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Saturday, December 9, 2006

2 Palestinian guards hurt in Gaza parliament clashes

Last update - 16:46 09/12/2006

2 Palestinian guards hurt in Gaza parliament clashes

By The Associated Press

Two Palestinian parliamentary guards were wounded when demonstrators and
parliamentary security guards exchanged fire at the Palestinian parliament
building in Gaza City on Saturday, a lawmaker and medical staff said.

Some 1,400 uniformed police and other security officers demonstrating over the
non-payment of their salaries stormed into the parliament compound while some
fired into the air as slogans were chanted from loudspeakers.

Hospital staff said the condition of the parliamentary guards, who were
protecting lawmaker Ahmed Bahar of the governing Hamas Islamist group, was not

"We view very gravely the attack against the Palestinian Legislative Council,
whose aim is to create tension in Palestinian areas," Bahar said at a news

The violent marches escalated tensions between Hamas and its political rival,
the Fatah movement of Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.

The clashes came as Abbas met with senior PLO officials at his West Bank
headquarters to decide whether to dismiss the Hamas government and call early
elections or let it continue, with the expectation that it would eventually be
brought down by a deepening economic crisis.

The protesters alleged that Hamas was paying its own militia, the so-called
Executive Force, while neglecting the members of the regular security forces.
Addressing Hamas legislators inside the building over a loudspeaker, one of
the protesters said: "Why are you hiding? Why are you ignoring our demands
while you are feeding and increasing your militia and distributing the money
that you smuggled from the outside."

In the West Bank city of Jenin, some 4,000 members of the security forces
staged a march to press for their salaries.

Dozens of parents carrying infants broke into a mother-and-child clinic in the
West Bank city of Hebron, which has been closed because of the health workers'
strike. The parents demanded vaccinations for their babies. Several of the
protesters burned tires outside the clinic and set large garbage bags on fire.

Later on Saturday, Palestinian union leaders said the strikers would return to
their jobs Sunday, following government assurances of more payments. Doctors
and nurses at government hospitals had been on strike since September,
attending only emergencies and providing minimal services.

Hamas, squeezed by an international aid boycott since it came to power 10
months ago, has had trouble paying salaries of 165,000 civil servants,
including about 80,000 members of the security forces, 40,000 teachers and
some 15,000 health care workers. Doctors and nurses have been on strike for

Hamas leaders have brought cash in suitcases across the Gaza-Egypt borders,
circumventing the refusal of most banks to transfer funds to Islamic militants
from abroad, for fear of violating anti-terrorism regulations.

Continued (Permanent Link)

No Palestinians, No Palestine, No Problem

Last update - 15:41 09/12/2006

No Palestinians, No Palestine, No Problem

If the internet is any measure, there are four major denominations of Diaspora
Jewry: Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, and There Is No Such Thing as a

You won't find this last group on synagogue signs. It has no rabbinical
seminary. It lacks a headquarters in Manhattan, or a place on the Conference
of Presidents. But if single-minded zeal counts for anything, its place as a
denomination is assured.

Its bedrock article of faith is this: The concept of a Palestinian people is
artificial, a grand lie foisted on a gullible and guilt-plagued international

The seductiveness of this lies in its simplicity. Remove the Palestinians from
the equation, and the equation is solved. No more guilt. No more dilemmas. No
land to divide. No rights to share. No Middle East conflict.

No Palestinians, no Palestine. No problem.

Well, maybe one. Amid the rafts of facts, the torrents of proofs, the
boundlessly creative arguments, the learned histories marshaled by the
activists of the Palestinians Don't Exist Movement, the one sole fact that
matters, escapes them altogether:

It's not our decision.

It's not for Jews to decide whether Palestinians have valid claims to
peoplehood, to cultural uniqueness, to calling themselves whatever they like.

There are millions of people here and abroad whose whole lives are about being
Palestinian. There are millions of people here and abroad who know that they
are Palestinian just as they know how to breathe.

It's not for Jews to decide that the people who call themselves Palestinians
are insufficiently distinctive, insufficiently venerable, insufficiently
homogeneous, insufficiently honest about their own ancestry, their own ancient
history, their modern plight, to legitimately qualify as a people.

You may believe that the Palestinian national narrative is based on
half-truths, imagined truths, flat-out untruths. You may believe that this
disqualifies them from recognition as a true people. As if a people's
cherished myth - any people - is no less powerful for being myth. As if we had
any say whatsoever in the decision.

No one should know this better than the Jews. No people on earth has been
negated, delegitimized, in so many ways, for so many centuries, by so many
other peoples, as we have.

When the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and his boss, Yasser Arafat, declared that
the Jews have no verifiable ties to the holy city, it may have been their jobs
that they were doing, but it was none of their business.

Just as it is none of our business to tell Palestinians who they are and who
they are not.

The Middle East conflict will not be solved by a parlor trick. Any magician
can tell you. You can't make someone disappear simply by shutting your own

Continued (Permanent Link)

The Israeli interest in Iraq: who has the answer?

Rosner's Blog
Shmuel Rosner Chief U.S. Correspondent

Posted: December 08, 2006

The Israeli interest in Iraq: who has the answer?

If you want to know how difficult it is for Israelis to decide what American
policy in Iraq would be best for Israel, take a look at the question we asked
our The Israel Factor panel, as a complimentary question to those we asked
about the candidates in the fourth survey we published yesterday.

We knew that the survey is going to be published on a busy news day -
competing for attention with the Baker-Hamilton committee report (who will get
the upper hand, I wonder). Nevertheless, we decided to stick with the
schedule, as we did last month when the survey was scheduled for publication
on Election Day.

Our main focus in this survey was Iran, and the panel reacted to it with some
interesting responses (Read here how strong on Iran is good for Israel). We
couldn't, though, resist the temptation to challenge the panel with the
question of the day, so we asked them this: on a scale of 1 to 5, please rate
the Israeli interest in a continuous American military presence in Iraq (1 is
no interest, 5 is strong interest).

Now, this is a delicate question, especially with all the "blame it on Israel"
game that is going around and that Walt and Mersheimer brought to such
perfection (By the way, last week I was relieved to hear Thomas Ricks of the
Washington post and the bestseller Fiasco telling a radio audience that he
doesn't buy this Israel-was-pushing-America-to-war theory).

Anyway, the panel was handed this question, and replied in the manner
committees tend to reply - a compromise. The average of the responses we got
was 3. Meaning: we can't really decide, we don't know whether it is in
Israel's best interest to continue the war etc. One panel member with whom I
spoke about this issue this week explained to me what his considerations had
been. On the one hand, abandoning Iraq will send the wrong message and will
leave the region in shambles - on the other hand, the conflict is weakening
America, and a weak America can't be a good thing for Israel.

The official Israel was very cautious not to talk too much about the American
adventure in Iraq. When Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, visiting the White House
three weeks ago, decided to make an exception to the rule, it was surprising
to many, and disappointing to many others (read What was Olmert thinking when
he talked about Iraq?). However, one can't really believe that this ongoing
war has no implications on Israel, and that Israel should not consider its
interests in the new context.

Yet again, our panel of experts couldn't come up with a unified assessment -
but it's not as though each member didn't have his own view on the matter.
Actually, there were four 4s - believing that Israel has an interest in the
stay-the-course policy, two 3s - those who were undecided - and two 1s -
panelists who believe that Israel's interest would be served best if America
were to decide to get the heck out of Iraq.

More on Iraq and the ISG on Rosner's Domain:

Continued (Permanent Link)

Not just a report, a friend as well

Not just a report, a friend as well

By Yossi Sarid

About 12 years ago James Baker was in Israel on one of his visits.

He was already a former secretary of state at the time, but still wielded
considerable influence. Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin held a dinner for him at
his residence, to which I, a minister in his cabinet, was invited too. The
evening was pleasant, but mainly, it was interesting. In a collective attack
of feeble-minded candor, the participants opened their hearts.

I remember Baker's words on that night clearly. "I know," he said, "that in
Israel I am always suspect. I am not regarded as a friend here. Some of you
believe that I am too tough, that my hidden agenda is to impose an agreement.
This is a complete misunderstanding of my position. A day will come and you
will realize that I, of all people, was a true friend of Israel."

And that day has come - with the release of the Baker-Hamilton report. Only
one who lives from hand to mouth, from one news bulletin to the next, from an
off-the-cuff speech in Herzliya to an off-the-wall speech in Sde Boker, could
continue to describe Baker as harboring "anti-Israeli prejudices." Only
someone obstinately plotting, manipulating, surviving at any price and waging
a rearguard battle, could turn Baker at this time into another link in the
axis of evil.

Of course, one could pick on some seemingly weak point or other in the report.
But the document's great advantage is not in points but in lines; and all the
lines lead to the correct, inevitable blueprint for settling the Israeli-Arab
conflict. There is no alternative, only false substitutes and short-term

If President George Bush rejects the report or ignores it, if he yet again
spares us the rod of reality in the Middle East - it would not be from love of
Israel, but from hatred. Someone who allows a blind man to walk along the edge
of a cliff is only setting him up for a fall.

Ehud Olmert and his ministers are the blind man, and so far a lame
administration has been carrying them on its shoulders toward the marsh
triangle - Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine, while Iran led the lost American-Israeli
convoy astray.

The cripple and his rider sank into the mud. Perhaps now they will switch
roles - the blind will carry the lame and with draining but combined strength
they will manage to move forward, not only to wallow.

The first responses to the report are not at all encouraging, especially the
comments made in "Olmert's vicinity." "There is no cause for concern,"
responded the autistic vicinity, which remains unmoved. "The sky hasn't fallen
down on us," reports the prime minister's bureau, noting that "Israel is
mentioned in only three of the 79 recommendations, and in any case the
president won't adopt the recommendations."

Did the officials from the prime minister's bureau not read the report? Did
they read it but fail to understand? Is the Israeli government completely out
of touch with the altered political situation in America? Will a faltering
president who managed to get rid of his good friend Donald (Rumsfeld) and his
eager servant John (Bolton) have any trouble shaking off the blind man on his
back, if his sole desire is to save himself from the Iraqi curse? If all he
wants now is to save his name from the wrath of history, lurking in wait for
him in a dark corner?

An earthquake is taking place in Washington, and Jerusalem doesn't understand
what all the fuss is about. One gets the impression that it is not Nasrallah
who has been hiding in a bunker since the war, but Olmert, who has not been
exposed to what is clear as the light of day.

After the designated secretary of defense, Robert Gates, warned this week
against military action against Iran, confirmed the possibility of a nuclear
attack on Israel and linked the Iranian nuclear program to Israel's, let us
call out to Israel's prime minister: Olmert, Olmert, come out, call George on
the telephone urgently and tell him: "Dear President, I haven't had time to
have a first thought yet, but on second thought, this report isn't so terrible
after all and Baker himself is not selling Israel down the river.

Continued (Permanent Link)

PLO officials: Abbas to dismiss parliament, call early elections

Last update - 16:24 09/12/2006

PLO officials: Abbas to dismiss parliament, call early elections
By Haaretz Service and News Agencies

Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday said he would dismiss
the parliament and call early elections to end a political impasse with Hamas,
but left the door open to reaching a compromise with the Islamic militant
group, PLO officials said.

Abbas announced his decision at a meeting of the PLO's powerful executive
committee, and plans to deliver a formal nationwide speech next week,
participants said.

"At the end of the speech, he is going to announce that he will resort to
early presidential and legislative elections but will keep the door open" for
forming a unity government with Hamas, said committee member Khalida Jarar.
Months of unity talks between Hamas and Abbas' Fatah movement broke down last

Participants in Saturday's meeting said Abbas has not set a deadline for
holding the new election. "We had an intense discussion on various options,
and from what we heard, he is leaning toward going back to the people with a
call for early presidential and legislative elections," said Palestinian
negotiator Saeb Erekat.

Another official close to Abbas said the election would likely be held in four
or five months. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because a formal
decision hasn't been made.

On Friday, Abbas advisor Ahmed Abdel Rahman said that if Hamas wants to be
part of a Palestinian unity government, it will need to abide by agreements
the PLO has signed in the past, an act which would imply recognition of

Abdel Rahman's statement was made in response to remarks made Friday by
Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas in Tehran, that his
Hamas-led government would never recognize Israel and would continue to fight
for the "liberation of Jerusalem."

"I can't criticize him [Haniyeh] when he is speaking in the name of Hamas. But
if he is speaking as prime minister, he should abide by the national agenda,"
Abdel Rahman said.

David Baker, an official in Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's office, said Friday
that Haniyeh's comments were "precisely the type of extremist rhetoric that
fuels terror and has prevents any chance of progress between Israel and the

Hamas' exiled political leader, Khaled Meshal, said Friday that Hamas had made
"a lot of concessions" to forming a new government, but that every time it met
with Fatah "we discovered new things [conditions] aimed at placating the U.S."

In a speech at the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp near Damascus, Meshal said
that the release of an Israeli soldier captured by Hamas this summer would
only come through a swap of Palestinians held by Israel, adding, "You should
know that either you respond to our demands or we are going to an open
conflict and victory will be ours."

The head of Hamas' political bureau said that all of the Palestinian factions
have reached a consensus on the establishment of a Palestinian state based on
the borders before the 1967 Six Day War, adding that there would be no further

Meshal said that all the Palestinians are now agreed on the establishment of a
state "taking into consideration the right of return, Jerusalem and the
release of all detainees."

"But the far goal is the liberation of Palestine and that's our strategic
choice," he added. "Our acceptance of this is not a result of weakness and
failure. Israel and the United States would be deluding themselves if they
think that the Palestinian people are not capable of doing other than this."

"It is in the interest of the U.S. and Israel to accept talking to us on this
solution because the coming generations might not accept this solution,"
Meshal said, adding "if they want to stop bloodshed in the region, they should
subjugate to the Palestinian will."

"We are ready now more than any other time in the past. The Zionists should
know that nothing would stop us. The time of compromises has already gone."

In the Gaza Strip, tens of thousands of Hamas supporters rallied on Friday,
demanding that Haniyeh head any Palestinian unity government, despite a deal
for him to step aside as a means of restoring Western aid.

The public show of support for Haniyeh puts pressure on the ruling militant
movement to retain him as its candidate to lead a any future cabinet.

That would further complicate talks over forming a unity government talks that
Abbas, of the rival Fatah faction, has said are at a dead end.

"We want you [Haniyeh] to be the prime minister. We will not abandon your
leadership of the cabinet," Ismail Rudwan, a Hamas spokesman, told the rally
held in front of the Legislative Council in Gaza City.

"We demand the leadership of Hamas retain... Ismail Haniyeh as head of the
government and head any incoming government."

Earlier Friday, Haniyeh addressed Iranian students at the Tehran University.

"The arrogant of the world and the Zionists... want us to recognize the
usurpation of the Palestinian lands and stop jihad and resistance and accept
the agreements reached with the Zionist enemies in the past," he said.

"I'm insisting from this podium that these issues won't materialize. We will
never recognize the usurper Zionist government and will continue our
jihad-like movement until the liberation of Jerusalem," he said.

Haniyeh arrived in Tehran on Thursday for talks with Iranian leaders,
including hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, state-run media reported.
This is Haniyeh's first tour abroad since Hamas took power in March.

Haniyeh praised the Iranians during his visit for the aid they have given the

"They [Israelis] assume the Palestinian nation is alone. This is an
illusion... We have a strategic depth in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This
country [Iran] provides our powerful, dynamic and stable depth," he said.

Iran has provided the Hamas-led Palestinian government with $120 million this
year despite a U.S.-led international financial boycott of the Palestinian
government. The financial aid has boosted Iran's influence among Palestinians.

The Palestinian prime minister will also meet with Supreme Leader Ayatollah
Ali Khamenei and former president Hashemi Rafsanjani, the official Islamic
Republic News Agency reported.

"Muslims and independence-seeking nations support the Palestinians because
they have adopted the correct position towards the occupiers," Iranian First
Vice President Parviz Davoudi told Haniyeh at the start of his four-day visit
to Iran.

"Iran is ready to offer its valuable achievements and experiences in different
fields to the Palestinian nation," the official IRNA news agency quoted
Davoudi as saying.

Iran's support for the Palestinians has grown more vocal since Ahmadinejad
came to power in August 2005. The former Revolutionary Guardsman has called
the Israeli state a "tumor" which must be "wiped off the map".

Haniyeh, whose tour was also to include Syria, said Palestinian resistance
against Israel would continue. "The popular Palestinian government not only
has not recognized the occupiers but also considers resistance the natural
right of the Palestinian nation."

The so-called Quartet of Middle East mediators - the United States, European
Union, United Nations, and Russia - is pressing Hamas to recognize Israel,
renounce violence, and accept previous agreements signed between Israel and
the Palestinian Authority.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Friday, December 8, 2006

Irwin Cotler - Statement in the House of Commons - December 7, 2006 - FOREIGN AFFAIRS - SALAH UDDIN SHOAIB CHOUDHURY

House of Commons (Parliament of Canada) - December 7, 2006



Hon. Irwin Cotler (Mount Royal, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury, a Muslim Bangladesh
journalist and editor of a daily Bangladesh publication, is standing trial
on charges of treason, sedition and blasphemy for promoting Muslim,
Christian and Jewish dialogue, peace with Israel and seeking to attend a
conference in Israel for the promotion of peace.

Mr. Choudhury has also been personally beaten, his life threatened and
his office vandalized while none of the perpetrators have been brought to
justice and a former Bangladesh home minister has indicated that there is no
basis for the charges.

As counsel for Mr. Choudhury and as one who, while as minister of
justice, was engaged in a joint Canada-Bangladesh rule of law project, I
call upon the Bangladesh authorities to respect the rule of law, to review
and, as appears just and appropriate, to drop the charges while working to
apprehend those who have violated Mr. Choudhury's rights.

L'hon. Irwin Cotler (Mont-Royal, Lib.):
Monsieur le Président, Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury, un musulman,
journaliste et rédacteur en chef d'un quotidien au Bangladesh, est accusé de
trahison, de sédition et de blasphème pour avoir fait la promotion d'un
rapprochement entre les musulmans, les chrétiens et les juifs, pour avoir
prôné la paix avec Israël, et pour avoir tenté d'assister, en Israël, à une
conférence sur la paix.

M. Choudhury a également été battu, sa vie a été menacée et son bureau a
été vandalisé sans qu'aucun des auteurs de ces actes ne soit traduit en
justice. De plus, un ancien ministre de l'Intérieur du Bangladesh a déclaré
qu'il n'y avait aucun motif d'accusation.

Étant avocat de M. Choudhury et, lorsque j'étais ministre de la Justice,
ayant participé à un projet canado-bangladais sur la primauté du droit,
j'exhorte les autorités bangladaises à reconnaître la primauté du droit, à
réexaminer et, ce qui semble juste et indiqué en l'occurrence, à retirer les
accusations pesant contre M. Choudhury, tout en tentant d'appréhender ceux
qui ont porté atteinte à ses droits.

Howard Liebman
Executive Assistant to the Hon. Irwin Cotler, MP
Office of / Bureau de
Hon. Irwin Cotler, P.C., O.C. / C.P., O.C.
M.P. for Mount Royal / Député de Mont-Royal

Continued (Permanent Link)

French-Algerian Scholar Warns France About Islamists

Special Dispatch-North African Reformist Thinkers Project
December 8, 2006
No. 1386

French-Algerian Scholar Dr. Kamal Nait-Zerrad: "After Christianity and the
Inquisition... Today It Is the Muslims Who Have Taken Center Stage"

To view this Special Dispatch in HTML, visit: .

Dr. Kamal Nait-Zerrad is a professor of Berber language, literature, and
civilization at the French National Institute of Oriental Languages and
Civilizations; in addition, he holds a Ph.D. in micro-optoelectronics. He is
the author of several reference works on Berber languages, and has recently
published a partial translation of the Koran into the Kabyle dialect.

In an article posted on the Algerian Berber website, Dr.
Nait-Zerrad warns the French that Islamists are using them as unwitting dupes
to undermine the secular French republic. He argues that religions must change
in order to adapt to a universal course of human development, and that Islam
has not done so, and thus become reactionary. He also asks whether there are
Muslim authorities with enough courage to engage in a project of critiquing
and reforming Islam.

The following are excerpts from the article:(1)

"Will There Soon Be Punishment For Blasphemy [In France]?"

"... When one sees what is going on in Europe, and in France in particular,
one has to ask oneself if one has not fallen on one's head. From small
compromises, there has been an imperceptible slippage into large compromises
of principle. Following the assassinations and the threats, in the last few
days things have been cranked up, to self-censorship. Will there soon be
punishment for blasphemy?

"Freedom of expression and freedom of thought everywhere have been, are, and
will [always] be regularly endangered by individuals and groups... After
Christianity and the Inquisition, Torquemada, and Savonarola... today it is
the Muslims who have taken center stage, supported by intellectuals or
politicians, who perhaps have something for which to reproach themselves, but
who at the same time are paving the way for the Islamists.

"Intellectuals, associations, and French political parties are in fact showing
such complaisance with regard to the Islamist movements that it borders on
oblivion or naïveté - together of course with their ulterior electoral
motives, and such confusions as 'French [citizens] of North African origin =
Arabs and Muslims,' who must be attracted at any price.

"However, some of the North Africans were never Muslims (nor are they Arabs,
for that matter), and they are concerned at the backing given to radical
Muslim ideas in France. These [North Africans] - these people who come from a
country where Islam is the state religion and who denounce what is going on
there - are not entitled to speak to the television cameras. They are only
taken seriously if they stay within the communal compartmentalization in which
they have been placed once and for all."

"With The Help Of Useful Idiots, [The Islamists] Are Shattering The Secular
Edifice Of The French Republic - In The Name Of Human Rights"

"Have we already forgotten Afghanistan and its Taliban, Algeria and its
terrorists? It is true that the scandal of the amnesty granted to
fundamentalist terrorists in Algeria is hardly discussed anymore; they are
even granted indemnities, and are simply reintegrated into society, with a
compensation package!

"In France, they want to sanction certain Muslim customs or practices, and
public funds are used for the construction of mosques. Now, what is going on
in the so-called 'Muslim' countries? In Iran, does a woman have the right to
walk in the street without a hijab or a chador or a jilbab or who knows what
else? No! Foreigners (journalists, Western ministers, and others) must wear
the veil! In Saudi Arabia, can one build churches, synagogues, or other
temples (and I do not even bring up centers for culture or free thought)? No,
let us leave that to the tender democracies! There is no question here of
speaking about reciprocity, but only of showing the insidious and fallacious
sides of those who slowly but surely - with the help of 'useful idiots' - are
shattering the secular edifice of the French republic - in the name of human

"For Islam, The Christian Or Jewish Non-Muslim Can Only Be A Dhimmi"

"The fact is that Islam never foresaw a situation in which it would be in the
minority. So long as one has not understood this, one cannot understand the
Islamist movements. This is symptomatic of the Muslim vision of man, of human
relations, and of other religions. For Islam, the Christian or Jewish
non-Muslim can only be a dhimmi. Fighting against infidels is commanded in the
Koran in these words [9:29]: 'Fight those who do not believe in Allah and in
the last day, who do not forbid that which Allah and his Messenger declared
forbidden, and who do not practice the religion of truth, among those who have
received the Scripture! Fight them until they pay the jizya (poll tax),
directly, when they are humiliated.' The jizya is reserved only for those who
have the Scripture - that is, Jews, Christians, and to a lesser extent,
Zoroastrians. As for the others - pagans, animists, free-thinkers, agnostics,
and atheists - they have no other recourse but to convert to Islam or die.

"The study of the Koran allows one to point to the potential for intolerance
that emerges from it and its outdated conception of law and justice. In
essence, human rights have evolved in the direction of greater respect for man
and his physical integrity. Some speak of a new interpretation of the Koran
that is adapted to modern times. However, the political, social, or moral
concepts in the Koran are intangible, and the Muslim cannot modify them or
reject a part of them without being accused of heresy - unless [such
modification] comes from a recognized authority."

"Where Are The Reformers?"

"Objectively speaking, one cannot deny the fact that the Koran - like certain
texts of other religions, for that matter - is anti-feminist. In Algeria,
there is a fundamental contradiction between the constitution - which is
supposed to be the basic law - and the family code. This brings us to the
problem of the separation of [political] authority and religion in these
countries. This separation, which is necessary for individual fulfillment, can
only be attained if one sacrifices shari'a, with Islam becoming a personal
religion. But where are the Muslims who will tackle this project? Who will
propose another path... Where are the reformers?

"God Himself is said to be at the origin of the three great monotheistic
religions. Each one then should be perfect, and always relevant, in any given
era. But the Koran accused the Christians and the Jews of having falsified the
Scriptures, and declared the[ir religion to be] invalid, with Islam remaining
the only valid and certain religion. Now, as historical and scientific studies
on the genesis of the [Koran] have shown, this accusation can be fired back at
the Koran itself...


"To come back to human rights, the contemporary conception of these rights is
completely different than that which was current just one century ago. It has
become more personalized and more universal...

"It is thus time for Islam - insofar as it is a 'great religion' - to critique
itself and adapt to this evolution. The question is whether there exists a
Muslim authority strong enough, with both the will and the courage, to start
and to carry out this long labor - which would enable society to definitively
and legally silence the Islamists and their henchmen."

(1); November 29, 2006.

The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) is an independent, non-profit
organization that translates and analyzes the media of the Middle East.
Copies of articles and documents cited, as well as background information, are
available on request.

MEMRI holds copyrights on all translations. Materials may only be used with
proper attribution.

The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI)
P.O. Box 27837, Washington, DC 20038-7837
Phone: (202) 955-9070
Fax: (202) 955-9077
Search previous MEMRI publications at

Continued (Permanent Link)

Lebanon on the Brink of Civil War (6): Beirut, December 10 at 3 PM: A Mass Rally

Special Dispatch-Lebanon
December 8, 2006
No. 1385

Lebanon on the Brink of Civil War (6): Beirut, December 10 at 3 PM - A Mass
Rally for a "Second Phase" and "Escalation of Actions to Topple the

To view this Special Dispatch in HTML, visit: .


In recent days, Lebanese opposition leaders have been calling for an
escalation in the current protest, and for a move to "the second phase" of
actions to topple the Lebanese government headed by Prime Minister Fuad
Al-Siniora. The sit-down demonstration in the heart of Beirut, which was
declared by Hizbullah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah on November 30, 2006,
is continuing.

The past few days have seen rioting and clashes between supporters of the
opposition and supporters of the March 14 Forces. On December 3, a young
Shi'ite man was killed in an exchange of gunfire between supporters of the two
camps. The Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar, which is known to be close to Hizbullah,
called him "the first shahid [martyr] of the National Unity Intifada.'" The
Syrian government daily Al-Thawra has begun using the term "intifada" for the
Beirut demonstration.

On December 6, 2006, the Lebanese National Opposition issued a communiqué
calling for participation in a mass rally on Sunday, December 10, at 3 PM. The
communiqué read: "The leadership of the national opposition is calling on its
supporters... to prepare for new forms and ways of protest and nonviolent
expression. We call on you to participate in a large popular rally in the
heart of Beirut, at Al-Shuhada Square and Riyadh Al-Sulh Square, next Sunday
at 3 PM. May this day be an historic and decisive day, a day on which the deaf
ears and the blind eyes are opened and the legitimate demands answered..." (1)

Opposition sources announced that the opposition would wait until the weekend,
and if there was no breakthrough via negotiations, it would escalate the
pressure and use additional means to achieve its aims.(2) The Christian
general Michel Aoun, head of the Free Patriotic Movement which is part of the
Lebanese opposition, threatened to notch up the protest: "If the prime
minister and the camp he heads insists on sole control of the regime, we will
escalate the popular pressure, paralyze the government, and bring it to a
state of deep unconsciousness..." (3)

The call to escalate the protest followed reports about the failure of an
initiative proposed by the Lebanese opposition, that was sanctioned by
Hizbullah Secretary-General Nasrallah.(4)

In addition, last week Arab leaders expressed apprehensions about the
situation in Lebanon, which they felt was deteriorating to the point of civil
war. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said that "the demonstrations are
extremist and likely to lead to the destruction of Lebanon." Saudi Arabia, on
its part, called to "keep large-scale civil war away from Lebanon" and to
return to dialogue. Leaders from the Lebanese opposition received messages
that "Saudi Arabia sees the toppling of the government through street
demonstrations as a 'red line' and something that it cannot agree to."
Further, Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa visited Lebanon in an
attempt to mediate and to try to bring about a solution to the crisis, but to
no avail. (5)

The following are excerpts from the media about the crisis:

Iranian Reactions

*Revolutionary Guards Paper: Nasrallah Will Triumph and Will Honor the Islamic
World With Another Victory

An article published in the Iranian paper Sobh-e Sadeq, the mouthpiece of
Iran's Supreme leader Khamenei which is distributed to Iran's Revolutionary
Guards Corps and security apparatuses, stated: "Today the American, French,
Saudi, and even Israeli officials have close and solid relations with Lebanese
PM [Fuad Al-Siniora], and by means of these relations they veto most decisions
taken by [Lebanese] President [Emile Lahoud]... Nevertheless, it is reasonable
to assume that Hizbullah's success in holding early elections or changing the
composition of the political [structure] of the Lebanese government will
mean... the defeat of Western policy and the Zionist regime in Lebanon... In
other words, the composition of the national unity government in Lebanon will
be part of the political achievements of a victory by the [Islamic] resistance
[i.e. Hizbullah] over the Zionist regime - [that is], a step towards the
elimination of the West's plans to stop Hizbullah via the [U.N.] Security
Council, and the creation of a symmetrical equation in the government
echelons in Lebanon...

"Nevertheless, Hizbullah and the groups that are its partners in the alliance
have various options [for gaining] control of this government, or to bring
about a change in it. The minimal [option] among these was boycotting the
government that is playing the role of the enemy camp in Lebanon. Undoubtedly,
in the coming days or weeks, Lebanon can expect changes that are broader and
more serious. The victor in this arena will be the player who knows the value
of opportunity, and will, with policy and reliance on the infinite divine
power, rejoice and honor the Islamic world with another victory. Do not doubt
that this winning player will be none other than Hassan Nasrallah." (6)

Reactions by Hizbullah and the Lebanese Opposition

*Hizbullah and the Lebanese Opposition: The "Militias of the Regime" and the
Al-Mustaqbal Faction Murdered the Young Shi'ite

Following the December 3 death of a young Shi'ite man in clashes between
Hizbullah activists and supporters of the March 14 Forces, the National
Lebanese Opposition issued a communiqué blaming the "militias of the
[Lebanese] regime" for his murder. The communiqué accused "the armed groups
belonging to the militias of the regime and the ruling faction," saying that
their aim was to "spark civil war and anarchy." It continued, "The forces of
the Lebanese National Opposition... undertake a commitment to the Lebanese
people to continue with their national stand, and will see that loyalty to the
blood of the martyr will be manifested in a continuation of the actions and of
the popular mass presence in Al-Shuhada Square and Riyahd Al-Sulh Square..."

Also, on December 4, 2006, the Hizbullah television station Al-Manar claimed
that "elements in the armed militia of Al-Mustaqbal faction had murdered the
young Ahmad Mahmoud, who was participating in the sit-down demonstration in
the heart of Beirut, and wounded a number of others..." (8)

*Hizbullah: Al-Mustaqbal is Distributing Weapons to Civilians

Muhammad Ra'd, chairman of the Hizbullah faction in the Lebanese parliament,
called a Lebanese security apparatus a "militia." He said: "The Al-Mustaqal
faction is distributing private weapons to some civilians who seek vengeance."
He said that "the militia of the '[intelligence] department' [of the Lebanese
internal security forces] was giving instructions to this faction." (9)

*Daily Lebanese Paper Close to Hizbullah: The Fate of the Government Has Been

In an editorial, Ibrahim Al-Amin, editor of the Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar which
is close to Hizbullah, wrote: "As far as [the opposition supporters] in the
streets are concerned, the discussion on the fate of the [Al-Siniora]
government is a matter that [has already been] decreed... The defense of this
government [will be] very difficult, even if it obtains Arab or international
help. This government's best possible situation will be no better than that of
Mahmoud Abbas's rule in Palestine, or that of the Al-Maliki government in

"The opposition forces are continuing to discuss their work plan [which
includes] increasing the number of participants in the sit-down strike;
diverse participation of [elements] from all regions and from all institutions
[in Lebanon]; and setting a plan for the second phase in a form that will
assure an increase in the scope of participation, in both the number [of
participants] and in the regions [where the actions take place]. This [will
also] take into account the possibility that the crisis will continue for at
least two months... Despite the messages of intimidation that have been
received about the possibility of dangerous complications, with aspects of
civil conflict [i.e. messages from Egypt and Saudi Arabia warning against
exacerbation of the conflict], the opposition forces see no escape from
continuing with the actions until logical conclusions are reached..." (10)

*Opposition Forces: Accept Now - In the Next Phase, We Won't Even Agree to
Sharing Power

The Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar quoted opposition sources as saying that "they
had not taken to the streets in order to return empty-handed. Thus, they will
remain there until the end of the term of President Emile Lahoud, if the
ruling majority does not obey the will of the people and agree to partnership
with the others in a national unity government..."(11) The paper also quoted
sources in the opposition leadership, who stressed that "the opposition is now
in the first stage, in which it agrees to partnership in decision[-making]
together with the ruling faction. But after [this] period, it won't even agree
to share power... (12)

*Hassan Nassrallah: "Last Call to Create a National Unity Government Before
the Demands Change"

In a December 7, 2006 speech, Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nassrallah
said: "We in the opposition are insisting on our demand and on our goal, which
is the establishment of a real national government - because rule by a single
group has always led Lebanon to an impasse. Lebanon cannot exist except
through agreement and cooperation... We want a national unity government whose
decisions are Lebanese and whose will is Lebanese, [since only] such [a
government] will guarantee the security, stability and unity of Lebanon... We
are opposed to any foreign patronage, whether by an enemy, friend or
brother... I say on behalf of Hizbullah: We are in favor of securing one-third
[of the government seats] for any Lebanese opposition, since we believe in
partnership and cooperation, and do not believe in division. We feel no
apprehension [about this], because we have no international or regional
obligations which we want to pass by means of a majority [vote]."(13)

Reactions by the March 14 Forces

*The Coup Aims to Subject Lebanon to the Iran-Syria Alliance

In a communiqué, the March 14 Forces claimed that what was taking place in
Lebanon today was the implementation of an order from Damascus: "Lebanon is
undergoing today a highly dangerous phase, that began with the implementation
of an operational order to carry out a coup... The aim of this coup is to
destroy [Lebanon's] national independence and to subject Lebanon to the
Iran-Syria alliance...

"The March 14 Forces announce their determination to resist this coup, and to
defend Lebanon.. and call to all for cohesion and unity in the face of this
Syrian attack - the zero hour of which was set by [Syrian President] Bashar
Al-Assad on August 15 [2006]... (14) The March 14 Forces emphasize to the
Lebanese that the [Syrian] regime of hegemony and control will not return, and
that the Lebanese government is standing fast, and is staying, and will
continue [to rule] with the force of legitimacy, constitution, the confidence
of the people, the support of the Arab brethren, and the help of the entire
international community." (15)

Lebanese Communications Minister Marwan Hamada said that the December 1
demonstration by supporters of Hizbullah and of the Lebanese opposition was
"an Iranian Shi'ite demonstration." He said: "This is a demonstration by the
ayatollahs and the officers of the Syrian intelligence apparatus in

*Al-Mustaqbal: Hizbullah "Is the Only Lebanese Element With a Militia"

In response to Al-Manar's blaming the "Al-Mustaqbal militia" for the December
3 death of the young Shi'ite, Al-Mustaqbal issued a communiqué claiming that
only one element in Lebanon had a militia: "The Al-Mustaqbal faction
emphasizes that... it has no armed organization... Everyone in Lebanon and in
the Arab and Islamic world knows which is the only Lebanese element with a
militia; which is the only element with an armed organization; which is the
only element whose leaders take pride in having weapons - headed by '20,000
missiles'; which is the only Lebanese element whose entire funding and
weaponry come from abroad; and also which is the only element that has
security areas and prevents the legal state apparatuses from entering them..."

*Hariri: The Crisis is the Result of a Plan by Syria Under Iranian Protection

In an interview with Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, Al-Mustaqbal chairman Sa'd Al-Hariri
warned of civil war in Lebanon, and said that the current crisis was the
result of a plan by Syria, under Iranian protection: "What is happening now is
a genuine coup scheme against Lebanese legitimacy... The clock cannot be
turned back, [and we will not agree] to a plan that seeks to bring about the
re-infiltration [of Lebanon] by the Syrian intelligence [apparatus] and its
satellites. The essence of the crisis that Lebanon is now undergoing [lies] in
the existence of a Syrian plan that receives protection from Iran, and aims to
again take over Lebanese legitimacy. The operational orders were issued at the
end of Israel's war on Lebanon. Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad said
unequivocally on August 15 [2006] that what was needed was to change the
political equation in Lebanon and to topple the government of Fuad
Al-Siniora..." (18)

Syrian Reactions

Along with an explicit Syrian statement by Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister
Faisal Al-Miqdad, on Syria's support for Hizbullah and its partners in the
Lebanese opposition, the Syrian government press has published numerous
articles expressing support for the demand by Hizbullah and the Lebanese
opposition to topple the Al-Siniora government. 19The articles assured the
Lebanese people that it was not standing alone in its battle to accomplish
this, and that ultimately it was the people that would decide the current
crisis - as had happened in Iran, Iraq, Palestine, and many other countries.

*"The Lebanese People is Not Alone in the Battle"

An article in the Syrian government daily Al-Thawra stated: "Events in history
have proven that the one who relies on his people will undoubtedly triumph,
even if it takes time.... It has all gone too far, and so the people in
Lebanon will emerge with a roar, a shout, and a challenge - and this time for
the sake of Lebanon's freedom, sovereignty, independence, and Arabism, for the
sake of its national unity, and against the Zionist and American invaders and
against their internal agents [i.e. the March 14 Forces]... The Lebanese
people, headed by its honorable national forces, understands that it does not
[stand] alone in its battle. The supporters aiding it are deployed across the
entire nation, and it will find a [strong] echo amongst all free men and men
of honor in the world." (20)

*Insistence on Ruling Against the Will of the People Is Unacceptable

In an editorial, the Syrian government daily Al-Thawra wrote: "What is
happening now in Lebanon is the rectification of a mistake... Insistence on
remaining [in power] while millions want it to leave is unacceptable!... No
one can reject the principle of a national unity government, and participation
in Lebanese decision-making. Perhaps calling for help and begging for support
from the U.S., the U.K, and other countries is only an expression of the
crisis in this faction [i.e. the March 14 Forces]. The regime's buttressing
itself with external elements because of [its] weakness in the domestic arena
is the best possible recipe for toppling the government!"(21)

*The People Will Decide, As Happened in Iran and in Other Countries

Muhammad Kheir Al-Jamali, columnist for the Syrian government daily Al-Thawra,
wrote: "The Al-Siniora government has still not grasped two basic facts in the
developments in Lebanon's situation - or does not want to be convinced of
them... The first [fact] is that arrogant insistence on holding power alone
[is useless] - and is [also] against the will of the people, which is being
manifested today by the Intifada in the streets and squares of Beirut... The
second fact is the mistaken reliance on the support of external intervention

"Whatever the arrogant stubbornness of the Al-Siniora government... the
deciding say in the political struggle going on in the Lebanese arena will be
the people, which will decide to topple the government of corruption and
embassies that holds the regime all by itself. This is because there is no
going back from the decision of the people. Anyone who does not understand
this fact must look at the history of the revolutions of the peoples, [such as
the revolution] in Iran, and also what is taking place today in Iraq,
Palestine, Latin America, South Africa, and many other countries."(22)

(1) Website of the Islamic resistance in Lebanon, , December 6,
(2) Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), December 6, 2006.
(3) Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), December 7, 2006.
(4) Al-Mustaqbal (Lebanon), December 7, 2006; Al-Nahar (Lebanon), December 7,
2006; Al-Mustaqbal (Lebanon), December 7, 2006; website of the Islamic
resistance in Lebanon, , December 7,
2006. The initiative's main thrust was a call to return to negotiations
regarding the opposition's demand for a third of the seats in the cabinet. An
opposition representative presented the initiative to PM Fuad Al-Siniora;
Al-Siniora presented a counter-initiative, under which the opposition would
have one less minister than it was demanding. The opposition representative
responded that "Al-Siniora's initiative could be discussed" and promised to
examine it with his opposition partners. Unexpectedly, a few hours after the
meeting, the opposition announced that the regime was "still insisting on its
positions" and had rejected the opposition's initiative. A representative of
the Lebanese government hinted that political elements might have
influenced the opposition to change its mind about Al-Siniora's offer.
(5) Al-Intiqad (Lebanon), December 3, 2005; Al-Nahar (Lebanon), December 7,
(6) Sobh-e Sadeq (Iran), November 29, 2006.
(7) Al-Intiqad (Lebanon), December 4, 2006.
(8) Website of the Islamic resistance in Lebanon,,
December 7, 2006. , December 4,
(9) Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), December 5, 2006.
(10) Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), December 3, 2006.
(11) In September 2004, Lebanese President Emile Lahoud's term was extended by
three years to November 2007, by the Lebanese parliament and under pressure of
the Syrian regime.
(12) Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), December 4, 2006.
(13) Website of the Islamic resistance in Lebanon,
(14) In a speech on August 15, 2006, Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad harshly
attacked the government of Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Al-Siniora as well as
the March 14 Forces, and threatened that their "failure is imminent."
(15) Al-Mustaqbal (Lebanon), December 3, 2006.
(16) Al-Mustaqbal (Lebanon), December 3, 2006.
(17) Al-Mustaqbal (Lebanon), December 5, 2006.
(18) Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), December 6, 2006.
(19) Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Al-Miqdad stressed the importance
of "respecting the choices of the Lebanese people [including the demand] to
establish a national unity government - as manifested by the mass
demonstrations in Beirut..." Al-Thawra (Syria), December 3, 2006.
(20) Al-Thawra (Syria), December 5, 2006.
(21) Al-Thawra (Syria), December 3, 2006.
(22) Al-Thawra (Syria), December 4, 2006.

The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) is an independent, non-profit
organization that translates and analyzes the media of the Middle East.
Copies of articles and documents cited, as well as background information, are
available on request.

MEMRI holds copyrights on all translations. Materials may only be used with
proper attribution.

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P.O. Box 27837, Washington, DC 20038-7837
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Continued (Permanent Link)

No Israel recognition - Hamas PM

No Israel recognition - Hamas PM

Palestinian PM Ismail Haniya has reiterated that his Hamas-led
government will not recognise Israel.
This a key demand of Western donors who have suspended direct aid to the
Palestinian Authority.

Mr Haniya is on a visit to the Iranian capital, Tehran. He made the
comments during a Friday prayers address.

He said efforts to "liberate usurped Palestinian lands" would never
stop, and he praised Iran for its support of the Palestinian people.

His four-day visit to Iran began on Thursday with talks with President
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Mr Haniya is expected to meet Supreme Leader Ayatollah
Ali during the visit.

Standing with Iran

"We will not give up our Jihadist movement until the full liberation of
Beit al-Muqqadas [Jerusalem] and Palestinian land," Mr Haniya said.

"We are standing by the Islamic Republic of Iran, and with this country
we will resist American and Zionist pressures," he said.

Iran, like Hamas, refuses to recognise Israel.

Tehran is reported to have given Hamas US $120m since it came to power.

The Hamas-led Palestinian Authority has been in financial crisis since
Hamas took over. International donors insist that Hamas recognise Israel,
renounce violence and accept previous Palestinian-Israeli agreements.

Mr Haniya's tour of the Middle East has already taken in Qatar, Bahrain
and Syria.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Security and Defense: Weathermap 2007 - strong winds of war

Security and Defense: Weathermap 2007 - strong winds of war
Yaakov Katz, THE JERUSALEM POST Dec. 8, 2006

Wearing chemical warfare suits and masks, the soldiers ran into the building
and started to evacuate those wounded in a non-conventional Syrian missile

The "attack" was a simulation, put on Tuesday for Defense Minister Amir
Peretz and Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz at the Home Front
Command's training center on the Tzrifin military base near Rishon Lezion.

Following the exercise, Peretz turned to one of the soldiers and asked:
"When there is a real incident, do you feel you will know what to do? Are
you sure you won't go into shock?"

His concern is not baseless. Four months after the war in Lebanon - during
which 4,000 rockets slammed into the North - Military Intelligence is
predicting that Israel is on a collision course toward a new round with
Hizbullah and possibly even war with Syria.

Peretz's visit to the HFC's training base was not a coincidence, but rather
a desire to see first-hand how the IDF is preparing for the looming threats.
It was not by chance he warned of non-conventional and chemical threats when
speaking to reporters following the exercise. With Iran racing to obtain
nuclear weapons, Peretz also wanted to ensure that Israel would be ready to
deal with the aftermath of such an attack.

According to Military Intelligence's assessments, obtained exclusively by
The Jerusalem Post, Israel is headed toward at least two major military
conflicts in 2007 - one against the Hamas army being built up despite the
cease-fire in the Gaza Strip, and the other against Hizbullah, which is also
rebuilding its military wing and has begun receiving shipments of
long-range, Iranian-made missiles smuggled into Lebanon by Syria.

Senior officers who spoke with the Post this week referred to the
possibility of a renewed conflict with Hizbullah in the coming months. MI
does not believe that the cease-fire in Gaza will last more than a few weeks
and feels that the continued daily smuggling of high-grade explosives and
weaponry into Gaza from the Sinai will force Israel to deal with the
Palestinian terror factions.

THE IDF followed this week's events in Lebanon with extreme concern. The
Hizbullah protests in Beirut, defense officials warned, have the potential
to topple the US-backed government of Prime Minister Fuad Saniora. If that
happens, these officials predicted, UNIFIL could be expelled from southern
Lebanon and Hizbullah would be able to return to its border outposts, just
like before the war.

Since the war ended with a UN-brokered cease-fire on August 14, Hizbullah
has been receiving weapon shipments - including anti-tank missiles and
long-range rockets - supplied by Damascus and transported into Lebanon
through the Syrian border late at night.

Hizbullah "nature reserves" - camouflaged underground systems of tunnels and
bunkers - are still operating in southern Lebanon, despite the beefed-up
presence of UNIFIL. These areas are designated as "closed military zones"
for UNIFIL and are used as training centers for Hizbullah and storehouses
for its weapons caches.

The Lebanese political crisis, MI believes, may create a "proxy war" between
Hizbullah and Saniora's government. MI saw this clash coming and predicted
that following Israel's war in Lebanon, Hizbullah leader Sheikh Hassan
Nasrallah would feel the need to show in one way or another that his
guerrilla group had survived the IDF offensive.

In addition to the protests, MI believes Hizbullah will also resume attacks
against Israel in the coming weeks. The group won't necessarily launch
Katyushas, but at least will fire anti-aircraft missiles at IAF aircraft
flying over Lebanon. This, MI believes, will not be condemned by the
international community, since countries like France, Germany and Italy -
members of UNIFIL - have repeatedly slammed Israel for not stopping the

More importantly, MI does not believe UNIFIL poses an obstacle to Hizbullah
and that it is only a matter of time before the group returns to its former

SYRIA HAS been directly contributing to the tension in Lebanon. According to
MI, Damascus is the leading suspect in the assassination of Pierre Gemayel
two weeks ago, possibly an attempt by President Bashar Assad to extract
revenge for Saniora's decision to back the establishment of an international
tribunal to try those responsible for the 2005 assassination of former
Lebanese president Rafik Hariri.

MI does not foresee a Syrian attack in the near future, although the outcome
of the war in Lebanon has created a new and dangerous reality on the Syrian
front. The Syrian military has been on high alert since the war ended, and
Assad has said on several occasions that military action is one way to
recover the Golan Heights.

Due to the slight risk of a war, OC Military Intelligence Maj.-Gen. Amos
Yadlin has suggested to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert
that he examine the possibility of "engaging" Syria in a dialogue. Unlike
Iran, Syria has previously held talks with Israel and has ties with the West
MI believes it would like to retain.

According to MI's assessment, if Israel offered to renew the dialogue, Assad
would accept. If Israel does not make any diplomatic overtures to Syria, as
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has said it wouldn't, the chance of war will only

BY THE end of 2007, MI expects Iran to have mastered the necessary
technology to proceed independently with its nuclear program. By the end of
the decade, it predicts, Iran will have a nuclear bomb - unless it is
stopped before then.

As things look now, according to several high-ranking defense officials, the
US will not attack Iran's nuclear sites. In addition, the Baker-Hamilton
report that came out Wednesday and called on US President George W. Bush to
engage Iran in a dialogue could lead to Washington's turning a blind eye to
Teheran's nuclear program in exchange for help in stabilizing the situation
in Iraq.

Even if sanctions were imposed on Iran, the assessment is that they will not
be effective. But other officials say that if the world stopped supplying
Iran with refined fuel, the regime would need to consider suspending its
enrichment of uranium.

For Israel, 2007 is the critical year. Unlike the US, which sees the point
of no return only when Iran has a nuclear bomb, Israel has been warning that
the point is actually when the Iranians master the technology.

At the moment, Israel is confronting Iran on two fronts - diplomatically and
militarily. While Israeli leaders are pushing the world to take action to
stop Iran's nuclear program, the IDF is also drawing up plans for the
possibility that Israel will be left with no choice but a preemptive strike.

THE CEASE-FIRE in Gaza will enter its third week on Sunday, despite IDF
predictions that it would not last more than a few days. The question now is
where does this lead? One option is to give in to Palestinian demands and
extend the cease-fire to the West Bank. The National Security Council is
currently drawing up a recommendation on the issue, with officials
predicting that if Gaza remains quiet, Olmert will be willing to begin
implementing the truce in the West Bank.

The other option is to observe the cease-fire in Gaza and wait for the
Palestinians to either return to firing Kassam rockets or establish a
national unity government, one that accepts the three conditions of the
Quartet - a cessation of terror, recognition of Israel's right to exist and
honoring previous agreements between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

If the cease-fire falls apart, the IDF believes it will be headed toward a
major conflict in Gaza. Despite the cease-fire, the Palestinians are
smuggling high-grade explosives and advanced weaponry into the Strip.

Hamas has set up a 10,000-strong military, consisting of four brigades
corresponding to four sections of the Gaza Strip. This army is believed to
be armed with advanced anti-tank missiles, Grad-type Katyusha rockets and
anti-aircraft missiles, possibly shoulder-fired, Soviet-made SA-7s.

MI's assumption is that the cease-fire will last another few weeks at most.
The major problem is that unlike the cease-fire before the unilateral
disengagement, this time the Palestinians do not have an incentive to
enforce it.

OC Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Yoav Galant and Shin Bet (Israel Security
Agency) chief Yuval Diskin have been calling for a massive operation in the
Gaza Strip for months, claiming that otherwise Gaza would turn into southern
Lebanon. The end of the cease-fire could see the beginning of that

Continued (Permanent Link)

Thousands attend Gaza rally calling for Haniyeh to remain PM

Last update - 16:33 08/12/2006

Thousands attend Gaza rally calling for Haniyeh to remain PM
By Haaretz Service and News Agencies

Tens of thousands of Hamas supporters rallied in Gaza on Friday, demanding
that Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas head any Palestinian
unity government, despite a deal for him to step aside as a means of restoring
Western aid.

The public show of support for Haniyeh, a senior Hamas leader, puts pressure
on the ruling militant movement to retain him as their candidate to lead a
possible new cabinet.

That would further complicate unity government talks that moderate
Palestinaian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas of the rival Fatah faction has
said are at a dead end.

"We want you [Haniyeh] to be the prime minister. We will not abandon your
leadership of the cabinet," Ismail Rudwan, a Hamas spokesman, told the rally
held in front of the Legislative Council in Gaza City.

"We demand the leadership of Hamas retain... Ismail Haniyeh as head of the
government and head any coming government."

Earlier Friday, during a visit to Iran Haniyeh vowed that his Hamas-led
government will never recognize Israel and will continue to fight for the
liberation of Jerusalem.

"The world arrogance (U.S.) and Zionists ... want us to recognize the
usurpation of the Palestinian lands and stop jihad and resistance and accept
the agreements reached with the Zionist enemies in the past," Haniyeh told
thousands prayer worshippers in a speech at Tehran University.

"I'm insisting from this podium that these issues won't materialize. We will
never recognize the usurper Zionist government and will continue our
jihad-like movement until the liberation of Jerusalem," he said.

Haniyeh arrived in Tehran on Thursday for talks with Iranian leaders,
including hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, state-run media reported.
This is Haniyeh's first tour abroad since Hamas took power in March.

Haniyeh praised the Iranians during his visit for the aid it has given the

"They [Israelis] assume the Palestinian nation is alone. This is an illusion.
... We have a strategic depth in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This country
[Iran] is our powerful, dynamic and stable depth," he said.

Iran has provided the Hamas-led Palestinian government with $120 million this
year despite a U.S.-led international financial boycott
of the Palestinian government. The financial aid has boosted Iran's influence
among Palestinians.

The Palestinian prime minister will also meet with supreme leader Ayatollah
Ali Khamenei and former president Hashemi Rafsanjani, the official Islamic
Republic News Agency reported. He will also deliver a speech to students at
Tehran University during his visit.

