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Experts raise speculation over succession after Saudi king falls ill

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Ariel Ben Solomon

January 5, 2015

Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud speaks before a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry at his private residence in the Red Sea city of Jeddah

Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz is suffering from pneumonia and temporarily needed help to breath through a tube on Friday, increasing speculation on who could succeed him.

The procedure was successful and his condition is now stable, the royal court said.

“Saudi successions are usually smooth. The royal family knows that succession battles can be devastating and will do everything to avoid one.” Professor Joshua Teitelbaum, an expert on the modern Middle East at Bar-Ilan University’s Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies (BESA), told The Jerusalem Post.

The elderly monarch was admitted to the King Abdulaziz Medical City in Riyadh on Wednesday for tests after he suffered what one source described as breathing difficulties, state media said.

King Abdullah, who took power in 2005 after the death of his half-brother King Fahd, is thought to be 91, although official accounts are unclear. He has undergone surgery in the past few years related to a herniated disc.

Abdullah named his half-brother, Prince Salman, 13 years his junior, heir apparent in June 2012 after the death of Crown Prince Nayef bin Abdulaziz. Last year he appointed Prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz as deputy crown prince, giving some assurance on the kingdom’s long-term succession process.

“King Abdullah has played his cards well. Crown Prince Salman, at 78, is rumored to be in poor health. His successor, deputy crown prince Muqrin is younger and will be able to rule for longer,” explained Teitelbaum.

“It is likely that Abdullah made a deal with Muqrin to appoint Abdullah’s son, Mit’ib, who is Minister and Commander of the National Guard, as his crown prince,” continued Teitelbaum.

Simon Henderson, the Baker fellow and director of the Gulf and Energy Policy Program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, wrote in an article last week that visitors to Prince Salman “report that after a few minutes of conversation, he becomes incoherent.”

“The fact that Salman appears in public at all is attributed to his determination to become king – or, more likely, the ambition of his closest relatives that he should do so,” said Henderson.

And regarding Muqrin, he says that the appointment was controversial and not unanimous.

Eran Segal, an associate researcher at the Ezri Center for Iran and Persian Gulf Studies at the University of Haifa, told the Post that since Muqrin is the youngest son of the country’s founder, King Abdulaziz, known as Ibn Saud, his nomination probably means that the next in line must come from “the third generation” or “Ibn Saud’s grandchildren.”

“This is the main reason, to my mind, for the incoherence in Saudi policy in the last years as the struggle grew more intense,” he said.

The system was relatively clear in regards to Ibn Saud’s sons, he said, but “regarding the next generation they should create a new system that will be clear and guarantee a relatively smooth succession.”

In an article for BESA back in 2011, Teitelbaum foresaw much of the issues that are coming to the fore now as the succession issue gains steam.

“Prince Mit’ib’s status comes from being his father’s right-hand man in the Saudi Arabian National Guard (SANG). A graduate of Sandhurst, Britain’s Royal Military Academy, he has been involved with SANG – which receives US training – for most of his adult life.”

With Abdullah’s help, Mit’ib has supervised SANG’s expansion under a massive deal, which the US approved in November 2010, said Teitelbaum.

“The new positions created by the arms deal and the prestige of owning so much modern weaponry will strengthen his position in the family and among the all-important tribes which make up SANG,” he wrote then.

Today, Teitelbaum asserts that Abdullah, therefore, “may have assured the leadership of the House of Saud for many years to come.”

Interview with Joshua Teitelbaum

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December 24, 2014

 

 

L’invité du Grand Direct – Joshua Teitlebaum

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December 23, 2014

 

 

 

Borders and Nations

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Gershom Gorenberg

October/November 2014

“When there is a great war in the world, the energy of the messiah awakes.” So wrote Rabbi Abraham Isaac Hacohen Kook—the mystic theologian of religious Zionism—sometime in the late summer or autumn of 1914, as the unprecedented conflagration of World War I began.

Tyrants would be “pruned” away from the world, which would become “more fragrant,” he wrote. “And the greater the war, in quantity and quality, the greater the anticipation of messianic steps it brings.”

The old order was collapsing and, in the new one to come, Kook predicted, blessings would flow to the whole world as the Jews rebuilt a life as a nation in the Land of Israel.

Kook was hardly alone in his sanguine view of the war. Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, loyal to both Zionism and Germany, saw Germans going off to fight as being uplifted by the spirit of self-sacrifice for the nation. At the same time, he wrote, Jews who were joining the armies on all sides of the conflict were being transformed as a nation from a people who “suffer passively” and “forever ponder” into  a people who act.

The two Jewish thinkers expressed common elements of optimism, in Europe and beyond, at the start of the war: upbeat expectations of the end of the old international order and of tyrants, and faith that individuals would give their lives meaning through dedication to their nation.

Such hopes were particularly acute among groups that sought liberation as nations. Most of a great swath of territory, from the Baltic Sea to the Indian Ocean, was ruled by the Russian Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Ottoman Empire. Within their political borders lived a multitude of nationalities—Poles, Croatians, Kurds, Arabs, Czechs, Jews and more. In each ethnic nationality, to one extent or another, the idea had spread that a person should identify most strongly with his or her nation—defined by a shared history, language, territory and sometimes a shared religion—and that a nation must have political independence. Zionism was just one such movement for national self-determination, a bit quirky because most Jews did not live in their homeland. Many nationalists asserted, as Kook did, that the liberation of their particular nation was essential for the well-being of the world as a whole.

Seeing the war as a long-awaited opportunity was also common. Czech nationalists initially hoped they could achieve autonomy within the Austro-Hungarian Empire; their expectations rose later in the war. Already at the outset, Polish nationalists hoped the war would enable reestablishment of an independent Poland.

As the conflict stretched on, as soldiers died in vast numbers, the romance of patriotic self-sacrifice faded into horror. The world was not more fragrant in November 1918.

Yet empires did collapse. New states gained independence. New borders were drawn in Europe and in the Middle East. Remarkably, the post-World War I borders in the Mideast have remained nearly unchanged. Nearly a century later, that map may be on the edge of obsolesence.

The Great War lasted four years only when viewed from the West. After November 1918, fighting continued in the East between newly independent Poland and Russia, between Greece and Turkey, and elsewhere.

By 1922, though, the embers of war had nearly burned out, and peace agreements established the new map. In central Europe, political cartography was guided partly by the ancient tradition of exacting a price from the losing side. But there were also revolutionary principles, as articulated in United States President Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points: Ethnic nationalities should have an independent place among the nations and boundaries should be drawn along “clearly recognizable lines of nationality.” In short, nation-states should replace multinational empires. Closely related  nationalities could share a state, though. So Poland regained independence. Czechoslovakia was born. Serbia became the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, later renamed Yugoslavia as the king tried to merge the separate Slavic nationalities into one.

The problem, as Baghdad-born British Jewish historian Elie Kadouri later wrote, was that there were not “recognizable lines of nationality.” Populations were mixed; nationalities overlapped. For example, only two-thirds of Poland after World War I was ethnically Polish. An eighth was Ukrainian. A tenth was Jewish and considered a separate nationality. Recklessly, the majority nationality in each new state tended to favor its own members and impose its culture on the minorities.

Disputes over minorities and borders roiled Central Europe till the next, even worse, conflagration—World War II. Afterward, new borders were drawn. Communism’s collapse brought the unraveling of Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia, as nationalities again demanded self-determination. For a century, shared nationality was expected to act as the glue that holds a country together. Repeatedly, national claims have torn countries apart. A cartographer’s work has never finished in Europe.

The contrast with the Middle East is remarkable. The former Ottoman lands were divided mainly according to agreements between the victorious Western powers. France took the Levant’s northern part. Britain took a swath stretching from the Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf. Each subdivided the territory. The League of Nations then ratified the divisions by granting mandates, which meant the two powers would rule the countries they had created but eventually allow them independence.

In drawing borders, the powers paid passing attention to “recognized lines of nationality” or to the overlapping territories inhabited by religious communities, the other critical element of identity among the residents of the new countries. The British created Iraq, put a Sunni Arab prince on its throne and stamped out a rebellion by the Shi’ite majority. Northern Iraq was home to Kurds, a non-Arab nationality that never got a nation-state. What became the country called Transjordan was the difficult-to-govern land between Iraq and the Jordan River where the British installed another Arab prince as their proxy.

Most of the land assigned to France became Syria. The French separated off the heavily Christian canton of Lebanon, but then added neighboring Sunni and Shi’ite areas to it, creating a country with only a slight Christian majority. They initially divided the rest of Syria into three entities—one Sunni, one for members of the Alawite sect of Islam and one for the Druze sect. Under Sunni pressure, though, the French created united Syria, explains Joshua Teitelbaum of the Begin–Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan.

The most geographically logical new entity was Palestine, bound by the Jordan and the Mediterranean. The British made a commitment to self-determination, to the Jews. That ignited the opposition of the Arab majority. After 30 years of zigzagging policy, Britain turned the problem over to the United Nations, which decided to solve the quandary of self-determination by a further division into Jewish and Arab states. The partition lines, in theory, and the 1949 armistice lines between Israel and its neighbors, in practice, became the major amendment to the post-Great War borders.

So how did countries so poorly designed, especially Syria and Iraq, stay intact? At first, the colonial powers were responsible. After the British and French left, explains Teitelbaum, the military took power in both countries and created police states that suppressed dissent. In Iraq, the Sunni minority remained in power. In Syria, which has a Sunni majority, the Alawite minority gained control. Both brutally suppressed revolts. The empire was an old memory, but tyrants were alive and well.

The knockout blow to the unified state in Iraq, of course, was the American invasion in 2003. Syria held together until the uprisings that swept the Arab world in 2011. What was happening elsewhere, communicated through satellite television and the Internet, provided an example for Syrians. This time, the regime’s attempt to suppress dissent set off full-scale civil war. “When the state loses its grip,” Teitelbaum says, “people revert to their primordial frameworks of loyalty”—ethnic, religious and tribal.

By now, the borders of Iraq and Syria on the map only delineate the territory within which multisided wars are taking place. And even in that sense, the borders are fading. Fighting spills from Syria into Lebanon. The recent conquests by the Islamic State rebels give them control of territory on both sides of the Syrian-Iraqi border.

Right now the odds seem low that either Syria or Iraq will be put back together as unified states. But will new borders be drawn—delineating, for example, the new state of Kurdistan in what was northern Iraq? Professor David Newman of Ben-Gurion University in Beersheba, a geopolitics scholar and expert on borders, is doubtful. The United Nations would recognize breakaway states, he suggests, only “if they had support from the surrounding countries.” That is unlikely, he says, because neighboring states would fear a “domino effect” of disintegration.

Teitelbaum, however, argues that the international community and the Arab world “are not best served” by trying to keep Iraq or Syria united. In the long run, division into smaller and more homogeneous states will be more likely to bring stability—as has finally been the case in the Balkans.

What does this mean for Israel? On the one hand, the regional security risks have increased. “It’s pretty obvious that this makes Israel wary of any kind of concessions…especially [under] this government,” Teitelbaum says. On the other hand, he indicates, the same lesson about separation as a path to stability applies to Israel and the West Bank.

The challenge for Israel, in other words, is to find a way to leave the West Bank while ensuring Israel’s own security. To that we should add: The bad example of how European nation-states so often treated national minorities shows that Israel’s internal stability depends on ensuring the full rights of its own Arab minority, including the right to maintain its own culture.

The Great War opened the path for Jews, like many other national groups, to create their own state. It did not provide any easy answers about how to make a nation-state stable and successful. It did not bring the messiah. We still have to solve the problems on our own.

 

Svåra förluster för Hamas

download (2)August 21, 2014

Hamas har lidit de allvarligaste förlusterna sedan offensiven mot Gaza inleddes. Tre av rörelsens milisledare har dödats i en attack i södra Gaza.

Alla tre, Muhammad Abu Shamala, Raed al-Atar och Muhammad Barhum dödades vid en och samma attack mot ett hus i staden Rafah på torsdagsmorgonen. Enligt den israeliska säkerhetstjänsten tillhörde Abu Shamala och al-Atar det absoluta toppskiktet inom Hamas väpnade gren, Qassambrigaderna, skriver Times of Israel.

”Dödandet av de tre kommer inte att försätta Hamas i konkurs, men det kommer att sakta ned deras återhämtning”, skriver Joshua Teitelbaum, professor vid universitetet Bar-Ilan till TT i en skriftlig intervju.

Hamas bekräftar att de tre ledarna har dödats.

”Avrättningarna (. . .) är ett stort israeliskt brott som inte kommer att lyckas bryta ned vår vilja eller försvaga vårt motstånd”, skriver talespersonen Sami Abu Zuhri i ett uttalande.

Attacken kom efter att den israeliske premiärministern, Benjamin Netanyahu, sagt att ledare inom Qassambrigaderna är legitima mål.

Enligt den israeliska militären har flygvapnet bombat mer än 30 mål i Gaza och milis från Gaza har avfyrat minst 45 raketer mot Israel under torsdagen, skriver Reuters. Sammantaget har minst 26 palestinier dödats.

Offensiven har hittills dödat över 2 000 palestinier och 67 personer på den israeliska sidan.

With Gaza war ostensibly over, Israelis ask what’s next?

Raphael Ahrenthetimesofisrael-529x60

August 5, 2014

 Some observers are sure that operation’s best possible outcome is a time-out, while others wonder how the Strip will be demilitarized

On the ninth of the month of Av, Jews traditionally mourn the destruction of two Temples, among a laundry list of other calamities that befell the Jewish people on this day throughout the ages.

On this Tuesday, the ninth of Av in the Hebrew calendar, many Israeli Jews, especially those leaning to the right, added Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to agree to a 72-hour ceasefire with Hamas to that long tally.

Once more, many wailed, Israel is caving to international pressure, holding its fire and withdrawing its forces from Gaza without having “finished the job.” The government again wasted an opportunity to root out terrorism, once and for all, from the Hamas-ruled Strip, they lament.

“It’s a real disgrace that we’re withdrawing; we gained nothing but dead soldiers,” an IDF reservist told Ynet Monday as his battalion was withdrawing from Gaza.

“If they let us go and pull out, this will all be for nothing,” said another soldier. “We’ll go back for another war under a different name; it’s only the names that change.”

A Channel 2 poll published Tuesday showed that 42 percent thought Israel had won the war, versus 44% who said it had lost.

Those sentiments are likely to be shared not only by right-wing politicians, who advocated for a full-scale ground invasion and the reoccupation of Gaza, but also by the residents of the South. Thirty-two cross-border terror tunnels have been destroyed, but the prevailing feeling is that Hamas will use the next days, weeks and months of quiet to rearm and prepare for the next round of violence if it can.

“Best case scenario: Time-out!” tweeted Channel 2’s chief foreign editor Arad Nir on Tuesday morning, as the Egyptian-brokered ceasefire went into effect.

The architects of Operation Protective Edge can cite several significant accomplishments, beyond the mere cessation of rocket attacks: Hamas’s arsenal of rockets was depleted; and the 32 tunnels — which Hamas planned to use for deadly terror attacks against Israeli civilians — were destroyed. Eleven soldiers were killed by Hamas gunmen rushing to use the tunnels before the IDF found and demolished them.

And yet, Netanyahu will have to work hard to explain why this month-long war, during which 64 IDF soldiers and three Israeli civilians were killed, was a success. The operation’s official objectives may turn out to be met — restoring quiet to the South, and dealing a harsh blow to Hamas’s terror infrastructure. But the prime minister knows that he needs to deliver more than that.

Thus far, he has not publicly said anything about the campaign’s ostensible conclusion.

In 2009, a few days after Ehud Olmert ended Operation Cast Lead by declaring a unilateral ceasefire, then-opposition leader Netanyahu announced that if he were in charge, the army would have gone all the way. “I want to say here and now: We won’t stop the IDF. We will complete the work. We will topple the terror rule of Hamas.”

Instead of having the army remove Hamas from power, Netanyahu now hopes that the international community — including the moderate Arab world — will help achieve a different goal, through diplomatic means: the demilitarization of Gaza.

“US and European support of the need to demilitarize the terrorist organizations is an important achievement for the State of Israel,” the prime minister said Saturday. “It will strengthen our demand to link the rehabilitation and development of the Gaza Strip with its demilitarization of rockets, tunnels, etc.”

More important than Western support for the desired disarmament of Hamas, however, is that of key Arab players in the region — support that Israel does have, according to Netanyahu.

A “unique link” has been forged with Arab states since the war started, he said. “This, as well, is a very important asset for the State of Israel. With the cessation of the fighting and the conclusion of the campaign, this will open new possibilities for us.”

This is seen as a reference not only to Egypt and the Palestinian Authority, but also to states such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates that see radical Islamism as an existential threat.

“It’s very clear that he’s talking about some kind of clandestine arrangement involving coordination with Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the UAE,” said Joshua Teitelbaum, a senior research associate at Bar-Ilan University’s Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies. Netanyahu probably seeks to install a mechanism to rehabilitate the utterly devastated Gaza Strip with Saudi funds and have the Egyptians monitor the process to make sure Hamas doesn’t abuse the aid to rearm, added Teitelbaum, whose research focuses on Persian Gulf countries and political and social development in the Arab world.

Hamas will certainly not volunteer to give up its machine guns and their rockets. “To ask Hamas to demilitarize Gaza is like asking a priest to convert to Judaism,” Amos Yadlin, a former head of Military Intelligence and currently the director of the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University, quipped wryly last week.

Netanyahu has yet to explain how, exactly, the disarmament of Gaza terrorists is supposed to work. Until he does, and until progress is made on seeing the Strip weapon-free, many Israelis, and many worldwide, will be left wondering.

 

כספי הטרור“הכסף לעזה עובר דרך חלפנים מפקיסטן או במזוודות עתירות מזומנים ממצרים”

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לירן סהר

July 22, 2014

פרופ’ יהושע טייטלבאום מסביר על הבנק של החמאס: “הכספים עוברים לעזה דרך חלפנים מפקיסטן ובמזוודות עתירות מזומנים ממצרים”

הבוקר קראה ח”כ יפעת קריב לעצור את כל העברת המידע מהכנסת לחברי הכנסת של סיעת בל”ד בגלל הקשר שלהם לקטאר, הנחשבת לגורם המממן את ארגון החמאס בעזה, דרך חה”כ לשעבר עזמי בשארה. מדהים לראות איך מדינה כל כך זעירה, בשטח של הנגב עם אוכלוסיה של תל אביב, מצליחה לזכות לכל כך הרבה תשומת לב עולמית. Bizportal שוחח עם פרופ’ יהושע טייטלבאום, עמית מחקר בכיר במרכז בגין-סאדאת למחקרים אסטרטגיים, על התופעה הקטארית. 

“קטאר היא מדינה שמנסה מ-1995, עת עלה לשלטון האמיר חאמד בין חאליפה אל ת’אני, לבדל את עצמה מסעודיה”, אומר טייטלבאום בראשית הדברים. “מדובר במדינה של בקושי חצי מיליון איש, 60%-70% מתוכם עובדים זרים, שהפכה לכוכבת בזירה הבינלאומית, רבות אודות לערוץ החדשות המצליח אל ג’אזירה. היא הפכה להיות מדינה מאוד חשובה בעולם שמרשה לעצמה להתערב בסכסוכים אזוריים, דוגמת המלחמה בלוב וכמובן בעזה”.

“אין לקטאר מחוייבות אידאולוגית לאחים המוסלמים”
לדבריו, קטאר היא מדינה שמשחקת עם כולם, ובניגוד למה שרבים חושבים אין לה איזושהי מחוייבות אידאולוגית לאחים המוסלמים או לחמאס – “היא עושה זאת כדי בין היתר לעצבן את סעודיה – לפני כחודשיים איחוד האמירויות הערביות, ירדן וערב הסעודית החזירו את השגריר שלהם מקטאר בגלל תמיכתם באחים המוסלמים. נציין שלקטאר יש יחסים מצוינים גם עם אירן, שתי המדינות חולקות שדה גז מאוד גדול, דבר אשר ממש מפחיד את סעודיה”.

בעבר לישראל היו יחסים דיפלומטיים בדרג נמוך עם קטאר ועומן בתקופת הסכמי אוסלו, אך יחסים אלו נותקו במהלך האינתיפאדה השנייה. לקטאר יש גם השקעות בישובים ערביים בארץ.

“מדובר במדינה עם המון כסף שנובע ממצבורי הגז העצומים שנמצאים בשטחה ובשטח הימי סביבה, אין לה מה לעשות איתו. הם זכו לארח את מונדיאל 2022 ושיחדו את אנשי פיפ”א עבור זה – הזוי לארח משחקים אולימפיים בקיץ של קטאר, יש שם 50 מעלות וכל יום מתים שם עובדי בנייה מחום. שיטת העברת הכספים של קטאר לעזה נעשית ברובה דרך חלפני כספים בפקיסטן, או במזוודות עתירות מזומנים שעד לאחרונה הועברו דרך מצרים”.

יחסים מעולים עם ארה”ב
טייטלבאום מסביר כי כחלק מהמשחק שלה עם העולם, לקטאר יש יחסים מעולים עם ארצות הברית – “המדינות חתמו על הסכם ענק להספקת נשק בהיקף של כ-11 מיליארד דולר ויש לארצות הברית שם את הבסיס הצבאי הגדול ביותר במפרץ הפרסי. ארצות הברית לא מתחה ביקורת על תמיכת הקטארים באחים המוסלמים, לפחות לא באופן פומבי. האמריקנים עצמם לא רואים סיבה להתנגד לארגון זה, מבחינתם הם נבחרו בצורה דמוקרטית הן במצרים והן בעזה. האמריקנים רואים באחים המוסלמים זרם מוסלמי מתון שניתן להגיע איתו להסכמים, זאת בניגוד לדעאש ולאל קעידה. האמריקנים מסתכלים על העברת הכספים לעזה כצעד הומניטרי, גם אנחנו הסכמנו לכך כדי לשמור על יחסים טובים איתם”.

גחמות קטאר להפוך לכוח בר השפעה באזור מרגיזות מאוד את מצרים: “מצרים צוחקת על קטאר, רואה אותם כמי שרק עתה ירדו מהגמלים, בניגוד להיסטוריה העשירה שלהם. מובראכ וסאדאת קראו למדינות המפרץ ‘מדינות ג’לי’ ומובראכ אף צחק פעם כשאמר שכל אוכלוסיית קטאר בקושי תמלא מלון אחד בקהיר. יוזמת הפסקת האש של קטאר משפילה את מצרים, קטאר רוצה שיגידו עליה שהיא הצילה את העם הפלסטיני מטבח, כמובן שהאינטרס הכספי לשיקום עזה גם נמצא שם”.

Israel and Saudi Arabia: Forging Ties on Quicksand

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James M. Dorsey

July 14, 2014

Distrust of the US and questions about the reliability of the US as an ally have persuaded Saudi Arabia and Israel to go public with their tacit alliance

Long gone are the days when Saudi Arabia was the only Arab country that had visa rules barring Jews from entering the kingdom and Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al Faisal gave visiting US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger the Protocols of Zion, a 19th century anti-Semitic tract, as a gift. Saudi Arabia still declines to forge official ties with Israel as long as it refuses to withdraw from territories it conquered during the 1967 war. But perceptions of common threats have expanded long-standing unofficial ties to the point that both countries feel less constrained in publicly acknowledging their contacts and signalling a lowering of the walls that divide them.

