Monday, February 29, 2016

UNDERSTANDING IRAN 1. What Iran’s Election Didn’t Change Jonathan Tobin Commentary magazine 2-29-16; 2. Iran's Elections Are Magic...Don't get too excited. 3. Which countries execute the most people?

1.   What Iran’s Election Didn’t Change
 Jonathan Tobin  Commentary magazine   2-29-16
As the results from Iran’s elections have come in, the headlines are telling what sounds, at least on the surface, to be an encouraging story. “Moderates Win Key Iran Elections,” says the Wall Street Journal. All accounts point to a repudiation of what we are told are “hard-line” opponents of the nuclear deal with the West and modernization of the country. That sounds good from the point of view of those hoping, like President Obama, that Iran will use the nuclear deal to “get right with the world.”
But informed observers need to ask two questions about the assumptions that those headlines are buttressing. One is whether the winning candidates in these elections are truly moderates rather than just a different faction of hard-liners. The other is whether these results have even the slightest chance of producing an Iran that truly is a moderate nation that eschews terrorism, poses no danger to its neighbors, no longer oppresses its own people, create a more open society and has no desire to build a nuclear weapon.
Unfortunately, any dispassionate analysis of the election makes it clear that the answers to those questions are, respectively, no and no.
Parsing the identity of the winners in the Iranian elections is no simple task. Most foreign observers are guided by the list of those endorsed by Iran’s supposedly moderate President Hassan Rouhani for inclusion in the Assembly of Experts that will choose a successor to current Supreme Leader Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. But there is a big problem with treating Rouhani’s list as a test of moderation or that of the endorsement of any other person labeled as a reformist leader.
We already knew that in Iran’s faux democratic system, a Guardian Council controlled by Khamenei vetted all of the possible candidates for office and disqualified virtually all those who had any real inclination to transform the country from a theocratic tyranny into something less awful. So, no matter what Rouhani or anyone else might say, the election winners that are called “moderates” in accounts of the vote are not actually moderate by any reasonable definition.
Bloomberg’s Eli Lake explains the reality of the election in a piece in which he points out that one of the victors considered a reformer is the same person who has called for the execution of leaders of the Green Movement that led protests against the regime in 2009 that ended in bloodshed and repression. Two others are former intelligence ministers that murdered dissidents. Others on those lists of moderates have made it clear that they resist the label and consider themselves part of the Islamist mainstream that supports the status quo. What apparently has happened is that faced with the disqualification of all of their candidates, reformers have endorsed others that do not share their views. That gives them the opportunity to declare victory today but is meaningless in terms of the impact of the vote on the future of Iranian society.
This brings us back to the question of whether Rouhani is actually a moderate. Compared to other even more extreme Iranian figures, perhaps he is someone whose views are less in keeping with the Islamist regime’s most medieval aspects. Moderation is, after all, a relative term that can’t be proven objectively. But as we have seen during since Rouhani’s election to a post that has far less power than that of Khamenei, he is not a force for moderation if by that we mean the creation of an Iran that poses less of a threat to both its own people or the rest of the world.
Despite the widespread belief in his moderation, Rouhani is a fervent support of the Islamist republic created by the Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979. Any changes that he might favor would not loosen the iron grip of the theocrats on every aspect of Iranian society. He has done nothing to interfere with the efforts of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard to spread their brand of Islamist terror around the world. Nor has he opposed Iran’s intervention in Syria where its own troops and Hezbollah auxiliaries have helped prop up the barbarous Assad regime. He is also not opposed to the Iranian nuclear program or Khamenei’s quest for regional hegemony. To the contrary, despite the widespread belief in his moderation, Rouhani has merely been a more palatable figurehead figure than his predecessor, the loathsome Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
What Rouhani and the moderates do want is more money from the West. Rouhani is a strong believer in the merits of the nuclear deal embraced by the Obama administration. And from Iran’s point of view, he’s right. By accepting a ten-year delay (assuming they don’t cheat) in their progress toward a bomb, Iran got Western approval for its nuclear program and a windfall in terms of frozen assets and the dismantling of international sanctions. Some hard-liners opposed the deal because they wanted to press ahead toward a weapon and because they think they are better off without Western cash. Rouhani’s moderation then is not so much an indication of his desire for a more liberal society but the function of a pragmatic desire to use the naïveté of the Obama administration to serve the interests of the hard line goals of the Iranian revolution. That’s not moderation. That’s just a much more clever brand of Islamist extremism.
That’s why even if Rouhani’s friends dominate the parliament; we shouldn’t expect any actual change in Iranian society or its foreign policy. Rouhani and his moderates don’t want a free Iran or even one that isn’t a threat to its neighbors. But they do want to exploit the foolish desires of Western liberals to pretend that the conflict with the Islamist regime is over.
It isn’t over and won’t be so long as the Islamists are in charge in Tehran. Far from justifying the nuclear deal, the results prove again that Western expectations about it were entirely unrealistic. The victory of the moderates doesn’t mean change. What it does mean is a longer, tougher fight for those who wish to defend the Middle East against an aggressive and a now richer — thanks to the nuclear deal — Islamist regime.

