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Posts For: December 30, 2013

Has Israel Made Sacrifices for Peace?

One of the clichés of commentary about the Middle East is the idea that it is time for the people of Israel to put their fears aside and make needed sacrifices for peace. That was the conceit of some of President Obama’s remarks when he visited Israel earlier in 2013 despite the fact that he couched this advice with some badly needed support for Israel’s right to exist and to defend itself. But the president and those who have expressed this sentiment both before and after his remarks ignored the fact that Israel has made many such sacrifices and risks for the sake of peace. In the 20 years since the signing of the Oslo Accords, Israel has withdrawn from territory only to learn that land-for-peace deals with the Palestinians generally translate into an exchange of land for terror, not a cessation of the conflict. And yet no number of concessions has ever been seen as enough to remove the onus from Israel. It is in this context that the latest Israeli concessions must be understood.

The price that Israel was asked to pay to get the Palestinian Authority back to the negotiating table after years of their boycotting such talks was the release of terrorist murderers. The first batch of killers was set free in the fall. The second group is due to be freed today and it is expected that they, like the others before them, will be greeted as heroes by not just the Palestinian people but also the PA leadership, including its head Mahmoud Abbas. When Secretary of State John Kerry was asked about the pain Israelis felt about this spectacle in November, he dismissed the concern while expressing no sympathy or understanding. As far as he was concerned, Palestinians who murder Jews in cold blood belong to a different category of terrorists than those who kill Americans and whom the U.S. would never consider releasing.

But to bring home just how egregious is a peace process that is built upon such a shaky edifice, here, courtesy of the Times of Israel, is a list of each one of the killers who will be released today, with their crimes and the identity of their victims. While no one should expect that this gesture, any more than the ones that preceded it, will be enough to silence those who call for Israelis to make such sacrifices, anyone who dares to make such a statement should be forced to read it and ponder how a Palestinian government that embraces such people and holds them up as role models in their official media could actually be a partner for peace.

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One of the clichés of commentary about the Middle East is the idea that it is time for the people of Israel to put their fears aside and make needed sacrifices for peace. That was the conceit of some of President Obama’s remarks when he visited Israel earlier in 2013 despite the fact that he couched this advice with some badly needed support for Israel’s right to exist and to defend itself. But the president and those who have expressed this sentiment both before and after his remarks ignored the fact that Israel has made many such sacrifices and risks for the sake of peace. In the 20 years since the signing of the Oslo Accords, Israel has withdrawn from territory only to learn that land-for-peace deals with the Palestinians generally translate into an exchange of land for terror, not a cessation of the conflict. And yet no number of concessions has ever been seen as enough to remove the onus from Israel. It is in this context that the latest Israeli concessions must be understood.

The price that Israel was asked to pay to get the Palestinian Authority back to the negotiating table after years of their boycotting such talks was the release of terrorist murderers. The first batch of killers was set free in the fall. The second group is due to be freed today and it is expected that they, like the others before them, will be greeted as heroes by not just the Palestinian people but also the PA leadership, including its head Mahmoud Abbas. When Secretary of State John Kerry was asked about the pain Israelis felt about this spectacle in November, he dismissed the concern while expressing no sympathy or understanding. As far as he was concerned, Palestinians who murder Jews in cold blood belong to a different category of terrorists than those who kill Americans and whom the U.S. would never consider releasing.

But to bring home just how egregious is a peace process that is built upon such a shaky edifice, here, courtesy of the Times of Israel, is a list of each one of the killers who will be released today, with their crimes and the identity of their victims. While no one should expect that this gesture, any more than the ones that preceded it, will be enough to silence those who call for Israelis to make such sacrifices, anyone who dares to make such a statement should be forced to read it and ponder how a Palestinian government that embraces such people and holds them up as role models in their official media could actually be a partner for peace.

Muhammad Yusuf Adnan Elafandi, arrested May 13, 1992, for stabbing two youths in Jerusalem. After the attack, his life was saved by an Israeli woman who defended him from a lynch mob. He was convicted of attempted murder. The woman who saved his life, Bella Freund, was the subject of a song by the hip hop band Hadag Nahash, in collaboration with rocker Barry Sakharof.

Farid Ahmed Shahade, arrested February 16, 1985, for the murder of Yosef Farhan, a suspected collaborator with Israel, in Jaffa.

Yakoub Muhammad Ouda Ramadan, Afana Mustafa Ahmad Muhammad, and Da’agna Nufal Mahmad Mahmoud, arrested April 1, 1993. The three were convicted of stabbing Sara Sharon, 37, to death in Holon on January 20, 1993.

