Category Archives: Israel

Middle East Reality

We need more politicians with a “reality” perspective.
WSJ 12/27/2017   By Reuel Marc Gerecht

Alot of people are in a funk over President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The liberal media, most former government officials who’ve dealt with the Israeli–Palestinian imbroglio, and just about everyone at the United Nations appear certain that the decision had a lot to do with Mr. Trump’s disruptive nature, the president’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, Evangelical Christians and pro-Israel Republican donors.

It’s possible that his decision was based instead on an old-fashioned understanding of the way the world works, one that would be familiar to Middle Easterners: There are winners and losers in every conflict, and Palestinians have decisively lost in their struggle with the Jews of the Holy Land. Diplomacy based on denying reality isn’t helpful.

This view runs smack into the tenets of contemporary conflict resolution, in which diplomacy tries to make losers feels like winners, so that unpleasant compromises, at least in theory, will be easier to swallow. It alleviates the guilt of a Westernized people triumphing over Arabs that has made many in Europe and even the U.S. uncomfortable with Israeli superiority. It also runs counter to an assumption held widely among Western political elites—to wit, quoting the current French ambassador to the U.N.: “Israel is the key to peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians.” Israelis, in this view, must make the big compromises.

The truth is surely the opposite. Recognizing the extent and irreversibility of Palestinian defeat is the first step in the long process of salvaging Palestinian society from its paralyzing morass. Far too many Palestinians still want to pretend they haven’t lost, that the “right of return” and Jerusalem’s unsettled status give hope that the gradual erosion of Israel is still possible. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas tapped a common theme among Palestinians in his recent oration before the Organization of Islamic Cooperation when he complained that Jews “are really excellent in faking and counterfeiting history and religion.”

The biggest problem the Palestinians have is that the Israelis don’t trust them, and the Israelis cannot be ignored, sidestepped, bullied, bombed or boycotted out of eastern Jerusalem and the West Bank. Fatah, the lead organization of the Palestine Liberation Organization and the muscle behind the Palestinian Authority, has often acted publicly as if the Israelis weren’t the foreigners who truly mattered, appealing to Europeans, Russians and Americans to intercede on its behalf. Americans and Europeans have consistently encouraged this reflex by stressing their own role in resolving the conflict, usually by suggesting that they would cajole or push Israelis toward Palestinian positions.

For the Israelis, this has seemed a surreal stage play. The Fatah leadership is well aware that only the Israeli security services have kept the West Bank from going the way of the Gaza Strip, where Fatah’s vastly better-armed forces were easily overwhelmed by Hamas in 2007. Fatah’s secular police state—and that is what the Palestinian Authority is—has proved, so far, no match for Hamas.

Western diplomacy has failed abysmally to recognize the profound split between Palestinian fundamentalists and secularists and played wistfully to the hope that a deeply corrupt Fatah oligarchy could conclude a permanent peace accord with Israel. This delusion’s concomitant bet: Such a deal would terminally weaken Hamas, since the secularists would have finally brought home the mutton.

The most important point, however, is always ignored. Competent, transparent, nonviolent Palestinian governance is the only chance Palestinian society has of escaping the fundamentalist critique that has undermined oligarchs across the Arab world. Fearful of playing the imperialists and keenly aware of the efficiency of having a police state as a partner, Americans, Europeans and Israelis have failed to use the leverage of financial aid to set standards for Palestinian governance on the West Bank and in Gaza.

Palestinian Muslims are no different than other Muslim Arabs. Religious militancy has grown astronomically over the past 40 years as the ruling secular elites have calcified into corrupt, hypocritical, heavyhanded autocracies. Westerners have not dealt with this well, since it defies the top-down approach inherit in diplomacy—and also because fundamentalists terrify them. Yet the past ought to tell Americans and Europeans that a two-state solution to the Israel–Palestinian clash isn’t going to happen before Palestinians reconcile in a functioning democracy that doesn’t scare their Jewish neighbors. The overwhelming burden here is upon the Palestinians. The most valuable American contribution to the peace process, so far only episodically delivered, is to remind the Palestinians that they first have to get their own house in order and the Israelis that they have to care about how Palestinians treat their own. Too often, the Israelis have viewed the Palestinians— and Arab Muslims in general—as the ineducable “other,” who is best left to his own rules so long as Israelis aren’t killed. Any Israeli effort to control Palestinian-on-Palestinian abuse will surely be met with a hail-storm of censure from the West. But the Israelis ought to take a longer view. Barrier or no barrier, they are going to live with the Palestinians forever. Israel should certainly want to correct its enormous mistake of allowing Yasser Arafat, the father of Palestinian nationalism, to import his thugocracy into the West Bank and Gaza.

