Fidel Castro

November 28, 2016

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Reprint from International Marxist Tendency

Fidel Castro has died – the Cuban revolution must live!

At 10.29 pm on Friday, November 26, the Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro died at the age of 90. His brother Raul Castro announced the news to the Cuban population and the world around midnight in a televised speech. His death was not unexpected, as he had been ill for a number of years and had already stepped down from his formal political responsibilities, but still it came as a shock to both friends and enemies.

Fidel and Che - Public Domain

His whole life was closely linked to the Cuban revolution. An appraisal of his role is in fact an appraisal of the Cuban revolution, the first to abolish capitalism in the Western Hemisphere and one which for over five decades resisted the onslaught of US imperialism, barely 90 miles to the north.

When commenting on the death of Venezuelan president and revolutionary leader Hugo Chavez, Fidel said: “Do you want to know who Hugo Chavez was? Look at who is mourning and who is celebrating.” The same can be said of Fidel Castro. News of his death were received with jubilation by the counter-revolutionary Cuban exiles in Miami, by the reactionary opposition in Venezuela and media commentators around the world, right-wing and “liberal” alike.

On the other hand, Fidel’s death was felt as a blow by millions of workers and youth, revolutionary and left wing activists in Latin America and around the world, for whom Fidel was a symbol of the Cuban revolution, of standing up to imperialism, of guaranteeing good quality healthcare and education for all.

Fidel Castro Washington 1959 - Public DomainFidel Castro in Washington 1959 – Photo: Public Domain

There is a very good reason why the ruling classes around the world hated him so much and why US imperialism plotted over 600 different ways of assassinating him. It was the threat of a good example that the Cuban revolution gave to the oppressed of the world. The Cuban revolution, by abolishing capitalism, was able to eradicate illiteracy, give all its citizens a roof over their heads, create a first class health service which has reduced infant mortality and increased life expectancy to levels in the advanced capitalist countries and massively improved the education standards of its people. All of this in a country which prior to the revolution had been the brothel and casino of the US and despite the decades of terrorist harassment and the criminal trade blockade and embargo imposed by Washington.

We stand unconditionally for the defence of the Cuban revolution, for the same reasons. That is our starting point. Any appraisal of the figure of Fidel Castro and of the Cuban revolution has to be a balanced and critical one, if we are to learn anything from it. But it has to start from the standpoint of recognising the historic gains of the revolution, which were achieved by expropriating capitalists, imperialists and landlords.

To give just a few examples: the Cuban revolution abolished illiteracy and has now abolished child malnutrition. Life expectancy at birth in Cuba is 79.39 years, higher than in the US at 78.94 and over 16 years longer than in neighbouring Haiti’s 62.75. The Infant Mortality Rate (deaths of infants under one year of age per 1,000 Births) in Cuba is 4.5, whereas in the US it is 5.8 and in Haiti: 48.2.

Fidel was born in 1926 in Birán, in the Holguín province in the east of Cuba, into a family of landowners. He attended private religious schools in Santiago and then Havana. He became involved in politics when he started to study Law at the university in Havana.

Cuba was the last Latin American country to achieve formal independence, but as soon as it had freed itself through revolutionary struggle from decaying Spanish imperialism, in 1898, it fell into the claws of rising US imperialism. The powerful neighbour to the north dominated the Cuban economy almost completely and through that exercised control of its political set up. For a period of time, the Platt amendment formalised this humiliating domination in the form of a clause in the Cuban Constitution which allowed for US military intervention in the country. A burning sense of injustice and a deep felt desire for national sovereignty inspired several waves of revolutionary struggle in the first half of the 20th century. Fidel became acquainted with, and was inspired by, the most important figures of Cuba’s war for independence

At the same time, the island had a large working class which had developed militant traditions, starting with a powerful anarcho-syndicalist trend, then later a militant Communist Party, a large Left Opposition, an insurrectionary general strike in 1933, etc. National and social liberation had become closely intertwined, for instance in the thinking of Julio Antonio Mella, the founder of the Cuban Communist Party, of Antonio Guiteras, the founder of the Joven Cuba movement and others.

Fulgencio Batista with U.S. Army Chief of staff Malin Craig - Public DomainCuban dictator, Fulgencio Batista, with U.S. Army Chief of staff, Malin Craig – Photo: Public Domain

In 1945, when Fidel went to university the generation of middle class youth that was becoming involved in radical politics was not at all attracted to the Cuban Communist Party (officially known as the PSP), rather, they were repelled by it. The PSP, following the “democracy against fascism” policy of the Stalinised Comintern, had participated in the 1940-44 government of Fulgencio Batista.

Fidel was attracted to anti-imperialist policies, which included his participation in a failed military expedition to the Dominican Republic to overthrow the Trujillo dictatorship in 1947. In 1948 he was part of a delegation to a Latin American students congress in Colombia, where he witnessed the Bogotazo uprising which followed the assassination of radical leader Jorge Eliécer Gaitán on April 9.

Castro also became linked to the Ortodoxo Party of Chibás, a popular senator who denounced the corruption of the Auténtico Party, which he had originally belonged to and who committed suicide in 1951.

By 1952, Fulgencio Batista had carried out his second coup. Fidel and a group of his comrades (including his brother Raúl, Abel Santamaría, his sister Haydée and Melba Hernández) started to organise a fighting organisation, mostly drawn from the youth of the Ortodoxo Party. On July 26, 1953, they carried out a daring assault on the Moncada Army Barracks in Santiago. Their aim was to capture a large number of weapons and issue a call for a national uprising against the Batista dictatorship. The attempt failed, and nearly half of the 120 young men and women who took part were killed after being captured.

Fidel’s speech in the dock, which he used to explain his program and ended with the famous words “Condemn me! History will absolve me”, made him famous. The program of what became known as the July 26 Revolutionary Movement (M-26-7), was summarised in 5 revolutionary laws they had planned to broadcast:

  • The reinstatement of the 1940 Cuban constitution.
  • Agrarian reform.
  • The right of industrial workers to a 30% share of company profits.
  • The right of sugar workers to receive 55% of company profits.
  • The confiscation of holdings of those found guilty of fraud under previous administrations.

It was a progressive national democratic program, which also contained a number of points aimed at improving the conditions of workers. It certainly did not go beyond the limits of the capitalist system, nor did it questione private property . After a period in jail, Fidel was amnestied and went to Mexico.

On the basis of the Moncada program they organised a group of men to travel in the Granma boat to Cuba at the end of 1956. Again, their idea was that this would coincide with an uprising in the east of the country, around Santiago. Yet again, their plans did not work out and most of the members of the expeditionary force were either killed or captured in the first few hours. Only 12 remained and retreated into the Sierra Maestra mountains. And yet, within just over two years, on January 1, 1959, Batista was forced to flee the country and the Cuban revolution had triumphed.

The victory of the revolutionary war was due to a series of factors: the extreme rottenness of the regime, the guerrilla war in the mountains which, using revolutionary methods of agrarian reform, had managed to win over the peasantry and demoralise the army conscripts, the widespread opposition in the llano (the plains) amongst the middle layers and, last but not least, the powerful participation of the worker’s movement (which is less known). The final blow to the regime was the revolutionary general strike called by the M-26-7 which lasted for a week in Havana until the arrival of the guerrilla columns.

For the next two years, there was a process of rapid radicalisation of the revolution. The implementation of the national democratic program of the Moncada, particularly agrarian reform, provoked the wrath of the ruling class, the shedding of the more moderate elements from the first revolutionary governments, the enthusiasm of the masses of workers and peasants who were pushing for more, the counter-reaction of US imperialism and in response to all this ever more radical measures of the revolution against imperialist properties on the island.

The consistent implementation of a national democratic program had led to the expropriation of US multinational corporations and since these dominated key sections of the economy, this led to the de facto abolition of capitalism by 1961. Once I asked a Cuban comrade who had been involved in the revolutionary and trade union movement in Guantánamo since the 1930s, how he would characterise Fidel and the leadership of the M-26-7, and he replied that they were “revolucionarios pequeño-burgueses guapos” (courageous petty bourgeois revolutionaries). Here “petty bourgeois” was meant not as an insult but as a description of the class origins of many of them, as well as a description of the program they had fought for. The fact that they implemented their program courageously pushed them much further than they had anticipated. It is to the credit of Fidel Castro that he did carry the process to the end.

The existence of the USSR at the time, also played a role in the course events took after the revolutionary victory. This is not to say that the Soviet Union encouraged them to move against capitalism. On the contrary, it is on record that the Soviet Union discouraged them and advised them to proceed cautiously and slowly. In spite of this, the fact that the Soviet Union was able to fill the gaps left by the growing belligerence of the US (selling them oil, purchasing sugar cane, breaking the blockade) was an important factor.

For about 10 years, however, the relationship between the Cuban revolution and the USSR was an uneasy one. The Cuban Communist Party (PSP) had only joined the revolutionary movement in its last stages and the Cuban leadership was proud of its own independence and had its own base of support. The first period of the revolution was one of wide ranging discussions and debates in all fields (foreign and economic policy, the arts and culture, Marxism) in which the Stalinists attempted – not always successfully – to impose their line.

Mexican Gulf - Nick HammerImage: Nick Hammer

Fidel and the others were deeply suspicious of the USSR, particularly after the way in which Khrushchev had reached a deal with the US at the time of the 1962 missile crisis without even consulting them. Furthermore, particularly at the insistence of Che Guevara, they attempted to spread the revolution to other countries in Latin America and beyond, something which clashed with the policy of “peaceful coexistence” pursued by the Soviet Union as well as with the profoundly conservative outlook of most of the Latin American Communist Parties.

Those attempts to export the revolution failed, partly because of the crude way in which the experience of the Cuban Revolution was generalised. The idea that a small group of armed men taking to the mountains would in a short space of time lead to the overthrow of reactionary regimes (which was in itself an oversimplification of the conditions which allowed the Cuban victory) was proven wrong in practice. Perhaps the most extreme example was that of Bolivia, a country which had seen a partial agrarian reform and which also had a militant and politically advanced mining proletariat, and where Che Guevara’s attempt led to his death in 1967 at the hands of US imperialism (which had also learnt some lessons from Cuba).

