There’s more. Let’s get on to the news…IN THIS EDITIONHOLOCAUST REMEBRANCE DAY – Not the one commemorated in Germany.OBAMA...
unfathomable notion of six million deaths. Many Jewish schools also hold Holocaust-related educational programs on, or aro...
One cannot undervalue the resumption of diplomatic relations between these twocountries considering the importance Turkey ...
For their part, left-wing groups seemed thrilled by the speech, which they said forcefullylaid out the case for peace.J St...
Before going further into this article, one should be reminded that rabbis in the U.S. donot work for “communities” nor ar...
imagined in previous generations. Several entrepreneurial rabbis are taking a page outof the Chabad emissary playbook and ...
Who coordinates the Federations?The Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA)represents and supports 154 Jewish Federatio...
minister, now at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and Ulf Gartzke whoteaches at Georgetown Universitys B...
Even if Israels actual needs are limited, offering quick, tangible support is a powerfulshow of solidarity and demonstrate...
Egypt, but the one with Syria. No, Im not crazy. Since Henry Kissingers shuttlediplomacy in 1974, the Israelis have had a ...
Hezbollah with its immense prestige in the Lebanese political universe, makingHezbollah so much more than just another Shi...
Nowadays, to repeat, there are no solutions for Israel: only sub-state adversaries thathide among civilian concentrations ...
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Du bow digest germany edition april 11, 2013


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An American Jewish - German Information & Opinion Newsletter

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Du bow digest germany edition april 11, 2013

  1. 1. AN AMERICAN JEWISH – GERMAN INFORMATION & OPINION NEWSLETTERdubowdigest@optonline.netGERMANY EDITIONApril 10, 2013Dear Friends:I am sending this to you a bit early because I am getting myself ready for a mid-April tripto, you guessed it, Germany. I am coming across the “Pond” to staff the American groupwho will make up this year’s delegation participating in the 33 rd annual ExchangeProgram AJC has with the Konrad Adenauer Foundation.I have been part of this program since its inception in 1980 and actually made my firsttrip to Germany in 1982 as the staff person for that year’s delegation. It changedeverything for me and inserted Germany into a very important place in my life.Since I am approaching the “Twilight of my youth” (Auf Deutsch: Alt) I advised DavidHarris, AJC’s Director that this would be my last Exchange trip and, indeed, heappointed Brian Lipton, the AJC Director in Sarasota, Florida to take over the programstarting next year. Brian will be with me this year to get a feel for what it is all about.Of course, I’ll continue writing DuBow Digest and will maintain my AJC connection as aSenior Advisor. You have not seen the last of me.Enough about me!Since my last edition Jews celebrated Passover. In my eyes it’s the best of the holidays.It is takes place in homes usually surrounded by family. There is nothing better.Pres. Obama visited Israel (see below) for the first time as President. I think almosteverybody felt it was a very positive undertaking. Since then, Secy. of State John Kerryhas been back to the region twice to try his version of “Mission Impossible” – a peaceagreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians. One can only wish him good luck.I fear he’ll need a lot more than that.I hope to see some of you while I’m in Germany. 1
  2. 2. There’s more. Let’s get on to the news…IN THIS EDITIONHOLOCAUST REMEBRANCE DAY – Not the one commemorated in Germany.OBAMA IN ISRAEL – What was seen as unimportant became very important.THE AMERICAN RABBI: A CHANGED ROLE – Entrepreneur? Maybe so!THE JEWISH FEDERATION SYSTEM - Think Zentralrat.WHAT IF…War between Israel and Iran. What would Germany do?ENJOYABLE CYNICISM – A critical and cynical look at Israel – Palestinian peacepossibilities.HOLOCAUST REMEBRANCE DAYWe recently passed the holiday of Yom HaShoah, the day that Jews worldwidecommemorate the (Wikipedia) “six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust as aresult of the actions carried out by Nazi Germany and its accessories, and for theJewish resistance in that period. In Israel, it is a national memorial day‖.While in Germany and much of Europe the Holocaust is commemorated on January27th, Jews celebrate it on a Jewish calendar day, the 27th day of Nisan which comesout(usually) in April or May.In an article in Jewish Ideas Daily written by Michael Carasik, he notes, ―The logicbehind this date, as explained on the Knesset’s Hebrew web site, is calendrical ratherthan commemorative. It falls after the end of Passover and thus does not interfere withthe holiday; it occurs during the period known as the ―Counting of the Omer,‖traditionally a season of mourning; and it precedes by one week Israel’s Memorial Dayfor fallen soldiers, which is followed by Independence Day. It thus ―symbolicallyexpresses the historical transition of the Jewish people from Holocaust to rebirth.