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Saturday, February 10, 2007

Carter and Begin - Historical Debate

[Presented for its historical significance in view of Jimmy Carter's book. If it had any positive effect on Jimmy Carter, it is not evident in his book,]
The day Jimmy Carter was reduced to silence
Jerusalem Post ^ | Sep. 11, 2003 | Yehuda Avner
Posted on 09/11/2003 6:24:41 PM PDT by yonif
Jimmy Carter, peanut farmer, ran an austere White House. Consonant with his innate Calvinistic intuitions, he cast himself in the role of citizen-president. He banned Hail to the Chief, slashed the entertainment budget, sold the presidential yacht, pruned the limousine fleet, and generally rid his mansion of foppery, artifice, and pretentiousness. He even carried his own bag.
So when he welcomed prime minister Menachem Begin to the White House in July 1977 with a flamboyant ceremony fit for a king - replete with a 19-gun salute, a march-past of all the armed services, and a choreographed parade of the Army Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps in the white livery of the Revolutionary War - the media rightly conjectured that this was a token of either high esteem or pure flattery.
US ambassador Samuel Lewis confided that it was a bit of both: "The president was persuaded that in dealing with Begin honey would get him a lot further than vinegar," he said.
And, indeed, the talks did get off to a decent start. The two leaders and their advisers exchanged views on such sensitive topics as an Israel-Arab peace parley in Geneva, the Soviet mischief in the Horn of Africa, and the PLO menace from Southern Lebanon. Then came a pause, and when coffee was served the president and the premier sipped in silence, each sizing the other up as if by mutual consent in preparation for what was next to come.
And what came next was an amazingly detailed presentation of the Likud creed on the inalienable rights of the Jewish people to Eretz Yisrael. This being the first summit between a Likud premier and an American president, Menachem Begin was determined that Jimmy Carter hear firsthand what he stood for.
Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, an unruffled man as a rule, became quite agitated upon hearing that Judea, Samaria, and the Gaza Strip were not to be relinquished. He contended that this would put pay to any plan for a Geneva peace conference.
The president thought so, too. Carter wore a mask of politeness as he peered at his notes, written in his neat penmanship on heavy bond White House stationary, but one could tell by his clenched jaw that irritation lurked beneath. He said in his reedy Georgian accent: "Mr. Prime Minister, my impression is that your insistence on your rights over the West Bank and Gaza would be regarded as an indication of bad faith. It would be a signal of your apparent intention to make the military occupation of these areas permanent.
"It will close off all hopes of negotiations. It would be incompatible with my responsibilities as president of the United States if I did not put this to you as bluntly and as candidly as I possibly can. Mr. Begin," Carter railed, exasperation flaring in his steely, pale-blue eyes, "there can be no permanent military occupation of those conquered territories."
We Israeli officials around the conference table in the Cabinet Room, where the meeting was held, eyed each other with sideways squints. But Begin had readied himself for this encounter with this post-Watergate president of moral renewal - Carter the preacher with a penchant for self-righteousness.
So he leaned back and gazed with deceptively mild eyes above the president's head at the old brass chandelier hanging over the grand oak table. He was not going to be rushed.
He knew that he and the president were on vastly different trajectories, a no-exit confrontation on the settlement of the biblical heartland. Carter was as cast iron as himself. He would not bend. Nevertheless, Begin had somehow to persuade this judgmental man, who wanted to be a healer, this energetic doer with the empirical mind of an engineer, that he honestly and truly wanted peace, and that the territories were not only a matter of historic rights but also of vital security.
SO WHEN he returned Carter's stare he did so with a look that was grave and commanding.
"Mr. President," he said, "I wish to tell you something personal - not about me, but about my generation. What you have just heard about the Jewish people's inherent rights to the Land of Israel may seem academic to you, theoretical, even moot. But not to my generation. To my generation of Jews these eternal bonds are indisputable and incontrovertible truths, as old as recorded time. They touch upon the very core of our national being.
"For we are an ancient homecoming nation. Ours is an almost biblical generation of suffering and courage. Ours is the generation of Destruction and Redemption. Ours is the generation that rose up from the bottomless pit of Hell."
His voice was mesmeric, his tone deeply reflective, as if reaching down into generations of memory. The sheer ardor of his language nudged the table to intense attention.
"We were a helpless people, Mr. President. We were bled white, not once, not twice, but century after century, over and over again. We lost a third of our people in one generation - mine. One-and-a-half million of them were children - ours. No one came to our rescue. We suffered and died alone. We could do nothing about it. But now we can. Now we can defend ourselves."
Suddenly he rose to his feet, his face as tough as steel. "I have a map," he said, intrepidly.
An aide snappily unrolled a 3x5 chart between the two men.
"There is nothing remarkable about this map," Begin went on. "It is quite a standard one of our country, displaying the old armistice line as it existed until the 1967 Six Day War, the so-called Green Line."
He ran his finger along the defunct frontier, which meandered down the center of the country.
"And as you see, our military cartographers have simply marked the infinitesimal mileages of defensive depth we had in that war." He leaned across the table and pointed to the deep brown-colored mountainous area which covered the northern sector of the map.
"The Syrians sat on top of these mountains, Mr. President. We were at the bottom." His finger marked the Golan Heights, and then rested on the green panhandle below. "This is the Hula Valley. It is hardly 10 miles wide. They shelled our towns and villages from the tops of those mountains, day and night." Carter gazed, his hands clamped under his chin.
The prime minister's finger now moved southwards, to Haifa: "The armistice line is hardly 20 miles away from our major port city," he said. And then it rested on Netanya: "Our country here was reduced to a narrow waist nine miles wide." The president nodded. "I understand," he said.
But Begin was not sure that he did. His finger trembled and his voice rumbled: "Nine miles, Mr. President. Inconceivable! Indefensible!" Carter made no comment.
The finger now hovered over Tel Aviv, and then it drummed the map: "Here live a million Jews, 12 miles from that indefensible armistice line. And here, between Haifa in the north and Ashkelon in the south" - his finger ran up and down the coastal plain - "live two-thirds of our total population.
"And this coastal plain is so narrow that a surprise thrust by a column of tanks could cut the country in two in a matter of minutes. For whosoever sits in these mountains" - his fingertips tapped the tops of Judea and Samaria - "holds the jugular vein of Israel in his hands."
His dark, watchful eyes swept the stone-faced features of the powerful men sitting opposite him, and with the conviction of one who had fought for everything he had ever gotten, tersely declared:
"Gentlemen, there is no going back to those lines. No nation in our merciless and unforgiving neighborhood can be rendered so vulnerable and survive."
CARTER BENT his head forward, the better to inspect the map, but still said nothing. His eyes were as indecipherable as water.
"Mr. President," continued Begin in a tone that brooked no indifference, "This is our map of national security, and I use that term in its most unembellished sense. It is our map of survival. And the distinction between the past and the present is just that: survival. Today, our menfolk can defend their women and children. In the past they could not. Indeed, they had to deliver them to their Nazi executioners. We were tertiated, Mr. President."
Carter lifted his head. "What was that word, Mr. Prime Minister?"
"Tertiated, not decimated. The origin of the word 'decimation' is one in 10. When a Roman legion was found guilty of insubordination one in 10 was put to the sword. In our case it was one in three - tertiated!"
And now, with moistening eyes, and in a voice that was deliberate, stubborn, his every word weighed, Begin declared, "Sir, I take an oath before you in the name of the Jewish people - this will never ever happen again."
And then he broke down. He compressed his lips, which began to tremble.
Unseeingly, he stared at the map, struggling to blink back the tears. He clenched his fists and pressed them so tightly against the tabletop, his knuckles went white. He stood there, head bent, heart-broken, dignified.
A hush, as silent as a vault, settled on the room. Seized by his private, infernal Shoah reverie, he peered past Carter with a strange reserve in his eyes, a remote stare. It were as if he was looking through this born-again, Southern Baptist president from way inside himself, from that deep, Jewish intimate place of infinite lament and eternal faith - the place of long, long memory. And hidden down there, in that place, he was standing with Moses and the Maccabees.
Carter bowed his head and remained in an attitude of respectful frozen stillness. Others looked away. The tick of the antique clock on the marble mantelpiece suddenly grew audible. An eternity seemed to hang between each tick. The silence was deafening. It was a thunderbolt of national resolve never to go back to those lines.
By degrees, in slow motion, the prime minister raised himself to his full height and the room came back to life. Carter considerately suggested a recess, but Begin said it wasn't necessary. He had made his point.
The writer, a veteran diplomat, was an adviser to four prime ministers, including Menachem Begin. e-mail avner28(at) .

Continued (Permanent Link)

PLO Version of agreement - Hamas will respect agreements

Apparently, Abbas and the Hamas signed different agreements. Abbas and the PLO insist that the agreement includes respect for previous agreements, while Hamas stresses that they will never recognize Israel.

Mecca Deal; Unity Gov't Heads By Haneyia And Respect To Signed Agreement By
[Official PA website]

GAZA, Palestine, February 10,2007 (IPC+ Agencies)   -
Fateh and Hamas leaders meeting in Mecca signed on Thursday night a unity
government deal after two days of intensive talks and negotiations in Saudi
Arabia. The President Mahmoud Abbas authorized Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas
to form the unity government and according to the letter of appointment to "
respect the signed agreements by Palestine Liberation Organization PLO.

The Qatar-based, Al Jazeera News Agency aired live footage of signing
ceremony which was attended by the Saudi King Abdulla.

The deal was signed by Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, and the Hamas
political bureau chief, Khalid Mashal. Mashal said that Hamas would not
break the signed agreement for unity government, and added that all factions
would respect it.

Also, Mashal asked the international community to recognize the new
government that would lead to the unity government. Nabil Amr, an advisor to
Abbas, announced the agreement and read a letter from president Abbas to
Ismail Haniyya, assigning him to the new cabinet within five weeks. The new
government will be in accordance with the formula agreed during the talks.
The letter also states that the new government led by Haniyya would
recognize the previously signed agreements with Israel.

President Abbas said that the agreement would satisfy the Palestinians and
bring them to peace. Meanwhile, Mashal stated that this agreement would
unify the Palestinians and that Hamas would be committed to unity.

The agreement will also follow the Detainees' Document which was placed by
senior Palestinian detainees held by Israel, including Marwan Barghouthi.
The Document calls for a Palestinian State in the territories occupied since
1967, including East Jerusalem.

The new formulation of the government will leave Haniyya in place as head of
the government. The Minister of Interior was named by Hamas, he was
identified as Hammouda Jarwan, 55, an independent figure; Fateh agreed.

The Ministry of Finance will be given to Salam Fayyad, from the Third Way
Bloc, and the Foreign Ministry will be given to Ziad Abu Amro, independent.

Hamas will be in charge of nine ministries; Ministry of Education, Waqf and
religious Affairs, Ministry of Local Government, Ministry of Communication
and Information Technology, Ministry of Labor, Ministry of Justice, Ministry
of Sport, Ministry of National Economy, and a Minister without portfolio.

Hamas will also name an independent figure for the Ministry of Planning,
Fateh will be in charge of six ministries; Ministry of Health, Ministry of
Social Affairs, Ministry of Labor, Ministry of Detainees, Ministry of
Transportation, Ministry of Agriculture, and will name an independent
minister. The vice Prime Minister, and a minister without portfolio, will be
named by Fateh. The ministries of Media, Womens Affairs, Culture and Tourism
will be distributed between the rest of the factions which are The Popular
Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Al Badeel Bloc, Independent Palestine
Bloc, and the fourth remaining ministry will be given to Hamas.

The Islamic Jihad movement in Palestine said on Friday it will not
participate in the unity government but said it will give it all possible

Israel demands recognition

Meanwhile, Israel demanded the International Community to confirm that the
new government will recognize Israel's right to exist. Israeli Foreign
Minister, Tzipi Livni, said on Thursday evening that the Palestinian
government must recognize the previously signed peace deals, and renounce

Livni, currently visiting Spain, stated that all agreements are still valid,
and that any government must recognize them. Livni added that the
international community drew three requirements that the Palestinian
government should accept; the recognition of Israel, renouncing violence,
and adopting the previous Israeli-Palestinian peace deals.

Israeli government spokeswoman, Miri Eisin, repeated the same demands voiced
by Livni. Hamas movement issued an official statement welcoming the
agreement, and considered it a national achievement. The movement said that
this agreement brought a sense of relief and comfort to the Palestinian

Quartet repeats three conditions to deal with new unity gov't

The Quartet of Middle East mediators on Friday repeated its demand that any
Palestinian government renounce violence, recognize Israel and respect peace
deals in order to receive Western aid.

In a joint statement, the European Union, Russia, the United Nations and the
United States withheld judgment on whether a new national unity government
to be formed by Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah met its conditions.

"The Quartet welcomed the role of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in reaching
the agreement to form a Palestinian National Unity government. The Quartet
expressed hope that the desired calm would prevail," the group said in the
statement released by the U.S. State Department after a quartet conference

"While awaiting formation of the new Palestinian government, the Quartet
reaffirmed its statement of February 2 regarding its support for a
Palestinian government committed to nonviolence, recognition of Israel, and
acceptance of previous agreements and obligations," it added.

Russia welcomes new coalition Gov't

However, Russia on Friday welcomed the agreement by rival Palestinian
factions to form a unity government and appealed for the lifting of a freeze
on direct aid to the Palestinian government.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Hamas "would never recognize Israel"

"Sheikh Nizar Rayyan, one of the Hamas leaders in the Gaza Strip, stressed
that his Movement would never recognize Israel and that the agreement on
formation of the national unity government did not change Hamas' stand in
this regard."

The Quartet must recognize the Palestinian rights
Information Office of Ezzedeen Al-Qassam Brigades [armed branch of Hamas].
10 February 2007
[Official Web site of the Al-Qassam Brigades ]

The European Union, Russia, the United Nations and the United States were
not commenting on the positive points in the Mecca Agreement. However, they
demanded the Palestinian government to recognize Israel.

Under the Palestinians' Mecca Accord, the Fatah movement and the Hamas
movement agreed on forming a new coalition government.

The accord came in the form of a letter from Palestinian Authority Chairman
Mahmoud Abbas, designating Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas to form
the United government. Ismael Haniya will be the Prime Minister of the
United Government.

After the deadly clashes between Palestinians, both Hamas and Fatah reached
a great agreement in the most holy place of all Muslims, which is Al-Haram
mosque, in Saudi Arabia. Thus, the Saudi King has the big role in ending the
clashes in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

However, the Quartet asked the Palestinian government to recognize Israel in
order to send aid but did not demanded Israel to recognize the Palestinian

Sheikh Nizar Rayyan, one of the Hamas leaders in the Gaza Strip, stressed
that his Movement would never recognize Israel and that the agreement on
formation of the national unity government did not change Hamas' stand in
this regard.

 Palestinians are very happy of the result of the Mecca agreement with a lot
of hope that it will succeed under the good intention to fulfill the
conditions of the agreement without any negative international intervention.

The Israelis might be happy also because the agreement may reach a point to
relaese the arrested soldiers , Gilad Shalit, in exchange of the release of
the Palestinian prisoners in the Zionist jails

There is a big hope that the Israeli forces would not attack the Gaza Strip
if that agreement succeeded on the Palestinian street.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Yummy oil: At least 90 firms eye 17 new Iran's oil blocks

At least 90 firms eye 17 new Iran's oil blocks
Reuters - 10 February, 2007

A senior Iranian oil official said yesterday that 90 foreign firms had shown
an interest in 17 new onshore and offshore blocks that were offered to
investors earlier this month, state radio reported.

Iran, the world's fourth biggest oil exporter, offered the blocks for oil
and gas exploration at a meeting in Vienna.

The Islamic Republic, which analysts say needs foreign technology to improve
production in its fields, had said it hoped to attract international
investment of at least 460m euros ($ 599m) in the blocks.

"The 17 new blocks that have been presented in the recent Vienna meeting
have been welcomed by 90 foreign companies for investment," the head of the
National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC), Gholamhossein Nozari, was quoted as
saying by state radio.

The United States has frowned on deals that Asian and European oil companies
have signed with Iran as it seeks to punish Tehran for working on nuclear
enrichment, which Washington says is aimed at producing an atomic bomb.

Analysts say international companies have delayed investment decisions as
they wait to see how the situation develops.

A US official has said Washington would examine a multi-billion dollar
preliminary deal signed in January by Royal Dutch Shell and Spain's Repsol
to develop gas fields and export facilities in Iran.

The US has sanctions in place to punish foreign companies that invest more
than $ 20m a year in Iran's energy sectory, but has never enforced them.
Nozari has previously said NIOC was aiming to boost its crude output
capacity to 5.3 million barrels per day by 2015 from around 4.2 million bpd

Continued (Permanent Link)

Not again! - Fresh clashes in Jerusalem over al-Aqsa mosque

Another installment in the drama...
East News
Fresh clashes in Jerusalem over al-Aqsa mosque
Feb 10, 2007, 11:27 GMT

Jerusalem - Violent protests by Palestinian youths against contentious Israeli works in the vicinity of eastern Jerusalem's al- Aqsa mosque were again staged on Saturday, witnesses said.

Eyewitness accounts said groups of Palestinian youths hurled stones at Israeli police and set garbage bins alight. Police responded with force, dispersing the protestors.

The latest violence follows clashes in and around the Old City of Jerusalem on Friday.

Muslims are angered by Israeli construction work which they say endangers the al-Aqsa mosque. Up to 30 people were injured in the unrest, which began after Friday prayers.

Israel is building a new walkway leading to the Temple Mount/Harem al-Sharif compound, which it says is necessary to replace a previous one which collapsed three years ago.

Since then, a temporary wooden bridge had been in place, leading from the Western (Wailing) Wall Plaza at the foot of the mount to the Mughrabi Gate accessing the compound, the third-holiest site in Islam, which Muslims believe marks the spot from where the Prophet Mohammed ascended to heaven.

For Jews, the compound is the holiest site in Judaism, as it contains the archaeological remnants of their biblical temple, destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD, and abuts the Western Wall, the only surviving structure pertaining to the temple.

© 2007 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur

© Copyright 2006,2007 by
This notice cannot be removed without permission.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Musings on Democrats, Republicans and the Jews

The questions are:
Aren't some of the most vocal anti-Israel Democrats Jewish?
Will the Republican party continue to support Israel, or will it go back to being the Republican party?
Bright wrote:
I will gladly accept this man's support rather than defend the party of a former president who erroneously believes that "apartheid" describes the conditions in the West Bank and that Palestinian suicide bombing is therefore justified (see page 213 of "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid").
There is not a word about either apartheid or suicide bombing on page 212 of "Palestine Peace Not Apartheid," not in my hardcopy edition in any case, and as far as I can determine, Jimmy Carter does not ever say that Palestinian suicide bombing is justified anywhere in that book. )
Jimmy Carter has been disavowed by mainstream Democrats. Jim Baker III, a Republican has similar views about Israel. Maybe the problem is people named "Jim," not Republicans or Democrats. 

Democrats, Republicans and the Jews

Benjamin Bright

Posted: 2/1/07

As long as anyone can remember, American Jews have dutifully lined up in support of the Democratic Party. That may soon change. Currently number six on the New York Times bestseller list, Jimmy Carter's "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid" is the newest invective against Israel. But the former president is no rogue Democrat: Across the party, support for Israel is waning.

It is no great assumption that for many Americans - Jews, Muslims, Arabs, evangelicals, leftists - policies towards Israel determine how they vote. As such, the changing policies of the Republican and Democratic parties will radically alter the political alignment of these populations.

Moreover, there is the problem of tackling the issue of conflating anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. The line between the two can often be difficult to discern. But I will suggest that members of the Democratic Party and the liberal movement in general often cross that line.

A few statistics will demonstrate the new Democratic apathy, and even antipathy, toward the state of Israel. Juxtapose Republican and Democratic support for Israel during the war last summer with Hezbollah. A Los Angeles Times poll found that, overall, 59 percent of Americans believe Israel's actions were justified. Only 49 percent of Democrats think so. Republicans on the other hand, believe Israel's actions were justified by a ratio of nearly 2-to-1.

In the same poll, 50 percent of those asked said the United States should continue to align with Israel, with 44 percent backing a neutral position. However, Democrats support neutrality by a margin of 54 to 39 percent, while Republicans support aligning with Israel 64 to 29 percent.

A recent Gallup poll found that 72 percent of Democrats and 47 percent of Republicans express more sympathy for the Palestinians than they do for Israelis. Indeed, conservative Republicans are more likely than liberal Democrats to be sympathetic to Israel by a ratio of 5-to-1.

The party alignments weren't always like this. After the creation of the state of Israel in 1948, the Democrats emphasized the spiritual bonds that linked the interests of Israel and the United States. Indeed, not too long ago it was possible to be both communist and radically pro-Israel, and that includes members of my own family.

The Republicans were cooler and more realistic, seeing Israel as a weak state and a liability during the Cold War. After Israel's victory during the 1967 war, Republicans became more enthusiastic about the little state that could. In 1985, Middle East scholar Daniel Pipes concluded that "liberals and conservatives support Israel versus the Arabs in similar proportions."

However, since the end of the Cold War, Democratic sympathies have increasingly swung to the Palestinian Arab cause, characterized by outbursts against both Israel and the Jews by Democratic Party luminaries.

For example, Jesse Jackson referred to New York as "Hymietown" in a 1984 interview and said he was "sick and tired of hearing about the Holocaust." Former Rep. Cynthia McKinney, D-Ga., ran a stridently anti-Semitic campaign in 2002, blaming the Jews for her eventual defeat. Rep. James Moran, D-Va., made clear in a 2003 speech that the Jewish community sent America into Iraq for the benefit of Israel. Rep. Earl Hilliard's, D-Ala., campaign slogan against opponent Artur Davis was "Davis and the Jews, bad for the black belt."

Of course, the Democratic Party is neither fundamentally anti-Zionist nor anti-Semitic. Nevertheless, there is a growing trend of lefty hatred and vitriol towards Israel and the Jews, the most extreme examples of which can be found on the liberal blogosphere and sometimes even university campuses. Many decried the blatant anti-Semitism directed at Joseph Lieberman by Ned Lamont's supporters this summer, including former special White House counsel to President Clinton Lanny Davis in an op-ed to the Wall Street Journal.

Conversely, spurred on by the rise of the Christian right and its 70 million evangelicals, the Republican Party has never been more welcoming to the Jews nor supportive of Israel. Indeed, many Christian Republicans are more Zionist than their counterparts in the American Jewish community.

Take this gem from Sen. James Inhofe, R-Oka., delivered from the Senate floor in December 2001: "The Bible says that (Abraham) removed his tent, and came and dwelt in the plain of Mamre, which is in Hebron. … It is at this place where God appeared to Abram and said, 'I am giving you this land' … This is not a political battle at all. It is a contest over whether or not the word of God is true."

Don't get me wrong, I find this kind of God-speak absurd. But I will gladly accept this man's support rather than defend the party of a former president who erroneously believes that "apartheid" describes the conditions in the West Bank and that Palestinian suicide bombing is therefore justified (see page 213 of "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid"). While I would not say that Carter is an anti-Semite, the former president has revealed his true colors: A naive leftist who is quick to internalize anti-Semitic myths (e.g., the Jewish lobby controls everything).

As a person who strongly associates Jewish interests with Israel's, supporting the Democratic Party is becoming more and more difficult. Though I may have been raised in a strongly liberal household, voting Republican might not be nearly as distressing as voting for a candidate either opposed to the state of Israel or perhaps even anti-Semitic. Jewish fealty to the Democratic Party is no longer appreciated or reciprocated. As such, the time has come to consider a move to the other side of the aisle.

Benjamin Bright '07 lives on a tropical aisle.
© Copyright 2007 Brown Daily Herald

Continued (Permanent Link)

Israel Hi-tech and economy flourishing.

A great improvement, but we have a long way to go. If California and Massachussetts are counted separately, Israel ranks third in the world. Aren't we curious about India?

A noteworthy comment: "Exacerbated security threats have enhanced technological innovations"
Arnold J. Toynbee built his view of history on the theory that great civilizations evolve by reponding to challenges.

Israel - 3rd in the world in high tech investments

Straight From The Jerusalem Boardroom #112, February 9, 2007

Yoram Ettinger

1. MORGAN STANLEY, Jan. 10, 2007: "Foreign capital flows to Israel surged from $3.2BN in 2002 to $11.6BN in 2005 and a record level of $23.4BN last year… The Shekel is fundamentally undervalued against the dollar and even more so against the euro… Despite geopolitical constraints and indeed the eruption of a guerilla war in Lebanon, the Israeli economy has continued to grow at a robust pace…Israel's economy has the strength to withstand a global slowdown… The Bank of Israel has opted for monetary easing and lowered short-term interest rates even below those in the US…Consumer price inflation declined from 3.8% in April to minus 0.3% in November… Budget deficit [was reduced] from 5.4% of GDP in 2003 to 0.9% last year… The current account surplus is not just a cyclical phenomenon. 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% [surplus] last year…" (Globes, Jan. 11, 2007).

2. ISRAEL RANKS 3RD IN THE WORLD ($1.4BN) – behind California ($12.4BN) and Massachusetts ($2.8BN), ahead of New York ($1.3BN) and Texas ($1.2BN) – in the level of 2006 high tech investments, according to ERNST YOUNG. The 2006 high tech investment in Israel increased 13% over 2005. According to Israel's IVC, 2006 totaled $1.6BN, compared with $1.3BN – 2005, $1.5BN – 2004, $1MN – 2003, $1.1BN – 2002, $2BN – 2001, $$3.1BN – 2000 and $1BN – 1999 (The Marker, Jan. 23).

3. ACCEL's MANAGING PARTNER, Joe Schoendorf: "Israel, China and the Silicon Valley are the focus of future technologies…Over 50% of the $400MN invested by us since 2001, have been invested in 20 Israeli companies…Exacerbated security threats have enhanced technological innovations" (The Marker, Jan. 25).


7. HP is hiring 150 software engineers to its Israeli R&D center – which is HP's largest R&D center in the world - consistent with its Vice President, Tom Hogan's, statement that "Israel is HP's winning card!" (Globes, Jan. 22).

8. Israel's EXPORTS grew by $3.7BN, while IMPORTS increased by $2.7BN. Exports to the US (excluding diamonds) - $9.6BN, Germany - $1.7BN, England - $1.4BN, Holland - $1.3BN, France - $1BN (The Marker, Jan. 18).

Read the rest here:

Continued (Permanent Link)

Lebanon promises more border violations? Lebanon Will Use Confiscated Hizbullah Arms to Fight Israel

In Lebanese mythology, the recent aggression by the Lebanese army, in which they opened fire on Israeli bulldozers operating inside Israel, is already enshrined as an Israeli "violation." Apparently, hating Israel is the only way for the "democratic" Lebanese government to assert its legitimacy over the Hezbollah.

Lebanon Will Use Confiscated Hizbullah Arms to Fight Israel
Defense Minister Elias Murr, who rejected Hizbullah demands that a truckload of weapons seized by Lebanese authorities be returned to the group, has said the army will keep the ammunition and use it if Israel attacks.
"The truck and the weapons are now with the Lebanese army in southern Lebanon," Murr said after talks Friday with the new commander of the U.N. peacekeeping force in south Lebanon, Major General Claudio Graziano.
"If Israel carries out another violation, we will use these weapons to confront it," he said.
Murr said he told Graziano that "the Lebanese army deployed in southern Lebanon has orders to confront Israeli forces in case of any new violation" of Lebanese sovereignty.
The shipment was seized on Thursday in the Hazmieh suburb east of Beirut, raising tension between Hizbullah and Prime Minister Fouad Saniora's government, which are engaged in a power struggle.
U.S. Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman sharply criticized Hizbullah for the arms shipment, which according to the daily An Nahar included forty-eight 60mm mortars, sixty 120mm mortars, 52 Grad rockets and 118 cases of mortar shells.
"We've heard Hizbullah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah talk very proudly of the weapons his organization already has. So one has to ask what are these for now?" he asked Friday.
Nasrallah boasted soon after a cease-fire ended the July-August war between his guerrillas and Israeli forces that his group had replenished its arsenal of rockets, numbering some 33,000.
Hizbullah had acknowledged the ammunition seized Thursday belonged to the group and demanded the government immediately release the shipment. It urged the government to abide by its own policy, proclaimed in 2005, to support the "resistance" in the south.
Hizbullah senior official Mohammed Yazbek reiterated on Friday that the seized truck was carrying munitions destined for his group's fighters and demanded the return of the weaponry.
"The security and judicial authorities should return the truck which was carrying arms for the Resistance from the (eastern) Bekaa to the south," he said at Friday prayers in the eastern city of Baalbek.
"The Resistance did not breach any agreement by transporting these arms ... in line with the 'ministerial declaration,'" which recognized the right to resist Israeli occupation, Yazbek said.
"We are still in a confrontation with the enemy which continues to occupy parts of our land and continues to hold Lebanese detainees," he added.
Lebanon claims sovereignty over the Shabaa Farms along the Lebanon-Syria-Israeli borders which Israel captured from Syria during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war and then annexed along with the rest of the Golan Heights.
Hizbullah was the only armed group which was not asked to surrender its weapons after the country's 1975-1990 civil war because it was considered a "resistance group" then fighting Israel's occupation of Lebanese territory.
U.N. Security Council resolutions have called for the disarming of all militias in Lebanon.
On Thursday's Kalam el Nas talk show, Murr criticized Hizbullah's statement, saying he would have liked to see the group offer the shipment to the Lebanese army which on Wednesday engaged in a shootout with Israeli troops on the tense Israel-Lebanon border.
It was the most serious clash since the Israel-Hizbullah summer war.
Hizbullah legislator Hassan Fadlallah said Hizbullah insists on recovering the ammunition.
"When we want to give gifts to the army we will do it, because the army is defending the border," he said at a press conference Friday.

Continued (Permanent Link)

So near, yet so far: Livni: Peace with Palestinians feasible, violence must end first

The tanalizing possibility of peace is always just around the corner. If it weren't for the Hamas, the settlements and the terrorists, there could be peace. If it weren't for the fact that two peoples claim the same national capital and the same land.
If it werent for the fact that there is war, and for the existence of warmongers, there could indeed be peace.

Last update - 08:02 10/02/2007   
Livni: Peace with Palestinians feasible, violence must end first
By Reuters

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said on Friday peace between her country and Palestinians was realistic but she stressed militant violence had to end first.
Speaking a day after fighting Palestinian factions agreed in Mecca to form a government of national unity, Livni said Israel wanted a peaceful solution to the decades-old conflict.
"Peace is, I believe, feasible and achievable," she told the opening dinner at a major international security conference in Munich with top politicians from around the world. "But our desire to make peace cannot come at the cost of risking our very lives."
She said Islamist group Hamas, which won elections last year, did not represent the "national Palestinian interest or aspiration" but sought to destroy Israel.
Hamas has been feuding with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas's long-dominant Fatah movement over the shape of the government for months.
She said the principles of renouncing violence and acknowledging Israel's existence, as demanded by the Quartet of Middle East peace mediators - the United Nations, European Union, Russia and United States - were necessary for peace.
"These principles are crucial especially today when the eyes of the free world are looking at Mecca," she said.
Israeli officials said the unity government deal failed to meet Western conditions to end the sanctions imposed on the Hamas-led government.
Livni, who drew attention to Munich as being the site of the 1972 Olympics when Palestinian militants kidnapped a group of Israeli athletes and later killed 11 of them, also said nations should be firm with Iran over its nuclear program and support for militant Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Clearly referring to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who called for Israel to be wiped off the map, Livni said: "It is a regime which mocks the Holocaust while threatening the world with a new one."

Continued (Permanent Link)

An enriching experience: IAEA suspends nearly half of technical aid projects with Tehran

Somehow one doubts that these terrible sanctions will have a great deterrent effect on the rulers of Iran.

Last update - 03:23 10/02/2007   

IAEA suspends nearly half of technical aid projects with Tehran
By The Associated Press

The UN atomic watchdog agency has suspended nearly half of the technical aid it provides Iran to punish it for its nuclear defiance, putting Tehran on the same footing in terms of such action as North Korea and Saddam Hussein's Iraq.
The move by the International Atomic Energy Agency still has to be approved by the agency's 35-nation board at a meeting next month. But with the agency empowered by the UN Security Council to freeze any aid to Iran that could be misused for nuclear weapons, the board was likely to back the recommendations drawn up by IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei.
As ElBaradei issued the confidential report - obtained by The Associated Press - to board member nations on Friday, confusion reigned about plans by Iran's chief nuclear negotiator to attend a meeting with senior European leaders in Munich, on the sidelines of a security conference in the German city.
Organizers of the Munich conference initially said negotiator Ali Larijani canceled because of an unspecified illness but later reversed themselves, saying he had promised to show up after all. IAEA officials said earlier Larijani had pulled out of a Vienna meeting with ElBaradei for technical reasons.
Larijani's planned meetings in Munich with German Foreign Minister
Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Javier Solana, the chief foreign policy envoy for the European Union, will be the first with senior Western officials since negotiations with Solana collapsed last year over Tehran's refusal to suspend enrichment, a potential pathway to nuclear arms.
One diplomat in Vienna who is familiar with the Iranian file suggested that Larijani's prevarication could have been due to the refusal of other major European nations, like France or Britain, to meet with Larijani because of his country's continued nuclear defiance.
Another noted that with Iran installing hundreds of centrifuges in recent days at an underground site with the ultimate aim of having 54,000 of the machines churning out enriched uranium, there might be indecision on the part of the Tehran leadership as to what signal Larijani's attendance at Munich would send about their determination to forge ahead with the program. Both demanded anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
The Vienna-based IAEA had already suspended aid to Iran in five instances last month in line with Security Council sanctions calling for an end to assistance for programs that could be misused to make an atomic weapon. On Friday, the agency fully or partially suspended another 18 projects that it deemed could be misused.
While the programs are not big ticket items in terms of money, a senior UN official familiar with Iran's IAEA dossier noted that the suspensions carry symbolic significance because they are part of the sanctions mandated by the Security Council in December to punish Tehran for its defiance of a council ultimatum to suspend enrichment.
Additionally, only North Korea - which also defied international pressure on its nuclear program to develop atomic arms - and Saddam's Iraq, which was suspected of trying to make such weapons, had previously been hit with such suspensions.
Iran gets IAEA technical aid for 15 projects and 40 more that involve it and other countries. In the case of programs involving other countries, the suspensions affected only Iran.
A diplomat familiar with the issue said the United States - along with key allies - had been looking to have up to half of the projects involving only Iran canceled, restricted or more closely monitored.
A U.S. official said Washington's position on what projects should be affected was very similar to that of the European powers, Britain, France and Germany.
The United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany all want Iran to stop its enrichment program and have acted as a group in trying to engage Tehran on the issue. But their approaches and priorities have differed over the past year - resulting in often visible strains in what is meant to be a joint initiative.
Russian and Chinese reluctance to slap harsh sanctions on Tehran - as
initially demanded by Washington - have created the greatest pressures. Both nations share economic and strategic interests with Iran.
Differences over how severely to punish Tehran for its refusal to suspend
enrichment led to months of disputes before agreement was reached in December on a Security Council resolution imposing limited sanctions that fell short of the harsher measures the Americans had pushed for.
The sanctions include a review of technical aid to Iran - programs meant to bolster the peaceful use of nuclear energy in medicine, agriculture, waste management, management training or power generation - and the suspensions outlined in Friday's report were in line with that specification.
A list appended to the report described the projects in vague, technical
One, which was suspended, said the program meant to strengthen the owner's capacities for successful impelemntation of the approved national program for provision of safe and reliable nuclear power generation capacities in the future.
IAEA technical aid is provided to dozens of countries, most of them developing nations, but none of them suspected of trying to develop nuclear arms - as is the case for Iran.
In November, the board of the agency indefinitely suspended an IAEA project that would have helped Iran put safety measures in place for a heavy water reactor that, once completed, will produce plutonium. Most of the projects frozen on Friday, however, were for programs that have less obvious potential weapons applications.
The March meeting also will hear a separate report from ElBaradei expected to confirm that Iran has expanded its enrichment efforts instead of mothballing them - a development that would empower the Security Council to impose stricter sanctions.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Hope springs eternal: Palestinian sources: Deal for Shalit release closer than ever

A cynical humor section of the newspaper "Maariv" is called "Simanei Neft" - traces of oil. That is because Israelis became inured to numerous reports of "traces of oil" found in various drilling attempts over the years, that have always made headlines.
The release of Gilad Shalit, like the discovery of petroleum deposits, the coming of the Messiah and the Kingdom of Prester John, is becoming the subject of perennial unfounded optimism.

Last update - 12:11 10/02/2007   

Palestinian sources: Deal for Shalit release closer than ever
By Avi Issacharoff and Amir Oren, Haaretz Correspondents

Palestinian parliament member and Hamas official Fathi Hamad said Friday that a prisoner exchange deal between Israel and Hamas is nearing finalization, the Palestinian daily Al-Ayam reported on Saturday.
Hamad was quoted as saying that "in the negotiations through indirect channels between Hamas and Israel, the greatest progress yet has been made."
The forming of a Palestinian unity government in line with the Mecca Accord signed on Thursday by Fatah and Hamas, may bring for the release of abducted Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit, senior security sources said Friday.
The defense establishment believes that Shalit's release would allow Hamas political bureau chief Khaled Meshal give Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas a substantial return for the concessions Hamas coerced out of Fatah, without Hamas yielding to Fatah's additional demands. According to the sources, Hamas believes that international responses over Shalit's release would deflect the attention away from Hamas' rigid diplomatic stance.
The security sources warned nevertheless that tough negotiations await Israel before Shalit is released. The number of Palestinian prisoners, the severity of the charges for which they've been incarcerated and their political affiliation are expected to continue forming the major stumbling blocks in negotiations, the sources said.
Last month, the former Shin Bet security service deputy chief Ofer Dekel told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense committee that the deal for releasing Shalit is not expected to reach completion before March.
The security sources said also that several times the talks were on the verge of completion but the hopes for concluding the deal never materialized.
The defense establishment is also skeptical about the positive bearing the release of Gilad Shalit would have on the release of IDF soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, abducted by Hezbollah last July.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Carter: "Too many Jews"

Is Carter an anti-Semite - not more anti-Semitic than usual?

Carter: "Too many Jews"   
By Joseph Farah

World Net Daily (WND)               January 27, 2007

"Too many Jews"

That was the comment former President Jimmy Carter scrawled on a memo suggesting prospective members of  the board of the Holocaust Memorial Council.
 "Too many Jews."
That was the problem Carter saw with the names  suggested by Monroe Freedman, executive director of  the council, he revealed in a stunning interview with  WND's Jerusalem bureau chief Aaron Klein this week.
"Too many Jews."
 Naturally, Freedman was shocked by the statement  given the Holocaust Memorial Council's job was to establish the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington.  The Nazi Holocaust took the lives of approximately 6  million Jews during World War II.
 "Too many Jews."
 "If I was memorializing Martin Luther King, I would  expect a significant number of board members to be African American," explained Freedman. "If I was memorializing Native American figures, I'd expect a lot of Native Americans to be on the board."
 "Too many Jews."
 What prompted Freedman, a "self-proclaimed liberal" like Carter, to speak out years later on the comment was the release of Carter's book, "Palestine: Peace No Apartheid," which strongly suggests Israel's "intransigence" is responsible for the Middle East conflict.
 "Too many Jews."
 Ultimately, that's what Carter and others like him believe is the real problem in the Middle East -  too many Jews. There are about 7 million Jews living in Israel nearly 1 million of them refugees from predominantly Muslim Arab lands populated by 300 million non-Jews.
 "Too many Jews."
 It is this usually unspoken belief that leads to ethnic cleansing policies like we see completed in the Gaza Strip, from which all Jews have been forcibly removed barren lands they had settled peaceably and turned into gardens. The same kinds of "no Jews allowed" policies will soon lead to the forcible evacuation of Jews from historically Jewish lands in Judea and Samaria.
 "Too many Jews."
 But, of course, those policies will never be enough for the Jew haters of the world people like Jimmy Carter and the terrorists he defends in the Palestinian Authority. There will always be "too many Jews" as long as Jews are permitted to live in the Middle East their historic and enduring homeland.
 "Too many Jews."
Freedman has performed a real service to the world and to America for exposing Jimmy Carter for what he truly is an anti-Semite, a bigot, a Baptist backslider of the first degree.
 "Too many Jews."
 Every time you hear or read the name Jimmy Carter from this day forward, I want you to remember those three words he scrawled in his own handwriting on a memo proposing board members for the Holocaust Memorial Council. That's the real Jimmy Carter. He poses as a reasonable, even-handed fellow when promoting his book on C-SPAN. But if you want to know who he really is, just remember those three words the three words that define growing anti-Semitism in our world today as well as a growing blame-Israel-first attitude.

 "Too many Jews."
 That's what Jimmy Carter believes is the problem. That's what Hamas believes is the problem. That's what Hezbollah believes is the problem. That's what Mahmoud Abbas believes is the problem. That's what Syria and Iran believe is the problem. And, of course, that's what Hitler believed was the problem.
 "Too many Jews."
 How ironic that we would find out the truth about Jimmy Carter because of his meddling in the effort to memorialize Hitler's victims.

 "Too many Jews."

Joseph Farah is an Arab residing in the U.S. , founder, editor and CEO of WND and a nationally syndicated columnist with Creators Syndicate. His latest book is "Taking America Back." He also edits the weekly online intelligence newsletter Joseph Farah's G2 Bulletin, in which he utilizes his sources developed over 30 years in the news business.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Independent Jewish Voices: What's it all about?

The Independent Jewish Voices  group is much ado about nothing. The Guardian has spotlighted this little group as though they themselves are a central issue./
What's it all about?

Benjamin Pogrund

February 10, 2007 9:00 AM

After five days of reading/skimming thousands of words I am as puzzled as I was on the first day when I read the Independent Jewish Voices statement. What is it all about?

So the Board of Deputies is conservative and follows an "Israel right or wrong" policy. Who stops anyone putting other views? Who stops anyone making clear, if they want to do so, that the board does not speak for them?

The IJV signatories include people who regularly air their views in the Guardian and elsewhere, criticising Israel to some extent or another. If they are attacked for it, even unpleasantly and abusively, are they so weak and lacking confidence in their beliefs that they cannot stand up for themselves?

