Sunday, November 29, 2009

Dubai goes bust!

The massive economic failure in Dubai that is now becoming public is not surprising to those of us who have followed the massive construction projects undertaken there. In Doha, the capital city, they have built several striking high rises with modern architecture, a large airport, a huge hotel, a large set of man-made islands off the coast and are in the process of building a modern city in the desert. The question is where are the assets upon which these grand developments are based?
Dubai has no oil, so to plan for the future of their people the Government embarked on a huge program of development, designed to establish Doha as a modern trade, tourist and financial center. In doing so they borrowed billions of dollars, and were selling houses on the man-made islands (built in the form of a palm) for millions of dollars. But, the income was not enough and they have now asked their creditors to accept a delay in payment on the interest of some b$90 in loans and apparently they are in deficit to the tune of $60 billion. This has caused a ripple effect around the world, causing some concern in capital markets.
While Doha seemed a rational attempt by an Arab country to modernize and plan its development, it seems that they went too far too fast. Development has to be built on something, some tangible assets. It is of course tempting to compare Dubai with Israel. But, the big difference is that Israel has developed gradually (although fast) on the basis of indigenous entrepreneurial advances, such as hi-tech business (cell-phone, software), biotech (drugs) and agriculture (drip irrigation). These efforts have resulted in industries that are the envy of most of the world.
Some of you may be aware of the new book "Start-up Nation" by Saul Singer that documents the development of Israeli hi-tech and IT advances, and gives the data showing that Israel has more start-ups than all of Western Europe combined and Japan, and is second in the world only to the US. It is also tempting to advise investors that putting their money in Israel is a far safer bet than in Dubai or any other Arab country.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Hadar: Israel Council for Civic Action

Wednesday night we drove to Jerusalem to attend the inaugural meeting of a new organization called Hadar: Israel council for civic action. This is an English-speaking non-partisan committee set up by a group of like-minded Zionist immigrants from English-speaking countries, mainly the US and Britain (Hadar means glory or greatness in Hebrew).
Hadar was formed to fill what we considered a vacuum, namely the lack of an organization that represents the 300,000 or so English-speaking immigrants in Israel and to give them a voice. As a group we are acknowledged in Israel as having an almost unique degree of civic involvement and awareness, which we bring from our mother countries. Yet since we are neither homogenous in country of origin nor religion we lack the kind of numbers and impact that some other groups such as Russians and Arabs, tend to have in Israeli society.
The meeting was held at the Begin Center and was a resounding success. This was helped by two things, first the involvement of several well known speakers, including Dep. FM Danny Ayalon, former Israeli Amb. to the UN Dore Gold, and former legal advisor to the PM and FM Alan Baker, and was emceed by Ruthie Blum Leibowitz, former Features Editor of the J'sam Post. On the anniversary of the UN partition plan of 1948, the ostensible topic facing the panelists was "would the UN accept Israel today?"
Also, the J'sam Post had an article on the group and the meeting on it's front page on Tuesday, that attracted a lot of interest. But, finally, the number of people who attended, around 500, including an overflow hall, and several hundred who had to be turned away, constituted the evidence of the need and the potential of this organization.
The speakers were excellent, Danny Ayalon emphasized that although there have been differences with the Obama Administration, the US is highly supportive of Israel at the UN. It was impossible to prevent the Goldstone Report resolution from passing, he quipped that if Saudi Arabi wanted to pass a resolution that the earth is flat, it would have an automatic majority of Arab, Muslim and so-called non-aligned countries. Nevertheless with a lot of lobbying the US and Israel managed to persuade 78 countries to either vote against or abstain, and this was quite an accomplishment. In all communications he emphasizes that Israel was re-founded in 1948, since it existed in the same location long before the Arabs came to the area.
Dore Gold spoke abut the de-legimization of Israel by the Arabs. He pointed out that there have been several phases in the anti-Israel strategies of the Arabs, the first was outright military attacks, then they tried an economic boycott, followed by terrorism, and now they are trying de-legitimization. None of the others worked and we must make sure this doesn't work either. He traced the origin of the unilateral declaration of a Palestinian State to 1988 by Arafat in Tunis, then to the Olso Accords that were supposed to end in 1999. From that time the Palestinians have been trying to downplay the Jewish historical presence in the area, now denying that any Jewish Temple existed in Jerusalem, against overwhelming factual evidence. The latest phase is to try to delegitimize the IDF by claiming it carries out war crimes, etc. and the Goldstone Report is one aspect of this. One thing that disturbs him is that while UN resolution 242 was the basis for all peace processes in the area, Pres,. Obama in several speeches on the subject has failed to mention UN 242 once. Is this an ominous sign?
Alan Baker agreed with the two others that the UN as currently constituted would not approve the entry of Israel as a member, but then he asked if Israel would want to join such a body. He discussed the issue of "universal justification" for arrest in other countries, notably Britain, Switzerland and Spain. He suggested that the only legal remedy for Israeli leaders and IDF officers to avoid arrest in such countries was for the Israeli Government to hold a legally-binding investigation of its own of Operation Cast Lead. But, others disagreed, saying that the enemies of Israel would never accept the results of such an investigation anyway. He suggested that the kind of aggressive legal action that is happening in the US against Iranian funding of American universities was the way to go.
So Hadar was launched amid a great flourish, it is now a legal non-profit organization, and hopefully will represent the Anglo voice in Israel on such subjects as electoral reform, the environment, education and all forms of public advocacy.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The building freeze

The Israel Government today announced a 10 month temporary building freeze on all settlements in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank). This is a result of months of negotiations between the Obama Administration and PM Netanyahu. The freeze explicitly does not include East Jerusalem but does include all aspects of "natural growth", i.e no expansion of existing settlements. This was the maximum that Netanyahu could get through the Israeli cabinet without causing rifts and breakdown of his coalition. Notably FM Lieberman, who was against a building freeze previously, supported it. The Palestinian spokesman Saeb Erakat immediately rejected this freeze as "insignificant." Any hopes that the Palestinians would show even a minor amount to interest in restarting the peace negotiations with this major concession from the Israeli Governemnt have been dashed.
There are many who blame Obama for the current stalemate in the peace process, mainly because he raised the expectations of the Palestinians and led them to believe that he was going to force Israel to accept a total building freeze, presumably including East Jerusalem, without really knowing what he was doing. You would think that his advisors, including Rahm Emanuel, who is supposed to know Israel well, would have advised him to speak to the Israelis before making any such commitments.
Now the Palestinians feel they cannot accept anything less than a complete freeze, including Jerusalem, because they have gone public with that position. Never before have the Palestinians made such a precondition to talks resuming, except under Obama.
No doubt Pres. Abbas is worried that if he accepts a resumption of talks with this Israel concession he will be considered weak by his people, while at the same time it looks as if Hamas will be rewarded with the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails in exchange for Sgt. Gilad Schalit. Presumably that is why Netanyahu announced this freeze at this time. But that is not the Israeli concern, the Government has made a significant concession and if it is not accepted within 10 months they will go back to building as before. Then once again the Palestinians will only have themselves to blame for missing this important opportunity.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Human rights in war

