Saturday, 26 December 2009

Israel Matzav: Wall Street Journal blasts Kerry trip to Iran

Wall Street Journal blasts Kerry trip to Iran

The Wall Street Journal has this one right. Kerry shouldn't go to Iran.

The Kerry mission would also look like a panicky effort to persuade the Ayatollah Ali Khamanei to accept the increasingly plaintive U.S. offers of engagement. Mr. Obama has set the end of this month as his latest deadline for progress on nuclear talks before he says he'll seek tougher sanctions against Iran at the U.N.

But if a year of personal Presidential letters and Administration entreaties hasn't worked, why would a Senatorial trip? The regime would probably exploit the visit for its own domestic purposes, perhaps adding to its P.R. coup by releasing to Mr. Kerry the three hapless American hikers it has promised to put on trial for having "suspicious aims" as they wandered across the border with Iraq.

The Iranians who need support now are the democrats in prison, in the streets, and increasingly in the mosques as the regime loses its legitimacy even among many clerics. Please do them no more harm, Senator.

The problem is that panicky is exactly what Obama is probably feeling right now. He doesn't want to go to war with Iran - he didn't really want to go to war with Afghanistan either and he's still upset he hasn't been able to get US troops out of Iraq.

Israel Matzav: Wall Street Journal blasts Kerry trip to Iran

Israel Matzav: Of course the Left blames Israel

Of course the Left blames Israel

I've run a number of posts over the last few days in which I pointed out the precarious situation of Christians in the Middle East. There are some people out there who actually think this is Israel's fault. Take, for example, Juan Cole (Hat Tip: Legal Insurrection). Cole posted this video from al-Jazeera.

Let's go to the videotape.

Israel is not stopping anyone from visiting Bethlehem. We are stopping terrorists from entering Israel from Bethlehem and other places across Judea and Samaria. What stops people from visiting Bethlehem is fear of Muslim terrorists.

As to the hotel stays, where would you rather stay? Hint: All the foreign correspondents who bash Israel live in Israel and not in the 'Palestinian' cities and towns.

But don't try to tell Cole that. In his uber-Leftist view, Israel can do no right and the 'Palestinians' can do no wrong.

Israel Matzav: Of course the Left blames Israel

Elder of Ziyon: Palestine Today calls terror attack a "heroic operation"

Elder of Ziyon: Palestine Today calls terror attack a "heroic operation"

Love of the Land: Some Good News

Some Good News

Yisrael Medad
My Right Word
26 December 09

The Israeli military killed six Palestinians on Saturday, three in the West Bank whom it accused of killing a Jewish settler and three in Gaza who it said were crawling along the border wall planning an attack. It was the deadliest day in the conflict in nearly a year.

...Maj. Peter Lerner, spokesman for Israel’s Central Command, which controls the West Bank, said that its forces had spent the past two days looking for the killers of the settler, Rabbi Meir Hai, a 45-year-old teacher and father of seven, who was shot dead on Thursday as he drove near his home in the settlement of Shavei Shomron.

The information gathered, he said, led them to three men in the city of Nablus early Saturday. Troops in jeeps descended on their homes and in each case, he said, the suspect was asked to give himself up. None did so, and all were shot dead.

All three, he added, had been involved in anti-Israel violence in the past through activities in the Aksa Martyrs Brigade, a militia associated with the Fatah movement led by Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president. One of them, Annan Sleiman Moustafa Tsubakh, 36, was hiding with two assault rifles, two handguns and ammunition in a crawl space in his house when the Israeli troops found him.

Major Lerner said that the three were the killers of Rabbi Hai and that they acted as an isolated cell rather than as part of some larger organization. Asked if the Israelis had coordinated with the Palestinian security forces that had been patrolling West Bank cities for a year and a half, he said no, that the army’s job was first and foremost to protect Israeli civilians.

(Read full post)

Love of the Land: Some Good News

A Soldier's Mother: Ima, Catch...

A Soldier's Mother: Ima, Catch...

Love of the Land: Escape from Cherbourg

Escape from Cherbourg

Abraham Rabinovich
JPost Magazine
24 December 09

(Great story. Read the book if you can find it.)

Forty years ago this Christmas eve, five small boats showing almost no lights slipped out of Cherbourg harbor into the teeth of a Force 9 gale which kept even large freighters from venturing out.

