12 September 2014

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TMI

The goods and services tax (GST) system must be executed transparently and efficiently, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim said in denying the prime minister’s claim that he had agreed to impose the GST while he was finance minister more than two decades ago.

The opposition leader said Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s claim was “disingenuous and misleading”, and stressed that the tax system was never implemented under his watch.

Anwar said he had made it clear in Parliament then that the proposed tax system must be carried out in a transparent and efficient manner, and that certain prerequisites had to be met before its implementation.

“These included proper governance, transparency, no leakage and wastage, and safeguards against corrupt practices and I had also emphasised that the GST should start at a low level.

“These pre-conditions have not been fulfilled and that was why the GST was never implemented during my watch as finance minister,” Anwar said in a statement today.

Anwar’s response comes in the wake of Najib’s speech when closing a briefing session on the GST two days ago, where the prime minister had said that he was not the first finance minister to push the GST.

“The first finance minister who said that the government wanted to impose GST in his budget speech in 1992 was Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim,” Najib had said on Wednesday.

Najib had also said that the GST was not new and had been announced by three previous finance ministers, including Tun Daim Zainuddin and Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

Najib added that the tax system slated to be implemented in April next year would not burden Malaysians.

11 September 2014

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TMI

Leaked test papers for a Year 6 examination must be a new low in Malaysia.

In times past, including a case last year, the leaks were either for SPM or STPM examinations but now, even primary school children are not spared such an incident.

Yesterday, the Education Ministry moved the Science paper test to September 30 because of a leak that was provided through social media. Today, the ministry said those who sat the English paper will also have to re-sit the paper as it was also leaked.

Are there any more papers that have been leaked for the Year 6 examination that tests nearly 500,000 across Malaysia?

And is this another indicator of Malaysia, where the moral compass has gone awry and where parents of even the young don’t understand between right and wrong?

Why would anyone want to buy examination answers for their 12-year-old child? Is passing an examination more important than the lessons learnt in school?

Are we teaching children that it is perfectly fine to cheat at examinations just so that they can get ahead of their peers in life? Won’t this be the new culture that they will take with them through their school life?

Cheating at any level is wrong, be it for a primary school examination or even at secondary and tertiary level. What more in life.

This year’s leaks tell us that some people don’t think so. They think they can get away with it because it is easily done and it is just an examination for 12-year-olds.

They are wrong.

It is this kind of cheating that leads to corruption, one of Malaysia’s biggest banes and one reason why there is so little trust in the authorities these days. But this kind of cheating will create a bigger trust deficit.

In future, no one will trust any school or university certificate or degree because cheating and examination paper leaks have spread to the most basic level of examinations – the UPSR.

Is it too late to nip this in the bud if it has reached the UPSR? Do we still know right from wrong? Can we go back to a time where at least examination papers are taken seriously and not just a commodity that can be bought or sold?

The nub of the matter is simple. It is not just Putrajaya that must take action but all of us, because our future generation depends on us sticking to the straight and narrow.

11 September 2014

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Malaysiakini

YOURSAY ‘It was good of Anwar to apologise and state the fact of the matter.’

‘Sorry your highness, I was following constitution’

Kim Quek: Through PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim’s statement, one can see the contrast between Anwar and PM Najib Razak.

The former has stood up bravely to uphold the supremacy of the constitution and constitutional monarchy, while the latter has twisted PKR’s stand to present one nominee as an act of betrayal of the sultan, the Malays and Islam.

Such slander is hypocrisy of the highest order, as Umno-BN has always nominated only one candidate for the posts of prime minister, menteri besar and chief minister since independence in 1957, as rightly pointed out by Anwar.

As prime minister, Najib’s despicable conduct has put Malaysians to shame. Now that the apology is over, Pakatan must stay on its course to nominate PKR president Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, for the sake of preserving our system of parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy.

Hank Marvin: Given the circumstances Anwar was absolutely right. Now let us listen to what Umno has to say.

But as of now, the Malay party has been hypocritical. Two decades ago, it was Umno who went around asking the power to appoint MB to be abolished. Now they are upholding it as they know only through the palace they can hold on to power.

Hbasill: It is great that DSAI (Anwar) has stood his ground and politely told the sultan that the state constitution is supreme.

However, the real challenge for me is how DSAI is going to handle PAS because his mishandling may force a big number of PKR supporters to move their allegiance to DAP or BN.

DSAI is in muddy waters as he himself must be angry with the latest twist to the MB saga because of PAS. The opposition supporters are watching.

