Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Egypt: Where Moderates and Judges Endorse Terrorism

This article is published in the Jerusalem Post. I own the rights and please link here if you reprint or publish.

By Barry Rubin

In September, the leaves will start falling off the trees in the West. And so will their policies toward the Middle East. That month, Egypt will elect a radical and largely Islamist parliament. That parliament will write a radical and largely Islamist constitution. The new government will follow a radical and at least partly Islamist policy. It will be Iran all over again.

Of course, Egypt is different. The problem will not be as large or intense as Iran. But as the Shakespearean character said when given a fatal sword wound in "Romeo and Juliet": “No, 'tis not so deep as a well, nor so wide as a church-door; but 'tis enough, ‘twill serve.”

There was a violent demonstration at the Israeli Embassy in Cairo. The protesters set fire to an Israeli flag and demanded the Israeli ambassador be expelled. The demonstrators attempted to storm the embassy; 185 people were arrested, 18 police injured by thrown rocks.

The demonstration was organized on Facebook by the April 6 Youth Movement. The same "moderate" and "democratic" group so highly praised in the West for "leading" the Egyptian revolution.

Asmaa Mahfouz is a leader of the April 6 Youth Movement. In fact, she claims that she personally began the revolution with her January 18 video calling for demonstrations. Now, Mahfouz is trying to launch a new revolution against the military rulers. One of her complains against the transitional military regime is:

"Why did they not protect the people at Maspero, and the people in Imbaba...and why did they protect the Israeli embassy?"

But since they only intervened when there was an attempt to storm the embassy I believe that my statement was correct. in other words, if they had not protected the embassy from her group it would have been taken over and the people there made hostages.

President Obama believes these people are the hope for the future and backs them 100 percent. Of course, there are real moderate democrats in Egypt, but they are few and terrible at organizing a political structure. There is no strong moderate party running in the parliamentary election. The Muslim Brotherhood is well-organized. Smaller Islamist and radical leftist parties are organized.

The dominant emotion today in Egypt is fear. The dominant response today in the West is blindness.

Meanwhile, an Egyptian court took Egyptian citizenship away from a leading Coptic Christian activist and banned him from entering the country. Among the charges was supposedly insulting Islam and asking the United States and Israel to interfere in Egypt's internal affairs.

Former Deputy Head of Egypt's Court of Appeals Judge Mahmoud al-Khodheiri, gave an interview on al-Jazira (thanks to MEMRI for video and translation) and said:

"We should stop exporting natural gas to Israel.” But is it all about the money? No: “I consider the export of gas to Israel an act of treason, and we should stop it. I salute the people who bombed the gas pipe, because this is my blood that is being transferred to my enemy."

A man who’s been a high-ranking judge salutes terrorists who blew up a pipeline. Yet judges are supposed to uphold the rule of law. If a judge can cheer those who blow things up that opens the door to supporting other acts of lawless violence. Wherever al-Khodheiri draws the line others will find justification for mayhem. Attack Christians? Kill Jews? Assassinate secularists or government officials? Once lawlessness is rationalized as absolute right there are no limits.

A former high-ranking judge calls for ignoring a legal contract. Judges are supposed to uphold contracts. Of course, he could call for renegotiating the contract through legal channels, but that isn’t what he does. So the acceptable resort to an agreement where you aren’t currently gaining an advantage is violence and unilateral abrogation. What does this tell us about other agreements (contracts) that Israel might make with Arab neighbors or the Palestinians?

Israel is an enemy. Despite a peace treaty 33 years ago, most Egyptians regard this as merely a temporary truce. The return of the Sinai, reopening of the Suez Canal, reopening of Egyptian oilfields in western Sinai do not suffice to make them feel at peace with Israel, whatever continuing sympathy and support they might give the Palestinians. Nor does Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, the creation of the Palestinian Authority and Israel’s acceptance of its arming and transfer of funds, nor Israel’s other actions. Why should we believe that Israel’s turnover of east Jerusalem, the West Bank, and creation of a Palestinian state would change anything? I wish that were true but I’m not going to pretend it is when I see it isn’t.

Selling gas is “treason.” And what does one do to traitors in the Arabic-speaking world? One kills them. While al-Khodheiri isn’t a cleric, he has been a career judge, the people who lay down the law of the state as Muslim clerics rule on Sharia (Islamic) law. So in a real sense what he ‘has done is to issue what one might call a “secular fatwa.” If an official of Egypt’s energy authority is murdered tomorrow the killers can cite al-Khodheiri as justifying it, just as previous killers or the would-be assassin of Naguib Mafouz, Egypt’s great novelist, rationalized their acts because of clerics’ statements.

Remember, al-Khodheiri is a Mubarak-appointed judge! What will the judges selected by the next government sound like?

Finally, “blood.” The resort to passion rather than reason is dangerous. The English-language expression “as sober as a judge” doesn’t just refer to intoxication with alcohol but to a “judicious temperament,” calm, cool, and rational.

If judges call for violence and murder, invoke blood and treason how might common people behave? What example is being offered to the national political culture?

President Barack Obama and European leaders don’t get it. We are about to be projected back to the bad old days of radical Arab nationalist regimes competing with each other in militancy, anti-Americanism, and hatred of Israel. Except this time they’re Islamists and that’s worse.

When top judges yell for fire and vengeance your society is in real trouble. And so are its neighbors. No democratic state can be built on such a foundation. Ignore all those soothing and ignorant journalists and “experts” on television and in the newspapers. Here comes the judge. And he’s a hanging judge.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal, and a featured columnist at PajamasMedia http://pajamasmedia.com/barryrubin/ 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 http://www.gloria-center.org. His PajamaMedia columns are mirrored and other articles available at http://www.rubinreports.blogspot.com/.

Western Media Insanity on the Middle East: The Silver Lining in Gaza!

By Barry Rubin

Story 1: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says that Egypt is losing control of the Sinai Penninsula where there are a lot of terrorists who can go into the Gaza Strip and attack Israel or stage cross-border attacks.

Story 2: Arab newspaper reports an estimated 400 al-Qaida terrorists in the Sinai.

Story 3: Egypt opens border to Gaza Strip so money, terrorists, and weapons can flow in freely.

Bottom line: Western media (in part due to an individual Israeli's personal analysis of situation) says that there's a "silver lining." Egypt, not Israel is now responsible for the Gaza Strip.

But wait! The Israeli in question made that remark one year ago, that is, when President Husni Mubarak was in power! The reader would think that he said it after the Egyptian revolution.

That's like taking a remark someone made when the shah ruled Iran and then quoting it as suggesting that the Islamist revolution had a silver lining for Israel! 

Coming in future weeks, no doubt:

Silver lining in Muslim Brotherhood takeover of Egypt;

Silver lining in Islamist election victory in Turkey;

Silver lining in Iran getting nuclear weapons.

Isn't that great?

Obama's "Muslim Problem"

This article is published on PajamasMedia.

By Barry Rubin

The idea that President Barack Obama is secretly a Muslim is ridiculous. (And don’t write me disagreeing because there’s no proof.)

BUT this red herring has blocked a serious discussion of what is Obama’s attitude toward Islam. As so often happens regarding the Middle East and Islam, people spend their time and passions focusing on the wrong issue.

I think two points can be made reasonably:

--Based on his youthful experience, Obama thinks he is a great expert on Islam. He isn’t. And the Islam he came in contact with at the time (in Indonesia mainly) was quite different from what he has to deal with in the Middle East today. Particularly, he genuinely does not seem to comprehend revolutionary Islamism. And since that's the main international threat in the world today his failure creates a gigantic problem for the future of what used to be called the Free World.

--Obama has a strong sympathy and empathy for Muslims. In theory, that’s just fine but it has led to a policy of trying to win the love of the Muslim-majority world rather than to develop strategies that work and protect U.S. interests. Another theme that emerges from this is his relentless mirror-imaging in which Egypt's revolution becomes equivalent to Rosa Parks protesting against segregation on buses in the Southern United States and the quest for democratic liberty by America's Founding Fathers.

So Obama's "Islamophilia" makes him have a huge "Muslim problem." The problem is not that he "likes" Muslims but that he doesn't distinguish among them. It's the difference between loving Russia, its people and its culture a generation ago, and not understanding the problem of Communism.

By believing that the only problems are: a tiny group of evil people (al-Qaida) and mistakes made by U.S. policy, Obama is missing the biggest political development in the world today.

It's like saying after the Russian Revolution that the real problem is a small group of anarchists who want to hijack Bolshevism, but that if the United States is only nice enough to the Communists, shows them that America isn't their enemy, and helps them get rid of a few extremists everything will be great.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Here In One Sentence is What Obama Doesn't Understand About the Middle East

This article is published on PajamasMedia.

By Barry Rubin

Here's the sentence:

The changes in the region are producing more extremism, not more moderation.

That applies to attitudes toward America and Israel as well as on internal social issues.
Rachi Ghanouchi, head of Tunisia's Islamist movement--a man long portrayed as a moderate in the West--just publicly came out and called for Israel's destruction. And what does Voice of America tell us and the Arabs? That Ghanouchi is a moderate who doesn't want an Islamist state! Your tax dollars at work. What does CBS News tell us? That the Islamist party denounced the killing of a priest. Obviously very tolerant people.

Of course, the Tunisian Islamists are far weaker than those in Egypt. Still, the West is deluding itself in thinking they are moderate.

