Tag Archives: Isreal

An Update on Israel

 

Change is in the air.

 

A number of incidents have occurred lately that didn’t make headlines in America. They aren’t earth shaking events, but might help you keep abreast of the times are unfolding. Change occurs in the Middle East at the speed of light. Consequently, the more we know, the better we are to judge the situation and make sound judgements.

Were you aware that Russian President Vladimir Putin dropped in for a visit this summer? While the occasion was more of a state formality with a dedication of a war memorial, it is interesting that the country with a hard history of antisemitism should have the newly elected president drop by for a chat. My guess is that the stop-by represents a recognition of the importance of Israel in the world scene and a concern for an attack on Iran (one of Russia’s allies). If so, Putin got an earful. Both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres made it clear that in their view nuclear weapons in the hands of the Iranians remained a threat to Israel and the world. Putin said nothing, but got the message. However, there’s no change with Vadim.

Russia continues to oppose more sanctions against Iran while supplying weapons to Syria (calling them defensive armaments). They have also used their veto power to shield the Assad regime.

While in Israel, Putin helped unveil a monument to the Red Army’s defeat of Nazi Germany. Such remembrances are important because of the enormous price the Soviet Union paid in World War II. Over a half million Jews fought in the Soviet Army and 120,000 were killed. The idea for the monument began with Netanyahu two years ago when he proposed the commemoration to Putin.

On a different front, the former financial adviser to Yasser Arafat Muhammad Rashid revealed that Fatah had a secret bank account in Jordan amounting to $39 million. When Arafat died, he was one of the wealthiest men in the world with a monthly allowance to his wife in Paris of $100,000 a month. Three billion dollars disappeared and has not been found to this date. Rashid stated that only Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and two of his associates could access the account. He challenged Abbas to admit this fact because he had longed denied the existence of such an account. After a long-standing battled with the PA leadership, Rashid has threatened to expose corruption and scandal involving Abbas.

Change? Well, the covers are being thrown back. Seems the Palestinian Authority continues to deal under the table just as Arafat did.

Here’s another surprise for you. East Jerusalem Arabs are increasingly applying for Israeli citizenship. Forty-six years ago, the Six Day War (Yom Kippur War) exploded and the citizenship of East Jerusalem shifted. Because King Hussein claimed the rights to the West Bank and the PLO called these Arabs Palestinians, they ended up in effect non-citizens. Today, 260,000 east Jerusalemites are still non-citizens. A high number of this group were born in Israel, speak Hebrew, and have been virtually absorbed into Israeli society. Today an increasing number are convinced no change will every occur and are applying for Israeli citizenship. The idea of a Palestinian may never be resolved. The status quo isn’t relevant to this group.

Change is moving right along.

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TALKING OUT OF BOTH SIDES OF OUR MOUTH U.S. CONCERNS AND THE MIDDLE EAST

TALKING OUT OF BOTH SIDES OF OUR MOUTH

U.S. CONCERNS AND THE MIDDLE EAST

 

WHAT’S WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE?

            Pictures of the Syrian Army’s air fleet always feature Russian Mi-25 Hinds. Russia has been supplying helicopters to Syria for years and continues to do so. Back in June, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed concern to the Russians that they were shipping gun ships to the Assad regime in Syria.

Did her complain stop them?  No.

Herein is a strange little story and a big contradiction.

The United States continues to develop and maintain lucrative contracts with Rosoboronexport, a Russian arms firm that has the main role in supplying the Assad government with the arms to repress the rebels fighting the central government. What make this story particularly interesting is that Rosoboronexport is not a private business. Far from it, the company is a state corporation.  Since 2007, the organization has been the single state intermediary agency for arms shipments. The records of arms shipments made it clear that the port of Oktyabrsk in Southern Ukraine has been sending ship loads of armaments straight to Syria.

Get ready for an amazing and straight little twist in this tale. The US government is currently committed to a $375 million deal with Rosoboronexport for the purchase of 21 Mi-17 helicopters to be used by the Afghan Air Force. The latest transactions with the Russian company were made on November 3, 2011.

This particular contract didn’t go unnoticed. A letter from both Republican and democrat senators to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta demanded a cancellation of the contracts. Pentagon Under-Secretary James Miller rejected the senator’s letter, saying the helicopter acquisition was critical for the Afghan’s security.

Huh?

Doing business with the country propping up Syria is critical?  With millions of Americans out of work, we can’t built a comparable helicopter in America? Even if it is easier to train pilots on a Russian system, can this investment of American dollars be justified in today’s economy while we scream about Syrian atrocities created by this exact helicopter? Something’s definitely wrong with this picture.

