Posted: 04 May 2013 11:40 PM PDT
“Everything reactionary is the same; if you don’t hit it, it won’t fall. This is also like sweeping the floor; as a rule, where the broom does not reach, the dust will not vanish of itself.” –Mao Zedong, The Little Red Book
By Barry Rubin
It is amazing how many massive revelations pass people by completely. Consider this new gleaning from the British Archives from early 1948, which sheds much light on current events. British officials in the Palestine Mandate were reporting as follows:
”The [Palestine] Arabs have suffered a series of overwhelming defeats….”Jewish victories … have reduced Arab morale to zero and, following the cowardly example of their inept leaders, they are fleeing from the mixed areas in their thousands. It is now obvious that the only hope of regaining their position lies in the regular armies of the Arab states.”
This is confirmation from hostile British official sources of what Israel and its supporters have been saying for 60 years: that the origin of the Palestinian Arab refugee problem was due to the actions of the Palestinian Arabs themselves: first, their leaders decision to reject the partition into Arab and Jewish states, then their decision to go to war, and then their disorganization and poor leadership. The British Foreign Office even uses the word, “cowardice.”
Some things have changed since then; many have not. Today, as in 1948, the Zionist side is more eager for the existences of an independent Palestinian state living in peace inside permanent borders than is the Palestinian Arab leadership.
That statement might strike misinformed people as ludicrous, but it is nonetheless true, as they should have known since Yasir Arafat’s destruction of the Camp David summit meeting and rejection of the Clinton peace initiative of 2000. And that only followed on the earlier Palestinian rejectionism of the original Camp David summit in 1977, which offered a pathway to statehood, or various other initiatives.
And this pattern of behavior is being reinforced daily. Consider a recent incident. On April 30, an Israeli civilian father of five was stabbed to death by a Palestinian at the Tapuach Junction on the West Bank. The killer was a prisoner who had just completed his sentence and been released by Israel, as Secretary of State John Kerry wants Israel to release hundreds of other prisoners before their sentences are done.
The killer is a member of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade. Note the following details:
–For many years Fatah, the ruling party in the Palestinian Authority (PA), denied the link with the brigade. Legal cases were held in the United States over the murder of Americans by the al-Aqsa Brigade in which PA lawyers strenuously denied any connection. But in 2009, the Fatah Congress, that organization’s highest authority, admitted that the al-Aqsa Brigades were part of Fatah, a fact one might have known earlier since that’s what it said on the Brigades web-site.
Fatah proudly took responsibility for earlier terrorist attacks by the group.
In the case of the April 30 murder, the official Al-Aqsa Brigades statement was very interesting, saying it had “received a green light to carry out military actions against Israeli targets in response to the deaths of prisoners Arafat Jaradat and Maysara Abu Hamdia in an Israeli prison.”
A green light from whom? Since the Brigades did not receive a green light from itself, this is an open admission that they were ordered to murder military civilians by the Fatah leadership, in other words by those ruling the PA, a Western-financed and supported entity.
–The two prisoners had been examined at autopsies conducted in the presence of PA officials. Thus, the PA knew that these two men died of natural causes. It was thus lying to its own people to incite them into supporting murders of Israeli civilians that the PA was ordering.
–In this case, however, a junior member of the Fatah Central Committee named Jamal Muheisen, while defending the attack, tried to distance his organization from responsibility:
“The Za’atra action was a natural response to attacks by the occupation and settlers [on Palestinians], but it does not express the general policy of the Palestinian Authority and of Fatah, who have espoused [the option of] popular resistance to the occupation.”
But it was Muheisen and not the killer or the al-Aqsa Brigades that was criticized universally by Fatah. Nobody came to Muheisen’s defense. On the contrary, the killer was praised as a hero who restored Fatah’s pride. No doubt, a street, a square, or something else will be named in his honor in future.
One Fatah member put it this way:
“[The killer] is a hero of the Fatah movement, a revolutionary and a fighter who restores Fatah’s pride and former glory; he exposes the dark [face of] interested parties and unmasks the mercenaries.”
–But why use the phrase about restoring Fatah’s pride? Because the organization’s pride is counted by the number of Israelis it kills. That’s how score is kept in Palestinian politics, even in 2013. When Fatah isn’t killing Israelis it is ashamed (restores…former glory), while any Palestinian—like Muheisen—who doesn’t support it is one of the “mercenaries,” presumably of the Zionists and Americans. If Fatah doesn’t keep up the killings, it believes that means it loses ground to Hamas.
Today, though, the PA is in a box of its own making. It cannot win militarily against Israel, nor will it engage in serious diplomacy with Israel. During a recent public relations’ meeting in Washington, supposedly to show Arab state support for a two-state solution, the PA’s representatives glowered in making clear they weren’t interested in serious negotiations with Israel.
