October 28, 2014
Suffering for the sake of Palestine

Amid the international clamor against Israel for settlement over the 1967 border and other actions said to harm Palestinians, there is a contrary view of Palestinians harming themselves.

Or more accurately, various figures claiming to be Palestinian leaders harming the people, seemingly for the sake of Palestine.

It appeared most obviously in the use of civilians as military assets in Gaza. Included here were the service of schools and hospitals to store weapons, to shelter fighters, and as launching sites for missiles; pressures by Hamas on civilians not to leave the buildings targeted by the IDF after warnings by Israeli telephone calls and leaflets; and the gathering of civilians on the roofs of buildings that would be targeted by the IDF.

It appears also in Jerusalem, where the Arab one-third of the population could have a decisive voice in local politics if they voted. Israel allows them to vote in municipal elections, by virtue of being residents of the city, even if they do not hold Israeli citizenship. However, the Palestinian leadership exerts intense pressure against their participation, for the sake of avoiding concessions to the occupier. Likewise in the case of efforts by Jews to arrange meetings between the representatives of adjacent neighborhoods that are largely Jewish or Arab. Residents of Arab neighborhoods are reluctant to participate in joint ventures. And those who do so object to having their names recorded or their pictures taken along with Jews.

Yet another front appears in the West Bank, where Palestinian leaders tolerate the daily movement of Palestinians to Israel for the sake of employment, but do not cooperate with transportation or conditions on their side of the borders to facilitate the passage.

The persistent cry of "wolf" by Palestinians, led by Mahmoud Abbas, may sound the call for friendly masses to demonstrate and diplomats to express their concern, but it can't help but do what the mythic little boy did when he called for help time and again. Screaming bloody murder every time Israel adds to housing within Jerusalem or an individual demands the right to pray on the Temple Mount must tire individuals who are aware that Palestinians rejected of opportunities to compromise since the 1930s. If there are worthies who genuinely feel for the Palestinian cause, they haven't accomplished much since Lord Peel tried in 1937.

Yet another front appears within Israel among Arab citizens of Israel. The largely Arab parties that win places in the Knesset do not operate like pragmatic minority representatives in other democracies. Rather than cooperating with the major parties for the sake of their constituencies, they adhere to a strong nationalist line of criticism, in some cases venturing close to or over the line described as traitorous by aiding the enemy in a situation of conflict.

Arabs and Jewish activists are right in describing lower level of services provided to Arabs than to Jews in Jerusalem or elsewhere in Israel. Insofar as politics involves giving as well as taking, Israelis also have a point when they explain the lower level of services by virtue of Arabs refusing to vote in Jerusalem, to cooperate in other ways, or voting for parties in elections for the Knesset that are steadfast in objecting to virtually every element of Israeli policy.

Israeli policymakers recognize the benefits to be gained by providing a decent level of services to a resistant minority. One can quarrel about the extent of Israeli efforts, as well as the data relative to the living standards of Jews and Arabs in Jerusalem, throughout Israel, in Gaza and the West Bank, and in comparison to the residents of other countries throughout the Middle East.

One can also criticize the Arab posture of being steadfast in opposition to Israel, seemingly on the expectation that the misery of their people will produce an effective revolt against Israel, or persuade the international community to intervene in their behalf.

To date, that expectation has been a marked failure. Israel has shown the capacity to defend itself against Arab violence, and against Arab inspired international political campaigns.

We can summarize 75 years of Palestinian history with the epigram that those who demand everything get nothing.

This helps to explain the shortfalls in Palestinian expectations, as well as the differentials in living standards between Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, as well as between the Jews and Arabs of Jerusalem and elsewhere in Israel..

With only a bit of whimsy, it appears that what the Palestinians and Arabs do get is a result of Jewish good will, or what the Jews of Israel have decided--via their government--to provide in order to minimize unrest.

