Category Archives: Israel

One-state solution


The Israel-Palestine two-state “solution” is melting away.

For a half century negotiating a relationship between the Jews of Israel and the
Moslem and Christian Arabs of Palestine has been a major diplomatic preoccupation.

But without ever finding the formula, reality is wiping away the concept of creating two states in the old British League of Nationals Mandated Palestine.

The fundamental reason is clear: An Arab Palestine is no match for Israeli Jews’
dynamic economy and society which is making it — despite its size [8.5 million] — a world power.

The question posed, of course, is what kind of one-state solution will evolve from
fast moving events.

There had to be a two-state solution, it was argued, for otherwise a Jewish Israel
would be swamped by an Arab majority. Israel could not be, it was argued, a democratic and Jewish state if it had to live with a majority of Arabs. Israel’s Declaration of Independence after all had called for a Jewish state with equality of social and political rights, irrespective of religion, race, or sex.

And, indeed, Arab citizens of Israel have been elected to every Knesset, and
currently hold 17 of its 120 seats.

But Israel’s overwhelming victory against the Arab forces in the 1967 Six Day
War added the contiguous occupied areas of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights. A 2013 estimate counted 6.2 million Jews and others in Israel, 1.7 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and 2.5 million Palestinians in the West Bank [and East Jerusalem].. There were 1.6 million Israeli Arabs [not including Druze who have largely chosen Israeli citizenship.]. Thus there were 5.8 million Arabs and 6.2 million Jews between the Jordan and the Mediterranean.

Higher birthrates [including plural marriage] among the Arab Bedouin [momads] increasingly redress this balance it was believed with a majority of Arabs.

The current population distribution already demonstrates that potential problem.

Yousef Munayyer, an Israeli Arab citizen argues the 1.5 million Israel Arabs
are second-class citizens while four million more are not citizens at all. Although
Palestinians make up about 20 percent of Israel’s population, he argues they are allocated less than 7 percent of the budget He recalls that a Jew from any country can move to Israel under“The Right of Return Law” but a Palestinian refugee, with a valid claim to property in Israel, cannot.

It is clear that Israel will have to produce new formulas for living as a democratic
state [that is one with electoral processes] and a Jewish state [with special privileges for its Jewish citizens].

Some problems may be less difficult than at first glance with a blurring of
formulas. For example. Israel as “a Jewish state” may not be a greater problem than England, the epitome of democracy, with an established state religion.

There are some indications that as Arabs move to higher economic status,
especially the Israeli Arabs, they have fewer children, thus reducing the future disparity. And earlier “catastrophic” demographic predictions; for example, in the 1960s, predictions suggested that Arabs would be the majority in 1990, have been way off. That study also demonstrated that Christian Arab and Druze birth rates were actually below those of Jewish birth rates in Israel.

But the phrase “demographic bomb”, famously used by Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu in 2003 when he noted that if the percentage of Arab citizens rises above its current level of about 20 percent Israel will not be able to maintain a Jewish demographic majority, is still appropriate.

A new Israel is again emerging without illusions about its demographic problems
– and that does not include another state carved out of the current complex.

Sws-07-24-17

The Syrian crisis deepens


With growing civilian casualties and some nine million refugees, Syria’s civil war has taken a turn for worse.

Direct participation of both the U.S. and Israel now appears to have become inevitable. That adds a new dimension to what too often has been seen as a parallel to the Spanish Civil War [1936-39]. That war, with Mussolini and Hitler aiding the Nationalist/Fascist revolt with weapons and advisers while the Allied powers remained neutral, has often been seen as the prelude to World War II.

In a recent defense engagement the U.S. brought down one of Syrian Dictator Bashar al-Assad’s fighters, its first direct intervention in the war where it has maintained a defensive shield protecting U.S. interests. But it has carefully avoided conflict with either Russia or Iran, allies both on the ground supporters of the al Basher regime. Israel, a contiguous neighbor, has tried to remain neutral. But it recently returned artillery fire across its northern Golan Heights border when bombardments inside Syria from ISIS strayed albeit with no casualties. But both ISIS and Hizbollah, Moslem terrorists operating as part of the rebellion against the al Assad regime, but are also Jerusalem’s opponents.

With this threat of direct U.S. and Israeli intervention, Syria now becomes a critical test for Pres. Donald Trump’s foreign policy. A threat to intervene directly if al Assad or the Soviet and Iranian forces allied with him use chemical weapons, in effect against unarmed populations, would be a major test of Trump’s overall policy of nonintervention. That includes, of course,Washington’s close alliance with Israel. Trump had made such nonintervention basic to his new foreign policy following “America First” goals.

Chemical warfare in Syria would put into question three very different but important aspects of U.S. policy:

1] Chemical warfare in the increasingly chaotic conflict would lead to a massive increase in noncombatant victims. The Syrian fighting, much of it for control of strategic urban areas, has taken heavy casualties among women and children as well as the combatants. The fighting often involves unrestrictive bombing by Soviet aircraft supporting the regime. These civilian casualties have become an increasing concern for American public opinion as well as official government policy.

2] although Trump has recently endorsed the strategy of keeping his policy options secret in oder to use ambiguity as a strategic tactic, the fact is the rest of the world sees opposition to the spread of chemical weapons as a basic American policy in Syria. It is assumed that their use would bring direct U.S. intervention as was threatened but ultimately rejected by a more reluctant Obama Administration.

3] Chemical warfare was initiated in World War I with an arms development race among the warring parties. By the end of the war, scientists working for both sides had tested some 3,000 different chemicals for use as possible weapons. Some 50 of these poisons were actually tried out on the battlefield including a widespread use of chlorine for which there were continuing postwar casualties for U.S. military., But the horror and fear of the weapons’ use – even though responsible for less than 1% of WWI’s fatalities and about 7% of its casualties – led to repeated and relative success in banning them in various international treaties and wars leading up to WWII. Nor were they used in WWII.Were chemical weapons to become pervasive in Syria now it would be not only be a serious new development in the war there, but would break the general taboo that has held them in check since 1915 as a weapon of even in all-out war.

sws-06-28-17

The Obama Legacy


Historians will debate the importance of the Obama Administration and its role in American history for decades to come, of course. The legacy which presidents leave behind them is always a concern of our chief executives, and it has been of even more importance to Barack Obama. As he marked a milestone in his tour of duty. leaving on a foreign tour, with a successor he opposed now chosen, he publicly drew his own optimistic record. He carefully picked, of course, in a press conference, what he considered the best interpretation of events over the last eight years. But at least for the time being, when his policies and their repercussions are still relatively fresh, it is hard to draw a balance sheet which is less than disastrous.
Obama, of course, perhaps more than any other recent president, is an ideologue – and he insisted in his political campaigns that he aimed at a “transformation” of American society. His framework for events is a combination of his studies of history but overlaid by the socialist and pro-Communist views of the little social-political group around the University of Chicago who launched his career.
There is no doubt that he has effected changes, whether they are indeed transformations, and whether any have been beneficiary, only time will tell.
But any honest examination of the effects of his strategies is a record of miscalculation and failures. Perhaps the most dramatic ones have been in foreign policy. His campaign to withdraw American power and decision-making from the international scene has demonstrated what had always been apparent to serious students of foreign affairs: the enormous power of the U.S., economic, political and military, has a role in any international confrontation even when Washington chooses to remain neutral or withdraw its influence. A world order without U.S. participation is not only unimaginable to our allies but something our adversaries always question as a possibility.
The Middle East is the most dramatic example of the failure of Obama’s effort to remove American leadership and power in the interelated conflicts there. First, his effort to weaken the U.S.-Israel alliance encouraged the Moslem terrorists in the area. Then, Sec. Hillary Clinton’s courted the brief Moslem Brotherhood regime in Egypt – overthrown by the military through popular demand. Obama and Hillary attempted to boycott the new military rulers thus providing an opportunity for Russian arms sales and influence where it had been expelled a half century ago by pro-Western Egtptians. In Syria, Obama’s initial declaration of opposition to the Basher al Assad regime was followed by withdrawal. Washington’s retreat assured the descent into a bloody, irresolute civil war sending a flood of millions of refugees into neighboring countries and Europe. The threat of force followed by its withdrawal has returned Moscow to a base in the eastern Mediterranean and helped extend Tehran mullahs’ state terrorisn excesses across the Fertile Crescent, even into Latin America. A treaty to curb Tehran’s nuclear weapons, never submitted to the Senate as the Constitution fdemands, is rapidly disintegrating
In East and South Asia, Obama’s ambivalent policies toward Chinese aggression have encouraged Beijing to aggressive territorial claims against its neighbors, discouraged unity among the Southeast Asians against Chinese Communist threats. Again Hillary’s much publicized pivot to the Western Pacific has failed to materialize. Slowly, the rape of the American economy by the Chinese through export subsides and currency manipulation – begun in the Bush Administrations — has become so clear that the Trump Administration qill have no option but a dangerous crackdown.
Obama’s role as the first American Afro-American president was, whether admitted in public discussion, seen as an important opportunity to continue to heal the historic American race problem. But whether in part because his own exotic background linked him neither to the rising black middle class nor the poor of the ghetto, he either took nondefensible positions on individual race incidents or neglected completely the mayhem of his own Chicago hometown. One has to assume that the American black leadership can only see these past eight years as a failure by a president, whatever his color, to contribute to solution of the race problem which appears to most observers to be in an even worse condition than at his entry into office.
Obama’s claim for his Affordable Care solution to long-term U.S. medical care is nearing collapse with skyrocketing costs and failure of the insurance framework which was to support it. His steady stream of executive directives for additional regulation and environmental restraints has contributed toward the slowest and most erratic economic recovery since World War II.
Despite his rhetorical skills and personal popularity as the first black president, Obama’s legacy will be a negative one. As the anti-Obama vote for Donald Trump has demonstrated, it will also cast a shadow on many of the techniques and political forms his very talented political team gave the nation.
sws-11-14-16

