Obama likely to appoint Ross, Kurtzer and Indyk says Haaretz

Alistair Lyon captures the zibdeh of the Bush shoe story: ANALYSIS-Iraqi shoe-thrower captures Mideast rage at Bush: Reuters, Alistair Lyon

The hurling of shoes at U.S. President George W. Bush on his farewell visit to Iraq strikes many in the Middle East as a fittingly furious comment on what they see as his calamitous legacy in the region.

Arab and Iranian TV stations have gleefully replayed the clip, sometimes in slow motion, of an Iraqi reporter calling Bush a “dog” and throwing his shoes at him — the Middle East’s tastiest insults — at a Baghdad news conference on Sunday.

The affront was a twisted echo of the triumphal moment for Bush when joyous Iraqis used their footwear to beat a statue of Saddam Hussein toppled by U.S. invading troops in 2003.

“It indicates how much antagonism he’s been able to create in the whole region,” former Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher told Reuters, adding that the incident was regrettable.

Bush had harmed America’s reputation and the friendship many had felt for it. “Despite past mistakes in its policies, there was always a redeeming factor. In this particular case, there doesn’t seem to have ever been a redeeming factor,” Maher said.

Muntazer al-Zaidi, who works for independent al-Baghdadiya television, has shot to local stardom for his attack on Bush and his cry: “This is a goodbye kiss from the Iraqi people, dog.”….

Some Palestinians, whose hopes of independent statehood have withered in the eight-year Bush era, relished the moment.

“A shoe company in Hebron claimed the attack on Bush and they will give the attacker shoes all his life,” runs one joke being exchanged on mobile telephones in the Gaza Strip…

London Times reports some palestinian families so poor they eat grass

“We had one meal today – khobbeizeh,” said Abu Amra, 43, showing the leaves of a plant that grows along the streets of Gaza. “Every day, I wake up and start looking for wood and plastic to burn for fuel and I beg. When I find nothing, we eat this grass.”

PRESS FREEDOM IN JORDAN: A gift from the king
By Tim Sebastian Published: December 12, 2008 in the IHT

AMMAN: An odd thing happened the other day in the Arab world. …. King Abdullah of Jordan gathered together the chief editors of Jordan’s main newspapers and told them: “Detention of journalists is prohibited.”… “I do not see a reason for detaining a journalist because he/she wrote something or for expressing a view.”

And yet it’s hardly surprising that local journalists were unimpressed. …More than 20 laws continue to govern media conduct in Jordan… No single statement from the royal palace can airbrush away years of harassment and interference. Besides, the king’s statement comes in the same year that his country has been downgraded by the Paris-based organization “Reporters without Borders” in its 2008 Worldwide Press Freedom Index. Jordan now stands at 128th position out of 173 countries – six places lower than last year…..So was the king serious about pushing through improvements?….

Syrian Court Overrules Release Of Dissidents, Dow Jones, 2008-12-15

DAMASCUS (AFP)–A Syrian court has ordered two leading dissidents to remain behind bars after accepting a prosecutor’s appeal against a lower court order for their release, a human rights lawyer said Monday.  “The Court of Cassation upheld the application of the Damascus prosecutor general for the release of (Michel) Kilo and (Mahmud) Issa to be stayed,” Khalil Maatouk told AFP.

Kilo, a journalist, and Issa, a translator, were among seven activists arrested in May, 2006, and jailed for three years a year later for signing a petition calling for Syrian recognition of Lebanon’s independence. They ought to have benefited from a law providing for the early release of all prisoners who have served three-quarters of their sentences and been freed on Nov. 2.   But the prosecution appealed against an order by the court of appeal for their release under the law. They will now serve their prison sentences in full.

Kilo and Issa were convicted in May 2007 on charges of having “weakened national sentiment” and for “undermining the image of the state.”  They were also accused of fomenting sectarian strife.

Carter Visit to Beirut and Damascus:

See Borzou Daragahi’s coverage in the LA Times. It is excellent as usual.

“Carter was in Beirut over the last few days meeting with Lebanese officials and other luminaries. He also appeared before an overflow crowd at AUB.”

Arabs concerned that Hillary Clinton will tilt the incoming administration of President-elect Barack Obama strongly toward Israel need not worry, says Jimmy Carter.

The future secretary of State’s pro-Israel stance will be balanced out by Obama’s national security adviser, Gen. Jim Jones, who Carter said will adopt a more nuanced view toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Jones helped train Palestinian security forces, leading to one of the most successful recent experiments in Palestinian autonomy.

From Reuters: Dec. 12

Carter said that while Obama had picked Hillary Clinton as secretary of state and Rahm Emmanuel as White House chief of staff, there was hope in his choice of retired Marine Gen. James Jones as national security advisor.

“As far as Rahm Emmanuel is concerned, yes, he is closely affiliated with Israel… But I think that another hopeful sign is that General Jim Jones will be his national security advisor,” Carter said.

Clinton had “been quite close to AIPAC’s position in the past,” Carter added, in reference to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a pro-Israel lobby group.

“But I think that Jim Jones is thoroughly familiar with the situation in Palestine,” Carter said. Diplomats say Jones was critical of Israel in a confidential report this year on how Israelis and Palestinians had met security commitments.

Obama to base his Middle East policy on army of envoys
By Barak Ravid, Dec 14, 2008, Haaretz

Jerusalem has received various reports in recent weeks indicating that American foreign policy in the Middle East and in Southeast Asia after president-elect Barack Obama takes office will operate on the basis of special envoys who will report directly to Obama and his designated secretary of state, Hillary Clinton.

Obama and Clinton’s transition teams are maintaining secrecy and minimal ties with Israeli diplomats. Obama and Clinton also directed their people not to take part in the policy debates of the Brookings Institution’s Saban Center forum, attended by Israeli politicians and officials, which took place earlier this month in Washington, D.C.

However, senior government sources in Jerusalem said that the information they have received indicates that the new administration is planning a hierarchy of about five special envoys to various regions, overseen by a kind of “super coordinator,” who would answer directly to the president and the secretary of state.

The sources said that the new policy is part of Obama’s and Clinton’s understanding that all the conflicts in the Middle East and Southeast Asia are to some extent connected to the Iranian nuclear program and withdrawal from Iraq. Therefore, it is important to operate in a number of parallel but coordinated channels to attain achievements on all fronts.

The most prominent name in consideration for the top coordinator post is Dennis Ross, who served as President Bill Clinton’s special envoy to the Middle East. Ross’ name has also come up as a possible senior adviser to Hillary Clinton.

The envoy to the Middle East would oversee the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, negotiations between Syria and Israel and the situation in Lebanon.

Short-listed for this job are Colin Powell, who was President George W. Bush’s secretary of state during his first term; Dan Kurtzer, U.S. ambassador to Israel from 2001 to 2005; and Martin Indyk, who is close to Hillary Clinton and who served as U.S. ambassador to Israel from 1995 to 1997 and from 2000 to 2001.

The other four envoys would be: to Iraq to liaise with the Iraqi government on U.S. troop withdrawal; to Iran to oversee the beginning of dialogue and participate in international discussions on an incentive package; to Afghanistan and Pakistan to stabilize the security situation; and to North Korea to watch over denuclearization and the lifting of international sanctions.

Israeli Uncensored News explains that the US quarrel with Syria over nuclear inspections is welcome because it may prevent progress on peace negotiations and stall possibility of the Golan’s return. Their editor writes:

 “On a positive note, any international confrontation with Syria freezes the Syrian-Israeli peace talks which would cost Israel the Golan Heights and half the Lake Kineret, her only significant water source.”

Iraq urges Obama to talk to Iran, Syria
AFP, 11 December 2008

US president-elect Barack Obama and his future administration must open dialogue with Iran and Syria to “solve” long-standing issues plaguing the Middle East, the Iraqi government said Thursday.

“I call on the new administration to open a dialogue with Iran to resolve the exceptional problems which are affecting stability in the region,” government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said in a statement released at the outset of an international conference in Washington….”Whether the US would like Iraq to initiate that dialogue with Syria, we are ready.”

But the outgoing administration of President George W. Bush has cut nearly all diplomatic ties with Damascus,….”Without having that dialogue between Iraq and its neighbors, between the US and the region, I think we will not solve the problems between Iraq and its neighbors,” Dabbagh said.

In a televised interview Sunday, Obama confirmed he wants to hold talks with Iran, stating his readiness to end a 30-year stand-off between Washington and Tehran.

“We need to ratchet up tough but direct diplomacy with Iran,” Obama said, promising a “set of carrots and sticks.”Despite security improvements in Iraq this year, some US officials continue to accuse Iran of financing, arming and training Iraqi Shiite militias — a claim Tehran denies.

But the number of Iranian-made explosively formed penetrators (EFPs) in Iraq has decreased appreciably in recent months, indicating Tehran’s support for Iraqi insurgents is waning, according to US Army Lieutenant General Thomas Metz.

EFP attacks, which can penetrate heavy armor, are down to “a dozen, 20 in Iraq in a month from maybe 60, 80,” Metz told reporters …

A Syrian embassy in Beirut – the Syrian embassy would be located in the Beirut area of Ramlet al-Baida and the Lebanese embassy in the Damascus neighborhood of Abu Rummaneh…

Book Review

ENEMY MINE, the National
For years, Gilles Kepel has risen above the patter of news-hour terrorism experts. Max Rodenbeck reads the French scholar’s latest book, in which he observes the violent symbiosis between jihadists and their foes

Comments (66)

Leila Abu-Saba said:

Khubaiyzeh is mallow, the kind that grows as a weed in American lawns and all over the Levant. It is edible and is also used as a medicine. My father once said when I had a cold “there’s nothing better than mallow for a cold.”


Depending on the variety of mallow, it could have laxative properties which would not be good for people suffering from malnutrition. You really don’t want to have to survive on khubaiyzeh, but let’s be clear, it’s not grass.

By the way, molokhiyah is another kind of mallow, corchorus, which is also called (bizarrely) Jew’s mallow in English. Arabs and others in the Levant love making stew out of molokhiyah. But it’s not what they’re gathering wild in the streets of Gaza.


December 15th, 2008, 7:15 pm


Nur al-Cubicle said:

Israel owns US foreign policy toward Arab states lock, stock and two smoking barrels. Indyk, Kuertzer and Ross??….Fercrissakes. That is just so wrong. Let’s have at least have one Buddhist on the shortlist. Another 4 years of quagmire, sorry to say. The team with the roadmap to nowhere.

December 15th, 2008, 8:09 pm


Akbar Palace said:

The “Israel owns the World” excuse continues…

Israel owns US foreign policy toward Arab states lock, stock and two smoking barrels. Indyk, Kuertzer and Ross??….Fercrissakes. That is just so wrong. Let’s have at least have one Buddhist on the shortlist. Another 4 years of quagmire, sorry to say. The team with the roadmap to nowhere.


What was your excuse when Jimmy Carter was president or when James Baker was the Secretary of State?

I swear, some people just can’t be satisfied. And the cry-baby’s finger is always pointed at somebody else!

December 15th, 2008, 8:21 pm


Alex said:

Actually Akbar,

I would not call the Arabs cry-babies if I were you : )

There must be a reason why every recent American administration (since Clinton in 1992) assembles a foreign policy and national security team with a majority of Jewish Americans (and sometime Israeli) members… remembering that the percentage of Jewish Americans is nowhere near 50%+ … right?

Could it be that elected American presidents do not want to have to deal with an AIPAC that can not sleep at night unless it has am overwhelming majority influence in the White house?

I was just wondering if you will also cry if you find out that President Barack HUSSEIN Obama decided to pick:

Mohammad Abdul Hamid as foreign minister (instead of AIPAC’s friend Hillary)
Mahmoud Abdul Rahman as envoy for the Middle East (instead of Kurtzer or Indyk)
Ali Qazimi as super envoy (instead of Dennis Ross)
Jasem el-tannous as Chief of staff (instead of Rahm)

And don’t forget to also imagine that Jasem’s dad, Dr. Ghayth El-tannous who used to be “a terrorist” in Hamas when he was young, gave an interview to a Hizbollah newspaper in which he said “of course my son will try to influence the United States Policy to be friendly to Hamas … what is he an Israeli? … he will not be sweeping the floors at the White house”

Tell me if you or your friends would have complained .. just a little bit more that some Arabs complained so far perhaps?