Meanwhile, on the domestic front, the Fatah chiefs finally rid themselves of relatively moderate Prime Minister Salam Fayyad who was too honest for their purposes. Fayyad blasted the PA’s corruption and incompetence in a New York Times interview and then denied he had said these things, hoping for political survival. It isn’t clear whether he might return but clearly the credibility of the PA regime’s front-man, who was effective at collecting international donation, should be undermined.
So what can the PA do? Collect billions of dollars in Western aid, stage occasional terrorist attacks, try to use the UN General Assembly’s designation of Palestine as a “non-member state” to try to get into international groups and someday sue Israel in the World Court.
It is precisely because it lacks any active alternative that the PA and its allies are engaged in an unprecedented public relations’ campaign complete with strenuous attempts to subvert support for Israel in Jewish communities, boycotts, and disinvestment drives. This echoes the old PLO strategy although in this case it is not Arab state armies but armies of activists that will weaken Israel to the point that it must make huge concessions and subsequently collapse. Of course, this strategy won’t work as it did not work in the 1960s and 1970s.
Meanwhile, the PA leadership benefits from the status quo, they live well, pocket the aid money, posture as revolutionaries, and avoid being “traitors” by refusing to make peace.
A Western reader of this article might well think that such a situation is possible. It certainly isn’t what he’s seeing in the Western mass media. Yet the above description is nonetheless true.
The same person might conclude, with more justification, that such a situation cannot be sustained. He would look for a “solution,” assuming that the Palestinian leadership wanted such a solution. You know, we all know the broad outlines of a potential comprehensive agreement and we can play at drawing borders and have fun imagining the status of Jerusalem.
Yet the deadlock nonetheless prevails and it will prevail.
There is, of course, one way out: A Hamas takeover. Indeed, Hamas is becoming gradually more popular on the West Bank. Yet Western donations would dry up, Israel will keep the PA in power as the better of two bad alternatives.
Is it because Israel builds more apartments in settlements? That should be an argument for making the Palestinians more eager, not more negative, about making a deal to get rid of all settlements on Palestine’s territory.
While many in Israel, especially on the political right, wanted to keep the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the 1970s and 1980s, there is a broad Israeli consensus today that the goal is to get rid of involvement with these territories as long as it can be done in a way that reduces the likelihood of war and enhances security.
The problem is that there has been no way found to do so. The left’s solution is to walk away from any present there; the problem with that idea is what has happened in southern Lebanon and the Gaza Strip where that strategy has been tried, plus the growing radical Islamist wave in the region to which a new state of Palestine would probably fall prey.
No, it’s because of the same thinking and strategy on the Arab side that has prevailed for more than 60 years. It is that thinking that views the murder of Israeli civilians as a source of glory and negotiations with Israel or moderation as a sign of treason.
Why, a colleague asks, is there such a growing gap between the lynch mobs hating Israel being trained on many college campuses and other public or media institutions, and the far different Western policies toward Israel on the government level?
This is not, of course, to say that there aren’t problems. Yet what often seems to be the world’s most slandered and reviled country is doing quite well. Perhaps if Western states studied its policies rather than endlessly criticized them they might gain from the experience.
The answer is this: the policymakers know the truth but conceal it from their publics sometimes because it benefits their perceived state interests (make Arabs and Muslims generally happy) and political interests (plays up to the left-wing activists). That’s too bad but reality remains unchanged.
Posted: 04 May 2013 02:09 PM PDT
By Barry Rubin
Israeli air force F-16s attacked targets inside Syria while flying over Lebanon. Claims that these targets were chemical weapons were denied by Israeli sources. More likely they were long-range missiles being transported from Syria to Lebanon. While able to carry chemical warheads, they could also have been be used by Hizballah to target Israeli cities.
The weapons were being sent to Hizballah, the Lebanese terrorist group that is also a leading part of Lebanon’s government, for safe-keeping or possible use. In 2006, Israel successfully destroyed longer-range missiles that Hizballah was preparing to use against Israel. More recently, in January 2013, Israel attacked and destroyed facilities intended for the construction of nuclear weapons for Syria.
An Israeli official said that the weapons’ shipment could have potentially been “game-changing.”
Israeli sources also carefully stressed that the planes did not enter Syrian airspace. This statement was to reduce the likelihood of Syrian government retaliation or claims that Israel had gone to war with Syria.
The fact is that Israeli policy remains neutral on the Syrian civil war and this approach is unlikely to change. While there have been debates within the Israeli government over whether a government or rebel victory or long-term deadlock would be preferable from the standpoint of Israeli interests, no conclusion has been reached on this matter.
And, of course, this debate has been academic since Israel has no way to affect the outcome. From an Israeli government view, while the Assad regime has been unremittingly hostile and is allied with Iran, a takeover by the Muslim Brotherhood with freedom of action for hardline Salafi groups including al-Qaida is not clearly an improvement in the situation.
