Posted by Joshua on Tuesday, April 6th, 2010
The great mending of fences continues as Syria and Egypt patch up their relations. It was announced today that Mubarak has ordered the official Egyptian press to stop its attacks on Syria in preparation of Assad’s visit to Cairo, planned for the middle of the next month. Neocons are trying to spin this improvement of inter-Arab relations as an Obama failure. Jonathan Spyer of the (GLORIA) Center, Herzliya, Israel, writes that Jumblatt’s and Saudi Arabia’s recent rapprochement with Assad is a sign of Obama’s failure in the Middle East. He argues that it is a product of “where the current Western policy of punishing allies and rewarding enemies is likely to lead.”
This analysis is nonsense, however, because Jumblatt and Saudi Arabia made their hard turn toward Syria when Bush was still president. Much like the economic crash, it began well before Obama took the reins. The Doha agreement of May 21, 2008 signaled the first major effort by Saad Hariri to patch up relations with Hizbullah. They agreed to form a government of national unity and put aside the sectarian bickering that had been encouraged by Bush in his winner-take-all fantasy. Also, it is not Syrian violence, as Spyer would have us believe, that is causing this rapprochement, but the natural state of affairs in the region. President Bush and Israel sewed extraordinary violence in order to upset this steady state in the region. The war on Iraq, the 2006 summer invasion of Lebanon, and the War against Hamas, all served to drive an unnatural wedge between the Arab states. Sure the Arab states have their disagreements and policy differences. One cannot dispute that they are not united by great love. But they have not traditionally been at war. There is an understanding of sorts between them – an understanding that Bush and Israel tried to destroy, just a surely as they tried to pit “moderates” against “radicals” and Shiites against Sunnis.
Bushes violent attempt to polarize relations between Arabs had already proven a costly failure before he left office. To blame it on Obama just adds insult to injury. Obama is smart to recognize the good that can come from using a light touch in the region. The Arab leaders will find a modus vivendi that will protect their various interests even if it doesn’t mean that love breaks out all over. A lot fewer people will lose their lives or be displaced by war and insecurity.
New Round Up follows
An Israeli Arab is arrested was sentenced to prison Tuesday for giving Hezbollah information and suspected of helping to target Ashkenazi for assassination as revenge for Israel’s killing of Imad Muginyeh.
WSJ interview with King Abdullah of Jordan:
BY JAY SOLOMON
AMMAN, Jordan—Jordan’s King Abdullah II said he will push the Obama administration next week to impose on Israel the terms and time-line for new peace talks with the Palestinians, as concerns mount inside his government that the stalled dialogue could fuel a new round of violence in the Middle East that targets moderate Arab states.
Jordan’s leader also delivered in an interview Monday with The Wall Street Journal a rebuke of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, charging that his policy of building homes for Jewish families in East Jerusalem has pushed Jordanian-Israeli relations to their lowest point since a 1994 …
WSJ: One factor in all of this, and no one can really see where we are headed, is Syria…How is Jordan’s relationship with Syria and how do you see that?
HM: Jordan’s relationship with Syria is better than it has been in a long time; probably the best it’s ever been. … So the engagement now between the Syrian and Jordanian government on economic cooperation are at an all-time high. The Israeli-Syrian issue is obviously high on their priority list.
WSJ: The message you get from Syria is they’re ready to talk?
HM: Yes, they are ready to talk but again I think everyone is still trying to decide what this Israeli government is all about. The rhetoric is positive, but actions on the ground show us something completely different, so there is frustration from Syria towards Israel……
WSJ: How different does the language from the Obama administration look from here? Some Arab and Palestinian leaders I talked to are describing the conflict as a national security threat to the U.S., which seems to be a shift that is driving this tough love.
HM: It’s not a shift. If you look at military and intelligence positions from the 1950s, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has always been against American national interests. What has happened is that President Bush finally came out and said that the future has to be a two-state solution. And President Obama took it one step forward and said what has been known by all of us for decades: Unless you solve this problem, the continuation of the Israeli-Palestinian problem and therefore the Israeli-Arab Muslim problem affects the direct national interest of the United States. I don’t think that’s gone down to the think tanks and politicians; they don’t see it that way. But the generals and the intelligence officers and senior political leaders do realize that unless you solve this problem … I mean, you are involved in two wars in our region. The Israeli-Palestinian issue is the core issue and this is the problem we have with American decision-makers. It’s always been a challenge of connecting the dots. The Israeli Palestinian issue is used by everyone who has an axe to grind against the West. So resolving this problem does not mean that this evil will evaporate, but definitely, it will take a big chunk out of the challenges that we have in this region….