Iran has provided the Hamas-led Palestinian government with $120 million this
year, increasing its aid to the militant group and boosting its influence
among Palestinians amid an international economic boycott of the Palestinian

Muslims and independence-seeking nations support the Palestinians because they
have adopted the correct position towards the occupiers," Iranian First Vice
President Parviz Davoudi told Haniyeh at the start of his four-day visit to

"Iran is ready to offer its valuable achievements and experiences in different
fields to the Palestinian nation," the official IRNA news agency quoted
Davoudi as saying.

Iran's support for the Palestinians has grown more vocal since Ahmadinejad
came to power in August 2005. The former Revolutionary Guardsman has called
the Israeli state a "tumor" which must be "wiped off the map".

Haniyeh, whose tour was also to include Syria, thanked Iran for its support
and said Palestinian resistance of Israel would continue. "The popular
Palestinian government not only has not recognized the occupiers but also
considers resistance the natural right of the Palestinian nation."

Haniyeh will meet Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Ahmadinejad and
deliver a speech to students at Tehran University during his visit, IRNA said.

The "Quartet" of Middle East mediators - the United States, the European
Union, the United Nations, and Russia - is pressing Hamas to recognize Israel,
renounce violence, and accept previous agreements signed between Israel and
the Palestinian Authority.

Continued (Permanent Link)

UN rights council criticizes Israel for ignoring recommendations

Last update - 16:31 08/12/2006

UN rights council criticizes Israel for ignoring recommendations

By The Associated Press

The UN Human Rights Council passed a seventh resolution criticizing Israel on
Friday, this time for its failure to act on earlier recommendations that it
end military operations in the Palestinian territories and allow a
fact-finding mission to the region.

The rights body, which has only condemned the Israeli government in its
seven-month existence, noted with regret its July resolution urging the
release of all arrested Palestinian ministers has yet to be carried out.

"Violations of the fundamental rights of the Palestinians continue unabated,"
said Pakistani diplomat Tehmina Janjua on behalf of the 57-nation Organization
of the Islamic Conference, which proposed the resolution. "The Palestinian
ministers, officials and civilians have not been set free."

Janjua demanded that UN human rights expert John Dugard be allowed to conduct
an "urgent" fact-finding in the region, which the council ordered at an
emergency session only one month after it was called into existence to replace
the discredited Human Rights Commission.

Criticism by the council brings no penalties beyond international attention.
Countries, however, lobby hard to avoid having their rights records

Dugard, a former anti-apartheid civil rights lawyer from South Africa, has
frequently clashed with Israel, who note that he has been mandated only with
investigating violations by the Israeli side. The United States - which along
with Israel is only an observer at the 47-nation council - also has dismissed
Dugard's reports as one-sided.

Only Canada voted against Friday's resolution. Cameroon and Japan joined the
10 European members of the council in abstaining. The rest of Africa and Asia,
along with all of Latin America, voted in favor.

Israel's ambassador to the global body in Geneva criticized the council for
ignoring a Nov. 26 cease-fire agreement that ended five months of fierce
fighting in Gaza.

"Why does this resolution fail to make any mention of the cease-fire between
Israelis and Palestinians, that persists despite the continuation of Qassam
rockets fired on Israel?" Itzhak Levanon asked the council.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan urged the watchdog last month to deal with the
Mideast conflict in an impartial manner, and said it was time to focus
attention on "graver" crises such as Darfur.

Despite his plea, the council has passed only a watered-down resolution on the
western Sudanese region proposed by African countries, which urged all parties
to the conflict to end human rights violations.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Hamas Spokesman Praises Palestinian Grandmother Suicide Bomber

Special Dispatch-Palestinian Authority/ Jihad & Terrorism Studies Project
December 8, 2006
No. 1383

Hamas Spokesman Praises Palestinian Grandmother Suicide Bomber, Calls for
Suicide Attacks in Heart of Israel

To view this Special Dispatch in HTML, visit: .

In its November 27, 2006 issue, the Hamas biweekly Al-Risala published an
article by Hamas spokesman 'Abd Al-Latif Al-Qanu' praising Fatima Al-Najjar,
the Palestinian grandmother who blew herself up on November 23, 2006 near
Israeli soldiers in the Gaza Strip. In the article, Qanu' also praises
resistance as a means of liberating Palestine "from the [Mediterranean] sea to
the [Jordan] river" and calls for suicide attacks in the heart of Israel.

In another article in the same issue, Hamas MP Dr. Muhammad Al-Shihab asked
what would happen if millions of believers carried out suicide attacks like
Fatima Al-Najjar.

The following are excerpts from the two articles:

"We Will All Be Human Time Bombs, That Will Explode in the Heart of the
Criminal Zionist Entity"

Hamas spokesman 'Abd Al-Latif Al-Qanu' wrote: "How exalted is the Palestinian
woman when she takes leave of her sons as they go out to fight jihad for the
sake of Allah. She mixes tears with cries of joy at one and the same time, to
emphasize to the world that she is the only woman with true will and inflamed
emotions. How magnificent is she when she joins the ranks of the resistance
and easily surrenders her life for the sake of Allah, sacrificing herself for
the martyrs, the prisoners, and the wounded.

"Fatima Al-Najjar, 'Umm Muhammad', 72, the martyrdom-seeker from the 'Izz
Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades, wrote out, in her pure and untainted blood, [her]
loyalty to the resistance, the martyrs, the prisoners and the wounded, and
[her] devotion to [Palestinian] principles and rights. She saluted and
expressed her loyalty to Palestinian Prime Minister Isma'il Haniya and to
['Izz Al-Din] Al-Qassam [Brigades] Commander Muhammad Deif, as was written in
her will. This Palestinian woman, 'mother of self-sacrificing women,' Fatima
Al-Najjar, succeeded in tracing, with her blood and her body, the path of
glory and honor. This self-sacrificing woman, this grandmother, Umm Muhammad,
had an impressive record of jihad and sacrifice in the first Intifada. She
gave birth to men with who have a record like hers. Her house, where some 20
people lived, became a home and refuge for jihad fighters and fugitives...

"Thursday, November 23 [2006], was an historic day in the life of the
Palestinian people and a true turning point in the Palestinian people's jihad.
This woman revolutionary acted like a man, put an explosive belt around her
waist, and advanced towards a group of soldiers... she became the first
Palestinian grandmother from the 'Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades to have
carried out martyrdom.

"In her heroic act, Umm Muhammad sent a clear message to all those who call to
recognize Israel: that we, as a subjugated and oppressed people - the elderly,
women, youth, children, and even fetuses in their mother's wombs - cannot
recognize [Israel]... We will all be human time bombs, that will explode in
the heart of the criminal Zionist entity. She sent a message to everyone who
claims that the resistance and its missiles are ineffective and hold back the
resistance: that the entire Palestinian people, and all its constituent parts,
and groups, and generations, rally around the resistance and cheer on the
resistance and the jihad fighters. We cannot give up the resistance.

"The latest tactics adopted by the resistance in the northern Gaza [Strip]
are - like the actions of the women who sacrificed themselves during the siege
[for the gunmen and fugitives who took refuge in a mosque], like the human
shield [i.e. presence in homes so that they will not be bombed], and like the
action of 'the mother of the self-sacrificing women' - all clear evidence that
the Palestinian people is closing ranks in support of the resistance and the
jihad fighters, and is adopting resistance as a strategic option for the
liberation of Palestine from the [Mediterranean] Sea to the [Jordan]

Imagine What Would Happen if Millions of Believers Did as Fatima Al-Najjar Did

Hamas MP Dr. Muhammad Shihab wrote: "Imagine, together with me, what could
happen in another few years, if millions of believers, men and women, decided
to break through [their] fears and lunge forward to resistance, jihad, and
martyrdom in Palestine - just like 'the mother of the self-sacrificing women',
Umm Muhammad. What would be the fate of the occupying invaders? They are only
thieves and robbers, and they have no history, culture, or roots in this land.
The best decision they could make would be to pack their suitcases and
disappear from our lives."(2)

(1) Al-Risala (Gaza), November 27, 2006.
(2) Al-Risala (Gaza), November 27, 2006.

The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) is an independent, non-profit
organization that translates and analyzes the media of the Middle East.
Copies of articles and documents cited, as well as background information, are
available on request.

MEMRI holds copyrights on all translations. Materials may only be used with
proper attribution.

The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI)
P.O. Box 27837, Washington, DC 20038-7837
Phone: (202) 955-9070
Fax: (202) 955-9077
Search previous MEMRI publications at

Continued (Permanent Link)

[Israel]: PMO withheld documents pertaining to war probe

PMO withheld documents pertaining to war probe
By Ze'ev Schiff, Haaretz Correspondent 8 December 2006

The Prime Minister's office delayed over three months the transfer to the
State Comptroller's Office of documents pertaining to cabinet and security
cabinet meetings relevant to the war in Lebanon. The matter was only
resolved in recent days, after the comptroller more clearly defined the
war-related subjects he intended to deal with.

The dispute between the offices of the prime minister and the state
comptroller emerged when the latter requested to see documents on cabinet
meetings relating to the second Lebanon war.

The request was turned down, with the Prime Minister's Office maintaining
that documents that include top secret information could not be released. It
was also claimed that the areas to be investigated by the comptroller must
be clearly defined before any material would be made available.

Meetings between the prime minister's chief of staff, Yoram Turbowitz;
Government Secretary Yisrael Maimon; the director general of the
comptroller's office, Shlomo Gur; and Major General (res.) Mandy Or, head of
the department investigating defense issues at the state comptroller's
office, came to naught.

According to the Basic Law on the State Comptroller, a body being
investigated must present, without delay, documents and information and any
other material that the comptroller considers necessary for his work.
Nonetheless, so long as the dispute continued, no documents were forthcoming
to the comptroller. A solution to the impasse was found only when the areas
on which the comptroller's investigation would focus were specified.

It was agreed that the state comptroller will not deal with the conduct of
the war or the government decisions in its various forums, or in various
operations. Nonetheless, there are still many areas that the state
comptroller can investigate, some of them sensitive.

The comptroller, for example, will examine the pre-war readiness of the
Israel Defense Forces, including the state of emergency stores, logistics,
and the training of reserve units. The comptroller will also look into
different aspects of readiness having to do with intelligence. Teams of
staff from the comptroller's office will probe the readiness of the Home
Front, the local authorities, the conduct of these bodies following the
outbreak of hostilities, preparations for bomb shelters and plans for
dealing with dangerous substances. Israel's public relations will also be

Continued (Permanent Link)

Democratic Senator Slams Iraq Study Group's Report

Democratic Senator Slams Iraq Study Group's Report

Marc Perelman | Fri. Dec 08, 2006
Just days before its publication, the much-anticipated report of the
bipartisan Baker-Hamilton commission on Iraq came under attack Monday from the
Democrats' top foreign-policy voice, Senator Joseph Biden, in an address to a
Jewish group in New York.

Biden, incoming chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said that the
Baker-Hamilton report, parts of which had been leaked to the press days
earlier, does not provide a plan to reach a sustainable political settlement
there. He also derided proposals, associated with Baker, to link progress in
Iraq to the revival of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks as "dangerously naive."
"The notion that an Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement would end a civil war
in Iraq defies common sense," Biden told the Israel Policy Forum.
"Israeli-Palestinian peace should be pursued aggressively on its own merits,
period - not as some sort of diplomatic price to make the Arab states feel
good so they will help us in Iraq."

Biden, who is believed to be considering a presidential run in 2008, blasted
President Bush for "going AWOL" on the Israeli-Palestinian track over the past
six years, saying he could "not fathom" how the president did not find the
time to visit Israel even once since he was elected.

The Baker-Hamilton commission, formally known as the Iraq Study Group, issued
its recommendations Wednesday. They include a gradual and partial withdrawal
of American troops from Iraq and a call for direct talks with Syria and Iran,
as well as more vigorous American mediation on the Israeli-Palestinian track.

"The United States cannot achieve its goals in the Middle East unless it deals
directly with the Arab-Israeli conflict and regional instability," the group's
executive summary said. "There must be a renewed and sustained commitment by
the United States to a comprehensive Israeli-Arab peace on all fronts:
Lebanon, Syria and President Bush's June 2002 commitment to a two-state
solution for Israel and Palestine. This commitment includes direct talks with,
by and between Israel, Lebanon, Palestinians (those who accept Israel's right
to exist), and Syria."

Bush recently launched two internal administration reviews of Iraq policy, in
what some critics called an attempt to offset the impact of the Baker-Hamilton
report. In several statements last week, the president appeared to be
dismissing in advance the expected recommendations of the Iraq Study Group,
including troop withdrawals. However, his advisers have repeatedly said in
recent days that there would be a new course once the various policy reviews
were digested.

Some observers saw political significance in the fact that the Democrats'
incoming foreign policy chief chose the peace-oriented Israel Policy Forum for
his first appearance before a Jewish group after the election.

At the same time, the president of the Israel Policy Forum, attorney Seymour
Reich, distanced himself afterward from parts of Biden's talk. He said that
while the senator was "technically correct" in claiming that no linkage should
be made between Israel and Iraq, the perception in the region and in many
parts around the world was different.

"Israel should take advantage of this to actually make some peace overtures,"
Reich said. "This is what Prime Minister [Ehud] Olmert is already doing by
reaching out to the Palestinians."

Biden focused most of his address on his advocacy of a federalized and
decentralized Iraq, a plan he initially proposed with Leslie Gelb, a president
emeritus of the Council of Foreign Relations. Biden said he hopes the plan
will attract fellow lawmakers as the situation in Iraq continues to escalate
and as the policy of supporting a strong central government in Baghdad is

"I will push this in Congress with my colleagues and through hearings," Biden
told the Forward before his speech. "I believe other Democrats will join me,
but I doubt the administration will do so."

His Republican counterpart on the Senate committee, Richard Lugar of Indiana,
has expressed support for a federal solution and agreed to a grueling schedule
of in-depth hearings on Iraq when Congress reconvenes next month.

While Biden's plan has won few formal endorsements in Congress, his aides
claim it is gaining traction, despite widespread Democratic calls for troop
withdrawal. "The Biden plan has some good points, but we need to make sure we
don't shortchange the Kurds again," said Democratic Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New
York. "But our main focus in Congress is now on bringing the troops home."

The administration has rejected the plan, claiming it has no support among
Iraqis. A poll released in June by the International Republican Institute
found that 78% of Iraqis disagree with the idea of segregating Iraqis
according to religious or ethnic sects, and 89% believe that establishing a
unity government is extremely important to Iraq's future.

Gelb, who initially proposed the federal plan three years ago, said the
administration tried to undercut the plan by misrepresenting it. "They
purposefully claim we want to partition the country," he said. "They are
bending to pressure from the Saudis who do not want any breakup of Iraq."

Last week, Nawaf Obaid, a consultant with the Saudi government, published an
opinion article in the Washington Post claiming in no uncertain terms that the
oil-rich kingdom would consider funding and arming Sunni militias in Iraq to
counter Iran's influence if American troops withdrew. Saudi Arabia distanced
itself from Obaid and terminated his consultancy contract as a result.
However, most observers saw his essay as a calculated Saudi warning about the
possibility of a regional war if Washington decided to pull out or cater to
the different sectarian groups in Iraq.

Gelb noted that support for the federal plan was "picking up steadily" in
Congress because people are beginning "to focus on the fact that no insurgency
ends without a political deal. This leads ineluctably to a federal solution as
an alternative to what we have tried and failed to achieve in the past three

Leading Republican senators such as Lugar and John Warner of Virginia, the
outgoing chair of the Armed Services Committee, as well as Sam Brownback of
Kansas, have publicly stated that a federal solution should be seriously

On the campaign trial, several lawmakers, including Texas GOP Senator Kay
Bailey Hutchinson and newly elected Democratic Rep. Paul Hodes of New
Hampshire, expressed support for a more drastic proposal put forth by American
diplomat Peter Galbraith to partition Iraq in three states along
ethno-religious lines - Kurds, Shi'ites and Sunni Arabs.

Galbraith, a former ambassador to Croatia and an adviser to the Kurds on
constitutional issues, said the partition had already happened and that
Washington should not try to put together what is in effect already a
broken-apart country.

In an opinion article published May 1 in the New York Times, Biden and Gelb
argued that since sectarian strife has become a bigger security threat than
the insurgency and a de facto partition is already in place, the argument in
favor of maintaining a unified Iraq is becoming increasingly moot by the day.
Blaming Bush for his absence of strategy and warning that Congress could end
up mandating a quick pullout, they proposed maintaining "a united Iraq by
decentralizing it, giving each ethno-religious group - Kurd, Sunni Arab and
Shi'ite Arab - room to run its own affairs, while leaving the central
government in charge of common interests." The central government would also
ensure that the oil-poor Sunni Arab region receives 20% of Iraqi oil revenues.
The Iraqi parliament recently passed legislation envisioning strong regional

Some analysts said splitting the country along ethnic and sectarian lines
would ignite massive population relocations and major upheaval in Iraq's major
cities, where all three groups reside. Judith Yaphe, a former CIA analyst now
working as a research fellow at the National Defense University, termed the
Biden plan "naive" in that it fails to spell out how the regional division
would be implemented and lacks support among Sunnis and Shi'ites.

However, other experts said that populations in those mixed areas are
separating on their own because of the growing sectarian militia activity,
including in the capital.
"I do think that we are likely to hear people say that there is an informal
Biden plan underway naturally as the ethnic communities in Iraq self-align in
response to intimidation or to avoid bloodshed," said John Hamre, president
and CEO of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington
and a former deputy defense secretary official in the Clinton administration.
"Baghdad is the central problem in that regard - like Sarajevo was in the

Fri. Dec 08, 2006

Continued (Permanent Link)

Thursday, December 7, 2006

Iran warns Gulf states not to join U.S. security alliance

Iran warns Gulf states not to join U.S. security alliance
Geostrategy-Direct,, December 6, 2006

NICOSIA - Iran has expanded its threats against the Gulf Cooperation
Council, warning another member state against military cooperation with the
United States.

Iran said the UAE must not become a U.S. base for hostile action against
Teheran. It was the second warning by Teheran against a GCC state in less
than a week.

"UAE officials should not let the United States use their country as a base
for hostile activities against Iran," Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman
Mohammad Ali Hosseini said on Nov. 26.

[On Nov. 26, the Iranian-inspired Shi'ite opposition won parliamentary
elections in Bahrain. The Shi'ite opposition Al Wefaq won 16 out of the 40
seats in parliament, and was expected to win a majority of the chamber after
run-off elections on Dec. 2.]

Hosseini, in remarks reported by the official Iranian news agency Irna, did
not elaborate. The UAE has long disputed Iran's control of three islets in
the Gulf and observed the first U.S.-led weapons of mass destruction
interdiction exercise in the region on Oct. 30.

On Nov. 20, the commander of Iran's so-called Martyrs Battalions warned
Kuwait and other GCC states of being targets of suicide bombers. Faroz
Rajai, commander of the Martyrs Battalions, warned the GCC against helping
U.S. military operations against Iran.

"If the bases in these [GCC] countries are used as a launch pad for the
attacking U.S. forces, why should they expect to remain secure while we are
not?" Rajai said.

Iran has been dismayed by the UAE defense and military cooperation with the
United States. The U.S. Air Force maintains at least one base in the UAE and
is helping the emirates absorb the 80 F-16 Block 60 multi-role fighters.

In his weekly briefing to the media, Hosseini said Iran has offered military
and defense cooperation to states in the region. He refused to confirm
reports that Iran has acquired the Russian TOR-M1 air defense system, and
said Teheran's offer would include Iraq, which has 140,000 U.S. troops.

"If we are ever asked to cooperate in this respect, we will do our best to
assist them," Hosseini said.

It was the first open threat by an Iranian official against the six-member
GCC. In late October Teheran criticized Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab
Emirates for their participation in a U.S.-led interdiction exercise in the

Western intelligence sources said the IRGC established the Martyrs
Battalions in 2002. The unit draws recruits from Iran's religious seminaries
and universities.

The Martyrs Battalions has been promoting its capabilities in statements and
in interviews with GCC media. On Nov. 20, Rajai told Kuwait's Al Rai Al Aam
daily that Teheran would not allow Gulf Arab states to help any U.S. war
against Iran.
In the interview, Rajai said her unit was composed of volunteers and
maintained independence from the government. She said the Martyrs Battalions
consists of five battalions with about 56,000 potential suicide attackers.

She recalled the aid provided by GCC states to Iraq in the eight-year war
with Iran, which ended in 1988. She was one of scores of followers of the
late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini who stormed the U.S. Embassy and held its
staffers hostage in 1979.

IMRA - Independent Media Review and Analysis

Continued (Permanent Link)

Russia confirms delivery of advanced mobile air defense system to Iran

Russia confirms delivery of advanced mobile air defense system to Iran
Geostrategy-Direct,, December 6, 2006

MOSCOW - Russia has confirmed the export of an advanced air defense system
to Iran after officials denied initial press reports of the shipment.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said his country's sale of the TOR-M1
mobile air defense system to Iran would not change the military balance in
the Middle East.

"We are selling only a limited range of defensive weapons," Ivanov said.
"The TOR-M1 air defense system, for example, has no influence on the balance
of power in the region because it only has a range of up to 40 kilometers."

On Nov. 24, Russian news agencies quoted officials as reporting starting
delivery of 29 TOR-M1 systems to Iran. On Nov. 27, the German weekly Der
Spiegel quoted Ivanov as confirming the deliveries.

"Every country is allowed to deliver arms to another as long as it is not
evading any sanctions in doing so," Ivanov said.
"Deliveries of the Tor-M1 have begun," the Moscow-based Itar-Tass news
agency quoted a Russian Defense Ministry official as saying on Nov. 24. "The
first systems have already been delivered to Teheran."

Neither the Defense Ministry nor the manufacturer of the TOR, Almaz Antey,
confirmed the initial report. The news agencies did not say how many systems
have been sent to Iran.

"I can affirm with 100 percent certainty that nothing of the kind has
happened." Nikolai Dimidyuk, delegation head of Russia's state-owned arms
agency Rosoboronexport, said at the IndoDefense exhibition in Jakarta on
Nov. 25.

TOR-M1 was developed for short- and medium-range detection and interception.
The system was designed to down manned, unmanned aircraft and cruise
missiles at a range of 12 kilometers. The system has a detection range of 40
In 2005, Iran and Russia signed a $700-million agreement for the TOR-M1.
Russian industry sources said the contract rose to $1.4 billion when Russia
agreed to provide additional radars and other advanced equipment.

In early November, Moscow pledged to deliver the first TOR systems over the
following weeks. Teheran had demanded the immediate delivery of the systems
to protect its nuclear facilities from Israeli or U.S. air strikes.

Sources said that with the expanded TOR project, Iran has become Russia's
No. 3 client, following China and India. In a separate development, the
Interfax news agency reported that Russian Atomic Energy Agency Director
Sergei Kiriyenko plans to visit Teheran on Dec. 11 to discuss additional

IMRA - Independent Media Review and Analysis

Continued (Permanent Link)

Israel suspends missile defense deal with Venezuela under pressure from U.S.

Israel suspends missile defense deal with Venezuela under pressure from U.S.
Geostrategy-Direct,, December 6, 2006

TEL AVIV U.S. pressure has forced Israel to freeze military projects for
Venezuela worth more than $50 million. Sources said the Bush administration
has determined that Venezuela, particularly President Hugo Chavez,
represents a threat to the United States.

"Venezuela has not been a friend to Israel and the United States, but until
now it was buying our systems," an Israeli source said. "Now, we are going
to have to review our defense relations with Venezuela."

One of the projects was the supply of the Israeli-origin Barak missile
defense system.

Israel and Venezuela signed the Barak deal several years ago and a few
systems were supplied, the source said. The state-owned Rafael, Israel
Armament Development Authority provided a ground model of the Barak-1
sea-based missile defense system, with a range of about 10 kilometers.

"We want to complete this deal, but the [U.S.] administration is very much
against this, saying the Barak provides Venezuela with a new capability,"
the source said.

Rafael had also been contracted to supply advanced air-to-air and
air-to-ground missiles to Venezuela, including the Python-4 and the Popeye.
But the source said these orders have also been suspended.

The Israeli company has refused to confirm the suspension of its projects in
Venezuela. In 2005, the Pentagon demanded that Israel withdraw its offer to
upgrade F-16s for Venezuela.

IMRA - Independent Media Review and Analysis

Continued (Permanent Link)

Report hits White House complacency on Iran's regional threat

Report hits White House complacency on Iran's regional threat
Geostrategy-Direct,, December 6, 2006

WASHINGTON A new report has warned the Bush administration of the
implications of failing to counter a nuclear Iran.
The report said the United States and its NATO allies must work with Gulf
Cooperation Council states to form a regional security network to defeat any
Iranian threat. Such a network must be capable of stopping nuclear and
missile shipments to Teheran.

"A failure to engage in such planning would be an omission on the magnitude
of the failure to adequately plan for the aftermath of regime change in
Iraq," the report said. "The planning should include the possibility of
follow-on strikes at facilities to prevent their reconstruction and steps to
deter or disrupt possible Iranian responses."

The Washington Institute, blaming administration officials for complacency,
asserted that the United States must convince Teheran of Washington's
determination to stop Iranian nuclear weapons, including through the use of

"U.S.-encouraged security measures should likewise create doubts in the
minds of Iranian leaders about their country's ability
to reliably deliver nuclear weapons and raise the possibility that even
threatened use of a nuclear weapon could jeopardize the survival of their
regime," stated the report, "Facing Hard Choices on Iran."

The report, authored by Michael Eisenstadt and Patrick Clawson, urged the
administration to enhance the U.S. military's ability to counter Iranian
naval mine, small boat and submarine warfare capabilities, halt smuggling of
special materials and dual-use technologies, identify and neutralize Islamic
insurgency cells and detect and interdict weapons of mass destruction
shipments to Iran.

"Washington has been pressing its Gulf Arab allies to cooperate more fully
with the Proliferation Security Initiative, designed to prevent Iranian
access to WMD-related technology," the report said.

"The United States and its allies can more aggressively prosecute
individuals and firms that provide Iran with dual-use technologies that can
be used in its nuclear program."

On Oct. 30, the United States led the first PSI exercise in the Gulf.
Bahrain participated while Qatar and the United Arab Emirates observed.

The proposed security regime would be based on extending U.S. cooperation
with Turkey and the GCC on both military and intelligence issues. The
authors cited U.S. efforts to help the GCC in an air and missile defense
early warning system as well as command, control, communications, computers,
and intelligence architecture.

"This means bolstering the littoral warfare and aerial precision-strike
capabilities of these states ? particularly their ability to counter Iran's
mine, submarine, and naval special-warfare forces. Countering these Iranian
capabilities will also require a significant U.S. military presence in the
Gulf for the foreseeable future."

The report said the proposed Gulf security architecture could dissuade Iran
from continuing its nuclear program and reduce threats to use nuclear

IMRA - Independent Media Review and Analysis

Continued (Permanent Link)

Israeli surgeons repair Palestinian hearts

Israeli surgeons repair Palestinian hearts

By Allyn Fisher-Ilan

HOLON - Her lower lip quivering with every breath, Hala Ketnani, a
10-month-old girl from Gaza, sleeps beneath an oxygen hood in an Israeli
intensive care unit as she recovers from heart surgery.

She had been unable to have the operation in Gaza, where many hospitals are
suffering from worsening conditions since a Western aid embargo was imposed
this year to pressure a Hamas-led Palestinian government to recognise Israel.

Under the private Israeli programme "Save a Child's Heart", doctors at Wolfson
Hospital near Tel Aviv repair congenital heart defects for children like
Ketnani from the Palestinian territories, Iraq, Jordan and Africa.

More than 1,000 children, about half from Gaza and the occupied West Bank,
have been helped so far by the programme, which is partly funded by the
European Union.

"I'm so happy to see the colour returning to Hala's cheeks," said the baby's
grandmother, Raisa Ketnani, 65, clasping her hands together in a prayer-like

"I am very thankful." Israeli soldiers and settlers quit Gaza in 2005 after a
38-year military occupation, but a substantial number of Palestinians in the
territory still rely on either Israel or neighbouring Egypt for humanitarian
needs such as medicine.

The need has risen in the past year with a drop in medical care levels in Gaza
and the West Bank since Hamas, an Islamist group, took office after a January
election and Western nations cut off direct funds to the Palestinian

Though it generally denies entry to Palestinians since they began an uprising
in 2000, Israel says it eases the restrictions when it comes to medical care.

Shlomo Dror, an Israeli defence ministry spokesman, said about 1,000
Palestinians per month receive medical treatment in Israel, up from 600 in
recent years.

Entry permits for children in need of medical attention in Israel are usually
approved in a matter of days, although adults are subject to security
screening, Dror says.

But Hala's grandmother, who accompanied the infant from Gaza, said she had
brought her granddaughter after the baby's mother was denied a permit to enter

Dror had no immediate comment on that case. He said if a sick child's parent
poses a security problem, Israeli authorities allow another relative to serve
as an escort.

Israel has stepped up the screening since a recent suicide bombing at a Gaza
checkpoint by a woman who had sought medical care in Israel, and a bomb found
on another woman, Dror said.

Uriel Katz, an Israeli cardiologist, said Hala suffered from a ventricular
septal defect - a hole between the left and right ventricles of the heart.

Plugging up the gap involved a procedure Katz said was "like mending a torn
sock". Her recovery has been rapid, and the child will probably return home in
a few days.

Over the past year, "Save a Child's Heart" has treated more than 100 children
from Gaza and the West Bank, and hundreds from elsewhere in the region,
including a growing number from Iraq since Saddam Hussein was toppled in a
US-led invasion in 2003.

Founded in 1995 by the late US-born cardiologist, Amram Cohen, the programme
has expanded to include training for Palestinians and other doctors in
paediatric cardiac surgery.

"We believe every child deserves the best possible medical care that he can
get," said the director, Simon Fisher.

Medicine, he said, is a logical common denominator to help bridge differences
between Israelis and Palestinians.

"They are our neighbours whether we like it or not, whether we have a
political issue or not. We live side by side, share the same destiny of the
Middle East," Fisher said.

Thursday, December 7, 2006

Continued (Permanent Link)

Continue ceasefire 63.4% Extend to West Bank 53.8%, Prefer Netanyahu over Olmert as PM 42.4%:17.7%

Poll: Continue ceasefire 63.4% Extend to West Bank 53.8%, Prefer Netanyahu
over Olmert as PM 42.4%:17.7%
Dr. Aaron Lerner Date: 7 December 2006

Telephone poll of a representative sample of 462 adult Israelis (including
Arab Israelis) carried out by Geocartographia for Israel Radio's "Its all
Talk" on 6 December 2006

Do you support continuing the ceasefire in the Gaza Strip?
Total: Yes 63.4% No 27.3% Other 9.3%
Voted Kadima: Yes 87.4% No 10.5% Other 2.1%
Voted Likud: Yes 38.6% No 52.9% Other 8.5%
Voted Labor: Yes 93.2% No 3.4% Other 3.4%

Should Israel agree to extending the ceasefire to the West Bank?
Total: Yes 53.8% No 34.6% Other 11.6%
Voted Kadima: Yes 63.2% No 23.7% Other 13.0%
Voted Likud: Yes 28.8% No 55.9% Other 15.2%
Voted Labor: Yes 72.6% No 13.5% Other 13.9%

According to the assessments provided by the IDF, a war will break out this
coming summer in the North. Do you personally believe this?
Total: Yes 38.7% No 41.7 Other 19.6%
Voted Kadima: Yes 36.8% No 43.9% Other 19.3%
Voted Likud: Yes 59.9% No 23.7% Other 16.4%
Voted Labor: Yes 45.2% No 24.0% Other 30.8%

If in the end Hizbullah takes over the Lebanese Government, should Israel
launch a preemptive war against the Lebanese Government headed by Hizbullah?
Total: Yes 38.4% No 53.4% Other 8.3%
Voted Kadima: Yes 29.0% No 56.1% Other 14.9%
Voted Likud: Yes 73.3% No 16.6% Other 10.1%
Voted Labor: Yes 20.6% No 72.3% Other 7.1%

Who would you personally prefer as prime minister in the coming years?
Total: Olmert 17.7% Netanyahu 42.4% Neither 36.2% Other replies 3.7%
Voted Kadima:Olmert 47.3% Netanyahu 20.1% Neither 32.6%
Voted Likud: Olmert 3.4% Netanyahu 90.2% Neither 4.8% Other replies 1.6%
Voted Labor: Olmert 41.6% Netanyahu 10.1% Neither 44.6% Other replies 3.7%

Who would you personally prefer as defense minister in the coming years?
Total: Mofaz 32.4% Ayalon 34.0% Neither 23.4% Other replies 10.2%
Voted Kadima: Mofaz 30.9% Ayalon 54.0% Neither 10.9% Other replies 4.2%
Voted Likud: Mofaz 59.4% Ayalon 20.6% Neither 13.3% Other replies 6.6%
Voted Labor: Mofaz 17.2% Ayalon 61.8% Neither 13.9% Other replies 7.1%

Dr. Aaron Lerner, Director IMRA (Independent Media Review & Analysis)
(mail POB 982 Kfar Sava)
Tel 972-9-7604719/Fax 972-3-7255730

IMRA - Independent Media Review and Analysis

Continued (Permanent Link)

Christians Flee Growing Islamic Fundamentalism in the Holy Land - Justus Reid Weiner - Vol. 6, No. 14




Jerusalem Issue Brief

Institute for Contemporary Affairs

founded jointly at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

with the Wechsler Family Foundation


Vol. 6, No. 14  –  6 December 2006



Christians Flee Growing Islamic Fundamentalism in the Holy Land

Justus Reid Weiner



·        The Christian population of the areas under the control of the Palestinian Authority (PA) has sharply declined in recent decades, as tens of thousands have abandoned their holy sites and ancestral properties to live abroad. Those who remain comprise a beleaguered and dwindling minority. In sharp contrast, Israel's Christian community has prospered and grown by at least 270 percent since the founding of the state.


·        While Israel understands that the construction of the security barrier inconveniences some of the Christian communities living in its vicinity, Israel has shown sensitivity to Christian interests in planning the route of the barrier.


·        The plight of Christian Arabs remaining in the PA is, in part, attributable to the adoption of Muslim religious law in the PA Constitution. Israel, by contrast, safeguards the religious freedom and holy places of its Christian (and Muslim) citizens. Indeed, in recent years Israel has been responsible for restoring many of the churches and monasteries under its jurisdiction.


·        The growing strength of Islamic fundamentalism within the Palestinian national movement poses problems for Christians, who fear they will be deemed opponents of Islam and thereby risk becoming targets for Muslim extremists. This is exacerbated by the fact that Hamas holds substantial power and seeks to impose its radical Islamist identity on the entire population within the PA-controlled territories.


Who Threatens Christians in the Holy Land?

Palestinian Christians have a higher rate of emigration compared to Palestinian Muslims and the Christian population of the West Bank and Gaza has plunged from about 20 percent after World War II to less than 1.7 percent now.1 Tens of thousands have abandoned their holy sites and ancestral properties to live abroad.2


Some senior Christian clerics claim that the dramatic rise in Christian emigration from PA-controlled territories is a result of the Israeli "occupation."3 However, in-depth research demonstrates that the precipitous decline in the Christian population is primarily a result of social, economic, and religious discrimination and persecution within Palestinian society in the West Bank and Gaza.


In a July 3, 2006, article, "Who Harms Holy Land Christians?," syndicated columnist Robert D. Novak, a long-time critic of Israel, paraphrased a letter from Michael H. Sellers, an Anglican priest in Jerusalem, to U.S. Congressmen Michael McCaul (R-TX) and Joseph Crowley (D-NY), who were circulating a draft resolution blaming the Christian decline on the discriminatory practices of the Palestinian Authority.4 Sellers insisted that "the real problem [behind the Christian Arab exodus] is the Israeli occupation – especially its new security wall."


Yet two-thirds of the Christian Arabs had already departed between 1948 and 1967, when Jordan occupied the West Bank and Egypt the Gaza Strip, prior to the "occupation" and decades before construction began on the security barrier to protect Israel's population from waves of deadly suicide bombers. During the same period, hundreds of thousands of Christians were leaving other Muslim-ruled countries in the Middle East, Asia, and North Africa. Every one of the more than twenty Muslim states in the Middle East has a declining Christian population. In fact, Israel is the only state in the region in which the Christian Arab population has grown in real terms – from approximately 34,000 in 1948 to nearly 130,000 in 2005.5

Novak also refers to Sellers as "coordinator of Jerusalem's Christian churches." Actually, there are at least 16 traditional, Oriental, and Protestant churches represented in Jerusalem, yet only three other clergymen signed the letter with Sellers – and all three are known for their close loyalty to Arafat's Palestinian nationalism.



Israel's Security Barrier


Novak also quotes Father Faras Arida, a Catholic priest in the West Bank village of Aboud, who asserts that the security barrier costs villagers their water and olive trees. In fact, the water resources used by Aboud will remain on the side of the barrier where the village is situated. At the same time, the Israeli government is to fully compensate farmers for the 1,500 olive trees uprooted during the barrier's construction.


Although the security barrier inconveniences some West Bank residents, it was designed to include dozens of gates for transit and agriculture for those on legitimate business, including Christian residents, pilgrims, and clergy. As noted by former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Jack Kemp, Israel has displayed particular sensitivity to Christian religious concerns, taking measures to ensure their access to holy sites. To this end, Israel has negotiated with Christian communities directly impacted by the barrier, and has, in some instances, rerouted construction to better accommodate their requests.6


Significantly, the barrier would not exist but for Palestinian terrorism. Israelis across the political spectrum would reject any demand to remove the security fence before the Palestinians stop their attacks. The blame for its construction belongs squarely on the Palestinian leadership that sponsored years of bloody terrorism against Israeli civilians. Prior to the erection of the fence, Palestinian terror killed an average of 103 Israelis and wounded 688 each year. After the completion of the first portion of the fence, an average of 28 people were killed and 83 wounded per year – a decrease of approximately 90 percent.7 The last two "successful" suicide bombers in Jerusalem murdered a total of 18 people by entering through unfinished portions of the barrier near Bethlehem.


Novak also ignores the Palestinians' refusal to negotiate the occupation's end. In 2000 and 2001 Yasser Arafat and his Palestinian Authority rejected a generous Israeli offer of a Palestinian state comprising the Gaza Strip, much of eastern Jerusalem, and virtually all of the West Bank in exchange for peace with Israel. Rejecting even Arafat's façade of negotiations, Hamas, which won the January 2006 Palestinian elections, has demonstrated no interest whatsoever in any negotiated settlement with Israel.



Islamic Religious Extremism


Novak further alleges that I initiated the congressional letter that blamed the Palestinian Authority for the flight of Christian Arabs from the Holy Land – a role that exists only in the columnist's imagination. I am a scholar who has spent nine years researching this subject. In the process I have interviewed scores of Christian Arabs, and published five scholarly articles and a monograph on the topic – none of which Novak saw fit to cite.8


From Christian Arabs under the thumb of the PA, I have heard testimony of forced marriages of Christian women to Muslim men, death threats against Christians for distributing the Bible to willing Muslims, and Christian women intimidated into wearing traditional ultra-modest Islamic clothing. Churches have been firebombed (most recently in Nablus, Tubas, and Gaza when the Pope made his controversial remarks) and/or shot up repeatedly. And this is the tip of the iceberg.

Under the Palestinian Authority, whose constitution gives Islamic law primacy over all other sources of law, Christian Arabs have found their land expropriated by Muslim thieves and thugs with ties to the PA's land registration office. Christians have been forced to pay bribes to win the freedom of family members jailed on trumped-up charges. And Arabs – Christians and Muslims alike – have been selling or abandoning homes and businesses to escape the chaos of the PA and move to Israel, Europe, South America, North America, or wherever they can get a visa.


*     *     *




1. Other factors include declining economic conditions in the PA (J. C. Watts, "Yasser Arafat vs. Christians," Washington Times, Dec. 4, 1997, at A19) and Islamic law in the PA Constitution (David Bedein, "Final Version of Official Palestinian State Constitution," Makor Rishon [Hebrew], April 17, 2003).

2. For further reading on the plight of Christian Arabs, see Justus Reid Weiner, Human Rights of Christians in Palestinian Society (2005). This monograph can be downloaded free of charge at It is also available to purchase from

3. These Christian clerics include Michael Sabbah, Munib Younan, and Riah Abu el-Assal.

4. Robert D. Novak, "Who Harms Holy Land Christians?," Washington Post, July 3, 2006.

5. Eric Rozenman, "False Premises, Repeated Errors in Robert Novak Column on Christian Arabs," March 17, 2006, available at: This is a response to an earlier publication by Novak.

6. Jack Kemp, "Absolute Necessity," New York Sun, April 26, 2006, available at This is a response to a previous publication by Novak.

7. Israeli Ministry of Defense, "Security Fence's Effectiveness," News Brief, July 1, 2004, available at

8. See additional related scholarship by Justus Reid Weiner: "Human Rights Trends in the Emerging Palestinian State: Problems Encountered by Muslim Converts to Christianity," 8(3) Michigan State Journal of International Law 539 (1999); Appendix "Israel and Palestine" to Forum 18 Report "Freedom of Religion: A Report With Special Emphasis on the Right to Choose Religion and Registration Systems," financed by the Royal Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (February 2001); "Palestinian Christians: Silent Victims of a Zero-Sum Game," 8(2) Mediterranean Journal of Human Rights 383 (2004); "Palestinian Christians: Equal Citizens or Oppressed Minority in a Future Palestinian State," 7 Oregon Review of International Law 26 (Spring 2005); and "Palestinian Christians: A Minority's Plea for Rights Silenced by the Politics of Peace," The Journal of Human Rights (October 2005).


*     *     *


Justus Reid Weiner, Esq., teaches human rights and international law at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He has been a visiting professor at Boston University Law School and authored the monograph Human Rights of Christians in Palestinian Society, published by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and available at: The author extends his appreciation to Ilana Hart for her assistance in preparing this article.





This Jerusalem Issue Brief is available online at:


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Continued (Permanent Link)

Jimmy Carter: "I oppose a Palestinian State"

Jimmy Carter: "I oppose a Palestinian State"

In view of Mr. Carter's unfortunate book, the following quote is utterly hilarious:
"... I am opposed to an independent Palestinian state, because in my own judgement and in the judgement of many leaders in the Middle East, including Arab leaders, this would be a destabilizing factor in the Middle East and would certainly not serve the United States interests."

(Jimmy Carter at the United Jewish Appeal National Young Leadership
Conference, February 25, 1980).

How many other American presidents said that?
Keep in mind the declaration of the Iraq Study Group, that no American administration, Democratic or Republican, will ever abandon Israel. Will it go the same way?
Ami Isseroff

Continued (Permanent Link)

Army reform can't wait

Ron Ben-Yishai

Army reform can't wait

IDF needs to fix flaws soon in order to be ready for possible war in summer,7340,L-3336385,00.html

Published: 12.05.06, 14:17

The IDF's response to the state comptroller's report published Monday is even
more interesting than the report itself. As opposed to past years, the IDF did
not make do with promises to fix the flaws and did not focus on an effort to
disprove some of the findings.

This time around, the IDF provided to-the-point responses to each one of the
review chapters and did not attempt to argue with the comptroller, but rather,
chose to explain what the flaws stem from and provide a detailed explanation
of how it intends to fix them. Yet while doing this, the army revealed its
slow and cumbersome conduct, even when it comes to an urgent need to fix
critical flaws that undermine its combat capabilities.

The response document issued by the IDF spokesperson shows that only by the
end of next year we'll start seeing genuine changes and reforms in the areas
of logistical and budgetary planning, as well as the training of commanders.
This means that 2007 will be a year of administrative work, and therefore it
is a "wasted year" in terms of practical results that will affect functioning
during wartime.

Only in 2008, if everything proceeds as planned, will the required revolution
in logistical panning take place and we'll see an actual improvement in the
professional training of commanders at all levels, so that they can function
efficiently in a battle that combines various forces.

If those were days of peace - so be it. Yet the working assumptions the IDF
came up with about a month ago are unequivocal: The military has to be ready
and fit in the coming summer for a large confrontation in the north with Syria
and Hizbullah. Even before that, in the coming months, it has to be prepared
for a large-scale operation in the Gaza Strip.

This doesn't mean that a war in the north will necessarily take place this
summer, or that a large-scale operation in the Strip is unavoidable, yet
military intelligence estimates view such scenarios with a relatively high
degree of probability, and the IDF general staff drew the correct conclusions
and translated them to annual working assumptions for 2007.

The problem is that the timetable dictated by those assumptions is
incommensurate with the timetable for fixing the flaws affecting the IDF's
functioning during war, as pointed to by the state comptroller's report.
Notably, not all flaws detailed in the report directly affect the army's
readiness for war.

Challenges won't wait another year

The slow handling of sexual harassment in the IDF, just like financial
irregularities at the Defense Ministry, are severe phenomenon that require
immediate attention, yet they do not directly undermine the army's ability to
deal with guerillas, rockets, and Syrian missiles.

Yet when the deputy chief of staff does not possess accurate quantitative
information regarding the stocks of all armaments and combat means, and when a
considerable number of field commanders did not receive the proper
professional training that would allow them to manage a battle that combines
infantry, armored corps, and air force units, this is an obstacle whose
results we already experienced in the Lebanon War, and we don't want to
experience them again in the near future.

The IDF is right when it argues that the government and Treasury have been
rejecting for years its demand for a multi-year budget, and that as a result
of the absence of such budget, as well as the frequent budget cuts, it is
forced to plan everything on the go and to improvise.

As a result of the cutbacks and improvisation, planning has been disrupted and
important areas were neglected - particularly those that did not meet
immediate needs at the various combat theaters or political caprices.

Therefore, a comprehensive reform in the IDF's planning processes and methods,
as well as in the training of commanders in accordance with the IDF's response
to the comptroller's report, is justified. Yet the security challenges the
army will be required to respond to won't wait.

Hence, we could expect that the IDF would respond to the comptroller's report,
which appeared to almost predict some of the flaws we saw in the Lebanon War
(the review was undertaken in the year before the war), by formulating a
multi-phased plan that will speed up the rate of fixing the flaws.

This would mean immediate, specific responses (within several months) to the
severe functional flaws that affect the fighting force, and at a later phase a
methodical, thorough repair of processes and work methods across the entire
military establishment.

The IDF's response to the comptroller's report shows no sign this is about to
happen. Yet it's very possible that in two weeks, once the IDF inquiries into
the Lebanon War end, the army and its top brass will come to their senses and
shift gears.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Great, they hate us

Great, they hate us

We seem to 'enjoy' reports of negative attitude towards Israelis overseas

Shlomo Papirblat Published: 12.05.06, 23:25,7340,L-3336437,00.html

When taking a sideways glance at ourselves - a bit of acrobatics is required
to get the right perspective - we'll notice that there's something somewhat
amusing and sickly about how we take pleasure in cases of negative attitude
towards Israelis overseas.

Looking at the newspapers in the last few weeks provides several such examples
and headlines: A ski resort warned its patrons about a large group of Israelis
about to arrive at the resort; there was an article about an Israeli
backpacker in India who was perceived as a beggar, a swindler said to be doped
and aggressive; or the story about a French guesthouse that refused to take
bookings from Israelis.

Great, they hate us. It's so comforting knowing that the entire world is
against us, just like in the good old days.

Naturally there are no facts or research to corroborate this; however, life
experience has shown that human beings tend to love/hate other peoples for
various reasons, without any rules.

The associative luggage, the source of these sentiments, is usually a private
matter. The misbehavior of one tourist could tarnish the reputation of his
people in a specific area for years to come. Another tourist with a welcoming
demeanor and good manners could create a good reputation in that same place
for just as many years. It's such a human trait.

A short while ago, while in conversation with Samira, a receptionist at a
quiet Parisian hotel near Boulevard Saint Michel, I asked her to rank her
private list of love/hate towards hotel guests of different nationalities. The
young intelligent woman, who is the daughter of Algerian immigrants, didn't
hesitate for a moment.

'Brits drink like pigs'

At the top of her guest hate list were Russian tourists. They are nouveau
rich, loud and they behave as though they are entitled to everything because
of their money. Right on their heels were the English. They drink like pigs
and go wild. The Americans simply made her laugh with their questions that
demonstrated their total ignorance of European history and geography.

The Austrians, according to the receptionist, are cold, miserly and distant
people who do not laugh at a single one of her jokes "that make everyone else

What about us, I couldn't help asking, what about the Israelis? You are really
okay, she said without batting an eyelid. But that's natural. You are
Mediterranean. You are warm, clever and happy, she added. We have a lot of
Israeli tourists staying here, and I like them.

Samira's sampling is not statistically representative, it only represents
Samira, but it doesn't fall short of the case where the guesthouse proprietor
in Provence, who hates Israelis for various reasons we don't care to know
about, or the work of an Indian reporter with a one-sided view of the world
who collects materials and edits them according his worldview rather than

Nonetheless, there seems to be something very appealing in our eyes when
someone in the world thinks horrible things about us and slanders us and
boycotts us, among other things. What does this say about us?

Continued (Permanent Link)

PLO-appointed panel urges dissolution of gov't, early elections

Last update - 11:32 07/12/2006

PLO-appointed panel urges dissolution of gov't, early elections

By The Associated Press

A panel appointed by the Palestine Liberation Organization has recommended
that moderate Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, dissolve the
militant Hamas-led government and call new elections as early as March, an
official close to the president said.

Abbas sought the committee's recommendations after declaring last week that
his efforts to form a more moderate coalition government with Hamas had
reached a dead end.

Hamas' refusal to recognize Israel has provoked harsh international economic
sanctions, and Abbas hoped a new government would persuade the West and Israel
to get desperately needed funding flowing again.

Hamas defeated Abbas' Fatah party in parliamentary elections early this year.
Abbas, a moderate who favors peace talks with Israel, was elected separately
last year.

On Wednesday night, Abbas met with the committee for five hours to discuss the
options available to him, the official said, speaking on condition of
anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss private talks with the

Saeb Erekat, an Abbas confidant, said it was "premature to jump to any
conclusions about the options," but said Abbas would deliver a speech next
week outlining his course of action.

Abbas will meet on Saturday with the PLO's main decision-making body to
discuss strategy, Erekat said.

Hamas denounced the notion of early elections.

"Any step like that would be a circumvention of the decision of the
Palestinian people on Jan. 25, when they elected Hamas to be their
representative," said Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza.

"Our position remains unchanged: We are opening the door to talks to achieve
an agreement on a unity government," Barhoum said. "It is Fatah that is
stopping these talks."

Abbas has two options if he concludes the current government cannot go on, and
a coalition government won't be formed. Early elections were one alternative,
another being to dissolve the government and try to form another Cabinet
without another round of balloting.

Both are problematic as far as Abbas is concerned, but the panel apparently
thinks early elections would be preferable.

Polls have signaled that Fatah, which is dogged by corruption and patronage,
would again lose to Hamas in new elections. But to avoid new balloting, Abbas
would have to win parliamentary approval for a new Cabinet - and that would be
unlikely because Hamas dominates the legislature.

Abbas is to meet with the PLO's main decision-making body, the executive
committee, to discuss whether to adopt the panel's recommendation, the
official said.

Abbas plans to present his decision in a speech next week to the Palestinian
people, the official said.

Continued (Permanent Link)

ADL: Iraq report 'gets it wrong' on Arab-Israeli peace process

Last update - 12:40 07/12/2006

ADL: Iraq report 'gets it wrong' on Arab-Israeli peace process

By Haaretz Service

The Anti-Defamation League on Thursday blasted the Iraq Study Group for
recommending the United States increase it involvement in the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict as part of its approach to stabilizing Iraq,
arguing there was no connection between the two issues.

"The Iraq Study Group gets it wrong when it comes to the Arab-Israeli
conflict. We reject the suggestion that there is a connection between finding
a solution to the war in Iraq and direct involvement of the U.S. in solving
the Arab-Israeli conflict based on the recommendations in the report," the ADL
said in a statement.

"The goal of resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict should stand on its own and
has always been a key objective of U.S. foreign policy. It would be a terrible
mistake to confuse the recent disintegration in Iraq with the decades-old
Arab-Israeli conflict," it added.

The report "prejudges the outcome of negotiations between Israel, the
Palestinians, Syria and Lebanon" and "waters down the international
community?s clear preconditions for any negotiations between the Palestinians
and Israel," the ADL said in its statement adding, "The report's specific
recommendations, such as the return of the Golan Heights to Syria, should be
left to final-status negotiations and not dictated to them by outside

The group also criticized the report for neglecting to call for a "total
rejection of a nuclear Iran, because a nuclear Iran would do more to
destabilize the region and undermine America?s interests than any other single

The ADL praised the report, however, for reiterating the "enduring American
commitment to its key ally in the region" and for "acknowledging the Israeli
desire for peace."

Continued (Permanent Link)

PM rejects linkage of Iraq war, Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Last update - 13:06 07/12/2006

PM rejects linkage of Iraq war, Israeli-Palestinian conflict
By Shmuel Rosner, Akiva Eldar and Yoav Stern, Haaretz Correspondents

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Thursday rejected linkage of the Iraqi war with
the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by the Iraq Study Group, a day after the
bipartisan commission issued its comprehensive report on the Iraq War.