As I see it PAS must be axed for the non-Malay supporters to continue supporting PKR. Let’s see what unfolds next.

NewMalaysia: Yes, this is what we want to see in true political courage to stand firm to protect the interest of the people and the constitution.

Despite all the adversities, the people can see clearly that PKR and DAP tried their best to uphold the constitution and the spirit of democracy.

PKR and DAP are bound to name only one candidate because only Wan Azizah command the majority support from the state assemblypersons, any other candidate will automatically be disqualified.

If the sultan insists on someone clearly without the majority support, then there’s no need for Khalid Ibrahim to resign.

Kyrie Eleison: Anwar, you could not have said it better. Unless this country starts to respect the constitution and the rule of law, we will descend into anarchy very soon. This is what I really feared most.

Malaccan: Anwar has taken the difficult but principled stand and is the leader the country desperately needs. And his wife took the matured position to be the better Muslim and politician.

Even among royalty and religious leaders, despite their privileged lives and high stations, many have failed to live up to what this couple have sacrificed and their leadership.

If history is written fairly, they will be counted among the great sons and daughters this nation has birthed and that God has created.

Speaking Sense: If what Anwar says is correct, the question must now be asked: why do the palace advisers suddenly find the need to ask for more than one name this time when it is already very clear that the nominating Pakatan Rakyat coalition has a clear majority in the House?

And another question: was Najib hypocritical or lying when he accused PKR of disrespect for the sultan?

Malaysian 53: It was good of Anwar to apologise and state the fact of the matter. There is nothing more to explain because Anwar’s few sentences says it all.

It is either HRH is wrongly advised or has not been properly briefed of the consequences of a stalemate and the possibility of the ‘selected’ MB losing the vote of confidence in the House.

Many of us dread to see the embarrassment that will befall the royal house on such a situation.

Proarte: Based on what Anwar has revealed, BN looks very hypocritical and sadly it also appears as though the Selangor monarchy is dancing to the tune of Umno.

The sultan must be seen to be neutral in a constitutional monarchy, otherwise the raison d’être of the institution is negated.

Furthermore, Selangorians may begin to question the relevance of the monarchy. This would be the regrettable outcome if Umno’s carries out an unconstitutional and undemocratic attempt to influence the sultan.

Anonymous #57883242: Like it or not, Anwar is the only politician in Malaysia that has true courage to say what needs to be said.

MalaysiaMyhome: This is a defining moment in the history of our nation. I respect the sultan, but I respect the constitution too. Anwar and gang are just upholding the constitution and that’s why they have my support.

10 September 2014

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9 September 2014

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KENYATAAN MEDIA
UNTUK EDARAN SEGERA
9 SEPTEMBER 2014

Parti Keadilan Rakyat (KEADILAN) dan Pakatan Rakyat tegak atas prinsip keluhuran perlembagaan serta menjunjung sistem raja berperlembagaan dan demokrasi berparlimen. Ini jelas dalam perlembagaan KEADILAN dan kenyataan muafakat bersama pimpinan Pakatan Rakyat.

Dato’ Seri Najib telah bersama dengan pimpinan UMNO sejak 1983 dan 1993 takkala menyokong pindaan perlembagaan bagi menjelaskan bidang kuasa Duli Yang Maha Mulia Yang Di-Pertuan Agong selaras dengan prinsip raja berperlembagaan.

Kenyataan Dato’ Seri Najib semalam adalah keterlaluan kerana menafikan pendirian KEADILAN yang tuntas menjunjung kedaulatan undang-undang dan sistem raja berperlembagaan.

Dato’ Seri Najib juga sedia maklum bahawa dalam sejarah pemerintahan UMNO sejak negara merdeka 1957, UMNO dan Perikatan, dan kini Barisan Nasional hanya mengemukakan satu nama Ahli Dewan Negeri atau Ahli Parlimen untuk jawatan Ketua Menteri, Menteri Besar, atau Perdana Menteri.

Selaku Perdana Menteri, Dato Seri Najib sewajarnya jujur dengan pendirian parti beliau dan Kerajaan Barisan Nasional dan tidak menyerang KEADILAN kerana mematuhi amalan yang sama.

Merujuk kepada kenyataan media istana Selangor yang ditandatangani oleh Setiausaha Sulit Kepada Duli Yang Maha Mulia Tuanku Sultan semalam, pihak kami akan terus merafak sembah dan memohon keampunan Duli Yang Maha Mulia Tuanku Sultan seandainya keputusan kami mematuhi Undang-undang Tubuh Negeri Selangor dan amalan (“convention”) sejak 1957 menyebabkan terguris perasaan Duli Yang Maha Mulia Tuanku Sultan.