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Obama’s Syrian legacy


It would be hard to exaggerate the mess in the Middle East that Pres. Barack Obama is leaving his successor.
While the five-year Syrian civil war continues unabated, pitting a number of different armed groups against each other with their foreign sponsors, Washington is caught in its own contradictions. In August American special forces assistance and bombing was given a Turkish incursion into northern Syria even though Ankara’s target was the American Kurdish Syrian ethnic ally most effective in the contest, and Washington’s target the Islamicist rebels now involved in the anti-regime movement.
Ankara fears Syrian Kurdish ethnics are attempting to set up a ministate, perhaps aiming to link up with its own Kurdish armed guerillas it has been fighting for three decades, often with Soviet assistance. The Turks fear America’s autonomous ally, the Syrian Kurds, the Kurdish region in Iraq, and ultimately, Iranian ethnic Kurds may try to form a new secessionist state with their own huge Turkish Kurdish minority.
Meanwhile, Turkey accuses Americans of having been involved in the recent failed coup against an elected Turkish government, one that under Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is steadily headed toward an authoritarian Islamicist regime. Erdogan blames Fethullah Gulen. Muslim cleric and politician, once his closest infiltrating the state judicial and security system, for leading the coup and has formally asked for his extradition from the U.S.
Turkish airmen at the NATO-Turkish-U.S. base at Incirlik air base near the Syrian border were accused by Erdogan of implication in the failed coup, and U.S. operations there aimed at the Daesh [ISIS or ISIL Islamic terrorists] were halted temporarily. Not a comforting thought for Washington planners with nuclear weapons deployed there.
Erdogan’s leaky southern border has seen Islamicist support move south from Ankara and hundreds of thousands of migrants — some refugees from violence, others economic immigrants – moving on to Europe. His effort to blackmail German Chancellor Angela Merkel for additional aid and free movement of Turks inside the European Union in exchange for blockin the migrants has collapsed. Germany is hiccupping violently from the more than a million “refugees” it admitted last year with Merkel’s welcome.
Meanwhile, Obama courts Tehran’s mullahs. He signed what many believe was a no enforceable pact to halt Iran’s nuclear weapon, even though within weeks they publicly bragged of their firing of an intercontinental ballistic missile for carrying such a weapon. The American president went through secret contortions to pay $400 million – originally part of earlier arms purchases by the government of Reza Shah Palevi which Washington helped unseat – to free hostages. Billions more apparentlyis on its way.
The mystery is, of course, what Obama [and supporters of his Persian policy] think they are buying: Iran is already the world’s leasing sponsor of state terrorism and has lined up Mediterranean satellites in Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza. Both, of course, threaten Israel. One of the troubled aspects between Jerusalem and Ankara, once close military allies, is Turkish support of Hamas, a common enemy now of Egypt and the Israelis.
Obama didn’t create the bitter and explosive Mideast animosities, of course. But he has built on that inheritance, antagonizing America’s tradition Sunni and Israeli allies in the region. In Syria, the crux of the conflict, Turkey is ostensibly an ally of the U.S. is seeking to oust the Damascus regime under Basher al Assad, supported in turn by the Russians as well as the Persians. Moscow, despite its still a crippled relic of Soviet power, is creating naval and air bases in Syria – culpable in mass bombing of civilian populations – aiming at the old Soviet influence.
Whether Obama’s original threat to intervene in Syria, then withdrawn, would have made the difference in controlling the Mideast chaos, is an unanswerable question. But there is no doubt that his policies have helped create the current chaotic situation, increasingly involving the major powers, that could be the beginning of a regional conflict spreading beyond its current confines.
sws-08-30-16

Obama’s deadly compromise


President Barack Obama confirmed in his press conference Thursday that he has accepted as unavoidable the recurrent, periodic Islamic terrorist attacks in the U.S. and abroad. That was the import of his answers to questions wherein he indicated that he would not modify what he considers his winning policy in the Mideast to “degrade and destroy” Daesh [ISIS or ISIL].
His response to criticism and demands that the U.S. should undertake a more aggressive policy toward the Mideast source of Islamic terrorism was to warn about additional civilian casualties from any such American action. Yet he acknowledged that Russian intervention in the Syrian conflict is accompanied by massive attacks on the civilian population. He mocked spokesmen, including inferentially the Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, who have called for the kind of all-out military effort against ISIS that destroyed Nazism and held the Communists at bay during the 35 years of The Cold War. Obama’s response is despite the fact that most American military commanders and planners argue that ISIS falls only behind Russia as Washington’s principal threat.
In effect, Obama’s program of action accepts an unspecified duration when the current worldwide wave of terrorist activity would continue. His rationalization for accepting such a level of violence against the civilian population was that there has always been terrorist activity from many different quarters over the past decades and that it was therefore not a new phenomenon. The implication was that terrorism is a natural phenomenon and may not ever be completely eliminated.
Obama outlined at some length the failure of his continuing negotiations with the Russians to end their support of the Basher al Assad regime in Syria. However, he took no note of the limited Moscow commitment in Syria today compared with Soviet times because of Russia’s diminished military capacity. Admitting that negotiations with the Russians have not produced any diminishment of Moscow’s activities in Syria, he offered the admonition that should such activity continue, it would condemn Russia as an international pariah in world opinion. That such an epithet would have already been accepted in most democratic circles around the world did not seem to reduce for him the importance of such additional evidence coming out of the Syrian civil war. Nor did Obama’s concentration on the Syrian conflict take account of Russian aggression in the Crimea, its subversion among Russian-speakers in the eastern Ukraine, and its continuing threats to the Baltic states.
The President did argue that the U.S. military activity against Daesh in the Mideast, however successful, would require a more comprehensive program to meet ISIS’ ideological concept. Yet, he failed again, to grapple with that very problem, that is to meet the challenge of the terrorists’ allegiance to Islam which forms their ideological framework. Obama continues, as do most observers, to acknowledge but intellectually ignore that however perverted and distorted their view, the terrorists base their creed on their own version of Islam. Obama ignores that a discussion of Islam and its relation to the terrorists is critical to any examination of their ideology.
Like other important international spokesmen, in fact Obama refuses to advocate that the world examine and discuss whatever tenets that religion holds which produce the current wave of terrorism. Instead, he like others fall back on such clichés as “Islam is a religion of peace” and the obvious conclusion that most Moslems are not advocates of terrorism. What Obama and his supporters ignore is that the terrorists are not Christian Scientists nor Mormons, but while all Moslems are not terrorists, all terrorists are Moslems. They ignore the long history of Arab and Moslem holy war [jihad] to force non-believers [kafirs] or face death or enslavement.
Obama’s acceptance , in effect, of the current level of world terrorism will lead to further augmentation of ISIS as it spreads it network around the world, gaining psychotic and fanatical adherents of an aggressive version of Islam because of its “success” in terrorizing the civilized world.

sws-08-04-16

The Iran mystery


In all the torturous puzzles of the current Mideast chaos, perhaps the greatest unknown is what the Obama Administration thinks it is accomplishing with its Iran policy.

Again, in the past few days, we have had evidence that Pres. Barack Obama is moving – this time secretly – to accommodate the mullahs in Tehran. The explanation for the payment of an old debt to the Shah’s regime is worse than ludicrous. Even more evident is the extreme secrecy with which the $400 million was paid, indicating that the Obama Administration was perfectly aware that it was conducting a dubious deal at best.

The latest revelation builds on a series of negotiations and concessions Washington has made to Iran. The assumption has to be made that Obama believes that some sort of overall settlement can be made between the U.S. and the Tehran regime as part of an effort to stabilize the Mideast.

However, any objective review of the current situation – excluding of course the secrets passing back and forth between Obama and the mullahs – indicates there is no such possibility of an accomodation with the religious fanatics who direct the regime and its worldwide terrorist campaign. So, the mystery is what does Obama knows or thinks he knows that is not generally acknowledged by others viewing the relationship.

