Saturday, June 06, 2015

48 years ago: the Six Day War

From Statement to the Security Council by Foreign Minister Eban, 6 June 1967:

...Two days ago [4 June 1967] Israel's condition caused much concern across the humane and friendly world. Israel had reached a sombre hour. Let me try to evoke the point at which our fortunes stood.

An army, greater than any force ever assembled in history in Sinai, had massed against Israel's southern frontier. Egypt had dismissed the United Nations forces which symbolized the international interest in the maintenance of peace in our region. Nasser had provocatively brought five infantry divisions and two armoured divisions up to our very gates; 80,000 men and 900 tanks were poised to move.

A special striking force, comprising an armoured division with at least 200 tanks, was concentrated against Eilat at the Negev's southern tip. Here was a clear design to cut the southern Negev off from the main body of our State. For Egypt had openly proclaimed that Eilat did not form part of Israel and had predicted that Israel itself would soon expire. The proclamation was empty; the prediction now lies in ruin. While the main brunt of the hostile threat was focussed on the southern front, an alarming plan of encirclement was under way. With Egypt's initiative and guidance, Israel was already being strangled in its maritime approaches to the whole eastern half of the world. For sixteen years, Israel had been illicitly denied passage in the Suez Canal, despite the Security Council's decision of 1 September 1951 [Resolution 95 (1951)]. And now the creative enterprise of ten patient years which had opened an international route across the Strait of Tiran and the Gulf of Aqaba had been suddenly and arbitrarily choked. Israel was and is breathing only with a single lung.

Jordan had been intimidated, against its better interest, into joining a defence pact. It is not a defence pact at all: it is an aggressive pact, of which I saw the consequences with my own eyes yesterday in the shells falling upon institutions of health and culture in the City of Jerusalem. Every house and street in Jerusalem now came into the range of fire as a result of Jordan's adherence to this pact; so also did the crowded and pathetically narrow coastal strip in which so much of Israel's life and population is concentrated.

Iraqi troops reinforced Jordanian units in areas immediately facing vital and vulnerable Israel communication centres. Expeditionary forces from Algeria and Kuwait had reached Egyptian territory. Nearly all the Egyptian forces which had been attempting the conquest of the Yemen had been transferred to the coming assault upon Israel. Syrian units, including artillery, overlooked the Israel villages in the Jordan Valley. Terrorist troops came regularly into our territory to kill, plunder and set off explosions; the most recent occasion was five days ago.

In short, there was peril for Israel wherever it looked. Its manpower had been hastily mobilized. Its economy and commerce were beating with feeble pulses. Its streets were dark and empty. There was an apocalyptic air of approaching peril. And Israel faced this danger alone.

We were buoyed up by an unforgettable surge of public sympathy across the world. The friendly Governments expressed the rather ominous hope that Israel would manage to live, but the dominant theme of our condition was danger and solitude.

Now there could be no doubt about what was intended for us. With my very ears I heard President Nasser's speech on 26 May.

He said:

"We intend to open a general assault against Israel. This will be total war. Our basic aim will be to destroy Israel."

On 2 June, the Egyptian Commander in Sinai, General Mortagi, published his Order of the Day, calling on his troops to wage a war of 'destruction against Israel. Here, then, was a systematic, overt, proclaimed design at politicide, the murder of a State.

The policy, the arms, the men had all been brought together, and the State thus threatened with collective assault was itself the last sanctuary of a people which had seen six million of its sons exterminated by a more powerful dictator two decades before....

As we pursued this avenue of international solution, we wished the world to have no doubt about our readiness to exhaust every prospect, however fragile, of a diplomatic solution - and some of the prospects that were suggested were very fragile indeed...

...But as time went on, there was no doubt that our margin of general security was becoming smaller and smaller. Thus, on the morning of 5 June, when Egyptian forces engaged us by air and land, bombarding the villages of Kissufim, Nahal-Oz and Ein Hashelosha we knew that our limit of safety had been reached, and perhaps passed. In accordance with its inherent right of self-defence as formulated in Article 51 of the United Nations Charter, Israel responded defensively in full strength. Never in the history of nations has armed force been used in a more righteous or compelling cause.

Even when engaged with Egyptian forces, we still hoped to contain the conflict. Egypt was overtly bent on our destruction, but we still hoped that others would not join the aggression. Prime Minister Eshkol, who for weeks had carried the heavy burden of calculation and decision, published and conveyed a message to other neighbouring States proclaiming:

"We shall not attack any country unless it opens war on us. Even now, when the mortars speak, we have not given up our quest for peace. We strive to repel all menace of terrorism and any danger of aggression to ensure our security and our legitimate rights."...

...But the central point remains the need to secure an authentic intellectual recognition by our neighbours of Israel's deep roots in the Middle Eastern reality. There is an intellectual tragedy in the failure of Arab leaders to come to grips, however reluctantly, with the depth and authenticity of Israel's roots in the life, the history, the spiritual experience and the culture of the Middle East.

