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Commentary: Inappropriate for U.S. State Department to send Muslim cleric to Arab countries

August 11, 2010 1 comment

By Shoshana Bryen

Shoshana Bryen

WASHINGTON, D.C. –The State Department has confirmed that Feisal Abdul Rauf – who wants to be the imam of a mosque at Ground Zero – is taking a State Department funded trip to the Middle East to foster “greater understanding” about Islam and Muslim communities in the United States.

“He is a distinguished Muslim cleric,” said State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley. “I think we are in the process of arranging for him to travel as part of this program, and it is to foster a greater understanding about the region around the world among Muslim-majority communities.” Rauf is reportedly going to Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Bahrain and Qatar.
 
What a load of hooey.
 
We know a lot of rabbis, some ministers and a few priests. We would be appalled to have the government of the United States, which by law favors no religion, sending a rabbi to Israel – or the former Soviet Union or France or Argentina, where there are communities of Jews – to talk about how Jews live in the United States. Having a priest travel to the Vatican, Honduras, Ireland or the Philippines to describe the lives of American Catholics would be outrageous. Likewise, ministers to Sweden.
 
What business is it of the American government to send a Muslim to Muslim-majority countries to talk about Islam? How offensive is it to think that the American government is using American tax dollars to fly a non-government person around the world to promote the activities and lifestyle of a particular religion? Better to send a non-Muslim American government official to talk about American religious freedom, cultural diversity and the virtues of the secular, democratic state. 
 
To the speculation that Rauf will engage in fund raising for the proposed mosque at Ground Zero, Mr. Crowley said, “That would not be something he could do as part of our program,” he said. 
 
We’re so relieved. And we’re so sure he will do only as the American government desires.
 
But Debra Burlingame, a 9/11 family member told The New York Post, “‘We know he has a fund-raising association with Saudi Arabia,’ … noting that the Saudis have contributed money to underwrite programs by the American Society for Muslim Advancement, a not-for-profit that Abdul Rauf runs with his wife and that is one of the sponsors of the Ground Zero mosque. ‘He’s going to the well, and how can they say they do or don’t know what he’s doing?'”
 
To be entirely clear, JINSA believes Ground Zero is a battlefield cemetery – the site of a battle for the liberal democratic state. We oppose the building of a Muslim sectarian monument there because regardless of what its supporters say, it will be widely understood in the Muslim world as a battlefield monument in the name of Islam. 
 
Does the State Department really think Rauf (who said in English that the United States bears responsibility for 9-11) will tell the Saudis, Bahrainis and Qataris that he is building a monument to cultural understanding, interfaith relations and peace in New York because America is a good, safe and decent place for Muslims as long as they understand the secular, democratic nature of the United States? And that he doesn’t want their money because Americans will fund the mosque?
 
And how will the State Department know?

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Bryen is senior director of security policy of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs.  Her column is sponsored by Waxie Sanitary Supply in memory of Morris Wax, longtime JINSA supporter and national board member.

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Glick warns that Iran believes creating nuclear force its religious duty

July 23, 2010 1 comment

By Norman Greene

Norman Greene

LA JOLLA, California — No matter what else is discussed, “Iran is the main issue in the Middle East…everything else is irrelevant,” stated Caroline Glick, Deputy Managing Editor of the Jerusalem Post before an audience of over 500 gathered at Congregation Beth El by the San Diego Chapter of Friends of the Israel Defense Forces.

Can a nuclear Iran be contained? “Absolutely not,” she stated because “we are dealing with a death cult” that fervently believes in a life beyond this one where Islam will rule. All Iran’s nuclear efforts are “to advance Iran’s messianic quest.” There is no parallel with the history of U.S./Russia’s nuclear competition or standoff, because the Soviet Union believed in nothing…no hereafter.

Glick, born in Chicago, received her B.A. from Columbia, her Masters from Harvard, made Aliyah in 1991 and served in the IDF for five years before embarking on a many faceted career that has seen her as an adviser to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, a member of the team negotiating with Yasser Arafat’s PLO, a Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Affairs at the Center for Security Policy in Washington, D.C. and currently the lead columnist for Israel’s Makor Rishon newspaper, as well as her current Jerusalem Post position. She is a frequent speaker and TV commentator, as well as an author and syndicated columnist.

Her San Diego presentation Tuesday evening, July 20,  was both rapid fire, detailed and impassioned.

