Sociable

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Ms. Livni & The Generals


September 23, 2008


Tzipi and the Generals

Israel is in a tremendous state of instability and uncertainty. Olmert has tendered his resignation, but no one knows whether Livni will be able to form a coalition. If she cannot, then Israel is off to elections early in 2009. The annexationist right, organized in three major parties, the Likud led by Netanyahu, “Our Israel” led by Lieberman and the National Union led by Eitan, smells an electoral victory. The centrists, Kadima and Labor are in a state of disarray while, Meretz, Hadash and the Arab factions, unfortunately, can hardly make a difference. The bureaucracy, or more exactly, the state apparatus, continues to function. It should be appreciated that the military echelon and its “civilian” leadership has more, and not less, leverage in these conditions.

The cabinet, instead of throwing Olmert a farewell party at its last meeting, hosted a virtual oracle, who miraculously told them exactly what they wanted to hear. The oracle appeared in the form of Brig. General Yossie Baidatz, who bears the impressive title of the chief of the research department of Military Intelligence. Baidatz told the Israeli cabinet last Sunday that Iran is “galloping toward the nuclear point of no return” and that our friends in the West are just “weak” and not putting pressure on the [Iranian] regime. (Ha’aretz, September 22, 2009). Note the metaphors. This kind of info session is the Israeli version of the slam-dunk that is designed to free the Israeli government from the last remnants of rational caution.

Moreover, there are local and international developments that give renewed cause for concern. The deterioration of relations between Moscow and Washington on the backdrop of the Georgian issue serves the Bush-Cheney-Palin bloc, which rejects diplomacy, ab intio. In addition, despite conflicting reports, it is now clear that the Pentagon is sending Israel a good part of its weapons wish list.

Tzipi Won’t Fly

Some good friends have expressed a degree of cautious optimism over Livni’s potential. They are right about the fact that in the given constellation, Livni is about the best you can get. But any hopes regarding Livni are, I fear, just another case of the “wish being the father of the thought.” The Livni optimists are misled by her shrewd tactic of saying as little as possible about the issues. She is a “closet” Likudnick and this should not confuse anyone. Likudnicks are always quite ready to play the US diplomatic games, as long as they are all “process” and not real negotiations.

There is no reason to have any hopes for Livni simply because Israel cannot offer anything better. Under the pressures of endemic hatred and hostility to the Palestinians, the Israeli body politic is long on jingoism and short on sane, rational politics. Without a significant shift in international politics, Israel will continue to devote its thoughts, efforts and resources to maintaining its strategic superiority, by force if necessary. There are no serious policy differences here, at this stage, regarding this goal. The idea of a government of national unity is being bandied about as the best way to prepare for a decisive military showdown. But Netanyahu has cause to believe that he, and not Livni, will be able to form it in the not too distant future.

It is clear that Israel would like to attack Iran and will do so the minute it feels that it can get away with it. Here in the country, military logic and logistics are in charge and “normal” politics are in the back seat. The US cannot give Israel a green light, nor is it prepared for any active involvement, but the generals and their allies here argue that Washington will, as the phrase goes, refuse to second-guess Israel.


Saturday, August 2, 2008

August 2, 2008 From the desk of Reuven Kaminer


All Is Not Quiet on the Eastern Front

On the face of it, there is no immediate danger of a clash with Iran over its nuclear development project. The US military seems to have convinced the political echelon that the United States is simply unable to handle a third war, at this stage. This tactical input created the political basis for the shift in US policy in the Geneva talks. Still, there are very powerful forces in the US administration who do not like the idea of waiting around until it might be even more difficult to get an attack off the ground. These forces will try to exploit the to-be-expected difficulties in the Geneva talks as evidence to the effect that Teheran is not getting the message. When the attempt to ratchet up economic sanctions will prove ineffective, as it must in the given conditions, the hawks will be able to argue that it is time to proceed, quickly but surely, to the final option on the table. Even with the Geneva gambit, the basic line of the US administration (with Obama in tow) is that armed intervention would be legally and morally justified, because Iran – even without actually building the bomb - is a new “ticking bomb” in the region. The more aggressive the forces pushing for war in Washington, the deeper their coordination with Israel.

Israel Has Plenty of Room to Maneuver and to Manipulate

Nicholas Kristof (NYT, July 24, 2008) got it exactly right when he suggested that Obama was not doing Israel any favor by swallowing his host’s line on the Iranian crisis. Kristof criticized Obama for missing the critical issue: Israel is contemplating doing “something crazy”, which would include using all its resources and connections to drag the US into a full scale confrontation with Iran.

The prevailing, consensual anti-Iranian discourse creates political space for Israeli maneuvering. This discourse suggests that Israel, even if it ostensibly acts alone, can claim justifiably that it is implementing the principles and the logic of US policy. Israel is an expert in the limitless ways to increase tension in the region and many of these include threats to the Iranian interests. If the US really wants to discourage Israeli military initiatives against Iran, it is clearly insufficient for Washington to express mere unease and hesitation regarding an Israeli air strike. The dark threat of a potential Israeli strike will hover over the region until the US clearly announces that if it is not attacked, it would not intervene by military threat or action, even if Israel pushes the region to the boiling point. Given the level of ambivalence in Washington, Israel has sufficient grounds to assume that, even if the US is displeased (or apparently displeased), it would be forced to come to the aid of its faithful ally. The present posture in Washington is such that the US would not stand on the sideline.

Israel’s Agenda

There is no end of signs that the idea of an Israeli strike is being carefully weighed. General Mullen felt it necessary to repeat, just last week, an earlier warning on the danger of such a strike, for the second time this month. Olmert explained to Obama that time is running out since the Russians are going to upgrade the Iranian air defense system by the end of the year Defense Minister Barak and MK Mofaz, who holds a portfolio named Strategic Coordination with the US, held talks in Washington this week. Mofaz is the darling of the oil speculators for his constant flow of declarations that war is inevitable. This Saturday, MK Hanegbi, chair of the powerful Foreign Affairs and Security Knesset Committee, called for the establishment of a national unity government to deal with the Iranian crisis.

In this respect, it is practically a civic duty to carefully read the wild ranting and raving of Israeli historian, Professor Benny Morris. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/18/opinion/18morris.html?th&emc=th For Morris, it is the old story of good versus evil, and since a showdown is inevitable, better to bomb now and prepare the nukes, right away, for a necessary second strike. The really sad thing is that these Strangelovish illusions, which are based on the insatiable Israeli demand for absolute Israeli military superiority at all costs, are an integral element in Israel’s current security considerations.

