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Saturday, January 13, 2007

Sharon Warned Bush

Sharon Warned Bush
The Strategic Interest

Israel and the United States have a close and vital strategic relationship that constitutes a pillar of Israel's security. Israeli leaders are aware that any major new regional policy departure not closely coordinated with Washington is liable to be a nonstarter and to cloud American-Israeli relations. Any smart Israeli aspirant to a political leadership post knows that the Israeli public wants to be reassured that he or she is persona grata in the White House, Congress and among the American Jewish community.

Yet there was a time when Israeli leaders were not afraid to disagree publicly with American leaders and even act against an American policy line if they judged that Israel's vital interests warranted such a step. Yitzhak Rabin did so in his first term when he took issue with Henry Kissinger's "reassessment." So, too, did Menachem Begin, declaring that "we're not a banana republic." Yitzhak Shamir and Benjamin Netanyahu also clashed publicly with American presidents over settlements and the Palestinian issue.

Dissenting from American policy priorities for the Middle East has not always been politically sound for Israeli leaders. Sometimes, however, it has been, and instructively so. Begin and Moshe Dayan's secret initiative to bring Egyptian President Anwar Sadat to Jerusalem, and Rabin and Shimon Peres's clandestine talks in Oslo with the Palestine Liberation Organization, were embraced by Washington once it became aware that Israel had successfully implemented a radically different strategy.

But rightly or wrongly, when Israel takes its distance from American policies, this at least reflects a capacity on the part of the Israeli national security leadership to independently assess and act upon the country's vital strategic interests. This capacity seems to be dangerously absent of late.

An obvious case in point is Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's recent assertion that Israel can't talk to Syria because doing so would betray President Bush's policy line. It doesn't matter that the Democratic majority in Congress might lean toward a dialogue with Syria, or that the Iraq Study Group report recommended such a step, or that the beleaguered Bush is a lame duck with whom Israel can risk disagreeing.

Nor does Olmert appear to be influenced by the advocacy of negotiations with Syria by many in the Israeli security establishment. That he actually invoked Bush as his rationale for ignoring Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad's offer to reopen peace negotiations portrays the Israeli prime minister as an amateur on strategic issues.

Olmert's predecessor, by contrast, was anything but an amateur in Israeli-American relations, and more broadly in dealing with America's policies in the region. When it came to Bush's decision to go to war in Iraq and to democratize the Arab Middle East from within, Ariel Sharon took a far more sophisticated position.

Publicly, Sharon played the silent ally; he neither criticized nor supported the Iraq adventure. One reason for his relative silence was Washington's explicit request that Israel refrain from openly backing its invasion of an Arab country or in any way intervening, lest its blessing damn the United States in Arab eyes.

But sometime prior to March 2003, Sharon told Bush privately in no uncertain terms what he thought about the Iraq plan. Sharon's words — revealed here for the first time — constituted a friendly but pointed warning to Bush. Sharon acknowledged that Saddam Hussein was an "acute threat" to the Middle East and that he believed Saddam possessed weapons of mass destruction.

Yet according to one knowledgeable source, Sharon nevertheless advised Bush not to occupy Iraq. According to another source — Danny Ayalon, who was Israel's ambassador to the United States at the time of the Iraq invasion, and who sat in on the Bush-Sharon meetings — Sharon told Bush that Israel would not "push one way or another" regarding the Iraq scheme.

According to both sources, Sharon warned Bush that if he insisted on occupying Iraq, he should at least abandon his plan to implant democracy in this part of the world. "In terms of culture and tradition, the Arab world is not built for democratization," Ayalon recalls Sharon advising.

Be sure, Sharon added, not to go into Iraq without a viable exit strategy. And ready a counter-insurgency strategy if you expect to rule Iraq, which will eventually have to be partitioned into its component parts. Finally, Sharon told Bush, please remember that you will conquer, occupy and leave, but we have to remain in this part of the world. Israel, he reminded the American president, does not wish to see its vital interests hurt by regional radicalization and the spillover of violence beyond Iraq's borders.

Sharon's advice — reflecting a wealth of experience with Middle East issues that Bush lacked — was prescient. The American occupation of Iraq has ended up strengthening Iran, Israel's number-one enemy, and enfranchising militant Shi'ite Islamists. A large part of Iraq is slipping into the Iranian orbit. Iraq's western Anbar Province is increasingly dominated by militant jihadi Sunnis who could eventually threaten Syria and Jordan, the latter a strategic partner and geographic buffer for Israel.

All these developments harm vital Israeli interests. This past summer, Israel fought a war against two militant Islamist movements supported by Iran — Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza — that were enfranchised and legitimized in their anarchic countries thanks to Bush's insistence on hasty and ill-advised democratic elections "in this part of the world."

Had Sharon made his criticism public, citing the dangers posed to vital Israeli interests, might he have made a difference in the prewar debate in the United States and the world? Certainly he would have poured cold water on the postwar assertions of critics, like professors Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, who have fingered Israel, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and pro-Israelis in the administration for instigating the war. Ayalon, incidentally, was directed by Sharon to warn all Israelis visiting Washington not to encourage the American scheme for war in Iraq, lest Israel be blamed for its failure.

There were, of course, neoconservative types in Israel who did encourage the United States to occupy Iraq and advocated democratic elections wherever possible in the Middle East. But there were also many Israelis, this writer included, who spoke out openly and publicly against the American scheme.

Even Aipac officials in Washington told visiting Arab intellectuals they would rather the United States deal militarily with Iran than with Iraq. And pro-Western Arab leaders like Egypt's Husni Mubarak and Jordan's King Abdallah were outspoken in their criticism of Bush's war plans, even though they could fall back on far less credit and lobbying support in Washington than in Israel.

As a faithful ally of the United States, Israel is morally obligated to tell Washington when its policies are not only mistaken but also harmful. Many American Middle East policy initiatives since 2003 have indeed been detrimental to Israeli interests. When Bush ignored his advice about Iraq, Sharon should have found a respectful and friendly way to make his reservations public.

It's not too late for Olmert to put Israel's case to Bush — first discreetly, then, if necessary, publicly. He should start with the issue of negotiating with Syria and the harm that Israel will suffer from the emergence of militant Sunni and Shi'ite Islamist states in Iraq following an American withdrawal, unless Washington takes urgent and radical steps to install a tough and friendly regime in Baghdad.

Yossi Alpher, a former senior adviser to Prime Minister Ehud Barak and former director of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies, is co-editor of the bitterlemons family of online publications.

Fri. Jan 12, 2007

Continued (Permanent Link)

Leftist MK slams Tibi for urging Fatah to 'continue the struggle'

Last update - 15:38 13/01/2007   

Leftist MK slams Tibi for urging Fatah to 'continue the struggle'
By Avi Issacharoff, Haaretz Correspondent, and Haaretz Service

A left-wing Knesset member slammed outspoken Arab MK Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List-Ta'al) Friday for calling on Fatah supporters to "continue the struggle" until a Palestinian state is established.
MK Avshalom Vilan (Meretz-Yachad) said Tibi - who is deputy speaker of the Knesset - went too far when he advocated a "struggle," a word often used to signify terrorism, at a rally in Ramallah on Thursday marking the 42nd anniversary of the Fatah movement.
"As soon as there are political calls there for a struggle, [Tibi] is essentially crossing the line and creating an impossible situation," Vilan told Israel Radio on Friday.
Vilan noted that Tibi expressed "total identification" with Fatah - referring to himself and his audience as "we" and to Israelis as "they" - even though, said Vilan, Tibi represents all Knesset members and the entire Israeli population.
Vilan also said he continues to believe that Israeli Arabs can potentially serve as a bridge between Israeli Jews and Palestinians, but that Tibi's remarks damage the ability of Jewish and Arab Israelis to work together to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In his impassioned speech Thursday, Tibi evoked the presence of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, saying to cheers and gunfire that he "is still with us," and called on the Palestinians to unite.
"My greetings to the Fatah members from whose midst the first martyrs fell and the first prisoners were arrested," he said. "They want to destroy Palestine, but we will continue the struggle until the establishment of a state with Jerusalem as its capital."
Tibi told Israel Radio on Friday that the entity he was calling on Palestinians to struggle against was the Israeli occupation.
The crowd responded: "Millions of martyrs are marching to Jerusalem."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Importing manpower, exporting brainpower

Importing manpower, exporting brainpower
By Nehemia Shtrasler

Anyone out there remember that the party known as "Kadima" once had a platform? Anyone aware that this platform included an economic program? Well, one clause in this program speaks about "broadening the scope of employment" as an important tool in fighting poverty and narrowing social gaps.
So how does one go about broadening the scope of employment? By reducing the number of foreign workers, writes the author of the program. Minister Meir Sheetrit, in presenting the party platform, explained that jobs must be freed up for Israelis. "This means a drastic cut in the number of foreign workers employed in Israel," he said. Fine words, indeed.
But this week, the government, now headed by the same old Kadima, decided to increase the number of foreign workers employed in agriculture from 26,000 to 29,000. In so doing, it not only broke an election promise and reversed the decision of a previous government (Sharon-Netanyahu), but it has done harm to the lower socioeconomic sectors, to which Ehud Olmert is always pandering in his speeches.
The prime minister and the minister of agriculture put forward the proposal, and most of the ministers supported it. We need to help the periphery, said Shimon Peres. No one can work in a greenhouse in 40 degrees centigrade heat, argued Zeev Boim. No Israeli is going to take a job in the settlements around Gaza, Avi Dichter added.
And who was the one saint in the crowd? Eli Yishai, the minister of industry, trade and labor, who opposed the increase. The finance minister, Avraham Hirschson, also opposed it, but his opinion never matters much to his dear friend Olmert.
Over the last two years, the government has worked to prevent any increase in the number of foreign workers. Recently, the Ministry of Finance budget department got the contractors, industrialists and hoteliers to agree to zero growth in foreign labor until 2010. Now that agreement is in danger, because how can the heads of those sectors sit around and twiddle their thumbs when the farmers are getting another 3,000 foreign workers and they're getting nothing?
Employing a foreign worker is always worthwhile. They make no demands; they're willing to work long hours, including on Shabbat and holidays; and they're cheap because they aren't paid social benefits. But they take away jobs from Israelis in construction, industry, agriculture and the hotel business. As a result, wages drop in these labor-intensive branches, and Israelis, who have the option of unemployment benefits and income supplements, are tossed aside.
In 2000, at the height of the high-tech bubble, the industrialists tried to convince the government to let them import programmers, engineering technicians and engineers from India. But then the workers unions jumped in, and the evil decree was averted. Blue-collar workers don't have unions or advocates in high places. Even the Histadrut labor federation has abandoned them.
There is another group pushing to increase the foreign worker quota: the human-resource companies, which rake in millions as intermediaries. Some of the owners of these companies are political activists and vote contractors, who know how to press the right buttons. Once they were members of the Likud Central Committee. Now they belong to Kadima, because making a living comes before ideology.
On the other side of the spectrum, the findings of a new study released this week revealed that Israel is becoming the number-one exporter of brainpower to the United States, relative to its size - ahead of India, Pakistan, Canada and Europe. According to the Shalem Center study, the brain drain intensified in 2002-2004. While the number of Israeli emigrants with a high school education or less is stable, the percentage of those leaving who have academic degrees is growing steadily.
Globalization and the information revolution have made emigrating easier. Higher salaries and lower taxes are a further incentive. Israel's political and security situation has also taken its toll.
Combined, these two trends create a pretty grim picture. On the one hand, Israel is importing workers with low human-capital value, who add very little. On the other hand, it is exporting scientists, whose human-capital value is high; they study at the country's expense but contribute their knowledge to the United States. And the natural resources of today, as everyone knows, are education and know-how.
The brain drain, it turns out, has not passed over educated young people from the former Soviet Union, who are leaving Israel for the West, or even going back to Russia, where their salaries are higher and the tax rate is very low - only 13 percent.
And if that were not enough, half the population - the ultra-Orthodox, the Arabs, the Bedouin and the underprivileged - is not receiving the kind of education needed to integrate in the modern job market.
Olmert likes to boast about how well the economy did in 2006 - none of which is his doing - but what about the future?
Who will free us from this dangerous bear hug, which has locked us into importing manpower and exporting brainpower?

Continued (Permanent Link)

Palestinians: Efforts for Palestinian Unity on the Track

Efforts for Unity on the Track
[IPC is an official PNA Press Web site]
GAZA, Palestine, January 13,2007 (IPC+ Agencies)  - -Reliable Palestinian sources disclosed that talks are being carried out between the President Mahmoud Abbas and Khaled Mashaal, Hamas politburo in Damascus, far a way of mass media.

The sources told Al Ayam local newspaper that the talks were being mediated by former adviser to Yasser Arafat, Mohammed Rashid and independent Palestinian Parliament member Ziyad abu-Amar who are expected to brief the President Abbas on the results of their talks with Mashaal.

The paper reported that the sources did not disclose where the talks reached but it mentioned that the focus of talks currently is to approve independents to assume three key ministries ; finance, security and foreign affair. Meanwhile the political agenda of the government is likely to be agreed upon without revealing details.

The sources, according to the paper, weighed if an agreement is reached, Prime Minister Isamel Haneyeh is to be reauthorized to form the new government.

Reliable sources expected that had an agreement is reached, President Abbas will meet Khaled Mashaal during his anticipated visit to Damascus by the end of January , denying reports about Abbas visit to Damascus this week.

Palestinian official, on condition of anonymity, told Agence France Presse yesterday that President Abbas has no objection to meet with Hamas's politburo Khaled Mashaal.

The Cairo-based Islamic Jihad leader, Muhammad Al-Hindi, told AFP by telephone that his movement is mediating between rival Palestinian groups. He said that he hopes these efforts will bear fruit. He added that both the Fateh and Hamas movements are keen to reach an agreement regarding a unity government and the role of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Al-Hindi added that over the last three days, he met with Egyptian officials and together they are endeavoring to help the Palestinian people.

On the other hand, Al-Hindi confirmed that he met with a high-ranking Fateh delegation in Cairo, headed by Palestinian Legislative Council member Muhammad Dahlan. He expects the efforts to soon bring about the signing of a national unity agreement in Cairo.

Continued (Permanent Link)

President Abbas: Palestinian Blood is a Red Line

President Abbas: Palestinian Blood is a Red Line
[PMC is an official PNA Web site]

Palestine Media Center-PMC

President Mahmoud Abbas assured tens of thousands of supporters Thursday that he is determined to prevent further factional clashes with rival Hamas after weeks of internecine bloodshed.

"The priority for me is preserving national unity and preventing and prohibiting internal fighting," Abbas told supporters of his Fatah movement. "Palestinian blood is a red line."

Abbas did not say how he would stop the bloodshed.

Abbas rebuked armed supporters who showed their backing for the moderate leader by pumping bullets into the sky.

"Gunfire into the air is forbidden. Gunfire against the friend, the neighbor and members of other factions is forbidden too," Abbas said.

Without mentioning Hamas by name, Abbas said the response to his election call last month was violence, and said those opposed to new polls should challenge the decision in the courts, not in the streets.

Tens of thousands of Fatah supporters waved Palestinian flags and yellow Fatah banners as they gathered in chilly temperatures under sunny skies, in a show of strength.

Several Fatah activists briefly carried Abbas on their shoulders. "Go, go, until liberation," they chanted.

Thirty-five people have been killed in several weeks of fighting between armed security forces loyal to Fatah or Hamas.

Abbas aides said the Palestinian leader would give coalition talks with Hamas another chance. Negotiations on bringing Fatah into the Cabinet are to resume soon and continue for two weeks, said Rafiq Husseini, a senior Abbas aide. If the talks fail, he said, Abbas would proceed with his plan to call early elections.

In his speech, Abbas did not make clear whether he was still determined to go ahead with early elections to resolve the problem of the divided Palestinian government and made no reference to a resumption of coalition talks.

In condemning factional fighting, Abbas said: "We had pointed our guns against the [Israeli] occupation, and that is a legitimate right, but when the guns are turned against each other, that is forbidden."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Secretary Condoleezza Rice: Briefing en Route Shannon, Ireland

Briefing en Route Shannon, Ireland

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Shannon, Ireland
January 12, 2007

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I'm now making my third trip to the Middle East since, I believe, October and at the time of Ramadan when I was in Cairo for the Iftaar, went into the territories and to Israel and then in Jordan at the end of November, and now out to the Middle East again. I think it's important to see all of this as a process of building relationships, building a sense of consultation and getting a strong sense of where people stand on important issues.

A lot has actually changed. The trip that I made out at the beginning of the fall was really the kind of post-Lebanon war trip. I think that despite the trauma of that war, the region has now begun to move on past that war and a lot has happened. We've had an important speech by Prime Minister Olmert. We've had the Olmert-Abbas meeting. I think you know that we worked very hard to help to bring about the Olmert-Abbas meeting and was delighted that it took place and that it went so well.

Abu Mazen continues to work to try and resolve the Palestinian political crisis. I think you know from the last trip that he didn't hold out much hope for a national unity government, but he continues to keep that door open and I think he will continue to keep that door open because it would obviously be the best outcome.

They continue to make some, albeit slow, progress on issues of access and movement. In fact, I think if you look at the record now, Karni is working relatively well, and so on the ground things are happening.

And of course, we continue to work on how to help Abu Mazen and how to help the Palestinian people to create governing structures and security forces that can actually secure the Palestinian people. And so the work that we're doing, or that Keith Dayton has been doing on reform and equipping of the Palestinian security forces -- a good piece this morning about our request to the Congress for assistance for the Palestinian security program.

But I want to note that of course this is a train-and-equip program so it goes over an extended period of time and it is also in the context both of our assistance to the Palestinians on the humanitarian side and in the context of an international effort to train and equip the Palestinian forces. This isn't an American program. Keith Dayton has really been putting together an international program and I think we'll have a chance to talk more about that when I meet with the Quartet. In I think the next several weeks we'll probably have a Quartet meeting.

I expect this trip to really be one in which we have intensive consultations. I think you'll see that just as a kind of little measure the meetings will be longer. But I'm not coming with a proposal. I'm not coming with a plan. I've as an academic spent a good deal of time reading about past efforts to try and make progress on the Israeli-Palestinian issue and a couple of things are crystal clear: If you don't lay the groundwork very well, then it's not going to succeed. And I think no plan can be made in America. There are too many important stakeholders and any progress on the Palestinian-Israeli front is going to require all of the parties.

I've also been working in this series of trips as well as with the UNGA meeting that started the GCC+2 to solidify this alignment of these states that are really fighting extremism and are concerned about the rise of extremism. I expect to spend a good deal of time with them on Iraq, on the President's plan. I had consultations with them before about Iraq. I think that some of the things that the President talked about actually have been informed by those discussions that we had with the GCC+2 and I also talked with them briefly -- the foreign ministers -- prior to the President's speech. And so I look forward to having a discussion with them about how these states can support the Iraqi Government.

Finally, there are other issues that are of interest. Obviously, we will talk about Iran, talk about Somalia. But I just want to note that the last conversations that we had on Sudan I think really have had an impact because the Arab world has been much greater on Sudan since those discussions and, in fact, the coming together of the Arab, African, European, U.S. and UN positions at Addis Ababa, I think was really aided by the discussions we've had on Sudan. So this is a very, very useful grouping for consultation, very useful grouping for I think even the resolution of problems, and I look forward to meeting with them.

So that's the trip and we'll break it down more and more as we go through the trip.

QUESTION: Secretary Rice, you say that no plan can work without laying the groundwork first and it sounds like you're saying that we can't expect any major step on Palestinian-Israeli peace for some time, if it does come. Is that a fair conclusion?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, as I said, I think there are openings now that are there as a result of this alignment, there as a result of the obvious desire of Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas to move forward. Their meeting, which went very well and talked about a lot of near-term issues, also talked about their desire to move forward on bigger issues. So I think the opening is there, but I can't really judge until I've had a chance to really talk to all the interested parties how we can accelerate the roadmap, how quickly we can accelerate the roadmap and how we begin to talk about the political horizon that everybody is interested in.

I wouldn't say that it's going to be a long time. I also wouldn't say it's going to be a short time. I think we have to -- I'll have to judge that.

QUESTION: The President talked about searching and destroying the lines of supply from Iran into Iraq and there's been a lot of testimony and conversation in recent days, including today with Secretary Gates and General Pace -- I'm sorry. There's been a lot of conversation and testimony in recent days about how the Administration intends to do that. What is the Administration's position on cross-border raids or ways to implement his promise in his speech Wednesday night to stop the claims of Iranian supply? And can you give us more details on the attack in Irbil and whether it's the position of the Administration that that was not a diplomatic facility and what it is that we intend to do about the protest from both Kurdish leaders and from Tehran?

SECRETARY RICE: On the second point, Andrea, it was not a consulate. It was some kind of liaison facility, but it was not a consulate. We take very seriously our Vienna Convention obligations and it was not a consulate.

Now, on the question of Iranian activities and particularly those that are causing danger for our troops, I think the President was very clear that we're going to have to deal with that problem. But when Pace was asked have the troops ever asked for permission or to plan to go into Iran, he said quite simply no, that this is something that we believe can be done in Iraq. You know, obviously the President doesn't take options off the table, but I think that it's really fair to say that we believe this is something that can be done in Iraq.

QUESTION: Can you reassure people here in the United States and in other capitals that there is not some intended buildup or warning to Iran of military action by the United States?

SECRETARY RICE: This is a matter of, first of all, being very clear that there's certain activities, those that are endangering our troops, that just can't be tolerated. And I think there is plenty of evidence that there is Iranian involvement with these networks that are making high-explosive IEDs and that are endangering our troops, and that's going to be dealt with. But there is -- this is a kind of new phase, I think, in our diplomatic efforts also to get the Iranians to change behavior that is detrimental for instance on the nuclear issue, detrimental on terrorism, for instance the work that the Treasury has been doing on the financial measures. We're going to keep designating Iranian banks. But, Andrea, we think that there's a lot that can be done through the diplomatic channel.

QUESTION: What do you -- getting back to the Israeli-Palestinian issue. What do you think about this idea or this proposal of sketching some sort of vision of a Palestinian state? I'm not talking about the Bush parameters or something like that, but there is this notion that if there is some sort of outline or vision of a Palestinian state that that is something that Abbas could then take to his people, would help him in terms of bolstering his position against Hamas. Is this something that you're seriously looking at?

SECRETARY RICE: I think we ought to consider all the options, but I think we also have to recognize that there are certain conditions that we're also going to have to be creating on the ground and we don't want to lose sight of those for a vision that then can't be fulfilled. And so I think we have to work it at both levels. But I think when the Palestinians talk about a political horizon, we need to explore what does that mean. How detailed a political horizon do they need? I know that Abu Mazen continues to say that the Palestinian people need a political horizon. I take that as a given from his point of view. I think we have to explore what that means. But I wouldn't rule out any option at this point.

QUESTION: When the President spoke the other night, he said that Prime Minister Maliki understands that America's commitment is not open-ended. But both he and then you yesterday stressed repeatedly that failure isn't an option. I guess I don't understand quite how those two things reconcile. If at some point failure is upon when -- you know, how do you then say, you know, failure isn't an option?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, to say that your patience isn't limited is simply to say that the Iraqi Government needs to start to show results. And the only way that this plan -- the plan for Baghdad is going to work is if, in fact, they are showing results. But this is a comprehensive plan. It has elements other than Baghdad and I want to focus for a moment on what has gotten a bit obscured by all of the talk about Baghdad, which is the decision to decentralize and diversify outside the capital as well through the Provincial Reconstruction Teams. Because that allows you to have, if you will, multiple points of success rather than just Baghdad.

So the progress that we're making in Anbar, for instance, is really not the result of policies in Baghdad, but policies that we are pursuing with local tribesmen, local sheikhs in Anbar. One of the reasons the President has surged 4,000 troops into Anbar is that we think that there's a chance to really help with a positive trend there. And so there will be a need for diversification of our efforts.

Look, we're going to get an opportunity to see whether or not this is working, whether or not the Iraqis are living up to their obligations. And obviously as a first order, you'll want to go to them and say you are or you are not living up to your obligations. So you know, the notion of just kind of -- and which sometimes there -- are you just going to pull the plug, well, we're not pulling the plug on Iraq. This is a very important, as the President said -- hello? This is an enterprise -- pardon me?

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

SECRETARY RICE: That was the plug being pulled, yeah. You know, this is an important -- this is too important to American security. But there will be time and the ability to adjust as we see how the Iraqis are responding.

QUESTION: If I can -- may I follow up. I mean, one other option would be a Plan B. If the Iraqis don't step up, then -- and failure still isn't an option, then what is Plan B?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think we'll worry about making Plan A work for now. And obviously, if it doesn't, then you know, we're not going to say, oh my goodness, that didn't work, there's nothing that can be done. That's why I emphasize that this is something that's going to evolve over a period of time and where there's time to make adjustments as the plan unfolds.

QUESTION: Thank you, Madame Secretary. You're obviously going off to the Middle East at a time when the Administration's Middle East policy is under rather sustained attack at home and you faced yesterday what had to have been one of the more skeptical Foreign Relations sessions in quite a few years, it would seem.

But my question is: Does it weaken your hand diplomatically when you arrive in capitals in the Middle East to be bringing a policy to the region that has increasingly little support at home?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I heard skepticism. I didn't hear alternatives that are really -- that one can really pursue. And so I -- no, I don't feel that our hand is weakened. I do feel that an aggressive, sustained effort in the Middle East is what's very much needed at this point. I think we've laid a lot of groundwork really over six years, but I feel that I've personally laid a lot of groundwork over the last 18 months or so, and perhaps it's now time to start harvesting some of that groundwork. But one thing that you can't see if you don't follow this every day or if you're not doing it every day is that over time you build a set of outcomes and then you build on those outcomes for further outcomes, and at some point you have the ability to make a strategic shift.

The kind of work that we've been doing with the Palestinians, the kind of work that we've been doing with the Israelis, the kind of work they've been doing together is leading toward a place at which I think we're going to be able to make real progress in a more strategic way. But it takes building it over time. It doesn't happen overnight.

QUESTION: Are you concerned about the ebbing support in Congress or for that matter within the American people? And do you see that there's a possibility of turning it around or is there a kind of vindication in a way of just going it alone, so to speak, no matter what the opinion polls might say?


QUESTION: On Iraq. On -- yeah, primarily on Iraq.

SECRETARY RICE: What will convince the American people that there's going to be a good outcome here is changes on the ground. And that's why the President recognized that and has set us on a different course. No amount of polling -- or no polling is going to -- no poll is going to change until there is something to show on the ground. Now, I think that there has actually been a lot achieved. You know, it's very interesting. When Senator Durbin began his rebuttal the other night, he started by saying we've overthrown a dictator, we found him in a hole, we've brought him to justice, we've given the Iraqi people their elections, we've given them their constitution. And I thought that's a pretty good list. And now we have to deliver further on stabilizing and solidifying that.

So it's not as if this Iraq -- the Iraq war has led to nothing good. It has led to a lot of good. But the progress that they're making, have been making, is really threatened by this sectarian violence in Baghdad. And I think everybody sees that and understands it, and it's why helping them to get control of it is a very high priority.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, the Europeans have launched the idea of enlarging the Quartet to Arab countries like Jordan and Egypt and Saudi Arabia, the very countries you are consulting on Iraq. Do you think it's a good idea?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think the Quartet has a certain logic on its own as an international body that in a sense stands outside of the region. I think that has a logic of its own. But I've found very useful meetings from time to time where we have met with the states that -- informally I think people call them the Arab Quartet. We've met very -- not very frequently, but when we've met I think it's been to very good effect. And so one option might be to use that model from time to time. But I think the Quartet as the Quartet has a certain logic of its own, having been set up by the UN in that way.

QUESTION: Have you considered at all laying down some parameters for a Middle East peace settlement in a way similar to what President Clinton did at the end of his term? And also, how confident are you that the security work you're doing, the arms that are going to be provided to Abbas, to Fatah, will be used in the proper manner? Are you concerned that you might be increasing the likelihood of a full-scale civil war between Fatah and Hamas?

SECRETARY RICE: As I said, Barbara, this is a train-and-equip program that is going to move over time, so it's not as if you simply arm the Palestinians on day one and then have no input or control over what happens from then on. It's a much more gradual process than that, and I think as a result you can maintain some control on what is being done.

But going all the way back to Oslo, it was envisioned that the Palestinian Authority would have security forces. The problem is those security forces broke into essentially personal militias under Arafat. They broke into too many that were often warring with each other. And what first General Ward and now General Dayton have done is to help the Palestinians, with international help, to create a strategy, a plan for security forces that can be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

And this plan is not just to equip them and train them, it's also to professionalize them, to unify them, to put them under a single command. I would expect that we would be very concerned about issues of human rights and the like, much as we are in all of our train-and-equip programs.

So I think that this is a more comprehensive program than is sometimes communicated or is sometimes seen as just kind of you're sending arms into the Palestinian territories. But one thing is certain: Hamas is armed and the worst outcome would be that the Palestinians who are, in fact, devoted to the roadmap and devoted to the Quartet principles are the ones who are unarmed and Hamas is armed.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

SECRETARY RICE: As I said to Glenn, you know, I'll consider anything, but I think we -- I think at this point what we want to do is to get a better sense of where the parties are and what's possible.

QUESTION: When you speak of accelerating the roadmap, do you mean that the whole thing can be achieved in less than the three-year span that was envisaged in the first place?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, one thing to realize is that some elements of the roadmap have actually already been achieved. For instance, the Israelis were supposed to start removing settlements. They're out of Gaza. And so I think we want to look at what is still to be achieved. The roadmap is a useful document because it does have reciprocal responsibilities, but I do think that if you want to get momentum of the kind that came out of the meeting between Olmert and Abbas that you don't want to be in a position of doing this at such a slow pace that you lose the momentum of the broader political relationship that is developing there. So when I say accelerate, we want to look at it and see how fast you can move. But it doesn't -- I don't have really a particular timeframe in mind. That's not the idea.

QUESTION: Is it a change in the Administration's outlook in the Middle East to say that democracy in the region isn't necessarily an end goal in and of itself, that perhaps in certain places like Iraq and the Palestinian territories that you need security or certain other preconditions in order to have democracy?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, that's not what we're saying. Obviously, security and -- security is needed for democracy to function and function properly. But you certainly need to pay attention to the democratic process as well. The Iraqis have a very, very difficult set of circumstances, but at least they have institutions that give them a chance to try and resolve their differences in a political way rather than in a repressive way. That's what democratic institutions are for and that's what they do.

But in any place, whether it's Iraq or the Palestinian territories, we continue to emphasize the importance of democracy because otherwise what are you saying? You're saying that, all right, it's all right for one group of people to repress another or for one person to repress others. We know that that's false stability, not actual stability, because we've seen the impact that it's had throughout the Middle East over 60 years. And so I think democracy has to go hand in hand, but when we talk about democracy it also obviously has to be able to deliver for its people, it has to be able to keep its people secure.

QUESTION: You talked earlier about the GCC+2. The reactions in the region to the new plan the other day were not exactly as harsh as those in Congress, but they weren't glowing either. What do you think these neighbors in these countries in the region in the Gulf can actually do to help you, first of all, with the military strategy in Iraq with the 20 that the President outlined, and secondly with the political process, even the -- on the economic issues they're having?

SECRETARY RICE: The principal help that these countries could give is in the latter category. First of all, on the political process where I think they have been helpful in working with Sunnis to engage them in the political process, working with tribes, working with local leaders. There are a lot of, as you know, cross-border ties between tribes and I think there's been a lot of work done with those.

They could also help Iraq to reintegrate into the Arab world. I think it's important that Amr Moussa went there. I think it's important that they have missions there, at least charges or perhaps ambassadors. The commitment to this new democratic government in Iraq should be one that all these states are prepared to take because if the consequences of failure for the United States are very great, the consequences of failure for these states in the region are even greater.

And when I hear the argument from time to time that people are concerned about Iranian influence in Iraq, the surest way to deal with Iranian influence is to have a unified and strong Iraq that is able to integrate with and be supported by its Arab neighbors. The surest way to make sure that Iraq is a bridge for Iranian influence into the region is to isolate it from its Arab neighbors and not to work for its unity and stability.

All right, see you at another stop.


Continued (Permanent Link)

Why not move the prime meridian to Mecca?

Why not move the prime meridian to Mecca?

Theodoric of York Has Nothing on These Guys

theodoric.jpg"You know, medicine is not an exact science, but we are learning all the time. Why, just fifty years ago, they thought a disease like your daughter's was caused by demonic possession or witchcraft. But nowadays we know that Isabelle is suffering from an imbalance of bodily humors, perhaps caused by a toad or a small dwarf living in her stomach."
-Theodoric of York: Medieval Barber (aka Steve Martin)
In another example of life imitating parody, the following is an excerpt from an interview with Dr. Abd Al-Baset Al-Sayyed of the Egyptian National Research Center explaining why the world ought use "Mecca Mean Time" in lieu of Greenwich Mean Time.

This means is that when you are in Mecca, the ability of the blood to carry oxygen to the tissues is greater than anywhere else in the world.

Anybody who studies human chemistry knows that all circulation in the human body is to the right. All the components are called "dextro-rotatary," which means circulating to the right. They call it dextro-rotatory, which means circulating to the right. When I'm circulating [the Ka'ba] from right to left, anti-clockwise, I increase my body's circulation, and consequently I am filled with energy.


Continued (Permanent Link)

I say Kassam, you say Qassam - You call it truce, I call it war

Another day, another four Qassam rockets (which Israeli news sources insist on spelling "Kassam"). Oh yes, two bombs were discovered by IDF and detonated. They don't "count" as terrorist acts, because we caught them, right?" It is a good thing a truce is being observed between Israel and the Palestinians. What would you do if this was happening in your own country? Reminder, there are no Israeli troops in Gaza - no occupation, no Israeli reprisals for these continuous acts of violence. How long will this continue?
Qassam rockets are named after the Palestinian Arab hero, Izzedin el Qassam, who was actually a Syrian.

Jan. 12, 2007 16:38 | Updated Jan. 12, 2007 22:07
Four Kassams hit western Negev
Kassam rockets were fired at Friday from the Gaza Strip at southern Israel, as IDF troops operating in Gaza and the West Bank discovered and safely detonated two bombs
Four Kassams landed in the western Negev on Friday afternoon. No one was wounded and no damage resulted from any of the hits.
Near the Gaza-Israel border fence, IDF soldiers discovered a 12-kilogram bomb. Sappers detonated the device in a controlled explosion, and no one was wounded.
Another bomb was discovered In the West Bank. Sappers destroyed the 35-kg. bomb without incident. No damage was caused by either of the two devices.
In another development Friday, the IDF and the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) announced that they had arrested on Tuesday a Palestinian suspected of perpetrating a shooting attack on an Israeli neighborhood.
Za'ahad Dagrah, 36, was also suspected of being an active member of a terror cell planning attacks against Israelis. He was apprehended by security forces near Ramallah and detained for interrogation.
Overnight Thursday, IDF troops arrested four Palestinian fugitives and uncovered a weapons cache in separate operations in the West Bank.
Three Hamas operatives were arrested near Bethlehem and a fourth Hamas member near Hebron.
IDF soldiers also found an M-16 rifle and dozens of bullets while conducting sweeps in Kfar Ekev, near Ramallah.

Continued (Permanent Link)


Jan 11th 2007

Jews all around the world are gradually ceasing to regard Israel as a
focal point. As a result, many are re-examining what it means to be

"THE choice for our people, Mr President, is between statehood and
extermination." Thus wrote Chaim Weizmann, head of the World Zionist
Organisation, to Harry Truman, president of America, on April 9th 1948.
Five weeks later Weizmann was elected president of the newly declared
Jewish state. Truman granted recognition within hours.

Weizmann's words were only partly true. European Jewry faced
extinction at the hands of the Nazis, but Jews who had fled eastern
Europe's pogroms for America two generations earlier already felt safe
and established there. Still, even for them, Israel became the centre
of the Jewish world--not merely as a place to run to if things got bad,
but as part of what they were. If their grandparents' Judaism was about
religion, learning and community, theirs meant something else: being a
nation that had lost a third of its people but gained a homeland.

Right from its foundation, the existence of Israel created new
questions for world Jewry. If Israel's purpose was to accommodate a
nation that could never be safe or fully itself in any other place, was
it still possible for self-conscious Jews to flourish in "exile"? Some
felt Jews had only two options: assimilate in the countries where they
lived, or identify very closely with the new state, if not migrate

Another dilemma arose from the idiosyncrasies of religious life in the
new state. Many Israelis are secular--but religious authority in the
country is in the hands of the Orthodox. Where does that leave Jews
outside Israel who practise more liberal forms of the faith? And the
biggest dilemma is this: however proud world Jewry felt of Israel
during its early struggle to survive, how should a conscientious Jew
react to Israel's new image as military giant and flawed oppressor?
Faced with these puzzles, Jews all over the world are finding new ways
to assert their identity and a new relationship with Israel.

Most diaspora Jews still support Israel strongly. But now that its
profile in the world is no longer that of heroic victim, their
ambivalence has grown. Many are disturbed by the occupation of the
Palestinian territories or more recently by images of Israeli bombing
in Lebanon; some fear they give grist to anti-Semites. Quite a few
think Jewish religious and cultural life in Israel is stunted. Others
question the point of a safe haven that, thanks to its wars and
conflicts, is now arguably the place where most Jews are killed because
they are Jews. The most radical say, as the Palestinians do, that the
idea of an ethnically based state is racist and archaic.

What is more, the last great waves of ALIYAH, immigration to Israel,
have ended. Barring a new burst of anti-Semitism, the map of world
Jewry will change slowly from now on. Each community is evolving in its
own way. Some are seeing a revival unthinkable a few years ago. And
young Jews especially are asking what Israel means to them. Some, say
Caryn Aviv and David Shneer, two American scholars, in a recent book,
"New Jews" (New York University Press), reject the notion that they are
in a "diaspora", which "envisions the Jewish world hierarchically with
Israel on top, the diaspora on [the] bottom."

ALIYAH literally means "ascent", while leaving Israel is YERIDAH,
"descent". Repeated banishment--to Egypt, Assyria, Babylon--and return
are the backbone of the Jewish historical narrative. The Hebrew word
that usually refers to the diaspora, GOLA, implies forced exile.

But as early as 1950 Jacob Blaustein, the head of the American Jewish
Committee (AJC), told David Ben-Gurion, Israel's prime minister, that
"American Jews vigorously repudiate any suggestion or implication that
they are in exile." In November Ze'ev Bielski, the head of the Jewish
Agency, the Israeli body responsible for promoting ALIYAH, got in hot
water for saying that one day American Jews "will realise they have no
future as Jews in the US due to assimilation and intermarriage".
America has provided a mere 120,000 Israelis since 1948, and still has
as many Jews as Israel. A survey two years ago by Steven M. Cohen, a
sociologist at New York's Hebrew Union College, found that just 17% of
American Jews called themselves Zionists.

Nonetheless, Jewish Americans have long been Israel's strongest
supporters. Many of the most zealous West Bank settlers come from
America. The main Jewish lobby groups have tended to back right-wing
Israeli governments and avoid criticising their policies. The fact that
Israel is America's strongest ally emboldens this gung-ho stance. So
does the ultra-Zionist stance of some American Christians.

But Jews too young to have watched Israel rout three Arab armies in six
days in 1967 are less likely to see it as heroic, morally superior, in
need of help, or even relevant. "Israel in the Age of Eminem", a report
written in 2003 for the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies, a
Jewish charity, concluded that "There is a distance and detachment
between young American Jews and their Israeli cousins that does not
exist among young American Arabs and has not existed in the American
Jewish community until now." In Mr Cohen's survey, only 57% of American
Jews said that "caring about Israel is a very important part of my
being Jewish", down from 73% in a similar survey in 1989.

The culprit is not just the Arab-Israeli conflict. American Jewry is
pluralistic--many of its members belong to progressive denominations
such as Reform and Conservative Judaism--while Israel's Orthodox
establishment does not recognise conversions or marriages by other
kinds of rabbis. Clashes over "who is a Jew" cooled American-Jewish
attitudes to Israel well before the second Palestinian INTIFADA.

The INTIFADA, like any crisis, rallied support. Howard Rieger,
president of the United Jewish Communities (UJC), an American umbrella
body, recalls that when the UJC launched appeals to help suicide-bomb
victims and their families, "it was the first time [in recent years
that] Israel had been put at risk and the response was similar to that
of the previous generation." This summer, a UJC appeal during Israel's
war against Hizbullah in Lebanon raised $340m in just six weeks.

Leaping to Israel's defence is still what the Jewish establishment does
best. After the war, the Israel On Campus Coalition, a student
organisation, issued a 129-page guide with contributions from all the
major Jewish and pro-Israel bodies, packed with set-piece talking
points for knocking down critics of Israel. But Jewish students who
wanted a real debate about the war--like the debate by then raging
furiously in Israel itself--had to look elsewhere.

"There has to be something better for North Americans to do [with
Israel] than respond to crisis," says Roger Bennett, director of
special projects at the Bronfman foundation. Mr Rieger agrees. One
thing they could do, he thinks, is work with Israelis on resolving the
"identity question", namely, the Jewish character of life in the Jewish
state, where religious identity is often displaced by a secular,
national one.

The trouble, says Mr Bennett, is that the mainstream American Jewish
institutions were born to make the case for Israel and to fight
anti-Semitism. Young Jews today, however, are searching for identity,
spirituality, meaning and roots. Unlike their grandparents, they are
not concentrated among other Jews but spread out across society. They
do not meet people in synagogues or other Jewish forums, but form their
own networks. "Jewish" is just one part of their multi-faceted American
identity, and Israel does not seem that relevant.

An ambitious attempt to resist assimilation and the loss of Jewishness
is the "birthright israel" programme, sponsored by a group of Jewish
philanthropists, which since 1998 has given over 100,000 young Jews
from around the world a free ten-day trip to the country. It aims less
to promote ALIYAH than to give an instant hit of Jewishness. Surveys
show it works. Mark Hanis, an Ecuadorean-born 24-year-old who did the
trip in 2001, calls it "transformative", a word Jewish leaders love.
"The big impact for me", he relates, "was seeing children in the
streets playing soccer like you always saw in Ecuador, but wearing
yarmulkes instead of crosses."

Ironically, though, many returning birthrighters have embarked on a
search for new ways of what is colloquially called "doing Jewish" that
have little to do with Israel or even religion. A lot of it is based on
TIKKUN OLAM, literally "world repair", the Jewish duty of social
activism. Thus Mr Hanis, the grandson of Holocaust survivors, decided
that Jews have a duty to fight genocide, and founded the Genocide
Intervention Network, a campaign against the killings in Darfur. A
young leaders' conference, ROI120, ambitiously decided, at its first
meeting last summer, to create "the cultural expectation that Jewish
youth will spend a year engaged in social service" after finishing
school. The American Jewish World Service, which works on everything
from microcredit in El Salvador to women's rights in Rwanda, has more
than doubled its intake of volunteers in the past four years.

Then there is the growth of synagogues that welcome gay and transsexual
Jews; of Jewish cultural centres; and of museums that celebrate Jewish
history instead of mourning the Holocaust. New York has produced
avant-garde projects such as Reboot, a forum for creative young Jews
that in turn has spawned a magazine, a record label and a publishing
house. As all these new ways of "doing Jewish" reanimate young
Americans' sense of belonging, the far-off country where they could in
theory go may start to matter even less.

Some groups try to keep Israel relevant but in new ways. The New Israel
Fund, for instance, holds traditional fund-raising appeals for Israel,
but gives a lot of the money to untraditional causes like gay or Arab
civil rights. It is also less afraid of politics: it published a
newspaper article in November criticising the inclusion of Avigdor
Lieberman, a right-wing extremist, in the Israeli government, while
groups like the AJC kept an embarrassed silence.

But the pro-Israel heavy guns still predominate. And their one-sided
discourse risks turning young people off. It is often seen, Mr Cohen
says, "as demanding loyalty to certain objectionable Israeli policies".
In the long run, he predicts a polarisation in American Jewry: a small
group growing more pious and attached to Israel, while a larger one
drifts away.

If American Jews worry about assimilation depleting their numbers, so
much more do the already less numerous Jews of Europe. Israel ought to
matter more to them; it is also closer. But European Jewry is a
patchwork quilt, where the bond with Israel depends greatly on local

In Britain, even more than in America, Israel is an anchor of Jewish
identity. Britons are far more likely to have visited Israel, have
family there and call themselves Zionists, even though their political
view of Israel is sometimes more critical.

But Rabbi Rodney Mariner is worried. A survey of his flock in London's
Belsize Square found "a very low level of enthusiasm and commitment to
Israel among pretty much all the middle-to-younger members". Coming
from British Jewry's Liberal camp, he notes that the only growth is at
the other end of the spectrum: among the HAREDIM, the ultra-Orthodox,
whose garb and close inter-communal ties set them apart. "I don't see
something outside ultra-Orthodoxy, other than Israel, that can hold a
Jewish community together in the long run," Rabbi Mariner says. That
troubles him, because Israel seems poor glue. He has qualms about its
policies, little faith in its leadership, and doubts about "the value
of Israel in Jewish terms". Britain's chief rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, is
of a somewhat similar mind. He has cautiously criticised Israel's
treatment of the Palestinians and recently chided it for lacking "a
Jewish sense of ethics permeating the great institutions of society".

France, by contrast, has more Jews than anywhere else in western
Europe, estimated at half to three-quarters of a million. But most of
France's Jewish families came two or three generations ago from North
Africa. They are less attached to France than their counterparts over
the Channel are to Britain, says Jean-Jacques Wahl, director-general of
the Alliance Israelite Universelle in Paris; almost all have family
ties to Israel, or have lived there.

Young French Jews, he adds, are also likely to be more anti-Arab and
right-wing: "I think that Bibi [Binyamin Netanyahu, head of Israel's
right-of-centre Likud party] is more popular in France than in Israel."
On top of that, a series of anti-Semitic attacks in recent years--a
period when Muslim-Jewish antagonism has compounded the old
anti-Semitism of the French right--are stoking fear and making ALIYAH
seem more attractive. Last year 3,000 Jews moved from France to Israel,
a level rarely seen in the past 30 years.

And yet even France's Jews bridled when Ariel Sharon, then Israel's
prime minister, said in 2004 that they should move to Israel. Mr Wahl
thinks the community, less split along denominational lines than
elsewhere, is there to stay.

Contrast Israel's gravitational pull on French and British Jewry with
its relationship to Germany and Russia. Russian Jews, in fact,
predominate in both countries. For 13 years Germany offered all Jews
from the former Soviet Union automatic residency, and today the
community numbers 115,000, four times what it was before the Iron
Curtain fell. In September, in a stirring epitaph to the country's Nazi
past, new rabbis were ordained on German soil for the first time since
the Holocaust.

But having moved once, few Russian immigrants feel like moving again.
Young Jews in Germany, says Michael Brenner, a historian at Ludwig
Maximilien University in Munich, are less likely to go to Israel than
to England, "to study and find a Jewish partner and a more normal and
diverse Jewish life". Among Jews in Germany, criticism of Israel is
muted. But Zionist activism, says Rabbi Walter Homolka, the principal
of the Abraham Geiger College, the seminary where the three new rabbis
were trained, gets "very little response". For him, the big worry is
whether the Russian arrivals, whose priority is integrating into German
society, will stay Jewish too. And the way to bind them in, he thinks,
is not some artificial bond to Israel, but local attractions, such as
Jewish day schools.

The world's least-expected Jewish revival, however, is going on in
Russia itself. Once it was a place that Jews only wanted to leave; more
than a million moved to Israel after 1990. But there are still hundreds
of thousands left. Jewish identity is naturally strong in Russia, where
Soviet rule quashed religious life but insisted on the separateness of
Jewish ethnicity. These days, even Jews who have never been to a
synagogue are happy to assert that separateness: they are ROSSIISKIYE,
Russian citizens, but not RUSSKIYE, "Russians". The ultra-Orthodox
Lubavitch movement, which works to bring lapsed Jews around the world
back into the fold, can take some credit. But probably the main factor
is Russia's economic boom. Synagogues and community centres are opening
everywhere, with funds that once came from a few Jewish tycoons but now
flow in from newly middle-class businessmen.

As many as 100,000 Russian-Israelis have gone back to Russia, says
Rabbi Avraham Berkowitz, the director of the Lubavitch-run Federation
of Jewish Communities, one of Russia's two main (and rival) umbrella
groups. In a fast-growing market with a population over 20 times the
size of Israel's, they often get better work. Today, a Russian Jew in
Moscow will be more expensively dressed than his cousin in Tel Aviv: a
big reversal from ten years ago.

Israel's government dislikes acknowledging this apparent YERIDAH, but
as Rabbi Berkowitz argues, "It's a win-win situation for both Israel
and Russia." Most of the returnees retain ties with Israel; they often
leave families there, and invest earnings there, in homes and
education. This makes for a new kind of diaspora: these days, as one
listens to the sound of Russian in Old Jerusalem or Hebrew on the
canals of St Petersburg, it can be hard to tell where Israel ends and
Russia begins.

In fact, a Jewish cultural revival is going on not just in Russia and
Germany, but all across Europe. Tony Lerman of the Jewish Policy
Research Institute in London cites steep rises in the numbers of Jewish
museums, Jewish day schools and academic Jewish studies courses; more
people are studying Yiddish, a dying language not long ago; Jewish
film, music and cultural festivals are flourishing everywhere, even in
Poland, a cradle of anti-Semitism.

Partly this reflects a fad for exotica among non-Jews. Still, it
suggests that many Jews are reacting to anti-Semitism and fears of
assimilation not by moving to Israel, but by rediscovering what it
means to be Jewish outside it. Mr Shneer and Ms Aviv make the
intriguing prophecy that in ten years, American Jewish foundations
"will spend as much money sending young Jews to Vilnius to study
Yiddish or Prague to study Jewish art or architecture as they do
sending young Jews to Israel."

The old-style attachment to Israel, treating it as a potential future
home, a shield against assimilation, and an ongoing emergency needing
support, is a mistake, Mr Lerman argues. "The way to continue it is
with common concerns about education, civil society, human rights and
values." Even the Jewish Agency, a bastion of traditional Zionism, is
changing tack. Makom, one of its partner agencies, now sends envoys to
American Jews with a new brief: to get young Jews interested in Israel
not by "hugging" it but by "wrestling" with it and its contradictions.

Accepting this challenge may be Israel's best chance to stay relevant
to non-Israeli Jews. Israelis may still speak of the GOLA; but the Jews
who fled to the Hellenistic world after the destruction of Jerusalem's
Second Temple in 70 AD deliberately adopted the Greek word diaspora,
"dispersal", because it was more neutral. "Diasporism"--the idea that
Jews are better off outside the Holy Land--is a tradition that began
with the prophet Jeremiah and still exists among a few ultra-Orthodox
Jews. But increasingly, today's young Jews see the future not as a
choice between Zion and exile, but as a fruitful fusion of both.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Friday, January 12, 2007

Crtical Currents: Fear of talking

Crtical Currents: Fear of talking

The government took barely six hours to decide to attack Lebanon on July 12, 2006. Yet a full six years have gone by since any Israeli leader has made a serious attempt to talk with the country's neighbors. This inexplicable foot-dragging flies in the face not only of rising regional and international currents; it defies the wishes of the majority of Israelis.

The Olmert government has responded dismissively to Syrian overtures, warily to the approaches of moderate Arab states and condescendingly to repeated Palestinian calls for a resumption of negotiations. The prime minister's recent meetings with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak are studies in reluctant ambiguity. Official Israel, despite some efforts on the part of Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, remains locked in a rejectionist stance. This evasiveness makes little sense substantively, diplomatically or politically. It is creating another, almost unbridgeable, gap between the Israeli public and its present leadership.

The ongoing disarray in the PA territories, the aftershock of the Lebanese imbroglio, the American Iraqi conundrum and the specter of a nuclear Iran have combined to induce a renewed push for an Israeli-Palestinian accord with a view toward achieving a broader understanding with moderate Arab states. These initiatives emanate not only from external sources; they have deep - and robust - domestic roots. An astute leadership would do well to listen to these voices and act on their message.

The objective of any negotiated settlement is clearer to most Israelis today than ever before. According to the latest poll conducted by the Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace and the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research in Ramallah, a solid majority favors a two-state solution and accepts the complex package such an accord entails. There is a sober and consistent willingness to discuss withdrawal to the 1967 lines with adjustments by agreement, the creation of two capitals for two states in Jerusalem, a just resolution for Palestinian refugees and lasting security arrangements. Unlike at the outset of the Oslo process, there are no illusions about the contours of the endgame of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Progressively wider segments of Israeli society have internalized its details.

THESE INSIGHTS have been slow in percolating up to decision-making circles. The beleaguered and indecisive Olmert government appears stuck in the conceptual mindset of yesteryear. However, it cannot now excuse its inaction (as its predecessors frequently did) by evoking domestic constraints. On the contrary, many Israelis expect their government to move forward in a very clear direction.

The procedure for attaining this goal is also evident to most citizens: close to 60 percent want negotiations on a comprehensive settlement now (81% of Palestinians concur). They prefer discussions on outstanding final-status issues, consciously shunning further interim measures. The phased approach, embedded in the Oslo agreements and the road map, has little traction on the ground. Patience is also running out for the enervating quibbles over immediate steps - the main preoccupation of the few meetings held in recent weeks - which have yielded little security, let alone a much needed prisoner exchange. Israelis are urging their government to get on with the key business at hand.

There is, nevertheless, lingering uncertainty in two important respects. First, many Israelis are still wary of their negotiating partners. They do not know how to deal with the Hamas government and doubt the reach of Abbas's effective authority. The distrust broadcast at the apex of the Israeli political system for so long is reflected in public opinion.

Second, by extension, there is much debate on how to jump-start the process. Strict adherence to the three preconditions imposed on Hamas after its victory at the ballot box a year ago (recognition of Israel, the renunciation of terror and compliance with previous agreements) is obviously a prescription for more paralysis. In the absence of a substitute formula, there is more confusion - both within Israel and abroad - on how to begin rather than on how to complete diplomatic talks.

A close reading of these sentiments would make any political leader far more assertive in pursuit of a negotiating framework than Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has proven to be. He, more than anyone else, is aware of the extent of alienation from his government and the immense disaffection with its policies. Launching a different peace offensive could offer some much-needed substantive backing to his rudderless coalition.

Such a move would also address the much more profound phenomenon of escapism which has permeated the heretofore-involved Israeli polity in recent years. The disengagement from the state, physically or mentally, so evident in the alarming decline in participation rates, has further intensified since the Lebanese trauma. Fatigue has set in, and with it the demand for normalcy. The promise of some concrete improvement in national prospects can go a long way toward creating the conditions for reconnecting those who have voluntarily withdrawn because they have lost hope in their ability to effect positive change.

The resumption of talks is, above all, perhaps the most crucial means for securing Israel's future. This is not the time for naysayers to hold sway or for shortsighted skeptics to prevail. A mature public, cognizant of the limits of military action and eager to try its diplomatic alternative, has overcome its fear of talking. It expects its leaders, for the same reasons and more, to cure itself of this very same phobia.

Continued (Permanent Link)

A tiny, but important, problem

A tiny, but important, problem

By Ze'ev Schiff

When Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak returned from his meeting last week with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Sharm al-Sheikh, the Egyptian press attacked Israel for turning the encounter into a failure with its military operation in Ramallah, in which four Palestinians were killed. This operation headed the agenda at Mubarak and Olmert's press conference.

How was such an operation authorized, and who ensures that non-military considerations are included in the deliberations? This apparently minor question - because 24 similar, successful military operations have already been conducted in Ramallah - has become important, because Israel Defense Forces' Chief of Staff Dan Halutz did not know about the operation. Nor did Defense Minister Amir Peretz, or Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh. The prime minister was also clearly surprised.

The decision was made by the command levels below GOC Central Command Yair Naveh. It would be difficult to assume that the head of the IDF General Staff's Operations Directorate knew nothing about the plans.

Since it wasn't the senior government or military officials, who took into account the fact that the PM would be meeting Egypt's president the following day? This factor is broader than the operational aspect. Ramallah is a sensitive city because of the Palestinian Authority institutions, television stations and foreigners there. The decision makers should have considered postponing the operation by 24 hours and arresting the wanted person - who was small potatoes anyway - a day later.

Surprisingly, the military secretary of neither the prime minister nor the defense minister informed the IDF that a diplomatic event was about to take place between Israel and Egypt. And what about the Operations Directorate? Something seems to be unraveling in the decision-making process of the top levels of Israeli security and government.

Israel, an old hand at military operations, is acting like a novice in this field. For years, a weekly meeting has been held to authorize Israel Air Force operations and missions beyond Israel's borders. The meetings, known by the Hebrew acronym MOG, are chaired by the defense minister. The military is represented by the chief of staff, the director of Military Intelligence in the General Staff, the IAF's commander-in-chief and the head of the Operations Directorate. The Ramallah operation proves the decision-making apparatus must be shaken up, and that an additional meeting must be held to authorize special operations in the territories.

Another tiny, but important, question concerns the agreement reached between Olmert and PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. Olmert promised restrictions on the Palestinians would be eased extensively. Again, it is evident that discussions and promise-keeping are two separate things. Foot-dragging destroys the leaders' decisions. Nobody verifies whether the prime minister's decisions are being implemented on a daily basis.

Despite the random security checks, restrictions at checkpoints bordering northern Jerusalem are still tight. Restrictions have not been eased in northern Samaria. A joint IDF-Shin Bet security service commission has been established; however, most of the earth barriers in Samaria are intact. Although the Gaza Strip should be kept cut off from the West Bank, other restrictions should be eased. The Palestinians' complaints should be thoroughly investigated. The complaints of the women from MachsomWatch sometimes seem exaggerated; nonetheless, their field testimony should not be ignored.

In recent Hamas-Fatah clashes, children have been deliberately killed. Last month, the three small children of Fatah General Intelligence officer Baha Balusha were murdered while traveling to school in their father's car. Last week, Hamas attacked the home of a senior official in Fatah's Preventive Security Service, Mohammed Gharib, in Jabalya. The officer begged the assailants to spare him and his young daughters; however, they killed him and four of his bodyguards, and seriously wounded his daughters.

