“The Gaza Bombshell,” by David Rose

The Gaza Bombshell
by David Rose April 2008
Vanity Fair

After failing to anticipate Hamas’s victory over Fatah in the 2006 Palestinian election, the White House cooked up yet another scandalously covert and self-defeating Middle East debacle: part Iran-contra, part Bay of Pigs. With confidential documents, corroborated by outraged former and current U.S. officials, David Rose reveals how President Bush, Condoleezza Rice, and Deputy National-Security Adviser Elliott Abrams backed an armed force under Fatah strongman Muhammad Dahlan, touching off a bloody civil war in Gaza and leaving Hamas stronger than ever…. (Continue)

A must read — Qifa Nabki writes: "This expose is massively worth reading… shocking if it's true."

Comments (55)

Nur al-Cubicle said:

It was quite obvious that this was the plan in Washington. I’m sure Tony Blair had a role too.

March 3rd, 2008, 10:11 pm


annie said:

… and look at how divided Palestinians are (by nature, I suppose). Uncapable of getting along.
When are the puppet masters going to leave the region alone ?

March 3rd, 2008, 11:04 pm


Eric Brunner-Williams said:

i know i read that us/il arms had gone to fatah in gaza nearly contemporaneous with the military operations by hamas, i’ve simply forgotten where.

reminders anyone?

March 4th, 2008, 3:33 am


Joshua said:

Dear Enligtened:

I thank you and Norman for bringing the review of Wright’s book to my attention. There are lots of brownies for all! I couldn’t keep up with SC without you guys posting all the interesting articles and bringing them to my attention.

I did have a head’s up for this one because Robin Wright had called me on the Rami Makhlouf story to tell me the book was coming out, etc. She had also sent me the Syria chapter a year ago to proof read it and I had helped put her in touch with the leading opposition people in Syria at the beginning of 2006, when I got back from Syria. She has excellent interviews Kilo, Bunni, and Turk.

You write:

However I do have one request and hope that despite your busy schedule you might be able to answer this question. Given that the Blog is a (Landis production forgive the pun), you only intermittently intervene and interact with the SC crowd on the site, where as most other bloggers react and interact with their audience in a far more continuous manner. Is there a reason for this? Or is it a calculated strategy to let ideas and communication flow, with out being construed to having a political orientation.

You are right that I just don’t have time to answer everything in the comment section, especially as we are now getting 100 comments a post!! Cannot beat that. I do read all comments, but spend most of my time trying to gather new stuff and write the occasional commentary. Not to mention scurry around. In an hour I got to the OKC airport to pick up Sadiq al-Azm and his wife. They will talk tomorrow on “Democracy in the Middle East: The view from Damascus.”

Greg Gause is also coming tonight to talk on whether the US should be pushing Democracy in the Middle East. He is debating another. Anyway, it is all exciting. But on Thursday I am off to Harvard to meet with about 15 other scholars, policy people, and congressmen to discuss Iraq. I will a few SC commentators for dinner! What fun.

This is all a long winded way of saying that I wish I had time to respond to the many interesting observations on SC. There are so many.

In part, you are right that I try not to intervene in debates too often, because most of the value added on SC is the comment section. Syria has so little open debate. I am really amazed at how smart and congenial the debate section is here. I cannot tell you how often policy people, younger State Department types, and others from the umpteen different government agencies I run into extol the comment section of the blog – even if they get tired of my commentary. It is a unique window into the thinking of Syrians, Lebanese, and Middle Easterners on the issues of the day.

It is hard to find that anywhere else. This is an extraordinary resource and record. My mixing it up with commentators would, in many respects, only get in the way of that.

Mostly, however, I just don’t have enough hours in my day.

Very warmest to you all. Joshua

March 4th, 2008, 4:16 am


Enlightened said:

Joshua: ( Allah awik, w khalik) I hope my arabic is getting better!.

Thank you for your response. I sincerely hope along with the SC crew, that the Greg Cause debate, and the Harvard meeting go well.

“It is a unique window into the thinking of Syrians, Lebanese, and Middle Easterners on the issues of the day.”

I am glad and heartened that many in the State Department(especially the young ones, because they will be the leaders and policy makers of the future) are reading the comments section, it brought a very warm smile to my face.

You are right about “It is hard to find that anywhere else”, when I started trawling the internet bloggs three years ago, I read about 10 per day, and I settled on this one, mainly because of the civilized debate and the commentators – a good mix, but also providing a good cross section of thought and plurality.

“Syria has so little open debate. I am really amazed at how smart and congenial the debate section is here. ”

We are well mannered, well sometimes, ok the blog has changed some of us, we can argue together, but there is an underlying tone of respect. (I even respect, the Arab nationalists here even though I will never join you)

Yes, but Syria’n debate will only be started through these forums, but open debate itself in the Middle East will change things. Perhaps the greatest weapon for change and debate has been the internet. And it is probably the greatest weapon that the American military has created, and will be the greatest force for change.

March 4th, 2008, 4:56 am


qunfuz said:

Just read this story in the Guardian, where Suzanne Goldenburg tal;ks of the ‘secret project’ that ’emerged yesterday.’ But I remember reading about the Abrams Plan on SyriaComment some months before the Hamas pre-emptive strike. Am I hallucinating?

March 4th, 2008, 5:23 am


offended said:

No wonder AIG is not enthused enough to comment here anymore. Must be his state of mind:

March 4th, 2008, 7:25 am


Enlightened said:


No wonder AIG is not enthused enough to comment here anymore. Must be his state of mind:

Ya yabeshoom eh lak, hes ronery and he needs a hug!

March 4th, 2008, 9:18 am


Abu Kareem said:

Good quote from Hamas leader Osama Hamdan as it appeared in Robin Wright’s book (Dreams and Shadows) and relevant to the Gaza story:

“The United States is like the prince in search of Cinderella. The Americans have the shoe, and they want to find the kind of people who fit the shoe. If the people who are elected don’t fit into the American shoe, then the Americans will reject them for democracy.”

March 4th, 2008, 11:32 am


Akbar Palace said:

Qifa Nabki,

Thank you for posting that interesting article. I don’t know David Rose, but my gut feeling is that the article is probably mostly true.

That being said, articles like this (detailing government decision-making) come out from time-to-time providing an interesting “close-up” to foreign policy decisions, etc. While articles like this are often interesting as they provide the details and inner-workings of important foreign policy decisions, they are also a bit sensational and over-rated.

It has been no secret to you or anyone else that the Bush Administration was supporting Fatah, Abbas and his strongmen. It has been no secret that the Israelis and the US have been arming Fatah. That Hamas and Fatah fought a civil war may not be a bad thing. If the Palestinians are ever to live in peace, the Palestinian government will have to eventually control their “armed forces”. The same goes for Lebanon.

I think Annie summed it up appropriately:

… and look at how divided Palestinians are (by nature, I suppose). Uncapable of getting along.

When are the puppet masters going to leave the region alone?


IMHO, I think the “puppet masters” will leave the region alone when the “puppets” stop exporting terror and learn to accept Israel, diversity, and negotiated settlements.

March 4th, 2008, 12:23 pm


Shual said:

“I think the “puppet masters” will leave the region alone when the “puppets” stop exporting terror and learn to accept Israel, diversity, and negotiated settlements.”

Well, this can be the answer for the question why we can here of 115 killed “Hamasniks and PRCs + Civillians” and not a single Fatah or al-Aqsa-member between them*. Intresting, over the last weeks they took part in the attacks against Israel… and intresting Mother AbbasTeresa yesterday can be read with a lofty “President Abbas renewed his readiness to work for a full and mutual calm with Israel to spare our people and to avoid suffering.” [And don’t forget Suleiman canceled his trip in front of the Jabalia-mess, but Abramovitch was allowed to travel to Egypt on Thursday.]

And Dahlan? Well… “Israel boosted security around IDF generals and officers overseas after one officer received an unidentified phone call in Arabic, Channel 1 reported on Monday. According to the report, it was not certain whether the call was a wrong number, or was a genuine threat.” I think he is out of the game.

*The circumstances of the killings of Abu Shbaks children are “unclear”. I can not see any proove that the IDF has killed them because they were his children. However a war-crime.

March 4th, 2008, 1:23 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

AP, thanks for your comments.

