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Belmont Club

Missing the Big Brass Ring

July 22nd, 2014 - 4:41 pm

The Birnbaum-Tibon megapiece in the New Republic on why the Palestinian peace process failed is as interesting for what it does not contain as much as what it does. Written in “fly in the wall” style it describes how negotiators from the Obama administration, Israel and the Palestinians tried — and failed — to start a peace process. The bricks of the edifice were  prisoner swaps and agreements, which when presumably constructed in some fashion would create a stable modus vivendi.

The drama as related by the New Republic could either have been tragedy or a comedy of errors; viewed with a suspension of disbelief it would appear that some actor somehow missed a brick, misconveyed an impression, reneged on a deal or simply flew off on a tangent so that ultimately the deal was missed for the nth time.  But the last source quoted by the New Republic piece was more cynical. The negotiations were merely a play-within-a-play. The tragedy was external to the negotiations. The hero would never get the girl onstage whatever he said because the roof of the theater was about to fall in.

“I see it from a mathematical point of view,” said Avi Dichter, the former chief of Israel’s Shin Bet intelligence agency. “The American effort will always be multiplied by the amount of trust between the two leaders. So if Kerry’s pressure represents the number five, and then Obama’s help brings the American effort to ten, it really doesn’t matter. You’re still multiplying it by zero. The final result will always be zero.”

That’s mostly what the narrative misses, through no fault of its own. While protagonists in the Birnbaum and Tibon story lived in an world of diplomatic continuity, where formulas and proposals persisted on from one decade to the other, the world in which they lived was discontinuous and had changed out of all recognition.

Thirty years ago Israel was besieged by powerful Arab states backed the superpower Soviet Union. Today the besiegers have largely self-destructed. Egypt is starving and divided. Jordan is flooded with refugees. Iraq and Syria are wracked by civil war. Hamas’s patron, the Muslim Brotherhood, is on the outs in battered Egypt.  And Russia is busy in Ukraine with enough of its own rockets to fire.

The Palestinian negotiators, perhaps encouraged by the attention paid them by UN and John Kerry, were urged by memories of faded glory to make imperious demands, confident they remained world-important. But in reality their old state pals had been hung from gibbets, exhibited in meat lockers or were hunkered down in palace bunkers. Objectively the Palestinians were beggarly nobodies rocketing a country 1,000 times their own military potential in order to scare up some measly donations.

It was an accident waiting to happen.  So they drew their rusty pistola and the IDF drew its minigun.

True this weakness was offset to some extent by increased support for Palestinian causes in the West and the increasing range, accuracy and miniaturization of the missiles it used to bombard Israel. This had the curious effect of appearing to increase their diplomatic leverage while simultaneously restricting them to physical actions that would make negotiated solutions impossible. The Palestinians had a hammer only the problem was to saw wood. Alas for diplomacy the only thing the Palestinians can actually do is fight. The only thing the West demands of them is to stop doing the only thing they can do.

The best alternative to a negotiated settlement for both Israel and Palestine may now be to fight to the finish, because each is surprised to find they have no alternative. To understand why we must mentally go back nearly 70 years, to Okinawa.

Okinawa, like Iwo Jima before it, represented the highest development of tunnel warfare. During the campaign the Americans learned that no amount of conventional weaponry could effectively shut down a network of tunnels and caves bored into the earth. To put the tunnels out of business you actually needed to take and hold the ground.

This was an complicated and expensive proposition, because the approaches to the underground installations were covered by interlocking fields of fire and minefields, and in places by pre-registered fields of fire. The Marines found the only way to take these ant-colony defenses was to bring mobiles “caves” of their own (the M4 Sherman tank) and in their cover suppress the riflemen guarding the approaches to seal off the network of tunnels one by one from the vantage of dead ground which dominated the exits. They gave this the picturesque name “blowtorch and corkscrew”. The Japanese called them “straddle attacks”.

Doubtless the state of military art has advanced since 1945 but the question remains: what possible intermediate objective can the IDF have in Gaza but to take and hold the ground in the face of tunnel warfare? The IDF can hardly bombard Gaza ad infinitum like Sugarloaf Hill. Whereas the Japanese tunnels in Okinawa were covered by 30 feet of rock, the Hamas tunnels in Gaza are protected by three layers of civilians. Which is more permeable? Counterbattery alone cannot stop the missiles, nor can intercepting them with Iron Dome suffice when airlines decide to stop flights into Ben Gurion on the mere threat that the airport can be bombarded.

Each side is backed into a corner. The combination of conventional weakness and Palestinian Western diplomatic strength plus the military impracticability of shutting down Hamas and its missiles will create an almost irresistible incentive for the IDF to continue. The Israelis must be thinking: better to watch the movie now that it’s paid admission than leave the screening in the middle of the showing only to pay again when it returns to finish it.

