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California Anti-Circumcision Activists Get Their Nazi On

from www.foreskinman.comOver the years I’ve lived in Israel, many people — both Americans and Israelis — have asked me how I can possibly feel good about living in a perpetual war zone when I come from a land so notable for its comforts, strategic depth, and general lack of jihadist death cultists in the immediate vicinity.

It’s a good question. The fact is that in Israel, despite the weird lack of canned soup, dearth of decent English-language bookstores, and propensity of some of the neighbors to proclaim their desire for me and my family to leave Earth as soon as possible, I feel happier. Why is that? Because I feel safer here. Denial, you say? Cognitive dissonance? Well, maybe a little. But there’s some logic to it.

There are two main reasons why I feel the way I do. The first is I feel confident that my government and my army understand the reality of the threat we’re up against. The second is I don’t have to fear that I will wake up one morning to discover that my neighbors have turned on me because of my religion.

This brings me to this anti-circumcision business in San Francisco.

As you may have read, a bill to ban circumcision will appear on the city’s November ballot as a result of a petition signed by more than 12,000 residents. If passed, it will become a misdemeanor to circumcise a boy younger than 18, with a maximum penalty of a year in prison and a fine of $1,000. The only exemptions would be medical; no religious exemptions allowed.

Circumcision is performed on male Jews at the age of eight days as a sign of their covenant with God, so there are obvious implications for Jews who happen to procreate in San Francisco. It’s important to note that the bill would have implications not only for them, but for Muslims, who also circumcise their boys.

You might miss that point, however, if you examine some of the materials that are appearing in support of the bill. A group, cleverly titled The Male Genital Mutilation Bill, has put together two comic books. The cast of characters includes Monster Mohel, whose image appears above. He is described on the handy trading cards that accompany the comic books thus: “Nothing excites Monster Mohel more than cutting into the penile flesh of an eight-day-old infant boy.” He is assisted by Yerik:

Yerik is Monster Mohel’s right-hand man and heir apparent. His cunning and depravity make him extremely useful when situations get out of control.

Some have whispered that Yerik is even more dangerous and sadistic than Monster Mohel himself. But Yerik has proven his loyalty time and time again, even though he sometimes gets carried away.

Monster Mohel, Yerik, and their mentally sub-par, sidecurl-sporting, automatic-weapon-toting flunky Jorah are thwarted in their dark plans by — I wish I was kidding — a blond, buff superhero named Foreskin Man, who appears to all a mild-mannered businessman but is in fact a protector of infant boys from evil Jews:

Foreskin Man, from

Frustrated by society’s failure to protect its most vulnerable citizens, Foreskin Man has taken up the fight against genital mutilation.

Aided by the power of his technologically advanced plasma boots, Foreskin Man flies above the city to hunt down criminals who cut the genitals of innocent boys.

It is the dawn of a new era. Circumcisers, beware!

Matthew Hess, president of the group lobbying for the passage of the bill, wrote both installments of the comic, which he insists aren’t anti-Semitic. “Brit milah is child abuse in a religious context,” he said in a statement. “Why should an eight-day-old infant boy be forced to give up his foreskin for someone else’s spiritual beliefs? We need laws to protect male children from this painful and scarring blood ritual, and our second Foreskin Man comic book was created to get that point across.”

The Jewish community in San Francisco is being strangely (perhaps not so strangely) quiet about all this. The rabbi of the local Chabad (Lubavitch) house went on record as opposing the bill, but other than that, the tribe — which is comprised, in that part of the country, of primarily secular liberal Democrats — is keeping quiet. The Anti-Defamation League, bless them, came out strongly against the comic books. “Foreskin Man, with its grotesque anti-Semitic imagery and themes, reaches a new low and is disrespectful and deeply offensive,” said Nancy J. Appel, ADL Associate Regional Director, in a statement. “This is an advocacy campaign taken to a new low …  It is one thing to debate [the issue], is another thing to degrade it…This is a sensitive, serious issue where good people can disagree. No matter what one’s personal opinions of male circumcision, it is irresponsible to use stereotypical caricatures of religious Jews to promote the anti-circumcision agenda.”

In Israel, we have a lot on our plate, but this is one kind of malarkey we don’t have to deal with. This imagery is straight out of Nazi propaganda, but it came out of California in 2011.


