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Facts and Logic About
the Middle East
P.O. Box 590359
San Francisco, CA 94159
(415) 356-7801


March 29, 2011  

Palestinian terror attacks shut down Israel's—and Obama's—hopes of finding a partner for peace. Who can we count on anymore?

Dear Friend of Israel, Friend of FLAME:

Over the past few weeks, we've seen an Israeli family of five slaughtered in their home by Palestinians from Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigade; a terrorist bomb planted near the main Jerusalem bus depot (which wounded 30 and killed one); and the launching of several long-range Grad missiles by Hamas from Gaza on civilian centers in Israel (injuring one man).

Why is this new violence occurring now and what will Israel
and the United States do about it?

One explanation for the uptick in terrorism seems most plausible in light of anti-government sentiment sweeping the Middle East over the past month or so: The Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza also face discontent among their own people---mostly popular demands for unity between the two feuding factions---and new provocations against Israel may serve to re-unify the Palestinian street around a common cause.

Whether this cynical ploy will work to divert the attention of average Palestinians away from their daily woes---unemployment (particularly in Gaza), political repression, and long-overdue elections---remains to be seen. But neither Israel nor the United States can stand idly by while the Palestinians go on the attack again.

We at FLAME make three modest recommendations:

First, since current Arab unrest has made it abundantly clear that an Israeli-Palestinian peace is not the linchpin to solving the Middle East's woes, Israel should seize this opportunity to reassert itself as a light unto the nations, particularly Middle East nations. Israel should make supreme efforts to restore its reputation internationally by highlighting its exemplary democratic values and holding out the promise of economic prosperity to those who choose to do business with it.

Second, the Obama administration needs to change its policy toward Israel, recognizing that Israel is not only our best ally in the region, but in fact Israel is our only stable and reliably supportive ally in the entire Middle East. We American citizens need to demand a renewal of the warm friendship our two nations have nurtured and enjoyed for 60 years now. In this time of tumultuous instability---which could quickly turn treacherous in Egypt, Yemen, Tunisia or Libya---both the U.S. and Israel need a relationship we can count on.

Finally, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas should take immediate steps to engage with Israel to restart peace talks. Instead of making a futile trip to Gaza to discuss rapprochement with Hamas---which this week's FLAME Hotline addresses---Abbas needs to re-align with the U.S. and Israel to pursue a democratic and economically promising peace.

The short op-ed below, by Commentary executive editor Jonathan Tobin, makes the challenging point that Abbas must choose between peace with Israel (and the U.S.) or peace with Hamas. If Abbas makes the wrong choice, it's likely that a) more Israeli and Palestinian blood will be shed and b) the Palestinians will again get the worst of the battle.

A favor: If you have personal friends or colleagues who may be confused about the current situation in the Middle East (and who isn't?), I urge you to forward this important article to them, so they will understand why it's critical that the U.S. and Israel stay on guard . . . and stick together.

Thanks for your support of Israel and your support of FLAME.


Jim Sinkinson
Director, FLAME


P.S. If you share our belief that the U.S.-Israel relationship is vitally important and wish to know more about why it makes so much more sense today than ever before, we offer an advance look at FLAME's latest hasbarah (clarifying message) effort, "A Most Stalwart and Reliable Ally: Is Israel indeed America's unsinkable aircraft carrier?" This piece is about to appear in magazines and newspapers, including college newspapers, with a combined circulation of nearly 5 million people. In addition, it is being sent to every member of the U.S. Congress. If you agree that this kind of public relations effort on Israel's behalf is critical, I urge you to support us. Remember: FLAME's powerful ability to influence public opinion comes from individuals like you, one by one. I hope you'll consider giving a donation now, as you're able---with $500, $250, $100, or even $18. (Remember, your donation to FLAME is tax deductible.) To donate online, just go to Now more than ever we need your support to ensure that Israel gets the support it needs---from the U.S. Congress, from President Obama, and from the American people.

Abbas's Choice: Peace With Israel or Hamas

Jonathan S. Tobin, Commentary, March 22, 2011

With the United States involved in a shooting war in Libya, the launch of several mortar shells from Gaza into southern Israel last weekend didn't generate much attention. But close observers of the Middle East understand that this unexceptional event — after all, terrorists in the Islamist-run strip have sent thousands of rockets and other missiles into Israel seeking to kill civilians in the last decade — betrays the tensions that are simmering among the Palestinians.

Fortunately the mortar fire hurt no one but what was interesting was Hamas's willingness to take responsibility for the incident rather than, as its usual practice, fobbing it off on minor terrorist groups. So why, we must ask, would Hamas, which has kept the level of terror attacks from Gaza low enough to maintain the uneasy cease-fire it has had with Israel since Operation Cast Lead ended in January 2009, seek to raise the temperature in the region?

The answer is to be found in the basic equation of Palestinian politics. In the bizzaro world of Palestinian nationalism, political movements earn their bona fides not by acts of statesmanship or state building but by shedding blood or at least making a show of bloodletting. While the democratic ferment sweeping the Arab world has seemingly had little impact on the Palestinians, it would be wrong to think that they are indifferent to the struggles being waged elsewhere against autocrats and dictators. But so long as either Hamas or its Fatah rivals that run the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank can keep people focused on hatred for Israel, we may assume that Palestinian democracy will remain a theoretical subject. PA leader Mahmoud Abbas has been trying to manipulate this spirt into a call for Palestinian unity in which Fatah and Hamas will somehow come together. Whether Abbas seriously believes such a thing is possible, and he appears to be smart enough to know it is not, such rumblings represent a threat to Hamas. They will always treat such challenges to their absolute and tyrannical rule in Gaza as a deadly threat. Thus, the firing from Gaza and the counterattack it generated from Israel were probably linked to Abbas's unity pleas and the demonstrations in support of the idea, which were quickly suppressed by Hamas.

But the question is whether this nasty exchange is the end of this episode. In a speech to the Knesset today, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent a strong message to Abbas. By declaring that the PA leader must choose between peace with Israel or with Hamas, Netanyahu was doing more than merely reminding him that Israel will never tolerate Islamist control of the West Bank in addition to Gaza. Israelis understand that whenever Palestinians vie for popularity, Jews have a tendency to get killed. The talk of an Abbas visit to Gaza for more talks with Hamas about a unity plan is ominous not so much because there is a real danger that the a coalition between Fatah and its Islamist foes will become a reality (though that possibility cannot be entirely discounted) but because such rumblings may inspire the two movements to prove their worthiness to their constituencies by shedding some Jewish blood. With Hamas engaged in a major arms buildup (the seizure by the Israel Defense Forces of a ship last week laden with Iranian arms intended for Gaza may have been just the tip of the iceberg of this development), the potential for violence and heightened instability is real.

Though the Obama administration is understandably distracted by its involvement in Libya, Washington must second Netanyahu's warning. Abbas depends on both the United States and Israel for his survival and he must understand that if he foolishly stirs the fires of Palestinian nationalism in order to distract West Bankers from their own lack of democracy, Israelis are not the only ones who will be burnt.

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