2.   Iran's Elections Are Magic...Don't get too excited.
 Eli Lake  BloombergView  2-29-16
If you are following the Iranian elections, prepare to be dazzled. According to major news outlets from the BBC to the Associated Press, the reformists beat the hardliners.
But wait. Didn't Iran's Guardian Council disqualify most of the reformists back in January? Of course it did, but thanks to the magic of Iranian politics, many of yesterday's hardliners are today's reformists.
Take Kazem Jalali. Until this month, Jalali was one of those hardliners whom President Barack Obama had hoped to marginalize with the Iran nuclear deal. Jalali has, for example, called for sentencing to death the two leaders of the Green Movement, who are currently under house arrest. And yet, he ran on the list endorsed by the reformists in Friday's election.
Two former intelligence ministers, accused by Iran's democratic opposition of having dissidents murdered, Mohammad Mohammadi Reyshahri and Ghorbanali Dorri-Najafabadi, also ran on the list endorsed by Iran's moderate president for the Assembly of Experts, the panel that is charged with selecting the next supreme leader.
The initial Iranian reform movement of the late 1990s sought to allow more social freedoms and political opposition of the unelected side of Iran's government, such as the office of the Supreme Leader and the Guardian Council. Over time however, the changes supported by the reformists like Mohammed Khatami, who was president between 1997 and 2005, were stymied by these unelected institutions. When the next generation of reform politicians ran for office in 2009 under the banner of the green movement, the unelected part of the state arrested their supporters when they demonstrated against what they saw as a stolen election. On Friday, many of the hardliners that opposed the reformists in the late 1990s and in 2009 are running under this banner. 
As Saeed Ghasseminejad, an expert on Iranian politics at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, recently said: "Putting a reformist or moderate label on hardliners does not make them reformist or moderate." 
In some cases, the transformation happened so quickly that the candidates themselves were surprised. Caitlin Shayda Pendleton, an analyst with the American Enterprise Institute's Critical Threats Project, wrote last week, two of the candidates on Rouhani's list for the Assembly of Experts told reporters they weren't asked to be included among the alleged reformists. These include Ayatollah Ali Movahedi Kermani, who defended the Guardian Council's vetting process against the reformists; as well as Ayatollah Mohammad-Ali Taskhiri, who told reporters, "I believe that the correct way is Principalist, and the way of others, like Reformists or moderates, is the incorrect way.”
As Pendleton wrote on Sunday, "Many (but far from all) candidates described as Reformists in both the parliamentary and Assembly of Experts elections are actually Moderates who were endorsed by Reformist leaders as a fallback after the Guardian Council disqualified most of the Reformists trying to run."
The headlines, however, tell a different story. The Guardian, for example, says: "Iranian elections deal blow to hardliners as reformists make gains." The BBC concludes: "Reformists win all 30 Tehran seats." And on it goes.
Headline writers should be given some slack on this. After all, President Hassan Rouhani -- a moderate, but no reformer -- himself has celebrated the preliminary results in the elections as a major victory. After criticizing the disqualifications, he has held his tongue and tried to make the most of a bad situation, encouraging Iranians to vote nonetheless.
The same is true for many of the marginalized reformists. Khatami, who the state has decreed an unmentionable figure for Iranian media, took to the social network Telegram to urge his countrymen to vote. The logic here is that at the very least, voters could protest the most reactionary hardliners in favor of the slightly less reactionary hardliners. This is hardly a victory for democratic change in Iran. And that is what is important for Westerners trying to make sense of Iran's elections. While Iranian politicians have to make the best of a bad hand, we don't. Western journalists and analysts don't need to confer legitimacy on illegitimate elections, nor should we call hardliners "reformists." At the very least, it's important to hold out a higher standard for the day real reformers are allowed to compete fairly for power in Iran.
And yet many of Iran's alleged supporters in the West have gone along with the spin. Trita Parsi, an Iranian-Swedish activist whose U.S. organization played a key role in lobbying for the Iran nuclear deal, wrote on Sunday evening that critics of Friday's election didn't misread what he euphemistically called the "flaws in the Iranian political system." Rather these critics "misread the strength of the Iranian society and the sophistication of the Iranian electorate, who once again have shown that they have the maturity and wisdom to change their society peacefully from within, without any support or interference from the outside."
It's quite something when an Iranian who claims to support the opening of Iran's society praises the "maturity and wisdom" of an electorate offered "reformists" who support the disqualification of reformers.
But this is the magic of Iran's elections. In the end, Iran's supreme leader doesn't need to defend their legitimacy. He has plenty in the West eager to do it for him.

In 2015 the number of executions in Iran for drug offences was the highest in 20 years.
Legacy National Security Advisory Group 2-25-16

For far too long, United States foreign policy, especially in the critical region of the Middle East and North Africa, has been pursued with apparent scant attention, much less priority, given to core, compelling U.S. national security objectives in the fight to defeat the Global Jihad Movement. This paper, therefore, offers a blueprint for a counterjihad security architecture for America that identifies those objectives and outlines the measures necessary to provide for the common defense of our Constitution, Republic, and society in this existential struggle of our time.

The U.S. has limited national security objectives in the MENA region, but they are important and must be precisely defined. The following are those objectives:
  1. We must defend U.S. diplomatic, intelligence, and military assets, facilities, and equipment, and ensure the security of our personnel serving abroad.
  2. We must keep open the naval, maritime, and commercial sea-lanes and defend the free passage of oil and other commercial goods.
  3. We must prevent control of the Strait of Hormuz, Bab al-Mandab, Red Sea, and Suez Canal by jihadist or other forces hostile to the U.S., the West in general, and our partners and allies.
  4. We must defend and support our regional allies, primary among which are Egypt, the Jewish State of Israel, Jordan, and the Kurdish people.
Seek Balance of Power
It is in U.S. national security interests to seek regional stability, including a balance of power between local Shi’ite and Sunni Islamic forces, however rough or imperfect that balance may be. We must avoid actions that would further destabilize the region, unless compelled in defense of other core U.S. national security objectives. We should refrain from involvement in historical, intra-Islamic sectarian struggles, again, unless compelled in defense of other core U.S. national security objectives. We must accept the reality that Sunni-Shi’ite relations are and will remain messy. We must understand that fashionable policies like ‘exporting democracy,’ ‘COIN (Counterinsurgency)-winning hearts and minds’ and ‘nation building’ are futile among societies in thrall to Islamic Law (shariah). Sometimes accepting local strongman rule that supports U.S. and Western interests, even though not democratic, is the lesser of two evils when the alternative would be either chaos or an Islamic jihad-and-shariah takeover.

Rebuild the Military
We must rebuild the U.S. military ASAP. This includes re-establishing the presence of the Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean Sea and the Second Fleet in the Atlantic Ocean. Sequestration has decimated the readiness of the U.S. military to respond effectively to key national security requirements, set back modernization of our forces, and hollowed out our overall military capabilities. This must be reversed on an accelerated basis.  Given the known penetration of the U.S. military by operatives and sympathizers of the Muslim Brotherhood, we must carefully vet all Muslim chaplains in the U.S. military for jihadist sympathies and/or Muslim Brotherhood connections.

Defeat the Global Jihad Movement
We must acknowledge the enemy threat doctrine of Islamic Law (shariah) is pursued as a matter of doctrine and faith by the Global Islamic Movement including devout Muslims across the world. The White House must formulate, publish, and implement a new National Security Strategy that defines Islamic Law (shariah) as an enemy threat doctrine. It must be a priority objective of this new National Security Strategy to deter and defeat Islamic jihad globally. To do this, it will be necessary that U.S. national security leadership understand that the shariah threat is advanced by way of jihad, which may be kinetic or non-kinetic (head, heart, hands, including funding).

The U.S. Intelligence Community, with new leadership at the White House, National Security Council, Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Director of Central Intelligence, and other key positions, must acknowledge, identify, and remove the jihadist penetration of and influence operations against the U.S. government, especially at top levels of national security. Such a revised National Security Strategy will include consideration of nation states, sub-national jihad groups, individual jihadis, transnational jihadist organizations like the Islamic State/Caliphate, Muslim Brotherhood and Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), associated criminal, gang, and narcotrafficking groups in its overall threat matrix because they all work together, if only on an ad hoc, opportunistic basis.

Guided by such understanding of the Global Jihad Movement (GJM) threat and a new National Security Strategy designed to counter and defeat it, the next task of the U.S. President and his national security team will be to name, define, prioritize, confront, and defeat threats to U.S. national security objectives from U.S. adversaries in the MENA and Central Asian regions, their sponsors, and proxies. Iran is far and away the most critical, dangerous U.S. adversary in the region.

Its Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) programs, especially nuclear and Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) programs and Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) delivery systems, pose an existential threat to the U.S. mainland as well as to regional allies like Israel. The expansionist, revolutionary geo-strategic objectives of the Tehran regime derive from the Islamic canon and are expressed in both the Iranian constitution and military doctrine (details of which are now in U.S. possession). The Shi’ite Twelver eschatology of the top Iranian leadership, both clerical and military, actively seeks Armageddon to hasten return of 12th Imam and launch the Islamic End Times.

Iran’s preferred tactic for expansion, power projection, and terror operations relies on proxy forces: Al-Qa’eda, HAMAS, Hizballah, Iraqi Shi’ite terror militias, the Islamic State (IS) and the Taliban. We must develop plans for regime change in Iran to end the mullahs’ pursuit of deliverable nuclear weapons, an EMP-kill-shot capability, support for terrorism, revolutionary expansionism, and appalling human rights abuses against their own people.