Naksa Day 2011: IDF Clashes With Protesters

Nakba Day, or “Day of the Catastrophe,” was the day the Arabs commemorated the disaster of Israel’s creation in 1948. Today is Naksa Day, on which they commemorate the disaster of Israel’s victory in 1967. (“Naksa” translates roughly to “setback.”)

The Lebanese army, perhaps in response to a warning from Israel, has shut down access to the Lebanese-Israeli border, ensuring that there will be no clashes on that front today between protesters and the IDF. (A planned rally by Palestinian refugees at the border has been indefinitely postponed.) In Syria, however, the army has not only kept access to the Syrian-Israeli border open but has assisted the protesters by digging a trench for them twenty meters from the Israeli line.

Hundreds of Syrians massed accordingly this morning on the Golan border. Clashes broke out with the Israelis, who are reported to be using tear gas and other crowd dispersal weapons against them. Syrian television is reporting that the IDF has killed five and wounded nine, but I’m not seeing confirmation of this yet in the Israeli media.

The IDF is also clashing right now with hundreds of Palestinians massed at the Qalandiya checkpoint between Ramallah and Jerusalem. A police officer was injured by a rock thrown during a demonstration at Isawiyah in East Jerusalem, and about a dozen protesters were arrested there. Palestinians also threw firebombs toward Hadassah University Hospital near Mount Scopus in Jerusalem, with no injuries resulting.

It’s still relatively early, but I’ll venture to say that what’s interesting about today is not what’s happening but what isn’t. As noted, the Lebanese border is quiet, and so, apparently, is the Gazan border (as of 2:00 pm, I’m seeing no reports of clashes). This suggests that Hezbollah and Hamas, both Iranian proxies, have calculated — possibly because their Syrian conduit is in a state of uncertainty bordering on chaos — that this is not the time to start something with us.

In a simpler age, this show of vulnerability would have represented a strategic opportunity for us. But Israel has grown fearful of anything resembling what was once called “active defense,” otherwise known as the preemptive strike, for fear of the opprobrium that would be heaped on us as its result. I imagine that a strike of that kind is probably particularly hard for the powers that be to stomach on the anniversary of the 1967 war, which was marked by one of the most spectacular preemptive strikes in the history of warfare (the Israelis wiped out the Egyptian air force, on the ground, in Egypt). It can be argued that the resonances would be too difficult to overcome, and would likely exceed any tactical victory we might be able to attain.

We are not to be permitted any decisive victories — as President Obama has indicated, armistice lines resulting from defensive wars are ultimately to be considered starting points for border negotiations — so our greatest asset, our military, might not be enough ultimately to protect us.

UPDATE: It is now evening, and calm has been restored to the Syrian border after a messy day. Syrian TV is reporting 20 dead. During the protests, Syrians cut through the barbed wire fence separating Israel from Syria. It also appears that at least four anti-tank mines exploded near Quneitra on the Syrian side of the border, injuring many. The explosions were apparently sparked by fires that were started when protesters threw Molotov cocktails towards Israel.

IDF spokesman Brigadier-General Yoav Mordechai confirmed that IDF troops had opened fire but is not confirming any casualty figures at this point. “It’s a message to anyone who tries to violate Israel’s sovereign borders,” he said, calling the army’s response “measured, focused and proper.” The IDF called the protests a “clear provocation intended to divert attention from what is happening in Syria.” At a cabinet meeting today, PM Benjamin Netanyahu said, “To my regret, today there are extremists around us trying to breach our borders, and threaten our towns and citizens. We will not allow this.” Earlier this week, he said, “Like any country in the world, Israel has the right and obligation to guard and defend its borders.”


Israel Wakes Up to the Power of Twitter (Sort Of)

Baby steps.

The diplomatic “tsunami” (Ehud Barak’s term) expected ito accompany the Palestinians’ push for statehood at the UN in September has spurred the Israeli Foreign Ministry to jump into the social media. “We are intensively preparing ahead of September,” says Chaim Shacham, head of the information and Internet department at the Ministry. That preparation will entail “constantly monitoring the blogs, tweets and insofar as possible, Facebook entries too,” according to Haaretz.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor, describing the new initiative, said: “We have formulated some arguments that are relevant to what’s going to happen in September, even if we don’t know exactly what it will be. We began disseminating these arguments and statements, backed by links to documents and articles, among the relevant bloggers and social media members. From our perspective we’ve already begun the battle over publicity, though formally, nothing has begun. Our main argument is ‘Palestinian state yes, but only through direct negotiations.’ In events that we have to truncate the message to fewer characters, we say, ‘Let’s talk’.”

