Elections, Free Patriotic Movement, Hezbollah, Lebanon, March 14, Syria

Deals, deals, deals…

paqradouni

Deal 1: The General’s Return

I’ve been reading Karim Pakradouni’s recently published history of the Lahoud presidency (Sadma wa Sumud: ‘Ahd Imil Lahhud, 1998-2007), and I recommend it to anyone interested in a behind-the-scenes peek at Lebanese politics from the perspective of a consummate insider.

I’ll mention one anecdote by way of an endorsement. Toward the end of the book, Pakradouni discusses his involvement in the process of bringing General Aoun back to Lebanon, in April-May 2005. At the time, Lebanon was deep in the throes of cedar revolutionism. The Syrian army was in the process of ignominious withdrawl; the Karami-led government had resigned; the political landscape had been detonated and the country was headed for parliamentary elections.

In this context, Pakradouni was approached by a couple of FPM lieutenants who asked him to intervene on Aoun’s behalf with President Lahoud and the Syrians, in order to facilitate his return to Lebanon after fifteen years of exile. Cutting a long and fascinating story short, Pakradouni received the assurances of Bashar al-Assad that Aoun could return to Lebanon, as long as he did not lend his support to impeachment efforts against Emile Lahoud, or seek to forcibly pressure Hizbullah to give up its weapons.

Aoun agreed, despite having publicly denounced the extension of Lahoud’s presidency in 2004, not to mention his strident criticism of Hizbullah weapons. The deal was struck, and Aoun returned to Lebanon triumphantly a few weeks later.

I mention this anecdote because it is sure to start making the rounds once people have gotten around to reading the book (it was published only a couple of months ago). March 14th figures have long argued that Aoun was “bought” by the Syrians before he returned to Lebanon, explaining why a long-time foe of Damascus whose political interests seemed to line up so well with March 14th’s agenda (at least during the heady days of the Beirut Spring) ended up flipping and joining (nay, leading) the pro-Syrian camp. While I’ve always felt the March 14th interpretation left a lot of pieces out of the puzzle — such as the role of Jumblatt and the M14 Christians in persuading Hariri not to form an alliance with the FPM — I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t also a bit curious about Syria’s role in facilitating Aoun’s return. Pakradouni’s narrative speaks directly to this question.

Deal 2: Will Hizbullah Lure Hariri with the Premiership?

hariri-nasrallahI recently spoke with a Hizbullah ex-minister and asked him whom he thought the opposition would nominate as premier if it won the election.

“Difficult to say,” he replied.”But it will have to be a consensus candidate.”

“What about Najib Miqati? He seems to be fairly neutral.”

(Indeed, Miqati is one of the most talk-about potential PM candidates these days).

The minister leaned back in his chair and was silent for a moment.

“I’ll give you my own personal opinion. This is not the official position of the Hizb. It’s just what I think.”

“Ok.”

Another pause. Then he leaned forward and said softly:

“If Hariri turns it down, Miqati will be the PM. If Hariri accepts it, Miqati won’t be the PM.”

Translation: if the opposition wins the election, they may try to use the offer of the premiership to prevent Hariri from staying out of the government. Then again, Hariri probably knows this, which may be why he is playing hard to get. Yes, it’s byzantine and highly cynical, but this is Lebanon.

Deal 3: Saad Tries to Square the Tripolitan Circle

The candidate registration deadline is fast approaching, and while sources say that a deal has been struck between Saad al-Hariri and Tripoli heavyweights Najib Miqati and Mohammed Safadi, it remains to be seen which hopefuls will be left standing when the music stops.

Tripoli’s eight seats are an absolute necessity for March 14th if it wants to hold its parliamentary majority. Given that five of the seats are allotted to Sunnis, sweeping the district should not be too difficult for the Future Movement, but it will need help. An-Nahar has reported that Safadi and Miqati are asking for two seats each, while Jamaa al-Islamiyya is still trying to work its way onto al-Hariri’s electoral lists. He rebuffed them in Saida (presumably so that Saniora can run alongside Bahia); they’re now looking for seats in the north.

And finally…

Andrew Exum (a.k.a. Abu Muqawama) said a nice thing or two about this blog a couple of days ago, deputizing Qifa Nabki to provide Lebanese election coverage for AM readers. I’d like to thank Abu Muqawama for his endorsement, and welcome any new readers to the blog.
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Discussion

51 thoughts on “Deals, deals, deals…

  1. Since the FPM rank and file cannot stand Hariri, it is quite clear who is calling the shots in the opposition. The Hizballah led opposition is an accurate way to describe the opposition.