Progressively, the Cuban revolution became isolated and therefore more dependant on the Soviet Union. The failure of the 1970 “ten million ton sugarcane crop” and the economic dislocation it caused, only increased this dependency. Close ties with the USSR allowed the Cuban Revolution to survive for three decades, but also brought in strong elements of Stalinism. The Quinquenio Gris (Five Grey Years) of 1971-75 saw the use of repressive measures to impose Stalinist thinking in the fields of the arts, social sciences and many others. It was also at this time that homophobia and discrimination and harassment of gay men (which already existed and had been inherited from the previous regime) became institutionalised.

The way the revolution had triumphed, through the leadership of a guerrilla army, also played a role in the bureaucratic nature of the state in the revolution. As Fidel himself explained: “a war is not led through collective, democratic methods, it is based on the responsibility of command”. After the revolutionary victory the leadership had huge authority and widespread support. Hundreds of thousands took up arms at a moment’s notice in 1961 to defeat the Bay of Pigs invasion. One million people gathered in Revolution Square in 1962 to ratify the Second Declaration of Havana.

However, there were no mechanisms of revolutionary democracy through which ideas could be debated and discussed and, above all, through which the masses of workers and peasants could exercise their own power and hold their leaders to account.

The Cuban Communist Party, for instance, which resulted eventually from the fusion of the Stalinist PSP, the M-27-6 and the Revolutionary Directorate, was founded in 1965, but did not hold its first congress until 1975. And it was not until 1976 that a formal constitution was passed.

A planned economy needs workers’ democracy as the human body needs oxygen, as this is the only way of keeping a check and control over production.

This process of bureaucratisation also had an impact on the foreign policy of the leadership of the Cuban revolution. The Cuban revolution has a record which is second to none in terms of international solidarity, sending medical aid and help around the world. It also played a crucial role in the defeat of the South African regime in Angola, a struggle in which hundreds of thousands of Cubans participated over many years.

However, in revolutions such as that of Nicaragua in 1979-89 and in Venezuela more recently, while offering invaluable practical and material support and solidarity, the political advice given by the Cuban leadership has been that of not following the same path as the Cuban revolution in abolishing capitalism. This had disastrous consequences in both countries. In Nicaragua the USSR applied enormous pressure for the Sandinista leadership to maintain a “mixed economy” – i.e. a capitalist one -and then to participate in the Contadora peace negotiations which ended up strangling the revolution. The Sandinista leadership was very close to and had a lot of respect for the Cuban revolution. Fidel’s advice, however, was the same as that of the Soviet Union: do not expropriate the capitalists, what you are doing is as much as can be done in Nicaragua today. That advice proved fatal.

In Venezuela too, while the Cuban revolution provided invaluable support (particularly with the Cuban doctors) and solidarity, the political advice which was given was again that of not going down the road the Cuban revolution had travelled 40 years earlier. The result of making half a revolution we can see clearly today: a massive dislocation of the productive forces, the rebellion of capitalism against any attempt to regulate it. This advice not only had a negative impact on the Nicaraguan and Venezuelan revolutions, but it has also compounded the problem of isolation of the Cuban revolution itself.

The heroic resistance of the Cuban revolution after the collapse of the USSR is truly impressive. While the leaders of the “Communist” Party in the Soviet Union moved swiftly and effortlessly towards restoring capitalism and looting state property, Fidel and the Cuban leadership defended the gains of the revolution. The “special period” as it was known, was also a testament to the vitality of the Cuban revolution. A generation was alive which still remembered what life was like before the revolution and others could compare their own living standards with those of neighbouring countries under capitalism.

Aaron Escobar-Cuba_LibrePhoto: Aaron Escobar

The leadership resisted, and the Cuban people, in a collective manner, found ways and means of overcoming the economic hardship. Completely isolated in the face of the US blockade, Cuba had to make important concessions to capitalism, while maintaining the bulk of the economy in state hands. Tourism became one of the main sources of income, with all the accompanying evils it comes with.

The development of the Venezuelan revolution, particularly after the failed coup in 2002, provided another lifeline ten years later. This was not only due to the exchange of Cuban doctors for Venezuelan oil, but it also rekindled the enthusiasm of the Cuban masses in seeing revolution developing in Latin America again. Economic difficulties and the exhaustion of the revolution in Venezuela – precisely because it did not go all the way and expropriate the property of the oligarchs and imperialists as Cuba had done – means that this is now coming to an end.

The impasse the Cuban revolution finds itself in has pushed an important section of the leadership in the direction of Chinese or Vietnamese-style market reforms and concessions to capitalism. Many steps have already been taken in this direction. They hope that such measures will at least bring some economic growth. That is an illusion. Today the world capitalist system is in crisis and it is doubtful how much it will want to invest in Cuba. Cuba does not possess the enormous reserves of cheap labour which are one of the key factors of the Chinese economic “success”. Even if all of this were not true, the restoration of capitalism in China has been accompanied by a massive polarisation of wealth, the brutal exploitation of the working class and the destruction of the conquests of the Chinese revolution.

It is in this context that Obama attempted a shift in US tactics. The strategy remains the same: the restoration of capitalism in Cuba and the destruction of the gains of the revolution, but instead of continuing with the failed tactic of direct confrontation, funding of counter-revolutionary and terrorist groups, etc., they have now decided that it might be wiser to destroy the revolution from within by using the domination of the world market over a small island with very few resources and a very low level of labour productivity.

Clearly, the imperialists saw Fidel, even after his formal retirement from official political office, as an obstacle to this process. He publicly denounced bureaucratism and growing inequality and warned of the danger of the revolution being destroyed from within. In a famous speech at the University of Havana in November 2005, he talked of “”our flaws, our mistakes, our inequalities, our injustice”, and warned that the revolution was not irreversible and could end up like the Soviet Union.  “This country can self-destruct; this Revolution can destroy itself, but they can never destroy us; we can destroy ourselves, and it would be our fault,” said Fidel, and he added, “”Either we defeat all these deviations and make our revolution strong, or we die.”

Bureaucratism, however, is not just a deviation, or the problem of a few individuals. It is a problem which stems from the lack of workers’ democracy in the running of the economy and the state and is strengthened by the isolation of the revolution. Having said that, it was clear that the strategists of capitalism believed that so long as Fidel was alive, little progress would be made on the road to capitalism in Cuba.

With his passing away, they hope that the process will now accelerate. Already there are major contradictions and a growing process of social differentiation has begun within the country. The main factors in this process are: the stagnation of the bureaucratically planned economy and the extremely unequal status of Cuba within the world economy, which in turn results from the isolation of the revolution. “Socialism in one country” once again is being proven to be impossible.

From this it follows that the only way forward for the Cuban revolution passes through the struggle for democratic workers’ control in Cuba and for socialist revolution across the world. That is the only way to defend the gains of the Cuban revolution.

Today, the imperialists everywhere go on about the lack of “human rights” in Cuba. These are the same people who turn a blind eye to the Saudi regime and fly its flag at half mast when its reactionary semi-feudal rotten dictator dies. These are the same people who had no problem in installing and supporting the most brutal regimes in Chile, Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, Bolivia, Venezuela, Guatemala, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras… The list is endless.

We are not talking here about the long and distant past either. Not so long ago, US sponsored coups were attempted in Venezuela, Honduras, Ecuador and Bolivia. No, when Obama and Clinton talk of “human rights” what they mean is the right of the capitalists to exploit labour, the right of landlords to evict tenants, the right of wealthy tourists to purchase women and children.

Today more than ever we say: defend the Cuban revolution, no to capitalist restoration, fight capitalism worldwide!

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Trump Presidency Brings Realpolitik Back To Mid-East

November 19, 2016

 

“We just had an election and most journalists were shocked! Why? Because they had been reporting from their own bias instead of from reality, and some journalists even said so. But this isn’t just about elections: it happens in many areas, including Israel and the Palestinians.” (HonestReporting)

dt-101Trump presidency means new better era in U.S.-Israel relations as well new scenarios in Mid East conflicts. U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, his transition team and his advisors are already planning new U.S. foreign policy approach which probably will include new visio(s) for solutions and new roadmap towards them. Same time the main players, especially Israel, are preparing their answer to this new ‘Trumpoportunity’.

There has been discussions whether U.S. President Obama will make a final intervention in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict before he leaves office. This could include giving a speech on parameters for a peace agreement between Israeli and the Palestinians, or by the U.S. supporting a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements. Trump team warned Obama not to make any Lame-Duck major moves on foreign policy, such as a potential Israeli-Palestinian peace push based on U.S. drafted parameters.

New developments in Israeli-Palestinian conflict will probably been supported via wider geopolitical shift during Trump presidency. Especially one can wait more pragmatic approach in U.S.-Russia relations. While United States has been gradually retreating from the Middle East and Russia has been filling this vacuum a new deal is possible which of course can have its political spin-offs or even spill-over effects besides Mid-East also in Europe.

 

Trump & Israel

“Israel is the one true democracy and defender of human rights in the Middle East and a beacon of hope to countless people,” (Donald Trump)

Already in 2013, before becoming a politician, U.S. President-elect Donald Trump stated support for Israel and admiration for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.Then famous as a billionaire and entrepreneur, Trump took part in a video showing his support for Netanyahu and the Likud party ahead of Israel’s 2013 general election. In an unprecedented move, the U.S. billionaire and world-renowned entrepreneur, Mr. Donald Trump, took part in a video showing his support for the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu and The Likud Party in general elections in Israel next week: “Vote for Benjamin, terrific guy, terrific leader, great for Israel.”

Donald Trump has been investing flamboyantly also in the Arab world, but he’s never done a deal in Israel. In 2006 the deal was close as land on the border of Tel Aviv really had been bought for a Trump Tower in Israel.. The plan was to build a 70-story skyscraper bearing the Trump brand, it was to have been the tallest building in Israel. By 2007, the project was dead. Lesser-known stabs at business in Israel that went nowhere include the Trump Hotel extravaganza in Netanya and the Trump Golf Course in Ashkelon.