This, then, is the first axiom. A much more conscious and uninhibited acceptance of Israel's statehood is an axiom requiring no demonstration, for there will never be a Middle East without an independent and sovereign State of Israel in its midst.

The second principle must be that of the peaceful settlement of disputes. The Resolution thus adopted falls within the concept of the peaceful settlement of disputes. I have already said that much could be done if the Governments of the area would embark much more on direct contacts. They must find their way to each other. After all, when there is conflict between them they come together face to face. Why should they not come together face to face to solve the conflict? And perhaps on some occasions it would not be a bad idea to have the solution before, and therefore instead of, the conflict....

New Israel Fund continues its global vilification of Israel via "Breaking the Silence"

From NGO Monitor, June 04, 2015:
Members of the Israeli NGO Breaking the Silence (BtS) are in the midst of another international tour of Europe and the United States, this time promoting allegations of Israeli war crimes during the summer 2014 Gaza conflict.
In the United States, the BtS tour is being touted by one of its major donors, the New Israel Fund (NIF), which is also hosting a number of programs. From 2008 to 2013, NIF authorized grants worth $560,428 to BtS (20082009,2010201120122013).
In an attempt to defend this fringe controversial and discredited group, NIF has been circulating a 2-page FAQ about BtS, which largely consists of apologetics and justifications.
However, the NIF is not providing a full picture. 
Here is what NIF is not telling you about Breaking the Silence. (Questions taken from NIF’s FAQs.)
About Our Speaker
Avner Gvaryahu was the Director of Public Outreach for Breaking the Silence (he is no longer listed as a staff member on the NGO’s website).  Last week (May 28), at a speech in New York, he called on the U.S. and Europe to “oppose” peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
About Breaking the Silence
What is Breaking the Silence?
Breaking the Silence (BtS) is a tiny Israeli non-governmental organization (NGO) claiming to collect testimonies of Israeli veterans who have served in the West Bank and Gaza, in order to “make heard the voices of these soldiers, pushing Israeli society to face the reality whose creation it has enabled.” In reality, however, the NGO’s lobbying and media advocacy focus on international audiences, including translations of its materials into English and other languages and extensive presentationsthroughout Europe and the United States.
Prominent Israeli journalist Amos Harel stated in Ha’aretzthat, “Breaking the Silence...has a clear political agenda, and can no longer be classed as a ‘human rights organization.’ Any organization whose website includes the claim by members to expose the ‘corruption which permeates the military system’ is not a neutral observer.”
Are they credible?
The testimonies provided in BtS publications are anonymous and therefore cannot be verified. They possibly reflect the personal experience of a small group of mostly low-level soldiers, whose ability to see the wider battlefield context in Gaza is very limited and who have minimal or no knowledge of the intentions or strategy of decision makers. Moreover, the former CEO has acknowledged that she edits all the testimonies, raising questions as to what extent information has been removed or shaped.
Despite this, and guided by BtS’ political agenda, BtS makes sweeping accusations and conclusions based entirely on these anecdotal and unverifiable stories. These “testimonies” lack context, ignoring the fact that during the 2014 Gaza War heavy fighting took place between Israel and terror groups in Gaza, and that soldiers faced grave danger throughout the conflict from rockets, mortar shells, booby traps, and terrorists emerging from tunnels dug beneath private homes. The extremely narrow and distorted picture is also manifest in the fact that there is no mention of the widespread use of human shields by Hamas and other terrorist groups, as well as the use of UN facilities, hospitals, etc. as military installations. These basic facts are essential to understanding the nature of the combat and the complexity of battlefield operations.
More seriously, having promised to reveal the secret of the civilian death toll in Gaza in the form of systematic Israeli misdeeds, and having selected, with that purpose in mind, the most incriminating segments from much longer interviews, the report fails to deliver. Perhaps that is why, instead of letting readers examine the interviews and decide for themselves, the activist-editors of Breaking the Silence felt compelled to add a heated introduction announcing that their report “exposes” the true face of the Gaza operation—namely, its “disturbing” and “unprecedented” violence directed at civilians by the Israeli military.
Contrary to NIF’s spin, the IDF does not forgo interviews with soldiers providing incriminating testimonies. Rather, the IDF cannot interview individuals who remain anonymous and who hide other essential details of the incidents, as is the practice with BtS. If BtS does have such details, they have yet to send these up the chain of command to allow for a proper response. The claim that the IDF has never attempted to investigate these events is also baseless.
Furthermore, the IDF Chief of Staff is not the correct person for a meeting with a marginal NGO. If BtS has evidence of wrongdoing by Israeli soldiers, the proper address is the Military Advocate General’s office, which is responsible for investigating and prosecuting these matters. BtS has not approached this office, reflecting its international political agenda and belying claims of wanting to improve Israel’s conduct.
Finally, claims by BtS and the NIF that approval by the Israeli censor supports their testimonies as “reliable” are laughable. Approval by the censor does not confirm the veracity of the testimonies, but simply that they do not disclose any matters that are classified.
The IDF is committed to properly investigating all credible claims raised via media, NGOs, and official complaints concerning IDF conduct during operation Protective Edge, in as serious a manner as possible.
Today, as in the past, the organization Breaking the Silence has been asked to provide any evidence or testimony related to IDF activities prior to publication, in order for genuine investigations to be carried out. Unfortunately, as in the past, Breaking the Silence has refused to provide the IDF with any proof of their claims.
For obvious reasons such conduct makes any investigation by the relevant IDF bodies impossible, and does not allow for the claims and incidents brought up to be dealt with in an immediate and appropriate manner.
This pattern of collecting evidence over an extended period of time and refusing to share it with the IDF in a manner that would allow a proper response and, if required, an investigation indicates that contrary to its claims, this organization does not act with the intention of correcting any wrongdoings it allegedly uncovered, therefore we are unable to respond to the allegations raised.
As in the past, the IDF calls on Breaking the Silence to turn to the relevant parties in the IDF immediately upon receiving complaints and evidence that raise suspicion of improper conduct or offenses, to allow investigation of events in due process.