At the same time, we must understand the Sunni Islamic State, its objectives, and what it represents for the region, vulnerable target areas across the globe, and for individual Muslims worldwide.

It must be acknowledged that the Islamic State embodies the hopes and dreams of hundreds of millions among the Muslim ummah that had been without a Caliphate since 1924, for the first time since the early days of Islam.

Thus, we must acknowledge that the identifiable, self-declared ambitions of the forces of jihad focus on establishment of that global Caliphate (Islamic governance) under Islamic Law (shariah).

Islamic State & Middle East Implosion
Since its lightening expansion during 2014, the Islamic State generally has been contained in geographic terms in its core area of operations in the former states of Iraq and Syria, both of which have been dominated by Iranian satrap regimes essentially since President George W. Bush removed the regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq in 2003 and dismantled his Sunni-majority army. It is not in the best interests of U.S. national security to intervene in this intra-Islamic Shi’ite-Sunni fight in any way that tips the advantage to either set of Islamic jihadis, whether Shi’ite or Sunni, but all of whom are dedicated enemies of the U.S., Israel, and the West.

The former states of Iraq and Syria were artificial constructs to begin with, drawn on maps by colonial powers in the 20th century. That they now are splintering along pre-colonial ethnic, sectarian, and tribal lines is likely unavoidable but not a process that threatens core, compelling U.S. national security interests in the region or calls for U.S. involvement to oppose.  On the other hand, jihadist groups and individuals outside of this Middle Eastern region that have been pledging bayat (allegiance) to IS and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and that generally pre-date the formation of IS, should be targeted by Western powers on a case-by-case basis where their elimination would not simply accrue to the benefit of other jihadist groups or states. Islamic State as well as other jihadist affiliates in Libya and elsewhere must be countered and defeated; the U.S. should provide broad-spectrum assistance against IS forces as requested by local allies and partners and/or as in the best interests of the U.S., to eradicate such presence in their territories. This assistance may include diplomatic, financial, intelligence, military, and political measures.

Hijra to the West
Many jihadist pro-shariah groups and individuals already have made the hijra (migration) to the West and live among us with the intent of ‘destroying [our] miserable house from within’ (as stated in the Muslim Brotherhood’s 1991 report, ‘The Explanatory Memorandum’). Physical annihilation of the Islamic State’s Middle East Caliphate is a necessary ultimate objective that will set back the Global Jihad Movement but not destroy it, principally because the GJM already has a presence worldwide and because the ideology of jihad derives directly from the Qur’an, hadiths, Sirat, and shariah of the Islamic canon.

Intra-Islamic Rivalries
Fellow jihadist organization and sometime Islamic State rival Al-Qa’eda is not dead: it is vibrant and currently engaged in savage rivalry with the IS and others over dominance of the Global Jihad Movement. AQ regional affiliates have multiplied since 9/11 and today include: Al-Qa’eda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), Al-Qa’eda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Jabhat al-Nusra, and the Taliban, among numerous other jihadist groups. The AQ-IS rivalry is likely to impel each to seek to out-do the other with terror operations targeting the U.S., the West, Israel, and other allies.

U.S. national security leadership, military officers and personnel, and local law enforcement officers must read and study the AQ Timeline for Conquest of the West (as published in August 2005 by Der Spiegel). We are now in Phase Six of Seven (2016-2020 is the time of ‘total confrontation’). This timeline should be made required reading at all service academies, Staff/Command and War Colleges and throughout the Pentagon. The U.S. must re-establish all training curriculum materials and instructors previously purged under Muslim Brotherhood influence that accurately teach the threat from Islamic jihad and shariah.

Whither Turkey?
The Turkish regime under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan harbors neo-Ottoman jihadist aspirations and under current leadership cannot be considered a viable NATO or Western ally unless its behavior significantly turns toward supporting U.S. and NATO objectives. Rather, Turkey is a destabilizing force in the Middle East, especially because of its apparently fixed resolve to oust the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad. Further, this jihadist Turkish leadership views Israel as a Jewish enemy and Iran and Saudi Arabia both as Islamic rivals for regional domination.
Turkey has supported IS since its inception because it views the group as a capable proxy force against Bashar al-Assad. Turkey also supports other jihadist militias including Ahrar al-Sham. Ankara’s permission for IS and other jihadis to use Turkey as a gateway to Syrian battlefields, establish terror training camps on its territory, and find safe haven there, eventually will threaten Turkey itself. Turkey’s enduring enmity towards the Kurds, both within Turkey and elsewhere, ensures ongoing, destabilizing efforts by Ankara to attack, counter, and degrade the Kurds’ equally determined nationalist aspirations. Pro-West, anti-jihadist Kurds are a natural ally for the U.S. and should be recognized and aided as such.

Russia is not a Middle East regional power but seeks to project power and influence there. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s KGB-controlled Kremlin is not a U.S. partner: it is an adversary whose expansionist ambitions and longtime collaboration with Islamic terror groups and regimes like Iran’s must be countered firmly.
Putin’s Middle East objectives center on sea access to the southeastern littoral of the Mediterranean Sea, oil interests, and foreign military sales, to include elements of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons programs and other large scale weaponry and armaments. Despite protestations of seeking to forestall chaotic destabilization, Moscow’s Middle East regional objectives and behavior run counter to U.S. national security interests.
These include Russian support for Iran’s nuclear, other WMD, and ballistic missile programs; its determination to ensure that Bashar al-Assad or other Moscow-friendly regime will retain power in Damascus; its historical intelligence and military ties to Middle Eastern terrorist groups, including Hizballah, PFLP, PLO, Iranian Khomeinists and their successors, as well as the Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qa’eda; the supply of advanced military hardware and associated capabilities to forces inimical to U.S. national security interests in the region; the destabilizing, catastrophic human rights effects of savage bombing in civilian areas and against U.S.-backed Syrian rebel groups like the Syrian Free Army; and displacement of historical U.S. influence with regional governments (e.g., Egypt).

Saudi Arabia: Font of Jihad Ideology
Saudi Arabia is a font of global jihad ideology. Despite the necessity of working with the Saudis to counter other, more dangerous regional threats like Iran and IS, Riyadh royals must be recognized for the civilizational adversary that they are, who have backed, exported, and funded jihad worldwide for decades.

A principal reason why the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has not fielded a serious military force to counter IS is that Saudi regime depends for legitimacy on its Wahhabi clerical establishment which finds more in common with IS’ pure practice of Islam than with dissolute Saudi princes. That Saudi Arabia at some point may face attack from Iran and/or IS, or that its eastern oil fields region may come under Iranian and/or IS frontal and/or subversive pressure adds complexity to defense of U.S. interests in the region, but should not blind us to the essential jihadist nature of the Saudi leadership.

