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April 23, 2014 / 23 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘barry rubin’

A Layman’s Guide to Revolutionary Sunni Islamism, the World’s Greatest Threat

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

Visit Barry Rubin’s Blog Rubin Reports

It sure isn’t the age of Aquarius or of Multicultural, Politically Correct love-ins. It’s the age of revolutionary Islamism, especially Sunni Islamism. And you better learn to understand what this is all about real fast.

(Shia Islamism, important mainly because of Iran and especially due to its nuclear ambitions, is number two on the threat list. But that’s not our topic today.)

There are three types of the Sunni revolutionary Islamism and they are all bad, very bad. A lot of people are going to be misinforming you about this and getting others—never themselves, of course—killed.

Sometimes people ask me why I use the phrase “revolutionary” Sunni Islamism. The reason is to remind everyone that this is a revolutionary movement like those of the past that seek to use a variety of strategies and tactics–of which violence might only be one–to seize, hold, and use state power to transform societies.

Some ask why I use the word “Islamism” and the reason is because this is a specific, conscious set of organized political movements. However theology is related to this issue the problem is political, not theological. If you saw as I did over decades how the radicals had to work hard to sell the idea that “jihad” today meant picking up guns, cutting off people’s heads, overthrowing governments, and assembling mobs of thousands screaming for death and destruction, you’d have no illusion that they had an easy time of it.

This didn’t happen because somebody just pointed to some verses in the Koran and everyone said: Oh, now I get it! We must seize control of the world and kill everyone else. They murdered or intimidated into silence Muslims who disagreed with them. Even today hundreds of millions of Muslims oppose revolutionary Islamism. And if you don’t play it smart to have those people as allies–some out of mutually cynical self-interest and some as true brothers who want to live in freedom just like you do–and help them save their lives and countries you will never achieve anything.

The three types are the al-Qaida style groups; the Salafists, and the Muslim Brotherhood. They are all equally dangerous and some are more dangerous in different ways. Have no illusions.

UNDERSTANDING AL-QAIDA, which goes under many names and regional local groups, is simple. It has one strategy: kill! Its only tactic is terrorism. It is like those nineteenth-century revolutionary movements that always failed and for which the Marxists had so much contempt.

These small groups were always persuaded that if the workers would only be roused to a general strike or that enough officials would be assassinated the revolution would come like a nuclear explosion. Now, these movements always failed but sometimes they laid the basis for others to succeed. Remember, the People’s Will helped launch the Russian revolutionary movement; an anarchist assassinated an American president; the Serbian state-sponsored terrorist cell set off World War One in 1914, and of course al-Qaida created September 11.

Al-Qaida and its various versions in Morocco, Gaza (the Palestinian Resistance Committees), Iraq, Somalia, Europe, Yemen, and a dozen other places is dangerous in that it can stage terrorist attacks. In a place where no government exists—like Somalia—it might conceivably seize power. But al-Qaida is not the great threat of the twenty-first century. It is a problem for counter-terrorism and relatively lightweight counterinsurgency.

They may be the worst guys but they are not the West’s main global strategic problem. Everybody who isn’t basically a supporter of an al-Qaida group hates al-Qaida except for the Taliban which is really the same. Why? Because al-Qaida wants to overthrow every regime (they do play a little footsy with Iran but even that’s limited). Oh, and they also loathe Shia Muslims which makes for even more enemies and fewer potential allies.

It is “stupid” to have no friends because that means everyone has a motive to get you and nobody has a reason to help you or give you safe haven. Doesn’t sound like brilliant strategy, right? But there’s more.

Al-Qaida, although the name means in Arabic “base,” ironically, has no political base. It sets up no real mass organizations; it doesn’t do social welfare work capable of rallying whole countries behind it. There is no way that hundreds of thousands or millions of people will rally to its cause. Imagine someone in 1917 saying in Moscow, “Forget about those moderate Bolsheviks. It’s the anarchists we have to fear.”