It should be noted that following Operation Protective Edge, thorough investigations were carried out, and soldiers and commanders were given the opportunity to present any complaint. Exceptional incidents were then transferred to the Military Advocate General for further inquiry.
Why are they speaking outside of Israel?
Despite claiming to speak to Israeli society, between the years 2012 to 2015, BtS has been part of at least 50 events in Europe, the U.S., Canada, Australia, and South Africa.  It appears that the NGO’s main motivation for speaking to foreign audiences is to bring international pressure to bear against Israel, and to circumvent the Israeli democratic process. Yehuda Shaul, BtS co-founder,defended this practice, stating that, “Sometimes, when you want to deliver messages to the inside, you must go outside.”
Another, related factor is the desire to propagate BtS’ political agenda. As stated by Executive Director Yuli Novak, “the debate is already happening outside Israel, but the only Israeli position that is presented there is the position of people who want to guarantee the continuation of the occupation, that want to guarantee the expansion of settlements...” (This characterization is a disingenuous portrayal of the international discourse regarding Israel.)
As opposed to Breaking the Silence, other Israeli soldiers with stories to tell do not have opportunities and massive resources provided by foreign governments to present their narratives in Europe and the United States.
What are the issues they will raise?
Despite claims that the NGO “aims to warn about the unsustainability of current policies towards the occupied territories,” in reality, BtS publicizes its own baseless and predetermined analysis of Israeli policy in the West Bank and Gaza, falsely claiming that it is “an offensive policy that includes annexation of territory, terrorizing and tightening the control over the civilian population.” Any discussion about rules of engagement and incidents in the 2014 Gaza war is a pretext to express BtS’ opposition to the occupation.
Moreover, the incidents BtS describes in both Gaza and the West Bank do not relate to decision-making in the army’s higher echelons, but rather refer entirely to allegations of low-level infractions. Hence, any claims that these reflect are a systemic policy are groundless.
Why are they controversial?
BtS uses unverifiable, anonymous soldier testimonies in order to promote political objectives. The NGO removes the context of these testimonies, portraying IDF actions as immoral and evil, while discounting the actions of Hamas and other terrorist organizations.
Furthermore, BtS is almost entirely funded by European governments (either directly or indirectly via third parties, including many European churches).  NGO Monitor research has recently revealed that a number of funders made their grants conditional on the NGO obtaining a minimum number of negative “testimonies.” A British journalist notedthat, “It appeared …that these former soldiers, some of whom draw salaries from Breaking the Silence, were motivated by financial and political concerns to further a pro-Palestinian agenda. They weren’t merely telling the truth about their experiences. They were under pressure to perform.” This contradicts BtS’ declarations and thus turns it into an organization that represents its foreign donors’ interests, severely damaging the NGO’s credibility, reliability, and ability to analyze complicated combat situations.
Who is the intended audience?
Contrary to NIF’s claim that BtS “aim[s] to speak to American Jews” or to BtS’ claim to address “Israeli society,” the events they participate in are mainly organized and used by anti-Israeli activists on U.S. campuses, European churches, and other venues as ammunition for BDS (boycott, divestment and sanction) campaigns, lawfare, and other activity aimed at delegitimizing and isolating Israel.
In recent years BtS published a book titled “Our Harsh Logic” in English, German, and Swedish. Book launch events in the various languages have served as a platform for further demonization and delegitmization of Israel, including accusations of “racism” and alleged “political assassinations” of Palestinians, claims that Gaza is still “occupied,” and implying that Israel is ethnically cleansing “area C.”
Why do some soldiers give testimony anonymously?
The use of anonymous testimonies by the organization supports their modus operandi of removing the context of terrorism and portraying Israeli policy as one aimed at “terrorizing” the Palestinians, rather than one of self-defense. By removing the ability to verify the testimonies, BtS denies independent observers the ability to confirm the NGO’s analysis of events.
Additionally, contrary to BtS’ claim that accusations of abuse are not discussed in Israeli society or that soldiers reporting this abuse face backlash, alleged instances of Israeli army misconduct are widely reported in the Israeli media and are debated in government and army frameworks, and also by the public.
Do they advocate war crimes prosecution of Israelis?
Contrary to the BtS claim that “they ask Israeli society to conduct a fair and independent investigation,” the organization implies that Israeli investigations into the events of the Gaza war are uniquely flawed, despite theindependent IDF fact-finding mechanism and criminalinvestigations conducted by the IDF Military Advocate General Corps. This allegation, echoed by Israeli, Palestinian, and international NGOs and in the media, is the basis for lawfare campaigns, falsely asserting that Israel is “unwilling and unable” to investigate its own wrongdoing and, therefore, external investigations and international prosecutions are needed.
Do they support boycott of Israel?
While BtS claims that they do not work with or support BDS groups, Yehuda Shaul, BtS’ foreign relations director and one of its founders, told South African parliamentarians that “he agreed with the intention of the BDS movement but he felt that its approach could compromise the goal.” (p.34)
Furthermore, many of the NGO’s funders, such as ICCO(Netherlands) and Broederlijk Delen (Belgium), support BDS directly and/or through the funding of BDS groups.
Why does NIF support Israeli human rights NGOs?
Contrary to claims of upholding human rights and demanding accountability, many NIF grantees exploit these essential values in order to achieve political gains and generate PR. The real question is why the NIF continues to fund NGOs whose activities and rhetoric explicitly violate NIF’s funding guidelines and contribute to the delegitimization of Israel.
By bringing groups such as BtS across the United States, NIF is not adding to the debate or making any difference in Israel. Rather, much like its grantees, it is contributing to a destructive atmosphere of anti-Israel sentiments. As a result of such funding and events, the NIF is thus becoming more toxic and irrelevant within Israel.
For Further Reading:
Breaking the Silence Funding Chart, NGO Monitor Resource, May 21, 2015
Publication of Israeli Soldiers´ Accounts Clouded by Political Agenda, Gerald Steinberg, Brisbane Times, May 9, 2015
´Breaking the Silence´ and Gaza, Gerald Steinberg, The Jewish Journal, September 11, 2014
Why are European powers (and Oxfam) funding a radical Israeli group?, Jake Wallis Simons, The Telegraph, December 17, 2013