‖ (Thedate observed by the United Nations is the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz bythe Red Army.)(Wikipedia again)Jews in the Diaspora may observe this day within the synagogue, aswell as in the broader Jewish community. Commemorations range from synagogueservices to communal vigils and educational programs. Many Yom HaShoah programsfeature a talk by a Holocaust survivor or a direct descendant, recitation of appropriatepsalms, songs and readings, or viewing of a Holocaust-themed film. Some communitieschoose to emphasize the depth of loss that Jews experienced in the Holocaust byreading the names of Holocaust victims one after another—dramatizing the 2
  3. 3. unfathomable notion of six million deaths. Many Jewish schools also hold Holocaust-related educational programs on, or around, Yom HaShoah.Also during this day, tens of thousands of Israeli high-school students, and thousands ofJews and non-Jews from around the world, hold a memorial service in Auschwitz, inwhat has become known as "The March of the Living," in defiance of the HolocaustDeath Marches. This event is endorsed and subsidized by the Israeli Ministry ofEducation and the Holocaust Claims Conference, and is considered an important part ofthe school curriculum – a culmination of several months of studies on World War II andthe Holocaust.Yom HaShoah has not yet achieved a level of religious importance that, for instance,Passover, Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur have found for themselves. However, thesenotable dates refer to occurrences that took place thousands of years in the past. YomHaShoah memorializes an event that took place less than 75 years ago. The Holocaust,no doubt, will find its way into yearly religious observance as time moves ahead.If I’m right about that, the Germans will take on the role that the Egyptians hold in thePassover Seder. Sorry! But that’s the way I see it.OBAMA IN ISRAELPrior to Pres. Obama’s trip to Israel the media had set the bar very low for anyexpectations of success. Most thought that the mission would not have any meaningfuloutcome. He was not going to the Middle East with any new “peace plan” and that theentire undertaking would only be perfunctory with not terribly important visits to PrimeMinister Netanyahu and Palestinian President Abbas. They were wrong! As it turnedout, quite a few important results emanated.First and foremost was his ability to get P.M. Netanyahu to call Turkish P.M. Erdoganand participate in a three-way discussion. The result is described in an AJC newsrelease. It noted, ―During the phone call, Netanyahu and Erdogan agreed to normalizerelations, including returning their ambassadors to their respective posts in Israel andTurkey. And Turkey announced that it would cancel legal action against Israeli soldiers.Netanyahu ―made it clear that the tragic results regarding the Mavi Marmara wereunintentional and that Israel expresses regret over injuries and loss of life,‖ according toa statement from his office. He ―apologized to the Turkish people for any errors thatcould have led to loss of life and agreed to complete the agreement on compensation.‖Erdogan, in his statement, called ―regrettable‖ the recent deterioration in relationsbetween Turkey and Israel, and ―accepted the apology.‖Tensions between the two countries escalated after Israeli commandos, in May 2010,stopped and boarded the Mavi Marmara, a Turkish vessel that was attempting to breakthe internationally-sanctioned Israeli naval blockade of Hamas-ruled Gaza. 3
  4. 4. One cannot undervalue the resumption of diplomatic relations between these twocountries considering the importance Turkey maintains with the other Muslim countriesin the region and with both Palestinian entities as well.We now know that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry remained in the Middle East tosee if the peace process might somehow be renewed. There are rumors that the twosides might actually start talking again in at a meeting in Jordan.A second plus for Pres. Obama was the improved status the trip earned with theAmerican Jewish community. The Times of Israel reported, ―President Barack Obama’smuch-lauded speech Thursday before a crowd of young Israelis earned widespreadpraise across the American Jewish ideological spectrum.The speech dealt with the broad sweep of issues on the US-Israel agenda, giving awide range of American Jewish groups something to cheer about.Obama’s criticism of both past Palestinian rejectionism and of their resort to terrorearned him high praise from the Anti-Defamation League, among others.The influential group praised the president for recognizing ―the risks Israel has taken forpeace, steps often not met with reciprocity from the Palestinians.