To understand the Israelis you must attempt to grasp their unique experiences. No other nation has been treated so shabbily by the global community as Israel. Every promise, almost every attempt for peace the Israelis have made in their century on the land, was rejected by Arab terrorism. Numerous invasions by Arab states have killed twenty three thousands Israelis to date, rockets from Gaza are frequent, and the burden of huge military budgets on their shoulders. Plus Iran’s nuclear weapons are almost here.
Therefore, the Israelis believe that the most important action is to establish are FACTS-ON-THE-GROUND. This means strong military capabilities, unique security services, and Jewish communities wherever possible, in the West Bank, Hebron, and any disputed territory. After all most of the Jewish homeland was taken away. First by the British occupiers who took away most of the land their Balfour Declaration promised in 1917, and giving it to Jordan. In 1947 the UN took away much of the rest that was promised to Israel by the League of Nation in 1922. The League dedicated all the land west of the Jordan to a Jewish State.
Here is an example of facts-on-the-ground that happened in my own family:
“We were so alone, surrounded by Arabs fighters for months, and all of us sick,” Rafi told me, my relative from of kibbutz Yehiam in the Galil when we visited him this summer. He told us of the struggle to hold the land of the Galil during the 1948 War of Liberation. “We were weak and thin without sufficient food, but lucky sometimes to get fresh food from a local Arab. He knew how to pass through the Arab troops surrounding us, and we gave him a pistol to protect himself; we needed his food so badly. The skeleton of the Crusaders Fortress protected us from mortars, but still we lost a lot of our members from sickness and bullets.”
“We had to stay there. The National Fund had bought this the land, but without our own presence there the region would have fallen to the Arabs. So, when they asked for volunteers from my kibbutz in Southern Israel we came to hold the land. We helped the Galil to be part of the new Israeli State, at the cost of many of my friends.”
Rafi, who still works in the kibbutz despite his advanced age, was very proud of the sacrifices he and his friends made to add the beautiful Galil to Israel. All told, Israel lost a hundred people to hold this little spot. (A total of one percent of Israel’s population killed in the 1948 war). But, he reminded me: Yehiam is still not secured; a number of attacks came from Lebanon and Hizbullah which are just 5 miles north of them.
Rafi’s bravery and that of others gave Israel more land than the Arab’s wanted. It is one of the reasons why Israelis believe in FACTS ON THE GROUND rather then promises and paper agreements. Even the critical peace with Egypt is now in question. Before Independence the Hagana Defense Force was very wise to build kibbutzim throughout the land to establish facts on the ground. They knew that treaties and promises mean little in real life in the Middle East.
Facts on the ground led all Israeli governments, irrespective of ideology, to establish more and more “settlements” around Jerusalem to secure the area for future generations. Now there are one and a half million Arab-Israelis living with equal rights all over Israel. The Jewish population in the “Territories” is now 330,000 but it is on less than 2% of the total West Bank region. No Arab land was taken. And building of more apartments was never in contention with the Palestinians before. Only after the current US Administration jumped on Israel for adding apartments in ALREADY ESTABLISHED Jewish communities, did the Palestinians joined the attack. The Palestinians have stated that they would not allow any Jews to live in their future state.
I just saw Israel defense minister Ehud Barak on US TV emphasizing that when he was prime minister, (and leader of the Left Labor party), negotiating for peace with Arafat and president Clinton in 2000, no one questioned Israel’s right to establish robust communities in the “territories,” knowing full well that the region would be part of Israel in the final agreement.
The hindrance to peace is not “building in the settlements” but the commitment of all Palestinian leadership to the destruction of Israel.
I just watched the following short video showing students at UCLA, one of our top 25 universities, answering a few basic questions about the Middle East. They are so ignorant, it is beyond imagination.
And these ignorant young people want to lead the US in the future?
China is becoming the most powerful player in global events. Its economy is projected to overtake the US in less than a decade!
The US and China are the key players in a tightly woven global community and must cooperate and find common paths to help ourselves and the global community.
China is also the largest generator of greenhouse gases and also suffers considerably from global warming. Reducing GW and increasing economic growth are interwoven elements.
This is just a brief exposure of some key differences between the US and China.
China with its rapidly growing GDP of $6 Trillion is often more influential internationally than the US with its 15 Trillion GDP, a quarter of global GDP. We have by far the strongest military power in the world, but economic power is as important, or often more important, than military power. Exerting military power is not a good option in most cases.