In fact Obama is dealing with a regime of religious fanatics who have chosen the most egregious tenets of traditional Islam to wage war against “infidels”. Their stock and trade has from the beginning of the regime been anti-Americanism. They are based on accusations of U.S. intervention in Persia’s affairs which ignore the pro-Nazi regime on the outbreak of World War II and the post-war effort of the Soviet Union to take over the country with satellite regimes among its several minorities.

Furthermore, there is considerable evidence that the regime no longer commands the majority of Iranian public support and rules only with the use of vicious internal repression. That revulsion against the regime – which in the end makes it fragile and any “deal” with it equally precarious – came with the carefully controlled elections of 2013 when the regime was threatened by a general rejection. At that time, despite calls from the dissidents who had been cheated of their victory, for American support, Obama and his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ignored them

As the Obama Administration constantly acknowledges, Tehran’s mullahs are supporting anti-U.S. movements in the Mideast and terrorist activities in Latin America. It was, in fact, suicide bombers belonging to Hizb’allah’s earlier organization that killed 241 U.S. marines and 58 French servicemen, six civilians in Beirut in 1983. Today not only Hizb’allah but the Hamas terrorists in Gaza are projections of the mullahs’ power in the eastern Mediterranean. The fact that Hamas is Sunni and originally a creature of the ultra-Sunni Moslem Brotherhood of Egypt, suggests Tehran’s growing international clout.

Obama’s extended negotiations – and concessions to the Tehran mullahs – has alarmed the U.S. traditional Sunni Arab allies, the Egyptians, the Saudis and the Gulf oil states. Israel, a target the mullahs have announced they want to wipe out, is having to adjust its relationship with other players in the region – including recently returned Moscow to Syria — in an effort to meet a Tehran regime strengthened through Obama’s efforts.

The Obama Administration’s rationalization that its courtship of the mullahs and the recent payment is part of settling long-standing accounts is even more ridiculous. Administration spokesmen have been forced to acknowledge that its payments are not only fungible – that is substituting for other expenditures of the mullahs – but probably actually going to support its terrorist activities.

There continue to be 4,700 private US claims against Tehran for seizure of prosperities after the fall of the Shah.. An international special tribunal has ordered payments by Iran to US nationals totaling over $2.5 billion. By 2014, almost all private claims had been resolved, but several intergovernmental claims were still to be negotiated – hardly a record on which to base a new and accommodating relationship.

It is time that the President tells the rest of us on what basis his Iran policy is formulated, the secret behind his negotiations with one of the most hideous and destructive regimes in the world?

sws-08-04-16

Plugging, common sense and precision


It was inevitable, of course, that when The Digital Revolution spawned The Information Revolution, it would simultaneously open up The Misinformation Revolution.
If anyone, anywhere, anytime – except perhaps in China – can gap on the internet and pontificate, a great deal of what is there is bound to be even worse than nonsense, but poisonous. The only defense is a resort to history, which seems to have gone out of style as an academic discipline, and common sense.
Here are cases in point:
The CN-NPR war against the candidacy of Donald Trump, whatever your own views about The Donald, constantly harps on the theme of the minority vote which they conclude he will not receive. Mebbe. But it is well to remember that in the past – with the enormous exception, granted, of 2008 and 2012, and for obvious reasons — was never a major factor in elections. Even registered black voters notoriously did not vote, and the Mexican-Americans in the southwest, less half as much as they. It remains to be seen if Pres. Barack Obama’s face, and the incredibly honed digital machine his supporters built, has reversed these historic trends.
Speaking of Hispanics. There are none. There are Americans who language in their household – or perhaps their only language in parts of the Southwest – is Spanish, properly Castellano. But, for example, antagonism between Mexico and Cuba in the Spanish Empire was the feud to end all feuds. That carried on among their progeny in the U.S. The Florida and New Jersey Cuban minorities, because of the flight of many of them and their antagonism to the Castro regime, have in the past been Republican with notable exceptions, e.g. Bob Menendez, Democrat, New Jersey (2006–Present), Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from New Jersey’s 13th district [993-2006]. The flirtation with Raúl Castro of the Obama Administration is likely to end the erosion which was taking place among younger Cuban Americans in recent years. Puerto Ricans is the largest Spanish-speaking minority in Florida; they cannot vote in federal elections in Puerto Rico. They tend to be Democrats because of the long affiliation the first popularly elected governor of the Rican Commonwealth Luis Muñoz Marín local social democratic party was tied to the Democrats’ New Deal on the Mainland. California Mexican-Americans, when they vote tend, to be indeed solidly Democratic, but the Bushes and the current governor, Greg Abbott, has cut heavily into their formerly Democrat base. By the way, all speak Spanish but most Mexicans will admit – unless they come from their own Caribbean coast, e.g. Tampico – that they have great difficulty understanding Cubans and Puerto Ricans’ Spanish.
The Trump campaign keeps trumpeting a “fact”; the candidate earned more votes than any GOP primary candidate in history , they argue, in his primary race with 17 opponents whom he liquidated [or did more or less so until Ted Cruz’ ghost showed up at the third day of the Republican convention]. The “fact” is indisputable, but in no small part explained by another fact: the current estimate of the U.S. population is 322.48 [not counting an unknown number of illegals], more than double the 163.03 million estimated in 1954. Obviously, what is considered the minority political party – kept under an Electoral College handicap by the huge and continuing Democratic majorities in New York and California – has gained spectacularly? With an unprecedented number of candidates all salivating at the possibility of running against a “third Obama administration masquerading as Hillary Clinton, that impetus would have been even stronger. There was large numbers of Democrats and independents, in the states where registration can be changed easily, switching their party affiliation to Republican to take part in the free-for-all.
The CNNers and NPRers are trumpeting the divisions of the just ended Republican Convention, again, as the first time ever, etc. In fact, in the modern era both political parties have been coalitions of regional forces – often at ideological loggerheads with one another but both more interested in power than more egests. The Talking Heads ignore, for example, the fact that the Democratic Party which ruled [under Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Harry Truman] for two decades was a coalition of segregationists [“The Solid South, Dixiecrats, etc], highly personal urban political “machines [Tammany in NYC, Hague in Jersey City, Daley in Chicago and Pendergrass in Kansas City – from which Truman, himself emerged], the AFL-CIO unions, socialists and Communists, and FDR’s “kitchen cabinet” of academic advisers. Furthermore, vice presidents – to “balance” ticket geographically – virtually disappeared with FDR’s firing of Henry Wallace, an Iowa and agricultural society icon, in 1936. [I know; I was writing editorials in my hometown weekly supporting Wallace and the AFL-CIO Political Action Committee!] So-called platform committees in both parties have been irrelevant in terms of influencing the candidates’ policy but simply a combat ring for battling. Party apparatchiks.
So what’s the lesson here? Obviously, don’t believe everything The Talking Heads say with great authority. [It’s something of a delight to listen to one noted female star that has suddenly blossomed into an expert on the Mideast!] Remember, — at least for the time being –Google, and there are dictionaries, the Britannica, to check them out. But most of all maintain your own skepticisms – everything on the Internet is not The Word!
sws-07-21-16

Obama’s Mideast muddle


The U.S.’ strategic position in the Middle East is becoming increasingly muddled by internal conflicts in the Obama Administration’s strategy.
For one thing, Washington finds itself engaged in a conflict with the Russians through surrogates in the complex Syrian civil war. Moscow supports the regime of Basher al Assad whose ruthlessness against its internal enemies now seven years ago turned popular peaceful demonstrations into an escalating armed conflict.
Obama gave tepid support, if from time to time withdrawing behind red lines he had drawn. to a small democratic position to al Assad. But it has been virtually annihilated in the growing conflict against the regime led by various terrorist groups, including Daesh [ISIS or ISIL] and al Qaeda. The most recent episode has been a devastating attack by Russian aircraft on a splinter of the democratic moderates ostensibly supported by Washington. The growing success of Daesh in Syria, of course, becomes a problem on the larger screen for Washington who is still pondering how to curtail its growing worldwide influence, including on so=called American “lone wolf” terrorists.
A minor crisis ensued when the Russians a few days ago bombed a group of anti-al Assad rebels backed by Washington. Moscow, apparently attempting to avoid a more open conflict with the U.S., claims its bombers were not informed adequately about the nature of the largely civilian population it attacked. But that seems a lame excuse given the access of the Russians not only to al Assad’s intelligence but the increasingly active participation of the Tehran mullahs, now cozying up to the Russians.
The U.S. position, too, is becoming less transparent and more committed with its alliance to the Saudis who support rebel Syrian groups. Inferentially, the U.S. Sec. of State John Kerry’s solution, a negotiated settlement which would see the departure of al Assad, seems further away than ever. Negotiations among all the parties in Geneva have achieved little more than a further definition of their varying positions.
The American position has become even more confused with the denunciation of the earlier aspects of the problem by a memorandum signed by 51 career foreign service officers. Leaked to the mainstream media, it blames the Obama Administration for refusing to pursue a policy of destruction of the al Assad regime. Aside from a violation of the unspoken code of ethics among career appointees to contain their opposition to policy within official channels, the memo seems tries to shut the barn door after the horse had long been stolen. That may have been a solution early on in the Syrian Civil War, but with al Assad at least temporarily improving his position with growing Russian and Iranian assistance, it hardly seems an answer to the present difficulties.
Critics of the American diplomats’ position point out it offers no solution to the current military impasse. The danger, of course, is that Vladimir Putin, up against European and American opposition in his seizure of Crime, and efforts to dominate Ukraine, and his threats to the Baltic States, may overplay his hand. A further escalation by Russian forces in Syria, with the likelihood they could defeat al Assad’s internal opposition, would help solve the growing problem of Islamic terrorism, a threat to Moscow as it its to other powers. But it would likely require an American response rather than see the Russians – with their new Tehran mullahs’ assistance – reestablish a strategic hold in one of the Mideast’s most important states.
The Russian threat, in part, has already forced the Israelis – on not very good terms with the Obama Administration – into a series of personal negotiating trips to Moscow by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. How far Netanyahu is coordinating these negotiations with the Obama Administration isn’t altogether clear. Nor is the Chinese position, although of lesser importance, apparent.
One thing does seem obvious. The Obama Administration is rapidly losing any ability to influence the outcome of the Syrian civil war. With so many players – and such enormous potential impact on its Arab neighbors – that becomes another major defeat for Obama’s foreign policy and another hot potato he is leaving for his successor next year, whoever he may be and however qualified to deal with the situation.
sws-06-26-16

