Disaster in Idlib

Powerful countries with autocratic rulers with military forces competing in small weak countries takes us back to the classic age of imperialism. But that is what is happening in Syria, where three former empires, Russia, Turkey and Iran are competing for influence and control. The situation has come to the point where soldiers on both sides are being killed, in other words, blood has been shed and warnings issued.  Six Turkish soldiers were killed and 20 Syrian Army soldiers.

The clashes are taking place in Syria’s north-western Idlib province that is the last region still in rebel hands, not “liberated” by the Syrian Army of the Assad regime, supported by his two allies Russia and Iran.  While Russia largely plays the role of air support, Iran uses its ground troops, the IRGC and Hezbollah, to support the military push.  But, Idlib abuts the Turkish border and this is where the Turkish Army has invaded and taken control of a swath of land along the border, to both expel the Kurdish forces that have been in control there for several years and also to establish a settlement area for the millions of Syrian refugees that are already in Turkey.  Pres. Erdogan has warned the Syrian and Russian forces not to enter his occupied area, and Pres. Putin has warned Erdogan not to interfere with the legitimate forces of the Syrian Government.  This spells a potential disaster with direct clashed between Turkish and Russia forces! 

Iran is playing a secondary role in this situation in Idlib.  But, many other countries and organizations are concerned, since there are supposed to be about another 1.5 million refugees displaced in Idlib, being mainly internally displaced refugees from other parts of the Syrian civil war who fled there.  Turkey will not allow the refugees to cross over its border.  But, in the south of Syria Iran is heavily involved in setting up facilities and weapons from which it hopes to attack Israel.  But, Israeli PM Netanyahu made an agreement with Putin that Israel will scrupulously avoid Russian forces, while hitting Iranian forces and facilities to prevent them establishing a foothold from which to attack Israel.  This is apparently acceptable to Putin since it keeps Iran under control while he doesn’t have to do anything.   

Netanyahu’s Trial After Election

The Jerusalem District Court announced today that the trial of PM Netanyahu on charges of corruption and breach of public trust will take place on March 17.  That is two weeks after the Israeli election that is scheduled for March 2.  This will be the third election in a row, because neither major party leader, Netanyahu of Likud nor Benny Gantz of Blue and White, could form a government after the previous two.  So now there are two questions, will either one be able to form a government this time, and if Netanyahu can, how will he be able to govern while on trial?

No-one wants another stalemate, but there is no indication that anyone is changing their voting preference because of Netanyahu’s indictment.  If his trial had started before the election that might have made a difference, some people would have chosen not to vote for Netanyahu since he was on trial, but with the trial after the election, that might make no difference.  It would be the first time that a PM could be in office while on trial!  Some people may find this difficult to understand, but most of Netanyahu’s supporters see the charges as both minor and politically motivated, and so will still vote for him in spite of the trial.

We should not confuse this situation with the impeachment trial of Pres. Trump in the US.  Here in Israel it is in effect an ordinary trial of an ordinary citizen, who happens at the same time to be Chair of a major political party and a former PM, if not the current PM if he can form a government after the election.  That requires a coalition with at least 61 seats out of the 120 in the Knesset. So far no-one has come out and said that either BiBi or Gantz can accomplish this.  There is the complication that Gantz might accept the informal support of the Arab Union Party that is expected to obtain 10-12 seats.  But, this support is anathema to all the truly Zionist parties, since the Arab Union Party is openly anti-Israel.  Some voters, even from the left, might be so disgusted with this ploy that they might in fact vote for Bibi to stop Gantz doing this.  We’ll only know the outcome after March 17.

The Middle East Triangle

Transcending all other aspects of politics and war in the Middle East stands the eternal triangle, Israel, Shia Iran and the Sunni Arab States (Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the Gulf States).  Before the Iranian revolution in 1979, the Sunni States were firmly supporting the Palestinians against Israel while Iran under the Shah was firmly pro-Western and friendly towards Israel.   But, once that revolution occurred and the clerical regime was established under Ayatollah Khomenei, the triangle began to change.