‖That was the only mention of the Palestinians in the group’s Thursday statement, whichwent on to thank Obama for emphasizing ―the millennia-old connection the Jewishpeople have to the land of Israel‖ and ―the grave security challenges facing Israel,including terror threats from Hamas, and the dangers posed by a nuclear-armed Iran.‖In a statement Friday, AIPAC ―saluted‖ Obama for the security agreements announcedon the trip and his call on the Palestinians to drop preconditions to peace talks.That tone was echoed in a statement by Jewish Federations of North America boardchair Michael Siegal, who praised Obama Friday for having ―underscored America’sunshakable bond with the Jewish State at a critical time and expressed a profoundunderstanding of the challenges Israel faces.‖More conservative groups were also broadly supportive of the speech.The Orthodox Union’s Nathan Diament, head of the organization’s public advocacy arm,told the Times of Israel Friday that the group was ―very pleased with [Obamas] explicitembrace and acknowledgement of thousands of years of history of the Jewish people inthe land of Israel. We’re very appreciative of the support, the clear and strong policy,toward Iran obtaining nuclear weapons and the security of Israel.‖When it came to Obama’s call for establishing a Palestinian state in the West Bank,Diament was noncommittal. ―The president laid out his view,‖ he said, but added: ―Whatwas important was that [Obama] made it very clear that whatever the details, whateveris going to be decided regarding borders and everything, it’s ultimately going to have tobe decided by the parties in negotiations. It can’t be imposed from the outside.‖ 4
  5. 5. For their part, left-wing groups seemed thrilled by the speech, which they said forcefullylaid out the case for peace.J Street’s Jeremy Ben-Ami praised Obama for ―making the two-state solution a toppriority for his administration.‖In a conversation with the Times of Israel Thursday, he pointed to the moment in thespeech when Obama told Israelis, ―the only way for Israel to endure and thrive as aJewish and democratic state is through the realization of an independent and viablePalestine.‖―What I saw as the point of the speech was [Obamas] laying out clearly and starkly thecrossroads Israel is at,‖ Ben-Ami said. Obama spoke of US-Israeli friendship, of Jewishties to the land of Israel, and then explained to Israelis ―that all of that is at risk, theentirety of Israel is at risk, without peace,‖ Ben-Ami said.In an email to J Street supporters, Ben-Ami wrote that the speech represented ―ourmoment — our time to lead! Never has anyone expressed with greater clarity and withgreater conviction everything that our movement fights for and holds dear.‖The left-leaning Israel Policy Forum, in an email that quoted the same line fromObama’s speech, said simply, ―We could not agree more.‖One US Jewish official who asked not to be named offered a reason for the widespreadpraise the speech garnered.While Obama emphatically and passionately called for peace talks, he separated theissue of peace from the issue of security, the official said. ―Security is something Israelneeds fundamentally, and Obama has secured it for them regardless of peace. All thetangible things that were announced were on Iran and security. He could haveannounced new talks. He could have announced that [Secretary of State John] Kerrywould host a meeting of the sides. There was nothing like that. No deadlines, nothing.‖So while Obama issued perhaps the most impassioned call for peace yet in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, ―his position is that ultimately the two sides have to figure it outthemselves.‖I guess there are many morals to this story, however an important one has to be, “Neverunderestimate the power of an American President”. The media is full these days withstories and opinions about the loss of American power in the world. Perhaps in someinstances that is true. Certainly the U.S. cannot determine the course of the “ArabSpring” or use its muscle to bring peace between Sunnis and Shiites in Iraq oranywhere else. Those disputes just have to play themselves out – if, indeed, they everwill. However, when it comes to such matters as the Israel – Palestinian quagmire theU.S. is really the only answer.THE AMERICAN RABBI: A CHANGED ROLE 5