Yet let's listen--thanks to MEMRI--to what the VOA and CBS producers' counterparts in the Arab world is saying. In an article written for a Qatari and a Jordanian newspaper, entitled "Israel Is Surely Temporary," Samir al-Hijjawi says

"It's time for Israel to go... It's time for the end of the great lie... It's time [for Israel] to go because the regimes protecting [it]... are toppling one by one." He added that the recent  protests on Israel's borders prove the Palestinians and Arabs will never relinquish all of Palestine because it is sacred Muslim territory.

I'll bet that every producer and pretty much every staff member of al-Jazira--the station Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has recommended as accurate--agrees.
Get it? For Obama, the "Arab Spring" means moderation and democracy. To most Arabs and Muslims, it represents a resurgence of Islamism and nationalism, the prelude for getting rid of Israel and U.S. influence in the region.

I'd be bothered less if Obama acknowledges that but claimed that his proteges would win. The fact that he has zero percent understanding of the threat is the prelude to disaster. The fact that almost all Western newspapers and television news operations think the same way as Obama makes the situation even worse.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Key to Obama’s Foreign Policy: The World Turned Upside Down

This article is published on PajamasMedia.

By Barry Rubin

“If buttercups buzz'd after the bee,
If boats were on land, churches on sea,
If ponies rode men and if grass ate the cows,
And cats should be chased into holes by the mouse....
If summer were spring and the other way round,
Then all the world would be upside down.”

--“The World Turned Upside Down,” English ballad, 1643

I think I’ve made a breakthrough in understanding President Barack Obama’s foreign policy of punishing friends, rewarding enemies, and taking risks toward empowering enemies by bashing friends. It isn’t that Obama is a Muslim or a Marxist; it’s that...

He is America's first (and hopefully last) 1960s' New Left president.

Think of how the American left looked at the Cold War. For them, the phrase “Free World” was a joke. America’s allies were often repressive dictators. In Europe, even democratic states like Britain and France were, or until recently were, colonial powers.

Vietnam: America supported South Vietnam (boo) and fought North Vietnam and the National Liberation Front (LBJ, how many kids have you killed today; Ho Chi Minh, the NLF is gonna win).

Latin America: In Chile, America supported the army (boo!) and fought President Salvador Allende and the Communists (yeah!). Not to mention those military dictatorships who murdered peasants in South America and killed Che Guevara. And how about those Sandinistas. They wanted land reform and to help the poor and the United States plundered them for United Fruit and other greedy capitalists.

Great Britain: America supported Britain and thought Winston Churchill was a hero but what about colonialism (Get his bust out of the White House!)? Say, in a country like Kenya? Mau-maus (possibly Obama's grandfather) who were called "terrorists," good guys; British, bad guys.

Middle East: America supported the bad guys (Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia) against the good guys (PLO, Egypt, Syria, Iraq).

The Communists: had their shortcomings but at least they wanted to help people, right? And if the USSR was old-fashioned and degenerated at least there were a lot of cool new revolutionaries.

Africa: Obama's own father opposed a generally U.S.-backed Kenyan regime. In theory, he was a leftist and a man of the people. In reality, he was a womanizing, alcoholic and corrupt politician, just the kind of "progressive" Third World politician who pretends to represent the voice of the masses.
And so on.

So the leftist view has been that American allies were bad guys. And since America was also the bad guy, American allies were doubly bad guys.

In contrast, those opposing U.S. policy or allies—notably, Latin American guerrillas; Fidel Castro, the Viet Cong (or National Liberation Front if you wish); Mao Zedong; Che Guevara (remember that Che Guevara poster in the Obama election headquarters in Arizona, was it?); Patrice Lumumba; and so on and so forth were heroes.

Pakistan has it both ways. On one hand, it is an American “ally” but since it just takes money, hides al-Qaida leaders, and sponsors cross-border terrorism against India, it is enough of an enemy to receive favored treatment.

So, the bad guys to America were the good guys and the good guys to America were the bad guys.

I’m putting this in slangy language but I’m very serious.

And for someone raised personally and politically the way Obama was (hat-tip, Stanley Kurtz and Dinesh D’Souza) this was taken for granted.

Thus, be it England or Egypt or Israel or Colombia, if you are partnered with the United States it proves you are bad. And for Venezuela, Syria, or the Palestinian Authority, the more hostile you are to America the better you are.

Hence, the business of American policy should be to win over the heroic guerrillas who fight on behalf of the wretched of the earth (reference: Che Guevara, Franz Fanon, The Communist “Internationale”), these are the people who—as they say in Hollywood—we’d like to be in business with.

Consider Obama’s profound disrespect for realpolitik as evidenced in his State Department speech:

“For decades, the United States has pursued a set of core interests in the region: countering terrorism and stopping the spread of nuclear weapons; securing the free flow of commerce and safe-guarding the security of the region; standing up for Israel’s security and pursuing Arab-Israeli peace.”

He says that the United States will continue to do these things. But listen to the subtle differences in that list:

“We will continue to do these things, with the firm belief that America’s interests are not hostile to people’s hopes; they’re essential to them. We believe that no one benefits from a nuclear arms race in the region, or al Qaeda’s brutal attacks. We believe people everywhere would see their economies crippled by a cut-off in energy supplies. As we did in the Gulf War, we will not tolerate aggression across borders, and we will keep our commitments to friends and partners.”

For decades, the United States wanted mainly to keep hostile countries from getting nuclear weapons, while Obama’s policy is to put the priority on eliminating nuclear weapons (including those of the United States) entirely. “Countering terrorism” becomes stopping al-Qaeda! How about stopping Hamas and Hizballah or the Muslim Brotherhood? Nope. Not part of the policy. “Standing up for Israel’s security” becomes the generic “we will keep our commitments to friends and partners.”

Tolerate aggression across borders? But the Obama Administration does tolerate Syrian aggression against Lebanon, Israel, and Iraq; and Iranian aggression in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, and against Israel. Soon it will be tolerating Egyptian aggression against Israel.

Perhaps he is referring here to Israel’s holding on to part of the West Bank captured in 1967 as aggression across borders? He certainly has—in contrast to the other cases—tried to do something about that!

Talking about “standing up for Israel’s security” is reserved for speeches.to AIPAC.

In addition, however:

“We must acknowledge that a strategy based solely upon the narrow pursuit of these interests will not fill an empty stomach or allow someone to speak their mind. Moreover, failure to speak to the broader aspirations of ordinary people will only feed the suspicion that has festered for years that the United States pursues our interests at their expense. Given that this mistrust runs both ways –- as Americans have been seared by hostage-taking and violent rhetoric and terrorist attacks that have killed thousands of our citizens -– a failure to change our approach threatens a deepening spiral of division between the United States and the Arab world.”

Yes, the old U.S. policy conducted under lots of presidents, both Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, were focused on U.S. interests. Now, however, Obama defines this as "narrow." The United States must show itself in favor of “the broader aspirations of ordinary people.”

And in the twenty-first century who could be cooler than Facebook Kids, those liberty-loving rascals rebelling against an American-backed dictatorship. Don’t we want to be on their side? We cares about national interests? What could possibly go wrong? The clerical-reactionaries (not that there’s anything wrong with that) couldn’t possibly win against the progressive (Progressive?) forces of history. Power to the people!

This, however, raises two questions:

First, which aspirations?

Second, as expressed by whom?

Suppose the aspirations of the people are against U.S. interests? Example, in the early Cold War the United States covertly intervened in French and Italian politics to make sure Communist parties didn’t win. Did that thwart the aspirations of the people? Quite possibly. Should it have been done: You bet!

The United States has believed that it has no interest in promoting the anti-American aspirations of people. What if the aspirations are to have radical Islamism? What if the majority wants to persecute Christians? What if the majority wants to expel U.S. influence from the region? What if the majority wants to wipe Israel off the map and commit genocide on the Jews?

So no, U.S. policy often needs to oppose the aspirations of the people or certain people. When possible, it does so because it believes that by doing so they will be better able to fill their stomachs (example: Communism as a system failed to do so) and speak their minds (ditto).

But ultimately its goal is not to promote the aspirations of other people. Its main priority should be to promote the aspirations of the American people. Yet if America is not an exceptional, better country, but often a worse one; national identity is out of date, and promoting your own country's interests is a form of racism; if America is rich and greedy, taking more than its share of resources and causing global warming because its living standards are too high, then the aspirations of Egyptians or Venezuelans are equally or more important than those of the American people.

What other wordview could imagine something like "Cap and Trade" in which the U.S. taxpayers paid other countries for the right to use their own air? This is a transfer of wealth from America to others, in no way in the American interest or the interests of Americans.

Remember, Obama is desperate to be popular abroad. And he views popularity as giving the people abroad what they want, whether or not that’s in U.S. interests. If, for example, the “people” of the Middle East don’t want the United States to support Israel, then according to his worldview it shouldn’t.

Let’s face it: If not for the State Department's desperate intervention, Obama would be campaigning for the overthrow of the Jordanian and Egyptian governments. And at the same time, fighting against seeking the overthrow of the Iranian and Syrian governments.

It's not just Israel, though that country is first on the list. If you are a U.S. ally there must be something wrong with you. And if you are a U.S. enemy there must be something right with you. Or, perhaps I should say, "left" with you.

Obama says:

“I believed then -– and I believe now -– that we have a stake not just in the stability of nations, but in the self-determination of individuals. The status quo is not sustainable. Societies held together by fear and repression may offer the illusion of stability for a time, but they are built upon fault lines that will eventually tear asunder.”