By the way Rosoboronexport still sells weapons to Iran.

Back in 1982, Jack Lemon and Sissy Spacek made a movie entitled Missing, based on a true story. A conservative business man goes to South America looking for his missing son, a left-wing journalist. The America ambassador expresses concern but the country has been in a revolution and no one is sure about what is happening. The punch line is that the CIA pulled off the revolution and killed Lemon’s movie son. The boy had been in a morgue while the American government lied to Lemon. Costa-Gravas (the director) left the audience wrung out as they realize the duplicity of the American system.

Sound familiar?

Are we getting the flim-flam treatment from government leaders? Afraid so. And we wonder why Israel doesn’t trust America’s dealings with Iran? Straight talk doesn’t often come for Washington because the conversation has traveled such a convoluted path under the table.

Why don’t we have more leverage with Russia? Might hurt business.

Question: This blog surprise you? What are you going to do about the problem?

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MAKING SENSE OUT OF ISRAEL TODAY

MAKING SENSE OUT OF ISRAEL TODAY

            Recently, a friend who follows this blog ask me to evaluate Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. As I explained how different and complicated the Israel political system is, I remembered a statement the the Prime Minister once made to President Bill Clinton. “Mr. President, you know that Israel has very few friends, and these Evangelical Christian leaders are the best friends that Israel has in all the world.”

No matter what else one says about the Prime Minister, he certainly knows who he can count on.

Often identifying themselves as “Christian Zionists,” this large and significant group support Israel with financial, political, and spiritual influence. When any attack comes, these Evangelicals are ready to respond … and will!

In the present political environment, disillusionment with the current American administration may have a significant effect on how these Evangelicals vote in the fall. Obama is not a popular figure in Israel and is currently blamed for failure to act decisively. Christian Zionists attacked Secretary of State Clinton for having a Moslem aide, Huma Abedin. They fear the administration may have ties to the Moselm Brotherhood and display a lack of balance toward Israel in the United Nations. While the opposition would oppose many of these accusations, they may still effect Evangelical voters as the fall approaches. Regardless of who is elected, Evangelical Christians argue they will remain the most valuable asset Israel has in America.

Netanyahu understands this fact and will not be shy about using their influence.

At the same time, other voices fear that Israel may be faced with the specter of a “fading democracy.” Former speaker of the Knesset and the chairman of Molad, the Center for Renewnal of Democracy recently expressed such fears in the August 5, 2012 edition of The New York Times.  Burg deplored recent comments in Israel by the Republican presidential candidate urging Israel to strike Iran. Burg perceives such talk as reflective of a shift in both countries, moving away from mutually positive values toward a new set of interests in bombs, fear, and war. Brug worries Netayahu is bending toward the pressure applied by a fundamentalist coalition within Israel.

Israel began as a secular democratic country framing its hopes by the example of Western European democracies. Avraham Burg believes this motivation has shifted because the most extreme Orthodox groups lean hard on the government. Any observer can see that the country has become less secular and is now defined far more in religious terms, The country is also less modern. He writes, “the winds of isolation and narrowness are blowing through Israel.”

How the nation of Israel deals with the creation of a Palestinian state will possible provide the answer for which way Israel is going. Coercion and indifference toward other people’s right could radically derail the country. Israel is standing at an extremely important crossroads. All of which brings us back to Benjamin Netanyahu and the caliber of job he is doing.

The real answer lies in the decisions he makes about Israel’s destiny. The issue is much larger than simply bombing Iran.  Does Iran have it coming if they start building a bomb? Of course. But the fate of the nation is much more complex than Mitt Romney understands. It’s time for genuine soul searching in the Prime Minister’s office. (585 words)

Question: What can be done to keep the exteme Orthodox from turning Israel into a Jewish expression  of the same factors than control a country like Iran?