Glick reported three consequences of a nuclear Iran: Middle East de-stabilization, a political realignment of Middle East nations and a Middle East nuclear arms race (Turkey, Syria, Egypt, Jordan) that she stated had already begun. As a result, “Egypt and Jordan will abrogate their peace treaties with Israel. Fatah, which has no authority to make peace, will abandon any efforts. All of the U.S. Persian Gulf Sunni allies (Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain) will move away from the U.S.”

In discussing sanctions against Iran, which she says has dominated U.S. discourse, Glick stated that they have been on the table since early 2000 and that “none will have the slightest effect on Iran’s nuclear program. Even if 70 million Iranians have to starve, the regime doesn’t care.”

As far as “regime change” is concerned, Glick says there is no chance of that happening in the foreseeable future. Still she feels: “It is good to keep the regime busy with the opposition, no matter the moral quality of that opposition.”

Drawing a bleak picture, Glick was very clear that “the only way to stop Iran’s nuclear program is the use of military force. She reiterated that “seven years have been wasted by feckless politicians without the guts to take action.” There has been a complete failure of U.S. policy beginning with the last two years of George Bush’s presidency (“when he seemingly lost his will”) and continuing with Barack Obama’s first year of appeasement efforts that have totally failed, said the Chicago native.

The U.S., she said, “has fallen asleep on its watch – a terrible thing.”

An attack on Iran’s nuclear capabilities “would not be to protect Israel” she bluntly stated. It is in the fundamental interest of the U.S. to protect the flow of Middle East oil. While noting that the U.S. military has the power, she stated that a U.S. attack on Iran was “not going to happen” even though the U.S. needs to project its power in the Middle East. She noted that Israel hasn’t attacked because of U.S. pressure.

 
Referring to anti-missile systems development, she said that such programs do not constitute a viable program. They are ” a failure of imagination” in the face of a threat to world security. She noted that Iran’s satellite launching long-range missiles endanger not only Israel, but also Europe and all other Arab nations.

Glick discussed Israel’s role in the equation and stated that Israel, which was founded to prevent another Holocaust, has the capacity to destroy Iran’s nuclear program, but is hampered by the U.S. threat to withhold re-supplying Israel should an attack occur. “Obama has not given Israel any assurances to resupply if war were to happen.”

As such, Glick was extremely critical of the Obama administration. Quoting Winston Churchill: “The U.S. always does the right thing after exhausting every other possibility,” Glick exhorted her audience to show their support for Israel and the Free World by contacting all their representatives and political candidates to openly stand behind Israel against Iran. The U.S.’s lack of meaningful action she attributed to the backlash against Bush’s Iraq war.

Glick warned that Israel has been “carrying the rest of the world for quite a while now and there is fatigue, a fear of making mistakes, the wearing effects of the condemnation of the rest of the world.” She said the distortions of Jew-hating groups attempting to delegitimize and isolate Israel is real and paralyzing. “There is need to hear the voices of reason in the U.S..”

Glick worries about the loss of young Jews in the Diaspora, which she blames on the emphasis in Jewish education since the 90’s on the Holocaust at the expense of teaching Zionism. “The Holocaust is a German story, not a Jewish Story,” Glick stated. ” It focuses on the Jews as victims, not as actors who are ‘doing’ things.”

“To be a Jew, you have to do something – to build and to ‘do’–instead of holding a whiny discourse” Glick stated. “If you are damned if you do or don’t, it’s far better to ‘do’ ” she added.

Glick was welcome to the podium by Julian Josephson, San Diego chair of the Friends of IDF, Executive Director Nir Ben Zvi and Charles Wax who made the formal guest speaker introduction. A brief IDF film showed that since the organization was founded in 1981, it has provided support for Israeli soldiers, veterans and their families through scholarships, recreation facilities as well as social welfare, spiritual and bereavement programs. The message delivered is that “soldiers know they have strong backing from Friends of the IDF worldwide.”

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Greene is a freelance writer based in San Diego

Roll call on Gaza flotilla portrays the values of international community

June 4, 2010 Leave a comment

By Shoshana Bryen

Shoshana Bryen

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Israel was victimized twice this week, first by terrorists hiding yet again among the civilian population (one Turkish-sponsored jihadi boat traveling with five more-or-less civilian boats) and second by a world all too ready to blame Israel for the violence engendered by those who sought a bloody death for themselves and any Jews they could take along. By the end of the week, things began to look more normal-those who are already against remained against; those who try to split the difference split it (consider the “abstain” list below); and a few stood honorably above the rest.   

1) Italy, Netherlands and the United States voted against resolution A/HRC/14/L.1, “Grave Attacks by Israeli Forces against the Humanitarian Boat Convoy” in the UN “Human Rights” Council. It is of note that the major Italian newspapers supported Israel editorially as well. In the United States, public opinion ran strongly in Israel’s favor, as usual. 
 
