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Foreign Policy

2008-12-29 15:29:23.957882+00 by Dan Lyke 40 comments

Apropos of the current (and recurring, to my ignorant senses) situation between Israel and the Palestinian territories, the way to gain my sympathies would be for Hamas to say "we regret that rogue elements have been firing rockets into Israel, and we will assist the Israeli military in apprehending and punishing those elements so that the peace process can move forward."

The way to lose my sympathies would be for Hamas to whine "that was a disproportionate response" (to the rockets we fired at you that happened to miss).

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2008-12-29 16:27:55.109739+00 by: JT

Isreal is one of those strange countries where I've never understood our relationship fully. Why is it that we consider them an ally and always offer to assist and play big brother to them? I really don't get why each presidential candidate and vice presidential candidate bent over backwards during the election to announce that Isreal had their undying support.

#Comment Re: made: 2008-12-29 16:49:25.654677+00 by: Dan Lyke

I believe that there's a lot of political power and money in the Jewish communities on the east coast, something that's easy for us out here in the west to forget, but I also think that the presence of Israel in the middle-east provides a good foil and local stabilizing influence. If the U.S. went and bombed a questionable factory/reactor/refinery in Iraq or Iran or Syria or Libya, that'd be a huge act of aggression, if the Israelis do it with U.S. supplied equipment, we can say "bad Israel, no biscuit".

In a way, Israel is the equivalent to the U.S. as these "rogue" factions are to the various Palestinian governments, you attack them we'll come down on you like a ton of bricks, but they can go off doing the dirty work for us and we can say "nope, not us!"

And as much as, if I remember my Hebrew school descriptions of Israeli politics and society correctly, they've got a multi-tiered apartheid cultural system, having an economically successful country in that region that's building on brain power rather than oil is helping to lift the various other countries out of their feudal messes.

#Comment Re: made: 2008-12-30 16:25:39.163589+00 by: DaveP [edit history]

There's also the matter of the Palestinian refugees. There were fewer than a million people displaced from Israel in 1948. There were also about the same number of Jewish refugees kicked out of Arab lands at the same time.

The big difference is that Israel took all Jewish refugees and granted them citizenship. The Arab nations (other than Jordan) did not grant citizenship to Palestinian refugees, keeping them in camps and letting the bitterness grow.

As for why we support Israel? There was this little matter of some killing going on in Germany, and people felt bad. Not to invoke Godwin's Law, but that played a big part in why the western powers have been so staunch in supporting Israel. That plus the fact that it's seen as "They may be bastards, but they're OUR bastards."

But the support has not been uniform. During the Suez Crisis, Eisenhower found the Israelis convenient, but did not support them with the French and British. More.

Amazingly messy, but there's been a lot of history books written on the subject. If you'd like a reading list, I can dig up some to recommend.

#Comment Re: Israel/Palestine made: 2008-12-30 18:11:15.741799+00 by: jeff [edit history]

It's been an incredibly messy situation in that part of the world for centuries and millenia and, unfortunately, will likely be that way for centuries to come. Anytime two peoples have roughly equal legal and religious rights to the same land spells trouble.

At this time, to Dan's point, Israel benefits the most due to its implicit control of the United States by various political, economic, and cultural means. Although Hamas was democratically elected into power, the Palestinians have long suffered through inconsistent and fragmented leadership, even preceeding the 1948 partition.

Here is an interesting read which has quite a few illustrative sublinks to peruse. It provides an excellent historical framework for what is happening today.

I wish the people of Israel and the Palestinians could live side-by-side peacefully in one unified country, but I do not believe that is possible. There needs to be two completely separate states, with Jerusalem falling under international control. Nothing else has worked.

#Comment Re: made: 2008-12-31 20:44:20.046159+00 by: John Anderson

the Big Picture blog covers Israel and Gaza today...

#Comment Re: made: 2009-01-06 23:17:43.167693+00 by: Mark A. Hershberger [edit history]

Crazy justice: More Israelis killed by friendly fire (4) than Hamas rockets (3).


#Comment Re: Must Reading made: 2009-01-10 14:32:06.131014+00 by: jeff [edit history]

For obvious reasons, you won't read this in the American press. But it is highly worth reading, and passing along to the American sheeple.

This timeline is also newsworthy.

#Comment Re: made: 2009-01-10 16:43:27.016149+00 by: Dan Lyke [edit history]

Actually, Jeff, I can't find it now, but I read a remarkably similar article in the NYT(!) a few days ago. It's clear that the governments on both sides in this conflict are getting things out of maintaining the fighting and the struggle.