Abu al Rub Mustafa Mahmoud Faisal and Kamil Awad Ali Ahmad, convicted of murder in the killing of 20-year-old IDF soldier Yoram Cohen in a shootout in the West Bank town of Jenin. Ali Ahmad was also convicted of kidnapping, torturing and murdering 15 Palestinians suspected of collaborating with Israel. Faisal was convicted of manslaughter in four of those cases.

Damara Ibrahim Mustafa Bilal, arrested June 16, 1989, and convicted of murdering Steven Friedrich Rosenfeld, 48, a US-born immigrant to Israel. Damra and several others accosted Rosenfeld outside the West Bank settlement of Ariel, grabbed the knife he was carrying, and stabbed him to death with it. His body was found on the following day by a Palestinian shepherd.

Abu Mohsin Khaled Ibrahim Jamal, arrested April 10, 1991, and convicted of murder. Abu-Muhsan ambushed Shlomo Yahya, a 76-year-old gardener, in a public park in Moshav Kadima and stabbed him to death.

Tamimi Rushdi Muhammad Sa’id, convicted of kidnapping and murdering Hayim Mizrahi at a Palestinian-owned farm outside the settlement of Beit El, where Mizrahi lived, in 1993. Mizrahi had come to the farm to shop for eggs.

Silawi Khaled Kamel Osama, one of three Palestinians convicted in the murder of Motti Biton. Similar to Mizrahi, Biton was shot while he was shopping for groceries in a Palestinian-owned store. Afterwards his wife, who was in the car outside, fired at his attackers, who detonated a pipe bomb and fled. Biton was gravely wounded in the attack and died in an Israeli hospital three days later. Osama was also convicted of murder and manslaughter in the deaths of four Palestinians suspected of collaborating with the authorities.

Sawafta Sudqi Abdel Razeq Mouhlas, who stabbed Yosef Malka (Malkin) to death on December 29, 1990, during an attempt to rob his home in Haifa.

Barham Fawzi Mustafa Nasser, arrested December 20, 1993, for the murder of Morris (Moshe) Edri. Nasser, a former employee of Edri, 65, ambushed Edri and stabbed him in the back. After he was apprehended, he said he had carried out the murder to prove that he was worthy of joining Hamas.

Yusuf Ahmed Nu’aman Al-Shalvi, Mahmad Anis Aiman Jaradat, and Ahmad Yusuf Bilal Abu-Hassin, convicted of murdering multiple Palestinians suspected of collaborating with Israel.

Mahmad Naim Shawmra Yunis, convicted of murder in the death of Yossef Hayun, a police sapper who was killed while attempting to disarm a bomb in Moshav Shekef in June 1993.

Mahmud Muhammad Salman, arrested May 6, 1994, and convicted in the murder of Shai Shoker. Salman strangled Shoker with a shoelace outside Tira on February 2, 1994.

Ahmed Ibrahim Jamal Abu-Jamal, convicted of attempted murder. Abu-Jamal was slated for release in 2016.

Mahmoud Ibrahim Abu-Ali Faiz, convicted of murdering Ronny Levy.

Zaki Rami Barbakh Jawdat, convicted of murdering Yosef Zandani.

Mustafa Ahmed Khaled Jumaa, convicted of aggravated assault, up for release in 2014.

Abu Hadir Muhammad Yassin Yassin, convicted of murder. Yassin shot Yigal Shahaf, 24, in the head while Shahaf and his wife were walking through Jerusalem’s Old City toward the Western Wall. Shahaf died in hospital on the following day. The murder weapon had been bought from a Jewish Israeli. Yassin was slated for release in 2016.

Muammar Ata Mahmoud Mahmoud and Salah Khalil Ahmad Ibrahim, convicted of murdering Menahem Stern, a history professor at Hebrew University. Stern, 64, a winner of the prestigious Israel Prize, was stabbed to death while walking to work at the university’s Givat Ram campus on June 22, 1989. A monument in his memory figures in a scene from the prize-winning Israeli film “Footnote.” Ibrahim was also convicted in the murder of Eli Amsalem. In addition, the two murdered a Palestinian suspected of collaborating with Israel, Hassin Zaid.

Taqtuq Lutfi Halma Ibrahim, arrested March 3, 1989, and convicted of murder in the shooting of IDF soldier Binyamin Meisner, on February 24, 1989, in Nablus.

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Distinguishing Between Moderation and Political Compromise

I wrote a piece recently on compromise, moderation, and the American Constitution, and in reaction I received a note from Diana Schaub, a professor of political science at Loyola University Maryland.

She pointed out to me that it’s “helpful to distinguish the virtue of moderation, which is always right, from the practice of political compromise, the goodness of which depends on circumstances.” Moderation, Schaub went on to write, “doesn’t always entail the spirit of accommodation. There are times when one must stand fast, and one can do so without becoming immoderate.”