The key reasons that China is so powerful are that it has:
1. A strong central authoritarian government that can make decisions relatively quickly
2. A government which actually care to improve the lot of its population,
3. The ability for planning and executing long term national goals
4. Immense foreign exchange reserves of over $3 Trillion; all of which allow China to achieve its goals rapidly.
The Chinese government and their private economic enterprises operate with less moral and ethical constraints than any other influential nation. This allows China to acquire vast long-term- international energy and mineral resources and exerts its economic influence with little regard to its impact on the local population or international concerns think Iran and Sudan. China’s economic power is growing rapidly at over 10% per year with less moral concerns or self imposed or external limits. China GDP was one trillion dollar in 2000; it is now 6 times larger! These numbers do not show the total story, since its labor costs are so much lower, China can build twice as much infrastructure and housing per dollar as the US.
Although some assessments predict that China’s GDP will surpass the US in just five years, it does not seem realistic- there are always unforeseen difficulties. Serious bumps are around the corner, such as a potential housing bubble, (25 million, often expensive, housing units are unoccupied now). Also there are increasing wage demands, and their artificially low currency exchange rate which would not be tolerated for long. China is already planning to change the rate slowly.
There are a lot of negative elements in China: lack of individual freedom, severe corruption, weak rule of law, building empty cities to sustain employment, lack of environmental control, expanding arid areas due to global warming, diminishing water supplies to vast population centers, no social safety net, suppression of native minorities and more. This is all part of the picture of this vast land. However, it is important to note that most Chinese are happy to have these vast economic opportunities, fast rise in their standard of living at the cost of their political freedom.
The US has serious economic problems most of them politically generated:
1. Representative government, in which local interest prevails over national needs.
2. We have huge and growing national and private debts, totaling $50 trillion, 3 and a half times GDP.
3. We do not have a national vision nor national long term or even short term plan.
4. We let short term self-serving financial forces dictate our direction.
5. Both Democratic and Republican administrations and Congress concentrate on benefiting the financial elite, the wealthy upper few percent of the population to the detriment of the lower income half of the population.
The US richest 10 percent control some 2/3 (73%) of our net worth. The lower 90% has only 27%; this is a ratio of 24 to one on a per capita basis. Think about it, for every thousand dollar a person in the lower 90% can spend monthly, a person in the upper 10% can spend twenty four thousand dollars!
Our US government is divisive, polarized, non transparent, and unable to work for the benefit of the country. And because we generally believe that every one should be free to pursue his/her goals, essentially free from central supervision, our widely spread greed burdens the nation by economic collapse, huge national debt ($14 billions, almost equal to GDP) and immense private debts, some $35 trillions. Recently some 20% of our GDP has been generated by the non-productive financial sector, which mostly shuffled immense amount of fabricated capital from hand to hand with no productive benefit for the country but their own short-term financial wealth.
In summary, China concentrates on achieving its long term rapid national growth at the cost of individual freedom and lack of the rule of law. We concentrate on protecting the wealthy, retaining individual freedom, sustaining the rule of law at a sacrifice of our other important national needs.
The impact on morality of overpopulation:
Democracy cannot survive overpopulation. Human dignity cannot survive it. Convenience and decency cannot survive it. As you put more and more people into the world, the value of life not only declines, it disappears. It doesn't matter if someone dies. The more people there are, the less one individual matters.
China is not constrained, nor guided by morality or ethics due largely to its vast population. The more people we have, the less we value each individual. And this is evident especially in China and India. Their population is about 1350 and 1210 millions, respectively; together over a third of the global population.
It is not surprising, therefore, that most Chinese focus on their own economic progress and ignores the suffering of others. It has been so for a long time. The current news from China is that 18 people saw and ignored the suffering of a 2 years old, severely injured girl in a car incident. They looked, did not lift a finger to help, and if you heard the driver explanation why he did not stop you would be revolted of his inhuman attitude. I am glad that a considerable debate started in China about this sad experience.
I am bringing the MORALITY ISSUE up to illustrate the great significance of China to the struggle to reduce economic suffering and global Warming. China is the key to cutting global Greenhouse gases. No effort by any other country, or a combination of countries, will make much impact compare to the impact that China has now and will increasingly have (plus the negative impacts expected from India economic and population growth.)
China is driven; it can not stand still economically. To retain political stability the central and regional governments must supply jobs and housing to the current 600 million urban population and the 200 million more poor rural people that will be moving to urban areas over the next decade.
China is obviously focusing on its own survival and growth and naturally ignores the needs of other nations. China “conforms” to Western moral standards only when it suits it or required to propagate China’s own aims. China is especially reluctant to support UN effort that reduce the ability of dictatorial powers such as Syria and Iran to subdue their population by force since they have been doing it in some cases and will do it again. They are extremely concerned about the desire of some of their minorities for self determination.
