Showing posts with label palestinian authority. Show all posts
Showing posts with label palestinian authority. Show all posts

Monday, October 19, 2015

Kissinger: A Path Out of the Middle East Collapse

A Path Out of the Middle East Collapse. By Henry Kissinger

With Russia in Syria, a geopolitical structure that lasted four decades is in shambles. The U.S. needs a new strategy and priorities.

Wall Street Journal, Oct 16, 2015

http://www.wsj.com/articles/a-path-out-of-the-middle-east-collapse-1445037513


The debate about whether the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran regarding its nuclear program stabilized the Middle East’s strategic framework had barely begun when the region’s geopolitical framework collapsed. Russia’s unilateral military action in Syria is the latest symptom of the disintegration of the American role in stabilizing the Middle East order that emerged from the Arab-Israeli war of 1973.

In the aftermath of that conflict, Egypt abandoned its military ties with the Soviet Union and joined an American-backed negotiating process that produced peace treaties between Israel and Egypt, and Israel and Jordan, a United Nations-supervised disengagement agreement between Israel and Syria, which has been observed for over four decades (even by the parties of the Syrian civil war), and international support of Lebanon’s sovereign territorial integrity. Later, Saddam Hussein’s war to incorporate Kuwait into Iraq was defeated by an international coalition under U.S. leadership. American forces led the war against terror in Iraq and Afghanistan. Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf States were our allies in all these efforts. The Russian military presence disappeared from the region.

That geopolitical pattern is now in shambles. Four states in the region have ceased to function as sovereign. Libya, Yemen, Syria and Iraq have become targets for nonstate movements seeking to impose their rule. Over large swaths in Iraq and Syria, an ideologically radical religious army has declared itself the Islamic State (also called ISIS or ISIL) as an unrelenting foe of established world order. It seeks to replace the international system’s multiplicity of states with a caliphate, a single Islamic empire governed by Shariah law.

ISIS’ claim has given the millennium-old split between the Shiite and Sunni sects of Islam an apocalyptic dimension. The remaining Sunni states feel threatened by both the religious fervor of ISIS as well as by Shiite Iran, potentially the most powerful state in the region. Iran compounds its menace by presenting itself in a dual capacity. On one level, Iran acts as a legitimate Westphalian state conducting traditional diplomacy, even invoking the safeguards of the international system. At the same time, it organizes and guides nonstate actors seeking regional hegemony based on jihadist principles: Hezbollah in Lebanon and Syria; Hamas in Gaza; the Houthis in Yemen.

Thus the Sunni Middle East risks engulfment by four concurrent sources: Shiite-governed Iran and its legacy of Persian imperialism; ideologically and religiously radical movements striving to overthrow prevalent political structures; conflicts within each state between ethnic and religious groups arbitrarily assembled after World War I into (now collapsing) states; and domestic pressures stemming from detrimental political, social and economic domestic policies.

The fate of Syria provides a vivid illustration: What started as a Sunni revolt against the Alawite (a Shiite offshoot) autocrat Bashar Assad fractured the state into its component religious and ethnic groups, with nonstate militias supporting each warring party, and outside powers pursuing their own strategic interests. Iran supports the Assad regime as the linchpin of an Iranian historic dominance stretching from Tehran to the Mediterranean. The Gulf States insist on the overthrow of Mr. Assad to thwart Shiite Iranian designs, which they fear more than Islamic State. They seek the defeat of ISIS while avoiding an Iranian victory. This ambivalence has been deepened by the nuclear deal, which in the Sunni Middle East is widely interpreted as tacit American acquiescence in Iranian hegemony.

These conflicting trends, compounded by America’s retreat from the region, have enabled Russia to engage in military operations deep in the Middle East, a deployment unprecedented in Russian history. Russia’s principal concern is that the Assad regime’s collapse could reproduce the chaos of Libya, bring ISIS into power in Damascus, and turn all of Syria into a haven for terrorist operations, reaching into Muslim regions inside Russia’s southern border in the Caucasus and elsewhere.

On the surface, Russia’s intervention serves Iran’s policy of sustaining the Shiite element in Syria. In a deeper sense, Russia’s purposes do not require the indefinite continuation of Mr. Assad’s rule. It is a classic balance-of-power maneuver to divert the Sunni Muslim terrorist threat from Russia’s southern border region. It is a geopolitical, not an ideological, challenge and should be dealt with on that level. Whatever the motivation, Russian forces in the region—and their participation in combat operations—produce a challenge that American Middle East policy has not encountered in at least four decades.

American policy has sought to straddle the motivations of all parties and is therefore on the verge of losing the ability to shape events. The U.S. is now opposed to, or at odds in some way or another with, all parties in the region: with Egypt on human rights; with Saudi Arabia over Yemen; with each of the Syrian parties over different objectives. The U.S. proclaims the determination to remove Mr. Assad but has been unwilling to generate effective leverage—political or military—to achieve that aim. Nor has the U.S. put forward an alternative political structure to replace Mr. Assad should his departure somehow be realized.

Russia, Iran, ISIS and various terrorist organizations have moved into this vacuum: Russia and Iran to sustain Mr. Assad; Tehran to foster imperial and jihadist designs. The Sunni states of the Persian Gulf, Jordan and Egypt, faced with the absence of an alternative political structure, favor the American objective but fear the consequence of turning Syria into another Libya.

American policy on Iran has moved to the center of its Middle East policy. The administration has insisted that it will take a stand against jihadist and imperialist designs by Iran and that it will deal sternly with violations of the nuclear agreement. But it seems also passionately committed to the quest for bringing about a reversal of the hostile, aggressive dimension of Iranian policy through historic evolution bolstered by negotiation.

The prevailing U.S. policy toward Iran is often compared by its advocates to the Nixon administration’s opening to China, which contributed, despite some domestic opposition, to the ultimate transformation of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War. The comparison is not apt. The opening to China in 1971 was based on the mutual recognition by both parties that the prevention of Russian hegemony in Eurasia was in their common interest. And 42 Soviet divisions lining the Sino-Soviet border reinforced that conviction. No comparable strategic agreement exists between Washington and Tehran. On the contrary, in the immediate aftermath of the nuclear accord, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei described the U.S. as the “Great Satan” and rejected negotiations with America about nonnuclear matters. Completing his geopolitical diagnosis, Mr. Khamenei also predicted that Israel would no longer exist in 25 years.

Forty-five years ago, the expectations of China and the U.S. were symmetrical. The expectations underlying the nuclear agreement with Iran are not. Tehran will gain its principal objectives at the beginning of the implementation of the accord. America’s benefits reside in a promise of Iranian conduct over a period of time. The opening to China was based on an immediate and observable adjustment in Chinese policy, not on an expectation of a fundamental change in China’s domestic system. The optimistic hypothesis on Iran postulates that Tehran’s revolutionary fervor will dissipate as its economic and cultural interactions with the outside world increase.

American policy runs the risk of feeding suspicion rather than abating it. Its challenge is that two rigid and apocalyptic blocs are confronting each other: a Sunni bloc consisting of Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States; and the Shiite bloc comprising Iran, the Shiite sector of Iraq with Baghdad as its capital, the Shiite south of Lebanon under Hezbollah control facing Israel, and the Houthi portion of Yemen, completing the encirclement of the Sunni world. In these circumstances, the traditional adage that the enemy of your enemy can be treated as your friend no longer applies. For in the contemporary Middle East, it is likely that the enemy of your enemy remains your enemy.

A great deal depends on how the parties interpret recent events. Can the disillusionment of some of our Sunni allies be mitigated? How will Iran’s leaders interpret the nuclear accord once implemented—as a near-escape from potential disaster counseling a more moderate course, returning Iran to an international order? Or as a victory in which they have achieved their essential aims against the opposition of the U.N. Security Council, having ignored American threats and, hence, as an incentive to continue Tehran’s dual approach as both a legitimate state and a nonstate movement challenging the international order?

Two-power systems are prone to confrontation, as was demonstrated in Europe in the run-up to World War I. Even with traditional weapons technology, to sustain a balance of power between two rigid blocs requires an extraordinary ability to assess the real and potential balance of forces, to understand the accumulation of nuances that might affect this balance, and to act decisively to restore it whenever it deviates from equilibrium—qualities not heretofore demanded of an America sheltered behind two great oceans.

But the current crisis is taking place in a world of nontraditional nuclear and cyber technology. As competing regional powers strive for comparable threshold capacity, the nonproliferation regime in the Middle East may crumble. If nuclear weapons become established, a catastrophic outcome is nearly inevitable. A strategy of pre-emption is inherent in the nuclear technology. The U.S. must be determined to prevent such an outcome and apply the principle of nonproliferation to all nuclear aspirants in the region.
Too much of our public debate deals with tactical expedients. What we need is a strategic concept and to establish priorities on the following principles:

• So long as ISIS survives and remains in control of a geographically defined territory, it will compound all Middle East tensions. Threatening all sides and projecting its goals beyond the region, it freezes existing positions or tempts outside efforts to achieve imperial jihadist designs. The destruction of ISIS is more urgent than the overthrow of Bashar Assad, who has already lost over half of the area he once controlled. Making sure that this territory does not become a permanent terrorist haven must have precedence. The current inconclusive U.S. military effort risks serving as a recruitment vehicle for ISIS as having stood up to American might.