Most Arabs have adjusted, however reluctantly, to the permanence of Zion. They did so four decades ago when Egypt, slowly collapsing under its own military dictatorship, checked out of the war. Americans, Europeans and Israelis—not “the Arabs”— are primarily responsible for elongating the big Palestinian delusions about the “right of return” and a sovereign East Jerusalem. It’s way past time they stopped. Mr. Trump’s decision, whatever the motivation, is a step forward.

Mr. Gerecht is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.


Recognizing Jerusalem – WSJ

A breath of fresh air…
WSJ 12/8/2017 By Yoram Hazony


For nearly seven decades, the state of Israel has endured an unusual humiliation: Alone among the nations of the world, it has been denied the sovereign right to determine its own capital. Israel has regarded Jerusalem as its capital since its War of Independence in 1948. It is the seat of Israel’s president, prime minister, Knesset (parliament), Supreme Court and most government ministries. Yet for the better part of a century, the U.S. has led what is effectively an international boycott of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, keeping its embassy in Tel Aviv as part of a fiction that the status of Jerusalem remains undetermined.

The roots of this policy go back to the first half of the 20th century, when European diplomats set their sights on making Jerusalem an “international city”—a kind of second Vatican, controlled by responsible Europeans rather than by Jews or Arabs. When Jewish forces took the western half of the city in 1948, and especially after Jerusalem was united under Israeli rule in 1967, this fantasy of a Euro-Jerusalem disappeared forever. But rather than recognizing Israeli sovereignty, the international community decided to leave Jerusalem’s status for “future negotiations.”

Yet now half a century has passed, and still there is nothing but Jewish sovereignty over Jerusalem anywhere in sight. In a dramatic address Wednesday, President Trump brought to an end the fiction that something else is going to happen. “Today we finally acknowledge the obvious,” he said. “Jerusalem is Israel’s capital. This is nothing more or less than a recognition of reality. It is also the right thing to do.”

Mr. Trump is right about this. But he also understands that there is more to it. The dream of rebuilding Jerusalem, destroyed in Roman times, is the linchpin that holds Jewish faith and nationhood together. Three times each day, Jews bless God as “the Builder of Jerusalem.” When Jews read, at every wedding, “If I forget you, Jerusalem, may my right hand lose its strength” (Psalm 137:5), we are teaching a subtle truth: We Jews cannot give up on restoring our ancient capital without giving up the source of strength.

Would we really be giving up on restoring Jerusalem if Israel negotiated a “deal” to share sovereignty in the city? Consider the options: Israel will never agree for Jerusalem to be divided as Berlin

The president withstands the howling dismay of the world’s nations to abandon a failed 70-year-old policy.

was, with mutually hostile police forces on either side of a security barrier. Jerusalem was divided in this way from 1948 to 1967, and anyone who lived through that time of snipers on the city walls knows that such a scheme amounts to destroying Jerusalem, not rebuilding it. The other choice is to govern the city by committee— which would mean that every construction project, excavation, restoration or economic initiative favored by Israel would be subject to an Arab veto (and probably also to a European one). This is a formula for reducing Jerusalem to wretchedness.

For Israelis, then, any conceivable “deal” over Jerusalem does indeed mean giving up on the hope of restoring the only capital we’ve ever had to sanctity and splendor.

Like it or not, this means that foreign powers have to choose— whether to stand by the project of establishing a fully sovereign Jewish state with the right to make Jerusalem its capital, or to limit permanently Israeli sovereignty, while effectively internationalizing Jerusalem under cover of peace talks with the Arab states and the Palestine Liberation Organization.

For 70 years, the U.S. and most other nations have declined to stand with the Jewish people on this, believing that peace would somehow be forthcoming if Israel were humiliated in this way. But this approach has not brought peace. It has only encouraged Israel’s enemies. This week, Mr. Trump announced that America will therefore stand by the Jewish state. All over the world, Jews are saying the traditional blessing thanking God for letting us live to see this day.

We have been warned by enemies and by friends that this historic moment will be met with violence. That is quite possible. Every significant step in the return of the Jews to Israel and Jerusalem since the Balfour Declaration has been met with acts of vengeance. But if this pattern has a clear lesson for us, it is this: If the American administration holds firm, this storm will pass.

Many disparaging things have been said about President Trump’s fitness to lead. But this week, on the issue of Jerusalem, Mr. Trump has withstood the howling dismay of the world’s nations, to perform one of those rare deeds that truly have the potential to change history for the better.

Mr. Hazony is president of the Je-rusalem- based Herzl Institute. His book “The Virtue of Nationalism” will be published next year by Basic.