After a nasty and public denunciation of Israel by President Sarkozy and Foreign Minister Kouchner, France abstained, probably reminded that in 1985 French commandos sunk a Greenpeace ship in what was called Opération Satanique. (You know what a threat those satanic environmentalists pose to Paris.) France was joined by Belgium, Burkina Faso, Hungary, Japan, Republic of Korea, Slovakia, Ukraine and UK.
 
Voting in favor of the commission whose conclusion is in its title were Angola, Argentina, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Chile, China, Cuba, Djibouti, Egypt, Gabon, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Kyrgyzstan, Mauritius, Mexico, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Philippines, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Slovenia, South Africa, and Uruguay. 
 
Surprised?
 
2) President Obama: He almost got it right in a TV interview, but missed the essential point. “You’ve got a situation in which Israel has legitimate security concerns when they’ve got missiles raining down on cities along the Israel-Gaza border. I’ve been to those towns and seen the holes that were made by missiles coming through people’s bedrooms. Israel has a legitimate concern there.  On the other hand, you’ve got a blockage up that is preventing people in Palestinian Gaza from having job opportunities and being able to create businesses and engage in trade and have opportunity for the future.”
 
The President doesn’t know, or didn’t say, that Hamas is responsible both for the attacks on Israel and for the misery of the Palestinians in Gaza. Instead, he wanted to “work with all parties concerned-the Palestinian Authority, the Israelis, the Egyptians and others-and I think Turkey can have a positive voice in this whole process once we’ve worked through this tragedy. And bring everybody together…”
 
Aside from the fact that Turkey is fully complicit in the incident and thus should forfeit any seat at any future table, the Palestinian Authority has not represented Gaza Palestinians since Hamas evicted it in a bloody putsch in 2007. Instead of hoping to “bring everybody together…” the President should be working to evict Hamas from Gaza, for the sake of the Palestinians as much as anyone else.
 
3) The Czech Republic: Small countries that know what it means to disappear when others find them inconvenient stick together and we are grateful that they do. The President of the Czech Senate, Dr. Přemysl Sobotka, told Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, “As a doctor, I certainly regret any loss of life, but there is no doubt that this was a planned provocation designed to drag Israel into a trap… Many in the European community feel as I do, but they are afraid to speak out publicly… I support the position that views Hamas as a terrorist organization… It is too bad that European countries present an unbalanced position on this matter. Unfortunately, the positions of the international community are not always to my taste, particularly in Europe.”
 
We are reminded that 18 months ago, the Czech foreign minister issued this statement: “I consider it unacceptable that villages in which civilians live have been shelled. Therefore, Israel has an inalienable right to defend itself against such attacks. The shelling from the Hamas side makes it impossible to consider this organization as a partner for negotiations and to lead any political dialogue with it.”
 
And finally…
 
4) Mesheberach: During the Jewish Sabbath service, there is a prayer is for those who are ill or injured.   The “Mesheberach” includes the name of the person for whom the prayer is offered and, in an unusual practice, the name of the person’s mother rather than his or her father. Whether in the synagogue or not, we hope readers will remember the six soldiers injured while protecting the people of Israel:

Dean Ben (son of) Svetlana
Roee Ben (son of) Shulamit
Daniel Lazar Ben (son of) Tina Leah
Yotam Ben (son of) Dorit
Ido Ben (son of) Ilana
Boris Ben (son of) Eelaina

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Bryen is senior director of security policy of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs.  Her column is sponsored by Waxie Sanitary Supply in memory of Morris Wax, longtime JINSA supporter and national board member.

Napolitano meets with Arab ministers on aviation security

June 1, 2010 Leave a comment

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (Press Release)—Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano on Tuesday visited Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE), at the invitation of UAE Minister of the Economy Sultan Bin Saeed Al Mansouri, to meet with her counterparts from the Middle East region and officials from the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to discuss ways to bolster global aviation security.

“The attempted terrorist attack on Dec. 25 demonstrated that international terrorist threats must be countered with a coordinated, global response,” said Secretary Napolitano. “My meetings today with partners from nations throughout the Middle East underscore our shared commitment to strengthening global aviation security to better protect the traveling public.”

In Abu Dhabi, Secretary Napolitano addressed UAE ministers and representatives from numerous Middle Eastern countries who attended the conference, including Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Yemen, and met with officials from ICAO—stressing the need for collaborative international action to prevent terrorists from boarding commercial aircraft.

