Thursday, November 06, 2014

Iran Remains the Greatest Challenge in U.S.-Israel Relations

From BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 276, November 3, 2014, by Maj. Gen. (res.) Yaacov Amidror*:

If a “permanent agreement” with Iran fails to guarantee the bare minimum safeguards against Iran’s nuclearization that Israel feels is necessary, Israel will have to rethink its policy and avoid being influenced by the fact that its closest ally signed an unacceptable agreement with Iran. Israel will have to defend itself by itself, as U.S. President Barack Obama once said – with everything that doing so entails. This would truly put the relationship between Israel and the U.S. to the test.

In recent days, following the impolite and inappropriate personal attack against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the American press, from the mouths of high-ranking officials in Washington, relations between Israel and the U.S. have deteriorated to an all-time low. It is time to put things back in proportion, in light of the severity of the American remarks.

The relationship with the U.S., Israel’s biggest and most important ally, is unique. This relationship has had its highs and lows. For example, the U.S. did nothing to delay the extermination of Jews during World War II, but supported the establishment of the State of Israel and was the first to recognize it. The U.S. opted not to aid Israel during the 1948 War of Independence and banned the sale of arms to the fledgling country, but since the 1960s it has been supplying Israel with weapons almost exclusively.

Every year, the Americans give Israel a gift of approximately $3.5 billion dollars for its defense needs (three-quarters of which are to be used only for purchases from the U.S.) and Israel uses this gift to fund the Israel Defense Forces’ everyday needs and to ensure that the army grows stronger and stronger. But the American contribution to Israel’s security is not just monetary. The U.S. partners with Israel in the development of anti-missile technology; there is robust intelligence cooperation between the two countries, in which each country contributes greatly to the other; and the exchange of ideas on professional issues between the commanders of the Israeli and the American armies is inspiring and extremely important to both sides.

The U.S. is obviously committed to ensuring that Israel maintains a significant military advantage over its neighbors, and they are trying very hard to fulfill that commitment.
But Israel does not have to accept every U.S. demand.

The U.S.’s friendship is important to Israel in the diplomatic realm as well. Without U.S. support in the international arena, and especially in the U.N. Security Council, Israel would be in a very difficult position today, to the point of diplomatic and economic isolation. The American support stands out in practical matters, like in the recognition of the red shield of David as an internationally recognized medical symbol, but also in other matters, such as the revocation of the U.N. resolution equating Zionism with racism, or staving off the world’s criticism of Israel’s nuclear program.

The U.S. understands the significance of Israel being the only democratic nation in the region – a stable nation that the U.S. can rely on in a time of crisis but also a nation it can cooperate with on a day-to-day basis in the fields of intelligence and counter-terrorism (in a way that has so far contributed greatly to the U.S.). Both countries share similar values and the people of both countries harbor warm feelings toward the other.

So is it true that because of this important support, to the point of dependency in certain areas, that Israel needs to accept every American demand? Not at all. But blatantly ignoring U.S. demands, or insulting American figures with undiplomatic language, or making remarks about the U.S.’s policies and conduct, is entirely unhelpful. In fact, it is detrimental to the relations between the two allies.

More polite dialogue and less insulting remarks would ultimately serve Israel’s interests best. The arrogant behavior and declarations on Israel’s part point to a lack of understanding of the American psyche, and come across as disrespectful to the U.S. and its leaders. At the same time, the remarks made by senior Washington spokespeople against Netanyahu also point to a deep lack of understanding of the Israeli frame of mind.

These are two proud nations, and mutual insults are not helping either one. In that respect, the most recent press briefing in Washington crossed every line.

So can Israel rely on the U.S.?

In the near future, following the U.S.-led talks, both countries will have to grapple with the implications of the agreement between Iran and world powers. The Americans have brought the Iranians to the negotiating table, after imposing unprecedented sanctions and recruiting the Europeans to follow suit. The Europeans, to some extent, feared Israel’s response should they refuse to take strong action against Iran. However, at the negotiating table, the U.S. has created the impression that the ultimate agreement is more important to them than it is to the Iranians, and that they would do anything to avoid resorting to the military option (which has been aggressively promoted by order of the current president). Furthermore, the Iranians have now caught on to the weakness of the American position, and in the wake of the U.S.’s efforts to combat the Islamic State group, the Iranians feel even stronger. The very thing we were afraid of, and that Israel warned the Americans against, is now happening: The U.S.’s attention has been diverted elsewhere and the Iranians are taking advantage of that to the fullest.

