|Israel Resource Review
||6th August, 2004
Strange Twists in Syrian-Israeli Diplomacy
Dr. Daniel Pipes
[This seminal article raises questions about the integrity and the actual
political identification of both Mr.Ron Lauder and Mr. Benyamin Netanyahu. Both individuals have been publicly associated with Israel's "national camp", which vociferously opposes ceding the Golan Heights. - db]
One of the most secretive and unusual rounds of Arab-Israeli diplomacy took place in the summer of 1998, when three private American citizens, businessman Ronald Lauder, his aide Allen Roth, and magazine publisher George Nader, made nine trips to each of Damascus and Jerusalem, trying to secure a Syrian-Israeli peace treaty.
(I provided the fullest account of these negotiations - and the dispute surrounding what exactly Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu offered - in "The Road to Damascus: What Netanyahu almost gave away," The New Republic, July 5, 1999; and I brought this story up to date in a weblog entry "What Was Binyamin Netanyahu Ready to Concede on the Golan Heights?" on June 27, 2004, with subsequent additions.)
The publication of Dennis Ross's memoir, The Missing Peace: The Inside Story of the Fight for Middle East Peace (Farrar Straus Giroux) offers much new detail on the impact of this diplomacy in the months after Netanyahu lost the prime ministry in May 1999 to Ehud Barak.
Ross, the long-standing American diplomat for the Middle East, picks up his account in what appears to be August 1999 (his memoir provides few dates). Barak and his colleagues, Ross recounts, expressed optimism about negotiations with the Asad government, for they
had received a piece of information that convinced them Asad would be willing to live with something less than an Israeli commitment to withdraw to the June 4, 1967 lines.
That information turned out to be from Ronald Lauder, in the form of "a paper consisting of ten points that Lauder claimed was largely agreed with Asad." Ross continues that if such agreement did exist,
Barak felt it would be possible to move quickly to agreement with Syria. Was Asad prepared to "validate" it? Only President Clinton would be able to find out, and so Barak believed it essential for Clinton to see Lauder and determine for himself if this was a promising track to pursue. If it was, it would have the added benefit of political cover, for it would enable Barak to say to the Israeli right that he was only agreeing to what had been accepted by Netanyahu.
Lauder then met with Clinton. He told the president that the Syrian and Israeli governments "had basically reached agreement on all issues-the border, security arrangements, peace, and Lebanon." (In contrast, in a statement published in Yedi`ot Aharonot, on July 2004, Lauder said that "None of the documents that were drafted during these talks was official, and no document was approved by Prime Minister Netanyahu.") Ross paraphrases Lauder to the effect that the two governments had boiled their agreement down
to ten points which they would have finalized except for Asad's insistence on reviewing maps on the border and the security arrangements and Bibi's refusal lest he lose all deniability. Then came Wye and the agreement with the Palestinians, Lauder explained, and Bibi did not have the political cover to pursue the effort further.
Ross pulled out a map and asked for specifics. Lauder pointed out that "Asad was prepared to draw the border off the Sea of Galilee and off the Jordan River." Ross asked what "basically reached agreement" meant and Lauder replied that "what he would show the President was 99 percent agreed [on by the two parties]."
That paper (which can be read at
included ten provisions. Ross summarizes the second of them:
Israel would withdraw from the "Syrian lands taken in 1967" to "a commonly agreed border based on the international line of 1923."
Ross expressed skepticism at the ten-point paper:
Once I had looked this over, the President asked me what I thought. I told him it was "too good to be true." But now I understood why Barak and his colleagues believed they did not need to commit to the Rabin pocket and the June 4 lines. [The "pocket" refers to Yitzhak Rabin's having told Clinton that, were Israel's concerns satisfied, he would withdraw to the June 4, 1967, borders.] Now Sandy [Berger] and Madeleine [Albright] joined us, and the President told them I was skeptical about the content of the paper. But did I think Lauder was lying? I said, "No, he is sincere and I believe he believes much of what he is saying. But I am afraid he is not precise and what he considers minor differences are not so minor. Moreover, I think there is some real wishful thinking here." Where did I have the greatest doubts? I knew that the 1923 line was a complete nonstarter with Asad; in Asad's eyes, those were the colonial borders, and he would never accept them in a document.
To probe the matter further, Clinton asked his staff to meet further with Lauder, which they did. Ross asked Lauder
what questions he thought Asad might pose about the paper. He said Asad would have a problem with the bracketed language on the Israeli presence in the early-warning station-and that was all. What about the 1923 lines, not the June 4, 1967 lines? To my surprise, he insisted that Asad had agreed to this-and when Asad received the paper, we would see it was not a problem.
On the basis of this paper, Clinton called Asad:
Asad's response tended to reinforce my doubts. "This was really a bit strange," he said. He acknowledged having seen Lauder a number of times, but professed to know nothing about ten points. He said the effort with him had not succeeded and it had ended.
So Clinton sent the paper Lauder had given him to Asad (faxed to the personal attention of the ambassador, who was instructed to hand deliver it without comment to Asad).
Two days later, Asad responded, calling the President to say that Syria had not accepted this paper, and would not now. The effort with Lauder had ended; Asad preferred to work from the Rabin commitment-the "pocket"-and have us make suggestions to the two sides.