As states, Saudi Arabia and Israel share few, if any common values, despite some cultural values that are common to Wahhabism, the austere form of Islam adopted by the kingdom, and ultra-orthodox Jews. But they increasingly have common interests despite Israel’s current assault on Gaza attempting to crush the Islamist Hamas militia, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood. Both states perceive Iran, particularly one that is a nuclear power, as an existential threat; both also share a determination to defeat the Muslim Brotherhood as well as Al Qaeda-inspired groups and defend as much of the political status quo in the region as possible against change that threatens to replace autocratic regimes with ones dominated by Islamist militants.

Breaching secrecy

A series of recent events indicate that those common interests have made Saudi Arabia, which  projects itself as a the leader of the Arab world, less sensitive about going public about relations with Israel in the absence of a settlement of the Palestinian problem. Israel, which has long accommodated a Saudi need for secrecy, is also becoming more public about cooperation between the two states.

“Everything is underground, nothing is public. But our security cooperation with Egypt and the Gulf states is unique,” said General Amos Gilad, director of the Israeli defence ministry’s policy and political-military relations department.

“This is the best period of security and diplomatic relations with the Arab. Relations with Egypt have improved dramatically” since last year’s military coup against Egypt’s first democratically elected president, Mohammed Morsi, a Muslim Brother.

Describing Israel’s security border with Jordan, the only Arab state alongside Egypt to have signed a peace treaty with Israel, as the border between Jordan and Iraq, Gilad added: “The Gulf and Jordan are happy that we belong to an unofficial alliance. The Arabs will never accept this publicly but they are clever enough to promote common ground.”

Despite repeated Saudi denials of any links to Israel and official adherence to an Arab boycott of anything Israeli, the kingdom signalled a relationship in recent weeks with an encounter in Brussels between former intelligence chiefs of the two countries and the first time a Saudi publisher has published an Arabic translation of a book by an Israeli academic.
Step by step

The exchange in late May between Prince Turki bin Faisal al Saud, a full brother of Foreign Minister Prince Saud who headed Saudi intelligence for 24 years, and General Amos Yadlin, a former Israeli military intelligence chief, constituted the most high profile Saudi acknowledgement of relations. Saudis and Israelis have met before in public  but Prince  Turki went out of his way this time to promote a 2002 Saudi-sponsored peace plan that offers Arab recognition of the Jewish state in exchange for a full Israeli withdrawal from occupied territory and a solution for the Palestinians as a step-by-step process rather than a take-it-or-leave-it proposition.

The exchange followed the controversial publishing of an Arabic translation of ‘Saudi Arabia and the New Strategic Landscape’ by Joshua Teitelbaum, a professor at Bar Ilan University’s Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies. While Saudi newspapers have long published columns by left-wing, dovish Israeli writers opposed to their government’s policy, Teitelbaum’s book was the first by a mainstream Israeli writer published by a Saudi publisher.

The openings notwithstanding, Israelis and Saudis appear to differ in their expectations of how far closer relations can go. Prince Turki signalled in Brussels that he saw cooperation between the two states on specific issues as a first step towards a solution of the Arab-Israeli conflict. That was a far cry from Gilad’s tone who compared Israel’s improved ties to conservative Arab states as “good weather” and cautioned that one should not forget that “clouds will come” in a region in which states are collapsing, tribes dominate and Israeli military superiority is its only guarantee.

תרגום לערבית של ספר שכתב מרצה בבר-אילן הצית זעם בערב-הסעודית

downloadJune 6, 2014

ערב הסעודית ובית הוצאה לאור בדובאי, מותקפים בשל פרסום תרגום לערבית של ספר שכתב פרופ’ יהושע טייטלבאום מאוניברסיטת בר-אילן.

הספר, הקרוי “ערב הסעודית והנוף האסטרטגי החדש”, עוסק ביחסים בין ערב הסעודית לאיראן ומתמקד בנושאים הקשורים לסכסוך הישראלי- פלסטיני. הספר, פרי עטו של פרופ’ יהושע טייטלבאום מהמחלקה ללימודי המזרח התיכון וממרכז בס”א (מרכז בגין-סאדאת למחקרים אסטרטגיים) בבר-אילן, פורסם במקור בשפה האנגלית ב-2010. טייטלבאום הוא מרצה אורח במכון HOOVER שבאוניברסיטת סטנפורד. בית ההוצאה לאור “Al Madarak” בדובאי הוציא לאחרונה לאור תרגום של הספר לערבית והפרסום עורר גל מחאה בערב הסעודית. שם טענו כי המעשה מנוגד לעמדתה הרשמית של סעודיה, המסרבת לכל סוג של נרמול היחסים עם ישראל. בערב הסעודית נשמעו קריאות  לנקוט צעדים נגד בית ההוצאה לאור. 

‘Al Akhbar’, עיתון לבנוני המזוהה עם ארגון חיזבאללה, ציטט עיתונאי סעודי שכינה את פרסום תרגום הספר כ”צורה של נרמול תרבותי עם האויב הציוני וניסיון להסיט את תשומת הלב של העם הערבי מהישות הגוזלת (את אדמת פלסטין)”. ביקורת הופנתה אף כנגד בית ההוצאה לאור ומנהלו, טורקי- אל דחליל, בטור דעה בעיתון “Al Arabi al- Jaheed”, שבראשו חבר הכנסת הישראלי לשעבר, עזאמי בישארה.

“הספר יצר פולמוס בתוך הבלוגוספרה הסעודית בגלל התחושה שהוא מקנה הכרה לישראל”, אומר פרופ’ טייטלבאום. ציוצי הטוויטר מסעודיה, אמר טייטלבאום, יצאו כנגד ‘Al- Madarak, בקריאה שהוא מנסה לנרמל את היחסים. בתגובה השיב המפרסם: “אנחנו רואים ישראלים באל- ג’זירה כל הזמן. האם זה אומר שאל- ג’זירה מנסה לנרמל  את היחסים? אני חושב שיש הרבה אזרחים סעודים בעלי תפישה ליברלית שרוצים להיחשף לפרסום של תרגומים מסוג זה”.

פרופ’ יהושע טייטלבאום, המחלקה ללימודי המזה”ת ומרכז בס”א, אוניברסיטת בר-אילן

בתגובה מאוחרת למהומה שהתרחשה, אמר אל- דחליל: “המתנגדים לא מבינים שאנחנו מספקים במה עבור מחקר פוליטי ולא מארחים ישראלים בעיר סעודית כמו ריאד או ג’דה. לכן, אנחנו לא מחשיבים פרסום ספר על ידי מחבר ישראלי כצעד של נרמול היחסים”. פרופ’ טייטלבאום מדגיש כי יש המון אזרחים סעודים ליברליים שמעוניינים בפרסום התכנים הללו.

העיתון “Ashraq Al- Awsat” בלונדון, תומך בפרסום בטענה שהוא אמנם יוצר מחלוקת אולם מקדם הבנה הדדית בין הצדדים.

“אני מאוד מרוצה מפרסום הספר”, אומר פרופ’ טייטלבאום. “אני שמח שהנושא עלה לדיון בקרב  אזרחים מהשורה ושאנשי מדע החברה דנים בו, ואני מקווה שזה ישפר את היחסים בין ישראל לעולם הערבי”, הוא מוסיף.

Saudi Peace Initiative takes back seat to Iran

al-monitor

Madawi Al-Rasheed
May 29, 2014

Due to their sensitivity, Saudi contacts with Israel have historically been conducted behind closed doors. When they become public knowledge, they are bound to generate sensational stories in the kingdom. In the past, such contacts used to be denounced by almost all Saudis, but not anymore.

Earlier this spring, al-Madarik, a Saudi publisher run by journalist Turki al-Dakhil, translated a
book by Israeli academic Joshua Teitelbaum titled “Saudi Arabia and the New Strategic Landscape.” Opponents regarded
the translation as a gradual normalization with the Zionists that comes at a time when several European and American forums
called for boycotting Israeli academic research. Other Saudis justified the translation on the grounds that it was better to “know
thine enemy” than remain in the dark. Such overtures into Israeli intellectual productions and opinions have become regular, as
Saudi newspapers such as al-Sharq al-Awsat and Qatari Al Jazeera television regularly include Israeli personalities among their
commentators.

Yet, the heated debate over the book translation quickly evaporated in favor of another, more sensational story. On May 26, the former Saudi intelligence director and former ambassador in London and Washington, Prince Turki al-Faisal al-Saud, appeared with the former head of Israeli military intelligence, Amos Yadlin, in a public debate organized in Brussels by the German Marshall Fund of the United States. Most Saudi media reported the event in passing, but divided Saudi opinions were expressed on social media. Many Saudis tweeted links to the debate, adding their varied commentaries. There were those who praised the clarity and sharpness of the prince, commending him for explaining the Saudi position on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict to a Western audience, while others condemned him as the architect of normalization and Saudi close relations with Israel.

It was not the first time the prince met Israeli officials; such meetings have taken place in academic and think-tank forums in Europe and the United States. By now, the meetings have a well-known formula. The Saudi side, represented by Turki, resurrects King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz’s 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, according to which Arabs recognize the State of Israel in return for Israeli withdrawal from the 1967 Israeli-occupied territories, including East Jerusalem, and a just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem. The Israeli side usually meanders and explains the obstacles to implementing such an initiative.

This time, Yadlin rejected the Saudi and Arab position that insists on a “take it or leave it” approach, preferring step-by-step negotiations. He argued that most Israelis are not aware of this initiative, to which Turki replied that it is the responsibility of the Israeli leadership to raise its people’s awareness of the prospect for a permanent peace with the Arabs under the umbrella of the Arab Peace Initiative.

After such unproductive encounters, Israelis invite the prince to visit Jerusalem and convey Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s willingness to turn up in Mecca.

The Saudis, including Turki, are still under the illusion that the Arab Peace Initiative might still be well-placed on the table for negotiations. There have been some recent efforts, including by pro-peace Israelis, as presented here in Al-Monitor, to keep the initiative alive. The initiative is, however, by now a dead solution and has been so for a long time. Israel is under no pressure to withdraw from any territories and is determined to indefinitely keep Jerusalem as its capital. Sacred places are often hard to divide, given that each side claims that it holds a God-given mandate over the sanctuary.

Moreover, Israel has no appetite for dealing with Palestinian refugees who have been displaced so many times since 1967. In Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and most recently Syria, Palestinian refugees have paid a high price for Israeli occupation of their territories and Arab regimes and nonstate actors’ violence against them. From Tall al-Zaatar, Sabra and Shatilla and Yarmouk, the memory of exile and displacement of the first generation is mixed with the experience of massacres inflicted on the second or third generation by fellow Arabs. The Palestinian exodus and subsequent massacres will remain alive regardless of whether Israel shows any kind of interest in reaching a humane and just solution to this disaster. It will no doubt haunt those Israelis whose conscience is still alive and resistant to the propaganda of their hawkish leadership. But whether this Israeli minority is to be counted on remains to be seen, as signs suggest that it has become insignificant and marginalized in Israeli politics.

Turki can tour think tanks and meet with former Israeli intelligence officials but the reality on the ground militates against Israel’s accepting the Saudi initiative and granting its architect, Abdullah, the honor of being remembered for ending the six-decade Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Today, Arabs cannot threaten Israel militarily, given that the three big armies in the region are preoccupied with domestic troubles. The Egyptian army is busy with crowning its general as an elected president, the Iraqi army is fighting sectarian battles against the Sunni population and the Syrian army is equally preoccupied with reclaiming territories from various rebels.

There are nonstate actors such as Hezbollah of Lebanon that continue to pose a threat to Israel if the latter ventures into its strong base in south Lebanon. But as long as Hezbollah is busy on the Syrian front, the danger is somehow remote at the moment. Moreover, Israel does not face a threat from jihadist groups, despite the rhetoric and alarmist propaganda of both the Israeli and al-Qaeda-affiliated organizations. Most noise coming from these groups is more focused on eradicating the Shiites and other sects wherever they are encountered. It will take a long time before they turn their attention to the Jews, if ever they do so.

If Israel accepts the Arab Peace Initiative, it may not be guaranteed peace, for such nonstate actors do not feel compelled to abide by its terms even if they are now busy with other conflicts. Therefore, Israel does not seem to have an incentive for reaching a peace that may not alter real threats on the ground.

Despite US involvement in reviving Israeli-Palestinian peace talks with the initiative of US Secretary of State John Kerry, neither the Israelis nor the Palestinians, not to mention the Arabs, are truly excited about the prospect of a realistic and imminent solution. Israel is content with the status quo in which no solution is the solution.

The Arab Peace Initiative, a breakthrough when it was announced 12 years ago, must be added to the list of Saudi foreign policy failures, at least for now. Perhaps there is a faint pulse, and new leadership in the kingdom, Israel and the region might someday resurrect it in one form or another.

In the meantime, the new priority is Iran, and keeping the heat on with continuous alarmist propaganda about the Iranian threat, which has replaced Israel as the enemy of choice.

This policy had at its disposal a media empire that pumped out anti-Iranian propaganda, which it might have to reverse after Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal invited his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif, to visit Riyadh.

Like their neighbors in the Gulf, the Saudis are truly out of the conflict with Israel, although there may be longer-term security and economic interests in building ties.

The prospect of Saudi-Israeli ties at first may seem a stretch, but the Saudi leadership may not be so concerned with domestic public opinion and not fear a backlash from their conservative Salafist backers.

The latter will no doubt draw on the Prophet Muhammad’s tradition to justify close ties with Israel, thus casting an Islamic legitimacy on Saudi foreign policy as they always do. There is an Islamic tradition upon which to make the case, when the time comes. 

After all, many Salafists remember that the Jews of Medina hosted Muhammad when he fled pagan Mecca. In the 1990s, then-Grand Mufti Abdul Aziz Ibn Baz issued a fatwa about the permissibility of (sulh) peace with the Israelis, citing various aspects of the prophetic tradition. The Saudi mufti died in 1999.

The trend will develop gradually, of course, as the kingdom cannot get too far ahead of the Palestinian case, which still may have the potential to surprise. The evolution of price-tag killings in the West Bank, Israeli strikes on Gaza and provocation by Israeli settlers and others at the Dome of the Rock could spark another wave of violence and reaction among Saudi, Arab and Muslim communities worldwide.

Turki may be the most willing member of the Saudi royal family to engage in open dialogue with Israeli officials, simply because he can always claim that he does not hold an official post in government or represent his country’s foreign policy. But we all know that the line between the private and the public is always blurred in an opaque country such as the kingdom. The prince will no doubt continue to play a key role in developing ties with Israeli officials, which may be needed not for peace but for war, especially if Saudi-Iranian relations unexpectedly deteriorate further in the future. 

Hot off the Arab press

jpost_logo1 (1)

The Media Line
May 29, 2014

 

Translating Israeli books, a cultural boycott or a need
Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, London, May 18

Harsh criticism was aimed at a Saudi Arabian publishing house after it translated a 100- page book by an Israeli writer. Mirza al-Khowalidi writes that the book, which deals with political research, does have some kind of a political message. The writer, Joshua Teitelbaum, does address the Arab audience by trying to explain Israel’s policies, claiming that Israel wants to achieve “stability” in the region. The end of the book discusses the Iranian threat, using the tension with Iran to show Israel as an important element in the regional balance. It is important to note that the book is not the first Israeli book to be translated in Saudi Arabia, or in Arab libraries. Some intellectuals considered translating Israeli books an act of normalization and spreading Israeli propaganda. However, others considered learning about Israel views a necessity. Supporters of this view stress that people don’t have to agree with the books’ views. “Knowing the enemy can help us win over them,” one writer said.

 

ترجمة الكتاب الإسرائيلي.. تطبيع ثقافي أم ضرورة معرفية؟

يهاجمها البعض ويدافع عنها الآخرون

Asharq-alawsat-logo

ميرزا الخويلدي
مايو 17, 2014

على خلفية قيام دار نشر معروفة هي (مدارك) التي يملكها الإعلامي السعودي تركي الدخيل نشر الترجمةالعربيةلكتاب: «المملكة العربية السعودية والمشهد الاستراتيجي الجديد» للمؤلف الإسرائيلي جاشوا تيتلبام, اندلع سجال ساخن اشترك فيه عدد من المثقفين.. وغير المثقفين وكعادة هذا النوع من السجالات أفرز تيارين: أحدهما يحارب أي مسعى لتقديم المنتجات الأدبية والفكرية الإسرائيلية للجمهور العربي بدعوى أنها تمثل (تطبيعا مع العدو)، والتيار الآخر يدعو لضرورة قراءة الفكر الآخر للتعرف عليه جيدا.

* الكتاب والمؤلف
الكتاب القضية، لا تتعدى صفحاته الـ100. وهو يبدو كبحث سياسي أقرب منه دراسة مطولة، ومؤلف الكتاب هو البروفسور جاشوا تيتلبام، من قسم تاريخ الشرق الأوسط في مركز بيغن – السادات للدراسات الاستراتيجية بجامعة بار إيلان في إسرائيل، وهو يعمل أيضا في معهد هوفر للبحوث. وقد قدم للكتاب الأستاذ الجامعي الأميركي من أصل لبناني فؤاد عجمي، المعروف بقربه من المحافظين في الولايات المتحدة، وهو الآخر عضو في معهد هوفر. وترجمه الدكتور حمد العيسى.
أما في مقدمته الخاصة، فقد حرص المؤلف على مخاطبة القراء العرب. والكتاب عموما لا يخلو من طابع سياسي، يسعى من خلاله المؤلف لشرح سياسات دولة إسرائيل، التي يصفها في الصفحة (11 – 12) بأنها تسعى (لتحقيق الاستقرار في المنطقة) وأن ذلك يجعل لديها مع العرب أو بعض العرب الكثير من المصالح الاستراتيجية المشتركة.
ويتحدث المؤلف عن القضية الطائفية الإسلامية إذ يورد في (الصفحة 13) نقلا عن اللواء في الاحتياط الإسرائيلي عاموس جلعاد، مدير مكتب الشؤون السياسية والعسكرية في وزارة الدفاع الإسرائيلية، ادعاءه في أغسطس (آب) 2013، (أن الكتلة السنيّة من الدول العربية لا تنظر إلى إسرائيل على أنها عدو لدود).
ويختتم الكتاب بالحديث عن التهديدات الإيرانية وفشل الولايات المتحدة في (فهم المشهد الاستراتيجي الجديد) بما يضمن أمن حلفائها في الخليج (صفحة 76). وهو يجنح لتوظيف القلق من الصعود الإيراني من أجل أن يصور إسرائيل عاملا مهما للتوازن الإقليمي.

* هل هي حملة موجهة؟
الكتاب ليس الأول من نوعه، حتى في الساحة الثقافية السعودية، حيث لا يعد وجود كتب لمؤلفين إسرائيليين جديدا، ففي أبريل (نيسان) العام 2010، ظهرت في معرض الرياض الدولي للكتاب رواية سوقتها دار نشر عربية هي (الجمل) تحمل اسم «أسطورة عن الحب والظلام»، للمؤلف الإسرائيلي عاموس عوز. ولقيت الرواية إقبالا ملحوظا. ومع ذلك لم تحدث هذه الرواية الجدل الذي أحدثه كتاب (مدارك)، ولذلك يرى تركي الدخيل أن «الحملة موجهة، ومقصودة».
ويتساءل، في اتصال هاتفي معه من مقره في دبي: «من يهاجموننا ألم يشاهدوا شخصيات إسرائيلية على قناة الجزيرة؟». ويضيف: «القصة ليست أن تنشر لكاتب إسرائيلي أو خلافه، ولكن القصة هي ماذا تنشر لهذا الكاتب، فهناك مراكز دراسات فلسطينية نشرت لكتاب إسرائيليين». ويعتقد تركي الدخيل أن الحملة التي اتخذت موقع «تويتر» ساحة لها، لم تكن بريئة، فالمقصود منها كما يقول: «التشويش».
لكن، ما السبب وراء ترجمة ونشر هذا الكتاب في العالم العربي؟ يقول الدخيل: «الكتاب يسلط الضوء على جانب سياسي بدراسة تحليلية. ثم إن المنتج الثقافي والأدبي هو منتج إنساني مهما تنوعت مصادره». ويضيف: «ما لم يفهمه المعترضون أننا نقدم دراسة سياسية ولم نستضف إسرائيليين في مدينة سعودية كالرياض أو جدة، وبالتالي فإننا لا نرى أن اختيار كتاب لمؤلف إسرائيلي هو (تطبيع)». وفي النهاية: «هذا الكتاب يمثل رأي صاحبه، وبإمكان المعارضين نقده أو مناقشته».
أما مترجم الكتاب الدكتور حمد العيسى فكتب في المقدمة: «إن ترجمة هذا الكتاب لا تعني بالضرورة الاتفاق مع جميع محتوياته من مصطلحات وتصنيفات وتحليلات وآراء ومقترحات، ولكن تمت ترجمته لإعطاء القارئ العربي وصناع القرار العرب، وبخاصة في الخليج العربي، فكرة عن رأي باحث ومفكر إسرائيلي بارز ومتخصص حول الصراع الاستراتيجي الحالي في جزء مهم من الشرق الأوسط».

* هل هو تطبيع؟
يتفق مع هذا الرأي الناقد والروائي السعودي. د. معجب الزهراني، الذي لا يرى أن في الأمر تطبيعا «فالإسرائيليون يقرأون جيدا كل شيء عنا وقد يكتبون عن العرب بحرية وعمق أكثر ولذا فمن الواجب معرفة جل ما يكتبون». ويضيف: «إنهم – الإسرائيليون – يتابعون كل ما يكتب عن العرب حتى في الصحف اليومية وأخشى أنهم يعرفون عنا فوق ما نعرف».
أما الناقد الدكتور سعد البازعي، الذي وضع كتابا مهما تحت عنوان: «المكون اليهودي في الحضارة الغربية»، فيقول، ردا على سؤالنا: هل تؤيد ترجمة ونشر المنتجات الأدبية والفكرية والسياسية لمؤلفين إسرائيليين؟: «ليست الإجابة سهلة على هذا السؤال. فكتابي حول المكون اليهودي في الحضارة الغربية انطلق من الإيمان بأهمية معرفة الآخر وعلى النحو الذي يكسر نمطية تلك المعرفة بتجاوز الصور النمطية».
ويضيف البازعي: «لكن تداول كتب الإسرائيليين يختلف عن الكتابة عن تلك المؤلفات. وأظن أن كثيرا من القراء العرب سينفر من قراءة كاتب صهيوني يدافع عن احتلال فلسطين أو الاعتداء شعبها. وقد يقبل قراءة كتاب معتدلين من إسرائيل أو اليهود عموما، وهؤلاء في الغالب ليسوا مؤمنين بالصهيونية.. من هنا يمكن التمييز بين الكتاب الإسرائيليين، فالأكثر اعتدالا لا أجد حرجا في ترجمة أعمالهم أو تسهيل تداولها، لكني أرفض أولئك الذين يتبنون سياسة عنصرية ويؤيدون استمرار الاحتلال. وينسحب هذا على كل كاتب عنصري أو مناصر لإيذاء الشعوب وليسوا الإسرائيليين وحدهم».
الناشر عادل الحوشان، الذي يمتلك دار نشر (طوى) تحدث عن مفهومه للتطبيع الثقافي قائلا: «شخصيا أفرّق كثيرا وأتوقف عند مصطلح التطبيع أكثر.. ما هو المقصود منه؟ بالنسبة للمكوّن اليهودي؛ لا يوجد أدنى شكّ أننا بحاجة إلى الاطلاع عليه ومعرفته ومعرفة تاريخه وموقفه، أما أن يأخذ التطبيع معناه السياسي فهذا بلا شكّ لن يقبله ضميري وأنا أعرف وأتابع وأقرأ وأمعن النظر في مجازر الكيان ضد الفلسطينيين».
ويكمل: «علينا أن نفصل التطبيع، بمعنى ترجمة أو قراءة أعمال أدبية وفنية، عن التطبيع السياسي، إذ يمكن أن نقرأ ما نريد ونجد ما نريد عبر مؤسسات ومراكز بحث تعنى بشؤون الشرق الأوسط، وجامعات تعنى بالدراسات والبحوث، وهناك مادة غزيرة عما قاله اليهود عنا وعن تاريخنا وعن العالم، وبالتأكيد هناك ما هو مهم فيما يقال أحيانا، لكني لن أقبل أن يوجهني صهيوني متطرف سياسيا سواء كان من الكيان نفسه الذي أنجبه ومشروعه أو من أنظمة أخرى أيا كانت درجة العلاقة السياسية بيننا وببينهم ومهما كانت أبعاد المصالح فيها».
على خط هذا السجال، دخل أيضا الكاتب السعودي أحمد عدنان، الذي يقول: «بعد نكسة 1967 أطلق الرئيس جمال عبد الناصر مشروعا بعنوان (اعرف عدوك)، وكان من بين المشرفين عليه الأديب الراحل أنيس منصور، ومن بين مهام هذا المشروع ترجمة النتاج الأدبي والفكري والسياسي الإسرائيلي، كما كان من أعماله برنامج إذاعي اسمه: من قلب إسرائيل. وكان من حيثيات ذلك المشروع، أن الجهل بإسرائيل هو من الأسباب الرئيسية للهزيمة آنذاك، ولم يصف أحد هذا الفعل بالتطبيع».
ويضيف: «إن من حق أي دار النشر أن تطبع ما تريد، كما أن من حق القارئ أن يطالع ما يريد، ويقبل من المحتوى أو يرفضه، فالحديث عن الخوف على وعي القارئ وحمايته منطق وصائي وهو أمر مرفوض، وهو كذلك منطق تشترك فيه التيارات الدينية المتطرفة وسلفيو القومية العربية».
عدنان هو الآخر، يرى أن الحملة جرى توجيهها من قبل من سماهم: «سلفيو القومية العربية»، ويرى أن الحملة ربما جاءت أيضا «في سياق التنافس بين دور النشر».