KEADILAN mengulangi pendirian untuk menjunjung kedaulatan Raja-raja Melayu, dan institusi raja berperlembagaan. Ini juga telah ditegaskan dalam warkah-warkah Dato’ Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, Presiden KEADILAN kepada Duli Yang Maha Mulia Tuanku Sultan Selangor.

ANWAR IBRAHIM

7 September 2014

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Atrocities continue to be committed against Myanmar’s Muslim Rohingya who appear to be doomed for destruction if the international community persists in overlooking their plight.

Through decades of systematic discrimination worse than even the apartheid system, hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas are treated worse than animals and confined in 21st century concentration camps.

They are denied their right of citizenship, cut off from the mainstream of economic activity, living in abject poverty, and deprived of schools and medical care.

The Myanmar government continues to commit the genocide of minority Muslims in Buddhist-majority Myanmar with impunity.

For those who remain sceptical, here’s NYT journalist Nicholas Kristof’s report on the plight of the Rohingyas that would turn our stomachs:

VIDEO:
http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=F7JafizhgM0&fulldescription=1&client=mv-google&hl=en-GB&gl=ID

It is shocking indeed that the world has remained largely silent about this. These crimes against humanity must stop.

Anwar Ibrahim
7th Sept 2014

7 September 2014

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TMI

DAP is standing by Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail’s nomination as Selangor Menteri Besar even as its coalition partner, PAS, continued to dismiss her as unqualified and incapable for the post.

Its secretary-general Lim Guan Eng said the PKR president and Kajang assembly member would be able to succeed with team effort, as she is already proven to be academically superior and politically experienced.

Lim, who is Penang chief minister, said Wan Azizah should be given a chance to perform, in view of her record in excelling in the field of medicine and in leading the PKR since 1999.

“When I first took over as chief minister, I also had no experience,” Lim said. “But in the last election (in 2013), under my leadership, we won by a bigger mandate than in 2008.”

He said although he did not have much experience, he had a team that showed that the Pakatan Rakyat government could deliver.

“So I think it is basically a team effort,” he said today, when asked to comment on PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang’s assertion that Dr Wan Azizah was neither capable nor qualified to be menteri besar.

Lim said Dr Wan Azizah was the first Malaysian to be awarded a gold medal in obstetrics and gynaecology before graduating as an ophthalmologist at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland.

“In terms of intelligence she is far superior to many of us,” he said.

Noting her qualification as a specialist in a medical field, he said: “I am sure she is also equally qualified for other positions. I don’t see why she is qualified to be an ophthalmologist but not qualified for other posts.”

He added that the DAP supported her also because of her leadership of PKR since 1999 when she became party president of the party (then called KeAdilan) after her husband, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim who has been the de facto head of the party, was imprisoned.

Lim was speaking to reporters after officiating at a charity event at the Silver Jubilee Home for the Aged in Penang.

Hadi had told a dialogue session for PAS members in Terengganu on Friday that he was not keen for Wan Azizah to be menteri besar, not because she is a woman, but because she was neither qualified nor capable.

He said a leader of a state had to fulfil many criteria, including the ability to answer in legislative houses like the Parliament and the state assembly.

Asked about a PAS faction called Parti Ummah Sejahtera Malaysia (PasMa) and its aim of ensuring that PAS stayed within Pakatan Rakyat, Lim said this was an internal issue for PAS.

“I think it is not appropriate for me to make any comment, to avoid us being construed as interfering in the internal affairs of PAS,” he said, adding that PAS was facing an upcoming assembly amidst turbulence within its ranks.

7 September 2014

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TMI

Sangat jarang pemimpin pembangkang dapat muncul dalam berita televisyen di waktu perdana di Malaysia.

Ini kerana RTM terikat sebagai agen penyiaran kerajaan yang lurus bendul dan sempit manakala stesen televisyen swasta TV3 dimiliki oleh syarikat Umno iaitu Media Prima Bhd.

Ahli politik pembangkang yang dialu-alukan oleh akhbar arus perdana juga amat sedikit kerana sebab yang sama.

Jika mana-mana ahli politik pembangkang mendapat 15 minit waktu utama itu, biasanya selepas mereka berpaling tadah kepada Barisan Nasional (BN) atau pandangan mereka merosakkan pakatan mereka sendiri.

