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September 22, 2014 / 27 Elul, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Rubin Reports’

Revolutionary Islamism Is Not America’s Friend

Sunday, December 9th, 2012

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

–Do you have anything remotely hopeful to say about the trajectory of the Arab Spring today?

Laugh. Aha! Fishing for optimism. Okay. First, the anti-Islamist opposition in Egypt and Tunisia has coalesced. There’s hope for autonomy for a moderate Kurdish area in Syria. And more people in the West have woken up to the situation and the danger. That’s about it for optimism about the region. I am far more optimistic about Israel’s strategic situation but that’s another issue.

Seriously, though, in Egypt and Tunisia there is a battle and the Islamists face serious opposition. The issue is not to get bound up in the details of the demonstrations but to ask what actual impact this will have. The Islamist timetable for fundamentally transforming their countries is going to be slower though there’s no reason to believe the effort will stop, much less be reversed. Nor will the West rally to the opposition’s support. The moderate democratic forces are very much alone, just as they are in Iran and to a very real extent in Syria, too.

As for Syria, 2013 is probably going to be the year of a rebel victory, even though they might not control the entire country until 2014. So what kind of government is going to rule Syria? It’s an open question but the Muslim Brotherhood is the best bet.

And the Obama Administration, which is still in office, has not changed any of its basic positions on these issues.

–Should the U.S. have some bottom lines to try to influence the upcoming constitutional referendum in Egypt?

Shrug. The Constitution will pass. The U.S. government won’t say a word of criticism or do anything. Thus, the United States has no influence on the referendum. What will happen as the Brotherhood will continue to intimidate the courts and the Egyptian president rules by decree? Will the White House seriously condition aid on the treatment of women and Christians? .Obama is doing the absolute minimum to criticize the new regime which is, let’s face it, now a U.S. client.

–Is there anything we or anyone else the United States can do to help influence things in Egypt?

There’s a lot but nothing will be done. It’s a matter of the Obama Administration’s ideology and policies.

–Is Syria going to use chemical weapons? The U.S. says we’ll take action if they do. What could that look like?

I think that the rebels will capture Aleppo within 3-4 months and Damascus some time in 2013. Then the regime will retreat to the northwest, the world will recognize a rebel regime as ruling the country, and there will be a bloodbath. Expect the Obama Administration to take little or no action. Whether or not the regime uses chemical weapons on a few occasions won’t help it and would probably hasten its fall.

–What happens when Assad goes, one way or another?

It’s very complex because there are so many players: Sunnis, Alawites, Christians, and Druze; Kurds; Brotherhood people, Salafists of many different groups, professional soldiers, warlords, and liberals. A lot of the powerbrokers are local.

Experience generally shows us that the winner is the side that is the best-armed, most organized, knows what it thinks and wants, and perhaps has the most international backing. That’s the Brotherhood.

–It was a brutal November between Israel and Palestinians – how long is the ceasefire likely to hold?

Hamas will escalate at some point in the future and Israel will wait as long as possible to respond. The fact that Egypt doesn’t want another confrontation will postpone that day from, say, six months to three years. We’re probably talking about two to three years for anything big but of course Hamas will attack on a lower level. It’s main incentive, of course, is that it knows ultimately the world will protect it from total defeat by Israel. We’ve actually reached the point, as shown by the last five years, when a repressive terrorist group is kept in power by Western democratic states backing that status quo. Are the Palestinians emboldened by its change in U.N. status? What long term effect does that vote have?

It’s the end of any hope for a peace process. Why should the Palestinians negotiate when they believe they can get whatever they want from the international community? Why should Israel make agreements or concessions when it knows it will get nothing and the world will abrogate the other side’s obligations?

The Interview: Explaining the Latest Israel-Palestinian Controversy

Thursday, December 6th, 2012

Originally published Rubin Reports.

Note: This interview is satire, but is very close to actual experience. 

Journalist: Professor Rubin, why is Israel making a two-state solution impossible by building 3000 apartments in east Jerusalem?

Me: In 1993 Israel signed an agreement with the PLO in which there was no ban whatsoever on Israel building more buildings on existing settlements. The Palestinians formed a government that received political control over all the towns and villages of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. It agreed that Israel would continue to control Jerusalem. The two sides further agreed that the political status of these territories would be changed only through a mutual peace treaty.