A few months ago, the earth shook when Palestinian civilians were killed by the IDF's misguided artillery fire on Beit Hanun. Tempers ran high in the United Nations, and leftist organizations in Israel demanded that an international commission of inquiry be established and that the GOC Southern Command be dismissed. When Palestinians kill Palestinian children - and not by accident - no criticism is heard.

Perhaps the professional critics consider such incidents too minor.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Trapped in a stereotype

Trapped in a stereotype
By Amos Harel

For a few hours last Thursday, it looked as though the Israel Defense Forces action in Ramallah was leading to yet another blowup in a year that has been characterized by tense relations between the military and the government.

The broadcasts of footage from Ramallah, in which Palestinian civilians were seen rushing for shelter under fire from armored Jeeps, weighed heavily on the meeting between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Sharm al-Sheikh. The large number of casualties (at the conclusion of the incident, four Palestinians were dead and there were dozens of wounded) created palpable discomfort between Olmert and his host. And as Ramallah burned, Olmert's promises of easements for the Palestinians were perceived as hollow. The prime minister, who was exceedingly embarrassed, was again depicted as someone who does not control his army properly.

Criticism of the General Staff came quickly from the bureaus of Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz. Peretz in particular demanded sternly that the IDF brass provide him with explanations of what went wrong: Why did a special operations unit embark on an arrest action in the heart of Ramallah in the first place, so close to the start of the summit meeting? Who approved the operation? Why weren't the defense minister or Chief of Staff Dan Halutz briefed in advance? How was the force discovered and how did it fail in its mission to arrest the wanted man, who managed to escape despite the fact that he had been shot and seriously wounded?

But by the next day, the affair had pretty much evaporated. It was replaced by a number of far more urgent matters, from the political point of view: the expansion of the corruption investigation in the Tax Authority, the various investigations of the prime minister, and above all the weekly "spin," this time about Olmert's intention to replace Peretz with Ehud Barak.

Meanwhile, at Olmert's bureau they realized that media magnification of his anger at the army would also reflect poorly on the image of the prime minister himself. The defense minister also lost interest in the affair. With his current public standing being what it is, the defense minister cannot sack Central Command chief Yair Naveh, who approved the mission. Therefore, almost as usual, the question of the minister's personal survival became the more important issue. The imbroglio in Ramallah ended with a whimper.

On Sunday of this week a clarification was requested, during the course of which Naveh admitted that the timing of the mission had been a mistake. Peretz, according to his bureau, asked the army to formulate "a new procedure for arrest missions at a sensitive time."

And still, the affair has left a real mark on relations between the defense minister and the GOC. One might form the impression that Naveh has already been marked at the minister's bureau as "the bad guy" in the West Bank: the one who warns against removing barriers and easing restrictions on the movement of Palestinians; the one who is dragging his feet on preparations for the evacuation of the outposts and is now sabotaging the government's peace efforts. Left-wing organizations, after all, have long accused Naveh of being an agent of the settlers. In Peretz's environs, where paranoia is an almost permanent condition, there were those who posited a connection between the skullcap on Naveh's head and the incident in Ramallah. It can't be that it's all a coincidence, they argued.

Thwarting terror

Tension between Naveh and Peretz is bursting out at the end of a year of proven success by the Central Command in fighting terror. In the major general's contacts with the government and the media, something rough is often evident, despite his senior rank. The fact that Naveh, in the investigation of the Ramallah incident, hinted that he was not even aware of the summit at Sharm al-Sheikh when he approved the mission, is not entirely surprising.

At the same time, a one-dimensional description of the GOC would do him an injustice. In effect, he is the person responsible for the IDF's major operational success in 2006. At a time when the extent of the mishaps in the war in the North is coming to light in all its severity, and when the Southern Command, whose hands are tied now, is finding it hard to provide an answer to the terror from Gaza, a steep decline in the extent of terror from the West Bank has been recorded for the fourth year running.

In each of the past two years there were only two suicide terror attacks within the Green Line, in which 11 Israelis were killed. Another eight Israelis were killed in attacks in the West Bank. During that same period, 187 Palestinians were arrested in the West Bank on suspicion of volunteering to carry out suicide attacks.

When Naveh departs from the command in a few months he will leave a sector where the IDF has thus far managed to thwart terror. This has been an impressive tour of duty for the GOC, who has gone through it without much credit from public opinion and with a minimum of public relations.

Naveh is paying a considerable personal price. His twin sons are serving in combat units that belong to the command. One of them, Shai, a fighter in the Haruv Battalion, was moderately wounded in an encounter with armed Palestinians in Nablus last July and is still in the rehabilitation process. And all along, demonstrators from the extreme right have been interfering with his life: For about a year now there have been weekly demonstrations in front of Naveh's home in the suburban Tel Aviv community of Givat Shmuel, a sharp reminder of his role in the violent evacuation of homes in the Amona outpost and his signing orders that restricted the movement of several extremist settlers.

Naveh, 49, has been head of Central Command for two years. He did most of his service in the Golani Brigade, which he also commanded, and in the fighting in southern Lebanon. His extensive knowledge in the professional field was manifested during the war in Lebanon when, around the General Staff table, he was among the first to identify the blunders in the management of the war. But Halutz chose to distance him from the inner circle of decision-makers.

In return for maintaining quiet that in the Central Command, Halutz granted Naveh a great deal of independence in making decisions there. While in the operational arena Naveh proved his worth, he has angered the government on several occasions: Under Ehud Barak, when Naveh was commander of Gaza, there was widespread, unauthorized destruction of Palestinian infrastructure; under Ariel Sharon, it was the April, 2001 operation in Beit Hanun, which angered the Americans, and most recently, when Naveh said in a lecture that King Abdullah will be the last Hashemite ruler in Jordan.

In front of the cameras

This Tuesday at the Central Command there was an investigation into Ramallah operation. The performance of the special operations unit was defined as a failure, but the problems go far beyond the borders of the sector. The commanders' considerations before authorizing the action missed not only the importance of the Olmert-Mubarak summit, but also the effect of the presence of many media crews in the center of Ramallah. The incident played out in front of the cameras of Al Jazeera and was transmitted live throughout the Arab world.

The officers should have been aware of this: Last June a similar operation went awry in the same area, and it too won massive media coverage. A senior source in the command explains that within a year, in the center of Ramallah, 24 successful operations were carried out, and "we estimated that the force would be out, together with the detainee, even before the city noticed."

The army claims that one of the four killed was a wanted armed man who fired at the forces. As for the other three, they make do with the general statement that they had participated in the confrontation with the forces. This too is a way of lowering the statistics of "uninvolved persons" killed in the fighting. The command counts eight Palestinian civilians as having been killed last year. B'Tselem, The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Territories, counts 46 dead, among them seven women, but the number also includes stone-throwers who were killed by soldiers' fire.

Thwarting terror was done through the use of brutal measures, first and foremost "separation," which during the course of about a year created an almost impenetrable barrier between northern Samaria and the Jordan Valley and the area of Ramallah and Jerusalem. A check by Haaretz yesterday found that the army's commitment to easements at the checkpoints, in accordance with the instructions of Olmert and Peretz, is at best being implemented only partially.

The criticism of Naveh's policy in the matter of the checkpoints combines with discomfort on the left with his demonstrative reservations about evacuating more outposts. The GOC was severely burned in the Amona affair. Since then, he has been looking for ways of arriving at compromises with the settlers and has been casting doubt on the logic of unilateral measures against them.

But Peretz has mainly himself to blame in this matter: Had he imposed his authority on the army and ordered it to take down outposts in accordance with a strict timetable, Halutz and Naveh would have saluted and obeyed.

Naveh's conciliatory approach to the settler leadership, and the fact that his separation policy provided the settlers, for the first time, with a system of roads for Jews only, have not improved his standing in the settlements. The prevailing attitude there toward the IDF measures is as an opening position only, in advance of the next improvement in conditions. As commander of the Gaza Strip at the beginning of the second intifada, Naveh got a lot more gratitude from the inhabitants of Gush Katif. The GOC is trapped in his stereotype: In the eyes of the left, his skullcap is sufficient to label him as the darling of the settlers, though his personal opinions on political issues are more moderate. In the eyes of the extreme right, he is a traitor, and it is incumbent upon them to continue to harass him.

Although he does not admit it, Naveh is bothered by the demonstrations in front of his home. His drowsy National Religious Party neighborhood is not accustomed to such sights. In especially bad weeks the opposition to him pursues him even on the Sabbath, into the synagogue, so much so that he has considered whether to continue to reside in the community. This story has become personal: The major general loathes the hilltop fanatics and sees them as endangering the future of the Zionist project.

After the war, Naveh acceded to Halutz's request and decided, as part of the attempt to stabilize the system, to stay on for a few more months. Officially, he is slated for retirement, but another round of appointments in the top brass (and a new chief of staff) might keep him in the IDF.

In the meantime, the diagnosis at the General Staff is that Naveh is "playing for time. He can already see the end of his tour of duty and is thinking about how the summation will look. This is an approach of minimum risks, and therefore the imbroglio in Ramallah is a little surprising."

But despite all this, it is possible to make a predication: Before the end of his tour of duty, Naveh will manage to lock horns again, with Peretz and quite possibly also with the extreme right.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Turmoil continues [Among Palestinian Factions]

Turmoil continues

Senior Fatah leader Nabil Amr tells Erica Silverman that Hamas must moderate its position or nothing

Palestinian politics is deadlocked at a dangerous crossroads with Fatah and Hamas entangled in factional violence that has claimed the lives of more than 40 Palestinians in the last month, perceived by many as a foreshadowing of civil war.

Nabil Amr, media and communications advisor to President Mahmoud Abbas and member of the Central Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) and Fatah's Revolutionary Council, explains to Al-Ahram Weekly Fatah's position as the two rival movements enter the "last" round of negotiations to form a national unity government.

President Abbas has promised to call for new presidential and parliamentary elections if talks fail, although Palestinians fear new elections would lead to further bloodshed.

Hamas swept legislative elections almost one year ago. Unwilling to accept negotiating conditions stipulated by the Quartet (the EU, US, UN and Russia), the Palestinian government barely survived 10 months of crippling economic and political sanctions led by the United States.

Is Fatah ready to continue negotiations with Hamas to form a national unity government, and if so what is Fatah's strategy for reaching an agreement?

During six months of negotiations with Hamas we have realised that Hamas will not accept the political platform of President Mahmoud Abbas. Hamas will not accept a unity government without members of the Hamas leadership participating [in the government].

We are looking for a way out, to hold early elections. President Abbas took the political decision to discuss the next step with Hamas.

When Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference came to the region to meet President Abbas he mediated between Fatah and Hamas, and gave three conditions that would market the government to the Quartet, the Americans and the Israelis.

President Abbas is waiting for a response from Hamas through Ihsanoglu, and Mustafa Bargouhti can continue as a mediator and the Jordanians will now try to find a solution and to start negotiations in Amman. Hamas will not accept the conditions, so we will not form a unity government.

What are those conditions Hamas must accept?

Hamas must accept President Abbas's platform and political programme as the elected Palestinian president. If President Abbas will meet the Israelis, maybe the prime minister will refuse the meeting. The president cannot implement his platform without harmony in the government.

Are the main sticking points in negotiations still control of the finance and interior ministries?


President Abbas recently met US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Would the international community accept a national unity government in which ministries are controlled by Hamas?

We must ask the parties, the Quartet. The negotiations would be with them, not with Hamas or President Abbas, because they can lift or continue the siege. If the Quartet accepts any formula, President Abbas will accept -- if not there is no need for another government.

We tried this with Hamas before. They gave some names for ministerial positions and we contacted the Quartet. Hamas must accept independents to control these ministries. Fatah and Hamas can avoid conflict and independents will provide international acceptance.

Why not form all the government from this large sector of independents? According to Palestinian Basic Law, the government is set up to help the president with internal issues, because political issues are the reserve of the PLO.

Hamas will control this government through their majority in the Palestinian Legislative Council, and it will be just for one year to end the siege and to change the atmosphere around Hamas, the Palestinian Authority (PA) and President Abbas. We need this quietening to start again on the political track.

What does the US require from a Palestinian government to lift the sanctions?

Hamas has to accept President Abbas's political platform, international legitimacy, and the "Arab Initiative". In this case the world will accept and will deal with this new Hamas. They will not lift the siege immediately. They will put them under examination to learn how they can get concessions from Hamas.

Could already conflicting security forces become unwieldy under the control of an independent interior minister?

Yes, but according to Basic Law, the majority of security forces is controlled by the president. What is [Interior Minister] Said Syiam doing now? He is not responsible for security.

Abbas's office controls the Presidential Guard, National Intelligence and National Security. What about the police, Preventive Security Services, and the Executive Forces that are still controlled by the Interior Ministry?

There is a mix between the president and the interior minister. The majority of officers and the soldiers follow Fatah. The minister will face many obstacles to lead these forces. An independent general leading these forces could be a solution.

During all the confrontations in Gaza, the minister and the Executive Forces were involved. They are not neutral; they are a militia of Hamas.

What is Fatah's strategy to maintain the ceasefire with Hamas?

There is no strategy. In Gaza you can find all the parties in one building, so we cannot talk about a strategy to face Hamas militarily in Gaza or anywhere. We can force them to go to elections, and in this case Fatah will try to reform and to restore the PA. I think we can defend ourselves, not more.

Could a civil war erupt between Fatah and Hamas?

We will not go to civil war. Maybe some clashes from time to time, and we can contain that.

Was Hamas's success in recent internal clashes with Fatah a blow to Abbas's call for new elections?

Who knows what will happen after two weeks, but if we look at today's polls President Abbas is still the number one choice in the coming presidential election. Much will depend how Fatah conducts itself. If elections are held in six months I am sure we will win.

Hamas has no policy, only to continue in the PA. They made dangerous concessions to attain power and continue in government.

If you read the document of Ahmed Youssef, Hamas discussed Israeli and American conditions for a state. Fatah refused this political step, and we declared this to Condoleezza Rice and to President Bush. We want a state according to the "roadmap" plan, and with international legitimacy. We will not accept the American or Israeli proposal to form a transitional state in small areas. I think Hamas accepted that.

If fresh elections are held, how will Fatah recapture the hearts of Palestinian voters?

We will create a list combining the forces of the PLO, independents, and civil society groups. We lost the elections due to chaos inside Fatah. We are now in the process of making real reforms.

There are only a few independents in the PLC. They must cooperate with Fatah because it is a national and pragmatic movement and not religious. They must not remind Fatah there is corruption.

The world, the Quartet and the Arab nation awaits a step from the Palestinians to lift the siege and to open the political track.

Has the ideology of Fatah and Hamas moved closer in some ways over the past nine months, since Hamas is adhering to the ceasefire with Israel, accepted previously signed agreements, and will let the PLO negotiate an agreement for peace?

No. We in Fatah are still searching for a practical solution and we have the experience to do that with the Israelis and the Americans. You cannot find harmony between political Islam and nationalist movements in any place. Political Islam wants to control the government alone; they will not accept other parties. Hamas cannot make peace with Israel because they want all of Palestine.

Prime Minister Haniyeh declared that Hamas would accept a Palestinian state along 1967 borders and not more.

They will link this with a "hudna" (truce), not a solution.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Editor's Notes: Riding the waves with Ami Ayalon

Editor's Notes: Riding the waves with Ami Ayalon

Interviewing Ami Ayalon is like unleashing a tidal wave. You posit a question and a great, rolling answer comes pouring out, smashing through the specific inquiry and drenching other, often quite unexpected, areas besides.

Early in the conversation, for instance, unprompted by a direct question, Ayalon was to be found advancing the immensely controversial argument that certain Israeli policies had caused murderous anti-Semitism, protesting that Israel had failed to so much as consider how its killing of Hizbullah leader Abbas Moussawi in Lebanon 15 years ago might come to fatally impact Diaspora Jews (with Hizbullah's subsequent bombings in Buenos Aires of the Israeli Embassy in 1992 and the AMIA community center building in 1994). "The State of Israel was established in order to guarantee the destiny of the Jewish people. But there are cases in the world today where Jews are suffering because of Israel's policies," he went so far as to assert.

Ayalon moved rapidly on to assault the tendency of Israel's political leaders to marginalize their potential rivals - a case of misconceived self-interest taking precedence over the good of the country.

And from there he jumped to a dissection of Israeli society into "five tribes" - Russians, Sephardim, Arabs, Haredim and the rest, a million or so plus per tribe, who "don't read the same papers or literature," and "don't go to the same schools," but "have to live together."

Impassioned and intense, it is easy to envision Ayalon having inspired and sustained subordinates during his years as the commander of the Navy and the head of the Shin Bet. But having made the leap into politics, entering this parliament as No. 6 on the Labor list, Ayalon, 61, has higher goals now. He hopes to wrest the Labor leadership from Amir Peretz in the party's primary in May and - asserting that security and management are two of the only three things he truly understands (the other being agriculture) - set about safeguarding Israelis' future and offering us hope.

Where so many Israelis despair of the possibility of partnering the Palestinians to a viable two-state solution, for Ayalon that prospect is realistic, and we ignore it at our peril.

Along with al-Quds University President Sari Nusseibeh, he has for five years been championing a six-principle path to peace. (In summary it calls for: two states for the two peoples; borders based on June 4, 1967, with the possibility of mutually agreed territorial exchanges; Jerusalem as the capital of both states, with Arab neighborhoods under Palestinian sovereignty, Jewish neighborhoods under Israeli sovereignty, and the "holy basin" under no sovereignty; Palestinian refugees returning only to Palestine and Jews only to Israel; the Palestinian state being demilitarized, and all this constituting the "end of conflict.") And he has collected hundreds of thousands of Israeli and Palestinian signatories to a "People's Voice" petition endorsing this approach.

With arms flowing into Gaza and Kassams flying out, with Hamas refusing to relinquish its opposition to Israel and the Palestinian public refusing to relinquish Hamas, dovish Israeli politicians have an uphill struggle. And a dove Ayalon plainly is, albeit one determined to communicate with his ideological adversaries, and one who does not encourage moderation at all costs, as he makes clear here with a moral evisceration of a policy of restraint that prevents the IDF from firing on Kassam gangs.

Will Labor Party members prove susceptible to Ayalon's credentials and sentiments, even with ex-prime minister Ehud Barak in the race? It's possible. Some polls in the last few days have had Barak leading the pack, but others - including an Israel Radio survey on Thursday - are putting Ayalon ahead. The wider Israeli public? That's a whole other story. But Ami Ayalon, clearly, is not a man to duck a challenge.

So you think you can save the country. What has to be done and how can you do it, if that's not too general a question?

No, a general question is fine. It makes it easier for me to say what I want to say.

But the real question is not what has to be done. Lots of people know what has to be done. The question is much more about the "how" than the "what."

On the big issues, the arguments are small. In the diplomatic sphere, everyone understands that if Israel is to remain Jewish and democratic, it needs a two-state arrangement, and that the path will be very painful and will require us to return settlers. I'm saying nothing new, nothing that is not accepted by 80 percent of the Israeli public...

In so far as it depends on us...

Okay, so now the arguments begin. The arguments over worldview. I tend to the worldview that the future has not been determined, not been set in stone... We can make a difference...

We live in a very complex world. The answers are not simple. I fear that the discussion is so complex that people return to the simplistic answers: "Everyone is against us, stop wasting our time, whatever we do they'll hate us." I don't accept that...

I only know how to do three things... I understand security, agriculture and management... In running any major organization you need to create a leadership team that gathers people from different disciplines and backgrounds who complement each other, not just those who think like you, believe in you and only tell you what you want to hear...

The same goes for politics. The grave mistake that our political leaders have been making is that on winning power they pushed away everybody who might threaten them. So now we're in a battle [for the Labor leadership] and we must never lose sight of the fact that when it's over, we'll all have to work together...

The same goes, incidentally, for the discussion with the settlers of Gaza, Judea and Samaria: Let's not forget, we're all the same people and the discussion about what constitutes a Jewish, democratic state, about what it is we came here to be - I don't have that discussion with myself. I have it with people who have different positions to mine. People who believe in maintaining the whole land of Israel, in a divine promise.

After all, we are five tribes here, not all of whom are Jewish, who have to find a way to live together.

Five tribes?

Russians, Sephardim, Arabs, haredim and the rest - a million or so plus per tribe. We don't read the same papers or literature, we don't go to the same schools, we don't go to the same pubs and yet we have to live together...

We measure ourselves in terms of national growth and yes, that's an important barometer. But if we don't recognize that the [low] barometer of agreement is causing an inability to function together, then the growth won't get us anywhere. And if growth only enriches the top 10% and makes the bottom 50% poorer, then that's another rift... [My thinking on this is] different from most of my political colleagues.

The same goes for the Palestinians. I claim that most of the Palestinians, like most of the Israelis, know more or less how an accord will look and most of us and most of them are prepared to pay the price.

On the Israeli side maybe, but on theirs? Maybe if all of the Palestinians were Sari Nusseibeh...

Well, not all the Palestinians are Sari Nusseibeh and not all the Israelis are Ami Ayalon. The question is, what are the trends? Most of the Palestinians want two states for two people, period. I can prove it. In every survey...

The most representative survey was surely their elections.

No! What are you talking about? Do our election results represent our people's worldviews?

One of our problems is that we don't read Palestinian literature, poetry or newspapers and yet we claim to understand the Palestinians. Most of the Palestinians want an agreement. What's the argument about? As with us, the "how."

There are those who say "the Jews only understand the language of violence and force and so the struggle is the only way." From their perspective, what caused Israel to withdraw from the concept of greater Israel? The first intifada. They say that it prompted the change that led to the Madrid Conference and to Oslo. What made Arik Sharon carry out disengagement? They say, the second intifada.

They say: "We took a historic decision in 1988 - we the PLO - to recognize Israel. And we've been seeking the way forward ever since. In 1993, we decided in essence that we were putting aside the armed struggle. The Palestine national movement split. The 'moderate faction,' headed by Arafat, said, 'Folks, it's two states for two peoples. And the strategy is negotiation.' The second faction, headed by [Farouk] Kaddoumi, stayed in Tunis and said, 'Folks, you're traitors. What about the right of return? What about Greater Palestine? What about 1948?'"

There was a split. Not to mention the terrorist opposition - Hamas and Islamic Jihad and so on. Arafat, at the time backed by most Palestinians, entered negotiations.

I'm not going to talk now about all the mistakes Arafat made in the negotiations. There is no warm place in my heart for Arafat. But from the Palestinian point of view, it's all one big Israeli conspiracy. After all, in 1993 there were 100,000 settlers in Judea, Samaria and Gaza. And they expected fewer settlements, fewer settlers, fewer roadblocks and bypass roads. Yet by 2000, when [the negotiation process] all fell apart, there were 220,000 settlers. Every day, they saw more settlers, more settlements, more roadblocks, more humiliation. And they said, "What's going on here?"

You know when the penny dropped for them? After Baruch Goldstein's murders [at the Cave of the Machpelah] on Purim 1994. They couldn't understand why Rabin didn't take the few Jewish families out of Hebron and move them to Kiryat Arba. Instead, he placed the whole of Arab Hebron under curfew and turned the Cave of the Patriarchs into a place where Muslims have a hard time praying. They said to themselves: "If he can't evacuate a few families after murder, who can promise us that he'll ever evacuate settlements?"

You say you have no "warm place" for Arafat. But apparently you don't think there was a genuine opportunity presented to him [by Israel at Camp David] in 2000.

Of course there was an opportunity.

And he chose not to take it?


So why believe that there was a genuine split between him and the likes of Kaddoumi? When the opportunity arose, he didn't take it. He didn't want it.

He wanted it, but he was afraid.

He was afraid for his fate because he hadn't prepared his people for compromise?


But you say that most of the Palestinians supported him and he wanted coexistence, and yet...

No. Wait a minute. Arafat wanted an agreement. Was the agreement Arafat wanted one we could live with? I can't say.

But what was not ripe in the 1990s is, in my opinion, ripe now.

We mature by breaking taboos. The Oslo process had lots of failings. But it brought us one step forward. For us, it shattered the dream of Greater Israel. For them, it shattered the dream of Greater Palestine.

At the start of the process, in 1993-94, even Rabin didn't talk about evacuating settlements. Let's be straight about this. But that taboo has been broken. At Camp David 2000, with all its failings - and I have a lot of complaints for Ehud Barak - Barak broke the Israeli taboo on Jerusalem and the Jordan Valley. Before Camp David, it was traitorous to speak of [giving] the Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem to Palestine. Today, [Prime Minister] Olmert says it. Today, it is part of the Israeli consensus.

Things have changed there [among the Palestinians] too. What Barak did for us, Arafat did not do for them. On our side, the taboos are broken. On their side, the taboos are now being questioned. And on the Palestinian side, the deepest, most problematic taboo is the right of return. If Prof. Nusseibeh and I have contributed anything to the historical discussion, it lies here: This [the People's Voice principles] is the first and so far only document that makes utterly clear that Palestinians will return only to Palestine, and the Jews only to Israel.

How many Palestinians have signed the document?


It is your belief that, today, most Palestinians are ready for an agreement that we can live with?

Today, yes.

On what basis do you make that claim?

On the basis of surveys.

Surveys that show a readiness to relinquish the demand for a right of return?

No, I present this differently [in surveys that I commission]. You'd never ask, in an Israeli survey, "Are you prepared to evacuate settlers?" What we ask is, "You hear on the radio that Israel and the Palestinians have reached an agreement on two states. Are you in favor or against?" And we set out our six principles. Sixty-seven percent [of Israelis] say yes.

We also add two more elements: One, in addition to the agreement, that Israel will build a security fence along the agreed border - after land swaps, with settlement blocs on our side, and land that will go to them. And two, that Israel will get security guarantees from the international community and America. And we get to 78% support.

On the Palestinian side, we don't add in those two additional elements. We get results between 60 and 65%, depending on the extent to which they feel there is someone to talk to. When they had the sense that Israel was leaving Gaza, and Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] had been elected, and there was a feeling of continuation - after all, the whole question was whether we were leaving Gaza and creating a big Palestinian jail, or leaving Gaza as a pilot for more - the level of support for our view of an agreement [went up]...

If you can build a sense of mutual confidence, most of the public on both sides today [is in favor]. No confidence - no process.

Yet the Palestinian people elected Hamas. How do you change that?

We have to launch a diplomatic initiative. The [summer's] war in Lebanon has paradoxically created an opportunity. It has made plain to the moderate Sunni world around us that we are not the only problem, or even the main problem, in the Middle East. They now recognize that the primary threat to the stability of the Middle East is Iran and its nuclear program. And the second threat, which also threatens their regimes, is the spread of Islamic extremism. The Saudis are terrified.

And this is a wonderful basis to launch a pragmatic, realpolitik initiative. We can't try again to divide the world into good and bad, into right and wrong. We can't demand democracy as a pre-condition.

The whole approach of the neoconservatives - one of whom learned Hebrew and is named Sharansky - is plain wrong in the Middle East context. In this region, democracy put Hamas into power. In conditions of frustration and humiliation and religious-nationalist alienation. It happened too in Algeria. And look what is happening in the political vacuum in Iraq. Democracy is a much more gradual process.

There is an axis of evil - Iraq, Syria, Hizbullah. But there is a moderate axis that balances it. It begins in Morocco and Tunis, passes via Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Turkey, and reaches to the Emirates. This group prioritizes the threats as we do...

So I say, create a pragmatic axis that pushes forward a diplomatic process with three aims: one, stop the spreading influence and empowerment of Iran; two, stop the strengthening and spread of radical Islam; and three, enable a diplomatic process between Israelis and Palestinians. Abu Mazen is part of this axis.

To do this, we have to give up on the erroneous traditional Israeli position that we have to talk to each party alone and can't negotiate with them all together because they'll be stronger. No, I want to talk to everyone who accepts my world view...

If Syria wants to join, by all means: Let it define its priorities in the same way, join the fight against terror like us, and it would be welcome. And I should say, too, that the Saudi initiative is a basis. It's already in the preamble of the road map... Anyone who accepts the fact of Israel's existence, in my view, we should talk with...

If Abu Mazen is the representative of a minority of Palestinians, then he's an Israeli collaborator. But if he is part of a wide, moderate, Sunni, Arab initiative, that weakens Hamas.

Why did the Palestinians choose Hamas? Because of the corruption in Fatah. And because the Fatah strategy had failed. From the Palestinian perspective, the path of struggle and terror prevailed. Again, from their point of view, we only understand the language of force.

After Arafat died, I went to the prime minister [Sharon] and I told him, "Okay, there was an obstacle, but he's gone now. Why don't you go to Abu Mazen and negotiate. Tell him, 'We're going to leave [Gaza]. But if you want the settlements, take them. If you want to house refugees there, fine.'" But this zero-sum game? That if we see smiling Palestinians, it's an Israeli failure? Come on.

The Palestinians chose Hamas. But only 15-17% of the Palestinians accept the fundamentalist approach of Hamas. Beyond that, support for Hamas stemmed from anger at Fatah corruption and recognition that the Hamas strategy works, that the negotiated path doesn't work. But we can change that [and negotiate].

By the way, the notion of negotiating with Syria and not negotiating with Palestinian moderates is a dramatic mistake. The axis of evil is not an ideological alliance. The Syrians are not even Shi'ites. What unifies them is the belief that the path to achievement in the Middle East is supporting terrorism. Why? Because, in their view, that's the only language Israel understands.

It is the problematic connection between Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hizbullah and Syria that Israel needs to break. What's most important is to make clear that the only language that works in the Middle East is the language of negotiation. Facing those who don't negotiate with us, we're strong enough to survive here for another 400 years and fight. But we'll fight only because we want to negotiate and have no partner. That's not the situation today...

An Israeli-Palestinian diplomatic initiative, and the creation of a pragmatic coalition, would also constitute an incredible message in regard to the level of violence against Jewish targets in the Diaspora. There is a connection. And we can impact it.

By extension, should we, now, be sticking to the policy of restraint in Gaza because of the possible impact on the Diaspora?

I favor the policy [of restraint], but there's a limit. It's appropriate if it enables a diplomatic process and strengthens Palestinian moderates. But when it is transformed into orders that prevent the IDF from opening fire on a gang that is about to fire Kassams, it is unconscionable. What are we saying to the residents of Sderot? With all due respect to our desire to bolster the moderates, this is flagrantly immoral and wrong and must be stopped.

Incidentally, statements in favor of a diplomatic process and the parameters of a permanent accord will do much more to bolster Abu Mazen than taking down 40 roadblocks, releasing 20 terrorists or showing restraint that endangers Israeli lives...

How do you suggest dealing with Iran?

Iran is the ultimate threat. Iran is not only threatening us. The most effective way to stop Iran going nuclear is to create that axis that will make every international action all the more effective.

We cannot accept a nuclear Iran. Together with the international community, we need the policy that will stop it. Beyond that, I don't want to discuss this...

We don't need to behave as though we have all the time in the world, but still... Some of the apocalyptic declarations by politicians...

It's not only politicians who are issuing strident warnings.

We live in a complex world. Simplistic solutions don't work anymore. You have to create an atmosphere that enables serious debate. And there's no such atmosphere.

Going back to the Lebanon war, [we're currently] a nation that doesn't know how to take a decision to go to war, to ask questions, to discuss alternatives, not to act with undue haste. We need to broadcast determination and power, but we have to be aware of the limits of power. We have to remember that leadership is tested according to the process by which it decides to go to war, and the way it prepares the army to win and, most importantly, by the way it prevents war. Our leadership doesn't understand this.

What should have been done differently on July 12?

The government of Israel should have summoned the heads of the army and asked for alternatives.

As I said on the day, the prime minister should have appeared on TV and told the world's leaders that Israel's sovereignty had been ruptured, soldiers killed and captured, and that "you, the international community, including Fuad Saniora, have four or five days to return our soldiers safely, and then we'll decide whether or not to respond."

Then, he should have given the order to call up all the reservists and clean out all the bomb shelters and weigh the options. Think all night. Ask the army, what is the state of readiness? Estimate the Lebanese response. Consider the options. Should I launch a three-day air assault, and cause the collapse of the Lebanese infrastructure, and then, with the international community on our side, and the G-8 issuing an unprecedented decision and Saniora begging for a cease-fire, agree to talks at Rosh Hanikra? Or, should I say, "You wanted war, here's a war?"

Do you know how long we prepared for the first Lebanon war? A year and a half. Arik Sharon, Raful Eitan and Menachem Begin, the defense minister, the chief of staff and the prime minister, reached a decision that there was no choice but for a military operation against the terror infrastructure in Lebanon. We spent 18 months preparing until we said, "Okay, we're ready," and then waited for the opportunity. And then they tried to kill the ambassador [Shlomo Argov in London] and we said, "Gentlemen, we're invading Lebanon."

What was the hurry this time? Did anyone seriously think that in a military operation we would get the two soldiers back? Nobody believed that for a moment.

But the [Israeli leadership] did believe that they would destroy Hizbullah?

Then they thought so without asking a single question. Anyone who takes a decision to go to war on the basis of less than two hours discussion shouldn't claim to know anything.

In the security establishment for the past four of five years, the IDF had taken a decision: There will be no surprise war. Israel wants an educational system, growth, revenue, and so it reduced its defense budget. And there was an intifada and the need to prepare for the Iranian threat. So the geostrategic situation was assessed: the Americans are in Iraq, we have peace with Jordan, Syria, with all due respect, will not launch a land grab. There'll be no surprise war.

[And in the event of a change, the assessment ran,] we'll have months to prepare - to do the training and replenish the supplies and buy the spare parts. To get ready, as we did before the 1982 war. That was the mindset. And in such a circumstance, you can't say, "Guys, let's go, two hours, war." It doesn't work like that.

So why did that happen?

That's what you have committees of inquiry for.

Now they say, "We didn't know the army wasn't ready." How can you say you didn't know? "I'd only been defense minister for a month and a half or two. I'm not to blame." [sighs] Listen, I was head of the Shin Bet. I understood no more about the Shin Bet than the defense minister understands about the security establishment. I knew I had one task: to ask hard questions. That's all. Leadership that doesn't know [the answers], must know to ask the questions.

Do you know what is Israel's tragedy? That on July 12, we had a leadership that didn't know to ask questions. And we had a military leadership that didn't know to give answers to questions that hadn't been asked.

In the past, it never happened. In the Six Day War, we had a giant of a chief of staff [Yitzhak Rabin], and even though the defense minister/prime minister [Levi] Eshkol was weak, he [Rabin] knew to give the answers to the questions he wasn't asked.

There's never before been a situation where the entire apparatus failed: the chief of staff, the defense minister, and the prime minister. That's our tragedy.

What's crucial now is determining how the future will look. I come from a place where it is said that if a captain doesn't know his destination, no wind will sail him there. We need to know where we're going. Once you do know, the crew can survive in a stormy sea, without food or water, so long as there is hope. That's the ultimate challenge of leadership today: to create hope.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Rice Seeks Backing Abroad for Iraq Plan

Rice Seeks Backing Abroad for Iraq Plan
Trip to Middle East, Europe Also Aims to Revive Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process

By Glenn Kessler
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 12, 2007; Page A14
With President Bush's plan to boost troops in Iraq facing blistering criticism at home, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice departs today on another difficult sales mission: winning the support of Arabs for the Iraq plan and seeking momentum for a renewed push on Middle East peace.

Rice endured hours of tough questions in both the Senate and House foreign policy panels yesterday over the administration's strategy for Iraq and its diplomacy toward Iraq's neighbors, particularly Iran and Syria. She had prepared for the hearings carefully, anticipating some of the toughest questions at several practice sessions known as "murder boards," and so remained unruffled when lawmakers pummeled her with complaints.
The stakes could not be higher on Rice's week-long trip to Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Germany and Britain. She is trying to knit together her vision of a "new Middle East" from the turmoil and conflict spawned in part by the Iraq war and the rising influence of radical Islamic groups, such as Hezbollah and Hamas. Iran has emerged as a more powerful regional power partly because of U.S. missteps in Iraq. Administration officials say the rise of Iran has to some extent given such historic antagonists as Israel and Saudi Arabia common strategic interests.
Rice has said she sees the turmoil as offering opportunity. "This is a different Middle East," she told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday. "This Middle East is a Middle East in which there really is a new alignment of forces," pitting "reformers and responsible leaders" in Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and the Palestinian territories against "extremists of every sect and ethnicity who use violence to spread chaos, to undermine democratic governments and to impose agendas of hatred and intolerance."
The glue that is supposed to help link the positive forces is a sustained personal effort by Rice to make progress on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, administration officials and diplomats said. Bush has called repeatedly for a "two-state solution" to the conflict, but Arabs and outside analysts have complained that in the past six years the administration has frequently disengaged when the obstacles seemed too great.
Philip D. Zelikow, until earlier this month Rice's counselor at the State Department, said the new effort has "three big pillars," including a comprehensive effort in the Middle East to win support for the Iraqi government and rallying the region to stand up to the extremism of Iran and al-Qaeda.
"Undergirding the rest is an intensified effort on the next phase of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process," Zelikow said, adding that it would include winning greater public backing for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas from Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia.
U.S. officials quietly encouraged Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert recently to say something positive about a 2002 Saudi peace plan that included recognition of Israel as a way of breaking the ice between the Jewish state and the kingdom with Islam's holiest sites. Olmert's predecessor, Ariel Sharon, had shunned the Saudi plan.
In recent months, Rice has initiated a new forum known as the "GCC plus two," which brings together the six nations in the Gulf Cooperation Council with Egypt and Jordan. Arab sources say the participants have agreed to the meetings with great reluctance, believing they could not afford to cross Rice. Another meeting is scheduled for Rice's stop in Kuwait.
A senior administration official acknowledged yesterday there is concern that the forum will be seen as an anti-Iranian alliance but said it has proved to be "quite productive for consultations."
Rice's aides have tried to lower expectations for this round of diplomacy, saying she was mainly hoping to listen to ideas. The official yesterday denied a report in the upcoming issue of Time magazine that Rice had joined with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni in a bid to put aside a previous peace plan known as the "road map" and leap right to final-status talks to bolster Abbas. An Israeli official also denied the report.
Still, diplomats who have met with Rice say they have been impressed with her sense of personal commitment to trying to make a breakthrough this year.
Dennis Ross, a former Middle East envoy who has known Rice since they were both young Soviet specialists in Northern California, said: "I think that Condi is seriously contemplating what she can do. I am not saying she will do it. There is a big difference between contemplating something and doing it."
Indeed, analysts and administration officials acknowledged that the moment is not auspicious for any sort of breakthrough. Abbas is battling against Hamas, which won legislative elections a year ago and refuses to renounce its goal of eliminating Israel. Abbas has suggested he will call elections to end the political crisis, but there is no guarantee that he will win. Meanwhile, Olmert has low approval ratings because of public disapproval of his handling of last summer's war with Hezbollah.
"The moon, the sun and stars are not in auspicious alignment," said Aaron David Miller, a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center and longtime peace negotiator through successive administrations. "With due respect to anyone who wants to deal with this, it has 'loser' written all over it."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Labor holds phone vote on Majdaleh

Labor holds phone vote on Majdaleh

In wake of the political waves caused by Defense Minister and Labor party chairman Amir Peretz's decision to name Labor MK Ghaleb Majdaleh (a Muslim Arab) as Culture, Science, and Sport Minister in place of MK Ophir Paz-Pines, members of Labor's central committee were asked on Friday to vote on Majdaleh's appointment - by phone.

Late Friday afternoon, committee members were contacted by an automated telephone service and asked to press the button that corresponded to their vote: for, against, or abstain.

Some Labor party officials called the telephone vote a "delusional" initiative by Labor Secretary-General Eitan Cabel, and accused Cabel of attempting to circumvent the expenditure that a convention of the central committee to vote on Majdaleh's appointment would incur.

"What would happen if my son answered the telephone - will he vote in my place?" one Labor source asked.

Cabel said in response that the telephone vote would save the party an essential NIS 100,000.

Majdaleh's appointment has raised controversy all along the political spectrum. Right-wing politicians, such as Yisrael Beitenu MK Esterina Tartman, objected in principle to the appointment of a Muslim Arab to a cabinet post. Tartman warned on Thursday that the move would bring about the destruction of Zionism and declared that it marked the "beginning of the destruction of the Jewish people.

Labor MKs and ministers, while voicing no objection to Majdaleh on the basis of his ethnicity, insisted that Peretz's decision was "cynical," and timed to improve his standing among Labor's Arab voter base as the party's leadership race gathers momentum.

"The dirty deal of Peretz and Majadleh is a new record in cynicism and insulting the intelligence of Israeli voters," Paz-Pines said. "It proves how low the party has fallen, that it has lost its path, and that it must go through a transformation or it will lose its right to exist and vanish from the political map. It's proper that Israel have an Arab minister but this appointment was made solely to aid Peretz's re-election campaign."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Abbas: Aim guns against occupation

Abbas: Aim guns against occupation

Khaled Abu Toameh staff, THE JERUSALEM POST Jan. 11, 2007

Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday called on
Palestinians to refrain from internal fighting and to direct their guns only
against Israeli "occupation."

Abbas, speaking during a rally marking the 42nd anniversary of the founding
of his Fatah party, told thousands of supporters that the Palestinian
struggle would continue until the establishment of an independent
Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital. He also expressed
opposition to the idea of establishing a Palestinian state with temporary

'Disloyalty' bill passes first hurdle

"The issue of the refugees is non-negotiable," Abbas said. "We will not give
up one inch of land in Jerusalem and we consider the settlements illegal. We
also reject any attempt to resettle the refugees in other countries."

MK Ahmed Tibi, who represented Israeli Arabs at the rally, said: "Fatah was
the first group to launch the revolution, and Palestine and Fatah will
remain. The liberation of Palestine is a long process, and the path is full
of obstacles. The Palestinians will continue their struggle until the
liberation of the land and the establishment of a Palestinian state."

Tibi also condemned what he termed "Israeli crimes against Palestinians,"
including children.

Before the speech, Abbas placed a wreath on the tomb of his predecessor
Yasser Arafat at the Mukata "presidential" compound. Sources close to Abbas
estimated the number of the Palestinians who attended Thursday's rally at
more than 250,000. They claimed that thousands of Fatah supporters from
other parts of the West Bank were unable to reach Ramallah because of IDF
checkpoints. However, local reporters put the figure at less than 50,000.

The rally, seen as a show of support for Abbas and Fatah in their ongoing
power struggle with Hamas, is the second of its kind this week. Earlier,
tens of thousands of Palestinians participated in a massive rally in Gaza
City marking the same event. The main speaker at that rally was Fatah
representative Muhammad Dahlan, who condemned Hamas as a "bunch of

Unlike Dahlan, Abbas refrained in his speech from attacking Hamas, although
he reiterated his willingness to hold early presidential and parliamentary
elections and to pursue his efforts to form a unity government with the
Islamic movement.
"When Fatah was established, it was accused of treason and we were chased in
every place," Abbas told the crowd. "But with the will and determination of
its sons, Fatah has and will continue. We will not give up our principles
and we have said that rifles should be directed against the occupation."

Appealing to Palestinians to avoid civil war, Abbas said: "We are all one
people regardless of differences of opinion. My top priority is to preserve
national unity, because Palestinian infighting and blood are a red line that
must not be crossed."
Defending his call to use weapons against Israel, he added: "We have a
legitimate right to direct our guns against Israeli occupation. It is
forbidden to use these guns against Palestinians. The occupation has
perpetrated brutal attacks in Jenin, Beit Hanun and Ramallah."

Referring to the growing state of anarchy and lawlessness in PA-controlled
territories, Abbas said he was strongly opposed to the presence of militias
and weapons on the streets. He also condemned as criminal a series of
attacks on several businesses, figures and vehicles belonging to Hamas
supporters and officials in Ramallah earlier this week.

Abbas also appealed to Iraqi President Jalal Talibani to halt "massacres"
against Palestinians living in Iraq.

Hamas dismissed Abbas's speech as unrealistic, saying it was full of empty
slogans. Hamas spokesman Ismail Radwan said Abbas's remarks about national
unity were designed to "beautify the face of those Fatah leaders who are
involved in attempts to topple the Hamas government."

In an unrelated development, Fatah gunmen announced Thursday that the main
square in the Jenin refugee camp has been named after former Iraqi president
Saddam Hussein. Zakariya Zubeidi, the local commander of Fatah's armed wing,
Aksa Martyrs Brigades, said the decision was taken in honor of Saddam's
support for the Palestinians over the past 25 years

Continued (Permanent Link)

Rice to propose 'new ideas' to Abbas

Rice to propose 'new ideas' to Abbas
Herb Keinon, THE JERUSALEM POST Jan. 12, 2007

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is set to propose "new ideas" to
Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas during her trip to the region,
according to a statement released by officials from the PA chairman's office
on Friday.

In addition, Abbas is due to suggest an alternate plan for the establishment
of a Palestinian state, namely, a temporary state in accordance with the
route of the security fence, the officials said.

On Thursday, diplomatic sources said that the US administration was
concerned by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's weak public standing and unsure of
what or how much he can deliver, on the eve of Rice's journey.

According to the sources, Olmert's political woes have undermined his
stature in the eyes of the administration, and although he is liked
personally in Washington he is not deemed a leader with the political
capital able to deliver - an assessment similar to the one Washington has of

Rice rejects dialogue with Iran, Syria

For this reason, according to diplomatic sources in Jerusalem, it was
unlikely that Rice would be carrying any dramatic initiative with her on her
current visit. Instead, her trip to Israel and the Palestinian Authority has
been described as a "fact-finding" mission designed to determine what can
realistically be expected, considering the complicated domestic situations
facing both Abbas and Olmert.

Rather than coming here with a concrete plan or with the intention of trying
to impose anything on the parties, Rice was expected to concentrate on
trying to achieve progress in specific areas, such as improving the
humanitarian situation in the territories and looking for ways to curb

Rice, who was last here in the beginning of October, is scheduled to arrive
Saturday night and hold separate meetings with Defense Minister Amir Peretz,
Strategic Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Foreign Minister Tzipi

Both Peretz and Livni - independent of Olmert - have recently floated
diplomatic plans that are variations on the Quartet-
backed road map. Rice is expected to try to clarify these positions to get a
clearer sense of Israeli government policy.

A State Department official declined to comment on whether the various plans
coming out of Israel were adding confusion to the American diplomatic
efforts, saying, "We're confident that we can move the process forward

The official said that the road map "remains the agreed-upon process for
advancing the peace process, and obviously we
want to engage the parties to work very hard on implementing the
requirements of the road map." In terms of Rice offering new initiatives, he
said, "I don't think that's a direction we're heading in."

Meanwhile, President of Palestinian Authority's Hamas-led government, Ismail
Haniyeh, said Rice's visit is meant to bypass the chosen leaders of the
Palestinian people.

"This visit is part of American-Zionists efforts to bypass the results of
the elections, but the Palestinian nation will not accept this external
interference before its eyes," Haniyeh said.

Rice is scheduled to meet with Abbas in Ramallah on Sunday, and then go to
Jordan for a meeting with King Abdullah. She will return to Jerusalem that
evening and meet with Olmert on Monday. From there she will go to Egypt,
Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain.

Her meetings in the Arab countries are expected to concentrate on Iran as
well as what those countries can do to provide more assistance to Abbas.

This will be Rice's first visit to the region since the Baker-Hamilton
report recommended more intensive US engagement to solve the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israeli sources said that politically, the
administration "wants to show that they're trying everything they can."

Hilary Leila Krieger contributed to this report.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Likud 29 seats Kadima 12, Labor 18 Yisrael Beiteinu 14

Poll: Likud 29 seats Kadima 12, Labor 18 Yisrael Beiteinu 14
Dr. Aaron Lerner     Date: 12 January 2007

The following are the results of a Dialog telephone poll of a representative
sample of 500 adult Israelis (including Arab Israelis) supervised by Prof.
Camille Fuchs of  Tel Aviv University carried out "in the middle of the
week" of 12 January 2007 for Haaretz. Statistics error +/- 4.9 percentage

Percentage satisfied with performance of:
Ehud Olmert  as prime minister 14%
Amir Peretz as defense minister 10%
Tzipi Livni  as foreign minister 51%

If elections were held today how would you vote (expressed in mandates).
Actual Knesset today in [brackets]
12 [29] Kadima
18 [19] Labor
29 [12] Likud
10 [11] Shas
14 [11] Yisrael Beteinu
09 [09] Nat'l Union/NRP
04 [07] Retirees Party
07 [06] Yahadut Hatorah
06 [05] Meretz
11 [10] Arab parties

If Ehud Barak is elected chairman of the Labor Party would this increase or
decrease your leaning towards voting for Labor in the elections?

Total: Increase 16% Reduce 41% No change 43%
Among Labor supporters: Increase 41% Weaken 27% No change 31%

Who among the following from the Labor Party is most appropriate for the
position of prime minister?

Total: Ayalon 28% Barak 18% Pines 16% Peretz 4% Other answers 34%
Labor supporters: Ayalon 33% Barak 40% Pines 11% Peretz  18% Other answers
4% [does not add up to 100%]

Who among the following candidates to head Labor  is most appropriate for
the position of minister of defense?
Total:  Ayalon 35% Barak 23% Yatom 14% Peretz 5% Other answers 23%
Labor supporters: Ayalon 38% Barak 37% Yatom 4% Peretz 10% Other answers 11%

Haaretz 12 January 2007

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

For free regular subscription:
Subscribe at no charge:

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Continued (Permanent Link)

IDF keeps a wary eye on Egypt

IDF keeps a wary eye on Egypt
Yaakov Katz, THE JERUSALEM POST Jan. 11, 2007

While the IDF's main concerns for 2007 focus on Lebanon, Syria and Iran,
there is growing anxiety within the defense establishment regarding the
stability of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's regime and the possibility
that an Islamic takeover there could lead to war with Israel.

The IDF's work plan for the coming year includes a section dedicated to
"finding answers to counter Western military equipment in the region."

While refraining from directly mentioning Egypt, but strongly hinting to it,
high-ranking officers warned this week that while certain countries in the
region might appear to be stable, they could easily collapse.

What is most troubling for Israel is that Egypt, the recipient - like
Israel - of $1.3 billion in annual US military aid, has in recent years
built up a powerful and massive, Westernized military force.

Egypt recently increased its defense expenditures by some 30 percent and has
ballistic missiles from North Korea and missile patrol boats from Germany,
as well as F-16 combat jets, Abrams tanks and Apache helicopters. Egypt has
450,000 regular troops as compared to Israel's tens of thousands.

"What is going on in Egypt is certainly a point of concern," said a defense
official, who asked to remain unnamed due to the sensitivity of the issue.
He wondered out loud why Egypt needed such a strong military when, except
for Israel, its neighbors - Libya and Sudan - barely had functioning

As long as Mubarak remains in power, the official said, Israel doesn't need
to worry. "But the moment he falls and the Muslim Brotherhood takes over we
could find ourselves facing a new front," he warned.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Who Is The Real Criminal?

Who Is The Real Criminal?

An Open Letter to an Israeli Friend

Ehud Tokatly

Hebrew Version:

We tried to talk about war crimes recently, but it seems that we both lost our tempers. Let's try to discuss this in writing, shall we?

I was upset because you stated as a fact that IDF soldiers were guilty of war crimes. You mentioned Beit Hanun as an example, where Palestinian civilians were killed by IDF shelling. I know that some Israelis agree with you. That's exactly what worries me.

What is a crime?

You used the term 'crime'. The word has two conventional meanings - a legal offence and an ethical one. As the debate went on, you added another dimension - a crime in a political sense. So I also added a category - the spiritual context. Let's try to examine each of these aspects.

What is a War Crime?

A 'war crime' is a term defined by international law. We cannot write a whole doctoral thesis here, so let's just look at a few basic facts.

Since the foundation of the United Nations, its charter is regarded as the constitutional foundation of 'international law', along with the Geneva Conventions that determine the rules of 'international humanitarian law'.

A Crime against the U.N. Charter

The U.N. Charter rules in Article 2/4: "All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations."

Has Israel ever violated this prohibition? Has it ever attacked or threatened another country with the object of eliminating it? Or perhaps all 22 members of the Arab League, plus other states and organizations, have declared openly that their goal is to destroy the sovereign State of Israel?

Before we go on to discuss the methods of war, let us agree that anyone who calls for the destruction of a U.N. member state is a criminal according to international law and that the legal status of the aggressor is inferior to that of a law-abiding state. Any person or entity that objects to Israel's very existence is guilty of incitement to commit genocide and of breaching the constitution of international law.

A Crime against the Geneva Convention

Many people quote the Fourth Geneva Convention, which demands that all states avoid harming any civilian population. Whenever enemy civilians are hit by IDF fire, we hear that Israel is guilty of crimes against these rules. Yet these quotations are blatantly partial and prejudiced.

I wholeheartedly agree that any deliberate attack on defenseless civilians is an outrageous crime against humanity. If there were deviations from the official IDF policy, such as soldiers who abused Arab civilians, I totally support taking severe measures against the offenders.

The additional protocol to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949 that entered into force on 7 December 1979, stated that "the civilian population and individual civilians shall enjoy general protection against dangers arising from military operations" (Article 51/1) and that "Acts or threats of violence the primary purpose of which is to spread terror among the civilian population are prohibited" (Article 51/2). Furthermore, Article 51/4 states that "Indiscriminate attacks are prohibited. Indiscriminate attacks are: (a) Those which are not directed at a specific military objective; (b) Those which employ a method or means of combat which cannot be directed at a specific military objective; or (c) Those which employ a method or means of combat the effects of which cannot be limited as required by this Protocol; and consequently, in each such case, are of a nature to strike military objectives and civilians or civilian objects without distinction."

Sounds familiar? Do these definitions describe accurately the IDF's mode of operation, or perhaps the terror attacks and rocket bombardments by the Fatah, Hamas and Hezbollah? These terrorists do not even try to hide that their targets are almost always civilian and not military! Their operations against civilians are not only indiscriminate, but also openly deliberate.

Even one of Israel's sharpest critics, Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, said: "Lobbing rockets blindly into civilian areas is without doubt a war crime. Nothing can justify this assault on the most fundamental standards for sparing civilians the hazards of war." Can we agree at this point that these terrorists are certainly war criminals?

The IDF obeys the Geneva Convention

The clause that is more applicable to IDF operations states clearly: "Civilians shall enjoy the protection afforded by this Section, unless and for such time as they take a direct part in hostilities" (Article 51/3).

When an Israeli warplane drops a bomb on a building that houses a terror base, can you claim that the civilians that supply food and shelter to the terrorists are not involved in the hostilities? Will you also claim that the cook and the quartermaster in your reserves' unit are entitled to be protected by the Geneva Convention as uninvolved civilians because they were not carrying guns at the time of the attack?

Do you think that I'm inventing this interpretation? Let's read clause 51/7 of the same protocol: "The presence or movements of the civilian population or individual civilians shall not be used to render certain points or areas immune from military operations, in particular in attempts to shield military objectives from attacks or to shield, favour or impede military operations. The Parties to the conflict shall not direct the movement of the civilian population or individual civilians in order to attempt to shield military objectives from attacks or to shield military operations."

The protocol's Article 58 rules clearly that the "Parties to the conflict shall, to the maximum extent feasible: (a) ... endeavour to remove the civilian population, individual civilians and civilian objects under their control from the vicinity of military objectives; (b) Avoid locating military objectives within or near densely populated areas; (c) Take the other necessary precautions to protect the civilian population, individual civilians and civilian objects under their control against the dangers resulting from military operations."

The protocol contains detailed rules, derived from Article 28 of the Fourth Geneva Convention: "The presence of a protected person may not be used to render certain points or areas immune from military operations."

Is it not clear who is responsible for the regrettable deaths of Arab civilians, who are deliberately used by the terrorists as human shields? Not only the terror attacks constitute crimes against humanity, but also the very presence of armed combatants among civilian population is a gross violation of the Geneva Convention. Therefore, in plain legal terms, the terror organizations are undoubtedly guilty of crimes against international humanitarian law and are exclusively responsible for the casualties on both sides - Israelis and Arabs alike!

What do humanitarian organizations do against these criminals? Not only they refrain from any legal action against the terrorist criminals, they also try to obstruct any attempt of self-defense by law-abiding states.

International Law obligates Israel to strike against the terrorists

The actions of the IDF against the terrorists are based primarily on Israel's legal right to defend itself. Any nation, in any point of history, has acted more fiercely than Israel against ruthless enemies who attacked its population.

Moreover, Israel is not only exercising its legal right, but in fact, fulfilling its legal obligation! Israel is one of the very few states that follow the letter and the spirit of binding U.N. resolutions against international terrorism. International law demands that all states combat terrorism. U.N. General Assembly Resolution of 17 February 1995 urged all U.N. member states "in accordance with the provisions of the Declaration, to take all appropriate measures at the national and international levels to eliminate terrorism;"

The annex to this resolution stated (clause 1): "The States Members of the United Nations solemnly reaffirm their unequivocal condemnation of all acts, methods and practices of terrorism, as criminal and unjustifiable, wherever and by whomever committed, including those which jeopardize the friendly relations among States and peoples and threaten the territorial integrity and security of States;" and clause 5 stated that "States must also fulfil their obligations Under the Charter of the United Nations and other relevant rules of International Law with respect to combating international terrorism and are urged to take effective and resolute measures in accordance with the relevant provisions of international law and international standards of human rights for the speedy and final elimination of international terrorism..."

Hence, we are looking at an amazing situation, where one side is undoubtedly guilty of war crimes, yet the 'enlightened' circles support it legally, morally and politically, while they accuse the other side, which obeys the letter and the spirit of the law. How can this happen?

Israel fulfills a moral duty

Some people don't let the facts confuse them. Having failed to bend and misquote international law, they try their luck with Universal Morality.

There are cases where IDF commanders admit that a technical error has occurred and even express regret over the unnecessary casualties. Anyone who has ever served in Israel's army knows that there has never been and never will be an Israeli policy of deliberate targeting of civilians. Although their "innocence" is highly dubious, enemy civilians are beyond limits. But the occasional admissions of IDF mistakes play into the hands of Israel's enemies, who turn the confirmations of unintentional errors into confessions of moral guilt.

