Monday, November 26, 2012

Politics – November 2012

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I also welcome promoting the two-state solution. See

What a month. Peeewwww. Never a dull moment. Israel and Palestine need many dull moments.

Current events in Israel and Gaza prove, yet again, the urgency of a two-state solution. Where enemies fail to speak, they end up shooting at one another. Technology always progresses; thus, the range of Hamas’ rockets is improving. On November 15, 2012, sirens were heard in Tel Aviv for the first time since the 1991 Gulf War. Soon enough the entire land of Israel will be subjected to fire from Gaza. Another military operation will bring more destruction but won’t solve the problem. The only solution is peace.

Some suggested that we should aspire for normalization. If Israel and Hamas do not wish to have peace, at the very least they have a mutual interest in reaching some sort of understanding: living one next to another in quiet hostility which, in Middle Eastern terms, may be perceived as some sort of normalization.

I must say that I do not believe in this. It would not last for long. It is most difficult to function at ease next to a barrel full of gunpowder.

Make no mistake. Israel is obliged to protect its citizens against terror, any form of terror. It is the government’s responsibility to defend its population. But the government is required to consider all alternatives, reflect, analyse and examine which alternative would provide the best defence. Up until now, experience has shown that the only assured thing that violence brings is more violence.

Hamas is not an easy partner. It is ruthless, merciless, and hard on itself as well as on others. It is motivated, willing to take many casualties and sacrifices to achieve its aims. It is not the dream neighbour by any stretch of imagination. Just how difficult a cookie is Hamas is made clear by looking at Fatah’s conduct throughout the crisis. Almost zero involvement.

I met a number of politicians the past few weeks, including Tony Blair. We spoke about the need for a two-state solution. He agreed there is no other way and asked to be in touch with his office in London.

I also met with former Minister of the Interior, MP Alan Johnson. He also promised to help in moving the peace wagon forward. I explained that if not, the Likud-Lieberman government will lead Israel to another cycle of violence. We must prevent this.

Likud is now called Likud-Beitenu, after the merger with Israel Beitenu. Replacing the word “Israel” with the word “Likud” is easy enough. For a change, it also better reflects the essence of the change. Israel is secondary to party.

The political system in Israel is boiling. January 22, 2013 is around the corner and all political parties are looking for ways to promote their popularity. There is little doubt in my mind that PM Netanyahu agreed to a ceasefire not on the terms he wished because he did not wish to postpone the elections. The Likud primaries were scheduled for November 25, 2012 and they are required to be held on time prior to the elections. To some extent (I write in academically careful fashion), the primaries dictated military conduct.

It costs a small fortune to call up some 50,000 reserve troops. At the same time, I am delighted they did not enter Gaza. It was a massive show-off. The government, however, should not pull such a trick too often, not only because of the excessive waste of resources, but also because of the effect on Israel’s deterrence of “crying wolf”  too often.

Some of my loyal readers wanted to know my thoughts throughout the conflict and I am sorry for not answering each and every one in timely fashion. This is due to lack of time. I reflect on current events via Twitter (@almagor35), Linkedin, and Facebook. You are most welcome to join my social networks and receive continued feedbacks.

Hamas-Israel War
Reflections on my October Newsletter
Exchange with Abe Silverman, Canada
Two State Solution
President Obama’s Three Options
President Obama on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
Jihadi Presence in Gaza
Jewish Housing in East Jerusalem
New Settlements
The Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders 2013
The European Journalism-Fellowships at Freie Universität Berlin
My New Article
New Books
Monthly Poem
Gem of the Month
Light Side

Hamas-Israel War

For the past month, the exchange of fire has intensified along the Gaza border. Hamas was responsible for the majority of violence; part of it was originated by jihadi elements in Gaza (further details below) which Hamas did not attempt to stop. As Hamas escalated the amount and type of weapons it fired against Israeli soldiers and civilians throughout October and into November, with the launching of hundreds of rockets and mortars and using quite sophisticated anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles, Israeli concerns grew considerably. After repeated warnings that Israel will respond if the rocket fire is not halted yielded no results, the Israelis decided to restore deterrence by climbing up a step. Operation Pillar of Defense was declared.

Annual Distribution of Rocket Fire since the Hamas Takeover of the Gaza Strip


November 15, 2012

On November 14, 2012, Israel targeted Ahmed Jabari, the Hamas's chief military operations who masterminded hundreds of terror operations over the span of decades. There is no doubt in my mind that the Israeli government knew that the response would be hard and violent but they decided to assassinate Jabari anyway.

