Monday, February 28, 2005

The birds

If all the peoples of the earth were represented by birds, which would they
be? The US of course would be represented by the bald eagle. Britain would
be represented by the black crows, that inhabit the Tower of London. The
Jews would be the canaries, little yellow birds that mean no harm to anyone.
No, not because yellow canaries are known for "singing," but because when a
miner wants to find out if it is safe to go down a mine he takes a canary in
a cage down with him. If the canary keels over then he knows that the
odorless, colorless gas, methane, is present, and he gets out of there
quickly before he also expires or the mine explodes. The Jews have always
been the little indicator bird that tells if a society is safe to live in.
In his speeches in Europe during his recent tour Pres. Bush mentioned
several times that one test of a democracy is how it protects its
minorities. According to this test the US, British and French Governments
are doing Ok, although significant elements of their populations (say 20%)
are racist and anti-Semitic. But, what about the Palestinians in their
progress towards democracy and transparency. They are on the first rung of
the ladder towards democracy, with one election to their credit. Do they
have an independent judiciary, due process of law, independent media, etc.,
etc? Of course not! One thing they don't have is protection of any
minority. Jews still can't live amongst them for fear of being killed (and
this is true throughout the Muslim world).
I probably don't have to remind you that Israel has a 20% minority of Arabs,
mostly Muslims but also Christians, as well as some Druse. They live
perfectly freely here, they travel around freely, nobody bothers them, they
work in jobs everywhere, we see them on the buses and in the streets. Old
men tend to wear the traditional dress, keffiyeh (head dress) and gharbiyeh
(flowing robe), while women can be distinguished by the very tight head
scarves covering their hair or black robes (they do not wear the
all-enveloping burkas of the Afghans or Saudis). But, young men and often
women who dress in Western style are indistinguishable from their Israel
Jewish counterparts. I would not pretend that they are treated equally in
all respects in Israeli society, but they vote, they have representatives in
the Knesset, they are in all walks of life (garage mechanics, pharmacists,
lawyers, one of the Supreme Court judges is an Israeli Arab, etc. etc.)
I submit that even if Pres. Abbas is intent on democratizing the PA, and
even if the process of ceasefire and disengagement leads eventually to peace
negotiations, that the magic mantra of "Palestine and Israel, living
side-by-side in peace" invoked by hopeful politicians will not come about
until little Jewish canaries can breath the air of Palestine and not be

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Terrorist attack in Tel Aviv

The terrible attack by a suicide bomber in Tel Aviv last night represents an
attempt by Palestinian terrorists to stop peaceful progress between the PA
and Israel. Since the hopes for peace have been raised by the actions of
Pres. Abbas within the PA, and given his public commitment to solve the
conflict without violence, this is the reaction of the resistance. Who are
they? Some elements of Hamas or Islamic Jihad, who don't accept the
ceasefire and are probably supported by Hizbollah both in their tactics and
Unfortunately five Israelis are dead and 65 wounded in this public message
to Abbas. There is a sense of shock in Israel because many of us had been
lulled into a sense of false security. The terrorist deliberately targeted
vulnerable civilians queuing outside a bar. The question is what will Abbas
do about it. If he merely has more meetings with the terrorist
organizations, that won't do anything. They must be confronted and
disarmed. It will not be difficult for Abbas to find out who did this and
who is behind it. In a statement Abbas not only condemned the attack but
pointed to a third party that was behind it, namely Hizbollah. Now that he
has a new cabinet in place it should not be too difficult for him to act,
although it may take some time to organize a suitable reaction.
Israel can take many actions short of military ones. The transfer of the
five towns agreed to be transferred to the PA security will be delayed. The
release of more prisoners will be delayed. Israel knows the identity of the
bomber and that he came from a village near Tulkarm. Today several men were
arrested there including two of his brothers. It is quite likely that
Israel will receive valuable information from them to lead them to the
perpetrators of this act. They already think they know that Sheikh Obeid a
leader of Hizbollah in Beirut who was previously released by Israel from
custody was behind it. The PA has also arrested several of the usual
suspects. It is possible that a targeted assassination of a terrorist leader
could be carried out by the IDF, although this would be considered a breach
of the ceasefire agreement. However, that agreement has been broken by this
attack, since Abbas is responsible for any and all attacks from the PA.
Israel could also launch an attack on Hizbollah in Lebanon, although they
might not want to open up that can of worms, but it would be a good way of
sending a message to Syria to curtail Hizbollah.
If the situation develops as it was before with Arafat, namely that he won't
restrain the terrorists from carrying out attacks, then there is no point in
Israel continuing to talk with Abbas and no progress can be made. Abbas and
all the parties know this. The statement issued by Secty. of State Rice was
particularly good from that point of view. She said essentially that the
time for talking to the terrorists is over and firm action must be taken to
curb them. Let's hope Abbas gets this message and will implement it.
If he is firm in dealing with the perpetrators of this incident, or
cooperates with Israel in tackling the situation, then a wave of further
incidents may be prevented and a civil war within the PA may be avoided. If
he is not then anything can happen.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Palestinian revolution

