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July 18, 2014

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PAGE 4A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, JULY 18, 2014 Beware the bearers of friendship with Iran By Ben Cohen If you want the measure of how American policy has clumsily tailed the shifting system of alliances in the Middle East, look no further than the op-ed titled "Iraq Must Not Come Apart," published in the New York Times by Leslie Gelb of the Council on Foreign Relations. Once an advocate of a federal Iraq, Gelb has now changed his mind. Nothing wrong with that, except that in doing so, Geib, one of the most influential foreign policy think- ers in America today, has arrived at a most troubling position. America's priority, Gelb says, is to defeat Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), the barbaricjihadi organization that now con- trols avast swathe of Syrian and Iraqi territory, where it has declared a caliphate ruled by its leader, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi. No serious person would dispute that ISIS, with its practice of beheading its opponents, constitutes a serious threat. In his Ramadan message to the "Umma'--the global com- munity of Muslims--al Baghdadi called on the "soldiers of the Islamic state" to "fight, fight" against "the treacherous rulers" in the region who faithfully serve foreign "crusad- ers," "atheists," and, of course, the ultimate controlling power, "the jews" (sic). The problem is Gelb's prescription for coun- tering ISIS. America, he argues, should ally itself with Iran's ruling mullahs and the brutal Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad to achieve this goal. The imperative of defeating the Sunni jihadis overrides any other considerations. In one way, this is an extraordinary conclu- sion to reach. It rests on the assumption that Iran can be trusted and that the sanctions currently imposed upon Tehran will rein in the mullahs should they become, in Gelb's phrase, "too grabby." There is no acknowledge- ment that such a strategy requires ignoring Iran's nuclear ambitions and its long history of supporting terrorism. And it demands that the same Obama administration that last year fiercely denounced Syria's use of chemical weapons, before backing down from the threat of military action, now throw its lot in with Assad, the chief executioner! But in another way, Gelb is merely describ- ing a policy that is already in place--even if he himself is reluctant to admit that. As Michael Doran of the Brookings Institution has pointed out, in both an interview with me as well as in " arecent essay for Mosaic magazine, the Obama administration has effectively sided with Iran in terms of the future directions of Syria and Iraq. What this overlooks, Doran says, is the fact that Syriawill remain a magnet for Sunni jihadis for as long as Assad, who enjoys the full backing of Iran, remains in power. Where would an alliance with the Shi'a I Letter from Israel ] Confusion in the Middle East I Islamists and their regional partners take the United States? In my view, there is no question that we would end up in a place far worse--if you can imagine that--than where we are now. It's abig mistake to thinkthatbecause Iran is alignedwith Nouri al Maliki, the sectarian Shi'a prime minister of Iraq, it has closed the doors to I SIS. A re cent report by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, an Israeli think tank, noted that Iran has had close links with the Sunni Islamists of A1Qaeda, which suggests that it is not as implacably opposed to ISIS as western analysts would like to believe. Moreover, Assad actually released key ISIS operatives from his prisons, in another important indication that Iran's regional alliance system does not preclude cooperation with Sunni Islamists. While some in Washington may dream of an outcome in which ISIS takes a battering as bilateral relations with the Iranians improve, it's far more likely that Islamists of both the Shi'a and Sunni variants will come out much stronger, to the detriment of America's tradi- tional allies like Jordan and Israel. Which brings me to the Palestinian terrorist organization, Hamas. The abduction and mur- der of three Israeli teenagers was an appalling reminder of just how vicious Hamas is. What that gory episode doesn't tell us, however, is where Hamas sits in the emerging Middle Eastern order. As the Syrian civil war intensified, Hamas shifted away from Iran, its traditional sponsor. Now, however, the wind is blowing the Hamas leadership back in the direction of Tehran. In March, as the Palestinian journalist Adnan Abu Mer reported, Iran resumed the financial aid to Hamas that was suspended in 2012. Ali Larijani, a hardliner who heads up Iran's Shura Council, subsequently declared that"our relationship with Hamas is good and has returned to what it was." Recently, when Israeli jets bombed a range of Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip, the Hamas representative in Tehran, Khalid al-Qaddoumi, appealed for further Iranian assistance on the grounds that "the situation of Palestine is not under the focus Of political circles and is no longer a priority for the region and the world's media." (I'm not sure either which "media" Qaddoumi is referring