So let us talk about morality.

I doubt very much if you practice in your private life the type of morality that you preach in politics. Should someone attempt to rape your daughter in front of your eyes, I bet you would simply smash his face. The court may find you guilty of taking the law into your hands, but I'm sure that you will still feel morally right. Am I right or am I right?

But when it gets to politics, some people find it convenient to adopt moral hypocrisy. Many pseudo-liberals suddenly turn into semi-pacifists who demand that we turn our other cheek. Provided, of course, that the cheek is not their own private daughter's.

Apparently, there is an abstract principle called 'generality', or in legal jargon - the value of equality before the law. As soon as you ignore this, there is no more law and no more ethical codes. We often hear that two wrongs don't make a right, but where does it say that two rights must produce a wrong?

Please explain to me, how is it that super criminals can deliberately butcher tens of thousands of civilians in Rwanda, Darfur, Chechnya, Syria and hundreds of other places, without any humanitarian organization ambushing them with legal warrants in Western airports? How can the "enlightened" media report that Israel has carried out a "massacre" of a dozen civilians when a bomb or a missile unintentionally missed their targets, while the brutal genocide in Sudan is described as "a tragedy"? How do you expect me to take you seriously when you ignore horrific crimes around the world and blow up a few mistakes into a collective moral accusation? Which particular moral system are you following?

In my humble opinion, there is a totally different moral issue here. In liberal democracies, the supreme duty of the government is to protect the civil and human rights of its citizens. The first and most important human right, upon which all other rights are based, is the right to live. A government that understands the nature of the moral contract between citizens and their country has a fundamental duty to provide them with personal safety and collective security. Without this basis, there is not free society.

As long as you cannot prove a malicious intention of Israel's authorities, or any of its citizens, to murder peaceful civilians in Gaza or Lebanon, you have no foundation for a moral accusation against the IDF and its actions. On the contrary, one may question the moral motives of those who oppose our right for self-defense.

Strength provides a chance for peace

Toward the end of our discussion, you coined an interesting expression. You defined the IDF operations as 'political crimes', which damage the slim chance of making peace with the Arabs. As soon as you switched to politics, you have spilled the beans. One may hold any political view, but as long as we live in a free society, one may not demonize the views of legitimate political rivals. By branding a large part of the views represented in the Knesset as criminal opinions, you are taking Israel closer to Bolshevik standards and further away from the values of Western democracies.

The fascinating aspect of this phenomenon (you are not the only one) is that the very circles that claim to represent progress, peace, justice and liberalism, tend to attack other opinions with arguments that are as far removed from democratic values as Washington and London are far from Havana and Caracas. This may show how shallow are the roots of Israeli liberalism.

Well, at least I don't think of your views as "a crime". If after everything that happened in Israel since Oslo, and especially after Sharon's "disengagement" and the second Lebanon War, you can still believe that Israeli restraint and concessions to the terrorists can bring peace, then I must confess that I envy you. It seems that you have a particularly pure and noble faith that remains entirely unshakable by the grim reality. I wish I could adopt such a firm mystical belief in my own political views.

Moreover, being a devout liberal, I shall always struggle to defend your right to freely express your peculiar views. Even if you call me a criminal, I shall continue to defend your right to attack me ad hominem instead of rationally addressing my arguments, which is unfortunately quite prevalent in Israel.

As for your specific point, it seems to me that reality in the last few decades has shown that the goal of achieving peace may be better served through a resolute policy against the enemies of peace, namely the terrorists. Modern appeasement seems to increase violence and aggression, not love and peace. I find it extremely hard to understand liberal elements in the West that support brutal regimes and insane terror organizations. I just can't follow the logic of Western feminists who support with great enthusiasm radical Islamists, who enslave women, abuse them physically and mentally and degrade human values to primeval depths.

Have you noticed which parts of the world do not suffer from terrorism? In countries that are dominated by the new appeasers, terrorism is rapidly rising, but in Syria, for example, there is no such problem. I haven't really heard of much terror in Cuba or North Korea, have you? Now don't put in my mouth the idea that I wish to fashion Israel's regime after the Syrian or Cuban models. Yet the fact remains that terrorists on the whole do not like messing up with strong guys.

As long as terror organizations and ruthless dictators continue to control the minds of the Muslim masses, there will be no peace. Anyone who knows anything about the Islamic world will admit that one must be strong and generous to make peace with them. This is my own opinion and I think that I'm basing it on hard facts. But of course, you are entitled to disagree with me. In any case, neither one of us is "a criminal" due to his political view.

The real danger

Allow me to introduce a fourth aspect. Having shown that Israel is neither legally nor morally guilty of war crimes, and since the notion of a politically criminal thought cannot be acceptable in a free society, one may wonder why so many people around the world devote their energies to hound Israeli soldiers and politicians? There must be a rational explanation to the embarrassing scenes, where IDF officers run away from London or New Zealand to the first plane that flies to Tel-Aviv.

The only reason I can think of is rather simple. We are looking at an attempt to defeat the Jewish State through spiritual persecution. The enemies of Israel are trying to beat the Jews where they hurt the most - in their sense of justice. These hostile elements know full well that they cannot simply drive their tanks and finish the Jewish story once and for all. Firstly, because these Israelis have an unpleasant tendency to unite and defend themselves when faced with real dangers. And secondly, because they still have some powerful friends who might try to stop a second Jewish holocaust.

Therefore, they understand that they first need to criminalize the Israeli-Jewish collective. They must remove that transparent layer that has covered them since Biblical times. They need to show that these are not the real Jews, but rather some Nazis in an insidious disguise. Once they manage to sufficiently demonize the Jews, they would be able to finish the job that Herr Hitler started. After all, no one in the West objected to the utter destruction inflicted upon Nazi Germany. Criminalizing the Jewish State is the only way of achieving a truly final solution of the Jewish problem.

In spiritual terms, we are witnessing a great struggle between the forces that seek to rid the world from the disturbing presence of the Jewish race and the few who understand that after the Jews will come all the others. You don't need to be a great expert to understand the open declarations of the radical Islamist leaders. They admit with total honesty that after the Jews they will go after the "Crusaders", the homosexuals, the Free Masons and so forth.

The most astounding thing is the passion with which some Israelis work to prosecute IDF soldiers, both in Israel and abroad. I find it hard to believe that they understand the real goal which they are serving. I would like to believe that most of them are fine, but hopelessly naive people, who honestly desire to remove any moral stains that may have blemished the Jews. Yet, the fact remains that these Israelis are currently assisting an enormous campaign of preparing the ground for the next Jewish holocaust.

Such people were defined by Sir Winston Churchill thus: "An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile - hoping it will eat him last."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Sharon warned Bush: Arabs would not take to democracy

Sharon warned Bush: Arabs would not take to democracy
Former prime minister Ariel Sharon told President George W. Bush ahead of the US-led invasion of Iraq of the dangers Saddam Hussein posed for the region, but also warned him that the Arab world would not be receptive to democracy, former ambassador to the US Danny Ayalon told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.

Ayalon, who sat in on numerous Bush-Sharon meetings, said the US and Israel held close consultations during the run-up to the war, but that Sharon was very careful not to advocate any particular American action.

Ayalon said he served as "Sharon's watchdog," ensuring that when officials from the Defense or Foreign ministries came to Washington they would give US officials a "true analysis, but never cross the line of recommending policy."

Israel, Ayalon said, did not tell the Americans what they should do, since Sharon was "astute and careful enough" to realize that this could lead to future accusations that Israel led the US into Iraq. But, Ayalon said, Bush did receive Sharon's analysis of the situation.

According to Sharon, Saddam was an acute threat, and he supported his analysis by pointing to the Iraqi dictator's conduct during the Iran-Iraq War; his launching of 39 Scud missiles at Israel, and more than 40 at Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain, during the first Gulf War; his material and logistical support for terrorists; and his track record of intimidating his neighbors.

In addition, Ayalon said the Saddam threat factor was driven home by the intelligence information that "we all shared" that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, "especially in the chemical area."

Another element involved in these analyses was the fact that despite Israel's bombing of Iraq's Osirak nuclear plant in 1981, Iraq still had the blueprints and technological know-how to create nuclear weapons, "and it was just the matter of finding the right moment to put their program back on track in a fast manner."

Regarding democratization of the region, Ayalon said Sharon told Bush it would take a long time, and "the president understood that this was something that would not be done overnight.

"Based on his intimate knowledge of the Arab world, Sharon was skeptical of the idea that Arab societies were ready to receive democratic culture," Ayalon said.

Former Sharon spokesman Ra'anan Gissin, meanwhile, said Sharon "used his expertise on guerrilla warfare" during his discussions with Bush, and advised that before trying to impose democracy on Iraq it was necessary to bring about stability.

Gissin said Sharon told Bush that whatever he decided, the US would eventually leave the region, but Israel would have to stay and deal with the consequences of US action or inaction.

Gissin described one meeting where Sharon gave Bush a "lecture on how to deal with counterinsurgency," and discussed with him in detail the need to isolate Iraq, prevent the flow of money and weapons and keep the insurgents under constant pressure.

According to Gissin, Sharon was adamant that no Israeli official should speak publicly about what the US should do. However, he said, in the private meetings Sharon warned against "putting the cart before the horse, and said that there can't be democracy without stability."

Gissin said Sharon also warned Bush that democratization would drive a wedge between the US and its moderate Arab allies in the region - Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the Persian Gulf countries - who were worried about what this democratization would mean for their regimes.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Theater as Russian Roulette, With a Blast That's Soon to Sound
November 17, 2006

Theater as Russian Roulette, With a Blast That's Soon to Sound

A subgenre of suicide-bomber theater and film has been percolating for the last few years, most of it one-dimensional: a central character is revealed to be — gasp! — a fully wired suicide bomber; will he or she press the button?

Iris Bahr, though, has a wholly different approach in "Dai (Enough)," her extremely unnerving one-woman show at the Culture Project. Bombing isn't a possibility, it's a fact of life, and if nothing else this production gives you a visceral sense of what it must be like to live in Israel, Iraq or any other hot spot where death strikes quickly and often.

The play is set in a Tel Aviv cafe, and we all know what inevitably happens at Tel Aviv cafes. Ms. Bahr, who wrote the show, portrays 10 different customers in the restaurant, as well as the hard-bitten British newswoman whose interviewing assignment is the framing device that allows them to tell their stories.

Ms. Bahr gives us just enough of each character to set up a small storyline and sketch in a personality; then terrorism intercedes in jarring fashion. Will Pomerantz, the director, and Frank Gaeta, the sound designer, have no interest in subtlety when it comes to these moments of reckoning. It's theater as Russian roulette, waiting for the shattering noise. It ultimately becomes a distraction, intruding on Ms. Bahr's performance, but it also registers at the gut level. This is one show you are likely to be feeling for days afterward.

The play, though, isn't merely about lives cut short. The fickleness of death, whether by terrorist act or tsunami or car crash, is hardly a new theme. The real issue is whether Ms. Bahr's characters — all impressively drawn, though a few sometimes speak too quickly to be understood — have anything new to tell us in their brief onstage lives.

When the subject is the Middle East standoff, they don't. Though Ms. Bahr, who was born in the Bronx but moved to Israel at 12, dutifully covers the full range of viewpoints, her script naturally slants pro-Israel. It would have been better if she had not also sprinkled it with phrases that read as gratuitous propaganda. ("Did you know Israel has more biotech companies than anywhere in the world outside Silicon Valley?" a Palestinian professor asks for no particular reason.) The question of balance, though, hardly matters; the weariness of all of these arguments does. As the title says, enough.

Far more interesting is a thread Ms. Bahr works about whether Israel is a homeland that Jews come to or a place that Jews flee. For some of her characters, New York is the promised land. Others, though, find themselves drawn to Israel in spite of themselves, and in spite of the danger.

Half of Ms. Bahr's cafe customers are not local, and by the end of "Dai" you start to suspect that the characters were determined by what the actress had in her bag of accents. The play begins to feel like a "walks into a bar" joke: a gay German, a Russian prostitute, a Southern Bible-thumper and a Puerto Rican actress walk into a cafe. ... Artificial or not, however, the play has a literal and figurative jolt that's undeniable.

"Dai" is in an open-ended run at the Culture Project, 45 Bleecker Street, at Lafayette Street, East Village; (212) 307-4100.

Continued (Permanent Link)

They Wish To Shut Our Voice [by Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury]

The Jewish Week, New York, (01/12/2007)
They Wish To Shut Our Voice
by Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury
Editor's Note: The author is a journalist on trial and facing the death penalty in his country for praising Jews and Christians, attempting to travel to Israel and opposing Islamic militants, according to the presiding judge. The author, who submitted this essay to The Jewish Week, has received support from the State Department and members of Congress. He was given the Moral Courage Award by the American Jewish Committee in May.
Dhaka, Bangladesh — Islamist radicals are intolerant. They don't want anyone to raise a voice and say "enough to the increasing trend of spreading religious hatred and provoking people with the false interpretations of Koran."
For example, they say, "Jews and Christians are your enemies, go for jihad [holy war] against them." Islamofascist clerics openly give sermons preaching that the Koran forbids taking Jews and Christians for friends, but in fact the verse refers to a time when Islam was developing and is merely cautioning against depending on Judaism and Christianity for your understanding of religion, for guidance in theology, etc.
Islam surely does not forbid friendship between Muslims and non-Muslims; in fact, a Muslim man can take a Jewish or a Christian woman as his wife and mother of his children.
Certainly the Islamist radicals are waiting to execute voices like those who oppose their call for "holy war." 
I have faced persecution since 2003 when I first wrote in my newspaper, Weekly Blitz, about how the jihadists were being bred in madrassas [Islamic religious schools] and kindergarten madrassas. We wrote that cadres for the militant organizations have been recruited from the thousands of madrassas that have mushroomed throughout the country. Many are located along the Indian border in the West and North, where young radicals from both countries are taught the virtues of Orthodox Islam.
Funding for the madrassas comes from donations from local communities and international Islamic charities, such as the Saudi Arabia-based and immensely wealthy Rabitat Al Alam Al Islami.
The madrassas fill an important function in a country where basic education is available only to a few, especially in the impoverished countryside, but, as Bangladeshi journalist Salahuddin Babar said: "Once the students graduate from the madrassas, they either join mosques as imams or similar religious-related jobs. There are … thousands of mosques, so there is employment in that field. But they find it difficult to get employment in secular institutions. Certain quarters grab this opportunity to brainwash them, make them into religious fanatics rather than modern Muslims."
According to latest estimates, there are at least 64,000 madrassas in Bangladesh, most of which are beyond any form of governmental control or supervision. Moderate Muslims note that the Taliban was born in similar madrassas in Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Province and in Afghan refugee camps, where they promoted a new radical and extremely militant model for Islamic revolutions.
Evil forces became active in suffocating my voice by bringing ridiculous and false charges against me of sedition, treason and blasphemy. To justify their notoriety, they said, "By praising the Jews and Christians, by demanding relations between Bangladesh and Israel and by forecasting the so-called rise of Islamist militancy in this country," I have tarnished the image of Bangladesh in the international arena.
Almost every month, I have to face a radically inclined judge in Dhaka, who has the absolute power to award me capital punishment for my "crime" mentioned above. In 2006 alone they tried twice to kill me, while my family and I live in extreme danger at all times.
Radical Islamist leader, Noor Hussain Noorani, personally threatened my life, terming me an "agent of Ahmadis." Noorani heads the radical Khatmey Nabuat Movement (KNM), which clashed with police several times when it tried to attack the Ahmadi prayer services in Bangladesh. The Ahmadi is a Muslim group that has angered fundamentalists with its belief that Muhammad was not the final prophet, and its belief in the crucifixion of Jesus.
The reason behind Noorani's anger was publication of a number of articles and editorials in Weekly Blitz exposing the nasty attack on the Ahmadi community by Islamofascists.
These threats were not new to me. When I was arrested on Nov. 29, 2003 and sent to prison, some of the prisoners, who were considered to be supporters of Saddam Hussein or Osama bin Laden, tried to physically assault me or even kill me inside the prison.
Some of my friends abroad say I should leave Bangladesh and take asylum abroad. But to me, there is no dignity or honor in retreating from my mission of peace. I know for sure, if I will retreat from this very "battlefield," which is filled with religious fanatics, or abandon my mission, anyone else might think twice before raising a strong voice to say no to jihad.
I am grateful for the support of many friends and admirers around the world, although their concern has yet to prod Bangladesh authorities to resist Islamic radicals.
The case brought against me possibly stands as proof that Bangladesh is not deserving of its claim to be a moderate Muslim nation. n
Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury is the publisher and editor of Weekly Blitz (, published from Dhaka, Bangladesh.
Special To The Jewish Week

Continued (Permanent Link)

: Early 19th century US Zionist, Prof. George Bush, JWR, 01/10/07

Jewish World Review Jan. 10, 2007 / 20 Tevet, 5767
An Idea That Goes Way Back
By Jonathan Tobin

New book shows U.S. involvement in the Middle East long preceded
In 1844, a biblical scholar and professor of Hebrew at New York University published a pamphlet urging the establishment of a Jewish state in the place then known as Palestine.

The name of this early Zionist who argued for the recreation of Jewish sovereignty over the land of Israel: George Bush.

But the astonishing thing about this manifesto is not just that the author was a forebear of two later U.S. presidents of the same name. It was that his advocacy of a theological/political position known as "restorationism" - support for the "restoration" of the Jewish people to their historic homeland -
was common in 19th century America.

This little-known fact is just one among many that can be discovered about attitudes toward the Middle East in what may well be one of the most important books on the subject to be published in this or any other year.

"Power, Faith and Fantasy: America in the Middle East 1776 to the Present" by Israeli historian Michael Oren fills a void that has long existed in the historiography of the Middle East. Until the release of this beautifully written and meticulously researched volume this month, there simply was no comprehensive history of American involvement in
the region.

Oren, who is based at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem, has written a book overflowing with colorful tales of American travelers, pilgrims,businessmen, missionaries, diplomats, soldiers and sailors who weren't merely observers of this pivotal area of the globe (the term for which was actually coined by the American naval strategist Alfred Thayer Mahan). Americans have, from the very beginning of our own history as a nation, played a crucial role in shaping the Middle East. And as Oren illustrates we, in turn, have been influenced by this interaction.

Indeed, the formation of the United States of America as a constitutional republic in 1789 is, in part, a result of our first encounter with the Arab and Muslim world: the long struggle with the semi-independent city states of North Africa known to us as the Barbary Pirates. It was the inability of the independent 13 American states - who had no federal government or navy - to protect shipping and sailors from the depredation of those early terrorists, that motivated many to push for the enactment of the Constitution.

If that nearly forgotten war bears a strange resemblance to the contemporary conflict with Islamist terrorists, it is no coincidence.Oren recounts the shock of Thomas Jefferson and John Adams who, while serving as American ambassadors in Europe during the 1780s, met with Abd al-Rahman, a representative of the pasha of Tripoli, a major source of anti-American terror on the high seas.

In making exorbitant demands for American tribute, Al-Rahman told Adams and Jefferson that his country was fighting under the authority of the Koran,
which authorized them to make wars on all non-believers and to enslave all Western prisoners in terms that Al Qaeda would have appreciated. "Every Mussulman [sic] who should be slain in battle" with America, he said, "was sure to go to Paradise."

Oren's book is filled with a host of such encounters that may be new even to those who have been reading about the subject their entire lives.

For example, how many know that the first American arm sales to the Middle East was not to Israel or an Arab state but goes back to Andrew Jackson's treaty with Ottoman Turkey?

Another little known episode that Oren recounts deals with American veterans of the Civil War, both Union and Confederate, who helped found and train the Egyptian army.

Such tales are a delight for history lovers. But aside from pleasure for the general as well as the specialized reader, there is a far broader moral to be learned from this volume that speaks directly to contemporary political debate.

Although the content of "Power, Faith and Fantasy" is far too comprehensive to be neatly summarized in even a lengthy review, there is a concise conclusion that can be drawn from the book. It is that the ideas promulgated by men such as former President Jimmy Carter or scholars John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, authors of the infamous "Israel Lobby" article in the London Review of Books, ignores two centuries of history, as well as smears Jews and other friends of Israel.

Oren illustrates throughout his book just how deep the roots of American support for Zionism run. The George Bush anecdote is but one of numerous incidents in which mainstream American Christians spoke out for the Jewish rights to Zion long before Theodor Herzl did.


Going forward to the 20th century, Oren illustrates that the crucial roles of Presidents Woodrow Wilson in backing the Balfour Declaration and Harry S. Truman in giving the new-born State of Israel recognition were not the result of political calculation but decisions that were based on the deeply held beliefs of these leaders.

The idea of Israel is something that has always been part of the sensibilities of American religious thinking. No lobby could possibly create the broad support for Israel that has run, and still runs, across the spectrum of mainstream America, powered by both faith and secular democratic values.

Oren shows that the contrary thesis that rejects Zionism also has deep roots in the tradition of Protestant missionaries. Those Americans came to the Middle East seeking converts but wound up founding institutions, such as the American Universities in Cairo and Beirut, that inculcated the spirit of American democracy and nationalism in generations of Arab intellectuals.

Ironically, it was thus Americans who founded Arab nationalism.That means the notion of spreading democracy to the region wasn't invented by  George W. Bush or the "neocons" but rather by the intellectual (and in some cases actual) ancestors of the 20th century Arabists in the State Department.

The late Edward Said's thesis that saw all Western views of the region as inherently racist "Orientalism" dominates the academy these days and helps spread the idea that American power is a force for evil abroad. But Oren's research stands as a conclusive reproof to this fallacy.

Though oil and profit have played their parts in forming the story of America' s encounter with the region, more altruistic motives have always tended to dominate our policies. Despite the negative view that emanates from many of our intellectuals, Oren is right when he concludes by writing that "On balance, Americans historically brought far more beneficence than avarice to the Middle East and caused significantly less harm than good."

While it will be no surprise if many in the current Middle East studies establishment attack this book, Oren's achievement is must-reading for policymakers and the general public alike. In an era in which global terror based in the Middle East is the primary challenge to the survival of democracy, Power Faith and Fantasy ought to be read and understood by as many Americans as possible.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Saddam Hussein Soccer Tournament for youth in the Palestinian Authority

Palestinian Media Watch Bulletin - Jan. 11, 2007

Contact Palestinian Media Watch:
p:+972 2 625 4140 e:
f: +972 2 624 2803 w:

View this bulletin online

The first Saddam Hussein Soccer Tournament for youth in the Palestinian

by Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook

A soccer tournament for Palestinian youth has been named after Saddam
Hussein, the official newspaper of the Palestinian Authority (PA), Al-Hayat
Al-Jadida, reported. The Palestinians have fervently supported Iraq and the
terror against US soldiers, and in the past have honored Iraqis for killing
Americans. A region of the Jenin refugee camp was named after the first
suicide terrorist in Iraq who killed four American soldiers, Ali Al-Na'amani.
[Al-Quds, April 2, 2003]

The PA routinely names youth sporting events after terrorists, including a
soccer tournament the PA named for the Passover eve suicide terrorist who
killed 31 Israelis, and summer camps for girls were named after Wafa Idris,
the first woman suicide terrorist, and Ayaat al Akhras a 17 year old, the
youngest girl suicide terrorist. [Al Hayat Al Jadida, Jan. 21, 2003;
Al-Ayyam, July 18, 2003; Al Quds, Aug. 14, 2003]

In addition, Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah movement announced that a double memorial
stone has been erected honoring both Saddam Hussein and Yasser Arafat. The
glorification of Saddam as a Shahid [Martyr for Allah] follows years of
mutual support between Saddam Hussein and Yasser Arafat.

The following are the new articles:

"The sports department in the youth community center in Tulkarm is
organizing the first soccer tournament named after the Shahid [Martyr] and
leader, Saddam Hussein."
[Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, January 10, 2007]

"The Fatah movement in the Deheishe camp south of Bethlehem erected
yesterday two memorial stones in the memory of two shahids, Yasser Arafat
and Saddam Hussein. This took place during a ceremony of the movement for
the commemoration of 42 years to its establishment, with the presence of the
delegate of the Fatah movement, Muhammad Al-Laham. Al-Laham:'The erecting of
the two memorial stones comes from a positive recognition of the immense
sacrifice that the two shahids realized for the sake of their nation. Both
went without renouncing their national principles.'"
[Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, January 8, 2007]

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Continued (Permanent Link)

'Syrian overtures express needs of entire region'

'Syrian overtures express needs of entire region'

A Syrian representative at the Mideast peace conference that kicked off in Madrid on Thursday afternoon said that his country's calls to renew negotiations with Israel expressed the needs and will of the entire region.

Doctor Ya'ad Daudi said that the return of the Golan Heights was a vital step in establishing regional peace and that Israel must return to the 1967 borders.

Daudi added that Damascus was urging third party officials to stop getting involved in negotiations.

Osama el-Baza, the political advisor to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, said that Israel needed to be pressured into renewing talks with Syria because Damascus "holds the key to the region."

MK Ofer Paz-Pines said that the conference opened a direct channel of discussion between Israeli, Syrian and Lebanese representatives.

The conference that aims to revive optimism into stalled Mideast peace talks opened with messages of support from former US President Bill Clinton and other leaders involved in past efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The two-day meeting was called to commemorate 1991 talks in the Spanish capital that brought Israel and many of its Arab enemies together for the first time.

While some say those talks accomplished little, supporters say they laid the groundwork the Oslo peace process, which in turn resulted in the establishment of the Palestinian Authority.

Messages from Clinton, former Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev and ex-US Secretary of State James Baker III, were read out at the start of the session.

"The convening of this conference 15 years later could not be more timely," wrote Baker, one of those who arranged the 1991 talks. "It offers an opportunity to assist the possibility of moving forward toward Arab-Israeli conflict resolution."

Clinton's message stressed the importance of the 1991 talks, and said the new meeting showed that there was still hope for the future.

"It was the first time that Israelis and Arabs met at the conference table rather than on the battlefield," Clinton wrote. "By being here together, despite your differences, you send a strong message that peace still can and must be achieved."

But there is a big difference between the 1991 event and the meeting being held in Madrid now, entitled "Madrid plus 15." These talks are being sponsored by private peace foundations, rather than by the Spanish government, and none of the major players in the region have sent senior representatives.

Attending the opening session were the foreign ministers from Denmark, Norway and Sweden and an array of former political leaders, experts and academics from the United Nations, the United States, Russia and the Middle East.

The Spanish government, while not organizing the event, sees it as part of its efforts to restart what it sees as a seriously ailing peace process.
Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos, a former EU envoy to the Middle East, and Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero have been vocal in recent months in their calls to advance peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

But the country's overtures so far have had little impact, with both the Israelis and Palestinians lukewarm on the proposals.

Continued (Permanent Link)

IDF: Elite unit nabs Hamas commander

IDF: Elite unit nabs Hamas commander
Border policemen dressed as Palestinian Arabs infiltrated a Jenin refugee camp Thursday morning and arrested Khaled el-Haj, a senior Hamas commander in the northern West Bank, along with one of his lieutenants. El-Haj was released from an Israeli prison only two months prior to Thursday's arrest operation, military sources said.

Palestinian witnesses said the daytime arrest raid was executed quickly, and no shots were fired during the course of the operation. According to the witnesses, the border policeman arrived in a civilian vehicle to a building in refugee camp just after noon.

The troops surrounded the home and swiftly arrested el-Haj and a second man, before placing the militants in their vehicle and driving away. Additional jeeps arrived to secure the extrication from the refugee camp, and the forces left the area before locals became aware that a raid had taken place.

A handgun was found in the building where the two men were located, the army. Both men were handed over to the Shin Bet (Israeli Security Services) for questioning.

El-Haj, Hamas chief in the northern West Bank, quickly took the helm of the movement's activities after his release from Israeli custody in November, the army said. El-Haj reportedly was a coordinator between Hamas and other terrorist organizations in and around Jenin, and recently he worked to calm escalating tensions in the area between Hamas and Fatah forces loyal to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.

Continued (Permanent Link)

In the Eye of the Storm: Iran in Global Perspective

In the Eye of the Storm: Iran in Global Perspective

Mordechai Ben-Menachem; Ben-Gurion University; Beer-Sheva, Israel

On Tuesday, this past, 9 January 2007, I attended a conference at Hebrew University, Mount Scopus campus. The title of the conference was "In the Eye of the Storm: Iran in Global Perspective."  The conference was sponsored by The Israel Project and The Hebrew University of Jerusalem's Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace.  The objective of the conference was to, "…learn about these issues from leaders in the field of Iran studies and international relations."  This report is intended to provide my readers with my take on this conference. 

Firstly, this conference was important and timely.  Most of the speakers were good – or better.  Acoustics and logistics left much to be desired and hence, two speakers were unfortunately inaudible (both in the first session). 

Some points raised may appear obvious in hindsight, but were raised expertly and in their proper context, giving even things that may seem so, new import and putting all of it into an organized framework.  I thank the Israel Project for inviting me and I hope this report is useful to my audience.  People with distribution lists may redistribute this providing it remains unchanged (I retain copyright and request that this notice be included). 

Hegemony:  One of the points raised by a broad plurality of speakers was the general psyche of Iran and Iranian leadership.  It should be emphasized that Persian Hegemony is the most basic aspect of their thinking.  There's nothing new here; Persian empires, of one sort or another have been at war with the "West" for most of the past three thousand years.  For instance, in the first seven centuries of the Common Era, there were fewer than a hundred years without war. 

Hegemony is linked with a concept of Iran as a future superpower.  Please do not misunderstand that.  Great Britain is a power; Japan is a power; they are not superpowers.  Iran intends to be a superpower and fully intends to contend with the United States.  They are developing a massive arms manufacturing capability, including tanks, missiles, and nuclear weapons.  But more than this, they are developing tools for conducting asynchronous contention; and not necessarily as warfare.  The statement was made that every Iranian embassy is a military base – even the Soviets never did that.  The US State Dept. stated that Iran remains the greatest epicentre of Global Terrorism.  It will remain so for the foreseeable future as this is a planned strategic asset, and Iran must export its ideology.  This is a need, even more than a desire; towards this, they support both Shia and Sunni insurgencies, all over the world. 

They have a clear plan to implement this and are in no rush.  The first stage in this plan is hegemony over Iraq, Syria and Lebanon – the so-called Shia Crescent (more on this below).  Once this is accomplished, the next step is to gain control over Mecca and Medina, the Islamic holy cities.  By these two steps, they intend control Islam. Their intension is to be a Pan-Islamic superpower.  Khumanism is NOT Shia, it is pan-Islamic with elements of Shia, Sunni, Marx and even "New Age" religiosity.  By the way, 50% of Iran is non-Persian ethnic, the largest minority is Azeri.  Azeri's now have a country.  (Interestingly, Azerbaijan is #1 supplier of oil to Israel, Kazakhstan is #2 and Russia is #3.  Egypt is negligible.) 

Even for the hysterical optimists, if Iran has control of the entire Persian Gulf, with its oil and gas, they have moved very far towards implementing the goal of strategic parity with the United States.  Russia's Putin understands this. 

It must also be understood that Ahmadinajad is nothing; irrelevant.  He is a former Revolutionary Guard (He was one of those who committed the crime of the US Embassy during Carter's watch).  He later became Mayor of Teheran and from there was elected as president on a platform of cleaning up the rampant corruption – just as Hamas in the PA.  The present movement in the Iranian parliament to get rid of him is showmanship.  "Fool the stupid infidels!"  The US's "Project Democracy" is a failure.  Contrary to US belief, democracy does NOT begin with elections.  Elections are a tool for efficient implementation of democratic principles, but those principles need to exist in the society before they can be implemented.  Existence of elections in places like Iran or the PA has nothing to do with democracy. 

Relations:   Another point is how Iran views the world.  Iran views US policy as "debate ad nauseum" and European as "negotiate ad nauseum"; while Iranian policy is intransigence – as principle.  This is why the discussions with Europe went nowhere.  Iran never intended to commit.  That is aside from the fact that Europe negotiates as the European Union, which is economic, not military.  They 'do' carrots.  They do not 'do' sticks. All carrots and no sticks means the other side simply plays with them.  Europe today is seen as a set of impotent and toothless old men; has-beens.  Who can be bothered to pay them any mind?  Constructive dialogue must have a fallback position. 

Iran & Arabs:         Much has been said about the Iranians not being Arabs and that the Arabs don't like or trust them.  This is still true.  What are the useful dimensions of this? 

During the war between Iraq and Iran, the Gulf States transferred to Iraq some $25 billion.  Iraq, since its founding in 1921, has been viewed as the outpost and bulwark against hegemonic Iran.  (Iran took a few islands in the Gulf, which strengthened this age-old fear.)  As recently as April (2006) Mubaraq of Egypt declared that Shia are more loyal to Teheran than to the states in which they live.  Of course, Arabs have never really accepted the western concept of nation states (except where and when useful). 

Syria holds the cards for formation of the Shia Crescent; and are very aware of this.  Syria is a Sunni country (74%) ruled very heavily-handedly, by a small Shia minority (~5%) and is perhaps the only Arab state that does not fear Iran, for now.  Once the 'crescent' is formed, they no longer hold any sway.  All the Arab states, the Gulf States, Jordan, Egypt, fear the Iranians.  This is not new.  The fear has been there since before Islam. 

Iran's Near Abroad:          The most obvious element of Iraqi politics is confusion.  There exist basically 4 components to Iraqi politics, Sunni, Shia, Kurds and a small group "Iraqi Patriots".  This (very small) latter group believes that Iraq is a country.  Notice that the first two are religiously divided, the third is ethnic (about 10% of Iraqi Kurds are Shia, but none are Arab) while the fourth is political.  Most Sunni in Iraq believe that the Shia are a fifth column and have primary loyalty to Iran.  This is actually not correct.  Most Shia are first primarily Arab and distrust the Iranians as much as they distrust Sunni, Kurds and everyone else in the world. 

The single most important aspect of Iraqi politics is that America will eventually go away, Iran is forever.  Shia distrust Iran; Sunni hate and fear Iran; Kurds hate and fear Turks.  Turks could not care less about Iran; they have their own proud history. 

Turkey is NOBODY'S backyard or 'Near Abroad' – they constitute their own.  The Cold War was geopolitically important for Turkey.  They were a buffer state and everyone was interested.  Their importance to the West reduced significantly with its end.  The US-Iraq war weakened Turkey.  Today, they are looking for their place in the world.  Turkey tried to attract ethnic Turks in Central Asia and to lead them towards a New World Order; they failed.  Both Turkey and Iran blame each other for instability – they're both right. 

Iran and China; Iran and Japan:    Iran supplies China with about 5% of its oil and represents about 0.6% of its trade.  Iran is not indispensable to China!  International terror, Islamic fundamentalism and nuclear Iran are anathema to China.  They don't like Ahmadinajad, either – he foments instability and China values stability above everything else.  China never said they will oppose sanctions; they also never said they will support sanctions. China is perhaps the world's most diplomatically careful country.  (They have used their Security Council veto twice.) 

Iran supplies about 13% of Japanese oil.  Iran is not indispensable to Japan!  Iranian cooperation with North Korea, particularly in nuclear weapons and missile development is anathema to Japan, and very rightly so.  This is viewed as the largest security threat to Japan and is potentially existential.  Japan has just elevated their Self Defence agency to cabinet level for the first time since World War II. 

Iran cannot count on China or Japan or Russia for diplomatic support, particularly for their more aggressive moves. 

Conclusion:            The conference was good and worth attending; despite the logistical difficulties and despite that I could not remain for the ending session.  Some of the points above are highly significant, some perhaps less so.  All seem important in context. 

How much of a threat does Iran really represent to the United States?  Is the US totally safe from them because of the bit of a lake between them?  I think these are poignant questions and real issues.  Would I say that Iran represents an existential threat to the United States?  Certainly not!  However, Iran definitely does represent a very significant strategic threat.  Can Iran seriously hurt the US and/or US interests and do they have such a will and interest?  Very definitely!  Iran will wage an aggressive campaign to weaken the US and to control oil and gas.  In the short term, their nuclear program is intended to tightly fit the Islamic world under their hegemony, with its resources – oil, gas, (the world's most fanatic) manpower, influence and fantastic quantities of cash and additional monetary devices.  With this accomplished, they will turn to other things.  Israel is a speed bump in their program, to be eliminated at the earliest convenience.  Genocide is a tool which they will use gleefully. 

©       Copyright 2007, by Mordechai Ben-Menachem

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Continued (Permanent Link)

'Palestinians divided over peace'

Jan. 11, 2007 10:47 | Updated Jan. 11, 2007 13:03
'Palestinians divided over peace'

Palestinians are divided over whether a peace agreement is possible with Israel, or if the real solution lies in continued rocket attacks and suicide bombings, former Palestinian foreign minister Nabil Shaath said in an interview with the Tunisian newspaper A-Sabah published on Thursday.
According to the report, Shaath also said that negotiations have failed to bring about a Palestinian state, and that this was in part due to Israel's unwillingness to cooperate.
"There still remain issues that need to be resolved, such as Jerusalem, refugees, and the occupation," Shaath was quoted as saying.
Further, Shaath called on Arab states to help in the creation of a unity government, and he accused Iran of fanning the flames in the fight between Fatah and Hamas.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is expected to visit Israel this weekend in hopes of breaking the deadlock on the stalled peace process.
In speaking of her upcoming visit to the region, US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters over that Rice believed 'there is a potential opening here to make progress on the issue of a two-state solution, Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace and security.'

Continued (Permanent Link)

Who's Your First?

Who's Your First?
The New York Sun January 11, 2007

A maxim in Middle East affairs to Europeans and many American advocates of
convoluted solutions is that settling the 100-year-old dispute between
Israelis and Palestinian Arabs is a sine qua non to resolving other Middle
East catastrophes.

Indeed Secretary of State Rice is reinvigorating this view with a new round
of diplomacy in the Greater Middle East, which means inevitably putting
pressure on Israel to accommodate Palestinian Arabs and Syrians with
withdrawals from the West Bank and the Golan Heights.

But something doesn't click here, like the whole argument. It is a red
herring from start to finish. The catastrophes in the Middle East lie in
five areas:
. Internecine conflicts in Iraq, Lebanon and among Palestinian Arabs;
. Absence of representative governments for 350 million Arabs;
. Uneven distribution of wealth and corruption;
. Widespread illiteracy, poverty, and illness;
. Disenfranchisement of women.

Why does resolving any of these depend on good will in the Palestinian Arab

Ever since they achieved independence in the past century, cliques of
families and army officers have ruled Arabs, be they Al Sauds in Saudi
Arabia, Al Qaddafis in Libya, Al Mubaraks in Egypt, Al Sabahs in Kuwait,
etc. They will neither share power nor are willing to pass it along. These
elites have robbed, generated corruption, instituted police states, and
observed fitful development and great injustice - all ingredients of failed
governments. Their actions have produced violent reactions including
fundamentalist jihadis that now target them and the West, which supports
them. The logical action here is to force them to reform and end repression
at home.

But the "advocates" advance the view that once America "pressures" Israel to
settle with Palestinian Arabs, enough goodwill will be generated to resolve
other matters. Manifestly, this is nonsense. Arab dictators corner the
market on power because they want it, not out of compassion for Palestinian Arabs.

The second catastrophe is growing sectarian divides, not only between
Muslims - as in Shiites vs. Sunnis - but between Arabs of different ethnic,
tribal, and religious backgrounds as with the Druze, Kurds, North African
Berbers, and among tribal clans in Somalia, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia. These
frictions have turned into gun battles and genocide in the Sudan, Lebanon,
Iraq, Algeria, among others. Here, again, it would be quite a stretch to
argue that Arabs and Muslims will stop killing each other once Israelis and
Palestinian Arabs kiss and make up.

Indeed, the Arabs themselves never awaited Palestinian Arab accord before
striking peace with Israel. Egypt and Jordan formalized peace treaties with
Jerusalem that still hold, regardless.

Another canard is that the Palestinian Arabs themselves are ready for
anything in the way of peace. As this is being written the only thing that
Palestinian Arabs are gearing up for is a civil war of their own. Should
Israel unilaterally return to the 1967 demarcation lines, leaving much of
the West Bank, the follow up will be a Palestinian Arab blood bath. Gaza,
evacuated by Israeli occupation troops more than a year ago, stands as a
vivid example a mess of armed factions, extortion, corruption, and Islamic
fundamentalism. Palestinian Arabs need rule of law before a settlement with

What of massive illiteracy among Arabs who, the United Nations reports, have
left 25% of their populations with no education - neither able to read nor
to write. That ranks as major problem without Israeli-Palestinian Arab
ingredients behind it.

Weapons accumulated by Arab regimes, including Egypt, which has been at
peace with Israel since 1979, serve only two purposes: fighting other
Muslims and generating billions of dollars in commissions for ruling

One has to be a die-hard conspiracy theorist to argue that any of these
issues is related to the Israeli-Palestinian Arab conflict.

Continued (Permanent Link)

MKs, Syrian officials sit together as Madrid meet begins

Last update - 12:37 11/01/2007   

MKs, Syrian officials sit together as Madrid meet begins
By Akiva Eldar, Haaretz Correspondent

MADRID - A conference commemorating the 15-year anniversary of the historic 1991 Madrid Peace Conference is underway in the Spanish capital, with the participation of both Israeli and Syrian officials.
Two senior officials of the Syrian government and an Israeli delegation comprised of MKs and former ministers arrived in Madrid on Wednesday to participate in the conference.
The Syrian delegation is refusing to meet with Israeli reporters, however, saying they were instructed by Damascus to do so, as well as avoid making any public statements apart from what is said during the conference.
This is the first time in seven years that Israeli and Syrian officials are sitting around the same table, and a special session will be held Thursday on ways to revive the Israeli-Syrian diplomatic track, with the participation of representatives of all the delegations.
The Israeli and Syrian representatives participated in a dinner Wednesday inaugurating the gathering. The Syrian representatives included the legal counselor to the president and Foreign Ministry, Riad Daudi, and the Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Bushra Kanafani.
The participation of the two Syrian officials was made possible following an invitation of Spanish Foreign Affairs Minister, Miguel Moratinos, and his Swedish, Norwegian and Danish counterparts, under whose aegis the event is taking place.
The Syrian decision to participate in the gathering received a great deal of attention in the Arab media and has been interpreted as the first step in efforts to resume the peace talks with Israel.
The Israeli delegation includes MK Israel Hasson (Yisrael Beiteinu), former Likud ministers Dan Meridor and Roni Milo, as well as former Labor ministers Shlomo Ben-Ami, Moshe Shahal and Ophir Pines-Paz.
Even though the United States boycotts Syria, retired senior American diplomats are participating in the gathering, including Dan Kurtzer and Samuel Lewis, who were ambassadors to Israel.
The European Union is represented by Javier Solana and the former Spanish prime minister, Felipe Gonzalez, who hosted the summit in 1991, will also be in attendance.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Iran's nuclear choice

Iran's nuclear choice
By Margaret Beckett, Special to Gulf News

The UN Security Council recently agreed - by consensus - to adopt sanctions against Iran for the first time. This isn't, as President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad likes to claim, a conspiracy by "bullying powers" to deny Iran nuclear energy.
As we said last summer, we are ready to help Iran develop a modern nuclear power industry if it shows that its intentions are peaceful. And the recent sanctions won't affect Iran's construction of a nuclear power station at Bushehr.
In actual fact, we presented Iran far reaching proposals and said that if Iran were prepared to take the steps required by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board, we would hold off further action in New York.
By any standards, our proposals are generous. They offer Iran, in a long-term agreement, everything it would need to develop a modern nuclear power industry, such as help building power stations, guaranteed supplies of fuel and cooperation on nuclear research.
Iran would also get trade benefits that would stimulate the investment it needs to provide jobs for a growing population. In an historic decision, the US said it would join any talks and consider, in a final agreement, lifting sanctions on Iran for the first time since 1979 in areas where Iran's needs are most acute, such as civilian aircraft and IT.
Despite tireless diplomacy by Javier Solana, Iran has chosen not to pursue our proposals. And rather than suspend enrichment - since July, a legal obligation - it has continued on a bigger scale.
Our concern is not about nuclear energy but nuclear weapons.
Iran has failed over many years to meet its obligations and has refused to take simple steps that would help show its nuclear ambitions are peaceful.
At the heart of the problem is Iran's uranium enrichment facility at Natanz. Low-enriched uranium can be used as fuel for nuclear power stations. But the same facilities can produce high-enriched uranium, fissile material suitable for nuclear weapons.
And a heavy water reactor being built at Arak, for which Iran has given no convincing civilian rationale, could be used to produce plutonium.
Iran began building these facilities in secret. The IAEA forced Tehran to admit to their existence in 2003.
Since then, despite the IAEA's efforts, many questions remain. Why is Iran's military involved in a supposedly civilian programme? Why won't Iran give a full account of its dealings with A.Q. Khan's network, which helped North Korea and Libya with their secret nuclear weapons programmes? Why did it experiment on Polonium-210, which has no use in generating electricity, but can set off a nuclear explosion?
The possibility that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons presents a challenge we cannot ignore. Many countries in the Middle East - including Saudi Arabia and Egypt - feel threatened by Iran's increasingly destabilising influence in Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine.
They wonder how much worse it would be if Ahmadinejad acquired a nuclear arsenal. I find it unthinkable that a man who questions the existence of the Holocaust should ever possess the weapons to repeat it.
Iran's actions also pose a serious threat to the non-proliferation system. If we let Iran cheat its way to a nuclear bomb, how many other countries will try to, or feel they need to, just to counter balance the threat from Iran?
Sensitive activities
For over three years, the IAEA Board has called on Iran to suspend the most sensitive activities, while we, together with France and Germany, have tried to persuade Iran to agree an acceptable long-term solution.
In August 2005, Iran broke off the negotiations. It first resumed uranium "conversion" and then, last February, enrichment. This year, we have worked closely with China, Russia and the US, encouraging Iran to reinstate the suspension and return to talks.
The measures the IAEA Board and Security Council have asked for would not affect Iran's pursuit of nuclear energy. Iran does not need to enrich uranium to generate electricity. Suspension would however give us confidence that Iran is not seeking the know-how to make fissile material for weapons.
We have little option but to increase the pressure on the Iranian government. The measures the Security Council adopted recently are aimed at constraining activities that could contribute to a weapons programme. They will be frozen if Iran complies and lifted in the event of a long-term solution.
I hope Iran's leaders heed the Security Council's message.
The stock market is down a third since Ahmadinejad was elected. Capital is moving offshore. Foreign traders and investors are staying away. Iranian businessmen are finding it harder to finance deals.
Iran's prosperity depends on oil and gas. But without investment, production from oil fields will decline and the Iranian people will not enjoy the full fruits of their country's fabulous gas reserves.
Meanwhile, the government is isolating Iran internationally thanks to its destabilising actions in Iraq and Lebanon. And while most Iranians want to be known for their distinguished culture and reputation for tolerance, Ahmadinejad has shamed the country by hosting a festival of Holocaust deniers to which he has invited among others the Ku Klux Klan.
The Security Council resolution marks an important moment. Iran faces a choice, between a route that allows it to develop a modern civil nuclear power programme and brings many benefits to its people or further defiance and the costs of isolation. I hope it will choose the positive path.
Margaret Beckett is the Foreign Secretary of Britain.

Continued (Permanent Link)

A Nazareth miracle [Palestinian youth orchestra]

A Nazareth miracle
By Noam Ben-Zeev

It all began with a declaration by the conductor, Daniel Barenboim - a slightly hasty declaration, as he admitted later - that he would establish a Palestinian classical youth orchestra. Two years later, at a Nazareth cultural center provided by the municipality, that orchestra's sound left us amazed. More than 40 youngsters from Ramallah, Nazareth, Bethlehem, Haifa and Nablus were there, playing instruments including the French horn, cello, trombone and contrabass in a fantastic performance that met every standard of a youth orchestra.
The concert was the result of intensive practice at a two-week music camp that took the Palestinians nine months to organize. The project was funded by the Barenboim-Said Foundation; Ramallah's Al-Kamandjati music school took part in the effort, and the Belgian Ictus ensemble also contributed - in part by providing teachers, some of whom played alongside the children - as did Nazareth's Orpheus nonprofit. Instruments, entry permits, transportation to and from he territories, sleeping accommodations and food were arranged for the children, their teachers and those accompanying them - even though the organization seemed to be a hopeless endeavor. Children met relatives who had been separated from their families for years. For most of the children, this was their first time out of their villages.
The elegant cultural center was lit festively, and those there enjoyed a musical evening that sacrificed neither repertoire nor discipline. Conductor Anna-Sophie Breuning did not pander to either the donors or the audience, and chose works that were demanding and therefore also enjoyable and exciting. The first part was devoted to Bach's Concerto in D Minor, featuring a solo by Nazareth pianist Bishara Harouni, who has been endowed with wonderful rhythm and a great concerto resonance. Pieces from other Bach concerti - the fifth Brandenburg Concerto, and the Double Concerto for violin and oboe - followed. For the finale, the entire orchestra gathered for George Bizet's two L'Arlesienne suites, playing them as they rarely are played - in full (aside from a particularly difficult passage).
A Nazareth miracle - that is how this orchestra could be described, if one were not aware of the tremendous effort that had gone into it. The beautiful sound of the string instruments, the development of the soloists over the past two years, the control that very small children had developed of the clarinet and cello in such a short time - all of these are the result of the children's ambition, the teachers' determination and the donors' generosity. Just as in 19th-century Europe and early 20th-century Israel, it seems that music is an important component in the Palestinian desire for self-determination and independence.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Non-institutional ties

Non-institutional ties
By Haaretz Editorial
Outgoing Israeli ambassador to Washington Daniel Ayalon was appointed co-chair of Nefesh B'Nefesh, an American-Jewish organization involved in immigration to Israel. Unlike his predecessors in the esteemed office, who retired into private enterprise or academia, Ayalon opted to engage in encouraging aliyah in a private organization with an anti-establishment image.
Ayalon joining Nefesh B'Nefesh should strengthen the organization as an important rival to the cumbersome Jewish Agency in promoting and arranging immigration to Israel. In addition, his decision reflects the growing strength of non-institutional channels in nurturing Israel's relationship with Diaspora Jewry.
In recent years, national institutions have lost status amongst the Israeli public. The World Zionist Congress in Jerusalem last summer received marginal attention. The World Zionist Organization - downsized to a few million shekels a year - is fighting to remain a going concern. The leadership of the Jewish National Fund is immersed in internal power struggles. The Jewish Agency did extend assistance to residents of northern Israel during and after the recent war, but tension among the macher-donors boils just beneath the surface.
On the other side of the Atlantic, the drop in donors continues despite merging fund-raising campaigns and the 2000 establishment of the United Jewish Communities. The hope that the new entity would have political clout on matters common to Israel and the Diaspora proved false, too. This trend is likely only to worsen: Research indicates substantial erosion in the commitment and connection many young U.S. Jews feel toward the Jewish collective.
The success of private initiatives stands out against this bleak backdrop. About 120,000 Jewish youth, many children of mixed marriages, have visited Israel under the birthright program since its inception seven years ago. Donations to that program increase year after year and the waiting list is thousands of names long. Nefesh B'Nefesh has doubled immigration from North America in four years, from 1,600 arrivals to 3,200 in 2006. The organization has started U.K. operations with substantial success and has expansion plans in other countries. A similar organization, Ami, has been operating in France for two years, and is financed by a local Jewish donor.
The private groups' formula for success is rather simple. A handful of philanthropists seeking to realize a well-defined goal establish a small, efficient organization. They offer attractive perks for participants, like birthright's free visit to Israel or Nefesh B'Nefesh's financial aid, as well as professional guidance through the Israeli bureaucratic labyrinth.
The institutions in Israel and North America, who tried to crush birthright in its infancy, are now trying to ride the surge of its success. Nefesh B'Nefesh has already been recognized by the state, when the cabinet decided last year - in a realistic and wise move - to offer financial assistance to a private organization engaged in encouraging immigration.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Former ambassador to U.S. joins Nefesh B'Nefesh

Former ambassador to U.S. joins Nefesh B'Nefesh
By Daphna Berman

Former Israeli Ambassador to the United States, Daniel Ayalon, has been appointed co-chair of Nefesh B'Nefesh, the Jerusalem-based aliya organization announced yesterday.
In an interview with Haaretz following the appointment, Ayalon said, "It is not unrealistic to think of a million Jews" immigrating to Israel by 2020 - a goal he calls "important politically and strategically."
"Look at Europe and there are many uncertainties there," he said. "It is a great reservoir (for aliyah)."
NBN is now active in North America and the UK, but Ayalon believes that the possibility of expanding the organization "should be discussed and analyzed." "Every country and every [Jewish] community around the globe could benefit" from the organization, he said. He would not specify a country, however.
Though the position is unpaid, Ayalon insisted that he would have an active "full time" job in which he would be far more that just a figurehead.
"I have been asked to advise and consult for business, but my main focus is on Nefesh," he said. "Part of the way I saw myself in Washington was not staying in the bubble in Washington, but rather reaching out and visiting communities. I intend to do that now."
Ayalon said that a key focus would be "raising awareness" among the Israeli public to "open up their hearts and minds to olim [immigrants]" so that the new arrivals feel welcome here. Ayalon, whose U.S. posting came to an end in November, has been succeeded in Washington by Ambassador Sallai Meridor, who is former chair of the Jewish Agency.
He will be honored Sunday at a celebration in Washington, where President George W. Bush is set to be keynote speaker.
Though overall immigration rates for 2006 constituted an 18-year low, numbers from North America and the UK were the highest in more than two decades, with 3,200 and 720 arrivals respectively. Last month, the organization also celebrated the processing of its 10,000th immigrant.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Police summon Hebron settler filmed harassing Palestinians

Last update - 09:48 11/01/2007   

Police summon Hebron settler filmed harassing Palestinians
By Amiram Barkat and Amos Harel, Haaretz Correspondents, and Haaretz Service

Efrat Alkobi, whose cursing at Palestinians was documented on film and broadcast in the Israeli media on Wednesday, will be questioned by police at the Hebron police station on Thursday morning.
The police said that they decided to summon Alkobi for questioning following the release of the film to the press. They added that the problem of settlers abusing Palestinians in the Hebron area is a persistent one and is "well known" to the police. They said that the Abu Ayisha family, one of whom documented the incident, has been escorted by police on numerous occasions to protect them from abuse.
Defense Minister Amir Peretz, who was shocked by the documented footage, ordered GOC Central Command Yair Naveh to investigate the harassment of the Abu Ayisha family by Hebron Jewish residents.
In recent years the settlement "Adamot Yishai" was built near the Abu Ayisha family's house, in the Tel Romeida neighborhood of Hebron. Many Palestinians abandoned their homes in the area following settlers' violence against them. In order to cope with the daily rock-throwing, window breaking, and attacks, the Abu Ayisha family placed bars around their home. The family currently resides in a house that resembles a cage.
In the documented footage, which the B'Tselem organization received, a female settler comes close to the family's house, and screams at 18-year-old Rajah Abu Ayisha "Get back in your cage." She continues to curse at her and calls her a prostitute in Arabic ("sharmuta") numerous times. The family maintains that this sort of incident is not out of the ordinary.
"The house is like a real cage," said Rajah. "It is surrounded by bars in all directions, even in the entrance. My grandfather placed the bar after the settlers broke the windows in the house." Rajah says that the neighbors left the neighborhood when the second Intifada started, and the settlers took control of their houses.
Rajah said that the settlers throw rocks, water, and leftover food at them. "There are soldiers there who sometimes yell at the children to stop throwing rocks, but the children don't listen to them. I was injured by the rocks more than once," she said.

