Foreign Policy Research Institute
"You know, when it comes to Egypt, I think, had it not been for the leadership we showed, you might have seen a different outcome there." — President Barack Obama, "60 Minutes," January 27, 2013
"You know, when it comes to Egypt, I think, had it not been for the leadership we showed, you might have seen a different outcome there." — President Barack Obama, "60 Minutes," January 27, 2013
- The ICC can only act when the home state refuses to investigate crimes; that is not the case for any Israeli acts in Gaza or the territories.
- ICC has never prosecuted a case referred by a country against nationals of a non-member state. Such an action would terrify US officials and permanently sour American relations with the Court, as it would expose U.S. military and civilian officials to liability for U.S. armed action anywhere in the world, and particularly for the controversial drone strikes program of President Obama.
Egypt is on a "difficult path" to a peaceful democracy, the White House said Monday as months of lukewarm political support for the conservative Islamic government was in danger of backfiring after deadly weekend riots pushed Cairo to crack down on civil rights.
It was the latest strain on the stretched-thin detente between the Obama administration and Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood following _ a fault line that already has delayed $1 billion in U.S. aid to Cairo. Billions of additional dollars in international loans also have been shelved because of Egypt's instability.
Palestine’s admission to the United Nations would pave the way for the internationalization of the conflict as a legal matter, not only a political one. It would also pave the way for us to pursue claims against Israel at the United Nations, human rights treaty bodies and the International Court of Justice.Now a pro-Palestinian activist, George Bisharat has filled in details as to how this process will work. In Why Palestine should take Israel to court in the Hague he writes:
Since the Naqba, Palestinian Refugees mainly settled in Iraq, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.Each video pushes the need for Palestinian Arabs to become citizens of the Muslim countries where they currently live.
Over the decades we have been denied citizenship of our host countries, we have been denied the ability to own property and work in numerous professions. This channel is dedicated to our silent human rights crisis - perpetrated by our own brothers.
Palestinian refugees in Iraq suffer a daily humiliation at then hands of their Arab brothers. It is way past time that they were given dignity, equality before the law and Iraqi citizenshipHere is the video:
|For Immediate Release:|
January 29, 2013
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Obama administration publicly supports criticism
of Israel's 'lack of cooperation' at today's HRC Session
This article by Anne Bayefsky appears on The Jerusalem Post.
Just days after the UN put on a show about Holocaust remembrance, it is business as usual in terms of demonizing and encouraging hatred of Jews in the present. In Geneva, the UN’s top human rights body, the Human Rights Council, is conducting its so-called “Universal Periodic Review” (UPR), and Israel was supposed to arrive before the firing squad on January 29 to listen to Iran itemize the failings of "the Zionist entity." The greater tragedy of modern anti-Semitism, however, is that the United States and almost every other Western government pressured Israel to participate too – for the sake of the reputation of the UN and the appearance of universality. These goals were considered to be the greater good.
In the world of international human rights, the standard-bearer is the universal application of human rights principles. “We the peoples of the United Nations,” says the UN Charter, “reaffirm faith…in the equal rights…of nations large and small.” Hence, the UN Human Rights “Council,” desperate to repair the UN’s human rights credibility after Libya was elected President of the Human Rights “Commission,” created the much-trumpeted UPR. All 193 UN members undergo the same procedure – states like Syria and the United States, for example.
During the UPR, country representatives turn up in Geneva while diplomats from other states proceed to make comments and recommendations on improving the country's human rights record. Since the country can “accept” or “reject” those recommendations, it is in its interest to line up friendly participants, a disingenuous role willingly played only by rogue states. At the end, the President of the Council thanks the country concerned, regardless of the statements made by its representatives, the recommendations it has rejected, or its actual human rights record.
So here’s how the UPR rubber hit the road of crimes against humanity in Syria.
Hezbollah may not be included on the European Union's list of terrorist groups even if it did bomb Jewish tourists in Bulgaria, the EU's top counter-terrorism official reportedly said.There have been reports that Bulgaria is very close to publishing its report on the terrorist attack last July in Bulgaria -- and that the report would reveal that the terrorist group Hezbollah was in fact behind it. It has been anticipated that such a report would pressure the EU to comply with requests from the US and Israel to put Hezbollah on its list of terrorist organizations. Such a move would bring added pressure, making it illegal for funding to be sent to the group.
On Monday, the news site EUobserver quoted the official, Gilles de Kerchove, as saying that Bulgaria's investigation into the incident is likely to be concluded next month.
