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Saturday, February 24, 2007

Fatah still reluctant on unity deal

The importance of Salam Fayyad is that he a symbol of Palestinian respectability that is acceptable to the West, and his appointment would help to gain western acceptance for the Palestinian government.
Ashrawi said:
"Our attitude towards the issue isn't one of posts and figures, it is rather of hormonal [sic ]  political agenda and a plan capable of lifting the blockade. We are weighing up how to be efficient participants rather than merely partners for mutual advantage."
"A plan capable of lifting the blockade" means Hamas acceptance of recognition of the right of Israel to exist. It is anyone's guess what a "hormonal political agenda" might be. Perhaps "harmonious?"

Hanan Ashrawi: Salam Fayyad has not accepted the treasury
Date: 24 / 02 / 2007  Time:  18:18   

Jerusalem - Ma'an - Palestinian Legislative Council member from the 'third-way' bloc, Dr Hanan Ashrawi, on Saturday denied reports that Dr Salam Fayyad accepted the treasury portfolio in the forthcoming coalition government. She said that consultations within the bloc are ongoing.
Ma'an's Jerusalem correspondent quoted Dr Ashrawi as saying, "Our attitude towards the issue isn't one of posts and figures, it is rather of hormonal [sic ]  political agenda and a plan capable of lifting the blockade. We are weighing up how to be efficient participants rather than merely partners for mutual advantage."
Responding to the allegations, attributed to sources close to Dr Fayyad, that he accepted the treasury, Dr Ashrawi said "Salam Fayyad hasn't told anyone that he has agreed to be minister of treasury since the third way's participation is bound by the nature of the government's agenda. We don't want to be sidelined."
Dr Ashrawi was also defiant in the face of United States pressure and their vows to shun the government which has yet to be founded.

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Hamas vs Fatah versus Peace: a people who would rather kill than eat

Are the Fatah really not enemies of the Hamas, and in what sense and for what purposes? It is certain that Hamas has more than one goal. In addition to destroying Israel, they want to set up an Islamic (or Islamist) Shaaria state in Palestine, a goal which one would think is certainly opposed by the nominally secular Fatah. However, large majorities of Palestinians in every poll have insisted that religiosity of candidates is important in their choice, and have also opted for an Islamic state.
The West is not sliding so quickly toward acceptance of Hamas, as latest reports indicate, but it is probably getting there. Insistence on recognition of Israel however, may be creating an empty "red herring" goal. Recognizing the right of Israel to exist, even if sincere, does not mean recognition of the right of the Jews to self-determination, since "Israel" could be the name of a state with an Arab majority created by return of Palestinian refugees, or by expelling "Zionists."

a people who would rather kill than eat

Robert Fulford

National Post, February 17, 2007
In the last two weeks, the West has been sliding coyly toward fresh acceptance of Middle East terrorists as legitimate players in diplomacy. Hamas, which randomly sends rockets into civilian towns in Israel, has been placed on the road to respectability and soon politicians will again be chattering about "the peace process," a tattered phrase discredited by a generation of ignoble misuse but still a token of nobility to those who imagine they can mediate between Palestinians and Israelis. It won't be long before we begin reading about Western diplomats cultivating "the moderate faction" within Hamas.
        Political and journalistic magic has in the past transformed career terrorists into statesmen. Yasser Arafat, a thief and liar, as evil a monster as any who ever sent out a teenager wrapped in dynamite, became in the 1990s an international statesman and a Nobel Peace Prize winner. In the atmosphere of false hope created by the Oslo Accords, the world actually believed Mr. Arafat when he said he favoured peace - until the Second Intifada in 2000 proved he was only kidding.
        Today, the Palestinians are split into two factions, Fatah and Hamas. The West hopes they are different, but it's possible they diverge mainly in their rhetoric. Fatah, following the tradition of Mr. Arafat, claims to favour peace with Israel - providing conditions are right, which they never are. Hamas, a relative newcomer, bases all its activities, from bombing to running health clinics, on one principle: Israel must be destroyed.
        Hamas won the Palestinian legislative elections of January, 2006. Those who believe Palestinians are essentially peaceful (and would comprise a model society if not for expansionist Israelis) explained this embarrassing result by saying that Fatah was famous for its corruption while Hamas, having so far failed to get its hands on much money, looks "clean" in the financial sense, at least by comparison with Fatah.   
        Nevertheless, in the world of diplomacy and money-granting, the election created a scandal. Politicians in Europe and elsewhere huffed and puffed indignantly, expressed "deep regret" and froze the funds that were scheduled to go to the Palestinian Authority. This has more or less bankrupted the PA and made financial management a bigger issue than suicide bombing.
        There's no doubt that Hamas and Fatah are genuine enemies. They now appear to be competing for the title of Most Violent Gangsters. In the last six weeks, their "clashes" (the wire-service euphemism for gun battles) have killed at least 90 Palestinians and injured a larger but unknown number.   Fatah, while issuing peaceful statements from time to time, refuses to surrender its traditional terrorist franchise. As recently as Jan. 11, President Mahmoud Abbas, speaking to fellow Fatah members, bragged about a list of 15 "martyrs," all terrorists, many in the infamous Black September movement. He also said that killings by Fatah put Palestine on the world map long before anybody heard about Hamas.
        Earlier this month, under the guidance of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, representatives of Hamas and Fatahmet in Mecca, agreed to stop shooting each other for now and began the formation of a united government. Hamas insisted that it still doesn't recognize Israel and never will. Abolishing Israel is its only political program. Without it, there would be no reason for Hamas to exist.
        Since the Mecca conference, the United States, Israel and the Europeans have said they will "wait and see" how the new government works out. What's to wait? What's to see? The West, having sworn to oppose Hamas until it recognizes Israel and gives up terrorism, is obviously considering the restoration of funds. What they are waiting for is someone who will propose a formula to let this happen without making everyone involved look like Neville Chamberlain. They will find a way.
        Meanwhile, the central tragedy of Palestinian life continues to unfold, consistently made worse by Palestinian leaders: About a third of Palestinian children under age five suffer from chronic malnutrition. That's not the result of famine or the indifference of the world. The reason, so far as the record shows, is that Palestinian adults would rather kill than eat and would rather kill than see their children eat.

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The News You Don't Read

By Hillel Halkin on February 22, 2007
It made big headlines in Israel on Wednesday, February 21, but I don't imagine it got more than scant attention, if that much, anywhere else.

"Police thwart major suicide attack." That's not front-page news in America or England—unless, that is, it happened in New York or London. If it happened in Tel Aviv, you need at least a bomb going off, and preferably a death or two, for anyone elsewhere to sit up and take notice. And this explains a certain paradox: the more successful Israel's army and security services are in preventing deadly acts of Palestinian terror against Israelis, the more the world looks upon the means of prevention as vindictive and unnecessary harassment of Palestinians on Israel's part.
Take this Wednesday's thwarted bombing. An Islamic Jihad operative from the West Bank city of Jenin was arrested in a Palestinian "safe house" in a southern suburb of Tel Aviv after planting a bomb, which he may have intended to retrieve and blow himself up with, in a trash can in the center of the nearby city of Rishon Letzion. He told his interrogators where the bomb was, a team of sappers was sent to defuse it, and no damage was done. This kind of thing happens all the time in Israel. The main reason it was treated as such a big story this time was that, warned by intelligence sources that the bomber was on his way, the police threw up roadblocks, causing major traffic jams in the Tel Aviv area.
You read such a story in the newspaper and turn the page and go on. Only in the act of turning it, perhaps, do you suddenly stop to wonder: Just a minute—how did Israel's intelligence services know that someone from Jenin was on his way with a bomb? And how did they know where he was hiding so that they were able to get to him in time?
You won't find the answers in the newspaper. For obvious reasons, their details are a secret. And yet in a general sort of way, there's no great mystery. Israeli intelligence must have known about the bomb because it had a Palestinian agent who tipped it off. It may have known about the safe house from another agent. And where did it recruit these agents from? Most probably from the hundreds of Islamic Jihad operatives who have been arrested in recent years at roadblocks, in raids on houses, in dragnets, and in sweeps—in short, in all those operations that have given Israel a reputation for being an unconscionable oppressor. And how did it persuade them to work for it? Possibly with money, possibly with other incentives, possibly with threats against them and their families—that is, by doing the kinds of nasty things that nice people don't do to one another.
The world hears mostly about the nasty things. "Dozens of Israeli lives saved yesterday" doesn't play well with the editors of the New York Times or the Guardian in London. We in Israel, who know those lives could have been our own, our friends', or our family's, have a different take on it.

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The "background noise" of terror

Palestinian armed groups launch a torrent of projectiles at Israeli towns
Date: 24 / 02 / 2007  Time:  15:02

Gaza - Ma'an - Many Palestinian military wings announced responsibility for
launching homemade projectiles at Israeli towns from the northern and
eastern the Gaza Strip.

The brigades issued statements saying that members had launched many
projectiles at Israeli towns in retaliation for the Israeli "aggression
against the mosque of Al Aqsa."

Al Aqsa Brigades, the main military wing of Fatah, said they have launched
one projectile at Netiv Hashayara in the Western Negev. They also said that
five projectiles were launched at Sderot and Western Negev.

Al Quds Brigades, the military wing of Islamic Jihad, said that they
launched two mortars at Kisufim on Friday evening.

A joint statement was issued on Saturday morning, saying that the Al Aqsa
Brigades and Al Quds Brigades launched three mortar shells at the Nahal Oz
Israeli military post, east of Gaza City.

The brigades said that the launching of the projectiles was "in retaliation
for the Israeli aggression against Al Aqsa mosque".

The Abu Ar Rish Brigades have announced responsibility for the launching of
a homemade projectile at Sderot on Friday.

In a statement issued late on Friday, the brigades stated that they had
launched the projectile "as retaliation for the Israeli aggression against
the mosque of Al Aqsa. and the Israeli plans in the holy city."

The statement declared that the brigades will continue their resistance
"until Palestinian lands [are] liberated, and a Palestinian state is built,
with Jerusalem as its capital."

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UNESCO to send delegation to examine work near Temple Mount

Last update - 14:19 24/02/2007   

UNESCO to send delegation to examine work near Temple Mount
By Amiram Barkat, Haaretz Correspondent, and Haaretz Service

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) will send a delegation next week to Jerusalem's Old City to examine the excavation work being conducted under the Mugrabi ramp leading to the Temple Mount.
Francesco Bandarin, a leading official in the organization and its supervisor of the repair of historical sites, will lead the group.
The head of UNESCO said he hopes that the delegation's findings will help to ameliorate the tension between Jews and Arabs.
Muslims fear the work may harm the structure of the nearby Al-Aqsa Mosque.
On a visit to Turkey last week, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert agreed to let a Turkish team inspect the construction site.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Olmert had shown him photographs of the construction work, but had failed to convince him that it would not harm the holy sites there. Olmert agreed to a Turkish suggestion for a technical team from Turkey to inspect the site, Erdogan said.
Olmert said he agreed to the inspection because "Israel has nothing to hide." He added that the matter of the construction on the site had been misconstrued and presented in a tendentious way in the international media.
"The construction of this bridge next to the Western Wall has been taken out of context, but we will cooperate with everyone and will be happy to host the delegation in order to show that the Israeli story is correct and exact," he said.
Earlier last week, Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski announced that he had decided to postpone construction of the walkway at the Mugrabi Ascent until zoning authorities complete plans for the area.

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5 Palestinians killed, 15 hurt in clashes between Gaza families

Last update - 11:36 24/02/2007   

5 Palestinians killed, 15 hurt in clashes between Gaza families
By Avi Issacharoff, Haaretz Correspondent and The Associated Press

Five Palestinians were killed and 15 wounded in shootings late Friday and early Saturday in the southern Gaza Strip town of Khan Younis, in clashes between families supporting rival parties Hamas and Fatah.
The clashes began shortly before midnight Friday between the Kawara and al-Ghalben clans, after Mohammed Ghelban, a 28-year-old commander from Hamas' military wing, was killed in a drive-by shooting outside of his home.
A 22-year-old man from a Fatah family, Hazem Karouah, was killed several hours later, as was 75-year-old Ismail Sabah, who was caught in the cross-fire.
Authorities at Shifa Hospital in Gaza City said four of the wounded are in critical condition.
This weekend's violence is the most severe to hit the Strip since the signing of the Mecca agreement two weeks ago establishing a unity government composed of Fatah and Hamas.
At least 130 people died in Hamas-Fatah fighting before the two sides signed a power-sharing agreement earlier this month. The pact is widely seen in Palestinian territories as the only way to avert civil war.
In keeping with efforts to maintain the fragile calm, the two factions did not openly blame each other. But in a statement, Hamas' military wing accused suspect figures hiding behind the cover of Karouah family of executing Ghelban.
The statement called on the Karouah family to stop protecting the killers and said Hamas fighters reserved the right to punish the killer.
Meanwhile, armed Palestinians attacked the house of Suleiman Khader in Khan Younis, who holds the rank of colonel in the Palestinian security forces.
The door of his house was blown off and two inhabitants of the house were wounded. The background to the incident remains unclear.

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IDF troops discover explosives laboratory in West Bank

Last update - 12:11 24/02/2007   

IDF troops discover explosives laboratory in West Bank
By Amos Harel, Haaretz Correspondent and The Associated Press

Israel Defense Forces troops discovered an explosives laboratory Saturday morning in the West Bank city of Nablus.
Among the items found were pipe bombs, gas balloons and materials for producing explosive charges. Sappers detonated the explosive devices.
Since the beginning of 2006, seven such laboratories have been located in the Samaria region of the northern West Bank.
Overnight, IDF troops arrested five wanted Palestinians in Nablus, Hebron and Ramallah.
On Friday, Egyptian security forces discovered approximately one ton of explosives hidden underground near Egypt's border with Gaza, a security official said.
The explosives, mostly TNT that officials believe was recovered from land mines, were stashed in 34 plastic sacks, the security officer said speaking on condition of anonymity, because he is not authorized to give statements to the media. The explosives were to be smuggled to the Gaza Strip, he said.
Bedouin trackers working for the authorities led security forces to the underground hiding place in Nagaa Shabanah, a village a few kilometers south of the Rafah crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip.
The discovery came as hundreds of state-security forces and military intelligence personnel conducted a search operation in the Sinai Peninsula for two Palestinians believed to be plotting suicide attacks on Egyptian tourist resorts, the security officer said.
Smuggling across the border into Gaza or Israel has long provided a livelihood for some Bedouin. Weapons, cigarettes and foreigners seeking jobs in Israel are all taken surreptitiously across the border.
Israel has repeatedly accused Egypt of not doing enough to stop smuggling of weapons into Gaza, particularly through tunnels. Egypt recently said it would make a greater effort to stop smuggling.

