NATION STATES, NOT THE UNITED NATIONS, DEFEND OUR INTERESTS 27 January 2012

A recent incident provided yet another reminder of why the UN is incapable of intervening in the Middle East. This month, Ban Ki-moon called for Hezbollah to lay down its weapons in line with several UN Security Council Resolutions.

In a visit to UNIFIL peacekeepers in Lebanon, the UN Secretary-General declared himself “deeply concerned” about Hezbollah’s “military capacity” and “the lack of progress in disarmament”.

Yet in response, Hassan Nasrallah chose to mock the UN Chief. He proclaimed his belief in “the path of resistance” and told the Secretary-General: “Your concern reassures us and pleases us”.

In other words, Ban Ki Moon’s legitimate concerns were of no consequence to the terror chief. Nasrallah was indicating that he had as much intention to disarm his terrorists as he had in handing over the four men suspecting of assassinating former Lebanese Prime Minister, Rafic Hariri.

Ban Ki-moon has every reason to express these concerns. Hezbollah possesses a vast array of weaponry and its strength has increased considerably since the 2006 Lebanon war. It has an estimated 40,000 rockets, mortar shells and grenades, mainly supplied by Syria and Iran.

While some of these weapons have a short range, others are easily capable of reaching Tel Aviv and beyond. Indeed, Hezbollah today would be far stronger were it not for the recent interception of a number of Lebanese bound cargo ships laden with arms.

The Shi’ite terror group’s military prowess is also a blatant violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701, passed in 2006. This unambiguously calls for Hezbollah to disarm and states that there must be ‘no weapons or authority in Lebanon other than that of the Lebanese state’.

Nasrallah’s bravado and defiance owe as much to the UN’s own failures as they do to the mindset of intransigent terrorists. Resolution 1701 lacks binding legal authority and enforcement power because it was adopted under Chapter VI of the UN Charter.

As a result the beefed up UN Interim force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) is not authorised to use armed force. In the words of Major-General Alain Pelligrini, a former force Commander: “The disarmament of Hezbollah is not the business of UNIFIL”.

Effectively, Resolution 1701 (like earlier resolutions) gives the terror group a green light to re-arm, encouraging another round of deadly hostilities in the future.

But this is far from being the first time that the UN has failed in Lebanon; their track record in the last decade alone is abysmal. In 2000, Hezbollah launched an attack on the Israeli-Lebanese border, capturing and then killing three Israeli soldiers.

This act of terror was carried out using faked UN vehicles and represented a clear breach of earlier agreements. Despite the act of aggression, the UN delayed handing over vital information to the Israelis, something made easier by the fact that among the countries contributing to UNIFIL were several that had no diplomatic relations with Israel. Not surprisingly, some "peacekeepers" are believed to be sympathetic to Nasrallah's terrorists.

In response to Hezbollah's aggression, the UN upgraded the group’s diplomatic status to regional ‘player’. Yet the only regional players were two sovereign states, Israel and Lebanon, not an internationally outlawed terrorist organisation.

Indeed even calling Hezbollah a terror organisation was unacceptable. Instead the UN referred to the ongoing confrontation between Israel and Hezbollah in non-judgmental terms as a ‘cycle of violence’, implying that there was a moral equivalence between the two.

Worse, the UN elevated Syria, Hezbollah’s ally, to the Security Council in 2002. This high honour was given despite the country hosting numerous regional terror groups and continuing to illegally occupy Lebanon, another UN member state. It was a brutal slap in the face to the movement for freedom in the Middle East.

The implications of all this are fairly clear. Over the last two decades, the UN has not so much ignored terrorism as encouraged and assisted it. Far from being impotent, the organisation has become a mischief maker of the most deplorable kind.

It is thus incapable of replacing nation states as the guardian of regional peace and stability. Ultimately, terrorist groups and rogue regimes will only be deterred by the credible threat of military force from responsible states.

So the next time our politicians call on the UN to bring peace and stability to the Middle East, one need only recall Nasrallah’s mocking response to Ban Ki Moon.




UGLY REVISIONISM THAT PROVES ABBAS IS NO PARTNER FOR PEACE 18 March 2012

The Palestinian desire to falsify history is a well established part of their diplomatic war against Israel. Nowhere is this more clearly exemplified than in the attempt to blot out any Jewish historical connection to Jerusalem.