In 2000, the Palestinian Authority (PA) rejected the offer of a Palestinian state with its capital in east Jerusalem living in peace alongside Israel.

Instead it launched a war against Israel whose main feature was terrorist attacks on Israel civilians. A few months later, it rejected an even better offer of peace with a Palestinian state having its capital in east Jerusalem on the exact amount of territory that constituted the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and east Jerusalem before 1967.

Ever since then, for 12 years now, Palestinian leaders have repeatedly said they no longer accepted a two-state solution or at least would soon stop doing so.

Israel withdrew from the entire Gaza Strip and dismantled all the settlements there in order to encourage the Palestinians to move toward a two-state solution by developing that area and showing they were willing to live in peace. Instead, Hamas took over, openly declared its rejection of all previous agreements, that it would never accepted the two-state solution, fired rockets and missiles at Israel, put on television programs teaching children that they should grow up to be suicide bombers, and that all Jews in the world be murdered.

Despite these positions of Hamas, the Palestinian Authority has tried endlessly to make a deal bringing Hamas into the government, a government that would have to be based on a platform rejecting any real, lasting two-state solution.

This policy was continued after the 2008-2009 and 2012 Hamas escalations to war with Israel.

For more than a half-dozen years the PA has refused to negotiate seriously with Israel.

PA schools teach that Israel should be wiped off the map; sermons in PA-controlled mosques say that Israel should be wiped off the map; PA officials demand that eventually Israel be wiped off the map.

Those who murdered Israeli civilians are glorified by the PA, which names, schools, squares, and soccer tournaments after them.

When Israel, at the U.S. request, froze all construction for ten months the PA refused to negotiate seriously.

For the last three years, the PA has concentrated all of its efforts on abandoning a negotiated two-state solution and getting their own state without making any such commitment. Now, the UN—including many European countries—has helped them achieve a non-member state status. Thus, due to Palestinian action the 1993 Israel-PLO agreement has been killed, every deal made since then abrogated, every concession and risk taken by Israel during this period has been deprived of anything in return.

Remember also that if the PA were to negotiate a peace deal with Israel all the settlements on Palestine’s territory would be dismantled. So if construction upsets them so much why don’t they stop it permanently by making a peace deal? You know who made that exact same point? King Hussein of Jordan. And that was in 1986. They ignored him.

Now in the wake of the UN General Assembly decision, PA leaders have been proclaiming that Israel is a racist state that shouldn’t exist, that the UN has now endorsed the Palestinian claim to all of the 1967 borders (which is not true), and that they will go to the international court to prosecute Israel for allegedly being the occupier of territory belonging to another country which has (not true) been declared sovereign over that land.

Reportedly, some of the countries that voted Palestine would be a non-member state at the UN asked the PA for assurances that they would not use this new status to launch lawsuits against Israel at the World Court. Within hours, however, the PA announced that this is precisely what it will do. The main goal is to get the court to rule that Israel is occupying the territory of a sovereign state and thus must withdraw immediately, with no peace treaty and no end to the conflict. Thus, as called for in the PLO Covenant almost a half-century ago, a state of Palestine would serve as a base for a “second stage” in which Israel would be completely eliminated.

Driving in Neutral: Hillary Clinton Explains the Israel-Palestinian Conflict

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s said some very interesting and revealing things in her appearance at the Saban Center’s gala dinner, November 30. They are, however, being quoted out of context. Let’s look at what she actually said in some detail for a sense of how the Obama Administration’s highest-ranking foreign policy official and a future presidential candidate thinks about this issue.

Let me note also that the statement was made at an institution that might be considered friendly to Israel and thus Clinton might have skewed her remarks to be more fair to that country than she would in a regular international forum.

In answering a question, Clinton went into some detail about the problems facing a two-state solution and peace. Remember she is speaking extemporaneously.

First, the Israeli perception:

“I think Israelis have good grounds to be suspicious. And I would never be one who tries to rewrite or dismiss history. The Palestinians could have had a state as old as I am if they had made the right decision in 1947. They could have had a state if they had worked with my husband and then-Prime Minister Barak at Camp David. They could have had a state if they’d worked with Prime Minister Olmert and Foreign Minister Livni.”

