Monday, December 29, 2008

Wall St Journal article: Palestinians Need Israel to Win

DECEMBER 29, 2008

Palestinians Need Israel to Win
If Hamas gets away with terror once again, the peace process will be over.

A quarter century has passed since Israel last claimed to go to war in the name of peace.
"Operation Peace for Galilee" -- Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon -- failed to convince the international public and even many Israelis that its goal was to promote reconciliation between Israel and the Arab world. In fact, the war had precisely the opposite results, preparing the way for Yasser Arafat's disastrous return to the West Bank and Gaza, and for Hezbollah's ultimate domination of Lebanon. And yet, Israel's current operation in Gaza is essential for creating the conditions that could eventually lead to a two-state solution.

Over the past two decades, a majority of Israelis have shifted from adamant opposition to Palestinian statehood to acknowledging the need for such a state. This transformation represented a historic victory for the Israeli left, which has long advocated Palestinian self-determination. The left's victory, though, remained largely theoretical: The right won the practical argument that no amount of concessions would grant international legitimacy to Israel's right to defend itself.

That was the unavoidable lesson of the failure of the Oslo peace process, which ended in the fall of 2000 with Israel's acceptance of President Bill Clinton's proposal for near-total withdrawal from East Jerusalem and the territories. The Palestinians responded with five years of terror.


Gaza is the test case. Much more is at stake than merely the military outcome of Israel's operation. The issue, rather, is Israel's ability to restore its deterrence power and uphold the principle that its citizens cannot be targeted with impunity.

Without the assurance that they will be allowed to protect their homes and families following withdrawal, Israelis will rightly perceive a two-state solution as an existential threat. They will continue to share the left-wing vision of coexistence with a peaceful Palestinian neighbor in theory, but in reality will heed the right's warnings of Jewish powerlessness.

The Gaza crisis also has implications for Israeli-Syrian negotiations. Here, too, Israelis will be unwilling to cede strategically vital territories -- in this case on the Golan Heights -- in an international environment in which any attempt to defend themselves will be denounced as unjustified aggression. Syria's role in triggering the Gaza conflict only deepens Israeli mistrust. The Damascus office of Hamas, which operates under the aegis of the regime of Bashar al Assad, vetoed the efforts of Hamas leaders in Gaza to extend the cease-fire and insisted on escalating rocket attacks.

In the coming days, the Gaza conflict is likely to intensify with a possible incursion of Israeli ground forces. Israel must be allowed to conclude this operation with a decisive victory over Hamas; the untenable situation of intermittent rocket fire and widespread arms smuggling must not be allowed to resume. This is an opportunity to redress Israel's failure to humble Hezbollah in Lebanon in 2006, and to deal a substantial setback to another jihadist proxy of Iran.

It may also be the last chance to reassure Israelis of the viability of a two-state solution. Given the unfortunate historical resonance, Israel should refrain from calling its current operation, "Peace for Southern Israel." But without Hamas's defeat, there can be no serious progress toward a treaty that both satisfies Palestinian aspirations and allays Israel's fears. At stake in Gaza is nothing less than the future of the peace process.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Israel finally defends its citizens

Hi everyone. Here in Beit Shemesh we heard warplanes, and possibly missile explosions, today right before Shabbat lunch. As of now the news is good -- Israel appears to finally have done something right to defend its citizens against the thousands of rockets that have been fired from Gaza since Israel withdrew from Gaza.

We're all praying that the Israeli army finish its mission successfully, quickly, with as few casualties as possible.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

NY Times Letter: When Labels Carry Moral Weight

Letters to the Public Editor
Other Voices: When Labels Carry Moral Weight
Published: December 20, 2008

Re “Separating the Terror and the Terrorists” (Dec. 14):

Dear Editor,

Choice of terminology is a moral statement. If morally neutral terminology is used for morally repugnant acts, it reduces the sense of repugnance. And when the same terminology is used for a moral and immoral act, a moral equivalence is created.

The Times and other news media influence the morals of our society. Do you want readers to believe that a terrorist deliberately killing civilians in a coffee shop is morally equivalent to, for example, American soldiers attacking the Nazis to end a world war, who certainly killed some civilians accidentally?

If society is conditioned by the media to treat moral and immoral actions as equivalent regardless of intent, context and goal, the media will have failed, and society will pay the price.

Beit Shemesh, Israel, Dec. 15, 2008

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Wall St Journal: Israel's Truce With Hamas Is a Victory for Iran

From today's Wall Street Journal, a clear analysis of today's cease fire. Below is an excerpt, here's a link to the whole article...

Israel's Truce With Hamas Is a Victory for Iran
June 19, 2008; Page A13

Proponents of an Israeli-Palestinian accord are praising the cease-fire between Israel and Hamas that went into effect this morning. Yet even if the agreement suspends violence temporarily -- though dozens of Hamas rockets struck Israel yesterday -- it represents a historic accomplishment for the jihadist forces most opposed to peace, and defeat for the Palestinians who might still have been Israel's partners.

