Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Lessons of World War I. By Victor Davis Hanson.

Lessons of World War I. By Victor Davis Hanson. National Review Online, February 18, 2014.

Don’t Expect Abbas to Sign Anything. By Shlomo Avineri.

Don’t expect Abbas to sign anything. By Shlomo Avineri. Haaretz, February 18, 2014.

Abbas and the False Hope of Peace. By Jonathan S. Tobin. Commentary, February 17, 2014.


As prime minister, Ehud Olmert met 36 (or was it 37?) times with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and couldn’t reach an agreement with him. But that didn’t stop him from saying in a recent interview on Channel 2 that he’s certain Abbas is a partner for an accord.
Olmert was prepared to go further than any other Israeli leader in meeting the Palestinians’ demands, including on the issues of Jerusalem, the Jordan Valley and territorial exchanges; he offered to evacuate 70,000 settlers as well as make a humanitarian gesture allowing 5,000 Palestinian refugees (or their descendants) to return. This underscored his belief in the need for Israel to make a painful compromise, and given his own political past, his courage and determination was especially admirable.
But what came out of all that? When Olmert proposed in dozens of meetings that Abbas sign a document containing the Israeli concessions, he refused. Olmert explains this by saying that Abbas did not say either yes or no. This is patently ridiculous: By refusing to sign, Abbas clearly said no.
Evidently, Abbas was not ready to commit to anything, but he was able to get Olmert to consent to far-reaching concessions, and then halted the negotiations. The upshot is that when the negotiations resume, the Palestinian side will insist that they must begin “where they left off” – with the starting point being the Israeli positions as set forward in Olmert’s generous proposal, with no concession having been made by the other side.
Am I misinterpreting things? This is exactly what happened in 1995 in Yossi Beilin’s talks with Abbas. Then, too, the talks led to extensive Israeli concessions; then, too, the Israeli side sought to put things down on paper and fashion a final accord – and then, too, Mahmoud Abbas refused to sign. There was never any Beilin-Abbas Agreement. There was only a paper laying out Israeli concessions.
At Camp David, then-U.S. President Bill Clinton became fed up with this method and, as he ran out of patience, told Yasser Arafat that so far he had rejected every offer. Perhaps you have a proposal of your own, Clinton suggested to Arafat. But no such Palestinian proposal was ever placed on the table.
The Palestinians have never outlined their overall vision of an agreement, except, of course, in regard to the territorial issue. But on matters of crucial importance to Israel – forgoing the right of return, some form of recognition of Israel as the Jewish nation-state – the Palestinian leadership has clearly rejected the Israeli position. Though Abbas has stated that he personally has no desire to return to Safed, he has also declared that the Palestinians cannot give up the right of return, saying it is an “individual right.” And both Abbas and Saeb Erekat, his chief negotiator, have outright rejected all calls to accept Israel as the Jewish nation-state, citing the basic Palestinian position that the Jews are a religious community, not a nation.
Abbas’ refusal to sign a document with Olmert or Beilin has a clear implication: not that he is no partner for talks, but that he is an excellent partner for talks — as long as they are talks designed to lead Israel to make more and more concessions, and to put them in writing. Then, on one pretext or another, he is unwilling to sign and brings the negotiations to a halt, so they can be restarted in the future “where they left off”: with all the previous Israeli concessions included, and no concessions having been put forward by the Palestinian side.
In certain circles in Israel nowadays, having anything positive to say about Ehud Barak is considered heresy. But he did reach the correct conclusion from all this. His statement that he went to Camp David in 2000 to expose Arafat’s true face may be regarded with some skepticism. He went to that summit in the honest belief that his readiness to make major concessions, which endangered his political standing, would bear fruit. But when he saw that the Palestinians were prepared to do nothing but engage in negotiations that would squeeze more and more concessions from Israel, without committing to anything in return, he drew the proper conclusion.
One can understand Olmert and Beilin: It’s natural for the people conducting negotiations to fall in love with the process with which they are identified, and to be very eager for it to succeed. But they cannot, or will not, see what any nonpartisan observer is able to see, even if the sight is difficult and uncomfortable. (Full disclosure: This is very difficult for me, since I would much prefer to believe in the optimism of Olmert and Beilin, but it has no basis in reality.)
If a similar thing happens in the current negotiations as well, Israel will have to prepare an alternative to the ever-elusive comprehensive agreement: a serious proposal for interim or partial agreements, unilateral moves, a halt to more construction in the territories, and a willingness to acknowledge that even in the absence of a final agreement that officially ends the conflict, there are things that can be done to reduce the friction and bring about significant change – not only in Israel but also among the mainstream of the Palestinian national movement. It’s already happening in Cyprus, Kosovo and Bosnia. Perhaps this is all that’s possible here too – for now.

Disappearing Arab Nations. By Moshe Arens.

Disappearing Arab nations. By Moshe Arens. Haaretz, February 17, 2014.


