the Israeli occupation continues excavation and destruction in by the Mughrabi Gate – which is considered an integral part of the Al-Aqsa Mosque – and operates dozens of diggers a day to accelerate the creation of empty spaces underground for…synagogues that would be linked to the rest of the Buraq square [the Western Wall], and noted a “Plan Sharansky”…part of the comprehensive plan to Judaize the whole area – which includes the Wailing Wall…and around the Wailing Wall to the place of prayer Israelis under the name “Wailing” -, while confirming the institution that the entire Western Wall is part precious al-Aqsa mosque is the exclusive right of the Muslims alone,
image via palestine-mandate.com
About 15 years ago, a prominent Israeli dealing with world affairs told then-MK Natan Sharansky about a “future leader of the Arab world” who “thinks exactly” like Sharansky — a modern and moderate young man who “believes in democracy” in the Middle East. The Israeli offered to fly Sharansky to Paris to meet this future leader — one Bashar Assad, then the son of and today (still) the president of Syria — hoping the two would advance bilateral relations.
Before agreeing to fly to Paris, Sharansky asked if Bashar was going to be democratically elected. “No, of course not. His father [Hafez Assad] is going to appoint him,” the interlocutor responded. Sharansky politely declined. Obviously, he could not have known that this ostensible would-be believer in democracy would be massacring his own people a decade-and-a-half later for daring to challenge his rule. But for Sharansky, a leader who was not elected, or seeking to be elected by his people, it was not worth his time.
Arguably the world’s most famous former Prisoner of Zion, who spent years in a Soviet prison fighting for his right to immigrate to Israel, Sharansky’s belief in democracy is unshakable. While a political hawk, he is one of the few public figures in Israel who fully embraced the Arab Spring, arguing that it is in everybody’s interest — emphatically including Israel’s — that the people of the Arab world choose their leaders themselves and move toward free, democratic societies.
Many Israeli politicians, especially from the right wing, bemoaned last year’s Tahrir Square demonstrations and subsequent fall of president Hosni Mubarak, which paved the way for the Muslim Brotherhood to win Egypt’s parliamentary and presidential elections this year. But Sharansky, 64, insists that Mubarak’s dictatorial regime should have ended much earlier.
“It’s a pity that it didn’t happen 20 years ago,” said Sharansky, who today heads the Jewish Agency for Israel. “It had to happen.”
Having presaged the fall of the Soviet Union when he crossed the Iron Curtain and came to Israel 26 years ago, Sharansky believes that all dictatorships are doomed to fall sooner or later. “Every dictatorship, however good it is for the West, will be overthrown one day,” he said.
His 2004 “The Case for Democracy” is one of former US president George W. Bush’s favorite texts — it served as his foreign policy guide — but Sharansky differed from Bush on one crucial point. “Bush was saying [in 2007], if it’s not Mubarak, it will be the Muslim Brotherhood and we don’t want the Muslim Brotherhood,” Sharansky recalled in a recent interview in his Jerusalem office.
“That is the big mistake of the West: If the only options are either Mubarak or the Muslim Brotherhood, you will get the Muslim Brotherhood. If the only options are Yasser Arafat or Hamas, the answer is Hamas. If you understand that [autocratic regimes will not last] forever, that they have to fall, then it has to be said: the sooner it will happen, the better.”
‘That is the big mistake of the West — if the only options are either Mubarak or the Muslim Brotherhood, you will get the Muslim Brotherhood’
Opponents of the Arab Spring initially believed that the despots of the Middle East could defy it, and go on as if nothing happened. But it would have been smarter to accept from the beginning that the status quo could not continue, he argues. “The later they will fall the more the people [in the Arab world] will hate you, and the smaller the opportunity for any liberal democracy to work,” Sharansky said.
The free world often forgets that dictators like Mubarak and Assad were subjugating their people; the more the West supports such regimes, the more it will be hated by the people once the regimes, inevitably, fall apart, he added.
“The main message of the Arab Spring, even with all the other negative things which happened afterwards, was: now the people will be deciding who will be their leaders. That is a great opportunity. Why? Because whoever is in power, they depend on the will of the people. That means that whoever is in power will have to deal with the problems of these people. Mubarak and Assad built their power on fear and physical control. The moment we have these new leaders who are dependent on the anger — but also on the satisfaction — of the street, they have to deal with these problems.”
The new Egypt, for example, has bigger and more urgent problems than Israel, Sharansky reasons. “They [Egypt’s leaders] can speak as much as they want about their hatred for Israel or Zionism or Jews or whatever, their main problem is what to do with the economy that is falling apart, with housing which is not existing and with how to feed tens of millions of people without jobs,” Sharansky said.
The free world should support the budding democratization of the Middle East, but any aid should be contingent on the development of a free civil society, he suggested.