China’s Communist leadership is working hard to improve the lives of its population, concentrating on its Han majority of 91.5%. It controls the major banks and holds the majority of foreign capital and gives just a minimal political freedom to prevent upsetting the apple cart. I admire what China leadership did after the death of Mao and his immediate successors. It understood realistically the needs of the country; the first one was reducing its rapid population growth. Under Mao China’s population grew from 530 millions in 1948 to 800 millions in 1970 at a rate of 2.2%.
China long term goal has been to first achieve a zero population growth and eventually to reduce their population over the next century to some 750 millions. Wise and courageous aims. The one child policy came from that and succeeded very well to limit the growth rate to just 0.5% and cut the expected population by some 400 millions people. But despite this marvelous effort it could not cut the actual population growth - the current population is nearly three times the population of 1948!
In addition, the ability of the central government to influence local affairs, which is the key to actual developments and the rule of some level of law, is limited. Regional leaders are very powerful and influence local development by often making their own rules and even breaking national guidelines.
China not only has cheap labor in combination with low cost capital, it also does not insist on profit. Full employment is the key goal. Therefore, their competitive position borders on illegal product dumping.
In contrast, we must follow long established safety laws, environmental protection laws, pay social security taxes, income tax, sales tax, and many other requirements (which I agree with) undercutting most western industries ability to compete with an industry that ignores almost anything but current minimal salaries to vast labor pool. Most of their product undercut substantially similar US products.
But much of China low cost products also come with big negatives: internally high pollution, and low quality and even dangerous products. It is not only that the color of a toy will fade faster but that dangerous lead paint will be used in children toys. Or dangerous chemicals will be used to modify milk products killing hundreds. Or the death of hundreds (thousands?) of children when their schools buildings collapsed on them in an earthquake because the concrete was well below specified strength- to increase builder’s profits.
I will discuss this important aspect of Chinese products at another time.
DO NOT EXPECT CHINA TO BEHAVE ACCORDING TO OUR WESTERN MORALITY AND OUR THEORETICAL LEVEL OF INTEGRITY. We do not do that fully ourselves.
A few months ago my family and I rented an apartment in Jerusalem close to the Prime Minister residence. And every day we passed near it we saw the tent that the family of the captured Israeli soldier Shalit erected near the PM’s residence to push for Shalit’s release. Hamas terrorists held him for five long years. I felt sad for the family but I also hoped the Israeli government would not deal with Hamas and release massive amounts of Palestinian terrorists to gain his release. Israel did it before and lost many innocent lives. But this week the Israelis did it again, dealt with the devils, read below.
The willingness to release a thousand Palestinian prisoners, hundreds of them convicted of murder, for one Israeli soldier, is a serious Israeli blunder. Yes, the majority of Israelis approved this illogical swap, but that just shows one of the reasons Israelis are not able to protect themselves and defeat Arab terrorism.
Several Arab leaders have said: We will defeat you because you care very much about every human life, and we will die willingly for our cause. This reality does not yet sink into the Israeli consciousness.
Leaders of substance make though decisions, also unpopular decisions. Think about FDR and Churchill. That is leadership. They do not work for national survival base on emotions. A leader must be logical, look at long term implications and make tough decisions to save more lives in the future. Too many Israeli leaders are unable to do that, and the terrorists take advantage of that and murder and kidnap more Israelis. And worse than that, the Arab eagerness and determination to defeat Israel is strengthen by actions like this.
It is sad for me to report this story from Israel.
Israel's Deals with the Devils - Robert H. Mnookin
In 2004, Israel exchanged several hundred Palestinian prisoners for an Israeli held captive by Hizbullah (and the remains of three soldiers). Drawing on government figures, Nadav Shragai noted in a report by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs that "those freed in the deal had murdered 35 Israelis" by 2007.
What explains Israel's decision to release 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for a single Israeli corporal kidnapped by Hamas in a cross-border raid in 2006 and held hostage in Gaza? There is a long line of psychological research showing that, in making decisions, human beings will incur far greater costs to save one identifiable being from immediate peril than to enact safety measures that might save many more statistical lives. While no expense will be spared to save an identifiable miner trapped in a coal mine, there is often great political reluctance to spend an equal amount on mine safety. Such a response is entirely human, but it is not rational.
