Aux peuples d’Autriche-Hongrie, dont nous désirons voir sauvegarder et assurer la place parmi les nations, devra être accordée au plus tôt la possibilité d’un développement autonome. (…) La Roumanie, la Serbie et le Monténégro devraient être évacués ; les territoires occupés devraient être restitués ; à la Serbie devrait être assuré un accès à la mer libre et sûr; les relations des états Balkans entre eux devraient être déterminés par une entente amicale le long de lignes historiquement établies d’allégeance et de nationalité; des garanties internationales quant à l’indépendance politique et économique, et l’intégrité territoriale des États des Balkans devrait également être introduites. Aux régions turques de l’Empire ottoman actuel devraient être assurées la souveraineté et la sécurité ; mais aux autres nations qui sont maintenant sous la domination turque on devrait garantir une sécurité absolue de vie et la pleine possibilité de se développer d’une façon autonome ; quant aux Dardanelles, elles devraient rester ouvertes en permanence, afin de permettre le libre passage aux vaisseaux et au commerce de toutes les nations, sous garantie internationale. Un État polonais indépendant devrait être créé, qui inclurait les territoires habités par des populations indiscutablement polonaises, auxquelles on devrait assurer un libre accès à la mer, et dont l’indépendance politique et économique ainsi que l’intégrité territoriale devraient être garanties par un accord international. Une association générale des nations doit être constituée sous des alliances spécifiques ayant pour objet d’offrir des garanties mutuelles d’indépendance politique et d’intégrité territoriale aux petits comme aux grands États. Woodrow Wilson (Quatorze points, 18 janvier 1918)
Le traité de Saint-Germain-en-Laye, parfois appelé traité de Saint-Germain, signé le 10 septembre 1919 au château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye, établit la paix entre les alliés et l’Autriche, et consacre l’effondrement de la monarchie austro-hongroise : l’ancien Empire des Habsbourg est démantelé et remplacé par une demi-douzaine d’États successeurs selon le principe, posé dans le 9e des 14 points du président américain Woodrow Wilson, du « droit des peuples à disposer d’eux-mêmes ». (…) Il est fait droit à l’aspiration des Polonais d’intégrer la Galicie dans l’État polonais, restauré dans son existence et dans ses droits, et à l’aspiration des Roumains d’intégrer la Bucovine dans l’État roumain agrandi des provinces à majorité roumanophone de l’ancienne Autriche-Hongrie et de l’ancien Empire russe. La revendication des Tchèques et des Slovaques en vue de se doter d’un pays commun est reconnue et officialise l’existence de la Tchécoslovaquie. Les Allemands des Sudètes, population germanophone majoritaire à la frontière allemande, se retrouvent avec le statut de minorité linguistique au sein du nouveau pays. La revendication des Slovènes, des Croates et des Serbes d’Autriche-Hongrie de se doter d’un pays commun englobant également la Serbie et le Monténégro, est reconnue et officialise l’existence du (nouveau) Royaume des Serbes, Croates et Slovènes. Quelques zones germanophones de la Basse-Styrie ainsi que la vallée de Mieß en Carinthie font partie de ce nouvel État. Dans le Haut-Adige, outre 90 000 Italiens, 200 000 Allemands sont intégrés malgré eux à l’Italie, la délégation italienne ayant fait valoir que la ligne de partage des eaux sur le col du Brenner est une frontière naturelle de l’Italie1. L’Italie annexe également Trieste, l’Istrie et des parties de la Dalmatie (que revendiquaient également les Slovènes, les Croates et les Serbes). Wikipedia
L’argument fondamental que les Arabes utilisent contre Israël est que la seule raison de sa création aurait été d’apaiser la mauvaise conscience des Européens après la Shoah. Selon leurs dires, les Juifs n’auraient aucun droit sur la Terre d’Israël du point de vue légal, historique et moral. Or, cet argument est complètement faux ». (…) « La communauté internationale a reconnu les droits légaux, historiques et moraux du peuple juif sur la Terre d’Israël bien avant que quiconque ait jamais entendu parler d’Adolf Hitler. En 1922, la Société des Nations avait mandaté la « reconstitution » – et non la création – du foyer national juif sur la Terre d’Israël dans ses frontières historiques sur les deux rives du Jourdain. Caroline Glick
There is no such country as Palestine. ‘Palestine’ is a country the Zionists invented. ‘Palestine’ is alien to us. Auni Abdel Hadi (Arab Higher Committee Secretary, 1937)
It is perfectly clear that the Arab nations do not want to solve the Arab refugee problem. They want to keep it an open sore, as an affront against the United Nations, and as a weapon against Israel. Arab leaders don’t give a damn whether the refugees live or die. Alexander Galloway (UNRWA, 1952)
Le peuple palestinien n’existe pas. La création d’un État palestinien n’est qu’un moyen pour continuer la lutte contre l’Etat d’Israël afin de créer l’unité arabe. En réalité, aujourd’hui, il n’y a aucune différence entre les Jordaniens, les Palestiniens, les Syriens et les Libanais. C’est uniquement pour des raisons politiques et tactiques, que nous parlons aujourd’hui de l’existence d’un peuple palestinien, étant donné que les intérêts arabes demandent que nous établissions l’existence d’un peuple palestinien distinct, afin d’opposer le sionisme. Pour des raisons tactiques, la Jordanie qui est un Etat souverain avec des frontières bien définies, ne peut pas présenter de demande sur Haifa et Jaffa, tandis qu’en tant que palestinien, je peux sans aucun doute réclamer Haifa, Jaffa, Beersheba et Jérusalem. Toutefois, le moment où nous réclamerons notre droit sur l’ensemble de la Palestine, nous n’attendrons pas même une minute pour unir la Palestine à la Jordanie. Zahir Muhsein (membre du comité exécutif du PLO, 1977)