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Abu Sayyaf rebels are Islamist terror groups in the south Philippines. This is the border line between the Muslims to the south in Indonesia and the Catholics to the north in the Philippines. Christians are not attacking Indonesia, no, as expected, Muslims are attacking the Philippines from the south. So far ca. 3,600 people have been killed there in the past 5 years. But, this insurrection and the Philippine Government's military response are not being investigated by the UN Human Rights Council or any other body.
During WWII there were innumerable cases of racial injustice and murder. Hundreds of thousands of Jewish civilians were murdered in the streets of towns and villages all over Europe, from Estonia in the north to Italy in the south, from France in the west to Russia in the east. In Lithuania, in Fort IX of Kovno, thousands of Jews were thrown into a pit and left to die. After WWII and the Nuremburg trials, anti-racist laws were propounded in international agencies, including the UN, in order to try to stop this horrendous uncivilized act of murdering and raping civilians.
However, this did not stop the practice, from Rwanda to the Balkans from Sri Lanka to the Philippines, such racially motivated attacks still occur. As someone who abhors any attacks on civilians as an excuse to destroy an enemy culture, I can state emphatically that I would be devastated if I thought that the IDF, the army that protects me and the other citizens of Israel, was engaged in such acts, Let me state categorically that the IDF is a moral army, in which all soldiers and officers receive training in avoiding civilian casualties. Not only is this Jewish morality, but they are explicitly told that they can disobey an illegal order to do such a thing.
Operation Cast Lead in Gaza in 2006 has been put under the microscope unlike any other conflict in history. During this conflict ca. 1,300 Palestinians were killed, and the estimate of civilian casualties varies from ca. 300 (IDF) to ca. 750 (Goldstone). I can state positively that no indisputable evidence has come forth of any deliberate human right's crime, no war crime and no crime against humanity by the IDF. The Goldstone Report certainly does not provide such evidence, since most of its claims are based on uncorroborated Palestinian civilian (or terrorist) statements and false claims. These have been rehearsed many times in the media, such as an attack on a mosque, that never happened, just as the so-called "massacre" that never was in Jenin (again uncorroborated Palestinian civilian reports) and the murder of the boy Mohammed al Dura in Gaza, that was blamed on the IDF but has been proven to have been staged.
Recently, not only did the IDF investigate all reports of any kind of civilian death, but also they publicized this fact in Gaza in Arabic and offered to provide travel and recompense for any individual who could provide evidence of a civilian death or injury caused by the IDF. There have been responses, but so far, according to reports in the press, no case of deliberate murder of Palestinian civilians has been found. All cases were caused by accident, misdventure or because Hamas was using the civilians as shields and firing from civilian locations. This in itself is a human rights' abuse, and in fact the Geneva Conventions allow a combatant to fire back at civilian locations from which fire is directed at him.
So we have a situation in which the enemies of Israel, the Islamic States, unable to defeat the IDF on the battlefield, are seeking to destroy its credibility and morale in public opinion. Don't be taken in! If only all armed forces were as disciplined and as moral as the IDF, this would be a better world in which human rights abuses against civilians in war would not happen.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Logical outcomes?

In the past few days I have heard opposing views on the situation that Israel faces regarding the Palestinians and Iran.
One friend suprising me by arguing that we should do nothing to provoke the anger of Iran, and we certainly should not attack it. He likened Israel attacking Iran to knock out their nuclear capability to the catastrophic uprising of the Jews of Judea against Rome. He thought that if we attacked Iran alone we would become world outcasts and that Iran with its far greater population and Islamic zeal would find a way to strike back at us and destroy us.
Another friend wrote to me that he feels that PM Netanyahu is not standing strongly enough against the Palestinians, that ultimately there are only two choices, either we agree to a Palestinian State that they will militarize and strike at us from the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) or we take over those areas that we deem are ours by right and give any Palestinains living there a choice between Israeli or Palestinian citizenship.
This tends to show the range of opinion within Israel on these crucial issues, and belies any belief in a monolithic Israeli viewpoint. Of course, my views on these issues are different again. Trying not to use these friend's opinions as straw men, I would argue that Israel must wait and see what happens with the West and particularly the US approach to serious sanctions against Iran over the nuclear issue. Finally, if after sanctions are applied and Iran does not desist from developing nuclear weapons and no other Western nations are prepared to act, since all of them say that we cannot allow Iran to develop a nuclear capability, then if it comes down to it, in order to avoid possible annihilation, we would be forced to act alone, but only as a last resport!
It was pointed out that Iran already has inter-continental missiles that can deliver conventional explosives. But, my reading indicates that Iran does not have many of these missiles, that they are not so accurate, and that any way, conventional warheads while terrible are not the extreme game-changer that nuclear warheads would constitute.
One factor is that Iran this week is holding war games to show how it can defend against any Israeli airstrike. Some think this means that Israel will not be able to attack Iran, but in fact these Iranian war games give Israel a very detailed insight into Iran's defensive capability, and further the IAF has total air control over the Middle East (excepting the USAF) and this is a main advantage that Israel holds.
As far as the Palestinians are concerned, the situation is so complex, what with the schism between Hamas/Gaza and Fatah/West Bank, and given that Pres. Abbas is hardly the President of anything, and that Israel may be about to exchange some 450 Palestinian prisoners for Gilad Schalit, which will greatly strengthen Hamas in Palestinian eyes, no one can predict what will happen. The future in politics is always unpredictable, but in the Middle East especially so, so deciding what to do on the basis of ultimate logical outcomes seems illusory.
An interesting article in the Jerusalem Post on Monday by Noah Pollak is entitled "Aim for the bull's eye, or at least the center." He maintains that fighting Hamas and Hizbollah is just what Iran and Syria want Israel to do, it wears down Israel's capability and destroys both Israel's PR image and morale, while they sit back and sow the seeds of Israel's destruction. The implication is that Israel would do well not to be provoked into counter-attacking Hamas and Hizbollah, but instead with any such provocations should strike at Iran and Syria directly. This is consistent with my view that to "resolve" the Middle East situation, i.e. the Israel-Palestine dispute, Iran has to be dealt with first. The "Iran first" strategy is the opposite to Pres. Obama 's policy and that of most liberals. Unfortunately, military necessity and expediency may give us little choice. But, in the meantime we must sit back and await the outcome of several processes, the internecine conflict within the Palestinian body politic and the development of international opposition to Iran's nuclear program and any possible internal Iranian upheavals.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Introduction to "Amanuensis"

This was presented at the AACI Netanya on Nov 22, 2009 and is also on my web site

It is said that everyone has a story to tell, but, relatively few of these stories make it into print. The question is why have I managed to get mine to this stage?

