The General and the Lawyer

June 9, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Geoffrey Cook, TMO

Let us continue our discussion with The IDF (Israeli Defense Force’s) Retired General and their Ministry Of Justice Official

Last week (May 30th-June June 5th), the Yemeni unrest has broken out into a full-fledged civil war with tribal groups on one side opposing the government in Sana’s Army seriously wounding the nation’s President.  Today (124 Yemeni Army personal were reported as casualties of the battle while the NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization) perceives the situation with alarm because of the large concentration of Al-Qaeda on the southern coast of the Arabian Peninsula.  While in Libya the consternation still converges, with NATO’s overwhelming air forces backing the rebels in Benghazi a resolution to the clash looks far away.  The Arab “Spring” has degenerated into an ugly Middle Eastern / North African clash of wills.

Let us continue with the IDF (Israeli Defense Force) Retired General Sharoni and Ms. Taras Hassan of her nation’s Ministry of Justice Department reaction to (U.S.) President Obama’s speech of a fortnight ago on establishing a basis for negotiations between Israel and Palestine based on (U.S.) President Barrack Obama’s proposals for peace dialogues.

Jeremy Ben-Ami, who is domiciled here in Washington, is the Executive Director of J-Street joined the conversation by the miracles of the Internet.  Both the two influential progressive Israelis and a liberal Jewish-American thinker shared an alternative vision for Tel Aviv’ State which includes an independent Palestinian State on their borders: A vision that would guarantee their country as a majority Jewish entity, but with better integration into the Middle Eastern environment.  Such individuals are the only hope for that nation’s survival since their citizen’s are threatened by their government’s policy of “Eternal War” which cannot be kept up indefinitely without eventual disaster. A progressively political Israeli government could be trusted to confer trustfully and honestly with the opposing side.    

Your writer is always interested in the comments of a military man like the general.  If you remember this author wrote several pieces on these pages regarding the retired American Marine Corps General Anthony Zini.  Because he was no longer on active duty, he was free to criticize (his) President Bush’s morality and his Administration conduct of the Iraq War.  Sharoni is in the exact same position in respect to his (Israeli) Prime Minister (P.M’s) policy towards the suppression of the Palestinian’s rightful desire for nationhood.  After all, unlike the Judaic ultra-Orthodox, who are not required to serve because of their long curled hair; yet, they are among the most conservative within the Hebrew body politic. (Strange, because the Sikhs, who have a reputation for being among the best soldiers in the world — are required by their religion never to cut any of their body hair; nevertheless, they have consistently served honorably, and are considered among the best soldiers in the world.  Sometimes being “shoot at” will encourage one to settle social conflicts short of war if possible.)  General Sharoni had an honorable career as a man of arms often risking his own life throughout his career.

The two people, who were in Jerusalem — contrary to their Prime Minister, were advocates, along with (U.S.) President Barrack Obama, that the basis of negotiation should begin at the acceptance of the pre-1967 borders with certain mutually concurred land exchanges resolved between the two parties through bargaining amongst themselves.  This is necessary because of the pattern of the Settlements.

(The United States or any other third foreign delegation should not impose its own will upon the principal actors, but should be there to aid the two groups to find a middle ground between them.)

The upcoming U.N. (United Nations’) vote to decide upon Palestine independence is on the Israeli liberals “radar.”  Several progressive Israeli organizations support and have already made a public endorsements in favor of this vote in favor of the Palestinians. In fact, on the fourth, a major demonstration of 5,000 residents was held in Tel Aviv in favor of Obama’s peace proposals.

The retired Major-General Sharoni is of the opinion that the only way to keep the “democratic” Motherland for the Jews is the two-State solution.  (Your author, of course, is of a slightly different opinion.  I envision a multi-sectarian State upon the territory of the present-day Israel.  The ultra-conservative Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman proposal to genetically cleanse the Hebrew State – mainly of the Palestinian Arabs — is not a positive sign for the peace process to proceed nor is the P.M.’s rejection of the (U.S.’) proposition.  Your commentator would not object to non-coercive policies to keep Israel a Jewish Majority State, though.)  The General, differing, presumes it is of the utmost urgency that Israel must remain an ethnic nation-state for Jewry.  Therefore, to assure its Jadishness, he reasons this terrain on the Mediterranean should continue as a nation-state for the Jews, and the best way to ensure this is to create a homeland for the Palestinians on their borders.  Further, that this will be advantageous to the Arabs there, too.  (What he does not factor is that Palestine is a bi-sectarian body.  In pre-Partition Palestine, the Christians were the largest congregate.  Now, they represent a mere 7% of the population, and the Muslims overwhelmingly make up most of the remaining populace.  If, the right of return is recognized the percentage of Christians should go up, but Islam would still dominate the State.)

