Category Archives: Israel

After JCPOA and UNESCO: Will the USA and Israel Join the Arab League?…….

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President Donald Trump has taken the USA out of a whole bunch of international institutions, agreements, and deals. From the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) to the Paris Climate Accord, to the United Nation’s UNESCO organization (Mr. Trump and Israel both withdrew this week).

He is on the verge of breaking and violating the JCPOA (the international community’s nuclear deal with Iran). He is also threatening the NAFTA deal with Canada and Mexico. Early in his term he threatened US ties with NATO, the bedrock of the Western Alliance since after the last world war.

For most of the rest of the world Mr. Trump is not the usual credible American president. He has very little credibility. He is not liked (to put it politely) anywhere in the world, with the exception of Israel and some Arab royal palaces (and maybe in Manila). Predictably Netanyahu made a short speech welcoming Trump’s non-withdrawal from JCPOA, while the controlled Saudi media cheered on.

So here is a suggestion: why not declare the United States, and Israel, as members of the Arab League. They can start as observer-members. It is all an incredible fantastic circus anyway……….

Cheers
M Haider Ghuloum

Gulf Godfathers Competing for Israeli Love, but Real Target is U.S. Congress…..

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Tell Mike it was only business. I always liked him…” (Sal Tessio to Consigliere Tom Hagen: Godfather 1)

“Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman made a discreet visit to Israel despite the fact that the Jewish state and Saudi Arabia do not have official diplomatic ties, Israeli and Arab media speculated earlier in the week. Rumors about the momentous visit, which was not confirmed by Israel, started swirling when Israel Radio’s diplomatic correspondent covering Arab affairs, Simon Aran, took to Twitter to announce the visit……. Israel Radio’s Arabic-language broadcast reported that the the senior figure was a “Saudi prince” who met with senior Israelis to discuss regional peace. According to the report, the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office and the Foreign Ministry refused to comment………”

Qatar is trying to arrange meetings between its senior leadership and the heads of major Jewish American organizations during next week’s UN General Assembly. The natural gas-rich country has reached out to the heads of a number of prominent Jewish groups and asked if they would meet with the emir and crown prince while they visit New York City……….”

You’ve come a long way baby (addressing the Arab World).
Gone were the days when Palestine was the main, nay allegedly the only, Arab (and Muslim) cause. The excuse for all military coups and for absolute dynastic rule. Now it is on the verge of being a non-cause.
Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas (non-elected Mayor of Ramallah) flies to Paris to join generously-paid American politicians (of both parties) in extolling the virtues of the Iranian terrorist cult Mujahideen Khalq (MEK). MEK/MKO was formerly an ally of Saddam Hussein and on the US terrorist list, but is now reportedly a joint project of the Mossad and Saudi royal princes.

Unofficial and semi-official “rumors” spread this week that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, the country’s effective king, has “secretly” visited Israel, and neither side denies it. But much of official (and unofficial) Arab media ignored the alleged visit: apparently one doesn’t mention such visits in mixed or polite company. And if you do, there is a stiff price to pay, especially in other Gulf states and in Egypt. Apparently to the Arab princes Israel is like a proverbial mistress: the relationship is there but nobody talks about it in public. Even the secretly ISIS-loving Gulf Salafis, perennial Saudi fifth columnists, have completely ignored the visit (and other visits before it).

Not to be outdone, the rival Qatar‘s princes now scramble to send signals to pro-Israeli Jewish groups in New York that the Emir and his deputy would love to meet with them. The Qatari rulers have been facing repeated coup attempts from their big Gulf “sister” for twenty years, and now they have to put up with Donald Trump, a businessman whose instinct is to go with the highest bidder.

Now it is cool, it is hip, among certain Arab classes, especially in the Persian Gulf, to blow kisses and whisper sweet nothings to Israel. Especially to its current right-wing government. This seems to be especially true in the case of the two feuding Wahhabi dynasties of the Gulf GCC. Gone are the days when official Wahhabi clerics (and some diehard official Muslim Brothers) habitually called the Jewish people “descendants of monkeys and pigs” in their sermons.

Still, this is not true love. It is all about business. As Sal Tessio famously told Tom Hagen: “Tell Mike it was only business. I always liked him…” (Godfather 1)


But the true target of all this Arab royal serenading and wooing is not Israel, nor the Jewish people in general. The real target is the United States Congress (both houses and both parties). The current U.S Congress may be hopeless and useless in passing domestic policy, but it can do a lot of damage in the Middle East. As much as Donald Trump seems determined to cause. And the princes and potentates know it, hence the appearance of lust.

