Education, Gaza style
* Senior advisor to Egyptian President Morsi calls the Holocaust “an-American invented hoax”
* Danish, Dutch and British-funded Ma’an news agency: Jews are “the root of conflict in the world,” “Allah has decreed” they should be “humiliated” and be “outcasts in every corner of the earth”
* Sunday Times editor and owner unreservedly apologize for Netanyahu “blood libel” cartoon, calling it “a terrible mistake”
* You can comment on this dispatch here: www.facebook.com/TomGrossMedia. Please also press “Like” on that page.
1. New Muslim Brotherhood Knesset member can’t decide which wife to bring
2. EU-funded Ma’an News Agency publishes vicious anti-Semitic article
3. EU may not declare Hizbullah a terror group, even if they were behind EU terror attack
4. Sunday Times apologizes unreservedly for cartoon, calling it “a terrible mistake”
5. Egyptian defense minister warns of state’s possible collapse
6. Morsi advisor calls the Holocaust “a U.S. Hoax”
7. Hamas: No discussion of confederation with Jordan before Palestinian statehood
8. Hamas opens new “military academy” to train schoolchildren to attack Israelis
9. Fischer to retire from Bank of Israel
10. Iran claims to have sent a monkey into space
[All notes below by Tom Gross]
NEW MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD KNESSET MEMBER CAN’T DECIDE WHICH WIFE TO BRING
Taleb Abu Arar, a new Bedouin member from the Raam-Taal party who was elected to the Israeli parliament last week, can’t decide which of his two wives to bring to next week’s official ceremony when new MKs swear allegiance to the Knesset and the state.
The Israeli newspaper Ma’ariv reports that Abu Arar is married to one older wife, with whom he has nine children, while his younger wife, who is only aged 22, has already given birth to one child.
Ma’ariv reports that Abu Arar is not violating Israel’s anti-bigamy laws because the younger woman is officially only his mistress.
Abu Arar is a member of the “Islamic Movement in 1948 Palestine” which is the Muslim Brotherhood’s faction in Israel and aims to establish an Islamic state in all of Israel.
Raam-Taal (the United Arab List) is a party headed by Ahmed Tibi, who often appears as a guest on Western media denigrating the state of Israel. Tibi previously served as a senior advisor to PLO leader Yasser Arafat and represented the Palestinian Authority at the Bill Clinton-sponsored Wye talks in 1998, during which the then Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu agreed to withdraw from most of Hebron and large sections of the West Bank.
(For more on last week’s elections, please see here.)
EU-FUNDED MA’AN NEWS AGENCY PUBLISHES VICIOUS ANTI-SEMITIC ARTICLE
The Palestinian-run Ma’an news agency, which is funded by the Danish, Dutch and British governments, as well as receiving grants from the EU, UNDP, and UNESCO, has published an article, saying:
“[The Jews] feel inferior to the nations and societies in which they live, because of the hostility and evil rising in their hearts towards others and for their plots and schemes against the nations who know with certainty that the Jews are the root of conflict in the world, wherever they reside.”
“[Jews are] outcasts in every corner of the earth, and not one nation in the world respects them... but Allah’s curse upon them and his fury at them cause them to continue with their transgression.”
“Allah has stricken fear in their hearts and decreed humiliation and degradation upon them until Judgment Day”.
The article only appeared on Ma’an’s Arabic website and not on its English-language site.
The Ma’an website uses the slogan: “Undeterred in its mission to convey the truth.”
More details and a translation of the full article from Ma’an can be found on the website of the important NGO, Palestinian Media Watch (PMW), the director of which, Itamar Marcus, is a longtime subscriber to this list.
EU MAY NOT DECLARE HIZBULLAH A TERROR GROUP, EVEN IF IT IS PROVEN THEY WERE BEHIND TERROR ATTACK IN EU
The European Union’s most senior counter-terrorism official, Gilles de Kerchove, said on Monday that the EU may not designate Hizbullah as a terrorist organization even if it is proven that the Iranian-backed terror group was behind the suicide bombing on tourists in Burgas, Bulgaria last July. Bulgarians and Israelis were murdered in that blast. Bulgaria is a member state of the EU, as I pointed out in this dispatch: Her final call: “I just found out I’m pregnant at last”.
The statement by de Kerchove comes as Sofia prepares to announce the conclusions of its investigation into the bombing. They are expected to agree with the findings of Israeli and American intelligence, that the Iranian-backed terror group Hizbullah was behind the bombing.
Philipp Missfelder, foreign policy spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party, sharply criticized de Kerchove for his comments.
Missfelder told the Jerusalem Post: “Statements like this are counterproductive. Terrorism is an integral part of Hizbullah’s overall strategy that undermines the political stability of Lebanon and threatens the existence of Israel.”
“There has never been doubt about that. By no means can the EU tolerate that this group operates from European soil. Therefore it is absolutely urgent to put this group on the EU terror list,” he said.
SUNDAY TIMES EDITOR UNRESERVEDLY APOLOGIZES FOR CARTOON, CALLING IT “A TERRIBLE MISTAKE”
This is a follow-up to Sunday’s dispatch:
(That dispatch has been linked to by various news sites around the world.)
Rupert Murdoch, the owner of The Sunday Times (and who is a subscriber to this Middle East email list), on Monday issued an apology for the cartoon, calling it “grotesque” on his twitter feed to his 400,000 followers. He wrote: “Gerald Scarfe has never reflected the opinions of the Sunday Times. Nevertheless, we owe major apology for grotesque, offensive cartoon.”
Martin Ivens, the acting editor of the Sunday Times, has also now apologized “unreservedly” for the cartoon.
British commentator Melanie Phillips (also a subscriber to this list) has written “Ivens, to whom I directly worked for three years when I wrote for the Sunday Times, is a decent person without a shred of anti-Jewish or anti-Israel feeling. And the Sunday Times is more supportive of Israel than most.” I have also met Ivens and would agree with that.
However, too much of the discussion about the cartoon in the British media over the past three days has concentrated on the fact that it was deemed insensitive to publish it on Holocaust Memorial Day, rather than that it was wrong to publish it at all – because it contains no truth. Israel does not try and kill civilians (it is Fatah and Hamas that do that) and Israel’s security barrier – far from being responsible for killing anyone – has done precisely the opposite. It has saved thousands of Jewish and Arab lives by bringing to an end a wave of suicide attacks in which Israel’s Jewish and Arab citizens were dying and being maimed.
For an example of someone still recovering, please see:
EGYPTIAN DEFENSE MINISTER WARNS OF STATE’S POSSIBLE COLLAPSE
Egypt’s defense minister General Abdel Fattah al-Sissi yesterday warned that continuing political conflict could lead to “the collapse of the state”. He said the current political, economic and social challenges facing the country represented a “danger to Egyptian security and the cohesion of the Egyptians state”.
During the last seven days of unrest more than 50 people have been killed in clashes between police and protesters, mainly in Port Said, but also in Suez, Cairo and other provincial cities.
MORSI ADVISOR CALLS THE HOLOCAUST “A U.S. HOAX”
Fathi Shihab-Eddim, who is in charge of editors of all Egyptian state-run publications, and is a close political confidant of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi has said that the Holocaust is “a myth.”
He said: “The myth of the Holocaust is an industry that America invented [during World War II] in order to destroy the image of their opponents in Germany, and to justify war and massive destruction against military and civilian facilities of the Axis powers, and especially to hit Hiroshima and Nagasaki with the atomic bomb.”
This comes two weeks after Egyptian news agencies aired film clips of Morsi himself making an anti-Semitic speech in which he called Jews “these warmongers, these descendants of apes and pigs.”
HAMAS: NO DISCUSSION OF CONFEDERATION WITH JORDAN BEFORE PALESTINIAN STATEHOOD
Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal told journalists after meeting with Jordan’s King Abdullah II in Amman on Monday, that the Palestinians will only discuss the idea of forming a confederation with Jordan after they have established their own Palestinian independent state.
HAMAS OPENS NEW “MILITARY ACADEMY” TO TRAIN SCHOOLCHILDREN TO ATTACK ISRAELIS
Hamas’s Gaza-based Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh has announced the opening of a “military academy” in Gaza that will train schoolchildren as young as 12 to mount violent attacks on Israel. Haniyeh said that the new academy would prepare children for the establishment of a Palestinian state “from the river to the sea.” (i.e. it will try to wipe out all of Israel). He made the announcement during a ceremony in the Gaza Strip marking the birth of the prophet Muhammad, attended by more than 10,000 schoolchildren.
Hamas has been criticized in the past for using child soldiers and for using children as human shields, who are then often reported by international media as underage civilian casualties.
More here from Ibrahim Barzak, Gaza correspondent for the Associated Press.
FISCHER TO RETIRE FROM BANK OF ISRAEL
Stanley Fischer, one of the world’s most experienced central bankers, is to step down as governor of the Bank of Israel on June 30 after more than eight years in the job. Israel’s central bank announced the move yesterday, saying that Fischer, a former deputy managing director of the International Monetary Fund, had informed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of his intention to leave his post at midyear.
Netanyahu, who won re-election to a third term with a weakened mandate last week, is in talks to form a new coalition that commentators say will have to cut spending and raise taxes to close a growing fiscal deficit.
Fischer is regarded as one of the world’s leading central bankers. He was persuaded to take up the position by Netanyahu when Netanyahu was serving as Israel’s finance minister eight years ago.
Fischer is credited with helping Israel’s economy to avoid the worst of the economic crises suffered by other countries in recent years. In 2010, Fischer was named by the international monetary publication Euromoney as best bank governor in the world.
Fischer is now being tipped as a possible successor to Shimon Peres when Peres eventually steps down as Israel’s president.
