Archive for the ‘Israel’ Category


Iranians believe that the mastery of [nuclear] science—rather than any other field of science, a bustling economy, and world-renowned industries and export goods, or a first-class educational system—will pave the way for Iran’s triumphant re-entry into the community of nations. Not a new microchip, or the cure for cancer, but a nuclear bomb—a weapon of mass destruction, meant to kill tens of thousands of people.


Turkey Hawks Bird as Israeli Mossad Spy Beacon, Ruffles Feathers

(Photoillustration Tablet Magazine; original photos Shutterstock)

Last week, Turkish authorities released a kestrel after a thorough investigation showed it was not spying for Israel. It’s a good thing the Turks were 100 percent sure because, to hear Israel’s neighbors tell it, the Mossad often employs birds to do its dirty work. One vulture believed to be spying for Israel was detained in Saudi Arabia in 2011, another was apprehended in Sudan in December 2012, and the Turks believed they were also targeted previously, in May 2012, by a European bee-eater.
Like the kestrel, the other birds were all tagged with markers identifying them as research subjects, such as the study of migratory patterns. The very signs then that should have made plain they were part of scientific studies were instead taken as evidence that they had been enchanted by some secret Israeli spell.
The Mossad kestrel is only the latest creature to walk out of the Israeli bestiary, a compendium of God’s creatures lifted from nature and, the story goes, put to work by Jews against Muslims and Arabs. Perhaps the most famous of all Israel’s animal operatives was the shark who attacked German tourists off the coast of Sinai in the winter of 2010, presumably for the purpose of damaging the Egyptian tourism industry—a feat the Egyptians accomplished over the last two and a half years on their own, thanks to the chaos that they’ve unleashed on their now bloody streets, and without any animal collaborators.
If these shaggy dog conspiracy tales are sure to get a laugh from Western readers, it’s worth keeping in mind that magical fantasies seeing Jews as uncanny manipulators of the natural world partake of the same paranoid and sinister narrative structure that authored the blood libel.
There’s nothing funny about it for the Turks, either. Once upon a time, Turkey and Israel enjoyed a strategic relationship. Among other benefits that came from this alliance, Turkey purchased arms from Israel, including drones, of which Israel is the world’s largest exporter. Ankara wanted the unmanned aerial vehicles, among other reasons, to gather intelligence on and then target the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which has waged a bloody insurgency against Turkey since 1984. After Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan cashiered the alliance as well as the defense contracts with Israel, the Turks turned to their own domestic industry for unmanned aerial vehicles. The problem, however, was that Turkish drones were unable to beat the nasty habit of crashing.
To say that Ankara has failed to master the science of flight is an understatement. The fact that Turkish authorities believed the bird last week was effectively a new kind of Israeli drone and only released it back into the wild after an X-ray showed it was carrying no surveillance equipment suggests that some in Turkey are incapable of distinguishing science from magic.
Of course some commentators reason that, even accounting for the appetite many Arabs and Muslims have for pre-scientific conspiracy theories, Israeli spies really do pull off some fantastic stunts. However, it’s useful to remember that if Israel, for instance, blew up Imad Mughniyeh in the middle of Damascus, the Mossad’s assassination of Hamas commander Mahmoud al-Mabhouh was captured on video cameras in Dubai. That is, the Israelis also make mistakes—they’re talented and proficient, but they’re people, not supermen, or warlocks and witches.
Still, hundreds of millions of Middle Eastern, African, and Asian Muslims can only understand the world as a large Harry Potter set in which they will never be among the initiates, the spell-casters. Paradoxically, the reason that this horrifying recognition boils to the surface only occasionally is the stunning success and availability of Western science and technology. It is because cell phones, for instance, are so cheap that even the tens of millions of Egyptians who, without government subsidies and foreign aid, couldn’t afford to put food on their plate can purchase technology designed in Palo Alto and Herzilya. Otherwise, the divide between a society that makes and one that simply consumes would be clear for all to see.
You can say that there is no such thing as Western science and technology, but that’s just a Western perspective based on hard-won Western values, like empiricism—either F=MA or it doesn’t. What is verifiable is true not just for so-called Westerners but is true for all men in all times. But this may not be how the vast majority of the Muslim world understands reality.
The 19th-century Muslim reform movement that arose after Napoleon’s 1798 conquest of Egypt was impressed with Western science—specifically the military technology that allowed French troops to overrun the lands of Islam so easily. The reformers counseled Muslims to make use of the science, medicine, and technology that the Westerners brought—but at all costs to avoid the Western values, like free thought, that had made those technological advances possible. In other words, Muslims were forever condemned to the role of eternal consumer, end-user, and never a producer. Perhaps their consolation is that, like servants, Westerners will make it for them anyway.
Two hundred years later, the United Nations’ 2003 Human Development Report on the Arab World, “Building a Knowledge Society,” delivered the bill. “Despite the presence of significant human capital in the region,” the paper explains, “disabling constraints hamper the acquisition, diffusion, and production of knowledge in Arab societies.”
“Between 1980 and 2000,” writes Hillel Ofek in The New Atlantis, “Korea granted 16,328 patents, while nine Arab countries, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the U.A.E., granted a combined total of only 370, many of them registered by foreigners. A study in 1989 found that in one year, the United States published 10,481 scientific papers that were frequently cited, while the entire Arab world published only four.”
According to Pakistani physics professor Pervez Amirali Hoodbhoy, the 57 Organization of Islamic Congress “countries have 8.5 scientists, engineers, and technicians per 1,000 population, compared with a world average of 40.7, and 139.3 for countries of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. Forty-six Muslim countries contributed 1.17 percent of the world’s science literature, whereas 1.66 percent came from India alone and 1.48 percent from Spain. Twenty Arab countries contributed 0.55 percent, compared with 0.89 percent by Israel alone.”
Typically, commentators note that since the Muslim world used to excel in science and technology, there is no reason that it can’t catch up today. The problem is that it’s slipping further behind—and fast. Fifty years ago the gap was costly, but today the price for not understanding science and innovation has increased exponentially. Consider, for instance, the favorite theme of the 19th-century Muslim reformers and rulers—military might. In June 1967, it took Israel six days to defeat the combined Arab armies, including Egypt’s. Despite more than 30 years and many billions of dollars of U.S. military aid, Egypt has fallen further behind the rest of the world, and even its benighted neighbors. Proof can be found in the country’s decision to buy the defective drones that Turkey can’t keep in the air.
Many commentators explain the popular Arab uprisings over the last two and a half years as a consequence of expectations that exceed conditions. This is what happens, Western journalists and analysts reason, when you have millions of college graduates who can only find jobs driving a taxi or pushing a food cart. The reality is that only the rarest of college graduates in Muslim countries is prepared for a Western-style profession.
Cyber-optimists claim that new information technologies will close the gap. Satellite TV, the Internet, Bluetooth will present Muslims with such a clear alternative to their pre-Copernican worldview that they’ll willingly choose to embrace open societies and free markets and become part of the West. But consider some of the ways in which those technologies are used: The Syrian regime used its cell-phone concession to enrich itself. Jihadis set up Internet websites to disseminate propaganda and plan operations. Gulf monarchies like Saudi Arabia and Qatar use their satellite networks not to promote alternative views of the world but to advance the narrow interests of the ruling family. In Egypt, tele-preachers parse passages of the Quran previously impenetrable to much of a population that has a literacy rate of 60 percent to explain why infidels should be killed.
That is, the technology gap isn’t a problem just for the Muslim world, for as the gap grows so does resentment. Consider the region’s most famous research project—the Iranian nuclear program. For decades now this oil-rich Persian Gulf power has been determined to go nuclear—to have a bomb, or as it claims, to provide nuclear energy for its people. Without taking any credit away from the Western intelligence services that have waged inventive clandestine operations to delay the program, including the alleged assassination of nuclear scientists, the reality is that if Iran hasn’t yet mastered the technology, there is something deeply wrong with the scientific culture of the Islamic Republic.
More important, there’s this: Iranians believe that the mastery of this particular field of science—rather than any other field of science, a bustling economy, and world-renowned industries and export goods, or a first-class educational system—will pave the way for Iran’s triumphant re-entry into the community of nations. Not a new microchip, or the cure for cancer, but a nuclear bomb—a weapon of mass destruction, meant to kill tens of thousands of people. A wise man once said never judge a man by his mistakes, but rather by his dreams. In the case of the Muslim Middle East, it is hard not to shudder.
***
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Lee Smith is a senior editor at the Weekly Standard and the author of The Strong Horse: Power, Politics, and the Clash of Arab Civilizations.