Secretary Napolitano underscored the Obama administration’s commitment to strengthening information sharing with international partners about terrorists and other dangerous individuals and emphasized the need for enhanced cooperation on technological development and deployment; stronger aviation security measures and standards; and coordinated international technical assistance.

This meeting marked the fifth in a series of major international summits—coordinated with ICAO—intended to build consensus around the world to strengthen global aviation security.  These meetings have resulted in joint declarations on aviation security with partners in Africa, the Asia/Pacific region, the Western Hemisphere, and Europe. 

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Preceding provided by U.S. Department of Homeland Security

While the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) does not conduct screening at foreign airports, Secretary Napolitano is committed to strengthening coordination with international partners to implement stronger and more effective measures to protect the integrity of the global aviation network. Since April, TSA has utilized new enhanced threat and risk-based security protocols—tailored to reflect the most current information available to the U.S. government—for all air carriers with international flights to the United States to strengthen the safety and security of all passengers.

Why would U.S. want Afghan pilots trained in Lebanon or Syria?

April 23, 2010 Leave a comment

By Shoshana Bryen

Shoshana Bryen

WASHINGTON, D.C — The U.S. Department of the Army put out a request for information on “Afghanistan National Army Air Corps English and Pilot Training.”

The Program Executive Office for Simulation, Training & Instrumentation (PEO STRI) is conducting market research by seeking sources with innovative business solutions to (1) train and certify up to 67 Afghani student pilots to an International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) English level 4 in the English language; and (2) provide basic rotary wing or fixed wing Commercial Pilot Training to the European Joint Aviation Authority (JAA) standards.

It is desired that the English language and basic pilot training take place within South West Asia. PEO STRI requests information on sources available to perform training in Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, U.A.E, Uzbekistan, Yemen or other locations in Southwest Asia with the capability to provide requested training.

How is it possible that Syria, a charter and current member of the U.S. State Department list of terrorism-supporting countries, is considered an acceptable place to train Afghan pilots? Or Lebanon, which has Hezbollah as a member of the governing cabinet in Beirut? Hezbollah is a charter and current member of the U.S. State Department list of terrorist organizations, and until September 11, 2001, had killed more Americans than any other terrorist group. Didn’t Kyrgyzstan just have a coup inspired/financed by Russia? Wouldn’t training pro-Western Afghan pilots in Pakistan send those people from the frying pan into the fire? Isn’t Yemen home to some of the most virulently anti-American, anti-Western al Qaeda operatives and preachers, including Anwar al-Awlakiwho was talking to U.S. Army Major Nidal Hassan before he killed 13 Americans at Ft. Hood?
 
Aside from the fact that some of the countries listed are not in South West Asia, as the request for information requires, not one is remotely democratic. OK, we’ll give Jordan a few points and some to Iraq, but that’s it. 
 
What would possess the United States Army to expose Afghani pilots, who are supposed to secure a functional and consensual state in Afghanistan, to countries where the governments are almost uniformly totalitarian, functionally repressive, less than hospitable to reform or dissent, and have women in positions of legal inferiority? Saudi Arabia is the financier of a particularly repressive, homophobic, misogynistic and anti-Semitic form of Islam exported around the world.
 
We did not expect to see Israel on the list, although Israel certainly is capable of training pilots to the European Joint Aviation Authority standards, and a few months in Israel would impart some Western governmental, judicial and social norms, including religious and political tolerance.
 
But if not Israel, why not Britain or Italy or France or Spain or Portugal? Why not Denmark or Colombia or Mali or Uruguay? Why not India or Indonesia or Taiwan or Japan?
 
The list is clearly weighted toward the part of the world to which President Obama wishes to show American comity. Unfortunately, it is also a part of the world in which neither American policies nor American values are particularly welcome items on the agenda. The list and the thinking behind it are political mistakes that should be corrected. Certainly, they should be corrected before we give the Afghanis the idea that the norms of Syria and Lebanon are ones we want them to adopt.

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Bryen is senior director of security policy of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs.  Her column is sponsored by Waxie Sanitary Supply in memory of Morris Wax, longtime JINSA supporter and national board member

UN Human Rights Council, not only useless, but harmful

March 14, 2010 3 comments

By Meital Nir

FAIR LAWN, New Jersey–According to the well-known adage, we need to choose whether to be part of the problem or part of the solution. Visiting the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva last month, I observed that the organization has apparently chosen to be both. Founded in 2006 with a mission of “strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights around the globe,” the UNHRC is today composed of only 49 percent “free” member states, as classified by the democracy watchdog Freedom House. The remaining small majority includes such states as China, with the highest execution rate on earth, and Saudi Arabia, which still employs flogging and amputation as means of punishment. In the latest absurdity, the council will vote in May on Iran’s request to take its place among the organization’s 47 member states, and some predict it has a reasonable chance of attaining one of the four seats allotted to countries in the Asian region.

