Commentary Magazine


Topic: Sinai

Israel and the Stakes in Egypt

Today’s report of an Israeli drone strike on a terrorist target in the northern Sinai is more than just another incident in the Jewish state’s long war of attrition against Islamists. The incident reportedly took out a missile launcher on the Egyptian side of the border with Gaza in the city of Rafah and resulted in five terrorists killed. But the most important aspect of the story is the fact that according to the Associated Press, sources in the Egyptian government confirmed that the Israeli pre-emptive attack took place with the cooperation of authorities in Cairo. This comes on the heels of another reported incident during which Israeli authorities briefly closed the airport in Eilat as a result of a tip from the Egyptians that a terror cell in the Sinai was planning to launch long-range missiles that could have hit the city.

While this may seem remarkable to friends of Israel who have been made aware of the depth of anti-Semitic sentiment that seems to pervade all of Egyptian society, it shouldn’t surprise anyone who was aware of the cooperation that went on when Hosni Mubarak was in power. As cold as the peace between the two countries was, for decades Cairo was more interested in combating potential Islamist insurgents than in having another go at Israel. After Mubarak fell and especially once the Muslim Brotherhood took power in Egypt, that changed and the Sinai became an open range for all manner of Islamists. But as a result of the coup that toppled the Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi, the military is determined to clean up the Sinai and to end any terrorist threats to the peace between Israel and Egypt. As the United States ponders what to do and say about the impending conflict between the military and the Brotherhood, an understanding of what is happening in the Sinai since the coup should influence American decision-making.

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Today’s report of an Israeli drone strike on a terrorist target in the northern Sinai is more than just another incident in the Jewish state’s long war of attrition against Islamists. The incident reportedly took out a missile launcher on the Egyptian side of the border with Gaza in the city of Rafah and resulted in five terrorists killed. But the most important aspect of the story is the fact that according to the Associated Press, sources in the Egyptian government confirmed that the Israeli pre-emptive attack took place with the cooperation of authorities in Cairo. This comes on the heels of another reported incident during which Israeli authorities briefly closed the airport in Eilat as a result of a tip from the Egyptians that a terror cell in the Sinai was planning to launch long-range missiles that could have hit the city.

While this may seem remarkable to friends of Israel who have been made aware of the depth of anti-Semitic sentiment that seems to pervade all of Egyptian society, it shouldn’t surprise anyone who was aware of the cooperation that went on when Hosni Mubarak was in power. As cold as the peace between the two countries was, for decades Cairo was more interested in combating potential Islamist insurgents than in having another go at Israel. After Mubarak fell and especially once the Muslim Brotherhood took power in Egypt, that changed and the Sinai became an open range for all manner of Islamists. But as a result of the coup that toppled the Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi, the military is determined to clean up the Sinai and to end any terrorist threats to the peace between Israel and Egypt. As the United States ponders what to do and say about the impending conflict between the military and the Brotherhood, an understanding of what is happening in the Sinai since the coup should influence American decision-making.

As Haaretz notes:

Egyptian security forces claimed Wednesday that it had killed 60 militants in the lawless Sinai Peninsula in the month since the military overthrew Islamist President Mohammed Morsi.

Citing widening “terrorist operations” in “recent times,” the Egyptian army said it was conducting an intensified campaign in Sinai in coordination with the interior ministry to crack down on militants that “threaten Egyptian national security.”

Unlike the Brotherhood, the post-coup government in Cairo understands that the primary threats to “Egyptian national security” are Islamists that are determined to foment violence against both Israel and the Egyptian military. The goal of the Islamists, whether members of an al-Qaeda franchise or the Iran-backed Islamic Jihad group based in Gaza, is to set the border with Israel aflame in an attempt to foment a new war that will both hurt the Jewish state and undermine support for an already unpopular peace treaty in Egypt.

Were the military to be undermined in its conflict with a Brotherhood that is determined to put Morsi back in power and get a second chance to remake Egypt in the image of its Islamist beliefs, all bets are off in the Sinai as well as along the border with Gaza. The military is determined to prevent the Brotherhood from getting that chance and understands, unlike many in the United States, that it is locked in a zero-sum game with the Islamists. Though some Americans may cling to the illusion that the Arab Spring created an opening for democracy in Egypt, the choices there are not between the military and freedom but between military rule and an Islamist tyranny that represents a threat to regional stability.

Far from being minor incidents, recent events illustrate the high stakes for the West in the prevention of another Brotherhood government in Cairo. Secretary of State John Kerry was right when he said the military was trying to restore democracy when it took power last month. But if the United States cuts off aid in response to more violence in the streets between the military and the Brotherhood or in any way seeks to undermine the new government in the coming weeks, it will, in effect, be voting for even worse violence in the Sinai and along the border with Israel.

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A Deafening Silence over Sinai

The attack on the U.S. embassy in Cairo and the Egyptian government’s lame response have understandably drawn international attention. But the same isn’t true for Egypt’s other provocative moves of the last month. And given that American and European officials have been claiming for years that Mideast peace is one of their top foreign policy priorities, their deafening silence over these moves is incomprehensible.

During this month, Egypt first violated the cardinal principle of the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty by remilitarizing the Sinai, and then announced plans to spend a significant chunk of the international aid it is seeking on state-of-the-art submarines rather than its shattered economy. Both the treaty violation and the purchase of weaponry that has no conceivable use except against Israel clearly make the prospect of another Israeli-Egyptian war more likely, which ought to be reason enough to object: Of all the times Israel has tried ceding land for peace, the deal with Egypt is the only case in which it actually worked, so if the peace with Egypt goes, even doves like Israeli cabinet minister Dan Meridor have warned that Israelis will never sign another land-for-peace deal.

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The attack on the U.S. embassy in Cairo and the Egyptian government’s lame response have understandably drawn international attention. But the same isn’t true for Egypt’s other provocative moves of the last month. And given that American and European officials have been claiming for years that Mideast peace is one of their top foreign policy priorities, their deafening silence over these moves is incomprehensible.

During this month, Egypt first violated the cardinal principle of the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty by remilitarizing the Sinai, and then announced plans to spend a significant chunk of the international aid it is seeking on state-of-the-art submarines rather than its shattered economy. Both the treaty violation and the purchase of weaponry that has no conceivable use except against Israel clearly make the prospect of another Israeli-Egyptian war more likely, which ought to be reason enough to object: Of all the times Israel has tried ceding land for peace, the deal with Egypt is the only case in which it actually worked, so if the peace with Egypt goes, even doves like Israeli cabinet minister Dan Meridor have warned that Israelis will never sign another land-for-peace deal.

But as political scientist Amiel Ungar pointed out last week, the remilitarization of Sinai may be enough to quash any future peace deal even if it doesn’t lead to war — because demilitarization has always been a crucial element of other proposed peace deals as well. So if it turns out that demilitarization can be reversed whenever the other party pleases without the world doing anything to stop it, Israelis will think long and hard about entrusting their security to any demilitarization agreement in the future.

Ungar focused specifically on the Palestinian track, given that every serious proposal for an Israeli-Palestinian deal has called for a demilitarized Palestinian state. But what he says is equally true for the Syrian track, since demilitarizing the Golan Heights has been a cardinal element of every Israeli-Syrian deal ever proposed.

Indeed, demilitarization would in some ways be even more crucial on the Palestinian and Syrian fronts than it was with Egypt. The approximately 50 tanks Egypt moved into the border region near Israel last month aren’t a threat in themselves; they are a threat only because they show that Egypt can violate the treaty with impunity, thereby giving it a green light to move more substantial military forces into Sinai in the future. But 50 tanks on either the Golan Heights or the West Bank mountain ridge would be a threat in and of themselves. From the Golan, Syrian tanks could shell much of Israel’s north — which is exactly what they did from 1948 until Israel captured the heights in 1967. And from the West Bank mountain ridge, tanks could shell the entire Israeli heartland, which is home to most of Israel’s population, most of its commercial activity and its only international airport.

Thus if the international community actually considers Arab-Israeli peace a priority, stopping the remilitarization of Sinai is essential. And on this issue, Washington can’t afford to “lead from behind” — because so far, there’s nobody to follow.

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How Israel’s Gaza Pullout Radicalized Sinai

Anyone who still thinks more Israel territorial withdrawals are a good idea should carefully study Ehud Yaari’s chilling new report for The Washington Institute on “Sinai: A New Front.” To anyone who has been following the situation, Yaari’s bottom line – that Sinai-based terrorism “could break a fragile bilateral peace [with Egypt] that is already challenged by growing post-Mubarak demands to abrogate, review, or amend the treaty” – isn’t new; I’ve been warning of this for months. Where the veteran Israeli journalist and Arabist makes a real contribution is his analysis of how Israel’s 2005 pullout from Gaza contributed to Sinai’s radicalization. And while he doesn’t say so, the implication of his research is obvious: An Israeli pullout from the West Bank could similarly radicalize and destabilize Jordan.

Clearly, radicalization doesn’t happen overnight, and Yaari indeed describes a slow spread of radical Islam among the Sinai Bedouin since the 1980s, along with a consequent rise in arms trafficking and terror. But Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza, “and subsequent removal of troops from the Sinai-Gaza border,” catalyzed the process:

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Anyone who still thinks more Israel territorial withdrawals are a good idea should carefully study Ehud Yaari’s chilling new report for The Washington Institute on “Sinai: A New Front.” To anyone who has been following the situation, Yaari’s bottom line – that Sinai-based terrorism “could break a fragile bilateral peace [with Egypt] that is already challenged by growing post-Mubarak demands to abrogate, review, or amend the treaty” – isn’t new; I’ve been warning of this for months. Where the veteran Israeli journalist and Arabist makes a real contribution is his analysis of how Israel’s 2005 pullout from Gaza contributed to Sinai’s radicalization. And while he doesn’t say so, the implication of his research is obvious: An Israeli pullout from the West Bank could similarly radicalize and destabilize Jordan.

Clearly, radicalization doesn’t happen overnight, and Yaari indeed describes a slow spread of radical Islam among the Sinai Bedouin since the 1980s, along with a consequent rise in arms trafficking and terror. But Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza, “and subsequent removal of troops from the Sinai-Gaza border,” catalyzed the process:

As Bedouin political activist Ashraf al-Anani put it, “a fireball started rolling into the peninsula.” Illegal trade and arms smuggling volumes rose to new records, and ever-larger sectors of the northern Sinai population became linked to Gaza and fell under the political and ideological influence of Hamas and its ilk. Sympathy and support for the Palestinian battle against Israel grew; according to al-Anani, the closer one got to the Gaza border, “the more people are inclined toward Hamas.” In short, despite then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s quiet hope that Cairo would assume unofficial responsibility for Gaza affairs, the Israeli withdrawal instead allowed Hamas to export its influence into Egyptian territory.

Facilitated by the dramatic increase in the number of tunnels—which numbered no less than 1,200 at their peak—the expansion of Hamas and other Palestinian activities in the Sinai was unprecedented. In fact, the arms flow was often reversed, with weapons going from Gaza to the Sinai. During the revolution, for example, observers noted a huge demand for firearms in the peninsula. And even in late 2010, well before Mubarak’s ouster, Hamas was already in the process of transferring heavy long-range missiles to secret storage places in the Sinai, including Grad rockets and extended-range Qassams…

Today, a significant number of Hamas military operatives are permanently stationed in the Sinai, serving as recruiters, couriers, and propagators of the Hamas platform. A solid network of the group’s contact men, safe houses, and armories covers much of the peninsula … In addition, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and other factions have been moving some of their explosives workshops—which produce homemade missiles, rockets, mortars, improvised explosive devices, and so forth—from Gaza to the Sinai in recent months. In many ways, the Sinai has already become a sort of hinterland for Hamas military forces in Gaza. Dual-purpose materials used for the production of explosives are regularly transferred to the peninsula, allowing the group to place a significant part of its military industry beyond Israel’s reach.