There has been a steady drumbeat of bad news coming out of the Palestinian West Bank in recent weeks. Attacks against Israelis from the West Bank are undeniably on the rise. The spike came in November, around the same time Palestine Liberation Organization chairman Mahmoud Abbas went to the United Nations seeking an upgrade in the status of his mission, despite objections by Israel and the United States. His message was simple: The Palestinians will not cooperate with Israel while it controls territory that Palestinians claim as their own.
Coincidence or not, there were 70 recorded attacks in October, according to Israeli security services, followed by a spike to 171 in November. In December, a Palestinian motorist rammed an Israeli army jeep carrying officers and then attacked them with an axe. In another incident, two Palestinians breached an Israeli military base, assaulted a soldier, and absconded with his weapon. Earlier this month, after residents discovered undercover Israeli agents in Jenin, at least thirty people were injured in a clash. There have been other cases, reminiscent of the 1987 intifada, where Israeli personnel have been pummeled with a hail of stones.Despite the increase in attacks, Schanzer writes that it isn't entirely clear that another intifada is going on or imminent:
The liberal use of the term "genocide" has stirred numerous controversies and debates. Despite an international law definition, the word has been applied in some questionable instances. The deliberate murder of more than a million Cambodians by the Khmer Rouge, some of whose victims are pictured here, was undoubtedly a horrific crime, but does it fit the definition of genocide?
Egypt's president declared a state of emergency and curfew in three Suez Canal provinces hit hardest by a weekend wave of unrest that left more than 50 dead, using tactics of the ousted regime to get a grip on discontent over his Islamist policies and the slow pace of change.Against this background, read what Barry Rubin writes about Obama's choice to replace Hillary Clinton, noting that Secretary of State Kerry Shows He Doesn’t Have a Clue About How Foreign Policy Works:
Angry and almost screaming, Mohammed Morsi vowed in a televised address on Sunday night that he would not hesitate to take even more action to stem the latest eruption of violence across much of the country. But at the same time, he sought to reassure Egyptians that his latest moves would not plunge the country back into authoritarianism.
"There is no going back on freedom, democracy and the supremacy of the law," he said.
The White House called for Mr. Morsi to make clear that he respects members of all faiths and said the videotaped remarks run counter to the goal of peace. President Obama should also deliver that message to President Morsi directly. The State Department was indignant: State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland would not say if Washington is demanding that Morsi personally repudiate the remarks, but she made clear the U.S. needs to see more than the statement from his office to be convinced he no longer holds to the earlier views.An attempt to explain himself to a group of visiting U.S. senators made matters worse.
OH! pleasant exercise of hope and joy!
For mighty were the auxiliars which then stood
Upon our side, we who were strong in love!
Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,
But to be young was very heaven!--Oh! times,
In which the meager, stale, forbidding ways
Of custom, law, and statute, took at once
The attraction of a country in romance!
--William Wordsworth, Poem on the French Revolution, 1789
"So much of what we need to aspire to achieve and what we need globally -- all of this is tied to what can and doesn't happen with respect to Israel/Palestine (sic)."
Despite Hillarycare, Whitewater, Travelgate, Filegate, the cattle-futures mess, the circumstances surrounding the 2000 Clinton pardons, “suspension of disbelief,” etc., Ms. Clinton, for not fully explained reasons, remains mostly beyond audit and censure, a fact she has come to appreciate.
Victor Davis Hanson, What Difference?
... propels Israel into repetitive miniwars of dubious strategic value.(Apparently he needed some editing as the verb "propels" doesn't seem to match its antecedent.)
Khaled Abu Toameh writes that Hamas to establish military academy for Gaza schoolchildren.
Hamas is planning to establish a military academy in the Gaza Strip for training and educating schoolchildren.
Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh announced Thursday that the new military academy, the first of its kind in the Gaza Strip, would prepare the children for the "phase of liberating Palestine."
He said that children in grades 7-9 could join the academy and graduate with a Diploma or Bachelor of Arts in military affairs.
Hamas may very have the bragging rights to the worlds first BA in terrorism, focusing on children as young as 12 years old.
After having been able to feed pure hatred of Jews for years to kids with their Mickey Mouse imitation and his friends -- with no uproar from the erstwhile defenders of children's rights -- this training is the obvious next step.
But don't expect the UN to take notice.
Hat tip: AO
The Times of Israel reports on Israel's UN Ambassador Ron Prosor's comparison of France's attack on Mali with Gaza:
"France’s foreign minister said this month that his country was fighting to prevent the creation of an Islamist terrorist enclave ‘at the doorstep of France and Europe.’ If Mali is on France’s doorstep, Gaza is in Israel’s living room,” Ron Prosor said at the UN Security Council’s monthly open debate on the Middle East.