Built for the Israel Navy, the vessels had been embargoed at the beginning of the year by French president Charles de Gaulle. Their empty berths on Christmas Day and the absence of any announcement about the embargo's termination prompted media inquiries, which failed to elicit convincing explanations. "Where are they?" asked a banner headline in a local newspaper.

In the news doldrums of the holiday season, the international media scented an outlandish story: Had Israel stolen back its own boats? A television team flew out over the North Sea to see if the boats were headed for Norway, to which they had ostensibly been sold; others flew out over the Mediterranean.

The boats were indeed on the run. Battered by towering waves as they crossed the Bay of Biscay, they dropped anchor in a Portuguese cove alongside an Israeli freighter fitted out as a refueling ship, one of several support vessels deployed along the 5,150-km. escape route. When the boats entered the Mediterranean, British maritime monitors on Gibraltar signaled "What ship?" A Lloyd's helicopter circled the silent vessels but saw no identity numbers or flags. The British monitors, guessing the boats' destination from the media reports, flashed "bon voyage" in salute to Nelsonian flair.

Love of the Land: Escape from Cherbourg

Life in Israel: The latest hero (video)

The latest hero (video)

The latest hero... I don't think he learned at Merkaz Ha'Rav Yeshiva.. :-)

Life in Israel: The latest hero (video)

Israel Matzav: Why be a reform Jew when you can be a Democrat?

Why be a reform Jew when you can be a Democrat?

This is off topic, but David Bernstein has an interesting comment on the attacks on Senator Joe Lieberman (I-Conn) (pictured with his wife Hadassah) that claim that he isn't a good Jew because he opposes Obamacare.

This, in a nutshell, explains why Reform Judaism (with which I have some sympathy theologically) is dying a slow long-term death (estimates are something like 8 Reform Jewish great-grandparents will produce slightly over 1 Jewish great-grandchild–Reform has received a temporary boost because it, unlike its Conservative rival, which is undergoing its own identity crisis over the issue of homosexual rabbis, accepts children of Jewish fathers); its leaders can find a mandate in “Jewish texts” for nationalizing the American health care industry, which has nothing to do with Judasim, but not for Sabbath or kashruth observance, which have been central to Judaism for 3,000 years.

To be fair, some of Reform’s leaders recognize the problem and are trying hard to change the dynamic, at least on the side of tradition, if not on the side of trying to wean establishment Reform away from identification with political liberalism. But to the extent Reform Judaism offers its constituents the New Deal as its Torah and Barack Obama as its prophet, it’s hard to see why someone should bother being involved in Reform Judaism as opposed to, say, the Democratic Party.


Israel Matzav: Why be a reform Jew when you can be a Democrat?

Love of the Land: Celebrating Hanukkah in the Rocket Zone of Israel

Celebrating Hanukkah in the Rocket Zone of Israel

Photos by Noam Bedein

Anav Silverman
Sderot Media Center
24 December 09

This year, Jewish residents in the Israeli city of Sderot celebrated the holiday of Hanukkah by lighting a menorah built out of steel Qassam rockets. The rockets, which were stored away at the Sderot Police Station, are some of the thousands of Palestinian rockets that have exploded on the Israeli city in the past nine years. It was a symbolic act; one that reflected the strength of spirit that has come to define the city’s inhabitants.

For some Sderot residents, however, the celebration of Hannukah, which commemorates the re-dedication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and the Jewish people’s defeat of the Syrian Greeks over 2,000 years ago, brings back more recent memories of hardship.

Aliza Amar lights the candles of her family’s Menorah with the face of a mother who has weathered a great deal in the past year. It is a cold and windy night in Sderot, as the Amar family gathers together to celebrate the seventh night of Hannukah.

It was around this time two years ago that a Qassam rocket directly struck the Amars’ home, injuring Aliza and leaving the family homeless for almost a year. The rocket attack took place on the eighth day of Hanukkah, Dec. 13, 2007, and only the Amars' Menorah and Jewish holy books were found completely intact.

“All the memories from that difficult period come flooding back during this holiday,” says Aliza, a mother of four children. “The Qassam rocket that destroyed our home, destroyed our way of life. It was a terrifying time. My husband and I had to relocate our family to a tiny apartment temporarily, get the kids into therapy, and find time to recover from the initial shock and injuries. We are still reeling from the impact of that attack to this day.”