Jabari was Hamas's "chief of staff," and was second-in-command of the Iranian proxy's al-Qassam Brigades. His history of terrorism stretches back to the early 1980s. In 1982, he was arrested and spent 13 years in jail for terrorist activities, and after his release he rose through the ranks of Hamas. He was in charge of Hamas's military operations during the Second Intifada, the widespread suicide bombing campaign targeting Israeli civilians in the early 2000s, and oversaw the kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in 2006.
Jabari had survived several assassination attempts by Israel in the past and was wounded in one of them in 2004. Accurate intelligence brought his luck to an end on November 14.
Also reportedly killed by early Israeli attacks was Raed Al Attar, Jabari's second-in-command. Hamas commanders routinely go underground during major hostilities with Israel, and the targeting of Jabari and Al Attar was done at the beginning of IDF widespread campaign called Pillar of Defence to stop rocket terrorism.

The IDF operation had three major aims: (1) to degrade Hamas's military leadership; (2) to deter Hamas; (3) to force Hamas to take better control of its territory so that other terrorist groups cease their attacks on Israeli civilians. Hundreds of rockets and mortars have been fired at Israeli civilians since the beginning of November.
In addition to escalating the amount of rocket and mortar fire into Israel, Gaza-based Palestinian groups have recently begun deploying advanced weaponry against Israel. As said, in recent weeks Palestinian groups have used guided anti-tank missiles against an Israeli jeep, injuring four Israeli soldiers including two critically, and an anti-aircraft missile against an Israeli helicopter in October. Israeli air raids sought to destroy Hamas's stockpiles of these and other advanced weapons.

Hamas responded with massive rocket attacks. Three Israelis were killed in Kiryat Malachi on November 15, 2012 as a rocket directly hit their home. 19 Palestinians were reported dead in Gaza.
The decision to kill Jabari will have implications not only on the south of Israel. I suspect that Hamas will seek to respond also by the same token. Israel should do its best to secure its top generals and government ministers.
A word on Iron Dome: When the hostilities escalated on November 14 and the rain of rockets came down in a radius of 40 miles from the border with Gaza, the Iron Dome defence mechanism was not very effective. More than 20 rockets were fired at Ashkelon, further 13 miles north, of which some 17 were destroyed in mid-air. The longer the rocket range, the more effective is Iron Dome but the system is unable to provide complete defence.

Professor Sam Lehman-Wilzig commented: The system is designed NOT to fire at Hamas missiles that will land in non-residential ("empty") areas. Thus, the numbers you have here are misleading as many were not fired at because it was clear they would do no damage. On the other hand, the IDF announced that Iron Dome successfully knocked out of the air about 85% of the missiles that could have done damage.



November 16, 2012

More than 550 rockets were fired from Gaza during the past two days. Luckily, most were inaccurate. Of them, 26 landed in populated areas. Iron Dome destroyed 109 of them. One rocket was fired on Jerusalem.
Hamas transmits messages of defiance, saying that they will revenge the blood of the martyrs and won’t be deterred by Israel. Israel mobilizes 16,000 reserves in preparation for a ground offensive.
The American Congress passed a resolution Friday afternoon that supports Israel's right to self-defence, in the wake of attacks on Israel by Hamas and Israel's counter-attacks this week.

Members approved H.Res. 813 by a voice vote, and with no debate. The resolution expresses "vigorous support and unwavering commitment to the welfare, security and survival of the state of Israel, as a Jewish and Democratic state with secure borders, and recognizing and strongly supporting its right to act in self-defense to protect its citizens against acts of terrorism."
The Senate approved a similar resolution.

After the quick vote, two members spoke on the floor to reiterate that Congress sees Israel as being in the right by attacking Hamas.

The only country that shows active involvement in the crisis, beyond rhetoric, is Egypt that sent its prime minister to Gaza to express support of Hamas. It does nothing to stop the violence.

Up until now, the IDF seems surgical in its operation, trying to avoid killing civilians.

The Israeli media reported in the evening that the government considers calling up 75,000 reserves. This number suggests a massive operation, far greater than Cast Lead. Scary.



               November 17, 2012


The Israeli air force attacked the Hamas government building in Gaza. The IDF is targeting specific military commanders and buildings identified with the Hamas regime. It refrains from inflicting en masse destruction.


Massive forces are gathering at the GazaStrip borders, awaiting entry command.


 The Tunisian foreign minister is in Gaza for a visit to express sympathy and support.


The lack of urgency on part of the US and Europe suggests that they wish to give Israel time to “complete the job”.



               November 18, 2012


 The violence continues. Hamas tries to reach out to terrorise the lives of as many people as possible. As they attempt to launch longer-range rockets, the Iron Dome has been more effective in targeting them in mid-air.




 As Israel widens its air attacks, more civilians are hurt. Ten civilians are reported dead in Gaza as a result of Israeli air attacks. The total number of casualties in Gaza is said to be 70. Some 600 people are reported wounded.


Hamas received from Iran long-range Fajr 5 missiles that could reach Tel Aviv. Their destructive capabilities are far more advanced than the Kassam’s. Luckily, the Iron Dome was successful in intercepting them. The Tel Aviv area is very dense in population and one Fajr can inflict significant death and destruction.


Israel continues its preparation to launch a massive ground attack. Reports say that Prime Minister Netanyahu pledged to President Obama last Friday (November 16, 2012) that there won’t be a ground operation.


