“Back to Normal” (whatever “normal” means)
Some days ago, I had shared with my readers the fact that there would be a hiatus in my writing both for personal reasons and because of a major project. As to the personal reasons, I am functioning without major distraction now but advise you that, down the road, I may again be focused on other matters for a period of time during which I will not be posting.
As to the major project: I look forward eagerly to sharing the details in a day or two, in a posting devoted primarily to this.
Today’s posting will be, as I indicated, “normal.”
What strikes me is that in the duration of time during which I have not been posting, nothing of major significance has shifted. It’s essentially more of the same, with slight variations and permutations. The same nonsense. The same outrage.
One on-going source of outrage is the manner in which an anti-Israel EU is conducting itself. And so I would like to begin by sharing a part of Caroline Glick’s column from this past week, entitled, “Israel’s European challenge.” Writes Glick (emphasis added):
“…In mid-September, the IDF enforced a High Court of Justice order to destroy 250 structures built illegally by Palestinian squatters in the Jordan Valley. The High Court acted in accordance with the agreements signed between the Palestinians and Israel. Those agreements gave Israel sole control over planning and zoning in the Jordan Valley and throughout the area of Judea and Samaria defined in Area C.
“Five days after the IDF destroyed the illegal structures, Palestinian activists arrived at the site with tents. Their intention was to act in contempt of the law and the agreements the PLO signed with Israel, and to resettle the site.
“The Palestinians did not come alone. They were accompanied by European diplomats. The diplomats were there to provide diplomatic cover to the Palestinians as they broke the law and breached the agreements PLO signed with the Israeli government.
“This would have been bad enough, but in the event, one European diplomat, Marion Castaing, the cultural attache at the French Consulate in Jerusalem, decided that her job didn’t end with providing diplomatic cover for lawbreakers. She joined them. She punched an Israeli border policeman in the face.
“Rather than apologize to Israel for using European diplomats to support Palestinians engaged in criminal activity, and for Castaing’s shocking violence against an Israeli soldier lawfully performing his duties, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton attacked Israel.
“Ashton called the tents, presumably paid for by European taxpayers, ‘humanitarian assistance’ and declared, ‘The EU deplores the confiscation of humanitarian assistance carried out by Israeli security forces yesterday in Khirbat al-Makhul.’
“‘EU representatives have already contacted the Israeli authorities to demand an explanation and expressed their concern at the incident. The EU underlines the importance of unimpeded delivery of humanitarian assistance and the applicability of international humanitarian law in the occupied Palestinian territories,’ Ashton said.
“The EU’s role in financing illegal Palestinian building efforts in the Jordan Valley is not unique. For some time, in contempt of Israeli law and the arrangements signed between Israel and the PLO, the EU has been financing illegal building by Arabs in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem.
“What was new in last month’s incident was the deployment of European diplomats at the scene to provide diplomatic cover for Palestinian law-breakers…
“In recent months, there has been a palpable escalation of European hostility toward Israel…”
“Outrage” is a fairly apt description of what transpired here — what continues to transpire. The Europeans are growing increasing blatant in their anti-Israel positions. There is nothing subtle about their behavior. And please note that they fall back upon allusions to “international humanitarian law” when criticizing Israel. That’s the standard: Anyone, at any time, can refer to “international humanitarian law,” but this in no way means that such law genuinely applies.
Glick tracks what she sees as the cause of the heighted EU hostility to Israel, much of it economic in nature.
But that hostility transcends economic issues and can be tracked back for some time. It incorporates hypocrisy and a double standard applied to Israel alone.
“Consider,” says Glick, “Europe’s position on Israeli communities built beyond the 1949 armistice lines. Europe wrongly asserts that these communities are illegal. But even if they were right, Europe’s behavior toward Israel would still make a mockery of its proclaimed devotion to international law. Europe has no problem, indeed it has actively supported settlements for citizens of belligerent occupying powers in areas ruled through occupation. As Profs. Avi Bell and Eugene Kantorovich from the Kohelet Policy Forum explained in a recent paper on the EU’s guidelines, the EU supports settlements by occupying powers in Northern Cyprus, Abkazia and Western Sahara. In light of this, it is clear that the guidelines directed against Israel are inherently discriminatory.