Facing up to Mideast realities


With all signs pointing to a new war between the Israelis and the Moslem terrorist Hamas in Gaza, now supported despite their Sunni-Shia differences by Tehran’s mullahs, one lesson seems not to have been learned by Washington. That is that whatever opportunities there are for a Jewish-Moslem, Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement in the region, they are not through the old suggestion of “land for peace”
The unilateral withdrawal of the Israeli army from Gaza, and the dismantling of all Israeli settlements in the Strip in 2005, had been proposed in 2003 by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, adopted by the Government in June 2004, approved by the Knesset [Israeli parliament] in February 2005 and enacted in August 2005. Sharon saw it as a step, the first step, in an accomodation with the Palestinians and their Arab allies after Israel’s blitkfrieg in the June 1967 Six-Day War. The Israelis had demonstrated they were the primary regional military power and could, again, however reluctantly, take on all comers.
What neither Sharon nor the Talking Heads anticipated was that free elections would turn up a plurality of the 1.6 million Gazans for Hamas, an Islamicist opposition to the secularist Palestinian Liberation Organization [PLO] of Yasser Arafat. Arafat and his PLO had had a virtual monopoly as the only spokesmen for growing Palestinian nationalism.
Hamas proceeded to try to literally eliminate the PLO in Gaza, including throwing PLO supporters off roofs. Arafat’s successors have continued to maintain their hold on the 2.5 million West Bank Arabs [despite a quarter of a million Jews in “settlements” there] and the 200,000 Arabs and Jews in East Jerusalem. These areas were held by Jordan after the 1947 declaration of an Israeli state and what the Jews call their war for independence, but its Husseini rulers were pushed back across the Jordan in 1967.
However, there have been major changes in what had seemed a long stalemate.
Hamas, only opposed by terrorist organizations even more violent, not only maintains its grip on Gaza but probably would win an election in what is generally called the West Bank. A stronger Israel now increasingly argues that while it hosted a major Arab, largely Moslem, minority, after independence, its claims to Judea and Samaria, traditional names for the West Bank, must be honored. Predictions that Israel’s Arab [and Druse] minority would be a quarter of its total population by 2050 [now just over eight million] are now being revised. In the always difficult estimates of fertility and population increase, the Israeli Arab population – those in the pre-1967 state – has fallen behind the now more rapid increase among the Jews.
Another and perhaps the most complicating factor is that Judea and Samaria and Jerusalem are the sites of the ancient Hebrew kingdoms, finally suppressed by the Romans with the dispersal of the Jews. The urban and agricultural developments which the Zionists have achieved with enormous success in such areas as Tel Aviv and Haifa were never the heart of the Jewish homelands which the current Israeli state attempts to restore. Yet most observers believe that were free elections now held Hamas might well win elections there too With no widely recognized successor to seventy-nine -year-old Mohammed Abbas who now heads the PLO/Palestinian “state” the Israeli argument that they have no negotiating partner has substance..
A militant, threatening Hamas-dominated state on the West Bank would be an existentialist threat to Israel’s existence, as the PLO always threatened pre-1967. Pres. Barak Obama’s public statements suggesting that pre-1967 borders be the basis for new negotiations has not only infuriated the Israelis, but is an obvious non-starter. Those boundaries included, for example, only a slender corridor connecting Tel Aviv and the Israeli plains with Western Jerusalem that target would be the object of any militarized Arab state on the West Bank.
In theory, both Israel and the U.S. accept the possibility of two states, one Israeli, Jewish, “within secure borders”, and another which recognizes Palestinian yearnings. But no Palestinian group, from so-called “moderates” to Hamas, has been willing to make even a nominal formal pledge to accept the Jews’ right to a state in the region.
That, unfortunately, is where the Israel-Palestinian problem awaits the next president of the United States if he is to make a major contribution to Mideast peace and stability.
sws-06-09-16

Jews, Zionism, Israel


With all the current economic and political problems, it is something of a curiosity that the Europeans – including the British – are again tussling over the Jews and their relationship to the larger society. It’s no secret that Europe’s old-fashioned anti-Semitism – hatred of the Jews – has found a new ally in the new radical political left. That explains, to some extent, why the British Labor Party, so long a bastion for U.K. Jewish voters, has just expelled two prominent members for their alleged anti-Jewish statements.
No one has ever given a completely adequate explanation of Western anti-Semitism. True enough, in a time of more radical fundamentalist Christian beliefs in the Catholic Church, particularly; there was the accusation that “the Jews killed the Christ”. Of course, what makes that accusation ridiculous for those who know the history of the Roman conquest of Biblical Palestine and the repeated Hebrew revolts against it, is the acceptance in Christianity of so much of the older religion. That “the Jews” like other social, ethnic or religious groups have their share of ignominy could never be contested but whether it merits the attention it gets is another issue altogether That is, why anti-Jewish prejudice and activity should be such a prominent part of European social history, even now that the great bulk of European Jewry has been annihilated by the Nazis, is again inexplicable..
“The Jewish question” as it used to be called in European politics, merges, of course, into the issues of Zionism. This is the catch-all name for all those various efforts and movements to return the Jews, or at least a significant portion of them, to a state of their own in its former historic hinterland. The subject, unfortunately, covers everything from those – Christian as well as Jew – who have propounded the idea from the late 19th century. Some antagonists saw it as an effort to expel the Jews from European society, others as a fulfillment of Biblical prophecy and/or the culmination of their faith which would bring a second coming of the Christ and usher in a period of heaven on earth. But in part as a result of the Holocaust, Zionism in the post-World War era took on a mantle of dynamic secular statehood which despite all odds and repeated efforts by its Arab Moslem neighbors has created a new independent and relatively successful state of the Jews in the Middle East.
But the existence of a functioning state has — if not aggravated — made the problems of Jew-hatred and its “solution” even more complex. It was inevitable, perhaps, that any state – much less a Jewish one created in the morass of the Middle East – would undertake policies to which some of its critics have taken strong objection. One aspect is that the Arabs of British Mandated Palestine between the two world wars took on their own identity – “the Palestinians” — and a nationalism which had never existed in an Arab or Moslem state in the area. It was also perhaps inevitable that as the Israeli state became stronger and assertive, a less cohesive if modernized Arab population in the same neighborhood would become a sympathetic underdog figure for Western idealists, particularly on the left.
This has, in turn, added to a powerful political debate over Israeli policies, and the difficulty of distinguishing its more virulent critics from the traditional anti-Semites with their Jew hatred. Why, the accusations and counter-accusations over these arguments given so many other issues, should take such a prominent place in current European politics is again something of a mystery. One explanation, of course, is that the growth of anti-Semitism in the contemporary period is as seen by many as a candle in the mineshaft. It is too often associated with those European political circles tempted, now once again, by authoritarianism and chauvinist dictatorship which dominated European politics in the 1930s and helped bring on World War II.
Whatever the failings of the Israeli state, it still constitutes the only country in the area which represents Western democratic values. It is no accident, as the Communists used to say, that Mideast Christians today are only safe from persecution and even annihilation in an Israel which while dedicated to the concept of “a Jewish state” preserves the rights of its significant Arab minority however much they are victims of their own incapacities and discrimination.
As the debate continues, it is important to try to cultivate the particulars. By not doing so, we again risk running into dangerous territory.
sws-04-30.16

Turkey’s thuggish regime


The descent of Pres. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s administration into a brutish tyranny is rapidly becoming a problem which The White House will have to face. That the Washington Brookings Institution almost canceled Erdoğan’s speech after his security detail manhandled American and Turkish reporters is illustrative of what has been happening in Turkey for months.
Now the London-based Amnesty International documents Erdoğan’s expulsion of refugees back into Syria – including unaccompanied small children – among the degeneration of Ankara policies. Obviously this violates Erdoğan’s blackmail of the Western European powers to halt the flight of refugees to Greece in exchange for massive payments to bolster a flagging Turkish economy. Some 2.7 million migrants have reached Europe since the Syrian conflict began; another 151,104 crossed the Aegean from Turkey to Greece this year alone while 366 drowned trying. Meanwhile, the United Nations refugee agency warned that Greece’s overburdened asylum system is close to a collapse, further adding to its continuing economic crisis.