 First positive movement towards ceasefire: An Israeli senior official is said to arrive in Cairo for negotiations. Hope for a ceasefire soon. This round of violence yields nothing but more violence.


 The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also called for a ceasefire. Calling is not enough. He should come to the region and show personal involvement to make things move in this direction.


 President Obama said that his administration is “fully supportive of Israel’s right to defend itself”. He also did not categorically come out in favor or against a ground incursion, noting only that it would be “preferable” for Israel to meet its goals “without ramping up military activity in Gaza." The president also made it clear that any solution to the conflict must begin with “no missiles being fired into Israel’s territory."



               November 19, 2012


According to reports in Cairo, Israel has demanded a lull for a period of more than 15 years; an immediate cessation of arms smuggling and the transfer of weapons to Gaza; cessation of rocket fire on the part of all armed Palestinian factions; and an end to attacks on soldiers near the Gaza border. Any ceasefire agreement would be guaranteed by Egypt's politicians, headed by President Mohammed Morsi, and backed by Egypt's political echelon as opposed to its security establishment. It's not clear whether or not talks are ongoing or have already collapsed, but according to reports, Israel has threatened a ground excursion if there is no response within 48 to 72 hours.



               November 20, 2012


The death toll rises. More than 110 people are reported dead in Gaza. Some 900 people are reported wounded. Hamas tries to bypass the Iron Dome by firing many short-range rockets at the same time. The south of Israel is paralyzed. Beer Sheva was hit hard. Until 11 a.m., 37 rockets were fired. By the end of the day, dozens more were fired.


More than 1,100 rockets fired into Israel from Gaza since the start of the operation last week. More than 350 have thus far been intercepted by the Iron Dome system.


 Two more Israelis were killed. Israel increased its bombardment, attacking also major infrastructure in Gaza.


 The White House decided it is time to do something: Secretary of State Hilary Clinton has arrived in Jerusalem. She held talks with Israeli PM and Palestinian authorities but did not meet Hamas officials. Here presence in the region suggests that a ceasefire is drawing near.


The popularity of Hamas is said to grow in the West Bank. It is the same story. Violence always benefits the extremists. I presume PM Netanyahu also politically benefits from this crisis. The Palestinian Authority in Ramallah stood by watching the conflict with its usual impotence.


Daily Distribution of Rocket Hits in Israel's South since the Beginning of Operation Pillar of Defense




               November 21, 2012


Bus explodes in the heart of Tel Aviv. The bus explosion took place near my old parents' home. Familiar place, photos, memories. All boiling. I am emotional. I walked that street a thousand times. This is my home. Scary. Terrible and so familiar. Hope no one is dead or seriously injured.


Later, it is reported 28 people were injured, one seriously.


It is unclear who is responsible for the attack. Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, a group linked to the Palestinian Fatah party, claimed responsibility. Clearly, this was not a carefully-planned terror attack. It was not a suicide attack, and the bomb was relatively small. Maybe a competitor of Hamas wished to do something to show that Hamas is not the only voice of Free Palestine.


 I reiterate my hope that Israeli generals are well protected.


 The rocket fire continues, causing damage to property and injury to Israelis. Luckily no one is reported dead. From November 14, 2012, some 1,500 rockets were fired. Of them, 420 were intercepted by the Iron Dome system.


 The IDF continues to attack its target bank in Gaza.


 Clashes broke out between Palestinians and the Israeli Army in the West Bank. Palestinian youths were hurling stones at soldiers in all three major cities in the West Bank—Ramallah, Hebron, and Nablus. In Nablus crowds chanted, “Strike, strike, Tel Aviv.” Soldiers retaliated with tear-gas canisters, stun grenades, and live ammunition in some cases. We certainly do not wish expansion of violence to the West Bank.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is clearly well-coordinated with the US. He also met with Abbas in Ramallah this Wednesday morning.


 U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon have arrived in Cairo for talks on Gaza conflict. They met with President Morsi. Talks were long and effective. In the evening, Egypt announces cease-fire agreement between Israel and Hamas effective later in the evening at 21:00. Meanwhile, the fire continued. At 21:00, the two tired boxers are said to return to their corners injured, yet each with energies for more violent rounds later on. Many politicians, reporters, bloggers and Israelis on social-networking sites voiced dissatisfaction that the IDF did not inflict enough damage on Hamas, so as to teach it an unforgettable lesson and to deter its fighters from launching more rockets on Israeli civilians. The prevailing feeling is of unfinished business.


 I suspect that many of Israel’s demands for ceasefire, voiced on November 19, 2012 (see supra) were not met. Both sides agreed in principle to a truce, but there was no agreement on the key demands. Neither Israel nor Hamas was represented in the ceasefire announcement. Israeli insists it would not lift the blockade on Gaza.


Secretary of State Clinton declared: “There is no substitute for a just and lasting peace”. Indeed.


 In the eight days of fighting, more than 140 Palestinians and six Israelis have died. For what? Sad.