To buttress her argument, Schaub cited an example of George Washington (who became a revolutionary, having arrived at the conclusion that diplomatic compromise was no longer possible with Great Britain) and Abraham Lincoln (who was unwilling to consider certain sorts of compromise in order to maintain the Union and who steadfastly opposed any action that would remove the label of moral evil from the institution of slavery). Professor Schaub herself has used the apposite phrase “intransigent moderation” when describing Lincoln. 

Her main point, Schaub said in the note she sent to me (and which she kindly allowed me to quote from), is that “moderation, while usually receptive to political compromises, can at times be uncompromising without ceasing to be moderation.”

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I wrote a piece recently on compromise, moderation, and the American Constitution, and in reaction I received a note from Diana Schaub, a professor of political science at Loyola University Maryland.

She pointed out to me that it’s “helpful to distinguish the virtue of moderation, which is always right, from the practice of political compromise, the goodness of which depends on circumstances.” Moderation, Schaub went on to write, “doesn’t always entail the spirit of accommodation. There are times when one must stand fast, and one can do so without becoming immoderate.”

To buttress her argument, Schaub cited an example of George Washington (who became a revolutionary, having arrived at the conclusion that diplomatic compromise was no longer possible with Great Britain) and Abraham Lincoln (who was unwilling to consider certain sorts of compromise in order to maintain the Union and who steadfastly opposed any action that would remove the label of moral evil from the institution of slavery). Professor Schaub herself has used the apposite phrase “intransigent moderation” when describing Lincoln. 

Her main point, Schaub said in the note she sent to me (and which she kindly allowed me to quote from), is that “moderation, while usually receptive to political compromises, can at times be uncompromising without ceasing to be moderation.”

These words are ones I fully concur with and are consistent, I think, with some of the observations I made in my original piece. My emphasis, though, was somewhat different. What I intended to underscore is that to assume per se that moderation and compromise are problematic is itself problematic.

In any event, I thought Professor Schaub’s explication was wise and very intelligently stated, and certainly worth sharing. 

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The Tragedy of Maliki’s Iraq

If it’s the end of December or the beginning of January, it must be time for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to arrest another prominent Sunni politician.

The trend began in December 2011, just days after the departure of U.S. troops, when security forces raided the compound of Vice President Tariq al Hashemi. Hashemi was able to flee but several of his bodyguards were arrested and based on their testimony, allegedly extracted under torture, he was convicted in absentia of various terrorist offenses and sentenced to death.

A year later Maliki’s forces raided the home of Raffi el-Essawi, a former finance minister who barely managed to elude arrest.

Now it is the turn of Ahmed al-Alwani, a prominent member of Parliament who was arrested at his home a few days ago after a two-hour gun battle between his bodyguards and security forces that left his brother and five guards dead.

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If it’s the end of December or the beginning of January, it must be time for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to arrest another prominent Sunni politician.

The trend began in December 2011, just days after the departure of U.S. troops, when security forces raided the compound of Vice President Tariq al Hashemi. Hashemi was able to flee but several of his bodyguards were arrested and based on their testimony, allegedly extracted under torture, he was convicted in absentia of various terrorist offenses and sentenced to death.

A year later Maliki’s forces raided the home of Raffi el-Essawi, a former finance minister who barely managed to elude arrest.

Now it is the turn of Ahmed al-Alwani, a prominent member of Parliament who was arrested at his home a few days ago after a two-hour gun battle between his bodyguards and security forces that left his brother and five guards dead.

If Maliki wants to know why al-Qaeda in Iraq is suddenly resurgent, and why violence is returning to 2008 and even 2007 levels, all he need do is look at this trend. Sunnis certainly do. Many prominent leaders of the Anbar Awakening, who allied with American and Iraqi forces in 2007-2008 to fight al-Qaeda in Iraq, have now made common cause with AQI because of what they see–with some justification–as a campaign of persecution directed against them by Maliki and the militant Shiites who surround him.

After Alwani’s arrest, one sheikh, Ahmed al-Tamimi, was quoted as saying: “The war has begun. I call on young people to carry their weapons and prepare. We will no longer allow any army presence in Falluja.”

The threat is not to be taken lightly as the Iraqi army recently learned–it just lost 18 soldiers, including a general in command of a division, during an attempted raid on an AQI encampment in Anbar Province.

Maliki understands that the threat against him is growing, but the actions he keeps taking–one crackdown after another–simply spark more protest. Buying more Hellfire missiles and Scan Eagle drones from the U.S. will accomplish little beyond further enflaming the situation.

Maliki needs to implement a comprehensive counterinsurgency campaign such as the one that General David Petraeus implemented in 2007-2008 whose central feature must be outreach to the estranged Sunnis. The tragedy of Iraq today is that Maliki lacks the acumen to do that–and the U.S. lacks the leverage to compel him, because of the ill-advised pullout of American forces at the end of 2011.