Friday, June 05, 2015

Pentagon: Iran Continuing Work on Nuclear Systems; Covert support for terrorism ‘unabated’

Iran is continuing to develop missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons despite an interim agreement on its nuclear programs, according to a Pentagon report.
“Although Iran has paused progress in some areas of its nuclear program and fulfilled its obligations under the Joint Plan of Action (JPOA), it continues to develop technological capabilities that also could be applicable to nuclear weapons, including ballistic missile development...”...
...Iran’s military also continues to threaten the strategic Strait of Hormuz, the Pentagon report said.
“Iran continues to develop its capabilities to control the Strait of Hormuz and avenues of approach in the event of a military conflict...” ..Tehran is “quietly fielding increasingly lethal weapon systems, including more advanced naval mines, small but capable submarines, armed unmanned aerial vehicles, coastal defense cruise missile batteries, attack craft, and ant ship-capable missiles.”
U.S. officials said Iranian backing for Houthi rebels in Yemen is also aimed at gaining access to the strategic Red Sea strait called the Bab-el-Mandeb, which, like the Strait of Hormuz, could be used by Iran to disrupt oil and other shipping.

Tehran’s support for terrorism also has not stopped, according to the Pentagon.
“Iran’s covert activities appear to be continuing unabated...The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF) remains a key tool of lran’s foreign policy and power projection, particularly in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Bahrain, and Yemen.”...
U.S. officials disclosed to the Free Beacon last week that Iran is increasing the number of Quds Force fighters and Lebanese Hezbollah militants it is sending to Yemen, to support pro-Iran Houthi rebels there.

...Iranian forces have been working with Iraq’s government to battle Islamic State forces that have taken over large portions of that Middle East state. They have included IRGC fighters.

...Iran is seeking to become the dominant regional power and in pursuit of that aim has “unwaveringly sought to improve its deterrent capabilities and increase its regional influence.”...