Obama’s Parting Betrayal of Israel

More on the unbelievable position or the Obama administration on Israel.
WSJ 12/27/2016  By John Bolton

Last Friday, on the eve of Hanukkah and Christmas, Barack Obama stabbed Israel in the front. The departing president refused to veto United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334—a measure ostensibly about Israeli settlement policy, but clearly intended to tip the peace process toward the Palestinians. Its adoption wasn’t pretty. But, sadly, it was predictable.

Mr. Obama’s refusal to use Washington’s veto was more than a graceless parting gesture. Its consequences pose major challenges for American interests. President-elect Donald Trump should echo Ambassador Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s defiant and ringing 1975 response to the U.N.’s “Zionism is racism” resolution: that America “does not acknowledge, it will not abide by, it will never acquiesce in this infamous act.”

Mr. Obama argues that Resolution 2334 continues a bipartisan American policy toward the Middle East. It does precisely the opposite. The White House has abandoned any pretense that the actual parties to the conflict must resolve their differences. Instead, the president has essentially endorsed the Palestinian politico-legal narrative about territory formerly under League of Nations’ mandate, but not already under Israeli control after the 1948-49 war of independence.

Resolution 2334 implicitly repeals the iconic Resolution 242, which affirmed, in the wake of the 1967 Six-Day War, that all affected nations, obviously including Israel, had a “right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force.” It provided further that Israel should withdraw “from territories occupied in the recent conflict”— but did not require withdrawal from “the” or “all” territories,” thereby countenancing less-than-total withdrawal. In this way Resolution 242 embodied the “land for peace” theory central to America’s policy in the Middle East ever since.

By contrast, Resolution 2334 refuses to “recognize any changes to the [1967] lines, including those with regard to Jerusalem, other than those agreed by the parties through negotiations.” This language effectively defines Israel’s borders, even while superficially affirming direct talks. Chatter about Israeli-Palestinian negotiations is nothing but a truism, equally applicable to the U.S. and Canada, or to any nations resolving trivial border disputes.

There can be no “land for peace”— with Israel retroceding territory in exchange for peace, as in the 1979 Camp David agreement with Egypt— if the land is not legitimately Israel’s to give up in the first place. Anti-Israel imagineers have used this linguistic jujitsu as their central tactic since 1967, trying to create “facts on the ground” in the U.N.’s corridors rather than by actually negotiating with Israel. Mr. Obama has given them an indefinite hall pass.

The Trump administration could veto future Security Council measures that extend Resolution 2334 (e.g., purportedly recognizing a Palestinian state). Mr. Trump could also veto efforts to implement Resolution 2334 (e.g., the sanctions for what it calls Israel’s “blatant violation under international law”). Still, there are significant dangers. Other U.N. bodies, such as the General Assembly and the numerous specialized agencies where America has no veto, can carry Resolution 2334 forward.

Even more perilous is that individual nations or the European Union can legislate their own sanctions under Resolution 2334’s provision that “all States” should “distinguish in their relevant dealings” between Israel’s territory “and the territories occupied since 1967.” This is a hunting license to ostracize Israel from the international economic system, exposing it and its citizens to incalculable personal and financial risk.

Once in office, President Trump should act urgently to mitigate or reverse Resolution 2334’s consequences. Mr. Obama has made this significantly harder by rendering America complicit in assaulting Israel. Nonetheless, handled properly, there is an escape from both the current danger zone and the wasteland in which the search for Middle East peace has long wandered.

First, there must be consequences for the adoption of Resolution 2334. The Trump administration should move to repeal the resolution, giving the 14 countries that supported it a chance to correct their error. Nations that affirm their votes should have their relations with Washington adjusted accordingly. In some cases this might involve vigorous diplomatic protests. But the main perpetrators in particular should face more tangible consequences.

As for the United Nations itself, if this mistake is not fixed the U.S. should withhold at least its assessed contributions to the U.N.—which amount to about $3 billion annually or 22%-25% of its total regular and peacekeeping budgets. Meanwhile, Washington should continue funding specialized agencies such as the World Health Organization and the International Atomic Energy Agency, if only to dissuade them from entering the Resolution 2334 swamp.

Second, Mr. Trump should unambiguously reject Mr. Obama’s view that Resolution 2334 is justified to save the “two-state solution.” That goal, at best, has been on life-support for years. After Mr. Obama’s provocation, its life expectancy might now be only until Jan. 20. And good riddance. This dead-end vision, by conjuring an imaginary state with zero economic viability, has harmed not only Israel but also the Palestinians, the principal intended beneficiaries.

Far better to essay a “three-state solution,” returning Gaza to Egypt and giving those parts of the West Bank that Israel is prepared to cede to Jordan. By attaching Palestinian lands to real economies (not a makebelieve one), average Palestinians (not their political elite), will have a true chance for a better future. Other alternatives to the two-state approach should also be considered.