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Next year in Palestine

Next year in Palestine
By Bradley Burston

A reader recently posed a question which it seems to me is always worth considering, and never worth answering:
"How long will I have to wait before there is an independent Palestinian state?"
Once, when there was an approximation of a peace process, when American presidents actively pressed for a two-state solution, the answers were judicious, considered, reasonable: Five years from Israel's 1994 initial Oslo withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and Jericho. Or, for adherents of what the State Department once proudly billed the Performance-Based Roadmap to a Permanent Two-State Solution to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict - the year 2005.
These days, though, the more credible answer to the question runs along these lines:
How long have you got?
I have been a supporter of a Palestinian state for longer than most Palestinians alive today have been alive. I expect that I may be a supporter of a Palestinian state until I am dead.
At this point, I have also come to expect that I will be dead before there is a Palestinian state.
Or, as another supporter of Palestinian statehood, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, said Monday, "The continuation of Palestinian-Palestinian conflict will have a negative effect on the Palestinian cause, and end Palestinians' hopes for establishing an independent state."
Increasingly, the movement for an independent Palestine has lost its pragmatism and its momentum. What is left is a mumbled mantra, a modern version of Next Year in Jerusalem.
It could just be that the greater the suffering of the Palestinians, and the longer their wait for an independent homeland, the more unlikely it becomes that the fantasy will, in the foreseeable future, be anything but.
The reason is as human as human nature denied. The more you suffer, the longer you wait, the more you feel you deserve in compensation for all that waiting and all that suffering.
No wonder there's no compromise with the demand for the return of six million or so Palestinian refugees to the ancestral homes of which they have heard so much, located within the confines of Israel proper.
No wonder there's no rush to recognize a clearly antagonistic, unsympathetic, and profoundly unhelpful State of Israel, or to stop praying for its demise.
The efforts of Israel to delay, undermine, sabotage or otherwise foil the creation of a Palestinian state have been well-documented, in the pages of this newspaper as nowhere else.
The efforts of Palestinians to hasten statehood, meanwhile, have often backfired with disastrous results, adding years and perhaps decades to the countdown to independence.
The question came to mind anew as I took advantage of illness to attend to a New Year's resolution I made a year ago and which expired last week. >From my sickbed, I watched a tape of "Munich," Steven Spielberg's film on the Israeli assassination campaign that followed the murder of 11 members of the nation's Olympic team by PLO Black September gunmen in 1972.
A fever of 103, chills and intermittent flu-modulated nightmares may be just the mental state in which to reappraise Spielberg's most controversial work.
Especially these days. Turning the VCR off for a moment, the screen filled with breaking news footage of masked Hamas and Fatah security men killing each other, as well as their rivals' children, as well as chances of Palestinian statehood any lifetime soon.
I approached the film with equal measures of curiosity and trepidation. When "Munich" was released just a year ago, its critics on the Jewish right made it seem as though Spielberg and screenwriter Tony ("Angels in America") Kushner were about to do in the space of one film what the Palestinians had failed to do in the space of more than a century, convincing the world that the Palestinians were right all along.
At the time, the Zionist Organization of America, denouncing screenwriter Kushner for anti-Israel bias, immediately declared a boycott on the film. "Save yourself $10 and stay home," advised ZOA National President Morton Klein. "This 'second Munich,' like Chamberlain's Munich, only promotes appeasement of terrorists and the enemies of civilized democracies."
"We must send a message to Spielberg that we will not support a film that libels Israel and humanizes these haters and killers."
The prominent neoconservative columnist Charles Krauthammer, lumped Spielberg and Kushner together with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinehad, saying that all three had called into question the underpinnings of Israel's existence.
"It takes a Hollywood ignoramus to give flesh to the argument of a radical anti-Semitic Iranian," Krauthammer wrote.
Improbably, from this remove, what Spielberg's "Munich" actually tells us, is not that the Palestinians should win, but why they do not.
In the scene most vociferously condemned by the Jewish right, a PLO field commander named Ali unwittingly speaks with an Israeli agent named Avner, outlining a future in which an independent Palestine supplants a defeated Israel.
Ali: Eventually, the Arab states will rise against Israel. They don't like Palestinians, but they hate the Jews more. It won't be like 1967. The rest of the world will see by then what the Israelis do to us. They won't help when Egypt and Syria attack, even Jordan. Israel will cease to exist.
Avner:This is a dream. You can't take back a country you never had.
Ali: You sound like a Jew.
Avner: Fuck you. I'm the voice inside your head telling you what you already know. You people have nothing to bargain with. You'll never get the land back. You'll all die old men in refugee camps, waiting for Palestine.
Ali: We have a lot of children. They have had children. So we can wait forever. And if we need to, we can make the whole planet unsafe for Jews.
Avner: You kill Jews, and the world feels bad for them, and thinks you are animals.
Ali: Yes, but then the world will see how they've made us into animals. That will start to ask questions about the conditions in our cages...
Avner Do you really miss your father's olive trees? Do you honestly think you have to get back all that? That nothing? That chalky soil and stone houses, it that what you really want for your children?
Ali It absolutely is. It will take 100 years, but we'll win. How long did it take the Jews to get their own country?
It is a curious echo of a statement by the man believed to be the last surviving Munich assailant.
"I'm proud of what I did at Munich because it helped the Palestinian cause enormously," Jamal Al-Gashey said in 1999 in the acclaimed documentary "One day in September."
"Before Munich, the world had no idea about our struggle, but on that day, the name of Palestine was repeated all around the world."
Al-Gashey's in no rush. Ali's in no rush. Ahmadinejad's in no rush. They'll tell you - it's all a matter of time. Next year in Palestine, or next century, it's all the same to us.
You have to admire that kind of thinking. In one stroke, it legitimizes self-destructive action, fosters inaction, and explains, enshrines, and celebrates failure.
With that kind of thinking, a hundred years from now, when readers ask how long they'll have to wait for a Palestinian state, we'll know just what to answer.
How long have you got?

Continued (Permanent Link)

ANALYSIS / Meshal declaration basic shift in Hamas position

Last update - 00:53 11/01/2007   

ANALYSIS / Meshal declaration basic shift in Hamas position
By Zvi Bar'el, Haaretz Correspondent

Khaled Meshal's declaration outlines a Hamas road map toward recognition of Israel. According to this outline, Meshal recognizes that the State of Israel is a "fact," but this "fact" still requires formal recognition. It is not clear what this entails.
In practice, Meshal is trying to create an equation in which sovereign states recognize one another; but, for this to occur, we must first wait for the establishment of the Palestinian state, so that a similar legal entity can recognize its neighboring state- Israel.
This is a fundamental shift in Hamas' position. In the past, Meshal made it clear that there was no point in accepting earlier agreements with Israel, which included recognition of Israel, so long as it did not fully implement them. By this he hinted that the issue of recognition was not ideological but political. However, Wednesday's statement is his most direct reference to this issue.
This statement joins earlier ones by Meshal and others in the Hamas leadership, who said that they accepted the establishment of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, with Jerusalem as its capital. Nonetheless, Meshal's framework may raise another fundamental issue: If only a sovereign Palestinian State can recognize Israel, this undermines the basis of recognition that was established in the Oslo Accords.
There is a built-in assumption in Meshal's framework that Israel will not agree to the establishment of a Palestinian state that will meet the Hamas requirements, and therefore recognition is far from being relevant on a practical level. On the other hand, it is not superfluous to note that Meshal has also avoided adding further conditions to his
Unless changed, the statement is meant to primarily serve a domestic Palestinian political purpose and allow for renewed negotiations between Fatah and Hamas for the creation of a national unity government. Both sides have been under immense pressure from Arab states to resume talks, stop the infighting and put together a government of technocrats. At a meeting between Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Jordan's King Abdullah yesterday, the two leaders called on the Palestinians to form a unity government.
In an unusual development, Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood also called on the Palestinians to respect each other and to end the bloodshed.

Continued (Permanent Link)

PM dismisses Meshal comments that Israel's existence is a reality

Last update - 10:31 11/01/2007
PM dismisses Meshal comments that Israel's existence is a reality

By Avi Issacharoff, Haaretz Correspondent, Haaretz Service and Reuters

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Thursday shrugged off comments by Hamas'
Damascus-based political chief Khaled Meshal, in which he acknowledged the
existence of Israel.

Meshal, whose Hamas movement leads the Palestinian government, told Reuters in
an interview on Wednesday that Israel is a "matter of fact," apparently
softening a previous refusal to accept that Israel's existence.

Olmert, asked by reporters accompanying him on a visit to China about Meshal's
acceptance of Israel as a state that will endure, said: "Does that mean we
weren't until now?"

"Should I be expected to check what he said? Should I be expected to read what
he said?" Olmert added, shrugging as he toured Beijing's Forbidden City.

Hamas for its part denied Wednesday that Meshal told Reuters in an interview
that his group would consider recognizing Israel once a Palestinian state is
established. (Click here for the full interview)[Mewnews - It is not the full
interview, but rather the excerpts published yesterday - ]

One hour after the Reuters interview was published, the Hamas government
spokesman Ghazi Hamad told Haaretz that Meshal said, "Israel exists - and
that's a fact."

However, Hamad maintained that Meshal did not say anything about recognizing
Israel. "There was no change in our stance that Hamas does not recognize
Israel," he said.

Salah Bardawil, head of Hamas's parliamentary faction, told Haaretz that after
checking with Meshal, it seems to be that his words were twisted and

"He didn't speak about any recognition of Israel, only a cease-fire with
Israel," Bardawil said.

Israel is a "reality" and "there will remain a state called Israel, this is a
matter of fact," Meshal, who is considered Hamas' main power broker, told

The problem was not Israel's existence but the failure to establish a state
for Palestinians, said Meshal, whose party leads the Palestinian government.

Formal recognition of Israel could only be considered by Hamas once such a
Palestinian state is established, Reuters quoted Meshal as saying.

Senior Hamas officials have already made similar statements over the past
year, saying Israel's existence is an undeniable reality, but this is the
first time that such statements are emanating from the group's Syria-based

This is also the first time that a Hamas official has raised the possibility
of full and official recognition of Israel in the future. To date the group's
official position, which Meshal had repeatedly reiterated, was that Hamas will
never recognize Israel.

"The distant future will have its own circumstances and positions could be
determined then," he said. Past concessions to Israel by Palestinian
negotiators went unrewarded, he argued, and his Islamist group would drive
hard bargains over key issues such as recognition.

"For Israel to suck us into bargains in stages and in packages - this road
constitutes an attempt to weaken the Palestinian position."

Israel and Western governments have put financial sanctions on the Hamas-led
Palestinian government for refusing to recognize Israel, renounce violence and
accept past peace accords. Egypt has also been stepping up pressure on Hamas
to recognize Israel.

Meshal said Hamas would defy the Western conditions and refuse to consider
granting formal recognition to Israel until its demand for a Palestinian state
was met.

Hamas wants a Palestinian state that includes Gaza, the West Bank and East
Jerusalem and the right of Palestinian refugees to return to homes lost in the
1967 Six Day War and before, Meshal said.

"As a Palestinian today I speak of a Palestinian and Arab demand for a state
on 1967 borders. It is true that in reality there will be an entity or state
called Israel on the rest of Palestinian land," said Meshal.

"This is a reality but I won't deal with it in terms of recognizing or
admitting it," he added.

Asked about Meshal's comments, Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev responded
that Hamas had said in the past it wanted to wipe Israel from the map and
there was no indication it had changed its position.

Meshal also blamed "Israeli intransigence" for the delay in a deal to release
captured Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit in exchange for thousands
of Palestinian prisoners. Shalit's father Noam said Wednesday he would be
willing to turn himself over to his son's captors if they release the captured

"The message must reach Gilad Shalit's family that Israel bears the
responsibility for prolonging his captivity," Meshal said. "There had been
real progress and Egypt is making a positive effort but regrettably the talks
stumbled in the last few days because of Israeli intransigence," Meshal said.

"We are keen to release Shalit as soon as possible, but only in return for
Israel releasing a number of our men, women, children and Palestinian leaders
in its jails," he said.

Meshal said Shalit was being given "good treatment."

"The international community is concerned for one Israeli soldier called Gilad
Shalit and has memorized his name," Meshal said. "It must show concern for the
suffering of 11,000 Palestinian prisoners who include 400 children and 120

Continued (Permanent Link)

Weizmann Institute research promises antibiotics revolution

Last update - 05:55 11/01/2007   
Weizmann Institute research promises antibiotics revolution
By Ofri Ilani, Haaretz Correspondent

Scientists at the Weizmann Institute of Science have developed novel antibiotics that are more effective than conventional drugs in fighting bacteria. The substance they developed melts the germ's cell surface rapidly, preventing it from producing a new generation of bugs that have adapted to the medicine. But it may be a decade before the discovery is put into use.
In recent decades scientists have warned of bacteria's increasing resistance to most kinds of antibiotics.
Few scientific discoveries have had as profound an effect on humanity as the discovery of penicillin 81 years ago. In the world before antibiotics, the infection of a small wound was potentially fatal, and pneumonia killed millions of people. But at the present rate of germs becoming immune to antibiotics, current medications may become ineffective within 20 years. The implications are disastrous. Medicine could be helpless in conquering illnesses considered relatively easy to cure today.
The reason for growing bacterial resistance is that existing antibiotic strains attack only certain "targets" in the germ, leaving active remnants. The next generation of germs receives the information from the injured ones and mutates, rendering the antibiotic ineffective. The main damage is caused by the wrong use of antibiotics. If the entire dose is not consumed, germs remain in the body and quickly learn how to become resistant to the substance.
Now Weizmann Institute scientists, headed by Professor Yehiel Shai, have designed a more powerful antibiotic. The system that Shai and Ph.D. students Arik Makovitzky and Dorit Avrahami of the Biological Chemistry Department have developed causes massive destruction of germs and completely melts their cell surface. The germ is destroyed too fast to enable it to study the medicine's characteristics and thus it cannot transfer information to the next generation.
Shai's team succeeded in combining the properties of a natural antibiotic produced by all organisms. Because these antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) are positively charged, they are attracted to the bacteria's negatively charged surface like a magnet, where they can then destroy them. "These methods have worked for natural organisms for millions of years, so they should be effective for a very long time," Shai says.
As reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), the team succeeded in combining the properties of AMPs with lipopeptides, resulting in a synthetic lipopeptide that has both a positive charge and the soap-like ability to dissolve oils.
"It's a sort of sophisticated soap, which melts the fatty part of the germ cover, compared to ordinary antibiotics, which penetrate the cell and then paralyze specific systems," says Shai.
Shai says the technology he and his team have developed is still in a preliminary stage and could take 10 years until it is put into use.
"The graver the problem of germs becoming immune becomes, the more resources I assume they'll invest in it," he says.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Security Council Resolution 1737: Too Little, Too Late

Security Council Resolution 1737:Too Little, Too Late

Ephraim Asculai 
INSS Insight  No. 6  January 11, 2007

On December 23, 2006 the UN Security Council (SC) unanimously adopted
Resolution 1737.  The Resolution imposes sanctions on Iran for failing to
comply with previous SC demands and again insists that Iran suspend
proliferation-sensitive nuclear activities, including all enrichment-related
and reprocessing activities, research and development, and work on all
heavy-water related projects, including the construction of a research
reactor moderated by heavy water. There is nothing new in these demands,
which have been made time and again by the International Atomic Energy
Agency (IAEA) and the SC.  Moreover, the present resolution is almost four
months overdue; the last deadline that Iran ignored was on August 31.

Although Iran has briefly suspended uranium-enrichment-related activity
twice in the past, it had been steadily progressing since it resumed work in
mid-2005. Since then, it has constructed several enrichment "cascades" and
has actually enriched (below the 5% level) very small amounts of
uranium-235. This degree of enrichment is needed for power-reactor fuel but
it is also the essential step en route to weapons-grade material (about
90%). In practical terms, this means that Iran has been unhindered in the
pursuit of its nuclear ambitions. It means that international opinion, in
the virtual absence of any real action, has had no effect on Iran's
progress. It means that unless something drastic is done, Iran will achieve
its aims in the foreseeable future. It is in this light that the present SC
resolution should be examined.

The imposition of sanctions on a state is meant to achieve several purposes:
to coerce it into taking action mandated by the imposer of sanctions; to
prevent undesirable actions, and to punish. The first purpose is clearly
defined in the Resolution, which states that the SC "shall suspend the
implementation of measures if and for so long as Iran suspends all
enrichment-related and reprocessing activities, including research and
development, as verified by the IAEA, to allow for negotiations." Thus, the
sanctions have to be severe enough to force Iran to take verifiable actions
to stop its weapons-related activities.

The undesirable action to be prevented is continued progress in Iran's
nuclear programs. For this reason, the Resolution requires that "all states
shall take the necessary measures to prevent the supply, sale or transfer
directly or indirectly from their territories. to, or for the use in or
benefit of, Iran, and whether or not originating in their territories, of.
items, materials, equipment, goods and technolog[ies]." These measures are
further detailed in the text of the Resolution.

Punitive action is rarely taken for its own sake. In the case of Libya, for
example, punitive sanctions were applied in order to end the regime's
support of terrorism and halt Libya's nuclear program.  These objectives
were eventually achieved without a change of regime, and when they were
achieved, the sanctions were rescinded.

Can Resolution 1737 achieve the aims of coercion and prevention?  The
prospects are virtually non-existent. In order to coerce Iran into
suspending its nuclear activities, the penalties for failing to do so would
have to be much harsher at this late stage of the game. But under Russian
pressure, the sanctions originally proposed were gravely watered down to the
point where they cannot possibly persuade Iran to suspend its activities.
Technical sanctions, for example, cover only the provision of materials,
equipment and know-how that are not related to the Russian and the Iranian
power and research reactors at Bushehr, Teheran and Esfahan.  As a result,
much material and equipment applicable to Iran's nuclear program can be
imported under these exceptions; restrictions in the form of end-use
declarations and some verification can be overcome. Moreover, plutonium
(albeit not of very good quality) can be extracted (albeit not easily) from
the nuclear fuel in the Bushehr power reactor, i.e., on Iranian soil.

In the economic realm, the Resolution states that "all States shall freeze
the funds, other financial assets and economic resources which are on their
territories at the date of adoption of this resolution or at any time
thereafter, that are owned or controlled by the persons or entities
designated in the Annex, as well as those of additional persons or entities
designated by the Security Council." What does the Annex detail? Because of
the Russian pressure, the SC designates seven "entities"
(companies/organizations) in the nuclear field, seven persons involved in
the nuclear program, three entities and four persons in the ballistic
missile area, and one person involved in both. These are ludicrous numbers;
there are tens of organizations and hundreds, if not thousands, of people
involved in both programs. Moreover, the designated people are not
prohibited from travel if the purpose of the travel is related to the
permitted activities. Otherwise, only proper "vigilance" should be exercised
concerning their travel. It is difficult to imagine a greater display of

But for the pressure by Russia (with the support of China) a much stronger
resolution would almost certainly have been adopted. Why did Russia act in
this way?  There are probably several explanations: economic interests,
preemption of Iranian assistance to Islamic dissidents (Chechnya comes to
mind), a wish to snub the US, and a desire to maintain Iran as an ally.
Underlying all of these is almost certainly the belief that a nuclear Iran
does not pose a threat to Russia.  Otherwise, Russia would have acted

With the exception of the Iranian representative, all speakers at the SC
expressed their satisfaction with Resolution and all stressed that the door
remained open to negotiations for a diplomatic solution. On that happy note,
they retired for the Christmas holidays. However, the most probable future
scenario leads to an entirely different outlook: Iran will not heed the call
for suspension but will persist and eventually accomplish its military
nuclear goals. The non-proliferation regime, the IAEA and the SC will prove
to have been ineffective, and the world will find itself in a much more
difficult and dangerous situation.  Because it does too little and comes too
late, Resolution 1737 will not prevent this outcome.

INSS Insight is published through the generosity of
Sari and Israel Roizman, Philadelphia
The Institute for National Security Studies

Continued (Permanent Link)

Poll of Labor Party members: Barak learned from mistakes 44%:45%,

Poll of Labor Party members: Barak learned from mistakes 44%:45%, Primaries:
Ayalon 31% Barak 27% Pines 19% Peretz 10% Yatom 2%

Dr. Aaron Lerner     Date:  11 January 2007

Telephone poll of a representative sample of 598 Labor Party members carried
out by Maagar Mohot Survey Institute (headed by Professor Yitzchak Katz for
Israel Radio's "Its all Talk" on 10 January 2007.  Statistical error +/- 4.5 percentage points.

Ehud Barak recently said that he learned from his past mistakes - do you
believe Barak?
Yes 44% No 45% Other 11%

Of the following candidates , who is most appropriate to serve as defense
minister for the Labor Party?
Ayalon 44% Barak 36% Peretz 8% Other replies 12%

Of the following candidates, who has the best chance to return the Labor
Party to power in the coming Knesset elections?
Ayalon 31% Barak 31% Pines 16% Peretz 7% Yatom 3% Other replies 12%

If primaries for the election of chairman of the Labor Party and its
candidate for prime minister were held today with the following candidates,
who would you vote for?
Ayalon 31% Barak 27% Pines 19% Peretz 10% Yatom 2% Other replies 11%

And if it goes a second round?
Ayalon 50% Barak 37% Other replies 13%

IMRA - Independent Media Review and Analysis

Continued (Permanent Link)

Israel field-tests effective anti-RPG weapon - So why isn't the U.S. Army doing the same?

Israel field-tests effective anti-RPG weapon
So why isn't the U.S. Army doing the same? NBC News investigates
By Adam Ciralsky, Lisa Myers & the NBC News Investigative Unit
Updated: 7:16 p.m. ET Jan. 9, 2007

WASHINGTON - In September, NBC News first reported on a fierce debate within
the Pentagon over an Israeli-made system that shoots rocket-propelled
grenades (RPGs) out of the sky. The Army seems intent on killing the system,
but officials in the Office of the Secretary of Defense believe it can save
American lives.

Over the last three years, U.S. commanders in Iraq have issued a series of
urgent pleas for a system to counter RPGs - a favorite weapon of insurgents
in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Pentagon's Office of Force Transformation (OFT) scoured the world for a
solution and thought it found one in "Trophy," which was developed over the
last decade in Israel.

Trophy works by scanning all directions and automatically detecting when an
RPG is launched. The system then fires an interceptor - traveling hundreds
of miles a minute - that destroys the RPG safely away from the vehicle.

OFT subjected Trophy to 30 tests and found it is "more than 98 percent"
effective at killing RPGs. Officials then made plans to battle-test the
system on some Stryker fighting vehicles headed to Iraq this year.

But the U.S. Army blocked that testing. Why? Pentagon sources tell NBC
News - and internal Army documents seem to confirm - that Army officials
consider Trophy a threat to their crown jewel, the $160 billion Future
Combat System (FCS). Under FCS, the Army is paying Raytheon Co. $70 million
to build an RPG-defense system from scratch.

In an interview with NBC News on June 26, 2006, an Army official said Trophy
simply is not ready.

"The Army is opposed to deploying a system before we assure that it's safe,
effective, suitable and supportable," said Col. Donald Kotchman. "Trophy is
not there yet."

In letters to Congress since our first reports, the Army says that the best
proof Trophy is not ready is that the "Israeli Defense Forces have yet to
integrate and field Trophy."

To check out the Army's claims, we went back to Israel. We found that the
Israeli military has indeed begun to integrate and field Trophy on tanks,
buying at least 100 systems.

Brig. Gen. Amir Nir leads that effort. We asked him about claims that Trophy
has not been sufficiently tested and that it's not ready to be deployed.

"It's the most mature, and it can do the job," he said. "We cannot afford
waiting for the next generation."

This fall, after our first reports aired, Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Sorenson gave
Congress a laundry list of reasons the U.S. Army opposes Trophy.

Can Trophy handle attacks from every direction?

"From the standpoint of providing 360-degree coverage, we have issues,"
Sorenson told the Tactical Air and Land Forces subcommittee of the House
Armed Services Committee on Sept. 21, 2006.

What does Nir say? Will Trophy be able to engage targets from all

"Yeah, 360 degrees," he says.

Can Trophy reload automatically?

"From the standpoint of an autoloader that's not yet developed, we have
issues," said Sorenson before Congress.

Sorenson suggested that in the absence of an autoloader, soldiers would have
to climb out of the vehicle and manually reload the system, perhaps under
hostile fire?

We went to Trophy's manufacturer, Rafael, to see if there is an autoloader.

Col. Didi Ben Yoash, a reservist in the Israeli Defense Forces who works for
Rafael, showed us one.

"Absolutely, this is an autoloader," he said.

How does he respond to U.S. Army claims that Trophy doesn't have an

"Well, this is an autoloader," he said.

Gen. Nir also confimed to NBC that "the full system provides you the ability
to reload automatically."

What's the risk to troops when Trophy intercepts an RPG?

After our first report on Sept. 5, 2006, the Army told Congress it has
"serious concerns over soldier safety."

What is the Israeli army's view of how much additional risk there is to the

"As far as we tested, it added at most 1 percent," says Nir. "Not a
significant risk."

In fact, the Israelis argue that Trophy, while not perfect, will provide
much-needed protection for troops and save lives - the same conclusion
reached by Trophy's backers in the Pentagon. They argue that Trophy should
be fielded as an interim solution in response to U.S. commanders requests
for help against RPGs. These officials believe that the troops cannot afford
to wait while the U.S. Army and Raytheon perfect a longer-term solution.

We wanted to ask the U.S. Army about all this. Sorensen first agreed to an
interview, then canceled it. The Army also refused to answer 29 specific
questions we submitted.

The Army did give us two statements, one saying, in part: "The U.S. Army is
dedicated to ensuring our soldiers deploy with the best force protection
capability" and is working on a system to counter RPGs.

When will that system, being built by Raytheon, be ready?

The Army previously told us it could get it to the troops in four years, by
2011, but now declines to say whether it still is on course to meet that

Later this week on "NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams," Lisa Myers will
continue her reporting on the Trophy weapons system. She'll reveal new
internal Army documents that suggest the Army went even further than she
previously reported to block Pentagon efforts to test Trophy.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

When Hamas learns how to adapt

When Hamas learns how to adapt
By Amira Hass
A resident of a refugee camp in Nablus, a member of Fatah, used to worship at a mosque that is identified with Hamas. As an employee of the public sector, he is one of tens of thousands of wage-earners who are not getting a regular salary. Once every few days, he would find a generous food package on his doorstep, put there by anonymous benefactors. Recently he began to worship at a different mosque, one not identified with Hamas. Since then there haven't been any packages. It's a story that is in accord with various impressions to the effect that Hamas finds indirect ways to reward its supporters.
These impressions are based on the legend that Hamas' charitable organizations have long created alternatives to the official welfare services. However, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) is ahead of anyone else in providing emergency aid to Palestinian families: In the second quarter of 2006, 45.6 percent of the aid that was received by Palestinian families came from UNRWA. Second on the list is the Palestinian Welfare Ministry, with a 14.4 percent share of the aid. Various charitable organizations (many of them identified with Hamas) are responsible for no more than 3.5 percent of the aid. Nonetheless, this impression does have a connection to the general conduct of the Hamas leadership. Contrary to its pretension of being "the government of resistance to the occupation," in contrast to Fatah's "government of adaptation to the occupation," it already began to imitate its predecessor at the moment it established a government along the lines of the previous format, the one shaped by Yasser Arafat's self-deception that he was heading "a normal country."
The Hamas government has preserved, for example, fictive bodies like the Youth and Sports Ministry, and the Tourism Ministry, and has not established government ministries that would be fitting to its promise to fight the occupation: for example, a ministry for the struggle against the Jewish settlements in the territories or one for family reunification.
This tendency to emulation continued with the wave of political appointments in the various ministries, and reached its peak in the establishment of the Interior Ministry's military "operational force." Arafat and Fatah inflated the number of security mechanisms so as to have a way of paying a substitute to unemployment stipends and in order to create a loyal clientele. When the Israel Defense Forces attacked last week, in the middle of Ramallah, the earth swallowed up the people of the Presidential Guard who are always available to interfere with traffic in the city every time the cavalcade of Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) passes through the streets. Nor did they and other security people prevent persons unknown from setting fire on Sunday to about 20 shops in the center of Ramallah.
What are they doing in Hamas? The same thing. They are setting up an organization of their own and promising to expand it to 12,000 people. They, too, are seeing to a clientele.
The Hamas government rejects claims that it owes its existence to the Oslo agreements. At the same time, however, it has sanctified the unjust distribution of the budget, Arafat's legacy, among civil and "security" ministries: In 2006, this imbalance was maintained, when only 7 percent of the budget was directed to the health ministry, as compared to 24.3 percent to the Ministry of the Interior and National Security. Here, for some reason, the budget that was determined by the Oslo government is sacrosanct.
Like the people of the security mechanisms under the Fatah government, a Hamas force has opened fire not only on its rivals, armed men of the Fatah, but also on unarmed demonstrators, who marched in Jabalya on Thursday evening with the aim of lifting the siege that the men of the "operational force" imposed on the home of a senior Fatah personage. An 18-year-old demonstrator was killed and about another 30 were wounded.
Behind the rival security mechanisms are Hamas and Fatah politicians who are fighting for control. Hamas argues, rightly, that ever since the elections, Fatah has been doing everything it can to bring about a putsch. But the Palestinian public did not elect Hamas because of its lack of recognition of Israel. It elected Hamas because it wanted a change in the ways of the independent government, limited though it might be. As time passes, however, Hamas is proving more and more that as a "government," it is good at declarations, weak in evincing concern for its people as a whole, and ready to adapt when it comes to the reality of the occupation.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Hamas denies Meshal spoke of recognizing Israel

Hamas denies Meshal spoke of recognizing Israel
By Avi Issacharoff, Haaretz Correspondent, Haaretz Service and Reuters

Hamas denied Wednesday that its Damascus-based political leader Khaled Meshal told Reuters in an interview that his group would consider recognizing Israel once a Palestinian state is established. (Click here for the full interview)
One hour after the Reuters interview was published, the Hamas government spokesman Ghazi Hamad told Haaretz that Meshal said, "Israel exists- and that's a fact."
However, Hamad maintained that Meshal did not say anything about recognizing Israel. "There was no change in our stance that Hamas does not recognize Israel," he said.
Salah Bardawil, head of Hamas's parliamentary faction, told Haaretz that after checking with Meshal, it seems to be that his words were twisted and distorted.
"He didn?t speak about any recognition of Israel, only a cease-fire with Israel," Bardawil said.
Hamas acknowledges the existence of Israel is an established fact, the group's Damascus-based political chief Khaled Meshal told Reuters on Wednesday.
Israel is a "reality" and "there will remain a state called Israel, this is a matter of fact," Meshal, who is considered Hamas' main power broker, said in an interview.
The problem was not Israel's existence but the failure to establish a state for Palestinians, said Meshal, whose party leads the Palestinian government.
Formal recognition of Israel could only be considered by Hamas once such a Palestinian state is established, said Reuters quoted Meshal as saying.
Senior Hamas officials have already made similar statements over the past year, saying Israel's existence is an undeniable reality, but this is the first time that such statements are emanating from the group's Syria-based leadership.
This is also the first time that a Hamas official has raised the possibility of full and official recognition of Israel in the future. To date the group's official position, which Meshal had repeatedly reiterated, was that Hamas will never recognize Israel.
"The distant future will have its own circumstances and positions could be determined then," he said. Past concessions to Israel by Palestinian negotiators went unrewarded, he argued, and his Islamist group would drive hard bargains over key issues such as recognition.
"For Israel to suck us into bargains in stages and in packages - this road constitutes an attempt to weaken the Palestinian position."
Israel and Western governments have put financial sanctions on the Hamas-led Palestinian government for refusing to recognize Israel, renounce violence and accept past peace accords. Egypt has also been stepping up pressure on Hamas to recognize Israel.
Meshal said Hamas would defy the Western conditions and refuse to consider granting formal recognition to Israel until its demand for a Palestinian state was met.
Hamas wants a Palestinian state that includes Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem and the right of Palestinian refugees to return to homes lost in the 1967 Six Day War and before, Meshal said.
"As a Palestinian today I speak of a Palestinian and Arab demand for a state on 1967 borders. It is true that in reality there will be an entity or state called Israel on the rest of Palestinian land," said Meshal.
"This is a reality but I won't deal with it in terms of recognizing or admitting it," he added.
Asked about Meshal's comments, Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev responded that Hamas had said in the past it wanted to wipe Israel from the map and there was no indication it had changed its position.
Meshal also blamed "Israeli intransigence" for the delay in a deal to release captured IDF soldier Gilad Shalit in exchange for thousands of Palestinian prisoners. Shalit's father Noam said Wednesday he would be willing to turn himself over to his son's captors if they release the captured soldier.
"The message must reach Gilad Shalit's family that Israel bears the responsibility for prolonging his captivity," Meshal said. "There had been real progress and Egypt is making a positive effort but regrettably the talks stumbled in the last few days because of Israeli intransigence," Meshal said.
"We are keen to release Shalit as soon as possible, but only in return for Israel releasing a number of our men, women, children and Palestinian leaders in its jails," he said.
Meshal said Shalit was being given "good treatment."
"The international community is concerned for one Israeli soldier called Gilad Shalit and has memorized his name," Meshal said. "It must show concern for the suffering of 11,000 Palestinian prisoners who include 400 children and 120 women."
Egypt, Jordan to press for Israeli-Palestinian 'final status' agreement
Egypt and Jordan will press for agreement on "final status" issues between Israel and the Palestinians, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit the Egyptian foreign minister said on Wednesday, days before a visit by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit told a news conference that the quest should take precedence over the Middle East peace plan known as the road map, announced by international mediators in 2003 but never fully implemented.
"There is a common position by Egypt, Jordan, the Arabs and the Palestinians calling for 'let us agree on the end of the road and let us agree on what we call...the endgame before we talk about the road map'," he said.
Egypt has floated the same idea before, but it did so this time two days before Rice leaves on a Middle East tour billed as another drive to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts.
For the past few years, peace moves have concentrated on trying to bring about small confidence-building measures, leaving aside bigger questions such as the borders of a future Palestinian state or the fate of Palestinian refugees.
The Egyptian campaign for a rethink, backed to some extent by Jordan, has made little difference to the policies of the United States, which continues to propose short-term measures by Israelis and Palestinians.
Aboul Gheit added: "The endgame has its specific concepts... Let's agree on the frameworks of the [peace] settlement. This is the Egyptian position." He did not elaborate.
Jordanian Foreign Minister Abdelelah al-Khatib, who spoke at the same news conference, did not dispute the Egyptian minister's interpretation of Jordan's position.
"The final settlement is a Palestinian demand and an Arab demand, and there must be agreement on the final settlement whatever steps and stages it takes," Khatib added.
Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas on Wednesday called on the Palestinians to work to prevent internal violence from exploding into an all-out civil war.
"We stress the necessity of sparing the Palestinian people any internal confrontations and to avoid using weapons as a medium for dialogue and to focus on dialogue only to solve our differences," he said before a Cabinet meeting. "The differences exist, they are there, but this does not mean that they should be solved by gun fire."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Reuters Q & A interview with Khaled Meshal [Excerpts]

Last update - 21:56 10/01/2007   

Reuters Q & A interview with Khaled Meshal
By Reuters
Hamas leader Khaled Meshal said on Wednesday that Hamas acknowledges the existence of Israel as a reality but formal recognition by the group will  only be considered when a Palestinian state has been created.
Following are excerpts from Meshal's interview with Reuters.
Q: What does Hamas want?
A: We in Hamas are with the general Palestinian and Arab position and we are with the consensus of the necessity of establishing a Palestinian state on the June 4 borders, including (East) Jerusalem, the right of return and the withdrawal of Israel to these borders.
Q: Does accepting the 1967 borders presuppose the existence
of Israel?
A: The problem is not that there is an entity called Israel, the problem is that the Palestinian state is non-existent. There is a reality that Israel exists on Palestinian territory. The problem is that the Palestinian state does not exist. My concern as a Palestinian is to found this state. International relations are not based just on recognition.
Q: Does that mean you accept Israel exists?
A: We do not want to go into issues that complicate the struggle. We are offering a real chance that the Arabs and Palestinians believe in. There will remain a state called Israel, this is an issue of fact but the Palestinians should not be required to recognize Israel. Not all international relations are based on the basis of recognition. Who will be the one to grab this chance?
Q: Does that mean you can formally recognize Israel?
A: We as Hamas and as Palestinians do not talk about recognizing Israel or accepting it as a reality. As a Palestinian today I speak of a Palestinian and Arab demand for a state on 1967 borders. It is true that in reality there will be an entity or a state called Israel on the rest of Palestinian land. This is reality but I don't deal with it from the point of view of recognizing or admitting it. It is a fact that was the
result of historical factors.
Q. Could Hamas recognize Israel in the future and alter its charter which calls for Israel's destruction?
A: Why should we occupy ourselves with a distant future when we have urgent needs to achieve in the near future? The distant future will have its own circumstances and positions could be determined then.
Q. Are you saying you will drive a harder bargain than other negotiators in past?
A. The method used by Israel in its negotiations with the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization) and in its attempts to take free compromises in return for limited small offers will not work with the Hamas movement. Hamas today has the confidence of the people and won the ballot. Hamas cannot accept the logic of bargains with Israel. Israel has to respect Palestinian rights. We are demanding a Palestinian state on the 1967 border including Jerusalem and the right of return. Israel has to say yes I agree and withdraw. But for Israel to suck us into bargains in stages and in packages, this road constitutes an attempt to weaken the Palestinian position, to lure the Palestinians into lowering the ceiling of their demands and to use the time factor and pressure which will not work with us.
Q. Will there be a new Palestinian government?
A. We had a plan to go for a government of national unity that was not technocratic but with ministers who were experts and we were searching for a formula that would not bring symbols into the government. But this project failed. Now we say 'we go to an unconditional dialogue. Each side
present their vision.' And at this stage we are committed to the formation of a government of national unity headed by current Prime Minister Haniyeh and on the basis of the national accord document. Then we agree on the details regarding the formation of the government.

Continued (Permanent Link)

The General and the 'money people'

Rosner's Blog 
 Shmuel Rosner Chief U.S. Correspondent 
Posted: January 09, 2007
The General and the 'money people'
1. A couple of months ago I was contacted by someone working on behalf of Wesley Clark. He had just read something I wrote about the general and he wasn't happy.
This is what I wrote:
"Last Monday, in the Dirksen Senate Office Building, General Wesley Clark (Ret.) ascended the dais to give a speech at a small convention on the "real" State of the Union 2006. On the face of it, it was a frank, gloves-off speech without the glitz and spin of the official State of the Union Speech made annually by the president to Congress, which took place on Tuesday. Only on the face of it, however, since it was obvious that Clark, the keynote speaker, still dreams of being president one day. His rather ingenuous 2004 bid for the Democratic Party's nomination did not take away his taste for the race, and his speech showed it."
The man, as I said, wasn't happy. Why are you against him? he asked. I promised that I wasn't, which was true. Back then.
2. In our Israel Factor, the monthly ranking of potential Presidential nominees, Clark got somewhat mediocre marks, but was not among those who were evidently out of favor. Take a look at the marks he got in the first four surveys and you'll see him somewhere in the middle. Is the candidate likely to change his position after the election, we asked, and the panel said, again, that he wasn't among those most likely to do so.
3. The panel was right. Why change after the election when you can do it before the race has begun? Yesterday, an interview with Clark was published that makes him look pretty bad. Tired of using the word anti-Semitic, I'll just say that he seemed, well, angry.
4. For those of you who didn't read the Clark interview in the Huffington Post, here it is:
Clark is talking about the possibility of military action against Iran:
"How can you talk about bombing a country when you won't even talk to them?" said Clark. "It's outrageous. We're the United States of America; we don't do that. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying the military option is off the table - but diplomacy is not what Jim Baker says it is. It's not, 'what will it take for you boys to support us on Iraq?' It's sitting down for a couple of days and talking about our families and our hopes, and building relationships."
When we asked him what made him so sure the Bush administration was headed in this direction, he replied: "You just have to read what's in the Israeli press. The Jewish community is divided, but there is so much pressure being channeled from the New York money people to the office seekers."
4. Gee, what can he possibly mean by "pressure being channeled from the New York money people"?
5. Two aspects of these ramblings I find worthy of comment. First: how and why has it become so easy to speak in this way about the Jews? Second: What does it mean politically?
6. It is, actually, rather troubling, even scary. People in elite circles somehow came to the conclusion that denouncing the Jewish community and its support for Israel is now becoming acceptable. Walt and Mersheimer came first, then former president Carter, now Clark - and we already have a new trend on our hands. A Jewish leader with whom I spoke yesterday asked me this most disquieting question: Is the ice thinner than one might have thought?
7. Politically, it is voices coming from the Democratic party, again, a nuance that the Republican Jewish Coalition could hardly miss. Yesterday, it released a statement "strongly condemned 'blatantly anti-semitic' remarks made by Retired General Wesley Clark in an interview with Arianna Huffington and urged the Democrat presidential aspirant to apologize... This is yet another sign that the veiled and not-so-veiled anti-Semitic sentiments that are rampant in the left-wing blogosphere are seeping into the 'mainstream' of Democrats' political discourse."
Now, we all know this is partisan politics. But what can we say? Facts are facts.
"It's a sign that pro-Israel sentiment is not as strong in Democratic politics as it used to be," writes Michael Barone in his blog. Democratic leaders have already distanced themselves from Carter's book and statements on Israel. What will they do now, distance themselves again? Will Hillary Clinton, the New York nominee, distance herself from a man who was her husband's protégé?
8. In early 2004, I met Clark in New Hampshire as he made his rounds to win the hearts and minds of potential voters. We chatted for ten minutes in a coffee shop - it was unplanned, I was sitting there and he just entered. When he heard I was from Israel he immediately jumped with the story, familiar to all by then, of his Jewish roots. I'm willing to bet he is going to use this again as he attempts clarifies the remarks he made.
Note: Some corrections were made to this article after it was already posted.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Majadle becomes first Arab minister

Majadle becomes first Arab minister


Labor chairman Amir Peretz decided to appoint MK Ghaleb Majadleh as Israel's first Arab and first Muslim minister on Wednesday, replacing MK Ophir-Paz-Pines as Science, Culture and Sport Minister.

Peretz called the move a historic step to improve Arab-Jewish relations, promote equality and make up for the addition to the cabinet of Israel Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman, who Peretz considers racist. Paz-Pines, who is running against Peretz, quit the cabinet two months ago to protest Lieberman's joining.

But Peretz's critics said the decision was a desperate attempt to save his struggling
re-election campaign ahead of the May 28 Labor leadership race. Majadleh, who endorsed Shimon Peres in the last race, heads the party's Arab sector, Labor's second-largest.

"The dirty deal of Peretz and Majadleh is a new record in cynicism and insulting the intelligence of Israeli voters," Paz-Pines said. "It proves how low the party has fallen,that it has lost its path, and that it must go through a transformation or it will lose
its right to exist and vanish from the political map. It's proper that Israel have anArab minister but this appointment was made solely to aid Peretz's re-election campaign."

  • Paz-Pines pointed out that Majadleh was one of the leaders of the fight for Labor to quit the government rather than sit at a cabinet table with Lieberman.

    "Lieberman wants a Jewish country with no Arabs so we cannot legitimize him by sitting with him," Majadleh said at the time.

    But Majadleh, a former Histadrut official who lives in Baka al-Gharbiya, changed his tune on Wednesday when he met with Peretz and accepted the position.

    "My appointment is an important precedent-setting step toward integrating the million
    Arabs in this country," Majadleh said. "Many have talked about equality but Amir Peretz is the first to really take a step to bring it about."

    Israel had a Druse minister, Salah Tarif, who served as a minister-without-portfolio in
    former prime minister Ariel Sharon's government and an Arab deputy foreign minister in Nawaf Masalha, but Majadleh will become the first Arab and Muslim minister after he gets approved by the cabinet and the Knesset next week.

    MK Nadia Hilu, who is an Arab Christian, was asked to replace Majadleh as the head of the Knesset's interior committee. Hilu called Majadleh's appointment "an important step on the path to coexistence." But when Lieberman was appointed, she said that if Labor remained in the government, it would "lose its spine and ideology."

    Hadash MK Mohammed Barakeh said the appointment had nothing to do with equality and called it "a stinking maneuver intended to save the miniscule chance of Peretz remaining Labor chairman."

    The appointment makes it less likely that Labor will receive the Social Affairs portfolio. Channel 10 reported on Wednesday that in the past 48 hours, Peretz had said for the first time that he might have to give up the Defense portfolio in favor of a socioeconomic portfolio to counter former prime minister Ehud Barak's effort to focus the race on who was fitting to serve as defense minister. Peretz's spokesman denied the report.

    Barak, who has not given any interviews to the Israeli press since last spring, will make his first speech since his comeback at a United Kibbutz Movement event on Sunday at Kibbutz Afikim in the Jordan Valley. Barak is also expected to campaign on Friday for Labor's candidate in the Givatayim mayoral race, Iris Avraham.

    A Teleseker poll of Labor members published in Ma'ariv on Wednesday found that Barak had passed up MK Ami Ayalon for the lead in the race for the first time. Thirty percent said they supported Barak, followed by Ayalon (23%), Paz-Pines (18%), Peretz (12%) and MK Danny Yatom (2%).

    Asked who was most fitting to serve as defense minister, 48% said Barak, 29% Ayalon, 8% Yatom and 4.8% Peretz. Forty-eight percent said Barak had changed for the better, 4% said he changed for the worse and 34% said he had not changed.

    Ayalon said he did not take the poll seriously even when he led them. Barak's ally,
    Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon said, "the pattern has been going that way for a long time and Ami knows it."

    Education Minister Yuli Tamir endorsed Peretz on Wednesday, joining Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh, Labor faction chairman Yoram Marciano and MK Shelley Yacimovich in supporting him. Majadleh and Hilu are expected to follow suit.

    "There are those who want to remove Peretz from Israeli politics, but the attacks against him are exaggerated and not appropriate," Tamir told Israel Radio. "Amir Peretz made mistakes, but we all make mistakes."

    Former OC Northern Command Maj.-Gen. (res.) Amiram Levine announced his support for Ayalon. Levine supported Israel Beiteinu in the election in March.

    "It's clear that the current leadership is not getting the public backing, and what
    disturbs the citizens of Israel most is the shallowness, corruption, and greed that is
    prevalent in all those currently in power," Levine told Israel Radio. "Therefore it's
    important to support the entrance of modest people, such as Ami Ayalon, so as to improve Labor's chances of regaining control of the government."

  • Continued (Permanent Link)

    Meshal: Hamas accepts State of Israel is a reality

    Last update - 21:13 10/01/2007   

    Meshal: Hamas accepts State of Israel is a reality
    By Avi Issacharoff, Haaretz Correspondent, Haaretz Service and Reuters
    Hamas acknowledges the existence of Israel is an established fact, the group's Damascus-based political chief Khaled Meshal told Reuters on Wednesday.
    Israel is a "reality" and "there will remain a state called Israel, this is a matter of fact," Meshal, who is considered Hamas' main power broker, said in an interview.
    The problem was not Israel's existence but the failure to establish a state for Palestinians, said Meshal, whose party leads the Palestinian government.
    Formal recognition of Israel could only be considered by Hamas once such a Palestinian state is established, said Meshal.
    Senior Hamas officials have already made similar statements over the past year, saying Israel's existence is an undeniable reality, but this is the first time that such statements are coming out of the group's Syria-based leadership.
    This is also the first time that a Hamas official has raised the possibility of full and official recognition of Israel in the future. To date the group's official position, which Meshal had repeatedly reiterated, was that Hamas will never recognize Israel.
    "The distant future will have its own circumstances and
    positions could be determined then," he said. Past concessions to Israel by Palestinian negotiators went unrewarded, he argued, and his Islamist group would drive hard bargains over key issues such as recognition.
    "For Israel to suck us into bargains in stages and in packages - this road constitutes an attempt to weaken the Palestinian position."
    Israel and Western governments have put financial sanctions on the Hamas-led Palestinian government for refusing to recognize Israel, renounce violence and accept past peace accords. Egypt has also been stepping up pressure on Hamas to recognize Israel.
    Meshal said Hamas would defy the Western conditions and refuse to consider granting formal recognition to the Jewish state until its demand for a Palestinian state was met.
    Hamas wants a Palestinian state that includes Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem and the right of Palestinian refugees to return to homes lost in a 1967 war and before, Meshal said.
    "As a Palestinian today I speak of a Palestinian and Arab demand for a state on 1967 borders. It is true that in reality there will be an entity or state called Israel on the rest of Palestinian land," said Meshal.
    "This is a reality but I won't deal with it in terms of recognizing or admitting it," he added.
    Asked about Meshal's comments Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Mark Regev responded that Hamas had said in the past it wanted to wipe Israel from the map and there was no indication it had changed its position.
    Meshal also blamed "Israeli intransigence" for the delay in a deal to release captured IDF soldier Gilad Shalit in exchange for thousands of Palestinian prisoners.
    "The message must reach Gilad Shalit's family that Israel bears the responsibility for prolonging his captivity," Meshal said. "There had been real progress and Egypt is making a positive effort but regrettably the talks stumbled in the last few days because of Israeli intransigence," Meshal said.
    "We are keen to release Shalit as soon as possible, but only in return for Israel releasing a number of our men, women, children and Palestinian leaders in its jails," he said.
    Meshal said Shalit was being given "good treatment."
    "The international community is concerned for one Israeli soldier called Gilad Shalit and has memorized his name," Meshal said. "It must show concern for the suffering of 11,000 Palestinian prisoners who include 400 children and 120 women."
    Egypt, Jordan to press for Israeli-Palestinian 'final status' agreement
    Egypt and Jordan will press for agreement on "final status" issues between Israel and the Palestinians, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit the Egyptian foreign minister said on Wednesday, days before a visit by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
    Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit told a news conference that the quest should take precedence over the Middle East peace plan known as the road map, announced by international mediators in 2003 but never fully implemented.
    "There is a common position by Egypt, Jordan, the Arabs and the Palestinians calling for 'let us agree on the end of the road and let us agree on what we call...the endgame before we talk about the road map'," he said.
    Egypt has floated the same idea before, but it did so this time two days before Rice leaves on a Middle East tour billed as another drive to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts.
    For the past few years, peace moves have concentrated on trying to bring about small confidence-building measures, leaving aside bigger questions such as the borders of a future Palestinian state or the fate of Palestinian refugees.
    The Egyptian campaign for a rethink, backed to some extent by Jordan, has made little difference to the policies of the United States, which continues to propose short-term measures by Israelis and Palestinians.
    Aboul Gheit added: "The endgame has its specific concepts... Let's agree on the frameworks of the [peace] settlement. This is the Egyptian position." He did not elaborate.
    Jordanian Foreign Minister Abdelelah al-Khatib, who spoke at the same news conference, did not dispute the Egyptian minister's interpretation of Jordan's position.
    "The final settlement is a Palestinian demand and an Arab demand, and there must be agreement on the final settlement whatever steps and stages it takes," Khatib added.
    Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas on Wednesday called on the Palestinians to work to prevent internal violence from exploding into an all-out civil war.
    "We stress the necessity of sparing the Palestinian people any internal confrontations and to avoid using weapons as a medium for dialogue and to focus on dialogue only to solve our differences," he said before a Cabinet meeting. "The differences exist, they are there, but this does not mean that they should be solved by gun fire."

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    MEMRI: Sa'd Al-Hariri: "Iran is Playing a Dangerous Role in Lebanon"

    MEMRI Special Dispatch-Lebanon/Jihad and Terrorism Studies Project
    January 11, 2007
    No. 1419

    Sa'd Al-Hariri: "Iran is Playing a Dangerous Role in Lebanon" .
    In an interview with Algerian TV, Sa'd Al-Hariri, chairman of the Al-Mustaqbal faction in Lebanon and one of the leaders of the March 14 Forces, accused Hizbullah of being a militia taking orders from Iran. Al-Hariri, son of assassinated former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Al-Hariri, claimed that the Lebanese opposition's decision to take to the streets of Beirut had been made based on instructions from Syria and Iran, and with the aim of preventing the establishment of the international court to rule on the Al-Hariri assassination.

    The following are excerpts from the interview, as it appeared in the Lebanese daily Al-Mustaqbal.(1)

    Hizbullah is Implementing an Executive Order from Syria and Iran

    In the beginning of the interview, Al-Hariri said: "In our opinion, the goals set by Hizbullah are goals [serving] regional [Middle Eastern powers], and they are unconnected to the domestic [Lebanese] arena... How will the third [of seats in the government, which Hizbullah is demanding] be for the sake of participation in decision making, when [in fact] [Hizbullah] takes for itself the exclusive right to carry out a serious operation - such as launching a war against Israel or abducting soldiers at any moment - when the state's [government] [is completely ignored] in the decision making?..."

    In answer to a question on the chances of a breakthrough in the current impasse between the government headed by PM Al-Siniora and the Lebanese opposition headed by Hizbullah, Al-Hariri said: "They [Hizbullah] say that in principle they agree to the international court. But every time the subject was discussed in the government, or was supposed to be raised for discussion in the government, their ministers left... The first time they left, and the second time they resigned, in a way that was clear and could not have been interpreted [otherwise]. If they were really interested in the international court, they would have remained another two days for the discussion of this [matter] in the government. I personally gave them guarantees, from myself and from Prime Minister Al-Siniora, that we would discuss the topic of the [international] court for one day, two days, or three days, and would [then] discuss any [detail] they wanted regarding the court's fundamental statutes, and find a
     solution for [whatever they have a problem with].

    "But their real problem is that the Syrian regime is not interested in an international court. With the end of Israel's war on Lebanon, [Syrian President] Bashar Al-Assad said clearly that the March 14 Forces were an Israeli product, and that after the divine victory achieved [by Hizbullah in the war] there should be a political coup against the March 14 Forces. There is an executive order that came from outside [Lebanon], and the Hizbullah leadership and Syria's allies in Lebanon are seeking to implement the orders from Syria and Iran."

    Hizbullah is a Militia - Everything It Has Comes from Iran, and It Does Not Make Its Own Decisions

    In answer to a question about the Lebanese opposition's claim that Al-Hariri was being pressured by the U.S., Al-Hariri said: "To those who are leveling these false accusations, I say that Sa'd Al-Hariri does not receive money from the Americans. On the contrary: [Members of the opposition] are the ones who get money, from Iran. There is no doubt that their decision [making] is not in their hands. They accuse us of being a militia - [but it is they who] are a militia. Look at what happened in Beirut - they came to Beirut, demonstrated there, and destroyed homes and cars. [Their] aggressive operations were carried out openly, before the eyes of the Arab and Islamic world, and before the eyes of the Lebanese [citizens].

    "We have never done Hizbullah any harm. After the war, Hizbullah invented the matter [of accusing the March 14 Forces] of treason, and accused whoever it wanted. It appointed itself judge and attorney-general, accusing others without any [evidence]. It forgives whoever it wishes, and convicts whoever it wishes. It determines what funds are pure and what funds are impure. Everything from Iran is pure funds, while the funds [from the Arab countries] are impure... The brothers from Hizbullah must understand that Lebanon is not run by a single group [meaning Hizbullah] [who wants to rule] Lebanon as it sees fit...

    "We saw what happened in Gaza because of the abduction of the Israeli soldier [Gilad Shalit]. Didn't the Hizbullah leadership know what might happen [following its abduction of the two Israeli soldiers]? Sometimes they claim to have exposed [an Israeli] plot that was slated to be carried out, and that the Israelis had wanted to start a war in September [2006] or in some other month. Sometimes we suddenly hear from them... that the March 14 leaders went to the U.S. and incited [it] to start a war against Hizbullah. They never stop making accusations and inventing conspiracies and charges of treason...

    "They say that they agree to the establishment of an international court... but when we come to the implementation [stage], they flee, their ministers resign, and they take to the streets. They [may] take to the streets, but they will not succeed in toppling the government. How will they escalate [their actions]? By organizing strikes? They may do that, but that way they will paralyze the country. Hizbullah brought Lebanon into the war... and today they are bringing Lebanon into economic crisis, and disrupting the people's work, and the markets - and the Lebanese are emigrating from the country."

    Iran is Creating a Sunni-Shi'ite Rift

    Later on in the interview, Al-Hariri attacked Hizbullah's decision to take to the streets, and also criticized Iran: "Is it allowed [to put] a government house under siege by Hizbullah? They say that other [political] forces are participating with Hizbullah in [this siege], [but] this is not true. The Hizbullah leadership made the decision [to take to the streets] based on orders from Iran. This is unacceptable. [The Lebanese] must think [first about] Lebanese [interests]. As a political faction, we [i.e. Al-Mustaqbal] cannot overcome Hizbullah and Hizbullah cannot overcome us. This also goes for the rest of the political factions.

    "The message of this country is coexistence, and we must live in coexistence. Lebanon is a small country, but its message is a big message, [namely] that Lebanon is a country of coexistence, moderation, democracy, freedom, and respect for the opinion of the other. What is happening today [in Lebanon] is disrespect for the freedom and opinion of the other. It is an attempt to impose a policy that is foreign... The rift that Iran is creating between the Sunnis and the Shi'ites is forbidden. Iran is playing a dangerous role in this matter, and I have sent [Iran] a message via its ambassador [in Lebanon], telling them that they are playing an extremely negative role." 
    (1) Al-Mustaqbal (Lebanon), December 15, 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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    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Summary of editorials from the Hebrew press 10-Jan-2007

    Information Department, Israel Foreign Ministry - Jerusalem

    (Government Press Office)
    10 January 2007

    Haaretz -
    Ma'ariv -
    Yediot Aharonot -
    Globes -
    Hazofe -
    Jerusalem Post -

    Haaretz criticizes cable and satellite television operators for reducing content and raising prices. Haarets argues that the basic package should be set in stone, and any detrimental change must be conditioned on compensation to the customers.

    Yediot Aharonot criticizes Finance Minister Avraham Hirchson's, "weak leadership" vis-a-vis "a long series of serious cases" that has hit the Finance Ministry. The editors call for Minister Hirchson's replacement by, "a strong economic leader with sweeping vision, who is spotless, an exemplary professional and who is capable of controlling his advisers and officials with a strong hand."

    Hatzofeh hails the cooperation between Judea residents and environmental activists that contributed to Defense Minister Amir Peretz's recent decision to halt work on the fence in the Judean Desert. The editors assert that, "Nobody disagrees that bisecting the Judean Desert with a fence would cause severe ecological and scenic damage and that it is possible to find other security solutions."

    The Jerusalem Post contends that the south of Israel has turned into a lawless zone, as expressed by the wounding of police officer Shlomi Assulin on Sunday night. Beduin locals operate protection rackets in broad daylight and fill their victims with fear for their very lives. If refused, homes and businesses can go up in flames. How much worse must it get, the paper asks, before the authorities take action?

    [Sever Plocker and Haggai Hoberman wrote today's editorials for Yediot Aharonot and Ma'ariv, respectively.]