Against Demonization of the Other Side

Many of my readers share with me a decided lack of enthusiasm for the policies and the rhetoric of Ahmadinajad and his circle. Without in any way ignoring the harm and the danger of some of the declarations coming out of Teheran, we must also admit that the Israeli propaganda is very adept at converting whosoever is its current adversary into a “new Hitler”. It should be recalled that both Abdul Nasser and Yassir Arafat were cast in the Hitler role, though their real core positions did not justify such a designation. In truth, their basic political platform created ample room for rational political responses which could have defused “inevitable” clashes. Nasrallah figures, with Ahmadinajad, as the current, not to be appeased, enemy. But there are abundant signs that Nasrallah knows how to do business responsibly and there is good reason to believe that the current leadership in Iran could be influenced by serious and thoughtful politics. It would certainly be helpful if the “rational” West offered total regional disarmament of all weapons of mass destruction (including Israel’s stockpile) to the “irrational and inscrutable” Iranian leadership. Perhaps, the Iranian leadership has cause to ask its critics as to why they consider it is perfectly acceptable that Israel and Pakistan are legitimate members of the nuclear club and why Iran must accept an inferior status. Even if the US and its allies are not ready for anything as fair and logical as regional disarmament, other sets of realistic and patient policies based on mutual respect could go a long way to prevent tensions from getting dangerously out of hand.

Barak In Washington

The month started with Mike Mullen’s warnings about the danger from an irresponsible Israeli air strike. But Barak was not in DC yesterday to relieve this anxiety. He made it clear that Israel continued to demand a sense of urgency and opposed any relaxation of tensions. Barack Obama had told friends that his impression from talks in Israel was that it had no faith in the sanctions track. The LA Times (July 30, 2008) summed it up adequately:

“Bush administration officials reassured Israel’s defense minister this week that the United States has not abandoned all possibility of a military attack on Iran, despite widespread Israeli concern that Washington has begun softening its position toward Tehran.”

Washington is clearly apologetic regarding its own policies and refusing to reign in its Israeli ally. An Israeli strike at Iran is very much on the table.


Friday, July 18, 2008

Sarcko the Ist; Prisoners and their fate; Obama and the Left

The Anointment of Sarcko, the First – Release the Prisoners – Support Obama and Build the Left
Sarkozy's Annapolis

A regional or local conflict reaches crisis status when there is enough violence to fear continued death and destruction. As a rule, international power brokers pursue their interests by feeding the conflict, while they explain to the world that anything that can be done "to bring the sides together" is exactly what they are doing. So everybody else should mind their own business.

Ah, but our world of hype and PR demands more and much more. The dominant power is called on nowadays to show the world its efforts for a solution of the conflict – even though these do not exist. One would assume that serious people would not play with a conflict such as ours, and the vast sea of suffering and pain it involves, only on the hype-PR level. However, despite artificially inspired expectations, the promises for peace made in Annapolis turned into lengthy siege and massive malnutrition for Gaza and complete and utter degradation for the Palestinian Authority and the West Bank. And since the prisoner issue is in the news, let us note that Annapolis has left 10,500 Palestinian prisoners rotting in Israeli jails. We are just as realistic as the next person, but the US behavior – big talk and no action - in Palestine has broken every record for cynical hypocrisy.

Sarkozy: Thinking Big with A New Tin Messiah

The technique of making a splash in the media without actually doing anything is now being employed by the French President, Sarkozy, who at the least has a bit more style than the Yankee bumbler in DC. But the success of the technique requires many dull minds masquerading as political analysts. Roger Cohen is one of the dull minded hagiographers who is expert in promoting circuses as serious affairs.


First of all he loves Sarkozy. Second of all, he lists Sarko's immense achievements. (See, International Herald Tribune, July 17, 2008.)

"But this man is a tonic to his country and the most important European leader of his time. In the space of a year, he has transformed France's relations with the United States, Israel, its North African neighbors and NATO....Let's take international matters first. Sarkozy's Mediterranean Union summit — a kind of Club Med Bastille Day bash — had its share of vapid ostentation, but was significant for several reasons…"

The details of these transformations in France's relations with US, etc. are simply missing. No solid facts or significant changes in policy, on the ground, are noted. But sit tight, because Roger has a biggie for you. Do you know who showed up at Club Med?

"It got the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, and the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, in the same room, drew the latter out of isolation and signaled a new European awareness of how its identity has become inseparable from societies across the "mother sea" that have sent so many of their Muslim sons and daughters northward."

Olmert and Assad in one room is listed as gigantic achievement number one, though they did not meet or greet one another. Olmert and Sarkozy wanted to stage a handshake and declare success! Now it was not Sarkozy who pulled Assad out of isolation but Syria's success in Lebanon. If there was any new diplomacy, it came from Assad, who used the Turkish (and not the French) connection to signal a qualified degree of independence from Teheran. Sarko just wanted to steal the show.

But the biggest journalistic gobbledygook comes in those sentences which seem to mean something. Sarkozy has fostered it seems, according to Cohen "a new European awareness of how its identity has become inseparable," from the North African countries. More ephemera.

All this happens, says Cohen on the basis of the following miracle: "The Union for the Mediterranean is a near-empty shell but an important impulse for Europe to think big." Cohen, determined that Sarkozy is a world ranking leader by virtue of his thinking big. A near empty shell but an important impulse!?

Cohen, somehow fails to remark on another "gigantic success" of the Sarkozian festivities. There, our inimitable Prime Minister informed the whole world that the Israelis and the Palestinians had never been closer to an agreement. Now, it is common knowledge that the talks are paralyzed and that Abu Mazen and the Palestinian Authority have been totally marginalized by Israeli settlement activity. One of Mazen's leading negotiators, Yassar Ab'd Rabbo, has suggested that the Authority end the negotiations charade.

Definitions

Definitions in the region follow politics very closely. Our soldiers are heroes and theirs are vile murderers. We are motivated by morality and values and they are motivated by hatred and desire for revenge. You can follow the supposedly "free" government run Israeli television and radio for months without encountering a single dissenting voice to these axioms.

If wars are inevitable, prisoners should be treated fairly and repatriated speedily to their homes. But what kind of moral high ground can we hold when we hold more than ten thousand prisoners. Thousands of these are infirm, chronically ill, imprisoned for more than two decades, women and youngsters. Thus, it is very important for the average Israeli to be convinced, day after day, that these are terrorists and criminals though it is quite clear that almost all of them acted out of a sense of duty to redress the wrongs to their national rights and existence. Elementary decency requires massive release of these people. This might conceivably help in clearing some of the poisoned air hovering over all of us. It is worthwhile learning to respect all prisoners and fostering universal concern for their fate.