               November 22, 2012


The IDF operation had three major aims: (1) to degrade Hamas's military leadership; (2) to deter Hamas; (3) to force Hamas to take better control of its territory so that other terrorist groups cease their attacks on Israeli civilians. Aim (1) was met. It is too early to say whether aims (2) and (3) were met. Defence Minister Ehud Barak declared all aims were met. I wish I could share his confidence.


 I am very happy and relieved to see the end of violence, for now, and that the IDF did not enter Gaza on the ground. At the same time, now as in the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah War it is clear that Israel does not have bullet-proof mechanisms to protect its population from rocket attacks. Israel should strive to develop further mechanisms, defensive and offensive and/or (preferably or) develop diplomatic mechanisms to engage with its neighbours and reach a settlement that would satisfy all sides, not only Israel. Such a settlement is pricey. It demands sacrifices.


Israel should either isolate Hamas by isolating it from most of all the other players: PA, Egypt, Qatar, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, The Arab League, leaving only Iran on its side; or Israel should devise ways to reach out to Hamas.


President Morsi showed, once again, wise leadership. I now hope President Obama will meet with him. He needs to strike personal relationships with Morsi.


Reflections on my October Newsletter

It was nice to receive congratulations from President Shimon Peres on my “The Failed Peace Process in the Middle East 1993-2011”, Israel Affairs, Vol. 18, No. 4 (October 2012), pp. 563-576.

Some of my readers did not like the fact that I quoted from a Gideon Levy piece. It was the first time that I quoted from Levy as he is a known biased writer. I thought that Levy wouldn’t change survey poll figures. It was not supposed to be an opinion article but a report providing facts about a poll conducted by what seems to be a reliable agency. But I was wrong. Mr Levy allowed his views to filter into this reporting. I learned a lesson, and I thank you for your justified concerns. You were right. I was wrong. I apologize.

Loyal Haaretz readers also protested. Haaretz then published the following CLARIFICATION: The original headline for this piece, ‘Most Israelis support an apartheid regime in Israel,’ did not accurately reflect the findings of the Dialog poll. The question to which most respondents answered in the negative did not relate to the current situation, but to a hypothetical situation in the future: ‘If Israel annexes territories in Judea and Samaria, should 2.5 million Palestinians be given the right to vote for the Knesset?’

Professor Sam Lehman-Wilzig rightly commented, however, that the reporters/commentators don't write the headline -- the editors do! So while I agree that Levy is awfully biased, in this case it is an anonymous editor who was at fault for the headline.

19% thought that Palestinians should be granted the right to vote; 69% opposed, and 12% did not know. Most Israelis, including myself, wish to retain the Jewish character of the State of Israel. Many, including myself, would thus oppose annexation.

Haaretz also published an article by Yehuda Ben-Meir which clarifies: In response to the question "Would you want Israel to annex the territories with settlements in them?" (and note, it does not refer to the territories but only to those "with settlements in them"), 48 percent said they opposed annexation, while 38 percent supported it.

Most Israeli Jews really do object, and rightly so, to letting the 2.5 million Arabs in the territories vote in Knesset elections, because that means the end of Israel as a Jewish state and the end of the Zionist dream. But the same majority is also unwilling to live in a country with an "apartheid regime," so it opposes the annexation of territories. That's the survey's most important finding, and its conclusion is exactly the opposite of what's written in the article's headline.

As I now have the genuine poll at hand, I’d like to report some other findings:

50% think that Israeli-Palestinians are discriminated against in admission to work in governmental offices.

33% support legislation that would prevent Israeli-Palestinians from electing to the Knesset while 59% oppose such a discriminatory legislation.

49% support the claim that the State of Israel should prefer taking care of its Jewish citizens over caring for its Palestinian citizens. Same percentage, 49%, opposes such discrimination.

47% support transfer of Israeli-Palestinians to the Palestinian Authority. 40% oppose and 13% do not know.

53% would not mind having an Arab neighbor in their apartment building (42% mind such a presence); 49% would not mind having Arab students at their children’s school (42% mind such a presence).

Professor Art Hobson wrote from Fayetteville, USA:
Hi Rafi - Thanks for reprinting my article about the Iranian bomb.  Things do not look good, with Bibi looking forward to probably re-election.  The picture you paint of Israeli annexation of the West Bank accompanied by apartheid, would be a disaster for Israel, for the Mideast, and for the world.  A two-state solution is the only rational path.  Our best hope is that Obama will be re-elected, and that he will push much harder on Bibi to obtain a two-state solution.  However, I'm not optimistic.  - Art