Okay, good start, but…oy.

Palmor says Israel learned from its p.r. trouncing following the Mavi Marmara incident that it had to make better use of the social media, but his language doesn’t inspire confidence.

“We will go into battle over public opinion,” he says. With him so far.

“It is clear to us that messages that pass through the social media need to be simpler, to be based on elements with international authority.” O….kay. Started well, but went off the rails a bit there.

“For instance, it isn’t enough to say there’s a maritime blockade – we have to explain where it can be under international law. Since the explanation is a complex legal one, which contradicts the simplicity of messages by Twitter or Facebook, we have to distill the complex messages in a more accessible way, and send links to legal sources.”

I’m sighing here.

Look, people. That’s all very nice — seriously, there’s value in trying to drag the conversation into reality — but you’re completely missing the magic of these media. Nobody’s going to follow your helpful links to legal sources if your tweets are as stuffy as you sound right there. (Sorry, Yigal. I say it with love.)

Last March, I attended an Act For Israel-sponsored meeting at the Foreign Ministry about the social media. The Ministry people were good guys with good intentions, but way too buttoned-up. A handful of suits are not going to win this war. Humor, irony, wit, a spirit of youthful iconoclasm — that’s what’s needed here.

Right now, the other guys are perceived as the cool kids. I gather that it irks you, Israel, to have to think in those terms when the stakes are so high. I feel you, but with respect, it’s time to suck it up. You’ve got a whole army — literally — of cool kids who know exactly how to communicate with the young minds you’ve got to win over. Enlist their help. Enough with the polite, sober, mature explanations: that’s you on the defensive, and nobody’s listening. Go on offense. Those tweets should combine wit, charm, and killer snark. That’s what people read Twitter for.

Get on it.


Tomorrow It’ll Be a Year. A Mavi Marmara Refresher

In honor of the event, here’s some footage of the response of the humanitarian activists to having their ship boarded after repeated warnings not to breach the blockade.

And a clip of Israeli soldiers being fired upon by the humanitarians with live ammunition.

And a peace activist stabbing an Israeli soldier.

And some of the weapons found on the ship:

weapons on the Mavi Marmara
Knives on the Mavi Marmara


1967 Reference Cut from G8 Statement

Allegedly at the insistence of Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada, a reference to the 1967 lines as a basis for a future border between Israel and Palestine was removed from the G8’s statement calling for the resumption of negotiations. Harper has declined to confirm or deny his hand in the deletion, but Israeli PM Bibi Netanyahu is reported to have phoned Harper the day before the G8 summit.. “The Canadians were really very adamant, even though Obama expressly referred to 1967 borders in his speech last week,” a European diplomat said.

Other members of the G8, including British Prime Minister David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, have endorsed President Obama’s citing of the 1967 lines.

Here is Stephen Harper speaking on November 8, 2010 on what he sees as the moral obligation to defend Israel, whatever the political cost.



What’s the Significance of Egypt’s Reopening of the Rafah Crossing?

Yesterday, Egypt reopened the Rafah crossing between the Sinai and the Gaza Strip. Egypt closed the crossing in 2007 as part of the Israeli-Egyptian blockade of Gaza following the seizure of power by Hamas. The reopening, in the face of Israel’s obviously valid security concerns, indicates a warming of relations between Egypt and Hamas. It also formally revokes the 2005 Rafah Agreement between Egypt and Israel, which was put into place after Israel’s disengagement from Gaza.

Egypt has opened the crossing to human traffic only (no merchandise, at least at this point). Men between the ages of 18 and 40 will require visas to cross, but all other men and boys, as well as all women, will be able to cross without a visa. On Saturday, of the 450 people who arrived at Rafah, 28 were refused entry into Egypt. Hamas is said to be anticipating a flow of supporters from Egypt into the Gaza Strip, but the bulk of the initial flow was in the other direction.

Hamas has demanded that no international observers be present at the reopened crossing. Egypt agreed, saying its own supervision should be sufficient. Israel is not showing any great (public) dismay at this, since the EU observers who were in place for a year and a half following the Rafah Agreement didn’t contribute much to Israel’s security anyway.

