Friday, January 31, 2020

15 reasons to embrace the Trump Plan

President Donald Trump’s administration’s outline for Middle East peace is not risk-free, neither for Israel nor its neighbors. It doesn’t fully satisfy any side. I am particularly concerned about the proposed handover of large tracts of land in the Negev and about the fate of 15 isolated Jewish towns in Judea and Samaria.

Nevertheless, the Trump plan should be embraced and swiftly acted upon by Israel, for at least 15 reasons:

1. Because it transforms the Mideast peace paradigm. It discards stale formulas based on maximalist Palestinian demands (the 1949 “Green” armistice lines, the “Clinton parameters,” the “Kerry outline,” UNSC resolution 2334, etc.) in favor of historical truths and concrete realities.

2. Because it reverses the long-term deleterious peace process dynamic whereby Israel always was expected to give land in exchange for Palestinian promises. Instead, the Trump initiative sets in place a process whereby Israel gets land (sovereignty now over 30% of Judea and Samaria, as a start) and gives promises  (agreement-in-principle to a Palestinian state down the road).

3. Because it tells the Palestinians that time is not on their side. The longer they reject peace with Israel the less independence they might obtain. The plan for Palestinian statehood has an expiration date and a mechanism for dialing-back its parameters if Palestinian leaders don’t live up to basic obligations.

4. Because it recognizes a permanent eastern border for Israel, based on historical Jewish settlement rights and Israeli security needs. And Israel can declare these borders immediately, irrespective of Palestinian approval or disapproval.

5. Because it breathes new life into all 150 Israeli towns in Judea and Samaria. Settlements are no longer “obstacles to peace.” They will no longer fall under Israeli military rule (in what was derogatorily called “occupation”) but be brought into the bosom of the sovereign State of Israel. And Israel will be free to build more homes in these towns without restriction. No Israeli (or Palestinian) will be forced out of his home, ever, anywhere in the Land of Israel. There will be no repeat of the Gush Katif expulsion tragedy.

6. Because the plan insists that no home construction take place over the next four years in 50% of what has been called “Area C” – land that remains open to negotiation. This means Israel will have to counter pirate Jewish settlement initiatives there, but also that Israel can finally act against illegal Palestinian settlements being built in strategic areas with the brazen support of the European Union.

7. Because the plan endorses permanent Israeli security control of the entire West Bank envelope. This includes “security at all international crossings” into a (possible, eventual) completely demilitarized State of Palestine, and an Israeli right “to dismantle and destroy any facility in the State of Palestine that is used for the production of prohibited weapons or for other hostile purposes.” Essentially, this turns what was Area A (purportedly under Palestinian security control) into Area B (under Israeli security control) – although the plan doesn’t use these terms. In fact, the Trump plan does away with these failed Oslo-era designations, completely re-drawing the map of Judea and Samaria.

8. Because the plan adopts the principle advanced by Israel of “transportation contiguity” in the West Bank. This means that roads (and railroads, bridges and tunnels) will be built to connect Jewish towns to one another and to connect Palestinian cities and towns to one another. This undoubtedly creates a complicated patchwork for governance in Judea and Samaria, but it is much preferable to the old and impossible demand for “territorial contiguity” which would have meant tearing people out of their homes. The modern infrastructure of roadways also will facilitate gainful employment and economic advancement for all parties.

9. Because Jerusalem remains the undivided and united capital of the State of Israel. The fact that a Palestinian state can claim an “al-Quds” capital city in outlying neighborhoods of the city like Kafr Akab, Abu Dis and eastern Shuafat does not detract from this.

10. Because the Trump plan calls for freedom of religious worship for all faiths on the Temple Mount. This means that without upending the status quo, in which Jordan is guardian of the Temple Mount under Israeli security watch, Jews should incrementally be able to pray there too, I hope.

11. Because the plan treats Palestinians as responsible adults, with no free pass regarding the type of state they might establish. The US demands that a Palestinian government in Judea, Samaria and Gaza end its payments to terrorists, disarm Hamas and other terrorist armies in its midst, end its attempts to brand Israel a war criminal in international courts, end the teaching of genocidal antisemitism in its schools and media, respect human rights, religious freedoms, a free press and more. It must also recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people. These conditions for American recognition of Palestinian statehood are hard-baked into the plan; and as mentioned above, there is a stopwatch attached to these expectations.

12. Because the plan puts an end to Palestinian delusions of refugee return in order to swamp and destroy Israel from within (what Palestinians call their “right of return”). The refugee matter must be resolved outside of Israel, the plan determines. (This accords with president George W. Bush’s letter to prime minister Ariel Sharon in 2004). The plan holds out tens of billions of dollars for dealing with this across the Middle East and for the building of a robust Palestinian national economy in the West Bank.