But it's also clear that without Israel in the area we'd be paying a hell of a lot more for oil. [Edit: And the Soviet Union would have lasted a lot longer too...]

#Comment Re: made: 2009-01-10 16:45:39.760851+00 by: Dan Lyke

Here we go: NYTimes Op Ed: What You Don’t Know About Gaza. Okay, not nearly as graphic as your Guardian article, but same basic points.

#Comment Re: made: 2009-01-10 17:57:29.141938+00 by: jeff [edit history]

Without question Dan, it's a complex set of issues in play. Of course, the American sheeple are spoon-fed an extremely biased view of reality, for obvious reasons.

I truly believe that there is no "peace process of substance," however. It's a charade being played out by the power brokers in the area, and also back here at home. I'd REALLY like to see a REAL peace created by the entities which have it within their power to do so. At this writing, that is not what is wanted, however.

As a side-note, there were actually some advantages to the bi-polar (US/USSR) world we used to live in. There seemingly were fewer asymmetric threats then. And I'd actually like to see us pay more for oil, as it would quicken the pace at which we move to a more sustainable economy using renewable energy, and not one based on war/oil.

#Comment Re: made: 2009-01-10 19:44:01.997179+00 by: Dan Lyke

Jeff, yeah, I'd like to see oil back up in its summer price range for a lot of reasons, but I don't miss the notion that we were at constant risk of the enemies killing a few million citizens, not just a few thousand at most, and from a general humanitarian standpoint the end of Communism as a viable political ideology has been very good for the world.

(Yeah, one can argue that the political philosophies that killed a hundred million people last century "weren't really Communism", but the general discrediting of Communism brought by the collapse of the USSR means that we're talking about a few African genocides and women's rights in the Middle East and water rights in South America, not mass killings from Eastern Europe clear through Asia.)

#Comment Re: Israel and the price of oil... made: 2009-01-10 23:23:01.204881+00 by: jeff [edit history]

Dan--how is it that we pay less for the price of oil due to Israel? I must admit I don't see this correlation; I must be missing something.

As for the break-up of the Soviet Union, how did Israel play a role in that? Just curious.

#Comment Re: made: 2009-01-11 02:54:20.679741+00 by: Dan Lyke

My reasoning is that without Israel kicking some stuff up and keeping some calm over there, Syria, Egypt and Iraq, would all have been much stronger and stronger Soviet allies during the Soviet era.

And without Israel as the wild-card destabilizing things when we could say "nope, wasn't the U.S.", OPEC would be a lot stronger.

#Comment Re: made: 2009-01-11 13:07:41.336612+00 by: jeff [edit history]

Dan--I'm in agreement about Israel providing a regional buffer/offset to the Soviet Union influence in the Middle-East proper during the Cold War, but how does that have anything to do with the overall breakup of the Soviet Union? I just don't understand that or see it as a major reason for the USSR breakup in any major way. Reagan's military buildup and financial policies broke their back economically; the centralized socialistic USSR economy couldn't effectively compete with our capitalism when the "guns vs. butter" ratio got too high for their people to politically and economically absorb.

If anything, our relationship with Israel has actually INCREASED the price we have historically paid for oil, beginning with our support of Israel in the Yom Kippur War (1973), the subsequent Arab oil embargo (1973) as an explicit response to our support, and subsequent increased real and nominal oil pricing to this day.

Of course, Israel has little or no oil.

It's my understanding that the Bush family relationship with the Saudi Royal family has historically been instrumental in keeping oil flowing from the region and prices somewhat in check (although the price of oil is now almost completely driven by the real economies of demand these days; notwithstanding geopolitical tensions/changes in the region).

Didn't oil price futures actually INCREASE recently off their lows due to the Gaza incursion in the last couple of weeks? I just don't understand how Israel (or our relationship with Israel) has anything to do with keeping oil prices low. If anything, isn't the reverse true?

#Comment Re: made: 2009-01-11 14:36:27.614776+00 by: Dan Lyke

re the breakup, if the Soviets had had access to that many more allies providing them with cheap energy, I think it would have helped 'em last longer.

#Comment Re: made: 2009-01-11 15:37:46.350884+00 by: jeff [edit history]

Even though its energy industry (oil, NG) wasn't as developed then, I personally don't think the USSR breakup had much to do with access to cheap energy. The former USSR (and the Russian conglomerates today) sit on top of some of the largest reserves of many types of basic materials on the entire planet.

I'd have to research to see if the USSR was a net importer of oil in those days. Who would have been denying them oil/NG during those times? Israel? Hardly.