IRAN CLAIMS TO HAVE SENT A MONKEY INTO SPACE
While Iran’s economy is in increasingly dire straits and its leaders continue to repress their population, the regime says it has successfully sent a monkey into space. It says the monkey went up in a capsule named Pishgam (Farsi for “Pioneer”) to a height of 75 miles before returning to earth intact and alive.
The Iranian regime seems to be mimicking the regime in North Korea in spending the country’s resources in a costly nuclear weapons program and in a space program.
[All notes above by Tom Gross]
Tom Gross writes:
Today is International Holocaust Memorial Day. This date was chosen because it marks the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. It is supposed to be a day to help educate a younger generation about the Holocaust.
But instead, some Western media are increasingly attempting to libel the state of Israel with grotesque imagery.
Below is the cartoon that the (London) Sunday Times chose to run today, to mark Holocaust Memorial Day.
In the print edition of the paper, this cartoon was so big that it went from the top of page 21 all the way to under the fold of the page. (i.e. it stretched about 60 percent of the way down the page) The Sunday Times is a large broadsheet, with each page the same size as a page on, for example, The International Herald Tribune. The cartoon was in full color.
The Sunday Times is Britain’s biggest selling quality newspaper.
Update (Jan. 28, 2013): Rupert Murdoch, the owner of The Sunday Times, has just issued an apology for the cartoon, calling the image “grotesque” (the same word I used) on his twitter feed. He added in his tweet: “Gerald Scarfe has never reflected the opinions of the Sunday Times. Nevertheless, we owe major apology for grotesque, offensive cartoon.”
(Rupert Murdoch is a subscriber to this Middle East list and was sent this post from my website yesterday.)
Among previous dispatches concerning the Holocaust:
Saudi Arabian officials execute an Indonesian maid on June 18, 2011, in this grainy amateur picture
* Saudi teen has her marriage to 90-year-old annulled
* Sri Lankan maid beheaded in Saudi Arabia
* Hamas PM says Western Wall is really Muslim
* While Syrian warplanes kill 83 students sitting exams, academic boycotters in America, Britain, Canada and elsewhere still campaign against Israeli universities, the only truly free universities in the Middle East, instead of expressing solidarity with Syrian students
I attach a variety of items from around the Middle East. Some are shorter than usual because I’m continuing to suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome.
(You can comment on this dispatch here: www.facebook.com/TomGrossMedia. Please also press “Like” on that page.)
1. Iranian TV: U.S. planned 9/11 attacks to invade Middle East
2. Pakistan and Saudi Arabia hold joint naval exercise
3. Iran could have nuclear bomb by next year
4. Iran developing “Smart Control” software to police Facebook
5. Kuwait begins imprisoning tweeters, bloggers
6. Malaysian Premier visits Gaza, while Hamas PM says Western Wall is really Muslim
7. Syrian refugee influx into Jordan reaches “record levels”
8. Saudi teenager has her marriage to 90-year-old man annulled
9. Saudi man arrested after “seeking Jewish wife”
10. Sri Lankan maid convicted of “killing infant” in her care beheaded in Saudi Arabia
11. Palestinian Authority President Abbas claims Zionism connected to Nazis
12. Al Jazeera America is hiring
[All notes below by Tom Gross]
IRANIAN TV: U.S. PLANNED 9/11 ATTACKS TO INVADE MIDDLE EAST
The Iranian government seems to have changed its mind. It is no longer blaming Ariel Sharon for ordering the 9/11 attacks, but is pointing the finger at George W. Bush instead.
A senior Iranian commander told Iran’s Press TV that “the United States planned the 9/11 terrorist attacks to use them as pretext to invade the energy-rich Middle East.”
“The US, looking for a pretext to invade the Middle East, masterminded the 9/11 incident and pointed an accusing finger at Muslim countries,” Commander of the Iranian Army Ground Forces Brigadier General Ahmad-Reza Pourdastan said on Saturday.
Full report: here.
(Tom Gross adds:: The 9/11 attacks were – of course – carried out by al-Qaeda, who proudly took responsibility for the murders.)
PAKISTAN AND SAUDI ARABIA HOLD JOINT NAVAL EXERCISE
The Kuwait News Agency reports that the Pakistani and Saudi navies have conducted joint exercises, named Naseem Al Bahr (Sea Breeze). During the exercise, both ships and aircraft fired off many live rounds, according to a statement issued by the Pakistan navy.
Tom Gross adds: If (Shia) Iran acquires a nuclear arsenal, (Sunni-ruled) Saudi Arabia is expected to purchase nuclear weapons from (Sunni-ruled) Pakistan.
IRAN COULD HAVE NUCLEAR BOMB BY NEXT YEAR
A new report by a group of U.S. nonproliferation experts has concluded that Iran could produce enough weapons-grade uranium for one or more nuclear bombs by the middle of 2014. The report, co-written by David Albright, the president of the Institute for Science and International Security, says the U.S. and its allies should intensify sanctions on Iran before that point is reached.
Others believe that only an American-led airstrike will prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear arsenal.
IRAN DEVELOPING “SMART CONTROL” SOFTWARE TO POLICE FACEBOOK
Iran’s chief of police, Esmail Ahmadi Moghadam, has said that the country is developing software to control social-networking sites, including Facebook. He said the “smart control” of social-networking sites, will be a more useful tool to keep an eye on “anti-Islamic” elements in the country than the complete filtering of Facebook and twitter accounts.
Last month saw the launch of a Facebook page devoted to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, which is believed to have been created and administered by his office.
In recent months, several anti-regime activists have been threatened and detained over their Facebook postings, including blogger Sattar Beheshti, who was tortured to death in custody after being arrested by Iran’s cybercrime police unit.
KUWAIT BEGINS IMPRISONING TWEETERS, BLOGGERS
A Kuwaiti teenager has became the first defendant of what are believed to be many, to receive a jail sentence for tweeting messages that the regime disliked.
Rashed Al-Enezi received a two-year sentence in a gruesome Kuwaiti prison for sending tweets critical of the emir. As many as 200 others are reportedly awaiting trial on similar charges after criticizing the regime prior to last month’s Kuwaiti “election”.
MALAYSIAN PREMIER VISITS GAZA, WHILE HAMAS PM SAYS WESTERN WALL IS REALLY MUSLIM
The Prime Minister of Malaysia, Mohamed Najib Abdul Razeq, visited the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, the first non-Arab prime minister to visit the Hamas-controlled territory.
Razak was accompanied by his wife and an official delegation including his foreign minister. Razeq told a joint news conference in Gaza City with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh that he came “to express my solidarity with the Palestinian people.”
During the press conference, the Hamas leader said the Western Wall, Judaism’s holiest existing prayer site, was “a Palestinian, Arab and Islamic Wall” and Jerusalem was an “an Islamic, Arab and Palestinian city.”
Efforts to reconcile the rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah, which respectively control the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, are at risk after Hamas yesterday arrested dozens of Fatah loyalists, along with a half-dozen journalists, according to the Associated Press.
SYRIAN REFUGEE INFLUX INTO JORDAN REACHES “RECORD LEVELS”
The Jordan Times reports that more than 10,000 Syrians are now managing to escape into Jordan every week. Over 160,000 Syrian refugees now live in Jordan, many in desperate conditions.
3932 Syrian refugees crossed the border into Jordan the past 12 hours alone:
Hundreds of thousands of other Syrians have sought refuge in Turkey, Lebanon, or have been internally displaced.
The Palestinian Authority recently refused entry of Palestinians in Syria fleeing the country, despite the fact that Israel said it would have no problem with these Palestinians settling in the West Bank.
Meanwhile the Syrian Government’s daily bombardments of civilians are intensifying
In one attack last week, rockets fired by Syrian warplanes killed 83 students and wounded dozens, many critically, at the University of Aleppo on the first day of student exams.
Yet academic boycotters in America, Britain, Canada and elsewhere are still campaigning against Israeli universities, the only truly free universities in the Middle East, instead of expressing solidarity with Syrian students.
SAUDI TEENAGER HAS HER MARRIAGE TO 90-YEAR-OLD MAN ANNULLED
The marriage between Shareefa Ali Shuwai, 15, and a 90-year-old Saudi man has been annulled after an international outcry. Ali Shuwai lives with 14 other members of her family, including her parents, in a straw hut near the border with Yemen and the 90 year old had promised a large sum of money to the family.
SAUDI MAN ARRESTED AFTER “SEEKING JEWISH WIFE”
A 49-year-old Saudi man has been arrested in Mecca after he went around telling people he wanted to find a Jewish bride, according to a report in the Al-Hayat newspaper.
Saudi police spokesman Lieutenant Abdulmohsen Maiman said in a statement that the man could have a “mental disorder”.
Al-Hayat said he would face prosecution on undisclosed charges and then see a “specialist physician”.
Among other recent dispatches with items on Saudi Arabia, please see: Saudi detains dozens for “celebrating Christmas” (& “Jesus was a Palestinian”) (Dec. 31, 2012)
SRI LANKAN MAID CONVICTED OF “KILLING INFANT” IN HER CARE BEHEADED IN SAUDI ARABIA
A Sri Lankan woman who was convicted of killing a baby in her care has been beheaded in the Saudi Arabian town of Dawadmy.
Rizana Nafeek was 17 years old in 2005, when her employer accused her of killing his infant daughter while feeding her.
Nafeek says she has nothing to do with the baby’s death, and that the baby died of natural causes.
The Sri Lankan government pleaded with the Saudis to commute the sentence, but to no avail.
Western governments allied with the Saudis, notably the Americans and the British, don’t seem to have pressured the Saudis enough over this case.
A young Afghan woman was recently beheaded by her husband for refusing to work as a prostitute.
PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY PRESIDENT ABBAS CLAIMS ZIONISM CONNECTED TO NAZIS
In an interview with the Lebanese TV station Al-Mayadeen, that is affiliated with Iran and Hizbullah, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas made the outrageous claim that the Zionist movement had links with the Nazis.
