Thursday, July 25, 2013

A Faustian Pact: Generals as Democrats. By Steven A. Cook.

A Faustian Pact: Generals as Democrats. By Steven A. Cook. New York Times, July 25, 2013.

Egyptians’ Quarter-life Crisis. By Maria Golia.

Egyptians’ Quarter-life Crisis. By Maria Golia. New York Times, July 25, 2013.

From Egypt With Love. By Maria Golia. New York Times, July 19, 2013.

Egyptian Cleric Muhammad Al-Zughbi Calls on Allah to Annihilate Jews and Shiites in Friday Sermon.

Egyptian Cleric Muhammad Al-Zughbi Calls on Allah to Annihilate Jews and Shiites in Friday Sermon. MEMRI TV, Video Clip No. 3914, May 24, 31, 2013. YouTube.


Following are excerpts from Friday sermons delivered by Egyptian cleric Muhammad Al-Zughbi, which aired on Amjad TV on May 24 and 31, 2013:
May 24, 2013:
Muhammad Al-Zughbi: Oh Allah, protect Egypt from the manipulators and the corrupt. Protect it from the criminal traitors and the criminal rafidites [Shiites]. Protect it from the accursed Jews. Protect it from the Crusaders and from those who are ignorant of their religion. Oh Allah, protect Egypt from all Your enemies.
Oh Allah, destroy the accursed Jews. Oh Allah, disperse them and kill them all, turn their children into orphans and their wives into widows. Let them serve as a warning.
Oh Allah, destroy the Arab rulers. Bring dark hours upon them, and demonstrate the wonders of Your might upon them. Oh Allah, abandon them, just as they abandoned Syria. Oh Allah, destroy them and put them to shame for the whole world to see.
Oh Allah, destroy Bashar, destroy the Shiite Iranians, destroy Hizbullah, destroy that infidel, Hassan Nasrallah. Inflict cancer and pain upon him. Bring Your might to bear upon him and upon the Shiites of Iraq. Bring dark hours upon them, and demonstrate the wonders of Your might upon them. You destroyed Aad and Thamud, Nimrod, and Pharaoh – annihilate the Shiites.
May 31, 2013:
Oh Allah, protect our country, Egypt, from the corrupt, protect it from the criminal traitors, from the accursed Jews and the criminal Shiites, protect it from the Crusaders and from all Your enemies, the enemies of Islam.
Oh Allah, support the Sunnis in Syria, feed the hungry among them, quench the thirst of the thirsty among them, cover the naked among them, strengthen them, and guide their shooting. Oh Allah, support the Sunnis in Syria. Everybody ganged up against them, and deceivers deceived them. Oh Allah, the rulers of the Arabs and the Muslims united against them. They are hypocrites, along with the accursed U.S.A., for the benefit of Israel. Oh Allah, the rafidite Shiites from Iran, from Hizbullah, and from Iraq came to them, slaughtered their sons, and humiliated their women.
Oh Allah, their children and infants are slaughtered with knives in front of their fathers and their mothers. Have mercy upon the infants and the children. Girls, women, and mothers were raped by the rafidite Shiites.
Oh Allah, have mercy upon them! The rafidite Shiites slaughtered them in their homes, in front of their families. Have mercy upon the children and upon the girls who were raped. Have mercy upon the Sunnis. Have mercy! We are pleading with you, in Your mosque, today. We do not plead with anyone but You. we do not plead with presidents, ministers, kings, or princes. We have given up on them. We beg you, have mercy! We do not plead with anyone but You. We pray to You.

Egyptian Cleric Muhammad Al-Zoghbi: Pharaoh Would Ride the Jews Like the Donkeys They Are. MEMRI TV, Video Clip No. 2648, March 9, 2010. YouTube.


Following are experts from a religious program featuring Egyptian cleric Muhammad Al-Zoghbi, which aired on Al-Rahma TV on March 9, 2010:
Muhammad Al-Zoghbi: When [the Israelites] came to Egypt and lived with the Egyptians, they did not assimilate with them. There was no assimilation, no interaction, no intermarriage. There was nothing. Why not? Because of their condescension, their arrogance, and their conceit. We are all familiar with the Jews.