• The U.S. has already acquiesced in a Russian military role. Painful as this is to the architects of the 1973 system, attention in the Middle East must remain focused on essentials. And there exist compatible objectives. In a choice among strategies, it is preferable for ISIS-held territory to be reconquered either by moderate Sunni forces or outside powers than by Iranian jihadist or imperial forces. For Russia, limiting its military role to the anti-ISIS campaign may avoid a return to Cold War conditions with the U.S.

• The reconquered territories should be restored to the local Sunni rule that existed there before the disintegration of both Iraqi and Syrian sovereignty. The sovereign states of the Arabian Peninsula, as well as Egypt and Jordan, should play a principal role in that evolution. After the resolution of its constitutional crisis, Turkey could contribute creatively to such a process.

• As the terrorist region is being dismantled and brought under nonradical political control, the future of the Syrian state should be dealt with concurrently. A federal structure could then be built between the Alawite and Sunni portions. If the Alawite regions become part of a Syrian federal system, a context will exist for the role of Mr. Assad, which reduces the risks of genocide or chaos leading to terrorist triumph.

• The U.S. role in such a Middle East would be to implement the military assurances in the traditional Sunni states that the administration promised during the debate on the Iranian nuclear agreement, and which its critics have demanded.

• In this context, Iran’s role can be critical. The U.S. should be prepared for a dialogue with an Iran returning to its role as a Westphalian state within its established borders.

The U.S. must decide for itself the role it will play in the 21st century; the Middle East will be our most immediate—and perhaps most severe—test. At question is not the strength of American arms but rather American resolve in understanding and mastering a new world.

Mr. Kissinger served as national-security adviser and secretary of state under Presidents Nixon and Ford.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Why China Frets Over America's Retreat. By Daniel Blumenthal

Why China Frets Over America's Retreat. By Daniel Blumenthal
The Wall Street Journal, June 6, 2013, on page A17
Usually Chinese leaders decry Washington's foreign-policy aggression. That won't be an issue at this week's summit.
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324412604578515853119610968.html

When Chinese President Xi Jinping meets with President Obama in California at week's end, Mr. Xi will confront a new strategic reality: America in retreat. Chinese leaders normally complain that Washington is too aggressive. But what should really worry Beijing is the opposite—a bipartisan U.S. consensus for a foreign policy of retrenchment. As much as China aspires to global leadership, Beijing has neither the wherewithal nor the desire to take on the responsibilities that come with that role.

Since the Cold War ended in the early 1990s, Sino-American summitry has followed a pattern to which both countries have grown accustomed. Beijing complains of U.S. heavy-handedness. Washington complains that it shoulders all the burdens of global leadership and asks China to play a more responsible and prominent role in world affairs.

Neither country is serious while doing this minuet. At best Washington is conflicted about a greater leadership role for an authoritarian China. For its part, China has become accustomed to the benefits of a post-World War II American-led (and paid-for) global compact that includes freer markets, more peaceful international relations and more liberal governments.

The temptation to repeat this dance will be great this week. Presidents Xi and Obama will be meeting during a period of deep mutual suspicion. The downward spiral of distrust began in 2009 over escalating tensions about territory between China and its Southeast Asian neighbors, and it reached a new low when then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced a "pivot" toward Asia in 2011.

The pivot strategy has two pillars. The first is a positive desire to deeply embed the U.S. in all of Asia's increasingly vibrant political and economic life. The second is a reaction to growing Chinese dominance in the region, and the resulting clamor—from America's regional allies and in the U.S.—for Washington to counterbalance predatory Chinese military power.

China chose to hear only the second part of the pivot strategy, reacting to it as Cold War-style containment with Asian characteristics. Relations between the two powers have been frosty since then.

Yet if Mr. Xi examines U.S. foreign policy more closely, he will see that Beijing is worried about the wrong things. The problem is not too much American power. It is too little.

Consider recent events in Washington: Mr. Obama announced the end of the war on terror without evidence that the conflict had ended and denied leaks suggesting the imposition of a no-fly zone in Syria. He ignored a new International Atomic Energy Agency report suggesting that Iran is making huge progress in developing nuclear weapons, and refused efforts to restore draconian cuts to the U.S. military budget.

In response—a few outliers notwithstanding—Congress, including Republicans, remained silent. This marked a significant shift. Once the tribune of American global leadership, much of the right now marches in foreign-policy lock step with a left that has little interest in the exercise of U.S. power. This left-right neo-isolationist alliance is a recipe for global chaos—an outcome more harmful to China than the big-footed America that China is used to complaining about.

Why? Because despite China's politically correct paeans to international institutions and multilateralism, Chinese leaders well know that international politics needs a prime actor willing to provide global public goods such as secure maritime trade, peace between great powers, nonproliferation, counterterrorism and leadership on international trade and investment.

If the U.S. abdicates its role, China is the only other nation in line for the post of prime power. Is China ready to assume primacy in the international community? The answer is no.

Granted, China is active on the world stage. Recently President Xi announced proposals for Arab-Israeli peace and a Syrian cease-fire. Once again, Beijing prodded North Korea to open up and reform its economy. But peace proposals, state visits and commercial diplomacy cannot maintain world order.

Taking the global leadership reins from the U.S. would require incurring real costs, taking big risks, using political capital and, if necessary, expending blood and treasure. If China wanted to lead the world, it would build a navy capable of protecting—rather than disrupting—sea lanes. It would contribute to the fight against terror and help to keep cyberspace an open commons for commercial transactions and the sharing of ideas. It is doing none of these things.

Think of it this way: Does China wish to anger anyone in the Middle East by taking sides in Syria or pressuring Iran? Manage the collapse of North Korea? Steward a new era of free trade? Push back al Qaeda?

Chinese leaders appear not to give much consideration to taking on these tasks, nor has Washington thought through what a world with no leader would look like. Does a global system of anti-democratic regional hegemons, spheres of influence, and exclusive trading blocs really appeal?

For all of these reasons, this could be a truly pivotal summit. As counterintuitive as it may seem, for the first time since the Soviet collapse China has an interest in America acting more, not less, assertively in foreign affairs.


Mr. Blumenthal is the director of Asian Studies at the American Enterprise Institute.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Grand Mufti on Islam, Israel and the United States

Islam, Israel and the United States. By Sheikh Ali Gomaa
Peace among the Abrahamic faiths will be built on respect and the law.
WSJ, Oct 08, 2009

America and the West have been victims of violent extremists acting in the name of Islam, the tragic events of 9/11 being only the most egregious of their attacks. Western officials and commentators are consumed by the question, "Where are the moderates?" Many, seeing only the extremism perpetuated by a radical few, despair of finding progressive and peaceful partners of standing in the Muslim world.

However, reconciling Islam with modernity has been an imperative for Muslims before it became a preoccupation for the West. In particular, the process dates back to the 19th century, when what became known as the Islamic reform movement was born in Al Azhar University in Cairo, Islam's premiere institution of learning.

At the Dar al Iftaa, Egypt's supreme body for Islamic legal edicts over which I preside, we wrestle constantly with the issue of applying Islam to the modern world. We issue thousands of fatwas or authoritative legal edicts—for example affirming the right of women to dignity, education and employment, and to hold political office, and condemning violence against them. We have upheld the right of freedom of conscience, and of freedom of expression within the bounds of common decency. We have promoted the common ground that exists between Islam, Christianity and Judaism. We have underscored that governance must be based on justice and popular sovereignty. We are committed to human liberty within the bounds of Islamic law. Nonetheless, we must make more tangible progress on these and other issues.

We unequivocally condemned violence against the innocent during Egypt's own struggle with terrorism in the 1980s and 90's, and after the heinous sin of 9/11. We continue to do so in public debates with extremists on their views of Islam, in our outreach to schools and youth organizations, in our training of students from all across the world at Egypt's theological institutions, and in our counseling of captured terrorists. As the head of the one of the foremost Islamic authorities in the world, let me restate: The murder of civilians is a crime against humanity and God punishable in this life and the next.

Yet, just as we recommit to reinforcing the values of moderation in our faith, we look to the United States to assume its responsibility for the sake of a better relationship between the West and Islam.

First, it is essential that the U.S. confront the fear and misunderstanding that has often pervaded the public discourse about Islam, especially in the media.

Second, while we must strive to reinforce the common principles that we share, we must also accept the reality of differences in our values and in our outlook. Islam and the West have distinct value systems. Respect for our differences is a foundation for coexistence, and never for conflict.

Finally, there must a true commitment to the rule of law, and to sovereign equality, as the legitimate basis for international relations. While some of the divide between Islam and the West lies in the realm of ideas, it lies mostly in the realm of politics. The violence and the aggression to which many Muslim countries have been subjected are the main sources of a deep and legitimate sense of grievance, and they must be addressed.