Trump, for one, has made it very clear he will support Israel and its preferences. A post-election statement by Trump’s advisers on Israel said, “A two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians appears impossible as long as the Palestinians are unwilling to renounce violence against Israel or recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state.” Israel staunchly opposes any move by Obama to secure a U.N. Security Council resolution seen as hostile to Israeli interests — especially if he asked other world powers to embrace U.S.-drafted parameters for a two-state solution. Trump team warned Obama not to make any Lame-Duck major moves on foreign policy, such as a potential Israeli-Palestinian peace push based on US drafted parameters. Source: The Politico

Israel and the US recently signed a new ten-year Memorandum of Understanding on defence aid which constitutes a renewal of America’s commitment to Israel’s security and a further fortification of Israel’s qualitative military edge.

During election campaign there was charges that Trump – or his some of his supporters – is flirting with Jew-hatred. However New York Times reporter Jonathan Weisman felt compelled to note that, “Trump has a son-in-law who is an Orthodox Jew, and a daughter [Ivanka] who converted to her husband’s religion. Mr. Trump has bragged about his Jewish grandchildren.” One could add that son-in-law Jared Kushner might be the real ‘grey eminence’ during Trump’s presidency.

Resolving the Israeli-Palestinian Authority conflict would be “the ultimate deal,” US President-elect Donald Trump told Wall Street Journal, adding that, as a master dealmaker, he relishes the challenge. “I’d like to do…the deal that can’t be made. And do it for humanity’s sake,” Source: Behindthenews

 

Israel’s aims with Trump

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has already been invited by Trump to the White House at the earliest opportunity. Netanyahu called Trump “a true friend of the State of Israel. We will work together to advance the security, stability and peace in our region.”

PM Netanyahu has already started preparing his first meeting with President-elect Donald Trump – . a meeting that could take place at the end of March 2017 when the prime minister speaks at the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference.

According Al-Monitor a senior Israeli Foreign Ministry official dealing with Israel-US relations on condition of anonymity that Netanyahu is expected to raise three major issues in his first meeting with Trump:

First, Netanyahu wishes to remove the resolution of the Palestinian issue from the list of elements necessary for regional stability and convince the new president that fundamentalist terror is the root problem of the region. Netanyahu will argue that the Islamic State, Hezbollah and Hamas are the real enemies of both Israel and pragmatic Arab countries. Thus, the region should align around the battle against Iranian-sponsored terror, not the Palestinian statehood issue.

The second topic for Netanyahu’s meeting with Trump would be, according to the Israeli side, the Iran deal. The prime minister intends to persuade the new president to cooperate closely with Israel on Iranian compliance with the agreement.

Netanyahu’s third issue would be preventing American and international pressure on Israel on settlement construction, public assurances that the United States will veto any U.N. Security Council resolution critical of Israel and the prime minister wants the new administration to foil any EU member state initiative on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, such as the French initiative on a two-state solution.

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman made on 16th Nov. 2016 a statement, suggesting Israel must cool its heels over Trump’s election and approach him with modest proposals regarding settlement construction. Speaking to political reporters Liberman said, “If we receive confirmation of the Bush-Sharon understandings, we should grab it with both hands.” The Bush-Sharon understandings recognized the need for construction to support the growth of the existing population in Judea and Samaria inside the settlement blocks — but no launching of new settlements.

Israeli Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer told media in New York City on 17th Nov. 2016 that there’s “no doubt” President-elect Donald Trump is a “true friend of Israel.” He added that also “Vice-President-elect Mike Pence was one of Israel’s “greatest friends” during his decade in Congress, and “one of the most pro-Israel governors in the country.” Dermer said Israel looks forward to “working with the Trump administration, with all of the members of the Trump administration, including Steve Bannon, and making the U.S.-Israel alliance stronger than ever.” [Bannon, Trump’s special adviser, the former CEO of Breitbart News, who gave considerable website space to the alt-right, is claimed to be anti-Semite, Bannon himself says he is a Zionist].

Israel Foreign ministry’s secret memo “The Trump Administration — Preliminary Comments” attempts to determine the future president’s foreign policy, with special attention to China, Russia and Europe, and domestic policies. The main message of the paper, which represents the position of the ministry’s professional echelons, is that the Trump administration is expected to conduct an isolationist policy. The researchers say that at the start of his term, Trump will try to differentiate himself from the foreign policy of President Barack Obama, but he could be expected subsequently to adopt Obama’s belief that the United States must stop trying to be the world’s policeman. The report concludes that: “Trump does not consider the Middle East to be a ‘wise investment,’ and is likely to strive to limit his involvement in the region. The peace process is not a top priority for the new administration.” (Source e.g: Forward )

 

A Murky Picture in the Middle East by Stratfor

Stratfor has published its view about possible developments in Israel’s neighbourhood during Trump presidency. Following an abstract:

Trump promised throughout his campaign a tough fight against Islamist extremism at home and abroad — and a harder stance on combating the Islamic State in particular. When Trump takes over as commander-in-chief in January, military operations in Iraq and Syria to combat the Islamic State core will be well underway, particularly in Iraq. U.S. support for Kurdish militias will likely continue, pushing Turkey further away from the United States, but Turkey is already on a unilateral path to deepen its footprint in northern Syria and Iraq.

The biggest shift on the battlefield would stem from a U.S.-Russia negotiation where the United States agrees to reduce aid for Syrian rebels. (Trump has already expressed doubts on the policy of supporting rebels who could be characterized as Islamist extremists.) This would bolster the positions of Syrian President Bashar al Assad and Iran, which would greatly unnerve the Sunni bloc led by Turkey and Saudi Arabia. A pullback of U.S. support for Syrian rebels would spur Turkey and Saudi Arabia to step up their involvement, thereby intensifying the broader ethno-sectarian struggle with Iran.

Trump’s victory also raises questions about Iran’s own presidential election next May and the fate of the nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Trump is unlikely to throw out the deal outright. Iran, despite its political divisions, broadly agrees on the need to avoid an escalation with the United States and bring in much-needed investment while it deals with its other proxy wars in the region. Tehran will continue to telegraph to the international community how it is fully adhering to the International Atomic Energy Agency guidelines. It will also appeal to European signatories to the nuclear deal to try to ensure that the United States does not pull out of the agreement or attempt to revive sanctions.

Hard-line opponents of President Hassan Rouhani have used ballistic missile testing and harassment of U.S. vessels to assert Iran’s military power and differentiate their camp from the moderates. But under a Trump presidency and Republican Congress, any infraction of the JCPOA or aggression outside of the nuclear deal has the potential to lead to additional sanctions. Iran would interpret this as a violation of its overall understanding with the United States on backing off sanctions, applying heavy stress to the deal. Even if the United States does not immediately jeopardize the JCPOA, it is likely that European investors will move cautiously forward with investments into Iran’s financial system because a Trump-led administration will be far less accommodative to Iran’s concerns or potential infractions.

Trump’s new foreign policy approach could be described as “U.S. Interests First Approach” which is based on the United States making ‘good deals’ and getting “paid back” for protection or intervention abroad. This would end the U.S. role as world’s policeman, a step away from the familiar American liberal interventionist policy. As Trump has regularly called for letting Putin, Assad and ISIS fight it out in Syria some even claim that Trump will outsource Middle East policy to Putin.

Trump has been roundly criticized for his lack of foreign policy knowhow. Trump regularly cites Israeli policies which could be replicable for the United States; such as “the [security/separation] wall” in Israel as an example of why the United States should build a wall with Mexico, or “taking out the families of terrorists,” one long step further from the Israeli policy of demolishing terrorists’ homes.

 

Jason Greenblatt-adviser with kippah at work

One of President-elect Donald Trump’s senior level advisors is Jason Dov Greenblatt, who will most likely be appointed as the US envoy to the Middle East; he probably will rewrite a foreign policy differing from that of U.S. President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry. Greenblatt, currently works for Trump as a real estate attorney. Trump has identified Greenblatt as one of two Jewish lawyers who would be his top Israel advisers; the other is bankruptcy expert David M. Friedman of the Kasowitz law firm.

Greenblatt, 49, has an unusual resume for a prospective presidential adviser on Middle East affairs. An Orthodox Jew has worked for Trump for the last 19 years dealing exclusively with real estate and company matters. His titles are executive vice president and chief legal officer. He has self-published three travel books, one about a family trip to Israel, and runs a parenting blog, InspireConversation.com.

Greenblatt was interviewed e.g. in IDF Radio explaining Trump’s stances here some key notes (Source: BICOM ):

Trump believes that “peace must come from the parties” and if the US dictates an agreement it might be one that “breaks apart the next day.” “He is not going to impose any solution on Israel.”

Mr. Trump does not view the settlements [Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria] as being an obstacle for peace. The two sides are going to have to decide how to deal with that region, but it’s certainly not Mr. Trump’s view that settlement activity should be condemned and that it’s an obstacle for peace – because it is not the obstacle for peace. I think he would show Gaza as proof of that. In an interview with The Associated Press in December 2015, Trump was asked whether Israel should stop building in Judea and Samaria, Trump responded, “No… I think Israel should have – they really have to keep going. They have to keep moving forward.”

Trump will follow through on his pledge to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which would mark a departure from Washington’s long-term policy.

 

David Friedman, Walid Phares and Michael Flynn reverse the negative policy trends

“Mike Flynn is a straight shooter and a no-bullshit kind of guy. And that’s exactly what we need in terms of senior leaders giving advice to the national leadership.” (David Deptula)

Senior Trump adviser David Friedman said a Trump administration would not “put its finger on the scale and try to force Israel into a particular outcome, but rather will support Israel in reaching its own conclusion about how to best achieve peace with its neighbors.” According The Algemeiner Friedman stated e.g. following:

We trust Israel. We think it is doing an excellent job of balancing its respect for human rights and its security needs in a very difficult neighborhood. Israel is a partner with the US in the global war against terrorism. And we want our partner to be attendant to that task and not distracted by foreign countries telling it what to do. That’s really the overall premise of the policy — to respect Israel as a partner, and not to unduly influence its decisions.

