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The Middle East

Thursday, April 17, 2008

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This began Thursday April 11, 2002 with a letter and my reply. Other mail has been added. Rather than fill the mail page, I have decided to open a page just for this discussion. Begin with the original letter and reply:



I'd be interested in hearing what you might think about this list. I wonder how true these facts are. I couldn't find anything on it at It seems to me to be far too one sided to not be non-partisan.

The oddest part I find is the last line... "It doesn't really matter." Maybe that was added on by someone other than the anonymous "American Professor."

Carol Phillips 
 "If we believe absurdities, we shall commit atrocities." ---S. R. Krishnan ~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~^

Apparently, Benjamin Netanyahu gave an interview and was asked about Israel's occupation of Arab lands -- his response was "It's our land."

The reporter was stunned

-- read below "it's our land..."

The following material was written by an American professor.

It's important information to know since we don't get fair and accurate reporting from the media and facts tend to get lost in the jumble of daily events.

Crash Course on the Arab Israeli Conflict

Here are overlooked facts in the current Middle East situation. These were compiled by a university professor.

HERE'S THE BRIEF FACTS ON THE ISRAELI CONFLICT TODAY....Takes just 1.5 minutes to read!!!! It makes sense and it's not slanted. Jew and non-Jew -- it doesn't matter. Thank You.

1. Nationhood and Jerusalem. Israel became a nation in 1312 B.C.E., two thousand years before the rise of Islam.

2. Arab refugees in Israel began identifying themselves as part of a Palestinian people in 1967, two decades after the establishment of the modern State of Israel.

3. Since the Jewish conquest in 1272 B.C.E., the Jews have had dominion over the land for one thousand years with a continuous presence in the land for the past 3,300 years.

4. The only Arab dominion since the conquest in 635 C.E. lasted no more than 22 years.

5. For over 3,300 years, Jerusalem has been the Jewish capital. Jerusalem has never been the capital of any Arab or Muslim entity. Even when the Jordanians occupied Jerusalem, they never sought to make it their capital, and Arab leaders did not come to visit.

6. Jerusalem is mentioned over 700 times in Tanach, the Jewish Holy Scriptures. Jerusalem is not mentioned once in the Koran.

7. King David founded the city of Jerusalem. Mohammed never came to Jerusalem.

8. Jews pray facing Jerusalem. Muslims pray with their backs toward Jerusalem.

9. Arab and Jewish Refugees: In 1948 the Arab refugees were encouraged to leave Israel by Arab leaders promising to purge the land of Jews. Sixty-eight percent left without ever seeing an Israeli soldier.

10. The Jewish refugees were forced to flee from Arab lands due to Arab brutality, persecution and pogroms.

11. The number of Arab refugees who left Israel in 1948 is estimated to be around 630,000. The number of Jewish refugees from Arab lands is estimated to be the same.

12. Arab refugees were INTENTIONALLY not absorbed or integrated into the Arab lands to which they fled, despite the vast Arab territory. Out of the 100,000,000 refugees since World War II, theirs is the only refugee group in the world that has never been absorbed or integrated into their own peoples' lands. Jewish refugees were completely absorbed into Israel, a country no larger than the state of New Jersey.

13. The Arab - Israeli Conflict: The Arabs are represented by eight separate nations, not including the Palestinians. There is only one Jewish nation. The Arab nations initiated all five wars and lost. Israel defended itself each time and won.

14. The P.L.O.'s Charter still calls for the destruction of the State of Israel. Israel has given the Palestinians most of the West Bank land, autonomy under the Palestinian Authority, and has supplied them.

15. Under Jordanian rule, Jewish holy sites were desecrated and the Jews were denied access to places of worship. Under Israeli rule, all Muslim and Christian sites have been preserved and made accessible to people of all faiths.

16. The U.N. Record on Israel and the Arabs: of the 175 Security Council resolutions passed before 1990, 97 were directed against Israel.

17. Of the 690 General Assembly resolutions voted on before 1990, 429 were directed against Israel.

18. The U.N was silent while 58 Jerusalem Synagogues were destroyed by the Jordanians.

19. The U.N. was silent while the Jordanians systematically desecrated the ancient Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives.

20. The U.N. was silent while the Jordanians enforced an apartheid-like policy of preventing Jews from visiting the Temple Mount and the Western Wall.

These are incredible times. We have to ask what our role should be. What will we tell our grandchildren we did when there was a turning point in Jewish destiny, an opportunity to make a difference?

START NOW!! Send this to 20 other people you know and ask them to send it to twenty others, --it doesn't really matter.


A reply and short disquisition by Jerry Pournelle

My guess is that the "it doesn't really matter" is a signature line.

This reads like a copy of one or another (or a composite) of the advertisements put out by FLAME (Facts and Logic About the Middle East) which run in Commentary and other magazines. As to the truth of the statements, some are true, some are not. 

King David certainly did not found Jerusalem. He did make it the capital, and Solomon rebuilt it (although there are professors of archeology who claim that the whole Davidean/Solomonic empire is myth made up in the Babylonian Captivity; Harper's ran a big feature on that recently).

 My own view is that the revisionists are trying to get noticed: I don't think there's much real doubt about most of the history in Kings, or even in Judges although some is made larger than life.