This is not to take anything away from some of the fine members of of those teams like Aaron David Miller, Sandy Berger and Daniel Kurtzer (if appointed), but it is about the ridiculous number of “friends” that AIPAC is promoting (unofficially of course!) and it is about your calling the Arabs cry-babies for finding it less that neutral from the Untied States part to appoint an ALL-AIPAC team.

And finally,

1) Carter achieved peace between Egypt and Israel
2) James Baker arranged the Madrid conference but Mr. Shamir later told a PBS documentary that he went there only to make sure everything fails.

So, it was not baker’s fault or Carter’s fault.

December 15th, 2008, 8:46 pm


qunfuz said:

Before the ridiculous AP cries anti-semitism, let’s make clear that the Zionist lobby is not the same as the Jewish American community, which also includes Philip Weiss, Norman Finkelstein and Chomsky. While the Zionist lobby was behind the invasion of Iraq, for instance, most Jewish Americans opposed it from the start. But Ross etc are out-and-out Zionists, and this is a huge problem for American policy. Shout it loud, everybody. Don’t be cowed.

Can I say here, I told you so re Obama. Undoubtedly his election is a great thing for domestic US politics, but for the Middle East and the wider empire, nothing has changed. (Rather, it has, a bit, but that’s not because of Obama. It’s because of economic and resistance realities).

December 15th, 2008, 8:55 pm


Alex said:

Qunfuz, I expect a bit more meaningful change … but it is not a sure thing.

However, some people agree … for example Mr. Feltman (ex US ambassador to, or ruler of, Lebanon after 2005) thinks it will be only cosmetic changes.

Lebanon: The Future of a Sovereign State
Washington, DC, December 15, 2008
With an eye towards exploring the legacy and the future of Lebanon’s 2005 Cedar
Revolution, which forced the exit of Syrian forces from Beirut, the Lebanon Renaissance
Foundation (LRF) and the Aspen Institute hosted a forum event with former Secretary
of State Madeleine Albright, Dep. Asst. Secretary of State for Near East Affairs
Jeffrey Feltman, Saban Center Director Martin Indyk, US Representative Charles
Boustany (D-La.), US Representative Nick Rahall (D-WV), The Daily Star Opinion Editor
Michael Young, Washington Post Columnist David Ignatius, Lebanese Minister of State
Nassib Lahoud, several Lebanese Members of Parliament, and foreign policy experts
from the Council of Foreign Relations, the American Enterprise Institute, and the
Religioscope Foundation. The December 12 forum was the first major US program sponsored
by the LRF.
During the day-long event, panelists discussed how Lebanon can ensure its sovereignty,
establish a functional democracy, and eliminate threats from inside the country
and from abroad. The event kicked off with a call from Secretary Albright for the
United States to support the efforts of the non-Hezbollah forces in Lebanon to provide
the basic services of a democratic government: “Democracy has to deliver. People
want to vote and eat.”
“Our goal is to help Lebanon claim its birthright as a great nation, a regional
center of finance and the arts, an example of what’s possible among people when
they can work on building something up, rather than tearing each other down,” said
Eli Khoury, president of LRF.
Citing the impressive ability of Lebanon, a country the size of Delaware, to “get
the attention of the world,” Feltman spoke to an audience that included a number
of Lebanese citizens about the likelihood of a shift in tone and emphasis with
an incoming Obama Administration. “Changes in style and tactics should not be viewed
with alarm,” he said. “Refrain from your habit of overanalyzing [the United States].”
Feltman was also quick to warn that Hezbollah is just as much of a threat to the
security of Lebanon as it is to Israel. It was a theme echoed by Indyk, who said
that the “disarmament of Hezbollah is a Lebanese responsibility.” Indyk said that
as long as Hezbollah was more militarily advanced than the government, it would
continue to be a state within a state-jeopardizing Lebanon’s sovereignty and US
support. Some speakers observed that Hezbollah should be able to retain its role
as a political entity, but only if it disarms and yields to the government’s “monopoly
of force” essential for the survival of Lebanese democracy.
Meanwhile, in a panel discussion among Lebanese members of parliament, political
rivals debated the upcoming Lebanese election. Moderator Michael Young observed
that the panel represented the “divisiveness of the Lebanese political class.”
Still, all the panelists agreed that Lebanon should be a sovereign state, free from
all forms of outside interference and manipulation. As Rep. Rahall said later in
a keynote speech, “Do not let Lebanon be a prize for signing a peace treaty.”
Other notable quotes from the December 12 conference included:
“The support of the democratic values of Lebanon is something that is bipartisan
in this nation.”-Walter Isaacson, President and CEO, The Aspen Institute
“Syria is a master at playing the spoiler role if it feels ignored or that its interests
are threatened.”-Theodore Kattouf, President, AMIDEAST
“If Hezbollah and its allies take control of Lebanon, … the basis of US support
for Lebanon will be jeopardized.”-Martin Indyk, Director, Saban Center, Brookings
“We have to look at Syria’s intention toward Lebanon by the facts on the ground,
not by what Syria is saying.”-Jeffrey Feltman, Deputy Secretary of State for Near
East Affairs
“Iraq is the greatest disaster in foreign policy primarily because of what it did
to the good name of democracy.”-former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright
“As we elect the 44th president, we have turned power over peacefully longer than
any other place in the world.”-former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright
“Lebanon’s failure would be a failure of opportunity for the United States in the
Middle East.”-US Representative Charles Boustany
“The stakes are existential. … Lebanon is at the intersection of the realists
and the transformationalists.”-Nayla Mouawad, Qornet Shehwan MP, Zghorta
“There is more competition over parliament seats than there is dialogue in Lebanon
right now.”-Ghassan Mokheiber, Change and Reform MP, Metn
“Unless Hezbollah and the situation with Lebanon is high on the next administration’s
list of priorities,” the Middle East will remain insecure. -Steven Cook, Senior
Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations
“I keep waiting for the actions of Hezbollah to create a counter-reaction. But it
never seems to, and that worries me.”-David Ignatius, Columnist, The Washington
“Using one religious group to stop another is part of the tragedy of Lebanon.”-David
Ignatius, Columnist, The Washington Post

December 15th, 2008, 9:19 pm


Alex said:


This is the best advice President Obama can get:

Note Zbigniew Brzezinski classifying Israelis who object to the peace process into two camps .. those who want to keep everything because htey feel too powerful to compromise, and those who worry about the Arabs and what they will do with Israeli concessions.

And he is picking Colin Powell for mideast envoy and Dennis Ross as Ambassador to Israel.

December 15th, 2008, 10:17 pm


Akbar Palace said:

I would not call the Arabs cry-babies if I were you : )

Alex –

What about Nur? That’s who I was referring to.

There must be a reason why every recent American administration (since Clinton in 1992) assembles a foreign policy and national security team with a majority of Jewish Americans (and sometime Israeli) members… remembering that the percentage of Jewish Americans is nowhere near 50%+ … right?,

Which “American administration (since Clinton in 1992) assembles a foreign policy and national security team with a majority of Jewish Ameircans, and which were “Israel members”?

I swear Alex, where do you make this stuff up?


Who cried “antisemitism”?

Alex states:

1) Carter achieved peace between Egypt and Israel

Which many in the Arab world still complain about:

Many of the Arab nations blamed Egypt for not putting enough pressure on Israel to deal with the Palestinian problem in a way that would be satisfactory to them.

Although most Israelis supported the Accords, the Israeli setter movement opposed them. Because Sadat would not agree to a treaty in which Israel had any presence in the Sinai Peninsula at all, Israel had to withdraw from the entire Sinai Peninsula.[7]. Israeli settlers living in there tried to prevent the government from dismantling their settlements.[8]

Libyan rage at Egypt led to the Libyan-Egyptian War in 1977. The short war had no effects at all after it ended, but showed that Egypt would be despised by many former allies.

Alex, when Carter was president, the Islamic world, espeically Iran, considered Carter to be no different than your beloved GWB. Read the following interview with the Great Ayatollah. Close your eyes – it is the same rhetoric used today against the current president.


2) James Baker arranged the Madrid conference but Mr. Shamir later told a PBS documentary that he went there only to make sure everything fails.

And Rice arranged the Annapolis conference. In both cases the Arab and Muslim world still couldn’t make peace or offer anything different than “resistance”.

Arabs hated Bush Sr. and Baker because they had the “hutzpa” to throw Saddam out of oli-rich Kuwait.


It’s always something Alex. The only thing that will please many in the Arab world is for the US to kiss up to all the jihadist-supporting dictators and throw Israel under the bus (not one or the other). Obama will discover the same thing…

December 15th, 2008, 10:18 pm


Alex said:


hmm … elliott Abrams and the rest of the Neocons??

That covers the past 8 years

And then for the 8 years before, read this article by Aaron David Miller:


Israel’s Lawyer

By Aaron David Miller

Monday, May 23, 2005; Page A19

I’m not a lawyer by training, but I know one when I see one. For far too long, many American officials involved in Arab-Israeli peacemaking, myself included, have acted as Israel’s attorney, catering and coordinating with the Israelis at the expense of successful peace negotiations. If the United States wants to be an honest and effective broker on the Arab-Israeli issue, than surely it can have only one client: the pursuit of a solution that meets the needs and requirements of both sides.

The case for Israel-first advocacy is compelling. Israelis live in a dangerous neighborhood; they have only one real friend and critically important security requirements that the United States is committed to furthering. Practically speaking, Israel sits on land the Arabs want, so without Israel’s trust and confidence there can be no peace process.

Having worked for the past six secretaries of state on Arab-Israeli negotiations, I believe in the importance of a strong U.S.-Israeli relationship. Paradoxically, it is our intimacy with the Israelis that gives America — only America — the capacity to be an honest and effective broker. Arab governments have come to accept this reality. That is why — even now — when our credibility is so diminished in the region, they continue to press for U.S. engagement.

In fact, the Arabs may well understand something we have forgotten. When we have used our diplomacy wisely and functioned as advocates and lawyers for both sides, we have succeeded. In the history of U.S. peacemaking, only three Americans have managed to play this role effectively. Two secretaries of state, Henry Kissinger and James Baker, gained Israel’s trust but met Arab needs as well in brokering the disengagement agreements of the 1970s and the Madrid conference in 1991. President Jimmy Carter employed the same two-client approach in mediating the 1978 Camp David accords and the 1979 Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty.

Unfortunately, too often we lose sight of the need to be advocates for both Arabs and Israelis. The most recent example of this was the Clinton administration’s effort in 1999-2000 to broker final deals between Israel, Syria and the Palestinians.

With the best of motives and intentions, we listened to and followed Israel’s lead without critically examining what that would mean for our own interests, for those on the Arab side and for the overall success of the negotiations. The “no surprises” policy, under which we had to run everything by Israel first, stripped our policy of the independence and flexibility required for serious peacemaking. If we couldn’t put proposals on the table without checking with the Israelis first, and refused to push back when they said no, how effective could our mediation be? Far too often, particularly when it came to Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy, our departure point was not what was needed to reach an agreement acceptable to both sides but what would pass with only one — Israel.

This critique should not diminish then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s boldness at Camp David or Yasser Arafat’s failure to negotiate seriously there. But the primary issue was neither Barak’s generosity nor Arafat’s perfidy; instead, the emphasis should have been on assessing, coldly and objectively, what it would take to reach an agreement acceptable to both sides. If we knew the gaps were too large (and we suspected they were), we should have resisted Barak’s pressure to go for a make-or-break summit and then blame the Palestinians when it failed. What we ended up doing was advocating Israel’s positions before, during and after the summit.