Here Clinton is pointing out that the Palestinians have repeatedly rejected getting a state, that’s why they didn’t have one years ago. I cannot imagine Obama saying this kind of thing.

“Now, would it have been a perfectly acceptable outcome for every Israeli and every Palestinian? No. No compromise ever is. But there were moments of opportunity. And I will also say this. When Prime Minister Netanyahu agreed to a 10-month settlement freeze I flew to Jerusalem. We’d been working on this. George Mitchell had been taking the lead on it. And when Prime Minister Netanyahu agreed to a 10-month settlement freeze, it wasn’t perfect. It didn’t cover East Jerusalem, but it covered much of the contested area in the West Bank.”

There’s something important in this passage that no one has noticed. For the first time ever, Clinton publicly and explicitly acknowledged that the freeze did not cover East Jerusalem. Why, then, did Vice-President Joe Biden throw a temper tantrum when an Israeli zoning board cleared some future construction there? At the time, the U.S. government repeatedly implied that Israel violated the agreement, which it didn’t. Now Clinton admits that.

Incidentally, the Obama Administration did nothing when the Palestinian Authority refused to negotiate seriously despite the freeze on construction.

Clinton continued, and this is also revealing:

“And I stood on a stage with him at 11 o’clock – Israelis always meet late at night, I don’t understand it – (laughter) – but 11 o’clock at night, midnight, and I said it was unprecedented for any Israeli prime minister to have done that. I got so criticized. I got criticized from the right, the left, the center, Israeli, Jewish, Arab, Christian, you name it. Everybody criticized me. But the fact was it was a 10-month settlement freeze. And he was good to his word. And we couldn’t get the Palestinians into the conversation until the tenth month.”

I cannot remember anyone criticizing her for this statement. It was small enough reward to Netanyahu for a major domestic political risk and a concession which in the end brought no progress for peace and no gratitude from the White House. But what Clinton says now does reflect the Western view that if you bash Israel it has no cost and if you praise Israel it is going to hurt you. I wonder if this is also a hint that Obama wasn’t happy with her praise for Netanyahu.

Thus ran her praise for Israel’s efforts. So then, in the spirit of evenhandedness embraced by recent presidents in place of a former pro-Israel policy, she has to balance out this statement. When a Democratic politician has to be hyper-sensitive about saying something nice about Israel it tells you how much things have shifted in that party and in the “liberal” context:

“I’m not making excuses for the missed opportunities of the Israelis, or the lack of generosity, the lack of empathy that I think goes hand-in-hand with the suspicion. So, yes, there is more that the Israelis need to do to really demonstrate that they do understand the pain of an oppressed people in their minds, and they want to figure out, within the bounds of security and a Jewish democratic state, what can be accomplished.”

She makes four points:

Israelis have missed opportunities. Really, like what? If she’s aware of real ones Clinton can provide examples but while it is easy to list two dozen Palestinian missed opportunities—i.e., Israel was ready for real peace and they weren’t—the effort to provide some opposite example always turns out to be illusory.

Lack of generosity: This is shameful. First of all, since when is generosity an international diplomatic norm? Against what other country or people would she dare make such a statement? On further consideration, if generosity means being nice or making unilateral concessions to enemies that wish to destroy you, then the Obama Administration is very generous.

But in fact Israel has been generous. It has freed large numbers of Palestinian prisoners to get back kidnapped Israelis; it let around 200,000 Palestinians come to the territories after 1993; it has used much less force than it might have; it has largely ignored continuous incitement against itself and not responded in kind. The list is a long one.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, not exactly a left-winger, even fully withdrew from the Gaza Strip and dismantled Jewish settlements in large part to give the Palestinians a chance to develop that area, see that Israel did not want the territories and sought to provide an opportunity to build a basis for peace.
Who in the world has been generous toward Israel?

Lack of empathy: This is really low on Clinton’s part. In schools, Israeli kids learn about Palestinian grievances. Israel television showed a multi-part history documentary that showed the Palestinian viewpoint. In Israeli newspapers, and every other medium Palestinians are interviewed and an honest attempt is made to portray their standpoint, sometimes indeed with more sympathy than is showed to Israel’s government.

