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Luckovich: Gaza peace plan

Slate's Fred Kaplan: Israel’s Deadly Gambits

Israel’s Deadly Gambits
The Israeli government has lost the ability to think strategically.

By Fred Kaplan

An Israeli cannon fires artillery shells into Gaza on July 17, 2014 near Sderot, Israel.
Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Israeli ground troops are moving into Gaza. From a purely tactical and short-term view, it makes sense. From a strategic and medium-to-long-term view, it’s crazy.

The short-term outlook has a certain clarity. Hamas militants are firing rockets into Israel. There’s no dealing with Gaza’s government, since its leaders are Hamas militants. Retaliating with air strikes doesn’t finish the job and leads to horrible errors. So, let the tanks roll.

But let’s say an invasion crushes Hamas, a feasible outcome if the Israeli army were let loose. Then what? Either the Israelis have to re-occupy Gaza, with all the burdens and dangers that entails—the cost of cleaning up and providing services, the constant danger of gunfire and worse from local rebels (whose ranks will now include the fathers, brothers, and cousins of those killed), and the everyday demoralization afflicting the oppressed and the oppressors. Or the Israelis move in, then get out, leaving a hellhole fertile for plowing by militias, including ISIS-style Islamists, far more dangerous than Hamas.

Either way, what’s the point? In an excellent online New Yorker article, Bernard Avishai, a longtime journalist and business professor at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, recalls former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert telling him “that he launched his 2008 Gaza operation in part to strengthen Mahmoud Abbas, the President of the Palestinian Authority, with whom he was advancing two-state negotiations.” The tactic didn’t work then, and it certainly wouldn’t work now, given that there are no such talks or even the prospect of any.



The Nation's Bob Dreyfuss: The Palestinians must put an end to suicidal Hamas

The Palestinians Must Put an End to Suicidal Hamas
Bob Dreyfuss on July 15, 2014

One message from the current crisis over Gaza is clear: the Palestinians have to get rid of Hamas. No one else can do it: the Israelis, vastly superior in military terms, only strengthen Hamas politically by wantonly raining death and destruction on Gaza. But the fanatics of Hamas, who seem to believe that they can resist Israel militarily—along with the even more radical Islamist groups that run around in Gaza—do incalculable damage to the Palestinian cause.

In this case, I agree with Bret Stephens, who wrote today in The Wall Street Journal, concerning Israel and Hamas, "If you must have a nemesis, better it be a stupid one." Stephens, a neoconservative hawk who is a blind supporter of Israel, certainly doesn't qualify as sympathetic to the Palestinian plight. But he's right here: Israel has no stupider enemy than Hamas. And the people of Gaza, entrapped in a hellish, prison-like entity—where conditions of despair give rise to the nihilist, Islamist radicalism of Hamas—have once again to endure the pain of Israel's bombardment. And for what? Already in Gaza Israel has struck nearly 1,500 separate targets and killed more than 200 people, including civilians and children.

As I've written repeatedly over the years, in the 1970s and 1980s Israel's intelligence service—especially after the rise of the Likud government of Prime Minister Menachem Begin in 1977—helped Hamas organize and gain power. The Israelis aided Islamists on the West Bank and in Gaza, including the Muslim Brotherhood (of which Hamas is a branch), in the belief (correct, as it turned out) that Hamas would be a bitter enemy of the Palestinian nationalist movement. Indeed, back then the early supporters of Hamas clashed with moderate and left-wing Palestinian groups throughout the occupied territories. Decades later, Hamas has emerged as the perfect foil for Israeli rightists and advocates of Greater Israel, such as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

In the latest round, Hamas's idiotic decision to fight Israel by firing useless missiles against unseen Israeli targets not only gave Netanyahu a pretext for his brutal war but managed to erase the controversy over the premeditated killing of a Palestinian youth by a gang of ultra-nationalist, right-wing Israelis. Just a week or so ago, that killing transfixed Israel and generated horror among Israelis with a conscience. Now, while the story goes on, it's figuratively buried under the rubble of Gaza.



Luckovich: Over the edge

Luckovich: On second thought...

Haaretz editorial: Lapid must stand up for peace

Lapid must stand up for peace

Now is the time to form a peace-seeking government made up of parties that are able to lead Israel according to the Bar-Ilan framework.

Haaretz Editorial
Jul. 10, 2014

Opposition chairman MK Isaac Herzog (Labor) was asked what he would do if he were prime minister. “I would do everything that is necessary to prevent the intolerable rocket fire on southern Israel,” he answered, “and I would go Ramallah to advance an agreement with the Palestinians.” Herzog combined finding a tactical solution to this acute problem with a strategy for preventing future conflicts.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told Akiva Eldar during an interview for the Israel Conference on Peace that he would uphold his promise to hold another nine months of negotiations if Israel lives up to its previous commitment to release the fourth round of prisoners. Abbas also stated that a Palestinian commitment to talks would hinge on an Israeli commitment to discuss borders during the first three months of the talks, as well as refrain from building new settlements.

