Sunday, August 17, 2008

Addendum to the 8 point plan

Currently, the Israeli government is deliberating two issues: Whether or not to release Palestinian prisoners as a unilateral "gesture" to the PA's Abu Mazen, and how to allocate budgetary cuts in the military and social spending programs.

With regard to the first issue, the Israeli government claims to want to "strengthen" Abu Mazen in the face of Hamas' power. The tactic of unilateral gestures has proven to be a miserable failure. I have previously written about this extensively. Abu Mazen is a barely breathing corpse, and releasing terrorists will do nothing to change this.

Another reason for the release, often mentioned, is to show the Palestinians that "dialogue" will bring about Israeli concessions, rather than the tactic of terrorism and kidnappings. This is completely fallacious and illogical. The Palestinians, and Arab adversaries in general, have long a ago concluded that they can achieve their goals by force. We ourselves have tought them that with our behaviour in the past 10 years. Releasing 150 terrorists from prison isn't going to reverse that perception; if anything it will strengthen it, because everybody with eyes in their heads will know that Israel is doing it in reaction to Hamas' demands for ransom.

As to Israel's military budget, this requires some basic common sense which our current leaders seem to lack. In the current environment Israel has no choice but to maintain a high expenditure on the military. I think a crash program needs to be implemented to develop and deploy an anti-rocket system as quickly as possible. This, however, is a late and avoidable need, that resulted from the deterioration in our deterrence. However, technology is not sufficient; our purchase of the latest planes and tanks doesn't scare Hamas or Hizbullah.

As I see it, our weak leaders are trying to throw money at the problem, but money is not the issue. In reality they are covering up their own failed decision making. Barak should be investing his energy in improving Israel's deterrence rather than making petty arguments about the importance of not cutting his budget. He uses cheap vailed threats of impending "security challenges" which is an old tired argument for a bloated budget that emphasizes officer's salaries and hi-tech wizardry rather than time-proven basic military doctrine. Furthermore, with the globalized markets and fattened cash reserves of the oil-producing states, in any arms race between Israel and the Arabs, Israel will lose. The US is a weakened ally and cannot be counted on to counter the mass influx of arms in the Middle East. So betting on the horse of the military budget is just an additional way to avoid making the really important decisions, and is doomed to failure.

Olmert is continuing his furious attempts at arriving at a "shelf agreement" with Abu Mazen. But our offers for massive concessions are just being met with derision and contempt by our supposed partners for peace. This period reminds me of a similar period in the last months of Barak's stewardship as Prime Minister, during which he shuttled back and forth to Camp David and Sharm el Sheikh in order to get Arafat to sign on the dotted line, all the while when the Palestinians were unleashing a viscious terrorist war against us. We all know how that ended.

Israel continues to make every possible mistake in navigating the treacherous waters of the Middle East and fundamentalist Islam.

Let's hope our leaders and people wake up before its too late.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

I have decided: John McCain

I am sure that I will draw the ire of my liberal friends and relatives. To be sure, Barak Obama is a respectable and worthy candidate. But recent events in Georgia only reinforce the idea that the Cold War has resumed. At the same time American power is on the decline.
My feeling is that only somebody with a strong and conservative moral compass will be able to face down the Russians and deal with the challenges that America faces in the coming decade. America stands to lose alot-- its status as a great superpower, its vital economic interests around the world, and its ability to support its free and democratic allies across the globe.

Monday, August 11, 2008

What we (Israel) should do

People say to me, "ok, you can criticize our leaders and point out what we shouldn't be doing. What should we be doing?"

OK, here is my 8 point plan for restoring Israel's standing and deterrence in this region. One caveat- this is based on what information is available to me. I obviously cannot decide based on secret information unknown to me.

