Commentary Magazine


Topic: Gilad Shalit

Bergdahl Disgrace Not Like Israel’s Shalit

Did President Obama expect to be showered with praise for his exchange of five senior Taliban terrorists for U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl? The president defended the swap today while speaking in Europe as simply part of his obligation to leave no American behind on the field of battle, a position that is eminently defensible. But given the public splash made by the White House about this story over the weekend, it’s clear that some in the West Wing thought the retrieval of Bergdahl would dovetail nicely with the president’s West Point speech extolling his decision to abandon the war in Afghanistan. The return of the only missing American soldier from that conflict would put a period on the war Democrats once extolled as the “good war” in contrast to George W. Bush’s “bad war” in Iraq.

If a Bergdahl photo op with the prisoner’s parents at the White House was not quite the moral equivalent of the Situation Room photos on the night of Osama bin Laden’s killing, it’s possible that some in the presidential echo chamber believed it would still boost Obama’s image in a second term badly in need of a triumph. But only two days after the president walked arm-in-arm with the Bergdahl family at the White House, those expectations have been exploded.

News stories about the anger felt by Bergdahl’s army comrades who allege that he deserted rather than being captured have tainted any good feelings about the exchange. National Security Advisor Susan Rice’s tone deaf comments on ABC’s This Week claiming Bergdahl “served the United States with honor and distinction” now look to be as big a lie as her September 2012 Sunday show blitz about the Benghazi attack being the reaction to a video rather than terrorism. Congress is rightly grousing about the executive branch violating the law by not informing them of the prisoner exchange and many voices are being raised questioning the wisdom of releasing five top Taliban officials likely to return to the war against America for the freedom of a man who, if reports are correct, hated his country and abandoned his post on the field of battle.

Yet as the debate continues to rage about Bergdahl, the administration’s defenders have been able to put forward one coherent argument. If the Israelis can trade more than 1,000 terrorists for Gilad Shalit, one of their soldiers who had been kidnapped by Hamas, what’s so terrible about Obama bartering five Taliban prisoners for one American? As I wrote on Sunday, there are good arguments to be made that the seniority of the five released Taliban operatives as well as the implication that the U.S. is bugging out of the conflict in Afghanistan makes the American swap look even more lopsided than the Shalit deal. But the nature of the two redeemed hostages should also have told the White House that it was a mistake for them to expect to garner the applause that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu got for his decision on Shalit.

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Did President Obama expect to be showered with praise for his exchange of five senior Taliban terrorists for U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl? The president defended the swap today while speaking in Europe as simply part of his obligation to leave no American behind on the field of battle, a position that is eminently defensible. But given the public splash made by the White House about this story over the weekend, it’s clear that some in the West Wing thought the retrieval of Bergdahl would dovetail nicely with the president’s West Point speech extolling his decision to abandon the war in Afghanistan. The return of the only missing American soldier from that conflict would put a period on the war Democrats once extolled as the “good war” in contrast to George W. Bush’s “bad war” in Iraq.

If a Bergdahl photo op with the prisoner’s parents at the White House was not quite the moral equivalent of the Situation Room photos on the night of Osama bin Laden’s killing, it’s possible that some in the presidential echo chamber believed it would still boost Obama’s image in a second term badly in need of a triumph. But only two days after the president walked arm-in-arm with the Bergdahl family at the White House, those expectations have been exploded.

News stories about the anger felt by Bergdahl’s army comrades who allege that he deserted rather than being captured have tainted any good feelings about the exchange. National Security Advisor Susan Rice’s tone deaf comments on ABC’s This Week claiming Bergdahl “served the United States with honor and distinction” now look to be as big a lie as her September 2012 Sunday show blitz about the Benghazi attack being the reaction to a video rather than terrorism. Congress is rightly grousing about the executive branch violating the law by not informing them of the prisoner exchange and many voices are being raised questioning the wisdom of releasing five top Taliban officials likely to return to the war against America for the freedom of a man who, if reports are correct, hated his country and abandoned his post on the field of battle.

Yet as the debate continues to rage about Bergdahl, the administration’s defenders have been able to put forward one coherent argument. If the Israelis can trade more than 1,000 terrorists for Gilad Shalit, one of their soldiers who had been kidnapped by Hamas, what’s so terrible about Obama bartering five Taliban prisoners for one American? As I wrote on Sunday, there are good arguments to be made that the seniority of the five released Taliban operatives as well as the implication that the U.S. is bugging out of the conflict in Afghanistan makes the American swap look even more lopsided than the Shalit deal. But the nature of the two redeemed hostages should also have told the White House that it was a mistake for them to expect to garner the applause that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu got for his decision on Shalit.

At the time of the Shalit exchange, many in both Israel and the United States for the deal with Hamas blasted Netanyahu. He was reminded of his own writings on the subject of such prisoner swaps which spoke of the harm they do in encouraging terrorism and undermining his country’s ability to deter its enemies. But despite these compelling arguments, the overwhelming majority of Israelis cheered his decision. Gilad Shalit was a typical conscript who was merely doing his duty along with thousands of other young men and women when he was snatched by terrorists who crossed into Israeli territory. There was no question of misconduct on his part and concern about his welfare during his years of captivity became a national obsession. Shalit was considered every Israeli’s son. Leaving him in the hands of Hamas, even if the cost was the freedom of hundreds of terrorists, was unthinkable.

But unfortunately for Obama, Bergdahl is not an American version of Shalit. The emails he wrote damning the United States and the U.S. Army undermine sympathy for his plight. So do the angry denunciations of his fellow soldiers who not only resent his abandonment of his post but also point out that six Americans were killed trying to rescue a man who wasn’t loyal to his comrades. That the freedom of such a person was bought with the release of dangerous terrorists only makes it worse.

Rather than Bergdahl’s release being a cause for celebration as Rice foolishly described it, it is developing into yet another scandal dragging down the president’s public standing. And rather than diminishing in the days to come, it will only get worse as the Army is forced to begin an investigation of his behavior that is not likely to have a happy outcome for Bergdahl or his commander-in-chief.

It would have been far better for all concerned for the swap to be treated as an unfortunate necessity rather than a cause for cheering. The president didn’t have to host the Bergdahls—whose bizarre statements have only added to the embarrassment—or send Rice and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel onto the Sunday news shows to tell the American people things that were obviously not true. Obama may have thought he would bask in the applause of a grateful public like Netanyahu did after Shalit was freed, but that was never going to happen. It is arguable that had the administration done this deal without trying to sell it as a triumph, it might have come across less like another public deception. But in the days, weeks, and months to come, they will continue to pay for yet another unforced error that revealed their lack of honesty.

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How Not to Handle a Prisoner Swap

Ronald Reagan traded arms for hostages. Benjamin Netanyahu traded more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners for Corporal Gilad Shalit. Ehud Olmert traded five living terrorists–one of them responsible for killing a four-year-old girl by crushing her skull with the butt of his rifle–for two dead Israeli soldiers. So there is nothing new about making deals with terrorists or exchanging captives with them. It’s even possible that President Obama did the right thing by freeing five senior Taliban leaders in exchange for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who has been held by the Taliban since 2009. Certainly Obama as commander in chief had the power to do so even if some members of Congress are miffed at not being consulted. 

What I find offensive is that the president and his team are not treating this as a grubby and inglorious compromise–an attempt to reconcile our competing ideals of “don’t deal with terrorists” and “leave no man behind.” Instead the administration seems to be taking a victory lap. The president held a White House event with Bergdahl’s parents. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel flew to Afghanistan to commemorate the occasion. National Security Adviser Susan Rice called it “a great day for America.”

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Ronald Reagan traded arms for hostages. Benjamin Netanyahu traded more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners for Corporal Gilad Shalit. Ehud Olmert traded five living terrorists–one of them responsible for killing a four-year-old girl by crushing her skull with the butt of his rifle–for two dead Israeli soldiers. So there is nothing new about making deals with terrorists or exchanging captives with them. It’s even possible that President Obama did the right thing by freeing five senior Taliban leaders in exchange for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who has been held by the Taliban since 2009. Certainly Obama as commander in chief had the power to do so even if some members of Congress are miffed at not being consulted. 

What I find offensive is that the president and his team are not treating this as a grubby and inglorious compromise–an attempt to reconcile our competing ideals of “don’t deal with terrorists” and “leave no man behind.” Instead the administration seems to be taking a victory lap. The president held a White House event with Bergdahl’s parents. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel flew to Afghanistan to commemorate the occasion. National Security Adviser Susan Rice called it “a great day for America.”

If only the president and his team showed as much passion about actually winning the war in Afghanistan. Sadly, it appears that the handling of this whole issue is symptomatic of the administration’s approach to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan: Their emphasis has always been on bringing the troops home, no matter the price, not on making sure that the troops accomplish their objectives.

In the case of Bergdahl the price includes encouraging the Taliban (and other Islamist terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda) to think that we are weak and can be rolled–to think that they can win American concessions if they take Americans hostage. This makes a mockery of our criticism of allies such as France, Italy, and South Korea, which have provided payoffs to get their hostages released. And it exposes our troops to greater danger down the line, once the Guantanamo releasees return to the fight–as they surely will, even if Qatar sticks by its pledge to keep them out of trouble for a year.

And what makes it all the more annoying is that Bergdahl is hardly a hero as he is now being portrayed. We still don’t have a definitive accounting of how he was captured, but members of his unit believe he was a deserter who walked off his guard post. And they’re angry about the whole situation–as former army officer Nathan Bradley Bethea writes in the Daily Beast

Bethea served in the same battalion as Bergdahl and participated in attempts to free him in the summer of 2009. Bethea is upset, and understandably so, because good men died trying to free Bergdahl–not only in the search itself but, he argues, indirectly, because the search pulled in so many intelligence and surveillance assets that other units were left exposed to Taliban attack. Bethea writes: “The truth is: Bergdahl was a deserter, and soldiers from his own unit died trying to track him down.”

If those assertions are true, then Bergdahl, now that he’s freed, should be court-martialed, because desertion in the face of the enemy is a serious offense. Whatever his ultimate fate, Bergdahl deserves our sympathy for his ordeal. His parents deserve sympathy for what they have had to endure too. But he should not be canonized and the administration should not treat his release as a high point of its foreign policy. Because surely they must have some more worthy achievements to boast of. Right?

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Only Five for One? The Bergdahl Swap is Actually Worse Than Israeli Prisoner Deals

Speaking today on ABC’s This Week National Security Advisor Susan Rice described the homecoming of Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl after five years of captivity at the hands of the Taliban as “a joyous day.” No doubt, all Americans are happy that his ordeal is at an end. But as with the most famous of Rice’s previous appearances on the Sunday morning news shows when she wrongly claimed that the Benghazi terror attack was the result of film criticism run amok, the messaging was slightly off kilter. Ransoming Bergdahl is defensible but the notion that what has occurred was not a case of the U.S. negotiating with terrorists, as Rice and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel claimed on the same show, is an absurdity. At least when Israel releases terrorists to gain the freedom of one of its soldiers, the country’s leaders have the grace to treat the decision as a regrettable action made out of necessity and nothing to celebrate.

The debate over the Bergdahl swap raises comparisons to Israeli actions, such as its prisoner swap to gain the freedom of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit. Some congressional Republicans, such as House Intelligence Committee chair Mike Rogers, are criticizing the swap for the same reasons many Israelis and Americans denounced the deal in which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu traded over 1,000 Palestinian terrorists to Hamas, including many murderers, for Shalit. Rogers believes that negotiating with the Taliban not only strengthens these Islamist foes of the United States but also sets a high price on hostages that will make it difficult to free others who are held by terrorists and encourage more attacks on Americans.

These are all fair points, but I have to confess that my first reaction to the headline about the five-for-one agreement mediated by officials in Qatar was puzzlement as to how the Obama administration had managed to make such a deal for only five prisoners when the Israelis are routinely forced to release hundreds or more than a thousand terrorists for only one of their own people. Is it that the Israelis are simply too easy a mark in such negotiations? Are Americans better at driving a hard bargain? But the more I’ve read about the five prisoners who have been freed in exchange for Bergdahl, the less impressed I am with the negotiating acumen of the administration. Far from cutting a better deal than the Israelis tend to be able to do, this swap may actually be far worse in terms of the potential danger of the particular individuals involved and the administration’s future attitude toward the conflict. While the Israelis often pay too high a price for their hostages, they do so without conceding defeat in the long-term struggle in which they are engaged. The Bergdahl deal appears to be not just a lopsided swap but also an indication that the U.S. may be conceding defeat to the Taliban in Afghanistan.