    Think though about what Hizballah is saying. They are running against M14 but if they win they will offer the premiership to M14. What can we conclude from that? Basically Hizballah are admitting that the opposition cannot run Lebanon. Which begs the question, why are they running at all?

    Posted by AIG | April 4, 2009, 1:40 am
  2. AIG.
    Actually, HzB is damning Saado-boy to to political oblivion: If they win and he accepts he’ll look “that big” (what will he tell his people about accepting the PMship of an opposition government, where he’ll be unusually bound to a fire hydrant?)… and if he declines “he’s out” the picture!
    Damned if he does & damned if he does not!

    Posted by GPC | April 4, 2009, 2:03 am
  3. Hey QN:

    ” Id like to nominate Hassan Nasrallah as our future Foreign Minister”

    Can you imagine him and Liebermann together in the same room negotiating a peace?

    Far fetched I know, but that would have been a far better April Fools joke than the one you suggested, its a bit late I know, but I have been busy I should have slipped you a quick note a few days before!

    AIG:

    Good question, why are they running? Maybe they see that Israeli politics have lurched to the right, maybe they are hoping for the same in Lebanon! Two rights make a wrong right?

    Posted by Enlightened | April 4, 2009, 5:45 am
  4. Gotta agree with GPC. It’s kind of brilliant.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | April 4, 2009, 7:19 am
  5. Enlightened,
    Hul-larious… that would have been superb.

    Get on your game, man!

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | April 4, 2009, 7:20 am
  6. QN,

    Well said. You know this has been my interpretation of Aoun’s return all along, and it squares with any account of Pakradouni’s vestigal utility at this point. Any chance of getting a copy of his book? We have a bizarre phone-call and lunch past.

    AG: “Basically Hizballah are admitting that the opposition cannot run Lebanon. Which begs the question, why are they running at all?”

    Because unfettered domination is not the sole end of any rational electoral politics, and being a decisive outsider is often good enough. Witness your elective homeland, where governments hinge upon people who fling garbage at those who violate the Sabbath. Where exactly do you live on the Upper West Side, that you should have the luxury of such questions? Get a f@#$%^&*g life.

    Posted by anonymous | April 4, 2009, 7:20 am
  7. anon,

    Sure thing. When are you next in Beirut?

    I may be seeing KP next week, and can have him autograph your copy if you like. 😉

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | April 4, 2009, 7:38 am
  8. No immediate visit planned, but I’d love an autograph. Perhaps a Cairo handover? KP is, apparently, an extremely distant relative, by virtue of common ancestral heresy. His earlier book (which shares a title with Dennis Ross’) is worth a read. I think he’s the Lebanese most photographed with those in power–till now…

    Posted by anonymous | April 4, 2009, 7:47 am
  9. AIG

    The FPM rank and file cannot stand anyone in Lebanon besides Michel Aoun. They have no love for most of their own allies.

    As for why the Hizb is running, and running to win, is because they cannot take a chance that a M14 led majority will try again to disarm them.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | April 4, 2009, 10:09 am
  10. So morality of the story, where would the Lebanese be without Syrian policing!

    Posted by bech | April 4, 2009, 11:04 am
  11. I have to agree that offering the PM-ship to Hariri is a really deft political maneuver. It remains to be seen, of course, if Hariri operates like Aoun. This being Lebanon, he’d probably prefer the promotion to the wilderness of the opposition.

    As for le retour du Général, I’ve heard that same story a lot, but usually from his Christian rivals. It makes sense, though, because he would have had to have some reassurance that he wouldn’t get blown up, and we all know that there’s no such thing as a free lunch when Damascus is concerned. I’m surprised that M14 hasn’t been making a media heyday out of it.

    Posted by sean | April 4, 2009, 11:55 am
  12. sean,
    Its probably because the politicians here don’t read. I’ve yet to see a local news cycle being driven by a published book (in Lebanon).

    At any rate, the deal sounds fairly mild: impeaching Lahoud would not be supported by any maronite politician (at the end of the day, it was Patriarch Sfier’s position that ended March 14 enthusiasm for the idea). And supporting Hezbollah is a position he formally adopted.

    If the political class here actually read publications, Aoun’s testimony in the US would have generated much bigger howls.

    Posted by RedLeb | April 4, 2009, 1:39 pm
  13. For the record, Geagea was foaming at the mouth to impeach Lahoud. He even wanted to do it unconstitutionally, using the half + 1 formula when the opposition was boycotting parliament to prevent achieving quorum.

    The patriarch balked at using Geagea’s proposed method. But 2/3 would have been acceptable to the Christians.

