s, the U.S. expressed dissatisfaction with the construction of the Pisgat Ze'ev neighborhood, and in the 1990s it opposed the construction of a large neighborhood on Har Homa and a smaller one in Ma'ale Hazeitim near Ras el-Amud.


This time Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made it clear that Israel's right to continue building in its capital is not a matter for negotiation, and is separate from the debate with the U.S. about the extent of building in the West Bank.(4) On June 22, 2009, State Department Spokesman Ian Kelly had stated, in answer to a question, that the Obama administration's demand that all settlement activity - including natural growth - come to a halt also applied to Jerusalem neighborhoods over the 1949 armistice line.(5)



The Tomb and Neighborhood of Shimon HaTzadik (6)


The mixed Jewish-Arab neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah-Shimon HaTzadik has for decades been a vital corridor to Mt. Scopus, home for 80 years of Hebrew University and Hadassah Hospital. For hundreds of years the Jewish presence in the area centered around the tomb of Shimon HaTzadik (Simon the Righteous), one of the last members of the Great Assembly (HaKnesset HaGedolah), the governing body of the Jewish people during the Second Jewish Commonwealth, after the Babylonian Exile. His full name was Shimon ben Yohanan, the High Priest, who lived during the fourth century BCE, during the time of the Second Temple.(7)


According to the Babylonian Talmud, he met with Alexander the Great when the Macedonian Army moved through the Land of Israel during its war with the Persian Empire.(8) In that account, Shimon HaTzadik successfully persuades Alexander to not destroy the Second Temple and leave it standing. According to tradition, Shimon HaTzadik and his pupils are buried in a cave near the road that goes from Sheikh Jarrah to Mt. Scopus. He appears as the author of one of the famous verses in Pirkei Avot (Sayings of the Fathers) which has been incorporated into the Jewish morning prayers: "Shimon the Righteous was among the last surviving members of the Great Assembly. He would say: ‘The world stands on three things: Torah, the service of G-d, and deeds of kindness.'"(9)


For years Jews have made pilgrimages to his grave to light candles and pray, as documented in many reports by pilgrims and travelers. While the property was owned by Arabs for many years, in 1876 the cave and the nearby field were purchased by Jews, involving a plot of 18 dunams (about 4.5 acres) that included 80 ancient olive trees.(10) The property was purchased for 15,000 francs and was transferred to the owner through the Majlis al-Idara, the seat of the Turkish Pasha and the chief justice. According to the contract, the buyers (the committee of the Sephardic community and the Ashkenazi Assembly of Israel) divided the area between them equally, including the cave on the edge of the plot.


Dozens of Jewish families built homes on the property. On the eve of the Arab Revolt in 1936 there were hundreds of Jews living there. When the disturbances began they fled, but returned a few months later and lived there until 1948. When the Jordanians captured the area, the Jews were evacuated and for nineteen years were barred from visiting either their former homes or the cave of Shimon HaTzadik.



Mt. Scopus(11)


In 1918 the cornerstone of Hebrew University was laid on Mt. Scopus, north of Sheikh Jarrah, and on April 1, 1925, the opening ceremony was held.(12) In 1938 Hadassah Hospital was opened adjacent to the university on Mt. Scopus, with a nursing school and research facilities as well as wards. During the War of Independence, both institutions, which were a source of pride for the Jewish state in the making, were cut off because the access route passed through Sheikh Jarrah. Following the UN partition vote on November 29, 1947, Jewish transportation to Mt. Scopus became a target for attacks by Palestinian Arabs who shot passengers and mined the road.


On April 13, 1948, a convoy of ambulances, armored buses, trucks loaded with food and medical equipment, and 105 doctors, nurses, medical students, Hebrew University personnel, and guards headed for Mt. Scopus. The convoy was ambushed in the middle of Sheikh Jarrah, the lead vehicle hit a mine, and gangs of armed Arabs attacked. Seventy-eight Jews were murdered, among them 20 women and Dr. Haim Yaski, the hospital director. In the following months the hospital and university ceased to function. After the Six-Day War, when the area was returned to Israel, a memorial was built in their honor in Sheikh Jarrah on the road leading to Mt. Scopus.



Nahlat Shimon(13)


Until 1948, west of the road linking Sheikh Jarrah, the American Colony and Mt. Scopus, was Nahlat Shimon, its name a reminder of its proximity to the cave of Shimon HaTzadik. The neighborhood was founded in 1891 and was home to hundreds of Jewish families. Just before the British Mandate ended in 1948, security in Nahlat Shimon deteriorated drastically and its residents were evacuated to the Israeli side of Jerusalem. The Jordanians took control of the neighborhood and settled Palestinian refugees there.