Mahmoud Abbas provided a clear example of this in a recent speech in Doha. He claimed that Israel was trying to obliterate the "Arab-Islamic and Christian" character of east Jerusalem by “Judaizing” the city.

He accused Israel of “ethnic cleansing” to reduce the city's Arab population and barring Palestinians from entering Jerusalem. He questioned whether a Jewish Temple ever existed in Jerusalem and claimed that Israel was seeking to destroy the al-Aqsa mosque.

Throughout, he refused to acknowledge the Jewish connection to the city. Naturally, these charges are baseless and will merely serve to incite a frenzy of anti-Israeli hysteria.

For starters, the Jewish connection to Jerusalem is irrefutable. For over three millennia the city has played a central role in Jewish faith and practice. It is mentioned no fewer than 669 times in the Hebrew Bible and is referred to by countless Jewish scholars throughout the ages.

Some 3,000 years ago, Jerusalem was chosen as the capital of the new United Monarchy and later, the Kingdom of Judah, the last independent state to exist in the Holy Land before 1948. It was also the location of the first and second Temples, whose destruction is commemorated in a Jewish national day of mourning.

It is the city that Jews turn to when they pray and the place they refer to in countless religious services, blessings and customs. It is not for nothing that at the end of a Passover service Jews say 'Next year in Jerusalem'.

By contrast, Jerusalem is not mentioned once in the Koran. Mohammed never visited the city and Muslims pray in the direction of Mecca instead. It has never been the capital of a sovereign Muslim state, nor has it served as a cultural or scholarly centre within the Islamic world.

Indeed for long periods under Arab rule, the city was a neglected backwater, starved of investment by its rulers. One observer in 1784 spoke of Jerusalem's ‘destroyed walls, its debris-filled moat, its city circuit choked with ruins’ while a century later, Mark Twain would bemoan how the city had become a 'pauper village'.

During the First World War, Jerusalem's Ottoman overlords even threatened to destroy the city with the British poised to enter. And during the Jordanian occupation of east Jerusalem from 1949 to 1967, the city played second fiddle to the capital, Amman. Interestingly, the original PLO covenant from 1964 made no mention of liberating Jerusalem.

Under Israeli rule there has been complete freedom of worship for all religious groups. Since 1967, the law for the protection of holy places has guarded sacred sites from desecration and ensured that there is freedom of access for different faiths.

The story is different when you look at the PA’s control of holy places. In 2000, Palestinian mobs ransacked Joseph’s tomb after the IDF withdrew from Samaria. When the PA was given jurisdiction over Bethlehem, Rachel’s Tomb came under constant Arab attack, forcing Israel to protect it with concrete walls.

Then in 2003, Mahmoud Abbas declared that a Palestinian state would not allow a permanent Jewish presence at the Western Wall. To hand Abbas the keys to the Old City would encourage even further acts of cultural vandalism.

The charge of ethnic cleansing is also fraudulent, as a simple glance at Jerusalem’s demography reveals. In the 40 years since Israel reunified the city, the Jewish population has increased by some 140 per cent while the Arab population has expanded by more than 250 percent. Today, a quarter of a million Arabs live in the city, an all time high.

Certainly Jerusalem has a history of Islamic rule and it contains some fine examples of Muslim architecture. But this does not give the Palestinian Arabs a right to demand control of the city in any political settlement. For religious and historical reasons, Jerusalem must remain the undivided capital of Israel.

Abbas’ false allegations are a form of political warfare designed to undermine the legitimacy of the Jewish state. Israel should expose his malicious lies at every opportunity, and use them to demonstrate why he cannot be a partner in peace.




HOW A GLORIOUS SPRING TURNED TO CRUEL WINTER 29 March 2012

When protests and demonstrations rocked the cities of Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, much of the Western commentariat cheered from the sidelines. We were assured that the 'Facebook revolutionaries’ would topple dictatorships, end tyranny and inaugurate a popular wave of political reform.

Israel was repeatedly criticised for its failure to embrace 'The Arab Spring'. But it turned out that Israelis were the realists after all. When the autocrats fell from power amid a surge of revolutionary fervour, it was religious extremists who filled the vacuum with terrifying speed. Now with jihadis in the ascendant from Cairo to Tunis, and from Alexandria to Tripoli, any hope of progressive change looks increasingly forlorn.