Part of his Shia revolution was that Khomenei made Shia Iran holier than the Pope, to use a parallel idiom.  He wanted Iran to take the lead in supporting the Palestinians and to become more anti-Israel than the Sunni States that had been fighting it until then. In Tehran buildings were plastered with the slogan “”The road to Jerusalem goes thru Baghdad.” The Iran-Iraq war followed in 1980, but although Iran sacrificed tens of thousands of young untrained soldiers, they could not reach Baghdad, and the war ended in stalemate in 1988.

Subsequently Iran managed to establish its arc of influence by co-opting Iraq’s Shia majority, Syria’s Alawi Assad regime, and Lebanon’s Shia Hezbollah and also starting to develop nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.  The Sunni State’s leaders realized that they were in much greater danger from Iran than from Israel.  Any possible solution to the Palestine conflict with Israel could in no way save them from the greater danger of resurgent Shia Iran.  The Sunni leaders began to realize that they and Israel were in the same boat, threatened with destruction by the Iranian regime.   They also could see the obvious, that if the USA under Obama or Trump would not come to their aid to fight Iran, they must make an alliance with the only other viable military power in the region, namely Israel.  The logic is unassailable.  Basic to this is the fundamental hatred between the Sunni and Shia sects of Islam, that each regards the other as heretical.  This has been going on since the inception of Islam and has a much greater hold on Sunni Muslims than their hatred of Jews.   

So the triangle has shifted,  now with Israel and the Sunnis having common interest in defeating Iran.  Also, Iran has its proxies in the Palestine conflict, including Hamas and Palestine Islamic Jihad, that are the enemies of Fatah and the Palestine Authority leadership as well as the other Sunnis.  How this will all play out is uncertain, but it is already transforming the basic situation in the Middle East. 

The Bloomberg Phenomenon

The dark horse in the race for the Democratic nomination is Michael Bloomberg. He is the dark horse because he has not participated in any primaries or debates, and so has no delegates and less facial recognition. But he has a lot of money, he is a multi-billionaire, with more money than Trump. And he has spent millions of dollars on advertising.

Bloomberg has a chance for the nomination because he is a moderate who has more possibility of beating Trump than Biden and the socialist candidate Bernie Sanders. Biden has dropped in the polls, not only because of his age and lack of charisma, but also because of the taint of corruption with his son Hunter when he was VP.  If he got the nomination this could come back to bite him. As for Sanders, he is the darling of the far left, an ideologue who has essentially no chance of defeating Trump.

It is ironical that the election might come down to two New York millionaires. And Bloomberg was a Republican longer than he has been a Democrat and Trump was not a Republican before he decided to run.  At least if Bloomberg does get the nomination, he might be able to clean the Augean Democratic stables and get rid of the crazy socialists Sanders and Warren, the deplorables Pelosi, Schiff and Nadel, as well as the squad of three Jew haters, Omer, Tlaib and Ocasio-Cortez.  That would indeed be a victory.

Abbas Tricks the UN

In his presentation to the UN Security Council about the Trump Peace Plan, Pres. Abbas held us a series of maps showing how much land the Palestinians have lost.   The first map was labelled “historic Palestine” and included all of what is now Israel and the Palestine Authority (the West Bank and Gaza). But, this was deliberately deceptive since historic Palestine as defined in the Mandate given by the League of Nations to Great Britain in 1922 included all of what is now the country of Jordan. This was decided at the San Remo conference after WWI, that has its centenary this year. There was no provision in the Mandate for an Arab State, it was supposed to be held by Great Britain temporarily and in its entirety until a Jewish Homeland could be formed. 

But, typically the British double-crossed the Jews in two ways.  First, they unilaterally gave all of Eastern Palestine to form the Arab country of Trans-Jordan to satisfy their commitments made during WWI to Emir Feisal of Arabia,  Second, in 1938 they published a Government decision in the form of a “White Paper” essentially reneging on their commitment and giving in to Arab demands to stop Jewish immigration, just at the time when it was crucially needed for Jewish refugees from the Holocaust in Europe during WWII.