In other news:

Reports about ‘New Plan’ to End Lebanon Crisis

As Syria is under growing pressure to facilitate Lebanon’s presidential elections, reports surfaced Tuesday about a “new plan” to end the political crisis ahead of an Arab Summit to be held in Damascus later this month.
Press reports said “new ideas” were discussed in separate overnight telephone calls between Arab League chief Amr Moussa and each of Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, Prime Minister Fouad Saniora and MP Saad Hariri.

The state-run National News Agency said Berri and Moussa stressed the need to maintain efforts by the Arab League prior to a March 11 parliament session to elect a new president in Lebanon.

NNA said Berri, who met on Monday with Arab ambassadors to clarify his point of view vis-à-vis the Arab summit, discussed “new ideas” with Moussa to resolve the deadlock that has left Lebanon without a President since November.

UAE Ambassador Mohammad al-Soueidi said Berri was “very optimistic.”

“We hope Lebanon will have a President by March 11,” Soueidi said, adding that the Arab initiative still stands “and we have high hopes.”

Future News channel said the Moussa was due in Beirut on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, leaders from the pro-government March 14 coalition and the Hizbullah-led opposition were said to have headed to Cairo ahead of an Arab foreign ministers meeting on Wednesday that is supposed to make the necessary preparations for the Arab summit scheduled in Damascus March 29-30.

Media reports said a March 14 delegation arrived in Cairo to hand over a letter to the Arab League Secretary General. They said the letter stressed that Syria was “the source of defect.”

They said resigned Health Minister Fawzi Salloukh was also in Cairo.

Foreign Minister Tareq Mitri is due to arrive on Tuesday to take part in the Arab FM meeting.

March 4th, 2008, 1:41 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


What do you think of this argument?

Kosovo raises some relevant issues

by Yossi Alpher

If the current Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations fail–at the time of writing they have been suspended by the Palestinian side in protest at Israel’s military response to rocket fire from Gaza–the Palestinian leaders in Ramallah ostensibly have a number of options. They can launch a third intifada in the West Bank. They can petition the international community to compel Israel to accept a single bi-national state solution. And they can declare independence.

The latter option was considered by Palestinian President Yasser Arafat during the more difficult stages of the Oslo peace process, and rejected. It has now been resurrected by PLO Executive Committee member Yasser Abed Rabbo and others. Their inspiration is Kosovo. They advocate declaring independence within the June 4, 1967 borders as a means of galvanizing Arab and international support.

The differences between the Kosovo model and a Palestinian unilateral declaration of independence are numerous and substantive. To take three of the most obvious: First, the Ramallah-based Palestinian leadership does not control the Gaza Strip as well as much of the West Bank, whereas the Kosovars controlled the entirety of their territory with the help of an international force on the eve of independence. Second, the Israeli leadership welcomes a two-state solution based on the June 4, 1967 lines, whereas Serbia insists that Kosovo is part of that state. And third, the PLO already declared independence once, in 1988, and enjoys diplomatic representation throughout the nations of the world, yet the benefits of that act for the cause of a genuine Palestinian state have been limited.

Under these circumstances, a Palestinian move to (again) declare independence is liable to be perceived widely as desperate and pathetic rather than heroic and triumphant. Abed Rabbo himself notes that his embrace of the idea is largely an attempt to stimulate the current unproductive two-state negotiations and fend off pressures by some of his fellow Palestinians to demand a bi-national state solution. Nevertheless, the Kosovo declaration of independence raises some interesting and relevant issues for the Israeli-Palestinian case.

One is the fact that, from the Serbian standpoint, this is an imposed solution. As Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic warned on February 28 (IHT), “Recognizing the unilateral declaration of Kosovo’s independence from Serbia legitimizes the doctrine of imposing solutions for ethnic conflicts.” Needless to say, it is Serbia’s horrific behavior toward the Kosovars over the years that led the West to impose this solution, while Israel has consistently avoided any similar situation in its conflict with the Palestinians. But there are Arabs, Israelis and others who insist that the only possible solution for our conflict is an imposed one, and they will draw encouragement from the Kosovo model.

A second relevant issue-area emerging from Kosovo is the role of the European Union. In effect, the EU is trying to embrace both Kosovo and Serbia and highlight the huge benefits for both of solving this conflict within a European community context that offers economic prosperity as well as a diminution of the significance of national borders and a downgrading of ethnic conflicts. Here, too, there are Arabs and Israelis who see the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a similar European context. They note that, despite its difficulties with Turkey, the EU is anxious to absorb Muslim Kosovo, thereby accelerating the precedent for membership by additional non-Christian countries.

Under present circumstances, an EU solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict appears far-fetched. But the notion of a regional solution has already been embraced by the Arab League in the form of the Arab peace initiative. Hopefully the League, where voices have recently been raised threatening cancellation of the initiative, will now draw encouragement from the Kosovo model and more actively pursue its plan.

Finally, the Kosovo drama is not over. The partition borders imposed on Serbia are untenable for that country largely because of the historic memory of the Battle of Kosovo, lost by the Serbs to the Ottomans in 1448. That battlefield is in a small sector of Kosovo that borders on Serbia and has a large Serbian population. While the Serbs and Kosovars refused to discuss partition of Kosovo to accommodate the Serbian national narrative prior to Kosovo’s independence, doing so now might be a way to end the standoff created by that act.

In other words, an imposed solution that leaves one of the parties as desperate as the Serbs may be only a prelude to additional negotiations and compromises. This is a message that resonates with Israelis and Palestinians.- Published 3/3/2008 © bitterlemons.org

March 4th, 2008, 2:35 pm


Observer said:

Although this is somewhat different with regard to the Gaza Bombshell, every one knows of the extreme corruption of the Fatah security forces under Dahlan. It is in the end a result of occupation and humiliation. Most observers and experts agree that the best school of militancy happens to be the torture chambers of oppressive regimes. The slogan ” never again ” came directly from the Holocaust and in its extreme form may in the minds of the most militants that everything is justified for the sake of one’s cause.
Here is a nice comment about anti zionist jews from the Guardian

Israel’s Jewish critics
Mike Marqusee
March 4, 2008 10:00 AM


As long as there has been Zionism, there have been anti-Zionist Jews. Indeed, decades before it even came to the notice of non-Jews, anti-Zionism was a well-established Jewish ideology, and until the second world war commanded wide support in the diaspora. Today, as cracks show in the presumed monolith of Jewish backing for Israel, increasing numbers of Jews are interrogating and rejecting Zionism. Nonetheless, the existence of anti-Zionist Jews strikes many people – Jews and non-Jews – as an anomaly, a perversity, a violation of the first clause in Hillel’s ethical aphorism: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me?”

Zionism is an ideology and a political movement. As such, it is open to rational dispute, and on a variety of grounds. Jews, like others, might well view the Jewish claim to Palestine as irrational, anachronistic, and intrinsically unjust to other inhabitants. They might consider the Jewish state to be discriminatory or racist in theory and in practice or might object, on political, philosophical, or even specifically Jewish grounds, to any state based on the supremacy of a particular religious or ethnic group. As Jews, they might reject the idea that Jewish people constitute a “nation”, or at least a “nation” of the type that can or should become a territorial nation-state. Or they might have concluded on the basis of an examination of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians that the underlying cause of the conflict was the ideology of the Israeli state.

Any or all of the above should be sufficient to explain why some Jews would become anti-Zionists. But that doesn’t stop critics from placing us firmly in the realm of the irredeemably neurotic. In their eyes, we remain walking self-contradictions, a menace to our fellow Jews.

Whenever Jews speak out against Israel, they are met with ad hominem criticism. Their motives, their representativeness, their authenticity as Jews are questioned. For only a psychological aberration, a neurotic malaise, could account for our defection from Israel’s cause, which is presumed to be – whether we like it or not – our own cause. We are pathologised. So we are either bad Jews or Jews in bad faith.

Of course, being an anti-Zionist Jew is a negative identity. It’s a disavowal of a politics commonly ascribed to Jews. And if one’s anti-Zionism is made up exclusively of a rejection of Zionism, then it’s not worth much. But for myself and for the anti-Zionist Jews I know, anti-Zionism is part of a larger opposition to racism and inequality, an expression of a positive solidarity with the Palestinians as victims of injustice and specifically of colonialism.

