Thursday, July 08, 2010

Soccer Dad

Soccer Dad

Submitted 07/08/10

Posted: 08 Jul 2010 04:30 AM PDT

This week's Watcher's Council submissions are up.

Council Submissions

Non-Council Submissions

Read. Enjoy. Be informed.

How's 1701 working out?

Posted: 08 Jul 2010 04:30 AM PDT

via memeorandum

Hezbollah continues to re-arm despite resolution 1701.

In a briefing to journalists, Israel Defense Forces Colonel Ronen Marley revealed previously classified photographs to show what he said was a unit of 90 Hezbollah militants operating in the village of Al-Hiyam, where they were storing weapons close to hospitals and schools.

"Hezbollah is establishing itself with increasing strength in the villages," Marley said. "Every day they are collecting significant intelligence on our forces along the border and every day they are engaged in digging, building and laying communications infrastructure to prepare themselves for war."

In the four years since Israel fought a month-long war with Hezbollah, the IDF had collected data on thousand of targets to be bombed by Israel in the event of renewed hostilities, Marley said.

In the last war, much of the fighting took place on open scrubland, he said. But the deployment of United Nations forces in southern Lebanon had forced Hezbollah into built up areas where troops from the international UNIFIL force have no authority.

The IDF believes Hezbollah has an arsenal of some 40,000 short and medium range rockets stored in towns and villages south of the Litani River, with many of the weapons stored in private houses.

Given the failure of 1701, I guess this is good news: Iran is keeping a tight rein on Nasrallah and Hezbollah:

While experts say Hezbollah is preparing itself for war with Israel, there are no signs that it intends to start one any time soon. In fact, the Second Lebanon War limited Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah's room to maneuver. The political and military leadership in Iran was angered by Hezbollah's decision to kidnap Israeli soldiers in the ambush that kicked off the war with Israel. The Iranians did not want war at that point, and believed Nasrallah was mistaken in approving the kidnapping without first consulting them. As a result, they took away his right to decide whether to attack Israel in the future.

Forcing Israel to stop fighting Hezbollah meant that Hezbollah can spoil for a fight another day, apparently of Iran's choosing. And it appears the world hasn't learned the lesson as it applies to Hamas. Restraining Israel and allowing its enemies to flourish simply encourages its enemies and the enemies of America to grow stronger.

Why can't the editors of the new york times ...

Posted: 08 Jul 2010 04:17 AM PDT

... be more like the editors of the Washington Post?

Today's Washington Post features an editorial President Obama's new Middle East course has promise:

FOR MUCH of the past 15 months, President Obama sought to advance his goal of a Middle East peace settlement through public pressure on Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. The results were mixed. Mr. Netanyahu made significant concessions to the White House, including announcing for the first time his acceptance of Palestinian statehood and imposing a 10-month freeze on new construction in West Bank settlements. But Mr. Obama's attempt to insist on further Israeli retreats in Jerusalem and his aides' sometimes-harsh rhetoric produced a backlash both in Israel and in Washington -- and encouraged Palestinians to escalate their own demands.

This is an excellent summary. In short: the President's hamhandedness in approaching the Middle East has been counterproductive.

The editorial continues:

With U.S. midterm elections looming, Mr. Obama tried a different tack Tuesday, showering Mr. Netanyahu with public praise and encouragement during a White House visit. The president said he believes that the Israeli leader "wants peace," praised his "restraint" on settlements and joined with him in calling on Palestinians to begin direct peace negotiations by September, when the settlement freeze expires. This switch may look craven to some of Israel's critics -- but in fact it is smart. By reaffirming U.S. support for Israel and pressing for direct talks, Mr. Obama has created an opportunity to put both Palestinian leaders and Mr. Netanyahu to the test and to discover who is serious and who is not about a two-state settlement.

This is what worries me. Has President Obama truly changed, or is his attitude influenced strictly by political concerns. The Post's editors believe the former is true. I'm not convinced.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has been assuring the administration's envoys that he is ready to make peace. But until now he has been under no pressure to deliver. Instead Mr. Abbas has watched from the sidelines as Mr. Obama battled with Mr. Netanyahu, while raising his demands on settlements to match those of the Obama administration. Palestinians have hoped that the United States would extract further concessions from Israel or announce its own plan for a final settlement between Israel and the Palestinians. Now Mr. Abbas has a choice: Begin direct negotiations in exchange for prisoner releases and other "confidence-building measures" that Mr. Netanyahu has been offering -- or show himself to be not so ready for peace, after all.

Now I don't know why "confidence building measures" should be required to bring Abbas to the table. But we also know the answer to the question about his readiness for peace. He is ready for unilateral Israeli concessions but nothing more. The quesition is whether he will be held accountable for his failure to negotiate in good faith or whether everyone will cover for him as they did for Arafat.

If talks begin, Mr. Netanyahu, too, will be challenged. Mr. Obama's counterproductive focus on issues such as Jewish housing in Jerusalem has allowed the Israeli leader to rally domestic support and delay spelling out where he stands on truly central questions, such as the borders of a Palestinian state and whether Jerusalem will be its capital. Mr. Netanyahu says that he needs guarantees that the West Bank will not become a base for Iranian influence and missiles aimed at Israel, as have southern Lebanon and the Gaza Strip. That's not an unreasonable demand. But what will he offer Mr. Abbas in return? Only direct negotiations between the parties will make that plain.

If there's a problem with the editorial it's that it is specific about what Netanyahu (and Israel must do) but not what Abbas (and the Palestinians) must do. Sure they need to be involved in negotiations but do they need to accept Israel's right to exist (as a Jewish state); do they need to accept less than 100% of Judea and Samaria; do they need to stop incitement? The Post's editors spell none of that out.

Still, after yesterday's Israel bash festival at the New York Times reading something this sensible is a great relief.

Crossposted on Yourish.

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