As in Gaza, an Israeli pullout from the West Bank could easily end in a Hamas takeover. True, the Palestinian Authority is protected by American-trained troops, but the same U.S. general, Keith Dayton, trained the PA forces in Gaza, and Hamas routed them in a week during its 2007 coup.

Moreover, like Sinai, Jordan already has both a homegrown Islamist movement and some serious stability issues. Additionally, Jordan is roughly two-thirds Palestinian, and its Palestinian citizens have close ties of kinship and friendship with West Bank Palestinians. Thus, radicalization on the West Bank would likely spread to Jordan quickly if Israeli troops were no longer serving as a buffer between the two.

So if Western leaders think a radicalized, destabilized Jordan is a good idea, they should by all means keep pushing an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank. But if not, they should be praying that Israel stays put.

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Food Now Being Smuggled Out of Gaza

A tunnel from Gaza to the Sinai that is normally used to transport weapons is now being used to smuggle food out of the Palestinian territory and into Egypt, the Jerusalem Post reported yesterday. The report further debunks the claim that Gaza suffers from food shortages due to the Israeli military blockade:

According to the paper, which supports Hizbullah, traders in control of the tunnels have “been working for days” smuggling bread and food in the “opposite direction” – from Gaza into Egypt — because of “supply disruptions” from Cairo to the Sinai.

Anti-Israel activists have long argued that the Israeli blockade has led to starvation and lack of medical care for Gaza residents. But those claims have never been backed up by reality. Last summer, journalists released photos of fully stocked food markets, restaurants, and luxury swimming pools in the territory. Perhaps these new reports will dispel the food-shortage rumors once and for all — but with the anti-Israel bias of the human-rights groups in the region, it’s pretty doubtful.

A tunnel from Gaza to the Sinai that is normally used to transport weapons is now being used to smuggle food out of the Palestinian territory and into Egypt, the Jerusalem Post reported yesterday. The report further debunks the claim that Gaza suffers from food shortages due to the Israeli military blockade:

According to the paper, which supports Hizbullah, traders in control of the tunnels have “been working for days” smuggling bread and food in the “opposite direction” – from Gaza into Egypt — because of “supply disruptions” from Cairo to the Sinai.

Anti-Israel activists have long argued that the Israeli blockade has led to starvation and lack of medical care for Gaza residents. But those claims have never been backed up by reality. Last summer, journalists released photos of fully stocked food markets, restaurants, and luxury swimming pools in the territory. Perhaps these new reports will dispel the food-shortage rumors once and for all — but with the anti-Israel bias of the human-rights groups in the region, it’s pretty doubtful.

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Uprising Goes Straight for the Canal

Navies and merchant fleets the world over are watching the riots in Egypt with concern. Friday’s news that protesters have attacked the main police station in the city of Suez is a grim development: it transforms the threat to the Suez Canal from a distant consideration to an immediate possibility. The port city of Suez overlooks the southern entrance to the canal; it hosts — along with Port Said, at the northern entrance on the Mediterranean side — Egypt’s security, administrative, and maritime-service forces. Ships queue up daily outside Port Suez to await the north-bound convoy through the canal, which leaves as soon as the south-bound convoy has finished its transit. Egypt provides security along the canal’s 120-mile length, a swath of desert abutting the 200-foot waterway on either side. Veterans of Suez transits know that nothing but armed vigilance will hinder enterprising terrorists or insurgents operating from the banks.

There can be no doubt that the uprising in Egypt, like the one in Tunisia, is fueled by popular sentiment. Ordinary Egyptians have many reasons to want to change their government. But reporting about the riots, in Suez and elsewhere, contains indications that the popular protests are being exploited by more organized groups. The police station in Suez was not stormed by a wave of bodies: it was firebombed by “protesters” wearing surgical masks. In a rural area of the northern Sinai, “protesters” fired RPGs at a police station from nearby rooftops, while several hundred Bedouins exchanged small-arms fire with police.

These are the not the typical actions of frustrated citizens. Mass protests, flag-waving, chanting, impromptu speeches, perhaps the burning of tires and garbage, as in Lebanon this week: these are the things angry citizens do, and the Egyptians have been doing them. But both Hamas and Hezbollah have recent histories of operating in the Sinai; the organized attacks on police are characteristic of their methods and weaponry. Egypt has been gravely concerned about the influence of their principal backer, Iran, for several years — and the organized attack on the main police station in the port city of Suez, situated on one of the world’s major choke points, bears the hallmark of Iranian strategic thinking.

As with Tunisia, the unrest in Egypt is erupting for good reasons and appears spontaneous. But self-appointed revolutionaries have long honed the art of exploiting popular unrest. We can expect Egypt to be beset by organized cells — some undoubtedly backed by Iran — in the coming days. The security of the Suez Canal, the Red Sea, and the eastern Mediterranean is at risk. No outcome is predestined, but this uprising is attended by the same kinds of predators who have sought their fortunes in the uprisings of desperate peoples since 1789.

We are taking a detour back into history, if by a new route — and the same thing is true that has been true since the end of World War II: no nation other than the United States is capable of addressing this emerging problem with an equal concern for freedom and security. Other nations will have to form coalitions to take it on, if Obama’s America sits on the sidelines. We won’t like the outcome if it is handled that way.

Navies and merchant fleets the world over are watching the riots in Egypt with concern. Friday’s news that protesters have attacked the main police station in the city of Suez is a grim development: it transforms the threat to the Suez Canal from a distant consideration to an immediate possibility. The port city of Suez overlooks the southern entrance to the canal; it hosts — along with Port Said, at the northern entrance on the Mediterranean side — Egypt’s security, administrative, and maritime-service forces. Ships queue up daily outside Port Suez to await the north-bound convoy through the canal, which leaves as soon as the south-bound convoy has finished its transit. Egypt provides security along the canal’s 120-mile length, a swath of desert abutting the 200-foot waterway on either side. Veterans of Suez transits know that nothing but armed vigilance will hinder enterprising terrorists or insurgents operating from the banks.

There can be no doubt that the uprising in Egypt, like the one in Tunisia, is fueled by popular sentiment. Ordinary Egyptians have many reasons to want to change their government. But reporting about the riots, in Suez and elsewhere, contains indications that the popular protests are being exploited by more organized groups. The police station in Suez was not stormed by a wave of bodies: it was firebombed by “protesters” wearing surgical masks. In a rural area of the northern Sinai, “protesters” fired RPGs at a police station from nearby rooftops, while several hundred Bedouins exchanged small-arms fire with police.

These are the not the typical actions of frustrated citizens. Mass protests, flag-waving, chanting, impromptu speeches, perhaps the burning of tires and garbage, as in Lebanon this week: these are the things angry citizens do, and the Egyptians have been doing them. But both Hamas and Hezbollah have recent histories of operating in the Sinai; the organized attacks on police are characteristic of their methods and weaponry. Egypt has been gravely concerned about the influence of their principal backer, Iran, for several years — and the organized attack on the main police station in the port city of Suez, situated on one of the world’s major choke points, bears the hallmark of Iranian strategic thinking.

As with Tunisia, the unrest in Egypt is erupting for good reasons and appears spontaneous. But self-appointed revolutionaries have long honed the art of exploiting popular unrest. We can expect Egypt to be beset by organized cells — some undoubtedly backed by Iran — in the coming days. The security of the Suez Canal, the Red Sea, and the eastern Mediterranean is at risk. No outcome is predestined, but this uprising is attended by the same kinds of predators who have sought their fortunes in the uprisings of desperate peoples since 1789.

We are taking a detour back into history, if by a new route — and the same thing is true that has been true since the end of World War II: no nation other than the United States is capable of addressing this emerging problem with an equal concern for freedom and security. Other nations will have to form coalitions to take it on, if Obama’s America sits on the sidelines. We won’t like the outcome if it is handled that way.

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Selective Reading Results in Daft Analysis

You can always count on the Center for American Progress — a Democratic Party propaganda shop disguised as a think tank — to come up with a cheap partisan screed on any issue. And with their response to my concerns about cutting the defense budget, they do not disappoint. Their Matt Duss claims that my concern about cutting troop size is evidence of my animus against President Obama and that I was a cheerleader for a smaller force size under President Bush.

This feat he accomplishes through highly selective, indeed misleading, quotation. For instance, he cites a 2003 Foreign Affairs article I wrote in which I hailed the successful invasion of Iraq as a signal military achievement. He utterly ignores the fact that while I did say the U.S. armed forces could do more with less in a conventional conflict, I noted that this was not the case in nation-building and counterinsurgency. Here is what the article said:

It may make sense to transform some heavy armored units into lighter,
more deployable formations. It makes no sense to reduce the size of
the army as whole, an idea that Rumsfeld once toyed with. The army has
already shrunk from 18 active-duty divisions in 1990 to 10 today — a
force that is not adequate for all its responsibilities, which include
deployments in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo, Sinai, South Korea, and
now Iraq. The army is overstretched and having to lean more heavily on
the reserves and the National Guard for vital functions such as
policing and civil affairs. These part-time soldiers are not happy
about becoming full-timers. The marines should pick up some of the
slack by shouldering occupation duties in Iraq and elsewhere. But the
active-duty army still needs to be increased in size. Airpower, no
matter how awesome, cannot police newly liberated countries — or
build democratic governments. Read More

You can always count on the Center for American Progress — a Democratic Party propaganda shop disguised as a think tank — to come up with a cheap partisan screed on any issue. And with their response to my concerns about cutting the defense budget, they do not disappoint. Their Matt Duss claims that my concern about cutting troop size is evidence of my animus against President Obama and that I was a cheerleader for a smaller force size under President Bush.

This feat he accomplishes through highly selective, indeed misleading, quotation. For instance, he cites a 2003 Foreign Affairs article I wrote in which I hailed the successful invasion of Iraq as a signal military achievement. He utterly ignores the fact that while I did say the U.S. armed forces could do more with less in a conventional conflict, I noted that this was not the case in nation-building and counterinsurgency. Here is what the article said:

It may make sense to transform some heavy armored units into lighter,
more deployable formations. It makes no sense to reduce the size of
the army as whole, an idea that Rumsfeld once toyed with. The army has
already shrunk from 18 active-duty divisions in 1990 to 10 today — a
force that is not adequate for all its responsibilities, which include
deployments in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo, Sinai, South Korea, and
now Iraq. The army is overstretched and having to lean more heavily on
the reserves and the National Guard for vital functions such as
policing and civil affairs. These part-time soldiers are not happy
about becoming full-timers. The marines should pick up some of the
slack by shouldering occupation duties in Iraq and elsewhere. But the
active-duty army still needs to be increased in size. Airpower, no
matter how awesome, cannot police newly liberated countries — or
build democratic governments.

The army needs to tackle the task of “imperial” policing — not a
popular duty, but one that is as vital to safeguarding U.S. interests
in the long run as are the more conventional war-fighting skills on
display during the second Gulf War. The Army War College’s decision to
shut down its Peacekeeping Institute is not a good sign; it means that
the army still wants to avoid focusing on noncombat missions. The army
brass should realize that battlefield victories in places like Afghanistan and Iraq can easily be squandered if they do not do enough
to win the peace.

I picked up on this point in a 2005 Foreign Affairs article that Duss somehow ignores. I wrote:

Even if the Defense Department wanted to dramatically increase the size of the force in Iraq — a step that many experts believe is essential — it
would be hard pressed to find the necessary troops. As it is,
active-duty divisions are being worn down by constant rotations
through Afghanistan and Iraq, and the National Guard and reserves are
now feeling the strain as well. Essential equipment, such as Humvees
and helicopters, is getting worn out by constant use in harsh
conditions. So are the soldiers who operate them. Many officers worry
about a looming recruitment and retention crisis.