We should avoid predicting the future with fanciful claims of certainty. However, the signs are not altogether dismal. Individual Palestinians, Jerusalem Arabs, and Arab citizens of Israel seek to avail themselves of Israeli opportunities, despite pressures to resist. Arab families place their children in dual-language and dual-ethnic schools, or Hebrew language schools that are overwhelmingly Jewish. Arabs move into Jewish neighborhoods, and do not meet the resistance shown to Jews who move into Arab neighborhoods. Thousands of Palestinians from the West Bank work in Israel, or in Israeli industries located alongside West Bank settlements. Arab students in Israeli universities may affiliate with Arab student organizations and participate in demonstrations against Israeli student organizations, but many cross the lines to create positive relationships with fellow students or faculty members. Some speak of the "Israelization" of Arabs shown in patterns of dress, speech, and attitudes. It may be premature to become excited about such a phenomenon, which appears among some along along with a contrary movement among others toward greater religiosity.

As in everything else, the future will define itself. Some may aspire to influence, but most will do little more than observe and comment.

Ira Sharkansky (Emeritus)
Department of Political Science
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Tel: +972-2-532-2725
Cell: +972-54-683-5325
Fax +972-2-582-9144

Posted by Ira Sharkansky at 09:09 PM
October 26, 2014
Lots happening, of varying importance

There are several hot spots around Jerusalem, and Tel Aviv and Jerusalem are squabbling about the cancellation of school trips to the Holy City on account of the violence. Jerusalem politicians are calling their coastal colleagues unpatriotic.

Almost all of the problems are on the edges of Palestinian or Arab neighborhoods (call them what you will). Police units are stationed on the roads out, and keep the troublemakers in. Explosions associated with tear gas and stun grenades are noisy for those of us living nearby, but so far nothing more awesom. Few Jews travel to those places, except to buy at lower prices than available in Jewish neighborhoods. Arab merchants are complaining about a fall off of business, and may become a counter-force against the activists inciting the youngsters to endanger themselves.

The absence of disturbances in the tourist areas of the Old City suggests the capacity of Arab merchants to demand quiet from those wanting violence.

If this represent the onset of intifada, it is so far a pale shadow of what occurred for a few years after 2000. The driver who plowed into people at a transit stop and then was killed by the police is not the stuff of suicide bombers on buses or in restaurants. And for some reason, most of the trouble is centered in Jerusalem rather than spread to other cities or throughout the West Bank. Should Palestinians escalate, so will Israel.

There is likely to be more, especially if Minister of Housing Uri Ariel (Jewish Home) goes beyond thoughts about moving into the tense Arab neighborhood of Silwan. One can defend a Jew's right to live where he wants despite the opposition of neighbors, and--at the same time--hope that Ariel will bi-pass what might be a symbolic step against virulent anti-Semitism, but may carry a high cost in antagonism and casualties.

There has been criticism of an announcement from the American Consulate in Jerusalem referring to last week's killing as a "traffic incident," as well as an official expression of sympathy and a call for a full and transparent inquiry into the death of an American-Palestinian teenager who, according to the IDF, was involved in a demonstration and was about to throw a fire bomb.

Annoying perhaps, but both messages carry the flavor of routine bureaucratic outputs. The Jerusalem Consulate is meant to serve "Palestine," and many of its personnel are local Arabs. Jews who may be overly sensitive are wont to criticize the coolness they receive from employees. My own experience over 40 has never been anything other than correct. More than a half century teaching public administration has cautioned me against expecting warmth from a bureaucrat.

Moshe Ya'alon has received his retribution due to calling John Kerry obsessed and messianic. A half-hearted apology was not sufficient. US officials rejected Ya'alon's requests to meet with Vice President Biden and Kerry during a recent trip to Washington, but he is saying that he had a productive meeting with Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel.

Perhaps cooperation with the IDF is worth something to the US, even though lots of Israelis are convinced that the Secretary of State is worthy of several less than complementary adjectives. Some of the same might also be thought appropriate for the President, but ranking Israelis are learning to control their tongues. One must respect our most important ally.

The Hamas leadership is threatening to go to war if Israel does not loosen up on the shipment of concrete and other construction materials to Gaza.

Insofar as Hamas is claiming victory in the last conflict, they may be free with their words. Yet they should consider how many more victories they really want.