Ms. Abbas of the Justice department reasons that there is flexibility amongst the Israelis.  It must become a de-militarized – (especially its nuclear arsenal should be reduced to the threat that is present.)  On the other hand, she believes it will be hard for the Arab’s to be flexible, whatever.

We are coming to the end of the column inches dedicated to your contributor for this week, and the comments within this international phone conversation are very rich, indeed; therefore, your evaluator will continue with his evaluation of this encounter in future segments of this study.

Especially, while writing, this piece, a sizeable Palestinian demonstration was held at the Israeli–Syrian Hebrew border on the sixth a large group of Palestinian citizens marched to Syria’s border with Israel on the Golan Heights, but were driven back with deadly force leaving twenty-three dead Arabs dead.

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Lunch with the “Devil”

June 2, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Geoffrey Cook, TMO

Jerusalem—May 19th—Your scribe has cultivated a collegial relationship with a progressive American Jewish group, J-Street, who advocate a strong Israel next to a viable independent Palestinian State.  They wish to be able to communicate with American Muslims as natural allies, too, towards concluding a mutual peace throughout the Levant. 

On the date above, Jeremy Ben-Ami of J-Street in Washington invited me to be on a Conference call with Major General Nat Sharoni (retired) of the IDF (Israeli Defense Force); now Director of the  Council for Peace and Security and with  Taras Hassan, a ranking member of Tel Aviv’ Justice (sic!) department.

Your essayist’s stance is close to theirs, curiously enough.  Therefore, although not Jewish by religion, I support their position, and, thus, consider myself as a “fellow traveler.”

Admittedly, it is a “Disaster,” though, that the Jewish State (20% of its population are not Jews) was established in this profusely populated region in the Middle East even though Stalin, only as an example of another possible alternative, had a functioning (Jewish nation) within Central Asia at the time of the latter State’s establishment (1948) built upon the Foundation of the British (Palestinian Arab) Mandate.

If you remember your writer’s study of the Hindu M.K. Gandhi upon the founding of Israel which was published on these pages a bit over a year ago, your researcher was of the opinion that, if the Zionist faction, would have seriously contemplated Gandhi’s propositions, Israel could have emerged as an admirable multi-sectarian( Middle Eastern) entity.

Just last week (May 16th – 21st), as your columnist, was preparing this week’s column, your reviewer received a request out of the University of Bethlehem by a group of impressive Palestinian intellectuals to sign onto a call for a one-State solution.  Your commentator did not, even though I had proposed a Constitutional schema to resolve such an eventuality last year in reply to a memo to the Chair of an assemblage who desired such a resolution to the conflict.    

It is true a one-State solution would destroy Tel Aviv as the Center of a Jewish State.  Instead Israel-Palestine would revert back to the acceptable cultural constitution of the multi-sectarian Ottoman Province and the similar structural mix of the later pre-Partition British Mandate.  

Such leading personalities as Judge Richard Goldstone himself, the lead author of the Goldstone Report on the IDF (Israeli Defense Force’s) aggression against Gaza, and Richard Falk, the former U.N (United Nations’) Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories during the incursion (Operation Cast Lead) from the middle of December 2008 until end of January 2009, believe that a One State solution is the only possible endgame, unfortunately, due to the Settlers’ illegal theft of land from its rightful residents.  Also, a similar posture — based upon dissimilar rationale — is held by leading Palestinian thinkers as, curiously, by some right-wing Jewish individuals.  (The latter consider it to be the only way they could – in any way — ultimately be able to hold onto those settlements.)

This past week the Libyan Civil War, further, raged while NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization) continued its ferocious intervention.  In Yemen one of the major tribes is in open revolt against the government.    Syria is close, too, to an out and out civil conflict.  The rest of the lands around the Southern shores of the Mediterranean Sea are at different levels of upheavals or crises.

The Key to the success or failure of the Arab “Spring” lies here within non-Arab Jerusalem.  Whatever reaction Israel might make, very well will determine the success or failure of the “Spring,” and this past week has been a momentous one for the United States, Israel and Palestine (the “Occupied Territories”). 

The U.S. President’s Special Envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell, resigned while on the Palestinian side their two violently competing parties, Fatah and Hamas, reconciled to the trepidation of Tel Aviv.  The Israeli Prime Minister Netanayhu came to Washington to address the combined houses of Congress after the U.S. President made an important address on Holy Land peace, also.  The conversation, which will be described in future sections of this extended article, occurred shortly after the latter’s speech.

That middle week of last month was an important period for those from the three above mentioned countries – individuals within them who are striving for a bi-national conclusion to the Arab-Israeli conundrum of the past sixty-three years.  Furthermore, all progressive peoples in these three lands are preparing for this September’s upcoming scheduled crucial vote in the United Nations (U.N.) for Palestinian independence.

