Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Solving the "Palestinian Problem"

Little-noticed among those decrying Israel's 'imprisonment' of Gaza, the Egyptians who man the southern border of the strip — are just-as-willing wardens, having (mostly) sealed off the Gaza-Egyptian border to their Arabs brothers and sisters in distress. In a recent and creative article, Daniel Pipes advocates a more hands-on Egyptian approach: reincorporating the territory into Egypt itself. In this way, Israel could wash its hands of Gaza and donate it back from whence it came.

Solving the "Palestinian Problem" by Daniel Pipes (Jerusalem Post) Jan. 7, 2009

Israel's war against Hamas brings up the old quandary: What to do about the Palestinians? Western states, including Israel, need to set goals to figure out their policy toward the West Bank and Gaza.

Let's first review what we know does not and cannot work:

  • Israeli control. Neither side wishes to continue the situation that began in 1967, when the Israel Defense Forces took control of a population that is religiously, culturally, economically, and politically different and hostile.
  • A Palestinian state. The 1993 Oslo Accords began this process but a toxic brew of anarchy, ideological extremism, antisemitism, jihadism, and warlordism led to complete Palestinian failure.
  • A binational state: Given the two populations' mutual antipathy, the prospect of a combined Israel-Palestine (what Muammar al-Qaddafi calls "Israstine") is as absurd as it seems.

Excluding these three prospects leaves only one practical approach, that which worked tolerably well in the period 1948-67:

  • Shared Jordanian-Egyptian rule: Amman rules the West Bank and Cairo runs Gaza.

To be sure, this back-to-the-future approach inspires little enthusiasm. Not only was Jordanian-Egyptian rule undistinguished but resurrecting this arrangement will frustrate Palestinian impulses, be they nationalist or Islamist. Further, CairoGaza and has vehemently rejected its return. Accordingly, one academic analyst dismisses this idea "an elusive fantasy that can only obscure real and difficult choices." never wanted

It is not. The failures of Yasir Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas, of the Palestinian Authority and the "peace process," have prompted rethinking in Amman and Jerusalem. Indeed, the Christian Science Monitor's Ilene R. Prusher found already in 2007 that the idea of a West Bank-Jordan confederation "seems to be gaining traction on both sides of the Jordan River."

The Jordanian government, which enthusiastically annexed the West Bank in 1950 and abandoned its claims only under duress in 1988, shows signs of wanting to return. Dan Diker and Pinchas Inbari documented for the Middle East Quarterly in 2006 how the PA's "failure to assert control and become a politically viable entity has caused Amman to reconsider whether a hands-off strategy toward the West Bank is in its best interests." Israeli officialdom has also showed itself open to this idea, occasionally calling for Jordanian troops to enter the West Bank.

Despairing of self-rule, some Palestinians welcome the Jordanian option. An unnamed senior PA official told Diker and Inbari that that a form of federation or confederation with Jordan offers "the only reasonable, stable, long-term solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict." Hanna Seniora opined that "The current weakened prospects for a two-state solution forces us to revisit the possibility of a confederation with Jordan." The New York Times' Hassan M. Fattah quotes a Palestinian in Jordan: "Everything has been ruined for us -­ we've been fighting for 60 years and nothing is left. It would be better if Jordan ran things in Palestine, if King Abdullah could take control of the West Bank."

Nor is this just talk: Diker and Inbari report that back-channel PA-Jordan negotiations in 2003-04 "resulted in an agreement in principle to send 30,000 Badr Force members," to the West Bank.

And while Egypt's president Hosni Mubarak announced a year ago that "Gaza is not part of Egypt, nor will it ever be," his is hardly the last word. First, Mubarak notwithstanding, Egyptians overwhelmingly want a strong tie to Gaza; Hamas concurs and Israeli leaders sometimes agree. So the basis for an overhaul in policy exists. concurs; and

Secondly, Gaza is arguably more a part of Egypt than of "Palestine." During most of the Islamic period, it was either controlled by Cairo or part of EgyptGaza has most connections to Egypt. Hamas itself derives from the Muslim Brethren, an Egyptian organization. Is it time to think of Gazans as Egyptians? administratively. Gazan colloquial Arabic is identical to what Egyptians living in Sinai speak. Economically,

Thirdly, Jerusalem could out-maneuver Mubarak. Were it to announce a date when it ends the provisioning of all water, electricity, food, medicine, and other trade, plus accept enhanced Egyptian security in Gaza, Cairo would have to take responsibility for Gaza. Among other advantages, this would make it accountable for Gazan security, finally putting an end to the thousands of Hamas rocket and mortar assaults.