What has happened in the PA is nothing short of revolutionary. The cabinet
of 24 Ministers proposed by PM Querei was rejected in its entirety by the
Palestine Legislative Council, dominated by the Fatah faction. The reason
was because 20 of these were holdovers from Arafat's time, and the PLC let
it be known that they would not accept such a list of former Arafat cronies,
but insisted on a completely new set of Ministers untainted by corruption.
Pres. Abbas also criticized Querei for his choices, and faced by this total
opposition Querei had no choice, either to resign or change the list. He
opted for a new list of young "technocrats," people who are untainted by
association with Arafat and who are technically qualified to carry out a
professional job rather than political hacks. In any case Querei's
long-term tenure as PM is in doubt
Of the new 24 Ministers only one is a former Arafat loyalist, Nabil Shaath,
who becomes deputy PM. Nasser Kidwe, nephew of Arafat and former UN
representative, takes over from Shaath as FM.
Nasser Yussuf is an interesting choice for Interior Minister since although
he is an old-timer, he was out of favor with Arafat because he was too
independent, and he is the only person previously to have ever cracked down
on Hamas, physically with weapons. Mohammed Dahlan is the Civil Affairs
Minister, and the security apparatus is known to be generally loyal to him.
He speaks fluent Hebrew and is the main point man in security negotiations
with Israel. Saeb Erakat is in charge of political negotiations with
Israel, but lost his Cabinet position.
Salam Fayyad, who proved himself to be honest and transparent by exposing
most of the secret accounts of Arafat, continues as the Finance Minister.
Ten of the others hold PhDs, and most significantly none of the others has
ever spent time in an Israel jail for security offences. Maybe this is the
clean break that we have been waiting for, a forward looking body to wrest
power and carry out a democratic job without corruption but with
transparency. If this indeed happens it will represent the first indication
that this is a true revolution in the politics of the Palestinians. All of
this may not mean anything when it comes to peace negotiations, but we must
see it as a hopeful sign that Arafat's cronies have largely been swept away,
and the democratization and reform of the Palestinian entity continues.
It would be nice if Israel followed the lead of the PA, and Ministers were
chosen for their ability and expertise, not their role as Party
representatives providing votes for a specific political policy and being
bought with Government handouts. Would it be too much to expect the
Minister of Science to be technically qualified, and the Minister of the
Environment to be environmentally active? But, that would be expecting too

Wednesday, February 23, 2005


"Contiguity" is the word of the moment, particularly since Pres. Bush
reiterated it in his speech in Brussels on his current visit. It has
also been used by Secty. of State Rice, the UN Security Council and
British FM Jack Straw. What does contiguity mean in this context?
Of course it means that the putative Palestinian State should be made
up of as few separate areas as possible. But, it does not mean that Israel
should give up its own geographic contiguity in order to accommodate
that of the Palestinians.
Thus, there will be no Palestinian strip of land connecting Gaza and the
West Bank, because that would dissect Israel. In this case the right of
"safe passage" across Israel will somehow be guaranteed, maybe by
a direct highway with no turnoffs. Likewise the joining of Samaria
(Shomron) and Judea will not be at the expense of the Jerusalem
corridor that connects Israel to Jerusalem and then via Ma'aleh
Adumim down to the Dead Sea, an area that was fought over
extensively during the War of Independence in 1948 and some of which
was regained by Israel in 1967.
Just as certain words become "catch phrases" that signify something
other than they really mean, we should not allow the Palestinians to infer
in their PR that the need for contiguity means that Israel must agree to a
Palestinian State that is basically in one coherent piece - that can never
Similarly while for some "disengagement" is seen as "retreat" so
for others it is seen as "separation", an inevitable process given the
violent antagonism of the Palestinians towards Israelis and their apparent
need to live in a Jew-free (Juderein) state. Living without Jews amongst
them may be their goal, but it will be a pyrrhic victory, since they will
have to work in Israel, and starting today Israel is opening its borders
once again to Palestinian workers. Up to 120,000 of them used to work in
Israel daily. If the terrorist organizations once again use this gesture as
a means to infiltrate terrorists into Israel, that will certainly stop the
progress and call into question the control that Pres. Abbas has over the
terrorist organizations, notwithstanding their supposed ceasefire.
A friend and colleague of mine, Israel Ringel, proposed in a letter to
Ha'aretz in 2000, a new Partition Plan, not the original UN one, but one
negotiated by the two sides freely, with a view to separating the two
communities as completely as possible.
In such a Plan, Israel would guarantee that the Palestinian State would
retain the same total area as Jordan held in the West Bank until 1967 (plus
Gaza) and if Israel would retain some areas of the West Bank that are heavily
settled byJews (such as Ariel, Ma'aleh Adumim and Kfar Etzion), Israel would
in turn transfer densely Arab populated areas that are within Israel to them.
This seems like a fair and balanced solution, but then what happens to
Jerusalem,what happens if the Palestinians don't agree to give up any of the
West Bank, what happens about contiguity, will it mean transfers of populations
(as happened during time of war) and not just of territories. All this remains
to be seen, and depends a lot on the goodwill of both sides.


