Quotes of the week—follow the links to read the whole thing.
While the Obama administration has not reconciled itself to the futility of curbing Tehran’s nuclear buildup through diplomatic means, most Israelis have given up hope that the international sanctions can dissuade the Islamic Republic from acquiring the means to murder by the millions. Israel’s leadership faces a stark choice—either come to terms with a nuclear Iran or launch a preemptive military strike. . . .
Much of the debate in Israel is focused on the question of Iranian intentions. The fact that Tehran has poured staggering amounts of money, human capital, and industrial might into nuclear development—at the expense of its conventional military strength, which has many gaps, not to mention the wider Iranian economy—is by itself a troubling indicator of its priorities. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and many other leading Israeli political and security figures view the Islamic Republic as so unremittingly hostile that “everything else pales” before the threat posed by its pursuit of nuclear weapons.
Proponents of this view draw upon repeated threats by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to wipe Israel off the map and Iranian support for radical Palestinian and Lebanese groups seeking its destruction. They also point to Ahmadinejad’s radical millenarian strand of Shiite Islamism. Shiites believe that the twelfth of a succession of imams directly descendant of the Prophet Muhammad went into hiding in the ninth century and will one day return to this world after a period of cataclysmic war to usher in an era of stability and peace.
Ahmadinejad appears to believe that this day will happen in his lifetime. In 2004, as mayor of Tehran, he ordered the construction of a grand avenue in the city center, supposedly to welcome the Mahdi on the day of his reappearance. As president, he allocated $17 million for a mosque closely associated with the Mahdi in the city of Jamkaran. Rather than seeking to reassure the world about Tehran’s peaceful intentions during his 2007 address before the U.N. General Assembly, Ahmadinejad embarked on a wide-eyed discourse about the wonders of the Twelfth Imam: “There will come a time when justice will prevail across the globe … under the rule of the perfect man, the last divine source on earth, the Mahdi.”
Yoaz Hendel, “Iran’s Nukes and Israel’s Dilemma,” Middle East Quarterly, Winter 2012
One night in a ragged, badly lit cafe just off the square, one of the revolution’s “Google kids” — not an actual employee but someone who could plausibly be employed by Google — explained to me how the Mubarak regime manipulated Western opinion. “They wanted you to believe that the only thing stopping the Muslim Brothers from taking over the whole country was them,” he said. “This is how they scared you. Then you gave them guns they used to kill us.” . . .
The big news out of Cairo late this fall was not the Muslim Brotherhood’s triumph in parliamentary elections, even though the Brotherhood-affiliated party took 37 percent of the popular vote. The main news was made by the more extreme Nour Party, which is affiliated with Egypt’s Salafists. The Salafists, who believe that the world should be made over to look as it did during the time of the Prophet Muhammad, took almost 25 percent of the popular vote. In other words, the majority of voters in the Arab world’s most populous country chose either a party whose motto is “Islam is the Solution” or a party that believes that medieval Arabia is an appropriate state model. . . .
This is not to say the West must ignore the Arabs as they sort out the future. The U.S. still has the ability to shape certain outcomes — the intervention in Libya is a case in point — and protect those who need protecting. (The aggrieved Christians of Egypt spring to mind.) And the U.S. should work more assiduously to speed Assad’s downfall in Syria, which would leave America’s main nemesis in the Middle East–Iran–without an Arab friend. The uprisings offer opportunities for the U.S. None is greater than the chance to see the Arab world find its way to freedom, if we only have the patience and fortitude to watch as it detours through fundamentalism.
Jeffrey Goldberg, “Was the Arab Spring a Victory for Extremism?” Bloomberg, December 23, 2011
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has ordered the police and attorney general to take all measures to stop harassment against women – or me, he said at the start of Sunday’s weekly Cabinet meeting.
“There is no place in [Israel] for discrimination. The police will continue to arrest all those who spit, raise their hand, and harass,” he said. . . .
“While we will use all legal means at our disposal, I would like to emphasize that this is not just a legal issue. It is also a social issue,” said the Prime Minister. It is also a question of public and social norms; therefore, I appeal to all public figures and spiritual leaders to act against this phenomenon. The public sphere in Israel will be open and safe for all.”
Separate seating demanded by some hareidi religious communities catapulted the issue of attitudes toward women in Israel into the headlines last week.
The more extreme measure of separate sidewalks in a few religious communities in small neighborhoods in Jerusalem and Beit Shemesh were also undertaken earlier this year.
Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu, “Netanyahu Declares War on Bias against Women,” Israel National News, December 25, 2011
Bedouin and other Arabs in the northern Negev are increasingly involved in predatory relationships with young Jewish girls, according to Voice of Israel government-run radio. The relationships sometimes begin as romantic involvements, often with under-aged minors, and develop into rape, abductions and abuse.