I don't understand why the signatories have to huddle together to get their views known. Does it mean that they have strength in numbers? But they are an unelected group. Their declaration consists of worthy, broad aims but how will they agree on a joint outlook and express themselves as situations change and new moral and practical dilemmas arise?

Nor do I really understand why the Guardian has provided a launch platform for the group. What we have is a dispute among Jews about how to react to the Israel-Palestine conflict. That is of interest to the wider press. But to run a public debate over a period of five days?

On the other hand, this week's debate has helped to clarify the divisions among Jews in regard to Israel. Some are so staunch in their support of Israel that they don't want any word of criticism. Others support Israel but believe that it is open to criticism and this must be expressed. Others wish Israel didn't exist.

My own view, for what it is worth, is that - surprise, surprise - Israel is not a perfect society. Its faults need to be publicised so that they can be remedied, whether the harshness and worse of the occupation of the West Bank, or the discrimination suffered by Israeli Arabs, or the treatment of foreign workers, or the plight of the poor, whether Jewish or Arab.

I live in Israel and as a citizen I have perfect right to express my dismay and rage about these wrongs. But I recognise that it could be different for Jews who live in the Diaspora: the existence of Israel is so precious to Jewish people who bear the trauma of centuries of persecution and murders, of which the Holocaust was the most terrible, that some react badly and intolerantly to those who break away and go their own independent way.

It's a situation which probably cannot be resolved, but it needs to be faced for what it is. In this sense, IJV might do some good.

If IJV can help its members/supporters clarify the elusive "Jewish tradition" in their lives, which some have referred to, then that will also be a plus.

Most basic of all, IJV can move from criticism from the distant sidelines to active participation: it can seek out the Israelis and Palestinians who work together for peace and who believe in non-violence to achieve a two-state solution which can provide fulfilment for both peoples. The clever, talented people who have signed up for IJV can contribute massively in many ways to help bridge the distrust and hatred which history and events have created in the Middle East. Let them come and look at the bad and the good among both Israelis and Palestinians, and then get engaged.

A final thought: the Guardian's hospitality has also, inevitably, provided a showcase for the usual nasties - whether non-Jews or Jews - who simply loathe Israel. Whether they are imbued also by hatred of Jews I do not know. But it all came spewing out this week. The fact of Israel's existence - a successful one despite its many and unique problems - makes the bile rise in their throats. Good.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Elie Weisel attacked by holocaust denier

Remember that there is no "new anti-semitism" -- it is all a product of the fevered imagination of "neo-con" Zionists and the Holocaust industry, right?
Friday, February 9, 2007 (SF Chronicle)
Nobel prizewinner, author attacked at S.F. hotel
Matthai Chakko Kuruvila, Chronicle Staff Writer

   (02-09) 13:37 PST SAN FRANCISCO -- Elie Wiesel, the renowned Holocaust author and Nobel Peace Prize winner, was attacked and dragged out of a San Francisco hotel elevator last week, possibly by a Holocaust denier whoclaims to have stalked Wiesel for weeks, police said.

   Wiesel, 78, was at the Argent Hotel Feb. 1 for a conference on "Facing Violence: Justice, Religion and Conflict Resolution" when he was confronted in an elevator by a man insisting that he wanted to interview the author, according to San Francisco Police Department Sgt. Neville Gittens.

   Wiesel said he would do so in the hotel lobby, but the man insisted on going to Wiesel's room. The man then stopped the elevator at the sixth floor and tried to force Wiesel into a room there.

   "That's when the victim started yelling," Gittens said.
   Wiesel escaped unharmed, made his way down to the lobby and called police.   A man calling himself Eric Hunt and claiming to be the attacker posted anaccount of the incident on a virulently anti-Semitic Web site. The account, posted Tuesday, matches the description of the attack police later released.
   Gittens said police were aware of the Web site and that there is a suspect being sought. However, he would not say whether the suspect is the person who posted the Web account.

   In his posting, Hunt said his goal was for Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor and author of more than 40 books, to renounce the Holocaust.

   "I had planned to bring Wiesel to my hotel room, where he would truthfully answer my questions regarding the fact that his non-fiction Holocaust memoir, Night, is almost entirely fictitious," Hunt wrote on the site.
   The site is registered to a Sydney, Australia, man who also writes on the site. A phone call and e-mail to the domain name owner were not returned.

   E-mail Matthai Chakko Kuruvila at
Copyright 2007 SF Chronicle

Continued (Permanent Link)

Friday, February 9, 2007

As predicted - Hamas wants West to end blockade, Russia positive

The satisfaction of seeing this one coming is outweighed by the nature of the news. Cassandra didn't get much joy out of being correct.

Hamas wants West to end blockade, Russia positive

By Mohammed Assadi

MECCA, Saudi Arabia, Feb 9 (Reuters) - Hamas urged the West on Friday to accept a new Palestinian unity government but leading officials from the Islamist group said they would never recognise Israel nor abide by existing peace accords.

Hamas and its rival movement Fatah signed a deal on Thursday to end factional warfare that has killed scores of Palestinians and to form a coalition, hoping this would lead Western powers to lift crippling sanctions imposed on the Hamas-led government because the group rejects Israel.

Israeli officials said the coalition agreement failed to meet conditions to end sanctions and initial reaction from the United States and Europe was muted but Russia appealed for the lifting of a freeze on direct aid to the Palestinian government.

"The future Palestinian national government ... will be an important factor in the process of reviving Israeli-Palestinian talks," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

"The implementation of Mecca agreements should be combined with lifting a blockade of the Palestinian territories which has inflicted suffering and hardship on the people."

Hamas government spokesman Ghazi Hamad told Reuters Saudi mediators were in touch with the Americans and Europeans to promote the accord.

"They (the West) cannot ignore this agreement and impose their own conditions," he said. "The European Union should open a dialogue with this new government and this is the only way to have stability in the region."

Nizar Rayyan, a senior Hamas leader in Gaza, welcomed the agreement reached in Mecca but said Hamas shunned Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's call for Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, who will form the new cabinet, to abide by previous peace accords.

"We will never recognise Israel. There is nothing called Israel," he told Reuters. "We, in the Hamas movement, will not abide by anything."

Hamas spokesman Ismail Rudwan said: "The recognition is not an option at all, is not discussable."

It was unclear if Rayyan and Rudwan were speaking on behalf of Hamas as a whole or expressing personal opinions.

The agreement made no mention of recognising Israel, a requirement laid down by the Quartet of Middle East peacemakers -- the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations -- for lifting sanctions imposed on the Palestinian Authority after Hamas trounced Fatah in elections last year.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said Quartet foreign ministers would next meet on Feb. 21 in Berlin.


Senior Israeli government officials said Israel did not think the unity deal sealed in Saudi Arabia between Abbas and Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal met conditions to end sanctions.

"The conditions have not been met. This is not something we can live with," said one official, on condition of anonymity.

A formal Israeli response is expected after Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's regular cabinet meeting on Sunday.

The United States, which spearheaded the economic sanctions, was cautious about the deal.

"We have not actually seen the agreement and it's important that we be given some time to look at the agreement, especially at the details of it," said White House spokeswoman Dana Perino.

The European Union said on Friday it would study the deal "in a positive but cautious manner". France welcomed the agreement and said the international community should back the new government. Britain described the accord as "interesting".

Abbas advisor Nabil Amr said, however, that he feared the deal might not be enough to end sanctions, which Palestinians say were partly to blame for the violence that has killed 90 people since December.

"We don't have great expectations that this agreement will completely end the siege, but it will pave the way to end it," he told Reuters in an interview.

"We needed an agreement after the pressure of the black days (recent violence)."

Abbas had been seeking at the Mecca talks a clear statement that the new government would be "committed" to past accords, as a formula offering implicit recognition of Israel from Hamas.

A letter from Abbas reappointing Haniyeh as prime minister called on Hamas to "abide by the interests of the Palestinian people" and "respect international law and agreements signed by the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO)".

Hamas officials and analysts say Haniyeh has five weeks to form the unity government and present the line-up and his platform to parliament for a vote of confidence. The next significant step, they said, was Haniyeh's platform speech.

"If in his speech Haniyeh commits his government to Abbas's letter it will imply recognition of Israel, but the likely scenario is that he will just say his government would respect past agreements signed by the PLO," one Hamas source said. (Additional reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza and Steve Holland in Washington)

Continued (Permanent Link)

A clear message - Hamas says group will never recognise Israel

This message is clear enough, though it might be disputed whether these gentlemen represent the Hamas:

Hamas said on Friday it would never recognise Israel and will not, as a movement, abide by previously reached Palestinian peace accords with Israel as urged by President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah.

Nonetheless, we can expect that Jimmy Carter or someone else will write in their next book or article that the Hamas recognized Israel, but the "Israel Lobby" prevented the news from getting out.

Ami Isseroff

Hamas says group will never recognise Israel
09 Feb 2007 12:08:29 GMT
Source: Reuters

GAZA, Feb 9 (Reuters) - Hamas said on Friday it would never recognise Israel and will not, as a movement, abide by previously reached Palestinian peace accords with Israel as urged by President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah.

"We will never recognise Israel. There is nothing called Israel, neither in reality nor in the imagination," Nizar Rayyan, a senior Hamas leader in Gaza, told Reuters.

Rayyan welcomed the unity government agreement reached in Mecca but said that Hamas shunned Abbas's call for Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, who will form the new cabinet, to abide by previous peace accords.

"We, in the Hamas movement, will not abide by anything," he said.

The comments were endorsed by Hamas spokesman Ismail Rudwan, who said: "The recognition is not an option at all, is not discussable."

Palestinians hope the unity government deal will bring an end to factional fighting between Hamas and Fatah and lead Western powers to lift sanctions on the Hamas-led Palestinian government.

The Quartet of Middle East mediators -- the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations -- has demanded that the Hamas-led government renounce violence, recognise Israel and abide by interim peace deals.

The agreement reached in Mecca calls for the new government to "respect" previous agreement. Rudwan said this means "the government will respect them (the agreements) in the way that fulfils the interests of our people."

The term "respect" falls short from a commitment and would allow Hamas to pick and choose from these accords, analysts said.

Continued (Permanent Link)


Jews who have come to Germany after the war, may live (or not) to regret their decision.

SPIEGEL ONLINE - December 8, 2006, 06:32 PM

Insults Against Jews on the Rise

By Björn Hengst and Jan Friedmann

Right-wing adolescents and young Muslims are displaying levels of anti-Semitism that were long considered unthinkable in Germany. At many German schools, the word "Jew" is becoming an insult again. German politicians don't seem to know how to respond.

The janitor at Berlin's Jean-Piaget high school in the Hellersdorf neighborhood paints over swastikas scrawled on the walls in May, 2006.

The Jewish High School in Berlin's central Mitte district resembles a high-security ward. Those who want to access the imposing old building on Grosse Hamburger Strasse have to pass through a meticulous security check. The building is surrounded by a fence several meters high and video cameras register every move. Policemen stand guard in front of the building.

"We're no ghetto," school director Barbara Wittig clarifies. "We offer those children protection who have to fear discrimination at other schools," she adds. And such cases have increased dramatically in the past two years. "I always though Jews were integrated into German society," says Wittig. "I would never have thought it possible for anti-Semitism to express itself as virulently as it has recently."

As of this week, Wittig's students have included two girls who previously attended the public, non-confessional Lina-Morgenstern High School in Berlin's Kreuzberg neighborhood. Their woes attracted considerable public attention. For months, one of the two girls, who is 14 years old, suffered anti-Semitic insults from adolescents with an Arab background. They also beat her and spat on her. Walking to school became like running the gauntlet for her. Her tormentors would hide in wait for her and chase her through the streets. In the end the girl had to be given police protection on her way to school.

Anti-Semitism on the rise

These events in Kreuzberg represent an especially drastic example, but they're not the exception. Berlin's state parliament lists 62 reported cases under the category "(right-wing) extremism" in its study "Indicators of Violence at Berlin's Schools, 2004/2005." That's a steep increase in comparison with the previous year, when only 39 cases were registered. The category "(right-wing) extremism" includes "anti-Semitic, racist / xenophobic and right-wing extremist remarks" by children and adolescents, in addition to remarks that "incite racial hatred or express fundamentalist / Islamist fundamentalist views."

One high school student in Berlin's Steglitz-Zehlendorf district said in class: "All Jews must be gassed." Students in the Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg district locked another student inside the chemistry lab and said: "Now we'll turn on the gas." A non-German child at an elementary school in Treptow-Köpenick insulted his teacher by calling her a "Jew," a "witch" and a "sea cow." When a teaching aid in Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg tried to settle an argument between students, he was told: "Piss off, Jew!"

And the surge of anti-Semitism seems to be growing. In November, Berlin's public authorities had already registered more cases of anti-Semitism than during the entire previous year. A recent study by the European Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) also criticized cases of anti-Semitism, racism and right-wing extremism at German schools.

Right-wing extremists take up Nazi slogans

This week, in the town of Grimmen in West Pomerania, right-wing adolescents mobilized against an exhibition on Anne Frank, disparaging her diary as a forgery. In October, several adolescents in Parey, a town in Germany's Saxony-Anhalt region, forced their 16- year- old classmate to walk across the school yard wearing a large sign during lunch break. The sign read: "In this town I'm the biggest swine / Because of the Jewish friends of mine." It's a phrase from the Nazi era, used to humiliate people with Jewish friends.

A teacher intervened, took the sign away and called the police. The students responsible for the incident, who are aged between 14 and 16, are under criminal investigation. The charges are incitement of racial hatred, coercion and defamation. One of the students is also accused of assault.

Berlin's Jewish community has already issued warnings about "a new dimension of anti-Semitism." Jewish children increasingly face the hatred of Muslim adolescents in addition to aggression from right-wing extremists. The Jewish community advises parents to send their children to Jewish schools in case of conflicts, pointing out that there they will at least be safe.

Skullcaps hidden out of fear

But the protected zone ends outside the school walls. A school class from the Jewish High School was exposed to massive anti-Semitic insults by another Berlin school class while riding the subway. Religious Jewish adolescents hide their skullcaps under a hat whenever they venture onto the street.

The incidents prompted Peter Trapp, a member of the Christian Democrat Party (CDU) in Berlin's parliament, to submit a formal query: Trapp wants to know how many such incidents have occurred recently. He also wants to know how many of those incidents can be attributed to "the right-wing extremist camp" and how many can be traced to adolescents "of non-German origin." Trapp has yet to receive a reply -- indeed, the CDU complains that it is taking unusually long.

And yet school director Wittig insists that politicians are very much making an effort to respond to the problem. It's just that she rarely gets through to them with her projects and appeals, she says. Wittig also complains that many Arab adolescents are so pig-headed it's hard to get through to them. "And the teachers allow their students to tell Jewish jokes," she adds.

"Jew" -- a popular insult

"Students are increasingly using the word 'Jew' in a pejorative sense. It's climbed up a long way on the ranking of popular insults," reports Peter Wagenknecht from the Kreuzberg-based project "Educational Building Blocks Against Anti-Semitism." Wagenknecht and his associates educate adolescents about anti-Semitism in specially organized workshops and classroom talks. The project still receives financial support from the German government.

But not everyone who uses the word "Jew" as an insult is automatically an anti-Semite, Wagenknecht says. Many people just act thoughtlessly, in his view. "Many students no longer have a sense of how charged the word 'Jew' is when it's used as an insult. They just want to break a taboo." Wagenknecht points out that some students similarly use the word "victim" as an insult intended to stigmatize someone as weak.

When he started to work with young people during the early 1990s, anti-Semitism wasn't a problem, Wagenknecht explains. He traces much of today's anti-Semitism to two sources: Students from Arab or Turkish families have been politicized by the conflict in the Middle East such that their "anti-Israeli" attitude sometimes crosses over into open anti-Semitism. German adolescents with extreme right-wing tendencies, on the other hand, have often been exposed to right-wing ideology and hence dispose of a correspondingly distorted knowledge about Jews and Jewish culture.

Wagenknecht worries that more and more Jewish students are too afraid to openly stand up to their background: "They don't want to present themselves as Jewish. In such cases, the class often doesn't know about their background, and the teachers keep mum." Wagenknecht adds that the students are often acting on advice from their parents, who want to spare their children conflicts and exposure to aggressive behavior.

School director Wittig says: "We're now the only school in Berlin where Jewish children can stand up to their identity. Elsewhere, most of them have to adapt to the majority."

(Hat tip - Wordfairy list) -  

Continued (Permanent Link)

Palestinian Unity: Mixed Reviews and trouble ahead for Israel

The Palestinian unity agreement, and the government that will be formed based on that agreement, clearly do not meet international criteria for ending the boycott of the Hamas government. The agreement does not renounce violence - it is unlikely that it will do so, and it does not provide for disarming of the terror groups. The most we can say, is that it does not reassert the "right to resistance" that is claimed in the Palestinian Prisoners' Document. It doesn't recognize the right of Israel to exist. There is a vague reference to "respecting past agreements."
The agreement does serve many purposes of the Palestinians, and creates a problem for Israel and for the Middle East Quartet.
It will hopefully put an end to bloody anarchy and internecine squabbling in the Palestinian Authority. It allows the Saudis to say that the Palestinians agree to the Arab Peace Initiative, and thereby legitimizes Saudi support of  the Palestinian Authority, and it creates a basis for claiming that the Western boycott is unfair. If the agreement succeeds in bringing unity, it is a big victory for Saudi Arabia, and may make the Saudis the prime godfathers of the Palestinian Authority. That would certainly be a positive step, as it would wean the Palestinian Authority from Iranian influence.
However, it is almost certain that various Fatah groups as well as Hamas and Islamic Jihad will still have their own arms, and the Hamas Charter will still call for eradication of Israel. The renewed eruption of internecine fighting, as well as renewal of extensive terror attacks, is therefore not precluded, and it is unlikely that Hamas will agree to any peace deal with Israel.  
As long as each group has its own armed capability, there is no way for the Palestinian authority to live up to any agreement they make to stop terror.
Though the US and Great Britain expressed reservations about the agreement, French Foreign Minister Douste-Blazy was more positive, as might be anticipated. He stated:
I salute the inter-Palestinian agreement reached yesterday in Mecca on the creation of a national unity government...

"The inclusion in this government's programme of respecting international resolutions and agreements signed by the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organisation) constitutes a step in the right direction towards full adherence to the international community's demands."
That is a fairly cautious statement for Douste-Blazy, who is famous for having remarked that Iran is a force for stability in the Middle East.
The problem arises because from the beginning, Israel and the Quartet had incorrect criteria for the new government. It doesn't matter what they say, it matters what they do. Even if Hamas agrees to "commit" to past agreements, it is not necessarily meaningful. PLO signed the same agreements and is "commited" to them, but doesn't fullfil its obligations under those agreements. Despite repeated pledges of Fatah leaders to end violence, the Fatah Al-Aqsa brigade sent people to blow themselves up in Israel. Despite repeated agreements to unify security commands, they were never unified - not under Arafat, not under Abbas, and certainly not under the Hamas government. Despite repeated pledges to recognize the existence of Israel, PLO and Mr. Abbas still insist on full right of return for Palestinian refugees, which would mean the end of Israel as a Jewish state.
Support for the Palestinian Authority should be based on its actions, and not on words. 
Ami Isseroff  

Text of Mecca Accord for Palestinian coalition government
By The Associated Press

MECCA - Under the Palestinians' Mecca Accord, the mainstream Fatah movement and the militant group Hamas agreed on forming a new coalition government that will respect previous peace deals with Israel.
The accord came in the form of a letter from Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah, designating Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas to form the government.
The following is a text of Abbas' message to Haniyeh:
In my capacity as the head of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization and the president of the Palestinian Authority...
a) I designate you to form the upcoming Palestinian government within the time specified under the basic law (five weeks).
b) After forming the government and presenting it to us, it should be presented to the Palestinian Legislative Council for a vote of confidence.
c) I call upon you as the head of the upcoming Palestinian government to commit to the higher interests of the Palestinian people, to preserve its rights and to preserve its achievements and to develop them, and to work in order to achieve its national goals as was approved by the Palestine National Council, the clauses of the Basic Law and the National Reconciliation Document...
Based on this, I call upon you to respect international resolutions and the agreements signed by the Palestine Liberation Organization (referring to peace accords with Israel).

Under the agreement, Hamas will hold nine ministries in the Cabinet, including the prime minister's post. Fatah will hold six, and other factions will hold four.
Fatah will name independents as foreign minister and two state ministers without portfolio. Hamas will name independents as interior minister, planning minister and a state minister without portfolio.

State Dept.: New PA gov't must meet int'l demands
By Avi Issacharoff, Haaretz Correspondent, Haaretz Service and Agencies

If the Palestinian Authority wants to have a "broader relationship" with the international community, it must recognize Israel, renounce terrorism and accept previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements, U.S. State Department spokesman Tom Casey said in response to a deal on a Palestinian unity government reached Thursday night.
The deal between rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas, which was reached after two days of intensive negotiations in the Saudi city of Mecca, sets out the principles of the unity government, including an ambiguous promise that it will "respect" previous peace deals with Israel, delegates said. The Mecca accord does not address the other two international requirements.
"The international community has made it clear that in order to be able to have a broader relationship with the Palestinian Authority government, that those principles are going to have to be met," The New York Times quoted Casey as saying. He added that officials were still studying the accord.
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni called on the international community Thursday to ensure that Israel's right to exist is respected by any Palestinian government that emerges from the talks.
Speaking in Madrid, Livni said the three requirements were not negotiable and applied to any future Palestinian governments.
"We expect the international community to stick to its own requirements that were stated after the elections which Hamas won," she said.
An agreement to abide by the three international demands would mean the lifting of the painful financial boycott of the Palestinian government, imposed after Hamas' election victory in January 2006.
Meshal asks world to recognize new gov't

The Qatari satellite channel Al-Jazeera quoted Abbas as saying at the ceremony that he has asked Palestinian Authority President Haniyeh to form the new government, and to respect all past peace agreements. The latter request had been a key sticking point in negotiations between the two sides.
Al-Jazeera aired images from the signing ceremony, attended by Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah and Hamas political leader Khaled Meshal.
Meshal, also speaking at the ceremony, vowed that Hamas would not break the agreement, and that all factions would respect the deal. He asked the international community to recognize the new government.
Meshal pledged that the accord would put an end to violence after a series of truces between Fatah and Hamas gunmen that collapsed.
"I tell those who fear that the fate of this agreement will be the same fate of the old ones," he said. "We have pledged our allegiance to God from this sacred place... and we will go back to our country fully committed to it.
"I say to our young people that this is an agreement of the leadership of the biggest groups and none of you should accept any order from others to fire," he added.
In Gaza City, celebratory gunfire erupted for nearly an hour after the accord was announced. Residents expressed hope that the deal will mean a lifting of a crippling international financial boycott, imposed on the government Hamas formed after winning January 2006 elections.
"We've been holding our breath. God willing, this is a permanent agreement, not a temporary truce. We hope this will lead to lifting the siege," said Mahmoud Qassam, a fish seller watching the ceremony at his home in Gaza City's Shaati refugee camp, meters from Haniyeh's home.
Announcing the agreement at the ceremony, Abbas aide Nabil Amr read a letter in which Abbas designated Haniyeh to draw up the new government within five weeks, according to the formula agreed on in the talks.
The letter of designation also said the new Haniyeh-led government would respect past peace deals signed with Israel by the Fatah-dominated PLO.
Abbas said the deal would "satisfy our people... and bring us to the shores of peace... This initiative has been crowned with success."
Meshal said the accord will "unify our ranks. There is a commitment and unity. We will perseve this partnership."
It said it would also follow a document drawn up last summer by Hamas and Fatah activists jailed in Israel. That document calls for a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.
Fatah official Maher Mekdad said Thursday that the two sides had reached an agreement on the division of ministries in a new cabinet.
The important post of interior minister, who controls most security services, will be an independent candidate proposed by Hamas and approved by Abbas, Mekdad said.
The second day of the marathon summit was spent working on the second part of the agreement: to what degree a new government will recognize previous peace deals with Israel.
The delegations held talks until 3 A.M. Wednesday, then resumed midmorning Thursday in a palace overlooking the Kaaba, Islam's holiest site - a venue pointedly chosen by their Saudi hosts to pressure them to compromise.
Hamas spokesman Ghazi Hamad said in Thursday afternoon that a complete deal could be reached as early as Thursday or Friday.
"We have achieved progress in some points, and there are no points that can hinder reaching an agreement, he told a press conference. We have a clear decision not to let the Mecca dialogue fail. We have no option: either to succeed or to succeed," he said.
"We want to create a unity government and that is everyone's demand. We want a government that can end the blockade," Abbas said Wednesday in live television footage of the meeting overlooking the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Islam's holiest site.
"Recent days have been very black and may God not allow them to return. It has been a catastrophe that must not be repeated. We don't want blood spilt," he said.
"We will not leave this place without agreement, God willing," Meshal said Wednesday, speaking after Abbas. "If it finds us unified, the international community will have to respect our wishes and lift the unjust blockade."
British Foreign Minister Margaret Beckett warned Wednesday, however, that even if Hamas and Fatah form a coalition, London will shun the resulting government as long as Hamas defies international demands to recognize Israel and foreswear violence.

France urges world to back Palestinian accord
09 Feb 2007 10:35:35 GMT
Source: Reuters

(Updates with French call for international support)

By Paul Taylor

BRUSSELS, Feb 9 (Reuters) - France urged the international community on Friday to back a new national unity government formed by rival Palestinian factions while the European Union's foreign policy chief was cautiously positive.

EU diplomats said it was too early to expect any decision on lifting a freeze on direct aid to the Palestinian government when the 27-nation bloc's foreign ministers meet on Monday but they were likely to issue a positive statement on the agreement.

French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said he supported the deal between the moderate Fatah party and the militant Islamist Hamas movement signed in Mecca on Thursday, and called for international backing.

"I salute the inter-Palestinian agreement reached yesterday in Mecca on the creation of a national unity government," Douste-Blazy said in a statement.

"The inclusion in this government's programme of respecting international resolutions and agreements signed by the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organisation) constitutes a step in the right direction towards full adherence to the international community's demands," he said.

The United States and the European Union suspended aid to and contact with the Palestinian government last year after Hamas took office rejecting international demands to recognise Israel, renounce violence or accept past peace agreements.

In Brussels, a spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said the bloc would study the unity government agreement carefully and foreign ministers would discuss it at their regular monthly meeting next Monday.

"We are going to look at all the details with the best will, in a positive but cautious manner," Cristina Gallach said.


In an initial reaction late on Thursday, British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett welcomed efforts to end violence and promote intra-Palestinian reconciliation, and called the unity government agreement "an interesting and important development".

But she too said details would have to be studied carefully.

Gallach said the Quartet of international peace mediators -- the United States, the EU, Russia and the United Nations -- were consulting by telephone to consider whether the unity accord reflected their three conditions.

"A window of opportunity is ajar again," an EU diplomat said. "One can say confidently that it's better that they have made an agreement rather than shooting at each other. But perhaps that's all you can say."

Gallach said the EU welcomed very much the efforts of Saudi Arabia to broker the agreement and said the EU had been calling since last year for a national unity government that respected the basic conditions of the international community.

Solana is due to meet Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni this weekend in Munich at a security conference.

The next ministerial-level meeting of the Middle East Quartet is likely to take place after U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice holds talks with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Feb. 19. (Additional reporting by Francois Murphy in Paris and Sophie Walker in London)

ANALYSIS: Unity deal is minimum required to remove the siege

By Zvi Bar'el, Haaretz Correspondent

For a while it seemed that Khaled Meshal, not Mahmoud Abbas, was the Palestinian Authority chairman.

In his speech in Mecca on Thursday, Meshal stressed the commitment to stop the bloodshed among the Palestinian factions and the cooperation with Abbas. He did not say a word on the political issues the two had agreed upon.

In a letter on appointing the government, Abbas called on Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh to honor (not to commit to) the signed agreements (without saying with whom), and to honor the international decisions and the Arab League's resolutions.

There is no commitment in the letter to keep past agreements and no direct recognition of Israel. But its wording is sufficient, at least for Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah, to lift the siege from the Palestinian Authority. Because it holds the essential turning point in Hamas' position: the acceptance in theory of the agreements and resolutions, including the Oslo Accords and the Arab League resolutions, such as those adopted by the Arab summit conference in Beirut in 2002, dealing with terms of normalization with Israel.

On the other hand, Hamas' insistence on the term "to honor" instead of "to commit to" turns the theoretical recognition into something impractical and appears to limit Abbas' ability to negotiate with Israel. For a government that cannot commit to uphold past agreements will not want to take part in drafting future ones.

Abbas will be appointing a cabinet which is not committed to the resolutions from which he derives his power and authority.

All the parties, including Saudi Arabia and Egypt, seem to understand that in view of the political situation in Israel and Washington's lack of interest in advancing the political process, it is better to make do with managing the internal Palestinian crisis.

Another question is whether the national unity government would be able to function. The portfolio allocation was agreed on before the Mecca gathering, following the monetary temptation the king had offered the Palestinians if they set up a unity government.

Arab sources say the new government will get half a billion dollars now for "routine maintenance" and additional large sums for rehabilitation and development later.

It is not clear, however, whether it will be possible to merge the armed Hamas and Fatah forces into one.

Various clauses of the agreement, such as Mohammed Dahlan's authorities as deputy prime minister, have yet to be agreed upon, but Saudi Arabia still has good cause for satisfaction. The agreement will not only enable it to lift the economic siege and funnel money to the PA, but also - and primarily - to block Iranian involvement in the Palestinian problem and keep it in Arab hands.

ANALYSIS: New PA government creates a real problem for Israel
By Avi Issacharoff, Haaretz Correspondent
The new Palestinian unity government creates a real problem for Israel. It will be headed by a senior Hamas figure, Ismail Haniyeh. Moreover, it will not recognize Israel and does not pretend to meet the Quartet's conditions, as one Hamas leader said.
Yet the same time, it is not a Hamas government, and Hamas will not have a majority in the cabinet. The finance minister-designate, Salem Fayad, is the White House's darling. The foreign minister-designate, academic Ziad Abu Amar, has lectured at many American universities and does not have extremist positions on Israel. And the interior minister, who commands the security forces, will be an independent rather than a Hamas member, though he will be appointed on Hamas' recommendation.
Under these circumstances, Israel and the U.S. will have trouble demanding that the international economic boycott of the Palestinian government remain in place.
The other members of the Quartet - the European Union, the United Nations and Russia - have been annoyed for some time by Washington's opposition to a unity government, and once one is in place, in another few weeks, some or all of these parties are liable to announce the resumption of relations with the Palestinian Authority.
Although Hamas leader Khaled Meshal and Fatah's leader, PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, accepted the principles of the Mecca agreement about 10 days ago, only this week did their last doubts vanish, when they realized that the Mecca summit was their last chance to end the internecine warfare in Gaza. Almost 100 Palestinians have been killed in this fighting over the last two months, and the combination of the violence and their sense of losing control led Abbas to brave American displeasure and Meshal to abandon his dream of exclusive Hamas control.
The agreement gave something to each of them: Meshal did not have to abandon Hamas' political platform and recognize Israel, while Abbas got a cabinet Hamas does not control. But many Palestinians are angry at both men.
No one reading the agreement could fail to wonder why it was delayed for many bloody weeks over a mere word or two: For instance, the final text states that the government will "respect" previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements; Abbas originally wanted "adhere to."
In Gaza, residents rejoiced that the civil war had ended. But the celebrations might be premature. With armed militias in Gaza, some lunatic could easily rekindle the fighting. And those who lost relatives will not so quickly abandon their desire for revenge.
Pacifying Gaza will be the new government's first task. But, at best, it will be difficult - and it may prove impossible.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Thursday, February 8, 2007

UN Sec'y General's Spokesperson Explicitly Blames Lebanon For Border Incident

[It is noteworthy that nonetheless, the Security Council statement refrained from blaming Lebanon.]
"The exchange of fire, which was initiated by the LAF after an IDF bulldozer crossed the technical fence in an apparent attempt to clear the area between the technical fence and the Blue Line of mines, constitutes a breach of the cessation of hostilities as laid out in Security Council resolution 1701 (2006)"


Thursday, February 8, 2007


- Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is deeply concerned about the exchange of
fire between the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and the Israel Defence Forces
(IDF) across the Blue Line last night in the general area of Maroun Al Ras.

- The exchange of fire, which was initiated by the LAF after an IDF
bulldozer crossed the technical fence in an apparent attempt to clear the
area between the technical fence and the Blue Line of mines, constitutes a
breach of the cessation of hostilities as laid out in Security Council
resolution 1701 (2006).

- The UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) deployed to the area immediately
and was in contact with both sides urging them to cease hostilities. UNIFIL
is currently ascertaining all the facts concerning the incident. The
Secretary-General encourages the parties to make use of the tripartite
coordination mechanism in order to avoid similar incidents in the future.

- All such violations of Security Council resolution 1701 (2006) endanger
the fragile calm that prevails in southern Lebanon. The Secretary-General
calls on all parties to exercise maximum restraint, avoid provocative
actions and display responsibility in implementing resolution 1701 (2006).

- The UNIFIL Force Commander, Major General Claude Graziano, was in contact
with both sides, urging them to cease hostilities immediately. At around
23:30 hrs both sides ceased firing.

- UNIFIL troops have been deployed in the area and are ascertaining the
facts concerning the incident.

- In response to further questions about the situation on the ground, the
Spokeswoman said that, according to UNIFIL, the situation in the general
area of Maroun Al Ras has been relatively quiet today.

- UNIFIL troops have been deployed in significant numbers. They have been
ascertaining the facts of yesterday's incident and the findings will be
communicated to both parties.

- UNIFIL troops, in coordination with the Lebanese army, have also placed a
sign to visibly mark the Blue Line in this area.

- The Force Commander, Maj. Gen Graziano, has been in contact with the
parties and has called for a tripartite meeting with the senior
representatives of the Lebanese Army and the Israel Defence Force early next
week, Montas added.

- After the noon briefing, the Security Council read a press statement on
the same subject that said, "The members of the Council expressed deep
concern about this incident. They look forward to the ascertaining of all
the facts by UNIFIL and to the forthcoming tripartite meeting asked for by
UNIFIL Force Commander. The members of the Council appealed to all parties
to respect the Blue Line in its entirety, to exercise utmost restraint and
to refrain from any action that could further escalate the situation."

IMRA - Independent Media Review and Analysis

Continued (Permanent Link)

Security Council fails to blame Lebanon for aggression

Despite the fact that UNIFIL ascertained that the Lebanese opened fire without provocation on Israeli bulldozers clearing mines in Israeli territory, the UN Security Council issued a statement that blames neither side.

8 February 2007
Security Council

Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York


The following Security Council press statement on the incident along the Blue Line was delivered today by Council President Peter Burian ( Slovakia):

The members of the Security Council received a briefing today from the Department of Peacekeeping Operations on the serious incident between the Lebanese Armed Forces and the Israeli Defence Forces that occurred along the Blue Line in the area of Yaroun on 7 February 2007.

The members of the Council expressed deep concern about this incident.  They look forward to the ascertaining of all the facts by the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) and to the forthcoming tripartite meeting asked for by the UNIFIL Force Commander.

The members of the Council appealed to all parties to respect the Blue Line in its entirety, to exercise utmost restraint and to refrain from any action that could further escalate the situation.

The members of the Security Council reaffirmed their strong support for UNIFIL and reiterated their call for full implementation of Security Council resolution 1701.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Hillary on the Campaign trail supports Israel

Save this and compare it with Hillary's actions as president, if she is elected. Do the same for all the candidates.

Hillary Clinton skeptical Abbas will make sufficient peace partner
Hilary Leila Krieger, THE JERUSALEM POST Feb. 8, 2007

Democratic senator and presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton expressed skepticism to The Jerusalem Post Thursday that the much-lauded Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas could be a partner for peace given that his administration had issued textbooks inciting hatred against Israel.

"There are no good options," she said when queried by the Jerusalem Post about his leadership minutes after condemning the hatred and violence in new Palestinian textbooks, which she described as having negative "consequences for the prospects for peace."

Still, she backed continued engagement. "We have to try to push the other side to some kind of change," she continued, "while you still prepare your defenses and protect yourself."

At a press conference about the textbooks, Clinton condemned as "child abuse" the "glorification of death and violence" presented to young readers of the volumes.

In response to reporters' questions, the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination also said that she would support Israel negotiating with Syria "should Israel determine that it's in Israel's best interest to pursue negotiations."

"These decisions are for Israel to make," she said.

Speaking generally, she also said, "I don't believe that cutting off all contact is smart."

The press conference was held at the Senate upon the release of a new Palestinian Media Watch report detailing what authors called a denial of Israel's right to exist and of the Holocaust.

The organization said that the books, published this November and December, had been produced under Abbas's direction and were not the result of influence from Hamas legislators elected last year.

The report cites several instances in 12th grade textbooks where Israel doesn't exist on maps and where the Nazi extermination of Jews didn't happen. It also quotes sections that praise fighting against American and British soldiers in Iraq as "brave resistance to liberate Iraq," while human rights are described as something the US "takes advantage" of to intervene in places like Afghanistan and Darfur.

A statement released ahead of the event quoted Clinton as saying, "Ever since we first raised this issue some years ago there still has not been an adequate repudiation of incitement by the Palestinian Authority. It is even more disturbing that the problem appears to have gotten worse."

At the press conference, Clinton also stressed her backing for the Jewish state.

"I have been and will continue to be a very strong supporter of Israel. Israel is our ally. Israel is a fellow democracy," she said. "We must let the world know that we stand with Israel, that we guarantee Israel's security."

Continued (Permanent Link)

UNIFIL: IDF troops didn't enter Lebanon

Though obviously Israel did not violate the Lebanese border, we can sure that future "narratives" of this event will claim that Israel did violate the Lebanese border. We should remember that immediately following the Hezbollah kidnapping in the summer, several sources insisted that Israel had violated the border. UNIFIL determined at the time that this was not true. Many more accounts omitted the fact that Hezbollah shelled civilian targets before Israel returned fire or did anything, prefering to pretend that Hezbollah had only attacked military personnel.
France now has the embarrasment of having convoked a Security Council meeting to defend its client, Lebanon, and finding that Lebanon was in the wrong. Nonetheless, may we dare to predict that resolutions will be offered condemning Israel for "provoking" Lebanon?

UNIFIL confirms Israel's version: IDF troops didn't enter Lebanon
By Amos Harel, Avi Issacharoff and Aluf Benn, Haaretz Correspondents,
Haaretz Service and Agencies
      Last update - 22:18 08/02/2007

The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) accepted on Thursday
Israel's version of the events that concluded in an exchange of fire between
the Israel Defense Forces and the Lebanese Army at the border late

UNIFIL patrolled the area around Israel's and Lebanon's shared border,
photographed the site, and concluded that IDF troops operated entirely
within Israeli territory.

The Lebanese srmy on Wednesday fired warning shots at IDF troops, claiming
that the troops had entered Lebanese territory.

The incident occurred north of the border fence that Israel erected several
dozen meters within Israeli territory, but south of the actual international
border between the two countries.

UNIFIL has not yet completed the official report on the incident, however, a
UNIFIL representative briefed the UN Security Council on Thursday, and
confirmed Israel's version of the events.

Following the discussion on the matter, the UN Security Council called for
the renewal of coordination meetings between the IDF, the Lebanese Army and
UNIFIL that had been customary immediately following the Israel-Hezbollah
war this summer. Lebanon was not interested in the renewal of such meetings.

The Security Council convened at the behest of France. The French ambassdor
to the United Nations said Thursday that Paris wants the Council to discuss
and react to the Wednesday night border clash.

"We think that the council should have an exchange of views on this issue,
which is an important one," France's UN Ambassador Jean-Marc de la Sabliere
told reporters.

"I am just going to ask for a briefing from the secretariat."

On Wednesday night, an IDF tank fired two rounds at Lebanese Army positions
opposite Moshav Avivim, after Lebanese troops fired on IDF soldiers
searching for Hezbollah mines beyond the border fence but inside Israeli

The IDF suffered no casualties, while UNIFIL reported that five Lebanese
soldiers were wounded in the incident. The Lebanese Army has denied it
sustained any casualties.

Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora on Thursday denounced what he called
Israel's violation of the Lebanese border, saying IDF troops crossed the
internationally-recognized border line prior to the exchange of fire between
the two countries' forces. The incident was the first of its kind since the
aftermath of last summer's war between Hezbollah and Israel.

Siniora discussed the border clash with UN envoy Geir Pedersen, telling him
that his government condemned what he described as the new Israeli
aggression on Lebanon's sovereignty and what he called the violation of the
Blue Line, the UN-recognized border between the two countries.

Liam McDowell, a spokesman for the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL),
said the exchange was initiated by the Lebanese army and that the IDF
bulldozer had crossed the border fence, but not the Blue Line, to clear

The border fence lies several dozen meters south of the Blue Line.

Speaking to Pedersen in front of reporters, Siniora said the incursion
compounded the daily violations of Lebanese sovereignty by Israeli aircraft.

On Thursday morning, Israel Air Force planes flew twice over southern

The IDF confirmed the overflights, saying that, "The incident yesterday
hasn't led us to change our aerial activity."

Defense Minister Amir Peretz stressed Thursday that Israel is not seeking an
escalation along the border, but that the IDF would return fire when fired

Peretz's comments came after a special security consulatations on the
situation in the north.

Meeting with IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz and senior military officials,
Peretz said that the "Northern Command operated according to regulations and
in the necessary and correct manner, in keeping with UN Security Council
Resolution 1701."

"We have no intentions of escalation, but wherever there is fire endangering
IDF forces we will have to react," he said. "UNIFIL forces and the Lebanese
Army are fulfilling their roles, and we intend to continue to operate within
the political and regulatory framework established in recent months."

Peretz added that "there is no intention of returning to the policy of
looking the other way on Lebanon."

Earlier this week, four explosive devices were discovered in the area. IDF
sappers detonated them from a distance.

The IDF carried out yesterday's operation after informing UNIFIL and the
Lebanese Army of its intentions.

In response, the Lebanese Army warned the IDF that if its forces violated
Lebanese sovereignty, it would open fire.