Why Anti-Israeli Conspiracy Theories Keep a Foothold in the Arab Mideast – Tablet Magazine


Special Report: Hamas In Transition | STRATFOR

After more than five years of existing in political stalemate, Hamas is now trying to manage a worsening relationship with Iran and Syria and exploit the political rise of its Islamist parent organization, the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood (MB). Without a clear vision on how to proceed, Hamas is likely to undergo serious internal strains that could raise the potential for a splintering of the heretofore most tightly run organization of the Palestinian territories.
Six years ago, Hamas unexpectedly swept parliamentary elections in the Palestinian territories and won the right to form a government. But the idea of a self-professed Islamist militant organization running the Palestinian government did not sit well with Israel and much of the West or with Hamas’ rival, Fatah. Sanctions on Hamas immediately intensified, and a civil war broke out between Hamas and Fatah. Hamas was driven into political isolation after it forcibly took over the Gaza Strip in mid-2007.
Hamas then entered a long period of political stagnation. As a heavily sanctioned political pariah, the group’s financial stresses rose. This provided Iran an opportunity to deepen its financial links with the Hamas regime. Though weapons and supplies still flowed to Gaza, the Egyptian regime of then-President Hosni Mubarak maintained a tight security grip over the Sinai-Gaza border to keep Hamas under control. When Israel launched Operation Cast Lead in December 2008, Hamas was able to both resist and garner international sympathy, but the two-month operation still dealt a blow to Hamas militarily and did little to ease the group’s political constraints. Apart from a rampant smuggling trade via Gaza tunnels, Hamas had little space to exercise its political authority.
But regional events in 2011 brought about large changes in the challenges and opportunities faced by Hamas. Political demonstrations in Egypt led to the fall of Mubarak. After decades of being repressed by the Mubarak regime, the Egyptian MB entered the political mainstream. Though the military, which remains Egypt’s ultimate authority, wants to keep Hamas confined in Gaza, the MB’s rise has raised international acceptance of Islamists as political players. When Arab unrest reached Syria, Hamas’ refusal to publicly support the regime of President Bashar al Assad cost its exiled politburo its footing with the regime in Damascus; Hamas had to start seeking an alternative base. Meanwhile, as demonstrations continued to spread throughout the Arab world, Iran’s growing assertiveness in the region put the spotlight on Hamas, a Sunni entity, for its substantial ties with the Shiite Islamic Republic.
The group now finds itself at a turning point. Hamas has to balance deteriorating relationships with longtime patrons Iran and Syria, establish a new political vision, identify proper sources of funding and manage growing internal disagreements.

Picking Sides

When al Assad’s Alawite regime began resorting to more violent crackdowns against a growing, Sunni-dominated opposition, Hamas leaders in Damascus, led by politburo chief Khaled Meshaal, had reason to be nervous. Damascus has served as the exiled leadership’s main hub of operations since 2001, and it is the main channel for funding to reach Hamas. When unrest in Syria began, Hamas’ best option was to try to not appear involved in Syria’s internal affairs; the group could not risk its credibility by standing behind an Iranian-backed Alawite regime against Sunni resistance. Because of the overwhelming support in the Arab world for the Sunni-led uprising, Hamas could no longer ignore, as it did in the past, the al Assad regime’s intolerance of its comrades in Syria’s branch of the MB.
In August and September, Syria and Iran tried to pressure Hamas into organizing pro-Assad demonstrations in the Palestinian refugee camps in Syria. It was time for Hamas to decide whom it would support. Hamas had two choices: It could follow orders and showcase its close alignment with the Iran and Syria, or it could create some distance from the Iranian-led coalition, use that distance to reinforce its relations with its Sunni Arab neighbors and, most critically, seize the opportunity to follow the MB’s lead out of political isolation.
Hamas chose the latter and refused to stage the demonstrations. The group could not afford to side against a wave of Sunni opposition without absorbing a hit to its legitimacy. Yet beyond the ideological discomfort it was experiencing, Hamas had a bigger vision in mind.

