Friday, May 25, 2007

The Second Lebanon War: Moshe Yaalon

Security Implications for Israel: Establishing Defensible Borders
Part 6

The Second Lebanon War underscores the importance of strategic depth for Israel's survival. During the war, 90 to 95 percent of the more than four thousand rockets firedbyHizbullahatIsraelicitieswereshort-range,122 mm rockets launched from distances of between six and twenty-two kilometers. These short-range rockets directly threatened nearly two million Israelis, a third of Israel's population. Nearly a million people temporarily fled the north, while more than a million remaining citizens were forced to take cover in bomb shelters. Twelve thousand buildings were hit and estimates of overall damage reached well over $2.5 billion. However, had Israel's ground operation been executed in the first week of the war and a security zone created up to Lebanon's Litani River – approximately twenty kilometers from Israel's northern border – nearly 95 percent of Hizbullah's rockets would have landed in southern Lebanon and not northern Israel.

The conclusion is clear: land is essential to Israel's defense and national security, particularly in the face of short-range rocket attacks that, notwithstanding the separate issue of long-range missiles, continue to be a strategic threat to the Jewish state.

Therefore, Israel's security requirements for strategic depth have far-reaching consequences for the future of the West Bank. Had Hizbullah rockets been launched from the hills of the West Bank under Hamas control, Israel would face an unprecedented existential threat as 70 percent of its civilian population and 80 percent of its industrial capacity is situated below these hilltops along Israel's coastline. Unfortunately, Hamas' control of the Palestinian areas, particularly in the West Bank, could easily result in weapons flowing to Hamas from Iraq and Hizbullah in Lebanon, creating a strategic threat from Israel's eastern front. Given the unstable strategic situation in Lebanon and to Israel's east in Iraq, Syria and the West Bank, Israel must have defensible borders in the West Bank.

It must be emphasized that the West Bank security fence is not a strategic solution to the full range of Palestinian Jihadi terror actions. The fence is only meant to be a tactical measure that has largely succeeded in preventing Palestinian suicide bombers from reaching Israel's major population centers. However, the IDF's anti-terror operations on the ground in the West Bank and against Hamas in Gaza continue to be the major preventative measure against Palestinian terror assaults on Israeli towns and cities. Accordingly, Israel must protect its interests eastward in the Jordan Valley, as well as in the areas surrounding Jerusalem and to the east of Ben-Gurion Airport. Israel must also control territory to the east of the security fence where it is crucial that the IDF's operational strength be preserved in order to protect Israeli population centers along the coast.

Hamas will not reach a territorial compromise with Israel. Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyah has little control. Hamas political bureau chief Khaled Mashaal determines policy from Damascus in cooperation with Syria and Iran, which offer financial backing. Moreover, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas is unable to rein in radical Islamists in Gaza who are attacking Israel with Kassam rockets, and Palestinian security forces have failed to stabilize the Palestinian areas of the West Bank.

Therefore, a resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is not with insight and neither a two-state solution nor further territorial concessions in the West Bank are relevant for the foreseeable future. Israel took substantial risks to achieve a two-state solution, especially since the signing of the 1993 Oslo Accords with Yasser Arafat and the PLO. Unfortunately, Israel's bilateral peace process experiment resulted in nearly 1,400 Israelis dead and thousands more wounded. It is imperative, then, that Israel and the West learn the lessons of the political and diplomatic failures opposite the Palestinians.

While Israel's political leadership and public continue to demonstrate willingness for territorial compromise with the Palestinians, Israel's unilateral disengagement from Gaza was a strategic mistake of the first order. The Gaza withdrawal helped bring about Hamas' victory. It emboldened radical Islamic terror groups, from Hizbullah in Lebanon to radical insurgent groups in Iraq. It strengthened the assessment of the Muslim Brotherhood, al-Qaeda and the Iranians that Israel can be beaten.

But of even greater consequence, Israel's Gaza pullback and the summer 2006 war with Hizbullah have harmed America's strategic war on terror in the region. The United States and Europe had praised Israel's unilateral withdrawal from both Lebanon in 2000 and the Gaza Strip in September 2005, thus ending Israel's occupation of those areas. According to the international view, Israel's pullbacks edged the region closer to peace and stability. However, fundamentalist Islam interprets Israel's moves differently from the way Western actors read them. Muslim extremists believe that they have defeated Israel, once in Gaza and twice in Lebanon. Now following the summer 2006 war, they are confident that they can defeat Israel in Tel Aviv. They sense that they have destabilized a superpower, and will destabilize the West by defeating Israel.