Rubin Reports: A Sentence by the State Department Sentences The World to Disaster

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

http://www.rubinreports.blogspot.com/2012/05/sentence-by-state-department-sentences.html

If I’ve ever seen a single sentence that spells disaster in the Middle East it’s this one:

“`People say things in a campaign and then when they get elected they actually have to govern,’ [U.S. State Department] spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.”

The specific context of this statement were remarks by the Obama Administration’s favorite Egyptian presidential candidate, Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, in a debate. He called Israel racist, an enemy of Egypt, and a state based on occupation (that is, has no right to exist), then calling to alter the Egypt-Israel peace treaty.

Pay no attention to the man in front of the curtain, says Nuland, he doesn’t really mean it.

The problem with this, like hundreds of other statements by the currently dominant worldview in the West, is that almost nobody is around in the mainstream media or academia to say – Wait a minute! In fact, I can make a very strong counter-argument that would persuade most people if they were allowed to hear it.

So let us parse Ms. Nuland’s sentence, which does accurately reflect U.S. foreign policy today and is indeed a death or prison sentence for many people in the Middle East. Nothing is easier, of course, than finding examples of politicians who did not keep their election promises. But that’s not what we are dealing with here. No, the case here is:

Do radical ideological movements say things in their campaigns to gain power, including election campaigns, which disappear due to the pragmatism forced by the need to govern?

Examples please?

I’ve heard this argument before, most notably in 1978-1979, when the Islamist revolution descended on Iran. The Islamists have won every election since and have not been moderated by the need to govern. On the contrary, they have used their extremism to continue to govern.

For example, from the New York Times, February 16, 1979, an op-ed by Richard Falk:

“The depiction of Khomeini as fanatical, reactionary and the bearer of crude prejudices seems certainly and happily false.…To suppose that Ayatollah Khomeini is dissembling seems almost beyond belief.…Having created a new model of popular revolution based, for the most part, on nonviolent tactics, Iran may yet provide us with a desperately-needed model of humane governance for a third-world country.”

It is only poetic injustice that Falk, a man who totally misjudged the Iranian radical threat, has now been made by the UN the judge of Israel, which is facing that same threat.

The same kind of thing was said throughout the 1990s. Yasir Arafat will be moderated by having to pave roads and collect the garbage. Power is inevitably moderating and ideology is meaningless. No, that’s not true and history shows it isn’t true.

Were the Communists moderated by being in power? Well not in the USSR, maybe a bit after 70 years. And not in China, well yes more than a bit after only about a half-century. We’re still waiting for Cuba and North Korea, both between five and six decades old. Add in such examples as the Taliban in Afghanistan, the Ba’th Party in Syria or Iraq, and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

It is important to understand why this isn’t true. There are some dangerously false assumptions in Ms. Nuland’s simple sentence.

She is assuming that radical movements are saying things to please voters in the same way that American politicians do. But American politicians are overwhelmingly unideological. Deep down, few of them think that ideas matter.

But what if they sincerely and passionately believed that every plank on their platform was ordered by the supreme being and that this was in fact the only reason their political party existed?

Suppose their rivals were willing and able to destroy their careers or even kill them if they showed they were phony in their devotion?

And suppose a large portion of the masses took all of this seriously and meant to hold them to their promises?

And suppose they truly believed themselves that instituting Sharia law–perhaps at most with a slightly more liberal interpretation here and a few exceptions there–was the only way to govern?

In other words, there are lots of reasons for radicals to remain radicals in government. And, after all, that is what usually happens.

Rubin Reports: American History Distorted – How Lawrence O’Donnell Unintentionally Shows Why Contemporary Leftist-Style “Liberalism” Is Wrong

Thursday, May 10th, 2012

http://www.rubinreports.blogspot.com/2012/05/american-history-distorted-how-lawrence.html

The following statement from Lawrence O’Donnell is being widely circulated on the Internet. I’m sure that most of those who read it think these are self-evident truths about history proving that Republicans and conservatives are so obviously evil that the issue is beyond reasonable debate. Such credulity in the face of the current hegemonic narrative is an accurate sign of how American history has been taught to the current generation. It also shows us why we hear the equivalent of “the science is settled” on the difference between the two currently competing views of America.