Every Israeli leader, except those on the right-wing fringe, is perfectly aware of the Palestinian case and complaints. To cite only one example, Ehud Barak once said that if had been a Palestinians he would have been a fighter in Fatah. No country in modern history has shown more empathy to its enemies.
Can anyone cite a single example—a speech, an article—on the Palestinian side that has shown any shred of empathy?

Finally, “oppressed people” and this is the most important point. If the Palestinians are an oppressed people who is oppressing them? Here we see how the Obama Administration has, at best, accepted the European version of the anti-Israel narrative. If the Palestinians keep turning down peace offers how is Israel responsible for their “oppression”?

If they are oppressed it is by their own leaders. Who oppresses the population of the Gaza Strip.

And once you have “the pain of an oppressed people” it is a short step toward believing that terrorism and intransigence is just an expression of that pain, rather than the cause of it.

Clinton concluded:

“And I think that, unfortunately, there are more and more Israelis and Palestinians who just reject that idea out of hand: Why bother? Why try? We’ll never be able to reach an agreement with the other. But in the last 20 years, I’ve seen Israeli leaders make an honest, good-faith effort and not be reciprocated in the way that was needed.”

But here, too, there is a disproportionate idea. Relatively few Israelis reject a two-state solution out of hand. The dominant idea today is: We want a two-state solution but the other side doesn’t. On the Palestinian side, virtually none of the leadership is prepared to implement an achievable two-state solution. Indeed, they increasingly talk of a one-state solution (total victory and Israel’s destruction), an approach that is never heard among Israeli leaders.

What is objectionable is not that she criticizes Israel—she could cite various things like insufficient energy in dismantling outposts or being too permissive toward settlements—but the criticisms she makes. They all fall into the current dominant Western view that the world’s problems are caused by greedy, aggressive, unempathetic white people who oppress everyone else. Implied here is that the only solution is that such people take risks, make unilateral concessions, pay money, and continually apologize for their sins.
And that’s a formula for disaster, not only in U.S. policy toward Israel but everywhere else.

I say all this not to complain about unfair double standards or even to respond to Clinton. That is a waste of time. What’s important here is to show how her mind works and that of a large portion of the Western elite. Her remarks are not as bad as they sound when taken out of context. She does try to be balanced—though an attempt at equidistance is not exactly showing strong support for Israel—and also does—unlike Obama—criticize the Palestinians. Yet in policy terms at the very moment of culmination for a Palestinian Authority three-year effort to wreck any peace process by unilateral independence and when Hamas has decided the moment has come for a jihad backed up by the Islamist tidal wave in the region, Clinton and the Obama Administration are obsessed with Israel not making even more concessions.

“I think Israelis have good grounds to be suspicious,” Clinton said. But what she didn’t explain are all the good grounds for Israelis to be suspicious of the Obama Administration.

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

Egypt’s New Constitution Laying Foundation for Sharia State

Monday, December 3rd, 2012

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

On November 30, a Constituent Assembly consisting almost 100 percent of Islamists voted to approve the draft of Egypt’s new Constitution. The next day, President Muhammad Mursi ordered that a referendum be held on December 15. In other words, Egypt’s population will be given two weeks to consider the main law, which has 230 articles, that will govern their lives for decades to come.

Most of the non-Islamists had walked out of the Assembly because they objected to the proposed Constitution and it seems as if the remaining opposition members did not even attend the vote. So great is the outrage that Egypt’s judges–who supervise elections and were explicitly asked by Mursi to oversee the forthcoming referendum–have refused to do so.

Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the Muslim Brotherhood’s chief spiritual guide raved about how great the Constitution is and then responded to the walk-out with a phrase that might serve as the slogan for the new democracy in Egypt and other Arabic-speaking countries:

“You should not have withdrawn. It’s your right to express your opinions freely.”

Yes, they could say what they thought and then be outvoted. Now that, indeed, is democracy. But what if you can already see that the democratic procedure will produce a dictatorial result? For example, Mursi was democratically elected president. He then issued a decree that said no court could countermand anything he decides. Isn’t that democratic, at least in the broader sense? Well, no it isn’t.

The competing street demonstrations of regime supporters and anti-Islamist oppositionists have now coalesced around two slogans. Pro-Islamists chant, “The people want the implementation of God’s law.” The opposition chants, “The people want to bring down the regime.”