A Category Mistake

Let me reiterate the principles that could and should guide the response of the consistent left to many of Barak Obama's clearly incorrect, core positions. Obama is not the candidate of the left in the United States. Morally we have every right to demand a candidate from the left and for the left in the race to the White House. But the given relationship of forces is such that the left does not have sufficient clout at this stage to have its own candidate. Barak Obama who is not the candidate of the left will have the overwhelming support of the left in the US.

The nature of US politics is such that it is perfectly acceptable that a large section of the Obama supporters from the left have independent expression and their own frameworks within the Obama camp.
This is an excellent strategy for the rebirth of a strong independent left in the US.

Progress has been made in fortifying the correct impression that a sizable section of Obama's overall support comes from the left. Obama will have to take this fact into account. We will not condemn our friends on the left who feel it absolutely necessary to run a third party campaign. Disputes in the left must be the subject of friendly discussion and debate. But the facts are stubborn. The overwhelming majority of the left is in the Obama camp, and its potential constituency is right there. They can and will be influenced by the dynamic and open presence of a left wing in the Obama camp.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Scoop - Obama is not Che Guevara

Scoop: Barak Obama Is Not Che Guevara
For some reason, it is difficult for many friends in the left to grasp two seemingly contradictory ideas in their minds without an avalanche of confusion at every turn in the road. Is the following truth so hard to understand? Obama, who is not the candidate of the left, was the only suitable strategic choice for the left.
The left, with few exceptions, overwhelmingly supported the candidacy of Barak Obama for the Democratic nomination. The left, with few exceptions, understood quite well that Obama is not the candidate of the left. Of course, here and there, there are good people who can develop illusions in the heat of the battle. But the overwhelming majority of those on the left who supported him understood that Obama is another representative of the political establishment of the powers that be in corporate America.
Barak Obama cannot be thrown out of the ranks of the revolution, despite the thundering demand of many dear friends, for the simple reason that he was never there. Many of these dear friends are beaming with a sense of superiority after Obama’s disgusting AIPAC performance. But it is not clear to whom they are saying “I told you so.”
The left, despite cynicism regarding its weakness, does exist. Because of its weakness, it has nowhere enough strength to mount a presidential campaign. In these conditions and in the light of the hawkishness of his opponents and the racist overtones of the campaign against him, the left identified, worked with, and supported Obama. This strategy was dictated by the circumstances and there is nothing wrong with it.
The Name of the Game
The name of the game is to stay in close contact with the grass roots elements of the Obama campaign and to contribute to the defeat of John McCain in November. At the same time, it is incumbent on those on the left, who remain to the left of Obama, to find suitable opportunities to voice their criticism from within the campaign camp and from outside it. The left must send its message to the millions who joined Obama because they felt instinctively that he was going in their direction. These millions are the potential constituency of the left on the rise.

Heaven Help Us From Military Logic
The official line goes like this: If the Hamas continues to dare to trade attacks with the IDF, if the Hezballah continues to promise revenge on Israel, if the Iranians refuse to understand that they are in line for obliteration – all this is the result of one simple fact: Israel has lost its deterrent power. The generals, who form the hegemonic political-military think-tank in Israel’s perpetual state of emergency are in the media, hour by hour, day by day to explain that Israel as a matter of national survival must teach our enemies a lesson that they never will forget. Deterrence will thereby be restored. Q.E.D.

Our attack, by all accounts, is pending. It has been in the offing since it became clear to all concerned that the Arabs – instead of just sitting there - are using the time at their disposal to improve their armory. They buy, they smuggle, they buy on the sly, they develop, they perfect and they improvise. Now this being the undeniable truth, it is completely imperative, since war is inevitable because of a failure of our deterrent power, that “business” be taken care of as soon as possible.

The rising tension in Israel’s ruling circles is not about whether to mount an attack. It appears that there are some difficulties regarding who can give the relevant ok and just who to attack. The Prime Minister is actually disabled by some form of diminished capacity – he can collect taxes but not declare war. There are so many Arab countries that are potential candidates for some “bang and its over” therapy, how is even a general to know which is the right one? In these circumstances, compromises are inevitable. The current suggestion is that Israel invade Gaza, arrange the massive execution of every Hamas figure from Prime-Minister to traffic cop, and then, get this, Israel will agree to a long term cease fire.
The second cause for indecision is how to evaluate the impact of simultaneous war on three fronts, politically and logistically. Will an attack Gaza make it easier or harder to launch an attack on Iran? At what stage, if any, will war in the north and in the south force Hizballah to enter the fray?
Somebody even cracked a joke and asked how a war on three fronts would influence the progress of the peace talks with Abu Mazen and Bashar Al- Asad.
The accepted wisdom is that the only competent people in Israel are generals and the only thing they are competent about is war. However, many nations have paid the price of countless victims to learn the lesson that war is too important a matter to be left to the discretion of generals.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

To Utopia and Back

From the desk of Reuven Kaminer June 7, 2008

To Utopia and Back

Prof. Gilbert Achcar of the School of Oriental and Asian Studies in London has made a unique contribution to the ongoing “one-state or two-states” debate in a recent wide ranging interview to Mesele, a progressive periodical in Turkey. (www.zmag.org.znet/view/Article/17808)
Achcar’s input is especially important coming from a Lebanese affiliated with the Trotskyist Fourth International and a prominent analyst regarding our region.

Achcar on the ongoing “two states versus one state” debate:

“To be frank, I consider this debate to be largely a waste of time. I mean this is a debate on utopias in both cases and yet, some are conducting it as if the stakes were at hand. Each side accuses the other of being utopian, and they are both right, because both `solutions` are utopian. Of course, an `independent Palestinian state` that would be limited to the West Bank and Gaza is totally utopian. But I would also say that a single state with ten million Palestinians and six million Jews is much more of a utopia, since it requires the destruction of the Zionist state if one wants to look at the issue seriously. Otherwise it cannot work. That is why I think that these are utopias and too much energy is focused on this debate, such that it becomes a waste of time.” Instead of diverting our energy into a growingly sterile debate, Achcar calls for concentrating efforts to end the occupation and support for Palestinian sovereignty over their territories.

In my view there are two levels to be considered when facing the Palestinian issue. On the one hand are the immediate and urgent interests or needs of the Palestinian people. What are the Palestinian people in Gaza and the West Bank fighting for? They are fighting to get rid of the occupation, of course -- not for the right of voting in Israel. They want sovereignty over their territories. Their fight should obviously be supported. Even if you are a one-state solution proponent, can you say: I oppose the Palestinian fight against the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza because it doesn`t correspond to my maximalist view of the correct solution? That would be completely absurd from a political standpoint. Hence, if we put it in concrete terms, one has to support the actual struggle of the Palestinians for their immediate relief from the occupation.”
Achcar goes on to suggest that if we need to have a long-term utopian program it should be an attractive one, a socialist and regional solution of the conflict.