Senarai mereka yang mendapat masa perdana dan di halaman utama akhbar sebelum ini adalah bekas ahli politik PAS Selangor Datuk Dr Hassan Ali, bekas Ahli Parlimen PKR Datuk Zulkifli Noordin, Datuk Seri Zahrain Mohamed dan Wee Choo Keong.

Jadi apa yang membuatkan Presiden PAS Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang mendapat 15 minit waktu perdana di Buletin Utama TV3 malam tadi?

Adakah akhbar milik Umno Utusan Malaysia menyokong pendirian beliau mengenai kebuntuan menteri besar Selangor dalam edisi Ahad hari ini? Mesti ada sebab mengapa Hadi menjadi kesayangan media BN.

Lagipun inilah ahli politik yang dicerca di waktu perdana sebelum ini kerana Amanat Haji Hadi yang dikeluarkan kira-kira 30 tahun yang lalu.

Beliau diserang habis-habisan kerana berusaha melaksanakan undang-undang jenayah Islam hudud.

Tetapi sekarang, Hadi mendapat ruang masa perdana untuk menjelaskan pendirian beliau mengenai kebuntuan pelantikan menteri besar Selangor.

Dan Utusan Malaysia membuat keputusan pandangan beliau adalah betul: Presiden PKR Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail bukan calon yang sesuai untuk jawatan tertinggi itu.

Sudah tentu Hadi harus mengambil peluang untuk menjelaskan sikapnya. Ini sebuah negara demokrasi.

Tetapi beliau perlu ingat semua yang disahkan oleh Utusan atau mendapat tempat di waktu perdana berita televisyen biasanya berakhir dengan tentangan daripada rakan mereka sendiri.

Media pro-kerajaan hanya mengambil pendapat anda jika ia menyokong agenda mereka. Dan anda akan digugurkan bak kentang panas apabila anda mengatakan sesuatu yang sukar bagi perjuangan mereka.

Tetapi Hadi sedar semua ini. Beliau bukan budak baru dalam  politik. Melainkan jika beliau fikir boleh mainkan media pro-kerajaan seperti yang dilakukan sekutunya di Selangor, beliau perlu tahu beliau bekerja dengan sekutunya daripada Pakatan Rakyat (PR).

Itu tidak wajar untuk sekutu anda sendiri. Bukan sesuatu yang kita jangka daripada pemimpin parti Islam yang keputusannya berdasarkan kepada tradisi suci Al-Quran dan sunnah Nabi Muhammad.

Lagipun, Hadi hanya seorang ahli politik dan seperti kebanyakan mereka, jika tidak semua ahli politik pun, beliau percaya kepentingan yang kekal, bukan kawan yang kekal.

7 September 2014

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TMI

Very few opposition leaders get to appear on prime-time news in Malaysia. Mainly because the state broadcaster RTM sticks to the straight and narrow government news while private broadcaster TV3 is owned by Umno-linked Media Prima Bhd.

And very few opposition politicians get endorsed by mainstream newspapers for exactly the same reasons, too.

If any opposition politicians get their 15 minutes of fame, it is usually after they have defected to Barisan Nasional (BN) or their views damage their own coalition.

The list of those who get the prime-time and pages treatment is not that long and includes former Selangor PAS politician Datuk Dr Hassan Ali, former MPs Datuk Zulkifli Noordin, Datuk Seri Zahrain Mohamed and Wee Choo Keong.

So what can one make of PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang who had his 15 minutes of fame on TV3′s prime-time news Buletin Utama?

Or that the Umno newspaper Utusan Malaysia has endorsed his stance on the Selangor menteri besar impasse in its Sunday edition today? There must be a reason Hadi has become the darling of the BN media.

After all, this is the politician who has been vilified on prime-time news for his Amanat Haji Hadi issued some 30 years ago. He has been demonised for seeking to implement Islamic criminal law hudud.

But now, Hadi gets prime-time space to explain his stand on the Selangor MB impasse.

And Utusan Malaysia has decided that his views are right about PKR president Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail is not the right candidate for the top job.

Of course, Hadi should take the opportunity to explain himself. It is a democracy. But he must remember all those who have been endorsed by Utusan or on prime-time television news usually end up opposite their own colleagues.

That the pro-government media only takes your opinion if its supportive of their agenda. That you can be dropped like a hot potato once you say something inconvenient to their cause.

But Hadi knows this. He is no political greenhorn.

Unless he thinks he can outfox the pro-government media as he has done his allies in the Selangor MB impasse, he should know that he is working with the kryptonite of the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) coalition.

And that is nothing short of being evil to your own allies. Not something one would expect from the leader of an Islamist party, whose decisions are based on the Quranic traditions of Prophet Muhammad.

