INDEX OF MYTHS:
(2005-2012 archives - CLICK HERE)
- "The Iranian government is committed to fulfilling the terms it agreed to in the Geneva nuclear deal" (December 4)
- "The negotiated compromise with Iran removes Tehran's nuclear weapons threat." (November 25)
- "A third intifada will erupt if Israel does not satisfy Palestinian demands." (November 6)
- "The Palestinians have made concessions to advance the peace process; Israel has remained uncompromising." (October 30)
- "Israel is responsible for expelling the Arabs of Palestine during the 1948 War of Independence." (October 23)
- "Iran is isolated because of the international sanctions regime." (October 10)
- "Iran's Supreme Leader Khamenei issued a fatwa against producing nuclear weapons." (October 3)
- "Palestinians support the boycott and divestment movement against Israel." (September 24)
- "Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu is disinterested in peace with the Palestinians." (September 12)
- "Christians are a protected minority in the Middle East." (August 28)
- "Israel must make concessions for the peace process to succeed." (August 15)
- "Palestinian leaders enter peace talks with Israel sharing a common desire for democacy." (July 31)
- "Israel 'occupies' the West Bank." (July 24)
- "The U.S. must be involved in any successful peace process between Israel and her neighbors." (July 11)
- "The election of Hassan Rouhani eliminates the Iranian nuclear threat." (June 27)
- "The United States helped Israel defeat the Arabs in six days in June 1967." (June 6)
- "An Israeli attack on Iran would endanger U.S. interests in the Middle East." (May 30)
- "'Nakba Day' has nothing to do with the peace process." (May 22)
- "Israel has refused to discuss a compromise on the future of Jerusalem." (May 14)
- "Syria’s chemical weapons pose no threat outside of Syria." (May 2)
- "Now is a good time to revive the Arab peace initiative." (April 25)
- "The Palestinian Authority is committed to reforming Palestinian society." (April 18)
- "Israelis overreact to harmless rock-throwing by Palestinians." (April 3)
- "Non-lethal Palestinian rocket attacks have no impact on Israel's civilian population." (March 21)
- "The European Union has no reason to name Hezbollah a terrorist organization." (March 13)
- "Israel has created separate bus lines to segregate Jews and Palestinians." (March 7)
- "If the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was solved, the Middle East would be a peace." (February 20)
- "Attacking Iran will create more instability in the Middle East." (February 13)
- "The Palestinians are now ready to make peace with Israel." (February 7)
- "Israel has nothing to fear from a nuclear Iran." (January 22)
- "Israeli settlements are an obstacle to Mideast peace." (January 17)
Israeli settlements are an obstacle to Mideast
Paradoxically, perhaps the most prevalent myth about the Arab-Israeli
conflict is the easiest to disprove both rhetorically and empirically.
Consider the following facts:
From 1949–67, when Jews were forbidden
to live on the West Bank, the Arabs refused to make peace with
From 1967–77, the Labor Party established
only a few strategic settlements in the territories, yet the
Arabs were unwilling to negotiate peace with Israel.
In 1977, months after a Likud government
committed to greater settlement activity took power, Egyptian
President Sadat went to Jerusalem and later signed a peace treaty
with Israel. Incidentally, Israeli settlements existed in the
Sinai and those were removed as part of the agreement with Egypt.
One year later, Israel froze settlement
building for three months, hoping the gesture would entice other
Arabs to join the Camp David peace process, but none would.
The Palestinians also rejected an offer of autonomy that most
likely would have led to statehood.
In 1994, Jordan signed a peace agreement
with Israel and settlements were not an issue; if anything,
the number of Jews living in the territories was growing.
Between June 1992 and June 1996, under Labor-led
governments, the Jewish population in the territories grew by
approximately 50 percent. This rapid growth did not prevent
the Palestinians from signing the Oslo accords in September
1993 or the Oslo 2 agreement in September 1995.
In 2000, Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered
to dismantle dozens of settlements and withdraw from 97 percent
of the West Bank, but the Palestinians still would not agree
to end the conflict.
In August 2005, Israel evacuated all of
the settlements in the Gaza Strip and four in Northern Samaria,
but terror attacks continued.
In 2008, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert offered
to withdraw from approximately 94 percent of the West Bank,
but the deal was rejected.
In 2010, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
froze settlement construction for 10 months and the Palestinians
refused to engage in negotiations until the period was nearly
over. After agreeing to talk, they walked out when Netanyahu
refused to prolong the freeze.
On the last point, President Obama’s special envoy for
Mideast peace, George Mitchell noted that the Palestinians were
unwilling to accept the settlement freeze offered by Netanyahu
because they said it was “useless.” Mitchell added,
“They refused to enter into the negotiations until nine
months of the 10 had elapsed. Once they entered, they then said
[the freeze] was indispensable. What had been worse than useless
a few months before then became indispensable and they said they
would not remain in the talks unless that indispensable element
In late 2012, the myth took on absurd proportions following the
Palestinian decision to seek statehood recognition at the UN General
Assembly and Israel’s retaliatory announcement of the intention
to build more homes for Jews in existing settlements and in Jerusalem.
As a Washington Post editorial noted, the hysterical international
reaction to Israel’s moves was “counterproductive
because it reinforces two mistaken but widely held notions: that
the settlements are the principal obstacle to a deal and that
further construction will make a Palestinian state impossible.”284
The Post added that “Mr. Netanyahu’s government,
like several before it, has limited building almost entirely to
areas that both sides expect Israel to annex through territorial
swaps in an eventual settlement. For example, the Jerusalem neighborhoods
where construction was announced last month were conceded to Israel
by Palestinian negotiators in 2008 [emphasis in original].285
The biggest uproar, the Post observed, was over Netanyahu’s
decision to plan for construction in a four-mile strip known as
E-1 that would connect Jerusalem with the suburb of Ma’ale
Adumim. The Palestinians, and many media outlets including the
New York Times, claimed this project would make it impossible
to establish a contiguous Palestinian state. The Post correctly
reported that Israel will undoubtedly annex Ma’ale Adumim
– a city of 40,000 – in any peace deal so the E-1
project is essential to ensure that it does not become an island
in the middle of a Palestinian state.286
While UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called Israel’s
actions an “almost fatal blow” to the two-state solution
and British Foreign Secretary William Hague said new building
would make it “very difficult to achieve,” the Post
called the rhetoric “offensive at a time the Security Council
is refusing to take action to stop the slaughter of tens of thousands
of civilians – including many Palestinians – by the
Syrian regime. Like Obama’s initial call for a settlement
freeze, the rhetoric also encourages Mahmoud Abbas to continue
to insist on a freeze before negotiating. “If Security Council
members are really interested in progress toward Palestinian statehood,”
the Post concluded, “they will press Mr. Abbas to stop using
settlements as an excuse for intransigence – and cool their
own overheated rhetoric.”287
Even though settlements have not impeded peace, many Israelis
still have concerns about the expansion of settlements. Some consider
them provocative, others worry that the settlers are particularly
vulnerable, and note they have been targets of repeated Palestinian
terrorist attacks. To defend them, large numbers of soldiers are
deployed who would otherwise be training and preparing for a possible
future conflict with an Arab army. Some Israelis also object to
the amount of money that goes to communities beyond the Green
Line, and special subsidies that have been provided to make housing
there more affordable. Still others feel the settlers are providing
a first line of defense and developing land that rightfully belongs
The disposition of settlements is a matter for the final status
negotiations. The question of where the final border will be between
Israel and a Palestinian entity will likely be influenced by the
distribution of these Jewish towns in Judea and Samaria (the border
with Gaza was unofficially defined following Israel’s withdrawal).
Israel wants to incorporate as many settlers as possible within
its borders while the Palestinians want to expel all Jews from
the territory they control.
If Israel withdraws toward the 1949 armistice line unilaterally,
or as part of a political settlement including land swaps (i.e.,
in exchange for more territory in the West Bank, Israel would
cede land in the Negev or elsewhere to the Palestinians) many
settlers will face one or more options: remain in the territories
(the disengagement from Gaza suggests this may not be possible),
expulsion from their homes, or voluntary resettlement in Israel
(with financial compensation).
The impediment to peace is not the existence of Jewish communities
in the disputed territories; it is the Palestinians’ unwillingness
to accept a state next to Israel instead of one replacing Israel.
Israel has nothing to fear from a nuclear
Jews have learned from painful
history that when someone
threatens to kill them, they should take it seriously. Therefore,
no one should be surprised at the alarm expressed by Israel after hearing Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad proclaim, "This origin of corruption [Israel] will soon be
wiped off the Earth's face!" and Ayatollah
Ali Khamene'i, Iran's Supreme Leader, declaring, "Israel is a cancerous tumor. So what do you do with a cancerous tumor?
What can be done to treat a tumor other than removing it?"
Some argue Iran would
never launch a nuclear
attack against Israel because
no Muslim leader would risk an Israeli counterstrike that might
destroy them. This theory doesn't hold up, however, if the Iranian
leaders believe there will be destruction anyway at the end
of time. What matters, Middle
East expert Bernard
Lewis observed, is that infidels go to hell and believers
go to heaven. Lewis quotes a passage from Ayatollah
Khomeini, cited in an 11th grade Iranian schoolbook, "I
am decisively announcing to the
whole world that if the world-devourers [the infidel powers]
wish to stand against our religion,
we will stand against the whole
world and will not cease until the annihilation of all of
them. Either we all become free, or we will go to the greater
freedom, which is martyrdom. Either we shake one another's hands
in joy at the victory of Islam in the world, or all of us will turn to eternal life and martyrdom.
In both cases, victory and success are ours."288
Iranian President Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad, believes the most important task of the Iranian
Revolution was to prepare the way for the return of the Twelfth
Imam, who disappeared in 874, thus bringing an end to Muhammad's
lineage. Shiites believe
this imam, the Mahdi or "divinely guided one," will
return in an apocalyptic battle in which the forces of righteousness
will defeat the forces of evil and bring about a new era in which Shi'a Islam ultimately
becomes the dominant religion throughout the world. The Shiites
have been waiting patiently for the Twelfth
Imam for more than a thousand years, but Ahmadinejad may believe he can now hasten the return through a nuclear war.
It is this apocalyptic world view, Lewis notes, that distinguishes Iran from other governments with nuclear weapons.
There are those who think that Iran would never use such weapons
against Israel because innocent Muslims would be killed as well;
however, Ayatollah Ali
Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, Ahmadinejad's predecessor, explicitly
said he wasn't concerned about fallout from an attack on Israel.
"If a day comes when the world of Islam is duly equipped with the arms
Israel has in its possession," he said, "the strategy
of colonialism would face a stalemate because application of an
atomic bomb would not leave anything in Israel but the same thing would just produce damages in the
Muslim world." As one Iranian commentator noted, Rafsanjani
apparently wasn't concerned that the destruction of the Jewish
State would also result in the mass murder of Palestinians as well.289
Iran will not have to use nuclear weapons to influence events
in the region. By possessing a nuclear capability, the Iranians can deter Israel or any other
nation from attacking Iran or its allies. When Hezbollah attacked Israel in 2006,
for example, a nuclear
Iran could have threatened retaliation against Tel
Aviv if Israeli forces bombed Beirut. The mere threat of using
nuclear weapons would be sufficient to drive Israelis into shelters and could cripple the economy. Will immigrants want to come to a country
that lives in the shadow of annihilation? Will companies want
to do business under those conditions? Will Israelis be willing to live under a nuclear cloud?
If you were the prime
minister of Israel, would you take seriously threats to destroy Israel by someone who might
soon have the capability to carry them out? Could you afford to
take the risk of allowing Iran to acquire nuclear weapons?
How long would you wait for sanctions or other international measures to work before acting unilaterally
to defend your country?
The Palestinians are now ready to make
peace with Israel.
In his first comments as America’s
new Secretary of State, John
Kerry said that pursuing Israeli-Palestinian
peace would be one of his top priorities. "So
much of what we aspire to achieve and what we need to
do globally, what we need to do in the Maghreb and South
Asia, South Central Asia, throughout the Gulf, all of
this is tied to what can or doesn't happen with respect
to Israel-Palestine. And in some places it's used as an
excuse. In other places it's a genuine, deeply felt challenge."290
Kerry's statement was alarming because
it represented the long discredited State Department view
that the Palestinian issue is the root of all Middle East
problems and ignored the turmoil in the region unrelated
to the Palestinian issue, including threats from al-Qaeda,
unrest in Iraq, ongoing fighting with the Taliban in Afghanistan,
new terror threats in North Africa, Syria in flames, Egypt on the verge of chaos, and most important, Iran
nearing the ability to build a nuclear weapon.
The timing also was dubious because
of the public pronouncements of the Palestinians. Just
a few months ago at the United
Abbas gave a vitriolic speech accusing Israel of “one of the most dreadful campaigns of ethnic
cleansing and dispossession in modern history;”
of unprovoked “aggression” in Gaza;
and of “an apartheid system of colonial occupation,
which institutionalizes the plague of racism.”291 Are these the words of a leader interested in peace?
Similarly, in December 2012, Hamas leader Khaled
Mashaal used his first visit to Gaza to declare: “From the sea to the river, from north
to south, we will not give up any part of Palestine —
it is our country, our right and our homeland.”
He added that Palestinians are “all united in the
way of resistance.”292
The situation is even worse given that
Abbas wants to reconcile with Hamas,
which has repeatedly stated it will not accept a Palestinian
state alongside Israel, and the Palestinian public opinion
In a December 2012 poll, for example, 41% of the Palestinians
think that armed attacks on army and settlers can force Israel to withdraw
from the territories; while 24% think peaceful non-violent
resistance can force Israelis to withdraw and 30% think
that negotiations with Israel can bring it to withdraw.293
When Palestinians were asked, given the outcome of the
war between Hamas and Israel and the UN
recognition of a Palestinian state, whose way is the
best to end the Israeli occupation and build a Palestinian
state: Hamas’ way or Abbas’s way, 60% say
Hamas’ way and 28% Abbas’ way. By contrast,
more than 60% of Israelis said they were willing to give
up some or all of the West Bank.294
Everyone in Israel longs for peace, so the Secretary
will not be turned away or discouraged; nevertheless,
he should not be blind to regional realities and recent
history. Israeli nerves still raw from absorbing thousands
of Palestinian terror rockets and seeing half their
population forced to be on constant alert. Even the most
dovish Israelis are unwilling to make concessions in the West Bank unless
they have security guarantees that will prevent the territory
from becoming another Hamistan terror base.
Nevertheless, Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu has repeatedly invited Abbas for negotiations, and Abbas
has spent the last four years rejecting the overtures,
doing everything in his power to subvert a negotiated
settlement and trying to convince the international community
to impose Palestinian terms on Israel.
Kerry needs to make clear to the Palestinians that
their only chance for statehood is through direct
talks with Israel; that Hamas cannot be a part of the Palestinian leadership; that the Palestinian Authority must cease incitement, and demonstrate through words and
deeds a commitment to the two-state solution; and that
the United States will
not accept excuses or preconditions to negotiations.