The Prophet did not go to Jerusalem as far as history records, although the mosque on Temple Mount has some other claims to being special. Mohamed did apply to the Elders in Jerusalem to have his revelations recorded and have himself listed as a genuine Prophet of the stature of Isaiah, Elijah, and Jesus. He was rejected on several grounds, including that he was only a Son of Abraham, not of Isaac, and therefore not in fact Jewish. Originally in Medina prayers were directed toward Jerusalem, until after that rejection and some time later, when, in the middle of prayer, Mohamed swung around to face Mecca rather than Jerusalem. There is to this day a mosque in Medina with "two aspects" one directed at Jerusalem the other at Mecca. After that moment Mecca became the chief city of Islam. 

In any event, most of the history is irrelevant: it's certainly the case that from Roman times on that area had few religious Jews, and none loyal to the Temple or the Ethnarchy: the Romans were pretty thorough; see Josephus.

 The ethnicity of the population is another story, but after the destruction of the Temple and the Diaspora, the local population certainly wasn't Jewish in any nationalist sense. After Constantine most were Christians. Then came the Persians. Arabs. Crusaders. Saracens (Kurds). Mamelukes (Circassians mostly). Turks. A small Jewish population after 1800 or so. And on into modern times.

Whose land is it?  Whose land is any land? Certainly millions of Germans were moved after World War II, and for that matter millions of Poles were resettled. Stalin and the later USSR forcibly relocated many Balts to Siberia, often replacing them with ethnic Russians who assumed the names of the people they had displaced as well as taking over their property. Their heirs fight that out in the courts of Latvia and Lithuania to this day. Finns were relocated. Then there is the story of the Native Americans sometimes known as Indians, and the Spanish Conquest, and Mexico, Texas, New Mexico, and California. Etc. Etc.  If you want to decide "whose land is it", right of conquest has been recognized for a very long time as the final definition, and if you do not believe that ask any refugee from what used to be known as East Prussia and Silesia. Or is it different when Europeans are displaced?

How far back in history do you want to go? All that area was part of the Roman Empire at one time: does this mean it ought to belong to Italy? After the Prophet it was all swept into Caliphates but to this day Sunni and Shiites fight it out as who who was the real Caliph, and who is the proper successor to the Prophet, and whether the Hidden Imam has appeared, and the rest. Incidentally, repression works pretty well: the Turks so thoroughly dealt with the Old Man Of The Mountain, the original Assassins who intimidated Saladin and Lionheart alike, that what's left of them is a pacifist sect...

History does not tell us "whose land is it?" 

On the other hand, one of my Christian friends in Jerusalem can point to the house her father owned. He was a physician, and the house is in the original Israel not far from Jerusalem. They were displaced, and while they have the keys to the house and never sold it or transferred title, they can't visit it. After the foundation of Israel they lived in the Old City until that was taken by Israel, and they were again displaced.  As she says, "I know they did terrible things to the Jews in Europe but why did that give them title to my house?"

And of course the west side of the Jordan Valley remains under Israeli control for security reasons: it is a barren minefield now although it was once the most fertile part of the west bank territories. The dirty little secret here is that Jordan isn't very interested in having that returned to the Palestinians, because they don't want a large common border with them. Black September commemorates not an Israeli act but the expulsion of the Palestinians from Jordan by King Hussein: he used his Bedouin guardsmen to drive the Palestinians out, and his son doesn't want them back.

Point 12 is entirely true and is the heart of the matter. The Germans displaced from Silesia and East Prussia have long since vanished into the population and there isn't a lot of irredentist sentiment among their descendents. Since most Arab nations expelled just about all their Jews, and don't welcome any, and Israel was able to absorb them plus refugees from Europe plus emigrants and refuseniks from  former USSR, one supposes that the Arab states could have absorbed the Palestinian refugees. It didn't happen. Instead, the Arab states set up the "refugee camps", in which the original 600,000 or so displaced persons lived, rather than allow them to immigrate into Iraq, Syria, Arabia, Egypt, Morocco, Tunis, etc. and get on with their lives. There are now more than two million "refugees" who want to go back to their homes in what is now Israel.

It appears to be impossible to discuss the Middle East without bringing in a lot of history, and both sides can find reason enough for grievance. There is no shortage of injustice by either side.

But this does not address the problem of what to do NOW.

The NOW includes: Israel wants to have cheap labor from the Palestinian areas. The Palestinian areas need the jobs in Israel.  Thus the obvious solution to suicide bombings, build walls and stop border crossings, is not easily accepted.

The NOW includes: Israel could have made allies of the Christian minority among the Arab/Palestinian population. They chose a path of humiliation (payback for the way Jews were treated in Europe one supposes) and have made the Christian population into, if not enemies, certainly not sympathizers. They have made allies of the Druze. They have made enemies of the Roman and Greek Catholic hierarchies, as well as the Anglicans and Armenians and Methodists in Palestine. They could have  allied with the Christians but didn't, and it's too late now I think.

The NOW includes the "settlements" which are enclaves, often deep within what is otherwise Palestinian territory, often in "strategic" locations (i.e. hilltops) but totally indefensible because they can't be supplied; requiring military roads into them, large army patrols, and armed settlers. These are politically a hot potato in Israeli politics, and an obvious irritant to the Palestinians. They can't be defended if left outside the perimeter of a new Jewish State -- and if they are incorporated into a new Israel with a defensible perimeter (connect the dots and build a wall from Settlement to Settlement), tens of thousands of Palestinians must either be expelled or incorporated as non-Jewish Israeli citizens. Neither possibility is palatable to Israel or anyone else. Israeli domestic politics prevents building walls that abandon the settlements. Now what?