"The attempt to create linkage between the Iraqi issue and the Mideast issue -
we have a different view," Olmert said in his first response to the report
issued Wednesday by the Iraq Study Group.

One of the major conclusions of the study group is that the United States is
unable to achieve its goals in the Middle East without direct involvement in
the Arab-Israeli conflict.

The bipartisan panel is recommending that talks involving Israel, Syria,
Lebanon and the Palestinians are held within a "Madrid Conference framework,"
referring to the 1991 summit convened by then U.S. president George H.W. Bush,
in the wake of the 1991 Gulf War, which triggered the Israeli-Palestinian
peace process.

But Olmert said Thursday that conditions were not ripe to reopen talks with
Syria, adding that he received no indications from U.S. President George W.
Bush during his recent visit to Washington that the U.S. would push Israel to
start such talks.

Syrian President Bashar Assad has called in recent months for a new round of
talks with Israel, but Olmert has rejected them out of hand.

"The question of what Israel can offer Syria has been raised before. The
question is, what can we get from the Syrians if enter negotiations," the
prime minister said.

He said, however, that Israel wants "with all our might" to restart peace
talks with the Palestinians. He rejected suggestions that Israel's recent
cease-fire with Palestinian militants in Gaza would simply allow the militants
to rearm and regroup for another round of fighting, saying that Israel would
not allow that to happen.

He said that despite occasional rocket attacks by Gaza militants at Israel,
"we will continue to show restraint."

The prime minister also welcomed a peace initiative put forward by Saudi
Arabia, saying it contains "interesting elements that should not be ignored."

Addressing the controversy over Iran's nuclear ambitions, Olmert reiterated
Israel's position that it will not tolerate a nuclear Iran, but will not take
unilateral action, preferring that the dispute should be settled by the
international community as a whole.

He also reiterated his support for the U.S. war in Iraq, a position that
caused some controversy during his U.S. trip last month.
"We always felt, like other nations in our region, that the removal of Saddam
Hussein was a major, major contribution to stability of our part of the
world," he said.

Olmert's office said Wednesday that it is unlikely that Bush would alter his
Middle East policy with regard to Israel, despite the recommendations of the
bipartisan advisory panel, headed by former secretary of state James Baker and
former Democratic Congressman Lee Hamilton.

Sources at the Prime Minister's Office said Wednesday night that Olmert is not
unduly concerned with the report because in his recent meeting with Bush at
the White House, he was promised that the U.S. would not divert from the
principles of its policy in dealing with terrorist groups and in countering
the Iranian nuclear program.

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, however, welcomed the U.S. commission's
call for a comprehensive peace. "We welcome this report and we hope the U.S.
administration will translate it into deeds. Our region needs peace and
dialogue," Erekat said Thursday.

The committee presented its report to Bush on Wednesday, offering
recommendations on policy regarding the quagmire in Iraq.

The main recommendations of the report deal with U.S. policy in Iraq, and call
for shifting the primary role of American forces there from fighting to
training the Iraqi military. The panel also recommends diminishing the number
of American soldiers deployed in Iraq.

The report described the situation in Iraq as "dire" and "deteriorating."

In relation to Israel, the Baker-Hamilton panel is recommending talks along
two main axes: Syria-Lebanon and the Palestinians.

The committee sets the conditions Damascus must fulfill to be considered an
effective interlocutor, some of which are similar to those posed by the Bush
administration to the Assad regime in exchange for dialogue.

The U.S. continues to demand that Syria avoid interference in Lebanon's
domestic affairs; that it cooperate in the investigation of the murder of
former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri; that it cease all assistance to
Hezbollah and undertake efforts to persuade Hamas to recognize Israel's right
to exist.

At the same time, the panel concludes that Israel must return the Golan
Heights to Syria as part of a peace treaty, and says that in exchange Israel
will be granted security guarantees from the United States on this front.

Regarding the Palestinians, the Baker-Hamilton report concludes that talks on
a final settlement should be held, so that a two-state solution in line with
Bush's ideas can be achieved.

The committee also urged the Bush administration to give its full backing to
Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, and to try and further talks on
the creation of a Palestinian national unity government.

The panel briefly touched on the question of the Iranian nuclear program, and
its main recommendation is that the issue should continue to be handled by the
United Nations Security Council. It also suggests that efforts should be made
to convince Iran to contribute to the stabilization of the situation in Iraq
through regional support groups - which the Baker-Hamilton panel suggests
should be set up.

Responding to the bipartisan panel's mention of Syria and talks with Israel,
the official Syrian news agency, SANA, focused on the Golan Heights issue in
its reports Wednesday.

The news agency highlighted the group's recommendation that the U.S.
administration press Israel to restore the Golan Heights to Syria as part of a
peace agreement.

Syria's Vice President Farouk al-Shara said Wednesday that Damascus is
interested in a peace process that will restore the Golan Heights to Syria
"all the way back to the lines of 4 June, 1967.

"A peace process that will not achieve this goal is unacceptable," the Syrian
official said.

Al-Shara also said that both Iran and Syria should be involved in solving the
crisis in Iraq, in response to the Baker-Hamilton report's recommendation that
Tehran and Damascus should be engaged to contribute toward stabilizing Iraq.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Mastermind of 2002 Netanya hotel bombing on Hamas list for prisoner exchange

Last update - 10:09 07/12/2006

Mastermind of 2002 Netanya hotel bombing on Hamas list for prisoner exchange

By Avi Issacharoff and Amos Harel, Haaretz Correspondents and AP

Hamas has recently prepared a list of leading Palestinians held in Israeli
prisons that the organization will demand in a possible deal for the exchange
of abducted Israel Defense Force soldier Gilad Shalit.

So far, both sides have reached agreement through Egyptian mediation, over the
framework of the deal; however they have not finalized the number and
identities of the prisoners to be released.

Among those whose release Hamas intends to demand is Abbas Sayed, the
mastermind of the massacre at the Park Hotel in Netanya over Passover in 2002,
in which 29 civilians were killed.

The military censor allowed the release Wednesday of a report prepared by an
IDF investigating team regarding the raid and abduction of two IDF reservists
along the northern front by Hezbollah guerrillas in July. The report
concluded, on the basis of physical evidence at the site of the attack, that
Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser were seriously injured during the attack.

According to the assessments made in the report, one of the two suffered
critical injuries, although the report left the identity of the individual

At this time, Israel and Hamas are holding indirect negotiations on the
central details of the Shalit deal. Sources familiar with the developments say
that if progress is achieved, it is likely that the first stage of the deal
will take place in a few weeks.

Early Wednesday, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak told reporters negotiations
for Shalit's freedom are "are in their final stage and waiting for Hamas
approval" but added, "it seems that there other parties who are intervening
against the interest of the Palestinian people." He did not elaborate.

The deal is intended to take place in three stages: In the first, Israel is
expected to release about 400 prisoners, among them women, minors and
prisoners suffering from health problems. A short while later, or parallel to
the initial release, Shalit would be released to Israel.

In the second stage, following the release of Shalit, another large group of
Palestinian prisoner would be released. In the third stage, another group of
prisoners, considered "heavy duty" figures, would be freed. These include
senior members of terrorist organizations, including individuals with "blood
on their hands."

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has hinted recently that he would agree to the
release of some prisoners who had been involved in attacks that claimed the
lives of Israelis. Nonetheless, the identity of the prisoners who would be
released is still unclear; there is some debate over the number and identity
of the prisoners who would be freed.

For its part, Hamas is demanding that 400 prisoners be freed in the first part
of the deal, and 500 each in the two subsequent parts of the exchange. Israel
would like to limit that figure.

However, a senior Israeli source said this week that it is possible that
Israel will agree to the release of as many as 1,000 Palestinians.

Palestinian sources told Haaretz yesterday that topping the list of those
Hamas wants released, is Sheikh Hassan Yusef, among the leaders of the
organization in the West Bank.

Yusef, a resident of Bitunia, near Ramallah, was jailed for his membership in
a terrorist organization.

Next in line is Sheikh Mohammed Jamal Natshe, from Hebron. He is also among
the leaders of the Hamas political wing in the West Bank.

Also high on the Hamas list is Jamal Abu Hija, who headed the group in the
Jenin region.

Another whose release Hamas will demand is Yahiye Sanuar, among the founders
of Hamas and its special security arm, a resident of Khan Yunis, and brother
of Mohammed Sanuar, considered to be one of the heads of Izz al-Din al-Qassam,
the military arm of the organization, and one of those believed to have been
involved in the abduction of Gilad Shalit.

Sanuar has been in prison for nearly 20 years, having been sentenced for the
murder of Palestinians suspected of collaborating with Israel. He is not
considered to have "bloodied his hands" in terrorism against Israelis.

The jailed leader of Tanzim, Marwan Barghouti, is also on the list, as is the
Secretary General of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Ahmed
Sa'adat, held for his alleged role in the assassination of former minister
Rehavam Ze'evi, but sentenced for other violations.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Abandon the notion of a binational state in Palestine

Abandon the notion of a binational state in Palestine
By Raafat Dajani
Commentary by
Thursday, December 07, 2006

As progress toward a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
stalls, an old idea has gained increased currency in some circles, that of one
binational state for both Israelis and Palestinians. There are a number of
variations on this argument, but proponents essentially call for foregoing the
concept of two distinct national entities. Instead, they advocate that
Israelis and Palestinians share the land between the Mediterranean Sea and the
Jordan River.

The idea of a binational state is not a new one. Several prominent Jewish
intellectuals in mandatory Palestine between the two world wars advocated such
an arrangement, though they had little political influence. Originally, the
Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) advocated the establishment of a
democratic Palestinian Arab state in all of mandatory Palestine, with Jews as
citizens of this state. In 1987, the PLO and the Palestinian National Council
formally embraced the two-state solution, calling for the establishment of a
Palestinian state in all of the territories occupied by Israel in 1967. This
continues to be the position of the PLO and Palestinian President Mahmoud

The recent resurgence in discussion about the binational concept is
essentially due to the lack of movement toward a negotiated two-state
solution, coupled with what are deemed irrevocable Israeli facts on the ground
in the Occupied Territories, making the possibility of a viable and
independent Palestinian state remote.

What makes the one-state argument seductive is that it sounds theoretically
reasonable. Israeli facts on the ground, primarily settlements, control of
vital resources, and the appropriation of critical parts of a future
Palestinian state, including East Jerusalem, through the separation barrier,
are serious challenges to the two-state concept. The idea of "one man, one
vote" is fundamentally democratic. The land in question is small and the two
societies are intertwined to some extent.

But however well intentioned proponents of a binational state are, their
argument suffers from fatal flaws. The first is that international support for
the idea barely exists. By and large the international community, including
the United States, the United Nations, the European Union and the Arab League,
support a two-state solution. More importantly, most Palestinians continue to
desire to express their national aspirations in an independent state of their
own where they will not be second-class citizens.

On the Israeli side, the binational idea, predictably, has no support. To
assume that Israeli Jews would willingly give up on the idea of a Jewish state
is to show lack of understanding of the existential need of Jews for a state
of their own after centuries of persecution, culminating in the Holocaust. To
Israelis and Jews, a binational state means a state where they will be a
minority, equating in their eyes calls for their destruction.

For Palestinians, the danger of talking now about a one-state solution is that
it diverts critically needed energies from the still-achievable goal of two
states. It also seeks to destroy decades of work toward achieving
international recognition for a Palestinian state, returning Palestinians to
square one. Since it is unrealistic to assume that Israelis will willingly
give up on the idea of a Jewish state, the one-state proposal condemns the two
peoples to decades of conflict in the pursuit of an unachievable goal.

Even if such a state were to miraculously come into being, Palestinians would
very likely form an underclass in it. Worse, with such a bitter history of
violence between Arabs and Jews, it is easy to foresee a degeneration of their
relations into inter-communal conflict.

What is required at present is a refocusing of efforts toward surmounting the
challenges facing a two-state solution, the parameters of which are well known
and have been accepted by all parties: a Palestinian state based on the 1967
borders with its capital in East Jerusalem, and a negotiated settlement of the
refugee issue. In terms of Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian
territory, though these are all illegal under international law, it is also
recognized that some Israeli settlement blocs, accounting for 4-5 percent of
the West Bank, could be incorporated into Israel as part of a negotiated and
equitable land swap. The rest of the settlers would return to Israel proper.
Negotiations and the application of political power can separate settlers from
the settlements and bring down walls. This is achievable because a majority of
Israelis realizes that the settlement enterprise has been an obstacle to

Time is running out on a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
That's why Israelis, Palestinians and the US need to shoulder their
responsibilities to create a viable and contiguous Palestinian state living
alongside Israel in peace. Such a state is the only way to fulfill Palestinian
national aspirations and address Israel's security and integration into the
Middle East.

Achieving a two-state solution is admittedly difficult, but replacing it with
something far less achievable is not the answer. The alternative to two states
is continued and expanding conflict with the real danger of degeneration into
a holy war between Muslims and Jews. At the end of that fight, there will be
neither one nor two states.

Raafat Dajani is executive director of the Washington-based American Task
Force on Palestine. He wrote this commentary for THE DAILY STAR

Continued (Permanent Link)

Professor Kenneth Stein Resigns from Carter Center: Carter's book is "replete with falsehoods"

Professor Kenneth Stein has resigned from the Carter Center because of former President Carter's execrable book about Israel and the Middle East conflict. Stein was in fact the first director of the Carter Center (1983-1986). Stein is a well known authority on the Middle East, and in the past was a close collaborator with Carter.
Following is the text of a letter he sent regarding his resignation. It speaks for itself. Stein describes the book as "replete with falsehoods." (Emphasis in the text added by Israel News).
This note is to inform you that yesterday, I sent letters to President Jimmy Carter, Emory University President Jim Wagner, and Dr. John Hardman, Executive Director of the Carter Center resigning my position, effectively immediately, as Middle East Fellow of the Carter Center of Emory University. This ends my 23 year association with an institution that in some small way I helped shape and develop. My joint academic position in Emory College in the History and Political Science Departments, and, as Director of the Emory Institute for the Study of Modern Israel remains unchanged.

Many still believe that I have an active association with the Center and, act as an adviser to President Carter, neither is the case. President Carter has intermittently continued to come to the Arab-Israeli Conflict class I teach in Emory College. He gives undergraduate students a fine first hand recollection of the Begin-Sadat negotiations of the late 1970s. Since I left the Center physically thirteen years ago, the Middle East program of the Center has waned as has my status as a Carter Center Fellow. For the record, I had nothing to do with the research, preparation, writing, or review of President Carter's recent publication. Any material which he used from the book we did together in 1984, The Blood of Abraham, he used unilaterally.

President Carter's book on the Middle East, a title too inflammatory to even print, is not based on unvarnished analyses; it is replete with factual errors, copied materials not cited, superficialities, glaring omissions, and simply invented segments. Aside from the one-sided nature of the book, meant to provoke, there are recollections cited from meetings where I was the third person in the room, and my notes of those meetings show little similarity to points claimed in the book. Being a former President does not give one a unique privilege to invent information or to unpack it with cuts, deftly slanted to provide a particular outlook. Having little access to Arabic and Hebrew sources, I believe, clearly handicapped his understanding and analyses of how history has unfolded over the last decade. Falsehoods, if repeated often enough become meta-truths, and they then can become the erroneous baseline for shaping and reinforcing attitudes and for policy-making. The history and interpretation of the Arab-Israeli conflict is already drowning in half-truths, suppositions, and self-serving myths; more are not necessary. In due course, I shall detail these points and reflect on their origins.

The decade I spent at the Carter Center (1983-1993) as the first permanent Executive Director and as the first Fellow were intellectually enriching for Emory as an institution, the general public, the interns who learned with us, and for me professionally. Setting standards for rigorous interchange and careful analyses spilled out to the other programs that shaped the Center's early years. There was mutual respect for all views; we carefully avoided polemics or special pleading. This book does not hold to those standards. My continued association with the Center leaves the impression that I am sanctioning a series of egregious errors and polemical conclusions which appeared in President Carter's book. I can not allow that impression to stand.

Through Emory College, I have continued my professional commitment to inform students and the general public about the history and politics of Israel, the Middle East, and American policies toward the region. I have tried to remain true to a life-time devotion to scholarly excellence based upon unvarnished analyses and intellectual integrity. I hold fast to the notion that academic settings and those in positions of influence must teach and not preach. Through Emory College, in public lectures, and in OPED writings, I have adhered to the strong belief that history must presented in context, and understood the way it was, not the way we wish it to be.

In closing, let me thank you for your friendship, past and continuing support for ISMI, and to Emory College. Let me also wish you and your loved ones a happy holiday season, and a healthy and productive new year.

As ever,

Dr. Kenneth W. Stein,
Professor of Contemporary Middle Eastern History, Political Science,
and Israeli Studies,
Director, Middle East Research Program and
Emory Institute for the Study of Modern Israel
Atlanta, Georgia

Continued (Permanent Link)

The fault of the Left

The Guilt of the Left
Tzivia Greenfeld (Grinfeld)
Translated by Ami Isseroff for Zionism-Israel News
The lost moral compass of Israeli society is expressed in the corrupt behavior of the leadership, in the disintegration of government and social institutions, in the unabashed refusal of failed leaders to take responsibility, and in general in the amazing absence of leadership that results in the appontment of dangerous dangerous megalomaniacs as saviors. This loss of moral compass might be prevented or at least ameliorated, if there was a clear ideological alternative in Israel with which citizens could identify, and which could be used as the starting point for substantive change.
The problem is that even though the citizens of Israel understand that we are in a crisis that is perhaps unprecedented in the short history of the state, they cannot discern any reasonable alternatives for managing society and the state, which can earn their whole-hearted support. The blame, one must say with heavy heart, must be ascribed wholly to the left.
Since the disappointment with Stalin and the decolonization period of the 1960s, expecially in France, the left began to deal obsessively with justification of third world countries who are supposedly in rebellion against modern-western hegemony, and lost all interest in other poor people and people who lack rights anywhere else in the world.
 How typical it is of leftists like Yitzhak Laor or Meron Benvenisti to ignore the rights of the homo-lesbian minority (a typical western minority of course) in the name of the supposedly higher priority needs of the ultraorthox "Haredi" Jews or the Palestinians. How characteristic of the "Gallery" supplement of "Ha'aretz" newspaper to glory in radical leftist theoretical critique, and in precisely the same pages, to advertise reports that unabashedly nurture preoccupation with dizzying luxury products of the upper one thousandth income bracket.     
This process of focusing on non-modern minorities sucked in most of the Israeli left, that began to become confused between our essential, human and moral duty to end the occupation immediately, and to stop preventing the Palestinians from realizing their rights to an independent and prosperous life, and their immediate and almost unlimited advocacy and political and emotional empathy for all the [violent] doings of the Palestinians. True, the Palestinians are under occupation, and until the problem of the occupation is solved, we cannot expect them to stop hurding us. And we had better understand that basic principle before our supposedly mis-aimed shells exterminate the children of Gaza, and their Qassam rockets and cruel terror attacks kill our children. But  too many of the left have a childish need to portray the oppressed Palestinian side as absolutely perfect, and the oppressing Israeli side as the incarnation of evil. This has caused the left to fail to understand the tremendous complexity of the historical situation in which Israel finds itself today. The left has therefore completely lost the confidence of the broad masses of the Israeli public.  
It is not easy today to find Zionist leftists who really believe that the right of the Jews to their own country, here in the land of their forefathers, is completely equal to the right of the Palestinians. The Israeli left has become a factor that explicitly or implicitly no longer believes in the right of the Jewish state to exist. True, as opposed to the feverish approach that characterizes the nationalist right, there is no longer a need to set up the state. But that doesn't mean that it is no longer necessary to defend its legitimacy, and too many of today's Israeli left doubt the fundamental justice of the existence of the Jewish state.
If a responsible political approach were offered to the Israeli public, one that believes on the one hand absolutely in our human right to live here in liberty, and to be "a free people in our own land, in the land of Zion and Jerusalem," and that on the other hand declares - despite the recognition that returning all of the occupied territories will not materially change the basic hostility to Israel -- that there is no practical and moral way to live here without ending the occupation and securing the rights of all the citizens of the state, if such an approach were presented - it is likely that the public would finally discern an alternative ideological and polical solution  to the crisis, and would support it.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Peace Index: November 2006: 27% Ceasefire will bring calm, 57% oppose reoccupying Gaza if only way to stop Qassams


Peace Index: November 2006
Prof. Ephraim Yaar and Prof. Tamar Hermann

Expectations that the present ceasefire will lead to calm in the region are
very low, apparently because of the prevailing view in the Israeli-Jewish
public that the Palestinians will most likely violate the truce. It is
commonly believed that Israel agreed to the ceasefire-even though its real
implication is negotiating with Hamas-because the military measures that
were taken did not stop the Qassam fire. At the same time, a clear majority
rejects the idea that Israel should reoccupy the Gaza Strip even if it is
the only way to end the shelling. Moreover, now as in the past we found
broad support for holding talks with the Palestinian Authority despite the
fact that only a minority believes it would eventually lead to a peace

There is sweeping criticism, cutting across the camps, for how the
government has dealt with the residents of Sderot and the other communities
subjected to Qassam fire. Nevertheless, the majority rejects the idea of
evacuating the Sderot residents from their homes, or evacuating just their
children. Given the criticism of the government's failures, it is no
surprise that the majority supports the involvement of businesspeople like
Arkady Gaydamak in giving aid to the residents, although there is
disagreement about their motives. Essentially, though, a broad consensus
believes it is the state and not civic bodies that should tend to a wide
variety of social needs.

When it comes to assessing the role of major institutions, governmental and
extragovernmental, in terms of their contribution to Israeli society, it
turns out the public clearly distinguishes between institutions it sees as
doing more harm than good and vice versa. The institutions whose
contribution was seen as more positive than negative included the
universities, the civil society organizations, the IDF, and the High Court
of Justice; the political parties, the Knesset, the banks, and the Chief
Rabbinate are seen as playing more of a negative role. For two institutions,
the police and the media, the assessments are quite balanced with a slight
leaning to the positive side.

Those are the main findings of the Peace Index survey that was carried out
on 28-29 November 2006.

On the question of whether the tadiyah-the ceasefire that the Palestinian
organizations declared in Gaza in exchange for a ceasefire by Israel-will
indeed bring calm to the region, 71% of the Jewish interviewees said they
did not believe so at all (43%) or not very much (28%). Conversely, 27%
responded that they very much (4%) or moderately (23%) believe this will
happen (2% did not know). As for whether Israel agreed to the ceasefire,
even though it really means holding negotiations with the Palestinians,
because Israel's military measures did not stop the Qassam fire, half the
interviewees thought that was the case whereas 39% disagreed (the rest had
no opinion).

Does this mean there is support for reoccupying Gaza if, as various elements
claim, that is indeed the only way to stop the Qassams? The findings reveal
that only about one-third (36%) favor a reoccupation while the
majority-57%-oppose it. Only among voters for Shas and for Torah Judaism is
there a majority for supporters of reoccupying Gaza; among National
Religious Party/National Union voters there is an almost even split with a
slight lead for opponents of reoccupying.

What, then, does the public see as the way out of the maze if it neither
supports reoccupation nor believes the ceasefire will survive? As in the
past, we found that some 70% favor renewing negotiations while 27% oppose
it. Yet here, too, belief in the results is low: only about one-third think
the negotiations, if renewed, would eventually lead to the signing of a
peace treaty.

Despite recent allegations, it seems the public is not at all indifferent to
the plight of the residents of the Qassam-bombarded areas, as emerges from
how it views attempts to address their problems. There is almost total
unanimity-82.5%-that the government's approach to protecting and assisting
the southern residents is ill-considered. Less than 2% think the approach is
very appropriate and 11.5% see it as moderately so. Voters for the National
Religious Party/National Union, Meretz, and Likud are particularly critical,
with almost no one among them thinking the government has dealt with the
matter as it should.
Given that interviewees both expect the ceasefire to collapse and reject a
reoccupation of Gaza, we asked them about the possibility of evacuating the
residents of Sderot and its environs from their homes if the Qassam fire
continues, in the knowledge that the Palestinians would view this as an
achievement. The findings show that only less than one-quarter favor the
idea and an overwhelming majority of 71.5% oppose it. Among the opponents, a
majority did not think even the children should be evacuated. Note that a
segmentation of the responses by the criterion of parenthood shows that, in
fact, among childless people the rate of supporters of evacuating the Sderot
and other residents (30%) is higher than among interviewees who do have
children (22%). A similar pattern, though with smaller disparities, emerges
for evacuating the children among those who oppose evacuating all the
residents. A possible explanation for this finding is that families with
children have greater awareness and sensitivity of the difficulties of
uprooting and adjustment entailed in removal from one's place of residence.
When responses to the question of an evacuation were segmented by gender, it
turned out that women favored an evacuation more than men, whether an
evacuation of all the residents (30.5% vs. 15%, respectively) or only of the
children among the opponents of evacuating all the residents (32% and 23%,

The gloomy view of the government's treatment of the residents leads 63% of
the public to agree that if the state is not fulfilling its role, then it is
fitting for wealthy people like Arkady Gaydamak to finance initiatives such
as temporarily putting up the Sderot residents in hotels. At the same time,
the public is not naןve and only 38% think Gaydamak acted out of a genuine
desire to help while 32% say his aim was to strengthen his own public
standing. The rest are divided between 18% who thought he acted out of both
motives combined and 12% who lack a definite opinion. A clear majority of
those who credit Gaydamak with a genuine desire to help was found among Shas
voters, and there were smaller majorities for this view among Likud,
National Religious Party, and Yisrael Beiteinu voters. Only among Meretz
voters did a majority claim that Gaydamak financed these initiatives to
advance his own personal objectives.

None of this means the Israeli public supports a "privatization" of services
for citizens. Over three-quarters-79%-agreed that the state should tend to a
wide variety of social needs with only 12% saying the state should greatly
limit its involvement in these matters and let voluntary civic organizations
deal with them. Somewhat surprisingly, a higher rate of preference for a
government role in addressing social needs was found among those with
higher-than-average income-84%, compared to 76.5% among those with
lower-than-average income. Presumably, this gap reflects the unsuccessful
experience of the weaker groups, which need more assistance from the state,
with the aid that various governmental agencies have provided them both in
the recent war and generally over the years, as poverty has deepened. They
apparently received more satisfactory assistance from the civic
organizations. There is support for this assumption in the above-noted
relatively positive view of the civic organizations compared to the state

In keeping with the findings of the Peace Index surveys and other polls in
recent months, the public generally does not view the country's various
political establishments positively. Sixty-nine percent assess the political
parties' contribution to the state as more negative than positive, and 61.5%
say the same about the Knesset. Nor do other establishments come out "clean":
59.5% see the banks' contribution as more negative than positive, and 43%
take that view of the Chief Rabbinate, 35% the opposite. However, 78% of the
public think the IDF contributes more that is positive than negative, as do
77% regarding the universities and 71% regarding the civil society
organizations. The High Court of Justice won a positive assessment of 57%.
Opinions of the police are less clear-cut, with 47% assessing its
contribution as more positive and 44% as more negative. Also for the media
there is a slight lead-44% vs. 42.5%-on the positive side.

The peace indexes for this month were:
Oslo Index: 35.8 (Jewish sample: 33)
Negotiation Index: 53.1 (Jewish sample: 49.4)
Syria Index: 34.6 (Jewish sample: 30.2)

The Peace Index Project is conducted at the Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace
Research and the Evens Program in Mediation and Conflict Resolution of Tel
Aviv University, headed by Prof. Ephraim Yaar and Prof. Tamar Hermann. The
telephone interviews were conducted by the B. I. Cohen Institute of Tel Aviv
University 28-29 November 2006, and included 598 interviewees who represent
the adult Jewish and Arab population of Israel (including the territories
and the kibbutzim). The sampling error for a sample of this size is about

For the data of the survey see:

IMRA - Independent Media Review and Analysis

Continued (Permanent Link)

A Candidate Abroad, or an Innocent Abroad?

December 6, 2006
Memo From France
A Candidate Abroad, or an Innocent Abroad?
PARIS, Dec. 5 - The Middle East can be a dangerous place for the diplomatic

So perhaps it was inevitable that Ségolène Royal, the Socialist nominee in
next April's presidential election, would stumble when she ventured to the
region on her first foreign trip since she was chosen as her party's candidate
two weeks ago.

The five-day trip to Lebanon, Jordan, the Palestinian territories and Israel
was intended to counter criticism even within her own party that she lacks
foreign policy experience. Instead, she opened herself up to a new wave of
criticism from the French right that she has a long way to go to prove her
credentials in foreign affairs.

But Ms. Royal also appeared to gain support from the Israeli leadership, which
ignored her missteps and focused on her tight embrace. She staked out a
position as a staunch defender of Israel, supporting its right to construct a
security barrier on the West Bank and opposing any nuclear power program,
however peaceful, in Iran.

In one sense, she seems to be trying to establish her independence from the
traditional Arab-leaning foreign policy of the French left, a strategy that
may backfire with her most fervent supporters.

She also seems to be portraying herself as even more pro-Israeli than Interior
Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, who is expected to become the nominee of the
governing Union for a Popular Movement and has vowed to promote Israel's
security interests and halt Iran's nuclear ambitions if he becomes president.

"You have in front of you the only French political figure who has clearly
taken a stand against Iran's access to civil nuclear power," Ms. Royal told
reporters on Monday at a news conference in Jerusalem. "This will be my
position if I am elected president of the republic."

That stand, which she first expressed in a debate during the primary campaign,
is even more rigid than that of the Bush administration, which accepts the
completion of Iran's first nuclear reactor by Russia. Even Israel does not
call for a halt to the plant, in Bushehr, a southern port.

On Tuesday, the French foreign minister, Philippe Douste-Blazy, accused her of
contradicting official French policy on Iran and undermining the Nuclear
Nonproliferation Treaty, which allows signatories like Iran to develop nuclear
energy for peaceful purposes. "To question Iran's right to obtain civilian
nuclear energy, and I stress civilian, as Ms. Royal has done, amounts to
calling into question the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which has been
signed by almost every country in the world," Mr. Douste-Blazy said at a news

As for Ms. Royal's stance on Israel's construction of a security barrier, she
characterized its route as a "problem" but otherwise supported the project.

"When this is necessary for security, I believe that construction is without
doubt justified," she said.

She also seemed to be learning along the way. As she embarked on her trip, she
said it was important to "talk to everyone." By the time she arrived in
Israel, however, she declared that there should be no contact with Hamas, the
militant governing Palestinian party.

In Lebanon, she called for an end to flights by Israeli warplanes over French
peacekeeping positions in southern Lebanon. By the time she got to Israel, she
said the ones that were still being conducted were justified.

Despite her lack of foreign policy expertise, Ms. Royal is not lacking in
confidence. In Beirut on Friday, she offered to play the role of "facilitator"
to resolve the crisis in Lebanon. And at the news conference in Jerusalem on
Monday, which followed a 45-minute meeting with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert,
she boasted, "The way in which I was welcomed was exceptional."

Yet her bravado could not disguise her gaffes early in the visit when she met
with Lebanese parliamentary deputies, among them Ali Ammar, a member of the
pro-Syrian, Iranian-backed Hezbollah.

"The Nazism that has spilt our blood and usurped our independence and our
sovereignty is no less evil than the Nazi occupation of France," Mr. Ammar
reportedly told Ms. Royal. He also attacked the "unlimited dementia of the
American administration" and called Israel the "Zionist entity."

Ms. Royal replied that she agreed "with a lot of things that you have said,
notably your analysis of the United States." She defended Israel, calling it
not an "entity" but a sovereign state that had the right to security. She did
not comment on the Nazi reference.

Questioned by journalists about her criticism of the United States, she
clarified her position, saying she had only meant to be critical of American
policy in Iraq, not the "the wider policies of the United States."

Asked a day later about the Nazi remark, she said she had not heard it, saying
it was a problem of interpretation. "If that comparison had been made, we
would have left the room," she said.

Her performance gave ample ammunition to the French right.

François Fillon, Mr. Sarkozy's chief political adviser, chastised Ms. Royal
for meeting with a representative of Hezbollah, while the defense minister,
Michèle Alliot-Marie, who may challenge Mr. Sarkozy for the nomination on the
right, suggested that Mr. Royal was endangering French troops and residents in

On Monday, Mr. Sarkozy himself entered the fray. "Ms. Royal has triggered a
very serious controversy, and I am not sure that this one was worth it," he
said. "The situation there is already extremely complicated. So it is
necessary to act with great moderation, with a great sense of responsibility,
of skill."

Ms. Royal has refused to accept criticism. "I have committed neither a faux
pas nor a gaffe," she said, adding that "nobody" would stop her from
"continuing to talk with democratically elected representatives."

It is too early to know whether Ms. Royal's debut in the Middle East signifies
"her audacity or her flightiness," a foreign affairs expert, Daniel Vernet,
wrote in Le Monde.

The more important question is how the voters will rate her performance.

"She wanted to show that she had the guts, the gumption and the stature of
starting her foreign excursions with the hardest one," said François
Heisbourg, director of the Foundation for Strategic Research in Paris. "How
that will play out with the electorate is an unknown at this point. Her lack
of experience really shows."

Continued (Permanent Link)

The danger of engaging with the enemy

The danger of engaging with the enemy
By Jeff Jacoby, Boston Globe Columnist - December 6, 2006

SHOULD THE United States turn to Iran and Syria for help in reducing the
violence bloodying Iraq? James Baker's Iraq Study Group, out this week with
its well-leaked recommendations, thinks direct talks with Tehran and
Damascus would be a fine idea. I think so too -- right after those
governments switch sides in the global jihad.

As things stand now, however, negotiating with Iran and Syria over the
future of Iraq is about as promising a strategy for preventing more
bloodshed as negotiating with Adolf Hitler over the future of Czechoslovakia
was in 1938. There were eminent "realists" then too, many of whom were
gung-ho for cutting a deal with the Fuehrer. As Neville Chamberlain set off
on the diplomatic mission that would culminate in Munich, William Shirer
recorded in "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich," Britain's poet laureate,
John Masefield, composed a paean in his honor . When the negotiations were
done and Czechoslovakia had been dismembered, the prime minister was hailed
as a national hero. The Nobel Committee received not one, not two, but 10
nominations proposing Chamberlain for the 1939 peace prize.

Chamberlain and his admirers had been certain that Munich would bring "peace
in our time." Instead it helped pave the way for war.

How many times does the lesson have to be relearned? There is no appeasing
the unappeasable. When democracies engage with fanatical tyrants, the world
becomes not less dangerous but more so.

That wasn't the fashionable view in 1938, however, and it isn't popular
today. According to a new World Public Opinion poll, 75 percent of Americans
agree that to stabilize Iraq, the United States should enter into talks with
Iran and Syria. "I believe in talking to your enemies," James Baker
declares. "I don't think you restrict your conversations to your friends."

But with totalitarian regimes like those in Iran and Syria, the effect of
such "conversations" is usually negative. It buys time and legitimacy for
the totalitarians, while deepening their conviction that the West has no
stomach for a fight. No one was more pleased with Chamberlain's diplomacy
than Hitler, for it proved that Germany was in the saddle, riding the
democracies -- that the momentum was with Berlin, while London and Paris
were flailing. The Baker panel's recommendations will bring similar
satisfaction to Tehran and Damascus.

Shortly after 9/11, President Bush famously declared that every nation "now
has a decision to make: Either you are with us, or you are with the
terrorists." At every step of the way, Iran and Syria have unambiguously
been with the terrorists.

As the world's foremost sponsors of radical Islamic violence, the State
Department reported in April, "Iran and Syria routinely provide unique safe
haven, substantial resources, and guidance to terrorist organizations."
While the Assad regime engineers the assassination of Lebanese politicians,
Iran's rabid president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, calls openly for "death to
America" and demands that Israel be "wiped off the map."

Syria was Saddam Hussein's most dependable Middle East ally, and almost from
the moment the Iraqi insurgency began it was clear that Damascus was pouring
fuel on the fire. Iran, too, works overtime to intensify the Iraqi
bloodshed. ABC News reported last week on the discovery of "smoking-gun
evidence of Iranian support for terrorists in Iraq: brand-new weapons fresh
from Iranian factories." Among the finds: "advanced IEDs designed to pierce
armor and anti-tank weapons." In other words, to murder US troops.

No regimes on earth have more to gain from an American defeat in Iraq than
the theocracy in Iran and the Assad dictatorship in Syria. They have every
incentive to aggravate the Iraqi turmoil that has so many Americans
clamoring for withdrawal. "There is no evidence to support the assumption
that Iran and Syria want a stable Iraq," writes Middle East Quarterly editor
Michael Rubin, whose experience in the region runs deep. "Rather, all their
actions show a desire to stymie the United States and destabilize their
neighbor. More dangerous still . . . is the naive assumption that making
concessions to terrorism or forcing others to do so brings peace rather than

The war against radical Islam, of which Iraq is but one front, cannot be won
so long as regimes like those in Tehran and Damascus remain in power. They
are as much our enemies today as the Nazi Reich was our enemy in an earlier
era. Imploring Assad and Ahmadinejad for help in Iraq can only intensify the
whiff of American retreat that is already in the air. The word for that
isn't realism. It's surrender..

Continued (Permanent Link)

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Hamas smuggled $66 million in 8 months through the Rafah border crossing

Hamas smuggled $66 million in 8 months
Khaled Abu Toameh, THE JERUSALEM POST Dec. 6, 2006

Hamas officials have managed to smuggle more than $66 million in cash
through the Rafah border crossing in the past eight
months, a member of the Hamas-led government revealed Wednesday.

Meanwhile, sources close to the Hamas-led government claimed that Hamas
representatives recently held talks with officials from the US Democratic
Party at a secret location.

The sources told the Bethlehem-based Maan News Agency that Hamas
representatives have also been holding secret talks with European government
officials, including Britain and France.

Palestinian Authority Planning Minister Samir Abu Aisheh of Hamas said the
cash that was brought by Hamas officials was handed over to the PA Finance
Ministry. He also revealed that the Hamas-led government has managed to pay
69% of the salaries to the PA's 160,000 civil servants during the same

Altogether, the Palestinians have received $318 million in international aid
since Hamas took over despite international sanctions imposed on the
Palestinians, the minister said, noting that most of the money was channeled
through the office of PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.

This is the first time that a senior Hamas official reveals the total sum of
money that has been smuggled into the Gaza Strip through the Rafah border
crossing. Several Hamas ministers, legislators and officials have managed to
suitcases full of millions of dollars through the border crossing.

The most recent case occurred last week, when PA Foreign Minister Mahmoud
Zahar returned from a 14-day Arab and Islamic tour carrying $20 million in
cash. A week earlier, two Hamas legislators arrived at the Rafah border
crossing each carrying $2 million in cash.

The report about contacts between Hamas and American and European officials
comes in the wake of the breakdown of negotiations between Hamas and Abbas's
Fatah party over the formation of a Palestinian unity government.

According to the report, Hamas has succeeded in convincing European
officials to accept the Islamist movement's plan for a long-term hudna
[truce] with Israel as a substitute for recognizing Israel's right to exist.

The report quoted sources close to Hamas as saying that the Europeans have
bought the idea of solving the Israeli-Arab conflict on the basis of a hudna
rather than the principle of land for peace.

The sources claimed that many European governments have shown interest in
"flexible" statements by some Hamas leaders lately, including remarks by
Syria-based Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal to the effect that his movement was
prepared to offer Israel a hudna in return for the establishment of an
independent Palestinian state on the entire West Bank, Gaza Strip and east

In another development, Abbas appears to have retracted his threat to
dismiss the Hamas-led government and call early elections. Only days after
he announced that the talks with Hamas over the formation of a unity
government had reached a
dead end, Abbas sent a message to Hamas expressing his desire to pursue his
efforts to establish a new coalition.

PA Deputy Prime Minister Nasser Eddin Shaer said Wednesday that Abbas's
message was relayed to Hamas through the director of the PA chairman's
bureau, Rafik Husseini.

Shaer said Hamas was prepared to resume the talks with Abbas from the point
where they stopped. "We don't want to go back to square one," he said. "We
want to move forward with the talks, not 10 steps backward. All what's left
now is to name the members of the new government."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Egyptian Blogger Abdelkareem Suleiman Arrested for Criticizing Al-Azhar Sheikhs

Special Dispatch-Egypt/Reform Project
December 7, 2006
No. 1382

Egyptian Blogger Abdelkareem Suleiman Arrested for Criticizing Al-Azhar
Sheikhs: "You Will End up in the Dustbin of History"

To view this Special Dispatch in HTML, visit: .

A Reporters Without Borders report released in early November 2006 showed
Egypt to be among the 13 countries with the gravest violations of freedom of
expression on the Internet. Shortly after the report's release, on November 6,
Egyptian blogger Abdelkareem Nabil Suleiman, known by his web pseudonym Kareem
Amer, was arrested.(1)

Abdelkareem Nabil Suleiman had attended Al-Azhar for elementary and secondary
school, in accordance with his parents' wishes. He wanted to pursue university
studies in biology, but family pressure forced him to abandon these studies
after two years and to enroll in the Department of Shari'a and Legal Studies
at Al-Azhar. In 2004, he began to write for the reformist website He also published articles on the Coptic website, as well as on his own blog,

In October 2005, Suleiman was arrested after he published an article on
Copt-Muslim confrontations in Alexandria, and was released 18 days later.(2)
In March 2006, he was summoned to appear before an Al-Azhar disciplinary
committee because of his Internet writings criticizing the role of religion in
Egypt. The committee decided to expel him from the university. About his
expulsion, Suleiman wrote: "Thus ended a black period in my life, which I
spent between the walls of the big prison known as 'The Al-Azhar
Institution.'"(3) In the last blog entry before his arrest, Suleiman harshly
criticized Al-Azhar, and predicted that he would be arrested for doing so.(4)

A petition calling for his release has been posted online by the HAMSA
organization ("Hands Across the Mideast Support Alliance"), an American Muslim
association for promoting civil rights in the Middle East. It is a branch of
the American Islamic Congress, a group established post-9/11 to promote
interfaith and interethnic understanding.(5)

Following are excerpts from Abdelkareem Suleiman's last article before his

Al-Azhar's Teachings "Contradict Reason and Incite to Violence Against People
of Other Beliefs"

"I started studying at Al-Azhar in accordance with my parents' wishes. Despite
my later absolute opposition to Al-Azhar and religious thought, and despite my
fiercely critical writing on religion's infiltration into public life, and
religion's control over people's behavior and their relations with others...
freeing myself from the bonds of being a former Al-Azhar University student
was not... an easy thing.

"When I received my liberty, in the form of my final expulsion papers from the
university in March, 2006, I thought that this would be the end of the matter,
and that the fact that I had received these papers was, for me, a certificate
of liberty from my Al-Azhar captivity and from Al-Azhar University, which
arbitrarily controls first the lives of its students, and, to varying degrees,
also the public and life in this country ...

"However, it seems that Al-Azhar's 'blessings' to its students cannot easily
be wiped out, and they continue to pursue the student like a shadow. A student
who finished high school at Al-Azhar cannot apply to any state university. I
attempted to do this several times this year and in previous years, before
they expelled me, but none of my attempts met with any success. It is enough
that you hold this infamous diploma [from Al-Azhar] for you to be unable to
study like other citizens in the country, who differ from you in that they
hold state high school diplomas.

"It seems that Al-Azhar's 'blessings' to its students are not limited to
preventing them from completing their studies far from Al-Azhar. What happened
to me, and what is going to happen to me in the coming days, clearly proves
that Al-Azhar's 'blessings' will not leave in peace a student who tries to
rise up against the university and oppose things he is forced to learn there -
things that contradict reason and incite to violence against people of other
beliefs - until he stands at the edge of his grave... or until he enters the
prison gates. And it seems that this is what I am about to deal with in the
coming days..."

"I Decry Any Law, Legislation, or Regime That Does Not Respect Human Rights
and Liberty"

"A few hours ago, a summons from the general prosecutor arrived at my house,
demanding that I show up for questioning next Monday...

"It seems that Al-Azhar's 'blessings', which I vainly imagined I had escaped
when I received my certificate of liberty, continue to pursue me to this day,
and my summons for questioning by the prosecutor is one of their
manifestations. These 'blessings' do not leave their bearer in peace, until he
is in a situation like that of Dr. Nasser Hamed Abu Zayd, for whom Al-Azhar's
'blessings' led to [a court] ruling that he must be separated from his wife;
or a situation like that of Dr. Ahmed Sobhi Mansour, for whom Al-Azhar's
'blessings' led to his imprisonment and forced emigration from the country,
once and for all; or, in the best of cases, a situation like those that of Dr.
Nawal Al-Sa'dawi, Ahmed Al-Shahawi, and others, for whose writings Al-Azhar
always advises boycotts and prevention of market distribution.

"I am not at all afraid. Luckily for me, the enemies of free thought, who
treat me in ways that only the intellectually bankrupt employ, make me more
sure of myself, more steadfast in my principles, and ready to deal with
anything in order to express my free opinion, without any limitation
whatsoever imposed on me by governments, religious institutions, or even the
totalitarian society...

"The very existence of laws that define freedom of thought as a crime, and
that punish with imprisonment anyone who expresses criticism of the religion
[i.e. Islam] in any way, is a dangerous flaw in the law - [the law] which
exists to regulate relations among people in society, not to suppress their
liberty for the benefit of religion, the law itself, or the social order...

"I declare here, frankly and clearly, that I decry any law, legislation, or
regime that does not respect human rights and individual liberty, does not
recognize an individual's complete freedom to do anything and everything so
long as he causes no physical harm those around him, and does not recognize an
individual's complete freedom to express his opinions, whatever they may be,
so long as those opinions remain words and entail no physical act that harms

"Human Rights Are Something Self-Evident That Needs No Legislation or Laws to
Regulate It or to Define Its Essence"

"In addition, I hereby clearly declare that these laws do not obligate me in
any manner. I do not recognize them, and I detest, from the depths of my soul,
everyone who acts to implement them, and everyone who approves of them and
derives benefit from them... I hereby declare that I do not recognize the
legitimacy of my summons for questioning, since it is something [that
violates] my right to express my opinion - a right established in the
Declaration of Human Rights to which Egypt is a signatory. [Moreover,] even
without referring to this declaration, and even if it did not exist and Egypt
was not a signatory to it, human rights are something self-evident that needs
no legislation or laws to regulate it or to define its essence.

"To all those who hate me and are hostile to me, who think that these
primitive deeds might make me change my stands, influence me, and force me to
stray from the path I set before myself, I say: Die in your anger and hide in
your burrows, I will not, for a single instant, retract any word I have

"And to Al-Azhar, Al-Azhar University, to the professors and sheikhs at
Al-Azhar who stood and stand against anyone who thinks freely, I say: You will
end up in the dustbin of history. Then you will find no one to cry for you..."

(1) Al-Quds Al-'Arabi (London), November 8, 2006. .
(2), December 23, 2005.
(3) .
(4), October 29, 2006.
(5) The petition may be read and signed on For more on HAMSA, see:; for more on the American Islamic
Congress, see: .

The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) is an independent, non-profit
organization that translates and analyzes the media of the Middle East.
Copies of articles and documents cited, as well as background information, are
available on request.

MEMRI holds copyrights on all translations. Materials may only be used with
proper attribution.

The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI)
P.O. Box 27837, Washington, DC 20038-7837
Phone: (202) 955-9070
Fax: (202) 955-9077
Search previous MEMRI publications at

Continued (Permanent Link)

Iraq Study Group Report - Recommendations on Israel Peace (& link to entire text)

Iraq Study Group Report - Recommendations on Israel Peace Process
The mountain gave birth to a mouse
Below are the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group report regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In many respects this is a positive document. We cannot but applaud any effort to achieve peace between Israel and its neighbors.
The following is a wonderful statement of US commitment:
• No American administration --Democratic or Republican -- will ever abandon Israel.
Considering that James Baker had a hand in preparing the report, it is a remarkable statement. However, it has no tangible worth. It cannot be the basis for any Israeli commitment to make any concessions. Will any American administration sign a defense pact with Israel? Will any American administration commit itself to nuclear retaliation against any nation that attacks Israel with nuclear weapons? For 58 years, US administrations have declared their love of Israel, but this love does not translate into a defense pact. It doesn't even go as far as establishing an embassy in our capital city.
In the first forty pages of this report, the study group ably and meticulously summarized why the US is unable to defend defend democracy in Iraq - its intelligence is incompetent, its planning is poor, and it doesn't have the national will or the ability to commit sufficient resources to win. Therefore, the report recommends a US withdrawal from Iraq. The US failed in Iraq because they don't understand the complexities of the Middle East, don't have enough trained personnel, don't have a coherent strategic vision and don't have the national will to deal with a conflict in the far off Middle East.  Having declared themselves incompetent and unable to defend Iraq, the report now implicitly undertakes to settle the affairs of Israel and its neighbors, based on an implicit and informal, and actually worhless, if grandiose sounding guarantee:
 No American administration --Democratic or Republican -- will ever abandon Israel.

What does this mean? Will the US send half a million soldiers to fight our next war in Israel? Will they risk nuclear attack when Iran has ICBMs? Or, when push comes to shove, will James Baker III say "F... the Jews, they didn't vote for us?" Anyone who thinks the Iraq war is unpopular in the US should understand that they ain't seen nuthin yet. No war will be more unpopular and politically unfeasible than a US war to defend Israel. The US would not even commit any soldiers to the worthless UNIFIL force in Lebanon.

The recommendations are not "good for Israel" or "bad for Israel." They are simply detached from all reality, beginning with the implied U.S. commitment to never abandon Israel, a commitment written on sand and continuing with the heart of the recommendations:

This effort should include --as soon as possible --the unconditional calling and holding of meetings, under the auspices of the United States or the Quartet (i.e., the United States, Russia, European Union, and the United Nations), between Israel and Lebanon and Syria on the one hand, and Israel and Palestinians (who acknowledge Israel's right to exist) on the other....

Lebanon refuses to meet with Israel. A small detail that the learned committee failed to assimilate. The Arab Palestinians who acknowledge Israel's right to exist (but not necessarily as a Jewish state) are not in power. They can't offer anything because they don't have anything. They cannot even keep the shaky truce in Gaza. And the recommendation continues, of course:  

 The purpose of these meetings would be to negotiate peace as was done at the Madrid Conference in 1991, and on two separate tracks -- one Syrian/Lebanese, and the other Palestinian.

This is clearly the work of James Baker III. If Baker had a parrot, it would say "International Peace Conference." This recommendation is indeed realistic. The groups will negotiate peace exactly as was done at the Madrid conference in 1991. That is, they won't do anything at all. Nothing at all came of the Madrid conference. Israel negotiated peace separately with Jordan, and the Oslo Accords, for what they are worth, were negotiated through a route that bypassed the Madrid conference. Nothing came of the Madrid conference and nothing would come of these negotiations.

The "elements" of the negotiated peace envisioned by this report are truly amazing:


RECOMMENDATION 15: Concerning Syria, some elements of that negotiated peace should be:

• Syria's full adherence to UN Security Council Resolution 1701 of August 2006, which provides the framework for Lebanon to regain sovereign control over its territory.

• Syria's full cooperation with all investigations into political assassinations in Lebanon, especially those of Rafik Hariri and Pierre Gemayel.

• A verifiable cessation of Syrian aid to Hezbollah and the use of Syrian territory for transshipment of Iranian weapons and aid to Hezbollah. (This step would do much to solve Israel's problem with Hezbollah.)

• Syria's use of its influence with Hamas and Hezbollah for the release of the captured Israeli Defense Force soldiers.

• A verifiable cessation of Syrian efforts to undermine the democratically elected government of Lebanon.

• A verifiable cessation of arms shipments from or transiting through Syria for Hamas and other radical Palestinian groups.

• A Syrian commitment to help obtain from Hamas an acknowledgment of Israel's right to exist.

• Greater Syrian efforts to seal its border with Iraq.

RECOMMENDATION 16: In exchange for these actions and in the context of a full and secure peace agreement, the Israelis should return the Golan Heights, with a U.S. security guarantee for Israel that could include an international force on the border, including U.S. troops if requested by both parties.


So, according to Mr. Baker and his friends, Israel would give up the Golan heights in return for a promise from Syria to stop shipping arms to Hamas and Hezbollah and similar fictions. No recognition of Israel, no commitment to stop harboring Khaled Meshal and other terrorists - just cessation of arms shipments. Syria would be committed to "help obtain from Hamas an acknowledgment of Israel's right to exist." And if they don't succeed?  Syria would not even have to stop publishing the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and Mein Kampf.   Israel would give up the Golan heights in return for Syrian efforts to seal its border with Iraq in Mr. Baker's plan, because Mr Baker and his friends wrote in their report that no American government will ever abandon Israel. And if both countries agree, the US will send some of those wonderful troops that succeeded so well in Iraq to guard our border! Of course, if the Syrians don't agree, the US won't send troops, and if the troops come, they will be good for business in the bawdy houses of Nahariya and Haifa and for nothing else, just like the UN troops. Mr Baker and his friends deal in large issues and can't be bothered with details. They forgot that the Israeli-Syrian peace negotiations failed last time because of a tiny details - 10 meters that separate the border offered by Israel from the Sea of Galilee. For Mr Baker and his friends, down in Texas, the Sea of Galilee is a tiny detail. It could be swallowed up and forgotten in a tiny corner of Texas after all. For us, it is very important.