This is the conclusion of After the Arab Spring, a timely study of the Middle East revolts written by acclaimed foreign correspondent, John R. Bradley. In consummate detail, Bradley provides a trenchant analysis of how Islamists came to hijack the mass protests in order to advance their own insidious agenda. His conclusion is stark: the Arab Spring has been a “dismal failure”.

Nowhere is this more evident than in Tunisia, the country which lit the spark for the mass demonstrations. This state, once noted for its secular freedoms and cultural permissiveness, has been convulsed by religious extremism.

Violent Islamists have already carried out attacks on religious minorities, including the murder of a Roman Catholic priest and the torching of a synagogue. Religious radicals have forced the closure of brothels, attacked a cinema for its “blasphemous” output and rioted to demand the compulsory wearing of the veil, an item banned under the secular regime.

No wonder that Bradley dismisses the Jasmine Revolution as “perhaps the dumbest and most self defeating uprising in history”. And the author also explodes the myth that the young Tunisian revolutionaries were all Jeffersonian liberals clamouring for democracy. What brought them onto the streets was an economic crisis and contempt for the ruling elite.

Egypt's revolution has shown a similarly depressing pattern of Islamist triumph and revival. The Muslim Brotherhood have become the key beneficiary of the recent elections and with an “anti Western, Islamic and fervently anti-Zionist'” agenda, they seek an Islamic Caliphate based on Sharia Law.

Rumours that the Brotherhood have mellowed owe much to clever spokesmen who “spout to gullible western ‘experts’ the virtues of its pro democracy platform”. The Obama administration continues to regard the Brotherhood as an acceptable force within the Islamic world, with one US official recently describing them as a “loose network of secular groups”. The naivety is breathtaking.

Israel has already borne the brunt of the revolution. Last September, the Egyptian authorities only belatedly intervened after a rampaging mob attacked the Israeli embassy in Cairo. In another terrifying incident, eight Israelis were killed after terrorists infiltrated Sinai, with some Egyptian soldiers implicated in the attack. With Cairo's military junta choosing to appease the Islamists, Jerusalem is paying a heavy price.

More bewildering, perhaps, is Libya - where the West has handed al-Qaeda mercenaries and jihadi extremists the keys to a secular state. The rebel-led transitional council announced last year that Islam would be the “principal source of legislation” and one of the first acts of the interim government was to annul all laws that contravened sharia.

Bradley predicts that a post-Gaddafi Libya will become more conservative, with likely political domination by the Muslim Brotherhood and other Salafi groups. The country remains scarred by tribal divisions and as the author puts it, “Only a buffoon would expect them (the tribes) to embrace Western democratic principles”.

Popular elections are not a panacea for the region's complex problems. For “when the gift of democracy is unwrapped, it is the Islamists who spring out of the box”. The book is readable and well written, interspersing political analysis with revealing historical insights.

But this author betrays an Arabist agenda when he rails against what he calls America's “crude imperialist agenda”. He believes that the West has much to blame for the Arab world's deep malaise and that support for Saudi Arabia and Israel is damaging for the region. He gives particular credence to Presidential candidate Ron Paul’s stance of non-intervention.

This begs the question of what kind of Middle East would emerge from such non-intervention. Given the prevalence of religious extremism and sectarian rivalry in the region, many countries could easily descend into a series of bloody civil wars from which only the well organised Islamists would emerge triumphant. American support for Israel thus makes perfect strategic sense for the Jewish state is a reliable, democratic bulwark to Islamist tyranny.

Bradley's insightful volume reminds us that the Middle East is a notoriously bad neighbourhood. Thanks to the Arab Spring, that neighbourhood just got a whole lot worse.




NO PLACE FOR KEN'S SECTARIAN POLITICS IN MULTI FAITH LONDON 26 April 2012

Ken Livingstone's hostility towards Israel and Zionism has been well documented over the years. When discussing the Jewish state, he has used incendiary language and made a torrent of accusations and calumnies that bear little relation to reality. Some of his provocative remarks, such as his recently reported declaration that Jews would not vote for him because they were rich (since denied), have displayed a similar willingness to wound communal feelings. For this reason, his eleventh hour, pre-election attempt to put the record straight in this newspaper last week ought to fool no one.

While Livingstone has displayed brazen contempt for London Jewry, he has been busy cultivating the city's Muslim community, including some of its more radical elements. In a recent speech at the North London Central Mosque, he promised to educate the mass of Londoners in Islam and "cement our city as a beacon that demonstrates the meaning of the words of the Prophet".