Representatives of the council’s democracies are caught between two contradictory approaches in confronting the problem of Iran. On the one hand, they feel a responsibility to employ any diplomatic tactics available to shine a spotlight on it and other dark corners of the world, in the hope of contributing to an improvement in conditions there. But somewhere in the back of their minds lies the realization that the world may one day conclude that the HRC – established as a replacement for an earlier, failed human rights commission – is not only useless, but actually harmful. Understanding that things may have to get worse before they can get better, these realists believe that the council should be permitted to appear in its true bleak colors, even if this means allowing Iran to take a seat.

In June 2007, the HRC implemented the Universal Periodic Review, by which each of the UN’s member states is evaluated once every four years in terms of its compliance with international human rights standards. On February 15, it was Iran’s turn for review and, theoretically, for providing explanations about the evidence of its appalling human rights violations. Not surprisingly, Iran’s UPR has aroused unprecedented attention from both supporters and strong opponents of the Islamic regime, not least because of its simultaneous bid for a seat in the council.

At the same time Dr. Mohammad Larijani, head of the Iranian delegation in Geneva, was being asked to address the regime’s crimes, other HRC members were going out of their way to help him feel very much at home in Geneva. Bahrain commended Iran’s commitment to human rights, China applauded its efforts to promote cultural diversity, and Sudan praised Tehran’s efforts to enshrine Islamic values in human rights conventions to which it is a signatory.

If all that wasn’t enough, following Iran’s UPR – and for the first time since the review was instituted three years ago – the diverse crowd of diplomats, NGOs and journalists seated around the U-shaped tables in the high-ceilinged room burst into applause of enthusiastic support for the Islamic republic. While a long line of Iranian dissidents marched back and forth outside, in Geneva’s UN Square, with life-sized posters of children hanging dead from cranes, the ovation heard inside, like a perfect satirical show, generated a feeling that if this weren’t so tragic, it could have been quite amusing.

At the same time, the council’s democratic members also made a strong showing in expressing their opposition to the dismal human rights situation in Iran. In an unprecedented manner, diplomats lined up the night before to ensure they would have the opportunity to speak at the UPR hearing. In this way, Western countries like the United States, Canada, Israel and others set a distinct tone of discontent with Iran’s human rights violations.

NGOs alarmed by the possible outcome of the May vote have also begun lobbying against Iran’s candidacy, using the UPR as a platform to encourage a more general discussion of the situation in the Islamic Republic. Philippe Dam of Human Rights Watch said he hopes that even Iran’s allies will understand that a seat for a state synonymous with the broadcasted death last June of protester Neda Soltan, would “kill” the council, rendering it a useless political tool.

To you and me, the idea of Iran joining the Human Rights Council may sound about as reasonable as letting the fox guard the henhouse. But to some who actually care deeply about the subject, it does not seem so catastrophic. An ambassador of one Western country that harshly condemned Iran during the UPR, for example, told me that giving the Islamic republic a seat at the HRC may finally prove to the world that the last thing this body cares about is precisely the ideal on which it was founded: human rights.

The cynicism is understandable. But while it may be tempting to wait for the final straw to break the council’s back, I do not believe that we have the luxury of waiting to see just how far it may bend, if only out of the sense of responsibility to those who have been raped, murdered and tortured by the world’s darkest regimes. Though the process can be infuriating and at times discouraging, democracies must continue to play by the unfortunate rules of this politicized, cumbersome and indifferent body, and make every effort to steer the Human Rights Council toward its original goals.

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Meital Nir is a member of the World Jewish Diplomatic Corps, which attended the HRC session as part of a broad coalition of human rights organizations fighting the abuse of human right in Iran. The preceding was provided by World Jewish Congress and was first published in the Haaretz on 12 March 2010.

Has U.S. eliminated Israel’s qualitative edge over possible Arab foes?

January 23, 2010 2 comments

By Shoshana Bryen

WASHINGTON, D.C. —The Forward started it in December. Ha’aretz picked up the theme this month, writing, “The Bush administration violated security related agreements with Israel in which the U.S. promised to preserve the IDF’s qualitative military edge (QME) over Arab armies, according to senior officials in the Obama administration and Israel,” and suggesting that National Security Adviser Jim Jones’s trip to Israel in mid-January was to discuss the QME. (Actually it was to push Israel into more pointless talks with Palestinians, who declined to cooperate.)