WSJ: When you talk about Jordanian-Israeli relations at a low, it’s just because there has not been that trust on this issue?
HM: The political trust is gone, there is no real economic relationship between Jordan and Israel, for Israeli businessmen to get into Jordan he takes a visa that day; it is almost impossible for a Jordanian businessmen to enter Israel. So economically we were better off in trade and in movement before my father signed the peace treaty. I mean, obviously there was the golden period of the wonderful relationship between my father and Prime Minister Rabin, and after the death of PM Rabin, again there was a resurgence with PM Barak, but it’s just been a decline since then.
‘Lebanon syndrome’ afflicts Iraq
Winnipeg Free Press
By: Samuel Segev
In a speech in Saudi Arabia, former Soviet prime minister and former KGB chief Yevgeny Primakov said that “it is the U.S. that transformed Iran into a regional power.” He added that the U.S. is now being challenged “everywhere — in Europe, Asia and Latin America.”
He said that the American intervention in Iraq “shook the regional balance, strengthened al-Qaida in Iraq and shook the balance between Sunnis and Shiites in Baghdad.” This new regional reality became evident last week during U.S. Senator John Kerry’s visit to Damascus.
Kerry, a Democrat and chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee, is a supporter of U.S. President Barack Obama’s policy of “engagement” with the Arab and Muslim world.
After long talks with President Bashar Assad, Kerry said that “the U.S. and Syria share a mutual interest in having a very frank exchange on any differences that may exist.”
Kerry added that the U.S. and its Arab allies are hopeful that “re-engagement with Syria may encourage its leaders to distance themselves from Iran and from the strategic and economic alliance with Iran that Syria has fostered for decades.”
This did not happen and it is not difficult to guess why — Syria’s oil wells are running dry, its growing youth population needs jobs and Iran has been the only country to help Assad.
Even more important: Iran recognized Syria’s “special interest” in Lebanon. Despite the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon five years ago, Syria’s dominance in Beirut has never been greater. Even the pro-Western government of Rafiq Hariri was sworn in “with the Grace of Assad.”
This new reality was demonstrated again last Thursday by the fence-mending mission to Damascus of Lebanese Druze leader, Walid Jumblat, who had been among the fiercest critics of Syria’s 29-year presence in Beirut….
Jumblat paid a heavy national price for his reconciliation with Assad. He not only accepted the renewed Syrian influence in his country, but also agreed that Hezbollah should not be disarmed. This enabled Assad to define publicly his strategy in Lebanon.
“In defining Syrian-Lebanese relations, it should be clear that Syria cannot remain neutral in the event of an armed coalition against Hezbollah,” Assad said.
This statement was read very carefully in Israel. It confirmed an earlier Israeli evaluation that, in case of a third Lebanon war, Syria, with the backing of Iran, would come to Hezbollah’s rescue.
Who’s Afraid of a One-State Solution? in FP
As Israeli-Palestian peace talks remain at an impasse, a radical solution gains steam.
Saadé Holdings Launches First Syrian Wine: “Domaine de Bargylus” Syria Report
Customs Revenues Grew 31 pct Year-on-Year in Q1, 2010: Syria Report
The revenues of the Syrian customs grew by 31.2 percent in the first quarter of this year, according to the Ministry of Finance. Read
Twelve Syrians List Among 100 Most Influential Arabs: Syria Report
A recent survey on the 100 most influential Arabs lists 12 Syrians among its members.
India rebuffs US calls to shun Iran gas talks
Saturday, April 3, 2010
India has rejected a call from the US to shun participation in gas talks with Iran, saying “energy security” is a priority for New Delhi.
Iran and Pakistan signed a deal in March to construct a multi-billion dollar natural gas pipeline connecting the two neighboring countries — a project that was strongly opposed by the US. The deal is part of the long-delayed 7.5-billion-dollar Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) gas pipeline project.
“We have no comments to make on what the US official has said. But energy security is of prime concern to the government, and the India-Pakistan-Iran pipeline has to be seen in this context,” The Hindustan Times quoted an official with India’s foreign ministry as saying.
Apr 05, 2010 — The United States will implement new airline security measures this month to replace mandatory screening of air travellers from 14 countries, a step that had angered some allies, including Nigeria, when it was imposed after a failed bombing by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab on Christmas Day.
