Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Bibi and the bulldozer

Here's a nice bed-time story of little Bibi and his fight against the strong
and powerful Bulldozer. One night Bibi awoke in a sweat and realized that
the Bulldozer controlled him totally, if he didn't act soon he'd belong to
the Bulldozer for life. So he thought of a plan. He would announce that he
no longer liked the Bulldozer and he wouldn't work for him anymore. But, he
realized that this was a very dangerous move, because the Bulldozer was
powerful and could do whatever he liked.
But, Bibi knew that although he had gone along with the Bulldozer, people
would know that it was because he was forced to, and since there were a lot
of people who were in the same predicament as he, there would be a lot of
people who would support him. So he openly challenged the Bulldozer, and
yesterday announced that he would run against the Bulldozer to be head of
their party.
The Bulldozer sniffed and growled. How dare that little twerp challenge
him, the infamous Bulldozer, who could turn on a dime, who could take
whatever action he liked. He who could switch his policies and change his
Government as he pleased. He would bulldoze this fatuous challenger, he
would bulldoze the whole party if necessary. In any case, there were many
who were loyal to him, he commanded great respect and loyalty, even fear.
If many of his enemies followed the brainless Bibi he would push them into
outer space and they would never be heard from again.
But, the Bulldozer failed to see the situation as it really was. He was,
after all getting older, and many resented his actions, using different
parties as if they were his personal property. Bibi felt he knew the mood
of the people, that they were sick of the Bulldozer's antics, forcing people
to leave their homes, then claiming he would never do it again. People
feared that he could and would, they knew that once he had the power he
would do whatever he liked again, he would bulldoze the opposition.
So Bibi smiled to himself when the Bulldozer issued terrible threats against
him. He mused to himself, that's precisely what the people don't like about
him, throwing his weight around as if he owned the place. I think I may
have a chance to replace him. And if I do he'll be out, the party will
reject him, and he'll try to form his own party just like a spoilsport and
like others did before him. But he'll fail and he's the one who will be
thrown into outer space. So Bibi smiled to himself and dreamed of a happy
future in which he could become a Bulldozer.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Beersheva bombing

The suicide bombing in Beersheva takes us back to the intifada as if no
disengagement happened, status quo ante. The bomber did not manage to get on
a bus at the main Beersheva bus station due to the quick reactions of two
security guards, and so a large number of casualties were avoided. But
unfortunately the two guards were badly injured, one of them a Bedouin Arab,
Luay abu Juma and the other a Russian Israeli, Pavel Srotzkin. They are
both now in recovery, although abu Juma lost an eye.
But, why Beersheva? Probably because there is no security fence in southern
Judea. The security fence was built first in the northern West Bank, around
Samaria, where the terrorist centers of Jenin, Nablus and Ramallah are
located. Then the focus of attacks moved to Jerusalem since the terrorists
from these cities found that the easiest target. Now that the security
fence and wall around Jerusalem is finally being built, after several
changes were made to accommodate various court challenges, the easiest entry
to Israel from the WB is in the south. The major Palestinian city there is
Hebron and there is no barrier between the southern Hebron hills and
Beersheva, which is the largest Israeli city in the south and is very open.
The bomber has been named by Hamas and Islamic Jihad as Ayman Zakik, 25,
from a small village near Hebron. There are many Bedouin Arabs living in and
around Beersheva, so it's easy for a Palestinian to merge in.
Although the IDF has increased patrols in the area, it is no substitute for
a fence. So now that the bombing has occurred in Beersheva, the pressure is
on to finish the fence in the south. A section of 30 km around Beit Shemesh
in the south west is nearing completion, but the 26 km stretch in the south
between Hebron and Beersheva still needs to be built and that will take ca.
3 months, and then there is an as yet unplanned section from the end of this
section to the Dead Sea which could take a year.
Palestinians often get into Israel by hiring an Israeli taxi that can pass
more easily through Israeli checkpoints. Sometimes these taxis are driven
by Israeli Arabs and sometimes even by Jews. Several weeks ago a Jewish
taxi driver was arrested for being involved in transporting the suicide
bomber who blew himself up in Netanya, killing five. This Jewish taxi
driver had two Arab co-conspirators, who switched cars with him so that they
could get through the check points. Although he swore that he did not know
the Arab he was transporting was a terrorist, the police do not believe him
because so many switches and subterfuges were made. Now it turns out that
he and his younger brother were deeply involved in transporting Arabs
illegally into Israel, and his brother has also been arrested. He was
running a van service from the southern WB into Beersheva. It is possible
that the latest suicide bomber was transported by him. Because they were
Jews they could, for a price, make the transfer much easier for their Arab
Another 14-year old boy carrying pipe bombs on him was nabbed at the Tarawa
checkpoint outside Nablus yesterday. He is the brother of one caught there a
few months ago. There has been no let-up in the attempts by the terrorist
organizations to kill Israelis.
There is a report in the Jerusalem Post that the PA leadership have decided
to once again bring pressure on Israel by starting a campaign at the UN.
They plan to try to get the UN to pass a resolution requiring Israel to give
up all so-called "occupied" land and dismantle all settlements, as well as
labeling the "wall" illegal. In other words, requiring Israel to implement
its side of the road map, without requiring them to do anything. But, FM
Shalom has stated that Israel will go no further unless and until the PA
acts against the terrorist organizations. In this case they have the
support of Pres. Bush.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Governments that cooperate with terrorists