Kerry should also reassure Israelis that he understands the
Gaza precedent, the new strategic dangers they face from
their neighbors, and the necessity of eliminating the Iranian threat before Israelis can be expected to take new risks for
Attacking Iran will create more instability in the Middle East.
More instability?! Have the proponents of this idea been following the news for the last two years?
Even in the best of times, the Middle East is an unstable region because of ongoing disputes between various Arab states. Now, an increased level of chaos has spread across the region as a result of upheavals in North Africa, Yemen and the Persian Gulf, continuing unrest in Iraq and Afghanistan, and a bloody civil war in Syria.
Among the possible worst case scenarios, it is conceivable that a military strike on Iran would cause a backlash among peoples in the region angered by an attack on a Muslim nation; it may unite the Iranian people in defense of their country; or, current rulers of conservative regimes may come under attack for complicity in the attack.
The consequences of a strike could, however, have positive consequences for the region. The Israeli military strikes on nuclear facilities in Iraq (1981) and Syria (2007), for example, did not provoke greater instability in the Middle East despite lacking any international consensus. Both attacks eliminated potentially destabilizing nuclear weapons programs and discouraged a nuclear arms race in the region. Arab leaders now are petrified of a nuclear Iran and will, at least tacitly, support measures that would eliminate Iran’s nuclear threat.295
While the negative scenario envisions the Iranian population rallying around its leaders in the event of a military strike, it is also possible that, when liberated from the intimidation of the mullahs, the Iranian people will launch a “Persian Spring” demanding freedom and democracy from their government. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei is obviously nervous about this possibility, noting in April 2012 that he believes Libya’s abandonment of its nuclear program in 2003 eventually hastened the overthrow of Qaddafi.296
In the short-term, an attack on Iran might have a deleterious impact on oil prices as speculators react to the possibility of reduced supplies; however, in the long-term, an attack could actually help stabilize the oil market as it would hamper Iran’s ability to threaten global oil supplies and weaken its position within OPEC, where it has advocated stricter quotas to drive up prices.
A successful strike on Iran could also help free two countries that have been under its thumb for three decades. Without the support of the radical Shiite leaders in Iran, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will lose his principal patron in the region and Syria will no longer serve as a forward Iranian base for harboring terrorists and interfering in the affairs of Lebanon. The fall of Iran’s leadership would also put an end to its support for Hezbollah in Lebanon, effectively thwarting the organization’s ability to terrorize Israel and control Lebanese affairs.
Furthermore, destroying the Iranian nuclear program would eliminate the threat of Iranian sponsored nuclear terrorism and proliferation, and would signal to the rest of the region that nuclear weapons programs will not be tolerated. This outcome is especially important in light of nuclear agreements signed by more than a dozen Arab countries in response to Iran’s continued nuclear developments.
It is easy for opponents of military action to construct nightmare scenarios that will scare the public and sway world leaders away from confrontation with Iran. However, military planners and statesmen must analyze the current situation objectively and weigh the risk of a negative outcome, as well as the danger posed by inaction, against the potential benefits of a proactive strike against Iran.
If the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was solved, the Middle East would be at peace.
A cardinal view of Arabists is that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the core of all Middle East problems. According to Middle East scholar Martin Kramer, this " linkage" theory holds that the Israeli-Palestinian issue, practically alone, prompts the rise of terrorists, weakens friendly governments, and makes it impossible for the United States to win Arabs and Muslims over to the good cause.297 Though this doctrine has been proven erroneous, President Obama’s nominee for Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel, continues to adhere to this discredited viewpoint.
"The core of all challenges in the Middle East remains the underlying Arab-Israeli conflict," Hagel said in 2006. "The failure to address this root cause will allow Hezbollah, Hamas, and other terrorists to continue to sustain popular Muslim and Arab support."298 In 2008, Hagel took this view even further, noting that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict "cannot be looked at in isolation. Like a stone dropped into a placid lake, its ripples extend out father and father. Egypt, Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon feel the effects most noticeably. Farther still, Afghanistan and Pakistan; anything that impacts their political stability also affects the two emerging economic superpowers, India and China."299
As events across the Middle East have shown, however, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is but one of many ethnic, religious and nationalist feuds plaguing the region, most of which are independent of each other. Here is but a partial list of conflicts that have occurred in the Middle East over the past two and a half decades: the Iran-Iraq War (1980-88); the First Gulf War (1991); the Lebanese Civil War (1975-90); the Sudanese Civil War (1983-2000); the "Arab Spring" upheavals (2011- ); and the ongoing Syrian Civil War (2011- ). None of these are connected to the Palestinian issue.
"Almost every border in that part of the world, from Libya to Pakistan, from Turkey to Yemen, is either ill-defined or in dispute," scholar Daniel Pipes notes in his book The Long Shadow, "But Americans tend to know only about Israel’s border problems and do not realize that these fit into a pattern that recurs across the Middle East."300
If the Israeli-Palestinian problem was solved, it would have either minimal or no impact on the many intra-Arab rivalries or the Iranian nuclear threat to the region. Sunnis and Shiites would still be competing for influence, as will secularists and fundamentalists, and a host of other conflicts would remain unaffected by a change in relations between Israelis and Palestinians. Moreover, espousing linkage may have a deleterious impact on the Middle East, as it could "lead to panicked overreaction whenever Israelis and Arabs do exchange blows."301
The achievement of a peace agreement will also have little impact on regional disputes. Israel will still have to remain vigilant to ensure that a Palestinian state does not become a threat or the first stage of the policy of liberating "greater" Palestine over time. Peace with the Palestinians may be a catalyst for regional peace, but it is no guarantee that Syria or Lebanon will change their policies toward Israel, especially if Iran continues to influence their behavior and Hezbollah remains in power and committed to Israel’s destruction. Furthermore, a treaty with the Palestinians would not satisfy the Iranians’ desire to "wipe Israel off the map."
“Our leaders should have a realistic - as opposed to a 'realist' - understanding of the root causes of Middle East strife. How can they protect us from threats if they don’t understand the causes of these threats? Decades of dictatorship, [not the Arab-Israeli conflict], brought the Middle East to its current condition, along with misogyny, poor education, corruption, the politicizing of Islam and sectarian hatred.”
Jeffrey Goldberg 302
Israel has created separate bus lines to segregate Jews and Palestinians.
Leave it to the Palestinians to turn an Israeli accommodation to make their lives better into a political attack. The latest example relates to Israel’s decision to create a bus line exclusively for Palestinians to expedite their travel into Israel to work, which some Palestinians and their supporters are now claiming to be a policy of segregation.
The need for the new bus line was created because Israel has significantly increased the number of work permits given to Palestinians and the existing bus lines have become overcrowded. After years of being prevented from working in Israel because of the Palestinian War (2000-2005) and the wave of terrorist attacks, Israel has been gradually easing restrictions on Arabs in the West Bank, and the number of Palestinians now allowed to work in Israel is at or near the prewar levels. While Israel’s detractors accuse Israel of mistreating Palestinians, nearly 40,000 now go to work each day in Israel. Many others, paradoxically, work in the Jewish settlements that their leaders castigate.
Before establishing the new lines, Palestinian workers had no direct line from their communities to the border crossing. They had a choice of traveling to an Israeli settlement and taking a bus from there into Israel or using “pirate” driving services that have been transporting Palestinian workers by circuitous routes “at exorbitant prices.” Thanks to the new buses, the cost of traveling to Tel Aviv will be reduced by nearly 75 percent.303
While Israel maintains the new bus lines are a goodwill gesture, critics have called it an example of Israeli racism. In fact, the buses pick up Palestinians in Arab communities and have different endpoints than the buses they used to take. Furthermore, no Palestinians are prevented from using the old buses, which most disliked because they had to travel with Jewish settlers. The settlers also had complained about what they viewed as a security threat from riding with Palestinians from the West Bank.
Palestinian workers agree with Israeli officials that the new buses make their lives much easier. The Times of Israel reported: “Hundreds of laborers gathered at the Eyal checkpoint before dawn to take advantage of the new service. Outside of some overcrowding from heavier-than-expected demand, few problems were reported, and riders seemed pleased with the new arrangement.”304
Not only did Israeli officials discover there weren’t enough buses to meet the demand, but Palestinian workers requested additional buses to run on Fridays so they would not have to pay “pirates.”305 The attitudes of Palestinian workers might best be summarized by Naim Liftawi, a 40-year-old employee at an upholstery factory in Kfar Sava, “the [critics] can say what they want, as long as I'm safe on the bus. I just want to put bread on the table for my children.306
Unfortunately, the buses have already come under attack. Unknown assailants set fire to two buses on the new line on March 5, 2013.307
The European Union has no reason to name Hezbollah a terrorist organization.
For decades, the Europeans have taken a “head in the sand” approach to recognizing the obvious – that Hezbollah is a terrorist organization. If Hezbollah’s terror attacks were limited to the Middle East, European leaders might have cause to suggest the group does not threaten them, but the truth is that Hezbollah is engaged in terror on an international scale and has also killed internationals in Lebanon.
In February 2013, after an exhaustive investigation, the Bulgarian government announced that it believed Hezbollah was responsible for a July 2012 attack in the resort town of Burgas that killed five Israeli tourists and a Bulgarian bus driver and injured dozens more. As U.S. National Security Adviser Thomas E. Donilon observed, “This report is significant because a European Union member state, Bulgaria, explicitly pointed a finger at Hezbollah and lifted the veil on the group’s continued terrorist activities. Europe can no longer ignore the threat that this group poses to the Continent and to the world.”308
Most people forget that, excluding the terrible events of 9/11, more Americans have been killed by Hezbollah than any other terrorist group. In 1983, Hezbollah bombed the United States Embassy in Beirut, killing 63 people. Then the group bombed the American and French Marine Barracks in Beirut, killing 241 Americans and 58 French service members. In 1996, Hezbollah assisted in the Khobar Towers attack in Saudi Arabia, which killed 19 Americans. Subsequently, in 1997, Hezbollah became one of the first groups added to the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations.
Even before the Bulgaria attack, Hezbollah had a bloody record of international terror marked by kidnappings, airplane hijackings, bombings in Paris and an attempted bombing in Bangkok. Two of the group’s most heinous attacks occurred thousands of miles from the Middle East, in Buenos Aires. In 1992, Hezbollah detonated a car bomb outside the Israeli Embassy, killing 29 people and injured more than 250 others. Among the victims were Israeli diplomats, children, clergy from a local church and other innocent bystanders. Two years later, Hezbollah struck again, bombing the Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina (AMIA) Jewish community center in Buenos Aires - 87 people were killed and more than 100 people were injured.
With the help of Iran and Syria, Hezbollah has terrorized Lebanon and essentially taken over the country. Currently, at fear of losing the patronage of Bashar al-Assad and the Syrian arms smuggling routes, Hezbollah fighters have even joined in the defense of the dictatorial regime.
Given its indisputable record of terror and the fact that United States, Israel, Canada, the UK, Egypt and Bahrain all consider it a terrorist organization, it is hard to understand the reluctance of the European community to do the same. A number of excuses can be manufactured, such as the traditional European fear of doing anything that might alienate the Arabs; the concern that European nationals serving in the peacekeeping force in Lebanon could become targets; the desire not to complicate relations with Hezbollah’s sponsor, Iran; the fear of the French, in particular, of jeopardizing their historic role in Lebanon; the specious argument that because Hezbollah has a “political wing,” it is not a terror organization; or, the desire to keep channels of communication open.
Hezbollah’s freedom of action would be severely restricted if the EU labeled it a terrorist organization; however, this requires all 27 member states to agree on the designation.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called on the EU to act, as have more than 100 members of the U.S. Congress. Donilon called on the Europeans to respond swiftly to ensure no other attacks occur in Europe. He said they “must disrupt [Hezbollah’s] operational networks, stop flows of financial assistance to the group, crack down on Hezbollah-linked criminal enterprises and condemn the organization’s leaders for their continued pursuit of terrorism.” 309
Following the Bulgarian report on the Burgas bombing, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said “It is important that the EU respond robustly to an attack on European soil.” Hague promised to discuss with his European colleagues “measures we can now take to continue to make our citizens safer.”310
Non-lethal Palestinian rocket attacks have no impact on Israel's civilian population.
The years of rocket attacks from Hamas terrorists in Gaza have given researchers an opportunity to study their impact on the Israeli population that has come under fire. While apologists for Hamas have downplayed the severity of the thousands of rockets and mortars that have been fired into Israel because of the low number of casualties, the damage caused is far more serious and widespread than news reports at the time of the attacks suggest.
The latest research finding to document the severity of these terror attacks found that women in Sderot had significantly more miscarriages than those who are not exposed to warning sirens and missile barrages. In an article published in Psychosomatic Medicine Journal of Bio-Behavioral Medicine, Tamar Wainstock and Professor Ilana Shoham-Vardi of Ben-Gurion University's Department of Epidemiology, suggested the increased number of miscarriages was most likely attributable to the stress of living with the threat of a rocket attack.311
After eight years of rocket attacks, health officials are also reporting that “many residents have to be treated for hearing loss, dizziness, tinnitus, and/or central auditory processing disorders.” 312
Not surprisingly, children have been especially traumatized by the anxiety and fear provoked by the attacks. It takes months of treatment to recover and a single rocket attack during the therapy period can send the whole process back to square one. According to a 2008 study conducted by Natal, the Israel Center for Victims of Terror and War, between 75 percent and 94 percent of Sderot children aged 4-18 exhibit symptoms of post-traumatic stress, and 28 percent of adults and 30 percent of children in Sderot have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The distinction between post-traumatic stress symptoms, such as problems sleeping and concentrating, and PTSD itself, is that the latter can interfere seriously with daily life. One of the goals of therapists is to try to prevent stress disorders before any rocket attacks by teaching adults and children how to reduce anxiety in a place that is under ongoing danger.313
What do these statistics mean for the lives of children living under fire? Here are a few examples:
In Sderot it is now normal practice to take showers in under a minute for fear that a siren will sound while they are washing up. Music is seldom played as it may block out the sound of the red alert, and even seat belts are no longer worn in cars because they can restrict a quick exit. When rocket fire is more constant, entire families will often live in bomb shelter for days on end.314
Palestinian terrorism poses not only a physical threat to Israelis, but also a psychological one. The years of attacks are now taking a toll, especially on women and children.
Israelis overreact to harmless rock-throwing by Palestinians.
Of the many “David versus Goliath” images that are portrayed in the media to dramatize the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the most common may be that of the helpless Palestinian throwing rocks at heavily armed Israeli soldiers. These images are powerful but also frequently misleading, failing to distinguish between the aggressor and the victim.
While the media is often drawn to rock-throwing riots against IDF troops (often staged by Palestinian instigators), many of these incidents occur beyond the glare of media lights and are directed not at soldiers, but Jewish men, women and children, often innocently driving along a roadway.
