The photos, released earlier this week by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), show that China is building military aircraft hangars on the disputed Spratly Islands. That violates a promise China’s president, Xi Jinping, made to President Barack Obama less than a year ago, that “China does not intend to pursue militarization” of the islands.
Moreover, a United Nations tribunal ruled last month that China’s claim to the Spratly Islands and other nearby territories is “unlawful.” Yet the international community has taken no action against either the illegal Chinese occupation or China’s militarization steps.
Israeli policymakers might want to keep an eye on these developments. Israel’s leaders have said any future Palestinian state would have to be completely demilitarized. But can Israel rely on the international community to enforce the demilitarization rules if the Palestinians violate them?
Perhaps the most infamous experiment in demilitarization involved the Rhineland, an area of western Germany along the border with France, Belgium and Holland. The 1925 Locarno Pact, signed in the aftermath of World War I, required that the Rhineland be permanently demilitarized. But when Hitler sent his troops to occupy the Rhineland in March 1936, the Locarno signatories–Britain, France and Italy–stood idly by.
Pacifist sentiment was strong in England; treaty or no treaty, the Brits were in no mood to confront the Nazis. Lord Lothian, the veteran British diplomat, rationalized the militarization of the Rhineland as “no more than the Germans walking into their own backyard.” The French, who now found themselves within shooting distance of the Wehrmacht, were not quite so sanguine about the latest developments. But with France mired in economic troubles and national elections just months away, French Prime Minister Albert Sarraut was unwilling to risk a costly conflict with Hitler.
The United States was not a party to the Locarno agreement, but what President Franklin Roosevelt said mattered in the world arena. In this case, he didn’t say much. Determined to maintain friendly relations with Germany, FDR refrained from explicitly condemning Hitler’s Rhineland action. He would not even send U.S. observers to a League of Nations discussion of German aggression. Shortly after the Rhineland crisis erupted, Roosevelt headed off for a two-week fishing trip in the Bahamas, which coincidentally helped him evade questions about the controversy.
Israelis don’t need to go back to the 1930s for examples of how the world might respond if a Palestinian state began importing tanks or missiles. They have had some bitter experience in this area in recent decades.
The late Israeli diplomat and politician Abba Eban describes in his autobiography how the Nixon administration pressured Israel to accept a ceasefire in the 1970 War of Attrition, promising that Egypt would not be allowed to move its missiles close to the Suez Canal. “Within a few days of the conclusion of the cease-fire agreement,” Eban writes, “our head of military intelligence…was reporting…the Egyptians had begun to move their missiles forward as soon as the ink was dry on the agreement.” Nixon’s response “was evasive,” Eban charitably recalled. The U.S. administration “professed not to know that the violations were taking place.” No action was taken against the Egyptians.
An even more current example presents itself. The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), which consists of 10,506 soldiers (and 848 civilian advisers) is pledged to ensure that southern Lebanon is kept “free of any armed personnel, assets and weapons other than those of the Government of Lebanon and of UNIFIL deployed in this area.” That commitment from the international community is supposed to protect Israel’s northern border. Yet Hezbollah has stationed more than 100,000 missiles in that area, according to Israeli military estimates. The missiles are aimed at Israel. And UNIFIL refrains from intervening.
All of which leaves some Israelis wondering how international promises would fare if a demilitarized Palestinian state decided to re-militarize. When push comes to shove, would world leaders decide, as FDR did, to go fishing?
Devorah Gonen, whose son Danny was murdered by a terrorist while he was hiking near Dolev in Judea and Samaria, told the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee on Wednesday that the attorneys for her son’s killer were funded by foreign countries. “These funds encourage murder,” she said. “The terrorist knew he would be defended [in court] and that his family would receive funding. The terrorist is still alive, and his family will get a generous support, and I am left with the ‘privilege’ of being a bereaved mother. Foreign countries are funding terror. You must take the consequences of the foreign funding into account.”
The Committee debated a bill requiring NGOs that receive more than 50% of their funding from foreign governments to declare this fact in every publication and at meetings with public officials. The government-sponsored bill had been returned to the committee for hearings and amendments after passing a first reading in the plenum.
During the meeting, MK Yael German (Yesh Atid) argued that an NGO may receive small donations from a number of countries and one large donation from one country, so the legislation “would not help us know how the donations are distributed.”