Walid Phares, a Trump top foreign policy adviser, told BBC Radio on Thursday [10th Nov. 2016] that an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal is a Trump top agenda item. “He is ready and he will immediately move to try and solve the problem between Palestinian and Israelis,” Phares said. “He told me personally that, as the author of ‘The Art of the Deal,’ it’s not going to be impossible for him to broker a deal between the Israelis and Palestinians. At least he’s going to go in that direction and not waste eight years — four years for now — not doing something for the Palestinians and Israelis.” According to an interview with the pro-Egyptian government news website, Youm7, Walid Phares said on 9th Nov. 2016 that Trump would pass legislation to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a “terrorist group”. The US House Judiciary Committee in February approved legislation calling on the State Department to designate the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt as a foreign terrorist organisation. The Senate has referred a partner bill to its foreign relations committee.

Trump’s new security advisor is retired a three-star General Michael Flynn. Flynn deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan and served as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency from spring 2012 to fall 2014 to where he was named and sacked by Obama administration. Having been a lifelong Democrat, he anyway was at Donald Trump’s side for months during the presidential campaign. Flynn built a reputation in the Army as an astute intelligence professional and a straight talker. He retired in 2014 and has been a fierce critic of President Barack Obama’s White House and Pentagon, taking issue with the administration’s approach to global affairs and fighting Islamic State militants. Flynn, described also as a Zionist Christian, is a harsh critic of Muslim extremism and the religion itself and a staunch ally of the Zionist entity. He is an active member of several Israeli advocacy groups such as CFR, ADL, AIPAC, WINEP, etc.

 

Palestinian reactions

nimeton-106The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center has made their first analysis about initial Palestinian reactions; here some highlights:

  • The remarks of senior figures in the Palestinian Authority (PA), hinted at concern over a greater pro-Israeli bias in the new American administration, based on statements made by Trump during the campaign. Their worst to concerns are that the new president will abandon the two state solution, support construction in the settlements, and move the United States embassy from Tel Aviv Jerusalem.
  • Azzam al-Ahmed, a member of Fatah’s Central Committee, said that if Hillary Clinton had been elected she would have been no better than Trump because the Palestinians’ bitter experience had shown that when she was secretary of state no progress had been made in the Palestinian cause
  • Riyad Mansour, permanent Palestinian observer to the U.N. He threatened president-elect Trump, saying the Palestinians had an arsenal of diplomatic weapons in the UN. He warned that if Trump moved the United States embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the Palestinians would “make his life miserable” in the UN agencies.
  • Hamas spokesmen, in the meantime, were skeptical about the chances for a change in the United States’ traditional tendency towards pro-Israeli policies in the wake of Trump’s victory.

Jibril Rajoub, a senior leader in Fatah, the Palestinian Authority’s ruling party, attacked both Trump and Obama as Zionists and racists, but with different tactics.

 

My conclusions: Trumportunity

The cases of Syria and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict indicate that the United States could be gradually retreating from the Middle East, Russia is now filling this vacuum. In Syria Moscow and Jerusalem have agreed to coordinate their actions in Syria as well as share intelligence. Intelligence-sharing also greatly benefits Moscow, which receives more balanced intelligence, allowing it to put into perspective the kind of information provided by its allies from the Baghdad coordination center. With Israeli-Palestinian conflict Kremlin is ready to meditiate and has proposed to host Netanyahu and Abbas in Moscow for direct talks, to which both reportedly have agreed.

Based on main issues during U.S. elections – e.g. have strong isolationist tendencies – it could be predicting the President-elect Donald Trump will watch the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from the sidelines. Based on latest statements of his advisers I conclude that the opposite scenario is more realistic.

The imaginable terms of a settlement with Two-state solution were embodied in the 2000 ‘Clinton Parameters’ or the deal proposed to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas by then-prime minister Ehud Olmert in 2008. The current Israeli government is unlikely to offer as much (for example, shared sovereignty over Jerusalem) and in any event, Abbas spurned Olmert’s offer. It is of significance to note that Trump’s policy is diametrically opposed to the one adopted by President Barack Obama and his administration, which has for example repeatedly condemned Israel for its presence in Judea and Samaria and even for its approval of plans for further building. Based on these factors the Trump’s new foreign policy approach might in my opinion have i.a. following outcome:

 

  1. Trump and his top Mid-East advisors have good personal relationship with Israel and pro-Israel attitude which will develop US-Israel relationship further and sure to better level than during Obama administration
  2. Trump probably will develop pragmatic relationship with Russia and even make a deal with Putin to stabilize the (Great) Middle East and so there is no need to increase US ‘boots on the ground’ in region
  3. Israel will be the main stabilizing actor in Mid-East so blocking Islamist Jihad as well decreasing refugee crisis which both factors serve Trump’s election campaign goals.
  4. Trump is ready to find solutions ‘outside of the box’ which means new approach towards ‘Two-State-Solution’ and its roadmap – or better to say dumping them .
  5. As pragmatic politician Trump might well understand possible Israeli unilateral solutions.
  6. Israeli border security systems – especially the new ones on Gaza border – are second to no one and U.S. might use this experience on Mexican border if Trump implements his promises to block illegal immigration.
  7. Extend and expand defence cooperation. “Enhance Israel’s sense of security and confidence in the United States by committing to expanded missile defense, anti-tunnel, and cybersecurity cooperation under the terms of the September 2016 long-term defense assistance Memorandum of Understanding.”

My bottom line: Trump’s presidency will usher in a new, better era in US-Israel relations – Tr(i)ump(h) for Israel!

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Constructive Unilateralism (II) as Solution to Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

October 28, 2016

ISRPALBrig Gen (res.) Michael Herzog has been a participant in nearly all Israeli-Palestinian negotiations since 1993. In his important essay, published in Fathom Journal , he argues that Israeli unilateral actions could later have a two-state solution as outcome.

According Herzog the bilateral Israeli-Palestinian arena looks as bleak, the last effort for negotiated peace – the Kerry-led negotiations in 2013-2014 – collapsed, adding despair on both sides to the prospects of a two-state solution.  The Palestinian Authority (PA) is weak and divided between two political entities, one in the West Bank ruled by Fatah and one in Gaza ruled by Hamas, with the current situation in Gaza resembling a powder keg. On the Israeli side, there is a right-wing coalition, reflecting the reality of Israeli society increasingly turning to the right under the pressure of repeatedly failed peace efforts and Palestinian terror waves. Meanwhile the American role in our region has weakened and the upcoming American elections paralyse potential international initiatives.

Israel and some of the major Arab states have been drawn closer together by strong converging interests, namely the threats of extreme violent Islamist jihadism, an empowered Iranian-led axis, regional instability as a whole and the weakening US role; however, according Herzog, this should be regarded as an opportunity.

 

Multi-dimensional solutions to multi-dimensional challenges

After 20 years of failed peace efforts, the first thing to realise is that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is extremely complex. Simplistic black-and-white characterisations, such as blaming the failure entirely on one party or suggesting that it could be easily resolved if only the leadership were changed, are unhelpful in trying to reach a solution. While Palestinians point to continued Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank and to Israel’s security heavy-handedness, Israelis point to repeated Palestinian rejection of Israeli peace offers over the years, the most recent example being the US proposal of parameters in March 2014, which to this day awaits a Palestinian response.

Jordan is Palestine Map low resThere is a natural tendency to single out one specific issue – Israeli settlement policy, Palestinian rejection of recognising Israel’s Jewish character, Palestinian incitement and terror, a return to negotiations, an imposed international plan etc. – and argue that if only that single issue was successfully dealt with, everything else would fall into place.

Herzog writes that

the challenge is multi-dimensional with inter-connected components and needs to be addressed as such. The pieces of the puzzle include the security situation on the ground and future security arrangements in a permanent status solution; Israeli settlement activity and practices; bottom-up processes of laying the foundation and infrastructure on the ground for future Palestinian statehood, including economic development as well as access and movement on the ground; the situation in Gaza and the relationship between Gaza and the West Bank; creating a top-down political horizon – either through negotiations or through laying out parameters on the core issues; and the regional dimension.

Herzog concludes that for now, further bilateral negotiations are not the answer – it is thus time to consider different paradigms. As an Israeli who cares deeply about the future of Israel as the democratic nation-state of the Jewish people Herzog believes that

Israel should shape its own future and destiny, not just respond to other parties’ initiatives or external attempted dictates. Because the logic of separating the two communities is in Israel’s interest, the country should signal that direction and start moving towards shaping a two-state reality, preferably with Palestinian partners but also with regional and international actors. Even without a Palestinian partner at this stage, Israel should implement a policy of constructive unilateralism that improves its security situation, maintains the possibility of a two state solution and keeps an extended hand open to the Palestinians to renew negotiations at a later date.

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The components

According Herzog this policy should include the following components:

Security – Israel should complete the security barrier between the West Bank and Israel in order to reduce friction between the two sides. While taking security measures against terror attacks, Israel should continue to encourage authorised Palestinian labourers in Israel. Almost all perpetrators of terror attacks have been illegals, and legal Palestinian labour in Israel has proven a stabilising factor.

Cessation of settlement activity beyond the security barrier – Israel should not authorise construction in areas where we assume a future Palestinian state will be established. Israel should try and elicit some form of quiet understanding for strengthening the settlement blocs – areas which are essential to Israel’s security and which are widely acknowledged as being part of Israel in a future agreement (based on territorial swaps).

It is hard to envisage Israel unilaterally removing settlements in the West Bank. Following Israel’s unilateral pull out from Gaza in 2005, which included all settlements, it is highly doubtful that an Israeli leader could remove settlements outside the context of an Israeli-Palestinian comprehensive agreement and survive politically.

Additional Israeli measures towards political separation – There is a public debate in Israel on whether to implement measures separating the two communities in Jerusalem. Tthe current situation in which there is no overlap between the municipal boundaries of the city and the route of the security barrier has bred instability and chaos and should be altered. Herzog would seek to amend the municipal boundaries and adjust the barrier accordingly.