Today Israel began to release 500 Palestinian prisoners as a good will
gesture to the PA, even though yesterday a former prisoner released in
January, 2004, Atsem Mansour of Fatah Tanzim, with another man was shot
dead by IDF soldiers while on a terrorist mission into Israel. If any one says
that Israel doesn't take chances for peace you can laugh at them. Every time
we release prisoners, who sign a statement that they will not engage in
violence, we are taking chances with our own lives. But, this gesture is
something that we are told Pres. Abbas needs to increase his credibility
with the Palestinian "street."
Today the Cabinet approved by a 14-5 vote the Disengagement bill passed by
the Knesset. Those who voted against, were mainly Likud holdouts, including
Netanyahu, Naveh, and Sharansky. Because of the seriousness of the vote PM
Sharon took no action against the opponents, and said that this was one of
the most difficult decisions of his political life.
On the same day, the Cabinet voted in favor of the amended route of the
Security Barrier around Jerusalem. No work has gone on on the barrier for
about a year while the Government fought various legal actions brought
mainly by Arabs against the route. In the end it was approved by the
Supreme Court and the Cabinet, and will now include ca. 7% of the West Bank
with ca. 10,000 Arabs. These Arabs, although inconvenienced by the barrier,
nevertheless will have special passes to transit the fence with greater
ease. They are also not Israeli citizens, they remain Palestinians, since
the barrier is a security fence and not a political barrier.
It might be that some of the barrier will not be completed since only ca.
250 km of it has been completed out of a total of ca. 600 km. But, work
will go ahead until an agreement with the PA is reached, and/or until all
attacks stop. Who knows when that can be. Meanwhile the PA issued a strong
statement against the barrier, although it was not in Abbas' name. They
also issued a statement welcoming the Gaza pullout, but looking forward to
Israeli withdrawal from ALL "occupied territories" including all the West
Bank. They must be aware that this is never going to happen. Israel must
retain some of the areas of dense Jewish settlement, including Ariel,
Ma'aleh Adumim and Kfar Etzion, all of which will be within the new route of
the Security Barrier. Further, this is not required by UN resolution 242,
that specifically does not specify that Israel must withdraw from ALL the
Also, today Jordan returned its Ambassador to Israel, and Egypt is expected
to follow suit next week. This will help to return the political situation
to some form of normality, and signals the end of the official intifada.
Meanwhile an extraordinary gathering of tens of thousands of Lebanese in the
wake of the assassination of Rafik Hariri demonstrated in Beirut against the
Syrian occupation. In previous years they would not have dared to do this,
but they have been emboldened by US and international support. Today in his
speech to NATO Pres. Bush emphasized that Syria must get out of Lebanon
according to the recent UN Security Council resolution that was cosponsored
by the US and France.
He also said that only the two combatants in the Palestine-Israel conflict
can finally settle their differences together. It was noteworthy that in
the recent Summit at Sharm-al-Sheikh there were no international
representatives present and this is precisely how Israel prefers it. Now
that gestures are being made, and prisoners are being released, and relative
quiet has descended over the borders, maybe as the disengagement from Gaza
advances this will be welcomed peacefully by the Palestinians. If not then
it can definitely be delayed as required in the Resolution passed by the