Because given the slightest window, the Palestinians will rocket again.

This of course, is a recipe for escalation. The time for an easy solution was long ago. The penalty for dragging out a diplomatic solution for too long is that in the end it makes war look almost attractive by comparison.  One way to discredit a good cause is via a bad implementation. Diplomats sometimes fail to see this. They always think there’s water left in the well. When the Tamil Tigers were surrounded by the Sri Lankan military and on the verge of annihilation one Western diplomat reportedly warned Colombo: “if you defeat them, then who will you negotiate with?”

It’s a good question, but one that has no answer within the diplomatic context. Unfortunately diplomacy is not the only context on this sad earth.  The penalty for trying and failing is failing.

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Top Rated Comments   
If it was up to me I would decree that for every missile fired from Gaza that would mean one month where Gaza would get no electricity or water from Israel. The Israeli's can turn Gaza into a most uninhabitable spot if they choose, not from doing anything to it but by refusing to enable it. Let the Palestinian scum crawl away to far rocks to inhabit.

I remember. I still remember. After 9/11 the Palestinian scum were cheering in the streets and passing out candy. Screw them. Never forget just what scum they are, and never feel sympathy for the misery they call down upon themselves.
31 weeks ago
31 weeks ago Link To Comment
Obama's favorite movie is The Godfather.

As Don Corleone is dying, he keeps telling Michael one thing to remember.

The one who comes to you "promising you'll be safe", that's the traitor.

Tessio comes to Michael at the funeral and tells him all the arrangements have been made. It will be safe on his turf.

Obama/Kerry/Malley/Jarrett who are in bed with the Muslim Brotherhood, tried to install them and give them their own territories in Egypt, Libya and have been meeting secretly with Hamas since 2008...are promising to "negotiate the peace".

They are doing everything in secret, bypassing Congress and keeping the American people...who support Israel in massive percentages...including giving Iran every chance to gather billions of dollars and continue the path to nuclear capacity.

Israel has to go to the mattresses. And settle all the family business.

Hamas has to be crushed. The Muslim Brotherhood is a pimp. What Israel has to recognize is that it was Barackzini all along.

31 weeks ago
31 weeks ago Link To Comment
Counterbattery alone cannot stop the missiles, nor can intercepting them with Iron Dome suffice when airlines decide to stop flights into Ben Gurion on the mere threat that the airport can be bombarded.

By canceling the flights, rendering Israel effectively without an international airport, the West just forced Netanyahu's hand. He must now proceed to destroy Hamas at the roots and reoccupy Gaza. Fortunately the political weather (with Egypt currently frowning on the Muslim Brotherhood, the President of the United States having burnt his bridges with Israel, and Hamas having alienated their Iranian benefactors by siding against Assad in Syria) makes this the best opportunity to do so.
31 weeks ago
31 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (127)
All Comments   (127)
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Reverse Sharon's decsion to leave Gaza. Institute Isreaeli military and security and have the Palestinian Authority take over civil govt functions similar to the West Bank--basically, go back to ca. 2004.

Yeah, some a-holes will scream but so what? Sharon left Gaza on te baissi of American promises that Obama didn't uphold, compoon that no one expected.

Well, sometimes a mistake can be corrected, albeit at a cost.

Doesn't solve the whole Israeli-Pali problem, but that is beyond anyone right now. But it would be an improvement and if the Palis and their Authority every decide to grow up, maybe progress could be made somewhere down the line.
31 weeks ago
31 weeks ago Link To Comment
Computer talk:

I pressed "post" and nothing happened for 4 minutes.

Then I turned off my "Avast" antivirus, reloaded the page, and the posting process was flawless.


Well, it was on again for this one, and it still worked.

Maybe I just got caught in line behind Marie?

31 weeks ago
31 weeks ago Link To Comment
Marie is a Paid Pootie Poot Agent running a distraction campaign for this:

Why Is France Building Warships For Russia?

France has really done it this time — the country is apparently going ahead with a plan to sell Russia two Mistral-class amphibious assault ships, a move which is understandably none too popular with NATO and its member states, who understandably wonder if this is the best time for NATO to be arming Russia.

Or to paraphrase Vladimir Lenin, NATO wonders whether it's selling Russia the rope with which Russia will hang it.

The Mistral is a modern, advanced amphibious assault ship capable of carrying up to 900 troops, a tank battalion, and 16 to 35 helicopters.
31 weeks ago
31 weeks ago Link To Comment
For some reason I can't manage to give a sh!t about either side in the Ukraine-Russia flap...There's a War on Morons going on right here at home.
31 weeks ago
31 weeks ago Link To Comment
Dr. Mabuse asserted: MH17 was shot down by his [Putin's] paid thugs and there's nothing more to discuss."