Three Utopias

Achcar and along with him, Michel Warshavski of the Alternative Information Center in Jerusalem, both with sterling left-wing credentials, have made it clear that the one-state solution does not, as many new to the controversy might have mistakenly assumed, enjoy automatic support from the left. Both clarify that the image of a simple left-right dividing line on this issue is incorrect. It is simply wrong to assume that the liberals tend to be “two-staters,” while consistent leftists support what appears to be the more radical the one-state solution. If it is true that many on the left have come out in support of a one-state solution, this seems to stem more from a desire to express the greatest possible solidarity with the Palestinian people, than any serious programmatic analysis.

Many of those who support the one-state solution seem to labor under the misapprehension that a new and better society can grow out of the present circumstances in some sort of evolutionary process. Achcar rightly stresses that the one state perspective involves the destruction of Israel before any possible agreement on a single unified state is possible. Thus, the one state solution for Israelis and Arabs, which, at any event, enjoys slim Palestinian support, is more a recipe for the continuation of the conflict than its solution.

What is to be Done Today and Tomorrow

Achcar’s input is also important in that it is informed by a realistic evaluation of the urgent strategic implications of “what has to be done.” It would be a terrible mistake for friends of the Palestinian cause to allow themselves to get bogged down in the final-outcome debate. The concrete aim of all those supporting Palestinian rights should be the fullest possible unity in the militant fight against the occupation and for all measures that can alleviate Palestinian suffering.

Unity between all concerned, including those with different positions on the sources and the resolution of the conflict, must be forged in a relentless attack on Israeli policy and the joint responsibility of Israel and its U.S. patron for the continued suffering of millions of innocent people.

Some Utopias are Less Utopian than Others

Achcar is right in the sense that at this point arguments about the final status solution are utopian and have almost no connection to events on the ground. This said, Achcar feels justified in reintroducing the preferred solution of the radical anti-imperialist left.

“Beyond that I would say that no long term, final, lasting and just solution can be conceived other than at a regional level and under socialist conditions -- through a socialist federation of the Middle East and beyond. Of course, this is a utopia, but this is an inspiring utopia.”
However, it should be noted that there are many who support the two- state solution, who also share with others a vision of a socialist regional solution of the Israeli-Palestinian and Israeli-Arab conflict. Being realistic about short term possibilities and dangers does not involve the forfeit of an internationalist vision based on social justice in the region. It does however demand a sense of the historical agenda, its present and future stages.

Any peace-loving observer of the cynical and disgusting perversion of the two-state concept by Israel and its allies can understand the disgust and the despair that leads to the conclusion that this solution is no longer possible. The name of peace via two-states has been sullied and besmirched. But even so, as a matter of fact, it is incorrect to describe the two-state solution as utopian. This misunderstanding stems from the undeniable fact that the probability of a two state option is in pronounced retreat. But even with this admittedly diminished probability of a two-state solution, one can make a case for an immanent set of circumstances that would increase the motion towards the completion of a viable two state solution in a time frame that might be termed as the “foreseeable future.”

This is so because the existing stalemate is based on US hegemony in the region as a permanent and unchanging factor. Without illusions and knowing that changes in US imperialist policies are no simple matter, one can at the least, point out strong and important trends in the US political establishment and in the international arena which express, to say the least, dissatisfaction with the present strategic and political configuration of US policy in the region. Without exaggerating the potential of a new administration and more realistic voices such as the Iraq Study Group in Washington, it would be unwise to ignore possible shifts in US policy.

It is incumbent on the peace forces to define and encourage voices in the political establishment everywhere who may be willing to “reinvent” their diplomacy away from the hide-bound alliance with Israeli expansion and aggression. This is far from an easy task but it is an additional vital element in exposing the responsibility of the US and of Israel for rising tensions in the region and the tremendous suffering of the Palestinian people under a cruel and brutal occupation.

[Gilbert Achcar is Professor of Development Studies and International Relations at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London. His books include Perilous Power with Noam Chomsky (2007), The 33-Day War (2007), The Clash of Barbarisms (2nd edn, 2006), The Israeli Dilemma (2006), and Eastern Cauldron (2004).]

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Syrian-Israeli Negotiations

Do Negotiations Mean a Chance for Peace?

The logic of established patterns of behavior creates a set of expectations. For example, when countries involved in a sustained conflict decide to commence peace talks, such an act suggests that they believe that there is some chance for success. However, there are circumstances in which negotiations for peace have little or nothing to do with that objective. I am afraid that this is the case with the new round of negotiations between Syria and Israel.

Before the recent sensational announcement on talks between Israel and Syria, Israel was already involved in two sets of negotiations which have little or no connection with the achievement of any substantial serious agreement. In the given political circumstances, and despite the fanfare, there is no chance of any agreement between Israel and Syria, just as there is no chance of any permanent cease fire between Israel and the Hamas in the Gaza strip, and just as there is no chance of any comprehensive agreement between Israel and Palestine as a result of the current talks in Jerusalem.

Is it likely that ostensibly serious players in the international arena really invest so much energy in what are actually bogus negotiations? You might think that major powers would be embarrassed when it turns out that this much ado had nothing to do with peace. They might even be concerned at the loss of their own credibility. Well, Bush’s Annapolis “peace this very year” ploy should lay any doubts on this account to rest. Israel, the United States, with the cooperation of an increasingly isolated segment of the Palestinians, are involved in this charade for the ‘nth time.

Bush is not serious about peace. Meanwhile, the existence of horrific, desperate conditions for the people experiencing the conflict on the ground, are just as often as not, no more than golden opportunity for the public relations spinners to do their thing. The rich and the mighty can play hypocritically at “bringing peace” with little fear of negative consequences. They are able to disregard negative consequences when it becomes clear that the mission remains unaccomplished. Meanwhile, the repressive status quo remains in place with its devastating results for the people of the region.

We owe a word to friends who feel that we are unfair and cannot afford to be too choosy when it comes to peace initiatives. This argument is based on the “optimistic” assertion that it is better to talk than to fight. In order to bask in the glow of this kind of optimism, we are supposed to suspend our better judgment regarding the real motives behind this outbreak of negotiations. We are told to get real and respond positively to positive events. But we had this very same argument just a few months ago with those who asked that we reserve judgment before coming out against Annapolis. We must however, for our part, continue to relate to the politics of Annapolis and to the politics of the Turkish sponsored Syrian-Israel negotiations with a refusal to buy erzatz goods. These so-called diplomatic initiatives have one main purpose: to isolate Teheran.

