Obama has proposed, when he becomes president, hosting a conference of Muslims leaders to get them on board to fight terrorism. Some groups are protesting, claiming Obama is naive, this is unwise etc. I understand where they may be coming from but I do not agree.
I believe it would be a useful and educational undertaking for Obama to learn, first hand, the vitriol and intractable hatred that exists in the Muslim community not only for the West, in general, but for Israel in particular. Obama eventually must hear and learn, up front, why they believe a nation like Israel has no right to exist.
Then,if Obama and his Sec. of State buy into their act we will know where he stands and that is important. If he stands up against their vituperation and gives them a rational response perhaps he will either get them to moderate their own views and advance co-existence prospects (unlikely ) and/or he will get a well needed lesson in reality.
Someone said let Obama have his conference as long as he has Dick Cheney at his side to keep him from going off into "yah yah land."
One of the most compelling differences between say Germany and Japan was that even their own misguided leaders felt some modicum of responsibility to their people. Radical Islamist terrorists feel no such compunction and thus coercion is not a likely operative tool. Again I would remind all that we are dealing with professed religious zealots who embrace death, who care not a fig for their fellow man and who want to turn the clock back 2500 years to that period when the Caliphate ruled the world.
Muslims who harbour radical Islamist terrorists are not likely to see the errors of their ways because they are, themselves, captives of these zanies but , again, I would not oppose such a conference. The U.N. holds them annually in Durban and they serve as a visual pressure cooker for all to see as those attending release their venom.
Knowing your enemy is important and more so if you hear without becoming become duped into believing and naively let down your guard.
This from a perturbed friend and memo reader.
A bit over the top and he acknowledges he is distraught but he makes some compelling points, particularly about our military. We send out best to protect us but our military ranks do lack sufficient societal balance. I believe everyone should serve their country and have proposed a mandatory program of government service from which pool the military would draw its volunteers and they would be given significant benefits towards college or higher education for their service. Those not choosing to serve in the military would perform other government service. (See 1 below.)
The pros and cons of adviser ZBIG and Obama's embrace of him! (See 2 below.)
I have done some thinking about what the various top candidates' position might be vis a vis confronting Iran and this is what I have concluded.
Hillary: Ironically I believe she would be the toughest because being the political animal she is I believe she would see confronting Iran militarily would do three things:
a) It would decimate and postpone their ability militarily speaking.
b) It would prove to the nation she had "b----", something some question, and
c) It would remove the "defeatist" albatross from around the neck of her party once and for all?
With Democrats in control of Congress she would not be impeached and could operate more freely.
Obama: I see him as an Adlai Stevenson of color. Bright, articulate (not as articulate) and naive. He would, in my humble opinion, not be capable of making a decision that would bring death and destruction, even to an enemy not attacking us, as quickly so he would negotiate and do so from a position of weakness and I do not know where that would lead but I would be concerned.
McCain: More credibility when it came to implementing hard intelligence, capable of pulling the trigger but would have a real problem doing so with a Congress controlled by Democrats and thus the political barrier would be higher for him than Hillary. I doubt McCain would have th support of the people and the same liberals who would applaud Hillary, once the attacks proved successful, as I know they would be, would attack McCain and scream for his impeachment.
Romney: Same results as Obama but for different reasons. Romney is an analyzer of facts and he would collect a dossier that would fill many trucks. Nothing wrong with that. While doing so, those opposed would leak and force him to back down which he would have to do because he would not be able to stand against a Congress controlled by Democrats nor a public that wants to go to bed and forget about Iran.
For this reason alone I would take a chance with Hillary but then what about all the other issues facing our nation and for that reason I could not vote for her. I feel like the nomination process has me cornered and I might be forced to take McCain's mother's advice and hold my nose and vote for her son but I just have so many problems with his quirkiness, testy attitude and mean spirited manner. Would he be able to listen to his advisers or is he so independent of thought he would be likely to do what he thinks right sans cogent advice? What about his age - melanoma?
I know this will not sit well with many but GW, for all the negative stories about him, is a decent person who means well and is compassionate. He is a composite of his mother's toughness and father's decency. He is not articulate, made some tragic flaws in execution and appointments and is not a student of Islam. This combination of downsides and the contemptible attacks on him and the spill over effect on the office he occupies, the bias of the media and its need to report without verification have crippled GW's effectiveness. Thus, he has not been able to accomplish what needs be and now that the NIE reports has been released and is taken as gospel , GW is emasculated and will, in all probability, pass the Iranian nuclear baton to the next president. Very sad indeed!
The battle that is likely to be in Gaza come Spring, will be significant and its results must be conclusive for Israel's security. More reported attacks on Olmert for allowing the Gaza military position to decline. (See 3 and 4 below.)