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Abbas to push PA gov't to fulfill Quartet conditions

Last update - 10:29 24/02/2007   

Abbas to push PA gov't to fulfill Quartet conditions
By News Agencies

Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas said Friday he was determined to push the planned Palestinian unity government into complying with Western demands to recognize Israel, renounce violence and abide by previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements.
Abbas was referring to the three principles drafted by the Quartet of Middle East peace negotiators - the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations.
"We did not change our position, we did not change our principles," Abbas told reporters after a meeting with the European Union's chief diplomat Javier Solana in Brussels. Abbas met Solana as part of a tour of European nations in efforts to build support for an eventual lifting of a crippling international aid embargo.
Abbas said that his Fatah party remained "committed to the principles of a two-state-solution, renouncing violence and terror and reiterating our commitment to agreements signed."
Fatah agreed to share power with the ruling Hamas movement earlier this month despite the militant group's continued refusal to recognize Israel.
Solana said that the EU had to wait and see how the planned Palestinian unity government would operate before making any decisions.
"We cannot boycott what does not exist, the government still has not been formed," Solana said, but he stressed that the new administration would have to comply with the three Quartet principles.
Solana cautioned that a Palestinian unity government would either be "part of a solution or ... be part of the problem."
The EU was not boycotting the Palestinian people, Solana stressed, adding that the 27-member bloc would continue its help and "if possible" even increase aid to the Palestinians this year.
Last year, the EU gave a total of 700 million euros in aid to the Palestinians, some 200 million euros more than in the years before Hamas had won parliamentary elections.
The EU and the U.S. froze direct aid to the Palestinian Authority following the election victory in early 2006 of Hamas, classified as a terrorist organization by both Brussels and Washington.
Earlier Friday, Abbas met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who welcomed the planned Palestinian coalition. Merkel however firmly that any new government must recognize Israel.
Merkel, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, said the power-sharing deal reached between Abbas' Fatah faction and Hamas was positive because it stopped the fighting between the two that cost some 130 lives.
"It is good that the bloodletting, especially in Gaza, has been stopped, but there is a difficult stretch in front of us," Merkel said after meeting with Abbas in Berlin.
But she returned to the conditions imposed by the Quartet, that any new government must give up violence, recognize Israel and accept existing agreements reached with Israel. The power-sharing deal skirts those issues, and Hamas still refuses to recognize Israel.
Abbas met with Merkel in an effort to drum up support for the unity government deal after talks with British Prime Minister Tony Blair in London on Wednesday.
Abbas, who also met on Thursday with Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, expressed optimism that the boycott would be at least softened by the time the Quartet hold their next meeting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
"Regarding the boycott, we are very close to the European Union, and also as regards the Quartet, we think that by the next meeting things will be still clearer," Abbas told journalists after meeting Steinmeier.
Syria-based exiled political leader of Hamas Khaled Meshal said Friday that his faction will not budge from its position and blamed the United States for the failure of the international community to lift the financial embargo on the Palestinians.
Meshal also said that efforts were still under way through Egypt to broker the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, abducted by pro-Hamas militants in June.
As a father, Meshal said he understood what Shalit's father was going through.
Speaking to reporters at the end of a three-day visit to Cairo, Meshal criticized the Quartet's meeting this week in Berlin for failing to lift the embargo on the Palestinians.
The gathering searched for a way to advance the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts amid strong misgivings about the planned unity government between rival militant Hamas and the moderate Fatah.
Meshal blasted Washington's stand to postpone any decisions about lifting the blockade until the Hamas-Fatah power sharing government takes hold.
"The postponement ... is an evidence that the American position is not convincing," said Meshal.
Meanwhile, foreign ministers of seven Muslim countries and the chief of the Organization of the Islamic Conference will meet in Pakistan this weekend to prepare for an Islamic summit aimed at ending turbulence in the Middle East.
The idea for a summit of the Islamic countries has been championed by Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf who has long said the Palestinian conflict was the root of terrorism and extremism.
Musharraf, whose government does not recognize Israel but has held talks with it, has expressed gloom about the problems besetting the region and has urged a new initiative.
"Whether it is Iraq or Lebanon, or Palestine or Afghanistan, we seem to be sliding downwards. We don't see any light. We are not moving towards improvement and solutions," Musharraf told a recent news conference.
"So we thought that we must take action to turn the tide ... so at least some light is visible at the end of the tunnel...."

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Egyptian suspect: I am not a spy for Israel

A more elegant way of taking hostages...

Last update - 13:27 24/02/2007   
Egyptian denies spying for Israel, says confession was forced
By Reuters
CAIRO - An Egyptian man with Canadian citizenship denied Saturday spying for Israel's Mossad intelligence agency, and said a confession had been forced out of him.
Mohammed Essam Ghoneim el-Attar, 31, standing trial on the outskirts of Cairo, denied any links with three Israelis charged in absentia with recruiting him to Mossad.
Israel has dismissed the charges as baseless.
"No sir, none of this happened," Attar told the judge who asked him to comment on the charges.
"When I was at the [Egyptian] intelligence headquarters, I came under pressure to confess," he said. The trial was postponed until Wednesday.
Egyptian prosecutors say Attar confessed that Israeli agents had helped him to obtain a residency permit in Canada under a false name and found him a job in a bank.
They said Attar, who was arrested at Cairo airport in January, was paid $56,000 to spy on Egyptians and Arabs during stays in Canada and Turkey and tried to obtain information on Egyptian Coptic Christians abroad.
He was also expected to approach potential recruits.
The Egyptian media, which hailed Attar's arrest as a triumph for the country's intelligence services, has published what it said were details of his confessions and portrayed him as a spy who had betrayed his country and religion.
"El-Attar relates the details of his downfall," the state-owned al-Ahram daily newspaper wrote on Saturday, describing his acts as "shameful".
The purported confessions quote Attar as saying he had converted to Christianity and was homosexual, a taboo in the conservative Egyptian Muslim community.
Attar arrived at the court house on Saturday under heavy security and stood inside the defendants' pen. Dressed in a white T-shirt and trousers, he made a victory sign several times to reporters and television cameras.
In 1996, Egypt sentenced Azzam Azzam, an Israeli Arab textile worker, to 15 years in jail for spying for Israel. Egyptian authorities said Azzam passed messages in women's underwear using invisible ink.
Both Azzam and Israel had denied the charges. He was released after eight years as part of a deal that included the release of six Egyptian students in Israel.

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Muddled thinking about Israel, "Leftists" and Gaza

I generally like Bradley Burston's analyses, even if I do not always agree with them. They evince an intelligent, unhysterical, undogmatic and pragmatic humanism, reminiscent of the intellectual posture of Mark Twain.

Sometimes, though he is way wide of the mark. For example, here is a "legitimate" reason for hating Israel according to him:

"4. Because Israel, even in withdrawing from Gaza, has left it to die"

Perhaps Bradley has inadvertantly stumbled upon the root causes of anti-Semitism here. He is really on to something. For 2,000 years the Jews neglected the Holy Land, and left all those poor folk to fend for themselves. Palestinian Arabs lived here in peace and harmony, enjoing the benefits of illiteracy, trachoma, malaria and typhus. With no Jewish doctors and hospitals around, many of the poor Arabs lived lives that were short, nasty and brutish. There was no work other than agriculture, because there were no Jewish investors either. There were no Zionist irrigation works either, so there was no water. No wonder everyone hates those cruel Jews.

Consider the facts, friend Bradley. Palestine was traditionally the armpit (or an unmentionable part) of the Turkish Empire. The Jews of Jerusalem were the poorest among all those who dwelt in the land, and their main industry was begging. Even in 1920 the Jews of Palestine were so poor that they were leaving in droves. By 1936, greedy evil colonialist imperialist Zionist investment had made the Jewish community richer than the Arab Palestinian community, but the Arab community by then was also among the richest in the Middle East. Wages of Arabs in Palestine were higher than in most neighboring countries.

When the Peel plan proposed to give 25% of the land to the approximately 450,000 Jewish inhabitants, it was proposed seriously that the much larger and more populous Arab state would not be economically self-sufficient, and that therefore the tiny Jewish state with its small community, that was also expected to absorb millions of immigrants, would need to subsidize the Arab state in perpetuity! All this was due to Zionist investment, since except for a bit of money spent on the port of Haifa, the British did not invest anything in Palestine. All the wealth had to come from taxes. By the year 1948, the Arabs of Palestine had improved their status quite a bit more, thanks also to British investment during WW II. However, the Jews of Palestine now produced four times as much as the Arabs, and paid four times as much taxes, even though the Arabs were twice as numerous!

The Zionists built the national water carrier. British experts insisted that it would never be economically feasible to pump irrigation water from the Sea of Galilee. "Never" was about 30 years in coming. In onde day, the national water carrier pumps more water than was used in all of Palestine in the entire year of 1948. Without that water, it would not be possible to maintain 7 million people in Israel at a near-Western European standard of living.

Consider the next crime of the evil Zionists. In 1967, the per capita income of the West Bank and Gaza was in the neighborhood of $360. By 1993, it was over $2,400. Then the evil Zionists gave the Palestinians self rule. By 2000, the per capita income of the West Bank and Gaza was only $2,000. Still, it is a fact that Palestinian Arabs were crossing the border illegally from Jordan in order to live in the oppressive and evil Zionist occupation and work in Israel. I met some of those Arabs. Then the Intifada started. The evil Jews did not permit the Palestinians to import suicide bombers into Israel, and the Palestinian GDP plumetted.

Now the evil Zionists committed the crime of withdrawing from Gaza. Jewish philanthropists paid so that Palestinians could own the green houses that the greedy evil Zionists left behind. The Palestinian Arabs trashed the green houses or used them as termini for arms smuggling tunnels. Then the Palestinians voted for the nice progressive Hamas, which wants to make a nice progressive Islamic state in all of "Palestine." According to Bradley Burston, the Zionists have an obligation to encourage subsidy programs for purchase of Qassam rockets and pay the salaries of the people who launch them. As Bradley wrote:

It is not lost on leftists that many Israelis reap a distinct satisfaction from the Palestinians' inability to help themselves, govern themselves, save themselves.

I don't know many such Israelis. There are a few. Maybe Bradley moves in different circles. Mostly I found that the misuse of the green houses, the internecine fighting, the lost opportunities for peace and development, are all causes for alarm and concern. It may mean we can never have peace with our neighbors, and that would be really terrible.
Bradley continues:

Leftists may note that Israel has done everything in its power to convince the world to deny much-needed aid to a democratically elected government, and that Israel has not acted as a neighbor whose primary concern is an eventual peace.

According to Burston's logic, the Palestinian Arabs democratically chose genocide for the Jews, so the Jews must encourage subsidies for this program, because it is a democratic choice. Presumably, in World War II, the Jews should have encouraged Roosevelt to send railway cars to Eichmann to expedite the transport of Jews to Auschwitz.
How could subsidizing the Hamas bring eventual peace? Didn't the allies blockade Germany in World War II? Does that mean that they were not interested in eventual peace? Right now, the primary concern is immediate survival. If you are dead, eventual peace doesn't matter. Therefore, stopping the suicide bombers and the rockets is the first order of business.
The implications are clear. The assumptions of Bradley Burston and the unnamed "leftists," which are racist assumptions, are that if the Jews leave, the economy of Palestine will inevitably degenerate into something like that of Syria. The fate of the glass and steel towers in Herzliya Pituach and Ramat Gan will be as the fate of the green houses in Gaza, or as the fate of the farm buildings of Gush Etzion in 1948 or the Ruttenberg electric plant and the potash works in the north of the Dead Sea. The national water carrier will cease to function. It will all rot in the sun and be ravaged by vandalism, like the grandeur of Rome after the invasion of the Goths and the Vandals.

Under Arab rule, in the present state of development of Palestinian society, and under the racist assumption of Arab Palestinian helplessness that is built in to the viewpoint of the so-called "leftists," it is questionable whether this land could support more than one or two million Palestinian Arabs, just as the British experts predicted in the 1930s. Therefore, the course of action is clear. The evil greedy Jewish sons of apes and dogs will not be allowed to leave the Islamic Paradise. We will have to stay here and create wealth for our Islamist masters.

An alternative to consider is that left to their own devices, the Palestinians will in time become a people like any other. They will learn to stand on their feet. They will stop making suicide bomber belts and Qassam rockets, and start manufacturing goods and services that the world, including Israel, want. With freedom and democracy, come responsibility.

Here are two other reasons why "Leftists" are right to hate Israel, according to Burston:

1. Because Israel's policies are frequently marked by gratuitous
humiliation of and disdain for the Palestinians.
2. Because Israelis can live with this.

I have to dispute both assumptions. A great part of the humiliation suffered by Palestinians at checkpoints, or at the hands of settlers, is due to individual loutishness or to incompetence of IDF and border police officials. It is not policy. And many Israelis cannot live with it. That is why there is Peace Now, and Gush Shalom, and the Machsomwatch movement that reports on doings at checkpoints, and that is why there is the "Breaking the Silence" group, soldiers protesting against the occupation, and that is why there is Betselem, that is why there are refuseniks, that is why Zionist Kibbutz members go out to protect Palestinians harvesting olives from settlers, and that is why there is a very long list of other groups protesting the occupationn. What is peculiar, and what Bradley doesn't mention, is that no "leftists" are upset by the fact that Palestinian policies are often marked by gratuitous murder of Israeli citizens and by the fact that many Palestinians cannot only live with it, but rather celebrate the death of every suicide bomber who kills Israelis. There is no Palestinian "Shahid watch" that reports when a suicide bomber kills innocent children in a supermarket "gratuitously." There is no Palestinian Peace Now movement to protest against Palestinian incitement. How do we explain the fact that this does not upset any of these so-called leftists?

Ami Isseroff

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved. Please link to this article and cite it. Do not copy it to your Web site without express permision.

Ten reasons the left hates Israel - five good, five bad
By Bradley Burston

A few thoughts engendered by the controversy over Alvin H. Rosenfeld's article "'Progressive'" Jewish Thought and the New Anti-Semitism."

Five of the following are reasonable. Five are not.


Why does the left hate Israel? Here are five good reasons:

1. Because Israel's policies are frequently marked by gratuitous humiliation of and disdain for the Palestinians.

2. Because Israelis can live with this.

If the policies hinted at in 1. above are associated with a status quo which Israelis find tolerably calm and Palestinians find unbearable, even lethal, Israel's leaders often view this as a viable and even optimal outcome.

3. Because Israel, in practice, values settlements more than it values social justice.

The right will tell you that there is [Bradley meant to write "no" here A.I. ] contradiction between settlements and social justice. Which would be true if there were no Palestinians, and if the Palestinians did not view the land occupied by settlements as theirs, historically, legally, and morally. And which would be true if the same consideration offered settlers in fixing the route of the West Bank fence were applied to Palestinians, that is, were farmers not cut off from their fields, pupils from their schools, and close relatives from one another.