But this time, unlike 2011, it is the regime that enjoys the support of the armed forces and Western governments, being buttressed also with almost $10 billion in aid. “The people” aren’t going to bring down this regime and the new rulers are going to implement their interpretation of “God’s law.” That is the new meaning of democracy in Egypt.

I draw here from the analysis in the Egypt Independent newspaper. For a BBC comparison of this with the previous Egyptian constitution see here. And here’s the full text. Keep in mind that neither we nor Mursi knows for sure what will happen to the parliament already elected. The Islamists have 75 percent of the seats in that body (Muslim Brotherhood, 50 percent; Salafist party, 25 percent) but the high court has ruled the lower house’s election to have been unconstitutional. If this decision stands new elections will be necessary next year. In the presidential election, the Brotherhood’s vote was only 52 percent.

While this lower vote could be due to extraneous factors–the abstention of many Salafist supporters for partisan reasons; some Islamists preferring someone other than Mursi in the first round presidential balloting and not switching to support him in the second–Mursi doesn’t know how well the Brotherhood will do if there is a new parliamentary election. Consequently, he needs to find a way to either overrule the court’s decision (hence, his decree letting him overturn what the judges say) or prepare for rule with a parliament less favorable to the Brotherhood. Hence, the constitutional provisions creating a strong presidency are very much in his interest and frighten the non-Islamist opposition.

–Islamic Sharia law is the main source of Egypt’s laws. While this has been in previous constitutions, the problem is interpreting how strictly Sharia will be interpreted and how widely it will be applied. What that passage means for Egypt is going to be a lot more significant under a Muslim Brotherhood government with major input from even more radical Salafists than it did under President Husni Mubarak’s relatively secular-style regime.

–A basic principle of the Constitution (Article 4) is to consult al-Azhar, the country’s influential Islamic university on any issue when Sharia is concerned, which potentially means on every issue. That elevates al-Azhar above all other non-governmental institutions. Al-Azhar is not (yet?) in Muslim Brotherhood hands but its leaders, who know which way the wind blows, can be expected to back a tough interpretation of Sharia law.

–To further ensure that Egypt will be a Sharia state, another provision (Article 219) states that the principles of Sharia are to be found in the four Sunni schools of thought, ruling out any reformist possibilities.

–The state must preserve the “genuine nature” of the Egyptian family and its moral values (Article 10) and has the power (Article 11) “to safeguard ethics” and morality. In other words, the government can do just about anything to determine how people should live and any aspect of their existence it chooses. This is repeated in other articles which limit rights to those that do not contradict what the state might not allow as unacceptable (Article 81) and lets the police arrest people for such crimes (Article 199).

–Islam, Christianity, and Judaism are the only legal religions in Egypt (Article 43). This is in accord with the general interpretation of Islamic law that only these three “people of the book” religions are legitimate. Of course, the face of Christian property will be in the hands of an Islamist government that is unlikely, for example, to approve the construction—or possibly even the renovation—of churches, again in accord with Sharia. Many of these things were also done by the Mubarak regime but one can expect an even tougher approach now.

–It is against the law to insult a prophet (Article 44). This might seem only to be a bother for those who would burn Korans or Bibles or make deliberately provocative videos. But it is important to remember that Islamists have charged that academic research has crossed this line and also the novels of Naguib Mahfouz, Egypt’s Nobel Prize-winning author as well as a tweet from the main backer of the leading non-Islamist party. Islamist groups will be able to bring law suits against anyone whose writing or statements or tweets they don’t like.

–Freedom of expression is limited (Article 48) by the principles of state and society, national security, and others things. That means that any television station or newspaper that says anything that can be deemed contrary to Sharia or Islamic morality as interpreted by a Muslim Brotherhood government can be shut down. A National Media Council (Article 215) will be responsible for preserving “societal principles and constructive values,” which presumably means it can order publications and television channels to be closed down.

–There can be only one trade union for each profession (Article 53). This has hidden implications since in the past the state has controlled the sole such organization in each area. In addition, though, suppose doctors, journalists, engineers, or members of other professions are tired of being in associations that are controlled by the Brotherhood. They cannot form their own separate groups.

–The president can force parliament to meet in secret rather than public session (Article 93). In that case, the legislators would have no say in the decision. This makes observers suspicious about how much the president will dominate parliament, since Egypt has been a country ruled by a single man for six decades in which parliament was a rubber stamp. In addition, anything critical of the regime can be kept secret.