Asked about allegations that he denied the Holocaust Abbas said that he had “70 more books that I still haven’t published” about links between the Zionist movement and the Nazis. “I challenge anyone to deny the relationship between Zionism and Nazism.”
Abbas’s spokesman tried to clarify the comments, claiming that Abbas had been “misunderstood” and remains committed to the peace process with Israel.
Tom Gross adds: Abbas chose to write his entire PhD thesis (at Moscow’s Oriental College) on this subject and follow it up with a book in 1983, “The Other Side: The Secret Relationship Between Nazism and the Zionist Movement,” which denies the Holocaust. Abbas has never specifically repudiated his book, which purports to refute “the fantastic lie that six million Jews were killed” in the Holocaust.
Western news outlets such as The New York Times like to conveniently ignore this fact when reporting on Abbas’s supposed “moderate” qualities.
* For background, see this 2003-2005 dispatch: Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas) and the Holocaust.
AL JAZEERA AMERICA IS HIRING
Al Jazeera, which is set to replace Current TV with the launch of Al Jazeera America, has posted adverts for 105 new jobs in the United States – 98 in New York City, where Al Jazeera America will be based, and seven in Washington.
Al Jazeera spokesman Stan Collender added that in the coming weeks the network will also be creating “hundreds of additional new positions” and launching new bureaus around the U.S.
Al Jazeera – which bought Current TV from former American Democratic Presidential contender Al Gore for a reported $500 Million – says it will launch its American station within the next six months.
[Notes above by Tom Gross]
Yair Lapid celebrates at his party’s headquarters in Tel Aviv
A few observations concerning the Israel election results
Notes by Tom Gross
* Despite all the doom and gloom from commentators in left-leaning international publications like The New York Times, New York Review of Books and The Guardian, who predicted the virtual end of Israeli democracy, Israeli democracy is alive and well.
* For example, last week The Guardian prominently highlighted a quote from Foreign Policy magazine by Daniel Levy, director of the Middle East and north Africa programme at the European Council on Foreign Relations, saying: “This election will likely mark an acceleration of Israel’s long-predicted … journey toward a hegemonic nationalism resembling apartheid-era South Africa”. (Levy, despite consistently getting things wrong, is a favorite invited guest “expert” on TV networks like the BBC and France 24.)
* The Guardian got it wrong, wrong and wrong again. Piece after piece in The Guardian predicted that the Israeli elections would bring “a more hawkish and pro-settler government then ever” or “a more right-wing and uncompromising government than Israel has ever seen before”.
* And Andrew Sullivan in last Sunday’s (London) Sunday Times wrote “Israel looks likely to elect the most far-right government in its history.”
* But as Walter Russell Mead points out, “the most shameful piece of journalism was David Remnick’s 9,000-word feature in last week’s New Yorker, detailing the irrevocable popular rise of Israel’s radical right.” That didn’t happen.
* There were 32 parties on the ballot. 12 parties or party-blocs gained seats in the new 120 seat Knesset (parliament). Almost every shade of opinion is represented in the new Knesset. The Communists got 4 seats, the Islamists 5, and the Arab nationalists 3.
* The New York Times, The Economist and others also proclaimed that voter turnout among Israeli Arabs would fall below 50 percent.
In fact, voter turnout across all Arab cities in Israel was considerably higher than this, and in many towns exceeded Jewish voter turnout. For example, in the Israeli Arab city of Sakhnin, voter turnout was almost 80 percent.
This compares with an Israeli national turnout of 68 percent and an American voter turnout in last November’s U.S. elections of 57.5 percent. (Many Israelis live abroad and are not allowed to vote by absentee ballot, so the real voter turnout by Israeli citizens actually present in Israel was considerably higher than this.)
* A record number of female MKs were voted into the 120 seat Knesset. In Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid centrist party, 8 of his 19 MKs are women (42%). The Likud has 7 women, three of whom are from Yisrael Beitenu. Labor has 4 women. Meretz has 3. The right-wing Jewish Home party has 2. Tzippi Livni is the only woman MK in her party. The Arab Balad party also has a woman MK.
* Pnina Tamano-Shata, number 14 on the Yesh Atid list, will be the first female MK from Ethiopia. She moved to Israel from Ethiopia at the age of three. She is a lawyer who in the past worked as a reporter on Channel 1 News. Now, she will be making history as an MK. Previous MKs from Ethiopia have all been male.
* Israelis are most concerned, like everyone else, with those issues that most affect their lives: housing, prices, the economy, education, government reform, and the like.
* Yair Lapid, whose Yesh Atid party became the second largest in Israel’s Knesset, winning 19 seats in Tuesday’s elections, is no left-winger, but in fact represents the Israeli mainstream. He backs the retention of Ariel (an Israeli city in the West Bank), supports Israel’s retention of other major settlement blocs, and is opposed to the division of Jerusalem. He says the capital represents the country’s ethos, the reason the Jewish people are in Israel.
* On economics, the next government will be firmly right-of-center. Yair Lapid, Naftali Bennett (and Tzippi Livni if she joins the government) are all economic free marketeers. The Tel Aviv stock market welcomed the election results, climbing 1.8%.
* It turns out you can succeed in Israeli elections without generals: There were no high-profile army figures on the Yesh Atid list.
* In the final vote tally released today following the opening of soldiers’ votes and absentee ballots, Ahmad Tibi’s Raam-Taal party dropped from five seats to four, while Naftali Bennett’s Jewish Home party gained one seat.
So in the final count, 12 parties or party blocs were elected to the 120 seat Knesset: Likud-Beitenu won 31 seats, Yesh Atid 19, Labor 15, Jewish Home 12, Shas 11, United Torah Judaism seven, Meretz and the Tzipi Livni Party six each, the three Arab parties won a total of 11 seats, and Kadima two. This gives the Right bloc 61 seats and the Center-Left-Arab bloc 59 in the next Knesset.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has begun the process of building a new governing coalition with his Likud Beitenu ally Avigdor Lieberman and the big winner in Tuesday’s election, Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid.
Netanyahu agreed with Lapid and Lieberman that the next government would focus on reducing housing costs, reforming the electoral system, and equalizing the burden of military and national service. But they did not agree on which parties should be in the coalition and who should receive the top portfolios.
Netanyahu would prefer to give the Foreign Ministry position to Lapid, who speaks excellent British-accented English and whose moderate image could improve Israel’s ties with the United States and the European Union. But Lieberman said he wants to return to his former job as foreign minister once he has been cleared of his legal troubles and suggested that Lapid become finance minister.
* Vice Premier Moshe Ya’alon, who is a former IDF chief of General Staff, is expected to be appointed Defense Minister. (Ya’alon is a longtime subscriber to the TomGrossMedia email / weblist.)
(You can comment on this dispatch here: www.facebook.com/TomGrossMedia. Please also press “Like” on that page.)
Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority,speaks to the UN General Assembly before the statehood vote
* Andrew Roberts: The rows of TV satellite vans outside the gates on November 29 alerted passers-by to the importance of the Palestinian debate, although in the context of the GA, the term “debate” is ludicrous. There is no sense of an interaction of ideas.
* “North Korea lectures other countries on food production, Iran will solemnly intone on the benefits of disarmament, Zimbabwe will preach about democracy, and they all without exception talk ceaselessly about human rights, as they blithely torture and murder their own citizens back home.”
* They had interchangeable phrases about how “the eyes of all the children of Palestine are directed towards us”, and references to “Israeli aggression”, “the courage of Yasser Arafat”, and so on. Not a word about Hamas or Hezbollah rocket attacks, and in all the talk about “ethnic cleansing” there was no mention of the Jewish communities that existed throughout the Middle East before 1948. They also all spoke of the historic nature of the debate, but the first time it was mentioned, the English interpreter translated it as “hysteric”, by far the better adjective.
* Andrew Roberts: Although the US ambassador Susan Rice criticized the tone of Israel’s detractors, it’s hard to escape the growing realization that the true leadership of the Free World today, at least in moral terms, lies with America’s great neighbor to the north. Stephen Harper’s Liberal government in Canada is the nation-state equivalent of the honey-badger, a creature that marches happily to its own tune and hangs the consequences. If every Western nation – and specifically Britain and Germany, which pathetically abstained – had the moral purpose and certainty of present-day Canada, the planet would be a much happier and better place.
* David Pryce-Jones: In forums and debates all over the place John Esposito is to be found commenting on one or another aspect of the Islamic world. He is an outstanding example of an academic who exploits his supposedly informed position to turn himself into a spokesman and a public figure. Yet everything he says boils down to the proposition that Muslims are always in the right. After 9/11, Esposito declared himself “pleasantly surprised” by the number of converts to Islam.
* Hitherto almost entirely uninformed about everything Islamic, official America has been taking Esposito at his valuation of himself as an authority. He has briefed the State Department, the CIA, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security.
* In the recent past, many who were not necessarily Communists idealized an imaginary, peace-loving Soviet Union; they were known as fellow-travelers or “useful idiots”. Esposito, born a Catholic in Brooklyn in 1940, idealizes a similarly imaginary, peace-loving Islamic world. The cause has changed, but obsessive belief remains constant.
* Mark Steyn: Of course not all Muslims brutalize their families – although the ten-year-old daughter of Asia Parveen of Stoke Newington (east London) was treated for 56 injuries after being beaten for not reading enough verses of the Koran, and Hesha Yones of west London had her throat cut by her father for being too “Westernized,” and a five-month-old baby in Halmstad, Sweden, was beaten to death with a Koran, and this very month a campaign against Muslim domestic violence is being launched in Scotland, and a BBC poll last year revealed that two-thirds of young British Muslims favor violence against those who “dishonor” their families, and in the Netherlands Muslims make up 60 percent of the population of battered-women’s shelters. And of course not all Muslims are self-segregating, although 57 percent of Pakistani Britons are married to first cousins, and in Bradford, Yorkshire, it’s 75 percent.
