Tel Aviv - If they were to follow the ancient proverb, "the enemy of my enemy is my friend," one would think Israelis would be rooting for Iranian opposition candidate Mir Hussein Mousavi and the hundreds of thousands of Iranian protesters who have challenged the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
But even though Mr. Ahmadinejad has threatened the Jewish state with destruction, many officials and analysts here actually prefer the incumbent president because – short of the downfall of Iran's theocratic system of government – he'll be easier to isolate. Reformist leader Mr. Mousavi, by contrast, isn't expected to alter Iran's drive for nuclear power, but he would win international sympathy.
"Just because Mousavi is called a moderate or a reformist doesn't mean he's a nice guy. After all he was approved by the Islamic leadership," says Ephraim Inbar, director of the Begin Sadat Center at Bar Ilan University. "If we have Ahmadinejad, we know where we stand. If we have Mousavi we have a serpent with a nice image."
But the street protests make for great video that boosts ratings of cable TV news channels. Those street battlers can be portrayed as freedom fighters.
Is Mousavi wrong when he claims he was cheated out of a victory? Also, are secular moderates in Iran a small fraction of the total Iranian population? Quite possibly "yes" on the first question and definitely "yes" on the second question. Here's some more unconventional wisdom about Iran.
“They say that Fatah has asked them to recognize Israel’s right to exist, and this is a big deception,” Dahlan said. “For the 1,000th time, I want to reaffirm that we are not asking Hamas to recognize Israel’s right to exist. Rather we are asking Hamas not to do so, because Fatah never recognized Israel’s right to exist.”
This was not a helpful statement, at least not to the peace-processors in Washington and in Europe, and to their diminishing band of confederates in Israel and the Palestinian territories. But Dahlan’s comment helps buttress the main argument of Benny Morris’s new book, “One State, Two States .” Morris, a professor of history at Ben-Gurion University in Israel, argues that Arab rejectionism is so profound a force that only the terminally obtuse could believe that Palestinians will ever acquiesce to a state comprised solely of the West Bank and Gaza.
Does it serve a useful purpose for the US to pretend that the Arabs will ever really accept Israel? Does the fiction help keep the conflict more manageable? I personally do not like the dishonesty of diplomats pretending there is something called a "peace process". It confuses some fraction of the American population and I suspect, even worse, it confuses a fraction of our leadership. So does it help in some way?
The Palestinians and Israeli Jews have incompatible claims. These claims will last as long as both groups exist in that strip of land bounded by the Mediterranean and the Jordan River. The long term battle will be fought demographically and possibly technologically (smuggled nukes). Israel needs to isolate its population from the Arab population with walls. But Israeli Arabs might in the long run become an internal demographic threat too.
A lot of writing gets done about Israel and the Arabs. But I've mostly lost interest. Both sides are unfair. The Israelis have more power and so they have more ability to be unfair. The Israelis make mistakes in handling the Arabs. You can click thru and read what some of those mistakes have been if you are curious. But mostly after watching the conflict for many years I'm bored with it. I just wish the coverage was more blunt and honest.
Many have written about the latest round of missiles and fighting between Israel and the Palestinians. This time Hamas rule Gaza Strip as a result of elections which were supposed to bring the miraculous healing balm of democracy to Arabia. If you are interested in the debate about Israel and Hamas then read Ross Douthat's overview and click thru and read Noah Millman's take. But what I find most interesting of all: Condi Rice and George W. Bush helped make this latest round of fighting inevitable.
Hamas never called for the elections that put them in power. That was the brainstorm of Secretary Rice and her staff, who had apparently decided they could steer Palestinians into supporting the more-compliant Mahmoud Abbas (the current president of the Palestinian authority) and his Fatah Party through a marketing campaign that was to counter Hamas's growing popularity – all while ignoring continued Israeli settlement construction, land confiscation, and cantonization of the West Bank.
State Department staffers helped finance and supervise the Fatah campaign, down to the choice of backdrop color for the podium where Mr. Abbas was to proclaim victory. An adviser working for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) explained to incredulous staffers at the Embassy in Tel Aviv how he would finance and direct elements of the campaign, leaving no US fingerprints. USAID teams, meanwhile, struggled to implement projects for which Abbas could claim credit. Once the covert political program cemented Fatah in place, the militia Washington was building for Fatah warlord-wannabee Mohammed Dahlan would destroy Hamas militarily.
Their collective confidence was unbounded. But the Palestinians didn't get the memo. Rice was reportedly blindsided when she heard the news of Hamas's victory during her 5 a.m. treadmill workout. But that did not prevent a swift response.
Blindsided. Imagine that.
Condi supported economic blockade that Israel put into place in response to Hamas. Hamas therefore started shooting rockets into Israel. If Israel hadn't done the economic blockade would Hamas have conducted attacks anyway?
I've become convinced that a variety of stupidities just have to play themselves out. In many cases people only learn the hard way - or they do not learn at all. Democracy as the Middle East's panacea? How's that working out in Lebanon? Or how about Algeria where the religious party won and so the military decided to take over and civil war ensued?
The conflict between Israel and the Palestinians doesn't have a happy ending. There's no mutually acceptable compromise. On the level of demographic war the Israelis are losing and the Palestinians therefore think they've got time on their side. Within Israel Arabs are making more babies than Jews and among the Jews the smarter Ashkenazis are making fewer babies than the Jews who came from Arab countries. So the smarter Jews are a shrinking percentage of the people within the territories and Israel proper. The Israelis need to separate themselves from the Muslim Arabs (though perhaps not the Christian Arabs).
About 40% of the West Bank Jewish settlers (or squatters if you prefer) would leave if offered enough cash for their houses. They do not like living among hostile Palestinians and some even think it is wrong to live there.
There are 280,000 settlers in the West Bank (200,000 more Israeli Jews live in East Jerusalem, also captured in 1967), and the vast majority are firmly committed to staying and oppose a Palestinian state here. But 80,000 of them live beyond the barrier, and surveys indicate that many would leave. If they did, others might follow voluntarily.
“We did a survey three years ago and again last year, and the results were the same,” said Avshalom Vilan, a Parliament member from the left-wing Meretz Party. “Half the settlers beyond the barrier are ideologically motivated and do not want to move. But about 40 percent of them are ready to go for a reasonable price.”
I wonder how they define reasonable price. Enough to buy a comparable house in Israel? Part of the allure of the West Bank in the first place was to get cheaper housing. Or are the houses there selling for less than they paid to get them?
Even if the 40% were given buy-outs I do not think this would lead to a full Israeli withdrawal. If one type of people leave an area that just makes the area more like the type of people who won't leave. The West Bank Israelis will become more ideologically committed and others like them will move to join them.
ISRAEL will almost surely attack Iran’s nuclear sites in the next four to seven months — and the leaders in Washington and even Tehran should hope that the attack will be successful enough to cause at least a significant delay in the Iranian production schedule, if not complete destruction, of that country’s nuclear program. Because if the attack fails, the Middle East will almost certainly face a nuclear war — either through a subsequent pre-emptive Israeli nuclear strike or a nuclear exchange shortly after Iran gets the bomb.
The time line makes sense. My guess is that Israel will attack after Barack Obama wins the Presidency. While George W. Bush is a lame duck seems like a great time for Israel. Bush probably won't retaliate against Israel. Obama won't want to punish the Israelis right when he takes office given the huge role that Jewish supporters of Israel play in the Democratic Party.
What I want to know: What will this attack do to the supplies and prices for oil? My guess is the Israelis won't attack oil facilities because the Israeli Air Force (IAF) will need to use all the airplanes at its disposable for hitting the nuclear sites. But will the Iranians temporarily suspend exports to basically punish the whole world for not restraining Israel?
To put it another way: Why should we worry about the impact of an Israeli strike on Iran?
Iran recently tested some ballistic missiles. Iran is seen as a dangerous place to invest. Why is that? Are Israeli bombs going to damage oil producing and natural gas producing facilities? Why?
The US vowed to defend Israel and its other allies in the Gulf, as Iran carried out its second ballistic missile test in two days yesterday.
As the situation worsened in the Gulf, the French oil company Total said it would pull out of a large-scale investment in an Iranian gas field - a serious blow to Tehran, which is keen to exploit its gas reserves, and a victory for the Bush administration, which has been seeking to isolate the Iranian government.
A spokeswoman for the company said it was too risky to invest in Iran at present.
Supposedly Iran's missiles can do damage. Okay, but will Iran try to hit anywhere besides Israel in response to an Israeli attack? If Iran hits US targets then the US would likely retaliate and do far more damage than Israel's original attack. So would Iran attack knowing that?
An Israeli attack would almost certainly be met with an Iranian counter attack, Israeli security experts said. Iran boasts an arsenal of 50 to 80 conventional missiles that could reach Tel Aviv. Others could target American military installations in Iraq and the Persian Gulf.
"I don't think they're bluffing," Efraim Halevy, former head of the Israeli intelligence service, Mossad, said of Iranian threats to return fire.
So Israel attacks Iran to knock out some nuclear sites and Iran lobs some missiles at Israel. Why should this cause a big economic disruption for the world? Maybe Israel then sends another wave of aircraft or maybe missiles into Iran. But will any of those bombs be aimed at oil facilities?
I do not see Iran attacking Saudi or Kuwaiti or Iraqi oil facilities in response to an Israeli attack. If Iran was foolish enough to do so the USAF would send in B-52s, B-1s, B-2s, F-15s, and other aircraft and do serious damage to Iranian military facilities and nuclear facilities. Why would the Iranians bring that down on themselves?
Does anyone see a plausible way that an Israeli attack on Iran causes global economic disruption? I'm not seeing it myself.
Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times says traveling thru the West Bank feels like traveling thru Israeli colonies. Er, this is supposed to be a revelation?
The security system that Israel is steadily establishing is nowhere more stifling than here in Hebron, the largest city in the southern part of the West Bank. In the heart of a city with 160,000 Palestinians, Israel maintains a Jewish settlement with 800 people. To protect them, the Israeli military has established a massive system of guard posts, checkpoints and road closures since 2001.
More than 1,800 Palestinian shops have closed, in some cases the doors welded shut, and several thousand people have been driven from their homes. The once flourishing gold market is now blocked with barbed wire and choked with weeds and garbage.
Sure, close 1800 Palestinian shops to allow 800 Israeli Jews live in the middle of a hostile population that feels like it is being invaded. Why not? After all. those Jews are following their interpretation of God's will. Even if we do not share their interpretation of God's will, well, who's to judge another person's religious beliefs? If you pay taxes to the United States government then thanks to the Jewish lobby your taxes help pay for this. Is this neat or what?
Some will think I'm being disrespectful when I say these people are nutters. Okay, I own up to that. Yes, I'm being disrespectful. Some human activities are so over the top in their foolishness and unfairness that disrespect is a rational response. It is not like respectful disagreement will help any. So why not go whole hog into disrespect?
Palestinian women have to give birth at checkpoints. Granted, the Palestinians are winning the battle of the womb. But is this sort of treatment necessary? Oh yes, it is. How else can "settlers" live in the midst of the Palestinians and take their land?
It is here in the Palestinian territories that you see the worst side of Israel: Jewish settlers stealing land from Palestinians (almost one-third of settlement land is actually privately owned by Palestinians); Palestinian women giving birth at checkpoints because Israeli soldiers won’t let them through (four documented cases last year); the diversion of water from Palestinians. (Israelis get almost five times as much water per capita as Palestinians.)
Where is the rule of law when lands can be taken that are owned by others? He says the Israeli courts periodically rule in favor of Palestinians. Well, what percentage of all the Palestinians who have had their land taken or their shop welded shut have gotten court rulings in their favor? Even 1% I doubt it.
Yet it is also here that you see the very best side of Israel. Israeli human rights groups relentlessly stand up for Palestinians. Israeli women volunteer at checkpoints to help Palestinians through. Israeli courts periodically rule in favor of Palestinians. Israeli scholars have published research that undermines their own nation’s mythologies. Many Israeli journalists have been fair-minded toward Palestinians in a way that Arab journalists have rarely reciprocated.
Yes, the Arabs definitely want only Arab Muslims to rule in the Middle East. I say let them. But at the same time keep them out of the West.
There are civilizations on this planet that are incompatible with each other. They should be kept separated by clearly delineated borders with substantial barrier walls. But in the case of the Israelis and the West Bank a clear line drawn between the Israelis and the Palestinians serves as an obstacle to the dreams of the Israeli fanatics who want to occupy all of the West Bank. The fanatics aren't making enough babies to carry out their dreams. The Israelis really ought to back off and live within demographically defensible borders. But the fanatics think they have God on their side.
Poverty and unemployment for Palestinians on the West Bank has gotten so bad that Palestinian children sneak into Israel to make money as street corner beggars.
NAZARETH, Israel—For 15-year-old Issa, days of summer start when the sun rises over a northern Israeli hill, shining on a garbage dump, a thorny field and then the dirty mattress that is his bed.
Issa is among hundreds of Palestinian child laborers who sneak into Israel from the West Bank, hawking or begging at traffic junctions.
Israel's massive barrier of walls and fences separating it from the West Bank has made it harder for adult laborers to enter Israel, so families wracked by poverty are increasingly sending their children instead.
"Pimps" pay parents to use their children as beggars.
Often Palestinian or Israeli Arab middlemen pay the children's families $250 for the right to take a child into Israel, the advocates said.
These "pimps," as they are called by Israeli authorities, force the children to beg at intersections, take their money at the end of the day and bring them to sleep in rundown apartments, they said. The children return home on weekends, or every few weeks.
"This brings continuous deprivation on the children who do not see their families, do not go to school and never rest," said Salwa Kupti, an Israeli Arab social worker in Nazareth who has worked with the children for 10 years. "The children become machines."
Reality is not pretty.
Palestinian children can enter Israel as long as they are escorted by a Palestinian with a work permit to enter. Also, some sneak in at locations along the barrier where the barrier is not complete yet. So then will the begging decrease as the barrier becomes more developed?
I wonder what the trend is with illegal alien workers in Israel. Are the numbers of Palestinian illegals going up or down?
You are probably as bored of Palestinian violence and the Arab-Israeli conflict as I am. Really, hasn't this series produced enough episodes by now? Can't we experience it through reruns in syndication? But the writers have thrown a new twist in it with civil war between Palestinian factions reaching a climax. Hamas is emerging triumphant over Fatah in the Gaza Strip.
Hamas fighters launched a fierce offensive on Gaza City Wednesday, firing mortars and rockets at Fatah's main security bases and the president's compound as the Islamic group appeared close to taking control of the entire Gaza Strip.
Fatah's forces were crumbling fast, with some fighters seen fleeing their security posts and hundreds of others surrendering, hands raised, to masked Hamas gunmen.
Hamas' control of Gaza and Fatah's control of the non-Israeli parts of the West Bank effectively split the Palestinian state into two separate states.
Some nutcases tried to have a peaceful protest. Didn't anyone tell them that all protests much use violence? Don't they know the rules? Or are they some sort of trouble makers?
Among those killed Wednesday was a man shot when Hamas gunmen fired on a peaceful protest against the violence, witnesses said.
The President of the two Palestinian statelets is a member of Fatah and he is not happy.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah called the fighting "madness" and pleaded with the exiled leader of Hamas to halt the violence.
Abbas and Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas issued a joint statement after nightfall, calling on all sides "to halt fighting, and to return to language of dialogue and respect of agreements," according to a statement from Abbas' office. The call was broadcast on Palestinian TV.
I'm guessing maybe the greater Israeli control over West Bank will prevent Hamas from taking over there as well.
Should we care one way or another about all this? If so, why? I'm just asking.
The Palestinians Authority's security forces, accompanied by Fatah members, began arresting senior Hamas members in the West Bank on Wednesday night.
The operation was launched in Ramallah, and the list of detainees contained 1,500 names of senior Hamas members and activists.
It will be interesting to see if Hamas and Fatah can quickly consolidate their power in their respective territories and put down all opposition. If so, one might ask why the civil war in Iraq is taking so much longer to finish.
Tom Regan of the Christian Science Monitor has put together a collection of links to stories about how Bush Administration members and neocon supporters want Israel to attack Syria but Israel's government and commentators think the neocons are nuts. In one sense this isn't really news. The neocons have advocated the overthrow the Alawite Assad government in Damascus for years. But in another sense the continued neocon embrace of this proposal is worth noting: The neoconservatives have not learned anything about reality from the Iraq debacle. They still think panacea solutions are waiting to be had if we would only act boldly enough and pay the price to enter utopia.
Neoconservatism is utopian and therefore is not a form of conservatism. People who advocate panaceas and use abstractions that are disconnected from empirical evidence are not thinking like classical Burkean conservatives. One shouldn't be anti-conceptual and anti-abstraction. But one should recognize that abstractions are usually simplifications of reality and that abstractions should be developed from empirical evidence and not built from one's fantasies and desires.
Noah Millman of Gideon's Blog offers a more conservative analysis of Israel's problems with Syria and Hezbollah. Millman does not believe overthrow of the Syrian government would solve anything or that Israel can achieve a huge lasting gain in Lebanon. (my bold emphasis added)
- Similarly, after the withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000, I presumed that Israel would have to return. Israel had no territorial claims on Lebanon; its presence was entirely security-driven. Yes, the long occupation produced Hezbollah. But there was no reason to think that withdrawal would result in Hezbollah withering away, as indeed it has not. So now Israel has had to launch a full-scale war merely to "degrade" Hezbollah's capabilities - capabilities that can be rapidly rebuilt, at a fraction of the cost for Israel to degrade them. Israel's stated objectives are to make it possible for the Lebanese army and some unspecified international force to come in and "control" the region in which Hezbollah operates. But Hezbollah is more popular than ever in Lebanon, and it is inconceivable that an international force will actually use, well, force. In terms of restraining Israeli action any such force will be worse than Israeli settlements, and in terms of restraining Hezbollah they will be inferior to the Syrians who, if they chose to, certainly could force some restraint.
- Which brings us to Syria. Various hawkish voices have called for Israel to take the war to the source - that is to say: to Damascus, which never seems to suffer adequately for the wars it provokes (see, e.g., 1967, 1973). But there is no mystery about why Israel has declined to take any action against Syria directly: because the Assad regime is the best Israel could plausibly expect in that country. Were the Syrian regime to fall, it would be replaced not by a friendly Arab democracy but by one of three possibilities: a new military dictatorship (not obviously better than the current regime), a radical Sunni Islamist regime (obviously worse), or a state of anarchy such as obtains in Iraq (also obviously worse). If Israel were certain that the Syrian regime could survive a direct Israeli attack, then, perhaps, Israel might launch such an attack, which would make the Assad regime *fear* collapse and take the necessary actions to prevent it, even if these meant acceding to Israeli objectives such as reining in Hezbollah. The fact that Israel is being very careful with Syria is a testament not to Israeli weakness but to their perceptions of Syrian weakness, and their recognition that the fall of the Assad regime would be unlikely to benefit Israel. Israel will not turn decisively against Damascus until such time as it appears that Assad has been "captured" by Hezbollah, and has forgotten who is the patron and who is the client. That doesn't appear to have happened yet.
The problem with overthrowing the Assad regime is so incredibly simple: A replacement government will be as bad or even much worse for Israel. Why? Because it would be made up of Syrians and the majority of people in Syria have no affection for Israel. Israel's problem is not the particular regimes in power in Arab countries. Israel's problem is that Arab Muslims are predisposed for deep seated reasons to feel hostile toward Israel.
The US overthrow of Saddam Hussein in Iraq has not made the Iraqis any better disposed toward Israel. A US or Israeli overthrow of the Syrian regime would similarly not make the Syrians any more friendly toward Israel and very likely would have the opposite effect. Currently Israel benefits when neighboring countries are not ruled by majority groups. The overall trend in human affairs in the last century has been toward rule by members of native elites. When the ruling elites are not representatives the majority group (e.g. minority Alawites rather than majority Sunnis rule Syria) for each country the regimes have to tread more carefully. Forcing the Middle East to move even further toward the global trend is likely to produce governments that even more strongly see Jewish Israelis as minority outsiders who should be booted from the region.
Noah Millman says serious thinkers do not believe the US can impose a better regime on Syria.
