Friday, August 30, 2013


THE BEAUTIFICATION OF BASHAR 
David M. Weinberg  8-30-13

The moral of the story: Take Western analysis of Mideast matters with a big grain of salt. When the Obama Administration and its liberal media backers take a liking to the Moslem Brotherhood in Egypt -- beware. When the Administration and the Europeans pin great hopes on the new face that the Iranians have put up for show, President Hasan Rouhani -- beware. Rouhani will smile all the way to Iran's nuclear bomb.


When he took office in Syria 13 years ago, at age 34, Bashar Assad was considered the great white hope of the West. He was going to modernize and moderate-tize Syria. He was going to bring Syria into the civilized world.
He was going to take an economically bankrupt, ethnically fractured, diplomatically isolated, militarily dominated, politically corrupt and inhumanely repressive state and make it an ally of freedom and democracy.
Or at least, that's what most Western analysts told us.
Faced with the choice between being feared, like his old man Hafez, or being respected like, say, Bill Clinton, Bashar was sure to choose the latter, the pundits pontificated. In the Internet age, keeping an entire nation repressed and completely isolated was simply going to be impossible, they said. It was "unlikely" that the supposedly urbane Bashar was capable of slaughtering tens of thousands of his own countrymen to maintain a totalitarian grip.
The usual cabal of Arabists was certain that Bashar was going to reshape and downsize his military, throw out the Palestinian terrorists, and open a dialogue with Washington. He was going to get immediately rid of Mustafa Tlass, the notorious Syrian defense minister who liked to pen anti-Semitic screeds in his spare time, and of the dour, impudent Foreign Minister Farouk al-Sharaa. He would appoint peace-loving spokesmen in their stead.
Bashar was supposed to banish from the circles of power his bad brothers, Rifaat (who carried out the 1982 Hama massacres -- which he did); and Maher, commander of the regime's Republican Guard and 4th Armored Division.
Bashar was going to leave Lebanon, disconnect from the Shiites, and abandon the Lebanese drug trade. He was going to make Turkey his main regional ally, instead of Iran, and bury the hatchet with his contemporary, the young King Abdullah of Jordan.
Remember the gushing magazine features about Bashar, the dashing British-trained ophthalmologist, who was going to shuck his father's close-mindedness and hermit-like existence, and instead travel the world? How Bashar was going to bring democratic culture and values, and personal ties to Western counterparts, to a new generation of Syrian leadership?
Remember how Bashar was going to make a surprise visit to give a lecture at Bar-Ilan University's Begin-Sadat Center or Tel Aviv University's Dayan Center, and offer peace -- just as Anwar Sadat did?
Well, Bashar did none of these things. Instead, he cozied up more than ever up to Iran, became the closest ally of Hezbollah, tried to build a military nuclear power plant with the North Koreans, served as the back door to Iraq for every jihadist and anti-American militia in the world, sought to undermine and destabilize Jordan, closed the door on reconciliation with Israel, and slaughtered tens of thousands of his own countrymen with incredible brutality. He and brother Maher have even used chemical weapons against civilians in Damascus and elsewhere.
So much for the attempt at beautification of Bashar. The moral of the story: Take Western analysis of Mideast matters with a big grain of salt. When the Obama Administration and its liberal media backers take a liking to the Moslem Brotherhood in Egypt -- beware. When the Administration and the Europeans pin great hopes on the new face that the Iranians have put up for show, President Hasan Rouhani -- beware. Rouhani will smile all the way to Iran's nuclear bomb.

Thursday, August 29, 2013


Underrated: Benjamin Netanyahu
EMANUELE OTTOLENGHI
September 2013


Everybody loves to hate Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. When he appeared at the United Nations General Assembly in September 2012 to warn the international community about Iran's impending nuclear threat with a graphic depiction of a bomb, Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt dismissed it as "confusing". New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman called him "a local party boss". In 2011 former US President Bill Clinton blamed him for the failure of the peace talks with the Palestinians. Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy was famously caught on a live mic telling President Obama "Netanyahu, I can't stand him. He's a liar." Obama replied: "You are sick of him, but I have to deal with him every day."
Since taking office for his second term as a prime minister in March 2009 (he is now into his third), Netanyahu has had to contend with the reputation of being a hardline hawk bent on sabotaging rather than seeking a peace deal with the Palestinians. His rhetoric on Iran has only enhanced the view that he is a warmonger.
Detractors even speculated that Netanyahu was under the intellectual spell of his late father Benzion Netanyahu, former secretary of the revisionist leader Zeev Jabotinsky and noted historian of the Spanish Inquisition. It was said that  Benzion's commitment to the revisionist idea of a Jewish state on both banks of the river Jordan blocked his son's route to a territorial compromise.
Yet his critics fail to grasp the true nature of a leader caught between the push of history in a region in turmoil and the pull of his country's byzantine politics.
Netanyahu is not the ideologue many presume he is. Although he opposed the Oslo Agreement of the early 1990s, he signed off the Hebron Accords in 1997 — relinquishing Israeli authority over one of Judaism's most important holy cities — and the Wye River deal a year later, which put another nail in the Greater Israel coffin. His opposition to the Peres-Rabin peace plan earned him international scorn, which intensified after Prime Minister Rabin was assasinated by a far-Right gunman. Yet, quite aside from the fact that much of his criticism of Oslo later proved justified, Netanyahu has approached relations with the Palestinian Authority pragmatically.
His stint as finance minister (2003-05)earned him little praise abroad, yet he rescued Israel from financial ruin. He also initiated enough structural change to free the country from the shackles of its overburdened welfare state. He resigned from the government in 2005 over the plan to withdraw from Gaza because it would allow a base for Islamic terrorism, a practical consideration borne out by Israel's subsequent clashes with Hamas in 2006 and 2009.
As prime minister Netanyahu has been much more cautious than most of his predecessors. The more centrist Ehud Olmert and his foreign minister Tzipi Livni, Netanyahu's former rival, got embroiled in two wars (in 2006 against Hezbollah and in 2009 against Hamas) while Netanyahu has avoided or sought to limit violent confrontations on Israel's borders.
Despite his ramped-up rhetoric on Iran, Netanyahu has also been cautious on the issue he views as most critical for his country's long-term security. He has not ordered the airforce into action and has patiently worked to push the international community to pressure Iran through sanctions. His best weapon has been bluff — the widespread belief that he is ready to pull the trigger, though his actions show that he is guided by prudence.
Nowhere is this truer than with two other big challenges he faces — the Arab Spring and the peace process. He has tried to walk a fine line between American pressure for a return to talks, Palestinian rejectionism, diminishing international sympathy for Israel, and the fickle nature of his coalitions.
His Bar-Ilan speech in June 2009, embracing a two-state solution, was never fully appreciated by his Western detractors, who could not grasp the dramatic departure it offered from his ideological roots. His ten-month settlement freeze was unprecedented — yet earned him no credit.
His recent readiness to free 26 Palestinian prisoners — mostly murderers who carried out terrorist offences — to jump-start peace talks contradicts his previous stance on terrorism. It is also a sign of incredible flexibility for a man who understands the importance of keeping American support amid regional pandemonium.
Netanyahu has acted carefully as the tumult has submerged allies like Hosni Mubarak and created vacuums for Israel's worst enemies to step into in Syria and the Sinai. To date, he has avoided being sucked into the mess and maintained Israel as an island of stable ground.
Netanyahu has few fans among liberal pundits or Scandinavian politicians. But he has captained the ship of state wisely and for long enough to deserve high praise.