Sunday, February 20, 2005

In restless dreams I walked alone

Last week we went to see a performance by an Israeli duo, Larry and Muni,
who sounded exactly like Simon and Garfunkel. They were very good, but I
was struck by the fact that most of the S & G songs that were popular in the
60's and 70's, were quite dark in mood (for example "hullo darkness my old
friend," "bridge over troubled waters," "where have you gone Joe DiMaggio, a
lonely nation turns it eyes to you," etc., etc.) and many of their songs
were about poor, lonely boys. At that time the two Jewish middle class boys
were rich and famous, but they "spoke" for the underclass. Similarly with
Bob Dylan, or Robert Zimmerman, who sang for the cause of civil rights and
the blacks ("blowin' in the wind"). Apparently the blacks needed middle
class Jewish boys to sing for them.
A separate event, the assassination of Lebanese politician Rafik Hariri,
probably attributable to the Syrian secret service. Hariri was becoming too
popular, too independent of Syrian power in Lebanon, so he had to be removed
in the classical way, as Bashir Gemayel (1982) and Kamal Jumblatt (1977)
were before him, by a massive car bomb. The Syrians are equal opportunity
assassins, Hariri was Sunni Muslim, Gemayel was Maronite Christian and
Jumblatt was Druze, they don't care as long as their following gets the
This event comes at a time when Syria is under pressure from the US, for
allowing Iraqi insurgents to cross the Syrian border, for hosting terrorist
groups in Damascus, for supporting Hizbollah in Lebanon, and for occupying
Lebanon with 20,000 troops. So the Bush Administration recalled its
Ambassador to Syria. All over the world the Palestinians are the cause
celebre of the Left, but have you ever heard one advocate of human rights
and anti-colonialism ever raise their voice on behalf of the freedom of
Lebanon, that until quite recently was a sovereign, independent state.
Paul Simon went to South Africa in 1985 during the apartheid regime and made
a record called "Graceland" with the black band there Ladysmith Black
Mambazo. In this, the songs he wrote again reflect the "poor boy" image.
The music is great, but the words (when they make sense) are liberal,
left-wing sentiment. But, what happened, when he returned to the US he was
criticized by the American liberal establishment for "exploiting" the S.
African performers by paying them Union wages. As he said in his defense,
he did not know it would be a success, and they wanted cash up front. But,
the liberal-left who criticized him, did not care that he was providing a
commercial outlet for black S. African performers, they repudiated him
because he was Jewish.
When Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982, the Lebanese, Shi'ites and Christians,
welcomed the IDF with cheering and sweets as liberators. However, the
Shi'ites soon turned around, and the Christians who were supposed to be
Israel's allies had second thoughts, especially when their leader and
Lebanon's President-to-be, Bashir Gemayel, was blown up by the Syrians.
So what is the message of both of these set of events, that Jews and
Israelis should not believe that any action that is taken to help others
will either be appreciated or will elicit a positive response. As I see the
growth of anti-Semitism in Britain, that I experienced in full force when I
was growing up there, I am glad that I no longer live there. Maybe this
generation of Jewish kids growing up in the diaspora will have learnt the
hard lesson of the previous generations. The Black Americans and Christian
Lebanese and the like will take your help but will give nothing in return.
In the final analysis, we can depend on ourselves alone.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Yes, Yes, Yes

Yesterday the Disengagement Plan Implementation Law was passed by the
Knesset by a vote of 59-40, with many Likud members voting against their own
Government. But, Sharon had a majority with the support of Labor and other
left-wing and Arab members. Now the die is cast and there is no turning
back, and there will be no referendum. Apart from the fall of the
Government due to a defeat on the budget vote, the disengagement from Gaza
will go ahead, notwithstanding the opposition of the settlers and various
right-wing groups, and with or without PA coordination.
The three most significant events in the recent history of the Middle East
have been the Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestinians (that led to
the intifada), the US-led invasion of Iraq and the current Disengagement
Plan of PM Sharon (I exclude events such as the death of Arafat over which
we had no choice). Hands up those who supported each of these. If you did
you are at least consistent. But there are many who supported Oslo and not
disengagement, and there are many who opposed Oslo but supported the war on
Iraq. One could say that anyone who opposed Oslo but supported the war on
Iraq and now opposes disengagement (No, Yes, No), is a true right winger,
while a left winger would have supported Oslo, but opposed the war on Iraq
and supported disengagement, (Yes, No, Yes). These formulae define the
essential differences between the right and left around the world in
relation to the Middle East and Israel. The problem gets more complex when
you have people who answer "No, Yes, Yes," or "Yes, Yes, No."
This reminds me of an unlikely comparison that occurred in relation to the
Japanese in America during WWII. After being arrested and interned in
camps in California and elsewhere, those Japanese who were American citizens
were faced with a choice. They were presented with a questionnaire that
asked them if they were loyal to the US, if they wanted to retain their
American citizenship, and if they wanted to volunteer to fight in the US
forces. This split the Japanese into two main camps, those who having been
interned in US camps decided that they wanted nothing more to do with
America, and those who not only wanted to remain American, but wanted to
show their loyalty by volunteering to fight. In other words there were the
"No, No, No" and the "Yes, Yes, Yes" and some "No, Yes, No" etc. As it
turned out the Japanese battalion that was subsequently organized (in a
segregated US army) fought very bravely for the Allied cause.
I find myself in a bind, since I am a Yes, Yes, Yes (3Y), which indicates
that I am neither fully right, nor fully left. Further it indicates that I
am literally a "yes-man," in other words I go along, I support whatever
policy the US or Israeli Governments have at the time. In a way this
disappoints me in that it shows that I am not motivated by a clear ideology.
For example, Natan Sharansky is a No, Yes, No, in other words he is
ideologically right-wing and is against the disengagement plan, just as he
opposed Oslo. I supported Oslo, at least until it became embarrassing, when
Barak started begging Arafat at their last meeting at Taba, and it was clear
that Pres. Clinton hoped it would save him from being remembered as the
friend of Monica.
Now I support the disengagement plan, even though I see a lot of merit in
some of the arguments of the other side. And many other former opponents of
Oslo and supporters of the war against Iraq also support Sharon's policy,
including Daniel Pipes and other known hawks and neo-cons. They regard it as
a clever way, as I do, of taking the initiative from the Palestinians, and
giving up something not worth fighting over anyway. When we come to the
large settlements in Samaria and Judea, the southern West Bank, that is
where the real battles will be fought, either between Israel and the
Palestinians or within Israel itself if the disengagement continues that
far. Then I will change from Yes to No.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