It should go without saying, but unfortunately cannot, that being an anti-Zionist by no means implies a desire to destroy the Jews who live in Palestine. On the contrary, anti-Zionism is founded on a refusal to countenance discrimination on racial or religious grounds. The Jews of Israel have every right to live safely, to follow (or not) their religious faith, to adhere (or not) to their cultural heritage, to speak Hebrew. What they do not have is the right to continue to dispossess and oppress another people.

An edited extract from Mike Marqusee’s new book, If I Am Not for Myself, appears in today’s G2. Click here to read it.

March 4th, 2008, 4:44 pm


emir said:

The Vanity Fair piece has little that is new- except the actual interview with Dahlan himself. That anyone could find the VF piece a “bombshell” is puzzling. The allegations and evidence that US was arming the Dahlan side for a sectarian civil war against Gaza was very widely reported on the internet, sporadically in the mainstream media and also discussed on Israel Radio and in Israeli media.

The supposed bombshell revelations certainly were obvious to middle east observers long before, and based on US foreign policy history- expected.

March 4th, 2008, 4:47 pm


offended said:

From the Vanity Fair article, one of David Welch’s colleagues was quoted saying:
“Dahlan was the son of a bitch we happened to know best. He was a can-do kind of person. Dahlan was our guy.”

I wish all those leaders and subleaders in this region who are aligning themselves with the the new ME project realize that this is what the American Adminstration think of them. USS Cole or not.

One of the Pentagon officials commenting on Hamas victory in the Jan 2006 elections:
“who the fuck has recommended this?”

As if he doesn’t know that no less than Dubya himself has insisted on the elections.

And then Rice said:
“that damn Iftar has cost us two more weeks”

Well Ms. Rice, your ignorance of the region and its nuances had cost you the whole lot eventually.

Withint the context of what has been said above, you can easily predict the outocme of Rice’s visit to the holly lands today…

Nodding, bullshit and more bloodshed…

March 4th, 2008, 5:08 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Are you asking about an imposed solution to the conflict? Who will do the imposing? Between the Palestinians and us they will last less time than a popsicle on the Tel-Aviv beach. No sane country will send its troops here.

March 4th, 2008, 5:34 pm


Observer said:

As an American, I believe that it is time for the US to follow a foreign policy that is America-first and not Israel-first. There is no intrinsic vital strategic interest that we have from aligning our policies to those of the Likud establishment. There is no need with the current economic situation in Israel for us to continue to pour our taxes for an aid program that has outlived its purpose. I urge you to call and write your representatives to dissociate our foreign policy from that of the Israeli establishment.

There is nothing that Israel has that is vital to the survival or well being of the USA, there is every reason to have the multitude of the people of the region to resent our unilateral and unwavering support of policies and a state that is liability to us.

Likewise, a true energy independence policy is urgently needed not only because we need to cut our ties to this region but because our current energy policy is a straight path to more conflicts with other countries seeking to insure their energy resources.

The article above clearly shows that our entanglement with the thugs and criminals on both sides of the conflict has debased us and dehumanized our leadership.

If Israel wants to continue its present policies and to continue in its oxymoronic discourse of insisting on its “right to exist” and on its “the only democracy in the ME”; let it do so but without US tax dollars and without US blood and without US entanglement.

Michael SCheuere in his latest book the March to Hell clearly shows that the Israeli political subversion machine has tied the hands of the bipartisan US leadership into complete surrender to the Israeli policies that brought back the wrath the resentment of more than a billion people. All of the surveys of the Muslim world show complete contempt for our foreign policy coupled with complete admiration of our institutions and constitution. It is after all a betrayal of the constitution and the founding fathers principles that we have our officials sitting with Dahlan to plot the torture and killing of opponets.

March 4th, 2008, 6:31 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:


All the power in the world to you! Start a third party or vote Nader. After all AIPAC has tied up the Democrats and Republicans. Obama just said the other day that he is against talking to Hamas. I call to all true progressives and open minded people: Vote Nader!

How can you vote for Obama who is just another supporter of Israel and in AIPAC’s pocket?

March 4th, 2008, 6:39 pm


Shai said:


Sorry, just got to read your question now. The article is interesting and it does bring up a few points:

First, I’m not at all sure that the three options raised by Yossi Alpher are the only ones (or even the main ones) the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah now has. They could, for instance, call for an immediate unity government, putting aside their differences with Hamas, reinstalling Abu Mazen’s control in Gaza, but via Hamas policemen (for instance). That is, using this latest escalation as a good reason for reconciliation, and joining forces. Then, it would be next to impossible for Israel NOT to tackle the main issues in the very near future, as the Dubya-administration will be breathing down our necks to do so before the super-successful prez heads back for his Texas going-away BBQ.

Here, I would say there are a few possibilities. If it happens, then it means Hamas essentially gives in to Abu Mazen’s demand to recognize Israel (i.e. if they want to be part of government, they’ll have to accept an agreement with Israel, not a mere long-term “ceasefire”). If it doesn’t happen, which is my guess, it won’t because either Hamas refuses to talk to Israel, and/or because Abu Mazen himself refuses to forgive Hamas, and essentially has decided to fight them ’till the end. His open and “kind” gestures of the past 24 hours may be just meant for the people, and not for the Hamas leadership.

And perhaps there really IS some kind of behind-the-scene cooperation between the Americans, Israel, and Abu Mazen, to destroy Hamas. If that’s the case, I’m afraid we’re in for some very rough waters (and bloody ones), because all three parties are wrong in their assumption that destroying Hamas is either possible, or smart. Not that I’m a great fan of Hamas (in fact, I’m not…), but I do read the map, and I know when 50% plus of the Palestinians believe in Hamas, and not so much because of its ability to cause Israel to give them back their lands, but because at least it’s not corrupt like the Fatah is. Unlike most Israelis, the Palestinians do NOT have a short memory, and do remember very well why the voted the way they did, in their democratic elections two years ago.

Second, I doubt the Palestinian leadership will declare independence as long as they are not in control of Gaza. The declaration itself will not cause Hamas to relinquish its control. It will never allow Fatah to control Gaza again, unless some major reconciliation takes place, and I just don’t see that happening any time soon. And Yasser Abed Rabbo doesn’t want to look like a fool worldwide. He made his statement to pressure Israel to think twice… and it didn’t.

Lastly, I believe it certainly IS within Israel’s interest that the Palestinians declare their independence, and on their own. Ideally, it should happen the second after Israel withdraws from the West Bank, which needn’t necessarily be after a peace agreement is signed. As I’ve said before, if Israel sees that there’s a “boss in town that can deliver”, and not just a nice guy in the form of Abu Mazen, then it can proceed to negotiate a final agreement, and begin withdrawing in parallel. Withdrawal from the West Bank is in Israel’s interest, not just in conjunction with the Palestinians. These are not our territories, most of us do not live there, we shouldn’t have a huge army there to protect a few (relatively speaking) settlers, and better that we withdraw peacefully on our own initiative, than under fire, or forced by the International Community, or an angry U.S. administration. There’s already motion in the Knesset to enable settlers to leave now willingly, and to receive compensation already now, and resettle themselves inside Israel calmly, smartly. Rather than within a short period of time, in chaotic fashion, like the Gaza settlers did (not so much their fault, but mostly our government’s).

March 4th, 2008, 7:09 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


Thank you for your comments.

It’s clear that what the Middle East needs in the way of the next generation of effective political leaders is something that falls between Fatah and Hamas, March 14 and Hizbullah… none of these groups has proven to fit the bill entirely.

Whether these political leaders will emerge out of the blue or if certain existing parties will evolve to occupy a different ideological stance, is impossible to tell. What is clear is that certain ruling elites (like Fatah and March 14) have fallen victim to the increased awareness of their corruptive ways. Unfortunately, the alternatives are not stellar. Hizbullah is learning very quickly to operate as a supremely well organized political entity, but they have not yet shed their messianic rhetoric. That will take time, if it happens at all.

The “boss in town” that Israel seeks has to be an amalgam of both sides.

March 4th, 2008, 8:28 pm


Observer said:

It is precisely this arrogance that will be the undoing of the alliance. I believe that the country is ready for a change. The taboo has been breached with many a person calling for a re examination of the special relationhsip with zionism. Moreover, as the US loses its influence around the world and finds itself diminished, there will be a different tune in the Maison Blanche and elswhere. McCain will have to swallow his words and Clinton may finess a few more years of pseudo indispensability, and Obaman will chart a different attitude and course that may or may not be bold. Nevertheless the next President’s task is to manage a multi polar world in which the US is one of the players not THE player.