- (Side note: some*might* think it in Israel's interests for there to be an *American* effort to topple the Syrian regime, on the assumption that America can simply *impose* a more friendly government on that country. I think that since the Iraq campaign, no one serious in America or Israel still believes that America has that ability.)
If no one serious believes the US or Israel can impose a better regime on Syria then a lot of unserious people are setting policy in the United States and writing articles for neoconservative journals and think tanks.
A conservative analysis of the Middle East should start with the insights that humans are not perfectible, that human cultures differ from each other in important ways, and that the habits and beliefs of other peoples are at best extremely difficult to change. As Mick Jagger pointed out, "you can't always get what you want". Even worse, you can't even always get what you need (e.g. get a diagnosis of advanced liver cancer and the need for a cure will not magically cause a cure to be produced). A rational empirical analysis of the Middle East that attempted to determine what policymakers could hope to accomplish should consider the role of consanguineous marriage (marrying cousins) and tribalism in determining the nature of Arab governments and societies. An emprical analysis would consider how Islam and a cultire which sees all relationships as based on submission and dominance pose extremely intractable obstacles for liberalizers. A conservative approach to the Middle East would also eschew a set of assumptions and a logic that leads toward genocide as the solution when neocon utopian schemes inevitably fail.
Some Israelis will continue to die every year due to Arab terrorists. Wanting that to change will not make it change. Bold utopian schemes to stop this are more likely to make the problem worse than better. What Israeli policy change in recent years has done the most to decrease Israeli deaths at the hands of Palestinian terrorists? The construction of a border barrier between the West Bank Palestinians and Israel. Walls and fences are not utopian. They do not produce ultimate solutions which totally eliminate a problem. Yet they do provide real substantial benefits.
The gap between reality and US Middle Eastern policy has reached a point of creating splits within the Bush Administration. Condi Rice wants to take a more moderate position in the Middle East but Bush has begun to overrule her.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has become increasingly dismayed over President Bush's support for Israel to continue its war with Hezbollah.
State Department sources said Ms. Rice has been repeatedly stymied in her attempts to pressure Israel to end strikes against Hezbollah strongholds in Lebanon. The sources said the secretary's trip to the Middle East last week was torpedoed by the Israeli air strike of a Lebanese village in which 25 people were killed.
"I've never seen her so angry," an aide said.
The splits within the Bush Administration bring to mind the famous comment by a Bush aide that people who want to use empirical evidence to make policy are part of the "reality-based community". That's the community I belong to but that's not the community that Bush and the neocons belong to.
The aide said that guys like me were ''in what we call the reality-based community,'' which he defined as people who ''believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.'' I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ''That's not the way the world really works anymore,'' he continued. ''We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.''
Now we get to study the debacle in Iraq. We get to study the decay in American communities hard hit by massive Hispanic immigrants. The Bush policy makers are making new realities. Unfortunately, those realities are more nightmares than utopias.
Even as dozens die in sectarian violence in Iraq every day the Shia Arabs in Sadr City Baghdad could organize and make a march to the city center without anyone getting killed. American soldiers helped provide security so that Iraqi Shia Muslims could march in support of Lebanese Shia Muslims against Israel and against America.
BAGHDAD, Aug. 4 -- Thousands of Shiite Muslims marched though the Iraqi capital on Friday in support of Hezbollah guerrillas battling Israeli forces in Lebanon, answering a call by radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr to rally to the cause of their fellow Shiites.
Throngs of Shiite men, most clad in white burial shrouds that symbolized their willingness to die, gathered in the northeast Baghdad slum known as Sadr City. Then they marched toward the center of the capital, chanting: "We will step over America. We are Hezbollah" and "How can we sleep tonight? We have a quarrel with Israel."
They did not march for freedom of press or freedom of religion or democracy. If they had bothered to march about women's rights they would have marched for less rights, not more.
The United States helped bring to power a Shia Muslim government in Baghdad and empowered the Shia majority in Iraq.
The large turnout, along with the absence of any reported violence, also suggested that Sadr's ability to rally legions of disciplined followers remains strong at a time when factional militias dominate Baghdad.
Only 14,000 marched according to the US military.
But the U.S. military said in a news release that calculations based on pictures taken from unmanned surveillance aircraft put the crowd at 14,000.
In the intense heat of August and with the threat of car bomb attacks by Sunni insurgents that's still a decent turn-out.
In the most violent demonstration, about 100 people threw stones and a firebomb at the British Embassy in Tehran, damaging the building but harming nobody as they accused Britain and the United States of being accomplices in Israel's fight against Hezbollah, a Shiite group in Lebanon that is backed by Persian Iran.
Even Sunni Muslim demonstrators took to the streets of Damascus, Cairo and Amman. But their numbers were dwarfed by the huge Shiite turnout in Baghdad, organized by anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.
An article in Time magazine claims that Shia Arabs in Iraq trust Shia militias more than they trust the Shia dominated government.
But disarming Sadr's army may prove, if anything, even more difficult than disarming Hizballah in Lebanon. That's because the three-year campaign of terror against Shi'ite civilians by Sunni insurgents has led the community to see its militias, rather than the central government, as its only protection. As that violence escalates, the likelihood diminishes that these communities will support any effort to forcefully dismantle the militias. Nor can an agreement to disarm be easily orchestrated by removing the insurgent threat, since the branch of the insurgency responsible for targeting the Shi'ites is led by al-Qaeda in Iraq, the faction most implacably opposed to any reconciliation with the elected government.
If the Madhi Army decides to take on US forces with urban warfare in Baghdad the US forces in Baghdad might need to ally themselves with a Sunni militia. Do you suppose we could restore Sunnis to power? We should exempt Saddam Hussein from capital punishment. We might need him.
Update: Lawrence Auster notes the same neoconservative Jewish intellectual activists whose role was crucial in putting the Shiites in power in Iraq also support an immigration policy that brings hostile Muslims to America to kill Jews.
The neoconservatives, a predominantly Jewish group of Cold War liberals, have been the principal promoters of President Bush’s Muslim democratization campaign, as a direct result of which hundreds of thousands of Shi’ites in the U.S.-liberated, U.S.-occupied, and U.S.-empowered country of Iraq are now freely marching under the slogans “Death to Israel,” “Death to America.” Those same Jewish neoconservatives have also been the chief promoters of America’s post-1965 non-discriminatory immigration policy, as a direct result of which every Jewish institution in this country must now be surrounded by layers of security to prevent Muslims who are in this country solely due to that immigration policy from murdering Jews, as happened in Seattle last week.
The Arabs do not believe in the equality of man. Liberalism is not a universal philosophy for all of humanity. Liberals who support mass immigration are supporting suicide of their own culture. If I could separate myself and other non-liberals from them I would. But I'm stuck going down with them and I heavily resent them for doing this to the rest of us.
But the nutty thing is that the annual Iranian subsidy of Hezbollah, which we are constantly told is a world-historical crisis, turns out to be about $100 million.
For 28 years, the U.S. has paid Egypt $2 billion annually not to blunder into another war with Israel. This has been a good deal for all concerned, but it's pretty expensive because it's public. I would imagine you could rent most of the important people in Egypt for a lot less, if you did it surreptitiously with deposits in the right Swiss bank accounts.
Lebanon is a tiny country compared to Egypt with less than 4 million people, which is why Iran's $100 million seems so vast to them.
Surely, the friends of Israel could outbid Iran for influence in Lebanon? There's always the problem of making sure the VIPs you buy stay bought, but the people who have the money to spend on this problem are often geniuses at structuring deals, so that doesn't seem insurmountable.
The bribery deals would need to have incentive plans for performance.
What I wonder: What would it cost to buy south Lebanon and turn it into a park? Have no land there for houses. Hezbollah would try to kilr sellers to make people. Some Hezbollah followers would refuse to sell. So this might not work.
Consider how many things could merit bribery payments: Know when and where some trucks or an aircraft will deliver missiles from Iran? A group could even be bribed to capture trucks delivering missiles. Know where Nasrallah is at some moment? Know the locations of arms stashes? Know how to get some Shiite faction shooting at another Shiite faction? Bribes are best offered for confirmable information. A bribe for, say, "who in this village is a trained Hezbollah fighter" doesn't work because the bribee could finger those who hate Hezbollah rather than the members in good standing.
I've made a similar argument on Iraq. The place is full of factions and sub-factions. Would some of the factions accept bribes in exchange for not fighting or even in exchange for betraying information about other factions and fighting those factions that create the biggest problems?
The cost of the war in U.S. fatalities has declined this year, but the cost in treasure continues to rise, from $48 billion in 2003 to $59 billion in 2004 to $81 billion in 2005 to an anticipated $94 billion in 2006, according to the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. The U.S. government is now spending nearly $10 billion a month in Iraq and Afghanistan, up from $8.2 billion a year ago, a new Congressional Research Service report found.
Those costs do not include the long term care of tens of thousands of permanently injured soldiers and their lost earnings. These costs also do not include the cost of replacing much of the equipment which is wearing out more quickly. Nor do these costs include the interest in the debt for the money borrowed to finance the war. Nor do the costs include income not earned by Reservists and National Guard called up and taken from their civilian jobs.
To be worth doing bribery wouldn't have to totally solve the problems Israel faces with Lebanon or the US faces with Iraq. The United States could just withdraw from Iraq. But since the Bush Administration is intent upon staying we ought to use more unconventional means to deal with the enemies we face.
Greg Cochran points me to the news on a poll of Lebanese attitudes about Israel and the Hezbollah. Hezbollah wants to show that Israel is not invincible.
TYRE, LEBANON – The ferocity of Israel's onslaught in southern Lebanon and Hizbullah's stubborn battles against Israeli ground forces may be working in the militant group's favor.
"They want to shatter the myth of Israeli invincibility," says Amal Saad-Ghorayeb, a leading Lebanese expert on Hizbullah. "Being victorious means not allowing Israel to achieve their aims, and so far that is the case."
Israel's prowess is now taking a hit just like America's military power is taking a hit due to events in Iraq.
Hezbollah is getting wide support across sectarian lines - even from Christian Lebanese.
The stakes are high for Hizbullah, but it seems it can count on an unprecedented swell of public support that cuts across sectarian lines.According to a poll released by the Beirut Center for Research and Information, 87 percent of Lebanese support Hizbullah's fight with Israel, a rise of 29 percent on a similar poll conducted in February. More striking, however, is the level of support for Hizbullah's resistance from non-Shiite communities. Eighty percent of Christians polled supported Hizbullah along with 80 percent of Druze and 89 percent of Sunnis.
Lebanese no longer blame Hizbullah for sparking the war by kidnapping the Israeli soldiers, but Israel and the US instead.
The latest poll by the Beirut Center found that 8 percent of Lebanese feel the US supports Lebanon, down from 38 percent in January.
The government of Lebanon is elected. Lebanon has a democracy. Yet the people of Lebanon support an organization that carries out terrorist attacks and advocates the destruction of Israel. Bush and the neoconservatives argue that democracy and freedom can end the appeal of terrorism in the Middle East and bring peace. The evidence argues otherwise.
"Some people say, `We saw you beheading, kidnappings and killing. In the end we even started kidnapping women who are our honor,'"al-Mashhadani said."These acts are not the work of Iraqis. I am sure that he who does this is a Jew and the son of a Jew."
My fellow Americans, we helped bring him to power. You see, democratically elected Muslim power brokers are supposed to be better than dictator Arabs. Also, voting Arabs are supposed to be better than Arab subjects of dictators. Really, the democratically elected President of the United States says so.
"The Israeli attacks and airstrikes are completely destroying Lebanon’s infrastructure,” al-Maliki is quoted as saying during a news conference in Baghdad. “I condemn these aggressions and call on the Arab League foreign ministers’ meeting in Cairo to take quick action to stop these aggressions. We call on the world to take quick stands to stop the Israeli aggression.”
In contrast to Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and other Arab countries, Maliki declined to criticize Hezbollah.
That placed Maliki’s US-backed government in the discomfiting company of Algeria and Syria, rejectionist radicals in the Arab world.
Obviously, Israel isn't going to be secure as long as democratic regimes remain in the Middle East. We need to go on a campaign to overthrow democracies.
One of the democracy myths is that democracies will never fight each other. Yet the democratic Israelis are as enthused to kill Hezbollah as the Lebanese are to see Hezbollah hitting at Israel.
A new poll released in Israel confirms that Israelis are united in support of the fight against Hezbollah. 82 percent say the army’s offensive into Lebanon is justified, and 71 percent believe Israel should use even more force in attacking Hezbollah.
Unless a military force from other countries goes into South Lebanon and takes on Hezbollah how will this conflict stop? Can Hezbollah sustain the rocket attacks?
The continued attacks, however, have put a minor dent in American public support for Israel. A recent Gallup Poll found that a large majority of Americans back Israel's military campaign against Hezbollah, although half of those polled thought Israel had gone too far.
Lydia Saad, a senior editor at The Gallup Poll, said the number of civilians killed by the Israeli attacks appeared to be a main reason for that reaction.
The survival of Sheikh Nasrallah is already remarkable. Even more so is the West’s sudden obsession with his leadership — not just of Hezbollah but also, for all practical purposes, of Lebanon and of an upsurge of pan-Arab solidarity potentially more powerful than any since the Yom Kippur war of 1973.
His support on the Arab street will not of itself rebuild Lebanon or destroy Israel, which remains a key Hezbollah goal. But it has made him the new face of jihadism, with an appeal transcending border and sectarian divides. This is why, with stunning swiftness, Sheikh Nasrallah has eclipsed even Osama bin Laden as the West’s most potent enemy in the War on Terror.
“Nasser 1956 — Nasrallah 2006” declare the posters on the streets of Cairo. No al- Qaeda figurehead was ever so honoured. “Oh beloved Nasrallah, strike Tel Aviv,” chant protesters in Bahrain, home of the US 5th Fleet. And his latest televised threat is to do just that, with long-range missiles he has not needed to deploy so far.
To Israel, the story of Sheikh Nasrallah is one of toxic extremism and remorseless killing. To his followers, it is of patient planning and heroic defiance. Until this month his greatest triumph, in their eyes, was Israel’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon six years ago. But by taking on the full might of the Israeli Defence Forces in a war of his own timing — and then holding it at bay — he surpassed himself.
The amount of damage the missiles have done to Israel to date is fairly small. Few Israelis have been killed and the physical destruction is small. The economic damage due to disrupted work is probably larger than the damage to buildings. That is worrisome because Hezbollah might be able to keep this attack up for weeks or even months. Longer range missiles could cause economic disruption over most of the Israeli economy. That's a really big problem for Israel, probably the biggest it has faced in decades.
Events in the Middle East are a challenge to the universalist aspirations of Western liberalism. Democracy in the Middle East does not release anywhere near as many suppressed liberal urges as it releases tribal and religiously based motives.
While many Jewish neoconservatives dream of overthrowing Arab governments that have firm grips on their people and borders Israel hasn't been attacked by such goverments in decades and the attackers who are Israel's biggest headaches operate in territories over which no government exercises firm sovereign control. Israel's strategic problem is how to cause fragmented territories to come under firm control of elites which can exercise sovereign power over their territories. It is not clear that most Israelis understand this. Gideon Lichfield, The Economist's Jerusalem correspondent, explains why Israelis are so supportive of their government's reaction to Hezbollah in Lebanon.
When I discuss such questions with Israelis, as we peel off the layers of reasoning and approach the core, what I most often meet is a kind of crude Pavlovian determinism. The Palestinians, the Lebanese, the Arabs in general—they understand only the language of force. Not showing force is a mistake. Ehud Olmert, Israel's prime minister, summed up the thinking well this week in his speech to the Knesset: "Our enemies misinterpreted our willingness to exercise restraint as a sign of weakness."
And since all of Lebanon, in Israel's eyes, is complicit in letting Hezbollah live unmolested, it won't do any harm for all the Lebanese to feel a little force too. Not too much, of course. Nothing gratuitous. But just enough, as a by-product of actions that might be justified (the two soldiers might be spirited away via the airport, after all), to make them think twice about allowing Hezbollah to flourish in the future. And the civilian casualties—well, that's what you get for letting bad, bearded men with guns live across the hallway.
It is, in fact, the way Israel has kept its enemies at bay since it was born: the notion that force will knock sense into them. Olmert again, in a press conference just before the Lebanon crisis, when asked why Israel had recently gone into Gaza with bombs and tanks after the kidnapping of a soldier there: "These are effective measures and it may take some more time, but I'm hopeful that at the end of the day, the dominant forces within the Palestinian community will impose the end and the cessation of these violent actions by Palestinians."
It worked in the old days, when the equation was simple: one country, one leadership, one army. Defeat the army, and that was that. But now things are messier.
Lebanon is rather like several countries pulled together; its government is a weak and fragile balance of groups, including Hezbollah. Israel's coalition is fractious too, but its groupings are political and fluid. Lebanon's are ethnic-religious and fixed—Hezbollah's supporters are Shia Muslims, the country's biggest religious group—so the balance doesn't just shift with the political winds.
Lebanon is more of a confederacy than a proper modern nation-state. Lebanese fought a bitter civil war from 1975 up to at least 1990. Those non-Shia Lebanese who are "complicit" in allowing Hezbollah to attack Israel tried to bring their civil war to a point where one group or alliance of groups came out on top. But they were too divided and ultimately failed. Syrian troops were required to put an end to the civil war. Now the Israelis want the Lebanese Christians, Druze, and Sunnis to take on the Shias of south Lebanon. Effectively that would restart the Lebanese civil war. Well, doing that would cost those other groups far more than what the Israelis are costing them now. So those groups are unlikely to decide to unite to take on the Shias.
Hezbollah can attack Israel from south Lebanon because the non-Shia Lebanese do not want to take on the Shias. Many non-Shias and more secular Shias do not like what Hezbollah is doing by taking on Israel. But while the non-Shias are unhappy with the situation news accounts do not report on Sunnis or Druze or Christians ready to take up arms against Hezbollah.
The stark physical contrast reflects a deep and growing divide in Lebanese society between the less affluent, more religious Shiite south and the more urban center, largely of Sunni Muslims, Druse and Christians, which has built and benefited from a long-awaited economic boom.
“The country is going in two totally different directions,” said Ghassan Salhab, a Lebanese filmmaker and a middle-class secular Shiite. “One is, ‘We have an enemy and we need to fight it,’ ” he said, referring to Hezbollah’s supporters. “The other is, ‘We want to live and build and go with the world, wherever it goes.’ ”
The secular types do not want to take on the religious people in a war which will mainly benefit Israel. While Hezbollah is costing them in trade and safety a civil war would cost them more. So Hezbollah is free to do what it wants. The Lebanese Army would not get tasked with taking on Hezbollah unless a very large multinational force showed up to help them do it. Even then the Lebanese would have to worry about how long that force would stay, how hard that force would be willing to fight, and what would happen after that force left.
President Jacques Chirac said on Wednesday France could play a major role in an international force for Lebanon under certain circumstances, but insisted the force should not try to disarm Hizbollah guerrillas.
However Chirac added that he did not favor a role for NATO.
Germany also said it was opposed to deploying NATO's reaction force as peacekeepers.
"If such an international stabilization force comes about ... Germany would rule out using the NATO Response Force," government spokesman Thomas Steg told reporters, referring to the force due to be fully operational in October.
"It is clearly unsuitable for this purpose."
Why would any nation want to pay the huge price? US experience in Iraq, Israel's previous experience in Lebanon, and even Israel's current experience in Lebanon all suggest that putting down a Hezbollah insurgency would require a large force and be extremely costly in lives and money. Governments mostly do not see a net benefit from taking on such a job.
Rather than expect the Lebanese non-Shias to take on the Shias why not split up Lebanon? If South Lebanon was split off into a separate country then Hezbollah would rule the new government and Hezbollan soldiers would be the soldiers for that government. Then Hezbollah's actions against Israel would be those of a state actor and Hezbollah would bear all responsibility for what happened.
The Gaza Strip has less of a sovereign government than Lebanon. A New York Times piece examines how the Palestians in Gaza are split into rival factions that fight each other when they are not fighting the Israelis.