Within the Hebrew-speaking populace a twofold homeland outcome is becoming ever more accepted and apparent.     

The American President Barrack Hussein Obama proposed an amazingly even-handed practical basis for negotiation, but the Hebrew Prime Minister instantly — with a politically tactless rebuff – insulted the President’s proffered rational peace principles.   In effect, the latter man rejected any possible proactive participation toward solving the problem; and, thereby, any possibility of a peaceable co-existence between the two populations soon.  In essence, Netanyahu ensured that no motion towards the cessation of hostilities will be made while the current government in Tel Aviv remains.  Furthermore, it is unlikely that there will be a better time than now to begin to reconcile the two sides with the most even-handed American Presidency in Washington since the Nakba (of 1948). 

It was a bad week for all who desire peace.  Most of all, it was a bad meeting for the Israelis for it will guarantee that their “Eternal War” will continue which can only conclude in an unimaginable violent end to their national ambitions at its current pace.  Fortunately, there are high ranking dissidents in the Jewish State whose propositions would be more acceptable to the Palestinian parties, and in future segments of this study you will be able to listen to those.   

The Obama Administration’s central plan to begin the dialogue was that the borders for a new State of Palestine would be based on the pre-1967 borders.  Prime Minister Netanyahu’s repudiation of that request was that those borders were indefensible for Israel, but some of his best military advisors disagree with him, and your reporter will bring influential high-ranking Israelis’ arguments against their P.M. (Prime Minister) in future sections of this extended article.

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Israel-Iran War Game Scenario Predicts Disaster:

March 18, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Translated by Didi Remez

Israel’s leading columnist, Nahum Barnea, published a column this week about an academic war game exercise conducted at Bar Ilan University’s Begin-Sadat Center Strategic Studies.  In a paper published last September, Prof. Moshe Vered considered under what conditions the two nations might enter a war, how long it might last and how it might end.  The results were alarming even to the Israeli intelligence community.  Here is how Barnea summarizes the research (thanks to Didi Remez for translating the article):

2010-03-17T153723Z_01_BTRE62G17EF00_RTROPTP_3_INTERNATIONAL-US-IRAN-NUCLEAR-CHINA

Workers move a fuels rod at the Fuel Manufacturing plant at the Isfahan Uranium Conversion Facility 440 Km (273 miles) south of Tehran April 9, 2009.  

REUTERS/Caren Firouz 

“The war could be long,” Vered warns, “its length could be measured in years.”  The cost that the war will exact from Israel raises a question mark as to the decision to go to war.

The relatively light scenario speaks about an Israeli bombing, after which Iran will fire several volleys of surface-to-surface missiles at Israel.  Due to the limited number of missiles and their high cost, the war will end within a short time.  The missiles may run out, the study states, but the war will only be getting started.
“The means that may be most effective for the Iranians is war by proxies—Syria, Hizbullah and Hamas,” Vered writes.  “(There will be) ongoing and massive rocket fire (and in the Syrian case, also various types of Scud missiles), which will cover most of the area of the country, disrupt the course of everyday life and cause casualties and property damage.  The effect of such fire will greatly increase if the enemy fires chemical, biological or radiological ordnance… massive Iranian support, by money and weapons, will help the organizations continue the fire over a period of indeterminate length… due to the long-range of the rockets held by Hizbullah, Israel will have to occupy most of the territory of Lebanon, and hold the territory for a long time.  But then the IDF will enter a guerrilla war, a war the end of which is hard to predict, unless we evacuate the territory, and then the rocket fire will return…”

This is not all.  “Another possibility,” Vered writes, “is the activation of Iranian expeditionary forces that will be located in Syria as part of a defense pact between the two countries, or sending large amounts of infantry forces to participate in the war alongside Hizbullah or Syria.  Iran’s ability to do so will increase after the United States evacuates its troops from Iraq.  If the current tension between Turkey and Israel rises, Turkey may also permit, or turn a blind eye to, arms shipments and Iranian volunteers that will pass to Syria through its territory and airspace.  Israel will find it very difficult, politically and militarily, to intercept the passage of forces through Iraq or Turkey.  The participation of Iranian forces will make it very difficult for the IDF to occupy areas from which rockets are being fired.

“Along with these steps, Iran may launch a massive terror campaign against Israeli targets within Israel and abroad (diplomatic missions, El Al planes and more) and against Jewish targets.”

Iran will not attack immediately, Vered’s scenario states.  First it will launch intensive diplomatic activity, which could lead to an American embargo on spare parts to Israel.  Along with this, the Iranians will secretly move troops to Syria.  Israel will not attack the troops, for fear of international pressure.  The IDF will have to mobilize a large reserve force to defend the Golan Heights.  After the Iranians complete the buildup of their force, Hizbullah and Hamas will launch massive rocket fire against all population centers.  The IDF will try to occupy Lebanon and will engage in a guerrilla war with multiple casualties.  Hamas will renew the suicide bombings and Iran will target Israel’s sea and air routes by terrorism.  The Iranians will fire missiles at population centers in Israel, and will rebuild the nuclear facilities that were bombed, in such a way that will make it very difficult to bomb them again.