Today’s Washington Post has a report about the effect of this war on the local economies of a multitude of small towns across the country where there is no money for cops and fire fighters and municipar workers.

In the medical field I happen to be involved with members of national medical organizations at the highest levesl who came back from the NIH showing that the budget for research has been frozen since 2003 and will remain so for as long as the troops are deployed. Knowing that each grant is automatically reduced by 3% per year, this amounts to a true absolute reduction of funding and therefore the 7% funding is at its lowest in the history of the NIH that is only 7/100 grants are funded.

Therefore, the events on the ground will force the issue. With the weak dollar, and many countries opting to unpeg their currency, we can no longer afford to fund our standard of living at the expense of the world as the dollar is unseated as the reserve currency.

Now Syira unped the pound to the dollar and Jordan did not, therefore, they find themselves in dire straights where the poor have to either heat or eat. Here are some lessons for the allies of the US.

Many of us in the Democratic party and I have hosted many meet ups and many events at my house are in agreement that we should re examine our energy policy and our relationship with Zionism.

So my dear AIG, there is life beyond Brooklyn and New Jersey.


March 4th, 2008, 8:34 pm


Shai said:


I agree. But, if that doesn’t happen anytime soon (which is my guess), it will still be possible for Israel to withdraw, if Hamas and Fatah come to an agreement on both control of the territories, as well as recognition of Israel. There’s no reason why Hamas cannot sit at the table to negotiate with Israel a withdrawal to the 1967 lines. It simply needs to do away with its “Hudna” ideology, and understand that Israel, and the rest of the world, is seeking a final solution, and not a temporary, or delayed one.

March 4th, 2008, 8:35 pm


Joshua said:


You are right about remembering reading about Abrams plan on SC:

I remember reading about the Abrams Plan on SyriaComment some months before the Hamas pre-emptive strike. Am I hallucinating?

Here is the post I published on Friday, December 22nd, 2006:

Could the US be Planning Covert Action in Lebanon and beyond?

I was asked to take down msot of the post because it included sensitive information sent to me by others who were fearful that it would be tied back to them. I think I can now publish it again because so much time has passed/ Here is parts of the original post that I took down the next day:

A European expert reports that the Israelis have been rearming Samir Geagea’s “Lebanese Forces,” for example. During the summer fighting they reportedly landed materiel on secluded beaches.

This is reminiscent of 1957-58 when the Beirut CIA Station handed out huge shipments of Czech and Swedish submachineguns to the PPS, the Chamoun forces (Na’im Mughabghab’s bully-boys), and the Armenian Tashnak paramilitary. At the same time, the CIA also trained 300 Syrian PPS in the hills of Lebanon to make a raid into Syria in order to back up a coup planned in Damascus, which ultimately was uncovered and led to the indictment of many of Syria’s Western leaning politicians. The result, as we all know, was that Syrian officials ran to Nasser for protection leading to the formation of the UAR.

Secretary Rice recently announced that the US was boosting its aid to Lebanon to 1 billion dollars in order to help strengthen the Lebanese Army in order to better deal with Hizbullah in the south.

2. Rice lobbies EU not to engage Syria: Not long after the elections, Secretary Rice gathered EU Ambassadors to explain that the administration was not going to change policy in the Middle East. Last week she reiterated the message again, letting them know that the White House would not be making any major changes.

She warned against senior level emissaries being sent to Damascus. It seems clear that the Europeans are tiring of Washington’s isolation policy, but they probably do not have much choice but to follow Washington’s lead in the Middle East.

3. The US is moving additional naval power into the Gulf as a “warning” to Iran and Syria.

Here is the speculation of one Middle East hand. This is just the product of speculation, but sometimes it is worth engaging in such fanciful imaginations.

So I have been experimenting with the following hypothetical scenario:

1. The Saudi royal family, the Olmert regime in Israel, and the government of the United States all share in common some deep concerns over situations in the Middle East that none of the three parties seems capable of dealing with effectively on its own:

• An Iran that is becoming increasingly self-confident and confrontational — and seems destined to become a nuclear power in the foreseeable future;
• An increasing likelihood that following U.S. failure in Iraq, the entire region could soon be dominated by, or certainly threatened by, unstable Shia Arab governments that are closely aligned with Iran;
• Continuing instability in Lebanon, with the ominous prospect that the Beirut government will eventually be dominated by an alliance effectively controlled by Hizballah and thus under significant influence from Syria and Iran;
• Dominance of the political and religious energies and emotions of the Arab “street” throughout the region by radicals, whether they be new-generation terrorists, traditional anti-Western Arab nationalists or religious fanatics of the Al-Qaeda, Hamas or Hizballah variety.

Furthermore, it strikes me that all three parties (Saudi Royal Family, Israeli hawks and neocon hard-liners in Washington) all share, at this moment in history, a common desperation to avoid embarrassing failure of their current policies, and a deep-rooted fear that history will portray them as bumbling incompetents. In all three cases, these anxieties are acute and urgent.
Let’s consider for a moment the very significant (indeed, absolutely critical) advantages that would accrue to all three parties if the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad were overthrown and replaced by a weak and compliant government:
• Split Syria from Iran, its Axis of Evil ally;
• Cut off Syrian support for Hizballah and Hamas, and make Iranian aid to them much more difficult both politically and logistically;
• Solve the Lebanon crisis decisively in favor of Beirut’s anti-Syrian alliance;
• Deal the present Iranian leadership a humiliating political setback;
• Enable friendly elements to control the Syria-Iraq border in the west;
• Restore Sunni power in Damascus and move Syria dramatically toward popular democracy;
• Eliminate the strategic threat on Israel’s northern border. (Many in Israel believe that they dodged a bullet in South Lebanon this summer. In time, with the addition of reliable guidance systems and possibly nuclear warheads, the Hizballah rockets would have posed a threat to the Jewish Homeland similar to, but much more menacing, than Soviet missiles in Cuba would have posed in 1962.)
(And other variations of those general points, all of which are obvious.)

Let’s look at this picture first from the Washington prospective:

If the activists at the NSC wanted to support a regime change operation in Syria, they would want to do so in a way that would obviate the need for a Presidential Covert Action Finding, which would be impossible to keep secret in today’s Washington. That goal could only be accomplished by getting other parties to do the job for us — at arm’s length, and with plausible deniability (as Elliot Abrams and Ollie North and their group attempted to do, unsuccessfully, in the Iran-Contra case.). I suspect the NSC would be confident that they could avoid normal Covert Action legal and procedural formalities by making the Saudi Arabian Government the principal agent of the operation — with the added comfort of guaranteed political support from the Israeli Government and its friends in the United States in case of exposure. To “flip” Syria, in other words, the United States would need an Arab partner — to provide the money, to manage relations with the anti-Assad Syrian exile dissidents who would take over Syria, and to be the unindicted co-conspirator for legal “cover”. The NSC would also want to have the concurrence and tacit support of Israel in advance, partly for the political protection that such an agreement would afford domestically, but also from a practical operational standpoint because there would be need for an Israeli contingency military intervention capability to finish off the operation in Syria if it should fail to accomplish its objectives of overthrowing the Bashar al-Assad regime quickly and cleanly. (To avoid the mistake made at the Bay of Pigs when the Cuban exile operation ran into trouble and Kennedy declined to intervene with US military forces; or to avoid the situation that developed in Iraq in 1991 when, after encouraging Kurdish and Shiite rebellions, the US failed to come to their assistance. Those were, at least in the perception of present neocon activists, errors of strategic judgment that the Bush 43 administration would be resolved not to repeat. So Israel would have to be included in the plan.)

Who is the one and only person capable of first conceptualizing, and then selling, the radical and shocking notion to King Abdallah that he could profitably ally himself with a friendly Bush administration and a desperate Olmert clique in a covert operation to unseat and replace a brother Arab government? Who else but Bandar bin Sultan enjoys the confidence of a small inner circle in Washington (especially Dick Cheney and NSC hard-liners)? Who has the private ear of King Abdallah, and might persuade HM of the absolute necessity of working with the Americans to split Syria from Iran? Who among the Saudis would be able to persuade his boss of the need to deal secretly with the hated Zionists to further such a critically important set of mutually advantageous objectives? Who among the Saudis has the personal traits of character (the audacity, the ambition, the fighter-pilot chutzpah)?