“Make no mistakes: France’s principled stand should be commended. We only ask that France and all the countries who are supporting its principled stand today, support Israel tomorrow when we fight Islamic terrorism on our borders.”
It is not as if this is the first time that a country in the West has found itself having to deal with Islamist terrorists: Great Britain, Spain and of course the US have dealt with terrorist attacks.
In this case though, France is not under direct threat, but rather is responding to a request from the president of Mali to help deal with the al Qaeda-linked groups there.
France is framing this as a threat that extends beyond Mali, and like Prosor, Netanyahu is not denying the comparison:
Last week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed his support for Paris’s intervention in the African nation, during which French warplanes conducted air strikes against Islamist rebels, linked to al-Qaeda, in the country’s north.
“While there are countries for which the threat of terrorism is thousands of kilometers away from the homes of their citizens, we in Israel are familiar with the threat of global terrorism from up close,” Netanyahu told French President Francois Hollande. “For us it is only a few hundred meters away from our homes.”
Whether its intervention in Mali will make France any more amenable to Israel's operations against terrorist attacks by Hamas in Gaza is an open question. However, as the Islamist Spring manifests itself with increasing and brazen attacks by Islamist terrorist attacks, there may yet be a begrudging appreciation of what Israel has to deal with.
Mr. Lapid's campaign hardly challenged Mr. Netanyahu's policies on the Iranian nuclear threat, the tumult in the Arab world or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This was the first election in memory in which such existential security issues were not emphasized, as a growing majority of Israelis see them as too tough to tackle. Even Mr. Netanyahu barely spoke about Iran, his raison d'être. Instead, voters and analysts alike said Mr. Lapid had captured the hearts of Israel's silent majority with his personal charm and a positive, inclusive message that harnessed the everyday frustrations that fueled the huge social justice protests in 2011. One pollster found that about 40 percent of Mr. Lapid's supporters defined themselves as right-leaning, and in Israel's coalition system, many saw his success as a tactical move by voters not to oust Mr. Netanyahu but to nudge him to broaden the agenda.
Although he has put domestic issues first, Lapid says Israel cannot allow a continued impasse in peace efforts, and he suggests that they should be revived along the lines of previous Israeli proposals. He favors a return to talks with the Palestinians to reach a two-state solution to the conflict but says the deal should leave large Jewish settlements in the West Bank under Israel's sovereignty, with possible land swaps. To drive that point home, he launched his election campaign in Ariel, a large settlement town deep in the northern West Bank.
The Israel that emerged from the vote is not the rightward-drifting, annexationist-tending, religious-lurching nation it has become fashionable to portray. The Jewish state, far from moving right, turned toward the center. It is tired of the old guard, embracing new political parties. It is impatient with the free-loading ultra-Orthodox who do not serve in the army but do soak up welfare. It has sufficient lingering interest in a two-state peace to split roughly down the middle on the issue.
The Jerusalem Post's Herb Keinon has an excellent analysis of just how dominant domestic considerations were in this election. As he noted, the parties that significantly increased their parliamentary representation–Yair Lapid's Yesh Atid, Shelly Yacimovich's Labor and Naftali Bennett's Jewish Home–campaigned almost exclusively on domestic issues. Even Bennett, who is unfairly caricatured overseas as representing "the extreme right," ran mainly on domestic issues, capitalizing on his record as a successful high-tech entrepreneur. In contrast, parties that ran on diplomatic/security issues–Netanyahu's Likud, Tzipi Livni's Hatnuah and Shaul Mofaz's Kadima–did poorly, aside from one exception: Meretz picked up the diehard peacenik votes Labor lost by focusing on domestic issues.
The same conclusion emerged from another Post reporter's visit to the former Likud stronghold of south Tel Aviv (the city's poorer neighborhoods): Person after person praised Netanyahu on security issues but panned him on bread-and-butter ones, and cited that as their reason for abandoning his party.
In an article for Commentary following the socioeconomic protests of summer 2011, I detailed the many pressing domestic issues Israel faced and warned that Netanyahu would be judged on whether he exploited the protests' momentum to address them. As it turns out, he didn't–and especially not the one most important to Israelis, the high cost of living. That partly explains how Lapid could come from nowhere to win 19 seats by running on pledges such as "Our children will be able to buy apartments" and "We'll pay less for gasoline and electricity."
Equally important, however, is that Israeli voters tend to vote tactically. And with Netanyahu seemingly a shoo-in for the next prime minister, they primarily focused on trying to ensure that his next coalition would be both willing and able to carry out the needed domestic reforms.
