We might have expected WikiLeaks exposure to kill it: the Obama claim that cooperation with Arab states was dependent upon an Israeli-Palestinian negotiated peace.
But here we have it again, in somewhat different, and more outrageous, form:
A former CIA officer, Bruce Riedel, has just given a talk at a Middle East Policy Council event on Capitol Hill. The fact that legislators and their aides were privy to his “expert” words make them that much more damaging. What he said was that:
“American lives are being lost today because of the perpetuation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” (Emphasis added)
Frank Anderson, also a former CIA official, and president of the Policy Council, reiterated this sentiment, saying “we are paying an increasing price in blood for their [Israeli and Palestinian] failure and refusal to reach an agreement.”
Riedel explained — if you can call what he said an explanation — that:
“The Arab-Israeli conflict is at the heart and center of Al-Qaeda’s ideology and its narrative.” (Emphasis added)
This is so offensively distorted, so far removed from the reality of the situation, that it cannot be allowed to pass without rebuttal.
Al Qaeda’s — and Bin Laden’s — quarrel is with the US and the West. It is a clash of civilizations, within which Israel plays a decidedly minimal role. Were Israel and the PA to forge an agreement, it would not affect Bin Laden’s attitude towards American civilization.
I cite here from a Congressional Research Service Report for Congress that was released by the US Navy Department of History:
“Osama Bin Laden’s experiences as a logistical coordinator and financier for…resistance to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan during the 1980s are thought to have provided the backdrop for his belief that Muslims could take effective military action inspired by select Islamic principles. His exposure to the teachings of conservative Islamist scholars in Saudi Arabia and his work with Arab militants in Afghanistan provided the theological and ideological basis for his belief in the desirability of puritanical Salafist Islamic reform in Muslim societies and the necessity of armed resistance in the face of perceived aggression — a concept Al Qaeda has since associated with a communally-binding Islamic principle known as ‘defensive jihad.’
“In the early 1990s, Bin Laden emphasized his desire to secure the withdrawal of U.S. and other foreign troops from Saudi Arabia at all costs…Bin Laden was expelled from Saudi Arabia and his ire increasingly focused on the United States. Following a period of exile in Sudan and Afghanistan in which his radical views sharpened, Bin Laden issued a declaration of jihad against the United States in 1996 that signaled his emergence as an internationally recognizable figure…
“Following his declaration of jihad on the United States, Bin Laden released a series of statements that expanded the vision and scope of his self-declared conflict with the United States…Echoing U.S. academic Samuel Huntington’s theory on the impending clash of civilizations,Bin Laden repeated his characterization of a so-called ‘new crusade led by America against the Islamic nations,’ and emphasized his belief that an emerging conflict between Islam and the West would be fought ‘between the Islamic world and the Americans and their allies.'”
The report mentions two audiotapes released in 2005, which identify the bases of Al Qaeda’s political ideology:
An Islamic state governed solely by sharia law is primary. Secular government is unacceptable and deemed contrary to Islamic faith. Muslims must resist and overthrow rulers who violate Islamic law and principles.
Then there must be a liberation of Muslim lands “from every aggressor.” Israel is mentioned in this context, of course, but not only Israel: included are all Western forces, whether in Iraq, Afghanistan or elsewhere. And where Israel is concerned, the goal is most certainly not an Arab-Israeli peace, but the eradication of a Jewish presence on the land.
And where is all of this going? Why, the US government has to lean harder on Israel, of course. Israeli positions should be more in concert with American efforts to forge a deal.
Riedel suggested that a positive approach might be most effective: “Israelis need that hug. Implicit in the hug can also be, you’ll get a cold shoulder if we’re not moving in the right direction.”
With “friends” like these…
Let us segue, then, to the obvious question: Just what is happening with that “peace process” these days?
Last week, Arab states submitted a draft resolution to the UN Security Council that reads, “Israeli settlements established in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, are illegal and constitute a major obstacle to the achievement of a just, lasting and comprehensive peace.”
Although it has close to 120 sponsors, a vote on it will not be called any time soon because of fear of a US veto.
Last I wrote about this, I expressed concern about whether we would see such a veto — my unease stemming from
a tendency by the Obama administration to appease the Palestinian Arabs. But the Americans do seem to be holding the line on this issue.