Hamas’ Political Vision

Hamas formally was created in 1987, largely as the result of two factors. First was public dissatisfaction with the secularist and corrupt Fatah-led Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). The second was an effort by the MB to respond to the first intifada in a way that allowed it to remain politically insulated. The creation of a separate Gaza group that could engage in armed resistance answered the MB’s dilemma. However, Hamas’ original leadership still viewed militancy as a means to a political end. Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the leader of the MB and of the Islamic Center in Gaza, argued that Hamas was basically a political movement: It would fight for the rights of Palestinians, with the objective of eliminating Israel. The violent means Hamas has used make it highly controversial as a political player, but it is important to note that Hamas has held political ambitions since its inception.
Hamas’ core struggle is over how to proceed along that political path while presiding over a stateless entity — especially when its reputation has been primarily built on militant resistance, not on political credentials. As the organization learned after the 2006 election, even a sweeping political victory in the Palestinian territories yields limited results for an organization widely recognized as the premier Palestinian militant group. In other words, if Hamas was not prepared to abandon its militant arm and change its charter to recognize Israel, it needed to undergo a serious rebranding effort.
That opportunity came with the fall of Mubarak. The spread of unrest provided an opening for Islamist groups throughout the region to raise their political voice and force a wider acceptance of their growing role in the political affairs of the Arab world. The rise of the Egyptian MB in particular created an opening for Hamas to publicly reassert itself as a legitimate political player operating in the same league as its parent organization.
However, Hamas must make several difficult political decisions to achieve such a transition.

Coping with Finances

Hamas is highly secretive about its finances, but it has been unable to fully conceal the financial stress it has experienced over the past several months. It has been widely rumored that Iran began curtailing its monthly payments to Hamas after the group’s refusal to demonstrate on behalf of the Syrian regime. According to multiple sources, Iran had directed $25 million per month to Hamas; to put that in perspective, Hamas’ stated annual budget for administering the Gaza Strip is about $700 million.
In addition to the decline in Iranian financing, Hamas may also have reason to be concerned about the status of its investments in Syria. A number of Hamas members have business partnerships with members of the Syrian business community, including those close to the regime. Though the value of these assets is unknown, much of Syrian investment linked to Hamas is in real estate, resorts, food imports and olive oil exports.
Hamas may also be seeing less income from Islamic charities. Though a significant amount of funding is still likely earmarked for Hamas, a Stratfor source linked to the group said the rise of the MB and other regional Islamist opposition groups has attracted a major influx of money from donors looking to sustain the effects of the Arab Spring, making Hamas a lower priority.
These are not the only sources of Hamas funding. Hamas is believed to make about $50 million per year by taxing trade that runs through the Gaza Strip’s extensive tunnel system. The group also reaps an unknown amount of profits from local businesses in which it holds a significant stake, including the Gaza Strip’s only shopping mall and sea resorts and businesses spread throughout the Middle East, Southeast Asia and Central Asia.
Nonetheless, there are indications that Hamas is experiencing significant financial pain because of its worsening relationship with Iran and Syria. Meshaal and Gaza-based Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh have been taking tours throughout the region in recent weeks to meet with leaders from Jordan, Qatar, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Hamas has allegedly sought financing from these states to compensate for the drop in Iranian support. Due to the uncertainty faced by the Syrian regime, Meshaal’s faction also has reportedly been gauging these states’ willingness to provide a new base and office space for the group’s exiled leadership.

The Costs and Benefits of a Relationship with Hamas

Hamas can make a compelling offer to these states. With concern growing in the region over how to check Iran’s power, Hamas’ move to distance itself from Iran and its allies in Syria could significantly undermine Tehran’s influence in the Levant region. Additionally, these countries, particularly Egypt and Jordan, see a strategic interest in bringing Hamas closer. They can build leverage with the group — creating another mechanism to balance Israel’s power — but also use that increased influence to keep Hamas in check. However, the strict condition these states are attaching to any deal are giving Hamas pause.
Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey share an interest in keeping Hamas hemmed in Gaza. These states frequently express their support of the principle of Palestinian statehood, but Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia in particular are most concerned by the idea of a Palestinian polity emerging that could threaten their national security. Egypt, dealing with an emboldened MB, does not want Hamas to break free of its isolation and meddle in Egyptian affairs. The Egyptian military elite is already on alert for Hamas attempts to instigate a crisis between Egypt and Israel; such a crisis could rally Egyptians and Palestinians alike and provide the Islamist opposition with the means to discredit the military’s authority. In Jordan, where Palestinians constitute a majority of the population, the ethnically distinct Hashemite regime is facing a vociferous opposition led by the Jordanian MB and does not want to embolden its Palestinian population. Saudi Arabia has long had a tense relationship with Hamas and remembers well its past brushes with Palestinian militancy.
Building leverage with a militant group comes with risks. If any of these states agreed to start or increase funding for Hamas or host a Hamas office, they would not want to be held accountable for renegade actions by the group, especially by the United States and Israel. At the same time, they know Hamas is not ready to disarm, recognize Israel and make a full political transition.

Sending Mixed Signals to Tehran

These states also understand that Hamas is unlikely to completely sever its ties with Iran. Beyond the money, weapons and training it has received from Iran and its allies, Hamas needs to maintain a decent working relationship with Iran to avoid creating greater complications for itself in the Gaza Strip.
Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), a much smaller militant outfit than Hamas, has had a tight financial, ideological and logistical relationship with the Islamic Republic since the group’s inception in 1980. PIJ is firmly committed to its militant campaign. The group openly rejects building ties with surrounding Arab states due to their perceived hypocrisy toward Palestinian statehood and the Arab states’ alleged collusion with Israel. PIJ is thus the most likely Palestinian recipient of Iranian aid no longer destined for Hamas. PIJ and Hamas have long cooperated. Hamas is even suspected of occasionally relying on PIJ to carry out attacks, in an effort for Hamas to maintain plausible deniability in dealing with Israel. However, Hamas may have a decreased ability to control PIJ actions within Gaza if Hamas is no longer cooperating closely with PIJ’s main backer, Iran. So long as Hamas controls Gaza, Israel will likely hold Hamas accountable for any attacks that emanate from there. A significant loss of control over militancy in Gaza could thus leave Hamas in a much more precarious position with regard to Israel.
Hamas’ leadership seems to have been sending mixed signals to Tehran — rather than running the risks involved in an outright break — while waiting for agreements to come through with the Arab states. However, these states first want real assurances that Hamas will behave according to their standards and fundamentally shift away from the Iran-Syria axis. Indeed, according to the Palestinian Al Quds daily, Haniyeh was allegedly strongly advised by the leaders of Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait to cancel his upcoming visit to Tehran if Hamas is serious about making a deal. Haniyeh’s arrival in Tehran on Feb. 10, despite the demands of the Arab states, shows that Hamas still feels the need to keep its options open with Iran.
Hamas knows the opportunity the MB’s political elevation presents, but several complications apparently are preventing Hamas from making any clear, hard decisions.
While struggling to balance between Sunni states and Iran, Hamas is also trying to find a way to moderate its political position at home. Ongoing Hamas efforts to reconcile with Fatah and become part of the PLO are designed to insulate Hamas from the drawbacks of ruling Gaza alone. Hamas will not capitulate to Fatah for the sake of reverting to a more comfortable opposition posture. The group wants to share enough power – and present itself in enough of a pragmatic light – to resume financial flows and provide Hamas with some plausible deniability in dealing with Israeli military reprisals against the Gaza Strip.
However, this is placing a lot of pressure on the group. In trying to reintegrate itself with Fatah under the PLO umbrella and reinforce its relations with the surrounding Arab states, Hamas risks developing a crisis in legitimacy among Palestinians. The group already has accomplished little during its time in political office. Should a power-sharing government with Fatah fail to yield results, Hamas could be susceptible to the same criticism levied against its secularist rivals. Money is still sorely lacking in the Gaza Strip, and middle class members of Hamas who are making money are increasingly viewed as corrupt in the Palestinian territories. Hamas does not want to risk being put in the same light as Fatah and thereby seeing its credibility erode among its own supporters.