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MIDDLE EAST UPDATE- PART II

During my just completed trip to Israel, I traveled the country from the Syrian and Lebanese boarders to the Dead Sea. I remember when the salty water nearly bordered the highway. Currently, it has been reduced hundreds of yards. Israeli tourist still go down to the shores to sit in the sun or to take medicinal mud baths, but the sea level has become frighteningly low. Discussions are underway to increase the Dead Sea, including an idea to pump water from the Mediterrean. The problem is that the use of water from the Jordan River has decreased to allow little return to the lowest point on earth.
Just a little tidbit for my ecological minded friends.
Here’s the most recent update on the political front.
The Palestinian Authority has just proposed new informal talks with Israel. Before the talks can actually being, Israel must meet two conditions. The Palestinians are calling for the release of more prisoners and the importing of more weapons for the security forces in the West Bank. Abbas and Netanyahu have not met face to face since September 2010.
In response, the Israeli Prime Minister’s office said Netanyahu would meet for informal talks anywhere any time without any preconditions. In addition, Israeli officials said they were not aware of any shortage of weapons among Palestinian security personnel. Just two weeks ago, Israel released the bodies of dead terrorist for burial in Palestinians territories.
What’s going on here?
For some time, the Palestinians have been attempting to criminalize Israel. Everything Israel does is slammed with the intention of attaching labels of provocateurs, terrorists, and criminals. While the Palestinians would not admit it publically, prisoners held in Israel have been terrorist. In other words, without saying it, the Palestinians are admitting their people have been attacking the state of Israel. Quite the opposite of what they want to admit publically.
Secondly, asking for Israel to allow more weapons into the West Bank is an admission of how tightly Israel has been able to clamp down on weapon shipments. The PA is definitely in a defensive position and they know it.
In addition, the PA still maintains its original posture, that Israel must cease building settlements in disputed areas before genuine negotiations can begin for a peace settlement. They know Israel will not accept these terms as a pre-condition for talks. In other words, the PA continues to stall while attempting to appear ready to negotiate.

Long ago this strategy was played out by Yasher Arafat. As was revealed the last time Arafat walked out of negotiations, the PA has no intention of coming to terms with a peace agreement. As Abba Ebon once observed. “the Arabs never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.” The reason is simple. Palestinians will settle for nothing short of Israel being pushed into the sea. Rather than peace; they want conquest.
And what happens while they wait? Israel continues to prosper. The Palestinians languish in their own limitations. Will this current call to launch dialogue go anywhere? My hunch is that it is a shot at influencing world opinion to believe the PA is a peace-minded organization. Sorry, it is probably not worthy of inclusion in the media.

Question:
Can the PA even be believed … or trusted?

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Middle East Update

MIDDLE EAST UPDATE
Having just returned from Israel, I bring responses from the local scene. Landing in Tel Aviv immediately tells one that Israel is on the move. When I first came to Israel in l968, it was an entirely different country. One had to drive some distance to get to Tel Aviv. Not anymore! The city is a thriving metropolis that now virtually abuts the airport with skyscrapers shooting up into the sky! Israel is going forward.
However, concern remains.
Israel has never made claims against Iran. Nevertheless, the president of Iran continues to threaten the annihilation of Israel. The tension is like having your next door neighbor sitting on his roof with a machine gun aimed at your backyard. Here’s the problem.
United Nations atomic inspectors have indicated Iran now possesses enough enriched uranium to make four atom bombs. They have discovered that the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty has a loophole Iran is pushing. The treaty sets no limits on the level of enrichment purity. It only bars nations from converting civilian efforts into military use. Iran claims they are doing nothing barred by treaty obligations. A nuclear physicist with the Federation of American Scientists recently said, “Iran is raising eyebrows. But what it’s doing is a concern –not illegal.”
Try explaining that over coffee to an Israeli! They won’t buy the story!
Israelis know about the reality of life inside Iran.
Because of Western sanctions, factories are beginning to be forced to close or reduce production. Prodigious economic pain is generating discontent. Prices are high and manufacturing difficult. One producer of thread and textiles recently admitted that sanctions have aggravated pre-existing economic difficulties. In the June 17, 2012 edition of the New York Times, Nicholas Kristoff reported his findings after making a 1,700 mile trip through Iran. He discovered that the backlash of sanctions has produced anger with Iran’s leadership. Local citizens blame their own officials for the local problems. The average Iranian is far more focused on loss of work and income than they are on the fading hopes raised by the nuclear program.

As recent demonstrations revealed, Iran has a serious split in its own society. Many, many of the younger citizens are not buying what the Ayatollahs are selling. Their interest lies in a healthy open society rather than an imposed Moslem state. In this sense, sanctions appear to be working. This success raises questions about a military strike from Israel. Israeli’s understand this issue.

Talking with Israeli leaders revealed the heartfelt hope that sanctions will end the crisis and the IDF (Israeli Defense Force) will not have to strike. No one wants military actions if it can be avoided. On the other hand, they live with the motto “Never Again.” I found no hesitancy to strike if it becomes necessary.
IDF Chief of Staff Lt. General Benn Gantz offered strong reasons why Israel must be ready to strike immediately if necessary. He indicated that they are “super-ready” to strike if there is no progress in the current nuclear discussions with Iran. Gantz maintains total confidence in the air force and intelligence.