“What did liberals do that was so offensive to the Republican Party? I’ll tell you what they did. Liberals got women the right to vote. Liberals got African-Americans the right to vote. Liberals created Social Security and lifted millions of elderly people out of poverty. Liberals ended segregation. Liberals passed the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act. Liberals created Medicare. Liberals passed the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act. What did Conservatives do? They opposed them on every one of those things, every one. So when you try to hurl that label at my feet, ‘Liberal,’ as if it were something to be ashamed of, something dirty, something to run away from, it won’t work, because I will pick up that label and I will wear it as a badge of honor.”

This statement is well worth analyzing. Begin by noting that while this is supposedly a pro-liberal statement it is actually intended as a pro-Democratic Party statement. The message is by the “Anti-Republican Crusaders” directed explicitly against Republicans. The conflation of the accomplishments listed and the word liberal, on the one hand, and the presentation of Democratic Party as one creates considerable problems for his historical narrative.

As a side remark, I thought the word “Crusaders” was not PC. Weren’t the Crusaders supposedly aggressive, cruel bigots? What will O’Donnell’s radical Islamist allies think of this usage?

In addition, either O’Donnell doesn’t know much about American history or he thinks the American people don’t. Probably both parts of that statement are true.

I am still a registered Democrat but I’m also someone who tries to be an honest historian. The following analysis is academic – in the old sense of the word – and as balanced as I can make it.

O’Donnell’s list is the dominant narrative in America today. You will find it promoted in every mass media outlet and taught as the only possible interpretation of U.S. history in schools. How accurate is it? Well, that’s the third question that should be asked. The first two are:

–Why is it that Obama and the current radicals-pretending-to be liberals have to run on an old historical record rather than their own record in office and the current anti-liberal ideas they propound?

–Why is it that we should assume that the situation faced by America today is the same as it was in 1913 or 1933 or 1964? Perhaps more government and regulation was needed in those years but since we have had decades of more and more of these things isn’t it possible that we’ve had enough, in fact, far more than enough?

These are two questions most of the American people never see.

Let’s go through O’Donnell’s list:

–Liberals got women the right to vote. Of course, the main credit belongs to the women’s suffrage movement. But which ardent supporter of that movement first introduced the nineteenth amendment in Congress? Senator Aaron Sargent who was a—wait for it—Republican from California and a conservative. The legislatures of most of the state passing the amendment were also dominated by Republicans. This was not primarily a partisan or wider ideological issue at the time because many people held views which, in today’s context, would be considered quite contradictory.

–Liberals got African-Americans the right to vote. That seem obvious but hold on and let’s look at the facts. The main opponents of civil rights were not Republicans but Southern Democrats. And since the Democratic party put its own interests above racial justice the party held back for many decades on this issue. President Woodrow Wilson was a particularly nasty racist. Most politically active African-Americans were Republicans. Only at the last moment did President Lyndon Johnson really turn around the Democratic Party and it changed course. Yet such people as Al Gore’s father and the powerful ex-Klan leader Robert Byrd continued to oppose civil rights. Liberals and Democrats deserve credit for what they did but they did far less than they claim.

I also seem to recall Abraham Lincoln freeing the slaves and Republicans creating Reconstruction while the Democrats were the party of secession, surrender to the Confederacy, the Ku Klux Klan, and Jim Crow.

Note carefully something very revealing here. Liberals “got” women and African-Americans the right to vote. I thought there were powerful grassroots’ movements that forced these changes on the Washington power brokers! Yet O’Donnell accurately reflects the profoundly patronizing attitude of today’s leftist elite toward the little people. Funny, isn’t it? A real liberal or even a historical leftist would stress the role played by the average people who courageously grouped together to bring change. This is one more indication of the isolation of the current political-intellectual ruling elite (which in many ways is profoundly reactionary) from the liberals of the past. According to O’Donnell–and none of the admirers of his statement see the incongruity here!–the white, male establishment of the 1920s and 1960s, respectively, gave out these gifts to dependent people the way that government “gives” rights today. Thank you, master!

