Commentary Magazine


Topic: security services

From the Dept of Don’t Do Us Any Favors: Foreign Press Association Threatens to Boycott Israeli Officials

A few years ago, there was a movement afoot calling on American Muslims to boycott US Airways. Six imams — among them Truthers and Hamas supporters — had gone out of their way to act like terrorists and succeeded in getting themselves removed from a Phoenix-bound flight. They subsequently threatened the airline with what they took to be a public-relations nightmare, where the company would have to explain that radical Muslims were avoiding US Air flights because of overly stringent security measures. Typical reaction: best boycott evuh.

This might be better:

The Foreign Press Association in Israel has threatened a boycott after a reporter said she was asked to remove her bra during a security check. Al-Jazeera filed a complaint about what it called a humiliating check at an invitation-only event in Jerusalem, prompting the press association to threaten to ignore briefings by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu if security procedures aren’t changed immediately. … “In a democratic country, security services are not permitted to do as they please,” the association said in a statement. (emphasis added)

Putting aside the irony of supporting Muslim Brotherhood propagandists while lecturing Israel on democratic norms — come on now.

Al Jazeera already publishes briefings by Israeli officials only when it suits their ideology. During Cast Lead, their local reporters tried to publish a statement by Ehud Barak and were overruled by officials in Qatar. That was the last war, when they simply spiked inconvenient facts. During the war before that, Al Jazeera crews actively helped Hezbollah target Israeli civilians. So let’s tone down the outrage about how security services should be interacting with that outlet’s reporters.

As for the broader boycott by the Foreign Press Association, what are they going to do? Stop printing Israeli denials alongside feverish Palestinian claims? Is the threat that they’ll go from “Palestinian officials accused the IDF of using white phosphorous to give women nightmares and make sheep sterile, but Israel officials denied the charges” to “Palestinian officials accused the IDF of using white phosphorous to give women nightmares and make sheep sterile full stop“?

What a biased, one-sided journalistic world that would be.

A few years ago, there was a movement afoot calling on American Muslims to boycott US Airways. Six imams — among them Truthers and Hamas supporters — had gone out of their way to act like terrorists and succeeded in getting themselves removed from a Phoenix-bound flight. They subsequently threatened the airline with what they took to be a public-relations nightmare, where the company would have to explain that radical Muslims were avoiding US Air flights because of overly stringent security measures. Typical reaction: best boycott evuh.

This might be better:

The Foreign Press Association in Israel has threatened a boycott after a reporter said she was asked to remove her bra during a security check. Al-Jazeera filed a complaint about what it called a humiliating check at an invitation-only event in Jerusalem, prompting the press association to threaten to ignore briefings by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu if security procedures aren’t changed immediately. … “In a democratic country, security services are not permitted to do as they please,” the association said in a statement. (emphasis added)

Putting aside the irony of supporting Muslim Brotherhood propagandists while lecturing Israel on democratic norms — come on now.

Al Jazeera already publishes briefings by Israeli officials only when it suits their ideology. During Cast Lead, their local reporters tried to publish a statement by Ehud Barak and were overruled by officials in Qatar. That was the last war, when they simply spiked inconvenient facts. During the war before that, Al Jazeera crews actively helped Hezbollah target Israeli civilians. So let’s tone down the outrage about how security services should be interacting with that outlet’s reporters.

As for the broader boycott by the Foreign Press Association, what are they going to do? Stop printing Israeli denials alongside feverish Palestinian claims? Is the threat that they’ll go from “Palestinian officials accused the IDF of using white phosphorous to give women nightmares and make sheep sterile, but Israel officials denied the charges” to “Palestinian officials accused the IDF of using white phosphorous to give women nightmares and make sheep sterile full stop“?

What a biased, one-sided journalistic world that would be.

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Blasphemous Blogger Case Shows Hypocrisy of Palestinian Supporters

Amid all the constant clamor about the plight of the Palestinians, the conspicuous lack of concern on the part of both foreign and local Arab human-rights groups about the way the Palestinian Authority and Hamas treat their own people is an ongoing scandal. The imposition of a tyrannical Islamist police state in Gaza is ignored by Europeans and many American liberals, who devote their energies to demonizing Israel’s measures of self-defense aimed at keeping the terrorists based in that territory from attacking their civilians on the other side of the border. And while the leaders of the Palestinian Authority get good press abroad as “moderates” who favor peace, the truth about the way the PA runs most of the West Bank (contrary to popular misconception, Arab towns and villages are under the control of the PA’s police and various security services, not the Israel Defense Force) is far from pretty. An example of the way the Palestinian Authority rules the West Bank is on display in the case of Waleed Hasayin, whose pathetic story was told in yesterday’s New York Times.

Hasayin, a 20-something unemployed computer-science graduate who helped out in his father’s barbershop in Qalqilya, has been held incommunicado at that town’s local PA intelligence headquarters for blasphemous blogging. Husayin’s crime is that he created Facebook pages skewering Islam and promoting atheism. The Times reports that it is against the law in PA-ruled land to insult religion, though by that it is clear that they just mean Islam, since insults against Judaism are regularly broadcast on PA radio and television. He is not the first Muslim to run afoul of the repressive culture of the Arab world but what makes his case noteworthy is the hypocrisy of both the Palestinians and their foreign cheerleaders.

The most telling sentence in the Times’s story is the matter of fact one in which reporter Isabel Kershner notes that “Palestinian human rights groups in the West Bank have so far remained silent about Mr. Hasayin’s arrest.” She fails to mention that his case is also of no interest to Western supporters of the Palestinians, who believe that all Palestinians are still living under Israel “occupation,” whether in the West Bank or Gaza. This case makes it plain once again that advocates for Palestinian human rights are not actually interested in the human rights of the Palestinian people. If they were, then there would be as many, if not more, foreign protests against the way the Islamists of Hamas and the neo-Islamist thugs of the Palestinian Authority tyrannize their own people as there are protests against alleged abuses on the part of Israel.

Were Hasayin a terrorist with Jewish blood on his hands, languishing in an Israeli jail, there would be massive foreign support for his release as there is for that of killers like Fatah’s Marwan Barghouti. But since he is merely a free thinker who dared to challenge the oppressive political and religious culture of the Palestinians while blogging in an Internet cafe, he is of no interest to “friends” of the Palestinian people, who are content to let public opinion in Qalqilya — which, according to the Times, favors capital punishment or life imprisonment for his crime — determine his fate.

Amid all the constant clamor about the plight of the Palestinians, the conspicuous lack of concern on the part of both foreign and local Arab human-rights groups about the way the Palestinian Authority and Hamas treat their own people is an ongoing scandal. The imposition of a tyrannical Islamist police state in Gaza is ignored by Europeans and many American liberals, who devote their energies to demonizing Israel’s measures of self-defense aimed at keeping the terrorists based in that territory from attacking their civilians on the other side of the border. And while the leaders of the Palestinian Authority get good press abroad as “moderates” who favor peace, the truth about the way the PA runs most of the West Bank (contrary to popular misconception, Arab towns and villages are under the control of the PA’s police and various security services, not the Israel Defense Force) is far from pretty. An example of the way the Palestinian Authority rules the West Bank is on display in the case of Waleed Hasayin, whose pathetic story was told in yesterday’s New York Times.

Hasayin, a 20-something unemployed computer-science graduate who helped out in his father’s barbershop in Qalqilya, has been held incommunicado at that town’s local PA intelligence headquarters for blasphemous blogging. Husayin’s crime is that he created Facebook pages skewering Islam and promoting atheism. The Times reports that it is against the law in PA-ruled land to insult religion, though by that it is clear that they just mean Islam, since insults against Judaism are regularly broadcast on PA radio and television. He is not the first Muslim to run afoul of the repressive culture of the Arab world but what makes his case noteworthy is the hypocrisy of both the Palestinians and their foreign cheerleaders.

