Unrest in the Arab World

Several large countries that consider themselves “Arab”, although ethnically they are not, are currently in various stages of political unrest.  This includes Algeria, a country of 41 million people (that is mainly Berber not Arab), Sudan, also 41 million (that calls itself Arab, but is in fact African), and Libya (7 million), that is in the violent final stages of chaos since the overthrow of dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011. 

In Algeria, the political turmoil is over the former President Bouteflika deciding to remain President for a fifth term.  The outpouring of millions of people forced the military to replace Bouteflika, but his replacement Bensalah is of course a former member of the regime.  So the demonstrations are continuing in order to try to force the Army to accept a civilian government.  These demonstrations are exactly parallel to those that took place in Egypt and lead tot he overthrow of Pres. Mubarak in the so-called “Arab Spring” in 2011.

At the same time, and certainly not by coincidence, the same scenario is playing itself out in Sudan .  The President Omar al Bashir, who has imposed a strict religious Sunni regime on Sudan and has exercised autocratic rule for 30 years, has finally been deposed by massive demonstrations of “people power.”  The Army have taken over and arrested Bashir (who himself was a general when he seized power in 1989), and has declared a two-year military rule.  Here also the demonstrations are continuing to prevent a mere continuation of the regime and the people demand a return to civilian rule.

I remember having a Sudanese friend in Cambridge when I was a graduate student.  He told me that  Israel could not last because it is an artificial state.  Now Israel has had another of many successive elections and is not only peaceful, but stable and affluent. By contrast, Sudan is in a terrible state, currently in chaos, the Christian/Pagan South has defected and formed its own State, South Sudan, because of the Islamic policies of Pres. Bashir, and the western region of Darfur has been embroiled in a war for many years, for which Bashir is wanted by the UN as a war criminal. Who was right?   

The demonstrations in Algeria and Sudan have so far been peaceful.  In Libya the situation is different because there are in fact two centers of power, Tripoli, the capital in the west, that contains the recognized civilian government, and Benghazi in the east. where the Libyan National Army under military commander Gen. Khalifa Haftar is based.  Currently this army is attacking Tripoli, but has been held up by fierce resistance with the assistance of the army of the city of Misrata, that is near Tripoli and which played a key role in the overthrow of Qaddafi.  Haftar is attempting to reinstall military control in Libya, and the civilian government with international support is resisting.  It appears that Haftar may be getting military support from Russia.  Libya is of course very rich in oil.

These manifestations of political unrest, military control and resort to violence are symptomatic of so-called Arab States.  What a pity they cannot get their act together and have civilian governments and civilized societies.

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Election Results

With ca. 97% of the votes counted, the outcome is not quite what it appeared to be in the exit poll projections.  Both major parties, Benny Gantz’ Blue-White Party and Netanyahu’s Likud are at 35 votes even. But, of the smaller parties reaching between 5-10 votes each, the majority are right-wing and will help Netanyahu to form a government with a coalition estimated at 66 votes.

So although both sides initially claimed victory, and in effect Gantz did very well as a newcomer to equal Netanyahu, and this tends to indicate some fatigue with Netanyahu and his indictments, nevertheless, when the chips are down, the rightward shift of the Israeli electorate once again gave Netanyahu a slim majority. Note that although some have called this a far-right coalition, it is really not much different than before, basically the country is split, with a slight tendency towards the right. Now President Reuven Rivlin must decide who to ask to form the Government on the basis of the final vote and the advice of the Party chiefs.

Some interesting results of the election, the Labour Party that was once the major party in Israel is now reduced to the status of a small party with one-digit representation, say 9 votes.  So the shift of their former voters to the center is clear.  The Arab Parties that had a strong coalition in the last election, were split in this election and so gained fewer seats, only ca. 6-9.  The small religious parties, Shas and United Torah Judaism, both gained 6-9 seats and are key to Netanyahu forming his coalition.  On the right, the New Right Party of Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked that was expected to do well, did not do so, and they might not be able to overcome the threshold to gain any seats.  But, the other small new right-wing party the Union of the Right-Wing may get 5-9 seats, aiding Netanyahu’s coalition.

It is reported that Netanyahu is already in negotiations to form his coalition, but things are not quite firmed yet, so there will be a short delay while the reality sinks in.  Gantz realizes he will be in the opposition, not what a former general likes.  And Netanyahu will probably be back in power for a record fifth time.  The more things change the more they are the same.

The Israeli Election

In most polls PM Netanyahu and his center-right Likud Party is running neck and neck with the Blue-White coalition party of former IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz and his partner Yair Lapid of the centrist Yesh Atid (There is a future) Party.  They are projected to win ca. 29-30 seats each in the Knesset at the election on April 9, with B&W slightly ahead.  But, overall the center right has more votes than the center left, due to coalition with many smaller parties, and so should be able to form the next government, aside from any external issues, such as Netanyahu being indicted for crimes such as corruption by the Israeli Attorney General.