Many years ago, in the early 1970s, when we had our first house in Maryland and I had a study, I started to write short stories, and then I took several writing courses. You could say that I had “literary pretensions.” I realized over a period of time that some of these stories were focusing on a specific subject, namely my experiences and a personal family secret that even then I could not articulate. It was not until the early 1980s that I realized that these stories were cohering into a novel.

Excerpt 1. Here is the first brief excerpt I will read from my book, to set the scene, the beginning: “One of my earliest memories…….

It is also said that a writer needs a “myth,” well early on I realized that I had a myth, this story that needed to be told. Although there are people who had much more terrible experiences in their life than mine, for example in the Holocaust, nevertheless I needed to tell my story, to get it out of me. Ostensibly the story is autobiographical, about a Jewish boy from the East End of London, a deprived poor area, who manages to go to Cambridge University, the pinnacle of academic success. This involved a culture shock that would be worth writing about in itself. It would be like a farm boy from Kansas going to Harvard or a poor boy from Ma’alot going to Hebrew University. But, that is not the real plot. The real plot is a secret family tragedy that the boy himself only guesses at, from clues dropped inadvertently by his parents. Who was Julian? Did he really exist? But, we never spoke about it. That is the story behind the story, the motivation for writing this work, that is the myth that lies within.

Excerpt 2. About Julian p. 22 “The light from the fire flickered…”

Around this time, in the beginning, I approached Myra Sklarew, a Jewish American poet at American University in Washington DC, who I decided might be an appropriate reviewer of my draft. She took the trouble to read and comment on it, and she gave me two pieces of advice, first re-write the whole thing in the first person. Although it was meant to be a novel, it was clearly auto-biographical and hence I had used the third person tense to distance myself from the story, to try to be detached. She said that it would have much more authenticity if I wrote it in the first person. She also urged me to continue to work on it.

So I continued, in my spare time, while working as a scientist, to re-write and expand this novel. Why I persevered is a mystery, but I think it can only be due to the hold the subject had on me.

In writing this work, I had decided that it could not be written in a simple descriptive manner, “direct declaratory sentences,” not like the scientific works that I was used to. It had to contrast sharply with that. In this I was greatly influenced by James Joyce’s “Ulysses,” which I had read several years before when I was a student in Cambridge. I think this is the greatest novel ever written, and I could not help but try to emulate it in a way.

Joyce’s use of adjectives was quite novel: “The snot green sea, the scrotum tightening sea..” remember this was published in 1922!
When Bloom and Daedalus step out into the night: “The heaven tree of stars hung with humid nightblue fruit.” After that nothing could be written in plain text.
But more than that Joyce wrote different parts of his books, “Portrait of the Artist..” and “Ulysses”, with different styles, matching the style of writing to the context. Note that Stephen Daedalus, the hero or anti-hero of “Ulysses” is clearly meant to be Joyce himself, yet the figure of Leopold Bloom, his ersatz semi-Jewish father, is completely invented, there is evidence that during his life in Dublin, Joyce never met a Jew. So here you have the mixing of fact and fiction in an autobiographical novel.

Excerpt 3, In Cambridge p. 213 - “Swish, the curtains parted…

So I created this book, that I have entitled “Amanuensis.” In looking for a title I wanted one word that could encapsulate the theme, the real theme. What does amanuensis mean? It comes from the Latin word “manu-script”, meaning “written by hand.” The derivative, amanuensis means the one who writes the manuscript, the scribe, usually in early history by dictation. So it was as if I wrote the book from dictation, as if it flowed from my mind because someone was telling me what to write, in a way it was inspired.

I call “Amanuensis” an autobiographical novel. Some have questioned my decision to combine true events with either invented or added events that did not happen to me. After Joyce’s “Ulysses” and Truman Capote’s “In cold blood” in 1966, called the first non-fiction novel, I felt that I should be free to make minor alterations to my story to enhance the story line. But, let me state categorically that all the anti-Semitic events described in this book are true and actually happened. This includes the incident with the boys and the comics, the nurse in the hospital, my father being beaten up on VJ Day, and the man on the bus. Other people who grew up in similar circumstances have questioned this focus on anti-Semitism because they did not experience such a litany of incidents in Britain. But, I did and I wanted that to be recorded.

Now the family mystery was solved many years later when I discovered that Julian had in fact been my older brother who had died at birth in 1936 when the doctor failed to give my mother a Caesarean operation, and she was in labor for 5 days, when she almost died and the baby was delivered with forceps. When my father met the doctor she made an anti-Semitic remark to him. But, I will not read this crucial scene, I’d rather leave it for you to read yourself.

Excerpt 4 - after Julian’s still birth, p. 297 - “My mother had to remain in the ….

Since I was unsuccessful in several attempts over the years to get an agent or a publisher to be interested in my work, finally I decided now, with the use of computers to have it self-published. This turned out be much cheaper and easier than I expected, so I went ahead and had it printed.

Excerpt 5. “In the Land”, p.299 – “The Land of Israel is covered…”

Finally, I want to cover one crucial topic, was my imagined memory of Julian real, was he actually still born. On a visit to London (I used to visit about twice a year) in the 1990s I happened to be passing St. Catharine’s House near the Strand. On an impulse I went in, and found the ledgers containing my own birth certificate in 1938. I then searched for an entry of my parents in 1936, but there was none. I went to the information desk and enquired about still births and they sent me to an office and then I told them what I wanted and someone went away and brought back another ledger dated 1936, and we searched in it and found, lo and behold, the details of a still birth to my parents. So Julian was not a figment of my imagination, but he had never actually lived. My book was a way to commemorate him, a way to give him back his voice and his life.
To purchase a copy of "Amanuensis" on-line go to:

Friday, November 20, 2009

Jerusalem development

The US State Department does not like the fact that the Jerusalem Housing Authority gave permission for 900 housing units to be built next to Gilo, a southern suburb of Jerusalem. In fact, Pres. Obama criticized this move all the way from Beijing, he considered it that important to ingratiate himself with the Arabs. Even the Chinese, who have raped Tibet, were moved to criticize Israel for this trivial action. The French FM Bernard Kouchner, visiting Israel, called the move "regrettable."
In Israel, this move is considered a local matter, and PM Netanyahu was not involved in the decision, but it clearly has international repercussions. The State Department said that taking this action at this time does not help their attempts to restart the peace process. But, that is illusory, because there is no "peace process" at this time and neither it there likely to be with the Palestinians split in two and Abbas chasing another fantasy, that of a unilateral declaration of Palestinian Statehood.
While the Palestinians and much of the world label building around Jerusalem as "a settlement," as far as Israel is concerned, since this area was annexed to the State after the Six Day war of 1967, it is a longstanding and legal part of the city of Jerusalem and as such the decision to build there is a local matter. It is simply not factually correct to call Gilo and its environs "a settlement" and neither is it "occupied territory," for 42 years it has been a part of the State of Israel and within the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem. In any case, actual building won't start for a year.
The real question is why does the US parrot the Palestinian propaganda position on this point? And the answer to that question is that not only is opposition to settlement building a long-standing US position, but the Obama Administration has made that a central plank in its policy in the Middle East. But, once again, as with the total settlement freeze, it is a futile policy, because Israel cannot and will not stop the natural development of Jerusalem, its capital and largest city.
If some people cannot distinguish between two distinct categories of development, of settlements and city suburbs, that is their problem.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


