Sunday, July 28, 2013

The EU Sanctions Against Israel - How to Lose influence & Credibility

On the week that Israel has agreed to release hundreds of Palestinian terrorists from its prisons  - people with much Jewish blood on their hands - as a one sided gesture, merely to bribe the Palestinians to come to the table for talks that benefit Palestinians more than Israelis (and which are almost certain to be doomed to failure), the EU seems to think that now is the time when Israel needs pressuring and that this is the time for economic sanctions. Did the great and wise heads of the EU ever wonder why, if the Palestinians want a state so badly, if they long for freedom and for Israel to withdraw to  the 1949 armistice line (which is what is meant by pre-67 borders), if they waste a great deal of time and energy going to the UN to get some kind of meaningless demi / semi statehood in order to pressure Israel...if they are that keen for this to work, why do the need to be bribed to come to the table, and even then very reluctantly?

In any case, the EU has issued its sanctions and the immediate result is...the Palestinians are being hurt - not the healthy growing Israeli economy, which makes the collapsing European Union look like economic morons  - but the Palestinian people, where the EU is engaged in a multitude of projects, that without Israel's support, cannot continue. Well guess what - a thoroughly and justifiably pissed off Israel is disinclined to continue that support making the EU's humanitarian efforts almost impossible. It is normative practice before any state issues sanctions, to consider the imopact, not only on the target of the punishment, but other effects such as minority impacts and economic damage to the enacter of the sanctions. it is clear the EU did not consider these issues at all.

Further more, a European Union, desperate for sources of energy, has just placed sanctions on the only democracy in the Middle East - a state that has recently become a major oil & gas producer - potentially the 1/3 largest in the Middle East according to some estimates -  with the ability to find customers anywhere it wants, but an inclination to sell to Cyprus, Greece, Italy & Spain...all EU members with collapsed economies. More than likely, their contract  negotiations for that non Arab supply of Mid East oil & gas is not with Israel, the  willing exporter, but a sullen and angry Israel.

Moreover, morally, for the EU to look at the complex, volatile situation in this region and believe that the place it should direct punishment  - for that is what sanctions amount to - exclusively against Israel, is absurd and impossible to fathom. Every Mid East state enacts racist anti Palestinian laws; 100,000s dead in Syria, Lebanon a fractured racist society virtually run by terrorists; Egypt shooting protesters in large numbers as democracy fails there after just a few months; Saudi Arabia which has laws suppressing women's rights that England was ahead of 150 years ago.... I could go on...but from this violent, racist, oppressive region, with 330,000,000 people living without rights, it has chosen Israel - the only free country in this region - for sanctions - please someone explain how there is an iota of justification for this move or any possibility for this to forward the cause of the Palestinians.

So Israel is angered, EU efforts to aid Palestinian development have suffered a major set back, EU's ability to in anyway act as brokers in the Israeli Arab negotiations have virtually gone, Palestinians themselves are often employed by these israeli firms (so their jobs are endangered as the PA has said) and Israel's willingness to share its incredible technological and academic  achievements with Europe have almost certainly become more expensive for the Europeans. Their banks collapsing, their currency hanging on by a thread and now with this stupid move, their credibility in international diplomacy in tatters - who, if anyone, is running the EU - what a joke! 

Monday, July 22, 2013

Pushing The Palestinians to Violence

At the risk of repeating the point I made in my last blog (which now seems almost prophetic!) President Obama & his sidekick John Kerry are pushing very hard to bring Israel & the Palestinians to the table. The only outcome I can see from this is bloodshed - particularly Israeli civilian bloodshed - the fact that Obama does not recognize this danger is simply a continuation of his astounding failure over past 5 years to understand the Arab &  Islamic world - this failing  has caused chaos in the Middle East.

The Palestinian Authority have excellent reasons for not wanting to negotiate at this time - indeed they really cannot go forward in good faith, knowing full well they do not carry the Palestinian people with them and that they are unable to make any guarantees that Israel needs. The Palestinian people are split between the PLO / Fatah Palestinian Authority and  Iranian backed Islamists such as Hamas who will never accept any agreement that leaves Jews in Israel; The Arab world is in turmoil, and therefore no regional agreement can be produced, which is vital for any agreement to hold and for a Palestinian state to succeed (its failure would be a disaster for Israel as well as the Palestinians); there are powerful elements in the Arab & wider Islamic world that have no interest in seeing an end to the Israeli  / Palestinian conflict, most obviously Iran. Lets not ignore the all pervasive antisemitism that affects Arab thinking - it is an almost medieval hatred as Prof Robert Wistrich explained to me in this interview a couple of years ago, that reaches incredible levels within the palestinian world, thanks to the institutional incitement every Palestinian is taught from birth.  I've mentioned the Palestinian refugees in several posts - millions of people maintained as stateless generational refugees in countries they, their parents and grandparents were born in - the minute a Palestinian state is declared, we can expect the majority of these refugees to ethnically cleansed - oh, it'll be called "right of return" but it will be the sending of millions of people to a tiny poor newly founded state in a land they have no familiarity with. It will crush Palestine, and both Fatah & Hamas know this...they just can't say it!