* كتب إسرائيلية في المكتبات العربية
* تكاد لا تخلو مكتبة عربية معروفة من كتب لمؤلفين إسرائيليين. وتهتم مراكز دراسات وأبحاث ووسائل إعلام بترجمة يومية للصحف الإسرائيلية، وهناك مراكز تتابع كل ما تنشره مراكز الأبحاث والدراسات الإسرائيلية، وتقدم بعضه للعالم العربي.
وأبرز الكتب التي تسوق في الدول العربية هي كتب لزعماء الحرب الإسرائيليين الذين أصبحوا قادة الدولة العبرية، من قبيل كتاب «سلام بيغن: قصة الأرغون»، لمؤلفه رئيس الوزراء الأسبق مناحم بيغن، وهو من ترجمة صلاح طوقان والناشر دار الشجرة للنشر والتوزيع، وكتاب «الإرهاب» لبيغن نفسه، وهو من ترجمة وتحقيق معين محمود، والناشر دار المسيرة للصحافة والطباعة، وكلا الكتابين يسوقهما موقع مكتبة النيل والفرات.
كذلك صدر لرئيس الدولة العبرية شيمعون بيريس بالعربية كتابان، هما: «معركة السلام، يوميات شيمون بيريز»، ترجمة عمار فاضل ومالك فاضل، وكتاب «الشرق الأوسط الجديد»، ترجمة محمد حلمي عبد الحافظ، والكتابان نشرتهما (الأهلية للنشر والتوزيع).
أما كتاب وزير الدفاع الإسرائيلي الأسبق موشي دايان: (قصة حياتي: قيام دولة إسرائيل وحروبها ضد العرب)، فترجمه طارق نصر الدين، ونشرته مكتبة النافذة، والكتاب يسوق عبر (النيل والفرات)، وكذلك كتاب «مكان بين الأمم: إسرائيل والعالم» لرئيس الوزراء الحالي بنيامين نتنياهو، ترجمة محمد عودة وكلثوم السعدي، ونشر الأهلية.
كتاب آخر هو «مذكرات إسحق شامير»، الصادر ضمن سلسلة شخصيات إسرائيلية، عن دار الكتاب العربي، في العام 1995. وكتاب «مذكرات اسحق رابين» عن دار الجليل للطباعة والنشر 1993. وكذلك عدد من مؤلفات وزير الخارجية الأسبق ييجال آلون.
ومن بين عشرات الكتب لمؤلفين إسرائيليين، كانت ترجمتها في فلسطين ومن قبل مراكز دراسات فلسطينية، وواحد من هذه المراكز هو المركز الفلسطيني للدراسات الإسرائيلية «مدار» الذي تأسس ربيع عام 2000، بمبادرة مجموعة من المثقفين والأكاديميين الفلسطينيين من بينهم الشاعر الراحل محمود درويش، وآخرون، والذي أصدر عشرات الأبحاث والدراسات والترجمات والمنشورات المتخصصة في الشأن الإسرائيلي، ولديه دائرة ترجمة تنفذ برنامجا لترجمة كتب موضوعة باللغة العبرية أو الإنجليزية. وتم إصدار 32 كتابا مترجما حتى نهاية 2011. (بحسب موقع مدار).
ومن بين إصدارات المركز كتاب «اختراع أرض إسرائيل»، من تأليف شلومو ساند، أستاذ التاريخ في جامعة تل أبيب، والكتاب من منشورات (مدار) والمكتبة الأهلية في عمان، كما أصدر المركز الكتب التالية: «فلسطين في الكتب المدرسية في إسرائيل – الآيديولوجيا والدعاية في التربية والتعليم» لنوريت بيلد – الحنان، و«نظام ليس واحدا» لارئيلا ازولاي وعدي أوفير، و«في مصيدة الخط الأخضر» ليهودا شنهاف، و«أسرى في لبنان» لمؤلفه عوفر شيلح ويوءاف ليمور، وكتاب «اختراع الشعب اليهودي» لشلومو ساند، و«سلام متخيّل – عن الخطاب والحدود، السياسة والعنف» لمؤلفه ليف غرينبرغ، و«قراءة إيران في إسرائيل – الذات والآخر، الدين والحداثة» لمؤلفه حجاي رام، ورواية «أراض للتنزه – رواية في شذرات» لعوز شيلح.

Saudi press house under fire for translating Israeli book

Saudi Arabian publishing house sparks storm of protest after publishing book by Israeli researcher, with critics slamming move as ‘a form of cultural normalization with the Zionist enemy.’

Ynet

 

Roi Kais
May 27, 2014

A Saudi-owned publishing house called “Madarak”, based in Dubai, sparked a torrent of outrage in Saudi Arabia in recent weeks, after publishing an Arabic translation of an Israeli researcher’s book.

The book, titled “Saudi Arabia and the New Strategic Landscape” was written by Prof. Joshua Teitelbaum and published in English in 2010. It deals with relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran, focusing on issues related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The book’s publication in the kingdom by a Saudi press house, prompted claims from media outlets that the move is in violation of Saudi Arabia’s official position which opposes any type of normalization with Israel.

Cover of Professor Joshua Teitelbaum's book Teitelbaum is a senior lecturer at the Department of Middle Eastern Studies and a Senior Research Associate at the Begin-Sadat (BESA) Center for Strategic Studies and at Stanford.

Following the publication of the book, an online campaign was launched that harshly critiqued the “Madarak Publishing House’s act of normalization”. One surfer wrote: “This is a new Arabic betrayal. I wouldn’t be surprised if the next generation demands the rights of our Israeli brothers.”

In addition to the online campaign, Arabic media outlets known for their criticism of Saudi Arabia seized the opportunity to lash out at the Kingdom.

The Lebanese newspaper “Al Akhbar”, affiliated with Hezbollah, penned a number of reports on the story, and said that Saudi journalist Saleh Al-Haider contacted the Arab Publishers Association and reproached the press house for publishing a book written by an Israeli.

According to him, this is “a form of cultural normalization with the Zionist enemy and an attempt to divert the Arab nation’s compass away from the (Palestinian land) stealing entity.” The journalist also demanded that measures be taken against the publishing house.

The newspaper Al-Arabi al-Jadeed, led by former Israeli MK Azmi Bashara, joined in on the criticism against the printing house and its manager, journalist Turki al-Dahlil, calling him the “studio of normalization” in an opinion piece.

The London-based “Asharq Al-Awsat” newspaper, known as a staunch supporter of the Saudi royal house, backed the publishing house, printing a piece titled “Translation of Israeli books: Cultural normalization or demand of awareness?”.

The article claimed that the Arabic translation of the book indeed inspired controversy, it also promoted mutual understanding.

It was further claimed that the decision was not a precedent, as books by Israeli authors had been published in the past and distributed in Arab countries, and published an image with covers of books by Israeli authors that were translated to Arabic.

Other books by Israelis have been published in the past, shows an article published in the "Asharq Al-Awsat" newspaper

Al-dahlil, the Saudi publishing house manager, said in response to the criticism, that “what the objectors don’t understand is that we’re providing a stage for political research and not hosting Israelis in a Saudi city like Riyadh or Jeddah. Therefore, we don’t consider the publication of a book by an Israeli author an act of normalization.”

 In a conversation with Ynet, Professor Teitelbaum confirmed that the book had been translated into Arabic by a Saudi publishing house. “I am pleased that the book was published. I’m glad there’s debate in Saudi Arabia over Israeli and that it’s an open discussion.”I’m very glad that this is a topic that people on the street and intellectuals are discussing. This should be a fruitful discussion and I hope it improves relations between Israel and the Arab world,” Teitelbaum added.

מפרץ סוער: דם רע בין סעודיה לקטאר

logomida

March 12, 2014

שפל חדש נרשם לפני כשבוע ביחסים בין מדינות המפרץ, כאשר שגרירים מסעודיה, בחריין ואיחוד האמירויות הושבו מקטאר • המדיניות העצמאית של קטאר ותמיכתה העקבית ב’אחים המוסלמים’ עוררו את חמתם של הסעודים, שהכריזו בתגובה ביום שישי האחרון על ‘האחים המוסלמים’ כארגון טרור • מאחורי המהלכים הדרמטיים עומדת היסטוריה של התנגחות הדדית ויחסים מעורערים בין המדינות, שהביאו עתה את מפלס המתח במפרץ לגבהים חדשים • פרופ’ יהושע טייטלבאום, מומחה למדינות המפרץ, מנתח

אחרי מספר שנים של עליות ומורדות, הגיעו היחסים בין מדינות ‘המועצה לשיתוף פעולה של מדינות המפרץ’ (GCC) לנקודת שפל חדשה: בפרץ של זעם, ב-5 למרץ הודיעו סעודיה, בחריין ואיחוד הנסיכויות הערביות שהן מחזירות את שגריריהן מדוחה, בירת קטאר.

בהצהרה שפורסמה בתחילת החודש, הודיעו בחריין, איחוד הנסיכויות וסעודיה כי המהלך נעשה בתגובה לאי-עמידתה של קטאר בהסכמים לשמירת הביטחון ההדדי. לדידן, קטאר לא צייתה לסעיף הקובע את “אי-התערבות בענייניהן הפנימיים של כל אחת ממדינות ה-GCC”, והימנעות מתמיכה בארגונים ופרטים המאיימים על הביטחון והיציבות (המתייחס ל’אחים המוסלמים’). בנוסף, קטאר המשיכה גם לתמוך ב”כלי תקשורת עוינים” (ובכך הכוונה לאל-ג’זירה).

לא מדובר באירוע נקודתי. זה שנים ארוכות שקטאר חורגת מהקו שמתווה הממלכה הסעודית עבור מדינות המפרץ, מה שיוצר מתח רב בין המדינות. מה הוביל למהלך הדרמטי הזה? וכיצד הדבר קשור להכרזה הסעודית מיום שישי האחרון, לפיה מעתה נחשבים ‘האחים המוסלמים’ לארגון טרור?

קטאר וסעודיה: שני עשורים של מתח

מאז שנוסדה ב-1981 כתגובה למהפכה האיראנית ולמלחמת איראן-עיראק, תמיד הייתה ה-GCC בשליטת סעודיה. אך בעוד שבמרבית הסוגיות ריאד ראתה עין בעין עם מנמאה (בירת בחריין) ואבו דאבי, הרי שלא כך המצב בנוגע לקטאר.

דוחה רוותה חוסר נחת תחת העול הסעודי, עוד מהתקופה שהאמיר שיח’ חמד בן-ח’ליפה אלת’אני הדיח את אביו, בהפיכה בארמון ב-1995. מאז, בזכות שפע המזומנים שזרמו משדה הגז North Dome/South Pars – שדה הגז הגדול ביותר בעולם (שבו קטאר שותפה עם איראן) – יחד עם ערוץ אל-ג’זירה חסר הרסן, שנוסד ב-1996, קטאר הזעירה שמה את עצמה על המפה הבינלאומית.

כך החלה נפתחה המערכה בין דוחה לריאד, שתוצאותיה ניכרות בימים אלה. מאז שנוסדה, מציקה אל-ג’זירה לסעודים כמו עצם בגרון. אך זו לא רק אל-ג’זירה; התיווך של קטאר בסכסוכים בעולם הערבי והמוסלמי (הגדה המערבית ועזה, סודאן ואפגניסטאן), המשך יחסיה הטובים עם איראן והמימון שהקטארים מספקים לקבוצות מתחרות של מורדים סורים –  כל אלה נתפסו כעלבונות על-ידי ערב הסעודית. ואכן, ריאד נמנעה אפילו מהחזקת שגריר בקטאר בין השנים 2002 ל-2007. מבחינתה ומבחינת בחריין ואיחוד האמירויות, קטאר משחקת במגרש של הגדולים אך המשקל שלה אינו מצדיק זאת.

ריאד ביקשה להפוך את ה-GCC למועדון של המונרכיות השמרניות, ואפילו הציפה בשלב כלשהו את הרעיון שמרוקו וירדן יצטרפו לארגון. יתכן שהיא קיוותה כי האמיר החדש, שיח’ תמים בן חמד אלת’אני, שירש את אביו ביוני 2013, עשוי לפתוח דף חדש ולהשלים עם מנהיגותה של ריאד. אך כפי שניתן להבחין, תקוות אלו עלו בתוהו. הקש ששבר לבסוף את גב הגמל היה תמיכתה הנמשכת של דוֹחה בהתקוממויות בארצות ערב, ובייחוד ב’אחים המוסלמים’ במצרים.

על-פי מקורות רמי דרג במועצת ה-GCC שצוטטו ב-Defense News, במפגש שנערך בנובמבר הסכימה קטאר לרסן את איש ‘האחים המוסלמים’ השיח’ יוסוף אל-קרדאווי, המשדר תכנית הזוכה לפופולריות רבה באל-ג’זירה, למנוע את השידור של “תקשורת שלילית” נגד מדינות מהמפרץ החברות במועצה וכן להפסיק לתמוך ‘באחים המוסלמים’. משכל זה לא קרה וניכר כי קטאר לא מילאה את התנאים הללו, אפילו אחרי שניתנה לה הזדמנות נוספת בפגישה שנערכה ב-4 למרץ, גינו אותה סעודיה, בחריין ואיחוד האמירויות ואף החזירו את שגריריהן , כאמור, ביום שלאחר מכן.

הטריגר: התססה עקיפה ותמיכה ב’אחים המוסלמים’

מזה מספר חודשים שהמצב התקרב לקצה גבול הסיבולת של סעודיה וחברותיה. בינואר האחרון מחתה איחוד האמירויות בפני קטאר עקב התבטאויותיו של אל-קרדאווי נגדה ונגד ערב הסעודית. עוד ב-2013 איחוד האמירויות העמידה לדין למעלה ממאה חברים ב’אחים המוסלמים’ בסדרה של משפטים וב-3 למרץ אף גזרה שבע שנות מאסר על הרופא הקטארי מחמוד עבד אל-רחמן אל-ג’יידה, בגלל שהלה גייס כספים לתנועה. לבסוף, בצעד דרמטי שהתרחש ביום שישי האחרון (8.3) הכריזה ערב הסעודית  על ‘האחים המוסלמים’ כארגון טרור.

מצדה, ביטאה ממשלת קטאר “צער והפתעה” על החלטה זאת, והודיעה שהיא לא תשנה את מדיניות החוץ שלה, למרות הלחצים. פקיד לשעבר בממשלת קטאר אמר לאל-ג’זירה שמקצת ממדינות ה-GCC “מנסות להכריח את קטאר לנקוט מדיניות מסוימת שאין לה כל קשר למפרץ”, ושהסוגיה השנויה במחלוקת היא בעצם הפילדמרשל עבד אל-פתאח א-סיסי ממצרים.

אין זה שגוי לחלוטין: ב-6 למרץ הצטרפה מצרים אל אחיותיה מהמפרץ, והחזירה גם היא את שגרירה מדוחה. והייתה לה סיבה טובה לכך. ערוץ אל-ג’זירה, הנתמך על-ידי ממשלת קטאר, עודד את אותן ההתקוממויות הערביות שאליהן מתנגדות ערב הסעודית ובנות בריתה, ביניהן זו שהפילה את משטר מובארכ. קטאר שפכה כספים רבים על מצרים בעקבות נצחונו של מוחמד מורסי, פעיל ‘האחים המוסלמים’, בבחירות. לא פלא אפוא כי כאשר שהודח מורסי מהשלטון ביולי 2013 על-ידי א-סיסי, נאסרו מספר כתבים של אל-ג’זירה והואשמו בתמיכה ב’אחים המוסלמים’. בסופו של יום, זוהי תמיכתה של קטאר ב’אחים המוסלמים’ הרדיקלים, המתנגדים למונרכיה, שהכי מרגיזה את ערב הסעודית ואת בעלות בריתה.

עבור קטאר, אגב, המריבה האחרונה לא יכלה להתרחש במועד גרוע יותר. בהיותה מתוכננת לארח את משחקי גביע העולם של FIFA בשנת 2020 בעלות מוערכת של כ-200 מיליארד דולר, התחייבה דוֹחה ללוח זמנים צפוף לבניית המתקנים. המאמץ הקטארי הוביל לדיווחים על תנאי עבודה נוראיים של העובדים הזרים העוסקים במלאכה. קרן המטבע הבינלאומית וארגון Human Rights Watch מתחו ביקורת חריפה במיוחד נגד קטאר, וארגון לזכויות אדם מנפאל טוען שלמעלה מ-400 פועלים נפאליים מתו במהלך עבודת הבינוי. אם זה לא מספיק, עתה בא המשבר האחרון בדמות ההתכתשות עם סעודיה וחברותיה.

מסמר נוסף בארון: האם ה-GCC בסכנת התפרקות?

לא כמו פעם; שר ההגנה צ'אק הייגל בביקור בסעודיה. צילום: משרד ההגנה האמריקני,

התפתחויות דיפלומטיות אלה באות, כמובן, על רקע התסכול הרב של ערב הסעודית, איחוד האמירויות, ובחריין עקב עמדתה של אמריקה כלפי תכנית הגרעין האיראנית. מדינות המפרץ תופסות את המדיניות של ארה”ב באזור ככניעה לשאיפות ההגמוניות של איראן.

האמריקנים מודעים לדאגות הללו ומגיבים בהתאם. שר ההגנה צ’אק הייגל ביקר במפרץ בדצמבר 2013 והציע מספר יוזמות חדשות שנועדו לתמוך בשיתוף פעולה הגנתי בראשות ארה”ב באזור. הצעות אלה כללו מכירת נשק ל-GCC כגוש אחד במקום לכל מדינה בנפרד, ופיתוח מערכת הגנה מאוחדת נגד טילים של ה-GCC שתתבסס על מערכות פטריוט ומערכות הגנה מרחבית בגובה רב (THAAD) מתוצרת ארה”ב. אחרי כן הוא ערך ביקור, שזכה לתהודה רבה, למרכז האמריקני המשולב לפעילות באוויר ובחלל שבקטאר. בנוסף, הנשיא אובמה מתכנן ביקור בערב הסעודית מאוחר יותר החודש בניסיון לפייס ולשכך את דאגותיה של ערב הסעודית.

אך לאור היחסים המעורערים ב-GCC, נראה כי שיתוף הפעולה שארה”ב רוצה לקיים אינו צפוי להניב פירות. כאשר הציעו הסעודים ב-7 לדצמבר שה-GCC תיצור איחוד פוליטי, התנגדה לכך עומאן בגלוי. עומאן, המנהלת מדיניות חוץ נפרדת, מעולם לא שיחקה כחלק מקבוצת ה-GCC, עמדה שהוצגה בבירור כשהיא תיווכה בחשאי בשיחות בין ארה”ב ואיראן בשנה שעברה, מאחורי גבן של חברות ה-GCC. כך, כעבור מספר ימים הודיעה ה-GCC על יצירת פיקוד צבאי וכוח משטרתי משותף, אך לא על איחוד פוליטי. אף אחת מהיוזמות הללו אינה צפויה להגיע לכלל מימוש.

ה-GCC מעולם לא המריא כארגון מאוחד. הוא בהחלט אינו דומה לאיחוד האירופי או לנאט”ו, ולעולם לא יהיה כזה. הצעד האחרון של איחוד האמירויות, בחריין וערב הסעודית משמש מסמר נוסף שננעץ בארון המתים של ארגון גוסס זה, אף על-פי שהקבורה עצמה עוד עלולה להתמהמה.

פרופ’ יהושע טייטלבאום, עמית מחקר בכיר במרכז בגין-סאדאת למחקרים אסטרטגיים, הנו פרופסור ללימודי המזרח-התיכון באוניברסיטת בר-אילן ועמית אורח וחבר בכוח המשימה על איסלמיזם והסדר הבינלאומי במכון הובר של אוניברסיטת  סטנפורד. הוא מומחה למדינות המפרץ, ובייחוד לערב הסעודית. 

مغردون یھاجمون دار نشر سعودیة استفزتھم بالتطبیع مع مؤلف إسرائیلي

2014 مایو 8

الریاض – الوئام – محمد الحربي :
خالفت دار نشر سعودیة الموقف السیاسي للمملكة الرافض للتطبیع مع العدو الصھیوني، واتفقت مع مؤلف إسرائیلي على شراء حقوق ترجمة
كتابھ.
حرض استفزاز دار النشر المغردین العرب على إطلاق ھاشتاق #تطبیع_مدارك، انتقدوا فیھ بشدة منھج الدار، ومخالفتھا الصریحة لأنظمة
المملكة وسیاساتھا الواضحة والصریحة لمساندة القضیة الفلسطینیة.
وكانت دار مدارك للنشر، قد نشرت كتابا للمؤلف الإسرائیلي جاشو تیتلبام بعنوان (السعودیة والمشھد الاستراتیجي الجدید) بعد شراء حقوق
الترجمة من المؤلف .

Israel and the Gulf states: It’s complicated

thetimesofisrael-529x60Raphael Ahren
August 9, 2013

They have many common interests, but now more than ever, any rapprochement needs to remain secret, some officials say. So why did Jerusalem open a ‘virtual embassy’ in the Gulf?