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Speaking today on ABC’s This Week National Security Advisor Susan Rice described the homecoming of Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl after five years of captivity at the hands of the Taliban as “a joyous day.” No doubt, all Americans are happy that his ordeal is at an end. But as with the most famous of Rice’s previous appearances on the Sunday morning news shows when she wrongly claimed that the Benghazi terror attack was the result of film criticism run amok, the messaging was slightly off kilter. Ransoming Bergdahl is defensible but the notion that what has occurred was not a case of the U.S. negotiating with terrorists, as Rice and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel claimed on the same show, is an absurdity. At least when Israel releases terrorists to gain the freedom of one of its soldiers, the country’s leaders have the grace to treat the decision as a regrettable action made out of necessity and nothing to celebrate.

The debate over the Bergdahl swap raises comparisons to Israeli actions, such as its prisoner swap to gain the freedom of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit. Some congressional Republicans, such as House Intelligence Committee chair Mike Rogers, are criticizing the swap for the same reasons many Israelis and Americans denounced the deal in which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu traded over 1,000 Palestinian terrorists to Hamas, including many murderers, for Shalit. Rogers believes that negotiating with the Taliban not only strengthens these Islamist foes of the United States but also sets a high price on hostages that will make it difficult to free others who are held by terrorists and encourage more attacks on Americans.

These are all fair points, but I have to confess that my first reaction to the headline about the five-for-one agreement mediated by officials in Qatar was puzzlement as to how the Obama administration had managed to make such a deal for only five prisoners when the Israelis are routinely forced to release hundreds or more than a thousand terrorists for only one of their own people. Is it that the Israelis are simply too easy a mark in such negotiations? Are Americans better at driving a hard bargain? But the more I’ve read about the five prisoners who have been freed in exchange for Bergdahl, the less impressed I am with the negotiating acumen of the administration. Far from cutting a better deal than the Israelis tend to be able to do, this swap may actually be far worse in terms of the potential danger of the particular individuals involved and the administration’s future attitude toward the conflict. While the Israelis often pay too high a price for their hostages, they do so without conceding defeat in the long-term struggle in which they are engaged. The Bergdahl deal appears to be not just a lopsided swap but also an indication that the U.S. may be conceding defeat to the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Anyone who thinks the U.S. got off cheap, especially in comparison to the lopsided Israeli deals, needs to read the report by Eli Lake and Josh Rogin in the Daily Beast today about the five men who have been sprung from Gitmo for Bergdahl. These are not run-of-the-mill terror operatives but key figures in the war being waged against the U.S. and its allies. As Lake and Rogin wrote:

While not as well known as Guantanamo inmates like 9-11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the Taliban 5 were some of the worst outlaws in the U.S. war on terror. And their release will end up replenishing the diminished leadership ranks of the Afghan Taliban at a moment when the United States is winding down the war there.

The dossier on their activities is a compendium of involvement in the terror campaign against the U.S. as well as other assorted crimes such as heroin trafficking. But the main point here is that these are not, as was the case with most of the people Israel released, rank-and-file terrorists. Many of those freed by the Israelis are criminals with blood on their hands, including participation in notorious atrocities. But the Israelis have rarely released anyone in the chain of command of groups dedicated to their destruction. As Lake and Rogin detail, the five Taliban operatives are key players in the war against the U.S. in Afghanistan. Though they are not the people who pulled the triggers or exploded the bombs that killed U.S. troops and our allies, they are the people who gave some of the orders for the shedding of American blood and are thus far more important. Seen in that light, some of the outrageously lopsided deals concluded by the Israelis don’t seem quite so ill advised.

But there is more to this controversy than just the price of Bergdahl’s freedom. By releasing these five top Taliban commanders, the U.S. is demonstrating that it is throwing in the towel in the long struggle against the Taliban and its al-Qaeda allies in Afghanistan. It is spinning this mindset as a sign that the war is already either over or coming to an end, as the president said in his West Point speech this week. But the Taliban hasn’t gotten the memo about the end of the conflict. Indeed, the circumstances on the ground in Afghanistan are little different from where they were prior to the president’s correct decision to order a “surge” of U.S. troops to seize the initiative in the war. This administration has done a good job seeking to hunt down al-Qaeda operatives with drone strikes but the notion that it can keep Afghanistan from falling into the hands of these killers while both drawing down U.S. forces to a bare minimum and releasing senior Taliban commanders is laughable. Wars don’t end just because one side decides they are tired of the conflict. The Taliban have been waiting patiently for the end of the U.S. presence in the country and along with their terrorist allies believe their 2001 ouster from Kabul can be reversed.

Rice is right that President Obama had a “sacred obligation” to do whatever he could to gain the release of Sergeant Bergdahl. No American should ever be left behind if they can be rescued. But the problem here is not just the price the U.S. paid for the lone American unaccounted for after more than a dozen years of fighting in Afghanistan. Say what you will about the Israel prisoner releases and the unfortunate celebrations in which the Palestinians have celebrated the murderers freed to gain the freedom of hostages or even to restart peace negotiations. But there has never been any doubt about Israel’s determination to continue the struggle against its enemies. The same can’t be said about the Obama administration today.

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A U.S.-Taliban Prisoner Swap?

Now that peace talks are sort of on again with the Taliban–at least hopes of such talks have risen again, even if Kabul’s outrage at Taliban preening in opening an embassy of sorts in Qatar has blocked the actual start of talks–the air is once again filled with talk of a prisoner exchange. The Taliban would love it if, as a sweetener for the talks and in exchange for the release of the only American prisoner they are holding, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the Obama administration would release five senior Taliban detainees from Guantanamo.

The New York Times today has a profile of the five, and it would be hard to imagine a more repugnant bunch. As the Times notes:

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Now that peace talks are sort of on again with the Taliban–at least hopes of such talks have risen again, even if Kabul’s outrage at Taliban preening in opening an embassy of sorts in Qatar has blocked the actual start of talks–the air is once again filled with talk of a prisoner exchange. The Taliban would love it if, as a sweetener for the talks and in exchange for the release of the only American prisoner they are holding, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the Obama administration would release five senior Taliban detainees from Guantanamo.

The New York Times today has a profile of the five, and it would be hard to imagine a more repugnant bunch. As the Times notes:

Two were senior Taliban commanders said to be implicated in murdering thousands of Shiites in Afghanistan. When asked about the alleged war crimes by an interrogator, they “did not express any regret and stated they did what they needed to do in their struggle to establish their ideal state,” according to their interrogators.

There is also a former deputy director of Taliban intelligence, a former senior Taliban official said to have “strong operational ties” to various extremist militias, and a former Taliban minister accused of having sought help from Iran in attacking American forces.

If administration officials think they will win Taliban goodwill by releasing this rogue’s gallery, even as the Taliban continue to kill American soldiers, they are dreaming. Detainee releases make sense when it is clear that the movement to which the detainees belong is tired of fighting and seriously interested in making peace. That was the case with most Sunni insurgents in Iraq in 2007, which is why Gen. David Petraeus released so many of them from coalition custody. It’s not the case with the Taliban today: They remain convinced, reportedly, that they will take Kabul “in a week” once U.S. troops pull out. Making peace is not on the Taliban’s agenda in Qatar; gaining international legitimacy is.

Yet for all that, I am not completely opposed to the release of the five Taliban detainees–as long as it is understood that the point is simply to win Sgt. Bergdahl’s release. It is in general not a good policy to deal with terrorists, but democracies such as the U.S. and Israel have a long history of doing just that to win the release of their citizens; such concessions are perhaps inevitable in a liberal democracy which cares so much about its troops in particular. Israel, most recently, released some 1,000 Palestinian detainees to get Sgt. First Class Gilad Shalit out of Hamas’s hands. By Israeli standards, the exchange of five Taliban detainees for one American sergeant is a good bargain.

Would the release of the Taliban prisoners increase the risk to American troops in Afghanistan? Possibly, but the difference these five would make would be minimal, especially when so many other Taliban detainees have already been released from coalition and Afghan custody. Many more will be sprung in the future now that the Kabul government, which is notoriously corrupt, has taken control of all detention facilities in Afghanistan from the U.S.

If the administration does decide to make the prisoner swap, at least it should not fool itself that it is helping to bring peace to Afghanistan. It would simply be a gesture of mercy for an imprisoned American soldier.

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Why Hamas is Still Bragging About Shalit

One year ago, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu swallowed hard and made a decision that most Israelis understood was unpalatable but necessary: trading 1,027 imprisoned terrorists to Hamas in exchange for the release of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit. On the anniversary of the unsightly deal, Hamas is still bragging about the ransom it exacted from Israel and promising to kidnap more Jews. As Haaretz reports, Hamas is celebrating not just with its boasts and threats but also by releasing a video about Shalit’s capture and imprisonment. The Israel Defense Forces has been on its guard since Shalit’s capture in 2006 but each cross-border raid from Gaza as well as those that have come via Sinai in the last year have had as their goal the creation of more Gilad Shalit dilemmas for Netanyahu.

In some quarters, this might revive the debate about the wisdom of Netanyahu’s choice that, as his critics pointed out at the time, certainly enhanced the prestige of Hamas and strengthened their grip on Palestinian public opinion. Even if Netanyahu could never have willingly consigned a conscript like Shalit to unending imprisonment or death, those arguments were correct as far as they went. But the real reason to revisit the Shalit episode is not to second-guess the deal but to get a better understanding of Palestinian political culture and the slim chances for peace.

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One year ago, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu swallowed hard and made a decision that most Israelis understood was unpalatable but necessary: trading 1,027 imprisoned terrorists to Hamas in exchange for the release of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit. On the anniversary of the unsightly deal, Hamas is still bragging about the ransom it exacted from Israel and promising to kidnap more Jews. As Haaretz reports, Hamas is celebrating not just with its boasts and threats but also by releasing a video about Shalit’s capture and imprisonment. The Israel Defense Forces has been on its guard since Shalit’s capture in 2006 but each cross-border raid from Gaza as well as those that have come via Sinai in the last year have had as their goal the creation of more Gilad Shalit dilemmas for Netanyahu.

In some quarters, this might revive the debate about the wisdom of Netanyahu’s choice that, as his critics pointed out at the time, certainly enhanced the prestige of Hamas and strengthened their grip on Palestinian public opinion. Even if Netanyahu could never have willingly consigned a conscript like Shalit to unending imprisonment or death, those arguments were correct as far as they went. But the real reason to revisit the Shalit episode is not to second-guess the deal but to get a better understanding of Palestinian political culture and the slim chances for peace.

The point of Hamas’s chest-thumping 12 months after the Shalit deal is not to twit Netanyahu. As much as many serious thinkers bewailed the ransom, bringing Shalit home to his family only enhanced his popularity. Any reminder of this tough decision actually helps the prime minister as he prepares for a re-election campaign in which the opposition has no credible opponent for the country’s leadership.

What Hamas is doing with its histrionics is to puff its own reputation on the Palestinian street. With the prestige of its Fatah rivals on the decline and the Palestinian Authority seen as a bankrupt and corrupt failed state in the making, Hamas looks to remind ordinary Palestinians that they have done what Mahmoud Abbas cannot do: humiliate Israel and inflict pain and suffering on the Jewish people. Indeed, with Hamas being challenged by even more radical Islamist groups such as Islamic Jihad and other splinter groups, Gaza’s rulers see their key to popularity in reinforcing their image as the tormenters of Israel.

This is important not just because it makes the reliance placed on Abbas and the PA by both Israel and the West look like a shaky proposition but also because it highlights what is still the key to winning the hearts and minds of the Palestinian street: anti-Jewish violence.

The competition between Hamas and Fatah is seen not just in their on-again, off-again attempts to form a unity government but in the way the two churn out anti-Semitic invective in their official media and broadcast outlets.

What friends of Israel ought to remember most about the Shalit deal was not so much the horror of murderers being released by Israel to the consternation of the families of terror victims but the joyous welcome that those who killed without mercy received when they returned to Gaza.