Exchange with Abe Silverman, Canada:
Dear Raphi
The 2 great dangers to our economic well being and the quest for peace is the entrenchment of the 2 ideologies. Left wing Liberalism and right wing Conservatism. And both are unyielding.
As I have written many times before, I think it is clear to all, including Netanyahu that a 2 State Solution is the only answer for "peace" between the Palestinians and the Israeli's, but I have not seen anything from you on how that will happen other then wishful thinking. Academia seems to lounge in the world of Idealistic thinking and is often out of touch with the real world. And in that world exists evil and evil does not compromise. It only understands force. Let history teach us the lessons that we must heed in our dealings with evil. And that evil today for Israel exists in Iran, in Gaza (Hamas) and in Lebanon (Hezbollah). Just as the world was not able to find a way to live with Hitler, so to is there no way to find a way to live with today's evil. And I vehemently disagree with you. The greatest threat today for Israel is a Nuclear Iran.
I applaud you for including in your criticisms the US when you took issue with the deportation of Africans from Israel. Of course Canada and Australia should also be included. Under Barak Obama's presidency, more illegal Mexicans have been deported out of the US then under any other President. And Canada and Australia have taken strong measures to prevent illegals from entering their country. Could it be that so many of these illegals in all of these countries including Israel are criminals. Does it not make sense to enforce immigration laws so those who are legitimate and follow process are the ones who benefit? It is wonderful to be compassionate, but at what cost.
One can only judge Morsi on his past. We can give him the benefit of the doubt but we must not lose sight of where he comes from and what he stands for. To do so is to put us at great peril.
Best regards
Abe Silverman

Dear Abe

Thank you for your note.

I agree that many academics tend to be idealistic and non-realistic. I hope that you do not put me in this camp. As you know, I am also a political activist. I know what is achievable, and I think I know what is needed to achieve peace. I also suspect that Mr Netanyahu’s way will lead us to war.

I refuse to despair, although quite a few people who know about my two-state campaign tried to convince me to give up, saying that there is no hope. I refuse to give up hope. There are obstacles on the road to peace. This means we need to try harder.

Abba Eban, one of the wisest diplomats we had, said: History teaches us that men and nations behave wisely once they have exhausted all other alternatives.

There might never be peace. But if we all sit idly by and watch leaders repeating the same mistakes that led time and again to bloodshed, then we are accomplices to their wrongdoing.

I do not believe the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can be depicted in black and white. This is far too simplistic, and it is misleading. There are no angels in this story. The reality is far more complex, with many shades of grey.

I agree that the greatest threat today for Israel is a Nuclear Iran. But focusing exclusively on Iran serves the interests of the political right in Israel and paves the way for Mr Netanyahu's continuing in power. This is what he has been doing quite successfully the past year. Peace became an illusion for idealists, not a concrete and achievable end. I do not underestimate the Iranian threat, as I am sure you know from reading my monthly blogs. With the exception of Israel, no country received more attention than Iran during the past few years. At the same time, I am dismayed that Mr Netanyahu was successful in dismissing social concerns and the peace process.

Of course Israel is entitled to have a policy on immigration as every other country does. Thus Israel may put quotas on immigration, control its borders, and attempt to stop illegal immigration. But I object to cruelty and inhuman treatment of guest workers. Israel invites guest workers to do the jobs that Israelis are not happy to do. It exploits them by low salaries that Israelis view with contempt. It allows them to work in Israel for many years. And then, after 8 or 10 years, it throws them away as unnecessary objects notwithstanding their personal circumstances, even if during their time in Israel they established families, sent their Israel-born children to Israeli schools, and immersed in Israeli society. I felt ashamed when I heard the Minister of Interior, Elie Yishai, saying that 400 immigration kids constituted a threat to Israel.

I agree with you that leaders need to be judged by their speeches and their actions, and that we must not lose sight of where Morsi comes from and what he stands for. You are absolutely right. We should be cautious and alert about the greatest neighbour we have at our border. This does not negate my statement that until now I am quite impressed with Morsi’s leadership. It seems Morsi is intent to maintain the peace with Israel for very practical reasons. Peace with Israel is a precious commodity that Egypt needs. It provides Egypt with much-needed stability, and with valued American dollars.

Best wishes


Dear Raphi
I too am a Political activist and strongly support a 2 State Solution. One Arab and one Jewish. And it is incumbent on all of us to continue the quest for this solution regardless of the barriers. But not at the expense of the Jewish State of Israel.
I also would like to quote Abba Eban, "the world judges itself according to man's law except for Israel that is judged according to God's law". Compared to the rest of the world Israel with all of it's warts and foibles can hold it's head very high. It is in fact a light unto the world. Yes we need to fight for justice for all but not at the expense of our own well being. Israel and the Jewish people have enough critics and anti-semites. Look what is happening in the left wing Protestant Churches with their one sided resolutions, and the totally one sided condemnation within UN institutions. Look at Holland and Spain that refused entrance to 23 Israeli and West Mayors even though several where Arabs. What these groups and Countries don't realize is that this only causes the Arabs to be more intransigent and does not do anything to further the cause for peace. And the most distressing reality is that most often these unreasonable resolutions and actions are driven by anti-semitism. And that is what we as Jews must guard against and work together to combat regardless of our Political, ideological or religious bent.
Netanyahu may be right wing but what drives him as it drives most world leaders is his legacy. And that ultimately will drive leaders after exhausting every other possibility, to do the right thing.
Best regards
Abe Silverman

Two State Solution

I continue campaigning for a two-state solution. In Washington I met with some senior officials and scholars. I would like to arrange an Israeli-Palestinian peace gathering to discuss obstacles and explore solutions. In England I met recently with former Prime Minister Tony Blair, MP and former Minister of the Interior Alan Johnson, Lord Bhikhu Parekh and former deputy prime minister Lord John Prescott. With my humble powers, I am trying to move things forward. Much more is required. The more you get involved, the more chances we create for peace. If not, I am afraid another cycle of violence is unavoidable.