So Obama is on the side of the “masses,” whatever the masses ”want.” But conservatives and liberals in power during past presidencies generally understood that authoritarian regimes and totalitarian movements pretended to represent the masses and through good organizing and rigid discipline pushed themselves to the head of the line.

Those who remember Nazism and Fascism and Communism, not to mention the dozens of Third World dictators who pretended to be the voice of the masses, know this. Such experiences and education did not shape Obama. Perhaps Bill Ayers could explain to him how front groups and revolutionary vanguards and the dictatorship of the proletariat work.

Didn't the Communists, Nazis, Fascists, Japanese militarists, Ba'thists, Nasserists, Fidelistas, the Vietnamese National Liberation Front, Tupamaros, Sandinistas, and all those other groups represent their people's aspirations? We could deny it but certainly at the time that seemed to be true.

So why isn't it true for Hamas, Fatah, Hizballah, the Muslim Brotherhood, the dictator in Venezuela and the one in Syria?

Well, we know that this money and self-sacrifice to help the masses of people abroad usually just puts money into the Swiss bank accounts of the dictators and their supporters, the already fat elite. What percentage of U.S. aid money to the Palestinians actually benefited "ordinary" Palestinians? How much will the destruction of American oil-drilling and sending money to Brazil so they can produce oil going to benefit the "ordinary" Brazilian? It certainly won't benefit the ordinary American.

But to return to my main theme, for Obama the world is upside-down from the historic American political mainstream. Again, I stress, both liberal and conservative. For him, the friends of America are bad; the enemies of America are good. He must win over the enemies of America—and “the people” in other countries—by showing him that he appreciates that idea.

From this ideology, rather than some conspiracy or secret identity, he does much harm. And no matter how much experience he accumulates Obama isn’t going to learn any better.

In this world, Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad is a "reformer" while elected Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is a reactionary who doesn't want peace.

To him, America has been on the wrong side. Now it will be on the “right” side. And, unfortunately, that side is the enemy side. The enemy of America and, ultimately, of the people it claims to represent.

This is not some minor mistake. It is his worldview.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal, and a featured columnist at PajamasMedia http://pajamasmedia.com/barryrubin/ 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 http://www.gloria-center.org. His PajamaMedia columns are mirrored and other articles available at http://www.rubinreports.blogspot.com

Syria Murders Hundreds; "Pro-`Arab Spring'" West Yawns or Supports Syrian Regime

This article is published on PajamasMedia.

By Barry Rubin

The situation in Syria is terrible. Hundreds of people have been shot; others arrested and tortured. And yet after weeks of demonstrations and repression the West has done nothing. True, the U.S. government has shifted from defending the dictatorship to scolding it mildly. Big deal.

How ironic. President Barack Obama extolls the “Arab Spring,” helps overthrow the Egyptian and Tunisian governments, made a try to do so in Bahrain (until the State Department talked the White House out of it), and is still trying in Yemen and in Libya (with military intervention!) yet does nothing on Syria, the most repressive by far of all these countries (except Libya).

So, here’s how the Middle East works. As an Arab friend writes to me:

“Everyone, whether anti- or pro-regime, is convinced that the U.S. government is protecting [Syrian dictator] Bashar al-Assad and wants him to stay. The longer this administration stands by its incredibly stupid position telling him to "lead the transition" as he kills and tortures at will, it will be stained by his obscenity.”

In other words, when the U.S. government defends the Assad regime the people believe it supports the Assad regime. Every principle set down by the Obama Administration on Egypt and elsewhere—whether right or wrong—is being violated by that same government in Syria!

Here’s an example, for those with a strong stomach, about what’s going on in Syria:

And the Syrian oppositionists correctly believe that they aren’t getting any international support. Palestinian groups that have practiced terrorism for decades are treated as saints and victims; the Syrian people (and Iranian, Turkish, and Lebanese oppositions, too) are treated like pariahs. Western students do nothing for them; Western students and activists don’t protest on their behalf.

Why do only anti-Western movements and opponents of governments friendly to the West get Western support?

The White House even rightly accused Syria of letting protesters cross through closed military zones to let them attack Israel's borders in order to distract from its repression of protesters at home. The White House spokesman said, "Such behavior is unacceptable."

But apparently it is acceptable to the White House.

After all, the Washington Post states in an editorial:

"The administration said ten days ago that it would `adjust ... relations with Syria according to the concrete actions undertaken by the Syrian government.' Since then Syrian troops have invaded more cities and killed scores more people. Now the regime has provoked violence with Israel. Has the time not yet come for an `adjustment’?”

No. Two weeks after this editorial and almost a month since promising to do something on Syria, the administration shows no sign of altering a Middle East policy mainly defined as being nice to the West's enemies and nasty to its friends. What's particularly noteworthy is that we aren't just talking about Israel but also: democratic oppositions in Lebanon, Syria, and Turkey; as well as the governments of Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the smaller Gulf states. This Obama Administration is an equal opportunity unreliable friend.

And what does Israel’s government think about Syria?

The Syrian government is not exactly popular in Israel. There have been times in the past when Israeli policymakers thought Syria might stabilize the Lebanon-Israel border. But this expectation has never really worked out. So nobody’s thought like that for many years.

There are three reasons why Israel has "accepted" the Assad regime. First, it couldn't do anything to change the situation. Second, it viewed the regime's continuation as inevitable. And third Israel worries that a revolutionary Islamist regime would replace it and make the regional situation even worse.

Bottom line:

Israel doesn't have any options to affect Syria's internal politics. Purely as an observation, Assad will probably survive. Israel will lobby neither for nor against Assad's fall. But Israel must be prepared since--as we just saw with the Nakba day events--he will heat up anti-Israel activities to distract attention from his problems and legitimize his regime.

These have been observations, not plans for action. Israel has never lobbied with anyone to preserve or protect the current Syrian regime. Assad hasn't needed "help" to maintain the support, or at least toleration, he has received from the West. Israel's political capital is precious and won't be wasted on an issue where action isn't needed and would make no difference.

If Israel believed that a moderate democratic regime--or at least one that wouldn't attack it and sponsor terrorism against it--would emerge Israel certainly wouldn't oppose such an outcome.

But Assad is likely to survive both because of his own ruthlessness and the West’s shameful behavior. Warsaw, 1944; Budapest, 1956; Prague, 1967; meet Damascus, 2011.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal, and a featured columnist at PajamasMedia http://pajamasmedia.com/barryrubin/ 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 http://www.gloria-center.org. His PajamasMedia columns are mirrored and other articles available at http://www.rubinreports.blogspot.com/.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

And The New Leader of the Free World Is...Saudi Arabia?

This article is published on PajamasMedia

By Barry Rubin

Since the United States is not leading the anti-Islamist forces in the Middle East or protecting the relatively moderate Arab states, the new leader is...Saudi Arabia.

But, you say, isn't Saudi Arabia also Islamist? Well it's as Islamic as you can get without being revolutionary Islamist. Isn't Saudi Arabia profoundly anti-Jewish? Yes, but it mostly just talks about it. Isn't Saudi Arabia anti-democratic? Yes, we'd prefer the United States but President Barack Obama is busy with other things.

Obama wants Middle East Muslims to love America. There are only two problems:

1. His policy doesn't work. They don't love America.

2. The Muslims he keeps appealing to are those who are radical and pro-terrorist. For those who are Muslims but don't want to overthrow their neighbors, go to war with Israel as soon as possible, throw out U.S. influence, and transform their countries into something like Iran and Taliban Afghanistan, Obama is a problem.

So the Saudis are doing what I've been telling the Obama Administration to do for 2.5 years: Form an alliance opposing revolutionary Islamism. Of course, the Saudis won't include Israel (at least publicly) and they won't get Europe, but at the moment they're all we've got.

This was completely predictable. Some weeks ago, Nawaf Obeid, who speaks for the Saudi government, wrote an important op-ed piece saying that the Saudis were fed up with the Obama Administration. So he voices the Saudis' anger and disappointment with a U.S. government that fails to fight against revolutionary Islamism and protect the Saudis from Iran.

I've been writing about this split for two years and now it has happened. The thing is that the Saudis are right and Obama is wrong.  The Obama Administration helped overthrow the Egyptian regime and was ready to help bring down the government in Bahrain. The Saudis have had enough. The Jordanians would do the same if they could, as would Israel.

And there are plenty of countries in South America, Central Europe, and Asia that also feel this U.S. government has let them down.

Wasn't this the U.S. government that was going to win over the Muslims, make the Arabs love America, and make the United States popular again?

Saudi Arabia has plenty of shortcomings. It won't even let women drive! But at least it won't let Tehran and the Muslim Brotherhood get in the region's driver's seat.

Friday, May 27, 2011

What is the Political Difference Between The West and Middle East

This article is published on PajamasMedia.

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By Barry Rubin

In the West, moderate democracy--somewhere between social democrats and conservatives--trumps militant nationalism and religion (Christianity) every time. It wasn't like that in 1930, it wasn't like that in 1830, or 1530, but it has been like that since 1945.

Westerners think, living in this environment, that everyone is like them (or basically like them, or behind all of those colorful customs, costumes, and food they are really just like them).

But in the Muslim-majority Middle East generally, militant nationalism and religion (Islam) trumps moderate democracy. The main elements are: radical nationalists, Islamists, with some neo-Marxist leftism thrown in.