Which are the only governments in the world that have cooperative working relationships with terrorist organizations? They are Iran, Syria and the Palestine Authority.
Of course, Afghanistan and Iraq used to be on this list until the US with some allies intervened. Most people acknowledge that Afghanistan under the Taliban was totally complicit with al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. But, Saddam Hussein of Iraq was also cooperative with terrorist organizations. A group called Ansar al-Islam was allowed to operate by him almost independently in the northeastern corner of Iraq, and Saddam was paying the families of suicide bombers in Israel as much as $25,000 each. If that wasn't an incentive to continue the killing what was? At least one major leader of al Qaeda was known to have been hosted by Saddam Hussein and to have received hospital treatment in Baghdad. Now the new Iraqi Government is fighting for its life against a terrorist insurrection. Sudan and Libya also used to be on this list, but have unilaterally, under threat, dissociated themselves from terrorist organizations.
Syria has harbored the headquarters of many terrorist organizations for years. This particularly includes the so-called rejectionist front organizations, including the Marxist PFLP and similar offshoots, that no-one else would accept. Even though Pres. Bashar Assad has announced publicly that all these offices have been shut down and he has given assurances to this effect to the US Government, we know that this is a lie. Hamas and Islamic Jihad get most of their funds and munitions from Iran via Syria.
Iran is the chief financier of Hizbollah and Islamic Jihad. The former is in southern Lebanon and acts independently of the Lebanese Government. That is why the US and Israel have called upon the new Lebanese Government to extend its authority south to the Israeli border. Islamic Jihad is an international organization with branches in many countries. Palestinian IJ is the one that we are most familiar with, but there are also Egyptian and European branches. In Egypt, which now fights terrorism, IJ has a working alliance with the more established political party the Moslem Brotherhood, that originally spawned most of the Islamist movement.
The Palestine Authority is one of the few Governments that has cordial and negotiated agreements with terrorist organizations, specifically Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the al Aksa Brigades of Fatah. Part of this agreement, as announced recently in Damascus, is that they will not be disarmed, but will be allowed to carry their arms in public. This is diametrically opposite to a ruling that Pres. Abbas issued some months ago calling for no public display of arms except by authorized PA security forces. Apparently he has backtracked on this. Further his statements that the PA is a democracy are highly questionable, when gangs of armed men are allowed to roam around at will, with no government control. In fact, parts of Gaza and the West bank are run by the terrorist gangs and not the PA.
It was announced recently that the so-called Badr Brigades, part of the so-called Palestine Liberation Army (PLA), will be transferred from Lebanon via Jordan, where they will receive training, to the PA. It is thought that the 10,000 men in this force will be used by Abbas to bring regions of the PA under control. It is a significant risk for Israel to allow these forces to enter the PA, since they could just as easily be used against Israel. Add this to the risks Israel has already taken in carrying out the disengagement from Gaza, as well as turning control of the Philadelphi route along the Egypt-Gaza border over to Egypt, as well as proposals to open up the Gaza-Egyptian border and to provide free-passage from Gaza to the West Bank. Rather than take further risks the Israel Government will do well to see how the risks it has taken so far will work out. Any Government that has cooperative working relations with terrorist groups cannot be trusted.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Back to normal?

It would be too much to expect a period of calm from the Palestinians, or
gratitude from the Arabs in general, in response to the disengagement that
Israel has undertaken from Gaza and northern Samaria. As it is, things seem
to have returned to normal in record time. Yesterday two yeshiva students
were stabbed in the Old City of Jerusalem and one of them, Samuel Mett, a
21-year old from Britain, has died. Two rockets were fired from Gaza at
Sderot, and one into upper Galilee by Hizbullah in Lebanon. No-one was
injured but property was damaged.
The IDF was in action too, five Palestinians were killed in Tulkarm, very
close to Netanya. Three of them were Islamic Jihad members wanted in
connection with the bombing of the Stage night club in Tel Aviv a few months
ago that killed five. One of them, Anes Zinnah, 17, was considered to be
very dangerous, since he was a contact between the Palestinian terrorist
groups and Hizbullah. They resisted arrest and were killed in a gunfight.
PA Pres. Abbas called this attack a "despicable crime," and a breakage of
the ceasefire, but the Israel Govt. pointed out that even under the terms of
the agreement they are allowed to attack so-called "ticking bombs," i.e..
terrorists who are planning on carrying out imminent attacks. They initially
passed this information to the PA, but they did nothing, so Israel had to
act. In fact, Tulkarm, that was transferred to full PA control a few months
ago, has become a safe haven for terrorists, who according to Israeli
intelligence are being helped by the PA security forces. Islamic Jihad
threatened to continue attacks on Israeli civilians in retaliation, but
Abbas called for restraint and asked them not to respond to Israel's
Israel also confiscated some land in the West Bank area of Judea to extend
the protective fence around the city of Maaleh Adumim. This is a major
settlement protecting Jerusalem from the east, and building is underway to
further connect it to Jerusalem, for example a police station is being
constructed between the two. This move is probably a signal from Sharon
that he does not intend to give up this area under any conceivable future
Meanwhile the most positive statement regarding Israel in relation to the
disengagement was issued by the EU from the office of FM Solanos, who will
visit here next week. It is the usual story, they like us when we are
making concessions and withdrawing, but not when we stand and defend
ourselves or what we regard as rightfully our own.
The UN Security Council also issued a positive statement, although the way
it was presented by their Arab spokesman was less than overwhelming. He
passed it off as if it were usual and expected. I suppose we're back to
normal already.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Contradictory aims