But then I began to think in more ambitious terms. If they could cooperate to overthrow Bashar al-Assad, why would these high-rollers stop there? Why not complete the job — of knocking out Iran’s nuclear facilities?

Consider these realities:

• All expectations of stopping Iran from acquiring nukes through multilateral diplomatic persuasion or economic sanctions seem doomed, while George Bush’s public commitment to thwart the obnoxious upstart Ahmedinejad deepens constantly. Furthermore, despite serious temptation, the United States, in a post-Rumsfeld atmosphere, seems to be losing its resolve to mount an air attack on Iranian nuclear targets in what would amount to another full-scale preemptive war;
• Israel, however, still regards the Iranian nuclear threat as being of such existential magnitude that it might be willing to take the risk of doing the job itself — if the operational conditions for an air attack were substantially improved — like a free pass to use Saudi airspace;
• Saudi Arabia views the prospects of a nuclear Shia superpower across the narrow Gulf as equally dire.

So why not go all the way? An Israeli air strike across Saudi Arabia with covert Saudi agreement in advance. While the downside risks of exposure are obviously horrendous, the long-term risks of doing nothing might nevertheless seem absolutely unacceptable in all three capitals, and thus a collaborative effort might appear to be the only practical option available. Although the Iranians and the rest of the world would certainly be aware that the Israeli Air Force had used Saudi airspace, the Saudis might reasonably assume that they could cover their complicity with howls of outrage. (Israeli violations of Arab airspace are nothing new; they happen regularly, even today, in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia with complete impunity.)

There are many reservations to this scenario:

One correspondent wrote that he doubted that the Saudis would be so stupid as to get too deeply involved in strategic planning with the Israelis because there would surely be leaks and because the Israelis would then have great leverage over the Saudis and could threaten to leak their cooperation to the press.

Turkey will not be on board. Either to destabilize Syria or to allow overflights of its airspace for an attack on Iran. Although Turkey worries about Iran getting nuclear weapons, Iran is cooperating with Turkey against the PKK in marked contrast to the US. The Turks get along with Syria. Economic ties have been growing rapidly and Syria is also arresting PKK members and shipping them off to Turkey. The US has already destabilized one country on Turkey’s borders, with most unpleasant results for the Turks. (Surely the neocons are no longer so foolish as they were in Iraq to think that “regime change” promotes stability in a country that is inherently and endemically unstable? Or are they? “People who do not learn from the mistakes of the past,” etc., etc.)

The US has no ability to carry off regime-change in Syria. The opposition is weak and fragmented. Even though Washington has been cottoning up to the National Salvation Front made up of ex-V.P. Abdul Halim Khaddam and the Muslim Brotherhood — meeting with Khaddam people twice last month and encouraging them to open an office in Washington — there is not much hope that they could be of assistance in a regime-change plan in Syria. Moreover, Israeli leaders announced during the Fall of 2005, when some speculated that the UN investigation into the Hariri murder might bring down the Syrian regime, that they were not in favor of destabilizing Syria. They feared that Iraq type chaos might be the result, leading to the emergence of radical Islamic groups in Syria, the Muslim Brotherhood coming to power, or a weak democratic regime emerging that would demand the return of the Golan from Washington in order to shore up its credibility. Israeli officials declared that all of these outcomes would be worse than Asad remaining in power. They suggested that a weakened Asad regime would be the best outcome.

What could make Israel reconsider? The Asad regime is not weaker, but has grown stronger due to America’s failure in Iraq and Lebanon. There is a strong possibility that Syria will reassert itself in Lebanon. Most importantly, the Lebanon war this summer was a failure from the Israeli point of view. Hizbullah seems to be strengthened within Lebanon, even if its military room for maneuver has been limited due to the strengthened UNIFIL forces. It has been re-armed by Syria and Iran, according to Israeli sources. There is now both internal Israeli pressure and a major Syrian charm offensive designed to pressure Israel to re-engage Syria and give up the Golan, which many Israeli hard liners vow never to do. The Bush hawks have criticized Israel for not winning the war against Hizbullah and for not having attacked Syria — “the real enemy.” Bush needs Israeli help to “win in Iraq,” as he insists the US can still do. Israel may feel obliged to go along with this Lebanon-Syria part of a US scenario in order to secure US help in taking out Iranian nuclear facilities, which Israel fears more than anything else. All of these factors could play a role in Israel deciding to reactivate efforts to undo Hizbullah and possible actions against Syria.

Here is one Middle East hand who doesn’t believe Israel would risk destabilizing Syria:

Your scenario for the success of a campaign for regime change in Syria seems to assume that a successor regime would be a secular Sunni regime. I wonder. The Assad govt., for all of its support of Hizbollah and cozy relations with Iran, is secular. And, we recall that the Islamists tried their hand at regime change in the early 1980s and the Bathis crushed them. Now with the Islamists growing in strength in the area, what are the chances that a successor regime in Syria would be Islamist? If no one has the answer to this question, would the Israelis risk this? (However, I’m afraid that in the never-never land of the current US national security environment we might well be willing to take this risk.)

At a panel sponsored by the Foundation for Middle East Peace yesterday (Thursday, December 21st), Daniel Levy, a brilliant liberal Israeli activist who was one of the principal promoters of the Geneva Accord and is here on a six month gig with the New America Foundation, expressed deep resentment that the U.S. seems to be more interested in conflict creation that conflict resolution in the Middle East, and views Israel as a military surrogate to do our dirty work, “fighting our wars right down to the last Israeli soldier.” Daniel’s father is Lord Levy of Liverpool, Tony Blair’s Middle East advisor.

This is all speculation and seems quite over the top, but this administration has done over-the-top things before. The determination to reject the Baker-Hamilton advice and surge troops in Iraq suggests that the White House has some plans in the works to turn things around. Covert action of the type speculated on here would be a real recipe for disaster. The US would be entering into double or nothing folly. But it has been done before: think Britain and the Suez crisis, in which a beleaguered world power believed it could bring off regime-change in both Egypt and Syria at once. It ended badly. [end of speculation]
Here is the video clip ABC News showed of the US embassy attack two months ago. The claim that Syria had foreknowledge of the attack is wild speculation. The evidence used to back up this claim is that the 20 or so Syrian guards stationed outside of the embassy managed to kill the attackers. What else were they supposed to do? If they had failed to kill the attackers would the commentator have argued that this was proof they didn’t have foreknowledge. I doubt it.

War by summer between Israel and either Lebanon or Syria is what a number of Middle East experts are now predicting.

In a recent article in the Israeli daily Haaretz, Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff report that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) are ‘already undergoing an intensive process of preparation, which is based in part on lessons already learned from last summer’s second Lebanon war. According to sources in the IDF, a major military incursion into Gaza is also likely.

‘Lebanon and the Gaza Strip have left too many issues undecided,’ Haaretz reports the sources saying, ‘too many potential detonators that could cause a new conflagration. The army’s conclusion from this is that a new war in the future is a reasonable possibility.’ Training of reservists has been stepped up, and Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz told army radio that the country must prepare itself for fighting an ‘unconventional war.’ Peretz’s comment suggests that the IDF is preparing to strike at Hezbollah in southern Lebanon, but recent remarks by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert suggest Syria might be the target.

In rejecting recommendations by the Iraq Study Group that Israel should consider negotiating over returning the Golan Heights, Olmert said ‘In my view, Syria’s subversive operations, its support for Hamas – which may be what’s preventing real negotiations with the Palestinians-do not give much hope for negotiations with Syria anytime soon.’ That position was bolstered by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who said, ‘There is no indication that Syria wishes to be a stabilizing force. They are causing problems in Lebanon of extraordinary proportions.’ Rice went on to charge that Damascus is undermining the ‘moderate Arab states’ and the ‘road map’ peace plan between Israelis and Palestinians.

In fact, the previous Sharon government and current Olmert government steadfastly maintained there was no ‘Palestinian partner’ to talk with, and opted for unilateral actions rather than negotiations. The ‘road map’ is considered largely defunct, particularly after the Bush Administration agreed with the Israeli interpretation that the plan did not require Israel to give up its large West Bank settlements.

