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Saturday, January 20, 2007

Saudis Push Bush Team On Peace Plan

Saudis Push Bush Team On Peace Plan
Riyadh Assuring Palestinians That Arab States Will Back Deal
Nathan Guttman | Fri. Jan 19, 2007
Washington - Saudi Arabia is stepping up efforts to make its peace initiative — based on a quick Israeli return to the 1967 borders and prompt establishment of a Palestinian state — a key plank in American foreign policy.

According to American and Arab diplomatic sources in Washington, the Saudis have been pressing for a more active role in attempting to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. One diplomat said that the Saudi push reflects the prevailing notion among the kingdom's leaders that existing peace efforts directed by the United States are not bearing fruit and will not bring a swift conclusion to the conflict.
At the same time, sources said, some officials of the United States believe that an American embrace of the Saudi plan would increase Riyadh's support for America's approach to Iraq and Iran.
This week, Saudi officials raised the issue in meetings with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during her visit to Riyadh. And last week, the Saudi ambassador in Washington, Prince Turki al-Faisal, pushed the matter in a meeting with leaders of the left-wing group Americans for Peace Now. Near the end of last year, the Saudis also conveyed their message to Vice President Dick Cheney and to senators who visited the region.
In addition to attempting to line up Israeli and American support, Saudi leaders have been assuring the Palestinians that they would have wide Arab support for a final deal with Israel, diplomatic sources said.
According to these sources, Riyadh believes that a convergence of factors makes it much more likely that this time around, Washington will accept the Saudi plan. In particular, the Saudis are banking on America's need for the support of moderate Sunni regimes on the Iraq front and the backing of the Gulf countries in isolating Iran, as well as a new Israeli openness to discuss the plan.
"We hope the Israelis are changing their view; we've been waiting for them to see the plan in a positive light," said Jamal Khashoggi, Saudi media columnist and an adviser to Riyadh's ambassador in Washington. "With all the talk now in Washington about the need for boosting the peace process, and with the Iraq Study Group's recommendations, everyone now understands the need to solve this problem."
Khashoggi said that the Saudis are now in a position to help the process. "If we, the Saudis and the Egyptians, leave it to the Israelis and the Palestinians, there will never be peace," he said. "That is why the U.S. needs to apply pressure on its ally Israel and we will pressure our allies the Palestinians."
According to Khashoggi, the Saudi message to Washington is that Riyadh does not want to get bogged down in details. "We are telling the Americans that the process killed the peace," he said, asserting that since the outlines of any future peace deal are essentially known, there is no need for a gradual approach, such as one outlined in the American-backed road map plan.
In her visit this week to the region, however, Rice made it clear that the United States still believes in a gradual approach. After hearing from the Palestinians that they reject the path of creating a state with provisional borders, Rice managed to convince Israeli and Palestinian leaders to join her for a trilateral summit next month. In her visit to Riyadh at the end of her trip, Rice promised Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal that the summit signals a new phase in American peacemaking efforts.
"I did say to his Royal Highness that the United States would deepen its involvement in the efforts to find peace between the Palestinians and Israelis," Rice told reporters after the meeting.
Diplomatic sources in Washington said this week that in her upcoming summit with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Rice will attempt to create a "political horizon" for the Palestinians, which will include a promise for statehood at the end of the process.
Meanwhile, the Saudis are focusing their effort on convincing Hamas to accept the international community's requirements that the militant group recognize Israel, renounce terrorism and accept previous agreements signed with Israel. The issue was raised in a meeting last month between the Saudi monarch and Hamas-linked Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniya. According to reports, King Abdullah told Haniya that the refusal of Hamas to accept the three conditions is harming the Palestinian cause. He urged the group to adopt a more pragmatic approach. The Saudi calls for moderation have thus far been rejected by Hamas.
In a phone interview from Paris, Henry Siegman, the foreign policy analyst and former president of the American Jewish Congress who helped publicize the initial Saudi plan, said that officials in Riyadh now feel they have a lot to offer in terms of bringing about an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord.
"[The Saudis] can provide incentives to the Palestinian side, so the Palestinians will be encouraged to make the necessary compromises," Siegman said, "On the territorial issue, for instance, they will urge the Palestinians to accept reasonable agreements regarding the Jewish settlement concentrations based on comparable land swaps. The Saudis will promise that if the Palestinians take these steps, they will get the full support of the Arab world for such compromises."
The Saudi initiative was first introduced publicly in February 2002 in a New York Times column by Tom Friedman, after an interview with then-crown prince Abdullah. It was then fleshed out in an article by Siegman, now the director of the New York-based U.S./Middle East Project think tank, following extensive talks he held with Abdullah. According to Siegman, a main purpose of the plan was to address Israel's concerns that even after making concessions to the Palestinians, it would still encounter belligerence in the Arab world.
A more detailed version of the plan was approved later that year by the Arab League during a summit in Beirut.
The plan calls for full recognition of the State of Israel and normalization with all Arab countries in return for an Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 border with slight border changes. The version adopted by the Arab League also called for solving the Palestinian refugee problem based on United Nations Resolution 194, a resolution that Israel vehemently opposes, on the grounds that it would open the door to millions of Palestinians settling in Israel proper. Then-prime minister Ariel Sharon was dismissive of the Saudi initiative when it was first unveiled. But Olmert, in a November 27, 2006, speech, gave the first public sign that Israel's view was shifting.
"The voices emanating from those states regarding the need for recognition and normalization of relations with the State of Israel — including, for example, some parts in the Saudi peace initiative — are positive, and I intend to invest efforts in order to advance the connection with those states and strengthen their support of direct bilateral negotiations between us and the Palestinians."
According to reports in the Israeli press, Olmert also held a secret meeting with Prince Bandar bin Sultan, Abdullah's national security adviser and the former ambassador to the United States.
Following Olmert's statement, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni also raised the possibility of turning to the plan as a basis for moving forward. All Israeli officials stressed the need to make changes in the plan, mainly on issues relating to Palestinian refugees' right of return.
Siegman said that, on the Palestinian side, "the refugee issue has to be part of the tradeoff once the negotiations begin." But he added that the Arab League would not accept as an opening position the view articulated by Bush to Sharon in a 2003 letter that said the issue should be dealt with by settling all the refugees in the Palestinian territories.
Fri. Jan 19, 2007

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[Jewish] Groups Head to Emirates, as Worries Grow Over Iran

Groups Head to Emirates, as Worries Grow Over Iran
Marc Perelman | Fri. Jan 19, 2007
The main umbrella group of American Jewish organizations is set to visit Dubai and Abu Dhabi next month in a sign of the growing concern among Sunni regimes over Iran's nuclear and regional ambitions.

The trip, by a delegation from the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations to the main power centers of the United Arab Emirates, is notable because the Sunni-majority UAE does not have formal diplomatic ties with Israel. The trip also comes amid a flurry of consultations between Washington, its regional allies and Israel about steps to counter Iran's influence in the region, first and foremost in Iraq but also in Lebanon and in the Palestinian territories.
"The UAE is a critically important place on the issue of terrorism, the fight against extremism and Iran," said Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Presidents Conference, a 51-member umbrella organization that serves as the Jewish community's main collective voice on Middle East affairs. "We want to see improved relations with the U.S., of course, but also hope that this can foster relations with Israel."
The UAE has no diplomatic ties with Israel and still adheres to the primary Arab boycott against trade with the Jewish state. Even though it abandoned the so-called secondary and tertiary boycotts against third-party firms that trade with Israel, the American Jewish delegation will not be flying directly from Israel; instead it will travel via Amman, Jordan, to reach the UAE.
According to Hoenlein, the UAE government extended an invitation a few months ago and then the American Jewish umbrella group received approval from both the American and Israeli governments to respond positively.
The upcoming visit is slated to include meetings with senior government officials, as well as with business and religious leaders.
Whether the trip could end up opening some diplomatic relations with Israel — as a previous one in 1995 helped lay the groundwork for such ties between Israel and Qatar — remains an open question.
Representatives of Israel and of the UAE held talks last year about opening a low-level Israeli interest office in Abu Dhabi, but little progress was made at the time. The trip to the Gulf region will precede the group's annual mission to Israel, scheduled for the second week of February.
Iran is expected to be a topic at some of the meetings in the UAE. Still, despite widespread Sunni concerns about Iran, experts believe that the UAE is unlikely to confront Tehran publicly.
Members of the Gulf Cooperation Council "share many of our concerns about what the Iranians might intend, but they do not necessarily agree with our chosen means: verbal confrontation, threats, futile attempts at diplomatic isolation," said David Mack, acting president of the Middle East Institute in Washington and a former American ambassador to the UAE. "They all have diplomatic relations with Iran and, in some cases, considerable trade."
Indeed, Iran has very close economic ties to Dubai, the region's leading business hub; as such, the emirate is key to American efforts to tighten the financial pressure on the mullah regime. In recent weeks, the U.S. Treasury Department has issued directives barring two Iranian state-owned banks from accessing American financial markets, because of the banks' alleged role in supporting terrorism and procuring weapons.
In addition, the Bush administration has been pressuring European and Asian corporations to downgrade their presence in Iran. American officials have met UAE officials, too, to discuss Iran's business interests in Dubai.
One factor that works in the administration's favor is the UAE and the Gulf countries' growing worries about Tehran's nuclear program. In a major speech on Iraq last week, President Bush confirmed that the United States would send an additional carrier strike group to the Persian Gulf, as well as provide Patriot anti-missile defense systems to members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, or GCC.
Last year, Tehran signaled to the GCC states that it would retaliate against them if the United States attacked Iran using bases on their soil. Since Tehran's most likely weapon would be ballistic missiles, deploying Patriots would protect the GCC states against a potential Iranian strike.
In addition to the concerns of America's allies in the region about Tehran's ascendancy, the Bush administration has ratcheted up its efforts to stem Iran's influence in Iraq.
The administration has in effect rejected the recommendations of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group about the need to engage Iran and Syria, by issuing repeated warnings to Tehran about its meddling in Iraq and by taking more aggressive action on the ground.
Bush signed an order authorizing the disruption of Iranian activities in Iraq, which resulted in the arrest of several Iranian officials suspected of providing bomb-making materials during two American military raids conducted over the past month. In addition to protests from the Iranian and Iraqi governments, the operations ignited speculation about possible American military incursions into Iran.
"The incremental raids and arrests may be aimed at provoking the Iranians to respond, which in turn would escalate the situation and provide the Bush administration with the casus belli it needs to win Congressional support for war with Iran," said Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council and an advocate of engaging Tehran. "Instead of making the case for a pre-emptive war with Iran over nuclear weapons, the sequence of events in the provocation and escalation strategy would make it appear as if war was forced on the U.S."
In another sign of the geopolitical realignment in the region, London's Daily Telegraph reported last week that Bush had authorized the CIA to take covert action to help the embattled Lebanese government against Hezbollah, with the support of both Saudi Arabia and Israel. The classified "non-lethal presidential finding" reportedly allows the agency to provide financial and logistical support to Prime Minister Fouad Siniora but bars the agency from physically targeting Hezbollah officials.
Fri. Jan 19, 2007

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Lebanese army finds hidden missiles

Lebanese army finds hidden missiles

The Lebanese army uncovered 75 Grad missiles in southern Lebanon, local security forces reported on Saturday.

The missiles were found on Friday night in a flourmill in the village of Al-Biri and most likely belonged to the Islamic group al Jama al Islamiya.

It appeared that the missiles had been hidden for over 10 years near the Israeli border, and were only transferred to the mill a few months ago.

The owner of the mill was arrested, along with his wife, son, cousin and other suspects.

In the past weeks, southern Lebanese residents have reportedly been amassing weapons in case a civil war were to erupt. The Lebanese army said it was trying to minimize the weapons transfers in the area, but due to insufficient equipment, its efforts were limited.

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Stop the Jewish barbarians in Hebron

Stop the Jewish barbarians in Hebron

That woman, the one who it turns out is named Yifat Alkobi, the Jewish woman that confronted, cursed, spat on and threatened her Arab neighbor in Hebron, she who is imprisoned in her own home, seemed somehow familiar to me.

Gradually, from the cobwebs of my childhood memories, I dredged up the image of a Hungarian neighbor in Novi Sad, who used to stand at the entrance to her home and curse us every time we went into the street - just like Yifat Alkobi.

When we decide, and rightly so, to never under any circumstances compare the behavior of Jews to that of Nazis, we are forgetting that anti-Semitism only reached its height at Auschwitz. It had existed, was active, frightening, harmful and disgusting - exactly like Alkobi's image - in the years that preceded Auschwitz too. And behind shuttered windows hid terrified Jewish women, exactly like the Arab woman of the Abu-Isha family in Hebron.

It is unthinkable that the memory of Auschwitz should serve as a pretext to ignore the fact that living here among us are Jews that behave toward Palestinians exactly the way that German, Hungarian, Polish and other anti-Semites behaved toward Jews.

I am not referring to crematoria or pogroms, but rather to the persecution, hounding, stone-throwing, undermining of livelihood, scare tactics, spitting and contempt.

It was all of these things that made our lives in the Diaspora so bitter and harrowing, even before they began the wholesale killing of Jews. I was afraid to go to school because little anti-Semites lay in wait on the way and beat us. In what way is a Palestinian child in Hebron any different?

EVEN THOSE that justify the occupation for ideological or religious reasons - or perhaps especially those that seek to justify the occupation - should be ashamed, as Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said of himself, when seeing these pictures. We all bear responsibility for the suffering of the Palestinians, but it would not have been possible to establish a Jewish state without causing them some harm.

But there is no reason or justification for the thuggery of the kind demonstrated time after time by the residents of the Jewish settlement in Hebron toward their Arab neighbors.

The settlement of Jews in Hebron is the original sin. Now, they are adding insult to injury. And at best, we, the Jewish citizens of the State of Israel say, "Tsk, tsk, tsk."

We forget that this hounding of the Palestinian neighbors in Hebron happens not only at the moment we see it on television, but rather day after day, every day of the year (with the exception of Yom Kippur). The truth is that I too only pipe up occasionally and pay lip service by means of articles such as this. Even worse: I reacted with silence to this when I was justice minister too. We left the task of protest to the extreme leftist groups, who provoke well-deserved loathing from us all other days of the year.

We are familiar with the excuse of "We didn't know." So, for the record: We do know.

We will never be able to forgive ourselves - our consciences won't let us - and neither will our children if we do not make our army and police put an end to the Jewish barbarism in Hebron.

The writer is a former MK.


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Fatah accuses Hamas of establishing a " tunnels' republic" under the Gaza Strip

Fatah accuses Hamas of establishing a " tunnels' republic" under the Gaza
Date: 20 / 01 / 2007  Time:  19:23

Ramallah - Ma'an - The spokesperson of the Fatah movement in the West bank,
Jamal Nazzal, on Saturday accused the Hamas movement and government of
spending millions of US dollars on the excavation of tunnels between the
Gaza Strip's cities. He compared the network of tunnels in Gaza to that
which Al-Qaeda established in Kabul.

Nazzal said that the tunnels, which have been discovered, indicate a huge
project aimed at establishing an underground structure which he called, the
"tunnels' republic," to which press and law can have no access.

According to the spokesperson, Palestinian minister of interior Dr Mahmoud
Zahhar had recently confirmed that $120 million was delivered to the
Palestinians, yet only $60 million entered the treasury. Fatah has demanded
that the finance ministry reveal the whereabouts of those millions.

Fatah has also recently appointed a four-member committee to investigate the
tunnels and reveal any more that there may be.

The spokesperson of the Hamas movement, Fawzi Barhoom, denied that they have
established the so-called "tunnels' republic," saying that the news aims to
undermine the movement after it had succeeded in capturing the Israeli
soldier, Gilad Shalit. He told Ma'an that "the same news and accusations
appeared in the Israeli media months ago to devaluate the Hamas movement in
Gaza Strip."

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NEC January 2007 Poll of Palestinians

Near East Consulting

POB 4, Ramallah, Palestine T. +970-2-296-1436

NEC's monthly bulletin on Palestinian perceptions  towards politics and

Bulletin # II-1

In the period 12-15 January, 2007, Near East Consulting (NEC) conducted a
phone  survey of over 1212 randomly selected Palestinians in the West Bank,
the Gaza Strip,  and Jerusalem of which 823 were successfully completed.

It is worth noting that the margin of error is +/- 3.4% with a 95%
confidence level.

II. Main findings

A. Security and the internal situation:  ..48% of Palestinians feel less
secure since the January 2006 elections, as  compared to 44% in December

..The majority of Palestinians (91%) of the Palestinians are extremely
concerned  (56%) or somewhat concerned (35%) about the current situation in
the West  Bank and the Gaza Strip.

..18% are concerned because of the economic hardship that their household is
facing (compared to 32% in December), 26% are concerned because of the
general absence of security for their families (compared to 30% in
December),  while 42% are concerned because of the internal power struggle
(compared to  21% in December).

. 24% blame Hamas for the recent internal problems, 22% blame Fateh, and 54%
blame both equally. With respect to the security agency Palestinians blame
most,  30% put the blame on the Executive Force of Hamas, 15% on the
Preventive  Security, 5% mentioned various other security agencies, and 37%
blamed all  equally;

. 79% of the Palestinians believe that the Executive Force should be
integrated  within the other security forces;

. 50% think that the responsibility of the security forces should be in the
hands of  the president, 28% think it should rest with the prime minister,
and 23% believe  that is should be the responsibility of both: the
Presidency, and the government;

. 56% do not think that a civil war is likely (compared to 59% in December).
This is  probably attributed to the belief of 76% of the Palestinians who
think that the  crisis between Fateh and Hamas will end soon.

B. National dialogue and the future steps:

. 57% support Abu Mazen's call for presidential elections (22% strongly
support  and 35% support to some extent);

. 58% support Abu Mazen's call for PLC elections (23% strongly support and
35%  supports to a certain extent). In December, still 68% supported Abu
Mazen's' call  for early presidential and PLC elections;

. Despite their support for elections, 63% of the Palestinians believe that
such a  call will lead to an intensification of the current internal crisis.
Only 37% believe

. 53% of the respondents think that Abu Mazen is doing enough to end the
crisis  between Fateh and Hamas and a similar percentage (52%) think that
Hanieh is  exerting enough effort to end the crisis between the two

. 40% most trust Fateh (compared to 32% in December), 26% most trust Hamas
(compared to 27% in December), while 27% do not trust any faction (compared
to 35% in December). Fateh has considerably more popular support than Hamas
in the Gaza Strip (48% versus 28%).

68% of  the respondents still said that early elections will bring an end to
the current  crisis;

 ..51% believe that Abu Mazen should withdraw his call for early elections,
while  49% believe that he should maintain his position;

 ..In contrast, 94% believe that resumption of the National Dialogue for a
two-week  period is a good initiative and 72% believe that it will lead to
positive results;

..50% of the respondents believe that, if elections were held today, they
would  vote for the same faction as they did in the last elections, 12% said
that they will  vote for another faction, while 32% said that they will not
cast their vote in future  elections;

..The majority of the respondents said that they will vote for Fateh in the
next  elections (40%), while 23% said that they will give their vote to

..President Abbas seems to be the most likely to gain from new presidential
elections. When compared with other potential runners for the presidential
elections, 38% mentioned Abu Mazen, 20% mentioned Marwan Barghouthi, 18%
mentioned Ismael Hanieh, and 7% mentioned Mustapha Barghouthi. However,  20%
said that they will not participate in new presidential elections.

C. Factions and leaders:

..53% most trust Abu Mazen; 47% most trust Ismael Hanieh;

..71% do not wish Abu Mazen to resign;

D. The Hamas government:

60% believe Hamas has failed to deliver on its campaign promises because it
did  not get the opportunity, 14% think that Hamas did not utilize the
opportunities at  its disposal, 17% feel Hamas is incompetent, while 9%
think that the Hamas  government did not fail to deliver on its campaign

33% believe that the level of nepotism in the public sector has dropped
since  Hamas came to power compared to 29% who said that it increased, while
38%  said that it remained the same;

52% believe that the time did not come yet for the Hamas government to step
down while 48% believe that the movement should step down.

E. The Palestinian-Israeli context:

72% support a peace settlement with Israel, compared to 77% in December;

..56% believe that Hamas should change its position towards the elimination
of  Israel (a drop of 5% since December).

IMRA - Independent Media Review and Analysis

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Egyptian security destroys a tunnel near the border with the Gaza Strip

Egyptian security destroys a tunnel near the border with the Gaza Strip
Date: 20 / 01 / 2007 Time: 15:36

Rafah - Ma'an - Palestinian security sources affirmed on Saturday that the
Egyptian security services have destroyed a tunnel which was discovered near
the border with the Gaza Strip.

Acording to the sources, the tunnel was 700 meters to the east of the Rafah
crossing and began on the Egyptian side of the border.

IMRA - Independent Media Review and Analysis

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Iranian student leader: Ayatollahs will run if Iran attacked

Iranian student leader: Ayatollahs will run if Iran attacked

After years in jail, solitary confinement, torture and finally escape to US, Iranian student revolutionary leader Amir-Abbas Fakhr-Avar tells Ynet: Now is time for revolution, world must support Iranian people against regime
Yitzhak Benhorin Published:  01.20.07, 09:27

WASHINGTON - While United States Minister of Defense Robert Gates, along with many specialists on the matter, warn against a military attack on Iran, which in their view will entrap the Iranian people behind the Ayatollah regime, Iranian student leader Amir Abbas Fakhr-Avar believes an attack will have the reverse result.

In an exclusive interview with Ynet, Fakhr-Avar describes his blueprint for how to topple the regime. If the West launches a military attack on Iran , "The top brass will flee immediately. People will come out onto the streets protesting, why are we being bombed? Many of the regime's mid-level officials will shave their beards, don ties and join the (civilians) on the streets."

Fakhr-Avar exudes experience and wisdom far beyond his 31 years, after serving years of jail time, solitary confinement, torture and broken bones.

Fakhr-Avar, one of Iran's student leaders, heads an organization numbering 12,000 students. According to a deal reached between Iran's students and its regime, he was temporarily released from prison for academic testing, after serving half of an eight year sentence. He did not return. In May 2006 Fakhr-Avar managed to escape Iran and reach the United States.
He testified before the US Senate, met with President George W. Bush and senior administrators in the State Department and the Pentagon, as well as with experts and analysts on Iran, like Professor Bernard Lewis and others.

His message to the West is: Stop supporting the reformists in Iran. Help us topple the Ayatollah regime. He claims the time is right; all that is needed is a push from the West.
Fakhr-Avar believes the revolution can be accomplished within ten months to a year. He does not ask for much from the Americans: "What we really need is the tools," he says. "Cell phones, computers, cameras, publication ability. This is the funding we need for our (revolutionary) activities, to coordinate within Iran and outside."
Why are you convinced the Ayatollah regime can be overthrown?
 There is a big difference between Shiite and Sunni mullahs. Foreigners may not know this. Many of the Sunni mullahs would pick up arms and fight, but the Shiite mullahs are not like that. Their hands, if you touch them, are softer than any woman's hand. They've never fought.
They don't know how to fight. They never get close to danger. When they feel a true threat, they escape. Look at the Shiite mullahs in Iraq during Saddam's regime. None of them fought. When the US paved the way for them, now they're barking."
Robert Gates in the senate portrayed a different outcome of an attack: That it would be a great danger to the world, that Iran would make terror in Europe, the US, close the Persian Gulf, stop oil, world crisis?

Our main purpose and help we can give the administration is to help them to decide better. They don't know that society that well, they really don't know the regime or the people. We need to help them – we being the opposition outside Iran.

In my testimony to the senate I told them a few things: Mainly that sanctions will help to make the regime weak, and that they need to put down the regime.
The outside world does not know much about Iran, maybe they know at best 10 percent of what is going on in Iran, what the people's sentiments are. Seventy percent of the population is under the age of 30, but they've had grand experiences. They've been through post-revolution, war, robbery during (Akbar Hashemi) Rafsanjani's era, so-called reform.
The Iranians inside Iran…They were led to believe that the Islamic regime is the best and all of that by the propaganda of the regime.
They have survived such conditions, under pressure, such as the covering of the girls. The head scarf, the way they dress is a protest, the way the talk is in a protest manner, even if they run a red a red light they are protesting the regime. You can see that in Iran – you aren't supposed to wear tight fitting clothing, but the people do in protest. Even in London you see more women with their hair covered than in Tehran.

Fakhr-Avar admits that he and his friends, like the American administration, were wrong to believe former President Mohammad Khatami would promote reforms. "They did trust him the first time around in his first election. Aside from this, there was no other alternative."
When you talk with your friends in Iran on the mobile phone or through the internet, do you not put them in danger?

Not the mobiles, not the cell phones. They don't have the technology to stop it, and there are too many. Right now they're busy controlling each other's mobiles – the mullahs, so that's why some of these guys are doing it freely. However, landlines, they do control. But mobiles there are problems.

What is interesting is that the rest of the world believes in the information network of the Islamic regime is very strong, but that is not the case. They are extremely weak. They have a very low IQ.

How can you say that about President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who seems to be doing whatever he wants, with total disregard for the international community?
Ahmadinejad is stupid. We've known him for the past 6-7 years from the political arena in Iran. When he was the mayor Tehran his plans were so stupid that people laughed at him. One of them was to pave the roadway that the 12th imam traveled on. He took all the intersections and removed the traffic signals so everyone can go where they want. A few months later they decided it was stupid and put them all back. It cost something like 2 billion dollars.

Ahmadinejad is the real face of the regime. Khatami was a lie. The Khatami government has us in jail while he was talking about civilization and reforms.

This is the opportune moment for us to have the population realize that the regime has taken them to neverland basically, they're heading to annihilation, destruction. People are growing more informed. Khatami never said 'we must wipe Israel off the face of the earth' – while he had that in mind, he never stated it. Now the Iranians know it.

Why do they care about Israel?

People in Iran react the opposite of what the regime says. If the regime says it's day, they'll close their eyes and say it's night. Whatever the Islamic regime fights against- that becomes important to the Iranians. I don't represent the entire population of course, but I can give you an idea of what are the sentiments. I was elected by the students and I speak for them. Remember, 70 percent are under age 30.

The older generation is stuck in the 70s, the youngsters speak a language the adults don't understand
The majority of the population don't care for Hizbullah or the Palestinian people, mostly because they see that their money is going to them.
Israel's attack on Hizbullah was they best thing they've done in recent years. It helped to clean up the land from the terrorists, when they don't have land they have no place to run troops, that's why they drove Hizbullah crazy, regime in Iran wasn't happy either. Right now UN is there so they can't freely launch missiles towards Tel Aviv.
Israel should have taken over Lebanon . You have to be harsh and severe against terrorists. You can't negotiate with them.

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Analyst says US plans envision broad attack on Iran

Analyst says US plans envision broad attack on Iran

Possible military action will not be confined to surgical strike, may amount to war against Iran, former US intelligence official says
Reuters Published:  01.20.07, 11:40
US contingency planning for military action against Iran's nuclear program goes beyond limited strikes and would effectively unleash a war against the country, a former US intelligence analyst said on Friday.
"I've seen some of the planning ... You're not talking about a surgical strike," said Wayne White, who was a top Middle East analyst for the State Department's bureau of intelligence and research until March 2005.
"You're talking about a war against Iran " that likely would destabilize the Middle East for years, White told the Middle East Policy Council, a Washington think tank.
"We're not talking about just surgical strikes against an array of targets inside Iran. We're talking about clearing a path to the targets" by taking out much of the Iranian Air Force, Kilo submarines, anti-ship missiles that could target commerce or US warships in the Gulf, and maybe even Iran's ballistic missile capability," White said.
"I'm much more worried about the consequences of a US or Israeli attack against Iran's nuclear infrastructure," which would prompt vigorous Iranian retaliation, he said, than civil war in Iraq, which could be confined to that country.
'A virtual non-entity'
Middle East expert Kenneth Katzman argued "Iran's ascendancy is not only manageable but reversible" if one understands the Islamic republic's many vulnerabilities.
Tehran's leaders have convinced many experts Iran is a great nation verging on "superpower" status, but the country is "very weak ... (and) meets almost no known criteria to be considered a great nation," said Katzman of the Library of Congress' Congressional Research Service.
The economy is mismanaged and "quite primitive," exporting almost nothing except oil, he said.
Also, Iran's oil production capacity is fast declining and in terms of conventional military power, "Iran is a virtual non-entity," Katzman added.

The administration, therefore, should not go out of its way to accommodate Iran because the country is in no position to hurt the United States, and at some point "it might be useful to call that bluff," he said.
But Katzman cautioned against early confrontation with Iran and said if there is a "grand bargain" that meets both countries' interests, that should be pursued.

Continued (Permanent Link)

'Halutz appointment was a mistake'

'Halutz appointment was a mistake'

Appointing an air force commander to the position of IDF Chief of General Staff was a mistake, Maj.-Gen. (res.) Emmanual Sakal said Saturday.

Sakal, formerly OC Ground Forces, told Israel Radio that it had been a mistake to think that a pilot, "no matter how talented," could deal effectively with the problems faced by ground forces, especially during a war.

According to Sakal, outgoing Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz's appointment had not been "free from political considerations."

When asked about candidates to replace Halutz, Sakal said he hoped that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz would understand that "one of the candidates" was a better choice than the others. While Sakal refused to name which one, he said that the fact that the candidate was retired was an advantage rather than a disadvantage.


Sakal said that the summer's Lebanon war exposed deficiencies caused by ongoing defense budget cuts since 1982. Sakal cited cutbacks to the training budget for regular and reserve soldiers, as well as funding for reserve days, and called for quick return to previous levels and frequency of training.

On Friday, Army Radio quoted sources close to Olmert saying that the prime minister would work with Peretz to appoint a new chief of General Staff early next week, Army Radio reported.

Earlier, sources across the political spectrum estimated that Olmert would delay the appointment under the assumption that the defense minister would stand down from his post in a matter of weeks.

However, Peretz emphasized Friday that he would be the one to appoint the next IDF chief of General Staff in coordination with Olmert.

Also, Army Radio reported that during a closed meeting, Peretz said that he would not "give Olmert the pleasure of seeing me resign."

Reportedly, former prime minister Ehud Barak advised Olmert Thursday not to hasten the appointment of chief of staff, but instead to wait and "consider the subject well."

In contrast, National Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer on Friday pushed for a rapid appointment of Halutz's successor and without regard for the changes likely to occur within the Defense Ministry. "There are three excellent candidates," said Ben-Eliezer. "There is no need to delay the appointment."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Abbas meeting with Assad, set to hold talks with Mashaal

Jan. 20, 2007 9:10 | Updated Jan. 20, 2007 15:17
Abbas meeting with Assad, set to hold talks with Mashaal

Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas arrived in Syria on Saturday and began a meeting with Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Abbas was also expected to meet with Hamas leader-in-exile Khaled Mashaal on Saturday evening. According to senior Fatah official Muhammad Dahlan, Abbas and Mashaal would discuss the release of kidnapped IDF Cpl. Gilad Shalit, who has been in Hamas captivity for nearly seven months.

Independent Palestinian legislator Ziad Abu Amr, who has been mediating between the Abbas and Mashaal, said Thursday that a meeting would focus on efforts to form a PA unity government and to end the violence between Hamas and Fatah.

Abu Amr denied reports in the Palestinian media that his recent talks in Damascus with Mashaal had failed. He said Mashaal expressed readiness to meet with Abbas to try to prevent an all-out confrontation between Fatah and Hamas.

"Hamas still hasn't changed its position regarding the proposed unity government," he said. "If anything, the meeting could ease tensions between the two parties, and this is good enough."

The Syria talks follow a meeting on Friday between Abbas and Canadian Foreign Minister Peter Mackay, in which Abbas reiterated his opposition to drawing temporary borders for a Palestinian state.

Also on Saturday, Dahlan chastised Palestinian armed factions who fire rockets at Israel.

In an interview to Palestinian television, Dahlan characterized firing rockets from civilian homes as a "cowardly act, that irresponsibly exposes Palestinian children and property to the occupier's cannons and guns."

Continued (Permanent Link)

A Gentile's View of Today's Germany

A Gentile's View of Today's Germany
William E. Grim is a writer who lives in Germany and is a native of Columbus, Ohio.

I'm not Jewish. Nobody in my family died in the Holocaust. For me, anti-Semitism has always been one of those phenomena that doesn't really register on my radar, like tribal genocide in Rwanda, a horrible thing that happens to someone else.

But I live in a small town outside of Munich on a street that until May of 1945 was named Adolf Hitler Strasse. I work in Munich, a pleasant metropolitan city of a little over a million inhabitants, whose Bavarian charm tends to obscure the fact that this city was the birthplace and capital of the Nazi movement.

Every day when I go to work I pass by the sites of apartments Hitler lived in, extant buildings in which decisions were made to murder millions of innocent people, and plazas in which book burnings took place, SS troops paraded and people were executed.  The proximity to evil has a way of concentrating one's attention, of putting a physical reality to the textbook narratives of the horrors perpetrated by the Germans.

Then the little things start to happen that over a period of time add up to something very sinister. I'm on a bus and a high school boy passes around Grandpa's red leather-bound copy of Mein Kampf to his friends who respond by saying "coooool!". He then takes out a VCR tape (produced in Switzerland) of "The Great Speeches of Joseph Goebbels".

A few weeks later I'm at a business meeting with four young highly educated Germans who are polite, charming and soft-spoken to say the least. When the subject matter changes to a business deal with a man in New York named Rubinstein, heir nostrils flare, their demeanors attain a threatening mien and one of them actually says, and I'm quoting verbatim here: "The problem with America is that the Jews have all the money." They start laughing and another one says, "Yeah, all the Jews care about is money."

I found that this type of anti-Semitic reference in my professional dealings with Germans soon became a leitmotif (to borrow a term made famous by Richard Wagner, another notorious German anti-Semite).
In my private meetings with Germans it often happens that they will loosen up after a while and reveal personal opinions and political leanings that were thought to have ceased to exist in a Berlin bunker on April 30, 1945.

Maybe it's because I have blond hair and my last name is of German origin that the Germans feel that I am, or could potentially be, "one of them", It shows how much they understand what it means to be an American. Whatever the reason, the conversations generally have one or more of these components:

(1) It was unfortunate that America and Germany fought each other in World War II because the real enemy was Russia.

(2) Yes, the Nazis were excessive, but terrible things happen during wars, and anyway, the scope of the Holocaust has been greatly exaggerated by the American media, which is dominated by Jews.

(3) CNN is controlled by American Jews and is anti-Palestinian. (Yes, I know it sounds incredible, but even among the most highly intelligent Germans, even those with a near-native fluency in English, there is the widespread belief that the news network founded by Fidel Castro's best friend Ted Turner, who until recently was married to Hanoi Jane Fonda, is a hotbed of pro-Israeli propaganda).

(4) Almost all Germans were opposed to the Third Reich and nobody in Germany knew anything about the murder of the Jews, but the Jews themselves were really responsible for the Holocaust.

(5) Ariel Sharon is worse than Hitler and the Israelis are Nazis.

(6) America supports Israel only because Jews control the American government and media.

For the first time in my life, then, I became conscious of anti-Semitism.
Sure, anti-Semitism exists elsewhere in the world, but nowhere have the consequences been as devastating as in Germany. Looking at it as objectively as possible, 2002 has been a banner year for anti-Semitism in Germany.
Synagogues have been firebombed, Jewish cemeteries desecrated, the No. 1 best-selling novel, Martin Walser's Death of a Critic, is a thinly-veiled roman a clef containing a vicious anti-Semitic attack on Germany's best-known literary critic, Marcel Reich-Ranicki (who is a survivor of both the Warsaw ghetto and Auschwitz); the Free Democrat Party has unofficially adopted anti-Semitism as a campaign tactic to attract Germany's sizeable Muslim minority; and German revisionist historians now are beginning to define German perpetration of World War II and the Holocaust not as crimes against humanity, but as early battles (with regrettable but understandable excesses) in the Cold War against communism.

The situation is so bad that German Jews are advised not to wear anything in public that would identify them as Jewish because their safety cannot be guaranteed. How can this be? Isn't this the "New Germany" that's gone 57 years without a Holocaust or even a pogrom, where truth, justice and the German way prevail amidst economic wealth, a high standard of living that is the envy of their European neighbors, and a constitution guaranteeing freedom for everyone regardless of race, creed or national origin?

What's changed? The answer is: absolutely nothing. My thesis is quite simple. While Germany no longer has the military power to enforce the racist ideology of the Nazis and while all extreme manifestations of Nazism are officially outlawed, the internal conditions - that is, the attitudes, worldview and cultural assumptions - that led to the rise of Nazism in Germany are still present because they constitute the basic components of German identity. Nazism was not an aberration; it was the distillation of the German psyche into its essential elements. External Nazism may have been utterly defeated in May of 1945; internal Nazism, however, remains, and will always remain, a potential threat as long as there exists a political and/or cultural entity known as Germany.

Now hold on a second, I hear many people saying. You can't possibly claim that Germans are as anti-Semitic today as they were during the years 1933-1945. It is true that Germany today is much different than during the Third Reich. What is different is that due to its total defeat by the allies, Germany today is a client state of America and must do its bidding.

That means repression of overt anti-Semitism. It's bad for business. The other thing that has changed is that, even though Hitler lost World War II, he was phenomenally successful in carrying out his ideological agenda.

Germany, indeed virtually all of Europe, is essentially Judenfrei (free of Jews) today due to the efficiency and zeal of the Germans as they perpetrated the Holocaust during the Third Reich. In fact, a very convincing case can be made that Nazism is one of the most successful political programs of all time. It accomplished more of its goals in a shorter amount of time than any other comparable political movement and permanently changed the face and political structure of several continents.

Germany is wealthy, stable, relentlessly bourgeois, and for all intents and purposes, free of Jews. Yes, there is a tiny minority of Jews, mostly centered in Berlin, and yes, there have been a number of Jews from the former Soviet Union who have emigrated to Germany, but most of the immigrants from Russia are not practicing Jews and do little if anything to promote a unique Jewish-German identity. The result of all this is that Germans today are able to reap the benefits of Hitler's anti-Semitic policies while paying lip service to the "need to remember." Young Fritz doesn't have to be overtly anti-Semitic today because his grandfather's generation did such a bang-up job of the Holocaust. There just aren't that many Jews left to hate any more, and besides, the Germans have their old buddies, the Arabs, to do their hating for them. You might call the overwhelming German support for the Palestinians to be a form of anti-Semitism-by-proxy.  The German government has made cash payments to the State of Israel, as well as to individual Jews, to settle claims of murder, torture, false imprisonment, slave labor and genocide. Talk to most Germans and you'll soon discover that they think that the score has been settled between Germany and the Jews, that somehow the return of just a portion of what the Germans stole from the Jews is fair recompense for the deliberate murder of millions of people.
If you think the Germans are truly sorry for what they did to the Jews, think again. There's never been an official "tut mir leid" offered by the Germans to the victims of the Holocaust and their descendants because that would admit culpability.

Germany has paid off all claims against it without acknowledging responsibility, in the same way that the Ford Motor Company engages in recalls of automobiles. It's all done to avoid liability.

I have previously mentioned that Germans overwhelmingly support the Palestinians as opposed to the Israelis, and that this overwhelming support represents a form of anti-Semitism-by-proxy. Germans may claim to be supporting the Palestinians because they think they are an "oppressed people," but let's be honest - they are supporting the Palestinians and their Arab handlers because the Palestinians and Arabs share the same ideals as the Nazis. There's a long-standing history of German co-operation
with the Arabs. In 1942 Hitler personally assured the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem that as soon as German forces conquered Great Britain, the Jews in Palestine (which was then under control of the British Mandate) would be exterminated.

We should also keep in mind that the Arab terrorists who perpetrated the 9/11 atrocities did their planning in Germany. There are several reasons for this. The first is the well-known bungling and de-centralized chaos of the German federal bureaucracy where literally the "linke" hand doesn't know what the "rechte" hand is doing. The second is that Arab terrorists can count on a substantial number of Germans who share their anti-American and anti-Semitic views. The former members of the SS and Hitler's praetorian guards, along with their neo-Nazi supporters, who gather weekly in Munich beer halls, made Osama bin Laden an "honorary Aryan" after the 9/11 attack. Mein Kampf is also a best seller in the Arab world, especially in Saudi Arabia, America's putative "friend."  Indeed, there is very little difference between the anti-Semitic rantings of Hitler and those of the so-called "spiritual leaders" of al-Qaeda, Hamas, and Fatah.

The Arabs also owe Hitler and the Germans big time.  Hitler killed off the Jews, and Konrad Adenauer and his "democratic" descendants replaced them with the Turks. Yes, the Turks aren't Arabs, but they are Muslim, and although Turkey is a member of NATO and has relations with Israel, many Turks identify and support their radical Arab co-religionists. Turkey remains as fragile a democracy as Weimar Germany during the 1920s. It wouldn't take much for Turkey to fall into the dark side of Muslim extremism. The end result of Muslim immigration into Germany has been twofold :
(1) It allows the Germans to feign liberalism and being open to freedom and diversity; and
(2) By replacing the Jews they murdered with Muslims, who for the most part are as viciously anti-Semitic as were the Nazis, the Germans have cynically assured that those few Jews who remain in Germany will be unable to reassert political power even in a minority role.
A final point I would like to make concerning the reasons for the a resurgence of anti-Semitism in Germany is one that many will find at odds with the prima-facie evidence, or even appear to stretch the boundaries of common sense. Yet, I ask you to consider carefully my line of reasoning. In many respects Germany got away with the Holocaust without paying much of a price.
Yes, many Germans died as a result of German perpetration of World War II and the Holocaust, and yes, there was much physical destruction in the country, but the situation is like the little boy who steals a cookie from the tray when it is cooling on the kitchen table. For his efforts he may have gotten his hand slapped by his mother, but the stolen cookie remains eaten nonetheless.

After having committed the worst crimes in the history of mankind, the Germans were allowed to regain their sovereignty after only ten years; their infrastructure was completely rebuilt thanks to the generosity of the American people; and relatively few Germans were brought to trial for their monstrous crimes. Even those who were tried and convicted received relatively short sentences or had those reduced or commuted in general amnesties.

For example, some members of the Einsatzkommandos, those Germans who, before the construction of the death camps, hunted and murdered Jews by the hundreds of thousands, received sentences of as little as five years imprisonment. If there were true justice in the world, Germany would no longer exist as a separate country, but would have long ago had its territory divided up and dispersed among the Allies. It was an unfortunate historical coincidence that the Cold War began just as Germany was at last being brought to task for its many crimes and atrocities extending back to the First World War. The new threat of the Soviet Union took precedence over a just settling of accounts with Germany.
The tragic result is that many of the countries raped and despoiled by Germany, such as the Czech Republic and Poland, are just now coming out of decades of economic decline, while Germany - fat, sassy, arrogant, self-satisfied, and essentially Judenfrei -has enjoyed four decades of undeserved economic prosperity. We can't turn back the clock to redress all of the historical wrongs that have been committed by the Germans, but there are a number of things that can be done to assure that Germany can never again be in a position to threaten the rest of the civilized world.

First and foremost is the realization that, while not all Germans are anti-Semitic, there is an anti-Semitic tendency within German culture that extends back to the time of Martin Luther. Germans are instinctively anti-Semitic in the same way that Americans are instinctively freedom loving. Anti-Semitism has been and unfortunately remains the default ideology of the German people. All things being equal, Germans will instinctively support the enemies of the State of Israel. Therefore, America will need to monitor closely and be ready and politically willing to intervene at a moment's notice in German affairs when it appears that Germany is back-sliding into anti-Semitism. Additionally, it should be a goal of American foreign policy to oppose and to accelerate the dismemberment of the European Union. We must not allow German domination of the EU to accomplish through parliamentary maneuvering and brokered deals what Hitler and the Germans were unable to accomplish during the Third Reich.

Given Germany's resurgent anti-Semitism (and that of France as well), a strong, German-dominated EU that tolerates and even benignly encourages anti-Semitism, and is diplomatically allied with the Arab world, is potentially the greatest threat to Judaism since Nazi Germany and a major threat to the United States as well. The enemies of Israel are the enemies of the United States. Let all Jews and Americans stand united as we proclaim never again to both the Holocaust and 9/11.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Friday, January 19, 2007

US chain pulls 'anti-war' keffiyehs

US chain pulls 'anti-war' keffiyehs

Urban Outfitters, a popular American clothing store, on Thursday halted sales of a range of keffiyehs, the traditional Arab headdress, which it had been marketing this month as fashionable "anti-war woven scarves."

The firm's CEO, Dick Heyne, e-mailed a pro-Israel activist who had complained about the items earlier this week to stress that the company had not intended "to imply any sympathy for or support of terrorists or terrorism" in selling the keffiyehs and was pulling them.

The scarves, also sold on-line, were priced at $20 in several different color combinations as part of Urban Outfitters' Spring Fashion women's accessories range. "Due to the sensitive nature of this item, we will no longer offer it for sale," a notice on the Web site stated. "We apologize if we offended anyone, this was by no means our intention."

A manager at an Urban Outfitters on 6th Avenue in New York City close to the West Village, who wished to remain anonymous, said the item had been the "number one selling scarf."

The keffiyeh has bounced in and out of American and European fashion trends since roughly the 80s, when women draped them from their necks. But in the last few years the headdress, mostly associated by Americans with the Palestinians and especially the late Yasser Arafat, has reached a height of popularity. An article in the Los Angeles Times titled "'Terrorist Chic' and Beyond," published in April, 2006, featured the keffiyeh as the ultimate in fashionable military gear seen as chic in hip circles across America and Europe.

Many young Americans and Europeans, especially on college campuses, wear the headdress around their necks as a symbol of solidarity with the Palestinians. Increasingly, too, it has become a symbol of resistance in general, invariably featuring at anti-war rallies. It is also widely worn in many cities.

"I just found it amusing that the keffiyeh as a fashion item has become so ubiquitous that it is being sold at a store known for producing the trendiest items," said Daniel 'Mobius' Sieradski, a contributor to Jewschool, a popular Jewish blog. "It's amusing because on one level the Palestinian cause has become very popular, but as it gains popularity it gets watered down."

Jews and Muslims alike had been quick to respond to the Urban Outfitters "anti-war scarves" through their respective blogs with skepticism, anger and amusement.

Earlier this week, Sieradski posted an entry on Jewschool entitled "Strangely familiar 'Anti-War Scarves' now at URBN near you!" where he mocks the selling of keffiyehs as a fashion accessory: "Well, the keffiyeh just got 10 times more passe and 10 times more trivialized, thanks to Urban Outfitters (proprietors of the once famed money grubbing Jew T-shirts) who are now selling a variety of different colored keffiyehs as - get this - anti-war scarves."

(The T-shirt reference was to the company's sale last year of shirts, playing into the Jewish American Princess stereotype, that read "Everyone Loves a Jewish Girl" and featured sketches of shopping bags and dollar signs. At the time, the Anti-Defamation League protested and the designs were changed.)

Last week, Kabobfest, an online forum for Arab-Americans, posted this entry about the UO keffiyehs: "With a great deal of discomfort and a tad bit of pissed-off-ness, I regret to (re)inform the KABOB-o-sphere that Palestine has officially become a trend…That's right folks, for a mere $20.00 (or 75.0127 Saudi Riyal) you too can jump on the socially stupid hipster-doofus bandwagon by rocking your very own "Anti-War Woven Scarf!" (available only at Urban Outfitters… or..err..uh… the Middle East)."

Another blogger, who writes under the name Moi, pointed to another item inspired by the keffiyeh labeled "Damsel Batik Fine Rib Henley" being sold for $28.00 that closely resembles the pattern of the Arab headdress.

Complaints from at least one Jewish organization may have played a part in Urban Outfitters' decision to pull the scarves from their stores.

On Monday, Stand With Us, a pro-Israel advocacy organization, sent letters of complaint to members of the board of directors of Urban Outfitters as well as to company stockholders, with photos of Hamas wearing the keffiyeh and performing a Nazi salute.

"It seems odd that something that has been so publicized as a scarf used by terrorists would be picked up as an anti-war scarf," said Allyson Rowen Taylor, associate director of Stand With Us, who told The Jerusalem Post she spoke on behalf of herself, not the organization. "I don't think it's an innocent choice. It's either pure ignorance or someone in the buying department with a political agenda against Israel and Jews."

Urban Outfitters' CEO Hayne responded to Taylor with an e-mail that said: "I had not seen the scarf to which you refer but be assured that no one in our organization intended to imply any sympathy for or support of terrorists or terrorism. I have been told that the item in question is being removed from sale. Thank you for bringing this to my attention."

Continued (Permanent Link)

UK poll reveals striking ignorance of Holocaust

UK poll reveals striking ignorance of Holocaust,7340,L-3354479,00.html
More than a quarter of young Britons do not know if the Holocaust happened, according to a poll on Friday, sparking alarm among Jewish leaders
Reuters Published:  01.19.07, 21:00
More than a quarter of young Britons do not know if the Holocaust happened, according to a poll on Friday that sparked alarm among Jewish leaders determined the world should not forget the Nazi genocide.

"This poll reinforces the necessity to observe the motto -- Never Again", said Winston Pickett, spokesman for the umbrella group, the Board of Deputies of British Jews.

The poll, conducted by The Jewish Chronicle to mark Holocaust Memorial Day, showed that 28 percent of 18 to 29-year-olds in Britain do not know if the Holocaust happened.
But teachers were given some comfort by the poll -- just one percent of those surveyed by YouGov pollsters thought the Holocaust was a myth.

By a majority of four-to-one they favoured Britain's decision to mark Holocaust Memorial Day every year on January 27, the day in 1945 when the advancing Russian army reached the Auschwitz concentration camp.

But only 16 percent of those polled felt that denying the Holocaust should be made a criminal offence in Britain.
 They won backing from 85-year-old Auschwitz survivor Freddie Knoller who said: "We are in a country that has freedom of speech and I wouldn't like that to change."
 But he did say that the figure demonstrating widespread ignorance of the Holocaust among young adults was "frightening. I lecture to schools, mostly to children over 16, but this makes me think I should concentrate on that group."

The Holocaust Educational Trust, which gives lessons in schools across Britain to inform the young about the Nazi genocide, said the survey gave cause for concern.
 "It re-motivates, focuses and invigorates us at the trust to recognise our work is not done," executive director Karen Pollock told Reuters.
 "Since the Holocaust, we have seen what happened in Kosovo, Rwanda, Cambodia and now Darfur," she said. "People have to apply the lessons of the past."

British Muslim leaders have in the past said they are unwilling to attend the annual commemorations, arguing that Holocaust Memorial Day should honour victims of genocide everywhere.

"We have misgivings about the name," said Inayat Bunglawala, spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain.
 "Our concern is that the day should be inclusive, as mass killing of any people, as happened in Rwanda and Bosnia, is unacceptable," he told Reuters.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Campus Coalition Split Over Progressive Union

As members of a coalition of pro-Israel organizations debate whether to oust a dovish Zionist student group accused of bringing Israel-bashers to American campuses, at least one national Jewish organization has already pulled out of the coalition in protest of the dovish group's activities.

The American Jewish Congress recently tendered its resignation from the Israel on Campus Coalition, a 31-member alliance of Jewish organizations working to "foster support for Israel on the college campus." The resignation comes amid complaints lodged with the campus coalition over the activities of the Union of Progressive Zionists, a 60-campus student network sponsored by several Labor Zionist organizations.