A Hamas Splintering?

Stresses within Hamas are already beginning to manifest in the form of public spats between the group’s Gaza-based leadership and its exiled leadership over which political course to take with Fatah, how to manage the group’s finances and what terms Hamas should agree to in dealing with foreign backers. Deep, personal rivalries have long existed within these factions, but the strains appear to be turning more severe. This dynamic was most recently illustrated the week of Feb. 6, when Meshaal signed a power-sharing agreement with Fatah leader and Palestinian National Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas in Doha, Qatar. Haniyeh and his deputy Mahmoud Zahar did not attend the Doha summit, and their parliamentary bloc strongly rejected the deal two days later, citing a clause that said Abbas would remain both president and prime minister in a future government. Haniyeh has since denied any rifts within his movement, but the more Hamas insists on its unity, the more doubts are raised regarding its internal coherence.
Aside from questions about how to reconcile with Fatah, there is also the important question of who will handle Hamas’ finances if the exiled leadership moves from its financial base in Damascus. It appears that Hamas is looking to set up multiple offices in countries that agree to host Hamas and help fund the organization. This could see the exiled leadership spread across Cairo, Amman and possibly Doha. Meshaal, who has Jordanian citizenship, is likely to end up in Amman while Mousa Abu Marzouk, deputy head of Hamas’ political bureau, has already reportedly moved with his family to Cairo. A scattering of Hamas’ exiled leadership to these capitals may serve to enhance the group’s ties with each of these states and encourage them to increase their funding to Hamas, but it also leaves the group beholden to the interests of multiple states that share a desire to keep the group contained. Moreover, the wider Hamas’ exiled leadership is spread, the more difficult these leaders will find it to coordinate and remain relevant compared to the Gaza-based leadership.

\Special Report: Hamas In Transition | STRATFOR

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Under Obama, the US is no longer Israel’s ally


Our World: An ally no more

By CAROLINE B. GLICK
05/12/2011
Instead of warning Egypt against breaking its treaty with the Jewish state, US officials chose to criticize Israel instead.
With vote tallies in for Egypt’s first round of parliamentary elections in it is abundantly clear that Egypt is on the fast track to becoming a totalitarian Islamic state. The first round of voting took place in Egypt’s most liberal, cosmopolitan cities. And still the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists received more than 60 percent of the vote. Run-off elections for 52 seats will by all estimates increase their representation.

And then in the months to come, Egyptian voters in the far more Islamist Nile Delta and Sinai will undoubtedly provide the forces of jihadist Islam with an even greater margin of victory.

Until the US-supported overthrow of Hosni Mubarak, Egypt served as the anchor of the US alliance system in the Arab world. The Egyptian military is US-armed, US-trained and US-financed.

The Suez Canal is among the most vital waterways in the world for the US Navy and the global economy.

Due to Mubarak’s commitment to stemming the tide of jihadist forces that threatened his regime, under his rule Egypt served as a major counter-terror hub in the US-led war against international jihad.

GIVEN EGYPT’S singular importance to US strategic interests in the Arab world, the Obama administration’s response to the calamitous election results has been shocking. Rather than sound the alarm bells, US President Barack Obama has celebrated the results as a victory for “democracy.”

Rather than warn Egypt that it will face severe consequences if it completes its Islamist transformation, the Obama administration has turned its guns on the first country that will pay a price for Egypt’s Islamic revolution: Israel.

Speaking at the annual policy conclave in Washington sponsored by the leftist Brookings Institute’s Saban Center for Middle East Policy, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hammered Israel, the only real ally the US has left in the Middle East after Mubarak’s fall. Clinton felt it necessary – in the name of democracy – to embrace the positions of Israel’s radical Left against the majority of Israelis.

The same Secretary of State that has heralded negotiations with the violent, fanatical misogynists of the Taliban; who has extolled Saudi Arabia where women are given ten lashes for driving, and whose State Department trained female-hating Muslim Brotherhood operatives in the lead-up to the current elections in Egypt accused Israel of repressing women’s rights. The only state in the region where women are given full rights and legal protections became the focus of Clinton’s righteous feminist wrath.

In the IDF, as in the rest of the country, religious coercion is forbidden. Jewish law prohibits men from listening to women’s voices in song. And recently, when a group of religious soldiers were presented with an IDF band that featured female vocalists, keeping faith with their Orthodox observance, they walked out of the auditorium. The vocalists were not barred from singing. They were not mistreated. They were simply not listened to.

And as far as Clinton is concerned, this is proof that women in Israel are under attack. Barred by law from forcing their soldiers from spurning their religious obligations, IDF commanders were guilty of crimes against democracy for allowing the troops to exit the hall.

But Clinton didn’t end her diatribe with the IDF’s supposed war against women. She continued her onslaught by proclaiming that Israel is taking a knife to democracy by permitting its legislators to legislate laws that she doesn’t like. The legislative initiatives that provoked the ire of the US Secretary of State are the bills now under discussion which seek to curtail the ability to foreign governments to subvert Israel’s elected government by funding non-representative, anti-Israel political NGOs like B’Tselem and Peace Now.

