Sunday, November 24, 2013

Pushing Peace on the Palestinians. By Jodi Rudoren.

Pushing Peace on the Palestinians. By Jodi Rudoren. New York Times, November 19, 2013.

Obama and the Crisis of Elite Education. By Walter Russell Mead.

Obama and the Crisis of Elite Education. By Walter Russell Mead. Via Meadia, November 24, 2013.

Obama’s Slow Learning Curve. By Peter Berkowitz. Real Clear Politics, November 20, 2013.

How Israel Can Minimize Existential Threats Against It. By Yehezkel Dror.

How Israel can minimize existential threats against it. By Yehezkel Dror. Haaretz, November 21, 2013. Also here.


Israel, like many other countries, often uses the term “vital interests.” Yet this phrase is vague and is often a source of contention. This is precisely why the term is suitable for diplomacy and public relations, but when it is used in the context of government or state affairs, “vital interests” must be clearly defined, with a focus on critical interests.
Israel’s top priority, though not its only one, is to prevent existential threats to the country. Israel is among the few states in the world facing existential danger. Due to the fierce opposition to its existence among many in the Arab and Islamic worlds, the possibility exists of a lethal attack against Israel – in the event that a fanatical enemy gets its hands on nuclear or more innovative biological weapons. Therefore, minimizing this risk to the greatest extent possible is Israel’s top priority.
Achieving this requires four grand strategies: Preventing hostile groups from acquiring means that could endanger our existence; maintaining total deterrence – including sending an unequivocal message that anyone threatening Israel’s existence will be annihilated; preserving and strengthening Israel’s special relationship with the United States; and reducing the reasons for such threats against Israel, mainly by advancing real peace with our neighbors.
Israel is doing a good job with regard to the first three strategies listed above. It is making an impressive effort to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons (even if it may have been preferable to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities a year ago while pursuing a comprehensive peace deal). At the same time, Pakistan also has nuclear weapons, and without appropriate global enforcement, there is no long-term guarantee that fanatic states or terrorist groups can be prevented from obtaining weapons that pose an existential threat to Israel.
Hence the cardinal importance of deterrence. Israel’s ambiguity with regard to its alleged nuclear program is the correct policy and establishes a credible image of deterrence. However, the effectiveness of deterrence isn’t fool-proof, especially when facing enemies who will do their utmost – including sacrificing themselves – simply to kill Jews.
The special relationship Israel has with the U.S. remains strong, however it’s impossible to guarantee it will continue in the same vein under any and all circumstances. American interests are not always identical to Israeli ones – just look at the disagreements on the Iranian issue for example. U.S. support for Israel may decrease due to changes in the former’s global standing, changes in its domestic politics and opposition to Israeli policies. Therefore, we must acknowledge our dependence on the U.S. and work to strengthen ties with it – even if that entails steps that Israel may not like, so long as they don’t endanger Israel’s existence or core values. Overall, unless Israel makes any major missteps, it can rely on U.S. backing.
As far as the fourth strategy goes – seeking a comprehensive peace – Israel fares poorer. While the agreements with Egypt and Jordan have proven themselves in terms of security matters, Israel still does not adequately recognize the importance of a comprehensive regional peace as a critical component of its national security – even if its stability is not fully ensured in this volatile region.
It is doubtful whether Israel is willing to pay the price required for an agreement with the Palestinians, even if they back down from unreasonable demands. At the same time, the Palestinian issue, as important as it is, is not critical to Israel’s existential security. What is more critical is the absence of an overall Israeli strategy for achieving regional peace and improving its relations with Islamic nations and groups. Some efforts are being made, but they are far from the critical mass required for reducing the long-term existential dangers posed by the deep-rooted rejection of our existence in the “Dar al-Islam” (“Home of Islam”).
This serious failure stems from sharp disagreements about values perceived as critical for Israel’s future. Many regard the settlements in Judea and Samaria and exclusive Israeli control over all of Jerusalem as an existential interest, while many others regard the advancement of peace as a more important concern.
Israel’s Achilles’ heel is its inability to decide – socially, politically and among its leaders – on these difficult dilemmas, and this could pose its greatest existential threat. It leads to procrastination in terms of statecraft, instead of initiatives to seek a comprehensive regional peace that is essential to Israel’s long-term security. Eliminating this dangerous “black hole” in Israeli statecraft depends mainly on the leadership of the prime minister.