The right will tell you that the settlements are no obstacle to peace. But that same right will also argue that the settlements are the only real bulwark between the Palestinians and an independent Palestine.

4. Because Israel, even in withdrawing from Gaza, has left it to die.

It is not lost on leftists that many Israelis reap a distinct satisfaction from the Palestinians' inability to help themselves, govern themselves, save themselves. Leftists may note that Israel has done everything in its power to convince the world to deny much-needed aid to a democratically elected government, and that Israel has not acted as a neighbor whose primary concern is an eventual peace.

5. Because of the propensity of Israel's leaders to demonstrate arrogance, claim a monopoly on the moral high ground, set non-negotiable demands to which Palestinian politicians cannot agree, then condemn Palestinians for intransigence.


Here, then, are five bad reasons:

1. The Palestinian cause is inherently progressive.

As currently constituted, Palestinian governance is marked by institutional graft, widespread human rights violations, curbs on press freedoms, tribalism, blood feuds, murders of women on the basis of contentions of preservation of family honor, and celebration of the targeting and killing of non-combatants as a legitimate form of resistance to occupation.

2. Israel remains the sole root cause of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the reason it remains unresolved.

As root causes go, both sides have demonstrated profound intransigence, both sides have violated agreements with abandon, both sides suffer from extremists whose power to destroy a peace process far outweighs their proportion of the population.

In addition, the contention that Israel is solely responsible suggests that the solution of the Mideast conflict is the dissolution of Israel. This brings us to:

3. Israel is a Jewish state.

For a vocal minority of leftists, this fact alone - coupled with the following two arguments - is enough to call into serious question Israel's right to exist. This argument, which holds that the formally Jewish nature of the state enshrines an unconscionable level of racism, dovetails with:

4. Israel is an apartheid state.

Occupation: It's horrid, but it's not apartheid

5. Israel's actions are comparable to those of Nazi Germany.

This contention may be the genuine litmus test for anti-Semitism on the left.

In the end, the compulsion to accuse Israel of genocide, while turning a blind eye to wholesale slaughter in Darfur and elsewhere, tends to say a great deal more about the accuser than the accused.

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King Abdullah is out to get the Jewish vote too...

It is not only USA presidential candidates who are busy making promises to Zionists. King Abdullah of Jordan is campaigning too. He makes promises to Israeli voters, but he can't keep them. Perhaps if it was the king of Saudi Arabia, it would be more meaningful. Does that tell us what is missing?

Palestinian govt must adhere Quartet demands-Abdullah
24 Feb 2007 10:53:43 GMT
24 Feb 2007 10:53:43 GMT
Source: Reuters

By Adam Entous

JERUSALEM, Feb 24 (Reuters) - Jordan's King Abdullah says there is broad Arab agreement that a Palestinian unity government must adhere to the demands of the Quartet of Middle East mediators.

King Abdullah's comments, to be broadcast on Saturday, are the first from an Arab leader to cast doubt on the willingness of major Arab donors to sidestep a U.S.-led embargo of the Hamas-led government unless it commits to recognising Israel, renouncing violence and abiding by interim peace deals.

"You're not alone on this," King Abdullah said in an interview with Israel's Channel 2 television when asked about Israeli concerns the power-sharing deal between Hamas and President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah failed to meet the Quartet's demands.

"There's international common ground -- not just Western but also Arab and to an extent Muslim -- that believe that there have to be certain criteria that the new government has to accept if we're going to move the process forward," he said.

"You have a president, Mahmoud Abbas, who is your negotiator, who ... is prepared to be able to move the peace process forward, and a government that's going to be formed that will have to adhere to the Quartet conditions," he said.

The unity government agreement contained a vague promise to "respect" previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements. But the pact did not directly commit the new government to renouncing violence or recognising Israel.

King Abdullah said the goal of the unity agreement was to stop fighting between Hamas and Fatah.

"It's not just ... the international players, but also the Arab countries are also expecting the new Palestinian government to adhere to the policies that we have set out in the Quartet, and in the Arab Quartet also," he said, referring to Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.

King Abdullah said Abbas should be given "the mandate to start negotiations with the Israelis," and the new government should be in "full compliance with the Arab Accord as well as international commitments".


The Arab initiative, launched in 2002, would trade diplomatic recognition for Israel's withdrawal from land it occupied in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. King Abdullah said the initiative was being re-launched and could draw broader support from Muslim countries around the world.

The unity government deal has widened rifts within the Quartet, which is made up of the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations, over how to deal with the Palestinian government.

Washington wants to shun the new government to keep pressure on Hamas. Russia and some European states favour a softer line.

Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal said on Friday that several European states had pledged to send money to the new government, though he offered no details.

In the interview, King Abdullah said time was running out to revive the long-stalled peace process. "I think the circumstances in the Middle East have changed so much so that really this is our last opportunity," he said.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice held a three-way meeting on Monday with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Abbas. But it appeared to do little to jumpstart peace-making.

"I can say they (the talks) have started, not as well as I think we ... expected, but it's a move in the right direction," King Abdullah said.

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Indonesia to host Hamas meeting

Indonesia would like to hear Hamas's views on the Jewish question...

Indonesia says plans Hamas meeting in March

Most populous Muslim country invites Hamas to talks with Western representatives in Jakarta aimed at persuading group to moderate its positions
Reuters Published:  02.23.07, 11:33 / Israel News
Indonesia has invited Hamas and Western representatives to talks in Jakarta next month in a bid to persuade the group to moderate its position and help end a crippling economic blockade of the Palestinian government.
Indonesia has received assurances from Syrian-based Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal that he would send envoys to Jakarta for the talks, foreign ministry spokesman Desra Percaya said.
"We want to hear from Hamas their views on solving the Palestinian-Israeli issue and outside parties have yet to hear directly from them what it is that they want," Percaya told a news conference.
He did not give an exact date for the meeting but said it would take place before the end of March.
US, European 'individuals' invited
Percaya said despite the formation of a Palestinian unity government, the meeting remained relevant because issues surrounding Western demands for Hamas to renounce violence, recognize Israel and accept interim peace deals with the Jewish state would not be resolved any time soon.
Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country, is a strong supporter of the Palestinian struggle for nationhood and has no diplomatic ties with Israel .
Percaya said Indonesia had also invited "individuals" from Europe and the United States to participate in the talks and hoped that a Western recognition of the Palestinian unity government would ease the economic blockade. He did not say whether the Western representatives had accepted the invitation.

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So far, Hamas bid for recognition has made little headway

The Hamas have sent Mahmoud Abbas off as their new salesman. If Abbas is working on commision, he may have some tough days ahead, as he has not made any sales yet.

Last update - 14:00 23/02/2007   

EU: New Palestinian gov't must recognize Israel
By News Agencies

Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday welcomed a proposed Palestinian coalition - but firmly underlined in talks with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas the European Union stance that any new government must recognize Israel.
Abbas, on a European tour to build support for an eventual lifting of a crippling international aid embargo, said Palestinians were suffering under the cutoff, but held out a vague hope that the new government will satisfy the donors' conditions.
Merkel, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, said the power-sharing deal reached between Abbas' Fatah faction and Hamas was positive because it stopped the fighting between the two that cost some 130 lives.
"It is good that the bloodletting, especially in Gaza, has been stopped but there is a difficult stretch in front of us," Merkel said after meeting with Abbas in Berlin.
But she returned to the conditions imposed by the Quartet of Middle East peace negotiators - from the EU, United Nation, United States, and Russia - that any new government must give up violence, recognize Israel and accept existing agreements reached with Israel. The power-sharing deal skirts those issues, and Hamas still refuses to recognize Israel.
Abbas met with Merkel in an effort to drum up support for the unity government deal after talks with British Prime Minister Tony Blair in London on Wednesday.
Abbas, who also met on Thursday with Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, expressed optimism that the boycott would be at least softened by the time the Middle East Quartet - the U.S., U.N., EU and Russia - hold their next meeting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
"Regarding the boycott, we are very close to the European Union, and also as regards the Quartet, we think that by the next meeting things will be still clearer," Abbas told journalists after meeting Steinmeier.
Meanwhile, foreign ministers of seven Muslim countries and the chief of the Organization of the Islamic Conference will meet in Pakistan this weekend to prepare for an Islamic summit aimed at ending turbulence in the Middle East.
The idea for a summit of the Islamic countries has been championed by Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf who has long said the Palestinian conflict was the root of terrorism and extremism.
Musharraf, whose government does not recognize Israel but has held talks with it, has expressed gloom about the problems besetting the region and has urged a new initiative.
"Whether it is Iraq or Lebanon, or Palestine or Afghanistan, we seem to be sliding downwards. We don't see any light. We are not moving towards improvement and solutions," Musharraf told a recent news conference.
"So we thought that we must take action to turn the tide ... so at least some light is visible at the end of the tunnel."
Indonesia invites Hamas and Western envoys for talks
Indonesia has invited Hamas and Western representatives to talks in Jakarta next month in a bid to persuade the militant group to moderate its position and help end a crippling economic blockade of the Palestinian government.
Indonesia has received assurances from Syrian-based Hamas leader Khaled Meshal that he would send envoys to Jakarta for the talks, foreign ministry spokesman Desra Percaya said.
"We want to hear from Hamas their views on solving the Palestinian-Israeli issue and outside parties have yet to hear directly from them what it is that they want," Percaya told a news conference.
He did not give an exact date for the meeting but said it would take place before the end of March.
Percaya said despite the formation of a Palestinian unity government, the meeting remained relevant because issues surrounding Western demands for Hamas to renounce violence, recognize Israel and accept interim peace deals with Israel would not be resolved any time soon.
Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country, is a strong supporter of the Palestinian struggle for nationhood and has no diplomatic ties with Israel.
Percaya said Indonesia had also invited "individuals" from Europe and the United States to participate in the talks and hoped that a Western recognition of the Palestinian unity government would ease the economic blockade. He did not say whether the Western representatives had accepted the invitation.
Western diplomats have said the agreement between Hamas and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah faction widened divisions within the Quartet of Middle East negotiators - the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations.
The unity government agreement, which calmed weeks of factional warfare that killed more than 90 Palestinians, contained a vague promise to "respect" previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements.
But it fell short of meeting the Quartet's demands for Hamas to renounce violence and recognize Israel.
Hamas took control of the Palestinian government in March after winning parliamentary elections.
The U.S.-led boycott of the Hamas-led government has pushed the Palestinian Authority to the brink of financial collapse and raised poverty rates in the Gaza Strip and occupied West Bank.
A report by the United Nations World Food Program, released on Thursday, estimated that nearly half of Palestinians were unable to produce or access the food they needed

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Reducing Israel's public debt

What is more important, reducing public debt? reducing foreign aid from the United States, maintaining defenses or building a strong infrastructure?

In debt to the future
By Jorg Decressin and Natan Epstein

For much of the first 60 years of Israel's independence, policymakers' key task was to build the state and foster economic development. This costly process had to be shared with future generations through the accumulation of public debt. It was a fair trade-off since future generations would benefit from established statehood and a flourishing economy. Now Israel ranks among the most advanced countries, both with respect to the quality of public institutions and economic competitiveness. It also faces the same set of economic challenges, notably those related to an aging population. Today there are four people in the Israeli labor force for every person older than 65 years. By 2050, that number may only be between two and three. The message is clear: Funding the needs of future generations will become much harder. This has significant implications for fiscal policy and public debt.
Just over two weeks ago, the International Monetary Fund concluded its annual consultation on economic policies with Israel. These consultations have been taking place since the country became a member of the IMF in 1954. The fund praised Israel's economic achievements, but - as it has done before - it also emphasized the need to reduce the public debt.
Why this concern about debt? First, despite much recent progress in reducing the government's fiscal deficit, Israel's debt still amounts to the equivalent of about 88 percent of GDP. Only a handful of other advanced economies have a ratio of debt to income that is similar or higher than that of Israel. This represents a heavy burden on future generations. Second, lowering the public debt reduces real interest rates, thereby boosting investment and economic growth. Third, if the economy hits a rough patch, the government will have little room to offer its citizens more support without raising questions among international investors about the stability of public finances and the attractiveness of Israel as a destination for investment. This was the case only five years ago, when the collapse of the global high-tech bubble and heightened geopolitical risks culminated in Israel's longest recession. Fourth, servicing the public debt consumes the equivalent of almost half of the central government's welfare expenditures. Therefore, it is essential to reduce interest spending if the government hopes to combat inequality and poverty. And fifth, Israel's population is aging and its needs for social support-health care, long-term care and possibly income support will grow appreciably over the next half century.
How should the public debt be significantly reduced? By continuing on the path of fiscal consolidation: The IMF is advocating to move close to a balanced government budget over the next five years through a range of measures, notably cutting tax exemptions. However, this would require sacrifices that demand political support that is always difficult to muster.
Indeed, the demands of diverse political constituencies often foster excessive government spending and debt. Again, among advanced economies Israel is hardly unique in this respect. But many other countries are combating the tendencies toward deficit spending with more transparency about fiscal policy, notably better analysis and planning, as well as stronger checks and balances.
In Israel, what is needed is a more forward-looking, risk-based analysis of fiscal policy that is integrated into the budget process. Fiscal policy is about more than budgeting one or three years ahead. What Israeli budget documents could usefully include is a long-term fiscal sustainability analysis that lays out the public spending needs 50 years ahead. Similar reports for other advanced economies show that health-care spending, for example, will rise markedly over the next half century as populations age. They illustrate how public finances and the economy would evolve under a variety of policy responses - saving through public debt reduction, raising tax revenue, cutting other spending or reforming health care. Israeli budget documents also need a risk analysis that explains how the public finances would evolve under less favorable economic scenarios over the short and long run. Such an analysis would, for example, reveal what is needed to sustain welfare support when government tax revenue falls during recessions.
Many countries have found this added fiscal transparency useful to nurture public debate about the role of the state and to foster a constituency for debt reduction. In Israel, long-term and contingency planning appear all the more necessary given the volatile setting in which the economy operates. Furthermore, if such planning and analysis were to be audited or produced by independent, nonpartisan experts, it could greatly help the public to understand the policy challenges that lie in the more distant future, and nurture trust in policymakers who make the case for fiscal consolidation.
Jorg Decressin is the IMF Israel mission chief and Natan Epstein is the IMF Israel Desk economist.

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The Tal law quietly marches on

The pernicious exemption of large sectors of the Israeli public from military service perpetuates itself, against a background of public apathy.