The objective appears to be PR for the Obama Administration, the standing of which is very, very low among Israelis. Trashing the previous administration is a favored tactic – but the truth is both less and more than it appears.

The concept of a QME is “iffy” to begin with; the Bush Administration did several things that reduced Israel’s capabilities against certain of its enemies, while strengthening Israel in other ways; the Obama administration is repeating the mistakes, doubling down on them and adding its own new ones;
Israel, in very important ways, isn’t protesting where it might.

The QME began as a Johnson Administration promise (not a treaty) to maintain Israel’s ability to prevail over any reasonable combination of Arab forces in a non-nuclear war.  The promise has been repeated by successive administrations-unquantified and unquantifiable. Weapons themselves can be counted, but Israel’s edge over Arab armies was always more than that. It was-and remains-a combination of: the quality and quantity of weapons in both Israeli and Arab arsenals; the tactics and training of Israeli and Arab soldiers; and the quality of the soldiers and their leadership.

Only in the last is Israel independent.
In the beginning, it was easy. When the Soviets supplied the Arabs and the United States supplied Israel, the quality of Western arms would prevail over the quantity of Russian arms. The tactics and training of Israeli soldiers was an exclamation point-after the 1982 Lebanon War, when Israel shot down 82 Syrian (Russian) MiGs over Lebanon, Israeli pilots said that had the Syrians been flying F-16s and the Israelis flying MiGs, the ratio might have changed but the end result would have been the same.

But those days are over. Throughout the 1980s, 1990s and the first decade of the new millennium, the United States has been selling to the Arabs apace (beginning with President Reagan’s Saudi AWACS sale in 1981) including depleted uranium tank rounds and bunker buster bombs, and training Saudi pilots and Egyptian tank drivers and Kuwaiti radar operators. Israel, at formal peace with Egypt, does not actively oppose arms sales there, preferring or understanding the need to work to reduce the bells and whistles-keeping the edge in the technology if not in the platform. This is one reason Israel consistently “tweaks” what it buys from the United States, to extend the technological edge with indigenous capabilities.

Similarly, at one point in the 1980s, Israel declined to participate in certain U.S. air exercises, knowing that tactics the IAF developed for use in U.S. aircraft would be shared with American pilots and then shared with Saudi pilots. (“It’s one thing for our lover to take pictures in the bedroom,” said an Israeli pilot at the time. “It is another for them to sell the pictures on the street.”)

The U.S. administration certifies that each specific arms sale to each individual Arab country will not upset the balance in the region and Israel generally retains the right to buy more of almost anything it needs (see exceptions on Apache helicopters and the F-35 next generation fighter coming in Part II of this report). But Israel does not have unlimited resources-if the Saudis have about 153 American F-15 fighter jets of various types and six Eurofighter Typhoons (as it does), and then signs a deal for 71 more Typhoons (as it did), how does Israel compete when the Obama Administration announces 24 more F-16s for Egypt and 24 additional F-16s for Morocco (as it did)?

Israel, as previously noted, retains control of the quality of soldiers entering the IDF and their leadership.

That hardly seems enough.

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The concept of the Qualitative Military Edge (QME) failed to keep up with the changes in U.S. arms sales and training policy over the decades. It also failed to keep up with the changes in the regional picture of Israel and its adversaries-and the problems the adversaries themselves face. And finally, the Obama Administration posture toward Iran-including diplomatic overtures to the government and failure to obtain allied agreement on meaningful sanctions or other action-appears to have shifted from preventing Iranian acquisition of nuclear capabilities to deciding how to deal with a nuclear Iran. The implications for the security “edge” Israel requires in the face of continued Arab and Iranian rejection are huge.
 
During the “decade of the oughts” (as it appears to have been retroactively dubbed), the strategic alignment in the region changed from “everybody against Israel” to a “pro-Iran vs. anti-Iran” axis. Israel found itself on the same side of the strategic divide as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Jordan, Bahrain and Lebanese democrats. On the other side are Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria, Iran and, increasingly, Turkey. Iraq appears out of the picture, which is a very big change in historical terms. That doesn’t mean Saudi Arabia likes Israel any better, but there is a clearer meeting of the minds on what threatens who and how. Saudi condemnation of Hezbollah during the 2006 Lebanon war and decision not to give even rhetorical support to Hamas during the Gaza war were demonstrations of the shift; as was passage of an Israeli warship through the Suez Canal during the summer.
 