So long as Palestinian groups can only curry favor with their people by boasting of killing or kidnapping Jews rather than by trying to give them a better life (something a genuine moderate like PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad knows only too well), talk about peace between Israelis and Palestinians is futile. That is something the majority of Israelis have come to understand and is one of the reasons why Netanyahu is an overwhelming favorite for re-election. It is to be hoped that this is also a lesson that either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney will take to heart if they are tempted next year to begin another campaign of pressure against Israel to make concessions to Palestinians who have no interest in peace.

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Taliban Exploits Grief of U.S. POW Family

The hearts of all Americans go out to the family of Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, the only known U.S. soldier being held captive by the Taliban. Bergdahl was captured by the enemy in June 2009 and is thought to be in the control of the Haqqani network in the tribal areas of northwestern Pakistan. He has never been allowed to send his parents any word nor has he been visited by the Red Cross. He was last seen in a Taliban video, but U.S. officials believe he is still alive. But after years of keeping silent about the ongoing negotiations that the government has attempted to free him, the Bergdahl family went public today and discussed their son’s plight with the New York Times. Their goal is to heighten the pressure on President Obama and his foreign policy team to give in to the demands of the Taliban on the release of prisoners held by the United States and our Afghan allies.

While their frustration with the slow pace of the negotiations is understandable, we can only hope the president will resist the pressure to give in to unreasonable demands not only on the prisoner exchange but concessions that would affect the future of Afghanistan. Though the United States should make every effort to secure Sergeant Bergdahl’s safe return, his situation should not be used as a pretext for handing Afghanistan back to the Taliban and their terrorist allies.

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The hearts of all Americans go out to the family of Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, the only known U.S. soldier being held captive by the Taliban. Bergdahl was captured by the enemy in June 2009 and is thought to be in the control of the Haqqani network in the tribal areas of northwestern Pakistan. He has never been allowed to send his parents any word nor has he been visited by the Red Cross. He was last seen in a Taliban video, but U.S. officials believe he is still alive. But after years of keeping silent about the ongoing negotiations that the government has attempted to free him, the Bergdahl family went public today and discussed their son’s plight with the New York Times. Their goal is to heighten the pressure on President Obama and his foreign policy team to give in to the demands of the Taliban on the release of prisoners held by the United States and our Afghan allies.

While their frustration with the slow pace of the negotiations is understandable, we can only hope the president will resist the pressure to give in to unreasonable demands not only on the prisoner exchange but concessions that would affect the future of Afghanistan. Though the United States should make every effort to secure Sergeant Bergdahl’s safe return, his situation should not be used as a pretext for handing Afghanistan back to the Taliban and their terrorist allies.

To its credit, the Times had not previously run a story on the effort to free Bergdahl because it was understood that publicity did not enhance his safety and merely aided the Taliban’s negotiating position. But the recent decision of the Taliban to break off the talks about Bergdahl prompted his family to go to the Times with their complaint that the administration isn’t being sufficiently accommodating to their son’s captors. The Bergdahls are worried that pressure from Congress not to negotiate with terrorists is influencing the president to be too tough. They hope by going public with their son’s story, they can generate pressure on the administration to give in. Moreover, the Times seems to think there are some in the government who welcome this pressure as they, too, would like to craft a deal with the Taliban that would effectively sell Afghanistan out.

I don’t fault the Bergdahls. The fact that, as the Times reports, they are Ron Paul supporters who oppose the war in Afghanistan is irrelevant to their mission to push for any deal to get their son back. Their only interest is in getting him home in one piece. The future of Afghanistan, the Taliban and the security interests of the region or the United States isn’t their concern–but it is the responsibility of the administration. As Bethany noted earlier this week, the administration has considered releasing Taliban prisoners without seeking the release of Sergeant Bergdahl in return.

If the Bergdahl case was like the lopsided prisoner exchanges conducted by Israel in order to obtain the release of prisoners like Gilad Shalit, drastic concessions would be understandable if regrettable, as it could be defended as part of the commander-in-chief’s duty not to leave any soldier behind. But as the Times makes clear, the Taliban’s goal is not so much to extract the highest possible price in prisoners for Bergdahl as it is to enhance its diplomatic efforts to force a peace deal that would bring them back to power. That is not something the administration should countenance. Nor should ordinary Americans who sympathize with the Bergdahls allow their emotions to cloud their reason.

Far from helping to free their son, the Bergdahls’ publicity offensive and any pressure they can help generate on the administration will only strengthen the bargaining position of Islamist terrorists. Much as Hamas and Hezbollah used Israeli prisoner families to make it harder for Jerusalem to negotiate, the Taliban will ruthlessly use the Bergdahls as long as it suits them.

The president should do everything in his power to bring Sergeant Bergdahl home including the paying of a ransom of some sort. But he cannot allow the family’s publicity efforts to influence him to sacrifice everything Americans have fought for in Afghanistan in the last decade.

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Blame Palestinians, Not Netanyahu, for Shalit Prisoner Recidivism

Critics of Israel’s decision to exchange 1,000 Palestinian prisoners for kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit predicted it would happen. And they were right. Israel’s Shin Bet — the country’s national security agency — announced today that two of those released in order to gain Shalit’s freedom were rearrested on terrorism-related charges. One was brought up on charges of buying illegal weapons while the other was part of a plot to commit more kidnappings of Israelis. This will, no doubt, lead to a chorus of “I told you so’s” from those who blasted Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu for agreeing to the lopsided exchange.

These two are probably just the tip of the iceberg in terms of recidivism. As was the case with past prisoner exchanges, there is every expectation that many more of those released in order to save Shalit will be back trying to kill Israelis before long. But though this will lead many of those who were opposed to the trade to believe this discredits Netanyahu’s choice, they will discover the vast majority of Israelis who approved it probably won’t change their minds. The possibility that many, if not most, of the released prisoners would not abide by the terms of the deal was raised in advance of the exchange and acknowledged by its supporters, if not Netanyahu himself. Yet the same reasons that led this point to be discounted last year still apply.

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Critics of Israel’s decision to exchange 1,000 Palestinian prisoners for kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit predicted it would happen. And they were right. Israel’s Shin Bet — the country’s national security agency — announced today that two of those released in order to gain Shalit’s freedom were rearrested on terrorism-related charges. One was brought up on charges of buying illegal weapons while the other was part of a plot to commit more kidnappings of Israelis. This will, no doubt, lead to a chorus of “I told you so’s” from those who blasted Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu for agreeing to the lopsided exchange.

These two are probably just the tip of the iceberg in terms of recidivism. As was the case with past prisoner exchanges, there is every expectation that many more of those released in order to save Shalit will be back trying to kill Israelis before long. But though this will lead many of those who were opposed to the trade to believe this discredits Netanyahu’s choice, they will discover the vast majority of Israelis who approved it probably won’t change their minds. The possibility that many, if not most, of the released prisoners would not abide by the terms of the deal was raised in advance of the exchange and acknowledged by its supporters, if not Netanyahu himself. Yet the same reasons that led this point to be discounted last year still apply.

The first is that although the return of these terrorists to their deadly trade tells us a lot about the Palestinians, it is not as if these two or all thousands of those given up for Shalit are filling a void in the ranks of Hamas or any other group. Though their experience may be helpful as veteran cadres, there was and is no shortage of recruits to join them. That means that any casualties incurred by the actions of the freed terrorists would probably have happened even if they had never been let go. It simply isn’t fair to assert that Shalit’s life was bought with the blood of others.

Even more importantly, most Israelis still believe Shalit’s life was worth even an exorbitant price. The idea of a leaving an ordinary youngster who had been drafted into the service of his country to die was simply unacceptable. Though these imbalanced exchanges may make no sense to the rational dispassionate observer who may well say they only encourage future kidnappings (such as those the released prisoner was plotting), Israelis believe it is immaterial to the main question of doing everything to ensure that no solider is ever left behind.

A better question to be asked today is why the Palestinian leadership continues to encourage such activities. The general celebration of the release of convicted killers by the Palestinian population illustrated that their devotion to a culture of violence is unchanged. So long as that is true, they will continue to produce such killers. That fact gives the lie to the charges that the lack of peace is Israel’s fault. It is this awful insight into the mindset of the Palestinians that will determine whether future generations of Israelis will be forced to fight and their leaders presented with unpalatable dilemmas such as that faced by Netanyahu.

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Rants and Hypertextual Deception

A few days ago, the graphic novelist Frank Miller lost patience with the Occupy Movement supported by a thousand of his literary peers. Writing on his blog, Miller called the occupiers

nothing but a pack of louts, thieves, and rapists, an unruly mob, fed by Woodstock-era nostalgia and putrid false righteousness. These clowns can do nothing but harm America.

Absorbed with their “self-pity” and “narcissism,” the Occupy Movement had ignored the real threat to America — the “ruthless enemy” that fights under the names al-Qaeda and “Islamicism.”

The outrage was immediate and explosive. The Guardian reported that his “rant” had alienated Miller’s fans. The New York Observer agreed that the “vitriolic rant” was “not well-received.”

Nearly everybody agreed that Miller had written a rant. Richard Metzger of Dangerous Minds said it was an “idiotic, reactionary rant.” Miller was bidding to “become the Al Capp of his generation,” he added, by venting his “cranky, bitter, reactionary ‘opinions’ (if you can call them that).” (The political opponents of the literary left do not really have “opinions,” I guess. They must only have superstitions or irritable mental gestures or something.) It was a “strange rant,” it was a “bilious rant,” it was a “ridiculous rant.” Ah, the refreshing diversity of opinion on the literary left!

Miller’s readers threatened a boycott. The Guardian was quick to tut-tut that Miller’s politics (love of freedom, commitment to justice, aversion to anarchy, hatred for totalitarianism) added up to “mixed messages.” The comic-book writer Mark Millar warned against the “cyber-mob mentality” that was engulfing any discussion of Miller and his work, but few people seemed to be listening.

Meanwhile, another writer with a wide and enthusiastic following had delivered a controversial political judgment a few days earlier and almost no one had noticed. China Miéville, the British fantasy novelist who writes self-described “weird fiction,” posted on his blog a deadpan reaction to the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit after five years in Hamas captivity:

     Gilad Schalit is showing signs of malnutrition. What have his captors done to him? Such shocking revelations must mean fresh scrutiny of those who have held him.
     How could it not? What kind of power, after all, would deliberately starve even the youngest captives, according to chillingly cynical calorifico-political calculation, as a matter of publicly stated policy?

I have reproduced Miéville’s entire post, including each of his hypertext links, so that you don’t have to click over to his blog. By a sly use of hypertext, Miéville is able to imply, without bothering to say outright, that the state of Israel has the deliberate policy of starving the children of Gaza. You might think that such a monstrous charge might deserve a full explanation and defense. You would be wrong. Miéville resorts to hypertext to do the hard work of argument. He wants to leave the impression, unsubstantiated but unshakable, that the Jewish state is exactly the same as the Islamic terrorists of Hamas, and Gilad Shalit got nothing less than what he deserved.

I won’t hold my breath for the outrage or threats of boycott. This much might be said, however. To “rant” is to display moral courage; it is to risk being held publicly accountable for direct and unsparing statement. China Miéville is a literary coward who hides behind hypertextual cleverness to avoid taking ownership of his political opinions. Susan Sontag once lamented that the camera can lie. To the artist’s bag of lying devices can now be added hypertext.

Give me an honest rant any day.

A few days ago, the graphic novelist Frank Miller lost patience with the Occupy Movement supported by a thousand of his literary peers. Writing on his blog, Miller called the occupiers

nothing but a pack of louts, thieves, and rapists, an unruly mob, fed by Woodstock-era nostalgia and putrid false righteousness. These clowns can do nothing but harm America.

Absorbed with their “self-pity” and “narcissism,” the Occupy Movement had ignored the real threat to America — the “ruthless enemy” that fights under the names al-Qaeda and “Islamicism.”

The outrage was immediate and explosive. The Guardian reported that his “rant” had alienated Miller’s fans. The New York Observer agreed that the “vitriolic rant” was “not well-received.”

Nearly everybody agreed that Miller had written a rant. Richard Metzger of Dangerous Minds said it was an “idiotic, reactionary rant.” Miller was bidding to “become the Al Capp of his generation,” he added, by venting his “cranky, bitter, reactionary ‘opinions’ (if you can call them that).” (The political opponents of the literary left do not really have “opinions,” I guess. They must only have superstitions or irritable mental gestures or something.) It was a “strange rant,” it was a “bilious rant,” it was a “ridiculous rant.” Ah, the refreshing diversity of opinion on the literary left!

