Saturday, April 3, 2010

High-Ranking U.S. Official: Enemies? Islamists? Revolutionaries? We Don't See Anyone Like That!


by Barry Rubin

What could one sentence spoken by a high-ranking U.S. official prompt a brilliant pro-Western Arab intellectual to go ballistic and say the following:

"How could America be governed and represented by such blazing idiocy? How is that possible? It's a parallel universe, I'm convinced. The biggest threat, I maintain, to global security is not terrorism. It's stupidity."

Well, this one. At his confirmation hearing, Robert Ford, ambassador-designate to Syria said:

"I do not see how instability in the region serves Syrian interests."

So here is Syria, a radical, anti-American regime allied with Iran, a major sponsor of terrorism, and Ford says that this government has no interest in stirring up instability and cannot receive any benefit from doing so? Of course, Ford rightfully does not want to criticize Syria before arriving there as U.S. ambassador. OK, understood.

But does he have to indicate such an appalling view in advance? Doesn't this throw away all U.S. leverage over Syria in advance? I can tell you that this is precisely the way Syrian leaders are portraying American policy nowadays. Of course, Ford is saying this because it reflects the thinking of this administration and the president.

Incidentally, I recently saw a non-published communication from an international affairs' expert that criticized someone else for having the old-fashioned view that the point of foreign policy is to reward friends and punish enemies. As I have said before even the most basic principles of diplomacy have been forgotten nowadays in large sections of academia, the media, and--much more dangerous--policymaking circles.

Back to Ford and Syria. Yet even if Syria is not building apartments in east Jerusalem, it might still be a threat to U.S. interests and regional stability. (Note: The previous sentence was sarcastic.)

If Syria was not sponsoring the Iraqi insurgents to overthrow the government in Baghdad so as to replace a regime linked with the United States with one servile to itself, it should have been sufficient to show how instability in the region serves Syrian interests.

If Syria was not sponsoring Hizballah and others to seize control over Lebanon it should have been sufficient.

If Syria was not sponsoring Hamas to sabotage any peace process and seize control over the Palestinians it should have been sufficient.

If Syria did not oppose peace with Israel so as to destroy that country and replace it with a pro-Syrian Palestinian state it should have been sufficient.

If Syria did not back Iran in order to destabilize the Middle East to destroy relatively moderate Arab regimes that oppose Syrian leadership over all the Arabs it should have been sufficient.

If Syria did not do everything possible to destroy U.S. influence and interests in the region it should have been sufficient.

To some extent, the State Department has been forced to
acknowledge some of these problems in the face of congressional criticism about sending a U.S. ambassador back to Damascus. I'm not saying that the ambassador shouldn't be sent back--though we should remember that Syria has done zero about the reason which led to the withdrawal in the first place, its complicity in the murder of Lebanon's former prime minister--but if he's returned it should be to wage diplomatic battle, not appeasement.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal.

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

 

An Unusual Alignment of Interests.

 

by Michael J. Totten

More than any other Arab head of state in the world, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has mastered the art of telling listeners what they want to hear.

Last week, he said his country is fully committed to peace in the Middle East, though he worries the Israel government isn’t. He knows this is what bien pensants in the West like to believe. He knows they find it refreshing that he can talk like a liberal while Iran’s Ali Khamenei and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad threaten apocalypse.

He also knows how to talk like the right kind of hardliner. Yesterday, he condemned the double suicide-bombing in Moscow’s underground metro and urged the international community to “fight terror around the globe.”

It’s no wonder, then, that some in Washington, Paris, and even Jerusalem think he’s a man they can do business with. All they have to do is convince him that his alliance with Iran is counterproductive, that it runs contrary to his self-evident interests and public pronouncements.

Syria, though, is the most aggressive state sponsor of terrorism in the world after Iran. Assad doesn’t even try to keep up the pretense when he isn’t preening before peace processors. Last week, he said Israel only understands force — a statement perfectly in line with his behavior. And just two days ago, he and Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi urged the Palestinian Authority to scrap negotiations with Israel and return to its terrorist roots.

It’s hard to say if Western diplomats and foreign policy makers are actually suckered in by his act or if they’re just playing along because doing so suits them. Either way, they’d be wise to ignore him even when he makes the right noises and pay a little more heed to what other Arab leaders are saying instead. Their interests are far more in line with ours than Assad’s are.

Over the weekend, all, including Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, rejected Syria’s and Libya’s calls for armed attacks against Israel. Most aren’t interested in signing a treaty with Benjamin Netanyahu any time soon, but at least they don’t yearn for another Operation Cast Lead or a Third Lebanon War. The status quo ultimately isn’t sustainable, but it’s mostly non-violent right now. There’s nothing urgent about it as long as the Syrian- and Iranian-led resistance bloc isn’t fueling its missiles.

Egypt and Saudi Arabia, the two most influential of the Sunni Arab regimes, flatly reject the idea of dialogue with Tehran while publicly supporting the peace process theater. Even if they’re no more sincere about the latter than Bashar al-Assad, as long as their rhetoric matches their immobility and conflict aversion, who cares?

Meanwhile, Iraqis gave Ayad Allawi and his slate of staunchly anti-Iranian candidates a plurality of votes in the recent election. The moderate Nouri al-Maliki came in second while the pro-Iranian Iraqi National Alliance came in dead last. Iran tried to Lebanonize Iraq with its Sadrist militias but seems to have failed. The Saudis are profoundly relieved, and the rest of the Arabs outside Syria surely are, too.

So what we have here, for the most part, is an Arab Middle East that wants to put the Israeli conflict on ice and resist the resistance instead — which is more or less what the Israelis want to see happen. It’s an unusual alignment of interests, but it is authentic. Iran’s Khomeinist regime has been gunning for Arabs in the Middle East since it came to power — and not just in Lebanon and Iraq but also in the Gulf and North Africa.

Egypt and Saudi Arabia are unreliable allies (and that’s being generous), but their interests really do overlap with our own and even with Israel’s once in a while. Assad, at the same time, can’t always be bothered even to pretend he shares interests with the U.S. and Israel. His government has been sanctioned and stigmatized for a reason, and it’s not because he’s misguided or misunderstood.