The elements of peace with the Palestinians show the same level of realism and attention to detail. There is no mention of the road map there - a noticeable omission. That is realism of sorts, since the roadmap is really dead. The rest is fantasy. There is no explanation of how the Hamas will be convinced to recognize Israel, or how, if they are not persuaded, it will be possible to negotiate and maintain a peace settlement that is opposed in principle by an armed group that represents the majority of Palestinians and that shows no intention of disarming. There is no mention of the refugees. There is no requirement to disband the various armed militias, no mention of Jerusalem. It is as though the people who wrote this report are not even aware that this issues exist. Somehow, all will be solved by blowing trumpets and announcing international conferences. All is forgotten in the grand rush of meaningless sophomoric declaratory statements.

Read it and laugh - or weep.

Ami Isseroff

From the Iraq Study Group Report:  Pages 54-58

4. The Wider Regional Context

The United States will not be able to achieve its goals in the Middle East unless the United States deals directly with the Arab-Israeli conflict.

There must be a renewed and sustained commitment by the United States to a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace on all fronts: Lebanon, Syria, and President Bush's June 2002 commitment to a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine. This commitment must include direct talks with, by, and between Israel, Lebanon, Palestinians (those who accept Israel's right to exist), and particularly Syria --which is the principal transit point for shipments of weapons to Hezbollah, and which supports radical Palestinian groups.

The United States does its ally Israel no favors in avoiding direct involvement to solve the Arab-Israeli conflict. For several reasons, we should act boldly:

• There is no military solution to this conflict.

• The vast majority of the Israeli body politic is tired of being a nation perpetually at war.

• No American administration --Democratic or Republican -- will ever abandon Israel.

• Political engagement and dialogue are essential in the Arab- Israeli dispute because it is an axiom that when the political process breaks down there will be violence on the ground.

• The only basis on which peace can be achieved is that set forth in UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 and in the principle of "land for peace."

• The only lasting and secure peace will be a negotiated peace such as Israel has achieved with Egypt and Jordan.

This effort would strongly support moderate Arab governments in the region, especially the democratically elected government of Lebanon, and the Palestinian Authority under President Mahmoud Abbas.

RECOMMENDATION 13: There must be a renewed and sustained commitment by the United States to a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace on all fronts: Lebanon and Syria, and President Bush's June 2002 commitment to a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine.

RECOMMENDATION 14: This effort should include --as soon as possible --the unconditional calling and holding of meetings, under the auspices of the United States or the Quartet (i.e., the United States, Russia, European Union, and the United Nations), between Israel and Lebanon and Syria on the one hand, and Israel and Palestinians (who acknowledge Israel's right to exist) on the other. The purpose of these meetings would be to negotiate peace as was done at the Madrid Conference in 1991, and on two separate tracks -- one Syrian/Lebanese, and the other Palestinian.

RECOMMENDATION 15: Concerning Syria, some elements of that negotiated peace should be:

• Syria's full adherence to UN Security Council Resolution 1701 of August 2006, which provides the framework for Lebanon to regain sovereign control over its territory.

• Syria's full cooperation with all investigations into political assassinations in Lebanon, especially those of Rafik Hariri and Pierre Gemayel.

• A verifiable cessation of Syrian aid to Hezbollah and the use of Syrian territory for transshipment of Iranian weapons and aid to Hezbollah. (This step would do much to solve Israel's problem with Hezbollah.)

• Syria's use of its influence with Hamas and Hezbollah for the release of the captured Israeli Defense Force soldiers.

• A verifiable cessation of Syrian efforts to undermine the democratically elected government of Lebanon.

• A verifiable cessation of arms shipments from or transiting through Syria for Hamas and other radical Palestinian groups.

• A Syrian commitment to help obtain from Hamas an acknowledgment of Israel's right to exist.

• Greater Syrian efforts to seal its border with Iraq.

RECOMMENDATION 16: In exchange for these actions and in the context of a full and secure peace agreement, the Israelis should return the Golan Heights, with a U.S. security guarantee for Israel that could include an international force on the border, including U.S. troops if requested by both parties.

RECOMMENDATION 17: Concerning the Palestinian issue, elements of that negotiated peace should include:

• Adherence to UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 and to the principle of land for peace, which are the only bases for achieving peace.

• Strong support for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority to take the lead in preparing the way for negotiations with Israel.

• A major effort to move from the current hostilities by consolidating the cease-fire reached between the Palestinians and the Israelis in November 2006.

• Support for a Palestinian national unity government.

• Sustainable negotiations leading to a final peace settlement along the lines of President Bush's two-state solution, which would address the key final status issues of borders, settlements, Jerusalem, the right of return, and the end of conflict.


The complete text of main body of the Iraq Study Group Teport is published in html form here:
Many of our readers will find this html format more convenient for copying snippets of text than the pdf document of the original publication.

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Continued (Permanent Link)

Captured Israelis 'were injured'

Captured Israelis 'were injured'

Two Israeli soldiers captured in July by the Lebanese militant group,
Hezbollah, suffered serious injuries in the attack, according to reports.
An unnamed Israeli military official, quoting an internal report, said
one soldier was in a critical condition and the other was seriously wounded.

There has been no official confirmation of the reports.

The capture of Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev sparked 34 days of
fighting in which more than 1,000 people died.

A report into the circumstances of the abduction was given to the
defence minister, army commander and families of the soldiers, the Israeli
military said in a statement, but did not give a timing.

"The working assumption of the army was, and remains, that the abducted
soldiers are alive and according to that assumption the army continues its
efforts to bring the soldiers home," the statement said.

The Lebanese militant group has demanded that Israel release Arab
prisoners in exchange for the missing servicemen.

However, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has said that unless
Hezbollah provides proof that the men are alive he will not consider a deal.

Three Israeli soldiers were also killed in Hezbollah's cross-border
attack on 12 July that sparked a 34-day war.

More than 1,000 people were killed on both sides, according to UN,
Israeli and Lebanese officials.

Lebanon said most of those who died were civilians. Israel said 800
Hezbollah fighters were killed, although that figure cannot be confirmed.

In Israel, 159 people were killed, including 39 soldiers.

The UN-brokered ceasefire calls for the unconditional release of the

Under the agreement, a UN peacekeeping force and Lebanese government
troops are policing the border with Israel.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Iranian Sci-Fi TV Series Stars Mega-Evil Jewish Queen

Special Dispatch-Iran
December 7, 2006
No. 1381

Iranian Sci-Fi TV Series Stars Mega-Evil Jewish Queen

To view this Special Dispatch in HTML, visit: .

The following are excerpts from an Iranian sci-fi film titled "The Land of
Wishes," part of a series, which aired on Iranian Channel 1 on October 20,
2006. In it, an evil queen, adorned with a large Star of David and sitting on
a throne in the "Black House" (which is also marked with a Star of David)
engages in a battle of "virtual warriors" with a young girl who seeks to free
the masses the queen has enslaved. When the queen is defeated, her technicians
die struggling to rescue a "medal" - also a Star of David.


Evil Jewish Queen: "Raise the degree of self-awareness of the agent. It's not

Technician: "Yes, Ma'am."

Queen: "He responded. Order him to remove his helmet."

Kashki: "Oh, where did that come from? I hope he doesn't respond."

Fahimeh: "Father!"

Kashki: "Oh dear. That girl got us into trouble in the end. Couldn't you
control your tongue, girl?"

Queen: "It's her, she probably heard the word 'father.' Identify her code."

Technician: "Yes, Ma'am."

Queen: "Faster! Faster!"

Technician: "It's very strange. This code does not appear among the codes in
the system. S-U-N 0057."

Second technician: "That's right, it is totally unknown."

Computer: "Warning! Warning! Temperature in the fuel reactor of time is

Queen: "The fuel reactor of time?"

Technician: "It looks like there is an overload."

Second technician: "Five seconds left until transfer begins."

Technician: "Four, three, two, one..."

Crowd: "Greetings to our Great Lady!"

Queen: "Welcome to the Free City, my dear."

Kashki: "Don't despair. I'm here."

Queen: "I've waited for this glorious encounter for a long time."

Kashki: "My hat is gone. I'm going to look for it. I will be right back."

Queen: "Why are you afraid, my dear? I am your friend. As long as you don't do
anything against me, you too will be my friend. Together we can build a new
world, a world full of tranquility. People like you and me can rule this
wonderful world."

Fahimeh: "No!"

Queen: "There's your childish stubbornness again. Look around you. Don't you
think they are happy? True, they do a little work for me, but they spend most
of their time playing games or resting, without worrying or thinking anything
too complicated, because they are sure that I take care of their tranquility,
day and night. I even do their thinking for them. Isn't that so?"

Crowd: "Yes, Great Lady."

Queen: "You see? They all agree with me."

Fahimeh: "But I don't agree with you. You have taken away their ability to
think. If you want to know what they really think, restore them to their
natural state for a few seconds, so they can say what they have to say. Then
you will understand how much life here makes them suffer."

Queen: "Do you object to what I say? If so, I am very sorry for you, because
even though I don't want to, I have no choice but to teach you a good lesson -
a lesson that may cost you somewhat dearly."

Kashki: "I'm here. Sorry it took so long. I looked everywhere, until I found
it. Don't be afraid, remember what I said. You will have no difficulty
fighting him. Isn't that right, hat? Sure."

"Don't be afraid of her. She has created a virtual fighter. It's not difficult
at all. Create your own fighter."

Kashki: "Here is our fighter. What will you do now, you ugly, clumsy, old


Queen: "I need more energy."

Technician: "Yes, Ma'am."

Kashki: "Resist in every possible way. Assume a defensive position. There is
not much time left until the reactor explodes."

Computer: "Temperature rising! Temperature rising!"

Technician: "Nothing can be done anymore."

Second technician: "Let's put the cooling liquids into the other layer."

Technician: "That way the temperature will drop, and the energy will

Second technician: "There is no other way."

Technician: "Alright."

Computer: "Five minutes to the onset of the reaction."

Kashki: "Fight it."

Fahimeh: "I can't, I can't."

Kashki: "You have to. Otherwise..."

Fahimeh: "No, I can't. She's much stronger than me."


Mother: "My daughter!"

Fahimeh: "Mother."

Kashki: "Well done! This was the obstacle. Now you will have to make the final
move. You're at your peak. Now finish her off.

"Well done, well done."


Kashki: "Thank you very much, you're welcome. No need for applause! Thank you
very much."

Technician: It's all over. We lost."

Second technician: "Shut up, idiot. We never lose. If it's not too late, we
must remove the medal from orbit."

Technician: "That's impossible. The ZW radiation will not allow it. We will
both be killed that way. The medal must not be destroyed!"

Second technician: "Stand back, you will get us killed!"

The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) is an independent, non-profit
organization that translates and analyzes the media of the Middle East.
Copies of articles and documents cited, as well as background information, are
available on request.

MEMRI holds copyrights on all translations. Materials may only be used with
proper attribution.

The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI)
P.O. Box 27837, Washington, DC 20038-7837
Phone: (202) 955-9070
Fax: (202) 955-9077
Search previous MEMRI publications at

Continued (Permanent Link)

EU: Aid To Palestinians Greater Than In Previous Years

Associated Press
Dec. 5, 2006

EU: Aid To Palestinians Greater Than In Previous Years

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP)--Despite a boycott of the Hamas-led
Palestinian government, the European Union has found ways to
increase its total aid to the Palestinian people, most recently
helping support thousands of needy families, an EU official said

The EU said its contribution to the Palestinians has increased by
27% from last year, to EUR651 million, though the EU, U.S. and
Israel have banned direct aid to the Palestinian government.

One tool is a temporary funding mechanism that funnels money
directly to the people and projects, bypassing the government.
The EU and its member states have contributed EUR200 million to
the temporary mechanism, administered by the World Bank.

The "Quartet" of Mideast mediators - the EU, U.S., Russia and
United Nations - set up the temporary funding procedure in July,
as economic hardships from the aid cutoff hit ordinary
Palestinians because of their choice of a Hamas-led government.

The EU, U.S. and Israel list Hamas as a terror organization. The
Islamic militant group swept a parliamentary election and took
office in March, triggering the Western aid cutoff. Also, Israel
suspended about $55 million in monthly transfers of taxes
collected for the Palestinians.

Since then, however, Western governments and aid groups have
found ways to get money to the people. Some funds are directed to
the office of moderate President Mahmoud Abbas.

Mario Mariani, director of the temporary funding program, said
the temporary funding mechanism is up for renewal in December.
The latest payout was 1,000 shekels ($246) to the families who
used to receive benefits from the now bankrupt Palestinian
Ministry of Social Affairs, including widows, orphans and the

The EU is the biggest donor to the Palestinians, providing around
EUR500 million a year. Most of that is channeled through U.N.
assistance programs and NGO projects, but EUR70 million from the
EU's common budget last year was placed in a World Bank trust
fund for direct payments to help the Palestinian Authority cover
its day-to-day costs.

At the same time, Hamas officials say contributions from Arab
nations are increasing, easing hardships that have resulted from
the government's inability to pay its 165,000 employees,
triggering strikes.

Samir Abu Eisheh, the acting finance minister, said about $400
million were collected from Arab countries - 90% from Arab
governments. Most of it went for salaries and ministry budgets,
he said.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Jordan, Israel, PA to launch study into Dead Sea canal

Agence France Presse
December 06, 2006

Jordan, Israel, PA to launch study into Dead Sea canal
By Agence France Presse (AFP)

AMMAN: Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Authority meet Sunday
to launch a feasibility study to build a canal linking the Red
Sea to the slowly vanishing Dead Sea, a Jordanian official said
Tuesday. "Representatives of Jordan, Israel, Palestine will meet
on the shores of the Dead Sea with representatives of the World
Bank and countries willing to finance the project," Jordanian
Water Ministry spokesman Adnan Zohbi told AFP.

"They will examine the practical steps needed to launch the
feasibility study for the project," a year after agreeing to go
ahead with the study, Zohbi said.

Environmental experts have repeatedly warned that the Dead Sea is
in danger of drying up as Jordan, Israel and the Palestinians
divert the waters of the Jordan River, which feeds it, for

The level of the Dead Sea, the world's lowest body of water, has
dropped by a third since the 1960s and continues to fall by about
a meter a year.

The two-year study will cost about $15.5 million, Zohbi said,
while the overall cost of the project is estimated at $3 billion.

The feasibility study will investigate the social and
environmental impact of conveying large quantities of water
through a 200-kilometer conduit between the two seas.

The World Bank will manage a fund to finance the project.

The project, if proven feasible, involves the building of a small
canal on the Red Sea between Jordan and Israel and then pumping
water to the Dead Sea through a 180-kilometer pipe or several pipes.

Water from the Red Sea would then be pumped to a power station
and a desalination plant in Jordan and the project would take
about five years to build, Jordanian officials have said. - AFP

Continued (Permanent Link)

'Israel, India keen to expand two way trade'

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

'Israel, India keen to expand two way trade'

New Delhi, December 6: Israel wants a preferential trade pact
with India and would like to see two way trade double to $5
billion in the next few years, senior officials said on Wednesday.

Eliyahu Yishai, Israel's trade minister, told a business
conference in the Indian capital that he and his Indian
counterpart, Kamal Nath, were keen to see trade between the
countries grow.

"We have agreed that first phase of talks for trade expansion
will take place as soon as possible," Yishai, who is also Deputy
Prime Minister, said through an interpreter.

Israeli Ambassador David Danieli told the conference the
countries had agreed to work out a preferential trade agreement.

"I believe we can make it by 2007," Danieli said.

Two-way trade between the two nations could be increased to $5
billion by 2008 or 2009, he told the conference.

Indian exports to Israel were $1.2 billion in the year to March
2006 while imports were $1.0 billion, Indian government data showed.

India mainly exports gems and jewellery, drugs, textiles and
chemicals to Israel, and imports pearls, precious stones,
fertilisers, electronic goods and instruments.

Continued (Permanent Link)

How Israel Lost to the Iranians [by Yossi Melman]

PostGlobal []
Dec. 6, 2006

Panelist's View: Posted at 9:05 AM ET, 12/ 6/2006
How Israel Lost to the Iranians

Yossi Melman - In spite of the belligerent declarations of Iran's
leaders - President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad repeated his mantra this
week that he expects the Zionist entity to collapse in the near
future - Iranian representatives are holding negotiations with
Israeli representatives. These are not only indirect
negotiations, but real meetings. These meetings have been going
on for about two decades, and concern laborious international
arbitration regarding the debts between the two nations.

There are three separate litigations, which are taking place
simultaneously in several European countries, all of them
pertaining to a complex legal and business entity called
Trans-Asiatic Oil Limited, and relating to one of the biggest
secrets between Israel and Iran: the past oil connections between
the two countries. Three years ago one of the arbitrations ruled
that Israeli fuel companies have to pay the Iranian National Oil
Company tens of millions of dollars. All the parties made efforts
to maintain the secrecy of the decision and every other detail
connected to the subject.

From the time that Iran de facto recognized Israel in 1951,
increasingly close relations developed between the two countries,
until the 1970s when they reached a point of strategic
partnership. This partnership had four main components: Iranian
assistance for the immigration operations for Jews from Iraq;
Israeli-Iranian cooperation in the area of intelligence (the
Mossad, the Shin Bet security services and the Israel Defense
Forces helped to establish, train and operate the Iranian army
and the units of Sawak - the Iranian security service. In
exchange, Israel's intelligence organizations received Iranian
assistance in gathering information and operating agents in Iraq
to assist the Kurdish revolt); agreements for military
cooperation; and the supply of Iranian oil to Israel.

Beginning in 1975, the military cooperation focused on an Iranian
investment of $1.2 billion in several research and development
initiatives of Israeli armaments. These initiatives, whose code
name was Tzur, included the establishment of a Soltam munitions
plant in Iran, the development of the Lavi fighter plane, the
development of a sea-to-sea missile based on Gabriel technology,
and according to foreign sources, the development of an upgraded
ground-to-ground missile, whose range at the time was about 600
kilometers. By the time Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini came to power
in 1979, ending the cooperation, Israel had managed to transfer
the plans for the missile to Iran.

The supplying of Iranian oil to Israel began already in the early
1950s. The oil was transferred in tankers to Eilat, and from
there was channeled to Be'er Sheva in a pipeline with a diameter
of about 40 centimeters. The pipeline and its installation were
funded by the Rothschild family, who were its owners. After the
1967 Six-Day War and the closing of the Suez Canal, Israel (whose
prime minister at the time was Levi Eshkol) convinced the Shah,
Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, to exploit the new situation and set up a
joint and expanded oil initiative. The Shah agreed to the idea.

Thus Trans-Asiatic Oil was established, a company under joint
ownership of the Israeli government, through the Finance
Ministry, and the Iranian National Oil Company. The Israeli
government gave the company an exclusive franchise to transport
and store the oil. The main fear of Iranian opponents of the
initiative was that if the cooperation were to be exposed, the
Arab countries would use it to criticize Tehran. Therefore, in
order to maintain secrecy, the company was registered in Panama.
The owners of Trans-Asiatic, as they appear in the Israeli
Registrar of Companies, are the Eilat Corporation and another
company, both of which are also registered in Panama.

In Israel, Trans-Asiatic operated as though it were a foreign
company. It acquired the pipeline to Be'er Sheva from the
Rothschild family and laid a larger pipeline, with a diameter of
about one meter (42 inches), alongside it, from Eilat to
Ashkelon, where they also built terminals for loading and
unloading the oil. The construction of the terminals was
completed in 1969. The closing of the Suez Canal made it
difficult to supply oil to Europe from the Persian Gulf. The
tankers were forced to sail on a long route around the Cape of
Good Hope. The idea behind the establishment of the company was
to shorten the sailing routes and the supply time, and thus of
course earn more money. The tankers loaded oil in the ports of
Iran, sailed to Eilat, where they unloaded the cargo at a special
terminal that was built for that purpose, and the oil transported
in the pipeline to Ashkelon. Most of it was loaded onto tankers
bound for Europe, and a small percentage was used for Israel's
energy economy. The Iranian National Oil Company sold the oil to
Trans-Asiatic below the market price, and granted it credit for
three months.

In its heyday, Trans-Asiatic was an economic empire with a
turnover of billions of dollars. It established a subsidiary, the
Eilat-Ashkelon Pipeline Company (EAPC), which owned the two
pipelines, and a storage container farm to store the oil in
Ashkelon and Eilat. It purchased or leased a fleet of 30 huge
tankers. In its successful years, about 54 million tons of oil
were transported in its pipelines.

But after 10 years of flourishing activity came the crisis. The
Shah's rule was weakened. About two months before Khomeini came
to power, the Iranian National Oil Company stopped selling oil to
Trans-Asiatic, in effect paralyzing it. One of Khomeini's first
acts when he came to power was to sever relations with Israel
completely. The many Israeli companies and businessmen who had
worked in Iran in construction, communications, infrastructure,
drugs and commerce had left already during the twilight days of
the Shah's rule. The Iranians still owed money to some of them,
such as Ya'akov Nimrodi, who had built desalination plants on
Kish, the Shah's pleasure island. All the joint initiatives in
the areas of security and oil were discontinued.

During the first years, the Israeli managers of Trans-Asiatic
tried to conduct secret talks with representatives of the Iranian
National Oil Company to dismantle the partnership voluntarily and
in an orderly manner. But the Iranians broke off contact and
refused to hear from Israel. Trans-Asiatic sold the oil tankers,
at a loss for the most part, dismissed dozens of employees and
closed operations and offices abroad. What saved it from
bankruptcy was the 1979 peace treaty with Egypt, in the context
of which Egypt promised to sell Israel oil as a substitute for
the loss of the oil wells in Sinai. The Egyptian oil, an average
about 1.5 million tons annually, arrived in tankers to Eilat, and
from there it was transported via the pipeline to Ashkelon and
then to refineries in Haifa and Ashdod.

The Iranians want money

In 1985, the Iranians suddenly began to show a renewed interest
in Trans-Asiatic. Via attorneys in Europe they demanded the
company pay its debts to their national oil company. The debts
were divided into three ways: an indirect debt of the Paz, Sonol
and Delek fuel companies, which was estimated at over $100
million at 1979 values; a direct debt of Trans-Asiatic, estimated
at half a million dollars at 1979 values, for transporting the
oil in the pipeline on credit for three months; and another debt
relating to money that was in joint bank accounts. Iran claimed
that Israel had unilaterally emptied the company and taken over
its property and assets.

When the Iranian claims were made, attorney Elhanan Landau, who
in the past had served as the legal adviser of the Finance
Ministry and was very familiar with the subject, was appointed to
handle the case for Trans-Asiatic. After his death he was
replaced by his partner, Zvi Nixon, who continues to serve as the
legal adviser of the company. The line of action that was decided
upon was that the responsibility for the situation lay with the
Iranian National Oil Company, because it had unilaterally stopped
honoring its commitments to Trans-Asiatic, severed contact,
ceased taking an interest in the company and caused it severe damage.

Israel proposed holding discussions about all the joint
enterprises of the two countries, in order to bring about an
accounting for and payment of debts. Iran turned down the
proposal and demanded the debt for the oil connections be paid
back. When Israel rejected the demand, the Iranian National Oil
Company activated the articles in the contracts that stated that
in case of a dispute the issue should be brought to arbitration.

Thus three arbitration mechanisms were established. Two were held
in Switzerland, and a third in another European country. At first
the arbitrator representing the Israeli side in Trans-Asiatic was
former justice minister Haim Tzadok. After his death,
representation was transferred to attorney Dori Klagsbald.
Attorney Klagsbald is now serving a 13-month prison sentence for
his involvement in a serious traffic accident, but Trans-Asiatic
does not intend to relinquish his services as an arbitrator for
the Israeli side.

The approach Israel adopted since the start of the discussions on
the various issues is one of deliberate foot-dragging. For years
Israel even refused to pay the salaries and expenses of the
arbitrators. Only recently has the company begun to pay its share
of the arbitration. Moreover, Israel raised counter-claims,
accused Iran of dispatch responsibility for the situation that
was created, and did everything possible to avoid paying Iran a
single penny. The only ones benefiting from the situation are the
lawyers and the arbitrators, who receive generous salaries for
their efforts.

Representing Iran in the arbitrations are its legal advisers who
operate in Europe, including its legal adviser at the
International Court of Justice in The Hague. Lawyers from
Switzerland conduct the arbitrations. As mentioned, about three
years ago, after almost 20 years of discussion, the arbitrator
ruled that the three Israel fuel companies would pay Iran a sum
of tens of millions of dollars. Originally the Iranians had
demanded hundreds of millions, but this demand was reduced after
the arbitrators' acceptance of the claims by the Israeli firms
that they had suffered severe financial damage as a result of the
behavior of the Iranian side. To date the debt has yet to be paid.

A direct arbitration against Trans-Asiatic, for a debt of half a
billion dollars for transporting the oil in the pipeline,
continues. Another arbitration, for which no details were
available, is also taking place. In any case, the discussions in
these two arbitrations, according to knowledgeable sources, are
far from over.

Although the arbitration issues are a cause of concern for the
managers of Trans-Asiatic, they continue to operate with momentum
to expand it, as though there had never been any arbitrations. In
effect, today there is a network of companies called the
Eilat-Ashkelon Pipeline Company Group, whose chairman and
president is Major General (res.) Oren Shahor. (He was preceded
by Uri Lubrani and Ehud Yatom, for three months.) The
subsidiaries are the Eilat-Ashkelon Pipeline Company (EAPC),
whose general manager is Yair Waide, and Eilat-Ashkelon
Infrastructure Services (EAIS).

EAPC is responsible for operating the pipelines and the terminals
in the Eilat and Ashkelon ports, and for the storage container.
EAIS is responsible for all the foreign franchise activity of the
EAPC group. In other words , for everything not related to the
franchise for transporting the oil in the pipeline and storing it.

Through EAIS, EACP has a 20 percent partnership in building the
Dorad Energy power plant, which is supposed to be built in
Ashkelon within three years. Its next goal is to purchase oil in
Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States, in Central
Asia and in the Caucasus, to transport it in tankers to Ashkelon,
to channel it through the pipeline to Eilat and from there in
tankers to Asia's energy-guzzling markets: China, India, Korea
and Japan. So far these efforts have not been successful.

By Yossi Melman | December 6, 2006; 9:05 AM ET

Continued (Permanent Link)

Lebanon: Civil War or Nasrallah's Peace?

As noted in the Washington Post Eyal Zisser comments:

 "the demonstrators' restraint, as well as the fact that they chose to hide behind General Aoun, demonstrated that Nasrallah's sights are not set on a bloody civil war. Nasrallah is simply seeking to subdue [pro-Western Prime Minister] Fouad Siniora and to force him to surrender to his demands.""

This sounds good, but it really means, in plain English, that Nasrallah wants to stage a coup without having a fight over it. "Let's you and me not fight, you just give in." Of course, Nasrallah's demands are that Seniora resign and that the government abandon the commission to investigate the Hariri murders.

Lebanon: Civil War or Nasrallah's Peace?

As Middle East newspapers were warning this weekend that Lebanon is on the

brink of civil war, Beirut enjoyed a moment of civility.

As tens of thousands of anti-government demonstrators began an indefinite occupation of the city's center last weekend, thousands of marathon runners skirted the massive protests without incident.

Amidst the country's worst worst political crisis since the end of a bloody civil war 15 years ago, Lebanon also displays habits of accommodation that some hope will help it avoid the most dire of scenarios. But a peaceful democratic resolution, some commentators say, will most likely benefit the man most antagonistic to Washington and Israel -- Sayyed Nasrallah.

The latest developments show a deepening impasse between the opposition, led by Hezbollah, the Shiite party and militia, and the pro-Western government it seeks to topple.

• Tensions mounted Monday as thousands turned out to mourn a Shiite demonstrator who was killed during clashes in a Sunni neighborhood Sunday.

• The government responded to the weekend demonstrations by deploying more troops to the capital to head off the possibility of sectarian violence, according to

• AP reported that Egypt's president and Russia's foreign minister are calling for for calm.

In Lebanon's diverse online media, commentators on both sides proclaim their own peaceful intentions while fearing the worst of the opposition.

Fingerpointing Powers

On Friday, the pro-government Arabic daily Al-Mustaqbal warned that the demonstrations organized by Hezbollah and supported by some Christians were actually the makings of a coup orchestrated by Syria and Iran.

"The direct goal of the Syrian-Iranian coup against the situation in Lebanon is to thwart the [establishment of] an international tribunal [to investigate the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Al-Hariri]," said Al-Mustaqbal, according to a translation by the pro-Israeli Middle East Media Research Institute.

Iran and Syria, said the Sunni daily, also hope to thwart the implementation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701, which mandates the disarmament of Hezbollah's militia.

"This is a coup against the very existence of the state. Oh [Lebanese] Army, as of today you face the test of defending the state, the regime, and its institutions," said the Al-Mustaqbal editors.

But Al Manar, Hezbollah's Web site, charges that it is pro-government forces preparing for civil war by distributing guns in the Mount Lebanon region, north of Beirut.

Hezbollah, of course, has its own militia, as Al Manar acknowledged. But "Hezbollah's chief Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah sought on many occasions to reassure the Lebanese that the sole use of the arms of the resistance is to confront the Israeli enemy adding that these weapons will not be used internally," the editors said.

Ya Libnan, a pro-government site, was not reassured.

"Hezbollah's ongoing propaganda campaign to brainwash its followers has resulted in hundreds of thousands of misinformed people, manipulated into believing that their government is illegitimate," said YL columnist Mohammed Hussein. The current demonstrations, he said, are a "sneak peak of a Hezbollah dictatorship."

But Monday Morning, a nationalist newsweekly based in Beirut and also distributed in Syria, set aside blame of Hezbollah, saying sectarian differences between Shiites and Sunnis are stoked by the United States and Israel for their own advantage.

"The basics of the problem are anchored in Iraq and its neighbor Iran. The two countries fought a long war in the 1980s, during which Washington gave help to both belligerents. The US's strategic goal was to ruin two major Muslim states which regarded Israel as a major enemy and a target," said Monday Morning editors. Now, America's goal is to "let the Muslims fight each other and bleed on both sides. This reality will ease the situation from the American-Israeli side."

The secular Daily Star said Lebanon faces the same "trying circumstances" as Iraq and the Palestinian territories.

"On the one side are indigenous forces -- Arab and Iranian mainly -- that seek to assert an indigenous identity and often militant ideology, and on the other side are forces that prefer a political order that weds local interests with close ties to Western powers and international alliances," said the Daily Star editors.

"Street confrontations that remain peaceful are an established means of expressing various views, but these must be channeled into existing political and constitutional mechanisms that remain the only credible means of brokering a compromise that meets the legitimate demands of all sides," the editors concluded.

Lebanon's best-known journalist, Ghassan Tueni, called for a dialogue to contain the mushrooming crisis. Tueni, the former An Nahar editor whose son was assassinated last year, suggested that talks with Tehran would be a "launching platform" for a "dialogue in the name of all the Arabs," including Saudi Arabia and Egypt. At stake, he said, is not just the future of Lebanon but the Arab nation.

'At the Crossroads'

The debate about civil war is also raging beyond Lebanon.

Civil war is not inevitable, said the French academic, Pascal Boniface, in a column for the Gulf News.

"There is some pessimism due to the following reasons - the divide between the communities is growing, the external powers, Syria, Iran, Israel, France and the US, have their own antagonistic agenda. But history could come to the rescue of Lebanon as the Lebanese people are against collective suicide," he wrote.

"The Christians are aware that fresh fighting will mean the end of their influence. Hezbollah is at the crossroads. It is both a national Lebanese movement and a Syrian ally. Whether it would prefer one role to the other could be the deciding factor of a civil war or not."

Nadim Zaazaa, a Lebanese contributor to Islam Online, was less optimistic.

"Once again, Lebanon is at crossroads. And once again, Lebanon doesn't seem to be up to the challenge. The country is sadly too futile to withstand the pressures it is facing. It may be true that Lebanon has stood firm in the face of the Israeli aggression, but there is a different test that Lebanon has repeatedly failed: the challenge of upgrading the Lebanese polity to a capable medium that can adapt to and interact with the social, economic, and political changes that it comes across. The roots of such a problem reside in all aspects of the Lebanese reality -- the history, the constitution, society, and even the individual mindset of every Lebanese."

Hezbollah's "street theatrics" endanger the country, say the editors of the Khaleej Times in the United Arab Emirates. "Hezbollah won itself plaudits and support from Arabs, Muslims and the rest of the world for the exemplary courage and perseverance it demonstrated in the face of Israeli aggression earlier this year. This newspaper had joined other media in the Middle East and elsewhere in hailing the victory of Lebanese people including Hezbollah over a ruthless power armed to its teeth."

"Which is why it is unfortunate that Hezbollah should squander that hard-earned public support and sympathy in such a pointless exercise, which could seriously destabilize an already volatile country."

In Israel, there is widespread feeling that the Hezbollah-led demonstrations will end, not with civil war, but a political victory for Nasrallah.

As the liberal Haaretz said, "What appears to be an internal political demonstration - so far conducted nonviolently - against a government that the demonstrators view as illegal, corrupt and unrepresentative is liable to end with the establishment of a pro-Syrian government, which would be under the influence of Nasrallah and his supporters, including the Christian Michel Aoun."

In a column for the the centrist Ynet News, Eyal Zisser, a professor at Tel Aviv University, said that "the demonstrators' restraint, as well as the fact that they chose to hide behind General Aoun, demonstrated that Nasrallah's sights are not set on a bloody civil war. Nasrallah is simply seeking to subdue [pro-Western Prime Minister] Fouad Siniora and to force him to surrender to his demands."

"What can be expected is a typical Lebanese bazaar, where both sides will ultimately emerge only partially appeased: Siniora will be forced to surrender to some of Nasrallah's' demands and Nasrallah will have to retract some of his other demands," Zisser concluded.

By Jefferson Morley |  December 5, 2006; 1:53 AM ET  | Category:  Mideast
World Opinion Roundup Hiatus |

Continued (Permanent Link)

Offering Video, Israel Answers Critics on War

New York Times, December 5, 2006
Offering Video, Israel Answers Critics on War

JERUSALEM, Dec. 4 — Israel's military, which has been accused of abuses in its war against Hezbollah this summer, has declassified photographs, video images and prisoner interrogations to buttress its accusation that Hezbollah systematically fired from civilian neighborhoods in southern Lebanon and took cover in those areas to shield itself from attack.

Lebanon and international human rights groups have accused Israel of war crimes in the 34 days of fighting in July and August, saying that Israel fired into populated areas and that civilians accounted for a vast majority of the more than 1,000 Lebanese killed.

Israel says that it tried to avoid civilians, but that Hezbollah fired from civilian areas, itself a war crime, which made those areas legitimate targets.

In a new report, an Israeli research group says Hezbollah stored weapons in mosques, battled Israelis from inside empty schools, flew white flags while transporting missiles and launched rockets near monitoring posts.

The detailed report on the war was produced by the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center at the Center for Special Studies, a private research group headed by Reuven Erlich, a retired colonel in military intelligence, who worked closely with the Israeli military.

An advance copy was given to The New York Times by the American Jewish Congress, which has itself fought against the use of "human shields," provided consultation and translated the study.

In Lebanon, a Hezbollah official denied the study's allegations, saying its military units were based outside towns and villages and had come into populated areas only when circumstances required it. "We tried to avoid having to fight among civilian areas, but when Israeli troops entered villages, we were automatically forced to fight them from inside these villages to defend it," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on military matters.

Israel's critics charge that its military either singled out civilians or was reckless in its pursuit of Hezbollah. The new report is an attempt to rebut such criticism.

The report includes Israeli Air Force video that it says shows several instances of Hezbollah personnel firing rockets next to residential buildings in southern Lebanon and then being bombed by Israel. The adjacent buildings were presumably damaged, but there is no information on whether civilians were inside.

"This study explains the dilemma facing the Israeli military as it fights an enemy that intentionally operates from civilian areas," Mr. Erlich said. "This is the kind of asymmetric warfare we are seeing today. It's not only relevant to Lebanon, but is also what we are seeing in the Gaza Strip and in Iraq."

The report says: "The construction of a broad military infrastructure, positioned and hidden in populated areas, was intended to minimize Hezbollah's vulnerability. Hezbollah would also gain a propaganda advantage if it could represent Israel as attacking innocent civilians."

In video from July 23, a truck with a multi-barreled missile launcher, presumably from Hezbollah, is parked in a street, sandwiched between residential buildings. The video was transmitted from an Israeli missile approaching the truck. The screen goes fuzzy as the missile slams into the target.

In another video, from a Lebanese village, rockets are seen being fired from a launcher on the back of a truck. The truck then drives a short distance and disappears inside a building. Seconds later, the building itself disappears under a cloud of smoke from an Israeli bomb.

The report says that there were many such examples, and that Hezbollah has been preparing for such an engagement for years, embedding its fighters and their weapons in the Shiite villages of southern Lebanon. When Hezbollah fired its rockets from those areas, Israel faced a choice of attacking, and possibly causing civilian casualties, or refraining from shooting because of the risk, the report said.

Elias Hanna, a retired Lebanese Army general, said of the Israeli allegations, "Of course there are hidden invisible tunnels, bunkers of missile launchers, bunkers of explosive charges amongst civilians."

He added: "You cannot separate the southern society from Hezbollah, because Hezbollah is the society and the society is Hezbollah. Hezbollah is holding this society together through its political, military and economic services. It is providing the welfare for the south."

Asked whether Hezbollah should be seen as responsible for the deaths of Lebanese civilians in the war, he replied: "Of course Hezbollah is responsible. But these people are ready to sacrifice their lives for Hezbollah. If you tell them, 'Your relative died,' they will tell you 'No, he was a martyr.' The party's military preparations from 2000 till 2006 took place in their areas. They were of course done with complete secrecy, but in accordance with the civilians."

During the war, Israel dropped leaflets urging villagers to leave southern Lebanon and also to evacuate from Hezbollah strongholds in southern Beirut. Many did flee, but some remained and among them were hundreds who were killed.

In one highly publicized Israeli strike on July 30, at least 28 Lebanese civilians, including many women and children, were killed when Israel bombed a residential building in the village of Qana. Israel said it struck a Hezbollah rocket cell that had recently fired from near the building.

In several other instances, Israel bombed vehicle convoys that were trying to leave the combat zone in southern Lebanon, killing many civilians. Human Rights Watch, a New York-based advocacy group, said shortly before the war ended that it had documented the deaths of 27 Lebanese civilians killed while trying to flee.

Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch, wrote shortly after the war that the Israeli military "seemed to assume that because it gave warnings to civilians to evacuate southern Lebanon, anyone who remained was a Hezbollah fighter."

He wrote, "But giving warnings, as required by international humanitarian law, does not relieve the attacker of the duty to distinguish between civilians and combatants and to target only combatants."

Amnesty International said that Israel "consistently failed to adopt necessary precautionary measures," and that its forces "carried out indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks on a large scale."

The group also accused Hezbollah of "serious violations of international humanitarian law" for deliberately attacking Israeli civilians with rockets.

The Israeli report defended the Israeli operations, saying "airstrikes and ground attacks against Hezbollah targets located in population centers were carried out in accordance with international law, which does not grant immunity to a terrorist organization deliberately hiding behind civilians."

The Israeli report included video of what it said were three Hezbollah prisoners being questioned by Israeli military personnel.

Muhammad Srour, a young Hezbollah fighter, said he had initially received training in Iran and was undergoing further training in eastern Lebanon's Bekaa Valley when the war broke out. He was sent to the front lines.

Like many Hezbollah fighters, he traveled by motorbike, but they were frequently the targets of Israeli forces. While transporting missiles, hidden in cloth, in and around the southern village of Aita al Shaab, "I carried a white flag," Mr. Srour said.

Hezbollah operated freely from homes in the village, with the permission of residents who had fled. The departing residents either left their doors unlocked or gave their keys to Hezbollah, he said. Mr. Srour acknowledged that homes used by Hezbollah were more likely to draw fire.

But, he said, "better that the house is destroyed and the Israelis don't enter and come back to conquer Lebanon."

Another captured fighter, Hussein Suleiman, explained how he had set up a rocket-firing position on the front porch of a house on the outskirts of Aita al Shaab.

A third Hezbollah man, Maher Kourani, said group members had worn civilian clothes, tried never to show their weapons, and traveled in ordinary civilian cars. "We use Volvos, Mercedes, BMW," he said. "We use Range Rovers, too."

The Israeli report makes frequent references to Hezbollah's using Lebanese civilians as human shields, though it cites only two villages where it says Hezbollah prevented residents from leaving. Mr. Erlich acknowledged that over all, Hezbollah did not use coercion against Lebanese civilians.

Rather, he said, "Hezbollah was operating inside a supportive population, and cynically used them to further its own goals."

Hezbollah fired some 4,000 rockets into northern Israel, and most Israeli civilians either fled the region or took refuge in bomb shelters.

Over all, more than 1,000 Lebanese were killed, and a vast majority were civilians, according to the Lebanese government. Hezbollah has said that no more than 100 of its fighters were killed.

The Israeli report disputes this, claiming that at least 450 and perhaps as many as 650 of the Lebanese dead were from Hezbollah.

Israel suffered 159 deaths, including 41 civilians and 118 military personnel, according to the report.

Israel withdrew its troops from southern Lebanon in 2000 after a presence of nearly two decades, much of it spent fighting Hezbollah. There was periodic cross-border shelling in the ensuing years.

The war erupted on July 12 when Hezbollah crossed the border and attacked an Israeli jeep patrol, killing three soldiers and capturing two more, who remain held by Hezbollah, according to the group.

The fighting stopped Aug. 14, shortly after the passage of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701, which reaffirmed an earlier resolution calling for Lebanese militias to disarm.

Israel says Hezbollah has only hidden its weapons and is being resupplied from its longtime patrons, Syria and Iran. Israel continues to send warplanes on reconnaissance missions over southern Lebanon, despite criticism from the United Nations forces in the region.

Nada Bakri contributed reporting from Beirut, Lebanon.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Israel Military Intelligence sees 2007 as year of war

Jerusalem Post
Analysis: 2007 - The Year of War
Dec. 4, 2006

2007 will be the year of war, both in Lebanon and in
the Gaza Strip, and possibly even against Syria. It
could happen this spring, or perhaps in the summer.

According to Military Intelligence's (MI) assessment
for the coming year, there is a high probability that
Israel will find itself fighting at least two wars on
two fronts, one against the Hamas army being created
in the Gaza Strip and the other against Hizbullah,
working hard to regain its strength after the war this
past summer.

Despite a cease-fire on the Gaza front, Hamas has
spent the last week smuggling weapons into the Strip
through the tunnels running from Sinai.

Hizbullah, despite Security Council Resolution 1701
and UNIFIL's presence in southern Lebanon, has
received shipments of antitank missiles, short-range
rockets and long-range missiles from Syria since the
war ended.

The Syrian military is on high alert and has the IDF
concerned that without political "engagement," war
could erupt there.

According to MI's assessment, if Israel offered Syria
a renewal of dialogue, President Bashar Assad would
accept. However, if Israel does not make any
diplomatic overtures toward Syria, in line with Prime
Minister Ehud Olmert's declared policy, the chance of
war will only increase.

While the defense establishment is genuinely concerned
with the ongoing Hizbullah protest in Beirut and the
effect it will have on the fragile situation in the
North, MI is not surprised by Sheikh Hassan
Nasrallah's attempt to topple Prime Minister Fuad
Saniora's US-backed government.

The massive demonstration in Lebanon is more than just
a standard anti-government gathering. It is a clash of
cultures - one led by Saniora interested in an
independent and westernized Lebanon and the other led
by Nasrallah and powered by Iran, interested in a
radical and religious regime, or as MI sees it, an
extension of Iran and the axis of evil.

Syria is also contributing to the tension and,
according to MI, is the leading suspect in the
assassination two weeks ago of Lebanese Industry
Minister Pierre Gemayel. The Saniora government's
decision to establish an international tribunal to try
those responsible for the assassination of Rafik
Hariri in 2005 was a major blow for Assad and the
ongoing protest in Beirut is partially his way of

The IDF does not anticipate long life for the
cease-fire in Gaza, obtained November 25 in a phone
call between Olmert and Palestinian Authority Chairman
Mahmoud Abbas. In addition to the daily Kassam rocket
attacks since the cease-fire went into effect, the
Palestinians have continued smuggling weapons into the
Strip from Egypt.

Hamas's "army" in Gaza already numbers several
thousand troops, believed to be armed with advanced
antitank missiles, Grad-type Katyusha rockets as well
as anti-aircraft projectiles, possibly Soviet-made
SA-7 shoulder-fired missiles.

The assumption in the IDF is that the cease-fire will
not last long, maybe another couple of weeks at the
most. The major problem is that unlike the cease-fire
in 2005 before Israel's unilateral disengagement from
the Gaza Strip, this time the Palestinians do not have
any incentives to enforce or uphold the truce.

It is also important to differentiate between the
Strip and the West Bank. While Hamas is building an
army, Gaza is self-contained, cut off from the rest of
Israel. The West Bank is different. With the security
fence incomplete, a decision to remove roadblocks and
permit free passage for Palestinians could enable
terrorists to enter Israeli cities. The only way to
prevent terror there is to maintain an IDF presence in
the West Bank.

But not everyone in the defense establishment agrees
that the way to prevent terror in the West Bank is by
retaining a stifling military presence.

Coordinator of Government Activities in the
Territories Maj.-Gen. Yosef Mishlav has been
recommending the removal of roadblocks and free
passage between West Bank cities for some months now,
claiming the move would stimulate positive economic
developments within the PA. If Israel fails to do so,
Mishlav has warned, war could also erupt in the West

Continued (Permanent Link)

After Bolton

December 5, 2006 Edition > Section: Editorials
After Bolton
New York Sun Staff Editorial
December 5, 2006


The Democratic majority hasn't even formally taken over on Capitol Hill, yet
it already has a scalp to claim - that of the American ambassador at the
United Nations, John Bolton. It is a sad moment. Mr. Bolton entered his
ambassadorship a hero among many here for his role, during the administration
of President George H.W. Bush, in winning the repeal of the United Nations
resolution equating Zionism with racism. Since he got here, he and his wife
Gretchen have participated widely in the breakfasts, lunches, and dinners
around town. As people gained a sense of how hard he worked in pursuit of
America's interests, the affection this city holds for him has grown

There are many here who had hoped this sense would be conveyed to the
Democrats who opposed Mr. Bolton by Senator Schumer, who was full of
blandishments about the possibility of getting Mr. Bolton confirmed in the new
Congress. Instead, the city is now full of people who've supported Mr.
Schumer, financially and otherwise, who are left with disappointment. When it
came time to speak up for the envoy with the clearest sense of how the world
body has made the destruction of Israel its special mission and who was best
equipped to stymie that mission, New York's senior senator stood publicly
It was reminiscent of Mr. Schumer's failure to follow through on his 1998
campaign pledge to get the American embassy in Israel moved to Jerusalem from
Tel Aviv. And Mr. Schumer was not the only one who disappointed on Mr. Bolton.
Senator Clinton was completely off the field. And the Republicans, who
controlled the Senate for the past year, were unable to get Mr. Bolton
confirmed, initially as a result of qualms by Senators Voinovich and Chafee.
The line on Mr. Bolton from his critics was that he was too direct, which is
quite something given the bluntness with which Daniel Patrick Moynihan rose to
great fame at the United Nations or the saltiness with which the most famous
recent Democratic ambassador at Turtle Bay, Madeleine Albright, was given to
expressing herself.

America has had ample experience trying diplomatic niceness at Turtle Bay.
Previous ambassadors such as Thomas Pickering, say, or General Walters were
masters of the art. What it produced on their watches has been corruption,
bias against Israel, and inaction and impotence when the United Nations was
confronted with the crises of the time. Over the years, some of America's
finest diplomats and most energetic intellectuals have represented our country
at the United Nations, from Adlai Stevenson and Arthur Goldberg to Daniel
Patrick Moynihan, Jeane Kirkpatrick, and Richard Holbrooke. And the record
will show that none of them made much headway except when they got blunt and
abrasive, and few, if any, made more headway than Mr. Bolton.

Which is all the more remarkable given that he was serving a recess
appointment. He was instrumental in keeping America out of the new Human
Rights Council, which even the New York Times is acknowledging is an
international embarrassment worse than the one it replaced. He pressed the
case for accountability and controls, working well with Christopher Burnham.
One had the feeling that Mr. Bolton got up earlier, worked harder on the
minutiae of the matters under discussion, and prospered by knowing the system
better than his adversaries, which is no doubt why the United Nations
apologists went to such extremes to oppose him, with Secretary General Annan's
deputy, Mark Malloch Brown, entering the American domestic political fray in
the effort to block Mr. Bolton's confirmation.

There will be now a scramble to fill Mr. Bolton's shoes. Among those touted as
potential successors are George Mitchell, a Democrat who was a failure as a
Middle East peacemaker; Senator DeWine, who doesn't have much of a foreign
policy reputation and who failed to win re-election in Ohio; and Zalmay
Khalilzad, the American ambassador in Baghdad who has skillfully deflected
onto President Bush the blame for what has gone wrong in Iraq. Our own
instinct is that at this point a good confirmation fight would be worth more
than the confirmation of any one of the above.

Mr. Bush could get this kind of illuminating fight with the nomination of,
say, Claudia Rosett, the brilliant journalist who pursued so doggedly the
oil-for-food scandal. Senator Coleman and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen are other
inspired partisans who come to mind. But there will be plenty to choose from.
To the extent the United Nations is useful at all, it is as a megaphone for
explaining American policy to the world. Sending anyone to Turtle Bay with
hopes of doing anything other than delivering the American message, trying to
catch crooks misusing taxpayer dollars, and blowing the whistle on the
anti-Israel bias would be naïve. The best move the president would make is to
react to the defeat of Mr. Bolton by moving now to hold back as much money as
he can of the $5 billion a year America spends on the United Nations. It's the
least he could do if he can't get his most trusted choice as envoy to look out
for how our money is spent.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Saudis lead Israel peace bid

The Sunday TimesDecember 03, 2006

Saudis lead Israel peace bid
Uzi Mahnaimi, Tel Aviv,,2089-2483893,00.html

THE Saudi Arabian government is emerging as a key player in talks to broker a
comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace agreement.

According to senior Israeli sources, Ehud Olmert, Israel's prime minister,
will soon meet high-ranking Saudi officials to explore the formation of a
group of moderate Arab countries to negotiate with Tel Aviv over the future of
the Middle East.

A preliminary meeting between Olmert and a leading Saudi representative took
place in Amman, the Jordanian capital, at the end of September. According to
Israeli sources, the Saudi was Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the former ambassador
to Washington and one of the closest advisers to King Abdullah, the Saudi

Olmert is believed to be considering a Saudi initiative, endorsed by the Arab
League four years ago, as the basis for a peace settlement.

This would include the establishment of an independent Palestinian state and
could lead to a formal peace deal between Israel and seven Arab countries:
Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, the Emirates, Morocco and Tunisia.

Olmert promised the Palestinians their own state last week in a conciliatory
speech that he was said to have written himself.

Condoleezza Rice, the American secretary of state, praised the speech and her
officials welcomed it as a promising sign that "a regional peace dialogue may
be resumed".

However, an Israeli insider said: "The truth is that it was not Olmert's own
initiative but a dictate given to him last month when he met George W Bush and
Condoleezza Rice in Washington."
An Arab source said: "The Saudis wanted to see Olmert commit publicly to what
he promised Prince Bandar at the secret meeting in Amman."

According to Israeli officials, Saudi Arabia is gradually taking over the role
of principal peace broker previously played by Egypt.

Saudi influence is seen as invaluable, particularly as the country has funded
many Arab causes. Hamas, the militant group that won Palestinian elections
last January, was established with Saudi money; and the Palestinian Authority
would have collapsed long ago without Saudi funding.

Olmert, his reputation damaged by this summer's war in Lebanon, is looking for
a dramatic initiative to restore his image at home.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Jury still out: Robert Gates pro-Israel or not?

Published: 12.02.06, 09:42

Jury still out: Robert Gates pro-Israel or not?

Israeli news archives rife with headlines warning against
incoming US defense secretary, but top Israeli, American
officials present a much more complex picture; 'I found in him a
fair friend, aware and sensitive to our security issues; if I had
to say, he was a critical friend, but a friend,' former
Ambassador to US Moshe Arad says. 'I didn't get the impression
that he was anti-Israel,' adds Zalman Shoval, another former
ambassador to Washington

by Yitzhak Benhorin,7340,L-3334753,00.html

WASHINGTON - It has been said that he is against us, that a
secretary of defense is entering the Pentagon and he is not our
friend. Robert Gates, the man who President George Bush chose to
replace Donald Rumsfeld, is starting to register in our
collective consciousness as a man who will make problems for
Israel in the next two years. Just like James Baker before him,
he is already seen as an Israel-hater, and go try and prove that
he isn't.

Israeli news archives are rife with headlines warning against
Robert Gates. Everything is classified in black and white; there
are no intermediate tones.

A Ynet poll that included conversations with Americans and
Israelis shows that the picture is much more complicated.