C’est la « Transjordanie » (créée en 1922 par l’empire britannique) qui a occupé et annexé les territoires de Judée et Samarie et Jérusalem-Est lors d’une guerre de conquête en 1947-1948. Elle devint alors la « Jordanie » et les territoires occupés, la « Cisjordanie ». Aucun mouvement de libération palestinien ne se leva contre cette occupation, ni contre celle de la bande de Gaza par l’Egypte. La « Palestine » n’était pas encore née. (…) L’existence d’Israël pose le problème du droit de vivre en sujets libre et souverains des nations non musulmanes dans l’aire musulmane. L’extermination des Arméniens, d’abord par l’empire ottoman, puis par le nouvel Etat turc a représenté la première répression d’une population dhimmie en quête d’indépendance nationale. Il n’y a quasiment plus de Juifs aujourd’hui dans le monde arabo-islamique et les chrétiens y sont en voie de disparition. Shmuel Trigano
L’État d’Israël est né du même processus légitime qui a créé les autres nouveaux états de la région, conséquence du démantèlement de l’Empire ottoman après la Première Guerre mondiale. Conformément à la pratique traditionnelle des états victorieux, les puissances alliées, la France et l’Angleterre, ont créé le Liban, la Syrie, l’Irak et la Jordanie, et bien sûr Israël, pour consolider et protéger leurs intérêts nationaux. Ce droit légitime de réécrire la carte a peut-être été mal fait et à courte vue – des régions contenant de nombreuses sectes et groupes ethniques différents étaient de mauvais candidats pour devenir un État-nation, comme le prouve l’histoire de l’Irak et du Liban, alors que des candidats de premier plan pour le statut de nation comme les Kurdes ont été laissés de côté. Mais le droit de le faire a été conféré par la victoire des Alliés et la perte des Puissances centrales, le salaire vieux comme le monde du péché de ceux qui ont le malheur de déclencher une guerre et de la perdre. De même en Europe, l’Empire austro-hongrois a été démantelé et les nouveaux états de l’Autriche, de la Hongrie, de la Yougoslavie et de la Tchécoslovaquie ont été créés. Et l’Allemagne en tant qu’archi-agresseur a été punie par une perte substantielle de territoire, privant au passage quelque 10 millions d’Allemands de leur place légitime dans la patrie. Le titre de propriété d’Israël sur son propre pays est tout aussi légitime que celui de la Jordanie, de la Syrie et du Liban. Bruce Thornton
Les mythes et mensonges sur la Palestine ont décidément la vie dure !
Création illégitime, déplacement forcé des « Palestiniens », « peuple palestinien » …
A l’heure où, en cette nouvelle Pâque(s), un groupe du Hamas semble avoir investi le Mont du Temple en empêchant l’entrée aux visiteurs …
Et où, paralysés par l’impérialisme russe et du secrétaire d’Etat Kerry au New York Times, tout le monde semble s’être donné le mot pour attribuer au seul gouvernement israélien l’évident refus de toute négociation sérieuse de la part de la prétendue Autorité palestinienne …
Pendant qu’entre deux guerres ou attaques terroristes, un petit Etat soumis à la vindicte planétaire et au boycott est en passe de rattraper en PIB per capita nombre de vieux pays européens comme la France …
Remise des pendules à l’heure de l’éditorialiste américain Bruce Thornton …
Rappelant notamment derrière l’ensemble des mythes et mensonges sur lesquels se fondent nombre de ces analyses anti-israéliennes …
Qu’à l’instar de la plupart des états de la région voire d’Europe, Israël n’est que le produit du démembrement de l’Empire ottoman et donc pas moins légitime que nombre d’états européens eux-mêmes produits de l’effondrement d’un autre empire, celui justement de leurs alliés et partenaires austro-hongrois du camp des vaincus …
Que, contrairement aux centaines de milliers de juifs expulsés des pays arabes, les prétendus « réfugiés » palestiniens sont pour une bonne part partis de leur plein gré …
Israel’s Worst Enemy: Lies and Myths
Bruce S. Thornton
April 8, 2014
The Washington Post reports that some members of Secretary of State John Kerry’s senior staff think it’s time to say “enough” of Kerry’s futile and delusional attempts to broker peace between the Israelis and Arabs and implement the “two-state solution.” That’s a revelation one would think the chief diplomat of the greatest power in history would have experienced decades ago. Since the failed 1993 Oslo Accords, it has been obvious to all except the duplicitous, the ignorant, and the Jew-hater that the Arabs do not want a “Palestinian state living in peace side-by-side with Israel,” something they could have had many times in the past. On the contrary, as they serially prove in word and deed, they want Israel destroyed.
As Caroline Glick documents in her new book The Israeli Solution, the “two-state solution” is a diplomatic chimera for the West, and a tactic for revanchist Arabs who cannot achieve their eliminationist aims by military means. But the “Palestinian state” is merely one of many myths, half-truths, and outright lies that befuddle Western diplomats and leaders, and put the security and possibly the existence of Israel at risk.