It was reported in the Jerusalem Post on Tuesday that PA PM Ahmed Querei had
gone to Damascus and negotiated an agreement with leaders of Hamas and
Islamic Jihad not to disarm them. Musa Abu Marzouk of Hamas reported that
the talks were "cordial" and that agreement was reached that the terrorist
organizations can retain their arms in Gaza and the West Bank. This is
diametrically contradictory to what Pres. Abbas has agreed to do under the
terms of the Road Map, where the first requirement for the Palestinians is
to disarm the terrorists and destroy their infrastructure. There is really
no possibility that he will do this, either because he can't or he won't.
Either way he is continuing the parallel aims of Yasir Arafat, to persuade
the western world that he is dedicated to peace with Israel, while at the
same time allowing the terrorists to continue their violent activities.
A secondary issue is how is it that Hamas and Islamic Jihad (funded by Iran)
still have offices in Damascus, when Pres. Bashar Assad assured Pres. Bush
months ago that these offices had been closed down.
After the Israeli disengagement from Gaza, it has been argued by Israeli
spokesmen as well as by Pres. Bush, that it is now up to Abbas to show that
the Palestinians are ready for peace, the "ball is in their court." The
most obvious way they can do this is to suspend all terrorist attacks
against Israeli civilians. While we have been lulled into a sense of
security by the recent ceasefire, not many commentators expect this to last.
Having claimed that they have forced Israel to leave Gaza, the terrorists
cannot just sit back and allow Pres. Abbas to take center stage by
negotiating a deal with Israel. They must continue their 'armed struggle'
in order to retain credibility in the power struggle within Gaza. Maybe
that's what Abbas also wants them to do in order to keep pressure on Israel.
Meanwhile Israel also has contradictory aims, first to consolidate its hold
on the densely populated parts of the West Bank, that will never be returned
to Palestinian control, and also to negotiate peace with the PA that also
claims that territory. A British member of the European Parliament on the
BBC advised Israelis yesterday, that now that we have disengaged from Gaza
that it won't be so hard to disengage from the West Bank, all we have to do
is prepare ourselves. But, what he fails to understand is that parts of the
West Bank are Israeli territory, they are not just claimed by Israel, they
are Israel! So Israel (under PM Sharon or Netanyahu) must prepare a plan
that clearly delineates what we intend to keep and what we are prepared to
withdraw from to help form a Palestinian State, as long as there is peace.
The Palestinians will claim that what we are prepared to give them is not
enough, then we should be prepared to give up some of our sovereign
territory to make up the difference and to persuade Egypt to give some up
too (this plan is based on a suggestion of my friend Israel Ringel). Since
they are always complaining about the poor Palestinians, if Mubarak wants
peace let him give up some of his territory too.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Traumatic evictions

Gaza is now free of Jews/Israelis and the disengagement policy has been
carried out successfully. For those of us who supported this policy as
being necessary for Israel's future, there are certain insights that are
worth sharing.
First, the settlers by and large behaved in a very dignified and controlled
manner under the circumstances. Violence was minimal considering the
emotions involved, and most of that came from the young infiltrators who
were there to cause trouble. Second, the armed forces, the IDF, police and
security services, behaved magnificently. They showed extreme care in
dealing with very difficult situations, and Israelis are justly proud of
Note that probably about the same proportion of soldiers opposed the pullout
as the general population (ca. 35%), yet there were only two cases as far as
I know of soldiers actually refusing to carry out their orders, as opposed
to ca. 40 who refused prior to the actual disengagement, a negligible
number. Given the extremely trying circumstances this is a great compliment
to the young men and women of the Israeli armed forces, who went into the
settlements without any form of armament. In what other country in the
world would such a hard task have been handled in so exemplary a manner?
There is general condemnation of the groups of young right wing extremists
who poured caustic soda down on the soldiers who were trying to clear the
synagogue at Gush Katif, and those who started fires in various places.
Unfortunately, because of the relative openness of the West Bank, hundreds
of these trouble makers have apparently gathered at the two remaining
settlements in Samaria that are still to be evacuated, and this poses a
threat to the operation there in the next few days.
The Gaza settlers are now scattered and no doubt have been traumatized by
the experience of being evicted from their homes. Many of them failed to
prepare adequately, expecting some kind of miracle that the actual
evacuation order would never be implemented. Now some of them are
complaining that their housing is inadequate, but in some cases they have
only themselves to blame, and anyway one should remember that their current
housing is temporary (probably for 2 years). The largest single group is
now in temporary homes in Nitzanit, near Ashkelon, in an area similar to
Gaza itself. Others are in hotels, hostels and kibbutzim scattered around
the country.
There is no doubt that the predicament of the settlers evicted from Gaza
evinced great sympathy from the majority of Israelis of all political
persuasions. This undoubtedly has influenced political opinion in Israel
against any further such actions and PM Sharon announced today that there
will be no other "disengagements."
The PA has cooperated fully and effectively with the disengagement, and its
armed forces have prevented Palestinian civilians and armed groups from
approaching the settlements. However, Pres. Abbas has called for further
Israeli withdrawals in the West Bank and Jerusalem. There was a march
yesterday by al Aksa Martyrs Brigades gunmen on the PA Legislative Council
building in Gaza in which they claimed credit for the Israeli withdrawal and
demanded jobs and influence. They fired their guns but the PA forces were
unable to do anything to stop them.
Also, Hamas claims to have been responsible for the Israeli withdrawal. In
an interview in the Jerusalem Post today, Mahmoud Zahar, leader of Hamas in
Gaza, when asked if Hamas will renew its operations in Israeli towns replied
that "there are no Israeli towns. These are settlements. If the aggression
and occupation continue, the Palestinian people will have no alternative but
to defend themselves...We do not and will not recognize a state called
So much for expecting any positive response from the Palestinians. Now we
must await the denouement of the disengagement. Will the terrorists wait
until the IDF has demolished the Gaza settlements, will the PA forces be
able to control access to the sites, will the PA be able to rebuild them so
that they create housing and jobs for the Palestinian people, will there be
fighting within Gaza, will the terrorists restart their campaign of murder
in Israel, and how will the IDF respond? Also, within Israel, will Sharon's
turn to the right be sufficient to save him and if not who will take over,
Netanyahu, Olmert, Landau? Only the future holds the answers to these
pressing questions.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