Early in the decade, the Bush Administration needed Gulf Arab help for the war in Iraq-particularly after Turkey denied the United States entrance into Iraq from the north-and wanted to bolster their ability to deal with problems as they saw them. There was little objection from Israel, which despite being pleased that Iraq was no longer in the circle of enemies, had always insisted that Iran was the real threat and increasingly saw the increased, if unspoken, relationship with Egypt and Saudi Arabia as positive. Arms sales to the Gulf ensued-but nothing much to Egypt, in American protest of Egyptian human rights violations.
 
The Obama Administration, however, has announced major new sales to the Arab states, including Egypt. Egypt will receive four batteries (20 missiles) of advanced Harpoon Block II anti-ship cruise missiles-capable of overcoming the countermeasures and electronic warfare suites generally available for defense-along with four fast missile boats, 450 Hellfire antitank missiles usually launched from Apache attack helicopters-12 of which the Obama Administration sold to Egypt during the summer (see below), 156 jet engines for F-16 jets to follow the October sale of 24 F-16 C/D fighter aircraft equipped with advanced electronic warfare suites.
 
Saudi Arabia will get 2,742 TOW-2 antitank missiles. Ha’aretz reports that Jordan will receive 1,808 night vision-equipped Javelin antitank missiles with 162 launchers capable of penetrating the most modern tanks. These are in addition to the September deal for more than 80 advanced rocket launchers of types that have been sold to Israel in the past. The UAE will get 1,600 laser-guided “smart” bombs, 800 one-ton bombs, and 400 bunker buster bombs. Morocco has contracted for 24 F-16s.
 
So, what’s the problem if Israel doesn’t consider those countries to be immediate threats?  The problem is that the increased sales come at the same time U.S. policy has shifted from support for Israel’s right of self-defense to support for a new “peace process” aimed at settling borders to provide for a Palestinian state Secretary of State Clinton told the Qatari Prime Minister the Palestinians “deserve.” Changing Israel’s local security paradigm at the same time as increased sales to the neighbors-and no new sales to Israel-means the balance is pushed further out-of-whack. 
 
Indeed, Israel’s request for six AH-64D Apache Longbow attack helicopters was blocked by the Obama Administration in June-the same time the Egyptian sale was approved. U.S. sources reported that the request was undergoing an “interagency review to determine whether additional Longbow helicopters would threaten Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip.” “During the recent war, Israel made considerable use of the Longbow, and there were high civilian casualties in the Gaza Strip,” a source close to the administration was reported to have said. 
 
So Hamas paid no American price for its assault on the people of Israel, but Israel’s defense was subject to U.S. “review.”
 
Problems with Israel’s bid for the next-generation F-35 fighter have yet to be resolved.  Israel wants permission to put its own avionics in the plane-a “tweak” that would give Israel its edge-and wants to be able to service the plane in Israel, thinking that sending it abroad for repairs during wartime might be a tad inconvenient. The Pentagon said “no” to both. To be fair, Britain was also denied access to the central computer codes as well, but that doesn’t help Israel.
 
The Obama Administration made much of the installation of the U.S. X-Band Radar in Israel and the November Juniper Cobra joint exercises as proof of its support for Israel.  Both are useful and important, although the Bush Administration approved the X-Band Radar and the Juniper Cobra exercise was one in a long series of annual joint exercises. More important, both could be seen as ways to prevent Israeli action against Iran should Israel think that action necessary.
 
Radar serves to detect an attack and the X-Band will help Israel see an Iranian attack much earlier than its indigenously-developed Green Pine radar, but preparing to receive an Iranian attack means that efforts to prevent Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons will have failed. Likewise, the Juniper Cobra exercises are about defending Israel from attack, not preventing the attack in the first place.
 
The American commitment to Israel cannot only be to Israel’s defense should someone (Iran or any combination of Arab states) attack it; the commitment has to be to the security of Israel-including measures Israel deems necessary to protect its citizens before an attack, and deciding not to provide the means of attack to Israel’s enemies. 
 
Including the Palestinians.

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In this decade, threats to Israel from the inner circle of its enemies changed in a qualitative way as Hamas and Hezbollah acquired arms and training from Iran-and in the case of the Palestinians, the United States.
 