The Implications of Obama’s Failure in Egypt
 Isi Leibler On August 29, 2013 
http://wordfromjerusalem.com/?p=4773&print=1
To date, US President Barack Obama’s efforts to appease or engage Islamists have either failed or backfired. US influence in the Mideast is at an all-time low and Islamic fundamentalism continues to gain strength at an alarming pace.
Egypt, which until a year ago was regarded by the US as an ally, is perhaps the most dramatic example of Obama’s complete failure to understand the nature of the region and the steps that must be taken to stabilize it. The current horrors and barbarism in Syria should not divert attention from events in Egypt, the outcome of which is likely to have a major impact on the entire region.
Obama’s first blunder in Egypt was the antagonism he displayed toward President Hosni Mubarak.  Immediately following his first election, Obama insisted on inviting members of the outlawed Moslem Brotherhood to his Cairo address. As a result, Mubarak boycotted the event.
Obama displayed the full extent of his contempt for Mubarak when the public riots first erupted against the Egyptian regime when he called on him to step down immediately. This provided an opening to the Islamists and sent shock waves throughout those Arab regimes that regarded themselves as US allies.
While there is no disputing that Mubarak was an odious authoritarian leader, he was considered a moderate within the context of the Arab world, a loyal ally of the US, and a combatant of Islamic terrorism — facts whose implications Obama either inexplicably failed to grasp or naively chose to ignore.
The Obama administration’s greatest failure with regard to Egypt has been its inexcusable and naive mischaracterization of the Moslem Brotherhood. The Moslem Brotherhood is a fanatical Islamist organization, established in 1928  with the objective of imposing medieval Islamic sharia law throughout the world, employing violence and terror to achieve the goal. The organization was suppressed for most of its 85-year history, and many of its leaders were jailed in Egypt during the Mubarak era.
The Brotherhood opposes freedom of religion and incites hatred against Christians and Jews, demanded the death penalty for apostates, homosexuals and adulterers and has relegated women to third-class status. It engineered the assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat.
Despite this damning record, the Obama administration has inexplicably characterized the Moslem Brotherhood as a moderate movement and suggested that it could become part of a multicultural, Egyptian democratic government that could collaborate with other secular, liberal political streams.
Obama could not have been more wrong. When Mohamed Morsi, one of the Moslem Brotherhood’s leading members took over the reins of government (gaining just 25% of the electoral vote due to the organizational chaos of his opponents), he began purging non-Brotherhood government officials and replacing them with Islamists and their cronies.
Instead of focusing on stabilizing the economy and reaching out to other factions, his new parliament concentrated on outlawing foreign languages in state schools and sanctioning female genital mutilation. During Morsi’s brief tenure, Islamists made major inroads in the Sinai and the provinces where radical elements succeeded in killing Egyptian military and police, murdering Christian Copts, who comprise 10% of the population, and burning and desecrating more than 50 of their churches.
President Morsi would have confronted the US and introduced amendments to the Egypt-Israel peace treaty, had Egypt’s economic crisis not demanded his full attention. Much like Hitler, Morsi moved determinedly toward dictatorship.
Meanwhile, the vast majority of Egyptians became enraged. More than 30 million people signed a petition calling for Morsi to step down. Minister of Defense, General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who Morsi had appointed, demanded that the government be more inclusive. But Morsi ignored the calls, and the army intervened. Violence erupted, he and other Moslem Brotherhood leaders were arrested, and more than a thousand Brotherhood supporters were killed in riots. Egyptians strongly supported the army and its imposition of martial law. As of now, the military has the upper hand and violent resistance from Brotherhood elements has apparently been suppressed.
Throughout this period of chaos and collapse, the Obama administration did nothing more than call for a re-instatement of a democratic government that never existed. In their last conversation, Obama assured Morsi that he continued to regard him as the democratically elected President of Egypt. While Obama hitherto had avoided severing relations with Egypt, he outraged many Egyptians by criticizing General El-Sisi, but supporting the repressive and murderous Moslem Brotherhood, whose stated objective is the transformation of Egypt into an Islamist state.
In contrast to Obama’s fantasies, Israeli leaders are focused on realities and fully aware of the risks that Egypt’s instability poses to Israeli security. They recognize that a fanatical Islamic dictatorship allied with an organization that created Hamas and utterly committed to the elimination of Jewish sovereignty, is a disastrous scenario.
However, Israel has also learned from experience that the enemy of our enemy is not necessarily our friend. Mubarak had exploited anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism amongst the Egyptian people in order to divert attention from economic and domestic problems.
There is thus always a remote possibility that a desperate Egyptian military government could turn on Israel to divert attention from domestic problems. (Indeed, some elements within the Tamarod movement, which facilitated the military coups, have displayed anti-Semitic tendencies and called for an end to dependence on the US and the severing of ties with Israel, and Al Ahram, the most widely circulated Egyptian daily newspaper, has warned of a “Zionist-American-Muslim Brotherhood conspiracy against Egypt.”)
Nonetheless, we recognize that a military regime is far preferable to a Moslem Brotherhood dictatorship that created Hamas, considers Israel Moslem territory that must one day be regained, and is notorious for its feral anti-Semitism, with its leaders continuously referring to Jews as “the descendants of apes and pigs” and “vampires”.
However, the Egyptian military has already reined back Hamas and closed many of the tunnels through which arms were being transferred to Islamic extremists in Sinai. There are also reports of close cooperation between Israeli and Egyptian military authorities in neutralizing threats from terrorists in Sinai.
In Egypt today the choice between the Egyptian army and the Moslem Brotherhood is clear. Despite the justifiable repugnance of military juntas, there should be no equivocation. While the Obama administration obsessively attempts to impose democracy on a society that lacks democratic political experience, it is potentially enabling the most populous Arab state to be controlled by tyrannical, Jihadist autocrats.
By failing to support the Egyptian military, the US may also be fostering Egypt’s economic and social collapse. That Obama is considering abrogating economic aid to Egypt suggests that the US has not absorbed the lessons arising from Jimmy Carter’s na├»ve and disastrous approach to Iran, which paved the way for the ayatollah’s takeover.  Without urgent, remedial aid to Egypt, which depends on imports for the bulk of its food and is rapidly running out of hard currency, total economic meltdown, hunger, riots and even civil war are likely.
In addition, ongoing US pressure to “democratize” Egypt could enable Putin to restore the Russian-Egyptian nexus which prevailed prior to Sadat’s break with the Soviet Union.
Instead of seeking to impose democracy from without, the US should support Egypt’s military government as a mechanism for forestalling the transformation of Egypt into a breeding ground for Jihadists and Al Qaeda.
Democracy is a gradual process which can only be developed from within and only after the formation of a functioning government authority. The majority of the Egyptian people are clearly totally opposed to an extremist Islamic takeover. The US and the West should welcome the collapse of the Moslem Brotherhood regime, as it represents a major blow to the globalization of Islamic fundamentalism — the greatest threat to the Western world and international stability

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


Outrage: U.S. Returning Artifacts Looted from Iraqi Jews to Iraq, Instead of Lawful Owners




The National Archives is readying an exhibit of Iraqi Jewish artifacts due to open on October 11. Appallingly, the U.S. government has agreed to then return the Iraqi Jewish archives — including holy books — to Iraq, which systematically expelled its Jewish community, by June of 2014.
How did the Jewish Iraqi community — which dates to 721 B.C.E. when the Assyrians conquered Samaria and eventually deported the population to central Mesopotamia, and which was one of the two main sources of Mishnaic and Talmudic learning — lose, find, and lose again its patrimony?
The incredible story of how this unlikely turn of events came to pass has never been told in its entirety until now; I am one of the few who can tell it.