In February 2009, a few days after Israel concluded its Operation Cast Lead against Gaza terrorists, the chief of protocol at Qatar’s Foreign Ministry invited Roi Rosenblit, who at the time headed Israel’s interest office in Doha, for a meeting in his office. Rosenblit knew exactly what awaited him: a few days earlier he had seen how then-Qatari prime minister Hamad bin Jassim, angry over Palestinian casualties, announced live on al-Jazeera that the period of normalization with Israel needed to end.

The Qatari diplomat welcomed Rosenblit, friendly as always, served him tea with za’atar, and then handed him an envelope. In the letter, the government of Qatar politely yet determinedly informed the Israeli that he had one week to close down the Israeli mission on 15 al-Buhturi Street, and leave the country.

Since then, Israel no longer officially maintains diplomatic relations with any of the Arab states in the Gulf — or does it?

It is widely believed that Jerusalem still maintains some sort of engagement with various states in the Persian Gulf region. Yet the government is extremely careful not to publicly admit such ties — in order not to jeopardize them. One thing is certain: Jerusalem is vocally advocating for stronger ties with the overwhelmingly Sunni Gulf states in the Gulf, hoping both for commercial opportunities and geo-strategic advantages. On July 18, the Israeli Foreign Ministry opened a Twitter channel exclusively “dedicated to promoting dialogue with the people of the GCC region.” The GCC, short for Cooperation Council of Arab States in the Gulf, includes Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Oman, Bahrain, and Kuwait. (Never mind that Israel still officially considers Saudi Arabia an enemy state and prohibits its citizens from entering the country.)

Within less than a month, the “official channel of the virtual Israeli Embassy to GCC countries” picked up more than 1,100 followers. On Tuesday, on the occasion of the Eid al-Fitr holiday (which marks the end of Ramadan), the channel hosted a live chat with Foreign Ministry director-general Rafi Barak. The top diplomat mostly stuck to slogans, saying that Israel is interested in peace and neighborly relations with all its neighbors. One Kuwaiti wanted to know how he could visit Israel in the absence of an Israeli embassy; “You can apply for a visa in any Israeli mission abroad,” Barak responded, suggesting citizens of Arab states turn to the Israeli embassy in Amman.

Benoit Chapas, a EU official dealing with the Gulf states, wondered whether Israel had any “plans to reopen” its offices in the area. “We will be happy to,” Barak replied.

He might as well have said: “we already did,” because, since earlier this year, Israelis know that the Foreign Ministry has recently taken a symbolically meaningful and potentially significant step indicating that ties between Israel and the Gulf are warming up again. A carelessly edited version of the 2013 state budget revealed that Israel opened a diplomatic office somewhere in the Persian Gulf. On page 213 of the document, readers learn that between 2010 and 2012, Israel opened 11 new representative offices across the globe, including one in the Gulf. Foreign Ministry sources in the know said they asked the Finance Ministry to remove the sensitive clause from the budget, but it is still there for anyone to see.

The exact nature of that mission — where it is, how many diplomats are or were stationed there, and whether it is still open — remains unclear. Unsurprisingly, the Foreign Ministry is unwilling to comment any further on the issue. “Others in the Foreign Ministry disagree with me, but as I see it, talking about it publicly would serve absolutely no purpose, other than risking whatever cooperation we have,” an Israeli diplomat well-versed in Jerusalem’s relationship with the Arab world said.

Indeed, the secrecy surrounding Israel’s mysterious office in the Gulf goes so far that even senior diplomats, including those dealing on a daily basis with the GCC, gave The Times of Israel conflicting information about it. Some asserted that “we have absolutely nothing” in the Gulf and that the line in the budget must have been an error. Others admitted that there is — or was — something but declined to detail.

“This ‘virtual activity’ will put our tangible activity at risk,” one diplomat opined

Not everyone in the Foreign Ministry is happy with the idea of establishing a “virtual embassy” to openly engage with the residents of the Gulf states via social networks. “This ‘virtual activity’ will put our tangible activity at risk,” one diplomat opined.

Israel and the Arab world have been engaging for decades, in various, mostly clandestine ways. In the 1990s, in the wake of the Oslo Accords, trade and political ties grew stronger, so much so that the Israeli chamber of commerce published a guide in Hebrew on how to do business in the Gulf. In 1994, then-prime minister Yitzhak Rabin visited Oman, where he was greeted by Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said (who is still reigning in Muscat). In 1995, a few days after Rabin was assassinated, then-acting prime minister Shimon Peres hosted Omani foreign minister Yusuf Ibn Alawi in Jerusalem.

In January 1996, Israel and Oman — which has always been Jerusalem’s best friend in the GCC — signed an agreement on the reciprocal opening of trade representative offices. “Oman believes that the current step will lead to continued progress in the peace process, and increased stability in the region,” the Israel Foreign Ministry declared at the time, adding that the office’s main role will be “to develop reciprocal economic and trade relations with Oman, as well as cooperation in the spheres of water, agriculture, medicine, and communications.”

Four months later, Peres visited Oman and Qatar to officially open “Israel Trade Representation Offices” in both capitals.

At the airport in Doha, the Israeli prime minister reviewed an honor guard before heading to the Royal Palace for a meeting with Qatari Emir Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani (who ruled until last month, when he abdicated the throne in favor of his son).

Shimon Peres and a Qatari official review an honor guard during a reception ceremony at the Doha airport, April 2, 1996 (photo credit: Avi Ohayon/GPO)

Headed by a small team of three Israeli diplomats, the offices in Muscat and Doha functioned “basically like a regular embassy — just without the Israeli flag,” an official stationed in both missions recalled.

The overt ties with Oman didn’t last for even half a decade. In October 2000, in the wake of the Second Intifada, Omani rulers felt the public opinion turned against Israel, suspended relations and closed the mission. The Israeli Foreign Ministry expressed regret at the decision, emphasizing that the cessation of contact and dialogue does nothing to advance the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians. “In days of crisis, it is especially important that lines of communication between countries be kept open,” the ministry declared.

However, despite shutting down the Israeli representative office, located on Muscat’s Al-Adhiba Street, the government of Oman quietly encouraged Israeli diplomats to stick around, as long as the ongoing engagement between the two countries stayed secret.

Official diplomatic relations with Qatar survived for nine more years, until Emir Hamad’s rage (or perhaps that of his subjects) led him to ask the Israelis to close up shop. But just like the ruler of Oman, the Qatari leader also hinted that, while the official channel needed to be closed, he would not mind if Israeli diplomats in his country continued their work, as long as they do it under the radar.

A few months after Qatar had expelled the Israeli mission, the country’s rulers twice offered to reestablish ties — including a reopening of the office in Doha. In return, the Qataris demanded that Israel allow the small Gulf state to take a leading role in the rebuilding of Gaza. They also demanded Jerusalem publicly express appreciation for the state’s role and acknowledge its standing in the region.

According to Haaretz, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was initially inclined to accept the offer but eventually declined, mainly because the Qataris also demanded to be allowed to bring large amounts of cement and other construction material into Gaza, which Israeli officials said ran counter to the state’s security interest. The Qataris cannot hope “to restore cooperative relations with Israel without agreeing to reopen the trade office,” a senior Israeli official said at the time, according to a secret diplomatic cable published by the whistleblower website WikiLeaks.

So far, Oman and Qatar are the only GCC states that agreed to openly maintaining diplomatic contacts with Israel. Yet it is well-known that Jerusalem had (and might still have) contacts to probably most other states in the region. These clandestine ties are mostly the domain of the Mossad. On its website, the spy agency openly states that one of its key goals is “Developing and maintaining special diplomatic and other covert relations” and one can safely assume that Israeli agents are in touch with officials from at least a handful of Arab states in the region that would never admit to having any contacts with Israel.

Take Bahrain for example. Jerusalem and Manama never maintained diplomatic relations, but, in 2005, King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa boasted to an American official that his state has contacts with Israel “at the intelligence/security level (i.e., with Mossad),” according to a different secret US diplomatic cable published by WikiLeaks. The king also indicated willingness “to move forward in other areas, although it will be difficult for Bahrain to be the first.” The development of “trade contacts,” though, would have to wait for the implementation of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the king told the ambassador.

Other WikiLeaks documents show that senior officials from both countries have spoken in recent years, such as a 2007 meeting between then-foreign minister Tzipi Livni and Bahraini foreign minister Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmed Al Khalifa in New York. The Bahraini foreign minister in 2009 also signaled that he was willing to meet Netanyahu to try to advance the peace process, but ultimately decided not to go ahead with the plan.

It is not difficult to figure out why the Gulf states would be interested in closer cooperation with Israel. Most importantly, the Jewish state is a regional superpower, widely assumed to possess an impressive nuclear arsenal, and has openly vowed to prevent Iran from acquiring such weapons. The Gulf states, some of which have decades-oldterritorial disputes with Tehran, are just as scared as Israel is of a nuclear-armed Iran.

“In the Gulf, there is a particular concern over Iran and what appears to be the lackluster performance in Obama’s administration in stopping them from getting nuclear weapons,” said Prof. Joshua Teitelbaum, senior research associate at Bar-Ilan University’s Begin Sadat Center for Strategic Studies. “This will lead, if it hasn’t already, to closer cooperation between Israel and the Gulf states.”

Indeed, Arabs in the Gulf believe in Jerusalem’s role in fighting Iran “because of their perception of Israel’s close relationship with the US, but also due to their sense that they can count on Israel against Iran,” then-Foreign Ministry deputy director-general (and current ambassador to Germany) Yacov Hadas-Handelsman said during a briefing with senior US officials in 2009. “They believe Israel can work magic.”

But it’s more than just Iran. Israel and the Gulf states also have in common their fear of extremist political Islamism, such as practiced by Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, or Hezbollah. While it is true that Qatar has good ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas — last year, the emir became the first head of state to visit Gaza since it was taken over by the Palestinian terrorist group in 2007 — the GCC states in general are afraid of political and religious extremists that threaten their rule, especially from Shiite elements. (Qatar is unique in the sense that it manages good relations to all players in the region and even the US).

Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, left, and Gaza's Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyeh, right, arrive for a cornerstone laying ceremony for Hamad, a new residential neighborhood in Khan Younis, southern Gaza Strip, October 23 (photo credit: AP/Mohammed Salem)

According to experts, the Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait, are more worried about the Muslim Brotherhood than about Iran. “Israel and Gulf states seek stability and they work together to further this stability. This leaves lots of room for common tasks, as long as they keep it secret,” said Teitelbaum, whose research focuses on political and social development in the Arab world and the Persian Gulf in particular.

If the GCC and Jerusalem are in the same camp, geo-strategically speaking, why the need to sweep any sort of cooperation under the rug? “Why should they cause problems when there are none?” Teitelbaum said. “They have so many other issues to deal with, the last thing they need to is to publicly call for cooperation with Israel.”

Public opinion in the Arab world was always against Israel, and Qatar and Oman could only allow themselves to open up to Israel after Rabin’s peace process had come into gear. As soon as Israeli-Palestinians violence flared up, they cut all official ties.

‘The Gulf States couldn’t care less about the 1967 borders. It is the conflict that bothers them, because it strengthens the radical forces in the region’

Perhaps ironically, the Arab Spring does not make easier for the Gulf states’ autocratic leaders to get closer to Israel again, experts say. For the first time in history, public opinion has become a determining factor of the Arab world’s political system, and the rulers in the Gulf will think twice before admitting any sort of engagement with the Zionist entity.

It’s not so much about the Gulf nations’ love for the Palestinians. “The leaders of the GCC states couldn’t care less about the 1967 borders,” said a Jerusalem source intimately familiar with GCC politics. “For all that matters to them, the Green Line could be somewhere between Ohio and Maryland. It is the conflict that bothers them, because it strengthens the radical forces in the region.”

The recent resumption of Israeli-Palestinians peace negotiations, unlikely as they are to yield any results, will not be enough to allow the Gulf states to openly reengage with Israel. There are ways, however, in which Israel could make it easier for them to work towards an détente, Teitelbaum suggested. For example by speaking positively about the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative – in which the entire Arab world offered normal diplomatic relations with Israel in return for a comprehensive agreement with the Palestinians – or making a similar proposal to reach regional peace.

In the mean time, the GCC states will just stand on the sidelines and go on with business as usual — covert cooperation in the economic and intelligence fields but no official rapprochement. “Unless there is an official treaty with the Palestinians, I don’t think we can expect anything like formal relations,” Teitelbaum said. “That’s just how they are. From their perspective, it just doesn’t much sense…they have everything to gain from keeping it the way it is currently.”

 

Op-Ed: Saudi Arabia and Israel – Let’s Not Get Carried Away

Arutz Sheva

Joshua Teitelbaum
December 18, 2013

There is much speculation on a warming of relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel in the aftermath of the Iran nuclear deal. However, the Saudi royal family is more likely to draw closer to Iran than to Israel.

Following the signing of an agreement on Iran’s nuclear development on November 24, the press speculated that Saudi Arabia and Israel – the most important US allies in the region and the countries most jilted by Washington – would increase their cooperation. But given its history and concern for the legitimacy of its rule, particularly after the Arab uprisings, the Saudi royal family is more likely to draw closer to Iran than to Israel.

Real and Rumored Saudi Contact With Israel

Since the 1980s, Saudi officialdom has demonstrated a relatively conciliatory stance towards Israel. Prince Fahd’s initiative of 1981, the Fez plan of 1982, and King Abdullah’s plan, which became the Arab Peace Initiative in 2002, all offered recognition to Israel in exchange for a Palestinian state and full withdrawal from all territories captured in 1967. Israeli leaders publicly demonstrated some interest, and the pressreported secret meetings between Israeli and Saudi officials in 2006-2007 with an eye towards making the initiative more palatable to Israel. In 2008 Olmert offered to include Saudis in a committee of religious leaders administering Jerusalem’s holy sites.

The Sunday Times has been the source of several stories of Saudi-Israeli defense cooperation – all citing anonymous Israeli officials – since the Iranian threat has grown. It reported that the Saudis agreed to let Israel attack Iran via its airspace and that that they were practicing standing down their air defenses. This assertion dovetailed with remarks made to this author by an American academic who had met with a top Saudi defense official.

In May 2013, it reported that a defense agreement was in the works between Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, including the sharing of radar station and missile defense information. In October, Israel’s Channel Tworeported that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was supervising “intensive meetings” with prominent Gulf officials, one of whom who had even visited Israel. In November, the Sunday Times struck again, reporting Saudi Arabia would cooperate in the use of refueling planes, rescue helicopters, and drones. An Israeli minister told Buzzfeed that it was Saudi Arabia that informed Israel about the secret US-Iran nuclear talks that preceded the Geneva agreement. The Saudis denied such contacts.

The Israeli leadership has recently made several statements expressing the common interests between Israel and the Sunni countries of the region. These include Amos Gilad, Director of Political-Military Affairs in the Ministry of Defense, and several other spokespersons. The most overlooked pro-Saudi reference was a few lines in Netanyahu’s speech at the UN in early October, when he expressed his hope that Israel would build relationships with Arab countries equally threatened by Iran.

While the leaks are probably from Israeli sources trying to threaten Iran, the Saudis are most likely of two minds about contacts with Israel. On the one hand, a large part of the ruling family’s internal and regional legitimacy is based on being perceived as promoting Arab and Islamic causes. Palestine is just such a cause, and to be seen discussinganything with Israel is problematic. On the other hand, the Saudis have said that they have the right to do anything to assure their security, the implication being that talks with Israel should not be ruled out. Iran should therefore be put on notice.

The Saudis, the Gulf, and Bandwagoning

The Saudis have always been reluctant to confront Iran. Although separated by a history of political and religious enmity, Riyadh sought to get along with Tehran. Since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, Riyadh has effectively opted against – or been deterred from – taking action against Iran, even when Tehran was organizing sedition amongst Saudi Arabia’s own Shiites and making trouble at the pilgrimage. Not even Tehran’s hand in the explosion at Khobar Towers in Dhahran in 1996 spurred Riyadh into action. In fact, relations with Iran actually improved after the bombing. The Saudis were running scared, and are still scared. That’s why the official Saudi response was more muted than some expected: “If there is good will, then this agreement could be an initial step toward reaching a comprehensive solution to Iran’s nuclear program.”

With the US going wobbly on Iran and seeming not to understand the threat, Riyadh seems to be secretly reaching out to Israel, trying to firm up the moribund Gulf Cooperation Council, and improve relations with Iran. The Saudis are doing a bit of “bandwagoning,” which is the idea that rather than balance against threats, states join them. In the face of Iran’s diplomatic coup, Saudi Arabia is trying to lower the flames with Iran and test the waters of a future rapprochement. While not actually joining Iran, it is trying to hedge its bets by just getting along.

Saudi Arabia has not gone to the lengths of the UAE, where the bandwagoning response is stronger. The UAE was the first Gulf country to express support for the agreement, and UAE Foreign Minister Abdallah bin Zayd was the first to visit Iran. The UAE’s quick response seems to have been rewarded: in the second week of December, Iran removed jet fighters from Abu Musa, one of three islands in dispute between the countries. It was later confirmed that they were holding talks to solve the dispute.

The Saudi-led GCC is shaky, and the kingdom has been further weakened regionally. When the Saudis proposed on December 7 that the GCC form a political union, Oman objected publicly. A few days later the GCC announced the formation of a unified military command and police force, but no political union. The two former, like the latter, were unlikely to come into being.

Defending the Kingdom

Defending Saudi Arabia has always been outsourced, first to Britain and then to America. Disappointed with the US for its abandonment of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and support of the Muslim Brotherhood, its fecklessness in Syria, and succumbing to the charm offensive of Iran, some Saudi officials and royals, led by the volatile former head of intelligence, Prince Turki Al Faysal, have been vocal about seeking new defense arrangements. But in the end they can only look to Washington. The US knows this and has moved to reassure the Saudis. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has proposed new initiatives aimed at bolstering US-led defense cooperation in the region.

Conclusion

The implications of the confluence of interests between Riyadh and Jerusalem should not be overstated. Saudi Arabia is not about to give up its position in the Islamic world by forming an alliance with Israel, the perceived enemy of Islam. Yet quiet cooperation should not be ruled out. In the event of an Israeli attack on Iran, Saudi Arabia could stand down its radar. It could offer refueling and search and rescue backup for Israeli pilots. Above all, it could step up intelligence sharing with Jerusalem. In the future, the US could mediate possible cooperation in missile defense between Israel, Saudi Arabia, and other countries of the GCC. Theoretically, there is no reason that an anti-ballistic missile battery based in Saudi Arabia or Qatar could not intercept a missile launched at Israel from Iran. But such cooperation is extremely risky for the regime and would require a greater degree of trust in Israel than Riyadh probably has.

When it comes to Israel, the Saudis will continue to balance their national security considerations with their internal and regional legitimacy concerns. The political cost of improving relations with Israel is much higher than improving relations with Iran. Even though the Saudi Wahhabis have no love for Iranian Shiites, the latter are at least Muslims. A bit of bandwagoning with Iran will therefore most likely be the order of the day. In any case, the Kingdom knows that the US, for its own reasons, will have its back.

As for the Israelis, the public diplomacy and psychological operations value of leaking meetings with the Saudis is limited and counter-productive. Israeli leaders would we well advised to keep these arrangements under the tightest of wraps, lest the Saudis ditch them entirely.

For Saudi Arabia, despite Ahmadinejad’s visit, Iran remains ‘the snake’

thetimesofisrael-529x60
August 21, 2012

The president’s trip to Mecca last week did nothing to ease the kingdom’s fears of Iranian expansionism

The warm reception enjoyed by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Saudi Arabia last week during the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) may have given the impression of a Saudi-Iranian detente, but Saudi columnists continue to view Iran as an expansionist country, inherently hostile to the Arab world.

During the conference, King Abdullah proposed establishing a center for inter-denominational dialogue, attempting to bridge the gulf between Sunni and Shiite Muslims. Shiite clerics in the eastern city of Qatif reportedly welcomed the initiative, but public attitudes in Saudi Arabia toward Iran are more complex, a mixture of religious tension and ethnic animosity.

In a way, Saudi Arabia and Iran are quite similar. They are both governed by Sharia law and both engage in exporting their version of Islam overseas. However century-old doctrinal differences between Shia Islam, practiced in Iran, and the austere version of Sunni Islam — known as Wahhabism — practiced in Saudi Arabia, have put the two countries on an ideological collision course.

‘If the mullahs of Iran believe they can penetrate the demographic makeup of the Arab region through Shiite extremism, recruiting Shiite believers to serve their expansionist or sectarian agenda, the Sunnis can retaliate by doing the same inside Iran and perhaps more effectively’

Joshua Teitelbaum, an expert on Saudi Arabia at Bar-Ilan University’s BESA Center for Strategic Studies, said that Ahmedinejad’s invitation by Saudi Arabia was merely “a grudging acknowledgment of Iran’s stature in the Muslim world” but did not mark a change in Saudi policy towards Iran.

“These two regimes are at each other’s throats over the civil war in Syria, Shiite gains in Lebanon and Iraq, and most importantly, the Iranian nuclear challenge to Saudi Arabia in the Persian Gulf,” Teitelbaum told The Times of Israel. “This visit does absolutely nothing to change that.”

In the view of many Saudis, the animosity between Arabs and Persians goes back to the early days of Islam. Saudi writer Abdullah Sultan claimed in an op-ed published in the Saudi daily Okaz on July 30 that the Persian race has been harboring a vendetta against the Arabs since its defeat in the battle of Qadisiyyah in the year 633 CE, when the invading Arab armies imposed the Islamic faith on Iran.

“They [the Persians] did not forget their defeat at the hands of the Arabs and began thinking of taking revenge. They began working and conniving in secret, generation after generation, against the Arabs. They wish to destroy Islam by spreading Shiite doctrine in their own way,” wrote Sultan.

John Burgass, a former US Foreign Service officer who served in Saudi Arabia and currently blogs about it, said territorial disputes over Bahrain and three Islands in the Persian Gulf, which the United Arab Emirates claim as their own, add to Arab suspicion of Iran.

“Both historical and current differences between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Iran are very real,” Burgass told The Times of Israel. “Iran’s support for destabilizing groups like Hezbollah, and, of course, Iran’s questionable nuclear program all present very real tensions.”

Saudi columnists rarely discuss the nuclear issue in local media. But secret US diplomatic cables published by Wikileaks in 2010 revealed Saudi fears of Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

‘These two regimes are at each other’s throat over the civil war in Syria, Shiite gains in Lebanon and Iraq, and most importantly, the Iranian nuclear challenge to Saudi Arabia in the Persian Gulf’

In April 2008, King Abdullah urged the Americans to put an end to the Iranian nuclear program, which he called “cutting off the head of the snake.” The king even refused to send an ambassador to Iraq due to the “Iranian connections” of Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki.

“It is clear beyond doubt that Iran’s foreign policy in general, and specifically towards the Arabs, is influenced by its historic memory, making it confrontational and malicious,” wrote Sultan. “As a result, Iran has become more isolated.”

But Saudi opinions are not confined to historic or political analysis. One columnist went so far as threatening to orchestrate sectarian strife in the Islamic Republic in response to Shiite clerical support for the Assad regime in Syria.

“If the mullahs of Iran believe they can penetrate the demographic makeup of the Arab region through Shiite extremism, recruiting Shiite believers to serve their expansionist or sectarian agenda, the Sunnis can retaliate by doing the same inside Iran and perhaps more effectively,” wrote Muhammad bin Abdullatif Aal Sheikh in the Saudi daily Al-Jazirah on Tuesday.

