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July 6, 2009: The Saudis and Iran

August 5, 2009

The Sunday Times (London) reported two days ago that Mossad head Meir Dagan has assured Prime Minister Netanyahu that Saudi Arabia would allow Israel’s jets to fly over the kingdom in an action against Iran. According to this report, Dagan had met with the Saudis on this issue earlier in the year.

Our government, however, swiftly denied the report. It was, said the prime minister’s office, “thoroughly incorrect and baseless.”

Does this mean it isn’t true? Perhaps, but not necessarily. There is some logic to thinking that Saudi Arabia — which is alarmed by Iran’s nuclear efforts — would not stand in the way of our attempts to eliminate that threat. Such are the games being played, however, that the Saudis would never publicly admit to even passively cooperating with Israel against a Muslim state. Perish the thought! And so, part of the understanding would require us to deny that there had been any cooperative communication with the Saudis.


Former US ambassador to the UN, John Bolton, who recently met with Arab leaders in the Gulf, weighed in with similar thoughts:

“None of them [Arab leaders] would say anything about it publicly, but they would certainly acquiesce in an overflight if the Israelis didn’t trumpet it as a big success.”

In fact, said Bolton, while these leaders would be privately relieved they would condemn Israel at the UN.


This Arab reluctance to in any way show predisposition towards Israel or to admit having cooperated with Israel is both a sign of the on-going Arab-Israeli conflict and a cause of it.

Last week I wrote about Congressman Wexler and his promises of “normalization” with the Arab nations if we would only take the “tiny, tiny” step of freezing settlements. A day after his interview appeared in The Jerusalem Post, the paper ran an editorial, “Calling their bluff,” which ended with this:

“Let Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Special Envoy George Mitchell make their normalization calls on the Arabs publicly, and with the same zeal that has characterized their calls for a settlement freeze.”

Enough of the secret back-door whispering. We are here to stay in this part of the world, we are a legitimate sovereign nation. It’s time this was acknowledged.

Thus, in my opinion, is Netanyahu’s demand that we be recognized as a Jewish state important.


On Sunday, Obama sent a letter to Morocco, seeking the assistance of that nation in normalizing relations with Israel and promoting the “peace process.” Why Morocco? Because Morocco’s King Mohammed VI already has warm relations with us and is outside the norm for Arab nations. This sort of doesn’t count.

There is not going to be anything parallel from Saudi Arabia. Their claim is that they’ve done enough by sponsoring the “peace initiative” of 2002 — which calls for normalization if we pull back to ’67 lines, take refugees and all the rest.

David Weinberg, of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, says that then-Crown Prince Abdullah first spoke to The New York Times about this in 2001 after 9/11, when the reputation of the Saudis was, shall we say, a bit sullied. It was a shrewd PR attempt to create an image of Saudis as “peacemakers” and not terrorists. By 2002, the terms had hardened.

And now, says Weinberg, “According to news reports, Washington can’t seem to squeeze any commitments about normalization from the Saudis, even if Israel freezes all settlement activity and paints the Jerusalem Old City walls in the Saudi national colors.”


This leads us full circle to the question of whether the Saudis would allow us to fly in their air space on our way to bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities. We don’t know. But there remains the possibility that the Saudis fear Iran more than they hate us.


Meanwhile Israel has begun a push for an international back-up plan should the US efforts at negotiations with Iran fail. “Should”? That’s polite diplomat talk. The more honest word is “when.”

Say our diplomats, a plan for “paralyzing sanctions” has to be in place before that day arrives, and work on drafting the sanctions must begin immediately.

But the Obama administration — heaven help us! — is not cooperating. You see, if Teheran gets word that the US is working on these sanctions, say US diplomats, then the Iranian leaders will know the US isn’t serious about advancing talks. And so, even though the US diplomats don’t think chances of success in negotiations with Iran are good, they don’t want to reduce the possibilities.

What more can possibly be said about this reasoning?


Meanwhile, I believe we’re seeing a certain amount of muscle-flexing by our military:

Recently, in a change in policy, we sent an advanced Dolphin-class submarine through the Suez Canal to participate in maneuvers in the Red Sea.

And there is news that our air force will be taking part in a joint aerial exercise with an unnamed NATO state, and will be participating in an exercise at a Nevada air force base. In addition, we will be involved in a competition at an air force base in Washington state. A major focus of all of this is drilling for long-range maneuvers.


Vice President Biden, in an ABC TV interview on Sunday, was asked if the US would stand in our way if Israel decided to take out Iran’s nuclear capacity. His answer:

“[The US] cannot dictate to another sovereign nation what they can and cannot do.

“Israel can determine for itself — it’s a sovereign nation — what’s in their interest and what they decide to do relative to Iran and anyone else.”

I think I detect a subtle softening of the US position here — perhaps because the prospect of success in negotiations with Iran is dim. Although this still doesn’t tell us if the US would object to our flying over Iraq, or whether there might be some secondary back-up in a crunch.


I cannot leave this subject, however, without sharing a perceptive comment by a friend of mine here:

“Interesting how V.P. Biden can say that Israel is a sovereign state and can do whatever is in its interests when it comes to removing Iran’s nuclear facilities, but not when it comes to building a few more structures in Judea and Samaria and, by the way, the eastern part of Jerusalem.” (Thanks, Judith)


This brings us, then, back to the subject of settlements and the US — a subject that is likely to be on-going for a long time.