“War is (indeed) the continuation of politics,” but it is also true that bogus negotiations are most often the continuation of preparations for war, or simply a convenient smokescreen for the continuation of the status quo. Sadly enough it is quite easy to play on the emotions of the people who sincerely hope for peace. For the uninitiated onlooker it is sometime difficult to perceive that the negotiations are really a form of camouflage for threats.

The Turkish Connection

The Turkish government has acquired a role in kind of farce for the same reason that Egypt is “mediating” between Hamas and Israel. Egypt has squandered its own prestige in order to placate Israeli whims, while Israel insists that it is not negotiating and will never negotiate with Hamas, even for a cease fire. After Egypt suffers the indignities of helping Israel to perpetuate the fraud that it is not negotiating with Hamas and actually comes up with a reasonable compromise, Israel, the “non-negotiator” sends the Egyptians back to Hamas with another package of new demands. Some of these are off the wall like demanding the return of Gilead Shalit as a pre-condition for a cease fire - when everyone knows that the negotiations regarding Shalit have been long mired in a disagreement about the composition of the Palestinian prisoners to be released. Hamas, which is supposed to act like a gangster earns respect by showing responsible good will. But Israel has its nose in the air and keeps talking about an impending invasion. The Egyptians know quite well that without Israeli willingness to reach a cease fire they are on a fool’s errand. On the surface, it makes Egypt appear as an important factor in the region. In fact, it demonstrates Egypt’s abject conformance to Israeli whims. But what some country’s leadership will do for a moment of glory, even when the moment must turn sour, quickly, very quickly.

The Turkish government wants to be considered a regional power. It believes that it can eventually distance itself from responsibility when the Israel-Syrian talks break down. But Turkey will not gain any prestige. Israel which has no intention of serious negotiations on the Golan, has already issued its real demand, a radical revision of Syria’s regional and international status. Syria will not get close to a clod of earth of its own territory until it will convince Israel and the United States that it has turned its back on its current association with Iran and Hezballa.

A Slavish Show of Independence

There are some commentators who are overwhelmed by the fact that the Israeli initiative comes without specific Washington blessing. This is even considered in some quarters as proof of Israeli independence. In truth, Israel is out to win a prize for its patron by showing Washington that it can use its regional strength and acumen to pull off something that Bush desires but which his advisers consider impossible. Washington considers Israel a strategic ally and a strategic partner. This partnership includes Israel’s right to sacrifice itself as a surrogate for the United States, up to and including Israel’s “right” to provoke Iran into a regional conflagration. Thus Israel is relatively independent in choosing the means to achieve results desired by the United States. This is especially true when the major partner is a walking political cadaver like George Bush.

And If Peace Wins Through

There are those who suggest that we desist from analyzing Israeli and United States machinations. They argue that we are back tracking on our traditional support for peace between the parties. However, If Israel is actually forced to really relinquish its control of the Golan, we will throw flowers at the retreating troops and see this as another indication that the occupation must end on all fronts for a stable peace. But this is not what is happening nor is there, unfortunately, any reason for assuming that this is happening.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

All Roads Lead to Teheran

All Roads Lead to Teheran

Preparations for war with Syria are proceeding at a reasonable pace. Given the unchallenged military superiority of the US, the logistic-technical aspect of an attack is no big problem. However, since the obstacles are political, Bush and his faithful assistants need to build up a case for an attack. Following the headlines of your local newspaper is the best way to observe how this is done.

Reactor Reaction – Bombs Away

It is always helpful to prepare people for your probable response to any real or imaginary provocation. If you see something you or your ally do not like, bomb it first and offer explanations afterwards. The gravity of the threat, or even its very existence, may be in doubt. But it is helpful to get people used to the precedent on your part of violation of every principle of international law and the execution of unchallenged aggression, against a sovereign government. In fact, there was no international outrage in the media or in the streets over the revelations that Israel had bombed what may or may not have been a North Korean reactor. This lack of response suggests that bombing Iran will be only a somewhat more delicate operation.

Why We Are Having Troubles in Iraq

The White House and the Pentagon are pushing revelations about Iranian ‘on the ground’ intervention in Iraq. But this is an old story. Given the deep connections between various Shiite groups and Iran, the big surprise is how little Iran is involved in the military scene in Iraq. Iran has tremendous influence on political groups in the establishment and in the Shi’ite opposition. It extends considerable economic aid to Iraq, especially in the Basra region. And even according to the most alarming US reports, its military involvement is still a marginal affair, and most important there is, even according to the US officials, no verifiable increase in the level of intervention.

But Bush and his apparatus have issued stern warnings to the Iranians, explaining that it is because of the Iranian military intervention that the United States will not be able to proceed with troop level deductions in Iraq.

Smoke and Mirrors

Pseudo-negotiations between traditional enemies do not in any way impinge on preparations for war. They tend to portray Israel and the US in a positive peace seeker role. But it is advisable not to look too closely into the real function of these negotiations.
Israel is talking with the tragic figure of Abu Mazen, who is completely alone in ascribing any importance to the talks. Israel uses the cover of talks with Abu Mazen to wage relentless war against Hamas and a million and half Palestinians in Gaza. The Egyptians are supposedly mediating between Israel and Hamas, but Israel has not even authorized the Egyptians to work on a cease-fire.

Meanwhile, Israel has indeed authorized the Turkish leadership to proposition Assad. The Golan Heights are the bait.
Olmert is helping the United States by using the Golan Heights as bait to get Assad to jump out of the Iranian pond. Israel tells Assad, that if he is smart like Sadaat (who ditched the Soviets for the Sinai), he will ditch Iran for the Golan and join the US camp.
Syria will then be removed from the US terrorist lists, becoming
like Jordan and Egypt, a respectable member of the moderate’s
club. Once again, we see how even “peaceful” negotiations with
Syria serve as preparations for war with Iran.

And if you think that encouraging anti-Iranian hysteria is a thankless job, listen to Hillary Clinton. When asked what she would do at 3A.M. in the morning if informed of a Iranian nuclear attack on Israel: “We would be able to totally obliterate them.”
Phillip Stevens in the Financial Times (24/4/08) describes this as an attempt by Clinton to reinvent herself as the mad general in Dr. Strangelove. It may be to the point that even at 3 A.M. she might check her information before ordering the death of 70 million Iranians. After all, so far, it is Israel that has nuclear capacity and Iran, despite all the WMD noise, does not.

If One Had to Choose

There must be an important lesson in this week’s news. The illustrious Communist Party in Italy lost its parliamentary representation for the first time in more than a half of a century. The Rainbow coalition which it led saw its vote drop from about 10% to only 3% - one per cent less than the minimum required. The party is in a tremendous identity crisis.

In Nepal, the Maoist Communist Party scored a tremendous electoral victory after having come out of the underground armed struggle a year or so ago. The Nepal Maoists are in line to form a new government coalition.