President Barack Obama clearly wants to tilt U.S. foreign policy more toward the Arabs, but he doesn’t have to do it at the expense of our alliance with Israel. Just start with what Washington, Jerusalem, and most of the Arab states have in common and build outward from there. The present alignment may only come round once in a century, so we best not blow it.

 

Michael J. Totten

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

 

Power plays between friends in Beirut.

 

by Michael Young

No one could fail to notice that it was a Syrian spokesperson, Wi'am Wahhab, who spilled the beans recently about Hizbullah members being called in for questioning by investigators working on behalf of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. It was also Wahhab alone who mentioned the possibility of a link between the late Imad Mughniyeh and the Hariri assassination. This has raised interesting questions about what Syria is trying to achieve.

Of course, Wahhab's professed purpose was to warn against what an accusation directed against Hizbullah might mean for Lebanon's stability. This has been a recurrent theme sounded by the Syrians and their allies in recent years. However, party officials must also have suspected that Wahhab's comments, by providing information no one else had, threw the light, uncomfortably, on Hizbullah to avoid it falling elsewhere.

Beyond the tribunal, there are other dynamics at play specifically related to the Syria-Hizbullah relationship. In its effort to reassert its hegemony in Lebanon, Damascus has not only sought to wear down its one-time adversaries in March 14; it also seems to be looking for ways to tighten its control over its more autonomous allies, above all Hizbullah.

It's not difficult to grasp why. In the five years after Syrian soldiers left Lebanon in April 2005, the party became the pre-eminent defender of Syria's interests in Lebanon. With no soldiers on the ground the regime of President Bashar Assad had to watch as Iran's sway over events in Beirut increased, because although Hizbullah remained close to Syria, there was never any question that it was, above all, an Iranian venture.

For Assad, this was unwelcome. From the moment his men left Lebanon, his ambition was to recover the country as a Syrian card in regional politics. But if it was Iran that was primarily calling the shots, because Syria remained so dependent on the pro-Iranian Hizbullah to defend its Lebanese stakes, all that really meant was that Assad was a secondary player in Lebanon. That is, until the Saudis came to the rescue.

In February 2009, King Abdullah "reconciled" with Assad at an Arab economic summit in Kuwait. After having spent more than three years trying to isolate Syria regionally, only to see Saudi Arabia itself become more isolated, the kingdom's leadership concluded that it was time to change tack. With Iran gaining power and developing a nuclear capability, and Iraq perceived as being under the control of a Shiite regime, the Saudis decided that Lebanon was a distraction worth dispensing with.

What appears to have emerged from that rapprochement is a quid pro quo with Syria, explicit or more likely implicit: the Syrians would be granted considerable leeway in Lebanon, in the process containing Hizbullah, while Syria and Saudi Arabia could find common ground in looking the other way on Iraq's destabilization, each for its own reasons. A byproduct of the understanding was that Saad Hariri, if he became prime minister, would visit Damascus in the context of a lowering of hostility between Lebanon and Syria. This could be placed under the rubric of "Arab solidarity."

While Syria has done almost nothing to curb Hizbullah, the Saudi calculation may have been more subtle. In handing Assad great latitude to impose Syrian priorities on the party, Riyadh probably took the minimalist view that it was better to have an Arab state in charge in Lebanon than Iran. That hard-nosed assessment preserved little of the sporadic sovereignty that Lebanon enjoyed after 2005, but the Saudis were too preoccupied with the future of their own regime to pay much heed to this.

That is where the Hariri tribunal comes in. Although the Syrians want to ensure that the investigation does not harm them or Hizbullah, the situation offers political opportunities. A Hizbullah feeling the heat, even if this is unjustified, is also one more vulnerable to Syrian power plays in Lebanon. Assad and party officials have denounced prosecutor Daniel Bellemare's investigation as politicized; they have raised the pressure on him by warning that indictments might carry Lebanon into a new civil conflict; and they will both use the ensuing fears to politically emasculate Hariri, who will find it difficult to approve measures that might threaten civil peace.

But within this complex game is another one, whereby the mere prospect of an accusation against Hizbullah makes the party doubly exposed: toward its traditional enemies such as the United States and Israel; but also toward Syria, which could make Hizbullah more beholden to it by using its weight in Beirut to ensure that the Lebanese government defends the party's innocence. Syria's developing rapport with Hizbullah would bring home that Hizbullah now needs Syria to protect its margin of maneuver in Lebanon rather than the other way around following the Syrian departure.  

This does not mean that Syria and Hizbullah are on a collision course. Both share multiple aims. Wahhab's recent criticism of Michel Sleiman was perhaps, in part, a sign of Syrian displeasure with the president's endorsement of municipal elections, which Hizbullah wanted to postpone. Both Syria and the party are collaborating to control the Palestinian camps by marginalizing officials recently appointed by the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas. For Assad to depict Hizbullah as a problem that only Syria can resolve, he must give the party room to be a problem.

That is why we should understand statements by Hizbullah officials as addressed both at the party's foes and, somewhere, at Syria. Hizbullah does not relish becoming a Syrian bargaining chip once again, even if it has no choice but to cooperate with Damascus. But the grip is tightening on all.

Michael Young is opinion editor of THE DAILY STAR.

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


Woe will be a divided Jerusalem.

 

by David M. Weinberg


Splitting the city will not lead to prosperity and peace.

The upshot of last week's Obama-Netanyahu confrontation is that the White House wants to move Israel rapidly towards a division of Jerusalem.

However, the widely held presumption that splitting Jerusalem will lead to prosperity for the city and to peace for Jews and Arabs is an egregious error. Partitioning Jerusalem will destroy the city. It will die, in every way – culturally, religiously, economically and more. And politically, the shearing of Jerusalem into Arab and Jewish sovereignties will turn it into the bull's eye of Mideast battle – a city that will make Belfast at its worst look like paradise.

The main reason for this is that any section of the city handed over to Arab rule will immediately become ground zero for the fierce war being waged within the Arab world over Islamic lifestyle, ideology and legitimacy.