Then again, Hadi is just a politician and like most if not all politicians, he believes in permanent interests, not permanent friends.

6 September 2014

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Huffington Post

Did you know that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of Isis, was trained by Mossad and the CIA? Were you aware that his real name isn’t Ibrahim Awwad Ibrahim Ali al-Badri al-Samarrai but Simon Elliot? Or that he’s a Jewish actor who was recruited by the Israelis to play the part of the world’s most wanted terrorist?

If the messages in my email in-box and my Twitter timeline and on my Facebook page are anything to go by, plenty of Muslims are not only willing to believe this nonsensical drivel but are super-keen to share it with their friends. The bizarre claim that NSA documents released by Edward Snowden “prove” the US and Israel are behind al-Baghdadi’s actions has gone viral.

There’s only one problem. “It’s utter BS,” Glenn Greenwald, the investigative journalist who helped break the NSA story, told me. “Snowden never said anything like that and no [NSA] documents suggest it.” Snowden’s lawyer, Ben Wizner, has called the story a hoax.

But millions of Muslims across the globe have a soft spot for such hoaxes. Conspiracy theories are rife in both Muslim-majority countries and Muslim communities here in the west. The events of 9/11 and the subsequent “war on terror” unleashed a vast array of hoaxers, hucksters and fantasists from Birmingham to Beirut.

On a visit to Iraq in 2002, I met a senior Islamic cleric who told me that Jews, not Arabs, had been responsible for the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. He loudly repeated the Middle East’s most popular and pernicious 9/11 conspiracy theory: that 4,000 Jews didn’t turn up for work on 11 September 2001 because they had been forewarned about the attacks.

There is, of course, no evidence for this outlandish and offensive claim. The truth is that more than 200 Jews, including several Israeli citizens, were killed in the attacks on the twin towers. I guess they must have missed the memo from Mossad.

Yet the denialism persists. A Pew poll in 2011, a decade after 9/11, found that a majority of respondents in countries such as Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon refused to believe that the attacks were carried out by Arab members of al-Qaeda. “There is no Muslim public in which even 30 per cent accept that Arabs conducted the attacks,” the Pew researchers noted.

This blindness isn’t peculiar to the Arab world or the Middle East. Consider Pakistan, home to many of the world’s weirdest and wackiest conspiracy theories. Some Pakistanis say the schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai is a CIA agent. Others think that the heavy floods of 2010, which killed 2,000 Pakistanis, were caused by secret US military technology. And two out of three don’t believe Osama Bin Laden was killed by US navy Seals on Pakistani soil on 2 May 2011.

Consider also Nigeria, where there was a polio outbreak in 2003 after local people boycotted the vaccine, claiming it was a western plot to infect Muslims with HIV. Then there is Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country, where leading politicians and journalists blamed the 2002 Bali bombings on US agents.

Why are so many of my fellow Muslims so gullible and so quick to believe bonkers conspiracy theories? How have the pedlars of paranoia amassed such influence within Muslim communities?

First, we should be fair: it’s worth noting that Muslim-majority nations have been on the receiving end of various actual conspiracies. France and Britain did secretly conspire to carve up the Middle East between them with the Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916. They also conspired to attack Egypt, with Israel’s help, and thereby provoked the Suez crisis of 1956. Oh, and it turned out there weren’t any WMDs in Iraq in 2003 despite what the dossiers claimed.

I once asked the Pakistani politician Imran Khan why his fellow citizens were so keen on conspiracy theories. “They’re lied to all the time by their leaders,” he replied. “If a society is used to listening to lies all the time.. everything becomes a conspiracy.”

The “We’ve been lied to” argument goes only so far. Scepticism may be evidence of a healthy and independent mindset; but conspiracism is a virus that feeds off insecurity and bitterness. As the former Pakistani diplomat Husain Haqqani has admitted, “the contemporary Muslim fascination for conspiracy theories” is a convenient way of “explaining the powerlessness of a community that was at one time the world’s economic, scientific, political and military leader”.

Nor is this about ignorance or illiteracy. Those who promulgate a paranoid, conspiratorial world-view within Muslim communities include the highly educated and highly qualified, the rulers as well as the ruled. A recent conspiracy theory blaming the rise of Islamic State on the US government, based on fabricated quotes from Hillary Clinton’s new memoir, was publicly endorsed by Lebanon’s foreign minister and Egypt’s culture minister.