The Jordan-Egypt option quickens no pulse, but that may be its value. It offers a uniquely sober way to solve the "Palestinian problem."


Jan. 7, 2009 update: The National Post cleverly dubs my plan (in its title to this article) the "back-to-the-future option," but I like best the name bestowed on it by blogger Mary P. Madigan: "the no-state solution." Perfect.

For an extended discussion of this topic, see my weblog begun in 2005, "The West Bank to Jordan, Gaza to Egypt."

Jan. 8, 2009 update: Some readers interpret this column as an endorsement of Jordan-is-Palestine - the idea that Palestinians can have Jordan as their state. Two responses:

  1. I argued at length against Jordan-is-Palestine back when that was a live issue. See my full-scale article on this issue from 1988 at "Is Jordan Palestine?" and a shorter one from two years later at "President Arafat? [and the Jordan-Is-Palestine Issue]." My views have not changed in the interim decades - I remain opposed to this gambit for all the reasons expressed there.
  2. My idea in the above column is that Jordan - the Hashemites in particular - rule the Palestinians, not the reverse. And the same goes for Egypt, obviously. Call it, if you will, Palestine-is-Jordan.

Other readers have asked what implications the Jordan-Egypt scenario has for Israeilis living on the West Bank - specifically, does it mean their forced evacuation as happened to their counterparts in Gaza? No, and again two points:

  1. The boundaries between Israel and the West Bank are more fluid than those between Israel and Gaza. I assume they would not return to those that existed in 1967.
  2. My idea concerns the Israeli government not ruling the Palestinian population; it says nothing about control of territory.

Published on NewsBlaze

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Predictable Palestinian Propaganda Ploy

The successful lies of Dr. Hanan Ashwari epitomize the (most recent) Palestinian victory in the Gaza propaganda sweepstakes. Fox News uses her regularly to provide the Palestinian side of “fair and balanced.” This longtime PLO spokeswoman, of course, is anything but. She harangues the audience with emotional and outrageous untruths, with nary a criticism. The interviewers, it seems, go mute in the face of such passionate, well-spoken English from the West Bank.

Fox’s Geraldo Rivera has little capacity for critical thinking or maintaining control of his interview. He does, however show maximal respect for any and all positions expounded, no matter how fanatical or obnoxious. Thus, when Ashwari claims dismissively that Hamas has sent over to Israel only some 400 handmade pipes without explosive heads (and not a single rocket, apparently), Geraldo sits gaping at her clear intellectual superiority. He does not mention the over 5,000 rockets launched over the last three years, nor the more advanced long-range Grad missiles from Syria and Iran that can reach over 800,000 of Israel’s southern population.

When Ashwari goes on to claim, with a perfectly straight face, that Israel, in the first 60 seconds of its attacks on Hamas, laid down 400 bombs on Gaza – hyperbole that only mental gymnasts of Ashwari’s caliber can achieve – Geraldo’s face remains just as straight. How could a few pipes compare to the bombs of the fourth most powerful army in the world? Geraldo has no answer.

When Geraldo does gamely suggest that Hamas locates its rockets and armaments in civilian areas, Ashwari dismissively claims her host is talking nonsense. That’s old Israeli propaganda, of course. Never mind the secondary explosions continually evident in Israeli Air Force videos. Hamas and Hezbollah have long used this technique to both hide weapons and dissuade Israeli attacks. Ashwari knows this as well as any military analyst who has ever dealt with the Middle East. (Even an Iranian newspaper reported on this habit.) 1

A series of other lies go unchallenged. Ashwari claims that 30% of the casualties in Gaza are children, a figure that contradicts even Hamas’ exaggerated claims. She argues that the Israelis’ pinpoint bombing is unconscionable when compared with Hamas’ launching of ‘blind’ rockets into civilian areas. She rails against the number of Palestinian casualties. Again, there is no mention of the fact that Hamas makes no provision for civilian bomb shelters (though they devote many resources to digging tunnels), in the barbaric hope that collateral civilian casualties will ensure continued propaganda victories.