Ninety-eight years ago Sir Mark Sykes for Britain and Francois George Picot for France signed in secrecy the Sykes-Picot agreement dividing parts of the Ottoman Empire into British and French spheres of influence and control, anticipating the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in World War I. With Allied victory the Middle East was restructured more or less in accordance with the agreement, creating new Arab states that were to be the birthplace of new Arab nations. Thus were born the Iraqi nation, the Syrian nation and the Lebanese nation.
The efforts invested by the French and British in the building of these nations led only to ephemeral success. After decades of political independence, Iraq and Syria, both member states of the United Nations, for many years ruled by a succession of brutal despots, are on the way to disappearing from the roster of nations. Syria and Iraq are in the process of tearing themselves apart, tribal and religious loyalties taking precedence over loyalty to the artificial nations created after World War I, while Lebanon is in danger of following in their footsteps.
A part of Palestine, all of which was assigned by the League of Nations to Britain as the mandatory power, in accordance with the Sykes-Picot agreement, eventually became the Jewish nation state, Israel. Here the Jewish nation was rejuvenated on the soil of its ancient homeland. Unlike the artificially created Iraqi, Syrian and Lebanese nations, the Jewish nation has struck deep roots, imbued with a national spirit which has provided it with the ability to function democratically, defend itself and to thrive economically.
The Palestinian areas east of the Jordan river were gifted by Britain to Emir Abdullah, the son of Sharif Hussein of Mecca, and eventually became the Kingdom of Jordan. The population there is roughly 70% of west Palestinian origin and 30% Bedouin. Whether this has given rise to a Jordanian nation is still to be seen.
Judea and Samaria were conquered by the Jordanian army in 1948, annexed to Jordan and passed to Israeli control after the defeat of the Jordanian army in 1967. The Gaza Strip was conquered by the Egyptian army in 1948 and passed to Israeli control after the Egyptian defeat in 1967. The Arab population in Judea and Samaria and the Gaza Strip, feeling abandoned by the Arab states, began developing a separate national identity, as Palestinians, triggered by the creation of the Palestine Liberation Organization under the leadership of Yasser Arafat in 1964. They are now split between the Hamas-controlled Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the Fatah-controlled Palestinians in Judea and Samaria. Whether a united Palestinian nation, separate from the Jordanians, will become a permanent member of the family of nations will only become clear in the future.
The present ambivalence of the Syrians and the Palestinians as national entities is problematic for Israel. Whereas, under the dictatorial rule of Hafez el-Assad and later his son Bashar, there presumably was a neighboring nation-state with whom a peace treaty could in principle be negotiated which would put an end to the decades-long conflict between Israel and Syria, there, obviously, is no such partner on Israel’s northern border at the present time. Considering the present state of affairs in Lebanon and the involvement of Hezbollah in the fighting in Syria, a peace treaty with Lebanon also does not seem realistic in the foreseeable future.
The dysfunctional nature of the Palestinian political entity creates another problem for Israel. Although Fatah and Hamas, ruling non-contiguous areas of western Palestine, are at present not engaged in fighting among themselves, their relationship is far from friendly, with Hamas denying the right of Mahmoud Abbas to conclude a peace agreement with Israel in the name of the Palestinians, making it impossible for Abbas to commit the Palestinians to end the conflict with Israel. Thus an agreement, if signed by Israel with Abbas, would not end the conflict and would only serve as a jumping-off point for further demands to be made on Israel in the name of the Palestinian nation.

After Decrying Inequality, Obama Golfs at Personal Course of Mega-billionaire. By Thomas Lifson.

After decrying inequality, Obama golfs at personal course of mega-billionaire. By Thomas Lifson. American Thinker, February 17, 2014.


The ultra-rich are not and never will be the real target of Democratic Party rants against inequality. Instead, they reserve their venom for the hard-working entrepreneurial and technical/professional classes who seek to rise from upper middle-class ranks into bourgeois affluence. These strivers are the real enemy because they give the lie to the cant of victimhood and unfairness that mobilizes the Democrat voting base. It is much easier to hate your boss, or the person whose nice house you drive past every day, than it is to hate George Soros, or Larry Ellison, or Bill Gates, whose personal digs are distant, inaccessible, and unthinkably remote in terms of achievement.
If ordinary people all across America show that hard work, savings in order to accumulate capital, and focused intellect actually create and then enjoy new wealth, then others may get the notion that they, too, don't really need big government to ensure their shot at happiness. If wealth creation seems a real possibility because you have personally seen others do it in your city or town, that is truly subversive to the vision of a transformed America the Obamas and the Democrats are peddling.
So never mind the 1% of the 1% with whom Barack Obama plays. They are not the enemy he demonizes (although he may remind them from time to time that he is the only thing that stands between them and the pitchforks as he shakes them down). His real hatred is for people more visible to the masses –the term dear to Marxists – in their daily lives, whose achievements validate a system that makes the government-as-economic-savior irrelevant.