Amar points to the entrance to the front yard which was only completed in the last month. “I haven’t had a front yard with a garden for almost two years. The first thing we had built after the rocket explosion was a new bomb shelter. All the other repairs had to wait.”

(Read full post)

Love of the Land: Celebrating Hanukkah in the Rocket Zone of Israel

Love of the Land: PTA Commander-in-Chief

PTA Commander-in-Chief

Caroline Glick
25 December 09

Unbeknownst to most Israelis, this week marked a critical shift for the worse in the regional balance of power. While IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi was busy demanding that the government pay a ransom of more than a thousand terrorists for captive soldier Gilad Schalit, few paid attention to Iran's newest strategic successes.

Over the past week Lebanon capitulated to the Iranian axis. Turkey solidified its full membership in the axis. And Egypt began to make its peace with the notion of Iran becoming the strongest state in the region.

Less than five years after former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri was assassinated by Syria, his son Prime Minister Saad Hariri paid a visit to Damascus to express his fealty to Syrian President Bashar Assad. Days later, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki visited Beirut and began giving the Lebanese government its new marching orders.

On Wednesday, Hizbullah forces deployed openly to the border with Israel under the permissive eye of the US-armed Lebanese army. Lebanon announced that it was no longer bound by binding UN Security Council Resolution 1559 that requires Hizbullah to disarm. And Hariri announced that he will soon visit Teheran.

While Defense Minister Ehud Barak and his media echo chamber insist that Turkey has buried its hatchet with Israel, on Wednesday Prime Minister Recip Erdogan led a delegation with 10 cabinet ministers to Damascus. There, according to the Syrian and Turkish Foreign Ministries, they signed 47 trade agreements.

This Turkish-Syrian rapprochement is not limited to economic issues. It is a strategic realignment. As Assad's spokeswoman Buthaina Shaaban explained to Iran's Arabic-language al-Alam television channel, "We are working to establish close ties between Syria, Turkey, Iran and Iraq so these countries can act as one regional bloc in order to promote peace, security and stability in the Middle East, while keeping the West's dictates and lust for the region's natural and oil resources at bay."

(Read full article)

Love of the Land: PTA Commander-in-Chief

RubinReports: The Arabic-Speaking World in 2010

The Arabic-Speaking World in 2010

By Barry Rubin

The politics of the Arabic-speaking world are going to face some serious challenges during 2010. Probably none of them, however, will have anything to do with the Arab-Israeli issue, despite the overwhelming attention and exaggerated importance usually given to that question by outside observers.

Unquestionably, the leading problem will be dealing with an increasingly powerful Iran and its sidekick Syria which aren’t being contained by the United States. The Arabs, after all, live in the neighborhood and if they conclude that America can’t or won’t protect them, they’ll have to cut their own deal combined with finding some way to defend themselves better.

Already we’ve seen huge gains for Iran in 2009 which U.S. policymakers seem largely to ignore:

--The Saudis have reduced their level of confrontation with Iran and Syria, especially abandoning their attempt to block Tehran’s influence in Lebanon.

--The Lebanese moderate May 14 movement has bowed to Iranian-backed Hizballah in setting up a government which won’t do anything Tehran doesn’t like.

--While the full extent of Iranian intervention in Yemen is not clear, it seems like Tehran is backing a tribal revolt which is extending its influence into a new area.

--Western reluctance to raise sanctions and the ease with which Iran fooled and made fools of the West over the nuclear weapons’ issue seems to show that Iran holds the stronger hand. Russia and China are basically defending Iran’s interests in avoiding international pressure. Despite the Obama Administration having set dedlines of September and December, as 2010 begins, the implementation of higher sanctions is still months away.

--While many think that opposition demonstrations and protests have weakened the regime, in a real sense it emerged as stronger. Other factions were forced out of the leadership; Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps leaders occupied more positions of importance. The spiritual guide accepted both the IRGC role and the reelection of President Ahmadinejad, despite his past economic mismanagement and the supposed international or domestic costs. In other words, the regime proved how tough it was which in that part of the world is a major asset.

--Iran seems to have stepped up efforts to extend its influence in southwestern Afghanistan, despite the U.S. military presence there.