The “who lost Camp David” debate isn’t worth having anymore. What is of value is learning lessons for the future. And one lesson is that there should be no inherent contradiction between our special relationship with Israel and our capacity to be an effective broker in Arab-Israeli negotiations. We can still be Israel’s close friend and work with Israelis and Palestinians to ensure that the needs of both sides are met. In this regard, the Bush administration is not off to a particularly good start. It has been exceedingly deferential to Israel’s political and security needs without any equivalent sensitivity to the new Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, who has all the right instincts and intentions but needs our help.

Yet none of this is fatal. Abbas’s visit to Washington this week will offer an opportunity to begin this process, perhaps with the same kind of letter of assurance on core Palestinian needs that President Bush gave to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon last year on Israeli needs. Beyond this, once Gaza withdrawal is secured and Palestinians can effectively control terrorism and violence, the administration must recalibrate its role — lawyering now for both sides: Palestinians need a settlements freeze and a pathway to permanent-status negotiations; Israelis need a comprehensive end to Palestinian terrorism, violence and incitement.

If the administration is prepared to be tough, fair, and an advocate for both Israelis and Palestinians, it may find itself with a real opportunity not only to make Gaza work but also to move on and lay the basis for two states living alongside one another in peace and security. None of this will come quickly or easily, but then nothing of real value in life usually does. Just ask Kissinger, Carter and Baker.

The writer worked at the State Department for 25 years as a Middle East negotiator and adviser on Arab-Israeli affairs.

December 15th, 2008, 10:59 pm


SimoHurtta said:

Akbar how do you predict that the Madoff affair will reflect to Jews and Israel? Surely it is not anti-Semitic to speak about that important person who donated so much his customers money to Jewish organizations in Israel and USA. And there are now lots of angry powerful people around the world…..

By the way Akbar the cost of evacuating the part of Jewish settlements in West Bank is by general Eiland estimated to be at least 50 billion. A sum iof the same size is said to be missing from Madoff’s “operations”. If Maddof is thrown in jail will Israel demand him to serve the conviction in Israel?

December 15th, 2008, 11:00 pm


Karaman said:


Bush will easily find a job after his departure from the white house.

December 15th, 2008, 11:22 pm


SimoHurtta said:

Bush’s latest “achievement”. Monroe doctrine is replaced by Latin America with no USA doctrine. Maybe the Arab countries could use this “example” in their own “learning curve”.

Bush Excluded by Latin Summit as China, Russia Loom
Dec. 15 (Bloomberg) — Latin American and Caribbean leaders gathering in Brazil tomorrow will mark a historic occasion: a region-wide summit that excludes the United States.

(Akbar the source and writer are not “anti-Semitic”)

December 15th, 2008, 11:41 pm


Antoun said:

Sometimes I avoid writing on Lebanon because the country absolutely infuriates me. Instead I’ll take up another cause, like Congo, just to avoid an emotional tantrum.

Reading the article on the LRF reminded me why I’m not voting in next year’s parliamentary elections.

On another matter, the neocon/Bush approach to the MidEast in the past 8 years has only strengthened Israel’s and AIPAC’s desired targets … Hezbollah, Hamas, Syria and Iran.

Undoubtedly, Syria and Iran would prefer to live without constant US pressure and sanctions, but the blunders of AIPAC-fuelled US policies in the region has certainly played into their hands.

Removing Saddam opened the doors of the Arab world to Iran. And Hezbollah’s victory against Israel in 2006 paved the way for the return of Syria’s influence in Lebanon.

Iran, Syria and Hezbollah are consequently seen by many in the Arab world as the champions of the Arab cause, increasing public animosity towards their own puppet regimes, i.e. Egypt and KSA.

The Iranians and Syrians will exploit any attempt by the Americans to open dialogue as a victory of their policies over the US and Israel. Both the Americans and Israelis are aware of this, and neither of them want to compromise their pride or supposed state of strength.

So it comes as no surprise that Obama has appointed pro-Israeli envoys and ministers. Despite his intention to open dialogue, he still needs to save some face for the great America.

Change in the dynamics of America’s power play won’t come instantly, but I am confident the tentacles of AIPAC will eventually be undone.

Bush’s abhorrent policies prompted for the first time real discourse on the role of AIPAC on America’s foreign policies. Public discourse has continued since, and opposition to AIPAC’s influence is growing, but it isn’t ready to tackle the beast. Bush’s major errors exposed AIPAC’s extremism, blindness and overbearing strength.

I am hoping Obama’s election will lead to a Syrian-Israeli deal, but I am only hopeful as opposed to optimistic. One doesn’t need to start a war to be pro-Israeli, as Bill Clinton demonstrated.

Let’s not forget that the majority of illegal settlements were built during Clinton’s ‘peace-time’.

December 15th, 2008, 11:52 pm


Akbar Palace said:

The Joo Patrol is out there Folks;)

hmm … elliott Abrams and the rest of the Neocons??


You want to name 1 Jew to prove:

There must be a reason why every recent American administration (since Clinton in 1992) assembles a foreign policy and national security team with a majority of Jewish Americans (and sometime Israeli) members

Sorry Alex,

Though there have been many high-ranking American-Jews in various administrations (including that of GWB), they were never a “majority”, nor were any “Israeli members”.

You’ve “stretched” the truth once again. For every Jew in the American adminstration, I can find 10 non-Jews. Of course, it also depends on what you consider to be the “American Administration”? Each department typically includes scores, if not, hundreds of support people.

And which of these high-ranking officials are Jewish?:

George W. Bush
Condi Rice
Dr. Robert Gates
Donald Rumsfeld
John D. Negroponte
Zalmay Khalilzad
Colin Powell
Dick Cheney
General Michael Hayden
Colin Powell

Warren Christopher
Madeleine Albright
Willian Cohen
Les Aspin
William J. Perry

Hillary Clinton
Robert Gates
General Jim Jones


Meanwhile EVERY American knows that the State Department is a den of Arabists very much like our dear website owner, Professor Josh…


Remember April Glaspie? I don’t think she was Jewish…


Akbar how do you predict that the Madoff affair will reflect to Jews and Israel?


Good question.

The “Madoff Affair” will probably reflect to Jews and Israel about as much CEO Raoul Weil of UBS and CEO Brady Dougan of Credit Suisse affair reflects to Christians and Europe.

Or it could reflect to Jews and Israel about as much as CEO Edward Libby of AIG, CEO Daniel Mudd to Fannie Mae, and like CEO Richard Syron of Freddie Mac reflects to Americans.




December 16th, 2008, 3:00 am


norman said:

Syrian Court Overrules Release Of Dissidents, Dow Jones, 2008-12-15

DAMASCUS (AFP)–A Syrian court has ordered

Just having courts which overrule other courts is an achievement in Syria , the lawyer should appeal to a higher court.

December 16th, 2008, 3:05 am


norman said:

We Arabs always wait for the US to solve our problem with Israel , we wait for a Democratic administration, or a Republican one , we wait for a second term president thinking that he does not have to worry about reelection only to have scandals that makes them paralyzed like Reagan and Clinton , to solve the Mideast problem and get our rights back we should fight for these rights and continue to fight until we get our rights for the Palestinians and for Syria , Israel will not give us our rights we have to take them from the US and Israel and get our honor in the process , enough begging for a UN or a security counsel resolution , our rights are well known , we just have to have the courage and the leadership to fight for them,
Stop dreaming for a solution coming from the US ,

And that is my take ,

December 16th, 2008, 3:16 am


norman said:


Task of forging Mideast peace falls to new players

2008-12-16 03:05:00 –

JERUSALEM (AP) – Israelis and Palestinians are closing out 2008 without reaching their stated goal of a signed peace treaty by year’s end, leaving the task to a new U.S. administration, a new Israeli government and possibly a new Palestinian leader.
Three weeks after Barack Obama is sworn in as president, Israelis will hold elections in which hawkish former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is the front-runner. That could complicate U.S.-backed efforts to end a 41-year Israeli occupation and create an independent Palestinian state.
Palestinians disagree over when President Mahmoud Abbas’ term expires, with the Hamas militants who now rule the Gaza Strip insisting he must step down in January. He looks likely to stay in office, but the fact that his forces control only the West Bank after Hamas’ bloody takeover of Gaza last year is another major obstacle to peace.
If the negotiations between Israel and Abbas _ launched over a year ago at Annapolis, Maryland _ are to have any chance at all, they are sure to require intense U.S. intervention.
Many of Obama’s top staff picks are well versed in the conflict: Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel has Israeli background; Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s husband made a major push to forge a peace deal as president; and National Security Adviser James Jones for the past year has served as Mideast envoy in charge of improving the security conditions necessary for a peace deal.
Palestinians are hoping the Obama team will temper President George W. Bush’s blanket support for the Jewish state and take a tougher line by pressuring Israel to stop expanding settlements on land the Palestinians claim for a future state.
Obama’s options include opening a dialogue with Syria and Iran, countries that have long stoked the flames of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and trying to narrow the split between Abbas’ Fatah movement and Hamas.
The parties began acknowledging months ago that they could not meet the one-year deadline set at Annapolis. Even if they succeed, it almost surely cannot be implemented until Gaza _ which along with the West Bank is supposed to comprise the future state of Palestine _ is reclaimed from Hamas, which opposes Israel’s right to exist.
No one knows how that’s supposed to happen. Perhaps the best case scenario will be a signed deal being presented to all Palestinians in a national referendum, with Hamas accepting the verdict. The worst may be Hamas deepening its stranglehold on Gaza, intensifying its rocket barrages on southern Israel and provoking harsh Israeli responses.
Many Israelis see a Palestinian state as a matter of self preservation _ the only escape from a demographic race Israel’s Jews are bound to lose.
Even so, the issue of partitioning the land is playing only a small role in Israel’s election campaign. Instead voters are focused on weathering the global financial crisis.
This is a mistake, argues Israeli writer Akiva Eldar.
«It’s too bad Israeli voters will be lured into the net the politicians are weaving, which is nothing but a way of camouflaging dangers that are 10 times worse than a temporary financial shortfall,» he wrote in the Haaretz daily.
«It’s not the economy, stupid,» he wrote. «This time, more than ever, it’s peace and security.
Netanyahu supporters counter that concessions only invite trouble. They point to Israel’s 2005 withdrawal from Gaza, which was followed by Hamas’ takeover, an influx of weapons smuggled into Gaza, and the exposure of nearby Israeli towns to rocket fire.
Israel’s conflict with Syria may be more ripe for resolution than its conflict with the Palestinians _ considering Hamas’ control of Gaza and the extreme difficulty of cutting through such thorny issues as how to share sovereignty over Jerusalem.
Israel and Syria have been talking indirectly through Turkish mediators, though the negotiations were suspended after Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced in September that he would step down amid a corruption scandal. Olmert, who faces a possible indictment on charges of bribery and illegal enrichment, has stayed on as caretaker prime minister until the election.
A peace deal with Syria would likely see the return of the Golan Heights, also captured in 1967, to Syria, provided Syria cools its alliance with Iran and stops supporting Hamas and the Hezbollah guerrilla movement in Lebanon.
Giving up the Golan would likely be less traumatic for Israel than handing over the West Bank to the Palestinians. That would mean uprooting tens of thousands of Jewish settlers, who, sensing the threat of eviction, are growing increasingly violent.
Israel views Iran as its biggest external threat, and speculation was rife in 2008 that it would attack Iran’s nuclear facilities to keep that country from acquiring an atomic weapon. The year is ending with the issue unresolved and Israelis deeply worried about it, so an attack in 2009 cannot be ruled out.

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December 16th, 2008, 3:24 am


Alex said:


I did not talk about the whole administration, I don’t care about those in charge of trade with South America. I was only focused on foreign policy … you know, the team in charge of the Middle East.

It does not matter what religion those appointed are … let them all be Jews like Aaron David Miller … but I was simply trying to remind you that if your AIPAC friends do not manage to pick a majority of the administration’s team to their liking (Jews or non Jews, like Hillary for example) they will be quite insecure … and no American president can afford to have an insecure AIPAC, so they end up picking tons of AIPAC’s choices to populate the posts of the decision makers and top Mideast advisers.