The PA leadership is already back-tracking on its threat to declare unilateral independence. Saeb Erekat, Pres. Abbas's spokesman, has now said that he was misunderstood, he didn't really mean what he said.
This retreat is understandable in view of the two major responses so far to the trial balloon, the current Chair of the EU, PM Karl Bildt of Sweden, stated that although Sweden strongly supports the right of the Palestinians to an independent State, so far such a State does not exist and it does not look like it will in the near future, so any declaration of that kind would be "premature." The US State Department also issued a statement opposing any unilateral action. If the Palestinians cannot get EU and US support, their unilateral move is doomed, since most of their financial support comes from these two sources.
Also, of course, PM Netanyahu rejected the idea on behalf of Israel. And let's face it no truncated Palestinian State could exist without Israeli cooperation. The irony is that it is the "moderates" of Fatah who are proposing such a State. This move is rejected by Hamas, and its sponsor Iran, because they are more extreme and would never accept a partial truncated State, they want all of Palestine, including Israel, and to accept less would be a total failure for them.
Notwithstanding the partial turnaround, Abbas is still travelling the world seeking support for his move, which must be seen as a desperate attempt to retain leadership of the Palestinian cause in the face of cancelled elections (hence no democracy) and the schism with Hamas. But, his jaunt in South America will not help him since Pres. Chavez of Venzuela, the most ardent supporter of the Palestinians, is not likely to support his plan, because it will be opposed by his best friend Pres. Ahmedinejad of Iran.
So it appears that the Palestinians are flailing around without a clear purpose and without a hope of success. This can't be bad for Israel, but such a harbinger of instability, just when PM Fayyad has the economic situation in the West Bank improving, cannot be good either.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Obama in China

What is the relative significance of human rights and the cost of imported tires? Well those are the things that Pres. Obama of the USA and Chairman Hu of China, respectively, brought up, that upset the other in their joint meeting in Beijing. Apart from that they were careful to show a facade of good relations and unity on several topics.
They discussed the economic situation amicably, and the environment in relation to the upcoming Copenhagen Conference. But, it was those pesky issues of how China treats its own people, including the case of Tibet, and what the US does to protect its own industries, including tariffs on imported tires, that were the flies in the ointment.
Both China and the US are on their way out of the economic stagnation after the recession. But, both are still hurting, and since they are now the two biggest economies in the world there is certainly a need for cooperation between them. Whether China will revalue its currency the yuan as Obama would like remains to be seen. But, cooperation between the two giants is much better than conflict.
Does this meeting between Obama and Hu represent a downturn in American dominance of the world. Since the end of WWII and after the fall of Soviet communism, the US has been the only superpower. But, being a superpower means nothing if the leader is unlikely to use the hardware (guns) and the software (soldiers). Obama is the third US President to visit China since Nixon 37 years ago, and his going to Beijing can be considered symbolic of the change in US foreign policy under Obama and in the real relationship of the US and its most powerful rivals.
Whether Hu will ease up on the woeful treatment of individuals who dare to disagree publicly with the Communist Government is unlikely, and whether or not Obama would allow Chinese tires to flood the US market, thus putting Amercian companies at risk, is unlikely. But at least they both now know where they stand.

Monday, November 16, 2009

No legal basis

There are some interesting sidelights on the reported plan for the Palestinians to declare a State unilaterally. In fact, Yasir Arafat effectively declared a Palestinian State in 1988 while exiled in Tunisia, but since it garnered no recognition, it was moot. In order to become a State the Palestinians like all others must show that they can survive on their own, something that they have singularly been unable to do. So no amount of PR and passing of resolutions will change the reality on the ground.
It has been pointed out that such a unilateral declaration would abrogate all previous agreements, including the Oslo Accords that established the Palestine Authority. In his speech at the Saban Forum in Jerusalem on Sunday, organized by the Saban organization to improve US-Israel relations, PM Netanyahu warned the Palestinians that by taking this unilateral step they would free Israel to take its own actions, and they would undoubtedly lose in the process. Israel can also take unilateral action, but unlike the disengagement from Gaza, that was a unilateral Israeli withdrawal, in the West Bank it is likely that Israel will unilaterally annex all land that it considers belongs to it by virtue of Jewish population, and this will be a big loss for the PA.
Further, Alan Baker, the former legal advisor of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, has pointed out that the basic laws under which all the negotiations are based, UN Security Council resolutions 242 and 338, explicitly exclude unilateral actions by either side and if the Palestinians did do such a thing, they would be going outside the framework of the relevant UN resolutions. Indeed because of these long-standing resolutions it would be legally impossible for the Security Council to accept any unilateral actions by the Palestinians.
One could argue that it would be in Israel's interests that the Palestinians take such a unilateral action as declaring a State, since it would free Israel to do what is expedient in its own right. Abbas has no significant popular support, and so cannot risk elections and cannot make any concessions to Netanyahu in negotiations fearing assassination. Therefore, he has made the restart of negotiations impossible, despite all that Obama and the EU have done for him. So a unilateral declaration is his way out, to cause a complete breakdown of negotiations, and to let the two sides go their separate ways. This may lead to another conflict which Israel will no doubt win.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Unilateral Palestinian Statehood?