First there is the canard that Israel is somehow an illegitimate state, a neo-imperialist outpost that Westerners created to protect their economic and geopolitical interests. In this popular myth, invading Jewish colonists “stole” the land and ethnically cleansed the region of its true possessors, the indigenous “Palestinian people.” This crime was repeated after 1967 Six Day War, when Israel seized the “West Bank,” occupying it as a colonial power and subjecting its inhabitants to a brutally discriminatory regime. The continuing power of this lie can be seen in the frequent comparison of Israel to apartheid South Africa. And this false historical analogy in turn drives the “Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions” movement, which is attempting to make Israel even more of a pariah state in order to duplicate the success of those tactics in dismantling white rule in South Africa.
Every dimension of this narrative is false. The state of Israel came into being by the same legitimate process that created the other new states in the region, the consequence of the dismantling of the Ottoman Empire after World War I. Consistent with the traditional practice of victorious states, the Allied powers France and England created Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Jordan, and of course Israel, to consolidate and protect their national interests. This legitimate right to rewrite the map may have been badly done and shortsighted––regions containing many different sects and ethnic groups were bad candidates for becoming a nation-state, as the history of Iraq and Lebanon proves, while prime candidates for nationhood like the Kurds were left out. But the right to do so was bestowed by the Allied victory and the Central Powers’ loss, the time-honored wages of starting a war and losing it. Likewise in Europe, the Austro-Hungarian Empire was dismantled, and the new states of Austria, Hungary, Yugoslavia, and Czechoslovakia were created. And arch-aggressor Germany was punished with a substantial loss of territory, leaving some 10 million Germans stranded outside the fatherland. Israel’s title to its country is as legitimate as Jordan’s, Syria’s and Lebanon’s.
Then there is the melodrama of the “displacement” of the “Palestinians,” who have been condemned to live as stateless “refugees” because of Israel’s aggression. This narrative of course ignores the fact that most of the Arabs fleeing Palestine left voluntarily, the first wave, mainly the Arab elite, beginning in November 1947 with the U.N. vote for partition. At the time it was clear to observers that most of the Arabs chose to flee their supposed ancestral homeland. In September 1948 Time magazine, no friend of Israel, wrote, “There is but little doubt that the most potent of the factors [explaining the Arab flight] were the announcements made over the air by the Arab Higher Committee urging the Arabs to quit.” These were followed in 1948 by 300,000 others, who either were avoiding the conflict, or were induced by the Arab Higher Committee with the promise that after victory they could return and find, as Arab League Secretary-General Azza Pasham said in May 1948, “that all the millions the Jews had spent on land and economic development would be easy booty, for it would be a simple matter to throw Jews into the Mediterranean.” Indeed, the withdrawal of Israelis from Gaza in 2005 confirmed the prediction that failed in 1948. The Gaza greenhouse industry, which American Jewish donors purchased for $14 million and gave to the Palestinian Authority in order to help Gaza’s economy, was instead destroyed by looters.
But from a historical perspective, it is irrelevant how the Arabs became refugees. When in 1922 the Greeks lost their war they fought against the Turks in order to regain their sovereignty over lands their ancestors had lived in for nearly 3000 years, 1.5 million Greeks were transferred out of Turkey in exchange for half a million Turks from Europe. After World War II, 12 million Germans either fled or were driven from Eastern Europe, with at least half a million dying. In both cases, whether justly or not, the wages of starting a war and losing included the displacement of the losers. Yet only in the case of the Palestinian Arabs has this perennial cost of aggression been reversed, and those who prevailed in a war they didn’t start been demonized for the suffering of refugees created by the aggression of their ethnic and religious fellows.
In still another historical anomaly, in no other conflict have refugees failed to be integrated into countries with which they share an ethnic, religious, and cultural identity. Most of the some 800,000 Jews, for example, driven from lands like Egypt and Iraq in which their ancestors had lived for centuries, were welcomed into Israel, which footed the bill for their maintenance and integration into society. The Arab states, on the other hand, kept their brother Arabs and Muslims in squalid camps that have evolved into squalid cities, their keep paid for by the United Nations Relief Works Agency, the only U.N. agency dedicated to only one group of refugees. Thus the international community has enabled the revanchist policy of the Arab states, as Alexander Galloway, head of the UNRWA, said in 1952: “It is perfectly clear that the Arab nations do not want to solve the Arab refugee problem. They want to keep it an open sore, as an affront against the United Nations, and as a weapon against Israel. Arab leaders don’t give a damn whether the refugees live or die.”
This brings us to the chief myth: that there exists a distinct Palestinian “people,” the original possessors of the land who have been unjustly denied a national homeland. In the quotes above notice that no Arab ever refers to these people as “Palestinians,” but as “Arabs,” which is what most of them are, sharing the same religion, language, and culture of their Arab neighbors in Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria. In fact, as Sha’i ben-Tekoa documents in hisbook Phantom Nation, the first U.N. resolution referencing “Palestinians” instead of “Arabs” occurred 3 years after the Six Day War, marking international recognition of a “Palestinian people” and nation as yet another Arab tactic in gaining support in the West by exploiting an idea alien to traditional Islam. Before then “Palestinian” was a geographical designation, more typically applied to Jews. Numerous quotations from Arab leaders reveal not a single reference to a Palestinian people, but numerous one identifying the inhabitants of the geographical entity Palestine as “Arabs.”