For many Iraqis, Syria is a secular haven
Tuesday, April 6, 2010; A12 Letter to the Editor in Washington Post
The March 30 editorial “What the Iraqis are building ” praised Iraq’s recent election and favorably compared Iraq’s political system with that of its neighbors.
The editorial maligned Syria as an alleged hereditary fiefdom, but Syria was more of a haven for the dispossessed of Iraq than Iraq’s so-called democracy.
I’ll buy into the new Iraqi system of democracy when the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis living in Syria vote with their feet and return to Iraq. Until then we should remember that Syria is more secular than Iraq.
In Iraq, democracy is being used as an instrument of majority rule without minority protection. Unchecked, this is a form of systemic injustice that is worse than despotism.
Ayman Hakki, Washington
Behind the Settlements
March/April issue of The American Interest
….Settlers and their supporters now control much of the bureaucracy and the process involved in the settlements enterprise—many civil servants, employees of the Civil Administration and soldiers in the IDF itself see themselves as protectors of settlements rather than upholders of state laws and interests. In recent months, the IDF has confronted growing protests from soldiers against being asked to evacuate settlements and signs of protest on army bases themselves. In short, the prolonged erosion of the rule of law as it applies to settlements has diminished the state’s authority and the nonpartisan character of military jurisdiction. The government appears not only unwilling to enforce the law with respect to those who break it in support of settlements, but also afraid to confront the settler movement and its various layers of support in the population. In the meantime, the corrosion of civil and military ethics continues, as the authorities continue to turn a blind eye to illegal settlement activity and the IDF continues to invest heavily in the daily tasks of protecting settlements and settlers. The rationale of settlements as helping the security of the state has been turned on its head; the settlements are now undermining Israeli security by eroding the state’s ability to enforce its own laws.
Ariel Sharon should have been immensely proud to read Talya Sasson’s concluding words in her report to him. Sharon had told me repeatedly that Israel was a “democracy among democracies”, a nation that observes the fundamental tenets of democracy even while in a perpetual state of war since its independence. Thus, Sasson’s words would have resonated with Sharon:
The State of Israel is a democratic state. This is what the Declaration of Independence and the Basic Laws teach us. This is the glue that sticks all its citizens together, allows them to live together in one political entity. Democracy and the rule of law are two inseparables. One cannot exist without the other.15
Some claim that after all these years, and with so many tens of thousands of settlers throughout the West Bank, ultimately many settlements cannot be evacuated in order to implement a peace treaty with the Palestinians. But they can be, and I believe they must be if a peace settlement is to be reached with the Palestinians. That perspective is gaining ground in Israel. It is exemplified by Israeli writer Gershom Gorenberg, whose recent analysis of the settlement issue has drawn a fair bit of attention. Gorenberg has noted the vital role that settlers and settlements played in the pre-state period, concluding that the success of this Zionist enterprise was the declaration of Israel’s independence in 1948. At that moment, however, the national mission changed—from building the infrastructure of a state-in-the-making to the protection of that state and the achievement of its recognition and legitimacy.16 He argues that, by pursuing an unbridled settlement push in 2009, Prime Minister Netanyahu was deconstructing the very state he has sworn to protect, confusing the issue of what Israel is and isn’t. Many Israelis agree with him, and Netanyahu’s own apparent change of course late last year suggests that the matter is newly open for debate in a way it hasn’t been since at least May 1977.
In that light, it was not wrong for President Obama to raise a demand for a settlements freeze, even if the tactics employed to do so did not prove optimal. The issue will not go away, because Israelis themselves increasingly won’t let it. The challenge for the United States is how to pursue the issue in a persistent and intelligent manner. It should do so with the confidence that, ultimately, it will end up aligned not only on the right side of history generally, but even on the right side of the history of Zionism.
RABBIS TO U.S. AMBASSADOR: TIME TO ‘GO BIBLICAL’ WITH ARABS
By Gil Ronen
Israel National News (INN)
Arutz Sheva (‘Channel Seven’), an Israeli media network that runs Israel National News (INN), reported that on Dec. 30, 2009, a rabbinical “congress for peace” proposed to U.S. Ambassador to Israel James Cunningham genocidal ethnic cleansing of Palestinians as “the Biblical approach to the dispute over the Land of Israel,” in the name of “the Divine will”
Left to right: Rabbi Sholom Gold, Mr. Marc Sievers of the US Embassy, Rabbi Dov Lior, Rabbi Joseph Gerlitzky, Ambassador James Cunningham, Rabbi Moshe Havlin, Rabbi Avrohom S. Lewin. The Rabbis handed the ambassador a Halachic Ruling signed by over 350 rabbis in Israel that forbids giving up land controlled by Israel today.