According to PA spokesman, Saeb Erakat, moves are underway for Pres. Abbas of the PA to ask the UN to recognize a unilaterally declared Palestinian State in the pre-1967 borders. Such a move could have unforeseen consequences for the Palestinians, Israel and the UN.
First, it would represent an end of the road move by the Palestinians, foreclosing any further peace negotiations with Israel. Since Abbas has made an impossible precondition for further talks, a total freeze on all settlement activity, one that the current Netanyahu Government cannot and will not accept, this would be a desperate attmempt at an end-run around the impasse. It could also be designed to try to "persuade' both the US and Israel to give in to Abbas's demands. This move may have been triggered by his low popularity and the consequent cancellation of the January PA elections.
But, according to legal experts it could also be a potential failure for the PA, and might lead to its abolition. According to previous agreements, including the Oslo Accords that established the PA, neither Israel nor the PA are allowed to make unilateral moves that would materially affect the situation. If either does then the whole agreement is voided. Since Israel will not dismantle all of its settlements in the West Bank (as it did in Gaza) then the PA leadership thinks that there is no point in continuing to negotiate.
A unilateral move for statehood would undoubtedly garner significant support among Muslim members of the UN, where their strength has been evident for many years. But, the General Assembly cannot guarantee the legal recognition of Statehood, that in effect is up to each individual state, and while many states would undoubtedly recognize Palestine within the 67 borders, including East Jerusalem, it is likely that any such move would be rejected in the Security Council by a majority or a veto by the US and others.
The main test usually applied for the recognition of a State is whether or not it can defend itself and support itself. Palestine fails on both these grounds, Israel might decide to reoccupy parts of the West Bank and they could do little to stop it, and the Palestinians are an economic basket case, dependent largely on external aid.
Under these circumstances, such a move might, as FM Lieberman said today, lead to a war within the borders of Israel. It might trigger a move by Israeli Arabs in the Galilee and Negev to join such a State. However, this seems unlikely. Most likely is that the PA would collapse, there would be a power struggle within the Palestinian leadership. Hamas, which opposes such a truncated State anyway, and would prefer instead to destroy and replace Israel, would utilize the chaos to try to take over the West Bank. This in turn would lead to conflict with Israel. So any such unilateral move must be seen as a desperate failure by the Palestinians to deal realistically with their situation

Friday, November 13, 2009

Cathartic sensibility?

On Thursday morning we had a meeting of the Netanya AACI Library Forum, at which Sarah Shapiro from Jerusalem spoke on “Is there such a thing as Jewish writing?” Since she is an editor of the book series “Our Lives” (4 volumes) and an accomplished Jewish writer herself, she is in a position to address this topic.

She quickly gave her definition, Jewish writing is anything written by a Jewish writer, irrespective of content, it doesn’t have to be on a specifically Jewish topic. But, then she began to talk about her own development as a Jewish writer and as an Orthodox Jew.

She grew up in an affluent household in Connecticut, her father was Norman Cousins, the famous editor of “Saturday Review.” Growing up she hardly had any concept of being Jewish, her parents were universalists.

She has written about her life and experiences (see "A gift passed along" and "Wish I were here", on or and has enabled many other Orthodox Jewish women to express themselves through her editing of the “Our lives” series. Those of us who were lucky enough to be present were fascinated by her story.

It reminded me somewhat of the heroine in the novel “Lovingkindness” by Anne Roiphe, which I heartily recommend. We agreed that the large number of Jewish writers in every language (Franz Kafka, Marcel Proust, Elias Canetti, Boris Pasternak) and particularly in American literature (Saul Bellow, Arthur Miller, Bernard Malamud, Norman Mailer, etc.) probably reflects a cathartic sensibility of the Jewish soul, that even many Jews who don’t realize that they are Jews have.
PS. For those who would like to read about Sarah Shapiro's life changing experience go to:

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Straws in the wind?

1. Dore Gold's strong defense of Israel at the debate in Brandeis University with Judge Richard Goldstone, may have turned the corner on the Goldstone Report. Anyone who saw it must have been impressed by the evidence mustered by Gold and the poor, almost sheepish, presentation of Goldstone. After the debate Godstone apparently said to Gold, "I wish I had known all of that before I wrote the Report," to which Gold replied, "you did, I sent it all to you in advance." But it was never used.
The three main points made by Gold: 1. The Report states unequivocally that the IDF deliberately targeted Palestinian civilians, this is a despicable lie, for which there is no concrete evidence. 2. That Israel carried out the attack on Gaza as a "punitive" raid to punish the Palestinians for supporting Hamas, while in fact the clear reason for the attack was obviously the 16,000 rockets fired at Israel by Hamas over a period of 8 years, with the number doubling each year from 2005 (the year Israel withdrew from Gaza) to 2008 and the range increasing. Israel had the right to defend its citizens. 3. That Israel used "disproportionate force" against Hamas. This is a matter of interpretation, since Israel used targeted strikes in order to remove the threat of rockets into Israel. Mosques and schools were targeted only when they were actually being used to fire at IDF positions.
It is hoped that when this Report reaches the UN Security Council it will disappear from the world's agenda, because it is one-sided, biased and dangerous to all those engaged in the war against terrorism, including many members of the Security Council. It should be deep-sixed!

2. On Wednesday, Israel opened the main border crossing at Jalama between Jenin and Israel. This has been closed for several years due to infiltration of terrorists. However, the situation is deemed to have improved sufficently that Israel will now allow traffic to flow between the two. The opening was attended by representatives of Israel, including Deputy PM Silvan Shalom, the Governor of Jenin, Musa Kedura, and the representative of the Quartet, Tony Blair. In his speech Blair said that this was a specific step that Israel was taking that would help improve the PA economy.

3. The strange and unpleasant way in which Obama met with PM Netanyahu during his visit to Washington, meeting him at night, without media present and in an almost clandestine way, left a bad taste in the mouth of every Israeli. Does Obama fear that his "engagement" with the Muslims, will be damaged by meeting with the Israeli PM. Perhaps he is upset that he was not able to "persuade" Netanyahu to accept a total freeze on building in the West Bank prior to negotiations re-starting. But, why should Israel make such a concession before any talks, and why should Abbas make this a precondition to talks, which he has never done before? Maybe Obama does not want to admit that his policy has failed. Nevertheless, why should Israel make concessions to a bankrupt and failing Palestinian politician and why should Israel's other concessions, such as the opening of checkpoints, be ignored? In his speech at the United Jewish Communities conference Netanyahu repeated his call for negotiations with the PA to re-start immediately without pre-conditions. He repeated this call in Paris after his meeting with Pres. Sarkozy and included Syria in his announcement.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Palestinian chaos?

There are two quite opposite potential outcomes of the threat of Pres. Abbas not to run in the January 2010 PA elections. Either the PA will collapse and there will be chaos in the Palestinian territories, or they will get themselves together and unilaterally declare a Palestinian State. There does not seem much likelihood of anything stable happening in between.
Of course, if Abbas goes thru with his threat to step down, then he will have shown his political cowardice, and without any obvious succcessor in Fatah, he will have given rise to pure chaos, "apres moi la deluge!" He is clearly trying to blame Israel for his political failure, but while he never made any preconditions to negotiations with PM Olmert over a period of years, his sudden need to have a freeze of all Israeli building in the West Bank before any negotiations with PM Netanyahu can be seen only as a failure of the Obama approach.
Since Hamas has announced it will not allow the elections to proceed in Gaza, and Israel will prevent elections in East Jerusalem, it will only be the West Bank that will be thrown into instability. But, since political nature abhors a vacuum, we can expect Hamas to try to take over the West Bank, or for a unity government to be formed with a more radical element in Fatah.
PM Salam Fayyad (neither Fatah nor Hamas) has published his own plan for Palestinian statehood in two years, after establishing transparent working institutions. But, the trouble with this plan is that Fayyad has only 4% support in the West Bank (up from 2%) and the organization of transparent, working institutions in the PA is a pipe dream. Also, unilateral establishment of a Palestine State, without the agreement of Israel, is contrary to the Olso Accords that established the PA, and could result in the total abridgement of the PA and the return to the status quo ante with Israeli occupation of all the West Bank to prevent it's slide into chaos, not a situation that either the Palestinians or the Israelis really want.
It would take us back to the turbulent situation before there was a PA, before Arafat returned from Tunisia at the behest of Yitzhak Rabin (one of his major political mistakes), except that Hamas will continue to rule in Gaza and will seek to extend their control to the West Bank. Therefore expect stormy times ahead.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