Just who is going to rule in Arab eastern Jerusalem? Will it be the declining secular Palestinian national movement (whose sway in the West Bank is tentative at best), or the radical Islamist Hamas (which openly seeks Israel's destruction), or the annihilationist al-Qaida affiliated forces (who are growing in strength in the territories), or the increasingly radical and violent Israeli Arab Islamic movement (which has been the main force behind recent unrest on the Temple Mount), or the Jordanians (who have a superior claim to Arab leadership in Jerusalem under the 1994 peace treaty with Israel), or the Moroccans (who head the Arab League's Supreme Jerusalem Committee), or the Saudis (who see themselves as the true custodians of Islamic holy sites)?

EACH OF these forces will seek to prove its supremacy and bolster its legitimacy in the Islamic world through control of Arab Jerusalem and aggression against what remains of Jewish Jerusalem. What better way to prove one's loyalty to the Islamic cause than to attack the rump Israeli presence in the city? And with bases of operations to work from in the eastern half of the city (whose neighborhoods will no longer be under Israeli security control) – locations that are bare meters away from Israeli homes and government and commercial centers – such terrorism will be oh, so very easy, so irresistibly tantalizing.

Thus, if the city is irresponsibly butchered into halves, it will inevitably die a slow death. What Israeli family is going to walk with its kids to the Western Wall on Friday night through checkpoints and alleyways patrolled by Palestinian police? What Birthright group is going to shop in the Mamilla pedestrian mall below Jaffa Gate with Palestinian or Arab League sharpshooters on the Old City walls above?

What American church group is going to march along the Stations of the Cross in Jerusalem's Christian and Muslim Quarters with Hamas or Saudi modesty patrols harassing the women? What hi-tech company is going to invest in Jerusalem when the Kassam missiles start flying from Sheikh Jarrah into Har Hotzvim?

The world needs to be reminded directly: It is only complete Israeli security control over united, greater Jerusalem that prevents the city from becoming a boiling cauldron of conflict within the volatile Arab and Islamic world and from becoming the hottest-ever-imaginable flashpoint of Israeli-Arab war. There is no "neutral" peacekeeping force in the world that will do a serious or better job than the IDF and Israel Police of keeping Jerusalem a terrorist-free zone.

There is also absolutely no empirical basis to believe that Arab rulers of Jerusalem will maintain the Israeli gold standard of unimpeded religious worship in the city. There is no Arab or Muslim country in the Middle East where Christians or Jews can freely operate religious institutions. Under Palestinian Authority and Hamas rule, Christians in the West Bank and Gaza have been hounded, terrorized and driven out. Christian Bethlehem is, effectively, no more. The Church of Nativity was defiled by Palestinian Muslim terrorists who turned it into an armed refuge in 2002. Who will protect the churches of Jerusalem from the same fate under Islamic rule?

JEWISH SYNAGOGUES and holy sites in Jericho, Nablus and Gush Katif have fared no better – they were burned to the ground while Palestinian police looked on. Under Jordanian rule, Jews were not allowed to reach their holy places in Jerusalem at all, while thousands of Jewish graves on the Mount of Olives were desecrated and the tombstones used to pave streets. How can this be prevented under Palestinian rule?

Here's the truth: It can't. Neither the purported Arab rulers of eastern Jerusalem that President Barack Obama so earnestly wants to induct, nor the international community, will competently guard Jewish, Christian and Western interests in Jerusalem. Israel is the only reliable, responsible guardian of Jerusalem.

And while we're at it, here is another non-politically correct truth that needs to be articulated: Israel needs, desires and has developed Jerusalem as a workable, attractive city; it is the centerpiece of the ancient Jewish people and the modern State of Israel.

The Arabs and Palestinians, however, don't really care about Jerusalem; they never did. In fact, they would consider it a triumph if Jerusalem were so wracked by conflict and poverty that it was ruined for 1,000 years – just as long as it would be lost to the Jews. That is one more reason why Jerusalem cannot be parceled out to the Palestinians.

We need "to tell the truth when it is needed," as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condescendingly said in her recent AIPAC speech. Well, the truth is that Jerusalem under Israel has flourished. For Jews, Muslims, Christians, scholars, clergymen, craftsmen, architects, artists, archeologists and tourists alike, the past 43 years have been good times. For everyday citizens too: Never before in its 3,000-year history has the city been such a magnet for simple residency. Witness the incredible demand for, and sky-high prices of, housing in the city today.

Israel has sagaciously developed the city from a backwater town to a magnificent metropolis, and astutely kept it open and expanded the possibilities for religious worship of all faiths. Cautious Israeli custodianship has kept a lid on the always-smoldering religious-national tensions in the city. It has, most of the time, managed the complicated city with sophistication and sensitivity.

Even the Arabs of Jerusalem agree. Any Palestinian will tell you (privately, of course) that, in the broader scale of things, he prefers to live in an Israeli-controlled Jerusalem over a Jerusalem controlled by a Hamas imam-ocracy or the incredibly mislabeled Palestinian "Authority" (where there is little authority or democracy of any type).

That's why very few Jerusalem Arabs have ever participated in terrorist activities. That's why any and every Palestinian who can has been desperately scurrying over to the Israeli side of the security fence in and around Jerusalem. That's why Jerusalem Arabs are buying up homes at a dizzying pace in several predominantly Jewish neighborhoods like French Hill, Pisgat Ze'ev and Talpiot.

Thus, the sundering of Jerusalem is not only patently unwise, but unfair to Jewish history and to Israel's fine stewardship of the city.

Has the Obama administration even bothered to think this through?


 

David M. Weinberg   is director of public affairs at Bar-Ilan University's Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Affairs.