Not everyone in the Olmert government is a fan of war with Syria. Amos Yadlin, the chief of Israeli Military Intelligence, recently argued that Tel Aviv should examine the possibility of peace negotiations with Syria, a position Peretz took shortly after the end of the Lebanon war. Peretz came under fire for his comments, and Olmert suggested that Yadlin was ‘exceeding the bounds of his authority’ write Harel and Issacharoff. There is little doubt that the IDF could smash up Syria’s conventional army, but, according to Yadlin, Damascus paid close attention to the Israeli debacle in Southern Lebanon this past summer and is creating a military force modeled on Hezbollah. That would mean missiles and guerilla units armed with anti-tank weapons. Those anti-tank weapons were not only efficient in neutralizing Israeli armor in Lebanon, they served as short-range artillery pieces that had a devastating effect on IDF infantry.

If the Olmert government does decide to attack Syria, it will find that the Israeli public-at least for now- supports it. A recent poll by the Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace Research found that only 18 percent of Israelis thought that long-term peace with Syria is possible and 67 percent reject returning the Golan Heights in exchange for peace. Slightly over half think there will be another war with Syria.

March 4th, 2008, 8:48 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Shai said:

It simply needs to do away with its “Hudna” ideology, and understand that Israel, and the rest of the world, is seeking a final solution, and not a temporary, or delayed one.


I’m sure you don’t mean that doing away with the hudna ideology will be “simple” for Hamas!

You know, the internal dynamics of organizations and governments is something that I find very interesting. It is so incredibly important, and yet hardly anyone talks about it. We prefer to imagine instead that Hamas, Hizbullah, Israel, Syria, the U.S., etc. are monolithic entities, homogeneously composed… like chess pieces.

In fact, while there is a hierarchy in any such entity that enforces the official line, this requires a centripetality that then impedes a radical change in direction. It takes time for groups to change direction, and it’s not always a calculated lag… sometimes, there’s also a learning curve!

I heard Rami Khoury speak recently, and he made an interesting observation: he said that Hizbullah is still learning how to function as a political party. They are essentially a militia that is trying to become a political entity, and they’ve been remarkably successful thus far, but they still haven’t taken the training wheels off quite yet.

March 4th, 2008, 8:48 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:


I repeat, all the power to you. You are not advocating violence but working to change people’s opnions so I have no problem with what you are doing. In the meantime, the way you vote contradicts with your words and intentions. If you vote democrat you are voting for total support for Israel and the “Zionist” line. We can go congressman by congressman and senator by senator and you will see that for 20 with my opinions there is perhaps 1 with your opinon. Is there ONE democratic senator that supports your views?

There is certainly life beyond Brookly and NJ but most of it is “Zionist”. Of course, there are isolationist like you all across the US as the support for Ron Paul and some democratic candidates shows. But it is clear exactly how much support there is from the recent primaries.

So do what you have to do and when there is ONE democratic senator who is not a “Zionist” and does not believe the US should support Israel, I will start giving any weight to what you are saying. Until then, it is wishful thinking.

Oh, and please vote for Nader.

March 4th, 2008, 8:50 pm


Shai said:


Our very own government is “trying to become a political entity”. The time for changing direction that you speak of, has been nearly 60 years, for most Israeli political parties. So I of course understand the sloth-like internal dynamics of organizations, as you correctly pointed out, and I do not expect Hamas to be any different. When I use the term “simply”, I don’t mean that it is simple. I mean that Hamas will need to discuss within itself how it wishes to contribute to the birth of a Palestine. Will it be merely by force, or will the time come when they’ll do, as Sinn Fein did in N. Ireland, and recognize the other side’s right to exist, and right to be negotiated with. Personally, I don’t know if after enough violence, perhaps a regional war, Israelis won’t succumb to agreeing also to a Hudna. But I seriously doubt any Israeli would be willing to withdraw completely from the West Bank, as long as Hamas’s charter still calls for the annihilation of Israel. There is an intrinsic problem there.

March 4th, 2008, 8:58 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

You are factually wrong on one issue. Since 2005 it is the majority position in Israel that regime change in Syria is good for Israel:
“Israeli leaders on Friday called for changes in the Syrian leadership, after a U.N. probe implicated top Syrian and Lebanese intelligence officials in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.”


Israels wants regime change but not the responsibility for taking care of Syria in the process.

March 4th, 2008, 9:04 pm


Shai said:


I completely disagree (with AIG’s comment above) – few on Israel’s decision-making levels prefer a regime change in Syria today. Yuval Steinitz himself recalled that the security establishment is at odds with him, is one of the few who bluntly call for removal of the Assad regime. But he, like other neocons, first talks, and then thinks… Fact is, that at least the past 3 consecutive heads of Aman (military intelligence) have called for talks with Assad, and have clearly stated their belief in his sincerity. They, unlike Yuval Steinitz, are taken quite seriously in their analyses, as they happen to be our National Estimators. I cannot speak for Olmert who, unfortunately, seems to have been taken under Dubya’s “spell” with GWOT, and democracies in the Middle East, and so forth. But I doubt a serious behind-the-scene cooperation with the U.S./KSA/etc. to either topple Assad, or attack Iran’s nuclear facilities, could take place without the explicit support of our heads of Aman.

March 4th, 2008, 9:32 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Is Shimon Peres a neocon? You comfortably ignore him.
Be serious. And Steinitz says that “some” in the security establishment are against him.
Why would the establishment in Israel be against Khadam replacing Asad and having a pro-US regime in Syria?
If there is a combined Arab, American and Israeli effort to replace Asad by another dictator, why would you care also? You will then support talking to the new dictator anyway.

March 4th, 2008, 9:46 pm


Shai said:

There is a reason Shimon Peres is the longest serving politician in Israel, and it’s not because he is consistent in what he says. Plus, he talked about the need for change in Syria, and didn’t spell out ‘regime change’, as far as i recall. But he too, must base his action on our heads of Aman’s estimations. Everything in his behavior the past few years would suggest he’d rather let someone else take the burden, and the blame. As for Khaddam, there’s not a shred of doubt in my mind, that he’d be a far worse dictator than Assad, and that his ‘pro-U.S.’ attitude would backfire on Israel in no time. The policy of enstating your preferred ‘good guy’ in power has never worked, and never will. How bizarre that Dubya’s team members ALSO haven’t read their history books…

March 4th, 2008, 10:03 pm


Alex said:

The Languishing Initiative
March 4, 2008


Even before it begins the Arab summit scheduled for the latter part of March in Damascus, is in serious trouble; there are several political discords among Arab states as well as the region’s continuing violent conflicts. Whereas a resolution to the crisis in Lebanon over the selection of a new president seems a prerequisite to holding the summit, no one expects its leaders to even attempt to resolve the many other crises that have plagued the Arab world. The one critical issue that will resurface in Damascus is what to do about the languishing Arab peace initiative with Israel to prevent it from becoming another relic in the annals of the unending Arab-Israeli conflict.

This is not the time to threaten to withdraw the Initiative or to present Israel with an ultimatum to either accept or face the consequences, as some Arab leaders have suggested. Both sides have failed to do enough and both share equal blame for the lack of progress. The Initiative represents the most important position the Arab states have taken collectively, and it must remain the bedrock on which to base the peace process until a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace is achieved. The current negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority will lead nowhere and the bloody conflict with Hamas will persist unless the collective Arab will and weight, especially Syria’s, are positively engaged in the process. All previous peace plans–including the Road Map, the Clinton\Barak parameters, and the Oslo accords–have failed because they lacked the comprehensiveness of the Arab Initiative and excluded Syria from the peace process.

Although Israel has certain reservations about the Initiative, it must fully embrace it and publicly state its willingness, in order to achieve peace, to exchange territories captured in the 1967 war, participate in the search for a humanitarian solution to the Palestinian refugee problem, and seek a mutually accepted solution to the future of Jerusalem, all of which represent the Initative’s principle requirements. Taking this position should not preclude Israel from clearly stating its basic four requirements for peace, which are reconcilable with the principles of the Initiative: (1) ensuring Israel’s national security and territorial integrity, (2) sustaining Israel’s Jewish national identity, (3) securing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, (this should not preclude the Palestinians from establishing their own capital in the same city), and (4) establishing normal relations with the entire Arab world. Israeli leaders must understand that for the Arab states to offer this Initiative represents a monumental leap forward. They are bewildered as to why Israel does not grasp this historic opportunity to secure the peace it has been presumably seeking for sixty years. The Initiative offers Israel peace with security; an acceptance into the Arab folds; can the Israeli leaders imagine the implications of raising the Israeli flag in 22 Arab capitals? Can they imagine the transformation that will engulf the entire region?