Israel's occupation of Palestine must be brought to an end; its continuation is an affront to the fundamental tenets of justice and freedom that we all seek to uphold. In Iraq and Afghanistan, full sovereignty and independence must be restored to their people with the withdrawal of all foreign forces. President Barack Obama's historic address to the Muslim world from Cairo on June 4 was a landmark event that opened the door to a new relationship between Islam and the West, precisely because it acknowledged these imperatives. Yet much work needs to be done by both sides.

This week in Washington I am participating in the Common Word Initiative, a group of religious leaders hosted by Georgetown University's Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding. While the focus of this initiative has been to foster dialogue between Islam and Christianity, I will call for its expansion to include representatives of all the Abrahamic faiths. The road ahead will be difficult, but we can, God willing, arrive at a more peaceful future together.

Dr. Gomaa is the Grand Mufti of Egypt.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Human Rights Watch and Palestians in Arab countries

Double Standards and Human Rights Watch. By NOAH POLLAK
The organization displays a strong bias against Israel.
WSJ, Jul 31, 2009

Over the past two weeks, Human Rights Watch has been embroiled in a controversy over a fund raiser it held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. At that gathering, Middle East director Sarah Leah Whitson pledged the group would use donations to “battle . . . pro-Israel pressure groups.”

As criticism of her remark poured in, Ms. Whitson responded by saying that the complaint against her was “fundamentally a racist one.” And Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, declared that “We report on Israel. Its supporters fight back with lies and deception.”

The facts tell a different story. From 2006 to the present, Human Rights Watch’s reports on the Israeli-Arab conflict have been almost entirely devoted to condemning Israel, accusing it of human rights and international law violations, and demanding international investigations into its conduct. It has published some 87 criticisms of Israeli conduct against the Palestinians and Hezbollah, versus eight criticisms of Palestinian groups and four of Hezbollah for attacks on Israel. (It also published a small number of critiques of both Israel and Arab groups, and of intra-Palestinian fighting.)

It was during this period that more than 8,000 rockets and mortars were fired at Israeli civilians by Palestinian terrorist groups in Gaza. Human Rights Watch’s response? In November 2006 it said that the Palestinian Authority “should stop giving a wink and a nod to rocket attacks.” Two years later it urged the Hamas leadership “to speak out forcefully against such [rocket] attacks . . . and bring to justice those who are found to have participated in them.”

In response to the rocket war and Hamas’s violent takeover of Gaza in June 2007, Israel imposed a partial blockade of Gaza. Human Rights Watch then published some 28 statements and reports on the blockade, accusing Israel in highly charged language of an array of war crimes and human rights violations. One report headline declared that Israel was “choking Gaza.” Human Rights Watch has never recognized the difference between Hamas’s campaign of murder against Israeli civilians and Israel’s attempt to defend those civilians. The unwillingness to distinguish between aggression and self-defense blots out a fundamental moral fact—that Hamas’s refusal to stop its attacks makes it culpable for both Israeli and Palestinian casualties.

Meanwhile, Egypt has also maintained a blockade on Gaza, although it is not even under attack from Hamas. Human Rights Watch has never singled out Egypt for criticism over its participation in the blockade.

The organization regularly calls for arms embargoes against Israel and claims it commits war crimes for using drones, artillery and cluster bombs. Yet on Israel’s northern border sits Hezbollah, which is building an arsenal of rockets to terrorize and kill Israeli civilians, and has placed that arsenal in towns and villages in hopes that Lebanese civilians will be killed if Israel attempts to defend itself. The U.N. Security Council has passed resolutions demanding Hezbollah’s disarmament and the cessation of its arms smuggling. Yet while Human Rights Watch has criticized Israel’s weapons 15 times, it has criticized Hezbollah’s twice.

In the Middle East, Human Rights Watch does not actually function as a human-rights organization. If it did, it would draw attention to the plight of Palestinians in Arab countries. In Lebanon, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians are warehoused in impoverished refugee camps and denied citizenship, civil rights, and even the right to work. This has received zero coverage from the organization.

In 2007, the Lebanese Army laid siege to the Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp for over three months, killing hundreds. Human Rights Watch produced two anemic press releases. At this very moment, Jordan is stripping its Palestinians of citizenship without the slightest protest from the organization. Unfortunately, Human Rights Watch seems only to care about Palestinians when they can be used to convince the world that the Jewish state is actually a criminal state.

Mr. Pollak is a graduate student in international relations at Yale University.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

About the Settlements: The U.S. and Israel reached a clear understanding about natural growth

Hillary Is Wrong About the Settlements. By ELLIOTT ABRAMS
The U.S. and Israel reached a clear understanding about natural growth.
The Wall Street Journal, June 25, 2009, p A15

Despite fervent denials by Obama administration officials, there were indeed agreements between Israel and the United States regarding the growth of Israeli settlements on the West Bank. As the Obama administration has made the settlements issue a major bone of contention between Israel and the U.S., it is necessary that we review the recent history.

In the spring of 2003, U.S. officials (including me) held wide-ranging discussions with then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in Jerusalem. The "Roadmap for Peace" between Israel and the Palestinians had been written. President George W. Bush had endorsed Palestinian statehood, but only if the Palestinians eliminated terror. He had broken with Yasser Arafat, but Arafat still ruled in the Palestinian territories. Israel had defeated the intifada, so what was next?

We asked Mr. Sharon about freezing the West Bank settlements. I recall him asking, by way of reply, what did that mean for the settlers? They live there, he said, they serve in elite army units, and they marry. Should he tell them to have no more children, or move?

We discussed some approaches: Could he agree there would be no additional settlements? New construction only inside settlements, without expanding them physically? Could he agree there would be no additional land taken for settlements?

As we talked several principles emerged. The father of the settlements now agreed that limits must be placed on the settlements; more fundamentally, the old foe of the Palestinians could -- under certain conditions -- now agree to Palestinian statehood.

In June 2003, Mr. Sharon stood alongside Mr. Bush, King Abdullah II of Jordan, and Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas at Aqaba, Jordan, and endorsed Palestinian statehood publicly: "It is in Israel's interest not to govern the Palestinians but for the Palestinians to govern themselves in their own state. A democratic Palestinian state fully at peace with Israel will promote the long-term security and well-being of Israel as a Jewish state." At the end of that year he announced his intention to pull out of the Gaza Strip.

The U.S. government supported all this, but asked Mr. Sharon for two more things. First, that he remove some West Bank settlements; we wanted Israel to show that removing them was not impossible. Second, we wanted him to pull out of Gaza totally -- including every single settlement and the "Philadelphi Strip" separating Gaza from Egypt, even though holding on to this strip would have prevented the smuggling of weapons to Hamas that was feared and has now come to pass. Mr. Sharon agreed on both counts.

These decisions were political dynamite, as Mr. Sharon had long predicted to us. In May 2004, his Likud Party rejected his plan in a referendum, handing him a resounding political defeat. In June, the Cabinet approved the withdrawal from Gaza, but only after Mr. Sharon fired two ministers and allowed two others to resign. His majority in the Knesset was now shaky.

After completing the Gaza withdrawal in August 2005, he called in November for a dissolution of the Knesset and for early elections. He also said he would leave Likud to form a new centrist party. The political and personal strain was very great. Four weeks later he suffered the first of two strokes that have left him in a coma.

Throughout, the Bush administration gave Mr. Sharon full support for his actions against terror and on final status issues. On April 14, 2004, Mr. Bush handed Mr. Sharon a letter saying that there would be no "right of return" for Palestinian refugees. Instead, the president said, "a solution to the Palestinian refugee issue as part of any final status agreement will need to be found through the establishment of a Palestinian state, and the settling of Palestinian refugees there, rather than in Israel."

On the major settlement blocs, Mr. Bush said, "In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949." Several previous administrations had declared all Israeli settlements beyond the "1967 borders" to be illegal. Here Mr. Bush dropped such language, referring to the 1967 borders -- correctly -- as merely the lines where the fighting stopped in 1949, and saying that in any realistic peace agreement Israel would be able to negotiate keeping those major settlements.

On settlements we also agreed on principles that would permit some continuing growth. Mr. Sharon stated these clearly in a major policy speech in December 2003: "Israel will meet all its obligations with regard to construction in the settlements. There will be no construction beyond the existing construction line, no expropriation of land for construction, no special economic incentives and no construction of new settlements."

Ariel Sharon did not invent those four principles. They emerged from discussions with American officials and were discussed by Messrs. Sharon and Bush at their Aqaba meeting in June 2003.

They were not secret, either. Four days after the president's letter, Mr. Sharon's Chief of Staff Dov Weissglas wrote to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that "I wish to reconfirm the following understanding, which had been reached between us: 1. Restrictions on settlement growth: within the agreed principles of settlement activities, an effort will be made in the next few days to have a better definition of the construction line of settlements in Judea & Samaria."

Stories in the press also made it clear that there were indeed "agreed principles." On Aug. 21, 2004 the New York Times reported that "the Bush administration . . . now supports construction of new apartments in areas already built up in some settlements, as long as the expansion does not extend outward."