More important may be recent conflicts involving the Egyptian army and police. Perhaps the Gazans along with Sinai Bedouin have been embolden by their easy victory over the IDF. This past weekend they managed a car bombing that killed 30 Egyptian personnel. The immediate Egyptian response is to close its border with Gaza, and plan a sterile zone (no buildings or vegetation) extending some distance outward from Gaza, involving the forced transfer of several thousand residents. This will complicate Hamas efforts to maintain tunnels into the Sinai for the movement of personnel or equipment. Those who worry about the collateral damage recently blamed on the IDF should get ready for much worse from the Egyptians.

The Egyptians have also postponed indefinitely the talks in Cairo between Israelis and Hamas, meant to arrange the reconstruction of Gaza.

For those applauding the proclaimed donations of $5.4 billion for the Palestinians, with about half meant to reconstruct Gaza, the latest news is that little or none of that money has been transferred. From an Arab source--

"The program was launched with high expectations at an international conference in Cairo on Oct. 12, but has run into obstacles, including wrangling between the rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah for control in Gaza and what officials say has been a trickle of promised aid."

The leader of the opposition in the Knesset, Labor Party head Yitzhak (Buji) Herzog, made an appearance on the weekend at which he criticized the government, and said that it was time for an election.

That's what leaders of the opposition are expected to do. Leaders of parties within the coalition are saying that there is no chance of an election any time soon. Recent polls are showing that left of center Labor would increase its Knesset membership from 15 to 17 seats, while right of center Likud, Israel our Home, and Jewish Home would increase their representation from 43 to 54 seats.

A more pressing worry is the barbarism north and east of here. Signs are that it is leaping over well-guarded Israel to other Western countries,

The New York Times published an item headlined "Attacks in West Raise New Fears Over ISIS' Influence" It cites instances, including planned be-headings, in Britain, Australia, Canada and the US.

"The series of episodes over just the last four weeks is raising new fears about the capacity of the extremists who call themselves the Islamic State to catalyze so-called lone-wolf attacks . . . There is no evidence that any of the episodes were carried out by any centrally organized terror network. But in each case the violence was plotted or executed by individuals moved by the messages of Islamist extremists, and all took place in the one month since the Islamic State began exhorting Muslims in the West to commit such acts."

We hope for the best from the Obama-Kerry team on this, and with respect to Iran's nuclear ambitions.

We will not overlook Ebola.

And we should take account of American sensitivities, especially when in range of a microphone.

Ira Sharkansky (Emeritus)
Department of Political Science
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Tel: +972-2-532-2725
Cell: +972-54-683-5325
Fax +972-2-582-9144

Posted by Ira Sharkansky at 10:23 PM
October 22, 2014
What should Israel do?

Nothing is probably the best answer.

However, pick your platitude
Politics does not tolerate a vacuum
Politics does not tolerate quiet
The world is clamoring for a solution.

Not exactly the world, but a collection of activists that includes
Palestinians leading the chants
Jews who feel uncomfortable with comfort
Politicians in the US and Europe who feel themselves dependent on Muslims and left of center groupies
International activists who can count votes in the UN General Assembly and the UN Human Rights Council, where representatives of Algeria, Congo, China, Cuba, Kuwait, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia feel that they must reform or liquidate Israel
Otherwise decent people who are suspicious of Jews
Less than decent people who hate Jews, or see Jews as the source of all evil
The Palestinians' current campaign is to demand the removal of 600,000 Israeli "settlers" within two years from what they see as Palestine.

After the experience of withdrawing from Gaza, one can doubt that any imaginable Israeli government would agree to withdraw a settlement as large as 600 residents.

Among the possibilities is the withdrawal of settlements in the range of 60 residents, but in response to ongoing Israeli judicial actions having to do with them built on land actually owned by Palestinian individuals, rather than the demands of Palestinians in any international arena.

Ban-Ki Moon is still concerned about Israel's attacks on UN facilities in Gaza, but his charge for inquiry also includes UN personnel who allowed Hamas to use UN facilities for storing and firing their weapons against Israeli civilians.