The story as far as we're concerned is the spectacular flop of the West's elite media. If you've read anything about Israeli politics in the past couple weeks, you probably came away expecting a major shift to the right—the far right. That was the judgment of journalists at the NYT, WSJ, BBC, NBC, Time,Reuters, Guardian, HuffPo, Slate, Salon, Al Jazeera, and countless others. The most shameful piece of journalism that got furthest away from the facts was David Remnick's 9,000-word feature in last week's New Yorker, detailing the irrevocable popular rise of Israel's radical right.
That didn't happen. The ultra-right lost big time, while the centrists gained significant ground—so much so that Bibi now has the option of forming a coalition government without the ultra-Orthodox Haredim. While Bibi can certainly form a traditional right-wing government, there's a strong possibility for a broad centrist government comprised of Likud, center-left Yesh Atid, and center-left Hatnua.
Remnick, the editor of The New Yorker, wrote about the election again today, after the fact. He attributes the high turnout on the center-left in part to "fear of [the] hard-right coalition" he wrote about in the feature, but doesn't offer the sort of mea culpa Mead may have been looking for.
Obama’s second inaugural speech is — in the context of his previous actions and statements — arguably the most shocking speech an American president has made in the last century.
No single person can train all the math and science teachers we’ll need to equip our children for the future, or build the roads and networks and research labs that will bring new jobs and businesses to our shores. Now, more than ever, we must do these things together, as one nation, and one people.Rubin's response:
Really? And how does that follow? It isn’t as if someone says: “Hi, I’m Bob and I’m going to train all the math and science teachers we’ll need and build the roads and research labs.” There are, after all, other alternatives.Read the whole thing.
Up to now, with some additions like veterans’ rights and subsidies for research, all that stuff has been pretty much done by private enterprise and individual initiative. People decided to be teachers, and went to universities established by the states, private institutions, and individuals and got an education. It was taken for granted that the national government played virtually no role in education.
Why does this now have to be done collectively?
Companies created labs and networks needed to create jobs. As for roads, most were built and maintained by states.
So in the guise of continuity, Obama just slipped through an unprecedented centralizing of America.
Will the mass media report on this point? Or critique it? Will professors explain to their students what a shocking misstatement of fact this is?
As is typical of him, he did a fair amount of vacillation, providing potential voters a mixed message that left them confused. On one day he took an admirable stand with regard to intention to build in E1, and he certainly saw to it that the illegal tents that Arabs erected there were removed promptly. He declared that there would be no mass movement of Jews out of Judea and Samaria during his next term, as well. But then he said that he would be governing on the basis of his Bar Ilan speech, which called for a "demilitarized Palestinian state." Methinks that sometimes an effort to please everyone pleases no one.
On learning of the election results, the prime minister seemed pleased, and declared himself grateful to be given the opportunity to lead the country for another four years. Of course he would say this, but I think at a very basic level it is his party that is hurting, more than he. (I have yet to take a careful look at the list to see which Likud candidates lost out.)
Netanyahu said, and I consider this admirable, that he would be focused on Iran in his next term. There are those who suggest that he didn't discuss this during his campaign because he sensed that people don't want to hear it. Thus was focus -- such as there was focus -- on matters such as less expensive housing.
He also said that he would be forming a broad coalition. This would be his style. He has no interest that I can discern in forming a right-religious coalition. The guessing now is that he will include Habayit Hayehudi, Shas, UTJ, and Yesh Atid. It seems unlikely that he will bring in Livni, for a host of reasons. But we should never say never, I suppose. Livni is angling for inclusion.
What a broader coalition does -- while it makes nationalist goals more difficult to achieve -- is to provide him with a fig leaf, cover before the world so that it's clear he is operating from a broad consensus. This would be a good and even necessary thing were he to decide to hit Iran, for example. It should never be said that the "right wing crazies" promoted a dangerous action. And similarly concerning our relationship with the Arabs.
I should mention here that the Likud list is more right wing than has been the case in the past. So there is hope that there will be some leverage on the prime minister from within his party. One would expect that there should be -- but Netanyahu tends to do his own thing, so it is not a certainty.
And what of Lapid in all of this? The left wing is urging him not to join a Likud coalition, but he wants a piece of the pie (why shouldn't he?) and is very unlikely to repel Netanyahu's advances. The prime minister is already reaching out to him.
What I saw as a major stumbling block with regard to a coalition that includes both Shas and Yesh Atid is the Yesh Atid platform regarding draft for yeshiva students, something that Shas opposes. But -- no surprise! -- both parties have already expressed a willingness to work out a modus vivendi here.