  6. 6. Before going further into this article, one should be reminded that rabbis in the U.S. donot work for “communities” nor are their salaries paid through governmental subsidies.Each and every rabbi is basically on his or her own. Mostly they work for individualsynagogues or organizations and are hired and fired by these entities. In a certain waythey are entrepreneurs. However, they are rarely thought of in those terms.However, Rabbi Jason Miller, “an entrepreneurial rabbi and a ―Rabbi Without Borders‖whose personal blog has been viewed by hundreds of thousands by writing the ―JewishTechs‖ blog for The Jewish Week and the monthly ―Jews in the Digital Age‖ column forthe Detroit Jewish News‖certainly sees himself as just that – an entrepreneur!.Writing in Jewish Philanthropy he asserts, “A recent editorial in The Forwarddemonstrates how much the American rabbinate has changed in the 21st century. Theeconomy has made it difficult for many rabbis to find good jobs; and for them to keepgood jobs when the synagogue or organization falls on tough financial times. Areduction in the number of congregations due to closures and mergers has also causeda dearth of desirable positions for rabbis in the U.S. and Canada. But there are otherfactors involved as well. New rabbinical schools (Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, Ziegler atthe American Jewish University, Hebrew College and the Academy for Jewish Religion)have cropped up in the past fifteen years increasing the number of new rabbis lookingfor work. The Internet has also made it much easier for the laity to learn synagogueskills – life-cycle officiation, prayer leading and teaching – that may ultimately reducethe need for a rabbi, although I don’t believe that to be the case.As TheForward editorial makes clear, ―the role of rabbi is being challenged as neverbefore.‖ Some sociologists like Prof. Jonathan Sarna of Brandeis University predictedprecisely such a change in the American rabbinate based on shifting demographics andthe needs of the community. However, I don’t see this as a crisis in American Jewry.Rather, I find this to be an interesting opportunity for rabbis to become moreentrepreneurial – both as a way to be necessary and to make a significant contributionto our people. Rabbis who see this as a chance to reinvent their rabbinate will ultimatelybe the most successful in the new era of Jewish life. And that holds true not only forAmerican rabbis, but for rabbis throughout the Jewish world who have theentrepreneurial spirit.When rabbis meet each other for the first time, I’ve noticed that in general, they nolonger ask each other ―Which congregation do you lead?‖ Rather, the question issomething along the lines of, ―Where are you from and what do you do?‖ Rabbis todayare exploring much different rabbinic paths of leadership than in previous generations.Growing up I always thought the role of the rabbi was solely in a synagogue. All of therabbinic role models I had as a child were pulpit rabbis. Today, much has changed andthe majority of rabbis do not work in congregations.Talented rabbis are working in day schools, Jewish Community Centers, campingagencies, communal organizations, college campus institutions and philanthropicfoundations. They are also cobbling together two and three part-time jobs in ways never 6
  7. 7. imagined in previous generations. Several entrepreneurial rabbis are taking a page outof the Chabad emissary playbook and founding new congregations and small prayercommunities where there is a need. While not an easy task, these rabbis are finding the―start-up‖ experience to be exhilarating, significant and spiritually fulfilling. Rabbis arealso freelancing their skills more often. As the number of Jewish families and singlesunaffiliated with a congregation rises, there is an increased need for rabbis to performlife-cycle leadership roles. With the growth of the internet it has become easy for peopleto identify rabbis to officiate at a baby naming ceremony, wedding, funeral or unveiling.An article recently appeared in The Jewish Week that showed a new trend for privatebar and bat mitzvah ceremonies, independent of synagogues that are prevalent on theEast Coast. And that trend is spreading to the rest of the country. As a rabbi who is notaffiliated with a congregation, I am called upon often to lead life-cycle ceremonies and Iknow that is the case with my colleagues around the country who likewise aren’tworking in a congregation. Our culture of desiring the best products has reached intothe religious leadership marketplace as well. A Jewish couple no longer feels compelledto have the rabbi of their childhood congregations preside at their wedding ceremony.Instead they will select the rabbi who they believe will create the most meaningful,memorable experience. So too with other life-cycle events like funerals. I’m often askedto perform the weddings of young people with whom I developed a relationship workingas a rabbi on a campus Hillel or at a Jewish summer camp. Many of these youngpeople have moved away from their childhood communities and don’t have ameaningful relationship with the rabbi of their parents’ congregation, but like everythingelse in life they are seeking the personable, meaningful and memorable.I don’t have much to add to Rabbi Miller’s piece. If the role of