Of course, Iran has to be aware of Gantz’s remarks and that too poses an additional pressure on their position.

The bottom line? I found an expectation that confrontations are ahead. Let’s hope Iran realizes they are the ones hanging in the balance.

Question:
How long can Israel afford to wait?
Should America increase the economic pressure on Iran to provide a faster answer?

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THE PROBLEM WITH THE UNITED NATIONS

THE PROBLEM WITH THE UNITED NATIONS

I grew up hearing about the evils of fluoride in the water to prevent cavities and the United Nations as a Communist plot. The Joe McCarty faction propagated the idea there was a Communist hiding under every bed and you better watch out or Joe Stalin would grab you in the middle of the night. Fortunately, those days are gone with the wind.
Consequently, saying anything negative about the U.N. always seemed to come from the fanatic fringe of society. Therefore, it’s with reluctance that I bring up a subject that troubles many citizens in Israel. Nevertheless, the average Israeli is not only leery, but hostile about anything good coming out of the U.N. for their country.
Why the antagonism?
Let’s take a second look at recent events. On October 31, 2012, “Palestine” was voted into the UNESCO as the organization’s 195th member. A huge cheer erupted in the General Assembly room of the Paris-based UN educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The US, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, and Israel voted against it. China, Russia, and Brazil voted yes. Britain could only abstain.
Israel saw the vote as another lamentable example of the moral bankruptcy of the world organization. In a rush to support the Palestinians, the UN disregarded it own declared standards based on equality and mutual respect. The world organization (UNESCO) had clearly swung its weight behind Palestine in their struggle with Israel when the issues were only still in the discussion stage. Why would they do such at thing?
For years the radical extremist wing of Islam has worked to criminalize Israel. Distorting reality and the facts, they have attempted to paint Israeli attempts at self-protection as aggression. In Jimmy Carter’s failed book claiming Israel’s wall of protection was apartheid, he echoed the same line. The point is that many of the United Nations general assembly members have swallowed this same propaganda. Those member nations push this viewpoint in UN debates and oppose Israel on similar prejudicial grounds.
Some years ago, I was invited to deliver a lecture at the University of Amman in Amman, Jordan. I attempted to present an objective view of the history of the development of the nation of Israel and how prior conflict had developed. Some of the students became so angry they avoided the class and some completely dropped out of the course. There was some discussion about my safety. (And Jordan is a more balanced Arab state than most). It remains difficult to get a fair hearing.
Textbooks used in Palestinian Authority schools convey rabid anti-Semitic messages. An eighth-grade text book says: “Today the Muslim countries need urgently jidah and jihad fighters in order to liberate the robbed lands and to get rid of the robbing Jews from the robbed lands in Palestine and in the Levant.” By receiving “Palestine” as a member, UNESCO has put its stamp of approval on this sort of vicious going on in the West Bank areas.
The affect of these actions? Chances for peace between Israelis and Palestinians becomes even slimmer. The world expects better from the UN. A vote for bigotry, hatred, and conflict won’t get the world to a better place.

Queston: Can we ever expect balance in the UN? If not, what is the future of the organization?

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The Smoking Gun in Syria

The Smoking Gun in Syria

 

Everyone morning when I turn on the television, I get a new episode of the Syrian story, relating more data on how many the government has killed of its own people. The survivors call for international help, but relief doesn’t come. The United Nations failed to stop the war. (Thanks to Russian and Chinese vetos) The lack of response only affirmed Israel’s belief that the UN cannot be counted on to prevent war and make peace. So, putting my newspaper aside, I ask myself, “Who owns the smoking gun in Syria?”

Surprise ! Surprise! It’s the Russians!

Like a chapter straight out of the old Cold War days, the Russians are once again standing behind the curtains, trying to act anonymous but not able to pull it off. The spot light is on Moscow.

Here’s the bottom line.

The Russians have been providing arms to Syria for years. Soviet-designed truck-mounted rocket launchers, rifles, self-propelled howtizers, etc. come in the front door everyday from Russia. During the attack on Homs, the American state department released statellite images of Soviet-era tanks and rocket launchers aiming at the city. Sure enough, Ivan the Terrible was at work again.