Lapid is listed as "left," but in fact is more centrist. He began his campaign in Ariel in Samaria, and has come out saying not only that major settlement blocs in Judea and Samaria should be retained in any final deal, but that such a deal would have to factor in security situations. No crazy "let's pull back to the '67 line and give them their state" statements from him.
David Rubin identifies Lapid as a "pragmatist" who has said, "I don’t like the tendency to blame the Israeli side. Most of the blame belongs to the Palestinian side, and I am not sure that they as a people are ready to make peace with us."
Bottom line is that Lapid, a well-known TV personality, is a political novice, who has yet to be tested. He is from Tel Aviv and it was noted yesterday that the voter turnout there was very heavy. He has his following. Let us hope that we will be pleasantly surprised with how he develops in his role in government.
I do consider it more likely that Netanyahu, with Lapid in a major position in the government, will agree to return to the negotiating table.
That Obama also thinks so is quite clear (this does not go down well). After the election results were in, US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro was visibly elated in the statement he made.
This will be a position only in principle, however, because Abbas is not about to join Netanyahu. His spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, has already made a statement that:
"What interests us in the next Israeli government, is for it to abide by the two-state solution, stop settlements and recognize the United Nations General Assembly November 29 resolution that talks about a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with Jerusalem as its capital.
"We are ready to work with any government in Israel that accepts these terms of reference that are based on international resolutions."
For the record, let me make it clear here that 1) General Assembly resolutions are only recommendations and absolutely not binding in international law, and 2) that the UN cannot declare a state into existence and whatever was resolved applied only internally to the UN itself.
But, hey, when did the Palestinian Arabs ever let facts get in the way of what they declare.
Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the PLO Executive Committee, elaborated on this position at a press conference in Ramallah, when she said that the Palestinians do not expect any change in the Israeli position. “We do not think that peace is on the horizon…" She recommended that Palestinians Arabs continue their "nonviolent resistance" and work on unity.
Before I leave this subject, let me note that a recent statement attributed to Obama with regard to the fact that Netanyahu's policies will isolate Israel in the world may also have cost Likud some votes.
Now we await the process of formulating a coalition, and then of assigning ministries. Key here is the position of minister of defense, which has inspired much speculation.
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January 23, 2013:
Bibi Blew It
Oh, PM Netanyahu's joint Likud-Beitenu list secured by far the most votes in yesterday's election, and it is expected that he will form the next coalition and continue in his
role as head of the government.
But the election results could have been sooo much better. The counting is not quite over (soldiers' votes are being counted), and so there may be a shift of a mandate (seat) or two, but right now this is the line-up:
Yesh Atid (Yair Lapid): 19
HaBayit Hayehudi (Naftali Bennett): 11
(reports say this may move to 12, meaning a reduction elsewhere)
Shas (Sephardi Haredi): 11
United Torah Judaism -- UTJ (Ashkenazi Haredi): 7
The Tzipi Livni Party: 6
Combined Arab parties: 12
This puts the right-religious wing in a dead heat with the centrist-left wing. Or so says the media, but since the Arab parties are never part of the coalition, the right-
religious wing has greater numbers, and Likud-Beitenu remains at the top of the list, by far.
The big shockers are that Likud-Beitenu only got 31 and not the 42 that had been predicted when Likud and Yisrael Beitenu merged their lists some time ago, or even
the more recent predictions of 35.
Similarly Habayit Hayehudi had been "predicted to have 14 or more mandates, so the current number is low for this party, as well.
Although...on the other hand, this
represents a huge gain over the three seats Habayit Hayehudi had last time around. Then it functioned as the "New National Religious Party" (modern, nationalist religious), but now Bennett, emphasizing unity and a home for all, has broadened its base, so that the party has become a player of consequence.
The left wing parties aren't happy. Their numbers are low.
Who's happy? Yair Lapid, whose party has now garnered far more votes than anyone ever thought possible. Yair Lapid today is something of a king-maker.
When I say that Bibi "blew it" -- in terms of what might have been possible -- I have several factors in mind:
First was his decision to merge Likud's list with that of Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beitenu. Seems in the end that there were Likud voters disgruntled with Lieberman and Yisrael Beitenu voters disgruntled with Netanyahu. The net result of this was a loss of voters to other parties. In the last election, these two parties, running independently, garnered a total of 42 mandates.
And then there was the abysmal campaign that Likud ran. I have good information from inside the Likud organization that the planning for a grassroots campaign -- which was standard in the past -- never took place this time, much to the distress of activists who wanted to be involved. I can only assume that this was as a result of misplaced complacency.