This points to the need to increase the overall size of the U.S.
military — especially the Army, which was cut more than 30 percent in
the 1990s. Bush and Rumsfeld have adamantly resisted any permanent
personnel increase because they insist, contrary to all evidence, that
the spike in overseas deployments is only temporary. Rumsfeld instead
plans to reassign soldiers from lower-priority billets to military
policing, intelligence, and civil affairs, while temporarily
increasing the Army’s size by 30,000 and moving civilians into jobs
now performed by uniformed personnel. In this way he hopes to increase
the number of active-duty Army combat brigades from 33 to at least 43.

These are welcome moves, but they are only Band-AIDS for a military
that is bleeding from gaping wounds inflicted by a punishing tempo of
operations. The U.S. armed forces should add at least 100,000 extra
soldiers, and probably a good deal more.

I have quoted extensively from my own writing to show what a crock this attack is. I have been consistently arguing for an increase in the size of our ground combat forces. Failure to increase end-strength more was one of the major mistakes that President Bush made — as I said at the time. I only hope that President Obama does not repeat this mistake.

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Another Thumbs Down on Obama’s Middle East Gambit

We’ve yet to find a Middle East expert — right, left, or centrist — who thinks that the Obami’s bribe-a-thon is a swell idea. The latest to weigh in is Leslie Gelb, who objects on the grounds that the deal is too generous and gives up American leverage (such as it is) over Israel. My complaints are different, but I don’t disagree with his ultimate conclusion:

Based on my reading of this torturous history, I would not try to start negotiating between Israel and Palestine by leaning on or bribing Israel for the umpteenth time. It hasn’t worked. It won’t work. What might succeed is a dramatic step not by the Israelis, but by the Palestinians. Their leaders should be emulating Anwar Sadat, the great Egyptian president who went to Jerusalem in 1977. His nation had been defeated in the 1973 war, and Israel occupied the entire Sinai Peninsula, a historic Egyptian territory. There was no prospect that Israel would return this land after Egypt had attacked Israel in 1973. But President Sadat took his pride and his great dream for peace with Israel and stood before the Israeli Knesset. In effect, he put his life, not to mention his popularity at home, on the line and conferred recognition and legitimacy upon the state of Israel. In return, Israel returned the Sinai to Egypt, every square inch. …

Today, President Abbas of the Palestinians and his Prime Minister Fayyad also can journey to the Knesset. And there, they can pledge acceptance of “a Jewish state of Israel.” Those very words could not help but unleash a positive Israeli response on the West Bank and even East Jerusalem. That act alone would shrink the haystack of hatred so that the two sides might find the needle of peace.

Well, if you reply that this will never happen, then the question becomes: what are we doing spending precious time and attention on the so-called peace process? If it is inconceivable that the PA leaders would transform themselves into Sadat, then it’s time to stop the charade and focus on improving life in the West Bank and wait for a new generation of leaders and Palestinian citizens to agree that they want the grapes more than they desire to kill the vineyard guard.

We’ve yet to find a Middle East expert — right, left, or centrist — who thinks that the Obami’s bribe-a-thon is a swell idea. The latest to weigh in is Leslie Gelb, who objects on the grounds that the deal is too generous and gives up American leverage (such as it is) over Israel. My complaints are different, but I don’t disagree with his ultimate conclusion:

Based on my reading of this torturous history, I would not try to start negotiating between Israel and Palestine by leaning on or bribing Israel for the umpteenth time. It hasn’t worked. It won’t work. What might succeed is a dramatic step not by the Israelis, but by the Palestinians. Their leaders should be emulating Anwar Sadat, the great Egyptian president who went to Jerusalem in 1977. His nation had been defeated in the 1973 war, and Israel occupied the entire Sinai Peninsula, a historic Egyptian territory. There was no prospect that Israel would return this land after Egypt had attacked Israel in 1973. But President Sadat took his pride and his great dream for peace with Israel and stood before the Israeli Knesset. In effect, he put his life, not to mention his popularity at home, on the line and conferred recognition and legitimacy upon the state of Israel. In return, Israel returned the Sinai to Egypt, every square inch. …

Today, President Abbas of the Palestinians and his Prime Minister Fayyad also can journey to the Knesset. And there, they can pledge acceptance of “a Jewish state of Israel.” Those very words could not help but unleash a positive Israeli response on the West Bank and even East Jerusalem. That act alone would shrink the haystack of hatred so that the two sides might find the needle of peace.

Well, if you reply that this will never happen, then the question becomes: what are we doing spending precious time and attention on the so-called peace process? If it is inconceivable that the PA leaders would transform themselves into Sadat, then it’s time to stop the charade and focus on improving life in the West Bank and wait for a new generation of leaders and Palestinian citizens to agree that they want the grapes more than they desire to kill the vineyard guard.

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The Trouble with International Forces

The latest argument by Palestinian flacks like Haaretz reporter Akiva Eldar is that with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas having agreed to host an international force such as “UNIFIL or NATO” in the West Bank following an Israeli withdrawal, Israel has no more security worries and therefore no excuse for any delays in reaching an agreement on such a withdrawal.

But anyone who actually believes that Israel can or should rely on “an international force to defend Israel’s well-being” should consider the latest news on UNIFIL’s mission in south Lebanon.

As defined by UN Security Council Resolution 1701, this mission is, inter alia, to “assist the Lebanese armed forces” in making the south of the Litani River “an area free of any armed personnel, assets and weapons other than those of the Government of Lebanon and of UNIFIL.”

But a few weeks ago, something dreadful happened: a French contingent of UNIFIL actually tried to carry out this mission. It began using sniffer dogs to detect illegal weapons and explosives and insisted on searching homes and yards where it had reason to believe Hezbollah was stockpiling such arms.

The immediate result was a series of clashes apparently either staged or encouraged by Hezbollah between Lebanese villagers and UNIFIL troops. In the most serious incident, villagers hurled stones at the peacekeepers, seized their weapons, and vandalized their vehicle.

The second result was that, at the end of last week, UNIFIL agreed to stop using sniffer dogs and refrain from entering homes and yards – or, in other words, to stop carrying out its mission of detecting illegal Hezbollah weapons. Its commander, Maj. Gen. Alberto Asarta Cuevas, followed that up with a fawning apology for the “mistakes,” published in the Lebanese press as an open letter to the Lebanese people.

In fairness, you can’t really blame UNIFIL. Soldiers are expected to risk their lives to defend their own countries and their own people, but it’s quite understandable that they are less enthusiastic about risking their lives to defend someone else’s country and someone else’s people unless their own country sees a vital national interest in so doing (as the U.S. does in Afghanistan). And the risks are real: in 2007, for instance, six Spanish UNIFIL members whom Israel considered particularly effective were killed by a roadside bomb in what appeared to be a clear message from Hezbollah.

But that understandable reluctance to die for someone else’s country has made peacekeepers consistently ineffective at stopping active fighting. Examples abound, from Dutch peacekeepers’ failure to prevent the Srebrenica massacre in 1995 to the UN peacekeepers’ obedient withdrawal from Sinai in 1967 when Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser wanted a path cleared for his troops to invade Israel.

In other words, an international force would be useless at preventing anti-Israel terror if Palestinians wanted to perpetrate such attacks — and completely unnecessary if they did not.

Unfortunately, experience has taught most Israelis to consider the former possibility more likely. And until that changes, they will view any substitute for their own army in the West Bank as a nonstarter.

The latest argument by Palestinian flacks like Haaretz reporter Akiva Eldar is that with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas having agreed to host an international force such as “UNIFIL or NATO” in the West Bank following an Israeli withdrawal, Israel has no more security worries and therefore no excuse for any delays in reaching an agreement on such a withdrawal.

But anyone who actually believes that Israel can or should rely on “an international force to defend Israel’s well-being” should consider the latest news on UNIFIL’s mission in south Lebanon.

As defined by UN Security Council Resolution 1701, this mission is, inter alia, to “assist the Lebanese armed forces” in making the south of the Litani River “an area free of any armed personnel, assets and weapons other than those of the Government of Lebanon and of UNIFIL.”

But a few weeks ago, something dreadful happened: a French contingent of UNIFIL actually tried to carry out this mission. It began using sniffer dogs to detect illegal weapons and explosives and insisted on searching homes and yards where it had reason to believe Hezbollah was stockpiling such arms.

The immediate result was a series of clashes apparently either staged or encouraged by Hezbollah between Lebanese villagers and UNIFIL troops. In the most serious incident, villagers hurled stones at the peacekeepers, seized their weapons, and vandalized their vehicle.

The second result was that, at the end of last week, UNIFIL agreed to stop using sniffer dogs and refrain from entering homes and yards – or, in other words, to stop carrying out its mission of detecting illegal Hezbollah weapons. Its commander, Maj. Gen. Alberto Asarta Cuevas, followed that up with a fawning apology for the “mistakes,” published in the Lebanese press as an open letter to the Lebanese people.

In fairness, you can’t really blame UNIFIL. Soldiers are expected to risk their lives to defend their own countries and their own people, but it’s quite understandable that they are less enthusiastic about risking their lives to defend someone else’s country and someone else’s people unless their own country sees a vital national interest in so doing (as the U.S. does in Afghanistan). And the risks are real: in 2007, for instance, six Spanish UNIFIL members whom Israel considered particularly effective were killed by a roadside bomb in what appeared to be a clear message from Hezbollah.

But that understandable reluctance to die for someone else’s country has made peacekeepers consistently ineffective at stopping active fighting. Examples abound, from Dutch peacekeepers’ failure to prevent the Srebrenica massacre in 1995 to the UN peacekeepers’ obedient withdrawal from Sinai in 1967 when Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser wanted a path cleared for his troops to invade Israel.

In other words, an international force would be useless at preventing anti-Israel terror if Palestinians wanted to perpetrate such attacks — and completely unnecessary if they did not.

Unfortunately, experience has taught most Israelis to consider the former possibility more likely. And until that changes, they will view any substitute for their own army in the West Bank as a nonstarter.

Read Less

Jews Go Nuts over a Counseling Group for Pregnant Jewish Teens — Really

It is no secret that American Jews, especially Jewish women, are staunchly pro-choice. Norman Podhoretz has written that many Jewish women “think that the absolute right to an abortion had been inscribed on the tablets Moses brought down from Sinai.” It is no exaggeration to say that abortion rights are a much more significant factor (as are the environment, health care, and every item on the domestic wish list of the left) than Israel in determining the votes of a sizeable segment of Jewish voters.

So you can imagine the reaction when a new Jewish organization dedicated to providing resources, counseling, and ample information to pregnant Jewish women and teens — one not even pro-life in its core message — arrived on the scene. Yes, liberal Jews went bonkers.

The group is In Shifra’s Arms, headed by a young Jewish woman, Erica Pelman. Pelman was inspired to start the organization after a life-altering experience – she found herself unable and uncertain about how to provide advice to a friend who was pregnant and who felt she had no choice but to have an abortion. The group does not advocate politically or tout a pro-life line. Rather, its focus is on providing resources to pregnant girls and women should they choose to have their baby and making clear that no woman should feel that abortion is her only option. Its website explains:

We know that many women do not feel free to choose parenting or adoption when faced with an unplanned pregnancy, and therefore feel they must abort. In one study, 64% of American women who aborted reported being pressured by others to abort and 84% reported that they did not receive adequate counseling prior to aborting (1). Additionally, research has found that college campuses in particular are very unlikely to provide support for pregnant students and this lack of support becomes a pressure to abort; about a third of abortions take place amongst college-aged women (2). …

We respect each woman’s ability to determine her future.  We would not judge any woman for becoming pregnant unintentionally or for considering abortion.  We believe in the inner strength, independence, and capabilities of the women who call us.