So what happens if the Palestinians are placed in the impossible position of having to negotiate by Obama & Kerry? If their standard tactic of producing unacceptable preconditions are trumped by Israel's gestures (such as releasing Palestinian terrorist prisoners merely to get its enemies to talk)  history has shown clearly that backing the Palestinians a corner of talks or agreement they don't want - but can't say they don't want - leads to violence. This was how Arafat dealt with the aftermath of Camp David (when then Israeli PM Barak offered him more than anyone ever expected) - Arafat's reaction has a name - the Second Intifada - which the Mitchell Report (the investigatory committee set up to look into the causes behind the breakdown in the peace process), the government of Israel asserted that:
the immediate catalyst for the violence was the breakdown of the Camp David negotiations on July 25, 2000 and the "widespread appreciation in the international community of Palestinian responsibility for the impasse." In this view, Palestinian violence was planned by the PA leadership, and was aimed at "provoking and incurring Palestinian casualties as a means of regaining the diplomatic initiative."
So at a time when the Mid East is in turmoil, when the Palestinians are deeply divided and their leaders are suffering unprecedented unpopularity and when external influences have a vested interest in the Israeli conflict continuing, how can President Obama consider it appropriate to place the Palestinians under this pressure to negotiate with Israel ? It is doomed from the start and that means people - mostly Israelis & primarily women and children - will die - There are times to push and times to back off - Mr Obama...Mr. Kerry BACK OFF BEFORE MORE MIDDLE EAST RESIDENTS ARE HURT! 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Very Real Cost of John Kerry's Foolish Peace Efforts

US Sec. of State Kerry has been working all out on solving what is without argument the least pressing issue in the Middle East - the  Israel / Palestinian conflict - and his heavy handed efforts will almost certainly cost lives.

As I've written previously , the Palestinians are unable and unwilling to enter into final status talks - unable because they are split between Hamas in Gaza and Fatah controlled Palestinian Authority. Worse, the Abbas led PA is deeply unpopular and seen as a "Zionist tool" by much of the Palestinian street, therefore rendering any agreement unpalatable to the Palestinian people & an anathema to Hamas. Worse, the many years of incitement in Palestinian society, which starts when their children are very small, has led to  a people who truly believe that a Palestinian state will include Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Ramallah. Then there is the issue of the so called Palestinian refugees - 65 years of being kept in slum camps, with no rights by their Arab brothers, they will almost certainly be "repatriated" to the new & very poor state of Palestine, crushing it before it even gets established. Abbas knows this, and knows he can't accept these refugees, nor can he (or any Palestinian leader) ever say this to the Palestinians, who have been brought up on the mantra of "right of return" for 65 years.

We've seen in the past that when the Palestinian Authority has seen no way to walk from talks, it turns to violence, making the situation worse. If Kerry pushes them this time, we can expect to see images of blown up buses and bombed cafe's again - the Palestinians will resort to violence to stop this impossible agreement ever being negotiated - certainly Hamas & other Islamist will resort to violence forcing Israel to defend itself, creating the pretext for Abbas to walk away. Nothing achieved but dead and maimed Israelis, and ordinary Palestinians suffering from increased security measures by the IDF.

Add to that the question as to whether anyone seriously looking at the Middle East, with rampant Islamist clashing with autocratic regimes, and chaos surrounding all of Israel's borders, believe that Israel can  trust the Palestinians & other Arab states to be able to honor an agreement? After all any Palestinian state will occupy the high ground above Israel's center, a military nightmare for the IDF, and yet the Palestinian Authority  cannot even guarantee it won't become a Hamas organization within a year! The what? Certainly a situation far far worse for both sides than that which exists today. The states that neighbor Israel are in position to offer anyone security guarantees - even Jordan, the most stable state in the area, could easily succumb to 'arab spring' violence at any moment. 

I'm not saying there shouldn't be talks or that the potential for agreement does not exist - but this is not the time: Iran & their Islamists have caused chaos across the Mid East, hijacking the  Arab Spring with the potential to drag Lebanon & Jordan into the hell of Syria's civil war; diminished power of Arab oil (along with Israel's newly discovered oil & gas) has started a process of changing attitude to Israel from the Gulf States - a process that could eventually produce regional allies to support a peace agreement..but not yet; a deeply; and a  violently divided Palestinian state in no way ready for statehood - the only the Kerry can achieve here is instability and violence. A regional solution is needed, with regional guarantees & regional involvement in any negotiations, to deal with the issue of the refugees, security, etc...only a fool could believe that in the midst of the current chaos, such an agreement can be reached at this time.

The Obama administration has shown that every time it has dipped its heavy handed toes into the Mid East  it has failed miserably, causing far more misery than existed before they butted in - so Mr. Kerry...your kind of help, we can do without! 