However, Netanyahu injected a new and important issue into the campaign when he stated yesterday that if elected he will annex to Israel those parts of the West Bank in which Israelis have major settlements.  This statement is clearly designed to take votes away from the small far right parties.  I strongly approve of this policy, since in international law the only sovereign successor of the British Mandate, namely Israel, has the right to inherit all the Land previously occupied by the British.  Furthermore, this move should have been made years ago, and once done will preclude all spurious claims by Palestinian Arabs to a State in this area, thus resolving the dispute.   Where Israel has annexed previous Land in Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, these have become integral parts of the State of Israel, and this should be the case with areas of the West Bank (Judah and Shomron) that are inhabited by Israelis.  These areas were assigned to Israeli control under the Oslo Accords agreed with the Palestinians in 1993/5.  This will presumably exclude the areas of the 7 cities of the Palestine Authority where ca. 99% of the West Bank Arab population in fact live.

It will be very interesting to see how this new election promise will affect the polling results.  Netanyahu is the only capable Israeli leader who could carry through this new policy.  It is somewhat akin to the promise by Pres. Trump to build a Wall along the Mexican border, not many politicians could have carried this through and it certainly garnered him many votes.  I see the two issues as parallel significant crises for the two countries, the immigration of illegal Mexicans into the US and the control by violent Palestinian factions of areas adjacent to major Israeli settlements.  By taking decisive action these leaders both represent and lead public opinion on these critical issues.

Shattering Illusions: Israel and the Dramatic Changes in the Middle East

The dramatic changes that have been occurring in the Middle East have exposed many firmly held views to critical scrutiny. Many illusions are being shattered by the emerging reality.  This is based on a talk entitled “Israel and the Dramatic Changes in the Middle East” that I gave at Temple Beth Emek in Livermore, CA, in March.

  1. The Palestinians are important.  The Palestinians have no army, no air force, no navy, and no effective organization as a state.  They are ineffectual and maximally corrupt.  Billions of aid dollars have been stolen by their leadership.  One must feel sorry for their self-induced state. The Palestinians don’t count.  All they can do is use terrorism against Israelis.  The sympathy and actions of BDS will not help them.
  2. The Palestinian problem must be solved before the Arab world can make peace with Israel.  This is the accepted view, but current events tend to support my contention that the reverse is true, namely that the Arab States must make peace with Israel before the Palestinian problem can be resolved.  Thus, the leading Sunni Arab States realize that an alliance with Israel against their common enemy Shia Iran is very much more in their interests than any interest they might have in the Palestinians.  Also, the Palestinians are never likely to consider peace with Israel while they feel that they have the support of the Arab world.  The Arabs are losing patience and interest in the Palestinians, with their constant internal conflicts and extremism.
  3. A Two-State Solution is the only viable solution to the Middle East Conflict.  The only people who really believe in a Two-State solution for the Israel-Palestinian conflict are Western diplomats and liberals.  The Palestinians do not want it, neither Hamas nor Fatah, since to accept this would be to give up their total commitment to destroying Israel in order to gain control of all of what was Palestine.  Israelis don’t want it, because they know that to have a Palestinian mini-State adjacent to the Israeli heartland will result in the influx of all sorts of terrorists (Palestinian, al Qaeda, ISIS, etc.) that would result in constant warfare and death.  Who would be stupid enough to facilitate this?
  4. The Palestinians have many allies in the Arab world.  While the Arabs still give nominal political support for the Palestinian cause, they no longer are prepared (apart from Qatar and Iran, that is not Arab) to support it.  The Arab States fought not for Palestine against Israel, but for themselves.  No Arab State, from 1948 – 1982 had any plan or intention to establish a Palestinian State.  When they attacked in 1948 they each, Jordan, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, had their own plans for conquest.  But, they were defeated.  They tried again in 1956, 1967, 1973 and 1982, but failed miserably.  After that they gave up.  Only Syria and Iraq of the proximal Arab States remained possible threats to Israel, that was until the so-called “Arab Spring,” after which they imploded.
  5. Israel is an isolated country, surrounded by enemies.  No Arab State or combination of States pose any real military threat to Israel now, and they are certainly not going to attack for the Palestinians. Only Iran and its proxy, Hezbollah are any real military threat to Israel.  Israel is no longer isolated in the world, its current friends include the US, Brazil, Bulgaria, Poland, Chad, Rwanda, Greece, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Portugal, Germany, UK, Canada, Japan, etc. Israel is affluent, the shekel is one of the strongest currencies in the world and Israel has tangible assets with which to deal, including advanced agriculture, scientific innovation, cyber security and military capability.

Notwithstanding the prevalent view among self-deluded liberals and leftists, the Palestinian cause is a lost cause and Israel is becoming a stronger more stable and more powerful country all the time.