After American forces entered Baghdad in May 2003, the head of the Jewish and Israel section of Saddam Hussein’s Mukhabarat (intelligence agency) came to the Iraqi National Congress (INC), offering information about Saddam’s intelligence operations against Israel and Jews. He did this in order to curry favor. Former Iraqi officials frequently came to opposition groups to tell their stories, in return for which they would get “safe passage” documents stating that since they were cooperating with post-Saddam authorities, they should not be harmed.
The tipster visited the INC to talk about the rumored Jewish archives hidden in the basement of the Mukhabarat headquarters. After his visit, INC chairman Ahmed Chalabi called Judy Miller, the former New York Times reporter then embedded with a mobile unit looking for WMD, and me. I was an Arabic/Hebrew speaking policy analyst with the Office of Net Assessments in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, then assigned to the Coalition Provisional Authority, at the time.
We rushed over to talk with Chalabi, who told us that a former Mukhabarat employee reported that a huge treasure trove of Iraqi Jewish and Israeli material was amassed in the Mukhabarat building, and that he was prepared to show us where it was located. He also said there was an ancient copy of the Talmud written on leather or parchment.
Miller and I then went off to the Mukhabarat building with the former Saddam officer and an INC contingent.
The tipster indicated from outside the building where in the basement the Jewish and Israel sections were located. Then — he promptly disappeared. Despite the bombed-out structure’s instability, looters were overrunning the building. Danger was everywhere.
We were, in fact, standing beside a large metal device which had lodged itself halfway into the ground. We later learned that this live, undetonated bomb had penetrated through three or four stories of the building and destroyed the building’s water system. It had pierced the wall almost at ground level. We saw, through the hole it made, that the Jewish and Israel sections were flooded.
We went around to the building’s main entrance and descended only halfway down a basement staircase, blocked by water which had risen about halfway up. Several WMD team members waded into the water and entered the Israel section. They found pictures of the Dome of the Rock, a Soviet map of Israel’s Dimona nuclear reactor, and a sign in Arabic which read: “Who will be the one to send the 40th missile to Israel?” (This referred to the fact that during the Kuwait war, Iraq had sent 39 missiles toward Israel.)
The WMD team then proceeded down the hall, found the Jewish section, and carried out religious books and a tiq (the wooden/metal box which holds Torahs). These items proved to be only a tiny example of what we were to find later.
Many Iraqis with whom we spoke about the discovery told us to get the material out of the country as soon as possible before it became public knowledge. That way, Iraqi Jewry could have its patrimony, and no Iraqi politician could be held responsible for having let the Jews take the material.
But that was not so simple. Almost all of the material was under water, and whatever its long-term fate, it had to first be rescued and salvaged. We therefore needed drainage pumps so we could get to the items, and we needed manpower to take the material out, and we needed money to pay for both and had no access to either.
Chalabi volunteered to start the project. His people procured pumps and hired locals to save the books, documents, and holy articles. We started draining at night with the small pumps we had, and managed to get into the Jewish and Israel sections the next morning. But the water continued to drip down from the broken pipes in the building’s upper levels, so by early afternoon the water had risen too high and we were unable to continue our operation. This situation continued daily for the next few weeks.
Such a large operation costs money, and Chalabi’s personal generosity was stretched. We managed to secure a grant from philanthropist Harvey Krueger, an investment banker then of Lehman Brothers, who heard about the project from friends and managed to get us about $15,000 to continue the operation.
I tried to interest American officials in the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) of which I was a member, but my pleas were not heard. The American bureaucracy back home was not helpful either, as it clearly saw this project as a nuisance. Worse, bureaucrats thought the rescue project could potentially cause them serious problems — such as the issue of provenance — with which they did not want to be bothered.
The next problem we faced was what to do with the material once we got it out of the Mukhabarat building. Chalabi gave us 27 large aluminum trunks and gave us space to dry out the material in the Orfali Art Gallery courtyard, which was part of his INC’s headquarters. Since the American bureaucracy did not want to participate in the rescue of the Jewish archive, we needed advice on how to do so ourselves. Through friends, we were put in touch with Jerusalem’s Hebrew University document and book restoration section, whose director tried to give us instructions by phone on how to handle the material. She told us we needed low humidity — dry, air-conditioned rooms to help dry the material out and to prevent mold. There was only sporadic electricity in Baghdad at that time, and therefore no possibility of following her instructions.
We let the material dry out for a few hours in Baghdad’s humid air and hot sunlight.
We were forced to roll out on the ground the Torah and other holy scrolls we had rescued —  something which is normally absolutely prohibited in Jewish law — so that we could dry them out however slightly, and then roll them back up and place them in the aluminum trunks. Had we not rolled them out, they would have dried and hardened, and therefore been forever unusable and destroyed.
When the books and documents were still damp but not yet dry, we put them in the large aluminum trunks Chalabi’s people had found for us. Despite our best intentions, these temporary solutions could not salvage the material for the long run. But day after day, we and the Iraqi workers went down into the Mukhabarat building’s basement, rescued books, papers, and other materials, brought our load to the Orfali courtyard some two miles away, and dried out the daily stash. This process went on for about four weeks.
Every day, friends from around the world called to see how we were doing. Some deserve special mention because their intervention and assistance is the reason this material exists today.
Natan Sharansky, the ex-Soviet dissident and Israeli government minister, called to see how things were developing. After hearing about our predicament, he called Vice President Dick Cheney and asked if he could intervene with the American authorities in Iraq to save the materials. Richard Perle, the former assistant secretary of defense under Ronald Reagan, and  my former boss and longtime friend, also called us. After hearing our story, he called then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.  Both Cheney and Rumsfeld then brought this matter up with the Coalition Provisional Authorities (CPA), who, after previously refusing any assistance, went into action and took over the project.
Sharansky, Cheney, Perle, Rumsfeld, Ahmed Chalabi, and the members of the WMD team who originally waded into the water and discovered the initial material are the real heroes of this operation. It is largely due to their intervention that the Iraqi Jewish archive exists today.  Without their help, it is unlikely that any of this archive would have survived.
As a result of their intervention, on June 5, 2003 — the second day of Shavu’ot, when Jewish tradition teaches that Moses received the Ten Commandments on Mt. Sinai — the American authorities, now fully engaged in the rescue operation, brought in large pumps which very quickly drained the entire area. The next day, the large amount of material still left in the archives was put in the rest of the aluminum trunks and then placed in a large refrigerated truck which kept the material as protected as possible until the American archival restorers arrived and took possession of the archive in June 2003.