Hail to the draft dodgers
By Nehemia Shtrasler

In a normal country, discussion of the issue would have immediately climbed to the top of the agenda. Here it is difficult to compete with the huge headlines generated by the Zeiler Committee and with the nerve-racking drama that ended with the security forces successfully preventing a terror attack in Tel Aviv. Thus two important decisions made by the Israeli government this week were pushed aside: The extension of the Tal Law and the establishment of a civilian national service authority.
So the perfect solution has been found. With one hand we will glorify the evasion of service in the Israel Defense Forces and with the other we will establish new and expensive mechanisms to turn national service into the new "melting pot" of Israeli society after we have destroyed the IDF's old "melting pot."
The Tal Law was born in sin. Its only purpose was to place a seal of approval on discrimination. In the 1950s, when the exemption from IDF service for yeshiva students was enacted, there were 400 young men who would keep the flame alive. However, in 1977, then prime minister Menachem Begin made the fateful mistake of surrendering to the pressure of the ultra-Orthodox and canceled the numerical restriction that had been in force until then.
At that moment the dam burst. The number of yeshivas and of those receiving exemptions began to soar and this year it will reach 11 percent of potential draftees.
In 2000 the Tal Committee proposed that the discrimination be institutionalized. A yeshiva student would be able to leave at the age of 22 (if he so desired) for a year of making decisions outside the yeshiva, and at the end of the year, he would have to decide whether it was desirable to serve for a year in the IDF or in national service and then begin a life of work, or to return to the yeshiva.
And what happened? In the context of the Tal Law, which was instituted four years ago, only 155 yeshiva students have been drafted to the IDF thus far.
This is a tiny fraction of yeshiva students. And really, why should they leave such a comfortable and protected hothouse?
The simple and cruel truth must be told. The yeshivas serve as "cities of refuge" for those who don't want to endanger their bodies and souls. Their students don't want funeral processions leaving from the homes of their parents and they don't want their parents to lose sleep.
In May 2006, then president of the High Court of Justice, Aharon Barak, ruled that the law to postpone military service undermines equality and human dignity and causes discrimination and deprivation.
But even that did not prevent the government from cynically extending the draft evasion law for another five years, in order to establish national service in the interim. In so doing, it added insult to injury.
This is the latest craze in the market place. A kind of magical solution that is supposed to make Israeli society happier and more egalitarian.
The service, so the naive believe, will erase the Arabs' feeling of deprivation and will bring the Haredim closer to the secular community.
In order to attract young people to "national service," the government will offer them conditions identical to those a discharged soldier enjoys, including tax exemptions, subsidized loans and study stipends, after they devote an entire year of their lives; not three, heaven forfend; to national service.
This is in effect a track that competes with service in the IDF, whose establishment will necessarily increase the evasion of military service. After all, this track is devoid of personal risk, while being both legitimate and also granting monetary benefits.
In order to run the service and supervise those who serve, a new network will be established, which will of course include branches and districts. This means that the government bureaucracy, which we are so eager to limit, will grow and become inflated. Does anyone seriously believe that it is possible to penetrate the Haredi community to check how many hours a young Haredi man is devoting to national service? (See for example the sentence of Shas' Ofer Hugi). And who can check the work of a young Arab in his village? And where exactly will a "melting pot" be created here?
"National service" will harm those who receive low salaries; employees of the health and welfare services; whom these young people will replace without pay. Their salaries will be lowered and some will be ejected from the work force.
But the most absurd aspect of this move is the fact that this is voluntary service. If they wish to, they'll serve, if they don't wish to, they won't serve. There is no compulsion. In other words, this is stupid and harmful competition with the many volunteer organizations that presently operate quietly and efficiently in many spheres. Even now, any young person who so desires can volunteer for activity in the community. So why allow the government octopus to go in and destroy the magnificent voluntary sector that exists here?

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Nick Cohen: Reactionary causes of the left

Nick Cohen asks, how can "liberals" support segregation of men and women and campaigns against free speech? How can Tony Blair be held responsible for bombs in the London underground?
These are good questions to ponder in considering what is a "liberal" or "progressive" political and social agenda, and what causes it ought to support.
Cohen is probably wrong about this however. He wrote:
"No one noticed it when the Berlin Wall came down, but the death of socialism gave people who called themselves "left wing" a paradoxical advantage. They no longer had a practical program they needed to defend and could go along with ultra-right movements that would once have been taboo."
Actually, left wing support for such causes had been building since the Algerian revolution, and perhaps since the rise of Nasserism. It was already most evident in the1975 "Zionism is Racism" resolution of the UN, for example, which grew out of a left-wing conference held in Mexico. The cause of the change was organizational, and not ideological. Through the UN and other means, and using the Palestinian cause as a lever, pro-Muslim groups managed to subvert, and are managing to subvert, a large number of NGOs and political action groups, as well as labor unions, progressive church groups, women's rights and even gay rights groups. The spectacle of homosexuals demonstrating in favor of societies where homosexuality is a capital offence can only be ascribed to good organization and fast talking. It clearly has nothing to do with logic, ideology or reality.

Wall Street Journal
An Upside-Down World
February 23, 2007; Page A10

LONDON -- The other day Ken Livingstone, the mayor of my hometown of London, organized a conference on Islam and the West. It was a carefully rigged affair in which handpicked speaker after handpicked speaker stood up and announced that the democracies were to blame for the tidal wave of murder sweeping the world. To provide a spurious air of balance, the organizers invited a few people who dissented from the line of the Muslim Brotherhood and its British allies. Agnès Poirier, a French feminist, was one of them, but she pulled out because although there were no special facilities for Christians, Hindus and Jews, Mr. Livingstone had provided separate prayer rooms for Muslim men and Muslim women.

She wanted to know: Does Ken Livingstone's idea of multiculturalism acknowledge and condone segregation? It clearly does, but what made this vignette of ethnic politics in a European city worth noting is that commentators for the BBC and nearly every newspaper here describe Mr. Livingstone as one of the most left-wing politicians in British public life. Hardly any of them notices the weirdness of an apparent socialist pandering to a reactionary strain of Islam, pushing its arguments and accepting its dictates.

Mr. Livingstone's not alone. After suicide bombers massacred Londoners on July 7, 2005, leftish rather than conservative papers held British foreign policy responsible for the slaughters on the transport network. ("Blair's Bombs," ran the headline in my own leftish New Statesman.) In any university, you are more likely to hear campaigns for the rights of Muslim women derided by postmodernists than by crusty conservative dons. Our Stop the War coalition is an alliance of the white far left and the Islamist far right, and George Galloway, its leader, and the first allegedly "far left" MP to be elected to the British parliament in 50 years, is an admirer of Saddam Hussein and Hezbollah.

I could go on with specific examples, but the crucial point is the pervasive European attitude to the Iraq catastrophe. As al Qaeda, the Baathists and Shiite Islamists slaughter thousands, there is virtually no sense that their successes are our defeats. Iraqi socialists and trade unionists I know are close to despair. They turn for support to Europe, the home of liberalism, feminism and socialism, and find that rich democrats, liberals and feminists won't help them or even acknowledge their existence.

There were plenty of leftish people in the 20th century who excused communism, but they could at least say that communism was a left-wing idea. Now overwhelmingly and everywhere you find people who scream their heads off about the smallest sexist or racist remark, yet refuse to confront ultra-reactionary movements that explicitly reject every principle they profess to hold.

Why is the world upside down? In part, it is a measure of President Bush's failure that anti-Americanism has swept out of the intelligentsia and become mainstream in Britain. A country that was once the most pro-American in Western Europe now derides Tony Blair for sticking with the Atlantic alliance. But if Iraq has pummeled Mr. Blair's reputation, it has also shone a very harsh light on the British and European left. No one noticed it when the Berlin Wall came down, but the death of socialism gave people who called themselves "left wing" a paradoxical advantage. They no longer had a practical program they needed to defend and could go along with ultra-right movements that would once have been taboo. In moments of crisis, otherwise sane liberals will turn to these movements and be reassured by the professed leftism of the protest organizers that they are not making a nonsense of their beliefs.

If, that is, they have strong beliefs to abandon. In Europe and North America extreme versions of multiculturalism and identity politics have left a poisonous legacy. Far too many liberal-minded people think that is somehow culturally imperialist to criticize reactionary movements and ideas -- as long as they aren't European or American reactionary movements. This delusion is everywhere. Until very recently our Labour government was allowing its dealings with Britain's Muslim minority to be controlled by an unelected group, the Muslim Council of Britain, which stood for everything social democrats were against. In their desperate attempts to ingratiate themselves, ministers gave its leader a knighthood -- even though he had said that "death was too good" for Salman Rushdie, who happens to be a British citizen as well as a great novelist.

Beyond the contortions and betrayals of liberal and leftish thinking lies a simple emotion that I don't believe Americans take account of: an insidious fear that has produced the ideal conditions for appeasement. Radical Islam does worry Europeans but we are trying to prevent an explosion by going along with Islamist victimhood. We blame ourselves for the Islamist rage, in the hope that our admission of guilt will pacify our enemies. We are scared, but not scared enough to take a stand.

I hope conservative American readers come to Britain.But if you do, expect to find an upside-down world. People who call themselves liberals or leftists will argue with you, and when they have finished you may experience the strange realization that they have become far more reactionary than you have ever been.

Mr. Cohen, a columnist for the Observer and the New Statesman, is the author of "What's Left?: How Liberals Lost Their Way" (Fourth Estate, 2007).

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A crime of the Zionists and the Neocons?

Sorry, I couldn't resist this one:
Blast in Pakistan kills 3 as bombers' bike hits bump

By Asim Tanweer

CHICHAWATNI, Pakistan, Feb 24 (Reuters) - Three suspected Pakistani militants were blown to pieces by their explosives on Saturday when they rode over a bump on a bicycle outside a town in the central province of Punjab, police said.

"The head of one man has been blown off," Deputy Superintendent Bashir Ahmed told Reuters from Chichawatni, a town some 120 km (75 miles) north of Multan, the main city in southern Punjab...."
This was obviously the fault of the Zionist neocon warmongers. If Pakistan had not been a third world oppressed country, they would have proper roads and automobiles. It is the fault of colonialist oppression. Before the Europeans came to the Indian subcontinent, this could neve have happened.
The question is, if these guys get the virgins or not. Perhaps they get only old virgins. Those who think I am cynical should ponder the cynicism and stupidity of those who support such people, and who look for the "real cause" of suicide bombing. Note that they are not terrorists. They are "suspected militants."

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US Congressman Visits Persecuted Journalist

Asian Tribune
Sat, 2007-02-24 05:51

US Congressman Visits Persecuted Journalist
By Dr. Ricahrd Benkin

Dhaka, 24 February, ( Republican Congressman Steve Chabot of Ohio held a thirty minute meeting with dissident journalist, Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury at the US Embassy in Bangladesh. Chabot, whose district includes the city of Cincinnati, became taken with Choudhury’s plight after a resolution supporting him was brought before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs on which Chabot serves.

Choudhury has faced continued persecution since 2003 for exposing the rise of Islamist radicals, calling for relations with Israel, and advocating religious equality. He has been beaten, tortured and imprisoned for his efforts, and mobs have been allowed to attack him and bomb his newspaper with impunity. House Resolution 64, introduced by Congressman Mark Kirk (R-IL) calls on the Bangladeshi government to drop charges of “sedition, treason, and blasphemy” against Choudhury. If convicted he could face the death penalty. Chabot became a co-sponsor of HR 64.

As few US lawmakers visit Bangladesh, a meeting with Chabot during his 20-hour stay was the hottest ticket in town. Chabot, however, turned down almost all of them to meet with Choudhury, in addition to only two members of the government and two former Prime Ministers.

Speaking from Dhaka, Choudhury said he was touched by the Congressman’s sincerity for his situation and for his humanity. After he requested and had his picture taken with the Congressman, Choudhury said, Chabot then took out his own camera and asked if he could have a picture with the pro-Israel Muslim.

Chabot asked Choudhury if he was being treated well and spoke with him about a range of topics including recent progress against the growing power of Islamist radicals in Bangladesh.

- Asian Tribune -

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Friday, February 23, 2007

Ze'ev Schiff: Lest the sword slip from our hand

Lest the sword slip from our hand
By Ze'ev Schiff

Haaretz 23 February 2007

When Yaakov Peri stepped down as chief of the Shin Bet, in 1994, Jibril Rajoub, then head of Preventive Security Services in the West Bank, called Peri to express his sorrow. "This is a terrible blow to the security of the state!" said Rajoub. The state he was talking about was Israel. And the fact of the matter is that Rajoub, in his day, did work hard to prevent the second Intifada.

This same Jibril Rajoub has now appeared on television and shocked his Israeli acquaintances with the remark that in the end, the Palestinians will recover every inch of land between the river and the sea. Rajoub's standing
is no longer what it was, but this sudden, Hamas-style declaration undermines our trust in the statements made by so-called "moderate" Palestinians.

With all due respect to my Palestinian friends, I can only conclude from these remarks that we must shut our ears when the Palestinians scatter promises about wanting to live alongside Israel. It is not words that matter, but deeds, and deeds alone.

Another shocking phenomenon emerges from the appalling account of former cabinet minister and senior Fatah official Sufian Abu Zaida, in an interview with Haaretz correspondent Avi Issacharoff (February 5). Abu Zaida described how his neighbor, a colonel in the PLO, and his nephew, were executed. First they were shot in the legs, and finally in the back, with the gunmen telling jokes while pulling the trigger. Before they shot the nephew, they tried to make him drink acid.

On a previous occasion, Abu Zaida's house was firebombed, and an attempt was made to kidnap his son. "Do you understand how much they hate us?" asked Abu Zaida. "The chances for peace with Israel are greater than the chances for peace between Hamas and Fatah."

Sheik Ra'ad Salah, head of the Northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, should be reading this. In his fury over the work at the Mugrabi Gate, he repeatedly accused the Israelis of being "murderers." But Sheik Ra'ad knows, of course, what the whole world knows and can see on TV: Arabs in Iraq are brutally murdering other Arabs, most of them innocent. Sometimes they even kill them at prayer, and destroy mosques. Sheikh Ra'ad knows what members of the Islamic Movement in Algeria did to tens of thousands of citizens, including women and children, just a few years ago. But in his eyes, Israelis are the murderers.

There is only one conclusion, and Moshe Dayan already said it in his eulogy over the grave of Roi Rutenberg, who was murdered by Arabs from Gaza in the 1950s: "This is our life's choice: to be prepared and armed, strong and determined, lest the sword slip from our hand and our lives be cut down."

When ex-Mossad chief Ephraim Halevy says Israel doesn't need the recognition of Hamas, he is shifting the focus of the argument. He is getting into the fundamental, the moral and the diplomatic. The key issue here, and our primary concern, is the continuation of terror; today manifested in the continued rocket fire, the refusal to release Gilad Shalit, the attempts to carry out suicide bombings and the massive smuggling of arms. Bringing an end to these things constitutes part of the Quartet's demands.