Flogging a Dead Horse

The response of many Democrats in Congress to the Mueller Report is both mystifying and self-destructive. They vary from “we need to see the full Report” to “there was definite evidence of Trump collusion with Russia. This after the Attorney General conclusively stated that No evidence of collusion was found, and that no further indictments are considered

Their faulure to accept at face value the results of an exhaustive study that cost m$25 over nearly 2 years and was initiated by the Democrats themselves on the flimsiest of evidence is a huge error in judgement. It shows they are poor losers.

They are now talking about more hearings. Let me remind you that apart from the Mueller probe there were both House and Senate hearings into Russian collusion. None of them found any evidence. If the Democrats launch more such hearings they will be flogging a dead horse or shooting themselves in the foot. Hopefully the electorate will suitably punish them at the next election.

Golan Heights

After the Israeli victory in the Yom Kippur War of 1973, when Israel recaptured the Golan Heights from Syria, Israel annexed the Golan Heights. That means that it became part of Israel and became Israeli sovereign territory. Unlike the Israeli occupation of Egyptian Sinai, which was returned to Egypt in 1979 as part of a peace agreement, Israel did not return the Golan to Syria. This was because Syria was run by the irredentist rejectionist regime of Pres. Assad, who was a declared enemy of Israel, while Pres. Sadat of Egypt made peace with Israel.

But those who might think that Israel had no right to annex the Golan are wrong. It was part of the biblical State of Israel from 930 to 722 bce and it was still part of the Jewish State when it was conquered by the Romans in 63 bce. After this there were 3 uprisings by the Jews against Roman rule. This was described in detail by Josephus in his epic book “The Jewish Wars.” In particular he describes the capture of the city of Gamla, that was besieged by the Romans, the ruins of which can still be visited in the center of the Golan today, as I did several years ago. This area was later part of the Turkish Empire and was assigned to the French Mandate of Syria when the British received the Palestine Mandate after WWI. It was only this great power agreement that severed the Golan from Palestine.

The recent news that the US under Pres. Trump and Secty of State Mike Pompeo will recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan is good news. Like the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, this is really a recognition of the reality of the situation. There is no conceivable way that Israel would ever return the Heights to Syria, and make itself vulnerable again to being constantly attacked from above.

This is also a part of the US-Russian maneuvering in Syria. While Russia is now entrenched in Syria and is guarantor of the survival of the Assad regime, with Iran, it could not prevent the US from exercising its right to recognise Israeli sovereignty over the Golan, which is a huge loss for Syria. Neither would Russia sanction any Syrian move against this recognition, since Putin certainly does not want to risk his position in Syria by being embroiled in a conflict with Israel and the US. The Golan is now confirmed as a permanent part of Israel.

NO Collusion!

The probe by special counsel Robert Mueller into the question of collusion of the 2016 Trump presidential campaign with Russia has finally ended after 2 years. Mueller submitted his Report to the US Attorney General. Although the Report itself has not been made public, two important conclusions have been released, first THAT NO EVIDENCE OF COLLUSION WAS FOUND and second that there will be no further indictments. This completely exonerates Pres. Trump who all along has stated that there was no collusion and that this was a Democratic inspired witch-hunt. Further, the media bias that essentially accepted Trump’s guilt from the beginning is exposed for what it was, fake news. The innuendo and rumor repeated ad nauseam in the media that Trump’s son-in-law Jarold Kushner and son Donald Trump Jr. were about to be indicted is shown for what it was, more fake news.

The Mueller probe did indict 6 individuals connected to the Trump Administration, all of whom were indicted on charges unrelated to the issue supposedly being investigated by Mueller, namely Russian collusion. Most of those charges had nothing to do with Trump, but some, such as the payments made by Trump’s attorney Michael Cohen (no relation) to a prostitute may be used by the Democrats to further attempt to “get” Trump. But, such charges cannot form the basis of any attempt at impeachment.

The members of the Justice Dept (DOJ) and the FBI who were responsible for deciding on carrying out this probe of supposed collusion, were themselves subsequently found to be highly partisan supporters of Hillary Clinton. Secret e-mails that were discovered and made public showed that FBI Investigator Peter Strozk and Rod Rosenstein, Dep. Dir. of DOJ, were highly antagonistic to Trump. Yet these same individuals, and James Comey, were responsible for deciding not to bring charges against Hillary Clinton for illegally using a private computer system when she was Secty. of State, storing secret documents on that system, thus endangering the security of the USA, and then not only cleaning these disk drives, but physically destroying them, a serious case of destroying evidence. Whereas the FBI found no evidence to pursue the collusion probe against Trump, they did find evidence of crimes in the case of Hillary’s actions, but their decision to pursue the former and not the latter is clear evidence of partisanship perverting Justice. The American people look to the FIB and DOJ to pursue Justice neutrally. This sorry episode in which senior members of both organizations were forced to resign shows that this was not the case. People should go to jail for these miscarriages of justice.