But there's more, in terms of campaign errors. The most serious, in my mind, was Netanyahu's attack on Bennett, and the more general attack by Likud on Habayit Hayehudi. I criticized it, as it was happening; it was wrong. The campaign rhetoric should have been directed against opponents on the left, not against Likud's natural ally. What Netanyahu did was weaken Bennett -- which was clearly his intention. However, it is not at all clear that those he drove from voting for Habayit Hayehudi then reverted to Likud -- which would have been the culmination of what he sought.
MK Uri Orbach of Bayit Yehudi has a theory. He says that young voters, tired of the old political re-runs, were looking for a new face. The two possibilities that presented themselves were Bennett and Lapid. As Likud criticized Bennett as too radical, not supportive of women, and whatever other nonsense, the young voters moved over to Lapid. It is plausible.
Add to this the fact that Netanyahu did not campaign clearly on the issues, or even seriously explore the issues in the course of the campaign. He spoke about his experience, and presented himself as the only one equipped to lead the nation. But he did not talk in specifics about what he intended to do during a new term.
Perhaps as important, he also avoided antagonizing the right, having not emphasized traditional issues of the left, like the peace process. Like a large majority of the Israeli public, he supports a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but is skeptical of the Palestinian leadership's willingness to negotiate seriously; he has called for a return to peace talks but has not made it a priority.
Mr. Obama's re-election extended his place in history, carrying the tenure of the nation's first black president into a second term. His path followed a pattern that has been an arc to his political career: faltering when he seemed to be at his strongest — the period before his first debate with Mr. Romney — before he redoubled his efforts to lift himself and his supporters to victory.
HOW WILL THIS AFFECT PEACE EFFORTS WITH THE PALESTINIANS? In trying to piece together a majority coalition government, a weakened Netanyahu might be forced to offer concessions to the Palestinians to restart peace negotiations, namely, a freeze in settlement construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.
The Israeli election in January will bring to power Israeli rightists who never spoke at your local Israel Bonds dinner.
Thomas Friedman - Give Chuck a Chance - December 26, 2012
Netanyahu may be returned to power in elections this month at the head of an even more right-wing coalition.
Roger Cohen - The Blight of Return - January 17, 2012
Evidently, Mr. Netanyahu calculates that being seen to stand up to this U.S. president is good politics in Israel — and he may be right. A recent poll showed that half of Israelis believes the prime minister should pursue his policies even if they lead to conflict with the United States. The big story of the campaign has been the surge of far-right parties that reject not only Mr. Obama's view of Israel but also the two-state solution that has been U.S. policy for more than a decade.
This disturbing trend is partly the result of Mr. Obama's poor handling of Israel, which he has not visited and where he is widely regarded as supportive of the nation's defense but unsympathetic to its psyche. If the White House were trying to undercut Mr. Netanyahu, it would be guilty of the same poor judgment the Israeli leader showed in tilting toward Mitt Romney in the U.S. presidential race. No scenario contemplated by political analysts foresees anyone other than Mr. Netanyahu emerging as prime minister from the bargaining that will follow Tuesday's election.
The question is whether the incumbent will choose, or perhaps be obliged by the electoral math, to include parties from the center and left in his coalition. If he does not, Mr. Netanyahu could find himself isolated both within his own government and internationally: He is one of only two of the top 30 candidates from his own Likud Party to endorse Palestinian statehood.
Second, the status quo is not a path to a one-state solution, but to Bosnian-style ethnic cleansing, which could erupt as quickly as the Gaza fighting did last year and spread to Israeli Arab cities. Right-wing Israelis and Hamas leaders alike are pushing for a cataclysmic fight. Mr. Abbas, whose Fatah party controls the West Bank, has renounced violence, but without signs of a viable diplomatic path he cannot unify his people to support new talks. If his government falls apart, or if the more Palestinian territory is annexed (as right-wing Israeli want), or if the standoff in Gaza leads to an Israeli ground invasion, bloodshed and protests across the Arab world will be inevitable. Such chaos might also provoke missiles from Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Shiite militant group based in Lebanon.