Will this march continue in 2010? One of the things that the Obama Administration doesn’t realize is that it’s obvious unwillingness to confront Iran is demoralizing its allies in the Arabic-speaking world whose lives are on the line. If the United States won’t even use tough rhetoric or sanctions how could it be possibly counted on if things get really rough?

Consequently, it’s hard to see Arab states taking a tougher stand during 2010, though if Iran provokes them by getting caught doing internal subversion in Egypt or Saudi Arabia, for example, they could feel forced to take a stand.

A potential crisis is succession in Egypt. Will this be the year that President Husni Mubarak has to stand down? If so, there would be the long-awaited transition, forcing a final decision on whether or not the ill-prepared Gamal Mubarak is going to become president. Gamal is in many ways the West’s dream of an Arab president, Westernized and a technocrat, but could that mean he lacks the skills to keep Egypt stable?

Another issue to watch is the power balance in Lebanon, a delicate mechanism to say the least. Will Hizballah be content to get a long list of things it wants: a free hand for its militia, unlimited weapons’ imports, the country’s servility to Syria, a green light to attack Israel whenever it wants (though it is unlikely to do so this year), and an end to investigations about its own (and Syria’s) involvement in terrorism and murders within Lebanon? Or will it push harder to seize hegemony in the country?

Finally, there is Iraq, whose government is still fighting a terrorist war sponsored by Syria and Iran. As the American withdrawal proceeds will those two countries step up the violence in order to make it look as if the United States is running away in defeat? Here, the Obama Administration has not backed Iraq’s complaints about Syrian involvement in terrorism, thus undermining another ally. Baghdad’s current policy is, however, to remain on good terms with both Washington and Tehran if possible.

If this list makes it sound like nothing good is going to happen in the Arabic-speaking world in2010 then you’ve read it correctly.

RubinReports: The Arabic-Speaking World in 2010

Israel Matzav: Auschwitz sign was being sold on eBay by neo-Nazis from Sweden

Auschwitz sign was being sold on eBay by neo-Nazis from Sweden

The Times of London reports that the people who stole the arbet macht frei (work makes you free) sign from the entrance of the Auschwitz concentration camp intended to sell it to finance neo-Nazi activities in connection with Sweden's upcoming elections.

The Nazi gang that ordered the theft of the infamous 'Arbeit Macht Frei' sign from the gates of Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland planned to sell it to fund violent attacks against the Swedish Prime Minister and Parliament, it was claimed today.

A spokesman for the Swedish security police confirmed that the authorities were taking seriously a threat by a militant Nazi group to disrupt national elections next year.

"We are aware of the information about the alleged attack plans," said Patrik Peter, the security police spokesman.

“We have taken actions. We view this seriously.”


Allegations concerning who ordered the theft, and why, have surfaced today in Swedish newspaper reports after the former leader of a Swedish Nazi group claimed that it had been stolen to order for a collector in England, France or the United States.

"We had a person who was ready to pay millions for the sign," the unnamed source told Aftonbladet, Sweden's biggest-selling daily newspaper.

The Nazi source said that the money would pay for an attack on the home of Fredrik Reinfeldt, the Swedish Prime Minister who has held the rotating presidency of the European Union for the last six months, and on the Swedish Foreign Ministry, the paper reported.

A third attack allegedly involved plans to bombard Swedish MPs from the public seats of the parliament.

"The sign was to be delivered to Sweden, since it was here the deal should be made," the source said. "My role was to find a buyer. We had a person who was willing to pay millions but he had no political agenda. These things have a huge collector value... The biggest collectors are from England, the United States and France."

I would think it would be kind of hard to sell this sort of 'collector's item' since the entire world knew it had been stolen. But maybe not. The sign was apparently being auctioned on eBay.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center, which fights anti-Semitism, wants online auction house eBay to cancel the auction of an "Arbeit Macht Frei" sign, touted as "similar to the one in Auschwitz." The sign was put on sale by a Pennsylvania resident using the moniker "SS panzergrenadier."

The description on eBay reads: "For sale is a sign in German meaning 'Work for freedom' that dates back to the 1700's and was used in many Nazi concentration camps. It was designed specifically from the sign over the main gate at Auschwitz. It measures about 7 feet long and is made from 1/4 round bar steel with 1/8 x 3/4 steel lettering...Note: Gate is not included."