The IDF said that it did not intend to cross into Lebanese territory, but if
its forces were attacked, it would respond.

Israel rejected Lebanese claims that it had violated Lebanese sovereignty,
saying that the force was south of the international border - inside
Israel - as delineated by the United Nations following the IDF pullout from
southern Lebanon in May 2000. In some places, the border and the fence are
several dozen meters apart.

Lebanese officials said an IDF bulldozer crossed the international border
and entered about 18 meters into Lebanon.

A spokesman for UNIFIL, however, confirmed the exchange was initiated by the
Lebanese Army after an IDF bulldozer crossed the border fence "in an
apparent attempt to clear mines between the Blue Line (international border)
and the fence."

"We characterise this as a serious incident between the Lebanese Army and
the IDF," the spokesman said.

The IDF operation in the area caused grave concern on the Lebanese side, and
drew the attention of the Lebanese Army.

Israel imposed a local media blackout, which was lifted as soon as
Hezbollah's Al-Manar went on the air with information about the operation.
Al-Manar gave the operation a great deal of coverage, reporting that an
Israeli armored column tried to cross into Lebanon close to Maroun al-Ras,
which is across from Avivim.

The report stated that UNIFIL and a Lebanese Army officer held discussions
with Israel, after which Israel agreed to cancel the mission.

The Lebanese News Agency reported that the Lebanese Army placed forces
deployed near Maroun al-Ras on alert, fearing that the IDF planned to
broaden its operation. It was also reported that IDF helicopters flew over
southern Lebanon villages.

The IDF Northern Command was unable to confirm whether the explosive devices
had been placed recently. Hezbollah, for its part, denied Tuesday that these
were new bombs, saying they had been placed before the war in July.

A GOC Northern Command officer said yesterday that Hezbollah is still
operating in southern Lebanon, but is keeping a low profile - its operatives
avoid public displays of weapons, and wear civilian clothes.

Northern Command sources report that Hezbollah is working hard to replenish
its ranks, sending conscripts for training in the Beka'a, in order to make
up for its losses during the war.

The officer said there has been a growing presence of Islamic Jihad
militants in southern Lebanon, as well as extremists affiliated with
Al-Qaida and Sunni groups. These groups are seeking to challenge Hezbollah's
hegemony in the area.

The IDF officer said the army intends to clear all salients between the
border and the fence of explosives.

"Our way of thinking has changed," the officer said. "Before the war, the
approach was that confrontation was bad for us, and therefore we kept away
from the fence. Now the approach is that we will operate up to the Blue Line
[the international border] and if the other side seeks a confrontation, it
will get it," the officer said.

This is not the first time the IDF has operated north of the border fence.

Following the army's withdrawal from south Lebanon in 2000, the fence was
redrawn. At several points its path was routed south of the border, as far
as 100 meters in, in what the army cited as strategic considerations.

In searches conducted in recent months along the fence, IDF troops have
discovered Hezbollah positions and equipment which appear to have been used
in the abduction of two IDF soldiers in July 2006.

About two weeks ago, IDF troops destroyed two Hezbollah bunkers uncovered
during searches of the area around the border fence. One of the bunkers was
found during the war, and the other was uncovered last month.

Both bunkers were within Israel's territory, somewhere between the
international border and the border fence. The bunkers housed supplies, food
and tools that would enable a long stay underground.

'Syria rearming Hezbollah'

Defense Minister Amir Peretz on Wednesday accused Syria of allowing the
rearmament of Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon and said Israel has the right
to act forcefully against the Shiite militia to counter the threat.

Speaking to visiting U.S. Jewish leaders, Peretz said Syria, Hezbollah's
main ally, is continuing to allow weapons shipments to the group to cross
its border with Lebanon.

"We can't under any circumstances ignore the transfer of weapons and
ammunition to Hezbollah," Peretz said. "While Israel remains committed to
the cease-fire we reserve the right to protect the citizens of the State of
Israel and we will do this forcefully without any compromises."

In Beirut, a Hezbollah official declined comment.

About two weeks ago, IDF troops destroyed two Hezbollah bunkers uncovered
during searches of the area around the border fence. One of the bunkers was
found during the war, and the other was uncovered last month.

Both bunkers were within Israel's territory, somewhere between the
international border and the border fence. The bunkers housed supplies, food
and tools that would enable a long stay underground.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Palestinians agree to each other, but not to explicit recognition of Israel's right to exist

The new Palestinian government may be of little significance for meeting international commitments, since the agreement does not include explicit recognition of Israel's right to exist or an explicit commitment to end violence.
Palestinian groups to share power
Rival Palestinian factions holding a second day of talks in Saudi Arabia have agreed on the formation of a unity government, according to a Palestinian official.

The deal, mediated by Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz in Mecca, aims to bring all Palestinian groups in line with the 2002 initiative, which includes the acknowlegement of Israel.

On Thursday, Jamal al-Shobaki, Palestinian ambassador to Saudi Arabia, said: "We have agreed to form a national unity government. The agreement will be signed very soon."

A deal could help to end fighting between the factions that has killed more than 90 Palestinians since December.

New faces

Khaled Meshaal, the exiled head of Hamas, will not be the cabinet's deputy head, but all positions except the ministry of interior had apparently been agreed on by Thursday.

Ziyad Abu Amr, an independent MP, is the new foreign minister while Salam Fayyad, from the Third Way party, becomes finance minister.

The remaining ministerial posts include nine ministers from Hamas and six from Fatah.

Four other ministerial posts will be distributed among other Palestinian factions.
Five posts will be assigned to independent politicians not belonging to any political faction. Three of the independents will be nominated by Hamas and two by Fatah.
The Fatah and Hamas delegates discussed the selection of ministers for a coalition cabinet, in particular those who will occupy the powerful interior ministry.

Existing accords

The two sides also discussed how the government's programme will address existing peace accords with Israel.

Hamas, which has long rejected Israel's existence, has declined calls for it to declare its "commitment" to the accords, regarding that as equal to recognition of Israel.

But Nabil Amr, a spokesman for the Fatah delegation, said: "We don't have a problem in accepting the wording 'respect' in the agreements.

"We have informed the Saudis and our brothers in Hamas that we are ready to sign any phrasing accepted by the world for the sake of lifting the siege."

Tzipi Livni, the Israeli foreign minister, said on Wednesday that her country would not accept a Palestinian government that does not explicitly renounce violence and accept the right of Israel to exist.
Whether the agreed coalition government that emerges from Mecca is acceptable to Israel remains to be seen.

Israel has refused to talk to the Hamas-led government, though it has held talks with Abbas.

Fatah officials have said that Abbas has underlined the need for flexibility about a new government to the US, Israel's key ally.
Abbas; Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister; and Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, are due to meet on February 19 in Jerusalem for talks intended to revive the peace process.

Abbas, left, and Meshaal say they will not leave
Mecca until they have an agreement [EPA]
Mohammed Nazal of the Hamas delegation said: "The atmosphere is positive."
When delegates arrived in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday night, the Palestinian leaders declared that they could not afford to fail to reach an agreement.

Meshaal said: "We came here to agree and we have no other option but to agree."
Siraj Wahab, a journalist in Mecca, said: "There is every possibility that a comprehensive settlement will come out. And now they are answerable to their people.
"They have committed a major pledge before their people and before the holy Kaaba – that is a huge significance."

Source: Agencies

Continued (Permanent Link)

Dichter: Egypt is letting arms into Gaza

These warnings have been heard before, but somehow seem to make no impression. The end result is inevitable, yet everyone seems paralyzed.

Israel says Egypt is letting arms into Gaza
08 Feb 2007 16:16:33 GMT
Source: Reuters
By Sue Pleming

WASHINGTON, Feb 8 (Reuters) - Egypt is doing too little to stop arms smuggling into Gaza, which emboldens the militant group Hamas and weakens rival Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Israeli Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter said on Thursday.

"Tens of tons" of explosives were being smuggled into Gaza via Egypt, including anti-aircraft missiles, Dichter told reporters while visiting Washington for meetings with U.S. officials.
"Egypt is not doing enough. That is for sure. It is not doing enough in terms of blocking this smuggling of means of warfare into the Gaza Strip," Dichter said.

He added that he did not believe Egypt was behind the smuggling, just that it was not stopping it.
Dichter said he had raised the issue with the Bush administration and would likely do so again during a meeting later on Thursday with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who is due to visit the region next week.

The United States has been trying to consolidate the support of moderate Arab states such as Egypt to help break a deadlock in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. Rice met Egypt's foreign minister in Washington on Wednesday.
"I can't see any reason why Egypt doesn't block totally the smuggling from Egypt into Gaza Strip ... I am sure that if Egypt decides to block this flow of smuggling they can do it, 100 percent," Dichter said, when asked whether he thought Egypt was deliberately not stopping the flow of weapons.
He said the flow of weapons was causing big problems for Abbas and weakening his position in Gaza. "It strengthens Hamas and weakens President Abbas," he said.

"I cannot think of a reason why Egypt is trying to weaken Abu Mazen (Abbas) and that is why I think it is lack of determination," said Dichter.

Abbas is currently holding talks with Hamas in Saudi Arabia on forming a unity government which could help end fighting that has killed more than 90 Palestinians since December.
It could also end an international blockade of the Islamist group Hamas, after it won parliamentary elections last year against Abbas's Fatah party, which had steered peace talks with Israel since 1993.

Israeli troops withdrew from Gaza and parts of the West Bank in late 2005. (Reporting by Sue Pleming; editing by Randall Mikkelsen;; tel:" 202 898 8393 )

Labels: ,

Continued (Permanent Link)

Peace Index Poll: January 2007: Israeli Arabs and Jews agree inter-Palestinian struggle is good for Israel, Israel should not be involved

Israeli Arabs and Jews agree inter-Palestinian struggle is good for Israel, Israel should not be involved

Peace Index: January 2007

Prof. Ephraim Yaar and Prof. Tamar Hermann

There is broad agreement in the Israeli Jewish public that Israel should not
get involved in the present intra-Palestinian struggle. Views are more
divided, however, on what this struggle means for Israel, with a small
majority seeing it as beneficial.

Assessments also differ about the course of Israeli-Palestinian relations in
the coming year, with a slight majority saying the situation will worsen
rather than political contacts being renewed. As for the future of
Israeli-Syrian relations, here too there is no dominant view, but a slight
lead for the optimistic assessment that political negotiations will be
renewed rather than the situation staying the same, with only a small
minority seeing war as imminent.

However, the public currently views the political issue as far less salient
than others. At the top of the ladder stands cleaning up the establishment's
corruption, and after that come: rehabilitating the IDF and Israel's
deterrent capability, closing the economic gaps, and countering violence and
crime. After all those comes returning to negotiations with the
Palestinians. On the corruption issue, the overwhelming majority sees the
efforts to uproot it as essential to salvaging the state and rejects the
claim that these efforts are excessive. Comparatively speaking, the
prevailing view is that corruption is more widespread in Israel than in the
Western countries, though less so than among the Palestinian Authority.

Of the two main bodies that fight corruption-the media and the police-the
majority views the former as fulfilling its role well, with opinions divided
about the police; a small majority says its functioning is not satisfactory.
In the context of these two bodies, a large majority rejects President
Katsav's claim that the elites joined together to incriminate him because
they did not want him as president.

The outstanding finding of this poll, however, is the widespread view that
the current leadership of the country is incapable of successfully coping
with the challenges and dangers that it faces.

Those are the main conclusions of the Peace Index survey that was carried
out on 29-31 January 2007.

On the question of whether Israel should or should not get involved in any
way in the struggle between Hamas and supporters of Abu Mazen, 84% of the
Jewish interviewees answered that it should not get involved. Eleven percent
favor involvement and 5% do not know. As for how the internal Palestinian
struggle affects Israel, 48% think it is good for it while 38% see it is
bad. Interestingly, the structure of segmentation of the Israeli Arab public's
views is not different from that of the Jewish public: only a tiny minority
of 13% believe Israel should get involved in the events on the Palestinian
side whereas the overwhelming majority-some 80%-think it should not. Here,
however, a clear majority of 60% say the intra-Palestinian struggle is good
for Israel and only 26% say it is harmful to it (the rest have no clear

As noted, when it comes to assessing the state of Israeli-Palestinian
relations there is no dominant position among the Jewish public. Only 35%
believe political contacts will be renewed; the more common, pessimistic
view of 42% is that relations will worsen, with an increase in Qassam fire
and attempted terror attacks. Twelve percent think the situation will not
change and 11% do not know. The Jewish public has a different forecast for
future relations with Syria; the prevailing view-37%-is the more optimistic
one that Israeli-Syrian political contacts will be renewed. Thirty percent
do not believe the situation will change, 16% expect war to break out, and
17% do not know. It appears, therefore, that the media reports about some
sort of contacts with Syria have to some extent percolated into the public's
outlook. And, although the widespread opposition to a full peace treaty with
Syria for a full retreat the Golan Heights continues, with 64% opposed, 15%
vacillating, and 19% in favor (3% have no clear position), it is lower than
last month when it reached 70%.

The Arab public's assessments about future relations with the Palestinians
and with Syria are more optimistic than those of the Jewish sector.
Forty-five percent expect negotiations with the Palestinians to be renewed,
while 37% foresee a worsening of relations. As for Syria, a higher rate than
among the Jews-54%-anticipates an imminent renewal of contacts, but 21% (vs.
only 16% among the Jews) think a war will break out and 13% say things will
stay the same.

These political questions, however, seem currently to have taken a backseat
in Israeli minds to the country's domestic problems. The interviewees were
asked which of a group of issues should now be at the top of Israeli society's
agenda and which should be in second place. The answers show that cleaning
up the ruling establishment's corruption and improper functioning is at the
top, with a weighted grade of 31.5 (out of 100). After that come
rehabilitating the IDF and Israel's deterrent capability (22.1), closing the
economic gaps (20.1), countering violence and crime (15.4), and achieving a
peace agreement with the Palestinians (10.8). Despite the current high
salience of the corruption issue, the public is, interestingly, not
completely preoccupied with it, instead also showing awareness of other
problems on Israeli society's agenda. Moreover, the public seems to
distinguish well between the urgency of uprooting the corruption and its
importance as an existential danger to the state. In a comparison between
the two issues-the security threat and the corruption-49% cited the former
as the greater existential danger to Israel, with only 31% giving the
corruption that status (16% think the two are equally dangerous and 4% do
not know). The Arab public gives first priority to achieving a peace treaty
with the Palestinians; not surprisingly, closing the economic gaps comes in
second and after that the corruption issue.

While recognizing the importance of other issues, the public seems most
disturbed by the severity and extent of the corruption, as evident from
several findings. To begin with, 49.5% think the recent revelations of
corruption do not stem mainly from greater efforts to expose it than in the
past-as 38% believe-but from the fact that the corruption is greater.
Forty-four percent view Israel's level of corruption as higher than in the
Western countries (35% think it is similar and only 6%, lower).
The majority (53%), however, regards the Palestinian Authority as having a
higher level of corruption (19.5% see it as similar and 13% as lower). Note
that for the Israeli Jewish public, however, the relevant context is the
West. The highest proportion of the Arab public, conversely-31%-thinks the
corruption in Israel is greater than in the Palestinian leadership, 27% that
it is lesser, and 24% that it is similar in extent.

Given this concern, it is not surprising that only a small minority (20.5%)
of the Jewish public accepts the claim that the efforts to purge the
corruption are excessive, whereas an overwhelming majority (72%) identifies
with the view that these efforts are necessary to salvage the state. In the
struggle against the corruption, the majority of the public (59%) thinks the
media plays its role moderately well or very well, with only 32% saying it
does so moderately poorly or very poorly. The police, however, are viewed
much less positively here: only 42% think it performs moderately well or
very well in exposing the leadership's corruption, whereas 49% say it
functions moderately poorly or very poorly in this regard. In any case, the
overwhelming majority (62% vs. 23%) rejects President Katsav's claim that
the elites banded together to incriminate him because they did not want him
as president. A segmentation of the answers by voting in the latest
elections shows that among voters for Shas, Torah Judaism, and Yisrael
Beiteinu the rate of those who believe Katsav is higher than the rate of
nonbelievers, whereas the majority of voters for all the rest of the parties
do not believe him. A segmentation of the answers by attributes of
education, income, and ethnic origin reveals a considerable majority in all
the subgroups for those who do not believe Katsav.

The influence of the recent revelations of corruption, and very possibly
also of the results of last summer's Lebanon war, is worryingly evident in
the public's pessimism about the current leadership's ability to cope with
all the challenges and dangers that Israel faces. Less than one-quarter
(24%) are moderately sure or completely sure that it is capable of
successfully coping with these challenges whereas 72% are moderately unsure
or not at all sure of this. Note that this lack of confidence is a majority
view in all sectors of Israeli society, including the voters for the parties
presently in power. The segmentation of views on this issue in the Arab
sector is similar, though a bit less pessimistic: 37% think the leadership
is capable of dealing with the problems and 57% believe the opposite (the
rest have no clear opinion).

General Oslo: 37.1; Oslo Jews: 33.2
General Negotiations: 50.4; Jews: 48.2
General Syria: 37.3; Jews: 32.2

The Peace Index project is conducted by the Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace
Research and the Evens Program in Mediation and Conflict Resolution at Tel
Aviv University, headed by Prof. Ephraim Yaar and Prof. Tamar Hermann. The
telephone interviews were conducted by the B. I. Cohen Institute of Tel Aviv
University on 29-31 January 2007 and included 607 interviewees who represent
the adult Jewish and Arab population in Israel (including the territories
and the kibbutzim). The sampling error for a sample of this size is 4.5%

Continued (Permanent Link)

Holocaust denier Moshe Aryeh Friedman's children expelled from school

Herewith, the latest installment in the adventures of a great liberal critic of Israel, Rabbi Moshe Aryeh Friedman, the Viennese Holocaust denier.
This account is inaccurate by omission. It states:
Responding to criticism after the trip to Iran , Neturei Karta said it has never denied the Holocaust or its proportions.
Perhaps Neturei Karta did not, but Friedman did. According to Stern, Friedman claimed at the conference that the latest research shows that "only" a million Jews were killed in the Holocaust, and not 6 million. The number 6 million, according to him, was taken from a prophecy by Theodor Herzl.
Holocaust denial is a criminal offence in Austria, but why should his children suffer? Bad reporting is not against the law anywhere, especially not for AP.
Ami Isseroff

Austria: Neturei Karta rabbi's children expelled

Children of Neturei Karta rabbi who attended Holocaust denial conference in Iran were expelled from their Jewish school in Austria
Associated Press Published:  02.08.07, 02:44 / Israel News

The children of an Austrian rabbi who attended an Iranian conference that questioned the Holocaust have been expelled from their school and told no other Jewish school in Austria will take them, their father said Tuesday.
Moishe Arye Friedman said he has begun legal proceedings against the school. He said his four school-age children were told to leave Monday.

Friedman showed a letter with school letterhead that explained that one of the reasons for the expulsions was his "outrageous behavior" in attending the Holocaust conference last month .
Friedman was among Jewish participants who hugged Iranian President Mahhmoud Ahmadinejad, who has described the Holocaust as a myth and called for Israel to be wiped off the map.
Friedman is associated with, but not a member of Neturei Karta, a small, fiercely anti-Zionist sect that opposes the drive to establish the state of Israel, believing only the Messiah could do that.
Responding to criticism after the trip to Iran , Neturei Karta said it has never denied the Holocaust or its proportions. They believe Ahmadinejad has been unfairly villified and that they should be praised for persuading him that his anger should be directed at Israel, not the Jewish people.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Lebanon: Russian Weapons Diverted By Syria to Hezbollah (Die Welt)

For those wondering about UNIFIL supervision of weapons' transfer, Die Welt has this news. Syria insists it is not transferring weapons to Hezbollah.
[Translation followed by original]

Russian Weapons Diverted By Syria to Hezbollah

Berlin Die Welt February 06  07

[Report by Jacques Schuster: "Secret Service: Syria
Supplies Weapons to Hizballah"]

A few days ago, the radical organization reportedly obtained numerous antitank weapons. The source of the material is Russia, which apparently had no knowledge of the transfer of the weapons to Hezbollah. However, the problem as such is not new.

On 31 January of this year, a Russian transport plane landed at the Damascus airport carrying 600 containers of Russian antitank weapons. Representatives of the Shiite extremist organization Hizballah and of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards were waiting on the runway. While a Syrian officer watched, they had about 100 containers loaded onto trucks. The shipment went to the Hezbollah fighters in Lebanon.

This information comes from Western secret service sources, who passed it on to The documents indicate that the Russian suppliers knew nothing about their weapons being handed on to Hizballah. While the arms deal as such is based on Russian-Syrian treaties, the delivery to Hezbollah  violates UN Resolution 1701, adopted on 11 August of last year shortly after the war in Lebanon. It forbids supplying the Lebanese militias with weapons.

For some time now the Russian Government has been trying to stop its weapons being transferred to Hezbollah. Syria had already frequently diverted some of the Russian arms deliveries to its allies in Lebanon. Officially, Damascus has always said the weapons were stolen from Syrian military camps in Lebanon.

As a result of these treaty violations, as of this March the Russians will have all arms trade with Syria go through its state arms export company Rosoboronexport. The goal is to improve the control mechanisms over the deliveries. Middle East experts are doubtful whether the Syrians will be impressed with this. According to secret service sources, the Syrians this week broke up a smuggling ring as a demonstration of their determination. The only fly the ointment was that the weapons were supposed to go to the anti-Syrian Christian militias.

Naher Osten
Geheimdienst: Syrien liefert Waffen an Hisbollah Vor einigen Tagen soll die radikale Organisation
zahlreiche Panzerabwehrwaffen erhalten haben. Die Quelle des Materials ist Russland - das von der Weitergabe der Waffen an die Hisbollah offenbar keine Ahnung hatte. Das Prolem an sich ist allerdings nicht neu.

Von Jacques Schuster

Berlin - Am 31. Januar dieses Jahres landete auf dem Flughafen von Damaskus ein russisches
Transportflugzeug. Die Maschine hatte sechshundert Container mit russischen Panzerabwehrwaffen geladen. Auf der Landebahn warteten ein Vertreter der schiitischen Extremistenorganisation Hisbollah und ein Repräsentant der iranischen Revolutionsgarden. Unter Aufsicht eines syrischen Offiziers ließen sie rund Hundert Container auf Lastwagen verladen. Die Ladung ging an die Kämpfer der Hisbollah im Libanon.

Diese Information stammt aus westlichen Geheimdienstquellen, die zugespielt wurden. Die Unterlagen weisen darauf hin, dass die russischen Lieferanten nichts von der Weitergabe ihrer Waffen an die Hisbollah wussten. Während der Waffenhandel als solcher auf der Grundlage russisch-syrischer Verträge beruht, verstößt die Lieferung an die Hisbollah gegen die UN-Resolution 1701, die am 11. August vergangenen Jahres kurz nach dem Krieg im Libanon verabschiedet wurde. Sie verbietet, die libanesischen Milizen mit Waffen zu versorgen.

Seit geraumer Zeit versucht die russische Regierung, die Weitergabe ihrer Waffen an die Hisbollah zu unterbinden. Schon häufiger hat Syrien Teile der russischen Waffenlieferungen an ihre erbündeten im Libanon abgezweigt. Offiziell hieß es aus Damaskus immer, die Waffen seien aus syrischen Militärlagern im Libanon gestohlen worden.

Als Folge dieser Vertragsbrüche lassen die Russen ab kommenden März den gesamten Waffenhandel mit Syrien
über ihr staatliches Waffenexportunternehmen Rosoboronexport laufen. Ziel ist es, die Kontrollmechanismen der Lieferungen zu verbessern. Ob die Syrer sich davon beeindruckt zeigen werden, ziehen Nahost-Experten in Zweifel. Geheimdienstkreisen zufolge haben die Syrer in dieser Woche jedenfalls einen Schmugglerring als Demonstration ihrer Entschlossenheit auffliegen lassen. Einziger Schönheitsfehler: Die Waffen sollten an die
antisyrischen Christenmilizen gehen.

Artikel erschienen am 07.02.2007

Continued (Permanent Link)

Middle East Vocabulary: The Devil's Dictionary of Israeli-Palestinian Peace

Not everyone will be happy with these definitions. Truth is often painful. If it pleases you, you may accuse the author of being a "moral relativist" (see below) which seems to denote a believer in moral absolutes.


Originally posted at:

As part of our ongoing services to readers, complementing articles like The Middle East in one easy lesson", we offer the Devil's Dictionary of Israeli-Palestinian Peace. The original Devil's dictionary was a compilation of often too accurate definitions by critique Ambrose Bierce that exposed hypocrisy in the use and abuse of language. Nowhere is language bent out of shape as it is in diplomacy and political propaganda, and nowhere is the phenomenon as prevalent as it is in reports of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. (see What's in a Word? for a detailed discussion.) In the hands of the spinners, suicide bombings become "non-violent action," genocidal programs are transmuted to "legitimate rights," settlement expansion becomes "self-defense."

The list is below. Many of the terms apply equally to both sides, though we are sure that partisans will insist that they only apply to "the other side."

Activist - Murderer of babies.

Advocacy - Proper presentation of truth by our side.

Click Continuation for More

Agreement- Contractual basis for the next stage of hostilities.

Apartheid (Israeli) - A policy that separates terrorists from would-be victims, and car thieves from desirable automobiles.

Civil society - Armed gangs. Islamic Jihad and Hamas movements are given as
examples of "Civil Society" in a recent book.

Coexistence - see Peace.

Creative ambiguity - Meaninglessnes.

Cycle of violence - term used to shift blame from guilty parties.

Democracy - A system in which we get to tell them what to do.

Dialogue - Propagandizing the opposition.

Diplomat - Liar employed by us.

Ethnic cleansing - A process in which our people are evicted from their homes.

Historic rights - Rights (q.v.) claimed more than a month ago.

Holy site - A location that the other side wants.

Humans - Our side.

Human rights violation - Any action that violates the rights (q.v.) of humans (q.v.).

Justice- A state of affiars in which our side gets our rights (q.v.).

Legitimate- An adjective describing rights (q.v.) .

Liberation - Process of evicting their people from their homes.

Liar - Diplomat of the other side.

Lies - Any statement made by their side that is disparaging of our side.

Martyr - Murderer of their babies.

Moral relativist - Anyone who does not understand that liberation (q.v.) is legitimate, while ethnic cleansing (q.v.) is evil.

Militant - Murderer of babies.

Negotiations - Contest to see who can say "no" most persistently.

Nonviolent action - Murdering babies of the other side. A recent book described the murder of hundreds of people including 123 children as resulting from "non-violent action."

Peace - The state of affairs in which we keep their land, and they shut up and do as we say.

Propaganda - see Lies.

Proportionate response - Killing just enough of their people to ensure reprisals.

Religious fanatic - Religious head person who urges the murder of our babies.

Religious rights - The right (q.v.) to exercise sacred (q.v.) ceremonies and hold sacred beliefs.

Renunciation of violence - Pledge that violence will be outsourced to organizations with deniability.

Resistance - Murdering their babies.

Rights - Whatever our side wants.

Sacred - What our side believes.

Statesman - A corrupt rascal who has not been caught yet.

Security - A state of affairs in which only their babies get murdered.

Self defense - Murdering their babies.

Spiritual leader - Religious head person who urges the murder of their babies.

Superstition - What their side believes.

Truce - Period during which hostilities must have deniability

War crime - Any action that opposes resistance (q.v).

War criminal - Murderer of our babies.

Ami Isseroff

Original text copyright by the author and MidEastWeb for Coexistence, RA.

Posted by permission (of myself)

Continued (Permanent Link)

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Proud to be an Israeli... Israel sets an example of freedom, tolerance

Reda Mansour is proud to be an Israeli and we are proud that Reda Mansour is an Israel.
Remember Reda Mansour next time someone says "Zionism is Racism." And remember Reda Mansour next time someone starts to say "All Arabs are..."
Israel sets an example of freedom, tolerance
Published on: 02/05/07
My grandfather, who lived to be more than 100 years old, used to say, "I've seen them all and there are none like the Jews."

Our small Druze town had remained virtually the same for hundreds of years under Ottoman and later British rule. When Israel was established in 1948, rapid development ensued, and for the first time, our homes had electricity and running water and every child received a quality, free education.

Even amongst all that modernity and relative luxury, my grandfather's greatest praise for Israel came as a result of how the young state treated its less fortunate citizens. For the first time in his life, my grandfather, a retired factory worker, received a pension and had access to quality health care. He said that a society could be judged by the way it treats the elderly, sick and unemployed and that Israel had proved itself both strong and compassionate. Certainly, he would say, such a nation would prevail.

That is the untold story of Israel, a nation that measures its strength not by its wealth or military prowess but by the vibrance of its civil society and the diversity of its democratic system. In a country where the symphonic orchestra, the theater and the university were all built before the state's political institutions, there are now more than 40,000 independent civic associations. They strengthen our system of education, protect our environment and work to bring peace and justice to our region.

Israel is an immigrant society with a diverse population: 1.3 million of its citizens are Arabs belonging to various religious and ethnic groups. Indeed, some still suffer from poverty and lack equal investment in their communities from the government, but Arab-Israelis still have a standard of living higher than any of their brethren living in the region. They are full citizens who can vote and be elected to public office. They have the right to worship, assemble and speak freely without fear of intimidation or oppression. Since the establishment of our young nation, the freest Arabs in the Middle East reside in the Jewish state of Israel.

With all the challenges it faces, Israel remains the only democracy in the Middle East. This alone does not make Israel's political system perfect, but it is the endless pursuit of greater equality that sets Israel apart from its neighbors. In my hometown, I have seen the fulfillment of the Israeli Dream: young professionals of all faiths who have established successful careers in law, medicine, business and diplomacy. We all come from middle-class families that used the public school system and government universities to create a better future for our children. None of us would have had that opportunity were it not for the free and open society in which we live.

Today, our freedom is threatened by the vile ideology of hate spewed by Hamas, Hezbollah and other similar organizations. With the support of their backers in Tehran and Damascus, these extremists rain rockets down upon Israeli villages and send suicide bombers into our buses and markets. Their supporters espouse a false narrative of eternal victimhood, attempting to justify every act of brutality and blaming Israel for every hardship. This empty rhetoric does not change the fact that the shrapnel of their weapons knows neither age nor ethnicity. And the resulting violence affects every Israeli regardless of race or religion.

The defense against this onslaught requires military action, but the solution to the complex issues that have brought us to this point is found in the strong bond that has developed between Arabs and Jews in Israel. If we peacefully co-exist in Haifa and Asifiya, why not in Gaza, Beirut or the rest of the region?
Recently, I attended a ceremony at Georgia's state Capitol commemorating the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Like Anwar Sadat and Yitzhak Rabin, he gave his life in defense of the dream of co-existence. Because of what my grandfather saw, my children and I are able to live this dream as citizens of Israel. Today, we look to our borders wondering when our neighbors will embrace the dream of peace rather than the nightmare of war.

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Wisful thinking? - Is Iran's "Oil Weapon" A Doubled-Edged Sword?

The real question, is what the US and Europe believe about Iran's oil weapon. If they believe it is a potent weapon, they aren't going to mess with Iran, and recent studies indicate that is what they think. Probably, an Iranian blockade of the straits of Hormuz cannot be effective until and unless they have a nuclear umbrella to back it up. But what if "probably" is wrong?
The real issue is that after Iraq, nobody in the West wants to get involved in the Middle East.

February 7, 2007 No. 9

Is Iran's "Oil Weapon" A Doubled-Edged Sword?

Arnon Gutfeld

Department of History, Tel Aviv University

If the United States organizes effective economic sanctions against Iran or especially if the Bush Administration decides on military action against Iran's nuclear facilities, Iran may try to strike back with its "oil weapon," to suspend oil exports and disrupt oil traffic in the Straits of Hormuz, through which pass about 40% of the world's oil trade. Activation of this threat might push the price of oil as high as $200 per barrel, with unimaginable damage to western and Japanese economies.

Western economies are undoubtedly hostage to some degree to the flow of oil from the Persian Gulf, in general, and from Iran, in particular. At the same time, Iran itself is hostage to massive oil exports in order to sustain its economy and underpin the huge subsidies it provides to the military and civilian society. Between 80 and 90% of Iran's exports and close to 50% of its budget come from oil sales, and without oil exports, Iran would be bankrupt. Even with high oil prices, Iran's economy has recently come under severe strains – inflation, double-digit unemployment, and per capita income levels lower by about 25% that those of the 1970s – and a fall in oil prices, like the drop of about 30% in the last six months, only exacerbates the situation.

Iran has to import about a third of its petroleum. It has been dependent on imported distillates since the destruction of much of its refining capacity during the Iran-Iraq war, and it holds only about 45 days of petroleum stocks. A cutoff of oil revenues would force the government to control and distribute food to the population, to reduce the budget of an army already desperately short of spare parts, and to cut back drastically its support for allies in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, the Palestinian Authority and various terrorist organizations around the world.

Despite the fact that Iran is the fourth-largest natural gas exporter in the world, declining oil prices signal a serious long-term problem for the country and its political establishment. Oil revenues have provided the Iranian establishment with much of its political influence within the country, because they enable it to provide massive energy subsidies to the population. They also underlie Iran's political influence throughout the Middle East. But the reliability of future oil export revenues is quite problematic. Iran now consumes about 40% of its oil production. Every year brings a drop of about 10% in the volume of exports and predictions are that exports will fall by half by 2010 and virtually dry up by 2015. In the last two years, Iran has been unable to produce the quota allocated to it by OPEC and it has failed to invest the amounts needed to maintain existing fields. A crisis will result from sharp increases in domestic oil consumption, neglected development of new reserve fields and especially the failure to develop or even repair the deteriorating infrastructure of existing fields, which results in the loss of millions of barrels during the production process. Iran desperately needs its current oil revenues and therefore leaves nothing for the National Oil Company to maintain or repair infrastructures. Oil profits are also spent on a series of projects that contribute nothing to recurrent investment in the energy industry.

Consequently, Iran may well need nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. But the Iranian Oil Minister has recently admitted that the growing controversy over Iran's nuclear program has reduced the willingness of banks and other investors to put money into Iranian projects. There is also a general hostility in Iran to foreign investments; a variety of regulations and laws actually alienate potential investors. The United States, through a variety of pressures on potential investors, also deters and prevents investment in Iran.

Some experts believe that Iran will find a way to solve its production problems before the crisis reaches a peak. They point to the fact that oil revenues this year will reach $50 billion and also that Iran has large foreign currency reserves that could find their way to the necessary infrastructure investment projects. The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that Iran will need to invest $165 billion in order to meet the oil and natural gas production goals it has set for 2030.

Recently published studies stress Iran's economic vulnerability. Since 1979, the population has doubled; it now stands at 68 million and is growing by half a million per annum. The labor force numbers 22 million and grows at a rate of 3.3% per annum, and Iran needs to produce 700,000 new jobs each year just to maintain its current unemployment rate of 12%.

As a result, the west may actually be better able than Iran to tolerate a shutdown of Iranian exports. Concerns about sanctions or military action against Iran are connected to Iranian threats to send thousands of suicide bombers against coalition forces in Iraq or against the west, to blockade the Straits of Hormuz, or to bomb oil fields in the Emirates or Saudi Arabia. To these are added threats to rain down a torrent of missiles on Israel. These are threats that the United States, the west, and Israel may have to confront sooner or later, and some argue for confronting them sooner rather than waiting for the situation to become even more daunting.

Russia and China have large investments in Iran's oil infrastructure and the United States is working to convince them that the best way to protect those investments is to restrain the Iranian leadership. But as long as Russia and China are not convinced that the U.S. might choose a military option, they will apparently do little to press Iran to moderate its behavior.

If Iran tried to block the Straits and Hormuz and bomb oil fields throughout the Gulf, the results could be disastrous for the Arab countries, for the west, but most of all for Iran itself, and it is not at all clear that Iran would be prepared to risk total destruction. But since such a scenario cannot be categorically precluded, a central question remains: How willing are the United States and other industrialized countries to act in order to reduce their dependency on imported energy from this part of the world?


INSS Insight is published 

through the generosity of

Sari and Israel Roizman, Philadelphia


Continued (Permanent Link)

Live fire exchange on Lebanese-Israel border

After working to get the Lebanese army down to the southern border, Israel finally achieved it. The result is that while Hezbolla is not firing at Israel, the Lebanese army is. This should not happen of course. It would not happen if UNIFIL did their job, and it would not happen in a better world.
Why isn't there a clearly demarcated border? Why can't IDF allow UNIFIL to clear the bunkers on the Israeli side too? 
"Because it is the Middle East" is not a good enough answer, is it?
The Lebanese will say IDF was in Lebanese territory. The Israelis will say IDF was in Israeli territory. The Lebanese will say Israel fired first. Israel will say Lebanese fired first. Business as usual.
Is this incident one of a kind, or "first of many?"

Last update - 23:57 07/02/2007

IDF shells Lebanese positions across northern border
By Haaretz Service and Agencies

Israel Defense Forces troops late Wednesday fired warning shells at Lebanese army positions across the northern border.

The incident occurred after Lebanese troops fired light weapons at IDF tanks stationed with the Engineering Corps in an area north of the border fence, but in sovereign Israeli territory.

IDF troops issued a warning to the Lebanese forces, and a short time later fired shells at the Lebanese position, opposite Moshav Avivim.

There are no reports of IDF casualties but initial reports indicate there may be injuries on the Lebanese side.

UNIFIL forces are trying to mediate the conflict.

Earlier Wednesday, IDF troops crossed the Lebanon border fence in the area where four Hezbollah bombs were discovered Monday, in order to search the area for additional explosive devices.

While the troops are operating north of the border fence, they will not cross the international border, which lives several dozen meters beyond the fence.

IDF bulldozers accompanied by Engineering Corps and infantry troops are operating in the area and overturning mounds of earth in order to ensure that there are no additional bombs.

On Wednesday morning, the Lebanese Army threatened to fire on IDF troops should they cross the international border. The IDF said in response that it has no intention of crossing the border, but that soldiers will defend themselves if fired upon.

"The aim of the operation is to confirm that no additional explosive devices are located in the area and to make it difficult for the Hezbollah terror organization to conceal explosive devices in the area in the future," said the IDF in a statement.

"Furthermore the operation emphasizes the Israeli sovereignty along the international border and increases the effectiveness of IDF operations along the border," added the statement.

At this point, the IDF Northern Command has been unable to determine as of yet whether the bombs found Monday were placed by Hezbollah recently, or whether the bombs were simply exposed due to heavy rains in the area.

Hezbollah said on Tuesday that the devices had been there since before the outbreak of the second Lebanon war on July 12.

The IDF operation is being carried out under heavy security, in order to prevent Hezbollah from attacking the troops.

Israel has updated the United Nations force in southern Lebanon (UNIFIL) regarding the military operation, making it clear the troops will not cross the international border.

According to Hezbollah's Al-Manar television, UNIFIL and Lebanese Army troops have arrived at the scene.

Defense Minister Amir Peretz on Wednesday accused Syria of allowing the rearmament of Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon and said Israel has the right to act forcefully against the Shiite militia to counter the threat.

Speaking to visiting U.S. Jewish leaders, Peretz said Syria, Hezbollah's main ally, is continuing to allow weapons shipments to the group to cross its border with Lebanon.

"We can't under any circumstances ignore the transfer of weapons and ammunition to Hezbollah," Peretz said. "While Israel remains committed to the cease-fire we reserve the right to protect the citizens of the State of Israel and we will do this forcefully without any compromises."

In Beirut, a Hezbollah official declined comment.

About two weeks ago, IDF troops destroyed two Hezbollah bunkers uncovered during searches of the area around the border fence. One of the bunkers was found during the war, and the other was uncovered last month.

Both bunkers were within Israel's territory, somewhere between the international border and the border fence. The bunkers housed supplies, food and tools that would enable a long stay underground.

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What sort of anti-Semite are you?

The quiz below is (jokingly) supposed to determine if you are a liberal anti-Semite.
I confess to scoring 10 - All the #1 answers fit my views better than the others.
The writer does not take in the full range of possibilities, I have added some (d) answers which rate -1 and help to qualify you as a not so liberal anti-Semite.
I believe in giving everyone their free choice. The answers here clearly do not reflect the opinions of the fellow who is bombarding the Web with letters insisting that Iran should be given thermonuclear weapons to use against Israel. Unfortunately, that is no joke. Likewise, they do not reflect the opinions of the Neturei Karteh and other "Liberals" mentioned in the AJC article.
Ami Isseroff

Are You a Liberal Anti-Semite?
Take this quiz and find out.
By Joe Lanzmann
Posted Friday, Feb. 2, 2007, at 1:13 PM ET

After years of rising concern about left-wing anti-Semitism, the New York Times reported this week about a study for the American Jewish Committee. Written by professor Alvin Rosenfeld of Indiana University, the study describes the spread of a virulent anti-Zionism in many quarters on the left that has helped legitimate anti-Semitism. Some people have seized on the study to argue that these extreme anti-Zionists are really anti-Jewish bigots. Critics reply that criticizing Israel, even harshly, doesn't prove animus toward the Hebrew people.

So, how can you tell if you're a good liberal who simply thinks the West Bank settlements are bad policy—or a closet Judeophobe whose progressive views mask a serious attitude problem? Take this quiz and see./p>

1. Who deserves the most blame for the Iraq war?

a) George Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld
b) Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, and Bill Kristol
c) Blame? Don't you support the troops?

d) The Jewish conspiracy

2. Which group exerts too much influence on America's Mideast policy?

a) Conservative jingoes
b) Not the Jews per se but a "pro-Israel lobby" composed mainly of wealthy New York financiers (who may well all attend the same shul)
c) Arabists at the State Department

d) The Jewish conspiracy

3. How would you characterize debate about America's Mideast policy?

a) Robust, with a full range of opinions available in various publications
b) Nonexistent, since all criticism of Israel is "taboo"
c) Biased, because the Sulzberger family of the New York Times is afraid to seem "too Jewish"

d) Nonexistent, since all criticism of Jews is "taboo"

4. Which state's offenses against humanity bother you most?

a) Sudan
b) Israel
c) Massachusetts

d) - Answer b

5. Criticism of Israel is:

a) Sometimes warranted, but needs to be kept in context and perspective.
b) The civic duty of every truly patriotic citizen who cares about America's self-interest.
c) Why are you always criticizing Israel?

d) The duty of every Christian who wants to expose the Jewish conspiracy

6. What do you think of Joe Lieberman?

a) I liked him OK when he ran with Gore, but he lost me on Iraq, school vouchers, and Social Security.
b) The most dangerous man in the Senate
c) At least there's one Democrat who isn't soft on terrorism!

d) Conservative Jew-Liberal

7. On what basis is Iran a threat to world peace?

a) I'm concerned that its unchecked nuclear-arms program will destabilize the region.
b) I'm afraid Israel will use its saber-rattling as a pretext to start World War III.
c) I pray Ehud Olmert will have the chutzpah to pull another Osirak.

d) Iran ought to nuke the Jews.