For example, in 1937, Arab Higher Committee Secretary Auni Abdel Hadi said, “There is no such country as Palestine. ‘Palestine’ is a country the Zionists invented. ‘Palestine’ is alien to us.” The Christian Arab George Antonius, author of the influential The Arab Awakening, told David Ben-Gurion, “There was no natural barrier between Palestine and Syria and there was no difference between their inhabitants.” Later in his book he defined Syria as including Lebanon, Palestine, and Jordan. In testimony to the U.N. in 1947, the Arab Higher Committee said, “Politically the Arabs of Palestine are not independent in the sense of forming a separate political identity.” Thirty years later Farouk Kaddoumi, then head of the PLO Political Department, toldNewsweek, “Jordanians and Palestinians are considered by the PLO as one people.” After the Six-Day War a member of the Executive Council of the PLO, Zouhair Muhsin, was even more explicit: “There are no differences between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese. We are all part of one nation. It is only for political reasons that we carefully underline our Palestinian identity… Yes, the existence of a separate Palestinian identity serves only tactical purposes. The founding of a Palestinian state is a new tool in the continuing battle against Israel.”
Such examples can be multiplied, which makes all the talk of a separate Palestinian “people” deserving of their own nation nothing but propaganda supported by a bogus history that claims the Arabs who came to Palestine in the 7th century A.D as conquerors and occupiers, or later as migrant workers and immigrants, are the “indigenous” inhabitants descended from Biblical peoples like the Canaanites or the shadowy Jebusites––a claim unsupported by any written or archaeological evidence. Meanwhile, of course, abundant evidence exists showing that the Jews have continuously inhabited the region since 1300 B.C. Once more the logic of history is turned on its head, with the descendants of the original inhabitants deemed alien invaders, while the descendants of conquerors and occupiers are sanctified as victims.
Such an inversion is worthy of Orwell’s 1984. Yet these lies and myths––and there are many more–– have shaped and defined the conflict between Israel and the Arabs, and set the parameters of diplomatic solutions. But we should heed the Biblical injunction about the liberating power of truth. And the truth is, for a century fanatics filled with genocidal hatred have violently and viciously attacked a liberal-democratic nation legitimately established in the ancient homeland of its people. Until our diplomacy and foreign relations in the region are predicated on this truth, the “two-state solution” will continue to be a dangerous farce.
No, Israel Isn’t About to Turn Into a Theocracy
A misleading New York Times op-ed distorts the entire Israeli political scene
April 11, 2014
Today, the New York Times published an op-ed that attempts to demonstrate that Israel is drifting towards an Orthodox Jewish theocracy. Unfortunately for the paper, the piece instead demonstrates its authors’ profound ignorance of both Israeli domestic politics and Orthodox Judaism. The entire argument of the op-ed, written by the otherwise excellent Iranian scholar Abbas Milani and University of Haifa’s Israel Waismel-Manor, hinges on one key point:
While the Orthodox Jewish parties are currently not part of the government, together with Mr. Bennett’s Jewish Home, a right-wing religious party, they hold about 25 percent of seats in the Knesset. The Orthodox parties aspire to transform Israel into a theocracy.
As will be apparent to anyone with a passing familiarity with Israeli politics or Orthodox Judaism, this claim is demonstrably false. Not all Orthodox Jews are the same, not all Orthodox parties are the same, and not all Orthodox Jews seeks to turn Israel into a theocracy. In fact, many of them vigorously oppose such a move. The authors conveniently combine the ultra-Orthodox parties (currently in opposition) and the Modern Orthodox—or religious Zionist—Jewish Home party (currently in the coalition). Suggesting that these deeply disparate communities are ideologically identical is a dubious step , but it is necessary for the authors’ thesis, because Jewish Home holds 12 Knesset seats, a little less than half of the writers’ purported theocratic bloc. Without Jewish Home working with the ultra-Orthodox to impose Orthodox Jewish law on the masses, the op-ed’s entire scheme falls apart.
How inconvenient, then, that Jewish Home and its leader Naftali Bennett have been working assiduously to weaken the country’s chief rabbinate, and to break the political stranglehold of the ultra-Orthodox over Israel’s religious life. Back in May 2013, Bennett became the first religious affairs minister in Israeli history to order the government to fund non-Orthodox rabbis, not just Orthodox ones. (Until then, Israel had been subsidizing all religious communities except non-Orthodox Jews.) Jewish Home has also backed legislation stripping the powers of conversion and marriage from the ultra-Orthodox chief rabbinate, and giving them instead to local (and typically more liberal) rabbis.
These developments should not be surprising: Bennett is a Modern Orthodox Jew who served in the IDF’s elite Sayeret Matkal unit, made millions in the tech industry, and is married to a non-Orthodox woman. His longtime deputy, and the Jewish Home’s number five seat, is Ayelet Shaked , herself a proud secular Jew. Not exactly the stereotypical bearded fanatics of a theocratic revolution.
But the Times‘s distortion of Israel goes deeper than a simple misunderstanding of a single party. The op-ed fundamentally misapprehends the entire Israeli political scene, which in recent years has turned against religious entanglement in politics. After the 2013 elections, the arguably theocratic ultra-Orthodox parties were kept out of the government coalition, for only the second time in 35 years. Why? Because Jewish Home joined with the secular Yesh Atid party and demanded Netanyahu leave them in opposition. This has enabled the current coalition to pass not only the anti-rabbinate reforms described above, but a law that for the first time drafts the ultra-Orthodox into national service, in an attempt to integrate them into the fabric of the modern state. All of these reforms have been boosted by Modern Orthodox Jewish lawmakers in other parties–like Yesh Atid’s Rabbi Shai Piron (also Israel’s education minister) and Rabbi Dov Lipman , and Hatnua’s Elazar Stern –none of whom support theocracy.