Israelis don't see themselves as standing at a historic juncture. They don't believe that Middle East circumstances are ripe for peace, and they don't expect their prime minister to be making any dramatic diplomatic moves. That is why Tzipi Livni's "I can bring the peace" messaging never took hold during the current campaign. As a result, Israelis are not looking for revolutionary change. They are waiting-out the 'Arab Spring' and other storms, taking no irresponsible risks, and voting for steady hands at the helm of state. Whether they vote for Netanyahu or not, they don't feel that Netanyahu is going destroy Israel. They don't buy the doomsday scenarios drawn by Reminick or Shavit (or by some Diaspora Jewish leaders like Eric Yoffie of the Reform movement or Daniel Sokatch of the New Israel Fund) about Israel being taken over by right-wing religious fanatics, forfeiting its democracy, and losing its global friends. In fact, what Israelis expect is more of the same, and what they want to see is Netanyahu in government with parties of both the Zionist right and left. They expect another complicated coalition government, with built-in checks and balances.
This brings us into the popular international theme about the alleged meaning of the election: Israel is moving to the right and rejecting a two-state solution. A lot of this is motivated by the agenda of making Israel look as if it is against peace, despite the fact that it is the Palestinian side that makes such a solution impossible.
Yet Netanyahu's impending victory has nothing to do with any shift on that issue. Rather, it is due to the fact that the prime minister has done a reasonably good job, the economy is okay, terrorism is low, he's kept out of trouble, and he has shown he can be trusted to preserve security.
So the way the foreign media should be summing up the election so far is that Israel has apparently not gone Right, against all odds.
But the true test of which direction Israel will take is the coalition that Netanyahu is expected to form. Unlike last time when he formed a coalition with one Center-Left party and four parties on the Right, Netanyahu is expected to form a government with two Center-Left parties this time: most likely Yesh Atid and Kadima.
But in 2013, the balance has steadily shifted against Netanyahu and the right. In the final two days of polling (with the exception of one outlying pollster), the right dropped to the mid-sixties, with two polls giving it 63 seats, just two more than the 61 Knesset members needed to form a government. Making matters worse for Netanyahu, in most of the polls that total includes two or three seats from the surging Otzma L'Yisrael ("Strong Israel"), a pro-settler party with views so extreme that Netanyahu could not plausibly include them in his coalition. Likud Beiteinu has suffered the bulk of the losses (the alliance, which Netanyahu's political adviser predicted would win 47 seats, is polling as low as 32, ten less than the two parties have in the outgoing Knesset). It's not clear why this has happened. It could be that Netanyahu has hemorrhaged votes in the center as he's tried to woo back right-wing votes lost to HaBayit HaYehudi under the leadership of staffer-turned-rival Naftali Bennett. It could be that some of Avigdor Lieberman's supporters have begun exploring centrist alternatives now that his legal troubles have sidelined him. It could also be that the rhetorical campaign against Netanyahu – joined in recent weeks by his predecessor, his former intelligence chief, President Obama, and the country's president – is finally making a dent. And it may not matter. If the polls are accurate, Netanyahu will still enjoy the same right-wing "blocking majority" he has had for the past four years and will enter coalition negotiations from a position of strength. The conventional wisdom is that he will secure his right-wing base and then try to lure one or two center-left parties as a moderate fig leaf to appease the Israeli public and the international community.
Coming just four months after an American ambassador was killed by jihadists in Libya, those assaults have contributed to a sense that North Africa — long a dormant backwater for Al Qaeda — is turning into another zone of dangerous instability, much like Syria, site of an increasingly bloody civil war. The mayhem in this vast desert region has many roots, but it is also a sobering reminder that the euphoric toppling of dictators in Libya, Tunisia and Egypt has come at a price.
"It's one of the darker sides of the Arab uprisings," said Robert Malley, the Middle East and North Africa director at the International Crisis Group. "Their peaceful nature may have damaged Al Qaeda and its allies ideologically, but logistically, in terms of the new porousness of borders, the expansion of ungoverned areas, the proliferation of weapons, the disorganization of police and security services in all these countries — it's been a real boon to jihadists."
How, then, are we to understand al-Qaida's survival and that fact's relationship to U.S. policy? There are two key points to be made. First, al-Qaida was not designed to take over state power in countries. It is the Islamist equivalent of an anarchist group, that is, one focused more on destroying existing institutions than on staging a revolution, becoming the government, and fundamentally transforming states. That is, of course, the function of the Muslim Brotherhood, the contemporary equivalent of the Russian Bolsheviks who took over Russia in 1917. There is nothing surprising in al-Qaida popping up, staging some attacks, and then becoming less visible or being repressed. That is the nature of such groups and their strategies. It is thus easy to claim victory over them. The historic role of al-Qaida and the September 11 attacks on America helped set the stage for the domination of Middle East politics by Islamists today. That's pretty significant. Moreover, al-Qaida operates more by inspiring others to launch attacks rather than directly organizing them, which also makes wiping out the group a rather difficult thing to do.