...Ilan Berman, an Iran specialist with the American Foreign Policy Council, said...
“The study is long overdue, and its delay suggests that the administration has been leery of injecting inconvenient facts into the Iran debate as it closes in on a nuclear deal with the regime in Tehran...
“The findings of the report confirm that Iran’s destructive regional activities have not abated over the past year....
“If anything, they have increased despite Iran’s dialogue with the West...
“The product can be seen in the battlefield victories of Yemen’s Iran-supported Houthi rebels, of the persistence of the Assad regime in Syria, and of the growing profile and capabilities of Iraq’s Shi’a militias. Iran’s activities represent a significant challenge to peace and security in the Middle East...
“The real question is what, if anything, the White House is prepared to do about it?”...

Mark Dubowitz [executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies], another Iran expert, said Tehran is continuing to develop long-range ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads, in violation of U.N. Security Council limits.
“The Obama administration ceded to Iranian demands that their missile program was non-negotiable and, instead, has tried to reassure Congress that this missile threat can be mitigated by constraining Iran’s ability to develop a nuclear warhead...
“This major administration concession to Iran will greatly complicate the U.S. intelligence community’s ability to detect whether Iran has develop a nuclear warhead-carrying ICBM capable of reaching the continental United States ...By its very nature, it is much more difficult to detect and prevent warhead development, which can take place in small, covert facilities, than it is to determine the nature and extent of a hostile missile program. In yet another example of how deeply flawed the emerging Iran deal will be, Tehran will have a much easier pathway to develop systems.”

Israelis and Saudis Reveal Secret Talks to Thwart Iran

From Bloomberg 4 June 2015, by Eli Lake:

<p>Old enemies find a common foe.</p>
 Photographer: Kaveh Sardari/Council on Foreign Relations


Since the beginning of 2014, representatives from Israel and Saudi Arabia have had five secret meetings to discuss a common foe, Iran. On Thursday, the two countries came out of the closet by revealing this covert diplomacy at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington.

Among those who follow the Middle East closely, it's been an open secret that Israel and Saudi Arabia have a common interest in thwarting Iran. But until Thursday, actual diplomacy between the two was never officially acknowledged. Saudi Arabia still doesn't recognize Israel's right to exist. Israel has yet to accept a Saudi-initiated peace offer to create a Palestinian state.

... After an introduction, there was a speech in Arabic from Anwar Majed Eshki, a retired Saudi general and ex-adviser to Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the former Saudi ambassador to the U.S.

Then Dore Gold, a former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations who is slotted to be the next director general of Israel's foreign ministry, gave a speech in English.

While these men represent countries that have been historic enemies, their message was identical: 
Iran is trying to take over the Middle East and it must be stopped.
Eshki was particularly alarming. He laid out a brief history of Iran since the 1979 revolution, highlighting the regime's acts of terrorism, hostage-taking and aggression. He ended his remarks with a seven-point plan for the Middle East.

  • Atop the list was achieving peace between Israel and the Arabs. 
  • Second came regime-change in Iran. 

Also on the list were

  • greater Arab unity, the establishment of an Arab regional military force, and 
  • a call for an independent Kurdistan to be made up of territory now belonging to Iraq, Turkey and Iran.

Gold's speech was slightly less grandiose. He, too, warned of Iran's regional ambitions. But he didn't call for toppling the Tehran government.
"Our standing today on this stage does not mean we have resolved all the differences that our countries have shared over the years...But our hope is we will be able to address them fully in the years ahead."
It's no coincidence that the meetings between Gold, Eshki and a few other former officials from both sides took place in the shadow of the nuclear talks among Iran, the U.S. and other major powers. Saudi Arabia and Israel are arguably the two countries most threatened by Iran's nuclear program, but neither has a seat at the negotiations scheduled to wrap up at the end of the month.

The five bilateral meetings over the last 17 months occurred in India, Italy and the Czech Republic. One participant, Shimon Shapira, a retired Israeli general and an expert on the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, told me: "We discovered we have the same problems and same challenges and some of the same answers." Shapira described the problem as Iran's activities in the region, and said both sides had discussed political and economic ways to blunt them, but wouldn't get into any further specifics.

Eshki told me that no real cooperation would be possible until Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, accepted what's known as the Arab Peace Initiative to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The plan was first shared with New York Times columnist Tom Friedman in 2002 by Saudi Arabia's late King Abdullah, then the kingdom's crown prince.

Israel's quiet relationships with Gulf Arab states goes back to the 1990s and the Oslo Peace Process. Back then, some Arab countries such as Qatar allowed Israel to open trade missions. Others allowed an Israeli intelligence presence, including Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates.

These ties became more focused on Iran over the last decade, as shown by documents released by WikiLeaks in 2010. A March 19, 2009, cable quoted Israel's then-deputy director general of the foreign minister, Yacov Hadas, saying one reason for the warming of relations was that the Arabs felt Israel could advance their interests vis-a-vis Iran in Washington. "Gulf Arabs believe in Israel's role because of their perception of Israel's close relationship with the U.S. but also due to their sense that they can count on Israel against Iran," the cable said.