“All I want to say is that the entire region, with its sectarian and ethnic makeup, is like a barrel of explosives,” added Aal Sheikh. “If it explodes, Iran itself will be the primary casualty… Are the Iranian mullahs aware of this?”

Talking About Egypt, Thinking About Iran: Clinton’s Real Focus In Israel

Logo_Intl_Business_TimesMeredith Mandell
on July 17 2012

JERUSALEM — U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton capped off her 12-day foreign tour with a stop in Israel on Monday to confer with Israeli leaders on the latest developments in Egypt, Syria and Iran.

Her visit to Israel is one of several this month by top-level American officials. Clinton’s arrival came just one day after National Security Advisor Tom Donilon flew in for a secret visit, confirmed by the White House only after he had concluded his talks, and ahead of Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta’s expected arrival early next week.

While officially Clinton’s trip, the first in nearly two years and her last as Secretary of State, was a quick one-day stop meant to relay her impressions from her visit with newly-elected Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, media reports speculated on a variety of more subtle reasons for the stop, including domestic political considerations as well as the nuclear threat of Iran.

“She couldn’t go to Egypt without following with a visit to Israel, because in the past there were many complaints about that with President Obama,” said Shlomo Bromo, a senior research associate at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University, referring to the public backlash that erupted in Israel when, after visiting Cairo in 2009, Obama neglected to stop here.

Some have even suggested that the ostensible reason for trip, talking about Egypt, was actually not the most important item on Clinton’s agenda. Rather, the threat of a nuclear Iran was the main reason for the visit, as Israeli officials have become increasingly impatient with Tehran’s unwillingness to halt its nuclear enrichment program.

Former Israeli Ambassador to the United States Zalman Shoval said the reason Clinton didn’t publicly announce talks on Iran to be the official purpose may be part of a larger American effort to keep a low profile on the issue ahead of the November presidential election.

“I think Iran was probably the number one issue on the agenda, the threat goes beyond Egypt and Palestine. But, I think she didn’t want exacerbate the public focus on Iran.”

However, during a press conference late Monday evening, along with urging Egyptian leaders to uphold their obligations under the Israeli-Egyptian peace agreement, Clinton issued a sharp warning to Tehran, even hinting again at the possible use of American force.

“Iran is under greater pressure now than ever before,” she said. “We will use all elements of American power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”

But despite the public warning, “the Americans are making aggressive efforts to placate the Israelis when it comes to the issue of Iran,” said Joshua Teitelbaum, a professor in the Department of Middle Eastern Studies at Israel’s Bar Ilan University. “The trip was an effort by the Americans to calm Israel down.”

“There is an election coming up, and I don’t see that they are interested in seeing any Israeli move on Iran before the election,” Teitelbaum said.

Some media reports here described Clinton’s visit to Israel as an effort to preempt Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s visit scheduled for later this month. But Teitelbaum doesn’t believe that to be the case.

“I don’t think the president works like that, he said. There are some serious changes in Egypt and a serious problem with Iran and I think that’s the reason for the trip.”

Ambassador Shoval concurred: “I don’t think that secretary Clinton’s visit to the Middle East was motivated by American electioneering or domestic politics.”

“I think that Secretary Clinton wanted to make it clear to President Mohamed Morsi that the Israeli and Egyptian peace treaty is not just in Israeli-Egyptian interests. It is a major American strategic interest and geopolitical interest and (…) any aid they require will be related to the permanency and their continued support for the peace treaty with Israel,” said Shoval.

While Clinton met with both Israeli and Palestinian leaders during the one-day visit, many Israelis are skeptical that her trip was meant to reignite talks between the two parties.

“The Palestinian issue is off the table,” said Daniel Gordis, Senior Vice President and Senior Fellow at the Shalem Center, a Jerusalem-based research institute. “Syria, Jordan, the Arab Spring and its meltdown is the big story, and no one is seriously thinking there is going to be a peace agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians before the election.”

Indeed, Clinton acknowledged during her press conference in Jerusalem the failure of the Israeli-Palestinian talks, which broke down in 2010. The Palestinians have refused to restart negotiations until Israel stops all settlement construction. Israel says peace talks should resume without preconditions.

“My message to both Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu and [Palestinian] President Abbas was the same. That the international community can help, the United States, the quartet, and we stand ready to do so … but it’s up to the parties to do the hard work for peace. To those who say the timing isn’t right, the other side has to move first, or the trust just isn’t there, I say peace won’t wait and the responsibility falls on all of us to keep pressing forward.”

The Obama administration has faced repeated criticism from the Romney campaign for not being more supportive of Israel. Obama himself received an onslaught of criticism from Jewish groups after a speech last year in which he called on Israel to revert, with land swaps, to its borders before the 1967 war, commonly called in Israel the green line.

Clinton reiterated President Obama’s position that Israel’s continued  building of housing in East Jerusalem was not helpful to the peace process. Netanyahu’s office defiantly responded that Jerusalem is not a settlement; it is the capital of the State of Israel.

According to Kory Bardash, Co-Chairman of Republicans Abroad Israel, Clinton’s once pro-Israel stance has dramatically changed since she became Obama’s top diplomat, and many Israelis and American Jews are skeptical of his administration.

“When she was senator of New York, she had a strong voting record on Israel,” Bardash said. “She was quite good at acknowledging Israel’s right to defend herself. But under Obama she’s marching to a different tune.”

Gordis, of the Shalem Center, said Israeli public sentiment is mixed, with no definitive feelings about the American president.

“I think the proverbial taxi driver thinks Obama has been hard on Israel, that he has pressured Bibi [Benjamin Netanyahu] more then he has pressured [Mahmoud] Abbas. Throw into the mix that he has never been to Israel. But, I think the sophisticated Israeli understands that there are a lot of ways are on the same page and that certain military cooperative ventures are as closely linked as they have ever been.”

Egypt’s Brotherhood Attempts to Calm S. Arabia Spat

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Oren Kessler
May 3, 2012

 

Resentment bubbles over after Riyadh sentences Egyptian for drug smuggling; Protesters in Cairo spray-paint star of David on Saudi Embassy.

Mursi, head of  Brotherhood's political party

Lawmakers from Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood traveled to Saudi Arabia on Thursday in a bid to lower the flames of a simmering dispute that is the biggest rift in decades between the two most powerful Arab states.

The speakers of Egypt’s upper and lower houses of parliament, both senior members of the Brotherhood, joined a delegation meeting Saudi King Abdullah over the crisis triggered by Riyadh’s arrest of an Egyptian lawyer and a wave of protests that it generated. This weekend the Saudis withdrew their ambassador from Egypt, citing security concerns following the demonstrations over Ahmed el-Gizawi’s detention on April 17.

The Saudi authorities said he had been smuggling the anti-anxiety drug Xanax, which is banned in the kingdom. Gizawi has reportedly been sentenced to 20 lashes and a year in jail for “defaming the Saudi king.”

Prof. Joshua Teitelbaum, an expert on Saudi Arabia at Bar-Ilan University and the BESA Center for Strategic Studies, said each side has deep-seated grievances against the other.

“From the Egyptian side, there have always been complaints about how Egyptian workers are treated in Saudi Arabia. Egyptians resent Saudi wealth and the arrogant ways of Saudi visitors to Egypt,” Teitelbaum said. The 1.5 million Egyptians living in the kingdom form Egypt’s largest expatriate community anywhere in the world.

“From the Saudi side, they distrust the Muslim Brotherhood. They are disappointed at the treatment of Mubarak, and don’t know what to make of the SCAF [the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces],” he said. “For the Saudis, the SCAF should not have let those demonstrations take place in front of the Saudi Embassy. They want to count on Egypt against Iran, but they don’t know if they can.”

Riyadh frets that Egypt, its strongest Arab ally and a major recipient of Saudi funding, is falling under the extremist influence of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Egyptian state media quoted Ali Fath el- Bab, who heads the Brotherhood’s majority bloc in the upper chamber of the legislature, as saying the delegation would “focus on affirming the depth of the historical and brotherly ties between the two countries… and the need to work to remove any misunderstanding.”

Bab said delegates would discuss “the conditions and problems of Egyptians in the kingdom in a framework that preserves the dignity of Egyptians.”

Amateur footage uploaded to YouTube this week showed protesters in Cairo shouting anti-Saudi slogans at the Saudi Embassy. The clip, uploaded by the Middle East Media Research Institute, showed protesters defacing the embassy with stars of David and the word “Israel.” In the background dozens of protesters chanted, “Raise your head high, you’re Egyptian,” and “freedom to Gizawi.”

“Oh Saudi ambassador, we will give you 100 lashes for each one you deserve,” protesters chanted. “Oh servant of the Americans, Egyptian will never be humiliated.”

Protesters also shouted slogans against Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, head of the SCAF, chanting, “The people want the execution of the field marshal.”

The Cairo-Riyadh spat has also played out in the pages of Arabic media. Writing in the Saudi-owned, London-based newspaper Asharq Alawsat, Abdul Rahman Al- Rashed, placed blame for the crisis squarely on Egypt.

“The most popular word in the Egyptian arena is ‘no,’” wrote Rashed, a former editor of the pan-Arab daily who now heads Al- Arabiya television. “No to borrowing from the World Bank, no to US aid, no to exporting gas to Israel, no to preventing civil society organizations.

“Saudi-Egyptian relations have remained for nearly three-quarters of a century, and they have withstood the most trying of circumstances,” he wrote. “The late Egyptian president Anwar Sadat was enraged when Saudi Arabia refused to support him in his agreement with Israel in 1979, but relations were then restored, as happened previously with the late president Gamal Abdul Nasser.

“The truth is that the new Egypt… will grow increasingly interconnected with Saudi Arabia given the circumstances,” he added. “Those who threw bricks at the Saudi Embassy in Cairo were actually throwing them at the Egyptians in Saudi Arabia.”

But writing in the Egyptian daily Al- Masry Al-Youm, columnist Sultan al-Qassemi said the crisis was solely the Saudis’ fault.

“Gizawi’s case it not unique in Saudi Arabia.

The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights published this month a list of 35 political prisoners imprisoned in Saudi jails without trial among a total of 1,401 Egyptians imprisoned in the kingdom,” he wrote.

“For Saudi Arabia and the Arab Gulf states, the importance of Egypt cannot be over-estimated. Saudi and the Gulf states realize that Egypt is the only Arab state capable of balancing Iran’s threat to their nations,” he wrote. “The sooner Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states realize that the ‘new Egypt’ is here to stay and that the Mubarak days are long gone, and adjust their policies accordingly, the sooner they will be able to rebuild their bonds – this time not with the regime, but with the people.”

 

Israeli Minister Agrees Ahmadinejad Never Said Israel ‘Must Be Wiped Off the Map’

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Roberth Mackey
April 17,2012

In a reminder that Persian rhetoric is not always easy for English-speakers to interpret, a senior Israeli official has acknowledged that Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, never actually said that Israel “must be wiped off the map.”

Those words were attributed to Mr. Ahmadinejad in 2005, in English translations of his speech to a “World Without Zionism” conference that October. As my colleague Ethan Bronner reported the next year, one problem was translating a metaphorical turn of phrase in Persian that has no exact English equivalent — there was, for instance, no mention of a map — and there was a heated debate about whether the original statement was a threat or a prediction.

Last week, Teymoor Nabili of Al Jazeera suggested during an interview with Dan Meridor, Israel’s minister of intelligence and atomic energy, that Mr. Ahmadinejad’s rhetorical flourish had been misinterpreted. “This idea that Iran wants to wipe Israel out,” Mr. Nabili said, “now that’s a common trope that is put about by a lot of people in Israel, a lot of people in the United States, but as we know Ahmadinejad didn’t say that he plans to exterminate Israel, nor did he say that Iran’s policy is to exterminate Israel.”

In response, Mr. Meridor said that Mr. Ahmadinejad and Iran’s ruling cleric, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, had said repeatedly “that Israel is an unnatural creature, it will not survive. They didn’t say, ‘We’ll wipe it out,’ you’re right, but, ‘It will not survive.’ ”

Mr. Meridor also pointed out that Iran’s leaders have continued to deny Israel’s right to exist and used highly inflammatory terms to describe the state. After Ayatollah Khamenei compared Israel to a cancerous tumor in February — adding, it “should be cut off” — Mr. Meridor noted those remarks were echoed by the president just last month. “Israel is unnatural, it will not exist, it’s on the verge of collapse,” Mr. Meridor said. “When you hear this from these people, you need to take it seriously.”

As the Guardian columnist Jonathan Steele explained in 2006, a more direct translation of Mr. Ahmadinejad’s remarks would be: “this regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time,” echoing a statement once made by the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

In an English translation three days after the speech in 2005, the Middle East Media Research Institute, or Memri — which was founded by a former Israeli intelligence officer — rendered the sentence in a similar way: “Imam [Khomeini] said: ‘This regime that is occupying Qods [Jerusalem] must be eliminated from the pages of history.’”

In an interview with The Lede on Tuesday, Hooman Majd, an Iranian-American writer whose father was an ambassador under the Shah, pointed out that Mr. Ahmadinejad had slightly misquoted Ayatollah Khomeini, using the Persian word for “page” instead of a similar-sounding word for “scene or stage.”

Mr. Majd, who once did a cameo as Mr. Ahmadinejad’s translatorat the United Nations, also noted that in the original speech, the Iranian president had argued that while the end of Israeli rule over Jerusalem, the third holiest city in Islam, might seem impossible to imagine, the end of the Shah’s rule and the collapse of the Soviet Union both proved that change on that scale was possible.

The author, who recently spent time in Tehran, suggested that Mr. Ahmadinejad has perhaps made so little effort to explain that he was misquoted because he relishes his image as a sworn enemy of Israel, and would not want to be seen as stepping back from even threatening remarks he did not make.

Still, over the years, the original misinterpretation of Mr. Ahmadinejad’s remarks has been so often repeated that it has become a kind of shorthand. “In my conversations with Americans,” Mr. Majd said, very often they respond to the name Ahmadinejad by saying, “He wants to eliminate Israel.”

Mr. Majd added that reformers inside Iran call Mr. Ahmadinejad’s posturing “very damaging,” and blame his repeated — and quite accurately translated — statements denying the Holocaust, “for inflaming this Iranophobia that exists in the West.”

Although there is general agreement now among translators and scholars that Mr. Ahmadinejad did not commit his country to the project of destroying the state of Israel in that 2005 speech, the phrase that was wrongly attributed to him then remains so firmly rooted in the popular imagination that it is frequently used as evidence of Iran’s genocidal intentions.

During a visit to the White House last month, on the eve of the Jewish festival of Purim, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel presented President Obama with a copy of the Book of Esther, which recounts the tale of a Persian leader who wanted to annihilate the Jews. “Then, too, they wanted to wipe us out,” Mr. Netanyahu told the president.

In January, Ehud Barak, the Israeli defense minister, told a New York Times Magazine writer: “The Iranians are, after all, a nation whose leaders have set themselves a strategic goal of wiping Israel off the map.”

Last year, after President Obama told the United Nations General Assembly that Israel, “looks out at a world where leaders of much larger nations threaten to wipe it off of the map,” Glenn Kessler, the editor of The Washington Post’s Fact-Checker blog, criticizedeveryone “who has blithely repeated the phrase,” including himself.

President Barack Obama addrsssing the United Nations in September, 2011.

In his post, Mr. Kessler reported that the picture gets murkier when those words from 2005 are set against other Iranian propaganda:

Karim Sadjadpour, an Iranian specialist at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, notes that Iranian government entities began to erect billboards and signs with the “wipe off” phrase in English. Joshua Teitelbaum of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs compiled an interesting collection of photographs of these banners, such as one on the building that houses reserve military forces of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. “Israel should be wiped out of the face of the world,” the sign reads in English.

An image of a banner said to have been erected outside a center of Iran's Basij militia.An image of a banner said to have been erected outside a center of Iran’s Basij militia.

As Mr. Kessler noted, Mr. Teitelbaum’s report, “written from a pro-Israel perspective,” includes several images of similar statements on banners in Iran. One of them, described as a screen grab taken from an Iranian satellite channel in 2003, during the rule of Iran’s reformist president, Mohammad Khatami, showed a banner on a missile at a military parade in Tehran that seemed to echo Ayatollah Khomeini’s words. According to the translation provided by the author, that banner read: “Israel must be uprooted and wiped off [the pages of] history.”

Sanctions or strike: Five Israeli experts weigh in on Iran

israel hayom Shlomo Cesana                                                                                               April 12, 2012

Israel Hayom presents a special roundtable discussion in which five Israeli experts in Middle Eastern and international politics discuss the Iranian nuclear threat, whether Israel can trust the U.S. and whether the era of American deterrence in the region is over • Meanwhile, 60 percent of Israelis believe the only way to stop Iran is by means of a military strike, according to a new poll.

Seven years ago, Professor Efraim Inbar wrote a document whose bottom line could be summed up as advocating for Israel to attack Iran to stop it from attaining a nuclear capability. This week, Inbar, a political scientist who currently serves as the director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University, is somewhat encouraged that more and more Israelis have now reached the same conclusion.

To bolster this line of thinking, a poll commissioned this week by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, the think tank headed by Dore Gold, indicates that 60 percent of the Israeli public believes the only way to stop Iran is by means of a military strike. Inbar agreed to Israel Hayom’s request and invited four research fellows to take part in a discussion aimed at re-examining the Iranian issue.

“We are realists, not just conservatives,” Inbar said. He also offered a reminder of how his scholar colleagues were correct in their analyses of the Arab Spring, the proliferation of the arms race, the peace process, and Turkey’s shift in policy.

Every semester, Inbar begins the first lesson in his war and strategy course by informing students that there are two significant factors that govern relations between states: Who can hurt the other more; and who can withstand the pain more. He wants to apply these two equations to the Iran issue. “We need to ask ourselves, what goal have the Iranians chosen for themselves and what is the price in pain that they are willing to pay?” he said. “That is the only way we will be able to understand what it is they want to do tomorrow.”

“The way to stop Iran is by means of a military assault,” Inbar said. “I don’t believe that sanctions will help. Officials in Tehran view the bomb as their regime’s insurance policy. Their opinion was reinforced by the West’s behavior toward the Libyan regime. The former ruler of Libya, Moammar Gadhafi, gave up nuclear weapons and eventually was removed from power. If he would have developed nuclear weapons, it would be reasonable to assume that the West wouldn’t cause him any trouble.”

“If the Ayatollahs’ regime comes into possession of nuclear weapons, it will be very difficult to create an effective level of deterrence in the future,” he said. “I also don’t agree with assessments that a second strike is effective enough since this is a dynamic process that requires [Israel] to improve itself in relation to the enemy’s capabilities. Iran’s development of the bomb would trigger a nuclear arms race. In a relatively compact region [like the Middle East], deterrent systems and short distances bear critical significance.”

Inbar minces no words, in expressing his unequivocal view that Israel cannot trust the United States. The era of American deterrence in the region is over. In the short term, the Americans are preoccupied with elections. In the long term, it is uncertain as to whether there will still be a window of opportunity for an attack. Yet even if that window closes, the Americans still believe negotiations can solve everything.

The promises the Americans are making now will not stand up in another month. A history of U.S.-Israel relations teaches us that there have been a great number of promises that haven’t been honored, like the Bush letter regarding settlement blocs that has not been adopted by President Barack Obama.

“States act according to their interests, and they are flexible,” Inbar said. “At the end of the day, you have to be realistic. The world wants quiet. The world wants oil at a reasonable price. If Israel disrupts this calm and upsets global economic stability, the international community will do everything to prevent us from launching a military attack. Another thing is that there are people who say the Iranians are rational. But what if the person who makes this assessment is 10 percent wrong? There is no reason to trust the Iranians.”

Despite his firm beliefs, Inbar knows that the enemy can be unpredictable when it comes to its response to an Israeli or American attack. “It is reasonable to assume that Iran would react with missiles and terrorism,” he said. “We’ve already seen this. People should always remember what price we will have to pay if we don’t attack and if we don’t have nuclear weapons. There’s also the possibility that they won’t do anything and not respond at all.”

Still, Inbar does add a caveat. “On the other hand, I believe that the regime in Iran, in the event that it knows it will one day no longer be in power, is capable of fomenting destruction, and it would want to exit the stage and go down in history as the one who did damage to Israel,” he said. “That is why we mustn’t allow them to reach the stage [of getting a nuclear weapon].”

Professor Eytan Gilboa, who also teaches at Bar-Ilan University and whose area of expertise is U.S. policy in the Middle East as well as international diplomacy, believes the U.S. cannot afford to allow Iran to gain a nuclear bomb. “If Iran goes nuclear, the U.S. would for all intents and purposes lose its position in the Middle East and its hegemony on a global level,” he said. “The Americans are aware of this possibility, and that is why they are constantly declaring they won’t allow it to happen.”

“A nuclear Iran would mean that from now on, Iran is the actor that wields the most influence on governments in the Middle East, not the U.S.,” he said. “Obviously this would give a boost to all of the extremists in the region, which would result in damage to the global economy, the world’s energy markets, and the ability of states to monitor the spread of atomic weapons by way of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.”

To boost his argument, Gilboa also cites America’s guiding principles. “The administration vows that it won’t allow Iran to go nuclear,” he said. “Here we are dealing with the credibility of the U.S. government. They say they will employ whatever means they have at their disposal. To me, this sounds more like an empty slogan. Many within the administration as well as those outside it say that it is impossible to prevent Iran from attaining a nuclear weapon. They say the price of a non-nuclear Iran would be higher than that of a nuclear Iran.”

“In the event that Iran does go nuclear, there are two choices: Either halting the program and bolstering deterrence, or containment and deterrence,” he said. “On the surface, the Americans say that containment is not an option. But in the next breath they talk out of both sides of their mouth and begin leaking stories about how they won’t allow an attack on Israel and don’t support it. Officials in Washington don’t want to reach a fork in the road where they’ll have to decide between a nuclear Iran or a military operation.”

“At this stage, the Americans want to exhaust the option of negotiating with the Iranians, and the Iranians, for their part, are not ruling out talks,” Gilboa said. “The question remains: What do you base the negotiations on? The Iranians want talks so that they can move forward with their nuclear program. The Americans want negotiations so that they can stop the nuclear program. And then you have people in Israel and abroad who say, ‘Give negotiations a chance.’ But why? Germany, the U.K., and France held talks with Iran for five years that went nowhere, and eventually they came to the conclusion that Iran was being deceptive in order to continue with its plans. So any attempt by the West to hold talks is playing into Iranian hands.”

“The sanctions and negotiations could work only if the threat of military action was hovering over the Iranians’ heads,” he sad. “Since the Americans aren’t wielding this threat, the Iranians understand that while life may be a bit tougher with sanctions, that’s it. They could still move forward with their nuclear program.”

Professor Joshua Teitelbaum, an expert on the Persian Gulf and Saudi Arabia, is less optimistic. In his view, the Americans and the Israelis are both a long way away from understanding the reality in the Middle East. “Since 2003, when the Americans invaded Iraq, the Saudis have gradually lost faith in their most important ally, the U.S. The results of American policy in the Gulf have all proven detrimental to the Saudis,” he said. “The situation has gotten so bad in the wake of the Arab Spring that Saudi Arabia finds itself considerably weakened. Riyadh has understandably asked itself, ‘Is this how the U.S. supports its allies in the region? This is how Washington supports Hosni Mubarak? This is how it supports [deposed Tunisian president Zine El Abidine] Ben Ali?”