The NOW includes the fact that all the Arab states are tyrannies with the exception of Jordan. Some are worse than others, but none are liberal democracies or even constitutional monarchies, and with few exceptions none have governments thought legitimate by even a majority of their citizens -- and even where a majority assents, there is a minority that believes its own government to be a tyranny. There is no lack of religious intolerance, Sunni vs. Shiite vs. secular socialism. There is no lack of racial intolerance, Bedouin vs., Palestinian vs. Kurd vs. Persian, etc. etc.

 With WHOM does one make a deal when dealing with the Arab world? Governments that can fall overnight? NOW look at Palestine which has no real government at all. If Arafat wanted to bring peace -- it is not clear what he wants, but assume the best will in the world -- he has not enough control over his populace. Iraq and Syria and even Saudi Arabia will pay large sums to the relicts of suicide bombers -- Iraq openly to encourage recruitment of more suicide bombers, the others more quietly as charity pensions to the families of anyone killed by the Israelis.

The NOW includes some fairly ham handed actions by the Israelis, such as shooting the half-witted Sexton of the Church of the Holy Nativity as he walked across Manger Square thinking he was going to work. I met the man when I was there years ago. He was simple, but honest, hard working, and friendly, and didn't want charity although would accept tips for actually doing something for you like watching your brief case while you went into the Grotto. So he was shot down like a dog in the street and no ambulance was allowed to go to him, and he died, and I suppose the dogs licked his blood in the streets. If there has been any expression of sympathy from the Israeli government I have not heard it. There are other such incidents. And of course that isn't the same as strapping on explosives and heading for a Seder to blow up people at a family gathering. But then the simple Sexton didn't do that and never would.

So: many of the points made above are true; but it's not the complete story. And brooding about the past isn't likely to solve the problem.


Here are my thoughts on the subject. They are subjective, and I don't pretend omniscience:


Clearly the only way out is to negotiate a border, build a wall, and expel everyone of the wrong ethnicity from either side of it: ethnic cleansing. Switzerland did that in 1875 or so (it was religious in that case; the ethnicity wasn't relevant nor was language). Russia and Poland did that in 1945-50. The cost of paying decent compensation is low compared to continued warfare.  Some of the Settlements will have to go, as will many enclaves of Palestinians inside what will become Israel.

There won't be any "right of return". Israel can't accept that because it would shortly after have one man one vote once and become just another Middle Eastern tyranny. There was no "right of return" for Jews expelled from most Arab nations after the formation of Israel. There comes a time when people simply have to accept the outcome of an armed contest and get on with their lives. Poles and Germans managed. I could list many other peoples in many other places.

Where the border will be is likely to be settled unilaterally: the Israelis have the military power to set it wherever they want to. No one else has the power to keep them from doing it. Leave it to them and get out of the way. 

But until the fight has gone on long enough for all sides to see there is no alternative but the Cyprus Solution, it will continue, and US meddling in the area will do no good, and can do a lot of harm.  Moreover, if we offer to pay for the cost of resettlement there will be a LOT more people to resettle. Israel must understand that they can claim as much of Judea and Samaria as they want, but they will have to deal with the Israel-hating inhabitants, and while the US is willing to help with compensation (and US private citizens will as well) the resources aren't infinite, and claiming too much of the territories will have terrible consequences. Not to be snide, but take all you want, but eat all you take.

I think any competent military strategist could draw reasonable boundaries between Israel and Palestine. The Palestinian State will necessarily be broken into non-contiguous parts, and travel between Gaza and Nablus is likely to require a restricted access highway. That's still cheaper than war. Jewish settlers outside the new line will have to be brought inside it.

Palestinians inside the new borders of Israel will be the greatest difficulty. The military will want to pay them off and drive all of them out. Humanitarians will want to give them a chance to become non-Jewish citizens of Israel, subject to Israeli law, and subject to charges of treason. There will come serious questions: if one member of a family commits acts of war against Israel, is Israel justified in expelling the surviving members of the "freedom fighter's" family? To what degree of kinship? Will the sins of the sons be visited on the mother? I am glad that isn't my problem; but were I an Israeli I would rather have that problem than continue with years and years of what is going on.

Good soldiers do not make good butchers. They do not make good "peace keepers." Professional soldiers, some of them, can break things and kill people without working themselves into a killing rage; but most citizens in arms can't do that. The Western Way of War has always been to get it over with, go crush the enemy and get back to our lives. In the past that has involved razing cities, slaughter of the inhabitants, and selling survivors as slaves. That was very nearly the fate of Athens after the Peloponnesian War, and it was the fate Athens meted out to some of her enemies. All this in aid of getting the war over with. Citizen soldiers are not suited to long wars without clear goals.

The Israeli command has to know this. The incentive to do what it takes to get this over with has to be overwhelming. I know of no way to get it over with except establishing borders and building walls and barbed wire fences and mine fields and check points, and separating peoples who can no longer live together. Until that happens little will change in the Middle East. 

And that's about all I have to say on this for a while.

Having done that, I invited comments from Joel Rosenberg. As to why Joel, I expect him to be partisan, but sanely so; I would welcome a similar spokesperson for the other side if I knew one who is a close friend. I don't, and I don't much trust official spokespeople.

 Simultaneously Joel sent this, entitled 

The End Of Innocence

The Seder had only begun in the resort town of Netanya, and the families gathered there couldn't have gotten to the words "in each and every generation they rise up against us to destroy us" when Abdel-Basset Odeh walked in and detonated the explosives he had strapped to his body, murdering twenty-five men, women, and children -- then just that latest of the suicide bombings that have become the Palestinian's stock in trade.

That was a week ago.