In other words, the idea that the ultra-Orthodox parties would suddenly join forces with their religious Zionist counterparts to impose Jewish law isn’t just risible–it’s exactly the opposite of what has actually been happening.
Now, none of this is news. In fact, the alliance between Israel’s secular population and its modern Orthodox contingent against the ultra-Orthodox–rather than some fantastical pan-Orthodox push towards theocracy–has been well-documented by none other than the New York Times. Just last month, Isabel Kershner wrote about the “culture war between the secular and modern Orthodox Jews and the ultra-Orthodox,” and how it was reflected in the popular push to conscript ultra-Orthodox Jews into the military.
If only the authors of the op-ed–and their fact-checkers–had been reading their own paper.
ABbbas Milani and Israel Waismel-Manor
The New York Times
April 11, 2014
STANFORD, Calif. — Although the Israeli and Iranian governments have been virtually at war with each other for decades, the two countries have much in common.
Both are home to some of the oldest civilizations on earth, and both are primarily non-Arab states in a mostly Arab region. In the 1950s, David Ben-Gurion’s Israel and Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi’s Iran were bastions of secular nationalism; the shah pushed authoritarian modernization, while Ben-Gurion advanced a form of nonreligious Zionism. Only after the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran did radical Islam all but eclipse this secular brand of politics. It held on for much longer in Israel but is now under threat.
Both Iran and Israel are now entering potentially challenging new stages in their relations with the outside world, and particularly with the United States. Over the last seven years, United Nations Security Council resolutions have imposed sanctions on Iran with the aim of halting its nuclear program. For years, Iran’s former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad railed against the “Great Satan.” But even if Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is still opposed to reforms, it appears that some officials inside Iran have finally realized that continued intransigence and bellicosity will beget only more sanctions and catastrophic economic consequences.
As the winds of change blow across Iran, secular democrats in Israel have been losing ground to religious and right-wing extremists who feel comfortable openly attacking the United States, Israel’s strongest ally. In recent months, Israel’s defense minister, Moshe Yaalon, called Secretary of State John Kerry “obsessive and messianic,” while Naftali Bennett, Israel’s economy minister, labeled Mr. Kerry a “mouthpiece” for anti-Semitic elements attempting to boycott Israel.
Israel’s secular democrats are growing increasingly worried that Israel’s future may bear an uncomfortable resemblance to Iran’s recent past.
For more than three decades, Iran’s oil wealth has allowed its religious leaders to stay in power. But sanctions have taken a serious economic toll, with devastating effects on the Iranian people. The public, tired of Mr. Ahmadinejad’s bombastic and costly rhetoric, has replaced him with Hassan Rouhani, a pragmatist who has promised to fix the economy and restore relations with the West.
But Mr. Rouhani’s rise is in reality the consequence of a critical cultural and demographic shift in Iran — away from theocracy and confrontation, and toward moderation and pragmatism. Recent tensions between America and Russia have emboldened some of Iran’s radicals, but the government on the whole seems still intent on continuing the nuclear negotiations with the West.
Iran is a land of many paradoxes. The ruling elite is disproportionately made up of aged clerics — all men — while 64 percent of the country’s science and engineering degrees are held by women. In spite of the government’s concentrated efforts to create what some have called gender apartheid in Iran, more and more women are asserting themselves in fields from cinema to publishing to entrepreneurship.
Many prominent intellectuals and artists who three decades ago advocated some form of religious government in Iran are today arguing for popular sovereignty and openly challenging the antiquated arguments of regime stalwarts who claim that concepts of human rights and religious tolerance are Western concoctions and inimical to Islam. More than 60 percent of Iranians are under age 30, and they overwhelmingly believe in individual liberty. It’s no wonder that last month Ayatollah Khamenei told the clerical leadership that what worried him most was a non-Islamic “cultural invasion” of the country.
As moderate Iranians and some of the country’s leaders cautiously shift toward pragmatism and the West, it seems that many Israelis are moving away from these attitudes. In its 66 years, Israel has seen its share of ideological shifts from dovish to hawkish. These were natural fluctuations driven mainly by the country’s security situation and prospects for peace.
But the current shift is being accelerated by religion and demography, and is therefore qualitatively different. While the Orthodox Jewish parties are currently not part of the government, together with Mr. Bennett’s Jewish Home, a right-wing religious party, they hold about 25 percent of seats in the Knesset. The Orthodox parties aspire to transform Israel into a theocracy. And with an average birthrate of 6.5 children per family among Orthodox Jews (compared with 2.6 for the rest of the Jewish population), their dream might not be too far away.
By contrast, Iran has a falling birthrate — a clear indication of growing secularism, and the sort of thing that keeps Ayatollah Khamenei awake at night.
The long-term power of these demographic trends will, in our view, override Iran’s current theocratic intransigence and might eclipse any fleeting victories for liberalism in Israel.
Israel’s shift toward orthodoxy is not merely a religious one. Since the vast majority of Orthodox Jews are also against any agreement with the Palestinians, with each passing day, the chances of reaching a peace deal diminish. Nor is time on the side of those who want to keep seeing a democratic Israel.
If Israel continues the expansion of settlements, and peace talks serve no purpose but the extension of the status quo, the real existential threat to Israel will not be Iran’s nuclear program but rather a surging tide of economic sanctions.
