April 20, 2014

Mideast Media Sampler, 11/26/12


1) For me not for thee

The New York Times reports, U.S. Election Speeded Move to Codify Policy on Drones:

Partly because United Nations officials know that the United States is setting a legal and ethical precedent for other countries developing armed drones, the U.N. plans to open a unit in Geneva early next year to investigate American drone strikes.
The attempt to write a formal rule book for targeted killing began last summer after news reports on the drone program, started under President George W. Bush and expanded by Mr. Obama, revealed some details of the president’s role in the shifting procedures for compiling “kill lists” and approving strikes. Though national security officials insist that the process is meticulous and lawful, the president and top aides believe it should be institutionalized, a course of action that seemed particularly urgent when it appeared that Mitt Romney might win the presidency.
“There was concern that the levers might no longer be in our hands,” said one official, speaking on condition of anonymity. With a continuing debate about the proper limits of drone strikes, Mr. Obama did not want to leave an “amorphous” program to his successor, the official said. The effort, which would have been rushed to completion by January had Mr. Romney won, will now be finished at a more leisurely pace, the official said.

I don’t have a problem with drone strikes against enemies, but does the Obama administration feel that it is uniquely qualified to define targeting criteria? Never mind, as the article noted, the even the United States isn’t comfortable with Israel’s targeted killings of terrorists.

There is an irony. If the United States was more forceful in its defense of Israel’s right to self-defense, it might not find itself be questioned as severely when it pursued the same strategy.

According to the article the New York Times is a party along with the ACLU seeking more information about the drone program. The Times also cited Gregory D. Johnsen, who recently wrote an op-ed for the paper criticizing the policy. It would seem that administration’s strategy of killing terrorists is one area where it cannot expect the unquestioning support of the New York Times.

According to the Long War Journal, since 2006 American drones have killed 2431 terrorists and only 139 civilians. (h/t Jim Roberts)

2) Money supply, sex and the peace process

“Everything reminds Milton Friedman of the money supply. Everything reminds me of sex, but I try to keep it out of my papers.” (Robert Solow)

In Morsi’s Moment Thomas Friedman got some things right.

In other words, is Egypt ready to sacrifice the Camp David peace, U.S. aid and economic development to support Hamas’s radical, pro-Iranian agenda, or not? The answer from Cairo was no. President Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood’s party did not want to get dragged into a total breach with Israel on behalf of Hamas, and instead threw Egypt’s weight into mediating a cease-fire.

This is just about right for now.

But Friedman can’t leave well enough alone.

It is impossible not to be tantalized by how much leverage Morsi could wield in the peace process, if he ever chose to engage Israel. Precisely because he represents the Muslim Brotherhood, the vanguard of Arab Islam, and precisely because he was democratically elected, if Morsi threw his weight behind an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, it would be so much more valuable to Israel than the cold peace that Sadat delivered and Hosni Mubarak maintained. Sadat offered Israelis peace with the Egyptian state. Morsi could offer Israel peace with the Egyptian people and, through them, with the Muslim world beyond. Ironically, though, all of this would depend on Morsi not becoming a dictator like Mubarak, but on him remaining a legitimately elected president, truly representing the Egyptian people. That is now in doubt given Morsi’s very troubling power grab last week and the violent response from the Egyptian street. President Obama has to be careful not to sell out Egyptian democracy for quiet between Israel and Egypt and Hamas. We tried that under Mubarak. It didn’t end well.

Friedman’s is one trick pony who believes that all problems of the Middle East can be solved by solving the Israeli Palestinian conflict. Well, no things did not end well for Mubarak, but the peace lasted for more than 30 years. It’s interesting too, that Friedman now is so concerned for Egyptian democracy, ten months ago he was cheering on the Muslim Brotherhood. Have Morsi’s power grabs actually surprised him? (He compared the Muslim Brotherhood’s coming to power in Egypt as following the AKP’s ascendancy in Turkey. Why is he surprised now? Oh that’s right, he was a cheerleader for the AKP too.)