Ross subsequently states that Asad considered it "a mistake" to have participated in the Lauder-Nader round of diplomacy.
Despite this initial effort having gone nowhere, Ross tells about a round of super-secret Syria-Israel negotiations ("no one in the State Department was aware of it" other than his executive assistant and the secretary of state) he hosted a month later, in September 1999. At one point,
I pulled out the Lauder paper and showed it to him [Riad Daoudi, the Syrian representative to the talks] with the President's notations. I told him the President had gotten very enthusiastic when he was the ten points, and I reminded him about the value of having enthusiastic presidential involvement. The key for us was to take some of these points and build a structure around the traditional headings of withdrawal, peace, security, and the timetable.
Daoudi looked over the ten-point paper,
clearly impressed with the President's notes in the margin. But he said, "Dennis, I have seen these points; we spent thirteen hours going over them and drafting comments, and they don't reflect any of our comments. This is the first draft given to us, not the final version" in which he knew they [i.e., the Syrians] had insisted on the June 4 lines replacing the 1923 lines.
To which Ross said that this
was very important for us to know. Still, I added, there were legitimate points in the Lauder paper. We had a channel now, and we should build on it.
Daoudi responded non-committally to this and negotiations ended for the day.
When Barak called Ross, Ross told him that it was "a very disturbing discovery" that the draft Lauder had presented had lacked any of the Syrian comments. Barak
then observed that even if the Lauder points were not accurate, Asad had accepted negotiating over them. Daoudi was admitting as much.
But the next morning, Daoudi asked to speak to Ross alone.
He said he has spoken to Syrian Foreign Minister [Farouk] Shara and the Lauder points were off the table. Syria required a formula that was explicit on June 4 and on the "aims and principles" nonpaper as well. This was the starting point for a formal resumption of negotiations; nothing less was acceptable.
Despite this unpromising response, Ross tells how he
kept coming back to Barak's observation that the Lauder effort
had produced a serious give-and-take on a paper. As I was being
driven back to Zurich to catch a plane to Cairo, I came up with
an idea. Why not recreate an indirect negotiation on a paper
like the Lauder points.
The Syrians and Israelis both accepted this formulation and talks proceeded on that basis.
In mid-September 1999, Ross recounts, Ronald Lauder
sent a letter to President Clinton enclosing an eight-point paper which he claimed included the final points that had been agreed upon by both sides in 1998. Gone was the reference to the 1923 borderline, replaced by withdrawal to a commonly agreed border based on the June 4, 1967 lines.
Ross lists a number of other elements that had changed and notes that "Syrian concerns were clearly addressed, but this was a very different paper from the ten points we had been shown." Ross then asks:
Why hadn't we - Americans and Israelis alike - been shown this paper? Why had we seen only the first Israeli draft instead? My guess was that Bibi didn't want to give up deniability and so asked his friend [Ronald Lauder] to reveal only the ten-point version - not this later version reflecting Syrian comments. Whatever the motivation of the Lauder effort - or the reason for presenting the preliminary paper as a final version - it had certainly sown confusion. Now Lauder's "clarifying letter" to President Clinton indicated that Bibi Netanyahu had committed to withdrawal to the June 4 lines - which meant that Barak's position on peace with Syria was less forthcoming than Netanyahu's, at least insofar as it was revealed by Lauder's eight-point paper.
The mood in the negotiations shifted abruptly with the appearance of the eight-point paper:
I showed Foreign Minister Shara the eight-point paper in New York and he confirmed that this had been acceptable to Syria. But it was not acceptable to Barak. The points he had seen as so advantageous to Israel were gone.
Negotiations did follow, but on a new basis, culminating in the Clinton meeting with Hafiz al-Asad in March 2000. That meeting came to naught, however (and Ross's account of how this came to pass is fascinating), and no significant talks have taken place since.
Ultimately the Syrian-Israeli track had to fail during Hafiz al-Asad's lifetime because he was petrified of its implications for his rule. Interestingly, the Lauder-Nader round of diplomacy, for all its controversy and confusion, came as close to an agreement as has any other effort.
To comment on this article, please go to http://www.danielpipes.org/article/2002#comment
To see the Daniel Pipes archive, go to http://www.DanielPipes.org
This article ran in FrontPageMagazine.com on August 6, 2004
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A Kerry Middle East Man: US
troops to the Middle East?
Dr. Martin Indyk, who served two stints as ambassador to Israel, introduced
himself to Israeli reporters who covered last week's Democratic National Convention as one of the key Middle East advisors to Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry.
Indyk sends shudders down the spine of senior members of the Israel defense and foreign policy establishment. For the past year, Indyk, in his new capacity as the head of the Saban Center at the Brookings Institution, has conducted a campaign to dispatch U.S. troops to intervene in the Middle East conflict.
Indyk has gone so far as to say that the U.S. should sent troops or create a protectorate over the West Bank and Gaza.
Such an action would place the U.S. in a virtual state of war with the Israeli army, which has always viewed some of the West Bank and Gaza as vital to the security concerns of the state of Israel.
Indyk -- who, by the way, is funded by millionaire toy inventor Haim Saban, who also catapulted Ehud Barak into his disastrous short term as Prime Minister of Israel -- is generally looked upon as the man who planned the Oslo process that gave Yassir Arafat and the PLO armed control over most of the Palestinian Arab population.