I guess that there might be a lesson here. All other things being equal, if you have the choice of backing a weak centrist government, which is a mere appendage of the sinking status quo (as the Communists did in Italy for the last two years) or going underground to pursue policies that will represent a real alternative for the masses – it is better to go underground.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Bush's Last Gunboat?

Palestine and the Crisis in US Middle East Policy

It appears that the United States is still relatively successful in blocking any real progress on the Israeli-Palestinian track. If the Palestinian question seems deadlocked for the moment, the Middle East is like a seething cauldron for the United States. Hamas ascendency in Gaza, the parliamentary stalemate in Lebanon, the failure to isolate Syria, the continuation of the lost war in Iraq and plans for US-Israel aggression against Iran suggest that the region is on the brink. These circumstances, as dangerous as they are, suggest the possibility that as volatility in the region develops, the Palestinian question will be less subject to exclusive US considerations.

As the United States tries to empty the two-state concept of any real meaning, one hears more voices which demand that we proceed without delay to a one-state solution. One of the more specious arguments in favor of a one-state solution is the sorry state of negotiations in and around the two-state solution. This situation appears as a golden chance for the supporters of the one-state solution to prove that the two-state option is long dead. This argument is premised, of course, on the assumption that the disappearance of the two-state option is a sure-fire indication that things are moving more rapidly in the direction of a one-state solution. This premise is illogical and delusionary. The inability of the international community to overcome the sabotage of progress on the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel is an expression of a specific balance of forces. Thus, the current US exclusive domination of the main political processes prevents recognition of any of the genuine rights of the Palestinians. One can only wonder at the logic that suggests that a one-state solution is now more likely because the two-state solution has been successfully frustrated up till now by the US and Israel. Are we to understand that the US will now force Israel into accepting a single democratic state? Or are we to understand that Israel has been waiting till now to confess that it opposed a Palestinian state because it really wants a single democratic state between the sea and Jordan? Or can we use a bit of our old Talmudic learning to the effect that says if the two- state proposal is a tough proposition, then the one-state alternative is a simple impossibility.

The option of a two-state solution is the almost universally recognized formula for ending the horrific suffering of the Palestinian people. It is almost consensual among governments and the media all over the world. This is so clear that one can say that if any solution is possible in the foreseeable future, it is clear that it is the two-state solution. It is equally clear what the contours of such a settlement will be: return to the June 1967 borders; a shared Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian national state and Israel; and a fair and just solution of the Palestinian refugee problem.

Just last week the Arab League and the summit of the Arab countries reaffirmed their support for the two-state solution. They were joined, in what appeared a surprising step, but which was really not, by Hamas.

The sense of paralysis and frustration over the possibilities of a two-state solution are understandable. The frustration is especially acute in the light of the Annapolis farce which continues to pay lip service to two states while actually preventing any progress in that direction. The name of the game is simple – ongoing collusion between Israel and the US.

It is not an accident that opposition to US policy and Israeli-US collusion is urgent on the other important fronts in the area. The US has stationed an aircraft carrier near Lebanon to signal the US-Israeli plans for intervention in Lebanon and to remind us about how Washington likes to settle conflicts if things are not going its way. Lebanon, important in itself, takes on added importance as a springboard for war with Tehran. In Palestine, In Iraq, in Lebanon, in Syria and in Iran - the decisive challenge is overcoming US policy and blocking the danger of a new round of aggression. Meeting this challenge should be the main objective of all practical political endeavors in the region and everywhere else as a matter of fact.

We cannot know if and when the US will be forced to revise its dangerous war aims in the region. But we can say that the struggle on this front is far from hopeless and the chances for success are far from negligible. Why would any force with a minimum of political maturity abandon the obligation to create the strongest united force against US policy in order to plunge into a campaign centering on the blurry and remote intricacies of a one-state solution to the conflict?

There are two main approaches among the recent spate of calls for a one-state solution. Firstly, there are thousands of devoted advocates of peace who wish to express their justified wrath over Israeli policy. Israel’s role has been so abominable as to even encourage honest questioning of Israel’s right to exist. Facing understandable frustration over the lack of progress for peace, some of our friends are shopping for an ideal solution that will punish the Israeli establishment and, at the same time, secure the rights of both peoples in a free and democratic Palestine. The one-state solution might satisfy this psychological need, but it is totally bereft of any connection to given realities.

There is another grouping in the one-state camp that is there because it rejects the existence of two states, in principle. The one-state option is completely nebulous in every respect save one: it contemplates the dismantling of Israel. This has been and is still in many quarters the goal of traditional Palestinian-Arab militant nationalism. From this point of view the two-state solution is not so much impossible as undesirable.

Certainly, Palestinian nationalists have just as much right as Israeli nationalists to put off negotiations and suffer through the continuation of the conflict, with its horrendous costs, until a radical transformation in the balance of forces will create new possibilities for realizing the uncompromised national dream. Of course, the Palestinians are more justified in hanging on to their illusions because the international community has betrayed them again and again and ignored their willingness for a far reaching compromise. But even so Lenin’s dictum that the rights of an oppressed people should be recognized only up to the point where these demands infringe on the rights of the oppressing nation, is valuable here.

Without being in the least sarcastic, the one-state solution bears a family resemblance to the “united democratic secular state” that was for quite a while the official policy of the PLO. Those on the left were wont to add the important adjective “socialist.” These ideals are still morally relevant and shared by all democrats. The difficulty is that there are no serious political forces among the Palestinians or among the Israelis which believe that there are minimal political conditions for even discussing this perspective. Simply said, the proposal for a united democratic state for two peoples still locked in deadly conflict after decades of hostility is absent from the agenda because it cannot be taken seriously by any of the participants in the current circumstances. It cannot be a path to peace. The best thing that can be said about it is that it is a conceivable path for two sovereign peoples who living in conditions of relative calm opt for a deeper and closer relationship. Today, at this point, in present conditions it may serve, more than anything else, as a serious distraction.

The distractive element is the one that appears in real life when the one-state solution is presented as the exclusive incarnation of solidarity with the Palestinians. When everything possible must be done to build the broadest coalition to expose and condemn Israel’s policies and actions, there is a pronounced tendency among the “one-staters” to promote hyper maximalist demands. These demands have the practical results of upstaging all Palestinian leaderships and denouncing them for agreement in principle to a compromise. These accusations also have a deleterious effect on unity in that they suggest that the elimination of Israel as a sovereign country is the sine qua non of any reasonable solution.

The peace movement is involved in a very serious struggle against the Israeli lobbies and other pro-Zionist elements. The “trump card” of these forces is that the peace movement is really demanding the elimination of Israel and this is its condition for peace. But the truth is that the unanimous position of all sections of the Palestinian leadership is a willingness to accept a far reaching compromise. The Palestinians and the entire world have clearly declared that Israel can live in peace in the Middle East.