The mosque is controversial, not just because of its association with Abu Hamza, but because it is now controlled by the Muslim Association of Britain. The MAB is unapologetically Islamist and some of its spokesmen, such as Azzam Tamimi and Mohammed Sawalha, openly support Hamas.

Nor is such an unsavoury connection a one off for Livingstone. Few will forget the upset he caused in embracing the homophobic, Jew hating Islamist, Sheikh Qaradawi, in 2004. In 2010, he campaigned for Lutfur Rahman, an independent candidate seeking to become the directly elected mayor of Tower Hamlets. Rahman had been sacked by Labour because he was linked to and funded by the Islamic Forum of Europe, an extremist organisation that has also supported Livingstone. The former Mayor has also worked for Press TV, an organ of the Iranian government.

This all represents a grubby form of sectarian politics, a blatant attempt to promote one minority on the basis of its perceived religious interests. But Livingstone has also allied himself with increasingly radical voices within British Islam, including individuals who routinely support terror groups.

This is profoundly alienating, not just to the city's non-Islamic communities, but also to the majority of decent, law abiding Muslims who decry religious radicalism. They are entitled to know what the mobilisation of their faith has to do with issues of crime, policing and transport. They will want to know how courting organisations that espouse Sharia law can possibly enhance community cohesion.

In one sense, Livingstone's tactics boil down to simple political arithmetic. Muslims form the second largest religious group in London and, as of 2001, numbered some 607,000 - three times the city's Jewish community. Like any career minded politician, Livingstone has a keen eye for population statistics in his electoral strategy.

But there is another sinister agenda - and it was revealed in the Bradford West by-election. For Livingstone has also become a key figure in the unholy alliance between the hard left and the global jihadist movement. At first sight, this fusion seems improbable. The hard left's commitment to universal equality and secularism sits uneasily with the Islamist demand for Sharia law. But crucially, both view America as the primary source of evil.

For Livingstone and his allies, the “American capitalist empire” has promulgated tyranny, exploitation and economic oppression, and is an unequalled source of misery in the world. He once described President Bush as “the greatest threat to life on this planet".

For the radical Islamists, American secular values make it the key part of the Dar al-Harb, the House of War. Worse, US support for pro-western regimes in the Middle East, including Israel, represents a barrier to the restoration of the Caliphate.

Both the hard left and the Islamists believe that a new moral order is possible without America's 'malign' influence in the world. They also believe that Israel is a US backed colonial implant and that the Palestinians represent a third world liberation movement fighting western racism. Taken together, one can see why the left has embraced Islamism in this Nazi-Soviet pact style alliance.

Livingstone is entitled to share these beliefs if he so wishes. But when they translate into support for Islamist groups with their radical agendas, it is an altogether different matter. To assume office in a multi faith city while pandering to one religious group is nothing more than a malodorous form of sectarian politics. For this reason alone, he is not fit to represent the citizens of London.




NO SIGN OF MOSCOW SLOWING IRANIAN NUCLEAR JUGGERNAUT 07 June 2012

In one week's time, the US and her key allies will make yet another diplomatic attempt to halt the Iranian nuclear juggernaut. They will sit down with Iran's representatives in Moscow on 16 June in a final push to resolve this critical stand off. But if the last talks in Baghdad are anything to go by, they may as well not turn up.

In the previous round of negotiations, Tehran's position was utterly uncompromising. Her leaders refused to budge one inch on their phoney 'right' to enrich uranium, while reiterating the absurd contention that their nuclear programme was designed for 'peaceful' purposes.

For Saeed Jalili, the secretary general of Iran's National Security Council, his country's right to enrich uranium was "irrefutable" and it would "welcome some offer to cooperate" only if the world accepted that right.

Jalili was speaking on behalf of Ayatollah Khamenei, the man who ultimately controls Iran's nuclear destiny. He is a figure who would sooner resign than back down on this issue, according to Mohammad Hoseyn Moussavian, a key figure in the negotiations with Iran.

In any case, these talks were an utter sham because, far from demanding a halt to uranium enrichment, as per UN resolutions, they were predicated on allowing Iran to enrich some uranium to low levels.

So as one American official recently put it, what the international community offered at the negotiating table was “less than what is needed, and even those minimal demands were rejected by the Iranians".

This continuing diplomatic push will achieve very little, save to remind us that the Islamic Republic is adroit at playing for time with its Western interlocutors.