Now, while Arafat gets his cheese and crackers delivered by the IDF for his romantic candlelight interviews with CNN, and calls everybody he can think of on his cell phone, the regularly scheduled pleas for US intervention to save the Palestinians from the plight they've inflicted on themselves are, as the mobs have figured out, not merely falling on deaf ears.

It's much worse than that: they're being responded to by gestures.

The more screaming, the more gestures they get. And the more gestures, the more they scream. Arafat's lieutenants flee their compounds, leaving behind instructions to fight to the death, which result in quick mass surrender, and the surviving shaheed candidates being led away in their underwear.

Gestures traditionally are something that Israel is supposed to get as a payoff for major concessions. Give up the Sinai? You get a gesture. Let Arafat have the West Bank and Gaza for his kleptocracy? Another gesture.

Now, the Palestinians get a UN resolution that calls for Israeli withdrawal, but doesn't say when, and a US administration that can say that they voted for it -- nice gesture -- but don't insist on a timeline, and engages in broad hints that, when Israel leaves the PA areas, the Palestinians will be required to clean up the mess themselves. Americans look at the blue lights where the World Trade Center used to be, and find themselves blithely indifferent to Arab rage, other than to insist that American soldiers not be put at risk to defend Arabs from the consequences of it.

Egypt is willing to recall ambassadors, but doesn't even hint at being willing to do more than that gesture, and the live issue Mubarak is dealing with is exactly what temperature to heat the poker that will be quietly and deniably shoved up Abu Zubaydah's butt. The Saudis hint at considering an oil boycott, but not too loudly, as they don't really want a lot more attention -- or to be laughed at.

The Turks make tsk-tsk sounds, while Incirlik hums with the early preparations for Iraq II: Operation This Time We Mean It.

Saddam ups the blood money payments for the shaheeds' families -- a nice gesture, that -- but with more pressing concerns, the Palestinians aren't dancing in the streets over their newly-found cash flow. A few rocket/mortar attacks along the border in the north is all the Syrians will let the Lebanese allow Hizbullah, because the IDF is on the move, and it can move north, too.

Arab rage has never been at a higher pitch, and it's never been more impotent to affect events. Fatah gunmen in Bethlehem are reduced to hiding behind the skirts of Catholic priests in the Church of the Nativity, and the symbolism of that isn't going to be lost on anybody. It's a curiously self-controlled blind rage -- members of the the Detroit branch of Hizbullah are too busy keeping their heads down to think of strapping on explosives and walking into their nearest synagogue or post office.

And, all the while, Israeli tanks and APCs clank noisily through the Arab streets, and young Israeli privates and sergeants quietly and firmly explain to the young Palestinians that if this war must be be fought, then it will henceforth be fought in the Palestinians' living rooms, and not at their Bubbes' seders.

-- Joel Rosenberg 

I then asked Joel for his comments on my original:

One of the differences between your commentary and much that I read is that you actually know history, and have a sense of history. (Those two are not the same thing, alas.) Brooding about the past isn't likely to solve the problem, no; but taking lessons from it seems to me to be utterly necessary.

So I'll throw in some history as I discuss your NOWs, then get to the where-do-we-goes . .


Cheap labor: that was really the subtext of the hope of the whole Madrid/Oslo process. A Palestinian state in the PA has no hope of being self-sufficient for generations -- at best -- and the danegeld from the oil states has gone dry, recent generosity to families of suicide bombers aside. (The Saudi middle class is complaining bitterly about its free services being cut; they're not interested in having them cut further to either aid their Palestinian brethren or fill Arafat's folks Swiss bank accounts.) The only thing they've got to sell is cheap labor.

While the self-identified Palestinian population outside of Judea, Samaria, and Gaza seems to be largely middle/working class, that's not what you have there. We can discuss who to blame, and dump some of the blame on Israel -- but the local standard of living did improve during the Occupation, and declined rapidly with the onset of the PA, despite the influx of US, Arab, and European charity. The different between want and need is nontrivial; Israel wants cheap labor -- the Arabs need the jobs, and it's hard to see how, absent a sea change in local culture, that can ever happen again. (It wasn't all that long ago that a preposterous proportion of the adult population of Gaza commuted daily to inside the Green Line to work.)

Realistically, Gaza's population is going to have to drop to carrying capacity, or it's going to continue to be a beggar living off of droppings from the UN, a program that is not exactly a recipe for success. Where do they go? I dunno, either. The reason the Egyptians didn't get Gaza back during Camp David was that they very much didn't want another 700,000 or so ill-educated Palestinian Arabs; now, there's 1.3 million in Gaza.

(Same argument applies for Judea and Samaria, except that the Arabs there are somewhat less crowded. Given a nonkleptocratic government, Judea and Samaria barely might be able to be self-supporting.)

Christian allies: I think you're wrong on a lot of this, except the lack of allies, which is demonstrably true. If payback were the issue, we'd have seen a lot more evidence of it. The Druse were -- and are -- a different situation, given their status in Muslim culture. Christians are, generally, tolerated as djimmi in the Dar Al Islam (particularly virulent Islamofascist cultures like Saudi Arabia aside); Druse are heretics, and the Israeli Druse know which side their bread is buttered on. As to the church hierarchies, Israel was guaranteed to offend them all, unless it took sides with one.

Arab states: Netanyahu's screed on the peace of democracies remains on point. You don't really make peace with dictatorships; you have truces and ceasefires, that are, at best, only as stable as the present dictatorship, and then, only as long as the dictator is willing to be bloody-handed about enforcing them. Making concessions to get to that is, at best, problematic, as the peace treaty with Egypt has demonstrated -- the only reason it holds is because of the US payments to the Egyptians.