The materials were then flown to Texas where they were vacuum-freeze-dried, and in Fall 2003 they were brought to the National Archives. In 2011, the State Department kicked in over $3 million for stabilizing, digitizing, and packing the material. Again, none of that would have been possible without the interventions of the people I have referenced.
Among the items we found in the intelligence headquarters basement: a 400-year-old Hebrew Bible; a 200-year-old Talmud from Vienna; a copy of the book of Numbers in Hebrew published in Jerusalem in 1972; a Megillat Esther of uncertain date; a Haggadah published in Baghdad and edited by the chief rabbi of Baghdad; the Writings of Ketuvimcontaining books like Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Lamentations, Ezra, Nehemiah and Chronicles published in Venice in 1568; a copy of Pirkei Avot, or Ethics of the Fathers, published in Livorno, Italy in 1928 with commentary written with Hebrew letters but in Baghdadi-Judeo Arabic; a luach (a calendar with lists of duties and prayers for each holy day printed in Baghdad in 1972); a printed collection of sermons by a rabbi made in Germany in 1692; thousands of books printed in Vienna, Livorno, Jerusalem, Izmir, and Vilna; miscellaneous communal records from 1920-1953;  lists of male Jewish residents, school records, financial records, applications for university admissions.
All of this illustrated the history of Baghdadi Jewish community life, a community which is no more.
After Israel became a state in 1948, martial law was declared in Iraq and many Jews left in the mass exodus in 1950-51. Almost all of those who remained behind left by the 1970s. They were not allowed to take much with them.
In 1950-51, they were allowed one suitcase with clothing — sometimes not even their personal documents — and nothing more. They were forced to leave everything else behind, including their communal property. For many years, Jews were not permitted to leave Iraq at all and were persecuted. With time, the few Jews who remained in Baghdad transferred what communal holy books and religious articles they had to the one remaining synagogue which functioned. This was in Batawin, a section of Baghdad which in the late 1940s was the neighborhood to which upwardly mobile Jews moved. The remaining Jews stored this property in the synagogue’s balcony, where the women sat during prayer.
The Jews did not freely relinquish this material. They did it under duress, having no other option.
In 1984, Saddam sent henchmen with trucks to that synagogue. Those scrolls, records, and books were carted off to a place unknown. Local Jews who were at the synagogue at that time witnessed this thievery, and described to me personally how the material was carted off against their will.
Why did Saddam even care about this material, and why did he keep it in his intelligence headquarters? Did he think he might gain some insights into the Jewish mind by doing so? Did he think doing so would help him defeat the Israelis?
From a Middle Eastern cultural perspective, capturing the archive makes perfect sense.  Humiliation — i.e., shaming another’s personal reputation — is more important and more powerful than physical cruelty. From this cultural perspective, by capturing the Jewish archives, Saddam was humiliating the Jewish people. He was showing how powerless the Jews were to stop him. By keeping that archive and the Israel section in the basement of his intelligence headquarters, Saddam further humiliated the Jews and Israel. And by doing so, Saddam – again, in Middle Eastern eyes — was also regaining a portion of the honor the Arabs lost through their constant military defeats at the hands of the (Jewish) Israelis.
Strange as it might sound to Western ears, Saddam also thereby demonstrated to other Middle Eastern leaders that he was in the vanguard of protecting and regaining Arab honor, and was therefore more worthy of Arab/Muslim leadership than were the others.
As for today’s Iraqi leaders, they too do not want to be humiliated, and therefore cannot say that they are prepared to let the Jews or Americans have this material.
Any Iraqi Arab leader who publicly surrenders the Jewish archive will be humiliated in the eyes of his fellow Arabs. That is most likely why so many of them privately said that they wanted to me get this archive out of Iraq quickly and as quietly as possible before anyone would know. That way, they would not be blamed for the archive’s removal.
Of course, according to international law, no country may remove or steal the patrimony or art effects of another country, even when captured in war. The U.S. therefore could not lawfully remove the Jewish material without the consent of the local Iraqi authorities. Accordingly, the Americans asked the Iraqis for permission to remove this material in order to restore it. The Iraqi cultural ministry authorities agreed to this, on condition that it eventually return to Iraq.
But did the Iraqi authorities have the right to demand the archives back?
The Iraqi government “acquired” this material by stealing it from the Jewish community and by persecuting a minority religious population.
The Iraqi Jews, under duress, had no choice but to relinquish control of their communal archives to the government. It was the Jewish community’s property, not the Iraqi government’s.
After our effort to retrieve the Jewish archives became publicly known, many former Iraqi Jews started exerting public pressure in an effort to take possession of the post-restoration archives. But the American bureaucracy — which did not want to get involved in the archive’s rescue in the first place — did its best to ensure that once the material was restored it would return to Iraq. The bureaucracy said that it is illegal for a conquering power to remove property from the country which was conquered, and the bureaucracy did not want to become embroiled in questions of provenance.
But the property was stolen property in the first place, meaning that the Iraqi government did not own it. It is the Iraqi government which has no provenance. The stolen property must be returned to its original owners — according to international law.
Where are these Iraqi Jews, and since this robbery took place between 40 and 60 years ago, where are their descendants, who clearly are the rightful owners? Iraqi Jewry is scattered throughout the world. Today, about 85% of them and their descendants live in Israel. The rest live mostly in the UK and in the U.S. Only 20 remain in Iraq.
These people are the rightful owners of the Iraqi Jewish archives now housed temporarily at the U.S. National Archives in suburban Washington D.C., not the Iraqi government, which has never taken responsibility for Iraq’s role in destroying the more than 2,500-year-old Jewish community.
It would be as if Germany demanded material looted from German Jewish communities under the Nazis in German government hands. But even in this case, the Germans today admit their Nazi crimes against the Jews, and they have done much to compensate the Jews for German actions.
Moreover, can Iraq even care for this archive?
Iraq now — today — has a basement room of its archives filled with Torahs. The conditions in which they are kept are deplorable. Moreover, no one is allowed access to this material. To be sure, the Iraqis have great difficulty taking care of their own historical and archival material, so this does not mean that the current Iraqi government discriminates particularly against the Jewish material in its possession. The point is they have shown no capability for preserving such material.
The most logical final resting place for the material is the Babylonian Jewry Heritage Center outside of Tel Aviv. It is the only museum in the world dedicated to the history of Iraqi Jewry.
Outrage: U.S. Returning Artifacts Looted from Iraqi Jews to Iraq, Instead of Lawful Owners
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The National Archives is readying an exhibit of Iraqi Jewish artifacts due to open on October 11. Appallingly, the U.S. government has agreed to then return the Iraqi Jewish archives — including holy books — to Iraq, which systematically expelled its Jewish community, by June of 2014.
How did the Jewish Iraqi community — which dates to 721 B.C.E. when the Assyrians conquered Samaria and eventually deported the population to central Mesopotamia, and which was one of the two main sources of Mishnaic and Talmudic learning — lose, find, and lose again its patrimony?
The incredible story of how this unlikely turn of events came to pass has never been told in its entirety until now; I am one of the few who can tell it.