to.) Andwhen Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal met with senior Iranian officials in Qatar, he praised Tehran for supporting the "axis of resistance'--this on the eve of the announcement of a Palestinian unity government involving Hamas and the Fatah movement of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. The notion, then, that Iran can be a friend to western interests in the Middle East is catastrophically misguided. It is far better to acknowledge the sad reality that we are run- ning out of regional allies, and are therefore better off sticking with the partnerswe have, rather than finding new ones who will delight in betraying us the first chance they get. Ben Cohen is the Shillman analyst for and a contributor to the Wall Street Journal Commentary, Haaretz, and other publications. His book, "Some Of My Best Friends: A Journey Through Twenty-First Century Antisemitism" (Edition Critic, 2014), is now available through Amazon. Beyond us and them By Ira Sharkansky There are far more questions than answers. There may be a new country being formed. It won't be a welcome addition, as judged by the various governments sending units of their armed forces to attempt an abortion. Those associated with the movement, variously called the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) or more simply the Islamic State (IS), are talking about a caliphate that will begin with large parts of Iraq and Syria, and eventually control the world. So far the record of the new regime is bar- baric, proud of shooting prisoners in front of cameras, perhaps to send a message about what is in store for all non-Sunni Muslims, as well as Sunni Muslims who do not qualify for acceptance. The development has spread concern far and wide. It is far from clear what is happening. How- ever, there are signs of the following. No one outside of what goes by the name of the Iraqi government is declaring war and sending in a fully equipped army. However, Russia is upping its shipment of equipment, including a new supply of warplanes. The United States is sending advisers and equip- ment, including helicopters, that will have to stay out of the way of the Russian planes. Iran is sending units, perhaps to work with Shiite militias not part of the Iraqi army. Jordan is training Iraqi troops, but has sig- naled that it does not want to continue. The official Syrian air force has bombed supply lines, while some units of the anti-Assad Syrian rebels are fighting ISIS personnel who also started out as anti-Assad rebels. Saudi Arabia is sending money to groups in Syria opposing the ISIS fighters, and putting its troops on alert. There is much to wonder about in the re- ports about Iran, Russia, Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United States helping Iraq deal militarily with rebels seeking to create a Sunni religious regime. Among the problems is coordinating op- erations between military units who in other contexts are adversaries or enemies. Keeping helicopter gunships andwarplanes that answer to different commanders and use different communications from colliding is one prob- lem, Others occur on the ground where most of the fighters wear no uniforms, and lines of command are unclear.. No less difficult are questions of strategy and politics. What does it all mean for the foreign policy of Barack Obama and the fading concept of pax America? And for those close to these fingers, the primary question is the classic, What's in it for the Jews? We have issues with all of the participants. Some of them have us high on their list of who should be downsized or done away with entirely. There are enough competing agendas to befuddle any effort to assess prospects. What aboutAmerican-Russian antagonisms on Syria and Ukraine? What about the animosity between Iran and the American ally Israel? Does this portend something good or bad about Iran's effort to keep its nuclear pro- gram on track, even while agreeing to some modifications demanded by those who have imposed sanctions? Can anything stay on course that has the Shiite center of Iran and the Sunni kingpin Saudi Arabia on the same side? The Kurds of Iraq and Turkey both have good reasons to cooperate against ISIS, but what does this mean for Turkey's chronic fear Sharkansky on page 14A THE VIEWS EXPRESSED ON THIS PAGE ARE NOT NECESSARILY THE VIEWS OF HERITAGE MANAGEMENT.   CENTRAL FLORIDA'SINDEPENDENTJEWISHVOICE   ISSN 0199-0721 Winner of 43 Press Awards IHERITAGEI FLORIDAJEWISH NBWS | HERITAGE Ftorida Jewish News (ISN 0199-0721) is published weekly for $37.95 per year to Florida ad- dresses ($46.95 for the rest of the U.S.) by HERITAGE Central Florida Jewish News, Inc., 207 O'Brien Road, Suite 101, Fern Park, FL 32730. Periodicals postage paid at Fern Park and additional mailing offices. POSTbLSTER: Send address changes and other correspondence to: HERITAGE, P.O. Box 300742, Fern Park, FL 32730. MAILING ADDRESS PHONE NUMBER P.O. Box 300742 (407) 834-8787 Fern Park, FL 32730 FAX (407) 831-0507 email: Editor/Publisher Jeffrey Gaeser Editor Emeritus Associate Editor Assistant Editor Gene Starn Kim Fischer Chris DeSouza Society Editor Bookkeeping Gloria Yousha Panlette Alfonso Account Executives Lori Apple * Marci Gaeser Contributing Columnists Jim Shipley Ira Sharkansky David Bomstein Ed Ziegler Production Department David