Strengthening the PA’s economic and security capacity – Israel, regional actors and the international community should offer and facilitate (with proper auditing) a significant economic package to boost the PA. Israel should further improve access and movement for Palestinians in the West Bank and upgrade all existing fixed passages. It should also seek to expand its current policy of limiting incursions into area A to security threats the PA cannot or will not deal with.

Area C – In the context of enhancing the PA’s capacity, Israel can and should transfer powers and responsibilities to the PA in Area C (which constitutes about 60 per cent of the West Bank), such as planning, zoning and building adjacent to Area A – even without changing the territory’s legal designation, a task which falls within the purview of the bilateral political negotiations. This was already discussed between the parties and Israel recently announced initial steps in this direction. Israel has also allowed the PA’s police forces to function in Palestinian population centres in Area C and could further expand this.

Palestinian governance – Hand in hand with enhancing the PA’s economic capacity, the international community should pay much greater attention to Palestinian governance. Particular focus should be paid to encouraging a smooth transition to a post-Abu Mazen era, with an eye to preventing it from being chaotic and endangering the stability of the PA.

Establishing a long-term ceasefire in Gaza – Based on the deterrence achieved in the last round of armed conflict in Gaza (2014) Israel should try to achieve a long-term ceasefire arrangement with Hamas in Gaza, involving the PA with an active role in Gaza.

Greater investment in the regional dimension –conditions are now ripe for working together with major Arab countries in order to generate progress between Israelis and Palestinians. Egypt is ready to sponsor such a move. To facilitate such a regional process, Israel has to relate positively to the Arab Peace Initiative, which it has begun to do. Moreover, both Egypt and Jordan could definitely play a role in the security arrangements in Gaza and the West Bank respectively.

While pushing the parties to negotiate currently serves little purpose, creating a political horizon is crucial and should not be neglected. Based on Herzog’s experience, the initial focus should be on defined parameters for negotiating and resolving the core issues that separate the parties. Israelis and Palestinians failed to achieve this bilaterally and are unlikely to succeed in the foreseeable future. Ultimately out of all the existing initiatives currently on the table, the regional approach has the most potential. The parties should be willing to invest in it and the US and Europe should support it.

IPConf

My view

Michael Herzog’s view to solve Israeli-Palestinian conflict is vell based on his +20 years experience about negotiations between these to parties.  Also from my perspective a new framework is needed, even if some apparent negotiations start the outcome probably will be a placebo to status quo.  I also agree with establishing a long-term ceasefire in Gaza as well with  regional approach:  The best possibilities to develop negotiated peace process might be in a regional peace track proposed by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, in which Egypt would facilitate direct peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians as well as between Israel and its Arab neighbors.

Earlier I have referred two new leftist initiatives in my article Constructive Unilateralism: Leftist Approach to Israel-Palestine Conflict  – ‘it’s in our hands’ by Omer Bar-Lev, an MK for the Zionist Union and ‘Constructive unilateralism’ by Blue White Future, leftist think tank – which both in my opinion are steps forward and also to the right direction as well including required new roadmap for better future.

On January 2016, the leader of Israel’s opposition and head of the Zionist Union party Isaac Herzog, unveiled an alternative approach to the issue of Israel’s nearly 49-year old presence in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. The main point of Herzog’s plan is, that Israel will complete the security barrier around the major settlement blocs. “We will be here and you, Palestinians, will be there,” Herzog said. “Live your lives, improve your economy, create employment. The blocs under Israeli sovereignty will be part of the permanent solution. They will serve as recipients of settlers from outside the major blocs.” (more in Herzog’s Plan: Security Barrier Around the Major Settlement Blocs of West Bank )

Michael Herzog has doubts about removing settlements from West Bank behind the security barrier while Isaac Herzog and leftist initiatives see it necessary and I agree with them.

From Israeli side unilateral withdrawal and unilateral annexation are the main strategy options related to West Bank. I think that unilateral withdrawal is both feasible and doable; its main benefit might be that Israel can deside it individually.

Cold-Peace-Solution by Ari Rusila


My previous related articles:

Gaza Seaport – A Threat or Change

Israel’s 5 Strategy Options Regarding West Bank After Abbas

Constructive Unilateralism: Leftist Approach to Israel-Palestine Conflict

Herzog’s Plan: Security Barrier Around the Major Settlement Blocs of West Bank

Analysis: Resolving The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Gaza’s Tunnel War Continues On All Fronts

Sinai Option again

Hamas and Israel on Verge of the Deal

Gaza State Under Construction, West Bank Remains Bystander

Gaza Blockade – It’s Egypt not Israel!

Israeli-Palestinian conflict roadmaps to peace


UNESCO: The Temple Mount Is Sacred Only To Muslims

October 21, 2016

img585890BICOM reports that the executive board of UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation) officially on 18th Oct. 2016 approved a controversial motion which  failed to recognise any Jewish connection to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The executive board ratified the resolution, which was approved last Thursday by member states in Paris. The vote was 24 in favor (including Iran and Sudan), 6 against (including USA, UK, Germany, Netherlands), 26 abstaining, and 2 absent.

The original resolution, which six countries including the UK opposed, was submitted by the Palestinian delegation with the support of Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar and Sudan. It alleges “Israeli escalating aggressions and illegal measures… against the freedom of worship and Muslims’ access to their Holy Site Al-Aqsa Mosque/Al-Haram Al Sharif”.

Although the motion acknowledges that Jerusalem is holy to the three monotheistic religions, the section dealing specifically with the Temple Mount says the site is sacred only to Muslims, failing to acknowledge its significance to Jews. It refers to the Western Wall, the world’s most significant Jewish prayer site, by the Arabic term Buraq Plaza, while quotation marks pointedly accompany the phrase “Western Wall”, the Jewish name for the site.

Following Thursday’s vote, the motion was condemned by leaders across Israel’s political spectrum, who often accuse the UN of an institutional bias against Israel. The Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova also signalled her disappointment at Thursday’s vote, saying: “The heritage of Jerusalem is indivisible, and each of its communities has a right to the explicit recognition of their history.”

Israel’s Ambassador to UNESCO Carmel Shama-Hacohen said: “We have moved forward a step-and-a-half toward dismantling the automatic majority that the Palestinians and the Arab states have against Israel.”

nimeton-105UN Watch is a non-governmental organization based in Geneva whose mandate is to monitor the performance of the United Nations by the yardstick of its own Charter. UN Watch condemned UNESCO’s “historical revisionism” which erases Jewish and Christian ties to Jerusalem and casts doubt on the connection between Judaism and the ancient city’s Temple Mount and Western Wall. At the same time, UN Watch said the inflammatory text’s failure to obtain a majority was a moral victory. The amount of countries abstaining increased by seven from the 17 who supported a similar text in April, with France, India, Argentina, Spain, Sweden, Sri Lanka, Guinea and Togo shifting their votes from yes to abstain.

 

The resolution

The resolution was drafted by the Palestinians but officially submitted by Sudan’s genocidal regime together with human rights abusers Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, and Qatar.

Notable features of the text according UN Watch :

  • The resolution “decries,” “condemns,” “deplores” and “deprecates” a long list of alleged Israeli infringements of Palestinian rights. The text calls Israel “the Occupying Power.”

  • The text omits any mention of the hundreds of violent Palestinian attacks against Jews in Jerusalem, organized Palestinian attempts to terrorize Jews visiting Jewish holy sites in the city, or incitement to such attacks by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas

  • The decision “strongly condemns” the alleged “escalating Israeli aggressions and illegal measures” against “the freedom of worship and Muslims’ access to their Holy Site Al-Aqṣa Mosque/Al-Ḥaram Al-Sharif”

  • The text “firmly deplores” the “continuous storming of Al-Aqṣa Mosque/Al-Ḥaram Al-Sharif by Israeli right-wing extremists and uniformed forces,” and calls on Israel to stop “provocative abuses”malaysia

  • The resolution refers to the Temple Mount only with the Islamic and Arabic names of “Al-Aqsa Mosque/Al-Haram Al-Sharif.”

  • The Western Wall is described using scare quotes as “Western Wall Plaza”, to denote disbelief (Arts.16, 18); other Israeli sites are described as the “so called Liba” and “so called Kedem Center.” (Art. 16)

  • The resolution describes the sacred Jewish sites of the Tomb of Rachel in Bethlehem and Hebron’s Tomb of the Patriarchs (revered as the burial place of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) as “two Palestinian sites.” The text “deeply regrets” Israel’s refusal to remove these sites from its national heritage list.

  • The resolution removes the April text’s wild conspiracy charge that Israel was “planting Jewish fake graves” (Art. 14 of April 2016 resolution) in Muslim cemeteries.

  • A major story today is the decision of France to abstain. With UNESCO based in Paris, the French government’s strategy has traditionally been to distinguish itself as a leading figure in the Arab-led anti-Israel bloc. In 2011, France aggressively lobbied against the U.S. and Israel for UNESCO to admit “Palestine” as a member, a catastrophic decision that crippled UNESCO’s finances as Washington cut funding. In 2012, French voting was more anti-Israel than even the regimes of Syria, Russia and Venezuela. It would seem, however, that the outrage generated from its April support for such a rabid text prompted French leaders to express regret, influencing today’s policy virage.

 

“It was a victory for terrorism.”

Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, on the #UNESCO #Jerusalem vote | TV interview on i24News:

and more

 

UN bias

“The Arab States do not want to solve the refugee problem. They want to keep it as an open sore, as an affront to the United Nations and as a weapon against Israel. Arab leaders don’t give a damn whether the refugees live or die.” – Alexander Galloway, director of UNRWA in Jordan, 1952

Unfortunately UNESCO is only the latest example about UN bias against Israel. Despite being the only democracy in the Middle East, Israel routinely faces more criticism and condemnation at the United Nations than any other country, including those that systematically kill their citizens or deny them the most basic of human rights. Even today, both the General Assembly and Security Council continue to pass one-sided resolutions that single out and condemn the Jewish State. Additionally, an overwhelmingly powerful bloc led by the Arab nations promotes a narrow and slanderous agenda meant to isolate Israel that has met little resistance.

emergencyssxfoiIsrael was the only country in the world singled out as a violator of “health rights” during the UN World Health Organization’s (WHO) annual assembly in May 2015. Although Israeli hospitals provide health care for injured Syrians and Palestinians daily, the WHO decided to turn a blind eye to health crises in Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Libya, or North Korea, and instead single out Israel as a major violator of health rights.