After American forces entered Baghdad in May 2003, the head of the Jewish and Israel section of Saddam Hussein’s Mukhabarat (intelligence agency) came to the Iraqi National Congress (INC), offering information about Saddam’s intelligence operations against Israel and Jews. He did this in order to curry favor. Former Iraqi officials frequently came to opposition groups to tell their stories, in return for which they would get “safe passage” documents stating that since they were cooperating with post-Saddam authorities, they should not be harmed.
The tipster visited the INC to talk about the rumored Jewish archives hidden in the basement of the Mukhabarat headquarters. After his visit, INC chairman Ahmed Chalabi called Judy Miller, the former New York Times reporter then embedded with a mobile unit looking for WMD, and me. I was an Arabic/Hebrew speaking policy analyst with the Office of Net Assessments in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, then assigned to the Coalition Provisional Authority, at the time.
We rushed over to talk with Chalabi, who told us that a former Mukhabarat employee reported that a huge treasure trove of Iraqi Jewish and Israeli material was amassed in the Mukhabarat building, and that he was prepared to show us where it was located. He also said there was an ancient copy of the Talmud written on leather or parchment.
Miller and I then went off to the Mukhabarat building with the former Saddam officer and an INC contingent.
The tipster indicated from outside the building where in the basement the Jewish and Israel sections were located. Then — he promptly disappeared. Despite the bombed-out structure’s instability, looters were overrunning the building. Danger was everywhere.
We were, in fact, standing beside a large metal device which had lodged itself halfway into the ground. We later learned that this live, undetonated bomb had penetrated through three or four stories of the building and destroyed the building’s water system. It had pierced the wall almost at ground level. We saw, through the hole it made, that the Jewish and Israel sections were flooded.
We went around to the building’s main entrance and descended only halfway down a basement staircase, blocked by water which had risen about halfway up. Several WMD team members waded into the water and entered the Israel section. They found pictures of the Dome of the Rock, a Soviet map of Israel’s Dimona nuclear reactor, and a sign in Arabic which read: “Who will be the one to send the 40th missile to Israel?” (This referred to the fact that during the Kuwait war, Iraq had sent 39 missiles toward Israel.)
The WMD team then proceeded down the hall, found the Jewish section, and carried out religious books and a tiq (the wooden/metal box which holds Torahs). These items proved to be only a tiny example of what we were to find later.
Many Iraqis with whom we spoke about the discovery told us to get the material out of the country as soon as possible before it became public knowledge. That way, Iraqi Jewry could have its patrimony, and no Iraqi politician could be held responsible for having let the Jews take the material.
But that was not so simple. Almost all of the material was under water, and whatever its long-term fate, it had to first be rescued and salvaged. We therefore needed drainage pumps so we could get to the items, and we needed manpower to take the material out, and we needed money to pay for both and had no access to either.
Chalabi volunteered to start the project. His people procured pumps and hired locals to save the books, documents, and holy articles. We started draining at night with the small pumps we had, and managed to get into the Jewish and Israel sections the next morning. But the water continued to drip down from the broken pipes in the building’s upper levels, so by early afternoon the water had risen too high and we were unable to continue our operation. This situation continued daily for the next few weeks.
Such a large operation costs money, and Chalabi’s personal generosity was stretched. We managed to secure a grant from philanthropist Harvey Krueger, an investment banker then of Lehman Brothers, who heard about the project from friends and managed to get us about $15,000 to continue the operation.
I tried to interest American officials in the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) of which I was a member, but my pleas were not heard. The American bureaucracy back home was not helpful either, as it clearly saw this project as a nuisance. Worse, bureaucrats thought the rescue project could potentially cause them serious problems — such as the issue of provenance — with which they did not want to be bothered.
The next problem we faced was what to do with the material once we got it out of the Mukhabarat building. Chalabi gave us 27 large aluminum trunks and gave us space to dry out the material in the Orfali Art Gallery courtyard, which was part of his INC’s headquarters. Since the American bureaucracy did not want to participate in the rescue of the Jewish archive, we needed advice on how to do so ourselves. Through friends, we were put in touch with Jerusalem’s Hebrew University document and book restoration section, whose director tried to give us instructions by phone on how to handle the material. She told us we needed low humidity — dry, air-conditioned rooms to help dry the material out and to prevent mold. There was only sporadic electricity in Baghdad at that time, and therefore no possibility of following her instructions.
We let the material dry out for a few hours in Baghdad’s humid air and hot sunlight.
We were forced to roll out on the ground the Torah and other holy scrolls we had rescued —  something which is normally absolutely prohibited in Jewish law — so that we could dry them out however slightly, and then roll them back up and place them in the aluminum trunks. Had we not rolled them out, they would have dried and hardened, and therefore been forever unusable and destroyed.
When the books and documents were still damp but not yet dry, we put them in the large aluminum trunks Chalabi’s people had found for us. Despite our best intentions, these temporary solutions could not salvage the material for the long run. But day after day, we and the Iraqi workers went down into the Mukhabarat building’s basement, rescued books, papers, and other materials, brought our load to the Orfali courtyard some two miles away, and dried out the daily stash. This process went on for about four weeks.
Every day, friends from around the world called to see how we were doing. Some deserve special mention because their intervention and assistance is the reason this material exists today.
Natan Sharansky, the ex-Soviet dissident and Israeli government minister, called to see how things were developing. After hearing about our predicament, he called Vice President Dick Cheney and asked if he could intervene with the American authorities in Iraq to save the materials. Richard Perle, the former assistant secretary of defense under Ronald Reagan, and  my former boss and longtime friend, also called us. After hearing our story, he called then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.  Both Cheney and Rumsfeld then brought this matter up with the Coalition Provisional Authorities (CPA), who, after previously refusing any assistance, went into action and took over the project.
Sharansky, Cheney, Perle, Rumsfeld, Ahmed Chalabi, and the members of the WMD team who originally waded into the water and discovered the initial material are the real heroes of this operation. It is largely due to their intervention that the Iraqi Jewish archive exists today.  Without their help, it is unlikely that any of this archive would have survived.
As a result of their intervention, on June 5, 2003 — the second day of Shavu’ot, when Jewish tradition teaches that Moses received the Ten Commandments on Mt. Sinai — the American authorities, now fully engaged in the rescue operation, brought in large pumps which very quickly drained the entire area. The next day, the large amount of material still left in the archives was put in the rest of the aluminum trunks and then placed in a large refrigerated truck which kept the material as protected as possible until the American archival restorers arrived and took possession of the archive in June 2003.
The materials were then flown to Texas where they were vacuum-freeze-dried, and in Fall 2003 they were brought to the National Archives. In 2011, the State Department kicked in over $3 million for stabilizing, digitizing, and packing the material. Again, none of that would have been possible without the interventions of the people I have referenced.
Among the items we found in the intelligence headquarters basement: a 400-year-old Hebrew Bible; a 200-year-old Talmud from Vienna; a copy of the book of Numbers in Hebrew published in Jerusalem in 1972; a Megillat Esther of uncertain date; a Haggadah published in Baghdad and edited by the chief rabbi of Baghdad; the Writings of Ketuvimcontaining books like Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Lamentations, Ezra, Nehemiah and Chronicles published in Venice in 1568; a copy of Pirkei Avot, or Ethics of the Fathers, published in Livorno, Italy in 1928 with commentary written with Hebrew letters but in Baghdadi-Judeo Arabic; a luach (a calendar with lists of duties and prayers for each holy day printed in Baghdad in 1972); a printed collection of sermons by a rabbi made in Germany in 1692; thousands of books printed in Vienna, Livorno, Jerusalem, Izmir, and Vilna; miscellaneous communal records from 1920-1953;  lists of male Jewish residents, school records, financial records, applications for university admissions.
All of this illustrated the history of Baghdadi Jewish community life, a community which is no more.
After Israel became a state in 1948, martial law was declared in Iraq and many Jews left in the mass exodus in 1950-51. Almost all of those who remained behind left by the 1970s. They were not allowed to take much with them.
In 1950-51, they were allowed one suitcase with clothing — sometimes not even their personal documents — and nothing more. They were forced to leave everything else behind, including their communal property. For many years, Jews were not permitted to leave Iraq at all and were persecuted. With time, the few Jews who remained in Baghdad transferred what communal holy books and religious articles they had to the one remaining synagogue which functioned. This was in Batawin, a section of Baghdad which in the late 1940s was the neighborhood to which upwardly mobile Jews moved. The remaining Jews stored this property in the synagogue’s balcony, where the women sat during prayer.
The Jews did not freely relinquish this material. They did it under duress, having no other option.
In 1984, Saddam sent henchmen with trucks to that synagogue. Those scrolls, records, and books were carted off to a place unknown. Local Jews who were at the synagogue at that time witnessed this thievery, and described to me personally how the material was carted off against their will.
Why did Saddam even care about this material, and why did he keep it in his intelligence headquarters? Did he think he might gain some insights into the Jewish mind by doing so? Did he think doing so would help him defeat the Israelis?
From a Middle Eastern cultural perspective, capturing the archive makes perfect sense.  Humiliation — i.e., shaming another’s personal reputation — is more important and more powerful than physical cruelty. From this cultural perspective, by capturing the Jewish archives, Saddam was humiliating the Jewish people. He was showing how powerless the Jews were to stop him. By keeping that archive and the Israel section in the basement of his intelligence headquarters, Saddam further humiliated the Jews and Israel. And by doing so, Saddam – again, in Middle Eastern eyes — was also regaining a portion of the honor the Arabs lost through their constant military defeats at the hands of the (Jewish) Israelis.
Strange as it might sound to Western ears, Saddam also thereby demonstrated to other Middle Eastern leaders that he was in the vanguard of protecting and regaining Arab honor, and was therefore more worthy of Arab/Muslim leadership than were the others.
As for today’s Iraqi leaders, they too do not want to be humiliated, and therefore cannot say that they are prepared to let the Jews or Americans have this material.
Any Iraqi Arab leader who publicly surrenders the Jewish archive will be humiliated in the eyes of his fellow Arabs. That is most likely why so many of them privately said that they wanted to me get this archive out of Iraq quickly and as quietly as possible before anyone would know. That way, they would not be blamed for the archive’s removal.
Of course, according to international law, no country may remove or steal the patrimony or art effects of another country, even when captured in war. The U.S. therefore could not lawfully remove the Jewish material without the consent of the local Iraqi authorities. Accordingly, the Americans asked the Iraqis for permission to remove this material in order to restore it. The Iraqi cultural ministry authorities agreed to this, on condition that it eventually return to Iraq.
But did the Iraqi authorities have the right to demand the archives back?
The Iraqi government “acquired” this material by stealing it from the Jewish community and by persecuting a minority religious population.
The Iraqi Jews, under duress, had no choice but to relinquish control of their communal archives to the government. It was the Jewish community’s property, not the Iraqi government’s.
After our effort to retrieve the Jewish archives became publicly known, many former Iraqi Jews started exerting public pressure in an effort to take possession of the post-restoration archives. But the American bureaucracy — which did not want to get involved in the archive’s rescue in the first place — did its best to ensure that once the material was restored it would return to Iraq. The bureaucracy said that it is illegal for a conquering power to remove property from the country which was conquered, and the bureaucracy did not want to become embroiled in questions of provenance.
But the property was stolen property in the first place, meaning that the Iraqi government did not own it. It is the Iraqi government which has no provenance. The stolen property must be returned to its original owners — according to international law.
Where are these Iraqi Jews, and since this robbery took place between 40 and 60 years ago, where are their descendants, who clearly are the rightful owners? Iraqi Jewry is scattered throughout the world. Today, about 85% of them and their descendants live in Israel. The rest live mostly in the UK and in the U.S. Only 20 remain in Iraq.
These people are the rightful owners of the Iraqi Jewish archives now housed temporarily at the U.S. National Archives in suburban Washington D.C., not the Iraqi government, which has never taken responsibility for Iraq’s role in destroying the more than 2,500-year-old Jewish community.
It would be as if Germany demanded material looted from German Jewish communities under the Nazis in German government hands. But even in this case, the Germans today admit their Nazi crimes against the Jews, and they have done much to compensate the Jews for German actions.
Moreover, can Iraq even care for this archive?
Iraq now — today — has a basement room of its archives filled with Torahs. The conditions in which they are kept are deplorable. Moreover, no one is allowed access to this material. To be sure, the Iraqis have great difficulty taking care of their own historical and archival material, so this does not mean that the current Iraqi government discriminates particularly against the Jewish material in its possession. The point is they have shown no capability for preserving such material.
The most logical final resting place for the material is the Babylonian Jewry Heritage Center outside of Tel Aviv. It is the only museum in the world dedicated to the history of Iraqi Jewry.
http://www.avaaz.org/en/petition/Dont_let_the_Jewish_archive_go_back_to_Iraq/?copy




