Sometimes it happens that a project -- writing/activist -- claims a good portion of my time, so that there is less possibility for posting. That's the situation in which I find myself now, with no regrets. For it is a very meaningful project -- which will come clear in due course -- that I'm working on. My postings, though not absent, are a bit less frequent...
Inside a hurricane, with its fury of wind and rain, there is a calm center. Right now it feels a bit as if Israel is at the heart of such a hurricane. Here, life is normal. We are getting the blessing of rain. We are lighting our candles and celebrating Chanukah. Children are off from school and there are diverse activities doing.
And then there's the election campaign I don't know if I'd exactly call that calm. But it is totally normal.
But around us, there are places that are moving from awful to more horrible. Prime among these are Syria and Egypt -- violence-ridden places on the verge of collapse, each in its own way.
Syria's situation has been horrendous for a long time now. President Bashar al-Assad has less than no concern for the lives of his people and the figure of those his regime has killed is way beyond 40,000 at this point. As he inches towards loss of control of the country, and he feels more desperate, his measures will grow more extreme.
Assad has one of the largest caches of weapons of mass destruction in the world, and this has generated concern for some time -- lest he use these lethal weapons against the rebels in his country. Or that he fall from power and terrorists seize this material.
Monitoring of the situation is being done by Israel and by the US. It was known when Assad moved the weapons to various locations around the country, and when there was mixing of various ingredients necessary for preparing a gas.
Serious warnings have come from the governments both of the US and Israel regarding his use of this stuff on his own people. There is no deep concern that Assad himself intends to use these weapons against Israel, but there are serious ramifications none-the-less. I do believe that if the situation warranted it, troops would be sent into Syria to prevent a WMD disaster.
Now, today, there are reports -- coming from the US and NATO -- that the Syrian government, in what has been interpreted as a sign of desperation, yesterday fired six scud rockets at the Sheikh Suleiman base north of Aleppo. Aleppo itself is on the verge of being lost, and this base has been seized by the Islamist al-Nusra Front, associated with al-Qaeda.
There are varying reports as to whether the end is truly at hand for Assad. For the first time, the Russians, who have been his supporters, are conceding that he may be about to fall -- and are preparing to move nationals out of Syria. But I've seen at least one report that says that Assad's military is still the strongest force in the country, and that the Alawite minority -- which retains control of part of the country -- will fight for all it is worth to keep from going down. What is more, Iran is still able to get into the Damascus airport to augment Syrian weapons.
If Assad does go down, it will not be until he has unleashed a paroxysm of further killing.
The key question, if and when Assad falls, is which group would replace his regime.
In an interview with ABC News, President Obama has said that the US intends to formally recognize a Syrian opposition coalition as the de facto administration of regions under rebel control:
"We've made a decision that the Syrian Opposition Coalition is now inclusive enough, is reflective and representative enough of the Syrian population, that we consider them the legitimate representative of the Syrian people in opposition to the Assad regime."
This is a group that has already been recognized by Britain and France, and it seems clear that Obama, after having been badly burned is Libya, is stepping very carefully here.
In what has to be the understatement of the week, the president commented that:
"Not everybody who is participating on the ground in fighting Assad are people that we are comfortable with. There are some who I think have adopted an extremist agenda, an anti-US agenda."
The coalition Obama will recognize may be "inclusive," but that means it includes radical rebel forces, who will do all in their power to fight their way into positions of control.
No talk of arming the rebels.
In Egypt, confronting growing violence, President Morsi is fighting for his political life. A referendum on a new constitution that he is promoting will be held in two parts, this Saturday and next. The opposition is threatening blood, and the Carter Center says it will not be monitoring the voting.
See an analysis by Zvi Mazel, former Israeli ambassador to Egypt:
The Jerusalem Post held a Diplomatic Conference in Herzliya yesterday, at which Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman spoke:
"I am compelled to tell the truth," he told the room filled with diplomats. "My sense is that all the promises and commitments to Israel's security are mere words. When push comes to shove, many key leaders would be willing to sacrifice Israel without batting an eyelid in order to appease the radical Islamic militants and ensure quiet for themselves."