The reopening of the crossing represents a weakening of Israel’s security position to the west, regardless who purports to be watching the traffic, but arms and terrorist personnel have long flowed into the Gaza Strip via the tunnels under the Philadelphi Corridor and will no doubt continue to do so. This move is ominous as far as Egyptian-Israeli relations are concerned, but does not represent an immediate and dramatic worsening of the security situation, at least for the time being.

There is a temptation to read the opening as an overture by Egypt not only to Hamas but to its sponsor, Iran. That may well be the case, but Egyptian suspicions continue to run high toward the Shia expansionist regime in Teheran. Any boost to Hamas gives Iran a leg up, but there’s some time yet before Cairo opens its arms to Iran in welcome. The powers that be in Cairo are trying to maintain the status quo in shifting terrain, a challenge the Americans would do well to examine and attempt to understand.

Lee Smith, author of the outstanding book The Strong Horse: Power, Politics, and the Clash of Arab Civilizationsmakes the point with characteristic clarity in The Weekly Standard:

Iranian aggression, and not the peace process, as Netanyahu was careful to remind his American audiences this past week, is still the key regional issue. With the administration turning on traditional American allies, some observers are starting to see similarities between Washington and Tehran, in one important respect. “If Obama says the status quo is unsustainable,” says Martin Kramer of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, “and won’t do anything to sustain it, then Washington, like Iran, is an anti-status quo power. Others have to take it upon themselves to defend the status quo.”

…The major Sunni Arab players outside the enlarged GCC would be Fatah, now reconciled with Hamas, and Egypt, formerly the central pillar of Washington’s Middle East policy, and now after thirty years once again up for grabs…

The Iranians want to protect their investment in Syria, but at some point Tehran may come to feel that the Alawite regime’s sectarian cleansing of Sunnis is bad for business…Presumably, Tehran is watching the new Palestinian concord with great interest, and may be learning from its client there, Hamas.

It is true that the Hamas-Fatah reconciliation may not survive even until the Palestinians’ September push at the U.N. General Assembly, but in terms of the regional chessboard Palestinian unity is irrelevant. The major player here is Egypt, which helped broker the deal. Hamas sloughed off Damascus’s problematic patronage once it realized that it could ride Cairo instead—a much more natural fit given that Egypt is a Sunni power, and one whose Muslim Brotherhood, with whom Hamas has strong ties, is enjoying a period of political prominence.

Washington is starting to realize that one of the values of the late Mubarak regime was its implacable hatred of Hamas. Cairo’s present rulers, however, can no longer afford such an ideological luxury; the Egyptians need to raise money quickly or they will starve. The way to do that is by presenting themselves as the antithesis of Mubarak’s stable, or static, Egypt, an Egypt that may well spin out of the American orbit—unless Washington antes up. The concern is not that Egypt will jump sides entirely and join the resistance bloc, but rather make trouble by flirting with Iran, like with its decision to end the blockade of Gaza.

It will be interesting to see to what extent, if at all, the end of the Egyptian blockade of Gaza will affect the flotillas. On the one hand, the “humanitarian crisis” has just been alleviated with one fell swoop. On the other hand, the opening gives juice to the story that the Arab world, so stricken by the Palestinians’ plight, will join together to liberate Gaza from Israeli inhumanity.  (It’s a good bet which way those cards will fall.) What’s important about the opening of the crossing is not so much the aid and comfort it will give to Hamas. It’s the extent to which the Americans will register its significance as an indicator of the difficulty of Egypt’s balancing act.

BBC: Palestinian Economy Is Dangerously Fragile

Notwithstanding the mysterious enthusiasm of the IMF for Palestinian statehood, the Palestinian Authority still remains at least half-dependent on foreign donations. The withdrawal of a significant portion of that aid would likely result in the collapse of the economy. The PA’s embrace of Hamas and push for unilateral statehood directly endangers the flow of that aid and therefore has the potential to ensure the PA’s eventual status as a failed state.

The international media has been largely mum on this elementary point, but Jon Donnison of the BBC has noticed:

Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza receive more foreign aid per head of population than any other group of people in the world. According to research done by The Economist magazine, in 2008 it amounted to $675 (£414) per person, per year. A good amount of that money comes from the European Union.

“The EU contributes around 500m euros a year, with roughly the same amount coming from individual member states,” says Christian Berger, the EU representative to the Palestinian territories.

Some observers have called it buying economic peace.

And the vast injections of foreign money have seen the Palestinian economy grow. According to the International Monetary Fund, in the West Bank it grew by over 9% in 2010.