MK Zouheir Bahloul (Zionist Camp) told the bereaved Gonen: “I sympathize with your feelings and feel the pain of the tragedy you experienced. However, the State of Israel receives billions from foreign countries, and it uses these funds to wage wars which kill people.”
MK Tamar Zandberg (Meretz) added that “government funds are transferred to NGOs for the purpose of building [Jewish] outposts from which terrorist operations emanate. This money is not transparent, and it is kept confidential in the Registrar of Non-Profit Organizations.”
Committee Chairman MK Nissan Slomiansky (HaBayit HaYehudi) said representatives from foreign embassies in Israel had asked to participate in the meeting, but he requested that they take part in next week’s debate instead. However, a representative from the Dutch embassy was allowed to audit the meeting nevertheless.
A stormy emergency session was held Wednesday at the Knesset Education, Culture, and Sports Committee, following a report released by the rightwing Im Tirtzu movement that revealed the involvement of 20 Israeli academics in the proposed resolution of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) to join the boycott against Israel. The debate revolved around academic politicization and the support given by university faculty members to boycotts against Israel.
The emergency session was called by MK Oded Forer (Yisrael Beitenu), who said that “Israel cannot support and budget lecturers who call for a boycott against Israel. The boycott movement is an anti-Semitic movement, and they (the lecturers) cannot hide behind freedom of expression.”
Forer announced his plan to introduce legislation that would allow the State to prevent an institution of higher learning from receiving funds that amount to the salary of a lecturer who calls for a boycott against Israel.
Professor Zvi Ziegler, who heads an inter-university forum to combat the academic boycott, said that “the number of lecturers who support an academic boycott against Israel is so small and marginal – damaging but marginal – that it would not be worth it to deal with them. The damage they cause is a lot less severe than the damage that would be caused to Israel’s reputation as an enlightened and advanced country if we fight them.”
Matan Peleg, director of Im Tirtzu, told the committee that “this phenomenon must be stopped for the sake of the future of Israeli academia.”
MK Shuli Moalem-Refaeli (Habayit Hayehudi) said: “Could it be that the Arab Members of Knesset are doing the same thing as professors in the State of Israel – receive money and call to boycott the country? I ask myself, who learned from whom?”
MK Yoel Hasson (Zionist Camp) said that while he supports a two-state solution, “the academic boycott hurts the chances of a shared existence.”
MK Mordhay Yogev (Habayit Hayehudi) urged the Council for Higher Education of Israel “to discuss this unacceptable phenomenon, so that there will be respectful rather than inciting academic freedom.”
MK Yoseph Yonah (Zionist Camp), himself a university professor, stressed that while he is against boycotts and the BDS movement, “a democracy’s strength lies in its ability to accept criticism.” He further argued that any initiative aimed at restricting academic freedom would cause much more damage.
MK Nachman Shai (Zionist Camp) said, “This debate is not between Jews and Arabs, or for or against BDS, because most of us are against BDS. We must check to see who is breaking the law and who isn’t.”
MK Manuel Trajtenberg (Zionist Camp) said Israel should fight the BDS movement “while preserving the values of democracy.” He noted that among the thousands of university faculty members in Israel, there are between three and ten lecturers who support the boycott, “and I am revolted by their actions and denounce them.”
MK Yousef Jabareen (Joint Arab List) said, “This is an example of academic freedom under attack. Those who create politicization in the academia are the members of Im Tirtzu, with their amateurish report. We are sick and tired of this system of muzzling and restricting every democratic value in the country. Leave us alone. As for BDS, it is a non-violent protest that succeeded in South Africa, and it is legitimate to operate in this manner here as well.”
MK Merav Ben Ari (Kulanu), who serves as deputy chairperson of the Education Committee, chaired the meeting in place of Committee Chairman Yakov Margi (Shas), who did not attend in protest of the comments allegedly made by Channel 10 News Chairman Rami Sadan against his party and its leader, Interior Minister Aryeh Deri.