Miller’s readers threatened a boycott. The Guardian was quick to tut-tut that Miller’s politics (love of freedom, commitment to justice, aversion to anarchy, hatred for totalitarianism) added up to “mixed messages.” The comic-book writer Mark Millar warned against the “cyber-mob mentality” that was engulfing any discussion of Miller and his work, but few people seemed to be listening.

Meanwhile, another writer with a wide and enthusiastic following had delivered a controversial political judgment a few days earlier and almost no one had noticed. China Miéville, the British fantasy novelist who writes self-described “weird fiction,” posted on his blog a deadpan reaction to the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit after five years in Hamas captivity:

     Gilad Schalit is showing signs of malnutrition. What have his captors done to him? Such shocking revelations must mean fresh scrutiny of those who have held him.
     How could it not? What kind of power, after all, would deliberately starve even the youngest captives, according to chillingly cynical calorifico-political calculation, as a matter of publicly stated policy?

I have reproduced Miéville’s entire post, including each of his hypertext links, so that you don’t have to click over to his blog. By a sly use of hypertext, Miéville is able to imply, without bothering to say outright, that the state of Israel has the deliberate policy of starving the children of Gaza. You might think that such a monstrous charge might deserve a full explanation and defense. You would be wrong. Miéville resorts to hypertext to do the hard work of argument. He wants to leave the impression, unsubstantiated but unshakable, that the Jewish state is exactly the same as the Islamic terrorists of Hamas, and Gilad Shalit got nothing less than what he deserved.

I won’t hold my breath for the outrage or threats of boycott. This much might be said, however. To “rant” is to display moral courage; it is to risk being held publicly accountable for direct and unsparing statement. China Miéville is a literary coward who hides behind hypertextual cleverness to avoid taking ownership of his political opinions. Susan Sontag once lamented that the camera can lie. To the artist’s bag of lying devices can now be added hypertext.

Give me an honest rant any day.

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The Best J Street Can Do?

You will recall this magnificent performance by Alan Dershowitz in chewing out Hadar Susskind of J Street. Susskind has now penned a perfectly absurd letter to the editor in response to Charles Krauthammer’s column of last week (my vote for  the best single column of the year, if not the decade). Susskind writes that, yes, Israel has a right to enforce the blockade (wow! but I guess not with force), but the blockade doesn’t make Israel more secure. Susskind’s evidence for the idea that preventing weapons from reaching Hamas doesn’t make Israel any safer? Judge for yourself:

[J]ust look at the results of the blockade. Hamas remains in power, and its stature in Gaza and its weapons capabilities have increased over the past three years. Meanwhile, Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who was abducted by Palestinian militants in 2006, remains in captivity; Gazan civilians continue to suffer; and Israel’s international standing is rapidly deteriorating. Simply put, Israel is not served by the blockade — Hamas is.

Huh? Is he actually arguing that Hamas would fall from power if the blockade were lifted? Is he saying that the lifting of the blockade would not be a triumph for Hamas? And to test this proposition, Susskind is more than willing to risk Israeli lives. He then concludes with the left’s favorite non sequitur:

The Israeli raid on the Gaza flotilla highlights not just why the United States needs a new approach to Gaza, but also why President Obama must act urgently to turn this crisis into an opportunity — boldly leading the way to a two-state solution that protects Israel’s future as a Jewish, democratic homeland and prevents further bloodshed.

Giving into Hamas is supposed to promote peace in our time, after 60 years of Palestinian rejectionism, and when the more “reasonable” Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, is struggling to maintain his legitimacy. How? Funny, the withdrawal from Gaza didn’t promote peace; instead it led to war.

It is this sort of evidence-free rhetoric (which, gosh, exactly mirrors the Hamas line) that reminds us that regardless of Israel’s actions, the solution is the same: roll back Israel’s defenses and badger the Jewish state to accept a “peace” agreement that is a recipe for its dismemberment. Remember that the Gaza 54 letter (a pet J Street project signed by, among others, Joe Sestak) called for a rollback of the Gaza blockade long before the Turks and the terrorists came up with the flotilla gambit.

Whether the argument comes from the UN or J Street or Peter Beinart (who really needs to get past the whining and hurt feelings every time he is bested in a debate), the patter is the same. Israel’s right to self-defense exists in theory but never in practice: any risk to Israel is acceptable while any bruising of Palestinian feelings is unacceptable. And Israel has no right to manage its own national security. Susskind is not unique, only one of the more inept propagandists for this tripe.

You will recall this magnificent performance by Alan Dershowitz in chewing out Hadar Susskind of J Street. Susskind has now penned a perfectly absurd letter to the editor in response to Charles Krauthammer’s column of last week (my vote for  the best single column of the year, if not the decade). Susskind writes that, yes, Israel has a right to enforce the blockade (wow! but I guess not with force), but the blockade doesn’t make Israel more secure. Susskind’s evidence for the idea that preventing weapons from reaching Hamas doesn’t make Israel any safer? Judge for yourself:

[J]ust look at the results of the blockade. Hamas remains in power, and its stature in Gaza and its weapons capabilities have increased over the past three years. Meanwhile, Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who was abducted by Palestinian militants in 2006, remains in captivity; Gazan civilians continue to suffer; and Israel’s international standing is rapidly deteriorating. Simply put, Israel is not served by the blockade — Hamas is.

Huh? Is he actually arguing that Hamas would fall from power if the blockade were lifted? Is he saying that the lifting of the blockade would not be a triumph for Hamas? And to test this proposition, Susskind is more than willing to risk Israeli lives. He then concludes with the left’s favorite non sequitur:

The Israeli raid on the Gaza flotilla highlights not just why the United States needs a new approach to Gaza, but also why President Obama must act urgently to turn this crisis into an opportunity — boldly leading the way to a two-state solution that protects Israel’s future as a Jewish, democratic homeland and prevents further bloodshed.

Giving into Hamas is supposed to promote peace in our time, after 60 years of Palestinian rejectionism, and when the more “reasonable” Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, is struggling to maintain his legitimacy. How? Funny, the withdrawal from Gaza didn’t promote peace; instead it led to war.

It is this sort of evidence-free rhetoric (which, gosh, exactly mirrors the Hamas line) that reminds us that regardless of Israel’s actions, the solution is the same: roll back Israel’s defenses and badger the Jewish state to accept a “peace” agreement that is a recipe for its dismemberment. Remember that the Gaza 54 letter (a pet J Street project signed by, among others, Joe Sestak) called for a rollback of the Gaza blockade long before the Turks and the terrorists came up with the flotilla gambit.

Whether the argument comes from the UN or J Street or Peter Beinart (who really needs to get past the whining and hurt feelings every time he is bested in a debate), the patter is the same. Israel’s right to self-defense exists in theory but never in practice: any risk to Israel is acceptable while any bruising of Palestinian feelings is unacceptable. And Israel has no right to manage its own national security. Susskind is not unique, only one of the more inept propagandists for this tripe.

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How to Stand Up to Israel-Bashers

On Fareed Zakaria’s show on CNN this morning Elliott Abrams faced off Peter Beinart and Zakaria (who, frankly, was the more virulent of the two Israel-bashers). He demonstrated how to engage and decimate those whose mission is now to propound in “polite” company the notion that Israel is a pariah state.

First, don’t let them define the terms of the debate:

ZAKARIA: Elliott, let me ask you — Peter, in a recent article — I think it was in “The Daily Beast” — points out that the Gaza blockade which Israel has imposed is not simply a blockade against munitions and arms. It blockades, among other things — these are the things Israel will not permit to enter into Gaza: cilantro, jam, sage, chocolate, dried fruits, notebooks. What is the purpose of a blockade of such goods?

ELLIOTT ABRAMS, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: The purpose of the blockade of Gaza, of course, is to prevent Gaza, which is already “Hamastan,” from firing another 10,000 rockets and missiles into Israel.

ZAKARIA: And how will the jam and cilantro help them make those rockets?

ABRAMS: You know, I’m sure that you can find equal examples in the U.S. and U.N. blockade of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. You can always find in any government action some marginal activity, some list that you don’t like. That’s not the point.

The point is that Israel has stopped two Iranian ships from carrying arms to Gaza. Israel interfered, thank God, this week with a group of armed Turks who came prepared for a fight with iron bars, night vision devices, ceramic vests, despite what, frankly, are the lies that the Turkish foreign minister told on this show today.

Why is it that only Turks out of the 32 nationalities got hurt? It is because only Turks were involved in the violence.

If there is to be an international investigation, it needs to start where the ships started, in Turkey. We need to know what the Turkish government did in helping this armed group of men hijack what was supposed to be a humanitarian effort.

Second, debunk ridiculous arguments. Zakaria asks why Bibi isn’t agreeing to an international investigation. Abrams responds:

I mean, who is kidding whom, Peter? Peter knows, you know, Fareed, and [Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet] Davutoglu knows himself there isn’t going to be a fair international investigation. There wasn’t a fair investigation of the Gaza war. There isn’t going to be a fair international investigation of the Turkish role in this. Let us not kid ourselves about this. Israel, if it followed the whims of the international community, would have disbanded long ago after the international community voted at the U.N. that Zionism is a form of racism. It is not going to get fair treatment. I think everybody knows that. And the attitude of the Turkish foreign minister on this show today, simply denying the fact that there was a group of 40 or 50 armed Turkish jihadis on the largest ship, proves that there is really no room here for an international investigation that is going to be at all fair.

Third, counteract vile accusations with facts:

ZAKARIA: But that suggests you accept, Elliott, that the blockade is not nearly to prevent weapons from coming in, but to deliberately starve the people in Gaza to make them feel worse off.

ABRAMS: No, I would suggest that the purpose of the blockade is actually twofold.

First, security. And second, to get the kidnapped corporal, Gilad Shalit, out.

You know, those people on those ships last week were asked by Israel, by Israelis, to carry messages or food or solidarity to that boy who has been four years in solitary confinement, and they said no. That’s a real measure of what kind of humanitarians they are.

Can this blockade be improved, can it be better run? Sure. And it will be.

I have no doubt that there will be changes made. But let us not turn our selves into useful idiots here and make believe that those 50 or 40 or 30 armed Turkish jihadis were there because they believe in the cause of peace any more than the people on those ships who refused solidarity to Gilad Shalit were there because they believe in international solidarity. This was an anti-Israeli activity, and the Israelis had every right to prevent it.

And finally, go on the offense. Zakaria coos over Beinart’s column which asserted that liberals can’t back Israel because of Israel’s conduct. Abrams is having none of it, and turns the tables on Beinart (and, by extension, against the growing cohorts of weaselly critics who now vent Israel-hatred while asserting their Jewish bona fides):

ABRAMS: What Peter is forgetting, that Jewish liberals have never supported Israel. They didn’t support the founding of the state of Israel. The reform movement was anti-Zionist for decades and decades.

Jewish liberals have a problem with particularism, nationalism, Zionism, and they always have. And it isn’t due to anything that is going on in Israel, it’s due to things that are going on inside their heads. They need to grow up and realize that Israel has a right to defend itself.

BEINART: In fact, that’s really not true.

ABRAMS: Well, it is really true.

BEINART: The Democrat Party, for generations, was a bedrock of support for Israel. And it’s these kids parents and grandparents. There is a significant generational shift going on.

ABRAMS: The significant generational shift is that more and more young American Jews are now Orthodox. The percentage under the age of 10 or 20 that is Orthodox is increasingly going, and they are fervently Zionists. If the Jewish liberals want to walk away from Israel, they’re free to do so, but not to blame Israel for it.

And as for Beinart’s assertion about the Democratic Party, he might want to take a look at current polling. It is the Republican Party – and the common sense and decency of average Americans — on whom Israel must rely for vocal support.

A final note on the Abrams interview. He dismembered his opponents without anger or ad hominem jibes. (Goodness knows how.) The secret actually to dismantling the left’s position with regard to Israel is to expose their anti-Israel talking points and gratuitous swipes as factually unsupportable and to reveal that they stem from their biases, not Israel’s conduct. And it helps to be as calm and prepared as Abrams.

On Fareed Zakaria’s show on CNN this morning Elliott Abrams faced off Peter Beinart and Zakaria (who, frankly, was the more virulent of the two Israel-bashers). He demonstrated how to engage and decimate those whose mission is now to propound in “polite” company the notion that Israel is a pariah state.

