Monday, August 11, 2014

Israel-Palestinian Negotiations, a Short Story and U.S. Military Involvements Leading up to NOW


Let's start off with a short story from my "archives" dating back about ten years.  I like it and hope that you will too.      Jack Lippman 

A Very Rare and Unusual Species                

On the sidewalk under the shelter of a temporary roof thrown up to permit use of the walkway where an old building was to be torn down, sat a small, slim woman, tucked in against the door of a closed store.  Two large black plastic bags containing her belongings rested behind her. This was her home.

Demolition of the building, which some considered to be a landmark, had been delayed by court order, so it appeared that she might be able to live there indefinitely.  Seated on an old milk bottle crate, wrapped in grimy blankets and wearing a black knit cap, she puffed on a cigarette butt, which considering the high price of cigarettes in New York City, must have come from somewhere other than a package of her own.  Because of the covering over the sidewalk, the all-day drizzle didn’t bother her very much.  In the evening, she didn’t lie down to sleep, but just lowered her head and dozed occasionally.


“M’am,” I called out softly.  “Can I ask you something?”

I received no reply other than an outstretched palm, the meaning of which was clear.  I reached into my wallet and extracted a five dollar bill and placed it in her hand.

“Can we talk,” I asked.

“You aren’t a cop or a social worker.  I can tell that.   What do you want to know?”

She sucked a draw out of the stump of the cigarette.

“Without bothering you too much, I’d like to know why you live out here like this.  I’ve watched you for the past month, and I am curious.”

I pulled another five dollar bill out of my wallet, and held it in my hand.  She looked at it and for the first time, showed a slight smile on her dirty face.  Then the words started to flow, in a more genteel voice than I had expected.

“First, let me explain the easy stuff,” she ventured. “Most folks wonder how street people wash up and go to the bathroom. Well, I know where every public john within 20 blocks of here is, and if worse comes to worst, there’s always Central Park.  And as for food, that’s no hassle either.  You know, with what people and stores throw out in the garbage; there’s always plenty to eat.  And with what I can get from the church shelters or from the occasional passer-by who gives me something, I manage to survive.  I don’t have no TV or radio, but I got the world walking by to provide me with something to watch.  That’s enough for me.  What else you want to know?”

I handed her the bill. 

“How long have you been on the street?  What was your life about before?  Do you have family?”

“You want to know a lot, Mister. I got no family,” she continued.  “My mother and father and my sister are all dead.  I have a brother somewhere, if he’s still alive, but I haven’t seen him in 30 years.  I never had a husband, but I had a kid once.  Gave her up for adoption.  She must be 25 by now.  I don’t know how long I’ve been on the street, but it gotta be five or six years now.”

“What were you doing before that?” I asked.

“Haven’t thought about it in years.  I used to work in an office, get paid every week.  I got drunk quite a bit and they fired me.  I went to AA, but that didn’t work so I moved in with a couple I knew in the Bronx.  They let me live there if I kept the place clean, did all the laundry and walked the dog.  They gave me a cot in the basement, free food and enough money to buy booze.  They got pissed at me and threw me out after I vomited on the rug.  I must have wandered around for a couple of months, and ended up on the streets.  They’re not so safe in the East Bronx, so after I got rolled and beaten a couple of times, I came down here to Manhattan.  This is a great corner.  I took it over when Madeline, she had it before me, had a stroke and got taken to Bellevue.  I think she died. I had to fight with one or two others over the corner, but they were old farts and I beat the crap out of them.”

“Are you going to spend the money I gave you on liquor?”

“Naw,” she replied.  “Don’t drink anymore.  Quit on my own.  Smoking is bad enough. And I think I’ve told you enough about myself.  I’m going to take a snooze.  Good night.”

And with that she turned her head away from me, and dropping her chin to her chest, closed her eyes.  But I knew she felt me push another bill into her fingers, which squeezed around it.  She dozed.