13. Because the plan unleashes a regional dynamic whereby Arab states can move toward open partnership with Israel on a wide range of issues. The presence this week of three Arab ambassadors at the White House unveiling event is testament to this, as is the moderately warm support for the plan expressed by Saudi Arabia and Egypt. (Alas, this differs starkly from the cold responses that came from Democratic congressmen, European leaders and left-wing Jewish organizations).

14. Because the plan might nudge Palestinians, inshallah, toward replacement of their rejectionist leadership with men and women who seek peace and prosperity for their people, in partnership with Israel. Younger Palestinians must know that the Palestinian national movement will be marginalized in the Arab world and on the global agenda (and that aid budgets to the PA will dry up) unless they come to the table with new leadership willing to compromise.

15. Because the Trump plan’s parameters closely hew to the broadest political consensus in Israel. It is a peace paradigm that makes eminent sense to at least 75 percent of Israelis, in my estimation, and serves as the basis for national unity (Likud and Blue and White) on a critical foreign and defense policy issue.

Actually, it’s not too different from the Labor Party’s Allon Plan of 50 years ago.

For all these reasons, Jerusalem should act with alacrity to implement the Trump plan and reap its early rewards.

Happy Brexit Day!

Friday, January 24, 2020

Remembering the Holocaust: Prince Charles speaks

Survivors of the Shoah, President Rivlin, Your Majesties, Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a particular honour, although one of the most solemn kind, to be present here today, and, on behalf of the United Kingdom to commemorate all those so tragically lost in the Shoah.
To come to this sacred place, Yad Vashem – “A Memorial and a Name” – is to be faced with that for which no name, no words and no language can ever possibly do justice.
The magnitude of the genocide that was visited upon the Jewish people defies comprehension and can make those of us who live in the shadow of those indescribable events feel hopelessly inadequate.
The scale of the evil was so great, the impact so profound, that it threatens to obscure the countless individual human stories of tragedy, loss and suffering of which it was comprised.  That is why places like this, and events like this, are so vitally important.
For many of you here, and for Jewish people across the globe, those stories are your stories: whether you witnessed and somehow endured the appalling barbarity of the Holocaust personally; or whether it touched your lives through the experience of your loved ones, or through the loss of parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts or other family you were never able to know. But we must never forget that they are also our story: a story of incomprehensible inhumanity, from which all humanity can and must learn.  For that an evil cannot be described does not mean that it cannot be defeated.  That it cannot be fully understood, does not mean that it cannot be overcome.
And so it is of particular significance that we should gather here, in Israel, where so many of those who survived the Holocaust sought and found refuge, and built a new future for themselves and this country.
In the same way, it has been a singular privilege, throughout my life, to have met so many Holocaust survivors who were welcomed to the United Kingdom and who began new lives there, contributing immeasurably to the welfare of our country, and the world, in the years that followed.
I have such inspiring memories of remarkable people such as Anita Lasker-Wallfisch, who somehow survived both Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen before moving to Britain after the war.  There, as a wonderfully talented cellist, she co-founded the English Chamber Orchestra, of which I am proud to have been Patron for the past forty-three years.
On her arm she bears the number by which tyranny had sought to make her less than human.  Yet, through her music, she reminds us of the greatest beauty of which we are capable.  Over the years, she has shared her story bravely and powerfully, determined that some good might come from the unspeakable evil she endured and overcame.  From the horror, she brought harmony, healing and hope.
Just as each life lost in the Shoah stands for all the millions who died, each inspirational story such as that of Anita Lasker-Wallfisch, stands for the strength of spirit, the unparalleled courage, the determined defiance, of the very best of humanity when confronted with the very worst.
For my own part, I have long drawn inspiration from the selfless actions of my dear grandmother, Princess Alice of Greece, who in 1943, in Nazi-occupied Athens, saved a Jewish family by taking them into her home and hiding them.
My grandmother, who is buried on the Mount of Olives, has a tree planted in her name here at Yad Vashem, and is counted as one of the Righteous among the Nations – ḥasidei ummot ha`olam –  a fact which gives me, and my family, immense pride.
Ladies and Gentlemen, almost a lifetime has passed since the horror of the Holocaust unfolded on the European continent, and those who bore witness to it are sadly ever fewer.  We must, therefore, commit ourselves to ensuring that their stories live on, to be known and understood by each successive generation.
Anita Lasker-Wallfisch has said: “there is a risk that the Holocaust will be placed under a glass bubble just like the Napoleonic Wars or the Thirty Years War. But if we don’t make the connection between memories of past atrocities and the present, there isn’t any point to it.”
She is, it seems to me, absolutely right.  The Holocaust must never be allowed to become simply a fact of history: we must never cease to be appalled, nor moved by the testimony of those who lived through it. Their experience must always educate, and guide, and warn us.
The lessons of the Holocaust are searingly relevant to this day. Seventy-five years after the Liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, hatred and intolerance still lurk in the human heart, still tell new lies, adopt new disguises, and still seek new victims.
All too often, language is used which turns disagreement into dehumanisation.  Words are used as badges of shame to mark others as enemies, to brand those who are different as somehow deviant.  All too often, virtue seems to be sought through verbal violence.  All too often, real violence ensues, and acts of unspeakable cruelty are still perpetrated around the world against people for reasons of their religion, their race or their beliefs.
Knowing, as we do, the darkness to which such behaviour leads, we must be vigilant in discerning these ever-changing threats; we must be fearless in confronting falsehoods and resolute in resisting words and acts of violence.  And we must never rest in seeking to create mutual understanding and respect. We must tend the earth of our societies so that the seeds of division cannot take root and grow.  And we must never forget that every human being is be-tselem Elokim, “in the image of God,” and even a single human life is ke-olam malei, “like an entire universe.”
The Holocaust was an appalling Jewish tragedy, but it was also a universal human tragedy, and one which we compound if we do not heed its lessons.
On this day, in this place, and in memory of the millions who perished in the Shoah, let us recommit ourselves to tolerance and respect; and to ensuring that those who lived through this darkness will forever, as in the words of the prophet Isaiah, be “a light unto the nations,” to guide the generations that follow.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