A delegation of the Rabbinical Congress for Peace (RCP) met with U.S. Ambassador to Israel, Mr. James Cunningham, today and called for a reassessment of the entire U.S. policy vis-à-vis the Israelis and Palestinians. The rabbis told Ambassador Cunningham that it was time to try the Biblical approach to the dispute over the Land of Israel.
“The past 17 years have proven without a shadow of a doubt that every square inch ceded by Israel to the Palestinians was transformed into a platform of hatred and terrorism,” RCP Director Rabbi Avrohom Shmuel Lewin told the ambassador. “In other words, the ‘land for peace’ formula in the Israel-Palestinian context, besides being a formula that goes against the Divine will, is ineffective, obsolete, and an exercise in futility. Most of all it is a dangerous policy that only leads to bloodshed and instability in the region and harms vital American interests in the region as well,” Lewin said.
‘LAND FOR PEACE DOESN’T WORK’
The delegation was headed by Rabbi Joseph Gerlitzky, Chairman of the RCP, who is also the Rabbi of Central Tel Aviv where the U.S. embassy is located. Rabbi Gerlitzky presented the ambassador with the Halachic (Jewish legal) ruling signed by over 350 prominent rabbis in Israel that it is forbidden to give up even one inch of territory controlled by Israel today because it will bring bloodshed and instability to the region.
“In the name of the overwhelming majority of rabbis in Israel,” he said, “we request of you, Mr. Ambassador, to convey our Halachic message to President Barack Obama that it is time for a complete reversal and reassessment of U.S. policy in the Middle East. The ‘land for peace’ policy never worked and harms U.S. interests in the region and the world at large.”
The ambassador was visibly moved by Rabbi Sholom Gold, a leading rabbi in Jerusalem, who described the suffering that the Jewish People have endured ever since the implementation of the Oslo Accords and the agreements that followed. “It’s all a play of words, there is no peace process,” he said. “From the day that we started conceding and withdrawing we did not have one day of rest and peace. Why should our enemies want to make peace with us when they see that with terrorism they get what they want? Even the U.S., Israel’s supposedly best friend, sides with them in demanding a freeze and evacuation of settlements. Is the triumph of Arab terror one of American interests?” Gold asked.
Rabbi Dov Lior, the Rabbi of Kiryat Arba-Hevron, said: “G-d gave the U.S. the power and influence to affect the rest of the world and supporting Israel is the key to America’s success.”
Ambassador Cunningham told the rabbis that he does not see how the problem can be solved “without taking into consideration the Palestinians,” to which Rabbi Gold remarked: “Ever since we started taking the Palestinians into consideration the situation only worsened.”
The ambassador asked the rabbis, “So what is your solution to the problem?”
Rabbi Gerlitzky replied: “You must switch the entire approach to the situation. We all believe in the Holy Bible and up until now we tried every formula except for that which is delineated in the Bible. Let’s try it and who knows, Mr. Ambassador, maybe this is your defining moment, that G-d Almighty has placed you in this capacity in order to precipitate a new course which will bring a true peace to the entire region.”
Economist Tallies Rising Cost of Israel on US Taxpayers
By David R. Francis
Christian Science Monitor
Since 1973, Israel has cost the United States about $1.6 trillion. If divided by today’s population, that is more than $5,700 per person.
This is an estimate by Thomas Stauffer, a consulting economist in Washington. For decades, his analyses of the Middle East scene have made him a frequent thorn in the side of the Israel lobby.
For the first time in many years, Mr. Stauffer has tallied the total cost to the US of its backing of Israel in its drawn-out, violent dispute with the Palestinians. So far, he figures, the bill adds up to more than twice the cost of the Vietnam War.
And now Israel wants more. In a meeting at the White House late last month, Israeli officials made a pitch for $4 billion in additional military aid to defray the rising costs of dealing with the intifada and suicide bombings. They also asked for more than $8 billion in loan guarantees to help the country’s recession-bound economy.
Considering Israel’s deep economic troubles, Stauffer doubts the Israel bonds covered by the loan guarantees will ever be repaid. The bonds are likely to be structured so they don’t pay interest until they reach maturity. If Stauffer is right, the US would end up paying both principal and interest, perhaps 10 years out.
Israel’s request could be part of a supplemental spending bill that’s likely to be passed early next year, perhaps wrapped in with the cost of a war with Iraq.