Let me help you with more from Aron David Miller … he was inside .. he is a good witness:


“Miller writes that many ethnic groups, such as the Irish and the Cubans, are deeply involved in American foreign relations; however, no group in America can compete with the clout of the Jewish community with its influence on centers of power.

This former senior Jewish official is the first to accuse the U.S. administrations of the last 15 years, both Democratic and Republican, of a bias in the Israeli-Arab conflict.”

“…those of us advising the secretary of state and the president were very sensitive to what the pro-Israel community was thinking and, when it came to considering ideas Israel didn’t like, too often engaged in a kind of preemptive self-censorship. That several of us happened to be Jewish was less important than the prevailing climate of pro-Israel sentiment that mushroomed under Bill Clinton …”

“In 2002, then state secretary Colin Powell drafted a declaration that dared to hold Israel, and not just the Palestinians, responsible for bringing an end to the violence in the Middle East. At the very last minute, the National Security Council in the White House and the office of Vice President Richard Cheney vetoed Powell’s initiative. “A senior administration official told me,” relates Miller, “he heard Powell say, ‘They’re fucking telling me which way to take a piss and for how long.'”

That was very strong Akbar no? .. I noticed that you listed Colin Powell as one of the non Jewish names in the Bush administration.

December 16th, 2008, 4:22 am


AIG said:


You are absolutely right that the Arabs will only get what they believe is their rights, if they fight for them. The problem is that you cannot fight outside forces until you stop fighting among yourselves. That will only happen when there are true democracies in the Arab world. Only then will the Arabs be strong enough to take on Israel and the US. How can you ever dream of fighting Israel if you are so afraid of civil unrest in Syria if Asad even allows freedom of speech? How can societies that according to you are not ready for democracy fight any serious foe? This is before we even discuss economy and technology.

First, repair your house. Then fight for your rights. If you insist on the second first, you will not accomplish anything and you will end up like the Arab world after the last 60 years of conflict with Israel: Defeated and without democracy.

If you do not work for democracy in the Arab world, be prepared for more decades of defeat. The choice is yours.

December 16th, 2008, 4:59 am


norman said:

Some people still think that the conflict is Muslim/Jewish one ,

In reality it is Arabic/ Zionist conflict.

ائمة وحاخامات يجتمعون في باريس من اجل السلام في الشرق الاوسط

December 16th, 2008, 5:08 am


Shai said:

Norman my friend, Arabic/Zionist is overly simplified. Every single Syrian thinks the Golan should be returned to Syria. But not all Zionists think it shouldn’t. And, a mere 13-14 years ago, a majority of Zionists were ready to give it back. Every single Palestinian thinks control of the West Bank should be returned to the Palestinian people. And, in fact, most Zionists think so as well. Sharon was elected to do exactly that.

I would characterize the conflict today as one of Arab Rights vs. Jewish Fears. Find the right way to explain the first to the latter, and the latter to the first, and you’ll have peace.

December 16th, 2008, 5:56 am


Shai said:

Syria is making specific border-issue demands public: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3639290,00.html

I’m not sure this is a wise move. On the one hand, it forces Israeli political leaders to react (especially during the current elections campaign). On the other hand, it does force most of them to take a hardened stance which, at best, means to reject negotiations via the media or, at worst, to reject the demands.

The only possible benefit I can see, is continued periodic “reminders” to the international community of Israel’s rejection of the land-for-peace offer. On the other hand, this may further drive Israelis against the withdrawal (those who fear Syrian control of a major source of water for Israel). In election-terms, that means fewer people voting Labor or Kadima, and more voting Likud.

If Syria views Netanyahu as I do, meaning the best candidate to deliver peace, then this is a calculated move designed to maximize Likud’s chances of winning… 🙂

December 16th, 2008, 11:21 am


Akbar Palace said:

AIPAC’s Infinite Powers Revealed

I did not talk about the whole administration, I don’t care about those in charge of trade with South America. I was only focused on foreign policy … you know, the team in charge of the Middle East.

Alex Habibi,

You’re an intelligent person, a great supporter of Syria and the Ba’athist Assad government. Great. But I swear, you still need to understand American politics a little better than you do presently.
You (and I’m sure most Arabs) have some terribly inflated sense of the power of Jews in the world, Israel, AIPAC, etc.

I wish you didn’t. I wish your knowledge of world Jewry was a little more nuanced than you are showing. Israel’s interests are OFTEN not at the top of the list. Israel is competing with other “powerhouses” such as Europe, Russia, China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States, the Vatican, the Left, just to name a few.

AIPAC is also supported at a grass-roots levels by many more people than just Jews. And not ALL politicans are supporters of AIPAC. Unfortunately, for those who are anti-Israel, non-Jewish Americans are generally supporters of Israel. This can be attributed to religious and cultural influences.

It does not matter what religion those appointed are … let them all be Jews like Aaron David Miller … but I was simply trying to remind you that if your AIPAC friends do not manage to pick a majority of the administration’s team to their liking (Jews or non Jews, like Hillary for example) they will be quite insecure … and no American president can afford to have an insecure AIPAC, so they end up picking tons of AIPAC’s choices to populate the posts of the decision makers and top Mideast advisers.

AIPAC doesn’t pick “the administration’s team”. Who gave you that idea Alex? AIPAC didn’t pick Warren Christopher for Secretary of State. AIPAC didn’t pick James Baker either. The president or president-elect and his team pick the members of the cabinet, and then they are brought in front of Congress to be confirmed.

I read Aron David Miller’s article. He doesn’t say that AIPAC picks administration officials. He did say:

…no group in America can compete with the clout of the Jewish community with its influence on centers of power…That several of us happened to be Jewish was less important than the prevailing climate of pro-Israel sentiment that mushroomed under Bill Clinton …”

Fine. The Jewish community is active. The Jewish community works well with the Christian community. The Jewish community is vocal.

There is also an anti-Israel community. It is small and fragmented. I suppose Americans simply do not have a vicerally anti-Israel sentiment that is so strong that they want to challenge it. A few professor here, and handful of Leftists there, but not a great challenge. Actually Palestinian Professor Khalidi is a great friend of Obama. He is free to speak with him and get advice.

Anyway, here is a small bit of informaton regarding the Arabist State Department. The current head of the Near-East desk is a fellow names William Burns. I do not know if he is Jewish or not. You can bet he leads a large group of people under him including embassy personnel. Many are probably very fluent in Arabic.




I got a response from my email to the Israeli embassy in Cairo. The gave me a phone number in Israel. Why don’t you follow up with it??

consular-assist [consulsec@cairo.mfa.gov.il]

(I’m X’ing out my real name to cut down on spam and so forth;)

Dear Sir,

Please call us to 02-33321515 and we will be happy to answer all your questions.

Have a nice day.


From: info
Sent: Monday, December 15, 2008 11:55 AM
To: consular-assist
Subject: FW: Visa to visit Israel


From: XXXXX [mailto:XXXXX]
Sent: Wednesday, December 10, 2008 7:21 PM
To: info
Subject: Visa to visit Israel

Dear Sirs:

I am an Egyptian who is interested in visiting Israel on a tourist visa.

What do I need to bring with me to the Israeli embassy in Cairo in order for me to obtain this type of visa?

Thank you,


December 16th, 2008, 12:35 pm


Shai said:

Dear Akbar,

I am proud of you. At least you tried. But not quite the way I suggested. Remember, we weren’t talking about “just any” Arabs, we were talking about Palestinians going to visit their home in Jaffa and whether they can easily receive a visa to do so.

Your email did not indicate that you were a Palestinian (or even a Palestinian-Egyptian), but rather an Egyptian. Still, the fact that you contacted them is admirable of you.

However, I’m afraid I find two problems with the response:

1. There is no such number in Israel – Israeli numbers have 7 digits, not 8, after the area code. Let’s hope that was an honest mistake.

2. Don’t you find it a tiny bit bizarre that an Egyptian citizen, writing an email to the Israeli embassy in Cairo, is asked to call a number in Israel regarding supposedly “simple procedure” of attaining a tourist visa? Don’t local embassies around the world, that normally would issue the actual visa (and have an entire visa-section just for that), would also have this basic information? If it was so simple for an Arab (in this case an Egyptian) to come visit Israel, why can’t they just tell you straight away what you need to bring with you (2 copies of this, 1 copy of that, etc.)? Imagine trying to get a visa to Russia. You call up the Russian embassy in Washington (or the Russian consulate in a city near you), asking what you need to bring with you to the embassy, and they answer: “Please call this number in Moscow….” That’s odd, isn’t it?

I suggest you follow this up. This may be interesting…

December 16th, 2008, 1:26 pm


norman said:

NEWS | OPINIONS | SPORTS | ARTS & LIVING | Discussions | Photos & Video | Going Out Guide | CLASSIFIEDS | JOBS | CARS | REAL ESTATE

Syria’s Assad seeks Israeli stance on Golan: sources

By Khaled Yacoub Oweis
Tuesday, December 16, 2008; 7:47 AM

DAMASCUS (Reuters) – Syria has drafted a document defining the boundaries of the occupied Golan Heights and was waiting for an Israeli reply through Turkish mediators, sources familiar with the talks said this week.

President Bashar al-Assad recently told Western officials that Damascus wants Israel to take a clear position on the territorial problem between the two countries before agreeing to push stalled peace talks forward.

The Syrian document sets the boundaries with reference to six geographical points, the sources told Reuters.

“The president was clear that Syria wants to know the Israeli view about what constitutes occupied Syrian territory before progress could be made,” one of the sources said.

“According to Syrian thinking, Israeli agreement on the six (geographical) points could help seal a peace deal next year. But Israel may not be able to provide a response any time soon, when it is in such political turmoil,” a second source said.

Indirect talks between Syria and Israel, which were suspended about three months ago after Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert decided to resign over a corruption scandal, center on the fate of the Golan Heights.

Israel captured the plateau in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed it more than a decade later — a move unanimously rejected by the United Nations Security Council.

The two countries held almost 10 years of direct talks under U.S. supervision that collapsed in 2000 over the scope of a proposed Israeli withdrawal from the Golan.

Bashar’s late father, President Hafez al-Assad, refused to sign a deal that did not include the northeastern shore of the Sea of Galilee, a main water reservoir.

The late Assad regarded the northeastern shore as an integral part of the Golan and said that Syria was in control of it before the war broke out on June 4, 1967.

Israel captured the whole eastern shore along with the surrounding plateau in the war. The shoreline has been receding for decades. Under the Israeli proposal, Syria would have been only meters short of the northeastern shore.


Bashar has stuck to his father’s line on the Golan.

A Syrian official said that the paper sent to Turkey includes reference to geographical points on the present northeastern shore of the lake. “The document puts us on the water,” the official said.

Syrian Vice President Farouq al-Shara said last month that “the Syrian definition of the June 4 line means the restoration of the northeastern shore of the lake to Syria” and described Israeli arguments about the shoreline receding as invalid.

Diplomats in the Syrian capital said that even if the two sides make progress on the territorial question a deal might not follow easily because Israel now wants Syria to reduce its alliance with Iran and cut support for the Lebanese Shi’ite movement Hezbollah and Palestinian Islamist groups.

“The situation is more complicated than in 2000 with Syria’s external ties coming into play. Syria also wants agreement on the six points without direct negotiations, which might be difficult,” one of the diplomats said.

Syrian officials have said Israel has no right to set conditions regarding its foreign policy but acknowledged that the political map of the region would change if Damascus and Israel sign a deal.

Assad told his visitors that Syria had received a document from Israel through Turkey with queries about Syrian relations with neighboring states after a possible peace, according to the sources. “The president said Syria has responded, but he did not say how,” one said.

Olmert, who is still caretaker prime minister, has said he wants to renew the talks. Turkey also wants the talks to move to a direct mode from the four indirect rounds that have been held since April, the diplomats said.