On Friday, Ron Dermer, a “good guy” who is Netanyahu’s director for policy planning, gave an interview to the Post. In a great many respects I found it a good piece. He insists, for example, that Israel hasn’t “hoodwinked” the US with regard to settlements, we’ve been very above board.

But I want to focus here on a statement he made that unsettles me. “There is a huge gap,” he said, “between the conversation that takes place in the press on the settlements and what is said in the diplomatic arena…” His point is that the media have blown the issue out of proportion. His argument — clearly the Netanyahu line — is that the US-Israel relationship is so strong that if there is disagreement on just one issue the media focus on it.


My response to this is that it sounds like a regrettable attempt to make light of what is truthfully a very serious issue between the US and Israel — an attempt to show how great our relations with the US still are.

I would challenge this on several fronts. But what strikes me as most obvious is that it has been Obama and his administration and not the media that have focused inordinately on the issue of settlements. Of all of the things he might have spoken about, he chose this subject to pressure us about in his Cairo talk. He set the tone, and it was continued in the misrepresentation of Hilary, who claimed there was no agreement between Israel and the US with regard to continued building.

I don’t want to see this issue minimized. And I don’t want to think this is a set-up, preparing us for an “arrangement” on the issue of settlements arrived at between our government and our “good friends” in Washington.

As I’ve said before, and will continue to say: Our right to build in Judea and Samaria goes to the very heart of our right to maintain a presence in the land that is the foundation of our ancient heritage. It is also a matter of legal right from the time of the Mandate in 1922.


I strongly recommend Yisrael Medad’s article from the LA Times, “In defense of ‘settlements'”:



MK Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) is a freshman in the Knesset and one great up-and-coming lady.


She has now initiated a letter to Netanyahu, signed by Likud right-wingers. It says:
“We Likud MKs are turning to you due to reports that you would agree to freeze settlement growth temporarily in parts of Judea and Samaria, despite our promise to the voters to continue building in the settlements. The Likud has always been in favor of natural development in Judea and Samaria, including during the election campaign.

“As Likud members, we cannot support a two state solution on principle. [Such a solution] is neither possible, nor proper, due to the moral right of the Jewish people to the land and for security reasons. Saying otherwise delegitimizes the Israeli struggle for the land.”

“Among those who signed it,” according to press reports, were deputy minister Ayoub Kara and Danny Danon, Miri Regev, Tzion Pinyan, Carmel Shama and Yariv Levin. Perhaps I can learn more about the entire list of those who signed it (although perhaps some signatories consider this a private communication at this point).

At any rate, I can only be pleased by this news. If Netanyahu is going to be kept honest on these issues, it will be because Likud faction members are speaking out. Signatory Yariv Levin said that this “gentle” communication was a first warning to Netanyahu that the patience of those who signed the letter was wearing thin.


At the Knesset faction meeting today, signatory Danny Danon — who is strongly principled and feisty — said that Netanyahu had “defrauded” Likud voters by supporting a Palestinian state, which is opposed by a majority of Likud members and MKs — as well as by a majority of the country.

Netanyahu responded, according to the Post, that “his statements in favor of a demilitarized Palestinian state had led to key diplomatic achievements, including the Quartet calling on the Palestinians to declare an end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as part of a peace agreement.”

That’s what the Post says he said. But I read it and ask, did he really say this? Wouldn’t a peace agreement — if it were genuine — have to include an end to the conflict? He considers it an achievement that he got the Quartet to call for this? If there were acknowledgement that we have a right to build in the settlements, and to retain settlement blocs in any final agreement, that would be a diplomatic achievement.

Mr. Prime Minister, you’re looking rather lame.


One passing note in closing. Right-wingers, nationalists, such as Danny Danon, are routinely referred to in the media (which tilts left) as “hawks.” This offends me. A “hawk” is war-like. People who seek to defend our rights as a Jewish nation are not war-like. Quite the contrary: we are more likely to end up with war if we cave and surrender our rights and appease.

The reverse has also bothered me for years: Far left groups are referred to as “the peace camp.” What? Because we refuse to give away our land this means we are against peace? The philosophy of “Peace Now” will never lead to genuine peace.


“The Good News Corner”

The Israel Antiquities Authority has announced the discovery on Shmuel HaNavi Street in Jerusalem of a huge quarry that was used in Second Temple times. Dr. Ofer Sion, who is the excavation director, believes that, “The stones that were quarried here were used by Herod to build the walls of the Temple.”

What has been uncovered — as part of required routine exploration prior to construction — is actually a small part of a series of quarries across Jerusalem that actually lowered the topography in the area around the Old City.

The project — which according to ancient historian Josephus took eight years — boggles the mind. More than 10,000 people were trained for this work. Hundreds of thousands of stones were quarried, some as large as three meters by two meters by two meters. The stones were transported in a variety of ways, including by use of rolling wooden structures drawn by camels.

For further information and pictures: www.antiquities.org.il/about_eng.asp?Modul_id=14




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