That line of "the science is settled"-type argument has been played ad nauseam by the fact-challenged Anthropogenic Global Warming crowd. It is surprising to see it mabused on Wrtechard's blog.

There are indeed things to discuss.:
- Why did the EU-installed thug regime in Kiev direct MH 17 out of its usual path to overfly a zone of conflict?
- Why has said thug regime seized the Air Traffic Control tapes and not made them public?
- Why did the thug regime move Surface to Air missile batteries into the zone of conflict a few days before the shootdown when the freedom fighters had no aircraft?
- Why has there been not a single eye-witness report or dash-cam video showing the asserted Surface to Air missile rising to its target? (Remember when a meteor exploded over Russia recently, YouTube was deluged with dash-cam videos, since most people in that part of the world have one running continuously).
- Why did the thug regime have two jet fighters shadowing MH17? And why has the thug regime kept quiet about that? (Remember Old Salt's initial conclusion that the plane was brought down by an Air-to-Air missile).
- Why did the thug regime not declare an immediate halt to its hostilities against fellow Ukrainians to allow for investigation & recovery at the crash site?

And of course the big question for all the lazy minds echoing the Soetero regime's condemnation of Putin: Cui Bono? The destruction of MH17 has done nothing for Russia or the Ukrainians attempting to escape from the thug regime in Kiev; it has been a major benefit for that thug regime.

Of course, none of the above proves anything -- except that we should withhold judgment until someone puts some firm evidence in the public domain. Trust-worthy evidence. Not Soetero's Benghazi video-type evidence.
31 weeks ago
31 weeks ago Link To Comment
"The science is settled" is a bad concept because it deals with science. The events of July 17, 2014, however, are not science, they are history. And the concept that history can never be truly settled is called revisionism, something *I* am surprised to see bruited about on Wretchard's blog.
31 weeks ago
31 weeks ago Link To Comment
Marie Claude

May I offer my congratulations on the immense improvement in your English in the last 24 hours. It is hard to believe that a lone individual could progress so far, so fast. I have every confidence that you will master counting to the number 4 soon.

>>>"and you dare to call yourself our allies?"<<<

Actually, I think many here would not dream of it.

Subotai Bahadur
31 weeks ago
31 weeks ago Link To Comment
Dash cams are ubiquitous in Russia due to the extreme prevalence of police corruption. You didn't think it was just a fad, like those Garfield cats stuck on the back windows in America, did you? I presume this sort of is not as much as a problem in Ukraine.
31 weeks ago
31 weeks ago Link To Comment
I thought it was so we could be treated to a constant supply of amazing youtube videos of mayhem on the frozen Russian "Freeways."

Wretchard could devote one thread for us to post our personal favorites, and then let us vote on them.
31 weeks ago
31 weeks ago Link To Comment
I don't see much chance of credible evidence coming to light the way the "rebels" have been tampering with the crash scene. They had control of the black boxes for a couple of days and who knows what they did to them. The remnants of the plane have apparently been sawed into pieces. I suspect any evidence that makes it to the west will be so thoroughly compromised it will not be believed by anyone.
31 weeks ago
31 weeks ago Link To Comment
The black boxes have already been delivered to the IRS for destruction.
31 weeks ago
31 weeks ago Link To Comment
Then they are probably only scratched.
31 weeks ago
31 weeks ago Link To Comment
I suppose in that event we will just have to go on the admission of guilt by the perps on Facebook.
31 weeks ago
31 weeks ago Link To Comment
31 weeks ago
31 weeks ago Link To Comment
That's outrageous, Sparky.
31 weeks ago
31 weeks ago Link To Comment
There's a very uncomfortable story out on Reuters today which I imagine will be giving you and your sweetheart, Marie Claude, a bit of heartburn tonight:

"In an interview with Reuters, Alexander Khodakovsky, commander of the Vostok Battalion, (NOTE: PUTIN-BACKED SEPARATIST GROUP) acknowledged for the first time since the airliner was brought down in eastern Ukraine on Thursday that the rebels did possess the BUK missile system and said it could have been sent back subsequently to remove proof of its presence."

"I knew that a BUK came from Luhansk. At the time I was told that a BUK from Luhansk was coming under the flag of the LNR," he said, referring to the Luhansk People’s Republic, the main rebel group operating in Luhansk, one of two rebel provinces along with Donetsk, the province where the crash took place.