“It will not happen in one day, but more and more governments at this moment depend on the will of their people, and will have to cooperate with the free world in trying to solve their problems through helping to build institutions of civil society,” he said.
Sharansky, a former interior minister and deputy prime minister, will defend democracy no matter the outcome, regardless of whether moderates or extremists win at the ballot box. In February 2011, before the Muslim Brotherhood come to power in Egypt, he had hailed the Arab Spring as “the moment to try to put our trust in freedom.”
In a newspaper interview at the time, he said that the free world was lucky in two respects. “First, that what happened in Egypt happened when the Muslim Brotherhood is not yet strong enough [to sweep into power]. The longer there is dictatorship, the longer the free world helps to destroy all democratic dissent, the stronger the Muslim Brotherhood becomes… So it is good that this is all happening now in Egypt when the Muslim Brotherhood is not strong enough.” The West’s support for dictatorships that promised stability but didn’t care for the people has been helping the Muslim Brotherhood gain steam, Sharansky suggested.
Roughly 18 months later, the Muslim Brotherhood is ruling Egypt, and in Jordan it recently started organizing mass demonstrations against the king, leading some observers to predict a Tahrir-style revolution there too. Yet Sharansky is adamant that democracy is, and remains, the only way forward.
‘If you believe that for Egyptian people it is more important to kill Jews than not to die from hunger, then you cannot explain why this revolution happened’
“That’s the problem with the free world: we’re not learning anything. At each stage in history, we do the same. We’re looking for which dictator in this awful chaos will be more sympathetic toward us,” he said. “The free world has to understand: We cannot decide for these people to be a democracy or not. We cannot guarantee the survival of the dictators. We cannot guarantee the creation of free society.” Therefore, Sharansky insists that the West support Egypt’s young democracy — which needs the West’s help to survive — but should tie all aid to Egypt to the strengthening of a free society there and the acceptance of peaceful coexistence with Israel.
Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood president, Mohammed Morsi, while certainly no Zionist, has publicly indicated his commitment to honor the 1979 peace treaty with Israel. He sent a friendly letter to his Israeli counterpart Shimon Peres (though he later denied sending it) and appointed a new ambassador to Tel Aviv, after the post had been vacant for months. Morsi understands, it seems, that at least for now his country has other worries than picking a fight with Israel.
“The more the government depends on its own people, the less dangerous it is to us,” Sharansky posited. “Because the government depends on its own people, it has to deliver goods to the people. If you believe that for the Egyptian people it is more important to kill Jews than not to die from hunger, then you cannot explain why this revolution happened. Because when the people went on the street there was not a word about killing Jews or hating Israel. Well, there was sometimes ‘Mubarak is an agent of Israel,’ but that’s about it. It was all about, ‘We want to have a normal life, we don’t want to live in fear, we want to have jobs’ — that was their message.”
‘Returning the Golan? Only if Syria becomes democratic’
In 2000, prime minister Ehud Barak believed he could reach a peace agreement with Syria, in exchange for the Golan Heights. Before joining the coalition, Sharansky’s Yisrael B’Aliyah party, which then had six Knesset seats, made sure of one thing:
“We put a condition on the coalition agreement: Our vote on the Golan will be linked to the democratization of the regime in Syria,” Sharansky recalled, adding that politicians from the left and the right were ridiculing the party. If you want to keep the Golan, that’s one thing, but what does the Golan have to with this, he was asked.
“But we insisted,” Sharansky said with a smile. The coalition agreement he and Barak eventually signed is “one of the few documents in Israel’s political history” linking Israeli territorial concessions with regime change in an Arab country, he noted.
“Imagine for a moment that we did give back practically the entire Golan to that regime,” he said. “The fate of the regime would be the same, because people won’t live better [with the Golan]. Only today, [Assad] would be bombarding [his people] near the Kinneret, and chemical weapons would be hidden 10 meters from our borders. That’s what [concessions] have to with regime change.”
Hearing Sharansky — a member of the rightist Likud party — making the case for democracy in the Middle East, one might assume he’d be unhappy about the way the current government has been dealing with the recent developments in the Arab world. Prime Minister and Likud chair Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly expressed skepticism about the Arab Spring, saying his initial concern that the upheavals would turn into an “Islamic, anti-Western, anti-liberal, anti-Israeli and anti-democratic wave” all came true.
In fact, Sharansky compliments the prime minister on his handling of the situation. “Netanyahu is right in formulating the conditions which are absolutely unacceptable from our point of view and should not be acceptable for the free world if they want to cooperate with this regime,” Sharansky said, speaking of Egypt. While he is in favor of the free world working together with Morsi, the West should clearly state that fighting terror in Sinai and keeping the peace agreements with Israel are the very basic conditions that Cairo has to fulfill for any kind of support and cooperation.