Giora Eiland, a former director of Israel’s national security council and a retired major general who led an investigation into the June 25 raid, agreed. “Recently there was the illusion that Hamas, while not a perfect partner, was at least a group that could implement decisions,” he said. “But it has become apparent that the political leadership of Hamas is much less influential than Khaled Meshal and leaders of the military wing.” Mr. Meshal is the chairman of Hamas’s political bureau and lives in exile in Damascus, Syria.
The Qassam Brigades is the Palestinians’ largest and best organized militant group but it is not the only militia operating in the area under Palestinian control. At least six other armed groups field soldiers to fight Israel or, when there are no Israelis to fight — as was the case for nine months after Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza last year — to fight among themselves.
REG: Right. You're in. Listen. The only people we hate more than the Romans are the fucking Judean People's Front.
FRANCIS: And the Judean Popular People's Front.
P.F.J.: Yeah. Oh, yeah. Splitters. Splitters...
LORETTA: And the People's Front of Judea.
P.F.J.: Yeah. Splitters. Splitters...
LORETTA: The People's Front of Judea. Splitters.
REG: We're the People's Front of Judea!
LORETTA: Oh. I thought we were the Popular Front.
REG: People's Front! C-huh.
How can the will of the people possibly be wrong? The Arab masses insist that Hizbollah should rain missiles on Israel.
DAMASCUS, Syria — The rapidly escalating conflict in Lebanon has divided the Arab world, deepening the gulf between rulers and ruled and reinforcing in the public's mind the impotence of leaders who for two generations have been unable to produce a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, governments with ties to the United States have guardedly denounced Hezbollah for the attack on Israel that triggered the fighting — even as their citizens began tacking up posters of Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, the cleric who heads the Shiite Muslim militant group and has vowed to bring "war on every level" to Israel's door.
The disconnect between the broad range of public support for Hezbollah and the unease felt by many Arab leaders is one of the reasons that Arab governments have been largely unable to mount an effective diplomatic response to Israel's 5-day-old bombing campaign.
How frustrating for the neocons. Those democracy-hating Arab dictatorships refuse to act on the will of their populaces. By contrast, the neocons (and liberals who celebrate their faith in the diversity cult) must be excited by the triumph of Arab democracy in Lebanon. The democratically elected government in diverse, divided, and democratic Lebanon has allowed Hezbollah to act on popular Muslim sentiment toward Israel. The sizable presence of elected Hezbollah officials and popular Lebanese Muslim support for hostilities against the hated Jews has prevented the Lebanese government from cracking down on Hezbollah (the Party of God).
The Lebanese people have accomplished much over the past year, but much remains to be done. The United States, and the international community, stand with the Lebanese people as they work to reassert their independence and strengthen their democracy, and we support their call for national dignity, truth, and justice.
We call on the international community to continue to hold the Syrian regime accountable until it responds completely to concerns about its cooperation with the UN International Independent Investigation Commission, interference in Lebanon, insufficient action on the Iraqi border, sponsorship of Palestinian terrorist groups, and harsh crackdown on civil society.
The Syrian withdrawal made Syria less able to control Hezbollah and also simultaneously made the Syrian government less accountable for what Hezbollah does. While the Syrians derive some satisfaction on seeing missiles raining down on Israel the Assad regime probably would have acted to restrain Hezbollah if a large Syrian military contingent remained in Lebanon. Assad would not want Israeli warplanes attacking Syrian troops in Lebanon or Syria proper.
The US government's pressure to get Syria out of Lebanon helped enable Hezbollah to carry out the popular will of Shiite Lebanese. What is the next nutty neoconservative step? Overthrow the undemocratic regimes in Syria, Jordan, and Egypt so that elected populist theocratic leaders can better express the will of the Arab street toward Israel.
Lebanon is too diverse. Imagine breaking Lebanon up into 3 or more countries. Each one could be made so ethnically pure that the populace will accept firm rule from a government they see as of their tribe and therefore legitimate. The Shia country might still try to war with Israel. Or its elite might make the same calculation that Syria, Jordan, and Egypt's elites have made: Israel is too powerful and if they do not challenge Israel they can enjoy the perks of power.
The other alternative: Make Lebanon fully a part of undemocratic Syria. Then no missiles would fly from Lebanon into Israel. Also, Lebanese Christians would enjoy the same protection that they enjoy in Damascus.
But in the wake of Syria's withdrawal of its troops from Lebanon in 2005, the disarmament of Hezbollah has emerged as one of the foremost issues in Lebanese politics. Since the fighting with Israel started Wednesday, calls for Hezbollah to relinquish its weapons have gathered urgency. The violence began when Hezbollah fighters captured two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border incursion, followed by an Israeli attack on roads, bridges, power stations and airports.
Israel's attacks on Lebanon are having salutary effects on Lebanon's rulers.
Lebanese critics as well as allies of Hezbollah insist that the Israeli response was disproportionate. But at the same time, in meetings Thursday, Lebanese officials began to lay the groundwork for an extension of government control to southern Lebanon. Hezbollah largely controls southern Lebanon, where it has built up a network of schools, hospitals and charities.
"To declare war and to make military action must be a decision made by the state and not by a party," said Nabil de Freige, a parliament member. He belongs to the bloc headed by Saad Hariri, whose father, Rafiq, a former prime minister and wealthy businessman, was assassinated in 2005, setting off a sequence of events that forced the Syrian withdrawal. "It's a very simple equation: You have to be a state."
Are the non-Shias in the Lebanese government really serious about taking on Hezbollah? An attempt to suppress Hezbollah runs the risk of starting a civil war in Lebanon. Plus, the Shias in Lebanon are a big voting block and even many non-Shia Lebanese Muslims sympathize with any group that would attack Israel. My guess is the lower classes are not as supportive of a crackdown on Hezbollah as the upper class business interests. The Lebanese government would have a much stronger hand against Hezbollah if a dictatorship ran Lebanon. You do not see the authoritarian regimes in Egypt, Jordan, or Syria letting groups shoot rockets from their territory into Israel. The governments of those countries have the means to maintain control of their factions and their borders.
Lebanon has been bouncing back from their civil war and has reached a per capita GDP of $6200 which compares very favorably with Syria at $3900 per capita GDP and Jordan at $4700 and Lebanon has achieved this in spite of the physical damage and heavy debt burden due to the civil war. The Christian Lebanese (39% of the population) and some of the other factions would like the good times to continue and see the Hezbollah as an obstacle in the way of letting the good times roll.
But can all the non-Shia factions unite to extend sovereignty over the south of Lebanon? They have economic incentive. They do not want the Israelis bombing the Beirut airport and blowing up bridges and other infrastructure. That is bad for business. But the Israeli threat has to be balanced against the problems posed by trying to take on Hezbollah and its Syrian and Iranian backers. Hezbollah could wage an insurgency fight and start attacking into neighborhoods and business districts of Druze, Sunni, and Christian Lebanese. You can bet the Lebanese elites are weighing their options.
The US government seems focused on Syria's and Iran's roles as backers of Hezbollah.
Analysts here say Iranian influence has become ascendant following the Syrian pullout, though foreign policy in the two countries has so far largely overlapped. The United States renewed its call Thursday for those countries to intervene to get the two Israeli soldiers released.
"It's really time for everybody to acknowledge that these two states do have some measure of control over Hezbollah," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters in Washington. "And the international community has called upon them to exercise that control, to have these two individuals released."
Neoconservatives fantasize about extending the US invasion of Iraq into invasions of Syria and Iran. But an invasion of Syria would collapse a regime which both fears Israel and which very effectively prevents dissident groups from shooting rockets or doing cross-border attacks into Israel. An overthrow of the Assad family dynasty would put an end to a regime which both prevents attacks on Israel from its territory and which also provides one of the safest and friendliest living environments for Christians in the Middle East. An invasion of Syria would ruin the lives of Christian Syrians as thoroughly as the overthrow of Saddam put Christian Iraqis into the line of fire of Muslim insurgent groups. Such an invasion would also destabilize Israel's border with Syria.
There's talk about how Israel's battles with Hezbollah and Hamas could escalate into a regional conflagration. Well, how exactly? Assad in Syria and his top people know that a direct attack on Israel would be suicidal folly. Ditto the Mubarak family dynasty in Egypt.
The Israelis would benefit if Lebanon became more like Egypt, Syria, and Jordan and less like West Bank and Gaza. I do not know if that is possible. However, a US invasion of Syria is not the way to bring this about.
The Bush administration has few ways of directly pressuring Iran on any of the three fronts. "They have sanctioned themselves out of leverage on Iran," Malley said. "They have cornered themselves out of a lack of influence on any of the parties that are driving this -- Hezbollah, Hamas, Syria and Iran. Counseling restraint or condemning actions is pretty meager when you think of the influence the United States should be wielding."
The United States reached out to Arab allies -- Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia -- to weigh in with Syria and, through Damascus, to Iran. In Paris for talks on Iran's nuclear program, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called on all sides to "act with restraint." She also talked to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora and U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan.
Lebanon's problem for Israel and Washington is that it is not united under a single government. Maybe Israel could make some gains here by convincing Syria (e.g. by bombing Syria rather than the Beirut airport) that attacks by Hezbollah will be treated as attacks by Syria. That'd give Syria some incentive to turn against Hezbollah. Not sure if that would work. But the Israelis ought to tell Jewish supporters in Washington DC that a US overthrow of Assad's regime and replacement by a democratically elected Sunni fundamentalist regime would not improve Israel's security in the long run.
Update: The Jerusalem Post reports that Israel's chief goal in its attacks on Lebanon is to force the Lebanese government to take responsibility and assert control over south Lebanon.
Lebanon can be "shut down for years, as long as necessary" a senior military official said over the weekend. He added that the goals of the Israeli blockade of Lebanon were, on a tactical level, to make sure that no rockets could be supplied to Hizbullah, and strategically, to make the government in Beirut take responsibility for its southern border.
The feeling within the IDF General Staff is that the Lebanese government will eventually succumb and deploy its army in the south, but that this decision will be made at the political level, under international pressure.
The senior military official said the current clash with Hizbullah was inevitable, that the "writing had been on the wall." Hizbullah miscalculated Israel's response to the kidnapping of two soldiers on Wednesday, he said.
"Prodi told me that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert informed him of two demands for a cease-fire - handing over the two captive Israeli soldiers and a Hizbullah pullback to behind the Litani River," a government statement quoted Siniora as telling the cabinet.
Most analysts here says that the strong support for Hizbullah from Lebanon's 40 percent Shiite population makes total destruction of the group impossible. Mindful of repercussions, Israel says it is trying to avoid causing irreparable damage to Lebanon.
"We didn't remove the gloves completely," a high ranking military official told reporters over the weekend. "We need to be very careful that we only put enough pressure on the Lebanese government to change the situation but not enough to make it fall."
It is hard to tell whether the outcome the Israelis want is within the realm of possibility.
The reasons the US is watching this crisis from the sidelines are many: The Bush administration has been preoccupied with Iraq, it does not have diplomatic ties with the Middle Eastern countries that matter in this escalation, and it has been unwilling to pressure Israel to avoid military response when Tel Aviv's security is threatened. The US position represents a change from earlier days - such as the administration of the first President Bush, who enlisted diplomats like James Baker and Brent Skowcroft to ease tensions - when America brought pressure to bear on all parties, including Israel, to slam the Pandora's box back shut.
"The US has very little leverage over the situation, and all that does is underline that the US is weak and has lost the kind of influence it once had in the region," says Arthur Hughes, former director general of the Israel-Egypt multinational force and now a scholar at the Middle East Institute in Washington. "It's frightening to our partners, like Japan and Europe because, as they see it, the only thing worse than a US that is too strong is a US that is too weak."
The United States was eager to get Syrian troops out of Lebanon. But imagine that the Syrians had not pulled out. In that case Hezbollah would have been less able to launch attacks on Israel because the Syrian backing of Hezbollah would have been more overt and Israel would have been in a stronger position to retaliate by attacking Syria. So Syria would have been motivated to restrain Hezbollah to an extent that Syria is not currently motivated to do so.
Modern Tribalist blogger Adam Lawson points to reports that most Israeli Jews want the Arabs in Israel to leave.
More than 60 percent of Israeli Jews believe the government should encourage Arabs to leave the country, according to a survey published by the Israel Democracy Institute on Tuesday. The findings have led MK Muhammad Barakei (Hadash) to ask for a special parliamentary session to address racism.
The Jews among a representative sample of 1,200 Israelis were asked to agree or disagree with the statement, "The government should encourage Arabs to emigrate." Sixty-two percent said they agreed.
Prof. Asher Arian, scientific director of the Guttman Center at the IDI and director of the 2006 Israel Democracy Index, said that the statistic indicated a "general lack of tolerance of Israeli Jews toward Israeli Arabs."
Only 14 percent of respondents said ties between Arabs and Jews are good, while 29 percent said a Jewish majority is required for decisions of crucial national significance. Meanwhile, 26 percent said religious Jews and secular Jews enjoy a good relationship.
According to the annual survey, Israelis trust the IDF more than any other institution (79 percent,) followed by the High Court of Justice, the media, and the Knesset.
I bet if the Arabs were bribed enough to leave then after the Arabs were gone the relationship between the secular and religious Jews would deteriorate as they no longer felt the need to hold back their grievances toward each other in front of the enemy.
82 percent of respondents believe that democracy is the ideal form of government for Israel, a 5 percent increase from the previous poll. 77 percent believe that democracy is the ideal form of government for any country.
Groups do not trust other groups for good reason: Other groups are more likely to violate their rights and less likely to do charitable acts toward them. Democracy works better in a society with greater trust. The levels of trust between the Jews and Arabs in Israel are very low. It makes sense that they should separate. They do not have enough trust to belong together in the same society.
I'm reminded of Steve Sailer's proposal for the Europeans to pay the Muslims to leave Europe. Seems a very sensible proposal to me. Also, Steve's comments about the Danish cartoon crisis are pertinent as well:
Guess what? Danes and Muslims don't agree on the basics of social organization and don't want to live under the same rules. That shouldn't be a severe problem. It's what separate countries are for. But due to mass immigration, it is in fact becoming a huge stumbling block.
The Arab Muslims and Jews in Israel similarly do not want to live under the same rules.The difference between them in regards to what constitutes fair rules is far too large for them to live equally. If the Arabs become a larger fraction of the population of Israel at some point the Israelis may abandon democracy rather than give the Arabs power over Jews. Better to pay the Muslims to leave and thereby preserve the democracy. Of course there are lessons here for America. But our traitorous elite would rather shaft us than to learn these lessons.
The Bush Administration advocates the spread of democracy in the Middle East as a way to reduce the threat of terrorism. Yet the political Islam tide continues to rise wherever democracy is present in the Middle East.
With national elections less than a month away, parties that represent Israel's Arab population are struggling to maintain their small foothold in the Israeli parliament. As the parties grapple with new legal barriers, fresh competition and a frustrated constituency, at least one coalition is drawing a lesson from Hamas's recent victory in the Palestinian territories: The solution is Islam.
The United Arab List has adopted an explicitly Islamic message in the hopes of inspiring thousands of Arab voters who have boycotted past elections. Using Koranic verse and showcasing religious candidates, Sarsur's party, called the Islamic Movement, and its secular-nationalist partner are seeking to unite Israel's religious Islamic parties, who like their more radical Palestinian counterparts have long disagreed over whether to take part in elections that, in effect, presume the legitimacy of the Jewish state.
Socialist Arab nationalism was the last supposed solution. How long will Islam remain the favored solution? I figure it'll last until genetic engineering allows rising IQ and then rising living standards. (more here) Higher IQs will simultaneously solve the economic problems of Arab countries while also making Muslims smart enough to look more critically at their religion.
Head of Israel's Shin Bet intelligence agency Yuval Diskin says Israel may end up missing Saddam Hussein as dictator of Iraq.
When asked about the growing destabilisation of Iraq, Mr Diskin said Israel might come to rue its decision to support the US-led invasion in 2003.
"When you dismantle a system in which there is a despot who controls his people by force, you have chaos," he said.
"I'm not sure we won't miss Saddam."
Maybe Diskin notices that Shia dominated Iran is Israel's most feared enemy and that a Shiite theocracy in Baghdad makes that situation worse by greatly reducing the threat Iraq poses to Iran. Maybe Diskin figures a chaotic place with lots of terrorists running around is a lot worse than a place with a strong central dictator.
The TV station said the tape came from a closed meeting about a month ago between Diskin and Jewish seminary students at Eli, a hardline Jewish settlement in the West Bank near the city of Nablus.
Diskin's voice was heard on the tape. "Sometimes when you dismantle a system in which a tyrant controls his people by force," he said, commenting on the US-led offensive against Saddam, "and it breaks into pieces and generates chaos, you get a situation like in Iraq.
"Is the situation better in Iraq today compared to what it was before?" he asked. "From the Israeli point of view, we could come around to missing Saddam," he added.
But the neocons assure us that democracy in Arabia is just the cure for what ails them.
Jewish terrorism is a "cancer" that Israel is lenient in tackling, according to Israel's Shin Bet chief.
"Understand that a Jew who carries out terrorism is ultimately much more of a cancer in the nation than an Arab who carries out terrorism," Yuval Diskin said in a recent closed-door briefing to army cadets, a recording of which was aired this week by Israel's Channel 10 television.
Asked by his audience, which included West Bank settlers, whether the Shin Bet hunts suspected Jewish radicals, Diskin said they receive better treatment than Palestinians or Israeli Arabs held in similar cases.
"I do not see an equality in the way the system handles them, even when they are accused of the same kind of crime," Diskin said.
The Israelis need to separate themselves from the Arabs. The intertwining of Arab and Jewish communities driven by the Jewish religious folks determined to settle in land they think God gave them is corrupting them.
The US faith-based initiative to spread democracy in the Middle East as a way to stop terrorism and create a friendlier neighborhood for Israel bears more bitter fruit with a big political victory for the Palestinian Muslim political party Hamas.
Hamas's triumph on Thursday in winning 76 seats in the 132-member Palestinian parliament against 43 for Fatah was widely seen as a political earthquake in the Middle East, triggered by voter disenchantment with corruption.
The same qualities of Arab nations that lead to corrupt governments also make democracy unlikely to improve the situation. Successful democracy is an outgrowth of qualities of a culture which must already be present before democracy is established. Well, some of those qualities are missing from most of the world.
Founded in the crowded Gaza Strip in 1987 as an outgrowth of the Egyptian fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood, the group, whose name means "zeal," is an Arabic acronym for the Islamic Resistance Movement. Its birth coincided with the start of the first Palestinian uprising against Israel and its covenant, published a year later, called for a zealous campaign to destroy Israel.
"Holy war," the document declared, is a duty binding on all Muslims whenever "enemies usurp Islamic lands."
Only a few years ago, political Islam was considered to be on the decline, partly stunted by the 1991 cancellation of elections that Algeria’s Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) was set to win. The move by the military plunged the country into a long civil war and devastated the FIS, serving as a bleak warning to other Islamists aspiring for power through the ballot box.
The September 11 2001 attacks also put Islamist parties on the defensive, and gave Arab regimes an excuse for harsher crackdowns.
But as US pressure for democratisation in the region has gained momentum, Islamists, whether militant or non-violent, have been the most adept at capitalising on the popular discontent with existing governments.
Recent history shows the pro-American side doesn't always win elections in the Arab world. Far from it: Besides Hamas, which has roots in the Islamist movement and Palestinian nationalism, Islamic parties have done well in recent elections in Egypt, Morocco and Iraq.
The most notorious example may be Algeria, where the Islamic Salvation Front won a first-round election victory in December 1991, only to have further balloting halted. An army crackdown targeted the Islamists and fueled a civil war that claimed more than 100,000 lives, according to the CIA's World Factbook.
Democracy means theocracy in the Middle East.
There are, however, three powerful reasons why this ban may not last, or at least may not mean quite what it says. The first is that a similar ban on dealings with the Palestinian Liberation Organization did not prevent discreet talks through third parties, usually the Algerians.
The second is West is financial. The spending of the PA government, including the salaries of its officials, health service and construction industry, is very largely dependent on funding from the European Union. The economic collapse and social despair that are likely to follow a complete breakdown of the Palestinian state could swiftly become a humanitarian crisis.