Maybe Human Rights Watch can buy it for Marc Garlasco. Heh.

Israel Matzav: Auschwitz sign was being sold on eBay by neo-Nazis from Sweden

Love of the Land: Christmas in Terrorland

Christmas in Terrorland

Daniel Greenfield
Sultan Knish
Friday Afternoon Roundup
25 December 09

In the media's Middle Eastern coverage it wouldn't be Christmas without the usual seasonal run of stories on how Bethlehem's Christians are suffering because of Israel. These stories will occasionally admit that the number of Christians dropped drastically under the Palestinian Authority, not under Israeli rule, but this doesn't stop them from running the usual smear campaign.

The Wall Street Journal (via
Debbie Schlussel) has an excellent rebuttal

Meet Yussuf Khoury, a 23-year old Palestinian refugee living in the West Bank. Unlike those descendents of refugees born in United Nations camps, Mr. Khoury fled his birthplace just two years ago. And he wasn't running away from Israelis, but from his Palestinian brethren in Gaza.

Mr. Khoury's crime in that Hamas-ruled territory was to be a Christian, a transgression he compounded in the Islamists' eyes by writing love poems.

"Muslims tied to Hamas tried to take me twice," says Mr. Khoury, and he didn't want to find out what they'd do to him if they ever kidnapped him. He hasn't seen his family since Christmas 2007 and is afraid even to talk to them on the phone.

Speaking to a group of foreign journalists in the Bethlehem Bible College where he is studying theology, Mr. Khoury describes a life of fear in Gaza. "My sister is under a lot of pressure to wear a headscarf. People are turning more and more to Islamic fundamentalism and the situation for Christians is very difficult," he says.

In 2007, one year after the Hamas takeover, the owner of Gaza's only Christian bookstore was abducted and murdered. Christian shops and schools have been firebombed. Little wonder that most of Mr. Khoury's Christian friends have also left Gaza.

On the rare occasion that Western media cover the plight of Christians in the Palestinian territories, it is often to denounce Israel and its security barrier. Yet until Palestinian terrorist groups turned Bethlehem into a safe haven for suicide bombers, Bethlehemites were free to enter Israel, just as many Israelis routinely visited Bethlehem.

The other truth usually ignored by the Western press is that the barrier helped restore calm and security not just in Israel, but also in the West Bank including Bethlehem. The Church of the Nativity, which Palestinian gunmen stormed and defiled in 2002 to escape from Israeli security forces, is now filled again with tourists and pilgrims from around the world.

But even here in Jesus' birthplace, which is under the control of the Palestinian Authority (PA), Christians live on a knife's edge. Mr. Khoury tells me that Muslims often stand in front of the gate of the Bible College and read from the Quran to intimidate Christian students. Other Muslims like to roll out their prayer rugs right in Manger Square.


Always a minority religion among the predominantly Muslim Palestinians, Christians are, Mr. Qumsieh says, "melting away," even in Bethlehem. While they represented about 80% of the city's population 60 years ago, their numbers are now down to about 20%, a result not just of Muslims' higher birth rates but also widespread Christian emigration. "Our future as a Christian community here is gloomy," Mr. Qumsieh says.

This kind of "honest reporting" however is a rarity among the usual roll call of pieces attacking Israel, while giving Fatah and Hamas terrorists a pass.

The majority of the stories blame Israel for "scaring away" tourists, not the terrorists, whose latest attack murdered a father of 7 yesterday.

(Read full article)

Love of the Land: Christmas in Terrorland

Love of the Land: Footnotes in historical fiction

Footnotes in historical fiction

25 December 09

Massacres and wanton killings by Israel are a recurring theme in the Arab and Palestinian narrative. Deir Yassin, Ruach Shaked, Jenin, al-Dura, Sabra and Shatila (in which case the killing was done by Israel’s allies), and on and on. Now a graphic novel by Joe Sacco, “Footnotes in Gaza“ tells the story of another two incidents in which large numbers of Palestinian civilians were supposedly killed. In a very positive review in the NY Times, Patrick Cockburn writes,

The killings [allegedly -- ed.] took place during the Suez crisis of 1956, when the Israeli Army swept into the Gaza Strip, the great majority of whose inhabitants were Palestinian refugees. According to figures from the United Nations, 275 Palestinians were killed in the town of Khan Younis at the southern end of the strip on Nov. 3, and 111 died in Rafah, a few miles away on the Egyptian border, during a Nov. 12 operation by Israeli troops. Israel insisted that the Palestinians were killed when Israeli forces were still facing armed resistance. The Palestinians said all resistance had ceased by then.