But only now has open cooperation between Saudi Arabia and Israel become a possibility. For Gold, it represents something of a sea change. In 2003, he published a book, "Hatred's Kingdom," about Saudi Arabia's role in financing terrorism and Islamic extremism. He explained Thursday that he wrote that book "at the height of the second intifada when Saudi Arabia was financing and fundraising for the murder of Israelis." Today, Gold said, it is Iran that is primarily working with those Palestinian groups that continue to embrace terrorism.

Gold went on to say that Iran is now outfitting groups such as Hezbollah in Lebanon with precision-guided missiles, as opposed to the unguided rockets Iran has traditionally provided its allies in Lebanon. He also said Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps forces propping up the Bashar al-Assad regime are now close to the Israeli-Syrian border.

A few years ago, it was mainly Israel that rang the alarm about Iranian expansionism in the Middle East. It is significant that now Israel is joined in this campaign by Saudi Arabia, a country that has wished for its destruction since 1948.

The two nations worry today that President Barack Obama's efforts to make peace with Iran will embolden that regime's aggression against them. It's unclear whether Obama will get his nuclear deal. But either way, it may end up that his greatest diplomatic accomplishment will be that his outreach to Iran helped create the conditions for a Saudi-Israeli alliance against it.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

It's the Palestinians who don't want any peaceful solution

From the Commentator, 3 June 2015:


Obama's latest reckless and ignorant intervention against Israel shows how mindful we should be of the damage he could yet cause before we see the back of him in January 2017

Whether it's from ignorance or from ideology or from both is now beside the point. Barack Obama is fundamentally hostile to Israel. He doesn't understand the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. And he plainly doesn't want to.

That's the only conclusion that can be drawn from his ludicrous and provocative intervention on Israel's Channel 2 on Tuesday.

The Guardian quoted him as saying the following in the context of remarks by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu before the Israeli elections that he did not envisage a Palestinian state during his next term, and then after the elections saying that he welcomed peace negotiations.
"... The danger here is that Israel as a whole loses credibility," President Obama said. "...Already, the international community does not believe that Israel is serious about a two-state solution.”
"And I think that it is difficult to simply accept at face value the statement made after an election that would appear to look as if this is simply an effort to return to the previous status quo in which we talk about peace in the abstract, but it’s always tomorrow, it’s always later.”
Obama also issued a thinly veiled threat to stop vetoing anti-Israeli resolutions at the United Nations if, "there's no prospect of an actual peace process."

...The fact is that Netanyahu's comments before the election were merely a statement of the obvious. There isn't going to be a Palestinian state in the near future. And there isn't going to be a Palestinian state in the near future because the Palestinians don't want a two-state solution, and never have.

If the two sides can talk about keeping the situation under a degree of control, and avoiding bloodshed, then all well and good. But until there is a fundamental shift in popular and elite attitudes among the Palestinians this will not result in the much vaunted two-state solution.

We've known this at least since 1947, when the Jewish/Israeli side accepted the two-state partition plan agreed upon by the United Nations, while the Arab/Palestinian side rejected it.

We've known this since the infamous "Three Nos", issued in the Khartoum Resolution of September 1, 1967: "no peace with Israel; no recognition of Israel; no negotiations with [Israel]".

The Oslo Accords of the 1990s held out the prospect of possible Palestinian compliance, but were then fatally undermined by the words and actions of Yasser Arafat.

Under Bill Clinton's auspices in 2000 and 2001, the Israeli side again offered a two-state solution only for it to be flatly rejected. In 2007, Ehud Olmert offered Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas more or less the same deal, only for it to be turned down.

The Palestinian side makes rejection of the very existence of Israel a fact of daily life in its (Arab-language) pronouncements, its glorification of terrorism, and its media and education policies.

Opinion polls, such as those conducted by the Israel Project, consistently show that the Palestinian people would only accept a two-state solution as a stepping stone towards a one-state solution involving the destruction of the State of Israel.

The fact that these realities are never reported in the mainstream Western media does not, of course, mean that they aren't available to anyone who wants to know about them, especially if your job title says you are president of the United States.

Obama is nothing more than a default Israel-hater, a characteristic he shares with most in the international community. He has been one all along, but he has so far been held in check by the wider American political establishment.

But if his reckless and ignorant intervention yesterday is anything to go by, we should all be mindful of the damage he could yet do until the world finally sees the back of him in January, 2017.

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Family Reunion - after 2700 years

From Arutz Sheva, 2 June 2015, by Ari Soffer:

Pilgrims to Joseph's Tomb in the Biblical city of Shechem on Monday night were treated to moving scenes, as members of a lost Tribe of Israel reunited with their ancient forefather for the first time in well over two millennia.

The Bnei Menashe (literally “Children of Manasseh”), claim descent from the Israelite tribe of Menashe, one of the 10 Lost Tribes of Israel exiled by the Assyrian Empire some 2,700 years ago.