The Iran Threat
America needs a new U.S. National Security Strategy to defeat the Global Jihad Movement. To accomplish this :
We must first name the jihadist Iranian regime the number one most immediately critical threat to U.S. national security in the Middle East region and perhaps in the world. 
We must develop plans to destroy Iran’s key nuclear infrastructure, including key military and civilian facilities, e.g., power grids, IRGC, IRGC-Qods Force, Bassij, and Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) command centers, etc.
 We must end official collaboration with and/or support for the Iranian regime, its puppet regimes in Baghdad, Beirut, and Damascus, and/or any of its proxies, including Hizballah, Iraqi Shi’ite militias, and the Taliban. 
We must declare formal U.S. government commitment to regime change in Tehran, support for the free expression of the will of the Iranian people, and our willingness to work with Iranian opposition groups, especially the Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MeK) and its political umbrella group, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI).
We must abrogate the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and declare Iran’s nuclear weapons program illicit and in violation of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and multiple UN Security Council (UNSC) Resolutions.
 We must declare Iran’s illicit nuclear weapons program a valid target for possible military and/or other offensive action unless any and all suspect sites are immediately opened to IAEA inspections that include U.S. nationals on the teams.
We must declare Iran’s ballistic missile program in violation of UNSC Resolutions and subject to possible military and/or other offensive action until/unless verifiably dismantled.
We must demand full accounting for Iran’s past nuclear weapons program work and should withhold funding for the IAEA until it reverses its capitulation to Tehran regime on the so-called Possible Military Dimensions (PMDs) of the Iranian nuclear weapons program. 
We must demand immediate and unconditional release of all U.S. hostages held by the Iranians and/or any of their terror proxies.

Secure the Grid
It is absolutely critical that we secure the U.S. civilian electric grid ASAP. Its continued vulnerability to EMP attack by Iran, North Korea, or other adversary, to cyber-attack, physical terrorist attack, or to periodic massive solar flares called Coronal Mass Ejections is unconscionable when the technical capability exists to harden the grid and the actual financial cost is so affordable, relative to the threat that life as we know it in America could end. Both the Critical Infrastructure Protection Act (CIPA) and the SHIELD Act must be passed out of Congress and signed by the President without any further delay.

Support Israel
The U.S. should announce a return to full, vocal official diplomatic commitment to the survival of the Jewish State of Israel within secure borders and end all funding for the Palestinian Authority and the UN Relief and Works Agency 

We must renew and upgrade the U.S. defense relationship with Israel and accelerate approval for sales of the Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP) and other bunker-busting munitions to Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). The U.S. should provide the IDF with enhanced air refueling capability and consider other, enhanced collaboration on and funding for the Iron Dome, Arrow, David’s Sling, Magic Wand, and other missile defense systems as well as other defensive measures.

The Department of State should open bilateral discussions on countering Iran’s existential threat to Israel, including the possibility of Israel ‘taking its bomb out of the basement’ and announcing commitment to the principle of anticipatory self-defense under international law. And symbolically, but most important of all, the U.S. should move its official Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which is the eternal, undivided capital of the Jewish State of Israel. Our very visible and strong relationship with Israel must be seen as unequivocal in the eyes of the international community.

Kurdish National Aspirations
The U.S. should declare official support for the national aspirations of the Kurdish people, whether in autonomous zones or something more formal (to be the subject of discussions). We should upgrade immediately U.S. military and weapons assistance to the Kurdish Peshmerga that are fighting forces of the Damascus regime as well as IS. We should expand the U.S. economic commitment to Kurdish-controlled areas for development & infrastructure projects.

In terms of a broader U.S. regional strategy, we should announce a ‘non-intervention’ policy for the intra-Islamic Shi’ite-Sunni struggle. This should not, however, necessarily obviate continued U.S. air strikes, or the targeted deployment of Special Operations forces against IS in the Caliphate area of operations on a limited basis.

We should arm, back, fund, and train U.S. regional allies, including Egypt, Israel, Jordan, the Kurds, and other minority groups including Christians and Yazidis.

We should consider expansion of the U.S. military commitment to counter IS in other areas outside of its Middle East core area of operations such as in North and West Africa; Egypt/Sinai Peninsula, and elsewhere. It is most important that we ensure U.S. actions do not tip the balance in favor of either Shi’ite or Sunni jihadist enemies.

A Hostile Foreign Powers List
Domestically, the President should seek Congressional legislation to designate a new listing for Hostile Foreign Powers, to which all jihadist entities, whether kinetic or subversive, national, sub-national or transnational, would be named. The new listing would be the basis to purge all U.S. federal, state, and local bureaucracies of pro-shariah jihadist influences, especially the Muslim Brotherhood, its front organizations, and associated individuals. 
We must re-establish an official U.S. government-wide training curriculum to instruct on Islamic doctrine, law, scriptures and their role as inspirational sources for Islamic terrorism.
The Department of Justice must begin prosecution of the 200-plus unindicted co-conspirators in the 2008 Holy Land Foundation HAMAS terror funding trial. The President must instruct the FBI to investigate and the Department of Justice to prosecute sedition and material support for terrorism aggressively. If found guilty of subversion and / or sedition of the United States of America, mosques and the associated imams or mullahs that preach sedition and jihad must be closed, and their religious leaders, if indicted, will be prosecuted and, if necessary deported or imprisoned.

Immigration & Refugee Resettlement
It is critical that the U.S. develop comprehensive immigration and refugee resettlement policy reform. We should prioritize funding for refugees already in safe camps in the Middle East to remain near their former homes so as to improve the likelihood they will go home whenever the situation permits. The President and State Governors should seek Congressional legislation that requires involvement by state and local jurisdictions in every step of the immigration and refugee resettlement process.

The Departments of Homeland Security, Justice, and State must begin to apply discriminatory vetting to exclude those who favor or harbor jihadist ideology or are unlikely to assimilate well into US society. Federal agencies should selectively favor immigration, refugee processing, and visas for Middle East Christians, Yazidis, and others persecuted for their religious beliefs.

Finally, candidates for public office, Congressional representatives, defense and national security officials, and all who accept the responsibilities incumbent on those who take the oath of office to ‘protect and defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic’ should see the Secure Freedom Strategy, published by the Center for Security Policy in 2015, for a whole-of-government, whole-of-society approach to defeating the Global Jihad Movement:
Chairman’s Note – Our thanks to Clare Lopez as the senior editor and members of the Legacy National Security Advisory group for all the research and time to develop this important and critical document. Counterjihad security architecture and strategies are more necessary now than ever before.Paul E. Vallely; Chairman – Stand Up America US.