Or at least I thought she dozed.  Once I was gone, she got up and taking her two massive shopping bags with her, slowly walked toward Eighth Avenue.  Reaching into a pouch near the top of the larger one, she pulled out a plastic card and shoved it into the slot at the door of the closed Citibank branch halfway down the block.  Once in the lobby, she filled out a deposit slip, put it into an envelope with the bills I had given her, and walked up to the ATM.  She made the deposit and smiled when she took the receipt.  Holding it close to her eyes, she read the numbers indicating her savings balance to be $3,545.

The next time I saw her on the street, she smiled at me, and called me closer with a beckoning finger.

“I want to say good-by to you,” she said.  “And thanks for the twenty bucks the other night.  You know, I won’t be on this corner much longer.  I can feel winter coming on, and I can’t take the cold weather.”

“What’ll you do,” I asked.

“Well, every fall, I get myself onto a freight car and work my way down south.  I usually end up somewhere in Florida.  Last year, I was in West Palm Beach.  They treat us homeless folks real nice down there.  Let us beg on the dividers at the intersections.  Not like here, where that Giuilani fellow chased us off of the corners, even if we were wiping car windows for folks.  Yeah, it’s real nice in Florida in the winter, but when it gets too hot down there, I’ll come back up here to this corner, unless this building gets ripped down.  Anyway, thanks for the money the other night.”

I walked away, grinning to myself about the fact that I had just encountered a very rare and unusual species, a homeless snowbird.

Israel Finds Silent Backing by Arab Nations Hostile to Hamas 

Here's an article posted today on which basically says that while the other enemies of Hamas are not necessarily Israel's friends, they at least can be quietly worked with to a limited extent in attempting to achieve a relatively peaceful resolution of Israeli-Palestinian issues.   JL

As Israel seeks to sideline Hamas in any accord on the Gaza Strip’s future, it’s finding quiet support among Arab nations where antagonism toward the Islamist group eclipses their enmity toward the Jewish state.

Egypt, which mediated a second 72-hour halt to Gaza fighting yesterday, is now ruled by an army chief who presided over a crackdown on Hamas’s Islamist patrons. Saudi Arabia’s king didn’t explicitly criticize Israel in a recent lament over civilian deaths in Gaza. The United Arab Emirates, which pledged aid to help rebuild the coastal strip, is also hostile to political Islam. 

There’s an “alignment of interests” between nations that aren’t allies yet have “common adversaries,” said Martin Indyk, vice president of the Brookings Institution in Washington and a former U.S. negotiator in the Middle East. “As they see that the U.S. is less engaged than it was before, it’s natural that they look to each other -- quietly, under the table in most respects -- to find a way to help each other.”

Hamas - Terror and Beyond:
Talks in Cairo first delivered a three-day truce that collapsed Aug. 8 amid a barrage of Hamas rockets. Israel sent a delegation to Cairo today after rocket attacks ended at midnight with the start of the second accord. Israel and Hamas are pressing for an agreement that addresses issues earlier pacts didn’t resolve. Hamas wants to end the blockade of Gaza by Israel and Egypt, while Israel seeks to demilitarize the territory.

Gulf Money:  

With Egypt brokering the negotiations and Gulf states promising money to help reconstruct Gaza, Israeli officials have said they may support a bigger role there for the secular Palestinian Authority under President Mahmoud Abbas, at Hamas’s expense. Following the breakdown of Abbas’s peace talks with Israel, Hamas and Abbas mended a seven-year rift that produced rival governments in the West Bank and Gaza, forming a unity coalition in June that Israel has shunned.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said changes in the region create an opportunity to “fashion a new reality” that is “more conducive to an end to violence, a sustainable peace that can lead to other things.” We are “prepared to see a role” for the Palestinian Authority in post-conflict Gaza, Netanyahu said in Jerusalem last week.

Israel has had greater contact in recent weeks with Arab governments opposed to radical Islamists, according to an Israeli official who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to comment publicly. Israel, like the U.S. and European Union, considers Hamas a terrorist group.

Gaza Homes

Securing a Cairo agreement to rebuild Gaza will provide an early test of the practical value of the contacts. The United Nations says more than 10,000 homes were destroyed in the fighting that also damaged the strip’s sole power station, schools and medical centers. More than 1,900 Palestinians and 67 on the Israeli side have been killed. 