    Had Aoun joined M14, they would have had 93 seats in parliament and Lahoud would have been gone.

    There would have also probably been a second mini-civil war, when the 14ers went after Hzb’s guns.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | April 4, 2009, 4:11 pm
  14. Deft move by Hizballah? We must be living in parallel universes. Let’s say Hariri says no. In that case Hizballah and FPM will be responsible for making sure relations with the West and Saudi are good enough to juggle 40 billion of debt while making sure that there is no Lebanese Accountability Act. Obviously, Hizballah does not want this responsibility. Furthermore, imagine that another war breaks out between Lebanon and Israel. Who is going to negotiate a cease fire and the aid required to recover after the war? Hizballah?

    And if Hariri says yes, why do you think Hizballah will be able to more easily control him than Syria was able to control his father?

    I really hope the opposition wins the election so all the theories can be put to the test.

    Posted by AIG | April 4, 2009, 5:04 pm
  15. So AIG implies that if Hizb were in charge they would not be able to negotiate a cease fire in the case of a war with Israel. Since you mention it, who negotiated the cease fire last time? I assumed since Hizb was one of the combatants, they and Israel were negotiating, presumably through multiple levels of intermediaries. What would be different if they were in government?

    You might well be right that it would be harder for them to get aid money though.

    Posted by Abraham Rotsapsky | April 4, 2009, 10:15 pm
  16. AR,

    Last time the cease fire and UN resolutions were negotiated by Rice and Livni with Lebanon playing a very minor part. Hizballah did not really negotiate. It just lied about accepting 1701 because it realized that it was the only way to stop the air and sea blockade of Lebanon. It of course was not negotiating in good faith and Israel knew that. But Livni and Olmert succumbed to US pressure. The US under Bush wanted to keep Lebanon as a shining example of an Arab democracy and therefore would not let Israel cripple Lebanon more than it did (it is ironic that most Lebanese don’t realize how much the US saved their ass in 2006 and restricted Israel’s actions).

    Israel could have easily kept an air and sea blockade of Lebanon for months and years thus eventually forcing the Lebanese to make a stark choice. The US saved Lebanon last time. I wouldn’t count on them to do so again if Hizballah is in power. And certainly Netanyahu and Lieberman are not going to be easy pushovers like Livni and Olmert and will not easily accept an agreement that is not worth the paper it is written on.

    I do not think Hizballah is in a position to start a war any time soon, but if they will, it will be the end of Lebanon for all practical purposes.

    Posted by AIG | April 4, 2009, 10:59 pm
  17. Deal 1: I don’t see how these caveats can be used to justify Aouns current position. The demand was to not oppose Lahoud and Hizballah. Im not sure I quite buy it as the reason he has aligned with them so forcefully.

    Deal 2: Nasrallah has made a big deal of ruling by consensus. Offering Hariri the PM job is as big a position you can take to back your words up with action. I think you missed one big drawback for Hariri if he doesn’t take the job. If the opposition wins and the world wants to punish Lebanon for making the wrong choice because they refuse to deal with the govt., guess who gets the blame.

    Deal 3: Tashnag is gone and Jammaa is looking unlikely to join. ANd Sanioras plan to run in Saida is going to cost them a seat.

    And finally: Careful of praise from Americans QN. Before you know it, you’ll be hugging Condoleeza at Beirut Int….:)

    Posted by mo | April 4, 2009, 11:59 pm
  18. QN,
    I don’t think the 2/3 quorum was the issue in the impeachment. It was more the precedent setting effect of parliament deposing the chief maronite position. The Patriarch wanted to preserve the sanctity of the presidency. At any rate, the parliamentary boycott occurred much later in the game.

    And for the record, Geagea was foaming at the mouth to march unto Baabda and lynch Lahoud. I should know, I was in the crowd 🙂 [I just don’t consider Geagea a politician, maronit or otherwise]

    AIG,
    are you really Israeli? I have a hard time believing you live on planet Earth.

    Posted by RedLeb | April 5, 2009, 12:58 am
  19. RedLeb,
    I love your attitude. I live on earth near a country where 200,000 people were killed by the their fellow brethren, where politicians are routinely murdered, which cannot control its militias and they attack other countries, which is for all practical purposes bankrupt because it can never repay its debts, which cannot provide electricity to its people, YET its people believe that they are Gods gift to humanity and that they are the example all others should follow. Forgive me for not being part of your Berkeliyan ideal. Have fun living in your fantasy world. Don’t let me ruin it for you.