The “David vs. Goliath” imagery is typically used to illustrate an underdog battling against a much greater power, yet those applying this analogy to the Palestinians ignore the fact that David’s rock actually killed Goliath and marked the beginning of the end to the rule of the Philistines in Biblical Israel. Over the years, Palestinian “Davids” have killed many Jews with their stones - but none of them were “Goliaths.”
The media typically ignores these near-daily terror attacks against Jews, or significantly downplays their lethality. A March 2013 cover article in the New York Times’ Sunday Magazine, for example, called Palestinian rock throwers “unarmed” resisters.315 Christian Science Monitor referred to the tactic as "peaceful palestinian resistance" while the Los Angeles Times labelled rock throwers as “Palestinians who see nonviolence as their weapon.”316
The incidents of March 14, 2013, however dispel the false notion that rock-throwing is nonviolent or harmless. That day, a woman was driving with her three young daughters past the city of Ariel when a group of Palestinians threw rocks at a truck coming in the other direction. The truck swerved and collided with the family’s car, injuring the mother and the two older daughters. The youngest, a three-year-old child, was critically injured, and doctors are still trying to save her life.317 Later that same night, on the same highway, a 10-month-old baby was injured when rocks thrown at his parents’ car shattered the windshield. 318
These are but two examples, but many more can be cited in which Palestinian rock throwers have murdered, or attempted to murder, innocent Jews. For example:
November 2013: Two-year old toddler Avigail Ben Tzion was seriously wounded when her parents car was attacked by Palestinians throwing rocks at the road outside of Jerusalem. The toddler was released from the hospital a week after the incident but will require extensive followup with a neurosurgery clinic.318b
October 2013: Eight Israelis and a Palestinian child were injured when Palestinian youths hurled large rocks and cement blocks at vehicles traveling near al-Fawar, south of Hebron.318a
November 2012: Ziona Kalla, wife of Israeli singer Itzik Kalla, sustained serious injuries as a result of stones hurled at her car by Palestinians near Beitar Illit.
September 2011: Asher Palmer and his 1-year-old son were killed in a stone-throwing attack near Kiryat Arba. Two Palestinians from the nearby village of Halhul admitted to instigating the attack. Waal al-Araja – a member of the Palestinian security forces -- was convicted of murder in the case in March 2013.319
June 2001: Five-month-old Yehuda Haim Shoham’s family was returning from visiting relatives in Ra'anana when a Palestinian threw a rock at the front windshield that hit and killed baby Yehuda in the back seat.320
May 2001: Koby Mandell (13) and Yosef Ishran (14) were beaten to death with rocks when they were hiking on the outskirts of Tekoa. Their bodies were found in a cave, covered with stones. The perpetrators have still not been found.321
October 2000: Bachor Jean (54) was killed by rocks thrown at his vehicle while he was travelling from Haifa to Rishon Lezion. The rocks shattered the windshield and struck his chest. His brother, who was driving the car, sped to the hospital but was too late. The perpetrators were found to be from the nearby Arab village Jisar a-Zarka.322
January 1983: Esther Ohana (21) was killed by a rock thrown at her car that hit her in the head while driving near the Palestinian village Dahariya.
In 2013 alone, the IDF has already recorded 1,195 rock throwing incidents in the West Bank.323 No one should be fooled into believing stone-throwing is harmless or a form of non-violent protest; rocks are weapons used by Palestinians to injure and kill Israeli Jews.
Now is a good time to revive the Arab peace initiative.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has made no secret of his desire to jumpstart the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Press reports have suggested that to do so he may attempt to convince the parties in the region to reconsider the so-called Arab peace initiative.
However, with all of the necessary parties focused on regional turmoil and threats - from the instability in Egypt to the civil war in Syria to the Iranian nuclear program - this does not seem to be a propitious time to push Israel to make dangerous concessions to neighbors who show no new interest in peace. In fact, rather than expanding peace, the greater fear at the moment is that the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty might unravel.
Beyond the current atmosphere, the substance of the Arab peace proposal is problematic.
When the plan was originally announced in 2002, Israel said it was prepared to negotiate with the Arab states but that many of their demands were simply unacceptable.
It is worth remembering that Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah presented a vision of peace at a time when the Saudis were under scrutiny for their involvement in the 9/11 attacks and were desperate to project themselves globally as peacemakers not supporters of terror. Abdullah’s plan was subsequently revised and adopted by the Arab League as a peace initiative that offered Israel "normal relations" in exchange for a withdrawal to the pre-1967 “Green Line” and a resolution of the Palestinian refugee issue.
The "new" initiative was actually a restatement of the Arab interpretation of UN Resolution 242, namely that Israel must withdraw from “all” territories captured during the Six Day War of1967. The resolution, however, only calls on Israel to withdraw from territories, not "all" the territories, in exchange for peace.
Additionally, Resolution 242 states that every nations has the right to live within "secure and recognizable boundaries," which military analysts have understood to mean the pre-1967 armistice lines, with modifications, to guarantee Israel' security. Incidentally, the resolution does not put precedence for one or the other, rather holds them as equal principles. Israel, therefore, is under no legal obligation to withdraw before the Arabs agree to live in peace.
The Arab plan calls for Israel to withdraw specifically from the Golan Heights. In the past, Israel expressed a willingness to do so, but now that rockets are being fired across the border and the Syrian army has lost control of the surrounding area, no Israeli government would contemplate withdrawing from the strategic high ground.
The plan’s demand that Israel withdraw from "the remaining occupied Lebanese territories in the south of Lebanon" is not only ingenuous, but at odds with the UN conclusion that Israel has completely fulfilled its obligation to withdraw from Lebanese territory.
The Arab initiative also calls for a just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem based on UN General Assembly Resolution 194, a resolution the Arab states all voted against. The Arabs interpret the resolution as requiring Israel to allow all of the nearly five million Palestinians who claim refugee status to move to Israel. In fact, the UN recognized that Israel could not be expected to repatriate a hostile population that might endanger its security. The solution to the problem, like all previous refugee problems, would require at least some Palestinians to be resettled in Arab lands.
Israel has agreed to allow some Palestinian refugees to move to Israel on a humanitarian basis and as part of family reunification. Thousands have already been admitted this way.
The refugee issue was not part of Abdullah's original proposal and was added later under pressure from other Arab delegations. Also, it is important to note that Resolution 242 says nothing about the Palestinians and the reference to refugees can also be applied to the Jews who fled and were driven from their homes in Arab countries.
Another change from Abdullah's previously stated vision was a retreat from a promise of full normalization of relations with Israel to an even vaguer pledge of "normal relations."
The Arab demand that Israel accept the establishment of a Palestinian State in the West Bank and Gaza with East Jerusalem as its capital has been part of the negotiations since Oslo. Israel's leaders have accepted the idea of creating a Palestinian state in part of those territories and offered to evacuate as much as 97 percent of the West Bank in exchange for peace; however, the Palestinians have rejected all of Israel’s compromises.
It is also worth noting that most of the Arab League nations have no reason not to be at peace with Israel now. Israel holds none of their territory and is more than willing to make peace with the members of the League.
If the Arab proponents of the plan were sincere, the response should be that they are prepared to sit down with Israel’s leaders and discuss how to overcome the disagreements. But this has not been the Arab response. Rather than accept an Israeli invitation to come to Jerusalem to negotiate or exploit the willingness of Israel’s leaders to go to an Arab capital for talks, the Arabs have told Israel it must accept the plan or face the threat of war.
Peace plans are not worth the paper they are printed on if the proponents continue to talk about war and pursue policies such as supporting terrorists, arming radical Muslims, inciting their populations with anti-Semitic propaganda and enforcing boycotts that promote conflict.
Progress toward real peace requires the Arab states to show by words and deeds that they are committed to finding a formula for coexisting with Israel. The only ultimatum should be that if the first efforts to reach an understanding do not succeed, they will try and try again.
The Palestinian Authority is committed to reforming Palestinian society.
At the end of March 2013, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas signed the PA’s 2013 fiscal year budget, which totals $3.9 billion in spending. Despite persistent complaints of insufficient funds to meet the PA’s obligations, economic stagnation, the failure of Arab donors to make good on their aid pledges, and a recurring debt of more than $1 billion, Abbas increased the budget by nearly $400 million over 2012.324
Beyond the increase in expenditures and the over-reliance on foreign aid to cover spending, the 2013 budget also reveals the priorities of the Palestinian government. A whopping 28 percent is allocated for defense, more than the sums budgeted for education (16 percent) and medical services (10 percent) combined.325 By comparison, Israel allocates 19% of its budget on defense, Britain 5.8%, Germany 3.6%, Jordan 14.8%, Egypt 6.3%, Iran 7.9% and Turkey 3.7%.326
The PA lacks a formal army, does not maintain an official state of war with any country- including Israel, and faces no military threats except from internal political rivals.327 So where does the PA plan to spend nearly one-third of its budget? Much of the money will go to buy the loyalty of 65,000 “defense workers”– 41 percent of all the PA’s civil servants – despite the fact that more than half of these workers live in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip and pay no taxes to the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority.328
How does this budget reflect an interest in peace with Israel? The PA might justify some of the cost if it was allocated for preventing terror and incitement, but, instead, 4 percent of the budget actually goes to pay “salaries” of convicted terrorists who are currently incarcerated in Israeli jails. Payments to these convicts range from roughly $1,100 to $3,300 depending on the length of their sentence.329
Meanwhile, it is Israel that carries most of the burden of preventing Palestinian terror.
Curiously, though Abbas is a vocal advocate toward the plight of Palestinian refugees, no money was allocated in the budget to build permanent housing for the nearly 800,000 Palestinians living in 19 refugee camps under the PA’s control in the West Bank.330 Even after being responsible for the welfare of these people for almost 40 years, Palestinian leaders still prefer to use them as pawns to exemplify victimization and to be encouraged by their environment to become terrorists.
Perhaps more outrageous than the PA budget is the fact that it is almost completely dependent on foreign aid from Western donors whose values the Palestinians’ reject. U.S. taxpayers have contributed more than $4 billion to subsidize people who are engaged in terror and have killed Americans; who do not believe in freedom of speech, religion, the press or assembly, and routinely abuse the rights of women and gays. Is there any other government in the world that so clearly rejects our values and interferes with our interests that receives this level of financial aid? If you answered, Egypt, you correctly identified the only other example.
How much longer will Western nations be expected to financially and politically support a Palestinian leader who drafts a budget based on money he doesn’t have, and devotes nearly a third of its resources to defense rather than meeting the social needs of his people? How much longer will Western nations prop up a leader who refuses to negotiate with Israel and has only dragged the Palestinians further down the road to perpetual conflict?
Syria’s chemical weapons pose no threat outside of Syria.
While the world rightly focuses on the dangers posed by Iran’s nuclear program, the threat from other radical countries that possess weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) – namely, chemical and biological weapons – has largely been ignored.
Aside from those who monitor the proliferation and storage of these weapons, most people are likely unaware that a number of Middle East countries possess these deadly agents. Saddam Hussein was the only Middle Eastern leader known to have used chemical weapons - against his own people – until April 2013, when intelligence reports confirmed that Bashar Assad’s Syrian regime used sarin gas against rebel forces.331 This nerve agent, which interferes with the functioning of glands and muscles in the body, is potentially lethal.
Syria has one of the largest chemical weapons caches in the region. These agents include sarin, tabun, VX and mustard gas.332 Beyond the humanitarian concern for protecting innocent Syrians from contamination, international fears are growing that these weapons are not well guarded and could be acquired and used by rebel forces. Especially worrisome is the possibility that radical Muslim elements, such as rebels associated with al-Qaida, could get their hands on these WMD’s and use them against regime forces or as weapons of terror against Israel or other enemies.
Assuming that most, if not all, of these weapons remain in the country, the next leader of Syria will assume control over them. Until the current civil war, the Assad regime built up its stockpiles but never used them; however, there is no assurance a future leader will resist the temptation to use WMDs against foreign or domestic enemies.
Another fear is that Assad or his Iranian allies may try to transfer WMD’s to Hezbollah, or that Hezbollah fighters inside Syria could steal them. Israel has said this would be a threat to its security and that it would act to prevent Hezbollah from acquiring WMDs.333
Western countries and Syria’s Arab neighbors are also concerned about the security of Syria’s non-conventional weapons and their use against innocent people. In August 2012, U.S. President Barack Obama said the use or movement of chemical weapons would be “a redline for us and that there would be enormous consequences….That would change my calculations significantly.”334 He reiterated in April 2013 that Syria’s use of chemical weapons would be “a game changer” because it meant more attacks could be launched against civilians and the probability that the weapons could fall into the wrong hands would increase.335
Now that British, French, Qatari, American and Israeli intelligence agencies have confirmed the use of chemical weapons in Syria, the world is waiting to see whether President Obama will act on his ultimatum. If Obama fails to act after setting the red line, it will send a message to Iran and other enemies of the United States that American threats need not be taken seriously.336
Israel has refused to discuss a compromise on the future of Jerusalem.
Jerusalem was never the capital of any Arab entity. Palestinians have no special claim to the city; they simply demand it as their capital. Nevertheless, Israel has recognized that the city has a large Palestinian population, that the city is important to Muslims, and that making concessions on the sovereignty of the city might help minimize the conflict with the Palestinians. The Palestinians, however, have shown no reciprocal appreciation for the Jewish majority in the city, the significance of Jerusalem to the Jewish people or the fact that it is already the nation’s capital.
The Israeli-Palestinian Declaration of Principles (DoP) signed in 1993 left open the status of Jerusalem. Article V said only that Jerusalem is one of the issues to be discussed in the permanent status negotiations.
“Anyone who relinquishes a single inch of Jerusalem is neither an Arab nor a Muslim.”
Most Israelis oppose dividing Jerusalem; still, efforts have been made to find some compromise that could satisfy Palestinian interests. For example, while the Labor Party was in power, Knesset Member Yossi Beilin reportedly reached a tentative agreement that would allow the Palestinians to claim the city as their capital without Israel sacrificing sovereignty over its capital. Beilin’s idea was to allow the Palestinians to set up their capital in a West Bank suburb of Jerusalem — Abu Dis. The PA subsequently constructed a building for its parliament in the city.
Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered dramatic concessions that would have allowed the Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem to become the capital of a Palestinian state, and left the Palestinians in control over the Muslim holy places on the Temple Mount. These ideas were discussed at the White House Summit in December 2000, but rejected by Yasser Arafat.
In 2008, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert offered a peace plan that included the partitioning of Jerusalem on a demographic basis. Abbas rejected the offer.
From 2009 until the present (May 2013), Abbas has refused to negotiate despite four years of cajoling by President Obama. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly offered to immediately resume talks without preconditions to no avail. Even after Israel placed a ten-month moratorium on settlement construction in the West Bank, Abbas refused to sit with the Israeli leaders.