Now could that be controversial?  How could giving a girl maternity clothes, an internship in D.C. (so her gap in schooling is not a hindrance in her future career), and explaining that there is a huge demand among Jewish women to adopt (all of which Shifra’s Arms does) objectionable?  After all, there are many Christian and non-denominational counseling organizations, but none other than Shifra’s Arms that is aimed at the Jewish community. Well, to those who shudder at the notion that abortion may have adverse psychological consequences or that an abortion is not any bigger deal than have your nails done, Shifra’s Arms is an anathema.

In a piece by the Jewish Weekly, critics pounced. Alyssa Zucker, professor of psychology and women’s studies at George Washington University, asserted “while these organizations say they are about choice, they are really not. Their goal is to convince women not to have abortions.” Nancy Ratzan, the president of the National Council of Jewish Women, declared that Sifra’s Arms’s website “looks like it fits the model that targets young women in a deceptive way. … [We are] greatly concerned about pregnancy crisis centers and their focus to limit women’s choice and undermine the rights of women.”

What seems to get under these groups’ skins is the mere suggestion that abortion may be a traumatic event with long-term consequences to women. (In the Jewish Weekly, Zucker proclaimed: “From looking at the In Shifra’s Arms Web site, it is talking about emotional risks, but it is citing studies that show extreme results. … The majority of studies show women are fine.”) The Shifra’s Arms’s website provides links to research studies and websites regarding the impact of abortion. In measured language, it explains:

Every abortion procedure involves some potential risk of harm and side effects. You have the legal right to know what type of procedure will be performed upon you and what specific risks of harm or side effects are associated with the performance of this procedure on you. Many women, particularly women who have felt rushed or coerced into abortion, or who felt they did not have access to other options, report significant emotional side effects. Other women feel relieved in the short term, but later feel significant loss or regret.

But that is too much for many rabidly pro-abortion groups. Attacks sprang up at a variety of websites. At the Reproductive Health website, the editor in chief, Jodi Jacobson, attacked Shifra’s Arms and all pregnancy-counseling organizations as frauds and menaces that seek to “channel” women’s choices (unlike the pristinly neutral Planned Parenthood?). Over at the Sisterhood blog at the Forward, they were outraged that women might not get an undiluted pro-abortion message, but they were heartened as well: “At least we can get comfort in the backlash from other Jewish groups and bloggers, and the fact that out of thousands of these centers, only one is aimed at Jewish women.” Good to know that the hysteria from fellow Jews was solace.

The critics also complain that Shifra’s Arms doesn’t provide contraception or medical advice. Pelman explains to me that the employees are not medical professionals and don’t dispense medical advice. Instead, they provide mentors to young women, explain adoption rules, assist in dealing with school administrators, and, for clients who want to either keep the baby or pursue adoption, support them in counteracting the overwhelming pressure they may face to abort and “get on” with their lives. Perlman says simply, “There are two ways to terminate a pregnancy — abortion and giving birth.”

The critics of Shifra’s Arms reveal far more about themselves than the object of their ire. It seems there is nothing quite so dangerous in their eyes as providing Jewish women with information and an alternative that clashes with the abortion-on-demand inscription on those liberal tablets. And abortion-rights activists certainly don’t appreciate the reminder that there are Jewish couples waiting in some cases more than a decade to adopt a Jewish baby.

Abortion-rights advocates insist they aren’t “pro-abortion,” but their vehement reaction to a group offering real choice (and an opportunity for Jewish women to contemplate a critical life decision) is the most telling evidence that this is precisely what they are.

It is no secret that American Jews, especially Jewish women, are staunchly pro-choice. Norman Podhoretz has written that many Jewish women “think that the absolute right to an abortion had been inscribed on the tablets Moses brought down from Sinai.” It is no exaggeration to say that abortion rights are a much more significant factor (as are the environment, health care, and every item on the domestic wish list of the left) than Israel in determining the votes of a sizeable segment of Jewish voters.

So you can imagine the reaction when a new Jewish organization dedicated to providing resources, counseling, and ample information to pregnant Jewish women and teens — one not even pro-life in its core message — arrived on the scene. Yes, liberal Jews went bonkers.

The group is In Shifra’s Arms, headed by a young Jewish woman, Erica Pelman. Pelman was inspired to start the organization after a life-altering experience – she found herself unable and uncertain about how to provide advice to a friend who was pregnant and who felt she had no choice but to have an abortion. The group does not advocate politically or tout a pro-life line. Rather, its focus is on providing resources to pregnant girls and women should they choose to have their baby and making clear that no woman should feel that abortion is her only option. Its website explains:

We know that many women do not feel free to choose parenting or adoption when faced with an unplanned pregnancy, and therefore feel they must abort. In one study, 64% of American women who aborted reported being pressured by others to abort and 84% reported that they did not receive adequate counseling prior to aborting (1). Additionally, research has found that college campuses in particular are very unlikely to provide support for pregnant students and this lack of support becomes a pressure to abort; about a third of abortions take place amongst college-aged women (2). …

We respect each woman’s ability to determine her future.  We would not judge any woman for becoming pregnant unintentionally or for considering abortion.  We believe in the inner strength, independence, and capabilities of the women who call us.

Now could that be controversial?  How could giving a girl maternity clothes, an internship in D.C. (so her gap in schooling is not a hindrance in her future career), and explaining that there is a huge demand among Jewish women to adopt (all of which Shifra’s Arms does) objectionable?  After all, there are many Christian and non-denominational counseling organizations, but none other than Shifra’s Arms that is aimed at the Jewish community. Well, to those who shudder at the notion that abortion may have adverse psychological consequences or that an abortion is not any bigger deal than have your nails done, Shifra’s Arms is an anathema.

In a piece by the Jewish Weekly, critics pounced. Alyssa Zucker, professor of psychology and women’s studies at George Washington University, asserted “while these organizations say they are about choice, they are really not. Their goal is to convince women not to have abortions.” Nancy Ratzan, the president of the National Council of Jewish Women, declared that Sifra’s Arms’s website “looks like it fits the model that targets young women in a deceptive way. … [We are] greatly concerned about pregnancy crisis centers and their focus to limit women’s choice and undermine the rights of women.”

What seems to get under these groups’ skins is the mere suggestion that abortion may be a traumatic event with long-term consequences to women. (In the Jewish Weekly, Zucker proclaimed: “From looking at the In Shifra’s Arms Web site, it is talking about emotional risks, but it is citing studies that show extreme results. … The majority of studies show women are fine.”) The Shifra’s Arms’s website provides links to research studies and websites regarding the impact of abortion. In measured language, it explains:

Every abortion procedure involves some potential risk of harm and side effects. You have the legal right to know what type of procedure will be performed upon you and what specific risks of harm or side effects are associated with the performance of this procedure on you. Many women, particularly women who have felt rushed or coerced into abortion, or who felt they did not have access to other options, report significant emotional side effects. Other women feel relieved in the short term, but later feel significant loss or regret.

But that is too much for many rabidly pro-abortion groups. Attacks sprang up at a variety of websites. At the Reproductive Health website, the editor in chief, Jodi Jacobson, attacked Shifra’s Arms and all pregnancy-counseling organizations as frauds and menaces that seek to “channel” women’s choices (unlike the pristinly neutral Planned Parenthood?). Over at the Sisterhood blog at the Forward, they were outraged that women might not get an undiluted pro-abortion message, but they were heartened as well: “At least we can get comfort in the backlash from other Jewish groups and bloggers, and the fact that out of thousands of these centers, only one is aimed at Jewish women.” Good to know that the hysteria from fellow Jews was solace.

The critics also complain that Shifra’s Arms doesn’t provide contraception or medical advice. Pelman explains to me that the employees are not medical professionals and don’t dispense medical advice. Instead, they provide mentors to young women, explain adoption rules, assist in dealing with school administrators, and, for clients who want to either keep the baby or pursue adoption, support them in counteracting the overwhelming pressure they may face to abort and “get on” with their lives. Perlman says simply, “There are two ways to terminate a pregnancy — abortion and giving birth.”

The critics of Shifra’s Arms reveal far more about themselves than the object of their ire. It seems there is nothing quite so dangerous in their eyes as providing Jewish women with information and an alternative that clashes with the abortion-on-demand inscription on those liberal tablets. And abortion-rights activists certainly don’t appreciate the reminder that there are Jewish couples waiting in some cases more than a decade to adopt a Jewish baby.

Abortion-rights advocates insist they aren’t “pro-abortion,” but their vehement reaction to a group offering real choice (and an opportunity for Jewish women to contemplate a critical life decision) is the most telling evidence that this is precisely what they are.

Read Less

Marco Rubio Gets It

Marco Rubio addressed a gathering of Jewish Republicans in Florida on Thursday. The entire speech should be read in full. It is frankly the best speech on Israel since George W. Bush went to the Knesset.

A few points are most noteworthy. First, he understands that the flotilla incident is part of a larger history and that America in the past has responded quite differently when Israel was assaulted for defending itself:

Support for Israel by the United States in a time of crisis has been a given for over 60 years. And yet, lately, there is the emerging sense that this long-standing relationship isn’t what it used to be. We are in the midst of an all out, concerted global effort to delegitimize Israel’s right to exist. The recent flotilla incident and the reaction of many in the international community is nothing more than a part of that effort. In no way can the U.S. allow a path to be cleared that would enable the United Nations or any international body to discredit and diminish our democratic friend and partner. If Israel’s right to self-defense is undermined by efforts to lift its legal and necessary blockade of Gaza, which serves to stop Hamas from arming itself with deadly weapons, there will be lasting consequences not only for Israel, but also for the U.S. and the entire world.

Second, he understands that Israel and the U.S. are joined in facing common foes:

Israel’s enemies are or will soon be America’s enemies as well. They are emboldened every time they sense any sort of daylight between the United States and Israel. Now more than at any other time, it is important America have a firm and clear relationship with Israel.  . . Israel is a valued American ally, our closest and most reliable friend in the Middle East, and the only democracy there. Living in a democracy, Israel’s Arabs enjoy fundamental human rights and liberties that are limited or virtually non-existent in majority-ruled Arab countries.  Israel is not a problem or obstacle to peace and should not be treated as one. In every incident, every pronouncement and every action related to Israel, enemies like Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah look for signs of weakness in America’s support as an invitation to undermine Israel and move one step closer to her destruction. The stronger the U.S.-Israel alliance, the stronger the moderate, pro-U.S. elements in the Arab world will be. If the U.S. shows itself to be an unreliable ally to Israel, moderate Arab states will take note that they cannot trust the U.S. to be a reliable friend for them either.

Third, he understands that the obstacle to peace is not Israel and that the U.S. has no business imposing a peace deal:

So long as other governments mercilessly criticize Israel, so long as the Palestinians ignore the problems of their own society and blame everything on Israel, and so long as Palestinian extremists are emboldened by extremist forces across the region, a two-state solution almost certainly can’t happen. … We should always remember that the obstacle to peace isn’t Israel; it is Palestinian extremists and Islamic terrorists who will not accept the Jewish State.

Next he pushes back against Obama’s Jerusalem-housing obsession and his fetish for a West Bank settlement freeze:

Jerusalem is Israel’s capital, as the U.S. Congress has repeatedly recognized. The U.S. should work toward the goal of moving our Embassy there. We should stop condemning or punishing Israel for allowing Jews to build homes in their capital city, one to which Jews have an historic and religious attachment. … [C]onstruction activity in West Bank settlements has never before prevented negotiations, and a “construction freeze” should not be a precondition for them. Israel has shown — in Sinai, Gaza, and the West Bank — the willingness to remove settlements and their inhabitants. The Government of Israel, under several prime ministers, has made clear its understanding that a negotiated agreement with the Palestinians will require removal of many West Bank settlements. The U.S. must continue to support the position expressed by President Bush in a 2004 letter to Prime Minister Sharon, which stated that there would be no return to the 1949 armistice lines and that those lines would have to be adjusted to reflect changes on the ground since 1967 — major new settlements where thousands of Israeli families live.