The roots of this tragedy go back to the summer of 2005 and the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza. The evacuation, intended to free Israel of Gaza's political and strategic burden, was hailed as a victory by Palestinian terrorist groups, above all Hamas.

Hamas proceeded to fire some 1,000 rocket and mortar shells into Israel. Six months later Hamas gunmen, taking advantage of an earlier cease-fire, infiltrated into Israel, killed two soldiers, and captured Cpl. Gilad Shalit.

Hamas's audacity spurred Hezbollah to mount a similar ambush against Israelis patrolling the Lebanese border, triggering a war in which Israel was once again humbled. Hamas now felt sufficiently emboldened to overthrow Gaza's Fatah-led government, and to declare itself regnant in the Strip. Subsequently, Hamas launched thousands more rocket and mortar salvos against Israel, rendering parts of the country nearly uninhabitable.

... (cut here) ...

The Olmert government will have to go vast lengths to portray this arrangement as anything other than a strategic and moral defeat. Hamas initiated a vicious war against Israel, destroyed and disrupted myriad Israeli lives, and has been rewarded with economic salvation and international prestige.

... (cut here) ...

As the primary sponsor of Hamas, Iran is the cease-fire's ultimate beneficiary. Having already surrounded Israel on three of its borders -- Gaza, Lebanon, Syria -- Iran is poised to penetrate the West Bank. By activating these fronts, Tehran can divert attention from its nuclear program and block any diplomatic effort.

The advocates of peace between Israelis and Palestinians should recognize that fact when applauding quiet at any price. The cost of this truce may well be war.

Mr. Oren, a senior fellow at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem, is the author of "Power, Faith, and Fantasy: America in the Middle East, 1776 to the Present" (Norton, 2008).

Monday, June 16, 2008

WSJ: Sharansky: Democracies can't compromise on core values

Great article by Natan Sharansky in the Wall St Journal:

Democracies Can't Compromise on Core Values
June 16, 2008

As the American president embarked on his farewell tour of Europe last week, Der Spiegel, echoing the sentiments of a number of leading newspapers on the Continent, pronounced "Europe happy to see the back of Bush." Virtually everyone seems to believe that George W. Bush's tenure has undermined trans-Atlantic ties.


But while Mr. Bush is widely seen by Europeans as a religious cowboy with a Manichean view on the world, Europe's growing rift with America predates the current occupant of the White House. When a French foreign minister, Hubert VĂ©drine, declared that his country "cannot accept a politically unipolar world, nor a culturally uniform world, nor the unilateralism of a single hyper power," President Clinton was in the seventh year of his presidency and Mr. Bush was still governor of Texas.

The trans-Atlantic rift is not the function of one president, but the product of deep ideological forces that for generations have worked to shape the divergent views of Americans and Europeans. Foremost among these are different attitudes toward identity in general, and the relationship between identity and democracy in particular.


The controversy over whether Muslims should be able to wear a veil in public schools underscores the profound difference in attitudes between America and Europe. In Europe, large majorities support a law banning the veil in public schools. In the U.S., students wear the veil in public schools or state colleges largely without controversy.

At the same time severe limits are placed on the harmless expression of identity in the public square, some European governments refuse to insist that Muslim minorities abide by basic democratic norms. They turn a blind eye toward underage marriage, genital mutilation and honor killings.

The reality is that Muslim identity has grown stronger, has become more fundamentalist, and is increasingly contemptuous of a vapid "European" identity that has little vitality. All this may help explain why studies consistently show that efforts to integrate Muslims into society are much less effective in Europe than in America, where identity is much stronger.

Regardless of who wins in November, the attitudes of Americans toward the role of identity in democratic life are unlikely to change much. Relative to Europe, Americans will surely remain deeply patriotic and much more committed to their faiths.


Mr. Sharansky, a former Soviet dissident, is chairman of the Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem. He is the author, most recently, of "Defending Identity: Its Indispensable Role in Protecting Democracy" (PublicAffairs).

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

New York Times letter about Palestinian choices

Israel’s Friends and the Path to Peace
Published: May 20, 2008

To the Editor:

Re “For Israelis, an Anniversary. For Palestinians, a Nakba,” by Elias Khoury (Op-Ed, May 18):

The biggest similarity between the war in 1948 and the continuing Israeli control of Palestinian towns in the West Bank is that both were the unfortunate choice of the Palestinians.

In 1948, Israel agreed to the United Nations partition plan, and was willing to live as a neighbor to a Palestinian state, but the Arabs chose war. After the war, Arab countries chose to put the Palestinian refugees into refugee camps, while Israel integrated an equal number of Jewish refugees from Arab countries into Israeli society.

And in 2005, Israel chose to withdraw from Gaza and plan for further evacuation of the West Bank, and the Palestinians chose to use Gaza to fire missiles at Israeli civilians rather than build a productive society. Clearly, Israel cannot transfer control of more territory if that territory will be used to fire missiles at our civilians.