General Yossi Kuperwasser Analyses Palestinian Incitement.

Yossi Kuperwasser analyses Palestinian incitement. BICOM, November 17, 2013. Edited audio podcast.

Time to End Palestinian Incitement. By David Pollock. Fathom, September 13, 2013.

Brig.-Gen. [res.] Yossi Kuperwasser: The Culture of Peace and Incitement Index. Video. Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, November 8, 2011. YouTube.

Yossi Kuperwasser: Prevention of Incitement in the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process. Video. Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, March 12, 2013. YouTube.

Kuperwasser (BICOM):

Increasing Israeli concerns over incitement
In the last few weeks, Prime Minister Netanyahu, when speaking about the peace talks with the Palestinians, has given much more emphasis to this issue of incitement. You cannot remain silent when you see what is happening.
In spite of having peace talks with us, Palestinian incitement goes on without interruption, and whenever we brief the Prime Minister, he goes ballistic, saying, “How can that happen? We are trying to speak with these people. How can they do that?” In the last few days, he spoke about the swastika in Beit Omar. There were two cases in the refugee camp of Beit Omar, between Bethlehem and Hebron, when a swastika was flown on the electricity wires. And all the Palestinian press is in favour of the “courageous” youngsters of Beit Omar who “dared” to put a swastika on the wire, causing Israelis a lot of work in trying to get it down.
And this drove Netanyahu crazy, but it was just once case, where again and again we see the same message. He wrote a letter to Secretary Kerry two months ago, and told him, “This cannot go on”. The letter was based on the Barcelona affair. When Barcelona Football Club came to Israel [on a trip organised by Israel’s Peres Center for Peace], instead of praising peace, the Palestinians turned this event into a show of hatred towards Israel, with incitement to get rid of Israel.
Then Prime Minister Netanyahu met Kerry for seven hours in Rome two weeks ago, and again, he came to him with examples, and said to him, “Something has to be done about it.” We notice that there is some lip service paid to the issue, but nobody in the international community, including the British, really take this seriously enough or understand that, for Israel, this is the core of the problem. I’m talking here as an intelligence officer, not only as somebody who follows incitement. I was for many years the head of the IDF Intelligence Research and Analysis division. The messages that are delivered here are the core of the problem, not anything else. That is why it is so important to understand the messages delivered through incitement.
Indirect as opposed to direct incitement
In analysing incitement we make a differentiation between several kinds. Regarding incitement for violence and terror we distinguish between two kinds. If somebody tells you “go kill this guy”, this is direct incitement. Indirect incitement is someone saying, “This guy really should be killed. I am not telling you to do it, but he should be killed, and killing him is a really noble deed.” The Palestinians are very cautious, and when it comes to direct incitement they try not to go too far. But in indirect incitement, what we call “building the atmosphere” that promotes violence and terror, they are very strong. Speaking about terrorist as role models, and things like that, is very strong in the Palestinian press and official presentations.
As well as promoting violence we see promotion of hatred, because hatred is the basis that gives legitimacy for carrying out violence and terrorist activities. Goebbels did the same thing. Before killing the Jews there was a massive effort to explain that the Jews are inhuman, and even if they are human, they are the worst of creatures. This provides the legitimacy for doing what has to be done about the Jews. If you go back to the famous Nazi propaganda movies, “Jew Süss” and “The Eternal Jew,” you see the kinds of efforts that Goebbels made to prepare the public for the final solution. Here too, there is enormous effort given to justifying hatred of the Jews.
A further issue is the denial of the rights of the Jews. The logic is that the Jews do not have a right to a state, and because of that, everything you do to deny them this right is justifiable. When Abu Mazen was speaking at the General Assembly he said, “We keep reaching out to the Israeli side saying, let us work to make a culture of peace reign.” It sounds so good because this is what he says in English. You cannot find anything wrong with what he says in English.