President Obama’s Three Options

President Obama may decide to focus on internal issues and stay away from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He knows that Mr Netanyahu is not committed to the pursuit of peace and that his peaceful statements are hollow. Obama’s first option is to respond with his own hollow statements and zero effort.

The second option is to confront the issue, commit himself and his administration possibly at the expense of addressing urgent economic concerns internally.

But there is a third option. Instead of being the driver of events he will be driven to them by internal Middle Eastern forces. The Middle East is still volatile. Inaction on his part might mean that the United States lags behind as it tries to catch up and ensure that things don't get out of control. If you are not in the front seat you might find yourself sitting uncomfortably in the back seat, squeezed between other stressed passengers, each with her own interests.

Judging from current events, it seems President Obama remains unenthusiastic about US involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He supports Israel in statements and in defensive weapons. He has zero sympathy for Hamas, and rightly so. Hamas is a terrorist organization. President Obama saw a need to show active involvement by sending Secretary of State Clinton when he felt that things might escalate beyond what he deems acceptable. He does not wish to be involved, but he does not wish to find himself in the third scenario as well, squeezed between other passengers in the back seat.

President Obama on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

President Obama asserted in May 2011that the "status quo is unsustainable" with the Palestinians. He supports negotiations that will result in a two-state solution--a "viable" Palestine and a "secure" Israel--with borders based on the pre-Six Day War borders and mutually agreed land swaps. Negotiations over territory and security, he says, should provide the basis from which to begin discussions over the future of Jerusalem and the potential return of Palestinian refugees. Obama has also demanded that Hamas accept Israel’s right to exist, reject violence, and adhere to all existing agreements. In addition, the president has indicated that if he is re-elected, he will visit Israel.

For FY2011, the Obama administration requested $3 billion in Foreign Military Financing (PDF) for Israel, the highest level since 2003. According to the State Department, the assistance is aimed at maintaining Israel's "qualitative military edge" and ensuring "the security it requires to make concessions necessary for comprehensive regional peace."

For the same period, the Obama administration requested $400 million in foreign aid for the Palestinians (PDF)--assistance intended to prevent terrorism against Israel, create stability in the West Bank, and meet humanitarian needs.

In his convention speech in September, Obama said, "Our commitment to Israel's security must not waver, and neither must our pursuit of peace."

In an address to the UN General Assembly in September, Obama reaffirmed his commitment to the peace process and a two-state solution. "The road is hard but the destination is clear – a secure, Jewish state of Israel; and an independent, prosperous Palestine," he said. "Understanding that such a peace must come through a just agreement between the parties, America will walk alongside all who are prepared to make that journey."

During the presidential debate on foreign policy, held on October 22, 2012, Obama referred to Israel as "the greatest ally" of the United States and said that he will stand with Israel if it is attacked.


See analysis at



Jihadi Presence in Gaza


Brig.-Gen. Michael Herzog (ret.) explained in a recent Jerusalem Post article the reasons for the exchange of fire along the Gaza border. The primary engine behind this deterioration, he argues, is the growth of armed jihadist groups in Gaza. These groups, many consisting of former Hamas members, are ideologically and sometimes organizationally affiliated with al-Qaida and do not feel bound by Hamas ceasefire rules regarding Israel. Rather, they closely cooperate with Sinai jihadists to plan and carry out terrorist attacks against Israel.

The main jihadist groups currently operating in Gaza are
Jaish al-Islam, Jund Ansar Allah, al-Tawhid wal- Jihad and Ansar al-Sunna; the latter two are also part of an umbrella framework called the Shura Council of Jihad Fighters in Greater Jerusalem.Jaish al-Islam, led by Mumtaz Dughmush, participated in the 2006 abduction of Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit, among other incidents. Egyptian authorities believe it also played a role in the August 2012 attack that left 16 Egyptian soldiers dead on the Sinai-Israel border. Al- Tawhid is responsible for the June 2012 Sinai border assault that killed an Israeli citizen, the April 2011 abduction and murder of Italian journalist Vittorio Arrigoni and other incidents.