I attach four articles below. (Because of severe RSI that makes typing very difficult, I am unable to add any additional notes of my own.) The authors of the first three articles (British historians Andrew Roberts and David Pryce-Jones, and Canadian-American author Mark Steyn) are subscribers to this list -- Tom Gross
(You can comment on this dispatch here: www.facebook.com/TomGrossMedia. Please also press “Like” on that page.)
1. “Nations United in Hypocrisy” (By Andrew Roberts, Standpoint, Jan. 2013)
2. “Overrated: John Esposito” (By David Pryce-Jones, Standpoint, Jan. 2013)
3. “The Veil Descends” (By Mark Steyn, National Review, Jan. 11, 2013)
4. “Czech-Israeli Relations: An Enduring Friendship” (By Joseph Pude, Frontpage magazine, Dec. 26, 2012)
AN HISTORIC/HYSTERIC DAY
Nations United in Hypocrisy
By Andrew Roberts
January/February 2013 issue
“If Algeria introduced a resolution declaring that the earth was flat and that Israel had flattened it,” the Israeli diplomat Abba Eban once said of the United Nations General Assembly, “it would pass by a vote of 164 to 13 with 26 abstentions.” Eban died a decade ago, yet he predicted with uncanny accuracy what actually took place in the General Assembly (GA) on November 29, except that it was Sudan that introduced the resolution rather than Algeria. The actual wording of Resolution A67/L.28 extended non-member observer status to Palestine. Yet since Hamas in Gaza and Fatah on the West Bank are in bitter, sometimes lethal dispute over who represents the would-be state-and the US will veto Palestinian statehood in the Security Council anyhow-it was the precise equivalent of declaring the earth as flat. Yet despite its inherent absurdity, the resolution passed by 138 to 9 with 41 abstentions, so if anything Eban had overestimated the degree of support for Israel in his satirical quip.
If you ever have a free afternoon in New York, do go down to 46th Street and 1st Avenue on the East River and walk around the Tower of Babel there. Find time to look in at a General Assembly debate. It will instantly cure you of any lingering doubts you might have about the wisdom of multilateralism, as delegates from hell-holes like Burkina Faso and Chad take enormous pleasure (and time) lecturing the “colonialist, racist” West on every crime imaginable. Try to get there before the present $2 billion refurbishment has ruined the authentic ramshackle Seventies look of the place, complete with its tiny ancient lifts, dodgy simultaneous-translation plastic earpieces, and 15ft-high damp stains on the walls which look uncannily like the modern art inside the General Assembly’s huge chamber.
The rows of TV satellite vans outside the gates on November 29 alerted passers-by to the importance of the Palestinian debate, although in the context of the GA, the term “debate” is ludicrous. There is no sense of an interaction of ideas, of a thesis and antithesis coming together in some kind of Hegelian way to create a synthesis. Instead, a queue of delegates go to the podium with its famous green marble background, and make speeches largely for domestic consumption with no thought of attempting to persuade the unconverted. Furthermore, there is no consideration given to allowing both sides of the argument equal time to state their case. To make it even more ridiculous, much of the debate takes place after the vote has been taken. Although debates in the chronically unpunctual GA tend to start half an hour later than advertised, somehow they always end ten minutes before the delegation cocktail parties start at 6pm.
There was a palpable sense of occasion for the “Status of Palestine at the United Nations” debate, with every seat taken in the normally half-empty public gallery, and junior diplomats being turned away. Men in keffiyeh and women in headscarves took photos of each other with their iPhones and iPads. There was one young man in a yarmulke (skull cap), looking suitably gloomy. When I asked a young diplomat from the Israeli mission to predict the result, his sole response was “dire”. To make the situation even worse for the Israelis, the result of a lottery at the start of the GA’s 67th session to organise the seating meant that the Israeli delegation had to sit next to the Palestinians. There were 188 possible permutations for placement, yet somehow the lottery produced a result whereby the three Jewish diplomats were forced to sit next to their tormentors.
Daffa-Alla Elhag Ali Osman, the Sudanese ambassador, began the debate by saying “We welcome the children of Palestine, who have shown patience and good faith,” before entering into a predictable diatribe against Israel and denouncing “the unacceptability of taking territory by force”. Considering that that was precisely what his country had done to its southern non-Muslim neighbour from 1983 to 2011, the hypocrisy was breathtaking, but then hypocrisy is the small change of GA debates. North Korea lectures other countries on food production, Iran will solemnly intone on the benefits of disarmament, Zimbabwe will preach about democracy, and they all without exception talk ceaselessly about human rights, as they blithely torture and murder their own citizens back home.
Due either to the height of the dome above the speaker’s podium, or possibly the positioning of the loudspeakers farther back in the very long chamber, there is an echo in the General Assembly that afflicts all the speeches there. In the Palestinian debate this echo-chamber effect was doubly amplified because the Sudanese, Indonesian and Turkish all made precisely the same speech. They had interchangeable phrases about how “the eyes of all the children of Palestine are directed towards us”, and references to “Israeli aggression”, “the courage of Yasser Arafat”, and so on. Not a word about Hamas or Hezbollah rocket attacks, and in all the talk about “ethnic cleansing” there was no mention of the Jewish communities that existed throughout the Middle East before 1948. They also all spoke of the historic nature of the debate, but the first time it was mentioned, the English interpreter translated it as “hysteric”, by far the better adjective.
When Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, walked to the podium, the normally somnambulant chamber erupted into applause, including wolf-whistles. Presented with an opportunity to show statesmanship, he instead launched into a violent tirade against the “incessant flood of Israeli threats” and Israel’s “racist colonialist occupation”, describing the two-state solution as “a very difficult choice if not impossible”. He stated that: “Israeli occupation is . . . an apartheid system . . . which institutionalises the plague of racism.” By harking back constantly to the “catastrophe” of 1948-which he described in terms of genocide-and never accepting the right of Israel to exist, Abbas was clearly trying to shore up support back home, yet he was also given a standing ovation by about two-fifths of the chamber and very many in the public gallery. Here was the old Palestinian snarl in all its old fury and resentment, turning down the olive branch yet again. Abbas did not actually wear a uniform and gun-holster in the GA chamber, as Yasser Arafat once did, but he might as well have done.
In reply, Ron Prosor, the Israeli ambassador to the UN, gave the speech of his life. “Today I stand before you tall and proud because I represent the world’s one and only Jewish state,” he began in his deep bass voice, “a state built in the Jewish people’s ancient homeland, with its eternal capital Jerusalem as its beating heart. We are a nation with deep roots in the past and bright hopes for the future. We are a nation that values idealism, but acts with pragmatism. Israel is a nation that never hesitates to defend itself, but will always extend its hand for peace.” He spoke of the importance of peace in Jewish history and culture, of the peace treaties that Israel had made with Anwar Sadat and King Hussein, and then pointed out how neither the resolution nor Abbas said anything at all about Israel’s right to exist.
“None of these vital interests, these vital interests of peace, none of them appear in the resolution that will be put forward before the General Assembly today and that is why Israel cannot accept it,” he said. The real way for Abbas to advance peace would be to go to Jerusalem and negotiate bilaterally, but instead he preferred to go to New York to grandstand and push through what Prosor rightly called “UN resolutions that completely ignore Israel’s vital security and national interests. And because this resolution is so one-sided, it doesn’t advance peace, it pushes it backwards.” Prosor continued: “No decision by the UN can break the 4,000-year-old bond between the people of Israel and the land of Israel.”
The rest of the speech was a passionate but logical explanation of why Palestinian statehood would prove utterly counter-productive at this point. It was a tour de force, and its focused rationality reminded me of Margaret Thatcher’s speeches against the Maastricht treaty in the House of Lords in the mid-Nineties. “The truth is that Israel wants peace, and the Palestinians are avoiding peace,” he concluded. “Those who are supporting the resolution today are not advancing peace. They are undermining peace. The UN was founded to advance the cause of peace. Today the Palestinians are turning their back on peace. Don’t let history record that today the UN helped them along on their march of folly.”
The next speaker, the Turkish foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu, also made reference to history, speaking about “the inhuman treatment of the Palestinians from the First World War to today”, and the “inalienable rights” of peoples to states of their own. That would be the same Turkey whose brutal suppression of the Armenian and Kurdish peoples has continued from, well, the First World War to today.
Although the US ambassador Susan Rice criticised the tone of Israel’s detractors, it’s hard to escape the growing realisation that the true leadership of the Free World today, at least in moral terms, lies with America’s great neighbour to the north. Stephen Harper’s Liberal government in Canada is the nation-state equivalent of the honey-badger, a creature that marches happily to its own tune and hangs the consequences. If every Western nation–and specifically Britain and Germany, which pathetically abstained–had the moral purpose and certainty of present-day Canada, the planet would be a much happier and better place. Just like John Howard’s Australian government a decade ago, the Harper ministry is teaching the rest of the English-speaking peoples what a country with backbone can do. The speech from Canada’s foreign minister John Baird was a masterpiece of frankness, logic and decency. He looks like an ice-hockey goalie and doesn’t mince his words, saying the day after the debate: “The bottom line is we will not let the Jewish people and the State of Israel stand alone when the going gets tough.” Yet there were all too few people of his calibre present, and the General Assembly voted by an overwhelming 15-to-1 majority in favour of the resolution. The earth is therefore officially flat, and it was Israel that flattened it.
Only the Liberian delegation failed to turn up to the debate at all. I’m not sure what Her Excellency Madam Marjon V. Kamara, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Liberia to the United Nations, was doing on that historic/hysteric day, but she could hardly have been wasting her time in a more unproductive, predictable and depressing way than the rest of her colleagues in the General Assembly.