In attacking Israel in the way she did, Clinton showed that she holds Israel to a unique standard of behavior. Whereas fellow Western democracies are within their rights when they undertake initiatives like banning Islamic headdresses from the public square, Israel is a criminal state for affording Jewish soldiers freedom of religion. Whereas the Taliban, who enslave women and girls in the most unspeakable fashion are worthy interlocutors, and the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, which supports universal female genital mutilation is moderate, Israel is an enemy of democracy for seeking to preserve the government’s ability to adopt policies that advance the country’s interests.
The unique standard to which Clinton holds the Jewish state is the standard of human perfection.

And as far as she is concerned, if Israel is not perfect, then it is unworthy of support. And since Israel, as a nation of mere mortals can never be perfect, it is necessarily always guilty.

CLINTON’S ASSAULT on Israeli democracy and society came a day after Panetta attacked Israel’s handling of its strategic challenges. Whereas Clinton attacked Israel’s moral fiber, Panetta judged Israel responsible for every negative development in the regional landscape.

Panetta excoriated Israel for not being involved in negotiations with the Palestinians. Israel, he said must make new concessions to the Palestinians in order to convince them of its good faith. If Israel makes such gestures, and the Palestinians and the larger Islamic world spurn them, then Panetta and his friends will side with Israel, he said.

Panetta failed to notice that Israel has already made repeated, unprecedented concessions to the Palestinians and that the Palestinians have pocketed those concessions and refused to negotiate. And he failed to notice that in response to the repeated spurning of its concessions by the Palestinians and the Arab world writ large, rather than stand with Israel, the US and Europe expanded their demands for further Israeli concessions.

Panetta demanded that Israel make renewed gestures as well to appease the Egyptians, Turks and Jordanians. He failed to notice that it was Turkey’s Islamist government, not Israel, that took a knife to the Turkish-Israeli strategic alliance.

As for Egypt, rather than recognize the strategic implications for the US and Israel alike of Egypt’s transformation into an Islamic state, the US Defense Secretary demanded that Israel ingratiate itself with Egypt’s military junta. Thanks in large part to the Obama administration, that junta is now completely beholden to the Muslim Brotherhood.

As for Jordan, again thanks to the US’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood and its aligned groups in Libya and Tunisia, the Hashemite regime is seeking to cut a deal with the Jordanian branch of the movement in a bid to save itself from Mubarak’s fate. Under these circumstances, there is no gesture that Israel can make to its neighbor to the east that would empower King Abdullah to extol the virtues of peace with the Jewish state.

Then there is Iran, and its nuclear weapons program.

Panetta argued that an Israeli military strike against Iran would lead to regional war. But he failed to mention that a nuclear armed Iran will lead to nuclear proliferation in the Arab world and exponentially increase the prospect of a global nuclear war.

Rather than face the dangers head on, Panetta’s message was that the Obama administration would rather accept a nuclear-armed Iran than support an Israeli military strike on Iran to prevent the mullocracy from becoming a nuclear-armed state.

Clinton’s and Panetta’s virulently anti-Israeli messages resonated in an address about European anti-Semitism given last week by the US Ambassador to Belgium Howard Gutman. Speaking to a Jewish audience, Gutman effectively denied the existence of anti-Semitism in Europe. While attacks against European Jews and Jewish institutions have become a daily occurrence continent-wide, Gutman claimed that non-Muslim anti- Semites are essentially just all-purpose bigots who hate everyone, not just Jews.

As for the Muslims who carry out the vast majority of anti-Jewish attacks in Europe, Gutman claimed they don’t have a problem with good Jews like him. They are simply angry because Israel isn’t handing over land to the Palestinians quickly enough. If the Jewish state would simply get with Obama’s program, according to the US ambassador, Muslim attacks on Jews in Europe would simply disappear.

Gutman of course is not a policymaker. His job is simply to implement Obama’s policies and voice the president’s beliefs.

But when taken together with Clinton’s and Panetta’s speeches, Gutman’s remarks expose a distressing intellectual and moral trend that clearly dominates the Obama administration’s foreign policy discourse. All three speeches share a common rejection of objective reality in favor of a fantasy.

In the administration’s fantasy universe, Israel is the only actor on the world stage. Its detractors, whether in the Islamic world or Europe, are mere objects. They are bereft of judgment or responsibility for their actions.

There are two possible explanations for this state of affairs – and they are not mutually exclusive. It is possible that the Obama administration is an ideological echo chamber in which only certain positions are permitted. This prospect is likely given the White House’s repeated directives prohibiting government officials from using terms like “jihad,” “Islamic terrorism,” “Islamist,” and “jihadist,” to describe jihad, Islamic terrorism, Islamists and jihadists.

Restrained by ideological thought police that outlaw critical thought about the dominant forces in the Islamic world today, US officials have little choice but to place all the blame for everything that goes wrong on the one society they are free to criticize – Israel.

The second possible explanation for the administration’s treatment of Israel is that it is permeated by anti-Semitism. The outsized responsibility and culpability placed on Israel by the likes of Obama, Clinton, Panetta and Gutman is certainly of a piece with classical anti-Semitic behavior.

There is little qualitative difference between accusing Israeli society of destroying democracy for seeking to defend itself against foreign political subversion, and accusing Jews of destroying morality for failing to embrace foreign religious faiths.

So too, there is little qualitative difference between blaming Israel for its isolation in the face of the Islamist takeover of the Arab world, and blaming the Jews for the rise of anti-Semites to power in places like Russia, Germany and Norway.

In truth, from Israel’s perspective, it really doesn’t make a difference whether these statements and the intellectual climate they represent stem from ideological myopia or from hatred of Jews.