Just another example of the sterling quality of Haaretz’ columnists. From Gideon Levy:
The Oxford Union’s Thursday Debate discusses the Middle East a great deal, certainly more than any Israeli student union does. Just over a week ago, a proposal was raised at this venerable and prestigious student organization that the two-state solution is no longer viable. It wasn’t only the strict dress code (black tie), ceremonial trappings and traditional photograph that were foreign to Israelis – so too was the very fact of debating such a fateful question about Israel’s future.
Unfortunately, a majority of “this House” rejected the proposition, perhaps because most of the members of the union are wealthy, white conservatives and its president is Jewish. The vote is taken at the doors: Those leaving by the right-hand door are for the proposal, those leaving by the left-hand one are against it. (The Ayes were 37 percent, the Nos 63 percent.)
I spoke for the proposition and exited using the right-hand door. Unusually for me, I was in favor of something. But it did not help.
Somehow, Levy assuming that all Jews are Zionist is not considered racist to his progressive audience that consists largely of Jews who are anything but Zionist.
It certainly doesn’t occur to Levy that he himself turned the audience against him by spouting out absurd sound-bites that are meant for an audience of people who already hate Israel a priori, not for a serious debate (Prop4 is Levy).
Hillary and Bernie locked horns, clashed, yelled and smashed into each other almost literally last night in Brooklyn, NY. There were cheap shots and there were deep cuts. It can be safely said that the behavioral gap between the Democratic and Republican debates have narrowed significantly, so neither side can claim the high ground any longer. As to the portion of the debate in which we were most interested, US-Israeli relations, we must agree Hillary made us feel a little safer. Sanders started off from the point of view of B’Tselem and J Street, while Hillary at this point is a little to the right of J Street. After last night’s debate, if you’re a Democrat who cares about Israel, we advise you to buy an industrial size laundry clip, put it on your nose and vote for Bill’s wife. Not because we endorse her, we really really don’t, but she scares us a little less than Bernie does.
And now, to what they actually said last night about how they’d like to finally bring peace to the region…
Blitzer: Senator, let’s talk about the U.S. relationship with Israel. Senator Sanders, you maintained that Israel’s response in Gaza in 2014 was, quote, “disproportionate and led to the unnecessary loss of innocent life.”
What do you say to those who believe that Israel has a right to defend itself as it sees fit?
Sanders: Well, as somebody who spent many months of my life when I was a kid in Israel, who has family in Israel, of course Israel has a right not only to defend themselves, but to live in peace and security without fear of terrorist attack. That is not a debate.
But — but what you just read, yeah, I do believe that. Israel was subjected to terrorist attacks, has every right in the world to destroy terrorism. But we had in the Gaza area — not a very large area — some 10,000 civilians who were wounded and some 1,500 who were killed.
Heckler: Free Palestine!
Sanders: Now, if you’re asking not just me, but countries all over the world was that a disproportionate attack, the answer is that I believe it was, and let me say something else.
Sanders: And, let me say something else. As somebody who is 100% pro-Israel, in the long run — and this is not going to be easy, God only knows, but in the long run if we are ever going to bring peace to that region which has seen so much hatred and so much war, we are going to have to treat the Palestinian people with respect and dignity.
Sanders: So what is not to say — to say that right now in Gaza, right now in Gaza unemployment is s somewhere around 40%. You got a log of that area continues, it hasn’t been built, decimated, houses decimated health care decimated, schools decimated. I believe the United States and the rest of the world have got to work together to help the Palestinian people.
That does not make me anti-Israel. That paves the way, I think…
Blitzer: … Thank you, Senator…
Sanders: …to an approach that works in the Middle East.
Blitzer: Thank you. Secretary Clinton, do you agree with Senator Sanders that Israel overreacts to Palestinians attacks, and that in order for there to be peace between Israel and the Palestinians, Israel must, quote, end its disproportionate responses?
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Clinton: I negotiated the cease-fire between Israel and Hamas in November of 2012. I did it in concert with…
Clinton: President Abbas of the Palestinian authority based in Ramallah, I did it with the then Muslim Brotherhood President, Morsi, based in Cairo, working closely with Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Israeli cabinet. I can tell you right now I have been there with Israeli officials going back more than 25 years that they do not seek this kind of attacks. They do not invite the rockets raining down on their towns and villages.