Vered bases his assessment mainly on the regime’s ideology and on the lessons of the Iran-Iraq War, which lasted from 1980 to 1988.  He writes: “Half a million dead, a million wounded, two million refugees and displaced persons, economic damage estimated by the Iranian government at about $1-trillion—more than twice the value of all Iranian oil production in 70 years of pumping oil—none of this was sufficient to persuade Iran to stop the war.  Only the fear of the regime’s fall led the leadership to accept the cease-fire.

“The ramifications are clear and harsh—like the war against Iraq, the war against Israel will also be perceived by the Iranians as a war intended to right a wrong and bring justice to the world by destroying the State of Israel.  Only a threat to the regime will be able to make the Iranian leadership stop.  It is difficult to see how Israel could create such a threat.”

The United States would be able to shorten the war if it were to join it alongside Israel.  Vered does not observe American willingness to do so.  He predicts the possibility of pressure in the opposite direction, by the US on Israel….

The military card

…The game is now approaching the critical stage, the “money time.”  Netanyahu and Barak are waving the military card.  “All the options are on the table,” they say, accompanying the sentence with a meaningful look.  There are Israelis, in uniform and civilian clothes, who take them seriously…

The following is perhaps the most important portion of this column since Barnea posits a startling theory to explain Bibi’s posturing and bellicosity concerning Iran.  If he is right then I would feel a whole lot more confident that war is not in the offing.  But if he is wrong…

I find it difficult to believe that Netanyahu will undertake such a weighty and dangerous decision.  It is more reasonable to assume that he and Barak are playing “hold me back.”  On the day they will be called upon to explain why Iran attained nuclear weapons, they will say, each on his own, what do you want from me, I prepared a daring, deadly, amazing operation, but they—the US administration, the top IDF brass, the forum of three, the forum of seven, the forum of ten—tripped me up.  They are to blame.

Netanyahu and Barak know: there is no military operation more successful, more perfect, than an operation that did not take place.

Netanyahu has upgraded Ahmadinejad to the dimensions of a Hitler.  Against Hitler, one fights to the last bunker.  This is what Churchill did, and Netanyahu wants so badly to be like Churchill.  His credibility—a sensitive issue—is on the table.  If he retreats, the voters will turn their back on him.  Where will he go?  In his distress, he may run forward.

Below, Barnea continues with his entirely reasonable, pragmatic and even cynical theories that the Israeli public neither believes, nor wants Bibi to go to war.  While he may be right, I’m afraid that many polls of Israeli opinion show a population resigned to confrontation and possible war. So who do you believe?

The fascinating side of this story is that very few Israelis would appear to believe their prime minister.  If they believed him, they would not run in a frenzy to buy apartments in the towers sprouting like mushrooms around the Kirya.  In the event that Iran should be bombed, the residents of the towers would be the first to get it.  If they believed [Netanyahu], the real estate prices in Tel Aviv would drop to a quarter of their current value, and long lines of people applying for passports would extend outside the foreign embassies.  What do the Israelis know about Netanyahu that Ahmadinejad does not know, what is it that they know.
Of course, this eminently reasonable interpretation omits the fact that many other pragmatic Israeli leaders, equally cynical in their way, have been sucked into disastrous wars for far less reason.  Most recently Ehud Olmert in Lebanon and Gaza.  Menachem Begin in Lebanon.  Do we really believe that even if he doesn’t mean to go to war that something could not suck him into it against his better judgment?  History is full of examples of precisely such things, World War I being perhaps the foremost example.

Returning to Vered’s war game, there will be Iran haters in Israel who read this who pooh-pooh this scenario claiming it overstates the negatives and overlooks Israel’s prowess and past success in similar ventures like Osirak and the alleged Syrian nuclear reactor.  But I say if even 1/10 of the complications Vered outlines happen, that disaster may be in the offing for Israel.  Israelis tend to have a “can do” attitude towards wars with their Arab neighbors.  As such, they often overestimate themselves and underestimate their adversary.  Iran, once provoked, will make a much more formidable adversary than most Israelis imagine.  Israelis should remember, but won’t, that the IDF is no longer the vaunted invincible force it was after the 1967 War.  It cannot work miracles.  Think Lebanon, 2006.  Think Gaza, 2008.  To delude yourself that bombing Iranian nuclear plants will be a surgical operation with short-term consequences alone is beyond foolish.  That is why Vered’s exercise, no matter how accurate it turns out to be, is salient.

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