IDEALIZING AN IMAGINARY, PEACE-LOVING ISLAMIC WORLD
Overrated: John Esposito
By David Pryce-Jones
In forums and debates all over the place John Esposito is to be found commenting on one or another aspect of the Islamic world. He is an outstanding example of an academic who exploits his supposedly informed position to turn himself into a spokesman and a public figure. Yet everything he says boils down to the proposition that Muslims are always in the right, and to suggest they might be in the wrong is Islamophobia. Conquered by Muslims, non-Muslims must choose between conversion, death and paying a tax that gives them an inferior status (dhimma). After 9/11, Esposito declared himself “pleasantly surprised” by the number of converts to Islam.
In the recent past, many who were not necessarily Communists idealised an imaginary, peace-loving Soviet Union; they were known as fellow-travellers or “useful idiots”. Esposito, born a Catholic in Brooklyn in 1940, idealises a similarly imaginary, peace-loving Islamic world. The cause has changed, but obsessive belief remains constant.
For years Esposito taught at a Jesuit college in Massachusetts. There he might have stayed except that Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, a member of the Saudi ruling family and the nearest equivalent to an Arab George Soros, gave an endowment of $20 million to found the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at the Catholic Georgetown University in Washington. Interfaith promotion is a deception in the context. Churches are forbidden in Saudi Arabia and Christians face persecution-even beheading-for holding a service or handing out prayerbooks. The Georgetown Center fits into the worldwide campaign which the Saudi rulers finance in order to place a mask of normality over their brutally retrograde country and harsh proselytising version of Islam. As director of this centre, Esposito has had a platform on which to appear as an expert on Islam rather than a Saudi propagandist.
Hitherto almost entirely uninformed about everything Islamic, official America has been taking Esposito at his valuation of himself as an authority. He has briefed the State Department, the CIA, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security. A tireless operator, he is, or has been, on a dozen bodies operating in the margins, such as the United Nations Alliance of Civilisations, the European Network of Experts on De-radicalisation, and the Centre for the Study of Islam and Democracy. He has also been president of the Middle East Studies Association, the body that used to represent professional Arabist scholars before it was taken over by anti-Western and anti-Israeli activists of the Edward Said type.
Most of Esposito’s 30-plus books have been written in collaboration with like-minded useful idiots, such as Georgetown colleague John O. Voll, Azzam Tamimi, a supporter of Palestinian terror groups, and Egyptian-born Dalia Mogahed, who backs the Muslim Brotherhood and has written pro-Islam speeches for President Obama. The books are repetitive exercises in Muslim apologetics.
Millions of Muslims have been killed since 1945 by other Muslims in wars and revolutions, and millions more Muslims, Christians and Jews driven into exile, but Esposito’s expertise lies in skipping over realities of the kind. His pitch is that the Arab and Muslim countries are doing well, modernising, liberalising and democratising. “Diversity and variety, dynamism and flexibility,” he writes in denial of the political and social degradation of the region, “account for a force that continues to be present from Africa to Asia.” Or again, “Elections in Bahrain, Morocco, Pakistan, Turkey, Afghanistan, Iraq, Malaysia, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia [oh yes!] . . . have reinforced both the continual saliency of democracy and, in particular, the role of religion in electoral politics”–the last clause negating the entire proposition.
In some places, he unwittingly depicts Muslims as children full of irrational hate for the grownups. Ludicrously, Americans have brought terror on themselves by failing to address the issues of tolerance and pluralism which allegedly define al-Qaeda and their like. The focus on Osama bin Laden, Esposito thinks, served to distort “the diverse international sources and the relevance of one man”. In other places, he writes terror down as “much like other violent crime”, the sort of thing all big cities undergo. Yasser Arafat’s call for jihad was comparable to a literacy campaign or the fight against Aids. The description of Hamas as “a community-focused group that engages in honey, cheese-making and home-based clothing manufacture” would surprise Israelis under missile attacks from Gaza.
The Arab Spring, the spread of the Muslim Brothers, civil war in Syria, Iranian imperialism, the killing and persecution of Christians in Islamic countries, are so many day-by-day refutations of Esposito’s fanciful interpretation of events. As the corpses pile up, people draw their own conclusions. Useful idiots who excused such tragic outcomes are then remembered, if at all, as psychological curiosities.
“THE VEIL DESCENDS, ON ALL OF US”
The Veil Descends
By Mark Steyn
National Review Online
January 11, 2013
In the summer of 2010, mourners lined the streets of Wales’s capital city to pay tribute to a seven-year-old boy killed in a house fire. In fact, Yaseen Ali Ege was brutally beaten to death, and then set alight with barbecue fuel. By his mother. For failing to learn the Koran. Over the preceding months, Mom had used a stick, a rolling pin, and a hammer on her son, but, despite these incentives, he had memorized only a couple of pages. And so she killed him, and subsequently declared she felt “100 percent better.”
This month, at Cardiff Crown Court, Mrs. Ege was sentenced and jailed by Mr. Justice Wyn Williams for what he declared “a dreadful crime” that had inflicted “a good deal of pain” on an innocent boy. The judge, however, was discreet enough not to pass comment on more basic cultural questions. He had no view on whether or not being forced to learn the Koran is an appropriate educational priority for a “Welsh” schoolboy, so long as the parental hammer and kerosene remain locked up in the toolshed. Nor on whether a child so raised can be a fully functioning member of Western society. Yaseen’s headmistress at Radnor Primary School, Ann James, called him “a delightful little boy and beautifully behaved who always had a smile on his face,” and forbore to mention that on the day of his murder he had been kept home from class and the “teddy bears’ picnic” because his mother felt he needed to focus on his Koranic studies.
To dust off the formulation that got me hauled before the Canadian “human rights” commissars: Time for the obligatory “of course”s. Of course not all Muslims brutalize their families – although the ten-year-old daughter of Asia Parveen of Stoke Newington was treated for 56 injuries after being beaten for not reading enough verses of the Koran, and Hesha Yones of west London had her throat cut by her father for being too “Westernized,” and a five-month-old baby in Halmstad, Sweden, was beaten to death with a Koran, and this very month a campaign against Muslim domestic violence is being launched in Scotland, and a BBC poll last year revealed that two-thirds of young British Muslims favor violence against those who “dishonor” their families, and in the Netherlands Muslims make up 60 percent of the population of battered-women’s shelters . . . And of course not all Muslims are self-segregating, although 57 percent of Pakistani Britons are married to first cousins, and in Bradford, Yorkshire, it’s 75 percent . . . Nevertheless, many Muslims share the broader cultural preferences of Yaseen’s mother.
In that sense, Headmistress James and Mr. Justice Williams are lagging indicators. Britain is undergoing demographic transformation. According to the 2011 census, the United Kingdom’s Muslim population doubled in the decade after 9/11. In Cardiff, Yaseen’s funeral service was held in the Masjid-e-Bilal mosque, which was formerly a Christian church and was built during the Welsh Protestant revival in the 19th century. In Wales, Christian revival has come and gone. If the Muslim population doubles again this decade, Mr. Williams and Mrs. James will be joined on the bench and in the faculty lounge by Muslim judges and teachers. Would a Muslim jurist look more kindly on Mrs. Ege, at least with respect to motive? Or would a Muslim headmaster reorient teaching priorities to make Yaseen’s extracurricular studies no longer necessary?
Who knows? In Wales as in much of the Western world, we are in the midst of an unprecedented sociocultural experiment. Its precise end point cannot be known, but on the Continent its contours are beginning to emerge: In Amsterdam, formerly “the most tolerant city in Europe,” gay-bashing is now routine; “youths” busted into a fashion show, pulled a gay model from the catwalk, and beat him to a pulp. Claire Berlinski reported for National Review two years ago that in the French suburb of La Courneuve 77 percent of veiled women say they cover themselves to “avoid the wrath of Islamic morality patrols.” In Potsdam, the Abraham Geiger Theological College advises its rabbis not to venture on the streets wearing identifying marks of their faith. In synagogues from Copenhagen to Berlin to Rome, Jews are warned to hide their yarmulkes under hats or baseball caps at the end of the service. In Paris, a man wearing no identifiably religious clothing was beaten unconscious on the Métro for being caught reading a book by France’s chief rabbi. The message is consistent, from Jews to gays to women: In the new Europe, you don’t want to be seen as the other. Keep your head down, or covered.
For a decade, I’ve been told by those who think I’m “alarmist” that there’s nothing to see here. The seven-year-old whose non-appearance at the teddy bears’ picnic goes unremarked . . . the beleaguered National Health Service reeling under the costs of genetic disorders from cousin marriage but now providing free and discreet “hymen reconstruction” for Muslim daughters who got a little over-Westernized one night . . . the infidel women going veiled to avoid trouble in les banlieues . . . the rabbis wearing baseball caps on the streets of Berlin and Brussels . . .
One reason that there’s “nothing to see” is the ever greater lengths we go to to cover it, and ourselves, up. The veil descends, on all of us.
THE CZECH REPUBLIC WAS THE ONLY EUROPEAN COUNTRY TO VOTE WITH ISRAEL AND THE U.S.
Czech-Israeli Relations: An Enduring Friendship
By Joseph Pude
Front page magazine
December 26, 2012
Sixty-five years ago, on November 29, 1947, the UN General Assembly (UNGA) voted to partition Palestine into Arab and Jewish states and on that same day in 2012 the Palestinians pushed UNGA to resurrect the very state they refused to accept in 1947, simply because it would have meant accepting a Jewish state as well. This time, however, the vote was to accept Palestine at the UN with the status of a Non-Member Observer State. An overwhelming majority – 138 out of 193 countries – voted yes, while only nine countries rejected the Palestine gambit, including the U.S., Canada, and the Czech Republic. The Czechs, in 1947 (as the former Czechoslovakia) and now, voted with the Jewish State.