The Union of Progressive Zionists was criticized last month by the Zionist Organization of America, another member of the coalition, for sponsoring campus appearances by Israeli ex-soldiers who speak out against alleged Israeli military abuses in the Palestinian territories. The soldiers are part of an Israeli organization called Breaking the Silence.

The ZOA originally called for the progressive union to be expelled from the campus coalition, but later backtracked and demanded that the progressive group sever any ties with Breaking the Silence.

The progressive group has rejected the demand and is planning future activities in cooperation with Breaking the Silence. On January 12, a delegation of 33 students affiliated with the union toured Hebron with members of Breaking the Silence. "No matter what happens from the ICC end, we will not compromise our programming," said Tammy Shapiro, the union's executive director.

The ZOA, AJCongress and several other coalition members charge that visits from disaffected Israeli ex-soldiers damage the country's image, in direct contravention of the coalition's mission to bolster campus perceptions of the Jewish state.

"We should not sponsor groups that add to this vilification or bring young men and women, who are disgruntled with the IDF for whatever reasons, to speak on behalf of the ICC," wrote Gary Ratner, West Coast regional director of AJCongress, in his group's resignation letter.

The AJCongress decision to leave the coalition highlights the deep divisions among pro-Israel groups over how best to advocate for the Jewish state. Coalition members espouse a common goal of promoting support for and identification with Israel on campuses, which in recent years have emerged as hotbeds of anti-Israel sentiment. However, groups are sharply divided over whether to air public criticism of Israeli practices and policies. Some contend that it is in the best interests of the Jewish state to scrutinize its military actions toward the Palestinians in order to show Israel's openness and robust democracy. Critics of that approach say that doing so only plays into the hands of those who seek Israel's destruction.

A small flurry of letters both in support of and against the union have been sent to the coalition's membership and to its executive director, David A. Harris. Letters drafted by the groups Stand With Us and the Jewish National Fund echoed the ZOA's criticisms of the progressive group's actions, but stopped short of calling for the union's ouster.

The World Zionist Organization, by contrast, wrote in support of the progressives. "It is important to engage as many students as possible within the Jewish community. Provided the programs come from a love of Israel, we feel that programs like these must have a place within the ICC," wrote Ofer Gutman, executive director of the University Student Division, the North American arm of the Jerusalem-based WZO's campus affairs department, and Elon Shore, mid-Atlantic regional director.

In addition, letters in support of the progressive union came from individual chapters of the union and from former Birthright Israel participants. A group of some 100 Israeli academics wrote to the ICC to support the work of Breaking the Silence.

Critics claimed that Breaking the Silence has advocated indictment of Israeli officers for war crimes in international courts. Shapiro, the union's director, said the soldiers' group had never taken such a position.

The organizations that sponsor the Union of Progressive Zionists, including Ameinu (the former Labor Zionist Alliance), Meretz USA, Habonim-Dror Labor Zionist Youth and Hashomer Hatzair, did not write letters in support of the union, arguing, in the words of Ameinu president Kenneth Bob, that direct contact with the ICC was the job of their campus arm, the UPZ.

"Kicking the UPZ out of the ICC would be tantamount to excluding the Labor Zionist voice that founded the state of Israel," Bob said.

Harris of the campus coalition said that the ZOA was the only organization in the coalition that has demanded the union's removal. "There is no precedent for it," he said.

A conference call of coalition members was held in early January, and was largely sympathetic to the progressive union, according to a participant who asked not to be identified. A second conference call is scheduled for January 19.

Harris said that there has been a "very full public discourse" on the matter. He said a decision would be made by the coalition and its steering committee.

Continued (Permanent Link)

2 Qassams fired at western Negev

2 Qassams fired at western Negev
Shmulik Hadad YNET Published: 01.19.07, 11:20,7340,L-3354360,00.html

Two Qassam rockets were launched from the northern Gaza Strip Friday morning
towards the western Negev.

The rockets landed in open fields and did not cause any injuries or damages.

Continued (Permanent Link)

GAZA: Gunman attacks water tanks being distributed by Caritas

GAZA: Gunman attacks water tanks being distributed by Caritas
Date: 19 / 01 / 2007  Time:  12:14
[Ma'an is an independent Palestinian News Service]
Gaza - Ma'an - The union of private Palestinian organisations has strongly condemned the aggression carried out against the Caritas institution by an armed person in the Al-Farahin area of south-eastern Khan Younis in the south of the Gaza Strip this week.

According to a union statement, an armed person shot at water tanks which Caritas staff were distributing in the Al-Farahin area of 'Abasan in Khan Younis. Many of the tanks were damaged.

The union warned that further aggressive acts on local and international health and social organizations are likely in light of the current security lawlessness and the proliferation of arms in the Strip. The union appealed for greater protection for such institutions.

The union also urged the Palestinian Authority to take serious action to
halt the security lawlessness and enforce the law. The union also called on
the PA to persecute the aggressors and bring them to justice.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Spain proposes adding Arab participation to Mideast Quartet

Spain proposes adding Arab participation to Mideast Quartet
Friday January 12, 04:28 PM
MADRID (AFP) - Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos has proposed Arab participation in the Middle East "Quartet" comprising the United Nations, the United States, the European Union and Russia, in order to advance the peace process.
"The moment has come to open up (the Quartet) to the Arab world," Moratinos told an international meeting in Madrid to mark 15 years since the Madrid Conference which preceded the 1993 Oslo Accords.
Moratinos and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana both expressed the hope that concrete progress could be made in the coming six months to unblock the stalled peace process as Spain lobbies hard to host a new full-blown conference.
Solana said he saw the current situation as resembling a "train of peace negociations (which) has never left the station."
"It is impossible to continue" in the current vein, Solana added, as he and Moratinos noted, along with meeting chairman and former Spanish prime minister Felipe Gonzalez, that the situation has worsened with the additional regional flashpoint of Iraq.
On Thursday, UN chief Ban Ki-moon had annonced that a planned meeting of the Quartet due to take place in Paris later this month had been postponed because of a "scheduling conflict."
Instead, he expressed the hope that the forum could convene "as soon as possible."
And US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice said just before leaving for a Middle East tour that her discussions would concentrate on Iran and Iraq rather than the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Since 2003, the Quartet has been backing a "roadmap" for peace which calls for the creation of an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, but the plan has been stalled.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Road collapses in Gaza City revealing tunnel- in case of attack by Israel or for domestic targets?

Road collapses in Gaza City revealing tunnel - in case of attack by Israel
or for domestic targets?
Date: 19 / 01 / 2007  Time:  12:44
[Ma'an is an independent Palestinian news agency]
Gaza - Ma'an - A tunnel, located below one of the main streets in Gaza City, collapsed on Thursday as some heavy cars passed over it.

The Fatah movement is saying that this tunnel, located under a junction on Salah Addin Street, was intended for targeting Fatah leaders.

In a statement sent to Ma'an, the Fatah movement said, "After the tunnel collapsed, there were a number of armed men from the Hamas movement present who prevented the journalists from taking photos. [They] made the photographer of Palestine TV hand over the tape which he had filmed under the threat of arms".

Fatah added, "These tunnels are being dug and prepared on the main roads and in residential areas not for the purpose of resistance but for other objectives such as targetting leaders and officials from the Fatah

Fatah warned all parties, including the government, to bear responsibility for such actions.

Meanwhile, Hamas and their armed wing, the Al Qassam Brigades, said that these tunnels are part of their military plans to confront any possible Israeli aggression in the Gaza Strip and warning against reveal their plans.

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Syria Supports Palestinian Struggle and Integrity , Barghuti Says

Syria Supports Palestinian Struggle and Integrity , Barghuti Says
Thursday, January 18, 2007 - 06:50 PM
[Sana is the official Syrian News Agency]
DAMASCUS, (SANA)-Secretary of the Palestinian National
Initiative Mustafa Barghouti underlined on Thursday the Syrian government
and people are supporting the integrity and struggle of the Palestinian
people to achieve the national aims.

In a statement to reporters following his meeting with Vice President Farouq
al-Shara, Dr. Barghuti said that the meeting dealt with means of enhancing
the joint cooperation between the Syrian-Palestinian peoples and

He added that the meetings he is holding with different leaders of
Palestinian factions during his current visit are aiming at continuing
efforts to unify the Palestinian stances.

Dr. Barghuti clarified that one of the main matters he has discussed today
is the necessity of exerting joint efforts to call for holding international
conference as to establish comprehensive peace in the region and closing the
door completely in front of all partial and transitional solutions including
rejection idea of the Palestinian state with temporary borders refused by
the Palestinian people with all its components.

Regarding his meeting with Hamas , The Palestinian official said " our
brothers in Hamas briefed us on all efforts excreted to accomplish the
national unity government in addition to discussion of the importance of
action on all tracks including activation of the Palestinian Liberation
Organization and rebuilding it on democratic bases as to contain all
Palestinian forces where the Palestinian people will have a national unity

He expressed hope that all efforts will lead to true successes as to avoid
dangers of the inter Palestinian fighting in addition to achieve the
Palestinian national unity as soon as possible, asserting that the
Palestinians are in need to unity of vision and strategy.

Earlier, Vice President al-Shara discussed situation on the Palestinian
arena and excreted efforts to realize the Palestinian national concordance
in addition to forming the national unity government as to achieve boosting
the Palestinian rank unity against the current challenges.

Thawra- Sawsan

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Michael Oren answers questions about the 6-Day War - and other things

Rosner's Guest
Shmuel Rosner, Chief U.S. Correspondent

A senior fellow at the Shalem Center, a Jerusalem research and educational institute, Michael Oren has a new book coming out: Power, Faith and Fantasy: America in the Middle East 1776 to the Present. American policy in the Middle East will be the focus of our discussion this week.

Oren is the well known author of the best-selling Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East (Oxford, 2002), which won the Los Angeles Times Book Award. His writing has appeared in publications including the New York Times, the Washington Post, the New Republic, Commentary, and the Wall Street Journal (more bio here).

As usual, readers can send questions to

Dear Prof. Oren,

Can you please tell us who's to blame - historically - for the
deterioration in American-Iranian relations, and how, in your
opinion, it can be reversed?

Thank you.

Mori Dar

There is much talk today about America's culpability in ousting Iran's nationalist president Mohammed Mossadegh in 1953, but many people forget that America also played an instrumental role in assuring Iran's independence in 1947.

At the height of the cold war, Soviet tanks were rumbling toward Tehran when President Harry Truman summoned the newly created UN Security Council and pressed for a full Soviet withdrawal. The maneuver worked and Iran gained its independence. However, with the restoration of the Shah's autocratic rule in 1953, and with America's unqualified support for his regime, Iranian goodwill toward the U.S. gradually diminished.

American military and diplomatic assistance to the Pahlavi monarchy reached a height in the 1970s under the aegis of U.S.Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who viewed Iran as a bulwark against Soviet expansion in the region. Jimmy Carter continued this tradition;indeed he spent New Year's Eve in 1977 in Tehran toasting to the Shah's continued reign. Carter's failure two years later to respond robustly tothe takeover at the American embassy in Tehran provided the inchoate regime of the Ayatollah Khomeini with immense success and prestige.

America's backing of Saddam Hussein in the Iran-Iraq War further alienated Tehran from Washington. President Reagan's clandestine attempts to placate the Iranians by selling them Israeli-supplied arms
affected no major change in Iranian attitudes toward the United States and triggered a major domestic crisis for the Reagan administration.

By the late 1980s, American destroyers were firing at Iranian naval craft and oil facilities in the Persian Gulf, and actually downed an Iranian airliner. The defeat of Saddam Hussein by George Bush Sr. in the first Gulf War in 1991 might have opened the door to rapprochement between the United States and Iran but instead the mullahs persist in their unremitting hostility toward America--an animosity that continues undiminished until today.

It is difficult to perceive any opportunity for improved Iranian-U.S.relations today when Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is denying the first Holocaust and assiduously trying to acquire nuclear weaponscapable of affecting a second one, while Iran is striving to underminepro-Western governments throughout the Middle East, arming anti-American insurgents in Iraq, and sponsoring global terror.

Though the recently published Iraq Study Group Report has called on the Bush Administration to initiate a dialogue with Ahmadinejad, it is difficult to imagine how such a dialogue could be conducted. The minimal opening price of the Iranian demand is a free hand to nuclearize and to overthrow the democratically elected government of Lebanon. It seems that substantive restoration of U.S.-Iranian relations can only come about after a change of regime in Tehran.

Dear Prof. Oren,

I am a big fan of your work. Last semester I took a class on American Foreign Policy and in that course we read a book by A.F.K Organski called The $36 Billion Bargain: Strategy and Politics in US Assistance to Israel. The basic premise is that all-throughout the Cold War Israel was the perfect client state for US in its global war against the Soviet Union and the spread of communism. US saw that Israel fought wars, defeated its many enemies fairly easily (although with many losses), and most of all, it stood together with US in preventing the Soviet Union from attaining a stronger sphere of influence in the Middle East.

So US invested in Israel by giving it $36 billion, which was not nearly the same amount that the US spent in its bloody anti-communism campaigns in the Korean War and Vietnam (not to mention the deaths of American soldiers). But after the fall of the Soviet Union, for the past 17 years, was Israel still such a big ally for the US? If yes, then how and for what purpose did the US continue to give billions more when Israel evacuated the settlements only recently, in 2005. But more specifically, today, in the so-called "war on terror" and with the hopeful cause to bring democracy to Iraq and the Palestinian Territories (and the Middle East) isn't Israel a liability in the grander scheme of the American Foreign Policy?

Shimshon Ayzenberg,
New York

There is an historic coincidence that at precisely the juncture when the Soviet bloc fell, a new and more potentially devastating force arose in the Middle East in the form of Islamic extremism. And just as Israel had been at the forefront of the fight against Soviet expansion in the Middle East, Israel is on the front line in the struggle to defend the West as well as moderate Arab elements from takeover by Islamists.

For the United States, Israel remains the ultimate strategic bargain. For the cost of a "mere" $3.2 billion a year, less than the cost of one major warship, the United States receives facilities in which thousands of American soldiers train in anti-terror tactics every year, storage areas in which vital munitions and medical equipment are stockpiled, cooperation on developing military technology vital for America's defense. One can also say that Israel "runs interference" for the United States in the war on terror. If Israel did not exist, the terrorists would be aiming their guns first and foremost at the American people.

This is not to say that support for Israel doesn't cost the United States substantively in terms of its relationships with the Arab and Muslim world--but those costs must be weighed against the immense strategic benefits that America derives from its alliance with Israel, to say nothing of the strong spiritual and ideological ties that bind the two nations. Finally, one must ask whether Arab and Muslim rage against the United States would be in any way diminished if Israel never existed, or if America abandoned its allies to placate Islamist terror.

How influential were American Jews in the process of shaping American policy in the region?

American Jews have been active in the Middle East since the early nineteenth century, when the State Department began appointing leading members of the community to diplomatic posts in the region. The practice was based on the quaint notion that Jews - even those born in Germany - formed a natural link between Christian America and the Muslim Middle East. Among the outstanding American Jews who served as representatives in the Middle East were the journalist and proto-Zionist Mordecai Noah and the jurists Simon Wolf, Oscar Straus, and Solomon Hirsch. So entrenched was the tradition that in 1912, when Woodrow Wilson named Henry Morgenthau as America's ambassador in Istanbul, Morgenthau complained that the post had become a Jewish sinecure. "Would prominent Methodists or Baptists be told there is a 'position' reserved for them, go find one of your faith to fill it?" he protested.

The tradition ended in the 1920s as the appointments once reserved for Jews were claimed by the descendants of missionaries, many of whom were raised in the Middle East and knew its languages and customs. Jews were largely barred from America's Middle East embassies until the 1970s when another German-born Jew, Henry Kissinger, took over the helm of U.S. diplomacy in the region. Henceforth, the career path was opened to Dennis Ross, Dan Kurtzer, and Martin Indyk.

Today, there are rising allegations of disproportionate Jewish influence on the making of America's Middle East policies, most of it leveled by Israel detractors such as Stephen Walt, John Mearsheimer, and Jimmy Carter. Their preferred target is the American Israel Public Affairs Committee - AIPAC - which works to maintain a robust alliance between the United States and the Jewish state. Though it was founded in 1953, AIPAC only became a political force in 1975, during President Ford's "reassessment" of America's support for Israel. AIPAC compelled the White House to abandon that policy and later succeeded in promoting legislation increasing aid to Israel and imposing sanctions on terror-sponsoring regimes. But AIPAC also lost several showdowns with various administrations, beginning with Ronald Reagan's insistence on selling sophisticated AIWACS intelligence planes to Saudi Arabia. Jewish organizations have been unable to persuade even the most pro-Israel presidents to permit the transfer of jointly developed U.S.-Israel military technology to China or to move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Though critics of America's alliance with Israel have accused pro-Zionist neoconservatives such as Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Pearl of serving Israeli interests by pressing for U.S. military intervention in Iraq, the fact remains that America's chief policy-makers are not Jewish and neither are their primary constituents. American Jewish influence on Bush's decisions in the Middle East is dwarfed by that exerted by Evangelical Christians in the United States, to say nothing of that wielded by the oil lobby.

Dear Michael

Is writing about the early endeavors of America in the Middle East, to which a large part of your new book is dedicated, relevant to current policy makers?

Or we can phrase the question this way: What can George W. Bush learn from the problems James Madison was dealing with in 19th century Algeria?



At the outset, let me say that, though I have lived in Israel for most of my adult life, I remain an American citizen and spend several months each year teaching and lecturing in the United States. So I have no problem including myself in the category of "we Americans," and stating that, like a great many Americans, I believed that the country's involvement in the Middle East began with the discovery of Arab oil, with the Cold War, or with the advent of the Arab-Israeli conflict. That is, until I was in graduate school and for the first time heard about a group of Civil War veterans who, in the late 1860s, went to Egypt to help modernize the army and ended up building a school system for teaching literacy and American ideals to Egyptian youth. Suddenly I realized that America's experience in the Middle East was much longer and richer than I'd assumed. I also saw that Americans, who were being asked to make fateful decisions in the Middle East that would deeply impact their future - if not the future of the world - lacked an historical context for determining their policies. That is why I set out to write the first comprehensive history of America in the Middle East and to establish a thematic framework for understanding that engagement - Power, Faith, and Fantasy.

What, then, can George Bush - or any other American leader - learn from America's past encounters with the Middle East? As you indicated, Shmuel, the newly-independent United States faced its first strategic threat from the Middle East at the end of the eighteenth-century in the form of pirate attacks from the so-called Barbary States of Morocco, Tunis, Algiers, and Tripoli (today's Libya). Espousing a jihadist theology, these rogue states were attacking American ships and taking dozens of prisoners. The Founding Fathers faced a large-scale hostage crisis in the Middle East and yet, lacking a navy, they had no means of responding to it. They had to decide, firstly, whether to emulate the long-standing European practice of bribing the pirates and, if not, whether to build the warships necessary to combat them. Thomas Jefferson and James Madison were among those who believed that paying off the pirates would only induce them to intensify their attacks and that Americans, by nature, bristled at the thought of extortion. The debate raged for many years, while the numbers of American hostages multiplied, until 1794, when Congress finally allocated the funds for creating a navy "adequate for the protection of the commerce of the United States against Algerian corsairs." In three major campaigns - in 1801, 1805, and 1815 - the Navy took on the Barbary threat and achieved freedom for American navigation.

A mortal Middle Eastern threat had compelled the United States to create power and to project it abroad - certainly there is a lesson for contemporary American leaders. In addition, any attempt to conciliate terrorists and their state sponsors will only yield more terror. But Jefferson and Madison also understood that power, alone, would not safeguard American interests in the Middle East. When, in 1805, a force of U.S. Marines marched to "the shores of Tripoli" and prepared to conquer the pirate capital, Jefferson resisted the urge for vengeance and cut a diplomatic deal. Here, too, is precedent worthy of learning. America's ability to alter the Middle East by military force is limited and that prudence and diplomacy are often required.

In this long history of American involvement in the region, what do you think is the one or two most important decisions made by American presidents - the decisions that had the most long-lasting impact on policy?

That's the kind of question that every historian loves, Shmuel - thank you.

The first monumental decision was made by Woodrow Wilson during World War I. The United States entered the war in April 1917, opening hostilities against Germany and Austria-Hungary. The question then arose whether America would also make war against the third major member of the Central Powers, Ottoman Turkey.

The pattern in the war had been for the combatants to fight their enemies as well as their enemy's allies. That's how a minor scrapple between Russia and Serbia snowballed into the Great War. So it seemed natural that the United States would also declare war on Turkey. Solid majorities in both houses of Congress staunchly supported the move. Only by entering the conflict in the Middle East, they insisted, could America participate in the region's post-war settlement. "We ought to declare war on Turkey without an hour's delay," proclaimed the still-popular former president Theodore Roosevelt. "It will be a lasting disgrace to our nation if we persist in this failure."

But Wilson was subject to lobbying from another, no less influential, group: Protestant missionaries and their backers. They had been active in the Middle East for nearly a century, building hospitals and schools. Were the United States to go to war in the area, they argued, the Turks would destroy all of these good works and massacre the missionaries much as they did the Armenians. "'A declaration of war' would be fatal to our interests," wrote Cleveland Dodge, the missionaries' principal philanthropist, in an impassioned letter to the president.

Wilson sided with the missionaries. The grandson, son, and nephew of Presbyterian ministers, a lifelong friend of Cleveland Dodge, the president was intimately associated with the missionaries and openly enamored of their success. He could not bear to see those accomplishments destroyed. And so the United States never went to war against Turkey and the ramifications of that decision were immense.

By the time of the armistice, in November 1918, Great Britain had nearly a million troops deployed between Cairo and Istanbul. French forces also occupied strategic positions in the area. The United States, by contrast, had not a single soldier stationed anywhere in the Middle East. The results of that vacuum soon became apparent at Paris, where the Allies gathered to draw the map of the new Middle East. Though his ideas for the region's future differed substantively from that of Britain and France, lacking military leverage, Wilson was powerless to prevent the British and the French from dividing the Middle East between them. Among their creations were Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, and the Palestine Mandate - later to morph into Israel.

Many historians would probably list Harry Truman's recognition of Israel in May 1948 as one of America's most fateful decisions in the Middle East. A more seismic event, I think, was Dwight D. Eisenhower's decision to support Egyptian President Gamal Abdul Nasser in the 1956 Suez Crisis. Though Nasser had plotted against Arab moderates and had violated international agreements by nationalizing the Suez Canal, Eisenhower sided with the Soviet Union - this while Soviet tanks were crushing freedom-fighters in Hungary - in rescuing Nasser from certain defeat at the hands of Britain, France, and Israel. A vastly strengthened Nasser once again turned his Soviet arms against Arab moderates and ultimately aimed them at Israel. But imagine if Eisenhower had just stepped back and let Nasser fall. There might not have been wars in 1967 or 1973, no occupied territories, no intifadas or Hamas. Minus Nasser, the Middle East might today look radically different.

It is well known that for many years now American policy makers thought that solving the Israeli-Arab conflict is crucial for stabilizing the Middle East. Do you think this conclusion is rational and reasonable - or is it just wishful thinking?

There is no doubt that solving the Arab-Israeli conflict would assist the search for Middle East stability, but that is a long way from saying that peace between Israelis and Arabs - or even Israelis and Palestinians - will pacify the Middle East. I do not subscribe to the linkage theory, as recently espoused by the Iraq Study Group, which holds that the road to peace in Baghdad, Damascus, and Tehran runs through Jerusalem. That assumption has certainly proved faulty in the past. Though former secretary of state James Baker and ex-congressman Lee Hamilton, the co-chairs of the group, might not have known it, the linkage idea was first formulated in the early 1950s, shortly after Israel's creation.

Back then America's enemy in the Middle East was not Islamist terror but Soviet communism. State Department officials were convinced that the Palestine dispute, as it was still called, would alienate the Arabs from the West and drive them into the Soviet camp. Oil supplies would be discontinued and Western economies would crumble. To avert that disaster, the United States joined with Britain in promoting several secret initiatives - code-named Alpha and Gamma - to pressure Israel into relinquishing swaths of Negev territory to Egypt in return for a promise of non-belligerency (not peace). The powers were more than willing to levy sanctions on Israel to compel it to comply once the Egyptians accepted the plan. They never did. Nasser ridiculed the program and eventually evicted the presidential emissary sent to mediate it. Peace was not realized, but neither were the State Department's apocalyptic forecasts. The Arab world did not become an exclusive Soviet sphere and oil continued to flow westward.

Today, more than fifty years later, it is difficult to see how an Arab-Israeli treaty will make the West more palatable to Islamists who abhor the West's secular, egalitarian culture, or how it would help reconcile Sunnis and Shiites, Alawites and the Druze, the Turks and the Kurds. This is not to say that attaining peace between Israel and even part of the Arab world should not be a perennial American objective. But Americans should not be deluded into believing that peace in Israel/Palestine will bring tranquility to Lebanon or Iraq or to the many intractable conflicts of the Middle East.

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Who is a Jew?

Who is a Jew?

You probably will want to read all of this article by Vic Rosenthal , and we can all agree with some of it. Vic wrote:

For example, there may not be a single set of facial characteristics common to me and the rest of my family, but in some sense we look alike: a nose here, eyebrows there, etc. A family resemblance may be more or less intense, and the decision to include or exclude a person becomes harder to make as the resemblance weakens.

For example, which of the following photos exemplifies the famous Jewish physiognomy, and which does not?

Doesn't the gentleman at left look like he should be Gabbai of your synagogue? Which of these fine fellows would you cast for the role of American tough guy? Jewish intellectual? Concentration camp victim? I promise a reply to those questions in the future.

Vic wrote:

In other words, if an Ashkenazi Jew has certain 'Jewish' characteristics and a Sephardic Jew has other, different, ones, then the result of mixing them -- both in terms of children and of culture -- will tend to have more of the overall set of 'Jewish' characteristics than we'd get from all Ashkenazim or Sephardim.

Well I don't know about. My aunt is Sephardic, my uncle is Ashkenazi. They live in Tel-Aviv. Their son ought to be much more "Jewish" than they are according to Vic's theory, but he lives in New York and has an African-American girl-friend, goes hitch-hiking in India, and doesn't eat either gefilte fish or couscous when he can help it. And nonetheless he is Jewish of course, and identifies himself as "Jewish."

What is my point?

Identity has two aspects: how others see you, and how you see yourself. It is not a collection of "characteristics." The important part of identity is how you see yourself. It should be the factor in deciding if someone is Jewish, or Greek or anything else.

Ami Isseroff

By Vic Rosenthal

One of the most persistent issues among Jews today, especially non-observant Jews living in the Diaspora, is that of Jewish identity: what is it, do I have it, are we losing it, is that bad?...

So exactly how are the Jewish people a people or a nation? Is it the same sense in which, for example, the Dutch or the French see themselves as a people?

No, it's not the same. The Dutch or French have lived in the same place for hundreds of years. They speak the same language (or dialects thereof). They do share, more or less, a culture. Maybe if modern Israel can survive Ahmadinijad etc. for a few generations there will begin to be this kind of national culture – in Israel. But it still won't explain the Jewishness of those in the far-flung Diaspora.

...human language is a tool for doing practical things in the world, not a formal structure like mathematics. So the way that we make definitions of practical concepts, like Jew, is not necessarily as neat and closed as the way that we define complicated mathematical concepts in terms of simpler ones. Wittgenstein found it explanatory to talk about family resemblances.

For example, there may not be a single set of facial characteristics common to me and the rest of my family, but in some sense we look alike: a nose here, eyebrows there, etc. A family resemblance may be more or less intense, and the decision to include or exclude a person becomes harder to make as the resemblance weakens. But that doesn't mean the idea of the family resemblance is meaningless -- language is meaningful insofar as it is useful, and a degree of uncertainty is part of life. Wittgenstein thought that concepts like 'game', for example, which are notoriously hard to define, are best understood as applying to things having a sort of family resemblance.

So I think it's not unreasonable -- and also quite appealing – to think of the Jewish people as a large family, with family resemblances. Some of the features that we find among Jews are Judaism, certain values (e.g., a respect for learning), certain languages (especially Hebrew, which unites observant and Israeli Jews), certain customs, foods, even a preponderance of certain DNA sequences...

... the overall pool of diverse Jewish characteristics is amplified when the group includes a more diverse mix of Jews. In other words, if an Ashkenazi Jew has certain 'Jewish' characteristics and a Sephardic Jew has other, different, ones, then the result of mixing them — both in terms of children and of culture-- will tend to have more of the overall set of 'Jewish' characteristics than we'd get from all Ashkenazim or Sephardim.

Of course, the place in the world where there is the most diverse mix of Jewish people and cultures is Israel. So in another sense, added to the religious and political ones, we see the importance of Israel to the Jewish people. Perhaps A. B. Yehoshua was not entirely wrong when he said that it's necessary to live in Israel to live a fully Jewish life.

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IDF veteran --- A friend in need

IDF veteran --- A friend in need
Veterans of an Israel paratroop company that fought in Lebanon more than two decades ago received an urgent appeal for help this week.
Their former company clerk, now a suburban working mother, distributed e-mails to the entire unit about the plight of one of their 1980s comrades-in-arms who recently encountered disastrous business reverses.
To keep from losing everything including his home, this ex-fighter needs to come up with lots of money in the next few days.
Soldiers who have learned to trust each other with their lives can make requests like this. He will pay back the loans after he gets back on his feet, the company clerk wrote.
This story has a particular poignancy.
What happened is this. The soldier who is in trouble today did not return to private life after Lebanon. While other members of the company were dispersing into various walks of civilian life, he stayed in the army. He served in an elite covert unit where he laid his life on the line many times.
After 20 years in the army, he took his pension and went into business, supplying doors and windows for buildings. He invested his pension and everything else he had in the business. It prospered.
Not long ago a major customer declared bankruptcy and disappeared. This set in motion a classic sequence. Now he cannot fill orders or buy new merchandise, and the banks are closing in.
Declaring bankruptcy is not an option for him. He intends to stay in his community and raise his children there.
He needs to raise almost $90,000. In response to his plight, some army buddies opened a bank account Thursday to receive funds for him.  More than $4,000 came in the first day.
It is not the first time veterans of this particular unit have responded to such appeals in civilian life. They came to the unit many years ago as teen-aged volunteers, and a spirit of mutual responsibility stays with them much later in life.
This trait may not make news, but it is one of the reasons Israel's combat soldiers are a formidable group to face in battle.
---Joseph M. Hochstein, Tel Aviv


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Rabbis: Naveh deserves to be killed

Jan. 18, 2007 19:08 Updated Jan. 19, 2007 1:40
Rabbis: Naveh deserves to be killed

A group of rabbis have issued a halachic opinion implying that OC Central Command Maj.-Gen. Yair Naveh deserves to be killed.

The rabbis, all connected with a movement to resurrect the Sanhedrin, the ancient Jewish governing body, said in their halachic ruling this week that Naveh was guilty of being a moser, a Hebrew word that can be roughly translated as an informant or traitor. Literally, it means someone who transfers another's property or person to enemy authorities.

The rabbis see the Olmert government as the equivalent of a gentile enemy that "evilly and violently expels and causes mental and physical damage to Jews."

Maimonides ruled in his Mishneh Torah: "It is permitted to kill a Jewish moser anywhere, even today when rabbinic courts are not permitted to decide on capital punishment matters."

Maimonides stipulated that the death penalty is issued even if the person is not currently involved in traitorous activity but is expected to do so again in the future. Naveh's supposed treason consists of signing administrative orders prohibiting approximately 20 right-wing extremists who live in Judea and Samaria from returning to their homes and families for an indefinite period.
The IDF said that the orders, which were issued without a trial, have prevented clashes between settlers and Palestinians.

However, the rabbis said the administrative orders were part of Naveh's plan to "prepare settlements in Judea and Samaria for transfer to the enemy. Abandoning these places to foreigners endangers Jewish lives."

In the halachic decision, which is personally addressed to Naveh, who is Orthodox, the rabbis accuse him of transgressing the prohibition against "passively standing by while your brother is killed."

Rabbi Yisrael Ariel, head of the Temple Institute in Jerusalem and a former IDF rabbi, signed the decision together with Rabbis Reuven Hass, Yehuda Edri and Ido Elbo, and Prof. Hillel Weiss of Bar-Ilan University.

Ariel's brother, Ramat Gan Chief Rabbi Ya'acov Ariel, said he had nothing to do with his brother's actions.

"That decision is not based on halacha," Ya'acov Ariel said. "It was politically motivated."

However, Rabbi Yishai Babad, secretary of the Rabbinic Committee of the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea, Samaria, and the Gaza Strip (Yesha), said that the halachic ruling against Naveh was correct in principle.

"But Yesha rabbis would not issue such a decision for fear some hothead might get the wrong idea and try to take the law into his own hands," Babad said.

Weiss said that he and the rabbis who issued the decision had no intention of advocating murder. "We just hope that Naveh will wake up and stop his criminal activities," he said.

Betar Illit Mayor Yitzhak Pindrus criticized what he called "fringe elements" for issuing the moser ruling.

"The public must denounce those uneducated louts, who cynically manipulate the Torah in a damaging way against a senior IDF officer who has done so much to support Jewish settlements," he said.

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Peretz rescinds OK on Maskiot housing

Peretz rescinds OK on Maskiot housing Staff,
Jan. 19, 2007

Defense Minister Amir Peretz has withdrawn his approval for the construction of 30 housing units for Gush Katif evacuees in the Maskiot settlement in the northern Jordan Valley, Israel Radio reported early Friday morning.

After many months of debate, the Maskiot construction received final settlement had been approved in some 10 years. Work was slated to begin this week.

Dubi Tal, head of the Jordan Valley Regional Council, said that it appeared that the Labor primaries were more important than settling the Jordan Valley.

"We received notification that the plan was frozen," Tal told Israel Radio. "It seems that a promise isn't such a promise." Tal said he intended to appeal to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who authorized the housing units in Maskiot, adding that he hoped that Olmert, unlike Peretz, would stand by his word.

Maskiot, which is located off an isolated road, has been populated on and off since 1982. Currently, it is home to a few permanent residents and a small pre-army academy that houses 50 Orthodox men in fewer than a dozen small white buildings.

The new homes would be constructed adjacent to the existing structures and would more than triple the number of structures on the site.

Both the EU and the US have said that the initiative violates Israel's international commitments with respect to the West Bank.

Tovah Lazaroff and Yaakov Katz contributed to this report.

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Abdullah: Jordan will develop nuclear power

Last update - 03:12 19/01/2007
Abdullah: Jordan will develop nuclear power
By Akiva Eldar, Haaretz Correspondent

Jordan aspires to develop nuclear power for peaceful purposes and believes
that unless all sides move quickly toward a peace settlement in the region,
the recent confrontation in Lebanon is only a hint of disasters to come. In
an exclusive interview with Haaretz on Thursday, King Abdullah II of Jordan
spoke with Akiva Eldar:

"I can say that on behalf of the U.S. president and the secretary of state,
and I've talked to both, that they're very serious and very committed to
moving the peace process forward, because they realize the dynamics of the
region at the moment.

"And this is the opportunity to reach out to the Palestinians and the
Israelis and say, look, this is the golden chance and to an extent, maybe
the last possibility. We had a conflict this summer.

"The frequency of conflict in this region is extremely alarming, and the
perception, I believe, among Arabs, and partly among Israelis, is that in
the summer Israel lost this round... And that creates a very difficult and a
very dangerous precedence for radical thinking in the area. The stakes are
getting higher and higher.

"So this is an opportunity to reach out to each other and make sure that the
crisis of this summer doesn't happen again. If we don't move the peace
process forward, it's only a matter of time until there is a conflict
between Israel and somebody else in the region. And I think it's coming
sooner rather than later.

"We all need to work together, because solving the Israeli-Palestinian
problem, allows us to tackle the other issues around us. All of us are
looking at Iraq with concern, we don't know what's going to happen in
Lebanon, although we hope that they're moving in the right direction...
Whether people like it or not, the linchpin is always the
Israeli-Palestinian problem."

Do you see a clear link between the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the
Iranian nuclear threat and the threat of terrorism?

"Through Hamas, Iran has been able to buy itself a seat on the table in
talking about the Palestinian issue. And, as a result, through Hamas it does
play a role in the issue of the Palestinians, as strange as that should

"If we start moving the process forward, then there's less reason for
engagement on the Palestinian issue.

"But, the rules have changed on the nuclear subject throughout the whole
region. Where I think Jordan was saying, 'we'd like to have a nuclear-free
zone in the area,' after this summer, everybody's going for nuclear

"The Egyptians are looking for a nuclear program. The GCC [Gulf Cooperation
Council] are looking at one, and we are actually looking at nuclear power
for peaceful and energy purposes. We've been discussing it with the West.

"I personally believe that any country that has a nuclear program should
conform to international regulations and should have international
regulatory bodies that check to make sure that any nuclear program moves in
the right direction."

In other words, you're saying that you expect Israel to join the NPT.

"What's expected from us should be a standard across the board. We want to
make sure this is used for energy. What we don't want is an arms race to
come out of this. As we become part of an international body and its
international regulations are accepted by all of us, then we become a united

Would you first deal with the Palestinian track and then move on to the
Syrian-Lebanese track?

"Syria seems to be of tremendous interest in the Israeli public opinion, but
I think that the priority, if you want to get the guarantees that Israel
wants for a stable future, the core issue takes the priority. We have to
launch the Palestinian process and then hope that things will go easier with
the other players.

"You have to start with the Palestinian first and look at the other ones as
a close second. I would hedge my bets on how successful the other tracks
would be if the Palestinian one is not solved. And, we don't know how much
of a smokescreen the other tracks would be and if we don't get the right
nuances for what we need on the ground for the next year, then the future
for us looks extremely dismal, for all of us in the region, if we don't move
the process along.

"What happened this summer is just a taste of a lot of worse things to come
if we don't change the direction of this discord.

"We're all on the same boat. The security and the future of Jordan is
hand-in-hand with the future of the Palestinians and the Israelis. ... So, a
failure for us is a failure for you, and vice versa."

How do you think the Americans should further the process?

"You have the road map, you have Taba, you have the Geneva Accords. So, we
don't have to go back to the drawing board. Most of us know the facts and
the issues extremely well. My only issue about the road map is that
circumstances have changed since the road map was launched, and the sort of
long drawn out phase approach, I don't think works anymore. So, we're
looking at combining phases, I think, to move people as quickly as possible.
The silent majority can be easily intimidated or swayed. And, I promise you,
if tomorrow, [Prime Minister Ehud] Olmert and President [Palestinian
Authority Chairman Mahmoud] Abbas sit down and shake hands and launch a
peace process, there'll be extremists on either side that create violence
and loss of life to try and destabilize the conflict. That is a given. We
have to be stronger than that to be able to move the process forward."

Would you suggest we go back to Yitzhak Rabin's formula: to pursue the peace
process as if there were no terrorism, and to fight terrorism as if there
were no peace process?

"I personally believe that my father's last biggest disappointment and
sadness to him was that he lost a partner for peace. And, he believed that
if PM Rabin hadn't been assassinated, we wouldn't be talking about a peace
process today. In the last years of His Majesty's life, I saw him looking at
the Middle East and realizing that there wasn't somebody with the courage to
be able to take the process forward. It is our responsibility to move it

"His late Majesty, when he started discussions with prime minister Rabin,
they both looked at it the same way, I mean these were two statesmen that
looked at it from an emotional point of view, in that 'who is my partner on
the other side? What are his fears and his insecurities?' If I could put
myself in his shoes then I could understand what to negotiate ... it was a
unique relationship between His Majesty and Rabin. When it came to the
Arab-Israeli Peace Initiative, we tried to do the same thing. An agreed
solution on the issue of refugees.

"Why do we want a two-state solution? We want a two-state solution because
we envisage the future of Israel not just having borders with Jordan, Syria
or Egypt. The future of Israelis, if I was to put myself in your shoes, is
to be welcomed from Morocco on the Atlantic to Oman on the Indian Ocean. I
think that is the prize for the Israelis. But that comes at a price and that
is the future of the Palestinians. So although we're talking politics, I
think that we have a physical problem and we're running out of time, maybe
the wall, maybe the settlements, the lack of hope for the Palestinians will
bring us to a point in time in the near future where a two-state solution is
no longer anything concrete to talk about, then what happens? If we don't
solve the Israeli-Palestinian issue, then we may never be able to solve the
Arab-Israeli issue. Is this what we want to give our children? Do they have
to be brought up like we were brought up ... in conflict or do we want to
give them hope?"

If you were Israel's prime minister, would you settle for a hudna?

"I mean, you talk about the hudna. Tell me what you mean about hudna. If you
and I have a problem and we want to go to the endgame, then we say, let's
hold off with each other so we can have an atmosphere to sit down and talk.
If it's a hudna, you do your thing and I do my thing for x amount of years
and then we'll decide what happens. No, that doesn't solve the problem. In
my vocabulary, a hudna is a truce that allows people to sit around the table
to solve the problem, which I believe is a two-state solution, then I
support that type of hudna. But a hudna to say you mind your business and
I'll mind mine for an indefinite period of time really doesn't get us
anywhere, does it?"

But in our case, Hamas insists on its refusal to recognize even our right to
exists. So, what kind of solution can we talk to Hamas about?

"But, if you've noticed, and I'm not agreeing with either side, but even the
language recently coming from Hamas, even from the Damascus bureau, is quite
interesting. Palestinians are suffering terribly, and I have major concerns.
I hear from Israeli politicians that we don't have a partner for peace. But
the clock is ticking and we're running out of opportunity.

"Palestinians tend to ask, where is the Arab street? Where are the Arab
leaders? We've always been there to support the Palestinians and a two-state
solution, but today, where are the Palestinians for themselves? My concern
is that as we're trying to move the process forward, it may be the
Palestinians that may lose the future of Palestine if they don't get their
act together, if they don't put their differences aside. At the end of the
day, a cohesive Palestinian leadership that can negotiate the future of
Palestine is what's needed today, and if we don't have that in six months or
a year, then there may not be a two-state solution and I fear that the
Palestinians may be the ones to lose."

There are Israeli politicians who say that publicly Jordan supports a
full-fledged Palestinian state, but off-the-record that it is not very
excited about having a Palestinian state right there in the Jordan valley
and would rather have Israel on the other side of its border. What would you
say to them?

"I do not know anybody, any Jordanian, who would say that there is a shred
of common sense to that. The true future of our little area is going to be
Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian, and it has to be separate entities.
There are also Israelis who want to push the problem to Jordan. An
independent Palestinian state allows us a different future of how we move
economically, socially and even politically."

Jordan never gave up playing a constructive role in the holy cities of
Jerusalem. Do you see a Jordanian role in Jerusalem as part of a final
status solution?

"I look at Jerusalem as being a beacon for the three monotheistic religions.
Now, where Jordan plays a role is obviously from a Muslim point of view, we,
as Hashemites, have a historical role in Jerusalem, but also all the
Christian churches are credited to us. So, there is obviously a role for
Jordan in finding a solution to Jerusalem that is acceptable to all of us.
Jordan will be a very positive element in that."

You're in a very special position, because Jordan is caught right in the
middle of two conflicts: Iraq and Palestine. Is the solution for Iraq
sending more troops?

"Iraq is a challenge that is as important to Jordan as it is to Israel, as
it is to Egypt, as it is to any other country - and to the U.S.

"All we can say about Iraq is that the president has listened to the Maliki
government. He's come up with a statement saying, I'm going to benchmark
you, but you need to make some major changes. "

Next month marks eight years since your coronation. You haven't visited us
yet. When are you coming to Israel?

"We're hoping that in the near future, and that could be weeks or maybe in a
month or two, there'll be an opportunity to re-launch our final chance for a
future for all of us in the region. And, if we're successful in doing that,
then this will allow me to come and visit, and to try and bring the parties
closer and closer together. I'm quite willing to explain the Arab proposal
to the Israeli people and to create an internal dialogue about this issue.
The Arabs are coming to say we want peace, and we want formal relations.
And, as a human being, I can't understand how anybody would not want that.

"We look at the neighborhood and we're all concerned. But, the people who
need to be equally concerned are the Israelis and sometimes, they see the
conflict happening in the Middle East and think well, that's not our
problem. But unfortunately, everything that happens in the Middle East is
interlinked. And so, this is a challenge we all face."


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Palestinians and Israel: Top down peace process for a new political horizon

Palestinians and Israel: Top down peace process for a new political horizon


One day, we all know, there must be peace between Israel and the Palestinians, but the process seems to be mired in eternal deadlock and misery. Is there a way forward?

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzippi Livni and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice spoke of a "Political Horizon" for the Palestinians. Indeed both sides need a political horizon. All versions of the peace process have brought much talk of peace and many sound bites and photo ops, but no peace.

Israel makes empty promises and the Palestinians, including the moderate ones, make threats, not all empty. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert promised to make life better for the Palestinians at his last meeting with Palestinian President Abbas, but nothing much happened. The checkpoints are still there, for the most part, the housing units in the settlements are getting built, and the prisoners are still in jail. The safe passage, promised a long time ago in a previous meeting, never materialized.

President Abbas issued moderate declarations of peace and good intentions to Prime Minister Olmert and to Condoleezza Rice, but at almost the same time, he was telling Palestinians to use their guns against Israel. Gilad Shalit is still a hostage in Gaza and Qassam rockets keep falling on Sderot.
We know from opinion surveys that somewhere, hidden in the hearts of the majority of the Israelis and Palestinians there is a will to make peace, but the politicians and the political reality do not allow it come to fruition.

The blocks to realizing the dream are:

"Facts on the ground" - The glum reality is characterized by terror, incitement and repression.
- Palestinians do not believe Israeli promises of a better life, Israelis do not believe Palestinian promises to abandon violence and keep the peace. Indeed, the Hamas insist they will never recognize the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state.

Extremists - Extremists who exploit the reality and the mistrust in order to generate support for more terror, incitement and repression and block constructive solutions.

Diametrically Opposed National Goals - Israelis and Palestinians want the same bit of land, and extremists keep pushing for mutually exclusive maximalist solutions. Goals such as more settlements and Right of Return are adopted by mainstream politicians and used to agitate against a peaceful solution that recognizes the rights of both sides.

Ineffective Peace Movements - On the Israeli side, peace movements either do nothing or advance unpopular demands of the Palestinians. They can't get a real hearing because they ignore the very real concern of Israelis, and because they are marginalized by the political leadership. On the Palestinian side, there are no movements founded with the express goals of making peace. A listing in a recent book about Palestinian "peace movements" and "civil society" included the Hamas and the International Solidarity Movement, neither of which advocate peace with Israel or are likely to bring peace.

The result is an impasse. Tzippi Livni and Condoleezza Rice chose to ignore all of the above, and to skip ahead to a happy conclusion for their press conference. It may solve their current political problems, but we know from past experience that it won't make any difference in reality. Rice and Livni proposed a "provisional" Palestinian state with "temporary" borders, but the Palestinians aren't having any of that. The Hamas would want the "temporary" borders to be along the Green line, and their state would be preparing to take over the rest of Israel. The Israeli government would want the "provisional" state to encompass the land on the other side of the security fence, and assumes that in the Middle East, nothing is more permanent than a "temporary" solution. 

Continued here

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Thursday, January 18, 2007

Peace Now holds protest despite ban

Peace Now holds protest despite ban

Some 150 Peace Now activists held a demonstration just outside of Hebron on Thursday to protest the harassment of a Palestinian woman by one of her Jewish neighbors.

Last week, a B'tselem video showing Hebron resident Yifat Alkobi pushing the woman from the Abu Isha family and calling her a sharmuta (slut) was released to the media. Alkobi, who claimed that the woman had provoked her, was summoned for questioning by police.

The left-wing protesters tried to enter the West Bank town, despite an IDF order issued earlier in the day against holding the demonstration inside Hebron because of the public security threat it posed. Police who were deployed at the scene stopped the protesters on the outskirts of the city.

Israel Radio reported earlier that the Hebron army commander and the city's police chief had originally permitted the Peace Now demonstration, but OC Central Command Maj.-Gen. Yair Naveh had decided to cancel it, saying in a statement that it was a danger to public security, peace and order in Hebron.

He nonetheless gave permission for the organization to hold a protest at the Okafim Junction north of the city.

At the demonstration, Peace Now Director-General Yariv Oppenheimer called the police "cowards" and accused them of failing to enforce the law against the settlers.

Oppenheimer had earlier called the IDF's decision to cancel the event "outrageous" and declared that the army was caving in to threats from the settlers.

He also pointed out that the IDF frequently allowed Jewish residents to hold public rallies in the city under full police supervision, and insisted on going ahead with the protest.

Speakers at the demonstration included Meretz Chairman Yossi Beilin, who strongly criticized the settlers for their behavior.

Meanwhile, a group of right-wing activists organized a counter-protest at the same spot. A scuffle broke out between the two groups after one side hurled epithets at the other, and police who were at the scene intervened to break up the fight.

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'Syria serious about peace talks'

'Syria serious about peace talks'

Syria is serious about resuming peace talks with Israel, and during the summer's Lebanon war even proposed holding a secret emergency meeting with Israeli officials in Europe, a retired Israeli diplomat said Thursday.

Israel's leaders quickly distanced themselves from unofficial talks the Israeli, former Foreign Ministry director general Alon Liel, held with a Syrian. Liel, going public for the first time Thursday, said he briefed government officials every step of the way.

He said he believed his counterpart, Syrian-American businessman Ibrahim Suleiman, also had channels to the Syrian government.

"Our testimony is that it is very clear to us that Assad wants to talk," said Liel, referring to Syrian President Bashar Assad.

On Tuesday when the talks were leaked in a newspaper report, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert dismissed the talks. "I knew of nothing. No one in the government was involved in this matter. It was a private initiative on the part of an individual who spoke with himself," Olmert told reporters. "From what I read, his interlocutor was an eccentric from the United States, someone not serious or dignified."

Syrian officials said Tuesday that reports of an agreement were "baseless."

In June, the participants wrote a two-page "non-paper" to sum up their talks, Liel said. The centerpiece was a proposal to turn part of the Golan Heights, captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast War and annexed in 1981, into a "peace park." Syria would be the sovereign in all of the Golan, but Israelis could visit the park freely, without visas.

The Israeli side proposed a Golan pullout over 15 years, the Syrians over five.
Previous peace talks collapsed in 2000 because of a dispute over where the Israeli-Syrian border should run. Syria said any peace deal would have to restore Syrian sovereignty over all the territory captured in 1967, while Israel feared a complete withdrawal could endanger its security and access to water sources, noting that the international border does not reach the shore of the Sea of Galilee.

Liel and Suleiman were brought together by Geoffrey Aronson, head of the Foundation for Middle East Peace in Washington. Eight meetings were held, Liel said, including several reportedly under the auspices of the Swiss.

Liel would not say who his hosts were, but said he believed they used their own diplomatic contacts to check whether the messages coming out of the talks were reaching the Syrian government.

The last meeting took place in late July, during the Israel-Lebanon war, Liel said. On that day, several Israelis were killed by rockets fired by the Lebanese Hezbollah militia, which Israel says is backed and funded by Syria and Iran.