Someone will have to pay for the rebuilding of Gaza, but Israel will not agree to anything without guarantees that construction materials will not be used for military purposes, as they were before there was a blockade. "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me."  In lieu of cement, tents might be an answer. JL Destruction of Gaza resulted from Hamas' shooting off rockets from urban residential areas.  Without a doubt, Israel will settle for no less than a fully demilitarized Gaza but most certainly will have to give up something for it, probably in terms of a reduced blockade, potentially administered by Palestinians other than Hamas.  JL

Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. haven’t made peace with Israel, while Egypt and Jordan have. In one area of convergence, Saudi Arabia’s ruling family shares Israel’s concerns over Iran’s nuclear program.

The U.A.E. and Saudi Arabia will be behind the scenes in Cairo, said Christopher Davidson, a reader in Middle East politics at the U.K.’s University of Durham. As the “bank-rollers of Egypt, it’s implicit in any Egyptian peace-brokering that its actions are monitored and pre-approved by these monarchies,” said Davidson, author of “After the Sheikhs: The Coming Collapse of the Gulf Monarchies.”

Brotherhood Ban

The two autocracies are staunch opponents of the Muslim Brotherhood, the regional group that is Hamas’s parent, and its vision of bringing political Islam to power via the ballot box. Saudi Arabia in March designated the Brotherhood as a terrorist organization.

King Abdullah on Aug. 1 condemned those “trying to hijack Islam and present it to the world as a religion of extremism,” while criticizing the international community for “watching silently” as “we see the blood of our brothers in Palestine shed in collective massacres.”

Egypt’s military under now-President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi toppled a Brotherhood-backed government last year, and has tightened the Gaza blockade. Tunnels that were used to smuggle goods have been demolished on concerns militants might use them to attack Egyptian forces in the Sinai peninsula.

Egypt and Gulf states except Qatar “agree on the need to keep Hamas weak,” Khalid al-Dakhil, an independent political analyst based in Riyadh, said by phone. “They want everything to go through the Palestinian Authority.” The problem is that “Israel wants to eliminate Hamas and keep Abbas as weak as possible,” he said.

Best Situation:  

Abbas’s failure to win a Palestinian state through negotiations with Israel has hurt his standing among his people. Nathan Thrall, a Jerusalem-based senior analyst at the International Crisis Group, said he’s skeptical the fallout from the Gaza conflict will prod Netanyahu to make concessions Abbas sought.

“I don’t see a willingness on the part of the Israeli coalition to give” Abbas the freeze on construction of Jewish settlements and release of a further group of Palestinian prisoners that he wants, Thrall said.

One possibility under discussion in Cairo would be to give Abbas authority over the Gaza-Egyptian border crossing at Rafah, Israel’s Channel 2 reported, without saying where it got the information.

  Mahmoud Abbas will play some sort of role in an ultimate settlement, but that role will be limited by the extent of trust Israel has in him. 

A rebuilding of Gaza led by Gulf countries and Egypt, along with new powers for Abbas there, would be “the best situation,” said Joshua Teitelbaum, senior research fellow at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies near Tel Aviv. “There’s a long road to go.”

Great Idea

In the end, it may be pro-Hamas nations Qatar and Turkey that are needed to arrange a long-term deal in Gaza, according to Moshe Maoz, a professor emeritus of Islamic studies at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. That will only happen if Mideast peace talks resume and make progress, he said.

Netanyahu’s goal of demilitarizing Gaza is “a great idea, but how do you force Hamas to do it?” Maoz said. The Saudi and Emirati leaders, who don’t have diplomatic ties with Israel, are unlikely to go public with their common interests, meaning that progress may be slow, said Davidson. “It’s going to be a great dancing act,” he said. “It has to be cryptic.” 