The end result is the same in either case: Under President Obama, the US government has become hostile to Israel’s national rights and strategic imperatives. Under Obama, the US is no longer Israel’s ally.

caroline@carolineglick.com

Our World: An ally no more – JPost – Opinion – Columnists


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Israelis introduce falafel to the Chinese

Here Comes Falafel

GoChengdoo: Chengdu & Sichuan living, business, travel

http://gochengdoo.com/en/blog/item/2441/here_comes_falafel

October 16, 2011
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Israelis Ariel Wakstein, 29, and Gal Finezilber didn’t have any extraordinary plans when they were presented with the opportunity to start a business venture in China. Wakstein had been studying Chinese medicine in Chengdu for the past four years; Finezilber was working as a sous chef in Israel. After Wakstein’s in-law, a restaurant manager, visited Chengdu, he proposed the pair open the city’s first falafel stand. Two months later, they’re feeding between 150 and 200 customers per day. And now? They’re planning to turn Chengdu into a falafel feeding frenzy. And then, the world. Just as soon as they open their second stand.
Why did you choose falafel instead of something else?
Gal: Falafel is Israeli’s traditional food.
Ariel: Israeli’s national food. Because Israel is not an old country, so we look at it as a regional food. Falafel exists for at least 2,000 years that we know, but to put it in the pita, with the salad and everything as sort of a sandwich, is more of an Israeli thing. And that’s what we wanted to bring it here. And also the local people like things that are deep-fried. It’s not strange or a turn-off for them. It’s very popular in Israel so it’s an easy connection for us. The falafel stands in Israel are exactly this style.
Gal: Actually this is a bit fancy. In Israel you just have the falafel, and you don’t have a menu; it will just say “Falafel,” and that’s it. But the original way to do it is stand outside the falafel stand, eating the falafel, and the tahini should run down your chin.
Ariel: When it’s a good falafel stand, you see people standing around it eating falafels, eating salad, adding tahini to their pita, and it’s not so much of a restaurant—at most there could be three or four tables just for comfort.
Gal: It’s takeaway food. But it has to be eaten fresh. Chinese sometimes buy it and take it home.
Ariel: It’s new for them, so they want to take it and give it to their husband or their wife or their child to try it.
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So what do the locals think of your falafels?
Ariel: I think it’s still new and early to judge how the locals will accept it.
Gal: We did make it spicier for the Sichuan taste. For me it was hard in the beginning. Coming from Eastern Europe, we can’t eat spicy food—it’s a known thing. So when I first tasted the falafel it was really spicy for me. But I got used to it. So we try to measure the taste to the Sichuan taste. Some of them really like it. Some of them throw it away after a few bites. But when I saw people throw it away after a few bites they just ate the top of the pita—they didn’t even get to the falafel.
Ariel: How many people did you see throw it away?
Gal: I saw one.
Ariel: He saw one!
Gal: You know, it really bothers me.
Ariel: We have very warm responses from the Western crowd because I think they’re more used to this flavor, and it’s easier for us to believe them also. When Chinese tell us they like it I always wonder whether they’re just being polite or what. But I had some very good responses from Chinese who are not from Chengdu—people from Taiwan, and Xi’an and Beijing, Hong Kong. I think the locals are curious [when they see two foreigners in the stand]. They see us, they come, they look, they don’t really know what it is. They stare at the menu. The common response is “Falafel shi sazi dongxi?” Or “Falafel shi shenme?” “What is falafel?” We hear it all the time.
What’s your goal?
Gal: We’re hoping to open a chain of restaurants.
Ariel: We’re going to be the biggest falafel in the world! Which is not so difficult since if we make it in Chengdu already we’ll be bigger than any falafel in Israel, size-wise. We’re hoping at first three to five shops and we’ll see how it goes. I think Chengdu is not such an easy market to break into. They love their local food.
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Are you worried about imitators?
Gal: They won’t be as good as ours.
Ariel: The falafel recipe is a secret. Also in Israel—the owner knows how to make the falafel, and he makes it at home.
What if it doesn’t succeed?
Ariel: My long-term plan is still Chinese medicine. I just hope the falafel will provide some stable income on the side.
Gal: I came here because of the opportunity. I didn’t know much about China before I came, I didn’t know Chengdu. I knew Shanghai and Beijing. And Hong Kong. That’s it. I thought Chengdu was gonna be like a village, a huge village, with dirt everywhere and stuff. So I was amazed when I came here.
Ariel: [sarcastically] You were so right! I think it’s an adventure also—we have a chance to make money here, but it’s not only that. There’s something very exciting in it, and even if it doesn’t work out it’s still an amazing experience for us.
Gal: And to make people food they don’t really know it’s really challenging, it’s really fun. It’s like you’re creating something new for them.
Ariel: And it really feels great to see Chinese people enjoying falafel in a pita. I enjoy so much their culture and their food and their Chinese medicine, and their philosophy, so in a way it’s paying them back a little bit—even though they’re paying me for the falafel.
Falafel Laila Kehua Bei Lu location
Falafel Laila’s new second location at Liansheng Xiang/联升巷 (Chunxi Lu) also sells kebab in addition to their regular menu items.
This article was first published in CHENGDOO citylife Magazine, issue 47 (“how to V”).

Here Comes Falafel – GoChengdoo: Chengdu & Sichuan living, business, travel

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Spy vs Spy: Cyber Crime, Surveillance on Rise in Latin America
Written by  Southern Pulse

Phone tapping, data theft, and secret recordings have made headlines across Latin America in recent weeks, reflecting the growth of cyber crime and information trafficking in the region, as Southern Pulse explains.

Domestic spying is in the news this month in the Western Hemisphere. A subject that is often not discussed in formal settings has made its way to the front pages of at least a dozen countries in Latin America and the Caribbean over the past few weeks. The news includes phone taps, hacked emails, covert video surveillance and legislative debates over privacy online and offline. A confluence of events around the region and the globe as well as improved spying technology has pushed this trend into the open and could change how the spy vs spy, police vs crime and government vs opposition scenarios play out in several countries.

Certainly, there have been phone taps and secret recordings for decades in Latin America. Perhaps the most famous examples were the “Vlad-videos” in Peru under the administration of President Fujimori and National Intelligence Service chief Montesinos. What makes 2011 different is the surge in surveillance by governments across the political spectrum and the media providing increased coverage of the situation.

The technology and techniques are a mixture of old and new. Phone taps and illegal recordings are old technologies that have become more sophisticated while data mining of social networks is a new field that all governments around the globe are just beginning to understand. Private hacking gangs appear to have surpassed the capabilities of government intelligence agencies in terms of the ability to hack email and computers, creating a new black market for information trafficking.

It’s worth noting that the technology to encrypt data has also become cheaper and easier to use, but has not yet caught on in much of Latin America. However, the increased public nature of government and private sector surveillance should push an increased demand for privacy technologies in the coming year, both by criminal groups and civilians who want greater privacy from the government.

Some examples from recent weeks follow:

A New York Times article described enhanced intelligence cooperation between the U.S. and Mexico that includes phone tapping technologies. The U.S. has assisted in the creation of intelligence fusion cells in Mexico and is providing information to a vetted group of Mexican authorities so that they can conduct operations against criminal organizations.