8. Jimmy Carter's use of the term "apartheid" in his new book is:

a) intended to provoke debate but clearly ill-considered
b) a gutsy, rare example of someone "speaking truth to power"
c) more of the same from the putz who put Andy Young at the UN

d) intend to appease the Jew-liberals

9. Which describes your view of the Holocaust?

a) The most horrific crime in recorded history
b) A tragedy that, incidentally, gets far more hype than the Turks' slaughter of the Armenians or the white man's annihilation of the Indians
c) Child's play compared with what Iran's Ahmadinejad has planned

d)Holocaust, what Holocaust?

e) Hitler's work is not finished (-2 for this answer)

10. The term neoconservative suggests:

a) Erstwhile leftie radicals who grew disenchanted with the welfare state.
b) A cabal of pro-Israel intellectuals who have hijacked our foreign policy.
c) A code word for "Jews" used by the people who answered (b).

d) Dupes of the Jewish conspiracy, Jews and crypto-Jews.

Your Results

Give yourself 1 point for each (a) answer, 2 points for each (b) answer, and 0 points for each (c) answer.

0-3: OK, you're not an anti-Semite. But you're not a liberal either. You win a lifetime subscription to Commentary and this sheaf of old AIPAC newsletters.

4-7: You display trace elements of atavistic fears. Your prize: a copy of The Plot Against America.

8-12: Phew! You're an unbigoted liberal—painfully capable of striking a middle ground and excruciatingly tolerant of all points of view. Please enjoy this complete set of Barack Obama's speeches.

13-16: You're clearly not nuts about Zion, but Abe Foxman won't be calling you just yet. To be safe, steer clear of any petitions emanating from British universities. Meanwhile, please claim your dinner with Tony Judt and two tickets to My Name Is Rachel Corrie!

17-20: You're an anti-Semite! You win a tour of synagogues in Italy, Argentina, and Turkey bombed by militants who are merely anti-Israel and not anti-Jewish. Also, an extended director's cut DVD of The Passion of the Christ.

Joe Lanzmann is the pseudonym of a liberal Jew who fears retribution—though precisely from whom he's not sure.

Article URL:

Copyright 2007 Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive Co. LLC

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Palestinian Unity will post diplomatic challenges for Israel

The Fatah-Hamas talks have to result in some sort of agreement. The nature of this agreement is hardly likely to be good for Israel, and will pose a serious diplomat challenge. We are likely to see adherence to an "as if" peace formula that satisfies Europe and the West without making any real move toward peace. The boycott of the Hamas led government would be rescinded, and great pressure would be applied on Israel to comply with Palestinian demands such as return of refugees and withdrawal to 1967 borders.
What could Israel's diplomatic response be, in the face of such pressure, which is likely to be brought to bear by Western countries as well as Arabs?

As I wrote elsewhere, everyone has agreed that the Palestinian unity talks that began today in Mecca must succeed, as all sides have vowed. They are held in the holy city of Mecca, and King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has put his prestige on the line for the success of the negotiations. On the other hand, as Danny Rubinstein points out in Haaretz, there is little chance that they can succeed. The real question is, how will "success" be defined? If they do "succeed," is this "success" likely to be good for Israel or for chances of peace?

Continued at Unity between Hamas and Fatah: On what platform?
Ami Isseroff

Continued (Permanent Link)

The Druze of the Golan Heights- do they want to return to Syria?

The Golan Heights has been part of Israel for more time then it was part of independent Syria. The Druze who live in the Golan are not so anxious to be "returned" to Syria, where they suffered persecution. This is obvious from talking to people off record. Here is what an article in Daily Star notes:
Most worrisome to Golan residents when it comes to a future return to Syria are economic issues. While not as rich as the bon vivants of Tel Aviv, the inhabitants have a standard of living vastly surpassing that of their counterparts on the Syrian side of the border. "Life is all about the shekels," one resident of the largest village, Majdal Shams, told me on a recent visit. The locals work hard - whether in agriculture, construction, or services - and have little regard for Syrians who, in many Golanis' minds, "drink tea and sleep all day." In Syria, working hard rarely ever translates into making more money - unless you have government connections.
The students from the Golan - a younger generation that may not have been born during the political turbulence of the 1980s - understand that they are linked to Syria by blood and to Israel by economics; however, they have found that their identity, as time has passed, is tied mainly to their small parcel of land located between Israel and Syria. They feel stuck: a part of both states, yet a part of neither. While most identify themselves as Syrian and take Syria with both its grandeur and its faults, once in Damascus these students can see how the Golan has become a rhetorical tool that has not trickled down into Syrian public consciousness. This and the fact that they can earn more in Israel are why many young Druze, as well as their parents, fear a return to Syria.
Peace between Syria and Israel will allow the people of the Golan Heights to be reunited with their families, a paramount concern on both sides of the border. However, without domestic reforms in Syria that allow people to profit from their hard work, the return of the Golan to Syria will hardly alleviate the concern the Druze have for what might come afterward.
There is little likelihood of course, that economic conditions in Syria will match those in Israel in the foreseeable future. There is also the matter of the uncomfortable status of minorities in Syria, particularly Druze, that is not discusses in this article.
Ami Isseroff

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Independent Jewish Voices - an addition to the anti-Israel lobby?

Yet another group of anti-Israel Jews has been formed.
It is not clear if this group is anti-Zionist, just critical of the occupation, or a catch-all of the discontented.
According to the Independent:
Supporters hope to create an opportunity for Jews of different political affiliations to express opinions "without being accused of disloyalty or being dismissed as self-hating", said a spokeswoman. "The idea is to create a platform for critical debate about the situation in the Middle East that until now has not existed."
Fair enough, but debate must certainly include a range of opinions. Can Zionists join this group and get a fair hearing?
Ami Isseroff

British Jews break away from 'pro-Israeli' Board of Deputies
By Martin Hodgson
Published: 05 February 2007
A new organisation to represent British Jews is to be launched today in response to a perceived pro-Israeli bias in existing Jewish bodies in the UK.
The founders of Independent Jewish Voices, IJV, which will include such luminaries as the Nobel Prize-winning playwright Harold Pinter and the historian Eric Hobsbawm, say that the group is being established as a counter-balance to the uncritical support for Israeli policies offered by established bodies such as the Board of Deputies of British Jews.
More than 100 high-profile British Jews have already signed the group's founding declaration: "Those who claim to speak on behalf of Jews in Britain and other countries consistently put support for the policies of an occupying power above the human rights of the occupied people."
Other signatories include the film director Mike Leigh, human rights lawyer Geoffrey Bindman, fashion designer Nicole Farhi and the actors Stephen Fry and Zoe Wanamaker. The initiative was born out of frustration with the assumption by non-Jews that Jewish opinion in the UK is monolithic in its support for Israel's policies.
Professor Hobsbawm told The Independent: "It is important for non-Jews to know that there are Jews ... who do not agree with the apparent consensus within the Jewish community that the only good Jew is one who supports Israel."
Supporters hope to create an opportunity for Jews of different political affiliations to express opinions "without being accused of disloyalty or being dismissed as self-hating", said a spokeswoman. "The idea is to create a platform for critical debate about the situation in the Middle East that until now has not existed."
IJV is not positioning itself as a replacement for the Board of Deputies of British Jews, but its charter includes an implicit rebuke for the Board. "The broad spectrum of opinion among the Jewish population of this country is not reflected by those institutions which claim authority to represent the Jewish community as a whole," it says.
Founded in 1760, the Board of Deputies has long been seen as the established mouthpiece for British Jews. But its unstinting support for Israel has drawn censure from critics of the country's tactics in the occupied territories. The psychologist Susie Orbach, who has also signed the IJV declaration, said: "As a Jew, I feel a particular duty to oppose the injustice that is done to Palestinians ... The Israeli government does not speak for me."
Mr Bindman said: "The easy assumption that all Jews support Israel and its ill-treatment of Palestinians is an insidious form of racism. I, like many Jews in and outside Israel, am appalled and disgusted by the illegal occupation by Israel of Palestinian territory and its brutal treatment of Palestinians."
At the height of the bombardments of Lebanon and Gaza last year, the Board of Deputies organised a rally to support Israel.
David Goldberg, the author and emeritus rabbi of the Liberal Jewish Synagogue, said: "When Israel's Jewish supporters abroad don't speak out against disastrous policies, that neither guarantee safety for her citizens nor produce the right climate in which to try and reach a just peace with the Palestinians ... then they are ... acting against Israel's own long-term interests."
The anti-Israel lobby
By Jonathan Spyer

This week saw the launching of the Independent Jewish Voices initiative by a group of prominent left-of-center Jews in the U.K. The initiative intends, according to its founding statement, to "promote the expression of alternative Jewish voices." Its sponsors believe that "individuals and groups within all communities should feel free to express their views on any issue of public concern without incurring accusations of disloyalty." The signatories wish to contend that voices critical of Israel are receiving insufficient attention in British discussions of the Middle East. The claim is a strange one.
Do opponents of Israeli government policy in the U.K., Jewish or non-Jewish, truly feel that their arguments are not being heard? Is it really their contention that the British Jewish leadership is setting up "unwritten laws," which establish the boundaries of what may or may not be discussed? If the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the main U.K. Jewish communal body, is indeed attempting to create unwritten laws and to foster anxiety to silence opponents of Israeli policy, it is doing a remarkably poor job. The public debate on Israel in the U.K. affords willing space to the most extreme of anti-Israel positions.
If we take, as an example, contributors to the Guardian, which published the IJV's founding statement, Jews who have successfully found the courage to resist the Board of Deputies and its anxiety-inducing unwritten laws include Daphna Baram, who wrote in a recent op-ed that Israel is an "apartheid state"; Jacqueline Rose, whose book, as her Guardian interviewer reminded us, "draws tentative analogies between Israel's treatment of Palestinians and Nazi Germany's treatment of Jews," and Ilan Pappe, the Israeli academic who recently wrote in support of a boycott of Israeli academia.

These opinions fit comfortably into parts of the British debate, in which denial of the right of Israel to exist and allegations of conspiracy theory are accepted within the parameters of polite discussion. British-born Jew Tony Judt, for example, was able to promote his thesis advocating the dismantling of the Jewish state in the London Review of Books.
If one expands the search for a moment to include non-Jewish opponents of Israel, it may be recalled that Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer found a home at the same title for their claim that the Jewish lobby controls U.S. foreign policy. The supposedly objective BBC Middle East editor, Jeremy Bowen, considers Israel exclusively to blame for Palestinian internecine violence, according to a recent leaked memo. This is not to mention those open supporters of Palestinian suicide bombings who are regular fixtures in the British Middle East debate - such as Dr. Azzam Tamimi.
The U.K. has seen a number of public initiatives toward the delegitimization of the Jewish state in recent years. These have included the attempted lecturers' boycott in 2005, a subsequent attempt at a similar boycott by architects and the demonstrations during last summer's war in Lebanon, featuring support for a Shi'ite Islamist organization with the slogan "We are all Hezbollah now." A number of Jewish organizations openly hostile to Israeli government policy already exist - such as Jews for Justice for the Palestinians, and the Jewish Forum for Justice and Human Rights. Such is the climate of debate in the U.K. on Israel.
In the midst of all this, the initiators of Independent Jewish Voices believe that "an oppressive and unhealthy atmosphere" has emerged, as a result of the Board of Deputies stifling anti-Israel opinions.
The Board of Deputies represents mainstream Anglo-Jewish opinion regarding Israel. Britain's Jews, like Jewish communities throughout the world, are strongly pro-Israel. The large attendance at pro-Israel rallies held on two occasions in the last years is testament to this fact.
It is generally held in mainstream Jewish opinion that the Jewish state is currently passing through a moment of some danger. An aggressive, Islamist regime in Tehran is spreading Holocaust denial and openly calling for the destruction of Israel. This regime is currently seeking a nuclear capacity. It is also sponsoring proxy organizations such as Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, which are engaged in murderous violence against Israelis.
A climate of opinion has emerged, in which a shocking increase in anti-Semitic violence in the U.K. in the last year receives less than the attention it deserves, because the perpetrators are mainly emerging from within Britain's Muslim communities.
In such a situation, unsurprisingly, individuals such as the Independent Jewish Voices initiators, who ignore these realities or who are in some cases sympathetic to the perpetrators, may find themselves treated in mainstream Jewish circles with less than the exquisite courtesy, which is undoubtedly their due.
But as we have seen, mainstream outlets in the U.K. welcoming the contributions of Jews (and non-Jews) hostile to Israel are proliferating. There are broad swathes of contemporary British opinion in which a breezy dismissal of all Israeli and Jewish concerns is very much the bon ton. There have, indeed, rarely been better days to be a Jewish opponent of Israel in Britain.
Dr. Jonathan Spyer is a senior research fellow at the Global Research in International Affairs Center at the Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya.

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Adelson Gift to Birthright Israel - We need more of the same

Birthright Israel is clearly a successful program, or so we are told, and should be encouraged. Currently funded at about $ 50 million, the program brings about 10,000 young people to visit Israel each year.
Sheldon Adelson's gift of $25 million will double the number of free trips we are told. It is not clear why $25 million extra should do that, since it doesn't double the amount of money available.
The program is widely lauded as "preventing assimilation," but there are no objective data that indicate that that is so. How can we know? Are there longitudinal studies of control groups of people who want to participate in the program, but are offered a "placebo" tour of Mexico or Italy instead? Not likely. Has the rate of assimilation gone down? Participation in the program is self-selecting of course. Those who do not care about Judaism or Israel usually won't go. Surely though, common sense dictates that the program strengthens ties with Israel.
If the program is so important, then perhaps it ought to be enlarged, both by Israel government donations and foreign charitable donations.  $50 million or even $100 million is not a large sum compared to the Israeli defense budget, or the sums spent on subsidizing Yeshiva studies. Of course, other investments, such as subsidized Hebrew and Jewish studies, might bring better results.
One improvement that might be suggested, is that a way should be found to make the program self-supporting, so that eventually every Jew who wants to visit Israel, from anywhere in the world, and cannot afford it, should be able to come here for free. This can be done in various ways, such as investing part of the endowment, taxing tourist facilities that benefit from the program, asking for voluntary donations from program participants, and offering work-study extensions of the program.
Cognitive disonnance studies suggest that people tend to undervalue things that they get for free and without effort.
Ami Isseroff

Richest US Jew pledges USD 25 million to Taglit - birthright israel

Adelson family gift will double to at least 20,000 the number of free summer trips to Israel offered to Diaspora Jews by birthright israel; 'The birthright israel program is one of the best ideas of our time,' Sheldon Adelson says
Ynetnews Published:  02.06.07, 22:03
A new gift to the Taglit - birthright Israel program (BRI) will double to at least 20,000 the number of free summer trips to Israel offered by BRI this summer.
The gift is being made by The Adelson Family Charitable Foundation, established by philanthropists Dr. Miriam and Sheldon G. Adelson, one of the world's richest people and the richest Jew in the United States.
The USD 25 million gift is in addition to a grant made by the Foundation to birthright Israel in December to fund 2,000 additional spaces for the winter session, and brings the Foundation's total contribution this year to USD 30 million. The Foundation anticipates making similar gifts to birthright Israel in future years.
Taglit - birthright Israel is funded by the Government of Israel , private philanthropists and Jewish communities around the world. The USD 25 million gift is contingent upon BRI's other funding partners maintaining their annual collective commitment of USD 51 million.
Adelson, estimated by the Forbes Magazine to be worth over USD 16 billion, said, "The birthright Israel program is one of the best ideas our time has seen because it has the greatest potential to maintain the Jewish continuity in the face of growing assimilation.
"By founding the birthright program, Michael Steinhardt and Charles Bronfman have given one of the greatest gifts to the Jewish people in our generation. We applaud their creativity and generosity, and we are privileged and honored to provide the resources to enhance the program and solidify its future," he said.
 Dr. Miriam Adelson, a physician and Israeli native, said, "Israel has an important role in Jewish life worldwide, and I am honored to be able to help thousands of young Jews to personally experience the Jewish homeland. The program's success has convinced us that our donation would be well utilized."
 Tourism industry to reap USD 36.5 million
Michael Bohnen, who recently joined the Foundation as its President, said he was pleased that birthright Israel is his first involvement in the Adelsons' philanthropic efforts.
"The Adelsons found that the mission of birthright Israel is consistent with their own: To affect a profound transformation in Jewish life by building a personal connection and commitment to Jewish community and the State of Israel," he said.
 BRI provides free, first-time, peer group, educational trips to Israel for Jewish young adults ages 18-26.
 Since its launch in 2000, the program has brought 120,000 eligible Jewish young adults from 51 countries around the world to the Jewish state. BRI estimates that in any given year, 80,000-100,000 Jews around the world are eligible for the birthright Israel gift. The long-term goal is to provide trips to at least half of eligible Jews annually.
 The extra capacity provided by the gift will eliminate the long waiting lists that were necessary the last two years. BRI Co-founding Chairman, Michael H. Steinhardt said, "The birthright Israel venture has proven to be one of the most successful educational projects in the Jewish world. This extraordinary gift moves us closer to making a trip to Israel a standard rite of passage for every young Jew."
The Foundation's gift will boost BRI's contribution to the Israeli economy. The program has already generated more than USD 220 million in tourism revenue, and the summer trip is predicted to generate over USD 36.5 million for the industry.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Israeli-Palestinian Peace process rumors

A spate of rumors and conjectures herald the possibility of renewing the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Ehud Olmert announced that he is to meet Mahmoud Abbas and Condoleeza Rice on February 19. A report in Maariv claims that secret talks are underway in fact, with encouragement (as below) from foreign sources. Nobody knows at this point however, what Palestinian government there is to negotiate with, since the Fatah and Hamas are still at odds.

European Jewish Congress reports on Israeli News
Secret negotiations

- Maariv : Negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians are supposed to be resumed shortly, after secret talks that have been under way between the parties for a while. The initiative is supposed to be regional, under American patronage, and will also include upgrading relations between Israel and Arab and Muslim countries in the region-perhaps even the establishment of relations between Israel and countries with which it currently does not have formal relations. Other countries and elements are linked to the initiative, mainly members of the "axis of moderate countries" in the region.

In the past two months intensive secret talks have been held among Israel, the United States and others, on the one hand, and Sunni Muslim states in the region that are concerned about mounting Iranian influence and the Shiite revolution that is at their doorstep, on the other.

Yoram Turbowicz and Shalom Turjeman, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's two advisers, are currently in Europe, where they met with their American interlocutors in secret. Meanwhile, Saeb Erekat and Yasser Abed Rabbo, two aides to Abu Mazen, are scheduled to leave for Washington either tomorrow or the day after. The parties are making the final preparations for the expected summit meeting in the last week of February with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, PA Chairman Abu Mazen and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. That summit is supposed to be the launching point of negotiations between the two sides, which will be defined as a framework of meetings and reciprocal examination.

Peace process can be revived, Beckett says

British foreign minister tells Israeli counterpart, 'Complexities of process should not deter Israel and the Palestinians from engaging in dialogue'; Livni underscores importance of keeping up pressure on Hamas until it renounces violence, recognizes Israel
Lilach Shoval Published:  02.06.07, 19:46
British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett said Tuesday during talks in Jerusalem with her Israeli counterpart that there exists a window of opportunity to revive the long-stalled peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.
"If we proceed carefully, there exists at the moment a possibility to push the peace process forward," Beckett told reporters after talks with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.
Beckett said that renewing Israeli-Palestinian peace talks was as much an interest of both sides as it is for moderate Arab states.
Beckett is on a two-day visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories, her first since taking office in May 2006, during which she is also scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert , Defense Minister Amir Peretz and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
 Acknowledging that such efforts could meet a dead end, Beckett said that the complexities of the peace process should not deter Israel and the Palestinians from engaging in dialogue.
Livni for her part underscored the importance of keeping up pressure on Hamas to comply with demands by the international community that it renounce violence, recognize Israel and accept past agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.
 Livni: Israel will speak with PA moderates
The international community cut off aid to the Palestinian Authority in January last year following the Islamic group's shock election victory.
"It is very important to meet with the moderate group of Palestinians in order to put on the table Israel's important needs," said Livni, adding that the US-backed road map peace plan should be the foundation for talks with the Palestinians.

The two ministers also discussed Iran' s nuclear program. Livni expressed Israel's concern at Tehran's ongoing defiance of international demands that it halts uranium enrichment.
Earlier Tuesday, Beckett met with Knesset Speaker MK Dalia Yitzik who urged the foreign secretary's assistance in securing the release of two Israeli soldiers held by Hizbullah in Lebanon and an corporal held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
 Itzik, who is filling the Presidential post while President Moshe Katsav battles rape charges, said the lack of information about the kidnapped soldiers is "inhumane."
Amnon Miranda contributed to this report

Continued (Permanent Link)

Professor Daniel Friedmann appointed Justice Minister

Professor Daniel Friedmann is appointed to fill the post of justice minister vacated by Haim Ramon, convicted of the offence of kissing a girl (not a joke).  
Information Department, Israel Foreign Ministry - Jerusalem
Jerusalem, 6 February 2007

Prof. Daniel Friedmann appointed Justice Minister
(Communicated by the Prime Minister's Media Adviser)

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert today (Tuesday), 6 February 2007, today decided to appoint Prof. Daniel Friedmann as Justice Minister.

Prime Minister Olmert decided on the appointment after consulting with senior jurists. The Prime Minister views Prof. Friedmann as the most suitable person to serve as Justice Minister.

Prof. Friedmann, a world-class jurist, will diligently work to continue strengthening the rule of law in the country, improve law enforcement, fight crime and corruption, improve service to the public and shorten the waiting time in the judicial system.

The Cabinet, the President of the Supreme Court and the Attorney General have been informed of the Prime Minister Olmert's decision.

The Cabinet will convene in special session this evening to approve the appointment, which will be submitted to the Knesset plenum tomorrow (7 February).

Prof. Daniel Friedmann

Academic Degrees:
M. Jur. (The Hebrew University), LL.M. (Harvard Law School), Dr. Jur.
(The Hebrew University).

Prof. Friedmann has been the Dean of Tel-Aviv University Law Faculty in 1974-78. He has been visiting professor at Harvard University Law School; the University of Pennsylvania Law School; Queen Mary
College - the University of London, and Fordham University Law School.

He was a member, of the Commission of Inquiry (Chairman Justice M. Beiski) appointed by the President of the Supreme Court to investigate price regulation of bank shares. He has been a member of a number
of Legislative Advisory Committees, and is presently a member of the Advisory Committee (Chairman, Justice A. Barak) appointed by the Minister of Justice for the Codification of Civil Law in Israel.

Professor Friedmann participated in the establishment of the Cegla Institute for Comparative and Private International Law at Tel Aviv University, and has been its first director. He also participated in establishing the Law School of the College of Management and was its first Dean.

Prof. Friedmann is a member of the Israeli Academy of Sciences and Humanities, member of the American Law Institute and a member (titular) of the International Academy of Comparative Law.
He is also an Adviser to the Restatement (Third) of the Law of Restitution.

His awards include the Zeltner Prize, Sussman Prize, Minkoff Prize and the prestigious Israel Prize.


Continued (Permanent Link)

Syrians rearming Hezbollah: Assad gave Hizbpllah antitank missiles

According to Ynet, Syria has given (or sold) Hezbollah anti-tank weapons, presumably for use against Israel in a future confrontation - or for use against the Lebanese army.
Syria continues to deny that it is arming Hezbollah. Inaction of Europeans is interesting, in view of their professed concern for the welfare of the Lebanese army.
Deniability is wonderful.

Assad gave Hizbullah antitank missiles
Itamar Eichner YNET  Published: 02.07.07, 08:33,7340,L-3361972,00.html

Syria has recently transferred large quantities of advanced antitank missiles to Hizbulla in Lebanon, going against a UN resolution on the subject, senior officials in Jerusalem recently learned.

The shipments include Russian-made Kornet antitank guided missiles, of the same type used by Hizbullah against Israel during the war in Lebanon.

A high ranking official reported that in wake of the war, the Shiite group realized it needs to stock up on substantial quantities of missiles that can target the Israeli armored forces.

In addition to the missiles, Israeli officials discovered that Hizbullah continues to amass Katyusha rockets, as well as medium-range and long-range rockets.

"Again, Hizbullah is growing in strength before our eyes and we're standing by idly," a Jerusalem official exclaimed.

Meanwhile, criticism in Israel is growing over UNIFIL's failure to thwart the constantly-increasing arms smuggles into Lebanon.

"Hizbullah has learned a trick: All weapons smuggles are carried out north of the Litani River, far from where the UNIFIL soldiers are stationed. The soldiers are aware of the smuggling, but are doing nothing," the official claimed.

"The only choice that remains is to demand a deployment of international forces along the border with Syria, or to make Syria pay so that it realizes Israel will not accept the transfer of arms to its enemies," he added.

In consultations held by the Foreign Ministry recently, it was decided to boost the diplomatic activity abroad, in a bid to persuade the international community to enforce the arms embargo.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

CAIR seeks to arrest anti-terrorism advocate

[Walid Shoebat is an ex-PLO member who is now a Christian, a  pro-Israel and anti-Islamist and anti-terror speaker. This is an interesting attempt by CAIR to stifle debate by having Shoebat arrested.]
CAIR-SV: 'Walid Shoebat is either a self-admitted criminal or complete fraud'

(SACRAMENTO, CA, 2/6/07) - The Sacramento Valley chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-SV) today called on campus police at the University of California - Davis (UC Davis) to detain a speaker who openly states that he has committed acts of terror.

Walid Shoebat, who is scheduled to speak at UC Davis on Tuesday, has stated publicly that he bombed an Israeli bank and participated in other acts of violence in the Middle East.

SEE: Walid Shoebat tail.lasso?eventID=5424

SEE: ALSO: Walid Shoebat Bombed Israeli Bank as a Teen paper981/news/2007/01/22/CampusNews/Former.Terr orist.To.Speak.At.Uc.Davis-2657118.shtml

"Walid Shoebat is either a self-admitted criminal or complete fraud," said CAIR-SV Executive Director Basim Elkarra. "In either case, the public and law enforcement authorities have a right to know."

Elkarra said that along with an investigation of Shoebat's self-admitted involvement in terrorism, immigration authorities should determine whether or not he revealed his past associations when entering this country.

The Muslim Student Association (MSA) at UC Davis has also called on the FBI and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to investigate and deport Shoebat.

SEE: The Muslim Student Association at UC Davis Calls for FBI to Investigate Self-Confessed Terrorist
http://www.ucdmsa.c om/index.php?categoryid=1&p2_articleid=30

Terrorism experts recently cast doubt on the claims of Zachariah Anani, another "ex-terrorist" in Canada who is an associate of Shoebat's.

SEE: Doubt Cast On Anani's Terrorist Claims (Windsor Star) ndsorstar/news/story.html?id=4a479502-4490-408e- bdb5-f2638619a62c&k=77503

Continued (Permanent Link)

Olmert says will meet Abbas, Rice on Feb 19

Olmert says will meet Abbas, Rice on Feb 19,7340,L-3361899,00.html

Prime minister tells Jewish American leaders that Israel is ready to negotiate with any Palestinian government that recognizes Jewish State, including one with Hamas; says Israel would 'remain on the sidelines' of PA infighting
Reuters Published: 02.06.07, 22:27

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said on Tuesday he would meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Feb. 19 in a renewed bid to revive stalled peace talks.

Olmert told the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in Jerusalem that he was ready to negotiate with any Palestinian government, including one with Hamas, as long as it met Western demands of recognizing the Jewish state.

He did not say where the meeting would take place.

The prime minister said he hoped Abbas, who met with Hamas leaders in Mecca, Saudi Arabia on Wednesday, would not forge a unity government

with Hamas that stopped short of meeting the demands to recognize Israel and renounce violence.

'Hope Abbas resists unity with Hamas'

"I hope that Abu Mazen (Abbas) will resist all the temptations and all the pressures to cooperate with Hamas and to establish a government that does not recognize these basic principles," Olmert said, referring to guidelines set by the Quartet of the US, United Nations, Europe and Russia.

"If the Palestinian government, no matter who is part of it, will accept the basic principles of the Quartet ... then of course it would pave the way for further negotiations with Israel," he said, and pose a "chance for major progress."

Abbas' Fatah movement and the Islamic group Hamas have been locked in a battle for power that has spiraled into violence that has killed 90 people in the Gaza Strip since December.

The fighting erupted after Abbas angered Hamas by calling for early elections when talks to form a unity government failed.

Olmert, commenting for the first time on the Palestinian infighting, said Israel would remain on "the sidelines" for now.

"But we will not be able to stretch our patience beyond a certain limit," Olmert added, suggesting Israel would take steps to ensure the Gaza violence doesn't spill over into renewed attacks on the Jewish state.

Continued (Permanent Link)

The Middle East on a Collision Course (3): The Lebanese-Syrian Front

Inquiry & Analysis-Syria/Lebanon
February 7, 2007
No. 323
The Middle East on a Collision Course (3): The Lebanese-Syrian Front
By H. Varulkar* .
Since the demonstrations of January 23 and 25, 2007 ended, calm has prevailed in the Lebanese streets. In addition, opposition leaders have stressed in their statements the aspect of a nonviolent political resolution to the crisis, and have reiterated to the Lebanese people, and particularly to their own public, that they must not be dragged into civil war. Various sources reported that the calm that currently prevails in Lebanon was the result of Iranian influence. This influence is so great that Lebanese sources have argued that the Lebanon crisis is no longer an internal matter, but is now dependent upon a regional settlement that could impose a new reality on the forces in Lebanon and even force them to make certain concessions.(1)
The stumbling block for any regional settlement is Syria, which is vehemently opposed to an international tribunal for the Al-Hariri assassination. As noted in a previous MEMRI report,(2) it was Syria that thwarted the draft agreement for Lebanon drawn up a few weeks ago by Saudi Arabia and Iran. As a result of Syria's refusal, violent clashes broke out in Lebanon.(3) However, after the clashes were stopped, Iranian-Saudi contacts were resumed and Lebanese sources reported that some progress had been made. The Saudi daily Okaz also reported that Iran would pressure Syria to accept a settlement that would include approval of the international tribunal.(4)
The difficulty in finding a solution for the Lebanese crisis is not only due to the Syrian position, but is also the result of the overall complexity of the situation in the region. The regional initiatives focus not only on Lebanon and Syria, but also on other issues, both regional and global, including: oil issues, Saudi-Iranian relations, Sunni-Shi'ite tensions, the insurgency in Iraq, Iran's nuclear program, U.S.-Russia relations, and the struggle for influence in the Middle East and in the countries of the former Soviet Union.
In a February 5, 2007 article in the Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar, which is close to Hizbullah, the daily's editor Ibrahim Al-Amin revealed that the talks between Saudi National Security Council Chairman Bandar bin Sultan and top U.S. officials had failed, and that the U.S. had rejected Iran's and Syria's conditions. According to Al-Amin, this meant that the fire would continue to rage and that no settlement was on the horizon. Al-Amin added that Lebanon was facing difficult days. 
Developments in the Lebanese Arena in Recent Weeks
Following the violent clashes in Lebanon on January 23 and 25, the positions expressed by Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah clearly became more moderate. In a speech on January 30, 2007 marking the anniversary of the Karbala massacre, Nasrallah announced that a solution to the crisis must take the form of a political settlement: "We in the opposition believe that the solution and the settlement can only be a political [solution]..."
Recently, Nasrallah has devoted significant portions of his speeches to calling on the public supporting the opposition to be restrained and temperate, and under no circumstances to be dragged into violence and civil war. Nasrallah also warned the Lebanese not to take vengeance into their own hands, because the [unity of the] state and of the military had to be protected. He also said that the weapons of the Lebanese resistance must not be used in the domestic arena, and stressed that civil war and war between Sunnis and Shi'ites were lines that must not be crossed.(5)
On February 3, 2007, the Hizbullah website reported that "Lebanon has entered a stage of ...cautious calm and undeclared hudna [temporary ceasefire], in anticipation of the results of the Saudi-Iranian efforts concerning the Lebanon crisis."(6) The Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar also reported that the opposition leaders had decided to give these diplomatic contacts a chance to bring about a solution to the crisis.(7) Likewise, opposition leaders have issued no harsh statements or threats to again escalate the situation.
Continued Mediation Efforts Fail; Sources Close to Hizbullah and Syria: "The Region Will Continue to Burn"
At the same time, Saudi-Iranian contacts have been continuing, in attempts to find a solution to the Lebanese crisis. Al-Akhbar, representing the Syria-Hizbullah axis, reported that the main obstacle in these contacts was the issue of the international tribunal, and mentioned the possibility that this issue would be postponed until the investigation of the assassination was completed.(8)
Sa'd Al-Hariri, a leader of the March 14 Forces, who visited Russia to learn its position on the international tribunal, was informed by the Russian Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee chairman that Russia did not support "unnecessary haste" in investigating the assassination. Likewise, Russian National Security Council Secretary Igor Ivanov said that "the establishment of the international tribunal must not be a source of instability in Lebanese society..."(9) Ivanov also rejected Al-Hariri's request that the international tribunal be approved by the U.N. Security Council without the signature of either the Lebanese parliament or the Lebanese president, who is known to be Syria's protégé. Moreover, Russia also refused to announce its support for the government of Fuad Al-Siniora, because Russia supports only a national unity government in Lebanon, which is Hizbullah's position.(10)
Saudi National Security Council Chairman Bandar bin Sultan, who is conducting the contacts for Saudi Arabia, went to the U.S. to discuss the crisis. In a February 5, 2007 article, Ibrahim Al-Amin reported that during the visit bin Sultan had failed to obtain U.S. backing for the understandings reached by Iran and Saudi Arabia. He wrote that Iran and Syria know that only the U.S. can provide the guarantees that they want – namely, guarantees that they will not be attacked. Therefore, bin Sultan conveyed the following messages to his American hosts: If the U.S. wants Iran and Syria to help it reduce its losses in Iraq, Palestine, and Lebanon, it must agree to a 'give and take' deal. Likewise, the U.S. cannot demand that Syria and Iran hand over all their cards. Al-Amin also stated that the U.S. had told bin Sultan that it had no intention of giving up on either the Iranian nuclear issue or on the issue of the international tribunal. As a result, Al-Amin claimed, an agreement would not be reached any time soon, and the region would continue to burn. Al-Amin concluded by saying that "Lebanon is facing difficult days" and that the opposition forces had to decide, now more than ever, which path they would take in the next phase.(11)
In recent days, various sources have been reporting on the possibility that Arab League Secretary-General 'Amr Moussa would return to Lebanon in order to renew his initiative for settling the crisis. Moussa, who is currently in Russia and who met there with top Russian officials, sent the director of his office to Lebanon on February 5 to begin talks with the various forces in Lebanon.
Lebanese opposition sources claimed that Moussa's upcoming visit will be the last chance to discuss a solution that deals with the national unity government and with the international tribunal, but leaves the issue of early parliamentary elections for discussion by the future unity government. The sources added that were Moussa's initiative to fail, the opposition would make an "irreversible" decision – to demand the establishment of a transitional government that would pass a new elections law and hold early parliamentary elections. The sources added that in such an event, all attempts by the March 14 Forces to intimidate the Lebanese public by invoking the specter of civil war would be useless, and that the opposition would be forced to escalate its activity to the maximum.(12)
A New Syrian Approach to the United States
In a February 5, 2007 interview for the American ABC TV, Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad expressed his willingness to help broker peace, saying: "We [i.e. Syria] have credibility. We have good relations with the other factions. They should trust [us] to be able to play a role. We have [these] good relations with all the parties, including the parties participating in this government, and the others who oppose the political process. So that's how we can help."(13)
This new Syrian openness to U.S. apparently stems from the fact that Iranian-Saudi negotiations for a settlement are continuing, and Assad feels that Iran is about to waive his vital interest – that is, his demand to postpone the approval of the international tribunal. 
* H. Varulkar is a Research Fellow at MEMRI.
(1) 'Okaz (Saudi Arabia), January 30, 2007.
(2) MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No. 320, "The Middle East on a Collision Course (1): Recent Saudi-Iranian Contacts to Resolve the Lebanon Crisis," January 26, 2007,
(3) It should be noted that Syrian sources denied reports that Syria had thwarted the Saudi-Iranian agreement, saying that the reports were aimed at harming Syria. The sources added that Syria knew nothing about any Saudi-Iranian initiative, but only about an exchange of ideas between the two countries. According to these sources, Syria was not setting any conditions for efforts to resolve the Lebanon crisis, and supported anything acceptable to the Lebanese. Al-Akhbar, Lebanon, February 2, 2007.
(4) Okaz (Saudi Arabia), January 30, 2007.
(5) Website of the Islamic Resistance in Lebanon, , January 28, 2007; Al-Mustaqbal (Lebanon), February 1, 2007.
(6) Website of the Islamic Resistance in Lebanon, , February 3, 2007.
(7) Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), February 1, 2007.
(8) Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), February 1, 2007, February 2, 2007. 
(9) Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), February 1, 2007.
(10) Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), February 2, 2007. The paper also reported that Al-Hariri had conveyed to Russia a Saudi request that after his visit to Saudi Arabia, Russian President Vladimir Putin would not visit Qatar, but the request was refused.
(11) Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), February 5, 2007.
(12) Website of the Islamic Resistance in Lebanon, , February 5, 2007.
(13) ABC News, February 5, 2007,

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

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

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

Continued (Permanent Link)

Summary of editorials from the Hebrew press 6-Feb-2007

Information Department, Israel Foreign Ministry - Jerusalem

(Government Press Office)
6 February 2007

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

Haaretz feels that the Council for Higher Education must allow some private colleges to operate, so as not to block accessibility to acquisition of knowledge and a profession to everyone. This must be done under scrutiny and by consistently demanding that they maintain high standards. At the same time, the state must continue offering appropriate budgets for the ivory tower of academia.

Yediot Aharonot suggests the trial of former Justice Minister Haim Ramon as a likely scenario should President Moshe Katsav indeed be indicted. The editors believe that everything possible should be done to preserve the nation's honor and avoid the ensuing media circus. The paper calls on the State Prosecutor and the President to agree on a plea bargain.

Hatzofeh dwells on the resignation of Professor David Libai as President Moshe Katsav's lead defense attorney and speculates that the President will now lose what little public support he has left.

Yediot Aharonot, in its second editorial, complains that for years we wanted to get rid of Fatah. What we got, they continue, is Hamas and now, far too late, we are haplessly doing all we can in an attempt to bring Fatah back.

Yediot Aharonot, in its third editorial, notes the passing of Menachem Bar, deputy commander of the Israel Air Force during the Six Day War and one of its founders. The editors also mark the passing of Aharon Yoeli, the first pilot - after the War of Independence - to shoot down an Egyptian aircraft. The paper laments that, in an era of "A Star is Born", society barely gives these heroes scant mention in the newspaper.

The Jerusalem Post notes that the barbarism that was directed at Israel has now turned inward, against its perpetrators. This is no particular cause for celebration. Israel will never be able to live in peace with its neighbors unless international funding for Palestinian mayhem is drastically reduced. Close oversight on funds for vital humanitarian assistance and for initiatives genuinely fostering moderation is essential

[Eitan Haber and Nitzan Kedar wrote today's editorials in Yediot Aharonot and Hatzofeh, respectively.]

Continued (Permanent Link)

Al-Baghdadi: We Find No [Blood] Sweeter Than That of the Byzantines [Christians]

Special Dispatch-Iraq/Jihad & Terrorism Studies Project
February 7, 2006
No. 1454
Abu Omar Al-Baghdadi: "We Find No [Blood] Sweeter Than That of the Byzantines [i.e. Christians]"
On February 3, 2007, Islamist websites posted a 23-minute audio recording by Emir Al-Muaminin (i.e. Commander of the Believers) Abu Omar Al-Baghdadi, whom Al-Qaeda has appointed "head of the Islamic State of Iraq." The recording, dated February 2, 2007 and titled, "Victory from Allah, Victory is Near," was issued by the Islamic State's media company Al-Furqan. In his address, Al-Baghdadi announces that the jihad arena will be extended beyond the boundaries of Baghdad. He also calls on Sunni youth to join the war against the "Crusader" forces, urges the mujahideen who have not yet done so to pledge allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq, and declares war on the "Persians," whom he characterizes as an enemy worse than the Christians.
The following are excerpts from his speech:
"We [hereby] inform the Sunnis of a [new] plan called the Plan of Honor, which is more comprehensive and more perfect [than the existing plan] and includes not only Baghdad but all parts of the Islamic State [of Iraq]... [This plan] will end with Bush announcing the failure of his [security] plan and signing an agreement of defeat... The goals of the plan are: to defend our people and our honor; to rout out the invaders and eradicate the remaining pockets and bases of heresy; to butcher the wounded Crusader tyrant and take advantage of the collapse of morale among [the Crusader] soldiers and commanders; to unite the ranks of the mujahideen and to strengthen the foundations of the Islamic State [of Iraq].      
"Oh Muslim youths, remember the cut up bodies of the children, the voices of their bereaved [parents] and the anguished cries of the elderly. Let the volcano of your wrath burst forth. Burn the ground beneath the feet of the Jews and their helpers, eradicate their army, destroy their equipment, down their planes, ambush them in their homes, in the wadis and on the roads. Hide in the darkness of night and turn their morning into hell... We are not afraid of your coalitions...We have drunk blood [in the past], and we find no [blood] sweeter than that of the Byzantines [i.e. Christians]... Roast their flesh with car bombs, cut off their supply lines with [explosive] charges and tear out their hearts with sniper fire. Know that offense is the best [form of] defense, and be careful not to lay down your weapons before the war is over... We are not fighting out of nationalism, but with the aim of making Allah's word supreme.
"To the mujahideen who have not yet pledged allegiance to the Islamic State [of Iraq], I wish to say that they are our brothers and we defend them with our bodies and tongues and do not [mean to] accuse them of heresy or corruption. But we regard their tardiness in rising to the demand of the hour – which is to unite, to adhere to the [way] of Allah and to join their brothers in the Islamic State [of Iraq] – as defiance, especially now that the infidels have united their ranks...
"O Islamic nation, we now stand where the Prophet and his companions stood in the beginning of the Medina period [when the jihad began]. Our war with the Persians has [now] begun just like our war with the Byzantines, only the Persian rule is [even] more depraved and despicable than that of the Byzantines...
"Your brother,
"Abu Omar Al-Qurashi Al-Husseini Al-Baghdadi
"Muharram 14, 1428 [February 2, 2007]"

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

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

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

Continued (Permanent Link)

Iran: Writers Struggle to Uphold Freedom of Expression

Iran: Writers Struggle to Uphold Freedom of Expression
06 Feb 2007 17:33:02 GMT
Source: Human Rights Watch
Reuters and AlertNet are not responsible for the content of this article or for any external internet sites. The views expressed are the author's alone.
New York, February 6, 2007) - Human Rights Watch announced today that seven Iranians are among the 45 writers from 22 countries who are receiving the prestigious Hellman/Hammett prize, an award that recognizes writers globally who have been victims of political persecution.