As these groups stepped up their attacks from Gaza and Sinai, Israel has gradually changed its tactics, employing preventive airstrikes against cells that are about to launch rockets as well as interceptive strikes against jihadist leaders active in terrorism. One salient example is the October 13 killing of
Hisham Ali Saidani (AKA Abu Walid al-Maqdisi), a leading al-Tawhid figure with a long track record of jihadist activities in Jordan, Iraq and Gaza. According to Israeli intelligence, he was on the verge of carrying out terrorist attacks against Israel. In addition, Israel has targeted operatives in Gaza with clear links to impending or perpetrated attacks from Sinai; it is reluctant to act in the peninsula itself for fear of undermining fragile relations with Egypt.

The result has been a new reality of tit-for-tat tactics and more frequent upsurges, with no end in sight. On October 23, 2012 for example, an Israeli soldier was severely wounded by an explosive activated on the Gaza border fence. Israel responded with airstrikes against terrorists in Gaza, who then hit back with a barrage of some 80 rockets over the next two days. An Egyptian-brokered ceasefire lowered the flames for only a short while, as jihadist groups would not abide by it. Indeed, given Cairo’s limited sway over these factions, its traditional mediating capacity between Israel and Gaza has weakened.


Source: Michael Herzog, “Powder keg in Gaza”, The Jerusalem Post (November 8, 2012)



Jewish Housing in East Jerusalem


Israel Land Administration announced the establishment of 180 new housing facilities in East Jerusalem designated for army and police personnel. As you can imagine, there are very few Palestinians serving in the IDF and Israeli police. The new neighbourhood is situated between two large Palestinian neighbourhoods. They, I am sure, will be thrilled by this initiative.



New Settlements


For the first time since 2005, two new settlements were established recently. Nachaley Tal, north-west of Ramallah, and Tzofim Tzafon near Kalkilyah. One thing is to speak about peace; quite another thing is to do peace.


                Tzofim Tzafon



                Nachaley Tal



Don’t say you did not know.



Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders 2013

The Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders is open to accepting applications for the year 2013. The goal of the Award is to extend recognition and protective publicity to those who are currently involved in front line work for the promotion and protection of human rights. The Award aims to encourage individuals and – exceptionally – organizations who are currently working for the rights of others in conditions hostile to fundamental human rights and who are in need of protection. Special account is taken of those who have demonstrated an active record of combating human rights violations by courageous and innovative means.

Anybody can nominate any individual or organization by filling out the appropriate form. Neither individuals nor organizations may nominate themselves or act as referee for themselves. Three referees are needed for a valid nomination and these persons must have agreed to act as such.

The definition of ‘Human Rights Defenders’ has been explained as: “For the purpose of selecting candidates for the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders, the Jury consider an eligible human rights defender (HRD) to be one who risks or suffers victimization, harassment or disadvantage for exercising the rights expressed in the International Bill of Rights, and who, in conformity with these instruments, promotes and protects the human rights and fundamental freedoms of others, individually or in groups.”

The selection of the winning candidates is made by the Jury of the Martin Ennals Foundation. The announcement of the nominees is made around mid March and that of the laureates is made in early May. The proceedings of the Jury of the MEA are confidential and no correspondence about the selection procedure will be accepted.

The deadline to submit nominations is 9 December 2012.

The European Journalism-Fellowships at Freie Universität Berlin

I was asked to advise you about the following:

The European Journalism-Fellowships at Freie Universität Berlin is a programme for mid-career journalists, designed to give participants the opportunity to take a two-semester leave from their professional positions and spend a sabbatical year in Berlin to work on a major research project.

Journalists from all European countries, from Russia, from the United States of America and from the Arabic region are invited to apply for a fellowship.

Each fellow pursues a custom-made programme that is organized around a specific project defined by the applicant: an individual journalistic research project, the results of which will later be published. The objective of studies in Berlin is to broaden professional knowledge and specialized expertise while building upon previous journalistic experience. Fellows are free to take advantage of course offerings at the Berlin universities, and to participate in events organized by other scholarly and cultural institutions in the German capital.

At the same time, journalists have an opportunity to meet international colleagues.

The European Journalism-Fellowships were modelled after well-established and highly regarded fellowship programmes for American journalists, such as the Nieman Fellowships at Harvard University.

In Europe, the “sabbatical” offered in the framework of the EJF-programme, with its European and transatlantic focus, represents a hitherto unique opportunity for journalists.

The closing date for applications is January 31, 2013 (Superior Fellowship: December 15, 2012).

We would be pleased if you could distribute the information to your members and interested journalists (e.g. by your online-newsletters) and/or post the information on your website, preferably with a link to our homepage (

If you have further questions, please do not hesitate to contact us writing an email to (please do NOT answer this information mail).

My New Article

“Between Autonomy and State Regulation: J.S. Mill’s Elastic Paternalism”, Philosophy, Vol. Volume 87 / Issue 04 (October 2012), pp 557-582.