The international community, the Arab world, and the Palestinian leadership – including its two main factions are willing to negotiate a two-state solution. The support for this solution is so overwhelming that the US and Israel must play act as if they were doing just this – supporting a real peace process. This being so, the next logical and most effective step on our part is to condemn the hypocrisy of the United States on one hand, and the timidity of those, such as the moderate Arab states and Europe, who refuse to confront Bush. This can and must be done by exposing the wide gap between the professed policies of many fainthearted friends of the Palestinians and their actions on the ground. Instead of demanding that support for Palestine be translated into effective and militant opposition to the US and Israel should the Palestinians and their supporters accept the advice of those who want to wait and to tell the world that this is all a sad mistake – since no peace was or is possible? Isn’t this a rather nice way of letting Bush and his accomplices off the hook?

Any intelligent observer knows that the international community can let severe problems fester for a long time. In the light of this sad state of affairs, no one in the peace camp is saying that a two-state solution is just around the corner. Nor is it inevitable. However, the contrary thesis that the United States and Israel are invincible or that their collusion will always succeed against international pressure and sentiment is just as wrong. Moreover, it reflects the kind of thinking that ignores a clear and present crisis in US policies in the region. The development and strengthening of a broad alignment of consistent progressive forces against US aggression in the region is a realistic goal and a vital contribution to the struggle for a just peace for Palestine.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Women in Black - Courage & Steadfastedness

The Personal is the Political
Dafna is active in Women in Black in Jerusalem. If Dafna is in the country, then rain or shine, she and her sisters take up their position in Hagar (Paris) Square denouncing the occupation and violence. I must admit that if there is any serious security tension in Jerusalem towards the end of the week, I become fraught with concern over the possibility that the vigil may be attacked. The criminal attack at the Merkaz Ha’rav Yeshiva occurred on Thursday at 8 PM. The country, the media and many ordinary citizens were seething with anger, most of it blatantly racist. If you are planning to go to the streets to continue the weekly protest, you are worried about Israelis who might be looking for revenge. There are settler crazies out there plotting away, though they really prefer taking out their frustrations on Palestinians. But there are any number of Jerusalemites, who can become unhinged. It was clear early Thursday evening that the vigil would be tense.
The vigil does enjoy a modicum of police protection, but it is very lay back. Their goal is more to protect the peace than anything else. Still, better than nothing. There were indeed 3-4 passers by that felt the need to scream and curse. Pretty ugly, but this is par for the course, when it looks like you can assume that the verbal attack will not get physical. But on Friday, March 7, 2007, the women were accosted by an extraordinarily viscous brute. The hooligan, who seems to have been an American, was brandishing the front page of a newspaper brandishing the photographs of the eight Merkaz HaRav victims right in the faces of the women and screaming Hamas Whores, Hamas Whores. He was of course working himself into a frenzy and screaming (in English). A policemen did gently move him away from direct physical contact with the women, but then the thug took up a position in the middle of the street and continued his harangue, explicitly demanding that the Hamas Whores submit to his crazed sexual demands. The police did not see this as a reason to interfere.
He was still uncomfortably close to the vigil when it began to break-up. The women had previously decided to have a very small party at the end of the vigil for one of the participants who was marking her 99th birthday. The thug had by this time gathered around him a few local fanatics. These grouped into a small gang of hooligans which accosted three groups of women on their way from the vigil, pushing and shoving and banging on the car of one woman. The police were gone by then. During the week, a delegation of women met with the police and requested a firmer hand against any form of harassment, which can easily set the stage for really violent attacks. Things were generally quiet this last Friday.
So if you want to know the meaning of courage and steadfastedness in the face of mounting chauvinist tension, come then, in body or spirit, to their vigil and stand with the Women in Black who are standing in Paris Square for peace, against hatred and racism. then, in body or spirit, to their vigil and stand with the Women in Black who are standing in Paris Square for peace, against

Sunday, March 2, 2008

It’s a Success Story

They finally succeeded. It cost 4,000 dead and another 29,000 seriously wounded US soldiers. But after almost a million dead Iraqis, after 500,000 Iraqi refugees who fled the country and another 500,000 “internal” refugees in the country, and after spending three trillion (three thousand billion) dollars, George Bush and his cohorts finally succeeded in organizing a royal reception by the Iraqi government for the chief of the axis of evil, Ahmadinejad, in Bagdad.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Concern over Anti-Semitism?

Lithuania Issues Warrant for Arrest of Former Yad V’shem Director. Lithuanian Foreign Minister Received with Honor by Current Director at the Yad V’Shem Memorial Museum.

The criticism of Israeli policy, however well deserved, is vilified by “friends of Israel” as a pernicious form of anti Semitism. This kind of attack is a major element in the desperate strategy of the pro-Israel forces to delegitimize any criticism of Israel. The threat of being accused of anti-Semitism by powerful forces in the Jewish community is a highly effective weapon. One could conclude, under the impression of this state of affairs, that Israel really cares about anti-Semitism. It is certainly the declared goal of Israel to spearhead the fight against anti-Semitism whenever it rears it ugly head.

WANTED: Dr. Yitshak Arad by the Government of Lithuania

Yitshak Arad (aged 81) is about as close as you can get to being an Israeli legend. Trapped behind German lines in Lithuania as a teen- ager, he became a decorated fighter in the partisans. After the war, he made his way to Israel, had an impressive military career in the IDF, retiring as a brigadier-general and then went on to a highly distinguished academic career. He was appointed director of Yad V’shem, and served for more than twenty years (1972-1993).

The State Prosecutor in Lithuanian wants to interrogate Yitshak Arad, under suspicion of murder. The reason is that Arad, has written openly and proudly of his contribution as a partisan to the liquidation of several ranking Lithuanian Nazi collaborators. Lithuania was unique in that most of the Jews murdered in that country were victims of Lithuanian authorities. The Lithuanian government brazenly dared to use diplomatic channels to approach Israel some five months ago in an effort to get their hands on Arad.