The Iranian recipients of this year's award are writers and activists whose work and activities have been variously suppressed. Beyond what they themselves have experienced, they represent numerous other writers and journalists whose personal and professional lives have been hampered as a result of repressive government policies governing speech and publications.

"The past year was a particularly difficult one for Iranian writers who had to work in an ever more restrictive atmosphere of new publishing rules and policies," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "It is important to draw international attention to their achievements under the current repressive policies."

Human Rights Watch administers the Hellman/Hammett grant program in recognition of the hardships faced by writers all around the world who have been victims of political persecution. The program is financed by the estate of the American playwright Lillian Hellman, with funds set up in her name and that of her long-time companion, the novelist Dashiell Hammett, both of whom suffered professionally during the anti-communist "witch hunts" of the 1950s.

Since the election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the situation for Iranian writers has worsened. Authorities systematically suppress freedom of expression and opinion by closing newspapers and imprisoning journalists and editors. The few independent dailies that remain heavily self-censored. Many writers and intellectuals have left the country, are in prison, or have ceased to criticize the government in their writings. Recently imposed rules of publication have further narrowed the field of acceptable speech.

This year's recipients of the Hellman-Hammett grant from Iran are:
  • Ali Ashraf Darvishian, 65, one of Iran's most prominent and prolific post-revolutionary writers, has published more than 20 books, including fiction, children's stories and a 20-volume collection of Iranian folk tales. For the past four years, government censors have banned the publication of his works.
  • Shahram Rafizadeh, 34, investigative journalist and blogger, also writes poetry and literary criticism. During the reform era, Rafizadeh was well known for writing about the role of Iranian intelligence agents in the murder of several writers and intellectuals in 1998. He was detained in September 2004 and was held in solitary confinement for 86 days.
  • Roozbeh Mir Ebrahimi, 27, worked as an editor and reporter for a number of reformist dailies that have since been shut down by the government. He investigated several high profile human rights cases, including the murder of a Canadian-Iranian photojournalist in 2003. He was detained in September 2004 and held in solitary confinement for 60 days. He has written two books on contemporary Iranian political history that have not received government permission for publication.
  • Arash Sigarchi, 28, journalist and blogger, started his career in journalism at the age of 15. He was arrested in January 2005 after he reported on human rights violations on his blog. Originally sentenced to 14 years in prison, an appeals court reduced the sentence to three years. He was recently diagnosed with cancer and is receiving treatment outside of prison.
  • Ali Afshari, 33, political analyst and human rights advocate, was imprisoned in 2000 and held in solitary confinement for 328 days for his role in the student movement. He has written numerous articles and co-authored a book on political theory. When he left Iran in 2005, the Judiciary sentenced him to six years in prison.
  • Ensaf Ali Hedayat, 41, journalist, has reported extensively on human rights violations in the Iranian province of Azerbaijan. He was arrested in June 2003, spent 74 days in solitary confinement and 18 months in prison. He currently lives in exile and is writing his prison memoirs.
  • Hassan Zarezadeh Ardeshir, 29, journalist, has written extensively on the political environment and human rights issues in Iran. He has been arrested several times and spent nearly eight months in Evin prison in 2003. In 2005, he was forced into exile, but continues to report on human rights violations in Iran from abroad.

Continued (Permanent Link)

PLO claim: 'Israeli Bulldozers Destroy Part of Al-Aqsa'

[MEW - Please note that no part of the al-Aqsa mosque was destroyed]
Israeli Bulldozers Destroy Part of Al-Aqsa
[Wafa is the  PLO news agency]
OCCUPIED EAST JERUSALEM, February 6, 2007, (WAFA )- Israeli bulldozers destroyed, Tuesday, a part of al-Aqsa Mosque in the occupied East Jerusalem.

Head of Islamic Movement in Israel, Sheikh Raed Salah, said that the Israeli bulldozers destroyed the bridge leading to Almaghariba Gate of al-Aqsa.

He added that the bulldozers would destroy two ancient rooms beneath Alburaq Wall (west of Alaqsa).

Sheikh Salah said that the Israeli destruction of parts of al-Aqsa is a part of the Israeli procedures of jeudaization of Jerusalem launched since the Israeli occupation of the city in 1967.

Sheikh Salah, who heads an association for protecting al-Aqsa, recalled that
Israel demolished several places and have been digging tunnels under al-Aqsa
since 1967.

In 1967 the Israeli Minister of Army, Mosheh Daian, flattened Almaghariba
neighbourhood closed to al-Aqsa.

S.A.S. (12:20 P) (10:20 GMT)

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Gunfire erupts at Gaza-Egypt crossing

Gunfire erupts at Gaza-Egypt crossing
Associated Press, THE JERUSALEM POST Feb. 6, 2007

Hamas and Fatah security officials traded fire at Gaza's border with Egypt on Tuesday as Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh passed through on his way to reconciliation talks between his Hamas movement and the rival Fatah group in Saudi Arabia, witnesses said.

Haniyeh, who was in a VIP hall and not in the immediate area of the firefight, crossed to Egypt unharmed, they said. He had arrived at the border crossing under heavy guard after traveling along a route lined with hundreds of Hamas gunmen on foot and in jeeps.

Although Haniyeh expressed confidence that the reconciliation talks would end months of Palestinian infighting, Tuesday's gunbattle was an ominous sign for the meeting in Mecca, which analysts have said could be the two sides' last chance to avert civil war.

The 10-minute gunbattle at the border terminal caused no injuries, said the witnesses, who demanded anonymity because of safety concerns.

Fatah and Hamas security officials offered a different version of events. They said shots were fired in the air to disperse a crowd of thousands of people who had tried to push through the border crossing after Haniyeh.

The passage - Gaza's gateway to the outside world - has been closed to outgoing traffic since January 8 because of Israeli security alerts.

The two groups have been clashing ever since Islamic Hamas militants unseated President Mahmoud Abbas's long-ruling Fatah in parliamentary elections last year. Although the separately elected Abbas remained in power, with considerable authorities, Hamas's violently anti-Israel ideology has drawn punishing sanctions by the West and Israel.

Abbas hopes a Hamas-Fatah coalition government would end the factional violence and the sanctions.

Earlier rounds of talks, some brokered by Egypt, Syria and Qatar, foundered over Hamas's refusal to recognize Israel's right to exist. Israel and Western donor countries have said their sanctions won't be lifted until
Hamas softens its position.

The negotiations follow an especially bloody round of factional violence. More than 30 people were killed and more than 200 were wounded in four days of fighting before the factions ceased fire on Sunday.

Before setting off on the trip from his house to the border, Haniyeh sounded upbeat about reaching a power-sharing agreement with Fatah.

"We will do all within our power to reach a Palestinian agreement on national unity government," said Haniyeh, whose delegation is to be led by Hamas's exiled leader, Khaled Mashaal. "We are optimistic and hopeful that we will succeed, and return to our people with an agreement that can heal our wounds and end the tension."

A senior Fatah official predicted the two sides would conclude an agreement in Mecca.

Kadoura Fares, a former Cabinet minister who met with Mashaal in his Syria  headquarters last week, told Israel's Army Radio that nearly all obstacles have been overtime during talks in recent weeks.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Saudi-funded school 'teaches religious hatred'

Saudi-funded school 'teaches religious hatred'
By Caroline Davies and Graeme Paton
The Daily Telegraph (UK) Last Updated: 2:11am GMT 06/02/2007

A Saudi-funded Islamic school in London has been accused of poisoning the
minds of pupils as young as five years with a curriculum of hate.

Colin Cook, 57, claims text books used by children at the King Fahad Academy in Acton, west London, describe Jews as "repugnant" and Christians as "pigs".

The father-of-three, a Muslim convert, allegedly heard some of them saying they wanted to "kill Americans", praising 9/11 and idolising Osama bin Laden as a "hero".

Mr Cook, who taught English for 18 years at the Academy, was sacked from his GBP 35,000-a-year post in December for alleged misconduct relating to the exams procedure. He is claiming GBP100,000 compensation for unfair dismissal, race discrimination and victimisation.

In legal papers lodged with Watford Employment Tribunal, he claims the Academy used text books by the Saudi government's Ministry of Education which taught religious hate.

"The schoolbooks presently in use describe Jews as 'monkeys' (or apes) and Christians as 'pigs'," he says in the documents. Students are asked to "mention some repugnant characteristics of Jews", and Year 1 pupils are asked to "give examples of worthless religions, such as Judaism, Christianity, idol worship and others", he adds.

He also alleges that when he complained to school chiefs about the content of the curriculum and questioned whether it complied with British laws, he was told: "This is not England. It is Saudi Arabia".

Originally founded for the children of Saudi diplomats in London, it now caters for children of British Muslims and devotes half of lessons to religious education teaching almost all classes in Arabic.

American human rights group Freedom House highlighted some of the textbooks for anti-Western and anti-Semitic views in its 2006 report called "Saudi Arabia's Curriculum of Intolerance" citing one book which instructed students to wage Jihad against "the infidel" to "spread the faith".

The Saudi government at the time did admit some of the books were "inexcusable" but denied they were being used outside Saudi Arabia. A sister school of the Academy in Bonn, which has the same name, has previously been singled out by the German intelligence services as being a meeting place for extremists.

Speaking today Mr Cook, of Feltham, south London, said the school had been "very good" until the majority of British teachers left in 2005, and claimed "there had been a move towards a pro-Saudi agenda".

He added: "It is clearly very divisive. The vast majority of Muslims, including myself, are law-abiding, tolerant of others and peaceful."

Mr Cook claims he was sacked after blowing the whistle on pupils cheating to examining board Edexcel in August 2006. The school denies his allegations and says he was rightly dismissed.

The Academy declined to comment today. But its new female principal, Dr Sumaya Alyusuf, told the Daily Telegraph last month that it had dropped the Saudi curriculum following complaints from parents it failed to prepare children for life in the UK.

The move followed an investigation in 2004 which found that the Academy was teaching British children "fundamentalist" Islam and allegedly giving girl pupils an inferior education.

However, the school has denied that its pupils have ever been subjected to extremist teaching.

A report by Ofsted, the education watchdog, in March last year praised the school for offering pupils "a balanced education and opportunities to develop their intellect and skills".

Continued (Permanent Link)

11 arrested in riots following J'lem works

11 arrested in riots following J'lem works

Police arrest rioting youths protesting Israeli works at Mugrabi Gate leading to Temple Mount, al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades threaten attacks if works continue. Israeli archeologists say works nowhere near mosques, city officials divided over legality of work permit
Efrat Weiss Published:  02.06.07, 13:20

Palestinian organizations threatened on Tuesday to respond with attacks inside Israel if its Antiquities Authority continues works to reinforce the Mugrabi Gate, which leads to the Temple Mount and is in danger of collapsing.
Several Arab youths hurled rocks at security forces Tuesday afternoon in protest at the works.

At the Shoafat refugee camp in northern Jerusalem several dozen youths hurled rocks at police forces, who dispersed the developing riot. Two youths who threw rocks at policemen near the old central bus station in East Jerusalem were also detained for questioning. In all 11 youths have been arrested.
Ramadan Adasi, a senior member of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades told Ynet earlier on Tuesday that his organization would respond with full force and will carry out attacks should the works continue. The Islamic Jihad organization said two Qassam rockets it fired earlier this morning were in response to the works.
It is now apparent that just last week Jerusalem Comptroller Shulamit Rubin deemed the permit issued for the works at the Mugrabi site illegal due to a failure of excavation directors to submit a more detailed plan.
The Ir Amim (City of Peoples) organization sent an urgent letter to Attorney General Menachem Mazuz on Monday, saying that the illegality of the building permit for the Mugrabi Gate is well knows to municipal bodies.
However Yehoshua Pollak, chairman of Jerusalem's Planning and Construction Committee, said on Tuesday. "We received the request and the authorization was issued with the approval of the city's chief engineer, the minister of internal affairs, the minister of defense, the police commissioner and the director general of the ministry of defense."
 Yuval Baruch, a Jerusalem district archeologist, said that the reinforcement works at the Mugrabi Gate are nowhere near the Temple Mount.
The Antiquities Authority intends to insert support columns for the Mugrabi Gate after the original pathway collapsed during a snow storm in 2004 and the temporary bridge constructed at the site was deemed dangerous.
The Mugrabi Gate is used by Jews and tourists to reach the Temple Mount. It is also where police prepare to break into the Mount on Fridays when riots develop at the site.
Meir Ben-Dov, an archeologist and excavation director near the Temple Mount for 39 years now, said the decision to take down the collapsing Mugrabi Gate and build two bridges in its stead may lead to bloodshed.
 "Things were pretty quiet here until now, why this combustion now? Why does it need to come to religious battles?" he said.
Jerusalem Lobby chairman MK Collette Avital (Labor) called on the government to call off the reinforcement works. "We must prevent the unnecessary tensions in Jerusalem," said Avital.
 Meretz chairman MK Yossi Beilin called the works "irresponsible", saying that might have "devastating consequences."

"Everyone who remembers the consequences of Ariel Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount and the opening of the Western Wall is taking on too great a responsibility for human life and is playing a dangerous game into the hands of extremists on the Palestinian side," added Beilin.
Ali Waked, Amnon Maranda and Meital Zur contributed to this article

Continued (Permanent Link)

Iran calls for Holocaust proof

Iran calls for Holocaust proof

Iran's World Holocaust Foundation has challenged Europe to hand over documents which detail the mass slaughter of Jews in the second world war, the Iranian state news agency IRNA has reported.

Mohammad Ali Ramin, head of the government-funded foundation, said on Tuesday that Austria, Germany and Poland in particular should supply documents.

Created following Iran's controversial Holocaust conference last year, this Iranian organisation's primary mission is to probe the authenticity of the Holocaust.

"They should hand over the proof for the dossier on the organised massacre of Jews in Europe during World War II to the independent international fact-finding committee affiliated to this foundation," he told the agency.
International outcry

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, ordered the creation of the foundation after inviting a number of controversial revisionist Holocaust researchers to a conference in Tehran in December that caused an international outcry.
Ahmadinejad has repeatedly questioned the scale of the Holocaust. He has described the mass killing of six million Jews in World War II as a "myth" and has called for Israel to be "wiped from the map".
The foreign researchers invited to the conference - some of whom have criminal records at home - gave papers claiming the Holocaust never happened on the scale assumed by the vast majority of historians.
Mainstream historians specialising in the Third Reich counter there is ample documentary proof that around six million Jews were killed by the Nazis in World War II although some estimates put the figure slightly higher or lower.
The UN general assembly last month unanimously approved a US-proposed resolution condemning denial of the Holocaust, in a move diplomats said was directly aimed at Iran.

Source: Agencies

Continued (Permanent Link)

Qassam lands near strategic site in Ashkelon

Qassam lands near strategic site in Ashkelon

Three rockets land Tuesday in Israeli territory, one hits fence of strategic site in town's industrial zone; no injuries reported
Shmulik Hadad Published:  02.06.07, 13:52

Three Qassam rockets were fired Tuesday from the Gaza Strip towards Israel.

One of the rockets landed near a northern Negev kibbutz and another hit the fence of a strategic facility in Ashkelon's industrial area, south of town.

The third rocket fell in an open field.

Upon hitting the facility's fence, the rocket set off the "Color Red" alert system and workers were asked to enter protected areas.

One of the employees told Ynet, "We heard a very loud explosion and the siren at the factory was activated. The rocket hit the fence, very close to a sensitive location. I can say that very big disaster had been prevented."

"Unfortunately, this is the reality around here. There are quite a few strategic facilities in the area, and rockets land here all the time. But it sometimes seems that no one cares," he added.

On Monday defense Minister Amir Peretz announced that a rocket interception system selected by the army will be put into use in the Sderot area first, and only later in other areas.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Hamas ministers dispute over attendance at the meeting in Mecca

Hamas ministers dispute over attendance at the meeting in Mecca
Date: 06 / 02 / 2007  Time:  10:35

Bethlehem - Ma'an - Palestinian sources revealed that there have been huge
disagreements between government members based on the Hamas ministers in the
Gaza Strip trying to prevent the participation of any of the West Bank
ministers from traveling to Saudi Arabia to participate in the meeting in

The sources said that the reason for the differences were a majority of West
Bank ministers exerting pressure to reach an agreement in Mecca, even if
Hamas has to give up some of the ministerial posts, such as the interior and
finance ministries.

On Monday the Israeli authorities prevented the ministers from the West Bank
from traveling over Allenby Bridge to Jordan. Dr. Nasser Addin Ash-Sha'er,
Palestinian deputy prime minister, said that the Israeli authorities stopped
the ministers for more than seven hours, before they were told that they
could not leave, he added that despite the efforts made by all parties, the
Israelis refused to allow them to travel.

The prime minister said earlier that the Hamas and the government delegation
are going to Saudi Arabia with open minds and hoping for the meeting to be a

Azzam Al-Ahmad, head of the Fatah bloc of the Palestinian Legislative
Council, said "the holiness of Mecca should encourage all to make the
dialogue succeed, and we in Fatah have the will to do so and are hoping that
the Hamas delegation has the same will."

In Damascus, Hamas sources said that the coming meeting in Mecca should
succeed "all conditions to make this meeting a successful one are available,
an agreement will be signed, this agreement will form the unity government
and its political platform, and also the rebuilding of the Palestine
Liberation Organisation."

The source also said that a telephone conversation between head of the Hamas
political bureau, Khaled Mash'al, and Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas,
last Friday was fruitful and participated in achieving the agreement on the
truce in the Gaza Strip.

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Zionism belongs to whom?

06.02. 2007
Original content copyright by the author
Zionism & Israel Center

Those who insist that Zionism is the cause of neo-conservatives and the right are dooming Zionism, whether that is their intention or not.

An alarming and discouraging trend has matured over the past four decades: Zionism has become identified in the mind of the public as a reactionary movement.

Historically, Zionism was primarily a movement of the Jewish working class and poor people. Failing to enlist the help of rich Jewish financiers to fund the restoration of the Jews, the Zionist movement turned instead to the common people.

The rebirth of the Jewish people was made possible in large part by the poor Jews of the world, who existed in abundance, despite stereotypes. Labor Zionism forged a new Jewish proletariat from their ranks. These Jewish workers and Jewish farmers built the Jewish state and brought the scattered remnants of the Jewish people to it. The reforestation and redemption of the land of Israel was financed in the main by thousands of little JNF boxes that appeared in every Jewish house, school and place of business.

Continued (Permanent Link)

[PNA PM Ismail] Haniyeh calls on Israeli Arabs to defend Al Aksa Mosque

Haniyeh calls on Arabs to defend Al Aksa Mosque
Etgar Lefkovits, THE JERUSALEM POST Feb. 6, 2007

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh on Tuesday called on Israel's Arabs to unite on the Temple Mount and defend the Al Aksa Mosque.

The call came following the beginning of renovation work by Israel as they began to dig at a centuries-old walkway near the Temple Mount, the holy site disputed by Muslims and Jews.

The head of the Israel Antiquities Authority told Israel Radio however that the issue was a consequence of misinformation, saying that the renovations were not actually at the Temple Mount site and that they were "staying as far away as possible from it."

Police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby said police were stationed in alleys throughout the Old City and at the entrances to the disputed compound "to thwart any attempt to disrupt order."

Police also restricted access to the site. Only women and men over 45 years old and holding Israeli identity cards were allowed access to the Temple Mount compound.

"We have begun the work in preparation for the salvage dig that is supposed to start here in the coming days in the framework of the renovation of the Mughrabi Bridge," Yuval Baruch, the Antiquities Authority's chief archaeologist for the Jerusalem region, told Israel Radio.

Officials said Monday that the planned construction of the new bridge, which has already sparked a tempest among senior Israeli archeologists, has now triggered threats of violence from Islamic trust officials over excavations.

The bridge, which is being built under the auspices of the Antiquities Authority, will replace the temporary bridge built on the section of the Western Wall allocated for women's prayer after the original stone ramp leading up to the Mughrabi Gate was removed, having been deemed unsafe by city engineers.

"Israel, who today is playing with fire when it touches Al-Aksa, knows the consequences of this playing with fire," Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal said in Damascus.

"This is a very dangerous plan," Wakf director Adnan Husseini said, warning the excavation could lead to to violence. According to decades-old regulations, Israel has overall security control on the Temple Mount, while the Wakf is charged with day-to-day administration there.

By law, Israel is required to carry out a "salvage excavation" before any construction at the site.

The new bridge, which has received a green light from both the city's planning committee and Rabbi of the Western Wall Shmuel Rabinovitch, is slated to pass above the archaeological garden adjacent to the Western Wall, and will be supported by as many as eight pylons.

The garden, located outside the southwestern corner of the Temple Mount, has been deemed one of the most significant archeological parks in the world.

The planned new bridge has provoked strong criticism among Israeli archeologists, who say it will inevitably damage antiquities, and should be scrapped.

"The only reason that this new route has been chosen is so that whoever wants to enter the Temple Mount will not approach the Western Wall plaza," said Hebrew University archeologist Dr. Eilat Mazar.

She said there was no need for the bridge - which is now slated to run nearly triple its original planned length - to run through the archeological garden, instead of via its original path.

Mazar, a leading Temple Mount expert who is also a fellow at Jerusalem's Shalem Center, said Antiquities Authority's decision to carry out the work instead of opposing it was "highly questionable."

"The simplest and most correct plan would simply have been to stay with the same route that existed for decades," said Prof. Ephraim Stern, the chairman of the Israeli Archaeological Council, whose recommendation was rejected by the authority.

The archeologists said Wakf officials and extremists Muslim leaders were exploiting the whole issue - and not their debate over the bridge's exact routing, which would require an excavation in any case - to threaten violence.

The Antiquities Authority referred all queries on the issue to the Prime Minister's Office.

The Prime Minister's Office said the matter was being taken care of by professionals, in full coordination [with the government].

The original stone ramp, which was built after the Six Day War, and served as the point of entry for non-Muslim visitors to the Temple Mount, was badly damaged by an earthquake three years ago and by inclement weather.

After being deemed unsafe by city engineers, the ramp was removed and a new bridge was built that has cut the space for women's prayer at the Western
Wall by more than a third.

The new bridge will restore the women's section to its original size.

Rabinovitch said the bridge's planned route was "the best option" available.

The haredi rabbi is opposed to Jews entering the Temple Mount, and is happy to distance the entryway to Judaism's holiest site from the Western Wall plaza.

Jordanian Prime Minister Marouf al-Bakhit told officials and experts on Monday that "the continuos digging in that holy area is a big concern to Jordan, its king, people and government," a government spokesman said.

Spokesman Nasser Judeh told the official Petra news agency that Bakhit urged experts to "follow up the issue and use all diplomatic channels to avoid any threat which could harm the safety and the identity of Al-Aqsa mosque."

AP contributed to this report.

Continued (Permanent Link)

British embassy funding Israeli NGO study on impact of separation fence

British embassy funding study on impact of separation fence
By Aluf Benn, Haaretz Correspondent Last update - 08:49 06/02/2007

The British Embassy in Israel is helping to fund research on the enclaves
created by the separation fence around Palestinian villages in the West

The study is being carried out by the non-governmental organization Bimkom-
Planners for Planning Rights. Officials from Bimkom say that the embassy
contributed about 10,000 pounds towards work on the study, but did not
interfere in its content.

A source in Israel's Foreign Ministry on Monday criticized the action. "It
is interference by Britain in an internal Israeli matter. How would they
react in London if our embassy was to fund research on a British
organization that is trying to promote an agenda that is critical of [the
government]? This is not acceptable in international relations."

The British Embassy issued the following response: "We recognize Israel's
need and right to defend itself, but we believe the route of the separation
fence should follow the Green Line. [Our] funding of the research was
intended to examine the implications of the current route of the fence on
the Palestinian population."

Bimkom's study, which was completed a few months ago, describes the
difficulties that the fence causes for Palestinians in the enclaves on
either side of the barrier. The authors of the report conclude that in
addition to the security aims of the fence, it is also intended to aid the
Jewish settlements and permit them to expand at the expense of the quality
of life of the Palestinian residents.

British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett is currently on her first
official visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority. In Israel she will
meet with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Defense
Minister Amir Peretz and the chairman of the opposition, Benjamin Netanyahu.
In Ramallah, Beckett will meet with PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.

In an announcement issued before her trip to "Israel and the Occupied
Territories," Beckett said, "I want to see for myself the prospects for
moving forward the political process."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Quakers join anti-Israel campaign

Quakers join anti-Israel campaign
Jonny Paul, THE JERUSALEM POST Jan. 29, 2007

Quakers in the UK have for the first time joined a politicized and
controversial campaign made up mainly of groups who promote an anti-Israel

A new coalition is to be launched in London on Tuesday to mark the "40th
anniversary of Israel's military occupation of Gaza and West Bank, including
East Jerusalem."

"Enough!" is a coalition of UK-based non-governmental organizations,
charities, trade unions and faith groups who are calling for an "end to the
occupation and justice for the Palestinians" while putting responsibility on

The coalition maintains they "want peace for Israelis and Palestinians
alike" and "this can only be built on justice, equality and freedom," and to
achieve this "governments like the British government must stand up for
international law and human rights." However, their motivations and
understanding of the conflict have come into question, as many of the groups
do not recognise Israel or believe in a two-state solution. Their
understanding of the conflict is highlighted on the literature advertising
the new campaign, which says: "Since that time, the government of Israel has
built 'settlements' in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and assisted its
citizens in setting up homes and businesses using land and resources stolen
from the Palestinian people. This situation has continued to the current
day, despite Israel being in violation of international humanitarian law and
over 60 UN resolutions.

"The Occupation has created serious poverty for the Palestinians, as well as
severe human rights violations. But Palestinian suffering dates back further
to 1948, when the state of Israel was created and 750,000 Palestinians were
driven or fled from their homes. The UN asserted the refugees' right to
return home in 1948, but Israel has refused to allow this. Meanwhile, the
refugee population has grown to over four million, one of the largest in the
world, many of whom live in camps waiting for international law to be
upheld. "Britain bears a particular responsibility for this suffering. From
1917 to 1948 Britain controlled Palestine. Along with the US and many EU
countries, the UK Government is today involved in a close military, economic
and political relationship with Israel and fails to stand up for the rights
of the Palestinian people."

Gavin Gross, campaigns director at the Zionist Federation of Britain, said:
"As we approach the 40th anniversary of the Six Day War, the groups
comprising the 'Enough!' coalition need to understand that Israel has since
made peace with two of its war opponents, Egypt and Jordan, on the basis of
land for peace. They should press the Palestinian leadership to genuinely
accept Israel's right to exist as Egypt and Jordan have done, because only
then can we have a peaceful two-state solution. Instead, just this morning
we heard news of a terror attack in Eilat claimed by the Al Aqsa Martyrs
Bridge, which is linked to Fatah. This is the real obstacle to peace."

Among the charities that make up the coalition is War on Want, which is
currently being investigated by the UK Charity Commission for abusing their
charity status in highly politicised and controversial campaigns against

Other groups include the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign, a socialist group
whose patrons include Jenny Tonge, who was disposed in 2004 as a Liberal
Democrat Member of Parliament for sympathising with suicide bombers and last
year was forced to stand down as a trustee of Christian Aid after her
remarks about the "financial grips of the pro-Israel lobby."

Another member is the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, who the
Jerusalem based NGO Monitor says focuses primarily on political and
ideological denunciations of Israel, including active promotion of
"apartheid" rhetoric and justification of terrorism. Their UK branch is made
up of non-Israeli volunteers who share an office with Medical Aid for
Palestinians (MAP). Both groups are part of the campaign.
MAP believes that the Palestinian right to health "is compromised by the
Israeli occupation of the West Bank, the strictures placed by Israel on Gaza
and the absence of the right of return for Palestinian refugees." The NGO
Monitor discovered that MAP works with partner organizations including the
anti-Israel Ard et-Aftal and Ard el-Insan as well as the highly politicized
Union of Palestinian Medical Relief Committees.
"MAP's ideological agenda [is] demonstrated by its selective historical
background to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the amoral equivalence of
Palestinian terrorists and their Israeli victims and advocacy against
Israeli settlements," the NGO Monitor said.

Muslim groups include the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) - the mainstream
Muslim organisation that maintains a boycott of Holocaust Memorial Day - and
the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB). Also supporting the campaign is the
radical Muslim Public Affairs Committee (MPAC), whose website hosts highly
contentious rhetoric.

On their website Monday, they blamed Israel for the infighting between Hamas
and Fatah in Gaza, saying: "For decades, Israel has been attempting to turn
Palestinians against each other. Divide To Conquer. This time Israel seems
to succeed. Late last year, body language analysis during Abbas['s meeting]
with Olmert, his wife, and his cabinet in Jerusalem said it all. The
handshakes, the kisses, the smiles, the laughs, and the whole lot gave a
message of a one team spirit. In contrast was [the] Abbas meeting with Hamas
in Ramallah in the wake of one of [the] renewed clashes. The body language
analysis showed two enemies were obliged to talk."

In response to a report in The Jerusalem Post last week on the unveiling of
an urban warfare training center in a mock city that simulates an Arab town,
MPAC said: "Israel is determined to design and practice the best way to kill
Arabs. They failed in their last war on Lebanon and discovered that they
were not prepared enough to handle guerrilla fighters in battlefields such
as 'Arab/Muslim' cities and villages such as of Palestinians, Lebanese
(maybe Iranian too), etc."

Like MAB and MCB, they boycott Holocaust Memorial Day. An MPAC
representative who visited Auschwitz in 2003 said it was because the
memorial was exclusive and remembered one group at the expense of the

"The Palestinians as group have suffered as the sympathy for the Jews after
the Holocaust was used by Zionists to create the tragedy that is Palestine,"
she said.

On their site, it says: "Genocide occurs to all nations, peoples and races.
MPACUK recognise this and want to expose the lies of those who abuse the
memory of this tragedy to justify the bloody crimes of apartheid Israel."

A response from a contributor, known as Taz, typifies some of the views
shared on the site: "Whilst the Holocaust was indeed a tragedy of epic
proportions, it is not the only act of genocide, and the fact that HMD is
being used as a political football by Zionists is inescapable. There are
lessons to be learnt from this dark episode in history, but these lessons
are being ignored. The Israelis have tattooed Palestinian civilians a scene
reminiscent of Germany in the 1940's."

Quakers are active in peace work, human rights and social reform. The
group's mission statement says the "Quaker testimonies to peace, equality,
simplicity and truth are a challenge to alleviate suffering and seek
positive social change."

Asked why they decided to join such a controversial and political campaign,
a spokesperson for Quakers Peace and Social Witness (QPSW) said: "Quakers
are engaged with issues of peace and justice, which inevitably brings them
into the political sphere. This has always been the case, and goes at least
as far back as our speaking out against slavery more than 200 years ago. We
endeavour to engage with political issues imaginatively and truthfully.

"QPSW have signed up to the 'Enough!' campaign as part of our work for peace
and reconciliation, and out of respect for human rights and international
humanitarian law.

"The call for an end to occupation is not a one-sided issue. Our view is
that the continued occupation by Israel of the West Bank and Gaza harms
Israelis as well as Palestinians because it results in a militarized Israeli
society, diverts resources to the military from other areas and contributes
to the continuing violent conflict. Moreover, we consider the long-term
psychological impact on young Israelis who are brutalised through
participation as soldiers of an occupying army. Since 1967, UN Security
Council resolutions have been calling for the withdrawal of Israel from the
West Bank and Gaza, which is what Quakers are saying, too."

Asked if they concur with the hard-line views held by members of the
coalition, the Quaker spokesperson said: "As you are aware, Quakers have
signed up to the 'Enough!' campaign and its mission statement. There is
nothing the campaign has stated so far that warrants the claim you make.
Quakers are not responsible for the views of other coalition members. Quaker
work in the region engages with both sides to the conflict."

The Council of Christians and Jews is concerned with the participation of
Christian groups such as Pax Christi and the Amos Trust. CCJ is facilitating
a meeting between "Enough!" and concerned Christians and Jews, at which they
will listen to each other, share views and talk about their concerns with
the new group.

David Gifford, chief executive of CCJ, said: "In the spirit of dialogue and
openness, we are holding a consultation, through Pax Christi, to raise
concern that this campaign is damaging to Christian-Jewish relations, in
manner and approach, and fuels discontent and does nothing for

Jon Benjamin, chief executive of the Board of Deputies of British Jews,
said: "This coalition consists of a number of members who, however
well-meaning, are being duped by the disingenuous soft-peddling tactics of
others whose track record is avowedly anti-Israel and whose aim is the
wholesale dismantling of the Jewish state. It remains to be seen whether
their campaign results in genuine bridge-building and reconciliation, or is
a catalyst for further polarisation and divisiveness."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Ramon's other failures

Ramon's other failures
By Akiva Eldar

The critics of Attorney General Menachem Mazuz claim that if a public figure tries to force his tongue into a woman's mouth, that is insufficient cause for a criminal trial. Haim Ramon's supporters say that the problematic behavior of the minister is at best deserving of a public trial. However, were we to bring Ramon to such a trial, the kiss, on the doorstep of war and on the doorstep of the Prime Minister's Office, would have only been a peripheral issue in the indictment. Ramon should have had to answer for his significant part and responsibility in two of the greatest failures of recent years: the shattering of secular central authority in the territories, and the obliteration of the peace camp in Israel.
Exhibit "A" in the public trial of the architect of the disengagement and the engineer of convergence, using the do-it-yourself method, is a collection of photographs of the war raging in the Gaza Strip. In order to emphasize the implications for Israel, we should include reports on preparations for a Gaza version of Operation Defensive Shield. In the Israel Defense Forces, as was reported in Haaretz yesterday, there is concern that the violence will not stop at the borders of the Strip. It is worthwhile to add to these quotes from an interview that Ramon gave to Ari Shavit several months prior to the disengagement. "I think that there will be no war," the minister asserted last spring, and explained that the Palestinians will have something to lose. Their living conditions will be much better, he said. There will be great pressure on their political leadership not to undertake steps that will turn the wheel backward and bring back Israeli occupation.
Furthermore, he went on to say that every attempt to reach a permanent solution - "like Camp David" - will result in a thousand more deaths. But people are not even ready for an interim agreement, he said, and therefore the option lies between the status quo and a unilateral move: To die or to perform surgery. Ramon did not take into account the possibility that sloppy surgery may lead to a disaster. The unilateral step made the Palestinian partner in dialogue redundant and nearly exhausted the possibility of restoring him to such a position. The entrenchment of Hamas in the territories boosts the position of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Jordan and Syria, to the point that these pose a serious threat to the secular regimes of the closest neighbors of Israel. This is no less serious a threat than the one posed by Iran.
In order to support this argument, it is possible to bring forth Exhibit "B" - an article published in late January in the Arabic daily Al-Sharq al-Awsat, under the headline "What will happen if the Muslim Brotherhood take over Palestine?" The columnist and intellectual, Dr. Mamoun Fandi, an Egyptian native, who is a fellow at the Baker Institute and the U.S. Institute for Peace, wrote in the article that the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood (in other words, Hamas), goes beyond the boundaries of the state. According to Fandi, a Hamas takeover of Palestine will not result in the liberation of Palestinian soil, since the Muslim Brotherhood gives priority to destroying the "enemy that is near" - i.e., the Arab states - in order to prepare for dealing with the "enemy that is far": the State of Israel.
Exhibit "C" would be the public opinion polls that portend the return of the right to power under the leadership of Benjamin Netanyahu, and the collapse of Kadima and the Labor Party. The "big bang," Ramon's brainchild, ended with a whimper - the creation of an incompatible coalition, devoid of ideological backbone and undermining the power of the peace camp in general and Labor in particular. Once Ramon, known to be a dove, announced that the Israeli left had completed its task, it is no wonder that many of the best and brightest rushed to Kadima. Once the "boy wonder" of Israeli politics pulled Shimon Peres out of a hat and placed it on Ariel Sharon's head, it was expected that Labor would lose a half-dozen mandates in the Knesset, and with them the chance of returning to power.
It is unfortunate that central figures in Israeli politics, like Ramon, destroy their careers because of stupid acts. Not only do they give politics a bad name, the focus on their pathetic scandals diverts public discourse from real problems. Perhaps we should even hope that Ramon will be acquitted during his appeal against the verdict of the "kiss trial" - but only on condition that he is put on public trial or leaves the public scene permanently.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Monday, February 5, 2007

UNIFIL enabled Hizbullah to plant border bombs

IDF: UNIFIL enabled Hizbullah to plant border bombs
Yaakov Katz, THE JERUSALEM POST Feb. 5, 2007

Defense officials slammed UNIFIL and the Lebanese government Monday night,
claiming that their "slackness" was what enabled Hizbullah to plant five
deadly explosive devices along the border between Israel and Lebanon. IDF
officials said it was possible that the bombs were planted as part of a
planned kidnapping attack similar to the July 12 abduction of reservists
Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser that sparked the war this past summer.

Defense Minister Amir Peretz transmitted a harsh-worded message to UNIFIL command in Lebanon and urged the peacekeeping force to crack down on
Hizbullah and prevent the guerrilla group from returning to the border and
carrying out attacks against Israel.

The Northern Command assessed that the bombs found on Monday, just north of
Avivim and right along the Blue Line international border between Israel and
Lebanon, were planted there only a few days ago by Hizbullah.

Soldiers from Engineering Battalion 630 under the command of Lt.-Col. Eran
Pauker discovered one of the explosive devices during a routine patrol along
the border. The bombs - weighing between 15 to 20 kilograms each - were made
of high-grade explosives and were disguised as boulders to blend in with the
rocky terrain.

"We are deployed well along the border and do all we can to prevent
Hizbullah from even getting close to Israel," said Pauker. "Due to bad
weather, however, it is possible for them to get close to the border without
us or UNIFIL noticing."

The soldiers did not cross the border, but instead detonated the bombs by
shooting at them from a distance. IDF sources in the Northern Command
described the incident as "an operational success," claiming that in the
past it had sometimes taken the IDF months to discover Hizbullah bombs and
bunkers along the border.

According to Pauker, the IDF was operating under the assumption that
Hizbullah had succeeded in planting additional bombs along the
Israeli-Lebanese border. He estimated that the stormy weather and fog served
as cover for Hizbullah terrorists when planting the five bombs along the
border several days ago.

While UNIFIL could do more to prevent Hizbullah from launching attacks
against Israel, Pauker said that IDF units were well deployed along the
border and were backed up by various electronic and technological devices
that assisted in detecting border infiltrations.

Two weeks ago, IDF troops from Pauker's battalion destroyed two Hizbullah
bunkers that were discovered during searches of the area between the
security fence and the Blue Line. The bunkers were used by Hizbullah during
the war and were filled with supplies, food and tools.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Hamas gunmen storm presidential guard post, capture 5 officers

Hamas gunmen storm presidential guard post, capture 5 officers
Published: 02.05.07, 23:53

Hamas militants stormed a small Presidential Guard post in northern Gaza on Monday night, kidnapping five of the security officers, according to Hamas and security officials.

Hamas said it kidnapped the men from President's Mahmoud Abbas' personal force because they had defied a truce by continuing to stop people - including Hamas gunmen - at roadblocks. Hamas said the men would be released soon.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Blood Libel on Lebanese TV

A reminder of the progressive and liberal forces lined up against Israel.
Special Dispatch-Lebanon/ Antisemitism Documentation Project
February 6, 2007
No. 1453

Lebanese Poet Marwan Chamoun: Jews Slaughtered Christian Priest in Damascus in 1840 and Used His Blood for Matzos

To view this Special Dispatch in HTML, visit:

The following are excerpts from an interview with Lebanese poet Marwan Chamoun, which aired on TeleLiban TV on January 30, 2007.

To view this clip visit: .

Marwan Chamoun: "How many of us Lebanese, or even Arabs, know anything about the Talmud? Or about the book, Exposing the Talmud? Or about the book, Pawns on the Chessboard? Or about another book, The Secret World Government? Or about Exposing the Talmud? Or about Blood for the Matzah of Zion, [which deals with] the slaughter of the priest Tomaso de Camangiano, who was a Sicilian with French citizenship, in the days of Muhammad Ali Pasha, in 1840..."


"[Former Syrian] Minister Mustafa Tlass wrote a voluminous book about this, in which he included all the documents written by the French diplomats and consul in Lebanon."


"The world loves the Jews. The 'ruler' is Christianity - the Christian West. Arabs, Muslims – why don't you take advantage of something like this? A priest was slaughtered in the presence of two rabbis in the heart of Damascus, in the home of a close friend of this priest, Daud Al-Harari, the head of the Jewish community of Damascus. After he was slaughtered, his blood was collected, and the two rabbis took it. Why? So they could worship their god, because by drinking human blood, they can get closer to God. Where are our diplomats and politicians? Why don't we profit from these historical matters, which are presented to us on a simple, eternal, golden platter?