Today, some 3,000 Bnei Menashe live in Israel, mainly in Judea, Samaria and the Galilee. The remaining 7,000 Bnei Menashe reside in India – primarily in the northeastern states of Mizoram and Manipur, which border Burma.

The group which is aiding the aliyah of the Bnei Menashe - Shavei Israel, founded and headed by Rabbi Michael Freund - arranged for Monday's unique visit as both a part of the tribe's homecoming, as well as to pray for the remaining Bnei Menashe who are still awaiting permission to move to Israel.

Rabbi Freund described the experience as a "family reunion of sorts."
"For the first time in 2,700 years, a group of 100 recent Bnei Menashe immigrants from India visited Joseph's Tomb in Shechem (Nablus)..."...
What makes this so unique is that the Bnei Menashe are descendants of the Tribe of Manasseh, who was the Biblical Joseph's eldest son. Hence it was akin to a family reunion of sorts.
In addition, according to tradition, Joseph's sons Manasseh and Ephraim are buried alongside him, adding to the sense that it was the closing of an historical circle."
"For me, it was a very moving sight to see the Bnei Menashe, descendants of Manasseh and Joseph, standing at the tomb of their ancestors after being cut off from our people for so many centuries. If that’s not a miracle, what is?"
While at the Tomb, ecstatic pilgrims sang their community's de-facto anthem: a song in their native Kuki language describing their yearning to return to Zion.

According to the Bnei Menashe’s oral tradition, their ancestors arrived in northeastern India after centuries of wandering from slavery in Assyria, through Persia, Afghanistan, Hindu-Kush, Tibet and as far as the Chinese city of Kaifeng, where they were once again forced to escape slavery.

Finally, after a near-eternity of slavery, persecution and forced assimilation, at least some of them traveled on to Burma (Myanmar) and India, where they finally settled, cut off from their fellow Israelites and just barely clinging to their ancestor’s heritage  via a number of ancient traditions, including the legend of their ancestor “Manmaseh” and a number of recognizable Jewish practices and songs.

250 more Bnei Menashe are slated to arrive in Israel later this month, as part of Israel's commitment to bring the entire community home to Israel.

Shavei Israel hopes to complete the aliyah of the Bnei Menashe by 2020.

Abbas admits that Arabs from Palestine already have a state

From Arutz Sheva, 2 June 2015, by Ari Soffer:

Mahmoud Abbas
Mahmoud Abbas

Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has described Jordanian and Palestinian Arabs as "one people living in two states," during a meeting with the head of the Jordan Football Association on Tuesday.

...The Jordanians are reportedly angry that the PA did not vote for their preferred candidate for FIFA President, and there are calls in Jordan to strip PFA head and senior PA leader Jibril Rajoub of his Jordanian citizenship. 

Bethlehem-based Maan News cited the Jordanian al-Ghad newspaper as saying that Abbas arrived in Jordan from Doha along with several other senior PA officials, including its intelligence chief Majid Faraj.

The Arabic-language Al-Quds news outlet directly quoted Abbas, who it said
"stressed that the relationship between Jordan and Palestine is the relationship of 'one people living in two states,' adding that this relationship will not be affected by anything."
...The Hashemite royal family of King Abdullah II is a tiny minority in the country - whereas the majority of residents in fact identify as Palestinian (various studies put the number as anything from 60% to 80%).

The Kingdom of Jordan (originally known as "Transjordan") was established in 1946 - two years before the establishment of the State of Israel - on three quarters of the territory previously allocated for a Jewish state.

It was the result of a partition of the British Mandate of Palestine as a compromise between Jews and Arabs - a compromise which began at the 1922 San Remo Conference, when the Arab population received the lion's share (77%) of the country, to the east of the River Jordan, and the Jews received the remaining portion to its west.

That partition was made legally binding by the UN's predecessor - the League of Nations - which in its Mandate for Palestine granted the Jews a state from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River, and reserved the eastern side of the River for one of 22 independent Arab states.

Under Article 80 of the UN Charter that treaty is still binding.

But instead of handing over control to the local Arab population, the British government - which previously occupied both sides of the Jordan River - installed the Hashemite tribe of Jordan's King Abdullah I (grandfather of King Abdullah II), which was sympathetic to British imperial interests. That ushered in an era of autocratic, minority rule which lasted until today, and left the local Jews and Arabs to continue to fight over the remaining 23%.

Despite being the majority, Palestinians in Jordan are subject to widespread discrimination and repression by the government. Recently, sensing the growing threat from disgruntled Palestinians, the Jordanian government began stripping large numbers of their Jordanian citizenship, dealing another blow to their collective civil rights, and illustrating how it relies on their disenfranchisement to survive.

While that history has been largely forgotten or ignored by advocates of a "two state solution," Israeli nationalists have long pointed to it as proof of the illegitimacy of establishing a 23rd "Palestinian" Arab state in Judea and Samaria.

Many Palestinians - including not just Rajoub but Abbas himself and Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal - have Jordanian citizenship.