“We don’t believe in the New Testament’s teachings that if you’re slapped in the face you should turn the other cheek,” Sharansky said. “We have to think about our dignity, about our interests and power. We don’t have to die of happiness now that the Muslim Brothers are there. We have to formulate, in a very cool way, the minimal threshold of what we believe should be included in the relations with this government.”
Jerusalem is not obligated to declare its passionate love for the Muslim Brotherhood, Sharansky allows, but it should also not make the error of wishing back Mubarak. “I don’t believe in a new Middle East based on dictators.”
Eternal Jew hatred, even in a new Middle East
Even a democratic Middle East will not be free of Jew hatred, not even 20 years from now, Sharansky acknowledges. But that’s not for us to worry about, he argues.
“As someone who today is dealing a lot with anti-Semitism [as head of the Jewish Agency], we know that there is anti-Semitism in places where there are no Jews at all. So I don’t think that suddenly these [countries affected by the Arab Spring] will be areas without anti-Semitism. But most people firstly expect their government to deliver a good quality of life, more than anything else. “So their hatred of Jews will be an addition to the heart of their lives, which is how to build a good quality of life.”
When leaders of a country need to worry about being reelected, he believes, their hatred of Jews becomes secondary. “Of course anti-Semitism is unfortunate — the brainwashing of a thousand years has worked. And they do hate us. But they’ll have a different set of interests, which in many ways will be [in line with] our interests.”
Some of you may recall that a few months ago Robert Bernstein attacked Human Rights Watch – an organization that he founded – for going off course in the Middle East.
A lot of people thought that was the end of Bernstein and that he’d never be heard from again. But at 88, Bernstein has the energy of a much younger man. He’s starting a new human rights organization that will do it his way.
In late February, Bernstein launched Advancing Human Rights, a new organization meant to act as a corrective, one that hopes to return human rights to what Bernstein thinks are its forgotten fundamental principles. Among its board members are Yelena Bonner, the Soviet dissident and wife of Andrei Sakharov, and Irwin Cotler, the former Canadian minister of justice.
Natan Sharansky, the onetime jailed refusenik and human rights activist who is now chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel, is an old friend of Bernstein’s. When Bernstein was head of Random House, he published Sharansky’s memoir, “Fear No Evil.” And the two share the assessment that human rights organizations have gone astray.
“It’s not every day when someone at the age of 88 realizes that the child he brought up has betrayed him, and decides to raise a new child,” Sharansky said.
The stated mandate of the new group is broader than Bernstein’s initial complaint, though it stems from it. AHR will be focused on the struggles of dissidents in closed, autocratic societies, like those in the Middle East and China. Bernstein wants the group to more closely promote those rights enshrined in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights — specifically women’s rights and free speech — as opposed to the Geneva Convention and the other laws of warfare, which he thinks should be outside the purview of a human rights organization.
But underneath this new mandate, the clear motivating factor for Bernstein’s new initiative is his concern for Israel. It rises to the surface as soon as he is asked about the point of starting yet another human rights organization: Israel, as a democratic, open society, should not be under constant investigation by human rights groups, he said. The country and the way it wages war need to be better explained and defended.
Read the whole thing. Note that in this post, I don’t have to talk about human rights in scare quotes.
….the very same Bill Clinton who lied about freeing Jonathan Pollard, but blames his CIA head who also worked for W.
“I said, ‘Natan, what is the deal [about not supporting the peace deal. He said, ‘I can’t vote for this, I’m Russian… I come from one of the biggest countries in the world to one of the smallest. You want me to cut it in half. No, thank you.'”
I responded, “Don’t give me this, you came here from a jail cell. It’s a lot bigger than your jail cell.”
-President Bill Clinton
It is truly astounding that Bill Clinton, who in the 1970’s was visiting Moscow and conducting Anti-American rallies on behalf of the Kremlin, had the gall to tell, Sharansky, who had risked his life as a political dissident during the 1970’s fighting the Kremlin, that he should be satisfied that his new country is bigger than the old jail cell where the Soviet authorities had stuck him.
Just be happy that we’re allowing you to keep half of the 8,500 square miles, instead of a few meters in a prison cell. That was the message from the red-faced leader of the free world. And under it, the subtext that if you don’t like it, a prison cell might still be waiting for you. Perhaps somewhere under the Hague by the diktat of the ICC.
This isn’t the first time that Sharansky had heard that particular message. In 1978, while Bill Clinton was starting his political career, Sharansky was being sentenced by a Soviet court to 13 years of forced labor in the Siberian Gulag. In his response to the court, Sharansky declared; “For more that two thousand years the Jewish people, my people, have been dispersed. But wherever they are, wherever Jews are found, every year they have repeated,’Next year in Jerusalem.’ Now, when I am further than ever from my people… facing many arduous years of imprisonment, I say, turning to my people… ‘Next year in Jerusalem.'”