Has Barak made a fateful decision that could be so wrong it will nail his and Labor's political coffin? Barak has decided to dig his heels in and disregards the implications for the nation. Sad how this politician has placed his ego above country.(See 5 below.)
Saul Singer makes some points about why all the current U.S. candidates need to develop a foreign policy. He is unsettled by his conversations. (See 6 below.)
I know Caroline Glick is hysterical and in your face but you have to love her. She is the Israeli equivalent of Maureen Dowd! (See 7 below.)
Daniel Pipes proposes giving Gaza to Egypt. Pipes is bright but sometimes his wheels come off and Gaza is neither his to give nor likely Egypt is willing to receive. Israel must deal with Gaza as they inevitably will have to deal with Iran. In a world of moral midgets serious matters often fall to ants to resolve. (See 8 below.)
Why Olmert had to stay post the Winograd Report. (See 9 below.)
1) Doesn't it make you wonder that all the phony "Leaders" Democrat or
Republican say not a word about reinstating the draft? Today you have an Armed Services where only many in the lower socio economic class serve.
(please take a day, drive to Hartsfield Airport in Atlanta) and just observe the new
recruits.) I did!
What does it mean? You are going to have leadership (like now) where nobody served their country but they have to lead this Country in Wars to come, and believe me they will come. All the blind idiots in this country do not see or understand the future
Asian danger mainly China. We are building that Monster with our own money and creating a larger and larger poor society because of the transfer of manufacturing overseas.
I stated 35 years ago as soon as I got out of College and realized
jobs were going out, that a country without manufacturing is doomed.
Those who believe we are an IT society forget that a society still has to have so many other widgets. But I digress. The bottom line is that the middle class is disappearing, manufacturing is largely reduced, the armed services are not a
melting pot any longer. In short, The Empire's writing is on the wall.
America is doomed because the people pay more attention to football
than think about their Country. People are fed stupid solutions, ie $600 rebate checks believing this will resolve the Country's economic problems. And for this people went to Harvard..................
Sorry, I am in such an angry mood or a Prophet of doom , but most
politicians lack courage or integrity to move this amazing
Country into the right direction with real solutions.
The political parties seem bent on bringing division and destruction.
Our Nation needs unity and strength.
May God bless us and Bless the USA.
2) The Obama-Brzezinski alliance
By Thomas Lifson
One might think foreign policy disasters of the Jimmy Carter presidency would be enough to permanently retire his National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski from the league of presidential candidate gurus. But Barack Obama, who publicly discussed invading Pakistan and ruling out use of our nuclear arsenal, seems to have found a soul mate of sorts in Zbig. The alliance of the incompetent?
Aswini Anburajan of NBC writes on MSNBC:
The former national security advisor to Jimmy Carter introduced Obama at Ashford University in Iowa today, after decrying what he called the Bush administration's colonialist policies in a post-colonial world, adding the Administration had "used mendacity" to justify the war and that "it has discredited America as a whole."
For Brzezinski, 79, support for Obama means support for a radical change in direction of American foreign policy. But some argue Brzezisnski's support could hurt Obama, particularly with Jewish voters. The Politico today wrote Brzezinski came under fire this summer for an essay he wrote in the journal Foreign Policy, "defending a controversial new book about the power of the ‘Israel Lobby' in American politics."
"The fact of the matter is that I'm part of the only administration that brought about peace between Israel and its neighbors," Brzezinski said in an interview with NBC News/National Journal in Iowa on the day Obama delivered his Iraq policy speech, which he said he did not have a direct hand in. "And so I'm proud of my record in the Middle East."
Anyone who believes that it was a triumph replacing the Shah (with all his faults) with the Islamist regime that is the world's principal sponsor of terror, that eagerly awaits the day it can destroy Israel with its budding nuclear weapons program, and that sees the 12th Imam coming soon, is simply delusional. Yet Obama actively defends him.
Russell Berman of the New York Sun writes:
Senator Obama is standing by one of his top foreign policy advisers, Zbigniew Brzezinski, despite concerns that aligning with the former aide to President Carter will undermine Mr. Obama's support with the pro-Israel community. [....]
A Harvard law professor and supporter of Senator Clinton, Alan Dershowitz, said Tuesday that Mr. Obama had "made a terrible mistake" by aligning with Mr. Brzezinski.
A spokeswoman for the Obama campaign, Jennifer Psaki, yesterday pointed to the fact that Messrs. Brzezinski and Obama both opposed the Iraq war from the beginning, unlike Mrs. Clinton, and she suggested the Clinton camp was trying to smear Mr. Brzezinski.
I can hardly wait for Obama to start citing the Carter years as a model for his presidency. Maybe Barack will have the wit to go after Hillary's embrace of pants-stuffing Sandy Berger as an advisor.