The Day After

The media has been full of pictures of the struggle going on in Gaza,
closely followed by commentaries on what will ensue the day after the Gaza
disengagement is over. We can separate the predictions into two categories,
depending on the political views of the writers. From the right there are
dire predictions of further forced Israeli withdrawals in the West Bank and
Jerusalem, that Gaza will become a center for terrorism and that rockets
will rain down on Israel from both Gaza and the West Bank. Then there are
those on the left who predict that Pres. Abbas of the PA, who has been very
cooperative with the Gaza disengagement, will finally take the bull by the
horns and clamp down on Hamas and the other terrorist groups, or will at
least persuade them to give up their armed struggle in order to facilitate
further Israeli concessions and/or agreements. A lot depends on what
happens in the next PA elections in January.
Israel will receive few compliments for its actions in Gaza, on the contrary
the wolves are already at the door, demanding more. Perhaps most ominously
US Secty of State Condoleeza Rice has announced that she considers it
essential that this disengagement not be "Gaza only", but should be followed
as soon as possible by further Israeli peace moves. She specifically
referred to the IDF removing its occupation of West Bank PA towns and
reducing the number of checkpoints to allow freer movement of Palestinians.
She did not say what the Palestinians themselves and their supporters in the
West have been saying, namely that what Israel did in Gaza was only the
first step. This attitude is based on the presumption that all Israeli
settlements in "Palestinian land" are "illegal." Not only is this not true,
but the land is not "Palestinian," although you can say this until you are
blue in the face, since the liberal press has indoctrinated the public that
it is. Nevertheless, there was never any previous Palestinian sovereignty
in these areas, and they are in fact "disputed territories" and simply
because the majority of the population in some parts is Palestinian Arab, it
does not make it ipso facto "their" territory. It can only become theirs if
Israel agrees to it as a result of negotiations under the Road Map
But, even if we were to grant that the settlements were illegal, the fact
that Israel took the decision itself to disengage from Gaza is a historic
step, that should change the situation fundamentally.
Now the Palestinians want a lot more from Israel but without giving much in
return. They expect a safe-passage between Gaza and the West Bank (so that
Gaza does not become a "prison") and they expect further withdrawals of
settlers from areas of the West Bank, not to mention East Jerusalem. The
withdrawal from the four settlements in northern Samaria is a bad precedent
from that point of view. And these are the minimal demands of the PA, while
the terrorists flushed with bravado expect to drive Israel out of the West
Bank and out of existence. Since this is so, and since the terrorist groups
are now celebrating their victory, it is highly unlikely that the weak Pres.
Abbas will act firmly against them. Consequently Post-Gaza we can expect a
series of attacks by various forces on other fronts in Israel. Maybe the
rocket attack that occurred in Eilat today is a harbinger of things to come.
Simply because Israel has disengaged from Gaza does not mean that it will do
so from elsewhere. When you see the immense difficulty in evicting settlers
who have lived there for up to 38 years, it is understandable that other
larger settlement blocs would be impossible to withdraw from. Note also
that although the Gaza disengagement had a majority of Israeli support, a
lot of people seeing the scenes played out there, will have greater sympathy
for the settlers, and so this majority will be greatly reduced if any
Government proposes further withdrawals.
If Israel is to remain democratic, and I believe that the process has so far
been democratic, then there is little chance that the Israeli electorate
will support further large-scale disengagements. So there will be a
dichotomy in future expectations between Israelis and everyone else. The
enemies of Israel will argue that since the settlements are illegal in the
first place they should be evacuated, and they will downplay the
difficulties involved. This does not bode well for the future.
The Palestinians have never so far chosen the peaceful option, so there will
probably be another period of fighting before we ever get to a further West
Bank disengagement. The likelihood that Abbas will not be able to restrain
Hamas and the others, means that further attacks on Israel from Gaza and the
West Bank will give the Israeli Government reason to counter-attack in
The bottom line is that its better that Jews are out of Gaza, and after
Israeli consolidation it will be seen that things have improved for Israel
despite what the Palestinians choose to do.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Disengagement primer

I have been following the coverage of the Disengagement of Israeli settlers from Gaza and have noted some misconceptions and false information. Here is a summary:
- The Gaza strip came under Israeli control as a result of the 1967 Six Day war that was forced on Israel by the belligerence of Egypt and its allies, Jordan and Syria.
- Gaza was not in fact "Palestinian land" but was occupied by Egypt, that then passed to Israeli control. It has never been under recognized Palestinian sovereignty.
- Since the area was captured in a defensive war and Israel had a legitimate claim to the territory it was legitimate for Israel to settle its citizens on that territory.
- This pullout is not the first time that Israel has transferred control of land to the Palestine Authority, in fact all the areas controlled by the PA, including the 80% of Gaza that it already controls, were transferred to the PA by Israel under the Oslo Accords.
- The 20% of Gaza controlled by Israel, that is now being unilaterally relinquished, was agreed to by the PA as part of the Oslo accords.
- Several of the settlements, such as Kfar Darom, were built on Jewish owned land before the war of independence, 1948.
- The areas on which the settlements were built were barren lands, no Palestinians were displaced to establish the settlements. In fact, the Palestinians did not believe that anything could be grown on these lands.
- The settlers established mainly hot houses and grew annual crops of vegetables and flowers worth hundreds of millions of dollars, by the sweat of their brow!
- m$14 has been raised (including from Jewish businessmen) to buy the hot houses for the Palestinians. It remains to be seen if they can make a go of it.
- Although Israel was prepared to transfer the housing to the PA, they want to destroy all the housing and use the rubble to build denser housing for their own people.
- The removal of settlers is being carried out with a minimum of violence and a maximum of compassion by the IDF and Israeli police.
- Most of the violence that has occurred is due to outside young infiltrators who do not belong in Gaza. So far one young woman set herself on fire at a check point outside Gaza and one policewoman has been stabbed.
- PM Sharon went on TV and in a long address declared his compassion for the settlers and for their sacrifice.
- The only reason the Oslo process was halted was because the PA under Yasir Arafat launched a war of terrorism against Israel starting in 2000.
- Israel is under no obligation to relinquish more territories, including the West Bank and Jerusalem, unless it does so as a result of a negotiation under the so-called Road Map plan.
- The first stage of the Road Map from the Palestinian side is to stop terrorism and destroy the infrastructure of the terrorist organizations. Failure to do so will prevent the peace process from proceeding.
I believe it is unprecedented for a country that gained territory in a defensive war to unilaterally give up some of that territory in the cause of peace. Israel should be commended for its actions and the onus should now be on the Palestinians to respond in kind.
Notwithstanding all the criticism of this policy, the fabric of the nation has held and Israeli democracy has shown its resiliency.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Political violence