Of course Israel must help Mahmoud Abbas, and through him, the suffering Palestinian people. But it cannot participate in a sneaky attempt by Hamas to use a moderate and positive-thinking man like Salam Fayad, who would have been the finance minister in a unity government, to put aid money into the hands of Hamas ministers, including those heading the movement's military wing.

Having a moderating force in the Gaza Strip and within the Palestinian Authority is in Israel's interest, but it is not enough. Israel must also insist that the Palestinians pass the critical test of reining in terror and fully abide by all agreements

Continued (Permanent Link)

Egypt uncovers explosives cache near Gaza border

Last update - 14:30 23/02/2007   
Egypt uncovers explosives cache near Gaza border
By The Associated Press

EL-ARISH, Egypt - Egyptian security forces discovered on Friday approximately one ton of explosives hidden underground near Egypt's border with Gaza, a security official said.
The explosives, mostly TNT that officials believe was recovered from land mines, were stashed in 34 plastic sacks, the security officer said speaking on condition of anonymity, because he is not authorized to give statements to the media. The explosives were to be smuggled to the Gaza Strip, he said.
Bedouin trackers working for the authorities led security forces to the underground hiding place in Nagaa Shabanah, a village a few kilometers south of the Rafah crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip.
The discovery came as hundreds of state-security forces and military intelligence personnel conducted a search operation in the Sinai Peninsula for two Palestinians believed to be plotting suicide attacks on Egyptian tourist resorts, the security officer said.
Smuggling across the border into Gaza or Israel has long provided a livelihood for some Bedouin. Weapons, cigarettes and foreigners seeking jobs in Israel are all taken surreptitiously across the border.
Israel has repeatedly accused Egypt of not doing enough to stop smuggling of weapons into Gaza, particularly through tunnels. Egypt recently said it would make a greater effort to stop smuggling.

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Operating hours to be extended at Karni crossing in Gaza

Last update - 10:38 23/02/2007   

Olmert orders operating hours extended at Karni crossing
By Aluf Benn, Haaretz Correspondent

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has ordered the operating hours at the Karni crossing into the Gaza Strip extended to accommodate commercial transports.
The crossing will now be open an extra shift, until 11 P.M., according to instructions given by Olmert on Wednesday at a special session on the Gaza Strip crossings.
The state will grant the Airports' Authority, which operates the crossing, the funding for the extended hours of activity.
Following talks with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas about a month and a half ago, Olmert ordered the crossing's hour of closure to be extended from 4:30 P.M. until 6 P.M. But according to a political source in Jerusalem, reports indicate problems in the lines at the crossing. The extra shift is set to begin in 45 days.
The Karni crossing is the "artery of economic life" for the Gaza Strip. According to Defense Ministry figures, some 400 trucks pass through the crossing each day on average. Two hundred and fifty of these trucks come from Israel into the Strip and 150 from the Strip into Israel.
Currently, the Karni crossing is open until 6 P.M. daily. The Defense Ministry believes that with the extra operating hours, traffic at the crossing will increase to 600 trucks, in both directions.
In addition to the extended hours at Karni, a new pedestrian passageway is planned to be opened at the Erez crossing, though it is unclear when that will occur.

Continued (Permanent Link)

For the record: U.S. is stopping talks between Israel and Syria

When there is a war, there will be a flood of books about the Iron wall of the evil Zionists, the missed opportunities of the inflexible Israelis and more of the same.
Will the US take responsible for the damages caused by that war?

Last update - 14:01 23/02/2007   

U.S. hardens line on talks between Jerusalem, Damascus
By Ze'ev Schiff, Amos Harel and Yoav Stern, Haaretz Correspondents

The United States demanded that Israel desist from even exploratory contacts with Syria, of the sort that would test whether Damascus is serious in its declared intentions to hold peace talks with Israel.
In meetings with Israeli officials recently, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was forceful in expressing Washington's view on the matter.
The American argument is that even "exploratory talks" would be considered a prize in Damascus, whose policy and actions continue to undermine Lebanon's sovereignty and the functioning of its government, while it also continues to stir unrest in Iraq, to the detriment of the U.S. presence there.
It is also known that Syria, like Iran, continues to provide Hezbollah with arms and equipment.
According to senior Israeli officials, the American position vis-a-vis Syria, as it was expressed by the secretary of state, reflects a hardening of attitudes.
When Israeli officials asked Secretary Rice about the possibility of exploring the seriousness of Syria in its calls for peace talks, her response was unequivocal: Don't even think about it.
Israeli officials, including those in the intelligence community, are divided over the degree to which Syrian President Bashar Assad is serious and sincere in his call for peace talks with Israel.
One view describes Assad's call as a propaganda campaign, and insists that the Syrian leader is not serious. Among those holding this view is Mossad chief Meir Dagan.
In Military Intelligence the view differs. There are those who say that Assad is serious in his call for peace talks, but also say that this does not mean that those talks would be easy for Israel. They even suggest that there is a very good chance that the talks would fail.
It is also known that the Syrians have recently tried to send messages to the Israeli leadership through intermediaries in Europe. These are English nationals and former American diplomats.
The assessment is that the Syrian efforts are mostly the work of associates of Syria's foreign minister, Walid Mualem. The interlocutors approach various Israelis in order to cultivate ties with officials.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has so far adopted the strict American position not to respond to the Syrian feelers.
On the other hand, at the Foreign Ministry and within the defense establishment, there is a greater degree of openness to the offers, and the overall view is that the door should not be closed entirely to the Syrians. Similarly, many believe that the Syrian offers should be tested for their sincerity.
Among the leading individuals supporting this view is Defense Minister Amir Peretz.
Nonetheless, there is strict adherence to the principle of not acting against the views of the prime minister and of coordinating all matters with him.
At the Defense Ministry, they are aware that Syria is playing a very active role in Hezbollah's efforts to replenish its arsenal, and in particular its rocket stockpile. It appears that Hezbollah has already managed, since the war, to build up a stockpile of some 10,000 short-range rockets.
Syria assists Iran in arming Hezbollah with longer-range rockets.
According to one report, the Syrians have accepted an Iranian proposal for their agents to be more active in commanding the Hezbollah's long-range rocket forces.
Meanwhile, Peretz responded on Thursday to a story in Haaretz regarding Syrian efforts to rebuild its own military strength, saying that Israel should avoid making statements on developments in Syria.
Peretz was speaking at the weekly defense assessment in his office with senior officers in the defense establishment.
He said that there should be an effort to "avoid an escalation of words." The situation on the ground and along the border with Syria "will be evaluated on the basis of facts, and the IDF will prepare accordingly," he added.
The Haaretz report struck a chord in the Arab media, which gave it a leading position in its news and analysis items.
Three Syrian political analysts and politicians were interviewed on national television and denied the report on Syrian arms procurement and testing of ballistic missiles. However, all three emphasized that if there is no progress toward peace with Israel, then it is the "natural right" of Syria to take other types of action in order to liberate the Golan Heights.
Muhammed Habesh, a Syrian legislator, in an interview with the Al Arabiya satellite channel, said that "if Israel attempts to do something stupid, it will pay a hefty price for it."
He stressed that there has been no change in the border area in terms of the deployment of forces, and added that Syria was "ready for any eventuality."
It was also announced Thursday that 10,000 tons of apples will be delivered to Syria from the Golan Heights, under the auspices of the Red Cross.
The first three Red Cross trucks will cross into Syria on Monday morning. The transfer of the crop will continue for a period of 8-10 weeks. It is the third time a shipment of apples produced by Druze in the villages on the Golan Heights is being carried out, and it is expected to be the largest ever.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Looking for truth among the lies

New Statesman, London

 Looking for truth among the lies

Benjamin Pogrund

Published 26 February 2007

Trying to find some reality among all the strong emotions that the issues of Israel and Palestine throw up


Israel draws extreme reactions. For a tiny country of only seven million people, it arouses unique passions. It touches deep feelings, some of which are easy to understand, while others are beyond logic.


On one side are those who damn the country. Their motivations vary: anti-Semitism and a visceral hatred of everything Jewish; or objections, based on religious belief, against the presence of a Jewish state on perceived Muslim Waqf land; or Jews on the left who feel driven to distance themselves publicly from Israel for reasons that are not always fathomable but seem to stem from embarrassment at having been born Jewish.


Israel's occupation of the West Bank and its grip on the Gaza Strip are bad enough, but critics distort and exaggerate these with accusations of "genocide". They falsely try to convey a picture of marauding Israeli soldiers, randomly killing as they go, and of artillery shells fired without any care. They ignore the context of the conflict, which has put Israel on the defensive, in an unceasing struggle to survive, from even before its founding as a state nearly 60 years ago.


The Palestinian occupation is described as unprecedented in the world. Never mind China's long occupation of Tibet. The tragedy of the killing of Palestinians is claimed to be without parallel - as though there were no Darfur, no Rwanda, no Bosnia.


The prejudices of these critics are so deep-rooted that they are unwilling or unable to take on board that both sides contribute to the conflict, and that it is as little a matter of Israelis bad and Palestinians good as one of Israelis good and Palestinians bad. They pervert the meaning of Zionism, as if it were a uniquely racist ideology, instead of a national liberation movement comparable with others elsewhere. They condemn the "Jewish state" as though no group of people had the right to decide for itself how it wants to order its society. (And they do not know, or they choose to ignore, that the Jewish state is diluted by the considerable percentage of people who are not Jewish - the Arab 20 per cent and the roughly 7 per cent non-Jewish Russian immigrants. Even children of immigrant workers are now slowly getting citizenship.)


The detractors also accuse Israel of "apartheid", seeking to equate Israel with the old South Africa so as to have it branded an illegitimate state and hence open to international sanctions. But Israel is not an apartheid state. Its Arab minority certainly suffers discrimination, and that is wrong and objectionable, but to compare them with black South Africans under apartheid is laughable.


At the other pole of attitudes towards Israel are those many (perhaps most) Jews around the world who support it unreservedly. To them, Israel can do no wrong. That is understandable: the creation of Israel fulfilled the centuries-old dream of a persecuted people. Israel's existence means that Jews have a champion to protest against anti-Semitism wherever it surfaces. It is the ultimate place of refuge. Jews will no longer go to the slaughterhouse.


Yet one cannot justify denial of criticism. Israel is in occupation in the West Bank, and that leads to cruel and ugly actions. Hundreds of checkpoints control the movement of Palestinians. Israel's hold on the territory is steadily extended by aggressive settlers and the government fails to fulfil its promises to curb them. The Gaza Strip is a prison of misery and despair.


Israelis are morally corrupted by what they do in the cause of survival. The details are known. The information appears daily in Israeli new s papers and is carried in the international media. Those supporters of Israel who refuse to face up to the realities lose credibility. Integrity and justice demand exposure, questioning and action.


Apart from the opposing groups of supporters and critics which react, each in its own way, with knee-jerk predictability, there is a broad cross-section of people around the world whose attitude towards Israel is shaped by what they read in newspapers and see on television: they react with dismay and anger, and sympathise with Palestinian suffering. They have a negative view of Israel as an oppressor. On the other hand, many are repelled by what they see on the Palestinian side of the fence: suicide bombings have seriously shaken the Palestinians' moral high ground and their international support - quite apart from the damage done to peace efforts by driving many Israeli Jews to the right.


These different opinions featured earlier this month on the Guardian's Comment Is Free website when a week was given over to the launch of the Independent Jewish Voices network. The IJV signatories include some of Britain's brightest intellects, whose critical views are aired all the time all over the place; but they explained that they'd had to start the organisation to beat the retribution the Jewish establishment exacts on those who criticise Israel. However implausible that might be, the week did yield well over a thousand posts to the blog, covering the range of possible views about Israel. That is healthy, and long may this free expression continue. It is up to readers to reach informed conclusions by picking their way through the evasions, the distortions, the ignorance, and the lies.

Benjamin Pogrund is co-editor of "Shared Histories: a Palestinian-Israeli dialogue" (Left Coast

Press); he will be speaking about it on 4 March during Jewish Book Week

Continued (Permanent Link)

Egypt pursues terrorists in Sinai

According to Israel TV Channel One, the terrorists belong to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and were sent to Sinai specifically by Iran, which has made Egyptians rather angry with Iran.

Egypt pursues terrorists in Sinai

Counter-Terrorism Bureau calls on all Israeli tourists in Sinai to immediately return to Israel. Egyptian state and military forces pursue two Palestinians believed to be planning suicide attacks against Israeli, other tourists vacationing in southern Sinai
Ahuva Mamos and AP Published:  02.22.07, 17:03 / Israel News
Hundreds of state-security forces and military intelligence personnel launched a search Thursday looking for two Palestinians believed to be plotting suicide attacks in Egypt's northern Sinai peninsula, officials said.
Meanwhile, the Counter-Terrorism Bureau called on all Israeli tourists in Sinai to immediately return to  Israel.
The search began day after 23 Palestinians and Egyptians were arrested and confessed to plotting a series of attacks against tourists, mainly Israelis in southern Sinai resorts.
Among those arrested was a young Palestinian, wearing an explosives belt, who had entered Egypt illegally at Rafah through an underground tunnel from the Gaza Strip.
Officials at the Taba Terminal estimated that there were currently 500 Israelis in Sinai. The past few months have seen a sharp drop in the number of Israelis visiting the peninsula, following warnings on terrorists' activities in the area.
The Counter-Terrorism Bureau warned that the threat to kidnap Israelis and hurt them in Sinai was extremely severe. The bureau recommended that all Israelis leave the area immediately.
"The safety of Israeli tourists visiting or staying in Egypt has been severely threatened in for a long time now," an updated statement issued by the Bureau read.
Hundreds of state security forces and intelligence were deployed to Rafah, El-Arish and several other northern Sinai towns in search of two additional Palestinians, believed to be suicide bombers, according to an anonymous state security official.
 Another intelligence official, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the two are carrying belts of explosives and that they are plotting an attack in the southern Sinai. The two are believed to have rented cars to head south, the intelligence official added.
Egypt has suffered a string of suicide terror attacks in recent years at Sinai tourist resorts. Egypt, Israel and the Palestinians have debated how best to control the border with Gaza, to prevent smuggling of weapons into Gaza and the infiltration of extremists into Egypt.
'There are terror attacks in Jerusalem as well'
Meital Ochana, 24, a student from Jerusalem, arrived at the Taba Terminal in order to pass to Sinai.
"I have not been in Sinai for two years, and this morning I decided to go after hearing that several of my friends left for the area yesterday. When I asked officials at the terminal about the situation, they told me that it was not recommended to go through because of severe warnings, but no one tried to stop me. I am trying to call my friends to see what the situation is like and then I will decide whether to go through or not.