Rubin Reports: Western Civilization Faces the Big Test – Citizens! Heal Your Societies or Go Over the Cliff

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

http://www.rubinreports.blogspot.com/2012/05/western-civilization-faces-big-test.html

The current political crisis in Europe, and in America as well, is not at all hard to understand. Think of it like this: society is not infinitely malleable. If you pull a rubber band far enough it is either going to snap back or it will break.

Western democracies have worked very well for 60 years now. They have been remarkably prosperous; remarkably peaceful. They defeated the Communist challenge. In a sense they—and I include the United States here—are victim of this very success.

Out of rational self-interest, the realities of electoral politics, and a strong sense—misguided or otherwise—the welfare state and the payment of entitlements have been expanding.

You can—as my grandmother used to say—throw around money like a drunken sailor until you run out of money.

The self-imposed burdens have reached, and exceeded, the limit of what these societies could finance. This problem has been highlighted, of course, by an economic recession but it is not the product of that business contraction.

Things have been made worse by the fact that most governments in power have tried to apply the very old policies that were making the societies ill in the first place. The situation is akin to the medical practice of centuries ago in which an already sickly patient was bled further by the application of leeches. Death often followed.

Those governments buried in the equivalent of “old-think” in the USSR have just three alternatives:

–Deny any of this is happening. Every penny spent is absolutely necessary to stop old people from starving, women from keeling over in their 30s, the globe from heating up like a tea kettle, and in short the mass extinction of the human race.

–Self-defense. Say that anyone who wants to recognize reality is a violent Nazi hater of women and a racist flat-earther.

–Use a scapegoat. If only taxes were raised on rich, greedy people then the party can go on uninterrupted.

Obviously, I’m being facetious but that when all the verbal foliage is cleared away that list is pretty accurate.

But what about those governments, or oppositions, that wanted to be responsible by limiting spending, reorganizing or reducing entitlements, and cutting their own payroll to a level that could be sustained?

Well, that’s an uphill battle as we’ve just seen in Greece. People don’t want to be told to sacrifice, especially because they suspect that the elite isn’t doing so and that this same elite is responsible for the mess. So they can be—easily?—manipulated into voting for those who tell them to eat, drink and be merry, with a minimal tax on billionaires and millionaires paying off the caterer.

If you can buy or import voting blocks to ensure your victory that also helps. Is any government in France from this moment on going to limit immigration, fight Islamism, cut back on vacations, and raise retirement ages and the length of the work week? That’s doubtful.

Now this is the very moment that democracy comes into play. It is in the hands of the voters to decide whether to face the music or default on paying the fiddler. Can they be made to understand in the face of a clueless mass media and a fantasy-intoxicated intellectual class what is at stake and what needs to be done? Ask again in November.

Something very important should also be made clear here: political stances and solutions are not historically permanent. I would argue that liberalism (and a dose of the social democrats) was the best solution for the West’s problems in 1900. But it is no longer 1900. Huge social reforms have been made; out-groups have been brought into the fold with equal rights. The balance has shifted and that reality must now be the starting point in facing reality.

Could it possibly be that a government that has grown steadily for so many decades might have become too big? Is it conceivable that regulations imposed by the thousands have become too onerous? Is it within the realm of the real world that the burden of salaries and retirements for those who draw government pay checks have become too onerous? Might it be true that if you keep dividing society into warring groups they will eventually go to war against each other?

Or is this all a fantasy of a reactionary, evil, woman-hating racist mindset that should be dismissed by any civilized being?

Democracy is based on the idea that the average citizen is wise enough to understand what his society and country must do to survive and to do better, or at least minimally well. We are now going to find out whether that proposition is accurate.