3)Shin Bet chief reports: Masses of high-quality weaponry, such as long-range rockets, roll into Gaza through the breached Sinai border
The domestic security agency’s director, Yuval Diskin, warned the Israeli cabinet Sunday, Feb. 3, that Palestinians exploited the chaos on the Gaza-Sinai border to smuggle in quantities of long-range rockets, anti-tank and anti-air rockets and high explosives for missiles. Hundreds of Palestinian terrorists have headed south into Sinai. According to Western intelligence sources, they are spread out along the 220-km Israeli border.
Counter-terror sources disclose the figure omitted from the cabinet’s official communiqué to avoid alarming the public: The number of armed terrorists at large in Sinai is estimated in the region of a thousand. Hamas prepared at least 30 tracks for them to use when it bulldozed the Gaza-Sinai border ten days ago.
Defense minister Ehud Barak, therefore, told the cabinet that a border barrier must be constructed urgently at two sections of the unfenced Israel-Egyptian border – Nitzana and Eilat.
However, he is too late. Insistent demands by senior IDF officers to fence the border were neglected for too long by the Olmert government. Now, the Egyptian-Israel border is wide open to terrorists and they have been presented with a safe haven in Sinai for hit-and-run attacks.
When Egyptian border police failed to stem the Palestinian surge out of Gaza last week, senior Israeli officers applied for permission to send up three combat helicopters, which they said would have been enough to stem the mass exit and the smuggling in of long-range rockets. But permission was withheld. It was denied in the same way the high command was held back from embarking on an effective military operation to cut Hamas and its war machine down to size, when it was still readily feasible.
The Olmert government’s blunders over Gaza, military experts estimate, are potentially more ruinous to Israel security than even the mismanagement of the Lebanon War.
4)Hamas may have reached deterrent level arms thanks to Israeli incompetence
By Dr. Aaron Lerner
"Let's forget about tomorrow for tomorrow never comes"
The theme song and guiding principle of the Olmert administration that
caused it to indefinitely postpone a serious campaign against the growing
threat in the Gaza Strip has finally borne fruit.
Poison fruit that is.
The Olmert team spinners now have two options to ponder:
Avoid confrontation with Hamas so that the weapons Hamas now has in the Gaza
Strip aren't used against targets relevant to the Olmert team (the people in
Sderot are not going to vote Kadima nor will the kibbutzniks near Gaza
Go into battle knowing that thanks to the weapons Hamas now has the
casualties among relevant targets will be high enough that an outraged
public will support the move regardless of the IDF casualties and (and this
is the really important thing) be so caught up in the blood lust for revenge
that the idea that the Olmert team should be punished for the incompetence
that facilitated the casualties in the first place would have no place in
relevant public discourse.
Odds are for option #1.
"Let's forget about tomorrow for tomorrow never comes"
5) Barak announces Labor will stay in gov't
By GIL HOFFMAn
Labor chairman Ehud Barak revealed his long-awaited decision on Sunday to keep his party in Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's coalition, despite the conclusions of the Winograd Report on the Second Lebanon War.
Barak decided not to hold a press conference or convene political reporters to hear his prepared statement. Instead, he relayed his decision to the public via the reporters who were waiting outside the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office Sunday morning.
"I decided to remain defense minister, because I know what challenges stand before Israel: Gaza, Hizbullah Syria, Iran Lebanon, rehabilitating the army and the diplomatic process," Barak said. "Winograd is a harsh report. There are personal and ethical ramifications and conclusions that are not simple. I will deal with them and when the right time comes, set a date for elections."
With his decision, Barak broke a promise he made twice when he was running for Labor leader at a press conference in May at Kibbutz Sdot Yam and in a statement he made in June to earn the endorsement of Labor leadership contender Ophir Paz-Pines.
"[The report] requires personal conclusions," Barak said at the time. "Olmert must seek personal conclusions and resign, as Dan Halutz and Amir Peretz did, each in his own way. If Olmert does not [quit] by the full report's publication, we will have to end our partnership with him and work to establish a new government in the current Knesset, or alternatively, to set a date for elections."
Barak said he remembered the promise he made at Sdot Yam, but the situation had changed and he decided to act differently.
"I know I am disappointing some and making others happy, but I decided to do what is right for the nation and this is what is right for the nation," Barak said. "I know I could pay a personal price for it, but I know there is a state and the IDF, which are more important for all of us and for me."
Asked by a reporter present when he would remove Labor from the government, he said he would make a decision on the right date to leave "at a time that is fitting and not far away." Earlier, in a meeting of Labor ministers, they cautioned him not to set another deadline for leaving the government, which they said would only cause him further problems.
Despite fierce opposition to remaining in the coalition from four Labor MKs, Barak said he was not concerned about divisions in the party. He predicted that his decision would "unite the party," which he said had "a variety of opinions but the same goal."
Labor secretary-general Eitan Cabel, who quit the cabinet to protest Olmert's refusal to step down after the interim Winograd Report in April, said he was disappointed that Barak did not keep his promise.
