Enough about Hamas, enough about the Al-Aqsa, and quite enough about the Palestinians already. I’m turning the tables on CNN and the BBC, and this post is unlike their 24-7 news spiel echoing the Arab point of view.
To do this right, I went straight to the U.S. source for all things Middle East and Islam, lauded Middle East expert, founder and President of the Middle East Forum, Daniel Pipes.
In your opinion what would it take to make a peace deal stick for Israelis?
Pipes: Two determining issues really. One is long-term and one is short-term. The short-term depends on all the missiles and rockets Hamas has stockpiled in Gaza. The short-term is also more difficult because as long as these arms remain in Gaza they are likely to be used. And the long-term depends on Iran and preventing replenishment of weapons. As you saw four years ago, the ceasefire is irrelevant because it’s not a real ceasefire. The short end of this entails Israel’s military going house-to-house. This type of house-to-house fighting is a more difficult dilemma because the IDF isn’t trained for this and there may be existing rocket caches in these residences, which of course presents a high risk for casualties.
Tell me your version on the long-term fix?
Pipes: The long term fix is easier because in 2005 the Israelis abandoned the 40-mile Philadelphia Corridor between Egypt and Gaza. As long as the Israelis controlled this corridor they could effectively control what goes in and out of Gaza. For the past seven years, Israelis haven’t controlled what is going in and out of this corridor. But they could take it back relatively easily and I hope that they take it back now. The result of the Cast Lead invasion led to the political fate of seven years of not observing this corridor which has led to extensive stockpiling of weapons.
So besides the exiting smuggling tunnels I’m sure you heard the IDF just confiscated a stockpile of weapons in route from Libya? In fact, I’ve blogged about as many as 300 smuggling tunnels from Egypt to Gaza but I suppose thousands more exist for bringing in reinforcements.
Pipes: Yes, thousands of tunnels do exist, and these tunnels have always been a problem for smuggling in weapons to use against Israelis. The Israelis are very smart about politics and strategy, but there are a few exceptions. One is Lebanon, the other is Gaza, where they were completely inept. This war, and the prior war, when they gave back Gaza, the Israelis didn’t need to do that. No one insisted that they do that.
Well, there was a certain amount of American pressure on them to vacate Gaza. I do remember many Americans pressured Israelis to leave.
Pipes: Yes, there was American pressure, but they left of their own volition and suffered the consequences of attacks even in recent days. But the moral of this strategic mess for Israel is, “What were they thinking?” In fact, the day Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon made the decision to pull out of Gaza I wrote an article that referred to the “stupidest decision ever made in modern democracy,”: [The Gaza Withdrawal:] A Democracy Killing Itself.
So you’ve been at the forefront predicting all of these forward-thinking yet dire scenarios? So I guess if you hadn’t predicted it we wouldn’t be having this conversation.
Pipes: Yes (chuckle), I guess you can say that.
So then there’s the gigantic key facing the entry to the Bethlehem Aida Palestinian Refugee camp that symbolizes Palestinian national identity by holding the key to Israel? US taxpayers have a right to know as we are at the top of food chain next to Europe bankrolling UNRWA.
Pipes: The definition of a refugee usually encompasses repatriating a person to another area, but what we have here are Palestinians growing in numbers at an alarming rate instead of diminishing; the UN is counting 4.7 million Palestinian refugees today when in 1948 there were some 800,000. Most refugee populations diminish over time, not increase. In 63 years, the number of counted refugees has grown so big to the point where in 50 years there will not be a single refugee alive yet their fake refugee descendants will still total 20 million.
So this brings up Senator Mark Kirk’s watershed amendment to H.R. 5857 (Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Act, 2013), which seeks to change the definition of “Palestinian refugee” so that only actual refugees are counted, reducing the number from 5 million claiming refugee status to about 30,000.
Pipes: Yes, I know that bill. It’s the bill I worked on extensively with Steven J. Rosen when the US Senate Appropriations Committee passed it on May 24, 2012. Unanimously passed, it was a limited but potentially momentous amendment to the $52.1 billion fiscal 2013 State Department and foreign operations appropriations bill.
It’s quite an undertaking to account for the burgeoning refugee population when UNWRA has lost its ability to repatriate Palestinians (and their descendents) back to productive lives.
Pipes: Well as I explain in my article, “Count Palestinian Refugees,” the Arab-Israeli conflict lies not in the dispute over Jerusalem, checkpoints, or “settlements” like many blame, but rather the so-called Palestinian refugees. Worse, those alive in 1948 are dying off and in about 50 years not a single real refugee will remain but their fake refugee descendents will still totals 20 million. So solving the Arab-Israeli conflict requires ending the absurd and damaging farce of proliferating fake Palestinian refugees and permanently settling them. We know about 1948. It occurred but it’s time to get real.
By the end of the day Wednesday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had wrapped the pre-Thanksgiving bow on the recent escalation by prompting Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers to agree on a truce after eight days of conflict. The truce took effect at 9 pm (2pm ET), although endless mistrust exists on both sides, casting doubt on how long the Egyptian-sponsored deal will stick before the adhesive dissolves and the first rocket sails into Israel.