Meanwhile, although the Initiative is a momentous document, the Arab states cannot simply wait for Israel to act. They must make clear and open overtures toward Israel to demonstrate to their own masses that their leaders have made a strategic choice for peace while simultaneously assuring the Israeli public of their commitment to peace. This is what the Israeli public wants to see. They remember very well the late Anwar Al- Sadat’s offer of peace with Egypt in exchange for the territories captured in 1967. Sadat traveled to Jerusalem before receiving any assurance that Israel would concede even a single inch of territory. He journeyed there because he wanted by his action to demonstrate his commitment to peace. This, more than anything else, persuaded the Israeli public to fully support the Camp David negotiations in 1979, which led to peace between the two nations and Israel’s total withdrawal from Egyptian territories.

Imagine the effect on Israelis if Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah traveled to Jerusalem to worship at the Muslim’s third holiest shrines and while there address the Israeli Parliament on the merits of the Initiative. Imagine the dramatic shift in Israeli public opinion if the public sees Arab officials other than Jordanians or Egyptians (as designated by the Arab League to pursue the Initiative with Israel) meeting with their Israeli counterparts inside or outside of Israel. Imagine the effect of these encounters on Arab extremists who seek the destruction of Israel, as they face the collective Arab will. Such overtures do not suggest acceptance of the Israeli position or the endorsement of its policies. That is, they do not signify that the Arab world recognizes Israel’s borders or Jerusalem as its capital or the settlements as legitimate. What they mean is that the Arab world simply accepts Israel as a state, and is thus willing to translate a declaration of principles into a peace process. When President Sadat addressed the Israeli Parliament he made absolutely clear the price Israel had to pay for peace. He was cheered and hailed by the vast majority of Israelis as the most courageous, visionary, and trustworthy leader. Now, nearly 30 years later, Egypt remains at peace with Israel. The Arab League courageously put forth the Arab Initiative, a document that would have been unthinkable without Sadat’s historic journey.

How do the Saudis expect their Initiative to provide the basis for Arab-Israeli peace making if they continue to refuse even a handshake with an Israeli official? Although a host of issues separate Israel from the Arab states, Israel’s distrust remains the underlining factor as long as there are radical Arab groups and Islamic states such as Iran that openly avow and actively seek its destruction. Israel may be accused of paranoia regarding its national security, but then how do the Arab states intend to address this paranoia when Israelis measure their national security in existential terms? Efforts to persuade Israel to embrace the Initiative must include concrete and transparent steps that clearly demonstrate a real change in the conflict’s dynamic, as the Israeli public sees it. “Public,” is the key word here. The Arab states seeking peace must be unequivocal in their readiness to interact with Israel. They must appeal directly to the Israeli public, which despite its factional nature, agrees on the terms for real peace. If the Arab states do not want this Initiative to meet the fate of the earlier version in Lebanon, in 2002, then they must change strategy.

Israel is open to persuasion but it must recognize this historic chance and publicly embrace the Initiative. Considering, however, the long and bitter history of the conflict it will take more than a declaration by the Arab states for Israel to be persuaded.

March 4th, 2008, 10:10 pm


Akbar Palace said:

There’s no reason why Hamas cannot sit at the table to negotiate with Israel a withdrawal to the 1967 lines.


Why is it the liberals and yafeh nefesh refuse to read and listen to what your enemies are saying?

Hamas will NEVER “sit at the table to negotiate with Israel” according to all their statements and pronouncements.

Is reality that difficult to face?

March 4th, 2008, 10:13 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Really, Peres is talking about regime change.
What do you mean that “this has never worked”? Both the Shah and Pinochet had pretty good runs and I am sure I can research more examples. Not that I am advocating it, but what is the difference between Khadam and Asad? Both are bad, except that one will be less bad for the US and Israel. Is there any special opression trick that Asad knows that Khadam doesn’t? Au contraire, Khadam can teach Asad many tricks that he and Hafez invented.

But let’s assume hypothetically that Khadam takes over. I would still oppose talking to a dictator, but you will be running to Damscus to meet him. Is this not true? I know that you are against regime change, but if it happens, will you not advocate talking to the new dictator? Of course you would.

March 4th, 2008, 10:19 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

From Alon (Liel) to Alon (Ben Meir) it is the same “why don’t the Arabs surprise us with confidence building measures”.
In all truth, does this show understanding of the situation or is it just wishful thinking on steroids?

March 4th, 2008, 10:37 pm


Alex said:


Ask Shai, he knows : )

March 4th, 2008, 10:44 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

A useful map of settlement activity in the West Bank has been published by the Foundation for Middle East Peace.

It is entitled “Settlements Established and Evacuated 1967-2008.”

March 4th, 2008, 10:59 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

They should have used bigger triangles and squares. It would have been more impressive…
One more thing, I am not giving any more money to the Foundation for Middle East Peace. Really, the report should be titled:
Illegal Settlements Established and Evacuated 1967-2008

March 4th, 2008, 11:12 pm


Qifa Nabki said:


I sent you the more staid version. The one cleared for press releases has much bigger triangles and squares, and they’re animated.

March 5th, 2008, 12:11 am


Enlightened said:

QN, AIG, Shai, Offended ” Get your heads around this article”

Hebrew University researcher: Moses was tripping at Mount Sinai
By Ofri Ilani, Haaretz Correspondent
Tags: Moses, Drugs, Israel, Bible

“And all the people perceived the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the voice of the horn, and the mountain smoking.” Thus the book of Exodus describes the impressive moment of the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai.

The “perceiving of the voices” has been interpreted endlessly since these words were first written. When Professor Benny Shanon, professor of cognitive psychology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, reads the verse, he recalls a powerful hallucinatory experience he had when he visited the Amazon and drank a potion made from a plant called ayahuasca.

“One of the things that happens when you drink the potion is a visual experience created via sounds,” he says.
Shanon presents a provocative theory in an article published this week in the philosophy journal Time and Mind. The religious ceremonies of the Israelites included the use of psychotropic materials that can found in the Negev and Sinai, he says.

“I have no direct proof of this interpretation,” and such proof cannot be expected, he says. However, “it seems logical that something was altered in people’s consciousness. There are other stories in the Bible that mention the use of plants: for example, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the Garden of Eden.”

Shanon, former head of the Hebrew University psychology department, said his first experience with ayahuasca was in 1991 when he was invited to a religious ceremony in the northern Amazon in 1991 in Brazil.

“I experienced visions that had spiritual-religious connotations,” he says.

Since that time, he has used it hundreds of times, and has published a book about the plant.

“Hypotheses have been around for 20 years connecting the beginning of religions with psychoactive materials,” Shanon says. He believes the Israelites used two plants in Sinai and the Negev: one of them is wild rue, a hallucinogen used by the Bedoin to this day. However this plant is not identified with any plant mentioned in the Bible.

The acacia tree also has psychedelic properties, Shanon says, which the Israelites could have used. The acacia is mentioned frequently in the Bible, and was the type of wood of which the Ark of the Covenant was made. According to Shanon, he drank a potion prepared from a species of acacia while he was in South America, which caused similar experiences to those produced by the ayahuasca.

Shanon also sees signs of a hallucinogenic vision in the story of the burning bush. “Moses ‘looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed,'” Shanon quotes from Exodus 3:2. Time passes differently when under the influence of the plant, he notes. “That’s why Moses thought the bush was not consumed. It should have been burned in the time he thought had passed. And in that time, he heard God speaking to him.”

“But not everyone who uses a plant like this brings the Torah,” Shanon concedes. “For that, you have to be Moses.”

March 5th, 2008, 12:55 am


norman said:

This is tonight,

Israeli troops return to Gaza; overthrow next?
Rice urges resumption of talks; some expect bid to topple Hamas

March 5th, 2008, 2:08 am


Akbar Palace said:


Excellent post. Now let’s see the crazy Jews demostrate all over the world and ask for the head of Professor Benny Shanon (whoever he is;)

The Oslo Agreement Revisited:


March 5th, 2008, 2:22 am


Enlightened said:



Excellent post. Now let’s see the crazy Jews demostrate all over the world and ask for the head of Professor Benny Shanon (whoever he is;)

Ok! I see you point , I was sadly mistaken I didn’t categorize you for a right wing ultra religious Jew. I am sorry that I offended you. I will remove the post considering your sensitivity. Please hold back those nutters you speak of, but I am glad you noticed they exist!