Israeli politicians are among those demanding to do something.

Concrete proposals that might attract a positive response from Palestinians are so far absent from our discussions.

Among the loudest voices, occasionally threatening to leave Bibi's government if nothing is done with respect to finding a two-state solution, come from Tsipi Livni (the government's point person in the recent peace process) and Yair Lapid.

Recent polls suggest that Tsipi Livni's party, immodestly named The Movement led by Tsipi Livni, might not get enough votes in the next election to have any representatives in the Knesset, and that Lapid's party, only slightly less immodestly named There is a Future, would be reduced to half or less of its present Knesset delegation.

The new player in Israeli politics is Moshe Kahlon, who made a name for himself by reducing the costs of cell phone service while Minister of Communications.

You guessed it. The theme of his yet to be created political party will be the cost of living.

Critics are urging caution. His iconic claim to have reduced the costs of phone calls was actually something he adopted from the Finance Ministry, and he was not a fighter for low costs or good service with respect to cable companies, which were also part of his responsibilities as Communications Minister. Moreover, Kahlon's record in foreign policy (i.e., Palestinians) is murky, and somewhere to the right of center.

In any case, there is no election scheduled. And despite the threats, betting is that a majority of Knesset Members will hold on to shaky seats rather than risk their status with the voters.

But what about the Palestinians?

They are alongside us and among us. My evening walk around French Hill produced a picture of two young shepherds feeding their sheep. The older boy just looked at me when I asked if he understood Hebrew. His younger friend indicated that he understood a bit, and responded with a thumbs up to my comment about the four legged visitors to our neighborhood.

More typical of the Arabs/Palestinians I encounter are fellow academicians, or persons in business or medicine.

But what about the United States, namely Barack Obama and John Kerry?

Can Bibi continue to ignore them with respect to Palestine, while he campaigns against them on Iran?

It helps Bibi when Kerry links the lack of a two-state solution to the problem of ISIS.

Even the Knesset leader of Meretz came close to signing on to the ridicule, while she asserted the need to make yet another effort with the Palestinians.

We know the Arabs have been speaking otherworldly hyperbole since the 1930s, usually threatening what they are unable to do. Perhaps we should worry that senior Americans are now speaking their language.

In the past couple of days Hamas spokesmen from Gaza have boasted of rebuilding the attack tunnels, and a Jerusalem Arab with a Hamas connection made a suicide attack on the light rail that succeeded in killing a 3 month old baby and injuring several others. Hamas claimed credit for the attack, and youth gangs of Isaweea and several other neighborhoods celebrated with actions that produced volleys of police tear gas and stun grenades that kept us awake late into the night.

The little girl was one of us with US as well as Israeli citizenship, which entitled her killing to a special condemnation from the US State Department.

One doubts that reconstructed tunnels and Hamas' hand in an incipient intifada will add to Israel's enthusiasm for a generous supply of cement and other construction materials to Gaza. Once the winter rains begin seriously, we can anticipate an international campaign directed at Israel's complicity in the misery of Gazan civilians.

A high profile attack on the Canadian Parliament and other sites, seemingly by Canadian Muslims claiming an association with ISIS, may add to a western coalition, or simply produce statements that the problem is individuals and not Islam.

Bibi is a young 65, seems in control of restive colleagues, and is leading in the polls for another term as Prime Minister.

One of the old rules of American politics is that politics stops at the water's edge. That seemed to mean that Americans should be united in warfare and other overseas actions, and that foreigners should not meddle in Americans' decisions.

One doubts if that was ever the reality, and it's certainly not the case in the era of Sheldon Adelson and other's like him.

Guesses from here is that it is too late for Bibi to take military action against Iran. Yet he may be able to delay or alter whatever emerges from Barack Obama's passion to reach an agreement with Iran. Against Bibi will be not only the prestige of the White House, but corporate pressures from across North America and Europe to get on with business.