The longer the U.S. remains in Iraq and Syria, the more it becomes amenable to easing the terms it is willing to offer Iran and the more likely it becomes that an agreement with Iran will be reached. If that happens, it will have to be studied very carefully. Such an agreement needs to be judged against the criterion set by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry himself, when he said that a bad deal would be worse than no deal.

A bad deal would truly put the relationship between Israel and the U.S. to the test. During the course of the negotiations, even when Israel deemed the interim agreement unacceptable, Israel made sure not to interfere in the process. But if the permanent agreement fails to guarantee the bare minimum that Israel feels is necessary, it will have to rethink its policy. Israel will have to act in its best interest and avoid being influenced by the fact that its closest ally signed an agreement with Iran. If it turns out unequivocally that Israel cannot rely on anyone on this matter of enormous importance to its security and even its existence, then it will have to defend itself by itself, like U.S. President Barack Obama once said – with everything that doing so entails.

The greatest challenge will be handling this crisis within the confines of Israeli-American relations. How much of Israel’s concerns should it divulge to and confide in Washington? What should Israel share and what should Israel conceal? What does Israel have to do, despite the disagreements, and what should Israel avoid doing because of the disagreements?

There are endless questions that would arise should the U.S. pose Israel with a dangerous fait accompli on Iran – the issue Israel defines as the most sensitive on the agenda. At that point, the elimination of the Iranian threat will become the top priority, overriding any other consideration.

*Maj. Gen. (res.) Yaacov Amidror is the Greg and Anne Rosshandler Senior Fellow at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, and former national security advisor to the Prime Minister.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Egypt's War on Terrorism and the World's Double Standards

From Gatestone Institute, 3 Nov 2014, by Khaled Abu Toameh:

Three months after the military conformation between Hamas and Israel, the Egyptians are also waging their own war on terrorism in north Sinai.

But Egypt's war, which began after Islamist terrorists butchered 33 Egyptian soldiers, does not seem to worry the international community and human rights organizations, at least not as much as Israel's operation to stop rockets and missiles from being fired into it from the Gaza Strip.

The Egyptian army's security crackdown includes the demolition of hundreds of houses along the border with the Gaza Strip and the transfer of thousands of people to new locations.

A building is blown up by Egypt's army as part of an operation to clear all buildings out of a "buffer zone," along Egypt's border with the Gaza Strip. (Image source: PressTV video screenshot)

Egypt's goal is to establish a security buffer zone along its shared border with the Gaza Strip in order to prevent terrorists from using smuggling tunnels to launch attacks on Egyptian soldiers and civilians. In other words, the Egyptians are tightening the blockade on the Gaza Strip...

All this is happening before eyes of the international community and media. Nonetheless, the UN Security Council has not been asked to hold an emergency meeting to condemn what some Egyptian human rights activists describe as the "transfer" and "displacement" of hundreds of families in Sinai.

...But what is perhaps more worrying is the fear that the unprecedented security clampdown in Egypt will drive Hamas and other terror groups in the Gaza Strip to resume their attacks on Israel.

The Egyptians, of course, are entitled to wage a ruthless war on the various terror groups that have long been operating in Sinai. However, by tightening the blockade on the Gaza Strip, the Egyptians are also giving Hamas and Islamic Jihad an excuse to resume their attacks on Israel.

The two Palestinian terror groups are not going to retaliate by attacking Egypt. They know that Egypt's response to such an attack would be more severe than Israel's military response. That explains why Hamas and other Palestinian groups have been cautious in their response to Egypt's measures -- no condemnations or protests thus far.

In fact, Hamas is already in a state of panic in the wake of allegations by some Egyptians that Palestinians from the Gaza Strip were involved in the killing of the soldiers in Sinai.

Once again, Egyptian journalists are calling on their president to go after Hamas in response to the Sinai attack. A previous attack on Egyptian soldiers in Sinai earlier this year prompted similar calls.