German Commemoration

In Berlin on November 9 they are celebrating the 20th anniversary of the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of Germany. Listening to the broadcasts, they emphasize the joy of the occasion and the message of freedom.
But, there is another anniversary embedded in November 9, which is not being commemorated, namely the 71st anniversary of "Kristallnacht" the night of broken glass, when the Nazis began their program of physical extermination of the Jews. Thousands of Jewish shops and homes were broken into and ransacked, 1,400 Jewish institutions, including synagogues, were destroyed and burnt down and 100 Jews were murdered.
How coincidental is it that both of these events occured on the same day. It is understandable that the Germans would prefer to focus on the commemoration of the reunification than on Kristallnacht, the former positive for them, the latter very negative. They don't have the Jewish knack of celebrating the negative and the postive next to each other, as we do on memorial day for the fallen soldiers followed immediately by Independence day. But, I am glad that Chancellor Merkel at least mentioned (in German of course) the coincidence of the fall of the Berlin wall on the same day as Krstallnacht, at least it was not totally neglected. There was also a small ceremnoy in Berlin organized by the Jewish community.
While ca. 135 Germans were killed during the period of years that the wall stood (1961-1989) trying to escape East Berlin over the wall by the rampant system of German Communism, ca. 100 Jews also died on Kristallnacht due to the rampant fascist system of Nazi Germany. Both sets of people died due to the lack of protection of human rights, particularly the right to life, practised in such undemocratic tyrannical dictatorships. Yes, it's good to commemorate the reunification of Germany and the fall of Communism, but let's not forget the sacrifice of the Jews who died because of the denial of their freedom by other Germans.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Radical chic all over again

It seems that today many good liberals would rather take casualties than take the chance of dissing a Muslim. The current politically correct multi-culturalism is to take chances with lives rather than take chances with hurt feelings.
This reminds me of the "radical chic" of the 1960's-70's, as exemplified by Tom Wolfe who coined that phrase in his famous essay "These Radical Chic Evenings," that satirized a benefit Leonard Bernstein organized on behalf of the Black Panther Party. At this party white upper class, wealthy and famous socialites, including people from show business such as Otto Preminger and Barbara Walters, mixed with black radicals. Many of the white liberals were Jewish, including not only Bernstein, but many of his friends. For the occasion Bernstein employed white servants.
By this time the NAACP and other such mainstream organizations had become passe to the black radicals and to the wealthy liberals who wished to support the cause of black empowerment. So they chose to privately support the most extreme, anti-white, racist black radicals. The Black Panther Party not only had been engaged in shoot-outs with the police, but had declared that they would not take any support from whitey. Yet they were prepared to mix with the white hoi-polloi because there was plenty of money in it for them, and not a little sex. We should remember that Bernstein himself was a very active homosexual. So the Black Panthers, many of whom were little more than Ghetto thugs, came away from these benefits with tens of thousands of dollars in their pockets and a few good friends.
One of the poor fools sucked into this PC nonsense was the actress Jean Seberg. She was chosen by Otto Preminger to be Joan in his movie "Joan of Ark" at the age of 19. She was a beautiful blonde from Kansas (one cannot make this kind of thing up) and one suspects that to be chosen she was less scrupulous than her Lutheran Mid-West upbringing. But, she evidently got in over her head.
One day she was on a plane going from LA to SF or vice versa and happened to sit next to a member of the Black Panther party. Being a good liberal she not only chatted with him, but when he challenged her liberalism, she agreed to meet him and to give money to the cause. She did this, and also slept with him. That was the beginning of the end for her.
Her film career reached a high when she starred in the French movie "Breathless" directed by Jean-Luc Goddard in Paris. She married a French movie director and then divorced him to marry French author Romain Gary, a Lithuanian Jew who wrote a book entitled "The dance of Genghis Cohn," with whom she had a son.
After that her life went downhill. While filming in Mexico she had an affair with a Mexican radical (word gets around) with whom she had a daughter who died two days after birth. She returned to Paris, where Gary divorced her. She was "taken for a ride" by a Muslim Algerian who stole her money and beat her up. She ended back in Paris severely depressed and was found dead in her car from an overdose of drugs in 1979, aged 40.
I don't want to imply that anyone who is a liberal who indulges in "radical chic" to the extent that Seberg did is likely to end up the way she did. But ask some of the people in Fort Hood if they would have preferred to upset Major Nidal Malik Hasan by having him arrested on suspicion rather than have him free to carry out his nefarious massacre.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Fort Hood massacre

The assailant who carried out the massacre in Fort Hood, Texas, killing 13 and wounding 30, was a Muslim psychiatrist. Now that alone is a scary thing! Can you imagine that the US Army employed a Muslim psychiatrist to help its soldiers adjust after being in Iraq or Afghanistan. Ok, on the face of it that isn't so bad, but when you hear about this character, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, then you must wonder about the Army's sanity.
First, this man was born in the US, but listed his nationality as Palestinian, since his parents fled the West Bank. Second, when he was studying at Walter Reed Army Hospital he tried to convert his classmates to Islam and openly stated his opposition to US policies. That in itself is not criminal, but it almost got him arrested at one point. Then when he was in Fort Hood, he again openly opposed sending US forcces to fight in Iraq or Afghanistan, not a very useful position for an Army psychiatrist. Then he wrote on his web site that suicide bombers were not so bad, he compared them to marines. This got the notice of the FBI, who were investigating him and at one point interrogated him. Then he got his orders, what made his superiors think that sending this guy to Afghanistan was a good idea?
On the morning of the shootings he cleared out his apartment, said goodbye to all his friends and wore a pure white dishdasha, a clear sign that he was intending to carry out a suicide mission, since that is what the perpetrators wear! No-one who noticed this had the faintest idea what was in store! My advice is, if you see a Muslim wearing all white, run for the hills!
So as if this series of incidents and actions did not raise red flags in the minds of the US Army security, why are they there, what are they doing? Yes, I know, simply because the guy is a Muslim doesn't mean he's a terrorist. That's profiling! But, the fact is that any Muslim can become a terrorist at the blink of an eye, and it usually takes planning and shows some intent. That's common sense. So now the US has its own home-grown Muslim terrorists like Britain and Europe, and now they will have to profile, because make no mistake, while all Muslims are not terrorists, they can all become terrorists!