By contrast, Gregg Jarrett of Fox News shows how good interview journalism is done. In his recent interview with a representative of the “Arab Side,” he was forced to continually interrupt his guest to show untrue, fallacious and incorrect were her claims. When the guest accused Jarrett of knowing nothing about Gaza, since he had obviously never been there, Jarrett quietly reminds his presumptuous interviewee that he had indeed spent time in Gaza, and knew it well. Kudos to Jarrett – there is no moral or journalistic reason to allow unadulterated propaganda to abuse our television channels. Geraldo could learn something from his colleague.2

1 Hamas Hiding Forces in Nurseries and Hospitals

2 Eye on The World: Video: Gregg Jarrett cuts off Palestinian mouthpiece Diana Buttu

Posted on

Posted on The Absurd Report

Posted on Global Politician

Published in Muslim World Today (Jan. 30, 2009)

Thursday, January 15, 2009


Is it possible there is a reason why Israel put-off hitting back at Hamas—and their firing of 5,000 rockets and mortars into southern Israel—until recently?

Certainly, Israel’s ongoing and unambiguous destruction of the Hamas threat has put Hezbollah rocketeers to the north, still crowing about the inconclusive 2006 Lebanon War, on notice. If they step out of line again, they too will be eliminated.

As a fortuitous addition to this demonstrable deterrence, might Israel choose the coming days before President-elect Obama’s forthcoming inauguration to settle the Iranian question?

Perhaps, conveniently-leaked news of President Bush’s refusal to supply Israel with crucial bunker-buster bombs may just be the kind of calming diversion the Iranians need to dumb down their defenses.

Before an unknown Obama arises, and in the last few days of a uniquely supportive (but waning) Bush, perhaps fate has Iran’s nuclear facilities in her crosshair.

It will not be long before we will know whether history is indeed in the making.

Published on NewsBlaze

Posted on Bruce's MidEast Soundbites

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Exquisite Irrelevance of Proportionality

French President Nicolas Sarkozy and assorted other world leaders have roundly condemned Israel’s ‘disproportionate’ use of force in Gaza. Pandering to those who elevate Hamas’ unprovoked civilian targeting to a higher moral plane than Israel’s defensive response, blaming Israel seems (once again) to be the politics du jour on the Continent.

Since Hamas took power in January 2006, more than 5,000 rockets (as well as mortars) have been fired at exclusively civilian areas in southern Israel, home to more than 800,000 people. This bombardment followed Israel’s 2005 unilateral withdrawal of Israeli soldiers and settlers from all of the territory.

Should Israel thus be justified in sending the equivalent of 5,000 rockets into Gaza’s civilian areas? If so, should Israel be condemned if its reciprocity happens to be more accurate and lethal? Surely far more casualties would have resulted from such a reciprocal approach than from Israel’s pinpoint and selective strikes against overwhelmingly military targets. Is it in anyway rational or objective to blame Israel for Hamas’ perverse penchant for locating its ammunition dumps, rocket factories and military installations in mosques, schools, hospitals and apartment buildings?

By Algerian estimates, up to 700,000 civilians were killed during the eight year French-Algerian War, a war fought over exclusively North African land (18,000 French are also believed to have died). Russia decimated Chechnya during that republic’s attempt to break away from Mother Russia, resulting in between 100,000 to 200,000 civilian fatalities in three years (Russian casualties were reported to be 5,500). In the early 1950’s the British Army put down the Mau Mau rebellion in Kenya – over 10,000 were killed, with few British casualties.

During the Second World War, Germany hit Britain with a barrage of rockets (similar, as Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu has recently pointed out, to the “blind” and erratic rockets of Hamas). In response, the British bombed the baroque city of Dresden to smithereens; the ensuing firestorm caused between 25,000 to 45,000 (mostly civilian) casualties in two nights. Was this more ‘proportional’ than Israel’s response? Is Hamas any less intent on destroying Israel than Hitler was England?

Our history books are replete with contemporary examples of extravagant disproportionality in response to terrorism and acts of war. When it is not Israel that is doing the responding, the latitude granted is comparatively unlimited.

Certainly, Israel firing a proportional 5,000 rockets into Gaza’s urban areas could result in tens of thousands of civilian deaths (a far cry from the current few-hundred, mainly military casualties). Alternatively, in exchange for fewer casualties, perhaps Israel’s critics would prefer the air force to drop 5,000 bombs on power plants, waterworks, bridges, factories and offices? Gaza would in that event descend into chaos and barbaric destruction. Is it so reprehensible for Israel to concentrate – and to do so successfully – on military installations, arms caches, smuggling tunnels and terrorist operatives and rocketeers? Does not the reprehensibility lie with Hamas, who cynically ensures and exploits civilian casualties to further their own eliminationist ends?