The most telling sentence in the Times’s story is the matter of fact one in which reporter Isabel Kershner notes that “Palestinian human rights groups in the West Bank have so far remained silent about Mr. Hasayin’s arrest.” She fails to mention that his case is also of no interest to Western supporters of the Palestinians, who believe that all Palestinians are still living under Israel “occupation,” whether in the West Bank or Gaza. This case makes it plain once again that advocates for Palestinian human rights are not actually interested in the human rights of the Palestinian people. If they were, then there would be as many, if not more, foreign protests against the way the Islamists of Hamas and the neo-Islamist thugs of the Palestinian Authority tyrannize their own people as there are protests against alleged abuses on the part of Israel.

Were Hasayin a terrorist with Jewish blood on his hands, languishing in an Israeli jail, there would be massive foreign support for his release as there is for that of killers like Fatah’s Marwan Barghouti. But since he is merely a free thinker who dared to challenge the oppressive political and religious culture of the Palestinians while blogging in an Internet cafe, he is of no interest to “friends” of the Palestinian people, who are content to let public opinion in Qalqilya — which, according to the Times, favors capital punishment or life imprisonment for his crime — determine his fate.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

So much for the idea that the Democrats’ political fortunes are improving. New polls show Republicans ahead in Senate races in Nevada, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Colorado. Carly Fiorina has again pulled close to Barbara Boxer in California.

So much for the Democrats’ core message. Greg Sargent warns, “If Dems are going to avert a major bloodbath in November, they need independents to embrace two core Dem messages that seem particularly geared towards those voters: The claim that a vote for the GOP is a vote to return to Bush policies; and the assertion that the GOP has been hijacked by whackjob Tea Party extremists. But it appears that indy voters are not yet buying either of these messages in the numbers Dems need.” Think for a moment: that’s the best “message” the Dems can come up with — false accusations against their opponents. Sometimes a party deserves what it gets.

So much for Obama’s ability to gin up the base. “A new poll finds that Latinos — a key bloc in Democrats’ electoral coalition — are less enthusiastic than voters overall about the looming midterm elections.”

So much for excising the name of our enemy. “Faisal Shahzad, who attempted to detonate a car bomb in New York’s Times Square on a crowded Saturday night, was sentenced to life in federal prison today. Before she pronounced sentence, Judge Miriam Cedarbaum said, ‘Mr. Shahzad, I think you should get up.’ Shahzad said ‘Allahu Akbar’ after hearing the sentence, and said he would ‘sacrifice a thousand lives for Allah.’ ‘War with Muslims has just begun,’ said Shahzad, who then predicted that ‘the defeat of the US is imminent, god willing.'”

So much for cowering to those who holler “Islamophobia!”: “As reports about an alleged al-Qaeda plot in Europe emerge, it is beginning to look as though a mosque in Hamburg where members of the 9/11 plot against the United States gathered once again has served as a crucial al-Qaeda recruiting ground. That raises an obvious question: Have Germany’s security services learned nothing in the last decade?” Have we? The FBI has likewise been cowed into forgoing undercover operations involving mosques here in the U.S.

So much for Obama rethinking his Afghanistan-war troop deadline. “US President Barack Obama has told congressional leaders he has no plans for any major changes in his Afghanistan war strategy for now, a letter released by the White House showed on Monday.”

So much for the campaign-reform maven: “Senator Russ Feingold, a leading voice for tight regulations on campaigns and elections, has been contacted by the National Football League today for using NFL footage without permission for a new campaign ad.”

So much for Obama’s pleading. “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s forum of senior ministers met Tuesday but did not discuss negotiations with the Palestinians, despite expectations that the forum would discuss a proposal to extend the settlement freeze in exchange for American guarantees.”

So much for “change.” Megan McArdle on “New GM, Same Old UAW?”: “The UAW just voted to allow an old GM stamping plant in Indianapolis to be shut down, rather than offer wage concessions necessary to attract a new owner. … Labor trouble has flared up at the plant where the new Chevy Cruze is being made. The Cruze is one of the things that is supposed to save the new GM: a high quality small car. If they can’t get this right without clashing with the union, what hope for the rest of GM?”

So much for the idea that the Democrats’ political fortunes are improving. New polls show Republicans ahead in Senate races in Nevada, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Colorado. Carly Fiorina has again pulled close to Barbara Boxer in California.

So much for the Democrats’ core message. Greg Sargent warns, “If Dems are going to avert a major bloodbath in November, they need independents to embrace two core Dem messages that seem particularly geared towards those voters: The claim that a vote for the GOP is a vote to return to Bush policies; and the assertion that the GOP has been hijacked by whackjob Tea Party extremists. But it appears that indy voters are not yet buying either of these messages in the numbers Dems need.” Think for a moment: that’s the best “message” the Dems can come up with — false accusations against their opponents. Sometimes a party deserves what it gets.

So much for Obama’s ability to gin up the base. “A new poll finds that Latinos — a key bloc in Democrats’ electoral coalition — are less enthusiastic than voters overall about the looming midterm elections.”

So much for excising the name of our enemy. “Faisal Shahzad, who attempted to detonate a car bomb in New York’s Times Square on a crowded Saturday night, was sentenced to life in federal prison today. Before she pronounced sentence, Judge Miriam Cedarbaum said, ‘Mr. Shahzad, I think you should get up.’ Shahzad said ‘Allahu Akbar’ after hearing the sentence, and said he would ‘sacrifice a thousand lives for Allah.’ ‘War with Muslims has just begun,’ said Shahzad, who then predicted that ‘the defeat of the US is imminent, god willing.'”

So much for cowering to those who holler “Islamophobia!”: “As reports about an alleged al-Qaeda plot in Europe emerge, it is beginning to look as though a mosque in Hamburg where members of the 9/11 plot against the United States gathered once again has served as a crucial al-Qaeda recruiting ground. That raises an obvious question: Have Germany’s security services learned nothing in the last decade?” Have we? The FBI has likewise been cowed into forgoing undercover operations involving mosques here in the U.S.

So much for Obama rethinking his Afghanistan-war troop deadline. “US President Barack Obama has told congressional leaders he has no plans for any major changes in his Afghanistan war strategy for now, a letter released by the White House showed on Monday.”

So much for the campaign-reform maven: “Senator Russ Feingold, a leading voice for tight regulations on campaigns and elections, has been contacted by the National Football League today for using NFL footage without permission for a new campaign ad.”

So much for Obama’s pleading. “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s forum of senior ministers met Tuesday but did not discuss negotiations with the Palestinians, despite expectations that the forum would discuss a proposal to extend the settlement freeze in exchange for American guarantees.”

So much for “change.” Megan McArdle on “New GM, Same Old UAW?”: “The UAW just voted to allow an old GM stamping plant in Indianapolis to be shut down, rather than offer wage concessions necessary to attract a new owner. … Labor trouble has flared up at the plant where the new Chevy Cruze is being made. The Cruze is one of the things that is supposed to save the new GM: a high quality small car. If they can’t get this right without clashing with the union, what hope for the rest of GM?”

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Western Media Take a Pass on Palestinian Repression

Critics of Israel are fond of saying that a disproportionate focus on Israel’s failings is justified because of American support for the Jewish state. After all, they argue, no matter what goes on elsewhere, Israel’s activities, for good or ill, are in some measure the result of American generosity. But the same can also be said for the Palestinian Authority, whose government and armed forces are far more heavily subsidized by American taxpayers than those of Israel. But there remains little interest on the part of the media in exposing Palestinian misdeeds, besides which Israel’s foibles appear quite insignificant.

This unfortunate fact has been once again illustrated by the lack of interest on the part of the Western media in reporting the story of the PA’s imprisonment of seven Palestinian academics last week. Over at the Hudson Institute’s website, the Jerusalem Post’s Khaled Abu Toameh writes that Palestinian journalists did their best to interest their Western colleagues in the fate of these academics. Of course, Palestinian writers didn’t dare report this themselves, knowing all too well the fate of those who cross the PA security services. But unsurprisingly, of all the hundreds of Western reporters and correspondents stationed in Israel, Abu Toameh says only one chose to go with the story. Some blamed their editors back in the United States or Europe, who considered the topic “insignificant.” Others admitted that “they were concerned about their personal safety should they report a news item that was likely to anger the Western-funded PA security forces in the West Bank.”