10,000 vs. 500

About six months ago a big fuss was made because 500 officers in the IDF
refused to serve in Gaza, and ca. 50 IAF pilots also refused to attack Gaza.
This campaign was organized by "Peace Now" and other leftist Israeli groups
that see the Palestinians as always being in the right, notwithstanding the
wave of terrorism that killed 1,200 Israelis and injured 6,000. Of course,
leftist anti-Israel forces throughout the world jumped on this information
and made it a cause celebre, implying that the IDF was about to collapse.
Of course, nothing of the sort happened, the numbers were so miniscule, and
it turned out that a majority of the pilots involved were already retired!
Now we have a campaign of serving IDF soldiers refusing to obey orders to
remove Israeli settlers from Gaza. But, now it's really serious, because
the number involved is estimated at 10,000, and this is no small number. It
shows the relative strength of the rightist vs. leftist oriented Israelis
serving in the IDF. Of course, I am against both of them. I take the
position that no individual soldier has the right to disobey orders issued
by a constitutionally elected government, unless those orders are
specifically illegal (such as deliberately targeting civilians). We should
strive to keep politics of all types out of the IDF.
Who are these 10,000? They are principally religious soldiers who are
against the disengagement or withdrawal from Gaza. Further, many of them
follow the dictates of the religious authorities and several rabbis have
come out against the withdrawal. Their basic view is that no secular
government has the right to prevent Jews from living anywhere in historic
Eretz Israel. Those who say that Gaza is not part of that are wrong, Gaza is
mentioned many times in the Bible and is an integral part of the Holyland.
Not only that, but several of the settlements there are built on land
purchased by Jews, just as they purchased land in the rest of Israel from
the 1920's-1940s, and further the division of land in Gaza was agreed by the
PA during the Oslo Accords under Arafat (18% to Israel the rest to the PA).
But, later when he launched the violent intifada against Israel, Arafat
claimed all of it, just as he really claimed all of Israel.
Now PM Sharon has decided to go ahead with the Disengagement Plan from Gaza,
in order to remove the 8,000 or so settlers from what is really an untenable
situation, due to the extreme hostility of the local population, which has
become very pro-Hamas, as the recent local elections showed, when Hamas
received ca. 70% of the votes. Sharon has concluded not only that Israel
can never have sovereignty over Gaza, but that to cut our losses we must
withdraw from there in order to reduce the number of Arabs within Israel and
to reduce points of tension. But, many right wing Israelis view this as
giving in to the terrorists and transferring Jews while not countenancing
transferring Arabs. Add to this the religious elements, and there is
potentially a deep split within Israel itself.
In order to overcome this, PM Sharon is appealing to the religious parties
to support him. He has already persuaded United Torah Judaism to join his
coalition and he is still courting Shas. But, he lost the National
Religious Party, and because of his small majority he has had to depend on
left wing and Arab parties to pass his legislation to compensate the
settlers. This is very embarrassing to a supposedly Likud -led Government
coalition. So the meetings with Shas have taken on added significance.
Meanwhile, as an indication of the general problem, Finance Minister
Netanyahu was attacked by a group of religious youths at a wedding party at
Kfar Charade yesterday. They were quoted as shouting "it is forbidden to
uproot Jews from their homes." Although he was not hurt, they came within
distance of hitting him, and his security hustled him away. But, the tires
on his car were also slashed. In the wake of the incident security for top
Ministers is being re-evaluated. The settler movement leaders and the
Chabad movement disassociated themselves from the attack and rejected
violence. One young man from Netanya was arrested and others are being
The split within Israel over the Disengagement from Gaza will test the unity
of the State, and if Sharon decides to make further territorial concessions
to the PA in the West Bank beyond the four settlements in northern Samaria,
this could greatly exacerbate the situation.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Surprise, surprise