The UNHRC (UN Human rights agency) closed their month-long session on March 24, 2016, by proclaiming Israel the most egregious violator of human rights in the world: issuing five council resolutions on Israel and only one each on the human rights situations in Syria, North Korea, and Iran. Frequent human rights violators such as Saudi Arabia and China were not mentioned in a single resolution. The most egregious example of anti-Israel bias at the UNHRC is the yearly discussion of agenda item 7. Agenda item 7 mandates that at each UNHRC session, Israel’s record of human rights must be debated. No other country in the world has a yearly reoccuring agenda item dedicated to it.

The best example about UN bias might be UNRWA;  some background about this in appendix below.

In his speech to open the 61st General Assembly of the United Nations in September 2006, then-Secretary General Kofi Anan admitted that Israel is often unfairly judged by the international body and its various organizations. “On one side, supporters of Israel feel that it is harshly judged by standards that are not applied to its enemies,” Annan said. “And too often this is true, particularly in some UN bodies.” (Source: Jewish Virtual Library )

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Appendix: UNRWA – the never-ending mission

 

At least two aspects explain why there are still Palestinian refugees after more than six decades:

  • First is Arab leaders’ recalcitrance to accept their brethren and refusing to absorb the Palestinian refugees.
  • Second the United Nations created a separate agency – UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) – with unique principles and criteria.

Between 1930 to today, we probably have 60 million+ people around the world that have seen forced transfer from their homes as a result of conflict, many of these at the hands of terribly egregious aggressors. One agency, the UNHCR (UN Refugee Agency) has handled nearly all of these refugees. Its goal is to as quickly as possible resettle these refugees in new places, and move on to the next disaster unfolding.

IsrRef912a__md07b28b

Related to the Israeli-Arab conflict. Between 1948 and 1967, some 800,000 Palestinian Arabs displaced and 800,000 Jews displaced out of Arab countries. From the start, the Palestinians were dealt with differently than all other refugees. While all others came under the administration of a series of global organizations that eventually became the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the Palestinians received their own relief organization: the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA). The entire set of criteria for qualifying as a Palestinian refugee was (and still is) significantly different than the criteria applicable to all others. While the UNHCR worked to provide durable solutions for refugees under its administration, Arab leaders intentionally kept the Palestinians in stateless limbo by refusing to accept any solution that did not involve than the complete destruction of the State of Israel.

According UNRWA criteria the refugee status is given not only to the original refugees whose normal place of residence was Palestine between June 1946 and May 1948, who lost their homes as a result of the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict AND their descendants in the male line. So it isn’t just the first generation that is entitled to this aid, as is the norm for all other refugees the United Nations helps, now the fifth generation is also entitled.

In 2014, the U.S. State Department gave UNRWA $400 million, the European Union gave $139 million, and the United Kingdom gave $95 million. The agency’s teachers, principals and other staff are spreading racial hatred, anti-Semitism and support for terrorism, as documented in three recent reports by UN Watch, the latest on Nov. 30, 2015, which have identified more than 30 individual perpetrators. While UNRWA claims to have temporarily suspended employees — whom it refuses to name — minimal accountability requires that those who poison the minds of children be permanently removed from their posts. UNRWA has also failed to even condemn any of the perpetrators, and has been completely silent on the matter in its media statements and on its website.

Although UNRWA was established in 1948 as a temporary institution, more than six decades on it still exists, larger than eve. Indeed UNRWA is now the UN’s largest entity with over 30,000 employees, it makes UNRWA “too big to fail,”. Through November 2003, 101 of the 681 UN resolutions on the Middle East conflict referred directly to Palestinian refugees. Not one mentioned the Jewish refugees from Arab countries.

One motivation to agency’s refugee definations might be economic aspect. An article ”Palestinians Refugees Forever” in Haaretz gives following background:

UNRWA states that the Palestinians are occupied – indefinitely. UNRWA has financial and political interests in maintaining this fiction: as long as the Palestinians are refugees, UNRWA is in business. Of the 30,000 people that UNRWA employs, the vast majority are Palestinian: UNRWA is the largest single employer of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank. Contrast this to the UN High Commission for Refugees, that only employs 5-6,000 people globally, and which focuses far more clearly on resettlement and rehabilitation of refugees and building new lives, and not on maintaining services that prop up the status quo. (Source Haaretz )

coexist


Israel vs Palestine – Selected Videos

September 23, 2016

Here is a collection of videos related to Israel-Palestine conflict, from short clips to movie length documentaries. At the end of this selection one can find videos related to Israel history and some highlights of Israeli defence.







Movie length:




Israel



Special features





and

TOP 10 most powerful weapons of the Israel military


Resetting Russian-Turkish Energy Relations

September 14, 2016

2016-02-18-17-22-21thediplomatAnkara’s tensions with Moscow in the aftermath of the downing of a Russian fighter jet on 24 November 2015 close to Turkish borders could very well influence whether the two countries further pursue the building of TurkStream [Turkish Stream aka ex-South Stream] or not, however from brink of the war, now it seems that the both parties have an interest to reset relationship.

According Natural Gas World magazine Turkey has awarded Russian gas exporter Gazprom the first permits it requires for the development of the 31.5bn m³/yr Turkish Streamgas pipeline via Turkey. According to the statement 7th Sep. 2016 Gazprom has received the permits “through appropriate diplomatic channels” following a meeting last week between Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller and Turkish energy minister Berat Albayrak. Gazprom referred to the meeting as having seen the two sides reach an agreement to finalise quickly all the necessary procedures for initiating the project and quoted Miller as stating: “The issuance of first permits is good news for Gazprom. This move of the Turkish side reflects the interest of Turkey’s government in the Turkish Stream project and marks the transition to its practical implementation,” Gazprom said.

Last year Gazprom completed an environmental impact assessment (EIA) report for the offshore and landfall sections of the new TurkStream project which was submitted to Turkey’s environment ministry for vetting. No EIA report has yet been submitted for the overland section of the line owing to a succession of bureaucratic and political delays, stemming from the need for the two countries to conclude an intergovernmental agreement for the line before they finalise the overland route. Turkish media reported recently that Gazprom has started surveying land in Thrace.
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TurkStream as a non-Western version of the ‘Southern Corridor’ is taking shape in EU/Eurasian energy game and this new arrangement has the potential to reshape the geopolitics of the entire Eastern Hemisphere. Russia’s trade with Turkey involves the sale of Russian gas and investment in Turkish nuclear facilities. Limiting either of these would hurt Russia as much as Turkey. Both countries have a history of solve these types of crises, especially when it comes to economic issues. For example during the Crimea crisis, Ankara had expressed its worries about the Crimean Tatars, but the issue was not obstacle to begin negotiations with Russia for TurkStream.

Reuters reported that Russia plans to sign an agreement with Turkey next month on the implementation of the TurkStream gas export pipeline project, Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak was quoted as saying on 10th Sep. 2016: “The inter-governmental agreement and road map are currently being reconciled, the process of agreeing on the final text is underway. We plan to proceed to the signing in October,” Novak said.

 

Gas, nuclear etc. business

Turkey is the biggest customer of OAO Gazprom–Russia’s state owned gas monopoly–after Germany, and more than 50% of Turkey’s electricity production is dependent on imported Russian natural gas. Additionally, the two countries have shared intentions to build a new pipeline–the Turkish Stream pipeline, which Moscow wants to build to deliver gas to Europe, bypassing Ukraine–after Russian President Vladimir Putin shelved the South Stream Pipeline last December [2015].

Turkey buys close to 30 bcm of gas from Russia each year, and this year Gazprom can expect to secure around $9 billion from its sales to Turkey. Natural gas projects are not the only energy projects as currently, Russia’s state-owned nuclear energy company OAO Rosatom is building a four-reactor nuclear power plant project reactor inside Turkish territory at Akkuyu, in the Turkish Province of Mersin, now scheduled for 2019. Rosatom has already spent some $3bn on developing the $22 bn project and also needs the project as reference.

Moscow has spent some $2 for the pipes originally ordered for the South Stream project that Turkish Stream replaced. Some $8-10 bn is still needed on delivering the 900-km pipe and its 180-km onward extension to Turkey’s border with Greece. However delay might be wise now during low gas prices and uncertainties as to how Turkish Stream would actually be able to deliver gas to mainstream European customers beyond Turkey.

From the Russian point of view, rapprochement with Turkey anchored on deepening economic cooperation – over TurkStream, $20 billion Russian nuclear plant, tourism, etc. – not only promotes mutually beneficial business ties but also creates powerful interest groups in Turkey who are stakeholders in the strategic ties with Russia. (Turkish business groups played an influential role to encourage Erdogan’s reconciliation with Putin.)

On the other hand, Erdogan’s political agenda is also critically dependent on continued success in delivering on a buoyant economy. The Turkish people experienced a level of prosperity during his rule that they never knew before, which explains the 52% mandate they gave him in the last election.

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Wider context and Tesla

Russian President Vladimir Putin said earlier that his country plans to increase its natural gas output over the coming decades while also aiming for a 13% share of the global LNG market. “Russia has made huge investments in exploration, refining, and transportation of gas and holds a great share of supplying security. The country plans to increase its output to 855 billion cubic metres per year by 2035,” he said, adding that Russia plans to export 128 billion cubic metres per year of gas to Asia in future.

From the perspective of European Union the Projects of Common Interest (PCI) as envisaged by the European Commission in Brussels, clearly aim to interconnect the Balkans and the surrounding regions to facilitate the emergence of hubs and new transit routes. One of the approved PCIs is the Tesla route, a pipeline that aims to connect Greece with Austria, traversing the ex-Yugoslav states and Hungary. The project is actually a spur of the TurkStream one that is planned to cross the Black Sea towards the European part of Turkey and then reach up to Northern Greece. Despite that, the TurkStream pipeline project has not been included as a PCI.