Robert Gates, 63, is the only man in the history of the CIA who
climbed the ranks all the way from an entry-level analyst to the
director of the Central Intelligence Agency. On his way to the
top, he had a working relationship with a few Israeli who know
him up close, including David Arbel, who served in senior
positions in the Mossad.

Gates entrance into the arena was surprising and dramatic. Two
days after the blow suffered by the Republican Party in Congress,
Bush revealed what he himself admits was planned before the
elections. Gates was presented to the masses and was sworn in.

Gates was invited to the elite club of the Oval Office on the
background of growing public pressure to withdraw American forces
from Iraq and the anticipated recommendations of the Baker and
Hamilton commission, the Iraq Study Group. If you wish, he was
brought in order to get Bush and the soldiers out of the fire.

For us and against us

When Gates was deputy director of central intelligence, Arbel was
the Mossad's senior representative to North America. In a special
interview with Ynet, Arbel revealed that Gates "is a superb
professional, which is shown in the contacts we had with him.
When the American interest coincided with the Israeli interest,
it was good. When it didn't, he stuck with his country and his
organization. He is a comfortable person to deal with and to the

For two years Arbel had professional contacts with senior
intelligence officers from various countries. He classifies Gates
as a "man on a very high level."

In response to recent statements against Gates, Arbel responded:
"It was leaked that the Baker commission supports attempts to
talk with Iran and Syria and dealing a heavy hand to us on the
issue of the Palestinians. This is where statements that Gates is
anti-Israel grew from. I wouldn't say that this is because he is
anti-Israel. If he estimates that this is good for the United
States, he will do it.

"This is how an American clerk behaves. He is for us and against
us because he assesses at that particular point in time what
serves American interests. I think that is what he is like,"
explained Arbel.

David Arbel recommends not cataloging Robert Gates as
anti-Israel. One of the events attributed to him is the attempt
to drop the Iran-Contra affair on Israel. To this Arbel responds:
"This isn't true, as far as I know."

>From the realist school of thought

Moshe Arad served as Israel's ambassador to the United States
between the years 1987-1990. Robert Gates during that time was
deputy assistant to the president on national security affairs
under Reagan, and later Bush the father.

"I worked with him for about two years and I found in him a fair
friend, aware and sensitive to our security issues. If I had to
say, he was a critical friend, but a friend. He lent his hear to
the problems that bothered us at the time," said Arad.

Arad served in Washington when President Reagan and his Secretary
of State George Schultz decided to open negotiations with the PLO
and during the first year of the Bush administration when work
procedures with Israel were established.

In this context, former Ambassador Arad said, "We didn't always
agree on everything. When we needed to bring issues up for
presidential decision, he was always ready to help. We knew we
could turn to him, and we knew we could expect a positive and
listening partner. I am hesitant about classifying him as someone
who isn't sensitive to Israel's security problems. He was
attentive, sensitive, and a friend."

As Robert Gates takes his place in the Pentagon, Arad wanted to
remind everyone that "the policy is set by the president. Gates
is from the international, conservative realist school and
doesn't belong to the school of thought that sees democratization
of Middle Eastern regimes as an inclusive vision.

"The man is much more pragmatic and realistic about the American
capability to change things unilaterally. On this matter the
secretary of state will find him to be an ally in attempts to
reach a dialogue with the Europeans on the issue of the Middle
East and Iran," said Arad.

Zalman Shoval, the ambassador who arrived in Washington after
Arad, thinks Robert Gates wasn't problematic like others in Bush
the father's administration.

"In his role as deputy assistant to the president on national
security, I didn't have any confrontations with him like I had
with others during that time period. My contacts were mainly with
Baker and others, but from the contacts I had with Gates, I
didn't get the impression that he was anti-Israel," said Shoval
to Ynet.

'Very steady, very practical'

Dov Zakheim, who served as undersecretary of defense and
comptroller from 2001 to 2004 under Rumsfeld, became acquainted
with Gates while serving in various Department of Defense posts
during the Reagan administration.

In an interview with Ynet Zakheim said, "Too many people are
focusing on the fact that he was with the first President Bush
and therefore somehow he might be against Israel. We have to
remember that he spent eight years in senior positions under
President Reagan, who was considered a very good friend of Israel.

"This is a man who is not ideological in one way or another; I
don't think it's safe to say that he's against Israel," Zakheim
added. "People shouldn't jump to conclusions."

During the 2000 U.S. Presidential election campaign, Zakheim
served as a foreign policy advisor to Bush as part of a group led
by Condoleezza Rice that called itself The Vulcans.

"Gates is very steady, very practical," Zakheim said. "His
background as an intelligence person means that he's not going to
make all kinds of spark fly, and right now in the Middle East you
don't want sparks to fly."

Gates is reportedly responsible for the crisis that broke out
between Israel and the US surrounding the selling of Patriot
missile technology to China; however, it should also be noted
that tensions between the two countries also flared during
Rumsfeld's term, this time as a result of Israel's independent
sale of drones to China.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Dean and Pelosi: Carter's Wrong on Israel

Dean and Pelosi: Carter's Wrong on Israel
Democratic leaders are speaking out against former President Jimmy Carter's
controversial new book on Israel, titled "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid."

On Friday, DNC Chairman Howard Dean and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi
both issued written statements, included below in their entirety.

Dean: "While I have tremendous respect for former President Carter, I
fundamentally disagree and do not support his analysis of Israel and the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict. On this issue President Carter speaks for
himself, the opinions in his book are his own, they are not the views or
position of the Democratic Party. I and other Democrats will continue to stand
with Israel in its battle against terrorism and for a lasting peace with its

Pelosi: "With all due respect to former President Carter, he does not speak
for the Democratic Party on Israel. Democrats have been steadfast in their
support of Israel from its birth, in part because we recognize that to do so
is in the national security interests of the United States. We stand with
Israel now and we stand with Israel forever.

"The Jewish people know what it means to be oppressed, discriminated against,
and even condemned to death because of their religion. They have been leaders
in the fight for human rights in the United States and throughout the world.
It is wrong to suggest that the Jewish people would support a government in
Israel or anywhere else that institutionalizes ethnically based oppression,
and Democrats reject that allegation vigorously."

Posted by Jennifer Siegel, October 23, 11:59 am

Continued (Permanent Link)

Iraq Study Group: Pull most troops from combat by '08

Iraq Study Group: Pull most troops from combat by '08
.Panel will urge moving most U.S. troops out of combat roles by early 2008
.Report will say new initiative on Israel-Palestinian peace process needed
.Group will recommend that U.S. talk directly with Iran and Syria
.Blunt warning: Mission will fail unless White House, Congress work together
>From Ed Henry

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- In a highly anticipated report being released Wednesday,
the Iraq Study Group will call for a dramatic shift in war policy by urging
the Bush administration to set a target of moving most U.S. troops out of
their combat roles by early 2008, according to two sources who have seen the
executive summary of the report.

The bipartisan panel, however, will stop short of a specific timetable for

"The primary mission of U.S. forces in Iraq should evolve into one of
supporting the Iraqi Army," says the report.

It adds: "It's clear the Iraqi government will need U.S. assistance for some
time to come, especially in carrying out new security responsibilities. Yet
the U.S. must not make open-ended commitments to keep large numbers of troops
deployed in Iraq." (Watch what the report will recommend)

Sources familiar with the report, which will be presented to President Bush at
the White House early Wednesday morning, said it also prods the administration
to launch a new diplomatic initiative to solve the Israel-Palestinian

The report contends the United States "cannot achieve its goals in the
Mideast" unless it embarks on a "renewed and sustained commitment to a
comprehensive peace plan on all fronts," according to the sources who have
seen the report.

As part of this initiative, the panel calls for direct talks between the
United States and Iran, as well as Syria, a move the Bush administration has
repeatedly resisted.

While the president has said his goal is to help form an Iraqi government that
can sustain and defend itself, the study group contends that cannot be
achieved without serious help from other nations in the Mideast.

"Every country has an interest in avoiding a chaotic Iraq, including all of
Iraq's neighbors," says the report.

"Iraq's neighbors and key states in and outside the region should form a
support group" to help Iraq achieve long-term security and political
reconciliation -- "neither of which it can sustain on its own," the report
concludes about the shaky government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

Sources said a major theme in the report by the group, co-chaired by former
Secretary of State James Baker and former Democratic Rep. Lee Hamilton, is a
blunt assessment that the mission in Iraq will fail unless the Bush
administration and the newly elected Democratic Congress come together on a
bipartisan basis to deal with the declining support for the war within the
United States.

"What we recommend demands a tremendous amount of political will and
cooperation between the executive and legislative branches of the U.S.
government," says the report. "Success depends on unity of the American people
at a time of political polarization."

The report concludes ominously: "Foreign policy is doomed to failure -- as is
any action in Iraq -- if not supported by broad, sustained consensus."

Find this article at:

Continued (Permanent Link)

[French Jews]: A snub from Segolene Royal

A snub from Segolene Royal

By Daniel Ben Simon
It was a very embarrassing moment. The scene: the lobby of the King David
Hotel in Jerusalem. The players: Segolene Royal's spokesman Julian Dray and a
representative of CRIF, the umbrella organization of the Jewish community in
France. "I have nothing to talk to you about!" said Dray heatedly to the
astonished Jewish representative. "You have sold your soul to the other side;
you have nothing to look for with us. Go back to your friend Nicolas Sarkozy;
he's your landlord."

The CRIF representative tried with all his might to convince Dray that his
organization is taking an absolutely objective position with regard to the
presidential race in France. But Dray stuck to his guns. "You are going to pay
dearly for your one-sided mustering," he went on to shout. "Segolene will be
president, and you will have to pray for her to receive you for a discussion."

The incident occurred Sunday evening, a few minutes before the discussion that
Royal held with journalists about what she viewed as a successful visit to
Israel. Dray, an influential parliament member with the Socialist Party,
expressed the anger that has built up in the Royal camp against the Jewish
community, and especially against the organization headed by Roger Cukierman.

It is an open secret that the Jews as an organized body have sworn allegiance
to the candidate of the right, Sarkozy. At every opportunity, he meets with
them and consults with them. At every opportunity they evince enthusiasm for
him that is intended to convey the impression they are supporting him in his
race for the presidency.

This is the reason Royal did not accept an invitation to meet with the heads
of the organization in recent months. This is also the reason she ignored
their existence when she decided at the last minute to pop over to Israel and
the reason the party spokesman related to the representative of the
organization as though he were a leper.

In the past, French leaders who came to visit Israel would take along a
representative of CRIF, to demonstrate their connection to the Jews. Royal
came to Israel with her own people and left the people of the organization
helpless. The latter scorned her at first and saw her as a passerby who had
stumbled into a battle of titans. Later on, when she started to gather
momentum, they sent out probes to her camp to create conditions for
friendship. When she defeated the men in her party in the first round, the
heads of CRIF realized they had erred in their bet. After they recovered from
the shock of her victory, they were certain that in the final race, their man,
Sarkozy, would defeat her with one hand tied behind his back. And now, the
latest surveys are indicating a close race with a slight edge for Royal.

What should they do? They are trying to carry out an elegant retreat and
signal to the Royal camp that the Jews, in fact, have not yet decided who they
think is the preferable candidate. However, it is possible that CRIF's
mustering for Sarkozy has already created a deep crisis of trust with the
Royal camp.

It has always happened that when France faces major decisions, the Jews try to
appear neutral. In a desperate attempt not to become embroiled with the
leading political forces, they have tried to adopt an open-bridges policy in
their contacts with the two major parties.

However, recently they have been attacked by an acute desire to resemble the
American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). For years, the American
lobby has been standing up as a defensive wall behind the hawkish views in
Israel. The heads of the right have been greeted as heroes at its conferences,
whereas the heads of the left have pleaded in vain for similar treatment.

The heads of CRIF took a step and learned it came with a price. "It has never
yet happened to us that we have not had a connection with any key person in a
candidate's headquarters," admitted a senior figure in the organization.

This is why they are trying to make a pilgrimage to Julian Dray, so he can
blaze a path for them to the candidate's heart. However Dray, a declared Jew
and staunch supporter of Israel whose brother works here as a doctor, has
turned his back on them.

It is no wonder, then, that the first to make accusations against Royal in the
wake of her visit to Israel have been the heads of CRIF. While in official
Israel they have forgiven her for her stumble in Lebanon and have seen it as
the mistake of a novice, the heads of CRIF have attacked her for daring to
meet with a Hezbollah representative. The organization has issued an
extraordinary statement of condemnation in which it reminded Royal that the
Shi'ite organization is responsible for mass murders, and that its radio
station disseminates anti-Semitism. All is fair in war - and both sides are
sharpening their swords in anticipation of the continuation of the fight.

This situation does not work to the benefit of French Jews, of Israel and of
relations between the two countries. CRIF achieved its greatness because it
appeared to be a bridge that stretched over the turbulent waters of French
politics. This is the reason the elders of the country, no matter from which
camp, went to the trouble of accepting every invitation to appear before its
members, in the knowledge that the Jewish organization is a French institution
that rises above political disputes.

And there is another risk inherent here. When the alliance between the Jews
and the presidential candidate of the right becomes a consolidated fact, the
voters from Muslim backgrounds will flock to the Socialist candidate to serve
as a counterweight to the Jews.

To the extent that the Jews will expect a return for their support of Sarkozy,
the Muslims will expect a similar return for their support of Royal. If this
happens, the distance between the two communities, which are embroiled in any
case, is liable to grow even larger.

Continued (Permanent Link)

U.S. panel to call for Middle East peace plan to help stabilize Iraq

Last update - 10:29 06/12/2006

U.S. panel to call for Middle East peace plan to help stabilize Iraq

By Reuters

A bipartisan U.S. panel on Iraq is expected to call Wednesday for a
comprehensive Middle East peace plan in a broader regional approach to
stabilizing Iraq, according to CNN.

The panel will reportedly recommend that U.S. forces withdraw from combat over
the next year and focus on training Iraqis, offering President George W. Bush
the outlines of an exit strategy from the war.

The Republican president has not said if he will take the advice of the Iraq
Study Group, which will publish the report at 11 A.M. local time (1600 GMT).

Quoting excerpts from the report, CNN said it stopped short of recommending a
specific timetable for withdrawal but did stress that Iraqis had to take on a
larger share of the military role.

"The primary mission of U.S. forces should evolve to one of supporting the
Iraqi army," CNN quoted the report as saying.

In other details to emerge, The Washington Post said the panel recommends that
Bush press the Iraqi government to meet specific goals for improving security
or face the threat of a cut in U.S. economic and military support.

More than three-and-a-half years after the March 2003 invasion that toppled
Saddam Hussein, about 140,000 American troops remain in Iraq fighting an
insurgency and trying to stop sectarian strife between Shiites and Sunnis.

The conflict has lasted longer than U.S. involvement in World War Two and has
killed more than 2,900 American troops.

Ethnic fighting has killed thousands of Iraqis, raising debate over whether
the country has descended into civil war and whether the U.S.-backed
government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki can stem the carnage.

Bush has been under added political pressure to change course in Iraq since
the November 7 elections when voters, who had soured on the war, ended
Republican control of Congress.

The president, who was briefed on the report on Tuesday, has said he will
listen to the group's ideas but the White House said it doubted the panel's
five Republicans and five Democrats would provide a "magic bullet."

Robert Gates, a former CIA director and commission member until Bush nominated
him last month to replace Donald Rumsfeld as defense secretary, said the
United States was not winning in Iraq and dismissed the prospect of quick

'No new ideas'
"It's my impression that, frankly, there are no new ideas on Iraq," Gates told
his Senate confirmation hearing.

Still, the group led by Republican former Secretary of State James Baker and
former Democratic Rep. Lee Hamilton of Indiana is expected to influence the
debate over the war because its members were unanimous in their advice.

Sources familiar with the group's deliberations said the report would
recommend the U.S. military shift away from combat and toward a support role
in Iraq over the next year or so.

It is also expected to call for a regional conference on stabilizing Iraq that
could lead to direct U.S. talks with Iran and Syria, an option that the White
House has opposed.

Pulling back combat forces to focus on providing training, advice, logistics
and intelligence would still leave tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers in Iraq.

Bush has given little sign he will contemplate any quick exit from Iraq,
saying repeatedly that U.S. forces would stay until the job is done.

"It's in our interests to help liberty prevail in the Middle East, starting
with Iraq. And that's why this business about graceful exit simply has no
realism to it at all," Bush said after he met Maliki in Jordan last week.
"We'll be in Iraq until the job is complete."

The White House has sought to blunt the impact of the Iraq Study Group's work
by conducting its own review of the war. Bush aides have said he is likely to
take weeks, rather than months, to decide how and whether to change his policy

Continued (Permanent Link)

[Winograd] Panel member: [Israel] Gov't denying Lebanon war probe access to records

Last update - 11:55 06/12/2006

Panel member: Gov't denying Lebanon war probe access to records

By Nir Hasson, Haaretz Correspondent

Neither government ministries nor the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense
Committee are cooperating with the Winograd Committee's investigation of this
summer's war in Lebanon, and as a result, the committee's work has been
delayed, a member of the committee told Haaretz on Tuesday.

But a spokesman for the committee denied this, saying that the panel has
enjoyed complete cooperation from government agencies.

About two weeks ago, the Winograd panel asked the Foreign Affairs and Defense
Committee for the protocols of its meetings during and prior to the war.

These protocols reveal the real-time opinions of various defense officials,
and therefore provide a check against the explanations that these same
officials have offered after the fact. As such, they are critical to the

However, the Foreign Affairs Committee refused to hand over the documents,
saying that by law, all of its protocols are classified as "top secret" and
can only be disclosed after 30 years.

According to Committee Chair Tzachi Hanegbi (Kadima), there is no precedent
for the committee giving copies of its protocols to anyone, even serving
ministers or Knesset members.

Following this refusal, the Winograd panel began negotiating with the
committee, and in the end, following consultations with both the Knesset's
legal advisor and the Foreign Affairs Committee's legal advisor, the parties
agreed that the protocols would be released upon receipt of a written pledge
from former judge Eliyahu Winograd, who heads the inquiry panel.

In his letter, Winograd promised that the committee's report would not include
any direct quotes from the protocols, and that the secrecy of the material
would be guarded. As a result, the Winograd Committee is expected to receive
the protocols in the next few days.

A similar problem, which seems yet unresolved, relates to documents that the
panel wants from the Foreign Ministry. However, the ministry insists it is
"cooperating fully with the committee. All the documents that have been
requested of the ministry have been transferred. There are additional
documents that will be transferred soon."

The High Court of Justice, which last week decided not to overturn the
government's decision to establish the Winograd panel instead of a state
commission of inquiry, also said that despite its decision not to intervene,
it feared that the panel lacked the powers needed for a thorough investigation
of the war.

But Winograd Committee spokesman Eli Shaked insists the panel has all the
legal powers it needs to obtain documents and summon witnesses, and that all
the committee members feel the government is cooperating fully.

On Wednesday, Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz will testify before the
committee. He is considered one of the most important witnesses, because from
1998 until a few months before the war, he served continuously in key defense
posts, first as IDF chief of staff, and later as defense minister. The
committee is expected to ask him about Israel's view of the Hezbollah threat
in the years following its pullout from south Lebanon in May 2000.

On Tuesday, the panel heard testimony from IDF spokeswoman Miri Regev and the
head of the Military Intelligence research division, Yossi Baiditz. Regev was
asked about her unit's informational efforts during the war. Baiditz, who
until May 2005 served as the Northern Command's chief intelligence officer,
was asked what information the Northern Command had about Hezbollah at that

Yuval Yoaz adds: Meanwhile, the Movement for Quality Government asked the High
Court Tuesday to hold a rehearing, with a larger panel of justices, on the
movement's petition against the Winograd Committee.

The court upheld the committee's establishment in a narrow 4-3 ruling last
week, with the minority arguing that the government should be forced to
disband it and establish a state commission of inquiry in its place.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Peres: Proposed PA unity gov't would be a 'facade'

Last update - 11:48 06/12/2006

Peres: Proposed PA unity gov't would be a 'facade'
By The Associated Press

Vice Premier Shimon Peres said Wednesday that a proposed Palestinian Authority
national unity government would be nothing more than a "facade," because the
Hamas militants it would represent are not interested in peace.

PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah declared last week that efforts to form
such a government had broken down, but Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas
denied negotiations had reached a dead end.

Hamas would use such a government in an effort to restore international
funding that dried up after it took power, Peres said.

"Hamas doesn't want peace, even if we give them '67 borders," Peres said,
referring to the pre-1967 Six Day War boundaries. "Hamas wants to use Fatah as
a facade to get money."

The talks between Abbas and Hamas foundered over the militant group's refusal
to recognize Israel, renounce violence and accept existing peace deals.

The Quartet of Middle East negotiators - the European Union, United States,
United Nations, and Russia - have made those three stipulations preconditions
for lifting the international economic embargo imposed on the PA after Hamas
came to power in January.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Report accuses Hezbollah of war crimes, hiding among civilians

Last update - 11:47 06/12/2006

Report accuses Hezbollah of war crimes, hiding among civilians

By Haaretz Service and The Associated Press

Hezbollah operated during the second Lebanon war from within civilian
structures and its operatives disguised themselves as civilians, and is
therefore guilty war crimes, according to a report authored by Intelligence
and Terrorism Information Center.

The report also says that 650 out of the 1,084 people the Lebanese government
has said were civilians killed in the conflict were in fact Hezbollah

According to international law on warfare, the use of civilian structures
during combat is forbidden, and turns the structures into legitimate military
targets. International human rights organizations and the United Nations have
accused Israel of attacking civilian targets during the war.

The Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center works in close cooperation
with the Israel Defense Forces Intelligence Corps. The center's director,
Colonel (res.) Reuven Erlich, said the report is intended to help make
Israel's case to the world regarding IDF activities during the war.

"I think it could offer a response to allegations of human rights
organizations on why the Israel Defense Forces operated in civilian areas,"
Ehrlich said.

The report said Hezbollah operated from civilian areas to deter the Israeli
military and gain a propaganda advantage if an Israeli counterattack caused
civilian casualties. Militants stashed weapons in hundreds of private homes
and mosques, had missile transports closely follow ambulances and fired
rockets near UN monitoring posts, the report said

The report's authors say it proves that Hezbollah made serious efforts to
blend in with the civilian population in Beirut and southern Lebanon. The
report includes aerial photographs of buildings and facilities in civilian
neighborhoods being used by Hezbollah, as well as pictures of Hezbollah
militants firing rockets next to residential buildings. In at least one
instance, say the authors, Hezbollah weapons were found in a mosque.

The report also includes testimony given by captured Hezbollah militants, in
which they admit they were instructed to hide in civilian buildings. One
militant said, according to the report, that he transported a Katyusha rocket
under the cover of a white flag. Another militant is quoted as saying that he
and his comrades wore civilian clothes and traveled in civilian vehicles, to
avoid being identified as militants.

One video included in the report showed a captured Hezbollah guerrilla telling
his interrogators how the militia rented houses in residential areas to
secretly store missiles.

"Even the owner of the house, he knows he's giving (the building) to
Hezbollah, they rent it for instance, but its not possible for him to know
what's in it," said the militant, identified as 30-year-old Maher Hassan
Mahmoud Kourani.

The report presents Hezbollah Katyusha rocket "firing cards", which include
instructions on how to aim in order to hit civilian population centers in
northern Israel.

The report concludes by offering a legal determination accusing Hezbollah of
war crimes. Three chapters in the report addressing the war crimes issue were
prepared by the IDF legal department, in conjunction with Foreign Ministry
lawyers, the report said.

A Hezbollah official dismissed the Israeli report as "totally untrue," saying
it was part of "a campaign to vilify Hezbollah and justify the unjustified
Israeli massacres in Lebanon."

"These allegations are part of Israeli propaganda aimed at protecting Israel's
generals and officials who face accusations of committing massacres against
Lebanese civilians during the summer war," Hussein Rahhal, Hezbollah's media
chief, told The Associated Press in Lebanon.

Amnesty International said the report did not contain many new allegations.
"In terms of the fact that Hezbollah had weapons, tunnels, militia facilities
in villages, no one disputes it. Hezbollah does not dispute it," said Claudio
Cordone, a senior director of research at Amnesty.

Cordone called for "a proper international investigation ... to look into
these allegations and other ones," including Hezbollah's rocket attacks on
northern Israel.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Where Will the Israeli Left Leave Israel?

Where Will the Israeli Left Leave Israel?

By: Frimet Roth
This week would have been my daughter's 21st birthday.
She won't be here to celebrate it, though. Five years ago, a Palestinian
terrorist ended my Malki's life while she stood on line in the Sbarro pizza
restaurant in the center of Jerusalem. Fourteen other innocent Israelis,
including seven children, perished with her. One family was decimated -­ both
parents and three of their eight children died.
That terror bombing elicited responses from leaders around the world. But
not many. And certainly nowhere near as many as Israel's November 8th attack
on Beit Hanoun in the Gaza Strip. That misfired artillery shell has unleashed
a torrent of anti-Israel rhetoric both within Israel and beyond. After the
first 24 hours, it drew 2,026 articles on Google. Fifty Sri Lankan civilians
were killed in another artillery shelling that same day. By comparison, only
141 stories reported on their deaths.

Those 20 Palestinian victims generated immediate and heated finger-pointing
and chest-beating. The European Union's spokesman called it a "profoundly
shocking event". Italy's foreign minister saw it as "an escalation of violence
I think is unacceptable." United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan, found
it such a "shocking development" that he promptly convened the Security
Council. The Pope's representative in the Holy Land declared that he is "full
of sorrow."

Three weeks later the Beit Hanoun tragedy still features in media headlines.
Five years ago when my child was murdered in cold blood, Mr. Annan could not
find the time to address the media. He sent a spokesman to read his statement
deploring not only that terrorist bombing but "all acts of terror"-familiar
code words for Israel's actions against Palestinian terrorists.

The EU President's response oddly pointed out that the Sbarro bombing
"mainly claimed the lives of innocent civilians." Which of the men, women and
children having lunch in that restaurant was not "innocent" is anyone's guess.

The Vatican did not react at all.
But who can blame foreign leaders when Israel's own pundits and leaders set
the same tone.
Gideon Levy, who writes for Israel's pre-eminent daily, Haaretz, fancies
himself a champion of the weak and vulnerable. The day after my child's
cold-blooded murder by a Hamas bomber, Levy wrote the following in his weekly
piece detailing Palestinian suffering:

"These children, every child in the world should have protection as though
he were a VIP. Every child in the world is a VIP"
Levy did not mention the seven Jewish children whose graves were dug that
day because he did not mean those children. He never does.

Haaretz consistently runs three or more articles of Levy's every week. In
the wake of Beit Hanoun, his op-ed, "No one is Guilty in Israel" ranted and
raved with characteristic disregard for fact or context: "Nineteen inhabitants
of Beit Hanoun were killed with malice aforethought", writes Levy, "The IDF
bombards helpless civilians? the ritual slaughterer slaughtered? The [Israeli]
air force was already hastening to carry out another targeted killing?"

Levy's colleague, Amira Hass, the only Israeli journalist who lives in a
Palestinian town, Ramallah, was equally indifferent to my child's murder. The
first piece she published in Haaretz after the Sbarro massacre made no mention
of the fifteen victims. Instead, it was an emotive tirade about the
Palestinian right of return, reminding her readers of two major Jewish
settlements close to Jerusalem that she fears "won't be evacuated": the city
of Maaleh Adumim and the Jerusalem satellite community of Givat Ze'ev.

Murdered Jewish children do not move Hass either.
But after Beit Hanoun, Amira Hass found plenty of words to grieve for the
dead. With her customary flood of mood-setting but irrelevant detail she wrote
of Zahar whose son had been killed and who lay in the Beit Hanoun hospital:

"After the first shell ... her 14 year old daughter May helped her find her
headscarf, skirt and pants, but she had no time to cover her head."

Benny Zifir, Haaretz' television critic, could not resist the left-wing urge
to equate Israel's responses to terrorism with Nazism. Carefully avoiding the
taboo "N" word, he denigrated two local journalists' who had prided themselves
on mentioning the Beit Hanoun deaths on their current affairs program. He made
this gross comparison:

"[It] reminds one of the French parodies of those who claim they were once
in the Resistance. When you ask them what their act of resistance was they
reply that when the Germans matched in their town they didn't go out to the
balcony to cheer them on."

Even Haaretz' editors, normally more moderate than their columnists, have
joined the fray. Beit Hanoun is no different from Sderot in their eyes. After
the fatal Qassam attacks of November 17, their editorial, "Two Miserable
Towns", equated their "mutual misery and mutual intimidation". Somehow the
editors are no longer able to distinguish between the targeting of innocent
women and children and deaths in the course of combating terrorists who
deliberately strike from the heart of residential neighborhoods.

Our Prime Minister couldn't apologize quickly enough. His abject contrition
would have been far more appropriate five years ago after the Sbarro bombing.
But as mayor of Jerusalem, he, along with then Prime Minister Sharon and his
government, saw no reason to apologize for their failure to protect civilians
within their county's borders.

Not one government official, (other than Rabbi Benny Eilon MK) visited or
called us after our Malki's murder. In a radio interview this week, government
minister Gideon Ezra took a giant step toward empathy with the enemy over his
own nation. Even the journalist was taken aback when Ezra referred to the Beit
Hanoun deaths as a "massacre". Only when his choice of words was questioned
did he add that "oh, yes-Sderot is a massacre as well."

The family of the latest terror victim, Sderot's Yaakov Yaakovy, were
outraged by the failure of even one government official to attend the funeral
or pay them a shiva call.

"Why doesn't anyone come to us?" his son asked, "If he were Moroccan, they
would be here," he added.
While this is surely no comfort, I can assure the family that such conduct
has typified our government throughout this six-year long war, regardless of
the victims' ethnicity.

While the Israel's Left lumbers Israel with blame over Palestinian deaths,
the Palestinians themselves seem as nonchalant about death as ever. They
recklessly fire rockets from close proximity to civilian dwellings and often
with children standing at their sides.

A few days prior to the Beit Hanoun deaths, terrorists holed up in a mosque
brazenly surrounded themselves with unarmed women to serve them as human

What can the future hold for us now that our pundits and leaders have
adopted the extreme Left's moral compass? What will become of us, a nation
that glosses over the murder of its own children in favor of its enemies'

Tzvia Greenfield, a staunch left-wing Meretz politician, sees the alarming
writing on the wall. She said this of her colleagues, a few days ago in a
caustic Haaretz piece entitled, "The Fault of the Left":

"Too many in today's Israeli Left doubt the justice of the very existence of
the Jewish State."
And, sadly, too many of the Israeli Left are at the helm of this nation.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Archbishop Tutu, please be fair
Archbishop Tutu, please be fair

Dec. 5, 2006
In view of his record as chairman of South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Committee, Nobel Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu's appointment as head of the UN fact-finding mission into the deaths of Palestinians at Beit Hanun is a logical choice, despite widely expressed opposition.

The manner in which he sometimes broke down and wept with the victims of apartheid atrocities during the hearings stamps him as a man of compassion.

Many fear that because of his publicly expressed anti-Israel views the archbishop's investigation will inevitably be biased. However, as a religious man of intellect and integrity he will, I hope, consider all relevant facts and circumstances even when they run counter to prior impressions about Israel.

Since the African National Congress and the Palestine Liberation Organization were one-time comrades in arms, his empathy with the PLO is understandable. Unfortunately, what many in South Africa do not realize is that there is no similarity between the ANC's struggle on the one hand, and the struggle of the PLO and Hamas on the other.

While the lofty aims of the ANC Freedom Charter state that "South Africa shall strive to maintain world peace and the settlement of all international disputes by negotiation - not war," article 9 of the PLO Charter declares the opposite. It states bluntly that the armed struggle is not merely tactical, it is the overall strategy. Article 19 rejects the 1947 UN partition of Palestine, clearly implying that liberating Palestine means the destruction of the pre-1967 Jewish state.

The Hamas charter makes it even clearer that it leaves no room for peaceful negotiation. Article 13 unambiguously declares "initiatives, and so-called peaceful solutions and international conferences, are in contradiction to the principles of the Islamic Resistance Movement. There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through jihad."

ARCHBISHOP TUTU has been quoted as saying, "My dream is that one day my children will wake up and realize that they are members of one family." Very sadly, there is a force at work in the Middle East determined to prevent the realization of that noble dream.
I refer to incitement to violence as preached in mosques, schools and state-sponsored media. If the archbishop would spare a few minutes to visit the Web site he will no doubt be grieved to learn how Palestinian children are indoctrinated from infancy to hate viciously, and he will realize that there can be no hope of a peaceful settlement as long as people grow up on a diet of hate.

Dare one hope that during his investigation the archbishop will lend his immense prestige to demanding an end to this destructive incitement as vigorously as he has criticized Israel in the past?

If he took the opportunity during his forthcoming visit to impartially examine all the facts, he would discover - to his pleasant surprise - that accusations of Israeli apartheid are mean-spirited and wrong-headed. He would find that whereas the apartheid of the old South Africa was entrenched in law, Israel's Declaration of Independence absolutely ensures complete equality of social and political rights to all inhabitants, irrespective of religion, race, or gender.

He would discover that in regard to discrimination, Israel compares favorably even with the new South Africa, where "Black Economic Empowerment" is a form of reverse apartheid, albeit justifiably introduced to redress past evils.

He would find that Arabs and Jews are entitled to equal medical treatment under our health insurance law. An unblinkered visit to an Israeli hospital would convince the severest critic about the complete absence of any form of racial discrimination there. Arab and Jewish doctors collaborate easily. Arab and Israeli patients share the same wards. In some hospitals Arabs far outnumber Jewish patients. Especially noticeable after terrorist bombing incidents is the equal treatment given to victims and perpetrators.

WITH REGARD to the Beit Hanun tragedy, perhaps the archbishop would at least recognize Israel's difficulty in totally minimizing collateral damage, in contrast to the cynical and grossly illegal practice of Palestinian terrorists deliberately aiming at civilian populations while sheltering behind civilians.

Perhaps he would consider the reaction of IDF soldiers to their unwelcome duties, as described in an "A gunner's nightmare" by Steve Linde (Post, November 8). Linde wrote: "Can you imagine how terrible the artillery troops who fired the shells at Beit Hanun yesterday must be feeling now? After serving in IDF Artillery, I can only say that this is every gunner's nightmare scenario: killing innocent men, women and children."

Linde points out that in response to Kassam rocket attacks gunners were ordered to "fire at the source" - which they did, firing a dozen or so shells. He adds that whereas the Kassams are intentionally fired at civilian targets, hoping for maximum casualties and damage, the troops who fired at Beit Hanun weren't aiming to hit civilians. They were targeting terrorists firing rockets.

PERHAPS the archbishop would concede that it is incomprehensible that, in passing judgment on Israel's response at Hanun, the world rejects equipment malfunction as a probable cause of the tragedy, knowing technical faults and human errors occur even in such highly disciplined fields as space exploration.

Archbishop Tutu is not only a man of compassion. He is a man of courage, as evidenced by his outspoken criticism of the present South African government.

Dare we hope that he will exhibit similar courage by challenging the knee-jerk anti-Israel actions of the UN body which appointed him and offer constructive conclusions after conducting a thoroughly impartial investigation into the all the circumstances leading up to the Beit Hanun disaster?

The writer is a South African living in Israel.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Prodi pushes for Jewish Israeli state

Prodi pushes for Jewish Israeli state

Herb Keinon, THE JERUSALEM POST Dec. 5, 2006

Israel needs a guarantee it will be able to maintain its character as a Jewish
state, Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi has said in a statement pregnant
with diplomatic significance since it implies acceptance of Israel's rejection
of Palestinian demands for a "right of return" for refugees and their

Prodi made the comments at a private meeting in Rome on Saturday, The
Jerusalem Post has learned.

The statement faintly echoed US President George W. Bush's commitment in his
April 2004 letter to then-prime minister Ariel Sharon prior to disengagement.
Then, Bush wrote that the United States "is strongly committed to Israel's
security and well-being as a Jewish state."

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni has been leading efforts over the last few months
to get European leaders to make a similar statement. Senior European
diplomatic officials in Israel said they knew of no plans for a public EU-wide
statement of this nature.

Bush was even more explicit in his letter, saying "it seems clear that an
agreed, just, fair and realistic framework for a solution to the Palestinian
refugee issue as part of any final status agreement will need to be found
through the establishment of a Palestinian state, and the settling of
Palestinian refuges there, rather than in Israel."

Prodi's comments were made during a meeting in which the ground rules were
that the content of statements would not be made public, so that the
participants could speak freely.

Addressing ways to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Prodi said there
was a need to provide security assurances to Israel, but that more importantly
there was a need to give Israel a guarantee that it "would be able to maintain
its Jewish character."

The Italian Embassy had no comment on the remarks.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who in his Sde Boker speech last week called on
Palestinians to "relinquish your demand for the realization of the right of
return," is scheduled to meet with Prodi next Wednesday during a three-day
European visit to Berlin and Rome.

Israel has long argued that if Palestinian refugees and their descendants were
allowed to move to Israel, it would tip the demographic balance in favor of
the Arabs and lead to the demise of the Jewish state.

Prodi's comments came at a meeting during which he also raised the idea of
expanding the European role at the Rafah border crossing to include the entire
Philadelphi Corridor if both Israel and the Palestinians agreed. He also said
that now was not necessarily the time for large-scale Middle East peace
conferences, as some have recommended recently in Europe, but rather for
confidence building measures by both sides.

Senior diplomatic officials in Jerusalem said Prodi's comments about the need
to provide guarantees that Israel would remain a Jewish state were "very
significant," because if European leaders talk about the right of Israel to
exist as a homeland for the Jewish people, "they are by definition rejecting
the idea of a Palestinian right of return."

"It is important to get everyone on the same page on this," one official said.
"If this point were agreed upon by the international community, then it could
be possible to begin dealing with finding permanent solutions for the refugees
without waiting for a final status agreement."

A public European declaration along these lines would represent a significant
shift in European policy, the official added.

Another official, however, said it was very unlikely that Prodi, or any other
European leader, would repeat his comments in public or come out with a
declaration similar to Bush's, because of the waves it would cause in the Arab

Such a statement, he said, would bring the European community down squarely on
Israel's side on an issue that has proven to be a major stumbling block in the
diplomatic process, something the Europeans were unlikely to do at this time.

This article can also be read at

Continued (Permanent Link)

Livni: International pressure on Hamas is 'bearing fruit'

Livni: International pressure on Hamas is 'bearing fruit'

Herb Keinon and Tovah Lazaroff, THE JERUSALEM POST Dec. 5, 2006

Pressure by the international community on Hamas is bearing fruit, Foreign
Minister Tzipi Livni told reporters in France on Tuesday.

"Almost a year after Hamas came to power, we are beginning to see signs of
change, which is partly due to pressure by the international community," Livni
said at the beginning of her two-day visit during which she is scheduled to
meet French President Jacques Chirac in Paris and press him not to abandon the
road map or water down the international community's three criteria for
dealing with the Palestinian Authority government.

Earlier Tuesday, Livni met French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy. The
foreign minister called on the international community to continue to demand
that the Palestinians recognize Israel's right to exist even after the
establishment of a PA unity government.

According to Israeli diplomatic officials, Livni will also be carrying a
message that the Gaza cease-fire and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's address at
Sde Boker last week have created a new momentum and laid out a political
horizon, and therefore there was no reason to begin developing new diplomatic
plans or initiatives.

Last month Chirac seemed to be putting his weight behind a new diplomatic
initiative announced by Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.

Chirac, at a press conference in Spain where Zapatero announced the
initiative, said, "We are going to act jointly with the Spanish and Italian
governments, with the cooperation of the EU... to try to initiate the
indispensable moral and political reforms in the Middle East."

Livni's visit to France is part of an Israeli diplomatic offensive before next
week's summit of European leaders where the Middle East is expected to play a
major role.

In addition to Livni's trip, Olmert will be holding talks with German
Chancellor Angela Merkel next Tuesday in Berlin and with Italian Prime
Minister Romano Prodi next Wednesday in Rome. The European leaders are set to
meet the next day.

But according to senior European diplomatic sources, no new Mideast paper will
be presented at the meeting of European leaders in Brussels.

Italy, which was mentioned along with France and Spain as one of the
initiative's cosponsors, has backed down from some of the plan's main
elements, including the convening of an international peace conference or the
dispatching of "observers" to Gaza, saying that such moves needed the
agreement of both the Israelis and the Palestinians.

The initiative also called for an immediate cease-fire.

The EU's ambassador to Israel, Ramiro Cibrian-Uzal, said Tuesday that the goal
of the Spanish initiative was to serve as a "catalyst to 'overcome the
impasse' and in that sense we can consider that they have succeeded."

The first part of the plan was the cease-fire, he said, which has "already
been partially implemented." He said that in that sense the initiative has
"already been implemented, not in full but in part."

Regarding concerns in Jerusalem that the road map may be supplanted by other
initiatives, Cibrian-Uzal told The Jerusalem Post that "as of today our bible
continues to be the road map."

The EU ambassador said any other plan could be considered "only as a way to
update or to modify the road map, and so far there has not been any consensus
on the convenience or the wisdom of updating or modifying the road map."

Cibrian-Uzal said the EU was "staying by the road map as agreed by the
Quartet. That is our bottom line and it is our rock-solid position."

According to Cibrian-Uzal, the procession of European leaders who have visited
Israel in recent days, from the EU's foreign policy chief Javier Solana to
French Socialist presidential candidate Segolene Royal, have been urging an
immediate summit between Olmert and PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas without

While Olmert has said he was ready to meet immediately, Abbas has conditioned
a meeting on the release of Palestinian prisoners.

According to the ambassador, "a number of European leaders are recommending to
Abu Mazen [Abbas] to seize the momentum and go ahead with this proposed

This article can also be read at

Continued (Permanent Link)

Al Aksa: Cease-fire doesn't apply to us

Dec. 6, 2006 10:35 | Updated Dec. 6, 2006 10:44
Al Aksa: Cease-fire doesn't apply to us

The Aksa Martyrs Brigades announced on Wednesday that they viewed themselves
as exempt from the cease-fire with Israel, Israel Radio reported.

The group vowed it would renew rocket attacks on Israel in response to Israeli

The Fatah-affiliated organization is one of several Palestinian armed groups
that have refused to acknowledge the cease-fire as long as the IDF continues
to arrest its members in the West Bank.

Other groups that refused to sign the truce with Israel included Islamic Jihad
and Hamas's armed wing, Izzadin Kassam.

Since the cease-fire began last week, at least 16 Kassam rockets have been
fired at Israel from the Gaza Strip.

Khaled Abu Toameh contributed to this report.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Egypt police destroy tunnel after Gaza-bound explosives found

Egypt police destroy tunnel after Gaza-bound explosives found
By Reuters Haaretz 5 December 2006

Egyptian police found 500 kg of explosives hidden in bags in central Sinai
and bound for smuggling into Gaza, police sources said on Tuesday.

Egyptian police also destroyed with explosives one of the tunnels thought to
be used for smuggling.

The TNT, covered in plastic sheeting, were concealed in a mountain area near
Giddi, about 130 km west of the Egyptian-Israeli border, they said.

Egyptian police found more than four tons of explosives in central Sinai
last month and suspect that too was on its way to Palestinians in Gaza, they

Israel says smuggling across the Egyptian border is one of the main ways
arms and ammunition reach Palestinians in Gaza.

Police found no one in or near the tunnel near the divided border town of
Rafah but found signs that it had been used, an official police source said.

Militants regularly fired rockets across the Gaza Strip's border with Israel
before a ceasefire on November 26 which ended a five-month-old Israel
Defense Forces offensive in the territory.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Gates does not rule out nuclear attack on Israel

Published: 12.05.06, 19:42

Gates does not rule out nuclear attack on Israel

US defense secretary-designate, testifying at his Senate Foreign
Relations Committee confirmation hearing, says he cannot
guarantee that if Iran possesses nuclear weapons it will not use
them to put Ahmadinejad's threats into action and wipe Israel off
map. However, he says US military attack against Tehran would be
'absolute last resort'

by Yitzhak Benhorin,7340,L-3336531,00.html

WASHINGTON – US Defense Secretary-designate Robert Gates provided
Tuesday a gloomy prediction regarding the future of the Middle East.

During his testimony at his Senate Foreign Relations Committee
confirmation hearing to replace Donald H. Rumsfeld, Gates was
asked about Iran's nuclear program and President Ahamdinejad's
threats to wipe Israel off the map.

Gates replied that the Iranian president's threats were serious,
but that there were greater forces in Iran than Ahmadinejad who
are interested in nuclear ability as a power of deterrence
against nuclear countries surrounding them – Pakistan in the
east, Russia in the north, Israel in the west and the United
States in the Persian Gulf.

The senators asked Gates whether he could guarantee that if Iran
possesses nuclear weapons it would not put its threats against
Israel into action.

Gates answered that he did not believe anyone could guarantee
such a thing.

During the hearing, however, Gates stated that he would not
recommend to the president to attack Iran, but only as an
"absolute last resort" and if crucial American interests were
being threatened.

He estimated that an American military operation against Iran
could lead to chemical and biological terror attacks.

"I think that we have seen, in Iraq, that once war is unleashed,
it becomes unpredictable," he said, adding that the consequences
of a military confrontation with Iran could be dramatic.

'Wave of anti-Americanism in Middle East'

He added that while Iran cannot directly attack the Americans, it
had the ability to close the Persian Gulf for oil exports, to
launch a terror campaign in the Middle East and Europe and even
in the US. It's realistic, he said.

An American attack in Iran, Gates said, would not help the US in
Iraq but would rather damage its interests there. The Iranians,
he said, could supply terror groups with weapons for mass
destruction, mainly chemical and biological.

He added that Tehran also had the ability to operate Hizbullah
and undermine the situation in Lebanon .

As for Syria , Gates said a US attack on that country would
unleash a wave of anti-Americanism in the Middle East.

It would have "dramatic consequences for us in Middle East,"
Gates said. "It would give rise to greater anti-Americanism than
we have seen to date. It would immediately complicate our
relations with every country in the region."

'Forces should be left in Iraq'

Gates was chosen by US President George W. Bush to replace Donald
Rumsfeld following the latter's resignation, and many in the US
hope that he will be the person to bring American soldiers back
from Iraq.

He admitted that in the current situation, the US was not winning
the war in Iraq, but made it clear that it was not fleeing Iraq
and would withdraw in an organized manner after the Iraqi
government and its security forces are able to control the
situation and defend themselves.

The developments in Iraq in the next two years will influence the
future of the entire Middle East, he said, adding that a strategy
must be developed which will not leave Iraq in chaos and will
give the region hope.

If Iraq is not stabilized in a year or two, the entire Middle
East will be on fire, he said.

He also estimated that even if there is a significant withdrawal
of forces from Iraq in the future, American forces will remain in
the country for many years to provide support for the Iraqi army.

AP contributed to the report

Continued (Permanent Link)

Jury still out: Robert Gates pro-Israel or not?

Published: 12.02.06, 09:42

Jury still out: Robert Gates pro-Israel or not?

Israeli news archives rife with headlines warning against
incoming US defense secretary, but top Israeli, American
officials present a much more complex picture; 'I found in him a
fair friend, aware and sensitive to our security issues; if I had
to say, he was a critical friend, but a friend,' former
Ambassador to US Moshe Arad says. 'I didn't get the impression
that he was anti-Israel,' adds Zalman Shoval, another former
ambassador to Washington

by Yitzhak Benhorin,7340,L-3334753,00.html

WASHINGTON - It has been said that he is against us, that a
secretary of defense is entering the Pentagon and he is not our
friend. Robert Gates, the man who President George Bush chose to
replace Donald Rumsfeld, is starting to register in our
collective consciousness as a man who will make problems for
Israel in the next two years. Just like James Baker before him,
he is already seen as an Israel-hater, and go try and prove that
he isn't.

Israeli news archives are rife with headlines warning against
Robert Gates. Everything is classified in black and white; there
are no intermediate tones.

A Ynet poll that included conversations with Americans and
Israelis shows that the picture is much more complicated.

Robert Gates, 63, is the only man in the history of the CIA who
climbed the ranks all the way from an entry-level analyst to the
director of the Central Intelligence Agency. On his way to the
top, he had a working relationship with a few Israeli who know
him up close, including David Arbel, who served in senior
positions in the Mossad.

Gates entrance into the arena was surprising and dramatic. Two
days after the blow suffered by the Republican Party in Congress,
Bush revealed what he himself admits was planned before the
elections. Gates was presented to the masses and was sworn in.

Gates was invited to the elite club of the Oval Office on the
background of growing public pressure to withdraw American forces
from Iraq and the anticipated recommendations of the Baker and
Hamilton commission, the Iraq Study Group. If you wish, he was
brought in order to get Bush and the soldiers out of the fire.

For us and against us

When Gates was deputy director of central intelligence, Arbel was
the Mossad's senior representative to North America. In a special
interview with Ynet, Arbel revealed that Gates "is a superb
professional, which is shown in the contacts we had with him.
When the American interest coincided with the Israeli interest,
it was good. When it didn't, he stuck with his country and his
organization. He is a comfortable person to deal with and to the

For two years Arbel had professional contacts with senior
intelligence officers from various countries. He classifies Gates
as a "man on a very high level."

In response to recent statements against Gates, Arbel responded:
"It was leaked that the Baker commission supports attempts to
talk with Iran and Syria and dealing a heavy hand to us on the
issue of the Palestinians. This is where statements that Gates is
anti-Israel grew from. I wouldn't say that this is because he is
anti-Israel. If he estimates that this is good for the United
States, he will do it.

"This is how an American clerk behaves. He is for us and against
us because he assesses at that particular point in time what
serves American interests. I think that is what he is like,"
explained Arbel.

David Arbel recommends not cataloging Robert Gates as
anti-Israel. One of the events attributed to him is the attempt
to drop the Iran-Contra affair on Israel. To this Arbel responds:
"This isn't true, as far as I know."

From the realist school of thought

Moshe Arad served as Israel's ambassador to the United States
between the years 1987-1990. Robert Gates during that time was
deputy assistant to the president on national security affairs
under Reagan, and later Bush the father.

"I worked with him for about two years and I found in him a fair
friend, aware and sensitive to our security issues. If I had to
say, he was a critical friend, but a friend. He lent his hear to
the problems that bothered us at the time," said Arad.

Arad served in Washington when President Reagan and his Secretary
of State George Schultz decided to open negotiations with the PLO
and during the first year of the Bush administration when work
procedures with Israel were established.

In this context, former Ambassador Arad said, "We didn't always
agree on everything. When we needed to bring issues up for
presidential decision, he was always ready to help. We knew we
could turn to him, and we knew we could expect a positive and
listening partner. I am hesitant about classifying him as someone
who isn't sensitive to Israel's security problems. He was
attentive, sensitive, and a friend."

As Robert Gates takes his place in the Pentagon, Arad wanted to
remind everyone that "the policy is set by the president. Gates
is from the international, conservative realist school and
doesn't belong to the school of thought that sees democratization
of Middle Eastern regimes as an inclusive vision.

"The man is much more pragmatic and realistic about the American
capability to change things unilaterally. On this matter the
secretary of state will find him to be an ally in attempts to
reach a dialogue with the Europeans on the issue of the Middle
East and Iran," said Arad.

Zalman Shoval, the ambassador who arrived in Washington after
Arad, thinks Robert Gates wasn't problematic like others in Bush
the father's administration.

"In his role as deputy assistant to the president on national
security, I didn't have any confrontations with him like I had
with others during that time period. My contacts were mainly with
Baker and others, but from the contacts I had with Gates, I
didn't get the impression that he was anti-Israel," said Shoval
to Ynet.

'Very steady, very practical'

Dov Zakheim, who served as undersecretary of defense and
comptroller from 2001 to 2004 under Rumsfeld, became acquainted
with Gates while serving in various Department of Defense posts
during the Reagan administration.

In an interview with Ynet Zakheim said, "Too many people are
focusing on the fact that he was with the first President Bush
and therefore somehow he might be against Israel. We have to
remember that he spent eight years in senior positions under
President Reagan, who was considered a very good friend of Israel.

"This is a man who is not ideological in one way or another; I
don't think it's safe to say that he's against Israel," Zakheim
added. "People shouldn't jump to conclusions."

During the 2000 U.S. Presidential election campaign, Zakheim
served as a foreign policy advisor to Bush as part of a group led
by Condoleezza Rice that called itself The Vulcans.

"Gates is very steady, very practical," Zakheim said. "His
background as an intelligence person means that he's not going to
make all kinds of spark fly, and right now in the Middle East you
don't want sparks to fly."

Gates is reportedly responsible for the crisis that broke out
between Israel and the US surrounding the selling of Patriot
missile technology to China; however, it should also be noted
that tensions between the two countries also flared during
Rumsfeld's term, this time as a result of Israel's independent
sale of drones to China.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Arabs urged to eject U.S. from bases

Associated Press
Dec. 5, 2006

Arabs urged to eject U.S. from bases
By JIM KRANE, Associated Press Writer

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -
Iran's top national security official urged Arabs on Tuesday to
eject the U.S. military from bases in the region and instead join
Tehran in a regional security alliance.

The audacious offer was the strongest sign yet of Iran's rising
assertiveness in its contest with the United States for influence
in the region.