So who do you make a deal with, and what do you get for it? It's not exactly like the previous deals have been scrupulously adhered to. That doesn't really lay the groundwork for more than "well, we didn't keep the previous ten bargains, but we promise to do better next time -- so, Charlie Brown, take another run at that football."

Arafat: we don't know what Arafat *could* do, although I've got a hunch that it's both "a hell of a lot more than he's done" and "not much." Still, he's got roughly 50,000 men under arms -- instead of the 10,000-man "police force" agreed to at Oslo -- and he's certainly been able to use them to muzzle any internal dissent. (The advantage to dealing with a dictator is that the dictator can enforce the deal, if he's willing to slaughter anybody who opposes him.) He's been unwilling to declare war on Hamas, PIJ, etc, and has been continuing his well-established pattern of using his own forces for terrorism under various maskirovkas -- and controlling things so closely that he personally authorizes three-figure expenditures to the "Al Aqsa Martyrs", and ran the Karine A operation out of his office, under the supervision of his personal bursar.

We do know that he lit the fuse for the last eighteen months of terrorism -- it's his fallback position when he doesn't get what he wants, and, in a sense, that's sensible of him, because terrorism is what's gotten him this far. He doesn't use terrorism because he's desperate; he uses because it works for him, and it's been an inspiration to other Arab terrorists when dealing with the West.

If Arafat decides to shut down Hamas and PIJ, we'll know it when we start seeing the bodies dragged though the streets. Until then, we can argue pointlessly about can't vs. won't (I'll take either side of the argument) and note that most of the suicide bombings of late have come from his own Al Aqsa folks.

But I think it's a fair guess that Arafat can't shut things down as easily as he can start things up, and his history shows that he isn't capable of making a final settlement. Realistically, he's got to go, one way or another, and be replaced by a Hafez El-Assad type. (I'd love to see him replaced by a bloody-handed pragmatist like Sadat, but that's unlikely given the candidates.)

The settlements: Me, I see the settlements as having a lot more to do with strategic depth than anything else, and if you look where they are, apparently so does the Israeli government. It's not merely that some of them are deep in what is otherwise Palestinian territory -- a disproportionate number of them are spread out along the Jordanian border, with a couple of chains linking them up. If you look at Netanyahu's "Allon Plus" proposal at , it's an attempt to draw just the sort of defensible lines that you propose -- giving Israel strategic depth without allowing for an Arab army/artillery to be easily moved within seven miles of Tel Aviv. The topography is pretty nightmarish, all in all; the only really defensible border is the Jordan river.

Okay, enough point-by-point. Where do we go?

Let's step back from today's news. In today's news, Arafat's office issued a carefully-worded disavowal of the latest suicide bombing carried out by Arafat's Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, in what will no doubt be a successful attempt to buy Arafat a meeting with Powell tomorrow -- yet another cleverly crafted document negotiated by State. See

Realistically, this isn't going to be settled by cleverly-crafted agreements. Looking for the right words is like looking for the right magic spell. Magic doesn't work.

That's not how wars end, and it's rare for tricky agreements to prevent wars in the first place. Even when there are legitimate grievances -- most people think that Germany had many very legitimate grievances over even the watered-down version of Versailles that was actually enforced -- appeasement isn't a winner of a strategy, and Munich is hardly the only example, although it's one on point. Give Arafat the equivalent of the Sudetenland, and he and his people still will want/need lebensraum, and he and they know it, which is why he's been promising them that. (I don't think lebensraum could solve their problems, mind, but that's another matter; they do.)

If it's going to be settled, it's going to be settled by a military victory, followed by a viable map, enforced on the losers. (If the Arabs win, the enforcement won't be a problem; there won't be any Jews left. I don't think this is particularly likely; the most effective thing that they can do militarily is use diplomatic pressure to stave off a defeat.)

The Palestinians aren't motivated by desperation -- there's lots of desperate people in the world -- but by the hope that "armed struggle" will continue to lead them toward victory, and the belief that they've nothing to lose. What's been given them is, they believe, immutably theirs, and the only question is how much more they get, and that's certainly been what's gone on on the ground.

Keep the war going long enough that the invader will tire -- that is the Palestinian national strategy, whether we're talking about Arafat or PIJ or Hamas.

It's not a crazy one -- from their point of view -- but it does make it impossible for them to end the war by some deal. And, in some senses, it's worked. It worked for the North Vietnamese against the US (who won the war? The US defeated the NVA and the VC at every confrontation, but the North Vietnamese never gave up, and the US did, and what was Saigon is now Ho Chi Minh City), and it worked for Hizbullah in Lebanon, and it's gotten the Palestinians from the hated Occupation to the PA -- why won't it lead to the Palestinian flag flying over Jerusalem and Haifa and Tel Aviv as well as Hebron and Nablus?

Those in the West don't believe that the Israelis have anywhere to go -- and neither do the Israelis -- but that's not the belief in the PA.

So: the war has to be fought and won. Not just in terms of limited infantry engagements, done largely house-to-house (with support of airpower, limited armor, and as far as I can tell, no artillery worth mentioning).

That doesn't mean just sending in APCs to deliver soldiers for house-to-house fighting. Up against soldiers less ragingly incompetent than the Palestinians, the carnage would be huge, and the IDF has been inadvertently giving lessons to the Palestinians as to how to make that expensive. If the Arabs had been using their Semtex to make mines instead of suicide belts, they could have bagged dozens and dozens of APCs -- how many streets in Bethlehem and Nablus can an APC move on?