In recent weeks, American officials have denied that any agreement on settlements existed. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated on June 17 that "in looking at the history of the Bush administration, there were no informal or oral enforceable agreements. That has been verified by the official record of the administration and by the personnel in the positions of responsibility."

These statements are incorrect. Not only were there agreements, but the prime minister of Israel relied on them in undertaking a wrenching political reorientation -- the dissolution of his government, the removal of every single Israeli citizen, settlement and military position in Gaza, and the removal of four small settlements in the West Bank. This was the first time Israel had ever removed settlements outside the context of a peace treaty, and it was a major step.

It is true that there was no U.S.-Israel "memorandum of understanding," which is presumably what Mrs. Clinton means when she suggests that the "official record of the administration" contains none. But she would do well to consult documents like the Weissglas letter, or the notes of the Aqaba meeting, before suggesting that there was no meeting of the minds.

Mrs. Clinton also said there were no "enforceable" agreements. This is a strange phrase. How exactly would Israel enforce any agreement against an American decision to renege on it? Take it to the International Court in The Hague?

Regardless of what Mrs. Clinton has said, there was a bargained-for exchange. Mr. Sharon was determined to break the deadlock, withdraw from Gaza, remove settlements -- and confront his former allies on Israel's right by abandoning the "Greater Israel" position to endorse Palestinian statehood and limits on settlement growth. He asked for our support and got it, including the agreement that we would not demand a total settlement freeze.

For reasons that remain unclear, the Obama administration has decided to abandon the understandings about settlements reached by the previous administration with the Israeli government. We may be abandoning the deal now, but we cannot rewrite history and make believe it did not exist.

Mr. Abrams, a senior fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, handled Middle East affairs at the National Security Council from 2001 to 2009.

Friday, May 29, 2009

US foots the bill for terrorists - Poor oversight of US aid programs at fault

U.S. foots the bill for terrorists. By Joel Mowbray
Poor oversight of U.S. aid programs at fault
Washington Times, Friday, May 29, 2009

If President Obama is serious about tackling the ever-elusive goal of achieving peace in the Middle East, he should start his efforts not with prodding Israel or the Palestinians, but rather a little closer to home -- Foggy Bottom.

Through either deliberate neglect or simple ineptitude, the State Department has made U.S. taxpayers complicit in perpetuating the single greatest impediment to Middle East peace: an increasingly radical Palestinian society that despises Israel and embraces terrorism.

Despite multiple government audits and several changes enacted in the law over the past few years, the department still cannot ensure that U.S. taxpayer dollars are not enriching terrorists or underwriting terrorist propaganda in schools across the West Bank and Gaza. According to a critical report issued last week by the Government Accountability Office, the auditing arm of Congress, the State Department has fallen short overseeing aid to Palestinians through both the U.S. Agency for International Development and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, which administers Palestinian refugee camps.

This means in practical terms that many of the Palestinians who are consuming a steady diet of Islamist indoctrination and glorification of violence receive this brainwashing courtesy of the U.S. taxpayer. It doesn't require high-level deductions to predict how badly this wounds - if not kills - any hope for Palestinian society to embrace peaceful coexistence with a Jewish state of Israel.

Given the billions of dollars U.S. taxpayers have steered to the Palestinians - almost $600 million just last year - the United States has as much leverage as anyone to put a stop to this nonsense. Unfortunately, though the State Department has done a bit to improve matters, it has not done nearly enough.

The GAO report, requested in part because of congressional concerns over reporting by this journalist in The Washington Times, indicates that the State Department has dropped the ball on overseeing UNRWA. For example, existing U.S. law requires that UNRWA take "all possible measures" to prevent assistance from going to anyone who has engaged in any terrorist activity. The department, however, "has not defined the key term 'all possible measures' or defined nonconformance."

Some of GAO's recommendations are comically simple, such as "establishing criteria to evaluate UNRWA's efforts." Others are so obviously necessary that it's shocking they haven't been required all along, such as "screening the names of UNRWA contractors against lists of individuals and entities of concern to the United States."

Leading congressional efforts to prevent U.S. taxpayer money from flowing to terrorists or their propaganda has been Rep. Steven R. Rothman, New Jersey Democrat. Earlier this year, he introduced a resolution calling for UNRWA to put its textbooks on the Internet for public inspection and for the United States to screen the agency's payroll for terrorists.
His ultimate goal, he explains, is simple: "Not one penny of U.S. taxpayer dollars should go either directly or indirectly to anyone associated with Hamas or any other terrorist organization. Nor should any go to terrorist propaganda in classrooms."

Congress moved one step further in that direction earlier this month. In the supplemental appropriations bill that included an additional $119 million for UNRWA for the current fiscal year, lawmakers made it clear they are not happy with the status quo. The spending bill requires the State Department to propose a plan to increase the transparency and accountability of UNRWA. More important, it sets aside $1 million for the department's inspector general to audit USAID.

Within the next month, the House foreign aid appropriators could go even further in the spending bill for 2010. Mr. Rothman has several proposals to increase accountability and transparency for both USAID and UNRWA.

However, changing the law alone is not enough. Judging by current procedures, the State Department seems intent on not enforcing the laws passed by Congress.

Lawmakers have dictated repeatedly and explicitly that no U.S. taxpayer funds can go to any organization that has even "advocated" terrorism - meaning no money should go to groups whose leaders have declared on Al-Jazeera or elsewhere that suicide bombers are "martyrs." This is not trivial. Figures who lionize terrorists and praise evil acts poison society and ultimately help cause more terrorism.

The State Department's bar that contractors and aid recipients must clear is much lower. Even under the most thorough vetting the department conducts, essentially only people who have actively participated in terrorism would be declared ineligible. It appears the department hasn't even bothered to think of a way to determine which people trying to receive U.S. taxpayer dollars have advocated terrorism.

Considering Europe's and the United Nations' longstanding indifference to Palestinian radicalism, the United States likely is the only party that can start to drain the cultural swamp. The stakes are high. If the United States doesn't put its full efforts toward real peace, what signal does that send to Israel and the Palestinians?

Joel Mowbray is an investigative journalist living in New York City.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Guardian goes to Pallywood

The Guardian goes to Pallywood, by Melanie Phillips
The Spectator, Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Not to be outdone by the Ha’aretz blood libel, the Guardian today devotes a front page splash, two inside pages, three separate videos, a commentary by Seumas Milne and an editorial to what it claims is evidence from a special investigation by Clancy Chassay that Israel committed 'war crimes’ in Gaza in Operation Cast Lead by deliberately targeting civilians, using young boys as human shields and deliberately targeting ambulances and medical personnel and hospitals.

It presents these allegations as facts. It does so even though they are only allegations, unsupported by any evidence whatever. It does so even though the allegations are made by people with a proven track record of systematic lying to journalists and fabrication of stories and images. It does so even though such people either support Hamas or are controlled and schooled by Hamas to tell lies under pain of torture or death.

It does so without providing any verifiable information – full names, dates, specifics. It does so without making any mention of the extraordinary lengths to which the Israel Defence Force went in trying to avoid civilian casualties, by leafleting targeted houses to warn the inhabitants to get out and even calling them on their mobile phones to urge them to do so. It does so without acknowledging the fact that it was Hamas which used Gazan civilians as human shields – indeed, it dismisses this in a sentence by stating that Amnesty and Human Rights Watch found ‘no evidence’ that it had done so.

Hardly surprising since Amnesty and Human Rights Watch have repeatedly shown themselves to be wholly partisan in the Palestinian cause and viscerally prejudiced against Israel. But aren’t Guardian reporters supposed to be journalists rather than passive conduits of NGO propaganda? In his ‘month-long investigation’, didn’t investigative reporter Clancy Chassay himself come across any of the copious evidence that Hamas used Gazan civilians as human shields – indeed, effectively used the whole civilian population as either a collective hostage or missile fodder? Did special investigative reporter Chassay manage somehow not to see this, or this, or this, or this, or this evidence that Hamas was guilty prima facie of the war crime of repeatedly using civilians as a weapon of war?

Looking at this Hamas propaganda sicked up by the Guardian (and in a pale imitation, the similarly implausible tale in today’s Independent) it is blindingly obvious that, as so often before, Hamas has chosen to deflect attention from its own war crimes – the deliberate targeting of Israeli civilians and the use of Palestinian civilians as hostages, human shields and missile fodder – by claiming that it is instead Israel that is guilty of that very behaviour. And the evidence that the Guardian has presented as fact to support this claim turns out to be at best paper-thin and at worst demonstrably ridiculous.

Take the first video, featuring the family of six who we are told were killed by an Israeli drone – whose pinpoint accuracy must have meant, says Chassay, that Israel deliberately targeted civilians in that house. But the evidence presented shows nothing of the kind. We are left with absolutely no idea why this house was targeted – whether it was actually a terrorist stronghold, whether terrorists were firing nearby, whether it was erroneous intelligence or even whether a drone was indeed responsible. There whole thing is only allegations. In addition Carl at Israelmatzav adds this intriguing observation:

By the way, the part of the video where the two girls were allegedly killed looked very familiar to me. To me, it looks remarkably like the neighborhood in which the Hilles clan lived. There are some shots of that neighborhood in the video here. Were the people in this video Fatah supporters who were set up to be killed by Hamas?