The free world, then, undermines its own regional interests by pressuring Israel to increase its vulnerability by withdrawing from additional territories in the West Bank, most of which are unpopulated and essential for Israel's defense and national security. Simply stated, Israeli concessions are viewed by radical Islam as the West's weakness.

There is even greater reason for concern today. A second "southern Lebanon" is sprouting up under Israel's feet in both Gaza and the West Bank.41 Hizbullah has strengthened its financial and operational influence in both arenas. Since Israel's unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in September 2005, Gaza has become a hotbed of Jihadi terror activity by al-Qaeda, Hizbullah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad groups. Hizbullah established a forward headquarters in Gaza that activates suicide terrorists there and in the West Bank. While Hizbullah's headquarters has been based in Beirut, since the IDF's destruction of substantial Hizbullah infrastructure in southern Lebanon and in the Dahiya neighborhood in Beirut, Hizbullah operations from Gaza have become a more effective strategy. It is not surprising that Palestinian terrorist tactics after mid-2006 increasingly resembled those adopted by Hizbullah. In fact, a large majority of Palestinians polled after the Lebanon war reported that the tactics employed by Hizbullah against Israel provide an "attractive model" for Palestinian armed resistance.

Iran is also exploiting the Palestinian arena as a platform for the subversion of regimes that are connected to the West, especially in Egypt and Jordan. Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia led unprecedented Arab public criticism of Hizbullah after the first week of the war, blasting Nasrallah for "adventurism." They accused Hizbullah of attempting to drag the entire region into a military confrontation with Israel.

Hamas is also seeking to produce or import longer-range rockets that are more lethal and more accurate. These missiles will have a greater range and will be capable of hitting Israel's southern city of Ashkelon as well as more northern coastal cities. Hamas is also importing shoulder-fired, anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles, weapons that Iran and Syria supplied to Hizbullah in Lebanon.
The Karine-A weapons ship that the Iranians sent to Gaza in 2002, in coordination with PA leader Yasser Arafat, demonstrated more than simply an Iranian interest in supporting the Palestinian Authority's terrorist war with Iranian weapons. The Iranians have been working through Hizbullah and Hamas in Gaza to create a model similar to Hizbullah's Lebanon model, called "Jihad Il Binaya." In the Lebanese model, the same system that supports civil affairs – such as construction, education, health care and welfare – also creates a civilian infrastructure for terror. Through this paradigm, Hizbullah has deepened its connection to the local population. In fact, Hamas police units traveled to Iran for military training following the cease-fire in Lebanon. This unprecedented, direct Iranian penetration into the Palestinian arena may increase the likelihood of a Palestinian civil war and accelerate the deterioration in Gaza and the West Bank.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Second Lebanon War: Moshe Yaalon

Western Passivity Magnifies the Jihadi Threat
Part 5

The international community is weak and split over how to proceed in Iraq and against Iran. This may in part be a result of the fact that many European countries do not understand that the West is in the middle of a world war, a clash of civilizations and cultures with radical Islam. Ahmadinejad has been clearer on this point. He reportedly received one of 1,000 pirated copies of Professor Samuel Huntington's Clash of Civilizations that had been translated into Persian and trucked in to Tehran by the IRGC in the mid-1990s.

Washington also appears to have lost its post-9/11 footing. The Iraq Study Group (Baker-Hamilton) Report seems to underscore a growing preference among many in Washington for appeasing and negotiating over confronting and isolating the radical Islamists, particularly in Iran. The report's central recommendations that the Bush administration open diplomatic dialogue with Syria and Iran and actively pursue comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace negotiations – including Israel's return of the Golan Heights to Syria – represents a 180-degree-turn away from President Bush's policy since the September 11, 2001, attacks. Bush had declared in his 2002 State of the Union address that "some governments will be timid in the face of terror. And make no mistake about it: If they do not act, America will....If we stop now – leaving terror camps intact and terror states unchecked – our sense of security would be false and temporary."