Then he goes after Obama for the administration’s conduct in international bodies:

In recent weeks, tensions have heightened in the Middle East with the confrontation provoked by the Turkish Flotilla. It was outrageous for the United States to abandon Israel at the UN, and support a Security Council statement condemning the acts that led to bloodshed, including Israel’s need to defend itself. There will be world-wide consequences if the United States continues to pressure Israel to lift its legal and necessary blockade of Gaza. Iran and its terrorist surrogates are the only ones who will benefit. …

It is also important to highlight the outrageous actions of the Obama Administration in supporting the UN resolution – passed at the Nuclear Non-proliferation Conference – just three days before the Flotilla incident. … I am deeply concerned that the U.S. chose to support a UN resolution that undermines Israel’s security, while giving Iran a “free pass.”

He concludes by addressing “the singles greatest threat” to Israel and the U.S. — a nuclear-armed Iran. He argues for stronger sanctions, pointing out the absurdity of allowing a carve-out for Russia’s S300 sale to Iran. And he includes something we have never heard from Obama:

Military action against Iran is undesirable. However, a nuclear Iran is unacceptable. Ultimately, we must use all means at our disposal to stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. And if Israel needs to act to prevent this we should give her our full support.

This is what we should demand and expect of every candidate and official who styles himself as “pro-Israel.” And it is an embarrassment that the finest explication of these issues and statement of determination does not come from Jewish leaders, who still scurry here and there trying to reconcile two irreconcilable realities (i.e., Obama’s stance toward Israel and defense of the Jewish state). When a new occupant enters the White House, he or she would do well to pull out Rubio’s speech and use it as the foundation for America’s Israel policy.

Marco Rubio addressed a gathering of Jewish Republicans in Florida on Thursday. The entire speech should be read in full. It is frankly the best speech on Israel since George W. Bush went to the Knesset.

A few points are most noteworthy. First, he understands that the flotilla incident is part of a larger history and that America in the past has responded quite differently when Israel was assaulted for defending itself:

Support for Israel by the United States in a time of crisis has been a given for over 60 years. And yet, lately, there is the emerging sense that this long-standing relationship isn’t what it used to be. We are in the midst of an all out, concerted global effort to delegitimize Israel’s right to exist. The recent flotilla incident and the reaction of many in the international community is nothing more than a part of that effort. In no way can the U.S. allow a path to be cleared that would enable the United Nations or any international body to discredit and diminish our democratic friend and partner. If Israel’s right to self-defense is undermined by efforts to lift its legal and necessary blockade of Gaza, which serves to stop Hamas from arming itself with deadly weapons, there will be lasting consequences not only for Israel, but also for the U.S. and the entire world.

Second, he understands that Israel and the U.S. are joined in facing common foes:

Israel’s enemies are or will soon be America’s enemies as well. They are emboldened every time they sense any sort of daylight between the United States and Israel. Now more than at any other time, it is important America have a firm and clear relationship with Israel.  . . Israel is a valued American ally, our closest and most reliable friend in the Middle East, and the only democracy there. Living in a democracy, Israel’s Arabs enjoy fundamental human rights and liberties that are limited or virtually non-existent in majority-ruled Arab countries.  Israel is not a problem or obstacle to peace and should not be treated as one. In every incident, every pronouncement and every action related to Israel, enemies like Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah look for signs of weakness in America’s support as an invitation to undermine Israel and move one step closer to her destruction. The stronger the U.S.-Israel alliance, the stronger the moderate, pro-U.S. elements in the Arab world will be. If the U.S. shows itself to be an unreliable ally to Israel, moderate Arab states will take note that they cannot trust the U.S. to be a reliable friend for them either.

Third, he understands that the obstacle to peace is not Israel and that the U.S. has no business imposing a peace deal:

So long as other governments mercilessly criticize Israel, so long as the Palestinians ignore the problems of their own society and blame everything on Israel, and so long as Palestinian extremists are emboldened by extremist forces across the region, a two-state solution almost certainly can’t happen. … We should always remember that the obstacle to peace isn’t Israel; it is Palestinian extremists and Islamic terrorists who will not accept the Jewish State.

Next he pushes back against Obama’s Jerusalem-housing obsession and his fetish for a West Bank settlement freeze:

Jerusalem is Israel’s capital, as the U.S. Congress has repeatedly recognized. The U.S. should work toward the goal of moving our Embassy there. We should stop condemning or punishing Israel for allowing Jews to build homes in their capital city, one to which Jews have an historic and religious attachment. … [C]onstruction activity in West Bank settlements has never before prevented negotiations, and a “construction freeze” should not be a precondition for them. Israel has shown — in Sinai, Gaza, and the West Bank — the willingness to remove settlements and their inhabitants. The Government of Israel, under several prime ministers, has made clear its understanding that a negotiated agreement with the Palestinians will require removal of many West Bank settlements. The U.S. must continue to support the position expressed by President Bush in a 2004 letter to Prime Minister Sharon, which stated that there would be no return to the 1949 armistice lines and that those lines would have to be adjusted to reflect changes on the ground since 1967 — major new settlements where thousands of Israeli families live.

Then he goes after Obama for the administration’s conduct in international bodies:

In recent weeks, tensions have heightened in the Middle East with the confrontation provoked by the Turkish Flotilla. It was outrageous for the United States to abandon Israel at the UN, and support a Security Council statement condemning the acts that led to bloodshed, including Israel’s need to defend itself. There will be world-wide consequences if the United States continues to pressure Israel to lift its legal and necessary blockade of Gaza. Iran and its terrorist surrogates are the only ones who will benefit. …

It is also important to highlight the outrageous actions of the Obama Administration in supporting the UN resolution – passed at the Nuclear Non-proliferation Conference – just three days before the Flotilla incident. … I am deeply concerned that the U.S. chose to support a UN resolution that undermines Israel’s security, while giving Iran a “free pass.”

He concludes by addressing “the singles greatest threat” to Israel and the U.S. — a nuclear-armed Iran. He argues for stronger sanctions, pointing out the absurdity of allowing a carve-out for Russia’s S300 sale to Iran. And he includes something we have never heard from Obama:

Military action against Iran is undesirable. However, a nuclear Iran is unacceptable. Ultimately, we must use all means at our disposal to stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. And if Israel needs to act to prevent this we should give her our full support.

This is what we should demand and expect of every candidate and official who styles himself as “pro-Israel.” And it is an embarrassment that the finest explication of these issues and statement of determination does not come from Jewish leaders, who still scurry here and there trying to reconcile two irreconcilable realities (i.e., Obama’s stance toward Israel and defense of the Jewish state). When a new occupant enters the White House, he or she would do well to pull out Rubio’s speech and use it as the foundation for America’s Israel policy.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

But Obama said unemployment would remain under 8 percent if Congress passed the stimulus. “Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said the U.S. recovery probably won’t quickly bring down the unemployment rate, which is likely to stay ‘high for a while.’ … The June 4 Labor Department report ‘shows we are still in a jobless recovery,’ Allen Sinai, chief global economist at Decision Economics in New York, said in an interview on Bloomberg Radio. ‘Ex-census we are only 41,000. That is terrible. … The unemployment rate is going to stay 9.5 to ten percent. We are not going to generate a lot of jobs.’”

But Newsweek told us he was “sort of a God.” Gallup has Obama at 45 percent approval, 46 percent disapproval.

But Obama said it was a good idea to join the UN Human Rights Council. “Meeting today in Geneva, the UN Human Rights Council heard the following statement from the Syrian representative, First Secretary Rania Al Rifaiy:  ‘Israel … is a state that is built on hatred. … Let me quote a song that a group of children on a school bus in Israel sing merrily as they go to school and I quote ‘With my teeth I will rip your flesh. With my mouth I will suck your blood.’ The Obama administration chose to join this Council, the UN’s lead human rights body, and its representative was present. But they said nothing after hearing this blood libel.”

But Obama is still torn between Turkey and Israel: “The Israeli attack on the Gaza-bound flotilla sounded ‘the death knell of the Zionist regime,’ Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told an enthusiastic crowd at Istanbul’s Abou Ayyoub Ansari Mosque on Tuesday. He accused Israel of ‘unmatched crimes in the course of sixty some years of its history, that have been unprecedented in the history of mankind, the last of which has been invading the Gaza Peace Flotilla,’ IRNA reported, added that the crowd responded with ‘Allahu akbar.’” And that’s what Major Hasan shouted before he killed 13 people.

But the real fun would be watching the liberal blogosphere completely melt down. Jay Nordlinger: “If [John] Bolton is president, Elliott Abrams can be secretary of state.”

But 78 percent of them voted for the president who is doing nothing about it: “In indignant statements to the media, in Op-Eds and at rallies around the country, American Jews jumping to Israel’s defense are casting the fallout to last week’s flotilla incident — and the mounting opposition to Israel’s blockade of Gaza — as part of a campaign to delegitimize Israel’s right to defend itself.”

But was she quizzed on the part about Islam being the “religion of peace“? “Israeli left-wing activist Tali Fahima has converted to Islam, according to the website of the Islamic Movement in Israel. Fahima is said to have converted at a mosque in Umm al-Fahm in the presence of sheikhs who tested her knowledge of the principles of Islam. … Fahima was released from prison in 2007 after completing a three-year sentence for passing information to the enemy, having contact with a foreign agent and supporting a terrorist organization. … In May 2004, Fahima entered the Jenin area and met with operatives of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, the armed wing of the Fatah movement. She met with Zakaria Zubeidi, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade leader in Jenin. Fahima declared that she would serve as a human shield for Zubeidi, who was wanted by Israeli security forces.”

But Obama said unemployment would remain under 8 percent if Congress passed the stimulus. “Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said the U.S. recovery probably won’t quickly bring down the unemployment rate, which is likely to stay ‘high for a while.’ … The June 4 Labor Department report ‘shows we are still in a jobless recovery,’ Allen Sinai, chief global economist at Decision Economics in New York, said in an interview on Bloomberg Radio. ‘Ex-census we are only 41,000. That is terrible. … The unemployment rate is going to stay 9.5 to ten percent. We are not going to generate a lot of jobs.’”

But Newsweek told us he was “sort of a God.” Gallup has Obama at 45 percent approval, 46 percent disapproval.

But Obama said it was a good idea to join the UN Human Rights Council. “Meeting today in Geneva, the UN Human Rights Council heard the following statement from the Syrian representative, First Secretary Rania Al Rifaiy:  ‘Israel … is a state that is built on hatred. … Let me quote a song that a group of children on a school bus in Israel sing merrily as they go to school and I quote ‘With my teeth I will rip your flesh. With my mouth I will suck your blood.’ The Obama administration chose to join this Council, the UN’s lead human rights body, and its representative was present. But they said nothing after hearing this blood libel.”

But Obama is still torn between Turkey and Israel: “The Israeli attack on the Gaza-bound flotilla sounded ‘the death knell of the Zionist regime,’ Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told an enthusiastic crowd at Istanbul’s Abou Ayyoub Ansari Mosque on Tuesday. He accused Israel of ‘unmatched crimes in the course of sixty some years of its history, that have been unprecedented in the history of mankind, the last of which has been invading the Gaza Peace Flotilla,’ IRNA reported, added that the crowd responded with ‘Allahu akbar.’” And that’s what Major Hasan shouted before he killed 13 people.