Ira Sharkansky (Emeritus)
Department of Political Science
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Tel: +972-2-532-2725
Cell: +972-54-683-5325
Fax +972-2-582-9144

Posted by Ira Sharkansky at 08:59 PM
October 20, 2014
The fog of politics

You know the fog of battle, when the smoke, noise, and panic are so heavy as to confuse one's views about what is happening, and which side has an advantage.

Politics isn't all that different. In this case, the fog is not so much the result of smoke as of confusing verbiage backed up by body language that seems to belie realities. But no one is sure about the realities.

One example swirling around this place is the appearance of hyper-activity from the Palestinians, while their realities appear to be so dim.

This is not new. The Arabs then principally the Palestinians have been speaking and shouting in hyperbole since the 1940s, threatening time and again to do more than they were able. Perhaps we should recognize 1973 as an exception, given the costs to Israel. However, the war ended with the IDF closer to Cairo than the Egyptians were to any major Israeli settlement. A few years later the two countries signed a peace treaty that has held despite some friction. Now it seems stronger than ever with our mutual enemy being Hamas and its allies.

One can fear the support being given to the Palestinian cause by important figures in major countries (Sweden, France, Britian, Russia, the US), and the masses trumpeting Palestinian slogans on college campuses, and city streets, and among some dock workers who should be unloading Israeli cargo. Yet the destruction across Gaza hardly seems to be the sign of an ascendant political entity. One can also doubt the willingness of major powers to undo one of the world's most successful states, with a serious military, impressive economy, and most likely nuclear weapons.

Yet for a people remembering the Holocaust that came from what Germany's Jews saw around them as the height of western civilization, anything may come out of the fog.

The latest news (itself a problematic concept due to the thick fog) is that Mahmoud Abbas insists on going to UN Security Council to get what he wants, despite the warning from the United States pf an inevitable veto.

Abbas is also raising an issue about the Temple Mount/Noble Sanctuary/al-Aqsa, historically one of the most sensitive few acres in the world. He is now demanding that it be kept free of "settlers," by which he may mean all Jews.

Jews are also adding to the noise about the same spot, with efforts to pray and talk about a Third Temple.

The recent holiday of Succot may be responsible for this issue, with its mass pilgrimages to Jerusalem by Jews and traditional stone throwing by Arabs. Hopefully there will come a period of calm, but against this prospect is a concern that a wave of rock throwing in Jerusalem may have a life of its own, with each neighborhood gang having to prove its enthusiasm for the cause.

On account of the fog, it is not clear how many Jews simply want the right to pray on the Temple Mount, how many aspire to the creation of a Third Temple with or without the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa, and with or without a renewal of animal sacrifices.

Those of us trying to understand can ponder the likelihood of unrest by the folks concerned with animal rights and the environment. There will be confrontation about mass slaughter, ritually done, causing a cloud of stink coming from the altar, with problems of water as well as air pollution against demands for religious freedom in the Jewish state.

So far the ultra-Orthodox are quiet, which adds its own bit of confusion and apprehension..Will some of their rabbis sign on to the campaign currently being waged by a fringe among the Orthodox? It is hard to imaging that such intense rivals will coalesce, but who can really read what is happening where intense spirituality adds its confusions to the political fog. It's not a setting that invites secular outsiders to predict..

Iran and ISIS add their noise and obfuscations to what we are trying to understand.

Hints of an agreement between the American and Iranian governments come along with renewed efforts by Israel to scuttle the deal, and some threats about the IDF being able to assure our safety. For his part, Barack Obama appears to be maneuvering for a deal, and trying to avoid the involvement of a hostile Congress.

That may be the President's right as chief maker of foreign policy, or a struggle shaping up in an election context, with the outcome of Senate control doubtful, and Israel competing on what some will say is the President's turf.

The President may be at a low point of popularity. Part of one crowd expressed the ultimate in rejectionism by walking out in the middle of his speech. His Secretary of State--accused and most likely guilty of pompous paternalism--is dependent on his spokeswoman to clarify what he may have wanted to say, but did not say. The Obama-Kerry campaign to recruit non-American fighters against ISIS has only achieved 200 soldiers from Australia.