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

 

Encouraging Palestinian Rejectionism.

by Jennifer Rubin

How’s Obama’s Jerusalem gambit working out? (By the way, note to White House: don’t assail Israel by concocting an international incident centered on Jerusalem, the most emotional symbol of the Jewish people, in the weeks before Pesach — it gets even liberal Jews very riled up.) Well, as anyone who has been following Palestinian rejectionism and victimology for the past few decades anticipated (no, this doesn’t include the Obami), the Palestinians now perceive an opportunity to extract even more concessions from Israel and to give up the violence:

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah faction on Wednesday called for escalating the “popular struggle” against the security barrier and the settlements in the West Bank. … Veteran members of the Fatah Central Committee, including Nabil Shaath, Mahmoud al-Aloul, Muhammad Dahlan, Hussein al-Sheikh and Jibril Rajoub, said that the decision to escalate popular protests against the security fence and settlements was part of the faction’s political platform

They said the Sixth General Assembly of Fatah, which met last year in Bethlehem for the first time in over 20 years, had endorsed “popular resistance” as a means of confronting Israel’s measures in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

By seizing upon and escalating an issue on which no Israeli government could relent, the Obami have made clear that the “game” here is not compromise or resolution but rather high-pressure tactics directed against the Israeli government. The Obami holler while the PA throws stones. The aim of  both is to squeeze the Netanyahu government to the breaking point and shift the focus away from the Palestinians’ inability to enter into any meaningful peace deal (or, for that matter, even to come face-to-face with their Israel counterparts). The Palestinians now are certain that they can have both violence and a “peace process” in which the administration can be counted on to browbeat the Israelis into providing more concessions:

Shaath, a former PA foreign minister, said that peaceful protests were now a popular demand to confront Israel’s policies in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

“We need to strengthen and back this option in the face of the Israeli occupation’s policies,” he said. “We can’t return to the negotiations unless Israel halts all settlement construction in the West Bank and occupied Jerusalem.”

Shaath urged the US administration to pressure Israel to stop its policy of settlement construction, which, he claimed, jeopardized US interests in the region.

The results of the Obami’s handiwork once again suggest that “realism” is not the animating rationale behind their Middle East policy. In their animosity toward Israel and obsession with aligning themselves with the Palestinian bargaining position, the Obami have reinforced the Palestinians’ worst tendencies and convinced Israel (not to mention other nervous allies) that this administration is not to be trusted. In their frenzy to separate the U.S. from Israel and impress their Palestinian clients (who could hardly expect a more sympathetic ear and more overtly sympathetic approach than what this administration is delivering), the Obami have succeeded only in encouraging violence and postponing the hard work Palestinians must do if they are ever to achieve statehood. Perhaps the Obami should stop worrying about the collapse of the proximity talks and start worrying about the intifada their actions are helping to promote.

 

Jennifer Rubin

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

 

Exploiting the Crisis.

 

by Caroline B. Glick

Actually, Obama may have done Israel and Netanyahu a favor

There is an element of irony in the current crisis of relations between the Obama administration and Israel. On the one hand, although US President Barack Obama and his advisors deny there is anything wrong with US-Israel relations today, it is easy to understand why no one believes them.

On the other hand on most issues, there is substantive continuity between Obama's Middle East policies and those his immediate predecessor George W. Bush adopted during his second term in office. Yet, whereas Israelis viewed Bush as Israel's greatest friend in the White House, they view Obama as the most anti-Israel US president ever. This contradiction requires us to consider two issues. First, why are relations with the US now steeped in crisis? And second, taking a page out of Obama's White House chief of staff Rahm Emmanuel's playbook, how can Israel make sure not to let this crisis go to waste?

The reason relations are so bad of course is because Obama has opted to attack Israel and its supporters. In the space of the past ten days alone, Israel has been subject to three malicious blows courtesy of Obama and his advisors. First, during his visit to the White House last Tuesday, Obama treated Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu like a two-bit potentate. Rather than respectfully disagree with the elected leader of a key US ally, Obama walked out in the middle of their meeting to dine with his family and left the unfed Netanyahu to meditate on his grave offense of not agreeing to give up Israel's capital city as a precondition for indirect, US-orchestrated negotiations with an unelected, unpopular Palestinian leadership that supports terrorism and denies Israel's right to exist. Next, there was the somewhat anodyne — if substantively incorrect — written testimony by US Army General David Petreaus to the Senate about the impact of the Arab world's refusal to accept Israel's right to exist on US-Arab relations. In the event, the administration deliberately distorted Petreaus's testimony to lend the impression that the most respected serving US military commander blames Israel for the deaths of US soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. After Petreaus rejected that impression, his boss Defense Secretary Robert Gates repeated the false and insulting allegation against Israel in his own name.

Finally there is was the report this week in Politico in which nameless administration sources accused National Security Council member Denis Ross of "dual loyalties." Ross of course has won fame for his career of pressuring successive Israeli governments into giving unreciprocated concessions to Palestinian terrorists. Still, in the view of his indignant opponents in the Obama White House, due to his insufficient hostility to the Israeli government, Ross is a traitor. If Ross wants to be treated like a real American, he needs to join Obama in his open bid to overthrow the elected government of Israel.

These moves would be sufficient to throw US-Israel relations into a tailspin. When combined with the administration's ultimatum demanding a moratorium on Jewish construction in Jerusalem and its threat to coerce Israel into accepting an Obama plan for Palestinian statehood that will imperil Israel's security, it becomes abundantly clear that there is no way to make this crisis go away. There is a crisis in US relations with Israel today because the President of the United States has very publically taken a torch to those relations and he responds to any sign that the flames are waning by dousing fresh kerosene on the fire.

And yet, when Obama's personal animus is set aside and one examines the substance of his actual policies, ironically, there is little difference between the current administration's policies and those of its immediate predecessor.

In his second term in office, Bush ignored the significance of Hamas's electoral victory in January 2006 and its takeover of Gaza in June 2007. The US expanded its training program for the Palestinian armed forces and pushed Israel to accept a framework for Palestinian statehood that would more or less push it back to the indefensible 1949 armistice lines.

From 2004, the Bush administration sought to appease Iran into giving up its nuclear program — first indirectly through the negotiations that France, Britain and Germany conducted with Teheran. Then in 2006, the administration began direct negotiations with the mullahs.