First, don’t let them define the terms of the debate:

ZAKARIA: Elliott, let me ask you — Peter, in a recent article — I think it was in “The Daily Beast” — points out that the Gaza blockade which Israel has imposed is not simply a blockade against munitions and arms. It blockades, among other things — these are the things Israel will not permit to enter into Gaza: cilantro, jam, sage, chocolate, dried fruits, notebooks. What is the purpose of a blockade of such goods?

ELLIOTT ABRAMS, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: The purpose of the blockade of Gaza, of course, is to prevent Gaza, which is already “Hamastan,” from firing another 10,000 rockets and missiles into Israel.

ZAKARIA: And how will the jam and cilantro help them make those rockets?

ABRAMS: You know, I’m sure that you can find equal examples in the U.S. and U.N. blockade of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. You can always find in any government action some marginal activity, some list that you don’t like. That’s not the point.

The point is that Israel has stopped two Iranian ships from carrying arms to Gaza. Israel interfered, thank God, this week with a group of armed Turks who came prepared for a fight with iron bars, night vision devices, ceramic vests, despite what, frankly, are the lies that the Turkish foreign minister told on this show today.

Why is it that only Turks out of the 32 nationalities got hurt? It is because only Turks were involved in the violence.

If there is to be an international investigation, it needs to start where the ships started, in Turkey. We need to know what the Turkish government did in helping this armed group of men hijack what was supposed to be a humanitarian effort.

Second, debunk ridiculous arguments. Zakaria asks why Bibi isn’t agreeing to an international investigation. Abrams responds:

I mean, who is kidding whom, Peter? Peter knows, you know, Fareed, and [Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet] Davutoglu knows himself there isn’t going to be a fair international investigation. There wasn’t a fair investigation of the Gaza war. There isn’t going to be a fair international investigation of the Turkish role in this. Let us not kid ourselves about this. Israel, if it followed the whims of the international community, would have disbanded long ago after the international community voted at the U.N. that Zionism is a form of racism. It is not going to get fair treatment. I think everybody knows that. And the attitude of the Turkish foreign minister on this show today, simply denying the fact that there was a group of 40 or 50 armed Turkish jihadis on the largest ship, proves that there is really no room here for an international investigation that is going to be at all fair.

Third, counteract vile accusations with facts:

ZAKARIA: But that suggests you accept, Elliott, that the blockade is not nearly to prevent weapons from coming in, but to deliberately starve the people in Gaza to make them feel worse off.

ABRAMS: No, I would suggest that the purpose of the blockade is actually twofold.

First, security. And second, to get the kidnapped corporal, Gilad Shalit, out.

You know, those people on those ships last week were asked by Israel, by Israelis, to carry messages or food or solidarity to that boy who has been four years in solitary confinement, and they said no. That’s a real measure of what kind of humanitarians they are.

Can this blockade be improved, can it be better run? Sure. And it will be.

I have no doubt that there will be changes made. But let us not turn our selves into useful idiots here and make believe that those 50 or 40 or 30 armed Turkish jihadis were there because they believe in the cause of peace any more than the people on those ships who refused solidarity to Gilad Shalit were there because they believe in international solidarity. This was an anti-Israeli activity, and the Israelis had every right to prevent it.

And finally, go on the offense. Zakaria coos over Beinart’s column which asserted that liberals can’t back Israel because of Israel’s conduct. Abrams is having none of it, and turns the tables on Beinart (and, by extension, against the growing cohorts of weaselly critics who now vent Israel-hatred while asserting their Jewish bona fides):

ABRAMS: What Peter is forgetting, that Jewish liberals have never supported Israel. They didn’t support the founding of the state of Israel. The reform movement was anti-Zionist for decades and decades.

Jewish liberals have a problem with particularism, nationalism, Zionism, and they always have. And it isn’t due to anything that is going on in Israel, it’s due to things that are going on inside their heads. They need to grow up and realize that Israel has a right to defend itself.

BEINART: In fact, that’s really not true.

ABRAMS: Well, it is really true.

BEINART: The Democrat Party, for generations, was a bedrock of support for Israel. And it’s these kids parents and grandparents. There is a significant generational shift going on.

ABRAMS: The significant generational shift is that more and more young American Jews are now Orthodox. The percentage under the age of 10 or 20 that is Orthodox is increasingly going, and they are fervently Zionists. If the Jewish liberals want to walk away from Israel, they’re free to do so, but not to blame Israel for it.

And as for Beinart’s assertion about the Democratic Party, he might want to take a look at current polling. It is the Republican Party – and the common sense and decency of average Americans — on whom Israel must rely for vocal support.

A final note on the Abrams interview. He dismembered his opponents without anger or ad hominem jibes. (Goodness knows how.) The secret actually to dismantling the left’s position with regard to Israel is to expose their anti-Israel talking points and gratuitous swipes as factually unsupportable and to reveal that they stem from their biases, not Israel’s conduct. And it helps to be as calm and prepared as Abrams.

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Hey Peter, There’s a Reason Why “Free Gaza” Doesn’t Help Shalit

Peter Beinart weighed in today with another column at the Daily Beast designed to bolster his standing as a “liberal Zionist” rather than as merely another member of the pack of jackals attacking Israel for trying to enforce the blockade against the Hamas regime in Gaza.

Of course, Beinart has not changed his mind about the attempts to isolate the Islamist terrorists who seized power in a bloody coup and who pose the biggest obstacle to the two-state solution to the conflict, which he says he wants. He still buys into the Palestinian myths about the situation in Gaza. And he is equally resolute in his determination to ignore everything that has happened in the Middle East since 1993, when Israel began a series of attempts to buy peace with the Palestinians by trading land for the hope of peace. Because it is only by pretending that 17 years of Israeli concessions never happened that can he hold on to the falsehood that the lack of peace is due to Israeli intransigence aided and abetted by American supporters.

But, at least to his partial credit, Beinart hasn’t forgotten the kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who has been held captive by Hamas for four years. Beinart thinks the “Free Gaza” movement of foreign cheerleaders for Hamas ought to embrace Shalit’s cause and draw a moral equivalence between his plight and that of Palestinians trapped inside Gaza. He urges “Free Gaza” activists and others who are trying to aid Hamas by breaking the blockade to think of Shalit “as a Gazan — a caged, brutalized, Gazan Jew.” In doing so, he theorizes that they could gain the sympathy of Israelis who support the blockade in part because of Hamas’s refusal to free Shalit or even to allow the Red Cross to visit the prisoner. Beinart endorses Israeli journalist Eitan Haber’s proposal that the next ship that heads for Gaza be allowed through by the Israelis on the condition that it bring food to Shalit. That would, Beinart agrees, put the pro-Palestinian crowd to a test that would prove whether they are genuine humanitarians or merely Israel-haters.

Yet unfortunately for Beinart — and Shalit — the “Free Gaza” crowd has already been put to such a test. As I wrote last week, before the flotilla that Israel intercepted was launched in Turkey, the family of Gilad Shalit begged the organizers to take a package of letters and food to the Israeli being held in Gaza. In return, they promised to lend their voices to a call for lifting the blockade. Accepting this offer would have cost “Free Gaza” nothing and would only have given them good publicity and probably would have caused the Israeli government to seriously consider letting them through the blockade. But, in a decision that Beinart and other critics of Israel seemed to ignore, they refused the Shalit family.

Why? It’s not that hard to figure out even if your grasp of the Middle East is as dim as that of Peter Beinart.

First, they don’t care about Gilad Shalit. Like his Hamas kidnappers, the “Free Gaza” group is composed of anti-Zionists — people who don’t think there ought to be a Jewish state and that Jewish soldiers who defend it are, by definition, criminals who deserve what they get from Hamas. Most think the same about Israeli civilians who live under the threat of rocket fire and terrorist attack from Hamas.

Second, they are not humanitarians. They are Israel-haters. The goal of their Mediterranean cruise was not to help Gazans but to embarrass Israel. After all, if foreign sympathizers of the Palestinians really wanted to help the people of Gaza, they might oppose the rule of a tyrannical Islamist terror group, advocate for peace, not the destruction of Israel, and support efforts to resettle and absorb the descendants of the 1948 Arab refugees elsewhere rather than keep them in place in Gaza, where they can serve to continue to fuel the conflict.

Beinart needs to understand that the “Free Gaza” movement won’t lift a finger for Shalit for the same reason that the Palestinian leadership has refused to make peace for the last 17 years: they aren’t interested in compromise or peace; they want to destroy Israel. Like the “Free Gaza” organizers, the Palestinian leadership has already been put to the test and failed. But I guess ignoring inconvenient facts is one of the membership requirements if you want to join Peter Beinart’s elite club of “liberal Zionist” writers who bash Israel.

Peter Beinart weighed in today with another column at the Daily Beast designed to bolster his standing as a “liberal Zionist” rather than as merely another member of the pack of jackals attacking Israel for trying to enforce the blockade against the Hamas regime in Gaza.

Of course, Beinart has not changed his mind about the attempts to isolate the Islamist terrorists who seized power in a bloody coup and who pose the biggest obstacle to the two-state solution to the conflict, which he says he wants. He still buys into the Palestinian myths about the situation in Gaza. And he is equally resolute in his determination to ignore everything that has happened in the Middle East since 1993, when Israel began a series of attempts to buy peace with the Palestinians by trading land for the hope of peace. Because it is only by pretending that 17 years of Israeli concessions never happened that can he hold on to the falsehood that the lack of peace is due to Israeli intransigence aided and abetted by American supporters.

But, at least to his partial credit, Beinart hasn’t forgotten the kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who has been held captive by Hamas for four years. Beinart thinks the “Free Gaza” movement of foreign cheerleaders for Hamas ought to embrace Shalit’s cause and draw a moral equivalence between his plight and that of Palestinians trapped inside Gaza. He urges “Free Gaza” activists and others who are trying to aid Hamas by breaking the blockade to think of Shalit “as a Gazan — a caged, brutalized, Gazan Jew.” In doing so, he theorizes that they could gain the sympathy of Israelis who support the blockade in part because of Hamas’s refusal to free Shalit or even to allow the Red Cross to visit the prisoner. Beinart endorses Israeli journalist Eitan Haber’s proposal that the next ship that heads for Gaza be allowed through by the Israelis on the condition that it bring food to Shalit. That would, Beinart agrees, put the pro-Palestinian crowd to a test that would prove whether they are genuine humanitarians or merely Israel-haters.

Yet unfortunately for Beinart — and Shalit — the “Free Gaza” crowd has already been put to such a test. As I wrote last week, before the flotilla that Israel intercepted was launched in Turkey, the family of Gilad Shalit begged the organizers to take a package of letters and food to the Israeli being held in Gaza. In return, they promised to lend their voices to a call for lifting the blockade. Accepting this offer would have cost “Free Gaza” nothing and would only have given them good publicity and probably would have caused the Israeli government to seriously consider letting them through the blockade. But, in a decision that Beinart and other critics of Israel seemed to ignore, they refused the Shalit family.

Why? It’s not that hard to figure out even if your grasp of the Middle East is as dim as that of Peter Beinart.

First, they don’t care about Gilad Shalit. Like his Hamas kidnappers, the “Free Gaza” group is composed of anti-Zionists — people who don’t think there ought to be a Jewish state and that Jewish soldiers who defend it are, by definition, criminals who deserve what they get from Hamas. Most think the same about Israeli civilians who live under the threat of rocket fire and terrorist attack from Hamas.

Second, they are not humanitarians. They are Israel-haters. The goal of their Mediterranean cruise was not to help Gazans but to embarrass Israel. After all, if foreign sympathizers of the Palestinians really wanted to help the people of Gaza, they might oppose the rule of a tyrannical Islamist terror group, advocate for peace, not the destruction of Israel, and support efforts to resettle and absorb the descendants of the 1948 Arab refugees elsewhere rather than keep them in place in Gaza, where they can serve to continue to fuel the conflict.

Beinart needs to understand that the “Free Gaza” movement won’t lift a finger for Shalit for the same reason that the Palestinian leadership has refused to make peace for the last 17 years: they aren’t interested in compromise or peace; they want to destroy Israel. Like the “Free Gaza” organizers, the Palestinian leadership has already been put to the test and failed. But I guess ignoring inconvenient facts is one of the membership requirements if you want to join Peter Beinart’s elite club of “liberal Zionist” writers who bash Israel.