To the credit of the Americans, their air campaign appears to be a serious problem for ISIS. Yet to the credit of ISIS, it has been able to recruit a decent caliber of personnel from Muslim communities. One example is an Israeli Arab, a young physician, who completed his internship and was about to begin a residency, but did not show up as expected. He had gone to fight or to serve as a physician with ISIS, and was reported killed in Syria.

As always, comments welcome.

The prize will go to he/she who sees clearly through the fog.

Ira Sharkansky (Emeritus)
Department of Political Science
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Tel: +972-2-532-2725
Cell: +972-54-683-5325
Fax +972-2-582-9144

Posted by Ira Sharkansky at 09:59 PM
October 18, 2014
It's after the holidays

Israel's three week holiday season from Rosh Hashana through Simcha Torah resembles the shorter period in western countries from Christmas through New Years. The western holiday is actually longer than a week, due to pre-Christmas work, school, and bar parties, and time in early January for sobering up.

What is common to both Israeli and western holiday periods is that no serious work is contemplated or accomplished.

Israel's celebration involve less drinking than the western equivalent, and perhaps more religious observance. However, the secular majority of the Jewish population views it as a time of family meals, except for Yom Kippur, the closing of schools, most government offices and many businesses, and travel within Israel or overseas. It is a time of clogged highways and airport, and no space in the inns.

"Wait till after the holidays" is a sure way to postpone an issue, begun to be heard a month before Rosh Hashana.

Now that it's over, we should consider what has happened, what must be done, what it is possible to do, and what is likely to be done.

All those are different questions, with answers that depend on who is asking.

The agendas of Israel and the world (if there is such a thing) are not the same. Numerous prominent figures, each with their own perceived pressures and competing with one another's national and personal interests, gives some wiggle room to Israel, despite what may appear as Everyone is against us.

Palestinians are coasting on a wave of verbal support heightened by pictures from Gaza.

It reminds me of coasting downhill on my sled. Montgomery Street was one of the places that the City of Fall River set aside for the kids during the season of snow. There I learned that there was an end to coasting, which could mean a painful crash if I did not take account of the obstacles at the bottom of the hill.

The Palestinians coast without a concern for the consequences. They threaten Israel with the loss of Jerusalem, access to the Temple Mount, and everything over the 1967 borders. Yet they haven't the capacity to deliver, and they will remain dependent on Israel for the reconstruction of Gaza and their management of Palestinian areas in the West Bank..

The Israeli left is hyperventilating, demanding the government offer something, but hopeless to suggest what might get a Palestinian response that would actually move things along in the direction of accommodation.

Jerusalem is on edge, elevated by Succoth and all the visitors from elsewhere in Israel. There have been lots of targets for Palestinian stone throwers among the tour buses, the Jews gathered at the Western Wall below al Aqsa and its plaza, or riding on the light rail from Jewish to Arab and again to Jewish neighborhoods.

The first shipment of concrete has gone to Gaza, but it may be nothing more than a gesture while the folks convening in Cairo to discuss reconstruction were still in the area.

It's a huge challenge to convince the world that Jewish settlements are less the problem than Palestinian intransigence.

It may be impossible, or unnecessary, especially if the world's attention (i.e., that of the US and EU) remains on ISIS and Ebola

Israel even more than usual is a relatively quiet island is a sea of deadly turmoil. We are safer than elsewhere, given tight control of our borders, sophisticated security forces always considering likely threats, a population used to the inconveniences, and medical personnel capable of dealing with the few travellers from West Africa.

There has been a popular campaign concerned with Israelis who move to Berlin, orchestrated by activists protesting the relative high costs of food and housing in Israel.

However, recent data shows substantially more immigration than emigration, due to anti-Semitism in Europe, and relative economic stability in Israel.

It is conventional to welcome immigrants as part of the national ethos and Israel's role as a haven from hostility. Yet it is a small country already crowded.

Welcome to Israel, but wouldn't you prefer settling in the Negev rather than Tel Aviv or Jerusalem?

NIMBY competes with Zionism.