The third and probably crucial reason why Hamas may yet end up talking to the West is that there is a profound contradiction between a ban on talks with Hamas and the Bush administration's commitment to promote democracy in the Middle East.
Walker points out that the Bush Administration will be under intense pressure from Jewish groups to maintain the US ban on Hamas. How can democracy be the fount of moral legitimacy when elections can bring to power governments which would like to destroy other democracies?
If it is the democratic will of the Palestinians to wipe the Israelis from the face of this Earth then how can that will be illegitimate? Western liberals and neocons alike strike the rhetorical pose that the democratic will of the majority is the definition of moral legitimacy.
The world should be on alert, however, for a move by Hamas to slowly take over the machinery of elections to prevent itself from being voted out. That wouldn't be unusual for a fundamentalist Islamic group that relies on a rigid hierarchy for its internal affairs.
In many nations, from 1930s Germany to modern third-world nations with elected leaders-turned-dictators, democracy has too easily been hijacked by those who use it merely to gain power and then hold onto it by manipulation of that power.
Islamists will fail to fix what ails the Middle East. Democracy in the Middle East will be a disappointment for the Arabs and for the neoconservatives around Bush. Who will each group blame for the outcomes?
Faced with the choice between running again as head of Likud and likely winning but getting nowhere with his agenda because of internal opposition, or risking everything on a new party with the chance to achieve his goals, Sharon opted for the latter course.
"That's an interesting choice. It means the substance is more important to him than the politics," said Yair Hirschfeld, an initiator of the first back-channel, Israeli-Palestinian contacts in the 1980s that eventually led to the interim peace agreement known as the Oslo Accords.
Sharon is driven to create defensible borders for Israel.
And the substance of what Sharon wants to achieve, Hirschfeld said, is nothing less than the ultimate definition of Israel's future borders, either through negotiations with the Palestinians or through unilateral moves.
Sharon is looking more moves down the chessboard than his opponents. While some hardliner settlements supporters think that they have a God given (or "G-d given" in their parlance) right and duty to make settlements. Sharon is a lot less sentimental or a lot less mystical. Sharon sees the basic problem: Israel needs demographically defendable borders. The wombs of Palestinian women are a demographic time bomb ticking in the heart of Israel. The only solution is to put more Arabs on the other side of walls. If only American leaders could have Sharon's guts and insight.
Sharon has formed a new party of the political center and hopes to use his popularity to retain power in an election which will come by March 2006.
Now 77, Sharon spent years as a military tactician. On Monday he proved again that as he has gotten older, he has also gotten bolder.
Never one to play defense, the man nicknamed "the bulldozer" charged ahead with a beaming smile, sweeping aside the traditional rules of the game by founding a new, centrist "National Responsibility" party that will test the sentiments of the Israeli electorate in snap elections that will take place no later than mid-March.
Sharon's new party is expected to be made up of about a dozen breakaway members of Likud, including prominent Finance Minister Ehud Olmert. But the new party's aim is to attract members from the left and center as well, including possibly former Labor Party leader and prominent statesman Shimon Peres.
Some Likudniks want to reverse the settlements pull-outs. But Israel really needs to go even further and put even more Arab Muslims on the other side of walls separating the Jews from the Muslims. The Israelis have already also so betrayed the Arab Christians that they probably need to separate themselves from the Christians as well.
A reduction in rates of infection and selective abortion has greatly reduced infant mortality amont Arabs living in Israel. But Arab marriage practices keep the rate of defective babies and infant mortality higher than among Israeli Jews.>The Israelis now want to convince the Israeli Arabs to not marry their cousins and other close relatives as a way to further reduce Arab Israeli infant mortality.
The district health office has initiated a project in areas with large Arab populations that includes study days for health personnel, initiation of reports against inbreeding in the Arabic-language mass media, and encouragement of Muslim religious leaders to declare in mosques that this practice is likely to produce defective children.
Most of the activity, however, recruits elementary and high-school teachers in the Arab sector who speak to pupils about the dangers of marrying close relatives. "The effect on the reduction of the rates of consanguineous marriages should be observable within years, and the effect on infant mortality within generations," Strulov predicts.
The three-pronged effort would further reduce the gap in infant mortality rates between the Jewish and Arab populations in Israel, he said. In 2002, the annual infant mortality rate was 4.0 per 1,000 live births among Jews and 9.0 among Arabs; in the Northern District, it was 5.4 among Jews and 7.8 among Arabs.
The Arab Israeli infant mortality rate has already fallen by about two thirds since the early 80s.
In the early Eighties, the rate among Arabs was 22.6 per 1,000 live births and half that among Jews.
Aside: Note that the Israelis have been accused of genocide against Palestinians. But they have been trying (and succeeding) in lowering Arab (mostly Muslim) Israeli infant mortality rates. Of course they can not expect gratitude or even recognition for this. Life isn't fair.
The Israeli attempt to lower the rate of cousin marriage in their Arab populations has larger implications beyond effects on infant mortality or rates of congenital defects. First off, intelligence among the Israeli Arabs might be boosted. The Arabs are not exactly top of the pops in the IQ league tables. Higher IQs might reduce religiosity. Also, higher IQs will lead to more education and probably lower birth rates in future generations as smarter people spend more time in school and have fewer children.
If the Israelis are successful in changing Israeli Arab mating customs then that suggests Arab governments could carry out similar programs to change the mating practices of their Arab populations. Such a change in the Arab countries would have a huge political and economic impact. The bigger effect would show up in the form of reduced loyalty toward family and therefore increased loyalty toward larger scale polities, notably in the form of increased national loyalty. This would reduce nepotism and corruption and would therefore make Arab economies more efficient. Though the impact would take decades to reach full effect. Still, the attempt by the Israelis to lower rates of marriage to close relatives among Israeli Arabs bears close watching.
If you want to develop an understanding of how consanguineous marriage affects the politics of the Middle East a good place to start is my post "John Tierney On Cousin Marriage As Reform Obstacle In Iraq". From that post you'll find links back to previous posts and writings by others on this topic.
"The significance of the disengagement plan is the freezing of the peace process," Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's senior adviser Dov Weisglass has told Haaretz.
"And when you freeze that process, you prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state, and you prevent a discussion on the refugees, the borders and Jerusalem. Effectively, this whole package called the Palestinian state, with all that it entails, has been removed indefinitely from our agenda. And all this with authority and permission. All with a presidential blessing and the ratification of both houses of Congress."
"...what I effectively agreed to with the Americans was that part of the settlements would not be dealt with at all, and the rest will not be dealt with until the Palestinians turn into Finns. That is the significance of what we did."
Given that the Palestinian Authority is despotic and has degenerated even further into criminality and given Arafat's support for terrorism (which was so not a surprise to anyone who didn't fantasize about Oslo) the so-called "peace process" never made any sense. But I think treating the Palestinians fairly still made sense and that never happened. So I'm not totally sympathetic to the Israelis.
"The paper quoted only the first half of my sentence. What I said is directed at this specific time when there is a non-functional Palestinian Authority, and when terror is raging– if that's the case there should not be, God forbid, a process that would lead to the establishing of a Palestinian State, which would have anarchy as its founding stone."
Israel's ambassador to the United States puts a more positive spin on it while Yossi Beilin says Sharon is not a partner for peace.
"This plan gives Israel some breathing space, to wait until there is a partner with whom it will be able to start negotiations. I think this is the core aims of the plan," Ayalon said.
MK Yossi Beilin (Yahad) said Weisglass's statement was said in "a rare moment of truth and uncover the prime minister's true intentions. The peace camp must join forces and bring the PM down, Beilin said. "Sharon is not a partner for peace," Israel Radio quoted Beilin as saying.
Of course the PLO isn't a partner for peace either and certainly Islamic Jihad and Hamas have no desire for any peace that doesn't involve total victory for their side.
Weisglass has been Sharon's point man in dealing with the Bush administration.
Sharon's office later issued a statement, saying the prime minister remains committed to the road map. However, in a newspaper interview last month, Sharon said Israel is no longer following the plan.
So what to make of all this? On the one hand the Israeli Likudists have legitimate fears about a "peace" deal. The demand for refugee return would lead to the end of the state of Israel if it was agreed to. Also, splitting Jerusalem between two sovereign governments strikes me as a recipe for all sorts of mischief and trouble down the road. The Muslim claim to Jerusalem as an important holy city in the Koran is bogus and was dreamt up in the Middle Ages (and I'm too busy to google up the story of how that happened but would appreciate a link from anyone who knows where to find it).
But there is a powerful faction in the Likud which is basically using the "lack of partner for peace" argument against the Palestinians to continue to build and expand remote settlements in the West Bank to ensure the Palestinians never take sovereign control of the West Bank. This faction is a mix of Jewish religious fundamentalist nutcases (like US Defense Department neocon Douglas Feith's former law partner Marc Zell and of course some nut jobs in the Bush Administration) and others who dream of a bigger Israel.
The biggest downside from the construction of the barrier fence around the West Bank is that it reduces the pressure on the Israeli government to do anything to treat the Palestinians better. As long as Israelis are not getting killed daily in terrorist attacks the settlement expansion program can continue apace while the Palestinians endure the various barriers the Israelis will of course maintain for the benefit of the remote settlements.
The remote settlements and the taking of Palestinian land are a real public relations bonanza for anyone in the Middle East who wants to stoke up anti-Israeli and anti-American sentiment. Speaking as an American nationalist who wants to protect American interests it is the anti-American sentiment that concerns me most. The Bush Administration could have taken the position on the barrier fence that the Bushies would support it in exchange for evacuation of the remote settlements. But the Bushies didn't do that. They basically took the side of the harder line American and Israeli Likudniks. If I was a Palestinian I'd see this as a bad faith move on America's part.
The barrier fence is still a good idea because it will reduce the death rate on both sides. Also, the pull-out from Gaza is a good idea by itself. But the demographic trend of lower Jewish than Palestinian Muslim birth rates combined with the continued imposition of the remote settlements on the West Bank Palestinian population is storing up bigger troubles for the future.
Also, there is an argument to be made for imposing a sort of de facto sovereignty on the Palestinians. Withdraw back to near the Green Line with barriers. Tell the Palestinians that they now have to find a way to govern themselves. Some rockets might come over the border. The Israelis would have every right to retaliate. But the Palestinians would know that what belongs to them really does belong to them. But as long as settlements are being built on seized land that is not the case.
Update: You might be wondering why Weisglass would publically state Israel's position in a way that would cause a diplomatic flap and criticism. He is trying to tell the Israeli Right that a pull-out from Gaza is part of a bigger process that produces an outcome that they will like.
Mr Weisglass, a lawyer who handles most of the Israeli Prime Minister's contacts with Washington, appeared to be attempting to make the Gaza evacuation more palatable to the Israeli right wing, which opposes the plan.
The Israelis are not going to pull out of the remote settlements unless the US applies a lot of pressure and that pressure is just not going to happen given the reality of American domestic politics. So there is not much to watch with the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians. Positions are solidifying. But babies are being born too.
There are web logs that report on the Palestininan-Israeli and Arab-Israeli conflict on a daily basis with each attack, retaliation, and fanatical statement passed along either with approval or disgust. But real changes in the positions of the combatants rarely change. The bigger changes are in attitudes and in demographics. Those changes do not bode well for the future.
David B. Green, editor of the Jerusalem Report, has an interesting essay in the UK's Prospect Magazine on the topic of Israeli leftist historian Benny Morris's abandonment of his belief that the Palestinians can be bargained with. Morris, like many Israelis, has woken up to the fact that their state is threatened by a demographic trend.
That was only the beginning. Earlier this year, Morris gave an interview to Ha'aretz, the Tel-Aviv based daily broadsheet. He explained that his research for a recently revised edition of the Palestinian Refugee Problem had turned up more evidence of murder and rape of Palestinians. In addition, he had found confirmation of numerous cases in which ethnic cleansing of Arabs from territory Jews were trying to consolidate had been policy and not just the by-product of a defensive war. "Transfer," he wrote in the book, "was inevitable and in-built into Zionism - because it sought to transform a land which was 'Arab' into a 'Jewish' state and a Jewish state could not have arisen without a major displacement of the Arab population."
Yet far from wringing his hands over these new revelations, Morris explained that Israelis, at least, would probably have been better off had they completed the expulsion of the Palestinians from the entire land - the Mediterranean to the Jordan river - in 1948. Israel's leader, David Ben-Gurion, he argued, had got cold feet. "If the end of the story turns out to be a gloomy one for the Jews, it will be because Ben-Gurion did not complete the transfer in 1948. Because he left a large and volatile demographic reserve in the West Bank and Gaza and within Israel itself." As a consequence, Israel was burdened not only with some 3.5m Palestinians in the occupied territories, but also with a large minority population of Arab citizens in Israel proper (today 1.2m out of a total population of 6m), and they constitute a "timebomb" and a "potential fifth column." He contemplated (some might say relished) the possibility that some day, if Israel were exposed to an existential threat from, say, Egypt and Syria, it might have no alternative but to complete the expulsion begun more than 50 years earlier.
Demographic trends ran in a direction favorable to the Jews in Palestine and Israel for most of the 20th century. They came to take favorable demographic trends for granted and made some large and damaging miscalculations as a result. Leaving the question of fairness aside, the Israeli Jews were unwise to build settlements on the West Bank because those settlements depended upon a continued favorable demographic environment. But at some point Jews as a percentage of the population west of the Jordan river peaked and began a decline which now looks set to continue for decades to come.
Aside: Does anyone know in what year Jews peaked as a percentage of the total population west of the Jordan River? Also, when did Jews peak as a percentage of the population of Israel proper? It would be interesting to see a chart showing the percentages of Jews, Muslims, Christians, and others west of the Jordan River over the last 100 years.
The demographic trends in Israel and surrounding environs make the security barrier between the West Bank and Israel absolutely necessary for the security of Israel. The only issue that ought to be debated about the barrier is its exact route.
Demographic trends due to immigration and low native birth rates in Europe and the United States are also unfavorable. The West needs to embrace very vigorous border control and restrictive immigration policies or the character of Western societies will experience large changes for the worse.
Morris's books trace the development of his thinking as he delved into history but then also reacted to the second intifada. See The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947-1949, The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited, and Righteous Victims: A History of the Zionist-Arab Conflict, 1881-2001.
A combination of the IDF's given free reign in the West Bank and the difficulties created by the barrier fence have led to a large decrease in terrorist attacks within Israel.
The more relaxed mood has a simple explanation. It is three months since the last serious terrorist attack.
The army says there were 25 such attacks in 2002, which killed 147 people. Last year there were 20, killing 141. So far this year there have been only two, in which 19 died.
Sources close to Hamas, which is responsible for many of the suicide attacks, say that in the West Bank, from where most operations were launched, the organisation has been badly hit.
"There is no money to finance operations," said one. "Many of the leaders are gone and it is difficult to replace them. Hamas needs at least two years to rebuild."
Israel's government has once again given the IDF free rein to operate in the West Bank as it could before the Oslo Agreement. The IDF and the intelligence services have been rebuilding informer networks and rounding up literally thousands of suspected terrorists. A lot of the decrease in attacks is a consequence of the gradual restoration of the informer networks and the locking up of all the sorts of people that Oslo set free.
Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz says only about 2,000 Palestinians have been locked up. But an Israeli human rights organization puts the number at about 6,600.
He also said that security forces have arrested over 2,000 Palestinians. According to Be'tselm, the Israeli human rights organization, Israel currently holds over 6,600 Palestinians in military and government-run prisons.
Writing for the Jewish magazine Forward Ofer Shelah explains it is much more difficult to launch attacks through the remaining gaps in the barrier.
Another major factor is the security fence. Although barely one-third of its planned length is completed, it poses new difficulties for the terrorists. Before its erection in northern Samaria, more than 80% of suicide bombers penetrated Israel from that region. Now, terrorist organizers in Nablus or Jenin have to smuggle the would-be bomber to Ramallah, where he or she must contact another operative, and receive the explosive belt, which must be smuggled separately. Another operative, often a resident of East Jerusalem (who carries an Israeli ID, and therefore has an easier pass through the roadblocks), tries to smuggle the person and charge into Israel. All this activity takes time and makes it easier for Shabak to trace it somewhere along the way. Six such attempts were foiled in or around Ramallah in the past two months.
The completion of the barrier will reduce terrorist attacks still further. But when will the barrier be completed?
The most worrisome trend is the involvement of Israeli Arabs in attacks. (Jerusalem Post, free registration needed)
In 2003, terror organizations assisted by Israeli Arabs succeeded in perpetrating four suicide bomb attacks in Israel in which 45 Israelis were killed. East Jerusalem Arabs were involved in five suicide bomb attacks in Israel in which 64 Israelis were killed. The terror organizations also enlisted the help of east Jerusalem residents to compile intelligence, stake out suitable sites to launch attacks and shelter and dispatch suicide bombers to the sites. Some 26 Israeli-Arab terror cells were uncovered last year.
Since last August security officials have noticed a growing involvement of Iran and the Hizbullah in Palestinian terror organizations operating in the Territories.
Once the barrier is completed what will be the next move by the Palestinian terrorist groups? Will Hizbullah become a bigger player? How will they manage to get attacks launched in Israel proper? It seems unlikely that the frequency of attacks can be restored to its peak during Intifada II. But my guess is that Hizbullah and Hamas will work together to launch new kinds of attacks that offer the prospect of killing many more Israelis per attack. If they can develop the technology and use Israeli Arabs to help build and deliver bombs aimed at blowing up fuel storage sites or buildings they still might manage to kill hundreds or even thousands of Israelis in a single year.
The Israelis need to separate themselves from the Palestinians as thoroughly as possible. But if the settler movement manages block attempts to close the remote settlements on the West Bank and the remote settlements even expand then the IDF will need to continue to operate roadblocks and conduct a high tempo of operations in the West Bank. The disruption of the lives of ordinary Palestinians will continue, avoidable grievances will continue to build up, and world opinion toward Israel will deteriorate.
Update: With regard to the mentions above of Hezbollah (also spelled Hizbollah or Hiz Bollah) and the threat it poses to Israel as well as the involvement of Iran and Syria in supporting Hezbollah see the previous post Jeffrey Goldberg on Hezbollah. Note the sheer amount of rockets the Hezbollah possesses in Lebanon. Imagine what Hamas or Islamic Jihad would do with such rockets if they had them in Gaza Strip or the West Bank.
The desire to prevent the smuggling of rockets into Gaza has got to be one of the motives for the latest move the Israelis are considering: Israel may build a moat along the Philadelphia road that separates Gaza from Egypt to stop weapons smuggling.
JERUSALEM -- Israel set in motion a plan yesterday to dig a dry moat 2 1/2 miles long and 80 feet deep along the border between Egypt and the Gaza Strip, a project meant to prevent arms from reaching Palestinian militants through tunnels.
The IDF is considering a 60 meter wide, 20 meters deep canal filled with water in order to prevent tunnels being built from Egypt to the Palestinian side of Rafah, IDF officials told the Jerusalem Post on Sunday.
It was not clear whether the moat would be filled with water, as Israeli military sources had suggested last month, or would be dry.
Defence officials confirmed that the moat will be built along the Philadelphi Route by the border ahead of the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, including all Jewish settlements, which is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2005.
But defence ministry officials are deadly serious. A senior defence official said a major part of the cost for digging the moat will be financed by the sale of large quantities of sand that will be dug up during construction.
It is still unclear, however, whether Israel has the right to sell the sand, since the land in question is defined as "occupied" territory.
The Israel Defense Forces hopes to spin a web of new, unmanned weapons technology along the Israel-Gaza border after the planned withdrawal form the Strip, using remote-controlled vehicles, drone planes the size of children's toys and guard posts filled with high-tech sensors and weapons instead of soldiers.
One of the unmanned aerial vehicles that might be used on the Gaza border is the Israeli Hermes 450 which the US Department of Homeland Security is putting into operation on the Arizona border with Mexico.
The Hermes 450 is made by Elbit Systems’ Silver Arrow subsidiary of Haifa, Israel. According to specifications provided by the company, it can carry payloads up to 750 lb. and fly for as long as 20 hours. The aircraft has a ceiling of 18,000 feet but likely will operate at about 9,500 feet in the Arizona project.