    Posted by AIG | April 5, 2009, 7:29 am
  20. AIG,
    So not only are you divorced from reality, you’ve got projection issues I see. You have people with a superiority complex all over the world, but only Israel made it the state’s founding ideology. For a light unto the nations, you sure spread a lot of darkness.

    Anyway, this has nothing to do with your delusional rendition of the 2006 war and the UN negotiations. The US did not restrain Israel, but in fact kept pushing even when it was obvious the military and strategic were not being met.

    I like how you say the US wouldn’t allow ‘Israel to cripple Lebanon more than it did’. What is ‘a little bit’ cripple? Is that like being slightly pregnant?

    If Bush wanted to ‘saved Lebanon’, John Bolton sure didn’t get that order.

    Posted by RedLeb | April 5, 2009, 11:01 am
  21. “What is ‘a little bit’ cripple? Is that like being slightly pregnant?”

    finger vs arm

    Posted by netsp | April 5, 2009, 12:41 pm
  22. AIG, I can sometimes can see your point but your assessment of the 2006 war is really out of touch. Do you really believe the Israeli’s can maintain a blockade of Lebanon? Israel can’t even maintain a blockade on Gaza and that only has a short land border with Egypt(12km??).

    As for our little Hizb not accepting 1701, please tell me how the Israeli’s have accepted it? – overflights, continued occupation, aggression, etc are part of it are they not? Israel has yet to fully implement 425 or any UNSC resolutions that concern it.

    Israel ceased its hostilities in 2006 because the mighty IDF was not prepared for a ground battle against what is essentially a well trained and highly disciplined brigade.

    Don’t get me wrong I am not a fan of the hizb, but as you imply they are a lowly militia. Israel is a sovereign state with a capable government, yet it can not implement any UNSC resolutions that relate to it.

    Also let us not forget that the kidnappings along the border have been ongoing since 2000. Israeli’s typically kidnap goat herders/fishermen, while the Hizb has enough balls to go after IDF troops. What happened in 2006 to all of a sudden to warrant this ‘retaliation’? Hmmm… birth pangs of a new middle east anyone? Face it, the American/Israeli imperial project for the ME is over.

    Israel is a failed experiment in modern colonialism. Each settlement is a breath closer to its last. One state, one vote is the only solution.

    The we are better that you argument doesn’t really work for anyone in this region. The players are full of shit on all sides. The sooner we recognize this the better off we will all be.

    Posted by Johnny | April 5, 2009, 2:33 pm
  23. Johnny,
    Israel could easily have maintained a sea and air blockade. Did I say a land blockade? No I didn’t. In fact Israel maintained a sea and air blockade for a couple of weeks after the fighting stopped. It is easy to stop planes from landing in Lebanon and stopping ships from entering any ports. There are no planes flying to Gaza and no ships arrive there without Israeli permission.

    Such a blockade would have eventually brought Lebanon to its knees, and it is US pressure that stopped the blockade and made Israel accept 1701 which is worthless and which Hizballah ignored from day one.

    The Israeli plan of winning the 2006 war just by bombing from the air was stupid. Israel was not prepared for a ground war and made many mistakes. All that is true. But what is also true is that the US severely limited what Israel could target. I know this for a fact. The US wanted Israel just to fight in the South, while the right thing to do was to bring the war to all of Lebanon. The only reason that there were any power stations left in Lebanon after the war is because of the US. Also, the US limited how the Beirut airport could be bombed. It was only bombed in such a way that it could be quickly fixed and the main terminal was never targeted.

    Look, you guys will only understand what I am saying about how the US saved your ass after the next war in which it will not. A huge part of the Arab/Israeli conflict is just perceptions about the past and the future. You still have a distorted view of what Israel is all about and keep talking like all your historical predecessors of the last 60 years: Israel is finished, blah blah blah.

    Is there an Israel department at the AUB or any other Lebanese university? Of course there isn’t. But there are huge Arab departments at all the leading Israeli universities. We take time to study what you are all about in a very rigorous manner. On the hand, what you do, is invent an Israel in your mind that has nothing to do with reality. So keep talking about “failed colonial projects” and “Israeli projects in the middle east”. But the facts on the ground are quite simple. The Arab states as we know them today, will be gone many decades if not centuries before Israel.

    Posted by AIG | April 5, 2009, 5:35 pm
  24. RedLeb,

    I agree with a lot of the criticisms of Israel but I never get this certainty a lot of people seem to have about Israel’s imminent destruction. What is this based on? Yes, Hizbullah was able to inflict a handful of casualties but nothing even remotely close to what they would have to to threaten Israel’s existence. And the Israelis suffered ten military deaths total in Operation Cast Lead, fewer than they suffered in one ambush in Jenin in 2002. Likewise, all of the Hamas and Hizbullah rockets fired over the last few years have inflicted far fewer civilian casualties than the suicide bombings did between 2001 and 2003. Israel survived that. Israel survived much greater losses and humiliation in 1982-1983. And in comparison to 1973, the present wars and casualties are nothing.

