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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler

Here's Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler for Thursday, January 19.
1) Filling in details and making stuff up

When people don't know all the details of what happened, speculation becomes rampant to fill in the missing details.

For example we know that certain facilities in Iran have been targeted as well as nuclear scientists. The assumption is that Israel's behind these attacks because it is the country that most fears a nuclear Iran. Michael Ledeen writes that he doesn't believe that these attacks are the work of foreign governments:
Before getting into the details, let me caveat this whole thing: I don’t know who did it, and neither does anybody else writing about it. The Iranian regime, which usually claims to know everything about everything, has so far accused the Brits, the Americans, the MEK, and the Israelis.
However, I think that I do know this: If the Israelis (or the Americans, or the Brits) are actually capable of operating at will in the midst of the virtual military occupation in Tehran, we do not have to worry about the Iranian nukes, because if the Israelis, the Brits or the Americans can do that, they can do anything they want to.
While many people have no idea what Jundallah is, writer Mark Perry recent wrote in Foreign Policy that its members had been recruited by the Mossad posing as CIA officers. This wasn't a case of filling in details to explain something in the news. It was propaganda. Jonathan Neumann debunks the claim at Jewish Ideas Daily (h/t Hadassah Levy)
A reader might benefit from knowing who Mark Perry is. Perry has run an organization called the Conflicts Forum, which specializes in what it calls "dialogue with a wide range of leading Islamists," prominently including Hamas and Hezbollah. In 1989 he became "unofficial advisor" to Yasir Arafat, head of the terrorist Palestine Liberation Organization. Perry maintained his role until Arafat's death in 2004.
None of this background is disclosed by Foreign Policy.
Not accidentally, Perry's claims appear to be nonsense. The Israeli government, whose policy is not to confirm or deny involvement in intelligence operations, has broken its general silence to call his story "absolute nonsense." There is external corroboration of Israel's position. In recent years, three high-ranking Israeli intelligence and defense officials have been forced to resign their posts because of Israeli actions that U.S. officials deemed against American interests—actions far less damaging than the "false flag" operation Perry describes. Yet Meir Dagan, who was chief of Mossad at the time of the alleged operation, not only kept his job but remained a Washington favorite.
2) I'll trust the king, when he stands for re-election

King Abdullah bin Hussein has written an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, The Palestinians and the Arab Spring. He rehashes the Arab Peace Initiative, which will soon be ten years old.
The two-state solution is supported by the U.S. and the rest of the Quartet (the European Union, the United Nations and Russia), and it is at the core of the Arab Peace Initiative, adopted unanimously by the 2002 Arab Summit in Beirut. Ours was an unequivocal statement of the Arab world's commitment to a neighborhood of peace and acceptance, opening the way to a comprehensive settlement that would end the conflict, meet the Palestinians' right to freedom and statehood, and give Israel acceptance and security. This Initiative was endorsed by the entire Muslim world—57 countries—and remains a cornerstone for peacemaking in the Middle East.
The initiative was not unequivocal. It was an ultimatum, giving Israel no room for negotiation. When it was being formulated (then) Crown Prince Abdullah allowed Syria to prevail upon him to add language insisting that Israel withdraw from Lebanese territory. Since two years earlier the UN had certified Israel's complete withdrawal from Lebanon, this showed that the Arab League members saw no problem with changing their demands of Israel. It was actually quite equivocal.

As mentioned, in 2000 Israel completely withdrew from southern Lebanon and in 2005 from Gaza. Hezbollah and Hamas, respectively, used those withdrawals to build their arsenals and attack Israel leading to wars in 2006 and 2008. Did the Arab League praise the Israeli withdrawals and condemn the terrorist groups that continued to attack? Or did it condemn Israel for defending itself? If the Arab League had demonstrated good faith when Israel ceded territory, they could claim that its peace initiative is sincere. But the Arab League didn't. Clearly Israeli security is not a term the Arab League takes very seriously.

The whole idea that Palestinian statehood is somehow part of the Arab spring of freedom is ridiculous. Right now the Palestinians are ruled by a terror organization and a corrupt civil authority. Even if Abbas negotiates with Netanyahu to make peace, the Palestinians will still not be free. The only way a state of Palestine might have something in common with the Arab spring, would be if Hamas took over and the Palestinians became the next Arab polity to be ruled by Islamists.

King Abdullah ends with:
Across the entire Arab world, people are demanding freedom, dignity and hope. In Jordan we have charted our course through an irreversible, inclusive and evolutionary process of political, social and economic reform. Regional peace must be part of this future—for Palestinians, for Israelis, for all. There have been too many failed attempts. Can we all do it this time?
When King Abdullah stands for election I'll believe his claim to be supporting freedom.