What began a few years ago with individual efforts to get supermarket shoppers in Western countries to boycott Israeli oranges and hummus has turned into an orchestrated international campaign, calling for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israeli companies and institutions.
From academic boycotts to calls for divestment on American university campuses to the unwillingness of more and more European financial institutions to invest in or partner with Israeli companies and banks that operate in the West Bank, the “B.D.S.” movement is gaining momentum. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has recently called B.D.S. advocates “classical anti-Semites in modern garb.”
In the past, Israel could rely on Western nations and especially the United States to halt such initiatives, but as the fabric of Israel’s population changes, and Jewish populations in the West become less religious and less uncritically pro-Israel, the reflex to stand by the Jewish state, regardless of its policies, is weakening.
Moreover, as Western countries shift toward greater respect for human rights, the occupation is perceived as a violation of Western liberal norms. A new generation of American Jews sees a fundamental tension between their own liberal values and many Israeli policies.
This, coupled with the passing of the older generation and a high rate of interfaith marriage among American Jews, means the pro-Israel lobby will no longer be as large or as united as it used to be. While American presidents from Lyndon B. Johnson to Barack Obama have declared that the United States’ commitment to Israel flows from strategic interests and shared values, in a generation or two, interests may be all that’s left.
An opposite shift is occurring in Iran’s diaspora. An estimated five to seven million Iranians live in exile. Their economic, scientific, scholarly and cultural achievements are now well known in the United States thanks to people like the eBay founder Pierre Omidyar. They are increasingly establishing themselves as a powerful force advocating a more democratic Iran and better relations with the United States. Just as a united Jewish diaspora once helped the new state of Israel join the ranks of prosperous, industrialized states, Iran’s diaspora could one day play a similar role for a post-theocratic Iran.
One of Israel’s most popular singers, the Iranian-born Rita Jahanforuz, laments on her recent album, “In this world, I am alone and abandoned, like wild grass in the middle of the desert.”
If Iran’s moderates fail to push the country toward reform, and if secular Israelis can’t halt the country’s drift from democracy to theocracy, both Iranians and Israelis will increasingly find themselves fulfilling her sad prophecy.
Abbas Milani heads the Iranian studies program at Stanford and is co-director of the Iran Democracy Project at the Hoover Institution. Israel Waismel-Manor is a senior lecturer at the University of Haifa and a visiting associate professor of political science at Stanford.
March 12, 2014
Ultra-Orthodox Israelis protest plans to include their community in the military draft, arguing that the study of the Torah is as important to defending Israel as carrying a weapon in the Army.
JERUSALEM — After years of heated public debate and political wrangling, Israel’s Parliament on Wednesday approved landmark legislation that will eventually eliminate exemptions from compulsory military service for many ultra-Orthodox students enrolled in seminaries.
The issue has become a social and political lightning rod in a country where most Jewish 18-year-olds are subjected to compulsory military service for up to three years. Many Israelis, who see conscription as part of a deeper culture war between the secular and modern Orthodox Jews and the ultra-Orthodox, have been demanding a more equitable sharing of the responsibilities of citizenship and voted in last year’s elections on that basis.
Yair Lapid, the leader of the centrist Yesh Atid, one of the parties that promoted the new legislation in the governing coalition, wrote on his Facebook page soon after the vote, “To the 543,458 citizens of Israel who elected Yesh Atid: Today you have passed the equal sharing of the burden.”
On March 2, hundreds of thousands of ultra-Orthodox brought much of Jerusalem to a standstill with a mass prayer gathering to protest the legislation. Credit Oded Balilty/Associated Press
But the law, approved by 65-to-1, is unlikely to allay the acrimony over ultra-Orthodox recruitment and might even exacerbate tensions. The opposition in the 120-seat Parliament, the Knesset, boycotted the vote in an uproar over what it has called unfair political dealing within the coalition as it moved to pass military service legislation and two other contentious bills this week.
Ultra-Orthodox leaders have reacted with fury and are threatening to roll back the slow, voluntary trend that was already underway in their community toward military and national service. And nongovernmental monitoring groups immediately petitioned Israel’s Supreme Court, seeking to overturn the new law on grounds that it does not go far enough in enforcing the principle of equality.
For one thing, the law includes an adjustment period of three years in which increased service will be encouraged but not mandatory. It also gives the ultra-Orthodox, known as Haredim, or those who fear God, a choice between military service and civilian national service, unlike ordinary recruits, and it allows students at seminaries, or yeshivas, to defer service for several years beyond the age of 18.
“The whole idea that the law promotes equality is not really convincing,” said Prof. Mordechai Kremnitzer, vice president of research at the Israel Democracy Institute, an independent research organization here, and former dean of the law faculty at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
By the end of the three-year period, Professor Kremnitzer said, there will be new elections and a new government, possibly including Haredi parties, “and the whole law would become thin air.” Given the delay, he said, “It is questionable whether the Knesset accomplished anything.”
Although the law stops far short of enforcing conscription for all Haredi young men, ultra-Orthodox leaders are outraged over its more symbolic aspects. They argue that Torah study should be a priority in Israel, a country that defines itself as the Jewish state, and that the yeshiva students perform a spiritual duty that is crucial for protecting the country. On March 2 hundreds of thousands of ultra-Orthodox paralyzed much of Jerusalem with a mass prayer gathering to protest the legislation. Tens of thousands of Haredim held a similar gathering in Lower Manhattan on Sunday.