The surprise was not that Hamas lobbed 50 shells into Jewish settlements in
Gaza yesterday contrary to the ceasefire agreed at Sharm-al-Sheikh, that
could have been predicted. The surprise was that PA Pres. Abbas responded
by firing 25 top officers in the PA security forces, including the top two
Generals in Gaza. Arafat never did that. Abbas' office issued a statement
that he expected his security forces to enforce the ceasefire. Now he has
the opportunity to replace these men with his own loyalists, who hopefully
will obey his orders. Also, today he is going to Gaza to meet with Hamas
and Islamic Jihad to read them the riot act. He said he expected them to
honor the informal agreement he had with them to stop attacks, and hopefully
he will be able to persuade them that he means business.
Clearly this significant and immediate breakdown of the ceasefire was not
mainly aimed at Israel but was aimed at Abbas. They are testing his ability
to command the security forces and to confront them. There was also a
break-in into the main Gaza jail in which a group of gunmen abducted three
inmates awaiting trial, killed two of them and took the third to a Gaza camp
where they executed him in the street and then drove his body around in a
truck for an hour for people to see. This is precisely the kind of
break-down of law and order and thugocracy that Abbas was elected to stop.
Unless he asserts his authority as sole elected leader of the Palestinians,
the PA will continue to be a lawless and ungovernable place, one that noone
could make peace with.
The IDF was ordered not to respond to the attacks, and luckily, although
property damage was done, no one was killed. If someone had been killed that
might have changed the situation. Hamas used as an excuse the fact that a
Palestinian man had been shot near the fence of one of the settlements.
But, they routinely use this excuse by sending a child, a woman (often one
who has been accused of infidelity) or a man (who is "mentally retarded")
directly towards an IDF post in broad daylight. They know the person will
be shot. They also have their rockets and mortars ready to fire. Of
course, the BBC implied that it was Israel that had first broken the
A few months ago in a similar incident an IDF officer was arrested after two
soldiers accused him of "emptying" his pistol into a 13 year old girl after
she had been shot down while walking directly towards an IDF post. This was
quoted in the media as an example of Israeli inhumanity. It now turns out
that this was a complete fabrication concocted by the two soldiers because
they had a dispute with the officer, who was new and whom they regarded as
being too strict. They tried to get him replaced by complaining about him,
and when that did not work they used this incident where the girl was killed
to fabricate this story. Discrepancies appeared in their stories and
finally one then the other confessed. So don't believe everything you read
that is anti-Israel, even when it comes from Israeli sources. The officer
has been released, reinstated and is once again trying to raise the level of
discipline in his unit.
So for now the ceasefire is considered to be holding, notwithstanding this
major attack. Now the Israeli Government, the IDF and all of us are waiting
to see what transpires from Abbas' meeting with the rejectionists. If they
actually kowtow to him, and respect the ceasefire, that will be a victory
for him. If they still maintain that they are not covered by the ceasefire
then we are still in for further attacks. In the final analysis he could
crack down on them, he does after all have at least 30,000 security forces
at his disposal. Arafat always maintained that he could not crack down on
terrorism because the IDF had destroyed his forces, but miraculously they
have reappeared on the scene. Now Israel has to give Abbas the opportunity
to work this situation out, otherwise it will be up to the IDF again to do
the work of the PA security forces.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

The Summit at Sharm-al-Sheikh

The Summit at Sharm-al-Sheikh today between PM Sharon of Israel and Pres.
Abbas of the PA was historic, but low key. It was noteworthy for several
specific reasons:
1. There was little high flown oratory, although peace was mentioned a lot,
there were only three short speeches, mostly dwelling on the initial steps
towards peace. In that respect it seemed more pragmatic than previous
Summits, there were no public negotiations and no signing ceremonies. The
speeches of the two principals were in effect declarations to each other and
the public at large. Abbas declared that the PA will cease attacks on all
Israelis everywhere! Sharon declared in response that all military
activities against Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank will cease. So
now we have a ceasefire, but let's see how well the Palestinians can
"police" it. That is the key issue. While Abbas made this declaration,
only the previous day the Fatah Revolutionary Council, that Abbas chaired,
issued a statement saying that Israelis are legitimate targets if they are
soldiers or if they are in the "occupied territories." So how do you trust
Abbas? As Sharon said in his speech, it is not the words that matter but
the deeds that back them up. In effect, Israel got what it wanted though,
an initial meeting at which security was the main issue. All other "final
status" issues were left for later in the Road Map.
2. It was conspicuous that the US did not participate. In fact Secty. of
State Rice could have been there, but chose not to, and that was probably a
wise choice, in that expectations might have been raised, and the US is now
able to emphasize its role as mediator, with the two sides taking the
detailed steps. Instead Mubarak of Egypt got to be the host and that was
good for him, in that he comes across as the major facilitator of the Arab
3. In their speeches, as well as that of Rice in Italy also today, several
speakers noted that this should be the beginning of a general Arab movement
towards making peace with Israel, and Mubarak included the Syrian-Lebanon
track. The presence of King Abdullah of Jordan also gave an imprimatur of
peace with the Arabs. It is noteworthy however that the chief opposition to
peace comes from Hizbollah that is operating in south Lebanon, with Syrian
support, and Iranian funding and training.
4. Notwithstanding the declaration to stop attacks, today there were as
usual ca. 50 warnings of attacks in Israel, and it has been announced that
Hizbollah has raised the regular $2,000 per attack to $20,000, in order to
disrupt the peace process. Hamas also issued a statement rejecting the
ceasefire. If a major attack occurs and Israel is forced to respond, that
might derail the whole process at this fragile moment. The question is can
Abbas prevent the terrorists who are still armed and ready on the
Palestinian side from carrying out more attacks.
5. Since the two sides could not agree on the "confidence building
measures" that Israel is proposing, a Committee was set up to negotiate
them. This seems strange, but Israel will nevertheless release some 900
prisoners, and turn over control of security of 5 West Bank towns (Jericho,
Bethlehem, Kalkilya, Tulkarm and Ramallah) to the PA security forces. There
are no "confidence building measures" from the Palestinian side, except
perhaps the actual deployment of the PA security forces in Gaza, and the
current lull in rocket and other attacks.
6. Sharon declared his intention of going ahead with the Gaza Disengagement
Plan and issued an invitation to Abbas to coordinate the process with the
If we are to consider what has brought us to this hopeful moment, there are
three things:
1. The death of Arafat, whose removal from the scene clearly proves the
point that Israel and the US were making that in effect there was no peace
partner on the Palestinian side while he was in control.
2. The fact that the IDF's counter attacks, including both targeted killings
of terrorists and military incursions, were an effective response to the
terrorism, and showed that Israel could not be either terrorized or
destabilized by this four year wave of bombings and killings.
3. The building of the Security fence, that has shown the Palestinians that
Israel is serious about separation from them, which would be an economic and
political disaster for their aspirations.
Finally, both sides are now exhausted by the intifada, and so in effect
the Summit was an admission by the leader of the PA that it hasn't worked,
and by both sides that there is no viable military solution. So we have
turned the corner to negotiations. We all breathe a sigh of relief and hope
that the road ahead remains clear.

