In the war, both sides have the same aim: to put an end to the situation that existed before it started. To put an end to the launching of rockets into Israel from the Gaza Strip, Once and For All! To put an end to the blockade of the Gaza Strip by Israel and Egypt, Once And For All!
Tag Archives | Israel
Israel and Gaza have both suffered their bloodiest day since the beginning of the current offensive. Israel says that 13 of its soldiers died since Saturday night, the biggest one-day loss for its army in years. At least 87 Gazans were reported killed on Sunday – 60 of them in the district of Shejaiya alone. The total death toll in Gaza now stands at more than 425.
If Prime Minister Erdoğan is to be taken at his word, we can officially declare Israeli-Turkish rapprochement dead. Speaking this morning, Erdoğan announced that under no circumstances will Turkey’s relationship with Israel improve as long as he is in power – which after the presidential elections next month, will be for a long time – and that the West can protest all it likes to no avail.
Speaking bluntly in the past three weeks, Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu has unequivocally ruled out a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In a speech at Tel Aviv University on June 29, Netanyahu announced that any peace agreement would include Israeli military control of the West Bank “for a very long time.” Netanyahu repeated himself on July 11, saying at a Hebrew language press conference, “There cannot be a situation, under any agreement, in which we relinquish security control of the territory west of the River Jordan.”
There was a strong expectation in Israel yesterday once the Egyptian-brokered ceasefire terms were announced that Hamas was going to accept the deal. Even after Hamas rejected the terms and launched 80 more rockets at Israel yesterday morning, some prominent voices, such as former Israel national security adviser Giora Eiland, were predicting that Hamas would ultimately accept the deal today.
When the bodies of three Israeli settlers – Aftali Frenkel and Gilad Shaar, both 16, and Eyal Yifrach, 19 – were found on June 30 near Hebron in the southern West Bank, Israel went into a state of mourning and a wave of sympathy flowed in from around the world. The three had disappeared 18 days earlier in circumstances that remain unclear.
Bombs are raining on Gaza and rockets on Southern Israel, people are dying and homes are being destroyed. Again. Again without any purpose. Again with the certainty that after it’s all over, everything will essentially be the same as it was before. But I can hardly hear the sirens which warn of rockets coming towards Tel Aviv. I cannot take my mind off the awful thing that happened in Jerusalem.
As Hamas continues firing rockets (and allowing other groups to fire rockets) at Israel from Gaza, and Israel responds with airstrikes, people are beginning to wonder how this round of fighting will end. During Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012, a ceasefire was brokered with U.S. and Egyptian intervention – and we can debate all day about how much Mohamed Morsi himself had to do with that, although my sense is that his role was overstated – but this time around such intervention does not seem to be coming.
As Iraq stands on the verge of a complete breakdown into mini sectarian states, former leading neoconservative and Iraq war advocate Richard Perle made a sudden appearance on Newsmax TV. His statements in the interview were yet another testament to the intellectual degeneration of a group that had once promised a ‘new Middle East,’ only to destabilize the region with violent consequences that continue to reverberate until this day.
The Arab world is in turmoil. Syria and Iraq are breaking apart, the thousand-year old conflict between Muslim Sunnis and Muslim Shiites is reaching a new climax. A historic drama is unfolding around us. And what is the reaction of our government? Benjamin Netanyahu put it succinctly: “We must defend Israel on the Jordan River, before they reach Tel Aviv.” Simple, concise, idiotic.
Michael Cohen published an article in Foreign Policy a couple of days ago in which he argues that the future of the U.S.-Israel relationship will be marked by “less cooperation, more disagreements, and greater tension.” The piece is headlined “The Democrats Are Finally Turning Away From Israel” with the inflammatory subhead “And it’s high time they did,” but this does not reflect Cohen’s core arguments, and I am 100% confident that he had nothing to do with the title in any way (having been published in FP on numerous occasions, I can say from personal experience that the editors choose the title on their own and the first time the writer even knows about it is when it goes live on the website).
Iraq is in turmoil, and a full-fledged sectarian conflict between Sunnis and Shiites appears imminent. The United States will need to interject forces yet again due to the incompetence of the Iraqi armed forces. The misrule of Nouri al-Maliki has also been exposed. However, beyond all that, something else is worth discussing here. The message and motives of ISIS have clearly shown that they intend to impose a Muslim caliphate.
This has set off alarm bells. A caliphate largely run by Muslim extremists poses a threat to Western hegemony in the region, moderate Muslim rule as well as the misrule of regional despots. Obviously, everyone should be alarmed by the success of ISIS.