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The Limits of Anti-Israel Activists’ Compassion

For those who wish to end the continued existence of a sovereign Jewish state on the shores of the Mediterranean, there is only one cause worth caring about: breaking the limited blockade that both Israel and Egypt have placed on Hamas-ruled Gaza. No one in Gaza is starving. All are fed by a United Nations Agency — UNRWA — specifically set up to ensure the continued existence of a Palestinian refugee problem. Gaza is poor, but the region, which Israel evacuated in 2005, is now an independent entity ruled by the Hamas terrorist group. For years, it served as a launching pad for missile attacks on Israeli civilians in southern Israel. But after Israel’s counteroffensive in December 2008, the Islamists who run Gaza have mostly held their fire. This is done partly out of fear of more Israeli counterterror operations and partly because the blockade imposed on the area — a blockade that allows in food, medicine, and other humanitarian supplies but not construction materials that could aid Hamas’s homegrown weapons industry — has made it difficult for them to replenish their arsenal.

Thus, efforts to break this blockade and the international isolation imposed on this Hamasistan, created to force Gaza’s rulers to renounce their allegiance to a program pledged to the violent destruction of Israel, have little to do with sympathy for Gazans and everything to do with fueling anti-Israel propaganda. Though European sympathy for the “plight” of besieged Gaza is commonplace, support for breaking the blockade means freedom for Hamas, not the people who must live under the rule of Islamist tyrants.

But that hasn’t stopped anti-Israel activists from attempting to stage propaganda incidents highlighting their opposition to the blockade against Hamas. The latest is a so-called Freedom Flotilla of eight ships that left Istanbul, Turkey, this week. Al Jazeera, whose peppered a “news” report about the launch editorialized about how the “issue of Gaza moves Turks more than any other single issue,” noted that the convoy “is from the UK, Ireland, Algeria, Kuwait, Greece and Turkey, and is comprised of 800 people from 50 nationalities.” Though the rhetoric from the organizers centered on the supposed lack of food and medicine in Gaza, the report also noted that the ships are carrying 500 tons of construction equipment. Omitted from the Al Jazeera article was the fact that high-ranking members of the Hamas leadership also attended the festive launch of the ships. It is no surprise that Israel has said its Navy will prevent the ships from landing at Gaza and delivering their cargo. If they persist in trying to land, they will be diverted to Israel, where the passengers will be sent home, and any actual humanitarian supplies (as opposed to construction material) will be sent on to Gaza.

But though they claim they are trying to help people in need, there are limits to even the boundless compassion for humanity exhibited by those taking part in the Freedom Flotilla.

A lawyer representing the family of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier kidnapped by Hamas in 2006, approached the organizers of the Free Gaza flotilla. The Shalit family asked the pro-Palestinian group to bring letters and food packages to the kidnapped soldier, who has been denied Red Cross visits by his Hamas captors. In exchange, the family, which has the sympathy of all Israel and the ear of the Israeli government, offered to lobby to give the flotilla docking rights in Gaza. The response from these humanitarians: no!

Had they agreed to pass on the letters and packages from Shalit’s family, the pro-Palestinian group could have bolstered their shaky credibility as humanitarians. But by refusing, they have revealed themselves as nothing more than people bent on aiding and abetting an international terrorist group.

For those who wish to end the continued existence of a sovereign Jewish state on the shores of the Mediterranean, there is only one cause worth caring about: breaking the limited blockade that both Israel and Egypt have placed on Hamas-ruled Gaza. No one in Gaza is starving. All are fed by a United Nations Agency — UNRWA — specifically set up to ensure the continued existence of a Palestinian refugee problem. Gaza is poor, but the region, which Israel evacuated in 2005, is now an independent entity ruled by the Hamas terrorist group. For years, it served as a launching pad for missile attacks on Israeli civilians in southern Israel. But after Israel’s counteroffensive in December 2008, the Islamists who run Gaza have mostly held their fire. This is done partly out of fear of more Israeli counterterror operations and partly because the blockade imposed on the area — a blockade that allows in food, medicine, and other humanitarian supplies but not construction materials that could aid Hamas’s homegrown weapons industry — has made it difficult for them to replenish their arsenal.

Thus, efforts to break this blockade and the international isolation imposed on this Hamasistan, created to force Gaza’s rulers to renounce their allegiance to a program pledged to the violent destruction of Israel, have little to do with sympathy for Gazans and everything to do with fueling anti-Israel propaganda. Though European sympathy for the “plight” of besieged Gaza is commonplace, support for breaking the blockade means freedom for Hamas, not the people who must live under the rule of Islamist tyrants.

But that hasn’t stopped anti-Israel activists from attempting to stage propaganda incidents highlighting their opposition to the blockade against Hamas. The latest is a so-called Freedom Flotilla of eight ships that left Istanbul, Turkey, this week. Al Jazeera, whose peppered a “news” report about the launch editorialized about how the “issue of Gaza moves Turks more than any other single issue,” noted that the convoy “is from the UK, Ireland, Algeria, Kuwait, Greece and Turkey, and is comprised of 800 people from 50 nationalities.” Though the rhetoric from the organizers centered on the supposed lack of food and medicine in Gaza, the report also noted that the ships are carrying 500 tons of construction equipment. Omitted from the Al Jazeera article was the fact that high-ranking members of the Hamas leadership also attended the festive launch of the ships. It is no surprise that Israel has said its Navy will prevent the ships from landing at Gaza and delivering their cargo. If they persist in trying to land, they will be diverted to Israel, where the passengers will be sent home, and any actual humanitarian supplies (as opposed to construction material) will be sent on to Gaza.

But though they claim they are trying to help people in need, there are limits to even the boundless compassion for humanity exhibited by those taking part in the Freedom Flotilla.

A lawyer representing the family of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier kidnapped by Hamas in 2006, approached the organizers of the Free Gaza flotilla. The Shalit family asked the pro-Palestinian group to bring letters and food packages to the kidnapped soldier, who has been denied Red Cross visits by his Hamas captors. In exchange, the family, which has the sympathy of all Israel and the ear of the Israeli government, offered to lobby to give the flotilla docking rights in Gaza. The response from these humanitarians: no!

Had they agreed to pass on the letters and packages from Shalit’s family, the pro-Palestinian group could have bolstered their shaky credibility as humanitarians. But by refusing, they have revealed themselves as nothing more than people bent on aiding and abetting an international terrorist group.

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The Other Side of the “Peace” Process

While most of the world rattles on about how Israel’s impudent decision to build apartments for Jews in an existing Jewish neighborhood of Jerusalem will harm the peace process, the real obstacles to peace staged yet another demonstration of Middle East realities. In the last two days, Palestinian terrorists fired three rockets into southern Israel. Two landed near the town of Sderot in Southern Israel on Wednesday. One adult and a child suffered from shock from that blast. Then today, a rocket hit nearby Moshav Netiv Ha’asara, killing a worker from Thailand. Thirty such rockets have landed in southern Israel since the beginning of 2010.

Apologists for the Hamas terrorists, who run Gaza as a private fiefdom, were quick to blame the attacks on splinter groups beyond the control of the supposedly responsible thugs of Hamas. Two such groups claimed responsibility. One is an al-Qaeda offshoot, and the other is none other than the al-Asqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, the terrorist wing of the supposedly moderate and peace-loving Fatah Party that controls the West Bank.

The rockets were an appropriate welcome to the Dame Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s top foreign-policy official, who was in Gaza for a visit. Though Ashton won’t meet with Hamas officials, her trip to Gaza is seen as helping the ongoing campaign to lift the limited blockade of the terrorist-run enclave even though Israel allows food and medical supplies into the Strip, so there is no humanitarian crisis. Those who would like to see this Hamasistan freed from all constraints say that the “humanitarian” issues should take precedence over “politics.” But their humanitarianism takes no notice of Israelis who still live under the constant threat of terrorist missile attacks. Nor do they think Hamas should be forced to free kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in exchange for an end to the blockade.

Such “humanitarianism” is also blind to why Israelis are leery of any further territorial concessions to the Palestinians – because they rightly fear that the ordeal of Sderot could easily be repeated in any part of Central Israel, as well as in Jerusalem, once Israel’s forces are forced to completely withdraw from the West Bank. Gaza is not just a symbol of the failures of Palestinian nationalism, as the welfare of over a million Arabs has been ignored as Hamas pursues its pathologically violent agenda of hostility to Israel. It is also a symbol of the failure of Ariel Sharon’s unilateral withdrawal policy, which Americans once hoped would allow the area to become a zone of peace and prosperity.

For all of the recent emphasis on Israel’s behavior, Gaza stands as both a lesson and a warning to those who heedlessly urge further concessions on Israel on behalf of a peace process in which the Palestinians have no real interest.

While most of the world rattles on about how Israel’s impudent decision to build apartments for Jews in an existing Jewish neighborhood of Jerusalem will harm the peace process, the real obstacles to peace staged yet another demonstration of Middle East realities. In the last two days, Palestinian terrorists fired three rockets into southern Israel. Two landed near the town of Sderot in Southern Israel on Wednesday. One adult and a child suffered from shock from that blast. Then today, a rocket hit nearby Moshav Netiv Ha’asara, killing a worker from Thailand. Thirty such rockets have landed in southern Israel since the beginning of 2010.

Apologists for the Hamas terrorists, who run Gaza as a private fiefdom, were quick to blame the attacks on splinter groups beyond the control of the supposedly responsible thugs of Hamas. Two such groups claimed responsibility. One is an al-Qaeda offshoot, and the other is none other than the al-Asqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, the terrorist wing of the supposedly moderate and peace-loving Fatah Party that controls the West Bank.

The rockets were an appropriate welcome to the Dame Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s top foreign-policy official, who was in Gaza for a visit. Though Ashton won’t meet with Hamas officials, her trip to Gaza is seen as helping the ongoing campaign to lift the limited blockade of the terrorist-run enclave even though Israel allows food and medical supplies into the Strip, so there is no humanitarian crisis. Those who would like to see this Hamasistan freed from all constraints say that the “humanitarian” issues should take precedence over “politics.” But their humanitarianism takes no notice of Israelis who still live under the constant threat of terrorist missile attacks. Nor do they think Hamas should be forced to free kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in exchange for an end to the blockade.

Such “humanitarianism” is also blind to why Israelis are leery of any further territorial concessions to the Palestinians – because they rightly fear that the ordeal of Sderot could easily be repeated in any part of Central Israel, as well as in Jerusalem, once Israel’s forces are forced to completely withdraw from the West Bank. Gaza is not just a symbol of the failures of Palestinian nationalism, as the welfare of over a million Arabs has been ignored as Hamas pursues its pathologically violent agenda of hostility to Israel. It is also a symbol of the failure of Ariel Sharon’s unilateral withdrawal policy, which Americans once hoped would allow the area to become a zone of peace and prosperity.

For all of the recent emphasis on Israel’s behavior, Gaza stands as both a lesson and a warning to those who heedlessly urge further concessions on Israel on behalf of a peace process in which the Palestinians have no real interest.

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Is Barack Obama the Last Best Hope of Hamas?

Barack Obama’s belief in “engagement” with America’s enemies hasn’t worked out too well with Iran but that doesn’t stop his No.1 fan at Time magazine from encouraging the president to try his luck with Tehran’s ally Hamas. That’s the upshot of Joe Klein’s lament, in which he criticizes Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s tough talk with the Arab world at the Brooking Institution’s U.S.-Islamic World Forum in Qatar. Klein, along on the junket with Hillary, wasn’t terribly interested in the secretary’s obituary of Obama’s failed outreach to Iran. But he did have harsh words for her summary of the situation in Gaza, which she rightly blamed on Hamas’s violence. The fate of Gaza, solidly in the hands of Iran’s terrorist proxy, would, she said, have to await a comprehensive settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Indeed, as long as an Islamist rejectionist group controls Gaza, nothing can be done about the place.

That answer pleased neither the Arabs nor Klein. The writer places the blame on Israel for Obama’s acknowledged failure in the Middle East, while ignoring the fact that neither the supposedly moderate Palestinians of Fatah nor the extremists of Hamas have any interest in learning to live with a Jewish state, no matter where its borders are drawn.