What’s more – as Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz has recently pointed out – Israel’s actions (unlike those of the French, the Russians, and the British above) do not even violate the ‘proportionality’ standard trumpeted by Israel’s critics. According to Dershowitz:

“First, there is no legal equivalence between the deliberate killing of innocent civilians and the deliberate killings of Hamas combatants. Under the laws of war, any number of combatants can be killed to prevent the killing of even one innocent civilian. Second, proportionality is not measured by the number of civilians actually killed, but rather by the risk of civilian death and the intentions of those targeting civilians…”

Imagine Paris, London, or Moscow being bombarded with hundreds of missiles, and their leaders taking over six months to respond. If anything, by historical standards, Israel’s leaders have been tardy, negligent and far too dependent on the soft power of negotiation. If anything, Israel is too proportionate in its application of its vastly superior fire-power.

Where were the concerned world’s calls for proportionality during the bombardment of southern Israel with 5,000 Gazan rockets? I don’t recall demonstrations in conscience-stricken European capitals demanding a quid pro quo. Where are the protests condemning the seemingly endless Muslim-on-Muslim violence we have witnessed on nearly every continent? If the charter of Hamas – who rules by both fear and, perhaps more sadly, admiration – explicitly calls for the elimination of Israel, is it expedient to validate those goals by playing politics, ala Jimmy Carter? When Hamas ignores all criticism and all calls for moderation, sympathetic expressions from the international press seem not to be in any way muted.

Perhaps the current barrage of calls to “stop the war” is a little too late, a little too selective. Perhaps the callers should have been (even minimally) active over the last three years, during the 5,000 rocket attacks. Clearly, they were otherwise occupied.

There is an infinitely simplistic solution to this conflict. Hamas must permanently ensure no rocket attacks on or suicide bombings in Israel; release the kidnapped Gilad Shalit; and destroy all Gaza’s smuggling tunnels. In return, Israel must open the territory’s borders to all and everything except armaments and known terrorists, monitored jointly by Israel and impartial international parties. Then, both countries can go about the peaceful business of enhancing the lives of their respective citizens, rather than the destruction of the others’.

Of course, this solution is far too obvious, transparent and peaceful for Hamas, committed as it is to the ongoing Jihadist destruction of Israel above all else. It is far too pragmatic and balanced for Israel’s agenda-driven detractors in Europe. And it is far too risky and modern for current Middle Eastern governments, schooled as they are in propaganda and scape-goating.

As a result, we have war. As I understand it, no war ends until one side convincingly wins or loses. Until Hamas is unambiguously persuaded that its holding of Gaza hostage is counterproductive, that its choice of war rather than civil advancement is going to be its death knell, no cease fire, no calls for proportionality, are going to accomplish anything. Except, of course, satisfying the insatiable hypocrisy of the zealots of ‘proportionality.’

Disproportionate Israeli Humanitarian Aid to Gaza (Andy McCarthy)

Israel’s Policy is Perfectly ‘Proportionate’ (Alan M. Dershowitz)

The Three-State Option (John R. Bolton)

Gaza Solution is in the hands of Palestinians (Tawfik Hamid)

What Hamas Wants (Clifford D. May)

"War is Hell."1

Let Hamas terrorists who choose the path of war bear full responsibility for the hell that follows.

"No legal right shall spring from a wrong."2

"We can forgive the Arabs for killing our children. We cannot forgive them for forcing us to kill their children... We will only have peace with the Arabs when they love their children more than they hate us."3

1General Sherman, June 19, 1879.
Judge Schwebel, former president of the International Court of Justice, "Justice in International Law," 1994.
Golda Meir, former Israeli Prime Minister, 1972.

Posted on The Absurd Report

Posted on

Posted on Know Thyself

Now, About That "Proportionality" by Ruth R. Wisse

"Moral Clarity in Gaza" by Charles Krauthammer

We have all been presented, by the various media, with articles and discussions concerning proportionality, morality and blame, even if no solutions are usually forthcoming.

Pulitzer Prize-winning syndicated columnist and commentator Charles Krauthammer, a doyen of Washington and New York columnists and commentators, is erudite, objective and clear and had written a short yet most relevant and appropriate review of the current war in Gaza.