    You can say that Israelis are much less willing to accept casualties than they once were, but if the stakes in Gaza were the survival of their country (as opposed to a few rockets in Sderot) their willingness to sustain military casualties would be much higher. In the late 90s the United States was extremely unwilling to sacrifice its troops. Then 9/11 happened. If you had told me in 2000 that America would sustain 400 casualties in an unnecessary foreign adventure and not run away immediately, I would have laughed at you. We’ve lost more than 4,000 soldiers in Iraq and somehow we’re still there. And 9/11 wasn’t even close to being an existential threat, and Iraq wasn’t even linked to 9/11.

    My point here is that Israel faces no existential military threat. And while I think a binational state, and the end of nations in general, is a noble goal, I can’t see violence bringing it about. Violence can dislodge people from a territory, but its not going to make them lay down all their defenses and trust that a constitution will protect them from their foes. The Israelis would be much more willing to uproot 300,000 settlers than to let Hamas into their neighborhoods. A binational state would have to follow a long period of peace between separate Israeli and Palestinian states, and a closing of the economic gap between Israelis and Palestinians.

    Posted by Abraham Rotsapsky | April 5, 2009, 8:37 pm
  25. Sorry, I meant to address my argument to Johnny, not RedLeb

    Posted by Abraham Rotsapsky | April 5, 2009, 8:50 pm
  26. … didn’t need Pakradouni to tell us Aoun was in bed with the Syrians before his return …

    http://cedarmountain.blogspot.com/2007/12/word-about-aoun.html

    surprise, surprise. In effect what it shows is that the quadri-partite alliance was a reaction to his stance, and not the other way around.

    Hopefully this time around (election-wise) people will be a little smarter, a little better informed … I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

    Posted by Blacksmith Jade | April 5, 2009, 10:04 pm
  27. Jade,

    The point about Pakradouni is that articles like yours can no longer be dismissed by FPMers as “March 14 propoganda”, if you know what I mean.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | April 6, 2009, 6:45 am
  28. Qifa,
    Sorry for going off subject on this comment. Although it is about making deals, and this is where all dialogue should lead non?

    AIG,

    Thank you for your response. I agree with you that there should be an Israeli studies department in all our Universities. There is a lot for Arabs to learn from the Israelis. Again I have no problem with Israelis. What I do have a problem with is the we are better than you argument. You are also right that Israel can bomb Lebanon to oblivion… Where will that get Israel? What is the end-game here? Can Israel not see that punishing an entire country for the actions of a few is counter-productive? The Israeli stockpile of nuclear weapons can destroy the entire ME. So what? Can Israelis, a nation born of persecution, not see the inherent evil in persecuting others? This era is over. Humanity has learned a lot and evolved. Unfortunately the lesson was taught with tens of millions of innocent lives. Jewish lives a great bulk of them. Never again we all screamed. Well never again should not be solely applied to Jews.

    Abraham,
    I didn’t mean to imply that Israel is facing a military threat. I only suggest that Israel, in its current form, is not sustainable. I have no problem with the one state being called Israel. Israeli governments, despite the recent string of corruption charges, are a much better model than any Arab government. The fact that leaders are tried and punished for corruption is wonderful to watch. The difference between Israeli and Arab leaders is that on one hand leaders actually care about their peoples/countries. The difference between Israeli and Arab people is that Israeli’s hold their leaders accountable. In that sense, I wish we were more Israeli.

    The threat Israel faces is that of demographics. We are now in the 21st century. The world will not tolerate ethnic cleansing anymore. If it continues its settlement expansion where does that lead? It either continues as a member of democratic states and gives everyone a vote or it goes the path of S. Africa. Like you I am also an American, and in the last decade there has been a big change in perception in the US about Israel. The gravy-train will not last forever.
    Israel can either accept its place and territory as designated to it by the world community and be granted a big Ahla wa Sahla by the Arabs States or it can continue on its current path of demographic destruction.

    I think we both see eye to eye here. At least I know we agree that violence is not the solution.

    Posted by Johnny | April 6, 2009, 8:55 am
  29. Absolutely the last peep from me on this, I promise.

    AIG, apologies for the intemperate last line of my earlier comment.