rabbi is changing it reflectsthe changes going on throughout the Jewish community. Some of those you’ll find in thenext article about the Jewish Federation system. Click on the link at the end of the pieceand read about the “future”. Pretty interesting stuff!THE JEWISH FEDERATION SYSTEMI do not want to turn this edition into a primer on Jewish organizations in the U.S. butone of my goals in putting it together every month is to give my friends and readers inGermany a better idea of what American Jewish life is all about. In order to betterunderstand it, one should have a little knowledge about its organizations.Jews have a long (tribal?) history of being responsible for one another. In order to dothat and to have some sort of communal strength, they formed organizations – all kindsof organizations. In the U.S. one of the most successful has been the “Federationsystem”. Almost every community in the U.S. has a local “Federation”. For instance, the(The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles)) “…convenes and leads the communityand leverages its resources to assure the continuity of the Jewish people, support asecure State of Israel, care for Jews in need here and abroad, and mobilize on issues ofconcern to the local community, all with our local, national, and international partners. 7
  8. 8. Who coordinates the Federations?The Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA)represents and supports 154 Jewish Federations & over 300 independent Jewishcommunities. It sees its role as, “Protecting and enhancing the well-being of Jews andJewish communities in North America, Israel and around the world.Leading a bold continental Federations collective to mobilize financial and socialresources through its philanthropic endeavors, strategic initiatives and internationalagencies to strengthen the Jewish people, andTaking responsibility for each other according to the principles of chesed (caring andcompassion), Torah (Jewish learning), tikkun olam (repairing the world) and tzedakah(social justice).When you think JFNAthink Zentralrat. That will help you to understand the concept.My good friend and former AJC and Hebrew Union College colleague Dr. StevenWindmueller has written an excellent article on the subject.He starts off by saying, ―Federations represent one of the most unique institutions withinthe North American Jewish landscape. In many ways its evolution and structure reflectthe alignment of core Jewish values of tzedakah with the American public policycommitment to social welfare. This blending together of the nonprofit framework withhistoric Jewish principles of communal responsibility has enabled federations toconstruct this extraordinary service system.Initially launched at the end of the 19th century, the federation system has come tosymbolize the power and capacity of the Jewish community to care for its own, whileadvocating for the general well-being of the society. Over the past 65 years, since theinception of the State of Israel, no other institution on the current communal landscapewas equipped to have as effectively managed the crisis moments of the Jewish people.The credibility of this system’s past successes ought not to be minimized, just as it nowmust pursue a new vision for its future.So, now you know a little about the Federation system. That fulfills my goal. However,you should click here to find out what Steve is suggesting for the future. It is veryinteresting and well presented (and not long). IF…(This article also appeared in my American Edition)An important and interesting article dealing with what Germany should do if, indeed, ashooting war developed between Israel and Iran appeared recently in The Wall StreetJournal. The authors are Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, a former German defense 8
  9. 9. minister, now at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and Ulf Gartzke whoteaches at Georgetown Universitys BMW Center for German and European Studies. Init they raise the question of what Germany could and should do if such a conflagrationbroke out.The authors note, “Germany bears a special historical and moral responsibility tosupport Israel against an Iranian threat. First, Israels leaders and the Israeli public viewthe Iranian peril primarily through the prism of the Holocaust. Proponents of a militarystrike on Iran often point to the Shoah as ultimate proof that Tehrans threats to destroythe State of Israel must be taken seriously. Second, ever since she became the firstGerman chancellor to address the Knesset, in 2008, Angela Merkel has repeatedlydeclared that "Israels security is part of Germanys raison dêtre" and that it can "neverbe negotiable."The chancellors statement is as true as it is important. There can be no doubt thatGermany is Israels closest and most vital ally in Europe. The two countries enjoyexceptionally close defense and intelligence