Moshe Gafni of the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party, said, “Today Israel lost the right to be called a Jewish state,” according to the Ynet Hebrew news site. He said the Haredim “will not forget or forgive” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his associates for what he called the affront to the Haredi public and to Torah study.
Until a year ago Mr. Netanyahu and the Haredi parties were political allies. Those parties are not in the current coalition after years of having wielded disproportionate political power as coalition linchpins.
In the streets and at the ballot box, mainstream Israelis have displayed growing resentment over benefits granted for decades to members of the ultra-Orthodox community who chose full-time Torah study. Many Israelis view the enlistment of the ultra-Orthodox minority and its integration into the work force as crucial for the country’s economy and viability. The ultra-Orthodox sector now makes up about 10 percent of the population of 8 million, but favoring large families, it is expanding rapidly.
The law sets modest annual quotas for the drafting of yeshiva students for military or national service and holds open the threat of criminal penalties against those who evade the draft if the quotas are not met voluntarily by mid-2017 — an unlikely possibility that has nonetheless enraged ultra-Orthodox opponents.
The roots of the tensions date to the founding of the state of Israel in 1948. David Ben-Gurion, the first prime minister, granted full-time yeshiva students state financing and exemption from army service to refill the ranks of Torah scholarship decimated in the Holocaust. At the time 400 students were of draftable age. Today there are tens of thousands.
In 2012, Israel’s Supreme Court invalidated a law that formalized exemptions for yeshiva students, ruling that it contradicted the principle of equality. The new legislation will face a similar test, though the court deliberations could proceed for at least a year.
Israel’s parliamentary opposition, led by Isaac Herzog, leader of the Labor Party, was not uniformly against the new law. But the opposition took the unusual measure of boycotting the discussions in the full assembly and the votes on this and two other bills. Opposition members argued that democratic debate had been stifled because the coalition parties made a pact that all their members would vote for all three pieces of legislation. On their own, none of the bills would have garnered a majority.
One of the bills, which passed into law on Tuesday, raises the electoral threshold for political parties from two percent to 3.25 percent — a move that could harm the electoral chances of small parties, including those that represent the politically fragmented Arab minority. Another bill, which passed later Thursday, calls for a national referendum on any withdrawal from sovereign Israeli territory as part of a future peace treaty with Israel’s Arab neighbors.
The President’s Foreign Policy Paradox
Walter Russell Mead
Updated March 28, 2014
More than five years into his presidency, Barack Obama still wrestles with the foreign-policy contradiction that has dogged his administration from the beginning: The president has extremely ambitious goals but is unusually parsimonious when it comes to engagement.
Commendably, President Obama is not satisfied with the global status quo and wants a world fundamentally different than the one we live in. He wants a world in which poverty is on the wane, international law is respected, and the U.S., if it must lead, can do so on the cheap, and from behind.
To get to this world, Mr. Obama wants nuclear proliferation stopped, new arms-control agreements ratified, and the eventual abolition of nuclear weapons. He wants a tough global climate treaty that will keep carbon emissions at levels low enough to prevent further global warming. He wants the Arab-Israeli dispute settled and a new relationship with Iran. He wants terrorism to be contained and Afghanistan to be stable when the Americans leave. He wants to reassert U.S. power in the Pacific, and to see China accept the territorial status quo. He wants democracy advanced, human rights protected, poverty reduced, women empowered, and lesbians and gays treated better world-wide.
This is a transformative agenda that would resonate with visionary American presidents like the two Roosevelts and Woodrow Wilson. But while Mr. Obama embraces a powerful and compelling global vision, he also seeks reduced American commitments and engagements overseas. He wants substantial cuts in military spending and wants to reduce America’s profile in Europe and the Middle East.
This is a paradox, but it is understandable. Mr. Obama is channeling the voters. Just as Americans want to eliminate the federal budget deficit without cutting Social Security or Medicare, they want a more peaceful and democratic world with less heavy lifting from the U.S. Who wouldn’t want an easier life in a nicer world?
Unfortunately, it’s hard to transform and democratize the world while saving money and reducing overseas commitments. A world based more on the rule of law and less on the law of the jungle requires an engaged, forward-looking, and, alas, expensive foreign policy. If, for example, you want to put the world on the road to abolishing nuclear weapons, you have to make sure that nonnuclear states like Ukraine don’t have to worry about land-grabs from nuke-wielding neighbors like Russia.
When Ukraine agreed to give up its « legacy » nuclear weapons—missiles and warheads placed on Ukrainian territory when it was part of the Soviet Union—the U.S., U.K. and Russia pledged to protect its territorial integrity. That promise is clearly a dead letter, and it just became much harder to persuade countries that beautifully phrased treaties signed by great powers can replace nuclear weapons as instruments of self-defense.
Even more troubling is the belief that a peaceful world can be painlessly built without political heavy lifting at home or abroad. Two of the five veto-wielding Permanent Members of the U.N. Security Council—China and Russia—are aggressive, undemocratic countries with significant territorial claims against neighbors. They also consider reducing American power and prestige as one of their most important national interests.
The authority and legitimacy that come from U.N. mandates won’t exist where Russian and Chinese interests are engaged, and so the U.S. will have to choose between disengaging on issues like the occupation of Crimea (and future territorial moves by Russia and China) and taking action outside the U.N. system.