They do not believe that there should be a constant incitement by Hamas aided and abetted by Iran against Israel. And, so when it came time after they had taken the incoming rockets, taken the assaults and ambushes on their soldiers and they called and told me, I was in Cambodia, that they were getting ready to have to invade Gaza again because they couldn’t find anybody to talk to tell them to stop it, I flew all night, I got there, I negotiated that.
So, I don’t know how you run a country when you are under constant threat, terrorist tact, rockets coming at you. You have a right to defend yourself.
That does not mean — that does not mean that you don’t take appropriate precautions. And, I understand that there’s always second guessing anytime there is a war. It also does not mean that we should not continue to do everything we can to try to reach a two-state solution, which would give the Palestinians the rights and…
Blitzer: … Thank you…
Clinton: … just let me finish. The rights and the autonomy that they deserve. And, let me say this, if Yasser Arafat had agreed with my husband at Camp David in the Late 1990s to the offer then Prime Minister Barat put on the table, we would have had a Palestinian state for 15 years.
Blitzer: Thank you, Senator, go ahead — go ahead, Senator.
Sanders: I don’t think that anybody would suggest that Israel invites and welcomes missiles flying into their country. That is not the issue.
And, you evaded the answer. You evaded the question. The question is not does Israel have a right to respond, nor does Israel have a right to go after terrorists and destroy terrorism. That’s not the debate. Was their response disproportionate?
I believe that it was, you have not answered that.
Clinton: I will certainly be willing to answer it. I think I did answer it by saying that of course there have to be precautions taken but even the most independent analyst will say the way that Hamas places its weapons, the way that it often has its fighters in civilian garb, it is terrible.
I’m not saying it’s anything other than terrible. It would be great — remember, Israel left Gaza. They took out all the Israelis. They turned the keys over to the Palestinian people.
Clinton: And what happened? Hamas took over Gaza.
So instead of having a thriving economy with the kind of opportunities that the children of the Palestinians deserve, we have a terrorist haven that is getting more and more rockets shipped in from Iran and elsewhere.
Blitzer: Thank you, Secretary.
Sanders: I read Secretary Clinton’s statement speech before AIPAC. I heard virtually no discussion at all about the needs of the Palestinian people. Almost none in that speech.
Sanders: So here is the issue: of course Israel has a right to defend itself, but long-term there will never be peace in that region unless the United States plays a role, an even-handed role trying to bring people together and recognizing the serious problems that exist among the Palestinian people.
That is what I believe the world wants to us do and that’s the kind of leadership that we have got to exercise.
Clinton: Well, if I — I want to add, you know, again describing the problem is a lot easier than trying to solve it. And I have been involved, both as first lady with my husband’s efforts, as a senator supporting the efforts that even the Bush administration was undertaking, and as secretary of state for President Obama, I’m the person who held the last three meetings between the president of the Palestinian Authority and the prime minister of Israel.
There were only four of us in the room, Netanyahu, Abbas, George Mitchell, and me. Three long meetings. And I was absolutely focused on what was fair and right for the Palestinians.
I was absolutely focused on what we needed to do to make sure that the Palestinian people had the right to self-government. And I believe that as president I will be able to continue to make progress and get an agreement that will be fair both to the Israelis and the Palestinians without ever, ever undermining Israel’s security.
Blitzer: A final word, Senator, go ahead.
Sanders: There comes a time — there comes a time when if we pursue justice and peace, we are going to have to say that Netanyahu is not right all of the time.
Clinton: … you know, I have spoken about and written at some length the very candid conversations I’ve had with him and other Israeli leaders. Nobody is saying that any individual leader is always right, but it is a difficult position.
If you are from whatever perspective trying to seek peace, trying to create the conditions for peace when there is a terrorist group embedded in Gaza that does not want to see you exist, that is a very difficult challenge.
Blitzer: Senator, go ahead.
Sanders: You gave a major speech to AIPAC, which obviously deals with the Middle East crisis, and you barely mentioned the Palestinians. And I think, again, it is a complicated issue and God knows for decades presidents, including President Clinton and others, Jimmy Carter and others have tried to do the right thing.
All that I am saying is we cannot continue to be one-sided. There are two sides to the issue.
Channel 2 sprung a surprise debate on PM Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu against Zionist Union (Labor) chief MK Yitzchak “Buji” Herzog on Channel 2’s live “Meet the Press” show.