In 1994, journalist Haim Shibi of the Yediot Aharonot newspaper reported that in 1987, Indyk had convinced more than 150 members of the U.S. foreign policy establishment that Israel should unilaterally withdraw from territories gained in 1967 Six Day War.
Indyk oversaw every step of the disastrous Oslo process with this precise policy in mind of Israel giving up land vital to her defense.
And Indyk did not hesitate to misrepresent the intentions and policies of the PLO while doing so. Particularly, the PLO has never adhered to the basic commitment it made to cancel its covenant that calls for the eradication of the Jewish state.
In September 1995, with the signing of the second Olso interim
agreement at the White House, the U.S. Congress mandated that the U.S. would only be able to provide funds to the Palestinian Authority and provide diplomatic status to Arafat if the PLO covenant was finally canceled.
The Palestinians have never done it, yet the foreign aid money kept rolling in to the Palestinian Authority.
On April 24, 1996, the PLO convened a special session of its Palestine National Council (PNC) to consider the subject of the PLO covenant cancellation.
Our news agency dispatched a Palestinian TV crew to cover that session, which filmed the event. The film crew brought back a videotape that showed a lively discussion, the conclusion of which was to ratify Arafat's suggestion that the PNC simply create a committee to "discuss" the subject. I rushed the video to Ambassador Indyk for comment, but he did not respond to that request. In addition, he chose to ignore the decision of the PNC and instead to issue a falsified report to President Clinton and to the U.S. Congress that the PLO covenant had been canceled.
As a result, Arafat was provided with a red carpet greeting at the White House on May 1, 1996. The next day, Hebrew University Professor Yehoshua Porat, a former leading activist in Peace Now and an expert in Palestinian studies who is fluent in Arabic, convened a press conference in which he shared documents of the PNC session and the videotape that proved Arafat never canceled the PLO covenant.
But the damage was already done. Thanks to the obfuscations of Martin Indyk, Arafat received the crucial diplomatic recognition and foreign aid that he needed from the U.S. to buttress the PLO.
In December 1998, Clinton himself came to Gaza, accompanied by Indyk, and asked for a show of hands from members of the PNC as to whether they want to cancel the PLO covenant and make peace with Israel. He got his true answer when the next day, Arafat's trusted spokesman, Yassir Abed Abbo, told the Palestinian Arabic media that the PNC had, of course, not canceled any covenant.
In September, 2000, Dr. Uzi Landau, then serving as the head of the Knesset
State Control Committee (the equivalent of the U.S. Senate's Committee on
Governmental Affairs), took the unusual step of filing a formal complaint
against United States Ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk.
Landau quoted the September 16, 2000 report in the Guardian of London that "the U.S. Ambassador to Israel yesterday urged Israel to share Jerusalem with the Palestinians." Mr. Indyk said: "There is no other solution but to share the holy city . . . " and Landau also noted that Ambassador Indyk was similarly quoted by the Associated Press, The Jerusalem Post and Ha'aretz.
Landau went on to say that "the timing of the speech and the political context in which it was delivered leave no room for doubt that Ambassador Indyk was calling on the Government of Israel to divide Jerusalem. Indeed, the Guardian correspondent described the remarks as 'a sharp departure from Washington orthodoxy in recent years.'"
In addition to his remarks concerning Jerusalem, Ambassador Indyk offered his views regarding secular-religious tensions in Israel and the role of the Reform and Conservative movements in Judaism. He also intimated his tacit support for Prime Minister Barak's so-called secular revolution. As a commentator in the liberal daily Ha'aretz, noted: "readers are urged to imagine what the Americans would say if the Israeli ambassador to Washington were to come to a local religious institution and say such things."
Landau, who today serves in a ministerial post in the Israeli government that negotiates the sensitive relations between the U.S. and Israel, mentioned in his letter to Clinton that he wished to "strongly protest Ambassador Indyk's blatant interference in Israel's internal affairs and democratic process… I am sure you would agree that it is simply unacceptable for a foreign diplomat to involve himself so provocatively in the most sensitive affairs of the country to which he is posted. If a foreign ambassador stationed in the United States were to involve himself in a domestic American policy debate regarding race relations or abortion, the subsequent outcry would not be long in coming . . . Ambassador Indyk's remarks about Jerusalem are an affront to Israel, particularly since he made them in the heart of the city that he aspires to divide. By needlessly raising Arab expectations on the Jerusalem issue, rather than moderating them, Ambassador Indyk has caused inestimable damage to the peace process. It is likewise inexplicable that Ambassador Indyk would choose to interject his private religious preferences into the debate over secular-religious tensions in Israel."
Landau made it a point even more by stating that "this is not the first time that the American Embassy in Israel has interfered in our internal affairs. In February, I wrote to you in the wake of media reports that Embassy officials were lobbying Israeli-Arab leaders regarding a possible referendum on the Golan Heights. My fear is that such interference in Israel's affairs is rapidly becoming routine."
Landau concluded his missive to Clinton with a "Request that you recall
Ambassador Indyk to the United States."
Unfortunately, Landau's protestations did not help.