In Honduras, an investigation revealed that the email servers at the presidential palace had been hacked, giving one or multiple organizations access to email, the president’s schedule and budget documents. Foreign government involvement does appear likely at this point. An Israeli firm has been hired by the government to provide increased cybersecurity protection.

Even as officials from the government of former President Uribe are being investigated for phone taps and domestic spying on judges and political opponents, the Colombian government showed off some new surveillance capabilities. Police utilized new online forensic capabilities and arrested a hacker who broke into the account of a journalist. The government, under attack by a local branch of the hacking group Anonymous, has announced they plan to have a new CERT agency online before the end of the year that can counter and investigate attacks.

In Venezuela, phone calls by opposition candidates have been recorded and played on state television as a way of embarrassing those politicians. It appears state intelligence is behind the tapping of the phones. This news comes just months after other sources indicated that Venezuela’s intelligence services, with the assistance of Cuban intelligence and private hacking groups inside Venezuela and Colombia, have hacked into the private email accounts of journalists and politicians and have stolen their messages for at least the past five years.

In Bolivia, the government tapped the phones of indigenous protesters and U.S. embassy officials. President Morales then revealed phone calls made between the two groups as a way of showing a plot against his government. In the process, he showed that his government is tapping the phones of political opponents and foreigners living in the country.

In Argentina, a number of private emails by Kirchner government officials recently appeared on a website “Leakymails.” There are three aspects to this scandal worth considering. First, the content of the emails contains personal information about key political officials. Though most of the emails released are rather boring, one set of emails does appear to link a government-backed candidate to organized crime. Second, the question of how the emails were obtained may point to the state intelligence service or former officials within the intelligence service committing domestic espionage. There are indications outside non-state groups hacking into government officials’ email account. Third, an Argentine judge ordered local ISPs to block the Leakymails websites. This opens a new chapter in web censorship in Argentina and the region and places the question of how private ISPs filter Internet content directly onto the policy agenda.

The government of Brazil fined Google for failing to reveal identifying information about an Internet user. According to Google, Brazil is the top country in the world for making requests to obtain user information or to block search results through legal actions. Part of this is due to Brazil’s speech laws that give public officials broad sway on any issue that could be considered libel or slander.

Similarly, the government of Ecuador is considering passing a law that would require Facebook and Twitter to provide information about anonymous postings based out of that country. Though President Correa has backtracked on his initial request, draft versions of the law suggest an expanded government authority to track the identity of users online.

The governments of Chile and Brazil have said they are starting to monitor social media sites as a way of detecting criminal activity as well as potential social unrest. For Brazil, this operation has included a military unit dedicated to cyberwarfare and cyberdefense. This unit is also receiving training from Israeli and U.S. firms in offensive operations in the cyber-domain, the first Latin American government to admit that publicly. For Chile, the monitoring of social media has made the government a target for the international hacking group Anonymous, which is also attacking government websites as a way of supporting recent protests by student groups. Chile’s domestic cybersecurity units, particularly those within the police, are now forced to increase their capacity to handle the incidents.

The issues reported only hint at some of the issues that remain hidden from public view. Police and intelligence organizations across the region have expanded their capacity for surveillance in recent years and a number of foreign firms from the U.S., Europe and Israel are assisting them in that effort. Meanwhile, criminal groups have banded together with hackers from Eastern Europe and Russia to enhance their technological capabilities to steal government and corporate information.

Back at the regional level, Latin American intelligence agencies are running into the same problem as their developed world counterparts: how do they analyze all the data they collect? The ability to collect and store data is moving more quickly than the ability to process, analyze and utilize it. For Presidents Chavez and Morales, who have very specific political targets for their intelligence collection campaigns, this has not been much of a problem. However, for Mexico, Brazil and Colombia, whose intelligence efforts do focus on organized crime (in spite of some high profile scandals in which they don’t), they cannot keep up with the data in a timely fashion. All three countries are known to have missed arrest opportunities in which they had data about a relevant target but did not filter it out of their mounds of data quickly enough to operationalize it.

Lurking among all of these government-related surveillance and privacy issues is an increase in private sector and corporate espionage in the region. Much less reported, companies have had gigabytes of data stolen by local private hacking groups and foreign governments from Eastern Europe and East Asia. In various surveys, over half of corporations in the region report being victim of cyberattacks and theft of data. These corporations, when they manage to detect the problem, generally do not report the problems to the governments. While it is apparent from the above examples that governments have plenty of surveillance issues on their plate, this private sector surveillance challenge cannot be ignored. The threat that some corporations and criminal groups may surpass local police and intelligence agencies in their surveillance and spying capabilities can be a problem for the future security of these states and the civil rights of their populations.

Reprinted with permission from Southern Pulse. See original article here.

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Excellent article on the vote for a Palestinian state being sought at the UN General Assembly in September. 

 
The Palestinians’ Imaginary State 
A majority of the world’s countries are gearing up to recognize a Palestinian state in September. But does Palestine really qualify? 
BY STEVEN J. ROSEN | AUGUST 3, 2011
 
In a few weeks, an overwhelming majority in the United Nations General Assembly will likely vote for collective recognition of a Palestinian state. But which Palestinian state? Of the three Palestinian states the assembly could recognize, two are real and arguably could meet the requirements for statehood. But it is the third, purely imaginary one that the assembly will endorse, one that neither has a functioning government nor meets the requirements of international law.
According to the prevailing legal standard, the 1933 Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States, a “state as a person of international law should possess the following qualifications: a) a permanent population; b) a defined territory; c) government; and d) capacity to enter into relations with the other states.” Both the Hamas-controlled Palestinian entity in Gaza and the rival Fatah-governed Palestinian entity in the West Bank can be said to meet all four of these criteria of the law of statehood. The one on which the United Nations will vote does not.

In Gaza, Hamas controls a permanent population in a defined territory (i.e., Gaza within the armistice lines of 1949). Gaza has a functioning, if odious, government. And Hamas-controlled Gaza already conducts international relations with a large number of states. From a narrowly legal point of view, the Hamas Gaza entity could become a state, another miserable addition to a very imperfect world.

Of course, a Hamas state in Gaza is not something most of the world wants to see. A Hamas state allied to Iran would be a severe blow to international peace and security, and it would not be a state deserving of recognition by any democracy. It would be a state arising from the military coup of June 2007, a state that engages in large-scale violations of treaty obligations and human rights. Nor does Hamas seek statehood for Gaza alone. Hamas wants eventually to rule the whole of mandatory Palestine, comprising not just the West Bank along with Gaza, but all of today’s Israel too. Gaza alone is too small a prize for so grand an ambition. So this possible state is not on the table.