Now take the second video, in which we are told as a fact that three young brothers were used by the IDF as human shields. Again, all we have to go on is the brothers’ allegations. We see them posing self-consciously in positions replicating how the Israeli army had reportedly used them, including supposedly kneeling in front of Israeli tank positions to deter Hamas from firing.

But a moment’s thought suggests this is hardly plausible. The whole point of human shields is that they are a deterrent against attack because the other side will not want to kill civilians being used in such a way. That is undoubtedly true of the Israelis: there have been countless examples of their aborting attacks because Palestinian children were seen or suspected to be present.

But that’s the point: children and other civilians are present because Hamas use them as human shields. We know from Palestinians’ own testimony and other evidence (see above) that they deliberately kept families in houses which the IDF warned would be targeted – even putting them on the rooftops – in order that they should be killed as martyrs to the cause of destroying Israel. And as we know, they also turn their own children into human bombs for the same reason. So is it really likely that the Israelis would assume that if they used Palestinian children as human shields, Hamas would not fire at them?

Most ludicrously of all, the video shows what it solemnly states is an Israeli army magazine found in one of the destroyed houses showing a picture of one of the brothers bound and blindfolded before he said he was stripped to his underpants and used as a human shield.

Rub your eyes. Operation Cast Lead lasted from December 27 to January 18. Are we supposed to believe that the Israelis managed to publish during that time a magazine with a picture of a boy they had captured during that same operation? And then left it lying around in the rubble– miraculously without so much as a tear in its pages -- for him conveniently to find it?

The boys shown are healthy, well fed and bright-eyed. Their mother is consumed by grief as she describes what happened to them... hang on, let’s read that one again. Her children are healthy, well fed and bright-eyed. So why is she weeping as if they have all been killed? Looks suspiciously like another Hamas ‘Pallywood’ production to me.

Now let’s look at the third video which claims Israel targeted ambulances, hospitals and medical personnel. No mention that Hamas regularly hijacks ambulances, as reported here; nor that they and their NGO mouthpieces claimed medics were killed when they were in fact terrorists, as reported here:

Last week, the International Solidarity Movement, a pro-Palestinian NGO, quoted statistics obtained by the Palestinian Health Ministry according to which 15 Palestinian medics were killed during the three-week operation. But, said the CLA, some of those reportedly killed were not medics, while in other cases the reports of deaths turned out to be false. One of the ‘medics’ reported dead was Anas Naim, the nephew of Hamas Health Minister Bassem Naim, who was killed during clashes with the IDF on January 4 in the Ash Sheikh Ajlin neighborhood of Gaza City.

Following the clashes, the Palestinian press reported that Naim was killed and that he was a medic with the Palestinian Red Crescent. However, an investigation by the Gaza CLA discovered numerous pictures of Naim posing holding a RPG launcher and a Kalashnikov assault rifle posted on a Hamas website. Two days earlier, on January 2, a Hamas website reported that Israel had shelled the Dabash family home in the Sheikh Radwan neighborhood of Gaza City and that a medic, named Id Ramzan, was killed. But in a report posted on the same website several hours later, Ramzan, who was described as a member of Hamas's Civil Defense Unit, was reported to be alive and to have just conducted a live interview with Al-Aksa Television.

No mention of any of this. Instead the video presents as fact a claim by a man wearing an ambulance vest that his ambulance was struck by an Israeli tank shell containing 8000 ‘flechettes’, or small winged darts. He describes how his colleague was hit by hundreds of these flechettes -- whereupon he sank to his knees, raised his hands in the air and prayed. But my understanding is that flechette shells rip to pieces anyone they hit. So how could a man hit by a shell containing 8000 flechettes have been able to raise his hands and start praying?

What’s striking about these videos is how scrappy these claims are. So much so, in fact, that the second one seeks to shore up its case by footage from 2007, claiming to show the IDF using Palestinians as human shields on two previous occasions. But once again, these brief clips show no such thing. We see IDF soldiers going up a staircase into a building preceded by a Palestinian youth – we have no idea why, or what role the youth is playing. And we see a child sitting on the bonnet of an IDF jeep with his hand chained to the windshield – which is most likely to have been done to stop him from running away rather than using him as a human shield.

To pad out these preposterous and absurd claims, the Guardian cites the now infamous Ha’aretz allegations – which it manages to distort even further, saying that these included the admission by an Israeli soldier that an Israeli sniper had shot dead a Palestinian mother and her two children without saying a) that even Ha’aretz had said this was an accident and b) that the soldier subsequently admitted he hadn’t even been there and was merely recycling rumour and hearsay.

In his commentary, the Muslim Brotherhood/Hamas mouthpiece Seumas Milne misrepresents the Ha’aretz travesty yet further still by stating:

Last week, the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz reported that a group of Israelis soldiers had admitted intentionally shooting dead an unarmed Palestinian mother and her two children, as well as an elderly Palestinian woman, in Gaza in January.

But the group of soldiers had ‘admitted’ doing no such thing. They had not ‘admitted’ doing anything themselves at all – merely reported what they had heard others say. Milne also sought to prop up the ‘human shield’ claims by dragging in other events:

Or take the case of Majdi Abed Rabbo – a Palestinian linked to Fatah and no friend of Hamas – who described to the Independent how he was repeatedly used as a human shield by Israeli soldiers confronting armed Hamas fighters in a burned-out building in Jabalya in the Gaza strip. The fact of Israeli forces’ use of human shields is hard to gainsay, not least since there are unambiguous photographs of several cases from the West Bank in 2007, as shown in Chassay’s film.

The ‘unambiguous photographs’ are of course, as discussed above, anything but unambiguous. And as far as Majdi Abed Rabbo is concerned, once again a moment’s thought suggest this is most implausible. Since Hamas has been killing large numbers of Fatah operatives who it considers to be its deadly enemies, is it really likely that ‘a Palestinian linked to Fatah and no friend of Hamas’ would be used by the Israelis as a human shield against Hamas?

Lazy, malicious use of partisan, uncorroborated, thin, ambiguous and on occasion demonstrably absurd allegations, with the purpose and effect of demonising and delegitimising the Israeli victims of terrorism by painting them as the terrorists and their Palestinian attackers as their victims.

In similar vein, no mention at all in the Guardian of the enormous bomb planted in a shopping mall in Haifa last Saturday evening – 100 kg of explosives packed with ball bearings -- which, had it not been defused, would most likely have killed hundreds of people.

Truly, the Guardian is an evil newspaper.

Toameh: The Pro-Palestinians' Real Agenda

The Pro-Palestinians' Real Agenda, by Khaled Abu Toameh
Hudson New York/Hudson Institute, March 24, 2009 6:45 AM

During a recent visit to several university campuses in the U.S., I discovered that there is more sympathy for Hamas there than there is in Ramallah.

Listening to some students and professors on these campuses, for a moment I thought I was sitting opposite a Hamas spokesman or a would-be-suicide bomber.

I was told, for instance, that Israel has no right to exist, that Israel’s “apartheid system” is worse than the one that existed in South Africa and that Operation Cast Lead was launched only because Hamas was beginning to show signs that it was interested in making peace and not because of the rockets that the Islamic movement was launching at Israeli communities.

I was also told that top Fatah operative Marwan Barghouti, who is serving five life terms in prison for masterminding terror attacks against Israeli civilians, was thrown behind bars simply because he was trying to promote peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

Furthermore, I was told that all the talk about financial corruption in the Palestinian Authority was “Zionist propaganda” and that Yasser Arafat had done wonderful things for his people, including the establishment of schools, hospitals and universities.

The good news is that these remarks were made only by a minority of people on the campuses who describe themselves as “pro-Palestinian,” although the overwhelming majority of them are not Palestinians or even Arabs or Muslims.

The bad news is that these groups of hard-line activists/thugs are trying to intimidate anyone who dares to say something that they don’t like to hear.

When the self-designated “pro-Palestinian” lobbyists are unable to challenge the facts presented by a speaker, they resort to verbal abuse.

On one campus, for example, I was condemned as an “idiot” because I said that a majority of Palestinians voted for Hamas in the January 2006 election because they were fed up with financial corruption in the Palestinian Authority.

On another campus, I was dubbed as a “mouthpiece for the Zionists” because I said that Israel has a free media. There was another campus where someone told me that I was a ‘liar” because I said that Barghouti was sentenced to five life terms because of his role in terrorism.

And then there was the campus (in Chicago) where I was “greeted” with swastikas that were painted over posters promoting my talk. The perpetrators, of course, never showed up at my event because they would not be able to challenge someone who has been working in the field for nearly 30 years.

What struck me more than anything else was the fact that many of the people I met on the campuses supported Hamas and believed that it had the right to “resist the occupation” even if that meant blowing up children and women on a bus in downtown Jerusalem.

I never imagined that I would need police protection while speaking at a university in the U.S. I have been on many Palestinian campuses in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and I cannot recall one case where I felt intimidated or where someone shouted abuse at me.