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Murderers or Houses: Kerry’s V.A.T. on Peace

The release of unrepentant Jew-killers from Israeli prisons to keep the engine of the peace process running has left many, even those sympathetic with the Jewish presence in Judea and Samaria, angrily wondering why Prime Minister Netanyahu did not accept a settlement freeze instead. There is a good reason, even for those not generally sympathetic to the Jewish presence: unlike the other concessions, a settlement freeze implicitly concedes Israel’s chief negotiating positions before even sitting down at the table.

The first thing to say is that the position Israel was put in by Secretary of State John Kerry and the Palestinians was fundamentally unjust. Israel is forced to make sacrifices even for the “privilege” of participating in peace negotiations to whose ultimate goal is “painful sacrifices” by Israel. In Israel, politicians talk about paying “the price” for peace. Kerry has put a price on paying the price: a value-added tax on peace.

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The release of unrepentant Jew-killers from Israeli prisons to keep the engine of the peace process running has left many, even those sympathetic with the Jewish presence in Judea and Samaria, angrily wondering why Prime Minister Netanyahu did not accept a settlement freeze instead. There is a good reason, even for those not generally sympathetic to the Jewish presence: unlike the other concessions, a settlement freeze implicitly concedes Israel’s chief negotiating positions before even sitting down at the table.

The first thing to say is that the position Israel was put in by Secretary of State John Kerry and the Palestinians was fundamentally unjust. Israel is forced to make sacrifices even for the “privilege” of participating in peace negotiations to whose ultimate goal is “painful sacrifices” by Israel. In Israel, politicians talk about paying “the price” for peace. Kerry has put a price on paying the price: a value-added tax on peace.

Moreover, if the occupation were so terrible (or real) one would think Abbas would be in a hurry to get to the bargaining table without any preliminaries. This suggests Abbas is not in such a hurry to get an “end of the occupation” so much as particular tactical wins. Moreover, the fact that a top priority for Abbas is the release of mass murders so they can be feted and remunerated shows that “peace” is not vaguely on the horizon, regardless of whether a Kerry diplomatic achievement is. If Bibi partied down with Jewish terrorist Baruch Goldstein, it would be the end of his career.

Still, why did Bibi take this option, of all the bad ones presented to him? We know he is not a slave of the settlers: he has imposed a construction freeze before, for 10 months, simply to entice Abbas to the table. It did not work, Abbas ran down the clock, and demanded an extension. So that has been tried.

But aren’t houses less important than justice for the murdered? Of course. However, unlike the release of terrorists, a construction freeze is fundamentally related to the substance of the negotiations themselves. That is, of all the proposed “gestures,” the freeze would not only be problematic in itself, but would have Israel start negotiations on its back foot.

Not allowing Jews to build houses in most of Jerusalem, in settlement blocs like Gush Etzion, Maale Adumim, and elsewhere that would surely remain under Israel sovereignty sends one message: we have absolutely no right to be here. We are trespassers. It is one thing to say the Palestinians can have a state because of demographic reasons, international pressure, and so forth. It is another thing to say we are trespassers in the Old City of Jerusalem and Hebron, where Jews lived until being expelled by Arab armies and mobs. A settlement freeze in effect agrees to the 1967 lines as the basis for negotiations–which even if it were a good idea, is a lot more than a “gesture of good faith.” It is one thing to say these territories should become Palestinian territory. It is another to say Israel took them from the Palestinians, that they always were, as Abbas claims, Palestinian territory.

Of course, the way the narrative of the peace process is structured, Israel should not be surprised at the pay-to-play. And for this situation, the tireless proponents of “peace” bear primary responsibility. If, as the left argues, Israel needs peace more than the Palestinians need it, no wonder the Palestinians will charge Israel heavily for the privilege of giving them a state.

That is indeed why the Palestinian demands go far beyond the end of occupation or having an independent state. The right of return? What does that have to do with the end of occupation? A capital in Jerusalem, which no Arab state has had? An end to Jewish control over the Holy Basin? Nothing to do with an independent state. These are additional political add-ons. Sovereignty over the Jordan Valley? Ditto; almost no Arabs (or Jews) live there; control over it is a territorial demand rather than an independence-related one.

Interestingly, the Labor Party, while favoring a two-state solution, was until recently against icing the cake–against the division of Jerusalem, ceding sovereignty over Jerusalem, and a right of return. Yet in succeeding rounds of peace negotiations, they have accepted all three in some form. This erosion of their position is natural. Once peace is defined as an existential Israeli interest–once Israeli politicians have resorted to the cheap tactic of threatening apartheid and illegitimacy–there is nowhere back to go, only forward with endless concessions.

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