    I’m curious how you can see the state of Israeli scholarship, and “applied science,” on Arabs and Muslims as anything but dreary. Remember, 60 years ago the Israeli academy included a Goitein, and there was an intelligence service that actually had some living connection to Arab countries.

    I don’t know what the state of the art is in Israeli medieval Islamic history now, but I hope it’s better than the Maccabean chest-thumping of Rubin, Kramer et al from the policy side. Those leaflets dropped all over Beirut in August 2006 didn’t suggest a real profound grasp of local political reality (or a minimal command of Arabic grammar).

    Posted by anonymous | April 6, 2009, 10:05 am
  30. The Israelis I know in academia are always bemoaning the fact that Arab studies departments in Israel are getting smaller and smaller, or shutting down, with the result that Israeli grad students tend to stay in the U.S. after getting their degrees.

    The state of the art in Israeli medieval Islamic history is a shadow of what it once was. Tzvi Langermann’s stuff is very good, and there are some others, but nothing like the old days.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | April 6, 2009, 10:11 am
  31. am lagging behind quite a bit here, catching up on weekend comments, but RedLeb, excellent point about a superiority complex as the founding ideology for the ‘chosen’ or ‘elected’ people…

    Posted by bint abeeha | April 6, 2009, 11:35 am
  32. The humanities in Israeli universities have been demoted relative to engineering and science because of the Israeli high tech boom. I agree that the pendulum has swung too far and that more investment is required. But as QN says, the best and the brightest are not going to Arab studies anymore. That is just the nature of our times and how society values different subjects.

    The whole idea of Israel departments in Arab universities is not so that Arabs can learn from Israel. There are plenty of other nations the Arabs can learn from. The idea is to foster a realistic UNDERSTANDING of Israel and its society. That is sorely lacking as I witness daily on blogs such as this one (in the comments). Israel is not going anywhere, and the demographic threat is completely bogus. For example, Israel always has the option of a unilateral move such as done in Gaza. In fact, such a move is a credible Israeli threat against the Europeans and many of the Palestinians that don’t really want to battle Hamas on their own.

    What is a “viable” Palestinian state has changed dramatically since 1948. It was first all Israel and now is just the parts occupied in 67. In the end the Palestinians will accept what is currently on the table, in other words the “bantustan” solution. All that is needed for the Europeans to support this is ONE neighboring Arab nation falling into the hands of the Islamists. It could be Egypt or Syria or Jordan taken over by the Muslim Brotherhood.

    If the Arabs are counting on the people that let the Rwanda genocide and the Darfur genocide take place alongside the raping of Chechnya to bring “justice” to anybody, you are counting on the wrong people. No matter how extreme you perceive Israel to be, it is Europe’s and the US natural ally in the region.

    The middle east is going to be chaotic in the next 20 years. Demographics, climate change and religion are going to change things drastically. Israel will use these changes to its advantage.

    Posted by AIG | April 6, 2009, 4:08 pm
  33. Maybe I should post less frequently… we tend to have slightly longer arguments discussions this way, no?

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | April 6, 2009, 4:23 pm
  34. Israel is not going anywhere, and the demographic threat is completely bogus. For example, Israel always has the option of a unilateral move such as done in Gaza. In fact, such a move is a credible Israeli threat against the Europeans and many of the Palestinians that don’t really want to battle Hamas on their own.

    In the end the Palestinians will accept what is currently on the table, in other words the “bantustan” solution.

    AIG –

    I tried to contact you via email regarding this question, in any case, you certainly answered it here. Now my response:

    If Palestine is or will be a Bantustan, what does that leave Israel? Unilaterally giving the Galilee “triangle” back to the Palestinians could cut off the North of Israel from Central Israel. See the map below. What would Israel give up to increase the percent Jewish population?

    The Jordan valley is already “cut-off” from central Israel due to the West Bank and can only be accessed through Jerusalem to the west.

    http://encarta.msn.com/map_701517074/tiberias.html

    Posted by Akbar Palace | April 6, 2009, 5:29 pm
  35. AP,

    When peace comes, there will be some method to get from Gaza to the West Bank (tunnel, special road etc.) that will not involve passing through Israeli passport control. The same method will apply to unconnected or badly connected Israeli territories such as the Jordan valley.

    Israel’ geography is what it is. Road 6 in some sections passes very close to the green line. If the triangle is given to the Palestinian state (I think it should), then the roads will pass close to the border. This is all based on sound security arrangements which we are very far from and on the premise that Palestinians and Israelis will want to have good economic relationships.