Bush personally rejected repeated Israeli requests to purchase refueling aircraft and bunker buster bombs necessary for attacking Iran's hardened nuclear facilities. And he refused to back Israeli plans to attack Iran's nuclear installations. So too, Bush stopped calling for regime change in Iran. After the November 2007 publication of the falsified National Intelligence Estimate on Iran's nuclear program, Bush discarded the possibility of a US military strike against Iran's nuclear facilities altogether. In the 2006 war between Israel the Iranian and Syrian-proxy force Hizbullah, ignoring Hizbullah's membership in the Lebanese government and the Lebanese military's active support for Hizbullah's war effort, Bush forbade Israel from attacking Lebanese government targets. In so doing, he forced Israel to fight a regional foe as if it were a local street gang and so rendered the ultimate result of that war — Israel's first strategic military defeat — a foregone conclusion.

Despite Syria's open sponsorship of the insurgency in Iraq, its strategic alliance with Iran, as well as its sponsorship of Hizbullah, Hamas and al Qaida in Iraq and Lebanon, the Bush administration sought to prevent Israel from destroying Syria's Iranian-financed, North Korean-built nuclear facility. After Israel destroyed the installation in Sept. 2007, the Bush administration demanded that Israel keep silent about the significance of Iranian-North Korean-Syrian nuclear alliance.

Finally, the Bush administration denied the inherent hostility of the Islamist government in Turkey. Instead it cultivated the fantasy that this anti-American, anti-Israel, Hamas, Syria and Iran-supporting regime is a trustworthy ally.

Israel went along with all of these US policies despite their strategic madness because Israel wanted to be a team player. The Sharon and Olmert governments and the Israeli public as a whole believed that Israel had an ally in the Bush administration and that when push came to shove, the massive risks Israel took supporting the US's policies on Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey and the Palestinians would be rewarded.

With Obama of course, things are different. Probably if Obama treated Israel with the same friendliness his predecessor showered on its leaders, Netanyahu would have been willing to walk the plank just as Ehud Olmert and Ariel Sharon did, in the interests of helping his team. But what Obama has made clear in his mistreatment of Israel is that he doesn't want Netanyahu to walk the plank for the team. He wants Israel off the team.

 

Although unsettling, this dismal state of affairs has a bright side. It provides Israel with a rare opportunity to stop acceding to US policies that are bad for Israel and the US alike. After all, if the US is willing to instigate a crisis in its relations with Israel over plans to zone for housing units in Jerusalem neighborhoods like Ramat Shlomo and French Hill, then clearly Israel can do no right. And if Israel can do no right in the eyes of the administration, then there is no point in bending to its will. Instead, Israel must simply do what it must to secure its interests.

In the hope of winning over the Obama administration, Israel has kept the Iranian opposition at arm's length. This should end. Israel should employ covert and overt means to help Iran's Green Movement destabilize with the aim of toppling the Iranian regime. At the same time, Israel should employ covert and overt means to destroy Iran's nuclear installations.

This week Senator John Kerry travelled to Lebanon and Syria to raise the prospects of peace talks between Israel and both countries. Rather than applaud his efforts, Israel should point out that Hizbullah controls the Lebanese government and that US support for the Lebanese military and government strengthens Hizbullah. So too, Israel should make clear that since Syrian dictator Bashar Assad is Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's Arab water boy, it is preposterous to call for Israel to surrender the Golan Heights to his regime. Instead of rehashing the same nonsense, Israel should actively support Syria's Kurds in their bid for autonomy and champion the cause of political prisoners languishing in Syrian jails.

Turkey's announcement this week that it supports Iran's nuclear ambitions should be recognized for what it was: An announcement that the NATO member state has joined the Iranian axis with Syria, Lebanon, Hamas and Hizbullah. Israel should respond to Turkey's announcement by announcing a moratorium on weapons sales to Turkey and so end its counterproductive attempts to paper over the fact that its former strategic ally has become its enemy.

As to the Palestinians, rather than succumb to US demands in the interest of starting doomed-to-fail negotiations with Fatah, Israel should tell the truth. It has nothing to negotiate about and no one to negotiate with. Fatah's leaders Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad reject Israel's right to exist. They support terrorism. They already rejected a "two-state solution" less than two years ago. Aside from that, they lack the support of their own electorate which prefers Hamas's more direct approach to destroying Israel.

Instead of pretending that begging these impotent adversaries for peace serves its interests, Israel should get off its knees and adopt policies that will enhance its interests. For instance, given that the Obama administration views Ramat Shlomo as the equivalent of Eli and E-1, Israel should build up the neighborhood in Eli that was home to fallen IDF commanders Majors Ro'i Klein and Eliraz Peretz and implement its construction plans for E-1.

Ironically, all of these policies are consonant not only with Israel's strategic needs, but with the US's own strategic interests. And since Obama's hostility towards Israel is not subject to change, rather than focus on winning over the White House, the Netanyahu government should devote its energies to selling its policies to the American people.

Repeated polls have shown that the American public supports an Israeli strike against Iran's nuclear facilities. By the same token, commonsense policies towards the likes of Fatah, Hamas, Hizbullah, Syria and Turkey, combined with the unapologetic assertion of Israel's rights in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria will find a strong core of support in the US that can offset some of the damage Obama is doing to US ties with Israel.

Although much maligned, Emmanuel's call not to let a good crisis go to waste can be taken as a crass way of saying that every cloud has a silver lining. Israel did not ask for this fight with Obama. It would have been willing to keep up the fantasy that Bush's second-term policies made sense. But since a fight is what it got, Israel has no choice other than to strike out on its own. As it happens, if Israel does so, not only will it protect itself, it will protect the US from the dangerous policies its leader has opted to pursue.



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.

 

Friday, April 2, 2010

What Makes This President Different from All Other Presidents?

 

by  Jonathan Tobin

As the dispute between the Israel and the United States enters its third week, President Obama's anger at Israel and his determination to force Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to give in on the question of building in the eastern sector of Israel's capital is apparently unabated.