Rather than advance the peace process, the Palestinians have obstructed it at every turn, and sought to circumvent direct talks by seeking international support for their positions. Abbas's chief negotiator Saeb Erekat called on the Arab countries to suspend the Arab peace initiative and called on the international community to isolate Israel. Abbas, meanwhile, said he hoped the Obama Administration would force Netanyahu out of office and declared his willingness to wait years until that happened.338 After realizing that Obama would not force Israel to capitulate to their demands, however, Abbas has looked to the UN to impose them.
Not only has Abbas refused to consider any compromise on Jerusalem. Meanwhile, he has repeatedly tried to reconcile with the Hamas terrorists controlling Gaza. Hamas has made clear it will not negotiate or compromise with Israel and that Jerusalem, like the rest of “Palestine” is Islamic land that must be under Muslim control. "Palestine - all of Palestine - is from the sea to the river. We won't relinquish one inch of the land of Palestine. The involvement of Hamas at any stage with the interim objective of liberation of [only] Gaza, the West Bank, or Jerusalem, does not replace its strategic view concerning Palestine and the land of Palestine."339
In 2013, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry tried to revive interest in the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative. Hopes were raised when Arab officials suggested they would be prepared to accept border modifications, reversing their insistence that Israel withdraw to the 1949 armistice line. On Jerusalem, however, the plan remains unacceptable to Israel.
The Arab Peace Initiative states that the Arab states and Israel will “accept the establishment of an independent and sovereign Palestinian state on the Palestinian territories occupied since 4 June 1967 in the West Bank and Gaza Strip with East Jerusalem as its capital” and the Arab states will consider the Arab-Israeli conflict over, sign a peace agreement with Israel and normalize ties with Israel.340
'Nakba Day' has nothing to do with the peace process.
On May 15, 2013, Palestinians across the Middle East commemorated the 65th anniversary of “al-Nakba,” marking “the catastrophe” of Israel’s creation in 1948. Palestinians are understandably bitter about their national history over the last six and a half decades, but if the Palestinians and the Arab states had accepted the United Nations partition resolution in 1947, the State of Palestine would instead have celebrated its 65th birthday alongside Israel.
We are often told that Palestinian intransigence in the peace process is because they object to the “occupation” of territories - namely the West Bank and East Jerusalem - which Israel captured in the Six Day War of 1967. But if this is true, then why is "Nakba Day" celebrated on the date that Israel gained independence in 1948 rather than in June on the anniversary of the Arab defeat in the Six Day War?
The simple answer is that the Palestinians consider the creation of Israel the original sin, and their focus on that event is indicative of a refusal - even today - to reconcile themselves with the Jewish State. While Palestinian rivals Fatah and Hamas have many other political disagreements, they equally value the importance of publizing "Nakba Day." As such, it should come as no surprise that Israelis find it difficult to be optimistic about the prospect of negotiating a two-state solution with a united Fatah-Hamas government that believes their country has no right to exist.
“Palestine means Palestine in its entirety - from the [Mediterranean] Sea to the [Jordan] River, from Ras Al-Naqura to Rafah. We cannot give up a single inch of it. Therefore, we will not recognize the Israeli enemy’s [right] to a single inch.”
Hamas Leader Mahmoud Zahar 341
“The root of this conflict never was a Palestinian state, or lack thereof. The root of the conflict is, and always has been, [Palestinian] refusal to recognize the Jewish state. It is not a conflict over 1967, but over 1948, over the very existence of the State of Israel. [Nakba Day] events did not occur on June 5, the anniversary of the Six Day War. They occurred on May 15, the day the State of Israel was established. The Palestinians regard this day, the foundation of the State of Israel, [as] their nakba, their catastrophe.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu 342
An Israeli attack on Iran would endanger U.S. interests in the Middle East.
Israel is doing everything possible to avoid the necessity of launching a self-defense operation to stop Iran’s nuclear program; nevertheless, it is conceivable that military action may be required if sanctions and negotiations continue to fail. Some, like former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, have warned that an attack on Iran will “haunt us for generations” in the Middle East.343 The truth is that U.S. interests are already threatened in the region, and will become more tenuous if Iran acquires a nuclear weapon.
This is not the first time that U.S. officials have feared dire consequences as a result of Israeli strikes against Arab threats. However, in the two prior examples of Israel attacking Arab nuclear sites – Iraq in 1981 and Syria in 2007 – the threats were eliminated without any harm to American interests. In fact, in the former case, Israel ensured the United States would not face the possibility of an Iraqi nuclear response during the 1991 Gulf War.
Some analysts have warned that Iran will attack U.S. targets if Israel acts against Iran. This would be counterproductive since no one expects an Israeli military strike to be as effective as an American one. If Iran were to retaliate against the United States for any Israeli operation it would only provoke American forces to respond to protect our interests and exponentially increase the punishment inflicted on Iran.
Some analysts have warned that Iran will attack U.S. targets if Israel acts against Iran. This would be counterproductive since no one expects an Israeli military strike to be as effective as an American one. If Iran were to retaliate against the United States for any Israeli operation it would only provoke American forces to respond to protect our interests and exponentially increase the punishment inflicted on Iran.
This is not to say that American interests in the Middle East are not in danger, but the threats are unrelated to any action against Iran. Radical Islamists already threaten U.S. interests in the region and will continue to do so regardless of how the Iranian nuclear issue is resolved because they are determined to drive America out of the Middle East and to restore the Muslim empire.
The United States helped Israel defeat the Arabs in six days in June 1967.
Maps of Battle for Sinai (l) & Battle for Jerusalem (r) - Click to Enlarge
The United States tried to prevent the war through negotiations, but it could not persuade Nasser or the other Arab states to cease their belligerent statements and actions. Still, right before the war, President Johnson warned: “Israel will not be alone unless it decides to go alone.” 344 Then, when the war began, the State Department announced: “Our position is neutral in thought, word and deed.” 345
Moreover, while the Arabs were falsely accusing the United States of airlifting supplies to Israel, Johnson imposed an arms embargo on the region (France, Israel’s other main arms supplier, also embargoed arms to Israel).
By contrast, the Soviets were supplying massive amounts of arms to the Arabs. Simultaneously, the armies of Kuwait, Algeria, Saudi Arabia and Iraq were contributing troops and arms to the Egyptian, Syrian and Jordanian fronts.346
The election of Hassan Rouhani eliminates the Iranian nuclear threat.
The Iranian regime has apparently succeeded in bamboozling the Western media by portraying newly elected Iranian President, Hassan Rouhani, as a moderate who could end the Islamic Republic’s showdown with the international community over its nuclear program. The Guardian, CNN, Reuters and Yahoo News all headlined stories about “Rouhani the Moderate” while The Washington Post went even further with the headline, “Rouhani seen as best hope for ending nuclear standoff with West.”347
The election of Rouhani, however, changes nothing in Iran’s strategic vision for its nuclear program and may even be a tactical victory for the Ayatollahs. As Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator in the early 2000s, Rouhani never agreed to any real compromise with the West and later admitted that the temporary suspension of certain elements of the program in 2003 was a ploy to enable Iran to build up its nuclear infrastructure. In 2004 he spoke of using a “calculated strategy” in negotiations with the EU3 – France, UK, and Germany – to buy time, and then finding “the most suitable time to do away with the suspension.”348 In his first press conference as president-elect, he firmly announced that “the era of suspension is gone.”349
Moderation is a relative term. Compared to the genocidal anti-Semite he will succeed, Rouhani may seem reasonable, but he has always been a staunch supporter of the Islamic Revolution and Ayatollah Khomeini. He became a close political ally of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei and served as his personal assistant to the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC). Rouhani also served as national security advisor to past presidents Khatami and Rafsanjani who oversaw the advancement of Iran’s nuclear program.350
Rouhani’s comparative restraint, however, is irrelevant to the nuclear question since Khamenei and the Revolutionary Guard control Iran’s nuclear policy.351 Rouhani has no mandate to modify Iran’s position toward its right to enrich uranium and has given no indication that he has any desire to do so anyways. Following his electoral victory, Rouhani pledged to continue to safeguard Iran’s “inalienable rights” to nuclear power.352
Rouhani’s election gives comfort to Iran’s apologists who now argue he should be given an opportunity to play his hand in negotiations. Some even argue that sanctions should be lifted and harsher measures delayed. That, however, would be an irreversible mistake that would give Iran more time to continue to advance toward the breakout point where it cannot be prevented from building a nuclear bomb. Already, Iran is closing in on this red line – in mid-June, International Atomic Energy Agency Chief Yukiya Amano reported that Iran has made a “steady increase in capacity and production” of its nuclear program despite punitive measures taken by the West.353
If Rouhani is willing and able to shift Iran’s policy to comply with United Nations resolutions, then he should act accordingly; otherwise, he is just Ahmadinejad in a more palatable package.
The United States must be involved in any successful peace process between Israel and her neighbors.
Less than 24 hours after President Obama’s
second inauguration, the first op-ed appeared suggesting he prioritize
pushing Israel into a peace
agreement with the Palestinians. This notion has become a familiar
refrain from people frustrated with the reality that the Palestinians
are divided and have demonstrated no interest in negotiating with Israel since Obama first took office.
Now, Secretary John Kerry is about to embark on his fifth trip to the Middle East in the last half-year with Israel's leaders continuing to say they are prepared to negotiate without preconditions. Meanwhile, the Palestinians persist in demanding that Israel make concessions (a settlement freeze and the release of convicted criminals) and agree to unacceptable terms (e.g., recognition of the 1967 border as the basis for negotiations) before they will sit with any Israeli officials. Given the intransigence of Mahmoud Abbas, and the outright hostility of Hamas, few people expect talks to occur or to achieve any breakthrough on the core issues that have bedeviled negotiators since 1993. Moreover, history shows American initiatives have not only been failures but sometimes make the situation worse by creating unreal expectations.354
While the United
States can play a valuable role as a mediator, the parties themselves must resolve
The list of failed American initiatives to broker
peace between Israel and her
principles for peace
. “The first and greatest principle,”
he said, “is that every nation in the area has a fundamental
right to live and to have this right respected by its neighbors.”
The Arab response
came a few weeks later: “no peace with Israel, no recognition
of Israel, no negotiations with it ... ”
: President Nixon’s Secretary of
State, William Rogers, offered a plan
that sought to “"balance"” U.S. policy,
but leaned on the Israelis to withdraw to the pre-1967
; to accept many Palestinian
; and to allow Jordan
a role in Jerusalem
Israel deemed the plan completely unacceptable, and even though
Rogers’ plan tilted toward the Arab position, they too rejected
: President Ford’s Secretary of
State, Henry Kissinger
had a little more success in his shuttle diplomacy, arranging
the disengagement of
after the 1973
, but he never put forward a peace plan, and failed to
move the parties beyond the cessation of hostilities to the formalization
: Jimmy Carter was the model for presidential
engagement in the conflict. He wanted an international conference
at Geneva to produce a comprehensive peace. While Carter spun
his wheels trying to organize a conference, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat
to bypass the Americans and go directly to the Israeli people
. Despite revisionist
history by Carter’s former advisers, the Israeli-Egyptian
was negotiated largely despite
Carter. Menachem Begin
on secret contacts long before Camp
and had reached the basis for an agreement before Carter’s
intervention. Carter’s mediation helped seal the treaty,
but Sadat’s decision to go to Jerusalem
was stimulated largely by his conviction that Carter’s policies
announced a surprise peace
that called for allowing the Palestinians self-rule
in the territories in association with Jordan. The plan rejected
both Israeli annexation and the creation of a Palestinian state.
Israel denounced the plan as endangering Israeli security. The
plan had been formulated largely to pacify the Arab states, which
had been angered by the expulsion of the PLO
, but they
also rejected the Reagan
: George Bush's Administration succeeded
in convening a historic regional conference
in 1991, but it ended without any agreements and
the multilateral tracks that were supposed to settle some of the
more contentious issues rarely met and failed to resolve anything.
Moreover, Bush’s perceived hostility toward Israel eroded
trust and made it difficult to convince Israelis to take risks
barely had time to get his vision of peace together
when he discovered the Israelis had secretly negotiated an agreement
with the Palestinians in Oslo
The United States had nothing to do with the breakthrough at Oslo
and very little influence on the immediate aftermath. In fact,
the peace process became increasingly muddled as the United States
got more involved.
also required no real American involvement. The
Israelis and Jordanians already were agreed on the main terms
of peace, and the main obstacle had been King
unwillingness to sign a treaty before Israel
had reached an agreement with the Palestinians. After Oslo, he
felt safe to move forward and no American plan was needed.
: In a last ditch effort to save his presidential
put forward a peace
to establish a Palestinian state. Again, it was Prime
Minister Ehud Barak’s
willingness to offer dramatic concessions that raised the prospects
for an agreement rather than the president’s initiative.
Even after Clinton was prepared to give the Palestinians a state
in virtually all the West
to make east Jerusalem
their capital, the Palestinians rejected the deal.
George W. Bush
also offered a plan
but it was undercut by Yasser
, who obstructed the required reforms of the Palestinian
, and refused to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure
and stop the violence. Bush’s plan morphed into the Road
, which drew the support of Great Britain, France, Russia,
and the United Nations, but was never implemented because of continuing
Palestinian violence. The peace process only began to move again
when Prime Minister Ariel
made his disengagement
, a unilateral approach the State Department had long
opposed. Rather than try to capitalize on the momentum created
by Israel’s evacuation of the Gaza Strip
, however, the Bush
Administration remained wedded to the Road Map.
: In his own last-ditch effort to bring
momentum to a stalled process toward peace, George W. Bush
the Annapolis Conference
in Washington, D.C.
While the conference did mark the first time
the two-state solution was agreed upon as a framework for eventually
ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, this abstract commitment
from both Israeli and Arab parties made no difference to the situation
or the West Bank
; and terrorist organization Hamas
been elected rulers of the all-Palestinian Gaza Strip
tried in his first term to bring about a peace agreement
and not only failed, but was counterproductive and undermined
hope for negotiations
during those four years. Rather than proposing
a peace plan, he began by focusing on a demand for a settlement
freeze in the West Bank
in 2009. This, combined
with other public comments and policies, caused the Israeli government
to doubt his commitment to Israeli security and created tension
in the U.S.-Israel relationship
. Simultaneously, because Israel
agreed only to a temporary 10-month freeze in the West Bank
leaders saw Obama
as too weak to force Israel to make concessions,
and refused to respond positively to the administration’s
requests that they take steps to show their willingness to make
peace with Israel if a Palestinian state were established. Meanwhile,
the Palestinians, who had negotiated for years without insisting
on a settlement freeze, refused to talk to the Israelis unless
a total settlement freeze was imposed. After two years, Obama
had succeeded in alienating all the parties and the Palestinians
refused all Israeli invitations to restart peace talks.
: On his fourth visit in six months to the region, Secretary of State John Kerry
tried to convene a four-party summit in Amman between Israeli, Palestinian, Jordanian, and American negotiators before Israeli-Palestinian direct talks
. Instead, the press conference to announce the summit was postponed and Kerry
ended that trip claiming progress but that more work was needed. Since he took office, Kerry
has been shuttling between that Palestinians and Israelis but no breakthrough has been achieved to date.