    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Official: Hamas infiltrated Abbas' security organizations

    Official: Hamas infiltrated Abbas' security organizations
    U.S. set to transfer $86.4 million to Palestinian leader's forces
    Posted: January 10, 2007
    1:00 a.m. Eastern

    By Aaron Klein
    © 2007

    RAMALLAH – Some intelligence and security organizations associated with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party are infiltrated by the Hamas terror organization, a high-ranking Palestinian intelligence officer told WND.
    The information comes one day after Hamas officials told WND they would obtain a portion of $86.4 million in aid the U.S. pledged last week to bolster Fatah's security services.
    "We are leading a large number of investigations and some of the results prove that such an infiltration by Hamas (of Fatah's security and intelligence forces) exists," the Palestinian intelligence official told WND.
    The official oversees intelligence for Fatah's police forces in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
    He pointed to several recent assassinations of senior Fatah intelligence officers blamed on Hamas.
    "One should remember that the head of Fatah's military intelligence was killed, the chief of Fatah's general intelligence was gravely wounded and almost every day, Fatah intelligence officers are assassinated.
    "It is true that for a person who looks from outside it seems like a serial of exterminations between two different rivals, but for us, it means many things. Most importantly, it means that those who exterminate have all the information necessary from inside the Fatah security organizations to reach these officers," the Palestinian intelligence officer said.
    Fatah and Hamas have engaged in weeks of deadly factional clashes following Abbas' call last month for new Palestinian elections in a move widely seen as an attempt to dismantle the Hamas-led PA.
    Several Fatah intelligence officers have been assassinated purportedly by Hamas or affiliated terror groups.
    In one case, Tareq Abu Rajab , chief of Fatah's intelligence apparatus, suffered serious injuries and one of his companions was killed in an explosion that apparently targeted them in an elevator inside a Fatah intelligence building. At the time multiple Fatah officials told reporters the bombing required a high level of intelligence likely obtained by rivals from inside the Fatah infrastructure.
    "I can say that in some cases we diagnosed a deep infiltration to high posts in some Fatah security services," the high-ranking Palestinian intelligence officer told WND. "Unfortunately only the Presidential Guard (Abbas' personal security detail) isn't infiltrated. But all the others are, and in some cases we believe there are officers that are exposed to very sensitive information."
    According to documents revealed Friday, the Bush administration will provide $86.4 million to strengthen security forces loyal to Abbas, including Fatah's intelligence services and Force 17, which serve as de facto police forces in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
    Some members of Force 17 also are openly members of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades terror organization, the declared "military wing" of Fatah.
    U.S. officials confirmed the financial aid is set to be transferred to Fatah.
    The multi-million-dollar grant will be used to "assist the Palestinian Authority presidency in fulfilling PA commitments under the Road Map (peace plan) to dismantle the infrastructure of terrorism and establish law and order in the West Bank and Gaza," a U.S. government document said.
    According to reports confirmed by Israeli and Palestinian officials, the U.S. and Egypt recently transferred rifles and ammunition to Force 17.
    In an exclusive interview with WND yesterday, Abu Oubaida, a spokesman for Hamas so-called "military wing," told WND his terror group will obtain any weapons transferred to Fatah militias or purchased by Fatah using the incoming U.S. aid.
    "I am sure that like in the past, this $86 million from America will find its way to the Hamas resistance via the honorable persons in the Fatah security organizations, including in Force 17. I can confirm 100 percent that this money and purchased weapons will find its way to Hamas," said Abu Oubaida.
    The Hamas spokesman and other Hamas officials said "scores" of Fatah militants have switched over to Hamas in recent months.
    Sources close to Hamas said the Fatah militants, including members of Force 17, worked with Hamas after receiving larger paychecks from the terror group.
    "When they join Hamas, they bring along their new weapons," said a Hamas source.
    A senior Fatah security official in the Gaza Strip, speaking on condition his name be withheld, confirmed to WND Fatah has a "significant problem" with its militia members in Gaza joining Hamas.
    Also in an interview with WND, Muhammad Abdel-Al, a spokesman for the Popular Resistance Committees, said his terror group would likely obtain weapons and aid given to Fatah.
    "We vow to show the Israelis very soon the weapons lately channeled to the Presidential Guards (Force 17) and to the Fatah security services will be directed against the (Israeli) occupation," said Abdel-Al
    "In all the security services, including in Force 17, there are activists affiliated with all the Palestinian groups, including ours, and Hamas," he said. "We vow that there will be no use (of these arms) in a civil war, as we promise that should these arms reach us, we will use them against the occupation and the Zionist enemy."
    The Popular Resistance Committees is a coalition of several Palestinian terror groups and is responsible for scores of anti-Israel shootings and rocket attacks. The Committees is also accused of carrying out a bombing in 2003 on a U.S. convoy in Gaza in which three American contractors were killed.
    A Committees leader told WND his group is planning terror attacks using American and Egyptian weapons recently transferred to Fatah and obtained by the Committees.
    He said when the attacks occur, the Committees will announce the foreign weapons were used.
    According to reports here confirmed by Israel, Egypt last month transferred 2,000 AK-47 assault rifles, 20,000 magazines and 2 million rounds of ammunition to Fatah security organizations in the Gaza Strip to bolster the groups in clashes against rival Hamas factions.
    WND reported the U.S. sent assault rifles and ammunition last month to Fatah groups in Gaza. The weapons were delivered by an Israeli army convoy, according to Israeli and Palestinian officials involved in the transfer.
    Also in May, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced Israel aided in delivering a shipment of U.S. weapons to Fatah.
    Abu Yousuf, a senior member of Fatah's Force 17, which received the Egyptian and American weapons, told WND the arms shipments will be used to attack Jews and "fight Israeli occupation."
    Like many Force 17 members, Abu Yousuf, openly serves in the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades terror group.
    "These weapons will be used to fight Israeli occupation forces, especially to defend against Zionist aggression in the Gaza Strip," said Abu Yousuf.
    The Fatah militant accused Egypt and the U.S. of attempting to generate Palestinian civil war by arming one faction against another.
    Abu Yousuf went on to hint new weapons provided to his group with the help of Israel could be shared with the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades terror organization.
    "During our official service and during our job hours we are soldiers (in Force 17). What we do in our free time it is our business. Of course, as members of Fatah, some of us are members in the Brigades and we take part in the defense and protection of our people and in the fight against the Israeli occupation," Abu Yousuf said.
    Both Israel and the U.S. State Department consider the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades to be a terror organization. But U.S. policy calls Fatah "moderate" and dictates the Brigades is a separate entity, but still affiliated with Fatah.
    The Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, together with Islamic Jihad, has taken responsibility for every suicide bombing in Israel the past two years, including an attack in Tel Aviv in April that killed American teenager Daniel Wultz and nine Israelis. The Brigades also has carried out scores of deadly shooting and rocket attacks against Israeli civilians in recent months.
    All Brigades leaders are also members of Fatah. Abbas last June appointed senior Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades leader Mahmoud Damra as commander of Force 17. Damra, who was arrested by Israel in November, was on the Jewish state's most-wanted list of terrorists.
    U.S. weapons prompting Palestinian arms race?
    Meanwhile, Abu Abdullah, considered one of the most important operational members of Hamas' so-called military wing, told WND the U.S. aid and weapons shipments have prompted a Palestinian arms race.
    The Hamas leader said weapons procured as a result of the U.S. shipment will be used against Israel.
    "The more the Americans give Abu Mazen (Abbas) weapons, the more we will have in the future weapons to use against the Israelis, because it incites the different organizations to intensify their own supply of weapons," said Abu Abdullah of Hamas' Izzedine al-Qassam Martyrs Brigades, Hamas' declared "resistance" department.
    According to Palestinian security sources, the increased drive by Hamas to obtain new weapons has raised the price of arms in Egypt and Jordan.
    "An M-16 that sold for 6,000 Jordanian Dinar now is worth 10,000 Dinar because Hamas is trying to get more weapons," a Palestinian security source told WND.
    Like Hamas spokesman Abu Oubaida, Hamas' Abu Abdullah said U.S. weapons to Fatah would eventually fall into the hands of Hamas:
    "These American weapons will be one day the property of all the Palestinian people and its resistance, including Hamas," Abu Abdullah said. "The U.S. gives weapons to Fatah during internal Palestinian clashes, but one day when we go back to carrying out operations together, these [weapons] will be shared."

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Report: Iran plans to ration fuel after March 2007

    Last update - 12:21 10/01/2007   

    Report: Iran plans to ration fuel after March 2007
    By Reuters

    TEHRAN - The Iranian government has decided to ration gasoline in OPEC's second biggest producer in the Iranian year that starts in March 2007, state-owned Iran newspaper reported Wednesday.
    "The cabinet has agreed upon implementing the plan to ration gasoline in the next [Iranian] year [beginning March 21]," the newspaper said without giving a source.
    The plan needs to be approved by the conservative-dominated parliament before being implemented.
    Officials were not immediately available for comment.
    After originally slashing the budget for gasoline imports to $2.5 billion for the Iranian year that runs to March 2007, parliament agreed in November to provide an additional $2.5 billion when the initial funds ran out.
    Iran, which lacks refining capacity, has to import about 40 percent of the 70 million litres of gasoline it burns daily.
    Fuel is heavily subsidised in Iran, where gasoline price per liter is 9 U.S. cents. Economists say such a cheap price encourages waste and a thriving trade in contraband fuel to Iran's neighbors.
    In November, Iran also said it was planning to launch a system of "smart cards" for purchasing gasoline, a move which analysts said paved way for possible fuel rationing next year.
    Rationing would be sensitive in a country where cheap, abundant fuel is considered a national right.
    Many Iranian officials say Iran's dependence on imported fuel threatens national security, particularly when the country faces United Nations sanctions over its disputed nuclear program.
    Asian and European traders watch Iran closely for any suggestion of fluctuation in demand. International trading house Vitol is a major supplier, according to industry sources.

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Mohammed Dahlan in a special Haaretz interview: We proved to Hamas that Gaza is not theirs

    Mohammed Dahlan in a special Haaretz interview: We proved to Hamas that Gaza is not theirs
    By Avi Issacharoff

    In the midst of a bloody civil war in Gaza, and persistent threats against him by Hamas, Mohammed Dahlan was all smiles and jokes - and curses - perfectly coiffed, stylishly suited.
    A few minutes after returning from the bureau of Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas, senior PA officials made pilgrimage to Dahlan one by one - first, former finance minister Salem Fayed, then PLO Executive Committee member Yasser Abed Rabo. Already present were Salim Abu Safia, chief of Palestinian crossings security, and Dahlan's good friend and fellow leader Sufian Abu Zaida.
    Few today doubt the indentity of the strongest man in Fatah - and Abbas' heir apparent.
    Only three days ago he headed the biggest rally in the history of Fatah in Gaza, where the crowds waved his picture, as he taunted Hamas: "Please, shoot me."
    Does his outer calm belie inner fear?
    "Forget it. I'm not afraid for a second," he told Haaretz.
    Why did you tell them to shoot you?
    Dahlan smiles. "My bodyguards wanted to move me back for fear I would be attacked. But I say to [Hamas] I will do what I want, take part in every event."
    But why are you a target? Why are they afraid of you?
    "They are sure that if they kill Mohammed Dahlan, Fatah will disappear. They don't understand that this is a popular movement. They know that I know them personally better than anyone else. From the years Israel tried to cooperate with them [Hamas] against Fatah, from the years when [Hamas PA foreign minister] Mahmoud a-Zahar was in touch with Yitzhak Rabin. But they make mistakes. They lost the Palestinian street, which sees what they have become. A bunch of murderers and thieves who execute Palestinians only because they are Fatah members."
    Abu Zaida sits to Dahlan's left. His house was blown up by Hamas and he survived a number of attempts on his life. Dahlan explains that the security forces under Abbas have begun implementing a plan to protect senior Fatah officials. "We will do everything, I repeat, everything, to protect Fatah activists," Dahlan says.
    It was reported that you have been put in charge of Abbas' security forces.
    "I don't have such a position. But if I am asked to advise or assist I do so." Dahlan says the Palestinian security organizations are at the height of a process of change: retiring officers over 60, uniting the forces into three branches: national security (the army), internal security (police) and preventive security (intelligence).
    The biggest change Dahlan can chalk up for himself is in Fatah in Gaza. "It's a strategic, historic process for us, which brought the movement back to the street. We have been working for months and we see the result. More women are at rallies, and [we are] getting to out-of-the-way places even under severe weather conditions."
    Dahlan again mentions the rally that Fatah says was attended by some 250,000 people. Even if the numbers were smaller, it would still be a victory for the process Dahlan is leading, sometimes to the displeasure of the movement's veteran leaders.
    However, with the backing of Abbas, the young commanders previously sidelined by the older leadership have been appointed as grassroots leaders. Some of the best-known, whose names may mean nothing to Israelis, include Majid Abu Shimala, Suleiman Abu Mutlek, Maher Makdad, Abed al-Hakim Awad.
    But how will the war end?
    "It is not a war. It is an attack by Hamas on Fatah," Dahlan says. "The solution from our perspective is the democratic one: elections. In the end we will have to go forward together. But to do this we must make sure Fatah is strong enough. And the rally, from my point of view, was just the beginning. We proved to Hamas that Gaza is not theirs. Gaza is not Tora Bora. We made mistakes in the past but we won't repeat them."
    What would you expect from Israel. How should it help?
    "Stay away from us. You don't help, you only do damage. Every time somebody on your side talks about 'helping Abu Mazen [Abbas],' they hurt him. Your humanitarian breaks no longer interest us. Lifting a road block or two won't make any difference. At the moment, I am interested only in rehabilitating Fatah."

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    'Purely political'

    'Purely political'
    By Yossi Verter

    Political plans aren't what they used to be. In the 1980s, Shimon Peres' London Agreement almost broke up the national unity government. In the 1990s the Beilin-Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas) agreement sparked off a stormy public debate. In the present decade the Geneva Accord, also the fruit of Yossi Beilin's creative mind, almost split the Labor Party and was one of the reasons for Ariel Sharon's decision to pull out of Gaza.
    Today, however, when the defense minister, who is also Labor chairman and "head of the peace camp," as he puts it, unveils a plan explosively titled "the new road map," it is greeted with yawns, shrugs and, with a wink, comments that it is "only political."
    There is Peretz's destiny - anything he will do in the next few months leading up to the Labor primaries will be "only political." Even if it's an economic-social plan, a coalition crisis, the evacuation of an outpost or two in the West Bank or giving up the Defense portfolio.
    Peretz has missed his chance - apparently for good - for whatever he could have done half a year ago, before or after the war, and did not do. His plan could have been more brilliant than the Oslo Accords and could have represented an even greater breakthrough. But with his present status among the public and with most of Labor's ministers and MKs turning their backs on him, the most he can do is to send his plan to the party's members as an election missive.
    Yesterday, the headlines of Internet news sites emphasized Ami Ayalon's objection to Peretz's plan. Ayalon, who also initiated a plan called "the National Census," took pains to say that he preferred Tzipi Livni's peace plan, because it was more daring and far-reaching. Livni, by the way, says she has no "plan" but a collection of political ideas intended to accelerate a faltering peace process.
    In any case, Olmert's government, not even one year old, already looks like an administration on its last legs. When the foreign and defense ministers are campaigning for private political initiatives without the prime minister's agreement (in Livni's case) and without his knowledge (in Peretz's case), they enhance the general feeling that everything is collapsing.
    It would be one thing if something were going on, but nothing is. There was that meeting, and the kiss with Abu Mazen. But nothing has moved since then. True, a few roadblocks were removed, but then came that mess-up in Ramallah. The negotiations on releasing Gilad Shalit are being held up and everything seems stuck.
    Olmert flew to China yesterday, as far away as possible from Peretz and Livni. On the way to the airport he received a phone call from Peretz who told him about the plan he was about to present to his party's Knesset faction. It's easy to picture Olmert listening quietly, nodding politely, maybe muttering some ironic comment. Every time he goes overseas, something annoying crops up to spoil it for him. Once it was his nuclear slip of the tongue, another time it was the IDF operation in Ramallah; and now Peretz is nagging him with this plan-shman of his.
    Oh well, Olmert probably said to himself, in another few months the man on the other end of the line will be Ehud Barak, and he won't play such tricks on me - at least I hope not.

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    The correct map

    The correct map
    By Yehuda Ben Meir

    The Knesset Education Committee has decided by a majority vote that the pre-Six-Day-War border, or the Green Line, no longer exists. The decision reminded me of Abba Eban's famous observation that if the Arab countries were to propose canceling the law of gravity in the United Nations, they would have a guaranteed 50 votes in favor of the proposal. And so, even if all 15 members of the Knesset Education Committee vote for the erasure of the Green Line, this will not cancel its existence as a legal, diplomatic and physical reality.
    For the sake of due disclosure I would like to state that I belong to the majority of Israeli citizens who believe that we must not, under any conditions, agree to the Green Line becoming the permanent border of the state of Israel (this is also the official position of the United States). This opinion of mine is anchored in security considerations - which I learned from Yitzhak Rabin, who said numerous times that no chief of staff in the future should have to defend the state of Israel in those lines (i.e. the Green Line), from which he had to fight in the Six Day War - and in my belief that the Jewish people have a right to establish a state in the land of Israel. A return to the Green Line, therefore, is neither just nor right nor required.
    A map should faithfully reflect the reality on the ground and not political positions or desires or dreams. Is it possible to deny the fact that the Green Line, including united Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, reflects, according to Israel's position, the border of the sovereign state of Israel? Is it possible to deny that Israeli law, justice and the judiciary prevail within the borders of the Green Line but not in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank)? Is it possible to ignore the fact that no government in Israel, including those headed by Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Shamir, Benjamin Netanyahu and Ariel Sharon, ever even proposed annexing Judea and Samaria or imposing Israeli law there? Is it the role of the education system to teach things as they are or to engage in political indoctrination? The youth must not be presented with an imaginary map divorced from legal, diplomatic and physical reality.
    Judea and Samaria are an inalienable part of the land of Israel and a map of the land of Israel must include them. However, at issue is the map of the state of Israel, and the borders of the state are not - and will not - be congruent with the borders of the land of Israel.
    That said, I believe with all my heart in the Jewish people's right to the whole land of Israel. But a right is one thing and reality another. Judea and Samaria are effectively under the control of the state of Israel and the Israel Defense Forces and their future will be decided in negotiations. However, today they are not part of the state of Israel. This fact should be taught to the students in Israeli schools, and should appear on the map.
    At conferences abroad I meet many Palestinians. The serious ones among them acknowledge in private conversations that the Palestinians' tendency to deny and distort reality and to believe that words can change it is to their detriment and to a large extent responsible for the catastrophes that have befallen them.
    The state of Israel cannot be found on Palestinian maps. Instead, "Palestine" appears in large letters. Can these maps somehow undermine Israel's existence or affect it? Even if they disseminate a million copies, will this change the reality in the Middle East? Do we want to learn from the Palestinians and do things their way? The students in the Israeli schools deserve to be shown a correct map.

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    'Operation Screwball' targets Neturei Karta

    'Operation Screwball' targets Neturei Karta
    New York Jews launched a campaign against the Neturei Karta, an anti-Zionist fringe sect of Judaism.
    "Operation Screwball" was launched over the weekend, as some 300 Jews demonstrated outside a Neturei Karta building in Monsey, N.Y.
    The Chasidic sect — which believes Jews should not have their own state until the messiah arrives, and which routinely makes common cause with Israel's enemies — provoked anger in the Jewish community when members appeared as guests of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at a Holocaust denial conference in Tehran last month.
    "Operation Screwball" is run by an unidentified group in conjunction with the Jewish Defense Organization and
    The site,, suggests that the Jewish community enact a number of measures against the "crackpots," including barring them from their businesses and synagogues, boycotting any business owned by or employing Neturei Karta members, and suggesting to business owners that they fire Neturei Karta employees.

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Abbas completes reform in PA security forces

    Abbas completes reform in PA security forces
    Ali Waked YNET Published: 01.10.07, 09:41,7340,L-3350555,00.html

    Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas completed the reform within the senior
    leadership of the Palestinian security forces and sent 158 senior officers
    to early retirement.

    This decision was made within the framework of Abbas' campaign to fight
    corruption within the security forces and their lack of capability to push
    back anarchy within the Palestinian Authority. Estimates are that Abbas is
    training the forces in preparation for a confrontation with Hamas. [End Item]

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Barak leads Labor leadership race

    Poll: Barak leads Labor leadership race Staff,
    Jan. 10, 2007

    Former prime minister Ehud Barak has become the top candidate for the Labor leadership, according to a survey published in Ma'ariv on Wednesday morning.

    The poll, published only three days after Barak first declared his candidacy for party chairman, showed the former prime minister leading the Labor race with 30 percent of voters on his side. Opponents Ami Ayalon, Ophir Paz-Pines and current Chairman Amir Peretz came in with 23%, 18% and 12% respectively.

    These figures marked a significant jump from former polls, which put Ayalon several percentage points above Barak.

    Ayalon said Wednesday that he wasn't worried by the results of the poll.

    Barak supporter MK Shalom Simhon, meanwhile, said the survey was indicative of a trend.

    Ayalon also trailed Barak in Wednesday's poll on the question of who was most likely to win the next election.

    According to the survey, 38% of Labor Party activists believe Barak has the best chance of winning, while 23% think Ayalon will be the victor. Peretz came in last on this issue, as well, with only 12% expressing confidence in the current chairman's ability to win.

    As for who supporters felt was the most appropriate candidate for defense minister, 48% supported Barak, 29% backed Ayalon, and a mere 4.8% felt Peretz should continue in the defense post.

    Of those surveyed, 48% said Barak, once considered one of the country's least-popular politicians, had changed for the better, while 34% said he hadn't changed at all. Only 4% felt that the former prime minister had changed for the worse.

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Tuesday, January 9, 2007

    HAMAS TRIAL BALLOON (The Abu Yousef Document)

    Peace Document negotiated by Dr Ahmed Yousef
    December 26, 2006
    A Hamas delegation headed by Dr. Ahmed Yousef, political adviser to Prime Minister Ismail Haniya, prepared, in talks with European officials, a draft for a five-year hudna agreement between the Hamas government and Israel, titled, "Proposal for Creating Suitable Conditions for Ending the Conflict." Research institutes that are linked to the governments of Switzerland, Britain and Norway participated in the drafting of the plan.
    The plan talks about a "hudna" agreement for five years, during which Israel would withdraw to an agreed-upon line in the West Bank, the Palestinians would commit themselves to stage no attacks against Israel or Israelis anywhere in the world, and Israel would commit itself not to attack the Palestinians. Israel would not build in the settlements and not pave roads in the West Bank, and would also commit itself to enable free movement inside the West Bank, between the West Bank to East Jerusalem, between Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip—and free passage to Egypt and Jordan.  "Political" prisoners would be released, including those involved in terrorist activity. According to the plan, an international force led by the Quartet states and Turkey, and reporting to the UN Security Council, would supervise the implementation of the agreement. 
    The draft states that beyond the five-year period, the Palestinian vision is to establish a Palestinian state that will extend over all the territories occupied in 1967 with East Jerusalem as its capital.  The Palestinians will also demand to realize the right of return, but the draft does not state whether this refers to return to their state or to Israel within the Green Line.
    Commenting on the draft, Nahum Barnea notes the recognition of Israel implicit in the draft, noting that while it "does not talk about explicit recognition of Israel by Hamas," that "every article in it says recognition and cooperation, in theory and in practice. In the document Hamas appears like a shy version of Fatah, having intimate relations with Israel while remaining a virgin, like in the advertisements which offered women a brassiere which would make them feel as though they were not wearing one." Barnea's analysis concludes with a sour note: "If there were any connection between the contents of this document and what Haniya and Mashal are saying in public, one could say that Hamas had begun proceedings for conversion to Judaism. The paper could have formed the basis for intensive negotiations between the Israeli government and the Hamas government, and after that for five years of paradise. But in the meantime there is no such connection."(Yedioth Ahronoth, 12/22/06)

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    Expert: Sunnis scared by Shiite bomb

    Expert: Sunnis scared by Shiite bomb
    Israel Project Forum hears conflicting opinions on Iranian threat; 'Sunni Muslims fear Shiite bomb' says expert
    Yaakov Lappin Published:  01.09.07, 22:45

    The Iranian nuclear project will never be viewed as a process leading to the production of an 'Islamic bomb,' but rather a 'Shiite bomb,' according to Dr. Shmuel Bar, Director of Studies at the Institute of Policy and Strategy in Herzliya.
    Bar was speaking at a day-long conference organized by The Israel Project called 'In the Eye of the Storm: Iran in global perspectives,' held in Jerusalem on Tuesday, which attracted delegates from around the world.
    In the eyes of some Arab leaders, Shiites can't be loyal to any Arab country, but will rather always be loyal to Iran, Bar said, adding that leading Muslim Brotherhood cleric Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi warned Shiites not to "meddle in Sunni affairs."
    Bar highlighted the increasingly prevalent confrontation stretching across the Middle East between Sunnis and Shiites, and said "Iran's doctrine of exporting its revolution," as well as its attempt to gain hegemony over the region, was being perceived "by Sunni Muslims as an attack on Arab Sunnis."
     He cited an argument between the late al-Qaeda leader in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and the al-Qaeda deputy, Ayman Zawahiri, who debated "at what stage in the jihad we should convert the Shiites or kill them all."
    Bar also said Iran's increasing influence in Iraq and Lebanon was attracting a flow of Sunni 'holy fighters' to take on Shiite powerbases.
    'Hizbullah is counterfeit organization'
    "Hizbullah is a counterfeit Arab organization which takes its cue from Iran. It provoked a war to help Iran against the US," Bar added, noting the "very cool reaction" the Hizbullah war received among Arab states.
    Dr. Brenda Shaffer, of Haifa University's Department of East Asian Studies, said Iran has demonstrated its ability to sacrifice ideology for material gain, as is the case Tehran's relations with Moscow.
    "The price for not having good relationship is much higher," said Shaffer, adding: "Iran in general subordinates cultural interests to material interests… to an Israeli audience, that might be surprising."
    Shaffer said Iran, in the interests of maintaining good relations neighboring Russia, was "willing to sacrifice Muslims in Chechnya, and Shiites in Azerbaijan," noting that this "had very little to do with its Islamist ideology."

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    China visit marks 'homecoming' for Israel's Olmert

    China visit marks 'homecoming' for Israel's Olmert
    January 09, 2007, 12:30,2172,141480,00.html
    When Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, makes his first official visit to Beijing this week, it will be a homecoming of sorts. Olmert's parents belonged to a Jewish community that fled persecution in Russia and re-settled in the northern Chinese city of Harbin almost a century ago.
    Mordechai and Bella Olmert were ardent Zionists who eventually moved to the then British Mandate Palestine and helped found Israel. They also bequeathed to their children a lifelong appreciation for the country that first gave them refuge.
    Olmert has profound love for Chinese people
    "Chinese culture became a part of our family's tradition. It is my first memory from my childhood in Israel," Olmert told China's Xinhua news agency in an interview published on Sunday. "We maintain a profound love for the Chinese people."
    The Olmert family saga reflects a cultural rapport between Chinese and Jews which, experts say, existed long before Beijing normalised ties with Israel in 1992 and has flowered since.
    Despite, or perhaps because of, the lopsided demographics - 13 million Jews to 1.3 billion Chinese - many in China profess admiration for the achievements of the Jewish diaspora and of Israel. Jewish observers of China, in turn, respect its ancient culture and status as a growing industrial powerhouse.
    Business spirit acknowledged in China
    "Both Chinese and Jewish civilisations are brilliant and have long histories," Chen Yonglong, China's ambassador to Israel, said in an address last year. "The entrepreneur spirit and business talent of the Jewish people are well acknowledged all over China."
    Harbin boasted Asia's largest synagogue and a Jewish community that grew to more than 20 000 in the 1920s. Olmert's parents spoke Mandarin; according to family lore, Mordechai's last words on his deathbed were in the Chinese dialect. One of Olmert's grandfathers, Yosef, is buried in Harbin. - Reuters

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    On Gaza streets, fear spreads as factions' militias proliferate

    On Gaza streets, fear spreads
    as factions' militias proliferate
    By Erica Silverman
    January 8, 2007

    GAZA CITY, Jan. 8 (JTA) — Mohammed Abu-Jarbon operates a radio repair shop in central Gaza. His small business in Nuseirat Camp has survived under economic sanctions that have devastated the Palestinian economy.
    "My customers always request Al-Aksa radio station," which is broadcast by Hamas, says Abu-Jarbon, 20. "People here support Hamas because Fatah is seen as part of the embargo."
    Rana, his 22-year-old sister and a Fatah supporter, predicts Hamas, the terrorist group that precipitated an international aid cutoff when it won control of the P.A. Parliament and Cabinet last January, will take the P.A. presidency as well if new elections are held.
    "There must be an agreement between Fatah and Hamas to hold elections, otherwise there will be bloodshed," warns Rana, a graduate of Islamic University who, like nearly half of Gaza residents, is unemployed.
    A recent renewal of internecine violence between Fatah and Hamas supporters in the Gaza Strip has claimed the lives of more than 40 Palestinians and injured dozens over the past month. The violence, which some fear foreshadows civil war, could deal a serious blow to the call by P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah for early elections.
    Fierce gunbattles have erupted on Gaza streets between Hamas' Executive Force and the P.A. Presidential Guard and other security forces loyal to Fatah. Hamas set up the Executive Force in May, shortly after taking power in March.
    Abbas recently declared the militia illegal and ordered it disbanded after members attacked a senior Fatah official in his home, killing him and wounding family members. Hamas has warned that any attempt to disband the Executive Force will be met with violence.
    The existence of parallel armed security forces in conflict with each other has created widespread fear and confusion among Gaza residents.
    Hamas demonstrated its military prowess during the recent clashes, but many see the internecine violence as a moral blemish on the movement. Much of the public held Hamas responsible for a mid-December drive-by shooting in Gaza that claimed the lives of three children of a senior P.A. intelligence officer and Fatah member.
    Repeated cease-fires between Fatah and Hamas, including some brokered by Egypt or by other Palestinian terrorist groups, have lasted no longer than days, in some cases just hours. Meanwhile, Fatah and Hamas continue to abduct each other's members.
    Nasser and Ghada and their four children live in the heart of the Zeitoun neighborhood, a Hamas stronghold in Gaza City where gunbattles have erupted between the Executive Force and the Dougmoush family. Dougmoush family members also are affiliated with the Popular Resistance Committees, an umbrella organization of terrorist factions, and with Hamas itself, but they united against Hamas after two cousins acting as bodyguards to a senior Fatah leader were shot dead.
    The family agrees that new elections would only lead to more violence.
    "Every time I leave the house I am overcome with fear," says Nasser, 40, a Fatah supporter who nevertheless attributes the current crisis to Abbas' poor leadership. "Hamas has more weapons than the Fatah-affiliated security forces."
    "We feel more threatened by internal violence than by Israel," says Ghada.
    According to an annual report published by the Israeli nongovernmental organization B'Tselem, 405 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza by Israeli forces since June 25, when gunmen from Hamas and other terrorist groups kidnapped an Israeli soldier in a cross-border raid. That figure includes 88 children and 205 bystanders who did not take part in the hostilities, according to B'Tselem.
    The Israeli government, which often disputes Palestinian casualty numbers, has not officially reacted to the report.
    Before the outbreak of internal violence, Gaza already was engulfed in a security crisis, mostly perpetrated by militants from Fatah's Al-Aksa Brigades or members of large clans acting above the law. The P.A. police force — under the Hamas-controlled Interior Ministry but largely composed of Fatah members loyal to Abbas — has not been used to stop the violence.
    Abbas' office controls the Presidential Guard, National Intelligence and National Security forces, while the Interior Ministry controls the police, Preventive Security Services and the Executive Force. There is little coordination between security forces, although Interior Minister Sayed Seyam of Hamas nominally answers to Abbas.
    The Executive Force, now on the government's payroll, is comprised mostly of members of Izzedine Al-Kassam, Hamas' military wing. The 5,000-strong force is in the process of being integrated into the P.A. police, according to senior commanders.
    The Bush administration has said it will provide $86.4 million to strengthen security forces loyal to Abbas. In addition, members of the Al-Aksa Brigades claim that a new "security and protection force" is being formed in Gaza, financed by senior Fatah legislator Mohammed Dahlan and approved by Abbas.
    "There are 3,000 members from my neighborhood in Gaza City alone," one mid-level fighter reported. He claims the force will protect Fatah members and eventually will be deployed on the streets.
    Fatah officials say the new security force will try to quiet the situation, but many Gazans see a new Fatah-affiliated force as a recipe for further violence. They hope a national unity government between Fatah and Hamas could end the internal clashes and convince the international community to lift sanctions.
    But Hamas has refused international conditions for aid — renouncing violence, recognizing Israel's right to exist and honoring past P.A. agreements with Israel.
    P.A. employees have gone unpaid for 10 months, and with P.A. payrolls wildly inflated, that affects a quarter of the population. The P.A. security forces have gone empty-handed as well.
    Teachers and healthcare workers have been paid "allowances" under a mechanism set up by the European Union to bypass the Palestinian Authority and funnel aid directly to Palestinians.
    A year ago, Palestinians were eager for competitive democracy as legislative elections approached. Now Gazans hope the outcome of a new election will return control of the presidency and the legislature to a single party to prevent further violence.
    But Fatah, which dominated Palestinian politics for 40 years until last winter, has done little in opposition to shake its reputation for corruption.
    "I'm not sure if Fatah will win," said Enolla Mathkour, a 25-year old business student and Fatah supporter who wants early elections, "but we need one leader, not two."

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    West Bank Jewish settlement population grew 5.8 percent in 2006

    West Bank Jewish settlement population grew 5.8 percent in 2006
    The Associated Press
    Published: January 9, 2007 
    JERUSALEM: The population of Israel's settlements in the West Bank grew by 5.8 percent to 268,379 in 2006, the Israeli Interior Ministry said Tuesday.
    Israel is supposed to have frozen construction in settlements according to the internationally backed "road map" peace plan, but Israel insists it must build to accommodate natural growth, despite the plan's ban.
    One portion of the growth in the West Bank was an influx from Gaza. Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip and dismantled its 21 settlements there in 2005, and most of the 8,500 settlers moved to the West Bank, according to settler leaders.
    Also Tuesday, Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz ordered a halt to construction of a 30-kilometer (18-mile) stretch of the separation barrier Israel is building along the West Bank, his ministry said. The section is in the sparsely populated southern part of the West Bank in the Judean Desert.
    Peretz called the halt to allow examination of environmental aspects of the construction, the ministry said. Environmentalists warned that the barrier would interfere with movement of animals in the desert.
    Israel began building the barrier in 2001 after a wave of Palestinian suicide bombings carried out by infiltrators from the West Bank. However, a series of court cases has forced changes in the route and delays in construction.
    Because the barrier dips into the West Bank in some places to place main settlements on the "Israeli" side, Palestinians have denounced it as a land grab, also cutting them off from the Arab section of Jerusalem.

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    [Israeli] PM likely to face criminal probe in Bank Leumi affair

    Last update - 22:18 09/01/2007   

    PM likely to face criminal probe in Bank Leumi affair
    By Yuval Yoaz, Haaretz Correspondent and TheMarker

    The State Prosecution is expected to open a criminal investigation against Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in the near future, on suspicion that he acted to further the interests of friends in business while serving as acting finance minister in 2005, Channel 10 reported on Tuesday.
    The criminal investigation will likely be opened upon Olmert's return from China.
    In October 2006, the media reported that Attorney General Menachem Mazuz was investigating suspicions that Olmert, as finance minister when Bank Leumi was sold, abused his status to change the terms in a manner that would have benefited his associate Frank Lowy.
    Olmert is suspected of having tried to tilt the tender in the sale of Bank Leumi to help Lowy, his friend and a real estate magnate.
    Accountant-General Yaron Zelekha, a key witness in the Leumi case, testified before the State Comptroller regarding the suspicions against Olmert in the affair.
    Sources at the comptroller's office think Zelekha's evidence is damning. Sources in the prime minister's office, however, claim that Olmert's behavior was impeccable and the Zelekha, who had been appointed by former finance minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is biased.
    A source near Olmert commented, "Two elements are devoted to ruining Olmert: State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss and the accountant-general, Zelekha."
    The police will apparently be looking into the privatization of Bank Leumi, but may also question the prime minister about political appointments at the Small Business Administration and his relations with his former partner, attorney Uri Messer.
    Mazuz will not be making decisions in the case, because his sister Yemima Mazuz was involved in the sale of Bank Leumi. The decisions will be handled by the chief prosecutor, Eran Shendar.
    Mazuz also recently began looking into suspicions that Olmert sold his apartment to Abrams at an inflated price, and that he continued to stay there at particularly low rent.
    Abrams is thought to belong to a group of private investors that sought Bank of Israel approval to buy the controlling interest in Bank Leumi together with the Cerberus-Gabriel group.
    If it is proven that Olmert did make changes that benefited Abrams, the Bank of Israel is likely to disqualify him. That could hinder the Cerberus-Gabriel group's intention to complete its takeover of the bank by May 2007, which is when their options expire.

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    U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to visit Middle East, Europe

    U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to visit Middle East, Europe
    WASHINGTON: Israel will be the first stop for Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice when she sets out Friday on a weeklong tour of the Middle East and Europe.
    Rice also will visit the Palestinian territories, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Germany and Britain, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Tuesday.


    He said Rice will have extended discussions on "how to address and confront various threats" that exist in the Middle East. On the Israel-Palestinian front, she will seek ways to "exploit openings that we believe exist," he added.
    Other issues on her agenda, he said, will be Lebanon, Iraq and the "common threat posed by Iran and other proponents of violent extremism."
    In Kuwait, Rice will attend a meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council that also will include participation by Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
    The trip is part of a long-promised effort to promote an Israeli-Palestinian settlement. McCormack said that issue "will not come to closure" during her travels.
    He said Rice also will travel on a subsequent trip to Paris for a Lebanon donors conference on Feb. 24-25.
    Afif Safieh, head of the PLO mission to the United States, said he hoped the trip "would be more ambitious" than her last ones. On her two last visits, she induced Israel to relax checkpoints that hamper travel by Palestinians and they were tightened again afterward, he said.
    Minimally, Safieh said, he would like to see Rice arrange a cease-fire on the West Bank, promote the release of 10,000 Palestinian prisoners held by Israel, open checkpoints and persuade Israel to remit about $700 million (€537.7 million) collected from Palestinians in taxes that could ease economic hardships of some 1 million Palestinian Authority workers and their families.
    The withholding of payments to about 165,000 workers "has created further havoc in Palestinian society," he said.
    Safieh said the Bush administration should abandon its "perceived complacency" and make arrangements for a Middle East peace conference that he said Syria, Lebanon and Palestinians belonging to Fatah and Hamas factions would attend.

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    Hamas used US as base for Israeli terrorist attacks: prosecutor

    Hamas used US as base for Israeli terrorist attacks: prosecutor
    01-09-2007, 04h39
    Two Hamas militants used the United States as a base to sow "death, destruction, fear and terror" in Israel by laundering money, coordinating communications and recruiting and training terrorists, a federal prosecutor said.
    The Chicago grocer and Washington-based business professor have denied any involvement in the militant wing of Hamas and said their actions were aimed at delivering humanitarian aid and organizing political solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
    "This case is not about who is right or wrong in that conflict," assistant US attorney Joseph Ferguson said in closing arguments.
    "It's not about illegalizing the belief that a government somewhere else should be overthrown," he said. "It's about what the defendants have done in the safe-haven of America. They used the liberties of America and its institutions to violate American law in the service of violent jihad."
    Ferguson argued that there was "no distinction" between the social, political and military wings of Hamas and described an organization in which political leaders ordered the murder of opponents and collaborators while lower-level operatives carefully maintained plausible deniability.
    The three-month trial has been closely watched by civil libertarians and the Palestinian and Jewish communities as it became a debate on the legitimacy of Hamas and the use of torture by Israeli security forces.
    "This is a case where the Israeli government is using the US courts to fight its own so-called war on terrorism," Rima Kapitan, a civil rights lawyer with the Chicago branch of the Council of American-Islamic Relations told AFP.
    The fact that the men are being prosecuted for their actions supporting Hamas before it was designated a terrorist organization by the United States is particularly troubling, Kapitan said, as are concerns that the jury will consider evidence obtained by a foreign government who uses torture.
    "This case compounded with all the other cases - whether it's FBI investigations of ordinary people or police harassment - makes people feel that anybody who speaks up is a target," Kapitan said.
    Much of the evidence the United States used to build its case against grocer Muhammad Salah, 53, a naturalized citizen, was obtained during several weeks of interrogation by Israeli security forces. Salah argued that those statements were fabrications obtained through torture.
    After a lengthy pre-trial hearing in which two of Salah's interrogators testified, Judge Amy St. Eve ruled earlier this year that those statements were not obtained through torture in violation of US rules of acceptable evidence.
    Ferguson attacked Salah's allegations and described him as a "jaunty, boastful, conversational and comfortable" prisoner who used his knowledge of the secret burial site of a murdered Israeli soldier to negotiate the release of Palestinian prisoners.
    He reminded jurors of a tape in which Salah casually drinks tea with his interrogator and the photographs taken of a bruise-free Salah during his high-profile 1993 Israeli arrest and trial.
    Salah was arrested while in Israel and the Palestinian territories to rebuild the militant wing of Hamas after a series of deportations devastated the organization, Ferguson said. He met with several Hamas leaders who were involved in religious and charitable organizations and who helped him contact potential recruits for the militant wing.
    Professor Abdelhaleem Ashqar, 48, was accused of being the group's secretary who coordinated communications and kept track of critical documents such as deposit slips and copies of confessions of those captured so Hamas could keep tabs on which agents had been compromised.
    Ferguson also cited minutes of a meeting that Ashqar had taken in which Hamas leaders said they were "ready to escalate military actions" against Israel, to demonstrate his involvement in terrorist activities.
    Also charged in the case is Hamas leader Mousa Abu Marzook who is considered a fugitive living in Syria.

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    Peace first

    Peace first
    Peace should precede democratization, security and economic development
    Uri Savir Published:  01.08.07, 17:35

    We all want peace. However, the main problem is that we view peace as a consequence of other processes and do not relate to it as an independent entity that could move processes forward.
    There are those who maintain, such as President Bush for example, that democracy constitutes a condition for peace. This doctrine is based on the rationale that contends that if people are free they will inevitably opt for peace.
    However, reality has proven this doctrine wrong. In Afghanistan and Iraq the Americans did indeed establish democratic regimes, yet terror there reigns free, more so than in the past.
    This holds true for our region as well. Free elections were held in Lebanon and in the Palestinian Authority, whereas in Egypt and Jordan the regimes are not free. And where does peace reign? Surprisingly, it reigns between Israel and the non-democratic regimes, while in the two aforementioned democracies war and terror are widespread.
    Therefore, the theory contending that democracy should precede peace does not stand the test of reality.
    Many people in Israel believe that security should be a precondition for peace. Here too, the historic reality doesn't go hand in hand with this theory. Achieving relative security vis-à-vis Lebanon and the Palestinian Authority did not result in peace. On the other hand, peace with Egypt stemmed from the Yom Kippur War, namely from a situation void of security, and it was this situation that ultimately led to security with Egypt.
    Since the signing of the peace agreement with Egypt, not a single Israeli soldier was killed on the Egyptian border. Therefore, the theory contending that "security should precede peace" is unfounded.
    Some people maintain that as the economy is a crucial factor in molding public opinion, economic development will subsequently lead to peace. Despite the rationale of this theory, it is difficult to implement because economic development cannot be undertaken without conditions for peace.
     When a conflict takes place, there is no regional cooperation, a fact that makes public and international sectors refrain from investing in the area of conflict. Therefore, the theory maintaining that economic development should come first is also unfounded.
    Integrative approach
    So what conclusions should we reach? When we seek to achieve prosperity and security we should accelerate the peace process with our Palestinian and Syrian neighbors and not subject these processes to unrealistic conditions related to democracy, security and economic development.
    When embarking on a peace process we should adopt an integrative approach that include elements of co-existence, economic development, security and diplomacy while also consolidating reforms that would decentralize the peace effort from the central government to civilian society and also to the local authorities.

    Modern peace must be capable of influencing the stances of the societies involved in the conflict. As peace cannot be forced upon a people, we would do well to try and influence the motivation of societies to forsake the circle of conflict. This calls for the development of a gradual process of culture and peace, public relations for peace, economic development and creative diplomacy. Undoubtedly, these processes must commence with a peace initiative.
    Neither democratization or security nor economic development – first peace!
    Uri Savir, the President of the Peres Center for Peace, is currently in the process of publishing his book "First Peace" by the Yedioth Ahronoth publishing house

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    Zionist Vs. Zionist

    Zionist Vs. Zionist
    Controversy breaks out within the Israel on Campus Coalition.

    By Ari Paul
    Web Exclusive: 01.04.07

    Print Friendly | Email Article

    A national pro-Israel campus group took a risk when several of its chapters brought former Israeli soldiers to their campuses to expose their country's military practices in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Now, it might be paying the price.

    The Union of Progressive Zionists, some of whose chapters and affiliates brought the "Breaking the Silence" tour to places like the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Maryland, is a part of the Israel on Campus Coalition. This December, the 30,000-member Zionist Organization of America (an ICC member) sent a letter to the ICC demanding that the UPZ be removed from the coalition because of this tour. Other ICC members include the fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi, the Anti-Defamation League, and the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). UPZ is an affiliate member.

    The speaking tour, which was covered in the mainstream media, featured former Israeli soldiers who served in the occupied Palestinian territories. The project has also interviewed former combat soldiers and has drafted testimonials of what goes on in the occupied territories. During the tour, participants also showed photos of what they considered excessive force and unethical military behavior.

    This is a big problem for Morton Klein, the president of the ZOA. In reference to "Breaking the Silence," Klein maintains that when Israeli soldiers talk about the brutal things their military does to innocent Palestinians, they are only reporting isolated incidents and are painting an inaccurate, unfair picture. "Israel has the most humane army on earth," he says.

    Klein's objections are strategic as well as substantive. The ICC, which is partnered with Hillel, aims to increase advocacy of Israel on American college campuses. It was launched in 2002, two years after the first intifada in Palestine broke out, when college groups critical of the Israel occupation started to become more vocal and better organized. To have events like this that align with some of the rhetoric in pro-Palestine groups, Klein warns, is a conflict. "This is not the mission of the ICC," he says.

    The D.C.-based ICC is conducting an investigation and the leadership may hand down a decision regarding the UPZ's status at its meeting later this month. The ZOA will drop their demand that the UPZ be expelled from the ICC if their chapters cease bringing "Breaking the Silence" to campuses. And if UPZ is kicked out of the ICC, it will continue to operate as an independent organization.

    Klein says his organization is dedicated to fighting what it calls anti-Israel biases in schools and in the media. He refers to the West Bank by the Biblical names, "Judea and Samaria," and doesn't consider them or Gaza to be places occupied by Israel, because they weren't an independent country before 1967.

    Tammy Shapiro, the director of UPZ, thinks the ZOA has misinterpreted the message of "Breaking the Silence" and why UPZ chapters and affiliates brought it to their campuses. "We think that there is definitely a plurality of views in the coalition," Shapiro says. "Our students are doing this out of love for Israel." Zionism historically has been made up of a variety of ideologies, some religious and some secular, and the politics of Zionism run the gamut from left to right.

    Shapiro believes that the ICC is supportive of her organization's cause, and is optimistic about its pending decision. "It doesn't look good for them to oust Zionist students," Shapiro says.

    Pro-Israel groups have often been accused of chilling speech concerning the Middle East conflict. "My own experience of American Zionist organizations is that they are becoming increasingly intolerant and bullying," Juan Cole, a professor of Middle Eastern history at the University of Michigan and author of the blog Informed Comment, writes in an email. "So the UPZ is just being treated as everyone else is that does not toe the ZOA party line, which is: no criticism of Israel is allowed by anyone, ever, and where someone dares engage in it, they should be relentlessly marginalized and punished."

    Shapiro values UPZ's affiliation with the ICC, even though it could operate independently. She believes the UPZ is the only Zionist campus group that can reach Arab students, because of things like "Breaking the Silence." She thinks the pro-Israel community needs that, as without them, Arab students would only interact with anti-Zionist groups. A group like the UPZ in the coalition enables dialogue between pro-Israel and pro-Palestine communities on campuses around the country, she argues, helping to achieve the goals and vision that the UPZ shares with the other members. If the ZOA has its way, it will have a chilling effect on speech and activity within the pro-Israel community. This case may be a big test for campus Zionism's dedication to real debate.

    "As long as we believe in support for a Jewish and democratic Israel," Shapiro says, "we will not be outside the big tent they are trying to create."

    Ari Paul writes frequently about politics and religion. His articles have appeared in In These Times, Z Magazine, and

    * * *

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    A Green Line in the Sand

    A Green Line in the Sand
    Published: January 9, 2007

    Beersheba, Israel

    NEARLY 40 years after it was removed from official maps, atlases and school books, the Green Line has made a significant comeback. Israel's education minister, Yuli Tamir, has ordered the Green Line border, which separates Israel from the West Bank, to be reintroduced in all texts and maps used in the Israeli school system. From now on, Israeli children will know exactly where the Green Line is and what it signifies — a political border that, at some point, will almost certainly become the line separating neighboring Israeli and Palestinian sovereign territories.

    It was shortly after the Six-Day War of 1967 that the Green Line was removed from atlases produced by the Israeli government. The border, hastily drawn at the Rhodes armistice talks after Israel's war of Independence in 1948, had always been regarded as nothing more than an artificial line of separation eventually to be reworked. For most Israeli leaders in 1967, the occupation of the West Bank was a sign that the future territorial order would be vastly different from the one they had lived with for the previous 19 years.

    According to Abba Eban — Israeli ambassador to the United States and the United Nations in the 1950s and foreign minister at the time of the Six-Day War — his attempts to negotiate with the Arab states to transform the border into a permanent recognized international boundary had been rejected in the early 1950s by Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, who had argued that the more elastic and less permanent the boundary, the easier it would be to change in the future — as indeed seemed to be the case in the aftermath of the 1967 war.

    The Green Line's removal from maps was meant to signify that it existed no longer, but in reality it never disappeared. It remained the administrative boundary separating Israel from the occupied territories, with one law for the Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel, and quite another one for the stateless Palestinian residents of the West Bank. Even Israeli settlers who moved to the occupied territories and continued to enjoy Israeli citizenship were ultimately subject to the military authorities — just to show the world that Israel had not formally annexed these territories or, as the Israeli government preferred to put it, had extended civilian law to these areas over which they did not enjoy sovereign rights.

    But in the past decade, for most Israelis, the Green Line has once again become the line separating the relatively safe roads of Israel from the danger of the West Bank. Few Israelis, other than the settlers, venture beyond it, even when doing so would make their route shorter. It is along the Green Line that the unilateral West Bank separation barrier has been constructed in large sections.

    Where the barrier has deviated from the Green Line, in practice annexing some parts of the West Bank to Israel, the International Court of Justice has ruled it illegal. Many Palestinians are caught in a state of territorial limbo: they live east of the Green Line inside the West Bank, but west of the separation barrier, in effect spatial hostages to this exercise in redrawing the border.

    At last year's Herzliya Conference, an annual gathering arranged by the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya and attended by the prime minister and leading political figures, a group of Israeli geographers, planners and cartographers proposed that the Green Line serve as the foundation for any future territorial agreement, based on the principles of the road map and a two-state solution to this never-ending conflict. They identified certain areas along the line where, given the variations that have occurred during almost 40 years of occupation, territorial exchanges could be made between the two sides — as opposed to returning to a line that even 60 years ago was not ideal and that today is out of touch with the region's demographic realities.

    The international legal status of the Green Line is not clear. On the one hand, it is no more than an armistice line — it is not a recognized boundary, unlike the borders separating Israel from both Egypt and Jordan, which were drawn up and ratified as part of peace agreements. Yet the Oslo accords make mention of the West Bank as constituting the future Palestinian state. This region has a clearly defined boundary — the Green Line — and many international jurists argue that this is sufficient to recognize it as the formal line of political separation. The jurists' time in court is yet to come, but the groundwork has already been prepared by international boundary experts on both sides.

    If some Israelis were unclear about the long-term significance of the Green Line, the education minister's decision to return the border to the geography and history textbooks will have left no one in doubt.

    There may never be peace in this troubled region. But if there is to be a return to the negotiation table, the issue of boundary demarcation will be of paramount importance in determining the territorial configuration of the respective sovereignty to be practiced by each of the two states. On the ground, there are many reasons for drawing a completely new line, but it will always be easier for the politicians to return to what was once — however briefly — there. The Green Line is the default boundary, and it has finally been recognized anew by the Israeli government.

    David Newman, a professor of political geography at Ben Gurion University of the Negev, is a co-editor of the journal Geopolitics.

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Hamas: We'll obtain US government money transfer (and weapons)

    Hamas: We'll obtain US money transfer
    Washington providing USD 86.4 million to bolster Abbas' security forces
    Aaron Klein, WND Published: 01.09.07, 16:02,7340,L-3350298,00.html

    A portion of USD 86.4 million in aid the United States pledged last week to bolster security forces affiliated with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party will fall into the hands of the Hamas terror group, Hamas officials told WND.

    Also, a leader of the Popular Resistance Committees, a terror group allied with Hamas, told WND his organization is planning attacks against Israel using weapons recently transferred to Fatah by the US and Egypt.

    The Popular Resistance Committees leader said attacks using the foreign weapons are meant "to prove the Zionist-American conspiracy to bolster forces against us won't work."

    "We will obtain the US weapons," the Committees leader said.

    According to documents revealed Friday, the Bush administration will provide USD 86.4 million to strengthen security forces loyal to Abbas, including Force 17, Abbas' security detail, which also serves as de facto police units in the Gaza Strip and West Bank.

    Some members of Force 17 also are openly members of the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades terror organization, Fatah's declared "military wing."

    US officials confirmed the financial aid is set to be transferred to Fatah.

    The multi-million-dollar grant will be used to "assist the Palestinian Authority presidency in fulfilling PA commitments under the Road Map (peace plan) to dismantle the infrastructure of terrorism and establish law and order in the West Bank and Gaza," a US government document said.

    According to reports confirmed by Israeli and Palestinian officials, the US and Egypt recently transferred rifles and ammunition to Force 17.

    Abu Ubaida, a spokesman for Hamas so-called "military wing," told WND his terror group will obtain any weapons transferred to Fatah militias or purchased by Fatah using the incoming US aid.

    "I am sure that like in the past, this USD 86 million from America will find its way to the Hamas resistance via the honorable persons in the Fatah security organizations, including in Force 17. I can confirm 100 percent that this money and purchased weapons will find its way to Hamas," said Abu Ubaida.

    The Hamas spokesman and other Hamas officials said "scores" of Fatah terrorists have switched over to Hamas in recent months.

    Sources close to Hamas said the Fatah militants, including members of Force 17, worked with Hamas after receiving larger paychecks from the terror group.

    "When they join Hamas, they bring along their new weapons," said a Hamas source.

    A senior Fatah security official in the Gaza Strip, speaking on condition his name be withheld, confirmed to WND Fatah has a "significant problem" of its militia members in Gaza joining Hamas.

    In an interview with WND, Muhammad Abdel-Al, a spokesman for the Popular Resistance Committees, said his terror group would likely obtain weapons and aid given to Fatah.

    "We vow to show the Israelis very soon the weapons lately channeled to the Presidential Guards (Force 17) and to the Fatah security services will be directed against the (Israeli) occupation," said Abdel-Al "In all the security services, including in Force 17, there are activists  affiliated with all the Palestinian groups, including ours, and Hamas," he said. "We vow that there will be no use (of these arms) in a civil war, as we promise that should these arms reach us, we will use them against the occupation and the Zionist enemy."

    The Popular Resistance Committees is a coalition of several Palestinian terror groups and is responsible for scores of anti-Israel shootings and rocket attacks. The Committees is also accused of carrying out a bombing in 2003 on a US convoy in Gaza in which three American contractors were killed.

    A Committees leader told WND his group is planning terror attacks using American and Egyptian weapons recently transferred to Fatah and obtained by the Committees.

    He said when the attacks occur, the Committees will announce the foreign weapons were used.

    The reports of US aid to Fatah comes after weeks of factional clashes between Fatah and Hamas, which have engaged in heavy firefights since Abbas last month called for new Palestinian elections in a move widely seen as an attempt to dismantle the Hamas-led PA.

    According to reports here confirmed by Israel, Egypt last month transferred 2,000 AK-47 assault rifles, 20,000 magazines and 2 million rounds of ammunition to Fatah security organizations in the Gaza Strip to bolster the groups in clashes against rival Hamas factions.

    'Weapons will be used to fight occupation forces'

    WND reported the US sent assault rifles and ammunition last month to Fatah groups in Gaza. The weapons were delivered by an Israeli army convoy, according to Israeli and Palestinian officials involved in the transfer.

    Also in May, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced Israel aided in delivering a shipment of US weapons to Fatah.

    Abu Yousuf, a senior member of Fatah's Force 17, which received the Egyptian and American weapons, told WND the arms shipments will be used to attack Jews and "fight Israeli occupation."

    Like many Force 17 members, Abu Yousuf, openly serves in the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades terror group.

    "These weapons will be used to fight Israeli occupation forces, especially to defend against Zionist aggression in the Gaza Strip," said Abu Yousuf.

    The Fatah militant accused Egypt and the US of attempting to generate Palestinian civil war by arming one faction against another.

    Abu Yousuf went on to hint new weapons provided to his group with the help of Israel could be shared with the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades terror organization.

    "During our official service and during our job hours we are soldiers (in Force 17). What we do in our free time it is our business. Of course, as members of Fatah, some of us are members in the Brigades and we take part in the defense and protection of our people and in the fight against the Israeli occupation," Abu Yousuf said.

    Both Israel and the US State Department consider the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades to be a terror organization. But US policy calls Fatah "moderate" and dictates the Brigades is a separate entity, but still affiliated with Fatah.

    The al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, together with Islamic Jihad, has taken responsibility for every suicide bombing in Israel the past two years, including an attack in Tel Aviv in April that killed American teenager Daniel Wultz and nine Israelis. The Brigades also has carried out scores of deadly shooting and rocket attacks against Israeli civilians in recent months.

    All Brigades leaders are also members of Fatah. Abbas last June appointed senior al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades leader Mahmoud Damra as commander of Force 17. Damra, who was arrested by Israel in November, was on the Jewish state's most-wanted list of terrorists.

    US weapons prompting Palestinian arms race?

    Meanwhile, Abu Abdullah, considered one of the most important operational members of Hamas' so-called military wing, told WND the US aid and weapons shipments have prompted a Palestinian arms race.

    The Hamas leader said weapons procured as a result of the US shipment will be used against Israel.

    "The more the Americans give Abu Mazen (Abbas) weapons, the more we will have in the future weapons to use against the Israelis, because it incites the different organizations to intensify their own supply of weapons," said Abu Abdullah of Hamas' Izz al-Din al-Qassam Martyrs' Brigades, Hamas' declared "resistance" department.

    According to Palestinian security sources, the increased drive by Hamas to obtain new weapons has raised the price of arms in Egypt and Jordan.

    "An M-16 that sold for 6,000 Jordanian Dinar now is worth 10,000 Dinar because Hamas is trying to get more weapons," a Palestinian security source told WND.

    Like Hamas spokesman Abu Ubaida, Hamas' Abu Abdullah said US weapons to Fatah would eventually fall into the hands of Hamas: "These American weapons will be one day the property of all the Palestinian people and its resistance, including Hamas," Abu Abdullah said. "The US gives weapons to Fatah during internal Palestinian clashes, but one day when we go back to carrying out operations together, these (weapons) will be shared."