Only two months later, in early November 2000, Arafat's Second Intifada terror campaign was getting underway, and Indyk was strongly condemning Israel's military actions against Arafat's forces. Indyk remarked that what the Israelis had to do was to get Arafat to act against the perpetrators of the violence, such as Hamas, Tanzim gangs and the Islamic Jihad diplomatically. He did not mention that Arafat's own Force 17 bodyguard, Preventive Security and other Palestinian Authority forces were also responsible for a considerable portion of the violence. Indyk never wants to hold Arafat responsible when Arafat's personal forces carry out terrorist activities and kill people.
And in late November 2000, when Israel issued a "white paper" on intercepted intelligence from Arafat's headquarters that showed documentary evidence that Arafat and his mainstream PLO gangs were indeed facilitating the campaign of terror, Indyk made a special trip to Jerusalem to demand that the Israeli government withdraw its report. Indyk had just reported to the U.S. Congress that the Palestinian groups organizing the terror campaign were NOT under Arafat's control.
Eight months later, on May 21, 2001, in an address to Ben Gurion University, Indyk stuck to his guns and continued to position Arafat and company as U.S. colleagues in the War on Terror by telling Israel: "What you do is you get Arafat to act against the perpetrators of the violence, Hamas, Tanzim gangs, the Islamic Jihad and you get the Israeli government to hold back the Israeli army while he does so. But that requires a great deal of energy and commitment on Arafat's part -- in very risky circumstances to take on the very angry Palestinian street -- and that requires a great deal of restraint and forbearance on the part of the government of Israel."
Indyk's admonition to Israel to turn the other cheek when it comes to Arafat has become his mantra.
In geopolitical circles, Indyk's ideas of dispatching U.S. troops to an area where they could become targets of the PLO or be killed in crossfire between Israeli troops and Arafat's forces had rendered him obsolete. That is until Senator Kerry appointed Inyk as his man for Middle East policy two days ago.
Now they will have to take Indyk's personal policy to hide the crimes of Fatah and the PLO and coerce American soldiers to protect Arafat's terrorists seriously.
Imagine if the PLO fires upon Jewish population centers and American soldiers get killed in the crossfire. Because this is what the PLO wants.
Furthermore, the PLO openly and verbally supports the insurgency in Iraq. How long will it be before American soldiers are taken hostage by Palestinian terror groups, or worse, killed like the 241 U.S. marines in Beirut in 1983?
Are American lives threatened by Kerry's choice for his Middle East advisor?
Time will tell. So will the November elections.
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Revealed: the Special
Relationship Behind America's Middle East policy
Is an Arab Woman Lobbyist
Romantically Involved with a Key U.S. Policy Maker?
Special Investigative Story
The Daily Telegraph
Wolfowitz, the US deputy defence secretary who was a driving
force behind the invasion of Iraq, is depicted as a fiercely
pro-Zionist hardliner. Philip Sherwell reveals his unlikely
confidante is a high-powered Arab divorcee with whom he is said
to be closely involved.
Political foes of Paul Wolfowitz like to portray him as a
leading light in Washington's so-called 'Zionist conspiracy',
part of a small cabal of Jewish neo-conservatives driving a
blindly pro-Israel policy in the Middle East.
Paul Wolfowitz: Surprising friend and confidante
The US deputy secretary of defence was one of the original architects of the war to overthrow Saddam Hussein and remains an enthusiastic advocate of spreading democracy in the Middle East, despite the setbacks in Iraq. For his detractors, it is evidence that he is pursuing an agenda hostile to Arab regimes, particularly ones as virulently opposed to Israel as Saddam's.
Critics have also latched on to the fact that his sister, Laura, a biologist, lives in Israel as proof for their theory. Indeed she does; she even has an Israeli husband. But although she rarely talks about politics, the reality is that she is a moderate rather than a hawkish settler or enthusiastic backer of Ariel Sharon, Israel's hardline prime minister.
In fact, there is a woman from whom Mr Wolfowitz does draw support and backing for his views, but she comes from a very different - and unexpected - background. The Telegraph can reveal that his closest companion and most valued confidantes is a middle-aged Arab feminist whose own strongly held views on instilling democracy in her native Middle East have helped bolster his resolve.
Shaha Ali Riza is a senior World Bank official who was born in Tunis, grew up in Saudi Arabia and holds an international relations masters degree from St Anthony's College, Oxford. Close acquaintances of the couple have told The Telegraph that she is romantically linked with Mr Wolfowitz, 61, a fellow divorcee with whom she has been friends for several years.
Even by the discreet standards of Washington's powerful inner circle, it is a remarkably closely guarded secret. They rarely go out as a couple openly or demonstrate affection publicly, according to friends who are aware of the relationship. They attend low-key Washington social events and visit friends' homes together and Ms Riza also sometimes goes to official functions and dinners with him, but is not identified as his partner, an acquaintance said. 'Most people would never guess there was a relationship, even if they saw them together,' he said.
It is a sign of the sensitivity surrounding the relationship that the few friends willing even to acknowledge it last week did not want to be named. 'Shaha Riza runs around with Wolfowitz a lot. I gather that she is his current girlfriend but they are very careful about this,' said one.
Ms Riza was on holiday last week on a ranch in Wyoming and did not respond to messages left for her. Mr Wolfowitz did not return a call placed with his office at the Pentagon.