Yet rather than concentrating our energies on preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons — a development that would undermine the security of most of the Arab world as well as present an existential threat to Israel — Klein wants the United States to concentrate its energies on finding a way to lift the partial international blockade on the terrorist state in Gaza. The blockade of Hamasistan allows food and medical supplies to enter the area but seeks to prevent the import of building materials (which can be used to bolster Hamas’s thriving small-arms industry) or weapons from abroad. The three conditions that Israel has placed on lifting the blockade are an end to the terrorist missile fire from Gaza into southern Israel, a stop to arms smuggling, and the release of kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Klein is right that the missile fire has come to what may be a temporary halt. He also believes that the smuggling issue can be resolved, although, as shown by the death of a Hamas leader in Dubai at a time when he was seeking to facilitate the transport of weapons from Iran to Gaza, this is not a minor point. As for Shalit’s ordeal, Klein dismisses it as “an insane sticking point.”

So what’s his solution? The United States must “engage” the Hamas terrorists. That’s something that both Obama and Clinton have rightly pledged not to do — but, according to the columnist, “if Obama’s policy really is about engaging our enemies, he needs to engage Hamas — and Hamas needs to respond. Quickly.” According to Klein, the problem for Hamas is that the alternative to dealing with Obama is a return to the policies of the dread Dick Cheney and the neoconservatives. He concludes: “The leaders of Hamas — and other potential interlocutors, like the Syrians — need to understand that this may be their last best chance for progress. After Obama, the deluge.”

While a more sensible foreign policy may well have to await the election of a new president, what Klein fails to understand is that no matter who sits in the White House, it is not in America’s interest to rescue the killers of Hamas. Rather, it should be our policy to isolate and hopefully oust them from power. But if any argument is designed to undermine the appeal of the president’s discredited engagement policy, it is Klein’s belief that Barack Obama is the last best hope of one of the world’s most vicious terrorist groups.

Barack Obama’s belief in “engagement” with America’s enemies hasn’t worked out too well with Iran but that doesn’t stop his No.1 fan at Time magazine from encouraging the president to try his luck with Tehran’s ally Hamas. That’s the upshot of Joe Klein’s lament, in which he criticizes Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s tough talk with the Arab world at the Brooking Institution’s U.S.-Islamic World Forum in Qatar. Klein, along on the junket with Hillary, wasn’t terribly interested in the secretary’s obituary of Obama’s failed outreach to Iran. But he did have harsh words for her summary of the situation in Gaza, which she rightly blamed on Hamas’s violence. The fate of Gaza, solidly in the hands of Iran’s terrorist proxy, would, she said, have to await a comprehensive settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Indeed, as long as an Islamist rejectionist group controls Gaza, nothing can be done about the place.

That answer pleased neither the Arabs nor Klein. The writer places the blame on Israel for Obama’s acknowledged failure in the Middle East, while ignoring the fact that neither the supposedly moderate Palestinians of Fatah nor the extremists of Hamas have any interest in learning to live with a Jewish state, no matter where its borders are drawn.

Yet rather than concentrating our energies on preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons — a development that would undermine the security of most of the Arab world as well as present an existential threat to Israel — Klein wants the United States to concentrate its energies on finding a way to lift the partial international blockade on the terrorist state in Gaza. The blockade of Hamasistan allows food and medical supplies to enter the area but seeks to prevent the import of building materials (which can be used to bolster Hamas’s thriving small-arms industry) or weapons from abroad. The three conditions that Israel has placed on lifting the blockade are an end to the terrorist missile fire from Gaza into southern Israel, a stop to arms smuggling, and the release of kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Klein is right that the missile fire has come to what may be a temporary halt. He also believes that the smuggling issue can be resolved, although, as shown by the death of a Hamas leader in Dubai at a time when he was seeking to facilitate the transport of weapons from Iran to Gaza, this is not a minor point. As for Shalit’s ordeal, Klein dismisses it as “an insane sticking point.”

So what’s his solution? The United States must “engage” the Hamas terrorists. That’s something that both Obama and Clinton have rightly pledged not to do — but, according to the columnist, “if Obama’s policy really is about engaging our enemies, he needs to engage Hamas — and Hamas needs to respond. Quickly.” According to Klein, the problem for Hamas is that the alternative to dealing with Obama is a return to the policies of the dread Dick Cheney and the neoconservatives. He concludes: “The leaders of Hamas — and other potential interlocutors, like the Syrians — need to understand that this may be their last best chance for progress. After Obama, the deluge.”

While a more sensible foreign policy may well have to await the election of a new president, what Klein fails to understand is that no matter who sits in the White House, it is not in America’s interest to rescue the killers of Hamas. Rather, it should be our policy to isolate and hopefully oust them from power. But if any argument is designed to undermine the appeal of the president’s discredited engagement policy, it is Klein’s belief that Barack Obama is the last best hope of one of the world’s most vicious terrorist groups.

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What Hamas Really Wants from a Prisoner Swap

One myth the negotiations over kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit should definitively debunk is that Hamas’s leadership actually cares about the fate of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.

In exchange for Shalit, Israel has offered to free 980 Palestinian prisoners, including 450 chosen in consultation with Hamas. And by all accounts, it has already agreed to almost all the 450 specific prisoners whose release Hamas is demanding: the London-based daily Al-Hayat claimed today that Israel has agreed to 400 of them; the Palestinian daily Al-Ayyam claimed yesterday that Israel has agreed to all but 15.

Hence if Hamas really wanted to free a large number of Palestinian prisoners — including hundreds involved in some of the worst terrorist violence of the past two decades — all it had to do was say yes. And since the handful Israel still refuses to release includes several senior Hamas figures, such a deal would even reap a public relations bonus: it would show that Hamas is willing to sacrifice for the good of the whole, to let some of its top people stay in jail in order to win freedom for almost 1,000 of its Palestinian brethren.

But in fact, Hamas has said no, publicly and repeatedly. Why? Because, as Al-Ayyam quoted a Hamas source saying, even the mere 15 prisoners whom that paper claims Israel is standing firm on are “a red line, without which there will be no deal.” Al-Hayat offered a similar explanation.

There are only two possible ways to interpret this. One, of course, is that Hamas’s leadership cares only about the handful of top-level terrorists in its inner circle, and unless they are released, the other 900-plus Palestinians can rot in jail forever for all it cares.

The other is that Hamas doesn’t actually care about any of the prisoners; what it cares about is proving that it can bend Israel completely to its will.

Granted, Hamas has already gotten Israel to capitulate almost completely. After initially refusing to negotiate at all, Israel began by agreeing to only 70 of the names on Hamas’s list and has since steadily retreated. In March, it agreed to release 325 of those on Hamas’s wish list, and now it has agreed to 400 or even 435.

But “almost” is not enough if the goal is to prove that Hamas’s path of “resistance” (i.e., terror) works better than Fatah’s tactic of diplomatic pressure. After all, Fatah has also gotten Israel to capitulate on almost everything: just last year, Ehud Olmert offered it the equivalent of 100 percent of the territories, including East Jerusalem, plus international Muslim control of the Temple Mount. Yet even then, Israel held out on a few issues, like the “right of return.” Hence to prove that “resistance” is the better path, Hamas needs 100 percent capitulation.

The truly scary part is that it might yet get it. But if not, those 980 prisoners can continue rotting in jail — sacrifices on the altar of Hamas’s partisan interests.

One myth the negotiations over kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit should definitively debunk is that Hamas’s leadership actually cares about the fate of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.

In exchange for Shalit, Israel has offered to free 980 Palestinian prisoners, including 450 chosen in consultation with Hamas. And by all accounts, it has already agreed to almost all the 450 specific prisoners whose release Hamas is demanding: the London-based daily Al-Hayat claimed today that Israel has agreed to 400 of them; the Palestinian daily Al-Ayyam claimed yesterday that Israel has agreed to all but 15.

Hence if Hamas really wanted to free a large number of Palestinian prisoners — including hundreds involved in some of the worst terrorist violence of the past two decades — all it had to do was say yes. And since the handful Israel still refuses to release includes several senior Hamas figures, such a deal would even reap a public relations bonus: it would show that Hamas is willing to sacrifice for the good of the whole, to let some of its top people stay in jail in order to win freedom for almost 1,000 of its Palestinian brethren.

But in fact, Hamas has said no, publicly and repeatedly. Why? Because, as Al-Ayyam quoted a Hamas source saying, even the mere 15 prisoners whom that paper claims Israel is standing firm on are “a red line, without which there will be no deal.” Al-Hayat offered a similar explanation.

There are only two possible ways to interpret this. One, of course, is that Hamas’s leadership cares only about the handful of top-level terrorists in its inner circle, and unless they are released, the other 900-plus Palestinians can rot in jail forever for all it cares.

The other is that Hamas doesn’t actually care about any of the prisoners; what it cares about is proving that it can bend Israel completely to its will.

Granted, Hamas has already gotten Israel to capitulate almost completely. After initially refusing to negotiate at all, Israel began by agreeing to only 70 of the names on Hamas’s list and has since steadily retreated. In March, it agreed to release 325 of those on Hamas’s wish list, and now it has agreed to 400 or even 435.

But “almost” is not enough if the goal is to prove that Hamas’s path of “resistance” (i.e., terror) works better than Fatah’s tactic of diplomatic pressure. After all, Fatah has also gotten Israel to capitulate on almost everything: just last year, Ehud Olmert offered it the equivalent of 100 percent of the territories, including East Jerusalem, plus international Muslim control of the Temple Mount. Yet even then, Israel held out on a few issues, like the “right of return.” Hence to prove that “resistance” is the better path, Hamas needs 100 percent capitulation.

The truly scary part is that it might yet get it. But if not, those 980 prisoners can continue rotting in jail — sacrifices on the altar of Hamas’s partisan interests.

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Killing Terrorists Saves Lives

When four Knesset members proposed legislation last week to institute the death penalty for child murderers, it revived a long-dormant Israeli debate over the pros and cons of this penalty in general. The latest installment, in today’s Jerusalem Post, supports the current de facto ban on executions, arguing that they deter neither murderers nor terrorists.

Regardless of whether that’s true, it misses the point: Israel desperately needs a death penalty for hard-core terrorists — not as a deterrent but to prevent them from being released to kill again. And, equally important, to spare the country wrenching emotional blackmail over kidnapped soldiers.

While ordinary Israeli murderers usually serve their sentences in full, terrorists have an excellent chance of being released early — either in an effort to “bolster Palestinian moderates” or in exchange for Israelis (or their remains, or even a “sign of life”) kidnapped by terrorist organizations. Israel releases hundreds of terrorists for one or both of these reasons almost every year. Most recently, for instance, it freed 20 female terrorists in exchange for a mere videotape of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit.

There are no official statistics on what percentage of these freed terrorists return to kill again. While one would hope the security services track this data, no government has ever published it, possibly realizing that if the statistics were known, public support for prisoner releases would plummet. Unofficial statistics — leaked to journalists or compiled by private organizations — vary widely, ranging from 25-80 percent. But even the lower figure is hardly negligible.

And the anecdotal evidence is compelling. In 2007, for instance, the Almagor Terror Victims Association compiled a list of 30 attacks committed by freed terrorists in 2000-2005 that together killed 177 Israelis. IDF Col. Herzl Halevy said this September that terrorists freed in a 2004 swap with Hezbollah composed “the entire infrastructure of Islamic Jihad” in subsequent years — during which Islamic Jihad bombings killed at least 37 Israelis. In short, executing terrorists, and hence preventing their release, would save lives.

But beyond that, executions would also end the agonizing debate over whether to trade terrorists for kidnapped Israelis. Most Israelis, for instance, would have no objection to freeing minor offenders in exchange for Shalit; the problem is that Hamas is demanding hundreds of mass murderers — who, if freed, would almost certainly kill again. Had these terrorists been executed, however, they would not be available to trade. Hamas would either have to make do with low-level offenders or get out of the kidnapping business.

Might that not encourage terrorists to kill rather than kidnap? Well, do the math: over the past decade, terrorists have kidnapped exactly two live Israelis (plus five dead ones, for whose remains Israel also paid). During the same period, freed terrorists have killed hundreds. It may sound cold, but that’s a pretty good cost-benefit ratio.

The bottom line is that Israel needs a death penalty for terrorists now. Few things would do more to save Israeli lives.

When four Knesset members proposed legislation last week to institute the death penalty for child murderers, it revived a long-dormant Israeli debate over the pros and cons of this penalty in general. The latest installment, in today’s Jerusalem Post, supports the current de facto ban on executions, arguing that they deter neither murderers nor terrorists.