Laura Rozen rightly calls Jeffrey Goldberg's New Yorker piece on Israel "one of the richest and bleakest pieces from Israel I've seen". In a long multi-part set of articles which I encourage you all to read in full Goldberg exposes the depths of the conflict between the Palestinians and Israeli Jews and also the deepening divisions among Jews.
Sharon seems to have recognized—belatedly—Israel’s stark demographic future: the number of Jews and Arabs between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea will be roughly equal by the end of the decade. By 2020, the Israeli demographer Sergio Della Pergola has predicted, Jews will make up less than forty-seven per cent of the population. If a self-sustaining Palestinian state—one that is territorially contiguous within the West Bank—does not emerge, the Jews of Israel will be faced with two choices: a binational state with an Arab majority, which would be the end of the idea of Zionism, or an apartheid state, in which the Arab majority would be ruled by a Jewish minority.
Sharon is considered to be one of the most effective fighters in Israel’s history (he is certainly thought to be one of the most brutal). He came to power promising to use force in order to end Palestinian violence. But he has not succeeded. What he is proposing now is a two-pronged survival strategy: the building of a security fence separating the Arabs of the West Bank from Israel; and a unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, which will remove more than a million Palestinians from Israel’s direct control.
Modest though these measures seem to many Israelis (they are seen as comically parsimonious by most Palestinians), to the settlement movement they are a betrayal. The borders of Israel, in the view of Jewish religious nationalists, are drawn by God, and one does not negotiate with God. So the settlers have, golem-like, risen against one of their creators, and pledged to stop any attempt—including Sharon’s provisional attempt—to disentangle Jews and Arabs. The settlers reject the idea of a demographic crisis. They still see themselves as Sharon once saw them—as the avant-garde of Zionism, heirs to the pioneers of the early twentieth century who restored the Jews to Palestine. But, should they somehow prevent the emergence of a viable Palestinian state, they may well be the vanguard of Israel’s demise as a Jewish democracy.
Keep in mind that this is all playing out against the backdrop of heightened anger on the part of Muslims the world over toward the United States and the West as a whole. Al Qaeda operatives are trying to kill large numbers of people in the United States and in European countries or anywhere else they can target their enemies. The Iraq occupation is not going swimmingly. There are Al Qaeda operatives launching attacks on non-Muslim oil workers in Saudi Arabia and the terrorists might start blowing up actual oil pumping facilities there. We live in pretty interesting times that look set to get even more interesting.
Some settler leaders see in the Palestinians the modern-day incarnation of the Amalekites, a mysterious Canaanite tribe that the Bible calls Israel’s eternal enemy. In the Book of Exodus, the Amalekites attacked the Children of Israel on their journey to the land of Israel. For this sin, God damned the Amalekites, commanding the Jews to wage a holy war to exterminate them. This is perhaps the most widely ignored command in the Bible. The rabbis who shaped Judaism could barely bring themselves to endorse the death penalty for murder, much less endorse genocide, and they ruled that the Amalekites no longer existed. But Moshe Feiglin, the Likud activist, told me, “The Arabs engage in typical Amalek behavior. I can’t prove this genetically, but this is the behavior of Amalek.” When I asked Benzi Lieberman, the chairman of the council of settlements—the umbrella group of all settlements in the West Bank and Gaza—if he thought the Amalekites existed today, he said, “The Palestinians are Amalek!” Lieberman went on, “We will destroy them. We won’t kill them all. But we will destroy their ability to think as a nation. We will destroy Palestinian nationalism.”
Hint to Lieberman: The Palestinians are Muslim Arabs. Understand what they are today using all of the literature and social science research at your disposal. It is a lot harder to do that than it is to read some ancient text verses. But it will provide much more useful insight.
In a speech delivered last December, Avi Dichter, the chief of the Shabak, warned that an Israeli withdrawal from Biblically important lands could heighten the desire of some Jewish extremists to destroy the Dome of the Rock. (The Muslim mosque and shrine that cover the site now are in the way of the imagined Third Temple.) “Jewish terrorism is liable to create a substantial threat, and to turn the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians into a confrontation between thirteen million Jews and one billion Muslims across the world,” Dichter said.
If we live to see the destruction of the Dome of the Rock we will live in extremely interesting times. I personally am not that interested in being able to live through the sort of interesting and complex and deadly conflict that would likely follow. But we may well get the opportunity to see some epic history as it unfolds just as our parents and grandparents did during the 1930s and 1940s.
In Gaza three years ago, I witnessed Hamas gunmen firing at Israeli jeeps from behind a screen of children throwing rocks. The Israelis, faced with the choice of retreating or returning fire, returned fire. They hit at least two children with rubber-coated steel bullets, injuring them seriously. This shoot-out took place during school hours. Almost five hundred Palestinian children under the age of eighteen have been killed by Israelis since 2000. Not all of them were shot by soldiers who were under fire. Palestinian children, even those throwing stones, are not in themselves threats to armed soldiers in tanks, and many were simply bystanders.
If settlers didn't insist on living in Gaza the Israeli Army would not have to injure and kill Palestinian children as often as they now do. That'd be an improvement at least on that score.
Critics accuse the Army of only sporadically prosecuting human-rights abusers. Dror Etkes, of Peace Now, sees a more intransigent problem. “This is not an issue of a few rotten apples,” he said. “It’s the crate itself that is rotten. The Army is operating deeply in the occupied territories because it has to defend the settlers. This part of the conflict is a war to defend the privileges of the settlers, and there is no way for the Army to do this elegantly. It’s like the French in Algeria. No one has ever succeeded in doing this without dehumanization.”
I think the IDF is being asked to do more than it is reasonable to expect any army to do well. They are supposed to protect themselves and settlers against killers and widespread hostility while also being fair to the occupied population. They are not all selfless geniuses with brilliant gifts at handling people. They are just average soldiers mostly in their late teens and twenties.
There remains a moral gulf between the most zealous settlers and the most extreme of the Palestinian Islamists. Small cells of settlers have shown themselves to be capable of committing atrocious acts of violence, but the main institutions of the settlement movement have not endorsed the sort of violence against Arabs that members of many Palestinian factions commit against Jews.
Still, there are similarities. Like the theologians of Hamas, the ideologues of the settlement movement have stripped their religion of all love but self-love; they have placed themselves at the center of God’s drama on earth; and they interpret their holy scriptures to prove that their enemies are supernaturally evil and undeserving of even small mercies. And, like Hamas, which would build for the Palestinians a death-obsessed Islamic theocracy, the settlers, if they have their way, would build an apartheid state ruled by councils of revanchist rabbis.
What, religious people in the 21st century? Science hasn't wiped out all beliefs about the supernatural? Humans still enjoy feeling morally superior to their enemy? Human nature hasn't miraculously changed to eliminate deep-seated conflicts? So much for the "End Of History". Someone tell Francis Fukuyama.
As Goldberg reports, settlement construction continues on the West Bank. Where the line should be drawn to separate the Palestinians and Israeli Jews can be debated. But the continued existence of two overlapping and deeply conflicting claims of sovereignty will only increase the bitterness and hatred on both sides. The Palestinians are not ready to accept the continued existence of Israel regardless of whether the remote settlements are abandoned. The vast bulk of setttlers and their supporters are unwilling to accept that non-Jews can have a state on lands which they see as given to Jews by God.
Will Sharon even manage to force the settlers out of Gaza? Will the wall separating the West Bank and Israel be completed? Will that wall take in so many settlements that it will seem like a land grab more than an act of self defense?
Israel's electoral process gives small religious parties an out-sized amount of influence on politics far in excess of the number of people who vote for those parties. Israel could position itself as more clearly the party engaged in self defense if only the majority of Israelis could get enough control of their own government to force an evacuation of the remote settlements along with a border wall path didn't extend too far into the West Bank.
The denial of demographic reality in Israel has parallels in both Western Europe and the United States where immigration and reproductive trends are causing large changes in ethnic make-ups of countries. California is projected by official state demographers to be 54% Hispanic by 2050 and looks set to become more Latin American with all the negative connotations that entails. Europe looks set to become more Islamic and less free. Therefore Israelis have no monopoly on denial of reality when it comes to demographics.
Jeffrey Goldberg consistently writes good stuff. See my previous posts Jeffrey Goldberg on Islamic contempt and anger, Jeffrey Goldberg on Hezbollah, and Jeffrey Goldberg On Terrorism and Intelligence Work
Writing in the Jerusalem Post Bret Stephens provides an excellent history of the thinking of elements of the Israeli Right and Left on whether to separate from the Palestinians. (requires free registration)
Perhaps the most intriguing feature of Sharon's disengagement plan is that it has alienated three constituencies that do not ordinarily find themselves on the same side.
There is the Israeli Left. In a Jerusalem Report profile this week, Oslo architect and new Yahad party leader Yossi Beilin argues that "the worst-case scenario for an agreement [that is, one the Palestinians violate] is better than the best-case scenario for unilateral withdrawal." According to Beilin, an agreed settlement would give Israel an internationally recognized border and resolve the outstanding issues of Palestinian refugees and the status of Jerusalem. Unilateral withdrawal, however, "will leave the Palestinians with an excuse for continuing the intifada and Israel with far less overseas backing for self-defense."
There is the Israeli Right. To them, disengagement will embolden the Palestinians to seek further territorial gains by carrying on with the terrorist campaign. In this respect they are in agreement with Beilin. Then too, the Right holds that disengagement constitutes a profound betrayal of everything the state had promised the settlers, everything the settlers had sacrificed so much for. At whose behest except Ariel Sharon's did they take to the hilltops in the first place? Why were they made to suffer three-plus years of unremitting terror if, at day's end, they would be made to evacuate? What purpose does the state serve if it severs its links to the very land that matters most to observant Jews? And why yield an inch to those Palestinians whose every word is a lie and whose every deed is an atrocity?
There are the Palestinians. Given that Israeli opponents of disengagement have cast the plan as a great victory for the Palestinians - a huge concession by Israel with nothing in return - it is remarkable how glum they are about it. For them, disengagement doesn't so much mean Israeli withdrawal from places like Gaza, but rather Israeli consolidation over vast swaths of the West Bank. It means going back to where they were in 1988: Frozen out of any relevant diplomacy.
Stephens splits the Israeli Right up into the security hawks, the nationalist Zionists, and the religious Zionists and explains their different motives and interpretations of events. He also explains how events have led to shifts in positions on both the Right and Left in Israel and how be came to be a supporter of construction of physical barriers and complete physical separation between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
George W. Bush's failed attempt to empower a Palestinian Prime Minister to replace Arafat as the center of Palestinian power helped bring Stephens and others to the conclusion that there is not a major moderate center on the Palestinian side that can be negotiated with to make a deal that would stick. Reading his article is another reminder that people quite often have to learn the hard way. Many Leftists and Rightists had to watch the unfolding of the costly and painful results of failed attempts at other approaches before they would be willing to see that the only choice feasible was far from what they hoped to achieve.
Events in Iraq are driving an analogous and costly process of disabuse of fallacious beliefs about human nature. Panglossian neoconservatives and even many Left-Liberals are learning the hard way that their idealistic belief in the universal appeal of secular liberal democracy are quite wrong. But just Stephens describes Rightists and Leftists in Israel who are still holding on to their own beliefs so at least some neoconservatives are still hanging on to optimistic views about the prospects of democracy in Iraq.
I see events in Israel and Iraq both helping to discredit multiculturalism in the West. Terrorist attacks in the West such as the train station attack in Spain are having a similar effect. The claim that the Spain attack wouldn't have happened absent Spanish participation in the occupation of Iraq is besides the point. The more lasting lesson from the attack is that there are cultures and religious beliefs that do not mix well. This is sinking in with Europeans even more than it is with Americans. UK Prime Minister Tony Blair's commitment to review immigration policy, UK Home Office Secretary David Blunkett's decision to revoke the British citizenship of radical cleric Abu Hamaz, and actions France has taken to kick out dozens of radical Muslim imam preachers since 2001 demonstrate an enormous shift in the Western intellectual terrain. Just where the discrediting of multiculturalism and "diversity" will drive Left-leaning and neoconservative intellectuals remains to be seen. But these intellectual fads of the 20th century look set to join communism in the intellectual trashcan of history.
Here's a story I've been meaning to post about for a couple of weeks. It illustrates just what an unfun job it must be to be an Israeli soldier in the Palestinian territories. Using a robot the IDF soldiers managed to get the explosives belt off the boy without killing him.
Israel Defense Forces paratroopers caught a Palestinian boy, aged 12, wearing an explosive belt at the Hawara roadblock south of Nablus in the West Bank on Wednesday afternoon.
Sappers used a remote-controlled robot to remove the belt from the boy's body and then safely detonated it in a controlled explosion.
The boy was taken in for questioning.
The belt failed to go off because of a flaw in its construction. What the Israelis need for this sort of situation are fast robots that could speed out to stop a suicide bomber sprinting toward them.
That a 12 year old could be talked into being a suicide bomber illustrates just how difficult it must be to be an Israeli soldier stationed at a West Bank roadblock. Even a child can be an enemy. The Israelis need to finish their wall and isolate themselves from the Palestinians.
Speaking of the wall to separate Israel from the West Bank Palestinians, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (which I've only just recently discovered and know little about) has an interesting article by David Makovsky which he originally wrote for Foreign Affairs on why the fence is necessary but also why it must be built in a way that does not treat the Palestinians unfairly.
The idea of a fence separating Israelis and Palestinians is,on one level,an admission of failure. Yet it is also realistic:with little trust between the two sides and a history of bitterness and bloodshed,a negotiated partition is out of reach (at least for the foreseeable future). Israel ï¿½s decision to build a ï¿½separation barrier,ï¿½therefore,makes sense, given that a majority of both Israelis and Palestinians favor a two-state solution that includes an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank ï¿½ but they don ï¿½t know how to make this happen.Israelis do not trust the Palestinian Authority (PA) to fulﬁll its security obligations and halt terrorist attacks,and Palestinians remain convinced that Israel will never voluntarily cede the West Bank and Gaza.
A properly constructed fence could cut through these problems and facilitate a ﬁnal agreement. A poorly constructed barrier,how- ever,would impede such an end. The United States should therefore back a version of the fence that boosts Israeli security without unduly hurting the Palestinians or foreclosing a future return to diplomacy. Washington should also support vigorous, innovative moves to minimize whatever Palestinian suffering even a legitimate fence would cause. And the United States must oppose Israeli fence plans that focus more on politics than on security.
A properly constructed fence could achieve multiple objectives: reduce violence by limiting the in ﬁltration of suicide bombers into Israel, short-circuit the deadlock on achieving a two-state solution,advance the debate in Israel about the future of most settlements, and perhaps even provide an incentive for Palestinians to return to the negotiating table. Even without negotiation, the fence would function as a provisional border and could be modiﬁed in the future if Palestinians make real progress in halting terrorism against Israel and agree to restart talks. The good news, moreover, is that a fair, workable fence is already being built by Israel ï¿½s Ministry of Defense. Projected to stand largely on the western side of the West Bank,this fence will potentially leave 85 percent of the West Bank to the Palestinians ï¿½not radically less than the 95 percent proposed by Bill Clinton at the end of his presidency. If the Palestinians assume their security responsibilities in the territory from which Israel withdraws,this land could become part of the state of Palestine in fairly short order. Already,the construction of this fence has helped spur responsible political discussions in Israel, and a full-blown debate is now underway on the futility of retaining remote settlements in the West Bank. Even Ehud Olmert, the usually hawkish Likud cabinet minister, has declared that Israel should evacuate all settlements east of the new divide.
The bad news, however, is that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has not ruled out a more restrictive and invasive version of the security fence,one that would carve up the West Bank into Palestinian cantons. A major battle within the Likud over where the fence should run is just beginning. Territorial maximalists are pushing hard for an ï¿½encirclement fence ï¿½ that would close the Palestinians in on all sides.Such a barrier,which would give the Palestinians control of just 53 percent of the West Bank, would choke any future state, not help create one. Palestinians,not to mention most of the rest of the world, would never accept such an arrangement.
Hence the need for U.S. involvement to push for a pragmatic fence is now more urgent than ever. In evaluating proposed paths for the fence, the United States should be guided by issues of security, demography, and the minimization of hardship on all sides, and by whether the fence allows for or precludes a contiguous Palestinian state.The buffer fence currently under construction would pass these tests. The encirclement fence advocated by some in Likud, however, would not.
Godo fences make good neighbors. Makovsky has written a good article the need for a fence that is strong enough to serve as a barrier between Israel and the West Bank Palestinians.
If you have Macromedia Flash installed (or your browser prompts you for it and you accept to install it) you can check out a really neat Flash graphic of different wall proposals and dividing lines. It is interactive. You can turn on multiple boundaries or just one. Click on the various round circle choices to turn them on or off and watch the colors for differnet boundaries be drawn and undrawn. You can also see those maps on the 11th page of the PDF.
Two members of the Israeli Arab Balad political party have been charged with conspiring with Hezbollah to carry out terrorist attacks in Israel.
Ghassan Atmallah, 40, and his brother, Sirhan, 25, Israeli Arabs and members of the Balad Party from Reina near Nazareth, were indicted in Nazareth District Court on Sunday for setting up a terrorist cell on behalf of Hizbullah in order to perpetrate suicide bombings.
Balad has three elected members in the Israeli Knesset and is seen as a more secular party which has only been in existence since 1996.
Army Radio reported that the cell, which operated in a village close to the northern city of Nazareth, included activists in the Balad party.According to the report, the cell was trained, funded and directed by Hezbollah.
Ghassan Atmallah, 40, and his brother Sirhan, 26, both residents of Reineh, near Nazareth, were charged with aiding an enemy in wartime, contact with a foreign agent and membership in a terrorist organization. Ghassan is secretary of Balad for the Nazareth region and a member of the party's Central Committee. Both men have denied the charges against them.
According to the indictment, Ghassan met in Jordan about 18 months ago with a senior Fatah operative, Ibrahim Ajawa, and the two kept in touch through telephone calls and meetings thereafter. The charge sheet says Ajawa eventually put Ghassan in contact with Hezbollah, after which Ghassan allegedly began trying to recruit Israeli Arabs for the Lebanese organization. One of his recruits, the indictment says, was Sirhan; it did not reveal the names of any others.
Security sources have said they believe that the group had other members who have not yet been discovered.
Dr. David Bukay of Haifa University's Political Science Department was asked on Arutz-7 today his opinion of the growing phenomenon of Israeli-Arab terrorist cells. "It's no longer a matter of 'wild weeds,'" he said this morning, after the sixth such cell in a year was uncovered yesterday, "but rather a common phenomenon. Hizbullah is the new big leader, starting with Israel's retreat from Lebanon, and now Balad and Islamic Jihad are now blatantly Hizbullah movements."
If Israeli Arab involvement in terrorist cells continues to grow then after the barrier separating the West Bank from Israel is completed terrorist attacks may continue but now with Israeli Arab citizens as the attackers. However, it seems unlikely that the Israeli Arabs will be able to launch attacks at anywhere near the frequency that the Palestinians launch them. The Israeli Arabs can be watched more easily than people in the West Bank.
Theirs was the sixth Hizballah-operated Israeli Arab terror cell to be uncovered by security forces in the past 12 months.
One odd fact about this is the emphasis is on Hezbollah (which has about a half dozen spellings) which is found mostly in Lebanon rather than Hamas or Islamic Jihad which are Palestinian Islamic terrorist organizations found in the Gaza Strip and West Bank. Does anyone understand why this is the case?
As Israeli Arab Muslims are reproducing at a faster rate than Israeli Jews the Jews face the long term problem that Arab Muslims are going to be a growing portion of the total Israeli population. That is going to pose an increasing security problem for Israel. As the Muslims become greater in number it is likely they will become more emboldened.
Ha'aretz reports that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's bureau chief, Dov Weisglass, has said that the West Bank barrier fence will be made 100 kilometers or 64 miles shorter to be 600 kilometers or 375 miles long.
The route of the separation fence will be shortened by moving it westward toward the Green Line and eliminating most of the loops planned around Palestinian villages, according to a senior source in Jerusalem.