A foreign official who has met Assad said the Syrian leader was not enthusiastic about holding a fifth round before the Israeli parliamentary elections in February, although European leaders have urged him to agree to one before then.

(Editing by Nadim Ladki and Samia Nakhoul)

© 2008 Reuters

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December 16th, 2008, 1:28 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Alex –



Remember, we weren’t talking about “just any” Arabs, we were talking about Palestinians going to visit their home in Jaffa and whether they can easily receive a visa to do so.


Actually we (Observer brought it up) were talking about ANY arab visiting Jaffa, palestinians included.

As far as the number is concerned, yes, it seems to have an extra number. Try it anyway just in case. I will reply and ask if there is a local Cairo number…

December 16th, 2008, 1:34 pm


SimoHurtta said:

I would characterize the conflict today as one of Arab Rights vs. Jewish Fears.

I would Shai characterize the conflict as Arab Rights vs. Jewish expansionism. Using the fears explanation is rather “far-fetched” if you mean by “fear” what happened in Europe. The Nazi era has given “you” an convenient excuse in trying to give rational sounding but not very convincing reasons for Israel’s policy.

I suppose that also you admit that the settlement policy and the behaviour of settlers is not a symptom of fear and certainly no rational policy to reduce internal and external fears. Some defensive nukes could be considered as an your fear “reducer” (not “theirs”), but the present level of WMD’s and military capacity is solely aimed to dominate the region. The policy of Israel creates with 100 percent’s probability a need to be even more afraid. Every new day of the mistreatment of Palestinians increases the fear of evident revenge and in 60 years you have managed to collect quite much on the post 1948 fear account.

Using this “fear” excuse one could say that Nazi Germany acted as it acted because of fear caused by the lost WW1 and to get back the lost provinces. And they used that fear and revenge component with “success” in building the Third Reich.


“Anti Semitic” (on Akbar’s scale) Norwegian shoe throwing game.


Saudi man bids millions for shoes thrown at Bush 🙂

December 16th, 2008, 1:40 pm


Shai said:


I did try it and, of course, there’s no answer. But then I googled the Israeli embassy in Cairo and, lo and behold, their number seems to be almost identical to that one… In Cairo (area code 02), there are 8 digits after the number. So it is in fact their local number, not one in Israel.

I’m afraid I don’t know how to pretend to be an Egyptian on the phone… 🙂 So this wouldn’t provide any answers. Plus, I already know how difficult it is for Palestinians in the Diaspora, the West Bank, or Gaza, to enter Israel. I believe it is you who found my claims untrue. Would you like me to fish out articles/blogs by Palestinians attesting to this claim? What will make you believe me?

December 16th, 2008, 1:41 pm


Shai said:


I don’t believe most Israelis today consciously fear a 2nd Holocaust. I do believe they fear it subconsciously. Do Israelis fear the Arabs? Absolutely. Is it a rational fear, given that we have (according to foreign sources) an entire arsenal of nuclear weapons? Probably not. So why do we still fear Arabs? Because deep down inside, we still fear that the world around us is antisemitic, and wants our destruction. You cannot expect a people whose lives and fate were controlled by others for 2000 years, culminating in the most horrific annihilation of 1/3 of its population, to “get over it” rather quickly. And 60 years, full of 7 wars, is not to be considered a long period of time.

So yes, absolutely, many of us still fear the Arabs truly want to throw us to the sea. Unfortunately, what many of us do not understand, is that:
a) The Arabs have a right to think this way (i.e. to hate us)
b) The Arabs are also willing to accept us here, if we at least stop committing crimes against them, and give back land that isn’t ours (as of 1967).

By continuing to hold on to our irrational fears, we in fact create our own self-fulfilling prophecy. We “defend” ourselves by resisting the Arabs. We resist them by controlling them (at least with the Palestinians). We create legitimacy for hatred, and the Arabs resist us. And so on, and so forth. Fear and suspicion grow, so does hatred, and we get farther and farther away from a logical solution. Only bold and courageous leaders can put a stop to this. And, I’m afraid, I don’t see them right away – at least not on our side.

I’m not suggesting the Holocaust is an acceptable “excuse” for any wrongdoing by Israel today, or over the past 60 years. It’s not! But if I try to understand the psyche that may be behind much of what we’ve done, it certainly has something to do with our fears. Simo, you can claim Israel has an expansionist policy until you (and I) are blue in our faces. But it isn’t a policy. It is a reality, that instead of withdrawing from territories we’ve conquered in war, not knowing what to do with them, we began settling them (and haven’t stopped). But we didn’t attack the West Bank in order to settle it, nor did we do so with the Golan. Both the governments, and their generals, intended to give that territory back in return for peace.

Incidentally, if what I’m saying is untrue, and Israel does have an active policy of expansionism, have you asked yourself why is it that we settle only for the West Bank and the Golan? Why did we give back Gaza, and indicate we’d continue with the West Bank? Why don’t we expand much more, in all directions? We certainly have the military might to do so, no?

December 16th, 2008, 1:59 pm


majid said:

Akbar says:”I wish you didn’t. I wish your knowledge of world Jewry was a little more nuanced than you are showing.”
Akbar, you can wish the world if you like, but is it realistic? You see, for Baathists’ it is the greatest sin to appear to be defeated by a handful of Jews. So the easiest way to absorb defeat is to blow your opponent out of proportion. It is all in the psych Akbar. Nothing is for real when dealing with certain ideologues.

December 16th, 2008, 2:34 pm


idaf said:

An interesting post on the ExportLaw blog. A reminder of how stupid export and sanction laws are:

Syria Travel Leads Bank to Block U.S. Traveler’s Account

Edward Hasbrouck, the author of the informative travel manual The Practical Nomad and of an entertaining and informative travel blog of the same name, left a comment to one of our earlier posts on the Syria sanctions:

Earlier this year, [my bank] froze my account (refused to honor checks, and refused to accept deposits, both paper and electronic) after I tried to check my balance on their Web site from a Syrian IP address. …

Only after I had left Syria (which [my bank] “verified’ by calling me at a Turkish land-line telephone number, which of course could have been forwarded to anywhere) was I able to get the account unfrozen. …

I had notified [my bank] in advance of my intent to travel to Syria. I had read their customer disclosures, which make no mention of any sanctions by [the bank] except those *required* by OFAC regulations, which this clearly wasn’t. I had gone to considerable lengths to avoid having any financial dealings with the government of Syria or government-owned entities (or any other “specially designated nationals” in Syria). And I had been able to withdraw funds from an ATM in Syria (of a private, non-Syrian — I was later told they route transactions via a private line to Lebanon, although my … Bank statement correctly showed the address of the ATM in Syria) without incident.

The prior post in question dealt with Google blocking downloads to Syrian IP addresses and wondered how widespread that practice is. Apparently, some banks are at least trapping IP addresses for queries to their websites, but apparently these banks don’t know what to do once they capture an IP address from a sanctioned country such as Syria.

The current Syria sanctions prohibit export of U.S. products to Syria. Food, medicine and informational products are exempted from the export ban. It’s not clear whether the bank’s response to a web-based balance inquiry was an export of a product to Syria and, even if it were, it arguably fell under the informational exception. Even if the informational exemption were not applicable, the bank’s obligation was simply not to return an answer to the Syrian IP address, not to block the account.

The remaining relevant segment of the Syria sanctions blocks the assets of approximately 20 individuals that have been determined to be involved in (a) the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction; (b) destabilizing activities in Iraq and Lebanon; (c) associating with al Qaeda, the Taliban or Osama bin Laden; or (d) benefiting from public corruption. These sanctions would permit blocking a bank account. However, Hasbrouck’s bank certainly couldn’t conclude from the IP address alone of his web-based balance inquiry that he was one of those 20 individuals (he, of course, is not) or that he was acting on behalf of such individuals. Moreover, because the bank itself “unfroze” the account, it was never officially blocked in any event, because only OFAC can unblock such an account once the bank has blocked it.

It seems what likely happened here is that the bank’s compliance program, rather than focusing on the precise scope of U.S. sanctions against Syria, simply blocked all transactions with Syria whether required or not. There certainly are administrative advantages to such a broad brush approach to compliance; however, a bank using such an approach might wind up violating its own account agreement with the customer. In such a case, let’s say that the blocked accounts leave the customer stranded in Syria, or thrown in jail when he can’t pay his hotel bill, the liability to the customer could be significant.

By the way, Edward Hasbrouck is a professional traveler.. this is what he has to say about Syria (as one of his recommended places to visit):
Damascus and Aleppo were, for me, the high points of more than a year on the road. So much to see, and so few tourists. There are caveats and complication, and I’m working on a longer article specifically about travel in Syria. But nowhere else in the world, ever, have I experienced such a universal, unqualified, generous, and sincere attitude of welcome as I did from almost everyone I met in Syria. And that was especially true when they learned that we were from the USA! Nor have I been anywhere with so much historical importance and so few visitors. No, I never felt the least afraid: Even in the largest cities, foreign women can walk down dark alleys alone in the middle of the night safely — and not just because it’s a police state. Except for accommodations, everything is dirt-cheap, including great food and fine-quality handcrafted souvenirs in the frenzied bazaars.

December 16th, 2008, 2:44 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Akbar, you can wish the world if you like, but is it realistic? You see, for Baathists’ it is the greatest sin to appear to be defeated by a handful of Jews. So the easiest way to absorb defeat is to blow your opponent out of proportion. It is all in the psych Akbar. Nothing is for real when dealing with certain ideologues.


Obviously you know something I don’t, for I am just a provincial American-Jew sticking my head into a world of “Orientalists”. I trust your judgement;).

BTW- I know Alex is an amateur psychologist, so maybe you’re on to something…;)

I’m afraid I don’t know how to pretend to be an Egyptian on the phone…


Just change your “P’s” to “B’s” …

Maybe I’ll make the call to Egypt. Don’t hold your breath.

December 16th, 2008, 4:06 pm


MSK* said:

Dear IDAF,

You posted “Even in the largest cities, foreign women can walk down dark alleys alone in the middle of the night safely — and not just because it’s a police state.”

Well, that’s most certainly not true for Aleppo. I yet have to meet a western woman who went there and was NOT groped, and know many non-Aleppine Syrian women who were also sexually assaulted.

It’s been like that for at least over a decade now – my info & experience is from the early 90s until today.

Damascus is the exact opposite. So far nobody has been able to say why Aleppines are that way.

As for hospitality and general welcome – absolutely true.

Dear Alex,

You said “Mr. Feltman (ex US ambassador to, or ruler of, Lebanon after 2005)” — that’s quite a statement. I’m wondering if, should March8 win the ’09 elections, you’d be calling the Syrian & Iranian ambassadors “the ambassadors to, or rulers of, Lebanon after 2009”. 😉


December 16th, 2008, 4:49 pm


Rumyal said:


This time around, unfortunately, Simo is correct. There are many sectors in the society that are either hidden or declared expansionists. There is evidence that Ben-Gurion was looking for opportunities to expand in the 50’s and 60’s. The nature of the fear is indeed as Simo accurately characterizes it “the mistreatment of Palestinians increases the fear of evident revenge”. Sari Nousseibeh has a nice metaphor for this situation, there are two persons struggling and one has managed to force the other to the ground and is holding him down. The person in control (Israel) is now all of the sudden in a position of disadvantage because he’s afraid that the moment he’ll let go the person beneath will start attacking back. Even if the person beneath offers a truce, the person on the top is suspicious. As far as the Golan vs. Gaza the answer is very simple: maximize the amount of arable and inhabitable land and water resources, minimize the amount of non-Jews that you have to take in.

December 16th, 2008, 4:57 pm


Akbar Palace said:

This time around, unfortunately, Simo is correct. There are many sectors in the society that are either hidden or declared expansionists.


cc: Shai, Sim

The “expansionist” excuse is really a load of BS. Before Israel “occupied” any land, Israel was at war with all her neighbors. And even BEFORE Israel even formed her ’48 borders, she was still at war with her neighbors! Apparently, the ’47 UN Partition Plan was STILL too much for surrounding Arab states to agree to (there was no Palestine back then either).