By 2050--more likely 2100 or thereafter--the Middle East may be like the West in 2011. But in political terms it is more like the West in 1930 or 1830.

To quote the poet John Keats:

"that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know."

What was Keats writing about? The poem, "Ode on a Grecian Urn," published in 1820. He was in awe of the artistic power of ancient Greece. If you've never seen one of those magnificent urns in the British Museum then you've missed something about the power of Western cultural experience.

Western culture and society largely stands on two legs: Classical culture and philosophy and the Bible. But that's another story.

The same discovery that Keats romanticized (hah, good pun!) helped make possible the developments in Western philosophy, the arts, literature, and worldview that laid the basis for both democracy and scientific progress.

William Shakespeare and the roots of the Elizabeathan cultural and scientific explosion was based on the first generation of school boys who studied ancient Greece and Rome. In those days they still cut off people's heads and you had to be a Protestant adhering to the Anglican church to get a college degree. But it was the beginning of change in a better direction.

Guess what? The Muslim-majority Middle East are also having their Keats' moment. They are seeking ancient solutions for modern problems. But that tradition is not one of Aristotle, Plato, and Sophicles. Nor is it the one of John Locke, John Adams, John Stuart Mill, or even John Maynard Keynes or of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, or Jean-Baptiste Poquelin (better known as Moliere).

Rather than a Grecian urn, they are contemplating their ancient glories from the seventh century. It is just as legitimate but the results are somewhat different. This is truly "multi-culturalism" in action. The far left has hijacked liberalism but the Islamists have not exactly hijacked Islam. They are drawing on valid (though not the only) interpretations.

A comparable example: in reviving the ancient cultures of Greece and Rome, Keats could have been writing an ode to Caligula or Nero, or feeding Jews and Christian to the lions for sport.

Here's the ridiculous contradiction at the heart of the mainstream Western interpretation of the modern Middle East by the dominant leftists-pretending-to-be-liberals. I'll do it in the Greek philosophical style

Proposition One: All peoples are different. They have their own history, culture, religion, and values. All of these are equally true and valid.

Proposition Two: The Arab and Muslim societies of the Middle East think basically as we do. The average person just wants a nice house, an energy-efficient automobile, and a good education for their children in a peaceful world. The politically active person will naturally see the best system as democracy, the past approach as moderation, will revere peace over war, and will be tolerant of the "other."

See the contradiction? You can't have both. If proposition one is true, then proposition two must be false. Either societies are very different or they aren't. Which is it?

There is a way out of this problem. It's called "time." If the England of 1500 cut off heads and persecuted other religions and the modern Middle East does so, it also can move forward. Though that problem of history and tradition slows things up considerably.

At any rate, on the rollercoaster of Middle East history the train is about to lurch down, leaving our stomachs--but hopefully not our heads--somewhat behind. Western governments think the ride is over. They want to unbuckle their seatbelts, stand up and take in the fresh air.

Of the picture on the urn, Keats wrote:

"Who are these coming to the sacrifice?
To what green altar, O mysterious priest,
Lead'st thou that heifer lowing at the skies,
And all her silken flanks with garlands dressed?"

Why is there a rift between Israel and Obama? Because we were the heifer last time. We aren't being led to that green altar (how appropriate the color for today in two respects! The last time it was "brown" and then they tried to fool us with a "red" altar).

So who's being led by that mysterious priest this time?

Answer: The Western democratic states. Just say Obamoo.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal, and a featured columnist at PajamasMedia http://pajamasmedia.com/barryrubin/ 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 http://www.gloria-center.org. His PajamaMedia columns are mirrored and other articles available at http://www.rubinreports.blogspot.com/.

Arab World: Onward to Revolutionary Violence Or Let's Be Cautious?

This article is published on PajamasMedia.

By Barry Rubin

MEMRI has translated several Arab reactions to the “Nakba Day” marches on Israel’s border. In general, they said that this is the end of Israel—a line that they’ve been pursuing now for 63 years without much to show for it. Yet the appeal of this view has not notably diminished.

All the quotes in this article are taken from here.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) reaction is important because it shows once again—contrary to the claims of virtually all of the Western mass media and leaders—that this institution is totally uninterested in making peace with Israel. The article was written by Adli Sadeq who is an official of the PA Foreign Ministry.

He writes: "The revolutions in the Arab world – those that have [already] triumphed and those that are still underway – have put an end to bartering and haggling over the right of return."

In other words, because a few hundred demonstrators can approach Israel’s border and get shot, that means the PA should eternally demand that all Palestinians who so wish can go live in Israel (where they can assault that country from within). But given this position, there can never be any negotiated peace and won’t in reality be a Palestinian state.

So who’s intransigent? Israel is not going to agree to its own destruction and is strong enough so that it doesn’t have to do so. Forget about the peace process. Nothing is going to happen and that's because the Palestinian leadership isn't ready for peace. And that's because they think they will win a total victory without compromise. If you don't understand that, you understand nothing about the Middle East.

Hamas, which is now the PA’s partner, in the form of Deputy Speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council, Ahmad Baher, said that the demonstrations indicate there will soon be a third intifada that will destroy Israel. More violence, more death, the destruction of all the PA infrastructure and higher living standards achieved over the last year. All of this will be sacrificed for the mirage of total victory.

Were there more sophisticated responses? Yes.

The Jordanian government newspapers did not praise the protests. The rulers remember how Jordan was dragged into the 1967 war, and then used as a base for Fatah to attack Israel with terrorism. That regime has few illusions about risking its stability and sovereignty by hosting new cross-border attacks or marches. But it also allowed op-eds calling for and predicting Israel’s destruction.

While the monarchy virtually views Israel as an ally on some levels, it also must voice enough radical demagoguery to survive and buy off public opinion. Jordan doesn’t so much use Israel as a scapegoat for profit as it does for survival. In other words, it lets people scream that Israel is about to be destroyed but knows that isn’t true and doesn’t want to be carried away on that destructive bandwagon.

Then there’s al-Sharq al-Awsat, the Arab world’s best newspaper, which is Saudi owned but also relatively liberal. Its editor, Tariq Alhomayed, blamed Syria for the demonstrations: “Damascus is ready to sacrifice every last Palestinian in order to…distract the world from its barbaric suppression of the peaceful protests on its own soil....”

Finally, there’s an intriguing editorial in al-Ahram, Egypt’s leading newspaper that shows at least some people there are getting scared that they will soon have a radical regime that will drag them into another disastrous war. Although perhaps they are just holdovers from the old regime who will soon be replaced by those with the proper revolutionary ideology.

The editorial says the demonstrations will hurt the Palestinian cause and Egyptian interests.

This is going to be the pragmatic argument in Egypt in the years to come. The question is whether it can overcome radical fervor. The radical nationalists might heed these arguments; army officers are more likely to do so, Islamists deaf to them.

The editorial asks:

"Is it in the national interest to provoke Israel at present, and to open up new fronts [of conflict]? Is this really the right time? Second, everyone knows that security within Egypt has not been fully restored, and that the government is making an effort to provide safety in the streets, cities, and squares by reorganizing the police force. Is it wise to diffuse the efforts of the security forces by [sending them] to additional areas? Isn't our current situation enough [for them to handle]? Third, what can these marches toward the border achieve? Does anyone imagine, for example, that we are capable of fighting Israel? Have we considered what the Israeli response [might be] to such mass [demonstrations]?....Fervor, outbursts of emotion…are necessary at times, but it is always necessary for wisdom to prevail. Perhaps we should think a little [before acting]."

This is the kind of approach Westerners would expect: Our country is a wreck, the economy is drowning. Do we really want to engage in a foreign conflict now? Makes sense. But extremist masses and leaders in the Arabic-speaking world have frequently ignored such appeals to reason because of their ideology and their desire to gain or hold onto power.

And you know what? The Arab Spring hasn't changed that. If anything, it is intensifying the syndrome. Why? Because the old state-sponsorship is being replaced by a truly popular, grassroots revival.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Israeli People and Experts: We Support Netanyahu and Don’t Want to Return to 1967 Borders. U.S. Media: Israelis Don’t Like Netanyahu and Israeli Experts Say 1967 Borders are OK

This article is published in PajamasMedia

By Barry Rubin

We are living in Satireworld. I mean what more can you say? Well, I can say the title of this article that sums it up:

Israeli People and Experts: We Support Netanyahu and Don’t Want to Return to 1967 Borders.

U.S. Media: Israelis Don’t Like Netanyahu and Israeli Experts Say 1967 Borders are OK

Here's the evidence:

New York Times headline:" Israelis See Netanyahu Trip as Diplomatic Failure."

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel returned from Washington on Wednesday to a nearly unanimous assessment among Israelis that despite his forceful defense of Israel's security interests, hopes were dashed that his visit might advance peace negotiations with the Palestinians.”
Actually, Israelis generally have no hopes that anything is going to advance peace negotiations with the Palestinians because even though it makes them unhappy they know that the Palestinians don't want to advance peace negotiations. But that theme--the Palestinian leadership doesn't want peace--is not permitted in virtually all of the American mass media.

And who cares that the article is the exact opposite of the truth?

Ha’aretz headline: "Ha'aretz Poll: Netanyahu's Popularity Soaring Following Washington Trip"

"A new poll conducted by Dialog, under the supervision of Prof. Camil Fuchs of the Tel Aviv University Statistics Department, showed that 47% of the Israeli public believes Netanyahu's U.S. trip was a success, while only 10% viewed it as a failure."