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

AlJazeera Revived: Israel Becoming Politically More Arab, More Haplessly Repressive……..

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“Israel plans to revoke press credentials of Al Jazeera TV journalists, close their Jerusalem bureau and pull the Qatar-based station’s broadcasts from local cable and satellite providers, Communications Minister Ayoub Kara said on Sunday. Kara accused the station of “supporting terrorism” and said cable broadcasters had agreed to his proposal to take the station’s Arabic and English channels off air. Closure of the station’s office would require further legislation, he added. “Lately, almost all countries in our region determined that Al-Jazeera supports terrorism, supports religious radicalization,”………”

Suddenly, Israel has a lot in common with several Arab oligarchy states, like Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Empire of Bahrain, among a few other states.
Forget about “values”, that is not what all this is about. No more than it is with Donald Trump.
The above Arab states have blocked AlJazeera network, and closed its offices.

They have also imposed an economic blockade of Qatar, at least with tacit approval from Donald Trump. Just as they have also, for several years now, urged America (and Israel) to wage a war on Iran, a sectarian war of choice on behalf of their royal families, as explained by former President Barack Obama. Obama, like Bush before him, rejected the demands of the Gulf princes for a new American war in the Gulf. The princes had to wait for the rabid Islamophobe Donald Trump to revisit the issue and plead their case, with a promised huge price tag of hundreds of billions of dollars.

Trump has thrown in with the Persian Gulf princes and potentates, in both cases: of Iran and Qatar. It remains to be seen if his few sane advisers can talk him out of playing full patsy to the Arab princes, and break with ally Qatar while provoking a new war of aggression in Iran’s own backyard.

Now Netanyahu has decided to move even closer to the Saudi regional position by joining the boycott of Qatari media by ejecting Aljazeera. But this will backfire on both the Saudis and Israel

Oddly, but predictably, the Israeli closure will almost certainly increase the popularity of AlJazeera among Arabs, both in country and in the Western diaspora. For a couple of years the network was losing popularity as it shifted closer to the style of the tightly-controlled Saudi media. That and the growth of competing Gulf-funded networks.

AlJazeera has in recent weeks doubled down on what made some Gulf ruling families angry with Qatar: it has moved back to the more ‘controversial’ model that had made it the top Arab network. That shift, and the little helpful shove from Netanyahu should help propel it back to the position of being by far the top Arab media outlet.

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

A Tale of Two Miserable Arab Summers: June 1967, June 2017….

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On June 4 1967, most Arab peoples were expecting a victory over Israel. Or so they were told by their regimes, all of their regimes. Given the size of Israel at the time, an Arab victory and an Israeli defeat would have meant a reversal of 1948, when Israel replaced Palestine. Not completely: Arabs still controlled Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem, all of them parts of Mandate Palestine. But the Jordanians who held onto the West Bank and East Jerusalem were not eager to develop a Palestinian entity, and Gaza remained neglected under Egyptian control.
So, on the morning of June 5, 1967, the Israeli Air Force struck, and quickly destroyed Arab air forces. Arab regimes continued to claim their forces were on the outskirts of Tel Aviv even as Israelis were sweeping though Sinai. By afternoon the war was effectively over. Mop up operations secured the Sinai for the second time in eleven years. The Jordanians basically put up a half hearted fight for the West Bank and East Jerusalem (King Hussin must have thought the Egyptian army will hand him the rest of Jerusalem).
The biggest loss of Arab land in modern history took barely more than one day. So much for the vaunted Arab Army of Jordan.

But what is shocking now, looking back, is that even after that huge defeat the Arab world was better of than it is now, June 2017. Fifty years later.

Before June 1967 the Arabs had already lost one war, the war for Palestine. Now we know that the loss of Palestine was the beginning: the Arab states have continued to lose every single war against outsiders. With the exception of Lebanon in 2000 and 2006.
Before 1967 there was hope, pride, exuberance. The Arab world was young, most of it recently independent, some of it getting there. There was hope that it can progress, perhaps unite and improve its lot. Young people were sure, they were certain that they were facing a bright future. Most of the students who came to the West, especially to the United States, looked forward towards to returning home and helping build or rebuild. Most did not think of immigration.