"Barak needed to show leadership and quit the government - a necessary move following the
severe results of the Second Lebanon War," Cabel said. "This was a very big mistake."
Labor MK Danny Yatom went further and said he was considering quitting politics or opposing the government in the Knesset from now on. He revealed that Barak visited his home in Kohav Yair Saturday night and he tried for more than an hour to persuade him to remove the party from the coalition.
"I came to politics thinking naively that I could change norms that I think are unacceptable," Yatom lamented. "Now I will have to reconsider my future."
Yatom was visibly enraged furing his appearance on Channel One's Erev Hadash, saying that if he were defense minister now he would "most probably quit."
Yatom added that Barak would be weakened politically by his decision.
"He will estrange many people who whould otherwise vote for Labor," he said.
Labor MK Yoram Marciano, one of Barak's fiercest critics in Labor, slammed him for the way he announced his decision.
"He showed lack of leadership by avoiding a press conference," Marciano said. "That's not
how a leader should act."
Olmert did not respond immediately, but deputy coalition chairman Yoel Hasson, who is close to him, praised Barak for displaying "national responsibility" by preventing unnecessary elections.
"He put the good of country above the good of his own political interests as he promised," he said. Hasson added that the time was right to bring UTJ into the coalition and "stabilize the coalition."
Opposition MKs blasted Barak for not keeping his word. They accused Barak of being afraid of initiating elections, because of his poor standing in the polls. Yediot Aharonot published a Dahaf Institute poll Friday that showed for the first time that Olmert had passed up Barak for second-place in the polls behing Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu.
"As expected, Barak has run away from his responsibility," a Likud spokesperson said in a statement. "Barak is assisting the leadership that according to both the Winograd Committee and the public has failed and he prefers his political survival to the good of the country."
Meretz Chairman Yossi Beilin called Barak's decision "shameful."
"He gave up the opportunity he had to force the replacement of the prime minister and kept Olmert in a position that the Winograd Committee has concluded he cannot fill," said Beilin.
Maj. Yakir Segev, one of the leaders of the IDF reservist protest movement against the government, told Israel Radio that he felt "betrayed" by Barak's decision, adding that the public would "settle scores" with the defense minister in the future.
6) Interesting Times: Testing! Testing!
By SAUL SINGEr
Whether a Democrat or a Republican wins the US election this year, the next president will have to come up with a post-Bush foreign policy. What will that look like?
It is not easy to tell based on the candidates' statements. A prominent Democratic activist admitted to me recently that none of his party's candidates had cogently described a foreign policy. Especially since the stock market fell, the whole issue has tumbled off the political radar screen.
But whether or not American voters are in a mood to hear it, the next president will need a foreign policy. While the elder Bush came in with substantial experience in global affairs, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush were both elected, and expected to be, domestic-oriented presidents. It didn't exactly work out that way.
In fact, the next presidency will be dominated by foreign policy, regardless of who is chosen and their inclinations. The US has lapsed into a cross between pre-9/11 complacency and post-Bush burnout. Americans do not see themselves at war, but facing the equivalent of a cold that won't go away - it's annoying, but not something to pay much attention to.
When America turns its back on the world, the world has a way of - how can we put this delicately - making itself known to America. This is true even if a global totalitarian threat has just been defeated, such as after World War II and after the collapse of the Soviet Union. It is all the more true when there is a very active war going on that Americans have trouble acknowledging, even though they are under direct attack.
The Democratic activist I met with said that, frankly, he wasn't convinced that the threat from militant Islam was as great as it was being made out to be. He is right, if one were to look at it in static terms.
THERE IS always some amount of turmoil in the world, and terrorism is hardly new. Even the war in Iraq is going a bit better lately. An American general, John Abizaid, has argued that a nuclear Iran can be dealt with. Besides, the National Intelligence Estimate said that's not something anyone need worry about too much now, didn't it?
The problem is that the threat is not a static one. Like the Nazis in the 1930s, who were considered appalling thugs but hardly a global problem, the threat from totalitarian Islam is not that great now, but will grow unless it is stopped. And Abizaid is mistaken: Deterrence is not enough against a power that subverts and attacks through proxy terrorist forces.
This will become obvious quickly after Bush leaves office, and perhaps even before. The reason is that the next president, whether Republican or Democrat, will be tested. Just as Barack Obama is basking in his endorsement by the Kennedys (Caroline and Ted), we should be reminded of how Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev tested John F. Kennedy by trying to station nuclear missiles in Cuba.
Iran, in particular, has a rich history of testing American presidents. The 1979 seizure of the US embassy in Teheran was clearly such a test, one that Jimmy Carter failed. But so was the bombing of US Marines in Beirut, a test Ronald Reagan failed when he quickly withdrew US forces from Lebanon.