Has a disaffected Jew blown up a tube train in London or a building in New
York, killing people randomly? Has a West Indian done the same thing? What
about a Pole or a Hindu? The answer is "of course not." But, Muslims have
done this. It cannot be that mere frustration, poverty or alienation is the
cause of this stark difference, since all minority groups share these
We might agree that only extremists, lacking human feeling and driven by
hatred can do such a thing. Yet, it seems more likely to me that it is in
the nature of their culture and their ideology that we must seek the origin
of this specifically Muslim aberration. All Muslims are not terrorists, but
all terrorists are Muslims (apart from a few nationalists such as ETA and
the former IRA). Further, if we compare Muslim society to other societies,
we see that violence, specifically political violence, is a characteristic
of Muslim societies.
Of course, it's true that most societies have gone thru violent phases.
Certainly, the US had its period of turmoil, Hindus cannot be accused of
being pacifist, and Christians have rarely turned the other cheek. But, by
and large those other societies have gradually evolved a civil code in which
violence is the exception rather than the rule; murders occur, but gangs of
armed men do not go around shooting whomever they please. Yet, this is the
norm in the Palestinian territories and much of the Arab/Muslim world.
There are few Muslim democracies and few governments where rule is not based
on force or suppression. Put in another way, the Muslims are politically
immature, choosing violence as the means to attain their political goals.
But, what is the origin of this violent tendency in Islam? This is
speculation, but some have argued that since Mohammed spread his religion
himself "by the sword," that has been the predominant attitude amongst
Muslims. Note that jihad is a specifically Islamic concept, as is the
clear-cut division of the world into the realm of Islam and the realm of the
infidels . Also, the certitude with which Muslims express their beliefs
tends to support a violent attitude.
Yet, what have these Muslims to offer people at large. Even the socialists,
communists and Maoists who took up arms and killed many civilians in the
name of the revolution, envisaged a paradise at the end of the road. They
may not have been motivated by love of fellow man, but they did have a
program for the betterment of mankind. Every movement has its ideologues,
but what is the point of an ideology if it does not have some social
component for progress and advancement.
In fundamentalist Islam the reverse is the case, they want to return to the
medieval situation of Mohammed the prophet. They want a new universal
Caliphate, modeled on the original one. But, before this can be
accomplished they realize that they must Islamize the West, and to do this
they must undermine and replace all Western governments with Islamic ones.
So they are setting about doing this, at any cost in death and destruction,
so that the survivors (not us) can then eventually enjoy living in 7th
century Arabia. Not many people will buy that, particularly given the
suffering and sheer stupidity it entails. So they cannot achieve their
goals by persuasion but only by violence.

Pyrrhic victory

A major argument of the anti-disengagement forces is that the withdrawal
from Gaza and northern Samaria is giving a victory to the terrorists.
Indeed, Hamas is already claiming a victory and is organizing a big
celebration in Gaza to coincide with the actual withdrawal next week. They
will parade with their green flags and their machine guns held aloft, and
their leaders will claim that they forced Israel to withdraw by the use of
their arms and their sacrifice. In a poll conducted by a Palestinian
organization 95% of Palestinians agree with them. Let them believe it!
Perceptions do matter, but the reality is that although the terrorist
campaign known as the intifada did change the situation, it did not alter
the military balance. The IDF can defeat them, and the extent of terror is
greatly reduced because of Israel's security fence and because of the
targeted killings that the IDF has carried out. But another factor, one
must admit, is the involvement of Pres. Abbas and the influence of the
Americans in trying to arrange a ceasefire. Even though this may only last
for the period of the disengagement (we hope), this is certainly something.
There is a precedent for a situation like this. After the Egyptian forces
crossed the Suez canal on Yom Kippur, 1973, something the top IDF
intelligence officials never foresaw, they were all set to capture Sinai and
defeat the IDF. But, when their tank divisions strayed too far beyond their
missile shield they were subsequently decimated. The IDF tank forces,
under Gen Sharon, then did an amazing maneuver, crossing to the west bank of
the Nile, and trapping half of the Egyptian Army without enough food and
water. At that point the Egyptians, under Pres. Sadat, negotiated a
ceasefire, which eventually led to the Egyptian-Israel peace treaty. But,
in Egypt, the Suez canal crossing is still considered a huge victory and
they fervently believe that they won the 1973 war. There is no doubt that
for the Arabs, because they think that they should have obtained a victory
that they actually did do so, is a tremendous psychological factor. Henry
Kissinger was reported to have said, "let them believe it." This belief
undoubtedly played a role in allowing the Egyptians to save "face" and hence
be able to make a deal with Israel.
Whether or not the same dynamic will work in Gaza is unforeseen. But, it
could play a role in persuading the Palestinians that because they have
achieved a victory, now is the time to stop the attacks and talk peace.
Do I think that is likely? It all depends on how Pres. Abbas deals with
Hamas. Either Abbas must oppose and stop them, or there will be another
violent flare up after the disengagement. If he indeed let's them keep
their guns and if Islamic Jihad keeps its threat to continue attacks in the
West Bank and Israel, then all bets are off. Hamas will not stand by and
not use their firepower, especially since they believe that they have
achieved a victory. So then it will fall to the IDF to teach them how wrong
they are.