Friday, February 04, 2005

No peace, no state

This letter appeared in the Jerusalem Post yesterday (Feb 3, 2005).
No peace, no state
Sir, - Surely Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has got it reversed ("Rice: Peace won't be possible without viable Palestinian state," February 2). The formula should be "No peace, no state."
Only when the Palestinians deliver peace and stop terrorism, according to the first step required of them on the road map, can a Palestinian state be envisaged. And it cannot exist unless it lives "side-by-side with Israel in peace."
It is to be hoped that the Secretary of State will not start out on the wrong foot in her message to the new PA administration.

Some people are worried by some of Rice’s statements. While she and Pres. Bush are undoubtedly friends of Israel, they are under enormous pressure to make the current "window of opportunity" a success (shades of Pres. Clinton), both to balance the problems in Iraq as well as to mollify the EU that has made no secret of its pro-Palestinian bias. Since Israel depends so entirely on the US, any pressure from the US is hard for Israel to resist. With the rest of the Quartet, Russia, the EU and UN being pro-Palestinian, there is little that Israel can do. So now that Israel has proposed releasing 900 Palestinian prisoners, the PA has rejected this as insulting! Talk about ungrateful. Also, today 6 IDF soldiers were wounded in 3 separate shooting incidents. Is this the kind of ceasefire that Abbas will propose? A lot depends on how flexible Israel and the US are in relation to the commitments of the PA. If as in the past they say "we won’t let the terrorists prevent us from negotiating" then they will be making the same mistake as under Oslo, when Israelis were being blown up in buses and cafes while the talking went on uselessly. This time around I hope they will be more serious, the message should be, a ceasefire first, and that means NO violence, NO attacks and NO terrorism! Only under those circumstances can serious negotiations take place. If Abbas can't deliver a real ceasefire then there is no point in negotiating with him.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Fateful Summit

Two years ago when Pres. Bush met in Akaba with then new PM Abbas of the PA
and PM Sharon to initiate the Road Map peace plan there was much hope in the
air, but it was soon dispelled because Yasser Arafat prevented Abbas from
gaining any power and forced him to resign. Now two years later we are
without Arafat, and Abbas is back as elected President of the PA in place of
Arafat. So now there is hope again for the Summit meeting to be held
between Abbas and Sharon next Tuesday at Sharm-al Sheikh, hosted by Egyptian
Pres. Mubarak.
This hope is bolstered by two factors, first it is said that whereas Arafat
could have restrained the terrorist groups but didn't want to, Abbas wants
to restrain them, but can he? The second factor is that there is a
preliminary ceasefire in effect, called a "tahdiah" or "calmness" by the
Palestinians. However, it has been broken on several occasions.
Yesterday a young girl was killed by a bullet in the head while playing at a
school in Gaza. Of course, this was initially blamed at the highest level
of the PA on the IDF firing a tank shell at the school, as duly reported in
the media, but it turned out to be completely false, and she was in fact
killed by firing from Palestinians celebrating their return from the Hajj.
The amazing thing is that the PA then announced this reversal and said that
a Palestinian man has been arrested for questioning in the murder. So some
things have changed. However, Hamas used the death as an excuse to fire
mortars at an Israeli settlement. Today a young boy was arrested at a
checkpoint near Nablus carrying a suicide belt in a bag and there is another
security alert in Jerusalem.
Nevertheless the tahdiah is largely holding, and Israel's security cabinet
met today and announced confidence building measures to be implemented early
next week, that the IDF will withdraw from 5 West Bank cities and turn
security control over to the PA forces, that the IDF will stop targeted
killings unless a terrorist incident is imminent, and Israel will release
500 Palestinian prisoners immediately (and 400 more later). It is rumored
that in response Abbas will use the occasion of the Summit to announce that
the intifada is over. The two sides will then negotiate a formal ceasefire
agreement. The question is can Abbas enforce a ceasefire agreement on his
side, when the commitment of the terrorist organizations to stop the "armed
struggle" against Israel is lukewarm at best. Israel will turn over to
Abbas a list of 500 wanted Palestinian terrorists and will agree not to
pursue them as long as he guarantees that they will no longer engage in
terrorism. Can Abbas enforce such an agreement under the prevailing
Condoleeza Rice will be present at the Summit for the first time as Secty.
of State as a facilitator. The announcement today by Pres. Bush in his
State of the Union speech that the US will supply m$350 to the PA should
help Abbas to persuade his people that a ceasefire is in their interests.
But, as far as the terrorists are concerned this will only confirm to them
that he is a "puppet" of the Americans and Israelis.
So the fateful Summit will take place next week, and we will all watch with
bated breath as the proceedings unfold. Will Abbas announce the formal end
of the intifada? Will there be a formal ceasefire agreement, and if so will
the terrorists honor it? Will the two sides agree to coordinate the
disengagement of Israel from Gaza? All big questions that must await the
fateful Summit.

