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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

JINSA Report #831 The Farewell Tour, “Go, Iraq!” and Thanksgiving

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JINSA Report #831
November 26, 2008
The Farewell Tour, "Go, Iraq!" and Thanksgiving

Outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Olmert visited outgoing President Bush this week. Agence France-Presse reports that Secretary Rice said Palestinian-Israeli talks were "in pretty good shape" and that the failure to reach a deal was "largely because of the political situation in Israel" following Olmert's resignation. We were not surprised that she ignored the Palestinian civil war, Hamas rockets raining in ever-more-precise fashion on Israel and the increasing Iranian aid to the Palestinians, including her buddies in Fatah.  We were seriously alarmed that the Israeli prime minister agreed with her - as if he is the indispensible man.

Over the past eight years, President Bush has gotten far more right than wrong on Israel and the Palestinians. But there is a blind spot we fear will continue into the new administration. The "peace process" is predicated on the notion that there is something Israel can do, give or say to the Palestinians that will induce their leadership to abandon the notion that the creation of Israel was a mistake that has to be erased. There is not. Acceptance of the legitimacy of Israel cannot be "bought" by pronouncements or by incremental "gifts" of land or political power. The Palestinians have to make that decision - or not. The current Palestinian civil war is, in part, over that issue.

It's not as if Arabs don't sometimes get there, and not as if the United States can't help them get there. Anwar Sadat and King Hussein got there and peace ensued. The Saudis and the Gulf States are busy sending signals that Iran - and specifically not Israel - is the country that threatens regional stability. That should be encouraged. But there can be no "peace" or "security architecture" or "shelf agreement" before the Palestinian leadership makes the leap. It is folly and arrogance for Israelis or Americans to believe it can be done on the say-so of this or that president or prime minister - incoming or outgoing.

On that note, "Go Iraq!" An Iraqi court acquitted legislator Mithal al-Alusi of crimes the Iraqi government said he committed by visiting Israel for a conference. During Saddam's era, it was illegal for Iraqis to go to Israel and there was a warning stamped in Iraqi passports. The warning is no longer there. The court affirmed that there is no law preventing such trips and restored al-Alusi's parliamentary immunity. Progress.

And Thanksgiving. This Thanksgiving comes at a time of tremendous upheaval, economic dislocation and a truly historic presidential election. As a country, we are exhausted and jittery, and nothing makes us think the way ahead will be any easier or calmer.

That makes this a good - no, an imperative - time to remind ourselves of the blessings of our great country, our freedoms, our families, our friends, and our lives. We are grateful to servicemen and women, police officers, fire fighters, airport security screeners, border guards, FBI and CIA agents, the Administration and Members of Congress of both parties who believe and speak and vote with the understanding that our nation is still at war. We believe it is the combination of all these people working under difficult and often-dangerous circumstances - not a lack of trying on the part of the bad guys - that has have kept us safe for another year. We are grateful to the parents for raising the children who grew into the adults who serve America in so many ways at home and abroad, and grateful to their families for sharing them.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

ADL Terrorism Update - November 2008

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November  2008
Al Quds TV, a new Arabic language satellite television channel reportedly linked to Hamas, is the latest part of the terrorist organization’s expanding media network. The station enables Hamas to spread its messages promoting terrorism and hatred of Jews and Israelis to a wider audience.

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    Monday, November 24, 2008

    JINSA Report #830 Starting the War

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    JINSA Report #830
    November 24, 2008
    Starting the War

    Georgia/South Ossetia was anything but quiet. There had been skirmishes since the 1992-93 war, and small arms fire and sporadic shelling in the weeks before 7 August. Georgia claims Russian soldiers and armored vehicles, in place ahead of time, entered South Ossetia on the 7th, escalating the situation and causing Georgia to end its self-declared cease fire. Russia says the troops arrived on the 8th in response to Georgian attacks. Now a team from the OSCE says Georgia, in fact, started the war. "If there had been any (Russian) provocations, the response from the Georgian side was disproportionate."

    The nature of the report has implications for Israel.

    What are the obligations of a small country facing ongoing aggressive behavior from a larger or more powerful one? How long does it have to be threatened - even if its enemy doesn't cross the border - before it can strike to protect itself? Before the 1967 War, Israel watched the Egyptian buildup in the Sinai and the rabid fury of Egyptian crowds calling for the annihilation of the Jews. In 1973, Israel knew Syria was preparing for an attack and the IDF sought permission to strike first. Then-Prime Minister Golda Meir said "No," preferring to absorb the first blow to ensure that the United States (and others) would not brand Israel the aggressor, costing it necessary political support. Soldiers paid with their lives for that decision and Israel came close at points to losing the war.

    Today, Israel faces both a war of attrition and a potentially existential threat. Israel has responded to both, thus far, with restraint, begging the question, "for how long?"

    Hamas, with support from Iran, is shelling Israel with increasingly large and accurate weapons; Ashkelon, with more than 100,000 people is in range. When the JINSA Flag & General Officers trip visited IDF commanders in the South and leadership in Tel Aviv, they were told that at some point, large-scale Israeli ground action would become inevitable. "Iran in Gaza is unacceptable." Several IDF officials recalled that the Passover Seder bombing in 2003 precipitated the Israeli entry into Jenin to wipe out the strongholds of suicide bombers in the "second intifada," implying that only an attack with large-scale casualties would induce a major Israeli response. So Israel responds as it can to Hamas shelling of civilian neighborhoods, waiting for things to become "bad enough" before it accepts the label of "aggressor" with a "disproportionate" response.

    Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons capabilities and threatening Israel with genocide. The "international community" has been singularly unsuccessful in slowing or stopping Iran's progression. Israel (and the United States) has made it clear that the "military option" remains on the table, but the decision to exercise it will be made only when all other options are exhausted - in part because if Israel fires first, no matter how verbally belligerent Iran has been and no matter how close to nuclear weapons capability it has come, Israel would be the aggressor if, like the Georgians, it fired first.

    So Israel waits. If it responds to provocation too soon, it runs the risk of being Georgia. If it waits too long, it runs the risk of something else.

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    Monday, November 17, 2008

    JINSA Report #829 We've got a SOFA

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    JINSA Report #829
    November 17, 2008
    We've got a SOFA

    The United States and Iraq have signed a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) that will govern the presence of American troops in Iraq after the UN Mandate ends on 31 December. Coming to terms was a long and messy process, as befits a country unaccustomed to international diplomacy and rightly prickly about sovereignty issues, working with a country that has troops in harm's way on behalf of securing precisely that sovereignty.

    SOFAs, for example, are generally non-public, Executive agreements. The Iraqi prime minister however, concerned over the appearance of secrecy, decided to make it public and have it passed by the Iraqi parliament. The cabinet voted 26-1 to recommend passage, and the vote in parliament is scheduled for 24 November.

    With the negotiation and the document largely public, neither side had much room for maneuver. The Iraqis demanded a date for withdrawal, first from the cities and then from the country; no permanent American bases; and a pledge not to use Iraq to attack any other country (i.e., Iran). When JINSA met privately in the fall with a State Department official close to the talks, he said the United States would probably end up giving Iraq more in a SOFA than almost any other country. And that, he said, would be acceptable as long as the United States red line was respected.

    The red line, he said, was the Iraqi demand to prosecute purported crimes committed by U.S. troops and civilians, including while on duty. That, according to the official, would be a "complete non-starter." Well, not exactly. The United States has, according to news reports, agreed to lift the immunity of soldiers and civilians if they commit crimes off-duty and off their bases. That stands as a big concern for us - and, we assume, for the American military - as the possibility of political arrests and "show trials" for the benefit of one party or another cannot be discounted at this stage of Iraq's political and judicial development. We will be watching that point closely.

    On the whole, however, the agreement is testimony to the determination of the United States to create a new legal framework for supporting the continued development of a stable Iraq with a government operating in the name of its people. Admittedly, there was part of us that wanted to say to them, "How ungracious of you - hundreds of thousands of American servicemen and women sacrificed on behalf of your liberation and political development - whether you asked them to or not. Too many of them came home scarred for life and far too many didn't come home at all. If you're so determined to have us go, we'll just leave. You try to run this thing by yourself and take the consequences."

    But that would have been shortsighted. Iraq, involuntarily, became a test bed for the proposition that consensual government can grow in the Muslim Middle East and a test bed for American resolve. Thus far, we and the Iraqis have withstood the war, the Coalition Provisional Authority, the fight for a constitution and elections. We have battled an almost-civil-war and the depredations of people who would kill, maim and die to enforce the lifestyle of al Qaeda and Iran on traditionally secular Iraqis. We and the Iraqis have done the surge and continued reconstruction and seen the return of Arab ambassadors to Baghdad. Now we have overcome Iranian intention to derail the SOFA.  And the Iraqi government is still here and we are still there.

    Between now and December 2011, Iraq will have setbacks and we will wonder about our investment. But if people across the Middle East are to believe that there is something for them other than a choice between secular repression and religious repression, it will be found in the progress in Iraq - and in the success of the SOFA.

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    November 2008 JINSA Newsletter

    JINSA Logo- Blue
    JINSA News
    November 2008
    In This Issue
    IACP Honors Israel National Police
    Brig. Gen. Johanan Locker
    The War Through the Special Operators' Eyes
    Behind Iran

      Full Color LEEP Brochure

    Click here to download the new full color LEEP brochure.

      New JINSA Website!

    JINSA has a new look!  Please visit the newest version of JINSA Online, and check back for updates, featured articles and upcoming events.

    World's Largest Police Organization Honors the Israel National Police at JINSA Event

    The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) honored the Israel National Police during the IACP's 115th annual conference held November 8-12 in San Diego, Calif. The presentation took place during a luncheon sponsored by JINSA.

    Click here to read the article and watch news coverage from the event

    And the 2008 Grateful Nation Award Recipients Are...

    JINSA's 2008 Grateful Nation Award honorees have been selected by their respective services and will honored by JINSA on December 8, 2008, the same evening that Admiral Michael Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is to receive JINSA's 26th Annual Henry M. "Scoop" Jackson Distinguished Service Award.

    Israeli Air Force Leader Addresses
    JINSA Members

    Brig. Gen. Johanan Locker, commander of the Israeli Air Force's Air Division, met with a small group composed of JINSA leadership and participants in JINSA's annual trip to Israel for retired U.S. Generals and Admirals on November 12.

    Click here to read the article

    Lt. Col. Martin Discussed the War Through the Special Operators' Eyes

    Lieutenant Colonel Michael Martin, USAF, spoke in New York City at a "New Leadership" program and also for the Long Island Forum in mid-October. Just back from combat in Iraq, Lt. Col. Martin discussed the war through the eyes of the members of the special operations units.

    Click here to read the article

    Shoshana Bryen authors article in the Baltimore Jewish Times

    JINSA's Senior Director for Security Policy Shoshana Bryen wrote in the Baltimore Jewish Times, October 24, 2008, that there are at least two problems with the increasing calls for the United States to engage Iran.

    Click here to read the article

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