It would amaze the detractors who depict Mr Wolfowitz as part of a narrow-minded Jewish lobby that one of the most important people in his life is, in fact, an Arab woman whose job is to promote gender equality in the Middle East and North Africa. It will doubtless also surprise many of his supporters.
Ms Riza's childhood in Saudi Arabia did much to shape her commitment to democracy, equal rights and civil liberties in the Arab world as she experienced at first hand the kingdom's oppressive regime, particularly for women. She has long pursued those beliefs in adult life and joined the World Bank in 1997 as the senior gender co-ordinator for the Middle East and North Africa, a role that involves extensive travel in the region.
She previously worked for the Iraq Foundation, set up by expatriates in 1991 to push for democracy and human rights in that country after the first Gulf war, and then established the Middle East programme at the National Endowment for Democracy, a federal agency created under Ronald Reagan in 1983 with the ambitious goal of promoting American political values internationally.
So Mr Wolfowitz and Ms Riza are not just close personally, they have also both long espoused the same deeply held conviction that democracy should be spread across the Arab world. With his ear, she is one of most influential Arabs in Washington.
'Paul and some others always had Saddam Hussein in their sights, but she helped reinforce that resolve,' said a friend who moves in similar conservative circles. 'That was greatly helped by the fact that she is an Arab woman who is an expert on the process of democracy.
'Paul Wolfowitz is always being accused of being part of a bunch of Jews pushing Zionist interests with the likes of Richard Perle [a former senior Pentagon adviser] and Doug Feith [the Pentagon number three]. So when an Arab woman says something similar, her views have tremendous authority.
'This agenda is being pushed by a group in which Shaha has a crucial role. She has views she holds strongly, but she is a modest, polite person.
'Paul's sister in Israel is always quoted as evidence that he's part of some Zionist conspiracy. But she's actually quite Left-wing and he has more in common with Shaha than with her.'
As with Ms Riza, Mr Wolfowitz's political creed also began to take shape in his childhood. His father, Jacob, an eminent mathematician, emigrated from Poland to America as a boy in 1920 but lost several relatives in the Holocaust. The young Paul was taught from an early age that appeasement does not work.
He met Clare Selgin, later to become a renowned scholar on Indonesian anthropology, when they were students at Cornell in the early 1960s. They married in 1968, have three children and quietly divorced in 2002. Mr Wolfowitz is intensely private and makes a point of never discussing his personal life in interviews.
Ms Riza is also divorced and has a 17-year-old son, who lives
with her in Wesley Heights in an elegant street of townhouses
popular with foreign diplomats who are based in nearby
embassies. Her former husband, Bulent Ali Riza, a Turkish
Cypriot who heads the Turkish programme at the Center for
Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), said that he was
aware that she discusses her views on the Middle East with Mr
Wolfowitz. 'She talks to Paul,' he said, 'though I think she now
has some reservations about the democratisation process in Iraq.'
Mr and Ms Riza both studied for their international relations postgraduate degrees at St Anthony's in the early 1980s before moving to America. They later split up but both made their mark in the influential Washington world of international thinktanks and institutes.
She was moving in the same conservative academic circles as Mr Wolfowitz, who was dean and professor of international relations at the School of Advanced International Studies for seven years before he joined President Bush's administration in 2001. Friends say that they have been seeing each other for several years, but do not know when they started dating.
Asked about their relationship, Mr Perle, a close political and intellectual soulmate of Mr Wolfowitz, said: 'You should ask her and Mr Wolfowitz about that. Any relationship they may have is a personal and private matter. I don't know the extent or nature of it.'
Mr Wolfowitz was, of course, already beating the drums for regime change in Iraq and was one of the signatories with Mr Perle on the 1998 letter to President Clinton calling for Saddam to be ousted. After al-Qa'eda's attacks on New York and Washington on September 11, 2001, he immediately pushed Mr Bush towards challenging states that sponsor terrorism rather than just pursuing the terror network's leader, Osama bin Laden.
For him, the war on terror brought with it the chance to pursue regime change and democracy across the Islamic world. In these views, he found common ground with Ms Riza, who had often expressed her frustration at the widely held view in the West that Arab states would never embrace democracy.
'She felt that the US supported democracy all over the world except in Arab countries,' said a friend. 'She believed that was wrong and that democracy can and must be promoted in the Arab world, even if it upsets feudal rulers and dictators.'
Mr Wolfowitz hoped that the invasion of Iraq that he did so much to engineer with his boss, Donald Rumsfeld, would not just topple a brutal dictator, but also set off a democracy 'domino effect' across the Middle East.
For many of the neo-conservative cheerleaders of democracy, the next target is the autocratic Saudi state. Mr Wolfowitz has already said that another goal of the Iraq war was to allow US troops to pull out of the kingdom to alternative bases. Ms Riza will doubtless have offered him her views on how to deal with her childhood home.
This piece ran in the Daily Telegraph
in London on August 1st, 2004
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"Demographic threat" Nonexistent
Dr. Uzi Arad
Yonatan Bassi, head of the disengagement administration, justified the
pullout plan (in Globes, July 29) by saying that in Gaza, "there used to be
600,000 Arabs. Now there are 1.4 million people there . . . in a few more
years what happened to South Africa will happen to us. The UN will decide
that either we give the right to vote to everyone or we will be outcasts
from the family of nations. Absurdly, the greatest danger that could befall
us . . . is that the intifada would end - because then we would fall asleep
and wake up to a binational state."