Iranian leaders are showing that they are prepared to ride out the pressure of international sanctions for the greater prize of an atomic arsenal and the leverage this will give them in international affairs. In Netanyahu's words, they are playing a game of "nuclear chess" where the stakes could hardly be higher.

And all the while, Iran is exploiting this diplomatic breathing space to beef up its nuclear infrastructure, safe in the knowledge that without drastic intervention, the county will soon have crossed the finishing line and made itself invulnerable to external pressure.

In its recent quarterly report, the IAEA indicated that in the last 4 months alone, Iran had almost doubled its stockpile of near weapons grade highly enriched uranium to some 145 kilograms. There are now estimated to be more than 300 additional centrifuges installed at Fordow, an underground facility which some analysts believe is impervious to attack.

According to the Institute for Science and International Security, if matters continue Iran will soon have enough highly enriched uranium to make at least five nuclear bombs.

Iran also continues to evade the IAEA, just as surely as Saddam Hussein played a game of cat and mouse with UN weapons inspectors. Its recent report mentions “extensive activities” being undertaken at the Parchin site which “could hamper the Agency's ability to undertake effective verification”.

Satellite images reveal extensive tampering at the site which is designed to conceal illicit nuclear activities. This is the clearest evidence that Iran has no interest in co-operating with the western powers.

In Moscow, Iranian leaders are likely to show the same uncompromising hostility, and outright deceit. Tehran will doubtless blame western sanctions and accuse the world powers of being in thrall to 'the Zionist entity'. If any deal is salvaged amid the recriminations, it will be less than is required to halt Iran's nuclear programme.

But if no deal is reached in Moscow, Iran will face a punishing series of sanctions which are designed to further weaken the country's economy. Perhaps, some argue, this financial onslaught will finally bring Khamenei to his senses and force a change of heart.

But that assumes a level of rational thinking that has often eluded leaders throughout the region. A decade of sanctions hardly turned Saddam Hussein into a moderate nor has economic pressure altered Hamas' genocidal ambitions. It is entirely possible that no amount of economic pressure will persuade the Iranian regime to back down.

If so, Israel may feel that there is no choice but to engage in a pre-emptive military operation against a country sworn to her own destruction. Given the grave threat she faces, could anyone blame her?




HOW ISRAEL CAN SAFEGUARD HER CITIZENS FROM IMPLODING SYRIA 26 July 2012

The chaos now unfolding in Damascus is being viewed with considerable trepidation in Israel. With Syria descending into civil war, it is unclear what successor regime may emerge or what steps a desperate Assad will take to ensure his survival.

These fears have been heightened by the regime's threat to use non conventional weapons against 'external aggression', a veiled reference to Israel and other regional powers. Such an alarming threat cannot be dismissed too lightly.

Syria is believed to have one of the largest arsenals of chemical and biological weapons in the world. The regime possesses large quantities of Sarin, mustard gas and cyanide while, thanks to Russian assistance, they have developed biological pathogens as offensive weapons. It also has a large range of Scud missiles with which to deliver them.

Even if Assad does not use these weapons himself, they may fall into the hands of al Qaeda or other rogue groups that are battling against the dictator. But there is also a palpable danger that Assad could transfer these weapons to Hezbollah. After all, if he believed that he was about to fall from power, he would surely prefer them in the hands of an ally rather than a hated opponent.

Any such handover would clearly be a regional game changer of epic proportions. Already Hezbollah is thought to possess in excess of 60,000 missiles, some of which can reach every major city in Israel.

A battery of chemical and biological weapons would expand their deterrent strength considerably. They would feel even more emboldened to launch terror attacks around the world, knowing that western powers might think twice before retaliating. And in the worst case scenario, they could actually use such weapons in a war with Israel, inflicting devastating casualties.

For good reason therefore, Israeli leaders have stated that they will be forced to intervene if these weapons are moved towards Lebanon. In a recent interview, Ehud Barak said that he had "ordered the Israeli military to prepare for a situation where we would have to weigh the possibility of carrying out an attack". The implication was that Israel would bomb any arms shipment, or the weapon sites themselves.

No doubt, such an action would be decried as immoral, provocative and contrary to international law. But from a legal point of view, it is a legitimate act of self defence against an aggressor.

The leader of Hezbollah, an illegally armed terrorist militia, has signalled very explicitly that he wants the Jewish state wiped off the map. In 2006 Hassan Nasrallah said "There is no solution to the conflict in this region except with the disappearance of Israel".