The Fatah Palestinian entity in the West Bank also could meet the legal requirements for statehood, and it would have more international support. It has a functioning government in the Palestinian Authority (PA), a permanent population, and international relations with a very large number of states. It also controls a defined territory, which comprises what are called areas A and B as defined under the Oslo II agreement of September 1995, plus additional territory subsequently transferred by Israel in agreed further redeployments. (Area A is the zone of full civil and security control by the Palestinian Authority, and Area B is a zone of Palestinian civil control and joint Israeli-Palestinian security control.) The Fatah West Bank entity within these lines also could be recognized as a state under international law.

But Fatah, the PA, and the broader PLO do not seek statehood for this West Bank entity that arguably could meet the legal requirements. Their minimum demand is a state that includes Gaza along with the West Bank, the eastern part of Jerusalem, and all the other parts of mandatory Palestine that were under Jordanian and Egyptian control before 1967. Fatah, the PA, and the PLO are demanding title to lands and authority over populations they do not control, being as they are under the rule of Hamas and Israel.
Unlike the two Palestinian entities that already exist, either of which could be recognized as a Palestinian state because they seem to fulfill the legal requirements, the Palestinian entity that a General Assembly majority will recognize as a state this September does not actually exist on Earth. It is imaginary and aspirational, not real. And it does not meet the legal requirements.

First, it will have two rival presidents pursuing incompatible policies. Mahmoud Abbas is presenting himself as the president of the Palestine that is pressing the claim in the U.N. General Assembly, but he is not considered to be the president anymore by Hamas, the largest political party in the putative state. And Hamas has Palestine’s own laws on its side in this dispute. Abbas was elected in 2005 to serve until January 2009, so his term has expired. In 2009, he unilaterally extended his term for another year until January 2010 (an extension that also has expired), but that extension did not adhere to Article 65 of the Palestinian constitution, the Basic Law. Hamas, which controls a majority in the now defunct Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), opposed the extension. According to Article 65 of the Basic Law, the legally empowered president of Palestine, since January 2009, has been PLC Speaker Abdel Aziz Dweik, a deputy representing Hamas. Palestine’s ruling party, Hamas, considers Dweik, not Abbas, to be the legal president of Palestine, and it has a strong case.

Second, the Palestine that the General Assembly will recognize also will have two rival prime ministers pursuing incompatible policies. Hamas denies that Abbas has the authority to appoint Salam Fayyad as prime minister, because Abbas is not legally the president of Palestine under Article 65 and because Fayyad has not been empowered as prime minister by the Palestinian Legislative Council as required by Article 66 of the Basic Law. Neither his first appointment, on June 15, 2007, nor his reappointment on May 19, 2009, was confirmed by the PLC as required. Hamas, which controls the majority in the PLC, considers the legal prime minister of the Palestinian Authority to continue to be Ismail Haniyeh, a senior political leader of Hamas. Haniyeh was empowered by the PLC to be prime minister of Palestine in February 2006. Abbas dismissed Haniyeh from the office on June 14, 2007, after the Gaza coup, but Haniyeh counters that this decree violated articles 45, 78, and 83 and that he continues to exercise prime ministerial authority under Article 83. The PLC also continues to recognize Haniyeh’s authority as prime minister. Here again, Hamas has the law on its side.

Third, this putative state of “Palestine” will also have a legislature that never meets. Elected on Jan. 25, 2006, for a term of four years, the PLC has enacted no laws, passed on no ministers, and conducted no meetings since 2007. Instead,Abbas says, “It is my right as a president to legislate laws and decisions that are called decrees. These decrees are legal, as long as the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) is not able to convene.”

It is common for Palestinian observers and their supporters in the West to attribute the PLC’s inaction to the fact that Israel arrested 21 of its more radical members in June 2006 after the abduction of Gilad Shalit, most of whom are still in detention. The Carter Center, for example, states, “With most of its representatives in Israeli prisons, the Palestinian Legislative Council never assembled the required quorum for meetings and hence was unable to carry out legislative functions designated to the PLC.” But the PLC has 132 members, of whom fewer than 20 are detained by Israel, and a quorum of the PLC requires only one more than half the members — 67 — to be present. So it is not Israel that is preventing a quorum.

In fact, neither faction contending to rule Palestine actually wants the PLC to meet, for different reasons. Hamas does not want it brought to session to enact new laws or amendments to existing laws when its majority has been diluted, especially because it fears unfavorable amendments to the election law. And Fatah is only too happy to see the Hamas members in jail, because it too does not want the PLC to meet, lest it enforce the Basic Law by replacing Abbas and Fayyad. PLC Speaker Dweik, whom Hamas considers to be the legally empowered president of Palestine, has said of his own arrest by Israel, “Any action that put an end to our activity in the parliament was welcomed by many, among them the Palestinian Authority.”

Fourth, this Palestine that the General Assembly will recognize will also lack the ability to hold presidential or legislative elections as required by Article 47 of its Basic Law — not because Israel will prevent them, but again because the rival Palestinian rulers will not allow them to happen. Abbas’s constitutionally defined term expired in January 2009, and the terms of the PLC representatives expired on Jan. 25, 2010, so new elections for both are overdue. The 2005 Palestinian Elections Law No. 9, Article 2, which Hamas recognizes as legally binding, and the replacement Elections Lawunilaterally decreed by Abbas on Sept. 2, 2007, Articles 2 to 4, which Hamas considers an unlawful usurpation of power under the constitution, require elections by now, but no such elections are in sight. Neither of the rivals wants an election to be held under the electoral rules recognized as legally binding by the other, and neither will permit the other to compete freely on territories it controls as required by both sets of regulations.

So there you have it. The General Assembly will make a remarkable decision about all this in the next few weeks. Instead of recognizing either of the two state-like entities that already exist, each having many of the attributes of statehood required by international law, the General Assembly will create an imaginary state that has two incompatible presidents, two rival prime ministers, a constitution whose most central provisions are violated by both sides, no functioning legislature, no ability to hold elections, a population mostly not under its control, borders that would annex territory under the control of other powers, and no clear path to resolve any of these conflicts. It is a resolution that plants the seeds for civil and international wars, not one that advances peace.

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Thaer Ganaim/PPO via Getty Images 

Steven J. Rosen served for 23 years as a senior official of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. He is now the director of the Washington Project of the Middle East Forum. 

http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2011/08/03/the_palestinians_imaginary_state?page=0,2





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