March 5th, 2008, 2:43 am


Shai said:

Why is it that when it’s not comfortable for “certain Israelis” to relate to anything Peres says, they dismiss him as a dreamer, but when it is, they quote him like he was God’s favorite professor? Peres has said more contradictory things in his life time, and has acted in such fashion, than most hypocrites I know. He is the embodiment of the perfect dinosaur politician – one that will only become extinct with the arrival of some celestial meteor (and I don’t even mean a political one). Only difference between him and Strom Thurmond, is that Peres didn’t marry some 34-year old (or whatever her age was at the time…)

To make it clear, I am NOT for regime change in Syria. I think that would be disastrous. In Israel’s best interest in not a “run” like with the Shah and Pinochet. It is as stable a regime as possible, with whom to sign a peace treaty. Assad, as young as they guy may have been when taking office (34, I believe), and despite everyone “burying” him years ago, he’s proven that he can stay in power, keep Syria stable, and in fact, do a pretty damn good job of standing up to the world’s and the region’s most powerful forces. As much as some may hate to admit, this “terrorist-supporter” is probably THE perfect dictator to talk to. Again, and I don’t know how many times you neocons have to hear this, peace you better make with your ENEMY, not with your friend, not with someone you place in power yourself, not with someone you supply arms to (Abu Mazen), not with someone you close “deals” with behind his people’s backs, etc. People have a memory (something Israeli’s don’t seem to have… strange, given our own history), and they will NEVER forgive either this U.S.-backed leader, or anyone else that “favored” him. For crying out loud, isn’t Alon’s story of the Lebanese Embassy that was flying its flag up high in Jerusalem (!!!) enough? I mean, what could have seemed MORE perfect than that, right? U.S.-backed, Israeli-backed, peace in our time, control and democracy… Except, it lasted less than it took to write this response. And the Lebanese haven’t forgotten, or forgiven, Israel and the U.S. for this meddling in their internal affairs. Same goes for Iran (where this great “run” ended in such fashion as to bring about the Islamic Revolution we’re all witnessing), and where this behind-the-back dealing is exactly the material the extremists needed to unite and recruit, and turn their people against the West for decades and generations to come. Great Idea AIG and Akbar!!! Super! Go for it! I won’t vote for Khaddam, I’ll vote for YOU! Well… not really. But don’t take it personally…. 🙂

March 5th, 2008, 4:49 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

As a graduate of the Hebrew U I can tell you that there are quite a few weirdos there. One of my professors was Rips, one of the guys behind the Bible Codes (he thinks there are hidden messages in the bible). He is an ultra-orthodox mathematician and he would study the Talmud in the few minutes before the lesson and then start teaching linear algebra. He would also get around campus by running in full hassidic dress.

Which leads us to the old classic: What is the best thing about Jerusalem?
The road to Tel-Aviv.

March 5th, 2008, 5:21 am


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

How do you think the Asads achieved power? By a coup of course. Where there were democracies and the West interfered as in Iran in 53, that was big mistake (which was hard to avoid in the context of the cold war).

If Khadam can provide the end of the sanctions and therefore real economic growth, and if the Saudis provide Syria with a large cash injection, why would Syrians complain? Khadam’s regime can be just as stable as that of the Asads. He knows all the required tricks and is as ruthless as the Asads. No need to worry there.

March 5th, 2008, 5:30 am


Enlightened said:


” So AIG, what are you saying that you studied under these Nutty proffesors? Ok well now, that explains a lot.(LOL)

Wel need to remedy your education some what, how about we send you to a madrassah, and you can compare your nutty teachers to some of the real nuts out there. Id bet that you’d think Rips was real NORMAL wouldn’t you?

Please Note however;
The old classic was fabricated from the saying Whats the best thing about Jerusalem, the journey back to Rome”

You couldn’t even get that right! ( The Roman Senate used to tell that to the Governers it sent out to the East)

March 5th, 2008, 5:38 am


why-discuss said:

What Freud and Einstein wrote about Israel as a Jewish state and Mehahem Begin:

Albert Einstein with many prominent Jews (list below) signed onto this letter published in the NY Times on Dec. 2, 1948


Among the most disturbing political phenomena of our time is the Emergence in the newly created state of Israel of the “Freedom Party” (Tnuat Haherut), a political party closely akin in its organization, methods, political philosophy and social appeal to the Nazi and Fascist parties. It was formed out of the membership and following of the former Irgun Zvai Leumi, a terrorist, right-wing, chauvinist organization in Palestine.

The current visit of Menahem Begin, leader of this party to the United States is obviously calculated to give the impression of American Support for his party in the coming Israeli elections, and to cement political ties with conservative Zionist elements in the United States More

A secret letter from Sigmund Freud in 1930
“La Palestine ne pourra jamais devenir un Etat juif”
Sigmund Freud

Cette lettre, écrite par Freud le 26 février 1930, était adressée au Docteur Chaim Koffler et répondait à la demande de l’association de “Jérusalem Keren Ajossot” – demande envoyée à plusieurs personnalités juives éminentes – de signer une pétition condamnant les Arabes pour une émeute survenue en 1929 en Palestine, émeute au cours de laquelle plus de 100 colons avaient été tués.

Son destinataire l’a transmise à une collectionneur d’autographes de Jérusalem, Abraham Schwadron, en échange de la promesse qu ’”aucun oeil humain ne puisse jamais la voir “. C’est ainsi qu’elle est restée secrète pendant plus de 70 ans jusqu’à ce qu’elle paraisse ces dernières années dans le catalogue d’une exposition à l’Université de Jérusalem. More…

March 5th, 2008, 11:20 am


Shai said:


Are you suggesting I should renounce my Zionism… 🙂

Look, many people in Israel and outside it, look at Zionism very differently. It is not just the Zionism that Einstein spoke of, or that which most of the Arab world has grown up hearing about. I can make certain generalizations about Islam, based on certain things I “choose” to focus on, which will make it seem like the most evil religion in the world. I think you know what I mean, as you’ve been hearing plenty of it since 9/11. We can always find something wrong in each other’s philosophies, in each other’s religion, nationalism, you name it. But for most Jews living in Israel, Zionism means the belief in the return to Zion, the Jewish homeland. It doesn’t mean a lot of things you may have grown up learning about, or “seeing” with your own eyes. I can make a separation between settlements in the West Bank and Zionism. Between oppression of another people, and Zionism. Between using cluster bombs in Lebanon, and Zionism. Most Arabs, of course, cannot. And I can understand that. Most Jews, incidentally, cannot make a distinction between Islam, and Jihad. You and I can.

March 5th, 2008, 12:38 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Breaking news:

Lebanon & Saudi Arabia to be invited to summit by Syria.

March 5th, 2008, 2:12 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Einstein was a Zionist and by the way one of the founders of the Hebrew U and sat on its board until his death. Not only that, in his will he bequeathed all his writings to the Hebrew U. They can be found at: http://www.albert-einstein.org/

I view the Hebrew U as one of the most important Zionist achievements and I am very proud that Einstein was so instrumental in establishing it. And lest we forget, Freud also sat on the board of the university at its inception. Trying to portray them as non-zionist will just not wash.


March 5th, 2008, 2:25 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

The list of signatories to that editorial doesn’t actually include Albert Einstein. It includes “Herman” Einstein.

Who is that?

March 5th, 2008, 2:35 pm


Mikael said:

Dear Joshua,
The story on Gaza appeared in September in Jeune Afrique (an investigation by Jan Fallstrom): “WHAT REALLY HAPENED IN GAZA?”
or PDF version on
David Rose is bringing some new facts, but slightly ignores the internal fight within the Fatah, I believe, not irrelevant to understand Dahlan’s failure?

March 8th, 2008, 8:12 pm


David Rose said:

Thank you all for reading my article. I am pleased it has stimulated debate. If anyone doubts it is true, please read my blog posts at vanityfair.com and also look at the documents posted there. (The blogs are in the VF daily section.) You will note that neither the administration nor Dahlan have denied its substantive contents.

Of course, I accept that seasoned observers of the Middle East had a good idea of what was hapening before this was published. However, it does contain a great deal of new material. And believe me, there are a lot of generally well-educated Vanity Fair readers out there who are NOT close observers of politics in Gaza. For these people, the article is a bombshell, I’d venture to suggest.

March 9th, 2008, 11:19 am


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