"It was a very difficult day, and the Syrian party suggested that since it's a war and an emergency situation, let's have a very quick track one meeting, high-level meeting, on the level of deputy ministers ... with an American in the room," Liel told a conference at the Netanya Academic College.

Liel said he told Israeli government officials of the offer, and pleaded with them to accept. "And the answer was `no, no we don't want to meet them'," he said.
He said he believes the Israeli government is reluctant to resume peace talks with Syria because the idea of giving up the Golan is unpopular in Israel and because it would counter Washington's policy of trying to isolate Syria.

Liel said he made it very clear at the beginning of each meeting that he did not represent the Israeli government, but that he routinely updated Israeli officials, as well as the Turkish government, after each round. The Turkish government had initially been approached by the participants as a possible sponsor, but turned them down.
Aronson said the time is ripe for a resumption of peace talks, though he acknowledged that Syria could just be feigning interest in resuming talks to get into Washington's good graces. "There is a reasonable basis to assume that well-intentioned official representatives have something to talk about when they sit down," he said.


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Radicals vs. moderates: British Muslims at crossroads

Radicals vs. moderates: British Muslims at crossroads

January 18, 2007

DUBLIN, Ireland (CNN) -- At a recent debate over the battle for Islamic ideals in England, a British-born Muslim stood before the crowd and said Prophet Mohammed's message to nonbelievers is: "I come to slaughter all of you."

"We are the Muslims," said Omar Brooks, an extremist also known as Abu Izzadeen. "We drink the blood of the enemy, and we can face them anywhere. That is Islam and that is jihad."

Anjem Choudary, the public face of Islamist extremism in Britain, added that Muslims have no choice but to take the fight to the West.

"What are Muslims supposed to do when they are being killed in the streetsin Afghanistan and Baghdad and Palestine? Do they not have the same rights to defend themselves? In war, people die. People don't make love; they kill each other," he said.
But in the same debate, held on the prestigious grounds of Dublin's Trinity College in October, many people in the crowd objected.

"These people, ladies and gentleman, have a good look at them. They actually believe if you kill women and children, you will go to heaven," said one young Muslim who waved his finger at the radicals.

"This is not ideology. It's a mental illness."

'Foreign policy has a lot to do with it'
 This war of words is part of a larger debate going on in Britain -- the war within the Muslim community for the hearts and minds of young people. The battle of ideas came to the fore again this week when the trial began for six men who are accused of an "extremist Muslim plot" to target London on July 21, 2005.

The Woolwich Crown Court was told the men plotted to carry out a series of "murderous suicide bombings" on London's public transport system, just 14 days after the carnage of the July 7 London bombings, which killed 52 commuters and four bombers.

While Islamic extremists are believed to be a tiny minority of Britain's 1.6 million Muslims, they have no problem having their criticism heard. They have disdain for democracy -- and, most of all, the Bush  dministration's war on terror policies.

A poll taken in June 2006 for the Times of London newspaper suggested that 13 percent of British Muslims believe the July 7 London bombers were martyrs.

"Foreign policy has a lot to do with it," said Hanif Qadir, a youth worker
and a moderate voice for Islam in Walthamstow, one of London's biggest
Muslim neighborhoods. "But it's the minority radical groups that use that to
get to our young people."

In August, British police descended on Walthamstow, saying they had foiled a
conspiracy to blow up a dozen U.S.-bound airliners with liquid explosives.
That set off the biggest security alert since the September 11, 2001,
terrorist attacks. Police arrested 24 people in connection with the alleged
terror plot, although one man was released after it was determined he was an
innocent bystander.

Britain's Scotland Yard and MI5 have also said they are aware of at least 30
terrorist cells and potential plots inside Britain.

'Blowing people up is quite cool'

Young Muslims are easy prey, Qadir told CNN, because they believe the British government crackdown has scapegoated them because of their religious beliefs. The youth also can empathize with those who castigate the Bush administration.

There are some who believe "blowing people up is quite cool," Qadir said.

Qadir asked them why that was justified.

"The answers that I got back is: When a bomb goes off in Baghdad or in Afghanistan and innocent women and children are killed over there, who cares for them? So if a bomb goes off in America or in London, what's wrong with that?" he said.

Qadir is trying to get mosque leaders, many still practicing the tribaltraditions of Pakistan, to communicate with the younger generation. But he says it is an uphill battle when radicals like Choudary dominate the debate, getting their faces -- and their message -- out in the public.

"Our scholars ... are not coming out of their holes -- their mosques and their holes -- to engage with these people. They're frightened of that," Qadir said.

The message of extremism can also thrive among youth who see no way out of ethnic ghettos.

"They're into all kinds of vices -- street crime, gun crime, drugs, car theft, credit card fraud. But then now you've got another threat," Qadir said.

"The new threat is radicalism. It's a cause. Every young man wants a cause."

Activist calls for Islamic law

Choudary, whose group Al-Mahajiroun disbanded before the British government could outlaw it under its anti-terror laws, spoke to CNN and made clear he wants to see Islamic law for Britain.

"All of the world belongs to Allah, and we will live according to the Sharia wherever we are," said Choudary, a lawyer. "This is a fundamental belief of the Muslims." (Watch a call for Islamic law )

Asked if he believes in democracy, he said, "No, I don't at all."

"One day, the Sharia will be implemented in Britain. It's a matter of time."

Choudary cited the videotaped "will" of one of the London subway bombers, Mohammed Sidique Khan, who said, "Until you stop the bombing, gassing, imprisonment and torture of my people, we will not stop this fight."

Choudary said he sides strongly with that statement -- "we have everything we need in those wills" -- and he cited passages from the Muslim holy book,the Quran, that he says justify jihad.

"I happen to be in an ideological and political war," Choudary said. "My brothers in al Qaeda and other Mujahedeen are involved in a military campaign."

While Choudary and other radicals continue to try to spread their beliefs, others say there is no justification for jihad in England. Imam Usama Hasan memorized the Quran by the time he was 11 and at 19, he briefly fought in Afghanistan against the Soviets.

"If you have the wrong intention, you can justify your criminal actions from any text -- whether it's the Quran or Bible or Shakespeare," Hasan said.

He said it makes him "furious" when radicals quote the Quran out of context to justify killing of innocents. It's a "very tiny" minority with such beliefs, he said, but "it only takes a handful, of course, to create devastation."

"Many people are terrified of Muslims. They are terrified of a brother walking down the road with his eastern dress and his hat and his beard, because they have seen these images associated with suicide bombers," he said.

"It is up to us to dispel that fear -- to smile at people to tell them that... the message of Islam is not about bits of cloth. It is not about the beard or head scarf or the face veil or violence. It is about peace."

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Reuters toughens rules after altered photo affair * 'Shooting under fire' promotional material

Reuters toughens rules after altered photo affair

[MEW editor's note: This post comprises two items. The first announces the appointment of a new Reuters chief photographer for the Middle East. It does not identify the previous holder of that job. The second item is promotional material for a documentary film about Reuters photographers covering the Israel-Palestinian conflict. -- J.M.H]

LONDON (Reuters) - Reuters named a new chief photographer for the Middle East on Thursday and said it had tightened its editing procedures after the publication last year of two photographs that had been digitally altered.
The measures were among several steps announced by David Schlesinger, editor-in-chief of the global news and information agency, following an internal investigation that he said had resulted in disciplinary action.
The two photos, both of Israeli military action in Lebanon during the war there last August, were taken by a freelance photographer, Adnan Hajj.
Reuters ended its relationship with Hajj following an initial inquiry soon after bloggers questioned whether the photographs had been digitally altered using Photoshop software. All Hajj's images were removed from the Reuters Pictures sales database.
"Experienced photo editors and other senior editorial staff went through thousands of images published during the Lebanon conflict," Schlesinger said in a note posted on the Editors Blog of
"We are satisfied no other images were digitally altered."
He added: "We are fully satisfied that it was unfortunate human error that led to the inadvertent publication of two rogue photographs. There was absolutely no intention on Reuters part to mislead the public."
Schlesinger said Reuters had not been satisfied with the degree of oversight in place that had allowed the two images to slip through.
The agency had tightened editing procedures to ensure that only senior photo editors dealt with sensitive images, invested in more training and supervision and strengthened its code of conduct for photographers, Schlesinger said.
He named Stephen Crisp, a Briton who has worked for Reuters in a variety of senior positions since 1985, as the new chief photographer for the Middle East and said he had taken up his assignment in Dubai this month.
"His predecessor in the Middle East role was dismissed in the course of the investigation for his handling of the case," Schlesinger wrote.
A company spokeswoman, Eileen Wise, said Reuters would not provide further details, citing staff confidentiality.
Hajj, who is Lebanese, began working for Reuters on a freelance basis in 1993 and had specialized in sports.
His work came into question after the publication on August 5 of a photograph of smoke rising over Beirut after an Israeli air strike.
The image had been digitally altered using the "cloning" tool in Photoshop so that it showed more smoke.
Hajj denied deliberate manipulation of the photograph.
He also denied altering a photograph of an Israeli F-16 fighter over southern Lebanon, which technical analysis concluded had been altered with the cloning tool to increase the number of flares dropped by the plane from one to three.
News photographers commonly use Photoshop to crop digital photographs and correct minor imperfections but its more sophisticated applications, which can radically alter an image, are taboo.
Schlesinger said Reuters was working with leaders in the photography and software industries to see if technical means can be devised to spot possible digital fraud.
The revised code of conduct, appended to Schlesinger's note, sets strict technical limits on use of Photoshop at Reuters and expands on previous guidelines on captioning, particularly of images taken in controlled environments.
"We have shown that when mistakes are made we take responsibility and make changes," Schlesinger said.
"Our enhanced guidelines and procedures are among the best in the industry. And I believe we are firm in our dedication to reporting the world truthfully, objectively and without bias, as we have done for more than 150 years."
(Writing by Paul Holmes in New York)
Context tv, undated
[promotional material for documentary film "Shooting under fire: The inside story of the image makers in Israel"
Reinhard Krause is Reuters' chief photographer in Israel and the Palestinian territories. He chooses which photos the world will see of this Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The film follows three Reuters' photographers - a German, a Palestinian, and an Israeli - as they roam the frontline with their cameras. Set in Jerusalem and Palestine territories, we examine how difficult it is to report the truth in such a politically-charged region.
National Geographic ("Shooting Under Fire", 72min)
WDR ("SchussWechsel", 52 min)
The Story:
Reinhard Krause, the German head of the Reuters Israeli photo bureau is up against a deadline and facing a moral dilemma. He's looking at a photo that shows the head of the female suicide bomber still perfectly in tact lying on the ground, severed cleanly from her body without a blemish on her face and with no blood to be seen. Does he decide to show this to the world or keep it hidden? "Every picture must tell a story" Reinhard says and it's clear what happened with this frame, but is the world ready for this kind of image? He needs to decide within minutes. Welcome to the everyday difficulties of depicting a story that keeps rolling on with new horrors.
This film joins Reinhard during the last few weeks of his 4 year placement in Israel and unveils the people and the pressured process of a news agency producing the photos we see in papers around the world. Reinhard single-handedly revolutionised how photos are taken and reported upon in Israel and is now working with a well-oiled team made up of both Palestinians and Israelis, many of whom still have never met, as freedom of movement is restricted for everyone. Both sides of the war report to the same person.
Reinhard's team reports on atrocities most days and each of them has found different ways to cope with the stress of what they are witnessing. Gil, an Israeli photographer breaks down on camera after covering an emotional funeral saying that sometimes he feels like an animal chasing after the shots. Ahmed, a Palestinian who was nearly killed when on the job knows that it's his duty to show the world what is really going on in Gaza and lives and breathes his job. Nir, a young talented photographer in Tel Aviv has learnt to separate the day job and his leisure time and blocks off what he doesn't want to think about. Abed, a resident in the anarchic West Bank town of Nablus has become a spokesman for local journalists even though he's had to endure 90 days of curfew before. All of them won't change their job for love nor money.
This film gets behind the world's oldest news agency to show how the news is made and reported on, from the first ambulance text of an accident in Jerusalem to the front page of the papers the next morning. Few of us stop to think how our stories and pictures come to us. With unprecedented access Shooting under Fire shows us the full process, highlighting the staggeringly fast digital technology, the difficult morals that await even the toughest of snappers, and the extreme lives that people lead in a land in war.
- Hotdocs, Toronto 2005
- DocHouse, London 2005
- Guelph International Film Festival 2005
- Atlanta Jewish Film Festival, January 2006
- Nobel Peace Center, Oslo, March 2006
- Belfast Film Festival, March 2006
- Docaviv, 2006
- San Francisco International Film Festival 2006,
- Brooklyn International Film Festival 2006,
- Moondance International Film Festival 2006
- Ismaila International Film Festival 2006
- Zanzibar International Film Festival 2006

Continued (Permanent Link)

Palestinians launch on-line resistance

Palestinians launch on-line resistance
by Khaled Abu Toameh
The Jerusalem Post, Jan. 18, 2007
Hamas's armed wing, Izaddin Kassam, launched its first English language Web site on Wednesday. The group, which is responsible for dozens of suicide and rocket attacks against Israel, already has a Web site in Arabic [].
Palestinian Authority officials in Ramallah told The Jerusalem Post that the new site was launched thanks to money raised by Hamas leaders during their recent visits to some Arab and Islamic countries.
"Hamas has collected millions of dollars to improve its information campaign," said one official. "Hamas's official web site, The Palestinian Information Center, recently underwent a major face-lift that cost tens of thousands of dollars."
In addition to Arabic, English, French and Russian, The Palestinian Information Center, which was inaugurated in 1997, also publishes in Melayu, an Austronesian language spoken in Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei and Thailand, and Urdu, an Indo-Aryan language spoken in Pakistan and some parts of India.
The decision to launch an English Web site comes at the peak of the power struggle between Hamas and Fatah, which is also being waged in the media. Fatah has several sites that Hamas has accused of inciting against the Islamic movement and its leaders.
Last week, the Fatah-controlled Palestine Press site [] claimed that PA Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh had cursed Allah during a meeting in Gaza City. In response, a number of Hamas-affiliated sites ran a story claiming that senior Fatah leader Azzam al-Ahmed was the one who had made the blasphemous remark.
And while Fatah's Web sites repeatedly run stories highlighting the "blunders and incompetence" of the Hamas-led government, Hamas's sites have branded some Fatah leaders, particularly Muhammad Dahlan, as an Israeli and American agent.
Izaddin Kassam is not the first Palestinian armed group to publish its own Web site. Fatah's armed wing, the Aksa Martyrs Brigades, also has a Web site, but it is only in Arabic []. In 2004, the Aksa Brigades accused the CIA of closing down its Web site on the Internet under pressure from "Jewish groups."
Other armed groups that already have [Arabic language] sites on the Internet include the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the [Fatah-affiliated] Abu Rish Brigades, the Popular Resistance Committees and Islamic Jihad.
Both the Kassam and Aksa sites publish "military communiques" detailing daily "resistance operations against the Israeli enemy." Each group also has a list of its "martyrs" who were killed during the second intifada, including the Fatah and Hamas suicide bombers.
The current lead story on the Izaddin Kassam site refers to allegations made earlier this week by Fatah officials to the effect that Hamas was planning to assassinate senior Fatah leaders in the Gaza Strip using booby-trapped underground tunnels.
Abu Obaida, a spokesman for the Izaddin Kassam group, is quoted as describing the Fatah allegations as "cheap lies." He claimed that the underground tunnels were dug by Hamas to foil any attempt by the IDF to invade the Gaza Strip.
Earlier this week, Hamas accused Fatah of launching an attack on its Web sites, forcing them of them to close down temporarily. Hamas officials said the attack, which began on January 10, was carried out by "Zionist groups and their local collaborators." In a statement, Hamas condemned the attacks as a "criminal and illegal act of sabotage reflecting a mentality of terrorism."

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'Israel-Palestinian trade could hit $7b'

'Israel-Palestinian trade could hit $7b'
by Tovah Lazaroff
Jerusalem Post, Jan. 18, 2007
From cell phone technology to packaged foods, Israel could generate $12 billion in annual trade with its Arab neighbors, including the Palestinian Authority and, through it, the Arab Free Trade Area, according to the Palestine Trade Center in Ramallah.
While Israel has worked hard to expand its trade options with the United States, Europe and China, it should not forget that one of its most lucrative partners is right next door, argued the center's trade policy adviser, Saad Khatib.
In spite of the hostilities between the two groups, the second largest country to which Israel exported goods in 2005, excluding diamonds, was the Palestinian territories, Khatib told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday. He spoke to the Post following a Jerusalem event hosted by the Peres Center for Peace designed to publicize a report by the Palestine Trade Center on economic relations between Israel and Palestine.
Khatib said that economic relations between Israel and Palestine could be so financially beneficial to both parties that it would be a mistake to cut off economic ties between the two groups. In 2005, overall Israeli exports to the Palestinian Authority, including petroleum and telephone services, were worth $2.5b.
If one considers just the export of goods, excluding diamonds, then the Palestinians in 2005 bought $1.8b. in goods from Israel, said Khatib.
That is the second largest number of Israeli goods sold to another country except for the United States, which imports $7.5b. in Israeli goods, according to Khatib.
That's followed by $1.4 billion in sales of Israeli goods to the United Kingdom and $1.3b. to Germany, he said.
If relations between Israel and the Palestinians were to become "friendly" rather then "hostile," the value of Israeli exports to the Palestinians could grow to $7b. annually within the next five to 10 years, Khatib said.
But that number could be augmented by another $5b. within that same time frame because Israel could export its products duty-free to the Arab Free Trade Area countries with the help of the Palestinians. That would includes duty-free sales of products to Yemen, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Tunis, Morocco, Libya, Egypt, Sudan, Mauritania and Somalia.
Yitzhak Gal, an economic adviser to the Israeli-Jordan Chamber of Commerce, said that Israeli companies were already looking to tap into the Arab Free Trade bloc through their relations with countries such as Jordan and Egypt.
But it would be simpler if these companies could enter the larger Arab market with the help of Palestinian businesses, Gal said. The rules for the Arab Free Trade bloc are not that restrictive, so all that would need to happen is for some part of the production process to occur within the Palestinian territories, and the products could be sold to the larger Arab market, said Gal.
That would be lucrative for Israel because the Gulf countries and Saudi Arabia, which are part of the bloc, were among the fastest growing markets in the world, Gal said. According to the Palestine Trade Center, the total overall merchandise imports to Saudi Arabia and the Arab Gulf countries tripled from 1990 to 2005. They are projected to increase by an additional 100 percent in the next 10 years.
"By 2015, the overall volume of merchandise imports to the Arab Free Trade Area countries is projected to reach well over $500b.," according to the center.
Given that it is cheaper to export goods to the Arab countries than to the United States, that opens small businesses up to larger affordable markets, said Khatib. That's true too for moshavim that want to sell dairy products or other agricultural produce, Khatib said. He added that the Arab countries in turn are particularly interested in Israel's technological products.
In addition, Khatib said, if one calculates the benefits of a joint tourism industry, economic ties between Israel and the Palestinians could generate $17b. annually within the next five to 10 years, Khatib said.•

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Bahrain rejects appeal on ban of marathon runner

Bahrain rejects appeal on ban of marathon runner
Jerusalem Post, Jan. 18, 2007
Kenya-born, Bahraini runner Mushir Salem Jawher returned to Bahrain this week in an attempt to negotiate with authorities who stated they would revoke his citizenship and ban him from competing for two years, after he participated in the Tiberias Marathon in Israel.
However, according to Jawher's agent and coach Dorothee Paulmann, the Bahrain Athletics Association refused to sway from their original position. Instead, they reiterated their refusal to allow Jawher to compete for Bahrain or any other country.
The runner expressed disappointment when he learned this week that the association - while not expelling him from the team - would prohibit him from competing as punishment both for participating in the Israeli race, and for not surrendering his Kenyan passport three years ago, when he received his Bahraini citizenship.
In a phone interview from Germany with The Jerusalem Post, Paulmann expressed her doubt that the association could legally revoke Jawher's citizenship.
"They probably realized that they couldn't revoke his citizenship without getting in trouble with the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF). Now, in order to punish him, he told me that they want to ban him from running for two years." said Paulmann.
"They probably cannot take his citizenship, but they can stop him from representing the country at official events," said Paulmann, who was sure the Bahrainis called Jawher back to set the record straight.
A senior Israeli Foreign Ministry official, meanwhile, said that Israel had not held a discussion about the possibility of granting Jawher Israeli citizenship.
"Citizenship issues are very complicated," the official said. "At this stage we have not discussed the issue."
The official said that in order for Israel to grant citizenship, a request had to be registered, and Jawher had not done so. "We do not impose citizenship on anyone," he said.
Paulmann added that that Jawher's dismissal from the team was particularly unfortunate because he was supposed to represent Bahrain in two world championships and in the Olympic games next year.
"They are trying to punish him, but this may also affect other runners. They hired two more runners who will now see how they [Bahrain] treat their runners."
Paulmann said that Jawher "had a serious injury in 2005 which made them not interested in him until he won a silver medal at the Asian Games. I think they just don't take their athletes seriously. As long as you perform and you do what they want, you are welcome. But when things go in a way they didn't expect, you are just like rubbish." The Bahrain Athletics Association confirmed on Wednesday night that Jawher was in Bahrain but refused to give any more details.
Herb Keinon contributed to this report.

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Ambassador Jones talks to 'Post'

Ambassador Jones talks to 'Post'
by Herb Keinon
Jerusalem Post, Jan. 17, 2007
The current internal Palestinian violence is good for Israel since it "shows the Palestinians that terror is not in their interests, because it will be directed against them," US Ambassador Richard Jones said Tuesday in an exclusive interview with The Jerusalem Post.
Jones, in his first interview with the Israeli press since taking over as ambassador in September 2005, said when asked of Israel's policy of restraint in Gaza that it was succeeding in impressing upon the Palestinians that Hamas is to blame for their current woes.
"You [Israel] have given Gaza a little breathing space," he said. "You are still operating in the West Bank, you are still fighting terror there, because you didn't extend the cease-fire there. If you look vis- -vis Gaza, Israel is no longer doing anything against the Palestinians in Gaza, but still bad things are happening to Palestinians, so that is good for you because it shows the Palestinians that terror is not in their interests because it will be directed against them."
This process, he said, is leading to a decline in Hamas's support, and an increase in support for Fatah. Fatah, he pointed out, accepted the three international principles, "so that is good for your security."
"I often believed that back in the days of the second Intifada, Hamas had a good deal. They could hit you, and you would hit back at Fatah," Jones said.
As a result of this policy, the US ambassador said Hamas was able to build itself up in the eyes of the Palestinian community as the resistance fighters, while Israel was weakening their internal enemy.
"You were making them stronger politically, and you were making them stronger militarily vis-a-vis their rival within the Palestinian community," he said.
Now that Israel was not hitting back, however, Jones said that all of a sudden Hamas was "not getting any legitimacy from your activities, so there seems to be this tension growing with Fatah."
Instead of gaining legitimacy from Israeli responses, Jones said that what Hamas is doing is "killing Palestinians, and they are killing Fatah activists... of course Fatah hits back, but I think this is good to show Hamas for what it is - it is a terror organization, and they exercise terror against Israelis normally, but they also exercise terror against their own society."
The bottom line, he said, was that "reducing the Israeli-Palestinian violence shows the real problem here, which is terror, and I think that is good for you. So I think it [the policy of Israeli restraint] is improving your security in the long-run."
Regarding the recent visit of US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Jones said Rice "picked up" Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni's ideas about a need to provide a "political horizon."
Jones said it was important to give both sides "an idea of what we're talking about, what we are getting into."
Rice is expected back in the region within a month for trilateral discussions with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. Jones stressed that these would not be "negotiations," but rather "discussions" of all the major issues that would have to be dealt with during the final stages of implementing the road map.
According to the plan articulated recently by Livni, negotiations with the Palestinians over statehood would take place even though they have not implemented the first stage of the road map - uprooting the terrorist infrastructure - but that Palestinian statehood would only materialize once the Palestinian obligations under the road map were met.
The logic behind this approach is to give the Palestinians incentive to either vote Hamas out of office or get the organization to change its stripes so that the road map could be implemented and statehood could be achieved.
The full interview with Jones will appear in Friday's Post.


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Inner workings of Yamam tactical hostage rescue team revealed

Inner workings of Yamam tactical hostage rescue team revealed
by Rebecca Anna Stoil
Jerusalem Post, Jan. 17, 2006
After five-and-a-half years, the public now knows that it was Zohar Dvir who served as commander of the Yamam tactical hostage rescue team, the most elite unit of the Israel Police.
During his service, Dvir nabbed bombers minutes before detonation, settled the score with terrorist leaders and even survived near-fatal injuries that almost put an early end to his prestigious career.
Known until now as "Z," Dvir revealed his identity for the first time as he concludes his service, after leading the unit since the early days of the second intifada.
Dvir also made another disclosure, telling journalists that during the second intifada the Yamam managed to kill some 50 terrorists en route to suicide bombings and also killed an additional 129 wanted terrorists.
But it is the number of arrests - rather than kills - that attest to the unit's significance in the Israeli security community. A total of 550 wanted terrorists were captured alive and arrested in the same period by the unit, considered internationally to be the finest anti-terror police force in the world.
Apprehending terrorists wanted for questioning rather than simply killing them is one of the unit's specialties.
Yamam was founded in 1974, following that Ma'alot terror attack in which terrorists infiltrating from Lebanon stormed a school, taking the students hostage. As a tactical and hostage rescue unit, the Yamam was organized for precision missions that require more finesse and a steadier trigger finger than any other existing units.
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld, a nine-year veteran of the Yamam, said the unit "is the most advanced anti-terrorist unit in the country and has prevented hundreds of terrorist attacks on all levels.
The unit is "unique in its capability to be at any time in any place," allowing the Yamam to "continue to save lives every day," he emphasized.
For over two decades, the defense establishment struggled with the question of how to differentiate between Yamam missions and missions for its IDF parallel, the Sayeret Matkal (famous for the headline-grabbing hostage rescue in Entebbe in 1976). But, said Dvir, both units have "grown up" and, since 2002, the two former rivals have begun to cooperate rather than compete. Following the mass-hostage situations in Beslan and the Moscow Stadium, the two units began to hold joint training sessions in which Dvir shared equipment and strategies with his IDF counterpart.
Dvir himself came to the Yamam after a long service of command in elite IDF infantry and special forces units, including the Golani Reconnaissance Unit. He joined the unit in 1999, already holding the rank of IDF lieutenant-colonel (res.) and after a brief two years assumed command of the unit.
It has been a busy period for the Yamam, which tries to maintain a low profile. Dvir told reporters that upon multiple occasions motorists frustrated by unexplained traffic jams in the Sharon never found out that the reasons for the slow-down were Yamam operations nabbing would-be bombers. "We met them on the way. We always give them the chance to surrender, but some choose to take a short cut [to paradise ] anyway."
"The public is aware of only about 10% of what we do," Dvir explained, "and that is good for us. We mostly care that whoever needs to know, knows."
Training is grueling, frequently including urban rappelling, bomb detonation and tactical entry to buildings.
"This is a unit that is on one hand like an American Swat team, and on the other hand is like a military commando unit," Dvir explained.
The unit likes to bring in former officers as team members, he said.
"A company commander who is now the fourth team member from the right still thinks like a company commander, and from our perspective, that is a benefit."
Many of the Yamam's operations focus on getting both terror leaders - and increasingly, their computers - out of the West Bank and Gaza alive and in a condition that allows security services to gain vital intelligence information from their prisoners.
Of his long list of successful operations, Dvir said the one that remains closes to his heart was when his unit tracked down the terrorist who killed filmmaker Revital Ohayon and her two young sons Noam, 4, and Matan, 5, in their Kibbutz Metzer home in 2002. His team had found the young mother dead, hugging her children, but "one year and one month later due to intelligence from the Shin Bet" the Yamam was offered the chance to try to apprehend the terrorist who killed them. The terrorist was killed in the arrest attempt.
"After that, I did something that I never do. I called Avi Ohayon and told him that the circle had been closed," Dvir reminisced.
But despite the daring deeds and Dvir's distinguished combat history, his career was almost terminated in 2005 by a chance encounter with a reckless driver. En route to pay a condolence call to the family of Yamam officer Dror Shushan, who had just been killed in a motorcycle crash, Dvir pulled over to the side of the road to rescue a motorist in an overturned car. After pulling the injured man to safety and instructing another passerby to erect warning signs on the shoulder of the road, a truck disregarded the danger signs and plowed into the car where Dvir was administering first-aid to the crash victim.
Both Dvir and the victim of the initial crash were thrown approximately 25 meters by the force of the truck slamming into them. While the other victim was killed immediately, Dvir was rushed in critical condition to Hillel Yaffe Medical Center suffering from massive head injuries as well as broken legs, a broken pelvis, a broken jaw and broken ribs. His next memory is six days later when he woke up concerned that if he didn't recuperate soon, he would lose command of the Yamam.
Within two-and-a-half months of the crash, Dvir was back in the office, on crutches.


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Former Hizbullah Sec-Gen: Hizbullah is an Integral Part of Iranian Intelligence

Special Dispatch-Lebanon/Iran/Jihad & Terrorism Studies Project
January 19, 2007
No. 1431

Former Hizbullah Sec-Gen: Hizbullah is an Integral Part of Iranian Intelligence; The Abduction of the Israeli Soldiers Was an "Unsuccessful Adventure"

To view this Special Dispatch in HTML, visit: .

In an interview with the Kuwaiti daily Al-Siyassa, former Hizbullah secretary-general Sheikh Subhi Al-Tufeili said that Hizbullah was part of Iranian intelligence, and called the July 12, 2006 abduction of two Israeli soldiers, which sparked the July-August 2006 war with Israel, an "unsuccessful adventure."

The following are excerpts from the interview.(1) 

Hizbullah is an Integral Part of the Iranian Intelligence Apparatus

Question: "You were formerly Hizbullah secretary-general. Is the [situation in Lebanon] within the strategic framework of Hizbullah? Does Hizbullah have an outlined and prepared plan that is being implemented today? Why do you think Hizbullah has become a source of anxiety for the Lebanese? "

Al-Tufeili: "It wasn't like this in the beginning. Hizbullah's activity was limited to resistance [operations]... But, unfortunately, the problem has developed today to the point where they have succeeded in changing Hizbullah from a resistance force into a tool to be used in [whatever] direction they want."

Question: "Does this mean that Hizbullah does not make its own decisions, and that its orders come from outside [Lebanon]?"

Al-Tufeili: "Yes, Hizbullah is a tool, and it is an integral part of the Iranian intelligence apparatus. Unfortunately, all the elements in the [Lebanese] arena have become tools, and take orders from outside [Lebanon]..." 

Abducting the Soldiers Was "An Unsuccessful Adventure"

Question: "Can you see any justification for the July [2006] war after southern Lebanon was liberated in 2000?"

Al-Tufeili: "Following the abduction of the Israeli soldier [Gilad Shalit] in Gaza, and the enemy's response to that operation, [i.e.] the shelling, and the abduction of Palestinian ministers and MPs... I was amazed when Hizbullah announced that it had abducted two Israeli soldiers...

"[Israel is] an enemy we know. It has plundered our land, murdered our people, and slaughtered our children. [Was it reasonable] for us to carry out an operation like this after we have seen the response to it in Gaza and in occupied Palestine? [Was it reasonable for us to carry out such an operation] when we know that Israel attacks us, murders our children, and destroys our country [even] without us giving it excuses to do so...? I think that any sensible person could have assessed the enemy's possible response to the abduction operation... On the one hand, they [Hizbullah] are saying, 'Had we known what the reaction would be, we would not have abducted the soldiers.' On the other hand, they are giving the Israeli enemy a pretext to launch aggression against us...

"When we look at the causes of the war, there is no choice but to [admit] this. If [the war] had gotten worse, it could have led to the loss of the [entire] country... Are we allowed to destroy our country [just] so we can say that we abducted two soldiers - when we all knew what the magnitude of the Israeli response [would be]? What happened was an unsuccessful adventure, and there is no escaping the fact that those who carried it out will bear the responsibility for it..."

Iran Must Stop Using Hizbullah for Its Own Aims in Its Struggle with the West

Al-Tufeili: "[Furthermore], why was... the South [Lebanese] front the only one left burning, and why was Lebanon the only arena of bloodshed? Why weren't all fronts opened?... Why has Hizbullah become a tool [serving] individual interests that have nothing to do with the resistance? In my opinion, the issue is broader than the local [context], and is connected to the regional struggle - but it is being carried out by a local tool [i.e. Hizbullah]...

"After all that has happened, I hope that Iran will change from an element seeking its political interests in the region [into an element acting for the] liberation of Jerusalem - if Iran indeed wants to liberate Jerusalem as it claims. [It must stop] using the resistance [i.e. Hizbullah] for its own aims in its struggle with the West..."

Hizbullah is Leading the Country to Civil War

Al-Tufeili continued: "Until not long ago, the March 8 Group [a term for the Lebanese opposition] was a partner in the government, and participated in parliamentary elections.

"The March 14 [Forces] did not mislead [the Lebanese opposition]... They are openly allied with of the U.S. and France; they say openly 'We do not agree to weapons in Lebanon, except for those of the military.' They are demanding that Hizbullah hand over its arms, but in the framework of [internal Lebanese] dialogue, not by force. [They are also saying] that they want an [international] court [for the Al-Hariri assassination]. All this they said prior to the elections as well as after the elections, before they became ministers and after they became ministers.

"So where is their treason? Whom have they betrayed? Their position is clear; this is their plan, and [Hizbullah] entered into [an alliance] with them [just] for the election campaign... Yesterday, [Hizbullah] had an alliance with them, and gave the March 14 Forces a majority in parliament and in the government, and had no dispute or problems with them. [Hizbullah considered this alliance] to be for the good of the homeland.

"Today, [Hizbullah] is leading the country to civil war, in order to obtain a third [of the government]... If this third is so important, then [Hizbullah] must be punished, because it itself was the one who gave it to the [March 14 Forces in the first place]. If it is not important, then Hizbullah is leading us to civil war, to destruction and to the ruin of the country, for no good reason..."

I Do Not Believe Those Who Say They Are Against Civil War Yet Behave in a Way that Will Lead to Civil War

"I find no [justification] for us having reached such a situation... This is how wars begin. What we are seeing today in Lebanon is the preparation of an emotional, popular, military, media, and security climate [leading] towards a war that might break out at any moment. I don't believe anyone who says he is not interested in [civil] war, [yet] behaves in this manner. This is the behavior of someone who wants war."

"Iran is the Main Nerve in the Activity Today in Lebanon"

Referring to Syria's role in the events in Lebanon, Al-Tufeili said: "Syria is undoubtedly Iran's ally. It has undoubtedly been harmed by the March 14 Forces, and by the establishment of the [international] court. Thus, it is part of this battle; but it is not the most influential factor...

"Iran is the main nerve in the activity today in Lebanon. All Hizbullah activity [is financed] by Iranian funds. Syria has an important role, but Iran is the main and primary support of [the Lebanese opposition]. On the other side, the U.S. is supporting the March 14 Forces."
(1) Al-Siyassa (Kuwait), December 14, 2006.

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Continued (Permanent Link)

President Abbas to meet Khalid Mash'al on Saturday in Syria; mediation efforts have not failed

President Abbas to meet Khalid Mash'al on Saturday in Syria; mediation
efforts have not failed
Date: 18 / 01 / 2007  Time:  13:15

Bethlehem - Ma'an - Dr. Ziyad Abu 'Amro, an independent member of the
Palestinian Legislative Council and a key mediator between President Mahmoud
Abbas and Hamas' political head, Khalid Mash'al, has denied news reports
that the efforts to establish a national unity government have failed.

From Amman en route to Syria, Abu 'Amro assured Ma'an in a phone call that
the mediation efforts will continue, and that progress has been made. He did
however add that some issues still require further discussion in order to
reach an agreement regarding the formation of a national unity government.

Abu 'Amro also confirmed that President Mahmoud Abbas will meet with Khalid
Mash'al during his visit to Syria, starting Saturday. He said that the
president and Mash'al will discuss the remaining unresolved issues regarding
a national unity government.

News agencies had previously reported that the mediation efforts by Ziyad
Abu Amro, and Muhammad Rashid, a former advisor to President Yasser Arafat,
had failed.

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Dahlan: We Know Many Tunnels for Assassinating Fateh Leaders, Waiting for Gov't Reaction

Dahlan: We Know Many Tunnels for Assassinating Fateh Leaders, Waiting for
Gov't Reaction

GAZA, January 18, 2007 (WAFA - PLO news agency) - MP Mohammed Dahlan, Head of Security and Interior Committee in the Legislative Council and Member of Fateh Revolutionary Council, said Thursday " we know many tunnels aimed at assassinating Fateh leaders and we are waiting for the government's reaction towards them."

Dahlan said, in an interview with the BBC, "since Hamas won the election, we told its leader that the only solution is a unity government with a program that gains the Palestinian people's and the PLC's consensus, a program that can deal with the requirements of the international community and the Arab nations."

Dahlan added that the no Palestinian government can ever erase the 40-year long history of the PLO, asserting the "simply, Hamas believes that it democratically won the elections and now it wants to change everything on its own ways and this is unacceptable."

Regarding the unity government its portfolios, Dahlan said we as Fateh do not seek any portfolio and we have reiterated this times and times, adding "what we are seeking is a unity government based on wise principles."

A.D (15.50P) (13.50GMT)

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Palestinian convert to Judaism charged with aiding militants

Palestinian convert to Judaism charged with aiding militants

By Fadi Eyadat, Haaretz Correspondent

The Haifa District Court on Thursday charged a Palestinian-born Israeli with conspiring to aid the enemy during wartime, and with establishing contacts with a foreign agent.

Assaf Ben David (Hussam Sawafta), 39, is suspected of purchasing materials for Islamic Jihad to aid them in making explosives.

Ben David, originally a resident West Bank town of Tubas, converted to Judaism in 1993 and obtained Israeli citizenship. He recently moved to Kiryat Haim, north of Haifa.

According to the charges, the defendant's brother, Salah Sawafta, is an active member of the Islamic Jihad and is wanted by Israeli security forces.

Ben David is accused of maintaining phone contact with his brother between October and December 2006. He also allegedly met with his brother, despite knowing that his brother was wanted by Israeli security forces.

In their meetings, the defendant is said to have agreed to his brother's request to purchase a large amount of nitric acid, which serves as an ingredient in preparing explosives.

The nitric acid was allegedly supposed to be used by the Islamic Jihad in militant activities against Israel.

The indictment states that Ben David tried to evade the security forces' wire tapping by buying his sister several mobile SIM cards, and asking her to serve as a liaison between him and his brother.

According to the indictment, the defendant's brother was killed in an exchange of fire with Israel Defense Forces troops on December 20, before the defendant had a chance to transfer the dangerous material.

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Poll: Should resign: Peretz 70.9% Olmert 50.2% Early elections 58.6%

Poll: Should resign: Peretz 70.9% Olmert 50.2% Early elections 58.6%
Dr. Aaron Lerner     Date: 18 January 2007

Telephone poll of a representative sample of 534 adult Israelis (including Arab Israelis) carried out by Geocartographia for Israel Radio's "Its all Talk" on 17 January 2007

In light of the resignation of COS Dan Halutz, should the Government pick a new COS from among the generals now serving in the army or from among those in the reserves?

Total: Current 44.4% Reserves 19.7% No opinion 35.9%
Voted Kadima: Current 45.3% Reserves 28.5% No opinion 26.2%
Voted Likud: Current 53.5% Reserves 18.4% No opinion 28.1%
Voted Labor: Current 49.7% Reserves 21.0% No opinion 29.4%

Should minister of defense Amir Peretz also resign in the wake of the resignation of COS Dan Halutz?
Total: Yes 70.9% No 26.0% Other 2.1%
Voted Kadima: Yes 81.8% No 16.8% Other 1.4%
Voted Likud: Yes 87.7% No 12.3%
Voted Labor: Yes 73.2% No 23.9% Other 2.9%

Should prime minister Ehud Olmert also resign in the wake of the resignation of COS Dan Halutz?
Total: Yes 50.2% No 42.9% Other 6.9%
Voted Kadima: Yes 31.4% No 56.4% Other 12.2%
Voted Likud: Yes 73.0% No 16.3% Other 10.7%
Voted Labor: Yes 41.0% No 46.8% Other 12.3%

In the wake of the decision to open a criminal investigation against Olmert on the matter of Bank Leumi should prime minister Olmert [temporarily] remove himself from the position of prime minister?
Total: Yes 47.3% No 31.1% Other 21.6%
Voted Kadima: Yes 31.0% No 55.6% Other 13.4%
Voted Likud: Yes 64.9% No 18.5% Other 16.6%
Voted Labor: Yes 59.4% No 34.8% Other 5.8%

If it turns out that Olmert has to leave the position of prime minister, who
among the following should replace him as prime minister?
Livni 21.0% Peres 16.2% Mofaz 5.7% Dichter 4.6% Shitreet 2.8% None of the
above 37.7% Other 12.1%

Voted Kadima:
Livni 42.2% Peres 16.0% Mofaz 2.7% Dichter 2.7% Shitreet 4.0% None of the
above 22.0% Other 10.5%

Voted Likud:
Livni 25.9% Peres 6.5% Mofaz 11.8% Dichter 4.4% Shitreet 6.3% None of the
above 43.3% Other 1.9%

Voted Labor:
Livni 35.5% Peres 26.5% Mofaz 0.0% Dichter 8.7% Shitreet 0.0% None of the
above 20.6% Other 8.7%

In light of the latest developments in the State, should there be early elections soon?
Total: Yes 58.6% No 37.0% Other 4.4%
Voted Kadima: Yes 29.9% No 64.9% Other 5.2%
Voted Likud: Yes 69.7% No 26.3% Other 4.0%
Voted Labor: Yes 41.3% No 58.7%

IMRA - Independent Media Review and Analysis

Continued (Permanent Link)

Analysis: Now for the political battles

Analysis: Now for the political battles
Anshel Pfeffer,

The appointment of a new chief of General Staff is always a reliable political barometer of the power balance within the cabinet.
By law, it is the defense minister who decides on the new IDF commander and presents his candidacy for the government's approval. In practice, intense lobbying among the ministers precedes the decision, which is finally taken by the prime minister and defense minister, with the stronger politician of the two prevailing.
In 1998, then-prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu was forced to accede to defense minister Yitzhak Mordechai's demand that Shaul Mofaz be chosen for the top job. "I just couldn't afford a crisis with Mordechai," the embattled Netanyahu admitted later to aides.
Seven years later it was Mofaz, by this time a defense minister with no political base of his own, who was forced to accept the choice of his benefactor, prime minister Ariel Sharon, for chief of staff - Dan Halutz.
What happens, though, when both prime minister and defense minister are politically weak? The general expectation until Tuesday night was that it would be Amir Peretz's successor who would make the decision. The defense minister is running fourth in the polls ahead of Labor's May 28 leadership primary, and he might not last in office even as long as that.
It's not only Prime Minister Ehud Olmert who would dearly like to replace him as soon as possible; Peretz would be grateful for an easy way out of a job that has proved his political downfall.
One of the ideas being considered by Olmert is holding a cabinet reshuffle next month. Although he wishes his confidant Haim Ramon all the best in his sexual harassment case, if the verdict, expected on January 31, blocks Ramon's way back to the Justice Ministry, Olmert could hand the job, currently held by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, to Interior Minister Roni Bar-On, opening up the possibility of Peretz moving to a new mega-ministry of interior and social affairs.
The defense portfolio would then return to Kadima. Both Olmert and Peretz stand to gain a lot from such a scenario. Peretz would finally have a job commensurate to his experience and abilities, and he would have caused considerable damage to the prospects of his two main rivals for the Labor leadership, Ehud Barak and Ami Ayalon, both campaigning on the basis of their suitability to fill the post of defense minister.
Olmert could then return the defense portfolio to Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz, in the hope of mending their relationship, severely damaged after the prime minister took it away in the first place nine months ago. Olmert would hope to improve his public standing by having an experienced defense minister beside him and, temporarily at least, mollifying a potential Kadima rival.
But for now, Peretz is still in office and though the timetable for appointing the new chief of General Staff is unclear, he and Olmert have made it quite clear that they plan to decide on a candidate very soon, ignoring calls to wait at least until the Winograd Commission investigating the Lebanon war delivers its interim report next month.
Both men realize that a failure to reach a speedy decision would be yet another admission of their political weakness. To add credibility to their choice, they plan to hold consultations with senior politicians, including opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu. However in separate statements, they have made it quite clear that the final word remains theirs.
But can the two leaders, barely on speaking terms, reach a joint decision? And more crucially, what does Halutz's resignation mean for the two survivors of the troika that has been holding out together, in the face of intense public and political criticism, ever since the war ended?
Despite the breakdown in Olmert-Peretz relations and the recurring tensions between Peretz and Halutz, the three men have refrained from attacking one another over their conduct during the war. Now that one side of the triangle has folded under the pressure, does that mean that the other two are about to topple?
Halutz's resignation letter to Olmert was cordial and, other than his deliberate snub of Peretz - he only notified him of his plans two days after handing Olmert the letter - there are no signs that he plans to attack either of them once he's no longer in uniform.
All three have yet to face questioning by the Winograd Commission and there's no telling what they might say behind closed doors. The commission's report might change everything, but in the meantime, Peretz will only leave the defense ministry if it's to his political advantage. Otherwise he'll hang around until the primary forces him out.
And Olmert is not considering quitting. Halutz's departure might give a new and vigorous lease of life to the protest movement calling for their removal, but they are both battle-hardened and they have no plans to surrender. Over the next few days they will overcome their personal differences to appoint Halutz's successor, defiantly showing all their rivals that they're still standing.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Deputy Defense Minister: Peace with Palestinians possible within 2 years

Last update - 11:07 18/01/2007   

Deputy Defense Minister: Peace with Palestinians possible within 2 years
By Haaretz Service and The Associated Press
Israel and the Palestinians can wrap up a final peace deal within two years, Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh said Thursday.
"Two years are enough to conclude a detailed agreement," Sneh told an academic conference.
"We should discuss, maybe for six months, the principles, and move forward about the details of final status agreement," Sneh said. "It (the talks) can be direct, and I am sure, in the government of Israel, there is a majority for doing it."
Defense Minister Amir Peretz presented the Labor Party faction Monday with a new diplomatic initiative that calls for final status negotiations with the Palestinians to begin within six months.
The proposal, which the Labor chairman termed "the new road map," was also signed by Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh.
Last week, Defense Minister Amir Peretz presented the Labor Party faction Monday with a new diplomatic initiative that calls for final status negotiations with the Palestinians to begin within six months.
Sneh also signed the proposal, which the Labor chairman termed "the new road map."
Peretz's plan combines the Saudi peace initiative and the so-called road map for Middle East peace, and includes three stages.
In the first stage, which would last six months, a new security and economic policy would be formulated. This would include the release of captured Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit, the evacuation of unauthorized West Bank settlement outposts, and the stabilization of the cease-fire.
In the second stage, which would also last six months, would be comprised of negotiations on final status principles and the expansion of Palestinian sovereignty.
The third stage would consist of negotiations on the details of the final status agreement, and would last 18 months.
Peretz would negotiate only with Palestinian moderates, like Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, saying his plan would strengthen them by offering "a diplomatic option."

Continued (Permanent Link)

IDF troops kill Fatah militant during operation in West Bank

Last update - 10:22 18/01/2007   
IDF troops kill Fatah militant during operation in West Bank
By Avi Issacharoff, Haaretz Correspondent, and Reuters

Israel Defense Forces troops shot and killed a Palestinian militant in the West Bank city of Nablus on Thursday, local hospital staff said.
Local residents identified the man as Mohanad Ghandour, 32, a militant of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, which is linked to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah faction.
Ghandour was often referred to as Mohanad the Jordanian, because he is a Palestinian citizen of Jordan.
The army said troops had spotted an armed man during an operation in Nablus' Old City and had shot him. It said the man did not fire at its forces.
"Troops spotted an armed man whom they identified as a threat and shot at him," an army spokesman said.
Medical staff said the man died of his wounds before arriving at hospital.
Local residents reported stone-throwing clashes with troops who remained in the area and said three men had been shot and wounded. Hospital staff said one of the men was seriously hurt.
On Tuesday, a 10-year-girl was seriously wounded by Border Police troops in the West Bank village of Anata, northeast of Jerusalem, according to Palestinian sources said on Wednesday.


Continued (Permanent Link)

Mazuz to consider limiting Ehud Olmert's authority

Last update - 11:25 18/01/2007   

Mazuz to consider limiting Ehud Olmert's authority
By Yuval Yoaz and Roni Singer-Heruti, Haaretz Correspondents

Attorney General Menachem Mazuz will consider limiting the authority of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, in accordance with developments in the criminal investigation into the Bank Leumi affair, Mazuz's deputy said Thursday.
Eyal Yanun informed attorney Yossi Fox of Mazuz's intentions, in a response to Fox's request that the attorney general suspend Olmert due to the criminal investigation against him.
State Prosecutor Eran Shendar was recently named "acting attorney general" for three months, which is what enabled him, in place of Attorney General Menachem Mazuz, to make the decision about opening a criminal probe against Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in the Bank Leumi case.
Olmert is suspected of having tried to alter a tender for Leumi's privatization, with the goal of assisting a friend who was bidding. Mazuz decided that it would be improper for him to be involved in the case because his sister, Yemima Mazuz, was involved in the tender, in her role as the Finance Ministry's legal advisor.
By law, however, only the attorney general can approve a criminal investigation of the prime minister. After consulting with colleagues at the Justice Ministry, Mazuz decided to ask acting justice minister Tzipi Livni to appoint Shendar as "acting attorney general," so that Shendar could make the decision instead.
On Tuesday, Shendar decided to give the investigation the go-ahead. Should the probe not be finished in three months, Mazuz might ask Livni - or whoever is then justice minister - to extend Shendar's appointment.
The police's fraud squad appointed four investigators on Wednesday to handle the probe. Police have already conducted preliminary inquiries into the affair, which the Justice Ministry requested to help it decide whether a criminal investigation was warranted; during these inquiries, they took preliminary testimony from Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer and Accountant General Yaron Zelekha. Olmert, who is thus far the only suspect, will not be questioned until the final stages of the investigation.
Over the next few days, the investigators will obtain warrants to search for and confiscate documents; only then will they begin summoning witnesses for questioning. If necessary, they will also depose witnesses overseas.
Australian businessman Frank Lowy, the friend for whom Olmert is suspected of trying to rig the tender, said Wednesday that he welcomed the decision to open an investigation. He vehemently denied that he or any representative of his acted in any way improperly, and said he is certain that the investigation will prove this.
Lowy ultimately withdrew from the tender before it closed, and Cerberus-Gabriel, bought the bank.
The spokesman added that, while Lowy has known Olmert for many years, he never donated to Olmert personally or to any political campaign in which Olmert was involved.
"The Lowy family was approached to join a consortium to tender for an interest in Bank Leumi," the spokesman said. "After considering the investment and conducting some preliminary due diligence, it was decided not to proceed with the consortium or the tender process. The Lowy family did not then or now have any involvement at all with Bank Leumi."