No doubt Morsi’s price for engaging with Israel would be the Arab Peace Initiative — full Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and Arab East Jerusalem, save for mutually agreed-upon land swaps, and some return of refugees, in return for full normalized relations. If Morsi advanced such a proposal in direct talks with Israelis, he could single-handedly revive the Israeli peace camp.

It’s important to remember what the Arab Peace Initiative is. It was the brainchild of Thomas Friedman and then Crown Prince Abdullah of the Arab League. It was a public relations stunt designed to undermine international support for Israel’s efforts to defeat the “Aqsa Intifada” and shore up support for Saddam Hussein.  Who represented the Arab League in those day? Ben Ali of Tunisia, Hosni Mubarak of Egypt Muamar Qadaffi of Libya. Also Bashar Assad of Syria. In other words the leaders who represent the pre-”Arab spring” were the ones who signed on to the initiative. And of course, one reason any of these despots supported the Palestinians was to misdirect attention away from their own misrule. Cheerleaders like Friedman were more than happy to give them cover.

Do I expect that? No more than I expect to win the lottery. The Muslim Brotherhood has long hated the Jewish state, as well as political and religious pluralism and feminism. Therefore, here’s what I do expect: More trouble between Israel and Hamas that will constantly threaten to drag in Egypt. Hamas is a shameful organization. It subordinates the interests of the Palestinian people to Iran (and earlier to Syria), which wants Hamas to do everything it can to make a two-state solution impossible, because that will lock Israel into a permanent death grip on the West Bank, which will be the undoing of the Jewish democracy and will distract the world from Iran’s and Syria’s murderous behaviors.

Is Friedman for real? Hamas is “shameful?” Really. Murderous is a more apt description. But notice Friedman can’t even fault Hamas for terrorism, but for “undoing Jewish democracy.” Friedman’s perspective is completely skewed by his blind worship of the peace process. Is Israel about to cease being a democracy? No. Are the Palestinians about to have a state of their own? No. These are two separate issues. No matter how many times Friedman equates the two doesn’t make his perspective any more correct.

Israel left all of Gaza in 2005, and Hamas had a choice: It could recognize Israel, have an open border and import computers, or it could continue to deny Israel’s existence, keep the border sealed, and smuggle in rockets. It chose rockets over computers. With each rocket that lands near Tel Aviv or Jerusalem, another Israeli says, “How can we possibly let go of the West Bank and risk our airport being shut down?” That is just what Hamas and Iran want — a permanent, grinding, democracy-eroding, legitimacy-destroying, globally isolating Israeli occupation of the West Bank — and they are very happy to use the Palestinian people as a human sacrifice for that goal. The best way for Israel to undercut Hamas is by empowering the secular Palestinian Authority, led by Mahmoud Abbas, in the West Bank to gain greater independence and build a thriving economy, so every Palestinian can compare which strategy works best: working with Israel or against Israel. This Israeli government has failed to do that. It is so shortsighted. But Hamas makes it easy for Israel to get away with that by ignoring what we know from history: that whoever makes the Israeli silent majority feel morally insecure about occupation, but strategically secure in Israel, wins. After Sadat flew to Jerusalem, Israelis knew there was no way morally that they could hold onto the Sinai and strategically they no longer felt the need. When King Hussein of Jordan and Yasir Arafat did the same, they each got land back. Today, nothing makes Israelis feel more strategically insecure and morally secure with occupation than Hamas’s stupid rocket attacks, even after Israel has withdrawn.

Ten years earlier Israel withdrew from most of the West Bank, shedding responsibility for 90% of the Palestinians. What happened? Did Arafat create the institutions of a functioning state? Or did he take the territory he was handed and use it to encourage terror against Israel?

The dysfunction of the Palestinian Authority under Arafat continues to this day. Israel can’t empower Abbas; they have no real constituency to make peace. The culture Arafat and later Abbas presided over places a premium on resistance and denying legitimacy to Israel. Friedman argues that the perfectly reasonable Israeli fear of terror is “democracy eroding.” Somehow, though, the ideology that advocates terror as long as one’s demands are not met is not illegitimate.