Although there have been hints of cross-border alliances among the militants, such links appear to be fleeting. And their targets are often those of opportunity, as they appear to have been in Benghazi and at the gas facility in Algeria.
I agree with the characterization that the relationship between AQIM and AQSL is murky; but when it is translated into popular discourse, murkiness is often inaccurately understood as "we don't know if there are ties between the two." For example, Max Fisher writes at the Washington Post, "It's tough to know the exact connection between leaders in the Algeria-based AQIM and those in far-away Afghanistan and Pakistan…. It's entirely possible that AQIM's links to al-Qaeda already are, are becoming, or will become closer to al-Qaeda than we think." The clear implication is that there may be some connections between AQIM and AQSL, but that it is impossible to know whether they exist, and if so, to what extent. Likewise, Jason Burke writes in The Guardian, "The ties binding AQIM to the leadership of al-Qaida far away in south-west Asia have always been tenuous. The difficulties in communication, let alone travel, precluded any tight co-operation."
But the documents captured from Osama bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad do reveal communications between AQIM and AQSL that extend over the span of four years, and include discussion of strategic and operational issues. While it is possible that after bin Laden's death, when Ayman al Zawahiri became AQSL's emir, these communications were crippled or otherwise ceased, there's no reason that this should be our a priori assumption. This entry is designed to add granularity to the discussion of AQIM and AQSL through a look at the Abbottabad documents. It concludes by agreeing that the AQIM/AQSL relationship is murky, but explaining that commentators can do a better job of representing the ambiguities. But the documents captured from Osama bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad do reveal communications between AQIM and AQSL that extend over the span of four years, and include discussion of strategic and operational issues. While it is possible that after bin Laden's death, when Ayman al Zawahiri became AQSL's emir, these communications were crippled or otherwise ceased, there's no reason that this should be our a priori assumption. This entry is designed to add granularity to the discussion of AQIM and AQSL through a look at the Abbottabad documents. It concludes by agreeing that the AQIM/AQSL relationship is murky, but explaining that commentators can do a better job of representing the ambiguities.
In Mali, for instance, there are the Tuaregs, a nomadic people ethnically distinct both from Arabs, who make up the nations to the north, and the Africans who inhabit southern Mali and control the national government. They fought for Colonel Qaddafi in Libya, then streamed back across the border after his fall, banding together with Islamist groups to form a far more formidable fighting force. They brought with them heavy weapons and a new determination to overthrow the Malian government, which they had battled off and on for decades in a largely secular struggle for greater autonomy.
Since Obama took office the US spent almost $600 million to combat Islamic militancy across North Africa. In countries like Mali and Niger US forces trained local soldiers in counterterrorism skills. Arms and equipment were bought so local governments could protect their territories. This strategy, in theory, would protect North Africa from falling into the hands of Islamist militants—who would impose strict Sharia rule on unwilling locals and use lawless territory to launch attacks on Western targets—without involving a heavy deployment of American troops like in Iraq and Afghanistan.
That was the theory. But as heavily armed Islamist militants battle French forces in the Battle for Mali, it's clear Obama's strategy to help weak North African states protect themselves from terrorists has failed catastrophically.
On Israel-Palestine, the secretary of state should publicly offer President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority the following: the U.S. would recognize the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank as the independent State of Palestine on the provisional basis of the June 4, 1967, lines, support its full U.N. membership and send an ambassador to Ramallah, on the condition that Palestinians accept the principle of "two states for two peoples" — an Arab state and a Jewish state in line with U.N. General Assembly Resolution 181 — and agree that permanent borders, security and land swaps would be negotiated directly with Israel. The status of the refugees would be negotiated between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization, which represents all Palestinians inside and outside of Palestine. Gaza, now a de facto statelet, would be recognized as part of Palestine only when its government recognizes Israel, renounces violence and rejoins the West Bank.
Why do this? Because there will be no Israeli-Palestinian breakthrough unless the silent majorities on both sides know they have a partner — that Palestinians have embraced two states for two peoples and that Israelis have embraced Palestinian statehood. Neither Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu nor President Abbas have shown a real commitment to nurture these preconditions for peace, and our secret diplomacy with both only plays into their hands. We need to blow this charade wide open by trying to publicly show Iranians, Israelis and Palestinians that they really do have options that their leaders don't want them to see. (Israel's election on Tuesday showed that the peace camp in Israel is still alive and significant.) It may not work. The leaders may still block it or the people may not be interested. But we need to start behaving like a superpower and forcing a moment of truth. Our hands are full now, and we can't waste four more years with allies (or enemies) who may be fooling us.