Continued (Permanent Link)

The government in crisis / The super-glue coalition

The government in crisis / The super-glue coalition
By Yossi Verter

Those who found themselves in the Knesset yesterday must have thought it's all over: the battered and bleeding Olmert government is taking its last breaths. The activity in the building was reminiscent of pre-election periods, or at least of times of mega-crises in the coalition. The combination of a criminal investigation against the Prime Minister and the resignation of the Chief of Staff following a failed war are like a snowball chasing after Ehud Olmert and Amir Peretz, and that will burry under its weight the entire government.
But as the hours passed, things calmed down. The 78-member coalition continued to function. No party threatened to leave the coalition, for two reasons: all are responsible for the war, and not one of them wants new elections. The super-glue fixing Olmert's partners firmly in their seats is strong stuff.
Public protest has also not proven to be reliable so far. The masses have not come out in the streets to demand that Olmert and Peretz follow Chief of Staff Dan Halutz out. The streets are quiet and the squares empty. Only the television studios are brimming with life. The "critical mass" that will take this government out of its misery has not yet accumulated; everyone is waiting for the interim report of the Winograd Committee, which is expected in early March (the complete report is expected in June).
Peretz told his aides yesterday that he has no intention of leaving his office before the publication of the committee's report. Those hearing him felt that he is hoping to emerge unscathed, and if that is the outcome, he believes the sky's the limit for him. Peretz suffered considerable embarrassment from Halutz: the Chief of Staff informed Olmert of his decision to step down as early as noon on Sunday following the cabinet meeting, but he only told the Defense Minister on Tuesday night, the same the press received the news from the IDF spokesman.
"Well," a well-placed source in the Defense Ministry said yesterday, "Halutz feared that if he told Peretz, it would be leaked in ten minutes flat."
Olmert tried to signal "business as usual" yesterday. He had lunch in the Knesset cafeteria, just like his predecessor Ariel Sharon used to do in times of political trouble. To the reporters who approached him he promised that a new Chief of Staff would be appointed in days. The Prime Minister's aides promised a thorough and serious process, that will include consultation with previous prime ministers (Ehud Barak, Shimon Peres and Benjamin Netanyahu), and former Defense Ministers (Shaul Mofaz and Benjamin Ben-Eliezer), as well as with Vice Premier Tzipi Livni.
The reporters quipped: "We thought that the Defense Minister is the one that makes the appointment." Olmert said that "formally" that is correct.

Continued (Permanent Link)

The next IDF chief / Mission: Iran

The next IDF chief / Mission: Iran
By Ze'ev Schiff

To correctly choose the next Israel Defense Forces chief of staff, it is also necessary to consider who the next defense minister will be, since these two are supposed to complement each other.
A chief of staff with no strategic vision coupled with a defense minister with no security expertise is a recipe for disaster - especially if the prime minister is also not well-versed in strategic matters.
The defense troika that existed until this week was the worst that Israel has ever known. There have been weak chiefs of staff before, but they were compensated for by strong defense ministers. Thus in choosing the next chief of staff, the cabinet must consider who is most likely to replace Amir Peretz as defense minister. The most likely candidates are Ami Ayalon and Ehud Barak.
Additionally, the appointment process must be quick. Peretz was right to start interviewing senior officers immediately. Yesterday, he met with Deputy Chief of Staff Moshe Kaplinsky and commander of the ground forces Benny Gantz, and he plans other meetings with both regular and reserve officers in the coming days.
However, it is troubling that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is doing the same thing. By law, choosing the next chief of staff is not his job, and it is liable to lead to an ugly fight. Olmert and Peretz must overcome their differences and coordinate their choice. Doing otherwise would merely worsen the rift in the country's leadership, which would further undermine Israel's deterrence effect and gladden only our enemies.
It is clear that the IDF has undergone a shock: This is the first time a chief of staff has resigned of his own accord. Other senior officers have also resigned: GOC Northern Command Udi Adam and a divisional commander, Gal Hirsch. The latter, however, is willing to return, and with Dan Halutz having resigned, he should be brought back and given a suitable job.
The situation is particularly problematic because the IDF recently fought a war about which controversy still rages. This affects the criteria for choosing a new chief of staff.
On the personal level, it is necessary to pick someone who has professional authority and outstanding leadership capabilities, is apolitical and independent, and who was not associated with major failures during the war, and can therefore apply the lessons that have been learned from it.
The choice should also be determined by the threats Israel faces. The new chief of staff must, of course, be able to lead the army in an asymmetric war. But the biggest threat is Iran. The worse-case scenario is that it will acquire nuclear weapons, but even without these, Iran has proven its ability to target Israel with missile launches and terror attacks carried out by organizations such as Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Help, they want peace

Help, they want peace
By Uzi Benziman

It is enough to observe the panicked responses in Jerusalem to the report by Akiva Eldar yesterday in Haaretz on the outlines of an agreement between Israel and Syria cobbled together in unofficial talks, to feel yet again that generations of governments of Israel, including the present one, are responsible in no small way for prolonging the Israeli-Arab conflict. Unlike the first 30 years of the state's existence, when the Arab world refused to recognize Israel, its neighbors have gradually come to terms with the reality starting in 1977. And since then, the Arab world has also started to bear responsibility, at least partially, for fanning the embers of the conflict.
Olmert's bureau raced yesterday to deny any connection, even a passive one, to the talks that took place in Europe on the Israel-Syrian conflict. Associates of Ariel Sharon, who, according to the report, was aware of the secret negotiations, did the same. The insulted added their voices to the deniers: A senior minister told Israel Radio that he is privy to all secret diplomatic moves and if he was not party to this, then there was nothing to be party to. And MK Yuval Steinitz said that he had spoken at the time with Sharon, who told him he ruled out any relationship with the present Syrian regime because of its ties to terror. A united front of deniers emerged, as if on command, to clarify that the Israeli government was not involved nor is it tainted by an attempt to come to an arrangement with Bashar Assad.
This is a ludicrous spectacle, the irony of which fades in light of its depressing significance: Israel's leaders are trying hard to prove to its citizens that they are not involved in a move to end 60 years of hostility with its Syrian neighbor. These leaders are kowtowing to residents of the Golan Heights, the settlers and the American government. The desire to mollify them seems to be the government's top priority; otherwise, it is impossible to understand the complete and utter denial of the efforts reported by Eldar. It is as if Olmert decided that a confession on his part to any involvement in a channel of communication with Assad is politically lethal.
The contours of the reported arrangement should be studied and discussed widely by the public. For the first time in six years the public is being presented with an alternative to the hostile situation with Syria. Whether the understandings were purely hypothetical, stemming from non-binding talks among a few naive individuals, or whether the government of Sharon and Olmert had been informed of them, they are an important matter that should be addressed, not turned away from. A high barrier of fear, enmity, and substantive disagreements and prejudices separates Israel and Syria. These component parts of the conflict require treatment, clarification and compromise; this may or may not be attainable, and that is the very purpose of negotiations. The Israeli public has the right to demand that its government try to reach an agreement with Damascus.
Preserving the status quo will necessarily lead to armed conflict. The assumption that Syria will forever accept the occupation of the Golan is an illusion that will be shattered some day in a bloody war. Israel's ability to stand strong, on which its deterrence effect is based, can ensure the state's existence only when it is a peace-seeker; but this ability atrophies when its entire purpose is to perpetuate the occupation. Despite differences in regimes and political culture, Israel has managed to establish peaceful relations with Egypt and Jordan; therefore, it should not cling to these difference to get out of negotiations with Syria. Official Israel is behaving this way to avoid paying the price of peace - giving up the Golan. But in unofficial Israel there is a substantial public that prefers peace over territories.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Interview with Israel Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni on Japanese Television

Interview with Israel Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni on Japanese Television
Information Department, Israel Foreign Ministry - Jerusalem
17 January 2007

Q: Foreign Minister Livni, thank you very much for your time. My first
question is regarding the Palestinian issue. If we review the past year,
there have been so many incidents in your region: the Hamas victory at
elections, also the victory of your party, Kadima; internal conflict in
Palestine, and now President Abbas is trying to form a National Unity
Government. So, can you tell us your basic strategy on how to promote a
peace process in such a difficult situation?

FM Livni: Yes, of course. Israel has no magic solution to achieve peace and
to live in peace with the Palestinians. The goal is a two-state a solution:
one for the Jewish people, and the other for the Palestinians. But in order
for these two states to live in peace, the Palestinians must stop their
terror attacks and the violence against Israel and Israelis.

Now, before the elections in the Palestinians Authority, Israel took a very
clear, difficult and painful step. We withdrew from Gaza Strip, we
dismantled settlements, in order to open a window for opportunity for the
Palestinians. But unfortunately, the Palestinian elections brought Hamas
into power, and Hamas is terrorist organization, with an extremist ideology.
I believe that they don't represent the national hopes of all Palestinians.
So, the idea is to distinguish the terrorists from the moderates, the
extremists from the moderates in the government - Haniya and Abu Mazen,
Hamas and Fatah. This in order to give those Palestinians who, I believe,
want to live in peace as well, the opportunity to understand that Hamas
cannot deliver - not in economic terms, nor in political terms - when it
comes to the conflict. Because terror can't win.

On the other hand, there are moderates - Mahmoud Abbas represents them - and
we would like to see an alternative for the Palestinians, which will give
them the possibility to lead decent lives in the Palestinian Authority, to
create their own state, and to live in peace and non-violence with Israel.
Now it is crucial that the strengthening of the moderates goes hand in hand
with pressure on the extremists.

After the elections, the international community, viewing the Palestinian
Authority as a threat, issued very important requirements from any
Palestinian government. And this refers also to the unity government.
Because the unity government can be effective only if it respects the
requirements of the international community, renounces violence and
terrorism, accepts Israel's right to exist, and accepts the former
agreements between Israel and Palestinians. These basic requirements for
legitimacy, it is important to understand, are requirements of any
Palestinian government, whether a Hamas government or a unity government.

Q: US Secretary Condoleezza Rice recently visited Israel. She started her
trip with you in Jerusalem, and said that her trip was intended to
accelerate progress on the Roadmap. So, was it really accelerated by her
visit? If yes, how?

FM Livni: No, this is only the beginning. Stagnation is not Israeli
government policy, and it is not our interest. So we all looking for way to
promote the process, but of course, the process must stand with two pillars.
One is the vision for a Palestinian state, and the other is Israeli
security. The Roadmap is based on the understanding that the end of the road
is a Palestinian state for the Palestinians, but first the Palestinians must
not only renounce violence and terrorism, but also the extremist terrorist

I believe in the need for discussion between Israelis and moderate
Palestinians. I also want the Palestinians to understand that we are willing
to discuss with Abu Mazen what we can do and what is not viable right now,
with the moderates in the Palestinian Authority.

So, the outcome of Secretary Rice's visit to the region is a future meeting
between Dr. Rice, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, and Mahmoud Abbas in
order to find a way to accelerate the process through more concrete steps.
Of course, this should reflect the two pillars of political rights on one
hand, and Israeli security the other.

Q: Condoleezza Rice, Prime Minister Olment and Abu Mazen are scheduled to
meet in the near future. So, please tell us, what breakthrough we can expect
from this meeting?

FM Livni: Unfortunately, I don't think there is any magical key to solve
this conflict. There is mutual interest between Israel and moderates in the
Palestinian Authority, and we would like to see what we can do. It's not
just a matter of new ideas; we don't have to invent anything new. But we
have to see what is possible: what are Abu Mazen's possibilities; what are
Abu Mazen's abilities; what are the alternatives in the Palestinian
Authority. But clearly, as I said, it is crucial while speaking with
moderates in power to put pressure on the extremists, and then to see
whether we take further steps to promote this process. But I don't believe
in negotiations without meeting with Palestinians. We have to discuss
together the steps to be taken in order to achieve peace and to maintain
Israel's security.

Q: You also mentioned the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. Prime Minister
Olmert recently told the Chinese News Agency that he has come to believe
now, from his experience from the Gaza Strip, and also from Lebanon, that
unilateral withdrawal was a failure. This was Kadima's main election
campaign slogan. How do you respond to that?

FM Livni: In any steps that Israel will take in the future, whether as the
outcome of negotiations with Palestinians or other steps, Israel has to
safeguard certain interests, security interests, that represent the true
meaning of peace. For example, in discussing the future Palestinian state,
how we can stop this state from militarization, how we can ensure that its
borders will not be used to smuggle weapons, as Palestinians are doing today
in the Gaza Strip.

So, what I am going to say represents the ideology of Kadima, as a party,
which I believe also represents Israeli government policy, and I believe
that it represents the policy and interests of the vast majority of
Israelis: We would like to promote a process, we would like to create two
states, not only as a vision, but as reality. But of course any step that
Israel takes must take into consideration security.

Unfortunately, the Palestinian misunderstood the Israeli withdrawal from the
Gaza Strip. Our idea was to to open a new opportunity for peace, and it was
misused by Hamas and by the terrorists, who, instead of investing in their
own people to create something new in the Gaza Strip, they turned it into a
terror nest. How exactly to achieve peace, based on the two pillars I
mentioned, whether through an agreement or with the understanding of the
international community, this is more a question of tactical steps. I would
like not to draw the lines here, but I can assure you, and of course I can
assure the Israeli public, that any kind of step will take into
consideration and reflect Israeli security.

Q: So, in short, withdrawal was failed?

FM Livni: No, I supported the original withdrawal. I believed that this was
the right thing to do, understanding that we were taking some risks, but
calculated risks. When Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip, we had the
understanding and support of the international community that Israel has
right to defend itself. We have ability to do so; it is a matter of
decision. When it comes to the settlers, as a minister, I took the difficult
decision to take people out of their homes. Israel has to fight terrorism,
but at the end of the day, the Gaza Strip is not a part of Israel. I think
this is not only understood by me. So, we have to continue fighting
terrorism, and we also have to see if there is any way to promote peace
process while maintaining Israel's security interests.

Q: About Japan - can you assess Japan's contribution to the peace in the
Middle East? And what do you expect more?

FM Livni: I believe that Japan and Israel have the same values in terms of
humanity and human needs, and I believe that Japan shares the same
interests, not only values but also the interests, with the other moderate
states in the region with regard to the best steps to take. So, you see,
it's not a zero sum game. Supporting Israel is not necessarily anti-Arab or
anti-Palestinian, and there are steps that are in the interests of Israel as
well as of the Palestinians.

So, Japan is playing a very important role in helping Palestinians and in
promoting economic projects on the ground. Because in the end of the day we
are talking about the people and how they are living. And the projects are
crucial. During my visit, I would like also to share with the Japanese
leadership our vision of the economic process through which Japan is
supporting and helping the Palestinians. I believe this is both in our
interest and the interest of the Palestinians. There is a special Japanese
envoy to the Middle East, I met him in Israel, and I will share with him
some ideas of the region, in the area of water and other development

Talking about the Middle East, the real threat in the region is not the
Palestinian-Israel conflict, which is painful for us, but the Iranian
threat. I would like to express our appreciation to Japan in taking the
right steps as part of international community, as a member of the Security
Council, in imposing sanctions and also adding new, additional sanctions.
Because this is a threat not only to Israel, but to the moderate Arab and
Moslem states in the region, and the entire world. We can see here a domino
affect. We see the proliferation of mass destruction - there is North Korea,
there is Iran and the connection between two of them, and the international
community must act. And Japan has played and continues to play a very
important role here as well.

Q: About the nuclear issue, many countries in the Middle East are claiming
that the main reason for the nuclear threat which has spread in the region
is that Israel possesses nuclear bombs. For example, Libya says that they
have abandoned nuclear armament, and now it is the time for the
international community to focus on Israel's nuclear issue. How do you
respond that?

FM Livni: Libya, as you know, is not playing a positive role in the region.
I don't want to refer to this accusation, because everybody knows the truth.
Everyone understands that the threat is Iran, and Iran is trying to achieve
nuclear weapons. Parallel to this, you can hear the President of Iran, and
how he speaks of the denial of the Holocaust, saying they must erase Israel
from the map. The reason for Iran's nuclear program is not Israel and it's
not the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The achievement of nuclear weapons is
part of the extreme Islamic ideology of the Iranian regime.

Let's say that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is soon solved - do you
imagine that Iran would put aside their extremist ideology? This ideology is
not connected to the national spirit of the Palestinian, but it is connected
to the vision of creating nuclear capability, and this is the real threat to
the region. This is the understanding of the entire international community.
I think there are some difference among some members of the international
community as to what are the right steps to be taken - whether soft or hard
sanctions - but when it comes to the nuclear issue, the threat is Iran, and
I hope others like Libya will not seek excuses elsewhere.

Q: A final questions concerning moderate countries in the Middle East, such
as Egypt and Jordan. Despite peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan, economic
ties or partnerships on the grassroots level do not seem to have developed
as much as expected. So could you tell us, how do you plan to strengthen the
relationship with these moderate countries for the future?

FM Livni: This is, for us, the real meaning of the word "peace". Peace is
not only ceasefire, and peace doesn't mean only no violence. Peace means
living side by side, with economic ties and mutual investments. I believe
that this is the also the way that the leaders of Egypt and Jordan view
relations with Israel. Of course, there are some difficulties, sometimes
there is a gap between what the leaders believe and what they understand is
best for their own people; a gap between perceptions and public opinion. And
sometimes, although improving relations with Israel is for benefit for both
states, this is not always understood by public opinion.

We would to like to see stronger economic ties between Israel and Jordan and
Egypt, and we are going to invest in it. Here, Japan has played a very
important role by investing in projects in both of these states, and this
will be a part of my discussions here today. The specific projects are less
important. What is more important is the understanding that Japan is
contributing to strengthening the ties with the moderate states in the

Continued (Permanent Link)

Survey: 85% of Israelis want Peretz to resign 69% Olmert resign

Survey: 85% of Israelis want Peretz to resign 69% Olmert resign Staff, THE JERUSALEM POST Jan. 17, 2007

85 percent of Israelis think Defense Minister Amir Peretz should follow in
Chief of General Staff Dan Halutz's footsteps and resign, according to a
survey conducted by Channel 10, Wednesday evening.

The survey also said that 73 percent of Israelis considered Halutz's
resignation to be the right decision, and that 69 percent thought Prime
Minister Ehud Olmert should resign as well.

63 percent of those surveyed thought early elections should be held in

IMRA - Independent Media Review and Analysis

Continued (Permanent Link)

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Summary of editorials from the Hebrew press 17-Jan-2007

Information Department, Israel Foreign Ministry - Jerusalem

(Government Press Office)
17 January 2007

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

Yediot Aharonot says that former Supreme Court Vice-President Michael Cheshin does not know what he is talking about when he accuses the media of prejudging both President Moshe Katsav and former Justice Minister Haim Ramon. The editors believe that his accusations imply a lack of faith in the judicial system.

Yediot Aharonot, in its second editorial, points out various failures by the Bush administration in its Middle East policy and suggests that President Bush do one thing right: Drop his opposition to negotiations between Israel and Syria.

Hatzofeh claims that there are double standards in law enforcement and argues that Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria being held to a stricter criteria.

Hatzofeh, in its second editorial, points out that, on her recent visit, US Secy. of State Dr. Condoleeza Rice met with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Defense Minister Amir Peretz and Minister Avigdor Lieberman. But it would seem that none of these leaders saw it fit to discuss their meetings with the other. This lack of communication is apparent in the way Israel portrays itself both at home and abroad.

The Jerusalem Post asserts that no Negev farmer is exempt from the reign of terror imposed by Beduin gangs. The police do little, and rarely arrive even when summoned. Providing basic security is the state's paramount responsibility. In the case of what has become a vicious criminal war on Israeli agriculture, especially in the south, it is failing to meet that obligation.

Haaretz observes that PM Olmert's response to publication of documents relating to a series of understandings have been reached with Syria via a secret, informal channel creates the impression that Israel is frightened by the peace signals coming from Damascus and prefers to frighten the public with Syrian threats of war.

[Rami Tal and Haggai Hoberman wrote today's editorials in Yediot Aharonot and Hatzofeh, respectively.]


Continued (Permanent Link)

Survey: Israeli Arabs less patriotic

Survey: Israeli Arabs less patriotic
Following Lebanon war, survey finds Israeli Arabs less patriotic towards
Israel, more towards Arab nation, Palestinian state
Moran Rada YNET Published: 01.17.07, 14:34,7340,L-3353599,00.html

According to a survey conducted by Prof. Ephraim Yaar, Head of the Evens
Program in Mediation and Conflict Resolution at Tel Aviv University, and
Efrat Peleg, the second Lebanon war caused a significant drop in the
patriotism Arab citizens felt for Israel .

The survey's findings would be presented at the Institute for Policy and
Strategy Herzelia Conference which would begin Sunday.

The survey showed that its Israeli Arab respondents rated their Arab
patriotism at 86 percent, their Palestinian patriotism at 61 percent, and
their Israeli patriotism at 38 percent.

The survey also showed that participants were not proud of being Israeli,
and that their emotional affinity to the country was diminishing. Only 45
percent of the Israeli Arab participants said they would encourage their
children to remain living in Israel.

War weakened patriotism

About eight hundred Israeli citizens, both Jewish and Arab, participated in
the survey. The main conclusion reached through the survey's findings was
that the second Lebanon war had the opposite effect on Israel's Jewish
citizens than it did on Israel's Arab citizens.

In contrast to the Jewish population, who found the resilience of the home
front impressive, the Israeli Arab population did not.

In addition, the survey revealed an even larger gap in perception of the war
when comparing the Jewish and Arab population in Haifa and the North.

The survey showed that Jews in Haifa and the North became more emotionally
attached to Israel following the war, whereas the emotional attachment to
Israel diminished amongst the Arab population in the same cities.

The willingness of Israel's citizens to enlist in a time of need was also
surveyed. The findings showed that the percentage of Israeli Arabs wiling to
enlist in the army decreased significantly following the second Lebanon war.

In 2006, 42 percent of the Arab population was prepared to fight for Israel,
whereas only 26.5 percent was willing to do so in 2007.

However, despite the decrease, the survey's conductors emphasized that there
was still a significant minority amongst the Arab public that would enlist.

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Continued (Permanent Link)

IDF removes 44 dirt barriers from West Bank villages

Last update - 06:10 17/01/2007

IDF removes 44 dirt barriers from West Bank villages
By Amos Harel, Haaretz Correspondent

The Israel Defense Forces announced Tuesday that it recently removed 44 dirt barriers that were located near Palestinian villages in the West Bank. In recent years, the army established nearly 400 barriers and permanent roadblocks.

The move is one of a series of steps aimed at easing restrictions on the Palestinians that were announced following the December 24 meeting between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.

The IDF had previously announced it was easing the security checks at 16 central West Bank checkpoints.

A reserve soldier was lightly injured Tuesday when a burning tire exploded near the West Bank village of Qibya, northwest of Ramallah. Palestinians placed ammunition in the tire and then set it ablaze near the separation fence.

Two Qassam rockets struck Israel on Tuesday. One of the rockets struck the western Negev, while the other hit south of Ashkelon. Also Tuesday, Palestinians fired on IDF troops near the security fence along the Gaza border, and in Jenin, an explosives device was set off near troops, who also came under fire. There were no injuries in all of the incidents.

Security forces arrested 19 wanted Palestinians across the West Bank on Tuesday. The Shin Bet security service , IDF, and police recently arrested nine Palestinians in the East Jerusalem area on suspicions of involvement in shooting attacks that injured three security guards. The guards were monitoring the construction of the security fence along the seam line.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Israel grants W. Bank access to foreign citizens of Palestinian origin

Last update - 08:39 17/01/2007

Israel grants W. Bank access to foreign citizens of Palestinian origin

By Amira Hass, Haaretz Correspondent

Israel on Tuesday sent a letter to the Palestinian Authority granting Palestinians with foreign citizenship permission to enter the West Bank, yet activists say the new rule is not being implemented.

The letter from Major General Yosef Mishlav, the coordinator of government activities in the territories, to Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat was released Tuesday at a press conference in Ramallah.

"I am informing you that policy regarding the entrance of foreign citizens of countries who have diplomatic ties with Israel has changed, and their entrance to the West Bank is now possible," Mishlav wrote in his letter.


Erekat delivered the letter, which was dated December 28, to activists of "The Campaign for the Right to Re-Entrance to the Occupied Palestinian Territories."

The activists are mostly citizens of Western nations of Palestinian origin, or are married to Palestinians who reside in the territories.

The letter details new procedures that the Defense Ministry will take in order to allow Palestinians of Western citizenship (mostly Americans) to enter the territories and stay for a period of time.

The activists said that the new rules do not solve the crisis, which they say started in 2006 when Israel preventing thousands of American or European citizens of Palestinian origin from entering the West Bank. Most of these citizens were born in the West Bank and their residency status was terminated by Israel.

The activists maintain that they know of at least 14 foreign citizens who only last week were denied entrance to the territories. Some of them were even held in custody at Ben Gurion Airport for 4-5 days. Others received entrance for only a month, as opposed to the three month stay that Mishlav wrote to Erekat.

Continued (Permanent Link)

U.S. officials: Cheney was kept in the loop on Israel-Syria talks

Last update - 16:29 17/01/2007
U.S. officials: Cheney was kept in the loop on Israel-Syria talks

By Akiva Eldar, Haaretz Correspondent

 Senior American government officials received regular reports of the secret meetings that took place in Europe between a former Israeli official and a Syrian representative, Haaretz has learned.

Senior officials in Washington told Haaretz that U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney was kept in the picture about these indirect talks between Syria and Israel.

Ibrahim (Ayeb) Suleiman, the Syrian representative, also said this at his meetings with former Foreign Ministry director general Alon Liel, adding that Cheney had made no move to stop him from participating in the talks. Suleiman is a Washington resident.

A document that Dr. Nimrod Novik, a former political advisor to Vice Premier Shimon Peres, disseminated last October to members of the Council for Peace and Security also said that Washington knew about the talks. "While the administration is taking care not to broadcast a U-turn in its approach as long as the president has not given it an explicit green light, the signs of a change in direction are multiplying," Novik wrote.

"During the fighting in Lebanon, former senior [U.S.] officials were authorized to speak with Damascus, within a narrow mandate, while Pentagon and State Department officials support a change in the policy toward Hamas and quote the president in this context."

Geoffrey Aronson, of the Washington-based Foundation for Middle East Peace, who helped arrange the secret meetings, also participated last year in meetings organized by Alastair Crooke, the European Union's former security envoy to the territories, with key Hamas and Hezbollah members.

These meetings, which took place in Beirut, were also attended by two former senior Central Intelligence Agency officials. Haaretz reported at the time that Cheney also know about the existence of these meetings, and received regular reports from the American participants.

Novik wrote that "during secret talks via a third party a few years ago, the Syrians already demonstrated much more flexibility than they did at Shepherdstown on matters such as the pace of the withdrawal, implementation of normalization and creative solutions ('a peace park') for the area north of [Lake] Kinneret. Then, too, it was Israel that refused direct, official talks."

The Shepherdstown talks were formal Israeli-Syrian negotiations started by Ehud Barak's government.

Meretz-Yahad Chairman Yossi Beilin said in media interviews Tuesday that the European mediator in the secret talks was Nicholas Lang, head of the Middle East desk at the Swiss Foreign Ministry.

Lang also played a key role in organizing the Israeli-Palestinian meetings at which Beilin and Yasser Abed Rabbo drafted the Geneva Initiative, their proposal for a final-status agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. Liel, who was the driving force behind the secret meetings with Suleiman, is one of the people closest to Beilin.

Raviv Drucker, of Channel 10 television, reported last night that Lang met not long ago with Shalom Turjeman, Ehud Olmert's political adviser, and presented him with the draft. According to Drucker, Turjeman told Lang that Israel has no interest in the understandings. Drucker also said that Lang visited Damascus several times during the talks, met with Syrian FM Farouk Shara, and reported that he believed the Syrian leadership genuinely wanted a deal.

Syrian paper: Peace requires withdrawal from Golan, not secret talks
Peace with Syria requires an Israeli commitment to surrender the strategic Golan Heights and cannot be achieved through secret negotiations, a Syrian state newspaper said Wednesday in response to the Haaretz report.

Syria's official Al-Thawra newspaper said in an editorial Wednesday that the Haaretz report was false, and added that "peace cannot be achieved in the darkness of secret negotiations."

Peace requires an Israeli commitment to surrender the whole of the Golan Heights, the paper said. It indicated the current Israeli government was too "immature" for peacemaking.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Abbas to meet Mash'al - will go ahead with early elections

Abbas to go ahead with plans to meet Mash'al, but refuses to open new
discussion and will go ahead with early elections
Date: 17 / 01 / 2007  Time:  09:49

Bethlehem - Ma'an - Nabil 'Amro, the media advisor of president Mahmoud
Abbas, has announced that the president will go ahead with his plans to
visit to Syria and Lebanon in the coming days, but without announcing the
exact date of his visit. However, the Lebanese exterior ministry announced
that the visit will take place in the 22 or the 23 of January.

Amro assured Ma'an that the president will visit Damascus first and then
Beirut, "To carry on talks with the leaders of the two countries about the
situation in the Palestinian lands."

Regarding the meeting of the president with Khaled Mash'al in Damascus, Amro
affirmed "that the president previously announced his position; he will not
open a new dialogue on any level, but he will wait for the conclusions of
the national dialogue discussions."

Concerning the early election arrangements, Amro assured that the decision
for holding early elections is political and irreversible, noting that the
arrangements of this matter will be prepared by the elections committee and
in accordance with the presidential decree.

Continued (Permanent Link)

'Now Peretz and Olmert must go'

'Now Peretz and Olmert must go'

Politicians from the left, right, and center said Chief of General Staff Dan Halutz's sudden resignation provided an opportunity for much-needed rehabilitation within the IDF following the unsatisfactory results of the summer's fighting with Hizbullah.

Ophir Paz-Pines (Labor) said the resignation of Halutz was "part of an inevitable process," and expressed hope that it was "the first step in remedying the crisis of confidence facing the the army and the defense establishment, and an opportunity to build from anew the IDF's deterrence."

MK Arye Eldad (NU-NRP) said that it was a "shame that [Halutz] wasted four precious months needed to rehabilitate the IDF."

"Now, [Defense Minister] Amir Peretz and [Prime Minister] Ehud Olmert have to go, because the entire country, and not just the IDF, needs to be purified."


Gilad Arden (Likud) said the defense minister and the prime minister should be excluded from this rebuilding process, and that Halutz's replacements should be chosen by a panel of experts appointed by the Knesset.

"Olmert's and Peretz's understanding of national security is close to nil, and their input on the selection of the next chief of staff, at this point, would likely be based on political calculations."

Knesset Member Zeheva Gal-On (Meretz) concurred: "the prime minister and defense minister lack the ethical validity to appoint the next chief of staff [because] the responsibility for the failures of the Second Lebanon War can not be attributed solely to the military's upper echelons, but must also to the politicians that made irresponsible decisions during the fighting."

"In a framework where there are so many problems from top to bottom, at the end of the day responsibility lies with the individual at the top of the pyramid, just as in any other profession,'reservist protest leader Roni Tzvangenboim said of Halutz's resignation.

However, Tzvangenboim said the sudden resignation signinified only a partial realization of the movement's goals and that the struggle would continue.

"I don't sleep at night for fear of the next
war. We are not interested in right or left, we are sick of politics, scandals, and failures. We need a complete overhaul from the leadership in the last war, period," Tzvangenboim said.

The protest movement of the families echoed his sentiments, saying that Halutz's resignation was only the first goal in battle to have those responsible for the war's failures be held accountable.

"158 deaths should have been good enough reasons for the chief of general staff, defense minister, and the prime minister to resign," the families said in a statement.

"We call on the Prime Minister to give the bereaved families, and to the Israeli nation, a chance to recover from his leadership."

Continued (Permanent Link)

COS Halutz's letter of resignation to PM Olmert

Ynet presents Dan Halutz's full letter of resignation as it was presented to
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert
Ynet Published: 01.17.07, 02:51,7340,L-3353301,00.html

Dear Sir,

I have recently fulfilled 40 years of service in the IDF. During this long
period, I have had the privilege of serving this country, my country, my
homeland. In my eyes, this is the loftiest mission - to defend the peace and
security of the State of Israel.

I fought with my brothers in arms in the ranks of the IDF in all the arenas.
Every time I was called up for an assignment, I fulfilled it with a sense of
mission. I acted out of considerations in accordance with morality, loyalty,
integrity, authenticity, and affection.

During my long stay with the IDF, I had the privilege to command excellent
people, and I saw the IDF advance and develop, because of these same people,
capabilities and achievements that have placed it among the leading armies
of the world.

For me, the word 'responsibility' has a weighty meaning: It is the essence
of everything, from A to B. From confidence to investigation. My conception
of responsibility is what led me to remain in my post until now, and to lay
this letter on the desk today.

The day I won the confidence of the government headed by Mr. Ariel Sharon
upon receiving the post of chief of staff on June 1, 2005, I took upon
myself a great responsibility.

The essence of this responsibility was expressed in the fighting in Lebanon
in the summer of 2006 and after it. When the battle was over, I decided to
exercise my responsibilities to the fullest according to the best of the
traditions from home and my army service. Accordingly, I ordered a full
investigation of the fighting in a manner that is unmatched in the history
of the IDF: a profound, deep, and detailed investigation, that didn't pass
over me.

Today, after the investigative process has been completed in the IDF, and
after a draft has been set for applying the lessons of the investigation in
the framework of the IDF's 2007 working plan, I feel a sense of pride for
having completed what I set as a goal for myself at the end of the war in
Lebanon, and I exhausted my responsibility. After these deep processes, I
trust that the IDF will be prepared for the challenges that lay ahead.

The investigations made me see what needed to be done in order to correct
what needed correcting and to maintain and improve the areas in which we
succeeded. One of the central things were learned from the investigations is
that the IDF system is deeply affected by long-term processes. Often, this
influence is not detected, and we are not aware of the extent of its
consequences. These processes have implications for the Israeli society, in
general, and overall military capabilities, in particular.

The State of Israel has, unfortunately, been sentenced to continue fighting
for its existence. The capability to ensure our success in this continuing
battle starts and ends with our power. This power, at its foundation, is
built on values, on quality education, on a strong economy, and, above all,
a strong IDF.

The IDF's power is built first and foremost on the quality of its members,
and only afterwards on the resources allotted it to fulfill its missions. We
must remember that the IDF's achievements in the war in Lebanon, and in
other arenas, was achieved by a large group of fighters and commanders in
compulsory service and reserve service who are prepared to be called to the
flag at any moment. The IDF's resilience stems from the public support it
enjoys. Unfortunately, this last area of support has eroded in recent years.

I believe, Mr. Prime Minister, that we must protect at any cost the respect
and heritage of the IDF, and to leave it outside the political battles.

It is human nature not to want to serve in a system that isn't valued and
which isn't protected by its dispatchers. We must ensure that we don't
arrive at a situation in which quality people hesitate to tie their fate and
future to the IDF. Nothing will help us then, not the good education, and
not the strong economy. There is danger that the threats on the State of
Israel will become more tangible.

The IDF is a very moral army, such as there is none other like it. Its
heritage is replete with pages of bravery stained with the blood of the sons
and daughters of the country who have fallen along the way. Their memories
will accompany us always.

I hope that we will be able to return the kidnapped, captive, and missing
soldiers quickly to the country for which we are fighting. The meetings with
the bereaved families will be in my heart forever. Even during these
difficult and complex times for them, they continue to support and encourage
the IDF and its commanders.

I am forever ingratiated to the defense minister under whom I served, and
thank the IDF General Staff who were full partners in thought and in
practice. I give special thanks to the commanders and soldiers of the IDF
compulsory and reserve service, and to all the employees of the IDF who
carry the daily burdens.

You, sir, I wish to thank for your support and backup, and to wish you
success in handling the complex challenges facing the nation, and you as
prime minister.

In order to guide and to lead, we must take responsibility. As such, after I
have finished my task for this era, here I announce to you that I intend to
immediate terminate my post as chief of staff.

I salute the IDF and its fighters.

And stand at your service always,

In blessing,

Danny Halutz, Lieutenant General, Chief of Staff

Continued (Permanent Link)


(Communicated by the Prime Minister's Media Adviser)

Following are Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's remarks today (Wednesday),
17.1.06, in wake of the resignation of IDF Chief-of-Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan

"Chief-of-Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz met personally with me on Sunday,
14.1.07, and handed me his letter of resignation.  The Chief-of-Staff asked
that the publication of his announcement be delayed.  He has now delivered
this announcement to the public and has not acceded to my request that he

I very much regret the Chief-of-Staff's resignation.

Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz is one of Israel's great soldiers.  He served in the IDF
for 40 years.  He was an outstanding IAF pilot.  He participated in dozens
of combat actions in which he led those under his command to unprecedented
achievements.  Lt.-Gen. Halutz commanded the Air Force with special
excellence before serving as Deputy Chief-of-Staff and Chief-of-Staff.

Lt.-Gen. Halutz is a brave and exemplary person who faithfully served his
country with unparalleled personal sacrifice.  The entire nation shares in
the deep appreciation that I and the Government feel towards him.

In recent months, I spoke many times with the Chief-of-Staff.  In all of our
meetings, he showed a determination to lead the IDF through an unprecedented
series of investigations in order to draw the necessary lessons from the
fighting in Lebanon and in order to allow the IDF to best prepare for future

Now, as the investigations stage comes to an end, he has decided to finish
his duties and allow his replacement to implement the necessary changes.

I have no doubt that Dan Halutz will - in the future - continue to serve the
State of Israel with the same talent and dedication that he has all his

In the coming days, in coordination with Defense Minister Amir Peretz, I
will hold a series of consultations on the appointment of the next
Chief-of-Staff with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, former Prime Ministers,
Opposition Chairman MK Benjamin Netanyahu, former Defense Ministers, Knesset
Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Chairman MK Tzahi Hanegbi,
Chief-of-Staff Lt.-Gen. Halutz and former Chiefs-of-Staff.

I spoke this morning with Defense Minister Peretz and we decided to complete
this process as soon as possible and to submit the chosen candidate for the
post of Chief-of-Staff to the committee chaired by retired Supreme Court
Judge Yaacov Terkel."

IMRA - Independent Media Review and Analysis

Continued (Permanent Link)

Israel: Chief of Staff Addresses the General Staff

January 17th, 2007

The Chief of Staff addresses the General Staff

This morning the Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz, assembled the IDF
General Staff and updated them on his decision to resign from his position.

The Chief of Staff stated that he decided to end his service after
completing the process of investigating and drawing conclusions from the war
with Hezbollah, and after completing the IDF 2007 work plan.

The Chief of Staff emphasized that all eyes are now on the General Staff
and, as such, it is important that its members convey a sense of stability
in their behavior and conduct.

"We face many missions and challenges, as our soldiers and commanders
continue their mission to protect and defend the citizens of Israel," the
Chief of Staff said in the meeting. "I have no intension of packing up my
desk and leaving in a rush. I intend to ensure an orderly transition for my

The Chief of Staff ended on a personal note: "I have completed an important
and significant chapter which will assist the IDF to better perform its
missions. I trust the members of the General Staff- they are a quality group
of people and I have no doubt that we all will continue to be guided by our
sense of duty and responsibility. I am certain that the IDF, with its
commanders and soldiers, is a strong army that will continue to carry out
the missions it is assigned at any given time."

Continued (Permanent Link)

"My Name is Rachel Corrie" - Review

My Name Is Rachel Corrie
by Rachel Corrie

A Review by
Cynthia Ozick

On Justice Brandeis's celebrated principle that "the remedy [for free speech] is more speech," it is good and salubrious that My Name Is Rachel Corrie can finally be seen on a New York stage. Last year, when the play was turned away by the New York Theater Workshop apparently because of objections from donors offended by its agitprop banalities, there sprang up, amid the foolish cries of "censorship" (as if the Constitution were being subverted), a newborn legend. The longer the play was absent from local scrutiny, the more romantically its faraway halo might glow: a visionary young woman on the barricades, part heroic Joan of Arc, part victimized Anne Frank, mercilessly cut down in the very act of defying brute injustice.

To have the play actually in hand -- the naked script itself -- is a down-to-earth corrective. It goes without saying that any play, and this one especially, is both more and less than its script: more, because of the theater's sensuous surround -- the emotive ingenuities of set, lighting, and sound; an attractive actor's winning impersonation; the magnetic rapidity of gesture, movement, and voice; and an audience whose sympathies are already in place, pacified by the play's radiant repute. But it is precisely on account of all these appeals to communal sensation that My Name Is Rachel Corrie is considerably less than its script. Stripped only to print, the play discloses what the theater's dazzlements are likely to obfuscate or diminish. Fortunately, we are assured by the director and co-editor that every word is Rachel Corrie's own, culled directly from her journals and e-mail messages. Are there incendiary omissions? If so, it hardly matters; what is on the page is revealing enough. This means that we can reasonably trust the script -- perhaps understandably manipulated as to selection and sequence -- to represent Rachel Corrie as she was, unadulterated by theatrical seductions.

Rachel Corrie, then, as she was. She can be seen in two brief films on Wikipedia. She is in Gaza, a member of the International Solidarity Movement. In one film, she is burning a replica of the American flag. Her mouth is wide, yelling. In the other, she stands fixedly, repeating phrases that appear identically in the playscript; it is as if she has scripted herself, and is speaking by rote. Wound around her neck is the familiar Palestinian scarf, declaring solidarity.

She is twenty-three years old. Though she hopes to become a writer, even a poet, much of what she writes is a facsimile. Her "poetic" passages are an amalgam of Bob Dylan and diluted-to-the-third-generation Allen Ginsberg. Her thinking runs to slogans and robotic abstractions. At ten (her fifth-grade "Conference on World Hunger" speech is reproduced), this formulaic voice is already in training, the boilerplate language already ingrained: "I'm here for other children. I'm here because I care. I'm here because children everywhere are suffering and because forty thousand people die each day from hunger. I'm here because those people are mostly children." In middle school she gets a free trip to Russia (she doesn't say why), where "everything was dirty." In her teens the spotted owl, suffering from possible extinction, is the fashionable victim of choice. At Evergreen College it is the homeless -- including even the suffering salmon struggling through a pipe, "trying to get back home." And after the salmon, the Palestinians. "The salmon talked me into a lifestyle change," she explains.

The International Solidarity Movement (ISM) is neither international in its origins nor spontaneous as a "movement." It is, simply, a front: a creature of the PLO, and under its vigilant supervision. In the United States, recruits are encouraged, partly funded, and trained by the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee. Though the ISM is touted as non-violent, in reality it acts not merely as a shield for violence but as its proponent. One of the leaders of the California ISM, interviewed on Al-Jazeera, is forthright: "We recognize that violence is necessary and it is permissible for oppressed and occupied people to use armed resistance and we recognize their right to do so." Every Friday in Gaza, a day dedicated to sermonic incitements in mosques, the ISM organizes riots at Israel's security fence, erected to deter infiltration by suicide bombers.

Rachel Corrie is portrayed as selfless by her advocates, and as a naïve dupe by others. Yet after some fleeting hesitation -- "I'm really new to talking about Israel-Palestine, so I don't always know the political implications of my words" -- by the time she is placed in Gaza she is a complicit enthusiast. Arriving in Tel Aviv, coached beforehand on how to elude security, she records "very little problem at the airport"; she has come forearmed by her recruiters with a referral to an "Israeli friend," who instantly vanishes out of her ken. "I took a shared taxi into Jerusalem," she continues, "and noticed that the Holy Land is full of rocks." Though she thinks of herself as a poet, on the road to Jerusalem, and bearing the name Rachel (her sister is Sarah, and her brother is called Chris), she is curiously untouched by any biblical resonance: the old, old memory of the land she has come to defy.

"Sometimes," she writes of her mother, "she wondered if we would be healthier, better children if she had taken us to church....She was determined I would define [spirituality] for myself." On the road to Jerusalem, spirituality is nowhere, and there are only the self-defining rocks -- deprived and inert stoniness. No cities, no society, no greenery, no population, no children, no birds, cats, or dogs, no sign of civilization ancient or renewed. In Jerusalem, in Israel itself, she sees nothing that she is not primed to see: a stony-hearted colonialist state. Israel is a nullity, despite some passing recognition that "Jewish people have a long history of oppression" -- a standardized note immediately canceled by the expected covering cant: "I think it's important to draw a firm distinction between the policies of Israel as a state, and Jewish people."

Her training -- she accepts the term willingly -- takes place in Jerusalem. Escorted by Palestinians while waiting "to get to Rafah to join the other internationals trying to prevent the demolition of civilian homes," she observes "blue stars of David spray-painted on doors in the Arab section of the old city." She concludes, "I am used to seeing the cross used in a colonialist way." Once in Rafah, she is under military orders. "The neighborhoods that have asked us for some form of presence are Yibna, Tel El Sultan, Hi Salaam, Brazil, Block J, Zorob, and Block O." The new recruits are called on to stand as human shields before arms caches or shooter hideouts. If through some mishap a young foreigner should be hit, all the better: fuel for international outrage. She imagines "the difficulties the Israeli army would face if they shot an unarmed US citizen."

But in fact the "civilian homes" are weapons depots; or else they are outlets, sometimes with complicit families still in them, concealing tunnels dug from Egypt to Gaza. The tunnels smuggle guns, rocket launchers, explosives; and the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) is there to stop the flow of arms intended for assaults on Israeli citizens, and to uncover the launchers secreted in olive groves and farms, where the gunmen also hide, or in the houses, where the gunmen hide among women and children. Rachel Corrie is in a war zone. She cannot not know that she lives and acts among guns and gunmen, or that the children who are everywhere live and play among guns and gunmen.

"Someone had been killed at the Rafah/Egypt border," she reports. She and the other "internationals" are sent directly into the battle area to pick up the body.

We were given a stretcher...and then we went out -- each of us with a handle. We started into the field: five internationals plus Jehan [their Palestinian handler]. Jenny spoke over the bullhorn saying, "Do not shoot. We are unarmed civilians," naming the countries we come from and letting the IDF know our intention to retrieve this man's body. The first response from the IDF was shouting, "Go back."

They continue to walk toward the body, moving deliberately into the line of fire, which, as she notes, shifts away from them. And then: "A white truck with a blue light rolled up and the person in the truck spoke over the loudspeaker. Told us to leave. Stated, 'You'll get the body later.'"

All this is chilling reading. It exposes the brutal cynicism of Rachel Corrie's handlers, eager, for propaganda value, to bait bulldozers and tanks with the lives of their young recruits. But it also exposes Rachel Corrie: she is not a dupe, she is fully aware of where she is, and what she is doing there, and why. She is a dedicated believer and a shrewdly practiced marketing adviser. Among her notes: "Set up system for media work." Phoning home, she leaves a message for her mother:

I'm going to give The Olympian [her hometown newspaper] your number. Please think about your language when you talk to them. I think it was smart that you're wary of using the word "terrorism," and if you talk about the cycle of violence, or "an eye for an eye," you could be perpetuating the idea that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a balanced conflict, instead of a largely unarmed people against the fourth most powerful military in the world. These are the kind [sic] of things it's important to think about before talking to reporters.

To her father, in a lighter voice, she writes: "I feel like I spend all my time propagandizing Mom." Yet the statement to her mother, even apart from its cookie-cutter language, is a thing to marvel at. A young woman has journeyed from one continent to another to enter a history of which she is uncommonly ignorant. This is not the ignorance of naïveté. It is willful, and willful ignorance is indistinguishable from false witness.

She has come as a determined tabula rasa. Absent are the Arab annihilationist wars of 1948, 1967, 1973. Absent are the repeated Palestinian refusals of statehood, beginning in 1948, when the United Nations proposed a partition of the land, and emerging again in 2000, when yet another Israeli (and American) appeal for Palestinians to accept statehood was answered by Yasir Arafat's murderous second intifada. "A largely unarmed people"? The English-speaking pharmacist in whose house Rachel Corrie is billeted admits to the culpable Palestinian origins of the current fighting: "Before intifada -- no tanks, no bulldozers, no noise. After intifada, daily." But even this close-at-hand testimony of cause-and-effect cannot sway her. The believer is cognizant only of her belief.

For Rachel Corrie, in 2003, living and writing in the very heart of the second intifada, there is no mention of intifada, only of Israeli aggression; no acknowledgment of ongoing suicide bombings, rockets, bus explosions, attacks aimed at discos, eateries, malls, holiday gatherings; no recognition, for all her concern for children, of kindergartens inculcating six-year-olds with the beauty of "martyrdom." Or, rather, if any of these matters are argued, even in a mild and sympathetic tone (her mother's), against her belief system, she justifies in mechanical phrases what she permits herself, at least once, to call "Palestinian violence." And follows immediately with dogged, and preposterous, false witness: "The vast majority of Palestinians right now, as far as I can tell, are engaging in Gandhian non-violent resistance."

The mechanical lingo, with its neo-Marxist paraphernalia and hate-America jargon, is consistently on display. "I've had this underlying need to go to a place and meet people who are on the other end of the tax money that goes to fund the US military." "What we are paying for here is truly evil. Maybe the general growing class imbalance in the world and consequent devastation of working people's lives is a bigger evil." "I went to a rally a few days ago in Khan Younis in solidarity with the people of [Saddam Hussein's] Iraq." "[Children] love to get me to practice my limited Arabic. Today I tried to learn to say, 'Bush is a tool.'"

On one occasion she confesses to seeing a Palestinian family put in jeopardy through the meddling zeal of the "internationals." "Yesterday," she recounts, "I watched a father lead two tiny children holding his hand out into the sight of tanks and a sniper tower and bulldozers because he thought his house was going to be exploded. It was our mistake in translation that made him think this....To think that this man felt it was less of a risk to walk out in view of the tanks with his kids than to stay in his house....I felt like it was our translation problems that made him leave." But she is not really remorseful over the ineptitude of interlopers such as herself. "I'm sure it was only a matter of time," she comments, confident in predicting that the man's house will be brought down sooner or later -- so what difference if the ISM plays with his children's lives in the middle of a war?

And finally she begins to contemplate departing from Gaza.

I am trying to figure out what I'm going to do when I leave here....People here can't leave, so that complicates things....I really don't want to live with a lot of guilt about this place -- being able to come and go so easily. I know I should try and link up with the family in France, but I think that I'm not going to do that....It seems like a transition into too much opulence right now -- I would feel a lot of class guilt the whole time.

Class guilt notwithstanding, she is ready to go -- but where? To her well-off connections in France? That way lies neo-Marxist sin. She indulges in a dreamy list: home to finish college, Egypt or Dubai for a year, Sweden for a month, South America, Mexico. Lacking all historical understanding -- South America is for her a single undifferentiated mass -- and abandoning all responsibility for the possible consequences of an ephemeral sojourn, she can dip in and out of these places at a whim, and be off again to her middle-class American comforts. Succinctly, she advises herself: "Travel elsewhere."

There is an old-fashioned word for this mentality, the kind of earnest temporary do-goodism that is likely to do harm: the word is slumming. For a sheltered young woman from Olympia, Washington, the intifada, as furiously enacted by Palestinians in Gaza, and the deterring Israeli response, are a shocking and often frightening experience. In Olympia there are no guns and gunmen occupying households, and no rocket launchers concealed in the forsythia bushes. "This is another place," she describes it, "where progressive white people escaped a few decades ago -- a place where hippie kids come after touring with jam bands." The salient term is "progressive." Long out of use because of its Stalinist taint, it has reverted to the common idiom, frequently in its newest anti-Zionist clothing.