“The EU’s supposed commitment to international law is similarly exposed as a sham by its willingness to turn a blind eye to the Palestinian Authority’s diversion of EU monies to finance terrorism. Despite mountains of evidence accumulated over the past 13 years that aid is being siphoned off to finance terrorist attacks against Israel, the EU has refused to take action. And its refusal to act is itself a breach of international law.”
It is time, says Glick, to begin confronting the truth on these issues and stop giving a free pass to those “who distort the very meaning of international law while making empty proclamations of support for the cause of peace.”
This is information — and a perspective — that every supporter of Israel should have access to.
Another running theme is that of Iran’s race to become a nuclear power, and the refusal of the nations negotiating with Iran to put a stop to what is imminent.
Perhaps at some time in the near future I’ll be motivated to discuss details once again. But for me now it all seems so wearisome, so “been-there-done-that.” The bottom line is that everything that is being discussed is a half-way measure that won’t stop Iran. As PM Netanyahu continues to point out, nothing short of the dismantlement of Iran’s nuclear development capability will work. The Iranian offer to stop enriching at higher levels is meaningless if the equipment that would permit them to do so is still in their possession: In a matter of weeks they could (would, as they wished) be up and running again.
And I hasten to point out here, that when it’s said that the sanctions are working, that is not really so — or is only relatively so. The Iranians are in an economic bind and hope to have sanctions eased, undoubtedly. But please note that they have not stopped their program because of those sanctions. (See Ajami on this below.)
Fouad Ajami offers an analysis of the situation — both with regard to Obama’s position on Iran and on Syria — in the Wall Street Journal (emphasis added):
“…The remarkable thing about President Obama’s diplomacy in the region is that it has come full circle—to the very beginning of his presidency. The promised ‘opening’ to Iran, the pass given to Bashar Assad’s tyranny in Syria, the abdication of the American gains in Iraq and a reflexive unease with Israel—these were hallmarks of the new president’s approach to foreign policy.
“Now we are simply witnessing the alarming consequences of such a misguided, naïve outlook. [Note from Arlene: do not write to me to tell me that Obama is not naive, please. This is an Ajami quote, and he makes his case.]
“Consider this bit of euphoria from a senior Obama administration official after the Oct. 16-17 negotiations in Geneva with the Iranians over their nuclear program: ‘I’ve been doing this now for about two years, and I have never had such intense, detailed, straightforward, candid conversations with the Iranian delegation before.’
“…True, the sanctions have had their own power, but they haven’t stopped Iran from aiding the murderous Assad regime in Syria, or subsidizing Hezbollah in Beirut. And they will not dissuade this regime from its pursuit of nuclear weapons. In dictatorial regimes, the pain of sanctions is passed onto the underclass and the vulnerable.
“…The gullibility of Mr. Obama’s pursuit of an opening with Iran has unsettled America’s allies in the region. In Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates there is a powerful feeling of abandonment. In Israel, there is the bitter realization that America’s strongest ally in region is now made to look like the final holdout against a blissful era of compromise that will calm a turbulent region. A sound U.S. diplomatic course with Iran would never have run so far ahead of Israel’s interests and of the region’s moderate anti-Iranian Arab coalition.”
The last paragraph I cite above is significant on two counts: The news here is filled with reports of the severe disillusionment of Saudi Arabia — the anger at Obama’s failure to come through.
For example, from Reuters:
“Saudi Arabia’s warning that it will downgrade its relationship with the United States is based on a fear that President Barack Obama lacks both the mettle and the guile to confront mutual adversaries, and is instead handing them a strategic advantage.
“Riyadh is locked in what it sees as a pivotal battle over the fate of the Middle East with its arch-rival Iran, a country it believes is meddling in the affairs of allies and seeking to build a nuclear bomb, charges Tehran denies.
“The kingdom’s intelligence chief, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, has told European diplomats that Riyadh is contemplating a ‘major shift’ away from the United States over Washington’s policies on a host of issues including Syria.”