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Egypt: Last Straw in Obama's Middle East Foreign Policy Disasters

President Obama's knee jerk reaction to the original Tahrir Sq uprising forced the military to oust long time US ally Hosni Mubarak - the reason? "Well democracy must be better right?"!  No real thought appears to have been given to who or what might have filled that power vacuum, even though it seemed obvious to those of us who follow Middle East politics, that only the Muslim Brotherhood - with values inimical to democracy - had the organization in place to fight elections. The Brotherhood, recognizing this, pushed for early elections. Obama saw this as an embracing of the democratic values that america loves and so the Brotherhood won the first ever free elections in Egypt, because nobody else stood a chance! I have written here repeatedly that democracy is not "one person, one vote, one time" and in fact elections do not equal democracy, they are the result of democracy - something that has to be understood by the state & citizenship and ingrained into the national psyche, as it in Israel. What happened in Egypt was that a non democratic group of Islamic extremists manipulated democratic ideas to gain power. Obama had no choice, but to to back "democratically elected" Morsi, even after he granted himself semi-dictatorial powers after only 5 months into his year in office. This was a year marked by government censorship, and anti Christian racism as well as one of having no answers to Egypt's rapidly declining economy which led to 22,000,000 Egyptians signing a petition calling for his resignation! Obama's not so calculated risk could have even ended the Egyptian / Israeli peace agreement, and may well would have, without the non democratic influence of Egypt's military!

When the massive anti-Morsi protests hit the streets a couple of weeks ago, Obama and his new (light weight) secretary of state John Kerry, had little to say, and only when the Egyptian army stepped in did Obama make a halfhearted statement in support of Egypt's now cancelled democracy that had never really existed in the first place, thanks to US supporting Morsi! What a mess. Its interesting to note (as several Israeli newspaper editorials did this past week) that two years ago the Egyptian army interceded to oust Mubarak only after the Obama administration turned against him. Now that same military have totally ignored Obama and ousted Morsi (and this despite the fact that congress may be forced by its own rules to block further aid to Egypt's ailing economy until democracy is 'restored'!)  - how the mighty US has fallen in a year.

Looking across the Middle East, Obama has failed to tackle or understand the growing threat represented by Iran, or even place them under enough pressure to slow them down, which has allowed Iran the room to continue its drive to dominate the Arab world and fill the vacuum left by Egypt's demise, interfere in Lebanon, Syria and Turkey not to mention provide the support Hamas needs to maintain its Fortress Gaza policy & prosecute its terrorist war against Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

In Syria Obama has been shown to be weak and ineffectual when faced by an emasculated UN and
intransigent Russia - where is the decisive foreign policy of a superpower protecting its foreign interests and human rights? You would think it was the USA that had collapsed 20 years ago & not the USSR / Russia! The Obama administration's failure not only to act but to even formulate a coherent policy toward Syria has in part led to the death of 100,000 people, the further arming of Hezbollah, the involvement of Al Qaeda in Syria, the gradual destabilization of Lebanon and even a possibility of Turkey, Israel & Jordan being dragged reluctantly into the conflict. It has also created a huge refugee crisis.

Meanwhile what has Hilary Clinton's replacement as Secretary of State been focused on over the past few months? Well yes...The Middle East issue - but unfortunately the wrong one - Kerry has spent a huge amount of time racking up air miles in an unprecedented shuttle diplomacy attempt to reignite the long stalled Israel / Palestinian peace process!! He declares that he has made "real progress" - This despite the clear and obvious signs that now is not a time when the Palestinian side is in a position or mind set to enter talks - it is deeply split between Fatah and Hamas, the Palestinian Authority is unable to hold internal elections, its President's mandate having ended years ago and its current leadership vacuum in its Prime Minister's office. it is telling that literally as Kerry flew back to the US, talking about his successful talks with the Palestinians and their willingness to enter negotiations, Palestinian president Abbas was busy on Palestinian TV, honoring a terrorist leader, with the blood of multiple Israelis, including many children, on his hands   - this incitement is a direct snub to Obama & Congress, which has long criticized the Palestinians over incitement and the glorification of terrorists. Meanwhile on the Israeli side, the new Netanyahu government has other more pressing & divisive internal issues to focus on, before it will want to enter the politically difficult and contentious  [and quite probably fruitless talks] with the Palestinians. 

So while the Arab Spring turns into another Arab Disaster; Iran heads towards nuclear arms and consequential conflict with Israel & other Mid East states; and in Syria (where Iran where not coincidentally, is interfering) the mass slaughter continues, threatening the entire region, John Kerry is wasting his time on an issue that should not (at this time) be even close to the top of his agenda and its not as if he is making headway! A few years ago, former President Bush was criticized for taking a heavy hand in the Mid East, but at least we can say that he had influence and that right or wrongly, his administration was listened to - Obama has turned US's role into that of a minor player on the word stage and because of that, people are dying - that will be his legacy here and that is unforgivable.