Yet this is hardly the first dispute between the two countries. Every administration since 1967 has proposed peace plans and negotiating strategies that Israel disliked or actively resisted. Genuine friends such as Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush, as well as less friendly presidents such as Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush, all pushed hard at times for Israeli acceptance of unpalatable concessions. But in spite of these precedents, Barack Obama has managed to go where no American president has gone before. For all the problems created by all his predecessors about settlements in the West Bank, no previous American leader has ever chosen to draw a line in the sand about the Jewish presence in Jerusalem.

It is true that the United States never recognized Israel's annexation of the eastern sector of the city after Jerusalem's unification in 1967. In fact, it has never even recognized western Jerusalem as Israel's capital. But the new Jewish neighborhoods that sprang up along the northern, eastern, and southern outskirts of the city, as well as the Jewish Quarter in the Old City, were never a source of contention even during the presidencies of Carter and the elder Bush. Indeed, the notion that places such as Ramat Eshkol, Pisgat Zeev, Gilo, and even Ramat Shlomo (the site of the "insult" to Vice President Biden) are considered "settlements" by the United States and thus no different from the most remote hilltop outpost deep in the West Bank is something that has come as a complete surprise to most Israelis, let alone American supporters of Israel.

During the course of his first go at Netanyahu, Obama made it clear that, contrary to a promise given by George W. Bush in 2004, he considered the bulk of settlements situated close to the 1967 borders, which Israelis believe they will keep even in the event of a peace deal, to be just as illegitimate as more controversial communities. In the hope of defusing the argument, Netanyahu reluctantly agreed to a freeze in these towns and villages while still maintaining that Jerusalem could not be treated in the same way. But Washington's demand that the freeze be extended to eastern Jerusalem signals that Obama clearly believes that, like the big settlements of Ariel and Ma'ale Adumim, the homes of the approximately 200,000 Jews who live in eastern Jerusalem are also on the table.

But despite the fact that Palestinian intransigence (strengthened by the belief that it is futile to talk, since the refusal to negotiate with Israel will only motivate Obama to press Israel harder) means his diplomatic offensive has virtually no chance of success, Obama has still done something that will permanently alter Middle Eastern diplomacy. By treating the Jewish presence in eastern Jerusalem as a vast, illegal settlement, the continued growth of which is an alleged impediment to peace, Obama has made it impossible for any Arab leader to ever accept Israel's possession of this part of the city. This not only makes the already near-impossible task of forging peace that much harder, it is also a crushing blow to decades of Israeli and American Jewish efforts to foster international recognition of a unified Jerusalem.

This year, along with the conventional four questions of the Passover Seder, some Americans are starting ask themselves: "Why is this president different from all other presidents?" The answer is that Barack Obama has now established opposition to Israel's hold on its capital as a cornerstone of American Middle East policy in a way that is completely new as well as dangerous. Those wondering whether this development ought to cause them to re-evaluate their political loyalties might want to remember the closing refrain of Passover Seders down through the centuries: "Next Year in Jerusalem!"

 

Jonathan Tobin

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

 

A deepening crisis between U.S., Israel.

 

by John Bolton

 

Passover is an unfortunate time to be asking what has gone wrong between America and Israel. Is today's strenuous disagreement over Israel's West Bank housing policy the real problem, or is this controversy merely a symptom of deeper, more profound differences?

 

Partly because of the extraordinary secrecy surrounding Prime Minister Netanyahu's recent White House meeting with President Obama, much remains hidden from public view. Nonetheless, after 14 months in office, Obama has made clear he sees the U.S.-Israeli relationship very differently than any of his predecessors.

 

Consider, for example, Obama's September 2009 U.N. General Assembly speech, profoundly anti-Israeli, and to a body where Israel is perennially even more isolated than the United States. There, among other things, Obama called for a "Palestinian state with contiguous territory that ends the occupation that began in 1967."

 

That, of course, is the Palestinian position. No wonder they are "outraged" at every subsequent Israeli construction project outside the 1967 borders. No wonder Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas told an Arab League summit on Saturday he would not negotiate with Israel until all settlement activity ceases. They see Obama delivering Israel into their hands, and they will simply insist on their optimal position while they measure how well he succeeds.

 

More fundamentally, Obama assumes, as do many Europeans, that solving or at least making substantial progress on Arab-Israeli issues is key to many other Middle East problems. In particular, he believes there will be no progress against Iran's nuclear weapons program until there is proof that Israel's commanding position has been reduced.

 

For Obama, therefore, every bump in the Arab-Israeli "peace process," caused repeatedly in his estimation by Israeli intransigence, has consequences far beyond its actual dimensions.

 

In fact, the idea that Israel's recalcitrance, personified by pugnacious Bibi Netanyahu, is the central obstacle to peace is exactly backward, like looking through the wrong end of a telescope.

 

There are many unresolved Middle Eastern problems, but if Obama could only focus on one, Iran is clearly the most dangerous threat to peace in the region. Not only does Iran's rapidly progressing nuclear weapons program threaten global peace and security, but it is the world's central banker of terrorism, directed against both the West and against fellow Muslims who don't pass muster according to Iran's ruling military theocracy.

 

The president could far more usefully pressure Iran's dangerous and belligerent regime, than publicly humiliate a close ally like Israel. Instead, Obama has done everything but plead with Iran to come to the negotiating table, and failing that has so far pursued a weak and ultimately doomed policy of trying to significantly increase economic sanctions against Tehran.

 

The president's weakness on Iran mirrors a similarly halting, inconclusive policy against North Korea's nuclear threat, and his overall indecisiveness in the war on terrorism.

 

The misplaced emphasis on pressuring Israel rather than Iran is more than a little ironic, because it is precisely the Muslim-Arab states Obama has been so assiduously courting who want America to stop Iran's nuclear weapons program. Arab governments friendly to the United States may dislike Israel in varying degrees, but they fear and distrust a nuclear-capable, terror-supporting Iran. They would welcome Israel (or the United States) destroying Iran's nuclear program, although they will never say so publicly, and will likely vigorously condemn Israel if it strikes.

 

Thus, Obama's signature foreign policy -- pressure your friends and beseech your adversaries -- will, here again, produce results precisely contrary to American national interests. We can only hope that the Netanyahu government, pursing Israel's interests, vindicates our own before Obama's hostility brings down Netanyahu's governing coalition.