Ironically, many of the Arabs and Muslims I met on the campuses were much more understanding and even welcomed my “even-handed analysis” of the Israeli-Arab conflict. After all, the views I voiced were not much different than those made by the leaderships both in Israel and the Palestinian Authority. These views include support for the two-state solution and the idea of coexistence between Jews and Arabs in this part of the world.

The so-called pro-Palestinian “junta” on the campuses has nothing to offer other than hatred and de-legitimization of Israel. If these folks really cared about the Palestinians, they would be campaigning for good government and for the promotion of values of democracy and freedom in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Their hatred for Israel and what it stands for has blinded them to a point where they no longer care about the real interests of the Palestinians, namely the need to end the anarchy and lawlessness, and to dismantle all the armed gangs that are responsible for the death of hundreds of innocent Palestinians over the past few years.

The majority of these activists openly admit that they have never visited Israel or the Palestinian territories. They don’t know -and don’t want to know - that Jews and Arabs here are still doing business together and studying together and meeting with each other on a daily basis because they are destined to live together in this part of the world. They don’t want to hear that despite all the problems life continues and that ordinary Arab and Jewish parents who wake up in the morning just want to send their children to school and go to work before returning home safely and happily.

What is happening on the U.S. campuses is not about supporting the Palestinians as much as it is about promoting hatred for the Jewish state. It is not really about ending the “occupation” as much as it is about ending the existence of Israel.

Many of the Palestinian Authority and Hamas officials I talk to in the context of my work as a journalist sound much more pragmatic than most of the anti-Israel, “pro-Palestinian” folks on the campuses.

Over the past 15 years, much has been written and said about the fact that Palestinian school textbooks don’t promote peace and coexistence and that the Palestinian media often publishes anti-Israel material.

While this may be true, there is no ignoring the fact that the anti-Israel campaign on U.S. campuses is not less dangerous. What is happening on these campuses is not in the frame of freedom of speech. Instead, it is the freedom to disseminate hatred and violence. As such, we should not be surprised if the next generation of jihadists comes not from the Gaza Strip or the mountains and mosques of Pakistan and Afghanistan, but from university campuses across the U.S.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Palestinian Security Forces Training Center Opens

Palestinian Security Forces Training Center Opens
US State Dept, Bureau of Public Affairs, Office of the Spokesman
Washington, DC, March 17, 2009

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) David Johnson and Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad formally opened the Presidential Guard Training Center in Jericho. The training center was built with $10.1 million of State Department assistance.

The center, completed by Palestinian contractors over the course of the past 16 months, has a training capacity of 700 officers and enlisted men, including accommodations and dining facilities, waste water treatment, parade grounds, classrooms, and an obstacle course. The construction was overseen by the United Nations Office for Project Services. The center is the first of several construction projects to be built with INL funds in support of Palestinian Authority security forces in the West Bank.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Johnson praised the work of the Presidential Guard and the Palestinian Authority in developing a well-trained, professional force to advance the rule of law, which is of fundamental importance to Palestinians.

Friday, January 30, 2009

United States Humanitarian Support to Palestinians

United States Humanitarian Support to Palestinians
Media Note, Office of the Spokesman, US State Dept
Washington, DC, January 30, 2009

President Barack Obama has authorized the use of $20.3 million from the U.S. Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance (ERMA) Fund to address critical post-conflict humanitarian needs in Gaza. U.S. Government support for humanitarian assistance to Palestinian refugees and conflict victims now totals nearly $120 million in FY 2009, including nearly $60 million in Gaza.

Of the $20.3 million in new ERMA funds, $13.5 million will go to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), $6 million to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and $800,000 to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). These organizations are distributing emergency food assistance, providing medical assistance and temporary shelter, creating temporary employment, and restoring access to electricity and potable water to the people of Gaza.

Today’s contribution to UNRWA augments the $85 million the United States contributed in December 2008 toward UNRWA’s 2009 appeals. Of that amount, $25 million supported UNRWA emergency operations in West Bank and Gaza. The remaining $60 million supported UNRWA’s services for 4.6 million Palestinian refugees in the region, including Gaza. UNRWA is the largest provider of humanitarian aid in Gaza, providing 70 percent of the population with emergency food assistance, essential healthcare, and primary education. We are working to develop a longer-term reconstruction/development effort with international partners.

Furthermore, today’s contribution to ICRC complements the $9.7 million the United States provided earlier this month for ICRC’s activities for victims of conflict in the Middle East, with particular attention to its critical programs in Gaza. U.S. support of the ICRC buttresses the organization’s efforts to supply Gaza’s hospitals and clinics with urgently needed medical equipment, as well as to rehabilitate damaged water pumps and sanitation systems.

Finally, the U.S. contribution to OCHA supports its essential coordination activities for the Humanitarian Country Team, comprised of UN Agencies and non-governmental organizations providing humanitarian assistance in Gaza.

In addition to our contributions to UNRWA, ICRC, and OCHO, to date, USAID has provided more than $3.7 million for emergency assistance to Gaza. Food, milk powder, blankets, plastic sheeting, and other nonfood items have been distributed to beneficiaries, and the distributions are continuing. This assistance is distributed to beneficiaries through USAID’s implementing partners under six recently awarded grants ($250,000 each) to Mercy Corps, American Near East Refugee Aid (ANERA), CHF International, Relief International, Catholic Relief Services, and CARE International. Food distributions are done through USAID’s grant to the World Food Program (WFP).

The U.S. reiterates its support for humanitarian actors responding to emergency needs in Gaza and encourages other states to provide urgently needed funding to UNRWA, ICRC, WFP and other international and non-governmental organizations providing this lifesaving care to civilians in Gaza.

2009/087

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Why Democrats Ignore Pro-Palestinian Activists

Why Congress Ignores Pro-Palestinian Activists, by Eric Trager
Contentions/Commentary Blog, Jan 13, 2009 - 7:45 AM

Juan Cole has a typically conspiratorial theory for explaining why congressmen have ignored the pro-Palestinian marches that occurred in a handful of American cities this past weekend:

The US Senate and the US House of Representatives are not afraid of street protests in San Francisco. And why should they be? What sort of threat is it to them, that we say if they don’t change their legislation we will . . . walk in the street? Their response would be, ‘Make sure you have comfortable shoes; now, I have to see this nice lobbyist in my office in a thousand dollar suit and alligator shoes who has an enormous check for my current political campaign.’
Well, I have an alternative to Cole’s thesis: maybe it’s not the slimy pro-Israel lobbyists - who are so rich that they practically wear money - that pro-Palestinian activists should blame for not being heard. Rather, maybe the problem is the pro-Palestinian activists themselves.

Indeed, maybe congressmen ignore pro-Palestinian rallies because the ANSWER Coalition - an offshoot of the communist World Workers Party (WWP) - organizes them. Maybe congressmen know that the WWP - a longtime supporter of Fidel Castro and Kim Jong-Il - actively protested Slobodan Milosevic’s war crimes tribunal, and therefore feel uncomfortable associating with it.

Or, maybe congressmen stay away because these rallies are just as anti-American as they are pro-Palestinian, with banners declaring the U.S. “racist” and “terrorist.” Or maybe it’s because congressmen don’t want to march with protesters who cover their faces, which is something that only truly nefarious groups do in this country. Or maybe it’s because congressmen don’t want to be around people who burn flags; haul mock coffins; splatter clotheslines of baby t-shirts with fake blood; and never - never - advocate for Israeli-Palestinian peace.

Of course, these issues are just the tip of the iceberg. But, if pro-Palestinian activists really want to know why their cries fall on deaf ears in Washington, they should start by looking in the mirror. Politicians are, after all, deeply image-conscious: they are unlikely to march alongside people who appear immoderate, and certainly won’t give much weight to rallies that communist-affiliated groups organize. It’s strange that Juan Cole - who claims political expertise with his regular treatises on the remarkable influence of “Likudniks” - doesn’t recognize this most basic political reality.

(By the way, the images of pro-Palestinian activists that I linked to in this post were from the recent demonstration in San Francisco.)

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Should Israel seek a diplomatic settlement, or accept Hamas's invitation to a bloodier battle?

Crossroads in Gaza
Should Israel seek a diplomatic settlement, or accept Hamas's invitation to a bloodier battle?
WaPo Editorial, Saturday, January 10, 2009; A12

HAMAS'S QUICK rejection of the U.N. Security Council's call for a cease-fire in Gaza might have surprised some in the West who have followed the mounting civilian casualties and the near-breakdown of access to food, water, and medical services with growing concern. In fact, Hamas revels in the Palestinian suffering its terrorism has triggered. Thousands of its fighters have retreated into Gaza's most densely populated areas, where they continue to fire dozens of rockets a day at Israeli civilians. They want nothing more than to draw Israel into an even bigger and bloodier fight -- during which, Hamas calculates, Israeli forces will suffer heavy casualties, while the even bigger Palestinian losses will reap a propaganda windfall for Hamas across the Middle East and Europe.