Gulf countries, suspicious of Iran's intentions, are unlikely to
respond to the call and push out the American military or end
U.S. security deals they view as offering them an umbrella of
protection, many here said.

But smaller countries like Kuwait do have to tread a fine line
between not antagonizing either Washington or Tehran. Some Gulf
countries refused to participate in recent
U.S. Navy maneuvers in the Gulf so as not to offend Iran.

Iran's top national security official, Ali Larijani, apparently
aimed to allay Arab concerns and raise suspicion about U.S.
intentions in his speech Tuesday. He told Arab business leaders
and political analysts that Washington is indifferent to their
interests and will cast them aside when they are no longer useful.

"The security and stability of the region needs to be attained
and we should do it inside the region, not through bringing in
foreign forces," Larijani said. "We should stand on our own feet."

Such words are a direct rejection by Iran of the "notion that it
can be contained," said Vali Nasr, an Iran expert with the New
York-based Council on Foreign Relations, who attended the conference.

"They're saying it's in our common interest that the U.S. leaves.
But their larger message is that 'We don't want to take over the
region,'" Nasr told The Associated Press.

Speakers at the Arab Strategy Forum said they believed Iran's
rising clout came as a direct result of the faltering U.S. policy in
Iraq that has put Iran's Shiite allies in control of the
government in Baghdad.

Larijani's proposal outlines what analysts here describe as an
attempt to split the Arab world into two camps: a
U.S.-Israeli-Arab coalition that seeks to contain Iran and an
anti-American, anti-Israeli alliance led by Iran.

Most Arab governments remain firm U.S. allies, but Persian Iran's
tough stance against
Israel and the West has broad grass-roots appeal.

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and other Sunni-dominated countries have
expressed misgivings about the growing influence of Iran's
Shiite-dominated government, which in the 1980s sought to export
its Islamic revolution and topple neighboring governments.

"Nobody is asking the Americans to pack up and leave," said
Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, a Dubai-based political analyst. "There are
vital American interests here and the smaller Arab countries need

Larijani expressed annoyance at Arab fears about Iranian
intentions, saying Iran and its Sunni-dominated neighbors have
more in common with each other than with the United States or Israel.

"Some countries consider Iran a threat to the region, forgetting
about Israel," he said.

But Tehran's nuclear program is continuing despite the threat of
international sanctions, raising fears of a regional arms race.
And Iran's Shiite proxy paramilitary groups have been gaining
strength in Iraq and Lebanon.

Larijani assured Arab leaders that Iran seeks "peaceful
coexistence" and could replace the security umbrella of U.S.
bases in the region, including in the Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain
and Qatar. Other countries have strong military training and U.S.
security guarantee deals.

"Iran is in pursuit of regional stability through integration,"
he said. "It stands by all the Muslim governments in the region."

Larijani acknowledged that any U.S. departure from the Gulf would
come about gradually, but he contended a consensus was building,
even among America's Arab allies.

"We don't accept the relationship between the U.S. and the
countries of the region," he said. "If you talk to Arab leaders
here, you can sense that they aren't happy with the current
situation. They feel the Americans are bullies. They don't want
the U.S. ambassador ordering them around."

He told his audience he believes Washington is caught in a
"strategic stalemate" in the Middle East. U.S. policies in Iraq,
Afghanistan, Lebanon and among the Israelis and Palestinians are
failing, he said, and pressure on Iran and
Syria has not weakened either regime.

Washington needs a major change in policy — starting with a
withdrawal from Iraq — to improve its standing, and setting a
date for departing Iraq is a first step, Larijani said.

"Should there be a timetable, that would serve as a positive
sign," Larijani said. "The clearest sign would be an exit or
evacuation of American forces from the region."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Saddam no longer wants to go to hearings

Associated Press
Tue Dec 5, 10:55 AM ET

Saddam no longer wants to go to hearings
By JAMAL HALABY, Associated Press Writer

AMMAN, Jordan -
Saddam Hussein wrote the chief judge in his Kurdish genocide
trial to tell him that he no longer wants to attend the hearings
— whatever the consequences, according to a letter released
Tuesday by former Iraqi leader's lawyers.

In a handwritten Arabic statement made available to The
Associated Press, Saddam cited what he claimed were repeated
"insults" by chief judge Mohammed Oreibi al-Khalifa and
prosecutors trying him for his role in the 1987-88 military
campaign, code-named Operation Anfal.

"I wasn't given the chance to speak when I tried to clarify the
truth," Saddam wrote in the one-page letter dated Monday. He said
he wanted to respond to the prosecution's allegation that he had
stashed away $10 billion.

In Monday's hearing, an unnamed prosecutor asked al-Oreibi to
freeze the $10 billion, saying it belonged to the former regime
and had been deposited in foreign bank accounts. "We ask the
court to put its hand on the money to secure the rights of the
victims," the prosecutor said.

The judge did not respond and the hearing adjourned until
Wednesday to hear more evidence.

The authenticity of Saddam's letter, sent out by his lawyers,
could not immediately be verified. But it used language similar
to what Saddam had often used in other statements, as well as in
his courtroom speeches.

That included his use of the title: "President of the republic
and the commander in chief of the Mujahedeen (holy warriors)
armed forces" — the phrase he used to end Tuesday's letter.

Elsewhere in the letter, he wrote: "I feel disgusted. ... I will
not accept being offended continuously by you and others."

He goes on to say: "Saddam, who taught pride and dignity to many
people, refuses to attend (the trial) and be subjected to insult
by agents and their followers ... Therefore, I ask to be relieved
from attending the (court) hearings in this new comedy and you
can do whatever you want," he wrote.

Saddam and six co-defendants face the possibility of execution if
convicted for Operation Anfal. The prosecution estimates that
180,000 Kurds were killed when Saddam's army allegedly destroyed
hundreds of villages, killing or making homeless their residents
in a scorched earth campaign against separatist guerrillas in
Iraq's northern Kurdish area.

On Nov. 5, Saddam was convicted in a separate trial for the
deaths of approximately 150 Shiite Muslims following an
assassination attempt against him in the town of Dujail in 1982.
He was sentenced to death by hanging.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Palestinian clerics: Israel trying to export AIDS to PA

Published: 12.05.06, 00:46

Palestinian clerics: Israel trying to export AIDS to PA

In honor of Int'l AIDS Day, conference on disease held in
Ramallah. Both Christian and Muslim religious figures preach
morality as safeguard against disease, claim Israel trying to
infect Palestinians with AIDS in order to damage society.
Palestinian AIDS patient gives testimony, warns against promiscuity

by Ali Waked,7340,L-3336134,00.html

In honor of International AIDS Day, a conference was held Monday
in Ramallah on ways to prevent spread of the disease in the
Palestinian Authority, where there are 80 listed infected people.

Religious figures who participated in the conference cautioned
that one of Israel's aims is to damage the Palestinians by
spreading promiscuous norms that are likely to negatively affect
residents of the PA.

"Israel is trying to hurt the Palestinian Authority and the
Palestinian people also by means of exporting AIDS, drug
trafficking, promiscuous norms, and making prostitution legal,"
warned president of the sharia religious court in the PA, Sheikh
Taissir Tamimi, and spokesman of the Greek Orthodox Church,
Archbishop Atalla Hanna.

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According to the religious figures, religious belief is the key
safeguard against the relatively limited spread of the disease in
the Palestinian Territories and the most surefire tool for
fighting the disease.

Archbishop Hanna said that Israel is conducting a battle against
Palestinian societal values.

"A few weeks ago, the Israelis wanted to organize a parade of
sexual deviants who wanted to demonstrate for their right to be
sexual and moral deviants all in order to damage our values and
the holiness of Jerusalem. These people wanted to hold the parade
in Jerusalem of all places," he said.

Hanna also said that he had read in one of the Palestinian
newspapers about a young AIDS-infected Israeli woman who,
according to the article, arrived in Jerusalem in order to infect
young Palestinians with the disease. The archbishop called the
Palestinian public to beware of such dangers.

Two religious figures emphasized that people with AIDS should not
be ostracized "because there is no certainty that they were
infected through immoral acts or forbidden sexual relations
outside of marriage, but may have been infected for other
reasons. Therefore, they should not be excommunicated."

Heads of the religious court emphasized that all the monotheistic
religions forbid participating the activities that result in AIDS
– "prostitution and homosexual relations."

A Palestinian AIDS patient's story

The speaker who touched the conference attendees the most was
Abed, a Palestinian AIDS patient, who revealed his story.

In a conversation with Ynet, Abed said that he was infected while
working in the United Arab Emirates in the Persian Gulf. "I
worked well and lived well, and like every young person in their
30s I partied. Just as I planned to return to the (Palestinian)
Territories in order to marry and start a family, I did an AIDS
test and the results came back positive," he said.

According to him, the most difficult moment in dealing with the
disease was when he couldn't donate blood to his sister who had
become sick with cancer. "Even though we have the same blood
type, I, of course, couldn't donate. I ran out of the hospital in
order to avoid that meeting with her. My sister passed away a
short time later," he recalled.

As a result of the disease, Abed lost vision in one eye, and his
vision in the other eye is severely impaired. On the treatment of
Palestinian society, he said: "I never felt as though they treat
me like an exile. There were only two instances – once when a
Palestinian intelligence officer asked me if I had infected other
people, and another time when a hospital clerk warned a barber
not to accept me out of concern that he would be infected with
the disease. But since then, my life is normal, except for
dealing with the question why I don't get married."

Today, Abed is trying to explain to other young people in the PA
that is forbidden to have sexual relations outside of marriage.
"Maintain your integrity, maintain the purity of your life and
choose your partner. Because no other contraceptive helps not to
be infected by the disease."

In the past few days, a news release was published in the
Palestinian Authority about an AIDS-infected young man who
arrived at the hospital in Ramallah and was met with
disparagement. According to the report, he was shoved into one of
the corners of the hospital and the doctors visibly showed signs
of disgust and fear.

Those attending the conference, both religious figures and
doctors, hope that the event will help Palestinians understand
the dangers of AIDS and will increase awareness of the disease.

Ali Waked

Continued (Permanent Link)

MK Azmi Bishara removed from hearing for profane remark

Last update - 22:10 05/12/2006

MK Azmi Bishara removed from hearing for profane remark
By Yoav Stern, Haaretz Correspondent

MK Azmi Bishara (Balad) was removed from a Knesset Legislative
Committee session on Tuesday for his use of profane-language
during an official meeting.

A heated argument broke out between Bishara and MK Gilad Erdan
(Likud) at the hearing of a proposed law submitted by MK Zevulun
Orlev (National Religious Party) that, if approved, would allow
the Knesset to expel elected members from its ranks.

According to Orlev's proposal, MKs deemed as inciting racial
hatred, denouncing Israel's right to exist as a Jewish and
democratic country or expressing support of violence against the
state or in a terror organization could be voted out of the
parliamentary assembly.

Erdan, who was in favor of the proposed law, remarked that
"Hitler's government was also democratically elected," and called
on the Israeli Arab Bishara to "go preside in a Palestinian or
Syrian parliament."

Bishara, who apparently misheard Erdan's remark and confused the
Hebrew verb for to preside with the similar sounding Hebrew verb
for to procreate, replied by using the f-word and called the
Likud member a "dog."

In response, a commotion erupted and the chairman of the
committee, MK Menahem Ben-Sasson (Kadima), removed Bishara from
the hearing.

Outside the boardroom, Bishara said he misunderstood Ardan's
remark and lamented his choice of words in the midst of a heated

Meanwhile, Ben-Sasson rejected Orlev's attempts to postpone the
committee vote in order to introduce changes to it that would
boost its chances of being approved.

Orlev's proposal was rejected by a majority of 11 to 5.

After the hearing was over, MK Ardan told press he thought MK
Bishara's response was uncalled for no matter what he thought he
had heard.

Bishara to propose bill to return expropriated land

Bishara will submit a Knesset bill Wednesday that would force the
government to return expropriated land to its original owners in
specified cases.

According to the proposed law, the property would revert to its
owners if after seven years it has not been used for the original
purposes intended by the government, or if the original purpose
has been changed.

Countless acres of land have been expropriated from Arab and
Jewish citizens over the years, and given the status of state
land, to be used at the discretion of the government.

In the case of revised uses for the land, the original agreement
between the landowner and the government would be examined. If
the landowner received compensation, he would be required to
return the payment in full.

Bishara said the new law aims to correct a "distortion" in the
current land directive established by British Mandatory rule in
1943, and followed to this day by the Supreme Court and the
government's legal advisors.

The present directive cuts ties between previous owners and their
land, giving the government the power to do whatever it sees fit
with the land once the deed is signed.

"We are talking about a matter of public interest of the utmost
importance, something the High Court has addressed, and not a new
'Land Day,'" said Bishara, in a reference to an annual day of
protests by Israeli Arabs, in part over past land confiscations.

Attorney Suhad Bishara, representing the Adalah Center, a rights
advocacy group which deals with land rulings, said the proposal
is meant to complement a verdict reached by the High Court,
"which clearly states that the bond between the expropriated land
and its owners remains even after the land is taken."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Israel embarks on PR face-lift

Washington Times
Dec. 5, 2006

Israel embarks on PR face-lift
By Anju S. Bawa

Israel's international image is hurting, and the country's top
officials have turned to the wisdom of Madison Avenue in a bid to
"re-brand" their product.
Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni met with public
relations executives, branding specialists and diplomats in
September in Tel Aviv to brainstorm about improving the country's
image by using the marketing insights first developed to sell
peanut butter and Pontiacs.
Israeli officials complain that the international press
gives the country a warlike image by focusing on its military
might and the string of conflicts with its Arab neighbors. Mrs.
Livni told the Tel Aviv gathering that she would like to project
a more inviting image of the Jewish state.
"When the word 'Israel' is said outside its borders, we want
it to invoke not fighting or soldiers, but a place that is
desirable to visit and invest in, a place that preserves
democratic ideals while struggling to exist," she said, according
to a Reuters news agency report. A staffer with the London-based
global ad firm Saatchi and Saatchi is already working with the
Israelis free of charge on the re-branding effort.
David Saranga, consul for media and public affairs at the
Israeli Consulate in New York, said the public relations effort
is still at an early stage. Mrs. Livni recently put the image
initiative on the government's agenda and will soon develop a
budget for the program, he said.
Mrs. Livni is also forming a coalition within the government
that would join with the private sector in defining the essence
of the country, Mr. Saranga said.
A report released last month shows the scale of the
re-branding job. Author Simon Anholt said his surveys show that
Israel's image abroad is so bad that any re-branding campaign
would be "pointless."
Israel's negative image results from a variety of factors,
from its history of armed conflict to the widespread sympathy in
the Middle East and Europe for the Palestinians to simple bias
against Jews.
"The politics of a country can affect every aspect of a
person's perception about that country," Mr. Anholt said. To
permanently change the country's image, Israel has to "be
prepared to change its behavior" in the areas of international
peace and security.
Mr. Anholt, an independent researcher from Britain and
adviser to governments on branding, has developed the Anholt
Nation Brands Index -- an analytical ranking of the world's
nations as brands. The survey recently polled 25,903 online
consumers from 36 countries in North America, Europe, Asia and
Latin America.
Israel finished dead last in the survey, behind Estonia,
Indonesia and Turkey.
Among the factors considered in a nation's "brand" are the
quality of the country's government, its culture, its people, its
business and investment climate, and its desirability as a
tourist destination.
"A nation's brand is a deep-seated perception that does not
change a great deal," Mr. Anholt said. "There is no evidence that
re-branding campaigns change people's minds."
Guy Toledano, head of the Branding Israel Committee at the
Israeli Advertising Association in Tel Aviv, said he was "not
surprised" by the survey's grim findings. But he rejected Mr.
Anholt's suggestion that marketing and public relations can't
improve Israel's image.
"This is a long-term effort that goes much deeper than an
advertising campaign," Mr. Toledano said. "... I am worried about
this as a citizen. I can never give up or consider this a lost
Mr. Anholt said this strategy has little hope of success
because the only thing people associate with Israel are its
conflicts. "The most useful thing Israel can do with the results
is stop wasting taxpayer money in a re-branding campaign," he said.
Although preliminary research on Israel's global image has
been under way for more than four years, "not one penny had been
spent on branding so far," Mr. Saranga said.
The research showed that Americans saw Israel only in terms
of its military and its religion. The perceptions were even worse
in Europe and other regions.
"Israel is not perceived as a fun place where people live,"
Mr. Saranga said.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Royal accused of Mid-East 'gaffe'

BBC News
Tuesday, 5 December 2006, 00:59 GMT

Royal accused of Mid-East 'gaffe'
By Alasdair Sandford
BBC News, Paris

French presidential candidate Segolene Royal (l) shakes hands
with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas Political
opponents of French socialist presidential candidate, Segolene
Royal, have accused her of making serious errors during a Middle
East trip.

Opponents from the ruling centre-right party have criticised her
stance towards Hezbollah.

This was her first official overseas trip since winning her
party's nomination for the election last month.

On Monday she was in Israel, meeting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert
and earlier Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.

Although she has been given a warm reception fit for a
head-of-state in waiting, at home, her visit has become mired in
pre-election controversy.

During a joint news conference in Beirut, a Hezbollah MP compared
Israel's policy towards Lebanon with Nazism.

Ms Royal did not respond, saying later that her interpreter had
not used the word - but had she heard it, she would have
condemned it as abominable.

"French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy described her
attitude as "simplistic""

Profile: Segolene Royal

During the meeting she also said she shared many of the Hezbollah
politician's critical views on the US.

Opponents from the governing UMP party and Jewish organisations
say the socialist presidential candidate is guilty of a naive,
irresponsible attitude to Middle Eastern affairs, damaging to France.

The French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy described her
attitude as simplistic.

Segolene Royal's campaign team pointed out there had been no
reaction from Israel, saying the attacks from home smacked of

Continued (Permanent Link)

Refugees Protest Restrictions in Mideast

Associated Press
Dec 4, 3:13 PM EST

Refugees Protest Restrictions in Mideast
Associated Press Writer

CAIRO, Egypt (AP) -- Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis are fleeing
the chaos of their homeland only to find themselves unwelcome
guests in other Arab countries, threatening a major new refugee
crisis in the Middle East.

Most have settled in Egypt, Jordan and Syria, and governments in
those countries have begun imposing restrictions they say are
needed to prevent the refugees from staying permanently.

Faced with escalating violence, kidnapping threats and sectarian
death-squad killings, Iraqis are leaving at the rate of about
100,000 a month, according to a November report from the United

Experts say that this exodus could create a refugee crisis to
rival that of the Palestinians.

The Palestinians fled wars with Israel in 1948 and 1967, and the
number of refugees registered with the U.N. reached more than 4.3
million in 2005. About one-third live in overcrowded camps.

By contrast, about 1.8 million Iraqis have fled to nearby
countries in the Middle East, most of them since the bloodshed
there began after the U.S. toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003.

Arab governments in the region fear the displaced Iraqis could
overwhelm public services and bring Iraq's sectarian conflicts to
their soil.

Nearly 150,000 of the Iraqi refugees now live in Egypt, an
increase of 50 percent since early October, according to
government statistics. In 2003, there were only 800.

In recent months, the government has been making it more
difficult for them to stay.

After their arrival in Egypt, Iraqis get a one-month tourist visa
and then apply for a three-month, renewable residency permit. But
authorities have begun refusing to grant residency status, or are
turning down those who seek to renew it.

Dozens of angry Iraqis protested on Sunday at the Education
Ministry after schools expelled their children because their
visas were no longer valid, the Al-Gomhoria newspaper reported.
The demonstrators demanded their children be allowed to take
midyear exams this month.

On Monday, another group gathered at the Interior Ministry's
residency department in downtown Cairo to protest "delays and
procrastination" in issuing residency permits.

Many Iraqis say they have to pay bribes to get or renew their

"There is a price for every stamp and every signature you get on
your residency," said one Iraqi, who only agreed to be identified
as Abu Wa'el for fear of reprisal.

Officials said the new restrictions would remain in place,
expressing concerns that extremists might infiltrate Egypt or
that ordinary Iraqis might bring sectarian rivalries with them.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were
not authorized to talk to the press.

The Interior Ministry, which handles visa and residency issues,
and a spokesman at the Foreign Ministry refused to comment.

Concerned that Iraq's Shiite-Sunni split could spread to Egypt,
authorities last week rejected a request by Iraqis to open a
Shiite mosque in Sixth of October City, a Cairo suburb where many
Iraqis live, refugees said. They spoke on condition of anonymity
for fear of retaliation by Egyptian authorities.

Egypt's Muslims - who make up 90 percent of the population of 77
million - are overwhelmingly Sunni.

Last year, Jordan, which is also mainly Sunni, barred Shiite
Iraqis from holding rites at a shrine outside Amman, to protests
from refugees.

Jordan has all but closed the door to Iraqis and has stopped
renewing residency permits for the approximately 500,000 already

The kingdom has also increased immigration enforcement efforts,
imposing heavy fines or even deporting Iraqis caught overstaying
their visas, according to the United Nations.

Syria has not restricted visas, and Iraqis have been flooding
there at a rate of 2,000 a day, the U.N. says. At least 700,000
Iraqis have moved to Syria to escape the fighting, according to
the Syrian government.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Lebanese come together to honor diva

Associated Press
Tue Dec 5, 6:40 AM ET

Lebanese come together to honor diva
By DONNA ABU-NASR, Associated Press Writer

BEIRUT, Lebanon - Her voice brought together under one roof both
supporters of the beleaguered government and opponents trying to
topple it. Yet in this tense country, sharp disputes break out
even at a performance by Fairouz, Lebanon's premier diva and the
star of a musical about a corrupt government.

Last weekend's three-night run of "Sah el-Nom," loosely
translated as "A Good Night's Sleep," was supposed to open an
annual summer festival in the ancient city of Baalbek.
Israel's July-August offensive on Lebanon forced the organizers
to postpone until December, hoping that by then calm would prevail.

But opening night coincided with a new crisis that many fear
could tear apart the country — the start of an open-ended sit-in
led by the Syrian- and
Iran-backed Hezbollah to bring down the U.S.-supported government
of Fuad Saniora. The opposition claims the government is
ineffective and unrepresentative, while Saniora's supporters call
the Hezbollah protest a pro-Syrian coup.

Despite the political upheaval, Fairouz' fans flocked past
checkpoints to a concert hall only a few hundred yards from the
scene of the sit-in.

"Fairouz is a symbol of Lebanon. That's why I came to see her,"
said Cyril Joudieh, a 37-year-old software developer and musician.

"We came here and we found life," said Roger Hayek, a 33-year-old
carpenter. "Had we stayed at home watching the news on TV, we
would've thought there is no life."

The 6,000-strong audience erupted into deafening applause when
Fairouz glided onto the stage for the final performance Sunday
night. The 72-year-old singer has attained near mythic status
since the 1975-1990 civil war, when adoring her songs was the
only thing all sides in the fight could agree on.

That appeared to still be the case.

After the show, each side in the audience claimed the heroes as
their own and insisted the villain personified the leaders of the
opposite camp. The musical is an allegory about corrupt leaders
last performed in Lebanon 30 years ago.

"Sah el-Nom" was staged for the first time in 1970, playing for
only a few days before the death of Egyptian President Gamal
Abdul-Naser, an Arab icon, forced the producers to cancel it.

The play, laced with the foot-thumping traditional dabke dance,
tells the story of a lazy and autocratic ruler who wakes up from
a deep sleep only when the moon is full. He listens to petitions
from his subjects and forces them to give him bribes and
services, then grants only three petitions each time — stamping
them with his seal — before returning to his slumber.

The heroine, Qoronfol — Arabic for "carnation" and played by
Fairouz — steals the ruler's seal, the symbol of his power, and
stamps petitions freely. She then throws the seal down a well.

After she's found out, she retrieves the seal. Instead of
carrying out his threat to punish her, the ruler — chastened by
her act — makes her the keeper of his seal during his sleep.

The two-hour musical resonated with the highly politicized audience.

For Hezbollah sympathizers, the story reflected what they see as
the ineffectiveness and unfairness of Saniora's government.
Government backers, however, saw it as a depiction of the empty
promises of the allies of
Syria, which dominated Lebanon for decades.

"The theme of the play corresponds with what's going on today,"
said Marlene Khalil, a 42-year-old computer specialist who had
taken part in the pro-Hezbollah sit-in hours before the
performance. "Those in power, like the ruler in the play, are
always a target of criticism."

But Hayek, the carpenter who was sitting right behind her, said
he is a big supporter of the government and the ruler in the play
"is just like the leaders" of the other camp.

The musical ended with a thunderous standing ovation that almost
succeeded in making the audience forget the turmoil in their country.

But as they switched on their cell phones while streaming out of
the hall, many received calls from worried family members who
informed them that a Shiite protester had been killed in a
shooting in a Sunni neighborhood and that they should hurry home
for fear of revenge acts.

Even audience member Michel Hayek, Lebanon's most famous psychic
— who several months ago predicted there would be a wave of
protests and an attempt to overthrow the government — did not
have a word of comfort for the Lebanese who had showered him with
questions about the situation.

"It's as if it's Lebanon's fate to suffer and the fate of its
people to remain fragmented," he said.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Think tank: Hezbollah used human shields

Associated Press
Dec. 5, 2007

Think tank: Hezbollah used human shields
By AMY TEIBEL, Associated Press Writer

JERUSALEM - An Israeli think tank with strong links to the
military released videos and testimony Tuesday it said proved
Hezbollah guerrillas used civilians as human shields during last
summer's war in Lebanon.

The report's authors hoped to challenge allegations that
Israel committed war crimes when it attacked residential areas
during the war.

Although no formal war crimes charges have been filed against
either side, Israel has taken the brunt of international
criticism. Israel is especially sensitive about the possibility
of legal action because of previous lawsuits and indictments
abroad against Israeli leaders and military officers.

The 300-page report, compiled by a military intelligence expert
who has an office in the Defense Ministry, argues that Lebanese
government and media reports of the number of civilians killed in
Lebanon were exaggerated.

More than 850 Lebanese, most of them civilians, were killed in
Israeli airstrikes and artillery attacks during the 34-day war,
which began after Hezbollah guerrillas captured two Israeli
soldiers in a cross-border raid. The guerrillas bombarded
northern Israel with nearly 4,000 rockets, killing 39 civilians.
Also, 120 Israeli soldiers were killed in the violence.

Israel says its attacks against Hezbollah targets in populated
areas did not violate international law.

The report, first released to The New York Times, said Hezbollah
operated from civilian areas to deter the Israeli military and
gain a propaganda advantage if an Israeli counterattack caused
civilian casualties. Guerrillas stashed weapons in hundreds of
homes and mosques, had missile transports closely follow
ambulances and fired rockets from positions near U.N. monitoring
posts, the report said.

Much of the material was released earlier, but some was recently
declassified, including interviews with Hezbollah prisoners and
aerial photographs showing the Hezbollah buildup in civilian areas.

One video included in the report showed what it identified as a
captive Hezbollah guerrilla telling interrogators how the militia
rented houses in residential areas to secretly store missiles.

"Even the owner of the house, he knows he's giving (the building)
to Hezbollah, they rent it for instance, but its not possible for
him to know what's in it," said the man, identified as
30-year-old Maher Hassan Mahmoud Kourani.

A Hezbollah official dismissed the Israeli report as "totally
untrue," saying it was part of "a campaign to vilify Hezbollah
and justify the unjustified Israeli massacres in Lebanon."

"These allegations are part of Israeli propaganda aimed at
protecting Israel's generals and officials who face accusations
of committing massacres against Lebanese civilians during the
summer war," Hussein Rahhal, Hezbollah's media chief, told The
Associated Press in Lebanon.

Amnesty International said the report did not contain many new

"In terms of the fact that Hezbollah had weapons, tunnels,
militia facilities in villages, no one disputes it. Hezbollah
does not dispute it," said Claudio Cordone, a senior director of
research at Amnesty.

Cordone called for an international inquiry.

The Israeli study was prepared by military intelligence expert
Reuven Ehrlich, a retired lieutenant colonel who heads the
Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, a private think tank.

"I think it could offer a response to allegations of human rights
organizations on why the Israel Defense Forces operated in
civilian areas," he said.

Ehrlich's study, citing Israeli military intelligence, disputes
Lebanese and media accounts of civilian casualties, stating that
at least 450 and as many as 650 of the Lebanese killed were
Hezbollah operatives.

Three chapters in the report addressing the war crimes issue were
prepared by the Israeli military's legal department in
conjunction with Foreign Ministry lawyers, the report said.

Experience has prepared Israel for the possibility of such charges.

In 2001, then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was tried in absentia
in Belgium, though not convicted, in connection with a 1982
massacre in Palestinian refugee camps in Beirut.

Critics who have accused Israel of war crimes in Palestinian
territories have sought to arrest Israeli military officers
overseas, and some have only narrowly escaped incarceration.

Since 2000, several European countries including Britain and
Belgium have given war crimes cases "momentum across the
continent," Human Rights Watch said in a recent report.

Complaints have been filed against military chief Lt. Gen. Dan
Halutz and his predecessor, Lt. Gen. Moshe Yaalon, in connection
with a 2002 airstrike that killed a Hamas leader and 14 others,
nine of them children.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Haniyeh: Future PA government would work for right of return

Last update - 21:24 05/12/2006

Haniyeh: Future PA government would work for right of return

By The Associated Press

DAMASCUS - Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said Tuesday his
government, or any future national unity government, would work to preserve
the Palestinians' right of return.

Haniyeh, who is on his first tour abroad since his Hamas-led government took
office in March, spoke at a press conference after meeting with the
representatives of 10 Palestinian factions based in Damascus.

"We stressed our commitment to preserve Palestinian rights and principles,
first, foremost among them the right of return and the right of resistance
until defeating the occupation and establishing a Palestinian state with full
sovereignty with Jerusalem as its capital," Haniyeh said.

Haniyeh, who told reporters Monday that efforts to form a national unity
government had not reached a dead end, said his group was committed to forming
such a cabinet to secure the lifting of international sanctions imposed since
his government took power.

Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas announced last week that months
of negotiations with Hamas had not led to an agreement for a moderate
government that could win international recognition and help end the foreign
aid boycott.

The talks became deadlocked over the distribution of key portfolios and the
government's platform, with Hamas rejecting international demands that it
renounce violence and recognize Israel.

Hamas political leader Khaled Meshal said at the press conference that there
was "the Palestinians are unified in insisting on breaking the blockade
without paying any political costs."

Continued (Permanent Link)

U.S. defense secretary: Can't assure Israel that Iran won't attack

Last update - 21:06 05/12/2006

U.S. defense secretary: Can't assure Israel that Iran won't attack

By News Agencies

Robert Gates, nominated to replace Donald Rumsfeld as U.S. defense secretary,
on Tuesday said Iran was trying to acquire nuclear weapons and its leaders
were lying when they said the program is strictly civilian.

He said he was not sure Iran would attack Israel with such weapons because
"the risks for them (Iran) are enormously high." But he also said the United
States could not assure Israel that a nuclear attack by Iran would not happen.

"I don't think anybody can provide that assurance," he told the committee.

When asked at the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on his
nomination whether he believed Iran was seeking a nuclear weapons capability,
he responded, "Yes, sir, I do."

Asked if he believed Iran's leaders were lying, Gates responded, "Yes, sir."

Iran says its nuclear work is aimed at generating electricity, but the West
suspects Tehran is using the civilian program as cover to build an atomic

Russia: Tough sanctions on Iran would backfire
Tough sanctions on Iran to punish it for pursuing uranium enrichment would be
counter-productive, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said
before major powers met to discuss possible measures on Tuesday.

"We believe it is irresponsible to impose these kind of sanctions," Lavrov
told reporters on the margins of a meeting of the Organisation for Security
and Cooperation in Europe in Brussels.

"We would achieve the opposite result if we do that," he said of Western
efforts to get Russia and China to agree a UN Security Council resolution
setting out penalties on Tehran for refusing to halt nuclear activities the
West suspects are aimed at building an atom bomb - a goal Tehran denies.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Tuesday warned Europeans his country
will consider any decision against its nuclear rights an act of "hostility."

His statement came as political directors from United Nations Security Council
permanent members Russia, China, France, Britain and the United States, as
well as Germany were to attend the latest round of talks in Paris on the
diplomatic impasse between the West and Iran over its nuclear program.

"I'm telling you in plain language that as of now on, if you try, whether in
your propaganda or at international organizations, to take steps against the
rights of the Iranian nation, the Iranian nation will consider it an act of
hostility," Ahmadinejad said, addressing thousands of people in northern Iran.

"And if you insist on pursuing this path, it (Iran) will reconsider its
relations with you," he warned European nations.

"Our path to reach the nuclear summit is in the final phase, and no more than
one more step is needed," Ahmadinejad told the rally.

"Iran possesses the nuclear fuel cycle completely and by God's will it will
undertake necessary measures to produce nuclear fuel for all of its nuclear
power stations," he said.

Despite Russia's refusal to agree to tough sanctions on Iran, the French
foreign minister said Moscow is likely to back a decision to pressure Tehran
on is nuclear plan.

Russia has consistently refused to agree to measures that would be seen as a
punishment of Tehran for its refusal to meet the August 31 UN deadline to
abandon uranium enrichment, which can produce fuel for nuclear power plants or
atom bombs.

French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said after talking with his
Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on Monday that progress had been made on the
wording of a sanctions resolution.

"I think that we can now reach an agreement on the text," he told reporters
after meeting Lavrov on the sidelines of the OSCE meeting.

"We are in agreement with Russia to adopt sanctions against the Iranian
programme of proliferation."

EU diplomats say the sanctions called for in the text will be largely

However, they say unanimous approval of even mild sanctions will send a strong
signal to Tehran that the world is determined to stop Iran obtaining nuclear

Also Tuesday the country's nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani said at a regional
forum in Dubai that American "unilateralism" could cause more conflict in the
Middle East.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Where Will Truce Lead?

Where Will Truce Lead?

If truce holds up it could serve as incentive for more positive developments
By: Ron Ben Yishai

(Ynet News)
Israel has had some bad experiences with ceasefires with the Palestinians in
the past, particularly those announced unilaterally. Even during Yasser
Arafat's time some of the ceasefires only held up for a few hours and others
for a few days.

Often recalcitrant Palestinian factions used the violation of a truce to
exact concessions and benefits from the Palestinian Authority, and more rarely
it was an IDF operation that went wrong and brought about the renewal of fire.

As of now, we should wait a day or two to establish to what extent the
current ceasefire is viable and stable. It would also be a test of Mahmoud
Abbas' credibility as well as Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Popular Resistance
Committees' ability to rule over their military wings and their militiamen.

In any case, it can already be ascertained that the primary motive for
calling for a ceasefire can be attributed to the pressure emanating from the
Palestinian street in the Gaza Strip and directed at the organizations and the
armed factions.

Apparently, it's not just the Palestinian political leadership, Mahmoud
Abbas and Ismail Haniyeh, who are attentive to the calls and murmurings
emanating from the refugee camps and the streets of the cities, but also the
leaders of the more radical organizations who are not partners to the regime.

To be honest, they have no choice. They and their families have been living
for almost a year amongst a population suffering from an economic and military
siege. It's not only the residents of Sderot who are suffering - the
Palestinian population is also paying a heavy death toll for the "Qassam

Almost half the fatalities and injured in the exchange of fire in recent
months are boys, women, children and elderly Palestinians. Not to mention the
insufferable living conditions prevalent in the Strip and the sense of
humiliation of hundreds of thousands of men who are unable to provide for
their families.

Dיtente for gaining strength
It can be said to Mahmoud Abbas' credit that that he knew how to take
advantage of the mood on the Palestinian street. The ceasefire didn't emanate
from his personal influence and power of persuasion, but he knew how to be
insistent and to offer the armed organizations a way out at the moment of

He also made sure that the Israeli government - currently under heavy public
pressure to put an end to the suffering of the residents of Sderot and the
western Negev and having an interest in complying with the relatively modest
requests made by Abbas - would offer it an honorable way out.

The leaderships of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other factions had even more
important reasons for holding the fire: The losses incurred by the IDF's
operations (some 400 fatalities since July of this year), plus the fear of a
broad military offensive by Israel in the near future filled a crucial role in
agreeing to Abbas' pleas.

Hamas is in need of a truce in order to reorganize itself without a broad
military offensive that would ruin its process of empowerment. The other
organizations are also in need of a ceasefire in order to replenish their
stockpiles of Qassam rockets and other munitions; to give their people a break
and to reorganize their ranks. Just as in standing armies, even guerilla and
terror groups reach a breaking point following which they call for a

However, the main reason for the truce initiated by the Palestinians is
pressure exerted by the silent population majority - it is quiet yet highly
effective pressure. Therefore, the first thing Israel should do the moment it
becomes apparent that the ceasefire is holding is to reward the non-combatant
Palestinian population. A situation should be created whereby the Palestinian
civilian population would be motivated to keep it going, and to pressure the
rebellious factions to honor it.

Israel would do well to launch a humanitarian campaign that would
significantly ease the plight of residents of the Gaza Strip - immediately
open the crossings and grant Palestinians an initial aid package and economic
benefits. Palestinian residents must be able to sense that the ceasefire is
beneficial and its violation would exact a heavy toll.

From Israel's point of view, the primary danger of a ceasefire is the
continued smuggling of arms and explosives via the Philadelphi Route and the
strengthening of Hamas. It is important to note that Mahmoud Abbas made a
commitment on behalf of the Palestinian factions to cease "digging tunnels"
but not to end smuggling.

A ceasefire binds the hands of the IDF and prevents it from taking military
action to stop the strengthening of the factions; therefore, the emphasis
should be on a political effort to get the Egyptians to handle the matter.

Positive signs on horizon?
The Egyptians have recently stepped up their activities in the Philadelphi
Route and have even chalked up a few achievements. Two weeks ago, for example,
they uncovered five smuggling tunnels in the Rafah area within one week. Even
Israeli-Egyptian cooperation is currently better and more effective than in
the past. However, in order to halt the smuggling, the Egyptian security
forces must also take action in areas inside sovereign Egypt.

The munitions, explosives and funds funneled by Hamas, Iran and Hizbullah,
pass through two main routes: From Sudan, via Egypt to Sinai and from there to
the Strip through the tunnels at the Phildelphi Route and the Rafah Crossing.

The second route passes through the Mediterranean - the munitions land on
the Sinai coast and even in the Delta and Nile regions, and from there they
reach the Gaza Strip through the Sinai. The Egyptians are only operating along
the Philadelphi Route.

Even the coordination between the intelligence forces, the Egyptian army and
the Egyptian Foreign Office, involved in foiling the smuggling, is limited and
is in need of improvement. Israel has already exhausted its means in
pressuring the Egyptians; to obtain real results it should enlist American
pressure, which may prove to be more effective in Cairo than Israel's
diplomatic efforts so far.

If the ceasefire holds up, it is likely not only to serve as a temporary
relief for the residents of Sderot and the Gaza Strip, but also as leverage
and an incentive for further positive developments.

It is likely to accelerate negotiations for the release of abducted soldier
Gilad Shalit that is apparently at the last straight. It is also likely to
allow negotiations for a ceasefire and temporary settlement in the West Bank.
In the future - who knows - it may also help launch a political dialogue on a
phased final settlement on the Israeli-Arab conflict.

Putting optimism aside, we currently need to focus our efforts on
stabilizing the ceasefire in the Gaza Strip and to ensure that it won't turn
into a boomerang that would strike back at Israel within a few months or
years, as it did in Lebanon.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Amman Gathering Calls for Supporting all Forms of Arab Resistance

Amman Gathering Calls for Supporting all Forms of Arab Resistance
Tuesday, December 05, 2006 - 10:55 AM
(SANA is an official Syrian Government News Agency)
Amman, Dec. 05-12 (SANA) - The Amman Gathering of Arab Civil Organizations for
Fighting Hegemony called for supporting all forms of Arab resistance in
Palestine, Iraq and Lebanon and adopting an all-out public resistance to
confront US plots in the region.

The just-concluded conference said in its final statement that resisting the
occupation is a legitimate right and duty endorsed by all international
charters and laws.

The statement condemned all forms of systematic terrorism perpetrated by
Israel in Palestine and the atrocities committed by US troops in Iraq.

It called on the Arab countries to cut off relations with Israel and cancel
the treaties signed with it.

The Gathering also called for severing any possible ties between Arab
non-governmental organizations and Israel

Representatives of more than 90 civil organizations from Syria, Egypt,
Palestine, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Bahrain, Turkey, France, Greece, Norway as
well as Arab and world agencies and academics took part in the gathering.

Ahmad F. ZAHRA

IMRA - Independent Media Review and Analysis

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Continued (Permanent Link)

PLO Condemns Adwan Statement, Calls for His Removal from Cabinet

PLO Condemns Adwan Statement, Calls for His Removal from Cabinet
[PMC is an official Palestinian Authority news web site]

Palestine Media Center - PMC

The PLO Executive Committee condemned the undignified statement made by
Minister Atef Odwan, from Hamas, against the head of the Palestinian
National Authority (PLO), as well as the minister's call for the partition
of the Gaza Strip from the West Bank.

The PLO Executive Committee also called for a formative action against
Minister Adwan through lifting his parliamentary immunity leading to his
dismissal from government.

The highest decision making body in the PLO further called on "anyone in a
position of authority" to abandon the language of assaults and adopt the
language of dialogue and democratic debate.

The PLO Executive Committee further expressed its astonishment over Hamas's
continuance ignorance of its representatives' aggressive campaigns against
anyone that opposes their positions and point views; especially the leaders
and the institutions of the PLO, which is the only legitimate representative
of the Palestinian people.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Fateh Central Committee Hails Abbas' Efforts to Form National Unity Government

Fateh Central Committee Hails Abbas' Efforts to Form National Unity
[WAFA is the PLO news agency]
GAZA, December 4, 2006 (WAFA - ) - Fateh Central Committee
hailed Monday President Mahmoud Abbas for his true efforts to form a
national unity government which are aiming at ending the current crisis
faced by the Palestinian people.

The Committee held today a meeting, headed by President Abbas, in Gaza in
which its members discussed a number of issues including the siege imposed
on the Palestinian people.

In a statement issued following the meeting, the Committee called upon the
Quartet to lift such the siege and resume aiding the Palestinian people.

It also called for putting the decision of the Arab countries to break siege
into effect, condemning Israel for not transferring the tax revenues it
collects on behalf of the Palestinian National Authority.

The Committee called on Hamas leadership to abide by the international, Arab
and Palestinian legitimacies.

It also affirmed that the announced calm should be extended to the West

The Committee asserted that the reason behind the end of the national
dialogue on forming a unity government was Hamas' inflexibility and its
rejection of the Arab, international and Palestinian legitimacies, affirming
that Fateh is all ready to support the formation of a government that would
help end the sufferings of the Palestinian people and enrich the Palestinian

It stressed it has no preconditions on the issue of forming a government
that would help lift the siege and sanctions, announcing it will support
initiatives calling for ending the current crisis.

Following examining the recent statements by the Israel Prime Minister, Ehud
Olmert, the Committee stressed that just and comprehensive peace is the
option of the Palestinian people, calling for resuming the peace talks
between the Palestinian and Israeli sides on the basis of the international
legitimacy's resolutions: "242, 338, 149, 1515 and 1397," which stressed on
withdrawing the Israeli forces from the lands occupied in 1967 and
establishing an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as a capital.

The Committee asserted that the PLO is ready to start negotiations with the
Israeli side on the final status issues, rejecting the ideas of partial
solutions or establishing a state with impermanent borders because "this
will not help make peace."

It also said that the prisoners' issue is one of its top priorities,
affirming it will save no efforts to until all the Palestinian prisoners are

A.D (22:33 P) (20:33 GMT)

Continued (Permanent Link)

Israel offering to free 1,000 for release of Shalit

Last update - 12:43 05/12/2006

Israel offering to free 1,000 for release of Shalit
By Avi Issacharoff and Akiva Eldar, Haaretz Correspondents

A senior Israeli source said Monday that the total number of prisoners that
Israel would be willing to exchange for captive IDF soldier Gilad Shalit is
some 1,000.

Israel is expecting that progress will be achieved on the negotiations for
Shalit's release as a result of the meeting between Palestinian Prime Minister
Ismail Haniyeh and exiled Hamas political bureau chief Khaled Meshal, in
Damascus on Monday.

The two Hamas leaders were expected to have reached an agreement on the deal
that is being negotiated for the release of Shalit in exchange for the freeing
of many Palestinian prisoners.

On Tuesday cabinet minister and former senior Shin Bet official Gideon Ezra of
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's Kadima party, has proposed releasing imprisoned
Fatah-Tanzim leader Marwan Barghouti in exchange for Shalit and a pledge to
continue the cease-fire.

Ezra said Barghouti's release could reduce terror and strengthen Fatah as a
moderate factor

Israel informed Egypt's intelligence chief, Omar Suleiman, of its willingness
to release prisoners, during meetings the Egyptian mediator held in Israel
last week, a senior source in Jerusalem said Monday.

"We agreed to release several hundred women and children, mostly the young
among them," the Israeli source said. "We have also agreed to release several
hundred [adult male] Palestinian prisoners, among them prisoners sentenced to
many years in prison," he added.

The senior Israeli source said that the total number of prisoners that Israel
would be willing to release "revolves around one thousand. We have made the
figure clear to Egypt and they know our stance. The prisoners will be released
in a number of stages, women and children during the first stage.

Three days ago, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak confirmed that Israel will
have to release women and children as part of a deal for the release of
Shalit, even before he is handed back to Israel.

According to Egypt's plan, the first stage of the exchange will include the
transfer of Shalit to Egypt, in return for the women and children. At the
second stage, Shalit will be returned to Israel, in return for another group
of prisoners. At the third stage, another group of Palestinian prisoners will
be released.

However, any such deal is still being delayed by Hamas, the Israeli source

"The reason for the delay is not clear to us, but it is possible that the
difficulties in establishing a government of national unity is undermining the
completion of the deal," he said.

"It is hard to envision a scenario in which Israel agrees to release Marwan
Barghouti [a leading Fatah figure sentenced for his role in the deaths of
Israelis] but in any case, it should be understood that names have not been
discussed at this point. We have only talked about numbers," the Israeli
source added.

Other sources added that so far Hamas has not presented the mediators with a
list of names of prisoners they would like released.

However, the same source said that the name of Barghouti will be on such a

Mediators also confirm that in their indirect negotiations, Israel and Hamas
have not discussed names of prisoners that would be freed, only numbers.
However, they said that there is a huge gap between the claims each side is
making on the number of prisoners that are to be released in exchange for

"Israel has agreed to release about 300 prisoners," the mediators say. "Hamas
is demanding about 1400, including women and children. Suleiman has asked
Israel to raise the figure, but to date we have not received a clear answer on
this request."

The mediators also said that "there is no problem over the way the stages are
divided or the timing of the prisoner release, all of which has already been
agreed upon."

The same sources also said that in their view, Hamas would be willing to
accept a figure lower than 1,400 prisoners.

According to other sources, the difference between the Hamas demands and
Israel's position does not exceed several hundred prisoners.

The Palestinian prime minister met on Monday with Syrian President Bashar
Assad, and reports from Damascus said that the meeting focused on the efforts
of Palestinians to establish a government of national unity.

During his visit to Damascus, the first since he became prime minister earlier
this year, Haniye said that the dialogue for a unity government must go on.

"If there are any sides among the Palestinians who wish to put an end to the
talks, they will be the ones responsible for the failure of the talks," he

Meanwhile, sources who follow the talks between Haniye and Meshal said that
Hamas is willing to lower the number of prisoners whose release the group is
demanding in return for Shalit.

However, Hamas is demanding that the deal also include prisoners who have been
sentenced to long terms in prison and who are senior members of the

A senior source in Jerusalem told Haaretz Monday that there are no guarantees
that Meshal will authorize the deal, since he is under pressure from Iran and
Syria, neither of which is interested in any development that will allow the
creation of a unity government in the Palestinian Authority along guidelines
put forth by Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Tamir directive to put Green Line in schoolbooks criticized

Last update - 12:31 05/12/2006

Tamir directive to put Green Line in schoolbooks criticized

By Akiva Eldar, Haaretz Correspondent

Chairman of the National Union-National Religious Party Zevulun Orlev
criticized Education Minister Yuli Tamir on Tuesday saying she was imposing
her "Peace Now" ideology on the ministry.

Orlev was referring to the instructions Tamir issued to reinstate the Green
Line in all the new editions of textbooks featuring maps of Israel.

Tamir said Israel could not demand of its Arab neighbors to mark the June 4,
1967 borders, while the Israeli education system erased them from its
textbooks and from children's awareness.

MK Ronit Tirosh (Kadima), formerly the Director-General of the Education
Ministry, also criticized Tamir, saying that she does not possess the
authority to issue such an order.

"The education minister in not permitted to interfere with the content of
textbooks, and should also have consulted the other members of the Knesset
before making such changes," Tirosh said Tuesday.

Professor Yoram Bar-Gal, head of Geography and Environmental Studies at Haifa
University, said Tamir's directive to bring the Green Line back to the maps
would be hard to follow. He said that most of the textbooks are issued by
private publishers who would not be keen on changing the plates at their

Two years ago Dr. Nurit Peled-Elhanan, a lecturer in language and education at
Hebrew University, published research on six study books that had been
published after the Oslo agreement. Some of these books were officially
endorsed by the Education Ministry. Many teachers adopted other books even
without the ministry's approval.

Her main findings included the disappearance of the Green Line and Arab cities
in Israel from the maps in these books, and their presentation of sites and
settlements in "Judea and Samaria," rather than in the "West Bank," as an
integral part of Israel.

Continued (Permanent Link)

PM remarks infuriate families of IDF men captive in Lebanon

Last update - 09:59 05/12/2006

PM remarks infuriate families of IDF men captive in Lebanon
By Jack Khoury and Gideon Alon, Haaretz Correspondents

Families of the two IDF soldiers captive in Lebanon have strongly criticized
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for remarks in which he said that he would rather
they remained in captivity, than for more soldiers to have been killed in a
prolonged conflict in Lebanon.

Olmert, speaking to 11th-graders in Nahariya on Monday, also said that Israel
lacked solid evidence that Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, the two reserve
soldiers captured by Hezbollah in July, were still alive.

"What should we have done?" Olmert asked. "Keep fighting and maybe create
dozens more bereaved families to accelerate the return of two people, and I
hope they are still alive, for whom it's a question of spending a little more
or a little less time in captivity in the face of the possibility or certainty
that many dozens more would be killed in the continued fighting?"

His remarks drew fire from the committee for the soldiers' return.

"We ask that the prime minister say less and do much more to bring about the
release of the captives from Lebanon," the committee for the captured soldiers
said in a statement.

"The prime minister should be very careful with his words, so that they are
not, heaven forbid, misinterpreted."

Olmert made the remarks during a meeting with 11th-graders from the Amal
Nahariya high school, in response to a question about the cabinet's decision
to end the war despite the fact that the kidnapped soldiers had not been

Continued (Permanent Link)

Monday, December 4, 2006

Analysis: 2007 - The Year of War

The Jerusalem Post Internet Edition
posted Dec. 4, 2006

Analysis: 2007 - The Year of War
by Yaakov Katz

2007 will be the year of war, both in Lebanon and in the Gaza
Strip, and possibly even against Syria. It could happen this
spring, or perhaps in the summer.

According to Military Intelligence's (MI) assessment for the
coming year, there is a high probability that Israel will find
itself fighting at least two wars on two fronts, one against the
Hamas army being created in the Gaza Strip and the other against
Hizbullah, working hard to regain its strength after the war this
past summer.

Despite a cease-fire on the Gaza front, Hamas has spent the last
week smuggling weapons into the Strip through the tunnels running
from Sinai.

Hizbullah, despite Security Council Resolution 1701 and UNIFIL's
presence in southern Lebanon, has received shipments of antitank
missiles, short-range rockets and long-range missiles from Syria
since the war ended.

The Syrian military is on high alert and has the IDF concerned
that without political "engagement," war could erupt there.

According to MI's assessment, if Israel offered Syria a renewal
of dialogue, President Bashar Assad would accept. However, if
Israel does not make any diplomatic overtures toward Syria, in
line with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's declared policy, the
chance of war will only increase.

While the defense establishment is genuinely concerned with the
ongoing Hizbullah protest in Beirut and the effect it will have
on the fragile situation in the North, MI is not surprised by
Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah's attempt to topple Prime Minister Fuad
Saniora's US-backed government.

The massive demonstration in Lebanon is more than just a standard
anti-government gathering. It is a clash of cultures - one led by
Saniora interested in an independent and westernized Lebanon and
the other led by Nasrallah and powered by Iran, interested in a
radical and religious regime, or as MI sees it, an extension of
Iran and the axis of evil.

Syria is also contributing to the tension and, according to MI,
is the leading suspect in the assassination two weeks ago of
Lebanese Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel. The Saniora
government's decision to establish an international tribunal to
try those responsible for the assassination of Rafik Hariri in
2005 was a major blow for Assad and the ongoing protest in Beirut
is partially his way of payback.

The IDF does not anticipate long life for the cease-fire in Gaza,
obtained November 25 in a phone call between Olmert and
Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. In addition to the
daily Kassam rocket attacks since the cease-fire went into
effect, the Palestinians have continued smuggling weapons into
the Strip from Egypt.