Abu Toameh says that one Palestinian journalist then pitched a story about a Palestinian academic being denied the right to visit Israel and found that every journalist who had turned down the lead about the seven imprisoned scholars were quite eager to jump on the story that allegedly put the Jewish state in a bad light.

As Abu Toameh notes, the Western reluctance to report anything that shines a light on Palestinian corruption or tyranny isn’t new. The same “see no evil, hear no evil, report no evil” motto characterized Western coverage of Yasir Arafat’s reign of terror at the Palestinian Authority. That the object of their crimes is at times — as the arrest of the academics proved to be — part of Fatah’s civil war against the Islamist thugs of Hamas doesn’t make the Western media’s refusal to tell the truth about the Palestinian Authority any more defensible. Under the rule of Mahmoud Abbas, the thugs of the PA continue to run roughshod over their own people and to intimidate journalists on America’s dime.

Critics of Israel are fond of saying that a disproportionate focus on Israel’s failings is justified because of American support for the Jewish state. After all, they argue, no matter what goes on elsewhere, Israel’s activities, for good or ill, are in some measure the result of American generosity. But the same can also be said for the Palestinian Authority, whose government and armed forces are far more heavily subsidized by American taxpayers than those of Israel. But there remains little interest on the part of the media in exposing Palestinian misdeeds, besides which Israel’s foibles appear quite insignificant.

This unfortunate fact has been once again illustrated by the lack of interest on the part of the Western media in reporting the story of the PA’s imprisonment of seven Palestinian academics last week. Over at the Hudson Institute’s website, the Jerusalem Post’s Khaled Abu Toameh writes that Palestinian journalists did their best to interest their Western colleagues in the fate of these academics. Of course, Palestinian writers didn’t dare report this themselves, knowing all too well the fate of those who cross the PA security services. But unsurprisingly, of all the hundreds of Western reporters and correspondents stationed in Israel, Abu Toameh says only one chose to go with the story. Some blamed their editors back in the United States or Europe, who considered the topic “insignificant.” Others admitted that “they were concerned about their personal safety should they report a news item that was likely to anger the Western-funded PA security forces in the West Bank.”

Abu Toameh says that one Palestinian journalist then pitched a story about a Palestinian academic being denied the right to visit Israel and found that every journalist who had turned down the lead about the seven imprisoned scholars were quite eager to jump on the story that allegedly put the Jewish state in a bad light.

As Abu Toameh notes, the Western reluctance to report anything that shines a light on Palestinian corruption or tyranny isn’t new. The same “see no evil, hear no evil, report no evil” motto characterized Western coverage of Yasir Arafat’s reign of terror at the Palestinian Authority. That the object of their crimes is at times — as the arrest of the academics proved to be — part of Fatah’s civil war against the Islamist thugs of Hamas doesn’t make the Western media’s refusal to tell the truth about the Palestinian Authority any more defensible. Under the rule of Mahmoud Abbas, the thugs of the PA continue to run roughshod over their own people and to intimidate journalists on America’s dime.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

The ObamaCare votes don’t seem to be there. Could those “votes” have figured out that they are the sacrificial lambs in the Obami’s game plan?

Well, as Steny Hoyer says, “At this point in time we don’t have a bill. … It’s a little difficult to count votes if you don’t have a bill.”

Republicans can’t quite believe their good fortune. “First, it has allowed what is a relatively fractious group of Republicans Senators to appear entirely united — a sharp contrast to the divisions that have played out publicly between the moderate and liberal wings of the Democratic party. Second, Republicans argue, the health care focus is the main reason for the abandonment of Democratic candidates by independent voters in gubernatorial elections in Virginia and New Jersey as well as in Sen. Scott Brown’s (R) special election victory in January.”

You need a lineup card: Rangel is out, Stark is out: “Rep. Sandy Levin (D-Mich.) will be the acting chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced to her caucus on Thursday. … [Rep. Pete] Stark was the next in line for the post in terms of seniority, but some panel members recoiled at the idea of his leading the committee. Stark is known for making controversial and eccentric remarks, and in 2007 he apologized on the House floor for comments about President George W. Bush and the Iraq War.”

Phil Klein proves once again that all wisdom is contained in the Bible and The Godfather (I and II, definitely not III). It’s the Frankie Pentangeli moment — get the brother. “Obama has just awarded a judicial appointment to the brother of Utah Rep. Jim Matheson, who voted against the health care bill in November but who is now undecided.”

DNC chairman Tim Kaine says that something other than merit may be at work here. After all, “Life is life.” I imagine Republicans are collecting these pearls for their ad campaigns.

Speaking of criminal intrigue: did the White House violate federal statutes by dangling federal jobs in front of Joe Sestak and Andrew Romanoff to try to get them out of Senate primaries? “The real question, of course, is whether Eric Holder, who was so quick to reopen an investigation into CIA employees dedicated to trying to protect this country, will open an investigation into his political patrons in the White House who, in their dedication to furthering political objectives, may have violated several federal criminal laws.” I’m not holding my breath either.

I think there’s something to Megan McArdle’s theory of the Democrats’ scandal-a-thon: “The more members you have, the more members you have who can do something disastrous to your party’s public image. … Any party is going to have a given percentage of people in it doing fairly appalling things. If you up the numbers, and the transparency, you get about what we’re seeing now. And no doubt will see again, once the Republicans are back in power. ” Which will be fairly soon, many predict.

Andrew Roberts (a COMMENTARY contributor) goes after his own Israel-bashing Financial Times on its coverage of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh’s assassination: “All that the Dubai operation will do is remind the world that the security services of states at war — and Israel’s struggle with Hamas, Fatah and Hizbollah certainly constitutes that — occasionally employ targeted assassination as one of the weapons in their armoury, and that this in no way weakens their legitimacy. … The intelligence agents of states — sometimes operating with direct authority, sometimes not — have carried out many assassinations and assassination attempts in peacetime without the legitimacy of those states being called into question, or their being described as ‘rogue.’ … No, that insult is reserved for only one country: Israel.”

The ObamaCare votes don’t seem to be there. Could those “votes” have figured out that they are the sacrificial lambs in the Obami’s game plan?

Well, as Steny Hoyer says, “At this point in time we don’t have a bill. … It’s a little difficult to count votes if you don’t have a bill.”

Republicans can’t quite believe their good fortune. “First, it has allowed what is a relatively fractious group of Republicans Senators to appear entirely united — a sharp contrast to the divisions that have played out publicly between the moderate and liberal wings of the Democratic party. Second, Republicans argue, the health care focus is the main reason for the abandonment of Democratic candidates by independent voters in gubernatorial elections in Virginia and New Jersey as well as in Sen. Scott Brown’s (R) special election victory in January.”

You need a lineup card: Rangel is out, Stark is out: “Rep. Sandy Levin (D-Mich.) will be the acting chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced to her caucus on Thursday. … [Rep. Pete] Stark was the next in line for the post in terms of seniority, but some panel members recoiled at the idea of his leading the committee. Stark is known for making controversial and eccentric remarks, and in 2007 he apologized on the House floor for comments about President George W. Bush and the Iraq War.”

Phil Klein proves once again that all wisdom is contained in the Bible and The Godfather (I and II, definitely not III). It’s the Frankie Pentangeli moment — get the brother. “Obama has just awarded a judicial appointment to the brother of Utah Rep. Jim Matheson, who voted against the health care bill in November but who is now undecided.”

DNC chairman Tim Kaine says that something other than merit may be at work here. After all, “Life is life.” I imagine Republicans are collecting these pearls for their ad campaigns.

Speaking of criminal intrigue: did the White House violate federal statutes by dangling federal jobs in front of Joe Sestak and Andrew Romanoff to try to get them out of Senate primaries? “The real question, of course, is whether Eric Holder, who was so quick to reopen an investigation into CIA employees dedicated to trying to protect this country, will open an investigation into his political patrons in the White House who, in their dedication to furthering political objectives, may have violated several federal criminal laws.” I’m not holding my breath either.