But the real fun would be watching the liberal blogosphere completely melt down. Jay Nordlinger: “If [John] Bolton is president, Elliott Abrams can be secretary of state.”

But 78 percent of them voted for the president who is doing nothing about it: “In indignant statements to the media, in Op-Eds and at rallies around the country, American Jews jumping to Israel’s defense are casting the fallout to last week’s flotilla incident — and the mounting opposition to Israel’s blockade of Gaza — as part of a campaign to delegitimize Israel’s right to defend itself.”

But was she quizzed on the part about Islam being the “religion of peace“? “Israeli left-wing activist Tali Fahima has converted to Islam, according to the website of the Islamic Movement in Israel. Fahima is said to have converted at a mosque in Umm al-Fahm in the presence of sheikhs who tested her knowledge of the principles of Islam. … Fahima was released from prison in 2007 after completing a three-year sentence for passing information to the enemy, having contact with a foreign agent and supporting a terrorist organization. … In May 2004, Fahima entered the Jenin area and met with operatives of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, the armed wing of the Fatah movement. She met with Zakaria Zubeidi, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade leader in Jenin. Fahima declared that she would serve as a human shield for Zubeidi, who was wanted by Israeli security forces.”

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RE: Martin Indyk Tries Out His Israel-Bashing

There is reason to believe that Indyk is playing fast and loose with the facts. In his op-ed, he states:

As he studies his options, Netanyahu would do well to reflect on the decisions taken by two earlier prime ministers from his Likud Party — Menahem Begin and Ariel Sharon.

Begin gave up all of Sinai for a peace deal with Egypt that avoided a fight with Jimmy Carter over a Palestinian homeland. Sharon believed that the best way to survive politically was to allow no daylight to show between him and the president of the United States. That led him to propose full Israeli withdrawal from Gaza in order to head off what he foresaw as inevitable friction with the United States over the West Bank and Jerusalem. Both Sharon and Begin were excoriated by their right wings.

The fear of creating “inevitable friction” is a bizarre explanation, especially given the close and productive relationship between the Bush administration and the Sharon government. Other individuals with direct knowledge of the relevant negotiations say just the opposite: that it was the close relationship with the Bush team and promises concerning settlements and the final status of Jerusalem (which the Obami have now reneged on) that induced the withdrawal.

Indeed, there is no evidence that Indyk’s version is correct. A knowledgeable source relates that no one on Sharon’s staff “can recall such a conversation between PM Sharon and Indyk — indeed they cannot recall Indyk ever visiting Sharon when Sharon was PM during the Bush years.” So what’s the basis for Indyk’s claim — or is he making it up? After all, the alternative version, which Bush officials have confirmed, doesn’t mesh with the Obami’s favorite narrative.

There is reason to believe that Indyk is playing fast and loose with the facts. In his op-ed, he states:

As he studies his options, Netanyahu would do well to reflect on the decisions taken by two earlier prime ministers from his Likud Party — Menahem Begin and Ariel Sharon.

Begin gave up all of Sinai for a peace deal with Egypt that avoided a fight with Jimmy Carter over a Palestinian homeland. Sharon believed that the best way to survive politically was to allow no daylight to show between him and the president of the United States. That led him to propose full Israeli withdrawal from Gaza in order to head off what he foresaw as inevitable friction with the United States over the West Bank and Jerusalem. Both Sharon and Begin were excoriated by their right wings.

The fear of creating “inevitable friction” is a bizarre explanation, especially given the close and productive relationship between the Bush administration and the Sharon government. Other individuals with direct knowledge of the relevant negotiations say just the opposite: that it was the close relationship with the Bush team and promises concerning settlements and the final status of Jerusalem (which the Obami have now reneged on) that induced the withdrawal.

Indeed, there is no evidence that Indyk’s version is correct. A knowledgeable source relates that no one on Sharon’s staff “can recall such a conversation between PM Sharon and Indyk — indeed they cannot recall Indyk ever visiting Sharon when Sharon was PM during the Bush years.” So what’s the basis for Indyk’s claim — or is he making it up? After all, the alternative version, which Bush officials have confirmed, doesn’t mesh with the Obami’s favorite narrative.

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The Lessons of 1956: Nostalgia for a Betrayal of Israel

If you want an object lesson as to where contemporary Israel-bashing in the United States is headed, you can do no better than read an article published today in the Daily Beast by Kai Bird, the former Nation staffer, MacArthur Foundation “genius,” and Pulitzer Prize–winning biographer of J. Robert Oppenheimer.

The title, “Time to Talk Tough with Israel,” promises the familiar tiresome refrain about how America must slap the Israelis around for their own good and doesn’t disappoint. But Bird’s frame of reference isn’t just the usual slander about AIPAC running American foreign policy. Instead, he writes from the perspective of an important event in his childhood: the 1956 Sinai campaign, which took place while Bird’s father was serving in the American consulate in East Jerusalem. At that time, about half the city was illegally occupied by the Kingdom of Jordan. Jews were forbidden entry into the Old City, and Jewish holy places such as the Western Wall were abandoned and desecrated.

In 1956, Egyptian dictator Gamal Abdel Nasser massed  his army in the Sinai and allowed Palestinian terrorists to use Egyptian-occupied Gaza as a terrorist sanctuary. Acting in conjunction with Britain and France, who were angry about Nasser’s seizure of the Suez Canal, Israel cleaned out both Gaza and the Sinai, dealing a serious blow to Nasser’s aggressive ambitions. But the United States, which hadn’t been consulted, wound up backing Nasser against the former colonial powers and their Israeli ally. In the end Nasser wasn’t compelled to make peace with Israel. Instead, Israel was forced to withdraw from the Sinai. All it got in exchange was the presence of a United Nations observer force on the border.

Bird considers that American diktat as a model for our current diplomacy. Which is to say, he wants the United States to demand that Israel give up every inch it won in 1967, including East Jerusalem. If Israel refuses, Bird advocates “severe trade and financial sanctions.”

But let’s examine the results of Bird’s ideal moment in American diplomacy. What did President Eisenhower achieve in 1956? He saved the skin of a vicious Arab dictator who would use the rest of his career to keep fomenting violence in the Middle East. And he set the stage for the 1967 Six-Day War, which took place after Nasser marched his army back into the Sinai along Israel’s border, blockaded the southern Israeli port of Eilat, and then demanded — and got — the withdrawal of the UN force. Far from helping peace, America’s betrayal of Israel only guaranteed that another war would follow. That wasn’t tough love; it was a disaster for both countries.

Bird believes that a similar betrayal of Israel — this time by Barack Obama — will help “Israeli liberals” defeat Netanyahu and give a two-state solution a chance. But the reason those “liberals” were annihilated at the last Israeli election in February 2009 was because the Palestinians have conclusively demonstrated their lack of interest in peace. And no Israeli government of any political stripe will abandon the Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem.

It takes a particular kind of chutzpah for a writer who seems to have fond memories of the days when those Jerusalem neighborhoods were Judenrein — “Jew-free” — to call for a return to a policy of American hostility to Israel to revive such a situation. But that is what passes for intelligent commentary in some publications.

If you want an object lesson as to where contemporary Israel-bashing in the United States is headed, you can do no better than read an article published today in the Daily Beast by Kai Bird, the former Nation staffer, MacArthur Foundation “genius,” and Pulitzer Prize–winning biographer of J. Robert Oppenheimer.

The title, “Time to Talk Tough with Israel,” promises the familiar tiresome refrain about how America must slap the Israelis around for their own good and doesn’t disappoint. But Bird’s frame of reference isn’t just the usual slander about AIPAC running American foreign policy. Instead, he writes from the perspective of an important event in his childhood: the 1956 Sinai campaign, which took place while Bird’s father was serving in the American consulate in East Jerusalem. At that time, about half the city was illegally occupied by the Kingdom of Jordan. Jews were forbidden entry into the Old City, and Jewish holy places such as the Western Wall were abandoned and desecrated.

In 1956, Egyptian dictator Gamal Abdel Nasser massed  his army in the Sinai and allowed Palestinian terrorists to use Egyptian-occupied Gaza as a terrorist sanctuary. Acting in conjunction with Britain and France, who were angry about Nasser’s seizure of the Suez Canal, Israel cleaned out both Gaza and the Sinai, dealing a serious blow to Nasser’s aggressive ambitions. But the United States, which hadn’t been consulted, wound up backing Nasser against the former colonial powers and their Israeli ally. In the end Nasser wasn’t compelled to make peace with Israel. Instead, Israel was forced to withdraw from the Sinai. All it got in exchange was the presence of a United Nations observer force on the border.

Bird considers that American diktat as a model for our current diplomacy. Which is to say, he wants the United States to demand that Israel give up every inch it won in 1967, including East Jerusalem. If Israel refuses, Bird advocates “severe trade and financial sanctions.”

But let’s examine the results of Bird’s ideal moment in American diplomacy. What did President Eisenhower achieve in 1956? He saved the skin of a vicious Arab dictator who would use the rest of his career to keep fomenting violence in the Middle East. And he set the stage for the 1967 Six-Day War, which took place after Nasser marched his army back into the Sinai along Israel’s border, blockaded the southern Israeli port of Eilat, and then demanded — and got — the withdrawal of the UN force. Far from helping peace, America’s betrayal of Israel only guaranteed that another war would follow. That wasn’t tough love; it was a disaster for both countries.

Bird believes that a similar betrayal of Israel — this time by Barack Obama — will help “Israeli liberals” defeat Netanyahu and give a two-state solution a chance. But the reason those “liberals” were annihilated at the last Israeli election in February 2009 was because the Palestinians have conclusively demonstrated their lack of interest in peace. And no Israeli government of any political stripe will abandon the Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem.

It takes a particular kind of chutzpah for a writer who seems to have fond memories of the days when those Jerusalem neighborhoods were Judenrein — “Jew-free” — to call for a return to a policy of American hostility to Israel to revive such a situation. But that is what passes for intelligent commentary in some publications.

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Great Moments in Simultaneous Translation

The Herzliya Conference—a high-level powwow—is taking place right now in Israel. Shimon Peres, once Israel’s prime minister and now its president, gave a speech in Hebrew that was simultaneously translated into English. A friend at the conference reports that, according to the simultaneous translator, Peres referred to the day when Moses came down from Sinai and “found the people building a golden veal.”

The Herzliya Conference—a high-level powwow—is taking place right now in Israel. Shimon Peres, once Israel’s prime minister and now its president, gave a speech in Hebrew that was simultaneously translated into English. A friend at the conference reports that, according to the simultaneous translator, Peres referred to the day when Moses came down from Sinai and “found the people building a golden veal.”

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Rice’s Misplaced Priorities

Barely three months after the entire Arab world allegedly united around Israeli-Palestinian peace, the Bush administration is struggling to keep its Annapolis “process” relevant. On Tuesday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will embark on yet another trip to Egypt, Israel, and the Palestinian Authority, aiming to calm the crisis in Gaza that has postponed Israeli-Palestinian talks indefinitely.

As usual, the odds are stacked against Rice. In the past five days, over 100 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, while Hamas has added to its Qassam rocket repertoire, firing longer-range Iranian-made Grad rockets at Ashkelon. Meanwhile, pro-western Arab states that supported peace at Annapolis are backing Hamas: Jordan has accused Israel of a “flagrant violation” of international law, while Saudi Arabia has compared Israel’s offensive to Nazi war crimes.

Indeed, a diplomatic breakthrough at this moment is so unlikely as to beg the question: why is Rice even bothering? After all, insofar as the current fighting in Gaza will likely be confined to the strip, relatively few strategic interests are at stake. In this vein, Egypt has reportedly doubled its Rafah border troops and permitted only four injured Palestinians to cross into Sinai amidst the fighting, while Hamas’ call for 50,000 Palestinians to breach the Erez crossing and storm into Israel failed miserably.