According to Clinton, Russian Jews are the biggest obstacles to peace, followed by Mizrahi Jews who escaped Muslim rule. Naturally these are the groups in Israel who are the least naive about what happens when you surrender to tyrants. While many of the Israeli lefties, the grand-children and great-grandchildren of native Israelis whom Clinton interacts with, the cultural elite who live in Tel Aviv and rarely set foot outside it unless they’re paying a visit to Paris or Brussels, have forgotten the reality that lurks in the hills of the Shomron.
And what of the country that Clinton and his successors have tried to reduce until it is hardly more than a jail cell.
Israel is already tiny. At 8500 square miles, it is smaller than all but 3 US states, Connecticut, Delaware and Rhode Island. Compared to its Muslim neighbors, it’s even smaller than that. It’s barely 2 percent of Egypt, which it nevertheless defeated in several wars. It’s 1/4th the size of Jordan and 1/8th the size of Syria. Compared to Turkey or Iran, it hardly even appears on the map.
Under the Palestine Mandate, Israel’s territory would have been six times as large as it is now. Since 1967, Israel has ceded territory 3 times its own size. This would be astonishing even if Israel were a larger country. Instead it’s one of the world’s smaller countries, with one of the world’s highest population densities. And still the Muslim world and its Western backers continue demanding that Israel continue giving up land even though over 7 million Israelis live on a piece of land smaller than New Hampshire with a population density that is the 37th largest in the world, barely behind Japan at 32nd, Rwanda at 37th and denser than Haiti at 42nd. When eliminating islands, city states and principalities from the list, Israel actually has the 10th highest population density in the world behind India, Japan and Rwanda.
Clinton = bigot
Pipes makes some observations that are very good:
Rabin’s mistake was simple and profound: One cannot “make peace with one’s enemy,” as he imagined. Rather, one makes peace with one’s former enemy. Peace nearly always requires one side in a conflict to be defeated and thus give up its goals.
Wars end not through goodwill but through victory. “Let your great object [in war] be victory” observed Sun Tzu, the ancient Chinese strategist. “War is an act of violence to compel the enemy to fulfill our will,” wrote his nineteenth-century Prussian successor, Karl von Clausewitz in 1832. Douglas MacArthur observed in 1951 that in “war, there is no substitute for victory.”
Technological advancement has not altered this insight. Fighting either continues or potentially can resume so long as both sides hope to achieve their war goals. Victory consists of imposing one’s will on the enemy, compelling him to give up his war ambitions. Wars typically end when one side gives up hope, when its will to fight has been crushed.
Defeat, one might think, usually follows on devastating battlefield losses, as was the case of the Axis in 1945. But that has rarely occurred during the past sixty years. Battlefield losses by the Arab states to Israel in 1948-82, by North Korea in 1953, by Saddam Hussein in 1991, and by Iraqi Sunnis in 2003 did not translate into despair and surrender. Morale and will matter more these days. Although they out-manned and out-gunned their foes, the French gave up in Algeria, the Americans in Vietnam, and the Soviets in Afghanistan. The Cold War ended, notably, with barely a fatality. Crushing the enemy’s will to fight, then, does not necessarily mean crushing the enemy.
In place of victory, Israelis developed an imaginative array of approaches to manage the conflict:
- Territorial compromise: Yitzhak Rabin (and the Oslo process).
- Develop the Palestinian economy: Shimon Peres (and the Oslo process).
- Unilateralism (build a wall, withdraw from Gaza): Ariel Sharon, Ehud Olmert, and the Kadima party.
- Lease the land under Israeli towns on the West Bank for 99 years: Amir Peretz and the Labor Party.
- Encourage the Palestinians to develop good government: Natan Sharansky (and George W. Bush).
- Territorial retreat: Israel’s Left.
- Exclude disloyal Palestinians from Israeli citizenship: Avigdor Lieberman.
- Offer Jordan as Palestine: elements of Israel’s Right.
- Expel Palestinians from lands controlled by Israel: Meir Kahane.
Contradictory in spirit and mutually exclusive as they are, these approaches all aim to finesse war rather than win it. Not one of them addresses the need to break the Palestinian will to fight. Just as the Oslo negotiations failed, I predict that so too will every Israeli scheme that avoids the hard work of winning.
I would argue that “Exclude disloyal Palestinians from Israeli citizenship: Avigdor Lieberman.” and “Expel Palestinians from lands controlled by Israel: Meir Kahane.” would break the wills of Palestine very well. but Daniel Pipes is right that we need to break their will. I don’t think we will break wills by allowing people who kill Jews hiding behind Gharqad trees to live with us.