Because the American media wants to tell its public the exact opposite:

Washington Post [the headline should be but isn't] headline: Israelis Oppose '67 Borders with Land Swaps

Oops! That’s not the headline! The real headline is: “Netanyahu says pre-1967 borders are indefensible for Israel, but experts wonder if that’s so.”

Get it? What does Netanyahu know? Obama knows better and Israeli experts (two of them!) agree with him.

If hundreds of thousands of lives weren't at stake this would all be very funny.

True, that the Post included in the article (but not the headline):

“According to a survey of Jewish Israelis published Wednesday by the Geocartographia Institute, 61% oppose the formula of 1967 borders with land swaps as a basis for an agreement with the Palestinians, while only 27% favor it.”

But the Post actually found two “experts” who say it doesn’t matter. One of them seems to be misquoted because what he’s actually saying appears to be the typical Israeli theme that it doesn’t matter so much what we’ll do they’ll attack us anyway. After reviewing his other statements, I think it is obvious that Giora Eiland, former general and national security council director, has clearly explained his view that a withdrawal to the 1967 borders would be a terrible mistake.

The other is an old personal friend so I won’t say anything more. Let's just say he's a good person and a superb scholar, but no expert on contemporary strategy and known to be very far to the left.

The fact that for every one expert who says the 1967 borders are just fine and dandy one could find a hundred who say: What, are you crazy? It’s the same tactic the media uses with American Jews.

To add insult to injury, the Washington Post features an op-ed by Fareed Zakaria, who knows nothing about Israel (or the Middle East) entitled, "Where Netanyahu fails himself and Israel."

But Zakaria has some fascinating turns of phrase. He says: Bibi is "a man who will be bypassed by history...remembered only as a person before the person who made peace, a comma in history."

Actually, if Bibi did listen to the advice of people like Zakaria, Israel would be remembered only as a formerly existing country destroyed by foolish decisions and the betrayal of friends.

He adds, "While Bibi might sound like Churchill, he acts like a local ward boss, far more interested in holding onto his post than using it to secure Israel's future."

Yeah, right, what does Netanyahu know? Giving up even more territory to a Fatah-Hamas regime in exchange for promises on paper (given the fate of previous ones) is really going to secure Israel's future. Not.

By the way, since Zakaria and Tom Friedman are both key advisors to Obama on his policy and the State Department speech, and Friedman called for mass Palestinian protests (along Tahrir Square lines) in Jerusalem, does that mean this is what Obama really thinks? If so, my readers who keep telling me that he wants to destroy Israel might actually be right.

Quickly, this reversal of reality becomes the conventional wisdom of the chattering class. Lawrence O'Donnell on MSNBC even misstates the poll results in claiming that most Israelis support Obama, not Netanyahu, so what's all the "hysteria" about? He claims 65 percent of Israelis support Obama.

The Jerusalem Post just did a poll on that question. In fact, only 12 percent consider Obama to be pro-Israel.  On one hand, that's a remarkable figure, indicating how obvious and bad is the situation. On the other hand, it isn't the least bit surprising because the situation really is bad. If American Jews knew how Israelis think about Obama and why they feel that way, perhaps those people would stop supporting Obama. And that's why they are not permitted to know.

See, who cares what (most) Israelis actually think! Who cares what (almost all) Israeli experts think? They are supposed to love Obama and hate Netanyahu. President Barack Obama thinks he knows best for Israel and when he reads the New York Times and Washington Post he will be confirmed in the belief that Israelis back him and not their own government. And he will be confirmed in his belief that Netanyahu is just being silly not wanting to go back to the 1967 borders. He’s just intransigent and only the Palestinian Authority (New and Improved! Now With Extra Added Hamas!) really wants peace.

Do American Jews back Israel? Every poll shows overwhelming support. But to read the mass media you’d think that they don’t, in part because who gets interviewed and the fact that J street seems to have hired the entire media as its press agent.

Of course, most American Jews also largely back Obama, but not on this specific issue. Those who read the New York Times and Washington Post may think that by supporting Obama's policy toward Israel they are supporting Israel since Israelis also (supposedly) love Obama, hate Netanyahu, and think the 1967 borders (well, at least the experts who really know about such things) are perfectly safe.

People I spoke to who were at the AIPAC meeting feel that Obama got a cool reception; those who heard about it through the media think he was incredibly popular there.

Let me put it this way: The Middle East and U.S. policy toward it is heading toward an iceberg. Netanyahu and Israelis generally see the iceberg. Obama, as in his State Department speech, says the weather’s fine and full speed ahead!

The iceberg will be arriving during the next few months.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal, and a featured columnist at PajamasMedia http://pajamasmedia.com/barryrubin/ 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 http://www.gloria-center.org. His PajamaMedia columns are mirrored and other articles available at http://www.rubinreports.blogspot.com/.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Obama Forgets History And Thus Makes Future Disastrous History

This article is published in PajamasMedia.

By Barry Rubin

A reader writes to me that I don’t understand how President Barack Obama is really friendly toward Israel—didn’t he say all those nice things?--and I’m distorting his words because I don’t just like him.

Like many people (half of the U.S. population?) I desperately want to like him because it’s better to have a smart, competent president rather than someone leading us (U.S.) toward disaster. But unlike a lot of people I’m willing to face reality. Because facing reality is the first step toward solving problems.

Let me try one more time to give an example—one among many—of the problem with Obama, his policies and his speeches.

The statements Obama makes are meant to be seen as positive toward Israel but aren't.

Example (I'm paraphrasing) I really care about Israel but don't you realize that by not making more concessions you are contributing to delegitimization of Israel?

OK. That's friendly, right?

BUT if the president of the United States doesn't know that:

Israel let 200,000 Palestinians return in 1993-2000 and gave guns to the PA and passed money to them, etc., and got more terrorism and rejectionism.

Israel withdrew from Sinai and made peace with Egypt and now the peace treaty is being torn up. In September Egypt will get a radical, perhaps Islamist, government. Today Egypt is opening the border with the Gaza Strip. Money and weapons will flow across freely to Hamas and will be fired at Israel one day.

Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon, and then was attacked by Hizballah in 2006. The U.S. government and others promised that they would stop Hizballah from getting more rockets and returning to southern Lebanon. They didn’t. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates just pointed out that Hizballah now has more rockets than practically any country in the world. 

Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip and got a Hamas hostile regime that attacks it.

Israel made huge concessions and then is even MORE delegitimized in the West.

And then the president says: So now the solution is to pull out of the West Bank and then everything will be great!

And when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu complains you don’t understand why he’s upset?

The Netanyahu-Abbas Exchange That Explains Why There's No Peace, Who's Responsible, and What Obama Doesn't Understand

This article is published in PajamasMedia.

“We cannot negotiate with those who say, `What's mine is mine and what's yours is negotiable.’"   --President John Fitzgerald Kennedy

By Barry Rubin

You can read for yourselves Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to the U.S. Congress. Both on regional issues and the Israel-Palestinian question he was quite clear. His speech was vastly superior to those by Obama not just because of the policy content but because he deals with regional realities that the president ignores or just gets completely wrong.

But what I want to talk about here is a remarkable juxtaposition that no one else seems to have noticed. If you understand this article, you can understand all of the problems of the Middle East. If you don't, please go mess up the lives of people elsewhere.

To set up this point I must first quote extensively from Netanyahu’s speech. He said:

“This is the land of our forefathers, the Land of Israel, to which Abraham brought the idea of one God, where David set out to confront Goliath, and where Isaiah saw a vision of eternal peace. No distortion of history can deny the four thousand year old bond, between the Jewish people and the Jewish land.

“But there is another truth: The Palestinians share this small land with us. We seek a peace in which they will be neither Israel’s subjects nor its citizens. They should enjoy a national life of dignity as a free, viable and independent people in their own state. They should enjoy a prosperous economy, where their creativity and initiative can flourish.”

So this is a classic Western—indeed a classic liberal Western—formulation. We have our rights but we also respect your rights. Let’s find a win-win situation that benefits everyone.

Netanyahu added:

“They [the Palestinians] were simply unwilling to end the conflict. And I regret to say this: They continue to educate their children to hate. They continue to name public squares after terrorists. And worst of all, they continue to perpetuate the fantasy that Israel will one day be flooded by the descendants of Palestinian refugees."

In a moment, watch Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas prove Netanyahu's first sentence to be true.

“My friends, this must come to an end. President Abbas must do what I have done. I stood before my people, and I told you it wasn’t easy for me, and I said… `I will accept a Palestinian state.' It is time for President Abbas to stand before his people and say… `I will accept a Jewish state.'"

Remember that challenge.

“Those six words will change history. They will make clear to the Palestinians that this conflict must come to an end. That they are not building a state to continue the conflict with Israel, but to end it. They will convince the people of Israel that they have a true partner for peace. With such a partner, the people of Israel will be prepared to make a far reaching compromise. I will be prepared to make a far reaching compromise.”

In other words, once the Palestinians really acknowledge—which they have not done—the Jewish connection to the land Israel will know they are a partner for peace and make more compromises.

Now, here’s the part nobody noticed. Abbas answered Netanyahu!