Arafat’s Fatah launched the “second intifada” in late 2000 primarily from the West Bank. Hamas was not a real factor and Gaza was relatively quiet. Israel was comfortable in the early years with the Bush Administration’s approach to the Palestinian Authority (PA), for example, not meeting Arafat, the June 24th speech, the President’s consistent support for Israel’s need to defend itself from terror across the borders including 2002’s Operation Defensive Shield and the construction of the Security Fence, the 2005 Gaza disengagement, the 2006 Lebanon War and Operation Cast Lead against Hamas rocket attacks. 
 
In what turned out to be a mistake of historic proportion, however, Israel and the United States agreed to allow Hamas to run in the 2006 Palestinian election, changing the Palestinian dynamic after the Palestinian civil war and the ouster of Fatah from Gaza.  And it was the Bush administration-with Israeli acquiescence and assistance-that undertook training of Palestinian “security forces” under the leadership of an U.S. Army general.
 
It wasn’t the first time.
 
During the Oslo years, the Clinton Administration and Israel agreed that the Palestinians would have an armed “police force” working in concert with Israel against…  Well, against what? The Israelis and Americans hoped that the Palestinians would provide security for Israel by “dismantling the terrorist infrastructure” and, and, and … Well, what? It was a vain hope that Palestinians could be induced to kill other Palestinians on behalf of security for the State of Israel and its citizens. A JINSA group met with a Palestinian police commander and his troops in 1997. A retired American general remarked, “These are soldiers, not police. They look like soldiers, they train like soldiers and they will kill like soldiers.”
 
True enough. During the “second intifada,” Palestinian police turned on Israel, bragging about their American training and equipment. The United States stopped the program, but reinstated it in 2005-with agreement from Israel. The 2006 Palestinian civil war showed that (U.S.-trained) Fatah forces were no match for Hamas troops, and had no more respect for human rights. Fighters on both sides appear to have executed wounded enemies and tossed people off rooftops.
 
The United States has spent hundreds of millions of American tax dollars training Fatah-related Palestinians as police and, increasingly under the Obama Administration, as Hamas-hunters-the theory being that the more Fatah does to control Hamas, the less Israel has to do to control Hamas. OK, but who controls Fatah? 
 
Who ensures that the skills and discipline, the communications equipment, the sniper rifles, the armored personnel carriers and the body armor aren’t turned into weapons against Israel? What happens if Hamas and Fatah form a unity government-which the Obama Administration is pushing-and decide that they would do better to combine forces against Israel? Who will ultimately control the force, and why is the United States training a military whose ultimate loyalty cannot be reasonably assured? How does this help Israel be secure? And, parenthetically, why does the Israeli government think this is a good idea? Regular JINSA Report readers have all the details, going back to 2006.
 
[Also parenthetically, American military support for the Lebanese Armed Forces-increased under the Obama Administration-with a government that includes Hezbollah in the cabinet, raises precisely the same difficulties for Israel. It is inconceivable that Hezbollah government ministers are walled off from Hezbollah commanders in south Lebanon, particularly when Hezbollah is now an “official” militia operating with government permission. The destructive power of Iran’s supply of weapons directly to Hezbollah would be greatly enhanced by the UAVs, radars and communications equipment in the hands of the Lebanese government. Where is Israel’s “edge”?]
 
Unelected PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad recently told associates that what the United States carefully calls the “security force” is actually the nucleus of the Palestinian army he plans to have in the independent Palestinian state he plans to declare some time next year. Other media reports cite growing friction between PA authorities and the U.S. general in charge, with the Palestinians looking for other, perhaps more pliable, sources of training and arms. Someone should be looking into reported CIA support for the PA army.
 
Even now, Palestinian human rights organizations-not our favorite sources-regularly report Fatah security force harassment, arrest and detention of Palestinians who are not Hamas, but who are insufficiently obedient to Fatah. There is increasingly less freedom for journalists to report on activities of the PA, and Abu Mazen canceled the scheduled January election, announcing he would not run for a new term of office, but also would not stop governing. With his own U.S.-trained private army, who was going to complain?  But that is not our problem here.
 
To the extent that there is such a thing as a Qualitative Military Edge (QME), a dubious proposition, it must exist at the level closest to Israel’s citizens as well as being balanced with countries far away. The Obama Administration doubled down on the Bush money to the Palestinian Army and added tens of millions more, making the Palestinians ever less likely to be receptive to constraints on their future military capabilities.
 
We would rather have an extra couple of dozen fighter planes in Morocco than an extra dozen battalions of American-trained, Fatah/Hamas-controlled Palestinians next to Israel’s population centers.

*

Bryen is senior director of security policy of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs.  Her column is sponsored by Waxie Sanitary Supply in memory of Morris Wax, longtime JINSA supporter and national board member