Have the Fundamentals of Israel’s Strategic Environment Inextricably Changed?
Dore Gold, August 22, 2013

http://mosaicmagazine.com/picks/2013/08/plus-ca-change/?utm_source=Mosaic+Daily+Email&utm_campaign=487561045


 Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs - No. 596    July-August 2013
  • There is a view that developments since the advent of the
  • Arab Spring have completely altered the way Israel should look at its national security needs for many decades to come. The old strategic assumptions that guided Israeli thinking, according to this thesis, are not going to become relevant again. In order to evaluate this idea, it is necessary to keep in mind that there are certain constants in  Israel’s security predicament that are not going to be altered even with the developments the Middle East is witnessing.    
  • For Israel remains a small state surrounded by states that have a combined population of 300 million, in territories that are hundreds of times the size of Israel. As a result, Israel’s military assets may be seen as geographically concentrated in a limited area, while neighboring Arab states have been able to disperse launch sites, weapons depots, and military bases across a vast expanse of territory.
  • While some neighboring armies have been badly degraded by internal conflicts, it would be a cardinal error to base national planning on a temporary snapshot of reality. For example, Iraq is planning to modernize its ground forces and convert its army from a counterinsurgency force to a force with maneuver warfare capabilities based on new armored and mechanized formations. There are estimates that it will have over 2,000 main battle tanks by the middle of the next decade.
  • The Gaza Strip has been flooded with Iranian and Libyan weapons. In the West Bank, where Israel holds on to the outer perimeter of the territory in the Jordan Valley, the same weaponry has not reached terrorist organizations. Global jihadists have been unable to reach the West Bank in order to reinforce their Islamist compatriots, as they did in Syria, Iraq, and Libya. Thus, territorial considerations remain applicable to the new threats. 
  • The present wave of anti-regime rebellions is loosening central government control over large parts of several Arab states. This has created a vacuum that is being filled by regional terrorist organizations like al-Qaeda and its affiliates. This process has become accentuated in Egypt, especially in the Sinai Peninsula. Countering terrorist organizations by simply deterring the governments of the countries in which they are situated is likely to prove an inadequate strategy.
  • The pressures Israel faces at this time to agree to a full withdrawal from the West Bank and to acquiesce to the loss of defensible borders pose unacceptable risks for the Jewish state. They also stand in contradiction to the international commitments given to Israel in the past. 
Constants in Israeli Defense Policy Planning
There is a view that developments since the advent of the Arab Spring have completely altered the way Israel should look at its national security needs for many decades to come. The old strategic assumptions that guided Israeli thinking, according to this thesis, are not going to become relevant again. In order to evaluate this idea, it is necessary to keep in mind that there are certain  constants of Israel’s security predicament that do not change with the kinds of political shifts that the Middle East is witnessing.    
For decades Israeli defense policy planning has been predicated upon certain constants that have not changed. Israel is a small state with roughly 8 million citizens. It is surrounded by states that have a combined population of 300 million, in territories hundreds of times the size of Israel. As a result, Israel’s military assets may be seen as geographically concentrated in a limited area, while neighboring Arab states have been able to disperse launch sites, weapons depots, and military bases across a vast expanse of territory.
In past Arab-Israeli wars, these asymmetries were exploited by Arab military forces, which enjoyed quantitative superiority of active service military formations. Israel’s strategy was based on the need to withstand an attack by numerically greater forces while its reserve formations were being mobilized in roughly 48 hours. At times of increased tensions, Israel’s adversaries were always tempted to exploit these asymmetries and launch a surprise attack. Terrain, topography, and strategic depth were essential considerations influencing Israel’s ability to defend itself in these scenarios, and to stabilize the core of the Middle East. 
Is the Era of Land Warfare Over?
There are new strategic uncertainties in the Middle East that make it difficult to know exactly what kinds of threats Israel will face in the future. There are voices now asserting that the era of classical threats to Israel posed by land armies has completely ended. Some neighboring armies, they note, have been badly degraded by internal conflicts. With no superpower competition, there is no equivalent to the Soviet Union, which poured arms into the Middle East during the Cold War in order to buy influence. 
That description of Israel’s strategic reality is only true for the short and medium term, however. It would be a cardinal error to base national planning on a temporary snapshot of reality, for Middle Eastern states can be expected to rearm and again build up their conventional forces, initially, in order to bolster their ability to protect their regimes internally and to suppress restive minorities.
At a later stage, these armies could be used to threaten vulnerable neighbors, as in the past. For example, Iraq is planning to modernize its ground forces and convert its army from a counterinsurgency force to a force with maneuver warfare capabilities based on new armored and mechanized formations. There are estimates that it will have over 2,000 main battle tanks by the middle of the next decade. Thus, military asymmetries are likely to remain one cause of regional instability in the future. Anyone assuming that the era of land warfare is over would be making a cardinal mistake.
The Rise of the New Terrorist Threat
Before Middle Eastern states recover their full military potential, terrorist organizations are likely to pose the most immediate threat behind the outbreak of conflict in the Middle East. Yet it is important to note that terrorist organizations today can pose a serious threat to a conventional army. Using asymmetric tactics, they operate from populated areas, and are prepared to use civilians as human shields. This strategy limits the ability of conventional forces to use their full firepower without causing unacceptable civilian casualties.
In its wars in territories from which the IDF withdrew, particularly in South Lebanon and Gaza, Israel found itself unfairly accused of using disproportional force, although its operations were not much different from those of Western forces in Iraq or Afghanistan. When the UN Human Rights Council appointed the Goldstone Commission, it accused Israel of deliberately targeting civilians, a charge Justice Richard Goldstone subsequently rejected. While the commission’s initial findings were discredited, Israeli strategy had to adapt to a new reality in which its military operations would be increasingly under an international magnifying glass, further challenging its freedom of action to deal with terrorist threats.
What this meant in practical terms was that future Israeli governments could not simply withdraw from territories under the assumption that if terrorist organizations subsequently took control over them, the IDF could easily re-enter them and eliminate the threat they posed. In other words, it remains necessary to have a defensible border so that Israel can physically prevent an unacceptable threat against its interior from developing, rather than assume that the IDF can conduct raids into those territories in order to uproot any hostile forces there.  
Political Constraints in Fighting Terrorism
Another factor that will influence Israel’s future strategy against terrorism is the political-military impact of peace agreements themselves, which Israel should continue to seek with its neighbors. In the 1950s when the Syrian Army attacked Israeli villages from the Golan Heights, the IDF often responded by using its forces to eliminate Syrian military positions from which Israel had come under fire. But more recently, when southern Israel was attacked by al-Qaeda affiliates from the Sinai Peninsula, the IDF did not want to take military action that violated Egyptian sovereignty and threatened the 1979 Egyptian-Israeli Treaty of Peace. 
As long as the Arab states effectively controlled their territories along Israel’s borders, the IDF faced no dilemmas of this sort, with the notable exception of Lebanon, where the authority of the central government collapsed decades ago, resulting in repeated conflicts over time. But with the advent of the Arab Spring, whatever limited stability the rest of the Middle East was able to gain has been badly undermined, posing new types of challenges for Israeli security. 
For example, Israel could find itself in a situation in which jihadist organizations repeatedly attack Israel from territories belonging to states that have a formal peace treaty with Israel but are powerless to stop the attacks. What if a future Palestinian state was taken over by Hamas or quickly evolved into a failed state unable to maintain order and prevent attacks. Would Israel re-invade the territory of a state with which it had signed a peace agreement? Would the international community recognize its right of self-defense? If Israel was protected by a defensible border, it would be more difficult for such a threatening scenario to develop in the future in a critical area like the West Bank.
Regardless of how future scenarios might develop, the failure to halt the infiltration of advanced weapons to terrorist groups could have devastating consequences for Israel. In the Gaza Strip, where Israel gave up the Philadelphi Corridor along the border with Egypt, the area has been flooded with Iranian and Libyan weapons. In the West Bank, where Israel holds on to the outer perimeter of the territory in the Jordan Valley, the same weaponry has not reached terrorist organizations like Hamas or Islamic Jihad.
It must be remembered that many terrorist groups like Hizbullah, and to a lesser extent Hamas, have acquired many of the attributes of a conventional army, obtaining from their Iranian sponsors advanced weapons, the likes of which terrorist groups never had access before, including shore-to-ship missiles, shoulder-fired anti-aircraft weapons, and unmanned aerial vehicles. Hizbullah also has an arsenal of ballistic missiles and rockets larger than that of most states in the Middle East. Its acquisition of weapons of mass destruction in the future cannot be ruled out.
Moreover, global jihadists have been unable to reach the West Bank in order to reinforce their Islamist compatriots, as they did in Syria, Iraq, and Libya. What a rejuvenated al-Qaeda needs to wage war against Israel is access to its interior, which it has been unable to obtain as long as the IDF controls the vital strategic buffers that surround it. In short, the territorial considerations that were relevant for defending Israel from a massive ground attack in the 1970s remain applicable to the new threats now becoming more prominent. 