–This concern is furthered by another provision (Article 104) only allowing parliament to overturn a presidential veto on laws by a two-thirds’ majority. This is, of course, also in the U.S. Constitution but, again, Egypt is a country that has long seen a dictator who rules and a parliament which has no significant influence.

–There is no maximum number of members for parliament set (Article 114 and 128), raising suspicions that the president and the Brotherhood’s political party can add more people if needed to maintain control.

–If the lower house of Parliament does not approve the government platform set by the president (Article 139) he can dissolve it. Since members of parliament don’t like to be forced to run for reelection and possibly lose their seats, this pressures them to accept the president’s policies. This provision is also found in other parliamentary democracies but again there are suspicions given Egypt’s history and the regime’s ideology.

–A provision intended to make the army accept Muslim Brotherhood rule (Article 197) establishes a National Defense Council, with a majority of officers, to set the military budget. This had been a major demand of the armed forces. Another thing that will make the army happy (Article 198) lets civilians be tried by military courts for crimes that “harm” the armed forces.

–The president has the power to appoint the heads of many public institutions (Article 202).

–Two provisions (Article 231 and 232) are explicitly designed to reverse the Supreme Constitutional Court’s ruling that parliament was elected on the basis of an unconstitutional the elections law. Thus, approval of the Constitution at the referendum would lead to Mursi arguing that a parliament with two-thirds Islamist membership would be legitimate, rather than facing new elections in which the Islamists might lose seats.

Probably the provision most bruited in the Western media will be the taking out of a provision that explicitly said women’s equality would be subject to revision based on Sharia (removed from Article 68). Another article (Article 30) states that citizens are equal before the law and equal in rights and obligations without discrimination.

Presumably, however, this changes nothing since conformity with Sharia law is already mandated in the Constitution. But that last point is a good symbol of the Constitution’s meaning. It enshrines Sharia rule without rubbing people’s faces in it. Thus, the Western media and governments can cheer the Constitution as democratic and proof that Islamists are now moderate even though that document opens the door for dictatorial rule.

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

Reality Check: Palestine Will Remain a Non-Existent State

Sunday, December 2nd, 2012

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

Almost to the day last Thursday, in 1988, I stood in a large hall in Algeria and saw Yasir Arafat declare the independence of a Palestinian state. And that was forty-one years, almost to the day, after the U.N. offered a Palestinian state in 1947. Twelve years ago Israel and the United States officially offered a Palestinian state as part of a compromise at deal in the Camp David summit of 2000. Arguably, despite all their errors, the Palestinian movement has made progress since those events, though it is not very impressive progress. Yet in real terms there is no real Palestinian state; the movement is more deeply divided than at any time in its history; and the people aren’t doing very well.

Now the U.N. has given Palestine the status of a non-member state. The only thing that will change is to convince people even more that they are following a clever and successful strategy. They aren’t.

Perhaps in 24 or 41 years there will actually be a Palestinian state.

There are two ways to respond to the General Assembly’s likely vote to so designate a state of Palestine. One of them is outrage at the absurdity of how the international system behaves. The other would be to dismiss the gesture as meaningless, even more than that, as something that will even further delay the day that a real, functioning state comes into existence.

Certainly, there are threats and dangers, for example the use by Palestine of the International Court. Or one could look at this as another step on the road to a final, I mean comprehensive, solution to the issue. Yet over all, I’ll go for disgusted and cynical as the most accurate responses.

Let’s start with disgusted. In 1993, the PLO made an agreement whose very basis was that a Palestinian state would only come into existence as a result of a deal made with Israel. Instead, the Palestinian side refused to make such a compromise and broke its commitments repeatedly. The ultimate result was Yasir Arafat’s refusal to accept a Palestinian state with its capital in the eastern part of Jerusalem both at the 2000 Camp David meeting and a few months later when President Bill Clinton made a better, and final, offer.

I have just this minute come from an interview with a very nice journalist who asked me, “But doesn’t Israel want everything and offer nothing in return.” What was most impressive is the fact that he had no personal hostility or any political agenda. (You’d understand if I identified the person and his newspaper but I’m not going to do that.) This conclusion was simply taken as fact. He was astonished to hear that another perspective even existed.