No: winning the war means, quite literally, pulling out the big guns.

James Dunnigan argues that, basically, the purpose of infantry and armor is to drive the enemy out to where the artillery can kill them -- and I think he's got a point -- but that's not what's going on right now. With the exception of Jenin and a few smaller places, the war hasn't been fought to the point of surrender, because not enough of the enemy have been killed to impel a surrender. Arafat has, again, 50,000 men under arms, and even inflated casualty figures don't suggest more than several hundred deaths, and a few thousand arrests. His forces haven't even been decimated.

What's gone on over the past couple of weeks is a demonstration, not a war.

Good infantrymen and good tankers don't make good butchers, no -- but, with respect, (and yes, I'm aware of your own military experience), good artillerymen do, and artillery wins wars. That's how the US defeated the Taliban and Al Quaida in Afghanistan, largely substituting JDAMs and other air bombardment for guns, using local forces and some small number of US Marines and Army Special Forces to flush them out. Had Rumsfeld been so ragingly incompetent to have insisted on infantry operations as the centerpiece of the war, there'd be Marines fighting street-to-street in Kabul today.

So: let's postulate that the war is fought and won, with such disproportionate and large Arab casualties that the surrender in Jenin is repeated across Judea, Samaria, and Gaza.

It's not going to end before that happens.

And after that, yeah: draw a line, but draw it carefully, and forget the Clinton plan. I've looked at the topo and population maps, and it's not a pretty picture. Others may do better, perhaps, but the Clinton plan was about as ugly and twisty -- and indefensible -- a border as you can imagine.

Forget putting US troops in between, as they'd be just as much targets in Nablus as they were in Beirut. Forget putting German or French or Russian troops in the way, because both sides know that they'd just be shields for the Arabs (and lets forget, for just a moment, about the unpretty picture of putting the Wehrmacht on Israeli soil). The only troops that the Israelis can trust to defend Israel are Israeli; the only troops that the Palestinians can trust to attack them are Israeli.

So: draw a line, make it impossible for Arabs to cross into Israel but easy for the IDF to cross into Palestine.

And that's when the bloodletting really begins, as Arafat's heirs use the time-honored methods for establishing legitimacy in the Levant.

I detest the common practice of chopping someone's text up into snippets and interjecting replies, and while I am tempted to intersperse some replies in his text I will resist that temptation. It is best to let people have their say and comprehend all of it before rushing to reply.

Taking some of his points in order:

That Palestine is economically dependent on Israel is self evident, and that economic progress was greater under the occupation than under the Palestinian Authority is a matter of record. It doesn't have to be that way: but without rule of law and some stability, no country can have economic progress. The German Economic Miracle happened because General Lucius Clay, the American proconsul, guaranteed stability and order and functioning courts; unrestricted capitalism did the rest. Hong Kong worked the same way, with the British Lion furnishing the rule of law. Palestine has never had an orderly society with rule of law since the British Mandate was ended. It hasn't had it in the occupation, nor since. Of course Israel doesn't always enforce its own laws: one Christian hospital has an Israeli court order evicting squatters from a building in the Old City, and for four years no one can be found to serve and enforce the order. Eventually the clinic was reopened in a new building. Efforts to regain the old or get it paid for have been futile. One Christian college in Galilee had to go through the US Secretary of State to obtain a building permit: for three years the permit applications were simply ignored until James Baker personally handed the Israeli Prime Minister a copy with the request that this one not be lost. I have since visited that college.

Having said that, there is more rule of law in Israel including in the occupied areas than anywhere else in the Middle East with the possible exception of Jordan.

As to why the mistreatment of Christians under the Israeli governments from 1948 to this day, I have nothing but speculation and no theories I would defend. I can cite plenty of facts, some from personal experience. As to the division of the Christians, that was more true in the days of the Turks than now: at Holy Sepulcher there used to be fist fights between acolytes over who got to sweep what part of the church dedicated to the death and resurrection of the Prince of Peace, but that no longer happens. The one thing that Melkite Catholic, Orthodox, Methodist, Armenian, and Anglican bishops agree on is that Israel has treated them all rather badly. The former Director General of the Paulist Fathers in the US was director of the Tantour Ecumenical Institute on a hill overlooking Manger Square, and he had almost nothing good to say about the Israeli treatment of the Palestinians: this was several years ago  at the height of the "peace process" when there were almost no bombings, and it was possible for Christian, Jew, and Moslems to work together in religious studies institutes like Tantour; and for that matter to work together in free clinics and such like. That doesn't happen any longer.

I believe but can't prove that the Israelis could have made allies of the Christian Arabs. In the sense that the opportunity was lost, that may be needlessly bringing up history.

As to the settlements, certainly some have been built as augmentations to defense, and could form the basis of a defensible border. Some, though, are pure enclaves, deep incursions into a sea of hostility, connected by military roads that must be patrolled. They make no sense economically or militarily and I can only assume they were placed as a demonstration of ownership. If that is the case, holding them will be costly. It's not up to me to decide whether that cost is justified.

I have to agree with Joel that either the situation has to be fought to a peace of exhaustion, which will bring about tens of thousands of casualties among the Palestinians and perhaps a thousand Israeli citizens and soldiers (likely to be in about equal numbers). You have to form your own estimate as to which side is likely to cave first as the casualties mount. Certainly repression works: the descendents of the Assassins are now pacifists, largely due to the way they were treated by the Turks. If in the Turkish occupation someone had proposed a suicide bombing of the Sultan's palace, the prospective bomber's friends and neighbors would have beaten him to a pulp, because they would know that the consequences would be horrible: the bomber, his family, his friends, and the relatives of his friends, would all be killed in nauseating ways.