“The Saudis are worried about the Iranian nuclear issue, but they understand that the current administration in power in the U.S. is very limited in its capabilities,” he said. “One of the results of the failed U.S. policies in the region was the Shiite uprising in Bahrain that was staged by just 12 percent of the population that lives near a wealthy, oil-producing region. Saudi Arabia views Bahrain as a kind of protectorate, so the massive Iranian presence there is akin to deploying Soviet missiles in Cuba.”

“The U.S. conduct there led them to the conclusion that they need to be more independent,” he said.

According to Prof. Ze’ev Maghen, an expert on Islam and modern Iran who currently sits as the chair of the Department of Middle Eastern History at Bar-Ilan University, the West is suffering from a terrible case of ignorance on everything taking place in Iran as well as its relationship with the West and Israel. He was irked by President Shimon Peres’ speech in Washington last month, during which he called on the Iranian people to return to their illustrious past and abandon Islamization.

“The ignorance is also evident in the intelligence assessments in the West as well as the attempt to search for a bomb,” he said. From his standpoint, one can clearly reach the conclusion that the Iranians are building a bomb just by listening to what they are saying.

“They have every reason in the world to build an atomic bomb,” he said. “If I were the president of Iran, I would also make sure my country would have a nuclear weapon. Iran is surrounded by traditional enemies, like Russia and the Sunni-dominated Saudi Arabia. The Iranians are using Israel to try to unite the Muslim world under its leadership.”

“Since Mecca, which belongs to the anti-Sunni Wahhabi movement, cannot be the focal point of the Muslim world, there is one place that can unite all the aspirations of various sects in Islam, and that place is Jerusalem,” he said. “That explains [the Muslim] desire to conquer it. We are speaking in completely different languages and our worldviews are also totally different. It is hard for us to understand what a theocracy really is. The West doesn’t understand this reality, one in which a country’s population views the Quran and holy scripture as the last word.”

“Here in Israel, people are always looking for the hidden meaning behind statements,” he said. “They ask, ‘Okay, but what is really happening? Is this a political issue? An economic issue?’ This is where we make the same mistake time and again. The same goes for our attempts to understand the process taking place in Egypt. Here there were those who interpreted the events in Egypt as an oppressed population that rose up to demand its rights. There are obviously masses of people there who want their rights protected, but what they really want is the deeper meaning of life that is predicated on Islam. This is the significance of what is taking place, and it is obvious, but people here can’t quite manage to understand this.”

“From Egyptians’ standpoint, we in Israel have for a while now missed the gist,” he said. “There was a time when they referred to us as the ‘Zionist entity.’ Now they are calling us the ‘shopping mall entity.’ In other words, their reason for being is to take a trip to the shopping mall. They look at us and say, ‘They’ve lost it.’”

Professor Hillel Frisch is a political scientist and expert in Middle Eastern politics who teaches at Bar-Ilan University. He is a fellow at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies and the author of a book on security relations between Israel and the Palestinians. His main line of thinking is that over the last 20 years the violent struggle between Israelis and Palestinians has been replaced by an Arab cold war.

There is an ongoing struggle between the camp comprising Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas and Syria, and the camp of moderate Arab states. “There is one dimension that is gaining steam all the time, and that is the Sunnis being pitted against the non-Sunnis,” he said.

According to Frisch’s theory, the Americans have adopted the view that empires fall at precisely the moment they have the upper hand, which means that they collapse from within. The sun never set on the British Empire, but the British Empire grew dark from within.

According to Frisch, the Americans are preoccupied with battling another empire – China. Still, he notes: “We have the Iranian problem, which threatens to change the reality in the cold war between Sunnis and Shiites. The Americans know there is a tremendous gap between the economic might of the Saudis and their allies and their military capabilities. So they will continue to preserve their superiority.”

Frisch diverges from his colleagues on this issue. “The Americans have an obligation,” he said. “People think that the U.S. is on the decline from the standpoint of being ready to act, but still they have the ability to do this.”

“The U.S. in the era following its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is a country with significant power,” he said. “I believe that the U.S. will take care of the Iranian threat if necessary, and it wouldn’t be a difficult battle for the Americans. In my view, the Iranians understand the balance of power perfectly. Unfortunately for us, they are smart enough to get the U.S. not to attack.

Consider This: Iran- talking cure for psychopath

  NAOMI RAGEN
March 22, 2012

Can we talk Iran out of wanting to kill every man, woman and child in Israel?

Can we talk Iran out of wanting to kill every man, woman and child in Israel? That seems to be the question these days.

If Iran were a mental patient, in our psychiatric notes we would have to record the following:

On August 28, 2001, at a rally for Quds (Arabic for Jerusalem) Day, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told a Tehran crowd that “the Zionist regime is the axis of unity among all the thieves and criminals of the world.” In 2005, he said, quoting the Imam Khamenei, Israel should be “wiped off the map.”

While the world was busy nit-picking the translation of those words, particularly Israel’s “good friend” Jonathan Steele ofThe Guardian, arguing Iran’s leader was just referring to a regime change of the evil expansionist Zionists now in power in Jerusalem, not physical annihilation of a sovereign state, Joshua Teitelbaum pointed out in his important rebuttal of these foolish semantics that Michael Axworthy, Britain’s consular officer in Tehran, testified that slogans draped over missiles in Iran’s military parades stated: “Israel must be wiped off the map.” Ahmadinejad’s own speech was peppered with “Marg bar Esrail” (Death to Israel).

On February 20, 2008, Ahmadinejad called Israel “a black and filthy microbe,” and in 2011 he likened Israel to “a cancer cell that spreads through the body,” stating that “this regime infects any region [and must therefore] be removed.”

As a psychiatrist, we would have to ask the patient: Why, when you have no border with Israel and your citizens are not affected in any way on a daily basis by anything that Israel does, are you filled with enough hatred to want to kill millions of men, women and children, most of whom are the treasured survivors of a nation decimated by mindless atrocities and slaughter only 60 years ago?

The most honest answer would require courage, honesty and some real insight, all three of which are in short supply in the present Iranian regime. However, Robert R. Reilly probably comes closest to the truth in his book The Closing of the Muslim Mind: “The fuel for the permanent war is the same for Islamism as it was for Marxism-Leninism and Nazism; it is hatred. Only the object of hatred changes – from race hatred in Nazism and class hatred in communism to hatred of the infidel in radical Islamism.”

As stated in the Koran (60:4) itself (and quoted by Osama bin Laden): “Battle, animosity and hatred – directed from the Muslim to the infidel – is the foundation of our religion.” Or, as Abdullah Azzam, bin Laden’s mentor, put it: “Glory does not build its lofty edifice except with skulls. Honor and respect cannot be established except on a foundation of cripples and corpses. Jihad and the rifle alone, no negotiations, no conferences and no dialogue.” Ayatollah Khomeini, the supreme spiritual leader of the present Iranian regime, put it this way: “Whatever good exists is because of the sword and the shadow of the sword.”

WITH THE Internet, this “virtual community of hatred,” a phrase coined by Professor Jerrold M. Post, professor of psychiatry, political psychology and international affairs at George Washington University, is now almost exclusively and most murderously directed at the Jews, particularly the Jewish state. This has reached ludicrous proportions.

According to the Middle East Media Research Institute, in 2009, Iranian TV declared swine flu to be an Israeli conspiracy. In June 2008, an Iranian movie critic, Dr. Majid Shah-Hosseini, traced the origins of Saving Private Ryan to exalting the American- Jewish soldier: “Names may be selected for their rhyming value. Zion becomes Ryan.” Hasan Bolkhari, adviser to the Iranian Ministry of Education, wrote in 2006 that the cartoon Tom and Jerry was “a Jewish conspiracy to improve the image of mice because Jews were called dirty mice in Europe.”

Lest anyone point the finger at the Arab-Israeli conflict as the culprit for this mindless hatred, it should be pointed out that one of the first religious laws enacted in Iran in the late 19th century forbids Jews from going outdoors in inclement weather “for fear that the rain or snow carry their impurities to the Muslims” (The Jews of Islam by Bernard Lewis).

Still, the belief in the “talking cure” for Iran continues to be supported throughout the world.

Peter Beaumont, writing in The Observer on March 11, maintains that a rational dialogue with Iran is both possible and necessary. “Israel’s security concerns and its ever-louder threats to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities… far from illuminating what actually motivates Iran in its nuclear ambitions… has tended to obscure Tehran’s motives instead.”

Right. It’s Israelis who are irrational.

But the irrational views of one mediocre journalist would be of little import were they not echoed by Israel’s so-called “best friends.”

Barack Obama told the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee policy conference on March 4, “I firmly believe that an opportunity remains for diplomacy, backed by pressure, to succeed.” On March 7, the president of the United States stated even more clearly: “Diplomacy can still resolve the crisis over Iran’s possible pursuit of nuclear weapons,” accusing his Republican critics of “beating the drums of war.”

Echoing the president, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared in a joint press conference with Libyan Prime Minister Abdel Rahim al-Kib on March 9 that Washington wants “to begin discussions with Iran.” British Prime Minister David Cameron said, “We’ve been very clear: If there was an Israeli strike, we wouldn’t support them.”

Charles Krauthammer, a long-time friend of Israel, summed up the dangers of such a view in an article published on March 13: “These negotiations don’t just gain time for a nuclear program [over] whose military intent the IAEA is issuing alarming warnings. They make it extremely difficult for Israel to do anything about it (while it still can) lest Israel be universally condemned for having aborted a diplomatic solution.”

Israel’s enemies, it seems, have all the time in the world to dither. After all, what’s the worst thing that could happen? As an Israeli, I can only feel chilled to the core that the idea of the Jewish state and all its inhabitants being wiped out doesn’t seem to terrify the West nearly as much as a preemptive Israeli strike to prevent it. Israel, it seems, is facing the madman alone.

If you google “Is Iran Sane?” what you get is a stream of articles on the death of Sane Jaleh, who died instantly when he was shot by suspected Basij, the paramilitary wing of the Terrorist IR Regime during a demonstration in Tehran. According to Wikipedia, Sane, a Kurdish Iranian, was a film student at the Tehran Art University and a member of the national student union (Tahkime Vahdat).

“Eyewitness accounts suggest that between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. of the 14th of February Basij paramilitary thugs opened fire on demonstrators, shooting at them indiscriminately.” And thus, with his death, perhaps the only person who could legitimately be called sane in Iran (I refer to the leadership, and not some of the brave opponents of the regime) was buried.

For all of us who retain our sanity and our love for humanity and for Israel, it should be clear that dangerous mental cases like the Iranian regime should not be free to lie on the couch while their nuclear program churns out deadly weapons for them to fulfill their darkest and most insane fantasies.

Israel unlikely to strike Iran without alerting U.S.

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Adam Gonn
November 6, 2011

 

The Israeli ambiguity over a possible air strike on Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program continues as the United Nations nuclear agency, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), is scheduled to release its report on Iran’s nuclear activity later this week.

Western and Middle Eastern countries are all concerned that Iran is using its intentions for civilian use of nuclear energy as a cover for producing nuclear weapons.

Israel considers the issue an existential threat, owing to numerous statements by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and other leaders calling for destruction of the Jewish State.

The U.S. administration has lately been asking Israel to clarify its position on a possible military strike, perhaps even without alerting Washington beforehand.

During a visit to Israel in October, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak. Panetta, however, reportedly left without a clear answer regarding Israel’s true intentions.

“It’s very hard for me to see them (strike Iran) without coordination with the U.S.,” Prof. Joshua Teitelbaum, of the Interdisciplinary-Center in Herzliya, told Xinhua.

“It’s such a big thing and it would involve crossing airspace where the U.S. is active in. They would need some kind of coordination with the Americans to do this,” he said.

In addition, an Iranian retaliation could target U.S. ground forces stationed in Iraq and Kuwait, as well as the American naval base in Qatar, the professor said.

SANCTIONS

“There’s an increasing sense of urgency on the issue now, and Israel is becoming more outspoken about it as a way to pressure the U.S. and other countries,” Teitelbaum said. “The saber rattling serves to increase the urgency.”

He argued that, for the U.S., which also pushes for tougher sanctions against Iran, the image of Israel as a nervous, unpredictable country could serve Washington’s agenda, warning United Nations Security Council members to take action — before Israel does.

Israel seems to be trying to project an image of a state with its “back against the wall,” he argued, one that might take radical steps if it feels threatened. In the long run, however, Israel’s best bet would be to take on a role as part of a collective international effort, and not as a unilateral actor, Teitelbaum said.

He added that when it comes to the military capabilities, “the assessment is that Israel can’t do as much as the U.S. could.”

While the Israel Air Force (IAF) in 1981 launched a successful raid on an Iraqi nuclear reactor, a mission to Iran is a completely different story. In Iraq there was only one target, as opposed to Iran where the alleged nuclear facilities are spread over the country and in some cases hidden underground.

REFOCUSING THE AGENDA

Prof. Shlomo Aronson, of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, said that Netanyahu and Barak want to shift international attention to Iran, and to do this they “agreed upon putting the military option on the table.”

“They have to make the military threats more visible without having made any decision to attack Iran, because this goes beyond the capabilities of Israel’s air force and army,” Aronson said.

The IAF is currently equipped with the American-made F-15 and F- 16 fighters, which lack the long-range capability to strike targets as far away as Iran without refueling midair.

While Israel has ordered a squadron — 19 planes — of the new U.S.-made F-35 fighter jets, the first ones are scheduled to arrive no earlier than 2016.

 

Nayef, probable heir to Saudi throne, is an enigma

jpost_logo1 (1)DAVID ROSENBERG / THE MEDIA LINE
October 27, 2011

Reputation as reactionary may be misleading, analysts suggest.

Saudi Princes Nayef (L) and Sultan (R) [File]

Prince Nayef bin Abdul-Aziz, who is expected to be named heir to the Saudi throne this week, has held public office for close to 60 years but except for those in the inner circles of the royal family he remains a mystery.As the kingdom’s interior minister since 1975, Nayef has acquired a reputation for being a flinty conservative firmly opposed to democracy and women’s rights and quick with the whip to take on Al-Qa’ida, Iran or anyone else threatening his family’s rule. But observers of the Saudi scene say Nayef may be more a pragmatist than his record suggests and that he won’t stop the country’s plodding march to modernization.

“No king is going to step very far out of existing policy lines. No king since Feisal has had the kind of stature to changes the direction of policy and I don’t think Nayef has that either. He will be more in the style of consensus kings,” Gregory Gause, a Saudi expert at the University of Vermont, told The Media Line.

Faisal bin Abdul-Aziz Al-Saud ruled the kingdom from 1964 until his assassination in 1975.

An Allegiance Council of the ruling family was set up by reigning king Abdullah in 2006. It is expected to meet on Thursday – after a three-day mourning period for the previous crown prince Sultan – to approve Nayef as the new heir.

The current king, Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz Al-Saud, is officially 87 but probably is somewhere in his 90s and more than a year ago began to curtail his activities because of his health. Thus, with his elevation to crown price, Nayef is one possibly a short step away from rule over the world’s biggest petroleum reserves and the West’s main bulwark against Iran.

For a figure who has been a decisive factor in Saudi rule for decades, little is known about Nayef. Details such as his exact date of birth and the number of children he has – much less his views on the role of Islam, women or human rights – are a matter of speculation. Indicative of his relative anonymity, at least in the West, is that his Wikipedia entry is less than 1,000 words, a third fewer than for Georgi Parvanov, the president of Bulgaria.Joseph Kechichian, who has authored two books on Saudi succession, suspects Nayef has eight children by at least two wives. What is known is that his mother was legendarily the favorite wife of King Abdul-Aziz bin Saud, the founder of Saudi Arabia, which makes him a member of the most powerful faction in the royal family, the so-called Sudairi Seven.Among the few peepholes into the private views of Nayef comes from an October 2009 US State Department cable published by Wikileaks. The cable calls him “elusive, ambiguous, pragmatic, unimaginative, shrewd and outspoken” but ultimately an enigma.”His actions do not support the theory that he is a reactionary or actively working against the king,” it concluded.  “It would be more accurate to describe him as a conservative pragmatist convinced that security and stability are imperative to preserve Al-Saud rule and ensure prosperity for Saudi citizens.”

Analysts say Nayef’s reputation as a hardline conservative is mostly a function of the job he holds as interior minister. That puts him in charge of homeland security, the police as well as of the notorious religious police – the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice – in charge of enforcing observance of the kingdom’s strict Wahhabi form of Islam.A country where some of the most widely accepted standards of human rights are rejected as an affront to religion and tradition, Nayef has presided over crackdowns on everything and everyone one from Al-Qa’ida to women who dare to challenge the country’s ban of female drivers. In the government’s pushback prompted by the Arab Spring this year, Nayef has been the one to wield the stick of repression while Abdullah announced tens of billions of dollars in subsidies, jobs and other handouts.That has led many ordinary Saudis, not to mention human rights advocates and political analysts, to say what you see with Nayef is what you will get.“The certainty of Prince Nayef’s sinister reputation among the Saudi masses cannot be denied,” Irfan Al-Alwai wrote in a paper for the Hudson Institute this week. “If Prince Nayef is elevated to the status of crown prince, and then succeeds Kind Abdullah as ruler, Saudis, other Muslims and the world may expect a return of the kingdom to its old and worst habits.”

On the other hand, Nayef has avoided the violence employed by the Middle East’s despotic regimes in cracking down, relying instead on traditional tribal networks and the clergy to coax terrorists out of their extremism, Joshua Teitelbaum, a senior lecturer of Middle East history at Israel’s Bar Ilan University, told The Media Line.“He operates in a very Saudi tribalist, personal way, which means that the minister of interior or his son would call a tribal sheikh or a father, and he’ll say, ‘Gee, we hear that your son is involved in these things and we’re very disappointed and we hope we can rectify these things,’” Teitelbaum said. 

Nayef’s son, Prince Muhammad Bin Nayef, was wounded in 2009 by an Al-Qa’ida suicide bomber who was meeting with him about entering the government’s rehabilitation program.After 9/11, Nayef infamously supported a widely shared conspiracy theory in the Middle East that the attacks were a Jewish plot and insisted that it was impossible that most of the 19 hijackers could have come from Saudi Arabia. “The Saudis are being framed,” he told a news conference at the time.

But analysts say Nayef probably has a more pragmatic view of the world than his remarks imply and will preserve the kingdom’s longstanding ties with the US and the West, which it needs to ensure its defense and keep its oil industry running. Gause noted that Nayef’s Interior Ministry has cooperated closely on counter-terrorism with the US despite his 9/11 remarks “Nayef doesn’t have any qualms about cooperating with the US,” he said.

Washington and Riyadh have disagreed sharply over how to deal with the Arab Spring, with the US often backing opposition forces while the Saudis support the status quo. Teitelbaum said Nayef is certainly no friend of freedom and democracy, but like other Saudi leaders, he has little choice but to stay in the pro-West camp even if they have complained bitterly in public about America’s policies.

“To a great extent these are empty words,” Teitelbaum said. “At the same time they’re staying this they are signing more and more defense agreements with the US, which carry with them decades of trading. It’s not something you can break in a second.” 

Mecca pilgrimage ripe for sectarian clash

  DAVID ROSENBERG / THE MEDIA LINE
October 26, 2011

Growing tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran threaten to peak in Sunni-Shite cold war, analysts say; Saudi takes security precautions.

The Hajj – The annual pilgrimage in which some three million Muslims converge on the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia – is threatening to become the next flashpoint in the Sunni-Shiite cold war.

Pilgrims have already begun arriving for the event, whose observance according to the Muslim calendar is expected to peak in the first or second week of November. Saudi Arabia is taking security precautions as the Hajj gets underway and officials have warned that they will not countenance disturbances of any kind.

While the Hajj has not been marred by violence since 1987, this year’s pilgrimage comes amid heightened tensions between Shiite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia, each of which regards itself as the leader of its wing of Islam. That could prompt an outbreak of violence, whether planned or not, at the most sensitive time of the Muslim calendar and at its most holy place, analysts say.

“They [the Iranians] have done that in the past. It tends to reflect the state of Saudi-Iranian relations,” Ali Ansari, a researcher on Iran at London’s Chatham House think tank, told The Media Line. “With the Turks and the Saudis, they try to keep things calm. But the relationship with the Saudis has become really bad.

”Traditional rivals occupying opposite sides of the Gulf, both countries have grown anxious as the Arab Spring shakes up the status quo across the Middle East. Meanwhile, the scheduled US troop withdrawal from Iraq, a country with a mixed Shiite-Sunni population, will create a power vacuum that both Iran and Saudi Arabia are concerned with filling.

In March, Saudi Arabia dispatched security forces to put down a largely Shiite rebellion in Sunni-ruled Bahrain, angering Iran. Earlier this month, Shiites in Saudi Arabia’s eastern province rioted, prompting the government to blame a “foreign country,” a code word for Iran. Riyadh reacted with intense anger after the US revealed a plot laid by a secret Iranian military unit, the Quds force, to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to Washington.

While neither country is prepared to risk an open military conflict, analysts say they have shown no hesitation to engage in diplomatic assaults and quietly back their co-religionists in local sectarian conflicts. In that context, the Hajj is a potential hotspot.

“Given the tensions, they seem to be ramping up toward another clash. I’m not saying there will be one, but if there is one, I won’t be surprised,” Joshua Teitelbaum, a senior lecturer in Middle East at Israel’s Bar-Ilan University, told The Media Line.

Fuad Bin Abdulsalam Al-Farsi, the Saudi minister of Hajj, told The Saudi Gazette that some 1.8 million foreign pilgrims are expected to arrive this year, outnumbering Saudis. He didn’t cite figures for the number of Iranians, but in past years they have numbered in the tens of thousands.

Last week, Saudi security forces staged a mock drill at Mecca’s Haram Mosque, during which they broke up a sit-in between the Black Stone and the area for circumambulation. “During the exercise, emergency forces were asked to use machine guns and fire live ammunition at certain targets, which they achieved with accuracy,” The Gulf News reported.

All Hajj pilgrims will be fingerprinted on their arrival in the Kingdom, ostensibly to keep out unauthorized visitors but also as a means of keeping tabs on them. Some 500 women have been hired to form a special unit dealing with female pilgrims, a necessity in a country that maintains strict separation between the sexes.

“We will not allow anything that would disrupt the peace of the Hajj pilgrimage and disturb the pilgrims. That is why we shall not tolerate any damage, riots or chaos during the season of Hajj or out of it,” Prince Khaled Al-Faisal, governor of Mecca province, toldreporters earlier this month.

Publicly, Iran is not threatening problems at the pilgrimage even as it threatens the Saudis in other ways. The Hajj should be a “symbol of unity,” Ali Ghazi-Asgar, Iran’s top Hajj official, said on October 9. “I call on all Friday prayer leaders and media in the two countries not to stir up tensions and differences,” he told pilgrims, according to Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency.

But the Saudis have reasons to be nervous. Saudi security forces clashed with Iranian pilgrims holding anti-US and anti-Israeli protests, most notably in 1987, when police efforts to stifle a demonstration ended in clashes that left 402 people dead, including 275 Iranians. Tehran routinely complains about discrimination against Shiites and their unique rites during the Mecca pilgrimage, adding a potential source for clashes.

In recent years, Iranian pilgrims have staged smaller, quieter rallies with speeches and chants calling for Muslim unity and attacking the “enemies” of the faith. The rallies, which they call “distancing from infidels,” take place outside an encampment on the Plain of Mina outside of Mecca during a key part of the Hajj rites.

In 2007, when bilateral relations were better, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made the Hajj himself. But he stayed away from the rally held nearby by several hundred Iranian pilgrims.