Lehman Gil Dombrosky Ioyce Gore By Andrew Silow-Carroll New Jersey Jewish News On Monday night I clicked over from a nail-biting, extra-innings Mets game to CNN's coverage of the crisis in Israel. In short: Mets win, Israel loses. While kept showing a did-he, didn't-he replay of a disputed play at second, CNN looped a video of the beating of an Arab- American teen by two Israeli police. It's awful to watch: The boy is being held down by one helmeted cop, his hands apparently cuffed behind his back, while another aims swift kicks at his torso and head. It's painful to admit that this wasn't even the worst blow to Israel's image in a grim week. That would be the murder of Muhammad Abu Khdeir, the beaten boy's east Jerusalem cousin, by what police now say was a gang of Jewish extremists. If the murder of three yeshiva boys by Hamas terrorists had earned Israel any sympathy the week before, that quickly dissipated under what much of the media like to call "the cycle of Middle East violence." CNN at least gave Mark Regev, Benjamin Ne- tanyahu's chief spokesperson, an opportunity to say that Israel had launched an "impartial, objective, independent inquiry into exactly what happened" in the beating of the teen. "There is no excuse for this sort of behavior," said Regev. "And it's not the police investigat- ing themselves." Indeed, Israeli investigators moved swiftly and without prejudice to find the killers of the Arab teen. Condemnation of his murder and alleged murderers was swift and unquali- fied from nearly all quarters. Rabbi Elyakim Levanon, a leading settler rabbi, went so far as to call for the death penalty for the Jewish killers of Khdeir. Buttherewas also aself-congratulatory tone to statements of condolence and condemna- tion issued in the wake of Khdeir's murder. Netanyahu might have b Pen the worst offender, when he addressed Khdeir's family. "I pledge that the perpetrators of this horrific crime will face the full weight of the law," he said, promisingly. "I know that in our society, the society of Israel, there is no place for such mur- derers." Regrettably, he went on: "And that's the difference between us and our neighbors. They consider murderers to be heroes. They name public squares after them. We don't. We condemn them and we put them on trial and we'll put them in prison." He had a point, but it wasn't the time to say it. It's like paying a shiva call and reading to the mourners the comment you just left on Thomas Friedman's web site. Others doubled down on the impulse to draw unflattering comparisons between Israelis and Palestinians. "Arab rioters did not wait for the identification or apprehension of suspects in the killing of Mohammed Abu Khudair to begin destroying Jewish life and property," Ruth Wisse, the Yiddishist and right-wing firebrand, wrote in the Wall Street Journal. "News of the abduction of three Israeli boys had no sooner hit the Internet on June 13 than Arab celebrants were handing out candies and posting three-fingered salutes." Maybe it's quibbling to point out that no Jewish lives were lost in the east Jerusalem riots, and pedantic to note that Wisse, like Netanyahu, is condemning an entire society for the actions of a few. There is, after all, a great deal of truth in their comparisons between Israelis and Palestinians--or, more accurately, the best of the Israelis and the worst of the Palestinians. But to what end? I sometimes think the great debate over Israel's future is not between the Right and the Left, but between those who insist Israel's future is in the hands of the Arabs, and those who insist it is in the hands of the Jews. The former insist Israel is under siege militarily and diplomatically, and negotiations and peace making are futile until there is a revolution--a real one this time--in "Arab" society. Until then, Israel is at the rhercy of hostile neighbors, antagonistic media, and a hypocritical West that enables its enemies. The best Israel can do is stay strong and wait it out. The second camp believes that Israel has the power to shape its own destiny, through a strong and essential military, yes, but also through visionary leadership, daring diploma- cy, and what the Israeli analyst Gidi Grinstein calls"flexigidity"--rigidity on the principles of Jewish security, sovereignty, democracy, and freedom of faith, and flexibility on the means of getting there. The first camp prefers to point out the flaws and calumnies of Israel's enemies. The second camp prefers to reiterate a Jewish vision for justice, and a faith in hope over nihilism. I met the other day with a local representa- tive of a national pro-Israel group, who asked me for my general impression of her organiza- tion. The group regularly issues statements condemning Arab behavior, declaring that Israel has no partner for peace, and painting Israeli leftists as naive at best, enemies of a Jewish state at worst. "I understand what you are against," I said. "I don't know what you are for." Perhaps the awful events of the past few weeks can be turned into an opportunity to remind ourselves of the values that make Israel and the Jewish people strong, without lecturing "our neighbors" on what makes us morally superior. Andrew Silow-Carroll is editor-in-chief of the New Jersey Jewish News. Between columns you can read his writing at the JustASC blog.