The Czech Republic was the only member of the European Union (EU) to vote with Israel and the U.S., and has had, through the years, a warm and friendly relationship with both the U.S. and Israel, albeit, not during the Communist interval when it was compelled to join the Soviet Bloc in displaying hostility toward Israel and America. Thomas Masaryk, the first Czechoslovak president of this organic democratic nation that incorporates Bohemia and Moravia, was a lifelong friend of the Jews, and a supporter of the Zionist movement and of the Jewish state. Masaryk was the first head of state to visit British Palestine in 1927. In recognition of this friendship, Israel has honored Masaryk by naming a village after him as well as streets in their major cities.
Czechoslovakia (previously part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire) emerged after WWI as a stable, independent democratic state, one of the few truly democratic states in an otherwise authoritarian Europe. Its leaders, Thomas Masaryk and Eduard Benes, were progressive leaders who advanced the socio-economic condition of the diverse country, enabling Jews to live and thrive in post-World War I Czechoslovakia. Jews drew increasingly closer to the state as Hitler rose to power in neighboring Germany, and all Jewish groups in Czechoslovakia supported their country’s stand against Nazism.
For Czechs, the Munich Pact is among the most formative events which helped to shape their understanding of world affairs. In 1938, Czechoslovakia was forced to cede a significant part of its territory to Hitler’s Germany, after Great Britain and France signed a pact with Germany and Italy. The fact that two great powers betrayed a small state in the middle of Europe in order to placate the aggressive Nazi regime left the Czechs with a feeling of having been betrayed and abandoned. The comparison can be made today regarding Israel and its feeling of isolation and betrayal by the EU states, especially by Britain and France, who seek to placate the triumphalist Arab/Muslim world.
During Israel’s War of Independence (1948-49) Czechoslovak military support for the nascent Jewish state in defiance of a UN embargo was crucial to Israel’s survival. The Czechs trained Israeli pilots and sold Israel aircraft they desperately needed. Former Czech Ambassador to Israel, Michael Zantovsky was quoted as saying, “Many Israelis still remember the role that Czechoslovakia played during the War of Independence in 1948, with its supplies of arms and planes.” And, in recent years, Czech pilots have trained in Israel’s Negev desert, which has helped prepare them for conditions in Afghanistan.
Hosting Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Prague last May, Czech Prime Minister Petr Necas, compared Israel’s situation to that of Czechoslovakia in the 1930’s. “We have got a special feeling for Israel’s situation – that of a small nation surrounded by enemies. We remember our situation in the 1930s, when the small democratic Czechoslovakia had neighbors that wanted to destroy it or take part of our territory.”
At a joint press conference with the Czech PM, Netanyahu stated that he “deeply appreciated Prague’s friendship,” and added that “nowhere else in Europe are Israeli calls so well understood.” PM Necas pointed out during the press conference that his government “fundamentally rejects delegitimization and any boycott of the State of Israel.” He added, “We clearly support Israel’s right to defense against terrorist attacks.”
The entry of the former Soviet Bloc countries into the EU in 2004 brought a new perspective that came out of their experience with totalitarian communism. These countries, especially the Czech Republic, did not have the post-colonial syndrome. The Czechs and Poles were not as willing to appease and reconcile with authoritarian Arab regimes. Czech independence in the early 1990’s enabled them to change course, and good relations with Israel became symbolic of their independent foreign policy. Czechs have been much more understanding of Israel’s position in dealing with its hostile Arab neighbors and Islamist terror. Unlike Western Europe, Poland and the Czech Republic do not have large Muslim minorities that apply political pressure on their governments.
During the Second Lebanon War in the summer of 2006, the Czech Republic separated itself from the EU position, which demanded an immediate ceasefire between Israel and the Hezbollah terrorist group. The Czechs argued that Israel had the right to defend itself. Similarly, during the Cast Lead winter operation of 2008-9, the Czech Republic was one of the few EU states that did not condemn the Israeli entry into Gaza. The Czech Republic held the European Council presidency at the time, and its failure to criticize Israel was admonished by its European partners.
Just prior to the end of the Czech Republic presidency, the Czechs set out to organize an EU-Israel summit with the goal of upgrading the EU’s relations with the Jewish State. The summit was cancelled due to the objections of some EU states who claimed that closer relations with Israel could only come with progress in the Peace Process. The fact that the Palestinians rejected direct negotiations with Israel or a permanent peace settlement has not been lost on the Czechs. Having experienced British and French duplicity and hypocrisy in the late 1930’s, the special relationship between the Czech Republic and the Jewish state remains stronger than ever.
At a recent (November 25, 2012) pro-Israel demonstration in Prague organized by the League Against Anti-Semitism, there were banners that read, “Gaza murderers are killing, and Israel has a right to defend itself.” Other banners read, “Free Gaza from Hamas” and “Israel you are not alone, Israel we love you.” Roman Joch, a former advisor for international affairs and human rights to the Czech prime minister who participated in the rally said, “When Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip years ago, it was a time when they could start up a new nation-state. But they don’t want their own state. Their goal is to annihilate and destroy Israel as a Jewish state. Israel gave them land with prosperity and in great condition. And Gaza could be a pearl of the Middle East. But they don’t want it.”
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu paid a special visit to the Czech Republic earlier this month to personally thank the Czechs for voting against the Palestinian Non-Member Observer State Status at the UN. Netanyahu called the Czech Republic “Israel’s best friend in Europe,” and he expressed his belief that the relationship will go even deeper.
Chuck Hagel (left) with then Senator Barack Obama in 2007
* Charles Krauthammer: The puzzle of the Chuck Hagel nomination for defense secretary is that you normally choose someone of the other party for your Cabinet to indicate a move to the center, but, as The Washington Post’s editorial board pointed out, Hagel’s foreign policy views are to the left of Barack Obama’s, let alone the GOP’s. Indeed, they are at the fringe of the entire Senate.
* On Iran, Hagel doesn’t just oppose military action, a problematic option with serious arguments on both sides. He actually opposed any unilateral sanctions. You can’t get more out of the mainstream than that. He has indicated that he is prepared to contain a nuclear Iran, a position diametrically opposed to Obama’s first-term, ostensibly unalterable opposition to containment. What message do you think this sends the mullahs?
* Iran’s official media have already cheered the choice of what they call this “anti-Israel” nominee. And they fully understand what his nomination signals regarding administration resolve about stopping them from going nuclear.
* Jackson Diehl: In Washington, some of the loudest calls for Obama’s reengagement [on Palestine] come from the “realist” foreign policy camp, populated by figures such as former national security advisers Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft – and Chuck Hagel. These folks opposed the war in Iraq, and they reject U.S. intervention in Syria or military action against Iran’s nuclear program. They have been arguing for years that it is time for the U.S. to recognize limits to its power. When it comes to Israel, however, the realists assume boundless U.S. strength [to pressure it].
* Diehl: If Palestinian statehood is so crucial, then it must be at the center of U.S. foreign policy, regardless of whether the time is ripe. But is it? As Egypt polarizes between secular and Islamist camps, and Syria’s vicious war pits Sunni Muslims against Alawites and their Shiite allies, it seems clear that the region’s biggest conflicts are those of Arabs against Arabs.
* What’s needed [for Palestinian statehood] is a concerted but low-key policy, one that aims at creating conditions for a long-term solution but does not pretend that it can be delivered in the next year or two. Above all, Obama should accept the lesson of his first term: that making Middle East peace a presidential priority will not make it happen.
* In a recent column marking the second anniversary of the Arab Spring, Amos Harel, widely respected military correspondent for the Israeli daily Ha’aretz, made an eye-catching observation in a newspaper that leans decidedly left and rarely misses an opportunity to criticize Israel’s prime minister. “From an Israeli perspective,” he wrote, “it would appear that Benjamin Netanyahu’s initial reading of the so-called Arab Spring was closer to reality than that of Barack Obama and other Western leaders.”
* Peter Berkowitz: Israel’s leaders understand well that as the Middle East’s sole liberal democracy, Israel has a strong interest in the spread of freedom and democracy in the region. But while Israelis cast their gaze beyond their borders, they see a paucity of groups and leaders committed to freedom and a tightening of an Islamic belt around them.
* Berkowitz: When Israelis casts their gaze beyond the region and look to international bodies such as the UN General Assembly and the UN Human Rights Council, and the bulk of the commentary emanating from universities and news organizations in the West, it sees a barely veiled hostility that seems determined to deny Israel’s right to defend itself -- or even exist. As Middle East analyst Tom Gross points out, “Israel needs to devote the same quality of strategic thinking to combating campaigns of disinformation and slander that it has successfully employed on military and intelligence matters.”
I attach three articles, below. Because of severe RSI that makes typing difficult, I am not able to add any additional summaries of my own.
The authors of all three articles (syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer, Deputy Editorial Page Editor of the Washington Post, Jackson Diehl and Peter Berkowitz, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University) are subscribers to this list. -- Tom Gross
1. “The meaning of Hagel” (By Charles Krauthammer, Washington Post, Jan. 11, 2013)
2. On Chuck Hagel: From my dispatch of October 20, 2008
3. On Chuck Hagel: From my dispatch of July 22, 2008
4. “Wading into the Mideast morass” (By Jackson Diehl, Washington Post, Jan. 6, 2013)
5. “Israelis await new government amid old security perils”(By Peter Berkowitz, Real Clear Politics, Jan. 4, 2013)
THE MESSAGE OBAMA SEEMINGLY WANTS TO SEND
The meaning of Hagel
By Charles Krauthammer
Jan 11, 2013
“This is my last election. After my election, I have more flexibility.”
– Barack Obama to Dmitry Medvedev, March 26, 2012
The puzzle of the Chuck Hagel nomination for defense secretary is that you normally choose someone of the other party for your Cabinet to indicate a move to the center, but, as The Washington Post’s editorial board pointed out, Hagel’s foreign policy views are to the left of Barack Obama’s, let alone the GOP’s. Indeed, they are at the fringe of the entire Senate.