After 1967, with pan-Arab secularism defeated, Wahhabism ran unchecked. Fueled with oil money, it busted out of its Saudi desert homeland and spread its poison through mosques and schools that spread in poorer Muslim lands. This was the ideological and financial basis of Al Qaeda and ISIS/DAESH. It still is.

Fast forward to June 2017. Half a century of defeats, dictatorship, absolute tribal rule, and internal Arab wars. Crowned with the tragedy that Westerners, and some Arabs, thought was an Arab Spring. It turned out to be anything but a spring. All rebellions against exiting order failed, from Bahrain to Yemen to Syria, to Egypt, and North Africa.Those states that succeeded in overthrowing their rulers ended with civil wars.

Now the fate of the Arabs is almost totally in foreign hands. The interactions among the West, Iran, Turkey, Israel, and Russia determine the future. A couple of absolute repressive tribal ruling families dominate domestic Arab politics. Not what the Arabs need just now. They have managed to buy many of the other Arab regimes, and they have possibly bought off the current President of the United States. Ignorant of history, Trump and his British counterpart have given the oligarchs a carte blanche to do what they want, what they can do, in the Gulf and in the rest of the region. They are also giving them all the weapons they need to start new wars and suffer more defeats.

So, here the region stands. Sophisticated expensive American and British weapons in the hands of repressive regimes will not create stability, not for long. Some foolish young prince is bound to start a fire that would engulf the region, just like Saddam Hussein brought on thirty years of warfare.

The hope has faded, and there is hardly any light at the end of the tunnel, regardless of what some well-meaning Western analysts and academics opine.

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

On the Persian Gulf: the Disappearance of Saleem the Jew……

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Saleem Yehudi, Saleem the Jew. That was what everybody that I knew called him in those days. That is the way my father and uncles called him when I was a kid. Saleem is a common name in the Middle East, and they were distinguishing him from some other Saleem(s) they knew. There are/were Arab Saleem, Iranian Saleem, Jewish Saleem, African Saleem, etc.
My father often took me along when he had some business near the port in our small capital city on the northern mainland tip of the Persian Gulf. In those days the dhows and fishermen boats were moored to piers right downtown, just behind the Seif Palace. Often my father stopped at the small front office used by Saleem Yehudi. I recall the man behind his desk, he seemed old to me as a child, but he was probably middle aged. He always gave me a piece of candy or a cookie or two, no doubt to keep me from fidgeting and getting into trouble while he talked with my father.

Then a day came when there was no Saleem Yehudi. A day when I realized that I had not seen him in a long time, maybe a few weeks. I don’t recall his name coming up at our afternoon meal Sofra (roughly the equivalent of a Western dinner table). Normally in my family we discussed all developments, everything and everybody. Adults and kids, men and women eagerly participating, interrupting…..

One day I was tagging along behind my father on the way to the port, when I suddenly asked him “Where is Saleem Yehudi, father?

There was a long pause before he said “Gone….. They’re all gone“.
Gone? Gone where, father?” I’m not sure if I was concerned about Saleem the Jew or the piece of sweet he gave me.

Another long pause before my father said “Probably gone to Shiraz, or Tehran….” Then another pause, he usually thought out what he said to me, “Or maybe some port in Iran. They can’t go to Iraq anymore……. Maybe Israel“.

Saleem the Jew, another fellow traveler who disappeared, almost certainly involuntarily……

But that has been the story of the Middle East, from the days of Babylonia and Cyrus until now. Just like Saleem Yehudi, others of other faiths, Arab Muslims and Christians, were also displaced, sometimes forcibly, by the same conflict. They still are in parts of the Old Mandate of Palestine (now Israel and the ever-shrinking Palestinian Territories). It goes on among Arabs as well: in Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Yemen, the Persian Gulf and other places. The ethnic cleansing goes beyond interfaith, to inter-sectarian. A mad search for an ever narrower false homogeneity that never seems to stop these days. It goes on and it dooms the region, especially the countries undergoing this ethnic and religious cleansing.

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Bibi and Donald and Adele and Forcible Dates: Is the Thrill Gone Already?…………..