This paper analyses J.S. Mill's theory on the relationships between individual autonomy and State powers. It will be argued that there is a significant discrepancy between Mill's general liberal statements aimed to secure for the individual the greatest possible autonomy and the specific examples which provide the government with quite a wide latitude for interference in the public and private spheres. The paper outlines the boundaries of government interference in the Millian theory. Subsequently, it describes Mill's elastic paternalism designed to prevent people from inflicting harm upon others as well as upon themselves, from soft paternalism on issues like compulsory education to hard paternalism on very private matters such as marriage, having children, and divorce by consent.

New Books

Steve Smith, Amelia Hadfield, and Tim Dunne, Foreign Policy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012). ISBN: 9780199596232.

This is a very important text book. It is divided into three sections: theoretical and historical perspective; actors, content and goals; case studies. Each of the 24 chapters is written in clear fashion by a different scholar. I intend to adopt it for my comparative politics course.

Chapter 21 is about Israeli-Egyptian (In)security – the Yom Kippur War. Drawing on the legacies of the Six Day War, it explains the reasons for the 1973 War and the foreign policy thematic.  After the failure of the Egyptian surprise attack on the Jewish holiest day of the year, Sadat turned to reconciliation and peace, thinking he could achieve more by peace than by war. The price was that Egypt lost its leadership position in the Arab world but Egypt boosted its economy thanks to the American support and the support it received from other Western powers. Israel, for its part, signed a peace treaty with its no.1 enemy.

I thank OUP for a copy of this book.

David Rollason, Early Medieval Europe 300-1050 (Harlow: Pearson, 2012).

The book (394 pages) surveys Western Europe from the period of the late Roman Empire (4th-5th centuries) through the period of the dissolution of that empire, the emergence of the barbarian kingdoms which succeeded it, and their consolidation under the Carolingian and Ottonian rulers on the Continent and the West Saxon and Danish kings in England, to the early 11th century, with the nascent kingdoms of France, Germany, and England. Most dramatic were the religious changes, from paganism to a Christian continent. The book focuses on the big historical questions (nations, religions, cultures, the economy) which this significant period raises, the sources for it and the competing approaches to basic questions (why people lived the way they did? Why they believed in what they believed? Which political structures were developed and why? How and why the economy was organized?) and interpretations which historians have developed. The book is rich with maps and photos, and in each chapter there are questions for students and suggestions for further reading.

There is a companion website attached to the book that provides valuable teaching material.

I thank Pearson for a copy of this book.


In this novel, Yalom presents two fascinating characters, each in his own way: Baruch Spinoza, and Alfred Rosenberg. One chapter is on Spinoza, the other on Rosenberg, alternating throughout the book as Yalom tells the story of their very lives. Yalom explores the mindsets of these two very different men, separated by 300 years. Using his skills as a psychiatrist, researcher and a gifted novelist, he explores the inner lives of Spinoza, the devout secular philosopher who exemplified that freedom might mean isolation, and of Rosenberg, the ideologue of the Nazi regime whose obsession with the “Jewish problem” was second only to Hitler’s. Although very different, Yalom identifies some commonalities between the two. Both Spinoza and Rosenberg were lonely people, utterly committed to their principles. Both set themselves to understand Judaism, with very different conclusions and personal decisions. While Spinoza enriched both Jewish life and the liberal tradition, Rosenberg enriched the race theory and embodied it with a terrifying substance.

This is a very interesting novel. It is certainly not for everyone. But if you are interested in Spinoza, liberalism, religion, evil, the Holocaust and race theory, you may find interest in it. This novel is not your usual “flight book”. It is for you to sit, reflect and ponder. Challenging and fascinating at the same time, I found the novel interesting and captivating. The more I read, the more I became immersed in it. Feel free to jump to the next chapter if the sharp movement from Spinoza to Rosenberg troubles you, and you wish to know how one story unfolds uninterrupted.

I thank Mira and Yizhar Nozick for a copy of this book.

Monthly Poem

Quiet Muse
19 November 2012

The trees are empty
Supermarkets completely nude
Brown dogs are barking like mad
In the air smell of dead.

Nights are black and long
Days red and double
This land is a crazy place
Blanket of hate covers common sense.

Sun beyond the horizon
Where is the promised promised land
Border stretches beyond imagination
Leaving is never easy
More so when rockets pounding.

Only your tired smile
The honey voice calms me down
Oxygen for dreary times
Gently put head to shoulder
Two, will make this too.

Raphael Cohen-Almagor

Gem of the Month

IDF reserves going home, instead of going into Gaza. Phewwww. What a relief!

Light Side

Occasionally, airline attendants make an effort to make the "in-flight safety lecture" and their other announcements a bit more entertaining. Here are some real examples that have been heard or reported:

"There may be 50 ways to leave your lover, but there are only 4 ways out of this airplane..."

Pilot - "Folks, we have reached our cruising altitude now, so I am going to switch the seat belt sign off. Feel free to move about as you wish, but please stay inside the plane till we land... it's a bit cold outside, and if you walk on the wings it affects the flight pattern."

And, after landing: "Thank you for flying Delta Business Express. We hope you enjoyed giving us the business as much as we enjoyed taking you for a ride."

Peace and love.

Yours as ever,


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