As it turned out, Rachel Corrie did not travel elsewhere. A tragic casualty of the war she chose to join, she was cut down -- horribly -- by an Israeli army bulldozer. Contrary to the reports of journalists, the house she was attempting to shield was not a target. The bulldozer was clearing brush to thwart cover for launchers, explosives, and ambush. A photo taken minutes before the event tells what happened: the big growling machine is perched on a great mound of earth; well below it, shut off from the driver's vision and hearing, stands a tiny figure with a bullhorn. A piteous, pointless, heartbreaking death.

The playscript includes an addendum by Tom Dale, one of the "internationals": the driver, he surmises, "knew absolutely that she was there." This version -- a charge of plain murder -- has, along with the notorious Mohammed al-Dura fabrication, entered the world's book of infamous fake facts. And for the opportunistic leaders of the ISM, which knows usable goods when it sees them, Rachel Corrie's death is neither piteous nor pointless: it is pure bonanza. A predatory organization that callously endangers its human shields by placing them before the hideouts of war, it purports to preach non-violence -- except on its website, where it openly defends "armed struggle." Arafat, the warlord and terror chieftain who launched the intifada that was the ultimate ground of Rachel Corrie's death, lauded her as a "martyr"; for Arafat too, in the enduring propaganda blitz against the life of the Jewish state, she was usable goods. Media-savvy herself, she understood, as we have seen, the notion of a usable death: "the difficulties the Israeli army would face if they shot an unarmed US citizen." Her grieving mother and father, seeking solidarity with their daughter and her cause, journeyed to Gaza, where they were an immediate temptation to the armed kidnappers who prefer to seize Westerners; identified as the martyr's parents, they were left to themselves by the equally media-savvy gunmen.

In view of the play's manifestly political intent, and particularly in the lurid light of the editors' having concluded with an accusation of deliberate murder, the London audiences who jubilantly welcomed My Name Is Rachel Corrie, and the New York audiences who weepily do the same, should know at least this much: they have been spectators at a show trial. And there are Jews in the dock.



Continued (Permanent Link)

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

PM [Olmert] to face criminal investigation over Bank Leumi sale affair

PM to face criminal investigation over Bank Leumi sale affair
By Yuval Yoaz, Haaretz Correspondent Last update - 00:48 17/01/2007

State Prosecutor Eran Shendar on Tuesday instructed the Israel Police to open a criminal investigation against Prime Minister Ehud Olmert over his involvement in the state's sale of a controlling interest in Bank Leumi.

The investigation will focus on suspicions that during his tenure as finance minister, Olmert tried to steer the tender for the sale of Bank Leumi in order to help Australian real estate baron Frank Lowy, a close personal associate.

The prime minister received notice of the prosecution's order on Tuesday afternoon. He was unsurprised by the decision, his associates told the Israel Radio Tuesday evening.

Olmert's associates told the radio that the prime minsiter was proud of his involvement in the privatization of Bank Leumi and saw no fault in his behavior. They added that the sale was made in coordination with officials and legal advisers from the Finance Ministry.

Police opened an unofficial "inspection" into the suspicions two months ago. The Justice Ministry statement said a preliminary investigation of the allegations raised in a report by the state comptroller about the bank sale "led to the conclusion that a foundation of evidence has been built that would justify opening a criminal investigation."

Once the investigation is completed, findings will be turned over to the attorney general's office, which has the final say on whether to file an indictment. The process is likely to take months.

The National Fraud Investigation Unit will take part in the investigation, according to a decision reached Tuesday in discussions with Police Commissioner Moshe Karadi.

Attorney General Menachem Mazuz has removed himself from the case because his sister holds a senior position at the Finance Ministry and took part in the Bank Leumi privatization process.

Suspicions that Olmert was improperly involved in the Leumi sale first came to light in a report by State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss. The main evidence against him is apparently the testimony of Accountant General Yaron Zelekha.

As first reported in Haaretz, an opinion prepared by attorney Michael Karshan of the Justice Ministry recommended a criminal investigation against Olmert in the Leumi affair, on suspicion of fraud, breach of trust and other crimes. However, Shendar then decided that more information was needed, and asked the police to carry out certain inquiries as part of the process of deciding whether to open a formal investigation.

Opposition MKs call for new elections

The prosecution's decision to open a criminal probe of the prime minister's involvement in the affair drew angry reactions across the board, as well as calls for early elections.

MK Ami Ayalon, who is running for the Labor Party leadership, said the circumstances necessitated preparing for the possibility of early elections, to focus on battling corruption and restoring public faith in the political system.

MK Danny Yatom, also running for Labor leadership,said "the decision [to investigate Olmert] brings the end of this cabinet closer. Therefore, the Labor primaries will be based on the candidate's ability to restore [the party] and lead the elections."

MK Shelly Yachimovitch (Labor) said that the prosecution took a brave step when announcing the investigation, because it proved that all citizens are treated equal before the law.

Meretz Chairman Yossi Beilin called on the prime minister to suspend himself from office, saying, "He [Olmert] is in a place where all that interests him is protecting himself. He can't even deal with state matters."

MK Ran Cohen(Meretz) complimented State Prosecutor Eran Shendar for deciding to open the investigation. "The highest ofcompliments to State Prosecutor Shendar on his decision to strike down and show the rest of the rank and file that there will be no refuge for corrupters."

MK Yuval Steinitz (Likud) said the affair reflected the need for new elections. "The failure of the government and the harm to the purity of values necessitate elections," he said.

MK Ophir Pines Paz (Labor) said, "The citizens of Israel are worthy of leaders who don't make it to the investigation room."

The Movement for Quality Government said, "When another ruling prime minister is investigated, it is a black day for democracy."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Exclusive: Rice picks up Livni's ideas

Exclusive: Rice picks up Livni's ideas
Herb Keinon, THE JERUSALEM POST Jan. 16, 2007

US ambassador to Israel Richard Jones told the Jerusalem Post in an exclusive interview on Tuesday, that US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice "picked up" Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni's ideas about a need to provide a "political horizon" during her recent visit here.

Jones said it was important to give both sides "an idea of what we're talking about, what we are getting into."

Rice is expected back in the region within a month for trilateral discussions with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. Jones stressed that these would not be "negotiations," but rather "discussions" of all the major issues that would have to be dealt with during the final stages of implementing the road map.

Last month, Livni came out with the idea of holding talks with the Palestinians about a future state, before implementation of the first stage of the road map. The idea behind this was to give the Palestinians an incentive to implement the first steps of the road map in order to reach these goals.

Jones also said he had no knowledge of any tract to agreement worked out between Israeli, Syrian and US non-governmental officials. He said, however, that the US position regarding Syria is that it should not be rewarded for its intransigent behavior. Jones said that the Israeli government was "not chomping at the bit" to advance negotiations with the Syrians, but, he added, the US was not standing in Jerusalem's way.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Official Syrian Source Denies as unfounded Haaretz Newspaper Report on Contacts between Syria and Israel

Official Source Denies as unfounded Haaretz Newspaper Report on Contacts
between Syria and Israel

Damascus, Jan. 16 (SANA - Syrian News Agency)- An official source at the
Foreign Ministry denied as unfounded a report published by Israeli newspaper
of Haaretz on Tuesday on contacts between Syria and Israel.The source,
answering a question by the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA), stressed that
such information is categorically unfounded and baseless.

Continued (Permanent Link)

IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz announces his resignation

Last update - 01:05 17/01/2007   

Olmert expresses regret; senior officers welcome move
IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz announces his resignation
By Amos Harel, Haaretz Correspondent, Haaretz Service and Agencies

Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lieutenant-General Dan Halutz on Tuesday night announced his resignation as head of the military.
Senior IDF officers welcomed the resignation, saying it was "high time."
The deputy chief of staff, Moshe Kaplinsky, will act as the interim head of the armed forces.
Ehud Olmert's bureau said the prime minister knew ahead of time of Halutz' intention to resign, and asked him reconsider his decision. Olmert accepted the resignation, however, once he became convinced of Halutz' determination and expressed deep regret at the decision.
Two weeks ago, Halutz said he would resign if the Winograd committee implicated him as responsible for the mishandling of the second Lebanon war.
"If the committee hands down an unambiguous sentence, it would obligate me [to resign]," he said. The resignation, however, comes before the committee released its conclusions.
A military spokesman said early Wednesday that Halutz had told Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz that he was quitting "as the investigations have run their course."
Senior IDF officers testified before the committee that they considered Halutz as responsible for the failures of the war.
They told the committee that they believe the army failed to prepare its units as required and without clear goals.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Iranian President's future in doubt as MPs rebel and economic crisis grows

Iranian President's future in doubt as MPs rebel and economic crisis grows

Robert Tait in Tehran
Tuesday January 16, 2007

Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has suffered a potentially fatal blow to his authority after the country's supreme leader gave an apparent green light for MPs to attack his economic policies.
In an unprecedented rebuke, 150 parliamentarians signed a letter blaming Mr Ahmadinejad for raging inflation and high unemployment and criticising his government's failure to deliver the budget on time. They also condemned him for embarking on a tour of Latin America - from which he returns tomorrow - at a time of mounting crisis.

The signatories included a majority of the president's former fundamentalist allies, now apparently seeking to distance themselves as his prestige wanes.
MPs also criticised Mr Ahmadinejad's role in the UN security council dispute over Iran's nuclear programme amid growing evidence that the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has ordered him to stay silent on the issue.
The supreme leader, who was hitherto loyal to the president, is said to blame Mr Ahmadinejad for last month's UN resolution imposing sanctions over Iran's refusal to suspend its uranium enrichment.
Ayatollah Khamenei has ultimate authority on foreign policy, and is rumoured to be so disillusioned with Mr Ahmadinejad's performance that he has refused to meet him on occasion.
In a further indicator, Mohammad Reza Bahonar, the leader of parliament's fundamentalists and a former lieutenant who helped the president choose his cabinet, denounced Mr Ahmadinejad's economic policies as "wrong" and told him to stop blaming others.



The mounting criticism is fuelling speculation that Mr Ahmadinejad is politically doomed. Observers have even suggested he might be impeached and removed from office.

"Ahmadinejad's golden era is over and his honeymoon with the supreme leader is finished. He has problems even meeting the supreme leader," said an Iranian political commentator, Eesa Saharkhiz. "The countdown to his dismissal has already begun. There is a probability that he cannot even finish his current four-year period."

Signs of Mr Ahmadinejad's declining stock have emerged less than a month after a crushing defeat in local authority elections, when only a fifth of his supporters won seats. His most powerful political rival, Hashemi Rafsanjani, also topped the poll in elections to the expert's assembly, a body empowered to appoint and supervise the supreme leader. Mr Rafsanjani has been a vocal critic of the president's strident anti-western rhetoric and has urged compromise on the nuclear issue.

Pragmatists within the Islamic leadership claim that Mr Ahmadinejad's inflammatory rhetoric, including a declaration that Iran would not suspend uranium enrichment for "even one day", sank any chance of a deal.

Two recent newspaper articles suggested that this is now the official view.

Jomhouri Islami, which has previously carried unsigned articles by the ayatollah, accused Mr Ahmadinejad of endangering public support for the nuclear programme by hijacking it as a personal cause to disguise his government's economic failings.

"Turning the nuclear issue into a propaganda slogan gives the impression that you, to cover up flaws in the government, are exaggerating its importance. If people get the impression that the government is exaggerating the nuclear case to divert attention from their demands, you will cause this national issue to lose public support," the newspaper wrote.

The newspaper, Hamshari, whose director, Hossein Entezami, is a member of Iran's nuclear negotiating team, was more blunt: "At the very moment when the nuclear issue was about to move away from the UN security council, the fiery speeches of the president have resulted in the adoption of two resolutions [against Iran]."


"Jomhouri Islami is the affirming voice of Iran's political system and of the wishes of the supreme leader and high-ranking officials, so its criticism of Ahmadinejad's political behaviour smacks of a serious reminder to him," said Mohammad Atrianfar, director of the recently banned reformist newspaper Shargh.

An uncharacteristically subdued response by the president to last Thursday's seizure by US forces of five Iranian citizens in Iraq - described by the Tehran government as "diplomats" - is being seen as a sign that warnings are being heeded.

But Iran's deepening economic woes, which prompted Sunday's letter from MPs, suggest that the worst may have yet to come for a man elected on promises to raise living standards and distribute the nation's oil wealth more evenly.

Those pledges jar with increasingly grim realities. Inflation is higher than when Mr Ahmadinejad took office 17 months ago, while unemployment, officially estimated at 12% but probably much higher, has not improved.

Uncontrolled inflation has resulted in soaring food prices and has had a drastic effect on the housing market. Anecdotal evidence suggests house prices and rents in Tehran have risen 50% in six months.

In a poignant development, the government plans to ration petrol to cut rising import costs incurred by Iran's lack of refinery capacity. The proposal gives an ironic twist to Mr Ahmadinejad's election promise to put the country's oil wealth "on people's tables".

The president's growing army of opponents blame the situation on the government's chaotic approach. The failure to deliver a budget bill on time is being attributed to Mr Ahmadinejad's decision to disband the management and planning organisation, a government agency responsible for setting spending priorities but which upset the president by opposing some of his costlier proposals.

Critics believe the economic situation is urgent and that Mr Ahmadinejad's place is at home and not in Latin America.


One hundred and fifty of Iran's 290 MPs signed the letter condemning President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's economic policies. Government figures put the inflation rate at 10-15%. Anecdotal experience suggests that the figure is higher. More than 17 million Iranians voted for the president in his election victory over Hashemi Rafsanjani in June 2005. However, the country's supreme leader - the most powerful figure in its theocratic system - is chosen by clerics. The supreme leader has the final say on foreign affairs, military matters and a range of other areas. Mr Ahmadinejad's four-day tour of Latin America took him to Venezuela, to meet President Hugo Ch?vez, to Nicaragua, where he met President Daniel Ortega, and to Ecuador, where he attended President Rafael Correa's inauguration. All three men share the Iranian president's hostility to Washington and President George Bush.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Ayalon can do it, Barak cannot

Ayalon can do it, Barak cannot
By Amir Oren

Ehud Barak wants to be defense minister. When he served as defense minister, he was mainly prime minister and not-so-much defense minister. He did not take the job seriously, leaving then chief of staff Shaul Mofaz, who complained to him of his woes, to do as he wished. But now Barak is ready to take on the Defense Ministry and look after it, as if it were the most precious thing in the entire world.
His CV, on paper, would impress any casting director: both Military Intelligence chief and chief of staff (until 12 years ago), both a little bit foreign minister and a little bit prime minister. In theory, he's a perfect candidate. In fact, he's a problematic one, who is inferior to the other candidate brandishing his security background, Ami Ayalon.
In a month, six years after the premiership and defense portfolio were taken from him, Barak will turn 65. He is familiar with all the precedents and eager to reenact them in fast replay. Yitzhak Rabin had to leave the prime minister's seat at 55, climbed back to the Defense Ministry at 62 and returned to the Prime Minister's Office at 70. Ariel Sharon was 55 when he was ousted from the Defense Ministry. At 72, he won the premiership, courtesy of Barak. And there was Barak's first idol, Moshe Dayan, who lost the defense portfolio at 59 and never quite recovered, not even when he served Menachem Begin as foreign minister.
Barak is waiting in the wings, in anticipation of the Winograd Committee's report. This may well bring down the entire defense leadership. But he will have difficulty presenting himself as the new broom to sweep away the debris left by the Winograd Committee, for Barak is a graduate from a previous inquiry. The Or Commission found his performance as prime minister in October 2000 faulty, inter alia, because he did not take sufficient action to prevent or restrict police use of fatal measures and did not do enough to calm spirits and events. "He did not fulfill his obligation to obtain as soon as possible the required information for making decisions and giving rational instructions," the commission said.
Ayalon is less experienced than Barak, but also has had fewer failures. As a major general in the General Staff (as head of the Israel Navy), he was one of the first who detected the gravity of the Palestinian terror threat. As head of the Shin Bet security service after Rabin's murder, he did not pretend to be an intelligence expert, but managed to rehabilitate the leadership of the disheartened organization in its crisis. He was a courageous Shin Bet chief, who faced the impetuous prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, without a personal ax to grind. He has a passionate temperament, a tendency to concentrate on himself and positions that may be influenced, but Labor's stumbling team has no one better at the moment.
Barak, too, has a place on the team, but not as its leader, for two crucial and interrelated reasons. The first is corruption. This will be the super issue of Israeli politics in the years to come, and Barak is not the man to lead the campaign against it. One can assume there will be no peace process, and that an attack on Iran - if there is one - would derive from an essential national and military imperative, one that would be valid no matter who was in government. Here, too, Barak's advantages do not outweigh his disadvantages.
The central issue, immersed in the miasma of public disgust, is going to be the integrity of those in power. The leader of Labor must work against Ehud Olmert, not for him. Barak has not spoken out to criticize Olmert at all, not to mention the hints of corruption and scandals, and if he did so, he would sound sanctimonious. Ayalon could lead an anti-corruption campaign convincingly.
Barak chose not to be a Knesset member; he was loath to take a back bench in his party's faction. Therefore, he is now qualified at most to be a minister. Barak's leadership would condemn Labor to a second-fiddle role in the government. When the ground collapses under Kadima from the weight of the investigations around Olmert, Labor will be desperate for a leader capable of forming a government in this Knesset's term. Ayalon can do it; Barak cannot.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Get set for the earthquake

Get set for the earthquake
By Yoel Marcus

Every time a major earthquake strikes somewhere in the world, our geologists like to remind us that Israel sits on the Syrian-African Rift, which means that one of these days we may be in for a big one. But geologists, like weather forecasters and astrologists, are careful not to be specific about dates or how intense the quake will be, if and when it happens.
This same state of uncertainty applies to Israel's political establishment, which also sits on a fault line - the botched war in Lebanon and an investigative committee probing the failure and who is to blame. Judging by the depth of the probe, which is going back years, and the fact that the witnesses - both those who have been questioned and those who are about to be - have hired lawyers, it looks like we can expect a political earthquake measuring high on the Winograd scale.
Ehud Barak, as the man who pulled the IDF out of Lebanon unilaterally, has already testified before the committee, along with two defense ministers and three chiefs of staff. Ehud Olmert is scheduled for cross-examination at the end of February. Assuming that Olmert is last in line, the committee will be submitting an interim report sometime in early March. In this report, the committee will issue warnings, if necessary, of course, to those who may be harmed by the panel's final conclusions. Whatever happens, Ehud Olmert has hired a lawyer, Attorney Eli Zohar, just to be on the safe side.

Despite predictions to the contrary, some legal experts have the feeling that the committee will come out with a stinging report, not only because the conclusions warrant it, but also to prove that not being a state commission of inquiry doesn't mean it has no teeth.
With the political instability in Israel today, the erosion of public trust in all levels of government, and the decline in national morale, the findings of the Winograd panel could trigger a real tsunami. An index of national resilience presented at the Herzliya Conference by Haifa University's Center for National Security Studies produced some worrying statistics: Israelis today are less optimistic and more fearful. Faith in the strength of the army and its ability to win wars has diminished. Other surveys published in the media show that trust in the leadership has taken a nose-dive, with Olmert, Amir Peretz and Dan Halutz topping the list.
A survey that appeared in Haaretz shows a clear political shift: Likud has risen from 12 seats to 29, while Kadima has shriveled into a party smaller than Shinui. From a party expected to win 45 seats in the days of Ariel Sharon, it wouldn't even take another fiasco for Kadima to go the way of the Democratic Movement for Change and Shinui, i.e., disappear from the political map.
The final report of the Winograd Committee, scheduled for publication around the time of the Labor party primaries, may influence their outcome. If Peretz had been less full of himself, if he had understood that he didn't have even the minimal professional qualifications to be defense minister and had turned down the job from the start, he wouldn't be in the pickle he is today. But now he's trapped. Whatever he does, it won't look good. If he gets up and resigns now, it will be an admission that he is to blame for the failure of Lebanon. If he doesn't, the Winograd Committee could put the blame on him, and he will be forced to resign.
Peretz is the victim of his own hubris. No peace initiative he pulls out of his sleeve now is going to save him. If the committee does not absolve Olmert of all responsibility, it's hard to say what will become of Israel's No. 1 spin champion. Will the pile of graft charges against him now being investigated by the law enforcement authorities be the straw that breaks his back?
Theoretically (and let's hope it is theoretical), the Winograd Committee could focus on the military bungles and lay all the blame on Halutz's shoulders, saying nothing about the responsibility of the political echelon. It could issue its conclusions without going deeply into the logic of the government, into questions that weren't asked, into answers that were received and never challenged. If that should happen, the Israeli public, seething as it is today with anger and disappointment, may finally take to the streets and turn the conclusions of the Winograd Committee into an earthquake on the Agranat scale.

Continued (Permanent Link)

[Israeli] PM: No government officials involved in secret Syria talks

[Israel TV interviewed former officials who said they had taken part in the talks, with the knowledge of the government.]
Last update - 22:53 16/01/2007   

PM: No government officials involved in secret Syria talks
By Haaretz Staff

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Tuesday that no government officials were involved in secret contacts with Syria, responding to a Haaretz report that understandings on a peace agreement between Jerusalem and Damascus were formulated in a series of secret meetings in Europe between September 2004 and July 2006.
"No one in the government was involved in this matter," Olmert told reporters in northern Israel. "It was a private initiative on the part of an individual who spoke with himself. From what I read, his interlocutor was an eccentric from the U.S., someone not serious or dignified."
The Syrian Foreign Ministry also rejected the report.
"No negotiations took place, the Haaretz report is completely false," a Syrian Foreign Ministry official said in Damascus.
Official Israeli response to the report was more tentative.
"This is the first we have heard of the talks, we have never sanctioned anybody to speak to the Syrians and the prime minister first learned of these conversations through the newspaper report this morning," said Olmert's spokeswoman Miri Eisin.
An unnamed senior cabinet minister was quoted Tuesday as saying that there were no contacts between the two nations, and that the story was "a bluff."
"We don't know about this, and if this had happened, we would have known about it," Israel Radio quoted the minister as saying. "This is not serious. It's possible that there were contacts on the level of academics, it's possible that there were reports to officials on a low level. But it did not reach higher than that."
The minister dismissed the report as a "bluff," the radio said.
Former foreign minister Silvan Shalom said that he first learned of the talks by reading Tuesday's paper. He said the last contact Israel had with a Syrian representative was in 2003.
Dr. Alon Liel, a former director general at the Foreign Ministry, who took part in all the meetings, was quoted as saying that he had not acted the representative of anyone. Liel further declined to state whom he had informed of the meetings.
The radio quoted unnamed senior Israeli officials as stating that Israel is not holding contacts with Syria.
The officials referred to the sensitivity of the issue, in view of the opposition of Washington, Israel's main ally, to negotiations with the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
"Syria is trying to topple the Siniora government in Lebanon, a government which the United States is trying to aid," the radio quoted one official as saying. "Syria streams terror elements to Iraq, where they operate against the United States military, Syria fosters [Damascus-based Hamas leader] Khaled Meshal, it transfers arms to Hezbollah, hosts headquarters of terror organizations, supports Hamas, and, in general, undermines any attempt to reach a [peace] agreement
A figure described as a very senior official in the office of then-prime minister Ariel Sharon was quoted as saying that "there was no reports to Sharon, there were no reports to his office, there was no connection between Sharon and Alon Liel, this never happened."
"This is absolute nonsense."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Full text of document drafted during secret [Israel-Syria] talks

for related articles and
for a different Syria-Israel unofficial contacts story.
Last update - 10:07 16/01/2007   

EXCLUSIVE: Full text of document drafted during secret talks
By Akiva Eldar, Haaretz Correspondent

Draft 4
August 29, 2004
The objective of this effort is to establish normal, peaceful relations between the governments and peoples of Israel and Syria, and to sign a treaty of peace attesting to this achievement. The treaty will resolve the four "pillars" at the core of negotiations: security, water, normalization, and borders. There is be no agreement on any single one of these issues unless and until all of these issues are resolved.
I. Sovereignty
1. Syrian sovereignty, based upon the June 4, 1967 line in the Golan Heights, is acknowledged by Israel. The mutually agreed upon border will be determined by both parties (and guaranteed by the U.S. and the UN)
II. Framework Agreement, Implementation, and the End to the State of Belligerency
A "Framework Agreement" will address the issues of security (including early warning), water, normalization, and borders. Negotiations to reach such an agreement should proceed as expeditiously.
1. The state of belligerency between the parties will cease upon signature of a framework agreement between the parties, and will include the cessation of hostile actions by each party against the other.
2. Application of Syrian sovereignty in the Golan Heights, the establishment of normal, bilateral diplomatic relations, and the implementation of relevant provisions related to water and security will commence as soon as possible after the conclusion of a Framework Agreement but no later than the signing of a treaty of peace.
3. Implementation of the Israeli withdrawal to the mutually agreed border will occur during a period (the exact time frame to be mutually agreed) from signature of the Framework Agreement.
III. Peace Treaty
1. Satisfactory implementation of provisions and obligations established in the Framework Agreement will result in the signing of a peace treaty between the parties.
IV. Security
1. Demilitarized zones will be established in the areas of the Golan Heights that Israeli forces will vacate.
2. No military forces, armaments, weapons systems, or military infrastructure will be introduced into the demilitarized zones. Only a limited civil police presence will be deployed in the areas.
3. Both parties agree not to fly over demilitarized zones without a special arrangement.
4. The establishment of an early warning system includes a ground station on Mt. Hermon/Jabal as-Sheikh operated by the United States.
5. A monitoring and inspection and verification mechanism will be established to monitor and supervise the security agreements.
6. Direct liaison between the parties will be established in order to: Create a direct, real time communication capability on security issues in order to minimize friction along the international border; Help to prevent errors and misunderstandings between the parties.
7. Zones of reduced military forces will be established in Israel west of the international border with Syria and in Syria east of the Golan Heights. The respective depth of these zones (as measured in kilometers) between Israel and Syria will be according to a ratio of 1:4.
8. The Parties will cooperate in fighting local and international terrorism of all kinds.
9. The Parties will work together for a stable and safe Middle East, including the solution of regional problems related to the Palestinians, Lebanese, and Iran.
V. Water
1. Israel will control the use and disposition of the water in the Upper Jordan River and Lake Tiberias.
2. Syria will not interrupt or obstruct natural flow of water in either quality or quantity in the Upper Jordan River, its tributaries, and Lake Tiberias.
3. Syrian use of the waters of the upper Jordan River, its tributaries, and Lake Tiberias for residential and fishing purposes is recognized and guaranteed.
VI. Park
1. In order to safeguard the water resources of the Jordan River basin, Syrian territory east of the mutually agreed border will be designated as a Park open to all and administered by Syria. The Park is to be established in the Golan Heights upon completion of the Israeli withdrawal and application of Syrian sovereignty in accordance with the treaty of peace. The park will extend from the agreed upon border eastward to a line to be determined by mutual agreement.
2. Park characteristics:
* Park is open for tourism.
* Park will be policed by Syrian park service personnel.
* The park will be free of permanent residents except for conservation and law enforcement personnel.
* No visa will be required for entry into park [from Israeli territory].
* Syrians will issue onsite official entry permit for a nominal fee.
* Visitors wishing to enter other Syrian territory east of the Park must have a proper visa and transit Syrian controls on park's eastern perimeter.
* Entry to park is valid for one day during daylight hours.
More on the Israel-Syria contacts:

Continued (Permanent Link)



By Michael Widlanski  Tuesday, 16 January, 2007

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas made a very militant anti-Israel speech
this week, but most of its violent message was lost in translation, because
Abbas used a somewhat obscure wording in Arabic.

   "Let a thousand flowers bloom,  and let our rifles, all our rifles, all
our rifles, be aimed at the Occupation," declared Abbas using an apparent
reference to the old oratory of Communist leader Mao Tse Tung.

   Even non-Arabs well-schooled in Arabic had trouble figuring out the
strange verb form "da'a" used by Dr. Abbas, but it is a  command form that
means "let us" or "leave us begin to" from the weak Arabic verbal root
Wa-da-'a (Waw, Dal 'Ayin).  [See Hans Wehr, A Dictionary of Modern Written
Arabic,  p.1058]

   The phrase is important in many ways, because it shows
.--That Dr. Abbas, who studied at the KGB's Patrice Lumumba University for
Third World leaders, continues to heed Communist revolutionary rhetoric and
.--That Dr. Abbas is committed to the "revolutionary path" of Yasser Arafat,
who also saluted those using violence against Israel;

.--And  that  Abbas believes that the Palestinian revolution requires
continued violence against Israel, and that this violence can actually be a
unifying factor among Palestinians, though Abbas has said that the timing of
the violence is of critical importance.

"I say to the master of the martyrs," declared Abbas, saluting Arafat,
"your sons will continue your march. I say to you, your lion cubs will
continue this struggle (nidal), this battle (kifaah) until a Palestinian
state is established on the land of Palestine with Jerusalem as its capital.

   Abbas, who spoke for more than 30 minutes on Jan. 11 in Ramallah,  made
it clear that he was distinguishing between the "struggle" or "battle"
against Israel and the "fighting" among Palestinians.

    "Firing weapons at a my brother my friend, my neighbor," declared Arafat's
successor, "is forbidden, forbidden, forbidden," repeating his words and
waving his left hand strongly.

   But Abbas said the Palestinian struggle would continue despite setbacks.

  "They have killed us everywhere, but this revolution, by virtue of the
determination of its people, by virtue of the determination of its
youth--this revolution has continued and it will continue until we fulfill
the Palestinian dream."

   Abbas was speaking at the forty-second anniversary of  the founding of
the Fatah organization-a day commemorating the first Palestinian attack on
Israel's national water carrier on January 1, 1965, and Abbas was trying to
use the occasion unify the divided Palestinian community, perhaps by using
Israel as a common enemy.

The Fatah Day speech was delayed by ten days of massive fighting between
Fatah and Hamas, both of which are wrestling for leadership of the
Palestinian Authority in the wake of Yasser Arafat's death in November 2004.

   "Since our launching to this day, we have believed in principles which we
shall not relinquish. From the dawn of our beginning we have said 'Let a
thousand flowers bloom  and let our rifles, all our rifles, all our rifles,
be aimed at the Occupation.' And we will keep the oath, the renewed national
unity, for everyone who cares for the sake of the homeland and in the path
of the homeland," declared Abbas.

   Frequently throughout his speech, Abbas referred to Arafat as martyr,
similarly describing  those Fatah gunmen who died while carrying   out
attacks on Israel.

   Abbas's comments were interpreted by Palestinians themselves as a clear
reference to attacking Israel-a badge of honor rather than something to

   The Palestinian leader's words were repeated almost exactly in later
television shows by other Palestinian officials, such as Ibrahim Abu-Naja
and Dr. Kamal Sharafy who called Israel "the enemy" and "the Zionist enemy,"

   As if to remove any doubt about the militancy of Abbas's words and the
place to aim Palestinian rifles, minutes after Abbas's own speech,
Palestinian television's senior announcer, described Israel's establishment
as the beginning of "occupation."

   "No one [here] is a criminal. All our people are as one hand to free our
land," declared Abbas, speaking about the struggle against Israel that
unites all Palestinians. Not once in his speech did he condemn or even
disapprove of continuing rocket attacks and attempted suicide assaults by
Hamas and by his own Fatah movement.

   But Abbas made it clear that Palestinian violence had to be curtailed for
practical reasons,  because it was "crossing a red line," endangering

   "I have heard the sound gunshots here, and that is forbidden," asserted
Abbas, the Fatah and PLO chairman, remonstrating against the largely
pro-Fatah crowd that gathered to listen to his words in the town of
Ramallah, north of Jerusalem.

   "Condemning and preventing internal fighting," was his goal, asserted
Abbas, referring to the internal Palestinian blood-letting in which about
300 Palestinians died last year. Stopping this "falatan"-anarchy in Arabic-
was his regime's first priority, said Abbas,  but his words did not seem to
convince the crowd.

   "Hamas is a bunch of Shiites," cried members of the crowd, using the term
"Shiite" as a  kind of curse, and Abbas again rebuked his own Fatah members,
saying, "This [kind of talk] too is forbidden," as he tried to strike
nationalistic and Islamic themes of unity, departing slightly from his
prepared speech.
[See Fatah website in Arabic]

   "No one [Palestinian] is outside our society," yelled Abbas. waving his
hands at the noisy crowd.  He specifically saluted the late Sheikh Ahmad
Yassin, one of the founders of Hamas, which developed the human bomb attacks
that ravaged Israel from 1994-2004, after Israel signed several agreements
with the Palestinians.

    "No one is a traitor. No one is a collaborator [with Israel]. No one is
an infidel," Abbas continued, strongly suggesting that anyone who has used
arms against Israel, even if he vied with Fatah for leadership, was still
not beyond the pale.

    [Almost all Palestinians are Sunni Muslims and the term "Shi'a" in
Arabic, which means faction or faction member, refers to those Muslims who
broke away from the majority community after the death of Islam's leader,
Muhammad, and supported Ali, Muhammad's nephew. -MW]

      In what was in many ways one of the most militant speeches against
Israel from a Palestinian official  normally touted as a moderate, Dr. Abbas
also stretched out his hand to the Hamas  terror organization  that has
never even pretended it does not want to destroy Israel.

   Dr. Abbas seemed to reject all possibilities of territorial compromise or
anything less than full repatriation of Palestinian refugees, and he
repudiated Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice's idea that a further Israeli
withdrawal would lead to a Palestinian state inside temporary borders.

   "Today more than any other day, we must hold fast to our Palestinian
principles, and we will not accept a state with temporary borders" said
Abbas, adding, "We will not give up one grain [of land] in Jerusalem."

Dr. Michael Widlanski is a specialist in Arab politics and communication at
the Rothberg School of Hebrew University, and his doctorate dealt with the
Palestinian broadcast media. He is a former reporter, correspondent and
editor, respectively, at The New York Times, The Cox Newspapers-Atlanta
Constitution, and The Jerusalem Post. He has also served as a special
advisor to Israeli delegations to peace talks in 1991-1992 and as Strategic
Affairs Advisor to the Ministry of Public Security, editing secret PLO
Archives captured in Jerusalem.

IMRA - Independent Media Review and Analysis

Continued (Permanent Link)

Israel: "Syria Not Ruling Out Receiving Alternative Territory Instead of Entire Golan"

Israel: "Syria Not Ruling Out Receiving Alternative Territory Instead of Entire Golan"

Uri Jablonka:

Ma'ariv in Hebrew

January 15, 2007 p 4

Israel can reach a peace agreement with Syria without withdrawing from all of the Golan Heights, as long as it compensates the Syrians with alternative land of equal area -- this, according to messages that Prof Uzi Arad, head of the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center  Institute for Policy and Strategy, received from Syrian sources.

Arad heads a team of researchers that in recent years has been charting creative paths to peace formulas with Syria. Ahead of the Herzliya  Interdisciplinary Center Institute of Policy and Strategy's Seventh Herzliyya Conference, scheduled to begin this coming Sunday, Arad, along with another researcher at the institute, Rahel Makhtiger, has prepared a comprehensive document specifying the possible exchanges of territory with Syria. Arad asserts that a chance exists for resuming contacts with the Syrians soon, with all of the formulas discussed in the document defining a situation in which Syria would allow Israel to continue holding onto about 20% of the Golan Heights, areas where about two-thirds of Israeli residents live.  Israel would evacuate about 6,000 Israeli residents from their homes, and in exchange for all the rest remaining -- about 10,000 people -- it would hand over to the Syrians alternative areas at a one-to-one ratio.

Last night, Arad said, "We no longer need to adhere closely to the old territorial formulas. There is no longer room to assume that the price of peace with Syria is a complete withdrawal from the Golan. The Syrians well understand that there are things Israel is incapable of ceding."

Arad said further: "I have moves underway with the Syrians, and when I presented to certain people there the main points of the territorial exchange plan -- they were not dismissed out of hand. They were also not necessarily accepted as they are, but the sense is that they were not immediately ruled out. There is a point from which it is possible to begin talking with them.

An agreement with Syria, according to the format presented by the Interdisciplinary Center's experts, requires the involvement of additional countries. Since Israel's only border with Syria is the one on the Golan, the Syrians would have to receive the alternative areas from the Lebanese or from the Jordanians -- who would be compensated for that by Israel. In each of the alternative scenarios Israel remains on a longitudinal strip in the western Golan Heights, an area of 250 sq km, while leaving most of the residents in their homes. In the context of the Lebanese option, Lebanon would hand over territory sharing a common border with Syria, and in exchange would receive from Israel areas of corresponding size along Israel's northern border with it. The Jordanian option defines an identical situation, whereby in exchange for areas in the Arava -- south of the Dead Sea -- that it would receive from Israel, Jordan would transfer territory on its border with Syria.

According to Arad, "this Israeli proposal, if it is offered, would enable the Syrians to receive the full amount of territory in terms of square kilometers. They won't get anything better than that, and they know it." Arad noted that all of the formulae require the Syrians to end its support for Palestinian terrorism and for Hizballah.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Misreading the Second Lebanon War - Maj.-Gen (res.) Yaakov Amidror - Vol. 6, No. 16

Jerusalem Issue Brief

Institute for Contemporary Affairs

founded jointly at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

with the Wechsler Family Foundation

Vol. 6, No. 16  – 16 January 2007

Misreading the Second Lebanon War

Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror

  • Hizballah casualties were not less than 500 and may have reached 700 – a figure greater than all the casualties Hizballah has suffered during the last twenty years. It will take Hizballah at least two years to rebuild its capabilities and to recruit and train new people.

  • Israel also developed a system which made Hizballah's long-range rocket launchers good for one use only. Within less than five minutes of launch they were destroyed by Israel's air force, an unprecedented achievement in modern warfare.

  • The determination of Israel's government to respond and to retaliate is a very important factor in restoring deterrence. Now those around Israel understand that Israel has certain red lines, and that if these lines are crossed, Israel's retaliation will be intentionally disproportionate. As a small country, we cannot allow ourselves the luxury of reacting proportionally.

  • Middle East leaders understand that Israel is prepared to use military force, and that in the future we are not going to be as tolerant of attempts to act against us.

  • Nasrallah said at the beginning of the war that there would be no international forces and no Lebanese army in south Lebanon. The entry of these forces is, from the Israeli point of view, the greatest success of the war.

  • What is the real mood of the Israeli people after the war? It is that we are not suckers and we are not going to make the same mistake again. We are not going to put ourselves in danger if it is not necessary. We unilaterally retreated from Lebanon and didn't retaliate for six years, and in the end we found Hizballah in a stronger position to fight against us. When Israel retreated from Gaza what was the result? More Kassam rockets on Sderot and Ashkelon.

Why Hizballah Is Keeping the Cease-Fire

It is not easy to judge the war in Lebanon because it was not between two states. This war was very unique because it involved a guerilla organization that is an extension of two sovereign states: Iran and Syria.

Hizballah is still functioning and was functioning during the entire war. We have identified by name and address 440 members of Hizballah who were killed during the war. From my experience, this figure is between half and two-thirds of the actual casualties, which were not less than 500 and may have reached 700 – a figure greater than all the casualties Hizballah has suffered during the last twenty years. It will take Hizballah at least two years to rebuild its capabilities and to recruit and train new people. This is why Hizballah is keeping the cease-fire.

Hizballah succeeded in launching 4,000 short-range Katyushas into Israel and Israel didn't stop them. At the same time, Israel hit more than 150 rocket launchers. Almost a third of these, including most of Hizballah's long-range missiles, were hit in a preventive air strike during the first night. Israel also developed a system which made the long-range rocket launchers good for one use only. Within less than five minutes of launch they were destroyed by Israel's air force, an unprecedented achievement in modern warfare.

Hizballah also sent three armed aerial drones toward Israel with a payload of 45 kilograms of TNT. One had technical problems and fell into the sea, while the other two were destroyed by Israel's air force. This was the surprise that Hizballah hoped to use against Tel Aviv, but they didn't succeed.

From a military point of view, when Israel deployed its ground forces, they fulfilled every mission according to schedule. There is not one example in which Hizballah succeeded in stopping the IDF when it had a clear mission. One of the problems was that in some areas the mission was a bit blurred.

The fact that the war was ended before Israel got back the kidnapped soldiers is a great mistake. I believe that if Israel would have said it was not going to fulfill the cease-fire without the kidnapped soldiers being transferred to the Lebanese government, we might have achieved the return of the soldiers.

The Question of Deterrence

Deterrence includes two elements: the first is the determination to use your capability and the second is to have this capability. I think it was very important that Israel made the decision to go to war and sustained the war for more than a month, despite extensive Hizballah rocket attacks across northern Israel.

The determination of Israel's government to respond and to retaliate is a very important factor in restoring deterrence. Now those around Israel understand that Israel has certain red lines, and that if these lines are crossed by the Syrians, the Palestinians, or the Lebanese, Israel's retaliation will be intentionally disproportionate. As a small country, we cannot allow ourselves the luxury of reacting proportionally. Israel's military action sent a very important message to the people around us.

Middle East leaders understand that Israel is prepared to use military force, and that in the future we are not going to be as tolerant of attempts to act against us. We understand that it was a mistake not to respond to Hizballah for six years.

Israel is returning to its previous policy of preemptive action against its enemies when necessary. This determination by the Israeli government is very important and will be part of the new way that Israel will act and react towards any threat in the future.

We believe Hizballah fired some 1,000 anti-tank missiles at Israeli tanks, hitting around 50 tanks and penetrating half of them. In terms of other recent wars, this was not such a great success. Israelis want to believe that our tanks are impenetrable, but such a tank does not exist in physics. While this upsets many Israelis, in terms of warfare, the new missiles were nothing to write home about, and this is before we factor in new defensive systems which have been developed in Israel. Perhaps some leaders in the Middle East will make the mistake of believing that Israel's military forces do not have the capability to deal with such threats as anti-tank missiles and Katyushas, which would also be a factor affecting deterrence.

When Nasrallah himself said on August 27 that if he knew his July 12 attack would lead to this kind of war, he wouldn't have ordered the operation, this sums up in one sentence what we can understand from this war. Israel made many mistakes. But in the end, from Hizballah's point of view, their whole July 12 operation was a mistake.

The Political Process

It was understood from the beginning of the fighting that there was a need for a political process as an extension of the military operation. Here, I think that the achievements are more than many Israelis expected. Even after the Lebanese had finally pushed out the Syrians, the international community made no moves to implement the other parts of UN Resolution 1559 that clearly said all the militias in Lebanon should be disarmed and the Lebanese government should take responsibility in south Lebanon. Hizballah leader Nasrallah said at the beginning of the war that there would be no international forces and no Lebanese army in south Lebanon. The entry of these forces is, from the Israeli point of view, the greatest success of the war.

The international community understands that the responsibility for south Lebanon is not in the hands of the Israelis. It is in the hands of the international community and the Lebanese. With more than 50 Islamic states, Israel stands alone at the UN with America and Micronesia. But the UN presence in south Lebanon is not connected only to Israel. This is a chance for Lebanon to again be a sovereign, free country without Hizballah's state within a state. For the UN, this is an historic opportunity to rebuild its reputation as an organization that now has the tools to implement a UN resolution with ten thousand soldiers from Europe in south Lebanon.

Yet based on our experience, we don't trust the United Nations. Under its umbrella, Hizballah could do whatever it wanted and the UN stopped Israel from retaliating or preventing Hizballah from acting against us.

This war clearly exposed the relationship between terror organizations and sovereign states in the world. Syria and Iran built up Hizballah. The Iranians invested between one and two billion dollars in the last ten years to finance, train, and arm this organization Some 80 percent of the rockets that hit Israel came from Syria. The most advanced missiles in the Russian arsenal were sent by Syria to Hizballah, after Israel had warned the Russians not to sell them to Syria. Hizballah is not a guerilla organization, it is an extension of Iran and Syria.

Iran Lost the War

From the point of view of Iran, this war was a great failure. What was the whole purpose of the $2 billion that Iran invested in Hizballah? It was the matchbox that Iran hoped to ignite to achieve something or to prevent something with regard to Israel in the future. They used it and they achieved nothing. It cannot be used again. We know how to deal with this threat, and next time we will deal with it in a better way. We have to prepare the civil defense systems in the north and use the ground forces in other ways, but if this is the threat, it's not a strategic threat to Israel. We can cope with it.

The Iranians did not even improve their reputation in this war. What did the Iranians do to help Hizballah, their ally and their extension in south Lebanon? What was Nasrallah saying to himself sitting in a bunker somewhere - maybe under the Iranian embassy? The Iranians were the big losers in this war.

Israel Investigates the War

Israel is now investigating the mistakes of the war in Lebanon. We will not let it go without an investigation. Were the mistakes at the political level - we didn't let the military act? Was it inside the military, which was not determined enough or clear enough about the goals and the missions? The main reason to investigate the war is to understand why we did not use our potential, because we had the potential to do better.

One mission which was not fulfilled was to stop the Katyushas. Some 95 percent of the rockets were launched from an area in south Lebanon bordered by the Litani River on the west and the Nabatiya area in the east. Geography remains the name of the game. When you don't have control on the ground in the areas which are important to defend yourself, and to prevent the other side from having its capabilities, you're not in a good position.

The Impact of the War on the Palestinians

I expect Hizballah to invest more energy in the Palestinian territories now that it has lost its capability to use its forces in south Lebanon. Hizballah finances Fatah-Tanzim cells in the West Bank, especially in the northern part, in Samaria. They are also very involved in Gaza where they help Hamas very much. In the past they sent some weapons ships to Gaza.

The Iranians may also decide that perhaps they can achieve more by supporting Islamic Jihad, Hamas, and Tanzim than they can through another round by Hizballah. We can see the beginning of this in stepped-up efforts to smuggle weapons into Gaza.

What lessons will the Palestinians draw from this war? Hamas and Islamic Jihad will try to strengthen their capabilities in all the areas that seem to be weak points for the Israeli military. For example, they will seek to smuggle in more anti-tank missiles. They also understand that our air force is a main element in our capabilities, and will seek to acquire more anti-aircraft missiles as well.

The Palestinians know that the fact that the Israelis are very bitter about the consequences of the war does not mean that we didn't succeed. They know that this is an Israeli habit, not to be satisfied with anything. I believe that the leadership of the Palestinians will understand that Israel, after the war, is a state that is not going to give up even one square kilometer if that will harm its security.

What is the real mood of the Israeli people after the war? It is that we are not suckers and we are not going to make the same mistake again. We are not going to put ourselves in danger if it is not necessary. We unilaterally retreated from Lebanon and didn't retaliate for six years, and in the end we found Hizballah in a stronger position to fight against us. When Israel retreated from Gaza what was the result? More Kassam rockets on Sderot and Ashkelon. We are not going to be the suckers of the Middle East. This is the deepest understanding of most Israelis, and the Palestinians are in a better position to understand this.

There will be a huge gap between the Palestinian extremists who say, "Let's become stronger, we will show them as Hizballah did. We will be the next Hizballah in Gaza.," and the deeper understanding of the leadership that Israel is not going to give up, even in minor events.

Shi'ites and Sunnis

This the first time in history in which the Shi'ites are becoming a leading force in the Muslim world. Of the 1.2 billion Muslims, only 15 percent are Shi'ites and they live mainly in three countries – Iran, Iraq, and Lebanon. From the Sunni point of view, this appears as an arc from Teheran through Baghdad to Beirut. The Sunnis understand better than us what it would mean if the Shi'ites became the leading force in the Middle East, and this upsets many people in the Sunni world.

Another version of the sectarian tension may be seen with the ruling Alawites in Syria. The Alawites today comprise 10 percent of the population. The other 90 percent are Sunni. The Alawites understand that the minute the Sunnis will take control of Syria, within two months the Alawites will become only 5 percent as some will flee for their lives and others will be killed by the Sunnis. The bad blood between the Alawites and the Sunnis in Syria is worse than between the Sunnis and the Shi'ites in Iraq.

*    *    *

Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror, Program Director of the Institute for Contemporary Affairs, is former commander of the IDF's National Defense College and the IDF Staff and Command College. He is also the former head of the IDF's research and assessment division, with special responsibility for preparing the National Intelligence Assessment. In addition, he served as the military secretary of the Minister of Defense. This Jerusalem Issue Brief is based on his presentation at the Institute for Contemporary Affairs in Jerusalem on September 6, 2006.

This Jerusalem Issue Brief is available online at:

Dore Gold, Publisher; Yaakov Amidror, ICA Program Director; Mark Ami-El, Managing Editor. Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (Registered Amuta), 13 Tel-Hai St., Jerusalem, Israel; Tel. 972-2-5619281, Fax. 972-2-5619112, Email: In U.S.A.: Center for Jewish Community Studies, 5800 Park Heights Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21215; Tel. 410-664-5222; Fax 410-664-1228. Website: © Copyright. The opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of the Board of Fellows of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

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[Syria Israeli Peace Contacts] BACKGROUND: How the covert contacts transpired

BACKGROUND: How the covert contacts transpired
By Akiva Eldar, Haaretz Correspondent Last update - 08:34 16/01/2007

It began exactly three years ago. In January 2004, Syrian President Bashar Assad came to Turkey for an important visit, some say a historic one. By complete coincidence, Dr. Alon Liel, a former Foreign Ministry director general and former Israeli ambassador to Ankara, was in Istanbul and staying at the same hotel as the Syrian delegation. His friends in the Turkish Foreign Ministry hinted to Liel that Israel had a respectable spot in the conversations between Assad and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

A few days after Liel's return to Israel, he was invited to a meeting with the Turkish ambassador to Israel, Feridun Sinirlioglu. The Turkish ambassador told Liel that Assad had asked Erdogan to use Turkey's good relations with Israel to remove the rust from the negotiation channel with Syria. Liel was asked to put out discreet feelers in the bureau of then prime minister Ariel Sharon to find out if there were an Israeli partner for covert talks with Syria, to be mediated by Turkey.

Liel brought Geoffrey Aronson from the Washington-based Foundation for Middle East Peace into the picture. Aronson, who is Jewish, had wandered among the capitals of the Middle East, including Damascus, Beirut and Amman, and suggested bringing in Ibrahim (Ayeb) Suleiman, a Syrian-Alawite businessman who had been living in a suburb of Washington, D.C. for many years. Suleiman's family is from the same village as the Assad family, and senior American officials had used his good mediation skills many times to make contact with Damascus. Suleiman had also been involved in opening the gates of Syria to the Jews remaining there who wanted to move to Israel.

Suleiman left for Damascus. He arrived at the home of the Turkish ambassador to Syria in a vehicle from the president's bureau to report that the Syrians were prepared to begin negotiations with Israel immediately: formal negotiations, certainly not "academic talks." The Prime Minister's Bureau in Jerusalem didn't care whether Liel and his friends sat down with the Syrians to hear what they had to say - but no negotiations. The Israeli reason (or excuse): The Americans are not prepared to hear about contact with Syria.

Covert meetings in a European capital

At the end of the summer of 2004, Sinirlioglu told Liel, with great regret, that the Turkish channel had reached a dead end. But the trio of Liel, Aronson and Suleiman didn't give up. In September, they met in a European capital that agreed to provide cover and funding for a covert Israeli-Syrian channel via a senior official in that country's foreign ministry. Since autumn 2004, seven more meetings have been held. (Haaretz was provided the details about the conversations, on condition that the identities of the mediator and two other Israelis who participated in some of the meetings not be published.)