Secretary Kerry's determination is admirable, but that is insufficient to change the dynamics that have created a stalemate. Despite his best intentions, he will fail so long as the Palestinians refuse to recognize Israel as a Jewish state and accept that they will have to make compromises and agree to end the conflict. The Secretary would be wise to wait for conditions for negotiations to ripen and focus on the more urgent issues in the region: chaos in Egypt, civil war in Syria, the risk of civil war in Lebanon, and the Iranian nuclear threat.
Israel "occupies" the West Bank.
In politics words matter and, unfortunately, the misuse of words applying to the Arab-Israeli conflict has shaped perceptions to Israel’s disadvantage. As in the case of the term “West Bank,” the word “occupation” has been hijacked by those who wish to paint Israel in the harshest possible light. It also gives apologists a way to try to explain away terrorism as “resistance to occupation,” as if the women and children killed by suicide bombers in buses, pizzerias, and shopping malls were responsible for the plight of the Palestinians.
Given the negative connotation of an “occupier,” it is not surprising that Israel’s detractors use the word or some variation as many times as possible when interviewed by the press. The more accurate description of the territories in Judea and Samaria, however, is “disputed” territories.
Nonetheless, the European Union has fallen for the propaganda and accepted the fallacious terminology. In July 2013, the EU published new guidelines severely limiting interaction with Israeli entities beyond the pre-1967 lines. The new rules enforce the union’s “long-held position that bilateral agreements with Israel do not cover the territory that came under Israel’s administration in June 1967,” the statement announcing the guidelines read. This means that the EU has banned any funding of and cooperation with Israeli institutions that operate beyond the “Green Line.” 355
This directive is another example of Israel being singled out for special treatment.
In fact, most other disputed territories around the world are not referred to as being occupied by the party that controls them. This is true, for example, of the hotly contested regions of Kashmir, Cyprus, and Tibet. Yet rarely does the international community make a fuss over these territories.356
Occupation typically refers to foreign control of an area that was under the previous sovereignty of another state. In the case of the West Bank, there was no legitimate sovereign because the territory had been illegally occupied by Jordan from 1948 to 1967. Only two countries—Britain and Pakistan—recognized Jordan’s action. The Palestinians never demanded an end to Jordanian occupation and the creation of a Palestinian state.
“For a Texan, a first visit to Israel is an eye-opener. At the narrowest point, it’s only 8 miles from the Mediterranean to the old Armistice line: That’s less than from the top to the bottom of Dallas-Ft. Worth Airport. The whole of pre-1967 Israel is only about six times the size of the King Ranch near Corpus Christi."
President George W. Bush357
It is also necessary to distinguish the acquisition of territory in a war of conquest as opposed to a war of self-defense. A nation that attacks another and then retains the territory it conquers is an occupier. One that gains territory in the course of defending itself is not in the same category. This is the situation with Israel, which specifically told King Hussein that if Jordan stayed out of the 1967 war, Israel would not fight against him. Hussein ignored the warning and attacked Israel. While fending off the assault and driving out the invading Jordanian troops, Israel came to control the West Bank.
By rejecting Arab demands that Israel be required to withdraw from all the territories won in 1967, UN Security Council Resolution 242 acknowledged that Israel was entitled to claim at least part of these lands for new defensible borders.
Since Oslo, the case for tagging Israel as an occupying power has been further weakened by the fact that Israel transferred virtually all civilian authority in the West Bank to the Palestinian Authority. Israel retained the power to control its own external security and that of its citizens, but 98 percent of the Palestinian population in the West Bank and 100 percent in Gaza came under the PA’s authority. The extent to which Israel has been forced to maintain a military presence in the territories has been governed by the Palestinians’ unwillingness to end violence against Israel. The only way to end the dispute over the territories is for the Palestinians to negotiate a final settlement. Until now, the intransigence of the Palestinian Authority’s leadership has been the only serious roadblock to serious talks, the only route to an agreement that will lead to a sustainable future for Israelis and Palestinians alike.
The EU action is especially ill-timed because it undermines the current peace efforts of Secretary John Kerry by creating the impression that the international community will pressure Israel to make concessions without the Palestinians having to negotiate or compromise.
Palestinian leaders enter peace talks with Israel sharing a common desire for democracy.
Since the creation of the Palestinian Authority by the Oslo agreements, the PA has been run as a dictatorship, first by Yasser Arafat and, since his death in 2004, by Mahmoud Abbas. The PA held one election, in which Hamas emerged victorious, and all subsequently scheduled elections have been cancelled for fear Hamas would dominate the results and take complete control over the PA.
Of course, Hamas does not need the ballot box to exert control; in 2007 the terrorists staged a coup to take over the entire Gaza Strip and now exercises their radical Islamic despotic rule over all 1.8 million Palestinians in Gaza and enjoys the support of many of the 2.7 million living in the West Bank.358 This means that Abbas enters negotiations representing only 60 percent of the population.
Hamas makes no secret of its opposition to the resumption of peace talks or the negotiation of any peace agreement with Israel. “Hamas rejects Kerry's announcement of a return to talks and considers the Palestinian Authority's return to negotiations with the occupation to be at odds with the national consensus,” said Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri.359
Abbas does not even have the support of the full PLO, which he chairs. At least two factions oppose talks: “The PFLP [Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine] is against a return to negotiations,” said one of the party’s leaders, Khaleda Jarar. “It is an individual move,” she said, in allusion to Abbas. The Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) joined the PFLP in protest against the peace talks.360
The Arab Spring's deterioration into the Islamic Winter does not bode well for the future of "Palestine." Even today, the PA denies the Palestinian people basic rights, such as freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of association, and provides scant protection for women’s rights and opposes gay rights. According to the U.S. State Department: "The three most egregious human rights violations across the occupied territories were arbitrary arrest and associated torture and abuse ... restrictions on civil liberties; and the inability of residents of the Gaza Strip under Hamas to choose or hold to account their own government." The report also noted the ongoing problem of corruption in the PA and terrorist attacks by Hamas, which included launching deadly rockets and mortars against civilian targets in Israel.361
The conditions are likely to worsen as extremists push for the adoption of Sharia law and the recognition of any new entity as an Islamic state. If the record of other Islamic states in the region is any indication, it is likely a future Palestinian government would not only limit the rights of its people but impose severe restrictions on non-Muslims, assuming any are allowed or choose to remain in such a state.
Even before negotiations have started, Palestinian officials have made clear they plan to conduct a policy of ethnic cleansing of Jews reminiscent of Nazi Germany. Abbas said in December 2010, “If there is an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, we won’t agree to the presence of one Israeli in it."362 The PLO's ambassador to the United States, Maen Areikat, said on September 13, 2011, that a future Palestinian state should be free of Jews.363 These were not the first instances where Palestinian officials have suggested making “Palestine” judenrein and reflect an ugly undercurrent of anti-Semitism within the Palestinian Authority.
Lest anyone believe such remarks were anomalies, Abbas, the man often referred to as a "moderate," announced on the eve of the resumption of peace talks that “In a final resolution, we would not see the presence of a single Israeli - civilian or soldier - on our lands.”364
Such shocking racist and anti-Semitic views should provoke world condemnation, but the media ignores them, and peace activists are so desperate to reach some agreement that they make excuses for Abbas. This was the same mistake made following the Oslo Accords when Arafat was inexplicably portrayed as a man of peace even as he continued to foment incitement and terror.
The call for ethnic cleansing of Jews is especially outrageous given that more than 1 million Arabs, more than 20 percent of the population, live peacefully in Israel and enjoy the rights guaranteed by Israel’s democracy. In fact, Israeli Arabs are so afraid of what a Palestinian government would do to their freedom that they overwhelmingly tell pollsters they would prefer to stay in Israel to moving to “Palestine.” Many Palestinians in the West Bank have moved inside Israel’s security barrier in hopes of staying in Israel rather than becoming citizens under the corrupt and despotic Abbas regime.
Why doesn’t Secretary Kerry ask Abbas why Jews should be expelled from their homes? The same question could be asked of most Arab countries, but is particularly relevant in this case because the area likely to become Palestine incorporates territory that has been the home of Jews for centuries.
Imagine the uproar if any Israeli official suggested that no Arabs or Muslims should be allowed to live in Israel.
It is even more ironic that Abbas wants to expel all Jews from their homeland while simultaneously demanding that Palestinians should be allowed to move to Israel.
Israel must make concessions for the peace process to succeed.
The Palestinians, and their supporters worldwide, continue to operate under the impression that Israel must make “goodwill” gestures - such as prisoner releases, settlement freezes and checkpoint dismantlement – to get the peace process back on track. While Israel is routinely pressured by the United States and others to make such gestures, the Palestinians are not expected to make any corresponding goodwill gestures.
What seems to be forgotten, however, is that compromises and concessions are supposed to be the subject of peace talks, not a price Israel should be expected to pay just to bring the Palestinians to the negotiating table. If the Palestinians are truly committed to peace, as they claim, then they should be anxious to sit down and discuss all the outstanding issues without preconditions.
Nevertheless, Israel has made countless concessions in the past both to entice the Palestinians to start talks and during negotiations themselves. In late July 2013, the Israeli cabinet voted to release 103 Palestinian prisoners over the course of nine months to fulfill a precondition set by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas before he would return to the negotiating table.365
The idea of releasing convicted prisoners is odious to Israelis and it is important to understand the magnitude of such a move. Not only does a prisoner release increase Israel’s immediate security concerns – recidivism to terror amongst released Palestinian prisoners is more than 60% - but it also takes a heavy emotional toll on the Israeli populace, which suffered at the hands of these terrorists and must now watch passively as they are set free.366
The prisoners slated for release are not political dissidents; they are hardened killers. All 26 set to be released in mid-August were convicted of murder or accessory to murder.367 To give just a few examples of the heinous crimes committed by prisoners to be freed: Abu-Musa Salam Ali Atia (of Abbas’ own Fatah party) murdered Holocaust survivor Isaac Rotenberg in 1994; Salah Ibrahim Ahmad Mugdad (also of Fatah) bludgeoned to death 72-year-old Israel Tenenbaum in 1993; also in 1993, Sha’at Azat Shaban Ata orchestrated the stabbing of 51-year-old Simcha Levi, a woman who made her living by transporting Palestinians day laborers to work; and, Maslah Abdullah Salama Salma (Hamas) murdered store owner Reuven David in 1991 by beating him death after tying up his arms and legs.368
Israel should not be expected to satisfy Palestinian demands before negotiations begin. Peace takes two willing parties, and by their latest painful sacrifice, Israel’s leaders have proven once again they will take risks for peace. Now the ball is in the Palestinians’ court. Will they finally seize the opportunity and make the necessary compromises to achieve independence and live in peace beside Israel, or will they demonstrate again, in the words of Israeli diplomat Abba Eban, their penchant “to never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.”
Christians are a protected minority in the Middle East.
“First the Saturday people, then the Sunday people” has been an adage in the Muslim world envisioning the extermination of the Jews followed by the Christians.369 As violence sweeps through the Middle East, transforming the Arab Spring into an Islamic Winter, the order has been reversed (few Jews live in the Arab World anymore) and Muslim anger and bigotry is now directed at the small Christian communities across the region - notably in Egypt, Lebanon, the Palestinian Authority and Syria. These ancient communities are facing existential threats to their survival that if left unchecked could drive away the remnants of Christianity in the Middle East. The only thriving Christian community in the region is in Israel, where the Christian community is protected, respected and growing.
The inferior status – dhimmitude - of Christians in lands under Islamic rule has been reinforced for centuries by systematic discrimination; however, even their status as “People of the Book,” has not protected them from the outburst of Islamist violence across the region.
In Egypt, where Coptic Christians are the largest minority group and account for approximately 10 percent of the population, they have been the target of frenzied assaults by Muslim Brotherhood loyalists since the military ouster of President Mohamed Morsi in July 2013.370 The Maspero Youth Union (MYU), a Coptic rights group, estimated that more than five dozen churches have been looted, vandalized or completely destroyed across at least nine Egyptian governorates and a number of Copts have been killed.371
In Syria, where Christians also account for roughly 10 percent of the population, the bloody civil war pitting the regime of Bashar Assad against a host of Islamist and non-Islamist rebels has left the Christian community caught in the middle.372 In Homs, Latakia and other areas, both rebel and government forces have killed Christians and burned churches.373 Vladimir Bulygin, head of the Constitutional Legislation Committee of Russia’s Federation Council, noted in late August 2013 that “Syria’s Christians are in serious danger, as the world ignores crimes committed against them.”374
Unfortunately, the experience of Christian minorities in Egypt and Syria is not unique to those countries.
In Saudi Arabia, Christians are barred from becoming citizens and laws make it illegal to import, print or own Christian religious materials.375 In Lebanon, the only Muslim country in the Middle East where Christians once formed a majority of the population, the steady radicalization of the government and the growth of Iranian-sponsored Hezbollah Shiite terror have led to a large-scale exodus of Christians over the years.376 Christians have also been the target of Islamists in Gaza since the violent coup that brought Hamas to power in 2007. The small remnant of Christians in Gaza has tried to flee, but many have been unable to leave and now suffer regular persecution. In Iraq and the PLO-controlled West Bank, Arab Christians have also been targets of discrimination and sometimes violence that has prompted many to leave. Cities with rich Christian history, such as Bethlehem, are now under control of a Muslim majority and almost completely devoid of Christians.377
The only place in the Middle East where Christians faces no restrictions on the practice of their faith is Israel. Christians comprise a little more than two percent of Israel’s population, but the country assures them freedom of worship, grants them unfettered access to their holy sites and allows the Christian community to legislate their own religious affairs, such as marriage and divorce.378
Shockingly the world appears indifferent to Christian suffering in the Middle East. Groups such as the National Council of Churches, the World Council of Churches, Sabeel and the American Friends Service Committee are so obsessed with the behavior of Israeli Jews that they can’t muster even a modicum of indignation over the mistreatment of their brethren in Muslim countries. Arab-American organizations have no difficulty denouncing any alleged Israeli discrimination against Christians but are silent when Muslims persecute and kill them. Similarly, successive Popes have had a lot to say about the importance of Middle East peace but have been silent while Christians are abused and compelled to flee their homelands in the Arab world.
The Christian position in the Middle East is increasingly precarious; the old adage may yet come to fruition, and soon. In the words of Palestinian Christian journalist Samir Qumsiyeh, “If the situation continues, [Christians] won’t be here anymore in twenty years.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is disinterested in peace with the Palestinians.
With renewed attention on the restarting of Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, the international media continues to portray Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a hardliner who is unwilling to compromise with his Palestinian interlocutors. Since his election to lead Israel’s government in January 2013, however, Netanyahu has unwaveringly supported the two-state solution and repeatedly offered compromises and goodwill gestures to the Palestinians.