Rubin Reports: Is Islam Innately Evil? Is Islam Innately Good? Why This Debate is A Waste of Time

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

http://rubinreports.blogspot.com/2012/05/is-islam-innately-evil-is-islam.html

We all know that the number of Muslims who explicitly put forward a systematically coherent moderate theology of Islam is very small. We also know that radical Islamists pretend to be moderates and fool people in the West. We also know that foolish or dishonest people in the West claim that Islam is innately moderate; that Sharia law as it will inevitably be interpreted at present is no big deal; and that the radicals are a minority, hijackers, or will soon become moderate. People must know the truth about these issues.

However, it is also true that the number of Muslims who are anti-Islamist in politics and relatively moderate in their politics and practice of Islam number in the tens and even hundreds of millions. Their motives range from liberalism through ethnic (Berber; Kurdish) or state nationalism, conservative views that do see Islamism as improper, those who find refuge in the West and want to acculturate to it, ruling groups and their supporters who don’t want Islamists to cut off their heads, etc. These people are our actual or potential allies in the battle against Islamism, and we better understand that and find ways to work with them, even if we don’t agree on everything.

How can we find a way to blend those two different factors and combine them into a standpoint and strategy?

At a moment when we should be analyzing existing political movements, ideas, actions, and the Western failure to meet this threat there is a wasteful, unending battle that subverts the effort to understand and explain what’s happening.

In one corner, we have those who claim—and these are by far the more powerful people today, controlling academia, media, and government policies in many places—that Islam is innately good, a religion of peace. Those who are revolutionaries and terrorists simply misunderstand their own religion. Naturally, the idea that non-Muslims, who are usually quite ignorant of Islam and its history, should define Islam is ludicrous.

There are many important points the religion-of-peace crowd misses but here are five of them:

–Islam, like any religion, is subject to interpretation, which is not always the same in different times and places or among various individuals or even—in Islam’s case—countries and ethnic groups. Thus, to say that the proper interpretation of Islam that is moderate and peaceful interpretation is absurd. Even to say that there are a lot of people who hold a moderate interpretation of Islam–as opposed to a conservative but anti-Islamist one–is absurd.

–If revolutionary Islamism is such a heresy why is it that it can often muster overwhelming support? Why are Islamic clerics, who know far more about Islam than the Western apologists, often supporting such a movement or at least its basic assumptions?

–There is much in Islam’s main texts, historical beliefs, and history that is not at all so peaceful. In fact, the revolutionaries, as a number of scholars have ably shown, base themselves on totally authentic portions of the Koran, the hadith, and the respected commentators of the past. To divorce Islam and revolutionary Islamist political ideology is absurd. The Islamists make clear they see themselves as fulfilling religious commandments and are acting as “proper” Muslims.

To ignore the reality of Islamism’s rootedness in Islam is to ensure that you are fooled by stealth Islamists, underestimate the power of the revolutionaries, and even—worst of all!—are ready to help your worst enemies.

–The idea that Islam has been “hijacked” by Islamists ignores the fact that they have a strong claim to legitimacy. They are not heretics or hijackers but contenders for power. And they may well succeed—helped by the blindness and foolish policies of the apologists—in seizing control of Islam. In fact, that seems to be happening.

–To claim there is such a thing as “moderate Islamism” is so ridiculous that it boggles the mind. Yet this is what mainstream academics, journalists, and policymakers argue without any evidence but the most superficial and easily disprove propaganda of the Islamists themselves.

This school tends to be apologetic and even to lie and conceal. By doing so, these “Islam is good” people make it impossible to have a successful foreign policy or to understand revolutionary Islamism.

But in the other corner are those who claim that Islam is innately bad, meaning that its followers are inevitably prone to giving full support to revolutions to seize state power and install radical Sharia-imposing regimes. In this concept, Iran, the Taliban, Hizballah, Hamas, al-Qaida, and the Muslim Brotherhood—as well as the far more subtle revolutionaries running Turkey today–have gotten Islam right and any Muslim who doesn’t support them misunderstands his own religion.