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Fateh Central Committee Warns against assaults on Fateh Movement Cadres and Institutions

    Fateh Central Committee Warns against Fateh Movement Cadres and Institutions

    RAMALLAH, January 9, 2007 (WAFA - PLO news agency) -Fateh Central Committee
    warned Tuesday against any destructive and dangerous acts perpetrated
    against Fateh Movement, stressing that it would not abandon the policies of
    the PLO and its international commitments.

    In a meeting chaired by President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, the Committee
    said that the Palestinian national process is passing through dangerous
    stages since Hamas formed the Palestinian Cabinet and began exercising
    incitement and assassinations against Fateh Cadres.

    The Committee affirmed that any assault on its cadres or officials or
    institutions is an assault on the national memory, the national struggle,
    the national serious dialogue, the national unity and an assault on the PLO.

    The Committee concluded that this current situation, that Hamas has led, of
    siege, not abiding by democratic acts, refusing pluralism and implementing
    the policies of axes would not continue.

    M.H. (15:00 P)(13:00 GMT)

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    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Report: Iran arrests man suspected of leaking nuclear secrets

    Last update - 17:44 09/01/2007   
    Report: Iran arrests man suspected of leaking nuclear secrets
    By Reuters
    Iran has arrested a man suspected of leaking secrets of the country's disputed nuclear activities to an exiled Iranian opposition group, state radio reported on Tuesday.
    "The man had handed over classified information, including a bulletin on nuclear activities, to the hypocrites (People's Mujahideen)," state radio said, without giving a source.
    The People's Mujahideen, labeled a terrorist group in the European Union and the United States, was the first body to expose Iran's covert nuclear program in 2002.
    A leading hardline MP confirmed the arrest. "The man has been working in parliament's research centre since 2001," Ahmad Tavakoli told the semi-official Fars news agency.
    "He was gathering and giving information to the terrorist group," he said, adding that the man would be put on trial soon.
    Judiciary officials were not immediately available forcomment.
    Iranian analysts say the People's Mujahideen lacks support in Iran where few can forgive its siding with Saddam Hussein in the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war.
    The United Nations Security Council voted unanimously on December 23 to impose sanctions on Iran's trade in sensitive nuclear materials and technology in an attempt to stop uranium enrichment work that could produce material that could be used in bombs.
    Tehran says it is determined to continue its nuclear work, which it says is meant only for producing electricity.
    The West suspects Iran's atomic work is part of a veiled nuclear arms program.

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Interior Min.: West Bank settler population grew by 6% in 2006

    Last update - 19:43 09/01/2007   

    Interior Min.: West Bank settler population grew by 6% in 2006
    By Shahar Ilan, Haaretz Correspondent and Reuters

    The settler population in the West Bank grew by nearly 6 percent in 2006, more than quadruple the rate of increase a year earlier, government figures showed on Tuesday.
    The Interior Ministry statistics did not indicate how many of the new arrivals were children born in the 126 settlements Israel has built in the West Bank.
    According to the Interior Ministry, there were 268,379 Israelis living in the West Bank at the end of 2006, compared with 253,748 in 2005, a 5.8 percent increase.
    As in past years, the greatest instances of growth were in the religious settlements of Upper Modi'in and Upper Beitar. Some 4,000 residents moved to Upper Modi'in in 2006, making it Israel's biggest settlement in the West Bank, with a population of 35,000. Upper Beitar gained about 2,000 new residents in 2006.
    Ma'aleh Adumim was considered the largest settlement in 2005, with a population of some 33,000 residents.
    The settler population grew by 1.4 percent in 2005. The figures did not include Israelis living in Arab East Jerusalem.
    Some 2.5 million Palestinians live in the West Bank. The World Court has ruled that settlements built on land Israel captured in the 1967 Six Day War are illegal.
    Israel drew protests from the United States and European Union last month by announcing it would turn a former army base in the West Bank called Maskiot into a settlement to house 60 families evacuated more than a year ago from the Gaza Strip.
    The vast majority of Gaza's 8,500 settlers chose to establish new homes in southern Israel, the Yesha Council of Settlements said.

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    [Israel] Defense Minister halts work on Judean Desert separation fence

    Last update - 18:06 09/01/2007   

    Defense Minister halts work on Judean Desert separation fence
    By Zafrir Rinat, Haaretz Correspondent

    Defense Minister Amir Peretz has called for a halt in the construction of a section of the separation fence routed to run through the Judean Desert, until conclusive research about the environmental impacts of the fence can be done.
    Peretz's decision comes after head of the Labor faction in the Knesset, Yoram Marciano, requested that Peretz assess the possibility of changing the route of the fence in order to avoid the expected negative impact it would have on the views and nature of the area.
    Recently, environmentalists and settlers have launched joint efforts in nature preserves and settlements in the area of Hebron mountain to stop the construction of the fence within the Judean Desert, which they maintain will cause great harm to the ecology and aesthetics of the region.
    Mount Hebron Regional Council Chairman Tzvika Bar-Chai recently met with official from the Israel Defense Forces' Central Command in an attempt to persuade them to reroute that section of the fence, or to cancel its construction altogether.
    Bar-Chai enlisted the support of one of the founders of the Israeli conservation movement, Ezriya Alon, who in turn contacted GOC Central Command Yair Naveh.
    "The essence of the Judean Desert is wholly unique in all of Israel. The fence will amputate the desert and destroy its vistas and appeal for backpackers and tourists, dealing a severe blow to the living world," Alon said in his statement to Naveh.
    Dr. Yossi Lashem, former general secretary of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel and one of the country's foremost aviary researchers, sent a letter on Wednesday to IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz and Defense Department General Secretary Gabi Ashkenazi. In the letter, Lashem warned that the planned route of the fence would prevent animals from moving freely and would destroy food access for birds of prey.

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    MI chief: Al-Qaida militants sent to Lebanon to attack UNIFIL

    Last update - 19:09 09/01/2007   

    MI chief: Al-Qaida militants sent to Lebanon to attack UNIFIL
    By Gideon Alon, Haaretz Correspondent

    Dozens to hundreds of Al-Qaida militants have arrived in Lebanon from Iraq and Pakistan in order to carry out terrorist attacks on UNIFIL forces and other western elements in Lebanon, Military Intelligence chief Major General Amos Yadlin said on Tuesday.
    According to Yadlin, the organization ordered its militants to disperse in Syria, Lebanon and Egypt in order to carry out attacks there.
    He said that while Al-Qaida militants have appeared in the Palestinian territories, the number in the Gaza Strip "could be counted on two hands." A few other militants have also been located in the West Bank city of Nablus.
    Yadlin said Iran was continuing to smuggle weapons to Hezbollah forces through Syria. He added that Hezbollah was focusing its efforts on rehabilitating its forces following the war with Israel, not on planning attacks.
    The Military Intelligence chief also told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Tuesday that the alert level within the Syrian army has been lowered.
    Yadlin added that Israel cannot be sure whether Syria's peace overtures are genuine, but Israel can be certain that Syrian President Bashar Assad is intereseted in entering peace talks with Israel in order to gain legitimacy within the global community.
    Yadlin also said that the Hezbollah is continuing to rehabilitate its Katyusha rocket launching capabilities, after depleting much of its rocket supply during the war.
    He added that Hamas would likely enjoy improved economic standing in the near future as a result of the recent smuggling of large sums of money into the Gaza Strip by the Hamas.
    Brigadier General Yossi Baidatz, head of the Military Intelligence research division, said two weeks ago that "Syria is genuinely interested in negotiations. The Syrian regime believes that dialog with Israel will only better its position and improve its standing."
    However, Mossad director Meir Dagan said "I don't truly see Syria offering to renew negotiations with Israel."

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Tunisian Reformist Meddeb: It's Up To the Arab to Question His Faith

    Inquiry and Analysis-North African Reformist Thinkers Project
    January 10, 2007
    No. 315

    Tunisian Reformist Abdelwahab Meddeb: It's Up To the Arab to Take the Courageous Step of Questioning His Faith

    To view this Special Dispatch in HTML, visit: .

    By Nathalie Szerman*

    Reformist author Abdelwahab Meddeb was born in Tunisia in 1946, and has been living in Paris since 1968. He is the editor of the international French-language literary journal Dédale and professor of comparative literature at the University of Paris X in Nanterre. Meddeb has written several books, including La Maladie de l'Islam,(1) which aroused considerable interest around the world and has been translated into English, Arabic, German, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, and Turkish. The book discusses the relationship between Islam and the West in light of the history of Islamic thought, and in connection with today's violent political Islam. Meddeb argues in the book that Islam is afflicted with the illness of fundamentalism.

    In September 2006, Meddeb published a book titled Contre-Prêches(2) (Counter-Preaching). The book was based on his weekly radio program, which is aimed at the large French-speaking community in North Africa and has been aired by the Moroccan station Radio Mediterranee Internationale since March 2003. Contre-Prêches is a collection of 115 essays on a variety of topics, including Islam, antisemitism, the veil, multiculturalism, and the fall of dictators.

    The following is a review of Meddeb's views on these topics, as presented in La Maladie de I'Islam and Contre-Prêches:

    "Islamic Society Today Has Become a Prudish Society with an Aversion To Sensuality"

    Meddeb argues that Islam has declined over time: "Islamic society used to be a society that delighted in pleasure, [a society] based on love of life. [Today], it has become a prudish [society] with an aversion to sensuality... The tradition of exalting the [human] body seems to have [completely] vanished from certain Islamic lands, which have been devastated by the order imposed [upon them] by half-literate people afflicted with resentment...

    "Today, we are witnessing a strange reversal in the attitude towards the body. The society ["cite"] advocated by Islam [is one] whose members are afflicted with nihilism and resentment, whereas the Westerners have freed their bodies from traditional constraints... Those who adhere to Islam are not aware of this curious reversal, since they are so proud of their condition that they commend it to the 'depraved Western society' as a model of a virtuous society..."(3)

    Meddeb is particularly critical of Wahhabi Islam, which in his view "makes [Muslims] forget their bodies, [all material] things and places, and [all things of physical] beauty." He says that "the rejection of all this inflicts the [Muslims] with general amnesia - which is one of the aspects of their malady."(4) 

    About Islamist terrorists, Meddeb says: "No criminal is more despicable than one who not only fails to feel any guilt after [committing] his [crime], but also harbors the illusion that this [crime] will bring him... divine reward. This conversion of bad into good not only spares him guilt, but also turns an unhappy person into a happy soul... "(5)

    "The Current Antisemitism in Arab Countries is Directed Against Imaginary Jews"

    According to Meddeb, one of the chief symptoms of the malady of Islam is resentment. This resentment is particularly strong, he says, regarding the West, and particularly regarding the Jews. It affects even secular Arab Muslims: "Preachers and even 'secular' editorialists view the disasters that have befallen their community through [the prism of] acute xenophobia: They invent an imaginary conspiracy and attribute it the other, who fulfils the role of the enemy. [Both] the faults of the collective and the shortcomings of individuals are attributed to the evil and malignant foreigner... What better way to rid oneself of responsibility after ridding oneself of guilt? [According to this view,] the Muslims' misery is caused by the West... and by Israel, whose success is a source of vexation [for the Muslims] in light of their own failure, which they are unable to acknowledge...

    "Anti-Judaism is blended with anti-Zionism and turns into a kind of antisemitism, without [the Muslims] even realizing that this [antisemitism] is imported from the West... In the general confusion, a theological debate is confused with a political one, which is itself permeated with racist perversion. The wound inflicted by Israel on the Arab conscience remains exposed to every [kind of] putrid infection. No one is spared, not even the most open and least extremist minds, such as Sheikh Tantawi, one of the authoritative and reasonable voices of official Islam..."(6)

    Meddeb notes that Islam has fought Judaism from the very beginning of its history in Medina: "...Faced with the newly-formed [Islamic] community, the Jews had to choose between converting and resisting. The Islamic anti-Judaism led to the massacre of the Jews in Medina, under the leadership of the Prophet. This initial anti-Judaism must be mentioned in order to distinguish it from European antisemitism, which has in recent years found fertile ground in Islamic countries...

    "[European] antisemitism is rooted in the notion of a Jewish conspiracy aimed at taking over the world. This delusion inspired The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the Arabic translation of which is now widely circulated...

    "One must bear in mind that in the Islamic tradition, anti-Judaism was aimed at Jews who were in an [inferior] position, in two ways: they were exiles, excluded from sovereignty, and they had the inferior legal status of People of the Book: a minority [tolerated] under Islamic rule. Current antisemitism, on the other hand, is aimed against Jews who have renewed their sovereignty in Israel, at the price of almost completely leaving the Arab and Islamic societies. This antisemitism is [therefore] directed against absent Jews that no one is familiar with, and whose ancient presence has been forgotten. [In other words], this hatred is directed against imaginary Jews - and nurtured by TV footage showing ferocious military power cold-bloodedly killing unarmed brothers reduced to throwing stones.

    "This is why the current struggle against antisemitism in Islam must restore the memory of the once-friendly co-existence between Jews and Arabs, without concealing the events that occurred in the beginning of Islamic [history]..."(7)

    Giving examples of the once friendly relationship between Jews and Arabs, he quotes Ibn Arabi (born in 1164 in Murcia and died in Damascus in 1240): "Owing to a similarity in sounds, Ibn Arabi connected the word 'Jew' (Yahudi) to the word hudan, which means 'good guidance'. Thus the Jew was associated with a pious man who does not deviate from the path of righteousness."

    He further cites(8) "the numerous Jewish masterpieces from the Middle-Ages that were written in Arabic." A few of the authors he mentions are Moses Ben Ezra, Yehuda Halevi and Maimonides.

    "The Testimony of Al-Husseini, Mufti of Jerusalem, Confirms the Nazi Extermination... It Should be Published in the Arab and Iranian Press"

    Meddeb describes an antisemitic Friday sermon he recently heard at the Al-Azhar mosque in Cairo: "...I believe the speaker was the current [spiritual] guide of the Muslim Brotherhood, Muhammad Mahdi 'Akef. He was pounding his words like a political propagandist, yelling his advice and his threats from the heart of the mosque... He was condemning the passivity and cowardliness of the Mulsim countries and masses, while praising the Iranian president and his courageous stand, in particular with regards to Israel... A few days later the press published an announcement by the same 'Akef condoning the Iranian president's denial of the Holocaust. According to ['Akef, the Holocaust] is nothing but a myth intended to legitimize [the existence of] Israel...

    "I remind all those who doubt the reality of the Holocaust that there is a direct Arab Muslim testimony to its [truth], namely the words of the Mufti of Jerusalem, [Amin] Al-Husseini, who was invited [to Germany] by the Nazis in light of his short-term alliance [with them] and owing to his anti-British attitude... In his memoirs, he recalls a conversation with Himmler in the summer of 1943. [The latter] told [him] that three million Jews had already been exterminated as part of the 'Final Solution,' according to a methodical and industrialized plan... This excerpt from Al-Husseini's memoirs should be published in the Arab and Iranian press..."(9)

    "The Only Solution is to Acknowledge that All Koranic Verses Regarding Women's Inferiority are Obsolete"

    Another main aspect of Islam's illness, according to Meddeb, is the inferior status of women. Meddeb states that this discrimination is unfortunately rooted in the Koran itself. He asks: "All those who want to... follow the founding scriptures are faced with a conundrum. What can they do in the face of a [Koranic] verse which explicitly establishes the superiority of men over women, [namely] verse 34 of Sura 4, which reads: 'Men have authority over women because God has favored one over the other...'

    "The only solution for the women and men who [wish to follow] the Islamic faith while adapting to the modern [principle] of gender equality... is to acknowledge that all Koranic edicts regarding [women's inferiority] are obsolete, and that they are rooted in [historical] circumstances rather than in [immutable] principles...

    "Nowadays, many women claim to be returning to their Islamic origins. This can only imply that they accept their subservient [status]. They cannot avoid this. We are told that women who don the veil are responsible for their choices and wish to take part in the 'Islamization' of the modern world... This phenomenon is another knot in the chain [that binds them]. The only way to get rid of this knot is to cut right through it. Only then will it be possible to save [the Islamic] faith in a healthy manner - without nurturing the kind of schizophrenia that is impossible to live with: seeking freedom while reinforcing the state of subservience.

    "As for the veil - must we mention it again? Yes, it is necessary to harp on [this issue], since this phenomenon is becoming universal, and since the Arab satellite channels take part in propagating [this custom] by spreading feelings of guilt. Let me say out loud that [the veil] is the embodiment of all the laws which legitimate gender inequality... Muslim women, if you want to be modern, burn your veils!"(10)

    "I see the veil as a sign of the inferior status of women and of an offense against women. To these young girls who claim to wear it out of their own free will, I say that they are [actually] under the influence [of an Islamic authority]... They demand that we respect their [right to] be different, but in fact they are only embracing the inferior legal status imposed upon them by the Koranic law...

    "To those young girls who wear a veil, I say, first of all, that their attitude is outdated... As a child in Tunis in the 1950s, I saw women taking off their veils [even] in my traditional social circle. Back then, this development seemed irreversible. [Imagine how] surprised I was to witness the comeback of the veil in Paris, city of enlightenment and liberties..."

    As proof to the fact that the veil is not simply the expression of the "right to be different," Meddeb notes that today the veil is "identical from Jakarta to Paris" and does not display the variety that characterizes individual expression: "[The phenomenon of the veil], as we see it today, is the result of political action... The transformation in the meaning of the veil reflects the metamorphosis [of Islam]. There is a world of difference between the veil as a traditional [custom] and what I call the 'ideological' veil... Today, veils are identical from Jakarta to Paris."(11)

    Multiculturalism Promotes Islamism; "Only in the Maghreb Can We Win the Worldwide Cultural Battle Against the Islamists - Thanks to the French Influence"

    Meddeb believes that multiculturalism fosters Islamism in the West. Commenting on the murder of Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh, he writes: "[Van Gogh] rejected the multicultural society. He saw it as a means of legitimizing the emergence and propagation of Islamism, which is extremist, radical, and impossible to assimilate [into Western society], and which is in danger of infecting one million [Muslim] subjects living in the Netherlands."(12)

    Meddeb further writes: "Great Britain is now paying the price of its incomprehensible tolerance towards these sowers of dissension, trouble, and apocalyptic [doom]. Obviously, the democratic tradition of this country, which gave birth to the [principle of] Habeas Corpus, is admirable. But [this principle] should not be implemented so scrupulously that it [undermines] other people's right to live."(13)

    Meddeb points to the special role of the Maghreb in the struggle against Islamism: "As a result of the French influence, the entire northern Mediterranean region can become a laboratory of European thinking. Only here can we win the global cultural battle against the Islamists."(14)

    "Unless Muslims Take a New Direction, One Can Reasonably Assume that Arab [Civilization], Constrained by the Framework of Islamic Faith, Will Join the Great Dead Civilizations..."

    Meddeb believes that Islam has developed into an unproductive religion, and that Arabs today should rid themselves of the influence of Islam: "Imagine a meeting of representatives of the various civilizations: European, American, Japanese, Chinese, Indian, African, Arab, and Muslim. Each [representative] would be asked what his civilization could contribute to the humanity's present and future. What could the Arab Muslim offer? Nothing, except for Sufism, perhaps... Unless they take a new direction, one can reasonably assume that the Arab [civilization], constrained by the framework of Islamic faith, will join the great dead civilizations..."

    "It is up to the Arab to take the courageous [step of] questioning [his faith] until he feels that Islam is a disease, until he reduces this useless and all-pervasive [influence] to the size of an insect, until he de-Islamizes his Arab identity. Then the lock may begin to break, and the doors [to freedom] may begin to open."(15)

    Meddeb argues that reform begins with the willingness to accept criticism, especially from the European countries in which many Muslims reside: "...It is not up to Europe to adapt to Islam. It is up to Islam to learn how to accept criticism - even the most offensive criticism - without reverting to bloody acts of revenge. Muslims must understand that [even] the harshest criticism against Islam is justified in the light of the flagrant contradiction that exists between the developing world and the static morals [of Islam]."(16)

    "What is Happening Around the World Teaches Us That It is Possible To Confront A Dictatorship And Triumph Over It"

    Meddeb refers to Condoleezza Rice's statements, cited in The Washington Post, regarding the need to promote democracy in the Middle East. Rice rejected the claim that Islam is incompatible with democracy, and said that it reminded her of the attitude that prevailed in Alabama during her childhood, when it was widely believed that blacks could not develop intellectual abilities. Meddeb mentions Rice's statements to show how condescending it is to believe that Arab Islamic countries cannot be democratized.(17)

    "[In fact], it is surprising to see how easily the dictator's [i.e. Saddam Hussein] establishment disintegrated, for when the dictator was in power, he terrorized the country and seemed impossible to remove. He functioned perfectly well and recruited numerous enthusiastic agents to keep his country in line... I can only wonder at the evident fragility of tyrants, once they are deposed, since on the eve [of their fall], they are [still] wrapped in mystique which rendered their image and person sacred."(18)

    Meddeb holds that it was right to show the humiliation of Saddam Hussein on TV in the Arab world, since this put an end to a myth: "... I believe this was an education for the Arab masses who still worship dictators. They were forced to witness his degradation, and to see him dug out of his dark hole... without offering any resistance... [It was important for them] see him... transformed into a submissive victim so that the myth could be shattered. Such a fall... should be the lot of any dictator who forces the people to venerate his image..."(19)

    Regarding the process of democratization in Iraq, Meddeb writes: "Never have the Arabs witnessed such an event - a member of a minority was elected president of a society which has an Arab majority, and which considers itself Arab. Here is Jalal Talabani, a Kurd heading the Iraqi state..."(20)

    Meddeb also regards the fall of the Lebanese government on March 28, 2005 as a milestone for democracy in the Middle-East: "The fall of the Lebanese government is heartening because it was caused by popular pressure and set precedence in the Arab world. On the symbolic level, this event deserves to be inscribed [in the book of] great events in political [history]... We live at a time when the democratic process is in motion. What is happening around the world teaches us that it is possible to confront a dictatorship and triumph over it."

    "The Syrian Regime Failed to Realize that the World Has Changed"; "Democracy Is Indeed in Full Swing"

    "But this process does not move forward if it is not fueled by the people's desire to overcome the obstacle which keeps them [in a state of] lethargy. The truth is that all dictatorships survive owing to the consent of the masses, [owing to the masses'] willingness to be subjugated..."

    "It is the sacrifice of Rafiq Al-Hariri that triggered the popular protests [in Lebanon]. The Lebanese people refused to be intimidated by the attacks and the political message they conveyed. Syria had accustomed us to these methods, but the [Syrian] regime failed to realize that the world has changed. Its old methods had the opposite effect [to the one intended]...

    "Democratization is indeed in full swing [now]. Elections have been held in Iraq. Two sectors have received recognition - a religious sector, the Shiites, and an ethnic sector, the Kurds - who had known nothing but total rejection for years. A new path is being carved out for the Middle East, in which all former practices - so beloved by Syria - seem obsolete and counter-effective... "(21)

    *Nathalie Szerman is Director of MEMRI's North African Reformists Project.

    (1) Seuil, Paris, 2002. The book was also published in English: Malady of Islam, Basic Books, New York, 2003.
    (2) Seuil, Paris, 2006
    (3) La Maladie de l'Islam, pp. 135-139.
    (4) La Maladie de l'Islam, p. 141.
    (5) Contre-Prêches, p. 362.
    (6) La Maladie de l'Islam, pp. 129-133.
    (7) Contre-Prêches, pp. 104-105.
    (8) Contre-Prêches, pp. 106-108.
    (9) Contre-Prêches, pp. 458-459.
    (10) Contre-Prêches, pp. 263-266.
    (11) Contre-Prêches, pp. 56-58.
    (12) Contre-Prêches, p. 249.
    (13) Contre-Prêches, p. 401.
    (14) Die Zeit, September 21, 2006,
    (15) Contre-Prêches, pp. 42-43.
    (16) Contre-Prêches, p. 250.
    (17) Contre-Prêches, p. 114.
    (18) Contre-Prêches, p. 38.
    (19) Contre-Prêches, p. 134.
    (20) Contre-Prêches,  p. 328. 
    (21) Contre-Prêches, pp. 314-317.

    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)


    (Government Press Office)
    9 January 2007

    Haaretz -
    Ma'ariv -
    Yediot Aharonot -
    Globes -
    Hazofe -
    Jerusalem Post -

    Haaretz argues that the country's leaders are not suited to their task. According to the newspaper, the lack of public responsibility among elected officials, foremost Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz, can go only so far. Peretz must leave his post, and someone worthy should replace him immediately, regardless of the results of Labor's May primaries.

    If the prime minister had some leadership qualities, he would have replaced the defense minister a long time ago. Given that Peretz is not regarded as a successful defense minister it can be assumed that if Olmert were to present Peretz with an ultimatum and ask him to take a different portfolio, Labor would not leave the coalition.

    However, that is not how scores are kept in the government. Barak announced he is a candidate for defense minister so he wouldn't be seen as a threat to Olmert; Peretz announced he would not step down so that he could maintain his power before the Labor primaries; and the entire government is sitting and waiting for the five members of the Winograd Committee to do the work the government was elected to do.

    This cowardly behavior, which lacks any semblance of statesmanship, is sufficient to show all of them as unworthy of serving in the government. It is impossible to negotiate with the Egyptians, the Palestinians or the Chinese, and to make promises regarding military preparations against the Iranian bomb, when a minor thing that needs fixing is not being fixed.

    Yediot Ahronot says that the county's institutions are crumbling one after the other, and are losing both their credibility and their ability to properly function. But a dangerous line is crossed when policemen are attacked, as policemen were recently by a pair of car thieves they had caught in the act. The editors advocate severe sentences for those who attack police officers.

    Hatzofeh notes Finance Ministry Budget Director Kobi Haber's appointment of a special team to fight economic crimes. The editors point out that the police already have a similar unit and question the need for another one.

    The Jerusalem Post takes issue with the moral stance of the Israeli government regarding the release of the kidnapped soldiers. Recently, says the editor, officials in Prime Minister Olmert's office have promised a "very, very large" prisoner release, despite the fact that security officials argue that these prisoners "always return to terrorism" and warn that, judging from the current increase in terrorist activity, a new "intifada" is about to break out.

    The "no capitulation to ransom" Olmert stance of July 2006 and the "large prisoner release" Olmert of today cannot both be right. While there is no easy choice between victims, current and future, and while this most acute of dilemmas is anything but black and white, Olmert's original stance is the more morally persuasive.

    Yediot Ahronot, in its second editorial, describes Ehud Barak as "used goods." The editors ascribe to him exceptional leadership qualities except one, "He is not a mensch, a human being." The paper says that Barak's supporters now claim that he has improved in this department.

    Yediot Ahronot, in its third editorial, laments that the underworld has taken control of recycling business and urges the police to put a stop to it.

    [Eitan Haber and Nitzan Kedar wrote today's editorials in Yediot Ahronot and Hatzofeh, respectively.]

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Proposal to provide Palestinians 5 years to prepare for war against Israel without interference.

    Text: Proposal to provide Palestinians 5 years to prepare for war against
    Israel without interference

    Dr. Aaron Lerner                            Date: 22 December 2006

    The following is the text of the "Proposal for Creating Suitable Conditions
    for Ending the Conflict" as printed as an illustration in Yediot Ahronot
    today of an article by Nachum Barnea regarding a draft proposal being
    prepared by various research centers associated with the Swiss, UK and
    Norwegian governments along with a team representing the Hamas Government
    headed by Dr. Ahmad Yousef. According to Barnea, some changes have been made
    since this draft but the changes are not of substance and it is not expected
    that Hamas will accept the agreement.


    Proposal for Creating Suitable Conditions for Ending the Conflict


    1. Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank to an agreed temporary line.

    2. Five year armistice/hudna, i.e. no Palestinian attacks in Israel or on
    Israelis anywhere and no Israeli attacks on Palestinian territory or
    Palestinians anywhere.

    3. No Israeli steps to change the status quo that existed in areas outside the territory under Israeli control on the 4th of June 1967 lines.  No
    houses to be built in settlements/no roads or any change of the landscape.

    4. Free and unhindered access for Palestinians to East Jerusalem and the rest of the Israeli occupied West Bank.

    5. Free and unhindered travel from Gaza to West Bank (and vice versa) as well as to Jordan and Egypt.

    6. International supervision: any violations of points (1-5) is to be considered a violation of the armistice/hudna.

    Barnea adds that in the body of the draft all "political" prisoners are to be released by Israel including all prisoners who engaged in terror

    Barnea adds that under the draft. the Gaza Port would open as would airports in Gaza and the Atarot airport north of Jerusalem with security arrangements similar to those at Rafah.  Barnea declines to explain that this means thatunder the arrangements at Rafah, the international observers ultimately have virtually no authority to stop either terrorists or contraband from crossing - it is up to the final discretion of the Palestinians.

    Barnea also declines to note that the building freeze would mean no construction in Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem beyond the Green Line (e.g. French Hill, Ramat Eshkol, etc.).

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

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Gaza terrorists seek to use Katyushas

    Gaza terrorists seek to use Katyushas
    Yaakov Katz, THE JERUSALEM POST Jan. 8, 2007

    A number of Palestinian terror cell members have recently left the Gaza Strip and traveled abroad to learn how to manufacture and effectively launch  short-range Katyusha rockets, high-ranking defense officials told The Jerusalem Post on Monday.

    According to the officials, the new rockets, with an estimated range of over 35 kilometers, could reach the southern cities of Kiryat Gat, Netivot and Ofakim.

    A senior IDF officer said the terrorists who traveled abroad were those responsible for the development and firing of Kassam rockets at the western Negev. The terrorists have decided, the officer said, to begin using Katyusha rockets against Israel, since the Kassam has exhausted itself technologically.

    "The Kassam cannot be further upgraded, and the Palestinians need a new weapon," the officer said. "The cells have traveled abroad to learn about the Katyusha rocket and how to manufacture it back in the Gaza Strip."

    While the officer refrained from revealing the cell members' destination, Hamas terrorists have been known to travel to Lebanon and Iran for training with Hizbullah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.

    While the Kassam has been the IDF's current and immediate focus, a high-ranking defense official said Monday that it was necessary to begin preparing for the possibility that the Palestinian terror organizations in the Gaza Strip would also soon obtain rockets with even longer ranges than that of the Katyusha.

    Palestinian terrorists in Gaza are also known to have a small quantity of old Soviet-era Grad-type Katyusha rockets, some of which have been fired at Israel - although without reaching their maximum range of close to 30 kilometers. During the war in Lebanon, close to 4,000 rockets - mostly short-range Katyushas - landed in northern Israel.

    As a result of the new intelligence, the Home Front Command has stopped formulating protection and defense plans based on the Kassam threat, and has updated all of its databases and now runs simulations and tests protective measures against the larger Katyusha rocket.

    In May, the Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for a Katyusha rocket attack on the Gaza-belt community of Netiv Ha'asara. Unlike the homemade, short-range Kassam rockets frequently launched at Israel, Islamic Jihad said the Grad version of the Katyusha was 2.8 meters long, weighed 66 kilograms and had a caliber of 122 mm. It carried a 17-kilogram warhead, the group said, and had a range of 18 to 30 kilometers.

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    MEMRITV: We wouldn't nuke Tel Aviv if had bomb - Iranian Parliament National Security Committee Spokesman Interview

    MEMRITV: We wouldn't nuke Tel Aviv if had bomb - Iranian Parliament National
    Security Committee Spokesman Interview

    *Clip # 1348 - Kazem Jalali, Spokesman for the Iranian Parliament's National
    Security and Foreign Policy Committee: Even If We Had a Nuclear Bomb, We
    Would Not Drop It on Tel Aviv

    The following are excerpts from an interview with Kazem Jalali, spokesman
    for the Iranian parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Committee,
    which aired on Channel 2, Iranian TV, on December 26, 2006.

    Kazem Jalali: The comparison between the Islamic Republic of Iran and North
    Korea is wrong, because the security doctrine of the Islamic Republic of
    Iran does not include an atomic bomb. Therefore, to the viewer who said that
    we should finish the job and that there is no point to negotiations, I say
    that our security doctrine does not include an atomic bomb. If we had an
    atomic bomb today, how would this promote our security? Even if we had an
    atomic bomb, we cannot drop it - not even on Tel Aviv, because we consider
    the killing of innocent people to be forbidden. Even if the people living in
    Tel Aviv are Jews, they are innocent, and we cannot kill innocent people.
    This is what the Americans did, I am sad to say.

    Interviewer: Why do you say: "Even though they are Jews?" The Jews are very
    respectable. Say: "Even though they are Israelis."

    Kazem Jalali: Even though they are Israelis or Zionists. I stand corrected.
    You are right. I mean that we have no conflict with regular innocent people,
    whatever their religion. We respect all human beings.


    For assistance, please contact MEMRI TV Project at 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.

    MEMRI TV Project
    P.O. Box 27837, Washington, DC 20038-7837
    Phone: (202) 955-9070
    Fax: (202) 955-9077

    IMRA - Independent Media Review and Analysis

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Opening of the Jordan Valley Crossing for the Passage of goods and agricultural products

    January 9th, 2007

    Opening of the JordanValley crossing for the passage of goods and
    agricultural products

    In accordance with the decision made by the political echelon and as part of
    the IDF's policy to ease restrictions on the Palestinian population which is
    not involved in terror, the "Bazak" crossing, located in the northern
    JordanValley, was reopened today, January 9th 2007. The crossing enables the
    passage of agricultural products and goods from the Palestinian villages in
    the JordanValley.

    The opening of the crossing will ease the passage of goods for the
    Palestinian merchants and farmers, who up until today passed their goods
    through the "Gilboa" crossing, located north of Jenin.

    The opening of the crossing, in addition to the recent easements of the
    security checks of the Palestinian population in the different crossings, is
    aimed to facilitate the transfer of goods and to improve the daily life of
    Palestinians in Judea and Samaria and the JordanValley.

    The IDF will make every effort to maintain the daily life of the Palestinian
    population while using all means at its disposal to act against terrorists
    in order to protect the citizens of Israel.

    IMRA - Independent Media Review and Analysis

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    message to:

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    [Israel] MI chief: Syria lowering war readiness

    MI chief: Syria lowering war readiness
    Speaking at Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Military
    Intelligence Chief Amos Yadlin says although Hizbullah is engaged in
    internal conflict, it continues to rearm and is not disarmed by UNIFIL.
    Syria, however, has lowered its alert level, he says
    Miri Chason YNET Published: 01.09.07, 13:14,7340,L-3350198,00.html

    Syria  is slowly but surely lowering its readiness for war after a military
    beef up along the border with Israel, head of Military Intelligence
    Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee
    on Tuesday.

    Yadlin however painted a dim picture of the situation in Lebanon, telling
    committee members that Syria and Iran continue to rearm Hizbullah and that
    the United Nations peacekeeping force is doing nothing to disarm the
    guerilla group.

    Last month the head of research at the Military Intelligence told the
    committee that Syrian President Bashar Assad 's peace overtures towards
    Israel are genuine.

    His remarks contradicted an assessment by Mossad Chief Meir Dagan who
    rejected Assad's declarations as attempts to gain international legitimacy.

    Yadlin said however that the Shiite group is preoccupied with internal
    politics and war with Israel is not its priority.

    "Hizbullah is rehabilitating the tens of thousands of Shiites and focusing
    on the political struggle for the Lebanese presidency. However, we need to
    be wary, because there will be a second round but it is not clear when,"
    committee member and Likud MK Silvan Shalom said.

    Likud MK Yuval Steinitz told committee members: "My impression . is that the
    clouds are black and are assembling above the Middle East and Israel.
    Hizbullah is gaining strength in the north and in the south Hamas is
    becoming stronger with clear Egyptian assistance and to the east we have

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    PLO Executive Committee Rejects any Transitional Solution with Israel

    PLO Executive Committee Rejects any Transitional Solution with Israel

    [PMC is an official PNA Web news outlet]
    Palestine Media Center-PMC

    The Executive Committee of the Palestinian Liberation Organization rejected
    any transitional solutions for long term truce with Israel, including the
    "State with Temporary Borders" idea that PM Ismael Hanniya's Political
    Advisor, Ahmed Youssef, said he formulated it with European and Israeli
    parties, the Palestinian News Agency (WAFA) reported.

    The committee affirmed that making this document and circulating it to some
    Arab leaders "contradicts the role of the Government in accordance with law
    as well as national reconciliation document, stressing that any negotiations
    or political projects are attached to the PLO and its Chairman, who is also
    is the President of the PNA."

    The committee "welcomed the initiative to resume the national dialogue to
    form a national unity government within two weeks."

    It said that earlier elections should be the alternative in case the
    national unity government is not formed.

    Meanwhile, Abbas told top officials from his Fatah party that he intended to
    go ahead with his plan to call early elections -- a move rejected by Hamas
    when it was first announced in mid-December, sparking internecine bloodshed.

    "I will not go back on holding early parliamentary and presidential
    elections," Eissa Karaqaa, a senior Fatah official in Bethlehem, quoted
    Abbas as telling the Fatah closed-door meeting in the town on Sunday.

    "This plan is not a tactic. All paths to forming a government of national
    unity are closed and there is no other choice except these elections," Abbas
    said, adding that Fatah should "prepare" for the polls.

    President Abbas first issued his call for early polls on December 16,
    sparking armed clashes between Fatah and Hamas supporters that killed 15
    people in Gaza before a truce was reached four days later.

    Simmering factional tensions boiled over into armed clashes again last
    Wednesday, killing 16 people and wounding more than 70 others since then.

    On Saturday, Abbas upped the stakes in his face-off with Hamas, when he
    demanded that it disband its interior ministry's "executive force," saying
    it was illegal and should be integrated into existing security structures.

    "The executive force (controlled by Hamas) is illegal... and will be treated
    as such if it is not immediately integrated... into legal security services
    as stipulated by basic law," said a statement from the presidency.

    Hamas slammed Abbas's call as a "mistake", warned against a crackdown, and
    declared that it intended to more than double the size of the 5,500-strong
    armed force, taking it to 12,000 men.

    "It's not true that the executive force is outside of the security
     services," Prime Minister Ismail Haniya, a key Hamas figure, said in Gaza
    late Saturday. "It works legally according to the orders of the interior

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    U.S. puts squeeze on Iran's oil fields

    U.S. puts squeeze on Iran's oil fields

    A campaign to dry up financing for projects poses a threat to Tehran's ability to maintain exports, analysts say.
    By Kim Murphy, Times Staff Writer
    12:18 AM PST, January 7, 2007
    LONDON — As Washington wages a very public battle against Iran's quest for nuclear power, it is quietly gaining ground on another energy front: the oil fields that are the Islamic Republic's lifeblood.

    Iran's oil industry has raked in record amounts of cash during three years of high oil prices. But a new U.S. campaign to dry up financing for oil and natural gas development poses a threat to the republic's ability to continue exporting oil over the next two decades, many analysts say.

    The campaign comes at a moment of unique vulnerability for Iran's oil industry, which also faces challenges from rising domestic energy consumption, international isolation, a populist spending spree by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and trouble closing contracts with foreign oil companies — a recipe for potential disaster in a nation with one of the world's largest reservoirs of oil.

    "If the government does not control the consumption of oil products in Iran … and at the same time, if the projects for increasing the capacity of the oil and protection of the oil wells will not happen, within 10 years, there will not be any oil for export," Mohammed Hadi Nejad-Hosseinian, Iran's deputy oil minister for international affairs, said in a telephone interview.

    If Iran were to suddenly stop exporting its 2.6 million barrels of oil a day, such as in the event of a military strike, world oil prices probably would skyrocket. But a gradual decline might be offset by other OPEC members, analysts say, particularly as Iraq increases its oil production and Saudi Arabia carries out plans for significant increases in its production capacity.

    The efforts by the United States and its allies over the last few months to persuade international banks and oil companies to pull out of Iran threaten dozens of projects, including development of Iran's two massive new oil fields that could expand output by 800,000 barrels a day over the next four years.

    "Many European banks which had accepted financing some oil industries projects have recently canceled them," Nejad-Hosseinian said.

    In addition, banks are no longer granting letters of credit for delivery of some supplies, ministry officials say. And as nations such as Japan begin to back out of Iran oil development under U.S. pressure, the government in Tehran is being forced to dig into its own reserve funds to get crucial new projects off the ground.

    But Nejad-Hosseinian said Iran had recognized the gravity of the threat and launched steps to head it off, including new "smart" rationing cards, scheduled for distribution in March to check skyrocketing sales of cheap gasoline, and an overhaul of Iran's historically stingy contract terms in an attempt to lure big oil companies into skirting the U.S. roadblocks.

    Iran also is hoping to turn to China and Russia for help. But U.S. officials already have warned that they will seek to hold China accountable under Washington's unilateral sanctions laws if it proceeds with a $16-billion project to develop Iran's North Pars gas field. China also has signed a memorandum of understanding under which it may take on development of the Yadavaran field in southwestern Iran, expected to boost production by 300,000 barrels a day.

    Domestic problems

    Iran's oil and natural-gas dilemma has no direct connection with the sanctions adopted last month by the United Nations Security Council, which are narrowly aimed at assistance to Iran's nuclear program. Although Tehran insists it has strictly peaceful intentions, the U.S. and others believe the program is linked to development of nuclear weapons.

    Rather, the looming crisis stems from a series of domestic problems that have converged at a time when Iran is susceptible to U.S. attempts to capitalize on them to coerce Tehran's compliance on the nuclear issue.

    First is the condition of Iran's aging oil fields, which have never fully recovered from damage inflicted during the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s.

    To maintain sufficient pressure to keep them pumping, Iran has to divert large amounts of natural gas that might otherwise be sold.

    "You need billions of dollars invested in order to stand still — to avoid a decline," said Manouchehr Takin, a former Iranian petroleum geologist who is a senior analyst for the Center for Global Energy Studies in London.

    Likewise, increased output from refinery construction is being outpaced by the swelling number of young Iranians with a fondness for gas-guzzling cars. Heavily subsidized gasoline is just 35 cents a gallon, a price that invites smuggling, and talk about raising the price has, until recently, gone nowhere.

    Moreover, the country has one of the most extensive residential heating infrastructures in the world, with homes in the most remote villages warmed toastily with cheap natural gas.

    Total domestic energy subsidies total $20 billion to $30 billion a year, Takin said.

    "These subsidies are now costing the government roughly 15% of Iran's GDP. That should knock you over. That's a mind-boggling number," said Hossein Askari, professor of international business at George Washington University. "And the nub of the problem is that if you were to cut the subsidies, I think there would be riots in the streets."

    Iran could be reinvesting in the oil and gas infrastructure, and it is to a degree, but Ahmadinejad also has diverted billions of dollars in oil revenue to social welfare programs, major infrastructure building programs in neighboring countries such as Afghanistan and importation of consumer products — to the consternation of many of those in his government.

    Foreign investment

    The heavy lifting in recent years has been left to foreign oil companies, which in the 1990s began working in Iran in substantial numbers for the first time since the Islamic Revolution.

    U.S. sanctions in place since the seizure of the American Embassy in Tehran in 1979 have prevented U.S.-based oil companies from operating in Iran, but companies such as Royal Dutch Shell, France's Total and Italy's Eni have invested, some heavily, despite on-again, off-again threats by Washington to pursue sanctions against foreign companies under U.S. laws.

    To a great degree, though, Iran has created its own woes by dragging out contract negotiations and offering only skimpy paybacks to foreign oil companies interested in building new production, industry analysts say.

    "People have said that even with sanctions and all the rest, if Iranians want investment in their oil industry, what they need to do is offer decent terms, and whatever the sanctions, they would have companies flooding in," said one Western oil company official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

    "But the issue for us at this point is both political and commercial. The state of the country is such that it's just not the right time to be there."

    That is the message Washington is trying to reinforce. For years, U.S. sanctions prohibited investments of more than $20 million in Iran's oil industry, but in practice, they were applied only to U.S.-based oil companies. But as the nuclear showdown has unfolded, and as it became clear the U.N. sanctions would not impose serious economic penalties on Iran, Bush administration officials decided on a different tack.

    Envoys from the Treasury Department have approached international banks and companies, reminding them of Iran's record of financing militant Islamic organizations such as Hamas, in the Palestinian territories, and Hezbollah, in Lebanon, through the banking system and its defiance of U.N. resolutions on nonproliferation, and warning that investing in such a country may not be a good business risk.

    Simultaneously, the Justice Department reportedly has opened investigations of several banks to determine whether investments in Iran violated U.S. sanctions laws. In late 2005, Dutch bank ABN Amro agreed to pay $80 million in fines stemming in part from improper transactions with Iran through its subsidiary in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

    UBS Bank and Credit Suisse of Switzerland recently announced they were suspending most new business with Iran, and British-based HSBC said it would no longer accept dollar transactions from within Iran.

    "Banks are constantly doing risk assessments about what kind of business they want to be involved in," Stuart Levey, Treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in a telephone interview.

    "There's a lot out there suggesting that there's an element of coercion involved. But I think that for a lot of these executives, the main thing driving them is they really don't want to be involved in facilitating terrorism or proliferation or any other crime."

    More than two decades of U.S. sanctions have had little effect on Iran's oil industry — U.S.-based companies have been replaced, largely by Europeans. But this new attack on financing has rapidly started to dry up potential loans on dozens of projects, according to oil industry insiders in Tehran and the West.

    One of them is reportedly the giant Azadegan oil field in southwestern Iran near the Iraqi border. Japan's INPEX Holdings Inc. in October pulled out of all but a 10% stake in the $2-billion project under U.S. pressure, and alternative financing from foreign banks has failed to materialize, said one source with close connections to the Iranian Oil Ministry.

    "It has been very effective. Nobody is prepared to loan Iran anything on anything," said Fereidun Fesharaki, an energy advisor to the Iranian prime minister in the 1970s who now heads the FACTS Inc. petroleum consulting firm in Honolulu.

    In a report published this month by the National Academy of Sciences, Johns Hopkins University geography professor Roger Stern argued that the confluence of high domestic demand, a delay in adding production capacity, the diversion of natural gas to keep wells producing and other factors could lead to a decline of 33% to 46% in Iran's exports by 2011 and a halt to exports by 2015 or so.

    Other analysts have said those forecasts are too dismal, and output is more likely to remain flat at about 4 million barrels a day. Iranian officials say they have signed $28.4 billion worth of new oil and gas development contracts over the last 15 months, and hope to increase production to 7 million barrels a day by 2014 — a goal that the International Energy Agency says will require $80 billion in investments.

    The nuclear issue

    Whether that will be realized could depend, in large part, on what happens on the nuclear issue.

    In fact, Iran's oil and gas dilemma appears to point up a "genuine" need for civilian nuclear power, Stern said.

    "When I first started hearing this claim that Iran needed these nuclear plans to substitute for oil and gas, I thought, 'That's ridiculous,' " he said. "So it has really been a surprise to me," he added, to see evidence that Tehran's stated purpose for the nuclear reactor is not "simply a weapons deception."

    "I don't think they're nice guys," he said. "This is a regime that funds terrorism and is making outrageous claims that Israel should disappear. But it just happens to be a convenient truth for them that they do need nuclear power."




    Oil giants

    Iran is one of the world's biggest producers and exporters of petroleum and has the third-largest proven reserves:


    Top producers, 2005*

    (millions of barrels per day)


    Saudi Arabia: 11.1

    Russia: 9.5

    United States: 8.2

    Iran: 4.2

    Mexico: 3.8


    Top exporters, 2005

    (millions of barrels per day)
    1. Saudi Arabia 9.1
    2. Russia 6.7
    3. Norway 2.7
    4. Iran 2.6
    5. United Arab Emirates 2.4

    Crude oil reserves, 2006

    (billions of barrels)
    1. Saudi Arabia 266.8
    2. Canada 178.8
    3. Iran 132.5
    4. Iraq 115.0
    5. Kuwait 104.0

    *Production includes crude oil, natural gas liquids and other products


    Source: Energy Information Administration. Graphics reporting by Tom Reinken

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Don't Play With Maps

    Don't Play With Maps
    By DENNIS ROSS The New York Times January 9, 2007


    I BECAME embroiled in a controversy with former President Jimmy Carter over
    the use of two maps in his recent book, "Palestine Peace Not Apartheid."
    While some criticized what appeared to be the misappropriation of maps I had
    commissioned for my book, "The Missing Peace," my concern was always

    I was concerned less with where the maps had originally come from - Mr.
    Carter has said that he used an atlas that was published after my book
    appeared - and more with how they were labeled. To my mind, Mr. Carter's
    presentation badly misrepresents the Middle East proposals advanced by
    President Bill Clinton in 2000, and in so doing undermines, in a small but
    important way, efforts to bring peace to the region.

    In his book, Mr. Carter juxtaposes two maps labeled the "Palestinian
    Interpretation of Clinton's Proposal 2000" and "Israeli Interpretation of
    Clinton's Proposal 2000."

    The problem is that the "Palestinian interpretation" is actually taken from
    an Israeli map presented during the Camp David summit meeting in July 2000,
    while the "Israeli interpretation" is an approximation of what President
    Clinton subsequently proposed in December of that year. Without knowing
    this, the reader is left to conclude that the Clinton proposals must have
    been so ambiguous and unfair that Yasir Arafat, the Palestinian leader, was
    justified in rejecting them. But that is simply untrue.
    In actuality, President Clinton offered two different proposals at two
    different times. In July, he offered a partial proposal on territory and
    control of Jerusalem. Five months later, at the request of Ehud Barak, the
    Israeli prime minister, and Mr. Arafat, Mr. Clinton presented a
    comprehensive proposal on borders, Jerusalem, Palestinian refugees and
    security. The December proposals became known as the Clinton ideas or

    Put simply, the Clinton parameters would have produced an independent
    Palestinian state with 100 percent of Gaza, roughly 97 percent of the West
    Bank and an elevated train or highway to connect them. Jerusalem's status
    would have been guided by the principle that what is currently Jewish will
    be Israeli and what is currently Arab will be Palestinian, meaning that
    Jewish Jerusalem - East and West - would be united, while Arab East
    Jerusalem would become the capital of the Palestinian state.

    The Palestinian state would have been "nonmilitarized," with internal
    security forces but no army and an international military presence led by
    the United States to prevent terrorist infiltration and smuggling.
    Palestinian refugees would have had the right of return to their state, but
    not to Israel, and a fund of $30 billion would have been created to
    compensate those refugees who chose not to exercise their right of return to
    the Palestinian state.

    When I decided to write the story of what had happened in the negotiations,
    I commissioned maps to illustrate what the proposals would have meant for a
    prospective Palestinian state. If the Clinton proposals in December 2000 had
    been Israeli or Palestinian ideas and I was interpreting them, others could
    certainly question my interpretation. But they were American ideas, created
    at the request of the Palestinians and the Israelis, and I was the principal
    author of them. I know what they were and so do the parties.

    It is certainly legitimate to debate whether President Clinton's proposal
    could have settled the conflict. It is not legitimate, however, to rewrite
    history and misrepresent what the Clinton ideas were.

    Indeed, since the talks fell apart, there has emerged a mythology that seeks
    to defend Mr. Arafat's rejection of the Clinton ideas by suggesting they
    weren't real or they were too vague or that Palestinians would have received
    far less than what had been advertised. Mr. Arafat himself tried to defend
    his rejection of the Clinton proposals by later saying he was not offered
    even 90 percent of the West Bank or any of East Jerusalem. But that was
    myth, not reality.

    Why is it important to set the record straight? Nothing has done more to
    perpetuate the conflict between Arabs and Israelis than the mythologies on
    each side. The mythologies about who is responsible for the conflict (and
    about its core issues) have taken on a life of their own. They shape
    perception. They allow each side to blame the other while avoiding the need
    to face up to its own mistakes. So long as myths are perpetuated, no one
    will have to face reality.

    And yet peace can never be built on these myths. Instead it can come only
    once the two sides accept and adjust to reality. Perpetuating a myth about
    what was offered to justify the Arafat rejection serves neither Palestinian
    interests nor the cause of peace.

    I would go a step further. If, as I believe, the Clinton ideas embody the
    basic trade-offs that will be required in any peace deal, it is essential to
    understand them for what they were and not to misrepresent them. This is
    especially true now that the Bush administration, for the first time, seems
    to be contemplating a serious effort to deal with the core issues of the
    Of course, one might ask if trying to address the core issues is appropriate
    at a moment when Palestinians are locked in an internal stalemate and the
    Israeli public lacks confidence in its government. Can politically weak
    leaders make compromises on the issues that go to the heart of the conflict?
    Can the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, compromise on the right of
    return and tell his public that refugees will not go back to Israel? Can
    Israel's prime minister, Ehud Olmert, tell his public that demography and
    practicality mean that the Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem will have
    Palestinian and not Israeli sovereignty?

    The basic trade-offs require meeting Israeli needs on security and refugees
    on the one hand and Palestinian needs on territory and a capital in Arab
    East Jerusalem on the other. But producing such trade-offs won't simply come
    from calling for them. Instead, an environment must be created in which each
    side believes the other can act on peace and is willing to condition its
    public for the difficult compromises that will be necessary.

    So long as mythologies can't be cast aside, and so long as the trade-offs on
    the core issues can't be embraced by Israelis or Palestinians, peace will
    remain forever on the horizon. If history tells us anything, it is that for
    peace-making to work, it must proceed on the basis of fact, not fiction.
    Dennis Ross, envoy to the Middle East in the Clinton administration, is
    counselor of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Olmert: Unilateralism policy has been a failure

    Olmert: Unilateralism policy has been a failure
    By Aluf Benn, Haaretz Correspondent Last update - 08:02 09/01/2007

    Prime Minister Ehud Olmert recently expressed his disappointment with the
    results of Israel's two unilateral withdrawals, saying that the violence
    that broke out in both Lebanon and the Gaza Strip in recent months convinced
    him that there is no point in any future unilateral moves of this kind.

    In an interview with the Chinese news agency Xinhua prior to his departure
    Monday for a three-day visit to China, the prime minister said that he
    believes in the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. In
    order to achieve this, he added, Israel will have to withdraw from a large
    part of the territories that it controls today, and "we are ready to do

    "A year ago, I believed that we would be able to do this unilaterally," the
    prime minister said, referring to a withdrawal from the West Bank. "However,
    it should be said that our experience in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip is not
    encouraging. We pulled out of Lebanon unilaterally, and see what happened.
    We pulled out of the Gaza Strip completely, to the international border, and
    every day they are firing Qassam rockets at Israelis."

    Olmert's conclusion from these experiences was that "under the existing
    circumstances, it would be more practical to achieve a two-state solution
    through negotiations rather than [unilateral] withdrawal."

    Olmert has already said that his convergence plan, which called for a
    unilateral pullout from most of the West Bank, has been shelved, and he has
    described the withdrawals from Lebanon and the Gaza Strip as failures.

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Peace Index Poll: 69.5% Palestinians would destroy Israel if could, 53% oppose evacuating most of the Jewish settlements for full peace agreement

    [Dr. Aaron Lerner - IMRA:  This month's Peace Index poll provides important
    insight for those wanting to interpret polls.  The same Israeli who want to
    negotiate,etc. don't think much will come from it = the reason that they
    support certain activities is for other reasons than the stated purpose of
    the activity (for example, they may support talks becuase they think it will
    keep Washington happy).

    From the standpoint of the policy debate, with  69.5% of Israeli Jews
    convinced that the Palestinians would destroy Israel if they could, it is
    clear that the primary focus for opponents of retreat proposals should be
    the security ramifications.]


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

    The education minister's decision to have the Green Line marked on maps in
    schoolbooks, and the controversy it sparked, led us to reexplore this month
    the Israeli Jewish public's views on the future of the settlements and
    relations with the Palestinians. In keeping with the Education Committee of
    the Knesset, and unlike the minister's position, the rate of those
    preferring that the Green Line not be marked on the maps is higher than the
    rate of those who agree with her. Likewise, even though a considerable
    majority of the Jewish public realizes that it is impossible to reach a
    peace agreement with the Palestinians without evacuating most of the Jewish
    settlements in the territories, only a minority supports such an evacuation
    and an even smaller minority thinks the Palestinians would sign a peace
    treaty in return. At the same time, opinions are divided on the government's
    recent decision to expand some settlements in the territories so that they
    can absorb evacuees from the Gaza Strip. That is, at least some of the
    opponents of an evacuation oppose a further expansion of settlements,
    apparently out of worry of aggravating relations with the Palestinians.

    In other aspects of relations with the Palestinians, too, there is a certain
    ambivalence in the public's positions, resembling or perhaps influenced by
    the government's policy on the issue. Despite the prevailing assessments
    that most of the Palestinians would destroy the state of Israel if they
    could and that the recent decline in terror attacks was caused first and
    foremost by preventive Israeli actions and not by Palestinian measures, we
    found sweeping support in the Jewish public for holding contacts like the
    recent meeting between Olmert and Abu Mazen. Indeed, a clear-albeit
    smaller-majority says that if Hamas were to free Gilad Shalit, Israel should
    agree to talk with its leaders as well.

    The execution of Saddam Hussein was a source of satisfaction for the
    majority of the Israeli Jewish public, and the majority also thinks it was
    an appropriate measure that will increase the chances of regional calm.

    With the onset of the new secular year, it appears that the Jewish public
    tends to be optimistic about what it will bring for the world and for
    Israel, and still more for their own personal fortunes.

