Friday, August 20, 2010

Skip the lectures on Israel's ‘risks for peace’

In the 62 years since this homeland was founded on one-sixth of 1 percent of the land of what is carelessly and inaccurately called "the Arab world," Israelis have never known an hour of real peace. Patronizing American lectures on the reality of risks and the desirableness of peace, which once were merely fatuous, are now obscene.

HT: Lawrence Rosenbloom.

Jewish World Review August 19, 2010/ 9 Elul, 5770

Skip the lectures on Israel's ‘risks for peace’
By George Will

In the intifada that began in 2000, Palestinian terrorism killed more than 1,000 Israelis. As a portion of U.S. population, that would be 42,000, approaching the toll of America's eight years in Vietnam. During the onslaught, which began 10 Septembers ago, Israeli parents sending two children to a school would put them on separate buses to decrease the chance that neither would return for dinner. Surely most Americans can imagine, even if their tone-deaf leaders cannot, how grating it is when those leaders lecture Israel on the need to take "risks for peace."

During Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's July visit to Washington, Barack Obama praised him as "willing to take risks for peace." There was a time when that meant swapping "land for peace" -- Israel sacrificing something tangible and irrecoverable, strategic depth, in exchange for something intangible and perishable, promises of diplomatic normality.

Strategic depth matters in a nation where almost everyone is or has been a soldier, so society cannot function for long with the nation fully mobilized. Also, before the 1967 Six-Day War, Israel within the borders established by the 1949 armistice was in one place just nine miles wide, a fact that moved George W. Bush to say: In Texas we have driveways that long. Israel exchanged a lot of land to achieve a chilly peace with Egypt, yielding the Sinai, which is almost three times larger than Israel and was 89 percent of the land captured in the process of repelling the 1967 aggression.

The intifada was launched by the late Yasser Arafat -- terrorist and Nobel Peace Prize winner -- after the July 2000 Camp David meeting, during which then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered to cede control of all of Gaza and more than 90 percent of the West Bank, with small swaps of land to accommodate the growth of Jerusalem suburbs just across the 1949 armistice line.

Israelis are famously fractious, but the intifada produced among them a consensus that the most any government of theirs could offer without forfeiting domestic support is less than any Palestinian interlocutor would demand. Furthermore, the intifada was part of a pattern. As in 1936 and 1947, talk about partition prompted Arab violence.

In 1936, when the British administered Palestine, the Peel Commission concluded that there was "an irrepressible conflict" -- a phrase coined by an American historian to describe the U.S. Civil War -- "between two national communities within the narrow bounds of one small country." And: "Neither of the two national ideals permits" a combination "in the service of a single state." The commission recommended "a surgical operation" -- partition. What followed was the Arab Revolt of 1936 to 1939.

On Nov. 29, 1947, the United Nations recommended a partition plan. Israel accepted the recommendation. On Nov. 30, Israel was attacked.
Palestine has a seemingly limitless capacity for eliciting nonsense from afar, as it did recently when British Prime Minister David Cameron referred to Gaza as a "prison camp." In a sense it is, but not in the sense Cameron intended. His implication was that Israel is the cruel imprisoner. Gaza's actual misfortune is to be under the iron fist of Hamas, a terrorist organization.

In May, a flotilla launched from Turkey approached Gaza in order to provoke a confrontation with Israel, which, like Egypt, administers a blockade to prevent arms from reaching Hamas. The flotilla's pretense was humanitarian relief for Gaza -- where the infant mortality rate is lower and life expectancy is higher than in Turkey.

Israelis younger than 50 have no memory of their nation within the 1967 borders set by the 1949 armistice that ended the War of Independence. The rest of the world seems to have no memory at all concerning the intersecting histories of Palestine and the Jewish people.

The creation of Israel did not involve the destruction of a Palestinian state, there having been no such state since the Romans arrived. And if the Jewish percentage of the world's population were today what it was when the Romans ruled Palestine, there would be 200 million Jews. After a uniquely hazardous passage through two millennia without a homeland, there are 13 million Jews.
In the 62 years since this homeland was founded on one-sixth of 1 percent of the land of what is carelessly and inaccurately called "the Arab world," Israelis have never known an hour of real peace. Patronizing American lectures on the reality of risks and the desirableness of peace, which once were merely fatuous, are now obscene.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The policy reaction by our government to the economic downturn is like a wealthy man going broke to impress his fleeting girlfriend.