The Rising Profile of the Islamists and the Muslim Brotherhood and its Allies
What makes this concern with the rise of terrorism in the Middle East even more compelling is the fact that the strongest political forces vying for power in the Arab world today, seeking to replace the current regimes there, are tied to the Muslim Brotherhood network. In the 1960s, Arab nationalism provided the glue for military coalitions against Israel. In today’s Middle East, Islamism could also provide the basis for hostile coalitions that first will threaten moderate Western allies, and later pose a new challenge to Israel itself. As in the era of Nasserism, Islamism is a hegemonial force that does not accept national boundaries.
This is already evident in Egypt, where the Muslim Brotherhood had an extremely low profile when President Mubarak was toppled, but since that time its role in Egyptian politics has grown substantially,1 leading to the election of a Muslim Brotherhood president. While the movement suffered a serious setback in July 2013 with the fall of Mohamed Morsi, the situation remains fluid and it is difficult to predict whether or not the Muslim Brotherhood will be able to make a comeback in Egypt. Even before the current wave of uprisings, after 2006, Turkey became a new center of Muslim Brotherhood activity, hosting its global network in high-profile conferences in Istanbul.2
The Muslim Brotherhood stands out as one of the main political forces behind the wave of protests that took place in Jordan, as well.3 Indeed, Jordanian Prime Minister Marouf Bakhit charged that the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood was taking orders from the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Syria.4 Historically, the Muslim Brotherhood has provided the ideological underpinnings for the leading figures in global terrorism, from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to Osama bin Laden. 
In the last few years, with the rise of leaders like Muhammad Badie in Egypt and Hammam Sayid in Jordan, the Muslim Brotherhood has come under a more extremist leadership, which still embraces hardline doctrines against the West and a commitment to jihadism.5 Both the Egyptian and Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood branches, as well as Hamas, attacked the U.S. for eliminating Bin Laden.6
Even if the Muslim Brotherhood does not return to power in Egypt at this point, it will undoubtedly become part of future political coalitions that will move many neighboring countries into a much more hostile stance against Israel and even one supportive of militant action against the Jewish state. The hostility of the Muslim Brotherhood to Israel should not be underestimated. It is frequently forgotten that Hamas, which regularly launches rocket attacks deliberately aimed at Israeli population centers, is, according to its own charter, the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Muhammad Badie in late 2010 issued a weekly message in which he plainly stated that the way forward on the Palestinian issue is not through negotiations, but rather by returning to jihad and martyrdom (istishhad).7 Thus, it should come as no surprise that the Muslim Brotherhood’s second-in-command announced in February 2011 that the movement will seek to cancel the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel.8
It should always be remembered that the struggle with Israel is only a small portion of the Muslim Brotherhood’s overall strategy that makes it a hostile movement, for its ultimate goal is to create a new caliphate which will become the basis of a global Islamic state.9 
Muslim Brotherhood Regimes Providing Support to Jihadists 
At a minimum, Muslim Brotherhood regimes can be expected to provide support and even sanctuary to terrorist groups engaging in active conflict with Israel. The first Muslim Brotherhood regime, under Sudanese leader Hassan Turabi, hosted both Hamas and al-Qaeda in the early 1990s, and allowed them to set up training bases.
In January 2011, Mohamed Morsi escaped an Egyptian prison with a number of leading jihadists, like Ramzi Mahoud al-Mowafi, who served under Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan and later became a senior commander for the jihadist insurgency in the Sinai Peninsula after his prison escape.10
Under the Morsi regime, the Muslim Brotherhood pardoned jihadists and let them out of prison, like the leader of Gama’a Islamiyya, who was behind the 1997 Luxor massacre. Also released was Muhammad al-Zawahiri, a Salafi jihadist who was the younger brother of al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. Morsi also sought the release of the blind cleric, Sheikh Omar Abderrahman, who planned the first World Trade Center attack in 1993. He also pressed the Egyptian military to accept jihadists into Egyptian military academies. In short, when in power, the Muslim Brotherhood proved itself to be a key ally of the jihadist organizations.  
Second, the present wave of anti-regime rebellions is loosening central government control over large parts of several Arab states. This has created a vacuum in many areas, which is being filled by regional terrorist organizations like al-Qaeda and its affiliates that seek to establish new sanctuaries beyond the reach of pro-Western Arab military establishments. This process in which Middle Eastern states are showing signs of fragmentation is already evident in Yemen, Libya, and Syria. It has become accentuated in Egypt, especially in the Sinai Peninsula, where the Bedouin have drawn closer to Hamas in a number of acts of sabotage against the Egyptian gas pipeline, which supplied both Israel and Jordan.
During the Iraq War, al-Qaeda in Iraq sought to set up a forward position in the Jordanian city of Irbid. Al-Qaeda in Iraq also set up a Syrian affiliate, Jabhat al-Nusra, which has sought to infiltrate Jordan. Jordanian security forces have overcome these challenges, but Israel has to recognize that in the Middle East today the proliferation of such groups is on the rise and the ability of states, whether friendly or adversarial, to control the spread of terrorist groups is declining. Countering terrorist organizations by simply deterring the governments of the countries in which they are situated is likely to prove an inadequate strategy.
Third, the undermining of the internal stability of Sunni Arab states is occurring as Iran seeks to consolidate its regional hegemony in the entire Middle East. While Iranian interests may be affected by the continuing rebellions in the Arab world, especially in Syria and Hizbullah- controlled Lebanon, Tehran stands to be a major beneficiary of the current instability in critical countries like Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen.
For Israel, the biggest question is the future orientation of Iraq, where the Iranians have been supporting a number of key Shiite parties.11 Those Iraqi politicians who are prepared to oppose Iranian encroachments have only done so with strong U.S. backing.12 But after the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, what is to prevent Iraq from falling into Iranian hands? For the last number of years, Lebanese Hizbullah has also been active in Iraq, training Shiite militias, along with Iranian Revolutionary Guards. As Iran’s regional power grows, Iraq is likely to evolve into an Iranian satellite state and re-engage, in some form, in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Iraq is not far away from Israel; it is roughly 210 miles from the Iraqi border to the Jordan River.
It has not gone without notice that Saudi Arabia has reinforced its northern border with Iraq, considering that it too cannot be certain what Baghdad’s future orientation will be. Israel, as well, cannot rule out Iraq, under Iranian influence, re-engaging in the Arab-Israeli conflict. In 1948, 1967, and 1973, Iraq took part in the war effort along Israel’s eastern front by consistently dispatching one-third of its ground forces. In 1991 Baghdad launched missiles against Israeli cities. Regardless of the form it takes, if the rejuvenation of Israel’s eastern front is even a remote possibility, how can Israel be expected to fully withdraw to the 1967 lines and abandon its right to defensible borders?
Undermining a Negotiated Peace
To conclude, the pressures Israel faces at this time to agree to a full withdrawal from the West Bank and to acquiesce to the loss of defensible borders pose unacceptable risks for the Jewish state. They also stand in contradiction to the international commitments given to Israel in the past. These recognized that Israel did not have to agree to a full withdrawal from this territory.
Additionally, the 1993 Oslo Agreements envisioned a negotiated solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Borders were to be decided upon by the parties themselves and not be imposed by international coalitions or by unilateral acts. In fact, those commitments to a negotiated solution of the conflict appeared explicitly in the 1995 Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement. Notably, that agreement bears the signatures of President Bill Clinton and officials from the European Union and Russia, who acted as formal witnesses.
What is clear today is that the Palestinian leadership under Mahmoud Abbas has had a questionable interest in a negotiated solution to its conflict with Israel. Until the intervention of Secretary of State John Kerry, Abbas piled up preconditions for any negotiation with Israel. He preferred to see the international community impose territorial terms that are to its advantage without having to formally declare an end to the Arab-Israeli conflict, and without having to recognize the rights of the Jewish people to a nation-state of their own. 
The idea that the EU or other international actors would dictate to Israel recognition of the pre-1967 lines and set the stage for an imposed solution may serve the Palestinian interest, but not the interest of achieving real peace. European support for such initiatives would contravene the very peace agreements they signed in the past as witnesses. It would set the stage for further Palestinian unilateralist initiatives at the UN and deal a virtually fatal blow to any negotiations.
Finally, it must be added that the people of Israel have undergone a traumatic decade and a half. For the most part, they passionately embraced the promise of the 1993 Oslo Agreements and yet, instead of peace, they saw their cities attacked repeatedly by waves of suicide bombers that left over 1,000 Israelis dead.
Israelis took further risks and supported a unilateral disengagement from the Gaza Strip in 2005, only to find that there was a five-fold increase in rocket fire against Israeli population centers in the year that followed. Longer-range rockets poured into Hamas-controlled Gaza, as Iran exploited the vacuum created by Israel’s withdrawal.
The people of Israel have an inalienable right to security and to certainty that the mistakes of recent years will not be repeated. The full withdrawal from the Gaza Strip must not be attempted again in the West Bank, especially given what is happening today across the Middle East region. For those reasons, Israel must not be asked to concede its right to defensible borders.