I think there’s something to Megan McArdle’s theory of the Democrats’ scandal-a-thon: “The more members you have, the more members you have who can do something disastrous to your party’s public image. … Any party is going to have a given percentage of people in it doing fairly appalling things. If you up the numbers, and the transparency, you get about what we’re seeing now. And no doubt will see again, once the Republicans are back in power. ” Which will be fairly soon, many predict.

Andrew Roberts (a COMMENTARY contributor) goes after his own Israel-bashing Financial Times on its coverage of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh’s assassination: “All that the Dubai operation will do is remind the world that the security services of states at war — and Israel’s struggle with Hamas, Fatah and Hizbollah certainly constitutes that — occasionally employ targeted assassination as one of the weapons in their armoury, and that this in no way weakens their legitimacy. … The intelligence agents of states — sometimes operating with direct authority, sometimes not — have carried out many assassinations and assassination attempts in peacetime without the legitimacy of those states being called into question, or their being described as ‘rogue.’ … No, that insult is reserved for only one country: Israel.”

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Building Peace by Ending Endism

In the past four years, there have been two experiments in peace-processing. The first was to dismantle every Israeli settlement, withdraw every Israeli settler, and turn over the entire area to the Palestinian Authority. The result of that experiment was a terrorist mini-state in Gaza — one that used the land to launch rockets at its neighbor and eventually caused a war, and that is today preparing for yet another one.

The second experiment is what Benjamin Netanyahu has referred to as the establishment of an “economic peace.” Tom Gross, a Middle East analyst and former Jerusalem correspondent for the Sunday Telegraph, provides a glimpse of what is happening with that approach, reporting on a day spent in Nablus, the largest city on the West Bank — a city bustling “in a way I have not previously seen in many years of covering the region”:

Wandering around downtown Nablus the shops and restaurants I saw were full. There were plenty of expensive cars on the streets. Indeed I counted considerably more BMWs and Mercedes than I’ve seen, for example, in downtown Jerusalem or Tel Aviv.

And perhaps most importantly of all, we had driven from Jerusalem to Nablus without going through any Israeli checkpoints. The government of Benjamin Netanyahu has removed them all since the Israeli security services (with the encouragement and support of President George W. Bush) were allowed, over recent years, to crush the intifada, restore security to the West Bank and set up the conditions for the economic boom that is now occurring.

And it’s not just Nablus:

Life is even better in Ramallah, where it is difficult to get a table in a good restaurant. New apartment buildings, banks, brokerage firms, luxury car dealerships and health clubs are to be seen. In Qalqilya, another West Bank city that was previously a hotbed of terrorists and bomb-makers, the first ever strawberry crop is being harvested in time to cash in on the lucrative Christmas markets in Europe. Local Palestinian farmers have been trained by Israeli agriculture experts and Israel supplied them with irrigation equipment and pesticides.

A year ago, Uzi Arad, a prominent Israeli foreign-policy academic, suggested that the way forward in the “peace process” is to put an end to “endism” — the belief that “we are within reach of resolving everything in one fell swoop.” Endism is what marked the two-week final-status negotiations at Camp David; the subsequent four-month process, culminating in the unsuccessful Clinton Parameters; and the failed one-year Annapolis Process under President Bush. Against advice from both the Left and Right, President Obama tried his own hand at endism, and his efforts cratered in less than a year.

Netanyahu has endorsed a two-state solution, as long as the Palestinians recognize one of them as Jewish and demilitarize the other so it cannot threaten Israel. Both conditions have been rejected even by the peace-partner Palestinians, not to mention those in control of the land handed over to them in 2005. Thus another attempt at endism is proving to be futile– and four times is enough in any event. Endism needs to be ended, not mended.

It is time, as the title of Gross’s article suggests, for “Building Peace Without Obama’s Interference” — and long past the time for Obama to turn his full attention, as Arad suggested a year ago, to Iran.

In the past four years, there have been two experiments in peace-processing. The first was to dismantle every Israeli settlement, withdraw every Israeli settler, and turn over the entire area to the Palestinian Authority. The result of that experiment was a terrorist mini-state in Gaza — one that used the land to launch rockets at its neighbor and eventually caused a war, and that is today preparing for yet another one.

The second experiment is what Benjamin Netanyahu has referred to as the establishment of an “economic peace.” Tom Gross, a Middle East analyst and former Jerusalem correspondent for the Sunday Telegraph, provides a glimpse of what is happening with that approach, reporting on a day spent in Nablus, the largest city on the West Bank — a city bustling “in a way I have not previously seen in many years of covering the region”:

Wandering around downtown Nablus the shops and restaurants I saw were full. There were plenty of expensive cars on the streets. Indeed I counted considerably more BMWs and Mercedes than I’ve seen, for example, in downtown Jerusalem or Tel Aviv.

And perhaps most importantly of all, we had driven from Jerusalem to Nablus without going through any Israeli checkpoints. The government of Benjamin Netanyahu has removed them all since the Israeli security services (with the encouragement and support of President George W. Bush) were allowed, over recent years, to crush the intifada, restore security to the West Bank and set up the conditions for the economic boom that is now occurring.

And it’s not just Nablus:

Life is even better in Ramallah, where it is difficult to get a table in a good restaurant. New apartment buildings, banks, brokerage firms, luxury car dealerships and health clubs are to be seen. In Qalqilya, another West Bank city that was previously a hotbed of terrorists and bomb-makers, the first ever strawberry crop is being harvested in time to cash in on the lucrative Christmas markets in Europe. Local Palestinian farmers have been trained by Israeli agriculture experts and Israel supplied them with irrigation equipment and pesticides.

A year ago, Uzi Arad, a prominent Israeli foreign-policy academic, suggested that the way forward in the “peace process” is to put an end to “endism” — the belief that “we are within reach of resolving everything in one fell swoop.” Endism is what marked the two-week final-status negotiations at Camp David; the subsequent four-month process, culminating in the unsuccessful Clinton Parameters; and the failed one-year Annapolis Process under President Bush. Against advice from both the Left and Right, President Obama tried his own hand at endism, and his efforts cratered in less than a year.

Netanyahu has endorsed a two-state solution, as long as the Palestinians recognize one of them as Jewish and demilitarize the other so it cannot threaten Israel. Both conditions have been rejected even by the peace-partner Palestinians, not to mention those in control of the land handed over to them in 2005. Thus another attempt at endism is proving to be futile– and four times is enough in any event. Endism needs to be ended, not mended.

It is time, as the title of Gross’s article suggests, for “Building Peace Without Obama’s Interference” — and long past the time for Obama to turn his full attention, as Arad suggested a year ago, to Iran.

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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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Speaking Truth to Appeasement

Moshe Arens, the Likudnik who was thrice Israel’s defense minister, has a bracing op-ed in Haaretz in which he reminds those who insist that terrorism cannot be defeated by military force that they are forgetting (very recent) history:

As long as Israel seemed unable to find an effective answer to Palestinian terror [during the second intifada], the defeatists in our ranks claimed that terror could not be defeated by force, while the more cautious argued that terror could not be defeated by the use of force alone. The implication was that Israel had no choice but to concede to at least some of the terrorists’ demands–that they must be given a “political horizon.”

But once the Israel Defense Forces and the security services began to seriously tackle Palestinian terror, following the massacre at the Park Hotel in Netanya in the spring of 2002, it quickly became clear that terror could be defeated by force. As a matter of fact, it could be defeated only by the use of force. The terrorists view any hints of Israeli willingness to give in to a portion of their essentially limitless demands as a sign of weakness, which only serves to encourage further acts of terror.

But Israel’s victory over Palestinian terror, which put an end to the daily bouts of suicide bombings, also induced amnesia in the minds of some of Israel’s leaders. The lesson was quickly forgotten.