When the PLA or one of its sympathizers kidnapped an American CIA officer in Lebanon, our man was killed. When they did that with a Russian the KGB came in, found people likely to be related to the kidnappers, and began chopping off parts. They made it clear they would continue this until their man was returned. He was released unharmed. Whether Shin Bet or the CIA or the KGB would do that today isn't entirely clear to me: and what the consequences to the West would be isn't either.

Israel and possibly Jordan are the only legitimate governments in that region, in the sense that they rule by consent of a vast majority of the governed. In most places you can't have an election because the loser isn't willing to lose (with good reason) and the winner takes victory as a license to be sure he will never again lose an election. Whether Israel can install a liberal democracy in Palestine is another matter.

I return to my original proposition: the only way out is to build a wall, and expel everyone of the wrong party from each side of it. No Jewish settlers on the Palestinian side, no Palestinians on the Jewish side. Compensation should be paid, but there should be no alternative to apartheid. If Israel hasn't the stomach for that, they had better learn to live with suicide bombers and frequent retaliatory raids, and with being castigated for striking back when bombs go off at their Seder.

A few more random thoughts just because, well, just because...


Absolutely some of them -- how many is an interesting question -- are for religious reasons only, and make little strategic sense except in giving the Arabs an ongoing reason to believe that making peace now (and surely any peace treaty would involve no future settlements) is more in their interest than in continuing the war that started more than fifty years ago. That hasn't worked, at least not yet, and it may not. The Palestinians are clearly of the opinion that if they continue the "armed struggle", the interim deal will only get better, and surely the offers have gotten better, to the point of the Clinton plan. The problem, of course, is that the Palestinian concensus is that they're discussing an interim deal, and not a final settlement -- understandable, given that the best deal they could possibly get doesn't address the underlying fundamentals.

(It gets complicated, of course -- some of the most strategically important settlements are Gush Emunim. From a strategic POV, it probably shouldn't matter much to secular Israelis who is populating the chain along the Jordan, and it doesn't.)

And that said, while I think that you've got a point about the resupply problem of the settlements deep in Palestinian territory, the other side of that coin is that armed outposts on hilltops have some definite strategic benefits, as well as the liabilities that you point out.

It's hard to argue that the settlements are really as much of a problem for the Arabs as they claim -- after all, the PLO was formed as an alliance of terrorist groups several years before 1967, when there were zero Jewish settlements in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza, and Palestinian Arabs were free to walk down Jerusalem roads paved with headstones from the Jewish cemetary on the Mount of Olives. But it does resonate well in the West, and that may have more to do with the prominence that they're given than anything else.

Given the sufficient and necessary other conditions for a viable Palestinian state, the isolated settlements are probably disposable, from the Israeli POV (although not without a lot of internal problems; the closing of the Sinai settlements was a very difficult concession) -- but we're nowhere near that point, have no medium-term path to that point, and "peace activists" wishing otherwise doesn't make it so.

"Maybe the horse will learn how to sing" is good fiction and honest desperation, but it's not the basis for sound policy. The tale of the camel and the scorpion is more on point, I think.

The Art of the Deal:

As you've gathered, I'm much more in line with Rumsfeld's thinking than Powell's. The US military is much better at making changes on the ground than State is, and Powell, like most Secretaries of State, is kind of a Donald Trump, in love with the art of the deal, rather than looking at the results.

A fair-sounding deal -- like the one that Kissinger won his Nobel Peace Prize for -- is meaningless unless it's enforced, as the North Vietnamese demonstrated. (Regardless of what one thinks the US *should* have done in Vietnam, what the "peace deal" did was indistinguishable in practice from simply withdrawing US troops and support, and everybody knew it at the time. I accept your analysis that the South could well have repulsed the Northern invasion if they were given the tools to do so, but that was, I believe, never on the table, except on paper. The North had no more intention of keeping the Paris deal than Arafat did of adhering to Oslo.)

I've got some quibbles with the SALT and the ABM treaties, but, by and large (with some cheating, like Krasnoyarsk), they were bargains that worked because each side saw that keeping the bargain was in its own interest, rather than simply as the basis for further concessions from the other side.

There won't be a viable deal until either:

a: enough death and destruction is visited upon the Arabs, over a long enough period of time, to collectively persuade them that the "armed struggle"/terrorism has been a strategic failure (you point to several historical examples of that sort of thing happening), and/or

b: a sufficiently powerful Palestinian dictator emerges who can and will impose a non-terrorism policy on his own people, albeit perhaps imperfectly.

(Neither addresses the underlying economic fundamentals. Well, maybe the horse *will* learn how to sing). I think it's hard to argue against the proposition that Arafat *must* go, and be replaced by a brutal, efficient dictator who doesn't think himself immortal or essential, and who will stomp on Hamas/PIJ -- and not try an Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade maskirovka -- for his own survival. For that, he won't need mortars and Semtex and heavy machine guns; he'll need lots of thugs with light weapons, the will to use them, and the understanding that the payoff is for results, not words.

How much would a: take? I dunno. Your guess of some tens of thousands is lower than mine, but not by an order of magnitude, and we're more than an order of magnitude away from your guess of what's sufficient right now.