Friday, August 12, 2005

The Gaza theater

The theater that is Gaza is a dramatic backdrop to two sets of clashes being
played out, one that will be seen in its actuality, and the other that is
being stage managed to avoid scrutiny.
The trauma of the disengagement of Israelis from the Gaza strip settlements
is taking place under the scrutiny of the world's media. This includes
those moving out independently before the deadline of Aug 15, and the 30% or
so of Gaza residents who are expected to stay put until removed by the IDF
after that date. If they are not out by Aug 17 the IDF, security forces and
police will remove them forcefully. This includes the estimated 2,700 young
activists who are camped in some settlements as a deliberate provocation to
oppose the withdrawal. They could result in some potentially violent
In the Gaza strip itself, the clashes between the PA security forces and the
Fatah, Hamas and other groups of thugs and gunmen are being carefully stage
managed. The Palestinian journalists association under the PA authority has
declared that any Palestinian journalist who reports on these clashes is
opposing the interests of the PA and of the Palestinian people. Other
journalists will fall in line, since not to do so invites retaliation.
Last Monday a gang of gunmen kidnapped three Red Cross workers, a Briton, a
Swiss and a Palestinian aide, in Khan Yunis in southern Gaza. In order to
rescue them the PA security forces under Mohammed Dahlan surrounded their
location and fired on them. The hostages were rescued during the firefight.
As a result of this action the International Committee of the Red Cross
closed its offices/clinics in southern Gaza and suspended all activities
throughout Gaza. Remember that the so-called refugees depend on the Red
Cross for food handouts and health support. The gunmen are thought to be
from the PLO faction that supports the exiled Farrouk Kadoumi, who is the
so-called Foreign Minister of the PLO and is an opponent of Pres. Abbas.
This clash occurred after PA security forces arrested Suleiman al-Fara, a
leader of the Fatah al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades and the director of Kadoumi's
office in Gaza.
In other moves the PA has set up two liaison offices in Gaza, one with the
IDF to coordinate the disengagement, and one with Hamas to try to prevent
clashes between PA and Hamas forces. The cooperation with the IDF is
intended to allow PA forces to smoothly take over settlements that are
vacated, but at the same time preventing Hamas from taking them over. In
order to prevent Hamas bringing people in the PA has rented all available
buses in Gaza. Hamas has said that it will not be responsible for a civil
war in Gaza, but Islamic Jihad, funded by Iran, has announced that while it
will refrain from military (i.e. terrorist) activities in Gaza during the
pullout, it will soon resume its activities in the West Bank and within
Israel itself.
PA Pres. Abbas has gone on Gaza TV calling for calm during the Israeli
disengagement and asking that "the withdrawal be allowed to take place in a
civilized manner." But, he is in no position to ensure this. If there is
any Palestinian terrorist attack during the period of the disengagement, the
IDF is poised to counter-attack in force. In summary, Gaza is a swamp from
which it is good that the Israelis are leaving.

Thursday, August 11, 2005


In the TV series "Into the West," directed by Steven Spielberg, about
the development of the western US, it showed the folly of a people
depending on one resource. In the case of the Indians (specifically the
plains Indians) that was the buffalo, or in the Lakota language "Katanka."
They derived everything from the buffalo including housing (tents), clothing,
and food. And this dependence resulted mainly from the time the horse was
introduced into north America by the Spaniards around 1600 until ca. 1890,
by which time the buffalo were nearly extinct. It is often thought that it
was persecution by the white man or the toll of his diseases that wiped out
the American Indians, but actually the destruction of the buffalo was by far
the most significant factor.
A similar situation occurred in Cuba that was almost entirely dependent
on the cultivation of tobacco, or certain Caribbean islands that depended
entirely on sugar cane. The moral of this story is don't become dependent
on one primary resource.
Most advanced societies are well adapted to deal with this problem,
having many sources of resources to ensure they don't get caught in this
particular bind. When Israel was developing, it was one of the cornerstones
of early Zionist ideology that they had to return to work the land. While
this little piece of dogma was important, the fact that it allowed the Jews
to grow enough food to feed themselves and the immigrants was the most
crucial fact in the success of the nascent state.
Now Israel has a blossoming technology sector, with many electronic and
internet companies and many start-ups in the area of biomedical research and
drugs. By comparison with some of the most advanced technical societies,
Japan, the UK, the EU, Israel is far ahead in the development of such high
tech companies. And the key to this is "risk." The fact is that
risk-avoidance is part of the national character in several of these
countries, except for the US and Israel. Maybe some of these Israeli
start-ups are taking too much risk, some will lose their money, since only
ca. 10% of the companies last 5 years and few ever make it to profitability.
Yet, this is the way to build a modern technology-based society.
Last night I had dinner in Tel Aviv with an American based in the UK who
advises start-up companies on how to run their businesses. After finding
opportunities in the UK and Ireland, he is going to move to Herzliya, Israel
and open an office here. He is already involved with several small
companies here and finds Israel an excellent place for this kind of
business. So remember Katanka, and take risk!