Exactly right. The extent to which Israel’s military victory in the intifada is simply not acceptable for discussion in enlightened quarters is amazing as a matter of cultural psychology. But this refusal also has a crippling effect on Israeli politics, as the military option against Hamas is continuously framed as a foreordained failure. Arens concludes:

A truce with the terrorists, meaning that Israel would cease its attacks against organizations in Gaza whose leaderships are pledged to Israel’s destruction, is ludicrous and self-defeating. It has not worked with Hezbollah, it will not work with Iran, and it won’t work with Hamas. Until such time as Israel adopts the only strategy that works in the war against terror — attacking the terrorists until they are soundly defeated — Israel will continue to be weakened, and its citizens will continue to be casualties of terrorist acts.

Read the whole thing.

Moshe Arens, the Likudnik who was thrice Israel’s defense minister, has a bracing op-ed in Haaretz in which he reminds those who insist that terrorism cannot be defeated by military force that they are forgetting (very recent) history:

As long as Israel seemed unable to find an effective answer to Palestinian terror [during the second intifada], the defeatists in our ranks claimed that terror could not be defeated by force, while the more cautious argued that terror could not be defeated by the use of force alone. The implication was that Israel had no choice but to concede to at least some of the terrorists’ demands–that they must be given a “political horizon.”

But once the Israel Defense Forces and the security services began to seriously tackle Palestinian terror, following the massacre at the Park Hotel in Netanya in the spring of 2002, it quickly became clear that terror could be defeated by force. As a matter of fact, it could be defeated only by the use of force. The terrorists view any hints of Israeli willingness to give in to a portion of their essentially limitless demands as a sign of weakness, which only serves to encourage further acts of terror.

But Israel’s victory over Palestinian terror, which put an end to the daily bouts of suicide bombings, also induced amnesia in the minds of some of Israel’s leaders. The lesson was quickly forgotten.

Exactly right. The extent to which Israel’s military victory in the intifada is simply not acceptable for discussion in enlightened quarters is amazing as a matter of cultural psychology. But this refusal also has a crippling effect on Israeli politics, as the military option against Hamas is continuously framed as a foreordained failure. Arens concludes:

A truce with the terrorists, meaning that Israel would cease its attacks against organizations in Gaza whose leaderships are pledged to Israel’s destruction, is ludicrous and self-defeating. It has not worked with Hezbollah, it will not work with Iran, and it won’t work with Hamas. Until such time as Israel adopts the only strategy that works in the war against terror — attacking the terrorists until they are soundly defeated — Israel will continue to be weakened, and its citizens will continue to be casualties of terrorist acts.

Read the whole thing.

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Money for Nothing

The news came last week that the United States would commence the transfer of some $150 million to the Palestinian Authority. This week, the European Commission announced that it, too, was turning on the cash spigot and releasing an astonishing €300 million — about $473 million.

Perhaps someone has a mischievous sense of humor. Today Haaretz reports that the American military officials responsible for monitoring compliance with the Road Map have made it known — you’re sitting down, aren’t you? — that the PA hasn’t really attempted to do anything about Palestinian terrorism:

[T]he Americans are concerned that the PA does not engage in the full spectrum of counterterrorism activities, including arrests, interrogation and trial, as it would if it were trying to eradicate the armed wings of Islamic terrorist organizations. Instead, it makes do with trying to “contain” terror — to prevent specific attacks, and to keep Hamas from growing strong enough to threaten Fatah’s rule in the West Bank.

The PA security services do occasionally arrest members of Islamic organizations, but they do not then follow up with the other steps in the “chain of prevention”: interrogations, arrests of additional operatives, indictments and trials. Trials generally take place only if the PA is under external pressure…And when they do take place, they are generally hasty affairs.

Well, maybe the influx of over half a billion dollars in foreign aid will help the PA finally get its security operation into better shape. I kid, I kid.

The news came last week that the United States would commence the transfer of some $150 million to the Palestinian Authority. This week, the European Commission announced that it, too, was turning on the cash spigot and releasing an astonishing €300 million — about $473 million.

Perhaps someone has a mischievous sense of humor. Today Haaretz reports that the American military officials responsible for monitoring compliance with the Road Map have made it known — you’re sitting down, aren’t you? — that the PA hasn’t really attempted to do anything about Palestinian terrorism:

[T]he Americans are concerned that the PA does not engage in the full spectrum of counterterrorism activities, including arrests, interrogation and trial, as it would if it were trying to eradicate the armed wings of Islamic terrorist organizations. Instead, it makes do with trying to “contain” terror — to prevent specific attacks, and to keep Hamas from growing strong enough to threaten Fatah’s rule in the West Bank.

The PA security services do occasionally arrest members of Islamic organizations, but they do not then follow up with the other steps in the “chain of prevention”: interrogations, arrests of additional operatives, indictments and trials. Trials generally take place only if the PA is under external pressure…And when they do take place, they are generally hasty affairs.

Well, maybe the influx of over half a billion dollars in foreign aid will help the PA finally get its security operation into better shape. I kid, I kid.

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Gaza Confidential

The exciting piece of foreign policy reportage to hit the presses this week is David Rose’s account in Vanity Fair of the covert strategy the Bush administration pursued to undermine Hamas after the group came to power in the 2006 Palestinian elections. The administration’s idea was to use an old Fatah security strongman, Muhammad Dahlan, to head up a new security force that would serve two U.S. policy goals: the unification and reform of the byzantine PA security services, and the assemblage of a Fatah force that would be able to put Hamas in its place.

As Rose reports,

A State Department official adds, “Those in charge of implementing the policy were saying, ‘Do whatever it takes. We have to be in a position for Fatah to defeat Hamas militarily, and only Muhammad Dahlan has the guile and the muscle to do this.’ The expectation was that this was where it would end up—with a military showdown.”

As everyone knows by now, there was no military showdown in Gaza — there was a rout of Fatah’s forces by Hamas.

On one level, this story can be filed away as a smaller example of the failure of American state-building among the Palestinians. No matter how many different and creative ways successive American administrations have arranged incentives, disincentives, aid packages, diplomatic agreements, and the like, little is to show for it but Palestinian violence — whether the 2000-2004 terror war that followed Oslo, or Hamas’ rocket war today. Relying on Palestinian strongmen/terrorists has been a disaster (Arafat); relying on Palestinian elections has been a disaster (Hamas); and now we have evidence that an even finer-grained involvement in Palestinian internal affairs — assigning a Palestinian strongman the task of dispatching with a democratically-elected terror group — helped precipitate the Hamas coup in Gaza. More disaster.

On another level, there is something irreconcilable in all of this furious gamesmanship: The Bush administration wishes to promote democratic Palestinian statehood, yet refuses to make an honest assessment of the political ambitions of the Palestinian people. There does not seem to be a great deal of appreciation for the idea that Hamas represents something genuine about the worldview of a large faction of Palestinians — a refusal to accept Israel; a choice of violence over diplomacy; and a desire in governance for the Islamic over the secular. Given this level of self-deceit, it is not surprising that Condi Rice’s skulduggery only served to worsen the situation.

The exciting piece of foreign policy reportage to hit the presses this week is David Rose’s account in Vanity Fair of the covert strategy the Bush administration pursued to undermine Hamas after the group came to power in the 2006 Palestinian elections. The administration’s idea was to use an old Fatah security strongman, Muhammad Dahlan, to head up a new security force that would serve two U.S. policy goals: the unification and reform of the byzantine PA security services, and the assemblage of a Fatah force that would be able to put Hamas in its place.

As Rose reports,

A State Department official adds, “Those in charge of implementing the policy were saying, ‘Do whatever it takes. We have to be in a position for Fatah to defeat Hamas militarily, and only Muhammad Dahlan has the guile and the muscle to do this.’ The expectation was that this was where it would end up—with a military showdown.”

As everyone knows by now, there was no military showdown in Gaza — there was a rout of Fatah’s forces by Hamas.

On one level, this story can be filed away as a smaller example of the failure of American state-building among the Palestinians. No matter how many different and creative ways successive American administrations have arranged incentives, disincentives, aid packages, diplomatic agreements, and the like, little is to show for it but Palestinian violence — whether the 2000-2004 terror war that followed Oslo, or Hamas’ rocket war today. Relying on Palestinian strongmen/terrorists has been a disaster (Arafat); relying on Palestinian elections has been a disaster (Hamas); and now we have evidence that an even finer-grained involvement in Palestinian internal affairs — assigning a Palestinian strongman the task of dispatching with a democratically-elected terror group — helped precipitate the Hamas coup in Gaza. More disaster.