Israel is the largest recipient of US foreign aid. It is already due to get $2.04 billion in military assistance and $720 million in economic aid in fiscal 2003. It has been getting $3 billion a year for years.
Adjusting the official aid to 2001 dollars in purchasing power, Israel has been given $240 billion since 1973, Stauffer reckons. In addition, the US has given Egypt $117 billion and Jordan $22 billion in foreign aid in return for signing peace treaties with Israel.
“Consequently, politically, if not administratively, those outlays are part of the total package of support for Israel,” argues Stauffer in a lecture on the total costs of US Middle East policy, commissioned by the US Army War College, for a recent conference at the University of Maine………..
Ford Prefect writes: I sent this joke to Shai and it became an instant hit in Israel:
A Jewish man was sitting at Starbucks reading an Arab newspaper. A friend of his, who happened to come in the same store, noticed this strange phenomenon. Very upset, he approached him and said:
“Moshe, have you lost your mind? Why are you reading an Arab newspaper?”
Moshe replied, “I used to read the Jewish newspapers, but what did I find? Jews being persecuted, Israel being attacked, Jews disappearing through assimilation and intermarriage, Jews living in poverty.
So I switched to the Arab newspaper. Now what do I find? Jews own all the banks, Jews control the media, Jews are all rich and powerful, Jews rule the world.
Palestinian aspirations are clear, but what does Israel want? Via WarinContext
Posted: 03 Apr 2010 08:14 PM PDT
Gideon Levy writes: Does anybody know what Benjamin Netanyahu wants? Has anybody ever understood what his predecessors wanted? Where are they headed? And where are they leading us? One after another, Israeli politicians have been asked these questions, only to reply with the standard rejoinders: “You don’t expect me to answer this question” or “Let’s leave [...]
In Syria, a Prologue for Cities
By JOHN NOBLE WILFORD
(New York Times) — Archaeologists have embarked on excavations in northern Syria expected to widen and deepen understanding of a prehistoric culture in Mesopotamia that set the stage for the rise of the world’s first cities and states and the invention of writing.
In two seasons of preliminary surveying and digging at the site known as Tell Zeidan, American and Syrian investigators have already uncovered a tantalizing sampling of artifacts from what had been a robust pre-urban settlement on the upper Euphrates River. People occupied the site for two millenniums, until 4000
B.C. — a little-known but fateful period of human cultural evolution…….
One of the most telling finds was a stone seal depicting a deer, presumably used to stamp a mark on goods to identify ownership in a time before writing. About 2-by 2- 1/2 inches, the seal is unusually large and carved from a red stone not native to the area. In fact, archaeologists said, it was similar in design to a seal found 185 miles to the east, at Tepe Gawra, near Mosul.
To archaeologists, a seal is not just a seal. Dr. Zettler said it signifies that “somebody has the authority to restrict access to things — to close and seal jars, bags, doors — and so once you have these seals you must have had social stratification.”
The existence of elaborate seals with near-identical motifs at such widely distant sites, Dr. Stein said, “suggests that in this period, high-ranking elites were assuming leadership positions across a very broad region, and those dispersed elites shared a common set of symbols and perhaps even a common ideology of superior social status.”
Other artifacts attest to the culture’s shift from self-sufficient village life to specialized craft production dependent on trade and capable of acquiring luxury goods, the archaeologists reported. Such a transition is assumed to have required some administrative structure and produced a wealthy class. The expedition will be searching for remains of temples and imposing public buildings as confirmation of these political and social changes.
In what appears to be the site’s industrial area, archaeologists uncovered eight large kilns for firing pottery, one of the most ubiquitous Ubaid commodities over wide trading areas. They found blades made from the high-quality volcanic glass obsidian. An abundance of obsidian chips showed that the blades were produced at the site, and the material’s color and chemical composition indicated that it came from mines in what is now Turkey.
“We found flint sickle blades everywhere,” Dr. Stein said, noting that they had a glossy sheen “where they had been polished by the silica in the stems of wheat that they were used to harvest.”
Zeidan also had a smelting industry for making copper tools, the most advanced technology of the fifth millennium B.C. The people presumably reached as far as 250 miles away to trade for the nearest copper ore, at sources around modern-day Diyarbakir, Turkey. Getting the ore home was no easy task. In a time before the wheel or domesticated donkeys, people had to bear the heavy burden on their backs.
A site like Tell Zeidan, Dr. Zettler said, is “telling us that the Uruk cities didn’t come out of nowhere, they evolved from foundations laid in the Ubaid period.” …