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August 20, 2008: Scary

August 20, 2008

I cannot think of a better word to describe the current international situation, which seems only to be worsening over time. We’ve got Russia moving in an expansionist, cold-war direction again, a nuclear Pakistan headed the wrong way, and Iran continuing on its belligerent path of nuclear development, missile testing and aggressive posturing.

What is worrisome is that the response of the world is all too weak in countering these multiple threats. Just at a time when there should be firm resolution to be strong, there is appeasement and backtracking and ideological confusion. Not to mention short-sighted, self-serving national policies that bring long-term risks to the international community, and more than a bit of hypocrisy, with leaders declaring one thing and doing another.

I have in mind, for example, German declarations of special commitment to Israel, coupled with the German readiness to do business with Iran. And the initiation by Jordan of meetings with the terrorist Hamas — appeasement if I ever saw it, with Jordan undoubtedly afraid it may have Hamas at its border. Not to mention the Bush administration’s reversal of its previous War on Terror policy, and a readiness to sit with Iran.


If there is a note that is encouraging, it is the lead now taken by McCain over Obama in a major poll — encouraging because it is Obama who is the more ideologically confused and eager to appease.

Once a month, Reuters/Zogby does a poll of likely presidential voters. In July Obama was ahead by 7 points. Now McCain is shown leading 46% to 41%. May the trend strengthen.


The current world state of affairs, of course, impinges upon Israel in a number of ways.

Thus you might want to read a serious and somber assessment of the situation with Russia, “The Russian-Georgian War: Implications for the Middle East,” by Ariel Cohen at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

Among the significant points Cohen makes:

“U.S. intelligence-gathering and analysis on the Russian threat to Georgia failed. So did U.S. military assistance to Georgia, worth around $2 billion over the last 15 years. This is something to remember when looking at recent American intelligence assessments of the Iranian nuclear threat or the unsuccessful training of Palestinian Authority security forces against Hamas.”



In her piece, “Georgia, Israel, and the nature of man,” Caroline Glick also draws some very pertinent lessons for Israel from the current international situation:

“In recent years, the understanding that the only guarantor of Israel’s survival is Israel’s ability to defeat all of its enemies decisively has been forgotten altogether by most of the country’s leaders and members of its intellectual classes.

“Since 1979 and with increasing intensity since 1993, Israeli leaders bent on appeasing everyone from the Egyptians to the Palestinians to the Syrians to the Lebanese have called for Israel’s inclusion in NATO, or the deployment of Western forces to its borders or lobbied Washington for a formal strategic alliance. They have claimed that such forces and such treaties will unburden the country of the need to protect itself in the event that our neighbors attack us after we give them the territories necessary to wage war against us…

“If nothing else comes of it, the West’s response to the rape of Georgia should end that delusion. Georgia did almost everything right. And for its actions Georgia was celebrated in the West with platitudes of enduring friendship and empty promises of alliances that were discarded the moment Russia invaded.

“Georgia only made one mistake, and for that mistake it will pay an enormous price. As it steadily built alliances, it forgot to build an army. Israel has an army. It has just forgotten why its survival depends on our willingness to use it.

If we are unwilling to use our military to defeat our enemies, we will lose everything…”


I would be hard put to think of a more important lesson for Israel’s leaders to learn now. If only…


Precisely how short sighted our appeasement policies are is brought home by an article yesterday by Khaled Abu Toameh in the Post. Abu Toameh writes: 


“It’s hard these days to find one Palestinian who regards Israel’s decision to release some 200 Palestinian prisoners as a ‘goodwill gesture.’ It’s also hard to see how the release of the prisoners would ‘boost’ the popularity of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas among his people.


“The argument that the release of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails strengthens the ‘moderates’ has never proven to be correct… 


“Ironically, in some cases the released prisoners turned out to be a big headache for the ‘moderate’ Palestinian leadership. 


“Shortly after the signing of the Oslo Accords, Israel freed hundreds of Fatah security prisoners… 


“But many of the released prisoners soon became involved in various criminal activities ranging from armed robberies, extortion, theft and arms trafficking… 


“Others later joined Hamas and other radical groups… 


“They also became a financial burden on the shoulders of the PA, which had to put the local ‘heroes’ on its payroll… 


“…it’s highly unlikely that Abbas would benefit from the release of the [current 199] prisoners because many Palestinians don’t give him credit for the move. Rather, these Palestinians see the decision as an attempt on the part of Israel to improve its image on the international arena and extract political concessions from Abbas and his colleagues in Ramallah.”