Monday, August 08, 2005

Netanyahu's resignation

Netanyahu's resignation yesterday came as a surprise, but it shouldn't have.
People have been speculating for months about when he would part company
from Sharon. Last week a column in the J'sam Post accused him of political
cowardice for not having the courage of his convictions for remaining in the
Sharon cabinet. Now some have accused him of political cynicism for waiting
so long when he had made his opposition to the disengagement policy clear
from the beginning, even though he went along with it. But, the role of
Minister of Finance, at which he was notably successful, proved too strong a
magnet for him to let go before now. He played an important function in
reversing Israel's economic woes due to the intifada, and in reforming the
economic system. Basically he left it to the last moment, until the day
when the cabinet approved the actual physical removal of three settlements
in Gaza and two in northern Samaria.
Now he is free to speak openly in opposition to the disengagement policy and
to compete with Sharon for the leadership of Likud. It is possible that
Likud will be split, between those on the right who will rally to Netanyahu
(even though some are disgusted that he waited so long) including Sharansky
and those on the left of the party who will remain with Sharon. How this
will play out will affect Israel's future, but there is no doubt now that
the disengagement plan will go ahead. Sharon has a majority in the cabinet
and the Knesset, and will not stop now, even if there are other defections,
such as Limor Livnat and Danny Naveh. Meanwhile Sharon has replaced
Netanyahu with Ehud Olmert at Finance, his deputy PM and loyal follower.
When Netanyahu was PM several years ago, he was criticized for going it
alone, for not involving his cabinet colleagues in his planning and
actions. But, this is a characteristic of Israeli leaders, from Ben Gurion
to Sharon. Others who have been criticized in this way include Rabin and
Barak. Certainly Netanyahu has learnt some things in his successful roles as
Foreign and Finance Minister, and is up for another go at PM. Whether he
will be able to achieve that role remains to be seen.
Once the Gaza disengagement takes place and the PA will likely be unable to
control Hamas and the terrorists, look for Israel to take another turn to
the right. Post-disengagement there will likely be new elections. There
will also be an increase in terrorism on the West Bank, as threatened by Abu
Samhadeneh, the head of the "Popular Resistance Committees," that modeled
itself on Hizbullah and their campaign against Israel in Lebanon. Now that
they feel that they have succeeded in 5 years to "expel" Israel from Gaza,
they will next focus on doing the same in the West Bank.
Following the disengagement Sharon will also likely adopt a more right wing
stance in order to try to placate his opposition and regain his right wing
supporters. But, he has estranged them too much for that. So eventually
Netanyahu may benefit from the fact that Sharon adopted and implemented the
disengagement plan from Gaza, and because after that the Israeli public will
want a stable period with no more such extreme unilateral concessions.

The politics of resentment

The 60th anniversary of the dropping of the Atomic bomb on Hiroshima and
Nagasaki by US forces reminds us of the horrors of WWII. A major origin of
the war was psychological, both the Japanese and the Germans wallowed in the
politics of resentment. Although one tends to attribute the origins of war
to economic factors and extreme views, in this case the view was practically
universal among Japanese and Germans that they had been denied the greatness
that was due to them. In the era of imperialism and colonialism, they
strongly believed that they had been deliberately prevented from exercising
their true right to have an Empire and colonies like the Western nations,
Great Britain, France and the US.
In the US I knew a charming Japanese-American scientist, who still adhered
to that belief long after the war was over. He argued that the Allies had
prevented Japan from having its rightful place in the world, by taking over
its natural colonies (Philippines, Indonesia, Burma, Malaysia, etc.) and by
imposing limits on Japanese growth. The Japanese bridled at the Washington
Naval Treaty of 1921 that limited the Japanese navy to a specific number of
battleships, and they considered the exclusion of Japan from oil supplies
needed to fuel their navy and army as a justified causus belli. This led
directly to the attack on Pearl Harbor and the subsequent capture of other
ports, such as Hong Kong and Singapore.
The defeat of the Germans in WWI fueled the politics of resentment among a
significant class of the German people. The Germans were always comparing
their colonies in Africa, a small sliver of Togo and SW Africa, now Namibia,
that was then considered a worthless desert, with those of Britain, France
and little Belgium. Although it is often argued that the Nazi party never
actually won an election in Germany, the fact is that the support given to
Hitler was massive and growing. While he cleverly redirected popular
resentment against the Jews, who were closer to home and more vulnerable,
his actual target was to defeat the British and their allies to reverse the
results of WWI and to carve out an Empire in Europe, that the German people
felt they deserved.
Today Islamic terrorism is fueled by a similar psychology of resentment.
Resentment against the West for "invading" their lands (Palestine, Saudi
Arabia, Iraq, Afghanistan), and this does not stop with what many Westerners
might agree are Islamic lands, but includes such countries as Spain and
Israel that were once Islamic. And these are views not only held by the
marginal fanatics, but shared by a large minority of Muslims. In a recent
poll of British Muslims 35% shared the general views of the terrorists who
blew up the London transport system on 7/7 and 5% agreed with their actions
(although a majority said they opposed the terror, some of that opposition
is probably quite weak). The resentment also extends to the concept that
Islam is owed a greater share of power in the world, and that the only way
to achieve its rightful place is to confront and defeat those that have
power, namely the West.
Certainly similar motives were also previously behind the expansion of
Christendom and Euro-centered imperialism (forsaking the 'turn the other
cheek' aspect of Christianity). But, this has long since transmuted into a
secular anti-colonial Western civilization, where it is now considered a sin
to occupy another people, and the rolls of the UN contain 191 sovereign
One motivation for Zionism was a similar resentment at being left out of the
"game" when the lands of the earth were "shared out," so to speak. Who can
deny that Jews had a reason for resentment after WWII, and that the Zionism
that preceded it was then poised to play its role in the world. Pres. Sadat
of Egypt in his famous speech before the Knesset in 1977 stated that 75% of
the Arab-Israel conflict was psychological.
So we must be careful to take such perceived international resentments
seriously and to see them nevertheless as real factors in world politics.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Jewish terrorism