ties. Berlin provided significant funding tohelp Israel acquire Germanys advanced "Dolphin" submarines, a critical boost to theIsraeli Defense Forces deterrence capability. The German government also workedbehind the scenes to negotiate the release of former Israeli soldier GiladShalit fromHamas captivity.Whats missing, however, is a broader debate—both in public and among top Germanofficials—about what Berlin should do if diplomacy fails and Israel is compelled to takemilitary action against the Iranian nuclear threat. Berlins opposition to a strike on Iransnuclear sites is well-known. In fact, German diplomacy seems careful to avoid creatingthe impression that Berlin expects or is even preparing for such an outcome. The fear isthat this kind of contingency planning might only encourage Israel to pursue a militarysolution above other options.There are good reasons for opposing a military showdown. But Berlin needs to explainits options to the German people, while clearly stating that an Iran with nuclear weaponswould threaten core security interests for Israel, the West and the region. This kind ofstrategic communications effort is even more important in a crucial Bundestag electionyear, and at a time when counterproductive Israeli settlement proposals, as well asGerman demographic and generational changes, risk undermining popular support forthe Jewish state. Opinion polls indicate that a majority of Germans view Israel as an"aggressive" country that "pursues its interests without consideration for other nations."Berlin should also start thinking about how to support Israel in the wake of potential airstrikes on Iran. It is better to develop a plan now than to engage in hectic ad-hocdecision making once the crisis has erupted. Germanys first priority should be to offerIsrael civil and military assistance to defend against potential counterattacks. This couldbe by offering medical equipment or reconnaissance specialists for weapons of massdestruction, or by shoring up the Bundeswehrs naval presence in the easternMediterranean. The deployment of Patriot antimissile batteries, though logisticallychallenging, should also be considered. 9
  10. 10. Even if Israels actual needs are limited, offering quick, tangible support is a powerfulshow of solidarity and demonstrates that Israel is not facing this crisis alone.Second, Berlin should immediately push for a comprehensive cease-fire to limit Iransability to retaliate, for instance via its Hamas and Hezbollah proxies. This is not only inthe interest of the Israeli generals. It is also vitally important for the Western world tokeep the Straits of Hormuz open, to maintain Gulf stability and prevent attacks onmoderate Arab states, to deter large-scale international terrorist violence, and to avertwar between Israel and Lebanon or even Syria.Tehran may cry foul if an Israeli ally asks for a cease-fire following a pre-emptive strike.Nevertheless, Berlin shouldnt underestimate its influence in a region where Americascredibility is strained, to put it mildly.Finally, Germany needs to marshal its full political and economic weight to maintain atough international sanctions regime against Tehran. An attack on Iran might benefit themullahs if existing sanctions were eased as a result, thereby allowing them toreconstitute their nuclear program with fewer restrictions moving forward.Certainly, all of these undertakings come with risks. But at the moment, there isnt evena closed-door discussion taking place about the potential options and responses.Unless this changes, Germany risks a further deterioration of public opinion at homeeven before any crucial decisions have been made.The stakes are high. Germany cannot afford to be on the wrong side of history‖The article is obviously important because it raises the “What if…” question. Thepossibility of a military conflict between Israel and Iran has to be taken seriously andresultant actions by Germany should be shared with the citizenry in advance. That is awise and sensible thing to do. However, with a national election coming up inSeptember I doubt seriously that either party wants to talk about German involvement.However, no one will be able to say that the questions were not raised. Zu Guttenbergand Gartzke have performed a genuine service by writing this article.ENJOYABLE CYNICISMEvery once in a while I come across an article that is, or might be, truly insightful. Onenever knows about insight. Some of it turns out correct and useful. At other times it’sway off base and either useless or harmful. The article below is loaded with politicalcynicism and, not peculiarly, it’s about the use of that very force by Israel.The author, Robert D. Kaplan is a very well-known journalist, author and a highlyrespected political analysis. I’m going to print the entire article which appeared on thewebsite of Stratfor Global Intelligence. It is entitled Israel’s Insightful Cynicism.Israel is in the process of watching a peace treaty unravel. I dont mean the one with 10