The only reason the ’67 borders are mentioned today, is because some in the Arab world have accepted some semblance of reality. Of course, the jihadists like Hezbollah, Hamas, Iran and their dozens of offshoots (and many here on this forum for that matter), STILL can’t even accept a Jewish State.

Please BS someone else. Not me.

December 16th, 2008, 5:09 pm


Alex said:


In 48 the Arabs, like any other people, did not INSTANTLY accept the loss of part of their lands … imagine if the Arabs tomorrow managed through a surprise attack to capture parts of pre-67 Israel … near Tel Aviv for example. Would you

1) Accept it and say … fine we’ll let them have it and make peace with them.

2) Get angry at the failed leaders in Israel who did not know how to defend the country and expect Israel to fight back to regain the lands taken by the Arabs?

I hope you will realize that the second answer is how you would react… just like the Arabs reacted after Israel was placed in their neighborhood.

Israel was established by force … after the 67 defeat, most of the Arabs were forced to accept the new Middle East that includes the powerful Israel within the pre-67 borders.

But this late acceptance seems to be not good for you .. you keep thinking “But why did they not accept the 48 defeat instantly?”

People change … loses in life make them learn to accept the things they can not control … this acceptance does not happen overnight .. it takes time.

December 16th, 2008, 6:11 pm


Shai said:


I can accept some of that. I studied some of those excerpts from Ben-Gurion’s meetings with the top echelon during the 50’s and early 60’s, and indeed some of their discussions surrounded getting hold of certain territory, though most was for purposes of strategic defense, not for the classic reasons of expansionism, namely “Lebensraum”. No one in the first 19 years of Israel’s existence talked of settlement pockets such as Ariel, Ma’ale Adumim, and Qiyat Arba. From that point of view (strategic defense), the Six Days war offered a certain opportunity, which would only be realized after Israel concluded there was no one on the Palestinian side to hand over control to.

I must side with Akbar about the territories pre-1967. Israel did not intend to conquer the West Bank, Gaza, Golan, or the Sinai. In fact, everyone was shocked that it achieved this much in a mere 6 days. The entire leadership, but especially Eshkol and Dayan, were convinced we had an amazing opportunity to on the one hand kick the Jordanians away from threatening inner-Israel (in some areas, they were but miles away from the sea), and on the other to help the Arab Palestinians make peace with us by handing them control of their own territory. It was a two-birds with one stone hope. And records are more than clear about the numerous attempts, dozens of meetings in village after village, town after town, looking for the Palestinian leadership that could hold it all together. And there was none. The Palestinians were, at that time, more like a bunch of tribes. Separated, squabbling, disunited, incapable of putting together even the most basic governing body. So Israel was left with the task of controlling this territory it never intended to keep.

What happens afterwards is, as we know, a process of corruption that continues to this very day. Certain people within Israel started “getting used to it”, a little bit more than we should have. And as soon as settlement activity began, so did our own corruption. We created a reality which, year after year, would further legitimize (in our own eyes) our occupation of this territory, our subjugation of its people, and our inability to disengage unilaterally.

I accept that there are people in Israel, most of whom belong to the Settler-movement, who truly and religiously believe in a Greater Israel. Indeed their (often illegal) settlement activity is characteristic of expansionism. But this is still not government policy. I’ve claimed in the past that Israel hasn’t had a policy in over 30 years, and I still believe that. But the fact that tens of settlements are still today considered illegal is a testament to the fact that expansionism is not official policy. Barak withdrew from S. Lebanon, after 18 years there. Sharon withdrew from Gaza, and was ready to begin withdrawing from the West Bank. Other PM’s (including Netanyahu) handed over control of cities to the PA. If we had such a policy, none of these would have happened.

What we do seem to suffer from, I’ll certainly admit, is somehow doing all the wrong things, when we don’t know what else to do. It’s like the statements that Livni makes nowadays about the Arab-Israelis, or even the Palestinians. Since she doesn’t know how to resolve any of our major issues (and hence should NOT be our next PM), she says things like “The Palestinians will not achieve their independence, until the word ‘Nakba’ is removed from their lexicon…” Or, just a few days ago “When a Palestinian state is created, your (the Arab-Israelis) national aspirations will no longer lie here (in Israel).” Somehow, we know how to send the opposite messages than intended (best case), or the ones intended (worst case).

Bottom line, if the majority of Israelis were for Greater Israel, you wouldn’t see Sharon winning the previous election so overwhelmingly, when his platform was clearly Disengagement in Gaza, followed by the West Bank. He said, “We cannot control another people”, and he got elected. Most Israelis are ready, even today, to give back the West Bank to the Palestinians. They’re not ready with the Golan, but they are with the W. Bank (a bit of an absurd, if you ask me). That is not characteristic of a people that want to expand their national boundaries. So I accept your comments, partially.

December 16th, 2008, 6:40 pm


MSK* said:

Dear Alex,

And the score to beat currently stands at 15.


December 16th, 2008, 6:46 pm


norman said:

justinnnn said
Hmmm, lets see what International Law, under the Fourth Geneva Convention says about this:

Article 49, Fourth Geneva Conventions
bars an occupying power from transferring “parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” As the official commentary explains, this is to prevent the occupier from colonizing the occupied territory to the detriment of the population living there.

Of course though, as always, the Law doesn`t apply to Israel. “WE WON IT”. You should be band from voicing such irrelevant and childish opinions that have zero credibility in civilized debate.

Puppets of Iran? Just as much as a puppet Israel is of the USA… Ever hear of geopolitical interests? Pick up a book, and shut up!

December 16th, 2008, 7:24 pm


Shai said:


I believe that the Occupation is to Israeli society what Slavery was to America’s. It has corrupted us, robbed us of any international legitimacy, and stained our history in a way that will take generations upon generations to remove. Our grandchildren will ask us why we allowed it to happen, and we will have no satisfying answers for them.

December 16th, 2008, 7:44 pm


idaf said:

Ya MSK* effendi,

This is sheer exaggeration from your part.

I have heard a couple of complaints from ladies over the past decade, but to use words like “groped” and “sexually assaulted” with regards to EVERY western woman?! That’s way beyond exaggeration.

I don’t doubt that a lot of “ogling” and “leering” do take place when western women choose a more revealing outfit in residential or not-very-touristy areas in Aleppo. But from my personal experience during the last 3 year, non of the western women I’ve met there were “groped” or “sexually assaulted”! This summer I was in Aleppo with a couple of Norwegian young ladies for a week or so and later I met a group of young French ladies on tour around the country (including Aleppo). Non complained about “sexual assault”!!!.. You would also be glad to know that the lovely Danish girls were wearing really really tight shorts all the time in Aleppo!!

Where is Zenobia and Annie?! they usually have something to say on this topic! 🙂

December 16th, 2008, 8:40 pm


Alex said:


Now I know I should have accepted to join you for that trip to Aleppo that you invited me to last summer.

December 16th, 2008, 9:44 pm


MSK* said:


I am speaking about women who told me personally about their experiences in Aleppo. Maybe I just happened to meet all those who got groped and accosted. Two friends of mine barely escaped a serious attack when they took a wrong turn. Often it happened in the Old City, in the suq. And none wore anything revealing. My mother was groped while she stood next to me. (Needless to say, the guy will never do that again.)

Now, it’s not as bad as Cairo, but since otherwise Syria is such a calm, mellow place and Syrian men rather timid, Aleppo stands out as the very strange exception to the rule.

The situation may have changed recently and I hear your accounts with joy. But even earlier this year I’d heard complaints from Damascene women about sexual harassment in Aleppo, so it’s not just a “white girl” thing.

My friends and I figured that the cause may lie (and please note the “may”) in a conjuncture of aspects: Aleppo is very conservative, not cosmopolitan, had been in economic decline for a good two centuries, has a lot of immigrants from rural areas, was neglected by the Syrian state for a while at the expense of Damascus and cut off from its northern hinterland after the establishment of the Syrian-Turkish border, etc.

At least until a few years ago you wouldn’t see a lot of women on the streets in the evenings – as opposed to, say, Damascus or Tripoli.

Aleppo was also the only city in the region where I saw seriously drunk men exiting porn movies and bawling in the streets.

But maybe it’s gotten better. One can only hope so.


December 16th, 2008, 9:47 pm


Rumyal said:


I think that what side-blinds you here is that the expansionism is not always blunt and it didn’t always trump all other considerations. Indeed it has been extremely calculated and that’s why it’s been so successful both on the ground and in terms of disassociating the mainstream Israeli establishment from the settlement activity, such that it could be blamed on a few fanatics. But it doesn’t take a lot of digging to figure out that all of our leadership since the mid-70’s has been knee deep in furthering the settlement enterprise. I believe that the end-game as far as the West bank is concerned has been known to the likes of Peres since the day he authorized the first settlements, through the point when Barak was funding them to the tune of $300M a year and whatever Bibi is going to do next is not hard to guess. Those were no “accidents”. On the contrary, it was always useful to portray them as such, and even build a dovish public opinion in Israel, which has been and still is a tiny fig-leaf covering what the bulldozers do at the government’s bidding in the West bank. These may sound like conspiracy theories to you but the facts on the ground speak for themselves.

And an image is better than a thousand words…


December 16th, 2008, 9:58 pm


MSK* said:

Dear all,

Has anyone an idea which six geographical points are on that mentioned Syrian document on the future Israeli-Syrian border?

Oh, and as an aside, I wonder how long it’ll take ’till someone picks up on the name of the Druze-Israeli deputy FM who’d said that “Syria must first cut off all contact with Iran before making any demands of Israel.” (http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1047188.html) It’s Majali Wahhabi … (which sounds almost like “Wahhabi journal”).


December 16th, 2008, 10:08 pm


Shai said:


I don’t argue the fact that most Israeli governments, from Left to Right, have in more than one way encouraged Settlements (funded them, etc.) in the West Bank. Peres is probably one of those most responsible, if not the most. And I suppose you could claim that facts on the ground are louder than the propaganda all these governments have been pushing down our ears (in Israel), and especially abroad. My argument is about the purpose for this “expansionism”, whether it was official policy, or not. If the endgame was known, as you claim, and if it is the evacuation of most (if not all) settlements and their populations, then I can see only a single possible “rational” purpose for this activity over the years. It is to attempt to pressure and speed up the recognition amongst the Palestinians that time is not on their side, and that they should therefore seek to end their conflict with Israel, peacefully.

It’s like a ticking time-bomb, that we’re trying to create, by adding more settlements. But in reality, it is the noose around our own necks that we’ve been tying, not theirs. While the endgame may have been known (or hoped for) in advance, I doubt the middlegame or, for that matter, any part of the game, was ever seriously contemplated BEFORE encouraging settlement activity. But I steadfastly maintain that neither Israel as a whole, nor its political leadership, has ever sought to permanently take over the Palestinian territories (and hence, to permanently expand). If it had, we would have annexed the West Bank and Gaza, just as we did with the Golan. We would have given the Palestinian population only one citizenship to choose from – Israeli. We would have acted as a true expansionist conqueror, by conquering, and annexing. This could certainly be said about the Golan today. But I still reject it with regards to the West Bank.

December 16th, 2008, 10:50 pm


Rumyal said:


Again, the test that you’re using (why haven’t we annexed the West bank) is assuming that if Israel had been expansionist, it would have devoured all land that it could without any other considerations. What I’m saying is that Israel has been a cautious-yet-persistent expansionist and it did succumb to other considerations along the way. For example, Peres and Alon and all the other good-ol-folks never really wanted to annex Nablus and its residents but they *did* and still do dream of keeping control over the (fertile, strategic and sparsely populated) Jordan river valley. It’s exactly the same type of thinking, a cost-benefit analysis, where benefit equals land and cost equals Arab population and international condemnation that motivates the Israeli stance towards holding vs. relinquishing other occupied land (e.g., the Golan). AIG has been articulating this type of thinking loud and clear. Some settlements I believe were always known to be removed some day and authorizing them entailed two benefits: (a) short-term political gain with the settlers and (b) increased pressure on the Palestinians but maybe less for bringing them to the negotiation table and more for convincing them to finally leave. Some were built in a “let’s give it a shot and see what happens” type of mood. And some were built in order to never be removed (Ariel, Maale Edomim).