Later, Reagan was tested again when Iran started firing at Kuwaiti and Saudi oil tankers in the Persian Gulf. This time, it was Iran that was forced to back down after the US reflagged foreign oil tankers and, on October 19, 1987, obliterated two Iranian oil platforms in a 90-minute artillery barrage. The US explained that it had exercised a "measured response" in its "lawful... right of self-defense."
The recent incident in the Gulf where Iranian military motor boats buzzed American navy ships is an indication that the testing may have already begun. We do not know if the Iranians are disciplined enough to wait a year until Bush is safely (from their perspective) out of office.
We also know that the Iranians were so afraid of Reagan when he replaced Carter that they released their American hostages, after 444 days, on the day he took office. So sometimes the advent of a new president cuts the other way - as a sign of American strength rather than weakness.
Accordingly, if John McCain, who has a serious military record and has succinctly said that "the only thing worse than the military option is a nuclear Iran," becomes president, the Iranians may hesitate. But not for long, as the Reagan experience made clear.
THE TRUTH is that the Iranians will eventually test any new president, Democrat or Republican, because that's what megalomaniacal totalitarians do. Accordingly, the remaining candidates have to start thinking now: How can they not only dissuade Iran from mistaking American complacency for weakness, but reverse what has become a growing Islamofascist threat?
What is sorely needed, and what neither party has really developed, is a wider range of techniques to force rogue regimes out of the nuke and terror business. The Afghan and Iraqi regimes were physically booted from power, and Libya subsequently cried uncle without a fight. But Iran, the largest and most dangerous of all terror regimes, is fighting back and invasion is not an option.
So far, what passes for debate is the Democrats saying the US should talk to Iran and the Republicans saying that's a mistake. Neither position constitutes a coherent policy.
All the presidential candidates should start putting forward a serious three-pronged approach to Iran: support for the Iranian people, a major push for draconian multilateral sanctions, all backed up by the military option.
Talking to Iran is fine once there is something to talk about, namely, that Iran has good reason to back down completely, as Libya did. Unless Iran faces a convincing combination of these three prongs, there is no reason for it to give in.
The strongest candidate, in this respect, is not necessarily the one with the most experience or the one that looks scariest to Iran. If Obama, for example, made clear that his first step would be to tell the Europeans that they must impose much tougher sanctions now or risk war, then he could be no less, and perhaps more, effective than a Republican might be.
On the other hand, a Democrat who comes in actually believing that talking to Iran, without having a proven and credible stick in hand, will by itself make a difference, will shortly find him or herself facing a nuclear Iran and a very rocky presidency.
7) Why the Olmert gang must go
By Caroline B. Glick
In March 2006, the Israeli people elected incompetents to lead us. It only took four months for Hizbullah to make us pay a price for our mistake. In the July and August 2006 war, Israelis came to understand that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, then defense minister Amir Peretz, and then IDF chief of general staff Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz were together and separately the worst leaders that Israel had ever seen.
Almost from the war's outset it was evident that Israel's leaders were in over their heads. They acted as though there was no difference between running a war and running a political campaign against their political rivals. Hizbullah chief Hassan Nasrallah and his Syrian and Iranian overlords could, they assumed, simply be insulted out of fighting.
The brutal reality of war confounded them.
They had decided to respond harshly to Hizbullah's cross-border attack which left eight soldiers dead and two soldiers — Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser missing in action. But they never actually realized that they were leading the nation to war. Indeed, through to the bitter end, they insisted that we weren't at war at all. We were simply involved in a "campaign." They sent up fighter jets to bomb Hizbullah to Kingdom Come. But when the bombing failed to affect Hizbullah's ability to attack Israel with missiles, and when the televised footage of the bombs' destructive force squandered international support for Israel, Olmert and his colleagues lost their stomach for the fight they had never understood. They sent ground forces in willy nilly, to conduct operations with no operational logic. Then they begged America to pull their fat from the fire by negotiating a ceasefire without victory.
The public reacted to their failure with justified rage. Demoralized reservists marched on Jerusalem. The parents of soldiers killed in militarily meaningless actions took to the streets. Recognizing that their careers were on the line, Olmert and his colleagues did what any hack politicians in their positions would do. They appointed a commission and told it to take as long as it wished to decide not to call for their removal from office. The media, not wishing to see opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu and the Likud win an election, supported the maneuver. And so the protests abated and the reservists and bereaved parents sat on the sidelines and waited.
When last April the Winograd Commission issued its interim report, it seemed as though Olmert's plan was backfiring. The commission members, led by retired judge Eliyahu Winograd were dangerously close to missing his point. They actually held Olmert, Peretz and Halutz responsible for their actions. Neither Peretz nor Halutz were able to withstand the interim report which found that they — and Olmert — had failed the test of leadership. And each in turn was forced to resign.