A couple of my readers have asked why there should be any expectation that the US would veto this — which is presumably a forerunner to a request that the SC recognize a Palestinian state — when Obama very much wants to see such a state established. And I think there are two answers:
First, the US may recognize that this route is fraught with diplomatic and legal difficulties. A Security Council vote not withstanding, the state would not emerge easily via a unilateral path. Thus the Americans are holding fast to the very legitimate position that issues can only be successfully resolved via face to face negotiations.
Then too, we must remember that Obama seeks a diplomatic success here. He still seems to hold fast to the delusion that he may be able to move the “process” forward in a way that would accrue positively to his reputation. This would not happen if the PA went the route of the UN — for it would be taken out of his hands.
And so, while all of the talk of a unilaterally declared state may come back to haunt us, at the moment it is old news. For Abbas has now come out with an explicit statement (which we could see coming late last week) that the PA will not be unilaterally declaring the establishment of a state.
What he says, however, is that the failure to achieve a state via negotiations could lead to a popular uprising or a “revolution” — a strange word in this context. As he put it to Al Jazeera on Friday, “it will have serious repercussions for the entire region.”
I see this as a scare tactic: an attempt to frighten not only Israel but the international powers that be, so as to move them to further pressure Israel.
Included in his words we can find more than a hint that he might lead his people in the wrong direction. For what the PA said, and how officials handled the situation, would have a direct impact on the people’s response. Remember, what had been identified as “spontaneous” Palestinian Arab fury at the presence of Ariel Sharon on the Temple Mount in 2000 was in fact pre-planned and carefully orchestrated by Arafat — he brought his people to that “Second Intifada.” And was Arafat not Abbas’s mentor?
Even though Abbas is publicly ruling out a war against Israel, what makes the situation more worrisome this time around is the presence of better trained and equipped PA security forces — thanks to the foolish and nearsighted US policy, which has been to build up these forces. The armed forces of the PA have a record of turning on Israel in times of frustration, and many of us have been concerned for some time about the possibility of it happening again.
Why is Abbas relinquishing the UN option, at least for now?
For me it appears fairly straightforward: Abbas thought he had Obama in his hand, and it’s not quite turning out that way. We don’t know what has been communicated privately to the PA by the American government. But we do know that the bulk of official public statements coming out of the US is in support of resolution of the issues only via two-party negotiations. And we know that indications are that the US would veto the “settlements” resolution. What chance then, that Obama would allow a SC resolution on Palestinian statehood to pass?
To make matters worse for Abbas, some European leaders have been getting cold feet about that unilateral declaration of statehood, as well.
Last week, British Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Alistair Burt, finishing up a Mid-East tour, told Ma’an News Agency that the British government cannot “recognize a state that does not have a capital, and doesn’t have borders.”
“We are looking forward to recognizing a Palestinian state at the end of the negotiations on settlements because our position is again very straightforward: We wish to see a two-state solution, a secure and recognized Israel side by side with a viable Palestine, Jerusalem as a joint capital and agreed borders.
“That’s where we want to get to. When we get there, that of course will imply recognition of a state of Palestine.”
Has Obama provided some sort of reassurance to Abbas with regard to increased pressure on Israel on the “settlements” issue? We may suspect this to have been the case, but I’m seeing no concrete evidence for this.
Abbas provided a whole litany of prior peace offers allegedly made by Barak and Olmert in the past. As we don’t know the truth of what he claims, and as the situation is now different, I don’t intend to visit that litany.
Both White House advisor Dennis Ross, and David Hale, top aide to George Mitchell, were here on Friday and, separately, met with Netanyahu. There has been no statement from Netanyahu’s office.
I mentioned the PA security forces, above, and return here to take a look at these forces in another context. Important to know with whom we’re dealing:
The Arab Organization for Human Rights, located in Britain, has released a report indicating that these forces have been using torture systematically for years. In a study that reviewed the years October 2007 to October 2010, it was found that an incredible 95% of those detained by the forces were subjected to severe torture, which included hanging techniques (such as hanging detainees upside-down from the ceiling), electric shocks, pulling out nails, beatings with cables, and more.
At least six Palestinians have died in the course of torture in PA prisons, the report said, while many former detainees are permanently disabled. Khaled Abu Toameh cited the report in the JPost today: “In order to put pressure on detainees, close relatives, even minors, are brought to the interrogation center, where they may be tortured in front of the detainees in order to try to force a confession.”