3) The risk of withdrawal

To the peace processor, the Israeli refusal to give into every territorial demand of the Palestinians is the primary reason for the lack of a peace process.

As noted above, the withdrawals from southern Lebanon and Gaza have left Israel less, not more secure. Ehud Yaari (via Daily Alert) writes about how the Sinai has become A New Front (.pdf):
Yet the true surge in such activity came after Israel’s 2005 disengagement from Gaza and subsequent removal of troops from the Sinai-Gaza border—as Bedouin political activist Ashraf al-Anani put it, “a fireball started rolling into the peninsula.” Illegal trade and arms smuggling volumes rose to new records, and ever-larger sectors of the northern Sinai population became linked to Gaza and fell under the political and ideological influence of Hamas and its ilk. Sympathy and support for the Palestinian battle against Israel grew; according to al-Anani, the closer one got to the Gaza border, “the more people are inclined toward Hamas.” In short, despite then prime minister Ariel Sharon’s quiet hope that Cairo would assume unofficial responsibility for Gaza affairs, the Israeli withdrawal instead allowed Hamas to export its influence into Egyptian territory.
Facilitated by the dramatic increase in the number of tunnels—which numbered no less than 1,200 at their peak—the expansion of Hamas and other Palestinian activities in the Sinai was unprecedented. In fact, the arms flow was often reversed, with weapons going from Gaza to the Sinai. During the revolution, for example, observers noted a huge demand for firearms in the peninsula.14 And even in late 2010, well before Mubarak’s ouster, Hamas was already in the process of transferring heavy long-range missiles to secret storage places in the Sinai, including Grad rockets and extended-range Qassams. On October 6 of that year, the Israeli port of Eilat and its Jordanian sister town of Aqaba were hit by a salvo of missiles fired from the Sinai. The attacks took place despite stern Egyptian warnings to Hamas not to use the peninsula as a launchpad for strikes on Israel. In a response that has since become the norm, Hamas military commanders simply ignored the Egyptian request and later denied responsibility, although both Egyptian and Israeli intelligence had more than sufficient information to prove it.
Peace has its risks. The job of the peace processors ought to be assessing those risks instead of simply dismissing them. Elder of Ziyon notes one of the effects of this new front.

4) Reconsidering Israel in England

Jonathan Sacerdoti recently wrote Stop ignoring the facts about Cast Lead in the New Statesman (h/t Daled Amos)
In 2006, following the Israeli disengagement and pullout from the Gaza Strip, there was an increase of 436 per cent in the number of Palestinian rockets launched towards Israel from that very territory. For some time, Israel resisted a large-scale military response to such acts deliberately aimed at civilians. As a result, the attacks got worse, and every country, including Israel, has the moral responsibility to defend its people from such actions.
Increased Palestinian terror attacks from Gaza were the cause of Operation Cast Lead. Yet Israel's is a conscript army. Indeed Israel goes to extraordinary lengths to protect its young soldiers (witness the efforts make to secure the release of the kidnap victim Gilad Shalit), and does not send them to war easily.
In the three years since the operation, there has been an unprecedented 72 per cent decline in the number of rockets launched from Hamas-controlled Gaza. No surprise, then, that Israel's Defence Forces Chief of Staff should call the operation "an excellent operation that achieved deterrence for Israel vis-a-vis Hamas". (However, that deterrence is still not enough to have prevented Palestinians from launching 1,571 rockets since the operation, including one attack with an anti-tank missile on a clearly identifiable Israeli school bus.)
A Conservative MP, Andrew Percy has written Israel Misunderstood and Misrepresented (via Daily Alert):
My travels around Israel surprised me completely. The people were full of get up and go, eager to live peacefully in the region; the towns and cities were energetic and cosmopolitan; and the deliverance of democracy never failed to impress upon me. So why is there such a discrepancy between what I experienced and public perception back in the UK? When was the last time you heard a good news story emanating from Israel on your TV screens or in the newspapers? And why has Israel become defined simply by its inability to solve the conflict when it is so much more than that?
I raised these questions when I returned to Israel again last week with colleagues from the UK and Australia for a dialogue with Israeli and Palestinian politicians, journalists, academics and commentators. This serious problem is not being effectively addressed and Israel’s future is being undermined by its inability to promote itself both accurately and attractively. As an MP, I witness this difference between perception and reality, on a regular basis in the House of Commons. From Backbenchers through to Government Ministers and Shadow Ministers, colleagues suffer from a serial case of apathy where Israel is concerned. Seemingly no positive impression of the place has been determined in people’s minds.

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