Israel's claim to having fought a defensive war in Gaza is not lost amidst populations and politicians despite the prominence of hostility. Nor is Israel's point that the collateral damage had a great deal to do with how Hamas operated.

Israel's case gets better with every televised beheading, every story of young girls being sold to ISIS fighters; and every mass slaughter of prisoners.

John Kerry livened things up toward the end of the holiday season by a statement that a renewed peace process between Israel and Palestine would help to defeat ISIS.

Right wing Israelis came close to calling the US Secretary of State mad.

According to Naftali Bennett,

'Even when a British Muslim beheads a British Christian, there will always be those who blame the Jews . . . We don't justify terror; we fight terror . . .The Israeli-Palestinian conflict statement encourages ISIS, and is a boost to terrorism worldwide."
Gilad Erdan, Minister of Communication and a MK of Likud, is closer to the center than Bennett. He said that Kerry has "broken the record for lack of understanding" the region, and his comments prove he is totally detached from the realities.

A commentator on one of Israel's prime time news programs described Kerry as "a man not connected to the electricity."

One of Yair Lapid's colleagues in the Knesset took the occasion to threaten, once again, to leave the government if there was no peace process.

State Department personnel said that Bennett distorted Kerry's words for political gain, and that the Secretary did not link the lack of peace between Israel and the Palestinians to the rise of Islamic State, but merely that solving the conflict could have a stabilizing impact on the region.

What Kerry actually said, according to an official Department of State website,

As I went around and met with people in the course of our discussions about the ISIL coalition, the truth is we - there wasn't a leader I met with in the region who didn't raise with me spontaneously the need to try to get peace between Israel and the Palestinians, because it was a cause of recruitment . . . "

That may be true, but Kerry lacks the savvy to recognize that he is hearing an Arab slogan, well known from 1948 onward, that Israel is at the heart of the region's problems. Political and religious elites have found that blaming Israel works to deflect dissatisfaction from their own rule. Now they may be learning that blaming Israel may also deflect the US Secretary of State from pressing them to get serious about ISIS.

Israel's Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Defense did not parse the various charges and counter-charges, but urged their colleagues to cool it, rather than offend the generous Uncle.

The Kerry-centered brouhaha erupted on Friday, a day after the end of the holiday and few hours before the beginning of Sabbath and its weekly halt in politics. Many vacationers, including politicians and their families, were still away from home. Sunday will be the real start of things, and the day to see how this develops, and what else will occupy us. .

There are too many individuals capable of provoking Israel, either from inside or out, and too great a variety of relevant political dynamics from Washington across Europe to the Middle East to justify specific predictions. Except that this country is not about to disappear.

Ira Sharkansky (Emeritus)
Department of Political Science
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Tel: +972-2-532-2725
Cell: +972-54-683-5325
Fax +972-2-582-9144

Posted by Ira Sharkansky at 08:51 PM
October 16, 2014
Islam and Palestine

Islam is a problem for the faithful, as well as for the rest of us.

Its 1600 years of accumulated doctrines may not differ in essence from what Jews have accumulated in 2,500 years or Christians in 2100 years. What is problematic, however, are all those Muslims stuck in a cycle of warfare against heresy and non-believers.

It's the same problem that produced centuries of killing among Christians from their earliest period, and hopefully has petered out in its last bastion of Northern Ireland.

Jews have avoided killing one another over affiliation with the wrong sect or faulty interpretations of holy text since the Jewish War described by Josephus.

What is said to be 60 organizations fighting Assad and one another is one manifestation of the problem that troubles Muslims. Another is the refusal of Saudi Arabia to countenance a rapprochement between the US and Iran that will involve a mutual campaign against ISIS at the expense of tolerating the continuation of the Assad regime. Turkey's on again off again acceptance of a role against ISIS, even to the extent of letting NATO planes use NATO airfields in Turkey to attack ISIS, may also be part of intra-Islamic warfare. Or it may be mostly an ethnic thing with Turkey shying away from anything that will help Kurds anywhere.