Another example of the West's traditional preference for diplomacy and Israeli concessions over confrontation with radical Islam occurred in late 2001. Joschka Fischer, then Foreign Minister of Germany, stated on at least one occasion that Israel's unilateral and precipitous withdrawal from Lebanon in May 2000 served as a trigger for the subsequent Palestinian Authority war of terror that Arafat launched four months later. But while Fischer acknowledged the problem and even sounded like "an Israeli security hawk," according to a senior British foreign policy analyst present, he did not recant the pressure he placed on Israel for territorial concessions.

Aside from the Second Lebanon War, Israel has been hesitant to confront Iran and Syria. It had been much easier for Israelis to first confront and then negotiate with secular Arab states such as Egypt and Jordan, and reach bilateral peace treaties on the basis of the "land for peace" formula. However, in the case of Iran and its Jihadi proxies, Israel faces uncompromising enemies. This requires the Jewish state to confront the Jihadi threat and act with uncompromising political will.

Hizbullah is not nearly as dangerous a fighting forceas Egypt or Syria. However, the fundamentalist group's blind hatred of the West and its irrepressible political will to destroy Israel and export terror renders it largely immune from embracing what moderate and reform-minded Arab regimes and the West consider overriding national considerations such as economic interests. Iran and its proxies are not primarily motivated by the same national calculations characteristic of the West, but rather by religiously driven, apocalyptic dedication to vanquish Western democracies such as the United States and Israel. Therefore, conventional deterrence strategies such as "mutually assured destruction" that the United States employed opposite the former Soviet Union are not relevant opposite the Islamic Republic of Iran. Ahmadinejad appears more than prepared for Iran to suffer massive human losses to reach his objective of annihilating Israel and reaching a nuclear showdown with the United States.

Nonetheless, the passive posture of the United States, Europe, and even Israel, with regard to Iran, Syria, and their proxies has bolstered Jihadi confidence and has magnified their growing threat to the international state system. The West's interest in maintaining the current international order and avoiding a clash with radical Islamic leaderships has also enhanced Sunni and Shiite Jihadi appeal throughout the region, from Iraq to Jordan, in Lebanon, Gaza, Egypt and the West Bank.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Hag Sameach

Lecha Dodi

As he left the shul, he noticed a young man wearing jeans and a backpack, standing tentatively at the foot of the steps. Inspired by the meaningful Kabbalas Shabbos he had just experienced, he decided to greet the young man. "Good Shabbos. Would you like to eat with us tonight?" The young man's face broke in an instant from a worried look to a smile. "Yes, thanks, he said, My name is Machi."

Soon they were standing around the Shabbos table. Dan noticed his guest fidgeting and leafing through his bencher, looking for something. "Is there a song you want to sing he asked. The young man’s face lit up. "Yes, there is, but I can't find it here. I really liked what we sang earlier. What was it?...Something 'Dodi Oh, he offered, "You mean Lecha Dodi But you won’t find it in there. Let me get you a siddur." Upon the song’s completion, Machi requested the song yet again. Throughout the meal, he repeatedly requested the song, Dan acceding each time to his guest’s request, his puzzlement increasing. "Don't you want to sing something else?" he finally asked. "I just really like that one," Machi replied bashfully. "There’s just something about it - I really like it."

"Where are you from?" Dan asked. The boy looked pained, then gazed at the floor and said, "Ramallah." Dan was quite sure he'd heard the boy say Ramallah, but it couldn’t be. Perhaps he had actually heard Ramleh, an Israeli city. To this he replied, "Oh, I have a cousin there. Do you know Ephraim Warner? He lives on Herzl Street." The young man shook his head sadly. "There are no Jews in Ramallah." Dan gasped. He really had said "Ramallah"! His mind raced. Had he invited an Arab to spend Shabbos with him? "I'm sorry, he exclaimed, but I'm a bit confused. And now that I think of it, I haven't even asked your full name." The boy nervously shook his head and offered quietly, "Machmud Ibn-esh-Sharif." Dan slumped back, speechless. Machi broke the silence hesitantly, "I was born and grew up in Ramallah. I was taught to hate Jews, and that killing them was heroic. But I always had doubts. Our tradition taught us that believers should desire for others what they desire for themselves. I used to wonder, aren’t Jews people too? Don’t they have the right to live as well? I asked my father, and he threw me out of the house. By now my mind was made up; I was going to run away and live with Jews, until I could find out what they were really like. Who knows? I might even convert. I snuck back into the house that night to get my things, but my mother noticed me packing. When I had conveyed my plans to her, she turned pale. You don't have to convert, she whispered after a long pause, You already are a Jew. "I was shocked. What do you mean? Judaism follows the mother, she explained. I'm Jewish, so you're Jewish. "I never had any idea my mother was Jewish. She didn’t want anyone to know. Then she whispered suddenly, 'I made a mistake by marrying an Arab man. In you, my mistake will be redeemed.'