If an Egyptian had sex with an Israeli woman, and she became pregnant, she would rip open her belly so as not to bear his child. Why? Because she believes that she belongs to the Chosen People.
[Pharaoh] would ride a Jew as one might ride a donkey. Let me show you how. Pharaoh would say: “Bring me a Jew, an Israeli.” The he would say to him: “Over here. Bend over and make like a donkey.” The Jew would crouch like a donkey, and Pharaoh would ride on his back, his legs dangling on either side. Sometimes, he would ride him sidesaddle. He would grab him by the collar, and lead him: Giddyup . . . He would ride him like a donkey because a donkey he is.
We do not encourage such a thing, but I must say that it is due to their sins, arrogance, and conceit that Allah sent enemies to rule them and turn them into donkey underfoot.

Nada al-Ahdal, 11-Year-Old Yemeni Girl Flees Home to Avoid Forced Marriage.

VIDEO: 11-year-old Yemeni girl flees home to avoid forced marriage. Jerusalem Post, July 23, 2013.

Nada Al-Ahdal, Yemeni Girl Who Escaped Forced Marriage, and Her Uncle: Islamists Threaten Our Lives. MEMRI TV, Video Clip No. 3923, July 24, 2013. YouTube.


The Internet video of an 11-year-old Yemeni girl who ran away from home after her parents sought to force her into an arranged marriage has gone viral.
The girl, Nada al-Ahdal, is seen in the video, which was translated and first posted by the Middle East Media Research Institute, protesting her parents’ decision while accusing them of threatening her life if she refused to go along with their plans.
“Go ahead and marry me off. I’ll kill myself,” she is seen saying. “Don’t they have any compassion? I’m better off dead. I’d rather die,” she continued. “It’s not [the kids’] fault. I’m not the only one. It can happen to any child. . . . They have killed our dreams, they have killed everything inside us. There’s nothing left. There is no upbringing. This is criminal, this is simply criminal.”

Obama’s Knox College Speech on the Economy was a Disaster. By Nile Gardiner.

Barack Obama flops in Knox: the president’s speech was a disaster. By Nile Gardiner. The Telegraph, July 24, 2013.

President Obama Speaks on the Economy at Knox College. Video., July 24, 2013. YouTube. Transcript.

President Obama’s Economic Vision: A Better Bargain for the Middle Class.

General James Mattis Warns the Israeli Right. By Jeffrey Goldberg.

An American General Warns the Israeli Right. By Jeffrey Goldberg. Bloomberg, July 25, 2013.

Among the Settlers. By Jeffrey Goldberg. The New Yorker, May 31, 2004. NJBR, January 5, 2013.

Top U.S. General: We Pay a Price for Backing Israel. By J.J. Goldberg. The Jewish Daily Forward, July 25, 2013.

CENTCOM Review: Turmoil in the Mideast and Southwest Asia. Video. AspenInstitute, July 20, 2013. YouTube. Mattis’s comments on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict start at 41:22, and he returns to the subject in response to an audience question at 47:28.

Jeffrey Goldberg:

Last weekend, Marine Corps General James Mattis, the recently retired leader of U.S. Central Command and a man known inside the White House for his sharp opinions (which is one reason he’s no longer leading Central Command) issued a very sharp opinion about Israel’s future.
Speaking at a security conference in Aspen, Colorado, Mattis warned Israel that time was running out for it to reverse its West Bank settlement project.
“We have got to find a way to make the two-state solution that Democrat and Republican administrations have supported, we’ve got to get there,” he said. “And the chances for it, as the king of Jordan has pointed out, are starting to ebb because of the settlements and where they’re at, are going to make it impossible to maintain the two-state option.”
After blaming the lack of peace squarely on the settlements, he went a step further, and raised the incendiary question of apartheid: “If I’m Jerusalem and I put 500 Jewish settlers out here to the east and there’s 10,000 Arab settlers in here, if we draw the border to include them, either it ceases to be a Jewish state or you say the Arabs don’t get to vote – apartheid. That didn’t work too well the last time I saw that practiced in a country.”
Mattis has homed in on the precise issue that alienates liberal-minded Americans and Israelis: the West Bank double standard. Although Israel, within its 1967 borders, is a democracy in which Arabs have legal and voting rights, the West Bank is a two-tiered political entity: Jewish settlers in Hebron have the rights of Israeli citizens, but their Arab neighbors – people who sometimes live mere yards away – are under military occupation, without the same rights. This is a politically and morally untenable arrangement, and Mattis was right to call it out.
He was wrong to blame the lack of peace solely on Israel – the Palestinians have rejected one compromise offer after another, and the Gaza Strip, which would make up about half the future Palestinian state, is under the control of Hamas, which seeks Israel’s elimination – but he isn’t wrong to identify the settlements as an enormous impediment to compromise.
Mattis is also conveying conventional Pentagon wisdom, and this is why the settlers, and their advocates in the cabinet of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, ought to be paying close attention, because they can’t forever stand against the opinions of men like Mattis (who, by the way, couldn’t be considered “anti-Israel” by any stretch of the imagination).
Mattis went on to make another assertion that Netanyahu’s cabinet ought to heed: “I paid a military security price every day as the commander of Centcom because the Americans were seen as biased in support of Israel and that moderates all the moderate Arabs who want to be with us, because they can’t come out publicly in support of people who don’t show respect for the Arab Palestinians.” He went on to say that John Kerry, the U.S. secretary of state who’s trying to restart peace talks, “is right on target with what he’s doing. And I just hope the protagonists want peace and a two-state solution as much as he does.”
Arab rulers who complain about U.S. support for Israel to generals like Mattis are playing their American counterparts a bit: It’s very hard to imagine the Saudis and the Emiratis and the Kuwaitis and the Jordanians not taking American help – or not providing bases to the U.S. – because they’re upset by settlements. The Arabs uniformly fear and loathe Iran more than they fear and loathe Israel. Still, it’s true that American military commanders wouldn’t have to sit through quite so many lectures about Palestinian rights if there was movement on the peace process. It’s also true that men like Mattis make their own weather – that is, whether he’s right or wrong, this is what he believes, and it would be foolish for the Israelis, a dependent power, to ignore the feelings of powerful American generals.
What Israeli army generals know – and what many of their political leaders don’t seem to recognize – is that Mattis’s views are commonplace in the American defense establishment. The Israeli right can only ignore this reality for so long without doing its country permanent damage.

General James Mattis, 2005:

Don’t patronize the enemy. They mean business. They mean every word they say. They’re killing us now. Their will is not broken, They mean it. . . . If they’re there, your job is to kill them all. I did not want to have them just retreat and have to fight them all over again.

Prepare for the Israel-Palestine Peace Talks to Fail. By Natan B. Sachs.

Prepare for the Worst. By Natan B. Sachs. Foreign Policy, July 25, 2013.

It’s already time to start planning for what happens if the Middle East peace talks fall apart.