On another level, there is something irreconcilable in all of this furious gamesmanship: The Bush administration wishes to promote democratic Palestinian statehood, yet refuses to make an honest assessment of the political ambitions of the Palestinian people. There does not seem to be a great deal of appreciation for the idea that Hamas represents something genuine about the worldview of a large faction of Palestinians — a refusal to accept Israel; a choice of violence over diplomacy; and a desire in governance for the Islamic over the secular. Given this level of self-deceit, it is not surprising that Condi Rice’s skulduggery only served to worsen the situation.

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Gates in Munich

I just got back from the Munich Security Conference, an annual meeting of defense officials and policy wonks from both sides of the Atlantic. This year’s meeting lacked the drama of last year, when Vladimir Putin delivered a blistering anti-Western harangue. This year, senior Russian representative Sergey Ivanov, the first deputy prime minister, struck a more low-key note in his address. Instead of delivering threats, he mostly bragged about how rich Russia has become (“during the last 9 years the gross domestic product in Russia has increased by 80 per cent”), though even this mainly economic address carried an implicit geopolitical message—that the West would have to accommodate a newly powerful Russia.

But it is impossible for Russian officials at an international gathering to remain on their best behavior for long—especially when their supreme leader is so determined to foment conflict between Russia and the West in order to justify the rule of an increasingly repressive Kremlin clique. Thus the best exchange occurred when Aleksey Ostrovsky, chairman of the Duma’s Foreign Affairs Committee, put the following “question”—more like a challenge—to Defense Secretary Bob Gates:

At present the entire world faces the threat of terrorism which emanates primarily from Al Qaeda, the terrorist organization. Don’t you think that in the first place this organization for its appearance and the serious threat of terrorism we witness today, it is the fault of the leadership of your country and of your security services in the 1970’s and the 80’s of the last century, when for American money, with the active political support the Afghan mujahedin were fighting the Soviet troops who tried to support peace and order in that country. And after that when the Soviet troops left, for all intents and purposes, people who have been created by you were idle.

It almost sounds as if Ostrovsky has been reading Noam Chomsky. He’s repeating, after all, a favorite talking point of the Western left—that Al Qaeda is an American creation. He does however add a uniquely Russian spin with his defense of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, which he claims was designed “to support peace and order in that country.”

Gates is more mild-mannered than his predecessor, Don Rumsfeld, but he did not back down from this ludicrous challenge. His answer is worth quoting because it was an effective refutation of a canard that has gotten widespread support:

Well, with respect to the first question and the responsibility of the United States for a revived variety of ills, it reminded me of my old days in the CIA when people thought that not a leaf fell around the world without CIA knowing about it or being responsible for it. With respect to the threat from Al Qaeda and the notion that it is the fault of the U.S., I think we have a bit of a chicken and egg problem here. My own view is the threat from Al Qaeda began with the Soviet invasion of a sovereign state in December 1979, a state that up to that point had not represented a threat to anybody in the world, except to a certain extent its own people because of its weakness and poverty. It was the Soviet invasion that in fact created the holy warriors, the mujahedin, determined to take on the Soviet military. The United States does not shrink from responsibility for providing them with the tools and the weapons and whatever they needed in order to expel a foreign invader. That same kind of religious fervor that helped create the mujahedin and helped expel the Soviet Union in subsequent years was distorted and certain extremists among the mujahedin became stronger, and we have the problem we have. So I would say if the United States, if we bear a particular responsibility for the role of the mujahedin and Al Qaeda growing up in Afghanistan, it had more to do with our abandonment with the country in 1989 rather than our assistance to it in 1979. And I think that most Americans think that we erred in turning our backs on Afghanistan after the Soviets left.

Good job, Mr. Secretary!

I just got back from the Munich Security Conference, an annual meeting of defense officials and policy wonks from both sides of the Atlantic. This year’s meeting lacked the drama of last year, when Vladimir Putin delivered a blistering anti-Western harangue. This year, senior Russian representative Sergey Ivanov, the first deputy prime minister, struck a more low-key note in his address. Instead of delivering threats, he mostly bragged about how rich Russia has become (“during the last 9 years the gross domestic product in Russia has increased by 80 per cent”), though even this mainly economic address carried an implicit geopolitical message—that the West would have to accommodate a newly powerful Russia.

But it is impossible for Russian officials at an international gathering to remain on their best behavior for long—especially when their supreme leader is so determined to foment conflict between Russia and the West in order to justify the rule of an increasingly repressive Kremlin clique. Thus the best exchange occurred when Aleksey Ostrovsky, chairman of the Duma’s Foreign Affairs Committee, put the following “question”—more like a challenge—to Defense Secretary Bob Gates:

At present the entire world faces the threat of terrorism which emanates primarily from Al Qaeda, the terrorist organization. Don’t you think that in the first place this organization for its appearance and the serious threat of terrorism we witness today, it is the fault of the leadership of your country and of your security services in the 1970’s and the 80’s of the last century, when for American money, with the active political support the Afghan mujahedin were fighting the Soviet troops who tried to support peace and order in that country. And after that when the Soviet troops left, for all intents and purposes, people who have been created by you were idle.

It almost sounds as if Ostrovsky has been reading Noam Chomsky. He’s repeating, after all, a favorite talking point of the Western left—that Al Qaeda is an American creation. He does however add a uniquely Russian spin with his defense of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, which he claims was designed “to support peace and order in that country.”

Gates is more mild-mannered than his predecessor, Don Rumsfeld, but he did not back down from this ludicrous challenge. His answer is worth quoting because it was an effective refutation of a canard that has gotten widespread support:

Well, with respect to the first question and the responsibility of the United States for a revived variety of ills, it reminded me of my old days in the CIA when people thought that not a leaf fell around the world without CIA knowing about it or being responsible for it. With respect to the threat from Al Qaeda and the notion that it is the fault of the U.S., I think we have a bit of a chicken and egg problem here. My own view is the threat from Al Qaeda began with the Soviet invasion of a sovereign state in December 1979, a state that up to that point had not represented a threat to anybody in the world, except to a certain extent its own people because of its weakness and poverty. It was the Soviet invasion that in fact created the holy warriors, the mujahedin, determined to take on the Soviet military. The United States does not shrink from responsibility for providing them with the tools and the weapons and whatever they needed in order to expel a foreign invader. That same kind of religious fervor that helped create the mujahedin and helped expel the Soviet Union in subsequent years was distorted and certain extremists among the mujahedin became stronger, and we have the problem we have. So I would say if the United States, if we bear a particular responsibility for the role of the mujahedin and Al Qaeda growing up in Afghanistan, it had more to do with our abandonment with the country in 1989 rather than our assistance to it in 1979. And I think that most Americans think that we erred in turning our backs on Afghanistan after the Soviets left.

Good job, Mr. Secretary!

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ANNAPOLIS: The monitor & judge

The rumor in Annapolis yesterday was that the recently-retired Marine Gen. James Jones had been tapped as the man to lead the “monitoring and judging” component of the renewed American effort to push the implementation of the Roadmap. Today, it became official.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the job involves monitoring the development of Palestinian security services. One focus would be how those forces interact with neighboring security services, including Israeli authorities.

“There is in her mind a need for someone to take a look internally at not only the efforts of the Palestinians to build up their security forces, but how those efforts relate to the Israeli government and Israeli security efforts and how those efforts also relate through the region,” he said.

As I argued yesterday, the manner in which this job is performed will be vital to how the Palestinian effort at developing competent security services is going to be viewed. And that, in turn, is going to affect how much pressure is put on Israel to reduce its security presence in the West Bank. Check out Wikipedia for a little more info on Jones. Shmuel Rosner and Aluf Benn have more on the Jones appointment in their Annapolis diary:

The issue that threatened to disrupt the talks between Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and her lead-negotiating counterpart, former PA prime minister Ahmed Qureia, was over who would supervise the two sides and decide whether they are meeting their road map obligations. Experience in the Middle East suggests that the Israelis and the Palestinians are very good at blaming the other side, but they do not really like to keep their obligations. Had this been different the Palestinian terrorist groups and the outposts in the West Bank would have long gone. During the Oslo period there was no responsible adult around to ensure that the obligations were met. The road map sought to correct this and set a mechanism of monitoring under American control.