Reham Noaman, a prominent Egyptian journalist, called on Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to "crush" Hamas and its armed wing, Ezaddin al-Qassam....

The Egyptians have finally realized that the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip has become one of the region's main exporters of terrorism. Israel reached this conclusion several years ago, when Hamas and other terror groups began firing rockets and missiles at Israeli communities.

The Egyptians have also come to learn that the smuggling tunnels along their shared border with the Gaza Strip work in both directions. In the past, the Egyptians believed that the tunnels were being used only to smuggle weapons into the Gaza Strip. Now, however, they are convinced that these tunnels are also being used to smuggle weapons and terrorists out of the Gaza Strip.

Now that the Egyptians have chosen completely to seal off their border with the Gaza Strip, the chances of another military confrontation between Hamas and Israel have increased. Hamas will undoubtedly try to break out of its increased isolation by initiating another war with Israel.

The Egyptians, for their part, are not going to mind if another war breaks out between the Palestinians and Israel -- as long as the military confrontation is taking place on the other side of the Gaza Strip's border with Egypt.

And of course, the international community will once again rush to accuse Israel of "genocide" against the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Needless to say, the international community will continue to ignore Egypt's bulldozing hundreds of homes and the forcible eviction of thousands of people in Sinai.

If anything, the Egyptian security crackdown in Sinai has once again exposed the double standards of the international community toward the war on terrorism. While it is fine for Egypt to demolish hundreds of houses and forcibly transfer thousands of people in the name of the war on terrorism, Israel is not allowed to fire back at those who launch rockets and missiles at its civilians.

Monday, November 03, 2014

Iran: “No deal is better than a bad deal.”

From Jewish Press, 2 Nov 2014, by Hana Levi Julian:

...Iran has declined to respond to questions from the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency about its nuclear program’s “possible military dimensions.” 

IAEA chief Yukiya Amano warned on Friday, 
“We cannot provide assurance that all [nuclear] material [in Iran] is for peaceful purposes… What’s needed now is action...” ...
Israeli Intelligence and Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz responded with deep concern to the IAEA statement.
"Iran’s refusal to disclose its nuclear past casts a heavy shadow over the future... Amano’s grave words indicate, in fact, Iran’s first violation of the interim nuclear agreement [of last November.] Signing a final agreement under these conditions would be a reckless act that world powers must avoid."

The prospect of achieving any concrete progress towards that goal by the November 24 deadline for a diplomatic deal is dim at best in any case.
“Failure to conclude a solid agreement that prevents nuclear proliferation could have serious consequences, not only in our region, but far beyond,” commented Answar Gargash, United Arab Emirates minister of state for foreign affairs over the weekend. “We must consider it crucial that any future agreement with Iran on the nuclear file be air-tight.”
Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has said the same for years, noted Defense News, quoting his oft-repeated warning,
“No deal is better than a bad deal.”
Emily Landau, senior research fellow and head of the Arms Control and Regional Security Program at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv is equally direct.

On October 29, Landau told Defense News, “Now is the time to apply massive pressure. I hope at some point the international community will wake up to the fact that Iran has absolutely no interest in getting a good deal."

U.S. officials don’t seem to be getting the message, however.

Even when a former American diplomat who has dealt with Iran in the past is the one delivering the news.

Dennis Ross led State Department talks with Iran under former President George H.W. Bush. He has urged the West to resist giving in to Iranian pressure for concessions in order to ensure that some deal is closed.
“It’s no accident that hardly anyone involved in the Iranian nuclear negotiations has expressed optimism about meeting the November 24 deadline,” Ross wrote in an analysis for the Oct. 16 edition of Foreign Affairs. 
He listed numerous concessions already won by Iran in talks with the West, simply by holding out and continuing with negotiations, despite numerous ongoing violations.

Whether the Obama administration will hold firm and put the brakes on the current bleed taking place on the sanctions formerly imposed on Iran is anyone’s guess. But unless international powers reassert their authority and put the economic bite back into the sanctions that were already approved by the United Nations and their individual governments, it will soon be too late to do very much at all.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Worship on the Temple Mount, and bomb Iranian nuclear-weapons facilities

From Caroline Glick, Friday, October 31st, 2014:

Yehudah Glick

Yehudah Glick has spent the better part of the last 20 years championing the right of Jews to pray on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem – Judaism’s holiest site. On Wednesday night, the Palestinians sent a hit man to Jerusalem to kill him.