Turkish and EU leaders in March agreed on a deal curbing the influx that has plunged Europe into its biggest refugee crisis since the end of World War II. And the Turks are hosting some 2.7 million Syrian refugees. But the new agreement with the Europeans, principally Germany, is supposed to allow one legitimate Syrian refugee to migrate to Europe in exchange for every migrant [not necessarily a true refugee] Ankara takes back. This all will cost the Europeans $3.3 billion, ostensibly to pay Ankara’s costs. Germany has already said it will take the first Syrian refugees with children in this strangest of new developments.
Whatever the outcome of the refugee pact, however, what has to concern Washington policymakers is Erdoğan’s internal policies and his relationship with his terrorists in the region. He has turned his back on his earlier effort to negotiate the decades-long insurgency, resulting from Ankara’s refusal to acknowledge the aspirations of its huge Kurdish minority. That’s doubly complicated by the fact that Ankara is waging a campaign against the Kurds inside Syria who are Washington’s only successful weapon against the Basher Al Assad government, ostensibly as much a target for the Turks as the U.S. and its allies.
Pres. Obama in the early days of his administration sought to ignore Erdoğan’s Islamicist past; the President even saying he was one of the few foreign leaders with whom he had intimate relations. The relationship has soured with Erdoğan following increasingly Islamicist policies at home and playing footsie with both Hamas and Hezbollah, both on Washington’s terrorist list and Israel’s mortal enemies.
When Erdoğan turned up for an international meeting in Washington last week, the White House first refused to see him shuffling him off to Vice Pres. Joe Biden as a diplomatic snub. But then, in typical Obama fashion, the President accorded him a private session on the edges of the international meeting on nuclear proliferation.
There’s little hope Sec. of State John Kerry’s international peace conference on Syria is going to make much progress soon. Germany’s idea of swapping open access to Turkey’s 75 million people by dangling eventual EU membership doesn’t yet seem likely to produce better policy in Ankara. As an important NATO power, with that treaty’s importance again growing with renewed Moscow aggression [despite candidate Donald Trump’s warped understanding of international affairs], finding a U.S. strategy to handle Erdoğan and his critical role in the Mideast chaos is dire.
sws-04-04-16

The Obama Doctrine


Jeffrey Goldberg has made a valiant effort in a lengthy [and often repetitious] article in The Atlantic [striving desperately to become high-brown] to present a comprehensive explanation of Pres. Obama’s foreign policy. Goldberg is both exhaustive and sympathetic, giving us extended references to intimacies with the President over many years – dating, as he tells us, to Obama’s days as an unknown Illinois state senator.
Goldberg fails, however, for one simple reason: he trifles with the facts as well as the interpretations.
Many of my readers will abandon us here, for what we will have to do is to burrow into the article. Nor can we do more than skim the surface of our differences with Goldberg’s misstatements and interpretations.
• “xxx Obama believes that the Manichaeanism, and eloquently rendered bellicosity, commonly associated with Churchill were justified by Hitler’s rise, and were at times defensible in the struggle against the Soviet Union.xxx” The New Oxford tells us “bellicosity:” means “Demonstrating aggression and willingness to fight”. Does that really describe a Churchill as leader of a lonely Britain holding out against the most criminal tyranny the world had ever seen? Or later against Communism which had taken tens of millions of lives of innocent citizens in Both the Soviet Union and China?
• “xxx Bush and Scowcroft removed Saddam Hussein’s army from Kuwait in 1991, and they deftly managed the disintegration of the Soviet Union xxx” That’s a very interesting if wholly bogus interpretation of the implosion of the Soviet Union in the face of a relatively passive foreign policy of Bush I and an even more passive policy advocated by Scowcroft.
• “xxx Obama would say privately that the first task of an American president in the post-Bush international arena was ‘Don’t do stupid shit.’ xxx” Goldberg repeatedly quotes this Obama axiom as a guideline to making foreign policy. Enough said.
• “xxx Four years earlier, the president believed, the Pentagon had ‘jammed’ him on a troop surge for Afghanistan. Now, on Syria, he was beginning to feel jammed again.xxx” Goldberg neglects to remind readers that at the same time Obama injected new troops into Afghanistan, he announced a deadline for withdrawal – hardly a great strategic concept.
• “xxx Within weeks, Kerry, working with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, would engineer the removal of most of Syria’s chemical-weapons arsenal—a program whose existence Assad until then had refused to even acknowledge.xxx” The operative word is “most”; Assad has continued to use chemical weapons against his own people; only days ago there was another instance in Aleppo.
• “xxx A widely held sentiment inside the White House is that many of the most prominent foreign-policy think tanks in Washington are doing the bidding of their Arab and pro-Israel funders. I’ve heard one administration official refer to Massachusetts Avenue, the home of many of these think tanks, as “Arab-occupied territory xxx” One of Goldberg [or Obama’s] more curious statements given the fact that the more often heard accusation [obviously false given their vast differences] is that Washington think tanks are enthralled by Jews/Zionists/Israelis.
• “xxx Over the course of our conversations, I came to see Obama as a president who has grown steadily more fatalistic about the constraints on America’s ability to direct global events, even as he has, late in his presidency, accumulated a set of potentially historic foreign-policy achievements—controversial, provisional achievements, to be sure, but achievements nonetheless: the opening to Cuba, the Paris climate-change accord, the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, and, of course, the Iran nuclear deal. xxx” “xxx But achievements nevertheless xxx” Oh? The Cuban dictatorship remains in place having made no concessions, arresting new political dissidents even as the Obama-Castro agreement was announced. The Paris climate-change accord binds no one to anything, is based on scientific assumptions under fire, and does nothing to clear up the controversial claims of the Obama supporters that human activity is the critical issue. The Trans-Pacific Parntership trade pact is yet to be accepted in any of the constituent partners and is now under attack from both right [Trumpites] and left [Obama’s trade union supporters]. The Administration itself admits that the Iran nuclear “deal” is yet to be proved, that Tehran continues to pour billions [now augmented by the dropping of sanctions] into a worldwide state terrorist network, and is demonstrably proceeding with the development of intercontinental ballistic missiles.
We won’t bore our readers with additional examples. But the Goldberg presentation of what he ceremoniously calls The Obama Doctrine is a tissue of false information and prejudiced interpretation. There is no Obama Doctrine except a general withdrawal of American power in critical areas of the world with the traditionally anticipated results.

sws-03-16-16

Moslems, Islamists, Terrorists and Islam


 

The time has come, and indeed, has long passed for a frank and open discussion of the growing confrontation between the Western democracies and the Moslem world.

Were there no other issue than the fact that there are some 1.3 billion world inhabitants who consider themselves Moslem, whatever their differences, the issue is moot. Now the combination of the continuing chaos in the Arab and Moslem world and the massive Moslem migration into the formerly non-Islamic societies requires it.

It perhaps goes without saying that the issues are complex and fraught.

Islam, despite its hundreds of millions of peaceful adherents, has never been a “religion of peace” as so many contemporary politicians espouse, including Pres. George W. Bush. From its very origins, Islam – a political as well as a religious movement – has confronted the Judeo-Christian West, more often than not relying on its sword to settle ensuing arguments It is equally false, as Pres. Barack Obama has repeatedly said, that Islam has played a great role in the development of the American ethic; indeed, the opposite is true when the first U.S. armed conflict abroad was a war against pirates espousing the Islamic cause on “The Barbary Coast” of North Africa.

In the current explosion of old arguments, Moslems are far more likely – given their inferior military and other effects of stable government – to seek other means than military to win arguments and concessions. In fact, the most powerful transnational organization in the Islamic world today is the Moslem Brotherhood whose origins lie in a strategy of using such Western institutions as representative government to gain influence, power. However, as the brief regime of Egypt’s Pres. Mohammed Morsi proved, the Brotherhood concept is “one man, one vote, one time”.

The cliché that Islam is an “Abrahamic” religion thereby sharing the concepts of Christianity and Judaism today toward the two other beliefs is false. Yes, Islam does borrow from the Jewish and Christian legends but it has never met the test and modifications of the Jews through 19th Century Haskalah [Enlightenment] and the Christian Reformation and the Counter-Reformations. Ironically, the highly influential 12th century Spanish Moslem philosopher Averroes [Ibn Rushd] contributed mightily to the origins of modern syncretic Christianity, but Islam lost the 12th century debate to the fundamentalists from which it has never recovered.