There are many important points they miss but here are five of them:

–For most of history, the systematic interpretation and praxis of Islam held by contemporary revolutionary Islamists did not exist. Thirty years ago, the radicals and their ideas were marginal, viewed as crackpot by most Muslims. The Islamists are well aware of this, and are themselves quite critical of Islam as it has been practiced since the seventh century or so.

Rubin Reports: New York Times Coverage of Israel: What Comes After Ridiculously Biased?

Sunday, May 6th, 2012

http://www.rubinreports.blogspot.com/2012/05/new-york-times-coverage-of-israel-what.html

With the arrival of Jodi Rudoren as correspondent, New York Times coverage of Israel and related issues has now gone to a new level of ridiculous bias, especially after a predecessor who really did try to be fair.

What is most impressive about Rudoren’s record so far is that there is no attempt to give the faintest appearance of balance. She probably doesn’t understand what that concept means. And she certainly knows that the editors and ombudsman won’t hold her accountable.

We in Israel have grown used to media prejudice and, given our low expectations, probably accept more of it without complaint than anyone else in the world.

Yet the following lead was the absolute last straw for me, in an article titled “Palestinians Go Hungry to Make Their Voices Heard“:

The newest heroes of the Palestinian cause are not burly young men hurling stones or wielding automatic weapons. They are gaunt adults, wrists in chains, starving themselves inside Israeli prisons.

This is not news coverage but revolutionary romanticism. And consider the implications:

– The article does not tell us that they are in prison for a reason. These are overwhelmingly people who have murdered or tried to murder civilians during a period, by the way, when their supposed governmental representative, the Palestinian Authority, was not at war with Israel.

– They were in fact “burly young men…wielding automatic weapons” when thrown into prison after trials. Most of them admit — indeed brag about — their crimes and make it clear that they would continue such deeds if released.

– Consequently, these people are not heroes to Palestinians, a macho society generally, because they are pitiful, gaunt, and starving but because they were heroes of an armed struggle defined in genocidal terms.

– The Palestinian Authority and Hamas hold these people as role models to young people so that they will be inspired to grow up to kill more Israelis.

– “Gaunt adults, wrists in chains” seems pulled from the nineteenth century novels of Victor Hugo.

– Remember, these are the people still in prison because of the bloodiness of their crimes after Israel has released hundreds of others in prisoner exchanges or amnesties designed to indicate good will and promote negotiations. They are still in jail not out of cruelty or even out of a sense of justice and self-defense, but because they generally are the most merciless in deliberately slaying those who are weak and helpless.

– The author’s goal is to make readers say, “Those horrible Israelis are so mean and repressive, mistreating those poor people! We must do something!” And it is to make Jewish readers say, “We must distance ourselves from this evil country (or government) that so betrays basic Jewish principles of mercy and justice.” The former call for pressuring Israel in order to hurt it; the latter urge pressuring Israel for its own good and talk about a crisis of Zionism in producing such a terrible system.

In other words, this is not a news article but a work of political propaganda that could have been produced by a Palestinian public relations firm or an American Jewish group that acts as a Palestinian public relations firm. The purpose of this article is not to report or explain what is happening but to elicit sympathy and support for — shall I say it? well, it happens to be true — terrorist murderers or would-be murderers who were foiled despite their best efforts.

Let me again add that there is nothing “liberal” or “conservative” about these facts. Nothing at all. Pretending otherwise is another propagandistic thought-control effort to get people to deny reality in the guise of opposing horrible right-wingers. It comes from the type of people who can ignore the persecution of Christians in Egypt, Iran, Iraq, the Gaza Strip, and other places in the Middle East while fabricating and highlighting claims that Israel is making Palestinian Christians flee.