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Israeli PM Benyamin Netanyahu is coming to Washington this week. Meetings of world leaders with Netanyahu remind me of younger days and dating days. Sometimes the thrill is gone from the get go, from the first time. Sometimes afterwards she (usually) or he realizes they would not want a repeat.
In world politics it is that way too, except that these diplomatic dates are almost like “forcible dates”. If one lasts eight years as a leader he/she would have to keep on dating him or her often.

George W Bush kept his meetings with Netanyahu to a minimum: he already knew exactly what his date would say. Which always takes the thrill out of any date. Clearly Obama did not want a repeat after his first date with Netanyahu, but he had no choice: eight years in office is a long time. I doubt any world leader ever looks forward to meeting him. (American Congressmen and Senators are not world leaders, they are more like star-struck Bibi-groupies. Or maybe they can’t get another date with so many resources).

In fairness, almost all other Middle East leaders are also like Bibi in that respect: they all think others are thrilled to hear them whine out their wisdom.

I suspect, as some comments in the media have noted this week, that Donald and Bibi will start taking many bathroom breaks during their very first date this week. A real date is not like a long-distance post-election telephone date, you don’t see and hear the warts (a rude person would add that you don’t use your olfactory faculties).

Mr. Netanyahu is at a bigger disadvantage here when he meets Trump this week. He really has no new case to make anymore. The US Congress, both houses and almost both parties, have been making the case for him for several years. The Senators and Congressmen have made his visit to Washington redundant, just a cosmetic thing. A photo-op. Sort of like watching Beyonce and Adele walk and pause on the Red Carpet: it has nothing to do with the prize…..

But eye candy is much more pleasing to look at than older men plotting to step into the next military quagmire……

Cheers

M H Ghuloum

Trump Middle East Policy Confusion: America First? New Muslim Wars First?…….

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The slogan America First implies focusing on internal US affairs: the economy, trade, infrastructure, even immigration.
Yet the Trump administration is already being pulled into a new morass in the Middle East (the Muslim World in case you didn’t know). It is falling for the trap of an Iranian missile test that is apparently unrelated to the Nuclear Deal (JCPOA). Perhaps it is a test by the mullahs of a new administration that is already shooting itself in the foot in domestic matters (healthcare, immigration). The new alleged ballistic missile test, which at least Russia and China certainly consider unrelated to the Nuclear Deal, came quickly after reports of a phone call between Trump and the Saudi King that mentioned containing Iran.
The Iranians most likely look on their ballistic missiles as defensive weapons, since hey don’t have the threatening Western-made sophisticated warplanes that their potential regional enemies have. Part of their deterrence that would prevent a repeat of an attack similar to the Iraqi Baathist invasion of their country.

Or maybe the mullahs in Tehran were giving Mr. Trump and Netanyahu something to discuss when they meet next month. The latter would be eager to sell Trump the snake-oil of another Muslim war/quagmire that neither Bush (W) nor Barack Obama would buy from him. The Trump administration probably won’t get far in the UN Security Council: even the European allies may oppose them. New President Trump has no reservoir of goodwill in Western Europe, or in most of the world, to draw on. He never had any beyond his own base and his own party.

In fairness, the Trump administration apparently have discarded the silly notion of “tearing up” the Nuclear Deal. It is not really a “piece of paper” as experienced right-wing hawks like John Bolton still think. They now seem to realize that it can’t be undone beyond campaign rhetoric.

In response to reports of the recent Iranian missile test, the White House NSC issued a tough statement mainly attacking Barack Obama for it (Obama, not the UN). A very retro reaction. Expect a Trump tweet to follow soon. Also expect more muscle-flexing in the Persian-American Gulf region by both sides, something even allied regional governments worry about.

Cheers
M. Haider Ghuloum

Advice Netanyahu Can Give President Trump: on Healthcare, Funding Free Abortion, and War……

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Forget about waging new wars against more Muslim nations or sanctioning more Muslim countries. That will surely be on Mr. Benyamin Netanyahu’s agenda as well when he arrives in Washington  next month, part of the snake-oil he has been trying to sell for years. The Bushes and Obama thwarted him. They looked into his eyes and saw the weasel that members of Congress could not see. What else could they see?

But that was then.
The Republican Party, post-Bush, is now effectively a sub-branch of the Likud alliance in Israel. Netanyahu is the new prophet of the American right. But at home, in domestic Israeli policy, he is further to the left of many American Democrats. Especially in matters of public healthcare and funding abortion (almost certainly with some funds voted by the rabidly pro-life American Congress).