Notes
1. Michael Slackman, “Islamist Group Is Rising Force in a New Egypt,” New York Times, March 24, 2011.
2. “Islam and the Arab Revolutions,” The Economist, April 2-8, 2011. See also, “Energized Muslim Brotherhood in Libya Eyes a Prize,” CNN, March 25, 2011.
3. Ranya Kadri and Isabel Kershner, “Protestors Rally into Night in Jordan,” New York Times, April 1, 2011.
4. Taylor Luck, “Gov’t, Islamists in ‘Dangerous Game,’” Jordan Times, April 1, 2011.
5. For a discussion about the more extremist trends in the Muslim Brotherhood, see Shadi Hamid, “A Radical Turn for the Muslim Brotherhood?” Brookings Institution, June 26, 2010; and Jonathan D. Halevi, “Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood: In Their Own Words,” February 6, 2011, Jerusalem Issue Brief, Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. Hammam Sayid was known before his election as head of the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood to have made statements in support of Osama bin Laden; see al-Hawadeth, September 24, 2001.
Regarding the harder line of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood under its new leader, see Nour Malas, “Brotherhood Raises Syrian Profile,” Wall Street Journal, May 17, 2011.
6. Jonathan D. Halevy, “Who Else Is Condemning the U.S. for Killing Bin Laden?” Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs blog, May 5, 2011.
7. Muhammad al-Badi’ – Weekly Message, December 23, 2010 (from the Muslim Brotherhood website in Arabic).
The entire Umma [the Islamic people], and not just the Palestinian Authority, is being asked to return to true fundamental principles, that must guide the [handling of the] Palestinian problem, so that it won’t be forgotten. Therefore, relating to negotiations, to recognition [of Israel], to reconciliation [with Israel], or establishing a Palestinian state in the ‘67 borders as an axiom, is a big mistake, for the Land of Palestine is Arab and Islamic land, on which their holy sites [of the Muslims] are located. The Jihad for the return of this land is an obligatory commandment incumbent on the entire Arab and Islamic nation….Palestine will not be liberated by hopes and prayers, but rather by Jihad and sacrifice, and we call all Brothers in Palestine to return to national unity, on the basis of resistance, for that is the only way to recover Palestine. Jihad is victory or martyrdom for Allah.
(For the complete text in Arabic, see http://www.ikhwanonline.com/Article. asp?ArtID=76669&SecID=213).
8. Rashad al-Bayumi, the Muslim Brotherhood’s second-in-command, announced in an interview with Japanese TV (and cited by al-Hayat, March 2, 2011) that the group would join a transitional government in order to cancel the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel, as it “offends the Arabs’ dignity and destroys the interests of Egypt and other Arab states.”
9. Eric Trager, “The Truth about Egypt,” World Affairs, August 15, 2013.
10. Mohamed Fadel Fahmy, “The Jihadist Threat in Egypt’s Sinai,” Al-Monitor, July 22, 2013.
11. Michael Gordon, “Meddling Neighbors Undercut Iraq Stability,” New York Times, December 5, 2010. Gordon refers to a WikiLeaks U.S. cable from November 13, 2009, according to which Iran was spending up to $200 million annually on political groups in Iraq.
12. Frederick Kagan and Kimberly Kagan, “Stand with Iraq,” Weekly Standard, April 18, 2011.