The present operation, while it's done huge damage to the terrorist infrastructure -- which is, to be blunt, the PA infrastructure -- hasn't dealt with the major issue: Terrorism is believed to work, because, in the long run, it does.

A couple of weeks of knocking down a buildings and killing a few hundred combatants (as well as, unquestionably, some innocent civilians caught in the crossfire) doesn't demonstrate otherwise, and the new flood of "humanitarian aid" (some of which will, no doubt, actually feed hungry people and build buildings and sewers, as well as fatten Swiss bank accounts) will act as a counterweight to the proposition that the "armed struggle" has been a failure.

On the other hand, ask the Afghanis how smart a move it was to harbor terrorists who intend to attack the US -- despite the influx of US and other aid. What's the difference? The totality of the destruction of the Taliban state, I think, combined with the low US casualties, which said, quite clearly, "we can hurt you as badly as we feel we need to, and you can't hurt us while we're doing that."

(Digression: George Bush's dismemberment of the Taliban, as long as it's only a start and goes on to Iraq, is a good start in demonstrating that terrorism against the US doesn't work, and so far, it's been successful, on a day-to-day basis, although I'm still waiting for the next shoe to drop, now that Saddam thinks he's got a couple of years, at least, before Iraq II [I think he's wrong, mind, but I think that's what he thinks].

(In the long run, though, we're going to have to deal with the Mecca of terrorism, which is, well, Mecca, and the Wahabbis in control there. As Deep Throat used to say, "follow the money.")

Random thoughts:

>From the late Faisel al-Husseini last March, long credited in the West as a moderate:

"In the first Intifada [December '87] we succeeded in breaking many Israeli taboos. Golda Meir said that there are no Palestinian people, but we earned our recognition. In the past they said 'no' to a Palestinian state, but we broke that taboo. In the past they refused to recognize the PLO, but today they recognize it as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. In the current Intifada as well, we have broken the Israeli taboos regarding Jerusalem and the refugees."

Interestingly enough, all of the suicide bombers of late have come from the Jenin area, and not Gaza -- I think it may have a lot to do with the fence, and with the defensible border there, and with the blockade of Gaza from Judea and Samaria. Gaza is full of shaheed candidates, but as long as they can't get into the rest of the PA and from their across the Green Line, they're not a factor.

But, just as when the Palestinians use ambulances as APCs and bomb delivery vehicles and find that ambulances aren't given their usual privileges, when they start using supposedly pregnant women as suicide bombers, you can expect that there's going to be a lot of actually pregnant Arab women forced to disrobe humiliatingly, increasing the collective rage.

The present action is, of course, a short-term fix, at best, but just judging on the numbers, it's worked pretty well as a short-term fix. The number of suicide bombers has dropped, and a fair number of the terrorist leadership folks are dead or in Israeli hands -- and save for those holed up with the priests in Bethlehem or with Arafat in his compound, the rest are apparently too busy running for cover.

Medium term:

The Israelis are going to have to build a wall/fence, probably roughly along the Allon Plus boundaries; consistently use artillery/air strikes against military targets, of which there is no lack; and either expel Arafat, or wait for him to die. The real problem will be the Palestinian non-Israelis incorporated inside the Allon Plus lines, as absent a final settlement, they can no more be given Israeli citizenship than the Jerusalemite Palestinians can -- anybody who takes the offer will be killed by their loving Palestinian brethren.

In the long term?

Talk of partition is premature, at best, not until there's a complete victory. Arab writing on the matter -- I don't read Arabic, but the folks at  do -- is awfully clear, when it's Palestinians speaking to their own people.

One sample, from a speech by Sheikh Ibrahim Madhi last September, broadcast on the PA state TV. (Just in passing, nothing gets broadcast on the PA state TV unless it's acceptable to Arafat's quasi-government.) "Our belief is that this war, between us and the Jews, will continue to escalate until we vanquish the Jews and enter Jerusalem as conquerors, [and] enter Jaffa as conquerors. We are not merely expecting a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital; we are heralding [the creation of] an Islamic caliphate with Jerusalem as its capital."

Again, from the late Faisel al-Husseini: See
  "... our eyes will continue to aspire to the strategic goal, namely, to Palestine from the river to the sea. Whatever we get now cannot make us forget this supreme truth."

Two points. First, I used to say during the Cold War that the USSR had to be taught that actions have consequences. My solution to Viet Nam and the Accords was to announce that violation of these agreements would begin a new war, in which the objective of the United States would be the reunification of Viet Nam under  government acceptable to us. In other words, we threaten not merely an escalation of means, but of objectives.

I think Israel should do that now. "The deals offered under Clinton are off the table. At this point we intend to incorporate Bethlehem and all territories between there and Jerusalem into the new Israel. We will keep the Jordan Valley, possibly resettleing it with our own people (no one lives there now, it's a mine field). We will keep all of Jerusalem and we can discuss the management of the parts of Temple Mount you desire. 

"The next uprising will cause us to include everything in a line from Settlement to Settlement into our territory. The one after that will cause us to claim all of Judea and Samaria. We will continue to deport people who hate us from our side of the border to yours. Have a nice day."

My suspicion is that blunt statement of objectives would do more good than the open-ended wars that are going on now. Someone has to win this war, or it will not end. Realistically only one side can win, and it can win only if it sets its objectives high enough that the other really understands that they must surrender. Whether that will happen I don't know.

The Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem endured from 1099 to 1187 centered in Jerusalem, and a re-established Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem endured from Acre until 1291. If 90% of success is showing up, 9o% of conquest is sticking to your guns over a long enough period of time...