Hamas's "army" in Gaza already numbers several thousand troops,
believed to be armed with advanced antitank missiles, Grad-type
Katyusha rockets as well as anti-aircraft projectiles, possibly
Soviet-made SA-7 shoulder-fired missiles.

The assumption in the IDF is that the cease-fire will not last
long, maybe another couple of weeks at the most. The major
problem is that unlike the cease-fire in 2005 before Israel's
unilateral disengagement from the Gaza Strip, this time the
Palestinians do not have any incentives to enforce or uphold the

It is also important to differentiate between the Strip and the
West Bank. While Hamas is building an army, Gaza is
self-contained, cut off from the rest of Israel. The West Bank is
different. With the security fence incomplete, a decision to
remove roadblocks and permit free passage for Palestinians could
enable terrorists to enter Israeli cities. The only way to
prevent terror there is to maintain an IDF presence in the West Bank.

But not everyone in the defense establishment agrees that the way
to prevent terror in the West Bank is by retaining a stifling
military presence.

Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Maj.-Gen.
Yosef Mishlav has been recommending the removal of roadblocks and
free passage between West Bank cities for some months now,
claiming the move would stimulate positive economic developments
within the PA. If Israel fails to do so, Mishlav has warned, war
could also erupt in the West Bank.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Number of Palestinians killed by internal disputes, crime up 50%

Jerusalem Post
Dec. 4, 2006 18:42 | Updated Dec. 4, 2006 22:47

Number of Palestinians killed by internal disputes, crime up 50%

The state of anarchy and lawlessness in the West Bank and Gaza
Strip has claimed the lives of more than 300 Palestinians since
the beginning of 2006, according to statistics published Monday
by the Palestinian Independent Commission for Citizens' Rights.

According to the figures, 332 Palestinians were killed in
Palestinian Authority-controlled areas in the first 11 months of
2006 - a 50 percent increase compared to last year.

Most of this year's victims were from the Gaza Strip (236).

In 2005, 176 Palestinians were killed in internal disputes and
crime, while 93 were killed in 2004.
Regarding this year's victims, the group said 41 murders were
politically motivated and 88 were due to clan feuds. The
remaining victims were killed under various circumstances ranging
from armed robbery to personal vengeance and misuse of weapons.

An average of 26 Palestinians died each month in internal
disputes and crime this year, as opposed to a monthly average of
15 in 2005, the group said.

The number of Palestinian women slain by relatives in "honor
killings" slightly increased in 2006, with 27 cases reported so
far, compared to 26 last year.

Palestinian children have also fallen victim to the anarchy and
lawlessness, the group said. In the first 11 months of 2006, 33
children were killed, up from 28 last year.

The group noted that 95% of the killings were carried out by
gunfire or explosives.

The group also documented dozens of assaults on various
institutions, including courts, universities and colleges,
municipalities and media organizations.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Israeli exports to Arab countries rise 19%

Dec. 4, 2006 0:38
Israeli exports to Arab countries rise 19%

Israel's exports to Arab countries grew to $206 million in the
first nine months of 2006, 19 percent more than the parallel
period last year, the Israel Exports Institute said Sunday.

Sales to Egypt led the growth, 36% higher than last year at $92m.
influenced mainly by the QIZ agreement signed between the two
countries in February 2005 under which Egyptian companies can
export to the US tax-free, provided that 35% of the product is
jointly Egyptian and Israeli, and that the Israeli component
constitutes at least 11.7%.

Exports to Jordan rose 12.5% to 496m. even as the number of
exporters operating there has dropped 25% to 1,300 since 2004.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Israeli minister moots Barghouthi release in deal

04 Dec 2006 13:39:10 GMT

Israeli minister moots Barghouthi release in deal
By Dan Williams

JERUSALEM, Dec 4 (Reuters) - Israel should consider freeing
jailed Palestinian lawmaker Marwan Barghouthi as part of a deal
that would return a captive soldier and curb violence in the West
Bank and Gaza, an Israeli cabinet minister said on Monday.

Israel has publicly ruled out clemency for Barghouthi, who
continues to be a top power-broker for the formerly dominant
Palestinian faction Fatah despite serving five life prison terms
for ordering deadly attacks in a 6-year-old Palestinian revolt.

But Environment Minister Gideon Ezra said Israel should
reconsider its policy if freeing Barghouthi would secure the
return of Corporal Gilad Shalit from the Gaza Strip and cement a
tentative truce declared last week in the tinderbox territory.

There has been growing speculation that Israel and its U.S. ally
could try to cultivate Barghouthi, who is very popular among
moderate Palestinians, as a potential counterweight to Hamas
Islamists that trounced Fatah in elections last January. Asked on
Israel Radio whether Barghouthi, 47, should be freed as has been
demanded by the Palestinian leadership, Ezra, a former security
chief, said: "The question is how big the (swap) deal would be,
and what the other side would promise."

"If the Palestinian Authority prevents arms smuggling in the
Philadelphi corridor (from Egypt to Gaza), then I am in favour,"
said Ezra. "If the Palestinian Authority promises to crush
terrorism, as it undertook to do, then I am in favour."

A spokeswoman for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who has been
searching for a way to break the diplomatic deadlock since the
recent Lebanon war forced him to shelve a planned unilateral
redeployment in the West Bank, played down Ezra's statements.

"The prime minister has made it very clear that this subject has
not come up in the government," said spokeswoman Miri Eisin.

Having agreed a surprise Gaza truce on Nov. 26 with moderate
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah, Olmert called for a
renewed peace process and said he would be willing to free many
prisoners -- including some who have served lengthy terms.


Barghouthi was captured by Israeli troops during a West Bank
sweep in 2002, and jailed two years later following a highly
publicised trial in an open criminal court in Tel Aviv.

He has denied Israeli charges of masterminding attacks by Fatah's
militant al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades which killed five people, but
has said Palestinians have the right to fight for independence in
territories captured by Israel in a 1967 war.

Unlike Fatah, Hamas advocates Israel's destruction, a stance that
has drawn a Western aid embargo since the Islamist group took
power in March. An internal Palestinian power struggle since then
has sparked fears of civil war.

Shalit's abduction by Hamas and other gunmen in a deadly June 25
raid across the Gaza border further stoked tensions.

Olmert at first rejected Hamas's demands for a prisoner swap and
ordered several military sweeps of Gaza, the first major
incursions by Israel since it quit the coastal strip last year.

But with no sign of Shalit, Palestinian rocket fire from Gaza an
almost daily occurrence, and international scrutiny on the
civilian toll from Israel's military operations mounting, Olmert
has recently signalled new flexibility.

Hamas wants 1,400 Palestinian prisoners, including leaders of
armed factions, freed in exchange for Shalit. Barghouthi's wife,
Fadwa, has said that his name appears on the list.

Hamas declined comment.

"Marwan Barghouthi is without a doubt someone who is important to
Fatah, and Fatah is on the ropes today and we should strengthen
Fatah if we want to strengthen Abu Mazen (Abbas)," Ezra told
Israel Radio.

(Additional reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza)

Continued (Permanent Link)

U.S. to test Israeli anti-RPG system for Iraq - source

Monday December 4, 03:05 PM

U.S. to test Israeli anti-RPG system for Iraq - source
By Dan Williams

TEL AVIV (Reuters) - An Israeli-made system designed to protect
tanks and troop transports from shoulder-fired rockets will be
tested by the Pentagon for possible use by U.S. forces in Iraq, a
senior Israeli defence source said on Monday.

While most of more than 2,800 deaths of U.S. service personnel in
Iraq have been caused by roadside bombs, military officials have
pledged to address the threat of rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs)
as part of long-term planning.

"Trophy" is described by its manufacturer, Rafael, as unique
because it uses a sensor to detect an incoming missile and fires
a projectile that destroys its warhead in mid-air. Rafael puts
the system's reliability rate at about 95 percent.

The Israeli defence source said the Pentagon was in the last
stage of ordering one for tests in the United States.

"The Department of Defence plans to test Trophy, perhaps on a
(U.S. Army) Stryker or another kind of vehicle, beginning in
April, and later on to field it in Iraq," the source, who spoke
on condition of anonymity, told Reuters.

Amit Zimmer, spokesman for the state-owned Israeli firm, declined
to comment on a possible U.S. purchase of Trophy. The U.S.
embassy in Tel Aviv could not immediately be reached for comment.

The U.S. news network NBC reported in September that the army had
decide to forgo Trophy in favour of a rival system under
development by U.S. arms firm Raytheon Co., although the latter
is not expected to be operational before 2010.


The report aroused controversy in the United States for
suggesting that the Pentagon was motivated more by corporate
protectionism than the need to protect soldiers serving in Iraq.

However, a senior army officer, Major-General Jeffrey Sorenson,
said at the time that Trophy was not ready and did not meet the
requirements of a long-term, more comprehensive U.S. vehicle
defence project in the works involving Raytheon.

Another Israeli defence source familiar with Rafael's plans
projected the unit price of Trophy at between $250,000 and
$350,000 and said the system weighed about 700 kg (1,540 lbs).

The source said the prohibitive cost and bulk potentially could
be off-set by having vehicles travel in close groups so a Trophy
installed on one would provide protection for the rest.

Lova Drori, Rafael's vice-president of marketing, said
development of Trophy, which had been in the pipeline for at
least 15 years, was accelerated after Israel's war with Hezbollah
guerrillas in Lebanon earlier this year.

Dozens of Israeli tanks were destroyed or disabled by Hezbollah
RPGs or more sophisticated shoulder-fired missiles during the
34-day war, causing Israel's armoured corps its highest casualty
rate in almost a quarter-century of fighting.

Drori said the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) had submitted a
request for several dozen Trophy systems to be installed on
advanced battle tanks by the end of 2007, when some Israeli
analysts have forecast another war on the northern front.

An Israeli military spokeswoman had no immediate comment.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Bolton to quit as ambassador to UN

Bolton to quit as ambassador to UN

John Bolton, the controversial and outspoken US ambassador
to the United Nations, will step down when his temporary appointment expires
within weeks.

Bolton was unable to continue in office after George Bush's
Republican party failed to take keep of the US congress in the recent

Bolton's nomination has languished in the senate foreign
relations committee for more than a year, blocked by Democrats and several

Critics have questioned Bolton's brusque style and whether
he could be an effective bureaucrat who could force reform at the UN.

George Bush, the US president, gave Bolton the job
temporarily in August 2005, while congress was in recess. Under that process,
the appointment expires when congress formally adjourns, no later than early

The White House re-submitted Bolton's nomination last month.
But with Democrats capturing control of the next congress, his chances of
winning confirmation appeared slight.

The incoming chairman of the senate foreign relations
committee, Democratic Senator Joe Biden, said he saw "no point in considering
Mr Bolton's nomination again".

While Bush could not give Bolton another recess appointment,
the White House was believed to be exploring other ways of keeping him in the
job, perhaps by giving him a title other than ambassador. But Bolton informed
the White House that he intended to leave when his current appointment
expires, Dana Perino, the White House deputy press secretary, said.

Bush planned to meet Bolton and his wife later on Monday at
the White House.

As late as last month, Bush, through his senior aides, said
he would not relent in his defence of Bolton, despite opposition from
Democrats who view Bolton as too combative for international diplomacy.

Perino said that among Bolton's accomplishments, he
assembled coalitions addressing North Korea's nuclear activity, Iran's uranium
enrichment and reprocessing work and the violence in Darfur. She said he also
made reform at the United Nations a priority because the US was searching for
a more "credible" and more "effective" United Nations.

"Despite the support of a strong bipartisan majority of
senators, Ambassdor Bolton's confirmation was blocked by a Democratic
filibuster, and this is a clear example of the breakdown in the senate
confirmation process," she said.

"Nominees deserve the opportunity for a clean up or down
vote. Ambassador Bolton was never given that opportunity."

Perino said Bush had reluctantly accepted Bolton's decision
to leave when his current appointment expires.

Continued (Permanent Link)

The Iranians Accelerate - Yediot Ahronot Report [With Photos]

The Iranians Accelerate

Ronen Bergman:
Yedioth Ahronot (In Hebrew)
Nov 10  06 (Shiva Yamim Supplement) Pages - 16-24.
This vital issue is likely to perturb every citizen in Israel: Within a certain period of time, Ali Khamenei, Mahmud Ahmadinejad, and the other senior members of the regime of the Ayatollahs will be able to press the red button and implement some of the terrifying declarations that are coming from Tehran if they decide it is the appropriate moment. So although no one can name the specific day on which this will happen, one thing is certain: Iran is not wasting a moment, nor abandoning any path en route to the nuclear finishing  line, and in the last few months has even been accelerating its activities.

Updated satellite photographs  acquired by ShivaYamim, published here for the first time, reveal unprecedented construction at  all nuclear sites in Iran. Among other things, the imagery reveals extensive construction work going on at the centrifuge site at Natanz, including tunnels and bunkers; significant progress in building the heavy-water reactor in Arak; production of UF6 gas in Isfahan which, according to intelligence reports, is supposed to be enough for two atom bombs; and worrying reports have also been received about advanced tests of a high-powered explosive that is designed for use in the fission mechanism.

In addition, if anyone still has any doubts about the seriousness of Iranian intentions, the satellite photos reveal the deployment of numerous antiaircraft missile batteries, in a way that is perhaps unprecedented, around the nuclear sites.  European intelligence information also points to the presence of Iranian scientists at the recent nuclear test in North Korea. All these things leave no room for doubt that Iran is closer than ever before to putting together the first Shiite atomic bomb.

International Hypocrisy

In the last three months, including during the war in Lebanon, satellite imagery analysts in the Israeli intelligence community, like their colleagues in the international community, have noted a number of changes at the nuclear sites in Iran. The spy satellites were focused on these sites and photographed them repeatedly. The pictures left no room for doubt: Iran is accelerating its nuclear program at a number of sites simultaneously. But that is not all. In the months in question, Iran launched a process of
deploying antiaircraft missile batteries around the nuclear sites and replacing the existing technology with Russian S-300 missiles, which are regarded as the most advanced.

Indeed, satellite imagery acquired by Shiva Yamim and specially analyzed for this article by Tim Brown, a US expert in interpreting military satellite imagery, reveal that the Iranians are making considerable and particularly rapid progress in producing a bomb. What also emerges is the extent to which the Iranians fear a possible attack on these sites. For example, no less than 26 antiaircraft positions were recently photographed around the centrifuge site at Natanz, which does not cover a particularly large area.  According to experts in Israel, there are few sites in the world that receive such dense protection.

It seems that the most annoying thing in the context of the Iranian nuclear program is the approach of the IAEA. Although Iran is caught lying over and over again; although it admits to actions that blatantly violate the Geneva  NPT Treaty; although there is a whole string of issues between it and the IAEA on which IAEA experts say that it has not provided even the beginning of satisfactory answers; although it repeatedly threatens to put a stop to the supervision; and although it bars the inspectors access to some of the sites, to experts, and to know-how -- IA EA Director Dr Muhammad al-Baradei, the Nobel Peace Prize recipient, insists on drafting a very watered-down of his conclusions and recommendations on the matter. True, even if the Egyptian Al-Baradei was firmer, the United States would still insist on putting together an international coalition to impose strict sanctions on Iran, but it is clear that more incisive statements from him, which are warranted by the facts, would provide the United States with operative ammunition and push Russia and China, which are close to Iran, into a corner. By acting the way he is doing, Al-Baradei is providing these countries with the excuse to continue to sit on the fence and do business with Iran behind everyone's back.

Take the site at Parchin, for example, where the Iranians are working on the warhead itself. According to information that has reached the West and been passed to the IAEA, a group of Iranian scientists, working under Department 105 of the local Ministry of Defense, are conducting experiments here on the
timed detonation of conventional high-powered explosives, called high explosives, which form the "explosive lens." The aim is to generate the beginning of a chain reaction that will lead to a nuclear explosion.  In order to create the desired effect, all the charges around the bomb's core must be exploded exactly at the same split second. Al-Barad'i's people, who are supposed to have the authority to visit any site they want, tried to get to Parchin a number of times but on each occasion they were warded off by Iranian intelligence. When the inspection finally took place, it was made in stringent conditions, with the inspectors not being allowed to go where they wanted.  Despite this, the inspectors found a high-speed camera designed to document timed explosions. Yet the Parchin issue receives only a muted mention from Al-Baradei, along with the comment that no suspicious findings were discovered except for a camera.

An analysis of the satellite photos published here reveals that extensive construction work has also been going on in Parchin recently. The photos reveal a series of underground tunnels and digging whose enormous scale is indicated by the amounts of earth dug up. The photos also show the area to which IAEA inspectors were not permitted access: special chambers that are used to test the assembly of a nuclear warhead's explosives. Identical chambers were photographed over the years close to facilities where the Soviet Union developed and manufactured its nuclear warheads. [passage omitted]

Spy 450 Km High

Until 1999, the satellite photos attached to this article were the wet dream of anyone without access to one of the Western intelligence agencies. Until then, high-quality imagery was the sole preserve of intelligence officials who controlled spy satellites.  There were a few civilian satellites, but they took poor-quality photographs.

In 1999, the Ikonos satellite was launched. Ikonos was the first commercial spy satellite. The system was built by Lockheed-Martin, and it is operated by Space Imaging. Ikonos, which is today called GeoEye, can identify objects on the ground that are 1 meter in size or larger so long as they are far from other objects and possess unique visual characteristics.

In 2002, the DigitalGlobe satellite was launched into space, and it cruises 450 km above the Earth. The satellite is capable of identifying objects 60 cm and upward in size -- a capability equal to the
most advanced military spy satellites. DigitalGlobe was used for these photos, and it also provided the photos in 2002, at the request of Yedi'ot Aharonot, that showed the uranium-enrichment facility in Isfahan.

The analysis of the photos for Yedi'ot Aharonot was undertaken by Tim Brown, who is regarded as one of the best-known interpreters of satellite imagery in the United States. In 1999, Brown, who works as an analyst on many television programs in the United States, together with John Pike, founded
Global Security, a company that runs the Public Eye satellite-imagery analysis project.

Brown serves as a senior researcher for, the site operated by the company, which is regarded as one of the most popular and high-quality site in the world on military, intelligence, and
nonconventional weapon issues.

Plutonium Bomb

The main requirements in producing a plutonium bomb are uranium, a heavy-water reactor, heavy water, and a separation facility. The preparation involves the radiation of metal-wrapped uranium rods in channels immersed in heavy water to start a chain reaction and generate electricity. A new
material, called plutonium, is generated in this process. In effect, plutonium is the waste produced, and in order to continue generating electricity, it must be cleaned from the rods. Note that the plutonium is
not thrown away. It must be removed from the rods in a chemical process called separation, and this is done in a separation facility. It is from the plutonium that the core of an atom bomb can be produced.

The final stage involves fashioning the material into a spherical shape and assembling it in a special apparatus, a "bomb lens," which will generate the start of a chain reaction. The chain effect is achieved by means of the simultaneous explosion of many explosive charges assembled around the sphere.

Enriched Uranium Bomb

The main requirements in producing an enriched uranium bomb are raw uranium, fluoride, and centrifuges. The preparation involves reactors for raw, natural uranium, and through a not particularly complex chemical process, the uranium is turned into a material called "yellow cake," a compound of
uranium and fluoride. After that, in a process called "conversion," the "yellow cake" is turned into UF6 gas.

At the enrichment stage, which is the hardest and most important of all, the gas is fed into the centrifuges which are connected in what is called a "cascade."  Note: If a total of 3,000 centrifuges are connected to each other, a sufficient amount of bomb-quality enriched uranium is produced. The
enriched gas is converted into a solid material in a simple chemical process, and the core of a bomb is manufactured from it.

The final stage is exactly the same as that in the plutonium bomb process.


Continued (Permanent Link)

IDF Spokesman: Head of PFLP in the Bethlehem Area Arrested

December 4th, 2006
Attributed to "security sources" (provided by the IDF Spokesperson's Office)

Head of PFLP in the Bethlehem area arrested

Today, December 4th 2006, IDF and ISA forces arrested Mahmud Ibrahim Hamdan
Fanun, head of the PFLP organization in the Bethlehem area.

Mahmud Fanun, 59, was deported to Jordan in 1986 for his involvement in
terror activity and returned to Judea and Sameria in 1996. Fanun has been
wanted by security forces since 2001.

In the past few years Mahmud Fanun was head of the PFLP terror organization
in the Bethlehem area and was involved in terror activity such as providing
weaponry to the organizations infrastructure and assisting wanted terrorist
to hide from Israeli security forces.

As part of his activity in the organization, Fanun held a number of senior
positions in the organization, amongst them: member of the organization's
head committee in Judea and Sameria and a candidate on behalf of the
organization in the parliamentary elections in the Palestinian authority.

IMRA - Independent Media Review and Analysis

Continued (Permanent Link)

Syria smuggling long-range missiles to Hizbullah

Syria smuggling long-range missiles to Hizbullah
Yaakov Katz, THE JERUSALEM POST Dec. 3, 2006

Long-range missiles, as well as truckloads of advanced anti-tank missiles
originating in Iran and Syria, have been smuggled to Hizbullah in Lebanon
during the past four months since the war ended this summer, The Jerusalem
Post has learned.

The IDF destroyed most of Hizbullah's long-range missile array during the
month-long war, including the Iranian-made Fajr and Zelzal. But according to
new intelligence obtained by the defense establishment, in the four months
since the war,

Hizbullah has received weapon convoys carrying short-range missiles,
anti-tank missiles and long-range missiles. Most of the
weapon convoys crossed into Lebanon from Syria at night.

With the increasing possibility that Hizbullah protests, launched in Beirut
on Friday, would topple the US-backed government of Lebanese Prime Minister
Fuad Saniora, the Israeli defense establishment had decided not to take any
chances and on Sunday raised the level of alert in the North. Israel is
concerned that the Lebanese instability will ignite the situation along
Israel's northern border.

Hizbullah, Military Intelligence believes, might use the Lebanese political
instability as an excuse to launch attacks against Israel - not necessarily
by renewing Katyusha rocket attacks like the ones used during the 34-day war
this past summer, in which 4,000 rockets were fired at Israel, but by firing
anti-aircraft missiles at Israeli aircraft flying over Lebanon to collect

Hizbullah "nature reserves" - camouflaged underground systems of tunnels and
bunkers used as hideouts for guerrillas - are still operating in southern
Lebanon despite the beefed up presence of UNIFIL and the Lebanese Armed
Forces (LAF) south of the Litani River. These areas are designated as
"closed military zones" for UNIFIL and the LAF and are used as training
centers for Hizbullah as well as storehouses for their weapons and rocket

While UNIFIL and the LAF presence in southern Lebanon has forced Hizbullah
to conceal its weapons, MI does not believe that the multinational force is
not an "obstacle" for the guerrilla Shi'ite group. If Saniora's government
falls, MI does not foresee UNIFIL being automatically expelled from Lebanon,
but rather the sponsor countries, including Italy and France, having to
decide whether they will pull their troops out or not.

Hizbullah, MI has learned, has been using the post-war period to
rehabilitate its armed wing. MI believes that "sooner or later" Hizbullah
will resume military operations against Israel in the form of mortar and
rocket attacks on northern Israeli communities as well as kidnapping
attempts along the border.

MI believes that if Israel "engaged" Syria and offered a renewal of dialogue
between the two countries, President Bashar Assad would accept the offer
without any preconditions. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has ruled out the
possibility of talks with Syria, which he has called the "single most
aggressive member of the axis of evil."

While there existed a chance for war with Syria - the Syrian military has
been at readiness since the war in Lebanon - MI does not believe Assad will
initiate a conflict with Israel despite remarks he recently made regarding
the option of military action as a means to redeem the Golan Heights.

MI's assessment does, however, cite an "escalation" in tension between the
countries due to Syria's support of Hizbullah, including the supply of
weapons to the guerrilla group as well as the strategic alliance Damascus
has forged with Iran.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Steinitz: Not the peace we expected

Not the peace we expected
By Yuval Steinitz Haaretz 4 December 2006

Egypt's behavior in Sinai and along the Philadelphi route, which enables the
large-scale arming of terror organizations, requires a reexamination of
Israeli policy. Many people have become convinced in recent months that
Egypt intends to allow the Israelis and the Palestinians to bleed together.
These suspicions began to crop up among policymakers in Washington by 2000,
after the failure of the Camp David summit and the outbreak of the second

We should recall that at that same summit, then-prime minister Ehud Barak
prepared a "strategic surprise": his proposal to divide Jerusalem, including
the Old City, in order to stun Palestinian Authority chairman Yasser Arafat
and motivate him to sign a peace agreement. Barak believed Arafat would find
it difficult to resist the temptation of a historic achievement - a
Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem - and would sign to end the conflict.

However, the voice of the opposition arose, and it wasn't coming from just
the "resistance front." Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak hastened to warn on
television that Arafat did not have the power to decide on Jerusalem,
because the Old City belonged to all Arabs and Muslims, and dividing it
would constitute betrayal. Mubarak's intervention in these critical moments
led to a rare public complaint by then-U.S. secretary of state Madeleine
Albright about his "contribution" to the peace process.

To this we must add Egypt's strange behavior regarding the peace process
between Israel and Jordan. The Egyptians complained for years about their
isolation in the Arab world due to their peace agreement with Israel. That
was also the explanation given for Mubarak's refusal to visit Israel and for
the cold peace, which he promised would warm when more countries joined the
circle. So what was Egypt's attitude to the political process with Jordan?
It turns out Egypt was so eager to emerge from its isolation that it applied
tremendous pressure on the late King Hussein to keep him from signing an
agreement with Israel. Egypt did not even send proper representation to the
signing ceremony in the Arava; Mubarak, who was invited, preferred to remain
in Cairo.

The same pattern of behavior was also seen when Yitzhak Rabin sought to
achieve full diplomatic relations with Qatar and Morocco. To Rabin's
disappointment, Egypt managed to torpedo agreements with these countries at
the last moment. Of course one can find ad hoc explanations for Egypt's
behavior in each and every case, but looking at the complete picture, one
sees an Egyptian strategy that is not in tandem with its declared policy of
promoting regional peace.

Increased arms flow

What is Egypt's real attitude toward the Palestinian Authority and the
terror organizations in the territories? Most of the weapons and ammunition
that enter Gaza pass through Egyptian territory. It is a convention that any
country that does not do everything in its power to prevent arms from being
smuggled to terror organizations is considered a silent supporter of terror.

Smuggling from Egypt is steadily increasing. The Shin Bet security services
reports that every year, more than 20,000 rifles, millions of bullets,
hundreds of RPG anti-tank missiles, tons of regulation explosive materials
and additional equipment that could arm several infantry divisions pass
through Egypt. For the sake of comparison, Jordan is much more determined in
its anti-smuggling activity, and the results correspond to the effort.

As opposed to the prevailing impression, in order to stop the smuggling,
Egypt does not need to go to battle in the tunnels under the Philadelphi
route. The reality is much easier to implement: It must deploy checkpoints
on the few highways and dirt roads leading toward Rafah, and intercept the
convoys of weapons and ammunitions. Egypt also should catch and jail the
chief smugglers in El Arish and Cairo, thus breaking up the smuggling
networks like the Jordanians did.

Backing Hamas

And, of course, there is the diplomatic sphere. When Hamas political leader
Khaled Meshal and his friends are repeatedly invited to meetings with
Egyptian ministers in Cairo, this constitutes a type of vital diplomatic
backing for Hamas vis-a-vis not only Israel, but Fatah and PA Chairman
Mahmoud Abbas as well. The same was true about two years ago, when the
Egyptians tried to achieve a hudna (cease-fire). They proposed that in
exchange for a temporary cease-fire, a historic guarantee would be given not
to disarm Hamas or bring it down by force.

The clandestine Egyptian protection of Hamas began during Arafat's time. In
April 1996, before the elections between Shimon Peres and Benjamin
Netanyahu, U.S. president Bill Clinton pressured Arafat to fight terror.
That was the only time Arafat ordered his interior minister Nasser Yousef to
use force against Hamas activists in Gaza, which led to many arrests, a
number of deaths and the closing of mosques. The Egyptians made sure to say
two things on this issue: The first, which was meant for Clinton's ears, was
that "Arafat must act to stop the terror attacks"; the second, which was
meant for Arafat and Abbas, was, "The Palestinians must avoid a civil war."

This phenomenon is not restricted to Israel. Egypt's behavior does not
deviate from prevailing regional norms: For years, Syria has been
encouraging Hezbollah and other organizations to terrorize Lebanon, the
Kurdish PKK to act against Turkey, and internal terror in Jordan and Iraq;
likewise, Saddam Hussein's Iraq encouraged Sunni terror in Syria,
Palestinian terror in Jordan and communist and Kurdish terror in Iran.

It would seem that the counter-argument of many commentators in the
intelligence community and the media - that Egypt cannot support Hamas
because it is afraid of Islamic terror at home - is groundless. History has
shown that it is possible to repress the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt while
meanwhile encouraging their brothers in Palestine, just as Saddam Hussein's
Iraq cruelly persecuted its Kurds while arming those in Iran, and vice
versa. Middle Eastern countries tend to believe (justly) that terror or
subversion among their neighbors has no direct effect on their own

Weakening Israel

So why does Egypt behave as it does? Apparently its policy toward Hamas has
several goals. The first and clearest is exhausting and weakening Israel
over the years. Egypt's failure to prevent the massive arming of the
Palestinians over the past year is designed to facilitate the establishment
of an arrangement in Gaza similar to that with Hezbollah in Lebanon, which
is designed to make things difficult for Israel in the case of a regional

Another hoped-for result is the undoing of eastern Sinai's demilitarization.
The Egyptians believe that intensified smuggling and the resulting
deterioration will demonstrate the importance of Egyptian military control
in eastern Sinai. The demands to change the peace agreements are based on
this thinking. There already has been limited rearmament along the
Philadelphi route.

Another topic that should be discussed is Egypt's military buildup. Egypt
has no existential threats nor active border conflicts. Nevertheless, for
years Egypt has been acquiring, thanks in part to American assistance,
impressive conventional military superiority over the other Arab and African

The usual intelligence and media explanations are that Egypt still feels
threatened by Israel. That is surprising. It is clear that since Israel
relinquished the entire Sinai Peninsula, including its rich oil fields, for
the sake of peace and stability, it has no intention to fight for that same
territory again. Nevertheless, Egypt, a poor country, continues to invest
billions of dollars annually in building up its military might. Now, after
25 years, it has achieved a quantitative balance with Israel in some areas,
and in other areas has even left Israel far behind. The Egyptian Air Force
has roughly the same number of modern warplanes - most of them American
F-16s - as the Israel Air Force, whereas Egypt has far more Western tanks,
artillery, anti-aircraft batteries and warships than the Israel Defense
Forces has.

Since the signing of the peace agreement, Egypt has received about $40
billion in U.S. military assistance. It's true Israel has received more, but
as opposed to its southern neighbor, Israel cannot channel all its resources
into fortifying itself against Egypt. It meanwhile had to fortify itself
against Syria and Iraq, the Palestinians and Hezbollah in the north, and
Palestinian terror in the heart of the country.

Another worrisome development is related to military maneuvers. Since 1996,
about three years after the Oslo process began, most of Egypt's military
maneuvers have simulated war against Israel. For the first time during that
period, the Egyptian army's annual exercise - the Bader combined forces
exercise - received a subheading explicitly naming the opposing force as "a
small nation to the country's northeast" (I have since then wondered whether
Egypt has something against Lebanon).

Education and incitement

Finally, it is impossible not to mention the anti-Israel education and the
harsh incitement in the media. About 30 years after Anwar Sadat visited
Israel, Egyptian students are still learning that Israel is the source of
evil in the region. Most textbook maps label the area east of Egypt not as
"Israel" but as "Palestine." The Egyptian media also frequently denies
Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state. And of course there is
anti-Semitic incitement as well.

About two years ago, at the conclusion of the Sharm el-Sheikh summit, the
presidents of the U.S. and Egypt held a press conference on the Sinai coast.
Bush spoke about the obligation of Arab countries to end the incitement
against Israel, the West and the Jewish people.

In the direct broadcasts Mubarak was seen nodding his head in agreement, but
Egyptian citizens saw something else, because at the same time Egyptian
national television was broadcasting another installment of a television
series based on the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which described the
Jews as Satanic powers of darkness trying to destroy the world.

Twenty-five years ago we gave up Sinai for a peace agreement with Egypt. If
Egypt has all along been making it difficult to expand the circle of peace
with moderate Arab countries, if it ignores arms smuggling to terror
organizations in Gaza, if it provides camouflaged diplomatic support to
Hamas, if it educates the younger generation to hate Israel, and if it
invests in a huge military buildup geared entirely to the possibility of a
conflict with Israel, this is not the peace we expected.
Dr. Steinitz is a Likud MK and the chair of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and
Defense Committee

Continued (Permanent Link)

Report: Jerusalem's Arab and Jewish populations have equal fertility rates

Report: Jerusalem's Arab and Jewish populations have equal fertility rates

By Nadav Shragai Haaretz 4 December 2006

For the first time ever, in 2005 the Arab and Jewish birthrates in Jerusalem
were equivalent at 3.9 children per woman. An American-Israeli research
report recently submitted to Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski found that the
Arab fertility rate in Jerusalem has dropped in recent years, while the
fertility rate among Jewish women in the capital has risen.

Dr. Maya Choshen of the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies, who edits
the Statistical Yearbook of Jerusalem, confirmed that the data used to
compare Jewish and Arab birthrates was accurate, but noted it only covered
one year. "Statistical trends must be examined over a number of years before
reaching conclusions," Choshen added.

The researchers Bennett Zimmerman, Roberta Seid, Michael Wise and Yoram
Ettinger recommend annexing 100,000 Palestinians to Jerusalem in order to
resolve the city's demographic problem. According to the four, as a result
of annexing additional East Jerusalem territory leading toward Ma'aleh
Adumim, Givat Ze'ev and Gush Etzion, the Jewish population will also
increase by tens of thousands and negative Jewish emigration out of the
capital will be reduced.

Recently, the political parties of Kadima and Labor have adopted the
approach that outskirts of the city with large Arab populations should be
removed from the Jerusalem jurisdiction to resolve the capital's demographic

This could make the city a magnet for the Jewish population, tipping the
demographic scales toward it. "Avoiding expanding city territory, due to
concerns of a demographic burden, will increase the housing and employment
burden and accelerate negative emigration out of Jerusalem," the report

The researchers reiterate previous findings that Jerusalem's key problem is
negative Jewish emigration, which stems from tight housing and job markets.
They attribute the distress to a lack of land for transportation
infrastructure, which they say is only resolvable by doubling city

In the 2000-2003 period, 63,000 residents left Jerusalem, while only 37,000
moved to the capital. In the past 25 years, 311,000 residents have moved
away, while 208,000 Jews have changed their place of residence to the city.

Continued (Permanent Link)

[Israel] Cabinet seeks to promote West Bank truce; arrests must be approved by senior officers

Cabinet seeks to promote West Bank truce; arrests must be approved by senior
By Amos Harel, Akiva Eldar and Avi Issacharoff Haaretz 4 December 2006

The Israel Defense Forces will no longer arrest Palestinians in the West
Bank without explicit approval from either the GOC Central Command or the
commander of IDF forces in the territories, the diplomatic-security cabinet
decided yesterday.

The decision is aimed at reducing tensions in the West Bank that could
disrupt the fragile cease-fire in the Gaza Strip.

However, the IDF opposes expanding the cease-fire to the West Bank, saying
that terrorist organizations have no intention of stopping attempts to
launch attacks from there, and without the army actively thwarting these
attempts, suicide bombings inside Israel are liable to resume.

The cabinet also forbade the IDF to open fire on Qassam rocket launchers in
Gaza, even though rockets continue to be fired at Israel from the Strip in
violation of the cease-fire. Yesterday, one rocket landed in the western
Negev, though no one was hurt.

In addition, army sources said, the cabinet decided that targeted killings
of terrorists will now require approval from both Prime Minister Ehud Olmert
and Defense Minister Amir Peretz. Formerly, the approval of IDF Chief of
Staff Dan Halutz was sufficient.

Prior to yesterday's cabinet decision, brigade commanders could decide on
arrests in the West Bank on their own, unless the operation was considered
particularly complex.

"The orders to the troops are to prevent unnecessary friction, as much as
possible," explained an army source. "But when there is information about a
cell that is planning to commit an attack, there is no doubt: A force will
be sent to make an arrest. If we don't do this, the results will be felt
immediately in the form of attacks in the center of the country."

The new rules of engagement were not well received by field officers on the
Gaza border, who worried that terrorist organizations will exploit the
opportunity to carry out attacks, and that the IDF will be prohibited from
trying to prevent them. However, a senior officer stressed, "our
professional opinion is irrelevant once an order [from the cabinet] has been
In adopting the new, more stringent rules of engagement in Gaza, the cabinet
sided with Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni against Peretz, who
advocated the army's view that preventive strikes on Qassam launchers should
be permitted. Peretz argued that the government should not be gambling with
Israeli lives in order to preserve a cease-fire that is still being only
partially observed.

Public Security Minister Avi Dichter, a former Shin Bet security service
chief, was the only cabinet member who backed Peretz on this issue.

In the West Bank yesterday, IDF troops killed a 15-year-old Palestinian in
the Askar refugee camp in Nablus. The soldiers said that they opened fire
because a group of boys that was throwing rocks at them from a rooftop had
endangered their lives. But Mahmoud Al-Jabji's family claims that he was
inside the house when the bullet hit him.

The IDF also announced yesterday that on Saturday, it arrested two
Palestinians at a checkpoint west of Jenin, who were suspected of planning a
suicide bombing inside Israel.

Meanwhile, Hamas announced yesterday that it would boycott discussions among
the Palestinian factions on expanding the cease-fire to the West Bank, to
protest Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas' decision to halt talks
on establishing a Palestinian unity government. Abbas stopped the
discussions because he said that they had reached a dead end. But yesterday,
he said that he still hoped agreement on a unity government could be

Also yesterday, PA Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, who had been in Qatar and
arrived in Syria, announced that the Qatari government had agreed to pay the
salaries of all teachers employed by the PA Education Ministry, at a cost of
$22.5 million a month.

Continued (Permanent Link)

IDF tanks to be fitted with Trophy anti-missile systems

IDF tanks to be fitted with Trophy anti-missile systems
By Amos Harel Haaretz 4 December 2006

The Israel Defense Forces will begin equipping its tanks with an advanced,
active protection system capable of countering the latest anti-tank

The locally developed system, known by its export name as Trophy, will be
installed on Merkava Mark IV tanks, partly in response to the experience of
the recent war in Lebanon.

The new defense system creates a "canopy" that surrounds the tank,
identifies the threat of the incoming anti-tank missile, and destroys that
missile's warhead before it strikes.

The Rafael Armament Development Authority offered Trophy to the IDF several
years ago, but the suggestion was turned down then due to other budgetary

The cost of installing the system on a single tank is estimated to be
$200,000-$300,000, if a significant quantity is acquired.

While initially the system will be installed on tanks, the possibility is
being considered of also using the Trophy system on armored personnel
carriers (APCs).

The United States is also considering the use of the Trophy on its Stryker
fighting vehicles.

During the recent war in Lebanon, Hezbollah's anti-tank missiles damaged
dozens of IDF tanks; others were totally destroyed. The more sophisticated
anti-tank missiles, such as the French Matis and the Russian Kornet, are
capable of penetrating the armor of the Merkava Mark IV, which is considered
to be the most heavily armored tank in the world.

There are some final touches left to be made on Trophy before it becomes
fully operational.

Major General Benny Gantz, commander of the ground forces, confirmed the
acquisition, but the matter still requires the approval of the General

Continued (Permanent Link)

Unrest in Lebanon / If Siniora falls, so will UNIFIL

Unrest in Lebanon / If Siniora falls, so will UNIFIL
By Amos Harel Haaretz 4 December 2006

It is no coincidence that in Jerusalem there is grave concern regarding
recent developments in Beirut. Not only is the pressure by pro-Hezbollah and
pro-Syrian demonstrators liable to cause the government of Fouad Siniora to
collapse, but it may also spark a new civil war in Lebanon. If Siniora's
government falls, the Sunni leader will be forced to make concessions in
favor of Syria and its allies, and possibly undermine the sole major
achievement of Israel in the second Lebanon war - namely, the arrangements
made along the border.

In response to the criticism of Israel's political and military leadership
for failures during the recent war, the answer of the Olmert government has
been that the reality on the ground will be our judge. In spite of the many
failings, the prime minister did have a convincing argument. At war's end,
Hezbollah was removed from its positions along the border, and an
international peacekeeping force was deployed in southern Lebanon. Israel's
gains could have been made during the first week of fighting, which would
have saved many lives. Nonetheless, the achievements were apparently real.

However, now the stability of Security Council Resolution 1701 is in
question. If Hezbollah determines who will form the next government in
Lebanon, and even if Siniora emerges from this standoff as a weaker prime
minister, the extent of cooperation between the government in Beirut and the
UN peacekeeping force, UNIFIL, will be undermined.

Nearly four months after the cease-fire went into effect, the two abducted
soldiers, for whom Israel went to war, are still not home - and ther e is
not even a sign that they are alive. The smuggling of weapons from Syria to
Hezbollah, according to Military Intelligence, has resumed and is proceeding
at full steam. Southern Lebanon is being rebuilt with Iranian money and the
Hezbollah guerrillas, who do not appear now in public wearing fatigues and
carrying weapons, are moving about uninterrupted.

It is hard to imagine the European troops deployed in southern Lebanon
staying there if Hassan Nasrallah signals that Hezbollah intends to target
them, as it did French and American forces in 1983. All that is missing now
is for Hezbollah to decide to resume holding its positions along the border,
as a challenge to Olmert and Israel.

The recent developments are of less concern to the Winograd Commission,
established by the government to investigate the decisions to go to war and
the six years following the IDF's May 2000 pullout from southern Lebanon.
Yesterday, the committee issued a puzzling announcement, thanking the High
Court justices for their support last week in rejecting the petitions for
the creation of a state commission of inquiry. The body's members expressed
their satisfaction that neither the justices, nor the petitioners,
questioned the honesty, qualifications or independence of the investigating

However, the panel's members would have been less satisfied were they to
know about some of the impressions formed by officers that already appeared
before them. Some of the latter have said that it is clear that the
committee has already determined that Chief of Staff Dan Halutz is its prime

What emerges is the following: The army rushed to recommend war, without
properly preparing itself or having an exit plan. The civilians fell under
the spell of the confidence exhibited by the senior military command, and
therefore the chief of staff will be the first to pay the price, in a
renewed version of the Agranat Report, which followed the Yom Kippur War.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Qassam fired at Israel lands in PA

Qassam fired at Israel lands in PA
Anat Bereshkovsky YNET Published: 12.04.06, 18:31,7340,L-3083,00.html

Palestinians launched a Qassam rocket towards Israel Monday from south of
the the Gaza Strip. The rocket landed on Palestinian land. There was no
information on injuries or damages.

There is no alert system in the area.

Continued (Permanent Link)

The most blogged war: a retrospective [by Lisa N. Goldman]

The Jewish Quarterly
Autumn 2006 - Number 203

The most blogged war: a retrospective

Lisa N.Goldman on the relationships that kept her sane and drove
her crazy

by Lisa N. Goldman

On each of the first four nights of the latest Lebanon-Israel war
I stayed up until dawn, chatting over the Internet with Charles
Chuman, a Lebanese who then lived in Beirut. He sat on the roof
of his apartment building, watching as missiles from Israeli Air
Force planes fell on his city, and describing it to me in my Tel
Aviv apartment, where I was watching the Israeli television news
reports. Sometimes, between his descriptions of particularly loud
or close explosions, our conversation was mildly flirtatious – me
mock-moaning that I had no time to go the hairdresser because of
work demands, he proclaiming, tongue-in-cheek, that he was
wearing a pink shirt because he felt comfortable with his
masculinity. Our last chat ended just a couple of hours before he
left for Damascus, via roads that had been bombed by the IAF over
the previous days. Almost as soon as he arrived in the Syrian
capital, he logged on briefly to let me know he was safe.

For me, those conversations were a lifeline to sanity. Later,
after he arrived in Chicago, Charles sent me an e-mail in which
he exactly expressed my thoughts:

[Our chats] meant a lot to me . . . My world didn't collapse.
Kind and good people I didn't want to become my enemy didn't
become my enemy.

Blogging was the hottest human-interest story of the
Lebanon-Israel crisis of 2006. On 18 July, less than one week
after the conflict began, I summarized the phenomenon in a post
for my own blog, titled 'The most blogged war?' I didn't realize
then that the question mark was utterly superfluous. Not only was
this the first time in history that residents of two countries at
war were able to maintain an ongoing, uncensored conversation in
real time, but it was also the first time ordinary citizens were
able to provide grassroots reporting in real time. In the same
post, I used the term 'surreal' to describe the experience of
chatting with Charles as my country's air force bombed his city.
I ended that entry on a hopeful note:

When this latest round of pointless death and destruction ends,
when the anger dissipates, perhaps [we] will remember the
personal connections with [the] 'enemy'. Think about what it
means, if the next generation of Lebanese and Israeli politicians
and business leaders have intimate and personal knowledge of the
others' humanity.

The international media jumped on the story immediately. I lost
track of the interviews I gave over the following two weeks,
sometimes five a day - mostly to European and North American
media, but also to China radio and Japanese television. The
western media reported the story as an interesting phenomenon;
the Japanese and Chinese reporters touched me with their
interpretation of its significance. 'Do you think that bloggers
can stop the war?' asked one of the interviewers for Chinese
radio, as we sat at my neighbourhood café. That is when I
understood that for a lot of people communication by definition
leads to humanization and thus to understanding. The thing is,
I'm not sure that it's necessarily true.

During the war dozens of new Lebanese and Israeli blogs popped
up. Some invited dialogue with the Other, and there were many
touching stories of Israelis and Lebanese reaching out to one
another and engaging in civil dialogue, even as the missiles,
rockets and bombs landed. But as the war dragged on, too many
blogs were less about live reporting or dialogue and much more
about rage, blame, victimization and even hate. Toot, the website
that aggregates Arab blogs, created a whole new page devoted to
posts about Lebanon and Gaza, complete with a banner featuring a
blood red background, Palestinian and Lebanese flags, plumes of
smoke and an Israeli tank (subtle!). When one of the posts on
that page presented the Protocols of the Elders of Zion as fact,
I stopped reading. Visits to Toot had become too stressful and
heartbreaking. In some cases, bloggers who had written
extensively about the need for conciliation and peace between
Israel and Lebanon made a complete about-face.

Perhaps the most striking example of the latter was a Lebanese
blogger I knew personally, who uses the 'nom de blog' Perpetual
Refugee (I'll call him PR). PR and I discovered one another's
blogs at the end of April, when we both read a post Charles wrote
after he 'discovered' the Israeli blogosphere. Charles linked to
a couple of my posts and summarized,

Not knowing about 'them' is the worst crime we can commit. It
invalidates them as humans, as if they don't even matter. They
are Stalin's faceless enemy, the rabid dog, the evil bloodsuckers
whom it is righteous to kill . . . At first all this
unquestioning and uninformed hate makes me angry, but in the end,
it's truly depressing, especially after reading the uninhibited
first person narratives in the Israeli blogosphere.

Pretty soon PR was leaving comments on my blog. He was
particularly supportive when I wrote a scathing report about a
panel of Arab reporters at a media conference I attended in
London, and other Lebanese bloggers joined PR in praising me for
challenging the panellists.

PR began to write a series of very raw, moving and sensitive
stories about his visits to Tel Aviv, where he headed the
regional office of an international company. He exposed emotions
and deeply held prejudices that few of us have the strength to
examine: he described facing his demons, overcoming taboos and
humanizing people who had previously been a faceless enemy. Then,
one day in mid-May, he left a cryptic response to one of my blog
posts: 'I'm here.'

We met that same evening. I picked him up from his hotel and took
him to a popular seafood restaurant on the beach. We sat
outdoors, the waves murmuring quietly as we talked for hours over
a bottle of wine and some Middle Eastern appetizers. I felt an
instant click of empathy: we were about the same age, had similar
worldviews and interests. The conversation flowed.

He told me, in stark terms, about the emotional toll his visits
to Tel Aviv had exacted from him. The long interrogations at the
airport. The difficult-to-suppress paranoia. Were his phone calls
and movements monitored? Were there listening devices in his
hotel room? I tried to soothe his fears with logic: You've never
tried to hide your nationality, I said, and you work for an
internationally known corporation. There's no reason for the
security services to be concerned about you. But in the end I
fell silent, not only because I didn't really know for certain
whether he was being watched or not (although I thought it very
unlikely), but also because I didn't want to offend him by making
light of the worries that were expressed in his rigid shoulders
and his tightly wound body language.

We were the last patrons to leave the restaurant that night. When
the bill arrived, PR glanced at the sum for a nanosecond,
discreetly extracted a few large-denomination bills from a money
clip and placed them in the folder, too fast for me to see,
rising as he did so and gesturing to me, 'After you'. I knew he
had left an outrageously large tip, but he didn't seem the least
interested in waiting for the change. I couldn't imagine an
Israeli man behaving similarly - which is not, I hasten to add,
an aspersion on the male members of my tribe. PR's behaviour was
simply an illustration of an etiquette I'd practically forgotten
since moving to Israel. It was different – an old-fashioned world
I'd left behind without regret. But it was pleasant, and I told
my inner feminist to be quiet.

I wanted to show PR my Tel Aviv – the liberal, laid-back,
fashionable city that I love above all others. I wanted him to
relax and enjoy himself. I guess I wanted him to love 'us'. The
next time we met I took him to one of my favourite restaurants,
an intimate candle-lit place furnished in flea-market style,
where the daily menu of seasonal dishes is typed by hand on thick
paper inserted in an old-fashioned Hebrew typewriter. PR told me
it reminded him of similar restaurants in Beirut.

On the final night of what turned out to be his last visit
(although we didn't know that at the time) we went to a
fashionable bar on Lilienblum Street. When PR went to the
washroom the owner, who is a friend of mine, came over to talk.
'Who's the guy?' he asked. He's Lebanese, I told him, and I
really want to make sure he has a good time, so anything you can
do . . . Without another word my friend headed for the washroom
and escorted PR back to our banquette, chatting and laughing to
put him at ease. Pretty soon we received shots of vodka on the
house and my friend joined us, together with a few of his
acquaintances. Relaxed from the alcohol, we made fun of regional
politics and prejudices, talked about peace and open borders. The
Israeli guys told PR they were dying to visit Beirut and asked
him about the city. Hmm, they said, sounds like Tel Aviv. After
PR left he continued to write deeply personal essays about his
experiences in Israel. About discovering that his Tel Aviv taxi
driver was a Lebanese Jew and that they shared a mutual longing
to return home. About the emotions he felt upon meeting Israeli
Arabs – 'ghosts', he called them, because they are ignored by the
Arab world. About the self-loathing he felt during a business
meeting with a group of ultra-Orthodox rabbis, when he struggled
to overcome his racist feelings toward Jews. 'Have you heard the
one about the three rabbis?' is the title of that post. 'I still
felt strange,' he wrote.

There was still a small amount of animosity towards these people.
Fuelled by a large amount of written and rewritten history. And a
pea for a brain.

Further down he describes one of the rabbis coming over to talk
to him during a break between meeting sessions. The rabbi took
PR's hand:

His hand was so warm. It was as if I were walking with a father
figure. I felt no animosity. Is this what a Zionist feels like?
It felt as if I were but a child being led by his grandfather for
a leisurely stroll.

I cried a bit when I read that post. I was starting to understand
how deep the prejudice went ('a Zionist hand'?), and I began to
wonder if he saw me as 'Lisa, my friend' or 'Lisa, my Jewish
friend'. I suspected it was the latter, but I really did not want
to examine that suspicion. I was so excited about the lovely
little community of Israeli and Lebanese bloggers that had sprung
up in response to the blog posts written by PR, Charles and me.
We were slowly peeling back layers of prejudice and fear and
discovering that we had a lot in common. Tel Aviv and Beirut
sounded like mirror images of one another – two Levantine cities,
only three hours apart by car, both with a sophisticated
nightlife, dynamic culture, beaches, cafés and beautiful,
fun-loving people. One Israeli friend started a blog called
Israel2046, about a utopian future, 40 years hence, with weekend
trips in Beirut and Tel Aviv facilitated by a rapid rail link
between the two cities. It was a lovely dream – until Hezbollah
woke us all up on 12 July 2006.

Within days PR changed completely. On 17 July he wrote a
devastating post called 'Cleansed'. It was full of references to
'them' – as in 'I know them.' He used words like 'hate' and
'enemy'. His extended family lived in Beirut, but his home and
immediate family were in Dubai. He left, travelling overland to
Damascus. Mixed up with his rage was guilt at abandoning Lebanon.
And just like that, apparently without any effort, he removed the
jacket of tolerance and understanding. (In one of the last
comments he left on my blog, he wrote that he still considered me
his friend but would never visit Israel again.)

A lot has happened over the past five days. A lot of misery has
befallen my loved ones. My numbness is now gone. My guilt has
dissipated. My anger has returned. And my hatred consumes me. And
I'm back in my element . . .