The writer is chair of Harvard University's Program on Negotiation. His most recent book is Bargaining with the Devil: When to Negotiate, When to Fight (2010). (Wall Street Journal Europe)
(See Rabin's views below)
The eagerness of many around the world, and much of the Israeli population, to have an independent Palestinian state is understandable. Even most Palestinians want a state, but only if it includes all of Israel too. But let’s evaluate the likelihood that in some future time a Palestinian state could exist as an independent entity, like any other normal state. I have serious doubts that it could.
Some of the basic requirements for a viable state are: sufficient population to create and sustain an economy, enough useful land area to sustain an agricultural population, or commercially viable natural resources, such as oil, gold or diamonds. A law abiding population steeped in the desire for education, capable higher educational institutions, or at least a very able, public school system and qualified teachers for them, and/or a highly trained population to create a high technology economy. Some combinations of these elements sustain all viable countries.
It is clear that Palestinians do not posses most of these requirements, if any.
Compare the Palestinian situation with Singapore, for example: Singapore has a small population, around four million compare to two and a half million Palestinians; Singapore has minimal natural resources and very little land, but it possesses many of the other requirements. The population is disciplined, law abiding, are eager for a harmonious and peaceful life, they are highly educated, and work hard to increase their standard of living.
Compare also several small Arab states east of Saudi: Kuwait, Omar, and United Arab Emirates: each has between two and a half and three and a half million people, small population and land area, but they have considerable amount of oil, especially in comparison to its small population.
You can analyze one viable state after another and come to the same conclusion: the Palestinians would not be able to sustain a state without large and continuous foreign financial support.
In the last ten years the Palestinians received the largest per capita support of any nation on earth, much larger than the Marshal Plan!
But that level of support can not continue; the UN and the Europeans are getting tired of this large drain on resources since it has not improved the Palestinian’s life, and much of the resources went to corrupted elite and to wage extensive terrorism. Even if a reliable, semi democratic government would eventually emerge, no external source would continue to support it at the level needed to sustain a rapidly rising population devoid of other ingredients to build a viable economy. The Palestinians get negligible support from any Arab country, usually only to maintain their terror organizations, as Saddam did by giving rewards to the families of suicide bombers.
What else is possible? The Palestinians may have to unite with Jordan, where the majority of the population is Palestinian and their descendants. Jordan Hashemite leadership will resist it to the extreme, but a sudden change of government is possible in the unpredictable Middle East. All other Arab States will refuse to associate with the volatile Palestinian people, as they have refused for more than sixty years. However, the outcome of the Iraqi war and a nuclear Iran could impact the eventual outcome too.
I believe that a viable, independent Palestine state is not likely in the foreseeable future.
Some believe that P.M. Rabin was for a Palestinian State controlling the pre 1967 borders with shared Jerusalem. This is not the case. Please read below what Rabin said about a Palestinian entity shortly before his murder:
Rabin's Legacy: In His Own Words (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin's last address to the Knesset, 5 October 1995
• We view the permanent solution in the framework of a State of Israel which will include most of the area of the Land of Israel as it was under the rule of the British Mandate, and alongside it a Palestinian entity which will be a home to most of the Palestinian residents living in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
• We would like this to be an entity which is less than a state, and which will independently run the lives of the Palestinians under its authority. The borders of the State of Israel, during the permanent solution, will be beyond the lines which existed before the Six-Day War. We will not return to the 4 June 1967 lines.
• And these are the main changes, not all of them, which we envision and want in the permanent solution:
A. First and foremost, united Jerusalem, which will include both Ma'ale Adumim and Givat Ze'ev - as the capital of Israel, under Israeli sovereignty, while preserving the rights of the members of the other faiths, Christianity and Islam, to freedom of access and freedom of worship in their holy places, according to the customs of their faiths.
B. The security border of the State of Israel will be located in the Jordan Valley, in the broadest meaning of that term.
C. Changes which will include the addition of Gush Etzion, Efrat, Beitar and other communities, most of which are in the area east of what was the "green line" prior to the Six-Day War.
I have written this in 10/2006. Little changed in five years. Even if the Palestinians gain a UN approval for a state, how will they sustain themselves economically? The PA controls, with Israeli help, the West Bank. Hamas controls, with the help of Iran, the Gaza strip. They hate one another with a keen passion. The PA, Palestinian Authority's main income is from Israel, from taxes on Palestinians working in Israel. Hamas and the Gaza population depends on Israel for water, electricity and food.
The "new Palestine" may have to be an integral part of Jordan, but the Jordanians do not show desire to associate with them. Their only hope is to cooperate with Israel, but that they do not want.