A people out of phase

The Jews were internationalists before it was considered safe or fashionable
to be. During the nineteenth century and up until the 1930's most Jews
cared little about national borders. They considered them mere
inconveniences, stopping the flow of people and goods, and Jews were more or
less immune to the ultra-nationalism that was sweeping Europe. While German
nationalism was manifested in the growth of the Nazi Party, Jewish
internationalism was manifested in the iconic status of the Rothschilds, who
had brothers and Branches in every European country and transferred funds as
There were of course the Zionists, Jewish nationalists, but they were a
small minority, and certainly the Jews of each European country preferred to
emphasize their loyalty to that country to avoid the claim of "dual
loyalty." Thus, British Jews prayed for the Queen, while German Jews prayed
for the Kaiser and Russian Jews for the Czar. But, neither they nor their
non-Jewish compatriots were taken in, every one knew that national loyalty
sat lightly upon the Jewish head, it seemed so inappropriate to the Jews.
Why couldn't different peoples get along? The Jews were natural liberals,
seeing beyond the militant quarrels of the European tribes.
But, then came WWII, and the Jews paid the ultimate price for their inherent
disloyalty to the most ultra-nationalist of peoples, the Germans. In fact,
even today it is difficult for Germans to admit that anyone of another
ethnicity can be German. The Jews were amongst them, were cleverer than
them, were controlling the financial system, but were not of them, were
alien, were outsiders. The best solution, the final solution, was to kill
all of them, get rid of them, no more liberal internationalists!
But, then the US came into the war, and the liberal democracies won, and the
central Europeans were forced to take on the mantle of democracy. How a
majority treats its minorities became a mark of how successful it could be
in the world. Although at first there was some resentment, the Germans and
the Japanese, having been soundly defeated by superior forces, and then
eventually also the Russian Communists, bowed to the power and became
democracies in the image of their conquerors, just as Iraq is doing today.
The evolution of the European dream of a continent without borders came to
pass, as the Jews had envisaged it should. Now no one waits at a European
border, people and goods flow without hindrance, just as the Jews foresaw.
But, in the meantime, the surviving Jews, taking their cue from the fate of
a people without a country or an army to protect them, moved into the
nationalist phase. Zionism after WWII triumphed, Israel was finally born
and the IDF grew into a formidable military force. So while nationalism was
waning among the conquered Europeans, nationalism was growing among
the surviving Jews. The Jews and the Europeans were out of phase
with each other.
Now we come to the present day, and anti-Semitism is increasing again in
Europe. But, everyone acknowledges that it is a "new" anti-Semitism.
While we are not fooled by the substitution of anti-Zionism for the
classic features of anti-Semitism, but then again consider the responses of
the diaspora Jews. When nationalism was rearing its ugly head, every Jew
wanted to profess loyalty to the nation-state where he lived. But, now that
internationalism is king, all diaspora Jews want to profess loyalty to that
creed. So you have Jews like the Roses in the UK and Barenboim in the US
fervently protesting that they are as liberal, more pro-Palestinian, than
any non-Jewish liberal. Just as before they want acceptance within their
society, but in order to attain it they must profess the opposite than Jews
had to profess previously. And the simple test is their position on the
Palestinians, if they are sufficiently anti-Israel, they will be accepted as
a conforming member of the new internationalist order in their diaspora
So that every time Israel finds it necessary to send in the IDF or to build
a barrier to protect Israeli citizens from the terrorists, you can be sure
these liberal conformists will come out "clucking" against such moves as
"provocative" or "apartheid," but without considering the Palestinian
actions that caused these reactions or their own suspect motives. And
these are the same Jews who 70 years ago or more would have been
proclaiming their loyalty to Germany.
To be out of phase with European history can be fatal, but not this time.
Now we have our own country and our own army to protect us, and even the
Palestinians are getting the message that they can't defeat us. No Arab
countries are prepared to come and fight for them, and I cannot see any
likelihood of the EU sending their boys to fight on behalf of the
Palestinians, especially when they are so against war in general. So let
the EU foster their own form of stupid internationalist anti-Zionism, until
they are forced to recognize the reality of their actual enemy, militant
Islam. Only when the Arabs in general and the Palestinians in particular
succumb to the force of liberal democracy, can we all become good
internationalists like the Europeans.