Seven victims last month alone are aged 11-18. These are only cases that were reported to police, but many others are believed to have taken place without being reported. . . .
Voice of Israel’s reporter in southern Israel, Asaf Kuzailov, said that the phenomenon is on the rise and is a well known one – to residents, to police and welfare authorities. It is confirmed by the Center for Assistance to Women in the Negev.
Regarding the abductions, Voice of Israel interviewed Zehava Drori of NGO Yad L’Achim’s Anti-Assimilation department, who said that while Arab abductions of Jewish girls occur throughout Israel, the cases in southern Israel are typified by greater violence. While the victims in other parts of Israel are usually 16 or older, the ages of the victims in the south are often lower.
Police say that they can only get involved in cases where a specific complaint has been filed, and where there is evidence of abduction and abuse. Police and welfare elements note that the cases do not necessarily start as kidnappings. Often the relationships are consensual at first, with the Arabs plying the girls with money, gifts, attention and warmth that they lack at home. In other cases, the contention is that the girls who were taken to the Arab villages later returned home, and so the men cannot be charged with abduction.
“Police Admit Bedouin Abuse, Abduct Young Jewish Girls,” Israel National News, December 26, 2011
A Sudanese general linked to genocide in Darfur is leading an Arab League team to Syria to monitor the regime’s compliance with a promise to end its violent crackdown on anti-government protesters.
Gen. Mohamed Ahmad al-Dabi served as Sudan’s military intelligence chief, and President Omar Bashir appointed him as his representative in the western province of Darfur in the late 1990s.
In Darfur, Gen. al-Dabi recruited and armed Arab militias and set the building blocks for the mass killing of black Africans, said Omer Ismail, a Sudan analyst with the Enough Project, an anti-genocide group.
“He was one of the architects of the genocide in Darfur. Instead of going to Syria, he should be investigated by the ICC and held accountable for his deeds,” he added.
Ashish Kumar Sen, “Sudanese general linked to genocide monitoring Syrian violence,” Washington Times, December 28, 2011
Women in Saudi Arabia will not need a male guardian’s approval to run or vote in municipal elections in 2015, when women will also run for office for the first time, a Saudi official said Wednesday. . . .
The change signifies a step forward in easing the kingdom’s restrictions against women, but it falls far short of what some Saudi reformers are calling for.
Despite the historic decision by the king to allow women the right to participate in the country’s only open elections, male guardian laws in Saudi Arabia remain largely unchanged. Women cannot travel, work, study abroad, marry, get divorced or gain admittance to a public hospital without permission from a male guardian.
Abdullah al-Shihri and Aya Batrawy, “Saudi women to run, vote without male approval,” Associated Press, December 28, 2011
A brawl has erupted between rival clergymen participating in an annual cleaning ritual at the church built at Jesus’s traditional birthplace.
Armenian Orthodox and Greek Orthodox clergymen screamed at each other and beat each other with broomsticks while cleaning up inside the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.
The two denominations each control sections of the church and violence broke out when they accused each other of crossing into each other’s territory.
Palestinian security forces broke up the melee.
“Clergymen clash at birthplace of Jesus,” Skynews, December 29, 2011
The Washington Post is right to note that Iran’s threats to close the Strait of Hormuz in retaliation for possible new sanctions on its oil exports are in all probability empty posturing. Iran, after all, needs to send its own oil exports (for example to China) through the Strait. Closing it would hurt Tehran above all, while the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and other Gulf states could reroute some of their exports via pipelines.
There is also the fact that Iranian military action is unlikely to succeed–it would meet a devastating response from the U.S. Fifth Fleet and potentially from the armed forces of the Gulf Cooperation Council. In fact, the last time Iran tried this trick–that would be in the 1980s–it lost a “tanker war” against the United States. Tehran has certainly developed some fresh capabilities since, especially in terms of mines, cruise missiles, and speed boats–including probably suicide boats. All of that would make Iran a serious nuisance and might allow the Iranians to close the Strait temporarily. But there is little doubt that the Iranians ultimately would come out on the losing end of any ensuing conflict. Moreover, by initiating military action, they would provide the U.S. just the excuse we need to bomb Iran’s nuclear installations.
Max Boot, “Iran Would Lose if They Close Hormuz,” Commentary, December 29, 2011
Al Qaeda’s leadership has sent experienced jihadists to Libya in an effort to build a fighting force there, according to a Libyan source briefed by Western counter-terrorism officials. . . .
Nic Robertson and Paul Cruickshank, “Source: Al Qaeda leader sends veteran jihadists to establish presence in Libya,” CNN, December 30, 2011