My mother quickly went, dug out some old documents and handed them to me - my birth certificate and her old Israeli ID card, so I could prove I was a Jew. I've got them here, but I don't know what to do with them. She also handed me an old photograph of my grandparents that was taken at the grave of one of our ancestors. Now I’ve traveled here to Israel to find out where I really belong." Dan gently put his hand on Machmud's shoulder and asked, "Do you have the photo here?" "Sure, he said, I always carry it with me." Machmud reached into his backpack and pulled out the photograph. When Dan saw the photograph, he nearly collapsed. It was of a grave in the old cemetery in Tzfat, the inscription identifying it as that of the great Kabbalist Rav Shlomo Alkabetz. Dan's voice quivered with excitement and awe as he explained to Machmud who his ancestor was. "He was a friend of the Arizal, a great Torah scholar, a tzaddik, a mystic. And, Machmud, your ancestor is the author of that song we sang tonight, Lecha Dodi!" This time Machmud was speechless. Dan extended his trembling hand, "Welcome home, Machmud."

Machmud had unwittingly traced his roots back to a man whose early years remain shrouded in history until the age of 24, when he traveled for the first time to Eretz Yisrael. Along the way, he gave charismatic speeches, inspiring his audiences with his knowledge of Kabbalah. He soon met Yosef Caro, and became his close friend and chavrusa, along with the Arizal and the Alshich HaKadosh. It was from one of their shared spiritual experiences while learning late one night that R Yosef Caro reestablished the custom of Tikkun Leil Shavu'ot (mentioned in the Zohar), which we perpetuate today. R’Shlomo produced manuscripts on Torah and Kabbalah, many of which were stolen upon his death and therefore never published under his name. He is credited with initiating the ritual of physically greeting the shechina, or neshoma yesairah at shkiah on Friday. After Minchah, as the sun cast its setting rays over the distant hilltops, this saintly mystic and his disciples would venture out onto one of Tzfat’s magnificent slopes. Gazing out upon plunging ravines and soaring heights, they would open their hearts in song as the sunset swelled into a cadence of changing colors. The haunting beauty of this liturgical mosaic, pieced together with phrases from Shoftim, Yeshayahu, Yirmeyahu, and Tehillim, whose stanzas mostly reflect the Jewish longing for redemption, the restoration of Yerushalayim and the coming of Mashiach, tugs at the heart strings of every Jew who longs for closeness to his creator. Its expression during this most propitious ays ratzon, when Klal Yisrael weds HaKadosh Boruch Hu on a weekly basis, was specifically designed by R’Shlomo to open our hearts, if only for a moment, to the faint emanations of Olam Habah which reach our world at this time.

R’Shlomo Halevi Alkabetz is remembered for his authorship of Lecha Dodi, and it is precisely this hymn which affords us a unique look inside a world in which he represented so much more. For the world of Kabbalah, in which physical and spiritual boundaries are routinely blurred, finds prime expression in this moving elegy which has the power to change and improve our spiritual lives so many years after its authorship, and which succeeded in returning R’Shlomo’s great grandson Machmud back under the Kanfei HaShechinah. So as you sing Lecha Dodi this Friday evening, listen a bit more closely, and you’ll understand that it is much more than just a song. You just may recognize it as the voice of your own soul, crying out to its creator, yearning for the Shechinah, for now you’ll know THE REST OF THE STORY.

From the Adult Education Committee of Congregation Beth Abraham's Be'er Mayim Chaim Teaneck