... Glick [is recovering] at Shaare Zedek Medical Center.

Two people bear direct responsibility for this terrorist attack: 

  • the gunman, and 
  • Palestinian Authority President and PLO chief Mahmoud Abbas
The gunman shot Glick, and Abbas told him to shoot Glick.

Abbas routinely glorifies terrorist murder of Jews, and funds terrorism with the PA’s US-and-European-funded budget.

But it isn’t often that he directly incites the murder of Jews.

Two weeks ago, Abbas did just that. Speaking to Fatah members, he referred to Jews who wish to pray at Judaism’s holiest site as “settlers.” He then told his audience that they must remain on the Temple Mount at all times to block Jews from entering.
“We must prevent them from entering [the Temple Mount] in any way…. They have no right to enter and desecrate [it]. We must confront them and defend our holy sites...” ...
 As Palestinian Media Watch reported Thursday, in the three days leading up to the assassination attempt on Glick, the PA’s television station broadcast Abbas’s call for attacks on Jews who seek to enter the Temple Mount 19 times.

While Abbas himself is responsible for the hit on Glick, he has had one major enabler – the Obama administration. 

Since Abbas first issued the order for Palestinians to attack Jews, there have been two terrorist attacks in Jerusalem. Both have claimed American citizens among their victims. Yet the Obama administration has refused to condemn Abbas’s call to murder Jews either before it led to the first terrorist attack or since Glick was shot Wednesday night.

Not only have the White House and the State Department refused to condemn Abbas for soliciting the murder of Jews. They have praised him and attacked Israel and its elected leader. In other words, they are not merely doing nothing, they are actively rewarding Abbas’s aggression, and so abetting it.

Since Abbas called for Palestinians to kill Jews, the White House and State Department have accused Israel of diminishing the prospect of peace by refusing to make massive concessions to Abbas. The concessions the Americans are demanding include accepting the ethnic cleansing of all Jews from land they foresee becoming part of a future Palestinian state; denying Jews the rights to their lawfully held properties in predominantly Arab neighborhoods; and abrogating urban planning procedures in Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem built within the areas of the city that Israel took control over from Jordan in 1967.

The US claims that it has great influence over the Palestinians. If this is true, then as Fatah’s official celebrations of Glick’s attempted murder make clear, that influence is being intentionally exercised in a negative way. The Americans are encouraging the Palestinians to be more violent, more radical and more extreme in their demands of Israel and propagation of Jew-hatred.

The Obama administration is abetting Palestinian terrorism today. And it is doing so after it spent last summer siding with Hamas and its state sponsors Qatar and Turkey in its illegal war against Israel.

Moreover, it is important to note that the most outrageous statements the administration has made to date against Israel came after the first terrorist attack in Jerusalem directly inspired by Abbas’s call to murder Jews.

The most outrageous statements the administration has made about Israel came of course this week with The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg’s report that senior unnamed Obama administration officials called Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “a chickenshit” and a “coward.” They also described an administration in a state of “red hot anger” against Netanyahu and his government. Those statements were made after three-month old Chaya Zissel Braun, an American baby, was murdered by a Palestinian terrorist in Jerusalem in an Abbas-incited attack.

The most distressing aspect of Goldberg’s quotes is that in and of themselves, these profane, schoolyard bully personal attacks against Israel’s elected leader were the mildest part of the story.

The most disturbing thing about the gutter talk is what they tell us about Israel’s role in Obama’s assessments of his political cards as they relate to his nuclear negotiations with Iran.

The senior administration officials called Netanyahu a coward because, among other reasons, he has not bombed Iran’s nuclear installations.

And now, they crowed, it’s too late for Israel to do anything to stop Iran.

They are happy about this claimed state of affairs, because now Obama is free to make a deal with the Iranians that will allow them to develop nuclear weapons at will...

The proper response to the assassination attempt on Yehudah Glick is to allow Jews freedom of worship on the Temple Mount. 

The proper response to Obama’s nuclear negotiations is a bomb in Natanz...