Mr. Obama loves using the word “pivot” for his ever-changing priorities. It is now up to Mr. Trump to pivot away from his predecessor’s disastrous policies on Israel. Taking up the challenge will be difficult, but well worth the effort for America and its friends world-wide.

Mr. Bolton is a senior fellow at the American Enter


Where’s the Pope on Syria?

I really wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt, but this probably ends that hope forever.
WSJ 12/27/2016

If you are like this columnist, you may have missed the recent prayer vigil in front of St. Peter’s, which featured Pope Francis leading tens of thousands of the faithful in protest of the sickening Russian military strikes in Aleppo that have targeted hospitals, aid convoys and innocent civilians.

Surely there must have been such a vigil, right? And at least as prominent as the one in September 2013? Back then Pope Francis led a muchpublicized vigil aimed at dissuading President Obama from launching airstrikes on Syrian President Bashar Assad’s military assets after the strongman had gassed more than a thousand people in the suburbs of Damascus, including hundreds of children.

Remember those heady days? The tweets from the Holy Father himself: “War never again! Never again war!” Or his letter to Vladimir Putin during the G-20 meeting in St. Petersburg, in which Pope Francis implored leaders there (read: Uncle Sam) “to lay aside the futile pursuit of a military solution.”

Not to mention Mr. Putin’s own use of Pope Francis in an op-ed that appeared shortly after in the pages of the New York Times. There Mr. Putin put it this way: “The potential strike by the United States against Syria, despite strong opposition from many countries and major political and religious leaders, including the pope, will result in more innocent victims and escalation, potentially spreading the conflict far beyond Syria’s borders.”

So surely if the Holy Father was outraged in 2013 by what Secretary of State John Kerry emphasized would be an “unbelievably small strike,” he must be even more indignant over the cynical way Mr. Putin has used the entree the pope helped give him in Syria to use Russian air power to launch his own deadly strikes.

But somehow there are no Pope Francis vigils over the war crimes committed by Mr. Putin’s war planes.

Then again, we didn’t see the vigil candles come out at St. Peter’s when Mr. Putin invaded Crimea. Nor when Russian-backed separatists shot down a Malaysia Airlines jetliner over Ukraine.

To the contrary, as Russian forces declare victory in Aleppo, the pope has been reduced to telling the world not to forget Aleppo and entreating Mr. Assad to play nice.

Now, at the time President Obama was proposing his military strike, even some hawks opposed it on the grounds it was only a gesture meant for show. This was a solid and reasonable objection.

But this was not the objection of Pope Francis. True, both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI had urged against American military action, the former with regard to Iraq and the latter with Libya.

But this pope’s objections have been coupled with a softness toward Moscow hard to imagine coming from either of his two predecessors. And the argument that Mr. Putin’s use of force is welcome because it is protecting the Christians of Aleppo—who feel safer under Assad than under ISIS—does not work for Pope Francis: He’s insisted all along there are no military solutions, even as Mr. Putin has now imposed one.

“The Catechism of the Catholic Church” holds that the “use of arms must not produce evils and disorders greater than the evil to be eliminated.”

A sound principle. But what about the evils produced when those who have the arms won’t use them to protect those who have no defense? In short, there’s a reason that when Thomas Aquinas discusses just war, he does so in his chapter on charity. To put it all in biblical terms, what would have been the obligation on the Good Samaritan if he had come across his victim as the man was being beaten rather than afterward?

Aleppo is not Pope Francis’ fault. It is the fault of those who have willfully chosen atrocity to advance their larger goals, whether this be the ISIS forces who hope to impose their brand of extremism on Syria, or Mr. Assad, who has reduced Aleppo to rubble to eliminate any opposition to his brutal regime. Not to mention outsiders such as Mr. Putin and the Sunni supporters of ISIS who have enabled these evils.

At the time Pope Francis took his stand against U.S. intervention in Syria, an article in the National Catholic Register framed it this way: “The Pope has positioned himself as the foremost champion of finding peaceful solutions to the conflict, and Putin has demonstrated in recent days that he has the capability to deliver diplomatic alternatives to the punishing military strikes favored by Obama over Syria’s chemical weapons.”

Let’s hope what has followed in Aleppo might occasion some papal modesty, and perhaps a more ecumenical outlook when it comes to regarding the use of force by global powers. For the essence of civilization is this: The strong protect the weak. When the use of force is taken off the table, the strong prey on the weak.

In September, the pope thundered that those bombing civilians in Aleppo will one day have to “account to God.” Until then, the moral undermining of American intervention has guaranteed they will account to no one.