Regardless of whether that’s true, it misses the point: Israel desperately needs a death penalty for hard-core terrorists — not as a deterrent but to prevent them from being released to kill again. And, equally important, to spare the country wrenching emotional blackmail over kidnapped soldiers.

While ordinary Israeli murderers usually serve their sentences in full, terrorists have an excellent chance of being released early — either in an effort to “bolster Palestinian moderates” or in exchange for Israelis (or their remains, or even a “sign of life”) kidnapped by terrorist organizations. Israel releases hundreds of terrorists for one or both of these reasons almost every year. Most recently, for instance, it freed 20 female terrorists in exchange for a mere videotape of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit.

There are no official statistics on what percentage of these freed terrorists return to kill again. While one would hope the security services track this data, no government has ever published it, possibly realizing that if the statistics were known, public support for prisoner releases would plummet. Unofficial statistics — leaked to journalists or compiled by private organizations — vary widely, ranging from 25-80 percent. But even the lower figure is hardly negligible.

And the anecdotal evidence is compelling. In 2007, for instance, the Almagor Terror Victims Association compiled a list of 30 attacks committed by freed terrorists in 2000-2005 that together killed 177 Israelis. IDF Col. Herzl Halevy said this September that terrorists freed in a 2004 swap with Hezbollah composed “the entire infrastructure of Islamic Jihad” in subsequent years — during which Islamic Jihad bombings killed at least 37 Israelis. In short, executing terrorists, and hence preventing their release, would save lives.

But beyond that, executions would also end the agonizing debate over whether to trade terrorists for kidnapped Israelis. Most Israelis, for instance, would have no objection to freeing minor offenders in exchange for Shalit; the problem is that Hamas is demanding hundreds of mass murderers — who, if freed, would almost certainly kill again. Had these terrorists been executed, however, they would not be available to trade. Hamas would either have to make do with low-level offenders or get out of the kidnapping business.

Might that not encourage terrorists to kill rather than kidnap? Well, do the math: over the past decade, terrorists have kidnapped exactly two live Israelis (plus five dead ones, for whose remains Israel also paid). During the same period, freed terrorists have killed hundreds. It may sound cold, but that’s a pretty good cost-benefit ratio.

The bottom line is that Israel needs a death penalty for terrorists now. Few things would do more to save Israeli lives.

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The Carter Fallout

In the aftermath of Jimmy Carter’s meetings with high-ranking Hamas officials last week, the Arab press has spoken: the former U.S. president’s mission failed miserably.

The Kuwaiti daily al-Watan observes that Carter’s prodding produced no changes in Hamas’ position on rocket attacks or Gilad Shalit, who has been held as a prisoner for nearly two years. Meanwhile, the Hariri-owned Lebanese daily al-Mustaqbal doubted that Carter could translate his pro-Palestinian intentions into meaningful results, recalling that the Camp David Accords hadn’t fulfilled Carter’s ambitions for Palestinian statehood thirty years ago. “He’s fit to run the Red Cross, but not the United States,” al-Mustaqbal concluded, calling Carter “naïve.” Even those supporting Carter’s engagement with Hamas in principle remained unconvinced. For example, though lauding Carter’s “political idealism,” an opinion piece published in the pan-Arab Elaf argued “political idealism alone is insufficient in political work.”

In short, while many believe that Hamas cannot be ignored in any forthcoming Israeli-Palestinian peace process, the consensus within the Arab press appears to be that Carter is an incapable activist rather than a serious statesman.

Yet, for all his moral stupidity, it is hard to take pleasure in Carter’s failure. After all, Carter’s very public meet-and-greet with Hamas seems like a harbinger of things to come. Indeed, in the two years since Hamas won the 2006 Palestinian parliamentary elections, support for engaging Hamas has become an increasingly mainstream position, endorsed by former policymakers from both Democratic and Republican administrations; The New York Times editorial board; and virtually every policy adviser for the leading Democratic presidential candidate. Moreover, sixty-four percent of Israelis support negotiating with Hamas, while Industry and Trade Minister Eli Yishai–acting with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s approvalasked Carter to deliver his request for a meeting to Damascus-based Hamas leader Khalid Meshal. As the Annapolis “process”–which explicitly excluded radicals–appears increasingly hopeless, calls for dealing with Hamas will likely escalate further.

Of course, none of this changes the dangers associated with engaging Hamas, most especially the fact that doing so would validate Hamas’ stubborn refusal to recognize Israel and renounce terrorism as an effective strategy–anathema to the moderation that U.S. policy aims to promote. Policymakers must therefore focus on how Hamas can be prevented from declaring victory the next time a prominent American political figure dials Damascus. Much is at stake and, even while ventures such as Carter’s are still widely dismissed as tomfoolery, the tables may be turning.

In the aftermath of Jimmy Carter’s meetings with high-ranking Hamas officials last week, the Arab press has spoken: the former U.S. president’s mission failed miserably.

The Kuwaiti daily al-Watan observes that Carter’s prodding produced no changes in Hamas’ position on rocket attacks or Gilad Shalit, who has been held as a prisoner for nearly two years. Meanwhile, the Hariri-owned Lebanese daily al-Mustaqbal doubted that Carter could translate his pro-Palestinian intentions into meaningful results, recalling that the Camp David Accords hadn’t fulfilled Carter’s ambitions for Palestinian statehood thirty years ago. “He’s fit to run the Red Cross, but not the United States,” al-Mustaqbal concluded, calling Carter “naïve.” Even those supporting Carter’s engagement with Hamas in principle remained unconvinced. For example, though lauding Carter’s “political idealism,” an opinion piece published in the pan-Arab Elaf argued “political idealism alone is insufficient in political work.”

In short, while many believe that Hamas cannot be ignored in any forthcoming Israeli-Palestinian peace process, the consensus within the Arab press appears to be that Carter is an incapable activist rather than a serious statesman.

Yet, for all his moral stupidity, it is hard to take pleasure in Carter’s failure. After all, Carter’s very public meet-and-greet with Hamas seems like a harbinger of things to come. Indeed, in the two years since Hamas won the 2006 Palestinian parliamentary elections, support for engaging Hamas has become an increasingly mainstream position, endorsed by former policymakers from both Democratic and Republican administrations; The New York Times editorial board; and virtually every policy adviser for the leading Democratic presidential candidate. Moreover, sixty-four percent of Israelis support negotiating with Hamas, while Industry and Trade Minister Eli Yishai–acting with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s approvalasked Carter to deliver his request for a meeting to Damascus-based Hamas leader Khalid Meshal. As the Annapolis “process”–which explicitly excluded radicals–appears increasingly hopeless, calls for dealing with Hamas will likely escalate further.

Of course, none of this changes the dangers associated with engaging Hamas, most especially the fact that doing so would validate Hamas’ stubborn refusal to recognize Israel and renounce terrorism as an effective strategy–anathema to the moderation that U.S. policy aims to promote. Policymakers must therefore focus on how Hamas can be prevented from declaring victory the next time a prominent American political figure dials Damascus. Much is at stake and, even while ventures such as Carter’s are still widely dismissed as tomfoolery, the tables may be turning.

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By Hook or by Crooke

The release of Alan Johnston, the BBC Gaza correspondent held hostage for four months, is the biggest propaganda coup that Hamas has achieved so far. Predictable demands for “engagement with” (i.e., recognition of) Hamas as a reward for obtaining Johnston’s freedom from his kidnappers, the Army of Islam, were made on the BBC by Alastair Crooke.

Who is he? He seems to surface every time Islamist organizations need a Western spokesman to lend respectability to their cause. Crooke was an MI6 intelligence officer for some 30 years, specializing in the Middle East. After leaving the security service, he landed a series of international jobs: as a staff member of the Mitchell committee on the intifada convened after the Israeli-Palestinian summit at Sharm al Sheikh in 2000; then as “security adviser” to Javier Solana, the European Union’s High Representative and de-facto foreign minister. Crooke was assigned to the EU’s Middle East envoy Miguel Moratinos in 2002, but was recalled by the British Foreign Office in 2003 after he held a series of secret meetings with Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and other terrorists. At one of these, Crooke told the then-leader of Hamas, Sheikh Yassin: “The main problem is the Israeli occupation.” Crooke went on to say that “I hate that word [terrorism]” when applied to Hamas, whose suicide bombers were then slaughtering Israeli civilians. Crooke was already working hard to legitimize Hamas as “freedom fighters” while speaking on behalf of the EU.

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The release of Alan Johnston, the BBC Gaza correspondent held hostage for four months, is the biggest propaganda coup that Hamas has achieved so far. Predictable demands for “engagement with” (i.e., recognition of) Hamas as a reward for obtaining Johnston’s freedom from his kidnappers, the Army of Islam, were made on the BBC by Alastair Crooke.

Who is he? He seems to surface every time Islamist organizations need a Western spokesman to lend respectability to their cause. Crooke was an MI6 intelligence officer for some 30 years, specializing in the Middle East. After leaving the security service, he landed a series of international jobs: as a staff member of the Mitchell committee on the intifada convened after the Israeli-Palestinian summit at Sharm al Sheikh in 2000; then as “security adviser” to Javier Solana, the European Union’s High Representative and de-facto foreign minister. Crooke was assigned to the EU’s Middle East envoy Miguel Moratinos in 2002, but was recalled by the British Foreign Office in 2003 after he held a series of secret meetings with Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and other terrorists. At one of these, Crooke told the then-leader of Hamas, Sheikh Yassin: “The main problem is the Israeli occupation.” Crooke went on to say that “I hate that word [terrorism]” when applied to Hamas, whose suicide bombers were then slaughtering Israeli civilians. Crooke was already working hard to legitimize Hamas as “freedom fighters” while speaking on behalf of the EU.

In 2004, together with Mark Perry, Crooke set up Conflicts Forum, a lobbying group with branches in London, Beirut, and Washington. Though it claims to “connect the West and the Muslim world,” by the latter it means radical Islamists. Conflicts Forum’s stated aim is “to engage and listen to Islamists, while challenging Western misconceptions and misrepresentations of the region’s leading agents of change.” It brings together the Arabists who have always dominated the Foreign Office and security services, and serves as a vehicle to put pressure on Western governments to appease Islamists, from the Muslim Brotherhood to Hizballah. The Conflicts Forum website boasts of a recent 500,000 euro grant from the E.U. under its Partnership for Peace program “for a project to help develop more inclusive and legitimate approaches to transforming the Middle East conflict.” (This sounds like a euphemism for pressure to legalize Hamas.)

Crooke makes “the case for Hamas” in the lead article of the current issue of the London Review of Books. Throughout the piece, Crooke speaks of Hamas as “moderate” and praises its “effective and corruption-free” record in government. He warns that Islamists everywhere are becoming impatient with the democratic route to power. He describes a conference in Beirut last April that debated “whether moderate Islamist groups such as Hamas and Hizballah will manage to retain their influence over this process of radicalization.” Meanwhile, Hizballah, Syria, and Iran are “actively preparing for conflict” with Israel and the West. All the blame for this conflict, and the radicalization that feeds it, needless to say, lies with America, Europe, and Israel.

Finally, Crooke has a chilling warning to Israel: unless it gives Hamas-led Palestine what it wants, not only will more Israeli Arabs be drawn into terrorism, but Israel will confront Islamist governments in Egypt and Jordan, too. “Conflict with Iran, were it to occur, might finish up by sweeping away many of the region’s landmarks.” (Is this an implied threat of a second Holocaust?)

However one reads Crooke’s remarks, he and they are deeply sinister. On the BBC, he claimed that Hamas had already met the three “benchmarks” stipulated by the U.S. and EU as necessary for recognition. Unusually, the BBC then gave the right of reply to an Israeli spokesman, Mark Regev. The Australian-born Regev made short work of Crooke’s mendacious claims, pointing out that for Hamas to state that it accepts Israel’s existence “as a fact” means no more than accepting AIDS, say, as a fact. Regev also reminded listeners that while Israelis were pleased by Alan Johnston’s release, their own hostage, Gilad Shalit, has been held in Gaza for much longer.

On the back of the Alan Johnston affair, we should expect a new attempt to persuade the EU to resume financing Hamas, and we should anticipate finding Alastair Crooke, a T.E. Lawrence wannabe, in the forefront of it.

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