    Posted by AIG | April 6, 2009, 6:36 pm
  36. Johnny,

    I think we do mostly agree. The world will certainly not tolerate any mass-expulsions. I don’t think the Israelis will find acceptance for softer forms of ethnic cleansing, like detaching the Triangle and stripping its residents of citizenship.

    It is bizarre to me that the Israelis are choosing their most internationally disliked politician as foreign minister, sort of like as is the French had chosen Jean Marie Le Pen for the job. I think a lot of Israelis really don’t realize how bad ethnocentric or nationalistic arguments sound to westerners. The only thing that saves the Israelis on this count is that its enemies are even worse at PR.

    Anon,

    A country with one million Arabs and two million Sephardim and they couldn’t find one person to correct the grammar on their fliers? How does any country make mistakes like that? Reminds me of the whole “reset” button fiasco with Russia. I have at least three numbers in my cell phone I could call to get a correct translation, you’d think the US State Department would have one.

    Posted by Abraham Rotsapsky | April 6, 2009, 7:53 pm
  37. AIG-

    “The whole idea of Israel departments in Arab universities is not so that Arabs can learn from Israel. There are plenty of other nations the Arabs can learn from. The idea is to foster a realistic UNDERSTANDING of Israel and its society. That is sorely lacking as I witness daily on blogs such as this one (in the comments).”

    I take it you’re not really assuming that blog comments reflect the state of understanding of Israel in the Arab world. Don’t forget that Palestinian research centres have translated a lot of Israeli publications, Hebrew is studied in Arab universities and not just in order to appreciate the Torah and Talmud, and Arabic newspapers publish round-ups of the Israeli Hebrew press. Certainly the level of public knowledge about Israel could be higher, but I suspect you are underestimating the knowledge that there is out there.

    “Israel is not going anywhere, and the demographic threat is completely bogus.”

    So why is the Israeli media constantly obsessing about it?

    Posted by Boulos | April 6, 2009, 8:39 pm
  38. Before the latest Gaza operation, Hamas thought that the world would not accept such a violent Israeli incursion and that Israel would be afraid of public opinion and not go forward with it. Arafat did not believe the world would let Israel put down the second intifada like it did. The Lebanese did not believe that the world will let Israel do what it did in 2006. Wake up and smell the coffee. The flip side of this is that as an Israeli I do not expect the world to lift a finger to help us if we ever lose a war. Clinton did nothing while 4 million people were murdered in Rwanda. The world is doing nothing about Darfur. Israel will do what it needs to do and will mend relations afterwards, like it has always done.

    Posted by AIG | April 6, 2009, 9:07 pm
  39. Boulos,
    The Israeli media is constantly obsessing about a multitude of issues. They are in the business of selling newspapers and not in the business of deep analysis. It is also an easy way to raise nationalistic feelings and is really just another form of fear mongering used by the right wing parties.

    Think of it this way, does it really matter if Jews are the majority between the Jordan and the Sea if anyway the Arabs in the territories do not get to vote? If the territories are a part of Israel, then there is apartheid in either case. The point is that the territories are under occupation and are not part of Israel and therefore there is no apartheid.

    As for inside the green line, the percentage of Arabs in the population is growing very slowly and most probably will stabilize at somewhere around 35% because as the Arabs grow richer, the number of children per family goes down and is very similar to the Jewish one. In any case, the most severe demographic projections do not see Arabs reaching 50% of the population before 2100. There is plenty of time to address the issue.

    Posted by AIG | April 6, 2009, 10:36 pm
  40. AIG,
    So your argument against resistance to Israeli aggression is that Israel can perpetuate a genocide against the Arab peoples and the world would not lift a finger.

    Thanks for once against providing a vivid example of Israeli racism, barbarity, and callousness. The fact that you annihilate a people does not make you right, does not make you prevail, and does not grant you our never-ending aquiecense. It is precisely that barbarity that will prevent Israel from ever making a peace with its neighbours (and I’m not talking muppet governments here, but actual people).

    As for your distinction without a difference (occupation vs. apartheid) or your waffle about demographics you miss the point: wiser people have understood that apartheid states cannot survive. They cannot fit within the international state system, they will never be at peace within themselves, and they will eventually devour their own. I know you cannot see that, but that is precisely why you will fail.

    But again, it leaves me sick to my stomach seeing a member of the ‘Jewish’ nation taunting people with genocide.

    Posted by RedLeb | April 7, 2009, 12:18 am
  41. But again, it leaves me sick to my stomach seeing a member of the ‘Jewish’ nation taunting people with genocide.

    Redleb –

    Where did AIG “taunt people with genocide”?