I know them. I worked with them. I made friends amongst them.
Together we had built a fragile bridge between our two cultures.
Yet, as with every other bridge built over the years, it was
cruelly destroyed by barbarism. Only this was with my blessing.
This is one bridge I don't want to rebuild.

Most of the comments were predictable. Lebanese expressed
sympathy and support, while Israelis expressed sadness, disgust
and anger at his abrupt turnaround. But one comment, from a guy
named Matt, really stood out:

I enjoyed reading you until now, but I'm moving on. I say this as
the husband and father of Arabs who are sitting under the Qassam
barrage in Israel, right next to Gaza.

It would be easy (and probably justified) to join the hate crowd,
but no thanks. There's already too much of that here and I've got
better things to do with my short, meaningless life on this earth.

Over the following month a few bloggers managed to remain
detached. Most, however, did not. Some of the Israeli bloggers
devoted enormous amounts of energy to exposing media bias towards
Israel, or to blanket condemnations of all Muslims, or to
excruciatingly detailed descriptions of Israeli suffering.
Amongst the Lebanese bloggers there were conspiracy theories
about Israel's secret desire to control Lebanon's water resources
and gory photos of dead children. Words like 'genocide',
'massacre' and 'war crimes' became part of the Lebanese wartime
blogging vocabulary.

But there were many who were determined to maintain a dialogue.
Israeli blogger Amit Ben Basset switched from Hebrew to English
in order to 'take advantage of blog power and open a channel to
all'. Anat Al Hashahar, a mother of two and a former army
intelligence officer, started a blog called Israeli Mom and
invited feedback from Lebanese readers. She also started an
online forum 'for friendly debate', called MEtalk, together with
a Lebanese and an Iranian she met online. An ex-pat Lebanese who
calls himself Bad Vilbel started a blog devoted to understanding,
and Charles remained comfortingly true to form. I also received
many encouraging, beautiful e-mails from Lebanese ex-pats living
in Europe and North America.

But there were many days when the cacophony of hate online
brought me very low indeed. It was difficult to stay balanced. I
focused on telling apolitical stories about human encounters
during the war. I wrote about the friendship between the editors
of Time Out Beirut and Time Out Tel Aviv, how they had met and
clicked at a Time Out conference in Cyprus last May – right about
the time I met PR – and how their friendship had been strained,
albeit not broken, by the war. I described my experiences in
Metulla and Kiryat Shmona, border cities that were under constant
Katyusha bombardment, in an apolitical, personal diary. I wrote
about interviewing Sami Michael, the prominent Israeli author and
peace activist who was born and raised in Baghdad, and I put a
short video recording of him speaking in Arabic on my blog. That
was how I kept sane – by writing about human beings, human
connections and the longing for peace.

Now that the post-ceasefire dust is starting to settle, I'm
trying to work out whether the hate and rage expressed during the
war was a symptom of a sort of psychosis, or whether it was a
raw, primal expression of true feelings that were covered by a
thin veneer of socialized civility during peacetime. Is it
possible to change minds, or are some people simply wired to hate
and others to search for understanding? And if so, which is the

One Dubai-based Lebanese blogger, 'AM,
( provided a hopeful answer. On
23 August I posted my translation of the eulogy David Grossman
wrote for his son, Uri, who was killed in battle two days before
the ceasefire. It's practically impossible to be unmoved by that
eulogy. In her response, AM wrote:

I kept convincing myself and was comfortable thinking that the
only people who deserve my love and concern are my own. I've read
much during the war and the majority of my readings did nothing
but hurt the opinion I had of Israelis before the war, not sure
if you remember but I was an addict of your blog before the war.
Those other blogs I read made me furious and enraged to a point
that I fell back into the 'hate' trap for a while before I settle
into the 'ignoring all others and being selfish' stage. What
helped of course was my determination of stop reading all Israeli

A couple of weeks ago, somebody comments on my blog recommending
yours and in my mind 'duh, as if I never read her'. I resisted
for almost 2 weeks to click on that link which would bring me
here. In my mind, 'I don't care about them anymore'. I am sure
you understand that I have my reasons, this war brought the worst
in each of the parties involved and as I always thought and said,
'war is ugly'. At the same time, I am aware that I may have
chosen the easy way out which is to turn my back and close my
eyes on whatever I don't like or whatever is causing me pain
forgetting that there are some in this world who are just 'good'
or as good as I can be.

And here I am today . . . I read the eulogy and I cry . . . just
like I cried when I was watching my people die and cry on TV . . .

We exchanged e-mails, and a few days later she wrote a post
called 'A hope, a dream'. After describing the roller coaster of
emotions she'd experienced during the war, she wrote:

Suddenly this filthy war hits and disrupts Lisa's dream, mine and
the dream of many others out there . . . would I be insensitive
for I still am interested and wanting to dream?

Charles and I are still in regular contact, and I have made a few
new Lebanese friends who reached out when our countries were
locked in mutual destruction mode because they share the same
dream. PR and I have not been in contact since the beginning of
the war, but the truth is I didn't respond to his last e-mail
because I was so appalled by his 'hate post' that I just couldn't
deal with him any more. I didn't want to understand how someone
who knew Israelis, who had visited the country on many occasions
and been greeted with open arms by quite a lot of people, could
consciously decide, overnight, to hate them all. Perhaps he will
change his mind again, and we'll be able to renew contact. I
don't know. I think we are all still very tired and wary. It
seems that we are hostages to very old, deeply held prejudices,
to geopolitical interests and perhaps even to human nature.
Perhaps, I thought one day, the desire to make peace is in fact
contrary to human nature. Perhaps the need to hate is something
that we must constantly examine and struggle against, again and
again and again.

Lisa Goldman is a freelance Canadian-Israeli journalist living in
Tel Aviv. She blogs at

Continued (Permanent Link)

Sunday, December 3, 2006

Israel: Spinning Branding and Opinion Poll Results

Whom to believe about Israeli image and when? Here are two articles about branding featuring the very same results with two different opinions. In one, Mr. Anholt says that public relations campaigns cannot change the image of a country. In the other, he says Israel will need to work very hard to change its image. Anholt never tells us what countries were panelists, and never gives us the raw scores of the different countries. He never explains how the panelists were chosen.
In one report he tells us:
Nothing less than a sustained and comprehensive change of political, social, economic and cultural direction will ultimately result in a changed reputation. Therefore, it is no surprise if most governments feel that unpopularity is the lesser cost of the two (some even find a grim sense of vindication in their very unpopularity). It is also unsurprising that, like the Israelis, so many governments are tempted against all logic, experience or common sense to pursue the chimerical third option of directly manipulating international public opinion. But it is clear that propaganda can only work well in closed and controlled societies, and in our massively interconnected, media-literate and healthily sceptical globalised world, it is a currency whose value has fallen virtually to zero.
In the other: report, it seems as though he is endorsing Israel's branding campaign.
The Anholt Nation Brands Index Special Report Israel's International Image Q3 2006

 . The Israeli Government is certainly right to be concerned as the international image of the country is in very poor shape indeed. Israel's brand is, by a considerable margin, the most negative we have ever measured in the NBI, and comes in at the bottom of the ranking on almost every question. In response to one of the questions in this section of the survey, "how strongly do you agree with the statement that this country behaves responsibly in the areas of international peace and security?", Israel scores lowest of all the 36 countries in the NBI. Even the U.S. panel, otherwise one of the more positive panels towards Israel, places Israel 35th out of 36 on this question (China is last). Russia gives Israel its highest rankings, and the views of the Russian panel are noticeably out of kilter with those of the other 35 countries polled (the only bottom ranking given to Israel by the Russian panel is for the country's natural beauty). On the question of international peace and security, Russia ranks Israel 20th overall. One of the most significant questions in the NBI, that over the last two years we have found to be one of the best indicators of generally positive or negative feelings about countries, is the one that asks people how willing they would be to live and work for an extended period in the country. Changes in responses to this question also reflect overall changes in perceptions of the country more accurately than any other question in the survey. Here, Israel is ranked last by every panel including the Americans, and even the Russians only give it a 28th ranking. For the related tourism question about the likelihood of a respondent visiting the country if money were no object, Israel is ranked bottom overall at 35th amongst Americans and 32nd amongst Russians. When we ask whether respondents believe that the people of the country would make them feel welcome if they visited, Israel again comes bottom of the list, 29th amongst Americans and 32nd amongst Russians. Israel's intention is, as the Foreign Minister says, to promote itself as a desirable place to live and invest in, the challenge appears to be a steep one. Israel would seem to be in a lonely position too, as far as public opinion goes. Despite the fact that official government policy towards Israel is supportive amongst its allies, public opinion in these countries is considerably less warm. Israel ranks at or near the bottom of the Index for all the European and North American panels. Palestine is not included in the NBI, but it seems likely that public opinion amongst its allies and supporters would more closely reflect the official position of their governments than is the case with Israel. The country panel least positive about Israel in the NBI is Egypt. It ranks Israel 36th on every question in the survey, apart from a 29th position on the question "How strongly do you agree with the statement that this country makes a major contribution to innovation in science and technology?" – the question on which Israel typically receives its best marks (Russia gives Israel 12th position here). But even a country like Germany, where views on Israel amongst the general population are likely to be more balanced, seldom ranks Israel above the bottom 10 places in the survey. The highest ranking given to Israel by the German panel is a mere 23rd place on the question that asks whether respondents agree with the statement that 'this country has a rich cultural 'heritage', a ranking which is arguably very much lower than the country objectively deserves. The political aspects of the country's image appear to be contaminating perceptions of other areas of national interest which, in theory, should be entirely unrelated. However much one might disapprove of the policies of a country's government or even of successive governments, this shouldn't really have any impact on one's views of its natural landscape or its past cultural achievements. Yet the case of Israel shows that there is no absolutely impenetrable barrier between the world's perceptions of national politics and its perceptions of national culture, society, economics, history or even geography, and if the politics create sufficient disapproval, no area of national interest is safe from contamination. America should take note. As I mentioned earlier, Israel appears to recognise the problem, and is determined to do something about it. But as regular readers of the NBI and my other work will know, I find it inconceivable that any country can change the way the world views it as a whole purely through marketing communications and forms of deliberate propaganda. Products, such as tourist destinations, exports, investment opportunities or even cultural attractions, can certainly be marketed by conventional means through the media. Indeed, in these areas, countries have no choice because their competitors are doing the same. But these are well-defined products being sold to a well-defined audience, and marketing communications play a clear role. There is no evidence whatsoever from the mass of data in the Nation Brands Index and City Brands Index over the last two years that national 'branding campaigns', where governments attempt to alter international perceptions of their country as a whole, have the slightest effect on the images of any countries that undertake them. This is surely because all countries, at some level, get the reputation they deserve – either by things they have done, or by things they have failed to do – and it is astonishingly naive to imagine that the deeply rooted beliefs of entire populations can possibly be affected by advertising or public relations campaigns unless these campaigns truthfully reflect a real change in the country itself. With questions of national image, both the problem and the solution always have far more to do with the product than with the packaging. The NBI and much other research confirm that national image is a phenomenon that changes very slowly if it changes at all. A country's brand is like a truck without wheels, and many national stereotypes, both positive and negative, seem positively rusted into place. Sometimes, national image can take a severe knock from a catastrophic piece of behaviour: the Danish cartoon incident is a case in point, but as we shall see later in this report, the impact was by no means universal nor permanent, and after a time, people almost always seem to revert to their previous beliefs about countries. The only thing that can permanently change a country's image is a change in the country and in the way it behaves. As I have often said, a reputation cannot be constructed: it has to be earned. Unfortunately for places like Israel, it is virtually impossible for a country to argue with public opinion. If Israel feels, as it clearly does, that it is misunderstood and misrepresented, simply repeating its own side of the argument is unlikely to achieve very much, no matter how creatively, loudly or persuasively it does so, and no matter how much it spends on media to reinforce the argument. Fighting negative perceptions with commercial communications techniques is akin to fighting terrorism with conventional weapons: no matter how vast the defense budget or how sophisticated the weaponry, the 'enemy' is simply too diffuse, too mobile and too committed for such measures to have any real effect. Public opinion on such matters tends to be largely immovable except where it is very lightly held, and this is clearly not the case with Israel. As the NBI data confirms, people's views about Israel are notably passionate. Indeed, major publicity or propaganda campaigns like those Israel seems to be contemplating are likely to be counter-productive in such circumstances. The more people suspect that a foreign power is trying to make them change their minds about something, the more firmly they will believe that it is attempting to deny or conceal the truth, and the more fiercely they will maintain their views. The Israeli Government's idea that improving people's understanding of its position and broadening knowledge of the non-military facets of their country will alter people's view of the country is a common one in such situations. As I have often commented before, 'to know us is to love us' is also a long-standing American fixation. Sadly for the United States, it is becoming clear that for the populations that like America least, the opposite is true: the more they know about the USA, the less they like it, and the same may well be true for Israel. The fact that the pendulum of popular opinion within the United States now appears to be moving strongly against George W. Bush and Republican politics is far more likely to restore international acceptance of American power and American values than any amount of State Department public diplomacy, and a similar dynamic likely applies to Israel as well. Countries are judged by what they do, not by what they say. As America is discovering to its cost, when public opinion is strongly against a country, even its most praiseworthy and disinterested actions are likely to be ignored or interpreted in a negative light. Nothing less than a sustained and comprehensive change of political, social, economic and cultural direction will ultimately result in a changed reputation. Therefore, it is no surprise if most governments feel that unpopularity is the lesser cost of the two (some even find a grim sense of vindication in their very unpopularity). It is also unsurprising that, like the Israelis, so many governments are tempted against all logic, experience or common sense to pursue the chimerical third option of directly manipulating international public opinion. But it is clear that propaganda can only work well in closed and controlled societies, and in our massively interconnected, media-literate and healthily sceptical globalised world, it is a currency whose value has fallen virtually to zero.

Consumers give thumbs down to Israel's brand

Tovah Lazaroff, THE JERUSALEM POST Dec. 3, 2006


It could take Israel 30 years to change its brand image, after it placed last in a study of 36 countries, one of the leaders in the field of nation branding warned Saturday.

Simon Anholt spoke with The Jerusalem Post on the heels of a recent survey he released in which 25,000 consumers were asked to rank 36 countries on issues of tourism, exports, governance, investment, immigration, cultural heritage and people.

According to the study, known as the Nation Brands Index, which has been published four times a year since 2005, "Israel's brand is, by a considerable margin, the most negative we have ever measured in the NBI, and comes in at the bottom of the ranking on almost every question."

Israel is not typically included in the survey, which looks at such as places as the US, Germany, Mexico, South Korea, China and Singapore. Britain came in first in the survey and the US was ninth.

It was included in the third quarter survey of 2006 because there is a guest slot in each survey.

"Only Bhutan, the first guest country we included in the NBI, achieved a similarly low score," said the study. But in the case of Bhutan the study attributed its poor score to the fact that few people had heard of it, according to the study.

"Israel's poor scores are clearly not the result of anonymity; it is one of the most known countries in the world," said the study.

The Foreign Ministry's Director of Public Affairs Amir Gissin said the survey underscored for him the importance of the new nation-branding drive Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni launched this fall.

"We see Anholt's research as an opportunity to increase the awareness of decision makers in Israel to the image problem that Israel has in order to make us more determined to deal with the image problem," Gissin told the Post.

As part of that drive, the ministry is looking for ways to focus international public attention away from the country's conflicts with the Palestinians and Hizbullah in favor of more positive images such as the country's technical innovations as well as musical, cultural and historical attractions.

But Anholt warned on Saturday that the Foreign Ministry would have to be very patient before it benefits from its labors.

While his 30-year prediction is not set in stone, Anholt said, he warned that changing people's attitudes and prejudice was so difficult and time-consuming that it often took decades. It took Japan and Ireland 30 years to change their public image, Anholt added.

"There are no quick fixes to this," said Anholt, who added that he hoped the Israelis "are very patient."

It was for this reason that he did not believe his study was significantly impacted by the fact that it was conducted during the war with Hizbullah in Lebanon over the summer. Israel was often in a state of conflict, Anholt said. It had been his experience, he said, that the survey measured long-seated opinions that were not greatly swayed by current events.

Still, he said, just to be certain he planned to include Israel for a second time in the survey during a quiet period, "just to ascertain that the results were not skewed."

Anholt said that his study differed from that of other surveys, in that this was not a politically-based public opinion poll. It did not measure people's ideas about the conflict with the Palestinians or Hizbullah, but rather it examined people's instinctive associations with the country that would impact their decisions outside the political arena, such as whether they would buy a product from Israel, visit the country, or hire an Israeli.

"Israel is famous for all the wrong reasons," Anholt said. People have a negative opinion of it based on a "bewildering variety" of factors that were strengthened with the continual negative images of the conflict that often dominated the news regarding Israel, he said.

Most people did not bother to form a balanced opinion about other countries, he said, preferring to find a simple shorthand for every country. They weaved simple and na ve narratives around the facts that were most interesting to them, he added.

The most persuasive and memorable facts, unfortunately for Israel, were about the conflict, so the image of Israel as a bully was more likely to stick in people's minds rather than the idea of Israel as an expert in solar energy, Anholt said. These images are "so negative and powerful that they contaminated everything else in the index," Anholt said.

"It is harder for Israeli citizens to work abroad or to get students or other talented people to come to Israel," he said.

"Having a weak or negative brand image is incredibly important to every country," he said.

In Israel's case, for example, the respondents placed it last on the list of countries they would want to visit or whom they regarded as having a cultural heritage, Anholt said.

To the question of how willing people would be to live and work in the country, Israel ranked last in every panel, the study said. It fared slightly better on consumer products but was still toward the bottom, he said.

Overall, he said, a negative brand image made it difficult for Israel to conduct its normal affairs such as selling an Israeli item, engaging in cultural relations or swaying tourists to visit the country.

This article can also be read at

Continued (Permanent Link)

Which way will things go in Beirut?

Which way will things go in Beirut?

By Rami G. Khouri
Daily Star staff
Saturday, December 02, 2006

There is something at once both historic and frightening about the open-ended
mass street protest that was launched in Beirut Friday by Hizbullah and its
allies, aiming to topple the government headed by Prime Minister Fouad
Siniora. The historic element is that this is a rare instance of mass
political action that is declared to be peaceful and designed to change a
government. We simply do not have this tradition in the Arab world, which has
been characterized more commonly by violent coups and long-running police
states. It is also relatively positive that Hizbullah is focused on domestic
political engagement, rather than fighting regional or internal wars. Its
substantial clout and legitimacy, not to mention its armed capability, cannot
long remain outside the structures of political governance or on their

It is historically useful, if slightly unsettling on the nerves, to find out
exactly how the government and the opposition line up in terms of popular and
political strength. The March 14 forces of the government coalition and the
March 8 forces of Hizbullah and its allies have now squared off in, hopefully,
a peaceful, democratic, political contest of wills. The important new element
here is not just Hizbullah's aggressive domestic challenge to the government;
it is also the government's resolute resistance to Hizbullah's challenge.

Never before has a Lebanese government stood its ground before a challenge
from Hizbullah and its allies, as the Siniora government is doing now. This is
a moment of historical reckoning for Hizbullah, its allies, and its supporters
in Syria and Iran, as it is for the Siniora government and its backers in
Lebanon, the Arab world, the US and the West. We are in uncharted territory

Lebanon must renegotiate a new political compact based on a realistic rather
than an imagined balance of power and demography that safeguards the interests
and integrity of all Lebanese. If the current events represent phase two of
such a renegotiated power balance - phase one being the adjustments in the
Taif Accord that ended the Civil War in 1990 - then something positive might
emerge from these street demonstrations and their associated political
confrontations, assuming they lead peacefully to a new government or fresh
elections. The bad news is that this protest and what it may portend in the
near future reflect several worrying realities. The Lebanese domestic
political system of consensus-building in a multi-confessional society seems
to have broken down. The executive Cabinet, the Parliament, and the special
national dialogue of top factional leaders all simultaneously failed to
address the political disputes that have plagued Lebanon recently. This is the
common predicament of much of the modern Arab world, whose dysfunctional and
often dishonest structures of governance do not accurately reflect popular

For Hizbullah and its allies to drop the existing political structures and opt
for mass street demonstrations, after participating in the government and
Parliament for years, seems perplexing to many, myself included. If this
government is illegitimate, as Hizbullah charges, why did Hizbullah join the
government in the first place? If the government's illegitimacy is mainly a
function of its determination to proceed with the mixed Lebanese-international
tribunal that will try those accused of killing the late Prime Minister Rafik
Hariri and others last year, then we have the bigger and more vexing problem
of Lebanese-Syrian tensions. If so, this should be acknowledged and resolved
as an act of honest and courageous leadership, rather than camouflaged as a
perpetual charade that demeans the self-respect of Lebanese and Syrians alike.

It has always been both a weakness and a strength of Lebanese and Arab
politics that honesty and clarity are sacrificed for the sake of an ambiguity
that allows all sides to make compromises and achieve a usually unstable
consensus. In Lebanon, this has always been referred to as the concept of "no
victor, no vanquished." Unfortunately, it also usually means no resolution of
fundamental political disagreements.

This tradition cannot prevail if the real issue at hand is a Syrian-American
confrontation in Lebanon through the proxy of Hizbullah and the Siniora
government, which seems to be the case (just as this summer's war was a proxy
military battle between Iran and the United States). If Hizbullah wants to
bring down the Siniora government mainly to stop or dilute the
Lebanese-international Hariri murder tribunal on behalf of Syria, while a
majority of Lebanese clearly wants the Hariri killers held accountable, there
are no easy or quick solutions.

One option is to perpetuate the political clashes, and probably the
assassinations and bombings, in Lebanon until the Hariri investigation is
finished, the accused are named and tried, and, consequently, the fate of the
Syrian regime and Syrian-Lebanese relations both become clearer. The other
option is to force Hizbullah and its allies to reveal if their main aim is to
serve Syria or serve Lebanon, perhaps by giving them the one-third of the
Cabinet plus one they want in return for their approval of the tribunal.

Rami G. Khouri writes a regular commentary for THE DAILY STAR.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Arabs may one day miss George W. Bush

Arabs may one day miss George W. Bush

By Michael Rubin
Commentary by
Friday, December 01, 2006

The Middle East cheered the Republican defeat in the recent American
congressional elections. The official Syrian daily Al-Baath labeled the
elections a "painful blow," while the Saudi daily Al-Watan called for a "wise"
policy from Washington "to bridge the gulf in confidence between the United
States and the regional peoples and governments." The Iranian press gloated,
while the Turkish Islamist daily Yeni Aafak argued that the election rebuke
was "punishment for Bush's neocon policies." Such reactions do not surprise.
President George W. Bush's policies have not been easy for many in the Middle
East to digest.

Different segments of Arab societies dislike Bush for different reasons. Many
Arabs outside government believe Bush tilts too much toward Israel. Lebanese
cite with particular disdain Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's
characterization of this summer's violence as "birth pangs of a new Middle
East." Others see the US veto last November 11 of a United Nations Security
Council Resolution condemning Israel for its military operations in the Gaza
Strip as abdication of Washington's role as an honest broker. They accept
Palestinian UN observer Riyad Mansour's characterization of the veto as
evidence that Washington backs Israel as it "commits crimes and acts of
outright aggression with impunity."

That US policy tilts toward Israel has nothing to do with Bush or any single
party. While Arab commentators may find comfort in blaming a Jewish lobby, the
real reason is more straightforward. To Americans, Israel is a democracy and,
for decades, has been a consistent ally. Throughout the 1950s and early 1960s,
administrations favored Arab states for the practical reason that Arabs
outnumbered Israelis and had oil; it was in US interests to seek partnership
in the Arab world. Hence, Washington sided with Cairo against Tel Aviv in the
1956 Suez crisis, handing Egyptian President Gamal Abdel-Nasser his greatest
victory. But while Arab states attacked the US, Israel stood by it. Any
comparison of UN votes - especially on issues having nothing to do with the
Middle East - underscores this pattern.

Bush is not anti-Arab, though. He went farther than any predecessor to support
Palestinian statehood when, on June 24, 2002, he declared: "It is untenable
for Palestinians to live in squalor and occupation ... My vision is two
states, living side by side in peace and security." Certain Palestinian
groups, often with foreign support, squandered their opportunity by
re-embracing violence. Bush's belief in liberty extended beyond the
Palestinians, though. While his father's advisers sacrificed Lebanese freedom
for the stability of the Syrian military presence until 2005, Bush sought
actual Lebanese independence.

Autocrats across the region distrust Bush for entirely different reasons. To
leaders in Cairo, Damascus, Tehran and Riyadh, the Palestinian cause is little
more than a useful rhetorical tool to distract their own citizens from
failures closer to home. These leaders do not blame Bush for his policies
toward the Arab-Israeli conflict, but rather dislike him for his rhetoric of
democratization and reform.

The US occupation of Iraq may not be popular anywhere in the Arab world, but
scenes of Iraqis celebrating Saddam Hussein's downfall infused Arab regimes
with particular unease. Many Arab leaders surround themselves with sycophants.
Delegates at Egypt's National Democratic Party conference in September, for
example, repeatedly interrupted President Hosni Mubarak's speech to inform him
of their admiration for him and the love of ordinary Egyptians. But, outside
the posh convention center, ordinary Egyptians cursed their president for
corruption, stagnation and his desire for a royal succession. Arab leaders may
try to convince themselves that such adoration in sincere, but their reliance
upon multiple security services signals their recognition of reality.

White House pressure for reform antagonized these leaders, as the whining
nature of editorials in state-run newspapers demonstrated. Previous US
administrations, both Democrat and Republican, spoke of human rights,
democracy and transparency, but did not push the issue. Bush did. Mubarak did
not expect Washington to withhold $134 million in aid to win Egyptian
democracy activist Saad Eddin Ibrahim's release. Mubarak's subsequent
acquiescence to allow contested elections was the result, in part, of Western

Bush's reform push was as unpopular among the US foreign policy establishment
as it was in Arab capitals. Many "realists" criticized the White House for
pressuring such long-standing allies. But Bush, at least initially, refused to
accept that the only choice in the Middle East was between the rule of
autocrats and theocrats. Against the advice of many career diplomats, he
directed the State Department to help build a platform upon which liberals and
reformers could thrive.

Bush's initial success is best seen in juxtaposition to his subsequent
failure. As critics condemned the effectiveness of his push toward reform and
questioned the wisdom of pressuring allies, leaders in Bahrain, Egypt, Tunisia
and Yemen began de-prioritizing democratization, closing newspapers, arresting
opposition leaders, torturing bloggers, cancelling elections and abandoning
pledges to retire from office. Because of this, many Arabs may come to regret
their hostility toward Bush and his policies.

As the realists again rise triumphant, stability will trump reform. The same
figures who Bush now embraces backed Syria in Lebanon, and ensured Iraqi
President Saddam Hussein's grip on power after ordinary Iraqis heeded
President George H.W. Bush's February 15, 1991, call for "the Iraqi people
[to] take matters into their own hands and force Saddam Hussein the dictator
to step aside." These realists did not blanch as Saddam massacred tens of
thousands of civilians.

New policies may revive old dictatorships. European governments find it easier
to trade with the Revolutionary Guards-operated companies in Iran than press
for economic opportunities for ordinary Iranians. Former US ambassadors to
countries like Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Turkey would rather cash in on their
connections to ruling parties than see old faces disappear upon the whim of
the electorate.

Nor will Arab civil society organizations be able to rely on their
"progressive" counterparts in the West to defend liberalism and reform. Hatred
of Bush trumps declared principles. Because Bush made democratization and
reform the centerpiece of his Middle East strategy, many Western progressives
dismiss them as priorities or even as desirable. After all, in progressive
rhetoric how can Bush be both an idiot and correct?

Instead of democracy, many progressives have come to romanticize "resistance."
They have become attracted to the same rhetorical motifs projected by
liberation movements of a generation past and Islamists today. Embrace of
multiculturalism has morphed into a cultural relativism that justifies
oppression in the name of culture.

The majority of Arab civil society may celebrate Bush's election rebuke and
welcome the end of the Bush years but, as anger fades and Washington
re-embraces realism, Arab reformers from Rabat to Riyadh may find they have
missed their best opportunity, while dictators and theocrats seize theirs.

Michael Rubin, editor of the Middle East Quarterly, is a resident scholar at
the American Enterprise Institute. He wrote this commentary for THE DAILY STAR

Continued (Permanent Link)

Occupation poisoning - Envy the extremist

Occupation poisoning - Envy the extremist

By Bradley Burston

Occupation is a dirty word. That is why it makes extremists happy.

Like all obscenities, it distorts more than it describes. It inflames more
than it informs. It obscures much more than it illuminates. And like all true
obscenities, it poisons those who employ it, as much as those who are its
intended targets.

The poison that is occupation is in all of us. It is everywhere around us,
even for those of us who cannot see it. If you live here, even for those of us
who don't feel it - or don't realize that they do - it's inside of you.

Can you learn to live with it? Not really. Because it poisons all of our
lives. There is no antidote that has tested safe. No cure. Only the extremist
can live with it. In fact, the extremists on both sides positively thrive on
the concept and its fallout, its mind-set, its bloodshed. Occupation gives
extremists on both sides their reason for being, their sense of empowerment,
of superiority of intellect, of divine right, of knowing what the rabble do
not, of feeling what the masses cannot.

It is the poison of occupation that pumps extremists full of themselves. It is
the poison that puts that gleaming, terrifying smile on the face. It is the
poison of occupation that fuels their passion for the messianic, their belief
in messianism as realism, their sense of being able to make perfect,
symmetric, rational sense of a horrific world.

It is the poison of occupation that kills any proposed solution to the
conflict that threatens us all. Only the extremist is not threatened. The
extremist will tell you that he loves this place like no other. Believe him.
For the extremist, a Holy Land in perpetual strife in heaven on earth.

By his actions, by his beliefs, the extremist will make certain that there is
no antidote for the poison of occupation, no cure for what ails us. On either
side. Why should he? He's got what he wants right now.

Hamas is on its throne, and is not about to budge. No compromise, no
recognition of Israel as a reality, not even if that meant alleviating
suffering for the needy, not even if that meant an eventual solution we could
all live with. No flexibility over the right of return, even if that meant
never having a Palestinian state at all. Not even if that meant that
Palestinians could have a modicum of well-being, their children a future.

The radical settlers are on their land, and they're not about to budge. No
compromise, no recognition of the Palestinians as a reality. Not even if that
meant that the settlement blocs endorsed by our American ally could be part of
a solution, internationally recognized as sovereign parts of the permanent
borders of an internationally recognized state of Israel. Not even if that
meant that we could have a modicum of well-being, our children a future.

Why? Both sides will tell you: We can't let them have any more. They already
have taken much too much by force. We've given up much too much. They're
already occupying vast swaths of land which is rightfully ours. If we don't
resist them, they'll only want more. If we don't resist them by force, they'll
only take more by force.

They want it all. If we let them, they'll take it all.

At this point, in our poisoned state, the moderates on both sides can barely
bring themselves to function.

Envy the extremist.

Envy him his freedom from ambiguity, his immunity from ambivalence. Only the
extremist knows exactly why there is no moral equivalency between the sides,
and that only his side is in the right.

Only he knows what the world does not, what the world refuses to see. Only the
extremist knows what many on his own side refuse to see, either because they
lack his vision, or they lack his loyalty. Only he knows who's at fault for
all our ills. The other side. Only the extremist knows who started all this
suffering, who's entirely to blame, who are the transgressors, why they're the
real villains.

What is this drug that allows us to thrive while the rest of us stew in the
misery their actions and beliefs cause us?

It is the drug that is compounded of old dreams. Dreams, rivers and mountains
and bottomless reservoirs of dreams, are the cultural birthright of our
peoples, the Jews and the Palestinians both.

In the past, our dreams were all that we could truly rely on as possessions.
Little wonder that we cannot bring ourselves to part from them.

It will take radical action to do so. It will take radical action on the part
of people unaccustomed to viewing themselves as radicals. It will take a
willingness to take the most radical step that anyone who loves and lives in
this Holy Land of ours can take:

To see the person on the other side, not as the Other Side, but as a person.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Islamic Jihad warns Gaza Strip cease-fire on verge of collapse

Last update - 21:21 03/12/2006

Islamic Jihad warns Gaza Strip cease-fire on verge of collapse

By Avi Issacharoff, Haaretz Correspondent and Reuters

Islamic Jihad said Sunday the week-old Gaza Strip cease-fire is on the verge
of collapse, due to what it called repeated Israeli violations.

"Calm is on the edge of collapse due to the continued Zionist violations and
the attacks against our Palestinian people in the West Bank and Gaza," Abu
Ahmed, a Gaza-based spokesman for the group's armed wing, said in a statement.

"Nobody should blame [Islamic Jihad] for any reaction its brigades will take
in the coming hours in response to the violations by the Zionist occupation,"
he said.

Abu Ahmed called on the Palestinian factions to "reconsider the tahadiyeh
[short-term cease-fire] given the violations of the Israeli occupation and the
declarations of Amir Peretz."

Defense Minister Amir Peretz told a cabinet meeting on Sunday that security
forces will continue to operate in the West Bank.

Islamic Jihad accused Israel of "more than 70 violations" of the ceasefire but
did not specify what they were.

Hamas announced Sunday it is pulling out of Palestinian faction talks on
extending the cease-fire with Israel to the West Bank.

"The comprehensive tahadiyeh [short-term cease-fire] must come as a part of a
comprehensive national plan, and at this time, the talks on a cease-fire are
being held at the expense of talks on internal Palestinian issues," said Hamas
in a statement, hinting at the freezing of talks on the formation of a
Palestinian unity government.

Hamas is essentially conditioning its participation in cease-fire talks on the
resumption of talks on the unity government.

Also Sunday, Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh arrived for talks with
Syrian officials and the leaders of Damascus-based Palestinian factions on
faltering efforts toward forming a Palestinian national unity government.

Haniyeh, who is on his first tour abroad since his Hamas-led government took
office in March, was greeted at the airport by Syrian Justice Minister
Mohammed al-Ghafari.

In brief comments to reporters upon arrival, Haniyeh said his discussions
would include "the siege imposed on the Palestinian people."

Asked to comment on the demand by PLO leaders that his government resign over
the failure to form a moderate coalition acceptable to the West, Haniyeh said,
"it is too early to talk about it."

Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas said Sunday he is still hopeful
that a Palestinian unity government can be formed, despite the collapse of the

Abbas said any delay in the formation of a national unity government would
harm chances of ending international economic sanctions on the PA, and will
thus hurt the Palestinian people.

"We would like a government that can end the siege of the Palestinian people,"
said Abbas, during a meeting with French presidential candidate Segolene

Continued (Permanent Link)

A test of strength in Lebanon

A test of strength in Lebanon

By Haaretz Editorial

The demonstrations launched by Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah in
Beirut are meant to topple Fouad Siniora's elected government and replace it
with a new one. The immediate pretext was the Siniora government's approval of
a resolution to establish an international tribunal to try those responsible
for the assassination of Rafik Hariri in February 2005. The tribunal's
opponents, in both Damascus and Lebanon, fear that senior officials in the
Syrian and Lebanese regimes, including political leaders, might find
themselves accused, and the tribunal would thereby serve not only as a court,
but also as a political tool to bring about a political revolution.

But it seems that the argument over the tribunal is merely serving as a
launching pad for Nasrallah's political ambitions. These are evident in his
efforts to empty a significant portion of Security Council Resolution 1701 of
all content, to prevent his organization's disarmament and, in the long run,
to establish a new political structure in Lebanon whose composition and goals
he himself would determine. Nasrallah's ambitions have a basis on which to
build: The country's majority Shi'ite population is under-represented in
government institutions and suffers from chronic budgetary discrimination. The
years of neglect of southern Lebanon and the Bekaa are now liable to exact a
heavy political price from the Siniora government: What appears to be an
internal political demonstration - so far conducted nonviolently - against a
government that the demonstrators view as illegal, corrupt and
unrepresentative is liable to end with the establishment of a pro-Syrian
government, which would be under the influence of Nasrallah and his
supporters, including the Christian Michel Aoun.

The explosiveness of Lebanon's political situation is, first and foremost, a
matter of concern for Lebanon's citizens, who carry with them the tragic
memories of civil war. Even though Nasrallah stressed he has no intention of
waging street battles, and his rivals in the government have instructed their
supporters not to clash with the demonstrators, one cannot ignore the
potential for a flare-up in Lebanon. This threat impacts directly on other
countries in the region, including Israel. Violent clashes would provide a
convenient environment in which terrorist organizations could act more freely;
they would weaken the central government's ability to impose order and
maintain control over the nation's borders; and they might well give Syria a
pretext for intervening directly.

Therefore, this is a situation in which the international community, which
mobilized quickly to adopt Resolutions 1559 and 1701, cannot behave as a mere
bystander, watching as the progress achieved in Lebanon is blown to bits. The
Siniora government currently needs more than declarations of support. A
meeting of donor states, which would help the Lebanese government to extricate
itself from the economic crisis that engulfed it after the war, is an urgent
necessity. At the same time, it would be wise to move forward on an Israeli
withdrawal from Shaba Farms, which would grant the Siniora government a
diplomatic achievement. And more important than either of these is the
conducting of effective negotiations with Syria, whose goal would be to remove
Syria's label as an "evil state" that supports terror in exchange for its
keeping its hands off Lebanon, completely and permanently.

This is a task of the greatest importance if the international community, the
region and Israel do not wish to see the start of another local war.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Israel fears Siniora government may fall

Israel fears Siniora government may fall

By Akiva Eldar

Israel and several Arab states, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, are
increasingly worried that Fouad Siniora's government in Lebanon will fall,
resulting in a Hezbollah takeover that would turn the country into what an
Israeli government source termed "the first Arab state to become an Iranian

As a result, government officials have raised several ideas in recent days for
how to strengthen Siniora in the face of the street protests that Hezbollah
has launched against his government. The goal is to prove that Siniora can
obtain more through peaceful diplomacy than Hezbollah, which has accused him
of a "defeatist policy" toward Israel, was able to gain through violence.

One possibility under discussion is urging the European Union to recognize the
disputed Shaba Farms region as Lebanese territory. Currently, both the EU and
the United Nations consider the Israeli-held region to be Syrian, but Beirut
claims that Shaba is Lebanese.

Another possibility is for Jerusalem to reach an agreement with Siniora on an
Israeli evacuation of the divided village of Ghajar and its transfer to UN
control until a final agreement on its status is reached. Currently, the
Israeli-Lebanese border splits the village in two.

Israeli defense officials worry that even if Siniora's government does not
fall, the confrontation with Hezbollah will weaken the security arrangements
in southern Lebanon that were put in place following this summer's Lebanon
war. They also fear that Hezbollah supporters might try to clash with Israeli
soldiers stationed along the border.

Meanwhile, a senior government source said this weekend that U.S. President
George Bush has told Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that he has no intention of
removing Iran and Syria from the "Axis of Evil."

The Baker-Hamilton Commission, which was established to examine ways to
improve the situation in Iraq, is slated to submit its findings to Bush on
Wednesday, and it is widely expected to recommend that the United States begin
talks with Iran and Syria.

But the government source said Bush promised Olmert that his position on Iran
would remain unchanged as long as Tehran remains committed to pursuing its
nuclear program. As for Syria, the source said, Bush has conditioned any
resumption of dialogue on Damascus' ceasing to interfere with Lebanon and
ending its support for Hezbollah, and both the recent murder of Lebanese
minister Pierre Gemayal and Hezbollah's confrontation with Siniora make it
even less likely that Bush would change his position on this issue.

Last week, U.S. National Security Adviser Steve Hadley said he sees no clear
connection between the Israeli-Arab conflict and the situation in Iraq.

Continued (Permanent Link)

[Israel] Ministers approve IDF withdrawal from Lebanese side of Ghajar

Last update - 21:17 03/12/2006
Ministers approve IDF withdrawal from Lebanese side of Ghajar

By Akiva Eldar and Gideon Alon, Haaretz Correspondents and Haaretz Service

The security cabinet approved Sunday a defense establishment recommendation to
withdraw Israel Defense Forces troops from the Lebanese side of the divided
border village of Ghajar, and hand over responsibility for the area to United
Nations peacekeepers.

The withdrawal from the divided border village would complete the IDF pullout
from Lebanese territory occupied during the second Lebanon war, which ended in

After the cabinet meeting, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni explained the
withdrawal has been under discussion for some time, and that the decision is
no way connected to the current governmental crisis in Lebanon, nor to the
huge protests this weekend that called for Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad
Siniora's resignation.

The cabinet also discussed a proposal to allow residents of the Lebanese side
who hold an Israeli identification card to move to the Israeli side of the

Until 1967, Ghajar was a Syrian village on the Syrian-Lebanese border. It was
captured by Israel when the IDF took the Golan Heights during the Six Day War.

Apparently the northern part of the village was then already inside Lebanese
territory, but it was only when Israel withdrew from Lebanon in May 2000, that
the UN drew the international border between Israel and Lebanon.

It turned out this "Blue Line" runs precisely through the middle of Ghajar at
its narrowest point, cutting it in two, with the northern part inside Lebanon,
and the southern part inside Israel.

In November 2005, Hezbollah staged a large-scale attack on northern Israel in
a failed attempt to abduct IDF troops stationed in Ghajar.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Palestinians: IDF troops kill 16-year-old stone-thrower in Nablus

Last update - 20:03 03/12/2006

Palestinians: IDF troops kill 16-year-old stone-thrower in Nablus

By Avi Issacharoff and Mijal Grinberg, Haaretz Correspondents and New Agencies

Palestinians said Sunday that Israel Defense Forces troops shot and killed
16-year-old Jamil al-Zabazhi, who was throwing rocks at soldiers near the West
Bank city of Nablus.

Medical personnel said soldiers opened fire on protesters who were throwing
stones at military vehicles at a refugee camp outside of Nablus. The youth was
shot in the head and died on the way to hospital, they said.

The IDF confirmed troops fired on Palestinian stone-throwers who were located
on a rooftop in the refugee camp.

Defense Minister Amir Peretz said Sunday that security forces would continue
to operate in the West Bank.

Also Sunday, Palestinian militants fired a Qassam rocket at the western Negev,
despite the Gaza Strip cease-fire. There were no injuries or damage in the
rocket attack.

The army arrested six wanted militants across the West Bank on Saturday night.

A female Tanzim activist was arrested in Karwat Bnei Zayd, north west of the
city of Ramallah. Two other Tanzim militants were arrested in Hirbet Jazzem,
east of Bethlehem, and in Hebron the IDF arrested two Hamas activists and one
other wanted militant.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Security cabinet votes to maintain Gaza restraint

Last update - 20:38 03/12/2006

Security cabinet votes to maintain Gaza restraint

By Akiva Eldar, Gideon Alon, and Mijal Grinberg, Haaretz Correspondents and

The security cabinet decided Sunday to continue the policy of restraint in the
Gaza Strip in order to maintain the cease-fire, despite the ongoing Qassam
rocket fire.

The ministers did not however decide to extend the cease-fire to the West

Defense Minister Amir Peretz said during the full cabinet meeting earlier
Sunday that the Israel Defense Forces and the Shin Bet security service will
continue to operate in the West Bank in order to prevent terror attacks.

The cabinet met hours after a Qassam rocket struck in the Negev, causing no
injuries or damage.

Meanwhile, Islamic Jihad warned Sunday that the truce is on the verge of
collapse, and Hamas announced it is pulling out of Palestinian faction talks
on extending the cease-fire to the West Bank.

In deciding to maintain the policy of restraint, the ministers adopted the
position of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni over
the calls by Peretz and Public Security Minister Avi Dichter for preventative
action against the Qassam fire.

Peretz said prior to the security cabinet meeting that the cease-fire
agreement in the Gaza Strip is being observed only in part, and that they key
to stability is Egypt's success in intercepting arms smugglings into the Gaza

The defense minister said also that the IDF would fire at Palestinians
involved in launching rocket at Israel.

But Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told the meeting "we must act responsibly and
wisely, while considering all aspects of the matter."

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni added that the "situation is sensitive, and we
must act wisely and with serious consideration."

According to Peretz, the commander of the IDF Gaza Division has met
Palestinian National Security commander in order to coordinate the monitoring
of the truce.

He said 15 Qassams have been fired at Israel since the cease-fire was

Senior IDF officers stated that despite the declared truce between Israel and
the Palestinians, terror organizations have continued smuggling weapons and
are preparing for another round of attacks, Army Radio reported.

IDF and Defense Ministry sources on Friday expressed hesitation to expand the
cease-fire to the West Bank, saying the expansion will hurt the IDF's ability
to handle terror in the area.

Government officials, responding to the IDF reservations, said the army should
only express its position at closed government meetings.

"The cabinet ministers should not have to hear the defense establishment's
stand in the media," the radio quoted the unnamed sources as saying. "They
should express their objections at cabinet deliberations."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Qatar 'to pay Palestinian wages'

Qatar 'to pay Palestinian wages'

Qatar has agreed to pay the salaries of 40,000 Palestinian education
workers for several months, Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniya has said.
Mr Haniya said the amount would total more than $22m (£11.1m) a month.

The Hamas-led Palestinian government has been struggling to pay its
workforce since March when Western donors suspended direct aid.

They want Hamas to renounce violence and to recognise Israel. Hamas has
rejected the demands.

The US and the European Union regard Hamas as a terrorist organisation.

The Israeli authorities have also been withholding tens of millions of
dollars in tax revenues they collect for the Palestinian government.

Palestinian teachers in the West Bank and Gaza Strip returned to work
last month after ending a two-month strike over unpaid wages.

Mr Haniya made the announcement in the Qatari capital, Doha.

He said Qatar was also studying giving an additional $7m per month to
the Palestinian health sector.

Qatar has not commented.

Aid increase?

Foreign aid - despite the economic boycott - has still been reaching
both the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinians.

In September, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said more foreign
aid had been received by the PA over six months - April to September 2006 -
than in the same period last year.

The bulk of this aid came from Arab donors - even though most of the
money did not go directly to the Hamas-led administration.

Donors deposited the funds in the bank account of the Palestinian
Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Mr Abbas is the head of the Fatah organisation, which recognises Israel,
and is not subject to the economic boycott.

Continued (Permanent Link)

IDF General Staff, Halutz blasted in Almog report

IDF General Staff, Halutz blasted in Almog report
Yaakov Katz and JPost staff, THE JERUSALEM POST Nov. 30, 2006

IDF chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz said Friday that he would
decide within two weeks how to respond to the findings of an internal
military probe into the July 12 Hizbullah abduction of reservists Eldad
Regev and Ehud Goldwasser and regarding the fate of Brig.-Gen. Gal Hirsch,
Galilee Division Commander at the time.

The report presented on Friday by Maj.-Gen. (res.) Doron Almog, former OC
Southern Command, harshly criticized the General Staff and Halutz in
particular. Almog refrained from recommending any personal sanctions against
specific officers although he did list a series of flaws he found in the
performance of the Northern Command, the Operations Directorate, led before
the war by now OC Northern Command Maj.-Gen. Gadi Eizenkot and Military
Intelligence, led by Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin.

"Their preparedness didn't pay proper consideration for the possibility of a
kidnapping incident as a strategic measure leading to a war," Almog wrote in
the report.

On November 12, Almog presented the interim findings of his investigation to
Halutz in which he blamed Hirsch and Division 91 for the kidnapping. Hirsch,
in response, submitted his resignation to the chief of staff but has since
reconsidered and on Friday appeared before a panel of generals, which heard
his defense to the Almog report.

Sources close to Hirsch said Friday that the officer was being made a
"scapegoat" of the probe into the kidnapping. After Hirsch testified,
several other officers including Col. Raviv Nir, commander of Brigade 769,
appeared before the committee in defense of their commanding officer.

Hirsch rejected the claims against him by Almog that he was not prepared for
the possibility of a kidnapping, and argued that the former general
conducted his probe negligently after having decided ahead of time that he
was at fault.

Former OC Manpower Maj.-Gen. (res.) Gideon Shefer said he hoped Halutz would
allow Hirsch to remain in the IDF.

"Hirsch is an honest man whose knowledge and ability will be missed by the
IDF. I hope that he remains in the army," Shefer said.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Saudi Arabia arrests 136 militants

Saudi Arabia arrests 136 militants

Saudi Arabia's interior ministry has said it has detained
136 militants, including a would-be suicide bomber.

The suspects were mainly Saudi nationals and included
leaders of several cells, a statement released by the interior ministry said
on Saturday.

The statement gave no names but said the arrests had been
made over recent months.

Al-Qaeda supporters began a campaign to bring down the Saudi
royal family in May 2003. The kingdom's security forces have since arrested
several thousand men.

Mansour al-Turki, a Saudi interior ministry spokesman, said
115 of those recently arrested were Saudis.

He would not confirm whether those arrested had links to
al-Qaeda, but said they allegedly "believed in al-Qaeda ideology and had the
same style of carrying out attacks".

Those detained included 21 foreigners, and a cell which had
been plotting a suicide bombing, abductions and killings, the ministry said
in a statement carried by the official SPA news agency.

The cell consisted of 31 suspects, including four foreign
residents, who were detained during a "preemptive" security operation in
Riyadh on September 12, the ministry said.

The group had been "on the verge of acting, after issuing
fatwas legitimising the abduction of innocent people ... killing them, and
raiding banks", the ministry said.

Another 44 Saudis were detained on October 26 in a series of
simultaneous security operations in Riyadh, the oil-rich eastern province, and
the northern regions of Al-Qassim and Hail, the ministry said.

Saudi Arabia announced last February that it had thwarted a
bid to blow up the world's largest oil processing plant at Abqaiq, also in the
eastern province.

Western coalition forces said in October they feared
possible attacks on oil installations in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf

Continued (Permanent Link)

Jewish - Muslim alliance on UK campus prevents anti-Israel programming

UK Jews, Muslims form rare alliance
Rebecca Anna Stoil, THE JERUSALEM POST Dec. 3, 2006

When a new student organization tried to push six anti-Israel bills through
the student union at London's Kingston University over the weekend, Muslim
and Jewish students banded together to vote them down.

In a rare alliance, they argued that if their campus supported one political
position over another, the university's ideal of diversity would be damaged.

British universities have become increasingly known for taking action
against Israel, either in student unions or through academic boycotts, and
it seemed last week that Kingston would become yet another school on the
growing list of anti-Israel institutions.

When the freshly-founded Friends of Palestine (FOP) set out a package of six
anti-Israel resolutions for the student union to adopt, the 15 members of
the university's Jewish society thought they had no chance at fighting the
legislation on a campus with thousands of Muslim students.

"I heard that the motions were put forward only 36 hours before the vote,"
Sammy Kalmanowicz, an International Law student and president of the
Kingston Jewish Society, told The Jerusalem Post.

"I read through the whole student union constitution. The whole day we were
trying to bring people along because we knew that the FOP had been
organizing these motions for weeks."

Kalmanowicz contacted the campus chaplaincy and the Union of Jewish Students
to ask for help.

Help also came from a less expected quarter. Shermarke Salah, Kalmanowicz's
Somali-born, Iraqi-raised Muslim flatmate decided to join in the struggle.

"It was the underlying principle of the proposals which I opposed," said the
soft-spoken Salah.

"Me and my flatmate Sammy have political differences, but we didn't feel
that the student union was the right forum to discuss them. The SU is there
to serve the student body in a neutral position," he said.

Salah characterized Friends of Palestine's initiative as "a campaign from
people outside of the university to impose politics on the campus."

Salah, whose family left Somalia for Iraq, and then fled Iraq immediately
prior to the first Gulf War, said he had strong views about diversity.

"Right now we have a good university. It's tolerant and it's calm, but it
just takes one spark to set off an explosion. We must make it clear that we
won't accept such attitudes on campus," he said, adding that his father had
frequently reminded him that "the difference between tolerance and
intolerance is just two letters."

Salah's message eventually carried the day. In the end, even the head of the
university's Islamic Society opposed the propositions because of the
possibility that they would divide the student body.

"In the beginning, we had the better arguments, but we didn't have the
majority," said Kalmanowicz. "I was so pessimistic, I was surprised that we
got even one proposal defeated," he said. Kalmanowicz described his campus
as "culturally diverse" and without much racial tension.

That very diversity, he said, was what brought many of the campus's Muslim
student body as well as the Christian Society to vote against the proposals.

"It was the argument that we shouldn't bring a political view into the
student body. We don't want any politics in the student body because they
segregate our student union," Kalmanowicz said.

One proposal called for the university to mark November 29 as the
International Day of Solidarity Action for Palestine and contained a plan to
"put up our own 'wall' on university premises with 'soldiers' and
'Palestinian civilians.'"

It said the aim of this "stunt" was to raise awareness of the
"disruptiveness of checkpoints" and "to show just how disruptive the
apartheid wall is to the everyday lives of Palestinians, especially
Palestinian students."

According to another resolution, "The systematic obstruction and destruction
of education in the West Bank and Gaza by the Israeli military occupation
not only violates the human rights of individuals, it is an attack on the
development of Palestinian society."

Richard Budden, a member of the National Executive Committee of the National
Union of Students who was on campus to oversee the Kingston vote Thursday
evening, said it had been a victory for campus democracy.

"All the democratic processes were utilized," he said. "The students
exhausted the opportunities for democratic debate on campus. Each campus is
different, and Israel-Palestine is a hot topic. Today the students at
Kingston University decided that there was no place for this discussion."

Continued (Permanent Link)

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