The Palestinians and the Americans proposed for the current negotiations to set up a tripartite committee that would discuss all issues and decide who was right and who needs to correct things. Defense Minister Ehud Barak opposed this proposal, fearing that Israel will find itself in a minority position, and proposed instead that an American arbitrator would be assigned to decide. The final compromise is that a committee will be set up, but the decision maker will be U.S. General Jim Jones, the former NATO commander, who will take up his new duties in the coming days. Like other generals appointed by the White House for this thankless job, Jones will also probably go through a complicated breaking-in period in the Middle East.

The rumor in Annapolis yesterday was that the recently-retired Marine Gen. James Jones had been tapped as the man to lead the “monitoring and judging” component of the renewed American effort to push the implementation of the Roadmap. Today, it became official.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the job involves monitoring the development of Palestinian security services. One focus would be how those forces interact with neighboring security services, including Israeli authorities.

“There is in her mind a need for someone to take a look internally at not only the efforts of the Palestinians to build up their security forces, but how those efforts relate to the Israeli government and Israeli security efforts and how those efforts also relate through the region,” he said.

As I argued yesterday, the manner in which this job is performed will be vital to how the Palestinian effort at developing competent security services is going to be viewed. And that, in turn, is going to affect how much pressure is put on Israel to reduce its security presence in the West Bank. Check out Wikipedia for a little more info on Jones. Shmuel Rosner and Aluf Benn have more on the Jones appointment in their Annapolis diary:

The issue that threatened to disrupt the talks between Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and her lead-negotiating counterpart, former PA prime minister Ahmed Qureia, was over who would supervise the two sides and decide whether they are meeting their road map obligations. Experience in the Middle East suggests that the Israelis and the Palestinians are very good at blaming the other side, but they do not really like to keep their obligations. Had this been different the Palestinian terrorist groups and the outposts in the West Bank would have long gone. During the Oslo period there was no responsible adult around to ensure that the obligations were met. The road map sought to correct this and set a mechanism of monitoring under American control.

The Palestinians and the Americans proposed for the current negotiations to set up a tripartite committee that would discuss all issues and decide who was right and who needs to correct things. Defense Minister Ehud Barak opposed this proposal, fearing that Israel will find itself in a minority position, and proposed instead that an American arbitrator would be assigned to decide. The final compromise is that a committee will be set up, but the decision maker will be U.S. General Jim Jones, the former NATO commander, who will take up his new duties in the coming days. Like other generals appointed by the White House for this thankless job, Jones will also probably go through a complicated breaking-in period in the Middle East.

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Ignatius in Israel

David Ignatius, the Washington Post columnist, is in Israel, and I think it’s fair to say that his time in the region is not doing a whole lot to imbue his opinions with much in the way of perspective or wisdom. His column on Sunday presented a fawning portrait of Efraim Halevy, the former head of the Mossad, who has of late been tarnishing his legacy by arguing to anyone who will listen that the real threat to Israel is not from the regimes who implacably seek the country’s destruction, but from Israeli leaders who do not sufficiently accommodate, rhetorically and strategically, the leaders of Hamas, Syria, and Iran. (A sample bit of his wisdom on Iran: “We have to find creative ways to help them escape from their rhetoric.”) The only place Halevy has been taken seriously in recent memory is in David Ignatius’s column—I wonder if Ignatius himself knows this?

Anyway, Ignatius has followed up Sunday’s column with a piece today that meditates on the need, in order to advance the peace process, for the development of Palestinian security forces capable of arresting terrorists and imposing law and order in the Palestinian territories—obviously, an altogether important matter. Ignatius writes that “The Palestinian Authority simply doesn’t have the people, the training, or the equipment to maintain order in the territories. Why is this so? The answer, in part, is that the Palestinians haven’t built up their security forces because the Israelis haven’t permitted them to do so.”

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David Ignatius, the Washington Post columnist, is in Israel, and I think it’s fair to say that his time in the region is not doing a whole lot to imbue his opinions with much in the way of perspective or wisdom. His column on Sunday presented a fawning portrait of Efraim Halevy, the former head of the Mossad, who has of late been tarnishing his legacy by arguing to anyone who will listen that the real threat to Israel is not from the regimes who implacably seek the country’s destruction, but from Israeli leaders who do not sufficiently accommodate, rhetorically and strategically, the leaders of Hamas, Syria, and Iran. (A sample bit of his wisdom on Iran: “We have to find creative ways to help them escape from their rhetoric.”) The only place Halevy has been taken seriously in recent memory is in David Ignatius’s column—I wonder if Ignatius himself knows this?

Anyway, Ignatius has followed up Sunday’s column with a piece today that meditates on the need, in order to advance the peace process, for the development of Palestinian security forces capable of arresting terrorists and imposing law and order in the Palestinian territories—obviously, an altogether important matter. Ignatius writes that “The Palestinian Authority simply doesn’t have the people, the training, or the equipment to maintain order in the territories. Why is this so? The answer, in part, is that the Palestinians haven’t built up their security forces because the Israelis haven’t permitted them to do so.”

This is absurd. For starters, the last time Israel gave the Palestinians a free hand in developing their security forces, Yasir Arafat flagrantly violated every restriction the Oslo rules had put on the Palestinian security services, and then used the services to launch a terror war against Israel. Even Ignatius must admit that the Israelis have a right to be a bit skeptical of going down that road again. Here is how my friend Daniel Polisar, president of the Shalem Center, described that state of affairs:

Arafat guaranteed the loyalty of his troops, and especially the highest-ranking officers, by establishing the kind of command and control structure that had characterized his previous 25 years of rule, and which for good reason is preferred by military dictators anxious to prevent the rise of competitors. Though the Gaza-Jericho agreement limited the Palestinian police to four branches, coordinated in each district by a single command, Arafat set up multiple forces that competed with one another: By the summer of 1995, there were nine intelligence services operating in the West Bank and Gaza, as well as additional units with various responsibilities. There was no authority coordinating these forces on a regional basis, nor was there a clear hierarchy within each branch: The only thing that was unambiguous was that all top officers reported directly to Arafat, who was commander in chief of the PA police—and who continued wearing his trademark uniform to symbolize his authority as a military ruler. The multiplicity of units created endless turf wars, leading the various organizations to keep tabs on one another and to pass this information on to Arafat. Moreover, this Byzantine system made it possible for Arafat to order attacks against political opponents while publicly denying any involvement.

Today, if there is one thing in which the PA is still awash, it is manpower (a massive percentage of Palestinian men are employed in various PA security sinecures), security expertise, and weaponry. Not to mention money, as more foreign aid is lavished per capita on the Palestinians than on any group of people anywhere in the world—and by a huge margin. But none of the problems that Ignatius cites have much relation to the real Palestinian internal security problem.

Arafat’s goons did not work toward establishing a Palestinian state. They didn’t serve the Palestinian people or attempt to impose law and order. These men worked for Yasir Arafat, and only for Arafat, in order that he could more thoroughly solidify his corrupt autocracy. The things Ignatius mentions—Israeli security concessions, or the latest package of aid money, or American support—have all been tweaked and modified and adjusted countless times. A competent security service, be it police or military, must be possessed of a unity of purpose and must show dedication to a mission. It is precisely these cultural components that have been so elusive when it has come to the role that Palestinian security services have played in the many abortive attempts at creating a Palestinian state. The only Arab security forces in recent history that have displayed any such qualities are those of Islamist groups such as Hamas and Hizballah.

On this matter David Frum should have the last word:

Hey, here’s a wild suggestion: What if we tried the other way around? What if we said to the Palestinians—OK, you want the benefits of peace? A state, a well-paid civil service supported by lavish foreign aid, jobs at the United Nations for the nephews of your president for life? Great. Make peace. Your soldiers want to be trusted? Great. First let them show themselves trustworthy.