To contact the reporters on this story: Gwen Ackerman in Jerusalem at; Caroline Alexander in London at
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Amy Teibel at; Alaa Shahine at Mark Williams 


Involvement in a Jello Mold

When the United States becomes involved in military operations in far distant places, there ought to be a good reason for it to do so.  There should be a goal and if that goal is accomplished, the military operation was justified.  Sometimes, it might take years to make that determination.  But let us look at a few instances.

We became involved in the First World War when the lives of our nationals became threatened.  The sinking of the Lusitania by the Germans put us on the side of the British and the French.  Furthermore, both of those countries were democracies to a greater extent than the Germans who were still ruled by the Kaiser.  It became apparent that we could not let our allies, the British and the French, lose … and so we became involved in “the War to End All Wars.”  Unfortunately, the inability of the parties involved to see the value of compromise resulted in the Versailles Treaty which solved none of the geopolitical and ethnic problems which led to the war, and even worse, sowed the seeds of the Second World War.

We became involved in the Second World War when it became evident that the forces of evil in Germany and the territorial aspirations of Japan would triumph over democratic ideals, and so we entered “the War to Make the World Safe for Democracy.”  We would have done so even if Pearl Harbor had not been attacked. We won that war and were gentler to the vanquished powers than we were a quarter of a century earlier.  But after the war, it became clear that the Soviet Union, in its effort to install totalitarian, communist economic systems wherever it could, loomed as a threat to the United States and its traditional allies, where democratic, free enterprise systems reigned.

When this threat enveloped China, we chose not to become involved, but when it threatened the rest of the Far East, we did choose to confront it in Korea and in Vietnam.  We saved half of Korea, and in doing so, probably Japan as well, but failed in Vietnam.  Oddly, however, communist Vietnam has turned out to be less totalitarian and more capitalistic than we had anticipated, and now serves as an economic buffer with neighboring China, which despite its capitalist economic leanings, remains totalitarian and aggressive.

With the rise of a militant and terrorist Islam threatening the West, and which killed over 3,000 Americans in the World Trade Center in 2001, we had little choice but to become involved militarily.  We went into Iraq without too much "future planning" and eventually into Afghanistan, and our forces succeeded in both countries.  Sadly, however, we mistook what we thought were well defined nations with what really were just conglomerations of tribes and ethnic groups living within meaningless borders.  The “nation-building” we did in Iraq and we hope we are doing in Afghanistan was like making a beautiful Jello mold, and putting out in the burning hot desert sun where it melts.  Right now, the land area between Iran, Turkey, Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia is in ferment.  Called “Iraq” by British mapmakers after World War One, it only existed as a country while a despot was in charge.  Otherwise, it is melted Jello.  

Militant, terrorist Islam recognizes that nature abhors a vacuum and has moved into that land area, establishing an “Islamic State.”  It makes no bones about the fact that it intends to use that entity as a “caliphate” uniting and ruling the entire Muslim world, and dominating everyone else whom they consider to be “infidels.”   The West sees this as a threat. 
The Islamic State has both a presence and control in many areas of the land area referred to as Iraq.

No matter how often we say we are bombing their forces to guarantee the safety of Americans there, and for humanitarian purposes, our real mission is to obliterate the entire military force of that Islamic State.  And our planes can do that.  There aren’t many places to hide in the desert, and if they hole up in populated areas, our bombs will make what Israel did in Gaza look like child’s play.  Once we destroy the Islamic State’s fighting forces, it will be up to what’s left of the melted Iraqi Jello mold to figure out how to keep militant Islam in check there.  And helping them do it should be neighboring Iran, Turkey, Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, all of whom are targets of the Islamic State militants, even the Shia Iranians whom the Sunni Islamic State people despise.  (By then, the part of this land area known as Turkestan will be independent, and able to defend itself.}  And they make no bones about it that we too are among their targets!  When their leader last got out of prison, he declared, "See you in New York!"

Is this reason enough for us to become militarily involved against the Islamic State?  You bet it is.  But we are hedging our bets by limiting our involvement to air power.  If and when more than that is necessary, we will have some difficult decisions to make, the same kind which the nations from which the Crusaders came had to make seven hundred  years ago.  That didn’t turn out too well.

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