"Two years ago I went through without thinking twice, and if you asked me, I would say that there are terror attacks in Jerusalem as well, so we have to continue living. But the recent incidents in Taba have affected my decisions and I will not go through until I hear from my friends and know what is going on there."
Three Israelis were killed less than a month ago in a terror attack in Eilat . The suicide bomber blew himself up at a bakery in the southern city. He arrived from the Gaza Strip by crossing the border with Egypt.


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Rice-Olmert-Abbas Summit - Where does it lead?

In reality, this meeting was like previous ones. It had no prospect and it could lead noplace. However, a special air of futility emanated from this particular meeting.


The Tripartite Meeting:
Fork in the Road or Dead End?
Amir Kulik
On February 19, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) met in Jerusalem.  The meeting was actually planned several weeks ago in keeping with President Bush's promise, made during his speech about the situation in Iraq, to step up American involvement in the peace process.  But the timing – after Hamas and Fatah had signed the Mecca Agreement on a Palestinian national unity government – complicated the situation for all parties and created contradictory expectations.
Abu Mazen wants to portray the Agreement to the international community as an important achievement and as evidence of Hamas' willingness to moderate its position.  Consequently, he hoped that Israel and the United States would at least ease, if only partially, the international boycott of the Palestinian Authority.  Ehud Olmert, whose public standing is at a low point, could not allow himself to show flexibility on cardinal issues such as recognition of Israel by the new Palestinian government and he could certainly not announce, in the changed circumstances after Mecca, a resumption of negotiations on a permanent status agreement.  For him, the meeting therefore served as an opportunity to show the Israeli public what might be termed a "determined" security posture.
Condoleezza Rice may have wanted to explore the possible new formulas for renewing the political process but given President Bush's opposition to the Mecca Agreement, a similar mood in Congress, and the position of the Israeli Government, she was unable to extract any substantial result.  The meeting did enable her to show (especially to America's allies) that the administration was doing something on the Palestinian issue, but little more than that.
Given the political background, the U.S. and Israel adopted an uncompromising position on the Quartet's conditions (recognition of Israel, renunciation of violence, respect for international agreement signed by the PLO) for an easing of the boycott of the PA.  Olmert managed to avoid "progress" and Rice could check the "Palestinian box" on her to-do list and could then return to Washington to deal with more pressing issues – the Iranian nuclear program, the American presence in Iraq, negotiations with North Korea, etc.
But unlike Olmert and Rice, Abu Mazen seems to have come out of the meeting as a clear loser.  Not only did the embryonic Palestinian national unity government fail to win recognition; it will clearly not get any cooperation from Israel or the United States.  In fact, Abu Mazen did not even receive any mealy-mouthed promises of future reassessment.  The U.S. and Israeli positions were made crystal clear to him: compliance with the Quartet demands or continued deadlock.
What are the implications of this meeting?  For the US and Israel, there might seem to be no significant implications.  Olmert can go back and struggle deal with domestic politics and Rice can move on to other matters.  However, the outcome of the meeting is likely to have a more serious impact on the Palestinians and on Israel than might be apparent at first glance.  First of all, the meeting is an additional blow to Abu Mazen's prestige domestically.  Once again, the Palestinian President has been unable to secure some softening of the international community's approach to the Palestinians.  In this respect, the blow to his image is two-fold: both in terms of the Palestinian "street" and in the eyes of Hamas.  After all, the diplomatic card is acknowledged as Abu Mazen's major advantage over Hamas, both by the public and by Hamas itself.  The results of the meeting undoubtedly further erode the value of this asset.  From the Palestinian perspective, it can be argued that ultimately there is no real difference between the diplomatic achievements of Abu Mazen and those of the Hamas government.  Both ultimately gained almost nothing.
The meeting is also likely to have an impact on the emerging unity government.  For both Fatah and Hamas, the establishment of that government should serve two purposes.  One is the elimination of the boycott, especially economic, of the Palestinian Authority and the renewal of foreign aid.  But in the light of the tripartite meeting, it is already clear that this aim will not be realized.  The international community will not recognize the new government and the PA's economic problems will persist.  That prospect will undoubtedly undermine the chances for actually forming the new government.
The second aim of the unity government agreement is to ease the violent confrontation between Fatah and Hamas supporters.  The aim has already been achieved.  Since the opening of negotiations in Mecca at the beginning of February, relative quiet prevails in the West Bank and Gaza.  Prime Minister-designate Ismail Haniya now has about a month to put together the new government, and that time-line will provide an additional period of calm.
A third possible implication has to do with Abu Mazen's own incumbency as President.  During 2003, Abu Mazen served as Palestinian Prime Minister under Yasir Arafat.  A few months after his appointment, when he sensed that he faced a deadlock because of Israeli non-cooperation and pressures by Arafat, he did not hesitate to resign.  A similar situation may well be emerging now.  Israel and Hamas are adamant in refusing to change their postures and the United States shows little real determination to work for progress on this front.  There is therefore little chance that the political process – the main plank in Abu Mazen's election campaign – will resume.  Nor is there any prospect that the Palestinian economic situation will improve.  Moreover, the internal splits in Fatah show no signs of moderating.
If, in addition to these circumstances, the efforts to form a unity government fall short, Abu Mazen may feel impelled to resign and to call for new presidential and parliamentary elections.  In the absence of any popular national leader who could challenge Hamas' candidate for president, Abu Mazen's resignation and call for early elections could well strengthen Hamas' hold on the Legislative Council and also result in its "conquest" of the President's Office.  Such results are certainly not desired by any of the participants in the meeting in Jerusalem.  Nevertheless, without any of the progress that Abu Mazen so badly needed, the meeting could easily turn out to be, not just another empty diplomatic exercise, but also an important factor affecting Abu Mazen's future and his ability to move the Palestinian political system in more positive directions.
INSS Insight is published
through the generosity of 
Sari and Israel Roizman, Philadelphia

Continued (Permanent Link)

Egregious compensation of settlers...

The article states:
The calculation of the total compensation divided by the number of settlers is egregious, since it includes businesses, factories, hothouses, etc. and reflects absolutely nothing about the average compensation received by each family."
Indeed 2 million per family is egregious, but I think that the Post, or the person interviewed meant something else. "Arbitrary?" "Mistaken?" "Something I don't want to believe?" "Misleading?"
Post's ignorance of the English language is egregious.  

Last update - 07:44 22/02/2007   

Each Gaza evacuee family to get NIS 1.5-2 million in compensation
By Meirav Arlosoroff, Haaretz Correspondent

An average of NIS 1.5-2 million in compensation is expected to be paid to each one of the 1,800 families evacuated from the Gaza Strip, according to data on amounts already paid by the disengagement authority (Sela) and those due to be paid. Also, bill proposals now under discussion in the Knesset are expected to increase the stipend granted to each family by tens of percent.
Most of the compensation monies are allocated for residences, in addition to a grant linked to the length of residence in Gaza and an adaptation stipend.
Under this clause, 960 families who lived in Gaza for six years or longer received an average of NIS 1.5 million per family. Another 190 families received compensation of NIS 0.9-1 million each, including families who lived in public housing.
A further 200 families, for the most part homeowners who were not actual residents of Gaza, received more than NIS 500,000 each. 270 families who rented residences in Gaza received reduced compensation. Also, those families who owned businesses in Gaza received compensation for their businesses - this category includes mostly farmers, who were compensated for hothouses.
The effective cost the state incurred for the evacuation of families from Gaza, however, was far higher. In addition to direct stipends, the state paid for mobile homes, the land and infrastructure for new settlements and funded the interim residence in hotels during the first weeks following the evacuation.
The Finance Ministry estimates that the civilian-related cost the state incurred for the evacuation of Gaza is expected to total NIS 6.5 billion, an average of NIS 3.6 million per family.
The costs are all based on the existing disengagement-compensation law. The Knesset agenda currently includes a number of bill proposals that will substantially increase the compensation to be paid under the existing law. If accepted in their current wording, the bills will increase the cost of evacuation from Gaza by NIS 3 billion or more, doubling the compensation amounts to evacuees and will be equal to a 50 percent increase in the cost to the state per family.
One such bill is that of MK Amnon Cohen (Shas). Cohen's bill includes, among other things, a clause granting Gaza evacuees compensation for evacuating their temporary residences - the mobile homes. Cohen proposes a grant of $20,000 or NIS 112,500 (both amounts appear in the bill) to each family as compensation for evacuating the mobile homes, elaborating that, "This grant will reduce the possibility of some of the families remaining in the temporary sites, whom the state may find it difficult to evacuate."
Yossi Fuchs, an attorney for the Gaza evacuees, responded that, "By January 31, 2007 Sela had paid NIS 2.25 billion, which includes compensation to about 150 business owners from the Erez Industrial zone, as well as payments to employees who earned their living in Gush Katif.
The calculation of the total compensation divided by the number of settlers is egregious, since it includes businesses, factories, hothouses, etc. and reflects absolutely nothing about the average compensation received by each family."

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Lawrence of Zionism

Actually, I think this has been known for a while...

Feb. 22, 2007 0:45 | Updated Feb. 22, 2007 10:04
Martin Gilbert: Lawrence of Arabia was a Zionist
By RUTHIE BLUM         
Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas Ed-ward Lawrence - better known as "Lawrence of Arabia" - and renowned as a champion of Arab independence, actually had "a sort of contempt for the Arabs" and was an advocate of Jewish statehood from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, according to acclaimed British historian Sir Martin Gilbert.
Lawrence believed that only with a sovereign Jewish entity in the area would the Arabs "ever make anything of themselves," according to Gilbert.
T.E. Lawrence, immortalized on film by Peter O'Toole, fought with Arab irregulars against the Ottoman Empire in World War I, wore Arabian clothes and adopted many Arab customs. He is widely perceived, Gilbert told The Jerusalem Post this week, as "the great Arabist, right? The man who supported the Arabs, and who pushed for Arab nationhood in the 1920s. He's always pictured wearing Arab robes."
The "astonishing" truth, however, Gilbert went on, is that Lawrence was "a serious Zionist. He believed that the only hope for the Arabs of Palestine and the rest of the region was Jewish statehood - that if the Jews had a state here, they would provide the modernity, the 'leaven,' as he put it, with which to enable the Arabs to move into the 20th century."
Gilbert, who said he had written about this issue in his forthcoming book, Churchill and the Jews, went so far as to say that Lawrence "had a sort of contempt for the Arabs, actually."
"He felt that only with a Jewish presence and state would the Arabs ever make anything of themselves. And, by a Jewish state, he meant a Jewish state from the Mediterranean shore to the River Jordan," said Gilbert, adding his own comment that this "will never come to pass."
Gilbert, in Israel for the International Book Fair, described his discovery of Lawrence's Zionist orientation as the most surprising archival revelation he had come across from an Israeli perspective.
But he stressed that archival sources consistently showed major discrepancies between what is really going on in world affairs and the inaccurate way in which events and personalities are perceived at the time.
"As a historian, I'm very cautious about anyone's claiming to know what any government is doing at the present time," he said. "I study archives as soon as they are open - normally 30 years after an event; sometimes a bit less. What you see when you do this is that the people you imagined had been strong were weak; the people you thought weak were strong; and things you thought couldn't possibly be taking place were taking place."
(The full interview with Sir Martin Gilbert appears in Friday's UpFront magazine.)

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Stanford delays screening of anti-Semitic Turkish film

Feb. 22, 2007 0:02 | Updated Feb. 22, 2007 9:53
Stanford delays screening of anti-Semitic Turkish film
By HAVIV RETTIG         
The showing at Stanford University of Kurtlar Vadisi: Irak (Valley of the Wolves: Iraq), a Turkish box-office hit with characters including a homicidal American colonel and a Jewish doctor who sells Muslim prisoners' organs to the West, was postponed last weekend, apparently due to criticism about the movie's contents.
Previously described by Stanford's Continuing Education department Web site as "The Action Movie You Were Not Meant to See," the movie tells the fictional story of an elite Turkish paramilitary squad fighting against brutal, murderous American commandos in northern Iraq.
"An elite Turkish commando squad infiltrates the Kurdish region of US-occupied Iraq," read the event notice on the Stanford Web site. "What they find is too shocking to contemplate: Their supposed American allies engaged in murder, extortion, organ dealing, and more. Not in our name indeed."
The event promoters further noted the film's enormous popularity in Turkey - it is one of the highest-grossing films in Turkish history - along with its "great popularity in Europe and the Middle East."
The Web site further said the film "was due for a limited American release in December 2006, but was quietly dropped at the last minute after a letter from the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith to the film's US distributors objected to 'the incendiary anti-Jewish and anti-American themes and characters in the film.'
"As a service to the Stanford academic community at large, we offer you the chance to see this important film for yourself," read the Web site, promising movie-goers "non-stop screen action, intellectual stimulation, and real political controversy in one program! This is an event not to be missed."
The screening was cosponsored by the Middle East Collection of the Stanford University Libraries, The Abbasi Program in Islamic Studies and Stanford Continuing Studies.
The cancellation of the screening saw the event promotion replaced with a letter from Prof. Charles Junkerman, Dean of Continuing Studies. The film "has been seen by tens of millions of people across the Middle East, and we thought that an academic screening would provide the opportunity for interested viewers to see the movie themselves, and reach their own judgments about it," wrote Junkerman.
However, due to the fact that the film is "extraordinarily controversial," Junkerman continued, "we feel that this movie needs to be contextualized by points of view represented by a diverse spectrum of academic experts."
But, wrote Junkerman, "we have been unsuccessful in recruiting an appropriately broad panel. Because this film is likely to provoke intense emotions pro and con, we have decided that we cannot go forward without such a panel to ground the post-film conversation. We have consequently chosen to cancel Saturday's screening."
Though Junkerman wrote that the movie was canceled, Stanford's events Web site said it was only postponed. Relevant Stanford University officials could not be reached by press time

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Aliya Deluxe?

All these old people who retire here - will they build the country? will they fight in the army?

