Friday, April 05, 2013

Mideast Media Sampler 4/05/13: Palestinians Throwing Stones Is All Fun And Games To The Media Until Someone Loses A Life

by David Gerstman, contributing blogger at Legal Insurrection

1) Casting the first stone - and all the subsequent ones too 
What's the difference between assault with a deadly weapon - a shooting - and assault with rocks that hit cars at potentially lethal speeds? Why should teenagers think of rock-throwing as something fun to do - and not as a crime?
Excerpt from Beltway Rocks: Police Responses The Washington Post [Washington, D.C] 05 June 1990: A24.
Earlier this week, the Washington Post and New York Times reported on allegations that Israel allowed a Palestinian prisoner die. Never mind that the prisoner in question had a terminal disease or that the Palestinian Authority politicians making the charges had no basis for their claims, both papers treated the charges uncritically.

But if trumped up charges are news, apparently real attacks are not.

The Muqata reports that Magen David Adom ambulances in Judea and Samaria are regularly being attacked by stone throwing Arabs. One of the attacks occurred near Neve Tzuf. There's a sad irony to that.
It isn't just ambulances that have been targeted. Passenger cars have been too.

A few weeks ago a young girl was critically injured by rocks thrown at the car she was riding in. (Ironically, the paramedic who saved her was Palestinian.)

Unfortunately not everyone survives a rock attack. Recently two Palestinians were convicted of killing a father and his young son in a rock attack in 2011.

The inattention of much of the media to this violence is disturbing. But it isn't as disturbing as an article recently published in the extreme left wing Israeli paper, Ha'aretz, which, actually, encouraged stone throwing.

2) On Benghazi and Syria

At the end of Flash! Threat from Rebel Syria Becomes Clear and What Really Happened in the Benghazi Murders, Barry Rubin notes that MANPADS that had been in possession of Gaddafi had fallen into the hands of Libyan rebels and were being sold to Islamist Syrian rebels. 
This weapons system might be the most technologically impressive arms ever to fall into the hands of terrorists. Once Libya’s regime fell (another U.S. foreign policy production), these weapons were grabbed by the Libyan rebels and sold to the Saudis and Qataris, who supplied them, respectively, to the Syrian Salafists and the Muslim Brotherhood. 
According to reliable sources, Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens was in Benghazi trying to get those MANPADS back and was negotiating with radical militias toward that goal. Stevens was doing something good—trying to take weapons out of the hands of terrorists—and not running weapons to terrorists. 
Yet that doesn’t mitigate the mess unleashed by the administration’s policy. At any rate, Stevens and these efforts failed. The money was too good for the Libyan insurgents to pass up, not to mention helping fellow Islamists and anti-Americans. And now thousands of advanced, easily launched anti-aircraft systems are in the hands of anti-Jordanian, anti-Iraqi, anti-Israeli, and possibly anti-Turkish terrorists.
The failure to secure Gaddafi's weapons could turn out to be a major foreign policy disaster for the administration.

3) Post-mortem of the Israeli election

At the GLORIA Center, Jonathan Spyer presents a comprehensive report on The Nineteenth Israeli Elections. He concludes his analysis with:
There is one party in recent Israeli political history that ran on a similar (in fact, almost identical) orientation to that of Lapid. This was the Shinui party, when it was led by none other than Lapid’s father, the late Yosef “Tommy” Lapid. The elder Lapid, also a journalist, won 15 seats as head of Shinui in the 2003 elections.[20] Shinui’s platform was in all essentials identical to that of Yesh Atid–supporting a secular, centrist outlook and with a particular focus on reducing benefits to ultra-orthodox communities. The elder Lapid had a more confrontational style than his son, but the content was much the same. The elder Lapid’s party all but disappeared in the 2006 elections, following the foundation of the centrist Kadima (which itself all but disappeared in the 2013 elections, losing many votes–to the party of the younger Lapid). So Lapid’s orientation and his success are not without precedent. 
Still, it is undoubtedly the case that internal social and economic issues have acquired greater centrality in Israeli elections and political discussion in recent years. In this regard, Shelly Yachimovich’s leadership of the Labor Party in the 2013 elections provided an additional example of this. The growing consensus in Israel on matters of national security appears to be clearing space for divisions to emerge on internal issues. This was notable in Yachimovich’s first speech to the Knesset following the swearing in of the new government, in which she focused on what she saw as the nature of the new government as representing the privileged sections of society. Whatever one thinks of the merits of this description, it is noteworthy that this element formed the basis of the Labor leader’s critique. Indeed, following the nineteenth Knesset elections, one might even discern a certain ideological or at least sectoral coherence to both the government and the opposition blocs, which was previously absent. 
The governing coalition consists of the entire center, right and national religious bloc (with the exception of the rump Kadima party, with 2 seats, which has not entered). The opposition consists of the left, the Arab parties, and the ultra-orthodox. Since a broad consensus on national security issues stretching from the center right to the center left pertains, fractiousness in the next Knesset is likely to focus on domestic issues. This is not to say, of course, that issues of profound importance in the national security sphere do not still exist. Iran, Syria, the rise of Sunni Islamism to power, the future of the West Bank and Gaza all present enormous challenges. However, the new Israeli government is likely to experience less vociferous internal opposition to its positions on these issues, than on domestic matters.

4) Israel's natural gas

Earlier this week it was reported that Israel had started pumping natural gas from the Tamar field off the shore of Haifa. What does it mean? David Wurmser's The Geopolitics of Israel’s Offshore Gas Reserves discusses many of the implications of the find but ends on a cautionary note:
While self-sufficiency in energy – and by extension in water resources and in economic vitality – which Israel’s discoveries allow will represent a substantial improvement in its strategic strength, eventual export of its hydrocarbon resources will involve far more weighty and complex considerations. Yet, even at this early date, several key themes emerge.

Attempts to employ these resources for the sake of advancing peace between Israel and its Muslim neighbors will be the greatest temptation at the policy level. Yet the historical record suggests that increasing co-dependency between Israel and its neighbors and using development efforts to anchor rapprochement among populations are quixotic cul-de-sacs. Such efforts in the past only increased Islamic resentment against Israel and played into their ideologues’ anti-Semitic imagery of Jewish control of their economies. Furthermore, they have left Israel more strategically vulnerable. While some in Israel hope that anchoring Israel’s export system to Turkey and becoming an answer to Turkey’s energy gap will help reverse the strategic foundering of the bilateral relationship, Israel’s experience with Egypt and the Palestinians suggests that such hopes, while well-intended, will meet with great disappointment.

The introduction of any additional party to Israel’s export system will add – likely geometrically – to the strategic complexity and difficulty of realizing and maintaining that structure. While at first glance Cyprus and Jordan may appear to be elegant solutions to the difficulties and dangers of emplacing major facilities in Israel, the emerging instability of these two countries, as well as their indigenous military weakness and darkening strategic positions, will be far more threatening than the situation in Israel in the coming decades. They are both far more vulnerable and far less capable of managing the shifting strategic realities of the Middle East and eastern Mediterranean than Israel. In short, Israel’s export structure should be as direct, bilateral, and independent as possible. The temptation to encumber it with regional hopes and diplomatic missions should be resisted, no matter how promising they appear.

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