How could Iran break out to a nuke in only 2 months? – analysis

A satellite view of Iran's Fordow nuclear plant


Until May 2019, most estimates had Iran at about 12 months away from having enough enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon.

How could it leap forward to have enough uranium to have a weapon in only two months?

Olli Heinonen, former deputy director-general for safeguards at the International Atomic Energy Agency, has told The Jerusalem Post that, “If the recent performance numbers, average enrichment levels, and current inventories quoted by [Iran Atomic Energy Organization Director Ali Akbar] Salehi hold, the breakout time by the end of January will be around two months.”

How does Heinonen make this calculation?

About 1,000 kilograms of low-enriched uranium is enough to be converted into 25 kg. of weaponized uranium, which is enough for a nuclear bomb.

As of an IAEA November 11 report looking backward, the Islamic Republic was still only at about 372 kg., but had already increased its output of enriched uranium by more than one-third.

By December 23, Heinonen estimated that Tehran had already accumulated hundreds more kilograms of enriched uranium.

Part of this assumption is based on the IAEA November report’s flagging that Iran had reinstalled a cascade of 164 IR-4 centrifuges and one of 164 IR-2m centrifuges.”

The IR-2m centrifuges are five times as efficient as the around 5,000 standard IR-1 centrifuges which have been the Islamic republic’s main platform for enriching uranium.

So even before the Islamic Republic’s announcement on Sunday that it was abandoning any limits on uranium enrichment, the breakout time could have been down to as low as six months (though some would say it was still closer to 10 months.)

In and of itself, that announcement, without any follow through, is more symbolic than anything else.

Heinonen noted that Iranian officials have said they will install more advanced centrifuges in the underground Fordow nuclear facility.

He said that 1,000 IR-2ms could be installed at Fordow.

This would double Iran’s enrichment capacity.

Once you are sitting at only six months away and you can double your enrichment capacity, getting to two months away from enough enriched uranium for a nuclear bomb is not that hard.

Heinonen also believes that Tehran is succeeding with more IR-4 centrifuges which are even more efficient than the IR-2ms, and which many estimates of breakout time ignore.

So the big question is whether Iran reinstalls centrifuges it had detached and in what volume.

Even if the Islamic Republic fulfills Heinonen’s fears, it does not mean that: 1) it will continue to get to the 1,000 km. enriched uranium level; 2) that it will convert that low enriched uranium to weaponized uranium; and 3) that it will be able to deliver a nuclear bomb via a missile.

But even the possibility that Tehran could suddenly move forward to a bomb using advanced centrifuges much faster than it could have some years ago will be keeping the US and Israeli defense establishments up at night and busy with putting in place contingency plans.

Friday, January 3, 2020

Yamamoto 1943 - Soleimani 2020

Soleimani’s death has been compared to that of terrorist leaders such as Osama bin Laden and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Soleimani was as evil as those men — he has the blood of hundreds of Americans and thousands, even hundreds of thousands, of Arabs on his hands — but the comparison is misleading. Soleimani was not the leader of a stateless terrorist organization. He was one of the most powerful figures in the Iranian government. His death makes him the highest-ranking foreign military commander assassinated by the United States since the shoot-down in 1943 of an airplane carrying Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto, the architect of the Pearl Harbor attack.

Update Jan 6, 2020, Sayonara, Soleimani, second letter