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Egyptian Historian: Drop the Palestinians, Normalize With Israel

From Arutz Sheva, 1 June 2015, by Ari Soffer:

A prominent Egyptian historian took to national television last week to make an unusually open and robust case for Egypt to "drop the Palestinian cause and normalize relations with Israel."

In a lengthy interview with Egypt's Mehwar TV on May 28 - segments of which were translated by MEMRI [see below for a link to the video] - historian Maged Farag insisted it was time for Egyptians to leave "the old ideology and cultural heritage on which we were raised" - namely, rabid anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism - in favor of a more rational focus on Egypt's own national interests.

"What I'm saying is that we should pay attention to the interests of our country," he told his interviewer.

"There are no such things as eternal enmity or eternal love.There are only eternal interests. We should identify our country's interest. Churchill once said that he was ready to cooperate with the Devil in the interest of his country. As a man who knows a little bit about history and about international relations, I believe that it is in our interest to maintain normal relations with Israel."

Noting that in practice there already is close cooperation on security, political and other issues between the two countries' respective governments, Farag asserted:
"The state is not the problem. The problem lies with the people, who still live the old ideology and the cultural heritage on which we were raised. Our generation was raised upon hatred and upon these people being barbaric..."
Indeed, despite Israel and Egypt successfully maintaining an official peace treaty since 1979, popular sentiment inside Egypt is still largely - though not exclusively - anti-Israel.

Anti-Semitism is also rife in the country, which is the most populous Arab state in the world.

Egypt was home to around 80,000 Jews in 1948, but expelled most of them and seized their property as part of a wider campaign of ethnic-cleansing carried out by Arab states in "revenge" for the defeat of Arab armies by the nascent State of Israel in 1948.

Key to that outdated mentality was Egypt's continued support for the "Palestinian cause," Farag posited. Since Egypt had achieved a just peace with the State of Israel, there was no rational or logical reason for it to maintain any hostility towards the Jewish state, he said - particularly when the Palestinians themselves "have no interest" in actually ending the conflict, short of annihilating Israel altogether.

"For over 70 years, the Palestinian cause has brought upon Egypt and the Egyptians nothing but harm, destruction, and expense. We have been preoccupied all our lives with the Palestinian cause.
"The Palestinian cause is Palestinian... Egypt's problem has been resolved."

Referring to the Sinai Peninsula - which Israel captured during the 1967 Six Day War, and handed over to Egypt as part of their 1979 peace treaty - he added: "The occupied land has been liberated. End of story, as far as I'm concerned. Let us now live and care about the interests of my country."
"Am I supposed to shackle myself to the Palestinian cause? Let the (Palestinians) resolve it... We have tried to help them many times."
"They don't think it is in their interest," he said of the Palestinians themselves. "They don't want to resolve their own problem."
Farag also brushed off criticism of a recent visit he paid to Israel, during which he posted pictures of himself at famous Muslim, Christian and Jewish sites, as well as other Israeli attractions. He retorted that he was "not afraid" of openly visiting a neighboring country, and noted that many other Egyptians work and have relations with Israel and Israelis, but simply don't admit to it.

"I still don't understand what the big deal is. I met many Egyptians there, and many Egyptians have visited Israel. I don't understand why my visit there made people so angry," he said.

Farag also busted a common Egyptian myth that a large sign exists outside of Israel's Knesset declaring the country's attempt to expand "from the Nile to the Euphrates."

"This is not true. There is no such thing," he informed viewers. "We all know that this is not true, but people keep saying this to heat up the hostility."

His vision for Israeli-Egyptian relations is one of total cooperation - citing by way of example the relationship between Germany and France, who until the latter half of the twentieth century had been at war on and off for hundreds of years.

"Normal relations require, first of all, cultural exchange," he explained. "I must not fear the other. So long as I fear the other, nothing good can develop. We should not fear (Israel). We should visit there."

"There should be tourist exchange, and economic exchange.

"There are Israeli companies that specialize in modern drip irrigation. They have very advanced irrigation technology. We have a water problem. We have a shortage of water. Why can't we take advantage of their technology, of their thought, and of the results of their research?

"They used this technology to cultivate the desert, so why can't we use it here? Why can't I benefit from someone who used to be my enemy? I'm not looking to force him to become my friend. I want him as a partner in developing agriculture and industry in Egypt."

Challenged by his interviewer as to how Egyptian schools should teach about the numerous wars between Israel and Egypt, he stated simply: "We should teach that there were wars in '48, '56, '67, and '73, and that these wars came to an end, that we signed a peace treaty, and we should set our eyes on the future. That's it.
"Israel exists, whether we like it or not, and it will continue to exist, whether we like it or not. So let's just accept this."
View the video interview:
MEMRI: Egyptian Historian Maged Farag in Support of Normalized Relations with Israel: We Must Focus on Our Own Interests, Not on the Palestinian Cause