"As I've said, these books can be found on the streets of Beirut. There are approximately 20 to 30 such books. I must have bought about 2,000 copies since they were published, maybe more. I'd like to say 20,000 copies, but I don't know. When somebody gets married, instead of chocolates, I give him one of these books. Whoever reads this for the first time feels a chill of horror and disbelief. He cannot believe it."

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

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

The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI)
P.O. Box 27837, Washington, DC 20038-7837
Phone: (202) 955-9070
Fax: (202) 955-9077
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Continued (Permanent Link)

Peace Now News Summary

Middle East Peace Reports

February 5, 2007 - Vol. 8, Issue 14
NO OUTPOST EVACUATIONS: Prime Minister Ehud Olmert yesterday reportedly rejected a proposal by Defense Minister Amir Peretz to evacuate three or four West Bank outposts, saying that the timing is not right. Olmert reportedly wants to defer any action until a more comprehensive plan is developed.
 Peretz's motivation for making this proposal came under attack this morning. "Peretz proposed evacuating two to three minor settlement outposts, here a trailer and there a concrete barrier; the timing of his proposal is transparent and not serious," said a senior Kadima member this morning. Another source in Olmert's party commented that "Peretz tried to pull a cheap political trick at the expense of the state before the Labor Party primary. Peretz's situation in the party is critical and everyone in Israel knows this." Those attacking the defense minister's proposal did not forget to note that since Peretz took office more than a half year ago, he has not evacuated even a single settler.
Peretz claims that he decided to push for the evacuation of some outposts now after "exhausting" efforts to negotiate the issue with settler leaders. He also expressed optimism regarding Olmert's willingness to take action, saying that "I hope we will reach an agreement on the timetable in the next few days." Peretz added that "Olmert announced he has no intention of reneging on Israel's commitment."
Former prime minister Ariel Sharon promised the Bush Administration to dismantle illegal outposts created since 2001. The cabinet has debated the matter several times, but not a single outpost has been dismantled in practice. This summer, Peretz promised U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that action would be taken after the Jewish holidays in the fall. (Ha'aretz, 2/5/07; Ma'ariv-NRG, 2/5/07; Ynet, 2/5/07)
THE SYRIA-HAMAS CONNECTION: The notion that engaging Damascus might lead to progress on the Israeli-Palestinian track has been gaining steam. Testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, former Secretary of State James Baker said that "we could get them (Syria) to get Hamas to recognize Israel's right to exist. It would be a huge step in the right direction." Baker also noted that U.S. talks with Syria also "could get them to stop arming Hezbollah." Indeed senior Egyptian presidential advisor, Osama el-Baz revealed last week that Hamas floated a proposed to recognize Israel in face-to-face talks with Israel.
In this vein, former Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami wrote on Thursday that the "2002 inter-Arab peace initiative, which Israel's prime minister praised in his speech at Sde Boker, calls for a regional solution to the conflict now that attempts to resolve it through bilateral negotiations have failed. In this initiative, the Arab League seized the monopoly on the decision to end the conflict from the Palestinians and moved it into an international forum. Internationalizing the solution is also the only chance to strengthen moderates and completely isolate Hamas, if it does not accept the conditions of the agreement. The Arab world is screaming for an Israeli-Arab agreement not because of a sudden affection for Israel, but because it sees such a move as a way to curb radical Islam and stop the spread of the Shi'ite regime under Iranian patronage. If Rice and the Quartet members are unable to cut the Gordian knot of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, instead of continuing the Sisyphean task of untying it, they're better off deciding on what steps to take so they can move over immediately to an Israeli-Syrian peace track. Such a move would have an unprecedented effect on creating the conditions for the maturation of an Israeli-Palestinian settlement."
Palestinian leaders also have been traveling to Damascus regularly in an effort to make progress to end the intra-Palestinian violence and towards a national unity government. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas met with Syrian President Bashar Assad and exiled Hamas leader Khaled Mashal two weeks ago.  A delegation representing jailed Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti returned from Damascus last week after holding talks with Mashal. According to a report in Al-Quds, the delegation – consisting of former Palestinian Foreign Minister Kadoura Faris and attorney Khader Shkeirat – held lengthy sessions with Mashal and other Hamas officials to discuss the formation of a national unity government capable of "ending the siege on the people of Palestine by means of its formation and political platform."
The costs of continued stalemate are increasingly evident. Palestinian police forces loyal to Fatah allegedly arrested seven Iranians on Wednesday in Gaza. The Iranians, including an intelligence officer and chemistry experts, were presumably offering technical assistance to Hamas. Police also captured 1,400 rifles and anti-tank rockets, as well as a lathe for manufacturing rockets. (Ynet, 1/31/07; Al-Quds, 2/1/07; Israel Radio, 2/2/07, Yedioth Ahronoth, 2/2/07; Ha'aretz, 2/2/07)
ANOTHER BRICK IN THE WALL: Prime Minister Ehud Olmert reportedly approved rerouting the separation barrier five or more kilometers eastward from the Green Line in the area of Modi'in Ilit, so that the settlements of Nili and Na'aleh will be included on the "Israeli side" of the barrier. The new route will create two Palestinian enclaves containing about 20,000 people. The combined population of Nili and Na'aleh is roughly 1,500 residents. The new route will lengthen the fence by about 12 kilometers, which is estimated to cost NIS 120 million ($28 million).
Originally, Nili and Na'aleh were supposed to be surrounded by two fences: one along the Green Line and one to their east. That plan would have also trapped five Palestinian villages between the fences. Following the 2004 Israeli High Court ruling that the barrier caused disproportionate harm to Palestinians elsewhere, the defense establishment feared that the court would do the same in this area. It therefore proposed – and the Cabinet later approved – a new route that eliminated the eastern fence.
Chairman of the Na'aleh local council, Rani Hernik – who lobbied for the change – said that a new road is also due to be paved, which will connect Modi'in Ilit, Nili, and Na'aleh with the settlement of Ofarim. Palestinians will reportedly not be permitted access to this road, but two tunnels will be built under it to allow Palestinian traffic to pass.
Settlers are also unhappy with the barrier in the area south of Bethlehem. Activist Nadia Matar explained that "now that the cement is really going up, people are beginning to understand that it is not a security fence. It is a Partition Wall, and in the age of Kassam rockets, such a border only keeps us [Israeli civilians] out, while rockets fly freely overhead." Matar is organizing a demonstration to take place on Tuesday, and sees the political weakness of the incumbent government as an opportunity: "We are in the final days of this government and we must already start passing on the message to the next MKs, ministers and government that the first issue should be to stop this fence." Other settlers are skeptical, however. One wrote in an email to his neighbors that opposing the barrier is like "knocking out collective heads against the wall – literally."
In the Judean Desert, concerns about the barrier's impact on wildlife might lead for the placement of holes in the barrier to let animals cross. Environmental organizations and the Southern Hebron Hills Regional Council protested a 27-kilometer stretch on which construction had begun. Following these complaints Defense Minister Amir Peretz froze the construction. The Defense Ministry has prepared an alternative whereby the width of the barrier would be reduced from 40 meters to 24 meters, and that holes of various sized be included for wildlife. Cameras and special sensors would ensure that people do not make sue of these crossings.  (Ha'aretz, 1/31/07; Arutz 7, 2/2/07; Yedioth Ahronoth, 1/30/07)
ROOT CAUSES: Israeli and Palestinian farmers planted approximately 1,200 olive trees near the Palestinian village of Salem, near Nablus, this weekend to replace those allegedly uprooted or cut down by settlers. The planting was organized by a Kibbutz Movement special task force, headed by Yoel Marshak, who explained that "the message is from farmer to farmer - wherever a person is hungry for food and water, we will be there. Olives are the [Palestinians'] food and main livelihood," About 150 Palestinians and 150 Israelis participated in the event, including Knesset Member Rabbi Michael Melchior. "Particularly on Tu Bishvat [the Jewish holiday celebrating a new year for trees], the holiday of trees, we would like to transmit a message of solidarity between Israeli and Palestinian farmers and the importance of obeying the law," an organizer said. (Ha'aretz, 2/4/07)
ROCKET SCIENCE: On Thursday, Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz selected a plan to develop a system to intercept short-range rockets. The "Iron Dome" system, proposed by the Israeli Rafael company, will be guided by ground radar. As the missile nears the rocket it seeks to intercept, it will explode nearby, disintegrating the enemy rocket. Rafael's plan beat proposals by Israel Military Industries, Israel Aircraft Industries, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman.
Rafael is also collaborating with Raytheon to develop a system called "Magic Wand" to intercept long- to mid-range rockets.  Both systems will be developed simultaneously and will be based on a single detection and firing system. The radar for both systems is being developed by Elta, a subsidiary of Israel Aircraft Industries, and is derived from the Arrow's radar system. A single firing mechanism will also be used by both systems, and either an Iron Cap or Magic Wand interceptor will be launched based on the speed and altitude of the incoming rocket.
The systems are expected to be technologically ready in about two years at an expected cost of NIS 2 billion ($470 million) The relatively inexpensive cost of the interceptor – about $30,000 – was reportedly a major factor in the choice of the Rafael system.
Peretz' decision followed the recommendation of incoming IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, who oversaw the decision making process, but it was second-guessed by a number of officials. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert made it clear that the final decision would be his. Knesset Member Otniel Schneller called Peretz's announcement a display of underhanded opportunism. While Pensioner's Party leader Rafi Eitan, who concluded a long career in Israel's defense establishment in 1993, said that it was premature to bet on a single system. Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh defended the decision saying that this was "a professional decision based on the recommendations of the best experts, and is devoid of external considerations."
Early last week the Syrian army reportedly conducted a successful test of a surface-to-surface Scud D missile, with a range of 700 kilometers. The missile, which was reportedly upgraded to make it hard to intercept, is capable of hitting any point in Israel. An Israeli security official was quoted saying that "the test is a cause for great concern. The Syrian missile force is continuing to improve, and poses a real threat to Israel." (Ma'ariv 2/2/07; Israel Radio, 2/2/07; Ha'aretz, 2/2 & 2/4/07; Yedioth Ahronoth, 2/2/07)
HONESTY IS THE BEST POLICY: Former Education Minister Yossi Sarid suggested on Friday that the IDF's incoming Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi "must restore telling the truth to the IDF." He noted that the "culture of telling lies" became an integral part of the military "after 1967 - following the splendid and wretched victory - and it had to happen, because this is what happens to a fighting army that becomes an army of occupation. Every occupation is a beast of prey; there is no such animal as an 'enlightened occupation.' And excuses need to be given for the villainies, in order to justify bad deeds. When the vermin multiply and the excuses run out, there is no alternative but to enlist the lies, which are the last refuge of the robber who is robbed. Even decent people start to lie, to others and mainly to themselves.
"The IDF not only occupied the territories, it also took their administration upon itself. All the governments of Israel refrained from deciding on the fate of the territories and on the future borders of the country, and the IDF was pushed into the vacuum, to its detriment. From that moment on, it was no longer possible to take politics out of the army or the army out of politics. And the politicians, for their part, were glad to see the uniform-wearers stoop to pull the chestnuts out of the fire. But this was not comfortable for the IDF, so it disguised its face with camouflage paint. Thus the 'Civil Administration' arose, which is a military government in every respect. And the Civil Administration had to cover not only for its mistreatment of the Palestinians: It also covered for the doings of the Jewish settlers in the territories throughout their generations. The army became a collaborator of the heads of the Yesha settlers' organization, whose art is mendacity. They lied right and left, and the IDF shut its eyes or winked, and consciously allowed scores of settlements to spring up like toxic mushrooms on stolen land."
After the first Intifada broke out, writes Sarid, "all too often we are informed that 'the IDF is investigating,' and only all too infrequently are we informed of what the findings are hiding… In the IDF arsenal, there is no better deterrent weapon than the truth, and like the rifle and the tank it, too, must be cleaned every day lest it rust… When the lie sticks, it is like a contagious disease and like an ineradicable ink blot. Even in recent weeks it was stated that the IDF had lifted barriers in the territories, as had been promised to the Palestinian Authority; there was no such thing. Ostensibly about 40 of about 500 roadblocks were eliminated, and they were in any case superfluous and hadn't been needed for a very long time. And at Tel Rumeida, which is now better known as Tel Sharmuta (or Tel Slut), the IDF continues to pretend to be an army that enforces the law and embodies the human spirit. And the illegal outposts are not being evacuated and will not be evacuated, because it is hard for the IDF to define its legitimate children as bastards born of forbidden marriages… Gabi Ashkenazi, thank God, is not alone in the battle for telling the truth. He still has quite a number of partners, even in the army, and not all is lost. Young officers are no longer children and they no longer play truth or consequences as though an either-or contradiction is inherent in their missions. In war games as in war itself, truth and consequences, consequences and truth, must spring from one and the same root."  (Ha'aretz, 2/2/07)

Continued (Permanent Link)



By Ziad Asali Washington Times, Opinion February 5, 2007

A major result of the war in Iraq has been the removal of the fortress that separated the Arab world, with its historical Sunni political dominance, from Shi'ite Iran.With assets in Iraq and Syria, a resurgent Iran flexed its muscles last summer through its alliances with Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Sunni Hamas in Palestine. Both alliances were cemented by a fight against Israel and signaled Iran's bid to bypass the Arab governments and claim the Palestine issue with all its attendant symbolism. It is now a regional superpower that challenges the global superpower.

The moderate Arab regimes, Israel and Mahmoud Abbas in Palestine find themselves on the side of the United States and at odds with Iran and its proxies. It cannot be expected after decades of conflict to create a coalition between the Arab states and Israel to counter the threat of a Muslim nation, albeit Shi'ite, without progress on resolving the Palestine-Israel conflict. Recent events have rendered the creation of such a state more achievable because it fits in with a global and regional strategy to build a coalition against extremism. It falls upon the Bush administration in its remaining two years to use the opportunity created by the confluence of interests of the United States, moderate Arab States and Israel to contain Iran, its proxies and militant religious Shi'ite or Sunni movements. It is also in the national interest of the Palestinians to have their own viable, independent state on land occupied in 1967. These are the ingredients of a historic compromise. The immediate challenge is to translate policy into politics.

A partnership needs to be forged between Palestinian and Israeli leaderships under an American umbrella. Unfortunately, at a time that calls for decisive leadership, all three political systems suffer from serious internal strains with leaders who lack public support. Although the parties to the Palestine-Israel conflict have never come close to signing a final agreement, there is an internationally accepted solution that calls for two states on mutually acceptable borders based on 1967. However, tribal faultlines that block its realization are never too far below the surface. Should this crucial year or two fail to bring progress on the national struggle between Israel and Palestine, the conflict may evolve into a holy war that will cast its shadow far beyond the first decade of this century.

The United States, as a strategic partner to the Palestinians and Israelis, and a coordinator of the other regional partners committed to a peaceful Middle East, has to learn from its experience to be a more effective partner.It should aim to end this conflict, and not to manage it, outsource it or let it fester. Imposing solutions, pressuring partners or yielding to the more belligerent players must be avoided.The political process must be guided by a benign vision of the end game that will be a variation on the themes of Taba, the Geneva Accord, the June 24, 2002, speech of President Bush and the newly relevant Arab League Initiative.

The Palestinians and Israelis must negotiate on their own behalf, with the guiding and gentle American hand steering them.This U.S. role is indispensable not as an honest broker but as the only power that can be effective, both in dealing with the two parties as well as with other significant players whose input and support is crucial. People should disabuse themselves of the illusion that anyone else can play this role. A trilateral meeting between Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will appropriately take place after her meetings with the Quartet and representatives of Arab leaders. A successful conclusion of the initial meetings would be an agreement on the principle of partnership, and establishing guidelines and mechanisms that govern the partnership and its objectives.

Negotiations, especially those involving two leaders with serious internal challenges, will benefit from setting a low level of expectations.The advantage of the fact that negotiations will stretch over a period of time is that this time can be put to good use by preparing the Israeli and Palestinian publics to bridge the gaps between their expectations and reality. The whole range of issues to be negotiated between Israeli and Palestinian officials need to become subjects of public debate in order to convince their skeptical publics of the seriousness of the exercise.

More Israelis need to come to terms with the need to end the occupation, the policy of humiliation of the Palestinians, and the grinding and restrictive realities of imprisonments, checkpoints and impoverishment. Eretz Israel and the religious or mythical impulse that drove it must come to terms with the reality of its unsustainability. Innovative and bold ideas have to be discussed openly about the future of Jerusalem, borders, settlements and the refugees, as well as the future relations of Israel at peace with the Palestinians and all other Arab states. Securing the future of an Israel that lives in peace and not by the sword is a goal that would be enhanced by creating a partnership with a viable state of Palestine. The present relations between the Jewish people and the German people teach us that historic animosities, no matter how brutal and gruesome, are not insurmountable eternal obstacles to reconciliation and accommodation.It should be thinkable that the ending of Palestinian humiliation and its manifestation coincide with a campaign for a more measured and serious public debate in responsible media across the Arab world on issues related to Israel and the Jewish people.

The Palestinians must clearly define what they want. At the present time their system is beyond dysfunctional. They are hopelessly divided and are in intermittent civil war. A clear choice must be made between two visions. The first is a viable, contiguous, sovereign state of Palestine established on agreed-upon 1967 borders. Arab East Jerusalem must be the capital of Palestine or the conflict will not be ended. A Palestinian state would secure the rights of the refugees based on international legality, offering them citizenship in Palestine, providing them opportunities to live elsewhere if they so choose, affording them full compensation for their losses and offering them an apology for their original losses. In exchange, would be a painful acceptance of the fact that the vast majority of the four or five million refugees will not go back to homes, villages and towns that no longer exist. The United Nations, which dispossessed the Palestinians by a resolution that created Israel in 1947, should pass a resolution to establish Palestine and offer to set up the mechanisms for compensation and resettlement.

The other vision facing the Palestinians, the one that appeals to their victimhood, calls for liberating all the land of Palestine. It is advocated these days primarily by militant Islamic parties. It carries the apocalyptic vision of repetitive wars leading to destruction of unimaginable scale, one that the bulk of the Israelis and Palestinians and many others may not survive. In the short run, this vision promises no relief from the occupation and its misery for the Palestinians, no matter what it promises to deliver in the long run.

For the Palestinians to decide between these two visions they must believe that the goal of a viable Palestinian state is achievable. A small minority of Palestinians and others call for one state. Theirs is a voice of frustration that settlement expansion has already made a viable Palestine unattainable. Their argument will carry weight if it is not answered appropriately through a negotiated agreement.

The Palestinians are justified to be skeptical as they look at the settlements and expansion of exclusive roads and suffer the consequences of an unbroken record of broken promises. Palestinian belief that the option of a viable state is real will be enhanced immeasurably if they experience a palpable and speedy improvement in the reality of their daily lives and if they are presented with a political horizon.Political dividends will accrue to Palestinian leaders who advocate this vision in direct proportion to the improvement of people's lives. This would deprive extremists of a political base and fresh recruits.

Mr. Abbas must outline his vision of a constitutional, secular, pluralistic state based on respect for the rule of law and campaign for it. In order to be effective, he must provide an answer to the central question thrown at him and at all moderates: what benefits has moderation brought us? It is in his hand, but just as importantly in the hands of others who would be his partners, to provide an acceptable answer. It is his obligation to clean up the system that he inherited but now leads, to reform and to provide accountability, safety and respect for the rule of law. It is the obligation of others to help him deliver to his people what he alone cannot do: more freedom, mobility and prosperity with a viable state at the end of the road.

A competition for the hearts and minds of the Palestinian people to choose between two visions is underway: one looks to a future of a viable, free state and the other yearns for the past to avenge injured dignity and to continue the fight. It is the collective responsibility of all those who are serious about ending this conflict to shoulder their responsibility to work together to end it in our time.

Palestine is the ultimate symbol and winning its mind and soul will determine the future of the Middle East, and perhaps world peace, for decades to come.

Ziad Asali is president of the American Task Force on Palestine.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Alongside Its Islamist Ideology, Hamas Presents Pragmatic Positions

Inquiry & Analysis-Palestinian Authority
February 6, 2007
No. 322
Alongside Its Islamist Ideology, Hamas Presents Pragmatic Positions
By Y. Carmon and C. Jacob* .
Under domestic pressure by the PLO and its leaders and external pressure by the U.S., Europe, and several Arab countries, Hamas leaders and spokesmen have been making efforts lately to present positions that are more pragmatic than their known religious-ideological principles. In addition, the Palestinian media has reported on the existence of a Hamas document which proposes a five-year hudna in return for an Israeli withdrawal to temporary borders, followed by the establishment of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders "towards a permanent peace agreement with Israel."
At the same time, Hamas leaders continue to publicly express their commitment to their established religious-ideological positions. Furthermore, some of the pragmatic statements recently made by Hamas – including the hudna document itself – have subsequently been denied by the organization.
Hamas's pragmatic statements and the hudna document, as well as the internal debate which they sparked, particularly between Hamas and Fatah, all underscore the political conflict between the two movements, and reflect Hamas's effort to extricate itself from its political and economic straits.
The following are excerpts from recent Hamas statements and from the hudna document:
Khaled Mash'al: "The State of Israel Is a Fact and a Reality"
In an interview with Reuters, Hamas Political Bureau Head Khaled Mash'al said: "The State of Israel is a fact and a reality. Hamas will deal with the challenge of the West's [demand] to recognize Israel when there is response to the demand to establish a Palestinian state...
"Hamas's position, the national Palestinian position, and the Arab position are united [regarding] the need to establish a Palestinian state within the June 4, 1967 borders, [and regarding] Jerusalem [as the capital of the Palestinian state], the refugees' right of return, and an Israeli withdrawal to the [June 4, 1967] borders. Hamas believes in this and is working to promote this [goal] at every opportunity. The problem is not a Palestinian or an Arab one; the ball is now in the court of Israel and America. The international community should seize this opportunity. Is there international willingness to force Israel to respect this right? This would lead to peace and stability in the region. The establishment of a temporary state will not solve the problem, but will only be an attempt to bypass the Palestinian rights. This is a waste of time...
"The existence of an entity called Israel is not the problem. The problem is that there is no state of Palestine, and that the fact on the ground is that Israel is [occupying] the Palestinian territories. The problem is that there is no Palestinian state, and as a Palestinian, I want a state...
"As Hamas and as Palestinians, we do not speak of recognizing [Israel] or of accepting Israel as a reality. As a Palestinian, I speak today of the Palestinian and Arab demand for a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders. True, the meaning of this reality is that there is an entity, or state, called Israel on the rest of the Palestinian lands. This is a fact, and I do not refer to it in terms of recognition but as a fact that came about in [certain] historical circumstances. Today, we speak of Palestinian-Arab willingness to accept a state within the 1967 borders on the assumption that this will ensure a certain degree of stability. The question is whether there is Israeli, American and international willingness to recognize this Palestinian demand. To date, Israel does not recognize the Palestinian rights. I am not interested in the existence of Israel or in recognizing [Israel]. This is not my problem. I am the victim, and I want to end the Palestinian suffering and the Israeli occupation, and to have a state like all other peoples."(1)
Hamas Information Bureau: Reuters Distorted Mash'al's Statement 
After the Reuters interview was published, the Hamas Information Bureau issued a statement in which it claimed that Reuters had "distorted and changed the content of [Mash'al's] statements in the introduction to the interview with [him]. For example, the introduction includes the following sentence: 'Khaled Mash'al... said that Israel is a fact, but that Hamas would [only] consider official recognition of Israel after a Palestinian state is established.' As a matter of fact, [We wish] to clarify that Khaled Mash'al did not utter the phrase 'official recognition of Israel by Hamas after the establishment of a Palestinian state' – neither explicitly nor implicitly. [This phrase] is far removed from the truth which Mash'al reiterated repeatedly in the interview, saying: 'I do not refer to this fact in terms of recognizing [Israel].'"(2)
PM Haniya: We Have No Problem with the Saudi Peace Initiative
In an interview for the Saudi daily 'Ukaz, Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniya said that the Palestinians have no disagreement with the Arabs regarding the Saudi peace initiative of 2002 (which is generally perceived as including recognition of Israel), and that it is Israel who is against this initiative: "We have already said in the media and in various channels of direct [communication] that the problem with the Arab initiative [of 2002], which was proposed by Saudi Arabia and approved [at the Arab summit] in Beirut, has to do with the Zionist enemy. Before the ink was dry on the Arab summit's decision, [Ariel] Sharon decided to invade the entire West Bank and to lay siege to Yasser Arafat in Ramallah. The problem is that the Zionist enemy does not want to deal with Arab initiatives and does not believe in the rationale of peace...
"The [Saudi] Arab initiative set as a national goal the establishment of a Palestinian state within the '67 borders, with Jerusalem as its capital. That is our goal too, and we will head in that direction. We have reservations about recognition of Israel, but I say once again that if Israel declares that it accepts the Arab initiative, we will talk with our [Arab] brothers and there will be no problem between us."(3)
In an interview with the daily Al-Quds, Haniya said: "If Israel recognizes the [Saudi] peace initiative, we will reach a formula of mutual understanding with the Arabs."(4)
Searching for a Way to Comply with the PLO and Western Demand Regarding Prior Agreements with Israel 
Following a January 21, 2007 meeting between Khaled Mash'al and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Damascus, in which the two agreed to continue the dialogue on the establishment of a national unity government, Haniya's political advisor Ahmad Yousef expressed optimism regarding the possibility of reaching a Hamas-Fatah understanding. Yousef said that "the [Palestinian] government was consulting with legal experts in order [to find] a suitable alternative to the term 'commitment' [in the phrase 'commitment to signed agreements,' proposed by Abbas], which would [be compatible with] national principles and with Hamas's positions.(5) On another occasion, Yousef clarified that the goal of the national dialogue is to settle the disagreement between Fatah, which endorses the phrasing "commitment to signed agreements with Israel" and Hamas, which is suggesting an alternative phrasing: "honoring signed agreements with Israel."(6)
The Hudna Document(7)
On December 24, 2006, the Palestinian media published the full text of Hamas's hudna document, which proposes an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank to temporary borders in return for a five-year hudna that will allow the two sides to build mutual trust. The document further proposes – under the heading "Rationale," not as part of the operative articles – that after the five-year period, the Palestinians will establish a state in all the territories occupied by Israel in 1967, with Jerusalem as its capital, and will remain committed to the right of return. Israel and Palestine will maintain normal economic ties and establish joint commercial zones and economic projects, and all political prisoners will be released.
Hamas Denies the Hudna Document
After the publication of the document, Hamas spokesmen stated that they had not known about it, and that it reflected a European initiative that has not yet been discussed by Hamas. President Abbas, on his part, declared his opposition to the establishment of a Palestinian state in temporary borders. Other Fatah members harshly criticized the concessions proposed in the hudna document, and some characterized the proposal as being worse than the Oslo Accords. Haniya's political advisor Ahmad Yousef was mentioned as one of the Hamas members responsible for drafting the document, along with European representatives, including Alistair Crooke, but Hamas denied any knowledge of this.(8) 
Ahmad Yousef, Advisor to Palestinian Prime Minister Haniya: "A Hudna Differs from a Tahdia, Which Has a Fixed Time Framework"
At a press conference, Ahmad Yousef explained that the initiative attributed to him in the Palestinian press was, in fact, a European proposal that had been presented to Hamas but had not been discussed by the movement's institutions: "Since Hamas came into power, it has [constantly] been willing to talk with the international community, and there have been several meetings at various levels with Europeans, in order to propose a hudna and [present Hamas's] positions... The hudna is an old-new proposal which was already presented as a political position by Hamas founder Ahmad Yassin in 1988. It was [later reiterated] by Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniya, by Hamas political bureau head Khaled Mash'al and by other Hamas figures and bodies. A hudna does not in any way constitute recognition of Israel; it is a political proposal [presented] in return for termination of the occupation in the 1967 territories, release of all the prisoners, and securing of the right of return. The hudna will come into effect after the withdrawal of the occupation. As a political term, a hudna differs from a tahdia, which has a fixed time framework.
"Upon receiving the European ideas, Prime Minister Haniya immediately relayed them to President Abu Mazen, during their last meeting, and presented them as European proposals that should be examined and commented upon. On his last trip [abroad], Haniya [also] presented them to several Arab leaders. We have been presenting the hudna to the whole world as a political position and program, as the [proposal] of Hamas and its government for achieving stability, security and prosperity in the region...
"There were those who had the gall to accuse Hamas and its government of having no political position or proposal, [but] today it seems that the West – and especially European countries – have begun to understand the political ideas and proposals of Hamas and its government, which can be referred to and relied upon in any future diplomatic initiative in the region. We caution about the attempts to accuse these contacts [with the Europeans] of being similar to what was achieved in Olso. The Oslo [Accords] were based on mutual recognition, on exchange of territories, and on a handful of security arrangements that limited the activity of the resistance, while our proposal completely rejects [the concept of] recognizing Israel, [which is] an occupying state, and maintains the right of our people to [continue the] resistance until the occupation withdraws."(9) 
The PLO and Fatah were unconvinced by Hamas's denials. Hani Al-Masri, a senior official in the Palestinian Information Ministry and columnist for the Palestinian daily Al-Ayyam, wrote: "I hesitated before writing about what is referred to as 'the Hamas Geneva Document,' since I thought it might be a fabrication of the Israeli media intended to fan the flames of the [internal] Palestinian conflicts. But after the press conference held by the Prime Minister's advisor Ahmad Yousef, who allegedly drafted the document, I tend to believe that the reports about this document are accurate..."(10)
Al-Ayyam columnist Ashraf Al-'Ajrami wrote: "Hamas cannot renounce the [hudna] document... European personalities transmitted it to the Israeli and Palestinian figures, presenting it as a Hamas achievement."(11)
Reactions by Fatah Members and Columnists in PA Dailies to Hamas's Hudna Document
The Document Reflects a Shift in Hamas Positions
Senior Fatah official Hassan 'Asfur, who participated in PLO-Israel talks, wrote: "[Adopting] the path of negotiation, as Dr. Ahmad Yousef has done, is a significant political turning point for Hamas. It is one in a series of steps in the political shift that Hamas has been making since it decided to participate in the elections and since it expressed its agreement to a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders."(12)
Fatah Officials: The Document Proposes Far-Reaching Concessions
Senior Fatah officials claimed that the hudna document proposes significant concessions and declared that they would oppose it. Al-Aqsa Brigades spokesman Abu Al-Walid said: "The document contravenes [our] national principles since it revokes the right of return and agrees to temporary borders. This would give Israel every opportunity to reinforce its settlements, and to rob Palestinian land and divide it up into cantons... The Al-Aqsa Brigades will fight this document by all [possible] means."(13)
The Jerusalem Committee of Fatah's Recruitment and Organization Office accused Hamas of selling out the Palestinians' national principles – including Jerusalem, the right of return and the release of the prisoners – all "in order to keep their seats [in the government] and in the ministries at the expense of the martyrs' blood, the [pain of] the injured, the suffering of the prisoners and the struggle of the people..."(14)
Fatah members and columnists in PA compared the hudna document to the Oslo Accords and to the Geneva Initiative, and spoke out against accepting a temporary solution that corresponds with Israel's plans.
Former PA minister Ahmad Majdalani, who is Abu Mazen's media advisor, wrote: "The document reveals how sincere [Hamas] was when it [brandished] slogans like 'hunger before surrender' and 'no to surrender and recognition'... The hudna proposed in the document takes us back to the starting point of the Oslo Accords: an interim solution [like the one that] expired in May 1999. In the present circumstances, we cannot tolerate another interim solution but must resolve the question of the final settlement. The hudna proposed in the document grants Israel a ceasefire for nothing, [and offers] an end to the resistance before any solution is realized on the ground. This is in complete contradiction to the positions of Hamas and its government [and their insistence] on combining [their status] as a governing authority with [continued] resistance. A five-year hudna, during which Israel will withdraw to agreed-upon temporary borders in the West Bank, [is precisely what was proposed in] the plan called 'long-term interim settlement' or 'state in temporary borders,' endorsed by Israel and America... This state with temporary borders does not include Jerusalem. The [hudna] document demands only free passage to and from Jerusalem, and does away with the guarantees [included] in the Oslo Accords regarding the protection of the places and sites holy to the Muslims and Christians."(15)
Al-Hayat Al-Jadida columnist Omar Hilmi Al-Ghul, stated that "the new Geneva document [presents] a new kind of recognition of Israel and, in essence, is no different from previous agreements."(16)
Al-Ayyam columnist Hani Habib wrote: "The hudna document does not ignore the right of return – it states that this right must be preserved... [However], the term 'preserved' is meaningless unless we set out the details and define the manner in which this right will be preserved: who has the authority, who will [be allowed to] return and where they will be allowed to return to. The document speaks of an Israeli withdrawal to an agreed-upon border in the West Bank. This is very similar to the phrasing used by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in his 'Convergence Plan'..."(17)
Al-Hayat Al-Jadida editor Hafez Al-Barghuti characterized the hudna document as worse than the Oslo Accords: "Ever since the [signing] of the Oslo Accords and until the elections, Hamas made every effort to sabotage the implementation of the Oslo Accords. [Now] that it has come into power, it [suddenly] offers a proposal that is even worse than Oslo, as though its motivation in resistance is not to defeat the occupation but to defeat Fatah and the Oslo Accords. The document should be rejected because it offers [concessions] for no reward, and since it is compatible with Sharon's unilateral plan of establishing a [Palestinian] state with temporary borders. The Palestinian negotiators rejected Sharon's plan and Olmert's [plan] that came after it, as well as the [concept of] a state within temporary borders proposed in the Road Map."(18)
Columnist Ashraf Al-Ajrami wrote: "This document is much worse than the Road Map, which speaks of a final settlement based on Bush's vision of a two-state solution and on the Arab [Saudi] peace initiative. The Hamas document cannot be compared to the Geneva document, since the latter speaks of an Israeli withdrawal from the West bank and Gaza with a 2.5% territories  exchange, of Palestinian rule in the Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem and in the [Jerusalem] Old City, except for the Jewish Quarter, and of Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian state. The [Geneva] document also speaks of resolving the refugee problem based on [U.N.] Resolution 194, proposing five options that the refugees will be able to choose from without pressure or coercion..."(19)  
Hani Al-Masri: "What Incentive Does Israel Have to Accept [the Hudna Document], When It Means that the Future Palestinian State Will Destroy the State of Israel Once It Becomes Fully Independent?"
Hani Al-Masri wrote: "The idea of a hudna in return for a state will only be realized when Palestinian tanks reach the outskirts of Tel Aviv and when Palestinian rockets threaten Jerusalem and all of Israel. What incentive does Israel have to accept [the hudna document], when it means that the future Palestinian state will destroy the state of Israel once it becomes fully independent? Therefore, I am afraid that the 'hudna in return for a state' proposal is unrealistic, and will [only] lead to a hudna [in return for] negotiations about a state. It will lead us to a temporary state... and the negotiations about the final settlement will be postponed until the end of time. We have [already] tasted the bitterness of the Oslo Accords and of the [other] interim settlements, and we do not want to replicate the [old] Fatah agreement [in the guise of] a Hamas [proposal]."(20)
Like Arafat, Hamas Has Also Failed to Combine [Its Role] as a Governing Authority with Continued Armed Resistance
Hani Al-Masri added: "Hamas says that its participation in the PA and its willingness to form a government on its own were intended to preserve the option of resistance – but as a matter of fact, Hamas suspended its resistance [activities] even before the elections when it accepted the tahdia in March 2005 and then agreed to extend it in November 2006. This position was [the result of] a natural development, whether planned or not. [Hamas understood that] it is impossible to reconcile [its role] as a governing [authority] – the existence and legitimacy of which are based on the Oslo Accords and on PLO commitments to Israel, and especially on the commitment to stop the resistance and embrace dialogue as the only way to resolve the conflict – with [the principle of] armed resistance, especially [resistance] by means of martyrdom operations inside Israel. Otherwise, why has Hamas refrained from renewing its martyrdom operations, despite the fact that over 800 [Palestinians] have been killed [by Israel] since the disengagement from Gaza, and even though over 500 have been killed since Hamas's delusional operation of kidnapping [the Israeli soldier] Gilad Shalit?...
"After the failure of the Camp David [talks], President Yasser Arafat tried, as a tactic, to combine... negotiations with armed resistance – and failed. After winning the elections, Hamas tried to do the same thing and [likewise] failed."(21)
The Hudna Document is a Hamas Attempt to Establish Its Presence and Gain Recognition 
Yousef Al-Qazzaz, a senior Palestinian Broadcasting Authority official and columnist for the PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, wrote: "The document is not intended to provide a just and permanent solution to the Palestinian problem – it is an attempt [by Hamas] to establish its presence by claiming to maintain contacts with the Europeans, even if [this attempt] is at odds with the [Palestinians'] national goals."(22)
Ashraf Al-'Ajrami argued, in a similar vein: "[In] this document, [Hamas] presents a new approach to a political settlement... [In adopting] this approach, [Hamas] does not seek to attain the goal of [establishing] an independent Palestinian state and resolving the refugee problem – it [merely] seeks to exploit the current situation and to strengthen Hamas' rule by presenting itself to Israel and to the international forces as [even] more moderate than the old Palestinian leadership. This analysis is confirmed by the article specifying the document's immediate goals, [which are] "to end the armed conflict, including the Israelis' and Palestinians' mutual attacks on each other, and to end the economic, political and international isolation [of the Palestinians]..."(23)
The Document is a Hamas Attempt to Ensure the Rule of the Fundamentalists
Former Palestinian minister Ahmad Majdalani wrote: "The main objective of Hamas is to ensure the rule of the Islamist fundamentalists in Palestine at any cost, regardless of [Palestine's] specific borders, since ensuring the rule [of Hamas]  – which is a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood – will pave the way to further successes [for the fundamentalists] in the Arab and Muslim world."(24) 
The Hudna Document Challenges the PLO's Exclusive Authority to Conduct Negotiations
Fatah Spokesman in the West Bank Dr. Jamal Nazzal said that the Hamas document violates [the principle] set out in the Prisoners' Accord, namely that conducting negotiations is the prerogative of the PLO and of the head of the PA.(25)
Former Palestinian minister Nabil 'Amr said that Abu Mazen and his aides did not know of the Hamas document, and added that, "in principle, no [Palestinian] official should... [propose] significant concessions regarding [our] political position on issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  
The Hudna Document Proves that the Conflict Between Hamas and Fatah is Over Power and not Over Political Issues  
Al-Ayyam columnist 'Abdullah 'Awad wrote: "The [Hamas] document revealed that the conflict between Fatah and Hamas, as well as between the Hamas government and the Fatah presidency, is not related to negotiations with the Hebrew state or to the political solution. The main gist of the document (the hudna and the interim solution) is a step back in the Palestinian position, which opposes the replication of the (temporary) Oslo Accords. This is the essence of Dr. Ahmad Yousef's document. If there is agreement [on the part of Hamas] to negotiations and to dialogue with the Hebrew state, and if there is agreement about the basis of the dialogue, the question that arises is: What was the reason for the internal conflicts which reached the point of armed clashes and led to casualties and wounded? The answer is: [it was all] about seats..."(26)
Appendix: Hamas's Hudna Document
"Proposal for Creating Suitable Conditions for Ending the Conflict
1.    An Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank to agreed-upon temporary borders.
2.    A five-year hudna, during which there will be no Palestinian attacks within Israel or on Israelis anywhere. There will be no Israeli attacks in the Palestinian territories or on Palestinians anywhere.
3.    Israel will refrain from taking any steps that might change the situation in the territories that were not under Israeli rule in July 4, 1967. No new buildings will be put up in the settlements, no new roads will be built there and no changes will be made in open areas.
4.    The Palestinians will be able to move freely inside the West Bank territories and to enter East Jerusalem freely.
5.    [The Palestinians] will be able to travel freely between the West Bank and Gaza and to travel freely to Egypt and Jordan.
6.    International supervision: Any violation of articles 1-5 will constitute a violation of the hudna."
The hudna will be a period of building goodwill between the Israelis and Palestinians, [which will allow] progress to be made in practical and serious measures towards establishing two viable states, side by side, that will be able to exist in the future. The hudna, which will last five years, will be a significant preparatory stage towards a permanent peace agreement with Israel. This hudna will give both peoples – the Israelis and the Palestinians – an opportunity to build mutual trust and to outline future prospects. If [the hudna] is successful, the Muslim world will grant the Palestinian government greater leeway and freedom to search for ways of permanently resolving the conflict with Israel.
"The Palestinian vision for the period after the hudna is the establishment of a Palestinian state in all the Palestinian territories occupied in 1967, with East Jerusalem as its capital, and preservation of the principle of the right of return."
"The Immediate Goal:
To end the armed conflict, including the Israelis' and Palestinians' mutual attacks on one another, and to end the international economic and political isolation of the Palestinian government, which will help the Palestinian people to develop their economy and attain prosperity."
"The Palestinians Will Undertake:
1. To honor the hudna, which
a. Will be five years in duration
b. Will be respected by all the Palestinian factions
c. Will apply to all of Israel and to the Palestinian territories occupied in 1967
2.    To cease all armed operations within Israel and all hostilities towards Israelis anywhere.
3.    To facilitate the establishment of joint Israeli-Palestinian [commercial] zones and economic initiatives (industrial, agricultural, etc.) [involving] Gaza, the West Bank and Israel.
4.    To maintain normal commercial relations with Israel
5.    To allocate all international funds to government activities and initiatives and not to the Hamas movement. To this end, the [Palestinian] government will establish an independent economic council of Palestinian academics and professionals which will work directly with the international community and will submit reports to its [representatives]. This council will oversee the governments' use of funds and will ensure compliance with the guidelines of the [international] community. 
6.    To submit transparent reports regarding the expenditure of funds from Arab and Muslim sources, which should be transferred directly to the [Palestinian] Ministry of Finance.
7.    To provide all required security guarantees (similar to those provided at the Rafah border crossing) in return for freedom of passage [between the Palestinian territories] and the rest of the world, and free international trade.
8.  To strictly observe international standards of democracy, rule of law and proper government.
9.    To strictly observe the international law and the Geneva Conventions."  
"Israel Will Undertake:
1.    To honor the hudna, which
a.    Will be five years in duration
b.   Will be respected by all the Israeli security forces
c.    Will apply to all of Israel and to the Palestinian territories occupied in 1967.
2.    To cease all types of military activity within the Palestinian territories occupied in 1967, and [all] actions of (deliberate) killing of Palestinians anywhere in world, as well as to remove all checkpoints in the Palestinian territories occupied in 1967.
3.    To suspend all Israeli construction activities (settlements, roads, schools, etc.) outside the area ruled by Israel in June 4, 1967, including the fence.
4.    To release all political prisoners.
5.    To ensure free passage and trade between Gaza and the West Bank, as well as between the occupied Palestinian territories and the Arab world.
6.    To permit the renewal of the construction of the international port in Gaza (in accordance with previous agreements) and of the airport in the West Bank (in Qalandia).
7.    To permit residents of the West Bank and Gaza to enter East Jerusalem freely; and to permit Palestinians with Jerusalem I.D. cards to enter the West Bank and Gaza, thus preserving their identity and allowing them free participation in the Palestinian political arena.
8. To establish joint Israeli-Palestinian [commercial] zones and economic initiatives (industrial and agricultural) [involving] Gaza, the West Bank and Israel, and to permit Palestinian laborers to work in Israel.
9.  To strictly observe international law and the Geneva Conventions."   
"The Role of the International Community
The international community will work to maintain the hudna and will contribute to the building of trust between the two sides. The international community will also play a role in preventing non-compliance with previous agreements. To this end, a multinational force will be established, headed by the Quartet and by Turkey, whose mission will be to ensure that both sides respect the terms of the hudna, as well as to provide security guarantees. The multinational force will assist in and ensure the implementation of the agreement and the resolving of conflicts related to it, and will impose punitive measures should the agreement be violated. Periodic reports will be submitted to the Security Council, indicating [the extent] to which each side is honoring the hudna."(27)    
*Y. Carmon is the President of MEMRI and C. Jacob is a Research Fellow for MEMRI.
(1) Al-Quds (Jerusalem), January 11, 2007; Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London) January 11, 2007. In the headline of its report, Al-Sharq Al-Awsat also quoted Mash'al as saying "there will always be a state called Israel," though this statement is not found in the report itself.  
(2) Al-Quds (Jerusalem), January 15, 2007.
(3) 'Ukaz (Saudi Arabia), January 5, 2007.
(4) Al-Quds  (Jerusalem), January 24, 2007.
(5) Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), January 25, 2007.
(6) Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), January 25, 2007.
(7) For a full translation of the document as published in the PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, see the Appendix.
(8) Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), December 24, 2006.
(9) Al-Hayat Al-Jadida  (PA), December 25, 2006.
(10) Al-Ayyam (PA), December 26, 2006.
(11) Al-Ayyam (PA), December 25, 2006.
(12) Al-Ayyam (PA), December 24, 2006.
(13) Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), December 26, 2006.
(14) Al-Quds (Jerusalem), December 25, 2006.
(15) Al-Ayyam (PA), December 27, 2006.
(16) Al-Hayat Al-Jadida  (PA), December 24, 2006.
(17) Al-Ayyam (PA), December 24, 2006.
(18) Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), December 24, 2006.
(19) Al-Ayyam (PA), December 25, 2006.
(20) Al-Ayyam (PA), December 26, 2006.
(21) Al-Ayyam (PA), December 26, 2006.
(22) Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), December 26, 2006.
(23) Al-Ayyam (PA), December 25, 2006.
(24) Al-Ayyam (PA), December 27, 2006.
(25)  Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), December 25, 2006.
(26)  Al-Ayyam (PA), December 28, 2006.
(27) Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), December 24, 2006.