The fact that ISIS dislikes Shiite rule in Iraq further adds a new dimension to the age-old question: Sunni caliphate or Shiite imamate? Which one is the better self-rule option for Muslims, and more importantly, for preserving the peace of the entire region? Many experts on the region would argue neither, but that debate is for another day.
For centuries, Christendom tried to eliminate the caliphate, and failed. However, towards the start of the Modern World, the secular West did manage to remove the caliphate. Centuries have passed since then, and most present-day Muslims feel detached from the days of the caliphate. Even though calls for restoration of a caliphate, be it by violent or peaceful means, are made every now and then (ISIS is a case in point), many Muslims don’t consider it a viable option.
The recent conflict can be compared to the Iran-Iraq War. Back then, Iran viewed the conflict as the struggle of a religious Shiite state against a godless Arab Socialist regime of Saddam Hussein, whereas the latter projected the war as a by-product of the ever-expanding encroachment of Persians on Arab culture.
Times have changed. Previously, Sunnis were viewed by the West as a moderate community of Muslims, whereas Shiites were the fanatics who chanted: “Death to America! Death to Israel!” Today, the Western climate seems pro-Shiite, and Sunnis are viewed as the problem.
This sectarian conflict has historical roots. A tiny group of people believed that the caliphate rightfully belonged to Ali, and it should not have gone to Abu Bakr, Umar and Usman. Having emerged as a matter of political disagreement, Shiism soon took the shape of a religious group within Islam, organizing itself under the doctrine of imamah.
For Shiites, the divine imams are infallible and incorruptible. They are immune to human flaws. In this regard, Shiite imamate is comparable to the Catholic model of the Pope — a supreme leader, who is above the flaws and faults of the world, and passes on the leadership sans the hysteria of mass elections.
As such, there is good room for democratic aspirations in the Sunni model of caliphate: the caliph is supposed to be guided by the interests of the common masses. Accountability to the people is a concept that is central to the idea of the Sunni caliphate. But this democratic spirit is absent in Shiite imamate, which is based on absolute theocracy.
It must be noted, though, that the Ayatollahs are not divine imams themselves. According to Shiism, the last divine imam of Shiism, Mehndi, left this world back in the eighth century, and will be back at an appropriate time.
Sunni caliphate differs from Shiite imamate in both ideological and practical terms. The former has potential for democratic reforms (of course, this does not mean ISIS will be keen on becoming a democratic body anytime soon), whereas the latter has a theocratic structure that offers unlimited socio-political powers to its divine imam.
All said and done, the concept of political leadership is just the tip of the iceberg, and the sects have many differences. Bloodshed and anarchy will help neither side, and this is where the role of both Shiite and Sunni scholars becomes important. Caliphate and/or imamate cannot be imposed by means of guns and bombs; consensus and civilized debates seem to be a much better option.
Islam is unique in the sense that it offers a good deal of personal and political freedom to its adherents, and both Sunnis and Shiites need to realize that political leadership can be discussed only when political unity has been achieved.
If there is a God, he surely has a sense of humor. The career of Shimon Peres, who is about to finish his term as president of Israel, is clear evidence. Here is a life-long politician, who has never won an election. Here is the world-renowned Man of Peace, who has started several wars and never done anything for peace. Here is the most popular political figure in Israel who for most of his life was hated and despised.
Palestinians are yet to achieve national unity despite the elation over the ‘national unity government’ now in operation in Ramallah. One has to be clear in the distinction between a Hamas-Fatah political arrangement necessitated by regional and international circumstances, and Palestinian unity. What has been agreed upon in the Shati’ (Beach) refugee camp in April, which lead to the formation of a transitional government in the West Bank in June, has little to do with Palestinian unity.
The overriding question is how will the U.S. clearly define moderate opposition groups operating in Syria? That has become a major difficulty as well in Libya. Rebel groups break down into tribes, clans, and broader religious factions—some with fundamentalist beliefs, while others have a more radical interpretation of Islam which includes armed jihad. In any event we do not know their ultimate goals. A Muslim diplomat once told me it is difficult to know the mission of a person carrying a weapon: “When they come, they also bring their behavior with them. There is one baggage that doesn’t weigh much–it is the behavior that is inside of them–the behavior in their mind–the attitude that they have. We can search their pockets for weapons–and see the one’s on their shoulders–but we cannot search their mind.”
Syria over the last three years has been in a chaotic civil war in which no one has clearly defined the “moderate” opposition that could rule democratically, if we take out President Bashar al-Assad. I have written articles suggesting, “regime change without an endgame plan is fraught with disaster,” as we witnessed in Libya after the U.S.-NATO incursion in 2011 that led to the downfall of the ruler Col. Muammar Gadhafi. Armed Islamist militias have since taken over large swaths of the country.