 

 

John R. Bolton is the former United States ambassador to the United Nations.

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

 

Big lies that have caused untold misery: the big lie about Deir Yassin revealed.

 

 

by Maurice Ostroff

SUMMARY

"If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it". (Joseph Goebbels)

The false story of a massacre at Deir Yassin in 1948 is a typical example of a BIG LIE demonizing Israel based on fabricated evidence.

Startling indisputable evidence came to light in 1998 revealing that the story of a massacre and rapes at Deir Yassin was a complete fabrication.

The evidence of fabrication is indisputable because it originates from none other than the person who prepared the original story, Hazem Nusseibeh, who was an editor of the Palestine Broadcasting Service in 1948-1998. While explaining the flight of Arabs and their failure in the 1948 war during a 1998 interview with the BBC, Nusseibeh indiscreetly admitted that on the direct instructions of Hussein Khalidi, he had fabricated the allegations of a massacre and rapes. He told that Khalidi said to him: "We must make the most of this" and that they therefore embroidered the press release with fictional allegations that the children of Deir Yassin were murdered and pregnant women were raped, though neither ever happened. Their intention was to encourage the Arab countries to join in the battles soon to begin.

He added that these atrocity stories were "our biggest mistake," because Palestinians fled in terror and left the country in huge numbers after hearing them. This statement adds a new facet to research about the reasons so many Arabs fled in 1948. See also
http://www.2nd-thoughts.org/id38.html.

According to Nusseibeh, Khalidi said to him: "We must make the most of this" and the story was created in collusion with survivors of Deir Yassin and Khalidi. The press release stated that the children of Deir Yassin were murdered and pregnant women were raped, though neither ever happened.

In the same TV program, a former resident of Deir Yassin confirmed there were no rapes but that Khalidi convinced them they had to say there were. "We said, there was no rape." But Khalidi said, "We have to say this, so the Arab armies will come to liberate Palestine from the Jews".

Unlike the immediate spread of the accusation, this refutation was and remains completely ignored, pointing to the dangerous penchant, even among some respectable mainstream media, academics and influential politicians, to ignore readily available, credible evidence that conflicts with their biased preconceived opinions.

In the same TV program, a former resident of Deir Yassin confirmed there were no rapes but that Khalidi convinced them they had to say there were. "We said, there was no rape." But Khalidi said, "We have to say this, so the Arab armies will come to liberate Palestine from the Jews".

Although this evidence has been available in publicly available archives since 1998, it has been almost universally ignored. For example On November 28, 2001 in an article "The Sharon files" The Guardian, repeated the fabrication in referring to "the Palestinian village where 254 villagers were massacred in April 1948, in the most spectacular single attack in the conquest of Palestine".

 

 

DEIR YASSAN -- STARTLING EVIDENCE

 

BBC interviewed Hazem Nusseibeh in which he describes how the myth of a massacre and rapes at Deir Yassin was fabricated.
Click here.

View the dramatic video revelation by Hazem Nusseibeh, editor of the Palestine Broadcasting Service's in 1948 describing how the press report was compiled, falsely claiming that atrocities had occurred at Deir Yassin. Click Here or Click Here.  

 

BIG LIES THAT HAVE CAUSED UNTOLD MISERY

"If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it".

Tragically, the well-known quotation by Hitler's chief propagandist, Joseph Goebbels has proven to be valid time and again. Goebbels was probably the most influential expert in using lies and deceit to motivate an entire nation initially towards hubris, and eventually to abject destruction

His advice on effective propaganda techniques has also been successfully adopted. He wrote "The most brilliant propagandist technique will yield no success unless one fundamental principle is borne in mind constantly - it must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over." Anyone familiar with the Arab-Israel conflict will recognize how this lesson has been successfully applied. Raise any problem and the answer is "the occupation". Mention terror and the immediate solution offered is "end the occupation", ignoring the indisputable fact that terror against Jews was commonplace long before the occupation.

The universality of Goebbels' BIG LIE rule is evident from the straight line that can be drawn from the Protocols of Zion to Dreyfus, Mein Kampf, Deir Yassin, Jenin and Al Dura. Let's take a closer look at Deir Yassin and Al Dura.

Deir Yassin

The false story of atrocities in the battle for Deir Yassin in1948 is a typical example of a BIG LIE demonizing Israel, based on fabricated evidence. On April 12, 1948 Dana Schmidt wrote a "special to the New York Times" story about a massacre and rapes committed by Jews at Deir Yassin. The story, attributed to Dr. Hussein Khalidi, secretary of the Palestine Arab Higher Committee at the time, was taken at face value and spread like wildfire around the world. Even the Jewish Agency believed it and expressed horror and disgust.

But, and this is a big BUT, startling indisputable evidence came to light in 1998 revealing that the story of a massacre and rapes was a complete fabrication. Unlike the immediate spread of the accusation, this refutation was and remains completely ignored, pointing to the dangerous penchant, even among some respectable mainstream media, academics and influential politicians, to ignore readily available, credible evidence that conflicts with their biased preconceived opinions.

The evidence of fabrication is indisputable because it originates from none other than the person who prepared the original story, Hazem Nusseibeh, who was an editor of the Palestine Broadcasting Service in 1948.

The video clip that can be viewed by clicking on the link at the top of this page is an extract from a a 1998 interview with Nusseibeh in a BBC series "Israel and the Arabs: the 50 year Conflict".

While explaining the flight of Arabs and their failure in the 1948 war to the BBC, Nusseibeh indiscreetly admitted that on the direct instructions of Hussein Khalidi, he had fabricated the allegations of a massacre and rapes. He told that Khalidi said to him: "We must make the most of this" and that they therefore embroidered the press release with fictional allegations that the children of Deir Yassin were murdered and pregnant women were raped, though neither ever happened. Their intention was to encourage the Arab countries to join in the battles soon to begin. He added that these atrocity stories were "our biggest mistake," because Palestinians fled in terror and left the country in huge numbers after hearing them. This statement adds a new facet to research about the reasons so many Arabs fled in 1948. See also http://www.2nd-thoughts.org/id38.html

According to Nusseibeh, Khalidi said to him: "We must make the most of this" and the story was created in collusion with survivors of Deir Yassin and Khalidi. The press release stated that the children of Deir Yassin were murdered and pregnant women were raped, though neither ever happened.