From my friend Alan Imberman:
The policy reaction by our government to the economic downturn is like a wealthy man going broke to impress his fleeting girlfriend. The man (i.e. our government) sees the woman (i.e. economy) is no longer interested and decides to lavish her with gifts. This excites the girl for a few months but she knows he can not keep spending at this rate and the gifts will soon disappear. The wealthy man does end up going broke but not until he puts himself into a massive amount of debt exhausting all his options to keep the woman by his side. Now the man, once wealthy and powerful is weak and the woman has moved on. Her lifestyle is not as lavish as before but she realizes that she is happy just living within her means. In the end, the two would have been better had they faced the music and let the relationship end abruptly when signs pointed to an end.

From all the rumors flying out of Washington, it sounds like our government has decided that it needs to shower the economy with more gifts to keep it steady. This will just cause a repeat of what already happened but with more unintended consequences as many including the author below explained.

Good time to be a stock picker. Bad time to be just about anyone else.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Look at it the other way

Most readers will be familiar with the claim, recently circulating in the media, that Israel’s recalcitrance in the conflict with the Palestinians, is something that compromises American foreign policy and endangers the lives of American soldiers and diplomats. Most simply it is claimed that our alliance with Israel is a foreign policy liability, something inflicted on us by the excessive power of the “Israel Lobby.” This is a refrain that is eagerly embraced by anti-Semites (both polite and crude), and something that has lately also appealed to more rational, objective thinkers, many of them Jewish. It is a seductive idea, but it is also insidiously subversive of careful, rational thought. To argue that somehow Americans would be safer if America abandoned Israel seems to me like a desperate stretch – one for which little supporting evidence can be found. And in the bigger perspective Israel and America (their citizens) share common norms and values worth preserving and defending and these critics sometimes forget that.

The question of optimal American foreign policy is another matter. Foreign aid, drawn from taxpayer money, deserves to be carefully and critically examined all round. I am not knowledgeable on foreign policy, but I suspect a lot depends on one’s perception of the real dangers to American citizens. So, I am not defending any particular level or configuration of support nation to nation. I want here to make a different point.

I want to suggest that maybe the direction of causation goes the other way, namely, that America’s foreign policy actions may be hurting Israel. There is much evidence to suggest that American foreign policy incursions, whatever their motivations, tend to end up counterproductive and cause a huge amount of collateral damage – some obvious, some hidden. These wars in pursuit of “democratic” ideals and pre-emptive neutralization of foreign threats, arguably make things worse by impoverishing economies and radicalizing insurgents. They are cases of overreach. In so doing they may provide additional support for those in Israel’s neighborhood who are working toward her destruction.

Israel’s position is very different from America’s. America is huge and remote from its enemies. Even the internal terrorist threats, while very emotionally unsettling and potentially disruptive, are not existential threats. The American nation state and civilization is not yet threatened by them. Tempered vigilance would seem to be the correct response. Israel, on the other hand, is tiny and in very close proximity to powerful organizations that proclaim their credible intention to destroy her – to destroy the Jewish state and establish a Muslim state in its place. Israel is in the middle of a neighborhood that religious Muslims regard as reserved for Muslim rule. Sixty years of history has proven that efforts at placating these organizations are futile. It is not what Israel does, it is what Israel is, that matters to them. When American foreign policy alienates potentially moderate Muslim allies, this gives succor to Hamas and Hezbollah and other radical groups working in the area.

For this reason it is probably not surprising that Israelis were secretly (and some openly) ambivalent about the American invasion of Iraq– fearing the absence of a viable exit strategy and the occurrence of many undesirable unintended consequences. [For an explanation of why war is a likely to produce unintended consequences see here.] And this is something that may make Israel’s very real perpetual struggle to survive just that much more difficult. The Afghanistan war may be even more disastrous in the long run– leaving the country much worse off, potentially beyond remediation. From Israel’s perspective a smaller, more focused, more efficient American footprint in the world would probably be preferable. From America’s perspective a foreign policy aimed at doing what is realistic and is necessary to keep America safe should be the focus. America’s foreign policy critics should focus on this, not on the alliance with Israel.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

From George Will in Jerusalem

HT: Lawrence Rosenbloom:

Jewish World Review August 12, 2010/ 2 Elul, 5770

Israel's anti-Obama

By George Will

JERUSALEM — Two photographs adorn the office of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. Together they illuminate a portentous fact: No two leaders of democracies are less alike — in life experiences, temperaments and political philosophies — than Netanyahu, the former commando and fierce nationalist, and Barack Obama, the former professor and post-nationalist.