This will reduce the amount of disruption the barrier wall causes the Palestinians and the Sharon government hopes that by making this change the Bush Administration will approve of the project.
It is necessary for Israel to separate itself from the Palestinians. The only thing to be decided at this point are the conditions chosen for the separation. Since this move puts more Palestinians clearly on the West Bank side of the wall and reduces the extent to which the wall impinges on Palestinian lives it is a move in the right direction.
Some settlements will be left on the Palestinian side of the wall. (Jerusalem Post, requires free registration)
The changes would exclude several major settlements from the Israeli side of the fence, including Ariel, Karnei Shomron, and Kedumim.
These settlements ought to be evacuated. The Israelis can not safely live among the Palestinians. There is plenty of room in Israel for them to live.
The shortening of the wall comes to about $3 million saved per mile eliminated.
The amended route could make the fence more than 100 kilometers shorter – cutting its cost by about $200 million,
Aside: This cost per mile would put a US barrier with Mexico to keep out illegal aliens at a cost of about $6 billion, which is line with previous estimates I've made here give or take a billion or two. One reason the cost estimates vary is that different parts of the barrier are built to different standards depending the terrain, threat of snipers, and other concerns.
Note that if little Israel can afford a $1 billion or $2 billion dollar border barrier then the two orders of magnitude larger US economy could certainly afford a $6 to $8 billion dollar border barrier on the US-Mexico border.
This announcement comes out at about the same time as an Israeli human rights group has filed a suit to ask the top Israeli court to stop the construction of the barrier.
Israeli human rights groups yesterday asked the country's supreme court to stop the construction of a vast "security fence" through the West Bank, on the grounds that it breaches international and Israeli law and creates a form of apartheid.
Also, just two weeks ago the UN asked the International Court of Justice to rule on the legality of the barrier.
It came just two weeks before the International Court of Justice in The Hague is due to deliberate the barrier's legality at the behest of the United Nations.
Curiously, not only the US but the EU as well has taken the position that the ICJ does not have jurisdiction to rule on this matter. An ICJ ruling against the barrier could lead to the UN Security Council taking up the matter. But if the Sharon government's change on barrier path sufficiently placates the Bush Administration then the US government will probably veto any UN Security Council resolution against the barrier and it is possible that other Security Council members will vote against such a resolution. The British government, for instance, must understand that the barrier is necessary.
On the previous link the Christian Science Monitor has a picture of a section of the barrier with a Palestinian woman walking past it. The barrier in that section dwarfs a human.
With the thud of tons of concrete hitting soft earth, Israel worked yesterday to build a 25-foot-tall wall on the edge of Jerusalem, signaling that its encirclement of the city is becoming permanent.
Writing for the New York Times James Bennet describes one section reaches 9 meters in height.
Nezah Mashiah, head of the barrier project at the Defense Ministry, says the wall is being built so high to protect against a direct line of fire from long-range weapons.
So then will terrorists bring up bomb material to try to blast a hole through it to conduct attacks?
The barrier, which is about one-quarter built, reaches deep into the West Bank in some areas, preventing residents from reaching jobs, farmland and social services.
The sooner the barrier is completed the better.
A senior Palestinian official said Monday that Yasser Arafat's government is considering declaring a state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem if Israel tries to impose a boundary on the Palestinians.
Arafat's clique has defined itself against Israel. Once they declare statehood they are going to face a serious crisis whose outlines are already beginning to show.
Almost 400 members of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's ruling Fatah Party resigned Saturday to protest what they call corruption and bad leadership within the movement.
Deprived of Israel as a practical day-to-day target the various Palestinian factions may fall into fighting among themselves. It is quite possible that a Palestinian civil war could break out. If that happens it seems likely that different factions will win out in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Hamas might win in Gaza while some break-away PLO faction of young "Turks" might win in the West Bank.
A civil war that splits the West Bank and Gaza Strip into effectively separate countries does not strike me as a bad outcome. It would bring an end to the current corrupt power monopoly in the PA leadership. The Palestinians would get to see how well they did under two separate governments made up of Palestinians. One of them might even be democratic. Having Gaza and the West Bank as two separated pieces of the same larger governmental entity seems like an unnatural state of affairs rather like East and West Pakistan before the civil war that broke Bangladesh off into a separate country.
Sources close to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said he would present U.S. President George W. Bush with a detailed list and timetable for the planned removal of 17 Gaza Strip settlements, Army Radio reported. Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said the evacuation will commence this summer. 59% of the Israeli public supports the Gaza evacuation, a poll stated. Right-wing Knesset members vowed to bring Sharon down.
Exiting from the Gaza Strip settlements is an important step in the direction of more thoroughly separating the Israeli Jews from the Palestinians. It has to be done. The two groups need to be separated by clearly marked and well defended boundaries.
Sharon is faced with the very real possibility that he may shorly be prosecuted as a result of a scandal investigation (see here, here and here for some details). Therefore it is not clear that Sharon will stay in office long enough to oversee the evacuation of the Gaza settlements.
The three year stalemate brought Sharon to a point in which the political move seems to clash with the personal, legal issue. Whatever he does or says now will raise suspicion of ulterior motives, of trying to sway the attorney general. One minister said yesterday that Sharon wants to impress on the attorney general that if he indicts him, Mazuz will not only be removing a prime minister from office but cutting short a historic move supported by most of the public.
It doesn't sound like Sharon has reached a final decision to evacuate all Gaza settlements and only Gaza settlements. One plan includes evacuation of some remote West Bank settlements.
Israel Radio said the settlements earmarked for evacuation were Ganim, Kadim, Sanur and Homesh in the West Bank, and Netzarim, Kfar Darom and Morag in the Gaza Strip.
All seven settlements are small and isolated and frequent targets of Palestinian attacks. The most prominent is Netzarim, a heavily fortified enclave southwest of Gaza City.
The remote settlements are just plain dumb. The cost in lives and money in defending them brings no security benefit to Israel.
Mevo Dotan Chairwoman Yael Ben Yakov, a founding member, remembers when Sharon visited in 1991 to christen one of the settlement's neighborhoods. "He said settlements were not an obstacle to peace, but an obstacle to war." But last month Sharon said that he's willing to abandon isolated settlements that are costly to defend—an accurate description of Mevo Dotan and a handful of other settlements in the northern West Bank.
"I'm waiting for it," says Eilat Amram, a 34-year-old mother of four. She and other residents say they are trapped. They can't afford to rent an apartment in Israel while paying off the mortgage on a now worthless piece of real estate. Only government-initiated evacuation would allow them to leave, because they would likely receive financial compensation.
On the other hand, if indeed this not a political spin and Sharon seriously wishes a nonviolent evacuation, these settlers are relatively easy to deal with. Unlike Yitzhar, Itamar, Kiryat Arba, Tapuah and other West Bank settlements, in which some residents - not only a handful of errant hilltop youths - express alienation toward the state, Katif residents adhere to the traditional, statesmanlike religious-national concept and will not fight the state.
There are few settlers in Gaza and that makes evacuation easier than is the case with the West Bank. (Jerusalem Post, free reg. req'd)
The story broke when Sharon said in an off-the-record briefing with a Haaretz columnist that he had given an order to plan for the evacuation of 17 settlements in the Gaza Strip. He said in the briefing, the publication of which angered Sharon, that some 7,500 residents of Gaza settlements would have to leave their homes.
Sharon may try to form a national unity government between some members of his Likud party and the Labor party so that the settlements supporters in his current ruling coalition will not be able to block the move.
Israel needs fences and walls separating it from the Palestinian territories. Putting all the Israeli Jews on one side of barriers that are capable of keeping out the bulk of the terrorists would greatly reduce the casualty rate from terrorist attacks. It would also put the Palestinians in a position of being more clearly ruled by themselves and responsible for what happens in the territories and it would make it harder for the Palestinians to portray themselves as victims. So Israel would gain because it would not be as easy for the Arabs to portrary as the colonial oppressor.
Melanie Phillips has an essay in the UK political opinion periodical Prospect Magazine about the need for Israel to impose a unilateral separation between the Israeli Jews and Palestinians.
And now we got down to the heart of Zanieri's argument. For to him - and, he said, this certainly goes for the Palestinian street too - Israel is the aggressor because it exists.
"Israel was the aggressor because Israel was formed in 1948," he said. "The Palestinians think that the start of the Zionist aggression was the start of Jewish immigration in the 19th century. Israel started the war in 1967. That occupation is the source of the violence. What is violence? Two warring sides have their own terminology. For so many Palestinians, terror is occupation itself."
If a moderate is someone who believes that a political settlement agreed by the world is akin to physical violence and who thinks that Jewish immigration into a land inhabited by Jews continuously since Biblical times was an act of aggression - and that this legitimises terrorism - what hope is there?
The beginning of enlightenment about the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians and their Arab supporters is to realize one very basic fact: the conflict is a problem that can not be solved in any way acceptable to the United States, the Arabs, or the Israelis. If all the Jews left that would solve it. But that is not going to happen. If all the Arabs converted to Buddhism that might solve it. But, again, that is not going to happen. If all of one side or the other was killed off that would solve it. But that is not going to happen for some decades yet (what happens once nukes eventually become available to the Arabs is another story we may live to see).
The conflict is intractable. Those on the Israeli left who still believe that a negotiated settlement is possible are dreaming. The Likudniks who think that the will of the terrorists can be broken by a continuation of the roadblocks and operations against the terrorists in the territories are similarly dreaming. Enough of the Palestinians are going to be willing to become terrorists for years to come that the conflict has no foreseeable ending point. The hatred of Israel is very deep and inculcated from an early age. Any regular reader of Little Green Footballs has grown accustomed to posts such as this one showing young Palestinian children being taught that they should want to grow up to become terrorists. It is hard to read about the pervasiveness of this sort of teaching in the Palestinian schools and media and still believe that a negotiated settlement is possible.
Phillips has reached the same conclusion I have held for some time: Israel should pull out of the bulk of West Bank and Gaza Strip and leave the Palestinians to entirely govern themselves.
Israel is trapped between the most treacherous of rocks and the hardest of hard places. But Sher and Olmert are surely right. Given that every strategy has a lethal downside, the question is: what is the worst thing Israel has to fear? Is it war? It has fought and won wars. Is it terror? It is suffering terror now, and for the foreseeable future. What is surely worst of all is to lose its belief in itself and destroy its soul.
It is not that the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza are illegal. Under international law, land seized as a consequence of self-defence in war is legitimately held while the enemy refuses to make peace. But legality is not the point. The bottom line is existential vulnerability. If Israel hangs onto the territories, the Jews will be outnumbered. It cannot and should not rule another people. It cannot wait for 20 years for negotiations to begin. It should unilaterally give up the territories.
The fear that giving them up would hand a victory to terror is a very real one. But it is possible to turn this argument on its head. For withdrawal effectively forces a state on the Palestinians. It therefore does not give terrorists victory if their goal is not a Palestinian state at all but the destruction of Israel. It is rather to frustrate their goals, call their bluff and so defeat them. Victory for terror can therefore only be imposed by people who believe the destruction of Israel to be the real agenda of the Palestinians. Those who believe their goal really is a two-state solution would be giving in to terror if they brought it about at bomb-point. Ironically, therefore, it is only Likud that can unilaterally withdraw without paying this moral price. Are they capable of realising it?
Israel's demographic problem with the more rapid Palestinian population growth makes it essential that both the interim barrier fence/wall and the final barrier should put as many Muslims on the Palestinian side of the barrier as posisble and all Jews on the Israeli side of the barrier. Also, Israel needs to totally end the importation of Palestinian labor. The separation should be total.
The barrier being constructed between the West Bank and Israel is a wall in some sections and a fence in other sections depending on the perceived security needs in each area. A barrier to keep out trouble is affordable.
Bronfman blamed many of the problems in and around villages like Mas'ha on the security fence. However, a security source intimate with details about the construction of the fence said Monday that the fence will annex only 6 percent of the West Bank on the Israeli side, including the spur that surrounds Ariel. At this stage of construction, said the source, 1.7% of West Bank land is on the Israeli side of the fence.
The source added that so far 200 km. out of the total of 730 km. of the fence has been completed.
Ahmad Maher of Islam Online claims the fence may be as long as 900 km.
The wall will snake some 900 kilometers along the West Bank and leave even larger swathes of its territory on the Israeli side and could cost up to $2.2 million a kilometer.
The $2.2 million per kilometer estimate translates into 3.54 million per mile which agrees with the $3.5 million per mile estimate in an American newspaper.
So far, Israel has built 93 miles of the barrier in the north. When finished, the barrier will cost an estimated $3.5 million per mile.
At $3.5 million per mile the construction of an equivalent barrier on the almost 2000 mile US border with Mexico in order to keep out illegal aliens would cost $7 billion. This also is quite affordable. The potential savings in medical costs alone would pay for the barrier in the first year. Cost reductions in Medicaid expenditures alone would be substantial.
The IDF is considering the purchase of a pair of corvettes from a US naval yard equipped with AEGIS technology to allow the Israeli navy to provide strategic depth. The most curious thing about this story is that naval artillery has so much range that a ship in the Mediterranean could hit Damascus.
"If we develop a navy that will be able not only to achieve superiority at sea in the eastern Mediterranean, but also to supply concentrated, accurate and relatively inexpensive firepower from the sea - not to the coast but into the depths of hundreds of kilometers - then the navy could take on missions like the air force such as striking troop concentrations, headquarters, air bases, missile bases, radar and infrastructures like bridges and power stations."
In the previous Knesset, Steinitz headed a sub-committee which examined the future of the Navy. In a paper released later, Steinitz sees the Navy acquiring frigates, (4,000 tons) destroyers (9,200 tons) and cruisers (12,000 tons) equipped with cruise missiles with a range of some 2,000 kilometers, assault drones and marine artillery, including one being developed now which is capable of firing satellite-guided 155mm rounds between 75 and 120 kilometers, putting the Golan and Damascus well within reach. The idea is to relieve the air force of some of its classic missions based, somewhat, on the American model.
The point about relatively inexpensive firepower is important. While these proposed corvettes would each cost $500 million a ship can carry a lot more ordnance than a whole squadron of fighters and such a ship could carry out sustained shelling of a target area. A UAV could provide live images of where shells are falling and where enemy are positioned. So a ship could help defend Israel against attacks being launched from Lebanon, Syria, and the Sinai.
Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook of the Palestinian Media Watch have an essay in the Jerusalem Post about the political indoctrination that Palestinian youth go through in Palestinian schools.
Consequently, when we view children on PA TV who say they want to destroy Israel, to liberate Tel Aviv, Jaffa, Haifa, Acre, and Ramle, and to expel the Jews, we are seeing children who are accurately regurgitating the sentiments inculcated and reinforced throughout PA society.
Indeed, years of anti-Israel indoctrination have been alarmingly effective in teaching Palestinian youth that the Jews have no link to Israel, that Israel has no right to exist and that the overriding goal of the next generation – even at the cost of their lives – should be to eliminate Israel.
The essence of the conflict is Israel's very right to exist – not the question of borders or refugees. Peace negotiations that do not address the PA's system of indoctrination will be short-term paper agreements doomed to failure.
The Palestinian Authority is either never going to sign a peace agreement that requires the PA to stop indoctrinating Palestinian children or it will sign an agreement and then not abide by it. The Israelis can not stop the Palestinian hatred of Israel. Israel's challenge is to choose how best to live alongside a couple of territories that are full of people who want Israel to be destroyed.
Since large numbers of Palestinians do not want to make peace with Israel the main question the Israelis and Americans ought to be debating is what sort of de facto boundary and settlement should be imposed. It seems unwise for the Israelis to run fences many miles into the West Bank to include remote settlements on the Israeli side of the barrier fence. Such a path for the barrier can be used by the Palestinians as a propaganda tool both within their society, in the Arab countries, in non-Arab Muslim countries, and in the world as a whole to justify their continued attempts to attack Israel. A barrier that reaches far into the West Bank unnecessarily angers Palestinians who are losing access to land or who have to suffer long delays when trying to get to their farm land or houses. Also, the current path of the barrier puts far too many Palestinians on the Israeli side.
The Israelis need to stop using Palestinian labor and to effect a deeper separation between Israel and the Palestinians. The Palestinians are not going to accept the legitimacy of the Israeli state for generations. So-called "peace talks" are not entered into with any sincerity. Some conflicts can not be settled with peaceful mutually accepted agreeements. The conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians and the larger Arab world is a conflict which can not be solved by peace treaties.
Israel suffers from a demographic problem. The Jews in Israel are not having enough babies. There will be more Palestinians and Israeli Arabs on the West side of the Jordan River within a generation. The Israelis need to start realizing that they are overreaching. The Israelis also need to start having a lot more babies or else Jews may even some day become a minority in Israel proper.
In remarks that suggest a dramatic split with the approach of the current government, Lt. Gen. Moshe Yaalon, chief of staff of the Israeli armed forces, said that crackdowns, curfews and roadblocks in the West Bank and Gaza Strip were crippling the lives of innocent Palestinians and that the military's tactics were now threatening Israel's own interests.
The military chief directed most of his complaints at restrictions imposed on the West Bank four weeks ago, after a suicide bomber from the West Bank city of Jenin killed 21 people in a restaurant in the Israeli port of Haifa. Yaalon said the current curfews and travel restrictions, some of the tightest since the outbreak of the Palestinian uprising in September 2000, were preventing Palestinians from carrying out critical olive and other agricultural harvests, hampering thousands of children from attending school, increasing hatred for Israel and strengthening terrorist organizations."In our tactical decisions, we are operating contrary to our strategic interests," Nahum Barnea, columnist for the Yedioth Aharonoth newspaper, quoted Yaalon as telling him.
The restrictions would not even be as tactically valuable if there was a more thorough separation between the Palestinians and the Israelis. Finish the barrier between the West Bank and Israel and withdraw from the remote settlements and then Palestinian movement around the West Bank would not be as much of a concern. It would only matter when and if the Palestinians start shooting mortars or missiles at Israel.
The Shin Bet intelligence agency favors the current policy. So Ariel Sharon's government and Shin Bet are on one side and the Israeli military is on the other.
The barrier is turning out to be more expensive than expected.
The Finance Ministry estimated this week that the barrier would cost about $2.3 billion, more than three times the original estimate.
But is that because of the changes in path of the barrier that are making it longer? What is their cost per mile? Anyone know? The answer is pertinent to the question of how much it would cost to properly secure the southern border of the US with Mexico in order to stop the illegal alien influx.
The general also was quoted as saying that the proposed route for a security fence that will cut deeply into the West Bank would require too many soldiers to defend, and that threats on the life of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat had served only to make him more popular.
A lot of IDF officers think defending the remote settlements is a resource drain they can ill afford and that the remote settlements should be abandoned. This makes sense for the additional reason that doing so more thoroughly separates the Israelis and the Palestinians.
The deeper the barrier cuts into the West Bank the greater the resulting resentment will be among Palestinians. I really think that the Israelis should try to reduce the extent to which there is an "in your face" aspect to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Don't give them annoying reminders of the conflict. Don't give them symbols for their propaganda makers. Increase the odds that tempers could start to cool.
Senior IDF officials said Yaalon was correct in raising the army's concern and dilemma regarding the Palestinian population and the affect of government policies. A senior officer said that "maybe in 1973 (on the eve of the surprise Egyptian and Syrian attack that resulted in the Yom Kippur War) there were those who knew and were forced to keep quiet," Army Radio reported.
JERUSALEM — The Palestinian militant groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad, with their operatives on the run, have increasingly forged a common front against Israel, and there are signs they are also being guided by Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas.
The Israelis made a big mistake by signing the Oslo accord. Allowing the PLO to come back to the West Bank and Gaza allowed the PLO/PA to organize for the terrorist attacks that resulted in the very Israeli responses that Yaalon thinks are ultimately making the situation even worse. On top of that the construction of remote settlements was a strategically dumb move that stretches the IDF, requires disruption of Palestinian life in order to provide security, and provides meat for anti-Israeli propagandists.
After publicly criticising the fence and wall that Israel is building in the West Bank, the Bush Administration is quietly negotiating with the Israeli Government to change the route of the barrier. Israel has addressed complaints raised by the United States about particular sections of what it calls a security fence, without drastically altering plans that Palestinians say would prevent the creation of a viable Palestinian state.