The removal or relaxation of some Israeli military checkpoints in the West Bank has also made it easier for Palestinians to do business.

The BBC piece goes on to discuss the tangible change that has resulted in Ramallah, which has seen an efflorescence of buildings, restaurants and (a little curiously) bars. However, “Most Palestinians cannot afford to come [to Jasmine, a trendy new hot-spot]. The United Nations estimates that 25% of Palestinians live below the poverty line.”

What would happen if the spigot went dry? “Salaries would not be paid,” says Nasser Abdul Karim, an economist at the West Bank’s Bir Zeit University. “Employees would stop spending. People could not pay rent or bank loans or electricity bills. The domino effect would play a major role in crippling the whole economy.”

And how might Hamas’s reentry into the picture affect funding? “Last time Hamas were in the government, having won parliamentary elections in 2006, the big donors pulled Palestinian funding,” the article notes. “Tens of thousands of people went without salaries for six months. Some politicians in the US Congress are already calling for American aid to stop now that Hamas is back in the frame.”

Okay, American money might dry up. But what about the EU, the PA’s biggest donor?

What, them worry? “At the moment, we’re not talking about Hamas joining a government,” says EU Representative Berger. After all, as he notes, the unity deal is intended to establish an interim government made up of independent politicians. “After that, there will be elections in a year’s time. We’re going to concentrate on what’s happening now — not in a year’s time,” he says.

Even the most casual observers are willing to bet that Hamas will be running its slate as independents, an obvious tactic and one to which its the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt subscribed throughout the decades that it was outlawed.  But until their candidates self-identify as Hamas, thereby disqualifying themselves, the EU is apparently prepared to turn a blind eye (for a while, at least).

Nevertheless, there are apprehensions in the territories. “During the past few weeks, I have heard a range of words used to describe the scenario if foreign aid were to be cut — from ‘stagnation’ to ‘collapse’ to ‘explosion,'” Donnison writes. Nassir Abdul Karim believes the very severity of the likely consequences mitigates the likelihood that an aid cut-off would be allowed to happen. “The donors are not stupid,” he says. Others, unnamed by Donnison, are equally sanguine. “[If] the big foreign donors did decide to officially cut funding, they would find less transparent channels to keep the money coming, possibly by funnelling it through aid agencies and NGOs,” he writes.

Ah, yes, Good old NGOs.


Tom Friedman Goes Full Delusional

Thomas Friedman has a suggestion for us as to how we can move the Israeli-Palestinian peace process forward.

May I suggest a Tahrir Square alternative? Announce that every Friday from today forward will be “Peace Day,” and have thousands of West Bank Palestinians march nonviolently to Jerusalem, carrying two things — an olive branch in one hand and a sign in Hebrew and Arabic in the other. The sign should say: “Two states for two peoples. We, the Palestinian people, offer the Jewish people a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders — with mutually agreed adjustments — including Jerusalem, where the Arabs will control their neighborhoods and the Jews theirs.”

If Palestinians peacefully march to Jerusalem by the thousands every Friday with a clear peace message, it would become a global news event. Every network in the world would be there. Trust me, it would stimulate a real peace debate within Israel — especially if Palestinians invited youth delegations from around the Arab world to join the marches, carrying the Saudi peace initiative in Hebrew and Arabic. Israeli Jews and Arabs should be invited to march as well. Together, the marchers could draw up their own peace maps and upload them onto YouTube as a way of telling their leaders what Egyptian youth said to President Hosni Mubarak: “We’re not going to let you waste another day of our lives with your tired mantras and maneuvering.”

I met Tom Friedman briefly years ago at Oxford when he came to deliver a lecture at St. Antony’s College. I was a fan of his book From Beirut to Jerusalem and found much to admire in Friedman too — he was coherent, down-to-earth, and able to craft complex ideas in engaging, digestible terms. In those days, I found myself agreeing with him more often than not.

We’ve since parted ideological company for the most part, but this piece really has me worried.

Tom (may I call you Tom?), are you for real here?  You’re a reputable journalist. Have you kept up to date at all with events in Egypt since Tahrir Square? For that matter, how closely were you paying attention during Tahrir Square? Are you certain you want to use it as a model?