In a major speech for “Nakba Day,” that is the Palestinian day of mourning that Israel was ever created in the first place, Abbas said:

“We say to him [Netanyahu], when he claims - that they [Jews] have a historical right dating back to 3000 years [BC] - we say that the nation of Palestine upon the land of Canaan had a 7000 year history [BC]. This is the truth, which must be understood and we have to note it, in order to say: 'Netanyahu, you are incidental in history. We are the people of history. We are the owners of history.’"

Do you understand?

Netanyahu said: We have rights; you have rights. We recognize yours and when you recognize ours we can have peace. Your refusal to recognize our rights—to demand total victory for yourself (which means Israel’s disappearance)—makes peace impossible.

And what did Abbas (whose name cannot appear in the American media without the word “moderate” being attached to him) answer:

Well, we don’t recognize that you have any rights. All the rights belong to us! You are just a passing breeze that will become extinct and you are of no importance.

So that’s the bottom line. Even in the year 2011--as happened in the year 1948--even a relative moderate like Abbas simply cannot bring himself to say in Arabic: “Let’s share this land in a two-state solution.”

Ironically, Netanyahu is taking a liberal and flexible position while Abbas is taking a reactionary, imperialistic stance. Talk about accepting the “other!”

And yet not a single professor in any university class, not a single journalist or expert in the mass media will raise or even report that point. President Obama won’t pick up on it to chide the Palestinians. Nobody will start calling Netanyahu moderate and peace-seeking while saying that Abbas is extremist and peace-rejecting.

Nevertheless, what simpler and more graphic example could anyone want?

Now you know why peace is impossible. It isn’t because Israel won’t go back to the 1967 borders. It’s because the Palestinian leadership still believes and tells its people that Israel has no right to exist.

PS: Abbas's history is of course rubbish. There is no connection between ancient Canaanites--who don't go back anywhere near that far--and modern Arabs. Since the Canaanites weren't Muslims, Abbas is acting as a pure opportunist since no Arab nation accepts such pre-Islamic connections any way.

But I love that phrase he said, "We are the owners of history." In other words, we can make up any lie we want and to Hell with the consequences.

The Jewish Temple? Never existed in Jerusalem!

Did we miss a chance to have our own state in 1947? Never happened!

Is it crazy to go on fighting for decades hoping to destroy Israel rather than make acompromise peace now? No alternative. Israel doesn't want peace.

If you are so oppressed and suffering why aren't you in a hurry to negotiate with Israel and make a deal? No! First, they must give us what we want beforehand. We're in no hurry at all because what good is a deal if we have to give up the hope of total victory in the future!

Abbas has told us everything we need to know about who doesn't want peace. And here's the reality of the Palestinian Authority position (not to mention that of its partner, Hamas): If you can't have peace without accepting Israel's permanent existence then it is better not to have peace at all.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal, and a featured columnist at PajamasMedia http://pajamasmedia.com/barryrubin/ 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 http://www.gloria-center.org. His PajamaMedia columns are mirrored and other articles available at http://www.rubinreports.blogspot.com/.

Why The Issue of Land Landed President Obama In Trouble With Israel

This article is published on PajamasMedia.

By Barry Rubin

A Muslim friend whom I greatly respect wrote me that he doesn''t understand why I've been complaining about Obama's speeches. I suggested that the problem is he has been reading media coverage which tends to revolve around one sentence in the State Department speech. All I do is read the entire texts carefully and analyze them. People are saying that Obama's position is the same as Bush's or that he said nothing new.

Honest, if Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is so upset that he would publicly disagree with the U.S. president he--and others in Israel--have a reason for doing so. It is, after all, our lives that are on the line.

Consider this: Israel is on the verge of having four hostile and radical regimes as neighbors--Egypt, Hamas in Gaza, a Hizballah-dominated Lebanon, and Syria (which might get worse). It's nearest ally, Turkey, has become completely hostile and is dominated by an Islamist regime that--let's face it--doesn't like Jews generally. Its biggest enemy in the region--Iran--is increasing its influence and heading toward nuclear weapons. At that same moment, the United States is acting  weaker, less reliable, and less friendly toward Israel than at any time in decades.

And it is at this moment that Obama asks for more concessions and risks. And who are the concessions to be made to? A radical nationalist PA which is now in partnership with the openly genocidal Hamas.

Yet despite the previous two paragraphs, there are those who would characterize Israel's position as completely unreasonable. Indeed, Obama implies that if Israel makes concessions and turns over almost all of the West Bank to the PA as soon as possible, all of these problems will go away.

In most of the media, people who know nothing about such matters are ridiculing Israel, arguing that it has nothing to be upset about. Yet they never respond to the specific questions and problems that I'm raising. They just ignore them completely.

I regret that one sentence in President Barack Obama’s speech at the State Department has become virtually the sole topic of debate about those talks. As I’ve pointed out—here and here and here--there are more than a half-dozen bigger problems and a lot of scary things in his State Department and AIPAC speeches that indicate his thinking on the issue more than anything he’s ever said before.

Obama likes the focus on that one sentence because—as he spent so much time in his AIPAC speech asserting—he can claim to be misquoted. But let’s spend a moment on the problem with that one sentence.

Obama can claim he stayed within traditional U.S. policy yet that is misleading. He has not. One of the main formulas in the peace process for decades has been that the two parties will determine the borders in negotiations. Since the Palestinian Authority wants the 1967 borders precisely while Israel wants changes this formula preserves Israel’s leverage. Israel can ask for more then use that as leverage to get less—but get what it needs.

Obama limited Israel’s leverage in two ways:

1. The 1967 borders with presumably minor changes.

2. Israel must also give territory in order to claim any parts of the West Bank. While Israel had mentioned the possibility of swaps now it is mandatory.

It isn't as if nobody has thought of these two points before. But up until now that was the way negotiations might end. What Obama has now done is to make this the starting point. Within hours of his speech, the PA demanded that Israel must accept the 1967 borders (with no changes) before it would negotiate!

So objectively, Obama's position has hurt any prospects for peace or even...holding talks at all.

It’s equally true that the PA doesn’t love Obama’s formulation. Yet the problem is that it knows it can always push for more--as it is now doing--and that no European or American government will pressure them to make concessions. Israel’s situation is the opposite: international pressure continually seeks to erode its position.

The administration of Obama’s predecessor promised Israel that it could keep “settlement blocs,” that is, areas of large-scale Israel Jewish population (all very close to the pre-1967 borders), would be annexed by Israel. At first, the Obama Administration rejected that pledge. Such behavior is totally against international diplomatic practice, in which governments must maintain their predecessors’ commitments. Israel remembers how the Obama Administration reneged on that commitment. And that’s not the only one.

When Israel agreed to Obama’s request for a nine-month freeze of construction on settlements, the U.S. government secretly (though it was signaled subtly in public) reinstated that commitment. Obama might have mentioned that in one of his two speeches, thus showing Israel that he does back some substantial, but small-scale, changes. But he didn’t do so.

Remember, that the totality of Israel’s claims for border changes relates to only three to five percent of the entire West Bank.

So isn’t Obama right in saying that he was misquoted since he did talk about land swaps and the need for both sides to agree on the future borders? Yes, his formulation could be within acceptable boundaries.

Why then are people up in arms on that sentence? First, journalists and “experts” are lazy and didn’t read or analyze the full speech. It is easier to repeat what everyone else is saying.

Second, almost unnoticed has been the truly shocking peace plan proposed by Obama:

Step one: Israel withdraws from (all?) the West Bank in exchange for paper security guarantees by the PA.

Step two: The two sides negotiate remaining issues.

Do you realize the implications? If Israel pulls out of all of the West Bank isn’t it going back to the 1967 borders? Supposedly, this is temporary, pending a comprehensive agreement? Ha-ha.

In other words, Israel will give up real assets in exchange for promises made by a counterpart (which includes Hamas which has made clear it won’t accept anything less than Israel’s extinction!) and guaranteed by a (former?) great power whose leader has a record of not keeping promises.

But remember that this is all part of Obama’s wider theme: It is in Israel’s interests to make a lot of concessions as fast as possible so that the Israel-Palestinian conflict will end and then Israel (with reduced territory and a new hostile, much bigger, neighbor!) will be more popular in the world and more secure in the Middle East.


The moment when Israel is about to have three hostile and radical Islamist neighbors (Egypt, Gaza Strip, Lebanon) with the possibility of a fourth (a possible Syrian revolution) is not the time to demand concessions to a fifth, half-Islamist, half-radical nationalist one.

The real difference between Obama and George Bush in terms of their personal qualities as presidents is that when Bush said or did something dumb or dangerous he was denounced by media and opinion makers. When Obama does the same thing, he’s praised for his brilliance. At least withering criticism gave Bush’s Administration an opportunity to improve. Obama keeps wading deeper into the swamp, smugly asserting that he’s heading in the right direction.

Third, this specific spat merely symbolizes Israel’s mistrust of Obama and his attitude toward it. On a half-dozen occasions Obama has broken promises to Israel while accepting PA slaps in his face with no complaints and even more support for the PA.

Moreover, Israel faces a dangerous regional problem largely due to Obama’s policies. The moment Egypt is about to become hostile, Iran’s influence is advancing and it will soon get nuclear weapons (no matter what Obama says), Fatah and Hamas reunite, and Hizballah is about to take over Lebanon is not the ideal moment for Israel to take more risks and make more concessions.

And despite Obama’s tougher language in his State Department speech, the truth is that he is still passively accepting, without sanctions or pressure, the fact that his PA client has just united with an openly antisemitic, genocidal, terrorist group that makes no secret of planning to wipe Israel and Israelis off the map.