Editor’s Note – This article was updated to include headings for sections of the document on 2-26-16 

Thursday, February 25, 2016

The Vanishing Jews of Cory Booker’s Memoir

Mayor Cory Booker. Photo: Bdsrock.
Mayor Cory Booker. Photo: Bdsrock.
The New York Observer called to ask me if I had seen that my dear friend of 25 years, Senator Cory Booker, had removed me from his memoir over my public criticism of his choice to support the Iran deal. I was vocal in calling upon Cory to oppose the genocidal Iran regime and oppose giving them $150 billion to murder innocents around the globe. Cory also chose to block any vote on the deal in the Senate after publicly promising, just two days before the vote, that he would not participate in the Democratic filibuster because a vote on so momentous a policy, he said, was vital.
I took the news in stride and told them I had expected it. Cory expected me to put loyalty and friendship first and to remain silent over his backing the Iranian regime amid their threats to annihilate the Jews.
I have supported Cory for 25 years. I made him my student president at Oxford University, I had him introduce our guest Mikhail Gorbachev to 3,000 students, I introduced Cory to the American Jewish leadership across the United States, and I helped him prepare countless speeches based on themes from the Torah and the writings of Jewish giants like Maimonides, the Rebbe, Elie Wiesel, and Victor Frankl.
But this time was different. There can be no silence in the face of genocide. There can be no passivity when confronting genocidal intent.
The United States is a signatory to the United Nations’ 1948 Anti-Genocide convention that makes incitement to genocide a crime against humanity. Rather than being given $150 billion by which to kill innocent people around the world, the leaders of Iran should have been indicted at the International Criminal Court at The Hague for their repeated promises to eradicate the Jews. Cory should have been at the forefront of condemning Iran’s promises to exterminate the nation of Israel.
His silence precipitated my outspokenness.
Public figures have to understand that criticism comes with the territory. It’s nothing personal. But genocide is deadly serious. I told The New York Observer that Cory will just have to understand my deep disappointment and get over it. I will always love him. We will always be soul-friends. Our friendship will resume.
I am a public figure and as painful as it is to admit it, I have learned much from my admirers but even more from my critics.
And as for me, well, father Abraham reminded us that we are all but dust and ashes. And however much a friend’s actions will sometimes cause personal pain, we all have much larger things to live for, none more so than the protection of our people and defending the infinite value of human life.
True, other Rabbis and Jewish leaders to whom I introduced Cory over the last 25 years chose not only silence in the face of Cory’s Iran support but bent over backward to give Cory political cover and preserve his relationship with a stunned Jewish community as Jewish support for Cory began to disintegrate. These Rabbis did so in the name of political access, arguing that Cory is a powerful man and the community needs a relationship with him.
In particular, Rabbi Shmully Hecht and Rabbi Menachem Genack worked overtime to get Jewish leaders to meet with Cory in order to preserve his standing in the Jewish community. Shmully made herculean efforts to have Cory invited to high-level meetings with Jewish and Israeli leaders when Cory was being shunned after what many saw as a betrayal.
Rabbis providing Cory with political cover in order, one presumes, to preserve their access to the Senator, was all allegedly done in the name of helping Israel and the Jewish community.
But in this apparent attempt to curry favor with a lawmaker who has legitimized a regime that stones women to death and hangs gays from cranes, I was reminded of the sad legacy of Rabbi Steven S. Wise, the Reform Jewish leader during the Holocaust who categorically refused to call out FDR for inaction against the annihilation of European Jewry in order to preserve access to the White House. To be sure, Wise argued that the community needed the President and thus should never criticize him. His refusal to call out the President, and his efforts to provide FDR with political cover in the Jewish community, was all done in the name of God.
But history remembers it differently.
Wise’s name today lives in infamy because he put political relationships before the interests of his people. And his silence did not help even a bit. It was Peter Bergson, who strongly challenged the FDR Administration in successive full-page New York  Times ads that ultimately led to the creation of the War Refugee Board and the saving of some 250,000 Jews. Bergson was soundly criticized by many as a troublemaker and nuisance. Wise said that Bergson’s criticisms of the White House had made him “worse than Hitler.” But history has vindicated Bergson as the courageous Jewish leader who put the interests of his people before relationships with the powerful.
This year, on May 5, our organization, The World Values Network, will honor Bergson through his daughter Becky with fellow honorees Yoko Ono, Rev. Bernice King (daughter of Martin Luther King, Jr.), the Crown Prince of Iran Reza Pahlavi, mega-philanthropists Michael and Judy Steinhardt, and the world’s foremost benefactors of Jewish causes, Dr. Miriam and Sheldon Adelson
Cory is a good and special man. But he is served poorly by sycophants who refuse to remind him of the virtues that made him so special and brought him to national prominence in the first place.
First, there was always Cory’s graciousness and gratitude. Where did that go? How could Cory have written a memoir that barely acknowledges the vast Jewish contribution to his life and career, if at all? In Cory’s Book United he acknowledges the influence of the African-American, Latino, and Muslim communities in shaping his life, teaching him valuable lessons, and supporting his political rise.
The Jewish contribution seems largely to have vanished. Gone is any mention of the thousands of hours of Torah and Parsha study that we enjoyed together and which helped shape his values. Lacking is any reference to how the ideas and values of Judaism, which I and other scholars studied with him, gave him inspirational material for speeches that electrified audiences. Absent is mention of the hundreds of synagogues who opened their doors to him and gave him unconditional love. Missing also is a proper acknowledgment of the countless Jewish organizations and individuals who raised huge sums of money to support his political campaigns from the time he first ran for City Council to the time he reached the Senate.
In largely whiting out his history with a Jewish community that once adored him, Cory undermined the incredible courage it took for an African-American Rhodes Scholar to become the head of my student L’Chaim Society organization at Oxford in the early nineties, when there still was tension between the Black and Jewish communities. Our friendship, which was written about in the world’s leading publications and which even Barbra Streisand wanted to make a film about, inspired hundreds of thousands and Cory even pushed me to take off an entire summer to write a book about our special and unpredictable soul-friendship. Cory moved into my home and we wrote and wrote every day in my living room.
In the place of that bravery we have instead, as a friend who reviewed the book expressed it to me, the “whitewashed, homogenized, poll-tested language that is risk free and without the passion and personality that made him so interesting and dynamic.” The brave Cory that defeated Sharpe James and took over a city, embraced reform, and destroyed a corrupt political machine is replaced by a more timid political personality who barely won his senate seat in the very blue state of New Jersey. The brave Cory stood up for Israel and was famously above partisanship. The whitewashed Cory stands up unconditionally for President Obama’s policies on Iran and Israel and calls Hillary Clinton “the most qualified candidate for President since George Washington,” even as she takes advice on Israel from arch-Israel hater Max Blumenthal who calls Israel a Nazi state and compares the IDF to the SS.
But I do not despair. I know we will see the brave Cory again, the one that was both my pupil and inspiration at Oxford.
The time will come for the Jewish community to reconcile with our dear friend. I believe that one day soon, Cory will take to the floor of the United States Senate and demand that the remaining provisions of the Iran deal be frozen until Iran stops threatening a second holocaust of the Jews and ceases its support for Bashar Assad’s wholesale slaughter of innocent Arabs in Syria.
Samantha Power exposed in her Pulitzer-prize winning book, A Problem from Hell, the many American politicians who sat idly by while genocides raged during their terms in office. She loudly criticized the Clinton Administration and Susan Rice for their failures to stop the Rwandan genocide. There is no excuse for silence in the face mass murder. One must speak out regardless of the political costs.
Joseph Stalin is credited with saying, “A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic.” It is just too easy for politicians to sit back and do nothing when there is nothing pressuring them to act.
Yet with all of this, and through Cory’s heartbreaking error of supporting the Iran deal, I have said repeatedly that my outspokenness was never personal. This was a matter of genocide, not egos, and I am sure that our friendship is strong enough to survive even this.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, “America’s Rabbi,” is the international best-selling author of 30 books, winner of The London Times Preacher of the Year Competition, and recipient of the American Jewish Press Association’s Highest Award for Excellence in Commentary. He will shortly publish The Israel Warrior’s Handbook: Winning the Battle for Israel in the Marketplaces of Ideas. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Lessons of the Gaza Disengagement