Sacco’s book will undoubtedly do much to further inflame anti-Zionist hatred. His research consisted of interviewing Palestinian “witnesses and survivors” in 2002-3. Although I can’t prove this without asking him, I’m almost certain that he did not talk to Israeli soldiers who were present. According to this review, he did not identify the Israeli units involved in the alleged massacres. Surely this information is available and would have led him to witnesses on the other side.

Why this is important is that Palestinians have made an industry out of lying about, exaggerating, and entirely faking atrocity stories.

(Read full article)

Love of the Land: Footnotes in historical fiction

Israel Matzav: IDF kills Chai's murderers, B'Tzelem complains

IDF kills Chai's murderers, B'Tzelem complains

I should actually say Shavua Tov again, because the previous post was set up on Friday afternoon and this one is live. So Shavua Tov and Chodesh Tov, a good week and a good month since we also blessed the moon tonight.

During the night on Friday night, the IDF killed three terrorists who were involved in the murder of Rabbi Meir Chai HY"D (may God avenge his blood) on Thursday afternoon.

Special forces surrounded the Nablus homes of the three Aksa Martyrs Brigades operatives in an attempt to arrest them. However, when the men did not heed calls to leave their homes, the troops opened fire and killed them.

None of the soldiers were hurt in the operation.

In one of the houses, the soldiers discovered two hidden rifles and two guns. The weapons were transferred to police laboratories to check if they were used in Thursday's attack, Army Radio reported.

The men were identified as 38-year-old Raed Sukarji, 39-year-old Ghassan Abu Sharkh, and 40-year-old Anan Subih. According to the Palestinian news agency, Sukarji's wife was also wounded in the operation.

Ghassan Abu Sharkh's brother, Nayef, was a former commander of the Aksa Martyrs Brigades in Nablus and was killed by the IDF in 2004.

Good riddance. Well, to me anyway. The terrorist sympathizers over at B'Tzelem are quite upset about this.

Human rights group B'Tselem said Saturday that there was serious concern that troops acted as executioners in the Friday night operation.

According to the organization, evidence found in the homes of the slain terrorists indicated that in two of the three cases, IDF soldiers did not apparently act as if conducting an arrest, but an assassination. The two dead men's families said that they were unarmed and did not try to escape, but were simply shot by troops at close range after the latter discovered their identities. There were no witnesses to the death of the third man, the group said.

B'Tselem said that it would pass on its findings to the army and demanded that a military police investigation be opened to ascertain the truth.

Well, the 'Palestinians' are a bunch of liars. For those who don't realize that already, you will find that out with certainty in the next couple of weeks (something big is happening). And B'Tzelem are a bunch of useful idiots for believing them.

The picture at the top is Rabbi Meir Chai HY"D with some children.

Israel Matzav: IDF kills Chai's murderers, B'Tzelem complains

Israel Matzav: IDF marking off-limits buildings in Gaza

IDF marking off-limits buildings in Gaza

Shavua tov - a good week to everyone.

The IDF has been marking its maps to update the buildings that are off limits for IDF actions in a future war in Gaza.

A year after Operation Cast Lead, the IDF is continuing to update its maps and highlight international and humanitarian institutions - adding several hundred in the past year - to prevent them from being targeted in a future conflict, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

During the operation, which began a year ago next Sunday, the IDF distributed maps filled with over 1,500 dots, designating buildings that were off-limits to all air force and ground force commanders. These dots marked hospitals, United Nations facilities, schools, and homes of foreigners and journalists.

The constant updating of the maps underlies the Israeli assessment that a future conflict with Hamas could be around the corner and that the IDF needs to be prepared at all times.

Despite this work, carried out by the IDF's Gaza Coordination and Liaison Administration before Cast Lead, Israel has been accused of intentionally targeting civilian infrastructure, including hospitals and UN compounds.

I'm sure the 'Palestinians' are making similar maps.


The map at the top is a map the IDF produced of where Hamas hid ammunition among civilians in Gaza City during Operation Cast Lead.