Last month in Jerusalem, I sat in on a small conference organized by the Yesha Council, the central organization of Israeli settlers in the West Bank. A featured speaker was Naftali Bennett, leader of the far-right Jewish Home party and minister of economy, who made a simple point: The Palestinian-Israeli conflict is not solvable.
To underline his point, Bennett spoke of a friend from military service who suffered a shrapnel wound close to his spine – “near his backside,” Bennett said, in a line that immediately made headlines. The doctors told his friend that they could operate, but he’d run a serious risk of paralysis to his lower limbs. Alternatively, the friend could learn to live with an unpleasant but manageable problem.
The medical choice was clear, Bennett said. And the choice facing Israel was clear as well: Rather than try to solve an unsolvable conflict with the Palestinians and risk catastrophe, Israel should opt for limited and practical measures to manage the reality in the West Bank. The death of the two-state solution may be unpleasant for can-do Westerners to acknowledge, he argued, but the depth of the conflict and the number of settlers now living in the West Bank precludes a peace agreement.
It’s a good story, but Bennett’s parallel is, in fact, wrong. And yet Secretary of State John Kerry’s motivation for pushing to revive Middle East peace negotiations was actually similar. Kerry reasoned that if the two-state solution is not achieved soon – perhaps in the coming two years – it might never be possible. Soon, in other words, Bennett and others who make the same point would be right.
While hoping for the best, and striving to make it reality, we should also prepare for the worst. While Kerry must lay the groundwork for giving the resumed peace talks the best chance of success, he must also plan for their failure. If the negotiations collapse, there is a danger that people will take the secretary of state at his word and conclude that the door to peace is finally shut. Whatever happens at the negotiating table, Kerry must ensure that he doesn’t help convince people that Bennett, after all, was correct.
The risk of failure is real. The Israelis and Palestinians are far apart on the most important issues and, moreover, each of the sides suspects the other has entered the talks with bad intentions. Trust is hard to come by these days in the Holy Land: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas fears that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is only interested in talks for the sake of talks, in order to ease international pressure on Israel. Netanyahu suspects that Abbas, faced with a Palestinian society where most oppose a return to the negotiating table, has entered the talks just to avoid blame for Kerry's failure, and will continue to play the blame game during the negotiations.
The bad news is that they may both be right. Kerry’s creative ambiguity, which was necessary to get the talks off the ground, will apparently entail him enunciating terms of reference – notably referring to the 1967 borders as a starting point for negotiations. This will permit each side to voice its reservations about these parameters before entering into negotiations. The sides have agreed to disagree, in other words, but they have agreed to do so in the same room.
To avoid the blame game, Kerry seems to have wisely insisted on the secrecy of the talks. Maintaining the discreet nature of the negotiations throughout their duration – and even if and when they stall – will help prevent the parties from backsliding into blame attribution. In general, the less hype there is around the talks, the less media frenzy is likely to emerge around their conclusion. The less the United States apportions failure or blame, the less credible the sides' accusations will be.
If the talks do collapse, will Kerry find the peace process back to where it started – or could the situation be even worse? Many fear that unmet expectations may lead to an outbreak of violence, and point to the outbreak of the Second Intifada in the wake of the much-hyped 2000 Camp David summit as evidence. In the ensuing bloodshed, more than 4,000 people lost their lives over the next four years.
But those drawing parallels between today and the Second Intifada risk learning the wrong lessons from history. Much of the events of 2000 had to do with internal dynamics and decisions of both parties before the collapse of peace talks. The Palestinian organizations – including the grassroots militia of Yasir Arafat’s Fatah Movement – were preparing for violence long before the disappointment of Camp David. And the Israelis were already preparing a forceful response to Palestinian violence – a response that may have helped turn the conflict into a full blown and horrifically violent intifada.
Today, the circumstances are different. Abbas is not Arafat, and the Palestinian security organizations have been thoroughly reformed under the leadership of former Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. At present, military cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank is good, and is supported by an ongoing U.S. effort to maintain security. On the Israeli side, too, responsible and cool-headed generals now command the forces in the West Bank – men who are well aware of the dangers of over-reaction.
Yet even if a failure of negotiations does not lead to an outbreak of violence, it could lead to renewed demands on the Palestinian side for dissolving the Palestinian Authority. Palestinians are weary of the peace process, and there is real risk that they will increasingly prefer dangerous (and unrealistic) aspirations for a one state “solution.” There is also the risk of growing demands in Israel to annex less inhabited parts of the West Bank to Israel proper: Naftali Bennett, for example, has called for annexation of "Area C," which includes all the Israeli settlements. Most in the Israeli political system still oppose a move along these lines.
Staving off worst-case scenarios is possible, but requires close attention – even as Kerry’s energy is devoted to giving his effort the best chance of success. The secretary of state will also have to lay the groundwork for keeping the possibility of future negotiations alive, even if this round of talks stalls. To do so, Washington should prepare steps that fall short of a final-status agreement. The United States, and even Israel, may, for example, recognize the state of Palestine even before agreement on its borders or its relations to Israel is finalized. This suggestion is less outlandish then it might seem: Several Israeli politicians, including the hawkish former Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, suggested doing just that. Doing so would help protect some degree of Palestinian self-rule from rash steps in the wake of failure.
Further interim steps, while undoubtedly difficult, would go a long way for providing the peace process with a safety net. Israel, for example, may return to the idea of limited disengagement in the West Bank. Under such plans, Israel would pull out of most of the West Bank without a final status agreement, shaping its own eastern border. The authority in the vacated area would then presumably fall to the Palestinian Authority, just as it did in the Gaza Strip did when Israel evacuated in 2005. It is important that such steps be coordinated with the Palestinians as much as possible – rather than unilaterally implemented, as they were in 2005 – so that they encourage rather than preclude future negotiation.
Skeptics (like me) have been wrong before. This round of peace talks may succeed, and we should wish wholeheartedly for their success. Netanyahu has the political backing – from opposition parties, if necessary – to make bold, historic decisions. Abbas may prove skeptics wrong and demonstrate courageous leadership in the face of difficult circumstances.
And yet, even while wishing the parties Godspeed, we should also think seriously about the possibility that the talks may fail. Washington should make sure that the ultimate winners of this peace effort are not those who oppose peace.

Kerry’s Captain Ahab Quest. By David Ignatius.

Kerry’s Captain Ahab Quest. By David Ignatius. Real Clear Politics, July 25, 2013. Also at the Washington Post.