An AWOL Israeli soldier, Eden Tzuberi (19), who refused to obey orders to
participate in the removal of settlers from Gaza, opened fire yesterday on a
bus in Shfaram, an Israeli Arab town in the Galilee, killing four and
wounding 12. One of the dead was the Arab bus driver, and he also shot at
pedestrians. Although the Israeli police finally came, by then the bus was
surrounded by a mob, that caught the soldier and murdered him (or "lynched"
him in Israeli parlance).
There are many questions raised by this Jewish terrorist incident. First,
how was he able to remain AWOL for two months (since June) all the time with
his service rifle, especially since he was on a security services
watch-list? His non-religious family reported his presence (with gun) in
their apt. near Petach Tikva and his mother called the Army and begged them
to arrest and disarm him. Why did the Army security not respond? His
religious friends at the settlement of Tapuah in Shomron where he had lived
for some time made no secret of the fact that his action was motivated by
right wing/religious beliefs and opposition to the disengagement policy.
His action was no doubt premeditated. Why did he attack in Galilee? He
wanted to take advantage of the fact that most of the police/IDF are spread
thin protecting Gaza, and to draw reinforcements away from there to the rest
of country, where the crime rate has been steadily rising. Because of the
lack of police/IDF presence he was presumably able to get away with being
AWOL for this long period.
Why did he attack this particular Arab town? Because it is a town where Arab
Muslims, Christians and Druse live side-by-side in relative peace with each
other and Israel. Jewish extremists want to provoke inter-faith conflict
and use that as an excuse for "transferring" the Arabs out of Eretz Israel.
Their argument is that if this Government can transfer Jews from Gaza and
Shomron, so they should transfer many more Arabs from Galilee and elsewhere.
Unfortunately it is difficult to argue against this precedent, just as it is
difficult to argue that the Gaza pull-out is not motivated by the success of
Arab terrorism, as Hamas and most Palestinians believe. But, Hamas
immediately announced that they will not be tricked into responding to this
incident, thereby giving the IDF cause to attack Gaza before the pullout
Yesterday PM Ahmed Querei of the PA made a speech in which he announced,
"today Gaza, tomorrow Jerusalem." This is the nightmare of the right wing,
that Sharon or someone else will now be forced or will accept that giving up
part or all of Jerusalem, following the Gaza precedent, will placate the
Arabs. For them, and most Israelis, this is anathema. So one can view this
attack as a completely predictable first step in the "civil war" within
Israel, that pits the right wing extremist bloc against the rest of the
country, with many people with torn loyalties in the middle.
But, before we get carried away with this scenario, it is important to
remember that barely 40 Jewish soldiers out of 50,000 have refused to obey
orders to carry out the disengagement policy in Gaza, and all organized
groups, from PM Sharon to the Yesha Settlers Council, have strongly
condemned this incident as an unjustified case of terrorism. Although there
will be demonstrations by Israeli Arabs, they know that support for this
kind of thing within Israel is minimal (unlike among the Palestinians where
attacks on Israeli civilians are widely supported), and hopefully, unless
this is part of an organized campaign, the incident will remain an
aberration in Israeli society.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Gaza scenarios

On Tuesday night up to 25,000 Israeli opponents of the Gaza disengagement
plan gathered at Sderot in the Negev, close to the Gaza border to
demonstrate their opposition. Sderot is in range of Palestinian rockets,
and so the Israeli Government specifically asked the PA to ensure that no
rockets were fired at that time at Sderot, since the casualties could have
been terrible. Although the PA gave an assurance that no rockets would be
fired, nevertheless Islamic Jihad did fire three rockets. However, one of
the rockets went astray and landed in the Gaza town of Beit Hanoun, hitting
a house and killing 6 year old Yasser al Ashkar and injuring nine other
children. Among the wounded are the wife and four sons of former PA Minister
of Prisoner Affairs Hisham Abdel Razek. One might call this ironic justice.
The PA Minister for Civil Affairs Mohammed Dahlan criticized Islamic Jihad
and said they were worse than the Israelis because they killed their own
people. After the firings Islamic Jihad announced that they would adhere to
the PA ceasefire during the disengagement. They also said that since Israel
was withdrawing from Gaza they might be prepared to recognize the existence
of Israel.
Meanwhile the anti-disengagement demonstrators moved south east to Ofakim in
the Negev, further away from Gaza and out of range of the rockets. About
50,000 IDF and Israeli police have been deployed to guard the entrances to
Gaza and are under orders to prevent any demonstrators from reaching Gush
Katif, the major settlement bloc in southern Gaza, that is due to be
evacuated in about 2 weeks from now (Aug 15-17). Over 250 youths have
managed to infiltrate northern Gaza settlements. Even though the
demonstrations have been mainly peaceful so far, there is no doubt that some
groups of anti-disengagement activists will try to break through this
cordon, with unforeseen consequences. Before Aug 17 if the settlers agree
to leave they will get full compensation, but after that if they refuse to
leave and have to be physically removed they will be giving up their right
to be compensated.
Only now has the PA officially recognized the Israeli withdrawal, and while
announcing that they regard this as the first step in a total Israeli
withdrawal from all Palestinian territories, nevertheless they are
cooperating with the IDF and plan to coordinate the movement of their forces
into the evacuated areas to ensure that there is no violence, looting or
takeovers by other militias. They are even organizing coach trips for their
people afterwards to view their new acquisitions. However, the houses in
the settlements evacuated will be demolished by Israel, with PA and UN
agreement. They will then take the debris and use it in the reconstruction
of housing for their own people. Maybe some of the inhabitants of Gaza will
no longer be housed in what have been called camps for a change.
Also, 750 Egyptian border guards have arrived to start guarding the
Philadelphi route, that separates Gaza from Egypt, when the IDF withdraws.
Many Israelis have misgivings about this agreement. First, it reintroduces
armed Egyptian forces at the Gaza border, after over 20 years of Sinai being
demilitarized under the Israel-Egyptian peace treaty. Second, arms
smuggling into Gaza has been going on from Egypt without any apparent
preventive steps taken by the Egyptian authorities. Now that they will have
their own armed guards at the border no one thinks they will do a better job
at preventing arms getting into Gaza, in fact it is likely that they will
cooperate with the PA in passing heavier weapons across the border. What
will Israel do if they find proof that Egypt is breaking the agreement to
stop such arms smuggling? This is a very worrying scenario.