Though he had no obligation to do so, Netanyahu suspended settlement construction in East Jerusalem and outside the “consensus settlement blocs” in the West Bank just to get Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to talk peace.379 He also authorized the release of more than 100 Palestinian terrorists from Israeli jails – most of whom are convicted murderers – to fulfill another of the Palestinians’ preconditions.380 Following the resumption of talks in September 2013, Netanyahu agreed to grant an additional 5,000 permits, to the 35,000 previously approved, allowing Palestinian laborers to work inside Israel.381
Abbas, on the other hand, has yet to compromise on any substantive issue and refused to return to the bargaining table before winning concessions from Israel. It is this intransigence of Abbas – not Netanyahu – that has stalled peace negotiations. Abbas has refused every step that would help build confidence and has allowed violence to spread in the territories and incitement to linger within his own government.382 Rather than display any interest in peace with Israel or a willingness to cooperate with Secretary Kerry’s renewed initiative, Abbas has said he wants to take Israel to the International Criminal Court if it does not capitulate to his demands. The Palestinian President has also reiterated his blatantly anti-Semitic refusal to accept “the presence of a single Israeli” in a future Palestinian state.383
Following the beginning of negotiations in September, both sides agreed to keep talks secret to allow negotiators the greatest possible flexibility; however, the Palestinians quickly leaked to the press what they claimed were unreasonable Israeli offers.384 This demonstrated, yet again, a lack of Palestinian credibility and exacerbated the mistrust Israelis already feel as a result of decades of terror attacks, incitement and intransigence.
While Netanyahu has never wavered from his commitment to Israel’s security, his views on the permanence of Israeli control over the whole of Judea and Samaria have evolved over time. He now actively campaigns for a permanent resolution to the conflict that would result in the creation of a Palestinian state beside Israel. This is the position of a statesman and peacemaker, terms the media should be using to portray Israel’s prime minister.
Palestinians support the boycott and divestment movement against Israel.
In an effort to delegitimize, isolate and ultimately destroy Israel, organizations around the world have called on universities, governments, labor unions and co-ops to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel (termed the BDS movement). Supporters claim that international pressure through the BDS movement will help the Palestinian people achieve independence.385 However, BDS advocates do not support a Palestinian state coexisting beside Israel, do not help individual Palestinian businesses and do not represent the views of the Palestinian Authority or even most Palestinians living in the territories.
Palestinians do not boycott the Jewish State; in fact, they actively engage in trade with the Israeli government. The Palestinian Authority shares a variety of cooperative agreements with Israel in nearly 40 spheres of activity, from joint security measures to environmental protection and conservation. In 2008, Israel’s Histadrut labor union signed an agreement with the Palestine General Federation of Trade Unions to advance common goals and build fraternity. In August 2012, then-PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and Israeli Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz signed a series of bilateral trade agreements that took effect January 2013 and marked an important step in bolstering economic ties between Israel and the PA.386 Overall, Israeli-Palestinian trade (import/export of goods & services) totals nearly $4 billion annually.387
Palestinians also work with Israelis in business and industry. In September 2013, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed to increase the number of work permits - to 40,000 - for Palestinians in the territories who work for various companies inside Israel proper.388 What is especially ironic is that while the PA’s leaders constantly complain about Israeli settlements, at least 30,000 Palestinians work in those settlements, helped construct them or supplied some of the building materials.389 A survey conducted by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics found that Palestinians working for Israeli businesses are paid more than twice the salary that their peers receive from Palestinian employers.
Moreover, Palestinians invest in Israel. Statistical data from 2011 shows that private Palestinian investment in Israeli companies - notably hi-tech and industry - amounted to roughly $2.5 billion, more than double the Palestinian investment within the West Bank.390 For example, Hani Alami, a leader in the Palestinian telecommunications industry, bought 30 percent of the Israeli company Alvarion. Israeli Arab Hisham Adnan Raya, a construction magnate, was an angel investor in the Israeli web design company Webydo.391
Ironically, the founder of the BDS movement, Omar Barghouti, does not personally boycott Israel - he obtained a Master’s Degree and, since 2009, has been pursuing a Doctorate at Israel’s Tel Aviv University.392 He is just one of thousands of Palestinians who study at Israeli colleges and institutions.
While BDS advocates try to paint Israel as a demonic country practicing the type of discrimination associated with old South Africa, tens of thousands of Palestinians enjoy the benefits of working, studying and investing with Israelis. Which begs the question: If Palestinians don’t support BDS, who does the movement represent?
Iran Supreme Leader Khamenei issued a fatwa against producing nuclear weapons.
With its suspected nuclear weapons program under the close watch of the West and its economy struggling under the pressure of economic sanctions, the Islamic Republic of Iran continues to insist that it is uninterested and morally opposed to developing weapons of mass destruction. For nearly a decade, Iran has attempted to convince world leaders that the head of its government, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, issued an official religious edict, a fatwa, opposing the development of nuclear weapons and calling them a sin. “Khamenei has been consistently saying at least for the past seven or eight years,” according to Iranian journalist Muhammad Sahimi, “that the production of nuclear weapons is against Islamic teaching and therefore Iran will never pursue such a path.” 393
Even President Barack Obama, in his 2013 address to the United Nations General Assembly, repeated the canard. “The Supreme Leader has issued a fatwa against the development of nuclear weapons,” Obama said. In a press conference, Obama said a diplomatic solution can be achieved regarding Iran’s nuclear program because of this fatwa.394
The problem, however, is that Khamenei has never issued such an edict – nor has any other leading Iranian cleric. Suspicion grew when Iranian officials gave various dates for when it was supposed to have been issued - 2004, 2005 and 2012. Even Western organizations couldn’t agree on the date of Khamenei’s fatwa; for example, the Washington Institute said it was 2003 while Newsweek claimed it was 2004. 395
To clear up the confusion, the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) examined Khamenei’s fatwas dating back to 2004. MEMRI found no evidence that Khamenei had ever said Islam did not allow Iran to produce nuclear arms. 396 Michael Rubin, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, similarly noted: “Khamenei lists all of his fatwas on his webpage, but the nuclear fatwa isn’t among them.” 397
“There is no such fatwa. It is a lie from the Iranians, a deception, and it is tragic that President Obama has endorsed it,” MEMRI Founder and President Yigal Carmon said. 398
If Khameini did issue a religious edict on the subject, it has obviously been ignored and is irrelevant so long as Iran continues to violate UN resolutions, enriches uranium and, according to the IAEA, continues its steady progress toward building a nuclear weapon. 399
Iran is isolated because of the international sanctions regime.
International sanctions were imposed on Iran to isolate the regime and pressure Iran's leaders to give up their nuclear weapons program. Iran, however, was never completely isolated and now Western countries are even beginning to restore diplomatic ties with Tehran before any agreement is reached.
Perhaps the most dramatic example of the failure to isolate Iran occurred when Iran hosted the summit meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement in August 2012. Despite U.S. efforts to discourage attendance, representatives of 120 nations attended, including several heads of state. The U.N. Secretary-General also attended.400
In October 2013, after Iranian President Hassan Rouhani swooned world leaders with his speech at the United Nations General Assembly, several European nations began thawing their relations with Iran. British Foreign Minister William Hague announced that the United Kingdom and Iran would resume diplomatic ties at the nonresident charge d’affaires level, one step below ambassador, while Germany and the Netherlands both assigned new ambassadors to Iran.401 Additionally, French parliamentarians met with their Iranian counterparts to discuss opening a new chapter in bilateral relations, Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida scheduled a visit to Tehran to discuss issues of mutual benefit and Tajikistan okayed an official visit from President Rouhani.401a
The sanctions are meant to isolate Iran economically, but this too has largely failed as many countries have continued to trade with the Islamic Republic. In June 2013, the Obama Administration exempted a number of countries, including China, India, South Korea and Singapore, from fully complying with the terms of U.S. sanctions.402 China, for example, even went as far as to abuse the exemption and increase its imports of Iranian oil, showing an 18% increase over the previous year.403 Meanwhile, other nations, such as Turkey, Iraq and the United Arab Emirates, have strengthened their own bilateral trade ties with Iran during the 2013 summer months.404
Isolating Iran and forcing its leaders to dismantle the nuclear weapons program -- without a military confrontation – necessitates the enforcement and commitment to sanctions until Iran fully complies with UN resolutions.
Israel is responsible for expelling the Arabs of Palestine during the 1948 War of Independence.
One of the greatest canards associated with the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict is that all the Arabs living in Palestine were expelled by the Jews. A plethora of evidence, however, demonstrates that the Palestinian refugees were told to leave their homes by their own leaders. Contemporary press reports do not mention forcible expulsions, but they do frequently describe the Arabs as “fleeing” or “evacuating.” Moreover, in recent years, many Arab leaders - including PA President Mahmoud Abbas - have candidly admitted this truth.
According to historian Benny Morris, as early as December 1947, “Arab officers ordered the complete evacuation of specific villages in certain areas, lest their inhabitants ‘treacherously’ acquiesce in Israeli rule or hamper Arab military deployments ... There can be no exaggerating the importance of these early Arab-initiated evacuations in the demoralization, and eventual exodus, of the remaining rural and urban populations.” 405
In March 1948, the Arab National Committee in Jerusalem, following the instructions of the Arab Higher Committee, ordered women, children and the elderly in various parts of Jerusalem to leave their homes: “Any opposition to this order ... is an obstacle to the holy war ... and will hamper the operations of the fighters in these districts.” The Arab Higher Committee also ordered the evacuation of “several dozen villages, as well as the removal of dependents from dozens more” from April to July 1948.406
Time Magazine, in their May 1948 report on the battle for Haifa, noted: "The mass evacuation, prompted partly by fear, partly by orders of Arab leaders, left the Arab quarter of Haifa a ghost city.” 407
In August 1948, John Bagot Glubb, the commander of Jordan’s Arab Legion, said: “[Arab] villages were frequently abandoned even before they were threatened by the progress of war.”408
The Economist, a frequent outspoken critic of the Zionists, issued a similar report in October 1948: “Of the 62,000 Arabs who formerly lived in Haifa not more than 5,000 or 6,000 remained. Various factors influenced their decision to seek safety in flight. There is but little doubt that the most potent of the factors were the announcements made over the air by the Higher Arab Executive, urging the Arabs to quit.”
The Secretary of the Arab League Office in London, Edward Atiyah, would later write: “This wholesale exodus was due partly to the belief of the Arabs, encouraged by the boastings of an unrealistic Arabic press and the irresponsible utterances of some of the Arab leaders, that it could be only a matter of weeks before the Jews were defeated by the armies of the Arab States and the Palestinian Arabs enabled to re-enter and retake possession of their country.” 409
“The refugees were confident their absence would not last long, and that they would return within a week or two,” Monsignor George Hakim, a Greek Orthodox Catholic Bishop of Galilee told the Beirut newspaper, Sada al-Janub on August 16, 1948. “Their leaders had promised them that the Arab Armies would crush the ’Zionist gangs’ very quickly and that there was no need for panic or fear of a long exile.”
“The Arab States encouraged the Palestine Arabs to leave their homes temporarily in order to be out of the way of the Arab invasion armies,” wrote the Jordanian newspaper Filastin in February 1949.
These historical accounts are bolstered by more recent statements from Palestinian and Arab leaders confirming that the Jews' role in the Palestinian exodus of 1948 is exaggerated.
Dr. Walid al-Qamhawi, a former member of the Executive Committee of the PLO, noted in the 1970's that “it was collective fear, moral disintegration and chaos in every field that exiled the Arabs of Tiberias, Haifa and dozens of towns and villages.” 410
Haled al Azm, the Syrian Prime Minister in 1948, admitted the Arab role in persuading the refugees to leave in his memoirs written in 1973:
“Since 1948 we have been demanding the return of the refugees to their homes. But we ourselves are the ones who encouraged them to leave. Only a few months separated our call to them to leave and our appeal to the United Nations to resolve on their return.” 411
Similarly, Jordan’s King Hussein blamed Palestinian leaders for the refugee problem:
"The tragedy of the Palestinians was that most of their leaders had paralyzed them with false and unsubstantiated promises that they were not alone; that 80 million Arabs and 400 million Muslims would instantly and miraculously come to their rescue." 412
In December 2006, Palestinian journalist Mahmoud Al-Habbash wrote in the PA’s official newspaper Al-Hayat al-Jadida:
"The leaders and the elites promised us at the beginning of the 'catastrophe' in 1948, that the duration of the exile will not be long, and that it will not last more than a few days or months, and afterwards the refugees will return to their homes, which most of them did not leave only until they put their trust in those 'Arkuvian' promises made by the leaders and the political elites." 413 [Arkuvian is a reference to Arkuv, a figure from Arab tradition known for breaking promises and lying.]
PA President Mahmoud Abbas, explained what happened in his home town of Safed in an interview with PA-TV in January 2013:
"The [Arab] Liberation Army retreated from [Safed], causing the people to begin emigrating. In Safed, just like Hebron, people were afraid that the Jews would take revenge for the massacre in 1929 ... The people were overcome with fear, and it caused the people to leave the city in a disorderly way." 414
The truth, confirmed by historians, contemporaneous documents and accounts, and recent research and statements by Palestinians, is that the overwhelming majority of Arabs who became refugees fled their homes. They did so for a variety of reasons: their leaders told them to; their leaders and troops abandoned their towns; Arab propaganda spoke of massacres that frightened many Arabs; evacuations by Arabs demoralized many who stayed behind; and noncombatants wanted to get out of a war zone and find safety in neighboring countries.
It is also true that thousands of wealthy Palestinians left before the fighting began and that during the war Jewish forces did expel a small number of Palestinians who were usually in villages behind their lines making them a strategic threat.
As Morris notes, “In general, Haganah and IDF commanders were not forced to confront the moral dilemma posed by expulsion; most Arabs fled before and during the battle, before the Israeli troops reached their homes….” 415
The Palestinians have made concessions to advance the peace process; Israel has remained uncompromising.
With renewed attention on Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, the international media continues to portray Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a hardliner, unwilling to compromise with his Palestinian interlocutors. For example, The Independent beat on the overused canard that Netanyahu approving settlement projects impedes peace prospects while The Guardian wrote that Netanyahu’s negotiation tactics are “hardline” and “uncompromising.” 416
Palestinian officials, not surprisingly, have echoed these sentiments while continuing to stick to their policy of insisting that all their demands be met without any concessions on their part. In fact, the Palestinians refuse to even soften their bargaining position - a Palestinian official involved with the negotiations leaked that the PA insists on a full right-of-return, the release of all prisoners in Israeli jails, the ability to sign agreements without Israeli intervention, control over water and border crossings with Israel.417 As Maen Rashid Areikat, the PLO’s chief representative to the United States, said in early October 2013, “We cannot accept a compromise [on Jerusalem as capital] … it would undermine the creation of a Palestinian state.”418
Meanwhile, Netanyahu has repeated his commitment to a two-state solution, and made goodwill gestures to the Palestinians in hopes of achieving peace. In particular, after saying he would not do so, Netanyahu defied members of his own government and instituted a quiet freeze of settlement construction in the West Bank.379 Netanyahu has done even more to help individual Palestinians and their families - in September 2013, he agreed to grant 5,000 permits, in addition to the 35,000 previously approved, to allow Palestinian laborers to work inside Israel.381
In August 2013, Netanyahu authorized the first phase in a four-stage release of more than 100 Palestinian terrorists from Israeli jails to satisfy a Palestinians demands to begin negotiations.419 Two months later, despite strong opposition from members of his ruling coalition, Netanyahu approved the release of 26 prisoners in the second phase.420 All of those released were convicted for murder, or attempted murder. Families who lost loved ones murdered by those released are understandably upset, nevertheless, Netanyahu said he must “honor government decisions, even if it is difficult and unpleasant” - hardly the stance of a hardline leader trying to obstruct the peace process.421
What has Israel received in return for these confidence-building measures?