Our traditional view of aliya may be passe
Chaim I. Waxman,

Jerusalem clearly has a housing problem. Part of that problem is caused by non-resident Jews from abroad, primarily the United States and France, who buy second homes in the city and live in them for only a brief part of the year. This drives up the price of real estate, prevents an increasing number of young families from purchasing apartments here, and forces them out of the city. The recently defeated Safdie plan for the expansion of west Jerusalem was, ostensibly, designed to alleviate the crisis, but its costs to the environment were deemed too great.
It has been suggested by some that one way to deal with the crisis is to impose much higher purchase and real-estate taxes on non-resident foreigners who buy apartments in Jerusalem. If nothing else, this would presumably slow down the rate of apartments being bought by foreigners and allow more full-time residents to live in the city.
What proponents of higher taxation for non-residents fail to realize is that for some of those "foreigners" the purchase of a home in Israel is a step in their aliya process. Even for those not contemplating full-time aliya, their purchase of a home here strengthens their ties with Israel, and that is surely to Israel's advantage.
Given the concern expressed about the growing distancing of Diaspora Jewry from Israel, one would expect that approaches which strengthen the ties of Diaspora Jewry to Israel would be welcomed. Rather than penalizing them, it is in Israel's interest to encourage Jews in the Diaspora to enhance their bonds with Israel even if they do not contemplate becoming full-time Israelis. With globalization, increasing numbers of people are becoming transnationals, and we have to begin thinking of migration and aliya in new ways.
Indeed, due to this phenomenon of transnationalism, the traditional view of aliya is outmoded. New patterns of multinationalism have emerged. For example, it is estimated that among the families who made aliya from the US during the past 10 years, between 20 percent and 30% have one head of household who works in the US. Many more olim, especially those from Western countries, probably commute to work in European counties, as do increasing numbers of native Israelis. In other cases, people split their time, spending part of their year abroad and part in Israel. In still other cases, individuals and families move to Israel for a set period of time, such as a year, two, or even five years.
Patterns such as these are not unique to Israel and the US. "Transnational studies" is a growing academic field, and students of immigration patterns in other countries, such as the US, Europe and Asia, have been studying them and are attempting to suggest new ways for conceiving of immigration and immigrant rights.
IN LIGHT of these developments, Israel should be encouraging Diaspora Jews to purchase homes here, to spend their vacations here, to send their children to schools here for a semester, a year, or more, and to send them to camps here in the summertime.
Diaspora Jewry should also be encouraged to spend at least part of their retirement years here. Fostering these kinds of overt bonds will, of course, require that the institutional structure in Israel be equipped to attract and handle the needs of the Diaspora Jews. It will mean that the purchase of homes by non-resident Israelis will be encouraged; that there will be in Israel schools and camps that are equipped to handle young overseas Jews and, ideally, encourage their building of bonds with full-time Israeli youth and young adults; that facilities geared to the retirement population will be available; and more.
Preparing the way will not be easy or inexpensive but it will more than pay for itself by stimulating further social, political and economic ties between Diaspora Jewry and Israel.
Above and beyond the issue of enhancing ties, given that real-estate taxes are within local jurisdictions, the New Yorker or Parisian who purchases a residence in Jerusalem should be viewed and treated as no different than the Herzliyan or Tel Avivian who does the same. The housing crisis needs to be alleviated but not at the expense of the country's welfare. Neither western expansion nor western taxation will produce the desired end.
One alternative is the gentrification of some of the city's neighborhoods that have some available housing and the potential for more but are undesirable because they lack infrastructure, such as quality schools and other necessary services. Investing in those, rather than destroying either the natural environment or the bonds between Diaspora Jews and Israel, may prove to be the win-win alternative.
The writer is a Senior Fellow at the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute, and is Professor Emeritus of Sociology and Jewish Studies, Rutgers University.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Syrian army buildup

Are we really ready???

Last update - 08:00 22/02/2007   

Syria bolstering forces, troops moving closer to border
By Amos Harel, Aluf Benn and Ze'ev Schiff, Haaretz Correspondents

The Syrian armed forces are being strengthened in an unprecedented way in recent memory with the help of generous funding from Iran and its troops appear to be moving closer to the border with Israel.
The Syrians are bolstering their forces in all areas except the air force, which has been believed to be weak for some time. The main emphasis of the efforts has been missiles and long-range rockets to compensate for the weak air force.
The Syrian navy, after years of neglect, is also being reinforced with an Iranian version of a Chinese anti-ship missile, similar to the one used by Hezbollah during the second Lebanon war to strike the Israeli destroyer INS Hanit.
In addition to the overall strengthening of the armed forces in Syria, there has been a redeployment of forces along the front lines. It appears that the Syrians have moved forces closer to the border with Israel on the Golan Heights.
The Yom Kippur War on the Syrian front began with a raid by helicopter-borne Syrian commandos on the Hermon listening post, which they then occupied. The position was not taken by Israeli forces until the end of the war in a very costly battle involving Golani and Paratrooper Brigade troops.
Syria's rebuilding of its military strength has also included test launches of ballistic missiles. Lately, the Syrians test-fired a Scud-D surface-to-surface missile, the latest version of a Soviet-era missile. The Scud-D has a 400-kilometer range and covers most of the territory of Israel.
More than a year ago the Syrians held a missile test but suffered a failure when one of them diverted from its trajectory and fell inside Turkish territory. The debris also fell in populated areas but no losses were reported. Turkey filed an official complaint with Syria, and Damascus apologized for the unusual accident.
In the Scud-D test, two missiles were fired, and the test is believed to have been successful. It is not known what type of warhead the missiles were armed with.
In addition to the larger Scud-type missiles, Syria is in possession of two smaller rockets, and both have been supplied to Hezbollah. One rocket is a 220mm rocket armed with a cluster-bomb warhead, and the other is a 305mm caliber rocket. The range of these rockets is estimated to be several dozen kilometers.
The missiles and rockets are part of an effort to compensate for the obvious weakness of the Syrian air force. This way Syrians could strike Israeli cities and also carry out accurate attacks against military targets inside the country.
The newest and most surprising aspect of the Syrian effort is taking place in its naval forces. In recent years the Syrian navy had been neglected, starting with the decommissioning of its submarines. Later, most of its missile boats came into disrepair or were not upgraded. The Syrian navy made do with the task of coastal defense, using Russian-made surface-to-sea missiles, some with long-range capability, in the area of the port of Tartus.
However, it appears that the Syrians have chosen to adopt some of the Lebanon war's lessons, and with Iranian help they have renewed emphasis on their navy. The Hezbollah success against the Israeli navy came with the use of upgraded Chinese-made C-802 missiles. Hezbollah launched these missiles against the destroyer INS Hanit, probably with the direct support of Iranian officers. A missile struck the ship, killed four crew members and caused serious damage.
Syria set to secure advanced anti-tank missiles from Russia
Damascus is close to concluding a large deal with Russia to procure thousands of advanced anti-tank missiles for the Syrian army, according to information received in Israel recently. Such a development suggests that Israel's diplomatic efforts to block the sale have failed.
According to various estimates the deal is worth several hundred million dollars and involves several thousand advanced anti-tank missiles.
For years Syria secured anti-tank missiles from the Soviet Union and later from Russia. During the war in Lebanon last summer Israel found proof that Syria had transferred to Hezbollah advanced Russian-made anti-tank missiles from its arsenal.
Evidence of the existence of these advanced missiles, the Kornet AT-14 and Metis AT-13, came in the form of crates discovered in the villages of Ghandurya and Farun, close to the Saluki River. The shipment documents showed that they had been procured by the Syrian army and transferred to Hezbollah.
Until Israel was able to produce such evidence the authorities in Moscow refused to acknowledge that advanced Russian-made weapons were being transferred to Hezbollah.
But after the war, an Israeli delegation that included members of the National Security Council and the Foreign Ministry presented the evidence to senior Russian officials.
The Russians promised to reevaluate some of the planned arms deals with Syria to ensure that advanced weaponry would not make its way to terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah.
However, there are now concerns in Israel that Russia will not keep its promise and that the deal with Damascus for the anti-tank missiles is near being finalized.
Syria stepped up its efforts to convince Russia to make the sale following the lessons it reached from the war in Lebanon. The fact that Hezbollah succeeded in delaying an Israeli armored column at the battle near the Saluki River with accurate fire from anti-tank missiles was noted favorably in Arab armies.
In retrospect, and following an IDF study, the number of tanks that were actually damaged during fighting in the war did not exceed several dozen, and in some of them the damage suffered was very minimal. But missile types like the Kornet and the Metis proved their destructive abilities and in some cases even penetrated the armor of the Merkava Mark IV, which is considered to be the best protected tank in the world.
The IDF found it difficult to counter this threat, particularly since the weapons could be fired accurately from distances of five kilometers.
One of the lessons of the war for Syria was that it needed to improve areas in which it had a relative advantage against the IDF, like the anti-tank missile, and surface-to-surface missiles that can threaten Israel's home front.
In addition, Palestinian militant groups have intensified their efforts to smuggle anti-tank missiles from Sinai to the Gaza Strip.
Armor and infantry units in the IDF are now undergoing training in tactical maneuvers that will enable them to counter anti-tank missiles. In addition, there are efforts to upgrade the anti-tank missiles in Israel's arsenal.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Full text: PM Olmert with the Foreign Press in Israel

Meeting of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert
with the Foreign Press in Israel
February 21, 2007

Prime Minister Olmert:

Distinguished members of the foreign press in Israel,

I vividly remember the last such meeting that took place in precisely the
same room as this one. I guess since then I had several meetings in this
room, the last one was two days ago, so let me start, perhaps, by referring
to this meeting, and then I'll make two other short comments and afterwards
I'm sure that you may have one or two questions for me.

The trilateral meeting which took place Monday here was a very serous
meeting, and I think it was very candid. I said what I had in my heart, the
President of the Palestinian Authority shared with me what he has in his
heart and we heard also, of course, the opinion of the Secretary of State,
Condoleezza Rice. We appreciate very much the American efforts to keep the
momentum of contacts between us and the Palestinians. I think this is very
important for all, and Secretary of State Condi Rice is playing a very
positive role in creating the necessary environment, which is very helpful
to both sides. I think it's well known and everyone understands that we were
very unhappy with the reconciliation agreement that did not explicitly
recognize the Quartet principles. And I shared my view with President
Abu-Mazen, and I also shared it with President Mubarak, but in a different
telephone call, and it was clear that Israel will not be able to maintain
any kind of formal or practical contact with a government that will not
accept explicitly the principles of the Quartet. That was said by us, it was
said by the Americans, it was side by the Quartet members on the 2nd of
February, and immediately following the announcement of the agreement it was
said again by all the Quartet members and I believe that it will be repeated
today at the conclusion of the meeting of the Quartet members in Europe.
However, at the same time, I made it clear that I will not cut my contacts
with Abu-Mazen. I will continue to maintain the bilateral track, I will meet
with Abu-Mazen, my staff will meet with his staff on a regular basis, hoping
to create the necessary environment that will be helpful for the relations
between us and them. We want to contribute to the quality of life of the
Palestinian people living in Gaza and in the West Bank. We believe that
however mistaken their leadership come sometimes be, people don't have to
suffer from the mistakes of their leaders, and inasmuch as we can contribute
to the upgrading of the quality of life, under the present circumstances,
we'll make these efforts, and if necessary, in cooperation with Abu-Mazen.
And also we expect Abu-Mazen to make exceptional efforts to stop the
terrorist attempts and the suicide attacks against Israelis. What may have
happened yesterday is just a reminder to all of us of how dangerous and
serious terror can be and how easily it can break up every pattern of
cooperation that we are trying to build. So I believe that this bilateral
track will continue. I believe that the Secretary of State will continue to
play this positive role in inspiring these contacts between us and the
Palestinians, and I want to believe, and I hope, that if indeed a new
government of the Palestinians will be established, this government will be
explicitly, publicly and officially committed to the principles that were
adopted by the international community, to the Roadmap, and to the Quartet

Today is the last day that was designated by the international community and
by the UN Security Council Resolution 1737 for the adoption of the
parameters of cooperation by Iran with IAEA, with regard to their attempts
to acquire nuclear capacity. It appears that up until now the Iranians did
not respond in a manner that all of us wanted and therefore the
international community will have to think of additional measures in order
to influence the Iranians to change their basic position. My personal view
is that the sanctions that were already applied and other measures taken by
the international community, including financial measures, are effective.
They influence and they make an important contribution to what may
eventually appear as a new perception of opportunities and realities for the
Iranians. It's not enough. A lot more has to be done. But I think that the
Iranians are not as close to the technological threshold as they claim to be
and unfortunately, they are not as far as we would love them to be. So there
is a lot that still can be done and ought to be done, and the sooner it will
be done, the better it will be. If there will be a concerted effort by the
international community, both diplomatic, economic and political effort by
the international community, I think that there are serious chances that it
will have an impact that may change the Iranian attitude. And so I think
that this is the main area of focus that should engage us. I personally
believe that this can be a productive way and I urge all the international
community, particularly in light of the refusal of the Iranians officially
to extend their cooperation with the IAEA to stop the efforts for
enrichment, that additional resolutions - effective resolutions - will be
adopted and applied in this area of economy, financial measures, diplomacy.

And finally, since we didn't meet for such a long time, I want to take this
opportunity to also report to you of what I think was the record, historic
record year for the Israeli economy. I don't know how many of you are aware
of the fact that this last year we had, in spite of the fighting through
July and August, we had a very remarkable growth of our economy of over 5
percent, inflation rate in Israel last year was minus 0.7, which is quite
unusual for the economy to grow so rapidly and at the same time to have such
low inflation. We had last year a record export, first time that our balance
of payment was positive and we sold overseas more than we bought, and the
surplus was more than 6 billion dollars. We also had - and we still have -
record of our stock exchange, which I think is an expression of the
confidence of investors, both in Israel and outside of Israel, in the
Israeli economy. Another indicator of confidence in the economy was the
highest ever foreign investments in the history of the State of Israel. Last
year we had 23.2 billion dollars of foreign investment, of which more than
12.5 billion dollars were in tangible assets, in Israeli properties and
industries. The other part was financial investments. And of course, the
interest rate of Israel is one full point below the American prime rate,
which is certainly something quite unusual, which I think, again, reflects
the strengths of the Israeli economy and the confidence of the international
community in the economy of the State of Israel. And so we were not
surprised that people like Warren Buffet thought that Israel is a target for
their investments. First time that Warren Buffet ever invested outside of
the United States of America, he chose to invest 4 billion dollars in one of
the leading Israeli industries, the Iscar Industries, and he never even
visited the State of Israel. When he finally came to see what he bought, and
he was so gracious to come and see me, he told me: I have never seen any
such place in the world. I am going now to go everywhere to speak so highly
of the enormous and unbelievable achievements of your economy and your
industries, and I think that this is a very positive indication. Coming in
the same year that Intel decided to invest 5 billion dollars in new
facilities, manufacturing facilities and research facilities in the State of
Israel, I think it is a very strong signal of the successes of our economy
last year, and our anticipation is that this year, the year 2007, will also
be a year of growth in our economy and continued foreign investments in
Israel. So we are looking forward with great hope for the coming year and of
course we will make every possible effort that every other front of our
lives will be as successful as this.

Thank you very much.

Questions & Answers

Q: Jackie Roden from A-Jezeera. Prime Minister, what would Israel be willing
to give up in territorial terms in exchange for a lasting peace with Syria?