This idea of yours about regular marches of thousands of Palestinians to Jerusalem, complete with Arab “delegations” from hither and yon. As it happens, we had a delegation visit recently. They stormed the Israeli-Syrian border fence. That was — how can I put it? — disconcerting. Are you aware of the recurrent, and ever-popular, campaigns on Facebook to enlist Muslims across the Arab world to descend on Israel and destroy it? Do you have any credible reason to believe most Arabs would hear a Palestinian call for a march on Jerusalem as an opportunity to promote the two-state solution rather than a step toward reversing the Naqba?

And what about the Palestinians themselves? Did you miss the news of Fatah’s reconciliation with Hamas? How does that not warrant a mention? Is it irrelevant? Why? The Palestinians you advise to march on Jerusalem are now re-allied with no-holds-barred jihadists. Are you picturing Khaled Mashaal holding an olive branch and hoisting one of those hefty signs?

And what about the Israelis? You note with some justice that “whichever party has the Israeli silent majority on its side wins,” but then you lose me. Why should the spectacle of Palestinians marching en masse on Jerusalem — in the current environment, with their allegedly pro-peace camp electing to scupper negotiations completely and declare statehood unilaterally, Israel be damned — promote Israeli sympathy for Palestinian self-determination rather than a defensive crouch?

Tom, it’s difficult for me to believe that you, with your deep knowledge of the region, can seriously believe this scenario will play out as you describe. But the alternative is worse: that you know full well how wrong it can go, and you’re okay with that. I don’t know you, so I can’t say one way or the other. All I do know is you’ve got a big audience. Do me a favor and be careful what you wish for on behalf of a country you don’t live in. Israelis and Palestinians don’t exist inside an op-ed schmoozefest. We’re cheek by jowl in a tinderbox. And whether you know it or not, you’re playing with fire.


IDF Promotes Woman to Major General for First Time

Brig.-Gen. Orna Barbivai, 49-year-old deputy head of the IDF Human Resources Directorate, will make history in a few weeks when she becomes the first woman to hold the rank of major general in the Israeli army. Barbivai will become the head of the General Staff personnel department.

“There is no rank that is too heavy for a woman’s shoulders and there is no doubt that Brig.-Gen. Barbivai was appointed because of her talents,” said Opposition leader and Kadima Chairwoman MK Tzipi Livni.


Yemen Approaches Civil War

About seventy people were killed today on the streets of Sanaa, the capital of Yemen. Twenty-eight were killed this morning in what the government says was an explosion at an arms depot and what the protesters say was government forces firing on residential areas.

Residents of the capital are frantically trying to leave the city, where machine-gun fire, explosions and mortar fire are being reported. The US State Department has ordered all non-essential diplomats and embassy staff to evacuate.

The clashes are between the security forces of President Ali Abdullah Saleh and members of a tribal federation led by Sadiq al-Ahmar. Al-Ahmar’s forces have joined together with the thousands of Yemenis encamped in Sanaa demanding Saleh’s ouster. Al-Ahmar has allegedly taken custody of about seventy members of Saleh’s security forces, and Saleh has issued orders that al-Ahmar be arrested for armed rebellion.

Saleh’s two main backers, the Americans and the Saudis, have both dumped him, notwithstanding their respective fears of al Qaeda violence and Iranian interference. The Saudis, via the GCC, are giving him 30 days to step down with immunity from prosecution. The G8 countries, which are meeting in Deauville, issued a statement that said, “We deplore the fighting that occurred overnight which was a direct result of the current political impasse, for which President Saleh has direct responsibility due to his refusal to sign the GCC transition agreement.”

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton concurs. “We support the departure of President Saleh, who has consistently agreed that he would be stepping down from power and then consistently reneged on those agreements,” she said. About the sharp rise in bloodshed today, she said, “We are very troubled by the ongoing clashes. We call on all sides immediately to cease the violence.”

Civil war has already started, according to Uzi Rabi, director of Tel Aviv University’s Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies and author of the forthcoming book Yemen: The Anatomy of a Failed State. “Unlike other Arab states, it isn’t the youth who are initiating things in Yemen. Yemen has a different rhythm, even if some would like to compare it to the revolutions sweeping the Middle East now…More often than not, dictators are able to hold very complex states in a relative state of stability. It’s no doubt that if Bashar [Assad of Syria], Saleh and [Libya’s] Muammar Gaddafi fall, what we will likely see is a collection of mini-states, and that means instability, something that isn’t healthy for the Middle East, at least in the short term.”