Although it should be pointed out that, contrary to a commonly held belief, appeasing Islamists does not "ensure quiet."
Lieberman may have been specifically addressing a report of what happened at the EU foreign ministers meeting. Accord to the Times of Israel:
"Four European Union member states [Denmark, Finland, Portugal and Ireland] reportedly opposed an official condemnation of Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal’s incitement-filled speech last weekend, leading to harsh responses from Israeli leaders that Europe was being one-sided."
These states wanted the EU to condemn only Israel, for plans to build in E1. "In the end, the statement included a brief rebuke of Hamas’s call for Israel’s destruction, after an 11th-hour intervention by Germany and the Czech Republic."
Dan Shapiro, US Ambassador to Israel, also spoke at the Diplomatic Conference. What he said is that changes in Judea and Samaria that have taken place since 1967 (by which he means settlements) will have to be addressed via land swaps between the parties.
Seems as if he's recognizing Israel's claim to land beyond the Green Line where Jewish communities have been established? Look again:
"Land swaps" is code for: the Palestinian Arabs have a claim to everything past the Green Line, but if there are Jewish communities there that Israel wants to retain, then Israel must give the Arabs an equivalent amount of land inside the Green Line.
"Nobody else from the outside can draw that map, and that is why we need to get those negotiations going."
Still talking "negotiations." This is Obama policy.
In fact, Shapiro says the PA is not prepared to come to the table now, but, "As soon as the parties are ready, President Obama is ready to be a full partner."
Isn't that nice. He just shouldn't hold his breath.
Khaled Abu Toameh has just done a piece on the growing radicalism of Palestinian Arabs (emphasis added):
"When Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas returned from New York to Ramallah and told the Palestinians that he obtained UN recognition of a Palestinian state within the pre-1967 lines -- namely, the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem -- fewer than 5,000 Palestinians, many of them civil servants who receive their salaries from the Palestinian Authority government, turned out to greet him in Ramallah.
"When Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal came last week to the Gaza Strip and told Palestinians that armed struggle and jihad were the only way to liberate all Palestine, 'from the river to the sea,' and that there was no room for the Zionists in Palestine because the country belonged only to Muslim and Arabs, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians showed up to welcome Mashaal and voice support for his plan to eliminate Israel and replace it with an Islamic state.
"Even many Palestinians in the West Bank expressed support for Mashaal, especially when he said that the Palestinians would never 'give up one inch of Palestine.'
"...If anything, the widespread support for Hamas's position is a sign of how much the Palestinians have been radicalized over the past few decades.
"A Palestinian leader who talks about a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem is less popular than one who talks about 'liberating Haifa, Jaffa, Beersheba and Safed.'"
What was it that Ambassador Shapiro said, about a land swap and coming to the negotiating table?
Still reading and relying up the NYTimes ? Please see a report by CAMERA on the bias against Israel found in the Times.
"A disproportionate, continuous, embedded indictment of Israel dominates both news and commentary sections. Israeli views are downplayed while Palestinian perspectives, especially criticism of Israel, are amplified and even promoted. The net effect is an overarching message, woven into the fabric of the coverage, of Israeli fault and responsibility for the conflict.
"The Times presents criticism of Israel more than twice as often as it does criticism of the Palestinians. It de-emphasizes Palestinian aggression and incitement, while headlining Israeli defensive strikes. When other media outlets emulate the Times, the effect of the distortion is greatly magnified."
Closing with some good news:
"With 40 days to go before the Knesset elections, a new Israel Hayom poll shows that the right-wing bloc in the Knesset is likely to have an easy task of maintaining its governing coalition after the Jan. 22 elections."
The left, I should mention, is in serious disarray.
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.
If it is reproduced and emphasis is added, the fact that it has been added must be noted.