A Most Dignified Welcome for a Most Dignified Guest

The Lithuanian Foreign Minister, Petras Vaitiekunas was in Israel last week and met with the President, Shimon Peres and the Foreign Minister, Tsipi Livneh. Relations between Lithuania, a member of the EU, and Israel seem just fine, though the very same relations served a few months back as the official conduit for the certified, still outstanding request by the Chief Prosecutor in Lithuania to the Israel Ministry of Justice. The Lithuanian authorities just want to ask Mr. Arad some questions about the deceased Lithuanian fascist collaborators. It would not be wise for Mr. Arad to contemplate a visit to Vilnius.
Viatiekunas (of course) visited Yad V’Shem, where the current Director, Avner Shalev, received him with honor and respect. Shalev did deliver into the Ambassador’s hands a rather strange note complaining that the Lithuanian government has not ended the investigation against Arad. The note also suggests that the Lithuanians are guilty of rewriting history. The hypocritical Israeli government coddles an anti-Semitic regime in Vilnius and pawns its official representative on to the Yad V’shem bureaucracy. The government sidesteps the issue and lets the Holocaust Memorial beg for the cancellation of the outrageous threat to Arad. But the diplomatic niceties will not help. The ongoing proceedings against Arad are based on Holocaust denial and smack of Holocaust renewal. And official Israel falls silent.

This friendship between the anti-Semitic Lithuanian government and Israel which pretends concern for Jewish honor is food for thought. The name of the Israeli game is, sadly enough, to smear your critics as anti-Semites while you embrace dangerous anti-Semites from Vilnius.

(See IHT, February 27, 2008 and Anshel Feffer, Ha’aretz, February 27, 2008. Ha’aretz devoted eight lines on page six to the meeting in Yad V’shem.)

Friday, February 8, 2008

All Is Not Quiet on the Eastern Front


From the desk of Reuven Kaminer

All Is Not Quiet on the Eastern Front

On the face of it, there is no immediate danger of a clash with Iran over its nuclear development project. The US military seems to have convinced the political echelon that the United States is simply unable to handle a third war, at this stage. This tactical input created the political basis for the shift in US policy in the Geneva talks. Still, there are very powerful forces in the US administration who do not like the idea of waiting around until it might be even more difficult to get an attack off the ground. These forces will try to exploit the to-be-expected difficulties in the Geneva talks as evidence to the effect that Teheran is not getting the message. When the attempt to ratchet up economic sanctions will prove ineffective, as it must in the given conditions, the hawks will be able to argue that it is time to proceed, quickly but surely, to the final option on the table. Even with the Geneva gambit, the basic line of the US administration (with Obama in tow) is that armed intervention would be legally and morally justified, because Iran – even without actually building the bomb - is a new “ticking bomb” in the region. The more aggressive the forces pushing for war in Washington, the deeper their coordination with Israel.

Israel Has Plenty of Room to Maneuver and to Manipulate

Nicholas Kristof (NYT, July 24, 2008) got it exactly right when he suggested that Obama was not doing Israel any favor by swallowing his host’s line on the Iranian crisis. Kristof criticized Obama for missing the critical issue: Israel is contemplating doing “something crazy”, which would include using all its resources and connections to drag the US into a full scale confrontation with Iran.

The prevailing, consensual anti-Iranian discourse creates political space for Israeli maneuvering. This discourse suggests that Israel, even if it ostensibly acts alone, can claim justifiably that it is implementing the principles and the logic of US policy. Israel is an expert in the limitless ways to increase tension in the region and many of these include threats to the Iranian interests. If the US really wants to discourage Israeli military initiatives against Iran, it is clearly insufficient for Washington to express mere unease and hesitation regarding an Israeli air strike. The dark threat of a potential Israeli strike will hover over the region until the US clearly announces that if it is not attacked, it would not intervene by military threat or action, even if Israel pushes the region to the boiling point. Given the level of ambivalence in Washington, Israel has sufficient grounds to assume that, even if the US is displeased (or apparently displeased), it would be forced to come to the aid of its faithful ally. The present posture in Washington is such that the US would not stand on the sideline.

Israel’s Agenda

There is no end of signs that the idea of an Israeli strike is being carefully weighed. General Mullen felt it necessary to repeat, just last week, an earlier warning on the danger of such a strike, for the second time this month. Olmert explained to Obama that time is running out since the Russians are going to upgrade the Iranian air defense system by the end of the year Defense Minister Barak and MK Mofaz, who holds a portfolio named Strategic Coordination with the US, held talks in Washington this week. Mofaz is the darling of the oil speculators for his constant flow of declarations that war is inevitable. This Saturday, MK Hanegbi, chair of the powerful Foreign Affairs and Security Knesset Committee, called for the establishment of a national unity government to deal with the Iranian crisis.

In this respect, it is practically a civic duty to carefully read the wild ranting and raving of Israeli historian, Professor Benny Morris. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/18/opinion/18morris.html?th&emc=th For Morris, it is the old story of good versus evil, and since a showdown is inevitable, better to bomb now and prepare the nukes, right away, for a necessary second strike. The really sad thing is that these Strangelovish illusions, which are based on the insatiable Israeli demand for absolute Israeli military superiority at all costs, are an integral element in Israel’s current security considerations.

Against Demonization of the Other Side

Many of my readers share with me a decided lack of enthusiasm for the policies and the rhetoric of Ahmadinajad and his circle. Without in any way ignoring the harm and the danger of some of the declarations coming out of Teheran, we must also admit that the Israeli propaganda is very adept at converting whosoever is its current adversary into a “new Hitler”. It should be recalled that both Abdul Nasser and Yassir Arafat were cast in the Hitler role, though their real core positions did not justify such a designation. In truth, their basic political platform created ample room for rational political responses which could have defused “inevitable” clashes. Nasrallah figures, with Ahmadinajad, as the current, not to be appeased, enemy. But there are abundant signs that Nasrallah knows how to do business responsibly and there is good reason to believe that the current leadership in Iran could be influenced by serious and thoughtful politics. It would certainly be helpful if the “rational” West offered total regional disarmament of all weapons of mass destruction (including Israel’s stockpile) to the “irrational and inscrutable” Iranian leadership. Perhaps, the Iranian leadership has cause to ask its critics as to why they consider it is perfectly acceptable that Israel and Pakistan are legitimate members of the nuclear club and why Iran must accept an inferior status. Even if the US and its allies are not ready for anything as fair and logical as regional disarmament, other sets of realistic and patient policies based on mutual respect could go a long way to prevent tensions from getting dangerously out of hand.

Barak In Washington

The month started with Mike Mullen’s warnings about the danger from an irresponsible Israeli air strike. But Barak was not in DC yesterday to relieve this anxiety. He made it clear that Israel continued to demand a sense of urgency and opposed any relaxation of tensions. Barack Obama had told friends that his impression from talks in Israel was that it had no faith in the sanctions track. The LA Times (July 30, 2008) summed it up adequately:

“Bush administration officials reassured Israel’s defense minister this week that the United States has not abandoned all possibility of a military attack on Iran, despite widespread Israeli concern that Washington has begun softening its position toward Tehran.”

Washington is clearly apologetic regarding its own policies and refusing to reign in its Israeli ally. An Israeli strike at Iran is very much on the table.