My first response was to point down the street two corners to the place where a bus was blown up in 1995 and right next to it where a suicide bomber had killed about a dozen pedestrians around the same time. This was the result of risks and concessions that Israel had voluntarily undertaken in trying to achieve peace. And, I added, it was possible to supply a long list of other examples.

So despite Israel taking risks and making concessions, the Palestinian Authority rejected peace. Thursday, the same group was recognized by the U.N. as a regime governing a state. Moreover, this is a body that is relentlessly begging Hamas, a group that openly calls for genocide against both Israel and Jews, to join it.

Hamas, of course, ran for office without accepting the Oslo agreement (a violation of it) and then seized power in a coup. Since then it has rained rockets and missiles on Israel. In other words, although it is unlikely to happen, in a few months Hamas might become part of the official government of this non-member state of the U.N.

Yet complaining about the unfairness of international behavior or the treatment of Israel, like complaining about one’s personal fate, doesn’t get you anywhere. It is cathartic to do so but then one must move on to more productive responses.

The second issue is whether it will really matter. Yes it entails symbolism, yes it will convince the Palestinians they are getting something when the course they have followed ensures they get pretty close to nothing. But, to use a Biblical phrase, it availeth them not. On the contrary, to coin a phrase, this move “counter-matters,” that is it is a substitute for productive action that actually detracts from the real goal.

Digging Up Arafat

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

Suddenly, I received all of these phone calls from journalists asking me to talk about who murdered the late Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat. The news peg is that he’s being dug up to see if someone poisoned him. Guess who?

I tell them that in a sense Arafat was murdered. Excited, they ask who did it. And I respond: Fatah, the PLO, and the Palestinian Authority, all organizations that Arafat headed. I don’t mean literally that they set out to kill Arafat but they were the ones really responsible for his death. Let me elucidate.

For many months before he was rushed to Paris for medical attention, everyone who followed him closely knew Arafat was sick. It was the subject of extensive discussion among Israelis and Palestinians. Anyone who saw him give a speech, whether live or on television, could see he was in bad shape. My mother-in-law, a doctor, saw him in one broadcast and easily rattled off a list of symptoms.

I was told the following story–in far more detail–not long after by a very reliable person who witnessed the conversation. One of Arafat’s Palestinian doctors and a leading Israeli physician were chatting at a conference. An Israeli reporter noted for his left-wing ideology and remarkably inaccurate story came up to the Palestinian and asked if Arafat was ill. “Definitely not,” he told the reporter who, well-pleased, rushed off to write up his scoop. The Israeli turned to the Palestinian and said, “But ____, you know he’s very ill.” The Palestinian medico responded, “Of course!”

Yet despite this fact, Arafat did not receive serious or competent treatment. It was no secret that the individuals who served as his medical staff were not very good doctors but chosen for political reasons. The biggest problem, however, was that the Palestinian leadership could not face the crisis honestly.

Remember, Arafat was their leader for as long as they could remember. He was well-known for making every decision, even the most minor, for the movement and for the institutions then governing the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Palestinians in the know frequently pointed out that when Arafat was travelling literally nothing could get done.

So how could they face or admit the potential demise of the man on whom their fortunes and indeed the entire movement seemed to rest? Dictatorial movements or countries are like that. The courtiers all live in fear that the fearless leader will be no more. What will become of them?

And so if they had taken better care of Arafat he would have lasted longer. Of course, Arafat was never known for being solicitous of his own help. He was overweight, ate unhealthy food (honey was his cure-all), and didn’t exercise. The mere thought of Arafat trying to jog makes the last point effectively. He had been severely injured in a plane crash several years earlier.

Arafat himself refused to rest or to leave his headquarters despite its being under siege by Israel after all the terrorism he had ordered during his post-Camp David summit war against the peace process. It was not hard to see that this 75-year-old man was a mortality waiting to happen.

Just as Arafat’s cronies and lieutenants could not face his sickness, a good portion of the Western leftist, media, and intelligentsia refuses to face their own sickness. Only against the Jews would the modern-day version of ritual murder become credible, especially when it is based on a ridiculously obvious fabrication.