Ο Αγωγός Balkan StreamIt might be that Tesla has been included because it could serve as a possible link to the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP), rather than the Turkish Stream pipeline. However since TAP has been designed for smaller quantities of gas than those that would be needed if Tesla becomes an integral part of it, TAP’s business plan will have to change dramatically.

Tesla project is extremely important energy investment for the participating countries. The companies drafting the preparatory work, such as DESFA, FGSZ, GA-MA, and Srbijagas, have all been major clients of Russian giant Gazprom’s gas for decades, so the source of gas will be from Russia. The pipeline aims to terminate in the Baumgarten gas hub in Austria and it will have a reverse flow capacity, planned to be completed by 2019. Reverse flow is a major component in energy security considerations. One should take into account the Nord Stream-II pipeline, which aims to greatly increase direct gas supplies from Russia to Germany that could then, quite easily, flow to the Baumgarten hub.

 

Geopolitical trivia

One day after NATO preemptively reminded Turkey that it is still a NATO alliance member and advising Ankara that “Turkey’s NATO membership is not in question”, Turkey had some more choice words for its military allies. , Turkey foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told Turkish’s NTV television that the country “may seek other options outside NATO for defense industry cooperation, although its first option is always cooperation with its NATO allies.” (Cited by Reuters )

And more …

Turkey’s Gunes newspaper  reported that as part of the discussion between Putin and Erdogan on 9th Aug. 2016, the Turkish president suggested to abandon the US dollar in bilateral trade between Turkey and Russia, and instead to transact directly in lira and rubles. This would “benefit both Russia and Turkey”, Erdogan allegedly said, adding that this would relieve the lira from the USD’s upward pressure.

Conclusions

Relations between Turkey and Russia were normalized when President Recep Erdogan and President Vladimir Putin met in St. Petersburg on 9th August 2016. President Erdogan said at a joint news conference with President Putin that building the gas pipeline quickly was a priority. Relationships continued to develop further during their recent meeting in the G20 Summit in Hangzhou/China. The fresh impetus to bilateral relations and joint projects primarily relates to the construction of the TurkStream pipeline, which may become one of the key elements of a new gas pipeline infrastructure in Europe.

Today – unlike year ago – Turkey is interested in connecting to the pipeline to Southeast Europe; this change is reflected in Turkey’s desire to strengthen relations not just with Russia, but also Greece and other Balkan countries. Turkey is even prepared to make substantial financial concessions to Russia, including paying for half of the pipeline’s construction as President Erdoğan has suggested sharing the costs for the Turkish part of the project.

Athens is closely watching Russia-Turkey talks on a pipeline that will bring Russian gas to the Turkish border with Greece, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said Sunday 10th September 2016: ”We are closely watching negotiations and on-again, off-again relations between Russia and Turkey. We are glad to see those ties mended,” Tsipras told reporters at the international fair in Thessaloniki. Meanwhile, Greece is preparing to make a case for another gas link to Russia before the European Commission in September.” Greece hopes to begin talks with the European Commission next week on the construction of the South European Pipeline that would deliver Russian gas to Europe, Greek Energy Minister Panos Skourletis said Sunday.

In Balkans Moscow’s object of focus is the Central Balkans of Republika Srpska, Serbia, and the Republic of Macedonia, with the latter two envisioned to serve as the crucial transit states for the Tesla pipeline. Russia’s relations with Greece are already very friendly, though the present relationship owes itself more to Athens’ desire for economically reliable partners.

On the other hand US and EU Diplomacy are alarmed by the new developments that occur in the triangle between Russia-Greece-Turkey with the notable inclusion in it of European companies. The Turkish-Russian rapprochement might open the door to more exports of Russian gas to Europe, whereas EU (and US) would hope to reduce heavy dependence on Russian supplies. In addition TurkStream will kill EU’s trans-Caspian pipeline projects bypassing Russia, diminishes Russia’s dependence on Ukraine as transit country for gas exports to Europe and all this instead of European market sourcing non-Russian energy, such as increased LNG supplies from the US.

Turkey and Russia have shared interests in the geopolitical space surrounding the two countries. On the one hand, Turkey’s cooperation is crucial to Russian efforts to stabilize the Syrian situation while on the other hand TurkStream cements the EU market on a long-term footing for Russian energy exports.

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2nd Lebanon War – Lessons Learned

August 5, 2016

Nimetön (103)A decade has passed since the Second Lebanon War in 2006. This time interval makes it possible to analyze the lessons learned of that war.

Israel government’s failure to achieve its self-declared war aims, the relatively high Israeli death toll – 120 Israeli soldiers and 43 civilians – and the heavy impact of Hezbollah rocket fire on the civilian population in Northern Israel, shocked and angered the Israeli public. Meanwhile Israel faced international condemnation, accused of using ‘disproportionate’ force in its military operations in Lebanon. With many Israelis demanding the resignation of the prime minister, defence minister and IDF chief of staff, the government set up a commission of inquiry chaired by retired judge Eliyahu Winograd.

 

2nd Lebanon War

The Lebanon and Israel War went from the 12th July 2006 to 14th August 2006. It was a 34 day military conflict in Lebanon and northern Israel. The principal parties were the Israeli military and Hezbollah paramilitary. Hezbollah was responsible for a raid in 2006 on a border post in Northern Israel in which two Israeli soldiers were taken captive. The abductions sparked an Israeli military campaign against Lebanon to which Hezbollah responded by firing rockets across the Lebanese border into Israel.

On the morning of July 12, 2006, two Israeli soldiers were kidnapped and eight others killed when Hezbollah fighters carried out a surprise cross-border raid, thus effectively ending the sixyear period of relative quiet that had existed along the Israel-Lebanon border following the unilateral withdrawal of the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) from Lebanon in May 2000.

What later became known as the Second Lebanon War ended 34 days later on August 14th 2006, when the United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1701 – which called for the disarming of Hezbollah, the withdrawal of its troops from the border with Israel and the deployment of the Lebanese Army in the southern part of the state – went into effect.

Lebanon[1]

The Winograd Commission

The Winograd Commission’s final report [over 600 pages in Hebrew, cfr summary in English] on the government’s handling of the Second Lebanon War referred to it as “a great and grave missed opportunity” with its harshest criticism aimed at the military and political leadership. In particular, the commission found “serious failings and flaws in the quality of preparedness, decision-making and performance in the IDF high command… [and] serious failings and flaws in the lack of strategic thinking and planning, in both the political and military echelons,” noting that the “inadequacies of preparedness and strategic and operative planning go back long before” the war. Among its many criticisms, the commission found that the cabinet had failed to formulate clear objectives and policy options.

Based on an extensive range of documents and testimonies, the most prominent of which was the report issued by the Winograd Commission, Israel’s objectives for the operation may be summed up as follows: to bring about a change in the security situation and lift the terrorist threat imposed by Hezbollah out of Lebanon on the State of Israel by devising new rules and changing the balance of deterrence vis-à-vis Hezbollah; to restrict Hezbollah’s freedom of operation, to inflict a substantial blow to its capabilities and status; to enhance (Israel’s) regional deterrence by demonstrating the price of aggression against Israel; to motivate Lebanon to apply its sovereignty in its entire territory and impose restrictions on Hezbollah, including the removal of Hezbollah’s posts along the border followed by the Lebanese Army deploying in southern Lebanon; to call in international involvement in order to enforce the relevant UN resolutions and the ceasefire mechanism (based on UN Resolution 1559) and finally – to create the conditions for the return of the abducted soldiers.

Several constraints and restrictive conditions were specified for the operation, notably: keeping casualties among the combat elements to an absolute minimum; avoiding a large-scale war in Lebanon, particularly against Syria; no Israeli presence to remain in Lebanon after the end of the confrontation; maintaining Israel’s international legitimacy and maintaining the legitimacy of the operation among the Israeli public.

The aspect of combined-arms operations and interoperability turned out to be one of the primary failures in the employment of force during this operation. Prior to the operation, IAF had not attended any in-depth brainstorming and planning sessions with the General Staff or IDF Northern Command. During the operation in Lebanon, each arm executed its missions almost independently. The missions had been planned separately and the options for combined-arms operations involving a supporting element and an element being supported were hardly utilized.

One of the mission categories that had not been planned and was not sufficiently pursued is target acquisition and “hunting” during the actual combat operations, despite the fact that at the end of the fighting, this mission category recorded a high level of achievement relative to the expectations. The factor that made a decisive contribution to the successful execution of this mission category was the massive employment of the IAF’s UAV layout. [Source: Israel Defense ]

The intelligence aspect

old Aman logoThe crux role of intelligence was evident with sc “Night of the Fajr Rockets” and the success of Operation Specific Gravity in which IAF destroyed dozens of Fajr medium-range rocket launchers. These rockets had been concealed in houses and were a part of one of Hezbollah’s top secret projects. The successful elimination of those rocket launchers was made possible by exceptional intelligence achievements and deep penetration. This accomplishment led to distress among the ranks of Hezbollah, as thorough backtracking and self-examination were required in order to attempt and understand how Israeli intelligence had managed to penetrate to such depths.

According Israel Defense one of the members of the Winograd Commission stated: “The problem with the War did not concern the intelligence aspect.” This is a substantial statement, as the intelligence balance during the Second Lebanon War was indeed mixed and complex and could not be defined in terms of success or failure, but rather as a collection of numerous failures in various activities alongside significant success stories. To make things even more complex, gaps and even tensions and differences between some intelligence elements and senior officers of the IDF General Staff were clearly evident.

The report refers to two distinct periods: the intelligence preparations between the year 2000 and the outbreak of the War, and the performance of the military intelligence during the war. With regard to the aspect of “Operational Intelligence” (strategic intelligence) as per the Commission’s definition, “The accomplishments of the intelligence analysis activity at the General Staff and Northern Command in the period prior to the war were substantial.” Referring to the interface between the intelligence and the political-defense echelon and the decision-making process during the War, the Commission had some criticism that referred mainly to the gap between the potential and the actual ability of the intelligence to influence the decision makers and the actual occurrences: “Apparently, one area where the intelligence community had a more substantial ability to influence the War was in the context of the decision-making process on July 12 and the first few days thereafter, including the first few days of the War. This time, more than at any other time, when the professional echelons of the IDF Intelligence Directorate had the key to cracking the enemy’s riddle, they failed to exploit it opposite the military and political leaders. While the intelligence concept was generally correct, failures occurred in the process of submitting it to the leaders.”