  11. 11. Egypt, but the one with Syria. No, Im not crazy. Since Henry Kissingers shuttlediplomacy in 1974, the Israelis have had a de facto peace agreement of sorts with the alAssad family. After all, there were clear red lines that both sides knew they shouldntcross, as well as reasonable predictability on both sides. Forget about the upliftingrhetoric, the requirement to exchange ambassadors and the other public policy frills thatnormally define peace treaties. What counts in this case is that both sides observedlimits and constraints, so that the contested border between them was secure. Evenbetter, because there was no formal peace agreement in writing, neither side had tomake inconvenient public and strategic concessions. Israel did not have to give up theGolan Heights, for example. And if Syria stepped over a red line in Lebanon, or say,sought a nuclear capacity as it did, Israel was free to punish it through targeted militarystrikes. There was usefully no peace treaty that Israel would have had to violate.Of course, the Syrians built up a chemical arsenal and invited the Iranians all over theircountry and Lebanon. But no formal treaty in the real world -- given the nature of theSyrian regime -- would likely have prevented those things. In an imperfect world ofnaked power, the al Assads were at least tolerable. Moreover, they represented aminority sect, which prevented Syria from becoming a larger and much more powerfulversion of radical, Sunni Arab Gaza. In February 1993 in The Atlantic Monthly, I toldreaders that Syria was not a state but a writhing underworld of sectarian and ethnicdivides and that the al Assads might exit the stage through an Alawite mini-state in thenorthwest of their country that could be quietly supported by the Israeli securityservices. That may yet come to pass.Israeli political leaders may periodically tell the media that Bashar al Assads days arenumbered, but that does not necessarily mean Israelis themselves believe that is analtogether good scenario. Indeed, I strongly suspect that, for example, when the Israelisand the Russians meet, they have much in common regarding Syria. Russia issupporting the al Assad regime through arms transfers by sea and through Iraq andIran. Israelis may see some benefits in this. Russian President Vladimir Putin mayactually enjoy his meetings with Israelis -- who likely dont lecture him about humanrights and the evils of the al Assad regime the way the Americans do.True, a post-al Assad Syria may undermine Iranian influence in the Levant, which wouldbe a great benefit to Israel, as well as to the United States. On the other hand, a post-alAssad Syria will probably be an anarchic mess in which the Iranians will skillfully backproxy guerrilla groups and still be able to move weapons around. Again, al Assad is thedevil you know. And the fact that he is no longer, functionally speaking, the president ofSyria but, rather, the countrys leading warlord, presents challenges that Israelis wouldprefer not to face.What about Hezbollah, in this admittedly cynical Israeli view? Hezbollah is not astrategic threat to Israel. Hezbollah fighters are not about to march en masse over theborder into Haifa and Tiberias. Anti-missile systems like Iron Dome and Davids Slingcould reasonably contain the military threat from the north. Then there are Israels bombshelters -- a one-time only expense. Hezbollah, moreover, needs Israel. For without apowerful Israel, Hezbollah would be robbed of the existential adversary that provides 11
  12. 12. Hezbollah with its immense prestige in the Lebanese political universe, makingHezbollah so much more than just another Shiite group battling Sunnis.Israels war against Hezbollah in 2006 is known as a disaster. But it did have its positiveside effects: Israel has had seven years of relative peace on its northern border, evenas the war usefully exposed many inadequacies in the Israeli military and reservesystem that had been building for years and were henceforth decisively repaired,making Israel stronger as a consequence.Threats abound, truly. The collapse of the al Assad regime may lead to a weapons free-for-all -- just like in post-Gadhafi Libya -- that might force Israel to "mow the lawn" againin southern Lebanon. As for Hassan Nasrallah, the charismatic and capable Hezbollahleader, maybe he, too, is the devil you know, informally obeying red lines with Israelsince 2006. Nasrallah appears to be less extreme than his deputy, Naim Qassim, whowould take over if Nasrallah were ever assassinated by the Israelis, unless the Sunnisin a Lebanon and Syria thrown into utter, post-al Assad chaos assassinate him sooner.Then there is Gaza: once again, like southern Lebanon, "mow the lawn" once or twice adecade, though this might be harder in a post-Arab spring geopolitical