Mr. Netanyahu can do the American people and President Trump a great service in other ways, all based on the Israeli experience. Like explain the benefits of the “right” of every Israeli to public Healthcare. Like the public funding of abortion (free abortion partly funded by American money). Republicans and the likes of Joe Lieberman consider that public health policy socialistic even though all industrial countries in Europe have that as well. The much-cited European right would never dream of taking away the public healthcare option: in that it is to the left of many U.S Democrats.

Among other useful examples of how Netanyahu can be useful to a US president, for once in his life.

In addition to the expected inevitable attempt of pushing a new stupid war against a new Muslim country.

Cheers
M. Haider Ghuloum

John F. Kerry of Arabia: an Honorable Man, a Futile Quest……

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John F Kerry is an honorable man. We knew that from the 1960s. He served honorably in Vietnam, did not evade or avoid the war like most his current critics. He also honorably spoke out afterward.
Later today, soon, he will speak about the “Middle East” problem: Palestine-Israel. But he will get nowhere. The Israeli Likud has a lock on both houses of the U.S Congress, on both parties. It will probably be a good speech, but too optimistic. It will get nowhere.
Mr. Trump has already contributed his own drivel to complicating the issue.
Cheers
M. Haider Ghuloum

Kushner Of Arabia: Just Who Outside Europe Believes in a Two-State Solution Anymore?…..

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“Can Obama save the two-state solution? ShibleyTelhami says the verdict is still out..…”

No, not really, although his abstention on UNSC 2334 was an attempt to keep the two-state idea alive.

Give it up? It is almost not a serious option now, given the deliberate facts being created fast on the ground. Obama is/was probably the last US president to actually believe in the feasibility of two states. The whole Israeli cabinet doesn’t believe in it. Most US senators/congressmen don’t believe in it (apparently it ain’t seemly for a real man to espouse a two-state/bi-state thing). AIPAC only pays lip service to it when it suits them and consistently supports policies that undermine it.

The fact is that many Palestinians don’t believe in it either: the same goes for many other Arabs and Muslims. Some pay lip service to it, some still think and often openly talk about one-state extending “from the River Jordan to the Sea“. So some Arabs and Muslims are as one-staters as the Israeli Likud and its allies are. And we all know what is also meant by this alternative “one state”.

Arab media have in past years extensively quoted former PLO leader Yassir Arafat that there is a plaque outside the Israeli Knesset that says: “Your land, O Israel, extends from the Nile to the Euphrates“. Many, nay most Arabs believed him. Some referred to a vague map on a coin as proof. I have always had my doubts. Could be just some irresponsible quote from the Old Testament (many such quotes exist in all Holy Books). It is more likely that some far-out Christian Zionists in America believe in such borders than Israelis or American Jews. Something to do with a Levantine version of Manifest Destiny and From Sea to Shining Sea.

AS for the Two-State solution, apparently only the Europeans consistently believe in it anymore. Plus some Arabs and a few marginalized Israelis. But there is a suspicion in Washington that the Europeans are a bunch of latent anti-Semitic wusses, right? (Well, probably some of them still are).

So: what to do? Mass expulsion (a k a ethnic cleansing)? It was done in Palestine post-1948, and it was also done to many Jews in the Arab countries around that time. Apartheid or Separate but (allegedly) Equal? History in South Africa and French Algeria and the American South does not give that a high mark. Separate never means equal.

A catharsis? Maybe Netanyahu and Lieberman (Avigdor not Joe) will show up on the steps of Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem and start a Kumbaya session with Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas, for the benefit of the television cameras. Newly Likudnik Alan Dershowitz can be there too.

Maybe Trump will send his son-in-law as he has reportedly threatened, to do something. But being Jewish, even (or especially) Jewish-American is no guarantee of success over there. Besides, this is not some money-focused real-estate business deal in Manhattan: too many historical emotions are involved on both sides.

The prognosis doesn’t look good for the next four years, but the past eight years were not so great either for Israel-Palestine. Especially when the US Congress (both houses) talks and acts as an extension of the Israeli Likud and its more extreme components.

A Nobel Prize or two are waiting, but I know neither Trump nor Netanyahu nor any current Arab leader will do anything to deserve it. The Nobel Committee was bitten by that same bug a couple of decades ago.
Cheers

M Haider Ghuloum