Following each meeting, as soon as he returned to Israel, Liel gave a full report to a senior official Foreign Ministry official. Sharon's bureau also received a full situation report. Suleiman joined Liel on one of his visits to the Foreign Ministry and personally described Syria's position to the officials in attendance. The European mediator also shared his impressions with the professional staff in Jerusalem.

To allow the European mediator to form his own impressions regarding the Syrians' attitude toward the covert channel, Suleiman invited him to join him on his trips to Damascus. Each time they landed there, an official car awaited them near their plane. They were taken to the office of Syrian Vice President Farouk Shara, and occasionally met with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem and a senior official in Syrian intelligence.

The European mediator had the impression that the Syrian leadership was treating the matter very seriously and was not wasting his time or the taxpayer's money on "futile academic talks." He recalled that the Oslo Accords with the Palestinians began with talks among academics, with the assistance of a European country.

"I was convinced that the Syrians want a peace agreement with you," the European mediator reported directly to official Israeli sources even before the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri in February 2005 and the investigation that began afterward. His impression was that the Syrian motive for the murder went far deeper than fear of revenge from the United States or France, which points to Assad as the one responsible for Hariri's death.

"Farouk Shara told me radical Islam constitutes a threat to Syria and that peace is the only way to halt it," the mediator said. He said the Syrians told him that in a few years, they would lose their oil sources and need significant amounts of foreign currency to purchase energy from external sources. The Alawite regime realizes, the European mediator said, that in order to survive, it has to bring foreign currency into Syria, and that no sane businessman would invest his fortune in a country that is not at peace with its neighbors.

While in Damascus, the European mediator heard about Syria's readiness to include its ties with Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas in its agenda for peace negotiations with Israel. He even reported identical comments he heard from the Syrian Foreign Ministry's legal adviser, Riad Daoudi, at the 'Madrid+15 Conference' on Friday.

Daoudi's refusal to befriend the Israeli delegation at the Madrid conference is in line with the Syrians' approach in the European channel regarding proposals for Syrian gestures toward Israel, such as the digging up the bones of Israeli spy Eli Cohen, information on missing Israeli soldiers or a visit to the grave of Rabbi Haim Vital.

"Israel has held onto our land for 40 years now and rejects are request to open negotiations, and after all that, they expect confidence-building steps from us," the Syrians argue.

Wartime meetings

The discussions dealt with all the matters that occupied the official negotiation teams: borders, water, security and normalization. Suleiman, representing the Syrian position, made it clear from the first moment that it would be a shame to waste time on futile attempts to move Syria from its position regarding the June 4, 1967 borders. Feelers regarding the possibility of territorial exchange were dismissed out of hand.

Nonetheless, the Syrians showed surprising flexibility regarding everything connected to a timetable for evacuating Israeli communities in the Golan Heights, water use and primarily the concept of building a "peace park" in the buffer zone that would be open to Israeli visitors.

The final document was formulated in August 2005, and has since been changed slightly. The final meeting took place a year later, in the midst of the second Lebanon war, on a day in which eight Israelis were killed by Hezbollah-fired Katyusha rockets in the Galilee. Suleiman announced that the Syrians had done all they could with the covert channel and were suggesting a meeting between a Syrian representative at the rank of deputy minister and an Israeli official at the rank of director general. They asked that C. David Welch, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, also participate in the meeting.

That was the end of the story.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Secret understandings reached between representatives of Israel, Syria

Secret understandings reached between representatives of Israel, Syria
By Akiva Eldar, Haaretz Correspondent Last update - 09:14 16/01/2007

In a series of secret meetings in Europe between September 2004 and July 2006, Syrians and Israelis formulated understandings for a peace agreement between Israel and Syria.

The main points of the understandings are as follows:

An agreement of principles will be signed between the two countries, and following the fulfillment of all commitments, a peace agreement will be signed.

As part of the agreement on principles, Israel will withdraw from the Golan Heights to the lines of 4 June, 1967. The timetable for the withdrawal remained open: Syria demanded the pullout be carried out over a five-year period, while Israel asked for the withdrawal to be spread out over 15 years.

At the buffer zone, along Lake Kinneret, a park will be set up for joint use by Israelis and Syrians. The park will cover a significant portion of the Golan Heights. Israelis will be free to access the park and their presence will not be dependent on Syrian approval.

Israel will retain control over the use of the waters of the Jordan River and Lake Kinneret.

The border area will be demilitarized along a 1:4 ratio (in terms of territory) in Israel's favor.

According to the terms, Syria will also agree to end its support for Hezbollah and Hamas and will distance itself from Iran.

Map of territorial arrangements
Peace with Syria - Map
The document is described as a "non-paper," a document of understandings that is not signed and lacks legal standing - its nature is political. It was prepared in August 2005 and has been updated during a number of meetings in Europe.

The meetings were carried out with the knowledge of senior officials in the government of former prime minister Ariel Sharon. The last meeting took place during last summer's war in Lebanon.

Government officials received updates on the meetings via the European mediator and also through Dr. Alon Liel, a former director general at the Foreign Ministry, who took part in all the meetings.

The European mediator and the Syrian representative in the discussions held eight separate meetings with senior Syrian officials, including Vice President Farouk Shara, Foreign Minister Walid Muallem, and a Syrian intelligence officer with the rank of "general."

The contacts ended after the Syrians demanded an end to meetings on an unofficial level and called for a secret meeting at the level of deputy minister, on the Syrian side, with an Israeli official at the rank of a ministry's director general, including the participation of a senior American official. Israel did not agree to this Syrian request.

The Syrian representative in the talks, Ibrahim (Abe) Suleiman, an American citizen, had visited Jerusalem and delivered a message to senior officials at the Foreign Ministry regarding the Syrian wish for an agreement with Israel. The Syrians also asked for help in improving their relations with the United States, and particularly in lifting the American embargo on Syria.

For his part, the European mediator stressed that the Syrian leadership is concerned that the loss of petroleum revenues will lead to an economic crash in the country and could consequently undermine the stability of the Assad regime.

According to Geoffrey Aronson, an American from the Washington-based Foundation for Middle East Peace, who was involved in the talks, an agreement under American auspices would call for Syria to ensure that Hezbollah would limit itself to being solely a political party.

He also told Haaretz that Khaled Meshal, Hamas' political bureau chief, based in Damascus, would have to leave the Syrian capital.

Syria would also exercise its influence for a solution to the conflict in Iraq, through an agreement between Shi'a leader Muqtada Sadr and the Sunni leadership, and in addition, it would contribute to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including the refugee problem.

Aronson said the idea of a park on the Golan Heights allows for the Syrian demand that Israel pull back to the June 4 border, on the one hand, while on the other hand, the park eliminates Israeli concerns that Syrians will have access to the water sources of Lake Kinneret.

"This was a serious and honest effort to find creative solutions to practical problems that prevented an agreement from being reached during Barak's [tenure as prime minister] and to create an atmosphere of building confidence between the two sides," he said.

It also emerged that one of the Syrian messages to Israel had to do with the ties between Damascus and Tehran. In the message, the Alawi regime - the Assad family being members of the Alawi minority - asserts that it considers itself to be an integral part of the Sunni world and that it objects to the Shi'a theocratic regime, and is particularly opposed to Iran's policy in Iraq. A senior Syrian official stressed that a peace agreement with Israel will enable Syria to distance itself from Iran.

Liel refused to divulge details about the meetings but confirmed that they had taken place. He added that meetings on an unofficial level have been a fairly common phenomenon during the past decade.

"We insisted on making the existence of meetings known to the relevant parties," Liel said. "Nonetheless, there was no official Israeli connection to the content of the talks and to the ideas that were raised during the meetings."

Prior to these meetings, Liel was involved in an effort to further secret talks between Syria and Israel with the aid of Turkish mediation - following a request for assistance President Assad had made to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

That attempt failed following Israel's refusal to hold talks on an official level - and a Syrian refusal to restrict the talks to an "academic level," similar to the framework of the talks that had preceded the Oslo accords.

There was no initial formal response from the Prime Minister's Office after the story broke early on Tuesday. But the Israel Radio quoted unnamed senior Israeli officials as stating that Israel is not holding contacts with Syria.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Monday, January 15, 2007

Palestinians up quality of improvised explosives

Palestinians up quality of improvised explosives
Yaakov Katz, THE JERUSALEM POST Jan. 15, 2007

Under Hizbullah guidance, Palestinian terror groups in the West Bank have
recently obtained high-grade explosives that have significantly improved the
effectiveness of roadside improvised explosive devices (IED) used against
IDF patrols, senior defense officials told The Jerusalem Post on Monday.

According to the officials, the Palestinians, adopting Hizbullah tactics,
have also improved in the way they camouflage and hide the explosive devices
on the sides of roads patrolled by IDF jeeps. While some of the explosives
used in the bombs were smuggled into the West Bank - from the Sinai Desert -
the Palestinians also used homemade explosives that were less effective but
still lethal.

"With predictions of another round of violence in the West Bank around the
corner, the Palestinian IEDs are a point of concern," said one senior

Since the beginning of the year, IDF troops in the West Bank, have
discovered two suicide belts as well as three large IEDs, including one
weighing 60 kilograms and another weighing 32 kg, both near the city of
Jenin. In 2006, troops discovered 109 IEDs in the West Bank in addition to
11 suicide belts.

At Sunday's cabinet meeting, Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) chief Yuval
Diskin reported growing Hizbullah efforts to establish infrastructure and
gain a foothold in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

IEDs have been a source of concern for the US military in Iraq and for NATO
forces operating in Afghanistan. At a recent NATO conference in Tel Aviv,
the IDF shared intelligence information on the IEDs it was facing and the
measures troops
took to avoid attacks.

According to a high-ranking IDF officer, Palestinians were continuing
efforts to manufacture and fire Kassam rockets from the West Bank. During
the summer, the IDF thwarted several such attempts in Tulkarm, where they
discovered a Fatah infrastructure behind the development of a small
lightweight Kassam rocket.

"They are constantly trying to get the development off the ground," the
officer said. "The only reason they fail is because the IDF retains a
presence in the territory."

In face of the possibility that another round of violence will break out by
the summer, the officer said that the Central Command was preparing and was
sending battalions for additional training. "The atmosphere is tense and it
is clear that something needs to happen," the officer said. "Either another
round of violence or some diplomatic breakthrough. We need to be ready."

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PA security foils Hamas assassinations

PA security foils Hamas assassinations

The Palestinian Authority security forces have foiled an attempt by Hamas to assassinate senior PA leaders in the Gaza Strip, including PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and Fatah legislator Muhammad Dahlan, Palestinian security sources said Monday.

The sources said that over the past few days the security forces discovered a number of underground tunnels in the northern Gaza Strip that were dug along major roads used by PA and Fatah leaders. Some of the tunnels were also discovered beneath the homes of top Fatah officials in the same area, the sources said.

Abdel Hakim Awad, a senior Fatah official in the Gaza Strip, said tons of explosives were discovered in the tunnels, some of which were traced back to the interior of Hamas-controlled mosques.

"There are plans to assassinate senior Fatah leaders, including President Mahmoud Abbas and Muhammad Dahlan," he said. "Otherwise, how can anyone explain the network of booby-trapped underground tunnels in the northern Gaza Strip, particularly the main Salah a-Din Street?"

The convoys of both Abbas and Dahlan often pass through Salah a-Din Street on their way to Israel and the West Bank.

Hamas leaders have accused Dahlan of being behind an assassination attempt on the life of PA Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh several weeks ago. Last week, thousands of Hamas supporters staged demonstrations in the Gaza Strip, where they condemned Dahlan as a collaborator with Israel and the US.

Awad also revealed that one of the tunnels was supposed to provide access to the headquarters of the PA National Security Force near the Jabalya refugee camp.

He expressed astonishment at the fact that Hamas was plotting to assassinate Fatah leaders despite reports that the two parties were close to reaching a deal on the formation of a unity government.

"This proves that Hamas is using double-talk," he charged. "On the one hand, their leaders are talking about the resumption of the unity government talks, while on the other hand the movement's actions on the ground suggest that they are headed toward escalation."

Warning against the grave consequences of such assassinations, the Fatah official said his party has briefed all Palestinian factions, including Hamas, on the discovery of the underground tunnels.

"Any attack on our leaders will draw a scorched earth response from Fatah," he said. Awad also accused Hamas members of kidnapping four Fatah activists and shooting a fifth in separate attacks in the Gaza Strip on Sunday night.

PA officials said talks over the formation of a unity government may resume in the coming days. They added that Abbas was planning to appoint Dahlan as head of the PA's National Security Council.

According to the officials, former finance minister Salam Fayyad may return to his job in a new unity government, while the Foreign Ministry would be handed over to independent legislator Ziad Abu Amr.

A senior Hamas official in the Gaza Strip denied the charges that his movement was planning to assassinate Abbas and Dahlan, explaining that the tunnels were supposed to be used to repel a possible attack by the IDF.

"The latest allegations are part of a campaign of incitement waged by Fatah against Hamas," the official told The Jerusalem Post.

In another development, a Hamas leader said Monday that his movement could liberate most of the land of Palestine and establish a Palestinian state within 10 years provided that the Palestinians united and formed a strong army.

This is the first time that a Hamas official spoke about plans to establish a Palestinian army.

Some PA officials have in the past accused Hamas of trying to establish its own army in the Gaza Strip, noting that the movement's paramilitary "Executive Force" was already acting as if its members were soldiers.

"Hamas could achieve a fateful victory [over Israel] if the internal fighting stops and once the Palestinians develop their military capabilities," said Hamad al-Rakab, a top Hamas official in the Khan Yunis district in the southern Gaza Strip.

He admitted, however, that the idea of a Palestinian army remains a "remote dream" at this stage.

According to Rakab, Hamas's goal could be achieved if the Palestinians met two conditions - ending internal strife and establishing a Palestinian army consisting of all the armed groups.

Continued (Permanent Link)

New York Rabbi Finds Friends in Iran and Enemies at Home

New York Rabbi Finds Friends in Iran and Enemies at Home
Published: January 15, 2007

MONSEY, N.Y. — It was a bizarre sight: a cadre of Orthodox Jews, with their distinctive hats, beards and sidelocks, standing alongside President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran last month at a conference in Tehran debating the Holocaust.

Among them was Rabbi Yisroel Dovid Weiss, spokesman and assistant director of a small anti-Zionist group with a foothold in this town in Rockland County, home to one of the nation's largest communities of Hasidic Jews.

Unlike Mr. Ahmadinejad and most of the others present, including the former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, Rabbi Weiss does not deny or question the Holocaust; his grandparents died at Auschwitz, as did several of his aunts and uncles, he said. What he and the Iranian president have in common, he explained, is their belief that the Holocaust has been exploited to justify the existence of Israel.

"We went to Iran because we had to let the world know, especially the Arab world and the Muslim world, that we are not their enemies," he said in an interview, a Palestinian flag with the phrase "A Jew Not a Zionist," written in Hebrew, English and Arabic pinned to the lapel of his coat. Below the Palestinian flag was an Israeli flag with a red line across it.

Rabbi Weiss and four other members of his group, Neturei Karta, received a warm reception in Iran, he said, dining with state officials and posing for photographs with Mr. Ahmadinejad, whom Rabbi Weiss had met at least twice before.

Back home, Rabbi Weiss and the others were met with anger and scorn. Since their return, they have been ostracized by synagogues, denied service at kosher stores and vilified in Jewish discussion boards on the Web. Posters have surfaced in the Satmar Hasidic enclaves of Brooklyn, calling the members of Neturei Karta "rebels" and "outcasts" and asking Orthodox Jews to "totally cut off ties with this gang."

On Jan. 7, about 300 people, most of them Orthodox Jews, including several Holocaust survivors, protested outside Neturei Karta's base on Saddle River Road here, chanting and holding signs that read, "Neturei Crackpots, Leave Monsey." A much smaller contingent of Rabbi Weiss's supporters held a counterprotest nearby.

"In some ways, I feel odd; this is about Jew against Jew, after all," said one of the protesters, Rabbi Herbert W. Bomzer, a professor of Talmudic law at Yeshiva University and the president of the rabbinical board of Flatbush, which represents about 200,000 Orthodox Jews who live in Brooklyn. "But to join together and shake hands with the mad leader of Iran is unacceptable."

He added, "If you shake hands with a Holocaust denier, you're on his team."

Mordechai Levy, the national director of the Jewish Defense Organization, a militant group that helped organize the protest, said other demonstrations were being planned, with the goal of "running Neturei Karta out of town and out of America."

Founded in the 1930s to counter the Zionist movement in what was then Palestine, Neturei Karta, which translates to "guardians of the city" in the ancient language Aramaic, has a few thousand members — in New York, the United Kingdom, Canada and in Jewish settlements in the West Bank, among other places. They believe that according to the Torah, Jews were exiled from Israel because they sinned and that God has forbidden the formation of a Jewish state until the Messiah arrives.

Many Jews who back the state of Israel abhor the group, and even ultra-Orthodox Jews who share its theological views have distanced themselves from Neturei Karta because of its vocal support of Middle Eastern leaders like Mr. Ahmadinejad, who has expressed in numerous pronouncements his disdain for Jews.

"I think they're crazy," said Ed Devir, founder of the online newsletter and chief executive of, a nonprofit group that finds technical jobs for United States citizens living in Israel. Mr. Devir said he supports the state of Israel. "For too long, we tried to ignore them, but that was a big mistake.

"Everyone knows that they're a joke," Mr. Devir added. "But the bottom line is, they support groups that want to kill Jews."

Rabbi Weiss, 54, grew up in the Orthodox neighborhood of Borough Park, Brooklyn, the son of Hungarians who fled Eastern Europe before Hitler's troops closed its borders to Jews. He married 18 years ago and has six children. The family moved to Monsey seven years ago, solidifying Neturei Karta's presence in the town.

During the group's first trip to Tehran, last March, Rabbi Weiss released a statement to Iran's official IRIB radio in defense of Mr. Ahmadinejad, saying that "it is dangerous deviation to pretend that the Iranian president is anti-Jewish and anti-Semitic." Rabbi Weiss also met with Mr. Ahmadinejad when he visited New York last year to speak to the United Nations General Assembly.

"He is extremely friendly and he understands the difference between the Zionists and the Jews who do not embrace the state of Israel," Rabbi Weiss said in an interview last week.

"We don't look at him as an enemy," he said. "But is he a potential enemy? Well, every person who continues to be incited is one, but even when we're dealing with an enemy, we're supposed to approach them with dialogue and try to placate them. Aggression is not going to be successful."

Rabbi Weiss and his group are no stranger to controversy. He traveled to France in October 2004 to take flowers to the ailing Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, who died the next month. In the past, Neturei Karta members have attended the annual Salute to Israel parade in Manhattan, burning the Israeli flag and holding signs with messages like "Authentic Jews will never recognize the state of Israel" and "Israel is a cancer for Jews."

About 200 people protested outside the Park House Hotel in Borough Park late Saturday, demanding the departure of one of its guests, Moshe Ayre Friedman, Neturei Karta's leader in Austria and one of the participants at the conference in Iran. Mr. Friedman, who at the conference questioned the number of deaths during the Holocaust, left the hotel under police escort.

"We're constantly disparaged, belittled, but we're the ones trying to make peace with the Arabs," Rabbi Weiss said. "But we don't look at the Zionists with animosity. We just wished they would give us a chance."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Criticism of Tehran Holocaust Denial Conference in Arab and Iranian Media

Special Dispatch-Iran/Antisemitism Documentation Project
January 16, 2007
No. 1425

Criticism of Tehran Holocaust Denial Conference in Arab and Iranian Media .

Following the December 11-12, 2006 Holocaust denial conference in Tehran, Arab columnists condemned the conference's organizers and participants, calling them hate-mongers who spread propaganda and "criminals, enemies of freedom, and distorters of historical fact." The columnists challenged the claim that the conference was an academic research symposium, arguing that, from a moral point of view, it reflected a lack of human and cultural sensitivity, and that it could lead to conflict around the world. They also disputed Iran's argument that the conference gave Western participants an opportunity to express their views freely, pointing to the lack of freedom of speech in Iran and to the link between the conference and Iran's threats to annihilate the state of Israel.

In Iran, the Baztab website, which is affiliated with Expediency Council Secretary Mohsen Rezai, published an editorial on December 19, 2006 criticizing Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's Holocaust denial.

The following are excerpts from the articles:

The Conference Was Not Academic; It Harmed Iran and the Muslims

British Arab journalist 'Adel Darwish wrote in the London daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat: "The extremist Iranian president [Ahmadinejad] may have gained some points [in terms of] vocal propaganda in the hate[-mongering] satellite channels, but diplomatically, he only caused damage to his country, which is [going through] a difficult period in [terms of] its foreign [relations]. He also caused severe damage to the Muslims by creating a political-cultural climate in which feelings of hate drown out the Muslims' noble and humane sentiments.

"Ahmadinejad and his ideological followers are misleading themselves and the media when they say that the [Holocaust denial] conference was held for [purposes of] historical research, and that it put to the test the West's receptiveness to free speech and [free] academic research... Those evil and despicable figures... who were invited to the conference, and who prevented the Palestinian attorney Khaled Mahamid from participating in it(1) - are they historians?... [Among the participants] were six Jews - British Orthodox rabbis - but they are not historians, nor do they deny the historical [truth] of the Holocaust - they [merely] oppose the [existence of] a Jewish state before the coming of the Messiah. Ahmadinejad is using them as a fig-leaf to cover up his moral shame, since he wants to 'wipe Israel off the map.'       

"There are political activists who refuse to [accept] the Jewish Holocaust as justification for harming the Palestinians and denying [their right to have] an independent state like all other nations - but they, too, [express this position] as political activists and not [in the guise of] researchers or historians.

"I will conclude by posing the question that was posed to all Muslims by the Iranian Muhammad Khaled:(2) "How does it threaten you to recognize the historical truth of the Holocaust?"(3)

The Conference Was Aimed at Spreading Hatred and Propaganda, and Defending Heinous Crimes

Saudi journalist Yousef Al-Sweidan wrote in the Kuwaiti daily Al-Siyassa: "The new extremist Nazis in turbans were not ashamed to open that wretched conference in Tehran on December 11, 2006 [with the intent] of spreading hate and tendentious propaganda and defending the heinous crimes of the Nazis...

"Manuchehr Mottaki's strange statements were ludicrous and repulsive. He characterized this racist conference as 'a [platform] for scholars who are not able to express their views in Europe.' This shows that this conference is, in fact, a gathering of criminals, enemies of freedom, and distorters of historical fact. For Tehran, as everyone knows, is not [exactly] an oasis of freedom, democracy, and cultural and ideological pluralism. The opposite is true, and that is why the Iranian embassy refused to issue a visa to attorney and human rights activist Khaled Kassab Mahamid, [thus preventing him] from attending the symposium of the new Nazis and their clerics, and [from] expressing his views and condemning the criminal goals of those who organized this conference of extremism and hate.

"The timing, goals, and topics of this conference, and the evil and loudmouthed [individuals] who stood on its podium, fully [confirm] that 'Iran poses a strategic danger to the entire Middle East,' as [British Prime Minister] Tony Blair said. This [threat] becomes blatantly clear when [Iran] causes mayhem and exports violence and terror through its servants, proxies, and allies, such as the armed militias and the remnants of Saddam [Hussein]'s army, the Salafis in Iraq who accuse others of heresy, Hizbullah  in Lebanon, and Hamas and Islamic Jihad in the West Bank and Gaza.

"The turbaned extremists and terrorists ceaselessly threaten with [their] Shihab missiles and with the [Iranian] nuclear program, calling to exterminate the Jews and to wipe Israel off the map. They spread the [pathetic] delusion that 'Israel will soon disappear just as the Soviet Union [disappeared].'

"This time, it was the students of Tehran University who responded with remarkable courage, and who refused to fall for the false [slogan] of 'death to America and Israel.' [Instead], they shouted 'death to the dictator,' burned and tore up Ahmadinejad's picture. and interrupted his speech."(4)

The Conference Reflects a Lack of Cultural and Human Sensitivity

Kuwaiti journalist Dr. Khaled Al-Janfawi wrote in Al-Siyassa:(5) "Holding a conference devoted to Holocaust denial reflects a lack of cultural and human sensitivity which may exacerbate hatred among human beings... We Muslims need to display human, cultural, and moral sensitivity in order to be a positive force in a humane world that no longer tolerates ethnic and religious conflict. We must stay away from anything that generates conflict among human beings... Holding a Holocaust [denial] conference in Iran is adding fuel to the fire... Some of the participants were agitators, and [others] were [individuals] involved in racist discrimination against [minorities] other than the Jews, such as the African-Americans in the U.S...."(6)

Former Dutch MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali: "The World Needs To Be Informed Again and Again About the Holocaust"

The reformist English-language website Middle East Transparent, quoting the German Internet magazine Spiegel Online, brought the following statements from Former Dutch MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali: "Western leaders today who say they are shocked by the conference of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran denying the Holocaust need to wake up to that reality. For the majority of Muslims in the world, the Holocaust is not a major historical event that they deny; they simply do not know [about it] because they were never informed. Worse, most of us are [brought up] to wish for a Holocaust of Jews.

"I cannot help but wonder: Why is there no counter-conference in Riyadh, Cairo, Lahore, Khartoum, or Jakarta condemning Ahmadinejad? Why is the Organization of the Islamic Conference silent on this?

"[Perhaps] the answer be as simple as it is horrifying: For generations the leaders of these so-called Muslim countries have been spoon-feeding their populations a constant diet of propaganda similar to the [propaganda] that generations of Germans (and other Europeans) were fed: that Jews are vermin and should be dealt with as such. In Europe, the logical conclusion was the Holocaust...

"The world needs conferences [promoting] love and understanding [among] cultures, and anti-racist campaigns. But more urgently, the world needs to be informed again and again about the Holocaust. Not only in the interest of the Jews who survived the Holocaust and their offspring, but in the interest of humanity in general.

"Perhaps the first [thing to do] is to counter the Islamic philanthropy that comes laced with hatred against the Jews. Western and Christian charities in the third world should take it upon themselves to inform Muslims and non-Muslims alike, in the areas where they are active, about the Holocaust."(7)

Baztab Editorial: Neither Khomeini nor Khamenei Ever Denied the Holocaust

In a December 19, 2006 editorial, the Baztab website stated: "Even though the phenomenon [of Holocaust denial] has existed for over 60 years... the revolutionary Shi'ite clerics and intellectuals of [the period] before the [Islamic] Revolution never thought to doubt or question [the truth of] the Holocaust. Though [Ayatollah Ruholla] Khomeini's [followers] might have expected to find some mention of Holocaust denial in his writings or speeches,  no [such mentions] are found in any [of them].

"After the victory of the Islamic Revolution, the [Iranian] governments - those [presiding] during the 11 years of Khomeini's rule, as well as those [presiding] during the 18 years of [Iranian Leader Ali] Khamenei's rule - [could have denied the Holocaust]. But despite [Khomeini's and Khamenei's] dedication to the Palestinian cause and to the struggle against Israel, these governments showed no signs of denying the Holocaust, directly or indirectly. On the contrary, not a single government institution - including the Foreign Ministry, the Islamic Da'wa Organization, the Islamic Culture and Relations Organization and the Science Ministry - was instructed to deal with this issue [with the aim of denying the Holocaust]...

"In handling this issue, the heads and elected leaders of the state should separate the regime's [official] policies from their personal views, and refrain from imposing [problematic positions on Iran] that may cost it dearly and have a crucial impact on national issues like the nuclear dossier."(8)

(1) Khaled Kassab Mahamid, an Israeli Arab attorney from Nazareth, attempted to attend the conference but was denied entrance by the Iranian Foreign Ministry once it was discovered that he was an Israeli citizen.
(2) Muhammad Khaled is an Iranian who opened a museum that presents evidence that the Holocaust took place.
(3) Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), December 16, 2006.
(4) Al-Siyassa (Kuwait), December 17, 2006.
(5) Al-Siyassa (Kuwait), December 17, 2006.
(6) This presumably refers to American white supremacist David Duke, who attended the conference.
(7) Spiegel Online, December 29, 2006,
(8) Baztab, December 19, 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.

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Continued (Permanent Link)

Should Israel Initiate Negotiations with Syria?


Should Israel Initiate Negotiations with Syria?

Amos Gilboa



The objective of this paper is to analyze the major considerations in answer to the basic question: Should Israel initiate negotiations with Syria on a political accord?

Current situation, main issues

The negotiations between Israel and Syria on a political settlement that lasted throughout the last decade of the previous century came to a halt on March 26, 2000 with the failed meeting between Presidents Clinton and Hafez al-Asad. Since then, considerable changes have occurred in the strategic map, impacting on the current and future situations in Israel-Syria relations. They have occurred in Syria, in Israel, in the region, and around the world.

Over time and against the backdrop of these changes (the most significant of which is, for the purpose of this analysis, the rise of Iran as a major dominant factor in the region), and primarily after the second Lebanon War, Bashar al-Asad and his political advisers have issued a series of intensive, recurring public statements calling upon Israel to begin negotiations with Syria on a peace accord. These calls have been accompanied by threats that should Israel not respond to Syria's call for peace, Syria would have no choice but to resort to various violent means.

These moves by Syria raise four major sets of questions:

  • Does Israel currently have a primary interest in achieving an accord with Syria? Would such an accord provide an answer to Israel's major security issues in the present? Is it urgent and critical?

  • Is it possible, under present circumstances, to achieve a peace accord as Israel would wish? Would the Asad regime be willing and able to pay the price required of it (namely, the components of a peace agreement with Israel and the nature of Syria's regional policy, primarily the dissolution of its alliance with Iran, and its renunciation of both terrorism and its interest in Lebanon)?

  • Furthermore: What are the implications of initiating peace negotiations for the Palestinian issue and for Iraq?

  • What might happen if Israel does not embark on such negotiations? And what might happen if negotiations are initiated, only to fail?

Does Israel currently have a primary interest in achieving an accord?

One school of thought responds in the affirmative, based on the following reasoning:

    • Time is not on Israel's side; a political vacuum exists that may explode, due to destructive initiatives or to other unexpected events.

    • Syria wishes to disentangle itself from the Iranian "bear hug" before it is too late, and aspires for international legitimacy. It is in our interest to assist it to do so, and soon. Hizbollah is on its way to controlling Lebanon, and it must be stopped.

    • Israel cannot, morally and tactically, refuse any offers of peace negotiations.

Another school of thought concurs that Israel may not ignore Bashar's calls and be seen as the one turning down Arab calls for peace, but contends that entering into negotiations with Syria is neither urgent nor critical, and may even be harmful for the following reasons:

  • First, there is currently no critical mass of factors, international or regional, pressuring or even encouraging Israel to embark on negotiations with Syria. There is pressure to progress on the Palestinian track, pressure exerted mainly by Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt – who feel threatened by Iran. Embarking on negotiations with Syria is, therefore, out of context in regional terms.

  • Second, the basic Israeli interest is to promote the political stability of our neighbors (Palestinian Authority, Jordan, Lebanon). Negotiating with Syria at this point in time contradicts this interest, since Syria is occupied at present with dissolving the system in Lebanon and we have no desire to help Syria in so doing.

  • Third, this would severely damage our relations with the US.

  • Fourth, the so-called Iranian "bear hug" meets with full Syrian consent.

  • And, politically speaking, public opinion in Israel does not rule out negotiations with Syria, but concurrently and consistently over time (and as in a recent survey of October 2006), the great majority of the public objects to handing over any portion of the Golan Heights in return for a peace accord with Syria.

Is it possible to achieve a peace accord as Israel would wish?

Those who oppose embarking on negotiations believe that:

    • Contrary to past negotiations with Syria (when the Syrian army was stationed in Lebanon) where an accord with Syria would have led to a stable accord with Lebanon as well and to the disarming of Hizbollah, nowadays an accord with Syria would not solve the issue of Lebanon. Hizbollah, under Iran's influence, would remain the major armed force. This detracts considerably from the benefits of an accord.

    • In addition, there is no real evidence or even indications that in exchange for the Golan Heights (or possibly a "piece of paper" that would return the Golan Heights to Syria in several years time) Syria would disengage from its ally Iran, despite the natural mistrust between these two countries. These relations have lasted for many years; they are "deep" and based on strategic interests and shared ideology (with "the resistance" at its core). Why should Syria abandon an ally that is a rising force? And this rising force will likely be a nuclear one in the future, and an Israel-Syria accord would have no influence over that!

    • Therefore, Bashar is probably uninterested in and unable to deliver the "strategic goods" Israel expects of him, and it is extremely doubtful whether he is able to provide Israel with a comprehensive peace agreement and open up significantly to the West (as did President Sadat). The underlying reason for this is the closed autocratic structure of the Syrian regime, based on the minority Alawi sect and those attached to it, which may seal its own fate by making significant changes to its domestic, economic, and foreign policy. They have no wish to "bring the flies into the room," as Hafez al-Asad once said.

    • Bashar's interest, which is less in an accord with Israel than in the process itself that would officially lend credence to ending Syria's pariah status, would render him immune from various pressures, including pressure to leave Lebanon alone, and would provide him with means to avoid the international tribunal investigating Hariri's murder.

Counterarguments by those in favor include:

    • Bashar honestly wants peace with Israel, is ready for it, and is confident after six years in power. He is not constrained as his father was (guilt over losing the Golan Heights, the issue of succession during negotiations with Barak). An accord with Syria is relatively easy to achieve. Most issues have been agreed in the past "on paper" (such as normalization, security arrangements) and the price is well known and has been mentioned by three or more prime ministers: withdrawal from the entire Golan Heights, almost to within an inch of the June 4, 1967 line.

    • Syria may not be able to disengage from Iran quickly and comprehensively, but its ties with Iran would be restricted; Hizbollah may not be disarmed, but Syria could halt arms flow to the organization, thereby weakening it and helping stabilize the political situation in Lebanon. Overall, the friction between Israel and Iran would be reduced, and this is important in approaching the situation where Iran would become a nuclear power.

    • Syria would renounce terrorism. It would do so, among other reasons, because its shaky economy requires assistance and investments from the West.

Implications of initiating negotiations for the Palestinian issue and for Iraq

As for the Palestinians: on the one hand there are those of the opinion that Abu Mazen's faction is actually interested in Israeli-Syrian negotiations, which would help in energizing the Palestinian track to reach an accord; on the other hand, one may assume that Hamas and extremist Palestinian organizations would perceive this as evidence that Israel gives in to Bashar, and is willing to give him that which it had not been willing to give prior to the second Lebanon War – hence the Syrian method of terrorism has been successful. Therefore we may see an extensive renewal of terrorism, including by the global jihad, massively aided by Iran.

In any case, it is hard to envision the Israeli government (against a backdrop of public argument and unrest) concurrently tackling two tracks and reaching accords that entail a costly price.

Iraq. The Syrians have no real influence on what is happening inside Iraq and on shaping its future. The issue of the Syria-Iraq border is outside the scope of Israeli-Syrian negotiations. The key question, which is hard to answer at this stage, is how would Syria be affected by the new situation in Iraq after the Americans leave? Would that bolster a possible Israel-Syria accord, or would it cause its failure?

What might happen if Israel does not embark on negotiations?

Some claim that Syria, impressed with Hizbollah's achievements, would in such a case launch a war, primarily by launching rockets at the civilian front, and we would then be left with no choice but to enter into negotiations with Syria. Therefore, why not enter into negotiations now, and avoid the war and its casualties? At this time there is no information to support this theory, and it would seem that it is more of a scare tactic intended to convince Israel to enter into negotiations rapidly. Asad is aware of Israel's military superiority and of the danger facing his regime should he launch a (limited or all-out) war against Israel – and therefore he would not launch military operations against Israel. Of course, that does not mean that Syria's army would not prepare for scenarios of escalation initiated by Israel.

Nevertheless, one must take into consideration the risk that at some point in time (according to strategic developments in the region), Syria would gradually start initiating terrorist operations from the Golan Heights that carry its signature, faint as it may be.

And if negotiations are started and then fail, would we see deterioration and a Syrian-initiated war (similar to the intifada following the failure of Camp David)? There were many rounds of negotiations between Israel and Syria over the previous decade, and their failure did not lead to acts of hostility. It is reasonable to expect that this would be the case here as well, depending, of course, on the prevailing regional circumstances at the time. In principle, it would seem that the major impacting factor in such cases is the perception of overall military force ratios, and not one diplomatic failure or another during negotiations.

"What to do": conclusions and outline of a general program

In view of the above considerations, it would seem that Israel, under current circumstances, need not enter into peace negotiations with Syria.

What circumstances would change this assessment? If, for example, there would be signs that Bashar's regime is ready to start a process of real change in its domestic and foreign policy א la Sadat – change resulting from internal Syrian conviction that this is the best path for the Syrian state; if there would be real Syrian moves to disengage from terror and its proponents; if there is a dramatic move in Lebanon; a drastic change in US policy; or changes to the status of Iran and its links with Syria; and perhaps if there would be dramatic Syrian overtures that are hard to envision today!

Thos does not mean, of course, that we should sit idly in the meantime. First, it is advisable not to be seen as repeat offenders in rejecting peace. There is no reason not to promote covert communication channels, semi-affiliated with intelligence (but with the knowledge of the US), either direct or indirect, with the Syrians in order to keep in contact, to get an impression with no obligation. This could simmer on a back burner, without its necessary evolution into a binding process of communication, and certainly not a public one. Negotiations and communication have their own dynamics. If it turns out that talks with the Syrians are worthwhile and contacts develop in a positive direction, it may be possible to change Israel's policy and move to more serious negotiations. Another possible way is to try and expose Bashar via public statements by the prime minister that have invited Bashar to come to Jerusalem and bring the remains of Eli Cohen. Bashar's reaction would be, most likely, a rejection and a statement that he would meet the prime minister only when the accord is to be signed. Other tactics abound in this domain. Furthermore, it is possible to propose to the Syrians, via the UN force in the Golan Heights, reciprocal moves to reduce tensions and avoid miscalculation. For example, we would notify them of major military drills in the Golan Heights, and would expect them to respond in kind.

Second, a policy of deterrence versus Syria should be formulated, including in case of "minor" Syrian moves, such as terrorist activity from the Golan Heights. Any terrorism in the Golan Heights would seriously impact on tourism and development in the Golan Heights. The motto should be (accompanied, of course, by military readiness and priority assigned to intelligence: any minor act of violence originating from the Syrian side of the Golan Heights would mean a declaration of war on Israel.

At the higher level, Israel should embark on a strategic dialogue with the US on containing the Syrian-Iranian threat (the starting position is that Syria would not turn to meaningful aggressive moves unless its working assumption is that it has Iranian backup). The stance towards the Americans might be: currently you tell us not to "talk" to Syria (unless you have any other ideas?!) But Bashar is threatening war. Therefore, let us formulate a regional policy of containment and deterrence, possibly with other partners.

Third, in any case we should formulate right now (as "plan B") our position on a possible future accord between Israel and the Syrians. Its starting position (unlike in the 1990s) is that any accord must consist of two layers: the direct bilateral layer between us and Syria (the peace layer), and the regional, strategic layer, which should serve the strategic objective of confronting Iran's rising power. At the strategic layer, the framework for handling it is outside of Israel's hands. The US manages the framework, and we should conduct a dialogue with the US on this issue.

Fourth, as for the direct bilateral relations between us and Syria, the starting position must be fundamentally different from the one adopted as a result of the "Rabin pledge" of 1993, reflecting a new attitude incorporating all the significant changes that have occurred in the region. Its major points:

  • Israel does not have sovereignty over the Golan Heights. Syria does.

  • However, the era of "Israel knows the price it has to pay" is over. There is no more "pledge" and no more "the June 4 border." The price is not known! It will be a result of a compromise and the price Syria is willing to pay.

  • The model for peace is Jordan.

  • Very long time frames (far beyond a few years) for realizing the accord, due to the long time required to implement changes at the strategic layer. In this context, turn the lease idea into an Israeli position.

  • Review and refine all the ideas on turning the Golan Heights into a global hi-tech park; a global winery center; creation of international ski resorts (a la "the three Hermons" – Israeli, Syrian, and Lebanese), and other similar ideas.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Police question Hebron woman on feud

Police question Hebron woman on feud

Hebron Police on Monday were questioning Yifat Alkobi, a resident of the town who was seen harassing a Palestinian woman on a video taken last June by the left-wing organization B'tselem.

Israel Radio reported that Alkobi, who had been summoned for investigation twice before and hadn't come, was escorted by 25 women from her neighborhood who protested the injustice against Alkobi.

Alkobi also filed a complaint against the Palestinian woman, who she said had provoked and attacked her.

The video, in which Alkobi pushes her Palestinian neighbor and calls her a slut, caused concern in the cabinet on Sunday, prompting the establishment of a committee to enforce the law in such situations.

Defense Minister Amir Peretz brought the issue up at the weekly cabinet meeting. He said that an IDF soldier was seen in the video standing to the side, which gave the impression that the harassment was taking place with IDF approval. Peretz said that the IDF does not have the authority to implement the law there but that this was rather the police's purview.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said he was embarrassed by what he saw in the video.

"This was a malicious provocation, brutality, arrogance and contempt that it is impossible to come to terms with," he said. Olmert called upon the settlement leaders to condemn the action. In addition to Peretz, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, Interior Minister Roni Bar-On and Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter will sit on the panel.

The left-wing activist group B'tselem, which helped distribute the video, told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday that the incident highlighted the confusion regarding jurisdiction, which hampers the enforcement of law against the settlers in Hebron.

The minute-long video shows a fight between two neighbors - a Palestinian woman with a white head covering and a Jewish woman, Yifat Alkobi, whose head is covered with a scarf - in the Tel Rumaida neighborhood of Hebron.

Initially Alkobi is seen demanding that the Palestinian woman from the Abu Isha family close the door and remain inside the cage-like structure that encloses the Abu Isha yard. The two women exchange insults and possibly blows. At one point, Alkobi enters the Abu Isha yard and closes the door.

Toward the end of the video, as the Palestinian woman appears to be retreating, Alkobi puts her face close to the fence and taunts her by yelling out, "Slut, slut" in a slow, drawn-out voice. A soldier standing nearby does nothing to stop her.

"Our critique is not of the settlers but of law enforcement and the way the military and the police have failed to protect the Palestinian residents of Hebron," said B'tselem spokeswoman Sarit Michaeli. For example, she said, the soldiers in Hebron are often under the misconception that it is not their job to protect the Palestinians, she said.

To underscore the fact that the more important issue here was lack of law enforcement, B'tselem last week asked that Alkobi not be made into a scapegoat.

Following the release of the video on Ynet last week, Hebron police summoned Alkobi for an investigatory meeting to answer questions about the incident.

Police told The Jerusalem Post that they had been unaware of the incident until they saw the film on Ynet.

A police spokesman added that their forces work in conjunction and in partnership with the soldiers stationed in the city. But he added that Peretz's panel could help empower them to act more effectively.

Michaeli said that while she welcomed the cabinet's decision, she was not optimistic that it would succeed in changing the situation.

"The facts of this issue have been well known for years, so we are not very hopeful regarding the new panel," Michaeli said.

In Hebron, where approximately 500 Jews live amidst 130,000 Palestinians, tensions often run high between the two groups. Palestinians and non-governmental organizations contend that attacks by settlers, such as stone throwing, assaults and verbal harassment, are almost a daily occurrence.

Hebron settlers, in turn, point to the number of Jews and soldiers who have been killed by Palestinians in Hebron in the last six years. Included among them is 10-month-old Shalhevet Tehiya Pass, who was shot by a sniper in 2001 as her mother stood holding her at the entrance to the Avraham Avinu neighborhood. In 2002, Yitzhak Shapira, 48, was killed when a Palestinian gunman shot him in the same neighborhood. In 2003, Gadi and Dina Esther Levy were killed by a suicide bomber in Kikar Gross in Hebron. In addition, three civilians and nine soldiers were killed on Worshipers Way between Hebron and Kiryat Arba in 2002.

A spokesman for the Hebron Jewish community, David Wilder, said that last week Palestinians unsuccessfully attempted to infiltrate a Jewish home in the city.

He described Alkobi as a mother of five children who has lived in the Tel Rumaida section of Hebron for at least a decade. Alkobi's daughter had narrowly missed being hit by a Palestinian bullet when she was playing outside one day a number of years ago, said Wilder.

Eight years ago Palestinians entered a caravan in the Tel Rumaida neighborhood, where they stabbed to death Rabbi Shlomo Ra'anan.

Wilder dismissed both Olmert's comments and the creation of the panel as political moves by two leaders who needed to deflect attention from their own failures. "Politicians have to stop using the public as a means to escape their own problems," said Wilder.

He chalked the video up to a dispute between neighbors that could occur anywhere in Israel when two neighbors erupt in anger and shout at each other. "Maybe her choice of words was undesirable; but believe me, I've heard worse," said Wilder. Is it now going to be the case that "anyone who yells at a neighbors is going to be investigated by a cabinet committee set up by the prime minister?" Wilder asked.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Rice Promises PA Rifles Won´t Be Aimed at Israel

Politics & Government

Rice Promises PA Rifles Won´t Be Aimed at Israel
15:26 Jan 14, '07 / 24 Tevet 5767
by Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
 Two days after Mahmoud Abbas told Arabs to "raise your rifles" against Israel, Condoleezza Rice says the U.S. will prevent a repeat of previous attacks on Israel with arms supplied to PA forces.

"Shooting at your brother is forbidden," PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas told a rally in Ramallah. "Raising rifles against the occupation is our legitimate right." He also railed against "the sons of Israel...who are corrupting humanity on earth."

The United States has been supplying the Palestinian Authority (PA) chairman's personal militia with weapons to give him a military edge over the rival Hamas militia. Terrorists have vowed that the weapons will be used against Israel, as they were in the 1990s when the Israeli government, headed by then-Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin, gave the PA security forces thousands of rifles.

The Jewish State has since allowed other nations to send weapons to the PA, and Israeli intelligence officials have documented their use in attacks against Israel.

But U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, talking to reporters en route to Israel, said this time it will be different.

"This is a train-and-equip program that is going to move over time, so it is not as if you simply arm the Palestinians on Day One and then have no input or control over what happens from then on," she said. "I think as a result you can maintain some control on what is being done."

Referring to the weapons supplied during the Oslo talks and used against Israel, she explained, "It was envisioned that the Palestinian Authority would have security forces. The problem is those security forces broke [up] into essentially personal militias under Arafat. They broke into too many that were often warring with each other."

Secretary Rice added that American military envoys have created "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, [but] it is also to professionalize them, to unify them, to put them under a single command.

"We continue to work on how to help Abu Mazen [Abbas] and how to help the Palestinian people to create governing structures and security forces that can actually secure the Palestinian people."

However, Fatah Force 17 security officer Abu Yousef told WorldNetDaily that other terrorist groups will use the weapons. He added that many of the members of Abbas' personal militia also are members of other terrorist organizations, including Hamas.

"Our organizations are infiltrated [by Hamas]. In the last elections campaign, our Fatah party was astonished at how many of our security members voted for Hamas. We thought our own forces would vote 95 percent vote for us, but it was 70 percent for Fatah and 30 percent for Hamas," Abu Yousef said.

Hamas spokesman Abu Oubaida told WorldNetDaily last week that his terror group will obtain any American weapons transferred to Fatah militias or purchased by Fatah using the incoming $86.4 million in U.S. aid. "I can confirm 100 percent that this money and purchased weapons will find its way to Hamas," said Abu Oubaida.

Secretary Rice nonetheless remained optimistic in her comments to reporters. "The Road Map is a useful document because it does have reciprocal responsibilities," she said. She pointed out that Israel's implementation of the Road Map has already succeeded in forcing Israel to expel Jewish residents and destroy their communities in the Gaza region. "They are out of Gaza. And so I think we want to look at what is still to be achieved," she said.

Rice did not, however, mention the responsibilities of the PA, which included its promise to eliminate the terrorist infrastructure and cease incitement against Israel.

Continued (Permanent Link)

IDF thwarts Gaza terror attack

IDF thwarts Gaza terror attack

Two Palestinians approach security fence near Karni crossing in Gaza, shot and killed by IDF soldiers. IDF officials believe suspects intended to place explosive device in area
Hanan Greenberg Latest Update:  01.15.07, 07:14

IDF soldiers shot and killed Sunday night two Palestinians who were detected crawling in the direction of the security fence near the Erez crossing in northern Gaza.

At about 11:30 p.m. Givati Brigade soldiers identified two suspects moving towards the fence. The force fired at the suspects, and loud explosions were consequently heard, indicating that the men were apparently carrying explosives.
IDF sources believe the Palestinians planned to place an explosive device near the crossing.

In a cabinet meeting Sunday, Minister for Strategic Affairs Avigdor Lieberman, Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Eliyahu Yishai, and Minister for Jerusalem Affairs Jacob Edery voiced their objection to Israel's continuing restraint in the face of Palestinian violations of ceasefire declared between the two sides a month ago.
"Since the ceasefire over 100 Qassams were fired at Israel," said Lieberman, demanding the government approve a large-scale ground operation against terror organizations in the Gaza Strip.

First Published:  01.15.07, 01:08


Continued (Permanent Link)

Ahmadinejad kisser's wife files for divorce

Ahmadinejad kisser's wife files for divorce

Neturei Karta member Moshe Aryeh Friedman returns from Tehran Holocaust denial conference to his home in Vienna, discovers his wife has left him
Chaim Levinson Published:  01.15.07, 09:19

Moshe Aryeh Friedman, a senior Neturei Karta member, who passionately kissed Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, will now be forced to look for a woman who will agree to kiss him, as his wife has decided to leave him following his participation in the Holocaust denial conference which took place in Tehran about a month ago.

The participation of six Neturei Karta leaders in the Holocaust denial conference in Tehran continues to stirr up emotions in the ultra-Orthodox community.
Friedman, who lives in Vienna, is the harshest person among the Neturei Karta representatives who arrived in Iran , and was even photographed kissing the Iranian president. He also stayed in Iran for another two weeks after his friends left, visiting universities across the country in order to speak against the State of Israel .
The 'Ultra-Orthodox Voice' service reported that when Friedman finally returned to Vienna he found out that his wife, following her parents' advice, had fled to the Satmar community in Williamsburg, New York City. There she approached rabbis and asked them to help her divorce her husband due to his misdeeds.
Friedman is not the only Neturei Karta member who is in trouble following the Holocaust denial conference. The group's British representative has been put under tight security for fear he would be hurt after the Jewish community in the United Kingdom decided to banish him.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Rice greeted with Ma'ale Adumim tender

Rice greeted with Ma'ale Adumim tender,7340,L-3352423,00.html

State plans to build another 44 residential units in new neighborhood northeast of Jerusalem. Peace Now spots tender issued by Housing Ministry in newspapers, accuses government of 'spitting in the face of US government'
Efrat Weiss Published:  01.15.07, 10:17

On the day Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the Construction and Housing Ministry issued a tender Monday morning for the construction of 44 residential units in Ma'ale Adumim.