Israel's leaders are on the verge of giving Hamas its wish. Its top leaders also rejected the U.N. cease-fire resolution passed Thursday night; now they appear to be debating whether to throw thousands of reserve soldiers into a street-by-street battle. It's not clear what the aim of the new offensive might be. Some Israelis are calling for the overthrow of Hamas's rule in Gaza; others urge a more limited operation to seize a strip of territory along the border with Egypt, which would allow Israel to more directly attack tunnels through which Hamas smuggles weapons.

Either operation would probably do Israel more harm than good -- while raising the already considerable political cost of the war for the United States as well as for Egypt and the Palestinian Authority, Israel's de facto allies against Hamas. Israeli officials have rightly been wary of taking action that would leave their troops bogged down in Gaza -- but several of the options being considered would do just that. For now, there is no responsible Palestinian party to which Israel could hand control of Gaza or even the land near the Egyptian border; the Palestinian Authority, even if willing, remains too weak. Nor is it clear that Israel is capable of stopping either the smuggling or the rocket launches by military means. During the last several years before Israel's withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, it was unable to do so.

Israel's best option remains a deal with Egypt under which action to stop smuggling would be intensified on the Egyptian side of the border. Israel would like international forces to join that effort; Egypt has refused, though it says it would accept more expert help and equipment. If Hamas is to accept a truce, Israel will be expected to open its border crossings with Gaza to normal commerce.

Any diplomatic settlement to the conflict, either between Israel and Egypt or including Hamas, would be unsatisfactory in some ways. Hamas would remain in power and declare itself victorious, and probably any effort to stop new arms smuggling would not be completely effective. Still, given the tremendous human costs of the war -- nearly 800 dead, of whom half may be civilians -- and the escalating political cost to Israel and its allies, a deal would be far better than another military escalation. The Bush administration, which so far has done little more than support Israel's decisions throughout this crisis, should now be pressing it to settle.

Monday, January 5, 2009

State Dept: U.S. Government Support for Humanitarian Assistance Activities in Gaza

U.S. Government Support for Humanitarian Assistance Activities in Gaza
Fact Sheet

US State Dept, Office of the Spokesman

Washington, DC, January 5, 2009


The United States Government continues to support the delivery of urgently needed food, health, shelter and other emergency assistance to the people of Gaza through our ongoing support for international organizations such as the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), the World Food Program (WFP), and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

On December 30, the United States announced a contribution to UNRWA for its 2009 appeals. Of the $85 million contribution, $5 million will directly support UNRWA’s Gaza Flash Appeal that will provide food, temporary shelter, and medical assistance for over 500,000 conflict-affected refugees in Gaza. The Flash Appeal funding will also supply up to 500,000 liters of fuel to municipalities and utilities for basic public services, including electricity and water treatment. $20 million will support UNRWA’s 2009 Emergency Appeal for the West Bank and Gaza, of which a large portion bolsters UNRWA’s ongoing emergency assistance activities for more than 1 million Palestinian refugees in Gaza. $60 million will support UNRWA’s General Fund for the provision of education, primary health care, and relief services to Palestinian refugees in the region, including Gaza.

The United States Government continues to provide food assistance through the World Food Program (WFP) to 20,000 non-refugee Palestinian households in Gaza with a bi-monthly package of five basic foods. Since December 28, WFP and its implementing partner, Community Housing Foundation (CHF), have distributed some 720 metric tons (MT) of food commodities to beneficiaries in Gaza. An additional 1,350 MT is available in Gaza for distribution when the security situation allows.

The United States Government also continues to support the International Committee of the Red Cross’s (ICRC 's) efforts to supply Gaza’s hospitals and clinics with urgently needed medicines, surgery kits, hygiene kits, intravenous fluids, bandages, plastic sheeting and other medical equipment. The ICRC is bringing two generators into Gaza to ensure continued operation of Gaza’s hospitals despite electricity cuts and maintenance problems resulting from a lack of spare parts.

The United States Government has provided other medical and food supplies to health care facilities in Gaza, including syringes, tubes, gloves, x-ray film, tape, silk for sutures and bedding (mattresses, blankets and linens), and 18,000 kilograms of plastic sheeting to cover broken windows and help mitigate the cold.

The United States is the largest bilateral donor to UNRWA, which provides essential services to hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees in Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon and elsewhere.
The United States is deeply concerned about the safety of civilians caught up in this conflict, and urges all sides to facilitate the provision of humanitarian relief.

2009/009

Released on January 5, 2009

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Reuters: EU presidency says Israeli action is defensive

EU presidency says Israeli action is defensive
Jan 03, 2009 19:58:19 GMT

Source: Reuters

PRAGUE, Jan 3 (Reuters) - European Union president, the Czech Republic, said on Saturday an Israeli ground offensive in Gaza was "defensive, not offensive" action.

"At the moment, from the perspective of the last days, we understand this step as a defensive, not offensive, action," Czech EU presidency spokesman Jiri Potuznik said.

Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg is leading an EU delegation to the region on Sunday, and Potuznik said the presidency will wait to see the results of that visit. (Reporting by Jason Hovet)

Friday, January 2, 2009

Gaza Conflict Threatens Regional Peace and Stability, UN Official Cautions

Gaza Conflict Threatens Regional Peace and Stability, UN Official Cautions
New York, Jan 2 2009 3:10PM

The future of the Middle-East peace process, the stability of the region and the safety of ordinary people in the Gaza Strip have been seriously jeopardized by the “irresponsibility of Hamas rocket attacks” and the “excessiveness of Israel’s response,” a senior United Nations envoy to warned today, as diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict intensify.

On the seventh day of Israeli bombing raids on Gaza and with more than 400 Gazans reportedly killed and thousands wounded, Robert Serry, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, called for the international community to step up its attempts to end the growing humanitarian crisis.

“Much of Gaza’s infrastructure has now been destroyed. The death and injury toll in Gaza continues to mount. Hamas rockets are now reaching 40 kilometres into Israel,” Mr. Serry said via video-link from Jerusalem.

Israel has cited rocket and other attacks by militants in Gaza against Israeli civilians as the reason for its military offensive and closing crossings into Gaza for much of the previous two months.

With Israeli tanks on Gaza’s border, the envoy underscored the urgency and importance of an immediate and lasting cessation of hostilities to avoid an even deeper and deadlier conflict.

He said that he will join a number of Arab leaders slated to arrive in New York next week to find a solution to the crisis.

“Diplomatic efforts are underway involving many players, including the United States, the European Union (EU), the Arab League, Turkey and others, and we believe the roles of the Quartet [comprising the UN, EU, Russian and the US] and the Security Council are going to be very important.”

While a ceasefire is vital, a return to the previous situation would not be enough to maintain security or find a durable peace, Mr. Serry said.

He stressed the need for the uninterrupted reopening of crossings into Gaza with a commitment from both sides to fully respect a ceasefire, including an end to all rocket attacks from Gaza and weapons smuggling into the Hamas controlled territory.

“It will also require bringing Gaza back into the fold of the Palestinian Authority through arrangements on the ground and renewed efforts to reunited Gaza and the West Bank,” he said, adding that “it is more vital than ever that Israeli-Palestinian peace is achieved. The underlying issues must be addressed: end of conflict, end of occupation and the creation of the Palestinian State alongside a secure Israel.”

Meanwhile, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) has been distributing bread to families in the hardest-hit areas of Gaza, and said today that it urgently requires $9 million to meet additional food needs caused by the upsurge in fighting.

The bombing raids over the last week have greatly worsened the already harsh humanitarian situation in Gaza, which is home to an estimated 1.5 million people facing severe shortages of food, fuel and cooking gas.

“The current situation in Gaza is appalling and many basic food items are no longer available on the market,” said Christine van Nieuwenhuyse, WFP Representative in the occupied Palestinian territory.

Yesterday, the agency started handing out bread to around 15,000 people in the northern city of Beit Hanoun – one of the poorest areas in Gaza and the most heavily affected by the conflict.

However, the recent Israeli offensive has prevented WFP and its partners from operating at full capacity and has delayed the regular distribution of food to nearly 270,000 people in the region.

“We are responding to the immediate food emergency needs as much as we can, but the destruction of local infrastructure and the shortages of basic utilities such as fuel and gas means that more people will fall into poverty, and have no other option than to be assisted by the international community,” said Ms. Nieuwenhuyse.

WFP’s 3,300-ton food stockpile will run out during the next month as distributions resume, security permitting, with more food convoys expected to replenish the supplies.

Due to the scarcity of wheat, most of the mills and bakeries in Gaza have stopped working and there is an acute shortage of bread, the staple food for Palestinians.

In a related development, a group of independent UN human rights experts said today that it was “deeply alarmed” at the continuing violence in Gaza and called on all parties to end attacks putting civilian lives at risk.

“Both air strikes by Israeli Government forces and rocket attacks from Gaza into Israel are resulting in inexcusable loss of life and placing the civilian populations in the affected areas in extreme danger,” said Asma Jahangir, chairperson of the experts’ coordinating body, said in a statement.

She stressed that international human rights law “imposes binding obligations on all parties in situations of armed conflict.”