In fact, the speeches and chants are not a traditional part of the Hajj, rather an invention of Iranians since the 1979 revolution that overthrew the shah. The Saudis have tried to ban this ceremony. Moreover, while Iranians are free to make their own Hajj travel arrangements, most travel in government-sponsored groups, giving officials greater control over who attends and their actions.

Despite Ahmadinejad’s forbearance four years ago, the regime in Tehran looks at the annual pilgrimage through a very different prism than the hosting Saudis, said Bar-Ilan’s Teitelbaum.

 “The Saudis see it as great responsibility and a pillar of Islamic and they want to give the best service possible to perform their obligation,” he said. “The Iranians, since the revolution, have looked at this as a big opportunity to propagandize for the revolution and against the people they don’t like, which are the Saudis, the Americans and Israel.”

Political Contrail

jewish ideas daily

Elliot Jager
Tuesday, October 11, 2011

 

This month marks the 30th anniversary of an emotionally fraught and bitterly waged political confrontation between the Reagan administration and the organized Jewish community that culminated in the U.S. Senate approving, 52 to 48, an $8.5 billion sale of sophisticated airborne radar planes (AWACS) and F-15s to Saudi Arabia.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon is currently overseeing the phased sale—unveiled in 2007 with nary any opposition—to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates of warplanes, helicopters, missile defense upgrades and layers of anti-missile weaponry worth over $67 billion. The Obama administration’s desire to sell Bahrain bunker busting missiles and other weapons has been criticized—not by Israel’s friends, but, in fact, by opponents of the sheikdom’s handling of internal protests.

How to explain the fact that ever since the 1981 AWACS debacle, massive arms sales (including offensive systems) to Arab countries have faced no real domestic opposition?

For one, the American Jewish community simply does not have the stomach to fight such sales. For another, geostrategic circumstances have changed: Iran now poses a clear threat to both Gulf States and Israel. And finally, Israeli decision makers are broadly convinced that Washington really is working to maintain the country’s qualitative military edge.

Politically, there’s no question that the AWACS battle wilted the resolve of Israel’s friends to confront any U.S. administration head-on. True the Saudi ambassador may no longer enjoy unfettered access to the White House as Prince Bandar once did in the Reagan era. Then, Arab lobbyists shamelessly called on senators to choose between “Begin and Reagan.” But the whiff of anti-Semitism injected into that row has apparently had a long shelf-life. Even then-Defense Secretary Casper Weinberger said—apparently with a straight face—that criticism of Jewish lobbying efforts against the AWACS deal had taken on “an ugly tone.” His cabinet colleague Alexander Haig claimed to have been worried that if the deal were blocked there would be “a dangerous potential for anti-Semitism.” And then Senator Joseph Biden said he had the “feeling that American Jews are being made a scapegoat by supporters of the sale.” It probably did not help that the president himself warned “other nations” not to meddle in “American foreign policy.”

In geopolitical terms, at the height of the AWACS controversy Iran had been ensnared in a devastating war with Iraq (that was to claim staggering numbers of casualties on both sides). In contrast, the Saudis today find themselves besieged by imperialistic Persian ambitions which have instigated unrest in their Eastern Province and among other Shi’ite populations elsewhere in the Arab world, threatened nearby Bahrain, added fuel to endemic instability in bordering Yemen and undermined Sunni interests far and wide.

It is widely understood that King Abdullah has found the Obama administration’s approach to blocking Iran’s drive for a nuclear weapons capability not good enough. Arms sales to Saudi Arabia send an important signal to Tehran of Washington’s commitment to the kingdom, according to Stephen Schwartz, author ofThe Two Faces of Islam: The House of Sa’ud from Tradition to Terror.

Back in 1981, Jerusalem feared that its overall qualitative edge was indeed being eroded; that armed with the latest American military jets the Saudis might feel compelled to join the next Arab war against Israel, and that despite their refusal to help lead the Arab side toward peace with Israel Washington had unfairly rewarded the kingdom. At the time Israel also faced wall-to-wall international opprobrium—not least from the White House—for having destroyed Saddam Hussein’s nuclear reactor.

In the midst of the AWACS storm, Reagan wrote Prime Minister Menachem Begin: “You have my reassurance that America remains committed to help Israel retain its military and technological advantages.” Significantly, that pledge—discounted by some at the time as a political maneuver—has, by and large, been kept ever since, according to Joshua Teitelbaum, a senior lecturer of Middle Eastern History at Bar-Ilan University and a visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution.

On the other hand, it is regrettably clear that selling weapons to Saudi Arabia has had no hoped-for impact on moderating its stance toward Israel.  The kingdom remains in the vanguard of the 60-year-old Arab League boycott of Israel. In any event, Schwartz argued that the House of Saud, given its custodianship over Mecca and Medina, simply cannot be seen to be at odds with what passes for the Palestinian Arab consensus on Israel.

On top of deterring Iran, the U.S. military hardware bolsters the prestige of the Saudi ruling class and solidifies its power (though the regime’s ultimate domestic guarantor is the National Guard—not the armed forces), said Schwartz. He argues that King Abdullah has decided to rein in Wahhabi extremists and wants the kingdom to be part of a “crescent of normality” that would extend from Kuwait to Oman.

The possibility that current comparatively moderate rulers will be replaced by extremists is a chance Washington has been willing to take—with Israel’s tacit approval. In calculating the risk-benefit ratio, the threat of Iran weighs more heavily than an extremist putsch in Riyadh, said Teitelbaum. Moreover, precisely because U.S. weapons technology is so complex, American advisers necessarily play ongoing training and support roles, what the Pentagon calls “interoperability.” That also means that U.S. forces can step in to use them in case of emergency.

Such assurances go only so far. What if the virulently anti-American Prince Nayef  bin Abdul-Aziz were to come to power in Riyadh? According to Schwartz, he despises the U.S. and Israel no less than Iran. Nor can Israelis take comfort from events elsewhere in the region. Who, after all, would have imagined that a Turkish premier would intimate that U.S. military hardware might one day be aimed at the IDF? And while Egypt’s ongoing military build-up has always been seen as suspect in Jerusalem—after all, the country has no enemies on its borders—who today could reasonably promise that its post-Mubarak, American-supplied armed forces will not someday turn against Israel?

In this volatile situation, AIPAC has been warning that the United States security assistance, pledged at $30 billion over a 10-year period, is facing growing budgetary threats. Most of this money is spent in the United States, yet America’s economic woes could make it politically impossible for Washington to honor its pledge of maintaining Israel’s qualitative military edge. Shouldn’t this new fiscal reality be part of the decision making calculus as Washington moves ahead with arms sales to the Gulf States?

Analysis: Israel faces perfect storm in shifting region

Reuters  CRISPIAN BALMER                                               JERUSALEM Thu Sep 8, 2011 

Jewish settlers stand near ruins of razed structures in the unauthorized Jewish hilltop outpost of Migron, near Ramallah

(Reuters) – Militarily strong, Israel is battling a diplomatic storm as Arab uprisings upset once-stable relationships and worsen the Jewish state’s isolation in its conflict with the Palestinians.

Domestic political pressures are exacerbating the problems, as is the perceived weakness of Israel’s main ally, the United States, which is itself struggling to adapt to the consequences of the turbulence that has swept the Arab world this year.

The storm is not expected to blow over quickly, with the Palestinian push for recognition of statehood at the United Nations later this month and the moribund peace process only adding to Israel’s sense of loneliness.

“I am very concerned by the daily deterioration of Israel’s strategic balance,” said Oded Eran, head of Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies and a former ambassador.

“We have seen a deterioration of our relations with Turkey and Egypt, and we have witnessed problems in our relations with America. The absence of any viable peace process and the specter of a U.N. resolution (on Palestinian statehood) is only making things worse.”

Diplomatic crises in the Middle East have a history of degenerating into war, and although conflict appears unlikely at present, some senior Israelis are sounding the alarm.

“After the Arab Spring, we predict that a winter of radical Islam will arrive,” Major-General Eyal Eisenberg, the chief of the Israeli army’s Home Front Command, said this week.

“As a result, the possibility for a multi-front war has increased, including the potential use of weapons of mass destruction,” he told a conference.

Israel is the only country in the Middle East assumed to have a nuclear arsenal. Along with Western powers, it believes Iran is seeking an atomic capability, something Tehran denies.

Although government ministers swiftly dismissed the risks Eisenberg mooted, his comments revealed a skittishness at the top just days after Turkey downgraded its ties with Israel and vowed to expand its naval presence in the eastern Mediterranean.

SEEKING AN APOLOGY

Turkey was the first Muslim state to recognize Israel, in 1949, but relations nosedived last year when Israeli commandos boarded an aid flotilla challenging a naval blockade of the Palestinian enclave Gaza, killing nine Turks in ensuing clashes.

A report into the incident released last week by the United Nations called Israel’s use of force “unreasonable.” It also said the blockade was legal, a reading that Israel felt vindicated its decision not to apologize to Turkey.

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan rejected this, cut back diplomatic representation and froze defense trade, as well as promising a more active role for his country’s powerful navy.

The dispute flared just three weeks after Egypt threatened to pull its own ambassador from Tel Aviv following the deaths of five Egyptian security personnel, who were shot dead as Israeli forces tracked down suspected Palestinian militants who had earlier infiltrated its border and killed eight Israelis.

The row with Cairo influenced Israel’s decision to hold back on a major military offensive in Gaza, local media said.

Israeli ministers remain much more concerned by long-running concerns over Iran and Syria and have been eager to play down tensions with their other neighbors, blaming the uncertainty of Arab unrest for much of the friction.

Egypt’s new rulers are more susceptible to widespread anti-Israeli sentiment in their country than was the ousted president, Hosni Mubarak. Turkey is also looking to carve out a significant part for itself in a reshaped Arab world.

“In this new role for Turkey, Israel doesn’t have much of a part to play,” said Joshua Teitelbaum, a senior fellow at the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern Studies in Tel Aviv.

“It needs to curry favor with the Arab world, and it’s very easy to curry favor … if you’re anti-Israel,” he added.

LEADERSHIP VACUUM

Washington has said little in public about the rows and officials say it is working behind the scenes to calm nerves among a trio of allies that are vital to its interests.

But Yossi Shain, a professor at both Tel Aviv University and Georgetown University in Washington, believes President Barack Obama’s administration is part of the problem.

“Everyone is suffering from the lack of coherence and leadership from America,” he said. “Obama is not exuding any authority or influence on anyone. This vacuum creates a sense of impunity for attacking Israel with rhetoric.”

Complicating matters is the fact that Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have notoriously bad relations.

Only this week, a Bloomberg columnist reported that former U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates had accused Netanyahu of being an “ungrateful ally” shortly before he left office, adding that the Israeli leader was “endangering his country by refusing to grapple with Israel’s growing isolation.”

Diplomats in Jerusalem have said the Obama administration was deeply frustrated by Israel’s refusal to freeze settlement building in the West Bank as a way to kick start peace talks.

Netanyahu, head of a coalition government that includes pro-settler parties, says there should be no pre-conditions to resuming negotiations, and no doubt feels comforted by the wholehearted support he enjoys in the U.S. Congress.

But Shain said Israel’s failure to articulate a coherent Palestinian policy was harming its standing.

“Israel’s main difficulty and challenge, one that the government has not addressed, is the issue of the Palestinians. At the end of the day, it is what Israel does in the West Bank that will be paramount,” he said.

That issue will take center stage when the Palestinians ask the United Nations this month for an upgrade in their status. Although the United States and Israel oppose the unilateral move, at least 120 other countries are likely to say ‘yes’.

“Israel is in a quagmire over this and we need to handle the situation differently,” Shain added.

 Israel unlikely to strike Iran without alerting U.S.

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Adam Gonn
July 11, 2011

 

JERUSALEM, Nov. 6 (Xinhua) — The Israeli ambiguity over a possible air strike on Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program continues as the United Nations nuclear agency, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), is scheduled to release its report on Iran’s nuclear activity later this week.

Western and Middle Eastern countries are all concerned that Iran is using its intentions for civilian use of nuclear energy as a cover for producing nuclear weapons.

Israel considers the issue an existential threat, owing to numerous statements by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and other leaders calling for destruction of the Jewish State.

The U.S. administration has lately been asking Israel to clarify its position on a possible military strike, perhaps even without alerting Washington beforehand.

During a visit to Israel in October, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak. Panetta, however, reportedly left without a clear answer regarding Israel’s true intentions.

“It’s very hard for me to see them (strike Iran) without coordination with the U.S.,” Prof. Joshua Teitelbaum, of the Interdisciplinary-Center in Herzliya, told Xinhua.

“It’s such a big thing and it would involve crossing airspace where the U.S. is active in. They would need some kind of coordination with the Americans to do this,” he said.

In addition, an Iranian retaliation could target U.S. ground forces stationed in Iraq and Kuwait, as well as the American naval base in Qatar, the professor said.

SANCTIONS

“There’s an increasing sense of urgency on the issue now, and Israel is becoming more outspoken about it as a way to pressure the U.S. and other countries,” Teitelbaum said. “The saber rattling serves to increase the urgency.”

He argued that, for the U.S., which also pushes for tougher sanctions against Iran, the image of Israel as a nervous, unpredictable country could serve Washington’s agenda, warning United Nations Security Council members to take action — before Israel does.

Israel seems to be trying to project an image of a state with its “back against the wall,” he argued, one that might take radical steps if it feels threatened. In the long run, however, Israel’s best bet would be to take on a role as part of a collective international effort, and not as a unilateral actor, Teitelbaum said.

He added that when it comes to the military capabilities, “the assessment is that Israel can’t do as much as the U.S. could.”

While the Israel Air Force (IAF) in 1981 launched a successful raid on an Iraqi nuclear reactor, a mission to Iran is a completely different story. In Iraq there was only one target, as opposed to Iran where the alleged nuclear facilities are spread over the country and in some cases hidden underground.

REFOCUSING THE AGENDA

Prof. Shlomo Aronson, of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, said that Netanyahu and Barak want to shift international attention to Iran, and to do this they “agreed upon putting the military option on the table.”

“They have to make the military threats more visible without having made any decision to attack Iran, because this goes beyond the capabilities of Israel’s air force and army,” Aronson said.

The IAF is currently equipped with the American-made F-15 and F- 16 fighters, which lack the long-range capability to strike targets as far away as Iran without refueling midair.

While Israel has ordered a squadron — 19 planes — of the new U.S.-made F-35 fighter jets, the first ones are scheduled to arrive no earlier than 2016.

 

 

Israel delights in Syria’s unrest

Matthew Kalman

April 29, 2011 06:48

Syria, Israel’s longtime enemy and a key supporter of Iran, has been weakened by domestic unrest, Israeli leaders say.

JERUSALEM — JERUSALEM — Israeli leaders and commentators could not help gloating as they watched Syrian President Bashar al-Assad writhing under the pressure of the Arab world’s latest revolt.

Unlike Egypt, whose leaders were committed to peace with Israel, or Tunisia and Libya, which long ago became minor players in the anti-Israel coalition, Assad’s Syria is regarded as one of Israel’s deadliest enemies.

“Even in our world colored with grays and not only blacks and whites, the fall of the Assad regime in Damascus would be a great blessing for the Middle East and the world,” wrote Mordechai Nisan, a former lecturer in Middle East studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

“The list of Syria’s misdemeanors and crimes is legion. From belligerent Soviet ally to godfather and patron of Palestinian terrorism, Hafez the father and Bashar the son crafted a policy strategy that demonized Israel, betrayed the Arab world, consolidated the regional hegemony of Iran, and perpetuated an Alawite sectarian regime in defiance of the Sunni Muslim majority in the country,” Nisan wrote in the Israeli daily, Yedioth Ahronoth.

“With the Assads gone, the Middle East as a whole will be able to move to transcend the state of terror and tension with which the Syrian regime poisoned the political atmosphere for over four long decades,” he concluded.

Israeli observers were also bemused by the sudden discomfiture of radical Palestinian groups — including Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine — whose headquarters are in Damascus and who have long enjoyed the financial and political support of the Syrian dictatorship.

The Meir Amit Terrorism and Intelligence Information Center, a clearing-house for Mossad and Shin Bet analysis, said in a commentary that the Hamas leadership in Damascus was “attempting to play both sides of the fence … saying it supported both the Syrian leadership and the Syrian people.”

Hamas was particularly exposed when one of its heroes, Muslim Brotherhood spiritual mentor Sheikh Yusef al-Qaradawi, backed the Syrian protesters in a sermon aired on Al Jazeera on March 25. Calling for all-out revolution in Syria, he lambasted Assad and warned that “those who do not change will be trampled.”

“Hamas has found itself in a predicament over the clash between its solidarity with Muslim Brotherhood elements in Syria interested in toppling the regime, as well as with al-Qaradawi’s attack on Bashar al-Assad, and its dependence on the assistance provided by the Assad regime to its infrastructure and terrorist activity,” observed the center.

But Itamar Rabinovich, a former Israeli peace negotiator with Syria, warned that the picture was more complex. In early April, writing in Foreign Affairs, Rabinovich said that while Assad is no doubt a ruthless adversary, “Israel itself is ambivalent about the future of his rule.”

“Israeli leaders believe that Syria and the Iranian axis have been weakened by the domestic unrest plaguing Assad’s regime. But like others in the region, they wonder what the alternative to Assad might be. Although they are aware of pro-democracy and human rights groups active inside Syria and abroad, they naturally fear the power of the Muslim Brotherhood,” Rabinovich wrote.

In a commentary last week, Rabinovich suggested that Israel open a back-channel dialogue with Assad, offering to help him survive in return for changing the diplomatic dialogue between the two countries.

“People in Bashar Assad’s situation are concerned about their physical survival and Israel has something to offer in this area,” Rabinovich told Israel Radio. “We could change the agenda between us and Syria. The agenda doesn’t just have to be about a peace deal and territorial concessions.”

But for most Israelis the chance to see Assad fall is not to be missed.

“It is difficult to support any position that allows for the Assad regime’s continued rule,” wrote former Justice Minister Tzachi Hanegbi in the Jerusalem Post.

“Syria, via its proxies, spilled Israel Defense Forces blood in Lebanon for three decades,” Hanegbi recalled. “Assad offered a safe haven in Damascus to senior leaders of terrorist organizations and allowed them to continue their terror activities, with unlimited freedom, from his capital. The Syria-Iran alliance has provided Hamas and its satellites with financial aid, training camps, a supply of modern weapons and political backing … Syria’s enthusiastic support for Hezbollah has turned it into Lebanon’s strongest organization.”

Whatever outcome Israel would like to see in Syria, past attempts at interference in neighbors’ affairs are not encouraging. Israel’s effort to foster regime change in Lebanon in 1982 by backing the Christian Phalange movement led to the assassination of its leader, Bachir Gemayel, and the rise of Hezbollah. Israel’s encouragement of Islamic groups in Gaza in the 1980s to counter the influence of the Palestinian Liberation Organization led directly to the creation of Hamas.

Joshua Teitelbaum, principal fellow of the GLORIA Center in Herzilya, said Israel can do little more than watch and wait.

“All things considered, it’s a good thing,” Teitelbaum told GlobalPost. “Israel cannot affect this outcome in either way. I don’t think we can shore him up and I don’t think we can really bring him down.”

“When all is said and done, if his regime is gone, it has the possibility of being good for us. This is an ally of Iran, one who props up Hezbollah. The people who come into control, and we don’t know who they are, might choose a different policy. They might seek the comfort of the United States for all we know. There are many options.

“What we do know is that this is a very damaging regime — damaging to its own people, damaging to Lebanon and the independence of Lebanon, totally supporting Hezbollah and Iran’s main ally in the Arab world. So the weight of things from Israel’s perspective and also from an American perspective is clearly against this regime,” Teitelbaum said.

But he said it was doubtful the uprising would lead to a sudden flowering of democracy because of the ruthless suppression under the Assad regime — father and son.

“This is an authoritarian regime that’s been there for a long time controlling its people. Economically it’s horrible for them. They are not advanced. They are not sharing the fruits of globalization,” Teitelbaum said. “There’s no civil society in Syria. There’s no way to organize in Syria.”

“I think it’s more likely there’ll be some kind of regime change. There are so many unknowns here. If it’s an Alawi takeover, and they’re going to switch for another Alawi leader, it’s not going to be democracy.”

Saudi Arabia uses Facebook as conduit for grievances

DAVID E. MILLER / THE MEDIA LINE
02/15/2011 21:32

Many citizens greet the page as a new way to reach officials, but experts are skeptical as to whether it will help.

In a country where public protests are banned, women can’t travel alone and only one election has even been held (in 2005 for municipal offices), having the king’s cellphone number is a giant leap foreword for citizens with a complaint.

Even as Facebook has emerged as the chief toll for spreading revolution across the Middle East, the Saudi royal court opened a dedicated page on the social network this week, where citizens can forward their grievances to the King Abdullah Ibn Abdulaziz Al-Saud with the click of a button.

The face of the page, however, belongs to Khaled Bin Abd Al-Aziz Al-Tuwaijri, chief of the Saudi royal court, saying the government wants citizens to voice their appeals directly “and without barriers.” The page includes the telephone and fax numbers at the royal court secretariat, in addition to Al-Twaijri’s mobile phone number and e- mail.

But while some Saudis welcomed the move, experts said it hardly changed the authoritarian nature of the conservative Arabian kingdom.

“I think it’s a great initiative,” Eman Al-Nafjan, a Saudi blogger living in the capital Riyadh, told The Media Line. “There already is an open-door policy for appeals, but this will make it easier for Saudis, especially women, to submit their appeals.” Social networks such as Facebook and Twitter have served as a rallying point and organizing tool for protesters in Tunisia and Egypt, but these tools can just as easily be used by officials to monitor opponents, experts said. Syria last week ended a five- year ban on Facebook and other social media.

In Saudi Arabia, the Culture and Information Ministry issued new regulations six weeks ago requiring electronic news and information sharing sites not to harm national security or offend the pride of individuals. News and chat websites, blogs, text messaging and group e-mails must be licensed.

The royal court’s Facebook page doesn’t allow for anonymous griping. For an appeal to be answered, the complainant must register his full name and telephone number.

Nevertheless, that didn’t appear to deter critics.

“We require proof that this web page is indeed run by Khaled Bin Abd Al-Aziz Al-Tuwaijri, so that we aren’t suckered into wasting our time on blabber at a fake picture,” a commentator named Fahad Atieah wrote on the page’s Wall this week.

Another, Abdulrahman Al-Amari, claimed the new page was no better than Saudi Arabia’s tedious bureaucracy.

“We want to speak with you directly without going through 10,000 offices,” he wrote. “We want direct and transparent dialogue for everyone’s benefit. Are you prepared for that?!” But for many Saudis, women in particular, filing a virtual grievance opens up unprecedented opportunities.

Saudis usually bring their written complaints to Saudi government offices, which are mostly closed to women, explained Al-Nafjan.”Women can enter some buildings but only with a male guardian, or mahram. It’s very awkward and they want the women out as soon as possible,” she said.

Saudis won’t hesitate to reveal their personal details through the site, she added, since most grievances are not political but personal in nature, pertaining to issues such as land rights and inheritance disputes.

But Joshua Teitelbaum, an expert on Saudia Arabia at Bar Ilan University and the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, downplayed the significance of the new Facebookpage, saying contact information for the royal court was readily available on other government websites.

“This is a defensive reaction, not a game-changer,” Teitelbaum told The Media Line. “No oppositionist is impressed by a Facebook page.” Teitelbaum said the Saudi regime has long been responsive to the population’s grievances has undertaken a series of political reforms since 2000, albeit very slowly.