Yet the same cannot be said of the ongoing presidential crisis in Beirut, where the implications will likely be felt beyond Lebanon’s borders. For starters, Syria has been widely accused of interfering with Lebanon’s political process. Meanwhile, Hezbollah—which has stalled negotiations and demanded veto power in the next cabinet—has turned its attention abroad in the wake of Imad Mughniyeh’s assassination. In recent weeks, Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah has declared preparations for another war with Israel, while an al-Manar correspondent was recently arrested in Morocco planning attacks against Jewish targets with an al-Qaeda offshoot.

To its credit, the Bush administration recognizes the potential for Lebanon’s crisis to extend beyond Lebanon. On Thursday, the administration announced that the USS Cole would be stationed off the Lebanese coast to warn Syria against further interferences. The move further pressed Hezbollah, with Hezbollah legislator Hassan Fadlallah acknowledging, “We are facing an American threat against Lebanon.”

Yet if the Bush administration is to translate this military maneuver into a political victory, it must undertake a serious diplomatic campaign to shore up support for the pro-western Lebanese majority while its adversaries feel threatened. Within the region, such support clearly exists: on Monday, Egypt and Saudi Arabia separately blamed the Asad regime for the political crisis, while Kuwait has announced the deportation of foreigners who mourned for Mughniyeh.

Given the urgency of the situation in Lebanon and potential opportunities for advancing U.S. policy in this theater, Rice’s focus on the Israeli-Palestinian arena during her upcoming trip is severely misplaced. While Middle East peace would be the Holy Grail of any diplomat’s legacy, Rice’s failure to meaningfully pursue diplomatic channels regarding Lebanon might give her a very different legacy. Indeed, if Hezbollah follows through on its rhetoric while Israel battles Hamas in Gaza, it will mark the second two-front Arab-Israeli war of Rice’s tenure.

Barely three months after the entire Arab world allegedly united around Israeli-Palestinian peace, the Bush administration is struggling to keep its Annapolis “process” relevant. On Tuesday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will embark on yet another trip to Egypt, Israel, and the Palestinian Authority, aiming to calm the crisis in Gaza that has postponed Israeli-Palestinian talks indefinitely.

As usual, the odds are stacked against Rice. In the past five days, over 100 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, while Hamas has added to its Qassam rocket repertoire, firing longer-range Iranian-made Grad rockets at Ashkelon. Meanwhile, pro-western Arab states that supported peace at Annapolis are backing Hamas: Jordan has accused Israel of a “flagrant violation” of international law, while Saudi Arabia has compared Israel’s offensive to Nazi war crimes.

Indeed, a diplomatic breakthrough at this moment is so unlikely as to beg the question: why is Rice even bothering? After all, insofar as the current fighting in Gaza will likely be confined to the strip, relatively few strategic interests are at stake. In this vein, Egypt has reportedly doubled its Rafah border troops and permitted only four injured Palestinians to cross into Sinai amidst the fighting, while Hamas’ call for 50,000 Palestinians to breach the Erez crossing and storm into Israel failed miserably.

Yet the same cannot be said of the ongoing presidential crisis in Beirut, where the implications will likely be felt beyond Lebanon’s borders. For starters, Syria has been widely accused of interfering with Lebanon’s political process. Meanwhile, Hezbollah—which has stalled negotiations and demanded veto power in the next cabinet—has turned its attention abroad in the wake of Imad Mughniyeh’s assassination. In recent weeks, Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah has declared preparations for another war with Israel, while an al-Manar correspondent was recently arrested in Morocco planning attacks against Jewish targets with an al-Qaeda offshoot.

To its credit, the Bush administration recognizes the potential for Lebanon’s crisis to extend beyond Lebanon. On Thursday, the administration announced that the USS Cole would be stationed off the Lebanese coast to warn Syria against further interferences. The move further pressed Hezbollah, with Hezbollah legislator Hassan Fadlallah acknowledging, “We are facing an American threat against Lebanon.”

Yet if the Bush administration is to translate this military maneuver into a political victory, it must undertake a serious diplomatic campaign to shore up support for the pro-western Lebanese majority while its adversaries feel threatened. Within the region, such support clearly exists: on Monday, Egypt and Saudi Arabia separately blamed the Asad regime for the political crisis, while Kuwait has announced the deportation of foreigners who mourned for Mughniyeh.

Given the urgency of the situation in Lebanon and potential opportunities for advancing U.S. policy in this theater, Rice’s focus on the Israeli-Palestinian arena during her upcoming trip is severely misplaced. While Middle East peace would be the Holy Grail of any diplomat’s legacy, Rice’s failure to meaningfully pursue diplomatic channels regarding Lebanon might give her a very different legacy. Indeed, if Hezbollah follows through on its rhetoric while Israel battles Hamas in Gaza, it will mark the second two-front Arab-Israeli war of Rice’s tenure.

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A Peace Treaty At Risk

Lee Smith thinks that part of what Hamas and its patrons in Damascus and Tehran have been working toward is the scuttling of the 1979 peace treaty between Israel and Egypt, which remains one of the cornerstones of the American security architecture of the Middle East. Smith writes:

Another way to understand the Gaza breach is as part of Syria and Iran’s war against the regional order imposed by Washington. To be sure, Egypt is scared of Iran and even stands with Washington in supporting the Lebanese government against Hezbollah and against Iranian and Syrian meddling, but having to fight Tehran and Damascus openly on Egyptian soil is something else entirely, especially as Egypt, like many Sunni states around the region, suspects that the Bush administration has gone soft on Iran.

Think about it this way: What if Hamas ends up being able to stage attacks on Israel from the Sinai? This would be brilliant on Hamas’ part, because Israel would be put in the position of having to choose between acquiescing to the opening of a new front against it, or striking back at Hamas on Egyptian soil.

Israel’s dilemma would only be matched by Mubarak’s: allow Hamas, as Lee puts it, to effect the Lebanonization of the Sinai by extending its terror mini-state there, or move in and crush the Hamas presence and be seen by the Arab world, and especially by his own people, killing brother Arabs on behalf of the Jews. A more serious betrayal hardly exists in the Middle East.

These calculations surely have a lot to do with the recent firming up of Egypt’s dedication to ensuring that another breach does not happen.

Lee Smith thinks that part of what Hamas and its patrons in Damascus and Tehran have been working toward is the scuttling of the 1979 peace treaty between Israel and Egypt, which remains one of the cornerstones of the American security architecture of the Middle East. Smith writes:

Another way to understand the Gaza breach is as part of Syria and Iran’s war against the regional order imposed by Washington. To be sure, Egypt is scared of Iran and even stands with Washington in supporting the Lebanese government against Hezbollah and against Iranian and Syrian meddling, but having to fight Tehran and Damascus openly on Egyptian soil is something else entirely, especially as Egypt, like many Sunni states around the region, suspects that the Bush administration has gone soft on Iran.

Think about it this way: What if Hamas ends up being able to stage attacks on Israel from the Sinai? This would be brilliant on Hamas’ part, because Israel would be put in the position of having to choose between acquiescing to the opening of a new front against it, or striking back at Hamas on Egyptian soil.

Israel’s dilemma would only be matched by Mubarak’s: allow Hamas, as Lee puts it, to effect the Lebanonization of the Sinai by extending its terror mini-state there, or move in and crush the Hamas presence and be seen by the Arab world, and especially by his own people, killing brother Arabs on behalf of the Jews. A more serious betrayal hardly exists in the Middle East.

These calculations surely have a lot to do with the recent firming up of Egypt’s dedication to ensuring that another breach does not happen.

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Good News in Gaza

I’m going to have to dissent a bit from my friends here on Contentions as to the meaning of today’s drama on the Gaza-Egypt border. (I just returned from a wedding here in Jerusalem and have not had a chance to read all that much news, so my apologies for this being a very quick take.)

We westerners are accustomed to viewing chaos and violence — such as blowing up border fences — as bad things. But before reacting this way, think for a moment about the interplay between Israel, Egypt, and Gaza since Hamas took power in Gaza a little over half a year ago. What we have seen is a subtle and consistent attempt from the Egyptians not just to avoid having Gaza become their problem, but to ensure that the radical energies emanating from Gaza would always be sent in one direction: Israel.

This is why the Egyptians have been so complicit in allowing smuggling tunnels under the border fence, probably one of the reasons why they’ve recently become more friendly toward Iran (and by extension Iran’s nearby client, Hamas). When Israel asked Egypt to do a better job of policing the Sinai to prevent weapons smuggling, the Egyptians replied that they would like to do more, but cannot because the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt limits the number of soldiers that Egypt can station in the Sinai. In other words, Egypt simultaneously said to Israel: not only will we not help you suppress Hamas, but if you want us to even consider doing so, the price will be a renegotiation of our 30-year-old peace treaty to allow us a greater military presence on your border.

So Egypt has been trying to play a delicate game: keep Hamas in the game by allowing them to bring in weapons, cash, and terrorists, but not so conspicuously that it causes a serious American or Israeli backlash.

But today, Hamas just blew the border fence down. Suddenly, some of the pressure that has built up in Gaza over the past several months has been released, and it didn’t go toward Israel — it went into Egypt, and now the Egyptians are faced with a calamitous situation.

Egypt has been hoisted with its own petard, and it is really quite enjoyable to see from a strategic perspective. Hamas probably blew up the border fence with explosives that Egypt allowed it to smuggle into Gaza. Heh.

I’m going to have to dissent a bit from my friends here on Contentions as to the meaning of today’s drama on the Gaza-Egypt border. (I just returned from a wedding here in Jerusalem and have not had a chance to read all that much news, so my apologies for this being a very quick take.)

We westerners are accustomed to viewing chaos and violence — such as blowing up border fences — as bad things. But before reacting this way, think for a moment about the interplay between Israel, Egypt, and Gaza since Hamas took power in Gaza a little over half a year ago. What we have seen is a subtle and consistent attempt from the Egyptians not just to avoid having Gaza become their problem, but to ensure that the radical energies emanating from Gaza would always be sent in one direction: Israel.

This is why the Egyptians have been so complicit in allowing smuggling tunnels under the border fence, probably one of the reasons why they’ve recently become more friendly toward Iran (and by extension Iran’s nearby client, Hamas). When Israel asked Egypt to do a better job of policing the Sinai to prevent weapons smuggling, the Egyptians replied that they would like to do more, but cannot because the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt limits the number of soldiers that Egypt can station in the Sinai. In other words, Egypt simultaneously said to Israel: not only will we not help you suppress Hamas, but if you want us to even consider doing so, the price will be a renegotiation of our 30-year-old peace treaty to allow us a greater military presence on your border.

So Egypt has been trying to play a delicate game: keep Hamas in the game by allowing them to bring in weapons, cash, and terrorists, but not so conspicuously that it causes a serious American or Israeli backlash.

But today, Hamas just blew the border fence down. Suddenly, some of the pressure that has built up in Gaza over the past several months has been released, and it didn’t go toward Israel — it went into Egypt, and now the Egyptians are faced with a calamitous situation.

Egypt has been hoisted with its own petard, and it is really quite enjoyable to see from a strategic perspective. Hamas probably blew up the border fence with explosives that Egypt allowed it to smuggle into Gaza. Heh.

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Hamas at the Hajj

There is a story that went unnoticed in the furor over the NIE last week, a story that also contains elements of deception and perfidy. This one reveals where two of America’s key Arab allies stand when it comes to the peace process.

The Palestinian Authority had made a special arrangement with Israel to allow 2,000 Palestinians to leave Gaza in order to make the hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca. These Gazans were to leave Israel by way of the Kerem Shalom crossing in Gaza and the Allenby Bridge crossing in the West Bank, their PA-organized travel meant to show the residents of Gaza that Mahmoud Abbas can make things happen for them — in contrast to Hamas. But Cairo and Riyadh had made their own special arrangement with Hamas.