Recently the Columbia Journalism Review, a publication I revered in my youth, published an article claiming that Israel had more journalists in prison per size of population than any other country in the world. This was totally false and the name of no actual journalist imprisoned was mentioned because there are none. Meanwhile, next door,  the world has ignored the Palestinian Authority’s public campaign of suppressing and arresting journalists.

To its credit, after considerable criticism, the Columbia Journalism Review apologized for the article and criticized it. And do you know who wrote that cogent response? An editor who had experienced real repression of journalism in his home country, Iran.

At times we seem to be living in the updated version of Ignazio Silone’s remark, “The final conflict will be between the Communists and the ex-Communists.” All too often, we cannot depend on Western-trained intellectuals in positions of power who either buy into leftist ideology or tremble in fear of being called racists or Islamophobes. This highlights the importance of dissident Muslims and refugees from Middle Eastern tyrannies who have some immunity on those two points. Unfortunately, of course, they are outnumbered by the apologists and the conscious radicals sowing disinformation.

Rubin Reports: One Leader Who Will be Re-elected – Israel Goes to Elections

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

http://rubinreports.blogspot.com/2012/05/one-leader-who-will-be-re-elected.html

Israel is apparently going to have elections this autumn and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will almost certainly win by a big margin. Understanding why explains a lot about the country that people think they know the most about but in fact comprehend the least.

According to polls, Netanyahu’s Likud party may go from 28 to 30 seats in the 120-member Knesset. That may not sound like a big percentage but with around 12 different parties likely to win seats that margin would be sufficient.

One key element in this equation is that the country is doing pretty well. True, it faces serious security problems but that’s the norm for Israel. Indeed, with no other trusted leader on the horizon, Netanyahu is the one most trusted to manage that dangerous situation.

True, too, there have been real social problems due largely to the gap between low salaries and high living costs that especially hurts younger people and provoked protests last year. That the protests have dissipated and Israel’s economy is doing better—including low unemployment, low inflation, and manageable state debt–than any other in the West, is partly due to the same economic problems that impose those social costs.

A third factor is the total fractionalization of the opposition. Indeed, one might speak of Netanyahu and the seven dwarfs. Aside from Kadima there are three other mid-sized parties that take votes from the same potential constituency and quarrel among themselves:

–Kadima, the main opposition party which is vaguely centrist, is so discredited by its former, failed leader Tzipi Livni that it will not be saved by its new head, the militarily competent but colorless Shaul Mofaz, from falling as far as losing 20 of its current 29 seats.

–Labor, which has reinvented itself as a social issues party and has an untested leader who is a radio personality, might come in a distant second.

–A new centrist party—named, perhaps in wishful thinking for itself—There is a Future—pushes the same secular centrism that has repeatedly produced one-election parties before.

–Israel Our Home, headed by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, has a solid base among immigrants from the former Soviet Union but by that very fact—and given the fact that Lieberman is widely disliked and close to indictment—should hold but not expand its base.

It is ironic to think that the Obama Administration, whose ignorance of Israel and its politics cannot possibly be overestimated, thought it was going to bring down Netanyahu and replace him with a more pliable Livni. In fact, by its periodic bashing of Israel and ham-handed Middle East policy promoting Israel-hating Islamists, Obama unintentionally mobilized domestic support for Netanyahu.

Speaking about myths about Israel and Israeli politics here are some of the main ones:

–Netanyahu is no longer a “right-winger” in the way he was 15 years ago. He has moved into the center, a key factor explaining his success.

–Israelis do not believe they have a peace option at present, with the Palestinians uninterested in a deal, and Egypt, Iran, Turkey, the Gaza Strip, Lebanon, and Syria in an all-out hostile mode.

–There is no faith in U.S backing given the Obama Administration’s views and actions.

–Israeli are neither stupid—giving away everything, as the foreign right often seems to think—or evil, as the foreign left definitely does think.

