Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Mitt Romney's Ass Logo

This is Mitt Romney's 2012 presidential campaign logo:

Now take a closer look at the R:

Am I the only one who thinks this looks like a human bottom?

Here's an idea for a new slogan, instead of "Believe in America": Mitt Romney - he won't leave you behind.

Monday, May 30, 2011

The Future of the Blockade

In today's Haaretz, Shlomo Avineri says Israel should be happy that Egypt opened up the Rafah crossing, and he thinks this should mean the end of the Israeli blockade of Gaza. We'd no longer have any responsibilty toward Gaza, since we would no longer control all its borders, its airspace and its waters. We will close our border with the Strip, but passage of people and goods in and out of the territory via the Egypt-Gaza border, the sea and air would be unhindered. Israel's relations with Gaza would be like its relations with Lebanon: nobody passes the Israeli-Lebanese border, but Lebanon isn't under blockade.

This would not be a threat to Israel, he says. Weapons and terrorists have been streaming in through the tunnels anyway, so the situation would not be any worse. He even thinks it would be better politically. Any new Free Gaza Flotillas won't be able to complain about a blockade that has been lifted, and if they just reach Gaza without a problem, they would barely get any attention.

Avineri's claims are worth considering. He has some very good points, but I still have a few concerns about this scenario. First of all, while it is true that weapons flow into Gaza right now, I fear that without the blockade, the volume of arms smuggling would increase, and larger, more sophisticated weapons which can't be brought in through tunnels would now become available to the Hamas.

Second of all, if we don't control Gaza's airspace, we might be opening the door to 9/11 style terrorism. Major Israeli cities are very close to Gaza, and planes can enter Israel and crash into buildings before fighter jets could be launched to intercept them. Airplanes would be much more lethal than the Gazans' current arsenal of rockets.

Unless security experts tell me my fears are unfounded, I'd rather we alleviate the blockade by allowing the free flow into Gaza of people and goods, under our inspection at our own border checkpoints and out at sea (in other words, board flotillas, inspect them and then allow them to reach Gaza as long as there are no weapons on board). Yes, we'll still look like the bad guys, but I'd rather live with bad PR than die with a public opinion triumph.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Philip Weiss's Delusions About Jeffrey Goldberg

Jewish Anti-Zionist blogger Phil Weiss is so delusional and so sure of his position, that he is certain that his anti-Zionist views are winning over the Jewish world, as well as the non-Jewish world. Now he thinks Jeffrey Goldberg is about to leave Zionism, just because of Goldberg's frustration with Benjamin Netanyahu. Well, Phil, haven't you learned that Zionism does not equal Benjamin Netanyahu? He's afraid Netanyahu's policies may kill the two-state solution and bring about a one-state solution. That means he sees the one-state solution as bad, not as something he's about to start supporting.

Goldberg can't win. He's a moderate-left Zionist like me, which means the left will hate him for not being pro-Palestinian enough, and the right will hate him for not being pro-Israel enough. Indeed, that very post of Weiss's blog has a rebuttal of the "Goldberg to become Anti-Zionist" view from someone who sees Goldberg's anti-Netanyahu posts as a Zionist conspiracy meant to maintain US support for Israel. Can't it just be that he really doesn't like Netanyahu for the very reasons he writes explicitly?

I never understood why some people think Jeffrey Goldberg is a neocon. Neither can I understand how anybody in their right mind would think he might be joining the Mondoweiss blogging staff any time soon.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Do Israeli Arabs Support Shooting Palestinian Refugees?

I went to the monthly Peace Index, looking for details about Israelis' opinions about different elements of Netanyahu's speeches. I ended up finding something completely different. Something odd and curious. In the May Peace Index (Hebrew/English), the following question appears:

Did the army commander on the Golan Heights who gave an order to refrain from firing potentially lethal shots [at Palestinian protesters entering from Syria] act properly, or should everything have been done to prevent the infiltration into Israel, including the firing of potentially lethal fire?

General Public
1.       He acted properly in giving the order
2.       Everything should have been done, including the firing of potentially lethal fire
3.       Don’t know/ Refuse to answer

I read it and couldn't believe it. A vast majority of Jews supported restraint while a majority of Arabs supported a "by any means necessary" approach. That Jews supported restraint didn't really surprise me. However, I would have expected Palestinians with Israeli citizenship to be less willing to shoot the Palestinians who don't have citizenship. Maybe it's a mistake and they switched the data around? No, the "general public" numbers fit, considering that the general public is split about 80%-20% between Jews and Arabs.