That is the entire apocalyptic demographic doctrine on one demagogic leg.
But that apocalyptic scenario has nothing at all to do with the evacuation
of Gaza. True, the disengagement plan makes claims about improving Israel's
demographic situation, but it is not clear how. Will the evacuation of 7,000
Israelis from Gaza change the estimate that there will be 2.3 million Arabs
there in 2020 or 5.1 million in 2050? Will giving up the disengagement plan
oblige Israel to grant the Palestinians the right to vote in Israel? Is it
plausible that the UN, which has always favored a two-state partition, would
convert to the one-state principle, against the majority of countries of the
world, including Israel and the U.S.?
In effect, for the last decade, all Israeli governments have been
implementing political disengagement from the Palestinian population of the
territories. The cities and towns of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip have
long since been evacuated. The number of Palestinians between the river and
sea is no longer relevant to Israel being a Jewish democratic state. The
demographic process in the territories thus has become the main problem of
the Palestinians, who anyway are finding it difficult to build a properly
functioning administration and an economy that can sustain itself.
A population that doubles itself every generation and is unable to grow its
economy at a pace that keeps up with the demographic growth rate is dooming
itself to ever worsening poverty and backwardness. The problem of the
residents of Gaza is not "one man, one vote." In any case they have the
right to vote in Palestinian Authority institutions. The essence of the Gaza
problem was and remains "one man, one job," and the disengagement plan is
only going to aggravate that problem.
The Arab Human Development Report found that a third of the population in
the Arab world earns less than $2 a day. It's double that in Gaza. If they
wanted, the Palestinians could take a lesson from several states in the
region that managed to reduce their birth rates. While the current birth
rate among Palestinians is 5.9 children per woman (in Gaza, it reaches 6.6),
in Egypt it has dropped to 2.9, in Tunisia to 2.1, in Syria to 3.6, in
Lebanon to 2.2, and in Jordan to 4.3. Iran has also seen a dramatic drop to
2.1 children per woman. The international institutions that support the
Palestinians would do well by linking their support to more effective family
planning among Palestinians, as was demanded of Egypt.
It is also important that the American and European programs to advance the
Middle East, as formulated at various summits and inspired by the Arab Human
Development Report and which seek to improve freedoms, education and women's
status in the Arab world - reach the Palestinians as well. Such reforms,
alongside the reduction of the birth rate to the regional average, could
stabilize the Palestinians' demographic problem, which is more theirs than
it is Israel's at this point.
But it is already clear that, first of all, there is no point in waving
around an apocalyptic demographic scenario from which Israel already
extricated itself. And there certainly should not be any comparisons to
South Africa or hollow threats about a binational state, as the Palestinian
propagandists are prone to make. Certainly, one should not express hope for
the intifada to continue, not even for rhetorical purposes.
And secondly, if the Palestinians do not restrain their demographic growth,
and continue their armed and international campaigns against Israel, the
apocalypse could very well be theirs. It is in their interest and ours that
this does not happen.
This ran in HaAretz, August 6th, 2004
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Hamas Claims New Weapon
Middle East News Line: Special Release
GAZA [MENL] -- Hamas has claimed the deployment
of a new weapon against Israel's military.
Hamas's military wing said it has begun using a new anti-tank weapon in
the Gaza Strip. The Izzedin Kassam wing called the anti-tank weapon Al
Yassin and said it achieved success against Israeli armored vehicles.
Izzedin Kassam said in a statement on August 4 that Al Yassin destroyed an
Israeli armored vehicle east of the Jabalya refugee camp. Hamas said Al
Yassin was launched against an Israeli armored convoy in the first operation
of the weapon.
The statement did not provide specifications of Al Yassin. Hamas said Al
Yassin scored a direct hit and destroyed an Israeli armored vehicle.
Israel's military did not report any losses or acknowledge the new
weapon. In July, Hamas introduced the Nasser-3 short-range missile, said to
be an enhanced version of the Kassam missile.
On Thursday, Israeli forces withdrew from most of their positions they
captured in the northern Gaza Strip in an attempt to halt Kassam-class
short-range missile attacks against Israel.
On Friday, Israeli forces killed a Palestinian insurgent who tried to
attack an Israeli community in the central Gaza Strip. Military sources said
two insurgents, one of whom escaped, carried a huge landmine and tried to
infiltrate the Gush Katif bloc of settlements near Khan Yunis
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Frontpage Interview's guest:
Author of New Book:
"Disclosed: Inside the Palestinian Authority and the PLO"
Associate Editor, Front Page Magazine
FP: Ms. Kushner, welcome to Frontpage Interview.
Kushner: Thank you, it's a pleasure to participate.
FP: In Disclosed, you explore the inner workings of the Palestine Liberation Organization and its outgrowth, the Palestinian National Authority. Tell our readers some of the disturbing things you found.
Kushner: The PLO (which plays the role of "negotiating partner" with Israel) is duplicitous to its core. It is not even a matter of hedging on commitments when it's convenient: Islamic law permits breaking of treaties with non-Muslims when it brings advantage, and Arafat has openly alluded to this.The PLO leadership was well schooled in its early days by revolutionary movements,in places such as N. Vietnam, Algeria,on ways to present themselves as more moderate than they are in order to disguise their true intentions.
