Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Fantasy, Illusion and Kerry’s Potemkin Villages

...It must be strange to be an Israeli negotiator and to have to listen to Kerry’s nonsense and pretend to take it seriously (this is probably why Ya’alon had a career in the army rather than as a diplomat).
14 January '14..

Gregory Potemkin was a favorite and lover of the Russian queen Catherine II. After [the] Russian conquest of modern Southern Ukraine and Crimea from the Ottoman Empire … Potemkin became governor of the region. The area had been totally devastated during the wars by the Russian army, and Potemkin’s major task consisted of rebuilding it and bringing in Russian settlers. As a new war was about to erupt between Russia and Ottoman empire, in 1787 Catherine II made an unprecedented six month trip to New Russia, with her court, several ambassadors, and (according to some sources) the Austrian emperor Joseph II, traveling incognito. The purpose of this trip was to impress Russia’s allies ahead of the new war. In fact, Potemkin assembled a few “mobile villages”, located on banks of Dnieper River. As soon as the barge carrying the queen arrived, Potemkin’s men dressed up as peasants would show up in the village. Once the barge left, the village had to be disassembled and rebuilt downstream overnight. — Wikipedia

A Potemkin Village is thus a false front, an illusion set up to fool observers into thinking there is substance where there is not. The Wikipedia article goes on to say that many historians think the Potemkin story has been exaggerated, fictionalized to make a good story.

The Obama/Kerry peace negotiations, unfortunately are not fictionalized. Kerry has built a Potemkin Village of wishful thinking that he would like to sell Israel. Here are some strong comments, attributed to Israel’s Defense Minister, Moshe Ya’alon, on the subject:

Speaking privately, Ya’alon said an American security plan that could ostensibly facilitate a safe withdrawal by Israel, and which calls for advanced electronic surveillance in the West Bank area instead of an Israeli military presence, would actually “ensure that Ben Gurion Airport and Netanya become a missile target,” which only “our continued presence in Judea, Samaria and the Jordan River” will prevent, according to the report.

“What are you talking about?” Ya’alon was said to have directly retorted to assertions by Kerry recently that his security proposal would render Israel’s eastern border more tranquil that the US-Canada border. “You’ve given us a plan based on advanced technologies — satellites, sensors, war rooms with TV screens — but with no presence in the field of our forces. How is that technology going to help when a Salafist or an Islamic Jihad terror cell tries to attack Israeli targets?” Ya’alon reportedly wondered. “How are satellites going to quash the rocket-building industry that’s developing in Nablus and that will launch rockets at Tel Aviv and the center of the country?”

He also hammered into Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, saying his continued rule of the West Bank was only thanks to Israel.

“The moment we leave Judea and Samaria he’s finished,” Ya’alon was quoted saying. “In practical terms for the last few months we’ve been holding talks not with the Palestinians, but with the Americans.

Ya’alon points to the two Potemkin Villages created by Kerry: the security arrangements, and the false front that is the Palestinian Authority (PA).

You don’t need to be a former Chief of Staff like Ya’alon to understand that the most that high-tech surveillance devices can do is tell you that someone is firing rockets or infiltrating terrorists into your country. Israel’s small size means that by the time its borders are penetrated, it is too late to take effective action. Foreign troops would be even worse.

And then there is the PA. Ya’alon notes that only the IDF protects the PA from Hamas and other radical groups. Given that, how can Israeli withdrawal be consistent with a PLO-ruled state? I am sure that Mahmoud Abbas understands this, maintaining his maximal demands — particularly for a ‘right of return’ — that no Israeli government could possibly accept. In fact, the PA even passed a law, punishable by death, forbidding any Palestinian leader from abrogating this invented ‘right’!

The PA finds it convenient to continue ‘negotiating’ because that keeps the American money flowing and provides opportunities to make demands of Israel that it sometimes gets the Americans to enforce — like the prisoner releases. It is interesting how this trick seems to work over and over. Meanwhile, the Palestinians never move from their extreme positions.

Finally, there is Hamas. Either Hamas and Fatah (which controls the PLO and the PA) will reconcile or not. If so, then the PA/PLO will become even more hard-line; but if not, then the PA will continue to rule over only about 60% of the Palestinian Arabs, and Hamas will continue trying to overthrow it (and will succeed the moment the IDF leaves the territories).

So 1) no security arrangements are possible short of IDF presence in the territories that would permit the IDF to be absent from the territories, 2) the PA will not agree to anything short of the elimination of the Jewish state, and 3) the PA doesn’t represent the Palestinians anyway (not in Gaza, and not even in Judea and Samaria).

In light of this, we can understand Ya’alon’s remark that Israel is negotiating with the Americans, not the Palestinians!

It must be strange to be an Israeli negotiator and to have to listen to Kerry’s nonsense and pretend to take it seriously (this is probably why Ya’alon had a career in the army rather than as a diplomat). He also is reported to have called Kerry “inexplicably obsessive” and “messianic” — and given what is occurring throughout the Middle East, especially next door in Syria, it is inexplicable that Obama and Kerry are obsessed with screwing up one of the few peaceful spots (and the only democratic country) in the region.

Let me add one more thing: recent Palestinian insistence on the invented ‘right of return’ may lead to ‘compromise’ proposals of the form “we grant them the ‘symbolic’ right of return but they don’t actually return (or only a ‘symbolic’ number do).”

This would be a disaster. It would be like giving someone the deed to your house in return for a promise not to move in. There is no right of return either in principle or in fact. And it would be inconsistent to grant them the former without the latter, so let’s not go down that road at all.

Update [1619 PST]: Ya’alon was forced to apologize for his (true) remarks. In my opinion, any description of Kerry that doesn’t include the words ‘stupid’, ‘ignorant’, ‘dangerous’ and ‘ass’ is too kind.


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