#Comment Re: made: 2009-01-13 21:32:55.137573+00 by: jeff [edit history]

Some interesting information regarding the USSR/Russia's oil production/consumption can be found here.

"In the 1980s, the Western Siberia region, also known as the “Russian Core,” made the Soviet Union a major world oil producer, allowing for peak production of 12.5 million barrels per day in total liquids in 1988."

#Comment Re: made: 2009-01-13 21:44:29.296318+00 by: Dan Lyke

Interesting, Jeff. Thanks!

(On the other hand, now I want to curse you for giving me even more stuff I need to dig deeper on...)

#Comment Re: made: 2009-01-13 21:55:09.412247+00 by: jeff

The link cited above is pretty cool. I have to curse myself for finding it and now spending time there!

#Comment Re: Gaza -- History made: 2009-01-14 19:34:07.412344+00 by: jeff [edit history]

Here is a very good link (with sublinks) which describes some of the challenges which Gaza has faced throughout its history, including the current crisis.

Nothwithstanding the Gazan political leadership/void and the economic stranglehold/control imposed by Israel, one comes away with a very sincere sense of empathy for the innocent people who are forced to endure living in what many international visitors claim are "concentration-camp-like" conditions.

All access (air, land, sea) is currently controlled by Israel. Given these suffocating economic conditions, it's no wonder that this small strip of land inhabited by 1.5 million residents is such a tinderbox. I believe there are some potential lasting political/geographic solutions that Israel, the Palestinians, Egypt, and the world should consider. The current situation is an abomination to humanity in all forms. Just ask the Red Cross.

I also do not believe that a "military victory" does much for the long-term interests or security of Israel, no matter how it is spun politically and through our own media. For every 1,000 Hamas militants Israel wounds, maims, or kills, the collateral societal damage creates 10,000 new militants. Just ask any twelve-year-old boy, who sees his parents buried under the rubble of their family home. Likewise, Hamas sympathizers who do not recognize Israel as a sovereign nation are ultimately fighting a losing battle, which does not help their own cause for a better way of life. The current situation is "lose-lose" for everyone involved, except the defense contractors.

The right of Israel to exist, economically viable and politically fair statehood for all Palestinians, and international control of Jerusalem, is the only long-term solution in this region, in my view. Let's see what Hillary and Obama can do.

#Comment Re: made: 2009-01-15 01:16:46.556721+00 by: Dan Lyke

Thanks, Jeff, indeed, the history of the land makes it a pretty much intractable situation.

I think the current provocations, unfortunately, serve both governments: The entrenched Israeli politicians get to look hard on terror, Hamas gets to play the victim. Neither side is pursuing a solution. As long as those on both sides continue to play this game, there will continue to be conflict.

It's hard for me to choose one side or the other in this, because all sides have been far too willing to sacrifice peace for short-term political gain.

#Comment Re: Intractable Situation? made: 2009-01-15 12:20:11.288891+00 by: jeff [edit history]

Dan--I don't think it's an intractable situation, but it's certainly very, very difficult. And I agree with you that both governments are playing games, for the reasons you cite. The radical Hamas militants and the hyper-ethnocentric Israeli hawks are diammetric sides of the same coin. The moderates on both sides are caught in the crossfire.

It's difficult to show much sympathy for the Israeli military at this time, when they make blunders like this (and others), however. The shelling yesterday of the UN compound kind of reminds me in a way of the USS Liberty incident, during the 1967 war, or the assassination of Folke Bernadotte in 1948 by the Stern Gang.

In retrospect, it's unfortunate that the 1947 UN Partition Plan was never implemented. In the proposed partition below, I think it would have been a good idea to provide corridors of land which would have allowed dual access to Jersualem by both Arabs and Jews.

For example, Jerusalem was never made into an international city (part of the original plan), as I have also suggested over the last couple of years (I was also not aware of United Nations General Assembly Resolution 194 until recently). Here is a graphic depicting Jerusalem as an international city under that UN Partition Plan:

So, without digging any deeper (and there is plenty left to dig), but returning to your original post, it's not quite as simplistic as any of us would like, Dan.

The problem is that so few Americans MAKE THE TIME to understand the issues of the day in this region, as they relate in a historical context.

As a result, EVERYONE is currently losing.

#Comment Re: made: 2009-01-15 13:57:56.414958+00 by: Larry Burton

In a historical context we can blame illegal immigration for the problems in Israel/Palestine.