    AIG said:

    The flip side of this is that as an Israeli I do not expect the world to lift a finger to help us if we ever lose a war.

    Clinton did nothing while 4 million people were murdered in Rwanda. The world is doing nothing about Darfur. Israel will do what it needs to do and will mend relations afterwards, like it has always done.

    Whatever battles Israel has fought, and whatever the Arabs inflicted on Israel have never been “genocide”.

    In any case, the most severe demographic projections do not see Arabs reaching 50% of the population before 2100. There is plenty of time to address the issue.

    AIG –

    It will be interesting to see how the demography issue plays out. If I were the Arabs or Palestinians, I’d wait peacefully for the scales to tip.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | April 7, 2009, 1:49 am
  42. QN,
    Do you really want to have discussions about Israel, like this one, on your blog?

    Posted by Joe M. | April 7, 2009, 3:46 am
  43. Redleb,
    First take some peptodismol. We can’t have you sick can we?

    Second, you realize of course that I am not advocating any genocide only pointing out that for some reason people on this blog really believe the BS about “the world will not let that happen”. This is categorically false. The world has allowed and will allow ethnic cleansing and genocide. The Jews know from experience that the world just cannot be trusted on this issue. The Europeans cannot project power beyond their borders. It takes the Americans months to make decisions and start a war by the time which any genocide and ethnic cleansing would be over. Take Saddam Hussein and Kuwait. The US could not stop Saddam from trashing Kuwait and killing whoever he wanted there. At most the world (for all practical purposes the US) can “punish” those who perpetuated genocide and ethnic cleansing for all the good that will ever do for the victims. Just look at how Sudan’s president is being treated. A lot of good that will do.

    As for apartheid states, the world allows many of those. In Syria the alawites who are 15% of the population rule the rest. Does the world care? In Lebanon a shiite vote is worth less than a maronite one and a shiite cannot be president or prime minister, a clear example of apartheid. Does the world care? The US was an apartheid state till the 1960ties. Did the world care? In France if you are a Muslim your chances of finding a good job are greatly reduced. Does the world care? In India there is a caste system in which people are differentiated according to their family of birth. Good luck being an untouchable there. In Australia the aborigines are fifth class citizens. In Saudi the 3000 members of the royal family rule over all the rest which are denied any rights to government. And I can go on and on. Apartheid is all around you, but all you can see is the one you think there is in Israel. Most countries in the world are apartheid states to a certain degree. And the degree to which Israel is an apartheid state is much less than most countries.

    But that is ok, we Jews are used to people using double standards in evaluating us. I dare you to find a country or two that has acted as morally as Israel under the security challenges Israel has faced and is facing. Israel is far from perfect but compared to any other country in a similar situation, it has excelled. And that is why Israel is here to stay and will also prosper because it is one of the most innovative countries in the world. You might as well get used to it and stop fooling yourself.

    Posted by AIG | April 7, 2009, 5:08 am
  44. The one thing I will agree with AIG about is that “the world” doesn’t give a shit who lives and dies. And the powerful countries give even less of a shit than the rest of the world. And world leaders, even if they have good intentions, can not overcome the power of their country’s power interests to actually do good deeds. The powerful countries care only about their own power, and their money to the extent it provides them power.

    As for his interpretation of the facts, AIG relies on a might-makes-right philosophy to justify Israel. And while might may keep you temporarily advantages, it creates a popular backlash by the mass populations of those who are subjected to your might. And this is inherently unstable (to put it mildly). Israel is similar to the region in general than as Saddam was to Iraq. And it is just a matter of time that Israel is hanged as he was. The biggest difference is that there are no Arabs that have an incentive to keep Israel in power, while large groups of Iraqis had an incentive to keep Saddam. So they type of brutality required to sustain their dominance is different.

    Posted by Joe M. | April 7, 2009, 7:24 am
  45. Joe,
    The simple fact is that the Israeli Arabs are the Arabs with the most rights in the middle east! The backlash of the “Arab masses” when it comes, will not be against Israel but against the dictators that are keeping them down. Israel is a democracy and for that reason very stable. The Arab on the street knows that the “resistance” talk against Israel is just a ruse to keep him down and that his real enemy is not Israel but his own government.

    Posted by AIG | April 7, 2009, 1:06 pm
  46. AIG –

    Your posts 44 and 46 were excellent. You should be FM instead of Yvette!

    Israel is similar to the region in general than as Saddam was to Iraq. And it is just a matter of time that Israel is hanged as he was.

    Joe M.,

    Who are you going to employ to do that? George W. Bush and American soldiers?

    Posted by Akbar Palace | April 7, 2009, 1:50 pm

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