Hezbollah has backed up its genocidal intent with murderous deeds. Their operatives have been connected with a wave of attacks against Israelis in the last 20 years, including the bombing of the AMIA centre which killed 85 people. In the last year, they have been linked to a number of terror plots against Israelis, including the recent bombing at Burgas airport.

Given Hezbollah's genocidal intentions, it is a matter of 'anticipatory self defence' for Israel to attack or intercept these deadly chemical stockpiles. That they have not yet been used against Israel is irrelevant. As President Kennedy declared in 1962: "We no longer live in a world where only the actual firing of weapons represents a sufficient challenge to a nation’s security". Waiting for an enemy's deadly assault before reacting is potentially suicidal.

Syria too can hardly complain if Israel was forced to conduct a self defence operation on its soil. As chief supplier and sponsor of Hezbollah, Syria has committed offences under the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism.

By giving protection to terrorist masterminds, Syria has also violated Security Council Resolution 1373 which makes the provision of safe havens a criminal terrorist act. As the resolution comes under Chapter 7, it has legal weight and can lead to military action.

Naturally, such an Israeli operation could trigger a repeat of the 2006 war, and this time with more fearsome consequences for the Jewish state. But Nasrallah has vivid memories of the carnage he brought to Lebanon and it is far from certain that he wants a repeat.

So while a fragmenting Syria poses grave security risks to the wider region, it is not an insurmountable problem. By taking robust measures against her enemies and remaining eternally vigilant, Israel can protect her citizens from terror.




WAIT AND HOPE STRATEGY HAS BROUGHT WAR CLOSER 13 September 2012

It appears that we may soon be at the point of no return over Iran. Benjamin Netanyahu and his more hawkish ministers seem convinced that the mixture of diplomacy and sanctions favoured by Washington has done nothing to curb the Iranian nuclear programme.

Only last week the topic caused an intense row between Netanyahu and the American ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro. The Prime Minister reportedly accused Obama of failing to draw a red line in dealing with the Iranian threat, thus failing to indicate when action might be taken against the Islamic Republic.

On this issue, Netanyahu is spot on. President Obama's 'wait and hope' strategy has proved ineffective in dealing with the Iranian regime. Over the last 4 years, he has initiated an extraordinary programme of outreach to Iran, including nuclear talks with the Republic and a refusal to back military force in unambiguous terms. His goodwill led him to spurn the Green movement during the bloody crackdown in 2009.

But Iran today remains as defiant as ever. The most recent IAEA report indicates that the country has significantly increased its stockpile of enriched uranium while other reports suggest that there is an ongoing attempt to hide evidence of her illicit activities. Thus while ordinary Iranian civilians are suffering, the regime's nuclear aspirations remain intact.

Nonetheless, a number of prominent Israeli figures have spoken out against the wisdom of their country attacking Iran. Last year, former Mossad boss, Meir Dagan, decried such action as foolish and illegal and his scepticism was shared by former Shin Bet director Yuval Diskin and ex Chief of Staff Shaul Mofaz. Implicit in their argument is that Israel should reach an understanding with the US on any timetable for action.

Of course, American led action in principle is more desirable than a unilateral Israeli strike, given that the US has much greater firepower at its disposal. But there are obvious problems with outsourcing Israel's security to the United States. For one thing, Israel would have to accept America's red lines for military action and these may differ significantly from her own. Already these red lines have shifted from demanding a halt to any uranium enrichment to allowing Iran some uranium enriched below 20%.

From the Israeli perspective, nothing short of the complete abandonment of Iran's nuclear programme, under close supervision, is needed. But how you perceive a threat depends on your proximity to it. Living 8,000 miles away from the Islamic Republic, rather than 1,000, makes political compromise seem more attractive.

Nor should Israel assume that a Romney presidency would be any different. Certainly Romney has spoken of "a moral imperative" to deny Iran’s leaders the bomb while also criticising the inadequate policies of the Obama administration. But only last week he stated that "We should continue to pursue diplomatic channels" as well as maintain the policy of "crippling sanctions". He added: "That does not mean we should take off the table our military options". In other words, his policy position and Obama’s are not that dissimilar.