One photograph is of Theodor Herzl, born 150 years ago. Dismayed by the eruption of anti-Semitism in France during the Dreyfus Affair at the end of the 19th century, Herzl became Zionism's founding father. Long before the Holocaust, he concluded that Jews could find safety only in a national homeland.

The other photograph is of Winston Churchill, who considered himself "one of the authors" of Britain's embrace of Zionism. The Balfour Declaration of 1917 stated: "His Majesty's Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people." Beginning in 1923, Britain would govern Palestine under a League of Nations mandate.

Netanyahu, his focus firmly on Iran, honors Churchill because he did not flinch from facts about gathering storms. Obama returned to the British Embassy in Washington the bust of Churchill that was in the Oval Office when he got there.

Obama's 2009 speech in Cairo, courting the Arab world, may have had measurable benefits, although the metric proving this remains mysterious. The speech — made during a trip when Obama visited Cairo and Riyadh but not here — certainly subtracted from his standing in Israel. In it, he acknowledged Israel as, in part, a response to Jewish suffering in the Holocaust. Then, with what many Israelis considered a deeply offensive exercise of moral equivalence, he said: "On the other hand, it is also undeniable that the Palestinian people — Muslims and Christians — have suffered in pursuit of a homeland."

"On the other hand"? "I," says Moshe Yaalon, "was shocked by the Cairo speech," which he thinks proved that "this White House is very different." Yaalon, former head of military intelligence and chief of the general staff, currently strategic affairs minister, tartly asks, "If Palestinians are victims, who are the victimizers?"

The Cairo speech came 10 months after Obama's Berlin speech, in which he declared himself a "citizen of the world." That was an oxymoronic boast, given that citizenship connotes allegiance to a particular polity, its laws and political processes. But the boast resonated in Europe.

The European Union was born from the flight of Europe's elites from what terrifies them — Europeans. The first Thirty Years' War ended in 1648 with the Peace of Westphalia, which ratified the system of nation-states. The second Thirty Years' War, which ended in 1945, convinced European elites that the continent's nearly fatal disease was nationalism, the cure for which must be the steady attenuation of nationalities. Hence the high value placed on "pooling" sovereignty, never mind the cost in diminished self-government.

Israel, with its deep sense of nationhood, is beyond unintelligible to such Europeans; it is a stench in their nostrils. Transnational progressivism is, as much as welfare state social democracy, an element of European politics that American progressives will emulate as much as American politics will permit. It is perverse that the European Union, a semi-fictional political entity, serves — with the United States, the reliably anti-Israel United Nations and Russia — as part of the "quartet" that supposedly will broker peace in our time between Israel and the Palestinians.

Arguably the most left-wing administration in American history is trying to knead and soften the most right-wing coalition in Israel's history. The former shows no understanding of the latter, which thinks it understands the former all too well.

The prime minister honors Churchill, who spoke of "the confirmed unteachability of mankind." Nevertheless, a display case in Netanyahu's office could teach the Obama administration something about this leader. It contains a small signet stone that was part of a ring found near the Western Wall. It is about 2,800 years old — 200 years younger than Jerusalem's role as the Jewish people's capital. The ring was the seal of a Jewish official, whose name is inscribed on it: Netanyahu.

No one is less a transnational progressive, less a post-nationalist, than Binyamin Netanyahu, whose first name is that of a son of Jacob, who lived perhaps 4,000 years ago. Netanyahu, whom no one ever called cuddly, once said to a U.S. diplomat 10 words that should warn U.S. policymakers who hope to make Netanyahu malleable: "You live in Chevy Chase. Don't play with our future."

Its bad economic policy stupid!

From Pete Boettke (at Coordination Problem):

Bottom line, it is policy that is causing the slow adjustment of the market to changing circumstances, not market forces  themselves.  All readers must remember Adam Smith's words:

The natural effort of every individual to better his own condition, when suffered to exert itself with freedom and security, is so powerful a principle, that it is alone, and without any assistance, not only capable of carrying on the society to wealth and prosperity, but of surmounting a hundred impertinent obstructions with which the folly of human laws too often encumbers its operations.

When this doesn't happen, we need to ask about the thousands of impertinent obstructions that are incumbering the adjustment path.