Toleration of all religions is a foundation of modern democratic society. In countries today where Moslems are in the majority, such tolerance is next to zero. Even Pakistan, with its enormous inheritance of British Indian law and pluralism, restricts Christian practice, and there is almost monthly violence – often deadly — against “nonbelievers”. The concept that, sharii, the great and ambiguous body of Islamic law, could have precedence over the American Constitution is unacceptable.

How, then, is the West to respond to these new demands of Moslems as individuals and sometimes as organized entities to participate in the power structures of the nation states created even in Afro-Asia by the European world?

The only response is that Moslems and their faith must meet the requirements of modern tolerant and pluralistic democracy in the same way as other religions and philosophies. The current tendency to accommodate Moslems and Islam through special courtesies is mistaken and can only lead to disaster. This is true not only in legal and political terms but also in the world of culture. When Simon & Schuster create a new imprint called Salaam Reads targeted to young Moslem adults, it is a misplaced effort. The publisher says it is to help integrate these new arrivals into our culture. But Simon & Schuster do not have Catholic, Jewish or Buddhist subsidiaries. And they are abandoning the essence of the American concept that the U.S. was created as a place that welcomes immigrants from all over the world precisely so they can have the freedom to believe what they wish live unbound by birth or class or government restriction – or incentive.

Nor can the great bulk of Moslems be excused from facing the cold fact that Islam, however falsely, is the foundation on which the contemporary world’s greatest threat to peace and security arises. They, above others, must be able to discuss openly and honestly why this is the case, and what concepts remain still unpurged from Islamic belief that give rise to these attacks on the civilized world.

Open covenants openly arrived at was not just a cliché which Woodrow Wilson hoped would be the foundation of the peace after World War I, but is as appropriately applied today to the problem of Islam and Islamic terrorism. Ignoring or obfuscating the problem of Islam in the 21st Century is as much a threat to world peace and stability as the acts of terror themselves.

sws-01-27-16

 

 

 

 

Mideast peace threat accelerating


 

The chaotic Middle East is taking on convolutions which bring it ever closer to a clash among the major powers.

  • Despite his rapidly deteriorating economy, Russia’s Vladimir Putin is taking an increasingly aggressive role in supporting the Basher Al Assad Syrian regime and its Iranian partners. His efforts to strengthen the Damascus regime have kept it alive but show no signs of a significant victory against its opponents, some of whom represent jihadist goals with liaison to international Islamic terrorism.
  • Israel’s security on its northern border is deteriorating as its traditional Lebanese enemy, Hezbollah – with a long record of terrorism against the U.S. – becomes increasingly embroiled as an Iranian ally in Syria. Hezbollah’s operations beyond the Middle East, especially in Latin America in league with local guerrillas and drug traffickers, are a growing challenge to American influence and stability there.
  • A seemingly leaderless explosion of individual terrorist acts against Israeli civilian and military targets has assumed new significance with an attack by a U.S.-trained Palestinian Liberation Organization security official on Israeli military. The knifing attacks are generally by teenagers schooled by UN-supported Palestinian educational institutions where anti-Semitism is standard curriculum. They are an expression of the collapse of secular Palestinian leadership which is hanging on Israeli security support. The growing strength of the Muslim terrorists Hamas, again being rearmed by Iran, are now infiltrating the West Bank from Gaza.
  • Saudi Arabians are persuaded of their abandonment by the Obama Administration in its pursuit of agreements with Tehran. In the face of an Iranian attempt at Mideast hegemony, Jeddah is lashing out militarily with the support of its traditional Arab allies in the Persian Gulf. But explosions of Sunni-Shia violence, including in the Saudi’s southeastern oilfields, and its see-saw battle in Yemen against Iranian-back rebels is inconclusive at best.
  • Daesh [ISIS or ISIL] continues to recruit young Muslims, even in the West and the U. S. Those who remain in their homelands present the prospect of “lone wolf” terrorist massacres resembling the almost daily occurrences in the Mideast. Despite effective continued FBI surveillance and discovery of terrorist plots, it seems only a question of time until new episodes such as San Bernardino and Ft. Hood will erupt in the Homeland.

The Obama Administration’s strategic response to this growing catastrophe is an incremental injection of small special forces teams in the Mideast conflicts. Sec. of State John Kerry has carried on frenzied whirlwind diplomatic activity. [Are secretaries of state now being judged by how many flight miles they put in?] And he has persuaded all parties to attend a Syria peace conference. But no one believes in its success with parties – including the U.S. and the Russians — pursuing directly contradictory goals.

Not even the other Republican candidates for president appear prepared to adopt Jeb Bush’s formula for a massive all-out military effort to destroy Daesh as a threat to U.S. national security. Meanwhile,Yeltsin pretends to have a common enemy with Washington in the Daesh terrorists, but Russian initiatives in Syria have been largely limited to direct support of the al Assad regime. Israeli, and American interventions in pursuit of their own direct security – for example, transfer of Iranian weapons to Hezbollah in Syria by Iran – run the risk of confrontation despite intense communications to control the traffic. The continued violation of Turkish sovereignty by Russian fighter-bombers and Ankara’s past winking at jihadist communications through its territory pose a growing problem for NATO and Washington.

Despite its continued professions of loyalty to the U.S.-Israeli alliance, the Obama Administration moves closer to the growing antagonism and pro-Palestinian policies of the Europeans. Paris, for example, now threatens to recognize a non-existing Palestinian state if bilateral negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians do not go forward, an exceedingly unlikely phenomenon given the lack of a viable Palestinian negotiating partner.

The latest sign that the Obama Administration is moving away from Israel is its adopting the Europeans’ designation [and implied boycott] of Israeli manufactures from the Jewish Settlements on the West Bank which employ tens of thousands of Palestinian Arabs. Indeed, the “Palestine” cause has united old European anti-Semites with the traditional left for the creation of a Palestinian state which would be a direct threat to Israeli security.

Whether this turmoil will await a new approach, at least one generally anticipated, by a new U.S.  president in another year before some unintended action ignites a larger explosion, remains problematical.

sws-01-02-16.

 

 

 

Settlements, schmettlements and Israeli security


Pres. Barack Hussein Obama appears determined as part of his “legacy” to leave relations in ruins with the U.S.’ most important ally in the Mideast, Israel.

Last week U.S. Ambassador Dan Shapiro blew it. Shapiro is a liberal hack in the peculiar tradition of Washington – Pres. George Bush did it too – that seems to believe appointing leftist American Jews to represent it to an increasingly conservative Israel will solve problems. In the midst of the Knife Intifada, an explosion of largely young Moslem fanatical Palestinians attacking civilians and soldiers, Shapiro indicted the Israelis for a double standard in treating violence. He said the Israelis had failed to punish Jewish “vigilantist” attacks on Arabs. With a tortured Israeli judicial process, even more convoluted than the American one, this seems a false charge.

Shapiro’s speech came only hours after, a pregnant woman from Tekoa, a settlement in the Judean Hills, was stabbed and seriously injured by a Palestinian teenager in the local grocery. The evening before a Jewish mother of six, was stabbed to death in front of her 17-year-old daughter at their home in the settlement of Otniel.

Since September 2015, twenty-eight people have been killed in attacks including stabbings, car rammings and shootings — 25 Jewish Israelis, one Eritrean, one US citizen and one Palestinian. The Palestinian say 149 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli security forces or civilians in that time, with over 15,000 injured in clashes with Israeli soldiers. European governments, some Israelis peace activists and some American observers have accused the Israelis of overreaction to the attacks. But it is hard to see how Israelis under such personal attack might be more judicious in resisting attempts at their murder.

The truth is that while there appears to be no central direction from Palestinian leadership for these attacks, they are the result of a vicious campaign of instilling hatred and calling for bloodshed among young Arabs. Among the most guilty is the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East [UNWRA], the only UN refugee organization devoted to one group. UNWRA schools are notorious for their fanaticism for the Palestinian cause and during fighting in Gaza, they were used as fortresses by the Hamas terrorists. At this writing, the latest episode of a 16-year-old Arab boy attacking Israeli soldiers is all too typical.

Sec. of State John Kerry continues to talk about an Israeli-Palestinian peace process to create two independent states living in peace. The truth is that the government of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, which is accused of incitement to violence in Arabic statements while professing peacemaking in English, has lost all credibility. Hundreds of millions of dollars of UN, European, and above all, American, aid has disappeared down the rat hole of corrupt leadership. If Abbas were to permit long postponed elections, it seems likely that Moslem terrorist representatives would win in the so-called West Bank as they did in Gaza.

The Obama Administration, in a typically schizophrenic strategy, while military collaboration – including exchange of important technology – has grown stronger between the Americans and the Israelis, has dynamited the political process. Despite repeated professions of allegiance to the alliance, top Obama officials are seen as inimitable to Israeli interests, including its growing security concerns with Iranian assisted armed forces on all Israel’s borders.

Obama’s flirtation with the Iranian mullahs – in an agreement for blocking its nuclear armaments which few Mideast observers believe is viable – has set up a tacit alliance between Jerusalem and Cairo. The perception of a common threat from Iran’s mullahs has even opened highly publicized conversations between the Israelis and their old bitter enemies, the Saudis, and the Gulf states. In effect, there is a new alliance excluding the Americans.