One needs to look no further than the incitement that prevails in the Palestinian Authority to understand precisely what their intentions are. It is ubiquitous and it is vile. Of course I knew about the incitement before researching the book. But when one confronts this material -- from the pulpit, on TV, on radio, in the newspapers, in textbooks, in crossword puzzles,etc. etc., and recognizes the amount of venom that is being spewed,it is still a shock.
And then there is the degree to which the PLO is simply evil. I know of no other word to express what I've discovered. Fomenting of terrorism within Israel, first and foremost, of course.As well as the fostering of terrorism internationally, training and giving shelter to terrorists from other places. The promotion of Nazi-style anti-Semitism, with Mein Kampf on sale in the Palestinian Authority. But there is also corruption that allows them to rob their own people blind. And there is involvement with criminal activities over the years, from drug trade to gun running to counterfeiting. I encountered sources that indicated that the PLO was more a mafia-type operation than a revolutionary movement.
FP: What do you think is really behind the Palestinians' hatred of Jews? Is this really over land, or about something else? There is every indication in this culture that hatred of someone else, the other, is crucial.
Kushner: "The other" -- specifically the Jewish and Christian other -- within Islamic society is given second-class, dhimitude, status. But dhimis do not automatically invite hatred so much as repression and condescension.There is more going on here. And yes, I think to a large degree it's a matter of land. But not land in the sense of where the borders should lie or whether there should be a Palestinian entity of some sort.It is, rather, with regard to the view that we are illegitimate interlopers, occupying land that is Muslim. We are an offense to them: They resent our very presence.The Palestinian Authority, which is merely an outgrowth of the PLO, is committed to our being gone. Since the onset of Oslo, ten years ago, the PA has established campaign of vilification against us as part of the effort to delegitimize our presence.All of this is reinforced by a direct connection to Nazi anti-Semitism. Yasser Arafat learned at the feet of his uncle and mentor, the former Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, who consorted with the Nazis; Mein Kampf is sold in PA stores today.The PA is the first entity since Nazi Germany to advocate the killing of people simply because they are Jews. Listen to their incitement, especially from their pulpits, and you can hear it -- Allah is pleased when Jews are killed.
FP: From all my studies and observations of Islamic fundamentalism and Palestinian culture, I can tell you that if Israel disappeared tomorrow and there were no Jews left in the world, and then all the infidels disappeared as well, that the Palestinians, and militant Muslims in general, would still desperately yearn to hate and kill someone and to blow themselves up. It is connected to the lack of freedom and free will in their cultures, combined with the demonization of women and pleasure. There is ultimately so little freedom to engage in so many wonderful and beautiful things in life that, ultimately, the only freedom that exists is the freedom to wage war and to blow yourself up. Wherever there is a pathological misogyny on a massive scale, a suicidal behaviour in a culture always emerges. Do you agree with any of these themes?
Kushner: Quite a series of propositions, really, and I must say that --while repression generally will certain foster violence --I do not agree with the main thrust of what you are saying: I do not think pathological misogyny leads to suicidal behavior. It leads to killing woman, first, and general insensitivity to all humans and other living things, second. But we can look at several fundamentalist Muslim societies that repress and mistreat their women without finding a tendency for the men to blow themselves up. Additionally, any theory of the sort you propound should take into account other (often concomitant) violent or dehumanizing tendencies in addition to misogyny, such as a predilection for incest and sexual abuse of children, including boys.
Palestinian society is unique, I think. Such that it has evolved from a more general Arab culture, it has become one of the most extraordinarily negative societies found anywhere. The focus is not on building themselves, but rather on destroying us. When you look at the incitement, which has been rife within the culture for 10 years now, you see that it promotes jihad and becoming a shahid ("martyr").The Palestinians have been taught that blowing themselves up, in the service of killing Jews, is something that Allah seeks and praises. This behavior is learned, religious/political behavior, not something generated from within the culture.
FP: Shed some light for us on the events in Gaza right now.
Kushner: I would make two comments at this point. The first is to not count Arafat out yet, no matter what "rebellion" seems to be taking place against him and his "old guard" cronies. Arafat is particularly adept at playing one group against the other in order to maintain the upper hand. Nor should too much credence be given to the idea that "reformers" within the PA are trying to gain ascendancy. The leader of the reform element is Muhammad Dahlan. What many people don't know is that the CIA has a tape recording of orders he gave to bomb a school bus in Gaza in 2000, while Israeli Intelligence has documents indicating he had complicity in all stages of the Karine-A weapons ship fiasco.
FP: Give us a brief profile of Yasser Arafat the terrorist.
Kushner: There is, of course, Arafat the historical terrorist: the one who improvised and promoted new forms of terrorism in the early years of the PLO. Then there is the Arafat who has promoted terrorism internationally via support for other groups. Over the years the PLO has harbored terrorists, armed them, and trained them. I myself did not realize, until I researched this for my book, how extensive Arafat's reach has been. The IRA, the Red Army of Germany, FALN -- the Puerto Rican nationalists, the Red Army of Italy, and the Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka all received PLO training.
Most significantly now, however, is the way in which Arafat continues to promote terrorism here in Israel as he pretends to either be helpless to prevent it or opposed to it.