Both party chiefs have said they want a debate, but Netanyahu made it clear that if Herzog wants a debate, it has to be simultaneously against both Herzog and Livni together, since Herzog and Livni are running as a team.
At the beginning of the show, the off-site Netanyahu was clearly not aware that his half-opponent Yitzchak Herzog was in the studio, and he thought he was simply going to be interviewed.
It appears that Herzog had some advance warning.
If you look carefully, you’ll note that Herzog is wearing an earpiece in his left ear, implying that someone may have been feeding him lines for either the interview or the debate.
Herzog was so excited to be debating Netanyahu, without co-Captain Tzipi Livni that he apparently didn’t realize when he mixed up Jerusalem with Netanyahu (time: 2:05) in his statement on who he would be protecting. That gave Netanyahu a chuckle.
While Netanyahu was clearly not expecting to be ambushed this way, he definitely came out on top, even when Channel 2 (time 3:20) lowered the volume on Netanyahu and raised the volume for Herzog’s interruption.
Surprisingly, the host rather rudely then cut off Herzog in mid-counterattack (time: 3:30) telling him his time in the studio was up, at which point, a clearly annoyed Herzog walked off the set. Netanyahu then continued the interview and also responded to Herzog’s question.
The top five political parties in Israel vied for the English-speaking vote in Jerusalem on Wednesday in a far more polite debate held at Cinema City in Jerusalem than is usually seen in Hebrew-speaking forums, in keeping with the cultural tenor of the audience.
JewishPress.com editor-in-chief Stephen Leavitt noted at the start of the event that Israel is home to nearly half a million “native English speakers” who have immigrated from countries as diverse at Australia, South Africa, the UK, Canada, the U.S. and other areas where the English language is spoken.
Representatives of the Likud, Yesh Atid, Bayit Yehudi, Yisrael Beytenu and Labor-Tnua merger parties addressed the anglo voters on a set of five core issues. Among those that has been raising blood pressure in Israel and abroad is the Iranian nuclear threat and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s planned trip next week to address a joint session of the U.S. Congress in Washington D.C.
Yisrael Beytenu representative Ashley Perry led off the responses by asking, “How can we take on Iran if we cannot successfully take on Hamas and Hezbollah? We can achieve a draw at best,” he said, pointing to the results of the recent operations carried out against terror groups in Gaza and Lebanon.
“We have to first deal with the more imminent threat on our borders,” Perry said. “We have to take the gloves off. We need to return deterrence. The next time a single rocket comes over, we need to respond with such impact that … quiet returns for generations.”
Yesh Atid representative and MK Rabbi Dov Lipman commented, “There are times when leaders speak with bravado, but create tremendous damage to Israel along the way… I see it when I travel abroad. There is a way to go about such things.” Netanyahu’s upcoming speech to Congress, Lipman contended, is “doing tremendous damage.” He insisted the Congress could have — and would have — come up with a two-thirds vote to “override” any deal with Iran that President Barack Obama would have brought before the Congress for approval. Now, he said, “Congress cannot do anything about it.”
Hillik Bar, representing the Herzog-Hatnua parties, said he believes in “smart diplomacy” and that in essence, he agreed with Lipman. “But this time I agree with Netanyahu in that we in Israel do not believe the Iranians when they say they are using their nuclear power for peace. We know better.” The difference, Bar said, was that his party differs with Likud on how to differentiate between “those Arabs who want to live with us and those who don’t — those who want to live here INSTEAD of us. With those, we should speak with them in the language of the IDF; on this we agree with Netanyahu,” he said.
Likud representative and former MK, Professor Benny Begin’s oratorial skills prompted even the moderator to lose track of his own timekeeping — for which he later apologized to the audience.
“What a miracle,” he began quietly. “I should remind you that in the last decade and up to about two years ago, everyone agreed that Prime Minister Netanyahu was exaggerating about the Iranian threat in order to keep the debate about “internal” issues. The P5+1 was claiming there was “no weapons program” there in Iran… everyone was insisting that Netanyahu was making it up.
“There was only one person who carried that banner and he carried it high. It speaks about the far-sighted ability of Netanyahu, and his courage to carry it in the face of major opposition from everyone… These guys are a menace not only to Israel but to the whole world.