The Egyptians allowed 700 Palestinians on Monday and 1,300 on Tuesday to cross the border into Sinai, where buses were waiting to take them to Saudi Arabia.

“The Egyptians stabbed us in the back,” a senior PA official said. It turned out that the move had been coordinated with the Hamas government and Saudi Arabia. The Saudi embassy in Cairo swiftly processed the Gaza pilgrims’ visa applications sent by the Hamas government, while the Saudi embassy in Amman held up all the visa applications sent by the PA, even those of West Bank pilgrims. The PA, which had invested huge efforts in organizing the pilgrims’ trip to Saudi Arabia in a bid to improve President Mahmoud Abbas’ status in the Gaza Strip, was enraged by Egypt and Saudi Arabia’s conduct.

Not a very nice thing to do to the Palestinian Authority, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Not a very nice thing to do to Condi Rice and the peace process, either. So why did these two countries pull such a petty and antagonistic stunt?

The Egyptians have been worried since the summer that Israel and America will succeed in isolating Gaza, and that Israel would thereby be able to accomplish the total severance of contact between the two territories. Since only Israel and Egypt share a border with Gaza, if Israel manages to get itself off the hook for providing fuel, electricity, water, and the like to Gaza, then these will become Egyptian responsibilities — and Gaza will have been turned into largely an Egyptian, instead of Israeli, problem.

Obviously, the Egyptians want none of this, which is why they’ve become so remarkably unable to stop the proliferation of smuggling tunnels underneath the Egypt-Gaza border, a subterranean network that allows Hamas terrorists to train in Iran, import explosives and rockets, and thereby ensure that Gaza will indeed remain Israel’s problem. So the Egyptians showed up in Annapolis, smiled wryly, winked at the Saudi foreign minister, and returned home to continue doing their part to keep Hamas in the picture and to make Abbas look foolish (which is never very hard).

What are the Saudis up to? It seems plain to me that the Saudis have never been on board with the idea of isolating Hamas. Recall that the Saudis hosted the leaders of Hamas and Fatah in Mecca early this year to encourage the formation of a national unity government. This obviously was a colossal failure, as a few months later Hamas showed the Saudis what it thought of reconciliation by instigating its six-day gangster takeover of Gaza. But the Saudis remain undeterred, and this weekend hosted Hamas’s Damascus-based leader, Khaled Meshal, once again for national-unity talks. The Saudis continue to encourage the political currency of Hamas because they wish to prevent the group from completely casting its lot in with Iran, and also because they see the Hamas-Fatah fight as a needless distraction from the more important, and beneficial, Palestinian fight against Israel. And now they have been joined by Egypt.

None of this is to suggest that the Abbas government, even with Saudi and Egyptian support, would be able to accomplish much more than the mau-mauing of a few more billions from western governments and the UN. But the hajj scandal does go a long way to illustrate the extent to which America’s Arab allies, which Annapolis was largely convened to cajole into the peace process, care little for America’s strategy, or for the peace process itself. Secretary Rice, of course, has been silent on the matter, lest it be revealed as another embarrassing demonstration of the flawed thinking behind Annapolis, and indeed of the improbability of her larger revitalization of the peace process.

There is a story that went unnoticed in the furor over the NIE last week, a story that also contains elements of deception and perfidy. This one reveals where two of America’s key Arab allies stand when it comes to the peace process.

The Palestinian Authority had made a special arrangement with Israel to allow 2,000 Palestinians to leave Gaza in order to make the hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca. These Gazans were to leave Israel by way of the Kerem Shalom crossing in Gaza and the Allenby Bridge crossing in the West Bank, their PA-organized travel meant to show the residents of Gaza that Mahmoud Abbas can make things happen for them — in contrast to Hamas. But Cairo and Riyadh had made their own special arrangement with Hamas.

The Egyptians allowed 700 Palestinians on Monday and 1,300 on Tuesday to cross the border into Sinai, where buses were waiting to take them to Saudi Arabia.

“The Egyptians stabbed us in the back,” a senior PA official said. It turned out that the move had been coordinated with the Hamas government and Saudi Arabia. The Saudi embassy in Cairo swiftly processed the Gaza pilgrims’ visa applications sent by the Hamas government, while the Saudi embassy in Amman held up all the visa applications sent by the PA, even those of West Bank pilgrims. The PA, which had invested huge efforts in organizing the pilgrims’ trip to Saudi Arabia in a bid to improve President Mahmoud Abbas’ status in the Gaza Strip, was enraged by Egypt and Saudi Arabia’s conduct.

Not a very nice thing to do to the Palestinian Authority, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Not a very nice thing to do to Condi Rice and the peace process, either. So why did these two countries pull such a petty and antagonistic stunt?

The Egyptians have been worried since the summer that Israel and America will succeed in isolating Gaza, and that Israel would thereby be able to accomplish the total severance of contact between the two territories. Since only Israel and Egypt share a border with Gaza, if Israel manages to get itself off the hook for providing fuel, electricity, water, and the like to Gaza, then these will become Egyptian responsibilities — and Gaza will have been turned into largely an Egyptian, instead of Israeli, problem.

Obviously, the Egyptians want none of this, which is why they’ve become so remarkably unable to stop the proliferation of smuggling tunnels underneath the Egypt-Gaza border, a subterranean network that allows Hamas terrorists to train in Iran, import explosives and rockets, and thereby ensure that Gaza will indeed remain Israel’s problem. So the Egyptians showed up in Annapolis, smiled wryly, winked at the Saudi foreign minister, and returned home to continue doing their part to keep Hamas in the picture and to make Abbas look foolish (which is never very hard).

What are the Saudis up to? It seems plain to me that the Saudis have never been on board with the idea of isolating Hamas. Recall that the Saudis hosted the leaders of Hamas and Fatah in Mecca early this year to encourage the formation of a national unity government. This obviously was a colossal failure, as a few months later Hamas showed the Saudis what it thought of reconciliation by instigating its six-day gangster takeover of Gaza. But the Saudis remain undeterred, and this weekend hosted Hamas’s Damascus-based leader, Khaled Meshal, once again for national-unity talks. The Saudis continue to encourage the political currency of Hamas because they wish to prevent the group from completely casting its lot in with Iran, and also because they see the Hamas-Fatah fight as a needless distraction from the more important, and beneficial, Palestinian fight against Israel. And now they have been joined by Egypt.

None of this is to suggest that the Abbas government, even with Saudi and Egyptian support, would be able to accomplish much more than the mau-mauing of a few more billions from western governments and the UN. But the hajj scandal does go a long way to illustrate the extent to which America’s Arab allies, which Annapolis was largely convened to cajole into the peace process, care little for America’s strategy, or for the peace process itself. Secretary Rice, of course, has been silent on the matter, lest it be revealed as another embarrassing demonstration of the flawed thinking behind Annapolis, and indeed of the improbability of her larger revitalization of the peace process.

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The Zbig Lie

On Wednesday, the Obama campaign received an important new endorsement: Zbigniew Brzezinski, best known for having been Jimmy Carter’s national security adviser, introduced Obama on the occasion of his Iraq speech in Iowa. Expect to hear a great deal from Brzezinski about his triumphs of Middle East diplomacy, which he—not to mention Jimmy Carter—is quite fond of recounting. “The fact of the matter is that I’m part of the only administration that brought about peace between Israel and its neighbors,” Brzezinski told NBC News on the day Obama delivered his Iraq policy speech. “And so I’m proud of my record in the Middle East.”

This is a deceptive attempt at rewriting history, one that Brzezinski and his gang have been pursuing for years in an effort to manufacture retroactively a success story for the Carter administration. The administration didn’t “bring about” peace between Israel and Egypt so much as hold a summit at Camp David to work out the details after Israel and Egypt had already committed themselves, independently and entirely in pursuit of their own interests, to a peace treaty. From the outset of the Carter administration, the American commitment had been not to a deal between Israel and Egypt, but to a comprehensive resolution of the Palestinian question, and it was during the administration’s busy pursuit of a renewed Geneva Conference, inclusive of the Soviet Union, Israel, and the PLO, that the Israel-Egypt deal essentially fell into Carter’s lap.

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On Wednesday, the Obama campaign received an important new endorsement: Zbigniew Brzezinski, best known for having been Jimmy Carter’s national security adviser, introduced Obama on the occasion of his Iraq speech in Iowa. Expect to hear a great deal from Brzezinski about his triumphs of Middle East diplomacy, which he—not to mention Jimmy Carter—is quite fond of recounting. “The fact of the matter is that I’m part of the only administration that brought about peace between Israel and its neighbors,” Brzezinski told NBC News on the day Obama delivered his Iraq policy speech. “And so I’m proud of my record in the Middle East.”

This is a deceptive attempt at rewriting history, one that Brzezinski and his gang have been pursuing for years in an effort to manufacture retroactively a success story for the Carter administration. The administration didn’t “bring about” peace between Israel and Egypt so much as hold a summit at Camp David to work out the details after Israel and Egypt had already committed themselves, independently and entirely in pursuit of their own interests, to a peace treaty. From the outset of the Carter administration, the American commitment had been not to a deal between Israel and Egypt, but to a comprehensive resolution of the Palestinian question, and it was during the administration’s busy pursuit of a renewed Geneva Conference, inclusive of the Soviet Union, Israel, and the PLO, that the Israel-Egypt deal essentially fell into Carter’s lap.

In the mid-1970′s, Anwar Sadat, the Egyptian dictator, was in a bad position: The war he launched in 1973 to wrest the Sinai back from Israel had been a humiliating catastrophe, and he was under growing internal pressure to do something—anything—to salvage Egypt’s honor and retrieve its lost territory. Sidelined by the Carter administration’s focus on the Palestinians, Sadat’s only option was to pursue the Sinai through peaceful means, by directly engaging Israel. A series of monumental and previously unthinkable events took place: In November 1977, Sadat announced to the Egyptian parliament that “Israel will be astonished to hear me say now, before you, that I am prepared to go to their own house, to the Knesset itself, to talk to them.” Four days later Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin formally invited Sadat to Jerusalem, and a week later Sadat’s plane touched down at Ben Gurion airport. Sadat visited Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem, and then addressed the Knesset, declaring that “we accept living with you in peace and justice.” All of this happened entirely independent of—and actually in defiance of—the Carter administration, whose agenda in the region was entirely focused on laying the groundwork for the hoped-for Geneva Conference (which never ended up happening).

The Carter administration was caught completely off guard by this sudden rapprochement, and had no option but to try to include itself as much as possible in the dealmaking. By the time the Camp David summit was convened in September 1978, the only thorny issue left to resolve was the question of whether there would be any Israeli presence left in the Sinai as part of a peace treaty; Begin was initially intransigent on the question, but eventually conceded to a complete withdrawal. Peace between Israel and Egypt was born.

And so today, when Brzezinski brags to the press about how his dedication to diplomacy got results—as opposed, he intones, to the senseless warmongering of the Bush administration—we are witnessing a self-aggrandizing swindle, an attempt not only at enhancing the legacy of the Carter administration but of advancing the proposition that in the Middle East, peace is always possible with the right amount of skilled and dedicated American diplomacy.

The true lesson of the Egypt-Israel rapprochement is actually the opposite of what people like Brzezinski would like it to be: It is a lesson in the sometimes irrelevance of American diplomacy in forging peace between nations, and more importantly it is an example of the reality that peace between implacable foes is usually only possible when one has so thoroughly beaten the other on the battlefield that the defeated party is left with only one option, to sue for peace. People like Brzezinski would like us to believe that heroic diplomacy in 1978 midwifed a peace treaty. Candidate Obama will be ill-served listening to this nonsense.

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