Finance Minister Yair Lapid said during the Herzliya Conference last month that Israel must define its borders, stop settlement construction outside of the large blocs, and renew talks with the Palestinian Authority. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected Lapid’s suggestions, calling him inexperienced. How can Israel “give” the Palestinians borders without receiving anything in exchange, Netanyahu asked. But Lapid was right, and Netanyahu was wrong, or perhaps he preferred to halt any progress. An agreement, if and when it is signed, would include many issues; it will be impossible to implement a proposal or accord based on a single issue. It must be part of an overarching agreement. It’s hard to believe that the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority engaged in negotiations for nine months but didn’t talk about borders. Abbas’ demand that this be the first issue discussed in a new round of talks is justified, and according to Lapid, it’s in Israel’s interest as well. Abbas and Lapid also both see the Arab Peace Initiative of 2003 as a basis for an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. The reason there are currently no negotiations is clear: Either the prime minister does not believe the things he said during his Bar-Ilan speech or he is unable to prevail over the extreme right-wing elements in his coalition, thereby making him unfit to lead.

Now is the time to form a government made up of parties that are able to lead Israel according to the Bar-Ilan framework articulated by Netanyahu and the strategy put forth by Lapid and Herzog. Netanyahu could put together a coalition without Habayit Hayehudi and certain MKs from Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu who wish to continue representing the settlers. Lapid must issue an ultimatum to the prime minister:

Either with me on the path to peace, or without me.

Luckovich: Welcome to Five Guys

Luckovich: What's next?

Michael Tomasky: The Woman at the Center of the IRS ‘Scandal’ Must Be Clairvoyant

The Woman at the Center of the IRS ‘Scandal’ Must Be Clairvoyant
Michael Tomasky

Remember those two years of missing emails the Republicans were going on about? It turns out the former commissioner’s computer crashed 16 days before she learned of IRS targeting.

If I were the Republican Party, rather than attacking Lois Lerner as a modern-day E. Howard Hunt, I’d hire her as an election consultant. Why? Because the former commissioner at the center of the “newly re-burgeoning” IRS “scandal” is clearly a clairvoyant. I should think she’d be pretty handy for Reince Priebus to have around this October. You see, she can see things 16 days before they happen.

How do I know this? Consider the timeline of events. Lerner, who worked in the service’s Washington office, was first alerted that employees in the Cincinnati branch were using “inappropriate criteria” (key words like “tea party”) to process the applications of nonprofit groups on June 29, 2011. This comes from the very Treasury Department IG report that first made this whole business public. See the timeline here.

OK, so that’s that. Now, you’ve been hearing all this stuff lately about her lost emails, right? Her emails from between January 2009 and April 2011 disappeared. Went poof. It was in early 2010 that the IRS began using the inappropriate criteria. Looks awfully suspicious, doesn’t it? She lost all her emails pertaining to the period under examination and then some. Stinks to high heaven. Some have compared the missing two-plus years to the famous 18 1/2-minute gap in the Watergate tapes.

One problem. Her computer crashed on June 13, 2011. It was the following day that she wrote to other IRS personnel to tell them: “My computer crashed yesterday.” This date was noted week by Sander Levin, the ranking Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee.



Fred Kaplan: Why Iran Is America’s Best New Partner in the Middle East

Why Iran Is America’s Best New Partner in the Middle East

Sometimes we must form alliances with unpleasant nations to prevent something worse.

By Fred Kaplan

Iraqi security forces patrol an area near the borders between Karbala and Anbar provinces on June 16, 2014.
Photo by stringer/Reuters

It’s stunning that, as we witness the spectacle of a crumbling Iraq and wonder what to do about it, the media turn for wisdom to the junkyard oracles who helped spawn the mess to begin with.

Bill Kristol, Paul Wolfowitz, L. Paul Bremer—no one should care a whit what they think, they’ve been so consistently wrong about everything. (As the first U.S. proconsul in post-Saddam Iraq, Bremer issued two directives—abolishing the Iraqi army and ousting all Baathists from government jobs—that had the effect of fueling the Sunni insurgency, prolonging the war, and siring the jihadist movement that’s causing trouble today.) Yet there they are, granted airtime not on Fox News but the three major networks, spouting advice to President Obama on how to fix things.

In Monday’s New York Times, Jason Horowitz has a jaw-droppingly fawning profile of historian Robert Kagan, author of a long essay in the New Republic that criticizes Obama for abandoning what he sees as America’s mission to spread democracy around the world. Horowitz suggests that the crisis in Iraq vindicates Kagan’s critique. Alternative views are barely acknowledged. Incisive reviews of Kagan’s New Republic piece, by serious foreign-policy analysts, go unmentioned. Nor does the article (and this is an article in the news section of the paper) recite Kagan’s record as a front-line cheerleader for the invasion of Iraq (and for the use of military force in nearly every crisis) or his assurances, throughout the war, that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction.

Certainly this new crisis in Iraq is serious. It is not in U.S. interests for a well-armed, well-funded jihadist group like the Islamist State of Iraq and Syria to fulfill its self-proclaimed destiny, i.e., to create an Islamist state that spans Iraq and Syria. The question is how to stop this from happening and what role, if any, the United States should play in the stopping.


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