But Olmert held on and quietly conspired against his own committee. With Olmert's backing, the IDF's solicitor general Col. Orna David repeatedly petitioned the Supreme Court and secured rulings prohibiting the Winograd Commission from recommending that Olmert or anyone else be compelled to resign for their dereliction of duty.
So it should have come as no surprise to anyone that in its final report issued Wednesday the Winograd Commission failed to point its finger directly at Olmert and call for his removal from office. It should similarly surprise no one that in its continued bid to keep the Likud from power, the media ignored the report's harsh conclusions about Olmert's mismanagement of the war, seizing instead on the commission's refusal to assign blame.
In truth, by demurring from placing a metaphorical gun to Olmert's head, the Winograd commission did the Israeli people a favor. Its members stated flatly that it is the people's responsibility — not theirs — to decide who leads the country. And now more than ever, it is the public's duty to protest the continued tenure of the Olmert government and force it from office.
This duty is not simply a matter of historical vindication for past wrongs. Olmert and his colleagues must be forced from office not because of their failed leadership in the 2006 war in Lebanon. They must be forced from office because of their mismanagement of this year's war in Gaza.
In its most devastating condemnation of Olmert and his colleagues, the Winograd commission explained that throughout the war, they never decided — and barely discussed — what sort of war they were fighting. Once the government decided to respond forcibly to Hizbullah's cross-border raid, the commission noted that it had two clear and distinct options for proceeding. "The first was a short, painful, strong and unexpected blow on Hizbullah, primarily through standoff fire-power. The second option was to bring about a significant change of the reality in the south of Lebanon with a large ground operation, including a temporary occupation of the south of Lebanon and 'cleansing' it of Hizbullah military infrastructure."
Unable to decide what sort of war it was waging, for 34 days the government moved from tactic to tactic, strategy to strategy, never following through with anything, never realizing that there were consequences for what it was doing. And today, it follows the same model of incompetence in Gaza.
For the past two and a half years Israel has taken no effective action to end the rocket and mortar offensive against the Western Negev from Gaza. And rocket and mortar attacks have quadrupled over this period.
When Hamas seized power in Gaza in June, Israel failed to develop a strategy for dealing with the fact that an Iranian armed, trained and commanded terror group was perched on its border with Gaza and threatened to destabilize its largely undefended border with Egypt.
Still led by Olmert and Livni, who are now joined by Defense Minister Ehud Barak — the engineer of the unilateral withdrawal strategy of ceding land to terrorist groups — Israel cannot figure out what it is supposed to be doing. It has no strategic goal and so it can formulate no coherent plan.
Israel changes its mode of contending with Gaza on a near-daily basis. Sometimes it threatens to launch a ground campaign in Gaza to end the Palestinians' mortar and rocket campaign against its citizens. Sometimes it attacks from the air and declares victory. Sometimes it threatens to stop supplying electricity and fuel to Gaza. Sometimes it threatens to stop its support for Gazan banks.
Then again, sometimes it renews its fuel and electricity supply to Gaza, lets trucks full of cash to enter Gaza from Israel, allows Gazans to receive free medical treatment in Israeli hospitals and permits them to work in Israel.
Internationally, sometimes Israel threatens to retake control over Gaza's border with Egypt. And sometimes it asks Egypt or the UN to take control of the border. Sometimes it criticizes Egypt for enabling weapons and terrorists to move into Gaza. Sometimes it praises Egypt for being a force of stability.
Sometimes the Olmert-Livni-Barak government supports Fatah's reassertion of control over the border between Gaza and Egypt. Sometimes it admits that Fatah terrorists are full partners in the rocket and mortar campaign against Israel from Gaza; that Fatah security forces willingly integrated into Hamas's army after Hamas seized power; and that anyway, Fatah has neither the will nor the means to defeat Hamas in Gaza or anywhere else.
In Gaza today as in Lebanon during 2006, the Olmert government's strategic incoherence has led to public relations disasters. Today in Gaza, as in Lebanon in 2006, Israel's inability to define its goals has made it unable to defend its actions. And so it is stands condemned as its citizens are held hostage to the vagaries of Palestinian mortars and rockets.
The Winograd commission properly noted the government's failure to define what it was doing in Lebanon. But it did not explain the why the government failed. The source of the government's failure in Lebanon 18 months ago and of its failure in Gaza today is its political commitment to the strategy of unilateral withdrawal from territory. Olmert's Kadima party and Barak's Labor party both have embraced this strategy. It is the centerpiece of their governing rationale.
The unilateral withdrawal strategy is predicated on a two main assumptions. First, it assumes that it is the presence of Israelis in a hostile or disputed area which causes terrorists to act. If Israel retreats, the terrorists will melt away.