In this context, Major (res.) Amir Dahan, a judge in civilian life as well as in IDF and a deputy commander of a reconnaissance intelligence company in his secondary capacity, stated in an article he published in the periodical “Ma’arachot” after the War, that one phenomenon encountered again during the War involved the fact that excellent had been available at the brigade and battalion level, but that intelligence almost never reached the company and platoon level and the individual troopers, and the intelligence that they did receive was faulty. [Source:  Israel Defense ]

 

The outcome 10 years after

Nimetön (102)According a fresh BICOM Strategic Assessment the lessons learned since 2nd Lebanon War are following:

 

On the eve of the tenth anniversary of the Second Lebanon War, a future war with Hezbollah is considered the most threatening scenario for the IDF due to the organisation’s significant military capability.

In light of the failure of an ‘enhanced’ UN force to prevent Hezbollah rearming, Israel is sceptical of relying on international forces to defend its borders, a policy that has consequences for the security component of negotiations over the establishment of a Palestinian state.

The IDF’s new security doctrine reflects a focus on non-state actors and asymmetric warfare, and establishes new military and strategic approaches as well as redefined standards of what victory means. IDF’s

Israel’s political leadership has failed to fully implement recommendations for improving the national security decision-making process that were exposed during the war.

 

Israel’s security doctrine was altered by the Second Lebanon War

Since its establishment in 1948, Israel’s security doctrine has been based on three strategic pillars, often referred to as the three “D’s” – deterrence, early detection, and the decisive defeat of the enemy (military decision).

Yet the 2006 Lebanon War marked a turning point in Israel’s strategic priorities, with the threat of engaging in armed conflict with conventional armies shifting. Instead, Israel’s military and political leadership were forced to grapple with developing a response to asymmetric conflicts against actors who, while being non-states, possessed the military capacity and strength akin to regular armed forces, and had no ‘political address’ with whom to engage in postwar diplomacy. Moreover, Israel’s inability to militarily defeat these non-state actors enabled them to capitalise on a narrative that they won the war, as Hezbollah claimed in 2006. In light of the Second Lebanon War, two of the classic pillars of Israel’s traditional security concept – deterrence and decisive victory, both of which were further challenged in subsequent conflicts in Gaza – underwent a radical transformation.

Israel military doctrine

New national security strategy

The IDF has learned from its failures in the Second Lebanon War and from subsequent wars between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. The Israel Defense Force (IDF) Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot published on 13th August 2015 a document outlining IDF strategy, including the threats facing Israel and plans to combat them. This is first time- in 60 years – since 1950s when Israeli PM David Ben-Gurion accepted military defense strategy of Israel.

The document highlights major changes in Israel’s strategic landscape, noting that the main threat confronting Israel today is from violent and wellarmed non-state organisations such as Hamas and Hezbollah, which have forced Israel into five instances of armed conflict in the past ten years (including Operation Summer Rains in Gaza in June 2006).

The document details what can be expected from the IDF during three types of situations: Routine time, emergency situations and wartime. Based on this division, conflicts like Operation Protective Edge and Operation Pillar of Defense are considered confrontations limited in their scope and are therefore define as “emergency,” rather than “war.” This means these confrontations were meant to bring Israel “back to a situation of calm, without striving for an immediate strategic change,” so the IDF cannot be expected to bring down the Hamas regime in Gaza in such a military campaign, unless the political leadership tells it otherwise.

Responding to the challenge posed to Israel’s security by these hybrid actors, the doctrine updates one of the three D’s, “deterrence” – a central pillar of Israel’s security doctrine – clarifying the IDF’s role in developing a means for prolonging the period between wars. Moreover, the strategy redefines the concept of “military decision”, tying it to “achieving the political goals set for the campaign, leading to a postwar improved security situation”. This reflects an acknowledgment that in asymmetric conflict, conclusive defeat or surrender of the enemy should not typically be the expected outcome. The strategy also emphasises the importance of international media, humanitarian concerns and international legitimacy as relevant to the IDF’s ability to fight.

Eisenkot’s strategy confirms the addition of a fourth “D” – “defence” – to Israel’s core security pillars: “defence” – described as preparing the military and the public for steps the army will take to address threats on Israeli soil – constitutes a crucial addition, especially as the increasing rocket arsenals and the evolving subterranean threat along both the Israel-Lebanon and the Israel-Gaza borders has increased the likelihood that the next war will impact the home front in unprecedented ways.

The definition of the “enemy” has also been altered. As the threat of an all-out war against another state or several other states is on the decline, the document redefines the main threat as coming from military organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah or terror organizations that are not affiliated with any one country, like global jihad and the Islamic State.

idflogoMore in New Israel Military Strategy and in related materials – A previous outside analysis about Israeli military doctrine: Israel’s Strategic Doctrine – RAND Corporation and IDF’s public resume about previous military doctrine: IDF Doctrine

 

IDF ready but political leadership not

Besides new strategy the core element of Israel defense is its advanced missile defense system. The Israeli defense establishment has designed a multilayered system that will allow the Jewish state to respond to simultaneous attacks from multiple fronts — the relatively crude homemade rockets lobbed by Hamas from the Gaza Strip, the midrange rockets and missiles fired by the Shiite militants of Hezbollah from Lebanon, and the long-range ballistic missiles being developed by Iran that could carry conventional or chemical warheads. (More in Now Israel Has The Most Advanced Missile Defense System In The World )

Israel missile defence By Ari Rusila figure

However – according BICOM Strategic Assessment – the army’s preparedness for the next war stands in stark contrast to that of the political leadership. The adoption of the new IDF strategy is notable in that its existence follows years of failed attempts by the political leadership to formulate a written national security doctrine. While Israel is often lauded for its tactical proficiency, it is frequently chastised both by domestic commissions of inquiry and policy analysts for its decision-making process as well as lack of long-term planning and clear strategic agenda.

 

The failure of third parties to enforce political solutions to asymmetric threats

The key provisions of UNSCR 1701 called for the disarmament of all armed groups in Lebanon, ensuring that there would be “no weapons or authority in Lebanon other than that of the Lebanese state”. The resolution also enhanced the mandate for the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL II), which would now allow for UNIFIL troops to, among other things, accompany and support the Lebanese army (LAF) as they deployed throughout south Lebanon as the IDF withdrew, and to assist the LAF with ensuring that it served as the only armed presence in southern Lebanon.

However UNIFIL and the LAF have failed to live up to expectations as demonstrated by Hezbollah’s significantly increased military strength. This situation, as well as the international community’s failure to successfully pressure Hamas to demilitarise in Gaza, offers a lesson. While international actors are increasingly needed as interlocutors to end asymmetric conflicts against non-state actors, they are rarely strong enough to help Israel achieve its political objectives vis-à-vis these groups.

Israel’s negative experience with the efficacy of international forces also ties in to the government’s opposition to an international presence along the Jordan Valley in the context of a future peace agreement with the Palestinians. The feeling that the best guarantor of Israel’s security is Israel itself – a long held belief by the framers of Israel’s security concept – is perceived as being validated by the UNIFIL experience. [Source: BICOM Strategic Assessment ]

 

Hezbollah now stronger than ever – despite Syria

Hezbollah has effectively utilised the “quiet” to prepare for its next confrontation with Israel, continuing to expand its arsenal in flagrant violation of UNSCR 1701. Despite the resolution’s changes to UNIFIL’s mandate, Hezbollah now has over 100,000 missiles – thousands of which have a range and accuracy to strike cities and strategic sites throughout Israel. The organisation has also built extensive new infrastructure – further embedding it into communities and the terrain in southern Lebanon. Rumours abound that Hezbollah has constructed a network of tunnels that extend under the border into northern Israel that would be utilised by fighters in the next war.

However the on-going fighting in Syria and high rate of casualties reduces the chance that Hezbollah will look to open a second front with Israel in the near term. On the other hand there is a concern in Israel that the combat experience gained in the Syrian war will render the next Israel-Hezbollah war more challenging for the IDF.

Israel Defense :

A future war between Israel and Hezbollah would likely be devastating with Hezbollah estimated to possess over 100,000 rockets – many of which are hidden amongst the civilian population of South Lebanon – thousands of which have a range and accuracy to strike cities and strategic sites throughout Israel. In February 2016, Hezbollah General Secretary Hassan Nasrallah threatened to attack Israel’s ammonia factory in Haifa, warning that the damage caused would be the equivalent of a nuclear bomb.

Hezbollah’s sophisticated military capacity poses grave policy dilemmas for Israel, with the IDF preparing both defensive means – such as multitiered anti-missile technology – and offensive air and ground tactics to prevent or limit thousands of missiles from hitting civilian and strategic targets.

 

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Bottom line

Israel’s northern border has been quiet since the Second Lebanon War, however Israel – after lessons learned – is prepared for 3rd round with Hezbollah, even if unlikely in the foreseeable future. Similar to 2006, the situation remains delicate, and continued risk exists of a miscalculation that may drag the parties back into another round of fighting. Now a future conflict with Hezbollah is considered one of the most threatening scenario for the IDF due to the organisation’s significant military capability.

The IDF’s new strategy for confronting non-state actors, accepts that there is no military operation that can entirely eliminate the threat posed by groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas. BICOM Strategic Assessment concludes that the lack of a strong political address in Beirut (and Gaza) – as well as the relative weakness of the UN and other third parties – renders unlikely the possibility that Israel will achieve a decisive military victory in the traditional sense, and successfully transform its battlefield advantage into political gains.

In this context, as some experts have suggested, the best that can be hoped for is maintaining the status quo – predicated on mutual deterrence – while doing everything possible to prolong the periods between hostilities.

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