So what’s going on? Message-sending. Obama won reelection. He no longer has to trim, to appear more moderate than his true instincts. He has the “flexibility” to be authentically Obama.
Hence the Hagel choice: Under the guise of centrist bipartisanship, it allows the president to leave the constrained first-term Obama behind and follow his natural Hagel-like foreign policy inclinations. On three pressing issues, in particular:
(1) Military Spending
Current Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said in August 2011 that the scheduled automatic $600 billion defense cuts (“sequestration”) would result in “hollowing out the force,” which would be “devastating.” And he strongly hinted that he might resign rather than enact them.
Asked about Panetta’s remarks, Hagel called the Pentagon “bloated” and needing “to be pared down.” Just the man you’d want to carry out a U.S. disarmament that will shrink America to what Obama thinks is its proper size on the world stage; i.e., smaller. The overweening superpower that Obama promiscuously chided in his global we-have-sinned tour is poised for reduction, not only to fund the bulging welfare state – like Europe’s postwar choice of social spending over international relevance – but to recalibrate America’s proper role in the world.
The issue is not Hagel’s alleged hostility but his public pronouncements. His refusal to make moral distinctions, for example. At the height of the second intifada, a relentless campaign of indiscriminate massacre of Israelis, Hagel found innocence abounding: “Both Israelis and Palestinians are trapped in a war not of their making.”
This pass at evenhandedness is nothing but pernicious blindness. Just last month, Yasser Arafat’s widow admitted on Dubai TV what everyone has long known – that Arafat deliberately launched the intifada after the collapse of the Camp David peace talks in July 2000. He told his wife to stay in the safety of Paris. Why, she asked? Because I’m going to start an intifada.
In July 2002, with the terror still raging, Hagel offered further exquisite evenhandedness: “Israel must take steps to show its commitment to peace.” Good God. Exactly two years earlier Israel had proposed an astonishingly generous peace that offered Arafat a Palestinian state – and half of Jerusalem, a previously unimaginable Israeli concession. Arafat said no, made no counteroffer, walked away and started his terror war. Did no one tell Hagel?
Hagel doesn’t just oppose military action, a problematic option with serious arguments on both sides. He actually opposed any unilateral sanctions. You can’t get more out of the mainstream than that.
He believes in diplomacy instead, as if talk alone will deter the mullahs. He even voted against designating Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization at a time when they were supplying and supporting attacks on U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Most tellingly, he has indicated that he is prepared to contain a nuclear Iran, a position diametrically opposed to Obama’s first-term, ostensibly unalterable opposition to containment. What message do you think this sends the mullahs?
And that’s the point. Hagel himself doesn’t matter. He won’t make foreign policy. Obama will run it out of the White House even more tightly than he did in the first term. Hagel’s importance is the message his nomination sends about where Obama wants to go. The lessons are being duly drawn. Iran’s official media have already cheered the choice of what they call this “anti-Israel” nominee. And they fully understand what his nomination signals regarding administration resolve about stopping them from going nuclear.
The rest of the world can see coming the Pentagon downsizing – and the inevitable, commensurate decline of U.S. power. Pacific Rim countries will have to rethink reliance on the counterbalance of the U.S. Navy and consider acquiescence to Chinese regional hegemony. Arab countries will understand that the current rapid decline of post-Kissinger U.S. dominance in the region is not cyclical but intended to become permanent.
Hagel is a man of no independent stature. He’s no George Marshall or Henry Kissinger. A fringe senator who left no trace behind, Hagel matters only because of what his nomination says about Obama.
However the Senate votes on confirmation, the signal has already been sent. Before Election Day, Obama could only whisper it to his friend Dmitry. Now, with Hagel, he’s told the world.
FROM MY DISPATCH OF OCTOBER 20, 2008
This was a note I wrote in my dispatch October 20, 2008, during Barack Obama’s candidature for his first presidential term:
Tom Gross adds: Certainly on questions concerning the Middle East, for sympathizers of Israel and for anyone seriously concerned about nuclear proliferation in the Muslim world, McCain is a much safer bet than Obama, who remains something of an unknown quantity.
The principal Republican being touted for office in an Obama administration, Sen. Chuck Hagel, who is now being tipped as a possible defense secretary, would prove disastrous for Israel if one judges by Hagel’s past record.
Hagel stands out among Republicans for taking positions not shared by the rest of his party, or indeed by moderate Democrats. He has consistently advocated anti-Israel measures. He vehemently opposed the surge in Iraq. He was one of only two senators to vote against renewing the 2001 Iran-Libya Sanctions Act, which passed 96-2 and helped deny Iran and Libya money that they would have spent on supporting terrorism or acquiring weapons of mass destruction. He was one of only four senators who voted against the 2003 Syria Accountability Act which condemned Syria for its support of terrorism and its occupation of Lebanon. And he was one of only four senators who voted against the 1998 Iran Missile Proliferation Sanctions Act, imposing sanctions on foreigners who help Iran’s missile program. One might ask why Obama is so enamored with Hagel?
FROM MY DISPATCH OF JULY 22, 2008
This was a note I wrote in my dispatch of July 22, 2008 (titled “Israelis’ Obama skepticism”), during Barack Obama’s candidature for his first presidential term:
Tom Gross adds: However, of particular concern to supporters of Israel is that Obama, the Democratic Party candidate, is being accompanied by Republican Senator Chuck Hagel on his trip to Israel, one of only two senators Obama is traveling with (the other being Jack Reed, a Democrat from Rhode Island).
One pro-Israel observer said: “If Obama is getting advice from Hagel about Israel, then the American Jewish community has a lot to worry about. Of all the senators with whom Obama could have traveled with, Hagel’s record on Israel is one of the worst.
“The message is heard loud and clear. While Obama has chosen to visit Israel with one of the most anti-Israel senators, by contrast, on John McCain’s most recent trip to Israel, he chose to visit with Joseph Lieberman.”
The Democratic Party has itself previously (in March 2007) released to the press examples of Sen. Hagel’s abysmal record on Israel:
* In August 2006, Hagel was one of only 12 senators who refused to call Hizbullah a terrorist organization.
* In December 2005, Hagel was one of only 27 who refused to sign a letter asking the Palestinian Authority to ban terrorist groups.
* In June 2004, Hagel refused to sign a letter urging President Bush to highlight Iran’s nuclear program at the G-8 summit.
* In November 2001, Hagel was one of only 11 senators who refused to sign a letter urging President Bush not to meet with the late Yasser Arafat until he ended violence against Israel.
* In October 2000, Hagel was one of only four senators who refused to sign a Senate letter in support of Israel.
* And here’s what the anti-Israel group, CAIR, wrote in praise of Hagel: “Potential presidential candidates for 2008, like Hillary Clinton, John McCain, Joe Biden and Newt Gingrich, were falling all over themselves to express their support for Israel. The only exception to that rule was Senator Chuck Hagel” (Council on American-Islamic Relations, 8/28/06).
I mentioned in a previous dispatch:
When asked by Newsweek “Would you have Republicans in your cabinet?” Obama replied, “No decisions, but Dick Lugar embodies the best tradition in foreign policy. Chuck Hagel is a smart guy who has shows some courage, even though we disagree on domestic policy.”
“BENJAMIN NETANYAHU MAY REPRESENT THE DOVISH LEFT WING”
Wading into the Middle East morass
By Jackson Diehl
January 6, 2013
On his second day in office in 2009, Barack Obama launched an ambitious effort to broker peace in the Middle East, ignoring warnings that neither Israelis nor Palestinians were ready for a deal. He was badly burned. Despite the appointment of former senator George Mitchell as an envoy and plenty of direct presidential involvement, the initiative flopped. Israelis and Palestinians never began substantial negotiations, and Obama’s first term ended with another mini-war in the Gaza Strip.
Four years later, the diplomatic landscape looks even more forbidding. Gaza remains firmly in the possession of the Hamas movement, which has not budged from its refusal to recognize Israel. The Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas appears to be crumbling, with Abbas himself contemplating retirement. An election this month in Israel appears likely to create one of most nationalist governments in the country’s history, one in which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – regarded in the White House as a serious obstacle to any peace process – may represent the dovish left wing.
Yet if Obama were to listen to his European counterparts, Arab leaders and even his incoming secretary of state, he would, once again, make the “peace process” a top priority in his second term. The puzzling but persistent illogic behind this is worth deconstructing.
In Washington, some of the loudest calls for Obama’s reengagement come from the “realist” foreign policy camp, populated by figures such as former national security advisers Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft – and former senator Chuck Hagel, whom Obama is considering for defense secretary. These folks opposed the war in Iraq, and they reject U.S. intervention in Syria or military action against Iran’s nuclear program. They have been arguing for years that it is time for the United States to recognize limits to its power.
When it comes to Israel, however, the realists assume boundless U.S. strength. If only he chooses to do so, they argue, Obama could join with U.S. allies or the U.N Security Council in imposing a two-state solution on the Israelis and Palestinians, like it or not. The supposition seems to be that a United States too weak to force Bashar al-Assad out of Syria can compel Israel’s advanced democracy and the leaderless Palestinians to accept compromises they have resisted for decades.
There’s nothing wrong with the realists’ goal. Though often accused of being anti-Israel, Brzezinski and Scowcroft have proposed parameters for a Palestinian state close to those embraced by previous Israeli governments. Their solution is eminently logical; it’s the means of getting there that beggar belief. Obama’s first term was proof: The president proved unable even to force Israel to freeze settlements, or oblige the Palestinian Authority to negotiate – much less dictate a deal.
European governments mostly realized long ago that no U.S. administration would or could strong-arm the two sides. Yet they cling to another dogma, one that I suspect is shared by Secretary of State-to-be John Kerry: that an Israeli-Palestinian settlement is the key to stabilizing the broader Middle East, from Morocco to Iraq. It’s an idea nourished by old and new Arab rulers across the region, from Egypt’s new Islamist president to the kings of Saudi Arabia and Jordan, who are eager to divert U.S. attention from their own troubles.