Moral Clarity in Gaza
By Charles Krauthammer January 2, 2009

Late Saturday, thousands of Gazans received Arabic-language cell-phone messages from the Israeli military, urging them to leave homes where militants might have stashed weapons.-- Associated Press, Dec. 27

Some geopolitical conflicts are morally complicated. The Israel-Gaza war is not. It possesses a moral clarity not only rare but excruciating.

Israel is so scrupulous about civilian life that, risking the element of surprise, it contacts enemy noncombatants in advance to warn them of approaching danger. Hamas, which started this conflict with unrelenting rocket and mortar attacks on unarmed Israelis -- 6,464 launched from Gaza in the past three years -- deliberately places its weapons in and near the homes of its own people.

This has two purposes. First, counting on the moral scrupulousness of Israel, Hamas figures civilian proximity might help protect at least part of its arsenal. Second, knowing that Israelis have new precision weapons that may allow them to attack nonetheless, Hamas hopes that inevitable collateral damage -- or, if it is really fortunate, an errant Israeli bomb -- will kill large numbers of its own people for which, of course, the world will blame Israel.

For Hamas, the only thing more prized than dead Jews are dead Palestinians. The religion of Jew-murder and self-martyrdom is ubiquitous. And deeply perverse, such as the Hamas TV children's program in which an adorable live-action Palestinian Mickey Mouse is beaten to death by an Israeli (then replaced by his more militant cousin, Nahoul the Bee, who vows to continue on Mickey's path to martyrdom).

At war today in Gaza, one combatant is committed to causing the most civilian pain and suffering on both sides. The other combatant is committed to saving as many lives as possible -- also on both sides. It's a recurring theme. Israel gave similar warnings to Southern Lebanese villagers before attacking Hezbollah in the Lebanon war of 2006. The Israelis did this knowing it would lose for them the element of surprise and cost the lives of their own soldiers.

That is the asymmetry of means between Hamas and Israel. But there is equal clarity regarding the asymmetry of ends. Israel has but a single objective in Gaza -- peace: the calm, open, normal relations it offered Gaza when it withdrew in 2005. Doing something never done by the Turkish, British, Egyptian and Jordanian rulers of Palestine, the Israelis gave the Palestinians their first sovereign territory ever in Gaza.

What ensued? This is not ancient history. Did the Palestinians begin building the state that is supposedly their great national aim? No. No roads, no industry, no courts, no civil society at all. The flourishing greenhouses that Israel left behind for the Palestinians were destroyed and abandoned. Instead, Gaza's Iranian-sponsored rulers have devoted all their resources to turning it into a terror base -- importing weapons, training terrorists, building tunnels with which to kidnap Israelis on the other side. And of course firing rockets unceasingly.

The grievance? It cannot be occupation, military control or settlers. They were all removed in September 2005. There's only one grievance and Hamas is open about it. Israel's very existence.

Nor does Hamas conceal its strategy. Provoke conflict. Wait for the inevitable civilian casualties. Bring down the world's opprobrium on Israel. Force it into an untenable cease-fire -- exactly as happened in Lebanon. Then, as in Lebanon, rearm, rebuild and mobilize for the next round. Perpetual war. Since its raison d'etre is the eradication of Israel, there are only two possible outcomes: the defeat of Hamas or the extinction of Israel.

Israel's only response is to try to do what it failed to do after the Gaza withdrawal. The unpardonable strategic error of its architect, Ariel Sharon, was not the withdrawal itself but the failure to immediately establish a deterrence regime under which no violence would be tolerated after the removal of any and all Israeli presence -- the ostensible justification for previous Palestinian attacks. Instead, Israel allowed unceasing rocket fire, implicitly acquiescing to a state of active war and indiscriminate terror.

Hamas's rejection of an extension of its often-violated six-month cease-fire (during which the rockets never stopped, just were less frequent) gave Israel a rare opportunity to establish the norm it should have insisted upon three years ago: no rockets, no mortar fire, no kidnapping, no acts of war. As the U.S. government has officially stated: a sustainable and enduring cease-fire. If this fighting ends with anything less than that, Israel will have lost yet another war. The question is whether Israel still retains the nerve -- and the moral self-assurance -- to win.

Posted on SlantRight

"Moral Clarity in Gaza" by Charles Krauthammer (Washington Post)