The current Arafat-was-murdered meme began when very large amounts of radioactive material were “discovered” on his clothing. This substance is scientifically known to break down on a very regular schedule. For such a quantity to be found there would have meant there would have been a gigantic amount—was he hosed down with radioactive poison?—when he died eight years ago. In other words, the stuff had been planted only hours at most before it was found, no doubt by the same people who put it there. In short, the accusation makes no sense but it is being treated seriously.

Such is the way Israel is dealt with on many things by respectable people in the West. The accusation is made by anti-Israel propagandists who spew out the most vicious antisemitic hatred and lies yet are given a large measure of credibility. Such is the way Israel is dealt with on many things by otherwise respectable people in the West nowadays.

The Islamist Regime’s Game Plan for Egypt

Tuesday, November 27th, 2012

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

What’s been happening in Egypt this week is as important as the revolution that overthrew the old regime almost two years ago. A new dictator has arrived and while the Muslim Brotherhood’s overturning of democracy was totally predictable, Western policymakers walked right into the trap. They even helped build it.

President Mursi has now declared his ability to rule by decree. The key concept is that he can do everything to protect the revolution. In doing so, he is defining the revolution—as the Iranian revolution of 1978-1979 which was made by a broad coalition of forces soon after became defined—as an Islamist revolution.

One could call the Islamist strategy a short march through the institutions. Once Islamists take power—in Iran, the Gaza Strip, and Turkey, perhaps, too Syria—that is only the beginning of the story. They systematically do a fundamental transformation of them.

The media, or at least a large part of it, is tamed. The draft constitution written by the Brotherhood and Salafists allows the government to shut down any newspaper or television station by decree. The courts are made impotent and judges are replaced. Mursi’s decree said he could ignore any court decision.At a November 18 press conference, a few days before Mursi issued his decree, the leading secular-oriented representatives in the constitution-writing constituent assembly resigned, charging the new document would enshrine Sharia law. The problem was not the statement in Article 2 about Sharia being the main source of Egyptian legislation but rather later provisions making it clear that Islamist-controlled institutions would interpret precisely what that meant. Amr Moussa, former foreign minister and Arab League secretary-general, said the new constitution would bring disaster for Egypt. Abdel Meguid called this combination “Taliban-like.”

Scattered secularist forces, Coptic Christians, liberals or the remnants of the old regime, and modern-minded women do not pose a real threat to the regime. They are not violent, not organized, and not flush with cash. They can expect no material international support. There will be no civil war between the moderates and the Islamists the suppression of one by the other. The Salafists are itching for confrontation; the Muslim Brotherhood is patient. But when Salafists harass women or stab secularists or attack churches, the Brotherhood-controlled government will do nothing to protect the victims.

Of critical importance for Egypt is control over the religious infrastructure: the ministry of Waqf that supervises huge amounts of money in Islamic foundations; the office of qadi, the chief Islamist jurist; al-Azhar University, the most important institution defining Islam in the Muslim world; which clerics get to go on television or have their own shows; and down to appointments of preachers in every public mosque in the country.

Many clerics are not moderate but most are not systematic Islamists. Soon they will be or at least talk as if they were. Revolutionary Islamism will become in Egypt merely normative Islam. Thus is the endless debate in the West about the nature of Islam—religion of peace or religion of terrorism?–short-circuited and made even more irrelevant. The real power is not what the texts say but who interprets them. And the Islamists will do the interpreting.

While the judges are still holding out bravely only the army has real power to counter the Islamist revolution transforming the most important country in the Arabic-speaking world into the instrument of the leading international anti-Western, anti-American, and antisemitic organization. It doesn’t matter how nicely Mursi spoke to Obama any more than say how Lenin–who moderated Soviet policy in the 1920s to consolidate the regime and get Western help–did in his day.

What is going on inside Egypt’s army, the last remaining institution that could offer resistance? We don’t really know but there are certainly some important indications. In theory, the army is the only force that can challenge the Muslim Brotherhood’s drive to transform Egypt into an Islamist state. But why should we believe the officers want to engage in such a battle?

Under the leadership of a secret society called the Free Officers, Egypt’s army overturned the monarchy in 1952 in a virtually bloodless coup. Yet while Egypt was for decades thereafter ruled by the resulting regime, the military government soon became a military-backed government. Officers either moved over to civilian offices or if they opposed the regime were purged.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/analysis/rubin-reports/the-islamist-regimes-game-plan-for-egypt/2012/11/27/

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