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Continued (Permanent Link)

Israeli minister: Free Barghouti

A senior political ally of the Israeli prime minister has said that Israel should release its most prominent Palestinian prisoner - a man convicted in fatal attacks on Israelis - in a bid to prop up Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president.
Gideon Ezra, the environment minister, is the second senior Israeli official to recently advocate the release of Marwan Barghouti of Abbas's Fatah movement.

Barghouti is the most popular leader in the Palestinian territories, and is widely regarded as the only figure able to unify clashing Palestinian factions, rein in militants and get peacemaking with Israel moving again.

"If we want to blunt Hamas's capabilities ... and if we ultimately want a civil rather than a religious government like those taking shape across the Arab world, we have to make a contribution," Ezra told Army Radio, in defence of freeing Barghouti.

"I think it could definitely help Abu Mazen [Abbas]."

Power vacuum

Abbas and his Fatah loyalists are engaged in an increasingly deadly power struggle with the ruling Hamas faction, which rejects Israel's right to exist and unseated Fatah in elections last year.

The infighting has weakened Abbas as he tries to relaunch long-stalled peace talks with Israel, which considers him a legitimate negotiating alternative to Hamas.

Miri Eisin, Ehud Olmert's spokeswoman, said the release of Barghouti - who is serving five life sentences for the murders of four Israelis and a Greek monk - was "not on the agenda".

But Ezra, a member of Olmert's Kadima party, said Israel has freed "much worse murderers" in the past.

Several weeks ago, the deputy defence minister, Ephraim Sneh of the Labour party, also championed Barghouti's release.

Source: Agencies

Continued (Permanent Link)

Shin Bet chief: Hamas using calm to build up strength

Shin Bet chief: Hamas using calm to build up strength

Shin Bet chief says group interested in maintaining calm to smuggle arms into Gaza, showing no signs of compromise regarding its anti-Israel positions. 'We failed to come up with solution for Qassam attacks,' he adds
Hanan Greenberg Published:  02.05.07, 19:35

Hamas continues to show no sign on compromise regarding its positions against Israel and is interested in maintaining the calm to build up its strength – particularly by smuggling weapons into Gaza from Egypt, said Shin Bet Chief Yuval Diskin at a special press briefing on Monday.
He also warned that the Sinai region – where last week's suicide bomber passed through on his way to Eilat - has become a large-scale "weapons cache," maintaining a steady flow of supplies from different countries around the world. Diskin said the region now constitutes an "underbelly" to Israel's security in the long run.
He added that terror organizations continue to develop a massive tunnel infrastructure in Gaza, smuggling in an estimated 28 tons of standard-grade explosives into the Strip in 2006, this compared with an estimated 6 tons in 2005.
 The weaponry shopping list for 2006 included 14,000 assault rifles (9,300 in 2005), some 5 million armament accessories (2 million in 2005), 150 RPG rockets, 65 grenade launchers, ten upgraded anti-tank missiles and ten anti-aircraft missiles
"Terror organizations are digging tunnels from Gaza towards Israel with the intention of carrying out attacks against IDF forces in the communities adjacent to the border," said Diskin. "At the moment there are at least 10 tunnels being dug, in varying stages of progress."
Diskin also noted the use terror groups make of Egypt, saying that 43 terrorists were arrested after trying to enter Israel unlawfully, having left Gaza for Egypt with the intention of entering Israel through Egypt.
'They will prefer to kill their captive'
He admitted that Israel's security forces failed to come up with a solution for the incessant Qassam attacks on the south. "An operation in Gaza will not bring the Qassam attacks to an end," he said.

A documented 1,726 rockets fell inside Israel in 2006, compared to 401 in 2005.
The Shin Bet chief stated that 279 potential suicide bombers were arrested in the West Bank over the course of 2006, an almost 80 percent increase from last year's 154 potential bombers. The figures show that motivation towards carrying out terror attacks is still high, even if terror activity in the region appears to have gradually calmed.
Diskin said the Shin Bet had had failed in determining kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit's whereabouts, but added that information obtained by the Shin Bet indicates that he is "alive, well and in good condition."
Diskin also touched the subject of kidnappings in the West Bank.
"The working premise is that when a kidnapping like this takes place, they will prefer to kill their captive, bury his body and then negotiate. This is the soft underbelly of Israel and therefore it is extremely important that soldiers and civilians be aware of the situation," he said.

Of the last war in Lebanon and its repercussions in the territories Diskin said that the war had damaged Israel's deterrent capabilities.

There is a recorded 150 percent increase in the number of terror groups being guided by Hizbullah over the course of the first half of 2006, he said. 


Hamas digging tunnels for next battle

Movement takes advantage of PA infighting to reorganize, lay new infrastructure and collect improved weapons for next battle with IDF. Palestinian unity government bad news for Israel, whose hands are tied

Ron Ben-Yishai Published: 02.05.07, 15:41,7340,L-3361228,00.html

While Gaza gun battles continue with full-force, Hamas has quickly been setting up its new military infrastructure for a serious confrontation with the Israel Defense Forces.

Israel has been following the construction with concern, but its hands are tied, if the IDF were to act against Hamas' infrastructure, it would be interpreted throughout the world as Israeli intervention on behalf of Fatah.

Hamas and its Iranian supporters have been taking advantage of this fact and have been sending members of Hamas' "operational force" to the streets to enforce Hamas' power.

A few thousand of these men have been fighting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' security forces.

In the meantime, Hamas's military wing, the Izz ad-Din el-Qasam Brigades, and Hamas' Murabitun militia have been laying down new military infrastructures.

The work is being done in an organized, systematic manner on three levels: Digging combat tunnels, improving rocket performance and quantity, and collecting weapons, mainly antitank and antiaircraft missiles through smuggling.

The most complicated part of the reorganization is the combat tunnels, which are very similar to Hizbullah's "nature reserves" in southern Lebanon .

Unlike the latter however, which were mainly under-ground local bunkers that allowed Hizbullah fighters to launch Katyusha rockets and take cover from Israel Air Force bombings, the Gaza tunnel network will allow Hamas and Islamic Jihad fighters to carry out the combat from within.

The Gaza tunnels will allow mobility under ground to the expected points of battle with IDF forces entering the Strip, the fighters will be able to surface quickly, launch missiles or rockets and disappear only to surprise the IDF forces at another spot.

The tunnels are also meant to serve another purpose, namely to plant explosive devices at IDF entrance points, in order to detonate them and stop IDF forces from entering.

The tunnels uncovered by Palestinian security forces near the Erez crossing two weeks ago were meant for this purpose.

Fatah members rushed to announce that these tunnels were dug in order to assassinate President Abas and other Fatah officials, but it is more likely that these tunnels were meant for underground fighting between Hamas and the IDF.

The tunnels are also meant to be used for infiltrating Israeli territory. The composition of the earth in the Strip makes digging easy, and allows for relatively stable tunnels. These tunnels give Hamas a real strategic advantage.

Continued (Permanent Link)

IDF forces discover large bomb on northern border

IDF forces discover large bomb on northern border
Yaakov Katz, THE JERUSALEM POST Feb. 5, 2007

IDF engineering corps soldiers discovered a large explosive device Monday
afternoon and destroyed it along the Lebanese border south of the Israeli
community of Avivim.

IDF forces were continuing to search the area for additional bombs, as were UNIFIL forces on the Lebanese side of the border.

The IDF is also investigating the possibility that the bombs were planted by Hizbullah since last summer's war in Lebanon.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Summary of editorials from the Hebrew press 5-Feb-2007

Information Department, Israel Foreign Ministry - Jerusalem

(Government Press Office)
5 February 2007

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

Haaretz claims that we should treat Israel's claim of lack of Palestinian leadership with skepticism. Stating that Hamas is not going away, the paper argues that instead of constantly trying to decide which Israeli manipulation will work best, the government should immediately state that the country adopts the Arab League summit initiative, and that it is willing to negotiate over its basic points with any authorized Palestinian party.

Yediot Aharonot believes that Islamic extremists and moderates are battling "for the soul and the image of the Islamic Middle East," in, "Gaza, Beirut, Baghdad and - increasingly - in Tehran as well." The editors assert that "Israel stands outside the internal Arab-Islamic war of civilizations, but only seemingly: Acceptance of Israel is one of the main issues at the center of the conflict even if it is not the main focus of the controversy."

The Jerusalem Post criticizes MK Azmi Bishara's attempt to dissuade Arabs from being "accomplices in the Zionist establishment's schemes to fragment the national Arab minority", brought on by an initiative to include Arab youths in voluntary one-year civic services program which will entitle them to accrue rights to a variety of benefits. The paper claims that this should be the goal of all citizens, regardless of their ethnicity or religion.

Hatzofeh lauds Gaby Ashkenazi's abilities and military record and says that his appointment as the next IDF Chief-of-Staff "has been welcomed by security officials." The editors also suggest that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Kadima are in dire political straits.

[Sever Plocker and Moshe Ishon wrote today's editorials in Yediot Aharonot and Hatzofeh, respectively.]


Continued (Permanent Link)

ABC acknowledges errors (or bias?) in covering ME conflict

ABC acknowledges errors (or bias?) in covering ME conflict

Hat tip:
ABC acknowledges errors in coverage of mid-east conflict
by Senator Michael Ronaldson
Monday January 29, 2007
from Media Release
Senator Michael Ronaldson, Liberal Senator for Victoria, today welcomed the ABC's acknowledgement that its coverage of the Israel-Lebanon conflict in 2006 was riven with errors.
In answers to questions placed on notice by Senator Ronaldson at the Senate Supplementary Estimates Hearings in October 2006 the ABC has acknowledged that the news coverage was misleading.
The ABC specifically acknowledged that it had:
- repeatedly incorrectly described the location where Israeli soldiers were kidnapped by Palestinian terrorists;
- used language that portrayed a bias against Israel;
- made references in stories that were inconsistent with its own policies, and
- misled viewers over the history of conflict in the area.
"I welcome the ABC's admission that its reporting of the lamentable conflict in the middle-east last year did not accurately reflect the truth" Senator Ronaldson said.
At the Supplementary Estimates Hearings on 30 October 2006 Mark Scott, ABC Managing Director described the purpose of the ABC's new editorial policies as being "really about good journalism – journalism that is fair, accurate, balanced and objective; journalism that lets the facts speak."
"If these recent admissions by the ABC are the first step towards the more fair, balanced, accurate and objective reporting that Mr Scott describes then it is a welcome step forward" Senator Ronaldson said.
"The ABC must learn from its mistakes and prevent such breaches of its own standards in the future"

"I will continue to keep a close watch on the ABC in the hope that its new editorial policy and new Director will ensure that the community does not see a repeat of such errors"
"The Australian community deserves public broadcasting that is balanced and objective. The ABC's admissions make it appear that this has unfortunately not been the case in 2006"

Continued (Permanent Link)

Using language to cross an Israeli divide


Using language to cross an Israeli divide
By Nicky Blackburn   February 01, 2007^l1542

More than 9,000 Jewish schoolchildren across Israel will have a unique opportunity to learn spoken Arabic this year as part of the 'Language as a Cultural Bridge' project initiated by The Abraham Fund.

"One of our goals is to strengthen Israeli society as a multi-cultural society and the issue of language is a critical one," says Amnon Beeri-Sulitzeanu, the executive director of the Abraham Fund, a non-profit organization committed to advancing coexistence and equality in Israel. "Teaching the Arabic language and culture in Jewish schools reduces fear and stereotypes, and creates an honest and informed dialogue between the Jewish and Arab communities."

The program, which began in the fall of 2004, has expanded dramatically every year. In the first year 890 fifth graders in 15 schools were involved in the project, the following year it rose to 3,570 students in 41 schools, and in the current 2006-7 school year, 6,704 fifth, sixth and seventh graders in 65 schools from across the country are now taking part in the project. The coming school year, 2007-8 will be the biggest year yet, after news that the Jewish Agency plans to support an additional 80 schools in the north of Israel, on top of the 68 that will be involved in the project via the Abraham Fund.

In Israel, 20 percent of the population is Arab or Druze (over 1.25 million people) with Arabic as their mother tongue, but only a tiny percentage of the Jewish population can communicate in Arabic. With a few notable exceptions, Jewish and Arab children are educated separately. And while in the Arab school system, Arabic, Hebrew and English are required subjects and an integral part of the curriculum, in the Jewish school system, Arabic is not a high priority.

"Arabic is an official language of the state and the teaching of the subject is supposed to be mandatory in schools, but it is only poorly implemented and not really enforced," Beeri-Sulitzeanu told ISRAEL21c. He estimates that only about 60-65 percent of schoolchildren study Arabic some time between 1st and 12th grade.

In addition, Jewish students are only taught literary Arabic, rather than spoken Arabic - a form of the language used in daily conversation.

"It's like two different languages," says Beeri-Sulitzeanu. "You can be excellent in classical Arabic and not be able to speak a word of the real language."

Over the last years, Beeri-Sulitzeanu says there were many attempts to teach Arabic in schools, but most failed, often because the teachers themselves were Jewish.

"The incentive for teaching Arabic in the past was to know your enemy," explains Beeri-Sulitzeanu. "The army wanted people to master Arabic and join the services. Our story is different, we aren't interested in learning about the enemy, we want to learn about our friends and neighbors."

The result is that the program is primarily taught by Arabic teachers and is not only about spoken language, but also about Arabic culture and life.

"We introduce kids to the rich, fascinating, compelling Arabic culture. They learn about films, books, crafts, foods, they learn the beautiful stories of the Arabic people. It's a completely different framework from that used in the past," says Beeri-Sulitzeanu.

The curriculum involves a whole range of cultural activities which revolve around spoken Arabic. Children take part in cooking lessons, read books, see plays, learn songs and music, and even engage in physical activities - any thing that allows them to experience for themselves the different aspects of Arabic culture.

"It's a very compelling curriculum," admits Beeri-Sulitzeanu, who added that the organization studied models in Belgium, Canada (where French is the mother tongue of 23% of the population), and Spain. There were also meetings in the US and UK. In London, Beeri-Sulitzeanu met with the Council for Racial Equality.

"They are dealing with the same dilemmas and problems that we face in Israel," says Beeri-Sulitzeanu. "One of the challenges of our organization is how to exchange and adapt different models."

At present, the Fund is focusing primarily on 5th-7th graders, but it is now working on a new curriculum for 3rd and 4th graders, which it hopes to introduce soon. The ultimate goal is to continue the program from the 3rd to the 12th grade and to introduce a matriculation exam.

"We want to make Arabic a pre-condition of entry to higher education," says Beeri-Sulitzeanu.

The Abraham Fund kicked off the language project in Haifa and Carmiel because both city mayors were enthusiastic. Haifa was a natural choice because it is a mixed city, while Carmiel is in located in the mixed region of the Galilee. Funding has come from a number of sources including the European Union, the Israeli Government, specifically the Ministry of Education, the Jewish Agency, various municipalities and private funds.

To date, the project has been greeted warmly by students, teachers, parents and principals alike. Third party evaluators brought in to measure the success of the program found that it had a substantial impact on changing children's attitudes. Questionnaires were carried out before, during and after the first year of study.

"We discovered there were some pupils who said they were not interested in learning Arabic, and expressed negative attitudes towards the Arab citizens of Israel. When we tested them half a year later, and then a year later, we found out that most of those negative attitudes had changed. The children were more positive and open, they even expressed interest and curiosity and a willingness to know and learn more," said Beeri-Sulitzeanu.

An unexpected knock-on effect of this work, was that children of 'mizrahi' families (Jews that come from Arabic countries like Morocco, Iraq, and Iran who have often experienced prejudice from European Jews) came to understand and appreciate their own cultures, sometimes for the first time.

"Parents and grandparents who emigrated from Arabic countries are suddenly seen as a source of information by their grandchildren. It made them feel proud of their heritage. This was something we just didn't expect," says Beeri-Sulitzeanu.

The Abraham Fund was founded in 1989 by Alan B. Slifka, an American businessman and philanthropist, and Dr. Eugene Weiner, a writer, educator and rabbi. It works to advance coexistence, equality and cooperation among Israel's Jewish and Arab citizens by creating and operating large-scale initiatives, grassroots projects and public education.

"We try to change the reality in Israel in the area of Jewish-Arab relations," says Beeri-Sulitzeanu. "We try to identify the hot-spots of co-existence - those areas of social life and society that are critical for Jews and Arabs. In each of these areas we try to develop a model that can prove to the Israeli public and decision makers that we can live differently, that we can actually coexist."

With the Language as a Cultural Bridge project growing fast - a large number of schools are expected to join next year, the organization's aim now is to convert this success into resource allocation from the government. "We are advocating that the government endorse and implement this program with the necessary legislation," says Beeri-Sulitzeanu.

"Within a generation or so, it makes sense that all Israelis can speak in Hebrew, Arabic and hopefully English," he adds. "We need to make sure the status of the Arabic language is strong enough and recognized. It's not just about teaching Arabic, but also ensuring that it is fully represented in the public sphere."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Is Hollywood too timid for the War on Jihad?

Jewish World Review Feb. 5, 2007 / 17 Shevat 5767

Is Hollywood too timid for the War on Jihad?

By Andrew Klavan

Thanks to political correctness, you don't see much about the greatest conflict of our time on the big screen |

I recently attended "FBI 101," a G-man seminar for Hollywood writers. I do this kind of thing a lot: law enforcement seminars, ride-alongs, citizen academies and the like. It's a simple deal. The writers get information and research contacts; the lawdogs get a fighting chance at being portrayed realistically and maybe, on occasion, even sympathetically.

Now, in my case, the federales were preaching to the converted. Any agency with a record of battling gangsters, communists and dirty pols can show up as good guys in my work anytime. And never mind just their record. Since 9/11 — chastened by blunders from within and above — the FBI has reinvented itself as a thin gray line against Islamic terrorism. Pulling 16-hour days, volunteering for repeated tours of duty at FBI outposts in the Middle East, constantly aware that their failures will be remembered when their successes are forgotten, the G-people are clearly heroes.

But if they're hoping that their seminar will win them props from filmmakers in general — a picture or two celebrating their courageous work in the war on terror — I suspect they are going to be disappointed. In the history of our time as told by the movies, the war on terror largely does not exist.

Which is passing strange, you know. Because the war on terror is the history of our time. The outcome of our battle against the demographic, political and military upsurge of a hateful theology and its oppressive political vision will determine the fate of freedom in this century.

Television — more populist, hungrier for content and less dependent on foreign audiences — reflects this fact with shows such as "24" and "The Unit." But at the movies, all we're getting is home-front angst and the occasional "Syriana," in which "moderate" Islam is thwarted by evil American interests. But the notion that this war is about our moral failings is comfort fantasy, pure and simple. It soothes us with the false idea that, if we but mend ourselves, the scary people will leave us alone.

The real world is both darker than that and lighted brighter in places by surprising fires of nobility. It's darker because our enemies were not created by the peccadilloes of free people and will not melt away before a moral perfection that we, in any case, can never achieve. It's brighter because there are heroes like the FBI, the military and the cop on the corner who will give up everything, even their lives, to stop these madmen.

That kind of rousing story seems tailor-made for films. So why aren't they telling it? It's not just about left and right, blue and red; it really isn't. You don't have to like President Bush or support our efforts in Iraq to understand the threat of conspirators plotting to kill your children in the name of jihad.

In all fairness, moviemakers have a legitimately baffling problem with the nature of the war itself. In order to honestly dramatize the simple truth about this existential struggle, you have to depict right-minded Americans — some of whom may be white and male and Christian — hunting down and killing dark-skinned villains of a false and wicked creed. That's what's happening, on a good day anyway, so that's what you'd have to show.

Moviemakers are reluctant to do that because, even though it's the truth, on screen it might appear bigoted and jingoistic. You can call that political correctness or multiculturalism gone mad — and sure, there's a lot of that going around. But despite what you might have heard, there are sensible, patriotic people in the movie business too. And even they, I suspect, falter before the prospect of presenting such a scenario.

We cherish the religious tolerance of our society, after all. Plus, we're less than a lifetime away from Jim Crow and, decent people that we are, we're rightly humbled by the moral failures of our past. We've become uncomfortable to the point of paralysis when reality draws the limits of tolerance and survival demands pride in our traditions and ferocity in their defense. We can show homegrown terrorists in, say, "Deja Vu" or real-life ones, as in "United 93," but we can't bring ourselves to fictionalize the larger idea: Islamo-fascism is an evil and American liberty a good.

Which is a shame. It's a shame for so powerful an art form to become irrelevant because we can't find a way to dramatize the central event of our time. It's a shame that we live under the tireless protection of lawmen and warriors and don't pay tribute to them. And purely in artistic terms, it's a shame that so many great stories are just waiting to be told and we're not telling them.

But thanks, anyway, to the men and women of the FBI, for the seminar and, oh yeah, for trying to keep me alive and free. You truly have my gratitude. Just don't expect to see it at the movies.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Clash of Muslim civilizations

Sever Plocker 
Clash of Muslim civilizations

Outcome of current conflicts will determine future of Mideast's Muslims
Published:  02.05.07, 11:43

There are currently several volatile fronts in the Mideast but only one war. In Gaza, Beirut, and Baghdad and increasingly in Iran as well, a great war is now being waged over the soul and image of the Muslim Mideast.
Pitted against each other in this war are radical Islam against the moderates; jihadists against human rights activists; terrorists against civilians, and for the first time in this type of conflict in the Arab world, even moderates are taking up arms and fighting back the attackers.
The outcome of this conflict will determine the future and character of the Arab-Muslim civilization in the Middle East. If Hamas defeats Fatah in Gaza, if Hizbullah overpowers the incumbent multi-ethnic coalition in Lebanon, if the suicide bombers topple the elected Iraqi government in Baghdad, and if Ahmadinejad's cronies reverse the local election results and prevent the reestablishment of sane statesmen in Teheran – the region will sink into a black sea of backwardness, and a red sea of a holy war.
An alternative option
But a reverse outcome is also possible; new elections in the Palestinian Authority with a clear majority for the parties opposing Hamas; Hizbullah's removal from the center of Lebanon's arena to its militant sidelines; ousting of the Iranian president and expropriation of his authorities in favor of the moderate conservatives; and eradication of the murderous terror gangs throughout Iraq.
Neither of these options is dictated from above. Experience shows that the spreading of Islamic Jihad can be halted, albeit the heavy cost of a civil war. Yet even prevention of an open conflict is costly. Fanatics are incapable of ruling anyone in any country – not in Afghanistan, Sudan, Iran or Palestine – and therefore in order to conceal their inability to rule, they drag their people into bizarre wars and adventures that inevitably culminate in destruction, deterioration and bloodshed.
From this standpoint, Islamic fanaticism is adopting the modes of rule prevalent in 20th century radical Western ideology. Similar to these ideologies, fanatic Islam requires the constant fire of an armed revolution, a holy war of some type or another and ambitions for physical and ideological dissemination.
Only this way, in a climate rife with incitement and sacrifice, can it recruit the masses and silence the dissidents. Regime failures by fanatic movements will be forgiven - as hoped by the leadership against the backdrop of honing swords, showcase trials and witch hunts. According to them, silence is tantamount to filth. When civilians attempt to stabilize their country and improve their economic plight, fanaticism tends to collapse.
Stability is therefore radical Islam's primary enemy, just as it was the enemy of fascism. Therefore, there is no practical solution for peaceful coexistence between the radicals and the moderates.
The dream of a "national unity government" in which terrorists will rule alongside civilians and fanatics alongside experts is not a viable option. Even if such a government is established in Ramallah or Beirut, it is destined to quickly collapse and leave scorched earth behind.
You can't ride a predator unless you are wiling to be its next prey.
Israel is currently positioned on the outside of this intra-Arab, intra-Muslim clash of civilizations, but only ostensibly: Coming to terms with Israel's right to exist is one of the key issues in this conflict, although not the main bone of contention. At the heart of the conflict lies the question of the future: What kind of a future can the hundreds of millions of children in the Muslim east expect – one of jihad or growth? Light or darkness?
This dilemma can only be resolved by the Arab world, and there will be no shortcuts.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Judges need lesson in democracy

Judges need lesson in democracy
Ramon judges' attack on media shows failure to grasp meaning of democracy
Baruch Leshem Published:  02.04.07, 23:59

In 1952 the New York Post reported that Richard Nixon, a candidate running for vice president on behalf of the Republican Party, was suspected of keeping a business fund for personal use.
Presidential candidate Dwight Eisenhower, on whose ticket Nixon was running, demanded that Nixon appear on TV in order to clear his reputation. After the broadcast, they said, a public opinion poll would be held to find out whether he had succeeded in convincing the public.
Nixon appeared on TV while his wife Pat sat in a corner of the studio and argued that he was being persecuted for political reasons. His public appearance prevented an investigation and also won him a political appointment.
The 1952 broadcast became a model for imitation in the US for politicians under investigation or suspected of wrongdoing. The test was not just a legal one but also a public one.
Bill Clinton faced an impeachment hearing at the House of Representatives in the 1990s for charges of perjury in the Monica Lewinsky affair. Clinton extensively used the media to convince the American public that a lie pertaining to denial of sexual relationships did not justify his impeachment. Senators and members of congress concluded that public opinion does not back impeachment and thus ruled against it.
The involvement of the media in legal and investigative procedures is a natural phenomenon in the world's largest democracy. Politicians' fates can be sealed for good or bad following complaints or suspicions against them, even if they are ultimately acquitted.
The media, therefore, serves as both the politicians' attack dog and watchdog.
The Ramon affair
The judges' attack on the media in the Haim Ramon affair attests to their detachment from democratic society. The judges were not only required to rule on legal issues but also on social and moral questions.
Where should the justices obtain the knowledge required for such rulings? Perhaps they should have looked to the media to get a feel of the mood prevalent in Israeli society regarding the questions that surfaced in the Ramon affair - for example, the argument that his acts would prove to be detrimental to women's rights in Israel.
There is a real debate over this issue. Amnon Rubinstein and Shulamit Aloni, two top attorneys and respected authorities on individual rights, think differently than the judges.
Why for example, was the defense not permitted to publicize the photograph of Ramon with the complainant, where she is seen putting her arms around his waist while her breasts are touching his body?

Can the judges, based solely on their experience, determine that her behavior is innocent, or perhaps they should have also listened to the voices rising from the public via the media, arguing that her conduct can be seen as inviting?
The verdict in the Ramon case not only seems detached in its severity from key moral and social views in Israeli society, the judges are also attacking the media that tried to point it out. The people against a hostile media is a slogan that characterizes right-wing radicals for whom public discourse in a democratic society is alien.
Judges against hostile media is a slogan that attests to the fact that there are judges for whom free and democratic public discourse is alien.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Ramon and Hebron

Ramon and Hebron

Legal norms prevalent in West Bank doomed Haim Ramon
Yoram Kaniuk Published:  02.04.07, 16:12
When the British ruled the country, they didn't quite apply British laws here. At the colonies it was okay to introduce draconian laws, arrest people without a trial, and even place them at concentration camps.
What happened in the Ramon trial is that the other law, which dominates the country on the other side of the road, the law in the West Bank and Gaza, overcame the law that was in place in the country during the days of attorney generals such as Haim Cohen.
Those who apply draconian laws in the Territories that allow the abuse of innocent people and permit arrests for months without trial, and who thought that they can continue this way without undermining the laws in Israel proper, were wrong.
 Those who start with the arrest of innocents in the West Bank bring the law that applies there to us. The three Ramon judges – not one, or two, but all three – got the hint and ruled unanimously that Ramon is guilty; guilty that a young woman hugged him and he, a man of urges, perhaps kissed her for three seconds, with or without tongue.
This way we learned who the rulers of law in Israel are are: Not judges, not justice, and not the law – but rather, the desire for revenge. Revenge against someone who they feared would introduce changes in the Justice Ministry that they didn't like, so they turned the kiss into a dangerous act. One slap on the face could have been or should have been an answer, but they wanted to take their revenge on Ramon and allowed the laws in place in the West Bank and Gaza to trickle back home.
If I was Ramon's age, I would leave this country immediately, because fear will be ruling here. If there's no law, everything's permissible.
British were wiser
The British, who conducted themselves in the colonies almost – and I'm being cautious here and saying "almost" – as we conduct ourselves in the Territories, were wiser than us and didn't want fear to rule in Britain.
Therefore, they didn't allow their own "Territories" to overtake the courts in London the way Israeli judges, with the assistance of frightened judges, allowed the rules of our Territories to overcome the Israeli legal fortress.
I know I'm taking a risk with this talk; that I'll be in their sights now. Yet the judges too, who aren't amateurs when it comes to learning the law, were scared, because after all we didn't have rape here or the use of rank for the purpose of acquiring perks. And if a young woman hugs an older man, with or without tongue, what is that? Forceful rape? Three seconds used to end someone's career? Destroy a person's reputation?
We discovered that the real law wanted Ramon's blood and got it from a frightened legal system, a fact that undermined Israel's legal authority. Those who fail to understand it today will get it tomorrow. Assuming there is a tomorrow.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Anti-rocket system was delayed, Peretz says

Anti-rocket system was delayed, Peretz says

After deciding on rocket interception system, defense minister points finger at his predecessors, says 'it's a shame that we stalled and did not purchase the system before. It could have been active by now'
Shmulik Hadad Published:  02.05.07, 10:46
The anti-rocket system selected recently could have been active by now if Israel hadn't stalled, Defense Minister Amir Peretz said Monday morning, pointing a finger at his predecessors.

"It's a shame that we stalled and did not purchase the system before," Peretz said.
Peretz arrived at a tree planting ceremony in Sderot along with National Jewish Fund officials and was warmly welcomed by Mayor Eli Moyal.
The defense minister on Sunday evening presented Prime Minister Ehud Olmert with the work done to choose a rocket interception system. Outgoing Defense Ministry Director-General Gabi Ahskenazi, the next Israel Defense Forces chief of staff, also took part in the meeting.
The prime minister approved the plan, but its financing method has yet to be determined.
 According to Peretz, "The Sderot area will be the first area where the system will be built. This system also provides a diplomatic message, because it responds to the organizations violating the calm."
Peretz also addressed the government's approval of the new army chief. According to him, the decision on the appointment was extremely important.
"The government approved my recommendation to appoint Gabi Ashkenazi for a four-year term at the start of his tenure. This conveys an important message of stability also for a working plan, and is a step aimed at examining every move."
'No plans to evacuate Sderot'
Referring to a possible evacuation of Sderot, the defense minister said that "there are rumors that Sderot is about to be evacuated. There has been and will be no such intention, and we have no plans whatsoever to adopt a policy of evacuation. All these rumors are baseless.
 "The fact that the residents' details were taken in order to prepare is a correct move, both to the front and the home front, but we are definitely not talking about evacuation. Sderot residents, including me and my family, are staying in Sderot."
The system chosen by the defense minister last week is dubbed "Iron Dome", manufactured by RAFAEL Armament Development Authority Ltd.
Peretz's decision, which followed several months of deliberations, is part of Israel's response to the Qassams that are being launched at Israel from the Gaza Strip and to more advanced rockets such as the Katyushas at the northern border.

The "Iron Dome" system is expected to be operational within three years.
Rafael will develop the rocket and the interception system, and ELTA will work on the designated radar system (already in its final stages of development). The cost of an interception rocket will be USD 35-50,000.
The major drawback of the system is that it does not provide a solution for mid-range rockets. Its key advantage is that the development will be relatively inexpensive. This factor is important as the system will have to deal with large barrages of dozens and even hundreds of Qassams and Katyushas.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Al-Qaeda site posts Israeli book

Al-Qaeda site posts Israeli book

Jihad website refers to book written by Haifa University professor discussing role net plays in terrorism
Eitan Glickman Published:  02.05.07, 09:51

A book written by an Israeli professor has been posted on an al-Qaeda affiliated website.
Professor Gabriel Weimann of Haifa University's Communications Department was surprised to find a picture of the cover of his book, 'Terror on the Internet: The New Arena, the New Challenges,' and links to its summaries, on a global Jihad organization's website.
"At first it seemed quite strange to me that they would publish my book," Weimann said Sunday, "but then when I read the text in Arabic I understood their motivation."

The caption read, "The West's astonishment at our terrorist brothers' use of the internet has led them to write a book."

"The paradox is that this organization that goes against the progress of the West is using its most advanced tool as a weapon," added Weimann.

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Egyptian student was 'a Mossad agent'

Egyptian student was 'a Mossad agent'
Herb Keinon, THE JERUSALEM POST  Feb. 4, 2007

Egypt has not contacted Israel regarding an alleged Israeli spy-ring uncovered by Egypt's state security prosecutor, and officials in Jerusalem said Sunday that Israel knows nothing about the allegations or about other Israelis named in the Egyptian press as having been involved in the affair.
"Egypt has not made any petition to the Foreign Ministry on this matter," a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said. "We know nothing about this, beyond what is in the press. The Egyptian Foreign Ministry has also said that they know nothing about this."
Egypt accuses Israelis of espionage
Nevertheless, the London-based newspaper Al-Hayat reported Sunday that Egypt's security echelon has been keeping track of a university student, Muhammad al-Attar, arrested under charges of passing information to Mossad agents since 2002.
Israeli government officials said the case had disturbing similarities to the arrest of Azzam Azzam in 1996 on what Israel said were trumped-up espionage charges. Azzam was also charged by Egypt's state security prosecutor.
Azzam was sentenced in 1997 and finally released from Egyptian jails in 2004. Israel denied that Azzam was involved in espionage.
The difference this time, according to Israeli officials, was that the alleged spy in Egyptian custody is an Egyptian, not an Israeli.
The Egyptian press has identified the three Israelis as Daniel Levi, Kemal Kosba and Tuncay Bubay, and said they were presently in Canada and Turkey. The Foreign Ministry said it had no information about these men.
Government officials in Jerusalem said every once in a while the Egyptian press trumpets stories about alleged Israeli spies, in what has been interpreted in Jerusalem as an attempt to keep Israel perceived in a negative light in Egypt. What makes this case different is that it did not originate with the press, but rather in the state security apparatus, a body roughly equivalent to the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency).
According to the Al-Hayat report, Attar left Egypt in 2001 to live in Turkey. He allegedly admitted to leaving because he was unable to integrate into Egyptian society by his third year as a student at Al-Azhar University, and chose Turkey because of the relative ease in obtaining a tourist visa and its proximity to Europe.
The newspaper wrote that Attar told his interrogators that upon arriving in Turkey he asked to be sheltered by United Nations workers in Ankara on the basis of humanitarian needs, saying he hoped to immigrate to a western country.
According to the report, Attar met Levi in Turkey, and Levi helped him seek refuge from the UN after he told him of his troubles.
According to the report, Levi was a Mossad agent who "brought Attar into" the Mossad circle and instructed him on how to gather intelligence on Egyptian citizens and other Arabs in Turkey.
Attar was allegedly asked to photograph his subjects and write reports detailing their financial situations. The information about the men was to be used to see whether they would be suitable as Mossad agents, the report said.
The Mossad, the report continued, sent Attar to Canada, where he met another Mossad agent, Kosba. Kosba, according to the newspaper story, arranged for Attar to work in a fast-food restaurant where he could continue gathering information on Egyptians and other Arabs in Canada.
A third Mossad agent who had allegedly employed Attar, Bubay, told him not to deposit the money he had received from the agents directly into his bank account so that it could not be traced, the report continued.
In Toronto, Al-Hayat reported, Bubay arranged work for Attar that was close to the city's central mosque and instructed him to follow up on bank accounts belonging to Egyptian and Arab clients.
Al-Hayat reported that an Egyptian investigation into the events uncovered that Attar had obtained Canadian citizenship and flown home for a month to visit his family in November.
Bubay allegedly ordered Attar to go to Israel following his homeland visit and make contact with him to receive a new task. Egyptian security officials said they discovered an instruction sheet sent via the Internet detailing how to get to Israel from Egypt through Jordan.
According to Al-Hayat, Egyptian intelligence had known about Attar's planned visit and he was stopped by authorities at Cairo's international airport on January 1.

Continued (Permanent Link)

PM: Israel not pleased or involved in Hamas-Fatah violence

Feb. 5, 2007 0:31 | Updated Feb. 5, 2007 1:50
PM: Israel not pleased or involved in Hamas-Fatah violence
By HERB KEINON         
Israel has no interest in and has derived no benefit from the violence within the Palestinian Authority, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told the cabinet Sunday.
"We have no involvement whatsoever with what is going on," Olmert said. "It is an internal Palestinian matter that we are not happy about, and that we don't believe will be able to lead us to the [diplomatic] process we are hoping for."
Olmert said Israel hoped the Palestinian violence would end, "both the internal violence and the violence directed at us."
Olmert's comments followed a briefing that the deputy head of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) gave the cabinet on the violence.
The deputy Shin Bet chief, who can only be referred to as "Yud," said that in the Agency's view, there was little chance that the upcoming meeting in Saudi Arabia between Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and Damascus-based Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal would succeed in quieting down the situation.
On the contrary, he said the situation was likely to worsen, as both sides were now tying to gain strength for the "next round."
The assessment of the Shin Bet is that while neither Fatah nor Hamas has an interest in chaos or a full-blown civil war, that is where the situation is headed. He said that as opposed to what happens in an orderly state, in the PA orders given by the political echelon - either Abbas or Hamas's Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh - were not being carried out.
"The political level's orders to stop the violence are not being implemented," the Shin Bet official said. "The street is deciding and determining things."
Yud repeated the assessment heard frequently in recent weeks that the violence could lead to an increase in Palestinian terrorist attacks in Israel, designed to unite the factions.
In reply to a question from Environment Minister Gideon Ezra, the deputy Shin Bet head said he did not believe imprisoned Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti was a moderate influence or that his release would strengthen the moderates inside the PA.
He said there was a gap between the public perception of Barghouti as being able to strengthen the moderates, and what the intelligence community knows about his positions.
The deputy Shin Bet head said Hamas's strength in Judea and Samaria was about 15% of what it was in Gaza.
He described the current violence as an ideological battle between Fatah and Hamas over the future of the Palestinians.
In addition to the ideological element, he said that since so many bystanders have been killed in recent days, the element of revenge killing had entered into play as well.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Syria says it foiled arms shipment

Feb. 4, 2007 18:20 | Updated Feb. 4, 2007 20:09
Syria says it foiled arms shipment
DAMASCUS, Syria         

Syrian customs officers have thwarted an attempt to smuggle arms to Lebanon through an Iraqi truck, Syria's official news agency, SANA, reported Sunday.
The truck, carrying 95 9mm guns, a 9mm machine gun, a Russian rifle, 190 bullets and 290 clips, was seized as it was traveling through the Arida border crossing heading to the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli last week, SANA quoted a Syrian customs official as saying.
The news agency said the arms, concealed under the truck, were to be delivered to a restaurant owner in Tripoli.
The smugglers, whose identities were not disclosed, have been arrested and handed over to Syrian authorities for investigation, SANA said. Lebanese officials were not immediately available for comment.