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Letter from Baghdad

The most hated man in Iraq today is Senator Joseph Biden. Iraqis (except for Kurds) are outraged at the Senate’s adoption of a Biden bill, prescribing “federalism” for Iraq in terms that Iraqis take to mean partition of their country. My explanations—that Biden chose the anodyne word “federalism” because he couldn’t get support for “partition,” that the House was unlikely to pass a similar measure, and that even if passed, this bill was not binding—all fell on deaf ears. Sunni and Shiite politicians outdid each other in their denunciations. And some Iraqi lawmakers spoke of turning the tables by calling for the U.S. to be partitioned into sovereign black, white, and Hispanic nations.

During my stay in Baghdad I am bunking at CPIC (Combined Press Information Center) of the MNF-I (multinational forces in Iraq), where journalists are housed after catching either a “helo” or the “rhino” (armored bus caravan) from “BIAP” (the Baghdad International airport). The fortunate few get “manifested” in advance, but most have to travel “space A” (based on availability of space). A U.S. Army manual lying around our quarters gives this directive for dealing with the media: “avoid jargon, acronyms, slang and technical terms.” (The application for a press badge at CPIC asks, inter alia, for my “tribe” and “clan.” I figured I could put “Hebrews” for the former, but “clan” stumped me until the young lady soldier in charge told me I could leave those boxes blank.)

I am sharing space with journalists from Icelandic television, here to cover the exodus of their country’s contingent from MNF-I. Antiwar advocates will surely point to Iceland as yet another desertion from Bush’s coalition. But the significance is easy to overestimate. As the film crew informed me, they were here to cover the “withdrawal of the troop.” When I said, “troops,” they corrected me. There was only one soldier, a pretty 27-year-old blond. After spending the day filming her they returned to CPIC to tell me that she enjoyed her job training Iraqis and regretted being called home.

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The most hated man in Iraq today is Senator Joseph Biden. Iraqis (except for Kurds) are outraged at the Senate’s adoption of a Biden bill, prescribing “federalism” for Iraq in terms that Iraqis take to mean partition of their country. My explanations—that Biden chose the anodyne word “federalism” because he couldn’t get support for “partition,” that the House was unlikely to pass a similar measure, and that even if passed, this bill was not binding—all fell on deaf ears. Sunni and Shiite politicians outdid each other in their denunciations. And some Iraqi lawmakers spoke of turning the tables by calling for the U.S. to be partitioned into sovereign black, white, and Hispanic nations.

During my stay in Baghdad I am bunking at CPIC (Combined Press Information Center) of the MNF-I (multinational forces in Iraq), where journalists are housed after catching either a “helo” or the “rhino” (armored bus caravan) from “BIAP” (the Baghdad International airport). The fortunate few get “manifested” in advance, but most have to travel “space A” (based on availability of space). A U.S. Army manual lying around our quarters gives this directive for dealing with the media: “avoid jargon, acronyms, slang and technical terms.” (The application for a press badge at CPIC asks, inter alia, for my “tribe” and “clan.” I figured I could put “Hebrews” for the former, but “clan” stumped me until the young lady soldier in charge told me I could leave those boxes blank.)

I am sharing space with journalists from Icelandic television, here to cover the exodus of their country’s contingent from MNF-I. Antiwar advocates will surely point to Iceland as yet another desertion from Bush’s coalition. But the significance is easy to overestimate. As the film crew informed me, they were here to cover the “withdrawal of the troop.” When I said, “troops,” they corrected me. There was only one soldier, a pretty 27-year-old blond. After spending the day filming her they returned to CPIC to tell me that she enjoyed her job training Iraqis and regretted being called home.

To help soldiers pass their off-duty hours, bookshelves at this base are crammed with dog-eared paperbacks. Among the mysteries, romance novels, and sci-fi were two items that appeared much less worn. They turned out to be James P. Cannon’s History of Trotskyism in America and a 2005 edition of the journal published by his Socialist Workers Party, announcing, of course, the crisis of capitalism, now in its 160th year of imminence. Interviewing onetime members of the Baathist youth movement, I am reminded that such cockamamie western ideas provided intellectual cover for violent self-aggrandizement in societies bereft of peaceful political norms.

The principal thought on the lips of most Iraqi politicians I spoke to was the urgency of saving their country from domination by Iran. The dominant parties of Iraq’s Shi’ite government are viewed as subservient to Tehran. The new security services have been thoroughly penetrated by Iranian agents. The Sunni chief of a secular party told me that he had received offers of funding from Iran’s ambassador. When he reminded the ambassador that he was outspokenly anti-Iranian, the man replied suavely that Iran wants to help all Iraqis.

Much has been written in recent years about the decay of the U.S. intelligence in its collection and analysis functions. But what about the operational side, i.e., counterintelligence and covert action? One hopes against hope that it is equal to the power struggle in which we find ourselves. Ironically, while America is obsessed with Iraq, Iraqis are prone to see their plight as being the epicenter of a larger struggle. Iran is at war with us for dominance of the Middle East. Iraqis see it. Iranians see it. When will we notice?

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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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The News You Don’t Read

It made big headlines in Israel on Wednesday, February 21, but I don’t imagine it got more than scant attention, if that much, anywhere else.

Police thwart major suicide attack.” That’s not front-page news in America or England—unless, that is, it happened in New York or London. If it happened in Tel Aviv, you need at least a bomb going off, and preferably a death or two, for anyone elsewhere to sit up and take notice. And this explains a certain paradox: the more successful Israel’s army and security services are in preventing deadly acts of Palestinian terror against Israelis, the more the world looks upon the means of prevention as vindictive and unnecessary harassment of Palestinians on Israel’s part.

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It made big headlines in Israel on Wednesday, February 21, but I don’t imagine it got more than scant attention, if that much, anywhere else.

Police thwart major suicide attack.” That’s not front-page news in America or England—unless, that is, it happened in New York or London. If it happened in Tel Aviv, you need at least a bomb going off, and preferably a death or two, for anyone elsewhere to sit up and take notice. And this explains a certain paradox: the more successful Israel’s army and security services are in preventing deadly acts of Palestinian terror against Israelis, the more the world looks upon the means of prevention as vindictive and unnecessary harassment of Palestinians on Israel’s part.

Take this Wednesday’s thwarted bombing. An Islamic Jihad operative from the West Bank city of Jenin was arrested in a Palestinian “safe house” in a southern suburb of Tel Aviv after planting a bomb, which he may have intended to retrieve and blow himself up with, in a trash can in the center of the nearby city of Rishon Letzion. He told his interrogators where the bomb was, a team of sappers was sent to defuse it, and no damage was done. This kind of thing happens all the time in Israel. The main reason it was treated as such a big story this time was that, warned by intelligence sources that the bomber was on his way, the police threw up roadblocks, causing major traffic jams in the Tel Aviv area.

You read such a story in the newspaper and turn the page and go on. Only in the act of turning it, perhaps, do you suddenly stop to wonder: Just a minute—how did Israel’s intelligence services know that someone from Jenin was on his way with a bomb? And how did they know where he was hiding so that they were able to get to him in time?

You won’t find the answers in the newspaper. For obvious reasons, their details are a secret. And yet in a general sort of way, there’s no great mystery. Israeli intelligence must have known about the bomb because it had a Palestinian agent who tipped it off. It may have known about the safe house from another agent. And where did it recruit these agents from? Most probably from the hundreds of Islamic Jihad operatives who have been arrested in recent years at roadblocks, in raids on houses, in dragnets, and in sweeps—in short, in all those operations that have given Israel a reputation for being an unconscionable oppressor. And how did it persuade them to work for it? Possibly with money, possibly with other incentives, possibly with threats against them and their families—that is, by doing the kinds of nasty things that nice people don’t do to one another.

The world hears mostly about the nasty things. “Dozens of Israeli lives saved yesterday” doesn’t play well with the editors of the New York Times or the Guardian in London. We in Israel, who know those lives could have been our own, our friends’, or our family’s, have a different take on it.

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