Friday, November 06, 2009

Goldstone's outcome

The motion to accept the Goldstone Report in the General Assembly of the UN was sponsored by 20 Arab/Muslim countries. With the automatic support of all Muslim countries and many so-called non-aligned or third world countries, the motion was passed.
However, Israel has been mounting a campaign to try and persuade the democratic and non-Muslim countries to vote against it in principle. As Israel's UN representative, Gabriella Shalev, said in her speech at the UN, "this Report was conceived in evil and born in sin." The basic problem with the Report, apart from the errors in fact and bias, is that it equates a democratic sovereign country defending itself against terrorism, with the terrorist organization attacking it. In the 525 page Report, barely 3 pages are devoted to Hamas war crimes, while the rest is devoted to Israel. If ever there was an example of anti-Semitism this is it, with Israel being the only country in the World singled out for such treatment. If democratic countries support it, they too will then be setting a precendent and they too will be open to similar treatment.
That is why it is thought that even though the GA will pass the non-binding resolution and accept the Report, the Security Council will reject it. Can you imagine Britain and the US being similarly equated with the Taliban or al Qaeda and being singled out for war crimes for the deaths of civilians in Iraq or Afghanistan? Can you imagine Russia being pilloried for war crimes in Chechnya (where there were indeed such crimes) or China in Tibet, etc? Such a Report opens up a Pandora's box of biased and one-sided so-called human rights abuses that the Muslim majority could impose on any country they don't like. The precedent must be rejected.
By taking this approach to attack and demonize Israel, the Arab and Muslim countries are demonstrating that they are not really interested in peace and are pushing back even further the possibility of peace negotiations. Today it was announced that Pres. Abbas of the PA will not run in the upcoming PA elections. But, he has no obvious successor, and this may be another ploy to try to pressure the US to put further pressure on Israel to make the concession of freezing building on the West Bank prior to negotiations restarting. But, Obama has learnt that he cannot just issue commands and expect them to be obeyed, it doesn't work that way. He has to consider the real interests of each side, and such concessions don't come unilaterally.
In any case if Abbas does not run then it is likely that Hamas will gain in the elections and a period of instability will follow that could be very dangerous for the region. Also, the Israeli interception of the huge amount of arms being shipped from Iran to Hizbollah in defiance of UN resolutions should be a sign to everyone that the situation is very dangerous. Shalev is bringing this case to the Security Council as a clear case of Iranian breaching of UN resolutions.
It has been asked why Goldstone as a Jew would knowingly put his name to such a Report when he is certainly not naieve. It has been pointed out that Goldstone was a Judge under the apartheid regime, when many others in conscience refused to serve. But, then he turned around and became a Judge under the ANC Government. He is ambitious, adaptable and unprincipled. He is not specifically anti-Israel, but he is ambitious enough to see his current notoreity as a stepping stone to a higher appointment. The Muslim coutnries owe him, and since they have the majority at the UN, expect to see Goldstone become their front man at the UN some time soon.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Ship capture

Israeli Navy commandos captured a ship, the Francop, about 100 miles off the Israeli coast near Cyprus that was en route from Egypt to Syria carrying huge quantities of arms. The arms were hidden in containers that originated in Iran and were destined for Syria and Hizbollah in Lebanon.
The German ship is registered in Antigua and was en route from Iran thru Sudan to Latakia in Syria. It is a cargo ship and it is thought that the crew and the owners did not know what was inside the containers. The ship was targeted as a result of Israeli intelligence and ca. 300 tons of arms were found aboard, that makes it about 10 times the amount of arms captured aboard the Karin A that was confiscated in the Red Sea by Israel in 2002.
This ship was rerouted to the Israeli port of Ashdod, and further details and pictures of the arms cache were reported this morning. Of course, this arms shipment is against UN resolution 1801 that ended the Second Lebanon War, that denied Hizbollah any rearmament, to avoid a repetition of the war. Secty Gen of the UN Ban ki-Moon recently reiterated the UN's position that Hizbollah must disarm since sectarian militias are not allowed under the UN regulations. Although no-one expects Iran's proxy to disarm, the capture of this shipment of arms will hopefully set Hizbollah back. At least it amounts to an Israeli PR coup, since many leftists and Muslim supporters have denied that Iran is in fact arming Hizbollah and Hamas.
Coming as the UN General Assembly is debating the Goldstone Report on the last war between Israel and the Palestinians, Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, no one should have any illusions about the situation. The Muslim and Arab States with an automatic majority seek to demonize and undermine Israel by PR means to make up for what they cannot do on the battlefield. The loss of this shipment of arms is a more severe blow to Hizbollah in real terms than the anti-Israel resolution will be in the UN GA. If the Arabs continue to delegitimize Israel they cannot expect Israel to meekly make concessions to their demands in order to reinstitute negotiations.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Iranian strategy

The rejection by Iran of the reasonable proposal by the international community to transfer 75% of its partially enriched uranium to Russia and France for processing to higher levels should be the end of negotiations.
But, Iran is still extending the process, and the western nations are being suckered in. What part of "no" don't they understand. Do they think that by continuing to engage Iran that anything will change? On the contrary, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei in a speech on Tuesday made hard-line anti-American statements on the 30th anniversary of the take-over of the US Embassy in Tehran, accusing the US of "stabbing Iran in the back" and categorically denied that Iran would ever allow its uranium to be processed elsewhere. Yet, the Iranian negotiators continue to drag out the proceedings, and the hopeful West wait while Iran continues to enrich its own uranium.
Once again, in Morocco for a conference, Secty of State Clinton stated that the agreement to negotiate is not open-ended, but it certainly looks like it. They said that the process would end in September, but that is past and the indecisiveness of the Obama Administration continues. One reason for trying to persuade Iran to make an agreement was to avoid the need for Israel to strike Iran becasue of its development of nuclear weapons and long-range missiles. But, that seems more likely now.
Tuesday it was announced that Hamas in Gaza tested an Iranian missile fired into the Mediterranean Sea that had a range of 60 km, and could reach Tel Aviv and the densely populated heart of Israel. Of course, and this missile was probably smuggled into Gaza through Egypt in parts and then reassembled in Gaza with Iranian help. Why do the impoverished Palestinians in Gaza need such offensive weapons, except to strike at Israel and kill civilians.
To those who criticized the IDF's destructiveness and use of "disproportionate" force in Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, I say that unfortunately there will have to be another round. What a pity that the IDF did not go all the way and destroy Hamas completely. If Hamas had been destroyed and Fatah reinstalled there, at least we would be dealing with a more "moderate" leadership. But, even if the schism within the Palestinians is in Israel's favor, having an Iranian proxy on our borders with long range missiles is unacceptable.
The Palestinians and the Arabs say that they won't negotiate with Israel until there is a total settlement building freeze, but why should Israel negotiate with them when they are maligning us through the UN, using the biased and flawed Goldstone Report. Let Obama dream of a peace process as many Presidents before him have done, but in reality it is a perilous process that we face.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