If he had included the area of Jordan that was in historic Palestine, people would see that the Arabs received more than half of the area of historic Palestine and were now getting more in the form of Arab populated sections of Western Palestine.   Given the nature of the Palestine Authority established under the Oslo Accords, one can conclude that such a Palestinian State will be a corrupt, failed state dependent on donations and being a center for terrorism.  Would you like to live next to such an entity.  No, I thought not!


Virulent Anti-Israel Bias at UNHRC and ICC

One might expect that the UN Human Rights Council would concern itself with human rights, not so!  It spends most of its time conducting anti-Israel activities.  In its meetings three times a year it has a permanent agenda item which focuses on “the Occupied Palestinian territories.”  Those who think the Trump Peace Plan is biased should take note of the UNHRC.  It has now after three years published its “blacklist” of 112 companies or entities that do business with Israel in the West Bank settlements that will be boycotted.  This has been driven by the Commissioner of the UNHRC Michelle Bachelet, who has refused to meet with Israeli officials, and the Arab-Muslim axis.  Israel is the only country in the world whose activities have been categorized in this way.  None of the other countries, such as Syria (where at least 500,000 people have been killed), Iran, China, Turkey and so on, have been blacklisted in this way.

In response, Israel, like the US, has cut all ties with the UNHRC.  Its activities are based on the assumption, counter to the Trump Plan and recent findings, that the Settlements are illegal and therefore everything follows from that. This was the decision of one man who decided for the US State Department back in the 1960’s that the Israeli occupation of the West Bank was illegal.  It was not, since Israel was the sovereign inheritor of the British Mandate, that explicitly included these territories .  They were illegally conquered and occupied by Jordan from 1948-1967, when they were recaptured by Israel.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague has been investigating Israel and its leading soldiers for war crimes for some time under Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, a Muslim from The Gambia.  Soldiers who are part of an organized Army that carry out orders of the Government are not generally subjected to war crime trials, unless they carry out human rights violations or actual war crimes.  Bensouda has decided that any Israeli General is guilty of war crimes because the Israeli reaction to Palestinian terrorism is in itself illegal. In order to do this she recognized Palestine as a State, although this is against the UN position and contrary to international law. 

This is a standard not applied to any other country.  Think of the war crimes that have been committed in Syria, by the Assad Government and its Iranian and Russian allies, such as dropping barrel bombs on civilians and hospitals, and in Yemen and in Iraq and so on.  The ICC’s campaign against Israel shows rampant bias and prejudicial judgement that is applied only to Israel.

PS. In my previous blog “Swiss Cheese State,” I posted an earlier version by mistake instead of the later corrected version.  It should be noted that: The Romans conquered the Holy Land in 63 bce and the Turks in 1516 ce. The posted version is now corrected.

Swiss Cheese State?

In his presentation to the UN Security Council Pres. Abbas representing the Palestinian Arabs called the Palestinian State described in the Trump Peace Plan “like Swiss Cheese.” That is because it consists of several cantons, in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, where the Palestinian Arabs live. They lost the rest of what they call Palestine in wars that they and their Arab supporters initiated.

Also, since they refuse to have any Jews living in their putative State, the settlements of Jews on the West Bank cannot be included in their State, and neither do they want to be. Hence the Swiss cheese nature of their State. They should accept it, since its the best offer they are going to get.

Remember that an independent Israelite State on this land was conquered by the Romans in 63 bce, continued by the Greek Christian Byzantines, then by the Arabs in 679 ce, by the Ottoman Turks in 1516 ce and by the British in 1917 ce. All of these Empires were not indigenous to the area.  Now it is back in Israeli hands by reconquest and by right.  If Pres. Abbas doesn’t like Swiss cheeses let him eat fromage.