    Those are the main findings of the Peace Index survey for December 2006 that
    was carried out on 1-2 January 2007.
    Exactly half the public opposes the education minister's decision to start
    marking the Green Line on schoolbook maps while 38% support it (the rest
    have no clear opinion on the matter). As expected, the support runs very
    high among Meretz voters-78%, and Labor voters-69%. Kadima voters are
    divided on the question. Among voters for the rest of the parties, opponents
    have a clear majority. We checked, therefore, current views about the
    territories beyond the Green Line. It turns out that a clear majority of
    59.5% think or are sure that it is now impossible to reach peace with the
    Palestinians without evacuating a majority of the Jewish settlements in the
    territories; 16% are not sure or have no opinion on the issue; and only
    about one-quarter think or are sure that peace can be reached even without
    dismantling most of the settlements. Nevertheless, 53% oppose evacuating
    most of the Jewish settlements in the territories for a full peace agreement
    and only 34% favor it (the rest have no clear opinion or no opinion on the
    subject). This opposition could be rooted in the widespread view-68%-that
    even dismantling most of the settlements would not suffice for the
    Palestinians to sign a full peace agreement with Israel. A cross-section of
    the two questions-readiness for a mass evacuation and assessment of the
    chances that the Palestinians would be satisfied-shows that both among
    supporters and opponents of an evacuation, a majority thinks it would not be
    enough to bring the Palestinians to sign a full peace agreement with Israel.
    As expected, this majority is slightly smaller among the supporters of an

    Despite the reservations about an evacuation, a majority of the public does
    not back the government's decision to expand certain settlements so that
    they can absorb evacuees from the Gaza Strip. On this question the opinions
    are split with, in fact, a slight advantage for the opponents: 41% favor an
    expansion and 45% oppose it, apparently out of concern about aggravating
    relations with the Palestinians. A segmentation of the responses by voting
    for the Knesset shows a clear distinction between Left and Right.
    Eighty-nine percent of Meretz voters and 84% of Labor voters oppose an
    expansion. A majority-56%-of Kadima voters are against it while 36% support
    it. In all the other parties, a majority of voters favor it.

    This month we returned to the question we asked many times in the past about
    the basic intentions of the Palestinians. This time, too, a clear
    majority-69.5%-said that if they could, the Palestinians would destroy the
    state of Israel. Here we should note that since 1994 there have been only
    small fluctuations on this question, between two-thirds and three-quarters,
    compared to the volatility of events. Indeed, a majority of members of all
    parties except Meretz see this as the Palestinians' intention. Among Meretz
    voters, 33% currently think the Palestinians would destroy Israel if they
    could, 23% oppose this view, and 44% do not know.

    Not surprisingly, then, when asked what has caused the decrease in terror
    attacks in recent times, the majority-42%-ascribe it to the preventive
    measures by the Israeli security forces and only 29% to an intentional
    avoidance by the Palestinians for their own reasons. Ten percent attribute
    equal importance to both factors, 3% to neither of them, and the rest have
    no clear opinion.

    Yet, at the same time, 70% favor having contacts with the Palestinians such
    as the meeting Prime Minister Olmert recently held with Palestinian
    president Abu Mazen (only 21% oppose such contacts and the rest have no
    definite view). Moreover, a clear majority-58%-also favor contacts with
    Hamas leaders if the organization frees abducted soldier Gilad Shalit (37%
    oppose this and the rest have no opinion on the matter). Not surprisingly,
    there is congruence though not identity between support for contacts with
    the Authority and support for contacts with Hamas. Among those who support
    meetings like the one between Olmert and Abu Mazen, 66% also favor
    negotiations with Hamas and 33% oppose them. Among those who oppose the
    meeting between Olmert and Abu Mazen, however, only 37% support contacts
    with Hamas and 58.5% are against them.
    We wanted to know how Israelis felt about last week's execution of former
    Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. Although those who were satisfied with the
    hanging have the edge, it is not a matter of happiness across the board.
    Some 19% reported that they were very happy, 27% that they were moderately
    happy, 13.5% moderately unhappy, and 13% were not happy at all. About
    one-fourth responded that the event did not affect them emotionally. As for
    how this measure will influence the future of the region, 53% see it is a
    positive step and 30% think it will harm regional stability.

    And if we are dealing with the future, it turns out the public is quite
    optimistic about the year that is just beginning. Forty-three percent think
    it will be better for the world than the preceding one, 29% expect it to be
    worse, and 27% say things will more or less stay the same. As for Israel,
    45% foresee a better year whereas 30% predict a worse one. Here, too, about
    one-quarter think the situation will not change. And as for personal future,
    67% see a better future for themselves in the new year, 7.5% expect a worse
    one, and 26.5% do not anticipate a change for better or worse. Although the
    majority are optimistic, as expected we found a clear connection between
    degree of optimism and income level. Among those with a lower-than-average
    income, 56% are optimistic; among those with an average one, 74%; and 78% of
    those with a higher-than-average income are optimistic.

    The peace indexes for this month were:
    Oslo Index: 31
    Negotiation Index: 47
    Syria Index: 29

    Note that this month only a Jewish sample was included in the survey because
    of the difficulty in conducting interviews with the Arab public during the
    Id al-Adha holiday.

    The Peace Index project is conducted by the Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace
    Research and the Evens Program in Mediation and Conflict Resolution at 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 on 1-2 January 2007 and included 488 interviewees who represent
    the adult Jewish population in Israel (including the territories and the
    kibbutzim). The sampling error for a sample of this size is 4.5%
    IMRA - Independent Media Review and Analysis

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Boycotts backfire

    Boycotts backfire
    , THE JERUSALEM POST Jan. 7, 2007


    If there is one arena where international politics is set aside to an unusual
    degree, it's sports. Greece and Turkey may not get along, the Soviet Union and
    the US may have had thousands of nuclear weapons pointed at each other, but
    these conflicts and others have not prevented athletes from competing against
    each other in international arenas.

    It is in this spirit that Mushir Salem Jawher of Bahrain innocently decided to
    run in the Tiberias Marathon last week.

    "When I decided to come I didn't know it was history for me to be here, but
    when I arrived [I was] told that no other athlete [from Arab countries] had
    competed in Israel," Jawher told this newspaper. "For me, it was no problem
    and I hope to come back and compete next year."

    Jawher won the race with a time of just over 2 hours and 13 minutes. Not only
    was he happy to have won, but he said he was "very proud" to have run in

    Most countries would share the pride of their national's victory in an
    international competition. Not so Bahrain, judging from its actions.

    Two days after the race, the Bahrain Athletic Union expressed its "shock" and
    stated that it "deeply regrets what the athlete has done." Further, the
    athletic union announced that Bahrain was revoking Jawher's citizenship
    because he had "violated the laws of Bahrain" by visiting Israel.

    This is a remarkable rebuke, especially since Jawher was not just any athlete
    for the kingdom, but had recently won a medal for Bahrain at a major
    international competition - a silver medal at the Asian Games.

    Also, as Arab states go, Bahrain is thought to be among the more moderate and
    pro-Western. In 2004, Bahrain signed the first-ever free trade agreement
    between the US and an Arab state. In order to do this, Bahrain had to
    officially lift its boycott of Israeli goods. It October 2005, however,
    Bahrain's parliament passed a law to reopen the office that had monitored the
    boycott against Israel.

    Clearly, as the reaction to Jawher's victory shows, the animus against even
    the slightest connection to Israel remains strong, even in Arab states widely
    considered to be relatively modern, moderate, and Westernized.

    Some consider such anti-Israel behavior in countries that have no direct
    conflict with Israel to be a form of lip service to demonstrate solidarity
    with the Palestinian cause. If so, it is a pattern of behavior that is quite
    costly, not so much to Israel, as to the Arab countries in general and to the
    Palestinians in particular.

    This is not because trade with Israel would be of great benefit in either
    direction. The Arab states, whose economies lag badly behind Israel, would
    benefit more from opening the trade gates than would Israel. Indeed, Arab
    economies suffer from lack of diversification and liberalization that has
    little to do with outdated boycotts.

    Actually, the greatest economic effect of abandoning boycotts, both de facto
    and official, would be through the impact it would have on the image of the
    Arab world.

    An Arab world that shows signs of opening itself to Israel, as began to happen
    with the opening of trade offices and at international conferences after the
    Oslo Accords, would begin to shed its image of being insular and threatening.
    Many of these countries, which claim to be partners in the war against
    terrorism, are not exactly perceived by their Western trading partners as a
    positive factor for peace and stability in the world. At best, they are
    considered to be threatened by the same radical forces that are attacking the
    West; at worst, as active sympathizers and financiers of jihad.

    The issue here, of course, is not just an image problem, but that there is
    much truth to these negative perceptions. The question is what the "moderate"
    Arab states can and should be asked to do to deserve such a reputation.

    The punishment of an athlete for daring to compete in Israel is a good example
    of what not to do. Mushir Salem Jawher should be praised and rewarded for
    leading the way in breaking stereotypes and contributing to peace between the
    Arab world and Israel. If the Palestinians object, their Arab allies should
    tell them the truth: You need peace more than anyone, let us help you get
    there by leading by example.

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Hamas operatives kidnapped in Gaza

     Hamas operatives kidnapped in Gaza

    Five Hamas operatives were kidnapped by loyalists of the rival Fatah Party who stopped their car at gunpoint in the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Lahiya late Monday, Hamas and other factions said.

    Three were released after about an hour following mediation by three other militant groups, said one of the mediators, Mohammed Madhoun of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Hamas said two others continued to be held.

    There was no comment from Fatah on the latest incident of violence between the two groups.

    The Hamas operatives were driving near the house of a Fatah leader when gunmen stopped their car, seized them, then torched the vehicle, Hamas said.

    Prior to the kidnappings, Fatah gunmen went on a rampage throughout the city Sunday night, destroying several businesses, charities and cars belonging to Hamas figures and supporters.

    Eyewitnesses told The Jerusalem Post on Monday that Palestinian Authority security forces in the city did not intervene to stop what they termed as a "pogrom."

    The attack, the biggest of its kind against Hamas in the West Bank since the power struggle with Fatah began, was strongly condemned by many residents who expressed fear that the violence in the Gaza Strip was spreading to the West Bank.

    "What happened in Ramallah on Sunday night was disgraceful," said school teacher Abdel Kader Tawil. "Many armed gangs set fire to at least 20 shops and offices. They also shot at businesses owned by Hamas supporters. The attack continued all night long."

    Hamas representatives accused Fatah leader Muhammed Dahlan of being behind the attack. "The attack came only hours after Dahlan incited against Hamas in a speech in Gaza City," said one Hamas leader. "It's obvious that this was a well-planned attack aimed at sending a warning to Hamas."

    Sources in the Ramallah Municipality said at least 22 shops were torched during the attack. They said the gunmen also fired several shots at the home of Hamas official Omar Hamayel, the acting mayor of the nearby Al-Bireh Municipality. No one was hurt. It was the second attack of its kind on Hamayel's home in less than 24 hours.

    The sources estimated the damages at more than NIS 10 million.

    Abdullah Daraghmeh, owner of the Daraghmeh Shopping Center, one of the largest businesses here, said his place was completely destroyed after the assailants set it on fire.

    "The attack began around midnight," he said. "The gunmen fired at the center, setting it ablaze. The fire destroyed all the clothes."

    The gunmen also set fire to the Ajouli money-changing business, a supermarket owned by the Izhiman family and another shop owned by Hamas legislator Abdel Jaber al-Fukaha.

    Businessman Muhammed Izhiman said neighbors woke him up shortly after 2.00 a.m. to tell him that his family's supermarket had been targeted.
    "The gunmen fired many bullets at the place and caused extensive damage," he said. "How can any Palestinian do such a thing?"

    In more scenes of anarchy, unidentified gunmen on Monday morning fired at the office of former PA Finance Minister Salam Fayyad in the Balou neighborhood of Al-Bireh. The attackers fled in a car and no one was hurt. The motive for the attack remained unclear, although some Fatah activists blamed Hamas.

    Fatah's armed wing, the Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, warned Hamas against establishing a new militia in the West Bank. The warning came in response to reports that Hamas was planning to deploy members of its Gaza-based "Executive Force" in the West Bank in the coming days.

    The group's representatives in Nablus expressed support for PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas's decision to outlaw the Hamas force which, they added, was created to serve the interests of "foreign parties."

    Earlier, the Fatah group released Nablus Deputy Mayor Hamdi Hanbali, who was kidnapped over the weekend. Hanbali, who is associated with Hamas, was released unharmed following the intervention of Abbas and other senior Fatah leaders, local sources said.

    In Gaza City, Fatah gunmen fired several shots at the main offices of the Palestinian government, but no casualties or damages were reported.

    Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum condemned as "barbaric" attacks on Hamas businesses and personalities in the West Bank. He said at least 70 anti-Hamas attacks took place in the West Bank in the past few days.

    Barhoum accused Dahlan of "paving the way for a civil war" in the PA territories. He claimed that Dahlan was spearheading efforts to topple the Hamas-led government "in the same way he tried to stage a coup against Yasser Arafat several years ago."

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Monday, January 8, 2007

    Hamas: Fatah in league with Zionist conspiracy

    Hamas: Fatah in league with Zionist conspiracy
    Hamas responds to harsh criticism from Fatah, accuses latter of
    collaborating with Israel, US to overthrow gov't. Fatah call Hamas 'Shiite
    agents' while Hamas negotiate with Islamic Jihad over possible merge
    Ali Waked YNET Published: 01.08.07, 22:19,7340,L-3349967,00.html

    A day after Fatah leaders spoke out against Hamas , Hamas are now warning of
    a "revolutionist sect within Fatah" which is trying to lead the Palestinians
    into civil war.

    The past 24 hours in Gaza and the West Bank have been relatively quiet
    though tensions are still running extremely high; especially if judged by
    statements made by both sides.

    Hamas spokesman Dr. Fouzi Barhoum told reporters at a press conference on
    Monday that there are those in Fatah who are in league with the
    Zionist-American conspiracy to stage a coup and overthrow the elected
    Palestinian government - this as punishment for the fact that the government
    refuses to recognize the State of Israel .

    Barhoum said that there are Israeli and American interests shared by Fatah
    and that the economic and political siege led by the US, Israel and
    officials within the PA is designed to defeat the Islamic movement -
    represented by Hamas which won the Palestinian vote.

    Barhoum said that Muhammad Dahlan - the leading Fatah leader in Gaza who
    once tried to overthrow Yasser Arafat - now seeks to overthrow the current

    Barhoum said that over the course of the past month there were 70 incidents
    in which Hamas establishments and leaders were attacked, including
    parliament and the prime minister's office.

    He said that Hamas will not let the situation come to civil war and
    addressed Fatah leaders, calling them back to the Palestinian negotiation

    Hamas, said Barhoum, will not allow a group seeking a coup to destroy it,
    nor will the movement allow the Zionist enemy victory.

    "The kidnapping of Hamas officials by Fatah is taking place while Israel
    continues to arrest movement leaders," he said.

    Fatah compares Hamas with Iraqi Shiite leader

    Hamas' scathing comments were issued in response to a harsh speech by
    Muhammad Dahlan on Sunday during a Fatah rally in which he called Hamas
    "murderers" and said that Fatah will respond when its people are attacked.
    Barhoum said that Dahlan's speech was an invitation for civil war.

    Meanwhile - despite a relative lull in gunbattles - the two warring factions
    devoted their time to pointing fingers over recent events and specifically
    over President Mahmoud Abbas' declaration Saturday that Hamas' special
    security force was illegal.

    While Hamas says that the decision was engineered by the revolutionary group
    surrounding Abbas, the press have labeled Hamas "Sadari", after Iraqi Shiite
    leader Muqtada al-Sadr, an archenemy of Iraqi Sunni Arabs and who reportedly
    participated in Saddam Hussein's execution.

    Fatah imply that Hamas is being run by Iranian Shiite interests and in
    response to Hamas' use of the term "Israeli agents" regarding Fatah - the
    latter has labeled Hamas "Shiite agents".

    Hamas, Islamic Jihad tie the knot?

    Ynet has learned that in preparation for a potential face-off and in light
    of Fatah's US-supplied weapons, Hamas and Islamic Jihad are in talks to
    possibly unite their ranks.

    A Palestinian source says that leaders from both organizations have met in
    Damascus and in Gaza and it has been decided that the groups will form a
    unified front against Fatah.

    The matter was discussed in these meetings between Hamas political chief
    Khaled Mashaal and Islamic Jihad Secretary General Ramadan Abdullah Shallah.
    It was decided in these meetings that Islamic Jihad would initially support
    Hamas in the public and in the media to strengthen the organization.

    In recent days Islamic Jihad has adopted virtually all of Hamas' positions
    in the question of its special force and who shoulders the responsibility
    for what has occurred on the Palestinian street.

    At the time it remains unclear if, should larger-scale clashes erupt,
    Islamic Jihad fighters will physically join Hamas but both sides continue to
    prepare for the possibility of an upcoming conflict, while still calling for
    a return to negotiations.

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Official PA newspaper scores Hamas stance on Higher Follow Up Committee and Executive Force

    Official PLO newspaper scores Hamas stance on Higher Follow Up Committee
    and Executive Force

    A January 7 article in Al-Hayat Al-Jadida- "What is the importance of the Stand of the Higher Follow-up Committee ?"  by columnist Omar Hilmi Al-Ghoul,  criticizes the Hamas stand regarding the Higher Follow-up comittee and its position on the Hamas Executive Force. The committee is the governing body of the National and Islamic front, an inclusive coalition of terrorist forces ranging from Islamists to Marxists, welded together by Marwan Barghouti during the Second Intifada. Essentially the National and Islamic front provided Fatah and Barghouti with a means of controlling the Palestinian political scene as a whole, in the name of "national unity" against the "Zionist enemy." The Committee, siding with Mahmoud Abbas, blamed recent fighting on the Hamas "Executive force" and called for disbanding it.

    Al Hayat Al-Jadida is the PLO/Fatah controlled official daily of the Palestinian national authority. The dispute and the wording of the artilce indicate that Hamas has been trying to wrest control of the National and Islamic Front from the Fatah for some time.

     Al-Ghoul noted increasing opposition to this committee, once a symbol of Palestinian unity.  "This [the opposition]  deepened in the last couple of years and especially last year, when Hamas turned its back on the committee and boycotted its sessions repeatedy... Nonetheless, the head of the Committee, brother Ibrahim Abu Al-Naja and some national and democratic forces, did not give up and continued to cling to the framework of the Follow-up Committee as a national reference to coordinate between the national and Islamic political forces, follow-up on the domestic events and developments and partake in the continuous effiective efforts aiming to stop the internal killings between the Palestinian factions and their partisans…

    Hi continued,  "The Higher Follow-up Committee of the national and Islamic forces adopted a new position two days ago regarding the outbreak of the fighting between the partisans of Hamas and Fatah in the north of Gaza, in the Jabalia camp and the city of Khan Younes and the massacre which claimed the lives of seven martyrs including General Muhammad Gharib,  head of the preventive security body…

    "This remarkable and courageous position first identified the party that triggered the fighting, that is, the Executive Force affiliated to the Interior Ministry, and then demanded that it be disbanded and taken off the streets -- a turning point in the operations of the Higher Follow-up Committee, because it has abandoned the logic of covering up and beating around the bush and placed its finger on the problem. It was not afraid of Hamas's rejection or of the Islamic Jihad's opposition in this regard, because it is the duty of every citizen to… call things by their name, as the street is in need of clarity and boldness.

    "The rejection by Hamas and the prime minister of the demands of the Higher Follow-up Committee reflects their persistence  in undermining the truth, in trying to impose kickback logic on the national forces of the Follow-up Committee; and in linking their level of cooperation with the Follow-up Committee to the extent to which the latter adopts positions that favor or are in line with those of Hamas. Hamas' assumption that holding the Executive Force responsible does not serve national unity is wrong. Their position allows everyone to do whatever they want without anything stopping them, because the political forces are afraid of them.

    "Thus, if Hamas is concerned for its own factional interests as well as those of the nation and the citizens, it has to abide by the decision of the Higher Follow-up Committee. That position has become a presidential decree after President Mahmud Abbas issued a decision yesterday which stipulated the illegitimacy of the Executive Force and demanded that it be disbanded… By abiding by the decision of the Higher Follow-up Committee, Hamas would register a key precedent in national action, one with which it could confront Fatah and other forces later on. Will Hamas and the government realize the importance of this decision and work on implementing it?" -
    Arabic source:

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    What Did the Palestinians Do with Their "Marshall Plan"?[Squandered millions]

    What Did the Palestinians Do with Their "Marshall Plan"?
    Ben-Dror Yamini Maariv-Hebrew, 5 Jan 06
    [Provided by Daily Alert - January 8, 2007 - Jerusalem Center for Public

    The Palestinians have bought themselves a place of honor on the list of unfortunates in the world. A well-oiled public relations campaign has turned them into a nation of victims. Misery pays. One of the countries hated by the Palestinians the most, the United States, has since 1993 helped them more than any other nation in the world, according to World Bank figures. From 1994 to 2004, the U.S. provided the Palestinians with $1.3 billion, the EU $1.1 billion, and Japan $530 million. In addition to direct aid, the U.S. is also the largest contributor to UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees.

    In 1992, the Palestinian per capita GDP was $2,683 per person. If there had not been terror, the Palestinian economy could have grown during the 1990s into one of the leaders in the Middle East. The money was used for three major purposes: perpetuation of the refugees as victims, purchase of weapons and explosives, and corruption. Opportunities to achieve independence and prosperity were rejected for the ultimate goal: the removal of Israel from the map.

    In relation to their numbers, the Palestinians have received more aid than provided by the Marshall Plan after World War II. Since the Oslo agreements, the Palestinians in the territories have received $5.5 billion, or $1,300 per person. By comparison, in the Marshall plan, each European enjoyed only $273 (in today's numbers). Above all, the guilt lies with those who gave these huge sums without having the Palestinians undergo a period of recovery from their futile dreams of the destruction of Israel. The result is, primarily, the continued destruction of Palestinian society.

    IMRA - Independent Media Review and Analysis

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Labor's Peretz unveils 'new road map' diplomatic plan

    Labor's Peretz unveils 'new road map' diplomatic plan

    Defense Minister Amir Peretz unveiled a new diplomatic plan at Monday's Labor faction meeting that calls for skipping the stages of the road map and finalizing a permanent diplomatic agreement with the Palestinians.

    Peretz worked on the plan, which is called "the new road map," for some two months. The plan is a combination of the quartet's road map and the Saudi initiative, and calls for an international conference with moderate Arab countries.

    "It's clear to everyone that there is a diplomatic stalemate," Peretz told the faction.

    "It's true the Saudi plan is based on 1967 borders, but we are not talking about conceding on settlement blocs."

    Peretz said the strengthening of moderate Palestinians should be done at the same time as dismantling terrorist organizations, and the latter should not be a precondition for the former, as it is in the road map.

    The plan, which was co-written by deputy defense minister Ephraim Sneh, calls for stabilizing the security situation over the first six months, negotiations on a final-status agreement over the next six months and implementing the plan over an additional 18 months.

    "We need to give the Palestinians a diplomatic horizon and the capacity to overcome
    anarchy," Peretz said.

    Unlike a report published Monday, the plan refers only to the Palestinian issue and not Syria or Lebanon. However, Peretz said in the faction meeting that "the Syrian option must be tested seriously."

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    If Israel had tactical nukes, would it use them against Iran?

    If Israel had tactical nukes, would it use them against Iran?
    Yaakov Katz, THE JERUSALEM POST  
    Jan. 8, 2007

    A nuclear weapon has not been used since 1945, when the US Armed Forces dropped two such bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II. Now, according to London's Sunday Times, Israel is preparing for its own Hiroshima and has drawn up plans to not only introduce the weapon of mass destruction into the Middle East but even use it against Iran.
    The newspaper report, improbable as it might sound, should not be immediately dismissed. While Israel is publicly rooting for diplomatic efforts to stop Iran's nuclear program, there is no doubt that the IDF - and particularly the Air Force - are preparing for the possibility that Israel might decide to launch a military strike against the Islamic Republic's nuclear facilities.
    But would Israel use tactical nuclear weapons - if it had them - to do so? According to foreign reports, Israel has a large arsenal of nuclear weapons and according to the Sunday Times report, has been training with low-yield warheads that are just large enough to cause the necessary destruction at Iran's nuclear facilities, but also just small enough to contain the blast and prevent major collateral damage and fallout.
    While it would be difficult to completely destroy all of Iran's several dozen nuclear facilities, senior officials and IAF officers believe that a successful strike on a number of key elements of the nuclear program - such as the uranium enrichment center in Natanz, the heavy water facility at Arak and the Isfahan nuclear technology center - would be enough to stop the country's race for nuclear power.
    Assuming strikes on these facilities would suffice in at least temporarily stopping Iran's atomic race, there are still many hurdles along the way, some of which could potentially be passed by using tactical nuclear weapons.
    The Sunday Times report is not the first to raise the "tactical nuclear" possibility. Last April, Seymour M. Hersh wrote in the New Yorker magazine that the United States was considering using bunker-buster bombs tipped with nuclear warheads to strike at Iran's nuclear facilities.
    If Israel decided to attack Iran, in addition to the difficulty in flying directly to the country and neutralizing its air defenses, the IAF would also have to succeed in penetrating bunkers at the nuclear facilities - some known to be dozens of feet below ground and reinforced by concrete and steel.
    According to Israeli officials, while an air strike on Iran could be successful, the IAF would need exact intelligence on each target and on the type of bunker, its depth, and what type of reinforcements it featured. Those pieces of information are crucial for choosing the type and number of bombs the IAF would need to drop.
    This is where tactical nuclear weapons could conceivably come in.
    While bunker buster bombs would still be needed, the powerful blast of a low-yield nuke could do the trick in further penetrating and destroying the underground facility. If Israel indeed has nuclear weapons and the ability to manufacture low-yield warheads, as the Sunday Times report claims, this option would definitely be under consideration.
    While the use of nuclear weapons might be tempting - due to their strength - there is a downside that could in the end tilt the scales in the direction of conventional weapons. While Israel is suspected of possessing nuclear weapons, the official Israeli policy has for years been not to be the first country in the Middle East to introduce nuclear weapons into the region. In addition, Israel would be reluctant to use a WMD that could set off a regional war.
    If, however, Iran is Israel's greatest existential threat ever, as Prime Minister Ehud Olmert claims it is, then even the hitherto unthinkable might be considered - even tactical nukes - when it comes to Israel's survival.

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Israel attack on Iran sensation: Who is being manipulated by the misrepresentations of the Sunday Times?

    Who is being manipulated by the misrepresentations of the Sunday Times?
    By David Bronner for Guysen Israel News

    Sunday January 7, 2007 to 22:23
    (Translated by Ami Isseroff) MidEastWeb Middle East News Service

    On Saturday January 6, 2007, the "Sunday Times" published an explosive article: Israel is supposedly on the point of attacking Iran. Quoting military sources in Israel, the newspaper reveals that the Israeli army has supposedly developed a plan to destroy the Iranian uranium enrichment installations by air strikes.

    According to the "Sunday Times," two squadrons of the Israeli Air Force are supposedly engaged in preparing to destroy these installations.

    The British newspaper specified in addition that the Israeli plan envisages the use of laser gudied conventional missiles to open "tunnels" before the use of tactical atomic bombs, of a power equivalent to one fifteenth of the Hiroshima bomb. The Israeli plan of attack would target the enrichment facitility in Natanz, close to Isphahan, and an reactor at Arak.

    The authors of the article also claim that Israeli pilots have already accomplished training flights to Gibraltar to train themselves for the long outward journey and return of more than 3 200 kilometers needed to each in order to reaching the Iranian targets. The "Sunday Times" adds that information on this threat could have been leaked to pressure Iran to give up its projects. It all seems to make sense. The "Sunday Times" also quotes sources which specify however that the recourse to a nuclear strike would be decided upn only if a conventional attack were discarded, and if the United States refused to intervene. Indeed, everyone knows quite well that Washington does not exclude the military option, but presently prefers the diplomatic way.

    The revelation of the "Sunday Times" was covered by the entire press, by all our fellow members. "", "Le Fiagora", "Le Parisien," "Liberation, " "Washington Post" or "New York Times" do not hesitate to republish, on their own account, the news published by the British weekly magazine. Guysen also published on its site a "Top News" article that gives readers the content of the article published by the British tabloid. But we use the conditional on purpose. Indeed, it is not the first time that "revelations" without a future are made. The "Sunday Times" is known for its media scoops, and its "canards" too.

    Nonetheless, all the journalists must take the "Sunday Times" article seriously. The political context supports it. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared that he wishes to strip Israel of legitimacy, he organizes conferences on the Holocaust to try to show the whole world that Israel is the fruit of a historical forgergy, causing a world outcry, and each day for many weeks, he utters new threats.

    Moreover, in December, Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert seemed to acknowledge inoblique language that Israel has atomic weapon, before his entourage denied his remarks.

    Whereas the spokesman of the Israeli government, Miri Eisen, indicated that she does not wish to comment on the "Sunday Times" article, and other Israelis officials described the aforementioned "revelations" as absurd, the Iranian Ministry for Foreign Affairs Mohammad Ali Hosseini has stated that Iran will not remain quiet: "Any military action against the Islamic Republic will not remain unanswered and the attacker will regret his act very quickly."

    The tone escalates. At a press conference in Teheran, the spokesman of the Iranian ministry of the Foreign Affairs, declares that the article of the "Sunday Times" proved "to world public opinion that the Zionist regime (Israel) is the principal threat to world peace and to the area".

    Faced with the reactions of the Israeli and Iranian official authorities, we took care to check the sources of the two authors of the article, Uzi Mahnaimi and Sarah Baxter.


    Upon first reading of their article, the vocabulary employed indicates [seemingly] that the journalists carried out a survey, that they carried out an analysis, and that they diversified their sources of information to support their revelations. The authors speak indeed about "several Israeli military sources," evoke "military strategists" and make statements "crediting Israeli military commanders,", without not quoting any name or giving more details on the famous sources, according to which however: "As soon as the green light is given to us, there will be a mission, an attack, and the Iranian nuclear project will be destroyed".

    Then the authors affirm that the plans were revealed to the "Sunday Times" last week. They were supposedly assembled owing to the evaluations of the Israeli Mossad, according to which Iran would be about to produce enough uranium enriched to produce nuclear weapons within two years.

    And then the journalists must quote a reference, a good name to give some substance to their remarks: the General Eliezer Shkedi is mentioned, the preparation of the attack would be under his command... However all the air military sorties, whatever they are, cannot be done without the downstream approval of General Shkedi. That is normal, as he is commander-in-chief it of the Israeli air forces.

    According to another "source" quoted in the "Sunday Times" article, Israel would seek [U.S.} consent "after the event", as was the case in 1981, when the nuclear thermal power station of Osirak was destroyed by the Hebrew State, omitting however to recall that ten years later, the allied forces destroyed the site again, during the first war of Iraq.

    Another name is quoted by Uzi Mahnaimi and Sarah Baxter, who supposedly consolidates the revelations of the "Sunday Times", that of colonel Sam Gardiner, an "adviser of the Pentagon" who recalls that in consequence of the attack, Iran could close the straits of Hormuz, "the route which carries 20% of the world oil resources"...[ellipses in Guysen news - A.I.] Colonel Gardiner has not been advising the Pentagon for a long time, if indeed he ever did... Colonel Gardiner, a retired USAF colonel, is teaching in his retirement at the "National War College" in Washington; he is known to have criticized president Bush vehemently for his conductl of the second war in Iraq, showing in fact that he organized a large "misinformation" campaign to launch America in the war, a campaign which he claims $200 million dollars...

    A last source is finally quoted, but there, it likewise difficult to see anything new: this one supposedly comes directly from Washington, and doubts if Israel would have the guts to attack Iran... Lastly, to give a little weight to it all, and in conclusion, the journalists mention a sentence of Ephraim Sneh, the Israeli deputy minister of Defense, who said in December 2006 that "the moment when Israel and the international community will have to decide on a military action against Iran approaches".

    No source thus makes it possible to check the veracity of the remarks of Uzi Mahnaimi and Sarah Baxter. Are we talking about a scoop or a bluff? At least, is it a "thorough" analysis by specialists in the nuclear question, strategic or diplomatic...

    Before continuing our investigation into the specializations of the journalists whose article was quoted and referred to around the world in a few hours, we turned to the site of the "Sunday Times" to check the spelling of the names. And there, it is a surprise.

    The "Sunday Times" has just published online a second article on the same subject; click the hypertext link to read a second article on the threats uttered by Israel, an article written by the same authors: "Focus: Iran Mission ". The introductory lede confirms manipulation. The authors advance a strong assumption according to which Israel supposedly actually confirmed its quarrelsome inclinations: "Israel will not tolerate the nuclearization of Iran and military sources indicate that use will be made tactical attacks, unless Iran does not give up its program. Is Israel bluffing or is it on the point of pressing on the button?"


    The first rapid research shows that Uzi Mahnaimi and Sarah Baxter seem to be specialists in the questions of military strategy. They have written at least a dozen articles on similar subjects. Undoubtedly, they know their subject. That is certainly what the leading persons in charge of the "Sunday Times" believe, who did not publish their "revelations" yesterday for the first time. Thus, in its edition of December 11, 2005, the British tabloid claimed: "Israel prepares its forces to tackle Iranian nuclear power". Uzi Mahnaimi and Sarah Baxter employed the same method: [attributing] 'according to official sources', which are not quoted, Tsahal supposedly got an order from Sharon, then Prime Minister, to prepare an attack against Iran. Iranian officials reacts to the journalistic speculations. It is not information which causes the scoop, but the forged scoop which causes information. A few hours after the publication, everyone was still speaking about the Iranian danger and the manner of avoiding it...

    On December 17, 2000, Uzi Mahnaimi also announced in the "Sunday Times" that Israel was going to war against Syria. Supposedly, when Barak was Prime Minister, he was under pressure from his "generals" to prepare actively for war against Syria in the event of failure of the negotiations with the Palestinians. The negotiations did not succeed. The war did not take place.

    Journalistic speculations are rife. The possibility that an open conflict with Iran will burst out exists indeed and many are those who gamble; the [mode of] operation is known and has been long practised: "if war breaks out, I would have been the first to announce it".

    But there is worse yet. On November 15, 1998, the "Sunday Times" published an article signed by Uzi Mahnaimi and Marie Colvin according to which Israel supposedly launched a military research program of a new kind: "ethnic targeting". It would act according to authors of the article, using a derived technique of bacteriological warfare, suppoedly invented thanks to medical research, which makes it possible "to distinguish Arab genes, and to thus create a bacterium or a genetically modified virus. The goal is to use the viruses or the bacteria to modify the DNA of the living cells." The scientists supposedly were developing micro-organisms which would attack only people carrying the genes in question... According to the journalist, "the Israeli secret program is based at the Biological Research Institute of at Nes Tsiona, a small city in the south east of Tel Aviv"...

    In 1998, the Anti-Defamation League severely reproached the "Sunday Times" for publishing the article on "the ethno-bomb", calling it irresponsible and dangerous." Its director, Abraham Foxman wrote then: "This sensational story is reminiscent of the golden age of anti-Semitism when the Jews were accused of ritual crimes, that targeted non-Jews, with poison." At the time, the Israeli government had not seen fit to comment on the article of Uzi Mahnaimi and Marie Colvin, published in the "Sunday Times": "It is the sort of story which does not deserve denial"...
    The article on the "ethno-bomb" written by Mahnaimi and Colvin was included in a number of organs of the Arab press, including the Egyptian daily newspaper "Al Ahram", in its edition of November 18, 1998.

    Who are Uzi Mahnaimi, Sarah Baxter and Marie Colvin? Which Web sites publish them? Will the "Sunday Times" continue to generate front page news with its sensational articles whose effects could be as serious and dangerous as the nuclearisation of Iran?

    But let us examine [whether] the lie thus propagated, [was created] in the name of a media coup, or [perhaps] in service of the will to harm? Media coups are obviously desirable. The "Sunday Times" remains a popular sensational newspaper, it is famous, and it is read. The article is presented as top news, and it will be front page news in a number of newspapers, both in the West and in the East. The bigger the lie, the more it is believed... Sad proverb.

    The will to harm? Uzi Mahnaimi did not [publish] just one article that demonizes Israel, he wrote tens of them. The subjects are numerous, and they always have in common Israel and nuclear weapons: Mordechai Vanunu, Syria, Iraq, Iran, the "ethnic bomb", fallout shelters in Israel...

    Israeli journalist Uzi Mahnaimi reveals himself in a book with Bassam Abu-Sharif, "Enemies in the promised land". An Israeli and a Palestinian tell their respective participation in the Judeo-Arabic conflict and then their efforts for peace between Israel and the Arab countries , especially Palestine; their search for peace made them friends.

    Bassam Abou-Sharif lives the life of a terrorist, he is a member of the PFLP. He meets Carlos and organizes Hi-jacking of planes, he escapes from death after having received a letter bomb which "the organization that addressed it to him was the one for which Mahnaimi worked in Beirut in 1972... "

    Abou-Sharif lost some fingers and an eye, before joining Yasser Arafat as adviser and spokesman. "Time Magazine" had called him "the face of terror". As for Uzi Mahnaimi, "conditioned by a military education", he joined the Mossad which he finally left permanently. The two future friends, after "having given up violence" as the cover flap of "Enemies in the Promised Land" indicates, find themselves in a restaurant of London in 1988, to bind their friendship and to write a collaborative book that slanders Israel.

    Uzi Mahnaimi signs articles in collaboration with Marie Colvin and Sarah Baxter. Marie Colvin is an American journalist who works for the "Sunday Times". She is a war reporter. She was sent to Chechnia and to East Timor, Sarajevo and Sri Lanka, where she lost an eye. She is savage adverse to the policy of George Bush, whom she wants to impeach because of the US war in Iraq. Sarah Baxter also writes for the "Sunday Times", her quill is also well sharpened against George Bush. She publishes documents for the Centre d Recherche sur la Mondialization, the majority of which are on Iran.

    The Centre d Recherche sur la Mondialization, in English, "Global Research," is a Canadian site which offers astonishing articles in French and English . One calls in question the crimes attributed to Saddam Hussein while another supposedly exposes the assassination of Arafat by Sharon, and a third offers an analysis, by a specialist in comparative literature, of Israel and South Africa in the time of Apartheid: "many aspects of the Israeli occupation exceed those of the Apartheid regime. The destruction on a large scale by Israel of the Palestinian houses, the levelling of the arable lands, the military incursions and the targeted assassinations of the Palestinians exceed by far all the similar practices in the Apartheid of South Africa No wall was ever built to separate the Blacks and from the Whites"... The list is still quite long.

    Do the persons in charge of publication of the "Sunday Times" know the journalists who fill their columns really well ? Do they take the trouble to check their sources of information?

    In 1983, the "Sunday Times" published the "Diary" of Hitler. It was a forgery.

    From 1986, when it quoted exclusively the remarks of Mordechai Vanunu about nuclear weapons in Israel, until 2006, these are directed articles, almost even defamatory which are published on Israel; often, by the same journalist.

    In 2007, the "Sunday Times" has published a forgery. An unfounded article, invented remarks, by biased journalists, beneath all professionalism, which made it possible for the spokesman of the Iranian ministry of the Foreign Affairs to make use of it to denounce the "Zionist Danger. . Here is an article which did not have to be censored. One knows now, what was its object.

    Labels: , ,

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Official: Israel Developing World's Largest Drone

    Official: Israel Developing World's Largest Drone
    Israel is developing the world's largest unmanned aircraft which will be used for long-range operations and destroying ballistic missiles as they are being launched, a security official said Monday.

    The Eitan has been developed by the Israel Aircraft Industries and has a wing span of 35 meters -- similar to that of a Boeing 737 passenger plane -- the Israeli official told Agence France Presse.
    According to the Yediot Aharonot daily, the drone was designed for long endurance and high altitude flights and is equipped with an array of advanced cameras and missiles which allow it to identify and intercept long-range missiles as they are being fired on the ground.
    It will make its maiden flight in the coming days, the paper said.
    Israel has stepped up in recent years the development of technologies to face the threat of missile attacks, fearing most notably Iran, which has acquired long-range ballistic missiles capable of reaching Israel and beyond.
    Coupled with President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad's calls for the destruction of Israel, Iran's controversial nuclear program, which Israel claims is aimed at acquiring an atomic bomb, has become the Jewish state's main strategic threat.
    Iran, which last year tested the Shahab-3 missiles that are capable of hitting targets around 2,000 kilometers away, insists the program is aimed solely for peaceful means.(AFP)
    Beirut, 08 Jan 07, 08:34

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Alien considerations

    Alien considerations
    By Haaretz Editorial

    The government approved a scandalous bill yesterday - submitted by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon - to import 3,000 foreign laborers to work in agriculture. They would join the 26,000 foreign workers already employed by the Israeli agriculture industry. The bill runs contrary to previous government decisions to gradually reduce the annual quotas for foreign workers in agriculture, construction and industry. It also runs contrary to the policy of Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Eli Yishai and that of the government employment service, which are interested in making more workplaces available to unemployed Israelis, and it is in contradiction to the policy of the treasury and the Bank of Israel.
    The deputy governor of the Bank of Israel, Prof. Zvi Eckstein, is in the process of formulating a comprehensive plan to drastically reduce the number of foreign workers in Israel. Eckstein, an economist and expert in labor market policy, relies on a model adopted by Australia and intended to curb the entry of millions of foreign workers from other countries in the region. Instead of bringing in a foreign and cheap labor force, Australia introduced agricultural mechanization. Eckstein thinks there is no reason for the Israeli government not to adopt a similar policy and subsidize farmers who bring mechanization into their fields and hothouses. Given the small number of landowners who make a living from agriculture, this is not an impossible task.
    There have been previous attempts to subsidize Israeli agriculture workers, but such efforts were shot down by the farmers, who argued that Israelis are not prepared to work in agriculture and are not skilled in agricultural work. The farmers tend not to mention another key consideration: wages.
    The Kav La'Oved hotline for the protection of workers' rights recently received a complaint from a woman from Nepal who was hired to do agricultural work for between eight and 13 hours a day for NIS 11 an hour, even though the legal wage is NIS 19.28 an hour. Investigations of such complaints have proven over and over again that the salaries of foreign workers - despite government attempts to increase them through various charges and fees - are still 30 percent lower than those of Israeli workers.
    Bringing foreign laborers into Israel is also a profitable venture for the Israeli companies that receive thousands of dollars from these downtrodden workers, who are forced to get loans and mortgage their property to get the longed-for permit to do manual labor in Israel.
    Simhon has been pressing for an increase in the number of foreign workers for a long time now. He, and others in the Labor Party, are subject to pressure by vote contractors who supplement their income from agriculture with their ownership of human-resources companies that import foreign workers.
    Olmert - like his predecessors, including Ariel Sharon - is submitting to the pressure. The agriculture lobby is indeed one of the strongest lobbies in Israel, as it is in other countries, like France. Determination is required in order to stand against it. Instead of bringing in more and more workers, a serious plan must be developed to replace them with Israeli workers and sophisticated machinery. Israel must free itself once and for all from enslavement to a cheap labor force, with all its economic and ethical ramifications.

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Not Peretz alone

    Not Peretz alone
    By Akiva Eldar

    There is a ray of light in the darkness! Ehud Barak has decided to run for the Labor Party leadership. Effectively, according to Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, this will be a race for the post of defense minister. What a relief. After too many months in which the prime minister entrusted the state's security to a jobnik (noncombat soldier) and novice defense minister, the Defense Ministry's Tel Aviv offices will be inhabited by an outstanding military commander well-versed in combat. Under him, no officer will dream of entering Ramallah as the prime minister is leaving for a meeting with an Arab leader. The army will not be able to snow someone who knows all the tricks the military can play on the government from the inside.
    As long as Barak is in the Defense Ministry, the chief of staff will not be able to drag the country into an unnecessary war. Under his leadership, no regional commander will allow himself to rebel against a government decision to "alleviate" Palestinian life in the territories. It will finally be possible to sleep easy.
    Really? Not at all. It is true that Ehud Olmert bears responsibility for the chaos that reigned in the formulation of the goals of the recent war in Lebanon. It's also true that Amir Peretz no longer has any relationship with either the prime minister or the heads of the defense establishment. The Defense Ministry will not feel the minister's absence if he makes the brave decision to transfer to the Social Welfare Ministry. Nevertheless, the not-so-distant past shows that salvation will not arise from Peretz's replacement by a general or admiral. In his book "A Front without a Rearguard" (in Hebrew), Professor Shlomo Ben-Ami, who served as foreign minister and public security minister under Barak, discusses the warped relationship that existed between the government and the Israel Defense Forces' top brass.
    "Barak maneuvered well, preserving the direction of dialogue, and pressed for a resumption of negotiations," Ben-Ami wrote. "But on one point, the prime minister failed, and we all failed with him - his lack of control over the gap that developed between the orders given to the army and their implementation on the ground. The dynamic of IDF responses was sometimes 10 times greater than what had been approved, or than the spirit of the government's approval ... The IDF command had a different agenda, and the spirit emanating from its commanders radiated unrestrained anger that ultimately led to an expansion of the vicious cycle of violence instead of its reduction." Goverment minister Amnon Lipkin-Shahak also proved unable to rein in his successor in the IDF chief of staff's office, Shaul Mofaz, or to bring about a cease-fire with the Palestinian leadership.
    Olmert and Peretz fell victim to the same chronic illness that afflicted then-prime and defense minister Barak, as well as most of his predecessors and successors. Military experience also failed to immunize Israeli hero Ariel Sharon or his defense minister, retired brigadier general Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, against the syndrome of the military tail wagging the political dog. After the Sharon government decided to order an IDF withdrawal from Palestinian Authority territory in Hebron, Mofaz informed the media that "as long as the Palestinian Authority does not thwart terrorism," he - the man who wore the uniform of Israel's number one soldier - was "opposed to implementing easements that would create a security risk and make it difficult to provide security to Israeli civilians and IDF soldiers." Sharon got angry, Ben-Eliezer issued a rebuke, and Mofaz laughed.
    We are all paying the price of this loss of control over a General Staff that decided to liquidate the Palestinian Authority. It's a mission that ended with great success: Yasser Arafat disappeared and Khaled Meshal arrived. Chief of staffs come and go, but the march of folly continues.
    Mofaz didn't invent this system. He merely continued in the tradition of his predecessors, who included Barak himself and his generals. Even prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, despite his glorious military past, could not "sear the consciousness" of the military with the understanding that the territories had ceased to be settler country. Releasing Peretz from his (lack of) control over the military and appointing him to a "civilian" post are certainly vital steps. But transferring control over security (and peace) policy, once and for all, from the military to the government is many times more vital.

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    An alibi for the Arrow

    An alibi for the Arrow
    By Reuven Pedatzur

    The good news, which is being strongly denied, is that the defense establishment is beginning to doubt the anticipated effectiveness of the Arrow anti-ballistic missile system. The bad news is that in addition to the continued investment of large sums in the Arrow, we will now also have to pay for the procurement of an American-made missile defense system.
    Sources at Homa, which is in charge of the entire anti-tactical ballistic missile project, claim that they have full confidence in the Arrow system. They say that they contacted the Americans, to receive information on their defense systems, in an effort to advance the possibility of "operational synergy" between the Israeli and American defense systems, if and when the Americans decide to deploy these in Israel. This is a slightly strange claim, because the U.S. systems have been in development for a decade and to date the Americans had not been asked to transfer any information on their performance to Israel.
    As far as it is publicly known, the subject of missile defense was not probed in any of the dozens of in-house investigations carried out regarding the recent war in Lebanon by teams appointed by the chief of staff. Even though at the start of the war, the Israel Defense Forces, with a great deal of media fanfare, deployed the Arrow system in Safed and Haifa, not a single actual attempt to intercept Hezbollah missiles was made. Since the war, no one has asked any member of the senior IDF command why no effort was made to intercept the missiles fired at Haifa and Hadera. Incidentally, the answer is obvious: The Arrow system is unable to counter these missiles effectively - a well-known fact in the air force, which is responsible for the system's operation. Nonetheless, the missiles and their launchers were driven to Safed, accompanied by television cameras, in an effort to give the public a misleading sense of security.
    If the Arrow is ineffective against the threats from the north (the system, its developers admit, is also unable to shoot down Syria's SS-21 missiles, whose extreme accuracy makes them a serious threat), and the Iraqi ballistic missile threat no longer exists - what do we need it for? The answer of the IDF and the defense establishment is that the Arrow is intended to intercept Iran's nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles, if these come into use. Indeed, this is a worthy goal, since the nuclear threat is an existential one.
    The problem, however, is that the nuclear ballistic threat cannot be dealt with using a missile defense system. In order to successfully stave off an Iranian nuclear threat, it is necessary to intercept all Iranian missiles fired against Israel, because the price of a single nuclear missile striking the Dan region, for example, is unacceptable from this country's point of view. However, even at its best, the Arrow system will still not be able to seal the skies, and some nuclear-tipped missiles will penetrate the defense screen.
    In the absence of professional public discourse outside the defense establishment, this strategic issue is not being discussed. Within that establishment, they completely ignore the need to offer a solution to the fundamental strategic failure of the policy they offer to counter nuclear ballistic missiles. Just as the IDF is not being asked to explain why it failed to intercept Hezbollah missiles, it is also relieved of its obligation to explain its flawed preparations in retaliating against Iran's missiles.
    And this brings us back to the interest expressed by the defense establishment in the American missile defense systems, because if the Arrow system is so effective and successful, why should we be asking for information on U.S. systems? Do we not trust the ability of the Arrow to counter, on its own, the Iranian threat, and do we need American assistance at the moment of truth? This is no more than an attempt by those responsible for defending Israel against the Iranian ballistic threat to prepare an alibi in case the Arrow, as is expected, is unable to strike back at the Iranian threat with the necessary effectiveness. If American systems are also deployed here and they also, as is expected, fail in the task, then it will be impossible to complain to the IDF. After all, even the Americans are not successful! The problem is, of course, that if it is necessary to use this alibi, it will be only after we have paid the unbearable price of a nuclear strike.
    If indeed the defense establishment is only seeking data on the performance of the U.S. systems, and there is no intention to share with the Americans the responsibility for failing to intercept Iranian missiles, the chances that the Americans will respond to our request are low, since data on the performance of U.S. anti-ballistic missile systems is classified.
    By the way, one of the American systems that is being talked about is the Theater High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), which will only be operational in 2012. Of course it may be that all that is being said at the top is only an assessment, and that those responsible for our defense against Iranian missiles have full confidence in the Arrow. Nonetheless, if indeed the state comptroller intends to investigate the decision-making process with respect to the Arrow project, it is worthwhile for him to ask why all of a sudden the IDF and the defense establishment are interested in the deployment of U.S. missile defense systems in Israel.

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Herzog declares support for Ehud Barak's Labor leadership bid

    Last update - 12:09 08/01/2007   

    Herzog declares support for Ehud Barak's Labor leadership bid
    By Mazal Mualem, Haaretz Correspondent

    A day after Ehud Barak announced his run for the Labor leadership in May, Tourism Minister Isaac Herzog on Monday joined several other senior party figures and declared his support for the former prime minister.
    Minister of National Infrastructures Benjamin Ben-Eliezer and Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon have already announced they will back Barak, and other Labor lawmakers are expected to follow suit.
    In his campaign, Barak intends to focus on his qualities as defense minister, and present himself as the most appropriate person to restore the Israel Defense Forces at a critical juncture.
    Aides of Labor Party Chairman Amir Peretz on Sunday dismissed the announcement, however, and highlighted Defense Minister Peretz's record of public service.
    "Those who think that a 30-year record in public service will disintegrate as a result of wild incitement against Amir Peretz have another thing coming," they said.
    In a letter sent to Labor party secretary-general, Minister Eitan Cabel, Barak wrote "The State of Israel, the Israel Defense Forces, and the defense establishment are in a very shaky situation. I believe that I have the experience and the maturity to serve as the next defense minister of the State of Israel."
    Barak has so far avoided holding a press conference and opted to announce his return to active political life through a short letter in which he relates to his lack of maturity during his tenure as prime minister in the late 1990s.
    "The decision was a difficult one. It is possible that I became prime minister too soon. I made many mistakes, and my lack of experience was to my detriment. Today I know that there are no shortcuts, certainly not in public and political life, and that leadership is a shared burden, not a solo mission. It is impossible to succeed alone and coherent thinking, will and talent on their own are insufficient to run a state," Barak wrote.
    Barak, who is trying to lose the image of a forceful and scheming politician, which stuck to him during his first term as leader of the Labor Party, sent a message through his letter that he did not intend to take over the Defense Ministry through manipulation.
    "On Friday I announced to Defense Minister Amir Peretz that I will not contribute in any way to any trickery and that I planned to run for the position of chairman of the Labor Party in the elections set for May 2007," Barak wrote.
    Following his announcement Sunday, Barak has joined the current leader in the polls, Ami Ayalon, as the top candidate to win the Labor primaries in May.
    MK Ophir Pines-Paz, who announced his intention to run in the primaries early last week, called on Barak to join him and be appointed defense minister under his leadership.
    Ayalon, on the other hand, welcomed Barak's announcement and said that "Barak's entry into the race will allow a genuine and long debate" to take place.
    However, Ayalon did express criticism at the way in which Barak pulled out of Lebanon and his record as a manipulator. Ayalon was also critical of the unwillingness Barak has shown in exposing himself to the public and in participating in serious public debate in recent years.
    Essentially, Barak began his campaign several weeks ago, and stepped up his efforts during the past three days with the help of Ben-Eliezer who called for his appointment as defense minister. At the same time, others announced their support for Barak, in an act clearly coordinated with Barak's campaign. These include former leading Labor figures such as Moshe Shahal, Shimon Sheves and Avraham Burg.
    The real turn for Barak occured during the first day of the second Lebanon war, as a result of the loss of public confidence in the leadership of Olmert-Peres.

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Time to admit failure

    Time to admit failure
    By Danny Rubinstein

    It may already be too late for Israelis and Palestinians to be able to reach an agreement using the present format. The methods attempted by the sides thus far, and which for a moment seemed as if they were about to succeed, have failed. The peace process that began with the shake-up created by the first intifada almost 20 years ago has apparently reached the end of the road.
    Many Palestinians, and many Israelis as well, estimate that the present period is among the worst in the history of the conflict in this land. The violent struggle between Fatah and Hamas is not good for Israel. Palestinian spokesmen reject out of hand any attempt to describe their situation as a civil war. Some say it is "a war of organizations," which is a more accurate description. Whatever the case, after the extensive coverage of the meeting between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), two weeks ago, one of the Palestinian journalists declared that it is now clear to him that on one subject there is no difference of opinion among the rival Palestinian groups: They all agree that the State of Israel does not want peace.
    The result of the Olmert-Abu Mazen meeting served the Palestinian spokesmen as excellent proof of that. There was no release of Palestinian prisoners. There was no easing of restrictions at the checkpoints. There were, rather, an announcement (which was prominently publicized in the Arab media) of the establishment of a new settlement in the northern Jordan Valley, and a military raid on Ramallah in which Arab non-combatants were killed.
    In hindsight, we can point to one of the reasons for the painful failure of the peace process. The method of working toward an arrangement in stages, without a decision being made a priori on the final goal, did not work. The problem was not in the stages, but in where they were meant to be heading. Therefore, in every stage of the diplomatic process, each side tried to improve its positions, in anticipation of both the next stage and the final goal that suited it.
    Take, for example, the issue of Jerusalem. Because there was no agreement in principle as to what the final status of Jerusalem should be, successive Israeli governments made every effort to reinforce the Jewish presence in East Jerusalem. The Palestinians, for their part, tried to block this and to establish a political presence of their own in the city. Israeli governments built Jewish neighborhoods in the east of the city and expelled Arabs by denying them their right to live in the city. The PA demonstrated opposition. They called it "ethnic cleansing." They operated national institutions such as the Orient House, and late PA chair Yasser Arafat called for a million shaheeds to march on Jerusalem.
    The result was that, on the issue of Jerusalem, as on other issues, instead of there being progress toward a compromise, there was a retreat. The conflict only deepened. Thus the period that followed the agreement about the stages of the diplomatic process turned out to be even worse than the period when there was no agreement at all.
    The conclusion is clear. We must first of all decide between us on all the goals of the final-status agreement, and only then conduct negotiations over how to achieve them. We should agree, first of all, for example, that a Palestinian capital will be established in East Jerusalem, and only afterward should we conduct negotiations over how that will be accomplished, in light of the conditions and the reality that exists in the city. Such a diplomatic course may not suit the ideological leadership of Hamas, but it certainly does suit most of the Hamas electorate, who are prepared for an agreement, but have rejected the previous diplomatic path of the Oslo Accords and the present one of the road map.
    Hamas leader Khaled Meshal said a few days ago that his movement is not blocking any diplomatic path - for the simple reason that such a path does not even exist at present. He is right. In order for such a path to exist, there has to be much more than concern on the Israeli side for the Palestinian "fabric of life" (the catchphrase of the Israeli defense establishment for the easing of restrictions) and promises to dismantle settlement outposts. We have to agree on the end of the process, in which a Palestinian state will be established within amended borders of the 1967 cease-fire lines, with its capital in East Jerusalem. Without that there will be nothing.