It is reasonable to assume that the timing was not planned by the ministry, but there are those in the Israeli Left who drew a link between the timing and the tender publication.
Peace Now Secretary-General Yariv Oppenheimer even said that "this is a spit in the face of the American government."
The tender was published in a newspaper as, as is custom in similar cases. It refers to the construction works in a large and new neighborhood in the city of Ma'ale Adumim, which is located northeast of Jerusalem.
Although Ma'ale Adumim is beyond the Green Line, it is considered a city in the Jerusalem bloc which will remain under Israeli control in any peace agreement signed by centrist parties.
 This is the first tender issued by the Construction and Housing Ministry for 2007. In 2006, the ministry published 952 residential units, mainly in the settlement blocs of Ariel, Beitar Illit, Elkana and Ma'ale Adumim.
In the past, usually following such publications, the Left would criticize the move and the US State Department would follow with a condemnation.
"Israel is committed to the Road Map, to halt the construction in the settlements, including the big blocs," Oppenheimer said. "And now, several hours before the Rice-Olmert meeting, the government is blatantly violating its commitment."
'A number of units in a constructed neighborhood'

Ma'ale Adumim Mayor Benny Kashriel was unmoved by Peace Now's reaction. Kashriel is now in Paris, where he is raising funds for the development of the education and welfare in Ma'ale Adumim, but he is used to the demand to address publications on the construction in his city.
"There is no connection between the publication of the tender and Rice's visit. This is a completion of a neighborhood which is already mostly constructed. We are talking about a number of residential units in part of the neighborhood.
Kashriel added, "The State of Israel must have a red line. We must also tell the Americans, who are our friends, that we are continuing to build around Jerusalem. The Americans did not like any construction, in certain neighborhoods of Jerusalem as well.
"We are their friends, but friends sometimes also disagree. This is a national interest. Ma'ale Adumim must be strengthened, as well as Jerusalem from the east."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Egypt finds half ton of hidden explosives in Sinai peninsula

Last update - 06:07 15/01/2007
Egypt finds half ton of hidden explosives in Sinai peninsula
By Reuters

Egyptian security forces discovered a cache of explosives on Sunday in the Sinai peninsula, where bomb attacks have killed more than 100 people since 2004, security sources said.
The cache consisted of at least 500 kg of TNT hidden in two gas containers and large plastic bags and was found in the desert area near al-Arish, on Egypt's Mediterranean coast, the sources said.
They said the explosives were discovered after a tip-off and no arrests had been made.
"We received information that some elements were concealing large quantities of explosives," one of the sources said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Egypt has blamed the Sinai attacks, the last of which took place in April, on an Islamist militant group called al-Tawhid wal Jihad (One God and Jihad) and says the group is made up of Sinai Bedouin with militant views.

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Hamas official: Israel will regret rejecting Egyptian bid on Shalit

Last update - 11:02 15/01/2007   

Hamas official: Israel will regret rejecting Egyptian bid on Shalit
By Haaretz Service

A Hamas official said Monday that Israel will regret its decision to reject a deal mediated by Egypt for the release of abducted Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit.
According to member of Hamas' political bureau in Gaza Osama al-Mazeyni, in any future negotiations the group will double the number of prisoners demanded in exchange for Shalit.
He said also that the senior officials involved in the negotiations with Israel do not know where Shalit is held by his abductors.
Gilad Shalit was abducted by Palestinian militants on June 25, 2006 and Israel has been negotiating with Hamas over his return ever since. The major stumbling block in talks has been the number and identity of prisoners it would release in exchange for the kidnapped soldier.

Continued (Permanent Link)

IDF said curbing West Bank raids for duration of Rice visit

Last update - 10:28 15/01/2007   

IDF said curbing West Bank raids for duration of Rice visit
By Amos Harel, Haaretz Correspondent, and Haaretz Service

The IDF on Monday has ordered to minimize operational activity in the West Bank during the current Mideast visit of United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
"The commander of IDF forces in Judea and Samaria, Brigadier General Yair Golan, has ordered his brigade commanders to carry out arrest raids on Palestinian towns only in cases of vital necessity," Israel Radio said.
Over the past two days, a divisional commander has refused to authorize a number of initiated operations, it said.

The reported order came after an incident early this month in which a botched arrest raid in Ramallah marred a summit between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak later the same day. Four Palestinians were killed and 20 wounded in the raid, in which IDF undercover troops entered Ramallah, setting off protests and gunbattles in the center of town.
When the summit in Sharm el-Sheikh ended, Mubarak told reporters at joint press conference with Olmert: "I expressed to the prime minister our indignation at what happened today in Ramallah and said that Israel and all the people in the region will achieve peace only by refraining from all practices which obstruct its course."
Despite the order against major daylight raids, night raids were continuing, the radio report said. The IDF arrested a total of 19 wanted Palestinians Sunday night and early Monday. The troops were fired on in the Jenin refugee camp and in Ramallah, but no injuries were reported.
IDF kills 2 approaching Gaza fence with explosives
The report came hours after IDF troops late Sunday killed two Palestinian militants approaching the Gaza Strip security fence carrying explosives.
Givati Brigade forces opened fire on two figures crawling toward the fence south of Moshav Nativ Ha'asarah. A large explosion sounded, apparently from the explosives the Palestinians were wielding, and the militants were killed.
It is not clear if they had planned to cross the fence into Israeli territory or place the explosives next to the fence in order to target an IDF patrol.
IDF infantry corps on Friday discovered a bomb weighing 23 kilograms in the West Bank town of Hirbat al-Najr, south of Jenin, The battalion that found the explosives had earlier that week found an even larger bomb weighing 60 kilograms in a town west of the city.
The Central Command said there has been an increase in weight and quality of explosives being made by Palestinian militants in the West Bank. Terror organizations in the northern West Bank are working toward developing explosives that could be effective on bullet-proof vehicles, with the help of information transferred from militants in Gaza.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Appointment of Arab minister not the way to battle discrimination

No reason to celebrate

Appointment of Arab minister not the way to battle discrimination
Abir Kopty Published:  01.14.07, 17:33
The appointment of Knesset Member Raleb Majadele as the first Arab minister with a portfolio is a highly symbolic move that can teach us about the political system's sophistication, or alternately, its failure.
There are those for whom it is convenient to think this is a step in the right direction and was undertaken in order to secure the equality of Arab Israelis. Those same people will see me as a party-pooper. Well, I'm not ruining the party, because there's no celebration here.
Why? First, ironically, the Arab minister was appointed as a result of Minister Ophir Pines' resignation to protest the openly anti-Arab Avigdor Lieberman's addition to the government. In other words, the addition of an Arab minister to the government was made possible only because of the resignation of a minister who sought to protest anti-Arab hatred.
Secondly, if the representation of Arabs in the government is so important to them, why is it that Labor party members never bothered to propose MK Majadele or MK Nadia Hilou to the post a year ago, when the Labor party under Amir Peretz's leadership joined the coalition and became a senior government partner?
That's because the Arabs are still not a first or second priority, and it is possible to bring in an Arab minister only to an inflated majority government where there's no fear that a minister who "isn't one of us" could undermine the balance around the table.
Therefore, the Labor party does not deserve praise in this matter. First of all, because there's no reason to praise the correction of discrimination, it's required. Secondly, and history speaks for itself, Sharon also appointed an Arab minister in his government: MK Salah Tarif was appointed as a minister without a portfolio.
It is possible that Lieberman would have also appointed an Arab minister had he formed a government (or should he form a government one of these days,) as long as this minister followed his political views. So if Peretz and his close associates think they undertook a gesture to the Arab public, they're wrong.
Thirdly, and most importantly perhaps, has the stain of sitting in the same government with the anti-Arab Lieberman been erased with the appointment of an Arab minister to the same government?
Israeli democracy must mature
This move on Peretz's part serves to make reality in the country seem better than it is. What will they be thinking overseas now, that Israel is the queen of democracy really and allows minority representation while kindly granting rights? We all know that's not true.
This move is symbolic, and almost insignificant we can say, compared to the figures screaming out institutional anti-Arab discrimination (earmarking of budgets, distribution of resources, etc.) as well as the non-institutional kind (displays of racism and hatred.)
The appointment of an Arab Knesset member elected on behalf of a Zionist government party to the post of minister isn't Israeli democracy's challenge. A democracy is tested by its ability to contain within it all the various voices that comprise it, and MK Majadele is another Labor party voice.
Therefore, Israeli democracy must mature and include Arab parties in forming policies and the decision-making process. These parties were never considered potential partners and were not invited to coalition negotiations. Once this happens, the groundwork would be prepared for the appointment of an Arab minister in a genuine pluralistic space and for an overwhelming change of direction in the country's management.

There's no doubt that MK Majadele won't be able to change the basic policies of the occupation, war, and economic suppression government. At the same time, I hope he will make a contribution to the Arab community's struggle and aspire, within his party and along with it, to change the State's attitude to all its citizens.
Here are several desired directions for the new minister: Ensure consistent cooperation of the Knesset and government with Arab community representatives – the parties, the Supreme Arab-Israeli Monitoring Committee, and social groups; be a rebel within your party when matters on the agenda have a negative effect not only on the Arab community but on immigrants, the poor, women, workers, and all citizens in the country; ensure Lieberman is removed from the government.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Google 'complete failure,' get Olmert

Google 'complete failure,' get Olmert

Right-wing internet prank places prime minister's resume as first hit for 'complete failure' on Hebrew search engine
Dudi Goldman Published:  01.15.07, 11:06

No one likes to hear that they are a complete failure, especially not on the most popular internet search engine in the world.

The winner of this dreadful title was Prime Minister Ehud Olmert , who fell victim to an internet prank by right-wing activists.

As a result of the prank, anyone who looked up the words "kishalon charutz" (complete failure) in Google's Hebrew site, would find themselves looking through Olmert's resume.

A 20 year-old blogger who did not particularly like the prime minister initiated the prank. He turned to hundreds of his blog's readers published on a popular Israeli blog site and asked them to add links to their sites through the words "complete failure" which would redirect the view to Olmert's sites.

The prank was similar to one initiated by radical democrats against US Pre
[Above is the end of the article at the successful Ynet]

Continued (Permanent Link)

Israel must take sides in intra-Palestinian conflict, support moderate camp

Time to help Abbas

Israel must take sides in intra-Palestinian conflict, support moderate camp
Yariv Oppenheimer Published:  01.15.07, 09:50
"Let them play before us" – this is the common attitude among the Israeli public to the increasingly worsening clashes in the Palestinian Authority. As if this was yet another conflict involving tribes somewhere far away in Africa, the Israeli establishment chooses to watch developments in the PA from the sidelines and shirk any direct or indirect responsibility for what's going on.
Of course, just like in any conflict, we have the good guys and bad guys, and are hoping to see the good guys score an overwhelming victory. However, the reality in the region is much more complicated and Israel has a significant role in the clashes' outbreak and in determining the end results.

The Intra-Palestinian conflict, which threatens the whole region's stability, reflects the impossible situation Gaza residents find themselves in since the execution of the disengagement plan about a year and a half ago, and particularly since the PA elections.
 Rice In Ramallah
'US to advance Palestinian state' / Ali Waked and AP
American secretary of state says following Ramallah meeting with Abbas, 'In these next months I'll focus on trying to accelerate progress on the Road Map, which after all would lead us to a Palestinian state'; PA president: We reject any temporary solutions
Full Story
The ongoing siege, closure of crossings to incoming and outgoing goods, confiscation of tax funds, and the disconnection between Gaza and the West Bank – all those have turned the Strip into a crowded prison where more than a million people live without anything.
It's easy to ignore the objective situation and blame "Palestinian mentality" as the main factor behind the civil war, yet in practice, the fact Israel left Gaza, locked the gate, and imprisoned the Palestinians behind it is the main factor behind the violent outbreak and anarchy.
Boost Abbas
Now that clashes between Fatah and Hamas have already erupted,
Israel has many options at its disposal that can influence the results of this struggle, whether directly or indirectly. In the wake of the disengagement, the two major movements in the PA are competing for the population's heart and attempting to present their diplomatic, economic, and military achievements.
For that end, Abbas asked in his meeting with Olmert for the release of prisoners on the occasion of the Feast of Sacrifice. After he agreed, the prime minister went back on his promise, and Abbas was forced to go back to his people empty-handed and without any significant accomplishment. On the other hand, Hamas continues to negotiate for the release of Gilad Shalit, for whom the Palestinians will receive hundreds of prisoners jailed din Israeli prisons.
The Israeli message coming out of Jerusalem is clear: A Palestinian leader such as Abbas, who calls for an end to Qassam rocket fire and a diplomatic compromise with Israel, will make do with a symbolic kiss on his cheek from the Israeli prime minister and go back to his people empty-handed.
On the other hand, a radical group such as Hamas, which uses forces and abducts Israeli soldiers, would prove to its people that "the Jews only understand force" and that terrorism is the only tool that would eventually lead to the release of prisoners.
Releasing Shalit in a prisoner swap is a necessity and must be undertaken soon. At the same time, the Israeli leadership must act courageously to boost Abbas and allow him to prove to his people that negotiations are better than violent clashes.

In this critical junction where moderates in the PA are fighting fort their lives, Israel must not remain indifferent and make do with symbolic gestures. The government must transfer without delay tax funds directly to Abbas, make the life of residents in Gaza and the West Bank easier, remove roadblocks and lift closures, and allow the Palestinian president to present significant achievements as a result of negotiations.
Continued Israeli disregard to the distress in Gaza and Abbas' requests assists in creating the anarchy in the Territories and the boost in the power of radical elements within Palestinian society that will very soon again direct their weapons at us.
The writer is Peace Now's director general

Continued (Permanent Link)

Egypt to launch first spy satellite

Egypt to launch first spy satellite
Yaakov Katz, THE JERUSALEM POST Jan. 15, 2007

In an effort to gain a foothold in space and gather intelligence on Israel
and other Middle Eastern countries, Egypt plans to launch its first spy
satellite on Tuesday from Kazakhstan.

The Egyptstat 1, which weighs just under 100 kilograms, will circle the
earth at an altitude of 668 kilometers. Using a high-powered multi-spectrum
telescopic camera, it will be capable of transmitting black-and-white, color
and infrared images. The camera can spot objects on the ground as small as
four meters across.

Egypt hopes to launch another satellite - called Desertstat - by the end of
the year, currently under construction in Italy. The Egyptstat satellite,
constructed in cooperation with the Yuzhnoye Company of Ukraine, will be
launched on Tuesday from Kazakhstan, carried by a Dnepr missile, together
with 12 light-weight Saudi Arabian satellites.

Tal Inbar, a senior research fellow at Israel's Fisher Institute for Air &
Space Strategic Studies in Herzliya, said the Egyptstat
launching marks a significant change in the balance of space capabilities in
the Middle East. It will help Egypt to collect intelligence on Israel, Inbar

"This has regional significance," Inbar said. "Egypt is basically saying
that they lead the region in satellite technology, since while Israel has
advanced satellites in space, they do not have multi-spectrum capabilities."

In April, Israel launched the Eros B spy satellite, which can spot images on
the ground as small as 70 centimeters across. It
enhanced Israel's ability to follow developments at Iran's nuclear

Eros B, which will orbit the earth alongside its predecessor - Eros A,
launched in 2000 - allows Israel, defense officials said, to gather
information on Iran's nuclear program and long-range missiles, which are
capable of reaching Israel.

In October 2005, Iran launched its first satellite - the Sina-1. Iran has
announced plans to launch another satellite, the Mesbah, in the near future.

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Continued (Permanent Link)

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Protest is Fine, Balanced Protest is Better

Denis MacEoin smashes some stereotypes about who supports Israel and who is an anti-Semite, and discusses the excesses of protest against the West, and the lack of protest at third world atrocities. Here are excerpts. Read the whole article here.

It's easy to form the impression that anyone who defends Israel comes from a right-wing, even a far-right, political viewpoint. Because a majority (or what seems like a majority, but may well be only a vocal minority) of people on the Left, most of the liberal and left-leaning press, most liberal and leftish intellectuals, journalists, TV producers, and political activists have become anti-Israel in their sentiments and actions, it is too easy to assume that defence of Israel is automatically a right-wing matter, and a matter for shame at that. But it really isn't that simple. There are Labour MPs who belong to Labour Friends of Israel, there are pro-Israel, Left-oriented pressure groups like Engage, and there are plenty of vocal Israel advocates from the centre of politics, like myself.


This is not to suggest that people on the right, in Israel as elsewhere, do not anguish about these matters or take action to improve them. But the centre and left is more likely to be seen on the streets marching, carrying placards, or shouting slogans, writing letters to the press, creating pressure groups. And such activities, it must me said, are vital to the health of any democratic society. We all have to care about the oppressed, the disappeared, the imposition of capital punishment, the waging of war, the massacre of innocents. If liberals and the Left take up their cudgels on behalf of such causes more visibly than those on the Right, then we must all be grateful for that. If left-wing feminists have advanced the cause of women's rights in the teeth of opposition from conservatives and traditionalists, they deserve the thanks of women (and men) everywhere. If liberals have put apartheid or sex trafficking or the exploitation of workers and farmers in the Third World on the agenda, and have challenged the Dutch Reformed Church or women traffickers or big business to do so, they can be credited for many legal and political reforms that enhance the rights of us all. Their predecessors, who brought about the abolition of slavery, the end of child labour, the curtailment of capital punishment, or the introduction of legislation granting homosexuals the same rights as other citizens no longer seem the enemies of propriety, morality, and social cohesion they did all those years ago.

But over the past couple of decades, liberal and left-wing politics have undergone an unprecedented, even bizarre, change of direction, a sea change that has distorted and disfigured much of its original world-view. Much of the natural sentiment of liberal politiics remains: a bias towards the underdog, a determination for justice, a belief in humanity and the rights human beings deserve as a natural heritage. But this has often been obscured — and, as time passes, is ever more obscured — beneath other messages. Political correctness, from valid beginnings, has transmogrified into something so far removed from its original purposes as to be unrecognizable...

Political correctness and related political attitudes have turned several otherwise honourable endeavours into extremist onslaughts on moderate and balanced democratic discourse. For example, feminism achieved great things then turned sour in part with radical feminists made men culpable for all the ills of human kind, declared that 'all sex is rape', and became as intolerant of the male sex as men had ever been of women...

The current vogue for post-colonial studies, introduced in part by the Egyptian 'Palestinian' intellectual Edward Said, consists for the most part of criticism of the colonial enterprises of the great Western empires — the British, French, Spanish, and Portuguese conquest of most of the world, or the later US neo-colonialism by proxy. What is seldom heard is an evaluation of the benefits imperialism sometimes brought, and, in particular, an appraisal of non-Western imperialism, its vices, and its benefits. The many Islamic empires — the Umayyads, the Abbasids, the Mughals, the Safavids, the Ottomans — seem to be blameless, the Arab conquests, with their devastating impact on the Middle East, North Africa, and Central Asia are passed over in silence. The imperial history of Africa, the exploits of the great jihad states of Nigeria and elsewhere, the Chinese empire, the depradations of the Mongols and Timur Lang, the empires of the Byzantines and Sasanids, the military exploits of the Tartars, the Cossacks, the Turks, and the rest are seldom referred to.

In political terms, this approach translates into an all-consuming hatred for our own culture, for Western civilization in general, and for specific parts of the Western world, notably the United States, Israel, and the United Kingdom. That other civilizations have oppressed subject people, committed atrocities, established totalitarian ideologies, carried out vast and long-lived trading in slaves (notably the Arabs and Ottoman Turks) seems to escape liberal reproach. Meanwhile, the great achievements of the West are swept under the carpet: the abolition of slavery, the United States Constitution, the Declaration of Human Rights, the spread of advanced education, science, medicine, tolerance for different creeds, democracy, and the very creation of left-wing and liberal political thought.

What has turned an entire generation of young people, committed to great ideals, desiring the well-being of their fellow men and women, well educated, enquiring, the recipients of the greatest material comforts bestowed on any generartion in history, with hearts burning for good and peace, dedicated to make poverty history and discrimination a thing of the past into what seems at times a gang of thugs whose hatred for Israel — and sometimes Jews in general — a driving force in their lives? Is it not that same sense of imbalance, that absence of measure that has been imposed on them by the strident demands of political correctness, that numbing sense of righteousness and rightness that has come to pervade the liberal world, that political absolutism that resembles so greatly the unswerving will of the Third Reich, that black-and-white Manichaeism of the Stalinist empire, or that fixed division of the world between Dar al-Harb and Dar al-Islam that characterizes all Islamic political thought?

The demonization of Israel has reached proportions that none of us have seen since the days Hitler and his propagandists made Jews the scapegoats of all the ills of mankind. It is everywhere accompanied by a dogged refusal to see harm in the thoughts and deeds of the PLO, Hamas, Hizbullah, or any other of the terrorist armies whose knives seek Jewish throats, to acknowledge the feverish anti-Semitism of the Palestinians, the Egyptians, the Iranians, and others throughout the world, to contemplate, however briefly, the possibility that Israelis are like other human beings, and that they may have sound reason to defend themselves from a second genocidal attack on their race. Not seeing things like that, that's what hard to understand. How can a liberal not see it? How can members of the International Solidarity Movement pose with Kalshnikovs and still insist they work for peace? How can Muslim liberals read anti-Semitic texts and see anti-Semitic images every day in their press and on television, and turn aside from it, and say and do nothing to call their societies — the very societies they purposrt to condemn for their absolutism and intolerance in every other field — to account? How come the left-wing president of Nicargua, Daniel Ortega is even now embracing Mahmoud Ahmadinezhad, the president of a deeply conservative theocratic state, and claiming they have much in common?

How is it possible for a man like Jimmy Carter to abandon his own principles so thoroughly as to seek in the Middle East, not a righting of wrongs, but a down-and-dirty fight with Israel and a whitewashing of Palestinian obstinacy and violence?


Why does no-one march against al-Qa'ida? Against female genital mutilation? Against forced marriages? Against honour killings? Where are the protests about the Burmese dictatorship, the Chinese occupation of Tibet, the Turkish denial of the Armenian massacres, the continuing Arab slave trade, Mugabe's robber regime in Zimbabwe, Pakistan's nuclear bomb, North Korea's state-created famines, and all the other glaring injustices that drag on just above or, more often, just below the headlines? Could it be that none of these involve Western states?

When I see ISM members stand in Palestinian streets to place their bodies as shields between Palestinian suicide bombers and Israeli children; when there are banners outside Parliament calling on Hizbullah to disarm in accordance with UN resolutions; when I hear the sound of tramping feet and shouting voices calling for an end to terrorism; when I open my morning Guardian and read a letter signed by hundreds, calling for a boycott of Iran — then, and only then, will I start to believe that the liberal left and the liberal centre have regained their sense of proportion. Until then, I despair, not that there may be peace and justice and kindness in the world, but that political correctness will have blinded so many to where they may find them.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Israel and Iran How imminent or real a threat?

Israel and Iran: How imminent or real a threat?

Jan 11th 2007 | JERUSALEM
 From The Economist print edition
Israelis vary in their views of the Iranian menace

"FOR the first time since its independence, Israel is close to facing an
existential threat." Coming from Avi Dichter, the internal security
minister, who fought in the 1973 war when Israel's Arab neighbours
nearly defeated it in a surprise attack, these are surpassing words;
Israeli politicians often paint their country's history as one long
series of existential threats. But the prospect of an Iranian nuclear
bomb, along with the call from its president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, for
Israel to be "wiped off the map", has them exercised as never before.

Most informed Israelis were sceptical about a report this week in a
British newspaper, the Sunday Times, which cited unnamed Israeli
military sources saying that Israel is training pilots for a tactical
nuclear strike against three Iranian nuclear sites. It could have been
carefully leaked sabre-rattling, but it seems strange, not to say
irresponsible, for a country that still maintains an official policy of
"ambiguity" about whether it even has nuclear weapons to let its
officers spread such rumours. That said, though, its prime minister,
Ehud Olmert, was lambasted for being similarly rash in virtually
acknowledging his country's nuclear capability a few weeks earlier.

In any case, going it alone, as Israel did in 1981 when it hit Iraq's
Osirak reactor, would have little certainty of success against Iran, as
Israeli security officials are quick to stress. Iran may have other
nuclear sites that nobody knows about or that are too well-protected. It
has already built up a stockpile of uranium hexafluoride, the raw
material for enrichment into reactor fuel or bomb-grade material, and is
bound to store it deep underground. Even if its main enrichment plant,
at Natanz, is destroyed, it may restart enrichment out of view
elsewhere—if indeed it is not going on already. Moreover, for an attack
to succeed, it would need to suppress Iran's air defences, and stop Iran
retaliating by destroying some of its missiles and perhaps its naval
facilities. Such a big campaign would need American help, and America is
probably far too busy in Iraq.

Israeli officials think Iran may be downplaying technical problems with
fuel enrichment, to convince the world that it already has all the
required skills. The more time slips by, the lower the chances of
success for any attack. And it is not only Israel's leaders who are
worried. Thanks to their own dire warnings ("It is 1938, and Iran is
Germany," is the favourite line of the right-wing opposition Likud's
Binyamin Netanyahu), a poll last month in Maariv, an Israeli newspaper,
found that two-thirds of Israeli Jews think Iran would use a nuclear
bomb to destroy Israel.

Still, a recent conference run by the Truman Institute at Jerusalem's
Hebrew University showed that Israeli experts paint a subtler picture.
One thing on which they seemed to agree is that an Iranian bomb is a
danger—but will not be used soon. Top researchers such as Eldad Pardo of
the Truman Institute and Ephraim Kam, a former military-intelligence
colonel, concur that Iran's first area of concern is the Gulf region
around it, not Israel. Iran sees its environs as "very dangerous", says
Mr Kam: Iraq exploding on one side, Afghan drug runners, who have killed
3,000 Iranian police and troops in recent years, infiltrating the border
on the other, and the Americans stomping around in both. For the moment,
he thinks, Iran's desire for nuclear weapons is defensive, not
offensive—but that might change once it has them.

But there are debates about just what "defensive" means to Iran. The
fact that America took out Iran's two biggest local enemies, Saddam
Hussein and the Taliban, has emboldened its regime's pursuit of what Mr
Pardo calls a "new religion"—neither truly Shia nor Sunni, but a
syncretic, millenarian cult. Its followers, including Mr Ahmadinejad,
believe in the imminent return of the Mahdi (the Shias' "hidden" imam,
who vanished more than a thousand years ago), worship high technology
(ie, nuclear weapons) and want Iran to become the leader of a
pan-Islamic regime in the region—before tussling with the Western world,
including Israel.

Continued (Permanent Link)



JERUSALEM [MENL] -- Iran's nuclear program seeks to acquire first-strike
capability against Israel.

A leading Israeli strategist and former intelligence officer has asserted
that Teheran was directing its nuclear program for a confrontation with
Israel. The strategist said Iran believes it could destroy the Jewish state
with one nuclear weapon.
"Iranians believe that it holds, may hold a first strike capability against
Israel once it has a nuclear capability," Shmuel Bar, director of studies at
the Institute of Police and Strategy, said. "That Israel is a one bomb
country, one bomb from the point-of-view of the receiving side. That the
U.S. would not intervene against Iran under such conditions, and all of that
with apocalyptic zeal may result in actual use of nuclear weapons."

Bar, who for years worked in the Israeli intelligence community, told a
lecture on Jan. 9 that Iran was prepared to destroy Muslim cities as the
price for firing nuclear missiles toward Israel. He said the ruling Islamic
clergy would support a nuclear attack on Israel even at the risk of killing
millions of Palestinian Muslims.
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Continued (Permanent Link)

RICE: 'Talk of attack on Iran shows seriousness of situation'

'Talk of attack on Iran shows seriousness of situation'

Talk of a military strike against Iran shows how serious it would be for the Iranians to continue down the path of nuclear development, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in an interview with Channel 10 Sunday evening.

"I still think there is room for diplomacy, but even talk of such action shows how serious it would be for Iran to continue their actions unabated," Rice said.

Rice elaborated on non-military means of forcing Iran away from its nuclear ambitions when discussing the United Nations Security Council resolution which leveled sanctions against the country.

"The United Nations Security Council resolution will help. It sends a strong message to Iran that the world is united against the path that they have embarked on," Rice said, but she added that sanctions alone was still not enough.

Later in the interview, Rice defended Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's decision not to engage in dialogue with the Syrians, despite the latter's recent peace overtures.

"There is no indication that the Syrians have anything but disruptive plans for the Middle East," she said.

Rice also commented on the recent debate of whether her marital status has influenced her ability to fully appreciate the ramifications of war.

"Of course I am single," she said. "I can't believe that people would think that would make it difficult for me to understand that when people are at war there are terrible sacrifices. We are in a period of extraordinary sacrifice for the American people."

Sen. Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat, told Rice during a testy Senate hearing on Thursday that without an immediate family Rice will pay no personal price for the Bush administration policy in Iraq.

Rice has said she was at first perplexed by the exchange, and later told Fox News, "Gee, I thought single women had come further than that."

Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh accused Boxer of hitting "below the ovaries."

Standing with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Rice jokingly noted that as a woman with children, Livni is qualified to "make the decisions."

Livni leapt to Rice's defense, saying Rice's strong emotions about the Iraq war toll are clear during their private conversations.

Rice, 52, has never married. She is an only child and her parents are dead.

Boxer's comment came during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing in which Rice was questioned about President George W. Bush's new war plans.

"Who pays the price?" Boxer asked Rice. "I'm not going to pay a personal price. My kids are too old and my grandchild is too young. You're not going to pay a particular price, as I understand it, with immediate family.

"So who pays the price? The American military and their families."

Boxer defended herself in a statement Friday.

"I spoke the truth at the committee hearing, which is that neither Secretary Rice nor I have family members that will pay the price for this escalation," she said. "My point was to focus attention on our military families who continue to sacrifice because this administration has not developed a political solution to the situation in Iraq."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Jordan: US must 'push' ME peace

Jordan: US must 'push' ME peace

Jordan's king told visiting US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Sunday that Washington must "actively push" for reviving Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts and warned that violence would escalate if no tangible solution was found to the lingering conflict.

King Abdullah II also warned that Iraqi reconciliation would fail if Sunni Iraqis were not engaged in their country's decision making.

"Any political process that doesn't ensure the participation of all segments of Iraqi society will fail and will lead to more violence," Abdullah told Rice in a closed-door meeting in Amman, according to a statement by his press office.

  • "As a key component of the Iraqi social fabric, the Iraqi Sunni community must be included as partners in building Iraq's future," said the king, a top US ally in the Mideast.

    Along with other US allies like Egypt and Saudi Arabia, Jordan is concerned that the growing Shiite Muslim influence stretching from Iran through Iraq, Syria and Lebanon will help the hard-line Tehran regime dominate the Mideast and give rise to more extremism, jeopardizing a Mideast settlement and threatening their own states.

    Ruled by Sunni leaders, these countries are lukewarm toward the Shiite-dominated government in Iraq and are pressing the Bush administration for a larger share of power by Arab Sunnis there.

    King Abdullah also wants his longtime US friend to apply an equal amount of diplomatic energy spent on Iraq to reviving the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

    In his talks with Rice, Abdullah "called on the United States to actively push for a revival of Palestinian-Israeli peace negotiations that would lead to the establishment of a viable, independent Palestinian state that would fulfill Palestinian aspirations for freedom, independence and security," the statement said.

    The Jordanian monarch warned that "without tangible, specific steps to activate the implementation of the Road Map in the near future, the cycle of violence will widen," he said referring to the US-backed peace plan, which envisions the creation of an independent Palestinian state.

    He called on a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on international legality and the Arab Peace Initiative. This Arab initiative, unveiled at an Arab summit in Lebanon in 2002, calls for Israel to withdraw from all territory occupied since the 1967 Mideast war in return for full recognition by Arab countries.

    The statement quoted Rice as reiterating America's commitment to establishing a Palestinian state side-by-side with Israel. Rice reportedly said the American administration would work with all concerned parties to bring the Palestinians and Israelis back to the negotiating table.

    Earlier, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas told Rice on Sunday he opposes the establishment of a provisional Palestinian state in temporary borders, a key part of the US-backed "road map" peace plan.

    Palestinian officials in recent weeks have grown increasingly wary of the idea, which was also proposed by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, fearing they will be stuck indefinitely with a truncated state.

    "We reaffirmed to Secretary Rice our rejection of any temporary or transitional solutions, including a state with temporary borders, because we don't see it as a realistic option," he told a joint news conference with Rice.

    Rice responded by reiterating the US commitment to the road map, but did not address the idea of a provisional state.

    "My work is going to be best targeted, I think, in these next months on trying to accelerate progress on the road map, which after all would lead us then to a Palestinian state and to helping the Palestinians and Israelis think through the political horizon," she said.

    She said she was told during her trip that the United States needed to deepen its involvement in Middle East peace efforts. "You will have my commitment to do precisely that," she said.

    "The Palestinian people have waited a long time for their own state. The Israeli people have waited a long time to live in security and peace with their neighbors," she said, adding that she and US President George W. Bush were willing to do what was needed to help make that a reality.

    Abbas also said he is determined to go ahead with early presidential and legislative elections if the latest round of coalition talks with Hamas fails.

    Abbas's envoys and Hamas have reported progress after two weeks of secret negotiations, though talks broke down repeatedly in the past over the distribution of key cabinet portfolios and the government's program.

    Abbas said it was premature to talk about a possible meeting between him and the Hamas leader-in-exile, Khaled Mashaal, who is based in Syria. Abbas is to visit Syria later this month.

    The PA leader said early elections are still an option. "We hope and we work to achieve this [a unity government] as soon as possible," he said. If not, "we will return to the people and hold the early parliamentary and presidential elections," he added.

  • Continued (Permanent Link)

    Secretary Condoleeza Rice: Press Availability With Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas

    Press Availability With Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas

    Secretary Condoleezza Rice
    January 14, 2007

    PRESIDENT ABBAS: (Via interpreter) In the name of Allah the Most Merciful, the Compassionate, I am happy to welcome Dr. Rice in our country once again here in Ramallah today, and I thank her always for all of the efforts exerted to make peace in this country possible and achievable.


    We have discussed today with Dr. Rice several topics, on top of which lies the peace process, and that it is indeed to provide the appropriate circumstances and conditions to revive the peace process so that it has a meaning and leads to ending the Israeli occupation that commenced in 1967, as stated in the roadmap and achieving President Bush's vision by establishing an independent, contiguous, viable Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital living side by side with Israel in security and stability.


    In order to give the political process the opportunity it deserves and to regain its credibility and the trust of the region's people therein, it is primordial to immediately halt all Israeli colonial activities in the Palestinian territories, stop the separation and expansion wall and put an end to the siege and closure in its various forms imposed upon our people and planned. It is also primordial to release our prisoners in the occupation's prisons and stop the policy of incursions as read as collective punishment, the last of which was the incursion into Ramallah and the killing of four innocent Palestinian citizens with tens injured along the damage in property.


    We have stressed on the importance of continuing the consensus truce in the Gaza Strip to expand it to the West Bank, considering that including this truce to all the Palestinian territories is a guarantee for maintaining it. And along that truce and because we are committed to maintaining the truce, I would like to commend the important efforts made by Egypt to ensure the release of Palestinian prisoners and the Israeli soldiers gradually.


    We have also noted to Minister Rice our decision to end any temporary or transitional solutions including a state with temporary borders because we do not believe it to be a realistic choice that can be built upon. We have also emphasized the importance of active and continuous mobilization by the various regional and international parties to put an end to the conflict and its repercussions to achieve a durable and just peace and all of the repercussions of six decades of conflict to achieve a comprehensive, just and a durable peace at all levels and in all tracks so that the region and its people will enjoy peace and stability.


    Also we explained to Dr. Rice our efforts to form a national unity government with a program capable of lifting the siege and boosting the peace process through which we will regain control over our occupied land and establish our independent state, regain all of our national legal rights which are recognized by the whole world as our right. And we hope and we endeavor to achieve this as soon as possible so this would lead to a happy end by which the (inaudible) government will be established, otherwise we will go back to the people and we will hold legislative and presidential elections, early elections.


    We have also discussed the meeting I had with the Israeli Prime Minister Olmert. It was a good meeting in which we tackled various issues that concern the future of our peoples and peace, and we are waiting for the application of our agreements. We have also stressed on the importance of the Palestinian national unity and our absolute refusal to solve any disputes regardless of what the nature they are with violence or to reach internal domestic violence. Thus, we will do our utmost to impose the rule of law and restrict carrying arms to the legal security forces who abide by the official policy.


    Again, on my behalf and on behalf of the Palestinian people, I welcome you, Dr. Rice, and I hope her efforts will bring fruit.


    SECRETARY RICE: Thank you very much, Mr. President. Thank you again for welcoming me here to Ramallah to your headquarters here. We've had a very fruitful discussion. We have had a chance to review a number of issues, including some of the questions concerning movement and access. We have had a chance also to review the results of the successful meeting between President Abbas and Prime Minister Olmert, and I've pledged that we will do everything that we can to help build on the success of that meeting so that we maintain the momentum that was created by that very important meeting.


    I came here to Ramallah as I am going around the Middle East to say to everyone that the United States is deeply committed to finding ways to accelerate progress on the roadmap. The roadmap, after all, is the internationally recognized guide to the establishment of a two-state solution and we should fulfill all of its terms.


    I am also here to talk about how we can build on the momentum that is currently in Palestinian-Israeli relations to look at the political horizon and to begin to show to the Palestinian people how we might move toward the establishment of a Palestinian state, something that President Bush has clearly set out as an objective of American policy all the way back in 2001.


    I want to say to you, Mr. President, as I will say to others, that I have heard loud and clear the call for deeper American engagement in these processes. The United States is absolutely committed to helping to find a solution where Israelis and Palestinians can live in security, in which they can live in peace and in which they can live in democracy. These are our goals and I've heard again the call that America deepen its involvement, and you will have my commitment to do precisely that. President Bush sends his regards as well.


    And I want everyone to know, particularly the Palestinian people, how much we admire the leadership of President Abbas as a leader of the Palestinian people. I know of the struggles, Mr. President, to improve the circumstances of daily life for the Palestinian people, particularly in the difficult circumstances now in which there are internal conflicts among the Palestinian people. But I want you to know that our desire is for the Palestinian people to be able to live in unity and in democracy and in peace with a government that can get the respect and the support of the international community. That is something that the Palestinian people deserve. Thank you very much.


    QUESTION: (Via interpreter) Dr. Rice, why have you come to Ramallah, especially under circumstances that speak of a state with temporary borders? Or is the visit, like your previous visit, is just for listening?


    President Mahmoud Abbas talks of access, national dialogue. To what extent have you reached an understanding?


    SECRETARY RICE: Well, first of all, it's not a bad thing to listen because sometimes you hear what parties need. I just want to say, you know, there have been many failed attempts to resolve the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis and to make progress, and we need to learn that it is important to listen and to talk and to understand where we're going. And we've made a lot of progress over recent years in particular because of the hard work of President Abbas and we are going to continue to press forward.


    I have also heard the President today about how he sees the end state. I've heard how he sees the roadmap and how to get to that end state. And so I think it's not a bad thing to listen. But you're absolutely right, it's also important to act and we'll look for ways to act.


    PRESIDENT ABBAS: (Via interpreter) Regarding the efforts to form a government of national unity, you know that we have been exerting tremendous efforts over the past six months to come with a government capable of lifting the siege. When I say capable of lifting the siege, it is known that there are requirements that must be met by this government. We want the world and all of the countries of the world to lift the siege imposed upon us and this government must be in conciliation with the Palestinian legitimacy and with the resolutions of the Arab summit and international legitimacy.


    These efforts, as I said, have been halted now. There are new efforts. There are many who want to make efforts on their own. We do not object. The important thing is to achieve results, which is to form a national unity government. I cannot say now that we have achieved the tangible thing because we still -- unless we achieve all, we will not be speaking of anything.


    QUESTION: Madame Secretary, can you be more specific about exactly what the proposed $85 million U.S. grant for the Palestinian security services would be used for and what guarantees or controls you envision to make sure that that money is not used, for example, to settle old scores?


    And for the President, would you prefer that this money go primarily to purchase weapons or to arrange training for the forces, and what guarantees can you offer that the money will not be misused?


    SECRETARY RICE: Well, Anne, let me make the point first that the American contribution is a part of an international effort to train and equip the Palestinian forces. It has been foreseen going all the way back to Oslo, certainly in the roadmap, that there would be professional, unified Palestinian security forces that would be trained and equipped, and the expectation was that the international community would take that responsibility. And so this is a part of that effort.


    General Dayton has been working with his international colleagues to develop a specific plan for that training and equipping of the security forces, and it would be according to that plan. But let me be very clear: It's not as if tomorrow there will be a U.S. contribution should the Congress approve it of X million dollars; rather, this is a train-and-equip program that will unfold over a period of time. I am sure that President Abbas and his people will want to be attentive to the requirements of the plan, including attentive to concerns about human rights which are there in all of our train-and-equip programs around the world.


    And so again, let me emphasize it's a part of an international plan, this is not a U.S. plan; and secondly, that it is a classic train-and-equip program that is tailored obviously to the circumstances of the Palestinians, but it will unfold over a period of time according to a plan that General Dayton has worked out.


    PRESIDENT ABBAS: (Via interpreter) Regarding the question of arms for Palestinian security forces, I would like to say when we returned to our homeland there was an agreement signed between us and Israelis about the weapons that will be carried by the Palestinian security forces to fulfill their role. However, unfortunately, in a period of time and for many reasons these weapons were destroyed. Additionally, the infrastructure of the security forces was also demolished, and here we ask for weapons. We don't want to purchase weapons -- not in a legal or unlegal way. We achieve weapons from our friends upon Israeli agreement and approval. We do not let weapons enter unless it is in a lawful manner. It is the way we started. We deal in total transparency with this issue. We have a need and we said that we needed these weapons and we ask that the security forces be provided with these weapons so that it will be compensated for the losses not only in terms of weapons but also various transportation and communication devices and all of the infrastructure which security forces need in order to impose security and the rule of law and order on our land. But be confident that we will not misuse any aid that we receive from any party.


    QUESTION: Madame Secretary, you met yesterday with Avigdor Lieberman. Can you confirm that he told you that the major military operation in Gaza is only a question of time and that in that case a NATO force would have to be deployed? And also, don't you think you take the risk having a meeting of being seen as supporting or giving credit to his extremist views?


    And Mr. President, did you receive any support from the Secretary to the national unity government you are trying to form?


    SECRETARY RICE: Sylvie, I am obviously not going to discuss what was said in meetings that I've had with members of the Israeli Government, and Mr. Lieberman is a member of the Israeli Government and frankly I'm going to enlist the support of anybody I can to try and move forward a Palestinian state living at peace side by side with Israel. That is the goal here.


    And I think we really need to stay focused not on issues of what might happen in Gaza if we don't -- if the situation there doesn't improve. The President and his team are trying to improve the situation and we're trying to support that. But ultimately, my work is going to be best targeted, I think, in these next months on trying to accelerate progress on the roadmap, which after all would lead us then to a Palestinian state, and to helping the Palestinians and the Israelis think through the political horizon. And that's what I'm focused on, but it's a good thing to hear from as many people as possible.


    PRESIDENT ABBAS: (Via interpreter)The position of the United States is known regarding the government of national unity. It is repeated in every occasion whether in the declarations made by persons or from the government of the U.S., also in the Quartet, and I don't think they need that we repeat this position at every occasion. We know it and we understand it very well and we're trying to have good relations with every country in the world.


    QUESTION: Dr. Rice, what plans did you come with here as we can see that you are here to listen to both sides, Palestinians and Israelis? Don't you think it's only because of the issue of Iraq and Iran you are here so we can see also here the plan of (inaudible)? And Mr. Olmert promised President Arafat that he will give back the money, he will release the prisoners and nothing happened, so what do you think will go on?


    (In Arabic.)


    SECRETARY RICE: First of all, I have offered with President Abbas to do what I can to continue to move -- help them move forward on what was agreed between the President and Prime Minister Olmert. This is my eighth time in the Middle East as Secretary and my third since September, so obviously the impetus and the impulse to come here comes out of an understanding that we need to make progress here in the Middle East.


    I remember very well that it was a little over a year ago, actually it was on my birthday -- I won't tell you which one -- that I was here to negotiate the agreement on movement and access. So I've been very involved with the Palestinians, with the Israelis, since I became Secretary and I expect to try to deepen that involvement. But of course, this conflict, this issue, the establishment of a Palestinian state, should be pursued on its own merits, not because of anything else, not because of Iran, not because of Iraq, not because of anything.


    The Palestinian people have waited a long time for their own state. The Israeli people have waited a long time to live in security and peace with their neighbors. And if there is anything that I can do and that the President can do to finally realize that day when the Palestinian people -- who everybody understands to be an entrepreneurial people, a people who are predisposed toward democracy and tolerance -- for the Palestinians to have their own state that they can live in security and peace with Israel and that Israel can therefore have a secure and a democratic neighbor, why wouldn't we want to do that? And it's on its own merits, not because of anything else.


    PRESIDENT ABBAS: (Via interpreter) Regarding the first part of your question, Madame Secretary has answered. She has spoken eloquently on that. For the second part, this is preempting events.


    SECRETARY RICE: Thank you.



    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Report: Arabs twice as poor as Jews

    Report: Arabs twice as poor as Jews

    Israel's Arabs are more than twice as poor as its Jews, according to a new report set to be released Monday by the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute, a capital-based center aiming to advance the study of regional cultures.

    Authored by Dr. Suleiman Abubader, a professor of economics at Ben Gurion University of the Negev and Daniel Gottlieb, an affiliated senior lecturer from the same institution, the report will officially be presented at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute's second annual conference examining Israeli society and economy.

    Based on an official study conducted by the Galilee Society for Research and Services, a national organization committed to developing opportunities for the Arab population, the two researchers found that the poverty gap between Arab and Jewish citizens keeps on growing. While 17.7% of the Jewish population lived under the poverty line in 2005, more than half of the Arab community (54.2%) was officially considered poor at the same time period.

    Moreover, the researchers highlighted that despite the country's recent economic recovery, poverty among the Arab population has not eased. "There is a high rate of unemployment among Arab men, and especially among the women," explained Abubader, adding that this is one of the first studies of the Arab sector that includes Christians, Muslims, Druze, and Beduin populations in both legal and illegal villages.

    The researchers noted that poverty among the Beduin community in the South is especially severe, with 66.4% of those living in legal villages living under the poverty line; 13% higher than in other Arab-Israeli communities and four times more than in the Jewish population. Among Beduins residing in non-legal villages the figure was even higher, with 79.2% living below the poverty line.

    Abubader explained that the unemployment in that sector is exacerbated by little information on how to obtain rights and benefits, large family structures and educational opportunities. "Many are not really sure how to access their benefits or do not know their rights," he said. "In some villages, even the ones that are recognized, there is no transportation and they cannot reach the main center in Beersheba.

    "Education is the key to breaking out of the poverty cycle," continued Abubader. "It allows almost 100% opportunities for men and especially women to find work."


    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Morgan Stanley: Shekel inherently strong

    Morgan Stanley: Shekel inherently strong

    "Israel has the strength and dynamism to weather a global slowdown."
    Globes correspondent; 11 Jan 07;


    The appreciation of the shekel against the US dollar is not just a matter of the latter's weakness, says US investment house Morgan Stanley in a report dated yesterday. The report says that the shekel remains undervalued against both the dollar and the euro, and that Israel's economy has the strength to withstand a global slowdown.


    "Imbalances in the US economy and the dollar's depreciation have become an overwhelming theme in global financial markets, triggering significant shifts in portfolio allocations. However, although the dollar is likely to remain weak in the near future, our currency economics team expects it to get stronger towards the end of this year and especially in 2008. Of course, such a turnaround in the dollar's valuation and the reasons behind it would have a range of implications for Israel's economy and financial markets. Nevertheless, we do not see a major risk to our call for the shekel's continuing strength," writes Morgan Stanley analyst Serhan Cevik.


    " The dollar's weakness may have been a trigger, but the shekel's appreciation is certainly not just about what has happened to the dollar. As we have long argued, the shekel is fundamentally undervalued against the dollar and even more so against the euro. Therefore, we still expect economic fundamentals and financial developments to keep supporting the shekel and the country's domestic assets. Israel has the strength and dynamism to weather a global slowdown," the report continues.


    "Despite geopolitical constraints and indeed the eruption of a guerilla war in Lebanon, the Israeli economy has continued to grow at a robust pace… The strength of the global economy is certainly an important factor for Israel's export growth and overall economic performance, but it would be unfair to dismiss the effect of fiscal consolidation and structural reforms in accelerating the private sector-driven expansion cycle. With the correction in the budget deficit from 5.4% of GDP in 2003 to 0.9% last year, the corporate and household sectors have benefited from a more rational, predictable macroeconomic outlook. This is why we believe that Israel has the strength and dynamism to weather a slowdown in the global economy," Cevik writes.


    "The current account surplus is not just a cyclical Phenomenon," he continues. "Israel's current account balance moved from a deficit of -0.5% of GDP in 2002 to a surplus of 2.9% in 2005 and about 6% last year. This is an amazing performance, especially considering the worsening in the country's terms of trade because of higher commodity prices.


    "Although the global business cycle has been an important determinant of trade flows all around the world, Israel's specialization in high-tech tech goods and services is far more important than the volume effect, in our view. In other words, higher value-added in technology-intensive sectors brings a structural improvement in the current account.


    "Of course, this is only one aspect of a greater story in progress. For example, the current account surplus is also a reflection of the downward trend in domestic investment relative to GDP after the immigration-driven increase in capital accumulation in the 1990s. Another important factor that we need to consider is the increase in net income from investments abroad, as Israel has become a capital-exporting country.


    "Financial globalization has led to a secular decline in home bias. Structural changes in the capital markets, particularly the equalization of taxation on investment abroad, have accelerated residents' portfolio diversification… While residents kept accumulating assets abroad, foreign capital flows to Israel surged from $3.2 billion in 2002 to $11.6 billion in 2005 and a record level of $23.4 billion last year. However, since assets abroad increased faster than liabilities, the country's net international position improved significantly from $50.3 billion in 2000 to $30.1 billion in 2005 and $17.3 billion in the first three quarter of 2006.


    "Even though the decline in home bias in residents' portfolio allocations is a headwind against the shekel, the increase in net income from investments abroad and foreign participation in Israel's financial markets will continue to support the valuation of shekel-denominated assets, in our view.


    "Currency appreciation has lowered inflation and allowed for monetary easing. Consumer price inflation declined from 3.8% in April to -0.3% in November, as the shekel's strengthening lowered dollar-linked prices across the economy Facing such a currency-driven correction in inflation dynamics, the Bank of Israel has opted for monetary easing and lowered short-term interest rates even below those in the US. Even so, we believe that the economy's underlying strength still supports lower real interest rates," the report concludes.

    Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - - on January 11, 2007

    © Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2006

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Halutz: Talk of imminent war with Syria is 'exaggerated'

    Last update - 18:55 14/01/2007   

    Halutz: Talk of imminent war with Syria is 'exaggerated'
    By Haaretz Service

    Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Dan Halutz on Sunday dismissed speculations of an imminent war with Syria as "premature and exaggerated," Army Radio reported.
    When asked to comment at the weekly cabinet meeting on reports indicating the possibility of a war this summer, Halutz said "we are always preparing," but added, "The Syrians have also heard these comments. Sometimes speculation can bring about consequences that nobody wants."
    The IDF chief also warned ministers that Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah was increasing his efforts to topple the Lebanese government headed by Prime Minister Fuad Siniora, according to the radio.
    "Damascus is indeed pulling the strings in Lebanon, but the IDF has managed to lower the temperature on the northern front," Halutz told ministers during the meeting.
    The IDF's strategic assessment for 2007 warns of the possibility of a conflagration with Lebanon and Syria in the coming year. The assessment is based on the IDF's working plan for the year, which takes into account the lessons learned in the 2006 Lebanon War.
    A senior military source last week said the IDF had identified a decline in regional stability in the Middle East, giving rise to the possibility of hostilities involving Lebanon, Syria, the Palestinian Authority and Iran.

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    PM: Appointment of Israeli Arab minister is a positive event

    Last update - 20:05 14/01/2007   

    PM: Appointment of Israeli Arab minister is a positive event
    By Mazal Moualem, Gideon Alon and Yoav Stern, Haaretz Correspondent, and Haaretz Service

    Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Sunday that the appointment of Israeli Arab Labor MK Raleb Majadele as Minister of Science, Technology, Culture and Sports would a positive event long time in the making.
    Olmert said that over the next few days he intends to complete manning the Labor party and Yisrael Beiteinu portfolios in order to boost their representations in the government, as is worthy of parties of their size.
    Earlier Sunday, aides to Defense Minister and Labor Party Chairman Amir Peretz on Sunday accused Olmert of acting against Peretz' interests in the Labor party by postponing Majadele's appointment to the position of minister.
    According to the aides, Olmert turned down a request to discuss the appointment at Sunday's cabinet meeting in order to help former prime minister Ehud Barak to gain Labor's leadership. Majadele's appointment will be brought before the cabinet for approval next week.
    Haaretz reported recently that Olmert is seeking to replace Peretz with Barak as defense minister. On Sunday, Peretz' cronies accused Olmert of trying to "meddle with the Labor Party's internal affairs" in postponing the approval of Majadele's appointment.
    Peretz believes that the sooner Majadele is appointed, the easier it would be for him to register Arab constituents as party members who would vote for him in the party leadership primaries, scheduled for May. The registration of Labor members will end January 31, and Peretz, facing a defeat according to recent polls, sees great importance in the Arab constituency.
    Olmert aides said he postponed Majadele's appointment because he learned about it from the media while on an official visit to China, only a day after Peretz announced it. In addition, Peretz refused to discuss the appointment with Olmert on the phone despite several attempts by the prime minister to do so.
    Peretz aides say that he submitted his request to appoint Majadele on Thursday, according to procedure.
    At the cabinet meeting Sunday, Olmert said that the appointment of an Arab minister for the first time in Israeli history is "a highly important and timely event." He added that he intends to finalize the new appointments of Labor and Yisrael Beitenu ministers this week, and that the representation of these parties "must be adequately enhanced."

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    President [Abbas] Affirms Rejection of Temporary or Transitional Solutions

    President Affirms Rejection of Temporary or Transitional Solutions
    [PLO news agency]
    RAMALLAH, January 14, 2007 (WAFA)- President Mahmoud Abbas
    affirmed Sunday his rejection of any temporary or transitional solutions,
    including a state of temporary borders.

    In a joint press conference with U.S. Secretary of State, Dr. Condoleezza Rice in Ramallah, President said that "we have discussed with Rice several topics of which priority is the peace process and the necessity to provide suitable conditions and circumstances to revive it and lead to ending the Israeli Occupation as stated in the Road Map."

    President also appreciated President Bush's vision to establishing a viable and continuant Palestinian state, with Jerusalem as its capital living side by side with Israel in security and peace.

    "In order to give the political process an opportunity it deserves and to regain credibility and confidence of the peoples in the region, it immediately should hold all colonials activities in the Palestinian Territory, stop the construction of the Annexation and Expansion Wall and putting an end to siege, closure imposed on our people and land, release of prisoners from Israeli jails, stopping Israeli policy of incursions, arrests and collective punishment, the last of which was in Ramallah and the killing of four innocent citizens and injury of tens along the damage of property," President said.

    President also affirmed the importance of a continuing a comprehensive truce in the Gaza Strip to expand it to the West Bank and to be included to all the Palestinian Territory as a guarantee to its continuity.

    The President emphasised on active and continued mobilisation by regional and international parties to put and end to the conflict to achieve a just, comprehensive and durable peace in all levels and at all tracks, so as the region and its peoples live in peace and stability.

    The President spoke also about the efforts made to form a national unity government based on a programme capable of lifting the siege and reviving the peace process to which "we could control over our occupied land, establish our independent state and regain all of our national legitimate rights which are recognised by the entire world," adding "we hope to achieve it as soon as possible and this would lead to a happy end, by which the required government will be established otherwise, we go back to the people and hold Presidential and Legislative elections."

    President affirmed on the national unity government and his absolute
    For her part, Dr. Rice affirmed that the United States is deeply concerned to finding ways to accelerate further in the Road Map that internationally recognised, adding that the "United States is absolutely committed to helping provide a solution for Israelis and Palestinians can live in security, peace and democracy."

    "I want to assure you Mr. President , as I assured others that I have heard loud and clear the call for deeper American engagement in these processes and the United States is committed to find a solution where Israelis and Palestinians can live in security."

    "These are our goals and we abide by President Bush's vision on a viable Palestinian state," Rice said.

    Rice said that "I desire the Palestinian people must be able to live in dignity, democracy and in peace of which a government can be respected and supported by international community that something which the Palestinian people deserves."

    M.H. (14:37 P) (12:37 GMT)

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Israeli and Iranian Defense developments: Jane's Defence News Briefs - 12 January 2007

    Israel's new AEW system undergoes trials
    Israel's new Conformal Airborne Early Warning (CAEW) system, now undergoing flight testing in Israel, is believed to be the first operational radar to implement a technology known as 'track before detect' (TBD).Discussed since the 1970s, TBD has been mentioned as a potential counter-stealth technology because it improves the ability of a radar to detect small targets and targets with a low radar cross-section (RCS).Details of the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) CAEWsystem, based on a Gulfstream G550 platform, were revealed by IAI and Israel Defence Force (IDF) representatives at an IQPC Defence conference in London in December.
    [Jane's Defence Weekly - first posted to - 10 January 2007]

    Iran gives details of latest Shahab 3 missile
    Major General Yahya Safavi, the hardline chief of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) who commands Iran's growing missile forces, gave some details of the latest version of the Shahab 3 missile during a rare in-depth interview on state-run television, writes Ed Blanche. During the 'Great Prophet II' exercises held in November 2006, Tehran unveiled a range of indigenous missiles, including a Shahab 3 ballistic missile carrying a cluster-munitions warhead containing up to 1,400 bomblets
    [Jane's Missiles and Rockets - first posted to - 09 January 2007]

    Rafael set to develop anti-Qassam system
    The Israeli Ministry of Defence (MoD) is to provide initial funding for a proposal by Rafael Armament Development Authority to develop a defence system to counter Palestinian insurgent Qassam rocket attacks.Dubbed Kela David (David's Slingshot), the system will consist of an inexpensive kinetic interceptor based on Rafael's missile technology combined with an Elta Systems detection and fire-control radar.Several million dollars have been allocated for the development of an anti-rocket system in 2007, with an initial operational capability of the finally selected system expected in 18 months.
    [Jane's Missiles and Rockets - first posted to - 09 January 2007]

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Growing calls for large-scale operation in Gaza

    Growing calls for large-scale operation in Gaza

    Lieberman, Yishai express concern over shaky ceasefire with gunmen in Gaza, say armed groups using lull to arm while continuing to fire rockets at Israel
    Ronny Sofer Published:  01.14.07, 12:18
    Ministers: End restraint. Qassam fire at Israel from the Gaza Strip and arms smuggling from Egypt into the tiny costal territory necessitate a large-scale Israeli operation, cabinet ministers said Sunday.

    Minister for Strategic Affairs Avigdor Lieberman, Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Eliyahu Yishai, and Minister for Jerusalem Affairs Yaakov Edri voiced their objection to Israel's continuing restraint in the face of Palestinian violations of ceasefire declared between the two sides a month ago.

    "Since the ceasefire over 100 Qassams were fired at Israel," said Lieberman, demanding the government approve a large-scale ground operation against terror organizations in the Gaza Strip.

    During talks with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Jerusalem on Saturday, Lieberman suggested that NATO send a
    force to the Gaza Strip in the aftermath of an
    Israeli operation there to ensure that terror groups don't rearm.
    "We will hear the security review of the head of the Shin Bet and the IDF Chief of Staff. I believe we won't be able to restrain on the long term. We shouldn't continue with the situation where they fire rockets at Israel without us responding," Edri said.
    Palestinians rearming
    Deputy Prime Minister Eliyahu Yishai said: "They ask us to wait and wait and wait and in the end we will pray a price for that. The implications are a return to what was in Lebanon, where we waited for years and gave Hizbullah time. The same will happen here too, they will continue to dig tunnels, to smuggle weapons and organize. There is no ceasefire and we are turning a blind eye."

    "We chose imaginary calm when we claimed that a response is likely to escalate the situation. This is not right. I believe that in the end we will act and a decision will be taken soon. We need shouldn't act hastily but in an organized and planned manner that will reduce their options considerably," he said.
     Prime Minister Ehud Olmert welcomed Rice's visit to the Middle East on Sunday.
     Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni will update ministers on her talks with Rice on Saturday.

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Peretz aides: Delay of Arab ministerial appointment racist

    Peretz aides: Delay of Arab ministerial appointment racist,7340,L-3351957,00.html
    Source close to defense minister on cabinet decision not to vote on MK Majadele's ministerial appointment: Olmert is intervening in Labor's affairs, and there is also a racial matter here. Majadele is Arab, and this is why they do not want to appoint him
    Attila Somfalvi Published:  01.14.07, 11:17

    A source close to Defense Minister Amir Peretz said Sunday of the decision not to bring the ministerial appointment of Arab Knesset Member Raleb Majadele before the cabinet for approval, "(Prime Minister Ehud) Olmert is intervening in Labor's internal affairs, and there is also a racial matter here. Majadele is an Arab, and this is why they do not want to appoint him."
    Right-Wing Minister
    The source added that "This is a dirty maneuver. Olmert is cooperating with (former Prime Minister) Ehud Barak and is thwarting the appointment only so Barak won't have to come out against it.
    Members of Labor's young guard are also accusing the prime minister of racism, with Chairman Eran Hermoni saying, "We regret the fact that the traces of racism are reaching the Prime Minister's Office."
    'PM needs to make a decision'
    Olmert aides rejected the claims by Peretz's office, saying Majadele's appointment is being delayed for technicalities related to the management of the coalition and the government.
    "Olmert received the message of Majadele's appointment when he was in China," one aide said. "We haven't finished discussing this appointment as necessary. One who claims that the issue is racist is making an unacceptable claim.
    "The reason for the rejection is related to the fact that the prime minister wants to see the full picture of the government. The appointment of a Labor minister has some implications on the coalition, which also pertain to the welfare portfolio," the aide said.

    They added that Israel Our Home leader Minister Avigdor Lieberman has demanded that his party be allotted an extra portfolio and Olmert needs to make a decision.
    Aides added that Olmert will appoint a welfare minister in the coming two weeks. "We need to see clearly what is happening with United Torah Judaism, with the welfare minister, and with other portfolios. In any case in two to three weeks a welfare minister will be appointed in Israel," an aide said.

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Report: Libya to order 13-18 French Rafale fighter jets in $3.24 b deal

    Last update - 08:29 14/01/2007   

    Report: Libya to order 13-18 French Rafale fighter jets in $3.24 b deal
    By Reuters

    PARIS - Libya wants to order between 13 and 18 Rafale fighter jets from France in a deal worth as much as $3.24 billion, a French newspaper reported on Sunday.
    The weekly Journal du Dimanche, citing a source close to the Libyan government, said Libya had taken the decision to order the aircraft over an offer from BAE Systems to modernize its ageing Russian MiGs as well as competing offers from China and Russia.
    If confirmed, the deal would be the first foreign order for the 34 billion euro Rafale program, which has been shortlisted several times but which is yet to find a foreign buyer, prompting French officials to seek improvements to its radar system.
    In 2004, the European Union lifted an arms embargo against Libya imposed in 1986.
    Libya emerged from international isolation from 2003 when it accepted responsibility for the Lockerbie airliner bombings over Scotland and announced it would abandon its nuclear weapons program. Most U.S. sanctions were lifted in 2004.

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Mubarak calls for alternative to road map Israel-PA peace plan

    Last update - 09:39 14/01/2007   

    Mubarak calls for alternative to road map Israel-PA peace plan
    By The Associated Press

    Egypt questioned Saturday the effectiveness of the "road map" to bring peace between Israelis and Palestinians, with President Hosni Mubarak's office saying the Egyptian leader sent a letter to the White House with a counterproposal.
    Established in 2003, the U.S.-backed "road map" calls for the dismantling of Palestinian terror groups, a freezing of Israeli settlement activity and the creation of a provisional Palestinian state before a final deal is signed.
    But the Palestinians have rejected the idea of a provisional state, believing it would enable Israel to usurp much of the West Bank, where Israel is pressing ahead with West Bank settlement construction.
    Egypt, a regional heavyweight and a top U.S. ally, is a regular mediator in the crisis and is leading efforts to reconcile Palestinian factions whose weeks of deadly fighting have further stalled negotiations for a broader settlement with Israel.
    "The last few years proved that unilateral steps ... didn't work out, and its time to talk about a comprehensive peace agreement between the Palestinian and the Israeli sides," Egyptian presidential spokesman Suleiman Awaad told reporters Saturday.
    Only broader talks will put the long-stalled peace process in motion again, said the presidential spokesman.
    He said Mubarak has sent a letter to U.S. President George W. Bush carrying details of a new Egyptian peace proposal as an alternative to the road map, which he described as having failed.
    "The road map stumbled on its first stage, so how about the second phase?" Awaad said.
    The spokesman did not describe Mubarak's new proposal, but said the Egyptian leader would discuss it on Monday with visiting U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. He said Mubarak's new plan aims at "breaking the frozen peace process."
    On her first stop of a weeklong Mideast tour, Rice said Saturday in Israel that she had no new sweeping initiatives in hand for resolving the long-standing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
    "I'm not coming with a proposal, I'm not coming with a plan," she said, ahead of her meetings with Israeli and Palestinian leaders.
    The Egyptian spokesman warned against a plan proposed recently by the Israeli foreign minister that calls for establishing a provisional Palestinian state with a border following the contentious barrier Israel is building along the West Bank.
    "Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian brothers are mindful that by establishing a Palestinian state with temporary borders, such state will always remain provisional," Awaad said.

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Use of new Red Crystal finally allows Israel to join Red Cross

    Last update - 11:06 14/01/2007   

    Use of new Red Crystal finally allows Israel to join Red Cross
    By Reuters

    GENEVA - The world's largest relief organization, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent movement, on Sunday began using a third emblem whose adoption allowed Israel to join after a decades-long struggle.
    The red crystal on a white background is an alternative to either the cross or the crescent and is intended to provide protection to relief workers operating in areas of conflict.
    Both the Israeli Magen David Adom (MDA) and the Palestinian Red Crescent emergency services joined the umbrella relief organization in June 2006, six months after the movement's signatory states and national societies agreed to the new emblem at a specially convened conference.
    Israel's MDA had resisted using the cross and crescent because of their links to Christianity and Islam.
    In return for being allowed to join, Israel had to acknowledge the Palestinian Red Crescent as the internationally recognized emergency service within the occupied territory.
    Arab states had insisted on this before they would accept a new emblem custom-made for Israel.
    "The red crystal reaffirms the determination of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement to ... enhance its strength and credibility," the International Committee of the Red Cross and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said in a joint statement.
    Its adoption involved a new protocol to the 1949 Geneva Conventions which lay down rules for warfare and the treatment of prisoners and the wounded.
    So far 84 countries have signed the protocol and nine have ratified it. The emblem automatically came into force six months after being ratified by the second state, which was Switzerland, on July 14, 2006.

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Only Barak

    Only Barak
    By Gideon Levy

    Look around: On the shelf are four truly realistic candidates to head the next government - Ehud Olmert, Benjamin Netanyahu, Ami Ayalon and Ehud Barak. All of the others do not stand a chance. How should we choose between them? The decisive criterion upon which they should be judged in the current state of affairs is their courage, their ability to make daring decisions. While everyone is wallowing in relatively secondary matters - corruption, the economy, Iran or the system of government - even though everyone knows what should really be done to put an end to the thickest cloud that weighs upon the state, the cloud of occupation, the important question is which of them has the courage to thrust his hand into the fire. With a degree of sadness, it must be said that the only one of the four who is endowed with real courage is Barak. Thus, his return to the political arena is good news, encouraging, and the stir the laconic announcement of his return aroused is unequivocal proof of this.
    Israel has never faced a situation like the one it encounters today. A loss of direction has spread everywhere. With chronically apathetic and passive public opinion, a feeble leadership that has lost even the aspiration to bring about change, and an internal and external reality that is dangerous in an unprecedented way, we need to now put aside all of the other considerations. In normal times, a leader should be judged by his way of life, his interaction with those around him, his personal integrity and moral standing. But these are not normal times. Something truly big has to occur in order to generate the change.
    Barak tried once to take actions of historic dimensions. He tried and failed, but he at least tried. He did not talk about "easing passage at the checkpoints" and did not back the "Livni plan." He did not embark on a futile war of choice and did not engage in evacuating "illegal outposts" and "convergence." Barak spoke about a final, comprehensive solution, a great leap across the abyss, without interim accords and road maps.
    Olmert and Netanyahu failed as prime ministers, but they did not even try to take the great step of removing the curse of the occupation from Israel, which endangers its future like no other threat. All of the other dangers lurking at Israel's doorstep derive from this danger or are secondary to it in importance. Olmert and Netanyahu had the opportunity but did not even think to try and take advantage of it.
    Ayalon has not had the opportunity, but his statements do not so far indicate his intention to search for it; and his lack of political experience disqualifies him from the position at this time. Politics is also a profession and Ayalon has not yet entered the profession. We have had enough of leaders who learn the ropes at our expense, with the resounding failures of Amir Peretz and Amram Mitzna, good people who made mistakes. Ayalon's support for partial, hesitant plans like that of the foreign minister, places him among the ranks of leaders who think small. This leaves Barak.
    In December 2004, I wrote here: "The fact that Ehud Barak is the only one who represents any hope is depressing. The fact that the Labor Party is deliberating between its slew of generals, all of them tainted by the occupation, is sad. But precisely in this type of situation, the abandonment of any trace of hope, even that which Barak offers, is a luxury that peace seekers cannot allow themselves, just because he failed once. All of his other colleagues have failed much more. They have not even tried. And they never will try." If these words were true two years ago, they are true sevenfold today. Since then, we have had a war and new dangers have arisen. And in the face of these dangers, there is a gaping vacuum of leadership, bereft of content.
    No one should be unduly impressed by the tidings of "the personal change" that Barak has undergone. He remains as he was. Arrogant, brutal, late to wake up in the morning and not nice. Charles de Gaulle and Frederik Willem de Klerk also were not nice people. Nonetheless, their nations owe them a profound historic debt because of their great actions, because of the courage to break the vicious circle that no one else had dared to break. Barak has not yet proved that he is like them, but the potential exists. He is the one who disseminated the great lie that there is no Palestinian partner, and the moral stain of the criminal October 2000 events is indelibly attached to him. The same is true for the critical mistakes he made at Camp David, which we are still paying for today. We do not need to forgive him for all this, but we need to examine the chance he brings: the chance to return to the great days when they discussed dividing Jerusalem, the right of return and the return to the 1967 borders in an effort to bring the conflict to an end - instead of issues like changing the system of government or easing passage at the checkpoints. We are not seeking Barak's friendship, but his leadership.
    Barak brought the IDF out of Lebanon in one fell swoop and then turned to the following vital issues: peace with Syria and peace with the Palestinians. He reached the brink of an agreement with Syria and panicked, something that is clearly unforgivable. And with the Palestinians, he engaged in daring discussions that ended in a resounding failure. But unlike the other candidates, Barak wanted to leave an historic mark. He understood that this would happen only if he took an historic step. It is permissible to give him, and us, the benefit of the doubt and to believe that his return might signal an aspiration to conduct another such attempt, this time with greater courage. Sometimes a second test date is preferable to the first test date. We have no choice but to allow him to be tested again. Think about the alternatives: Will Netanyahu make peace? Will Olmert evacuate even a house plant? Will Ayalon have the power and authority to make critical decisions? This leaves only Barak, only Barak.

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Jimmy Carter's offensive against U.S. Jewry

    Jimmy Carter's offensive against U.S. Jewry
    By Bradley Burston
    Shortly after Jimmy Carter's "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid" began appearing in bookstores, the former president stated that one ultimate goal of the book was "to help restart peace talks (now absent for six years) that can lead to permanent peace for Israel and its neighbors."
    One might assume, then, that Mr. Carter might be troubled by the signal lack of interest and comment the book has stirred in Israel.
    Unless Carter's beef was not really with Israel. Unless, that is, Carter's true intended target was the organized American Jewish community.
    If Carter's intent had been to foster a revival of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, then - as scathing critics Alan Dershowitz and Abraham Foxman have both explicitly remarked - the book can indeed by judged by its cover, and written off as a failure.
    Carter's use of the word apartheid, going so far as to say in an interview broadcast on Israel Radio that Israeli policies on the West Bank were worse than those which held sway in the former South African regime, assured that Israelis would associate his stance with that of Yasser Arafat at the close of his career, and dismiss the book out of hand.
    In Israel, the Carter issue remains a non-issue. His words - by any measure, in America, fighting words - merit barely a passing nod in the Israeli national discourse.
    In fact, even if Carter's intent, as some observers have suggested, was to curry favor with the Palestinians and be seen and celebrated as an honest broker on the Middle East, even that effort has fallen short.
    "The glaring error in Carter's book," wrote UCLA Prof. Saree Makdisi in the San Francisco Chronicle "is his insistence that the term 'apartheid' does not apply to Israel itself, where, he says, Jewish and non-Jewish citizen are given the same treatment under the law. That is simply not true."
    Organized U.S. Jewry, meanwhile, makes for the ideal Carter target.
    Jimmy Carter knew just what to expect when he named his book. No matter how American Jewish leaders react, they do the former president's bidding. If they choose to ignore him, they lend evidence to Carter's contention that U.S. Jewish figures are cowed into silence over Israel. If they choose to lambaste him, they lend credence to Carter's argument that pro-Israel bias obviates any genuine discussion of the issues.
    Best of all, from Carter's standpoint, is the blistering flak he has taken from an A-list of prominent American Jews. The criticism grants weight to Carter's carefully worded accusations as to Jewish control of the American media, a self-fulfilling charge if ever there was one, and one sure to keep the hardcovers flying off bookstore shelves.
    "For the last 30 years, I have witnessed and experienced the severe restraints on any free and balanced discussion of the facts," Carter wrote in the Los Angeles Times last month, in a reference to what may be called The Case for Palestine.
    "This reluctance to criticize any policies of the Israeli government is because of the extraordinary lobbying efforts of the American-Israel Political Action Committee and the absence of any significant contrary voices," Carter wrote.
    "When you think about the charge that he has made that the Jewish people control the means of communication, it is odious," Anti-Defamation League national director Foxman said in response to Carter's statements. "If the Jews controlled the media, how come he is traveling around the country speaking about this book on talk shows?"
    What Carter reveals, in the end, is that he knows the organized Jewish community of the United States in ways he will never know the Jewish community - or for that matter, the Palestinian community - the Holy Land. He knows America's Jewish leadership as do few American Jews. He was, after all, twice the nominee of the Democratic Party.
    These people elected him president. They applauded him at Camp David. They sang his praises for forging the first peace treaty between Israel and an Arab nation.
    Carter knows these people, all right. He knows their vulnerabilities, their gut fears, their feelings for Israel. He knows what makes them tick. He knows what makes them squirm. He knows what makes them livid with rage. And Carter plays them, all of them, all at once, with the brio of a virtuoso on his farewell concert tour.
    Jewish control of government? "It would be almost politically suicidal for members of Congress to espouse a balanced position between Israel and Palestine, to suggest that Israel comply with international law or to speak in defense of justice or human rights for Palestinians."
    Jewish Control of the media? "What is even more difficult to comprehend is why the editorial pages of the major newspapers and magazines in the United States exercise similar self-restraint, quite contrary to private assessments expressed quite forcefully by their correspondents in the Holy Land."
    Jewish fears over relations with African Americans? "The book describes the abominable oppression and persecution in the occupied Palestinian territories," Carter writes, adding "In many ways, this is more oppressive than what blacks lived under in South Africa during apartheid."
    Small wonder, then, that on Thursday, when the Reform movement's Central Conference of American Rabbis, the rabbinic body of the largest demonination of religiously affiliated American Jews, announced the cancellation of a scheduled visit to the Carter Center in Atlanta, and that it would "firmly disassociate ourselves from Mr. Carter and the Carter Center," the rabbis' dominant tone was one of having been betrayed by a once-cherished ally.
    Speaking of "our sadness," the group noted how in the past Carter and his center had been known for doalogue, honest brokering, justice and lovingkindness.
    For a final flourish, Carter at once set up and hyped the next round of confrontation with U.S. Jewry, likely to focus on a High Noon showdown with his academic nemesis, Dershowitz. Appropriately, Carter's challenge is framed as a kvetch:
    "My most troubling experience has been the rejection of my offers to speak, for free, about the book on university campuses with high Jewish enrollment and to answer questions from students and professors."
    If what Carter really wanted, as he relentlessly reiterates, was to stimulate discussion, he has succeeded beyond measure.
    It may be no coincidence, however, that in this curious, furious Last Hurrah, the focus of the debate has not been Palestine, nor Israel, nor peace, but Jimmy Carter himself.

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Rice pledges 'deeper' U.S. role in Mideast peace process

    Last update - 12:56 14/01/2007   
    Rice pledges 'deeper' U.S. role in Mideast peace process
    By Aluf Benn and Avi Issacharoff , Haaretz Correspondents, Haaretz Staff and Agencies
    United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Sunday that Washington would deepen its involvement in trying to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
    "I have heard loud and clear the call for deeper American engagement in these processes," Rice said in a news conference with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas after they held talks in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
    "You will have my commitment to do precisely that," she said after Sunday morning talks with Abbas at his Muqata headquarters in Ramallah.
    During the talks, Abbas told Rice that he opposes the establishment of a provisional Palestinian state in temporary borders.
    The idea was floated last month by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and is also part of the internationally brokered road map peace plan.
    Abbas said Sunday that he opposes the idea.
    "We told Secretary Rice that we reject any temporary solutions, including a transitional stage, because we don't see it as a realistic option," Abbas told the news conference.
    Rice responded by reiterating the U.S. committment to the road map, which calls for the creation of a Palestinian state.
    "The Palestinian people have waited a long time for their own state. The Israeli people have waited a long time to live in security and peace with their neighbors," she said, adding that she and U.S. President George W. Bush were willing to what was needed to help make that a reality.
    Abbas also said he is determined to go ahead with early elections if the latest round of coalition talks with Hamas fails.
    Sources close to the Abbas told Haaretz ahead of the meeting that he was to ask Rice to persuade the Israeli government to renew talks on a permanent settlement.
    Rice arrived in Jerusalem on Saturday night at the start of a Middle East trip, and met with Livni. The two discussed ideas for jump starting talks between Israel and the Palestinians that will produce a "diplomatic horizon" and strengthen moderates in the Palestinian Authority.
    "We want this to be the beginning of the endgame. It's high time the peace process was revived in order to implement negotiations on final status issues," said Saeb Erekat, a senior Abbas aide.
    However, an Israeli source said "If Rice wants to promote the idea of the temporary state, Abu Mazen (Abbas) will refuse. We have had enough of phased solutions. We have to talk about the endgame."
    Deputy defense minister Efraim Sneh said he feared setting temporary borders would perpetuate the conflict, but argued the Palestinians needed to see a timetable for negotiations to reach an agreed settlement.
    "If the Palestinian people aren't hopeful of obtaining their own state ... then we cannot defeat Hamas," Sneh, a senior member of the Labor Party, told Israel Radio.
    Abbas will tell Rice he was greatly disappointed with the outcome of his meeting with Olmert, the sources said. "There was no easing of restrictions on movement by Palestinians at the roadblocks, and the meeting placed Abu Mazen [Abbas] in a ridiculous light to the Palestinian public," a source said. The disappointment was said to be even greater because of the good chemistry between Olmert and Abbas at the meeting. "The visit to Olmert's home only did us damage in the last analysis. The Israeli leadership proved once again that it is not serious in its intensions to help Abbas," the source said.
    Haaretz also learned there are hints the Americans do not rule out the beginning of back channel talks. The sources said that following the marketplace of diplomatic initiatives going on in Israel - one day it's Defense Minister Amir Peretz and another day Livni - the Americans are also looking for a better way to move ahead with diplomatic talks. "The U.S. administration feels pressure from the Europeans to come up with a diplomatic initiative and knows that if it wants Arab help on Iraq, it must offer a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian issue."
    The Palestinian sources said the moderate Arab countries (Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia) want the Americans to present a clear vision for the end of the conflict - a permanent solution that all parties will have to reach at the end of implementation of the road map.
    Abbas made a surprise visit on Saturday to Amman, Jordan where he met with King Abdullah to coordinate positions ahead of their meetings with Rice. No details of the meeting were made public.
    Livni, Rice discuss threats in region
    Livni and Rice, who also discussed threats from extremists in the region - Iran, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the territories - agreed that the diplomatic process must be based on the road map, which is acceptable to the Palestinians, Israel and the international community.
    Livni said that in addition to the diplomatic horizon, the process should produce "security for Israelis everywhere, in bombarded Sderot as well."
    Livni presented Rice Israel's essential security interests, which must be protected under any scenario. As an example, she said the lack of enforcement of the arms embargo on Hezbollah had negative implications for arms smuggling in Gaza as well.
    At a short press briefing Livni and Rice gave after their meeting, they reiterated their commitment to a two-state solution. Livni was asked whether the current government could move ahead diplomatically in light of its political weakness, and she responded that there was no connection, because most Israelis favor a two-state solution.
    Rice discussed the Iranian threat and said additional steps were needed in specific countries in to hit the funding of terror and to stop spread of weapons of mass destruction.
    The American reporter Andrea Mitchell asked the two women at the end of the briefing whether, as unmarried women without children, they were indifferent to families who had lost sons in Iraq. Rice and Livni both laughed and Rice pointed to Livni and said, "She has children." She then said that, although unmarried, she deeply felt the pain of bereaved families.
    Rice met separately with Avigdor Lieberman, the minister of strategic threats, who told her the next conflict with the Palestinians was just a matter of time. If Israel went into the Gaza Strip on a military operation, he said, the result would be the stationing of 30,000 NATO troops in the Strip to keep the quiet.
    Defense Minister Amir Peretz and the head of Military Intelligence, Amos Yadlin, also met separately with Rice and discussed Syria, Lebanon and Iran and threats from extremists in the Palestinian Authority.
    Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh called Rice's visit an attempt to promote Israeli and American interests.
    "The establishment of a unity government will be based on Palestinian needs, and not American desires," Haniyeh told reporters in Gaza Friday.

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    The second Holocaust will not be like the first

    The second Holocaust will not be like the first
    By Benny Morris
    January 6, 2007


    The Nazis, of course, industrialized mass murder. But still, the perpetrators had one-on-one contact with the victims. They may have dehumanized them, over months and years of appalling debasement and in their minds, before the actual killing. But, still, they were in eye- and ear-contact, sometimes in tactile contact, with their victims. The Germans, along with their non-German helpers, had to round up the men, women and children from their houses and drag and beat them through the streets and mow them down in nearby woods or push and pack them on cattle cars and transport them to the camps, where 'Work makes Free', separate the able-bodied from the completely useless and lure them into 'shower' halls and pour in the gas and then take out, or oversee the extraction of, the bodies and prepare the 'showers' for the next batch.

    The second Holocaust will be quite different. One bright morning, in five or ten years' time, perhaps during a regional crisis, perhaps out of the blue, a day or a year or five years after Iran's acquisition of the Bomb, the mullahs in Qom will covoke in secret session, under a portrait of the steely-eyed Ayatollah Khomeini, and give President Ahmedinejad, by then in his second or third term, the go ahead. The orders will go out and the Shihab III and IV missiles will take off for Tel Aviv, Beersheba, Haifa, and Jerusalem, and probably some military sites, including Israel's half dozen air and (reported) nuclear missile bases. Some of the Shihabs will be nuclear-tipped, perhaps even with multiple warheads. Others will be dupes, packed merely with biological or chemical agents, or old newspapers, to draw off or confuse Israel's anti-missile batteries and Home Guard units.

    With a country the size and shape of Israel (an elongated 8,000 square miles), probably four or five hits will suffice: No more Israel. A million or more Israelis, in the greater Tel Aviv, Haifa and Jerusalem areas, will die immediately. Millions will be seriously irradiated. Israel has about seven million inhabitants. No Iranian will see or touch an Israeli. It will be quite impersonal.

    Some of the dead will inevitably be Arab. 1.3 million of Israel's citizens are Arab and another 3.5 million additional Arabs live in the semi-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. Jerusalem, Tel Aviv-Jaffa and Haifa have substantial Arab minorities. And there are large Arab concentrations immediately around Jerusalem (in Ramallah-El Bireh, Bir Zeit, Bethlehem), and outside Haifa. Here, too, many will die, immediately or by and by.

    It is doubtful whether such a mass killing of fellow Muslims will trouble Ahmedinejad and the mullahs. The Iranians don't especially like Arabs, especially Sunni Arabs, with whom they have intermittently warred for centuries. And they have an especial contempt for the (Sunni) Palestinians, who, after all, though initially outnumbering the Jews by more than 10 to 1, failed during the long conflict to prevent the Jews from establishing their state or taking over all of Palestine. Besides, the Iranian leadership sees the destruction of Israel as a supreme divine command, as a herald of the Second Coming, and the Muslims dispatched collaterally as so many shuhada (martyrs) in the noble cause. Anyway, the Palestinians, many of them dispersed around the globe, will survive as a people, as will the greater Arab Nation, of which they are part. And surely, to be rid of the Jewish state, the Arabs should be willing to make some sacrifices. In the cosmic balance sheet, it will be worth the candle.

    A question may nevertheless arise in the Iranian councils: What about Jerusalem? After all, the city contains Islam's third holiest shrines (after Mecca and Medina), Al Aksa Mosque and the Mosque of Omar. But Ali Khamenei, the supreme spiritual leader, and Ahmedinejad most likely would reply much as they would to the wider question regarding the destruction and radioactive pollution of Palestine as a whole: The city, like the land, by God's grace, in twenty or fifty years' time, will recover. And it will be restored to Islam (and the Arabs). And the deeper pollution will have been eradicated.

    To judge from Ahmedinejad's continuous reference to Palestine and the need to destroy Israel, and his denial of the first Holocaust, he is a man obsessed. He shares this with the mullahs: All were brought up on the teachings of Khomeini, a prolific anti-Semite who often fulminated against 'the Little Satan'. To judge from Ahmedinejad's organisation of the Holocaust cartoons competition and the (current) Holocaust denial conference, the Iranian president's hatreds are deep (and, of course, shameless).

    He is willing to gamble - the future of Iran or even of the whole Muslim Middle East in exchange for Israel's destruction. No doubt he believes that Allah, somehow, will protect Iran from an Israeli nuclear response or an American counterstrike. Allah aside, he may well believe that his missiles will so pulverize the Jewish state, knock out its leadership and its land-based nuclear bases, and demoralize or confuse its nuclear-armed submarine commanders that it will be unable to respond. And, with his deep contempt for the weak- kneed West, he is unlikely to take seriously the threat of American nuclear retaliation.

    Or he may well take into account a counter-strike and simply, irrationally (to our way of thinking), be willing to pay the price. As his mentor, Khomeini, put it in a speech in Qom in 1980: 'We do not worship Iran, we worship Allah … I say, let this land [Iran] burn. I say let this land go up in smoke, provided Islam emerges triumphant …' For these worshipers at the cult of death, even the sacrifice of the homeland is acceptable if the outcome is the demise of Israel.

    Israel's deputy defense minister, Ephraim Sneh, has suggested that Iran doesn't even have to use the Bomb to destroy Israel. Simply, the nuclearization of Iran will so overawe and depress Israelis that they will lose hope and gradually flee emigrate, and potential foreign investors and immigrants will shy away from the mortally threatened Jewish State. These, together, will bring about the State's demise. But my feeling is that Ahmedinejad and his allies lack the patience for such a drawn-out denouement; they seek Israel's annihilation in the here and now, in the immediate future, in their lifetime. They won't want to leave anything up to the vagaries of history.    As with the first, the second Holocaust will have been preceded by decades of preparation of hearts and minds, by Iranian and Arab leaders, Western intellectuals and media outlets. Different messages have gone out to different audiences - but all have (objectively) served the same goal, the demonization of Israel. Muslims the world over have been taught: 'The Zionists\the Jews are the embodiment of evil' and 'Israel must be destroyed.' And Westeners, more subtly, were instructed: 'Israel is a racist oppressor state' and 'Israel, in this age of multi-culturalism, is an anachronism and superfluous'. Generations of Muslims and at least a generation of Westerners have been brought up on these catechisms.

    The build-up to the second Holocaust (which, incidentally, in the end, will probably claim roughly the same number of lives as did the first) has seen an international community fragmented and driven by separate, selfish appetites - Russia and China obsessed with Muslim markets; France, with Arab oil - and the United States driven by the debacle in Iraq into a deep isolationism. Iran has been left free to pursue its nuclear destiny and Israel and Iran, to face off alone.

    But an ultimately isolated Israel will prove unequal to the task, like a rabbit caught in the headlights of an onrushing car. Last summer, led by a party hack of a prime minister and a small-time trade unionist as defense minister, and deploying an army trained for quelling incompetent and poorly-armed Palestinians gangs in the occupied territories and overly concerned about both sustaining and inflicting casualties, Israel failed in a 34-day mini-war against a small Iran-backed guerrilla army of Lebanese fundamentalists (albeit highly motivated, well-trained and well-armed). That mini-war thoroughly demoralized the Israeli political and military leaderships.

    Since then, the ministers and generals, like their counterparts in the West, have looked on glumly as Hizbullah's patrons have been arming with doomsday weapons. Perversely, the Israeli leaders may even have been happy with Western pressures urging restraint. Most likely they deeply wished to believe Western assurances that somebody, somehow - the UN, G-7 - would pull the radioactive chestnuts out of the fire. There are even those who fell for the outlandish idea that a regime-change in Teheran, driven by a reputedly secular middle class, would ultimately stymie the mad mullahs.

    But even more to the point, the Iranian program presented an infinitely complex challenge for a country with Israel's limited conventional military resources. Taking their cue from the successful Israel Air Force's destruction in 1981 of Iraq's Osiraq nuclear reactor, the Iranians duplicated and dispersed their facilities and buried them deep underground (and the Iranian targets are about twice as far from Israel as was Baghdad). Taking out with conventional weapons the known Iranian facilities would take an American-size air force working round-the-clock for more than a month. At best, Israel's air force, commandos and navy could hope to hit only some of the components of the Iranian project. But, in the end, it would remain substantially intact - and the Iranians even more determined (if that were possible) to reach the Bomb as soon as possible. (It would also, without doubt, immediately result in a world-embracing Islamist terrorist campaign against Israel (and possibly its Western allies) and, of course, near-universal vilification. Orchestrated by Ahmedinejad, all would clamor that the Iranian program had been geared to peaceful purposes.). At best, an Israeli conventional strike could delay the Iranians by a year or two.

    In short order, therefore, the incompetent leadership in Jerusalem would soon confront a doomsday scenario, either after launching their marginally effective conventional offensive or in its stead, of launching a pre-emptive nuclear strike against the Iranian nuclear program, some of whose components were in or near major cities. Would they have the stomach for this? Would their determination to save Israel extend to pre-emptively killing millions of Iranians and, in effect, destroying Iran?

    This dilemma had long ago been accurately defined by a wise general: Israel's nuclear armory was unusable. It could only be used 'too early or 'too late.' There would never be a "right" time. Use it 'too early,' meaning before Iran acquired similar weapons, and Israel would be cast in the role of international pariah, a target of universal Muslim assault, without a friend in the world; 'too late' would mean using its nuclear weapons after the Iranians had struck. What purpose would that serve?

    So Israel's leaders will grit their teeth and hope that somehow things will turn out for the best. Perhaps, after acquiring the Bomb, the Iranians will behave 'rationally'?   But the Iranians are driven by a higher logic. And they will launch their rockets. And, as with the first Holocaust, the international community will do nothing. It will all be over, for Israel, in a few minutes - not like in the 1940s, when the world had five long years in which to wring its hands and do nothing. After the Shihabs fall, the world will send rescue ships and medical aid for the lightly charred. It will not nuke Iran. For what purpose and at what cost? An American nuclear response would lastingly alienate the whole of the Muslim world, deepening and universalizing the ongoing clash of civilizations. And, of course, it would not bring Israel back. (Would hanging a serial muderer bring back his victims?) So what would be the point?   Still, the second Holocaust will be different in the sense that Ahmedinejad will not actually see and touch those he so wishes dead  (and, one may speculate, this might cause him disappointment as, in his years of service in Iranian death squads in Europe, he may have acquired a taste for actual blood). And, indeed, there will be no scenes like the following, quoted in Daniel Mendelsohn's recent 'The Lost, A Search for Six of Six Million,' in which is described the second Nazi Aktion in Bolechow, Poland, in September 1942:

    'A terrible episode happened with Mrs. Grynberg. The Ukrainians and Germans, who had broken into her house, found her giving birth. The weeping and entreaties of bystanders didn't help and she was taken from her home in a nightshirt and dragged into the square in front of the town hall. There … she was dragged onto a dumpster in the yard of the town hall with a crowd of Ukraininans present, who cracked jokes and jeered and watched the pain of childbirth and she gave birth to a child. The child was immediately torn from her arms along with its umbilical cord and thrown - It was trampled by the crowd and she was stood on her feet as blood poured out of her with bleeding bits hanging and she stood that way for a few hours by the wall of the town hall, afterwards she went with all the others to the train station where they loaded her into a carriage in a train to Belzec [extermination camp].'

    In the next Holocaust there will be no such heart-rending scenes, of perpetrators and victims mired in blood (though, to judge from pictures of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the physical effects of nuclear explosions can be fairly unpleasant).

    But it will be a Holocaust nonetheless.

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Press Availability With Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni

    Press Availability With Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni
    Secretary Condoleezza Rice
    January 13, 2007

    FOREIGN MINISTER LIVNI: Hello. Good evening. I would like to welcome again
    in the region, in Jerusalem, the United States Secretary of State
    Condoleezza Rice. And this visit in Jerusalem is part of the ongoing mutual
    effort to empower the moderates throughout the region in the struggle
    against extremism and terror. And today, tonight, we will continue in our
    consultations in order to find the best way to do it in a variety of
    different fronts in Lebanon, Iran and of course the Palestinian Authority.
    When it comes regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the goal is clear:
    two states, two different homelands living side by side in peace and

    The elections in the Palestinian Authority last year made the situation more
    complicated, more dangerous and the requirements of the international
    community from any Palestinian government are clear. Of course, part of our
    responsibility is to give the moderate Palestinians a political horizons -
    horizon -- while providing the Israelis security. In Sderot, a place in
    which they are being attacked on a daily basis, and elsewhere. And this is,
    of course, part of any process.

    And I would like to thank personally Secretary of State for the
    determination, understanding, and this is part of our mutual responsibility
    to find a way for a better future for us all. Thank you so much.

    SECRETARY RICE: Well, thank you very much, Minister Livni. Tzipi, it's great
    to be here again in Jerusalem. Indeed, this is a very important and
    challenging time in the Middle East, but a time that I believe does have
    promise if we exercise our responsibilities with creativity and with
    resolve. It is a time when extremist forces are attempting to make it
    impossible to have the kind of Middle East in which Israelis and
    Palestinians and other people of the Middle East can live in peace and in
    which democracy can make progress. But we're determined to resist their
    efforts and also to strengthen the hand of those who wish to resist their
    efforts, because I believe most people of the Middle East, in fact, do want
    to live in a place where their children can grow up in peace.

    We will discuss, of course, the strategic issues concerning Iran. I will
    brief the Foreign Minister on the President's Iraq plan. And of course, we
    will talk about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, how to accelerate progress
    on the roadmap, how to work toward a political horizon, because I think that
    we both understand fully that for both the Palestinian and the Israeli
    people, two states living side by side in peace is not just a dream, it's
    something that we must make a reality.

    And so thank you very much for having me here.


    SECRETARY RICE: I think we're to take one question per side.

    QUESTION: Madame Secretary and Minister Livni, why do you both think that
    there is an opening and some promise in the situation right now between
    Israel and the Palestinians given the fact that Israel's government has been
    historically weak politically right now and there is so much conflict among
    the Palestinians? What makes you think that there is some hope for an

    And secondly, Madam Secretary, how does the escalating U.S. challenge to
    Iran impact this conflict and the rest of the region?

    SECRETARY RICE: Well, perhaps I can start on the second part of that.
    Andrea, the United States is simply responding to Iranian activities that
    have been going on for a while now that threaten not just to destabilize the
    chance for Iraq to proceed to stability but that also endanger our forces.
    And the President has made clear that we will go after the networks that are
    producing explosive devices that are threatening our forces. It's a force
    protection issue. We've also made clear that this is something that can be
    done inside of Iraq. I think that General Pace made that clear yesterday.

    As to the other announcements that the President has made, the United States
    has long historic interests in the Persian Gulf and we have always,
    President after President after President, sought to have a force posture
    that makes clear that we can defend those interests.

    We also, of course, continue to work with the international community to try
    and arrest Iran's movement toward a nuclear weapon. The Chapter 7 resolution
    that was passed just before Christmas is an important step, but it is also
    important to recognize that efforts that individual states might make, like
    the designation by the United States of Iranian banks, is also important to
    denying funding to terrorism and to the pursuit of weapons of mass

    As to why there may be an opening now, first of all, one always has to
    remain optimistic and one has to exercise one's responsibilities to try and
    pursue peace. I would just cite the very important speech that Prime
    Minister Olmert made holding out a hand to the Palestinians, the very good
    meeting that's just taken place between Prime Minister Olmert and Prime
    Minister Abbas, the work that Minister Livni has been doing in Europe and in
    the region to promote the formulation of a foundation for moving to a
    two-state solution.

    And perhaps most of all, I really do think that people want to try and end
    this conflict. There are a lot of obstacles in the way, but the purpose of
    diplomacy, the purpose of leadership, is to try to remove those obstacles so
    that this conflict can finally end.

    FOREIGN MINISTER LIVNI: Thank you. I mean, this vision of two states living
    side by side in peace and security, it's not only the Israeli Government
    policy. This represents the vast majority of Israelis and this is so -- 
    there is no connection between the strength of -- the political strength of
    any Israeli government and the need to explore and to find a way to promote
    a process which will represent or will be based on two pillars. One of
    course is the political horizons for the Palestinians and the other is
    giving Israeli security. This is part -- and this is going to be the part of
    any process.

    And I do believe that if an Israeli government and if this government comes
    to the Israeli public in this vision saying that on one hand there's a need
    to promote this process of two-state solution, on the other hand it is part
    of our responsibility and Israel will provide security to Israelis wherever
    they are, so this is something that the Israeli public can not only accept
    but also support. And I believe that this is part of our responsibility.
    This is the reason that the Israeli public voted for us. And there is of
    course -- there are new threats in the region and I can say and I already
    said that the situation now is more complicated, but part of our
    responsibility is also to see not only the threats but to see whether there
    is also new opportunities.

    And this vision represents not only the Israeli interest but the interest of
    the moderates, Israel and the moderates among the Palestinians. And part of
    this -- not only the Palestinians but part of also other Arab and Muslim
    states in the region in the understanding that we share the same interests,
    that it's not a zero-sum game in terms of helping Israel is
    anti-Palestinian. And so even though there are new threats, I also think
    that there are new opportunities. And it's not easy. It's going to be
    complicated. But it is part of our responsibility to find a way to do it.

    QUESTION: Madame Secretary, given the suggestion that the Palestinian
    Authority (inaudible) that they are ready to waive the first phase of the
    roadmap, do you support their ideas? And for Foreign Minister Livni, are you
    going to propose new ideas to the Secretary in steps on the roadmap?

    FOREIGN MINISTER LIVNI: Thank you. The roadmap represents a situation that
    was clear after Camp David. I mean, the idea of solving the conflict in one
    conference we found out that this is impossible and there's a need to give
    the Palestinian a political horizon but to cut the process into some phases.
    And this is the basic principles of the roadmap. And but yes, I do and I was
    not talking about jumping or skipping or bypassing some of the phases of the
    roadmap, but I do believe that talking with the Palestinians today what are
    the best steps that we can take and maybe to make some visions or some -- 
    what we say the political horizon more concrete if this can help, so this is
    something that we have to do. But there's a difference and we can
    distinguish talking with the Palestinians and implementing parts one before
    the other, and I believe that this is the difference maybe and maybe the
    kind of misunderstanding that was in the understanding of talking or
    implementing the phases in a different order.

    SECRETARY RICE: We continue to support the roadmap as a reliable guide to
    the President's two-state vision, in fact the vision now of all who are
    signed on to it. One of the very great values of the roadmap is that it has
    international support. It is the Quartet's document, it is Israel's
    document, it is the Palestinians' document, and it has therefore I think a
    very important function. And we should never as we look for ways to push
    forward and to keep moving forward throw out the good work that we've done
    before, and obviously the roadmap is very important.

    I want just to note too that we have -- the President has always said that
    he believes that one of the most important things that he could do in his
    Presidency would be to make progress toward, indeed if possible establish
    the foundation for a Palestinian state. And so nothing should get in the way
    of the broadest possible conversations certainly between friends about how
    to do that.

    Thank you very much. Thank you.

    QUESTION: As a -- as two single women, neither with children, do you
    believe -- (laughter) --

    SECRETARY RICE:[IMRA: Isareli account have Rice noting here that Livni is
    married and a mother] So obviously she can make the decision. No, I'm sorry.

    QUESTION: Do you think that being without children in any way hinders your
    ability to understand the sacrifices of American families losing their
    children in war?

    SECRETARY RICE: No. And I also think that being a single woman does not in
    any way make me incapable of understanding not just those sacrifices, but
    that nothing of value is ever won without sacrifice. Andrea, I have visited
    families, I have visited soldiers who have been injured, I've talked with
    families of people who have lost their family members, and look, it's
    something that every American feels and feels deeply and feels personally.
    We also know that we have an obligation to children, whosever children, to
    try and leave a world that is more stable, a world that is more democratic
    and one in which they do not face the threat of terrorism that we have seen
    explode literally as the United States was attacked on September 11th.

    FOREIGN MINISTER LIVNI: Can I add something on a personal basis? Because in
    our not formal conversation we discussed also the situation in Iraq and you
    cannot imagine the feelings that the Secretary Rice showed on a personal
    basis during these conversations. And I believe that this is something that
    also the American public should know.

    QUESTION: Thank you.


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