1. The Prime Minister needs to have an immediate face to face discussion with Mr Noam Shalit, Gilad Shalit's father. It should go something like this: "Noam, I know how hard this has been for you and how your family has been suffering because of your son's captivity. But as PM of this country our higher national interests are at stake. I need to be concerned about Israel's deterrence and standing in this region, for the sake of all Israelis, civilians and soldiers alike. Therefore, I have decided that we are cutting off all negotiations with the terrorist Hamas organization for the release of Palestinian prisoners. We will continue to unequivocally demand Gilad's release and back up these demand via diplomatic, economic and military pressure. But under no circumstances will we consider paying Hamas a "ransom" by releasing any more prisoners. "

2. After the above discussion, the following public message such be sent to Hamas: "I, as prime minister of the State of Israel, do not negotiate with terrorists. Therefore, I have ordered all of Israel's representatives involved in the dialogue for paying "ransom" for Gilad Shalit, to halt and desist, effective immediately, all negotiations with Hamas over the release of Palestinian prisoners. The only dialogue which we will have with you is regarding the venue of release of Gilad Shalit. In the absence of negotiations, the State of Israel unequivocally demands the unconditional release of Shalit. We furthermore demand, in accordance with international law, that Hamas allow Shalit to be visited by the Internation Red Cross.
"The State of Israel will support these demands by all means including unrelenting diplomatic, economic and military pressure until such time Shalit is released. The State of Israel holds the terrorist entity of Gaza responsible for Shalit's like and return to safety.
" At the same time. let me clearly state that at such time when a permanent cessation of hostilities occurs between Palestinians, including Hamas, and Israel, then as part of a natural process of reconciliation, a mutual release of prisoners would occur. As such time I would be prepared to release most, if not all, of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.

3. The above steps will be accompanied by a major public relations campaign in the popular Israeli media, to be supported by all of Israel's ministers. This campaign will explain the dangers inherent in negotiating and submitting to terrorist demands, including an erosion in Israel's deterrence, the strengthening of extremist elements in Palestinian society, and of the risk of released terrorists return to hostile activity, lacking a comprehensive cessation of hostilities.

4. The Hamas rulers of Gaza will be notified the following: Effective immediately, any violation of the cease fire agreed to in June, including even a single rocket attack, will be met by an immediate and severe response. This will include, but not be limited to, an artillery or rocket attack against Gaza civilian infrastructure, including bridges, roads, public buildings, and utilities, and/or reclosing the Gaza borders for unspecified periods of time.

5. It goes without saying that the above threat will actually be carried out consistently and as often as necessary. No minor violations will be allowed, even if carried out by supposed "splinter" terrorist groups. We hold Hamas responsible for Gaza, period. We need to behave like the stronger party, and we have no reason to be "forgiving" to Palestinian violations.

6. The Israeli government will send the following message to Lebanon: We seek no confrontation with you, and we have no territorial ambitions. Shaba farms will be returned to you as part of a negotiatied peace agreement between our countries. At the same time, Hizbullah, which is part of your government, had committed gross violations of the ceasefire as agreed to in UN resolution 1701. This the the reason for our flights in Lebanese airspace, which are necessary for our national security, in the face of Hizbullah's military buildup.
Since Hizbullah is part of your government, and your cabinet has recently adopted Hizbullah's platform vis a vis Israel, we hereby state that the Government of Lebanon is responsible for any all all hostile military activity against Israel, whether by Hizbullah or any other military body. As such, any attack on Israeli military or civilian targets, wherever they may be, will be considered a hostile act by the sovereign government in Lebanon, and it shall bear the consequences. To be clear: in the event that Lebanon initiates any attack against Israel, such as a rocket or mortar attack, infiltration, or attempt a kidnapping of soldiers or civilians, Israel will react swiftly, immediately and severely against Lebanon's government and infrastructure, including buildings, airports, and utilities.

7. It is important to realize that there are many regional and world trends that are beyond our control (such as the resumption of the cold war with Russia, and the rise of Islamic fundamentalism). As such it is important that we not overextend our reach. In the present global environment of easy transfer of information, people and equipment, including abundant Russian and Chinese weapons, it is almost impossible to stop the armament of our adversaries. It is important in this environment to restore deterrence as a defensive measure.

8. Given #7 I believe that Israel should abandon the open effort to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. I believe that Israel can do very little to prevent this, and any military operation will have severe costs, and not prevent future rearmament. Furthermore, our failure will have further severe consequences on deterrence. In addition, if Iran really wants to quickly acquire such weapons, they can simply smuggle them in from one of the rogue nuclear states, such as Pakistan or North Korea, or perhaps Russia. The overall effort to prevent the nuclearization of Iran should be left to the US, as part of a wider regional confrontation in the context of the Cold War. We should stay out of this conflict and watch from the sidelines, while supporting US efforts and not complicating them. As part of our deterrent against Iran we should clearly state that in the event of any Iranian attack on Israel, Tehran will be destroyed by our missiles, against which they are currently undefended.