In the same TV program, a former resident of Deir Yassin confirmed there were no rapes but that Khalidi convinced them they had to say there were. "We said, there was no rape." But Khalidi said, "We have to say this, so the Arab armies will come to liberate Palestine from the Jews".

Although this evidence has been available in publicly available archives since 1998, it has been almost universally ignored. For example On November 28, 2001 in an article "The Sharon files" The Guardian, repeated the fabrication in referring to "the Palestinian village where 254 villagers were massacred in April 1948, in the most spectacular single attack in the conquest of Palestine".

Ignoring the readily available contrary evidence, Deir Yassin continues to be a symbol of Jewish barbarity and it is regularly quoted by anti-Israel boycott activists. The myth is kept alive by an organization called "Deir Yassin Remembered", dedicated to perpetuating the fiction of a massacre

It is relevant to recall that this occurred in April 1948, before the state of Israel was declared. Many have been led to believe that Deir Yassin was a quiet village just outside Jerusalem, whereas in fact it was a heavily armed Arab village harboring some foreign militants who together with the villagers were attacking nearby Jewish neighborhoods and traffic on the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway.

If Deir Yassin was in fact a quiet village, it would have enjoyed the same fortune as other quiet villages such as the nearby village of Abu Ghosh, which remained neutral in 1948. In an article in the Jerusalem Post in 1997, Sam Orbaum quoted Mohammed Abu Ghosh as saying, "What we did, we did for Abu Ghosh, for nobody else. Others who lost their land, hated us then, but now all over the Arab world, many people see we were right. If everyone did what we did, there'd be no refugee problem . . . And if we were traitors? Look where we are, look where they are."

Deir Yassin was probably one of the earliest examples of the effectiveness of the well- funded Arab propaganda machine and the ineptness of Israel's PR response. It was certainly an example of Israel's mea culpa syndrome, admitting guilt where none exists, that continues to this day. The fabricated story was so convincing that even the Zionist Leaders accepted it.

Frequent reference is made in to a statement by then agriculture, minister Aharon Cizling, in support of the claim that atrocities did take place. In a cabinet meeting, Cizling said, "Jews too have behaved like Nazis and my entire being is shaken". His outburst should be seen, not as an admission of guilt, but as a manifestation of Israeli sensitivity to allegations, albeit false, of Jewish atrocities. He was so deeply moved by the fabricated reports of the kind of behavior that is not tolerated in the IDF doctrine, that he used the exaggerated and offensive Nazi comparison.

Al Dura

There have been several successful emulations of the Deir Yassin BIG LIE over the years. Notable among these was the Muhammed al Durah affair in which the 12 year old boy became the symbol of the intifada when he was caught with his father in the crossfire between IDF soldiers and Palestinians at Netzarim Junction. In pictures filmed by a Palestinian cameraman and broadcast by French television, he is allegedly seen shot and killed.

Israeli physicist, Nahum Shahaf, examined the evidence and claimed it was a hoax. Among those whom Shahaf convinced, was Professor Richard Landes of Boston University who saw the original unedited footage of the scene and produced a three-part documentary about the event, first Pallywood, a study of systemic staging of "news" by "the street" acting for Palestinian cameramen, (see: http://tinyurl.com/ydleswh), then a detailed analysis of the evidence in Al Durah, Birth of an Icon (http://tinyurl.com/yaf4xvy), and finally a study of the hoaxג€™s disastrous impact on global culture, Icon of Hatred (http://tinyurl.com/yajvjmo)

Meanwhile, Philippe Karsenty, head of a French media watchdog group, accused France2 and their Middle East correspondent, Charles Enderlin, of broadcasting staged footage. France2 sued Karsenty for defamation, and won the initial round. Professor Landes' thorough work played a significant role in the eventual reversal of the judgment on appeal in French court, ruling that Karsenty was not guilty of defaming Enderlin and France2. Al Dura nevertheless remains an international icon of Israel's supposed cruelty confirming Goebbels contention that If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it

What Hazem Nusseibeh told the BBC about Deir Yassin

The video focuses on an interview with Hazem Nusseibeh, a member of one of Jerusalem's most prominent Arab families. In 1948 he was an editor of the Palestine Broadcasting Service's Arabic news.

In this interview with the BBC he admits that in 1948 he was instructed by Hussein Khalidi, a prominent Palestinian Arab leader, to fabricate claims of atrocities at Deir Yassin in order to encourage Arab regimes to invade the expected Jewish state. He made this damming admission in explaining why the Arabs failed in the 1948 war. He said "this was our biggest mistake", because Palestinians fled in terror and left the country in huge numbers after hearing the atrocity claims.

Nusseibeh describes an encounter at the Jaffa Gate of Jerusalem's Old City with Deir Yassin survivors and Palestinian leaders, including Hussein Khalidi... 'I asked Dr. Khalidi how we should cover the story,'. He said, "We must make the most of this. So we wrote a press release stating that at Deir Yassin children were murdered, pregnant women were raped, all sorts of atrocities"

In the video clip Abu Mahmud, who was a Dir Yassin resident in 1948, told the BBC that the villagers protested against the atrocity claims: We said, "There was no rape. But Khalidi said, We have to say this, so the Arab armies will come to liberate Palestine from the Jews."

This false press statement was released to New York Times correspondent, Dana Schmidt leading to an article in the New York Times on April 12, 1948, claiming that a massacre took place at Deir Yassin that was reprinted worldwide and cited even in Israel as proof of Israeli atrocities

Dr. Hazem Nusseibeh was a representative of Jordan at the Mixed Armistice Commission and he was Minister of Foreign Affairs.He was also the Permanent Ambassador of Jordan to the UN and has authored several books, including The Ideas of Arab Nationalism, Palestine and the United Nations and A History of Modern Jordan.

 

Maurice Ostroff

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

 

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