environmentbecause of the greater danger of unhinging Israeli-Egyptian relations. Still, in Gazathere is no existential threat, nor a real solution, regardless of what the diplomats say.Idealists in the West talk about peace; realists inside Israel talk about spacing outlimited wars by enough years so that Israeli society can continue to thrive in themeantime. As one highly placed Israeli security analyst explained to me, the East Coastof the United States and the Caribbean have periodic hurricanes. After each one,people rebuild, even as they are aware that a decade or so down the road there will beanother hurricane. Israels wars are like that, he said. Presently a real underlying worry for Israel appears to be Jordan. Yes, King Abdullahhas so far expertly manipulated the growing unrest there, but to speculate about thecollapse of the Hashemite dynasty is only prudent. More anarchy. More reason to heedAriel Sharons analysis of four decades ago to the effect that Jordan is the realPalestinian state, more so than the West Bank. And because Jordan and Saudi Arabiacould conceivably unravel in coming decades, maybe Israel should seek to avoidattacking Iran -- which along with Israel is the only real state between the MediterraneanSea and the Iranian Plateau. Iran may have a repulsive regime, but its society isprobably healthier than most in the Arab world. So there is some hope.You get the picture. Israel had a convenient situation for decades, surrounded as it wasby stable Arab dictatorships. Israel could promote itself as the regions only realdemocracy, even as it quietly depended on the likes of Hosni Mubarak, the al Assadclan and the Hashemites to ensure order and more-or-less few surprises. Now dictatorsare falling and anarchy is on the rise. Fighting state armies of the kind that the Arabdictators built in wars in 1948, 1956, 1967 and 1973 was simpler compared totodayswars: Because the Arabs never really believed in their dysfunctional states, they didntalways fight very well in state-organized formations. But sub-state militaries likeHezbollah and Hamas have been more of a challenge. In the old days, Israel coulddestroy an Egyptian air force on the ground and solve its security dilemma in the south. 12
  13. 13. Nowadays, to repeat, there are no solutions for Israel: only sub-state adversaries thathide among civilian concentrations in order to attack your own civilian concentrations.No peace ever, therefore, just periodic wars, hopefully spaced-out.The Middle East today has turned out perfectly if you are a Jewish West Bank settler.The divisions within Palestinian ranks, coupled with the increasing anarchy of the Arabworld, mean the opportunities for territorial concessions on Israels part havediminished. In fact, Israels only option may be more unilateral withdrawals. That isprobably the only thing the settlers have to worry about.But the Zionist dream lives on. Jerusalem and much of the rest of Israel are thriving.Light rail and pedestrian walkways make Jerusalem more vibrant than ever. The Arabsin the Old City survive well -- under the circumstances that is -- on the "Jewish" side ofthe "fence," where the standard of living and quality of life is so much better than on theArab side. The "fence" is both a monstrosity in abstract moralistic terms and a practicalsolution in an age of repeated diplomatic failure and fewer and fewer diplomaticopportunities. From 28 percent of the gross domestic product in the mid-1970s, Israelimilitary spending is down to between 6 and 8 percent of the countrys GDP. Life is goodin Israel. The unemployment rate is lower than in the United States and Europe, despitehigh housing costs and the need for reform in health care and education. One couldargue that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu -- so vilified in the West -- has nothandled the economy altogether badly. But what about idealism? What about a better, more humane Middle East? What aboutthe wise and talented statesmen who periodically see opportunities where others seenone? What about slowing down Israels drift to a quasi-Apartheid society, characterizedby Israeli domination of the more numerous Arabs and something certainly not inIsraels interest? These are all real things to constantly keep in mind and to struggle for.But the Levant remains a zero-sum struggle for physical survival. So it is a place wherethere will always be benefits to dealing with strong dictators. Given their geographicalcircumstances, Israelis can be forgiven their cynicism.**************************************************************************************************See you again in May.DuBow Digest is written and published by Eugene DuBow who can be contacted byclicking hereBoth the American and Germany editions are posted at www.dubowdigest.typepad.comAll prior editions are also posted there. 13
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