The chairperson said that neither Israel’s use of disproportionate force, missiles launched from Gaza, nor the general disregard for the safety of non-combatants can justify either side’s aggression.

The UN experts voiced particular concern at the impact of the current violence and destruction of vital infrastructure on the already dire humanitarian situation in Gaza and called on all parties to ensure access for humanitarian relief efforts and supplies.

Independent experts, known as special rapporteurs, serve in an autonomous unpaid capacity and report to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Jan 2 2009 3:10PM
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For more details go to UN News Centre at http://www.un.org/news

Gaza: UN Human Rights Experts Express Shock at the Scale of Combat

Gaza: UN Human Rights Experts Express Shock at the Scale of Combat

New York, Jan 2 2009 1:10PMA group of independent United Nations human rights experts today said it was “deeply alarmed” at the continuing violence in Gaza and called on all parties to end attacks putting civilian lives at risk.

“Both air strikes by Israeli Government forces and rocket attacks from Gaza into Israel are resulting in inexcusable loss of life and placing the civilian populations in the affected areas in extreme danger,” said Asma Jahangir, chairperson of the experts’ coordinating body, said in a statement.

She stressed that international human rights law “imposes binding obligations on all parties in situations of armed conflict.”

The chairperson said that neither Israel’s use of disproportionate force, missiles launched from Gaza, nor the general disregard for the safety of non-combatants can justify either side’s aggression.

“They constitute clear violations of international human rights and international humanitarian law,” she said.

The UN experts voiced particular concern at the impact of the current violence and destruction of vital infrastructure on the already dire humanitarian situation in Gaza and called on all parties to ensure access for humanitarian relief efforts and supplies.

“Independent human rights monitoring, including by the various UN Special Procedures, is particularly crucial in these circumstances which result in an exceptionally broad range of human rights violations.”

Independent experts, known as special rapporteurs, serve in an autonomous unpaid capacity and report to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Jan 2 2009 1:10PM
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For more details go to UN News Centre at http://www.un.org/news

US State Dept Secretary's Remarks: Situation in Gaza

US State Dept Secretary's Remarks: Situation in Gaza
Fri, 02 Jan 2009 09:43:15 -0600
Secretary Condoleezza Rice
The White House, Washington, DC, January 2, 2009

SECRETARY RICE: Good morning. I’ve just had a chance to brief the President and to discuss with him the situation in Gaza. Obviously, the United States is very concerned about the situation there and is working very hard with our partners around the world to address it.

I want to begin by noting that Hamas has held the people of Gaza hostage ever since their illegal coup against the forces of President Mahmoud Abbas, the legitimate President of the Palestinian people. The Hamas has used Gaza as a launching pad for rockets against Israeli cities and has contributed deeply to a very bad daily life for the Palestinian people in Gaza, and to a humanitarian situation that we have all been trying to address. But frankly, Hamas has made it very difficult for the people of Gaza to have a reasonable life.

We are working toward a ceasefire that would not allow a reestablishment of the status quo ante where Hamas can continue to launch rockets out of Gaza. It is obvious that that ceasefire should take place as soon as possible, but we need a ceasefire that is durable and sustainable. I might note that it was Hamas that rejected the Egyptian and Arab calls for an extension of the Takia that Egypt had negotiated. But I have been in constant contact with the key Arab states. I have talked with our European colleagues, and we are talking constantly with the Israeli Government to find a solution to Gaza that will be a sustainable one for the people of Gaza, for the people of Israel and for the people of the Palestinian territories of the Middle East more broadly.

The President has also been in touch with the major leaders of the Arab States and with the Israelis. And we’re going to continue our work toward a ceasefire that will not allow a return to the status quo ante and that will be durable. Thank you very much.

QUESTION: Dr. Rice, do you plan to go to the Mideast to broker…?

SECRETARY RICE: I have no plans at this point. Thank you.

Released on January 2, 2009

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

2009: The US Contributes $85 Million for Humanitarian Assistance to Palestinian Refugees

The United States Contributes $85 Million for Humanitarian Assistance to Palestinian Refugees

Media Note
State Dept., Office of the Spokesman
Washington, DC
December 30, 2008

The United States Contributes $85 Million for Humanitarian Assistance to Palestinian Refugees
The United States announces its plan to contribute $85 million to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) for its 2009 appeals. Of the $85 million announced today, $25 million will go to UNRWA’s Emergency Appeal for the West Bank and Gaza; $60 million to UNRWA’s General Fund.

Through this contribution to the Emergency Appeal for the West Bank and Gaza, Palestinian refugees, who comprise 70 percent of the population in Gaza and 30 percent in the West Bank, will receive urgently needed food, medicines, and other critical humanitarian assistance. The contribution to UNRWA’s General Fund will support the provision of basic and vocational education, primary health care, and relief and social services to more than 4.6 million registered Palestinian refugees in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria.

The United States reiterates its deep concern about the escalating violence in Gaza and commends UNRWA’s important work meeting the emergency needs of civilians in Gaza at this very difficult time. We hold Hamas fully responsible for breaking the ceasefire and for the renewal of violence. We call on all concerned to protect innocent lives and to address the urgent humanitarian needs of the people of Gaza, by facilitating necessary access into Gaza for UNRWA and other humanitarian organizations. We also encourage other states to provide urgently needed funding to UNRWA and other international organizations providing lifesaving care to civilians in Gaza.

The United States is UNRWA’s largest bilateral donor, and contributed $184.68 million to UNRWA towards its 2008 Appeals, including $99.87 million for UNRWA’s General Fund and $84.81 million for its emergency appeals for Lebanon, the West Bank, and Gaza. The United States plans to provide additional funding for UNRWA's 2009 appeals in the future.

2008/1105

Released on December 30, 2008

Sunday, December 28, 2008

In The New Republic On Israel War Against HAMAS

Very Disproportionate, Indeed. By Marty Peretz
The New Republic Blogs. Saturday, December 27, 2008 9:22 PM

From January 1 until December 21, Hamas and its allies had launched exactly 1,250 rockets across the border between Gaza and Israel. Then the escalation really started: on Wednesday 70 projectile missiles landed in the Negev and its populated areas. On Thursday, more of the same. On Friday, two Palestinian girls, cousins of 5 and 12 years, were killed by a rocket that was launched in the Strip and landed in the Strip. But these unfortunates were not the targets of fire. It was just another day of blast offs into the Jewish state.

The government in Jerusalem had made it unmistakably clear that it would no longer tolerate this fire power aimed at innocent civilian life. It had been saying this for months to an increasingly skeptical and apprehensive, not to say, restive public. And to Hamas which didn't seem to care. Instead, it threatened Israel by word and follow-up deeds that confirmed the recklessness - as if confirmation was needed- of also this Palestinian "liberation" movement, the last in the long line of terrorist revolutionaries acting in the name of pathetic and blood-thirsty Palestine.

So at 11:30 on Saturday morning, according to both the Jerusalem Post and Ha'aretz, as well as the New York Times, 50 fighter jets and attack helicopters demolished some 40 to 50 sites in just about three minutes, maybe five. Message: do not fuck with the Jews. At roughly noon, another 60 air-attack vehicles went after other Hamas strategic positions. Israeli intelligence reported 225 people dead, mostly Hamas military leaders with some functionaries, besides, and perhaps 400 wounded. The Palestinians announced 300 dead, probably as a reflex in order to begin their whining about disproportionate Israeli acts of war. And 600 wounded.

Frankly, I am up to my gullet with this reflex criticism of Israel as going beyond proportionality in its responses to war waged against its population with the undisguised intention of putting an end to the political expression of the Jewish nation. Within hours, Nicolas Sarkozy was already taking up the cudgel of French righteousness and pronouncing the actually quite sober Israeli response to the continuous war on its borders "disproportionate." Enough. What would be proportionate, oh, so so proportionate apparently, are those tried-and-true half measures to contain Hamas that have never worked. Remember that in 2005 Israel ceded Gaza to the Palestinians waiting and hoping that they would make something of a civil society of their territory, civil for their own and civil to their neighbors. It was not to be.

There is only small likelihood that Hamas has learned its lesson. These Sunni fanatics are still supported by the Shi'a fanatics in Iran. And they are also backed by the House of Saud which cannot be seen to be turning its back on Sunni piety. Gaza is the only place in the Middle East where Tehran and Riyadh are allied. In both Lebanon and Iraq, they are the bankrollers (and more than bankrollers) of hostile sectarian forces engaged in killing each other. Thus, Hamas has still some rope with which to play. Cash, after all, is a great deluder.

The current warfare will go on a bit longer. If there is a pause and if I were giving advice to the Israelis, this is what I would say to Hamas and to the people of Gaza: "If a rocket or missile is launched against us, if you take captive one of our soldiers (as you have held one for two and a half years), if you raise a new Intifada against us, there will be an immediate response. And it will be very disproportionate. Proportion does not work."

No sooner had I written these last words that Khaled Meshal, the Hamas leader exiled in Damascus (which also apparently pines to make peace with Israel), announced the beginning of the Third Intifada.