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Exodus: Throwing refrigerators

February 5, 2007; 1:48:19 AM
Exodus: Throwing refrigerators
I moved south from Beersheba to Kibbutz Lotan seven days ago.
Kibbutz Lotan is on the border with Jordan, 55 kilometers north of Eilat, the southernmost Israeli city.  In Lotan there is a spectacular view of the Edom Mountains in Jordan.  Shades of orange, yellow, and red explode from the mountains and sand surrounding Lotan.  As the day progresses the colors change.  It is beautiful. 
Kibbutz Lotan was founded in 1983 by settlement groups of Israelis and North Americans.  Many of the founders were graduates of the Reform (Liberal Jewish) youth movements.  Currently there are approximately 60 adult members from 9 countries, whose average age is 35.  There are also around 60 children in Lotan.  There are people living temporarily on Lotan who partake in educational courses, such as an environmental design course, Israelis who elect to do a year of national service before joining the army, Reform Jewish youth groups and volunteers who come from all over the world, which make up about another 30 people.  Last of all there are about 25 non-member residents who also live on Lotan.
Lotan's economy is based on a dairy barn, a date plantation, a fish farm in Eilat, and eco-tourism.  Many of the members are employed outside the Kibbutz in a variety of professions.
 How long will I stay on the kibbutz?  I don't know.  I have to take it day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute, second by second, breath by breath, heartbeat by heartbeat, et cetera et cetera.
My living conditions on Lotan are nice.  I have a living room, with a sink, cabinets, a hot plate, a medium sized refrigerator, a desk, a bedroom, bed, a closet, and a bathroom with a shower.  There was supposed to be working internet in the room, but the fiber optic cable running underneath my house is damaged.  I spoke to the man in charge of the kibbutz internet network and he told me he would install DSL in my house next week.
 I always feel nervous in new living situations and starting life at Lotan was no different.  I was nervous to the point of nausea.  A couple of evenings I skipped dinner afraid I would be unable to hold the food down, but after a week I am beginning to feel more relaxed.
 There is communal dining on Lotan, which means for breakfast, lunch, and dinner the people on the kibbutz eat together in a dining hall.  The kitchen and food are kosher.
 On the first day I took a two and a half hour bus ride from Beersheba to Lotan.  At Lotan I was given my room by M who is in charge of the kibbutz absorption process, which takes about two years before one can become a member.  M also gives the weekly work assignments.  After I received my room I unpacked and tried as best as I could to get settled.
On the second day I milked goats with three other guys, something I had never done before.  First I filled trays with pellets of goat food.  I then opened a gate and the goats went up onto a platform with the food trays and began eating.  While the goats were eating I gently squeezed down on the goat teats to make sure there was milk.  I then put clear cylindrical vacuum tubes on the teats which automatically milked the teats.  The goat milk went from tubes to a clear container and then after some sort of purification process went to a black storage container.  After milking many goats the goat milk was poured into plastic buckets which were taken to a storage refrigerator.  Eventually the goat milk will become cheese.
On the third day I went to three lectures by various kibbutz members given to prospective members.  For the prospective kibbutz members one day a month is dedicated to learning.  My Hebrew is far from fluent so I just nodded my head and tried my best understand.
On the fourth day I helped lay irrigation pipes, something I had never done before.  Like most of Israel, Lotan uses a drip irrigation system.  I unrolled plastic black irrigation hoses, punched little holes in various areas and put drippers into the little holes I had punched.
On the fifth day I moved lots of junk from one storage area to another larger storage area.  The junk was separated by wood, plastic, and metal.  I worked with a couple other people.  At one point during the day we ended up moving about six medium sized refrigerators.  With the help of one of the other workers we threw a couple of the refrigerators into the larger storage area, something I had never done before.  One…two…three and throw…THUD!
On the sixth day I replaced damaged door and window screens, something I had never done before.  During the evening I went to a lovely Shabbat service, followed by a nice Shabbat dinner in the communal dinning room.  After dinner there was a charming ceremony for eight new kibbutz members.  The night was capped off by drinking beer, talking, and dancing at the pub.
And on the seventh day I rested and wrote this, something I had never written before.

Continued (Permanent Link)

'IDF harming effort to halt Hizbullah arms smuggling'

Feb. 5, 2007 3:29 | Updated Feb. 5, 2007 10:03
'IDF harming effort to halt Hizbullah arms smuggling'
While Israel complains arms are being smuggled to Hizbullah across the Syrian-Lebanese border, it is not providing the international community with the documentation to prove it, senior US and European officials have told The Jerusalem Post.
According to the officials, intelligence information regarding what is being smuggled across the border would aid international efforts to stop the phenomenon, since UN Security Council Resolution 1701 explicitly states that there should be "no sales or supply of arms and related materiel to Lebanon except as authorized by its government."
Syria says it foiled arms shipment
Uncovering and documenting the smuggling activity would give the international community good ammunition to stop it, one Western diplomatic official said.
The senior US and EU officials said Israel had not provided sufficient intelligence to back up claims that Hizbullah has largely rearmed since the war in the summer, thanks to the smuggling.
Israeli diplomatic officials, meanwhile, said there were long-standing battles with the IDF over declassifying intelligence, with the political echelon often wanting to share information, and the IDF being much more reluctant to do so.
A high-ranking source in the IDF's Foreign Liaison Unit - responsible for contacts with embassies and foreign militaries - said that Military Intelligence, under Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin, was the main obstacle to the transfer of intelligence information.
"This is a daily battle between us and Military Intelligence," said the officer. "This information is vital for Israel to be able to convince foreign militaries why it is necessary for us to continue flying over Lebanon."
The IDF takes dignitaries, diplomats, military attaches and United Nations officials on weekly tours of the Blue Line international border between Israel and Lebanon. "We want them to see up close how Hizbullah flags are back on the border," said the Foreign Liaison Unit source.
In December, the IDF hosted 10 European ambassadors and military attaches at the Ramat David Air Force base in the North and presented them with briefings concerning the overflights Israel conducts in Lebanon.
At the time, the IDF said the diplomats were presented with classified intelligence showing convoys of weapons being smuggled into Lebanon from Syria. But a diplomat who participated in the event told the Post recently that the information they were presented with was only "partial" and that it was not fully clear that weapons were being smuggled into Lebanon at the rate the IDF claimed.
A top officer in the Northern Command harshly criticized the IDF's policy against declassifying documents, saying Israel needed to do its utmost to get European countries on its side before the next round of violence.
"There are predictions that there will be a new war by the summer," the Northern Command source said. "By not sharing the information, we are not only making it difficult to prevent the next war but also to rally the international community to Israel's cause."
Military Intelligence refused to comment and the IDF Spokesperson's Office released a statement saying "We refuse to respond to statements made by unnanmed officials."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Middle East Internet Usage as % of Population (Penetration)

[These data relate to a report by the Petra news agency that claimed the UAE was first ranked in the Middle East for Internet usage, and Jordan was ranked 6th. Israel is first. Jordan is number 7.
The numbers vary depending on the survey technique used.
The actual rankings:
1. Israel 51.10%
2. United Arab Emirates [UAE] 35.10%
3. Qatar 26.60%
4. Kuwait 25.60%
5. Bahrain 20.70%
6. Lebanon 15.40%
7. Jordan 11.70%
8.5 Saudi Arabia 10.60%
8.5 Iran 10.60%
10. Oman 10.00%
11. Palestine(West Bk.) 7.90%
12. Syria 5.60%
13. Yemen 1.00%
14. Iraq 0.10%
It is odd that Jordan, which has a peace treaty with Israel, does not even recognize the Israeli Internet.
MEW   ]
Middle East Internet Usage as  % of Population (Penetration)
Bahrain 20.70%
Iran 10.60%
Iraq 0.10%
Israel 51.10% (45.8% according to
Jordan 11.70%
Kuwait 25.60%
Lebanon 15.40%
Oman 10.00%
Palestine(West Bk.) 7.90%
Qatar 26.60%
Saudi Arabia 10.60%
Syria 5.60%
United Arab Emirates 35.10%
Yemen 1.00%
TOTAL Middle East 10.00%
(1) The Middle East Statistics were updated on Jan. 11, 2007.
(2) The demographic (population) numbers are based on data contained in
(3) The most recent usage information comes mainly from the data published
by Nielsen//NetRatings, ITU, and other reliable sources.
Data may be cited, giving due credit and establishing an active link back to
InternetWorld Stats. Copyright © 2007, Miniwatts Marketing Group. All rights

IMRA - Independent Media Review and Analysis

Continued (Permanent Link)

Israel Military Censor:Guidelines - Reporting of the Location of Rocket Hits

State of Israel
The Censorship Of Press and Media
Head Censorship Office
Tel: 03-6962538, Fax: 03-5693472

15   January     2007

Censorship Guidelines - Reporting of the Location of Rocket Hits


1. Recently, it has become apparent that terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip are equipping themselves with stronger, more destructive and more precise long-range rockets.


2. This document emphasizes the censorship guidelines to the media and press on the reporting of rocket hits.

The Censorship Guidelines:

3. Following are the main Censorship Guidelines:

a. The Military Censor will not authorize reports of rocket hits at IDF bases and/or strategic facilities.

b. The Military Censor will not authorize reports of rockets that fell into the Mediterranean Sea, since with those reports it is relatively easy to adjust their aim.

c. Real-time reports on the exact locations of rocket hits must be strictly avoided. Reports, on delayed time, of exact locations must always be approved by the Military Censor.

d. The Military Censor will not authorize photographs of rockets with identifying marks since this could provide terrorists with precise intelligence on where the rocket landed.

e. The Military Censor will not authorize reports regarding visits of senior Israeli Government and IDF officials in the south, due to the clear connection between official visits and rocket attacks on the area in question.

f. The Military Censor will not authorize information regarding terrorist war materiel that did not explode or any other malfunction in war materiel.

4. Please make sure that all relevant staff members are aware of the aforementioned.

5. The following [above?] guidelines do not obviate the obligation to submit to the Military Censor, before publishing, any news item regarding rocket hits or any other subject that must be approved by the Military Censor.


Col.  Sima Vaknin-Gil
Chief Military Censor

IMRA - Independent Media Review and Analysis

Continued (Permanent Link)

Maan: Palestinian military factions unite against Israeli plans to demolish the Al Aqsa Mosque

This is another instance of the "Jews are going to destroy Al-Aqsa" rumor.
Palestinian military factions unite against Israeli plans to demolish the Al
Aqsa Mosque
Date: 04 / 02 / 2007  Time:  17:50

Gaza - Ma'an - Three Palestinian military factions on Sunday called on the
Palestinian resistance to unify in order to counter Israeli plots to destroy
the Al-Aqsa Mosque of Jerusalem and replace it with a Jewish synagogue,
which is being built on an area within the Al-Magharba neighborhood.

The An Nasser Salah Addin Brigades, the armed wing of the Popular Resistance
Committees, the Al-Aqsa Brigades, the military wing of Fatah, and the Al
Mujahideen Brigades, another military wing of Fatah, have vowed to retaliate
to any assault on the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

The spokesperson of the An Nasser Salah Addin Brigades, Abu Mujahid, said in
a press conference in Gaza City that "any harm to the Al-Aqsa Mosque is like
harming any Muslim and so the retaliation against the Israeli occupation
will not be bound to any geographical boundaries." He also called on all the
Islamic states and organizations to intervene immediately and prevent the
destruction of Islamic heritage in the holy city of Jerusalem.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Petra: Number of Internet Users in Jordan increases Five Fold since 2000

[Actually, Israel leads the Middle East in Internet use with 45.8% Jordan has about 1/4 the rate of Internet use. The data below do not include Israel.]
Number of Internet Users in Jordan Doubles Five Fold since 2000

Amman, Feb. 4 (Petra - Jordan News Agency)-Jordan ranks sixth among Middle
Eastern countries in terms of the number of Internet users with their number
doubling five fold in 2006 compared to 2000, according to (InternetWorld

According to information posted by the site, the percentage of Jordanians
who used the Internet stood at 12% in 2006 out of the total of Jordan's

The number of Internet users in Jordan reached 630,000 or 3.3% of the total
users of Internet in Middle Eastern countries.

The use of the internet on the world level grew over the past six years by
200.9% with their number standing at 16.7 billion at the end of 2006.

The UAE ranked first in terms of internet users in the Middle East with the
percentage standing at 36.1% or 1,400,000 users, while Iraq came in the last
ranking with the number of users standing at 36,000.


Continued (Permanent Link)


By Gholam Reza Afkhami and over one hundred others
The New York Review of Books, Volume 54, Number 2 · February 15, 2007

To the Editors:

We the undersigned Iranians,

Notwithstanding our diverse views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict;

Considering that the Nazis' coldly planned "Final Solution" and their ensuing campaign of genocide against Jews and other minorities during World War II constitute undeniable historical facts;

Deploring that the denial of these unspeakable crimes has become a propaganda tool that the Islamic Republic of Iran is using to further its own agendas;

Noting that the new brand of anti-Semitism prevalent in the Middle East today is rooted in European ideological doctrines of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and has no precedent in Iran's history;

Emphasizing that this is not the first time that the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran has resorted to the denial and distortion of historical facts;

Recalling that this government has refused to acknowledge, among other things, its mass execution of its own citizens in 1988, when thousands of political prisoners, previously sentenced to prison terms, were secretly executed because of their beliefs;

Strongly condemn the Holocaust Conference sponsored by the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Tehran on December 11-12, 2006, and its attempt to falsify history;

Pay homage to the memory of the millions of Jewish and non-Jewish victims of the Holocaust, and express our empathy for the survivors of this immense tragedy as well as all other victims of crimes against humanity across the world.

Abadi, Delnaz (Filmmaker, USA)
Abghari, Shahla (Professor, Life University, USA)
Abghari, Siavash (Professor/Chair, Department of Business Administration,
Morehouse College, USA)
Afary, Janet (Faculty Scholar/Associate Professor of History, Purdue University, USA)
Afkhami, Gholam Reza (Senior Scholar, Foundation for Iranian Studies, USA)
Afkhami, Mahnaz (Executive Director, Foundation for Iranian Studies/Women's
Rights Advocate, USA)
Afshar, Mahasti (Arts/Culture Executive, USA)
Afshari, Ali (Human Rights Advocate/Political Activist, USA)
Ahmadi, Ramin (Associate Professor, Yale School of Medicine/Founder, Griffin
Center for Health and Human Rights, USA)
Akashe-Bohme, Farideh (Social Scientist/Writer, Germany)
Akbari, Hamid (Human Rights Advocate/Chair/Associate Professor, Department
of Management and Marketing, Northeastern Illinois University, USA)
Akhavan, Payam (Jurist/Senior Fellow, Faculty of Law of McGill University, Canada)
Amin, Shadi (Journalist/Women's Rights Activist, Germany)
Amini, Bahman (Publisher, France)
Amini, Mohammad (Writer/Political Activist, USA)
Amjadi, Kurosh (Human Rights Advocate)
Apick, Mary (Actress/Playwright/Producer/Human Rights Advocate, USA)
Ashouri, Daryoush (Writer/Translator, France)
Atri, Akbar (Student Rights and Political Activist, USA)
Bagher Zadeh, Hossein (Human Rights Advocate/Former Professor, Tehran
University, Great Britain)
Bakhtiari, Abbas (Musician/Director, Pouya Iranian Cultural Center, France)
Baradaran, Monireh (Human Rights Advocate/Writer, Germany)
Behnoud, Massoud (Writer/Journalist, Great Britain)
Behroozi, Jaleh (Human Rights Advocate/Iranian Mothers' Committee for Freedom, USA)
Beyzaie, Niloofar (Theater Director/Playwright, Germany)
Boroumand, Ali-Mohammad (Lawyer, France)
Boroumand, Ladan (Historian/Research Director, Boroumand Foundation, USA)
Boroumand, Roya (Historian/Human Rights Advocate, USA)
Chafiq, Chahla (Sociologist/Writer/ Women's Rights Advocate, France)
Dadsetan, Javad (Filmmaker)
Daneshvar, Abbas (Chemist, Netherlands)
Daneshvar, Hassan (Mathematician, Netherlands)
Daneshvar, Reza (Writer, France)
Davari, Arta (Painter, Germany)
Djalili, Mohammad Reza (Professor, L'Institut Universitaire de Hautes ֹtudes Internationales, Switzerland)
Ebrahimi, Farah (USA)
Eskandani, Ahmad (Entrepreneur, France)
Fani Yazdi, Reza (Political Activist, USA)
Farahmand, Fariborz (Engineer, USA)
Farssai, Fahimeh (Writer, Germany)
Ghahari, Keivandokht (Historian/Journalist, Germany)
Ghassemi, Farhang (Professor in Strategic Management, France)
Hejazi, Ghodsi (Professor/Researcher, Frankfurt University, Germany)
Hekmat, Hormoz (Human Rights Advocate/Editor, Iran Nameh, USA)
Hojat, Ali (Entrepreneur/Human Rights Advocate, Great Britain)
Homayoun, Dariush (Writer, Switzerland)
Idjadi, Didier (Professor/Associate Mayor, France)
Jahangiri, Golroch (Women's Rights Advocate, Germany)
Jahanshahi, Marjan (Professor, Institute of Neurology, University College
London, Great Britain)
Karimi Hakkak (Director, Center for Persian Studies, University of Maryland, USA)
Kazemi, Monireh (Women's Rights Advocate, Germany)
Khajeh Aldin, Minoo (Painter, Germany)
Khaksar, Nasim (Writer, Germany)
Khazenie, Nahid (Remote Sensing Scientist/Program Director, NASA, USA)
Khodaparast Santner, Zari (Landscape Architect, USA)
Khonsari, Mehrdad (Political Activist, Great Britain)
Khorsandi, Hadi (Poet/Writer, Great Britain)
Khounani, Azar (Educator/Human Rights Advocate, USA)
Mafan, Massoud (Publisher, Germany)
Malakooty, Sirus (Composer/Chairman, Artists Without Frontiers, Germany)
Manafzadeh, Alireza (Writer, France)
Mazahery, Ahmad (Engineer/Political Activist, USA)
Mazahery, Lily (Lawyer, President of the Legal Rights Institute/Human Rights Advocate, USA)
Memarsadeghi, Mariam (Freedom House, USA)
Mesdaghi, Iraj (Human Rights Advocate/Writer, Sweden)
Milani, Abbas (Director, Iranian Studies Program, Stanford University, USA)
Mohyeddin, Samira (Graduate Student, University of Toronto, Canada)
Moini, Mohammadreza (Journalist/ Human Rights Advocate, RSF, France)
Molavi, Afshin (Journalist, USA)
Monzavi, Faeze (Women's Rights Advocate, Germany)
Moradi, Golmorad (Political Scientist/Translator, Germany)
Moradi, Homa (Women's Rights Advocate, Germany)
Moshaver, Ziba (London Middle East Institute, SOAS, Research Fellow, Great Britain)
Moshkin-Ghalam, Shahrokh (Ballet Dancer/Actor, France)
Mourim, Khosro (Sociologist, France)
Mozaffari, Mehdi (Professor of Political Science, Denmark)
Naficy, Majid (Poet/Writer, USA)
Nafisi, Azar (Writer/Johns Hopkins University, USA)
Nassehi, Reza (Human Rights Advocate/Translator, France)
Pakzad, Jahan (Teacher/Researcher, France)
Parham, Bagher (Writer/Translator, France)
Parsipour, Shahrnush (Writer, USA)
Parvin, Mohammad (Human Rights Advocate/Founding Director of Mehr/Adjunct
Professor, California State University, USA)
Pirnazar, Jaleh (Professor, Iranian Studies, University of California, Berkeley, USA)
Pourabdollah, Farideh (Human Rights Advocate, USA)
Pourabdollah, Saeid (Human Rights Advocate, USA)
Rashid, Shahrouz (Poet/Writer, Germany)
Royaie, Yadollah (Poet, France)
Rusta, Mihan (Human Rights Advocate/Refugee Adviser, Germany)
Sadr, Hamid (Writer, Austria)
Sarchar, Houman (Independent Scholar, USA)
Sarshar, Homa (Journalist, USA)
Satrapi, Marjane (Writer, France)
Sayyad, Parviz (Actor/Playwright, USA)
Shahriari, Sheila (World Bank, USA)
Soltani, Parvaneh (Actor/Theater Director, Great Britain)
Tabari, Shahran (Journalist, Great Britain)
Taghvaie, Ahmad (Founding Member, Iranian Futurist Association, USA)
Toloui, Roya (Human Rights Advocate, USA)
Vaziri, Hellen (Germany)
Wahdat-Hagh, Wahied (Social Scientist, USA)
Zarkesh Yazdi, Fathieh (Human Rights and Refugee Rights Advocate, Great Britain)
Ziazie, Arsalan (Writer, Germany)

Continued (Permanent Link)

Response of FM Livni to the Quartet Statement - Feb 4, 2007

Information Department, Israel Foreign Ministry - Jerusalem
Jerusalem, 4 February 2007

Response of FM Livni to the Quartet Statement
(Communicated by the Foreign Minister's Bureau)

In response to the statement issued by the Middle East Quartet on Friday (2 February 2007), Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Livni issued the following statement:

The statement issued by the Middle East Quartet is a reconfirmation of the principles embodied in the unequivocal requirements demanded from the extremists and terror organizations - renunciation of violence and terrorism, recognition of Israel, and acceptance of previous agreements, including the Roadmap - while at the same time strengthening and conducting a dialogue with the moderates in order to maintain a political horizon of peace and preserving security.

Taking a firm stand against the extremists while reinforcing the moderates are measures that complement one another and represent the correct course of action.


Continued (Permanent Link)


More employee evaluations. Some we have seen. I probably invented this one:
"When his IQ reaches 50, he should sell."
About 40 years ago.
1. "Since my last report, this employee has reached rock-bottom and has started to dig."


2. "I would not allow this employee to breed."


3. "This employee is really not so much of a has-been, but more of a definite won't be."


4. "Works well when under constant supervision and cornered like a rat in a trap."


5. "When she opens her mouth, it seems that it is only to change feet."


6. "He would be out of his depth in a parking lot puddle."


7. "This young lady has delusions of adequacy."


8. "He sets low personal standards and then consistently fails to achieve  them."


9. "This employee is depriving a village somewhere of an idiot."


10. "This employee should go far and the sooner he starts the better."


11. "Got a full 6-pack, but lacks the plastic thingy to hold it all together."


12. "A gross ignoramus...144 times worse than an ordinary ignoramus."


13. "He doesn't have ulcers, but he's a carrier"!


14. "I would like to go hunting with him sometime."


15. "He's been working with glue too much."


16. "He would argue with a signpost."


17. "He brings a lot of joy whenever he leaves the room."


18. "When his IQ reaches 50, he should sell."


19. "If you see two people talking and one looks bored, he's the other one."


20. "A photographic memory but with the lens cover glued on."


21. "A prime candidate for natural de-selection."


22. "Donated his brain to science before he was through using it."


23. "Gates are down, the lights are flashing, but the train ain't coming."


24. "He's got two brains, one is lost and the other is out looking for it."


25. "If he were any more stupid, he'd have to be watered twice a week."


26. "If you give him a penny for his thoughts, you'd get change."


27. "If you stand close enough to him, you can hear

the ocean."


28. "It's hard to believe he beat off 1,000,000

other sperm."


29. "One neuron short of a synapse."


30. "Some drink from the fountain of knowledge; he

only gargled."


31. "Takes him 2 hours to watch '60 Minutes'."


32. "The wheel is turning, but the hamster is dead."


Continued (Permanent Link)

Resistance building in Iran? Ahmadinejad faces loss of power as pressure on Iran builds

There have been numerous stories about Ahmedinejad's political troubles in Iran, like the one below. More thought should be given as to how to encourage moderate forces in Iran, and which forces to encourage.
Ahmedinejad's problems stem from his failure to deliver on promises to end corruption and bring prosperity, as well as from his military adventurism, which is worrying Iranian clerics.
The question is, whether replacement of Ahmadinejad by Rafsanjahni would really remove the regional threat posed by Iran, or rather allow Iran to pursue the same goals in a less flamboyant and more successful way. Iran's nuclear development program was not originated by Ahmadinejad, nor was its support of the Lebanese Hezbollah or the Palestinian Hamas. The differences between the leaders allowed by the supreme council are nuances in implementation, not disagreement about goals.
The failure of the Iranian opposition, if there is one, to produce a credible alternative program and leadership is conspicuous by its absence. Are all Iranians really in favor of an Islamist form of government?
The brinksmanship game being played with Iran has many faces. U.S. threats to invade Iran may alarm the religious leadership, but they also help to unify the Iranian people against a common enemy. Shouldn't the US be presenting a positive alternative vision of Iran, that could help to unite the opposition against the government?

Ahmadinejad faces loss of power as pressure on Iran builds
Geostrategy-Direct, , February 7, 2007

There are signs that the Iranian ruling clerics are ready to rein in President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Supporters of Ahmadinejad lost two key elections over the past six weeks, including efforts to control the Assembly of Experts, which would vote for the next supreme leader to replace the dying Ali Khamenei.

The clerics have quietly backed the revival of former President Hashemi Rafsanjani to become Iran's next supreme leader. Rafsanjani might not be as popular with the youth as Ahmadinejad, but the former pistachio merchant is not reckless either. And these days Iran, despite its military swagger, is heading straight own.

Even with its huge oil reserves, Iran is facing economic collapse. Food prices have soared, in some cases 13-fold.

Unemployment has reached at least 22 percent with 5.2 million Iranians without jobs. Nine million people live below the poverty level.

The economic decline has led to unrest in the streets... Allies of Ahmadinejad are beginning to move toward Rafsanjani and quietly blame him for the country's growing isolation. Newspapers that had hailed the president have now become leading critics.

...[E]ven the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, Ahmadinejad's base of power, is nervous. In an unusual interview on Iranian television, former IRGC commander Maj. Gen. Mohsen Rezai, now working for Rafsanjani, openly warned of a U.S. military strike.

Continued (Permanent Link)

O Jerusalem! - Mecca-based Islamic Jurisprudence Assembly claims Israeli threat to Al Aqsa mosque

The Muslim insistence that the Jews are plotting against the al-Aqsa mosque has been a constant feature of anti-Zionist propage for at least 78 years, since it touched off the Arab riots and massacres of 1929.
This groundless issue is raised periodically in order to inflame Muslim sentiment.

#1 The warning





#2 Reality

FEATURE-Israel excavation work near shrine fans Muslim ire
By Jonathan Saul - Reuters  29 Jan 2007 17:42:29 GMT

JERUSALEM, Jan 29 (Reuters) - Israeli excavations near Jerusalem's most
sensitive shrine have sparked fury among Muslims who fear such works
endanger its foundations, but officials involved say they will not damage
the holy site.

Israeli authorities are involved in a few excavation projects near al-Haram
al-Sharif, the site of the Dome of the Rock and al-
Aqsa Mosque where the biblical Jewish Temples once stood. The Western
Wall -- Judaism's holiest site -- overlooks the shrine in the
Israeli-annexed old city of Jerusalem.

In the past, Israeli work in the area has triggered violent protests. The
opening of an archaeological tunnel near al-Haram al-Sharif triggered
Palestinian anger in 1996. Sixty-one Arabs and 15 Israeli soldiers were
killed in clashes.

On Monday, Palestinian militants who claimed responsibility for a suicide
bombing in the Israeli resort of Eilat, which killed three people, said it
was a response to Israeli attempts to "defile" al-Aqsa mosque.

In the latest work in the area, Israel unveiled earlier this month an
archaeological site near the Western Wall where there are plans to build a
new heritage centre.

The Waqf, the Islamic Trust which administers al-Haram al-Sharif, says the
work has weakened structures in the area.
But Arieh Banner, an official with Israel's Western Wall Heritage
Foundation, a government-created body which runs the site, said there was no
chance it would cause damage.

"The site is at least 60 metres from the Wall," he said. "Everything is
being done and planned with engineers."

Al Aqsa Brigades spokesman Abu Qusai accused Israel of carrying out building
work underneath the mosque as well as continued archaeological digging in
the area, which could undermine the foundations of the mosque.

"The attack was in response to the continued Israeli aggression and the
attempts to defile the al-Aqsa mosque," Abu Qusai said. The militants added
the Eilat attack was just the beginning of operations "in defence of

Israeli government spokeswoman Miri Eisin said in response: "Palestinian
terror organisations never lack a reason to attack innocent civilians
wherever they can. This is why we are always on guard against their

Shmuel Rabinowitz, Rabbi of the Western Wall and Jewish holy sites in
Israel, said there were no plans to excavate under al-Haram al-Sharif, known
to Jews as Temple Mount.

"There is no such plan as this. There has not been any such plan," he told
Reuters. "Any work that is being done is far away from the Temple Mount.
There is no doubt about that."


Israel captured East Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war and later annexed
it, a step that has not been recognised internationally. Palestinians want
the eastern part of the city as the capital of a future state.

In recent days there has growing Muslim anger at reports of a plan by Jews
to build a synagogue near to al-Aqsa Mosque.

Last week the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, the world's largest
Muslim body, warned of "dire consequences" of such a move. But Israeli
officials said they were renovating an existing synagogue and had no plans
to build a new one.

"We are not speaking about a new synagogue, but the renovation of a
synagogue which was established before 1967 and one which is far away from
the Temple Mount," Rabinowitz said.

Archaeologists also recently began excavation work on a new plan to build a
bridge for visitors to reach al-Haram al-Sharif from the Western Wall, which
has also caused controversy.

The bridge, which would touch part of the Western Wall, is intended to
replace a temporary wooden one built after a 2004 earthquake damaged the
foundations of an existing ramp.

Yuval Baruch, Jerusalem district archaeologist, said initial excavation work
was only just beginning and all precautions were being taken to ensure no
damage to the area.

Due to its sensitivity, the project is under the coordination of Israeli
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's office.

"Everyone is aware that the Western Wall, the Temple Mount, any
construction, any excavations are sensitive issues," said
Eisin. "It is being taken care of to avoid events like we had in 1996 with
the opening of the tunnel."

(Additional reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza)

IMRA - Independent Media Review and Analysis

Continued (Permanent Link)

Four Arab towns to receive full damages for Lebanon war

Four Arab towns to receive full damages for Lebanon war
By Jack Khoury

Four Arab villages near the northern border will be eligible for the standard government assistance offered to front-line communities that suffer the ravages of conflict, the Finance Ministry announced yesterday.
The villages of Arab al-Aramshe, Jish, Fasuta and Ma'iliya will from now on be entitled to compensation for indirect damages caused by war, including those sustained during last summer's war in Lebanon.
In front-line communities, the state must by law give full compensation to businesses that sustained losses due to a war, whereas in other communities, it can pay partial compensation. The list of front-line communities is determined by the finance minister, and it mainly comprises communities within 10 kilometers of the border with Lebanon.
The treasury's decision to include the four villages follows two petitions to the High Court of Justice filed by attorney Samwil Dachwar, a resident of Fasuta, and attorney Sausan Zahar of Adalah - The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel. Both petitions demanded that the four villages be considered front-line communities for the sake of calculating the compensation due them as a result of damage from the war.

Continued (Permanent Link)

4 Palestinians killed, over 30 arrested in West Bank sweep

4 Palestinians killed, over 30 arrested in West Bank sweep
By Amos Harel

Security forces shot and killed four Palestinians yesterday in the West Bank.
North of Jerusalem a teenager was shot dead as he tried to cross the separation barrier. In Nablus, two armed members of the Fatah's Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades were killed by Israeli forces, and a Fatah militant was killed in Tul Karm.
Early yesterday morning large IDF forces carried out an operation in the center of Nablus. The soldiers saw a group of armed men and opened fire, killing Waal Awad and Amar Kalbuni, both 21.
According to military sources, Kalbuni had been involved in making bombs used in attacks against Israelis.
Later in the morning, soldiers from the Military Engineers shot and killed a teenager who tried to cross the separation barrier near the Qalandiyah refugee camp north of Jerusalem.
An army spokesman said that the teen used wire cutters to cut through the barbed wire, and that the soldiers fired at his legs. He was fatally injured and succumbed to his injuries.
A special force of Border Police commandos attempted to arrest an Islamic Jihad fugitive, Amar Barka, who was shot and later arrested.
Another militant, Jasser Abu-Zreib of Fatah was shot and killed. A total of 31 Palestinians were arrested in the West Bank by security forces.

Continued (Permanent Link)

The gospel according to Abdullah

The gospel according to Abdullah
By Zvi Bar'el

"The mutual slaughter taking place between Fatah and Hamas does not stem from the clash of these two movements' foreign-policy positions, and it has no connection to the issue of recognizing 'the Zionist enemy,'" wrote Saleh al-Qalab, the former Jordanian minister of information, in an incisive op-ed in the Saudi daily Asharq Al Awsat. In his opinion, the source of the conflict lies in the government of the Palestinian Authority. "Everyone [Fatah, Hamas and others] recognizes Israel as a fait accompli, after all, and no one thinks that Palestine, from the [Jordan] river to the [Mediterranean] sea, is an inviolable Muslim holy site, and everyone shares a single strategic goal of creating a Palestinian state in the territories that were occupied in 1967," Qalab wrote.
The crystal-clear logic of this statement, which reflects the Arab consensus that has existed since at least 2002, is likely to be put to the test this week when Hamas and Fatah leaders, including PA Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas political chief Khaled Meshal and PA Chair Mahmoud Abbas meet in the holy city of Mecca, together with Saudi King Abdullah, in an effort to find a magic formula. After the abortive meeting in Damascus last month, whose only winner was Syrian President Bashar Assad, and the previous meeting in Saudi Arabia, during Id al-Adha, which left even more victims behind, Saudi Arabia decided to step out of the shadows in which its foreign-policy maneuvers have always been cloaked, to try to succeed where Egypt's efforts have failed.
Two main obstacles will once again grace the royal conference table: How to give Fatah honorary ministerial portfolios without challenging the fact that it was Hamas that won the elections; and the need to find a foreign-policy formula that would finally free the territories from the economic sanctions imposed on them.

It would appear that the chances are better this time for ending the ideological disagreement. Saudi Arabia is now willing to recognize what has been obvious all along: There is no diplomatic or political solution without Hamas. In addition, Saudi Arabia, in contrast to Israel, Egypt and Jordan, does not have to constantly check back with Washington to decide on the "correct" policy. And so, just as Washington benefits from the fact that Saudi Arabia is waging an open and finely honed campaign against Iran and against that country's activities in Iraq - so, too, the U.S. and its Quartet colleagues will also have to adopt the "Saudi formula" on the question of Palestine. This formula apparently determines that it is sufficient for Hamas to "respect" the agreements signed between the PA and Israel, rather than being obliged to commit to them. Abbas still opposes this formula, but Egypt and Saudi Arabia are already willing to adopt it.
What is the real meaning of this formula? Legally, it is meaningless, just as all the agreements that were not signed as a binding contract have no legal meaning, such as the crumbling road map. But it could have great political and diplomatic significance. It will join Meshal's statement recognizing Israel as a "fact," the fact that Hamas is observing its tahadiya (cease-fire) with Israel and has been saying for some time that its goal is to establish a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, and the fact that Hamas is, by implication, presenting its recognition of Israel as a condition for Israel's recognition of it.
Saudi Arabia, in a smart and sober step, is giving Haniyeh and Abbas equal status in the deliberations. From its perspective, the story in which Abbas is the good guy and Haniyeh the bad guy, Fatah the peacemaker and Hamas the warmongering organization, is over. For Saudi Arabia (and other Arab states), both are killing each other in equal measure. Thus, if they reach an agreement, if they accept Abdullah's formula, no one, and that includes Israel and the U.S., will be able to prevent the wholesale Arab recognition of the Palestinian government.
The formula also affects Israel directly. When the government in Israel is incapable of making itself available to address the peace process, then what is left of it, at least, would be well advised to understand that a corner has been turned. One year after the parliamentary elections that put Hamas into power, not only is the organization's failure not guaranteed but just the opposite is the case. The Palestinian prime minister and his master in Syria have become, in the eyes of Arab leaders, a legitimate part of the solution.

Continued (Permanent Link)

IDF gearing up for large military operation in Gaza

Last update - 08:18 04/02/2007   

IDF gearing up for large military operation in Gaza
By Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff, Haaretz Correspondents

The Israel Defense Forces has accelerated its planning of a possible extended military operation in Gaza. Top military sources said the escalation of internecine violence was liable to extend to anti-Israel violence. They said no operation was slated to take place immediately, but that IDF activity in Gaza - similar to the 2002 Operation Defensive Shield in the West Bank - may become necessary.
The IDF and Shin Bet security service are particularly concerned by the possibility that Hamas will resume suicide bombings or other attacks on Israel, possibly due to accusations that Israel is supporting Fatah, which it is not overtly doing.
Hamas is also accumulating large quantities of Qassam rockets, whose range, accuracy and strength have improved since Israel's withdrawal from Gaza in the summer of 2005. Hamas and Islamic Jihad are thought to have rockets with a range of 15 to 16 kilometers.
Twenty Palestinians were killed in clashes on Friday and Saturday, most of them affiliated with Fatah, and at least eight were wounded on Saturday. Ten Fatah and Hamas operatives were kidnapped in Gaza and the West Bank over the weekend. Fatah torched Islamic University buildings Friday, and Hamas torched buildings at the Fatah-affiliated Al-Quds Open University.
Meanwhile, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and Khaled Meshal, the head of Hamas' political bureau in Damascus, agreed Friday on an immediate cease-fire in the Gaza Strip, but it was not immediately implemented and the fighting continued over the weekend.
Abbas and Meshal are slated to meet in Mecca, Saudi Arabia on Tuesday to discuss the establishment of a national unity government. Senior officials in Hamas and Fatah said that despite the recent violence between the two groups, an agreement might be reached Tuesday that would leave Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh in his post and would give three portfolios to members of neither organization. Fatah officials said they were worried that the violence would escalate if no agreement is reached Tuesday.
Israel currently has no plans to get involved in the fighting between Fatah and Hamas. The violence there has not yet negatively affected the security situation on the Gaza-Israel border, and there has even been a decrease in the number of Qassam rockets that Palestinians have fired at the Negev. Although Islamic Jihad is continuing to plan terror attacks against Israelis, Hamas and Fatah appear to be too occupied with their conflict to attack Israel.
Fatah and Hamas officials agreed in principle on Friday to renew the cease-fire reached the day before, and Haniyeh on Saturday called on all armed men to withdraw from the streets of Gaza. The Palestinian interior minister, a Hamas member, said the groups had agreed to get the gunmen off the streets, remove roadblocks and stop the incitement against each other. However, the roadblocks were not removed and the militants who had been abducted during the fighting were not returned immediately after the truce was renewed.
Fatah allegedly arrests Iranian experts
Israeli security officials on Saturday were having difficulty ascertaining the credibility of Fatah allegations that the group had arrested seven Iranian terrorism experts who had been assisting Hamas.
Fatah said Thursday that it had arrested the Iranians during a raid of the Islamic University, a Hamas stronghold in Gaza City. Hamas has denied the allegation, and Fatah spokesmen would not confirm the report on Friday.
Israeli officials believe Fatah is making an effort to play down the story, either because the initial report was wrong, or because it is true and Fatah is concerned that the capture of the Iranians will get it entangled with the Iranian government.
Israeli security officials said Iranian experts, along with Hezbollah operatives and Palestinians who underwent terrorism training in Iran or Lebanon, have entered the Gaza Strip through Rafah in the last few months. Some arrived via underground tunnels, while others came in through the Gaza-Egypt bor

Continued (Permanent Link)

Refugees against refugees

Refugees against refugees
By Haaretz Editorial

The first moral commandment of the state of the Jews is that it does not have the right to slam the door in the face of refugees fleeing genocide. A state of survivors cannot imprison those saved from the ravages of war in Sudan, the few hundred who arrived at Israel's borders with the last remains of their strength and requested refuge. Although dozens of scholarly articles have been written on the question of "What is a Jewish state," it appears that there are only a few that examine this aspect, the most important of all.
We have had enough of the excuses of ministers, judges, clerks and officers, the quotes from sections of the law against illegal entry that allow for the arrest or deportation of a Sudanese woman with a sick 4-year-old boy who crossed the desert with nothing but the torn clothing on their backs, and were tossed back to Egypt or into jail despite their pleas. There are some who were shot at because they were suspected of being terrorists, even though they didn't have weapons or even a suspicious backpack in which weapons could have been stored. Others were sent to jail, where human rights organizations happened to discover them.
In a debate initiated by MK Avshalom Vilan (Meretz-Yachad) in the Knesset Interior and Environment Committee, MK Sara Marom Shalev (Pensioners) said that the stories she heard from the Darfur refugees who spoke to Knesset members reminded her of the history of her own family and friends from Romania. Even the few Jews who managed to flee Europe were rejected by countries around the world, with various excuses. Then, too, there were laws and rationales. Holocaust scholar Prof. Yehuda Bauer noted that German Jews were arrested in England on suspicion of being spies. They, too, arrived from an enemy country, as Israel is now classifying Sudan. The United States also shut its doors to Jewish refugees.

The state of the Jews, which was established as a land of refuge, does not have the moral right not to absorb refugees fleeing genocide. It can filter out migrant workers and it can give preference to Jewish immigration over any other kind, but Israel cannot turn the other way when persecuted refugees arrive at its border, after barely surviving a blood-drenched war that is taking place right now and has already caused the deaths of more than 400,000 people. The classification of Sudan as an enemy state is formalistic and evasive. The Sudanese government is also the enemy of the Darfur refugees.
Daniel Solomon, the legal adviser of the Interior Ministry, and Yossi Edelstein, who is responsible for enforcing the ministry's regulations, are warning that 3 million refugees will come to Israel if we allow in a few hundred. This argument has no practical, and certainly no moral validity. But it's impossible to complain to clerks. It is the government ministers who are responsible, and they are the ones turning a blind eye for their own convenience. There are currently 300 refugees from the Darfur region in Israel. Few manage to survive their escape.
Israel is not faced with the risk that Sudanese refugees will flood the country - certainly no more than the United States and England were during World War II, when they rejected the Jewish refugees.

Continued (Permanent Link)

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