Had the Palestinians forgot about their pride for a second and started a campaign to become Israeli citizens Israel would have been a multi-national secular state by now. But as you alluded to, they never knew how to play the game as good as we did… It would still be a winning strategy for them today, instead of settling for three Bantustans in the West bank as their final claim to self-determination.

December 16th, 2008, 11:14 pm


Shai said:


From what I’ve studied (having read transcripts of Ben-Gurion’s meetings), I fully accept that Israel had been eyeing some kind of control over strategic points throughout the West Bank, and after 1967, especially overlooking the Jordan Valley. But since 1977, Israelis and Israeli leaders have been forced to consider yet another possibility – that our security may be better guaranteed through peace agreements, than through occupation. For another 15 years, there was again no one to talk to on the Palestinian side (the PLO didn’t recognize us). In the early 90’s, there was a chance, for the first time, to create a Palestine on 97% of the West Bank. Those were the figures discussed, and they didn’t include remaining in all three large pockets. Ma’ale Adumim, for instance, would have been evacuated. So would Qirayat Arba. There’s a reason we were ready to offer this to Arafat – we never intended to stay there forever. It wasn’t a game – it was very real.

I don’t want to get into why none of it worked out. The other side (and some of us) surely believe Israel never meant it. Others think the PA was more interested in the benefits of control and in continued Intifadas than in the actual Palestinian people and their national aspirations becoming a reality. But clearly, continued violence and bloodshed (and settlements) replaced hope and peace. Now I hear we’ve asked Abu Mazen to formally annex 6.7% of the West Bank. I guess we can no longer offer 97%, we’re down to 93.3%. And if we keep the three pockets, we’ll be offering land inside Israel in return, just as we did with Jordan in 1994.

Rumyal I’m sorry, but I cannot accept that Israel tried, as a policy, to cause the kind of pressure upon the Palestinian people that would cause them to leave. That is called “Voluntary Transfer”, of million of people, and I see no indication whatsoever that we’ve ever supported this. One can, of course, claim that the Apartheid rule we’re exercising in the Territories is meant to do exactly that, but I’d argue with this as well. How can millions of people leave their land voluntarily? Where would they go – Jordan? No Arab nation would accept them. And no Palestinian would leave unless forced to at gunpoint. Holding on to their land is the last bit of pride they have. So because Israelis are building red-roofed modern houses all around them means they’ll give up and leave? No way on earth. And if that’s what we were trying to do, we’d have 2 million Jews living in the Territories by now (40 years is a long time), not 260,000.

I’m afraid what we’ve done by allowing settlement activity to take place, is more of the “let’s give it a shot and see what happens”-type in order to pressure the Palestinians to reach a settlement with Israel. It was a foolish “plan”, never well-thought through, never considered for all its weaknesses and immorality. No Israeli leader in his right mind anticipated, 40 years ago, that we’d still be there today, or that the Palestinians would not have a state yet. No government thought of creating Ariel, Ma’ale Adumim, or Qiryat Arba, in order to be there forever.

But let’s put this argument aside for a moment. What’s important to me, is that we did offer 97% of the West Bank, and now we’re (apparently) offering 93.3% of it. Let’s not wait until we have only Israel to offer (i.e. the One State solution). Truth is, I think many Palestinians are beginning to see that as their only option (understanding it would take much longer to achieve and, as usual, at their expense). In theory, if there WERE 2 million Jews living in the West Bank, all around Palestinian towns and villages, Israel would eventually have to annex the entire territory. Greater-Israel would become, de fact and de jure, the One State solution! When I think of it in those terms, I don’t know what I prefer anymore…

December 17th, 2008, 5:01 am


Shai said:


You must agree with me, that with each day that passes, and with each new settlement that is built, we are getting closer and closer to a One State solution, are we not? The more Jews there are in the West Bank, the more likely it is we’ll have to annex it one day. And when we do, we’ll have to incorporate all the 3.4 million Palestinians within our territory. What else can we do “with them”? Place them on buses, and send them out of Greater Israel? Few in Israel still dream of that.

So if indeed Israel is exercising a policy of expansionism, and if indeed Israel is terrified of a One State solution, then our policy is a terribly ineffective and quite possibly suicidal one, no?

December 17th, 2008, 5:29 am


Alex said:


I can tell you that almost everyone here disagrees with you over this point:

You seem to believe that decision by Israeli leaders concerning peace settlement with the Palestinians or with Syria are mostly a matter of personal preferences, personal opinions, and political games played pre or post elections by Israeli politicians of the day.

Most Syrians here believe that Israeli leaders, allies or not, understand the long term strategies that they have to stick to … For example, Olmert does not negotiate away the Golan merely to escape his legal issues …

Peace loving former Prime Minister Peres also killed Arabs … all prime ministers pursued nuclear technology, all prime ministers financed settlements, all prime ministers failed to offer the obvious deal that the Arab to the Arab world (based on UN 242 and 338)

One exception, former Prime minister Rabin, was ready for the real deal … but he was eliminated.

What do you say?

December 17th, 2008, 5:51 am


Shai said:


No, absolutely not. And I apologize if I am not making myself clear (or indicating the opposite of what I mean). It was indeed Israeli leaders and governments that supported settlements all these years. I fully accept that. It was not merely pre or post election tactics. But I claim it wasn’t about “Lebensraum” or even “Greater Israel”. It wasn’t intended forever. Few Israelis politicians have ever dreamt of a Greater Israel, and even fewer think (or thought) we could ever achieve it. Settlement activity, therefore, was intended to cause pressure. I disagree with Rumyal about the possibility of pressure intended for “voluntary transfer” of millions of Palestinians. I do believe it was meant to force them to find a way to settle their conflict with us peacefully.

Again, if Israel has had, or still has, an active policy of expansionism, why did we offer 97% of the West Bank, and 100% of Gaza? Why are there only 260,000 Jews living in the relatively-large territory of the West Bank? We could have easily encouraged 50,000 per year, over the past 40 years, and have had a powerful 2,000,000 Jews in this territory today. If we intended to expand, why only bring in 3% of our population into this territory? And why offer almost its entirety to the Palestinians over the past 15 years? Those who believe in Expansionism need to answer these questions.

December 17th, 2008, 6:02 am


Rumyal said:


I don’t think that this is in our mutual interest to argue over this here, but what you believe in can be disproved or seriously questioned, and I can point you at the relevant sources if you wish.

Perhaps the most important thing to note is that Oslo *did not* commit Israel to returning any particular fraction of the land and it also *did not* commit Israel in any way to stopping the settlement activity and Rabin *did not* stop settlement activity after signing Oslo but rather he accelerated the pace. What conclusions can be drawn from that? The fact that the Palestinians, actually the Tunis folks, signed such a lousy deal is the main reason for the agreement’s eventual failure and a huge betrayal of their people which was motivated by the lure of power, as you noted.

Maale Adomim has 33,000+ residents with huge expansion plans. It will never be evacuated. Who’s army is going to do this?

I share your thinking of the possible good that may come out of the accelerated settlement activity, in the sense it will force a single secular nation eventually. But before this will happen, we are likely to see more dispossession, racism, war and maybe even military and de jure racist regime in Israel before we see the light. I fear this is the most likely scenario for the future. The only ones that are in position to save us are the Americans, if only they stopped listening to AIPAC.

So if indeed Israel is exercising a policy of expansionism, and if indeed Israel is terrified of a One State solution, then our policy is a terribly ineffective and quite possibly suicidal one, no?

No, that’s not the correct conclusion. The end-game is depicted quite well in the map I provided a link to. i.e., all the Pals crammed into three Bantustans, hopefully getting the message and leaving for the greener pastures of America and Europe, Jordan river valley stays under Israeli control, we get to keep the major settlement blocs and all of Jerusalem etc. etc. AND a PLO puppet such as Abu Mazen accepts all of this as a fair deal. I listened to the podcast by Alon Liel you provided a link to, it reminded me of something similar: obviously like all deals that are too good to be true (such as Oslo and the Bantustans induced by the separation wall and Jewish-only roads) this will blow up in our faces, much like the Bashir Goumayel presidency in the Lebanon war.

December 17th, 2008, 6:33 am


Shai said:


I admit that you make valid points, and ones that cannot be ignored. But at the heart of your belief is this “endgame” plan that, you claim, Israeli leaders have always had in mind. We disagree on what the “endgame” is. As you see it, it is that map you included. But I dare ask, when was this map planned? Before 1967? Never. If after 1967, then when? You see, I reject the notion that “a plan” to split up the West Bank has been official Israeli policy in the past, or even today. The “endgame”, as I see it, is the withdrawal of Israel from the West Bank (Gaza already done), period. That today this plan includes the three large pockets of settlements does not indicate that 40 years ago, or 30 years ago, or even 20, this was the case. If you look at the settlements throughout the W. Bank, there are hundreds of strongholds, that are spread in all directions, in and out of these major pockets (especially outside). To the Settlers, each one of these is a potential “Ariel”. They’ll expand as long as they are allowed to.

If Israel indeed has a policy of expansionism, why stop at Ariel, Ma’ale Adumim, and Qiryat Arba? Why not truly expand? We have so many other settlements to expand, to turn into towns, to create further pockets, to divide the Palestinian territories into a truly impossible area to ever govern – and to cause them infinitely greater frustration which may push them to leave. But even this dream of causing Palestinians to leave their land is utterly unrealistic to even contemplate. The majority of Palestinians barely have enough money to put a single warm meal on their table each day – but they’ll be able to board a plane and emigrate? Are there some Arab countries, or Western ones for that matter, that are offering even temporary shelter, not to mention permanent one? None. If you have a policy, it needs to be based on some reasonable analysis and a potential for success.

By the way, just as we didn’t plan in advance to have these three large pockets in the West Bank, the more we wait, the more likely we’ll find ourselves a decade from now with four or five such pockets, from which we will no longer be able to withdraw. Is this something we are planning? If you ask me, the answer is clearly no. Because it means, without a doubt, that we are de facto forming a single state, with what seems to be (according to a recent Israel Bureau of Statistics study) a majority non-Jewish population. No Israeli wants that today. And yet we want to expand? Sorry, Rumyal, I’ve yet to be convinced of it. Show me the same map, made 40 years ago, or even 30 years ago, and I’ll consider your thesis. But with a map that is changing every other month (for the worse), and a reality that has taken the place of any sane policy, indeed ANY policy whatsoever, I cannot accept the theory of planned-expansionism. Or that if it indeed exists, it is a truly idiotic and suicidal one.

December 17th, 2008, 6:56 am


Alex said:


Recently we had a stunning demonstration, on Wall street, of how power and lack of accountability, can lead to greed.

It is hard for Israelis (or non Israelis) to stick to “we only want to convince our enemies to make peace with us” when they have hundreds of nuclear weapons and when their enemies are highly ineffective.

I agree with Rumyal when it comes to your leaders’ long term strategy… I believe they are all sticking (more or less) to the plan(s).

But when it comes to normal Israeli people, may I suggest that both you and Rumyal are right … depending at what year we are looking at?

For example, after Sadat visited Israel … there was a genuine desire for peace with Egypt. Same after King Hussein showed Israelis how he is a trustworthy friend.

On the other hand, in 2004 … after Prime minister Sharon really succeeded in stopping the Intifada and stopping all attempts to carry out suicide bombing missions, and especially after the Americans took Baghdad without encountering any resistance … and especially after President Bush completely ignored the utter hate in the Arab street to Prime minister Sharon (“the butcher”) and called him “a man of peace”

in 2004 … many more Israelis were ready to offer the Arabs peace for peace … take or leave it .. if you don’t like it … let us show you our nuclear weapons… no one will dare criticize us with the Americans behind us.