A Jewish terrorist

The arrest of a Jewish terrorist received headline news in Israel on Monday. Ya'acov (Jack) Teitel (37), an American Immigrant who lives in a settlement on the West Bank was arrested by a special anti-terrorism unit of the Israeli police and the Shin-Bet. He is accused of two murders of Palestinians and setting explosions that injured left-wing Israeli Prof. Ze'ev Sternhall, as well as the son of a family of American Jews for Jesus.
The police say that he was exceptionally cautious and used gloves in all his activities as well as keeping his actions secret from his family and friends. He was caught putting up anti-gay posters in Jerusalem, supporting the explosion at the gay center in Tel Aviv that killed two young people. Although this is not illegal, he was taken in for questioning on suspicion of setting several anti-gay bombs that did not go off. The police investigated his home and found a sealed room where he prepared his explosives. It seems that his father was a dentist who worked for the military and he learnt the use of explosives while living on Army bases.
The question arises, why did it take 12 years from his first alleged violent act to find him. After teh shootings of the Palestinians he had returned to the US for three years and lived in Florida. On his return to Israel he managed to sneak a dismantled gun thru El Al security, as well as several rifles sent in a package by mail. He was detained at least once by the police but released then for lack of evidence. Nevertheless he was able to continue with his activities for several more years.
There is no evidence that he was a member of a right wing group, rather that he worked very much alone. The police say that he has extreme fringe views. But, they also admit that there could be others like him active within Israeli society. However, note the difference, the coverage given to one Jewish terrorist, compared to the tens of thousands of terrorists active in Palestinian society. We arrest ours, they support theirs.
In a separate development the Israeli police have solved the terrible murder of a family of six in Rishon Letzion. The murderer was a former employee in their family restaurant who was fired two years ago. He decided to get even with the boss, and ended up stabbing to death the whole family. He was caught because he left items of clothing in the apartment that he set on fire, but there was enough to give a DNA profile. He escaped to Eilat but was caught there. Now he, his wife and his parents who have all been implicated in the plot, are under arrest.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Gen. Otto Liman von Sanders

Sunday was the 92nd anniverary of the Battle of Beersheva in WWI, and it was commemmorated there with joint ceremonies of former foes, Australia, New Zealand and Britain, and Turkey and Germany. This proves that peace can prevail in time when former enemies proclaim their friendship. A memorial to the Australian Light Horsemen was unveiled in a new peace park for children. The success of the Allies in the Battle of Beersheva led the way for the collapse of the Turkish forces and the British Mandate that led eventually to the foundation of Israel.
Who was in command of the Turkish Army in Palestine that opposed British Gen Allenby in WWI? The answer is surprising, a German General was in charge of the Turkish Army and he was partly Jewish!
Otto Liman von Sanders (1855-1929) was made head of the German military mission to Constantinople to reorganize the army of the Ottoman Empire in 1913. His appointment caused a diplomatic crisis between Germany and Russia, which suspected German designs on the Ottoman capital. A compromise was reached when the Germans agreed that Liman become "inspector general" of the Turkish army, a post with less extensive authority.
In World War I, Liman commanded Turkish armies in the Gallipolli campaign (1915-16) in which he inflicted severe casualties on the allies, and was given supreme command in Palestine (1918), where he was defeated by Allenby. He wrote Five Years in Turkey (1920) about his experiences.
The General's name is rather odd, his original family name was Liman, and his father was a Prussian. He was an Anglophile, and so when he was raised to the peerage by the Kaiser, who recognized his ability, he added the English name "Sanders" to the aristocratic "von". However, he was opposed by many Prussian Generals, who used his rumored Jewish ancestry against him. So the German Chief of Staff in 1913 sent him off to Turkey. One of the Turkish officers he promoted there was Kemal Attaturk, the founder of modern Turkey.
Gen. Allenby, with larger forces and superior soldiers, outmaneuvered the Turks in Palestine in WWI. First, Allenby outflanked the Turkish defenders in Gaza by capturing Beersheva in 1917, forcing the Turks to withdraw up the coast. As a result Gen von Falkenhayn was replaced by von Sanders, who was put in charge of theTurkish forces in 1918, but it was too late. Allenby's forces won the crucial battle of Megiddo in Oct 1918, yes the final major battle of WWI in the area took place at the famed site of Armageddon, thus defeating the Turks and capturing all of Palestine. Allenby took the title of Viscount Allenby of Megiddo amd Liman von Sanders was captured in Istanbul and returned to Germany where he retired. The rest, as they say, is history.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Policy reversal

In a complete reversal of policy, US Secty of State Clinton on arriving in Israel said, "Stopping construction in the settlements has never been a precondition, it has always been an issue within the negotiations," precisely, and exactly what PM Netanyahu has been saying all along. She continued, "what the Prime Minister has offered, a restraint on the policy of new starts, is unprecedented." So, Netanyahu toughed it out, and in effect won, he faced down Obama, and now the Obama Administration has backed off and acknowledged that a unilateral total freeze on all Israeli construction in the West Bank is both impractical and unachieveable.
Meanwhile the situation may be considered to have worsened, because Pres. Abbas, assuming that Israel would not be able to withstand the pro-Palestinian pressure of Obama, made the freeze of all settlement activity a precondition to the re-starting of negotiations, and now the rug has been pulled out from under him. He now faces unprecendented pressure from Clinton to drop this precondition and immediately resume negotiations with Israel. It should be noted that in all the years of previous talks the Palestinians never required such a precondition, even as recently as the talks with PM Olmert, the only difference has been the Obama Administration's mistaken policy. After the meeting between Abbas and Clinton yesterday in Abu Dhabi, Abbas's spokesman described their talks as "hard." While Abbas may be forced to drop his precondition, he knows that if he does he will lose more credibility among his constituents, the Palestinian people. He will be seen as bowing to US pressure and in effect to Israeli policy and this would likely hurt him in the forthcoming January PA elections.
It is most likely that Clinton was despatched here to mollify the Israeli people, whose popularity rating of Obama has gone below 5%, and thereby to try to rescue his ratings among American Jews, that has been in steep decline. Of course, this has not only been due to his Middle East policy, but to other domestic issues in which he has been considered unsuccessful, resulting in an across the board loss of ratings. Since Obama is due to speak for the first time before the National Jewish Community Relations Board next week, he probably hopes this reversal of policy will help him gain popularity there. The myth that the Jews control US foreign policy is ridiculous, but the fact that the Jews, like other groups, lobby the government in pursuance of their interests is certainly true, and thank goodness for that.
This reversal to a pragmatic policy in line with previous US positions shows two things, that Obama started out as a novice and made a stupid blunder, and second that he is able to learn from his mistakes. The former does not look good, but the latter at least gives hope for the future.