Not only have we agreed to release the 199 in our prisons, but our doing so has permitted four other murderers of Israelis to now also go free. This is fairly incredible:

Just a little over a year ago, we released to Jordan four Jordanian prisoners who had been convicted of killing two Israeli soldiers in 1990, before Israel had a peace treaty with Jordan. We let them go ostensibly so that they might serve their life sentences in a Jordanian prison, closer to their families.

However, according to a 2007 release by the Jordanian News Agency, Petra — which Aaron Lerner has now put up on IMRA — the agreement between Jordan and Israel said the prisoners could be released after “…18 months of their prison term in Jordan or if the Israeli authorities release other prisoners, who are convicted of similar [crimes].”

The murderers got out today, and Jordanian Islamist trade unions planned a festival to celebrate.


Olmert, on the other hand, made a most interesting comment with regard to how prepared we will be to take on the Lebanese if hostilities again break out again (which everyone assumes they eventually will). He explained: 

In the Second Lebanon War, we had much greater means and capabilities, which we avoided using since we fought against a terror organization and not a country. In this context, if Lebanon turns into a Hezbollah state, we won’t restrain our response.” 

Well, it’s not really “IF Lebanon turns into a Hezbollah state,” because for all practical purposes it already has. Earlier this month, Lebanon’s parliament approved a national unity government — with Hezbollah having veto power — and declared a policy of supporting “resistance.”

Olmert says that any future war would be fought in as quick and efficient a manner as possible to maximize the military advantages and to ensure a minimum of losses.

All our wars should be fought this way, with victory and safety for our own boys the priorities. That Olmert says this is good. Better still will be that when the time comes, either in the north or in Gaza, that we will behave this way, with military strength, and the political factions not holding us back out of fear or indecision.


The “ceasefire” with Hamas in Gaza, which is euphemistically referred to as “fragile,” truly doesn’t exist. For we keep getting hit with rockets and mortars — now on close to a daily basis. In response to this, Defense Minister Barak order crossings into Gaza closed for two days, at which point he will re-evaluate.

Sorry, this is not exactly being tough. In fact, it’s pathetic.


According to a MEMRI dispatch, Iran is threatening, if attacked, to close the Straits of Hormuz, through which millions of gallons of oil move daily.


It has made news in an Italian paper, Corriere della Sera, that a former Italian president, Francesco Cossiga, admits that for a period of time some years ago the Italian government had a deal with Palestinian terrorists: they could roam freely in Italy and use Italy as a base of operations, as long as nothing was directed against the Italians. Real appeasement. And while here it is being admitted openly, this sort of thing has occurred in many countries.


There is considerable concern, at long last, about water shortages here in Israel. What is not well enough known is how much water has illicitly been siphoned off by Arabs, especially in Judea, south of Jerusalem: 3 million cubic meters a year. Until now nothing was done about this — why?? — but finally the Civil Administration is beginning to act.

The theft takes place when Arabs hook piping to the main lines used to transport water to Jewish communities. Some 50,000 kilometers of piping have been confiscated, and that’s a small percentage of what exists.


Some political game-playing: Kadima activists David Schwartz and Hussein Suleiman have filed a petition with Kadima to stop the primary for party leader that was to be held in September because of irregularities in how the decision to hold the vote was originally taken. Party leaders are saying this is a technicality only and a re-vote on the election will be taken so that matters can proceed.

Suleiman, who is close to Olmert, admitted freely that a chief goal in doing this was to keep Olmert in office longer.


In polls Livni is running well ahead of her closest contender, Shaul Mofaz, to head the Kadima party next. Both Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter and Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit have entered the race but are far behind. Olmert — who is passionate in his hatred for Livni at this point — has declared Sheetrit as his first choice to succeed him as party head. Suleiman was reportedly hoping to buy time for Sheetrit to garner strength in the party campaign.

There are speculations that if Livni wins leadership of the party she might opt to go to elections. For the first time recently she has come out ahead of Netanyahu in some polls.


Hurray for us! Israeli sailor Shahar Zubari won a bronze medal in men’s windsurfing in the Olympics today.


This too, announced by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is lovely: A 2,600 year old clay seal impression (bulla) bearing the name Gedaliah ben Pashur has recently been uncovered completely intact during archeological excavations in Jerusalem’s ancient City of David, located just below the walls of the Old City near the Dung Gate. The name appears in the Book of Jeremiah (38:1).

“It is not very often that such a discovery happens in which real figures of the past shake off the dust of history and so vividly revive the stories of the Bible,” said Dr. Eilat Mazar of the Hebrew University who is leading the dig.




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