The Arab Attitude toward Israel’s 2005 Unilateral Disengagement: A First-Hand Account from an Israeli Insider

Brig.-Gen. Yossi Kuperwasser served as the head of the Research Division for Military Intelligence of the Israel Defense Forces in 2005 at the time of the disengagement from Gaza and parts of Northern Samaria. Because of his special vantage point he is able to bring a new insight to the subject.Intelligence professionals were not consulted in the decision-making process. While the Prime Minister and his confidants hoped that this initiative would result in a political advantage for Israel and strengthen its security, it is clear that they did not take possible Arab and Palestinian reactions into account, particularly those of Hamas. In this article Brig.-Gen. Kuperwasser presents the issue of disengagement from a fresh perspective and describes its unintended consequences, which could have been foreseen.
The Arab Perspective
Israel’s disengagement from the Gaza Strip had undeniable consequences for the Arab world, including the Palestinians, but those consequences were not taken into account in the process leading to the dramatic decision. In this essay, I shall provide my own reflections as former head of the Research Division of Military Intelligence at that time when the fateful decision of the disengagement was made. It is noteworthy that intelligence professionals were not consulted in the process at all and their assessment was not requested before the decision was taken. Instead, a small group of decision-makers carried out this plan. Their attitude and thinking suffered from a number of weaknesses characteristic of Western political and strategic thought in the region.
I also will show that the Arabs had mixed responses to the disengagement. Each player, including the different groups in the Palestinian political system, emphasized what was important to its own outlook and interests.
On the one hand, the disengagement was perceived as an achievement of the Palestinian struggle and as a positive precursor to an eventual Israeli withdrawal from parts of the disputed territories in the Land of Israel/Palestine. The precedent of the withdrawal from Lebanon in May 2000 opened the way for similar moves in the future. It is important to note that the decision to pursue disengagement was taken at a time when Palestinian terrorist activities, including the area of the Gaza Strip, reached their highest levels. Thus, from the Arab point of view, it exposed the failure of Israeli society to cope effectively with that challenge. This perspective is further supported by the fact that the actual disengagement was implemented at a time, toward the undeclared end of the Second Intifada, when terrorist activities slowly began to subside. In addition, the policy of terrorism failed to produce long-term gains for the Palestinians who regarded their campaign as ultimately ineffective because it came at a heavy price and yielded no tangible results. Nonetheless, the Palestinian leadership appropriated the disengagement and used it as a sign of success in their otherwise futile struggle to motivate other radical actors in the region. The disengagement may have been one of the factors that encouraged Hassan Nasrallah, secretary-general of Hizbullah, to intensify his efforts to carry out an additional kidnapping. This eventually materialized in July 2006 when two soldiers were kidnapped – an act that led to the Second Lebanon War. Later Nasrallah admitted that it was a mistake.
Whereas the radical actors of the Palestinian leadership celebrated the disengagement as a victory, its more pragmatic elements regarded it as problematic. They feared that it would further fuel terrorism and hence harm internal stability within the Palestinian political leadership. Given that the leadership was going through a period of internal strife and instability, they felt that the disengagement might further complicate relations with their political opponents and that they would be forced to cooperate with the extremist factions.
In the neighboring region, the disengagement created far-reaching consequences particularly for Egypt, which – in light of Israel’s decision to evacuate also the border area, the Philadelphi Route – was forced to come to terms with Fatah and Hamas and allow increased smuggling from Sinai to Gaza, particularly by Hamas. Moreover, at the time, Egypt suffered domestically from increasing Islamic terror, especially in Sinai. (Before the disengagement a mass-casualty attack took place in Sharm el-Sheikh on 23 July 2005, and Egypt convened an Arab summit to discuss the disengagement and the terror attacks.)
The Palestinian Sphere of Influence
Concurrently, the Palestinians claimed the disengagement as an achievement and felt vindicated by the dismantlement of the settlements and the Israel Defense Forces’ departure from the Gaza Strip. The Palestinians began to think that the pressure on Israel should continue, which could then bring them closer to their next objective – a unilateral withdrawal from Judea and Samaria, and from Jerusalem. To ensure that Israel would not retract the decision at the last moment, the Palestinian factions resolved to keep things quiet during the disengagement itself, which they did.
The Palestinian leadership unequivocally attributed the Israeli decision to disengage from Gaza to their terror campaign. But once Mahmoud Abbas was elected to replace Yasser Arafat as Chairman of the Palestinian Authority and called for an end to the onslaught of terror, Hamas quickly reacted. It positioned itself strategically as the faction entitled to reap the political fruits of the disengagement. Cognizant of the political threat that Hamas posed, the PA decided to postpone the date of the parliamentary elections to the beginning of 2006, thus separating the elections from the disengagement as much as possible. In retrospect, it is clear that the PA strategy ultimately failed, and indeed, one may argue that the election victory for Hamas may be attributed quite significantly to the perception of the general public, which saw Hamas as the critical player in forcing Israel to seek the political solution of disengagement from the Gaza Strip.
Along with the sense of achievement, many Palestinians were concerned that the disengagement would foster different perceptions of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. First, the Palestinians feared that Israel would now claim that it no longer had the status of an occupier in Gaza. This fear was valid because the decision to leave the Philadelphi Route was defended, inter alia, on the basis that it would enable Israel to make that claim. Hence the Palestinians launched an effort to prevent a change in Israel’s status, and despite international support for the disengagement, they easily managed to enlist international support for their position. As a result, the international community and the Arab world now considered Israel as an occupying power in a place where it had neither military nor civilian presence.
Furthermore, the Palestinians were concerned that the suffering of the settlers, who experienced both physical and psychological trauma when they were uprooted from their homes, could deprive the Palestinians of their status as the primary victims of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. For a time, the wide coverage of the disengagement in the international media, and particularly, the traumatic forced removal of the settlers, inspired empathy and sometimes even sympathy for their human story, while the suffering of the Palestinians was upstaged. However, international sympathy with the settlers and their misfortune was short-lived. The international media quickly reverted to depicting the Palestinians as the main victims, while settlers were portrayed as responsible for their own suffering.
Beyond the fears of the Palestinians in general, the disengagement posed much graver concerns for Fatah. Mahmoud Abbas and his comrades in the movement’s top echelon saw the Israeli move as a form of pressure on them to reach an agreement based on an Israeli interpretation of the Roadmap. They feared that if they did not do so, a new, unilateral reality would emerge where the Americans would recognize Israel’s claims regarding Judea and Samaria (President Bush’s letter to Prime Minister Sharon intensified these worries). Abbas, of course, was not prepared to give in to this pressure since it would mean accepting a long-term interim arrangement where, at most, a Palestinian state would arise in Gaza and part of the West Bank without a solution to the problem of the refugees. This fear, however, turned out to have been exaggerated. The disengagement had not really intended to put pressure on the Palestinians. On the contrary, it came from domestic Israeli considerations. The Americans not only did not try to leverage the move but eventually ignored the Bush letter, which lost all significance after President Obama dismissed it.
It had not proved possible to work out an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza by agreement. Moreover, some in Fatah feared that coordination with Israel would fail and the achievement represented by the withdrawal would be endangered. This concern existed despite the fact that James Wolfensohn, representative of the Quartet for coordinating Israel’s disengagement from Gaza and for the development of the Gaza Strip, had devised an arrangement for leaving the Israeli green-houses in the Gaza Strip intact, using his personal finances. Therefore, Abbas repeatedly emphasized Israel’s threats prior to the withdrawal, that the disengagement that if rocket fire continued from Gaza, Israel might exercise its option to re-conquer that land. This led Abbas to demand that Hamas refrain from launching rockets, thereby encouraging Israel to complete the withdrawal. Abbas’ concerns turned out to be somewhat exaggerated: Israel not only fulfilled all its commitments, it refrained from invading Gaza even after Abbas reneged on his promise and shortly after the disengagement, rocket fire from Gaza resumed.