#Comment Re: made: 2009-01-15 14:16:27.324959+00 by: jeff [edit history]

Larry--how would you define that? Can you explain your point in a bit more detail?

#Comment Re: made: 2009-01-15 14:30:33.199914+00 by: Dan Lyke

FP: Photo Essay: Gaza’s (Literal) Underground Economy.

#Comment Re: made: 2009-01-15 14:51:47.744443+00 by: Dan Lyke

Two additional notes: I think Larry's referring to the notion that whenever one side thinks it has title to "the land", generally, and lets a few of "the other side" in because they're useful, and then more of the other side comes in, at some point it becomes illegal immigration.

But more to the point, I have zero sympathy for the Hamas tactic in this latest skirmish, but it occurs to me that maybe the way to try to change Israel's attitude is to point out that they're continually doing exactly what Europe did to Germany after WWI, and that's what lead to WWII, and why the reconstruction after WWII was handled completely differently.

You don't win a long-term peace by beating a people into submission. You may win a war, but that doesn't change the underlying tensions that caused the war. You win that long-term peace by demonstrating moral superiority. Machiavelli may have been right that it is better to be feared than loved by your enemies, but if you're feared, they'll always be your enemies.

If Israel wants to win this, those cows should be delivered by the IDF, not smuggled in underground from Egypt.

#Comment Re: made: 2009-01-15 15:03:49.079401+00 by: jeff [edit history]

RE: "You don't win a long-term peace by beating people into submission."

Dan, I couldn't agree with you more. Israel, by isolating the overall Gaza economy (creating massive poverty) and cutting it off from the rest of the world, does just that. So, why are they doing it, I ask? In my opinion, they are playing right into Hamas' hand. A military victory is irrelevant to peace.

Like you, I have zero sympathy for Hamas. I also have zero sympathy for the misguided Israeli hawks. As I mentioned earlier, both of these entities are diammetric sides of the same coin.

RE: "Two additional notes: I think Larry's referring to the notion that whenever one side thinks it has title to "the land", generally, and lets a few of "the other side" in because they're useful, and then more of the other side comes in, at some point it becomes illegal immigration."

Larry is that what you meant?

Here is a link to population demographics in the region, and a graph:

A large percentage of the Jewish immigration began after WWII.

Here is perhaps one of the BEST REFERENCES ON THE WEB with respect to providing a simple, nonpartisan pro-con format, with responses to the core question "What are the solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?"

Peace, please.

#Comment Re: made: 2009-01-15 16:14:36.383987+00 by: Larry Burton

That is pretty much what I was referring to. I left it ambiguous hoping to stir a little thought on the issue and a perspective I hadn't seen. Looking at the chart you found it looks like my ploy worked. ;)

I've been trying to understand the history of the area for a few years now but the politics of the area make it difficult to get a grasp on the actual facts and the spin one side or the other puts on their historical facts. If one starts with the premise that the League of Nations was morally correct in creating the British Mandate then logic brings you down on the side of Israel. I don't think I can morally begin with that premise but I think that that is what most of the proponents of Israel are doing.

Maybe I'll just blame the problem on the British cartographers and hopefully get Eric to chime in.

#Comment Re: made: 2009-01-17 12:14:00.294594+00 by: jeff [edit history]

Yeah, the British politicians, military, and cartographers were responsible for much of the arbitrary carving up of the Middle-East during the early part of the last century, including present-day Iraq and Iran. The last sixty years has seen various manifestations of increasing "land grabs," including settlement building using American taxpayer money.

That was then, and this is now. History can be a delusion to present reality.

The question is what do we do moving forward, now that the world has access to real-time data, multiple channels of mass media, and historical information via the Internet. For many Americans, it remains simply a matter of turning a blind eye. Ignorance is bliss. Silence is acceptance.

#Comment Re: made: 2009-01-18 05:06:59.267555+00 by: TheSHAD0W

Well, Egypt brokered a cease-fire, Hamas turned it down, then Israel unilaterally declared a cease-fire anyway. Those bastards!

#Comment Re: Warsaw Ghetto made: 2009-01-21 15:33:09.968934+00 by: jeff [edit history]

In many ways, Gaza today seems shockingly similar to the Warsaw Ghetto some seventy years ago.

I truly don't believe there will be any lasting peace for Israel until Gaza is made economically viable as part of a larger Palestinian state (nation). A tiny strip of land (25x7 miles), tightly controlled and repressed, is a non-starter. The 1947 Partition Plan (pictured in a previous post) should have been implemented in a slightly modified form.

Intelligent, educated, and non-aligned people realize and fully understand this.