Israel Matzav: IDF marking off-limits buildings in Gaza

RubinReports: For Israel, Good Prospects in 2010

For Israel, Good Prospects in 2010

[Please subscribe to find out if I'm right]

By Barry Rubin

In contrast to my rather gloomy assessment of the Obama Administration’s prospects in the Middle East, Israel’s prospects look rather good. This is granted, of course, that the chances for any formal peace (note the word “formal”) with the Arab states or the Palestinians are close to zero. In addition there are two longer-term threats in the form of Iranian nuclear weapons and Islamists one day taking over one or more Arab states.

But let’s enjoy ourselves while we can. It’s also important to remember in the Middle East, optimism does not mean forecasting blue skies but merely ones only lightly overcast.

It’s funny, though, how much better Israel’s situation is then it’s generally perceived. Consider the pluses:

--The potential of a clash with the United States has been averted, most likely for the remainder of President Barack Obama’s term. All the lessons received by the United States in the region—to whatever extent it learned them—are favorable to Israel, showing how ready Israel is to help U.S. efforts at the same time as demonstrating how hard it is to get peace and how limited is the other’s side’s cooperation or flexibility. The possibility of U.S. rapprochement with Iran or Syria has been destroyed by the latter

--On the surface the situation with Israel looks dreadful but where it counts the support is sufficient. France, Germany, and Italy have friendly governments while in Britain an acceptably positive regime is about to be replaced by a warmer one. (It helps to have low expectations.)

--Despite their rhetoric, Palestinian Authority (PA) leaders are basically satisfied with the status quo. Their strategies for forcing more concessions from Israel without giving anything leave them smug but without prospects for success. The danger of a Hamas takeover has been averted. The economic situation on the West Bank is about as good as it’s ever been. And the PA rulers prefer to avoid renewed violence. That’s not nirvana but it ain’t bad either.

--Hizballah doesn’t want renewed war this year, seeking to carry out revenge terrorist attacks away from the Lebanon-Israel border. Hamas is probably cowed enough by the early 2009 fighting (outside observers still don’t realize the extent to which its gunmen broke, ran away, and hid behind civilians, but the Hamas leadership knows), though this can’t be taken for certain.

--While the international economic slump has hit Israel, the country has been more insulated than one might have dared hope from its negative effects. Its remarkable technical innovation on hi-tech, science, medical, and agricultural technology continues to make rapid progress.

--Israel has a government with a high level of popular support which really seems—after so much ineptness and ingenious plans that didn’t do much good—to be on track. There is, by Israeli standards, a high degree of national consensus.

--Iran still doesn’t have nuclear weapons.

That’s not at all a bad list. There are many who think that Israel cannot flourish, perhaps cannot even survive, without having formal peace with the Palestinians or perhaps also Syria and the Arabic-speaking world in general. This is simply untrue. The lack of a signed peace treaty with everyone (not to mention that such documents exist with Egypt and Jordan) is not the same as war. From the usual standards of no war, no peace this is a pretty good one.

Of course, there are negatives yet they really don’t amount to anywhere near as much as it seems on a superficial glance. The virtual defection of Turkey’s regime from the Western alliance (yes, it really is that bad) and the end of the special relationship between Jerusalem and Ankara is a bad thing. But the Turkish semi-Islamist rulers are restrained by their desire to play a role in regional peacemaking and not to make the Americans or Europeans too angry.

Most distressing of all is the noise. The virulent hatred of Israel by large sections of the American and especially European intelligentsia goes along with the endless outpouring of academic, media, and EU sniping can be dispiriting. Yet even here there is some silver lining. The more extreme and outright crackpot the attacks, the less credible they are. Public opinion polls, especially in the United States where they are through the roof, are not so bad. In addition, the lies and screaming have little material effect on the region itself. Something to worry about but don’t lose sleep.

What’s most important of all is this: A willingness to assess your problems accurately, guided by reasonable expectations. Not being crippled with ideology, blinded by misconceptions, swayed by bad international advice and the desire to be popular. And with determination and courage to implement policies that do the best with the hand you’ve been dealt.

If only others were doing the same thing, the world—and especially the Middle East—would be a better and more peaceful place.

RubinReports: For Israel, Good Prospects in 2010
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