9. I think that the American government and people will support these policies.

In particular I believe that steps 1 through 5 will have an immediate positive effect on Israel's position, and will completely neutralize Hamas' gain from the kidnapping of Shalit. Steps 6-8 will have an effect over the long term.

Who says Israelis are so smart? What we have tought the Arabs

In this article Defense Minister Ehud Barak outlines his perception of Israel's strategic position and plans for the future.

Pundits say he is a genius, but he presents an amazingly incoherent picture that is quite depressing. He blames Ariel Sharon for allowing Hizbullah to strengthen, and PM Olmert for going to war unprepared and strengthening Hizbullah even more. At the same time , after many months of sabre rattling about an impending operation in Gaza, Barak now says that an Israeli invasion of Gaza wouldn't attain anything and its better to maintain a cease fire, notwithstanding Hamas' preparations for war.

With breathtaking arrogance, he claims credit for the "6 years of quiet" in the north which he achieved by the unilateral withdrawal from Lebonon (the same 6 years which he blames on governments after his, for ignoring the security threat from Hizbullah!) . I wonder who he can blame for the strenghthening of Hamas, right under his nose. Who will he blame when thousands of rockets rain down on all of southern Israel every day?

Barak's solution? A national unity government under him. To do what? "maintain" the calm with Hamas? Withdraw from Shaba unilaterally? What does he plan? According the Barak, Tzipi Livni isn't good enough because of her lack of security experience. But what about the disasters that he and Ariel Sharon wrought?

I think that Barak's description reflects a basically flawed and defeatist attitude that has dominated Israel's leadership since Oslo. We have come to behave like losers, projecting weakness at every turn. Maybe we are really weak but nobody wants to say it out loud.

When we look at Israel's behavior in the years since Oslo (1994), I am tempted to ask:
What have we tought our Arab adversaries? Here's my list ("you" refers to Arabs):

1. When you make an agreement, make Israel pay a price up front, before knowing what Israel gets. (Oslo agreement, recent prisoner exchange)

2. Don't worry about the agreement, if you violate it, Israel won't do anything.(Oslo implementation, 1701, etc)

3. Don't bother asking for imprisoned terrorists to be released. Israel won't do it unless you kidnap an Israeli, and return him dead or alive. (every trade we made)

4. Good cop/bad cop works with Israelis. Pretend you are "weak" and need to be "strenghthened" in order to exact concessions. (arafat, Abu Mazen)

5. Israel will sacrifice its supreme national interests in order to placate a noisy parent (in the case of captives) or to relieve pressure from the left and the media. ("cease fire" with Hamas) You can count on the Israeli left to do what you can't do militarily.

6. With the exception of operation Defensive Shield, every armed conflict that Israel has engaged in, in the past 12 years, has resulted in no acheivements for Israel and strengthened her enemies. Israel has failed to defeat Hamas and Hizbullah.

7. Terrorism works. Particularly suicide bombing and kidnappings. Israel is unwilling and unable to sustain losses, and if you keep it up, Israel will cave in. (Disengagement, Lebanon wars, Hamas "calm").

8. The Israeli army's primary goal is to protect soldiers lives, even at the cost of civilian lives. If you kill even a small number of soldiers, Israel will cave in. At the same time, they fear losing soldiers in a military operation, so if you can threaten them enough to cause fear of losses, they will be deterred. (Lebanon 1 and 2, Gaza)

Now, if you were a Palestinian, what would you think about Israel? Israel appears to be on the wane, militarily, diplomatically and politically. Israel is weak. That is why I am not suprised to hear even our Fatah "diplomatic partners" to say openly that they now seek a one state solution, not 2. Two states was a Palestinian concession, but now that Israel is weak, why not go for the gold?

We complain that the Palestinians don't learn their lessons, but the problem in my mind is that they are learning them all too well.