Saturday, July 17, 2010

Bad News: "peace process," UK, Hamas, Turkey; Good News: Boycotts Fail; U.S. public opinion; True News: Dead Turkish Flotilla Attackers Sought Martyrdom

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By Barry Rubin

If you have any belief that there is going to be Israel-Palestinian peace in the near future or that the Palestinian public has been in any way prepared for a two-state solution by its leadership here's a simple point that proves the contrary.

The year is 2010. A child born on the day the Oslo agreement, the basis for a supposed peace, was agreed to by Israel and the PLO would soon be celebrating his 18th birthday and be an adult. The "peace process," however, is still in diapers. Yet according to the latest Palestinian poll, 82 percent of West Bank residents won't give up the demand that any peace agreement must let all Palestinians who were refugees in 1948 or their descendents return to live in what is now Israel. In fact, even if compensated for lost property they still demand repatriation. The Palestinian Authority has done nothing to oppose this position, which makes peace with Israel impossible, on the contrary it has consistently supported the idea.

This has always been a peculiar concept. If Palestinians were nationalist they would not go and live in another, non-Palestinian and even non-Arab and non-Muslim country. The point of this demand is, of course, to eliminate Israel's existence over time. The amount of bloodshed that would ensue if this idea was implemented would be catastrophic.

And don't get me started on the ridiculousness of trying to make peace with a revolutionary Islamist, genocide-seeking Hamas ruling the Gaza Strip.

Remember, though, that the American people--and others in the West--are smarter than much of their elites.  The respected Gallup poll last February, at a time when President Obama was evincing anger at Israel, shows that 63 percent of Americans support Israel as compared to only 15 percent backing the Palestinians. This is a record, except for a short period in 1991 when Israel was under Scud attack and the PLO was siding with a country, Iraq, that U.S. forces were fighting.
Asked if they were favorable toward Israel generally, 67 percent of Americans said "yes," one of the highest scores of all countries.

Will peace some day come to the Middle East? Of the respondents, 67 percent said "doubtful" and 30 percent said "there will come a time.” Among Republicans only 25 percent said there would be peace some day while the number was 39 percent, still quite low, among Democrats. So the claims of the media, academics, and government officials have not persuaded people. (And the question underestimated this factor since "there will come a time" could mean in 50 years.)

By the way, it is being said that U.S.-Israeli security ties are stronger than ever before now under the Obama Administration. This is a bit misleading since many of the programs cited were agreed to under the preceding president.  I would phrase it in this way: they are as strong as they have ever been. Here's a detailed account: Glenn Kessler, "U.S.-Israeli security ties grow amid diplomatic disputes," Washington Post, July 16, 2010.

Unfortunately, that's just in the United States though--forgive me for saying this--that's the place that counts most. Professor Richard Landes has a portrait of the UK today, however, that is profoundly disturbing, and I'm told by people there is pretty accurate, about just how bad things have become.

Since presumably after reading this you will be quite depressed, for encouragement read a poll of British Jews which shows overwhelming support among them for Israel. Then to follow that up read Robert Fulford's view that all the anti-Israel boycott and disinvestment movements have produced close to zero material effect in practice (though obviously the propaganda value is something else).

Another interesting new report is this one showing how at least seven and probably all nine of those killed had previously declared their desire to become martyrs in the operation and at least eight of them were members of the radical Islamist IHH group which had previously sent armed fighters to other countries and functions largely as a support group for Hamas. Thus, these were not innocent humanitarian-oriented bystanders but among those who launched an attack on Israeli soldiers and kidnapped three of them.

The U.S. government is now thinking of designated the IHH main group in Turkey as a terrorist group. But there's a problem here: the IHH is very close to the Turkish regime so if the IHH is terrorist than the Turkish Islamist regime is sponsoring a terrorist group, right? Presumably we won't hear more about any classification of the IHH as terrorist no matter how much evidence there is. Watch this one.

Khalid Abu Toameh of the Jerusalem Post, whose work is awesome in part because it is so vastly superior to everyone else doing the Palestinian beat, writes:

"In recent weeks Hamas leaders are beginning to show signs of optimism. Since the late May incident involving the Turkish flotilla of aid ships, some Americans and Europeans have been campaigning in favor of engaging Hamas.

"Al-Qaida, Muslim Brotherhood and jihadists around the world all have their eyes set on the Gaza Strip. They are waiting to see if Hamas manages to win recognition of the international community.

"A victory for Hamas is a victory for Islamic fundamentalists not only in Gaza, but in many different places, including Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan and Iraq.... It does not seem that Hamas has any incentive to change its position amid increasing calls in the West to "break" the isolation of the radical Islamist movement. On the contrary, talk in the West about the need to launch dialogue with Hamas has only served to toughen their stance....

"Not only is Hamas unwilling to accept the three conditions imposed by the Quartet members, but it has now toughened its position on the issue of reconciliation with Fatah...."

Among the latest members of the pro-Hamas camp are Muhammad el-Baradei, "reformist" candidate for the presidency of Egypt. He says that if he is elected he will accept Hamas's rule of the Gaza Strip and open the border completely to them. That's quite a reform.

Speaking of aggressive Islamism, here's the latest in Gareth Jenkins remarkable and scholarly analysis of how the Turkish Islamist regime uses false conspiracy charges to arrest and intimidate opponents. This story is either not covered at all in the West or the media actually swallows the repressive regime propaganda that it is arresting real conspirators! Jenkins has actually read the charges and finds them ridiculous.

I think there's a pattern here: the exact opposite to the one believed in the West.

Remember Fatah, the group controlling the Palestinian Authority (PA)? Well it has come out against direct negotiations with Israel. But wait! Isn't President Obama always saying the PA is really moderate and wants peace? Well, I keep saying that Fatah is still controlled by radicals who are far from ready for a peace agreement with Israel. Who are you going to believe?

And what happens when the PA, including Mahmoud Abbas himself, openly opposes the direct talks that Obama wants? Does there come a point when the U.S. government realizes that its big problem is the PA and not Israel?

Speaking of people throwing a pie in the face of Obama and dissing [American slang for disrespecting] U.S. interests, how about the open Russian declaration that it is going to help Iran get around sanctions? This follows U.S. government hints that since Russia voted for the UN sanctions it won't actually be expected to apply them.

Do you know what this means? The sanctions are not so much a hurt-Iran-to-discourage-nuclear weapons plan but a make-lots-of-money-for-Russia-by driving-out-Western-dealings-with-Iran-so Moscow-can-get-the-business.

At the same time, despite these shortcomings, the Obama Administration should get credit for the following: keeping strong U.S.-Israel security ties, working hard now on anti-Iran sanctions (though Congress deserves much of the credit), and beginning to lay the groundwork for containing Iran.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center is at and of his blog, Rubin Reports, at

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