I have no idea what to make of this statistic. Could it be that Palestinian Israelis feel even more threatened by an influx of refugees into Israel than Jewish Israelis? Do they want Israel to shoot Palestinians to gain sympathy for their brothers? Or maybe they themselves don't believe in non-violence?

Israelis Love Netanyahu

Today's New York Times has an article titled "Israelis See Netanyahu Trip as Diplomatic Failure". Unfortunately, that is the exact opposite of the truth. The media is indeed unhappy with Netanyahu, as are members of the Knesset opposition. While journalists and MKs are the article's focus, it only briefly mentions what really matters - that polls show a bump in Netanyahu's popularity.

In Ha'aretz's poll, 51% were satisfied with Netanyahu's performance as prime minister (not only regarding his US visit), while 36% were not. That's almost the reverse of his numbers just five weeks ago, when 53% were unhappy with him.

Contrary to the Times article's title, nearly half of Israelis saw Bibi's trip as a diplomatic success, while only 10% saw it as a failure. Nearly half also felt pride at seeing Bibi's address to Congress, and only 5% saw it as a missed opportunity.

Sometimes I think my fellow Israelis don't live in the Holy Land, but rather in La La Land.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Netanyahu's Statement of Principles

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to address a joint meeting of Congress today. On the one hand, he claims the speech will surprise the world. On the other, I can't imagine him going much beyond the principles he already articulated in an address to the Knesset last week. Let's take a closer look at those principles and see what he might elaborate on:

1. Palestinian recognition of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people: This demand is clear, and American politicians, including President Obama, have already embraced it. I think it is an unnecessary demand, since we don't need the Palestinians' approval for being the Jewish state. We just need them to agree that Palestine cannot interfere in the internal affairs of Israel, including by attempting in any way to end its Jewish character.

2. A non-militarized Palestine with Israeli control of the Jordan River bank: I agree with the first part, I don't agree with the second. I don't trust the Palestinians with a military, especially considering the fact that a poll from November showed 60% of Palestinians support the two-state solution just as a step toward a one state solution (a poll I'd mention to Congress if I were Netanyahu).

As for the border with Jordan, while I do trust King Abdullah to secure it, if his regime would fall, the river would become a serious threat to Israel's security. I wouldn't want IDF troops there, though. If they'd stay on a narrow strip along the border, they'd be isolated and endangered. Instead, there should be an international force there. Not an inept UN force, but a NATO force which would also include IDF representation. The same force should also patrol the Gaza-Egypt border.

Netanyahu will probably elaborate on what he meant when he said there would be troops along the Jordan River. Is he giving up the Jordan Valley and its settlements, as he should? If he addresses his vision of the new borders, more details about this area will definitely be included.

3. The refugees will not return to Israel: Indeed, no Israeli leader in his right mind would be willing to recognize the right of return. I would, however, like him to propose an alternative solution to the refugee problem, including a declaration of willingness to pay reparations without accepting responsibility for the Nakba or stating an exact amount the refugees would receive.

4. The settlement blocs will remain a part of Israel: Here Netanyahu may elaborate more on what his definition of the blocs is and whether or not he is open to the idea of swaps, even if they aren't by a ratio of 1:1. This is where he would really define the border between Israel and Palestine, though I'm sure he wouldn't present a map of the exact border. I have a bad feeling his definition of the settlement blocs is much more expansive than my own, and if he is open to swaps, it means he's going to sacrifice more of pre-1967 Israel - a sacrifice I'd rather keep to a minimum.

5. A united Jerursalem shall remain Israel's capital: With this position, we can say goodbye to peace. The Palestinians want East Jerusalem, perhaps minus the Jewish quarter of the Old City. Netanyahu won't give an inch of the old city, but maybe he'll surprise the world by declaring today that he doesn't see the Arab villages that were annexed to Jerusalem in 1967 as a real part of the city and that he's willing to give them up. I doubt that's going to happen, though.

6. Palestine will only be established as part of an agreement: Netanyahu should attack a possible UN vote as a vote for violence, saying that recognition of Palestine without an agreement with Israel would encourage a third Intifada. He should point out that a state had already been offered to the Palestinians several times, most recently by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, yet they rejected the proposal without even negotiating its terms. The world should not award such behavior, and must make it clear to the Palestinians that a peace deal is the only way to independence.

7. The peace treaty would constitute an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and an end to all claims: Netanyahu should emphasize this principle, which actually overlaps with all the others. Once we reach an agreement establishing a Palestinian State, they can no longer try to alter the Jewish character of Israel, demand more territory, call for a right of return for the Palestinian diaspora, etc. Of course, this goes both ways. Israel will not be able to claim territories in Palestine as its own, claim a right for Jews to return to the West Bank and Gaza, etc.