Two additional concerns turned out to be more justified. Firstly, the PA and Fatah feared that after Israel’s withdrawal Hamas would use its increased military power to take over the entire Gaza Strip as it was strong enough (with about 20,000 armed men, according to the PA) to deter the PA’s security forces from fighting it frontally, especially in the areas where Hamas was entrenched. Once Israel’s military presence was gone, the PA’s ability to prevent a Hamas takeover was limited. The day after the Israeli withdrawal, it had become clear that Hamas was doing whatever it wanted in the Strip. It destroyed the greenhouses and the remaining buildings in the Israeli settlements, razed the fence that Israel had built along the Philadelphi Route, and brought in a large quantity of weapons from Egypt while PA security forces stood by passively. Eventually, in 2007, Hamas used its power and electoral gains to take control of the Gaza Strip.
The second concern was that the Israeli move could have been a ruse to expose the fact that the PA was neither capable nor prepared to govern Gaza independently. Thus, it would bolster Israel’s argument that a Palestinian state in the West Bank would endanger Israel and the pragmatic elements in the region, such as Egypt, Fatah and Jordan. The Palestinian Authority’s impotence was indeed revealed. Despite the fact that the government of Israel has emphasized that point, Europe, the United States, and even some on the Israeli Left have preferred to ignore this obvious Palestinian failure. They continue to maintain that the Gaza precedent should be followed in Judea and Samaria by creating an independent Palestinian state there.
For Hamas, the disengagement had positive consequences. Israel’s decision clearly vindicated the movement’s insistence that terror (i.e., jihad or “Islamic resistance”) is the only way to liberate Palestine. It is clear that the disengagement was one of the factors that made Hamas overcome its misgivings and run in the Palestinian parliamentary elections. The disengagement raised Hamas’ hopes for a solid electoral victory.
This achievement was quickly translated into a new reality on the ground because Hamas had gained effective control of the Strip. For Hamas, the main issue became how to leverage their enhanced position in Gaza and increase their ability to hold it in the future, turn it into a base for anti-Israeli terror, and apply pressure on Israel to withdraw from Judea and Samaria and from areas within the Green Line. The movement did not conceal its goal of liberating all of Palestine, and kept calling for the liberation of Jaffa, Haifa, Ashkelon, and, of course, Jerusalem.
At the same time, a disparity arose between Hamas’ achievement in Gaza and its freedom of action in Judea and Samaria – an issue that continues even today. On the one hand, Hamas leveraged its accomplishment in Gaza to consolidate its strength in Judea and Samaria both politically and operationally. On the other hand, Hamas feared that Israel’s success in preventing it from building its power base in Judea and Samaria would endanger its position in Gaza, which was its greatest accomplishment.
So far, despite continuous efforts, Hamas has failed to repeat its Gaza success in Judea and Samaria. A major reason for its failure to do so is Israel’s presence on the ground, along with the lessons that the PA has learned from what happened in Gaza after the disengagement.
Lessons from the Disengagement
From the perspective of a decade, we may learn six lessons from the disengagement, as follows:
First, the Palestinian Authority is not capable of controlling a territory on its own. It cannot overcome radical groups that challenge its authority because of its corruption and because of the conflict between its seemingly pragmatic approach and its commitment to an extremist ideology that claims that there is no such thing as the Jewish people and there is no history of Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel. Therefore, there is no justification for the existence of the Jewish nation-state in the land. In fact, the land really is Palestine and, hence, Israel’s disappearance is inevitable. Furthermore, it is incumbent upon the Palestinians to expedite the process of Israel’s disappearance. All means justify the ends, and the choice between approaches must be based upon their effectiveness at a particular time. The Jews are dreadful and appalling creatures that the Europeans removed from their midst. There is no reason for the Palestinians to tolerate them. The Palestinians are victims of the West and of Israel and cannot be held accountable or expected to accept responsibility for their actions. The weakness of the PA, however, makes it dependent on Israel in order to prevent its collapse.
Second, a territory that Israel completely evacuates without retaining a capacity to operate in it, or at least to implement containment of it, undergoes a change. It is impossible to return it to the previous status quo. Just as Hamas exploited the disengagement in order to strengthen its forces and improve its military capabilities in Gaza, as Hizbullah did in southern Lebanon, there will be a similar result in Judea and Samaria, if they are transferred to the Palestinians, particularly if Israel does not retain control of the Jordan Valley.
Third, unilateral concessions are perceived in the region as signs of weakness, and hence invite additional pressure. Conversely, demonstrating resolve discourages pressure. The unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon encouraged the Palestinians to choose confrontation and launch the Second Intifada. The Disengagement convinced the extremist elements among the Palestinians, along with Hizbullah, to continue the armed struggle, including a focus on kidnappings.
Fourth, the ultimate, long-term goal of the Palestinians is the destruction of Israel and gaining control over all of Palestine. This is especially true regarding the “1948 refugees,” whose objective is to return to their former homes. For them, the homeland is not simply an abstract conception, but a concrete idea of a house that they or their parents had left and to which they want to return. Thus, even when a small plot of land that belonged to what they consider their homeland is given to them to control, they do not concentrate on cultivating it, but focus upon how to use it to make progress toward their main goal. Remnants of any Israeli presence in Gaza, including the greenhouses, were demolished. No attempt was made to use them for settling refugees and advancing economic growth. The Western and Israeli “peace industry” refuses to recognize this reality, and facts on the ground will not change their preconceptions, which involve projecting Western norms on the Palestinians. People in the “peace industry” wring their hands and express their disappointment at the bitter reality, and learn nothing. The implications with regard to Judea and Samaria are clear.
Fifth, the political benefit from unilateral concessions is temporary and illusory. It is not possible to translate such concessions into sustainable political achievements. Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza was not acknowledged as the end of an occupation, even after the adoption by Congress of the letter of President Bush. The campaign of delegitimization against Israel continued, as was evident in the Goldstone Report, published four years after the disengagement. In conclusion, we should not delude ourselves.
Sixth, optimism and wishful thinking cannot provide a basis for major political initiatives. There was no justification for optimism about the disengagement. Gaza did not become Singapore and the Philadelphi Route was breached. A continuous supply of weapons was brought into Gaza and large parts of Israel came under the threat of rockets by Hamas. Predictions of a great future for Gaza were not fulfilled.
The Author’s Perspective
From a personal standpoint, looking back at the disengagement after a decade raises the question of how major decisions are reached in Israel. I do not know whether and to what extent Prime Minister Sharon was motivated by personal considerations or public pressure – or, conversely, that he believed he had invented an idea that promised much greater military and political advantages than disadvantages, and decided to implement it. It is clear that he was influenced by the terror attack at Netzarim in October 2003, in which two female soldiers and one male soldier were killed at the base where they lived. This attack further decreased the support of part of the public for deploying the IDF to protect the Gaza settlements. In any event, the readiness of the top decision-makers, along with a small coterie of associates, to take fateful decisions – men neither elected by the public nor chosen by the state because of their professional competence – only increased the chances of making unsound decisions.
This practice is likely to increase the effects of the basic structural weaknesses of Western political and strategic thinking and may continue to influence the decision-making process in Israel. These weaknesses were evident during the period of the disengagement. Perhaps the most important factor is a fundamental naiveté, which makes it difficult for Israel’s decision-makers to see the other side as an enemy whom one must confront until he changes his policy and ceases to be an enemy. Many believe that even when the other side unequivocally regards us as an enemy that must be destroyed or removed, we must view it as an opponent that can and should be placated and turned into a partner. The affair of the greenhouses is a striking example of this wide cultural gap. Such naiveté encourages some of our decision-makers to develop an attitude of exaggerated optimism. This state of mind causes them to favor positive scenarios while belittling problematic ones and to see the importance of the immediate consequences of their decisions while downplaying their medium- and long-term repercussions on the immediate environment (in this case, Gaza) and the broader environment (the Palestinian, Arab, and international spheres). In other words, naiveté compromises strategic foresight, which, in turn, allows our leaders to place excessive focus on the domestic impact of their actions while assigning much less significance to foreign policy considerations.