Israeli people are like other people … I don’t see why they would not go through phases of utter greed and arrogance after a demonstration of the incredible gap between their military capabilities and that of their enemies… and after the non conditional support that AIPAC puppets in Washington DC provided to Israel.

Most humans, including Israelis, are selfish and they would act in a selfish way if they are allowed to … and … the same absolute power that corrupts Arab dictators can only corrupt Israelis who got exposed to near absolute power.

That’s why I was delighted with Hizbollah’s “victory” in 2006 … it was needed to partially correct this mentality

December 17th, 2008, 7:18 am


Rumyal said:

The answers to the questions that you raise are varied as Israel politics are.

Some aspects of desired expansion were known prior to 67 in geographic terms. For example:
1) The desire to control the tributaries of the Jordan river (water security).
2) The desire to control the Jordan river (to prevent an Eastern attack).
3) The desire to expand Israeli control in and around Jerusalem (to increase security in the capital and avoid cutoff of neighborhoods as has happened in 48).
4) The desire to provide more strategic depth around Natanya (to prevent cutoff and shelling of large population centers).

I agree that these were not Lebensraum considerations, at least not initially.

I agree that after 67 a lot has been left for “chance”, but only if you look at it from the point-of-view of a centrist government. From the settlers’ and the right’s perspective the agenda has always been clear and unrelenting. You may not know where the 5th pocket of settlements will appear, but they already know where they want it to be, and they have all the resources to make it happen. And they just need somebody like Bibi to make it happen.

Beyond the right, I think the majority of Israelis, including the labor governments, perhaps don’t have a clear map for expansion but they definitely don’t reject the concept of expansion. Their end-game doesn’t include a full-fledged map but they definitely believe that if we can hold-on to some of the “finds”, then why not… But even these people do have a sketch of a map in their head (Jerusalem, Maale Adumim, Ariel, River crossings…)

As for the 200,000 vs. 2,000,000 question, the answer to that is twofold: first, it’s not that much fun to live there. You need to either have the ideology or it needs to match your financial profile, usually both. Heck, Haifa is struggling to attract people, so you can imagine that West bank will be a tough sell. Second, the difference between 200,000 and 2,000,000 is the difference between a limping yet-still-welcome Israel vs. a boycotted South African pariah. Like I said, it’s not an all-out by all sectors of society type of expansionism, it’s more subtle and selective than that, and it didn’t trump all other considerations (such as acceptance in the international community).

December 17th, 2008, 7:35 am


Shai said:


Again, I don’t disagree. Indeed Israelis are like many others around the world, also greedy. In many ways, we are far worse, because this “greed” has indeed come at the expense of people other than ourselves, and through blatant criminal behavior. And I also agree that we, as a people, go through cycles. Sometimes most of us want peace, and other times, most of us don’t.

But things are much more complicated that, I believe, what either you or Rumyal are suggesting. Because 70% of Israelis do not trust Syria enough to make peace with it today (by returning the Golan), does not mean they’ve always planned to expand into the Golan, to occupy it, to annex it, and to stay forever. A mere decade ago, most Israelis were ready to give back the Golan. Why were Israelis EVER willing to give back any territory occupied (or certainly annexed), if there was official policy of expansion? Why have there been periods in our history, where land-for-peace was offered, and not peace-for-peace? There is no such thing as “Israeli leaders” different from “Israeli people”. They are the same thing. Do you honestly believe that Shimon Peres, Ariel Sharon, Netanyahu, Barak, Olmert, all congregate periodically and decide to continue this policy of expansionism, if it wasn’t something the Israeli people wanted? What each and every one of them has done, and in that has indeed partaken in furthering this criminal behavior, is looked the other way. Quite often also enabling certain funds for settlement activity.

But if Israel had a policy of expansionism, please tell me why on earth we only have 260,000 Jews in the West Bank, instead of 2 million? And when in Israel’s history, was it planned to have 260,000 Jews there? And why do we only have about 16,000 Jews in the Golan, a territory we annexed and consider Israel proper? We are a nation of 7 million people. If the majority of these people believe the West Bank is ours, why don’t you see at least 10%, or 20% of us living there? I’ve been many times to the West Bank and, believe me, it has some of the most beautiful spots on earth. If I believed it belonged to Israel, I would have long ago moved there. Yet in 40 years, only 260,000 Jews – why?

Ehud Barak thinks ten times before approving the building of another 15 housing units in Ariel. Why doesn’t he approve 50 each day? Why isn’t there a huge demand to move into “Greater Israel”? I have yet to hear an answer to this. I know my answer, and it is because most of us know that we will one day (soon hopefully) vacate almost its entirety. No point moving your entire family and your life into a place you’ll need to vacate. This is not the rationale exercised merely by peace-loving Leftists. Most Israelis believe in it. And so do their leaders.

December 17th, 2008, 7:39 am


Rumyal said:


Look at me, I forgot the salutation! It’s getting late…


Catchy tune, middle-eastern beat… I agree with everything you said above.

December 17th, 2008, 7:50 am


Shai said:


You’ve been to the West Bank, and you’ve probably been to some settlements as part of your army service. Some places are as close to “heavenly” as you can get in our part of the world. Trust me, if Israeli governments wanted to encourage more Israelis to move there, they could do it in a second. But, more logically, they could simply annex the Territories. Why haven’t they? Again, no one in 1967 thought about Ariel, Ma’ale Adumim, or Qiryat Arba – they simply didn’t.

I agree with you that the religious settler movement, as well as certain elements within the Right, have always sought to take over (not to expand into pockets) the entire West Bank. They believed, and some still do, in Greater Israel. To them, it’s not about pockets, it’s about the entire territory. Ariel Sharon himself confessed once, not too long ago, that the first time he began considering that controlling the West Bank was a terrible mistake was when a friend of his, professor of Geography from Haifa University, presented him with a demographic map of Greater Israel. In that map, it was crystal clear that within just a few years, more non-Jews would be living under Israeli law than Jews. That made him rethink everything. And, as you’ll recall, he finally changed 180 degrees, and was ready to pull out of the West Bank. You’d have never thought of hearing this from Ariel Sharon, right?

So let us end this argument with a simple agreement – that whether there is or isn’t official policy of expansionism in Israel, further settlements in the West Bank are, with each day that passes, bringing us closer and closer to a One State solution. You and I fear this far less than the average Israeli does. In that sense, we are in an extreme-minority. But given that Israelis (leaders or the people) did not know in advance 40, 30, and 20 years ago where settlement activity would stop, so do Israelis today not know about the future. The Settlers may have maps with 50 pockets planned out, and some on the Right may strongly support them, but most Israelis already understand that this activity is in full contradiction to their national aspiration, namely of remaining a Jewish State. And, as such, most Israelis should not support this policy (or non-policy) of expansionism. Do you agree?

December 17th, 2008, 7:54 am


Rumyal said:


I disagree with the initial arguments you present, for reasons I have already listed and in addition I think you make some factual errors. But let’s skip to this:

So let us end this argument with a simple agreement – that whether there is or isn’t official policy of expansionism in Israel, further settlements in the West Bank are, with each day that passes, bringing us closer and closer to a One State solution. You and I fear this far less than the average Israeli does. In that sense, we are in an extreme-minority. But given that Israelis (leaders or the people) did not know in advance 40, 30, and 20 years ago where settlement activity would stop, so do Israelis today not know about the future. The Settlers may have maps with 50 pockets planned out, and some on the Right may strongly support them, but most Israelis already understand that this activity is in full contradiction to their national aspiration, namely of remaining a Jewish State. And, as such, most Israelis should not support this policy (or non-policy) of expansionism. Do you agree?

Yes I agree that most Israelis should not, by their own preferences, support further settlement and I further think that currently (as opposed to the past) they actually realize that. However, I think that this majority is absolutely powerless to do anything about it. There is a collusion of interests in the economic (public and private) domains, security services, ministry of interior and the settler and right political power that is irresistible, till this day, in Israel. If Barak or Livni were being elected on a platform of stopping settlement activity (which they are not) then you could potentially expect some sort of voter accountability (but when was accountability ever a factor in Israeli politics). A case in point is Rabin’s government on the morning after Oslo—not stopping settlements. If Bibi would be voted in, what incentive would he have to stop settlement activity? Absolutely nothing, except international pressure. Stopping the settlements would be political suicide for him, unless he can demonstrate that he has no choice.

In short, your best bet to stop settlement activity is have your American relatives write a letter to their congressman and AIPAC rep…

December 17th, 2008, 8:14 am


Shai said:


Finally something we can agree on… 🙂

Yes, the scenario I envision with Bibi is also with one Hillary Clinton making a less-than-polite suggestion that continued settlement activity will bring about rethinking of financial and military support by the U.S. She will, hopefully, mimic James Baker’s threats to Shamir. That will stop settlements in the West Bank.

But much sooner than that, I hope, will come American pressure to close a deal with Syria. When Bibi starts sending his advisers to meet with Syrians in Turkey, Cyprus, or Jamaica, people within his own party will start their own countdown. And it won’t be to the end of Netanyahu’s leadership of the Likud, but rather to the end of, as you called it, Expansionism.

Incidentally, there is a not-insignificant number of settlers today, living in the West Bank, who are ready to voluntarily vacate their homes “yesterday”, if only the Disengagement-Reimbursement law came into effect. And their numbers are growing. They too realize that the clock is ticking to the end of Israeli Occupation of Palestine, and they are ready to start their new lives inside Israel. But I agree, perhaps it will indeed be the U.S. that will force us to do so, much faster than we would otherwise.

December 17th, 2008, 8:29 am


Rumyal said:


We’ll wait and see. I hope you’re right.

December 17th, 2008, 9:14 am


Akbar Palace said:


The number was indeed the Cairo number. I got a response back from them. The number also seems to match the number in the third link below. Apparently there are LOTS of Israel embassies throughout the world, including a number of Arab countries. Setting the record straignt, as long as a Palestinian (or any Arab for that matter) lives in a country that has an Israeli embassy, he/she can visit Israel and thus visit Jaffa.

Observer was wrong.

Dear Sir,

The number is a local number in Cairo. If you are calling from Cairo, don’t dial the 02 at the beginning. You can also try 33321537.


From: XXXX [mailto:XXXX]
Sent: Tuesday, December 16, 2008 3:38 PM
To: consular-assist
Subject: RE: Visa to visit Israel

Dear Sirs:

Thank you for the phone number, however, it seems as though the number is no good as I can’t get through.

Perhaps there is a local phone number I can call in Cairo?




From: consular-assist [mailto:consulsec@cairo.mfa.gov.il]
Sent: Tuesday, December 16, 2008 6:44 AM
Subject: RE: Visa to visit Israel

Dear Sir,

Please call us to 02-33321515 and we will be happy to answer all your questions.

Have a nice day.


From: info
Sent: Monday, December 15, 2008 11:55 AM
To: consular-assist
Subject: FW: Visa to visit Israel


From: XXXX [mailto:XXXX]
Sent: Wednesday, December 10, 2008 7:21 PM
To: info
Subject: Visa to visit Israel

Dear Sirs:

I am an Egyptian who is interested in visiting Israel on a tourist visa.

What do I need to bring with me to the Israeli embassy in Cairo in order for me to obtain this type of visa?

Thank you,


Here are some links to the Embassy of Israel in Cairo, Egypt:




December 17th, 2008, 11:43 am


Akbar Palace said:

Kudos to Saudi columnist Turki Al-Hamad. There is hope…

Thus, in any Arab political analysis of American policy, the first thing the Arab ‘analyst’ always looks for is the extent of the Jewish presence in the American ruling institution, and especially in the institution of the presidency, in order to gauge the extent of Jewish influence, and in consequence the extent of Israeli penetration. In other words, one of the fixed principles of political analysis for many Arab analysts is to start with the assertion of Jewish influence in American policy; what remains is only to determine the extent of this influence – and not whether it exists or not.


December 17th, 2008, 7:41 pm


Rumyal said:

(the comment here needs to go on a different thread…)

December 18th, 2008, 2:53 am


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