Bruce Dov Krulwich
Beit Shemesh, Israel, May 18, 2008

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Wall St Journal article: The Sderot Calculus

Not a letter to the editor, but an article from the Wall St Journal that needs to be read, distributed widely, and thought about. I quote excerpts below, the whole article is at:

The Sderot Calculus
February 26, 2008; Page A18

The Israeli town of Sderot lies less than a mile from the Gaza Strip. Since the beginning of the intifada seven years ago, it has borne the brunt of some 2,500 Kassam rockets fired from Gaza by Palestinian terrorists. Only about a dozen of these Kassams have proved lethal, though earlier this month brothers Osher and Rami Twito were seriously injured by one as they walked down a Sderot street on a Saturday evening. Eight-year-old Osher lost a leg.

It is no stretch to say that life in Sderot has become unendurable. Palestinians and their chorus of supporters -- including the 118 countries of the so-called Non-Aligned Movement, much of Europe, and the panoply of international aid organizations from the World Bank to the United Nations -- typically reply that life in the Gaza Strip is also unendurable, and that Palestinian casualties greatly exceed Israeli ones. But this argument is fatuous: Conditions in Gaza, in so far as they are shaped by Israel, are a function of conditions in Sderot. No Palestinian Kassams (or other forms of terrorism), no Israeli "siege."

The more vexing question, both morally and strategically, is what Israel ought to do about Gaza. The standard answer is that Israel's response to the Kassams ought to be "proportionate." What does that mean? Does the "proportion" apply to the intention of those firing the Kassams -- to wit, indiscriminate terror against civilian populations? In that case, a "proportionate" Israeli response would involve, perhaps, firing 2,500 artillery shells at random against civilian targets in Gaza.


Prudence is an important consideration of statesmanship, but self-respect is vital. And no self-respecting nation can allow the situation in Sderot to continue much longer, a point it is in every civilized country's interest to understand.

On March 9, 1916, Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa attacked the border town of Columbus, N.M., killing 18 Americans. President Woodrow Wilson ordered Gen. John J. Pershing and 10,000 soldiers into Mexico for nearly a year to hunt Villa down, in what was explicitly called a "punitive expedition." Pershing never found Villa, making the effort something of a failure. Then again, Villa's raid would be the last significant foreign attack on continental U.S. soil for 85 years, six months and two days.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Rocket fire against Sderot

This is a picture of Asher Twito, an 8 year old Israeli boy from Sderot who lost a leg in a rocket attack Saturday night. So far, as of Monday, I've seen no news coverage of the event, no indignation, noone demanding that something be done to eliminate the rocket fire from Gaza that's terrorizing Israeli civilians in Sderot and other nearby towns.

When will anyone in the world stand up and say that rocket fire against civilians has to stop? When will someone make it clear that the Palestinians have to take land that they have and create a peaceful society?

Friday, January 11, 2008

Reuters reports how Palestinians welcome President Bush

Thousands protest in Gaza against "vampire" Bush
Wed Jan 9, 2008 10:06am EST
By Nidal al-MughrabiGAZA, Jan 9 (Reuters) -

Brandishing placards showing George W. Bush as a vampire swigging Muslim blood, thousands of Hamas supporters protested in Gaza on Wednesday against the U.S. president's visit to Israel and the occupied West Bank.

Some 20,000 members of the Islamist group, shunned by the West for refusing to renounce violence, set U.S. and Israeli flags alight. Bush was a "butcher" whose first presidential visit to the Holy Land was skewed towards helping Israel, they said.

"In his first words Bush talked about Israel, its security, its democracy and the right of America and Israel to defend themselves," senior Hamas official Mahmoud al-Zahar told reporters at the rally.

"He did not talk about settlements or the assaults against our people." In Jerusalem, Jewish families waved Israeli and American flags and cheered Bush, who hopes his visit will invigorate efforts to reach an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal before he leaves office.

Protesters in Gaza, which Hamas seized in June after routing Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah forces, waved green Hamas flags as well as posters with pictures of Bush as a vampire drinking from a cup marked "Muslim blood".

Hamas said tens of thousands attended the protest while witnesses put the number at about 20,000.

Hamas refuses to recognise Israel and has vowed to undermine Abbas's efforts to make peace with the Jewish state in exchange for an independent Palestine in Gaza and the West Bank. Its control of the Gaza Strip is likely to complicate any accord.

Six weeks ago, Olmert and Abbas agreed at a conference in Annapolis, Maryland, to relaunch peace negotations but talks have been paralysed by a row over Israeli settlement activity.Many Palestinians are deeply sceptical about the chances for peace. Bush will not visit Gaza during the trip.

Israeli has stepped up raids into Gaza since Annapolis in response to rocket fire from militants. Some Hamas officials say they expect Bush to approve tougher reprisals.

Earlier, gunmen who said they were from a previously unknown Islamist group called "Army of the Nation" told a news conference they would try to kill Bush during his visit. It was unclear how much of a threat they posed.

The group said it adopted al Qaeda-style ideology but had no official ties with the group against which Bush has waged war.

(Writing by Rebecca Harrison; Editing by Robert Woodward)