Second, the unilateral withdrawal strategy assumes that Israel's interest in defeating terrorists is not unique. In the minds of Israel's leaders, all nations share Israel's goal of protecting its sovereign territory and its citizenry from attack. Consequently, the unilateral withdrawal strategy assumes that if Israel withdraws from a terror-infested area like Gaza or southern Lebanon, another authority — be it Egypt or Fatah or the European Union in Gaza, or the Lebanese army or UNIFIL forces in Lebanon — will take over where it left off and fight the terrorists for it.
During the war in Lebanon and since Israel withdrew from Gaza, the guiding assumptions of the unilateral withdrawal strategy have proven false. But Israel's leaders have refused to acknowledge reality. Rather they claim that it is reality, not their policy that is mistaken. Their daily search for new silver bullets is a manifestation of their denial of reality.
A telling episode touched on in the Winograd commission's final report, drives this point home. After meeting with the American negotiating team on July 28, 2006, Peretz held a consultation with his security brass.
According to the report, (p. 129), "At the outset of the meeting, the Defense Minister expressed his bad feeling in the aftermath of the meeting with the American team. This came after he was made to understand that a multi-national force would not enter an area [of south Lebanon] that the IDF hadn't first 'cleansed' of Hizbullah forces."
Peretz could not countenance the fact that no one will take action to defend Israel that Israel itself refuses to take. And so he didn't. And neither did Olmert or Livni. Throughout the war, Israel's goal was for an international force to be set up to fight Hizbullah for Israel. And low and behold, UNIFIL refuses to fight.
And still today, the government refuses to recognize that suing for an international force then was a mistake. Indeed they are repeating it in Gaza.
Speaking to the media about her decision to join the protesters demanding that Olmert and Barak resign and call for new general elections, bereaved mother Elisheva Tzemach, whose son Oz was killed in the last stages of the war explained that she demands the government's resignation not for her dead son, but for her sons who still live. They cannot be commanded in war by Olmert and his colleagues.
Mrs. Tzemach, of course is right. And Winograd was also right. If Israel wishes to survive in our hostile neighborhood, it is the duty of every citizen to join Mrs. Tzemach, her fellow bereaved parents and the reservists in their demand for new elections. If we remain silent now, we will deserve whatever price we are made to pay for our indifference.
8) Give Gaza to Egypt
by Daniel Pipes
Startling developments in Gaza highlight the need for a change in Western policy toward this troubled territory of 1.3 million persons.
Gaza's contemporary history began in 1948, when Egyptian forces overran the British-controlled area and Cairo sponsored the nominal "All-Palestine Government" while de facto ruling the territory as a protectorate. That arrangement ended in 1967, when the Israeli leadership defensively took control of Gaza, reluctantly inheriting a densely populated, poor, and hostile territory.
Nonetheless, for twenty years Gazans largely acquiesced to Israeli rule. Only with the intifada beginning in 1987 did Gazans assert themselves; its violence and political costs convinced Israelis to open a diplomatic process that culminated with the Oslo accords of 1993. The Gaza-Jericho Agreement of 1994 then off-loaded the territory to Yasir Arafat's Fatah.
Those agreements were supposed to bring stability and prosperity to Gaza. Returning businessmen would jump-start the economy. The Palestinian Authority would repress Islamists and suppress terrorists. Yasir Arafat proclaimed he would "build a Singapore" there, actually an apt comparison, for independent Singapore began inauspiciously in 1965, poor and ethnically conflict-ridden.
Gazans crossing into Egyptian territory on January 23 through a breach in the 13-meter tall fence.
Of course, Arafat was no Lee Kuan Yew. Gazan conditions deteriorated and Islamists, far from being shut out, rose to power: Hamas won the 2006 elections and in 2007 seized full control of Gaza. The economy shrunk. Rather than stop terrorism, Fatah joined in. Gazans began launching rockets over the border in 2002, increasing their frequency, range, and deadliness with time, eventually rendering the Israeli town of Sderot nearly uninhabitable.
Faced with a lethal Gaza, the Israeli government of Ehud Olmert decided to isolate it, hoping that economic hardship would cause Gazans to blame Hamas and turn against it. To an extent, the squeeze worked, for Hamas' popularity did fall. The Israelis also conducted raids against terrorists to stop the rocket attacks. Still, the assaults continued; so, on January 17, the Israelis escalated by cutting fuel deliveries and closing the borders. "As far as I'm concerned," Olmert announced, "Gaza residents will walk, without gas for their cars, because they have a murderous, terrorist regime that doesn't let people in southern Israel live in peace."
That sounded reasonable but the press reported heart-rending stories about Gazans suffering and dying due to the cutoffs, and these immediately swamped the Israeli position. Appeals and denunciations from around the world demanded that Israelis ease up.
Then, on January 23, Hamas took matters into its own hands with a clever surprise tactic: after months of preparation, it pulled down large segments of the 12-km long, 13-meter high border wall separating Gaza from Egypt, simultaneously winning goodwill from Gazans and dragging Cairo into the picture. Politically, Egyptian authorities had no choice but uneasily to absorb 38 wounded border guards and permit hundreds of thousands of persons temporarily to enter the far northeast of their country.