Nothing. Not peace, not direct talks with Palestinian leaders, not a cessation of violence and not any reciprocal concessions. In fact, incitement continues to grow within the PA, there has been a dramatic upsurge in terror incidents emanating from the West Bank and rocket attacks have renewed from Gaza.422 The only statements coming from the Palestinian side are the well-worn belligerent expressions of intransigence, such as the message PA President Mahmoud Abbas gave during the ceremony welcoming back the released prisoners on October 29. "There will never be a deal with Israel if even just one prisoner remains behind bars," said Abbas. "We are obligated to continue using any measure to free all prisoners until they return home."423
The discussions between the two parties have involved key officials but neither leader. To jumpstart the talks Netanyahu has called for face-to-face talks with Abbas. As of the end of October 2013, Abbas remained unwilling to sit with the one person who ultimately must be persuaded that an agreement can be reached that recognizes Israel as a Jewish state and provides the security Israelis need.
A third intifada will erupt if Israel does not satisfy Palestinian demands.
With the Palestinian economy stagnant and the peace process with Israel stalemated, many Palestinians are understandably frustrated. Their leaders are ineffectual, their diplomatic tactics are losing support internationally and the media is focused on Syria, Iran and Egypt. The combination of exasperation and the unalterable commitment of some Palestinians to destroy Israel have led to a surge in terror attacks from the West Bank and Gaza throughout September and October 2013. In addition, after months of relative quiet, Hamas and Islamic Jihad are calling for renewed violence against Israel.424
Terrorism and the threat of violence has always been a tool of Palestinian leaders to blackmail and coerce others. Hamas official Mousa Abu Marzouk, for example, said “We are on the verge of a third intifada and the talks between the [Palestinian] Authority and Israel will blow up in their faces.”425 Fatah leader Abu Jihad, meanwhile, told Al-Jazeera, “I can tell you with a high degree of certitude that an intifada is coming.”426
Israelis have heard it all before. Even as they open their borders to tens of thousands of Palestinian workers, release convicted murders from jail and attempt to negotiate a settlement of the conflict, the Palestinian reaction to getting anything less than everything they demand is to threaten violence.
Renewed terrorism on the scale of a widespread uprising, however, would sabotage negotiations, further destabilize the region and undermine the peace efforts of the Obama Administration. And despite the calls for violence, the Palestinian public is actually opposed to a return to “armed struggle,” in part because of its history of failure and also because the standard of living has improved in recent years in the West Bank. According to a November 2013 Arab World for Research & Development (AWRAD) poll, only 29 percent of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza support a third intifada.427 This number is already down from the 35 percent of Palestinians who said they would support a new intifada in February 2013.428
“Overall the Palestinian reality is not ripe for the outbreak of a new uprising,” said Nayef Rajoub, a former minister in the Palestinian Authority.429 Walid Suleiman, editor of the Akbar al-Khalil newspaper, concurs with that sentiment and adds that “Palestinians must always look before they leap, especially in light of the bitter experience of the past two uprisings.”430
Despite the surge of terrorism, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said, “There is no sign of a popular uprising or so-called third intifada … There is no motivation for it, and we see no organization of it.”431
PA President Mahmoud Abbas warned of “explosive” and “catastrophic” repercussions should the Kerry-led round of peace talks with Israel fail. His “constituents,” however, appear reluctant to follow the senseless path of violence yet again, especially at a time when Israel is offering concessions and openly talking about the establishment of a Palestinian state living in peace.
The negotiated compromise with Iran removes Tehran's nuclear weapons threat.
On November 23, 2013, the United States and other Western powers (P5+1) struck a negotiated compromise with Iran over its nuclear program. The agreement offers Iran limited sanctions relief that could be worth between $10 and $40 billion if fully implemented and tacit recognition of Iran’s right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes in exchange for the Islamic Republic taking concrete steps to freeze its nuclear program. 432
Critics argue that allowing Iran to continue uranium enrichment, even with limits on scope and capacity level, without forcing the mullahs to turn over all previously enriched material, remove its centrifuges and completely dismantle the Arak heavy water reactor will not prevent Iran from pursuing a nuclear weapon.
As of November 2013, Iran had already amassed 7,150 kg of uranium hexafluoride (UF6) enriched to 5% U-235 and nearly 200kg of UF6 enriched to 20% U-235.433 Though creating a nuclear bomb requires more highly enriched uranium (HEU), both totals are near the figure needed to produce enough fissile material for a nuclear device.434 Iran also has nearly 18,000 centrifuges already installed and spinning at its Fordow and Natanz plants, which the interim deal does not address. The agreement also does not address Iran’s continued refusal to allow inspectors to assess whether the Parchin facility was used for nuclear testing and ignores the possibility that Iran may have already established secret facilities for its nuclear program.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the deal with Iran “is not an historic agreement, it is an historic mistake … the world has become a much more dangerous place because the most dangerous regime in the world has taken a significant step toward attaining the most dangerous weapon in the world.”435
Though Netanyahu has been pilloried for campaigning against the arrangement - which he believes leaves Israel vulnerable - plenty of others have also questioned the wisdom of the deal with Iran.
French President Francoise Hollande walked away from the first round of negotiations with Iran after effectively vetoing the deal that the Obama Administration wanted to sign.436 Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird noted he was "deeply skeptical" of the interim deal with Iran and said that "Iran has not earned the right to have the benefit of the doubt." 436a
Saudi Arabia has made no secret of its anger toward the Obama administration for its overtures to Iran. Intelligence Chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan told diplomats in October 2013 that the Kingdom is considering a “major shift” in relations with the U.S. so as not to be “dependent” on Obama’s handling of Iran.437 The Prince’s statement only adds to prior Saudi declarations that it would build a bomb in the event of an Iranian nuclear breakout, and new revelations suggest the Saudis may have already paid Pakistan to produce bombs for delivery to Riyadh.438
The U.S. Congress is also dissatisfied and wants to impose tougher sanctions against Iran. The White House, however, lobbied for a delay in proposing new sanctions legislation for fear of giving Iran an excuse to renege on the agreement and break off negotiations. Still, many members of Congress believe that Iran only came to the negotiating table as a result of the impact of sanctions and that therefore the sanctions regime must be tightened to keep the pressure on Iran and ensure that a final agreement completely eliminates Iran’s capacity to build a bomb.
Congressional action may not be sufficient to prevent European and Asian states from rushing to reestablish ties with Iran, reinforcing the Islamic Republic’s belief that it can weather the sanctions storm, retain the right to enrich uranium and, thus, maintain its ability to develop nuclear weapons in the future. Furthermore, the resumption of relations with Iran undermines the remaining sanctions and makes it more difficult to reverse those being eased if Iran reneges on the agreement or refuses to accept the terms proposed in future rounds of talks.
The only way to remove Iran’s nuclear weapons threat, without resorting to force, is to intensify the pressure on Tehran and insist that the final agreement eliminates its nuclear program. This requires the cessation of enrichment, the removal of centrifuges and the destruction of the Arak reactor. Any deal that falls short of these objectives represents a victory for Iran that will leave it with the capability to build nuclear weapons in the future.
The Iranian government is committed to fulfilling the terms it agreed to in the Geneva nuclear deal.
The agreement negotiated on November 24, 2013, between Iran and the P5+1 (United States, UK, Russia, France & China) is not scheduled to go into effect until sometime in early 2014 and the U.S. State Department admitted that all of the details have yet to be worked out.439 The United States, however, is behaving as though the agreement was completed and Iran has begun to implement its obligations. The agreement is controversial, but even if it were not, the fact that the United States is already delivering on its promises while Iran is backtracking on theirs is not a good sign.
The Geneva agreement calls on Iran to make limited concessions to slow down its nuclear program, but falls short of requiring Iran to end all enrichment activites, as stipulated by six U.N. Security Council resolutions. Nevertheless, the P5+1 agreed to unfreeze a limited amount of Iranian assets and loosen some economic sanctions. Iranian government Spokesman Mohammad Baqer Nobakht confirmed that the United States has already released to Iran $8 billion in frozen assets.440
Iran, however, has not taken any reciprocal steps to implement the agreement. On the contrary, the Iranian government is already declaring victory and claiming it has no intention of eliminating its weapons program. In fact, Iranian leaders won’t even acknowledge agreeing to the terms of the deal. Iran’s Foreign Ministry, for example, issued a statement critical of the U.S. for its “one-sided interpretation of the agreed text.”441 Tehran then released its own version of the agreement, which contradicted a number of key points in the version released by the Obama Administration relating to Iran’s commitment not to install more centrifuges or continue work on the Arak Heavy Water Reactor.442
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif fed doubts about Iran’s commitment to the deal when he announced that, “Iran will decide the level of enrichment according to its needs for different purposes.” According to the Geneva deal, however, the enrichment level was to be agreed upon by both sides, not unilaterally by Iran, and was meant to ensure the Islamic Republic’s stockpile of enriched uranium remains below the level required to build a nuclear weapon.443
Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi declared that Iran does not consider the deal legally binding and retains the right to nullify it. “The moment we feel the opposite side is not meeting its obligations or its actions fall short, we will revert to our previous position and cease the process,” said Araqchi. “[And] we are in no way optimistic about the other side.”444
Even more alarming were comments made by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani after agreeing to the Geneva deal. Rouhani said that Iran has no intention of dismantling its nuclear facilities; insead, Tehran plans to intensify its nuclear activities by building a second nuclear reactor near the existing Bushehr facility. When asked by The Financial Times if dismantling Iran’s nuclear facilities was a “red line,” Rouhani replied, “100 percent.” He added that Iran would continue to enrich uranium according “to our needs for nuclear fuel.”445
Another indication that Iran has not dramatically changed its policy was Tehran’s response to the prospect of Israel participating in future talks between Iran and the six world powers. “Such a thing will never happen and we definitely will not be in the room in which representatives from the Zionist regime will have [a] presence,” Zarif declared.446
Rouhani said the Geneva talks were a first step to see if mutual trust could be established with the United States. Based on their words and deeds so far, however, the Iranians have failed to build that trust while reinforcing the suspicions of the agreement’s critics.
283 Barak Ravid, “Former U.S. envoy: Mideast peace stalemate could
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284 Washington Post Editorial Board, “Overheated Rhetoric on Israeli
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288 Does Iran Have Something in Store?" Wall
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289 "Rafsanjani Says Muslims Should Use Nuclear Weapon Against Israel," Iran
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290 JTA, "Kerry: Resuming peace talks, stopping nuclear Iran are priorities," Jewish
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291 Wall Street Journal Editorial Board, “The Palestine Mirage: A
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292 AP and Times of Israel Staff, “Mashaal vows to continue fighting
Israel rather than give up ‘any inch’ of Palestine,” Times
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293 Joint Israeli Palestinian Poll, Palestinian
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295 Oren Kessler, “'Quiet' Arab Coalition Supports Attack on Iran,” Jerusalem Post, (November 9, 2011).
296 James Reisen, “Seeking Nuclear Insight in Fog of the Ayatollah’s Utterances,” New York Times, (April 13, 2012).
297 Martin Kramer, "Chuck Hagel and Linkage," The Weekly Standard, (January 15, 2013).
298 Congressional Record, "Middle East - A Region in Crisis: Senate Debate," Library of Congress, (July 31, 2006).
299 Chuck Hagel, America: Our Next Chapter, (NY: HarperCollins, 2008), p.82.
300 Daniel Pipes, The Long Shadow: Culture & Politics in the Middle East, (NJ: Transaction Publishers, 1989), pp. 273–74.
301 Martin Kramer, "Chuck Hagel and Linkage," The Weekly Standard, (January 15, 2013).
302 Jeffrey Goldberg, "Sleepy Chuck Hagel Has Some Bigger Questions to Answer," Bloomberg News (January 31, 2013).
303 Chaim Levinson, "Israel Introduces 'Palestinian only' bus lines, following complaints from Jewish settlers," Haaretz, (March 3, 2013).
304 Josef Federman, "'Palestinian' buses draw peace camp ire, but get nod from riders," Times of Israel, (March 5, 2013).
305 Chaim Levinson, "As Israel's separate bus lines start rolling, some Palestinians don't seem to mind," Haaretz, (March 4, 2013).
306 Joel Greenberg, “Israeli buses drive a new wedge,” Washington Post, (March 6, 2013).
307 "Israel's Palestinian-only buses 'torched'," Al-jazeera, (March 5, 2013).
308 Thomas E. Donilon, "Hezbollah Unmasked," New York Times, (February 17, 2013).
310 "EU reportedly loath to blacklist Hezbollah," Times of Israel, (February 17, 2013).
311 "Study: Sderot rocket attacks increased miscarriages,” JTA, (February 25, 2013).
311 "Palestinian Rockets and the Children of Sderot," FrontPage Magazine, (February 23, 2010).
313 "Study: Most Sderot Kids Exhibit Post-Traumatic Stress Symptoms," Haaretz, (January 18, 2007).
314 "The Invisible Victims Of The Gaza Conflict,” New York Jewish Week, (November 16, 2012).
315 Ben Ehrenreich, "Is This Where the Third Intifada Will Start?" New York Times (March 15, 2013).
316 Ben White, "Peaceful Palestinian Resistance is Paying Off," Christian Science Monitor (February 11, 2010); Richard Boudreaux, "Palestinian Who See Non-Violence as their Weapon," Los Angeles Times (November 4, 2009).
317 Itamar Fleishman, "Mimouna Guest of Honor: Paramedic Who Saved Adele," YNET News (April 2, 2013).
318 Itamar Fleishman, "3-Year-Old Critically Injured by Stones near Ariel," YNET News (March 15, 2013).
318b Daniel Eisenbud, "2-Year-Old Jewish Girl Injured in East Jerusalem Rock Attack in Stable Condition," Jerusalem Post (December 1, 2013).
318a "9 Israelis, 1 Palestinian Hurt in West Bank Rock Attack," Times of Israel (October 27, 2013).
319 Chaim Levinson, "Fatal West Bank Car Crash Caused by Palestinian Stone-Throwing," Haaretz (September 25, 2011).
320 "Yehuda Shoham," Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs (June 11, 2011).