Turkish warplanes have bombed Kurdish sites within Turkey, on account of Kurds demonstrating against Turkish refusal to act against ISIS forces fighting against Kurds in Syria.

Among those who suffer from sectarian conflict within Islam are the Palestinians. Problems among Muslims are arguably more important than problems with Israel in keeping the Palestinians from realizing their dream of a state.

This may sound strange in a week when ranking Swedish, British, French, Russian, and American politicians spoke in support of a Palestinian state.

However, the ease of getting international endorsement, along with the warfare among Muslims, is a deadly combination for the prospects of a Palestinian state.

The setting leads the Palestinians to wait for others to act, and excuses them from tough decisions that will accommodate Israeli needs, partly out of fear about arousing conflict among Palestinians about some of the issues that keep Muslims at one another's throat.

In a situation where a test of Muslim loyalty is the Palestinian refusal to recognize Israel's legitimacy, or Israel's character as a Jewish state, the Palestinians remain stuck without their all-important recognition by Israel.

The Palestinians may be tempted by the good words heard from across the Muslim spectrum as well as from Western do-gooders that come with nastiness toward Israel. However, those words come with nothing tangible. Israel's accomplishments in science, medicine, technology, politics, and its military prowess are more tangible, and the Jews of Israel have more than two millennia experience in living with nasty words.

Ranking Palestinians have responded to the symbolic vote of the British Parliament, from which a majority of Members abstained, like they respond to resolutions of the UN General Assembly, i.e., as if the realization of their dream is moments away. Among the comments heard from prominent Palestinians is that Parliament's actions are a step in the direction of atoning for the Balfour Declaration.

Could this be the first step of the British Parliament to cancel the Balfour Declaration?

Need we remind the Palestinians who may be hoping for such a thing that such an act, even if accomplished, would not cancel what Israel has achieved?

Is it easier for Palestinians to expect someone else to turn back history, in this case by nearly a century, than to accommodate themselves to a state that will have to exist alongside Israel, with the borders and other traits that will attract Israel's acceptance.

Palestinians fear making the concessions that might bring them a state, even to the extent of saying that Israel is a Jewish state. They also cannot accept that their state might only be on the land that is left, after a half-century of rejecting what Israel was prepared to offer since 1967.

There are now 600,000 Israeli Jews living over the 1967 borders, and it is not wise to assume that all, most, or even a substantial number will move for the sake of Palestine.

A Palestinian heresy of accepting Israel as is, if committed, might get them a violent response from other Muslims or a stoppage of the financial aid they receive from elsewhere the Middle East..

So the Palestinians remain stuck in the nether-land of being the darlings of politicians across the world, but with no accomplishments.

Currently Muslims are as deep in mutual animosity as were the Christians in their long history. Among the end points of intra-Christian warfare cited by scholars are the French Revolution that replaced Protestant-Catholic warfare with an ascendance of secularism; the end of severe anti-Mormonism in the US with the Church's renunciation of polygamy in the 1890s; or the dampening (dare anyone say ending?) of violence in Northern Ireland a decade ago.

Israelis may be better off than others in the Middle East and elsewhere due to their practiced defense against Arab violence. One can guess that the dithering of the US and its nominal allies among the Muslims will allow ISIS to expand. ISIS personnel speaking for the cameras threaten actions against the West on the soil of Western nations. Observers are warning of another 9-11, or at least a series of smaller incidents like Ft Hood and the Boston Marathon.

The recruitment of fighters, the armaments used by ISIS and their battlefield successes suggest considerable support among Muslims, despite the voices from Saudi Arabia, elsewhere in the Gulf, Turkey and Egypt speaking shrilly in opposition.

If it will take boots on the ground to end the ISIS advance, it is only the US that has the boots and other military wherewithal. It may not happen during Obama's Commander-in-Chiefdom, so we should hope that the casualties will not include people we know.

Ira Sharkansky (Emeritus)
Department of Political Science
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Tel: +972-2-532-2725
Cell: +972-54-683-5325
Fax +972-2-582-9144

Posted by Ira Sharkansky at 09:09 PM