The rebels already control the Syrian side of the border with Israel, across from the Golan Heights. Their possession of advanced weapons—notably state-of-the-art anti-aircraft missiles—is worrisome. Israel also worries about Brotherhood-Salafist destabilization of Jordan, which is at peace with Israel.
Israel has also worried about the transfer of advanced weapons, especially chemical weapons, to Syria’s ally, Hizballah, for potential future use against Israel. As rebel forces have advanced closer to the places where these weapons are stored, the Syrian regime has been transferring some arms to Hizballah, reminiscent of the way that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein moved weapons to Syria when he was facing overthrow by a U.S.-led coalition in 2003. Of course, Israel equally worries about possible rebel—which means Brotherhood and Salafist—capture of these chemical weapons.
Here’s Syrian television footage of a firing of the type of missiles involved.
Posted: 01 May 2013 05:07 AM PDT
By Barry Rubin
Israel’s economic and strategic situation is surprisingly bright right now. That’s partly due to the government’s own economic restraint and strategic balancing act, partly due to a shift in Obama Administration policy, and partly due to the conflicts among Israel’s adversaries.
Let’s start with the economy. During 2012, Israel’s economy grew by 3.1 percent. While some years ago this would not be all that impressive it is amazing given the international economic recession. The debt burden actually fell from 79.4 percent of Gross Domestic Product to only 73.8 percent. As the debt of the United States and other countries zooms upwards, that’s impressive, too.
Israel’s credit rating also rose at a time when America’s was declining. Standard and Poor lifted the rating from A to A+. Two other rating systems, Moody’s and Fitch, also increased Israel’s rating.
And that’s not all. Unemployment fell from 8.5 percent in 2009 to either 6.8 to 6.9 percent (according to Israel’s bureau of statistics) or 6.3 percent (according to the CIA).
In terms of U.S.-Israel relations, the visit of President Barack Obama and Israel’s cooperation on Iran and on an attempted conciliation with Turkey brought quick rewards. For the first time, Israel will be allowed to purchase KC-135 aerial refueling planes, a type of equipment that could be most useful for attacking Iranian nuclear facilities among other things.
The same deal—which includes sales to Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries to make U.S. allies feel more secure vis-à-vis Iran—includes V-22 Osprey planes that can switch between helicopter and plane mode. Israel is the first foreign country to be allowed to purchase this system. It could be used for border patrols—a bigger problem given the decline in the stability along the Egyptian and Syrian borders—and troop transport.
Finally, there would be more advanced radars for Israeli planes and a new type of missile useful for knocking out enemy anti-aircraft sites, potentially useful against Iran among other targets. In addition, an Israeli company is now going to be making the wings for the advanced U.S. F-35 fighter planes.
The completion of the border fence with Egypt increases security in places where Palestinian and Egyptian Islamist groups are trying to attack. It also has reduced illegal civilian crossings to zero. Ironically, Israel has gotten control of its border while the U.S. government proclaims that task to be impossible for itself.
And of course there is the usual and widely varied progress on medical, agricultural, and hi-tech innovations. Here is a summary of those inventions.
The picture is even bright regarding U.S.-Israel relations, certainly compared to the previous four years. This point is highlighted by Wikileaks publication of a U.S. embassy dispatch of January 4, 2010, describing my article that day in the Jerusalem Post:
“[As far as Israel is concerned] what is important is that Obama and his entourage has learned two things. One of them is that bashing Israel is politically costly. American public opinion is very strongly pro-Israel. Congress is as friendly to Israel as ever. For an administration that is more conscious of its future reelection campaign than any previous one, holding onto Jewish voters and ensuring Jewish donations is very important….
“The other point is that the administration has seen that bashing Israel doesn’t get it anywhere. For one thing, the current Israeli government won’t give in easily and is very adept at protecting its country’s interests. This administration has a great deal of trouble being tough with anyone. If in fact the Palestinians and Arabs were eager to make a deal and energetic about supporting other U.S. policies, the administration might well be tempted to press for an arrangement that largely ignored Israeli interests.
“But this is not the case. It is the Palestinians who refuse even to come to the negotiating table — and that is unlikely to change quickly or easily. Arab states won’t lift a finger to help the U.S. on Iran, Iraq, or Arab-Israeli issues. So why bother?”
I think this analysis really fits the events that came to fruition in March 2013 with Obama’s coming to Israel, signaling a change in U.S. policy.
Face it. The obsession with the “peace process” is misplaced and misleading. The big issue in the region is the struggle for power in the Arabic-speaking world, Turkey, and Iran between Islamists and non-Islamists. And, no, the Arab-Israeli conflict has very little to do with these issues. Those who don’t understand those points cannot possible comprehend the region. Secretary of State John Kerry may run around the region and talk about big plans for summit conferences. But nobody really expects anything to happen.