Imagine an ally demanding that the United States make concessions to a government in which al-Qaida was a coalition partner and you get a sense of what Obama’s policy means to Israel. Obama has been slow to act on Iran, soft on Syria, willing to deal with a Lebanese government that includes Hizballah, helpful to Hamas, almost uncritical of the PA, and generous to the Muslim Brotherhood. Only in Israel’s case does he, personally, strike a different tone. That might be an exaggeration but it isn’t a big exaggeration.

Obama’s total ignorance or ignoring of Israel’s past experience is chilling. After more than two years in which Israel has done most of what Obama has requested (not everything, certainly, but quite a lot), he has shown no reciprocity in his own statements. For example, he might have praised Israel for its freeze of construction on settlements but he didn’t.

No one even noticed that in his AIPAC speech, Obama didn’t cite a single specific thing that Israel has done for praise: not the risks and costs of the Oslo process; not the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip or southern Lebanon; nothing at all. His praise was vague, general, and just a copy-and-paste job of what past presidents said.

Finally, a president is supposed to express himself clearly. Afterward, he can’t tell other countries and his own people they are too dumb to understand him. When a leader talks like that it should raise a red flag that something is wrong. And voters should give him a red card.*

The last time I heard something like that was the day after the last Turkish election when an opposition party leader was asked on television why his side lost. ”Because the voters are stupid,” he replied.

Another diplomatic no-no is to make a major speech affecting the survival of someone else’s country when its leader is flying to your capital for meetings, especially when done without full prior consultation.

Obama never lacks for apologists who dominate the cameras and printing presses. Ridiculous things are said to excuse his two speeches and obfuscate the serious problems with both. In the face of a dangerous tidal wave, Obama proclaims it a perfect day to go to the beach. And he tells Israel that it should swim further out, beyond the warning signs.

As I read the AIPAC speech I was reminded of an incident during the 1930s. A famous children’s show host on radio had just finished a broadcast. Thinking the microphone was off, he said, “That ought to hold the little bastards!” Those words went out over the air and children who toddled off to ask parents what “bastards” meant. Ah, those were more innocent times.

I’m not claiming this is what Obama said after the AIPAC speech but I think the story gives a sense of his cynical attitude toward Israel and the Jewish voters.

To summarize:

1. Israel gives up all West Bank first and then negotiates on borders.

2. Israel loses leverage for getting something in exchange for basically accepting 1967 borders.

3. Encourages the PA--as has now happened--to demand Israel accepts 1967 borders before negotiating.

4. Would rule out the Jordan Valley security zone he wants.

5. Palestinians don't have to accept an end of conflict, no right of return, or Israel as a Jewish state in exchange for getting a big thing they want. In short, Israel is being pressed toward a concession. What is the PA pressed to do? To talk with Israel and thus get a big concession!

6. In discussing swaps, Obama didn't mention settlement blocs so he has dropped assurances to Israel that it would get specific pieces of land it wants.

7. And of course he cannot be depended upon to back Israel on its needs but he can be depended on to demand more Israeli concessions.

8. The regional situation is very dangerous and it is not a time to be turning over territory to an unstable, hostile entity.

*Note: In football (soccer), A player committing a very bad foul is given a red card by the referee, which means he’s thrown out of the game.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Palestinian Politics Is About to Make a Transition For the Worse; Bad Time to Push for Peacemaking

This article is published in PajamasMedia.

By Barry Rubin

Palestinian Authority "president" Mahmoud Abbas is retiring and has called on Fatah to choose a replacement. Wonder who they'll pick? Watch this space. I think I know and he makes Amr Moussa look like Megan McCain.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has suffered a heart attack. The Fatah leadership wants to get rid of him and is only held back by concern over the donors giving money. His days, too, are numbered.

President Obama's argument is that Israel should make peace as fast as possible. But of course since the two "moderate" leaders aren't going to be around very long, why make concessions to be pocketed by their successors who won't implement these commitments and will definitely add even more demands.

Obama's argument is that Israel is becoming delegitimized because there isn't a peace agreement. But delegitimization by some is better than a very dangerous strategic situation. Moreover, it isn't clear that more Israeli concessions and risks will reverse delegitimization. Experience has shown the opposite.

Obama's second argument is that the strategic situation will get worse if Israel doesn't make concessions, etc. In fact, precisely because the situation is getting worse means Israel doesn't want to face a hostile Egyptian and Lebanese government, a stronger Iran, a less reliable America, etc., from a worse strategic situation. And that's what will happen if Israel does what Obama wants.

Monday, May 23, 2011

In September, Obama’s Middle East Policy Will Collapse

This article is published on PajamasMedia.

By Barry Rubin

Prediction: In September, President Barack Obama’s Middle East policy blows up in his (and our) face(s). It’s totally obvious and yet no one is focusing on it.

I’m not referring to the Palestinian Authority’s bid for unilateral independence at the UN. I’m referring to the Egyptian parliamentary election.

It is totally obvious that in that election Egypt will elect a radical, anti-American, hate-Israel parliament which will then write the country’s new constitution. This is a turning point in Middle East history. And Obama is unaware of it. Quite the contrary, he declared in his State Department speech that everything is great with the “Arab spring.” Nothing can go wrong. It is the expression of a yearning for prosperity and freedom.

The Arab spring began when a frustrated man in Tunisia set himself on fire.

It will now move to the new phase: the whole Middle East will be set on fire.

Is that alarmist? Not at all, except in the sense that when one sees a fire he sets off the fire alarm.

Don’t be distracted by the question of whether Islamists will have a majority or the even narrower question of whether the Muslim Brotherhood will have a majority.

There WILL be a radical majority, there MIGHT be an Islamist majority, there won’t be a Muslim Brotherhood majority but it will ALMOST CERTAINLY be the largest single party.

Why do I say this? Well, Amr Moussa, who isn’t an Islamist and is Egypt’s most popular and important Egyptian politician says so.

There is no sign—no sign—that the moderates are organizing serious parties. Instead of getting to work, they’re complaining. Meanwhile four radical, anti-American, passionately anti-Israel forces are organizing:

--The Muslim Brotherhood, which should get one-third or more of the seats and is contesting half of them, obviously in the districts where it has the best chance of winning.

--Smaller and even more radical Islamist parties (referred to as Salafists) who could form agreements with the Brotherhood so that they won’t hurt each other’s chances.

--Left-wing neo-Marxist parties.

--Radical nationalists.

There will probably be a number of independents who will be courted and won over by one of these blocs.

Imagine the day after that election. What will the mass media say? What will the American politicians say?

--That they were wrong about the Egyptian revolution and the Muslim Brotherhood?

--That by helping to bring down the old regime, U.S. policy foisted a disaster on the region and on its own interests?

--That by celebrating how great the “Arab Spring” is and refusing to acknowledge the real threats and problems, Obama made catastrophic errors.

--That his policy has led to many advances for America’s enemies?

--That Israel is in a far worse strategic situation and certainly can’t and shouldn’t make any more concessions?

--That the Islamists are emboldened and thus both Hamas and the radicals who run Fatah are taking an even harder line?

--That the loss of faith in America by its Arab allies is now undeniably clear and they are scrambling to make their own deals with Iran and other extremists?

--That there is a real possibility of a war in which Egypt either joins directly or backs Hamas? Imagine, Egypt stays “neutral” but nobody stops thousands of Egyptian volunteers from crossing into Gaza to fight or even across the Egypt-Israel border to launch terror attacks?

--What will the Obama Administration do if in practice Egypt tears up the Israel-Egypt peace treaty even if it pretends that it isn’t doing so?

--People are insisting that if Hamas in practice becomes part of the Palestinian Authority that the United States, and certainly Congress, will cut off aid. But what will happen when the Obama Administration does everything possible to prevent an aid cut-off and nothing possible to pressure the PA into changing its policy or behavior?

These are not speculations. These things WILL happen. Nobody in the United States or Europe is seriously discussing these scenarios and what should be done about them.

And I didn’t even mention the Egyptian presidential elections or, for that matter:

--An emboldened Turkish Islamist government if it wins the June 12 elections the:re,

--A Lebanese government controlled by Syria and its clients, especially Hizballah, if it ever gets a new prime minister and cabinet installed in that country.

--The survival of an anti-American Syrian government that has murdered hundreds of its citizens and will be arresting and torturing thousands, in part due to the Obama Administration's failure to try to overthrow it?

--The sight of Iran ever closer to nuclear weapons and admissions that the sanctions had only a limited effect?

These are not far-out scenarios. All of them have a 90 percent or more likelihood of happening.

I don’t want to take your time here for a history lesson but consider precedents:

--1952. Radical regime takes power in Egypt. U.S. realizes the threat by April 1955 but then saves the regime from being overthrown by Britain, France, and Israel in 1956. Result: Violence, disruption, and anti-American problems in the region for decades.

--1979. Radical regime takes power in Iran. U.S. policy makes a mess in dealing with the revolutionary crisis. Americans taken hostage, revolutionary Islamism flourishes, thirty plus years of violence, September 11, Islamist movement still growing. By the way, why does not one of the hundreds of "experts" on television and in the mass media remember that the Iranian revolution began after President Jimmy Carter urged reform on the shah and ended with the United States calling on the shah to go away? Remind you of anything?

September 2011 will be another of those moments. Mark that on your calendar. On the tenth anniversary of the September 11 attacks, the United States will be watching the triumph of the ideology and movement--not Usama bin Ladin, of course, but his smarter counterparts--in much of the Middle East.