Where will it end? When will credulous Muslims stop leaning on the conspiracy crutch? We blame sinister outside powers for all our problems – extremism, despotism, corruption and the rest – and paint ourselves as helpless victims rather than indepen­dent agents. After all, why take responsibility for our actions when it’s far easier to point the finger at the CIA/Mossad/the Jews/the Hindus/fill-in-your-villain-of-choice?

As the Egyptian intellectual Abd al-Munim Said once observed, “The biggest problem with conspiracy theories is that they keep us not only from the truth, but also from confronting our faults and problems.” They also make us look like loons. Can we give it a rest, please?

6 September 2014

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Haaretz

Documents reveal contacts between Washington and Jerusalem in late 1960s, when some Americans believed the nuclear option would not deter Arab leaders but would trigger an atom bomb race.

The Obama administration this week declassified papers, after 45 years of top-secret status, documenting contacts between Jerusalem and Washington over American agreement to the existence of an Israeli nuclear option. The Interagency Security Classification Appeals Panel (ISCAP), which is in charge of approving declassification, had for decades consistently refused to declassify these secrets of the Israeli nuclear program.

The documents outline how the American administration worked ahead of the meeting between President Richard Nixon and Prime Minister Golda Meir at the White House in September 1969, as officials came to terms with a three-part Israeli refusal – to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty; to agree to American inspection of the Dimona nuclear facility; and to condition delivery of fighter jets on Israel’s agreement to give up nuclear weaponry in exchange for strategic ground-to-ground Jericho missiles “capable of reaching the Arab capitals” although “not all the Arab capitals.”

The officials – cabinet secretaries and senior advisers who wrote the documents – withdrew step after step from an ambitious plan to block Israeli nuclearization, until they finally acceded, in internal correspondence – the content of the conversation between Nixon and Meir is still classified – to recognition of Israel as a threshold nuclear state.

In fact, according to the American documents, the Nixon administration defined a double threshold for Israel’s move from a “technical option” to a “possessor” of nuclear weapons.

The first threshold was the possession of “the components of nuclear weapons that will explode,” and making them a part of the Israel Defense Forces operational inventory.

The second threshold was public confirmation of suspicions internationally, and in Arab countries in particular, of the existence of nuclear weapons in Israel, by means of testing and “making public the fact of the possession of nuclear weapons.”

Officials under Nixon proposed to him, on the eve of his conversation with Meir, to show restraint with regard to the Israeli nuclear program, and to abandon efforts to get Israel to cease acquiring 500-kilometer-range missiles with one-ton warheads developed in the Marcel Dassault factory in France, if it could reach an agreement with Israel on these points.

Origins of nuclear ambiguity

Israel’s policy of nuclear ambiguity – which for the sake of deterrence does not categorically deny some nuclear ability but insists on using the term “option” – appears, according to the newly released documents, as an outcome of the Nixon-Meir understandings, no less than as an original Israeli maneuver.

The decision to release the documents was made in March, but was mentioned alongside the declassification of other materials less than a week ago in ISCAP, which is headed by a representative of the president and whose members are officials in the Department of State, Department of Defense and Department of Justice, as well as the intelligence administration and the National Archive, where the documents are stored.

The declassified material deals only with events in 1968 and 1969, the end of the terms of President Lyndon Johnson and Prime Minister Levi Eshkol, and the beginning of the Nixon-Meir era. However, it contains many contemporary lessons. Among these are the decisive nature of personal relations between a president like Obama and a prime minister like Benjamin Netanyahu; the relationship between the diplomatic process of “land for peace,” American guarantees of Israeli security in peace time, supplies of weapons to Israel and Israel’s nuclear status; and the ability of a country like Iran to move ahead gradually toward nuclear weapons and remain on the threshold of military nuclear weapons.

In the material declassified this week, one document was written by senior officials in the Nixon administration in a working group led by National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger, exploring the nature of the Israeli nuclear weapons program known as “NSSM 40.” The existence of the document and its heading were known, but the content had so far been kept secret.

The document was circulated to a select group, including Secretary of State William P. Rogers, Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird and CIA director Richard Helms, and with the knowledge of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Earle Wheeler. In it, Nixon directed Kissinger to put together a panel of experts, headed by Assistant Secretary of State Joseph Sisco.

The experts were asked to submit their intelligence evaluations as to the extent of Israel’s progress toward nuclear weapons and to present policy alternatives toward Israel under these circumstances, considering that the administration was bound to the pledge of the Johnson administration to provide Israel with 50 Phantom jets, the diplomatic process underway through Rogers, and the aspiration to achieve, within the year, global nonproliferation – all while, simultaneously, Israel was facing off against Egypt on the Suez Canal during the War of Attrition.