The Obama Administration has made Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria, the West Bank ancestral home of the Hebrew kingdoms of antiquity, its test for progress. The greatest part of this population of some 300,000 is in bedroom communities of Jerusalem. Obama appears to ignore the obvious analogy of how an Arab population of 1.5 million, about 20% of Israel’s population within the old pre-1967 borders, is to be accommodated as Israeli citizens but a growing number of Jews not permitted to live in the Occupied areas. Many of the settlements, too, represent security strongpoints in a geography much smaller than most foreigners realize.

Shapiro’s harangue suggests that Obama may try some new initiative, leaving one more enormous muddle for the next presidency.

sws-01-21-16

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Mideast: a “transformation”


 

Pres Barak Obama campaigned on the promise “to transform” American policy, and implied, its institutions. Time and history will tell how far he has succeeded and what, if any benefits, he has bestowed on the country.

But looking at the tortured Mideast now, a region of the world that America cannot seem to divest its interests for all kinds of cultural and geopolitical considerations, it’s clear that Obama’s policies have made at least temporary changes. Despite his profuse public pronouncements and the continued allegiance of the liberal Jewish community of voters and technocrats, he has waged war on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It has been returned in spades by Bibi, no mean “transformer” himself.

You get startling significant signs of this constantly. Rather suddenly, what until now in what has been the alignment of bitter enemies, there is a tacit if not formal alliance between old enemies, Israel’s Arab opponents dogged the Jewish state since independence was declared in 1947. But flirtation if not love has broken out all over. It’s no secret why. Israel and the Arabs abhor Obama’s courtship of Iran – whether in pursuit of a supposed agreement to limit its march toward nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles or seemingly some “grand bargain”. They see their historic enemies, the Persians, making strides toward creating satellites in Syria, Lebanon, and even among the Brotherthood offspring, Hamas in Gaza, as a reach to dominate the region.

That’s why you have just seen Israeli Foreign Ministry Director-General unprecedentedly displayed in a semi-official Saudi newspaper interview. Dore lays out the whole charge: “Iran is attempting to gain a foothold in Lebanon, Syria and the Gaza Strip in order to threaten Israel from the south, north and east.” Iran is “trying to foment anarchy and destruction in order to present itself as a body to solve crises,” he said. And Dore warns that there are “red lines” for Israel and that it will not permit Tehran to arm the Hezbollah, its Lebanese Shia ally, now armed by Tehran as an important part of Basher al-Assad’s effort to hang on in Damascus. Dore also refers to what has become a rather tacit alliance between Jerusalem and Cairo to control Hamas, armed by the mullahs in Tehran, and the Moslem Brotherhood’s insurgency against Egypt in the neighboring Sinai.

Another equally momentous aspect of the “transformation” Obama has effected, is by virtually abandoning American and Israeli interests in Syria’s civil war, Netanyahu has had to go cap in hand to Russia’s Vladimir Putin. It’s apparently a stumbling relationship but Jerusalem needs it to literally not bump into the Russian air machine in Syria when it goes after the effort of the Tehran mullahs to transfer additional heavy weapons there to the Hezbollah. Jerusalem has to calculate that sooner or later such arms would be used against them on their northern border as Hezbollah Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah repeatedly has publicly threatened.

Meanwhile, Turkey’s Pres.Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, whom Obama once called one of his few intimate international friends, is turning like the proverbial whirling dervish, attacking the Jews with public anti-Semitic statements and almost immediately negotiating for their new gas and a return to their military assistance alliance. With friends like that … as the saying goes, yeah, you can get a “transformation”.

Obama, waking from the transformative dream, at least momentarily, is now engaged in an incremental attempt to end the menace he has helped create in the new Daesh [ISI, ISIL]. A group of barbaric Moslem terrorists [woops! we can’t use that name in our transformations!] has created the legendary caliphate, or effort for one grand Moslem state some Islamicists dream about. As long as it exists, it apparently will attract the young neurotic malcontents – even non-Muslim converts – and expand its effort to organize an international terrorist network from Dakar to Zamboanga.

For many, the question is how the U.S. will get through the next 13 months to a new presidency before Obama’s foreign policy “transformations” create irremediable instability and chaos in one of the most volatile regions of the world.

sws-12-30-15

 

Dangerous Mideast Reality


The volatility of Middle East events notwithstanding, a new picture is emerging of alliances very different from those preceding the outbreak of the Arab Spring and the now five-year-old Syrian civil war.
That new reality is obscured by the Obama Administration, suspended in contradictory strategies of removing the American military option from the table while incrementally increasing U.S. special forces and bombing, adamantly calling for the ouster of Basher al Asaad in Damascus but negotiating for his participation in a “settlement”, and most of all, insisting on talking up an Israeli-Palestinian negotiation which has died.
There are growing signs that the relatively artificial national-states created by Britain and France in the Ottoman Empire breakup after World War II may be crashing.
Central to the new picture emerging is Saudi Arabia’s position. Western pressure and internal reformists are moving against the most egregious aspects of the regime, e.g., its long time allegiance to Wahhabism – an Islamic fundamentalism at the root of much of the current terrorism. Although the Saudis are flooding the world oil markets in an attempt to criiple their competitors, the Shale Revolution in the U.S. has deflated its once pivotal energy role. Saudi movement is occasioned by some internal reform elements, but more importantly the Obama Administration’s flirtation with Riyadh’s chief rival Iran. [Thet have just announced women will be permitted to vote, a revolution in a country which does not permit them to drive.] The Saudis themselves have been forced into direct talks with Tehran in an effort to short circuit Washington-Tehran deals. But at the same time, the Saudis are rallying Sunni allies in Syria against the growing influence – including direct military participation – of Iran. The nomination of a pro-Syrian president in Lebanon and the growing domination of the Iranian ally, the Shia Hezbollah, is a defeat for the Saudis.
Whether traditional family domination and loyalties can withstand this turmoil remains to be seen.
The Israeli-Arab conflict which has dominated Mideast politics may be dissolving in the face of the greater fear of an aggrandizing Iran. The recent announcement that Israel is opening a diplomatic mission in Abu Dhabi, although enmeshed in a number of subterfuges, is the most dramatic recent evidence of the growing new tacit alliances. Jerusalem and Cairo are in a tight security and military alliance against Hamas in Gaza, supported by Iran, and the remnants of the Moslem Brotherhood fighting a guerrilla movement against the al Ssisi regime. But virtual disintegration of the Palestinian Liberation Organization under aging Pres. Mohammed Abbas – under bitter attack from Hamas– means there is no negotiating party on the Palestinian side. The current wave of Palestinian violence –“lone wolf” episodes unorchestrated by any Palestinian organization if encouraged by Hamas – is being met stoically by an Israeli public. It has not slowed a growing French Jewish in-immigration occasioned by violent anti-Semitic episodes in France, Despite American and EU opposition [the latter in a trade offensive], Israel is consolidating its enclaves [”settlements”] in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem.
The Obama Administration’s response to these dramatic reversals in the region is an attempt to find a negotiated settlement to the Syrian Civil War. While Russia’s Pres. Vladimir Putin has nominally joined the effort, he has bid up his hand in the Syrian conflict in support of the al Basher regime which Washington still insists must go. How long Putin, with a collapsing economy facing Western sanctions over the Ukraine issue and a tumbling international oil price for its only export, can maintain the Syrian thrust remains to be seen. But the use of sea-born missiles this week was a dangerous escalation, not the least because some Russian missiles fired earlier from the Caspian earlier had fallen short in Iran
While references to World War III [by none other than Pope Francis himself] are exaggerated, the volatility of events suggests the possibility of miscalculations at any moment with even more escalating violence.
sws-12-11-15

History and anti-history


 

Most wars and many continual near-war conflicts revolve around a different interpretation of history. But usually those are relatively minor interpretations of great past events.

The current outbreak of stabbings in Jerusalem, Israel and the West Bank are very much symptoms of the continuing struggle over the presence of two peoples and three of the world’s religions on one small piece of land. Claims and counter-claims are asserted; some with some authentic historical evidence, others political slogans but enshrined in long held conflict.

The Israeli-Palestinian argument over Jerusalem is, of course, an important part of the conflict. The modern Palestinian Arab nationalists call for Eastern Jerusalem, the older part of the ancient city, traditionally home to both Arabs and Jews, as their capital for an independent state. Jews, for hundreds of years called for their return to Jerusalem in prayer and in the modern Zionist movement to restore a Jewish state in which a unified Jerusalem plays an integral role.

The arguments take all sorts of form. But in this instance, the continued denial by the Arabs that the archaeological pile on which the Al Aqsa Mosque is built was also the site of the ancient Hebrew temples reaches a new level of distortion. Not only does it fly in the face of the historical record, but it adds one more barrier to any possible settlement.

When at the end of the 1967 Israeli-Arab War – the six-day event in which the Jews captured most of the former British Mandate of Palestine, East Jerusalem, the Sinai and the Golan Heights – the question of the holy sites became paramount.