Many news articles are written every day about Israelis and Palestinians killed and injured in terrorist attacks, Israeli strikes, ambushes, at checkpoints, and in other ways. A barrier separating Israel from the West Bank and Israel would do more to reduce the death toll than anything else that is within the realm of possibility. The problem is that the Israeli government wants to extent tbe barrier into the West Bank to include remote settlements. But doing so will force more Palestinians onto the Israeli side, cut more Palestinains off from their land and, by making the barrier longer, make the amount of Palestinian land taken by the barrier itself greater.
The Bush Administration ought to stand firm against the Israelis on this issue but it isn't that Congress will let the Bush Administration use the threat to withhold aid as a lever.
There isn't going to be a settlement of the conflict between Israel on one side and the Palestinians and the larger Arab world on the other side for decades to come if ever. The best we can hope for is a separation that keeps the casualty rate down and creates clear morally defensible boundaries.
Here is some good news for the Arab-Israeli conflict. The Israeli government is not going to extend the West Bank border fence 12 miles into the West Bank to incorporate the settlement of Ariel.
The Israeli cabinet decided Wednesday not to build its separation barrier around the Jewish settlement of Ariel, but will instead erect a separate fence around the community, an official said.
A lot of settlers live in the settlements in order to get cheaper housing.
"For me, this is Israel. I live here because the money I spent on my four-bedroom house would only have bought me a parking spot in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem," says Solomon, who works in a shop in the Israeli town of Petah Tikva.
Israeli radio reports said similar barriers also would be erected east of several other settlements in the West Bank heartland, including Efrat, south of Bethlehem.
What is not clear from this report is whether the sections that would have been extended to include settlements will instead be completed but closer to the '67 boundary. If those sections are finished then the number of terrorist attacks into Israel will fall quite dramatically. The barrier that separates the Gaza Strip from Israel has greatly reduced the number of attacks emanating from the Gaza Strip. So a complete barrier between the West Bank and Israel should do the same.
The Bush Administration has leaned heavily on the Israeli government to not extend the barrier around Ariel and to keep the barrier closer to the '67 line. The Bush Administration sees settlement expansion and a barrier that extends into the West Bank as obstacles for a final two-state solution.
Settlement expansion threatens Israel's future as a Jewish state and undermines the prospect of a two-state solution with the Palestinians, US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs William Burns said Monday.
There isn't going to be real peace between Israel and the Arabs for many decades and perhaps even longer regardless of what Israel does. But a clear boundary that effectively say "this is mine and that is yours" that also prevents terrorist attacks would at least make the on-going conflict take place at a lower level of casualties.
Israel has already constructed 93 miles (150 kilometers) of the barrier in the north. When finished the fence will stretch 217 miles (350 kilometers) at an estimated cost of $200 million.
Since the US border with Mexico is about 2000 miles this suggests the US could stop the flow of illegal immigrants from Mexico for a cost of less than $2 billion dollars plus some yearly additional maintenance costs as well as continued operation of the Border Patrol. That expenditure would repay itself many times over in reduced state-level government spending for Medicaid, schools, prisons, courts, police, and other costs that are generated by illegal aliens.
Update: The Israeli government has not given up on including Ariel on the Israeli side of the barrier. A barrier will be built on three sides of Ariel, north, south, and east of the settlement and then the Israelis will try to get the United States to agree to the inclusion of Ariel on the Israeli side of the main barrier.
However, at that point, Israel plans to consult with the United States about extending the fences westward until they connect with the main barrier that runs near the West Bank boundary. The result would be unbroken barriers jutting into the West Bank for 10 miles or more.
So Israel has basically pushed off the date of reckoning on whether the more distant settlements should be included as part of Israel.
For the Palestinians trapped on the Israeli side life is not much fun. (Daily Telegraph, free registration required)
Along the way, the fence directly affects the lives of some 200,000 Palestinians. It meanders to and fro, seeking to include as many West Bank settlements as possible on the Israeli side.
East of Qalqilya are the settlements of Zufin and Alfe Menashe. To protect their 6,000 Israeli inhabitants, the fence cuts four miles into the West Bank and surrounds the 42,000 Palestinians who live in Qalqilya.
Yes, for the benefit of 6,000 settlers the lives of 42,000 Palestinians are made much more difficult. You can think of it as the price the Palestinians pay for tolerating the terrorist culture they have created. Or you can think of it as a measure of how far the Israeli government will go to support the existence of Jewish settlers on the West Bank.
Writing for Jewsweek Micha Ghertner reports on a new research paper by economist Tyler Cowen on economic theory applied to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
First, the Israelis and the Palestinians may both be engaged in a game of chicken, vying to strengthen their reputations in order to gain more power and eventually, a larger share of the pot. Whichever side backs down first will reveal a weakness and lack of commitment, thereby strengthening the resolve of the other party. The important point to note here is that each minor conflict (i.e. each intifada, each incursion, etc.) is simply a reputation builder for the overall conflict, and the final reputations of each party will determine which side has more bargaining power when an eventual deal is reached.
Both the Israelis and the Palestinians may worry that weak reputations will leave them open to future bullying from some of the surrounding Arab nations, thereby increasing the likelihood of even more conflict.
Another possible explanation, which Cowen takes from the burgeoning field of "behavioral economics," may be that both parties are unwilling to accept a compromise below what they had previously expected and below what they feel they deserve.
Finally, Cowen suggests that perhaps neither party is "meta-rational." By this he means that people tend to favor their own view of the world and have a very difficult time placing their own views in a larger context with the views of others. For example, most people believe that they are smarter, better looking, or more moral than the average person, yet this can only be true for half of us.
Here are some excerpts from Tyler Cowen's original paper published in Public Choice which is available for download: "A Road Map to Middle Eastern Peace? -- A Public Choice Perspective" (PDF format) (my bold emphasis added below)
Married parties bicker, in part, because they are concerned with their future share of the cooperative pie. For instance, assume that a husband and wife consider an agreement on some matter of dispute, but the husband would receive only an epsilon of the resulting cooperative surplus. The husband might prefer to hold out and stop the agreement, even if he otherwise gets nothing at all. If the husband agrees to only an epsilon of surplus today, he is weakening his bargaining power for the future. Why not turn down today's epsilon for some chance of a greater share in the future? The wife of course may feel the same way. Even a fifty-fifty deal may meet with resistance. After all, why take fifty percent today, when you have some chance of getting ninety-nine percent tomorrow? So the two will bicker rather than settling all of their disagreements. Here the difficulty arises precisely because there will be future transactions, and not because transactions costs are too high (in fact we might get a better outcome if trading costs eliminated the possibility of future transactions). Similarly we get a bad outcome precisely because future gains from trade are high.8
The literature on behavioral and experimental economics tries to isolate exactly which sorts of adverse changes set off destructive reactions. Workers, for instance, seem to mind small nominal pay cuts more than they mind small real wage cuts. Or a nominal wage cut offends less if it can be described as "fair," or if it is seen as part of an overall process affecting everyone's compensation. Many of these results are context-dependent rather than general, nonetheless they suggest that the degree of resistance will depend on packaging and symbolic values. It also suggests that experimental and labor market research may teach us something about the causes of war.
Note that terrorism interacts with behavioral factors. Imagine the Israelis and Palestinians moving toward some kind of peace agreement, whereby each side offers some painful concessions to the other. Just as each side is trying to accept what it must give up, some form of terrorism strikes. A Palestinian, for instance, might blow up a bus in Jerusalem. This kind of behavior makes it harder for the Israelis to accept their "wage cut" as they will feel more aggrieved than before. Terrorists, knowing this, may choose to strike at precisely at these times and aim to reopen the appropriate wounds, all to prevent peace.13
Parties to war and conflict are unlikely to be meta-rational.16 We do not know why, but non-meta-rational behavior tends to be especially prominent in certain areas. For instance, people tend to have especially stubborn and irrational opinions in the areas of religion and politics. Large numbers of people think they are the world's best judges of truth in this area, but few people have comparable opinions about their relative expertise in building bridges, or in thermodynamics.
Given this tendency, peace negotiators may expect the other party to defer to their positive view of the world. The Israelis will overrate their ability to judge what will work, and the Palestinians will do the same. The general tendency is to think that what benefits one's own interest also benefits the world at large (Klein 1994, Cowen forthcoming). The two parties will then find it hard to agree, since they do not share the same positive vision of how the world works. Note that only one party need lack metarationality for an agreement to be hard to strike.
A lot of the factors that Cowen brings up seem like plausible contributors to the continuation of the conflict. Because of the differences in perceptions over what is fair and why things are as they are it seems unlikely that the conflict can be solved as long as those differences in thinking exist. Therefore it seems reasonable to at least try to minimize the body count as the conflict continues. The barrier being constructed to separate the West Bank from Israel seems like the only prospect for reducing the body count.
As for whether there is something that could be done to cause a change in the thinking of people on one or both sides: if the past is any indication it seems unlikely. As long as there is not an all-out war in which one side is made to lose in a devastating fashion enough members on each side are going to hang onto conflicting goals that there will be no resolution.
As outsiders it is important to appreciate just how unfair humanity is. People really do tend to see things from the perspective of their own interests and do not do a very effective job of recognizing the ways they are unfair to others.
More than simply a fence or a wall, the barrier being constructed to keep the Palestinians out of Israel
Every few miles, there will be gates to allow farmers access to their lands. If a farmer like Ramsi couldn't get through his gate and decided to cross illegally, he would face a formidable challenge.
He would have to scale a 6-foot-high pyramid of coiled razor wire; clamber through an 8-foot ditch; cross an army patrol path, then climb a 10-foot-high fence, avoiding its intrusion-detection sensors. Around Qalqilya, concrete walls stand 26-feet high.
Once on the other side, he would land in a sea of sand meant to capture his footprints. Then, the remaining hurdles: a patrol road wide enough for a tank, another sand trap, another razor-wire pyramid, surveillance cameras, and, every few miles, a manned sniper tower.
The construction of this sophisticated deep barrier zone is costing about $4 million per mile. To put that in perspective, to build something this elaborate on the 2,000 mile long US-Mexico border would cost about $8 billion. The money would be paid back many times over just from the reduction in the costs to the public purse for providing medical treatment to illegal aliens at hospital emergency wards.
As for US State Department threats to cut off loans programs to Israel if the barrier construction takes too much land from the Palestinians on their side of the Green line: The Israelis are going to build the whole barrier. What is being bargained about effectively is what amount of aid the US will deny the Israelis if they make the fence take in large numbers of settlements and in the process take more land from the Palestinians. How high a price can the Bush Administration inflict? Can the Bushies convince Sharon to pull the barrier back from some of the settlements it is currently planned to encompass? Or will the US Congress prevent the Bush Administration from playing economic hardball? Or will the Israelis decide the loss of aid is a price worth paying? Don't know the answer to that one kids. But we will find out soon enough if we just stay tuned for another tedious repetitive episode of "As The Middle East Turns".
The Christian Science Monitor article says that by effectively defining the border the barrier "could derail the shaky Israeli-Palestinian peace plan now under discussion." To speak of a peace plan or peace process between the Israelis and Palestinians or between the Israelis and Arabs is Orwellian at this point. Yet diplomats and reporters do it all the time. Go figure.
President Bush criticized Israel's efforts to build a fence separating Palestinians and Israelis on the West Bank yesterday, saying it is "a problem" that makes it "very difficult to develop confidence between the Palestinians and Israel."
He didn't say that his objection to the fence was because of the path chosen for it. However, Condi Rice has raised that objection. Ariel Sharon says the current planned path of the fence is not meant to be a political border.
GRIFFIN: Now, when National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice was here recently, a major policy difference emerged between you and the Bush administration over the security fence that you are building between the West Bank and Israel. She said that that security fence looked like a political border. She also said that it was taking Palestinian land and incorporating it into this side.
Are you willing to change the route of that fence?
SHARON: I made it very clear that we don't speak about political borders, we don't speak even about security borders. We speak about another mean, to stop terror or to make it harder for terrorists to penetrate from Palestinian cities into the heart of Israel.
Opinion polls in Israel show that as many as 80 percent of Israelis favor the project. Sharon "knows everyone wants a fence so he cannot speak against it. So he insists that the fence takes a controversial route to invite the wrath of the United States. Then he can turn and say that it is not his fault but he cannot build it," Tzion said.
Is Sharon shifting the fence further into the West Bank in order to protect and keep more settlements and more land? Or is he doing it in order to provoke US opposition to the construction of the fence?
Mr Abbas put a detailed case to Mr Bush against the 200-mile "security" fence and wall the Israelis are building the length of the West Bank, effectively annexing swaths of Palestinian land. After Mr Bush criticised the wall fol lowing his meeting with Mr Abbas, the Israelis quietly gave ground and said they would continue to construct it only where it does not intrude deep into the occupied territories.
The fence is a great idea. It is totally necessary. The only question that should be debated is where it should be built. It should be a political border too.
Update: Writing from an Israeli perspective Dore Gold reviews the history of the Israeli and US positions on defensible borders for Israel.
In his last Knesset address on October 5, 1995, one month before his assassination, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin laid out his vision of defensible borders for Israel in any future peace settlement with the Palestinians: "The borders of the State of Israel, during the permanent solution, will be beyond the lines which existed before the Six-Day War. We will not return to the 4 June 1967 lines." Rabin chose his words carefully. He was seeking Knesset ratification of the Oslo II Interim Agreement that extended Palestinian Authority control to all cities and villages in the West Bank.
In that Knesset address Rabin provided the details of his map. He insisted on retaining the Jordan Rift Valley: "The security border of the State of Israel will be located in the Jordan Valley, in the broadest meaning of that term" (emphasis added). Rabin did not view the narrow Jordan River alone as an adequate defensive barrier, but preferred to rely on the eastern slopes of the 2-3,000 foot high West Bank mountain ridge that rise from the Jordan riverbed located 1,200 feet below sea level. By holding onto the Jordan Valley, in its broadest sense, Rabin sought to assure that Israel would maintain security control of a steep geographical incline that could provide Israeli forces with a defensive barrier having a net height differential of up to 4,200 feet.
While Israeli strategists no longer see a short to medium term threat from Iraq they still want a defensible border along the Jordan river valley to deal with long term threats. My guess is that they also want the ability to check incoming goods travelling by land from Jordan into the West Bank in order to be able to check for weapons.
Update II: Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon says that Israel will continue to build the security fence. President Bush has backed off his criticism of the fence.
"And therefore, I would hope in the long term, a fence would be irrelevant," he said. "But look, the fence is a sensitive issue, I understand, and the prime minister made it very clear to me that it was a sensitive issue."
"The security fence will continue to be built with every effort to minimize the infringement on the daily life of the Palestinian population," Sharon told reporters as he stood next to Bush in the White House Rose Garden.
The Jewish magazine Forward reports decreased terrorist attacks have reduced public pressure for the completion of the fence separating the West Bank from Israel.
The Israeli public has traditionally shown massive support for the fence, but public pressure appears to be on the wane following the sharp decrease in terrorist activity since the start of the Israeli-Palestinian cease-fire. Counting on this lull, a group of Likud Knesset members who oppose the fence, fearing it will isolate Jewish settlements and weaken Israel's claim to the entire West Bank, decided this week to defy Sharon and bottle up his request for emergency funding for the fence.
The Likud rebels have conveniently latched on to the high cost of the fence, which will ultimately exceed $1 billion, as an excuse to delay further construction. The opponents point to massive budget cuts recently approved by the government and the Knesset, claiming that money for the fence would be better spent easing some of the social hardships created by the austerity measures.
I see the fence as a good thing. It will make it harder for Palestinians to launch terrorist attacks. Also, any land on the Palestinian side of the fence really is going to be hard for the settlers to hang onto. A clear dividing line that says "what is on that side is yours and what is on this side is ours" is what is sorely needed. There is no settlement possible between the Palestinians and Israelis as long as the settlers are living all over the West Bank. However, even with the remote settlement closed down and the fence constructed I still expect a sizeable minority (if not even majority) of Palestinians to support continued attacks on Israel. Plus, the Israelis, by extending the fence to take in some of the West Bank settlements, are rubbing more salt on the wound.
The larger Arab-Israeli conflict is not going to end as long as the Arabs reject in their own minds the existence of a Jewish state in their neighborhood. My guess is that rejection is going to continue for decades and perhaps centuries - at least if Israel continues to exist for that long.
Pat Buchanan says an ancient religion that has successfully resisted Westernization of its lands has believers who are probably going to use democracy in ways we will not like.
If a democratic referendum were conducted today from Morocco to Malaysia —and monitored by the National Endowment for Democracy—on the proposition: “Resolved: Israel should be erased from the map of the Middle East and Israeli Jews sent back where they came from,” how do you suppose it would come out? Those who would extend the franchise to the masses should perhaps discern first what it is the masses want.
While I do not agree with Buchanan on whether it is necessary to pursue the strategy of preemption the creation of benign secular democracies in the Middle East is a highly problematic undertaking. The neoconservatives setting policy or serving as the cheerleading squad for the current policy makers who believe otherwise are setting us up for very serious problems down the road.
Update: Coming from a different perspective than Pat Buchanan, Godless Capitalist has popped up again on Gene Expression arguing that since the Palestinians and the Arabs are not going to accept the existence of the state of Israel it makes sense for Israel to just expel the Palestinians from the West Bank.
The fact is that Israel will expel the Palestinians, or it will die, and the region will sink into the same depths of barbarity and backwardness that characterizes the rest of that region of the world. If that dark day ever comes...Israel will take its murderers with it.
Certainly the unmentioned "elephant in the room" of most discussions of the Arab-Israeli conflict is that the vast bulk of the Arabs simply do not recognize that Israel has a right to exist. They hate it and not just for the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. A few Arab states have limited forms of diplomatic relations with Israel. But their recognition is grudging and the attitudes of their press and populaces speak more about their views than their official diplomat postures (which anyway can be abandoned the moment it becomes advantageous to do so).
I think Israel has to physically separate itself from the Palestinians. It has to stop using Palestinian labor in Israel and build a wall to totally separate themselves from the Palestinians. The difference between myself and Godless is that I think the wall ought to be built closer to Israel proper. Israel ought to abandon the remote settlements on the West Bank, let the Palestinians have the bulk of the West Bank and build a wall that makes the border between Israel and the West Bank that is straighter and hence easier to monitor and defend.
Israeli Jews who want to keep the West Bank as part of their God-given land are opposed to such a solution. Plus, business interests in Israel want to be able to continue to use cheaper Palestinian labor. Also, some think that the West Bank under total Palestinian control will be used as a base from which to build up a military force to attack Israel. But Israel could attack immediately and retake the West Bank fairly quickly if tanks or other more substantial military equipment started showing up in the West Bank. The security argument only holds weight with regard to terrorist attacks. But by not having a wall Israel is currently leaving itself open to many more attacks and it is allowing vulnerable settlers to build settlements deep inside the West Bank.
Regardless of where the line is drawn between the Palestinians and the Israelis the line really does have to be drawn. The Arabs as a whole and Muslims beyond the Arab lands are going to continue to be at best indifferent toward Israeli deaths and in many cases gleeful about them. At the same time any Palestinian death at the hands of the Israelis and any rule of the Palestinians by the Israels will be seen by the Arabs and most Muslims as enormous injustice. Muslims hold to a double standard in judging what non-Muslims do to Muslims versus what Muslims do to non-Muslims. This basic fact argues against trying to have Muslims and non-Muslims co-exist in the same society where the disagreements about fundamental issues are so strong. There is just little chance of coming to a reasonable compromise given the double standard about non-believers that is built into the base text of Islam.
In the comments section of the post Godless responds to another paleoconservative to explain why he even cares about the fate of Israel. He sees Israel as the canary in the coal mine:
I'm concerned about Israel because I think they're the canary in the coal mine. I know a lot of paleos don't have much love for Israel, but I think it's even stranger to side with the Arabs/Muslims if you're a fan of the West. Al Qaeda threatens us, fundamentalist Muslim immigration threatens Continental Europe, and the Palestinians threaten Israel. They are all faces of the same Islamist threat. It's naive in the extreme to say that the median Muslim would "like us" if only Israel weren't around...Islam has bloody borders (India, Israel, Russia, Sudan, etcetera...), and their animosity for Christians (and infidels in general) predates the existence of Israel by hundreds of years.