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Unable to run

    Unable to run
    By Tamar Rotem

    Since Qassam rockets landed near his house in Kibbutz Nir Am on Friday, December 29, Moni Kaplan has been seized by gardening fever. Opposite the crater in the lawn where one of the Qassams landed, he planted pansies all week long. Kaplan, 86, slim and boyish-looking, explains, "I felt that I had to do something, not just sit around." Thus every day he weeds, hoes and plants his small plot of land, and then he goes on to the visit the neighbors, founders of the kibbutz like him, who have difficulty walking and certainly bending over.
    The barrage hit the neighborhood of the veteran kibbutz members, "our soft underbelly," as one kibbutznik put it. About 40 houses were damaged, virtually all of them belonging to members over 80. The attack against people who are unable to run to the shelters led to an even stronger sense of helplessness on the kibbutz, and a feeling that "the state has abandoned us." More than anything else, it emphasized the urgency of their demand that the state provide proper security for their houses - a demand that until now has been totally rejected with the claim that there is no money.
    On an ordinary Qassam-free winter day, everything here is green and peaceful. But it is a deceptive calm. To date this beautiful kibbutz, which is located opposite Sderot, about two kilometers from the Gaza town of Beit Hanun, has been hit by more than 400 Qassams. Although at first most of them landed in open areas, recently there has been a large number that have crashed into the middle of the kibbutz.
    "We can no longer rely on luck," says Kaplan's daughter, Avital Nir. She says the tension and restlessness have increased after that barrage and the one before it. "It's like Russian roulette, it's impossible to live this way for the long term. We are already feeling tremendous burn-out," she explains. A social worker, Nir believes that the cumulative emotional damage is causing heightened violence in families and among teenagers and children in all the communities threatened by the Qassams.
    Not a solution
    Almost no kibbutzniks have left Nir Am so far, and the few who left have already returned. The discussion here is about coping, not about leaving. "I'm not saying that I want to die on this land, like the settlers. But it's a pragmatic issue. We have nowhere to go," says the secretary of the kibbutz, Avi Kadosh, who arrived here from Morocco in the 1970s. Adds Nir: "This is my ultimate house, it's an emotional thing; this is where I want to live." She says that her only internal dilemma concerns her children, "who did not choose to live here with daily tension." But in any case, she sees no alternative either.
    Kadosh explains that although the reinforced rooms in every house do not provide a solution for people who walk around outdoors, they do provide security in the evening, when people are at home. One can see the melancholy-looking secretary's reluctance to emphasize the distress of the kibbutz, and particularly that of the old-timers. But the rules of the media-political game are not unfamiliar to him. A disaster must occur in order for him to receive protective means, Kadosh says bitterly. "On Kibbutz Zikim, which is near Ashkelon, a baby was hit. That's terrible, of course. But there they've had only one-tenth of the Qassams that have fallen here. And lo and behold, immediately after the accident they received reinforced rooms."
    During the past five years, five years of Qassams, they have been reluctant here to expose the true situation, and have adopted a policy of deliberate vagueness. This was done out of the patriotic kibbutz ideal that forbids whining and making demands, and because of a naive desire to create a sense of business as usual, to protect the two industries on which the economy of the kibbutz is based: tourism and apartment rentals. Only this past year, very late in the game, did the kibbutzniks understand they had made a mistake - especially when they see how Sderot is receiving a large dose of public attention and sympathy, which will certainly be translated into funds. The old-timers have therefore been recruited for the struggle for protection. Three of them, Hannah Gershuni, 88, Kaplan, 86, and Shalom Landes, 84, even wrote a flowery request to the chair of the Pensioners Party faction in the Knesset, Moshe Sharoni, saying: "If no end to our life of suffering is in sight, then at least we won't be throwing our lives away to the mortars and the Qassams, if we live our lives protected by the simple means that are available to our country." Next week they will appear in the Knesset.
    Shattered glass
    The powerful impact of the Qassam strike shattered the windows of Gershuni's house. She was sitting in her small kitchen when the words "Code Red" were heard on the public-address system - the warning of a Qassam on the way. The warning usually comes a few minutes before the Qassam, but sometimes there is less time. For her, this is barely enough to get out of her chair. Her daughter, who had come for a visit from Tel Aviv, was leaving. While she was approaching the front door, the door shook and cracks appeared in it, recalls Gershuni. Within minutes neighbors and friends came to rescue her. "I kept saying, 'I'm all right, I'm all right.' Only now do I think that I was actually in shock," she says.
    But a woman like Gershuni does not become dispirited. A few days later she is smiling defiantly, holding a sharp shard of glass that she found in the pocket of her red sweater, which was on her bed when the Qassam landed. Because of her age, Gershuni sits shriveled in her armchair - but she is not afraid, she says. Thoughts about death? What are you talking about? "I've done my job." She is worried about her children, her grandchildren and her great-grandchildren. She is still not considering leaving. During the 1948 War of Independence they evacuated the women and children from Nir Am, and that was enough for her. "Where would I go? What I need is a room without window panes," she says.
    Gershuni, whose husband Zvi Gershuni served as a Labor MK in the 1960s, is one of the two surviving members of the original core group that founded the kibbutz in 1943. A member of the Gordonia Zionist movement in Romania, she came to Israel at age 17 and joined the group that was sent to settle the Negev. Life in the kibbutz was hard from the beginning, she explains. The small plot of land bought from the Arabs was not suitable for agriculture. There was no water or electricity. Over the years, innumerable groups came and went from Argentina, Turkey, France and other countries. Only a few remained. The conditions of life in the arid Negev were not hospitable, and the immigrants preferred other places.
    Hard times
    The veterans who have seen many hard times, like Gershuni, Landes and Kaplan, suffered less from the Qassams than from the kibbutz's privatization two years ago. "For us that was the real intifada," says Landes. He points an accusing finger at the kibbutz, which abandoned the founders.
    Like the members of similar cooperative communities, Landes did not accumulate pension rights. Although he worked until age 79, served twice as the farm manager, was for 15 years the manager of the kibbutz's Michsaf silverware factory, and started its cattle industry, since the privatization he has been living on a very small allotment. The same is true of Moni Kaplan, who also served in senior jobs on the kibbutz, and Gershuni, who was the kibbutz nurse.
    Although the kibbutz has increased their National Insurance Institute allotment from NIS 1,800 to NIS 3,300 a month, they pay NIS 900 in membership taxes from this sum. Landes spends NIS 500 of the remaining NIS 2,400 on medicine. Until recently, Kaplan did light work in the factory for NIS 500 a month, but in recent weeks he has not been asked to come work. He says that his sons and daughters give him money, and relatives from abroad also contribute modest sums occasionally. Landes and Kaplan, relatives who are both widowers, conduct a kind of joint cooperative household in order to survive.
    "It's humiliating that we have to live from hand to mouth at our age," says Landes. "Today on the kibbutz it's every man for himself. The willingness to help is gone. Even on the national level there is no mutual assistance. Everything is measured in money. So why should they consider providing us with protection?"

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Peretz revises IDF ops mechanism

    Peretz revises IDF ops mechanism

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Barak declares Labor chair candidacy

    Barak declares Labor chair candidacy


    The development of new operational procedures and the establishment of a new mechanism for approving operations in the West Bank were decided upon Sunday during a meeting between Defense Minister Amir Peretz, IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz and OC Central Command Maj.-Gen. Yair Naveh, following Thursday's botched Ramallah raid.

    Naveh came under harsh criticism over the weekend from diplomatic officials in Jerusalem, who claimed that the IDF should have taken into consideration and even foreseen the effect the botched operation in Ramallah had on Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Egypt on Thursday. Three Palestinians were killed during the raid and another 30 were wounded.

    On Sunday, a high-ranking officer in the Central Command took responsibility for the outcome of the operation and admitted that it was a mistake. The operation was approved by Naveh and Judea and Samaria Division head Brig.-Gen. Yair Golan. According to procedures stipulated by the General Staff, Naveh and Golan are authorized to approve such operations and do not have to take them to Halutz or Perez for approval. Following the meeting Sunday night in Jerusalem however, Peretz asked the IDF to establish a new mechanism for approving operations in the West Bank, one that would put the chief of General Staff - and even the defense minister, in some cases - inside the decision-making loop.

    "There need to be new procedures and mechanisms for approving operations," said a senior defense official. "The IDF needs to take a variety of considerations into account, including the location of the operation, the timing and if there are any sensitive diplomatic events taking place at the same time."

    According to the official, Peretz did not criticize the operation itself or the management of commanders on the ground, but rather the decision-making process that led to the operation while ignoring the effect it could have on the Olmert-Mubarak meeting.

    "When there is a diplomatic event like the meeting in Egypt then the smallest operation becomes a big deal," the defense official said, adding that the IDF would formulate the new mechanism and present it to Peretz in the coming days.


    The man who once boasted that he could win the Labor leadership "by fax" tried to do just that on Sunday when Ehud Barak announced in a letter sent to Labor Secretary-General Eitan Cabel that he intends to seek the Labor leadership.

    The fax, which was followed by a short beeper message to political reporters, was intended to set the tone for the Barak campaign: quiet, modest and apologetic. In the letter to Cabel, Barak emphasized that he believed the contest was for defense minister in Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's cabinet, a message he hopes will be the focus of the race.

    "I apparently reached the premiership too early," Barak wrote. "I made mistakes, and my lack of political experience was an obstacle for me.

    "Today, I know that there are no shortcuts, especially in public life and that leadership must be a team effort and not the task of one man."

    Sources in the Barak campaign said he would meet as many Labor members as possible ahead of the May 28 Labor primary to personally deliver that message. They said he would tour the country but he would continue to avoid the press as he has over the past several months.

    Barak's behind the scenes work has paid off in recent days as former adversaries have endorsed him, including former top Labor Party officials Shimon Sheves, Moshe Shahal and Avraham Burg.

    Barak's rivals countered that he had learned nothing and that he was still the self-centered soloist who brought Labor to bankruptcy and its political nadir before leaving politics for a lucrative career as an international business consultant.

    "The reality in which Israel finds itself requires everyone to work on behalf of the country and not just make money for himself," said MK Ami Ayalon, the front-runner in the polls.

    "Barak's candidacy will give Labor members and the people of Israel a clear choice between returning to the way of the past that we already know and the different politics of credibility, honesty and responsibility."

    A source in Ayalon's campaign said he would attempt to differentiate himself from "the old politics of Olmert-Barak-Netanyahu" and remind voters that the race was not just for Labor chairman and defense minister but for Labor's likely prime ministerial candidate.

    Responding to charges that he lacked political experience, Ayalon told Army Radio that "we see that with experienced people like Ehud Olmert, Binyamin Ben-Eliezer and Ehud Barak, we are not in the place where we wanted to be when we gave them power."

    MK Ophir Paz-Pines, who trails Ayalon and Barak in the race, called upon Barak to endorse him. He said the contest was for Labor chairman and not for defense minister and that if he won, he would let Barak be defense minister while he concentrated on rehabilitating the party.

    Former Labor ministers Ora Namir, Micha Harish and Gad Yaakobi endorsed Paz-Pines on Sunday, while former Labor secretary-general Nisim Zvili and MK Avishay Braverman endorsed Ayalon. MK Danny Yatom, who is running last in the race, said he would remain in the race and would not endorse his longtime confidant Barak.

    Peretz's spokesman denied reports he was considering leaving the Defense portfolio in order to bypass Barak's effort to focus the race on the issue of who would hold the post.

    A Labor activist loyal to Peretz started an anti-Barak campaign on Sunday, warning of the dangers of electing a man whom he accused of running away from Lebanon, from important decisions and even from his ex-wife, Nava.

    Another Labor activist, Shlomo Gilboa, started a petition drive to try to pressure Peretz to leave the Defense Ministry. Gilboa, who said he did not back any Labor candidate, is financing an effort to call one million households and ask them to sign an on-line petition against Peretz and to join Labor to vote against him. More than 2000 people had signed the petition by late Sunday and hundreds had joined Labor under Gilboa's auspices

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Sunday, January 7, 2007

    Israel rejects Hamas video of soldier - source

    Israel rejects Hamas video of soldier - source
    07 Jan 2007 08:10:48 GMT
    Source: Reuters

    JERUSALEM, Jan 7 (Reuters) - Israel has rejected an offer from Hamas militants of a videotape to prove a soldier held captive in Gaza was alive in return for the release of more than 200 Palestinian prisoners, an Israeli political source said on Sunday.

    Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has said he was willing to free Palestinian prisoners jailed in Israel for Corporal Gilad Shalit, who was captured last June in a cross-border raid by gunmen from the ruling Hamas movement and other factions.
    The source said Hamas had made the offer and that Olmert replied that "for the price they wanted for the tape we said, we would rather receive the person (Shalit)".

    The mass-circulation Israeli daily Maariv also said Olmert had refused to free prisoners just for a video of Shalit.

    It said it was not the first time the Israeli leader had refused to pay for a sign of life of the soldier, who is widely believed to be alive.

    Miri Eisin, a spokeswoman for Olmert, would not comment.

    Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who has been mediating to arrange an Israeli-Palestinian prisoner swap, said at a summit with Olmert last Thursday in Egypt he hoped an agreement would be reached soon.

    Palestinian armed factions have demanded Israel release more than 1,000 prisoners for Shalit. Israel holds some 11,000 Palestinian prisoners in its jails.

    Israel and Western countries have boycotted the Hamas-led Palestinian government that rose to power in March because the Islamist group refuses to recognise the Jewish state.

    Last week Israel denied a Hamas assertion that there had been a breakthrough in talks to free Shalit, and would release Palestinians jailed on charges of attacking Israelis.

    Israel has in the past refused to free prisoners with "blood on their hands".

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Shalem think tank warns: Brain drain becoming a flood

    Shalem think tank warns: Brain drain becoming a flood
    By Moti Bassok Haaretz 7 January 2007

    The brain drain from Israel picked up pace during the years 2002-2004, the
    Shalem Center's Institute for Economic and Social Policy found. The United
    States continues to be the number one destination, according to the report
    by the Jerusalem-based think tank.

    The report, compiled by Shalem fellow Omer Moav and Hebrew University
    Professor Eric Gould, holds that relative to the population, Israel is the
    second country after the United States in exporting educated workers - more
    than India, Pakistan, Canada and Europe.

    Between 2000 and 2004 the trend increased at a rate of 6 percent annually,
    the report claims. While 0.9 percent of all researchers and professors left
    Israel in 2002, that rate picked up to 1.7 percent by 2004. Similarly, the
    rate of emigrating doctors rose from 1.3 percent in 2002 to 2.1 percent in
    2004. Moav noted that this trend contrasts with the emigration rate of less
    educated citizens, which has remained steady.

    Moav and Gould published a previous report six months ago, claiming the
    brain drain is picking up speed due to government policy. Russian immigrants
    are returning to their impoverished homeland to make money. Moav disputes
    the claim that most emigrants are Israelis going abroad to work for a few
    years. Rather, Moav says, "The work culture abroad (primarily high-tech) and
    the sabbaticals of Israeli university professors across the world are
    nothing else but emigration."

    The statistics show that 96 percent of educated people who left Israel
    starting in 1995 have remained abroad, turning the extended sabbatical into
    permanent residence, Moav observed.

    Moav says one of the central reasons for the brain drain are the differences
    in wages and tax burden. A particularly successful Israeli researcher and
    lecturer, for example, would earn a gross salary of $60,000-$70,000
    annually. In contrast, a run-of-the-mill researcher in the economics faculty
    at the University of Wisconsin would gross $120,000 per year.

    Researchers at Shalem found that because of the tax burden on Israel's
    middle class, the highest among industrialized nations, the gap becomes more
    severe between Israel and the U.S. when it comes to net salary.

    According to Moav, the phenomenon is global, but countries like Germany, the
    United Kingdom and Canada found ways to cope with it by adjusting
    immigration policies to attract educated workers.

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    [Boim]: 'Egypt violating Philadelphi agreement'

    'Egypt violating Philadelphi agreement' Staff, THE JERUSALEM POST Jan. 7, 2007

    Egypt's agreement to allow monetary transfers to the Hamas-led Palestinian
    government through the Rafah border crossing on Saturday drew criticism from
    cabinet ministers on Sunday, Israel Radio reported.

    Speaking at the opening of the weekly cabinet meeting, Immigrant Absorption
    Minister Ze'ev Boim said Egypt was not maintaining the decision to enforce a
    financial embargo against the Hamas government.

    Haniyeh smuggles $20 million into Gaza

    Boim said that by allowing monetary transfers, Egypt was violating the
    agreement it made with Israel following Israel's
    withdrawal from the Philadelphi Corridor, and that it was now necessary to
    reassess that agreement.

    Minister-without-Portfolio Ya'acov Edri (Kadima) said that despite the
    continued flow of money to Hamas, recapturing the Philadelphi Corridor was
    the last move Israel should adopt.

    On Saturday, Egyptian officials at the Rafah crossing allowed Palestinian
    Authority Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh to smuggle $20 million into the Gaza
    Strip on his way back from the haj pilgrimage on Thursday, according to a
    report in the Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram.

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Senior IDF staff to brief Peretz on Ramallah operation

    Senior IDF staff to brief Peretz on Ramallah operation
    By Amos Harel

    Senior officers in the Israel Defense Forces will brief Defense Minister Amir Peretz today on the problems an undercover unit experienced during a daylight operation in Ramallah on Thursday, which resulted in an intense exchange of fire with Palestinians. The fighting occured while Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was meeting with Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak at Sharm el-Sheikh in Sinai.
    At the time Peretz was not aware of the operation and was informed about clashes in Ramallah by advisers - after the story appeared on the internet. The undercover troops, wearing civilian clothing to blend in with the locals, sought to arrest a fugitive in an office building in the center of the city. The soldiers shot and injured the man, but he managed to escape.
    Following the shooting, the force was recognized as Israeli and was attacked by gunmen and by civilians throwing stones and firebombs. Four Palestinians were killed during the fighting and 20 others were injured.
    During an initial debriefing soldiers in the force said the fugitive was armed with a pistol, but threw it away when he saw the IDF troops and ran off. Once their identity had been revealed, the force walked to the front of the building and waited to be evacuated, but by then they were caught in a hail of gunfire and firebombs.
    Brigadier General Yair Golan, commander of IDF forces in the West Bank, will hold a detailed investigation into the incident in the coming days.
    Meanwhile, Peretz asked Chief of Staff Dan Halutz for a briefing - on the basis of the interim findings - on what went wrong in the operation.
    Defense sources said yesterday that Peretz has no intention of confronting the military over the operation, even though he was initially very angry that he was not informed of it.
    At the IDF, they maintain that there is nothing flawed in the fact that the defense minister was not aware of the operation. Military sources described it as a "fairly routine" mission.
    However, a daylight operation in the center of Palestinian cities requires the authorization of GOC Central Command, Major General Yair Naveh. Naveh had okayed the operation.
    The same sources said it would be a mistake for Peretz not to confront the senior military officers on this matter because the risk inherent in the mission should have been obvious to them, and they should have been more sensitive to the timing, coinciding with the Olmert-Mubarak meeting in Sinai.

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Expert: Young U.S. Jews feel identifying with their ethnic group is 'not kosher'

    Expert: Young U.S. Jews feel identifying with their ethnic group is 'not kosher'
    By Daphna Berman

    The connection of young American Jews to the Jewish people is progressively declining because they are made to feel that identifying with their ethnic group is "not kosher," a leading expert on American Jewish history said this week.
    "On their university campuses, identifying with Jews as a people, which is distinct from their identifying with Judaism, is not considered kosher," said Prof. Jack Wertheimer, who also serves as provost of the Jewish Theological Center in New York. "Only people of color are allowed to identify with their fellow ethnics. White Americans are not allowed to participate in that kind of behavior."
    Speaking at a conference at Hebrew University this week, Wertheimer said Jews "are gravitating toward universalism because of their discomfort with parochialism." And Jewish organizations have become increasingly complicit in the process, he pointed out, citing the change of the United Jewish Communities (UJC) slogan, which has gradually evolved from "We Are One" to "Live Generously" - their new motto that does not specify the target for philanthropists' generosity.
    "Jewish organizations, instead of trying to promote the idea of taking care of the Jewish people, have soft-pedaled this idea, perhaps because they know their market and they know what will sell," he said.
    Wertheimer also lamented attempts to universalize Judaism, so that values like tikkun olam [repairing the world] and kol yisrael arevim zeh la'zeh [all of Israel is responsible for one another] no longer focus on the Jewish community. Lobbying for the victims of Darfur or cleaning American rivers, he said, have taken precedence over sustaining Jewish communal institutions because there is a "diminution in concern" for fellow Jews.
    Wertheimer was speaking at a session on Jewish identity and multiculturalism, part of a three-day conference at the Hebrew University in honor of Prof. Gideon Shimoni, who recently retired from the university's Avraham Harman Institute of Contemporary Jewry.
    At the same session, Prof. Michael Brown of York University in Toronto spoke about the Canadian Jewish community and the impact of multiculturalism, which became official government policy in 1971 and has since weakened the sense of group loyalty among some of the country's Jews.
    "It is possible," Brown said, "that at the end of the day, multiculturalism will have served to undermine the autonomy and uniqueness of the Jewish group in Canada."

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Rosner's Guest: Zev Chafets - Jews and Evangelical Christians

    Rosner's Guest 
     Shmuel Rosner, Chief U.S. Correspondent   Back to Rosner's Domain  Biography   |  Email me
    Posted: December 31, 2006
    Zev Chafets
    Why do evangelicals support Israel so strongly? Is the American Jews' fear of fundamentalist Christianity based on constitutional principle, or social and cultural snobbery and political partisanship?
    Zev Chafets is an author and columnist who just published the book A Match Made in Heaven: American Jews, Christian Zionists and one Man's Exploration of the Weird and Wonderful Judeo-Christian Alliance. Born and raised in Pontiac, Michigan, he moved to Israel in 1967. After a decade in the army, government and politics, he was appointed Director of the Government Press Office, a post he held for five years under Prime Minister Menachem Begin. More recently, he is the author of ten books, both fiction and non-fiction, the founding managing editor of the Jerusalem Report, a columnist for the New York Daily News and, most recently, a frequent contributor to the New York Times Magazine and other international publications (more bio here).
    A Match Made in Heaven is a funny, readable, book. It is the most entertaining way to struggle with questions such as "Why do evangelicals support Israel so strongly? Is their philo-Semitism just a front for their true purpose to convert Jews? Do the evangelicals, as their opponents charge, really want to use the Jews as cannon fodder at the battle of Armageddon? Or are they simply responding to the biblical commandment to love Israel? Finally, is the American Jews' fear of fundamentalist Christianity based on constitutional principle, or social and cultural snobbery and political partisanship?"
    We will discuss these questions this week, and readers, as usual, can send their questions to
    Dear Zev,
    A couple of readers asked this question in a variety of ways: Can you please specify the actions you think the Jewish community should take if it wants to adapt a more conciliatory approach toward the Evangelicals?
    First of all, the Jewish community needs to change the way it disparages Evangelicals. You can disagree politically or culturally without ridiculing your opponents as bumpkins, bigots, anti-Semites or dunces. Jews don't want to be defamed, and they need to be a little more careful about defaming others. Especially people who want to be their friends.
    Secondly, Jews need to look for opportunities to build coalitions with conservative Evangelical Christians where they have common interests. A number of issues come to mind: Darfur, AIDS in Africa, religious freedom in China and the Muslim world, opposition to the reflexive anti-Semitism of the UN, pornography and sexual trafficking and the environment.
    Finally, Jews should spend some time and effort in getting to know Evangelicals. I wouldn't say that to know them is to love them (and I wouldn't say that about Jews, either) but a lot of misunderstanding and animosity would be avoided by simply talking and listening. In the course of writing "A Match Made in Heaven" I was astonished by little contact there is between liberal Jewish and conservative Evangelical leaders.
    Dear Zev,
    You say that: "When Jews do convert [sic] to Christianity, it is ordinarily to more upscale (and increasingly anti-Israel) progressive denominations."
    I am curious as to what this statement is based on, since the most visible Jewish converts are those who join Evangelical churches, and the Mainlinechurches are generally in decline.

    Cindy Osborne
    In the past, most Jews who converted joined mainline churches or denominations, including the Catholic church.
    These days, when Jews drop out of the community, its more likely that they become "nothing" than officiallyconvert. But in America, "nothing" is a form of generalized non-Evangelical cultural Christianity.
    As for Jewish Evangelicals, they are far more prominent than their numbers because they are anxious to advertise. Other Jews who convert (or allow their kids to be raised as Christians) tend to do it more quietly.
    Dear Zev,
    Isn't it also true that evangelicals support Israel's right-wing parties and policies, most notably the settlers? American Jews who disagree with the "land of Israel" concept have good reason to distrust evangelical support, when it targets the most extreme factions of Israeli society.
    Naomi Paiss
    Probably a majority of conservative evangelicals support the Israeli right-wing and its settlement policies. A fringe actually contributes to the settlements and has a special relationship with the settlement movement.
    But most conservative Evangelicals support whatever Israeli government is in power. Every Israeli prime minister, left and right, since Menachem Begin has cultivated the Evangelicals. And the major Christian Zionists have usually adopted the attitude that the ultimate decisions about land will be made by God, but in the meantime the people of Israel have a right to choose their own government and policies.
    The major Jewish-Evangelical organization, the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, is scrupulously non-partisan in Israeli political affairs.
    How do America's Orthodox Jews relate to Zionist Evangelicals?
    Joe Feld
    Paradoxically, Orthodox Jews have the fewest problems with a Jewish-Evangelical relationship.
    For one thing, a lot of Orthodox Jews and Evangelicals share conservative social and political positions. Orthodox Jews, for example, are rarely troubled by church-state separation issues. They send their own kids to parochial schools; they're glad to get government money via faith based programs; many are opposed to abortion, and they tend not to be too concerned about the good opinion of the "international community" - ie, Europeans.
    Most Orthodox Jews also have a stronger connection to, and concern about, Israel than the secular or liberal majority. Orthodox Jews are more likely to care about a candidates' position on Israel. As a Democratic activist told me, if Cynthia McKinney ran for President as a Democrat, she'd get fifty percent of the Jewish vote.
    Some Orthodox Jews are opposed to any dealings with Evangelicals. A few years ago Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, an Orthodox Rabbis himself, was almost excommunicated by a rabbinical court for consorting with gentiles in the framework of his International Fellowship of Christians and Jews. In Israel, some Orthodox members of the Jerusalem city council are against taking charity from American Christians, even if no strings are attached. But most significant, Orthodox rabbis in American, Israel and elsewhere - tend to be supportive of a Jewish-Evangelical alliance that doesn't include too much interpersonal contact (which could lead, in their view, to assimilation and intermarriage).
    Liberal American Jews by and large have nothing against assimilation or intermarriage. They aren't concerned that fundamentalist Christians will marry their daughters; they are worried that they will defeat their candidates or upset the present cultural and social equilibrium.

    Dear Zev,
    Thank you for taking the time for this dialog. As usual, I'll start with a general question to warm you up, and give readers some idea about the main arguments you make in your book.
    So let's start with all three areas you deal with in the book, and try to give a brief answer to these questions:
    1. Why do evangelicals love Israel?
    2. Do Israelis care at all about evangelicals?
    3. Should American Jews be less suspicious of evangelicals?
    I'm sure this will provide our readers with enough material for more than a week of follow-up questions.
    Three very good questions:
    1. There is no doubt that conservative Evangelical Christians support Israel more strongly, consistently and unconditionally than any other American constituency except (decreasingly) Jews.
    Evangelicals have several reasons. Like other Americans they identify with Israel as a democracy. They know Israel is an American friend in a region where America doesn't have many friends. They also regard Israel as the enemy of their Islamic radical enemy.
    But, most important is Genesis 12:3 - "I will bless them that bless thee, and curse them who curse thee." That's God talking about Israel, and if you read the Bible literally, as they do, God's commandment is all you need.
    2. Israel cares about conservative Evangelicals because Israel's only reliable friend is the United States; that friendship depends on a bi-partisan coalition; and tens of millions of Republican Christians provide the right wing of that coalition.
    Conservative Christians are great allies. Like Jews, they love Israel. Unlike Jews, they are not vulnerable to charges of "neo-con" dual loyalty, they don't give a damn about sophisticated European opinion and they are not afflicted with the need to seem balanced.
    Evangelical tourism is big factor in the Israeli economy (and Evangelicals came during the intifada, when others stayed home).
    Oh, and the President of the United States is a conservative Evangelical Christian.
    3. Many American Jews believe that Evangelicals want to convert them. This is true in a theoretical sense. But Evangelicals know the score. There are probably more Jewish-American Buddhists than Baptists. When Jews do covert to Christianity, it is ordinarily to more upscale (and increasingly anti-Israel) progressive denominations.
    Then there's the red herring of Armageddon. American Jews who claim Evangelicals support Israel to speed up End Times - in which will lead to the death or mass conversion of Jews - are missing two points.
    1. The End Times come when God is ready. This has nothingto do with human agency; there is no way, in Evangelical thinking, that people can or should try to bring about the Second Coming.
    2. Why should Jews care about the Second Coming anyway. Last time I looked, we didn't believe in the First Coming either. Either Evangelicals are right about this or they are wrong. If they are wrong, its science fiction. If they're right - well, we've got some 'splainin' to do.
    The real reasons American Jews fear conservative Evangelicals are political and social, not theological. Jews are a major stakeholder (perhaps THE major stakeholder) in the Democratic Party; evangelicals are a major stakeholder (perhaps THE major stakeholder) in the Republican Party. And many Jews still see evangelicals as dumb southern rednecks. There is a fair amount of snobbery and even (dare I say it) bigotry, in this stereotype.
    Jews have real enemies. The Jihad is aimed primarily at us. So is the intifada. And the Iranian nuclear program. And the Hamas Charter. Under the circumstances, it is irresponsible and even crazy to pick a fight over domestic issues with our most reliable friend.
    Obviously there can be differences over domestic issues. American Jews don't need to convert to Christianity or even (God forbid) Republicanism. But they do need to put first things first. If they don't, they may spend the next generation--as they spent the last - building museums to commemorate the consequences of confused priorities in a time of war.
    Dear Zev,
    You write in your book about "the offensive against evangelical Christianity" and you say that it "was not coordinated, but it did reflect Jewish public opinion". It was when some Jewish leaders and activists chose to raise concern over the actions of evangelical Christians. My questions about it will be these:
    1. Do you sense impatience among evangelicals toward Jewish complaints - and is there a danger that it will turn into a full scale (cultural) war?
    2. Does this approach by Jewish Americans toward the evangelical community endanger in any way their support for Israel?

    The present generation of conservative Evangelical leadership - Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, John Hagee and others--are unconditional Zionists. And Falwell and Robertson, through their universities, have raised a younger generation of like minded ministers and lay leaders.
    But evangelicals are human. They may love Israel but it doesn't mean they love being mocked, denounced and generally despised by the intellectual/political elite.
    On the theological level, conservative Evangelicals will probably continue to love Israel as the Bible commands. But there are different ways to interpret the Bible. Perhaps present days Jews aren't really the same as the Biblical People of Israel? Maybe the State of Israel isn't the same Israel spoken of in the Bible?
    Zionist Christians want an alliance with the Jews, but alliances work in two directions. If the American Jewish leadership wants to make enemies out of 70 million fellow citizens, attacking them publicly on every issue is a good way to start.
    And who, then, will then replace these allies?

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    [Palestinian] Infighting spreads to West Bank

    Infighting spreads to West Bank
    Chaos on Gaza streets expands to West Bank with shootings in Jenin,
    kidnappings in Nablus, Ramallah. PA security official: Hamas hoarding
    firearms in preparation for standoff with Fatah
    Ali Waked YNET Published: 01.07.07, 01:53,7340,L-3349101,00.html

    West Bank cities are bracing themselves for the deadly turmoil restricted
    until recently to Gaza as violent infighting between Fatah and Hamas spills
    over into the West Bank.

    Reports of heavy gunbattles between Hamas and Fatah Jenin poured in on
    Saturday night while in Gaza three members of a Hamas-affiliated family were
    killed by Fatah gunmen. Earlier in the day the first signs of West Bank
    infighting emerged as gunmen abducted Nablus deputy mayor Mahdi al-Khamdali
    at gunpoint. Meanwhile in Ramallah gunmen, reportedly from Fatah, stormed
    the offices of the Hamas-controlled Ministry of the Interior, shot the
    office manager in his legs and abducted him.

    A Palestinian Authority security official told Ynet Saturday night that
    there is a grave chance that the internal power-struggle may take root in
    the West Bank. According to the official Hamas forces are preparing their
    ranks and stockpiling weapons.

    The source estimated however that should the situation in the West Bank come
    to an all-out battle between the warring factions Fatah would have the upper
    hand in the region. "But it is not a simple matter at all," said the source,
    "we've been seeing unprecendented 'import' efforts by Hamas over the past
    several months in terms of arms." The official said that the rise in demand
    for firearms by Hamas has already affected the arms-trade in the area, as
    prices skyrocket to almost double their original value.

    "An M-16 (assault rifle) that was once worth about 6,000 Jordanian dinars
    (USD 8,450) is now bought for 10,000 dinars (USD 14,200), this signals that
    the fight against them (Hamas) will not be easy," said the PA official.

    The official also said that Fatah has been recruiting supporters, quietly
    strengthening its military wing in the West Bank; however he said "Hamas'
    stronghold is expected to be in the northern West Bank, in Nablus and Jenin.
    The question we must ask however is will the whole of the Fatah movement
    rally for such a confrontation?"

    Abbas to reform security forces

    Fatah is readying itself too. Hussein al-Sheik, a senior member of the
    organization in the West Bank said that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas
    will announce a thorough reform plan and personnel changes for Palestinian
    security forces. Al-Sheik noted that the changes are meant to help battle
    the anarchy rampant throughout much of the PA, particularly in Gaza.

    According to the security official Abbas is determined to implement his
    decision to disperse the Hamas paramilitary militia in the Gaza Strip after
    declaring it illegal.

    In light of continued security chaos and assassinations that got to a number
    of our fighters ... And in light of the failure of existing agencies and
    security apparatuses in imposing law and order and protecting the security
    of the citizens, President Mahmoud Abbas decided to reshuffle the security
    forces and its leadership and to consider the (Hamas) executive force,
    officers and members, illegal and outside the law," Abbas' office said in a

    Palestinian Prime Minister and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh was quick to
    reject Abbas' call to dismantle his security force. A spokesman for the
    force, Islam Shahawan, said in response that the force will double its
    numbers to 12,000 fighters and urged citizens to join up.

    Egypt, Jordan and the United States are trying to aid troops loyal to Abbas,
    shipping them guns and ammunition, Israel i officials were briefed in

    Should efforts to form a unity government fall through and infighting
    between Hamas and Fatah picks up steam Abbas may official call for early
    elections in the Palestinian Authority, as he has already hinted he might
    resort to such measures in a speech last month.

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Bahraini athlete loses citizenship for competing in Israeli marathon

    Bahraini athlete loses citizenship for competing in Israeli marathon
    By Rami Hipsch and Yair Ben Ami, Haaretz Correspondents and The Associated
    Press Last update - 04:36 07/01/2007

    MANAMA, Bahrain - Authorities have revoked the Bahraini citizenship of an
    athlete who ran in an Israeli marathon, the nation's athletic union said

    Mushir Salem Jawher competed in and won the Tiberias Marathon in Israel on
    Thursday, ending the race in just over 2 hours and 13 minutes.

    Bahrain, like most Arab states, does not recognize Israel.

    Jawher was born in Kenya in 1978 and moved to Bahrain in 2003, according to
    the International Association of Athletics Federations. Some wealthy Arab
    states, such as Bahrain and Qatar, have a history of granting top-notch
    athletes citizenship in the hopes of racking up more wins in international

    Bahrain's Athletic Union said in a statement Saturday that it had received
    the news that a Bahraini national competed in Israel with "shock and

    "The union deeply regrets what the athlete has done," the statement said. A
    committee of sport and government authorities decided to strike Jawher's
    name off the sport union records and strip him of his Bahraini nationality,
    the statement said.

    It said Jawher had entered Israel with his Kenyan passport and added that
    the runner's Bahraini citizenship was revoked because he had "violated the
    laws of Bahrain."

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Hamas and Fatah step up Gaza power struggle amid renewed violence

    Last update - 10:16 07/01/2007   

    Hamas and Fatah step up Gaza power struggle amid renewed violence
    By Avi Issacharoff and Amos Harel, Haaretz Correspondents and Agencies

    The power struggle between Fatah and Hamas in the Gaza Strip intensified Saturday, with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas describing the paramilitary forces of Hamas as "illegal," only for the group to announce plans to increase the size of its force to 12,000.
    Islam Shihuan, spokesman for the Hamas Executive Force, said Saturday that the force would be doubled and that "conscription has begun and we are calling on every loyal citizen to prepare himself to join the force." The Executive Force is independent of the more veteran Hamas military wing, Iz al-Din al-Qassam.
    Several months ago, Abbas agreed to include the Executive Force in the ranks of forces controlled by the Interior Ministry. However, following an attack by members of the Hamas force against the home of a Fatah security commander in Gaza, killing him and seven of his bodyguards, Abbas decided to label the Executive Force as "outside the law."
    Abbas' office said the decision was made "in light of the continued security chaos and assassinations that got to a number of our fighters ... and in light of the failure of existing agencies and security apparatuses in imposing law and order and protecting the security of the citizens."
    Speaking to reporters later, Abbas said the force is illegal. "Creating any force needs a decree and this decree has not been issued. Anyone who says this is an independent force is going against the law and the constitution," he said in Bethlehem.
    Interior Ministry spokesman Khaled Abu Hilal said Abbas' decree cleared the way for new attacks on Hamas men. He called the decision "a green light to those who seek to shed the blood of Executive Force members" and said the unit would "deal firmly" with anyone who attacks its men.
    Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas said the militia is legal and would continue to report to the Interior Ministry.
    "I am becoming completely convinced that there are those who don't want the Palestinian scene to enjoy calm and stability or to create the appropriate atmosphere for starting serious and deep dialogue aimed at reaching a national unity government," he said.
    Meanwhile, three Hamas militants were killed and five were wounded Saturday evening in Gaza clashes with members of a family linked to Fatah.
    The three, all members of the the Diri family, were killed in an exchange of fire between Hamas and members of the Durmush family in the Sabra neighborhood of Gaza City.
    In the West Bank city of Nablus, an An-Najah National University lecturer affiliated with Hamas was wounded by six militants apparently belonging to the Fatah-linked Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.
    Fighting between Abbas's Fatah faction and Hamas has surged since talks on forming a unity government collapsed and Abbas called for early parliamentary and presidential elections. Hamas accused Abbas of mounting a coup.
    Late Saturday, Abbas' office said he spoke to United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, briefing her on the current situation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip ahead of her upcoming visit.
    In Egypt, President Hosni Mubarak called on the Palestinians to urgently halt their fighting. Mubarak urged factions to "place Palestinian interests above any other considerations and work together," the official MENA news agency said.

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    The blog of Dan H.

    The blog of Dan H.
    By Doron Rosenblum

    The warning light signaling "fire in the engine" has been lit for me for a few months, not to mention the blinking lights of the other alerts. But I'm not pulling on the ejection seat lever. No. I am not abandoning this cockpit, which is called my career, of my own free will. Too much has been invested in it - and in me. It and I have already become one unit, inseparable. Let them abandon, those sweating nullities down below. I won't give them the satisfaction of seeing me swaying at the end of a parachute like some dreidl. I, who lifted my eyes to far broader horizons than this snakepit called the General Staff - I do not intend to abort this mission. They still don't know who they're messing with: with a guy who remains locked on the target even without knowing what the target is.
    What was it we were taught? It's the one you don't see that will shoot you down. And I see them all through the dark glasses: the schvantz from Northern Command, whom I intercepted with the press of one button; the opinionated klutz who sat on my tail until I shook him off; not to mention the little baby-face who refused to disappear and the old codger who might yet swoop in from the direction of the sun. I got used to seeing them - the ones in green - somewhere down below, pleading for air support and help from the heavens, drowning in noise and stench and dread and in the duskiness of the falling evening - while I traversed the skies quietly: just me and the instruments and my breathing, still pampered by the rays of the sun.
    I got used to seeing them in the corridors of General Staff headquarters - vociferous, edgy, wearing high new-recruit boots even at the age of 40, pita-like berets stuffed into their epaulettes - while I and my number 2 and number 3 pass by them in the corridor in formation: washed and starched, straight from the briefing rooms and the clubs, our half-shoes shining, our eyes shaded beneath our visored caps, sort of like Navy types, albeit a bit squashed. Yes, yes, I know them, these guys in green, for whom the horizon ends with the ridge across the way. They really think that they can teach me what a panoramic view of the battlefield is. I, for whom a NATO projection is small potatoes; I, who am bothered by the monetary and strategic policy of the G-8 far more than I am by the question of who shot and who fell, between Beit Alpha and Nahalal.
    Let them whisper, let them leak things to the press, let them squirm under their lice, there below. The pressurized suit that is getting tighter around me only heightens my power of concentration on the immediate target, which is: minimizing the damages, stabilizing and preventing loss of speed and tailspin (mine, of course - whose did you think?).
    And in the meantime, as the saying goes, "Israel is not a widower," as I once told Arik (and immediately bit my tongue - all I meant is that there is still hope). There are two methods of evasion when antiaircraft fire is closing in on you from all sides. One is to scatter flak, to create a cloud of metal fragments that confuses and diverts the enemy missiles. You want a commission of inquiry? Fine! How many? Twenty? Thirty commissions? You'll get a cloud of commissions, until they're coming out of your ears. Battalion commanders, brigade commanders, major generals: all of them are investigating and drawing lessons. And anyone who leaked info will be investigated himself. And retired chiefs of staff and generals who opened their mouths against me shut it when they were appointed investigators. And there are also numberless "meetings to draw conclusions," with me as the meta-checker, the monitor who supervises the thoroughness of this investigative process. Yes, heads will fly mercilessly at all ranks (just be careful that nothing gets sprayed on me, eh?).
    The second method is to pull back the stick, open a rear burner and soar high above all this pettiness. War-schmar, blunders-schmunders: you hie into the upper reaches of the stratosphere and the existential strategy, and transform yourself from chief of staff into some meta-entity, into a kind of Warren Buffett of security. They come to a meeting with maps, with debriefings, with lessons; they talk about emergency depots and shoes and food and equipment - and you give them that hooded look, chin resting on your hands; you are the chairman of a gigantic corporation, and someone is telling you about a hitch in the wooden-hanger assembly line in Taipei.
    You listen and nod to this army - even to the chief of staff who heads it, in the hope that you will not be associated with this schlemazel. When the day comes maybe you yourself will demand his resignation - and no one will think you are associated with it. Another few conferences and meetings to draw conclusions, and people will start to think you are some sort of alter ego of the state comptroller. So move aside: I have conclusions to draw, sleeves to roll up, a war to conduct, an army to rehabilitate. I have too many strategic plans for them to be disrupted by some war. (Hey, they call that a war? It was barely a slight bump on the wing.)
    The (real) blog of Benjamin N.
    I don't understand how the slice of bread always falls buttered side down, even though I swore - and swore again to myself - to behave cautiously, to draw conclusions, to be wily even when dealing with my own nature. So what is this - a curse of the Pharaohs that is haunting me? I already had half my bottom on the horse. I started a blog and I was really cool (even in the responses I wrote). I surprised and suddenly outflanked Olmert from the left with a demand to launch talks with Syria (we really laughed and rubbed our hands in glee that evening!). I gave TV interviews showing my good profile, with the two spontaneous jokes I prepared. And suddenly this Gaydamak thing comes crashing down on me. This is always happening to me.
    Only God and Sara know how much I agonized, how much I planned, how much I maneuvered on that evening in the bedroom. Should we go to Gaydamak's party? Should we not go? Should I take off my socks? My shoes? If we don't go - I thought analytically - he will take offense and not give funding or support. And who knows how many Russians will turn out to vote? But if we do go to the party, what will people say? That Bibi jumped again. I will be mocked on "A Wonderful Country." Barnea will write that birds of a feather flock together.
    I made so many clarifications! How I considered it from every possible angle! How I wrestled with the dilemma! I already had one sock off but I made two more phone calls. What is it, exactly? A Christmas party? Hanukkah? It's what? And who will be there? Do we have to bring wine? As in the vote for or against the disengagement plan, I didn't know what to do, what to decide. I went nuts. I got up and went out simultaneously. It's hard, it's hard to be a Libra ...
    - "So what do you say, Sara?" I asked, holding the phone in one hand and a shoe in the other.
    From the bed came only the sound of light snoring.
    In the end I decided (if that's the right word) that yes, I will go! It's worth it! Because on the one hand, the damage of not going could be serious (he'll be insulted and support Lieberman); on the other hand, if I go late at night, say after 2:30, maybe no one but him will know that we came. And that's good. It's like at a shiva - only those who need to know, know you came. But wait a minute: if we show up at, let's say, 2 A.M., maybe Ayala Hasson will still be there. But by 2:30 they'll probably have gone to sleep, the journalists, especially the guy with the glasses from Channel 10. Just a minute, what if the party ends before that, and we find ourselves stuck in the parking lot? Hey, that's an idea - we can always say we were late ...
    After numberless considerations and calculations, I made a formative decision: "Come on, Saraleh, we're going!"
    - "Bzzzz ... Who? What?..."
    We got there at 2:30, me wearing my "We just dropped by for a bit" look. I even left my collar open a bit, to show that it's not a who-knows-what-"visit" but something casual. Neighbors (neighbors?) who just popped in. But what does the devil do? They were there, all the photographers and reporters. And they made tzimmes out of it. And, as usual, I looked really bad, and some microphone picked me up pattering with Gaydamak like this: "Tell me, do you have a pool? Because I have one, too, and I was thinking about turning mine into a heated pool ..."
    The ghost of Rabbi Kaddouri seemed to hover in the bedroom until morning. Shit, shit, shit! I watched the TV and buried my head in my hands. Why does this always happen to me? Why? Why? Until when? Until when? Bibi - get out of me! Get out!
    The blog of Ehud B.
    Decision: return, big-time. Peretz - negligible element. Ayalon - can be dismantled with a small screwdriver. The rest - gears without a spring. Add to this 85 percent support and popularity among the people, and the conclusion is self-evident: respond to the public's yearnings and agree to come back. Like in Camp David, it'll go like clockwork.

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    MI official: Intelligence work during war was unprofessional

    Last update - 05:03 07/01/2007   

    MI official: Intelligence work during war was unprofessional
    By Amos Harel, Haaretz Correspondent

    A senior intelligence officer says the performance of Military Intelligence during the war in Lebanon was "unprofessional and mediocre." Additionally, a senior Golani officer says that the absence of updated intelligence left the force without knowledge of Hezbollah's deployment and the extent of its forces.
    The IDF had a good intelligence understanding of Hezbollah's deployment, including how it would pursue its future confrontation against Israel, but the intelligence picture regarding the short term Katyusha rocket deployment was "mediocre to inferior," said Brigadier General Yuval Halamish, who holds the position of chief intelligence officer.
    Halamish is quoted in the Israeli Center for Intelligence Heritage journal, whose latest edition carries a series of interviews with Military Intelligence officers. Until now the IDF has not authorized media interviews about MI's performance in the war.
    Halamish said the standard of intelligence in the field ran into snags, as "it was less focused," and the units that came to the Northern Command were not familiar with the terrain.
    The IDF was surprised when an Iranian missile was fired on one of its missile ships, and by the Hezbollah's extensive use of anti-tank missiles in the war, he said. Also, Hezbollah outposts in open areas were well concealed, and Israeli troops discovered them only when they happened upon their underground bunkers, Halamish asserted.
    "There appears to be an unjustified delay of several years in updating intelligence materials in the Northern Command. Also, some of the officers left [intelligence] material in the emergency storehouses. They did not realize this was war," he says.
    Halamish says the regular forces arrived at the war in the North "with the attitude and concept characteristic of fighting in the must remember that intelligence officers and commanders, from battalion deputy commanders on down, are of a generation that has not had experience fighting in Lebanon, and that the units had not been trained properly for that arena," he said.
    The inquiries carried out following the war "show that the intelligence work was carried out unprofessionally and was mediocre to inferior. The field officer's duties are no longer challenging, therefore there are fewer officers who deal with these matters," he says.
    Golani intelligence officer "Major Ilan" also says in an interview in the journal that "intelligence was a real problem. The most classified information did not reach the brigade in time."

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Neturei Karta delegate to Iranian Holocaust conference: I pray for Israel's destruction 'in peaceful ways'

    Neturei Karta delegate to Iranian Holocaust conference: I pray for Israel's destruction 'in peaceful ways'
    By Assaf Uni

    BERLIN - It was only at the end of last week that Moshe Aryeh Friedman - by his own account, the chief rabbi of Vienna's Jewish community, but a "kook" and an extremist who represents only himself, according to Austria's established Jewish community - was able to return to his home in Vienna. Three weeks after his mysterious disappearance, following his participation in the Holocaust-denial conference in Tehran, Friedman denied in an interview with Haaretz that he had been arrested by the Iranian authorities, and claimed that his absence had been planned. Friedman explained his trip to Tehran as reflecting his desire to "show my respect to the members of my family who died in the Holocaust"; He also said he prays three times a day for the disappearance of the State of Israel - "in peaceful ways" - and that he would not deny Iran its right to develop nuclear power.
    The Jewish and the ultra-Orthodox world is seething over the participation of six members of the Jewish anti-Zionist Neturei Karta group in the December 11-12 conference in Tehran, whose stated purpose was to "reexamine the Holocaust." The Internet has been flooded with the names and other information on three of the participants from New York, David Weiss, David Feldman and Yisroel Feldman, and with suggestions to harass them. In Manchester, there were demonstrations in front of the house of Aron Cohen, and its windows were broken; in Austria, too, the Jewish community hastened to disassociate itself from Friedman, whom it described as "posing for a number of years as the chief rabbi of Vienna." An open letter published by the umbrella organization of the Austrian Jewish community said Friedman, whom it characterized as a "kook," came to Vienna some years ago from Antwerp, and was never ordained as a rabbi. Friedman, for his part, claims that he is the scion of a rabbinic family going back to the days of the Austro-Hungarian empire.
    In contrast to colleagues of his who were present at the conference, Friedman makes no apologies for his participation. In the phone interview from his home, he said "this was the first time in history that such an open event has taken place - and not one that exploits for political purposes the suffering of my family to legitimize the holocaust that the Israelis are bringing on another people [the Palestinians - A.U.]." According to Friedman, the conference was a "celebration of freedom of expression," and "Iran set an example to the whole world."
    But his position in Vienna is different than the one he expressed in Tehran, where he was quoted as saying the Holocaust was a "successful fiction," and that it is "legitimate to cast doubt on some of the statistics" with regard to it. On Friday, Friedman claimed that he does not deny the fact that 6 million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust. His sudden change in position may be explained by fear over being prosecuted in Austria, where publicly doubting the Holocaust is a crime. This concern might also explain why he was detained in Tehran until December 24, and why he spent - by his own admission - the last two weeks in Denmark, known for its liberal laws of freedom of expression.
    Friedman claimed he was detained because he was invited by the Iranian regime to another conference, in Isfahan, and that he flew to Denmark to participate in "interfaith dialogue." However he refused to give any precise details about his location. He was also quick to deny a report that he had been imprisoned by the Iranian regime, and proudly touted his good relations with the country. "The Iranian foreign ministry hosted me in a 'palace' of 150 square meters, and I was allowed to meet with anyone I wanted," he said. "They treated me in a way that no was else was treated," he added.
    Friedman does not try to hide his admiration for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who in the past termed the Holocaust a "myth" and has called for the destruction of Israel. "I had more than one meeting with his excellency, President Ahmadinejad," Friedman said. "The president first recognized me at the conference in Tehran and he was especially friendly. There may be only one picture in which we are photographed kissing, but in fact we kissed 20 or 30 times." Friedman also claims that on his earlier trip to Iran, he visited the residential compound of the Iranian president and reached "the bedroom of Khomeini." Ahmadinejad, he said, chose to remain in a modest three-room apartment with his wife, "who is from a good family." Friedman said "there aren't too many people who know him better than I do."
    According to Friedman, the second reason for his trip was to present an international peace plan, by which Israel would cease to exist, Jews of Polish and Eastern European origin (and their whole families) would return to their place of birth, and Jewish of Iraqi origin would return to Iraq "the moment a functioning democracy is established there." Friedman said the Iranian president expressed support for his plan and promised "to give religious freedom to the Jewish minority that remains in Palestine." Friedman added that he "wanted to bring the situation back to what it was, before the establishment of Israel."
    Friedman, in his 30s, is no stranger to anti-Zionist activity and provocations. In the past he maintained good relations with the extreme right-wing party of Jorg Haider in Austria, met with Hamas ministers in Europe, and prayed for the health of Yasser Arafat while the latter was hospitalized in Paris. With regard to the present scandal, Friedman says he is "afraid of the reaction to our participation in the conference."

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Sunday Telegraph: Israel 'planning nuclear strike on Iran'

    Israel 'planning nuclear strike on Iran'
    By staff and agencies
    Last Updated: 9:37am GMT 07/01/2007

    Israel has drawn up secret plans to destroy Iran's uranium enrichment facilities with tactical nuclear weapons, a report has claimed.
    Citing what it said were several Israeli military sources The Sunday Times quoted several Israeli military sources as saying that two of the Jewish state's air force squadrons are training to use "bunker-busting" bombs for a single strike.
    But Israel has refuted the report. An Israeli official said:"This is absurd information coming from a newspaper that has already in the past distinguished itself with sensationalist headlines that in the end amounted to nothing," .
    "To think that we will launch an atomic attack against Iran, and on top of that that we would reveal it in advance to a foreign newspaper is doubly ridiculous," he said.
    The Sunday Times - which in 1986 first revealed Israel's undeclared nuclear arsenal - said the plans involved sending conventional, laser-guided missiles to open up "tunnels" in the targets before "mini-nukes" with a force the equivalent of one-fifteenth of the Hiroshima bomb are fired in.
    "As soon as the green light is given, it will be one mission, one strike and the Iranian nuclear project will be demolished," one of the unnamed sources was quoted as saying.
    Iran warned that it would hit back against any attack in a way that would leave its enemy regretting that it had made such a move.
    "Any action against the Islamic republic will not go without a response and the aggressor would regret the action very quickly," Mohammad Ali Hosseini, foreign ministry spokesman, said.
    He described the report as "proof of the weakness of the enemy and will have no effect on the determination of the Islamic republic to continue its (nuclear) activities."
    Israel and the United States, the Islamic republic's two arch-enemies, accuse Iran of seeking a nuclear weapon -- a charge vehemently denied by Tehran, which refuses to bow to UN demands to halt uranium enrichment work.
    Even after the UN Security Council agreed to impose its first-ever sanctions on Iran in December, Israel has pushed for tougher international action against the country.
    Iran's hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has in the past sparked consternation by calling for the Jewish state to be wiped off the map and also casting doubt on the scale of the Holocaust.

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    A realistic strategy for peace

    A realistic strategy for peace


    THE JERUSALEM POST  Jan. 7, 2007

    A few months ago, Israel was being attacked on two fronts - Lebanon
    and Gaza - in addition to the ongoing Iranian threats to wipe us off
    the earth. Now, however, we are being courted by eager peace makers,
    on both the Palestinian and Syrian fronts, while the Saudi/Arab
    League grand peace plan has suddenly resurfaced.

    Logically, it is easy to reject this surge in activity as empty
    rhetoric designed to provide the image without the substance of
    change. Syria's President Bashar Assad appears to be transparently
    using the language of peace in order to avoid punishment for his
    involvement in the murder of Lebanese leaders, and for promoting
    violence in Iraq.

    And Palestinian peace feelers would mean more if backed by a serious
    leader, capable of implementing agreements, preventing terror attacks
    and returning kidnapped soldiers. Mahmoud Abbas has demonstrated none
    of these traits, despite numerous opportunities. Both the Syrian and
    Palestinian talk of peace also appears to be designed to buy time for
    rebuilding military and terror forces for the next round of attacks
    against Israel.

    But this narrow logic leaves no room for diplomacy or hope for a
    better future. Some conflicts eventually wind down, after the
    violence becomes too costly - Northern Ireland appears to be an
    example in progress, and although there are many differences, there
    are also similarities. And the rest of the world - particularly
    Europe, and to some degree, also the US - desperately wants to see
    progress towards a settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

    Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni recognizes that in politics, as in
    baseball, "you can't beat something with nothing." Israeli peace
    initiatives based on the establishment of an interim Palestinian
    state, although probably unrealistic, will provide enough motion to
    prevent another rash of unrealistic European plans and pressure for
    dangerous Israeli concessions.

    THE SUDDEN spike in the peace rhetoric of "moderate" Sunni Arab
    regimes, including Egypt's military rulers, the Saudi royal family
    and their counterparts around the Gulf are also based on
    self-interest. Their survival is linked to restoring a political
    framework in which radical Islamist groups such as Hamas and
    Hizbullah are contained. With the implosion in Iraq and the growing
    threat from Iran as a Shi'ite superpower, these Arab leaders have
    belatedly realized the need for cooperation with Israel to achieve
    stability. Pragmatic steps to avoid revolution, rather than a sudden
    ideological change acknowledging Israel's right to exist, provide the
    basis for these peace proposals. But they are still too important to
    dismiss out of hand.

    For Israel's part, while skepticism would be advised, particularly
    after the catastrophic end of the Oslo "peace process," there is also
    an argument to be made for measures that might reduce the level of
    conflict for more than a few months. Some Palestinians may well agree
    with President Mahmoud Abbas that the cost of terrorism is too high,
    and that Israel is not going to disappear, regardless of these
    attacks. This is the time for them to be seen and heard, and for
    Israelis to listen. Competent leaders may yet emerge to take the
    Palestinian people beyond the ideology of rejectionism, victimization
    and violence that has gotten them nowhere in 60 years.

    In this framework, and in contrast to the emotional enthusiasm that
    accompanied Oslo, Israel should take limited calculated risks to see
    how the other players will respond. As the security services lift
    some of the checkpoints and allow more movement of goods and people,
    it will be necessary to ensure that this time, these
    confidence-building measures are not exploited to smuggle weapons or

    A massive release of Palestinian terrorists and their supporters, in
    exchange for Gilad Shalit, would also be counterproductive, to
    understate the impact.

    The agenda for talks with officials from Bashar Assad's regime should
    be based on interim and balanced steps to reduce tensions, including
    ending weapons deliveries to Hizbullah and support for Hamas. Syrian
    efforts to destabilize Lebanon are entirely incompatible with claims
    to be interested in peace. (And any academics and journalists who are
    sent by Damascus to meet informally with their Israeli counterparts
    will have to shake hands and show that they are serious about ending
    the conflict.) Talks about the Golan Heights, borders, and access to
    Lake Kinneret will require a long period of interaction - the terms
    and conditions under which the previous negotiations took place
    disappeared long ago.

    Finally, if the Saudis and other Arab countries are serious about
    reviving their long-dormant 2002 peace plan (designed in part to
    appease US anger after the 9/11 mass terror attacks), they will have
    to actively sell it. Public visits to Israel to meet with officials
    are a necessary component, and if the Saudis are not ready for this,
    they are not ready for peace. Similarly, if they present their
    framework to Israel as a "take it or leave it" proposal, it will
    quickly disappear again. Peace, or rather more realistic and
    pragmatic conflict management measures, needs to be negotiated and
    implemented step-by-step, with one stage creating the foundation for the next.

    The writer heads the Program on Conflict Management at Bar-Ilan
    University, and is the executive director of NGO Monitor.


    Continued (Permanent Link)

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