Friday, February 19, 2016


Yoram Ettinger   2-19-16

Common sense suggests that simplistic and err
oneous assumptions produce simplistic and erroneous policies, as has been the case with all U.S. initiatives on the Palestinian issue. This is because the U.S. foreign policy establishment has been erroneously perceiving the Palestinian issue to be the root cause of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Hence there was the initial U.S. opposition to the 1977 Israel-Egypt peace initiative and the attempt to inject the Palestinian issue into it on the eve of the 1979 signing ceremony; the 1987 U.S. recognition of the PLO, which rewarded and strengthened a role model of international terrorism; the passive U.S. role in the 1994 Israel-Jordan peace initiative; the U.S. endorsement of PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat for the Nobel Peace Prize and the embrace of the self-destructive 1993 Oslo Accords; the failure to punish the Palestinian Authority for its hate-education and other systematic violations of the Oslo Accords; and the resounding failure of U.S. President Barack Obama's initiatives highlighting the Palestinian issue.
Contrary to the U.S. foreign policy establishment's worldview, the 1948 Arab-Israeli war was not launched by Arab countries on behalf of Palestinian aspirations. The Arabs launched the war in order to advance their own -- not the Palestinians' -- interests through the occupation of the strategic area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. In fact, the Palestinians blame Arab leaders for what they term "the 1948 debacle."
Moreover, the objective of the 1948 war was to prevent the establishment of an "infidel" Jewish entity on land that Muslims believe was divinely endowed to the "believers" (Waqf). Thus, during the October 1947 Pan-Arab Summit, then Arab League Secretary General Abdul Rahman Azzam stated: "The establishment of a Jewish state would lead to a war of extermination and momentous massacre, which will be spoken of like the Mongolian massacre and the Crusades. ... This war will be distinguished by three serious matters: ... the shortest road to paradise … an opportunity for vast plunder … avenging the martyrdom of Palestinian Arabs."
Jordan joined the 1948 war to expand its territory from the east bank of the Jordan River to the Mediterranean as a step toward dominating the Arab world. Egypt harbored similar ambitions and sought to foil Jordan's ambitious strategy. Egypt deployed some of its soldiers to the Jerusalem region to check the Jordanian military moves. Iraq aspired to control the 585-mile-long Iraq-Haifa oil pipeline, which extended from the oil fields in Kirkuk/Mosul through Jordan to the refineries in Haifa. Syria, for its part, considered the war an opportunity to conquer some southern sections of "Greater Syria."
At the end of the 1948 war, Iraq occupied Samaria (the northern West Bank), but transferred it to Jordan, not to the Palestinians. Jordan occupied Judea (the southern West Bank) and in April 1950 annexed both areas (naming them the West Bank) to the Hashemite kingdom on the east bank of the Jordan River. The kingdom prohibited Palestinian activities and punished or expelled Palestinian activists. Egypt conquered the Gaza Strip and imposed a nightly curfew (which was terminated when Israel gained control of Gaza in 1967). Egypt prohibited Palestinian national activities and expelled Palestinian leaders. Syria occupied and annexed the al-Hama area in the Golan Heights.
In 1948, the Arab League formed the "All Palestine Government" as a department within the Arab League headquarters in Cairo, and dissolved it in 1959.
Independent of the Palestinian issue, the 1956 Sinai Campaign was triggered by Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser's megalomaniacal aspirations to rule the Arab world. Nasser concluded a major arms deal with Czechoslovakia and formed a joint Egypt-Syria-Jordan military command against his Arab rivals and Israel. He nationalized the British- and French-owned Suez Canal, supported the Algerian uprising against France, blockaded Israel's southern port of Eilat, and unleashed Gaza-based terrorism against Israel, aiming to occupy parts of the Negev in southern Israel.
Irrespective of the Palestinian issue, the 1967 Six-Day War was launched by Israel in response to: Egypt's blockade of Eilat, the oil port of Israel; Egyptian deployment of troops in Sinai, in violation of the 1957 Sinai demilitarization agreement; the Egypt-Syria-Jordan Military Pact vowing Israel's destruction; the Syrian shelling of Israeli communities below the Golan Heights; and the Jordanian shelling of Jerusalem.
Unrelated to the Palestinian issue, the 1967-1970 War of Attrition was conducted along the Suez Canal, as an extension of the 1967 war.
Regardless of the Palestinian issue, and consistent with the goal to advance their national interests and eradicate the "infidel" Jewish state, Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Iraq initiated the 1973 Yom Kippur War.
Arabs have systematically and traditionally provided a lot of rhetoric, but have supplied minimal financial resources and shed no blood for the Palestinians. The 1982 Lebanon War -- which pre-empted a massive PLO assault on northern Israel -- was the first war with no Arab military involvement. The war erupted on June 6, 1982, but the Arab League convened an emergency session only in September, after the PLO had already been expelled from Beirut. Moreover, the Arab oil-producing countries -- at a time when they controlled the oil market -- refused to flex any oil muscle on behalf of the PLO.
Similarly, the 1987-1992 First Intifada and the 2000-2003 Second Intifada by Palestinians were not transformed into any Arab-Israeli war. There was no Arab military involvement. There was no financial walk, only talk. In fact, U.S. and West European financial aid to the Palestinians dramatically exceeded the Arab contribution.
Israel's 2008, 2012 and 2014 wars against Gaza-based Palestinian terrorism were not top priorities for Arab leaders, most of whom blamed Hamas for the eruption of the 2014 war.
Erroneous Western assumptions that the Arab-Israeli conflict was triggered by the Palestinian issue have led to erroneous policies. It's time for the "Palestine Firsters" to disengage from oversimplification and re-engage with the complex reality of the Middle East.