In any case, what Presidential candidates say before an election can be very different from what they say in the White House. One ought to remember that, prior to winning the Presidential race in November 2008, Obama made a number of statements that were highly supportive of Israel's operations in Gaza. Once in power, he began to identify Israeli settlements, rather than Palestinian terror, as the primary impediment to peace.

Moreover, America's record in preventing nuclear proliferation among rogue states is far from perfect. The most notable example was the inability of the Clinton administration to prevent North Korea from developing nuclear facilities, despite the ‘agreed framework’ of 1994. It is entirely reasonable to assume that this reflected a failure of intelligence gathering at the highest levels.

Were American intelligence to be faulty with regard to Iran, it is conceivable that Washington's red lines could be crossed with impunity. Israel would then be faced with the prospect of containing a nuclear Iran, a disastrous outcome.

Quite simply, Israel cannot rely on any American administration when it comes to dealing with an existential threat of this magnitude. But if she is forced into a pre-emptive strike, either this year or next, it will only be because the US and her allies have appeased Tehran for too long.




ISRAELIS HAVE GAINED ONLY A SHORT RESPITE FROM TERROR 29 November 2012


Perhaps it is too early to say whether these aims have been achieved. But history would suggest that this is merely yet another lull for Hamas, a hudna or temporary ceasefire, while the Islamists recover and regroup. Israel will almost certainly be faced with a renewed terror war within years or months, perhaps even sooner.

Certainly Israel achieved considerable successes during Operation Pillar of Cloud. The Israeli air force struck over 1,500 targets in Gaza, including command and control centres, rocket launching sites and underground tunnels. They eliminated several senior Hamas commanders, depriving the terror group of enormous operational experience. The wonderful Iron Dome also had a remarkably successful interception rate, ensuring that civilian casualties on the Israeli side were mercifully low.

Yet Hamas will surely rebuild, just as Hezbollah did after the 2006 war. They will stockpile more (and potentially deadlier) weapons, in line with the trajectory that has been established since 2005. And now they have shown themselves capable of striking Israel's biggest population centres, including the capital, Jerusalem.

All this has given Hamas an enormous fillip and helped to marginalise their Fatah rivals in the process. Once again, Hamas is calling the shots in the region, having already secured the release of more than 1,000 terrorists for Gilad Schalit in 2011.

Under the ceasefire, Hamas has been placed on the same level as a sovereign nation state which came under relentless unprovoked aggression. Israel too has been forced to make concessions in return for quiet on her borders. That is a disastrous outcome which will only give Hamas leaders the legitimacy they crave.

Moreover, they will see Israel’s refusal to launch a ground invasion as a a victory for western, specifically American, pressure. By not entering the Strip, Israel limited the amount of damage inflicted on the Hamas infrastructure and undermined her deterrent capability.

More importantly, the ceasefire has yet to establish how to cut the supply line of rockets to Hamas. According to Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, "Israel will do all it can to prevent Iran from re-arming Hamas".

But already Iranian missile experts have arrived in Gaza after the ceasefire, entering via Egypt and the increasingly lawless Sinai. Israeli spy satellites have also detected rockets being loaded onto a cargo vessel at an Iranian port, bound for Gaza. Without a halt to such dangerous weapons smuggling, the successes achieved in Pillar of Cloud will swiftly be reversed.

But even worse, the ceasefire has given a boost to the regime of Mohamed Morsi, Hamas' ideological patron. For it is Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood regime which Israel must rely on for stopping the rearmament.

This might be acceptable on purely pragmatic grounds, were the Egyptian leader to be a genuine political moderate. Sadly Morsi is anything but. Not only is he the figurehead for a radical movement but he has just issued an edict banning the judiciary from challenging his decisions in an ostensible attempt to protect the revolution.

This is nothing but a blatant power grab, an Islamist putsch that spits in the face of every true Egyptian democrat. Yet the reaction to this unprecedented power grab has been somewhat muted, particularly in Washington where Morsi is increasingly viewed with favour. It is a worrying development.

Analysts argue that none of this really matters because the Iron Dome, with its high interception rate, will soon render all missile based terror redundant. It is certainly true that Israeli fatalities are very low relative to the number of rockets launched, making terror attacks increasingly futile. But whether this actually changes the behaviour of Israel's enemies remains to be seen. After all, they value terrorising Israeli civilians regardless of how many are killed or injured.

For now, there is an uncertain quiet across Israel. But very few Israelis believe that they have gained anything more than a temporary respite from terror. Very soon, they will be bracing themselves for the next round of hostilities.