The most fascinating parts of the 107 pages discuss internal disagreements in the American administration over how to approach Israel – pressure or persuasion, as Sisco’s assistant, Rodger Davies, put it in the draft of the Department of State document. Davies also formulated a scenario of dialogue and confrontation with Israel’s ambassador to Washington, Yitzhak Rabin, the IDF chief of staff during the Six-Day War, who continued to sign his name using his military rank of Lieutenant General.

The documents are an intriguing illustration of organizational politics. Unexpectedly, the Department of State’s approach was softer. It opposed threats and sanctions because of the fear of obstructing Rogers’ diplomatic moves if Israel hardened its line. “If we choose to use the maximum option on the nuclear issue, we may not have the necessary leverage left for helping along the peace negotiations,” Davies wrote.

The two branches of the Pentagon – the civilian branch headed by Laird, his deputy David Packard (a partner in the computer manufacturer Hewlett-Packard, who objected to a previous sale of a super-computer manufactured by Control Data to Israel, lest it be used for the nuclear program) and their policy advisers; and the military branch headed by Gen. Wheeler – were more belligerent. Laird fully accepted the recommendation of the deputy secretary of defense in the outgoing Johnson administration, Paul Warnke, to use supplying the Phantoms to leverage far-reaching concessions from Israel on the nuclear issue.

Packard’s opposite number in the Department of State – Rogers’ deputy, Elliot Richardson – was Packard’s ideological ally in reservations regarding Israel. However, Sisco’s appointment, rather than an official from the strategic section of the Department of State, which agreed with the Pentagon, steered the recommendations of the officials toward a softer stance on Israel.

There was also an internal debate in the American administration over the extent of Israel’s progress toward a nuclear weapon. The Department of State, relying on the CIA, strongly doubted the evidence and described it as circumstantial in light of the inability to collect intelligence, including during the annual visits to the Dimona facility. As to conclusive evidence that Israel had manufactured a nuclear weapon, Davies wrote, “This final step is one we believe the Labor Alignment in Israel would like to avoid. The fierce determination to safeguard the Jewish people, however, makes it probable that Israel would desire to maintain the ultimate weapon at hand should its security again be seriously threatened.”

The Department of Defense, based on its intelligence agency, was more decisive in its evaluation that Israel had already attained nuclear weapons, or would do so in a matter of months.

Rabin, with his military aura and experience in previous talks on arms supplies (Skyhawks and later Phantoms) with the Johnson administration, was the key man on the Israeli side in these discussions, according to the Americans. This, even though the decisions were made in Jerusalem by Meir, Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, Foreign Minister Abba Eban and their colleagues, who were not always happy with Rabin’s tendency to express his “private” stances first and only then obtain approval from Jerusalem.

The Johnson and Nixon administrations concluded that, in talks with Rabin, it had been stated in a manner both “explicit and implicit” that “Israel wants nuclear weapons, for two reasons: First, to deter the Arabs from striking Israel; and second, if deterrence fails and Israel were about to be overrun, to destroy the Arabs in a nuclear Armageddon.”

The contradiction in this stance, according to the Americans, was that Israel “would need a nuclear force that is publicly known and, by and large, invulnerable, i.e., having a second-strike capability. Israel is now building such a force – the hardened silos of the Jericho missiles.”

However, “it is not really possible to deter Arab leaders – and certainly not the fedayeen – when they themselves represent basically irrational forces. The theory of nuclear deterrence that applies between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. – a theory that requires a reasoned response to provocation, which in turn is made possible by essentially stable societies and governments – is far less applicable in the Near East.”

Four years before the Yom Kippur War in October 1973 and the general scorn for Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, the Nixon administration wrote that Israel “would never be able to rule out the possibility that some irrational Arab leader would be willing to sustain great losses if he believed he could inflict decisive damage on Israel.”

Sisco and his advisers worried that a threat to cut off arms supplies “could build military and psychological pressures within Israel to move rapidly to the very sophisticated weaponry we are trying to avoid.”

According to the documents, the Nixon administration believed that Israel’s acquisition of nuclear weapons would spur the Arab countries to acquire their own such weapons within 10 years, through private contracts with scientists and engineers in Europe. Moreover, “deeply rooted in the Arab psyche is the concept that a settlement will be possible only when there is some parity in strength with Israel. A ‘kamikaze’ strike at the Dimona facilities cannot be ruled out,” the document states.