The Israeli Defense Minister, the dashing, one-eyed hero, Moshe Dayan, made a deal: The Jordanian wagf [an ostensibly independent religious trust] would retain control over what the Jews called The Temple Mount and the Muslim Arabs called The Noble Sanctuary. A secular Jew, Dayan used the rabbinical prohibition forbidding prayer on the site [except at the so-called Wailing Wall or Western Wall at the foot of the area]. That was to prevent trampling on the unknown position of the Holy of Holies, the sanctuary where the Ark of the Covenant, the ancient sacred Jewish writings, allegedly resided. Dayan’s arrangement was despite violation during the Jordanian occupation of sacred Jewish places, e.g., Jewish tombstones used as road paving blocks. The Jordanian authorities also had denied Jews and Christians access to the sacred sites.

Jerusalem is not mentioned in the Koran, the word of God for Arab Muslims. Al Aqsa was built more than 800 years after the death of Mohammed. But contemporary Moslems have designated it the third most holy Islamic site after Mecca and Medina, the site of Mohammed’s preaching. It was here, according to Islamic lore, that Mohammed ascended to heaven.

The current squabble has broken out over rumors that the Israelis are changing the rules of the game, pushed by religious Israeli Jews to permit prayer on the Mount. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly affirmed that no such move is contemplated. And he has suggested installing cameras in order to show that Jews visiting the site are not conducting prayers.

But that hasn’t satisfied many Palestinian Muslims, including the grand mufti of Jerusalem, the highest Moslem cleric in the area. He has again disputed the existence of the Hebrew temples, recorded in Roman as well as Jewish literature.

In defiance of their pledge to protect the site, the waqf in the 1990s permitted excavation of the site for building another underground mosque. This week a 10-year-old apprentice Israeli archaeologist who with his adult colleagues has continued to sift the excavated debris found an engraved limestone about the size of a thimble from the time of King David, or 3,000 years ago. That, of course, is not likely to change any minds on either side, but it does add one more piece of evidence to the written and oral history of the Jewish holy places.

sws-11-23-15

 

 

 

Netanyahu –again!


Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has done it again: he has repeated what any historian of the Middle East knows, that the so-called Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al Husseini, was a buddy of Adolph Hitler’s. Netanyahu has a terrible way of reminding the world of awful truths at a time – has it ever been otherwise? – when most people including major politicians would like to look away.
One is reminded of an old very Jewish joke: Britain’s then general, Harold Alexander [the hero of the ordinary Tommy, not “the movie star” Gen.Bernard Montgomery] was making a protocol visit to a synagogue in Jerusalem. He was back in British Mandated Palestine to check out logistics for Britain’s see-sawing grim war in the Western Desert against legendary Nazi Gen. Erwin Rommel. The president of the Congregation made a little speech: “General, I want to you to know that everyday we pray 24 hours a day for an Allied victory in The Desert”. One of the little old congregants, in tallis and phylacteries, totters up, tugs the president’s sleeve, and whispers in Yiddish, “Don’t say that! If they lose, they will take it out on us”.
There was never any question of what would happen to the Mandate’s then small Jewish community if the Germans did break through. It was well known at the time that Hussein, the leader of the Arabs’ war against the Jews, had escaped British capture and was in Germany. [“Palestinian” did not designate the Arabs of the Mandate until the 1960s but contradictorily did the two Jewish brigades recruited in Tel Aviv fighting with the British in Italy].
Netanyahu, not for the first time of course, has been misinterepted, in that he did not suggest Hussein gave Hitler the idea of wiping out the Jews but simply that they had mutual ideas on the subject. [The Wannsee Conference of January 20, 1942, which gathered high Nazi officials to lay out the techniques of the Holocaust would only take place a year after the publication of the official photograph of Hitler with Hussein.] It’s likely Hitler had already considered the ways in which he would try to extinguish the Jews long before Husseini recommended burning them, if he indeed he did.
Does any of this have relevance today?
Does the fact that the Palestinians only became Palestinians recently mean that their cause is any less just?
One is reminded that Ferhat Abbas, the leading Algerian intellectual, only a few years before the beginning of the bitter war by Algerian Muslims for independence from France, had questioned whether there was such a thing as an Algerian identity. He, like so many other Algerians, unlike Arab Muslims as well as those to be called Pieds Noir [Black Feet], European refugees, who later flooded into metropolitan France, came to believe in their “nationhood” as he came to be its first president on independence.
But whatever the present day claims of “The Palestinians” to “an independent state, living side-by-side in peace” with a Jewish Israel, the long history of Arab aggression and institutionalized hatred of and warfare against the Jews in that tiny piece of land must be taken into account. At a time when the Mainstream Media, again, distorts the fundamental aggression of Arab terrorists, in personal attacks, often on civilian targets, it is well to be reminded of the long history of violence and who perpetrated it.
Yes, it will be argued that the Jewish state is a colonial manifestation, the imposition of a Western culture in an aggression on a “native people”. That appeals as such leftwing rhetoric has so often to some American “political pilgrims” [see Paul Hollander’s Political Pilgrims: Western intellectuals in search of the good society]. They have in the last half century jumped from one miserable cause to another in search of perfection – Communist China, Castro Cuba, Sandinista Nicaragua, and now, “Palestine”, only to be disillusioned by oppression and corruption. Fulsome examination of a blind loyalty to “the Palestinian cause” will eventually return the same results.
Netanyahu, as brutally frank as he sometimes is, was right to remind us of this little tidbit of history.
sws-11-25-15

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Limping alliance


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is under siege on several fronts.
At this critical moment, the traditional close collaboration of the U.S.-Israeli alliance is troubled, not least by Obama Administration’s pettiness. That’s been characterized by vulgar leaks from the White House and the recent staged absence of senior American officials for Netanyahu’s UN speech. Such designated protocol lapses are bound to have an impact on the kind of intimate relations the alliance has always had.
On the home front, there has been the outbreak of what appears to be “lone wolf” violence by Palestinians against Israeli individual civilian and military targets. [In one recent case there was interception of a badly prepared car bombing in Jerusalem that would have cost large casualties.]
The knife-wielding attacks are often perpetrated by young suicidal fanatics reared in United Nations-supported refugee schools where hatred and violence against Jews is indoctrinated. Unlike the two earlier intifadas [Arabic for shakeup, uprising], there appears to be no central direction. But the Moslem terrorists Hamas, Islamic Jihad and once Soviet-supported Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, have publicly acclaimed the attacks.
Given their nature, the defense often results in the death of the Arab attackers, leading to new accusations in the Western media and among Palestinian sympathizers of Israeli “overreaction”. At the same time, Israeli authorities find defense difficult given the spontaneity of the terrorists in civilian settings, including for example, using an automobile to run down groups waiting at bus stops. Some attacks inside the so-called “green line” [Israel before the 1967 conquest of East Jerusalem and the West Bank] suggest support may be coming from Israeli Arabs as well as those living in Occupied areas.
With 60% of Israelis telling pollsters they fear for their personal safety, the government is being pushed toward more stringent controls. And the outbreak has found an echo among Jewish fanatics, sometimes in attacks on innocent Arabs.
In a sense, the attacks, while encouraged by statements of Arab “moderates”, are an evidence of the disintegration of the secular Palestinian leadership and the growing influence of Islamicists. That will inevitably lead to more linkage to the Islamic terrorists ravaging the whole region, particularly in neighboring Syria. There, its growing professionalism with heavier armament supplied by Iran, the Lebanese Hezbollah, an important ally of the al Assad regime, is a growing menace on Israel’s northern border. That is coupled with renewed missile shelling from Gaza and border incidents by Hamas-organized protesters crossing into Israel.
When Netanyahu flew to Moscow Sept. 20 for a one day meeting with Putin, he apparently wanted to eliminate any possibility Israeli aircraft intercepting arms transfers Hezbollah would engage the growing Soviet presence. It seems clear he foresaw the growing Moscow effort to prop up the al Assad regime, tighten its de facto alliance there with Iran. [The head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Quds Force Commander Qasem Soleimani had made two Russian visits himself shortly before].
The Israeli prime minister’s highly advertised concern highlights the equally publicized Obama Administration surprise at the sudden Russian Syrian buildup. That suggests Netanyahu’s bitter and public opposition to Pres. Barack Obama’s “deal” on Tehran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and Washington’s response may be eroding intelligence liaison. That’s despite the Obama Administration insistence new military aid and cooperation with Israel would be order of the day after the successful completion of the pact with Iran.
With the Obama Administration admitting that its nuclear arms deal with lifting of sanctions, whatever else it has done, will provide new financing for Tehran’s worldwide terrorist activities, the situation can only get worse. It’s time the Obama Administration, as the senior partner in the alliance, and particularly Susan Rice, national security adviser, ends her childish antics and tightens the alliance and its intelligence liaison in the face of a growing regional crisis, now involving the Russians as well as the bevy of Arab antagonists.
sws-10-11-15