The fact is now clear that without Russia’s backing, including food, medical supplies, and equipment, the Assad regime would essentially be finished. Russian armaments are prolonging the war. Deputy Defense Secretary Anatoly Antonov insisted no Russian weapons were used against the resurgents  in Syria, but of course he offered no proof. Another old Cold War tactic.

What do the Russians get out of the struggle?  Rosoboronexport, a Russian state-owned weapons trading company, has been shipping to Syria while raking in a hefty income for Russia. Whether you call it rubles, dollars, or whatever, it’s big income for Russia.  A veteran security specialist at the Congressional Research Service noted that the value of Russian Arms more than doubled from 2007-2010 returning of $4.7 billion to Russia. No small potatoes there! More than two million Russians are employees in the arms production business. Can’t afford to offend that huge section of the electorate either!

We might note in passing that the only remaining military installation outside of the former Soviet territory is a naval station at Tartus in Northern Syria. Interesting.

Why have the Russians so forcefully resisted an arms embargo against Syria? That one’s not hard to figure out! Ivan doesn’t want anyone toying with his bank account. What raises the ante is that the Russians lost billions of dollars of arms business because of the sanctions against Iran and the fall of Libya. However, after the fall of Qaddafi, Syria increased purchases including buying Yak-130 light attack planes for $550 million.

What do we have here? That old smoke-filled backroom where the good old boys make deals is alive and well. Unfortunately, for Russia and Syria the world is fundamentally united against them. Even the Arab League opposes Assad’s actions. What’s next? I’m certainly not sure and I know of no one who is. However, you can bet the Russians will keep cranking the cash register.

The Soviet Union is gone, but the Russians remain the Russians. Smoking-gun and all.

Question:

Should the United States intervene and begin arming the rebels? If Russia continues to back the Syrian government, can we allow this balance of power to continue?

 

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Update on Jordan

UNDATE ON JORDAN

In a recent blog, I noted that King Abdullah had missed the target by 10 feet in some of his recent remarks he made about the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. Jordanian miscalculations are not a new experience. The Soviet Union had urged King Hussein, Abdullah’s father, to join the attack on Israel during theYom Kippur War, promising him full military support. The result was that Jordan lost the West bank, their portion of Jerusalem, and the Temple Mount. A miscalculation indeed!

In his statements a few weeks back, Abdullah blamed Israel for the failure of peace talks without mentioning that the Palestinians had pulled out, gone to the United Nations, and sought independent recognition for statehood. Of course, the Palestinian ploy has gone nowhere.

I felt it might be helpful to note how the situation in Jordan appears to be developing subsequently. Once again, King Abdullah may have, at the least, a portion of his head in the sand. The larger issue is his personal concern for his government’s survival. With the Arab spring breaking out across the Middle East, Jordan is not exempted. In America, springtime seems to be coming a bit early this year. I’ve got a hunch that Abdullah may be concerned about unexpected tulips springing up in his own front yard.

A revolution in Jordan might roll in like a spring tornado.

The truth is that Palestinians are discriminated against in Jordan. King Hussein ran Yassar Arafat and his followers our of Jordan and into Lebanon because they became a threat to the country’s solidarity. In public statements Abdullah has called on Jordanians to end class divisions that “have marginalized Palestinians citizens of the Hashemite Kingdom.” Unfortunately, the public statements don’t fit his private practice. Two former senior Jordanian officials have said Abdullah’s actual policy has been to sustain discrimination. One of the Wikileaks expose’s was statements from former prime minister Tahir Masri as well as one of Abdullah’s former senior adviser’s, Adnan Abu Odeh. They confirmed Abdullah’s discrimination policy.

Even though Abdullah’s wife is from a Palestinian refugee family, his discriminatory policies extended to withdrawing passports from Palestinians. Human Rights Watch Middle East Director Sarah Lean Whitson commented, “Jordan is playing politics with the basic rights of thousands of its citizens.” Additional issues and problems currently exist in Jordan.

Today the Palestinians constitute a majority in Jordan. In spite of his public comments, King Abdullah has private worries.  The Palestinian population could turn on him and knock his government into the stream flowing through the Arab spring. The truth is that Jordan’s Palestinians are fed up with him. Ant-Israeli rhetoric won’t heal the discontents of dispossessed people. He gets no exemptions from his problems by attacking Israel. King Abdullah has best keep his eyes on his backyard and make sure the gate stays locked. I bet he keep his personal body guards on high alert.

Stand by! The news from Ammon could heat up this spring!

Question:

Do you believe Jordan could experience an Arab upraising against the King and the Hashemite Kingdom like Egypt and other Arab countries have experienced? Would King Abdullah survive?

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