Access to rulers has increased through local councils, known as Majalis, similar to town hall meetings, convened by local princes The Arab Middle East ranks low in global rankings of web freedom, although some leaders have been more embracing of the Internet than others. Jordan’s King Abdullah maintains a personal website through which he speaks to the nation. His wife, Queen Rania, keeps a Twitter account and an active Facebook page with over half a million fans.

Teitelbaum said rulers have had little choice but to go virtual as their traditional monopoly over information began to crack with the emergence of the Al Jazeera satellite news channel in 1996 and opened to a gaping fissure with the Internet. The new Saudi Facebook page, he added, was a small and symbolic way of adapting to this new reality.

Cristoph Wilcke, a Saudi Arabian researcher at Human Rights Watch, called the Facebook page an act of cynicism by the royal court.

“There is great irony in fact that the Saudi king opens a new Facebook page while his government continues to shut down human rights group pages that have existed for years,” Wilcke told The Media Line.

Wilcke said the government was able to block access to certain Facebook accounts, such as the Monitor of Human Rights in Saudi (MHRSA), a local watchdog, without shutting down the entire site. Nevertheless, he said the new page would likely be used citizens who yearn for an ear with the court.

“The general fear of complaining has subsided recently,” he said. “More and more Saudis are complaining to us about their inability to gain access, and prove with mail receipts that they have tried.”

‘Dubai debt impact on Israel minor’

Sharon Wrobel
11/30/2009 00:37

Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said Sunday that the country’s exposure to Dubai’s debt problem was minimal removing fears over spill-over effects for the local economy.

“Over the last few days, the world has been watching the debt crisis in Dubai,” said Steinitz at a round table discussion in Jerusalem with the Histadrut Labor Federation and the Israel Manufacturers’ Association. “At the moment we can say that the repercussions on the country’s pension funds, insurance companies and banks is minimal or close to zero. It will not have a macro-economic impact for Israel.”

Dubai, which is part of the United Arab Emirates, said at the end of last week, that it would have to ask creditors to postpone paying back its $59 billion debt, which triggered worries over a large default and big losses at banks and companies involved.

Speaking on national television on Saturday evening, Steinitz said that although the Treasury did not see macro-economic repercussions for Israel, there was some concern over possible aftershock.

“This is further proof of the resilience of the Israeli economy which has weathered the global economic crisis better than most countries and is on the path to recovery,” said Steinitz.  The exposure of Israeli business in Dubai has been very limited since the two do not share any diplomatic relations and Israelis need a visa to visit. In addition Dubai follows the Arab League boycott against direct business with the Jewish State.

It is, nevertheless, “a relatively liberal place” for the region, according to Joshua Teitelbaum, professor of Middle East History at Tel Aviv University. “I personally know many Israelis who do business in Dubai, even on a weekly basis, by traveling there on foreign passports,” he said Sunday, by telephone.

Among the local tycoons doing business in Dubai is diamond mogul Lev Leviev, who owns two jewelry shops and is involved in the Dubai Diamond Exchange.

Real estate tycoon Yitzhak Tshuva, who is said to be involved in property and shopping center projects in Dubai through a joint venture, said in an interview with Army Radio on Sunday that he had not invested “even one cent” in Dubai. On a global level, Dubai’s attempt to reschedule debt may spur a “correction” in emerging markets, according to Mark Mobius, who oversees about $25b. of developing-nation assets as chairman of Templeton Asset Management Ltd.

A 20 percent drop for shares is “quite possible,” he said over the weekend. “The overall impact on stocks here can only be indirect, which comes from a loss of risk appetite when confidence is battered by something with global implications like the Dubai default,” said Michael Sarel, chief economist at Tel Aviv-based Harel Insurance Investments Ltd. “Bonds are being seen as a safe haven here in Israel, much as in the US.” The Tel Aviv-Index fell to its lowest level in a week, dropping 0.5% to 1,073.07 at the close on Sunday. Bonds gained for a third day with the yield on the 5.5% benchmark Mimshal Shiklit bond declining two basis points to 4.28%.

Local analysts and economists commenting on Sunday on the crisis fears in Dubai agreed that the reaction was blown out of proportion and that its impact on the global economy will be minor.

“Most likely Dubai will not default on its debt at the end of the day,” said Dan Halman, CEO of Halman-Aldubi Group, a mutual funds firm. “The major impact will be short-term mainly bringing oil prices down (financing of Dubai’s debt) and on the emerging markets.”

Similarly, Yoram Gabbai, chairman of Peilim Investments, said that the debt crisis in Dubai in itself was not likley to endanger the financial stability around the world. “The fallout though remind us that the world is still at the foot of an active lava mountain,” said Gabbai.

Bloomberg contributed to this report.

Saudi sanctimony

DAVID M. WEINBERG
07/06/2009 08:00

Saudi Arabia always hews to the PR minimum.

His Royal Highness Abdullah bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud, the king of Saudi Arabia, works hard to get good press. He throws swell up-market galas, puts on grand interfaith conferences and finances numerous think tanks and lobbying firms. He also hands out fancy gold medals on thick gold chains – of which Barak Hussein Obama was a recent enchanted recipient.

Every once in a distant while, the savvy Saudi king also pulls the best trick in the book. He lets loose a feeble – but tantalizing – hint about the remote possibility of a theoretical chance that he might, someday, under exceptional circumstances and only if he unconditionally gets his way, begrudgingly accede to some faint warming of ties with Israel. It’s a soft lob, a pain-free ploy, Saudi sophistry at its best.

Yet the ruse works wonders. Speak very vaguely and indirectly about peace with Israel, and presto! You’re in Washington’s good books. You’re now a peace process “leader” with a diplomatic “initiative” in your name.

No concrete follow-up required. No need to put your money where your mouth is. Not that the king doesn’t know how to act decisively, or spread around a few American dollars, when he needs and wants to.

The Saudis hauled in truckloads of cash to buy the recent elections in Lebanon to ensure a Sunni (i.e., non-Hizbullah) victory. They’ve bankrolled Lashkar e-Taiba (of Mumbai infamy), Hamas and other radical Islamic movements worldwide when it suited them, while brutally crushing other groups, like al-Qaida, when these became a threat to them. They’ve openly embraced, then bluntly cold-shouldered, different Palestinian and American leaders, as per their changing interests.

Riyadh also funds madrassas and mosques the world over to aggressively promote its purist Wahhabi brand of Islam.

Thus, Saudi Kings and princes know how to make things happen, when they want to. So, if King Abdullah, really wanted to lead the Arab world toward peace with Israel, he could find a way or two to express his “moderation” more clearly and make things happen.

But the sanctimonious Saudis always seem to hew to the PR minimum. When they had a 9/11 image problem (15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudis, remember?), then-Crown Prince Abdullah nattered to The New York Times about “full normalization” with Israel in exchange for “full withdrawal” from the territories. It sounded pretty good. In a flash, Abdullah transformed the discourse from Saudi involvement in terrorism to Saudi peacemaking.

However, as Prof. Joshua Teitelbaum of the Dayan Center has pointed out, by the time the Abdullah trial balloon reached the Arab summit in Beirut in March 2002, the initiative had been modified and its terms hardened. It watered down “full normalization,” rewarded Syria with a presence on the shores of the Sea of Galilee and enshrined a Palestinian “right of return” to Israel. Since then, the sangfroid Saudis haven’t been willing to bat an eyelash at Israel. But the dodge worked so well that today the Obama administration is touting the Saudi “led” Arab peace initiative as a cornerstone of its regional peace diplomacy.

The only problem is that the supercilious Saudi king doesn’t really want to lead. He can’t even bring himself to give President Obama some rope with which to entice, or hang, Israel. According to news reports, Washington can’t seem to squeeze any commitments about normalization from the Saudis, even if Israel freezes all settlement activity and paints the Jerusalem Old City walls in the Saudi national colors.

Now, nobody was expecting the supreme Saudi king to come to Jerusalem, God forbid, Anwar Sadat style. Nor could we reasonably expect Abdullah to
offer cash for resettling Palestinian refugees outside of Israel. Nor will he likely curtail the vicious anti-Israel propaganda pumped out daily to the Arab world by his Middle East Broadcasting channel (MBC) or through films like the malevolent Saudi-produced Olive Dream.

Naw, that would be asking too much.

But Abdullah might have, and still could – if peace truly was his goal – authorize a meeting of Israeli and Saudi academics on desertification and desalinization or other nonpolitical environmental matters. He could quietly allow the opening of a low-level Saudi commercial interest section in a Tel Aviv-based foreign embassy, as some of the other Gulf states have already done. He could send us a Rosh Hashana card.

Heck, Israel would settle for something simple, like approval for El Al to fly over Saudi airspace en route to New Delhi and Beijing.  We would even be
willing to refrain from serving kosher food, flushing toilets and playing “Hava Nagila” on the speaker system as our Zionist planes traverse the sacrosanct Saudi heavens.

But no. King Abdullah can’t countenance such muffled gestures toward Israel. Not even for his friend Obama.

Now here’s a thought: Perhaps Obama isn’t pressing the Saudis and other Arabs hard enough about normalizing ties with Israel? Perhaps Abdullah has the impression that Obama is going to “deliver” Israel to the Arabs, and wrest from Binyamin Netanyahu a settlement freeze, then withdrawals and then a handover of Jerusalem?

Where oh where could Abdullah have possibly gotten that impression?

The writer is director of public affairs at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies.

Analysis: Despite rifts, Arab peace plan still reflects consensus

Brenda Gazzar
03/30/2009 23:36

Leaders at Doha summit still question whether a divided Arab world can embrace peace with Israel.

Arab leaders convening in Doha for the 21st Arab League summit are reiterating their commitment to the Arab peace initiative, but some question whether a divided Arab world can even embrace a comprehensive, just peace with Israel. It appears unlikely that Prime Minister-designate Binyamin Netanyahu will lend his support to the initiative as written or to the creation of a Palestinian state as envisioned by the Arab world.

The initiative, first introduced in 2002, calls for a full Israeli withdrawal from all territoriesoccupied since 1967, establishment of a Palestinian state on those territories with Jerusalem as its capital, and achievement of “a just solution” to the Palestinian refugee problem. In exchange, Arab states would enter into a peace agreement with Israel and establish “normal relations” with it. But with divisions still evident between the Western-backed camp led by Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and the pro-Iranian camp that includes Syria, Qatar and Sudan, would Arab states be willing and capable of such a peace with Israel? While a split Arab world may complicate matters, many experts say the answer is yes.

“The Arab initiative reflects a broad consensus among Arab governments and ruling elites for the need for a political solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, understanding [that] the solution needs to be one that recognizes the State of Israel and [that] conflict with Israel is brought to an end,” said Bruce Maddy-Weitzman, a senior research fellow at Tel Aviv University’s Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies.

The initiative is not considered a substitute for negotiations, but “lays out the basic principles of what that settlement has to include for it to be acceptable to the Arab world,” he said. And while Israel does not consider the document ideal, “it can be used to help steer the process forward.” Countries like Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states, Egypt and Morocco have all signed on to the agreement, as has Syria – although the latter takes a more “militant” position on it and has made it clear that it is not willing to wait for an unlimited time, Maddy-Weitzman said.

However, the fact that Palestinians are divided between Fatah and Hamas – which is reluctant to recognize Israel and has not signed on to the Arab initiative – certainly makes it more difficult for Israel to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians.

Others argue that Iran, which has helped foster divisions among Arabs as well as Palestinians, will continue to do all it can to prevent Arab states such as Syria, which benefits economically and militarily from its relationship with the Shi’ite state, from making peace with Israel.

Dore Gold, president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, argued that Syria was more interested in maintaining regime stability than in retrieving the Golan Heights in a peace deal.

Still others, such as Moshe Dayan Center director Eyal Zisser, said that the divisions in the Arab world could place obstacles in implementing a comprehensive peace initiative, as there may be differences of opinion on the best way to negotiate or execute such a deal. And some wonder whether Lebanon, where the Iranian-backed Hizbullah plays an increasingly dominant role, would also be willing and able to make peace.

Emad Gad, who heads the Israeli unit at al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, argued that Hizbullah would be greatly weakened once Syria and Israel make peace, as weapons would no longer be transferred into Lebanon from Syrian territory.

The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs recently released a report entitled “The Arab Peace Initiative: A Primer and Future Prospects.” The report, written by Joshua Teitelbaum, argues that while the Arab Peace Initiative represents significant and positive developments on the part of the Arab world, Israel should refrain from accepting the initiative as a basis for peace negotiations “because it contains seriously objectionable elements.” One of these elements is the assured rejection of all forms of Palestinian refugee patriation in Arab host countries, which means the “refugees would have nowhere to go but Israel,” the report said. In addition, Israel should also reject the “all or nothing” approach of the Saudis and the Arab League, as “peacemaking is the process of negotiation, not diktat.”

“Peace would be best served by Israel going on the diplomatic offensive and presenting an initiative of its own, emphasizing the positive aspects of the initiative, and including an invitation to Arab leaders to a meeting in Israel to discuss the initiative in its entirety,” the report said.

Far right boosts Netanyahu’s chances

Matthew Fisher, Canwest News Service

February 20, 2009

Nationalist hardline party’s support gives Likud leader edge to become Israeli prime minister

Benjamin Netanyahu’s path to becoming Israel’s next prime minister moved forward Thursday when controversial nationalist hardliner Avigdor Lieberman endorsed his fellow right-winger for the Jewish state’s top job.

Tzipi Livni and her Kadima party, which won one more seat than Likud in elections last week, was the likely loser after Lieberman revealed to President Shimon Peres that his Yisrael Beiteinu party had decided that it wantedNetanyahu to be prime minister.

The president is now expected to tell Netanyahu early next week that he had six weeks in which to try to form a coalition. Lieberman, who is to the right of Netanyahu on many issues, hedged his bets slightly by stating that he preferred Netanyahu’s government to include Livni and members of her party in what would be a grand coalition of right and centre.

“Netanyahu will be prime minister, but it will be a Bibi-Livni government,” Lieberman told Peres, according to Army Radio, referring to the Likud leader by his nickname as most Israelis do.

There were three possible results of the coalition talks, Lieberman said. They were “a broad government, which is what we want. A narrow government, that will be a government of paralysis, but we don’t rule out sitting in it. The third option is going to elections, which will achieve nothing.”

Livni once again emphatically ruled out Kadima’s participation in a grand coalition unless it was committed to continuing the peace talks with the Palestinian Authority that she has led as foreign minister since November 2007 — something which Netanyahu has opposed, as do religious parties that have volunteered to join a Likud-led government.

“I will not serve as fig leaf for a government of paralysis,” Livni said. “I have no intention of changing even a fraction of Kadima’s path.”

Kadima won 28 seats in the 120 seat Knesset, followed by Likud with 27 seats and Yisrael Beiteinu with 15 seats.

Lieberman’s decision was not a total surprise, but it came much earlier in the coalition-building process than most analysts had expected, possibly saving Israel weeks if not months of political deadlock.

Netanyahu, who was prime minister for three years in the 1990s, had been widely tipped to eventually win the struggle for power because right-wing parties, which would make the most natural allies for Likud, won 65 Knesset seats. Livni had been dealt a weaker hand by voters who abandoned the left for factions from the centre and right. She had been hoping that Netanyahu might be forced to agree to a rotating government, with she and Netanyahu each serving two years as prime minister.

“Bibi needs to get used to talk of a broad government and Tzipi needs to get used to the fact that there can be no rotation, which contains an element of instability and has not proven itself in past instances,” Lieberman said.

One of the reasons Lieberman favoured a broad coalition was that there have been profound differences between Yisrael Beiteinu and several ultra-orthodox religious parties which would have to be part of Netanyahu’s government if Livni and Kadima do not participate.

Lieberman, for example, has been pushing for civil marriages and has said he is willing to discuss the future of Jerusalem with Palestinians — both absolute “no-go” areas for the religious parties.

“This arrangement would open the issue of whether Lieberman will press for civil unions,” said Joshua Teitelbaum of Tel Aviv University’s Moshe Dayan Centre for Middle Eastern Studies.

“This will upset the Haredi (religious) parties, but there may be a way to finesse this or perhaps Lieberman will give it up.”

As for the status of the Palestinian peace talks and the emotive issue of Jewish settlements in the West Bank leading to a clash between a narrow Netanyahu-led coalition and U.S. President Barack Obama, Teitelbaum said: “On one hand it looks kind of bad. But Netanyahu says he has changed and that he is open to discussion on anything. What it mostly looks like, though, is that we will see movement on the Syrian track and that will stop the Palestinian thing dead in its tracks.”

But with the global economy in difficulty and Afghanistan at the top of the new U.S. president’s foreign agenda, “there is a lot on his plate,” Teitelbaum said, and the Middle East might not receive that much attention.

Peres was expected to have separate meetings between Netanyahu and Livni today to discuss the ramifications of Lieberman’s preference for Netanyahu.

A decision of who is formally chosen to try to form a government could come as early as Sunday, a spokesman for Peres said.

Hardliner backs Netanyahu in bid to become Israeli PM

Matthew Fisher, Canwest News Service

February 20, 2009

Benjamin Netanyahu’s path to becoming Israel’s next prime minister moved forward Thursday when controversial nationalist hardliner Avigdor Lieberman endorsed his fellow right-winger for the Jewish state’s top job.

Tzipi Livni and her Kadima party, which won one more seat than Likud in elections last week, was the likely loser after Lieberman revealed to President Shimon Peres that his Yisrael Beiteinu party had decided that it wantedNetanyahu to be prime minister.

The president is now expected to tell Netanyahu early next week that he has six weeks in which to try to form a coalition. Lieberman, who is to the right of Netanyahu on many issues, hedged his bets slightly by stating that he preferred Netanyahu’s government to include Livni and members of her party in what would be a grand coalition of right and centre.

“Netanyahu will be prime minister, but it will be a Bibi-Livni government,” Lieberman told Peres according to Army Radio, referring to the Likud leader by his nickname as most Israelis do.

There were three possible results of the coalition talks, Lieberman said. They were “a broad government, which is what we want. A narrow government, that will be a government of paralysis, but we don’t rule out sitting in it. The third option is going to elections, which will achieve nothing.”

Livni once again emphatically ruled out Kadima’s participation in a grand coalition unless it was committed to continuing the peace talks with the Palestinian Authority that she has led as foreign minister since November 2007 — something which Netanyahu has opposed, as do religious parties which have volunteered to join a Likud-led government.

“I will not serve as fig leaf for a government of paralysis,” Livni said. “I have no intention of changing even a fraction of Kadima’s path.”

Kadima won 28 seats in the 120 seat Knesset, followed by Likud with 27 seats and Yisrael Beiteinu with 15 seats.

Lieberman’s decision was not a total surprise, but it came much earlier in the coalition-building process than most analysts had expected, possibly saving Israel weeks if not months of political deadlock.

Netanyahu, who was prime minister for three years in the 1990s, had been widely expected to eventually win the struggle for power because right-wing parties, which would make the most natural allies for Likud, won 65 Knesset seats. Livni had been dealt a weaker hand by voters who abandoned the left for factions from the centre and right. She had been hoping that Netanyahu might be forced to agree to a rotating government, with she and Netanyahu each serving two years as prime minister.

“Bibi needs to get used to talk of a broad government and Tzipi needs to get used to the fact that there can be no rotation, which contains an element of instability and has not proven itself in past instances,” Lieberman said.

One of the reasons that Lieberman favoured a broad coalition was that there have been profound differences between Yisrael Beiteinu and several ultra-orthodox religious parties which would have to be part of Netanyahu’s government if Livni and Kadima do not participate.

Lieberman, for example, has been pushing for civil marriages and has said he is willing to discuss the future of Jerusalem with Palestinians — both absolute “no-go” areas for the religious parties.

“This arrangement would open the issue of whether Lieberman will press for civil unions,” said Joshua Teitelbaum of Tel Aviv University’s Moshe Dayan Centre for Middle Eastern Studies.

“This will upset the Haredi (religious) parties but there may be a way to finesse this or perhaps Lieberman will give it up.”

As for the status of the Palestinian peace talks and the emotive issue of Jewish settlements in the West Bank leading to a clash between a narrow Netanyahu-led coalition and U.S. President Barack Obama, Teitelbaum said: “On one hand it looks kind of bad. But Netanyahu says he has changed and that he is open to discussion on anything. What it mostly looks like, though, is that we will see movement on the Syrian track and that will stop the Palestinian thing dead in its tracks.”

But with the global economy in difficulty and Afghanistan at the top of the new U.S. president’s foreign agenda, “there is a lot on his plate,” Teitelbaum said, and the Middle East might not receive that much attention.

Peres was expected to have separate meetings between Netanyahu and Livni on Friday to discuss the ramifications of Lieberman’s preference for Netanyahu. A decision of who is formally chosen to try to form a government could come as early as Sunday, a spokesman for Peres said.

Barak urges swift retaliation on terrorists’ homes

Jason Koutsoukis in Jerusalem

September 24, 2008

The Israeli Defence Minister, Ehud Barak, wants the homes of terrorists demolished shortly after they commit an attack as part of a plan to deter further terrorism-related incidents.

His comments were broadcast on Israeli Army Radio yesterday following an attack on Monday in which a 19-year-old Palestinian man drove a car into a crowd of Israeli soldiers at a busy intersection near Jerusalem’s Old City.

At least 17 people were injured in the “car terrorism” attack, the third of its kind since July.

Two soldiers were reported to be in a serious condition, four were moderately hurt and the rest were lightly wounded.

The driver, 19-year-old Qassem al-Mughrabi, a resident of Al Farouk in East Jerusalem, was shot dead by one of the soldiers.

An angry Mr Barak denounced the attack as an act of terrorism and said legal steps should be taken immediately to enable the security establishment to demolish homes of terrorists shortly after an attack. “The demolition of the houses could contribute to deterrence,” he said.

Demolitions of this nature have previously been banned by the Israeli Supreme Court after they were judged to provide negligible deterrent effect.

In July, two Arab residents of East Jerusalem carried out separate attacks with vehicles used in construction work in the city, killing three people and wounding many others.

Both drivers were shot dead.

Jonathan Spyer, an expert on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at the Tel Aviv-based Global Research in International Affairs Project, said such attacks were common in other countries.

“It seems to me to be self-motivated and disorganised but obviously with the same deadly intent as the suicide-bomb type incidents that have characterised terrorism in Israel in the past,” Dr Spyer told the Herald.

He said Israel needed “better intelligence from Palestinian sources identifying what exactly is motivating the attacks, and then better law enforcement to stop such acts before they are carried out”.

The attacker in Monday’s incident was driving a car with ordinary yellow Israeli number plates, highlighting how difficult it is to prevent attacks of this nature. Israeli Jews and Arabs are able to move freely between West and East Jerusalem.

An 800-kilometre security barrier enclosing the Palestinian West Bank – ordered by the then prime minister, Ariel Sharon, in 2004 – is credited with ending the wave of suicide bomb attacks in Jerusalem and other Israeli cities.

Joshua Teitelbaum, a senior research fellow at the Moshe Dayan Centre for Middle Eastern and African Studies, advocated similar restrictions on movement between East and West Jerusalem.

“That’s the stick. The carrot is that Israel has to start investing in infrastructure in East Jerusalem. It’s clearly a disadvantaged area and it has suffered because successive Israeli and municipal government authorities have refused to put the resources into East Jerusalem that has been invested in other parts of the city.”

Media Continued

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