However, if you know how to read his words, you see that in English he does not say anything that contradicts what is said in Arabic. In English, for example, he never says “the Jewish people.” In this speech, he was talking about a culture of peace between the Israeli people, and the Palestinian people. For him, there is no Jewish people; there is only an Israeli people. All of Israel’s citizens are the Israeli people. By that, he avoids saying that there is something called “the Jewish people,” because in his mind there is no such thing.
The core messages
What are the core messages? First, Israel has no right to exist, certainly not as the nation state of the Jewish people, because there is no such thing as the Jewish people, and therefore they cannot claim any historic connection the Holy Land. Yes, Bani Israel, the Children of Israel, who practiced Judaism as a religion, were present here. About a third of the Quran tells stories of the Bani Israel, the Children of Israel. But according to the Palestinians, they are not the Jewish people that live today. It is a different group of people, and all that unites Jews is religion, nothing more. That is why they do not have any right to a state in this place.
Second, because of that, Israel’s disappearance is inevitable. On top of what is today Israel, a Palestinian state will be established.
Third, the Jews and Zionists are sub-human creatures. And they are some sort of environmental hazard that should be exterminated.
Fourth, because of all those three, all forms of struggle, including terror, are legitimate means to achieve the final goal. Even though, at times it might be more efficient to use other means. At times you would rather use political activity, such as what they call “popular, peaceful resistance.” I recommend looking at recent papers published by the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center on popular resistance, including a recent piece about the involvement of British and European diplomats in promoting the so-called “peaceful resistance.” This resistance is not peaceful at all, of course. It is stone-throwing, Molotov cocktails, stabbing people, driving over people. All of these are considered to be “peaceful resistance”, as long as they do not use fire-arms.
The Palestinian National Charter
In 1998, the Palestinian National Council was forced to vote through changes to Palestinian National Charter, but they never actually changed it. If you look at the several websites of PLO bodies, you will find the charter as it was written in 1968. According to the charter the Jews are not a people, and should not have a state. That is article 20 of the charter, and it is still written there.
In their maps there is also no Israel, and even if there is a line, it does not say Israel on the other side of it, it is all Palestine. But mostly the maps show the country to be 100 per cent Arab. Israel is seen as some deviation from the way things should be, so it is not worthwhile to put it on a map because it is going to disappear anyhow.
Incitement as a barrier to peace
We say this is the main obstacle on the way to peace. If you want to make peace, first of all you have to take this obstacle away. There is no way to make peace when you sit in the evening with the Palestinians and tell them, “Let’s withdraw to here; let’s put security arrangements there,” and at the same time they are teaching the children to hate you and to want to kill you, telling them, “The Zionist must die.”
We are not trying to create another hurdle on the way to peace; we are trying to remove the hurdle. After all these letters and meetings, the Americans finally understand it. But the Europeans are in a much more important position than the Americans, because the Americans at best are considered by the Palestinians as honest brokers, but basically they look at them as Israel’s supporters. Europeans have here a golden position, as the friends of the Palestinians. If they tell the Palestinians this is totally unacceptable, this should worry the Palestinians, and maybe they will do something.

Israel Has Concluded There Is No Credible American Military Option. By David Horovitz.

There is no credible US military options, and 9 other pointers from Jerusalem. By David Horovitz. The Times of Israel, November 20, 2013.

The Netanyahu government is not certain the US would have its back if it resorted to force. But Israel has defied the international community before, and would do so again if it saw no alternative.

Why Saudi Arabia Hates the Iran Deal. By David Kenner. Foreign Policy, November 14, 2013. Also here.