Rubin Reports: Now Anyone Can Understand That Israel Isn’t About to Attack Iran

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

http://www.rubinreports.blogspot.com/2012/05/one-leader-who-will-be-re-elected.html

“After a winter of alarm over the possibility that a military conflict over the Iranian nuclear program might be imminent, American officials and outside analysts now believe that the chances of war in the near future have significantly decreased.” – New York Times, April 30, 2012.

Or, as Homer Simpson would explain it, “Doh!”

I’ve been telling you this for a year but at least on this issue–unlike all the others in the Middle East—the Times has finally caught on.

As you know, just about everyone in the world outside of Israel has been claiming that an attack is imminent or that it is only being held back by the U.S. government.

My argument has been that this is simply untrue. Most of the Israeli strategic and intelligence leadership oppose an attack, for the same reasons I do. Moreover, these people don’t believe it is going to happen in the near future.

We now have Yuval Diskin, director of the Shin Bet from 2005 to 2011; Meir Dagan, former head of the Mossad; Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor; and assorted others who have come out against an attack.

Then there’s the commander of Israel’s military Benny Gantz who made a fascinating statement, though this has been widely misunderstood. Gantz seemed to contradict himself. He stated that Iran’s leaders were rational but also that radical Islamist ideologues might do wild things like attack Israel.

How to square the contradiction? Simple. Gantz was making a suggestion. He was telling Tehran: Wouldn’t it be smarter to stop short of building nuclear weapons when you are technically able to do so? You have the option of getting them if and when you want them but you won’t be triggering an all-out confrontation including an Israeli attack if you take this way out of your dilemma.

Note that this is supposedly a point of dispute between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Barack Obama, in which Netanyahu demands that Iran has no capability at all to ever build nuclear weapons while Obama just wants Iran not to do so. Well, if there is such a conflict then why is Gantz endorsing Obama‘s plan?

Gantz was not at all saying that Tehran would take this alternative. He merely said that it might do so. The idea, of course, is a massive version of the “good cop, bad cop” approach. At the same time, I am not suggesting that Diskin and Dagan are in on some massive con-game. They are genuinely opposed to an attack and do worry that Netanyahu might stage such an operation.

But I think the following points are the closest approximation of reality:

–Israel does not want to attack Iran. There are too many problems with such an operation. It could be done but is it necessary at present? Would there be the minimal international support needed? Would it make things better and genuinely make an Iranian nuclear attack on Israel less likely? On all those points the answer is either a clear “no” or too close to say “yes” with any degree of confidence.

–Israel prefers that the sanctions or some form of negotiations work to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons.

–An Israeli threat of attack simultaneously spurs the West to put more pressure on Iran to avoid a costly confrontation and put more pressure on Iran itself to get it to back down in some way.

–This can only work if it is not made too obvious that this strategy is a bluff, at least at this time.

–My impression is that even Defense Minister Ehud Barak has signaled that Israel is not about to attack. He has reiterated the previous position that Israel would only attack if Iran is on the verge of getting nuclear weapons, a situation that won’t exist for some time to come.

–Contrary to international perceptions, Netanyahu is not at all a reckless man and doesn’t like taking risks or launching military adventures. His record proves that point.

Personally, I agree with Diskin and Dagan that an Israeli attack would make things worse and that there is a better alternative even if Iran did get nuclear weapons. That would be a strategy combining three things:

–Deterrence to stop Iran from attacking.

–Defense to minimize the likelihood that Iran could hit Israel.

–The ability to launch a successful preemptive attack.

I have written in some detail about these three things and will do so more in future.

Finally, one point that is widely misunderstood internationally—as people draw from their own countries’ histories—is that Netanyahu is stirring up the Iran attack scenarios to mobilize domestic political support. This is simply not true. Israelis may have their own diverse views on the issue but threatening to attack Iran—as opposed to being able to defend Israel or attack Iran if necessary—is not a big vote-getter. At any rate, Netanyahu would easily be reelected in any test at the ballot box whatever he says on this issue.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/analysis/rubin-reports/rubin-reports-now-anyone-can-understand-that-israel-isnt-about-to-attack-iran/2012/05/02/

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