Mr. Obama is unintentionally making it harder for himself and future American presidents. His appealing vision of an easy, cheap and beautiful world order helps build expectations that no real world president can achieve. The disillusionment that follows when those expectations aren’t met reinforces the cynicism that makes it hard for all presidents to build public support for national efforts abroad.
Successful American foreign policy not only demands sacrifice and risk, but it also inevitably brings failures and setbacks. The values and interests that Americans care most strongly about can’t be defended without a foreign policy that sometimes taxes our wallets and tests our will. But engagement isn’t guaranteed to make things work out. The world is complicated, foreign policy is hard, and Americans even at our best are neither omniscient nor omnipotent.
The White House is shocked by the Russian campaign against Ukraine and the administration’s inability to predict or counter Vladimir Putin’s moves. Mr. Obama is experiencing what the president in other contexts has called a « teachable moment. » Perhaps it will bring about a more sustainable approach to foreign policy. But President Obama created unrealistic expectations for himself in happier times—democracy in the Middle East, destruction of al Qaeda, victory in Afghanistan, greater American popularity abroad, a reset with Russia, pivoting to Asia—all while making deep cuts to defense budgets. This will weigh on him now.
Mr. Obama came into office telling voters what they badly wanted to hear, which was that on foreign policy, they could have it all. No risks to be run, no adversarial great powers to oppose, and no boots on the ground. Now he must tell them that he, and they, were wrong, and he must choose. Does he give up on some of his dreams for improving the world, or does he begin to urge the country to pay a higher price and run greater risks to make the world better and safer?
The truth is that he—and we—will have to do some of both. As a country we are going to be working harder than we wanted in a world that is more frustrating than we hoped.
Mr. Mead is a professor of foreign affairs and humanities at Bard College and editor at large of the American Interest.
Robert Kagan is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. He writes a monthly foreign affairs column for The Post.
Whether one likes President Obama’s conduct of foreign policy or not, the common assumption is that the administration is at least giving the American people the foreign policy they want. The majority of Americans have opposed any meaningful U.S. role in Syria, have wanted to lessen U.S. involvement in the Middle East generally, are eager to see the “tide of war” recede and would like to focus on “nation-building at home.” Until now, the president generally has catered to and encouraged this public mood, so one presumes that he has succeeded, if nothing else, in gaining the public’s approval.
Yet, surprisingly, he hasn’t. The president’s approval ratings on foreign policy are dismal. According to the most recent CBS News poll, only 36 percent of Americans approve of the job Obama is doing on foreign policy, while 49 percent disapprove. This was consistent with other polls over the past year. A November poll by the Pew Research Center showed 34 percent approval on foreign policy vs. 56 percent disapproval. The CBS poll showed a higher percentage of Americans approving of Obama’s economic policies (39 percent) and a higher percentage approving his handling of health care (41 percent). Foreign policy is the most unpopular thing Obama is doing right now. And lest one think that foreign policy is never a winner, Bill Clinton’s foreign policy ratings at roughly the same point in his second term were quite good — 57 percent approval; 34 percent disapproval — and Ronald Reagan’s rating was more than 50 percent at a similar point in his presidency. That leaves Obama in the company of George W. Bush — not the first-term Bush whose ratings were consistently high but the second-term Bush mired in the worst phase of the Iraq war.
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Nor are Obama’s numbers on foreign policy simply being dragged down by his overall job approval ratings. The public is capable of drawing distinctions. When George H.W. Bush’s overall approval ratings were tanking in the last year of his presidency, his ratings on economic policy led the downward trend, but his foreign policy ratings stayed above 50 percent. According to the CBS poll, Obama’s overall approval rating is 40 percent, four points higher than his foreign policy rating.
So we return to the paradox: President Obama is supposedly conducting a foreign policy in tune with popular opinion, yet his foreign policy is not popular. What’s the explanation? I await further investigation by pollsters, but until then I offer one hypothesis:
A majority of Americans may not want to intervene in Syria, do anything serious about Iran or care what happens in Afghanistan, Iraq, Egypt or Ukraine. They may prefer a minimalist foreign policy in which the United States no longer plays a leading role in the world and leaves others to deal with their own miserable problems. They may want a more narrowly self-interested American policy. In short, they may want what Obama so far has been giving them. But they’re not proud of it, and they’re not grateful to him for giving them what they want.
For many decades Americans thought of their nation as special. They were the self-proclaimed “leader of the free world,” the “indispensable nation,” the No. 1 superpower. It was a source of pride. Now, pundits and prognosticators are telling them that those days are over, that it is time for the United States to seek more modest goals commensurate with its declining power. And they have a president committed to this task. He has shown little nostalgia for the days of U.S. leadership and at times seems to conceive it as his job to deal with the “reality” of decline.
Perhaps this is what they want from him. But it is not something they will thank him for. To follow a leader to triumph inspires loyalty, gratitude and affection. Following a leader in retreat inspires no such emotions.
Presidents are not always rewarded for doing what the public says it wants. Sometimes they are rewarded for doing just the opposite. Bill Clinton enjoyed higher approval ratings after intervening in Bosnia and Kosovo, even though majorities of Americans had opposed both interventions before he launched them. Who knows what the public might have thought of Obama had he gone through with his planned attack on Syria last August? As Col. Henry Stimson observed, until a president leads, he can’t expect the people to “voluntarily take the initiative in letting him know whether or not they would follow him if he did take the lead.” Obama’s speech in Europe Wednesday shows that he may understand that the time has come to offer leadership. Whether or not he does in his remaining time in office, perhaps his would-be successors can take note.