321 "Israeli Teenagers 'Stoned to Death'," BBC News (May 9, 2001).
322 "Rocks can Kill," Israel Defense Forces (March 18, 2013).
324 “Palestinian Economic Bulletin,” The Portland Trust (April 2012).
325 “Seeds of violence,” Jerusalem Post (April 13, 2013).
326 Moti Bassok, "Israel shells out almost a fifth of national budget on defense, figures show," Haaretz (Feb 14, 2013).
327 Amira Hass, "Palestinian budget reflects PA's dependence on Israel, U.S.," Haaretz (March 31, 2013)
329 “Report: Despite Budget Crisis PA Pays Millions to Convicts,” The Algemeiner (April 5, 2013).
330 “West Bank,” United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (accessed April 2013).
331 Tom Kludt, "Obama: Syria's Use of Chemical Weapons 'Will Change My Calculus'," Talking Points Memo (April 26, 2013).
332 "Hagel: No Action Until Syrian Sarin Attacks Fully Assessed," Associated Press (April 30, 2013).
333 "Facts About Sarin," Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Accessed April 30, 2013).
334 "Weapons of Mass Destruction: Chemical Weapons," Global Security (Accessed April 30, 2013).
335 JPost Staff, "PM: Israel Ready to Defend Itself Against Syrian WMD," Jerusalem Post (April 18, 2013).
336 Kelsey Davenport and Daniel Horner, "Obama Warns Syria on Chemical Arms," Arms Control Association, (Accessed April 30, 2013).
337 Voice of Palestine, Algiers, (September 2, 1993)
338 JPost Staff, "Abbas expects US pressure to push out Netanyahu," Jerusalem Post (May 29, 2009).
339 Al-Aqsa TV (December 14, 2011).
340 "Text: Beirut Declaration," BBC (March 28, 2002).
341 Al-Manar TV (January 25, 2006).
342 Benjamin Netanyahu, "Speech at the Opening of the Knesset Summer Session," Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs (May 16, 2011).
343 "Gates: No blank check from US to Israel on Iran," Jerusalem Post (October 5, 2012).
344 Eban, Abba. Abba Eban. NY: Random House, 1977, p. 358.
345 Lyndon B. Johnson, The Vantage Point: Perspectives of the Presidency 1963–1969, (NY: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1971), p. 299.
346 Sachar, Howard. A History of Israel: From the Rise of Zionism to Our Time. NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 1998, p. 629.
347 Shirad Bozorgmehr, “Rouhani is Iran’s Next President After Appealing to Tradition, Reform,” CNN (June 15, 2013); “Iranian President-elect Hassan Rouhani Pledges Path of Moderation,” The Guardian (June 17, 2013); Max Fisher, “Iran’s Next President, Hassan Rouhani, Seen as Best Hope for Ending Nuclear Standoff with West,” Washington Post (June 15, 2013).
348 Louis Charbonneau, “Rohani Once Appoved of Hiding Iran Atomic Work,” Reuters (June 19, 2013).
349 “President-elect’s First Press Conference,” Rouhani.Ir (June 18, 2013).
350 “Rafsanjani and Iran’s Nuclear Program,” Iran Affairs (February 5, 2010).
351 Avi Issacharoff, “The Regime Wanted Him to Win,” The Tower (June 16, 2013).
352 “Nukes are Iran’s ‘Inalienable rights,’ its New President Says,” JTA (June 18, 2013).
353 Fredrik Dahl, “Iran Nuclear Program Advances Despite Sanctions: IAEA Chief,” Reuters (June 17, 2013).
354 Michal Shmulovich, “Kerry’s peace plan includes ‘settlement freeze outside major blocs,’” Times of Israel (July 6, 2013).
355 Herb Keinon, “EU officially publishes settlement guidelines despite Israeli objections,” Jerusalem Post (July 19, 2013).
356 Douglas Murray, “’Occupied Territories’: What About Cyprus, Kashmir, Tibet?” Gatestone Intitute (July 23, 2013).
357 George W. Bush, "Speech to the American Jewish Committee," (May 3, 2001).
358 “Gaza Strip,” CIA Word Factbook 2013; “West Bank,” CIA Word Factbook 2013.
359 AFP, “Hamas rejects return to Mideast peace talks,” Al Arabiya (July 20, 2013).
360 AFP, “Palestinian party rejects Mideast peace talks,” YNet (July 29, 2013); "Nablus: Elements of the left demonstrating against negotiations," Palestine Press News Agency (July 30, 2013).
361 "Report on Human Rights Practices for 2011: Occupied Palestinian Territories," United States Department of State (May 2012).
362 Khaled Abu Toameh, “Abbas Vows: No Room for Israelis in Palestinian state,” The Jerusalem Post, December 25, 2010).
363 Oren Dorell, “PLO ambassador says Palestinian state should be free of Jews,” USA TODAY (September 18, 2011).
364 Noah Browning, “Abbas wants ‘not a single Israeli’ in future Palestinian state,” Reuters (July 29, 2013).
365 Yaron Druckman, "Identities of prisoners up for release revealed," YNet, July 27, 2013.
366 Yoram Ettinger, "Water or fuel to the fire?" Israel Hayom, August 2, 2013.
367 Prisoner Release List (Hebrew), Israel Prison Service (Shabas), August 13, 2013 (in Hebrew).
368 Haviv Rettig and Aaron Kalman, "Among the terrorists to be released, the murderer of a Holocaust survivor," Times of Israel, August 12, 2013.
369 Ali Salim, “Begin on Saturday, Finish on Sunday,” Gatestone Institute (August 21, 2013).
370 "Egypt: Mass Attacks on Churches," Human Rights Watch (August 22, 2013).
371 Kareem Fahim, “Islamists Step Up Attacks on Christians,” New York Times (August 20, 2013).
372 “Christians Killed in Syria,” The Tablet (August 23, 2013).
373 Staff, “For Arab World’s Christians, An Uncertain Fate,” NPR (August 25, 2013).
374 Mideast News, “Russian Official Urges Defense of Christians in Syria,” Christian Post (August 21, 2013).
375 International Religious Freedom Report for 2012 – Saudi Arabia,” U.S. State Department
376 “Guide: Christians in the Middle East,” BBC News (October 11, 2011).
377 Yoram Ettinger, “Bethlehem Will Become Town of Churches Devoid of Christians,” IsraPundit (December 29, 2007).
378 “International Religious Freedom Report for 2012 – Israel,” U.S. State Department
379 "Benjamin Netanyahu Signals Willingness to Freeze Settlements," Reuters (June 10, 2013).
380 Yarom Druckman, "Identities of Prisoners Up for Release Revealed," YNet News (July 27, 2013).
381 Herb Keinon, "Israel Approves 5,000 More Palestinian Work Permits," Jerusalem Post (September 8, 2013).
382 Avi Issacharoff, "Abbas Rejected Netanyahu Offer to Free 50 Pre-Oslo Prisoners for New Talks," Times of Israel (June 10, 2013).
383 Sharona Shwartz, "As Obama Pushes for Peace Process, Abbas Vows No Israeli n Palestine," The Blaze (July 30, 2013).
384 Daniel Estrin, "Israel Complains to US Over Palestinian Leaks," Associated Press (September 8, 2013).
385 "Introducing the BDS Movement," BDS Movement
385 Moti Bassok, "Israel, Palestinian Authority Sign Bilateral Trade Agreements," Haaretz (August 1, 2012).
387 "Israel Foreign Trade Data," Israel Central Bureau of Statistics (2012).
388 Herb Keinon, "Israel Approves 5,000 More Palestinian Work Permits," Jerusalem Post (September 8, 2013).
389 Khaled Abu Toameh, "20,000 Palestinians Working in Settlements, Survey Finds," Jerusalem Post (August 15, 2013).
390 Amira Hass, "Study: Palestinians Invest Twice as Much in Israel as They Do in West Bank," Haaretz (November 22, 2011).
391 Richard Behar, "An Israeli Special Forces Commando, an Arab Investor, A Religious Zionist - And a Hot Start-Up Called Webydo," Forbes (July 28, 2013).
392 Philip Weiss, "Omar Barghouti, Tel Aviv Student, on the University's Refusal to Expel Him," Mondoweiss (May 9, 2009).
393 Mike Shuster, “Iran’s Nuclear Fatwa: A Policy Or A Ploy?,” NPR (June 14, 2012).
394 “Remarks by President Obama in Address to the United Nations General Assembly,” White House (September 24, 2013); "MEMRI: Iranian fatwa against nuclear weapons not real, despite Obama claim," JNS (September 30, 2013)
395 Michael Eisenstadt, “Nuclear Fatwa,” Washington Institute (September 2011); Fareed Zakaria, “They May or May Not Want the Bomb,” Newsweek (May 22, 2009).
396 “Special Dispatch: Report #5461,” MEMRI (September 29, 2013).
397 Patrick Goodenough, “Iranian Nuclear ‘Fatwa’ Cited by Obama May Not Exist,” CNS News (October 1, 2013).
398 “Phony Fatwa? Group Claims Iranian anti-nuke edict cited by Obama a hoax,” FOX News (September 30, 2013).
399 “Board Report: GOV/2013/40,” International Atomic Energy Agency (August 2013).
400 Saeed Kamali Dehghan, "Non-Aligned Movement Summit: 'You'd Think Iran was Hosting the Olympics'," The Guardian (August 30, 2012).
401 Steven Erlanger, "Britain and Iran Move to Repair Diplomatic Relations," New York Times (October 8, 2013).
401a Iran Daily Briefs (October 25, 2013; October 25, 2013; October 25, 2013)
402 Steven Lee Meyers, "Obama Exempts Japan & 10 European Nations from Iran Sanctions Law," New York Times (March 20, 2012).
403 FARS News Agency (September 26, 2013).
404 Con Coughlin, "Rouhani Won't Decide on Nuclear Iran," Wall Street Journal (October 1, 2013).
405 Benny Morris, The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited, (MA: Cambridge University Press, 2004), p. 590.
406 Middle East Studies, (January 1986); See also, Morris, pp. 263, 590–2.
407 “International: On the Eve?,” Time Magazine, (May 3, 1948).
408 London Daily Mail, (August 12, 1948) cited in Shmuel Katz, Battleground: Fact and Fantasy in Palestine, (Taylor Publications Ltd: 2002), p. 13.
409 Edward Atiyah, The Arabs, (London: Penguin Books, 1955), p. 183.
410 Yehoshofat Harkabi, Arab Attitudes to Israel, (Jerusalem: Israel Universities Press, 1972), p. 364.
411 The Memoirs of Haled al Azm, (Beirut, 1973), Part 1, pp. 386–7.
412 King Abdallah, My Memoirs Completed, (London: Longman Group, Ltd., 1978), p. xvi
413 Al-Hayat al-Jadida, (December 13, 2006), quoted in Itamar Marcus and Barbara Cook, “The Evolving Palestinian Narrative: Arabs Caused the Refugee Problem,” Palestinian Media Watch, (May 20, 2008).
414 Itamar Marcus, "Abbas' UN Speech Contradicts his 'Refugee' History," Palestinian Media Watch (October 10, 2013).
415 Morris, p. 592.
416 Harriet Sherwood, "Netanyahu: Occupation is not Cause of Conflict," The Guardian (October 7, 2013); and, Alistair Dawber, "Middle East Peace Process Hits Stumbling Block," The Independent (July 31, 2013).
417 Ilan Ben-Zion, "Palestinians Make Stiff Land Demands for Peace," Times of Israel (October 27, 2013).
418 Jacob Donnelly, "PLO Representative Areikat: Palestine Must Stop Concessions to Israel," The Daily Princeton (October 7, 2013).
419 Ben Harris, "Who Israel Released," JTA (August 14, 2013).
420 Jodi Rudoren, "Prisoner Release Stirs Anger in Israeli Coalition," New York Times (October 28, 2013).
421 "Netanyahu on Prisoner Release: Promises Must be Kept," Jerusalem Post (October 27, 2013).
422 "West Bank Seeing 'Infectious Wave of Attack'," Jerusalem Post (October 22, 2013)
423 "Abu Mazen Greets the Prisoners," Yediot Ahronoth (October 30, 2013).
424 Khaled Abu Toameh, "Hamas, Islamic Jihad Call for a Third Intifada," Jerusalem Post (September 26, 2013).
425 Shlomi Eldar, "Only Palestinian Authority Can Prevent Third Intifada," Al-Monitor (September 23, 2013).
426 Khalid Amayreh, "Is a Third Intifada in the Offing?", Al-Jazeera (October 1, 2013).
427 "AWRAD Poll: West Bankers Oppose Intifada," IMRA (November 5, 2013).
428 "Results of an Opinion Poll," AWRAD (February 21, 2013).
429 Khalid Amayreh, "Is a Third Intifada in the Offing?", Al-Jazeera (October 1, 2013).
431 Spencer Ho, "Ya'alon Says Third Intifada Not in the Offing," Times of Israel (October 22, 2013).
432 Maayan Lubell, "Sanctions Relief Worth up to $40 Billion to Iran: Israel," Reuters (November 13, 2013).
433 "Board of Governors Report," International Atomic Energy Agency (November 2013).
434 "Fissile Material Basics," Institute for Energy & Environmental Research (April 2012).
435 "Remarks at Start of Weekly Cabinet Meeting," Prime Minister's Office (November 24, 2013).
436 Herve Asquin, "France Firm on Iran Nuclear Issue, Hollande Tells Israel," Agence France-Presse (November 17, 2013).
436a Barrie McKenna, "Canada 'Deeply Skeptical' Iran Will Follow Through on Nuclear Deal," Globe and Mail (November 24, 2013).
437 Amena Bakr, "Saudi Arabia Warns of Shift Away from U.S. Over Syria, Iran," Reuters (October 22, 2013).
438 Mark Urban, "Saudi Nuclear Weapons 'On Order' from Pakistan," BBC News (November 6, 2013).
439 Rebecca Shimoni Stoil, "US Now Indicates Iran Interim Deal Wasn't Quite Finalizes," Times of Israel (November 27, 2013).
440 "Spokesman Confirms US Release of $8bln of Iran's Frozen Assets," FARS News Agency (November 25, 2013).
441 Lazar Berman, "Iran Rejects US's 'One-Sided' Version of Nuclear Deal," Times of Israel (November 26, 2013).
442 "Iranian News Agency Publishes Alleged Text of Nuclear Deal," Times of Israel (November 24, 2013).
443 AFP, "Iran Has Final Say on Nuclear Enrichment, Says Zarif," Yahoo News (November 29, 2013).
444 "Iran, Powers to Meet Next Week on Carrying Out Nuclear Deal," Reuters (December 1, 2013).
445 "Rouhani Says Iran will Intensify Nuclear Work," Israel Hayom (December 1, 2013).
446 AP, "Report: Iran FM Says Country Won't Talk to Israel," Washington Post (November 29, 2013).