Israelis had brought themselves to this completely avoidable predicament through incompetence – signing bad agreements, turning Gaza over to the thug Arafat, expelling their own citizens, permitting premature elections, acquiescing to the Hamas conquest, and abandoning control of Gaza's western border.
What might Western states now do? The border breaching, ironically, offers an opportunity to clean up a mess.
"Egyptians and Palestinians are one people, not two peoples," says a sign held by a Palestinian on Jan. 29, 2008.
Washington and other capitals should declare the experiment in Gazan self-rule a failure and press President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt to help, perhaps providing Gaza with additional land or even annexing it as a province. This would revert to the situation of 1948-67, except this time Cairo would not keep Gaza at arm's length but take responsibility for it.
Culturally, this connection is a natural: Gazans speak a colloquial Arabic identical to the Egyptians of Sinai, have more family ties to Egypt than to the West Bank, and are economically more tied to Egypt (recall the many smugglers' tunnels). Further, Hamas derives from an Egyptian organization, the Muslim Brethren. As David Warren of the Ottawa Citizen notes, calling Gazans "Palestinians" is less accurate than politically correct.
Why not formalize the Egyptian connection? Among other benefits, this would (1) end the rocket fire against Israel, (2) expose the superficiality of Palestinian nationalism, an ideology under a century old, and perhaps (3) break the Arab-Israeli logjam.
It's hard to divine what benefit American taxpayers have received for the US$65 billion they have lavished on Egypt since 1948; but Egypt's absorbing Gaza might justify their continuing to shell out $1.8 billion a year.
9) He had no choice
by Attila Somfalvi
Barak had no option except for staying in government; will Olmert step up now?
For now, it’s over. As of this morning, the politics, speculations, and endless guesses are going underground again. With one gesture, just like an aching tooth is pulled out, the defense minister did exactly what reality dictated and expected of him: He stayed in the government.
True, it’s unpleasant to sustain the criticism he’s sustaining at this time, but he didn’t really have a choice. Therefore, without too many typical Barak explanations, without sophisticated phrases, and without twisted zigzags, Barak dropped his bomb by the book. Any additional words would make him look worse. Any other shady political deal would have weakened his argument and made him seem more ridiculous.
In the face of the complex reality faced by Israel at this time, Barak doesn’t really need explanations or satellite photos. He also does not need to apologize to anyone. Reality is harsher than any explanation, and so is the Labor chairman’s position in the polls.
With all due respect to the required government stability and with all due respect to the serious security problems, we must not forget that Barak also knows how to read the political map, not only classified intelligence reports. He knows that if he quits and leads the move for new elections, he would send his bitter rival Benjamin Netanyahu back to the Prime Minister’s Office. And that would make for a true political story: The man who did the comeback of the year is back in order to crown the man who he fears most.
And what about the future? What about Barak’s chances to survive the public criticism in the wake of this move? It’s unclear, but Barak is far from being finished. Considering the mad pace of events typical in Israel, it is doubtful whether in about six months anyone would remember his improvised press conference or the earlier pledge he made to bolt the coalition in the wake of the Winograd report.
The Qassams, Hamas, the Iranians, the Syrians, al-Qaeda, and Gilad Shalit – all of them are the guarantee that soon we shall be sinking into new troubles, no less bothersome than one kind of statement or another. Besides, how many alternatives are there anyway?
Shalit deal closer than ever
But if we put politics aside for a moment, we can say that Barak found the opportunity to rise above the populist screams that sweep the country these days. If one of the Winograd report’s conclusions is that the public and political discourse is horrifically shallow, Barak came and showed that he was able to draw the lessons. He is not being dragged by the desire for revenge by one group or another, and did not subjugate himself to the lost honor of fellow Labor party members Eitan Cabel and Ophir Pines.
Now we should hope that Ehud Olmert too will grasp the enormous opportunity, and the rare and incredible chance he’s been given to prove that he’s not what people say about him. We should hope that as of this very moment, Olmert will start working 25 hours a day in order to ensure that the country is on the right path: The diplomatic path, the rehabilitation path, and the challenging path – the one which a leader should present to his people in order to mark the horizon.
The prime minister’s people are indeed promising that as of today they are back at work, and are preparing us for great surprises. “Stability is back, we’re starting to work, we turned a new leaf,” they said. Diplomatically, say officials at Olmert’s office, we’ll start pushing forward - with the Palestinians too, but on other fronts as well. The name was not uttered explicitly, but the hint in Syria’s direction is clear. And the same is true with the Palestinians, and with Gilad Shalit. Members of the political establishment estimate that a deal that would secure the release of the abducted IDF soldier is closer than ever.