In 1995, an agreement was struck between Hamas, as represented by Sheikh Yassin, and the PA, as represented by Yasser Arafat, which called for Hamas and the PA to "become united behind major issues of concern to the homeland" and which stated that the PA "is responsible for the protection of individuals who performed their duties during the years of struggle, from any faction or group." In the years since, the PA, and Arafat specifically, have supported terrorism directly.Arafat clearly was playing the violence option after Camp David fell apart in 2000, when he promoted the Second Intifada. A considerable amount of documentation regarding his connection to terrorism was uncovered during Operation Defensive Shield in 2002: He has personally signed off on payments to terrorists.PA security personnel, with his sanction, have participated in terrorist attacks; the PA has been involved in securing of illicit weapons, and in building weapons and bomb factories.The PA, headed by Arafat, is not peripheral to terrorist activity, it is a constituent part of it.
FP: I think it would have been a constructive thing if the Israelis had assassinated Arafat a long time ago. I think it would have taught a profound lesson to the leadership of the Palestinians and that the lives of thousands of innocent people, Palestinians and Jews, would have been saved. Is my view too hawkish and extreme?
Kushner: Here, too, I must disagree. I don't think it's a matter of your being too hawkish. From a purely personal perspective I too would love to see Arafat blown away. But the repercussions must be considered. Because I am totally unable to perceive Arafat's "charisma," the phenomenon tends to bewilder me. Yet it is an empirical fact that when he has been attacked from the outside his popularity has increased.Though it may be waning now, he has had an almost mythic hold on the Palestinian street -- he has personified the Palestinian nationalist movement. To have assassinated him would have been risking making a martyr out of him and actually motivating Palestinians to rally with increased fervor in his memory.
Then too, it has been clear to me for some time that he has an entire entourage that has absorbed his lessons and values. I suspect the "revolution," that is, the violence, would have gone on anyway in the name of the PLO. We are going to have to eradicate a great deal more than the person of Yasser Arafat before this changes.
FP: You are an expert in how American tax dollars fund terrorism via UNRWA (the United Nations Relief and Work Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Middle East). Could you give our readers a highlight of this outrage?
Kushner: The US, via USAID, is the single largest contributor to UNRWA, supplying over 30% of its regular budget annually. By US law, none of these funds should go to UNRWA unless UNRWA has taken all possible measures to assure that no part of the funds shall go to any benefactor who has an association with terrorism.
UNRWA, however,turns a blind eye towards terrorism. Hamas controls its teachers union. UNRWA employees -- who are not vetted in the West Bank and Gaza --have been convicted of terrorist activities in Israeli military court. (The fact that all but a handful of UNRWA's 23,000 employees are themselves Palestinian Arab refugees is a good part of the problem here.) And it is without question that some of the 4 million beneficiaries on the UNRWA rolls are associated with terrorism, for the core of terrorist activity is within the camps and extensive documentation was found by the IDF in 2002. Yet, UNRWA has never removed a single beneficiary from its rolls because of association with terrorism. They are said to be afraid of repercussions if they do and thus maintain a "don't ask, don't tell" policy.
FP: So what can we do to stop this UNRWA fiasco?
Kushner: I am a firm believer in public education. The Center for Near East Policy Research has underwritten my work on two reports on this issue, which are being widely disseminated. Journalists and policy makers in particular need to be apprised of the situation.
Ultimately, money talks, and it is those counties (the US, Canada, the EU) most directly connected to large scale funding for UNRWA who must take an active role here. Fully dismantling UNRWA as a humanitarian agency is not the goal -- a serious adjustment in UNRWA operations is.
UNRWA has politicized its role inappropriately, and extended itself beyond its humanitarian mandate. A return to that originally envisioned mandate would be most appropriate. This means it would be dedicated to assisting the needy within the Palestinian refugee population, and would do so within the norms of customary international law. There is no justification UNRWA to be permitted to operate at variance with practices and policies concerning refugees that are otherwise universally accepted. For example: Arabs who lived in what became Israel before 1948, fled in 1948, went to Jordan and became citizens there,are not refugees and should not be counted as such. UNRWA does count them for purely political reasons. Just as UNRWA, alone in all the world, counts successive generations of the descendants of refugees as also refugees.
At the heart of this issue is the "right of return," which UNRWA has assiduously promoted and, in truth, relied upon as its raison d'ętre: Refugees remain refugees until they "return," and UNRWA must continue to provide for them, as transients, until this time. The original mandate for UNRWA envisioned the agency to be only temporary. GA resolution 194, to which the mandate refers, alludes to solution to the refugee problem via resettlement, as well as via repatriation. It is time to return to this and to deal with realistic ways for the refugees to get on with their lives, with permanence.
Yet another major concern is the degree to which UNRWA dissembles on the association of its staff, facilities, and beneficiaries with terrorism. A confrontation of the major proportions of this problem is essential. Part of the problem, of course, is that the refugees constitute the vast majority of the staff. It is possible to adopt other models and still provide humanitarian assistance. Indeed, it is essential to do so.
FP: Thank you Ms. Kushner, we are out of time. We'll see you again soon.
Kushner: I thank you for the opportunity and would be delighted to do this again.
This interview ran in Front Page Magazine on August 2nd, 2004
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