#Comment Re: Winning the battle; losing the war. made: 2009-01-25 22:34:27.796503+00 by: jeff [edit history]

"I also do not believe that a "military victory" does much for the long-term interests or security of Israel, no matter how it is spun politically and through our own media. For every 1,000 Hamas militants Israel wounds, maims, or kills, the collateral societal damage creates 10,000 new militants. Just ask any twelve-year-old boy, who sees his parents buried under the rubble of their family home."

This recent news story makes the same point that I previously made in this thread, only in real, human terms...

Very sad indeed.

#Comment Re: made: 2009-01-26 04:31:41.085468+00 by: TheSHAD0W

A possible solution?

Israel to Egypt: "Annex the Gaza Strip and stop them from launching rockets and we'll give you [pinky to cheek] ONE BILLION DOLLARS!"

Egypt to Israel: "Wouldn't touch it with a ten cubit pole. Do Not Want."

Ah well. I tried...

#Comment Re: made: 2009-01-26 11:36:50.664629+00 by: jeff [edit history]

You re-affirm another one of my previous points, Shadow. Well done.

Until Gaza is made economically viable, there will never be peace. It is in the best long-term interest of Israel (and Egypt) to make that happen, and such a solution will likely require increasing the geographic size of Gaza, in addition to recognized statehood for Palestine. I believe that MOST of Hamas would also ultimately find that as a tenable future.

Intelligent, educated, and non-aligned people who want peace for the region realize and fully understand this.

#Comment Re: made: 2009-01-26 17:08:39.310399+00 by: ebradway

The British practically invented the map as a means of disruption - but even more signficant - the British spread the western concept of territories with cartographically specified borders. In most non-Anglo cultures, territories have very fuzzy borders with some constant friction around the edges. The Australian aborigines, for instance, use song for maps. Territory is defined by how accurate one can sing of a place.

"All my exes live in Texas/That's why I hang my hat in Tennessee"

In true Brit style, the Queen's cartographers would draw nice, proper borders in an attempt at fairness. But the borders frequently split tribal territories, creating more points of friction.

#Comment Re: made: 2009-01-26 19:16:04.363496+00 by: jeff [edit history]

Very well put, Eric... And most of the current evidence corraborates this.

The current borders (and their control) do not represent a viable economic or socioeconomic solution and, as such, will not promote lasting peace in their current configuration. Borders have changed before under duress (wars). Why not re-configure them by design with international (world) input?

So, what are the powers in the region (and in America) going to do about it? When we see actionable policies related to borders, geography, and Palestinian statehood only then will we have some semblance of belief that a "peace process" is truly underway. Until then, any reference to a "peace process" is an obvious charade that deceives many and misses the road to peace entirely.

#Comment Re: made: 2009-01-29 16:01:16.866194+00 by: jeff [edit history]

It was interesting to note that Israel declared a cease-fire the day before Obama took office? Here may be some of the reasons why?

#Comment Re: Smart Decisions? made: 2009-01-29 17:41:58.301253+00 by: jeff

Olmert, however, said "Israel would open Gaza's borders only if militants released a soldier they snatched in June 2006."

Such a "hardline approach" like this will not likely further the "peace process." How many Palestinian prisoners does Israel currently hold? If one wants to do the research, I believe the numbers are pretty staggering. I'll leave that as an exercise for anyone interested.

More news from today:

In Gaza, violence continued to spiral on Thursday with 18 Palestinians, including 11 schoolchildren and a pregnant woman, wounded in an Israeli air strike targeting a Hamas policeman in the southern town of Khan Yunis, medics said. The Hamas man was also wounded in the attack. The Israeli army said the Hamas man was a member of a squad behind a bombing on Tuesday that killed an Israeli soldier.

These types of disproportionate responses (even if the intent is targeted), with all of the attendant societal collateral damage, re-affirm my previous points outlining the uselessness of them.

With hard-liner Benjamin Netanyahu likely positioned to be the next prime minister, peace for Israel looks pretty dim in the short-term. Unless some very smart people in positions of power (both in the U.S. and in Israel) make some far-sighted decisions about "real peace."

#Comment Re: made: 2009-02-02 04:07:29.527487+00 by: TheSHAD0W


Looks like, after being chastised for its "disproportionate responses", Israel has decided to pull out all the stops this time.

#Comment Re: Disproportionate Response Imagery made: 2009-02-05 12:15:57.378194+00 by: jeff [edit history]

Shadow--here is some imagery from "disproportionate responses."

The comments added at the bottom of the link above offer interesting perspective from both sides of this issue.