Sheikh Jarrah-Shimon HaTzadik and Mt. Scopus, 1948-1967


Until 1948 Sheikh Jarrah was an aristocratic neighborhood for Jerusalem Arabs and members of the two most important Palestinian families: Nashashibi and Husseini. Among its most famous residents before 1948 was the Grand Mufti, Sheikh Haj Amin al-Husseini, and his family, who lived in the eastern part of Sheikh Jarrah, called the Mufti's Vineyard. He began building himself a large house but was deported by the British and left for Lebanon in October 1937. During the Second World War he supported the Nazis and later lived in Beirut and Cairo.(14) His family rented out the house, which was further enlarged and became the Shepherd Hotel.


After 1948 the neighborhoods of Sheikh Jarrah and Shimon HaTzadik came under Jordanian control and the Jewish-owned land was handed over to the Jordanian Custodian of Enemy Property. In the mid-1950s the Jordanian government settled Arabs there. They took over the homes of the Jews and paid rent to the Jordanian Custodian.


During the nineteen years between the War of Independence and the Six-Day War, Israeli access to Mt. Scopus - which remained an Israeli enclave surrounded by territory under Jordanian control - was governed by a special arrangement which went into effect on July 7, 1948, and by other arrangements made later.(15) Once every two weeks a convoy was allowed through from the Israeli side of the Mandelbaum gate with a UN escort, to rotate the Israeli policemen who served on Mt. Scopus. The area was a demilitarized zone containing Hebrew University, Hadassah Hospital, and the village of Isawiya. However, the arrangement was plagued by friction and arguments, diplomatic incidents and bloody events, and it had to be continually bolstered by various mediators and negotiations.(16)



After the Six-Day War (June 1967)


Immediately after Israel defeated the Jordanian army in Jerusalem, the Israeli government began to restore those parts of the city which had been wrested from it nineteen years previously. The city's municipal borders were extended and its area grew to 110,000 dunams (about 27,000 acres), and a Knesset decision brought the entire area under Israeli law. The main considerations of the decision-makers were to take control of the largest possible area with the smallest possible Arab population, to make it impossible to divide the city in the future, and to provide for the security of the city.(17) Building Jewish neighborhoods in areas annexed to the city was done in stages, beginning with a bloc of northern neighborhoods to close the gap between Mt. Scopus and the western part of the city as far as the neighborhood of Shmuel HaNavi.(18)


On January 11, 1968, an area of 3,345 dunams, or about 830 acres, was expropriated. It included the no man's land which before the war had separated Israel from Jordan, a strip of land on both sides of the road to Ramallah as far as the houses of Sheikh Jarrah, Hadassah Hospital and Hebrew University on Mt. Scopus, the slopes of Mt. Scopus, and the northern slope of the Mt. of Olives. The territory included 326 plots with 1,500 owners, most of them Arab and a few of them Jews.(19) During the following years, Israeli neighborhoods were built in the space between Mt. Scopus and the former border, including Ramat Eshkol, Sanhedria, French Hill, and Maalot Dafna. The Hebrew University campus on Mt. Scopus came alive and was considerably enlarged. Hadassah Hospital was rebuilt and enlarged as well. Today, the two institutions serve hundreds of thousands of Jews and Arabs living in Jerusalem, especially in the northern parts of the city.


To ensure that Mt. Scopus would never again be separated from the rest of Jerusalem, many Israeli government institutions were built in Sheikh Jarrah, where thousands of Israelis work every day, including the national headquarters of the Israel Police. In addition, the Arab population of Jerusalem is served by a major office of the Israel Ministry of Interior as well as by a large medical clinic at this location.


The Jewish people also returned to the tomb of Shimon HaTzadik, which the Israel Ministry of Religious Affairs officially designated as a site holy to Judaism.(20) Prayers are said there every day, and on special occasions (such as Lag B'Omer) great celebrations are held in honor of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai. Religious leaders attend, as do tens of thousands of Jews, who come with their rabbis.


Three large hotels have been built along the road leading to Sheikh Jarrah, and to the north there is a Hyatt Hotel, all part of the Israeli presence in the area. Many of the hotel and Hadassah Hospital employees are Palestinian Arabs who live in and around Sheikh Jarrah, and many Palestinian Arab students study at Hebrew University on Mt. Scopus.


Nadav Shragai


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