The Nixon advisers concluded that, all things considered, “we cannot force the Israelis to destroy design data and components, much less the technical knowledge in people’s minds, nor the existing talent for rapid improvisation.” Thus, Davies wrote in July, two months before the Nixon-Meir meeting, the lesser evil would be to agree for Israel to “retain its ‘technical option’” to produce nuclear weapons.

“If the Israelis show a disposition to meet us on the nuclear issue but are adamant on the Jericho missiles, we can drop back to a position of insisting on non-deployment of missiles and an undertaking by the Israelis to keep any further production secret,” Davies added.

The strategic consideration, mixed with political considerations, was persuasive. The draft of Meir’s unconditional surrender – formulated in the Pentagon without her knowledge in her first month in office – was shelved, and the ambiguity option was born and lived in secret documents until the Obama administration made them public, for reasons (or unintentionally) of their own.

 

6 September 2014

Pendapat

Pendapat Anda?

The Economist

An archaic law that the prime minister promised to repeal makes an ugly comeback

IS NAJIB RAZAK, Malaysia’s prime minister, a reformer? Those who say that he is can point to the economic liberalisation of his first term, from 2009 to 2013, and to his repeal of the dreaded Internal Security Act, which allowed indefinite detention without trial. However, over the past few weeks, those more sceptical of his reformist tendencies have been handed some good evidence of their own.

Since August 26th three opposition parliamentarians have been charged with sedition for making statements critical of the government. Most notable of them is N. Surendran, an MP who is also a lawyer defending Malaysia’s opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim, against charges of sodomy. Mr Surendran was charged over a press release he issued last April that called an appellate-court judgment against Mr Anwar “flawed, defensive and insupportable”, and for an online video in which he said that the sodomy charges against Mr Anwar were “an attempt to jail the opposition leader of Malaysia” for which “we hold Najib Tun Razak [Malaysia’s prime minister] personally responsible.”

In addition, Rafizi Ramli, a senior opposition politician, was investigated for sedition but charged with insult and provocation in a manner likely to disturb the peace for alleging that Mr Najib’s party, the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), sowed religious discord for political gain. On August 25th Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin, another politician, was charged with defaming Mr Najib in a speech two years earlier. And on September 2nd the dragnet widened: Azmi Sharom, a law professor, was charged with sedition for remarks made about a governance crisis five years ago in the state of Perak. None of these statements is seditious, in the usual sense, in that none of them advocated the government’s overthrow.

Yet Malaysia’s sedition law is almost comically broad. It defines seditious statements as any that “excite[s] disaffection…against any Government” or “against the administration of justice in Malaysia” or “promote[s] feelings of ill will and hostility between different races or classes of the population in Malaysia”. It is also selectively enforced. Mr Ramli’s remarks triggered a sedition investigation, whereas those made by UMNO’s vice-president reportedly calling ethnic-Chinese Malaysians “ungrateful” and accusing non-Malays of “insulting Islam and the Malays under the pretence of democracy” did not.

Ambiga Sreenevasan, a human-rights advocate and former chairwoman of Bersih, a coalition of groups advocating free and fair elections, accuses the government of using the Sedition Act to “assert power over the people and to create a climate of fear. And it’s working.” Those charged could eventually prevail in court, but they face long trials and possibly multiple appeals. Mr Surendran believes the charges against him were intended to make it more difficult for him to defend Mr Anwar. He says he has been “bogged down” while preparing for trial, and says the charges are “part of a wave of repression”.

In 2012 Mr Najib promised to repeal the Sedition Act. He intends to replace it late next year with legislation that, in the vague words of a government spokesman, “promotes national harmony whilst protecting Malaysian citizens from racial or religious hatred.” Fears of racial discord run deep in multicultural Malaysia, as they do in Singapore. Hundreds of Chinese and Malays died during communal violence in 1969. But Ms Sreenevasan believes the government “plays to those fears…the only way they can hold onto power is by dividing people.”

Some believe that Mr Najib’s foot-dragging on repeal, as well as the sedition charges, are a response to pressure from the right wing of his own party—particularly from Mahathir Mohamad, a former prime minister who publicly withdrew his support for Mr Najib on August 18th, one day before the first sedition charge was filed against Mr Surendran. But, in pandering to the right, Mr Najib risks tarnishing his own reformist image. It is hard to be the face of progress and moderation while leading a government that seeks to jail its critics.

Correction: In the original version of this article we mistakenly identified Ambiga Sreenevasan as the chairwoman of Bersih. She no longer holds this post, having been replaced in November 2013 by Maria Chin Abdullah. Our apologies to both.

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