And Ajami is on the mark, indeed, with the fact that here in Israel, where we get it right, we deeply resent being represented as a stumbling block to a peaceful settlement with Iran, a “warmonger,” facing down the US’s “peaceful” approach.
There continues to be a very real dispute between the US and Israel with regard to how much time there remains before Iran has nuclear capabilities, i.e., the ability to put together a bomb should its leaders decide to.
David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security and a former inspector with the IAEA, has released a new assessment estimating that “Iran could produce enough weapons-grade uranium to build a nuclear bomb in as little as a month.
“The new assessment comes as the White House invited Senate staffers to a briefing on negotiations with Iran as it is trying to persuade Congress not to go ahead with a bill to stiffen sanctions against Iran.” (All emphasis added)
Israeli assessments (roughly, “months away”) are much closer to the Albright estimate than to what Obama is gambling on. Obama is playing with fire of the most dangerous and lethal sort.
The heart of the matter is the question of what Netanyahu will finally decide to do, and when — after all his warnings are ignored and the world sails blithely towards a nuclear Iran.
Last week, the New Republic ran a major interview with Amos Yadlin, former head of IDF intelligence and presently head of the Institute of National Security Studies. Yadlin flew one of the planes that attacked the Iraqi reactor. (All emphasis added)
Says Yadlin: “I supported [Netanyahu and Barak] on the notion that if we come to the fork in the road [on Iran], where we have to choose between very tough alternatives—the ‘bomb’ or the ‘bombing’—I’m with the prime minister, for the bombing.”
Many people, he goes on to say, thought that 2012 was the year in which Israel had to attack. He did not. But he suggests that 2014 is. He believes Israel should go as long as possible in giving diplomacy that chance. But then…
“Israel doesn’t need America on D-Day. It can do it alone. It even can cope with the day after, but it does need the United States for the decade after.
“…even the most successful operation theoretically—theoretically—will stop the program for five years. If you want to make these five engineering theoretical years into a decade, until the regime changes, you need the U.S. on board, with the continuation of sanctions, with leading the international campaign against the renewal of the nuclear program in Iran, and maybe supporting [Israel] in doing it again. So that’s why I think 2012 was the wrong year to do it, because in 2012, it was a bright red light from Washington. I would like to emphasize, Israel is not asking for a green light. Israel only doesn’t want to do something that is going 180 degrees against American vital interests as long as it is not a response to a threat that is almost an existential threat. I think in late 2013 or early 2014, especially if America sees that Iran is not serious about reaching an acceptable agreement and only continues to buy time, the U.S. will accept an Israeli attack because a nuclear Iran is absolutely against American vital national security interests…
“The coming year is a special challenge because the Iranians are now very close. They may be able to produce a bomb faster than intelligence can detect that they are breaking out or sneaking out. And the breakout time may be shorter than the time necessary for the decisions and planning and execution of an operation that can stop it. This is what is unique here. ‘You cannot live with a nuclear Iran,’ that’s was decided long ago, But in the coming year, the probability of affirmative answers to all four fundamental questions [that must be asked regarding possibility of success] will be higher than it has ever been…
“[To those who say Israel cannot do it] I say that they ignore history. The same people also thought that we couldn’t destroy the Arab air forces in ‘67. They thought we couldn’t make it to Entebbe and free the hostages in 1976. They thought it was impossible to strike the reactor in Iraq. They thought we couldn’t destroy the Syrian air defenses in the Bekaa Valley in 1982. There’s a lot they thought Israel couldn’t do.”
Yadlin is confident that Israel can do it. Period. “It is doable…My confidence level is quite high. We have been building the force and practicing for this day for years.”
He then addressed the issue of probability of success — with that probability dropping as Iran does more to secure its facilities. Right now he thinks the probability is still quite high — 95% — but that indeed it will be dropping.
As to Netanyahu: “The prime minister is not bluffing. It is the main issue he cares about. He thinks that stopping Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons is the most important issue for the future of the State of Israel. And he hasn’t changed.”
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.
If it is reproduced and emphasis is added, the fact that it has been added must be noted.