Thursday, June 13, 2013

Mideast Media Sampler 6/13/13: The UN Observer Force Turns To Fiji For Help

by David Gerstman, contributing blogger at Legal Insurrection

1) Fiji rescues UNDOF

With the Syrian civil war moving closer to Israel, Austria has withdrawn its contingent of peacekeepers from the UNDOF.

Not to worry, Fiji is slated to pick up the slack.

the military from the island country of Fiji who will replace the Austrian peacekeepers on the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) stationed on the Golan Heights.

The contingent will be made up of 300 soldiers representing one-twelfth of the Fijan armed forces.
Fiji has been involved in a peacekeeping role before. In 1996, Charles Krauthammer wrote about what Fiji's earlier involvement in peacekeeping meant:
The Fijians episode is only the most recent demonstration of the uselessness of the U.N.'s acting on its own as peacemaker. The most dramatic and tragic demonstration of this truth occurred not in Lebanon, nor even Bosnia, but Rwanda, from which the U.N. withdrew last April after ignominiously standing by while the worst mass murder since World War II occurred right before its eyes.

These operations are a direct consequence of the grandiosity of a U.N. apparatus that refuses to acknowledge its unsuitability to any kind of active warfare, its dearth of military expertise, its abject lack of independence, and its fractured command and troop structure. It is a disgrace that these forces are deployed around the world in places where they do more harm than good.

An expensive disgrace. It costs the U.N. about $ 130 million a year to keep UNIFIL going. It has cost more than $ 2.5 billion since 1978. Why not withdraw the troops and give the money directly to war victims on both sides of the Israel-Lebanon frontier for reconstruction and compensation? And let the good Fijians go home.
What's true for UNIFIL, where the UN's soldiers did nothing to protect Israel is equally true for UNDOF. If the UNDOF troops served any purpose they wouldn't be running at the first sign of trouble! In recent weeks rebels have kidnapped UNDOF peacekeepers and they've been the target of occasional gunfire. And of course the peacekeepers are doing nothing even as Syrian rebels threaten to "liberate" the Golan.

They'd rather run than fight.

2) Egypt to Ethiopia: Don't Dam it

Tensions are mounting over the Nile.

The Washington Post reports Egypt frets, fumes over Ethiopia’s Nile plan:
But trace the Nile about 1,400 miles upstream and there’s a rising colossus that threatens to upset a millennia-old balance. There, in the Ethiopian highlands, one of the world’s largest dams is taking shape.

For Ethiopia, the dam promises abundant energy and an escape from a seemingly permanent spot in the lowest rungs of the world’s human development index. But for Egypt, the consequences could be dire: a nationwide water shortage in as little as two years that causes crop failures, power cuts and instability resonating far beyond even the extraordinary tumult of the recent past. ...

To Egyptians accustomed to thinking of their country as a powerhouse of the Arab world, the idea of bowing to a historically weaker African rival has been a sobering reminder of their nation’s diminished clout. It has also been an early test for the year-old government of President Mohamed Morsi — one that critics say he has badly mishandled.
Nile River
Nile River in Egypt -- a symbol of Egypt's diminishing power?
Credit: Wiki Commons

While Morsi has stated that "all options are open," Egypt's military has been more circumspect. A spokesman for the military said explicitly that the dam building is not a "military issue." Ethiopian insists that the dam will not harm Egypt as it isn't looking to divert its waters for irrigation but to harness them for power.

3) #BDSfail news

By now you've probably read that the traffic mapping app, Waze is being sold to Google. But what's especially interesting is why the reported deal with Facebook fell through:
What perhaps was different about Google's offer was a willingness to allow Waze to return its own identity (as an R&D firm, regardless of what the company's new owners do with the technology Waze is continuing to develop). 
As Waze CEO Noam Bardin put it in a blogpost announcing the sale (the post was published at the same time Google VP Brian McClendon announced the sale in his own blogpost): "Nothing practical will change here at Waze. We will maintain our community, brand, service and organization – the community hierarchy, responsibilities and processes will remain the same. Our employees, managers, founders and I are all committed to our vision for many years to come." 
McClendon's post also explicitly noted: "The Waze product development team will remain in Israel." 
Part of that vision is keeping Waze independent – and in Israel. Waze executives, among them company President Uri Levine, have many times stated that they planned to keep the company here, and saw no reason to move elsewhere. According to a company source, Waze executives, anticipating a buyout at some point, long ago decided that they wanted to be sure employees were treated fairly if an acquisition took place.
(This writer says that keeping Waze in Israel was not a dealbreaker. However staying in Israel was important to Waze management.)

In another display of pride in Israel, Norm Geras interviewed architect Daniel Libeskind. (h/t Instapundit) Libeskind was asked about his relationship with Israel, where he once lived:
I always felt that I was fortunate enough to experience two paradises - Israel and America! I have a very close relationship to Israel. It is still a young country which has faced numerous difficulties in its short existence. However, I am hopeful that this nascent nation, despite its geographic location and problems both internally and externally, will continue to grow and be a positive force for good and democracy in the region.
If you're not looking for these sentiments, you won't find them. In much of the MSM, Israel is an object of scorn and derision. Those who condemn Israel, or are, at least, ashamed of it are considered the norm and worthy of attention. It's nice to see that there is a perception of Israel uncontaminated by such influences.

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