Whatever Israel's faults, they're a lot closer to the Western tradition than the Arabs/Muslims are. That's clear because even paleos judge them by a Western standard. The summary executions of Arabs by the dictators of the region elicit Africa-like levels of "they're barbarians, what do you expect" nonchalance. Yet Israel's targeted assassinations of known terrorists - when they could just wipe out blocks in airstrikes - are condemned because they don't live up to (non-wartime) standards in the West.
He doesn't mention Indonesia. But in terms of a model of how Muslims treat non-Muslims under their rule in terms of the sheer number of people being treated unfairly it is probably the worst place going. If some reports are to be believed tens of thousands of Christians there have been killed and hundreds of thousands have been driven from their homes and made into refugees while the government has been either indifferent or has allowed factions within it to support the Muslim paramilitary forces that are doing the persecution and killing. Yet what is happening there does not attract even 1% of the media coverage that the West gives to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Go figure.
This idea has a lot of merit from a US standpoint: Europe would have to take responsibility for what happens between the Israeli Jews and Arabs.
WASHINGTON, May 21 (UPI) -- The visiting delegation from the European Union was startled this week when Israel Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said his government was weighing an application to join the EU.
"It doesn't mean he is preparing the dossier for applying tomorrow," an Israeli spokesman said. "In principle, the minister thinks a possibility exists for Israel to join the EU, since Israel and Europe share similar economies and democratic values."
In order to qualify for EU membership Israel would have to come up with negotiated settlements for all border disputes with the Palestinians, Syria, and possibly Lebanon (not sure of Shabaa Farms would be considered a real border dispute). But suppose that Israel could do that. If it joined the EU and Israeli citizens were free to live and work anywhere in the EU the biggest question in my mind would be which group in Israel would leave in largest numbers: Jews, Arab Christians, Arab Muslims, or others? Those others include the Druze (who are not quite conventional Muslims) and significant numbers of non-Jewish Russians.
Cato Institute research fellow Leon Hadar promotes this idea.
However, the EU might opt for a "third way." It could follow the dramatic U.S.-led military victory, by striking a diplomatic coup that could put the Europeans in the Middle East's driver's seat. To achieve that, the Europeans should remove the obstacles to the prompt entry of Turkey into the EU. They should also announce their readiness to open negotiations with a free and democratic Iraq, as well as with Israel and an independent Palestinian state that could lead to latter's gradual accession into the EU -- albeit a goal that would take many years to achieve.
The Cato folks see this as a way for the United States to be able to reduce involvement in the Middle East. While the Cato Institute's promotion of Israel's membership in the EU might allow a more isolationist foreign policy for the United States they are hardly being as ideologically pure (really, capital "L" Libertarianism as held by its strongest believers is a systematic ideology with simplifying assumptions about the world just like any other ideology) as they perhaps imagine themselves to be. They are arguing that the European states get involved in the Middle East in our place. By analogy, imagine that the Cato folks promoted an idea that would lower US taxes at the expense of making European taxes higher. Would that be principled libertarianism?
The problem with this proposal from the US standpoint is that the EU is going to be reluctant to accept Israel as a member as long as Israel will create problems for the EU with the Arabs. Well, basically that means the US will have to try to come up with a solution to the perennial conflict between the Israelis and the Arabs first. Suppose that this is even possible. Guess what? This requires heavy US involvement to bring the Middle East to the point where the conflict declines in intensity and gradually comes to a total end.
While some short and medium term progress could be made in Arab-Israeli relations thru wiser US foreign policy it is important to appreciate the extent to which Arabs think in terms of long periods of history. Many of them are upset by their loss of Spain, by the Crusades (never mind that Muslims were trying to attack into Europe during that time period and for centuries afterward - it is not like they are fair about their views on history), and assorted other events in history. Of course most Americans find these same events to be at best interesting historical curiosities or at worst boring old facts which, due to their relatively ancient (as Americans sense history) nature, should not have a great deal of influence over judgements made today. The Arabs, obsessed with the longer term historical view, are not going to accept deep down the state of Israel in the Middle East. The only practical question really is what is the best way forward to minimize the intensity of the feelings and death toll per year in various time frames.
My own very pessimistic long run view is that future technological advances (e.g. nanotech assemblers) will make WMD production so easy that assorted Arab countries and terrorists will eventually get nukes and other WMD and that some Arab groups or governments will eventually use them to kill millions of Jews in Israel. If Israel (or what is left of it - perhaps some submarines in the Indian Ocean) still has nukes then tens or hundreds of millions will be killed in retaliation. A grim view, I know. But hey, I call 'em as I see 'em. I do not like some aspects of what I see in the future. Sorry.
If, in spite of the poor prospects for peace in the Middle East, Israel could negotiate some peace agreements with neighboring countries, withdraw from the Territories, and build walls to separate themselves from the Palestinians then there might be a chance for Israel to be admitted to the EU. The biggest humanitarian advantage for Israeli membership in the EU is that more Jews would leave Israel before a nuclear terrorism attack on Israel occurs and hence fewer Jews would die in that attack.
But what about Europe? Europe's growing problem with Arab immigrants, the Turkish application for membership in the EU, and now the prospect of an Israeli membership application can be summed up in the first word in that EU acronym: Europe. Does Europe want to become the Eurabian Union? Does it want to become the Euro-Afro--Turkish-Arabic-Israeli Union? Would such a union become either an incredibly repressive and corrupt place or even decay into civil war? Home Sapiens are a lot more complicated and difficult to govern than the imagined Homo Economicus of utopian free market theory. Cultural beliefs matter. Religious beliefs matter. There are still other ways that people differ that have bearing on the question of who can live together under the same government and what kind of government will result as different sorts of folks are brought together to try to form one.
Iranian writer Amir Taheri on the prospects of a deal betwen Israel and the Palestinians.
Israel may have taken such a decision in 2000 when Yasser Arafat rebuffed it. Under the present circumstances, however, it is not certain that a majority of Israelis are prepared to take the risks needed for fresh attempts at peacemaking.
On the Palestinian side the situation has always been more ambiguous. It is quite possible that a majority of Palestinians living in Gaza, West Bank, and East Jerusalem, given a chance, would seek peace. But they have never been given such a chance by a leadership, much of it imported from the outside, that has always played the peace card only as a tactic.
I have serious doubts about whether it is possible to create a meaningful peace deal between Israel and the Palestians, let alone between Israel and the Arabs as a whole. Suppose that Israel would be willing to give up much of the settlements and withdraw from the West Bank and Gaza except for some populated areas near the old border between the West Bank and Israel. There are too many problems on the Palestinian and Arab side of the equation. The Palestinian population and the Arab countries contain Islamic extremists who intimidate the more moderate members of their societies on a wide range of issues, not just about Israel. The dissenters in the Middle East are a more powerful force more willing to use violent measures in pursuit of their goals than the dissenting side is in the vast bulk of debates about policy questions in Western countries. There are certainly exceptions one can find in the West such as in Northern Ireland and occasionally with small groups of violent extremists in various Western countries (e.g. Timothy McVeigh). But in terms of sustained willingness to engage in violent opposition involving substantial percentages of populaces in multiple countries the West has nothing to compare to the Middle East.
Writing in The New York Times Magazine James Bennet has written a very enlightening profile of the new Palestinian minister of finance, Salam Fayyad, entitled The Radical Bean Counter.
Ismail Abu Shanab, a senior political leader of Hamas, made an astonishing criticism of Palestinian self-rule to me recently in his home in Gaza City: ''When the Israelis were here, we lived our lives better than now, in every way. Believe me.
''Look how the streets of Gaza are not clean,'' he complained.
This is a basic political point that Hamas understands as well as any Chicago alderman, but that the Palestinian Authority has not quite grasped. Hamas has gained strength not only through violence, but also through its schools, health clinics and reputation for incorruptibility. Arafat's failure is also a failure of the Israelis and the Americans, and it holds lessons for the United States as it tries to rebuild Iraq.
Palestinian Authority corruption and mismanagement combined with the absence of such corruption in Hamas has allowed Hamas's influence to grow. Hamas provided services that the PA didn't (leading to the very interesting question: where does Hamas's funding come from?). If the Palestinian Authority could be cleaned up (and the article reports on extensive efforts by Fayyad to do just that) and do a better job of providing the basic services of government it would regain at least some of the legitimacy it has lost over the last several years.
Fayyad is probably a more important figure than Prime Minister Abbas because Fayyad's decisions are having a much larger impact on how the Palestinian Authority operates. As Fayyad's control of PA funding has increased the United States has pressured Israel to release more funds to the PA (Israel collects taxes from Palestinians working in Israel and passes the money to the PA). As a result the PA now has more money flowing in and a larger portion of that money is flowing to legitimate purposes.
It would be interesting to know what percentage of the funding for terrorist attacks on Israel came from the PA budget. One goal of US policy in supporting the creation of Fayyad's position in the PA is to decrease the attacks. If Fayyad can greatly reduce the funneling of PA money toward that purpose will that make a major impact on the ability of the terrorist groups to stage attacks? It is not at all clear.
Another motive (at least in the minds of US policy makers) for pushing thru political and financial reforms of the PA is to give the Palestinian people a better government. The thinking is that if the government works better it will be able to get more support from the Palestinian populace to accept a negotiated deal with Israel. The US strategy for doing that is to try to take power away from Arafat and give it to technocrats.
One article can not explain everything that is happening between the United States, Israel, and the Palestinians. One can not tell from it just how far Fayyad will be able to go with his attempts to reform the PA. One can not tell how well money can be cut off from the terrorists, whether Arafat can be stripped of much of his power, what Sharon really intends to do, or what Bush is willing to do to lean on either side. Suppose Fayyad's reforms and other developments led to a huge reduction in terrorist attacks. Could a deal then be done between Israel and the Palestinians? I have no idea. Still, Bennet's article is a lot more enlightening about what is happening than the endless media reports about "road map" plans and the public posturing of assorted major figures in this drama.
Update: Ariel Sharon sounds like he's trying to prepare the Israeli public for the eventual creation of a Palestinian state.
"I have not hidden my position on the issue of the future Palestinian state," Mr. Sharon, 75, told the newspaper Yediot Ahronot. "I am no less connected to those tracts of land that we will be forced to leave in time than any of those who speak loftily. But you have to be realistic, what can and what cannot stay in our hands."
But then there are the questions of under what conditions, with how much land, and with how many of the attributes of sovereignty. Still, this is a Likud Party Prime Minister saying this.
The Bush Administration decided a year or two ago that Arafat is never going to make a peace deal with Israel that he will honor and adhere to. Therefore the United States has been exerting a lot of diplomatic energy to reduce Yasir Arafat's control of the Palestinian Authority. These efforts have resulted in the creation of the position of Prime Minister as a new center of authority in the Palestinian Authority government.
That ability of Palestinians to take control of the land they live on is at the heart of the matter. An authority that will not exercise authority is no authority and fails the first qualification for statehood. When Arafat refused to use his police power - giving terrorists the licence to kill - Israel's defence forces had to fill the vacuum and moved in. As soon as Abbas and his security minister, Muhammad Dahlan, become the undisputed law in the West Bank and Gaza, Israel can safely withdraw.
The theory behind the shift of Palestinian power from President (really dictator) Yassir Arafat to the newly created post of Prime Minister (with Mahmoud Abbas as the first holder of the office) is that Abbas will use his power to crack down on terrorism. Abbas's cracking down on the terrorists, the theory goes, will make him more appealing as a "partner for peace" to the Israelis and will demonstrate his willingness and ability to enforce the provisions of a to-be-negotiated peace accord with the Israelis. Therefore the appointment of Abbas as Palestinian Prime Minister is supposed to restart the so-called peace process.
An Israeli government spokesman said if Abbas succeeds in halting terrorism, "then clearly they will find Israel as a willing partner on the road to renew the peace process."
Of course, my use of the phrase "so-called peace process" betrays a certain amount of cynicism. But before we get to the prospects for the "peace process" (a term that strikes me as very Orwellian) let us look at what the United States and Israel are expecting from Palestinian Prime Minister Abbas.
His balancing act will include cracking down on militants without triggering civil war, easing powers away from Yasser Arafat without being accused of betraying a national symbol and re-establishing trust with Israel after 31 months of fierce violence without abandoning the Palestinians’ bedrock positions.
Abbas is supposed to get help in this endeavour from his interior minister/security minister Mohammed Dahlan. The New York Times has run an article entitled "Palestinian Security Ace: Muhammad Yusuf Dahlan" arguing that Dahlan may be able to lock up the terrorist organization leaders among the Palestinians.
In his previous job as head of the Palestinians' Preventive Security forces in Gaza, Mr. Dahlan was responsible for the arrests of many senior Hamas leaders in 1996, after a wave of suicide bombings against Israel. For Israel, this is proof that the Palestinian security forces can act if they have the will.
However, some view Dahlan as the proverbial fox guarding the hen house.
Dahlan himself has been personally involved in orchestrating attacks on Israelis. The CIA is reported to have a recording of him ordering the November 2000 school bus bombing at Kfar Darom in which two teachers were killed and nine others wounded and resulted in his becoming the subject of a $250 million federal lawsuit in the United States. He is also one of six officials named in a case taken against the Palestinian Authority by the family of Yaron Ungar, who was shot with his wife in 1996. It has further been alleged that he personally assisted al-Qaida and Hizbullah terrorists operating in the Gaza Strip.
The US government has led a process with the EU, Russian, and the UN (the so-called Quartet) to produce a "road map" for peace between Israel and the Palestinians. The full text is available here and here. As part the road map plan Israel is supposed to freeze all settlement activity and the PA is supposed to lock up and shut down the terrorists who are attacking Israeli targets.
The creation of the Prime Minister position as part of a plan to reduce the power of Arafat is called for in the road map. US diplomatic efforts to restructure the Palestinian Authority have been underway for many months in advance of the release of the road map. The road map calls for a consolidation of all Palestinian security services under the Interior Minister (i.e. under Dahlan). But so far Arafat has managed to keep some security organs beyond Dahlan's control.
The national security council is to include Arafat, Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), Dahlan, Arafat's personal security adviser Hani al-Hassan, Finance Minister Salam Fayyad and Palestinian national security commander Haj Ismail Jabar. Tawfik a-Tirawi and Faisel Abu Sarah - whose security mechanisms (General Intelligence and Force 17) remain under Arafat and need not answer to Dahlan - will also be on the council.
Also, there are signs that Abbas and Dahlan will not make a large effort to round up the Palestinian terrorists. Writing in in the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz Amos Harel reports that Prime Minister Abbas will not attack the Palestinian terrorist infrastructure.
Military Intelligence told the political echelon at the beginning of the week that the new Palestinian government headed by Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) has no intention of uprooting the terrorist infrastructure. "According to what we know now, Abu Mazen plans to speak with the Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders, and not clash with them," a senior military source told Haaretz yesterday.
The Ha'artz article rings true to me. There will be terrorist attack business as usual for Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and organizations that Arafat continues to control. We are not going to witness "All Quiet On The Terrorist Front" as a prelude to the next negotiated agreement between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority.
What does all this mean? George W. Bush and Tony Blair are keen to negotiate a deal between Israel and the Palestinians. They see such a step as essential to improving Muslim views of the West and hence helpful on the larger war on terrorism. But a number of obstacles remain in the way for making such a deal. Some Palestinian groups likely will continue to make terrorist attacks. The Israelis will probably continue to build settlements. Arafat still has a lot of power and is opposed to a deal. The radical factions are opposed as well. Still, Bush and Blair are probably determined to make a deal. Israel may be pressured by the Bush Administration to negotiate a deal with the PA while terrorist attacks are still taking place. Israel will also experience much more pressure to stop building up and creating new settlements.
But it takes both sides to make a deal and it is the Palestinian side that is the biggest reason for pessimism. Arafat may manage to retain enough power outside of the hands of Abbas and Dahlan that they will not be in a position strong enough to enforce a deal even if they wanted to. Heck, will they even be able to sign a deal with Israel and the United States without Arafat also agreeing to sign to make it truly legally binding on the PA? Another problem is that the PA has legitimacy problems among the Palestinian populace. With those legitimacy problems already existing to the extent that Abbas and Dahlan crack down on terrorists they will be seen by many Palestinians as being puppets of the Israelis. Also, factions within the PA will oppose such efforts. Radical factions among the Palestinians will denounce any agreement with Israel as a sell-out of the Palestinian people. Islamic Jihad, Hamas, and other groups in the Palestinian area will not accept the validity of any signed agreement.
Is the diplomatic path the only way forward? A diplomatic agreement may not be possible. No PA leader may have enough authority (and fearlessness - they no doubt remember Sadat's fate) to agree that Palestinians will never be able to move to Israel proper. A partial attempt by the PA to stop terrorist attacks may leave Israelis with the view that the PA wouldn't honor an agreement while at the same time the partial attempt to stop the attacks (assuming such an attempt is made) may reduce popular Palestinian support for the PA so much that the PA leaders will believe they lack the authority to neogotiate a deal that doesn't meet Palestinian expectations. But diplomats want diplomatic agreements. Therefore the pressure to negotiate will continue.
Israel does have another option: unilateral withdrawal from the West Bank combined with construction of a wall. The wall would greatly reduce the number of terrorist attacks launched into Israel proper. But the unilateral withdrawal scenario is unlikely as well because the Israeli settlers are a well-organized and higly motivated group in Israeli politics. The unilateral withdrawal option would not give Israel all that it desires. Israel would have to force the settlers to withdraw but with no concessions from the Palestinians or Arab countries. Plus, there'd be no settlement of the status of Jerusalem, of the control of the Jordanian border with the West Bank, or some other issues. Israel would like to get diplomatic recognition from various Arab countries and a more explicit acceptance of Israel's right to exist from the PA as well. But all that diplomatic advantage can only come with a negotiated agreement.
I personally favor unilateral withdrawal from the territories combined with the construction of a wall. It will leave a number of issues unresolved. Would Israel still allow Palestinians to travel to Israel to work? Who would control the West Bank border with Jordan? Who would control East Jerusalem? But the unilateral option has one big advantage: it increases moral clarity. Israel could no longer be portrayed as colonial ruler and stealer of land in the territories (to be fair, the Israelis really have stolen land from a number of Palestinians - even in recent years).
Even with a wall there would still be some terrorist attacks. But it would be clearer to casual observers that the underlying motivation for the attacks would be opposition to the very existence of Israel. That is a clarity that would benefit Israel greatly.
Would an Israeli withdrawal from the territories make any difference in the views of the proverbial Arab street toward the West and toward America in particular? Maybe.
Update: There is one other problem with an Israeli unilateral withdrawal: With far fewer Israeli forces longer operating (there'd still be undercover agents no doubt) in the territories the various terrorist organizations would be free to rebuild and would eventually become far larger than they are now. While the walls would make attacks more difficult they wouldn't stop them entirely. It is possible that the terrorist organizations would find ways to launch mortar, missile, and other attacks into Israel proper.
In spite of this I still think it is in Israel's best interest to do the withdrawal behind a wall approach. The main big advantage is that provides Israel with an easier message to make internationally and in the United States in particular. It would be more difficult for the Palestinians to portray themselves as victims if the Israeli forces were not in the territories. Also, it is possible that some Palestinians would become less hostile toward Israel if new settlements were not being constructed and Israeli forces were no longer in the territories.
If the terrorist attacks from the unoccupied territories became too much the Israelis could always reenter them. There'd be some casualties in the Israeli forces from such an operation but it is not clear that the total number of casualties among the Israeli citizens and military would be higher overall in the withdrawal and reentrance scenario.
The biggest advantage of the withdrawal is that it would provide clear evidence of the nature of the hostility that the Palestinians and the Arabs as a whole have toward Israel. Is it due to the settlements and Israeli military presence? Or is it more due to the very existence of the state of Israel? I tend toward the latter view. But a unilateral withdrawal would move us from endless speculation and accusation into the realm of real world empirical evidence.