If Palestinian statehood is so crucial, then it must be at the center of U.S. foreign policy, regardless of whether the time is ripe. But is it? As Egypt polarizes between secular and Islamist camps, and Syria’s vicious war pits Sunni Muslims against Alawites and their Shiite allies, it seems clear that the region’s biggest conflicts are those of Arabs against Arabs. But Western governments are at a loss over what to do about these battles. For the Israelis and Palestinians there is, at least, a well-known formula: conferences to be arranged, shuttles between capitals, dickering over conditions and pre-conditions.
All this is not to argue that Obama should ignore the Israelis and Palestinians or abandon the cause of Palestinian statehood, which in the long run will be a building block of a modernized Middle East. U.S. neglect could be taken as license by Israeli nationalists to take steps to obstruct that future state; it could also prompt Palestinians to embrace more provocative measures, from firing more missiles from Gaza at Israeli cities to inciting a new uprising in the West Bank.
But what’s needed is a concerted but low-key policy, one that aims at creating conditions for a long-term solution but does not pretend that it can be delivered in the next year or two. Obama should encourage Israel’s new government to take palliative steps to ease movement and promote development in the West Bank; he should press Egypt’s ruling Islamists to exert a moderating influence over Hamas. Above all, he should accept the lesson of his first term: that making Middle East peace a presidential priority will not make it happen.
ELECTION SEASON IN ISRAEL
Israelis await new government amid old security perils
By Peter Berkowitz
Real Clear Politics
January 4, 2013
TEL AVIV -- Election season in Israel has brought the usual jockeying for power; an unusually clumsy making, unmaking and remaking of potential post-election coalitions; and, with the assistance of Israel’s merciless TV and radio funnymen and -women, much comic relief.
In the minds of most Israelis, however, there is little suspense about the most likely result of the early elections called for Jan. 22 by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: After three years as head of the current right-wing government, Netanyahu will get the opportunity to form a new government, courtesy of Israeli voters.
There is also little uncertainty about the daunting national security challenges that will occupy the new Netanyahu led-government in 2013.
In conversations with a dozen senior figures in the Israeli national security establishment, including several currently serving in the government, the same three themes kept arising: the increasing Islamization of the region, de-legitimization of Israel in the international arena, and Iran’s pursuit of nuclear arms.
In a recent column marking the second anniversary of the Arab Spring, Amos Harel, widely respected military correspondent and defense analyst for the Israeli daily Haaretz, made an eye-catching observation in a newspaper that leans decidedly left and rarely misses an opportunity to criticize Israel’s right-of-center prime minister. “From an Israeli perspective,” he wrote, “it would appear that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s initial reading of the so-called Arab Spring was closer to reality than that of U.S. President Barack Obama and other Western leaders.”
To be sure, as Harel noted, dictators in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen have been ousted, and the dictator in Syria -- who, to crush rebellion, has butchered approximately 60,000 fellow citizens -- appears to be losing his grip on power.
However, even in Tunisia and Egypt, where elections have taken place, the Arab Spring has created or intensified political instability, resulted in worsened economic conditions, and led directly to the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood, a Sunni organization that seeks to ground political authority in traditional Islamic religious law. This is more or less as Netanyahu and the national security establishment in Israel warned two years ago, even as Obama and European leaders celebrated the supposed emergence of freedom in the Arab world.
Israel’s leaders understand well that as the Middle East’s sole liberal democracy, Israel has a strong interest in the spread of freedom and democracy in the region. But while Israelis cast their gaze beyond their borders, they see a paucity of groups and leaders committed to freedom and a tightening of an Islamic belt around them.
Iranian-backed Hezbollah rules absolutely in southern Lebanon and dominates the Lebanese government. The Iranian-backed regime of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria, whose days most experts in Israel believe are numbered, could well be followed by the ascent to power in Syria of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Pro-western King Abdullah of Jordan confronts a restive population, 70 percent of whom are Palestinian in origin, along with a rising tide of Islamic sentiment and activism among his people. If he were to fall, the most probable result would be an Islamist state -- with a standing army and a modern air force -- on the east bank of the Jordan River.
On Israel’s other flank, Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi is working to consolidate power under an Islamist constitution. Iranian-funded weapons continue to flow to Hamas in Gaza through Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula for use against Israeli civilian populations. Most knowledgeable observers in Israel believe that if elections were held in the West Bank tomorrow, Hamas would win.
Not all the news is bleak, however. Assad’s demise in Syria would deal a devastating blow to Hezbollah in Lebanon and to its patron Iran by destroying a crucial link in the Shiite axis Tehran has been constructing from the Persian Gulf to the eastern shores of the Mediterranean.
At the same time, the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria is weaker than the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. In Jordan, King Abdullah thus far has played his cards well at home, and he enjoys strong if quiet support from Israel even as the pro-Western gulf monarchies understand Jordan’s vital importance to regional stability. In Cairo, Morsi has affirmed his support for peace with Israel and showed a pragmatic streak in brokering the cease-fire between Israel and Hamas that ended Israel’s November 2012 Pillar of Defense operation.
Moreover, with the Egyptian economy teetering on the brink and the problem of feeding Egypt’s nearly 85 million citizens intensifying, Morsi seems to appreciate that the last thing he needs is for Hamas to disrupt relations with Israel.
Meanwhile, Israel’s recently concluded Gaza operation destroyed a high proportion of Hamas’ most dangerous rockets and missiles. Since the end of that operation, Hamas and affiliates in Gaza have held their fire. In the West Bank, which has yet to be touched by the Arab Spring, the economy continues to grow at a brisk clip, as it has since the establishment of Prime Minister Salam Fayad’s government in 2007.
In recent years, the Netanyahu government’s relaxation of the hated roadblocks and checkpoints between Palestinian population centers in the West Bank has increased mobility and promoted commerce, giving Palestinians the opportunity to enjoy middle-class pleasures and develop middle-class habits.
When Israelis casts their gaze beyond the region and look to international bodies such as the United Nations General Assembly and the United Nations Human Rights Council, and the bulk of the commentary emanating from universities and news organizations in the West, it sees a barely veiled hostility that seems determined to deny Israel’s right to defend itself -- or even exist.
Notwithstanding former South African judge Richard Goldstone’s April 2011 retraction in the Washington Post of the most scurrilous and baseless charges leveled in the 2009 U.N. report that bears his name, the Goldstone report continues to be cited by those bent on vilifying Israel as an outlaw nation.
Even with the threats posed by Islamization and de-legitimization, there is little doubt in Israel that Iran’s development of nuclear weapons is the most urgent threat the nation faces.
Netanyahu’s great diplomatic achievement has been to compel a dawdling and distracted West to recognize the gravity of the threat a nuclear Iran poses not only to Israel, but to regional stability. The pro-Western gulf monarchies fully appreciate that the regional hegemony Iran envisages entails their necessary subordination, if not their overthrow.
And while Israeli officials are acutely aware that current sanctions are inflicting real pain on the Iranian economy, they also know that diplomacy hasn’t worked, and they are convinced -- as are most Sunni Arabs in the region -- that diplomacy won’t work. Indeed, the Iranians have taken every invitation to negotiate as the cheap purchase of additional time to enrich uranium, and all indications are that they will continue to do so.
Should the mullahs in Tehran acquire a nuclear weapon, it would only be a short time before Saudi Arabia and other gulf monarchies turned the Middle East poly-nuclear by purchasing their own nuclear weapons from Pakistan. Alternatively, a nuclear Iran might succeed in using its quantum leap in leverage to force those gulf monarchies to expel American troops from the region.
In these difficult circumstances, Israel must both prepare to take advantage of small openings and gird itself against grave dangers. There is little it can do to weaken the appeal of political Islam in the countries that surround it. Israel can, however, continue to seek common ground with Islamists as it has with Egypt’s Morsi.
And it can exercise influence on the West Bank and among its own Arab citizens to reduce the appeal of radical Islam. Regardless of progress in negotiations concerning a final status agreement with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Israel should improve cooperation with the United States, Europe and other willing and able members of the international community to assist West Bank Palestinians in building educational, economic, and political infrastructure.
At the same time, Israel should direct more domestic resources to enabling Arab citizens of Israel to take advantage of the equal rights they enjoy under law and to integrate them into mainstream Israeli society.
The publication of the Goldstone report -- with its slanderous accusation that Israel had adopted a strategy of deliberately targeting civilians during its Gaza military operation -- was a painful wake-up call to Israel, but a wake-up call nonetheless. As a result, Israel grasps that the defense of its good name in the court of international public opinion is a pressing national security interest. Since 2009, Israel has allocated substantial new resources to combating ignorance and prejudice abroad. It can do a good deal more. As Middle East analyst Tom Gross points out, “Israel needs to devote the same quality of strategic thinking to combating campaigns of disinformation and slander that it has successfully employed on military and intelligence matters.”
As for Iran, it is fair to say that Israel continues to develop aggressively options to prevent Tehran from becoming a nuclear power. One way in which the United States could advance the vital national security interest it shares with Israel and the Sunni Arab states -- President Obama has repeatedly affirmed that Iran must be prevented from acquiring nuclear weapons -- would be to announce immediately U.S. support for international monitors of Iran’s June 2013 presidential elections.
Needless to say, Tehran will reject any such proposal, not least because the Islamist revolutionaries who run the country know they cannot win a fair election. But just as Ronald Reagan’s speeches condemning the Soviet Union provided vital moral support to those caught in the Russian gulag, so too could Obama give heart to the sizable proportion of the Iranian population that yearns to rid itself of Islamic totalitarianism.
This will be for Israel a perilous year, as has been every year since 1948, when it declared independence. Expect Israel in 2013, as it has every year since its birth, to rise to the daunting challenges it confronts.