"That BUK I know about. I heard about it. I think they sent it back. Because I found out about it at exactly the moment that I found out that this tragedy had taken place. They probably sent it back in order to remove proof of its presence," Khodakovsky told Reuters on Tuesday.

ooops. He didn't get the memo saying that he wasn't supposed to talk about this in public, but I guess that's always a problem when you give up on all of your command and control systems.

and I had to add, this really takes a prize in the "Stupid Questions" category: "Why has there been not a single eye-witness report or dash-cam video showing the asserted Surface to Air missile rising to its target?" How about BECAUSE THE SEPARATISTS CONTROL THAT ENTIRE REGION, AND THEY WILL SHOOT ANYONE WHO SENDS OUT ANYTHING THEY DON'T APPROVE OF!!!!


I mean really, I've read your stuff before, but I've never seen you be this lame. This post was pathetic.
31 weeks ago
31 weeks ago Link To Comment
AC said: IBB and all the bargaining strategies that resemble it come from a world of soft, comfortable people who've never dealt with an existential threat; don't even really comprehend existential threats.

Your average hedge lawyers who "negotiate" as part of their standard duties are unlikely to employ anything like IBB either. Why not? Because it's not usually in their clients' best interests.

Really appreciate your posts, Art, thanks.
31 weeks ago
31 weeks ago Link To Comment
I'm not a charitable person so I agree with cfbleachers that the Obamunists are allied with the MB and Qatar, maybe even Iran. But if I were going to be charitable and I kinda, sorta will be to some of the useful idiots in and supporting of the Soros Junta, excuse me, Obama Administration, I could blame the disastrous US policy in the MENA on Hahvud, where most of these idiots matriculated as icons of affirmative action.

Hahvud has this notion called "interest based bargaining." I came to know of it in the collective bargaining environment but they teach it to business leaders, foreign service types, pretty much anybody who'll listen and pay, heavy on the pay because they're very proud of it. Since IBB is so fashionable, I and all my staff gave Hahvud good money for the joint Hahvud/MIT IBB program on collective bargaining. It is utter BS!

The fundamental notion is that liberal given that all people are really the same and all have at least some common interests. So, what you're supposed to do is go through this elaborate ritual so that each party to a negotiation or dispute identifies its interests and avoids becoming "positional" while acting to come towards the other party's interests as an inducement to have them come towards yours. As I said, utter BS. In situations of actual conflict it is even worse than the Republican addiction to the notions of "Getting to Yes."

In public sector collective bargaining IBB just acts as a way to put up a charade of bargaining while the usually Democrat employer conspires with the union against the taxpayers. Where it gets really dangerous is when people who subscribe to IBB get involved in the kinds of conflict that get people killed. There are no common interests between Israel and the barbarians surrounding them. The barbarians don't want peace, they want Israel wiped off the map and its people beheaded; you can't conciliate between these people. The only interest the barbarians have is killing Israelis. The only interest the Israelis have is staying alive. Along the way you can have periods of coincident interest where one side or the other wishes to stop fighting for awhile, but when they're sufficiently healed, they have to go back to fighting because their interests are fundamentally opposed. It is the archetype of positional bargaining because those positions are all either party has. You can convince the barbarians that living in peace with the Israelis is more in their interest at a given moment than dying at the hands of the Israelis, but the moment they think they might have a chance of killing more Israelis without being killed themselves, they go right back to killing Israelis.

IBB and all the bargaining strategies that resemble it come from a world of soft, comfortable people who've never dealt with an existential threat; don't even really comprehend existential threats.
31 weeks ago
31 weeks ago Link To Comment
...a great read by DAVID HOROVITZ...
The terrible cost of thwarting Hamas
31 weeks ago
31 weeks ago Link To Comment
Comments withdrawn
31 weeks ago
31 weeks ago Link To Comment
Just got a report that Haldor Topsoe is going ahead with a wood to gasoline project.

Okay World, do you see that? 92 octane gasoline from wood!

Cut down some of those insect infected forests out west and make 92 octane green gasoline.

That that Barack!!!

31 weeks ago
31 weeks ago Link To Comment

Q - Who said this, Putin or the "Chocolate King" ?

"Today we will consider the fundamental issues of maintaining the sovereignty and territorial integrity of this country. We all understand how many political, ethnic, legal, social, economic and other aspects this topic encompasses.

Sovereignty and territorial integrity are fundamental values, as I have already said. We are referring to the maintenance of the independence and unity of our state, to the reliable protection of our territory, our constitutional system and to the timely neutralisation of internal and external threats, of which there are quite a few in the world today."

And immediately continued

"I should make it clear from the start that, obviously, there is no direct military threat to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of this country. Primarily, the strategic balance of forces in the world guarantees this."

A- Putin
31 weeks ago
31 weeks ago Link To Comment
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