An agreement that leaves any issues unresolved is a blueprint for disaster. If the Palestinians have a state and a legitimacy to make more demands, they will also feel more confident that they may use force to achieve what they seek.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Brothers & Sisters Blood Type Goof

Here's one of those rare posts where I write about something completely unimportant. In this case, the silly television show "Brothers & Sisters". If you are willing to read some nitpicking, and have watched Episode 14 of the fifth and final season, or don't mind seeing spoilers about it, go on reading.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

UN Recognition and Hamas

Other than the issue of refugees, which I addressed in my previous post, I have another major problem with the idea of unilateral recognition of a Palestinian State at the United Nations. Mahmoud Abbas totally ignores the issue of Hamas control of Gaza in his NY Times op-ed.

Fatah and Hamas have recently reached a tentative agreement to share power. However, there is no guarantee it will ever be implemented, nor is it clear who would recognize or be willing to deal with a Palestinian government which includes Hamas. Hamas's militiamen would retake Gaza the second Fatah did something they didn't like, or if they lost an election, which they would immediately claim was rigged.

Who knows, maybe reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah before the September vote at the UN is good for Israel. I hope less countries would be willing to create a new independent state with terrorists in its government.

Abbas Puts Refugees Front and Center

In his op-ed in the New York Times, President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority calls upon the United Nations to unilaterally recognize the State of Palestine. What struck me was how central the Palestinian refugees and the right of return were to his argument. He starts the article with his own story of expulsion from Safed, and calls the right of return a "most basic of human rights". He also says that a core issue the new state will negotiate with Israel would be "a just solution for Palestinian refugees based on Resolution 194". In other words, their return.

I do not expect Abbas to drop the right of return before there is an agreement in place. However, Israel will never be able to agree to a mass repatriation of Palestinians into its own territory. This is the main reason why Israel and its allies must not allow the establishment of a Palestinian State, or a UN recognition thereof, without a signed final agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. Recognition of a state can only come in a treaty where Palestinians will simultaneously recognize that mass return into Israel cannot be implemented and where an alternative solution is reached.

If the State of Palestine is already recognized by the world community, Palestinians will have less incentive to reach a compromise, even if they are still under Israeli military control. They will bet that now that IDF presence will become an illegal occupation of a whole foreign nation (as opposed to the situation now, where settlements are illegal, but the occupation itself is not) other countries will be more willing to do the Palestinians' work for them and force Israel to give in to all or most of their demands.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Nakba Day at the Borders

Several Palestinians were shot while trying to enter Israel on three different borders today: Gaza, Lebanon and Syria (the last one being a border with the Israel-occupied Golan Heights). In Tel-Aviv, a Palestinian citizen of Israel ran over crowds in an apparent terrorist attack. Officials expected a lot of violence, but it seems like they were mostly surprised by where the events took place. Nobody foresaw the Palestinian mini-invasion into the Golan.

I hope all those who entered Israel will be captured and brought back to Syria, including those who claim they seek political asylum. We should do our best to avoid giving Bashar Assad a much needed distraction from his own people's demonstations against him. I also hope the worst of this day is behind us.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Benjamin Netanyahu's Sense of Humor

Or maybe it's Chutzpah (in its original negative meaning)?

Netanyahu said to outgoing Mideast envoy George Mitchell that he is sorry the Palestinians made Mitchell's job harder. Well, the Palestinians did make his job harder, that is true. I doubt Netanyahu is sorry about it, though.

And does our beloved PM think that he himself was Mitchell's one lone spot of light in the dark bottomless pit that is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

Ahead of Nakba Day

Demonstrations commemorating the Palestinian Nakba of 1948 started in Jerusalem and parts of the West Bank yesterday, and are supposed to spread to Israel itself tomorrow. One Palestinian teenager has been killed, and that will add to what has already been predicted to be an especially angry and violent Nakba Day.

The police says it will allow peaceful protests, and I hope it will stand by its word. However, it should not allow protesters within Israel to take over and block highways and main roads. If anything like that is attempted, or if demonstrations turn into violent riots, the police should use non-lethal means to disperse the demonstations. Live ammo must not be used unless the lives of civilians and police officers are in danger. We don't want October 2000 all over again, but neither do we want an internal Israeli-Arab Intifadah to start.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Osama Dead, Not Everyone Happy

It's a great day. Osama Bin Laden is dead, and that makes me happy. I don't believe in hell, but for his sake, I hope I'm wrong.

Of course, some people aren't thrilled about this, probably because they fear Osama's fate will be their own one day. Hamas, for instance. How we'll be able to talk to a Palestinian government that includes them, I have no idea.