PS: Here's an excellent guide to Egypt's political parties so far which proves my point . Note that there isn't a single serious moderate party. Amr Mousa isn't forming a party while Muhammad ElBaradei, Obama's favorite, isn't doing anything but complain. There is a "Facebook party." So far it has 1000 "likes." Egypt has about 85 million people.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal, and a featured columnist at PajamasMedia http://pajamasmedia.com/barryrubin/ 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 http://www.gloria-center.org. His PajamaMedia columns are mirrored and other articles available at http://www.rubinreports.blogspot.com/.

Obama At AIPAC: Beneath The Flattery, He Revealed His Indifference to Israel’s Needs and His Tilt Against It

This article is published on PajamasMedia.
By Barry Rubin

I expected President Barack Obama’s AIPAC speech would be a bunch of feel-good clich├ęs to persuade the audience that he is Israel’s best friend. Thus there would be nothing worth analyzing in it. But as I read the speech carefully I was astonished at how thoroughly Obama reveals his underlying miscomprehension, indifference, and even hostility toward Israel.

Examine this speech and you see everything wrong—far more than in his Cairo or State Department speeches on the Middle East—with Obama’s view of Israel and why he cannot be trusted on this issue.

There are some remarkable Freudian slips in his formulations and they have nothing to do with his discussion of the framework for Israel-Palestinian peace.

He spoke at great length of his support for Israel, how he wants it to be strong and secure, and the common values of the two countries. Yet if he really thinks that, why didn’t he say such things in his State Department speech on the Middle East or elsewhere?

Obama stated:

“We also know how difficult that search for security can be, especially for a small nation like Israel in a tough neighborhood….When I went to Sderot, I saw the daily struggle to survive in the eyes of an eight-year old boy who lost his leg to a Hamas rocket. And when I walked among the Hall of Names at Yad Vashem, I grasped the existential fear of Israelis when a modern dictator seeks nuclear weapons and threatens to wipe Israel off the map.”

Yet his regional policies have undermined Israel’s security:

--Without getting anything from Hamas (the group that shoots rockets at Sderot) he pressed Israel to reduce sanctions against Hamas, helped bring into power a pro-Hamas government in Egypt, and sent $400 million in U.S .taxpayer money that objectively strengthens the Hamas regime.

--By not actively opposing Hizballah and Syria taking over Lebanon, thus increasing the threat on Israel’s northern border.

--By waiting so long before he moved on Iran sanctions and by failing to support the Iranian democratic opposition.

--By acting as apologist for the Syrian terrorist-sponsoring dictatorship.

--By not keeping U.S. promises to Israel on countering Hizballah’s return to southern Lebanon and arms’

--By helping create a situation in Egypt that will definitely lead to a radical, anti-American, anti-Israel takeover and probably leading to an Islamist regime there.

--By becoming an apologist and booster of the most anti-Israel (and Islamist) Turkish government ever he has done nothing to help Israel deal with the enmity of its closest regional ally. Obama quickly capitulated to the Gaza flotilla.

--By never really criticizing or pressuring the Palestinian Authority on anything at all, even when it rejected his initiatives, broke its promises to him, or made him look foolish. Consider Vice-President Joe Biden’s temper tantrum about a Jerusalem zoning board okaying a construction project in the distant future to the administration’s basic indifference to ongoing PA incitement and the naming of things against terrorists who murdered Israelis.

That’s not a complete list.

(Incidentally, Obama doesn't even seem to grasp the existential fear of U.S. Arab allies about Iran's power or Islamist revolutions that will wipe them off the map.)

He may talk a good game on Sderot and Yad Vashem but in practice his policies have largely ignored the points he made to AIPAC.

“Because we understand the challenges Israel faces, I and my administration have made the security of Israel a priority. It’s why we’ve increased cooperation between our militaries to unprecedented levels.”

Obama is correct that U.S.-Israel military cooperation remains quite strong but his policy shows he definitely does NOT understand the challenges Israel faces.

“Today, Iran is virtually cut off from large parts of the international financial system, and we are going to keep up the pressure. So let me be absolutely clear – we remain committed to preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.”

Nice words but in fact Iran is finding a lot of loopholes; Obama is not cracking down on Russia, China, and Turkey (to name the three main countries that are helping Iran).

“As I said on Thursday, the Iranian government has shown its hypocrisy by claiming to support the rights of protesters while treating its own people with brutality. Moreover, Iran continues to support terrorism across the region, including providing weapons and funds to terrorist organizations. So we will continue to work to prevent these actions, and will stand up to groups like Hezbollah who exercise political assassination, and seek to impose their will through rockets and car bombs.”

As you already know, the Obama administration has distinguished itself by the minimum it has done regarding Iran’s repression of the democratic opposition. And how has the U.S. government stood up to Hizballah? In fact, it has most definitely NOT stood up to Hizballah.

“And I indicated on Thursday that the recent agreement between Fatah and Hamas poses an enormous obstacle to peace. No country can be expected to negotiate with a terrorist organization sworn to its destruction. We will continue to demand that Hamas accept the basic responsibilities of peace: recognizing Israel’s right to exist, rejecting violence, and adhering to all existing agreements. And we once again call on Hamas to release Gilad Shalit, who has been kept from his family for five long years.”

Once again, though, the opposite is true. Up to Obama’s recent State Department speech, the administration’s talking points were NOT to condemn the agreement but to take a wait and see approach. Even Obama’s discussion of the issue in his major speech did not attack the agreement (much less pressure the PA against doing it) but merely said that they would have to prove to Israel they were going to adhere to the Quartet conditions. Indeed, the PA and Hamas have already come up with clever ways to get around these issues.

“As I said to Prime Minister Netanyahu, I believe that the current situation in the Middle East does not allow for procrastination.”

In principle, Obama’s idea that we must do something quick to resolve the Israel-Palestinian issue because of current conditions (I’ve been hearing that exact line for 40 years) sounds nice. In practice, though, here’s what it amounts to: The Palestinians are intransigent. They should not be punished. Israel must make more concessions.

Obama doesn’t take the Hamas threat seriously, nor does he take a real tough line on incitement. The only thing he presses the PA on is that it should talk, not that it should give.

Consider this carefully:

“There is a reason why the Palestinians are pursuing their interests at the United Nations. They recognize that there is an impatience with the peace process – or the absence of one. Not just in the Arab World, but in Latin America, in Europe, and in Asia. That impatience is growing, and is already manifesting itself in capitols around the world.”

So Obama doesn’t say that the Palestinians are trying to circumvent negotiations with Israel and mutual compromise! No, their problem is that they are too eager for peace.

Ok. Here’s a quiz for you: If the Palestinians are impatient with the slow pace of progress, who is responsible for the lack of progress? If the Palestinians are so eager to make a deal, the fault must be with…Israel.

That paragraph is a Freudian slip on Obama’s part. Yet since the PA wouldn’t negotiate for two years, including almost nine months during an Israeli construction freeze, that would throw into question its eagerness.

(I recall how in 2000 we were told the same thing about Arafat being in a hurry to make a deal. Then when he refused to negotiate more and went to violence, the same people told us how foolish we were in rushing him!)

“But the march to isolate Israel internationally – and the impulse of the Palestinians to abandon negotiations – will continue to gain momentum in the absence of a credible peace process and alternative.”

Think about how this is totally in contradiction to the history we lived through. The march to isolate Israel internationally will continue no matter what Israel does, whether it is involved in talks or now. Why? Because the goal of those behind it—mainly the Western leftists and Islamists—is to destroy Israel.

Again, though, there’s a Freudian slip here. For Obama’s failure to recognize the motivation means he doesn’t understand the problem. And Obama has contributed to the delegitimization of Israel. What’s he saying here: Israel hasn’t given enough and made enough concessions to move the peace process forward and that’s the reason for growing hostility to Israel.

That means he doesn’t realize the sacrifices Israel has made for the cause of peace: withdrawing from Sinai, southern Lebanon, the Gaza Strip and much of the West Bank; losing more than 2000 people murdered by terrorism; and so on.

Israelis have drawn the precise opposite conclusion. If years of demonstrating our desire for peace, making concessions, taking risks, and empathizing with Palestinian suffering has only intensified the hostility toward us, perhaps that hostility isn’t our fault and is due to something else.

On that point, Obama is totally clueless. For him, Israel still needs to prove it wants peace. But the PA doesn’t.

One more Freudian slip. Israel isn’t doing enough to keep the Palestinians to abandon negotiations. So the fact that the PA doesn’t want to make true peace is…Israel’s fault once again.

Incidentally, can you imagine Obama talking about how Palestinian and Arab behavior might create an “impulse” of Israel “to abandon negotiations”? Of course not.

Obama can quote the Talmud but he can’t deal with the impending catastrophe in Egypt. How can he speak at AIPAC and not mention that the most important country in the Arab world is moving quickly to tear up its peace treaty with Israel, end sanctions on Hamas in the Gaza Strip, and create a massive new security problem for Israel! A fitting symbol of his total indifference about, “How difficult that search for security can be.”

On the surface, President Obama’s speech to AIPAC will reassure many about his care and commitment to Israel. Yet a careful reading of the speech shows the exact opposite.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal, and a featured columnist for PajamasMedia at http://pajamasmedia.com/barryrubin/. 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 http://www.gloria-center.org.