PM: I think we first have to start negotiations and then we will find out
precisely how much and what kind of territories we want to give up. I think
it's a little bit too early. It is true that President Assad talked about
starting a peace process with Israel, and I think I said several times - and
this is our position - that we would be very happy to make a serious,
genuine, credible and trustworthy peace agreement with the Syrians. But for
the Syrians to want to make peace is not only just to say that they want to
talk with Israel in order to make peace. They have to stop their daily
involvement in encouraging terror, in smuggling arms to Lebanon, in
assisting the terror in Iraq and in assisting the brutal actions sponsored
by the Iranians in our part of the world. Just to say that you want peace
and at the same time to sabotage the legitimate government of Lebanon and to
continue the assistance to Hizballah to smuggle arms and to provoke all
kinds of terrorist actions, is not a genuine signal that can convince Israel
that they are really ready for a peace agreement. If there will be a
positive change, they will find Israel ready, and when we will sit to the
table of negotiations, I am sure that they will find out exactly what are
the kind of compromises that we are ready to make.

Q: BBC. Two questions. First of all, President Ahmadinijad in Iran has
reportedly repeatedly called for the destruction of Israel. What red line do
the Iranians have to cross before you would carry out a military strike
against Iran? And secondly, when the Israeli public voted you into office a
year and a half ago, it was on your promise to withdraw from large parts of
the Occupied Territories. Why are you still building in the West Bank?

PM: I think I've outlined what I think should be the strategy to deal with
the Iranian thereat. There is a genuine threat by Iran. The fact that a
leader of a nation of almost 80 million people, which is a member- State of
the United Nations, can stand up publicly and openly and threaten the very
existence of another nation, which is a member-State of the United Nations,
this in itself is totally intolerable. The fact that this leader is doing it
and at the same time is trying to build up nuclear capacity for his country
and delivery systems that could use this capacity in order to destroy
another nation, is totally unacceptable. And I think it is incumbent upon
the international community not only to take practical measures to stop this
threat, but also to take practical measures that will indicate the extent of
the disapproval of this language, of these attitudes and of these
approaches, as spelled out by President Ahmadinijad of Iran. No country in
the world, which is a member of the United Nations, can hesitate or
contemplate its position about it. Every nation has to take a very strong
stand against anyone who threatens the annihilation of another nation. And
that's what we expect the international community to do. I believe that the
coordinated effort, the diplomatic and the economic and financial measures,
can cause the result that we are looking for. And therefore I'm not defining
any other thresholds or timetables. I believe that the goal that we have set
for ourselves can be achieved in this way, and naturally this is my

Is it already a year and a half since I was first elected to Prime Minister?
I think the elections took place on March of 28th, so we are slightly less
than a year. Anyway, it is true that I said that I want to reach a new
agreement, preferably that will allow the Palestinians to have their State
alongside the State of Israel. This is my vision. This is the vision of the
United States. This is the vision of the international community, and I
share this vision entirely. I am in favor of the creation of a Palestinian
State that will live in peace and security alongside the State of Israel,
which has the same right to live in peace and security. As you know,
unfortunately, some of the circumstances that developed over the last year
did not make it any easier.  Just in the Palestinian front - we pulled out
entirely from Gaza, we disengaged, no one can claim that we hold one inch of
territory which is claimed by the Palestinians in the south part of the
country. And yet there was not one single day since the disengagement from
Gaza in which the Palestinians did not shoot rockets on innocent Israelis
living in the south part of the country. Now we have agreed on a cease-fire
with the Palestinians in Gaza in November. Since then, again, there was not
one single day they didn't violate this agreement. And we didn't respond up
until now. So I think that there is no basis whatsoever to come to the
Israeli side and to argue: why haven't you yet not accomplished everything
that you wanted to do after less than one year, with all these violations
that were committed by the Palestinian side, and I haven't yet even started
to talk about the brutal abduction of the Israeli soldier Corporal Shalit
and the numerous attempts of suicide attacks, the last one was yesterday, by
the Palestinians against the State of Israel. And on top of it, of course,
the divisions amongst the Palestinians, the fact that the Palestinians keep
fighting against each other. They have appointed a government which is
boycotted by all the international community because they are not prepared
to make pace with Israel and are not prepared to recognize the State of
Israel. And as I already said at the beginning of this talk, unfortunately,
the agreement signed between the Fatah and the Hamas does not promise any
change in the basic position of the Palestinian government with regard to
the basic principles of the Quartet, which are the guidelines for any future
agreement. So these are the main obstacles for the fulfillment of the vision
of a two-state solution, and unfortunately it takes more time as a result of
this. But the strategy has remained the same and I haven't changed my vision
and I haven't changed my commitments, and I'm going to do everything in my
power to continue to build up bridges between me and Abu-Mazen that will
allow both of us to move forward on this direction that I have set forth for
my country when I ran for the election.  There is not any violation of the
basic Israeli commitment that there will not be any building outside of the
existing settlement limits as they were. So there is natural growth and
everything that was done was done within the framework of the existing
settlements as a result of natural growth. There is not any government
building, there is no policy of building, there are no government
investments in the territories, certainly not in the last year.
[Questions in Hebrew]
PM: I will answer and refer to the questions. So the first was how long will
you restrain your responses to the terrorist attempts and the shooting of
Qassam rockets against Israelis? The last two Qassam rockets just landed now
in the south part of Israel. So the answer is that we are not going to
restrain ourselves forever, and I made it clear to Abu-Mazen when I met with
him and I think that the Palestinians know very well. However, I'm not going
to give you now any specific timetable or dates of when we are going to
respond, but it is clear that the patience of Israel is being tested only
too often and I think that it is a terrible mistake by the factions in Gaza
that are stretching and challenging the Israeli patience for such a long
time. At the end, we will respond and we will reach out for those who are
responsible for the threats and for the shooting against innocent Israelis.

The other question was about the appointment of the new inspector-General.
There is not yet an appointment, there is a proposal by the Minister of
Police, this proposal will have to be examined by a special committee
according to the formal requirements, and then and only then will it come to
the approval of the cabinet. When it comes to the cabinet, it will be
reviewed by the members of the cabinet. I think that right now it will not
be appropriate that I will pass any personal opinion before a committee is
requested to review this proposal and to pass its recommendation to me and
to the cabinet members.

Q: Jonathan Ferziger from Bloomberg News. You've said that you conveyed your
concerns about the Mecca agreement to Abu-Mazen. What's the point of keeping
up the appearance, the process, if you don't expect any substance to come
out of a joint government with Hamas? And how many more trips will
Condoleezza Rice have to make here? Aren't you just spinning your wheels?

PM: Jonathan, I'll never lose my desire to talk with every Palestinian that
I will find a genuine potential partner for peace with the State of Israel.
How many do I have to want not to meet with Abu-Mazen? Unfortunately, there
are not too many, and I personally think that we have to realize that the
Palestinians are divided. I will not speak with Hamas, I will not speak with
Mashal, I will not speak with Haniyeh, I will not speak with a government
which does not accept the very right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state as
it is. But if the Palestinian President, who was directly elected by the
people, shares these basic commitments and repeats it publicly and formally,
do I have to also say to him: I will not talk with you? I will not try in
every way to find ways that together we can work towards peace? I think it
would be a mistake. So I don't ignore the complexities, and of course the
reluctance of the majority of the Palestinian members of the national
council now, who are members of Hamas, to recognize Israel and to negotiate
with Israel, and therefore we will not coordinate any efforts with a
government which is not obliged to these basic principles. But Abu-Mazen is
different and he is not afraid of spelling out his difference, in spite of
the agreement, and I think that I have to maintain that link between us and
the Palestinians in order to be able to continue this dialogue, and hope
that one day, perhaps, the promise of this dialogue will be stronger than
the fears and the threats and the hatred and the viciousness of Hamas and
its supporters.

Q: Mr. Prime Minister, Ahmed Budeiri from BBC Arab Service. Obviously
everybody knows here or maybe some know, that you were actually the Mayor of
Jerusalem for many years. The question, sir, Israeli Antiquities Authority
said a couple of days ago that there is actually a room under the Mugrabi
Gate there and that they have hid this evidence from the public. Now the
Turkish team is going to come to the region soon. Why, sir, you are hiding
the evidence in this delicate, sensitive issue? Second question, sir.
Israeli people actually voted you to do the Realignment Plan, and this was
the campaign of Kadima. Are you still committed to this in a sense that
there is no final status negotiations with the Palestinians? Are you still
committed to Realignment? Thank you very much.

PM: First of all, I want it to be clear. Israel doesn't work at all on
Temple Mount. There are not any kind of works by the Antiquities Authority
of Israel in the Temple Mount, and the fact that so many are using the
Temple Mount to describe what we do is false, is untrue, is part of an
attempt made by the most radical anti-Israeli Islamic group in Israel to
stir the emotions and to provoke violence between us and Arabs. I repeat
again - the walkway is entirely outside of the Temple Mount. That's number
one. Now, everything involved - everything involved - all the information
was shared in advance by the Antiquities Authority with all the interested
parties, including the Waqf and others inside and outside the State of
Israel. There was nothing new that was not revealed in advance by the
Antiquities Authority.  Now I can only say one thing, that I'm very proud
that we are such a democracy that even the most extreme, fundamentalist,
radical groups of the Islamic movement within the State of Israel can
express their positions and their provocations in our democracy. I just
suggest that we will not be carried away too much by their false statements
and their provocations.

Finally, when I met with the Prime Minister of Turkey, Mr. Erdogan, and he
certainly showed some concern because what he knew was based on what he
heard on some of the reports, which were not accurate, to put it mildly. I
suggested to him that his ambassador will come to visit the site, as did so
many other ambassadors that were invited by us, and he suggested that maybe
with his ambassador he will send a special representative, one or two of his
own. So I said: why not? Everything is in the open, everything is exposed,
actually there are television cameras that broadcast live everything that
happens there and if you want to send more than one person you can send, but
of course, there is no inspection committee, there will not be any
inspection committee, there is no need for any inspection committee, but we
always welcome everyone that wants to come and look around and see
everything, and I believe that after such a visit will take place by the
Turks or by others, they will report to the Prime Minister of Turkey, and he
will do precisely what he said he wants to do, which is to say that
everything is alright.

You also asked me about the Realignment plan.  What I said before the
elections, and I kept saying all along the way, is that we have the same
vision, as America and many others, which is a two-state solution. The
Realignment is a process. The vision is a two-state solution. Now, the most
important part, of course, is the substance, or what is the vision. What is
the final permanent situation that we envision for the Palestinians and
ourselves? And I am absolutely loyal to the same position that I expressed
before the election, that there should be a two-state solution and that the
Palestinians will have a contiguous territory in the West Bank and that they
will be able to live their own secured, independent lives in their own
State. And this has not changed. How to come about it, how to accomplish it,
how to carry out this plan depends on circumstances. I hope that the
circumstances will allow us to reach an agreement with a Palestinian
government that will recognize the Quartet principles and will accept the
right of Israel to exist as an independent State. And in that case, this
will be the best possible way in which I will be able to carry out my

Question not clear.

PM: We knew exactly in July that there is no government that we can talk
with. Now, we want to talk with our enemies, but the pre-requisite for such
talks ought to be that they will agree to talk to us. And I'm sure that you
heard what the real leader of Hamas said, Khaled Mashal, that he will never
talk to Israel, will never make peace with Israel, and will never recognize
a two-state solution, so I think that this question of when will you talk to
your enemies, should not be put to us. We are ready to talk with our
enemies, but there must be a basis for such talks, and the basis which was
accepted by all the international community is the Quartet principles. We
accept the Quartet principles. Everyone that will share with us this
acceptance will be a partner of negotiations.

Q: Danish media. There's been a lot of talk about international agreements
and whether to accept them and who accepts them and who does not accept
them. As far as I remember, the international agreement with the
Palestinians was done between the Israeli government and the PLO. Could you
explain to us why do you insist now on the recognition by a government that
we apparently all understand will not recognize Israel for the time being.
Why do you not, as the Palestinians suggest, go into further negotiations
with the head of the PLO, Mr. Abu-Mazen, who you're meeting already and you
say to us that you want to meet? Are you going to engage with him in
negotiations? And I just want to add an extra question because I think both
the Palestinian side, and if I'm not wrong also the Israeli side, the public
is dead tired of politicians who seemingly don't do what the people want,
make peace. I know it seems and maybe sounds a bit simple, but that's the
basics. If you go into the Palestinian areas, they are sick and tired of
Fatah and they are sick and tired of the Hamas, and I won't tell you who
they are sick and tired of in Israel. Thank you.

I am sure that you know what the basis that you have to speak for the
Palestinians and for the Israelis at the same time is, for the public. I'm
not certain that there is one voice in our country. We are a democracy,
there are many voices, and I am afraid that also there are quite a few
voices amongst the Palestinians. Now, what you ask me to do is to speak with
the body which does not represent the majority only because the majority is
against talking with me. But a body which does not represent the majority
today amongst the Palestinians will not be able to actually carry out any
commitment that will make any such talks valuable and meaningful. Let's not
bypass the issue. The fact is that indeed the majority amongst the
Palestinians voted for people who don't want to make peace with Israel, and
without a change amongst the Palestinians it will be very difficult to
accomplish this. What you suggest is that we will be talking as if the 13
years or 14 years that passed since the Oslo Agreement did not exist and
that we will go back into 1993. But we live in 2007 and there is a certain
reality in 2007 and the only way to deal with this reality is to look into
its eyes openly and seriously and to deal with it. What you suggest or some
may suggest is that we will ignore all of this. So it's good when you want
to fool yourself, but we don't have this privilege. We have to take care of
the problems every day and when a party says not only that we don't want to
make peace with you, but we will continue our efforts to commit suicide
attacks and to shoot rockets on your cities, I am not certain that ignoring
this can be of any help to the creation of a real and sustainable peace
process between us and the Palestinians.

Q: Walid el-Omari, Al-Jazeera Satellite Channel. Mr. Prime Minister, you
mentioned Abu-Mazen more than six times, that you are ready to negotiate
with him and you want to meet more with him, but in the last meeting that
you held with Abu-Mazen here in this hall, you accused him that he deceived
you in this Mecca agreement. This on the one hand. On the other hand,
Abu-Mazen existed before the Palestinian elections, before the winning of
Hamas, and in that time, he was the President, and Israel refused to
negotiate with Abu-Mazen around the disengagement from Gaza and now you're
going to choose your counterpart with whom you want to negotiate with the
Palestinian side. How do you want the Palestinians to respect the result of
the negotiations if you want to negotiate only with 50%, if you neglect 50%
of the Palestinians, which mean the Hamas people? Why didn't you negotiate
with the Palestinian leadership from the Hamas and from the Fatah together?

PM: I never accused Abu-Mazen of deceiving me. And I don't remember that you
were in this very intimate meeting that I had with Secretary Rice and with
Abu-Maze. There was no one else there. There was only an interpreter and I'm
certain that this interpreter didn't tell you this because it never took
place. I never accused Abu-Mazen of deceiving me. I accused him of making an
agreement which, unfortunately, is not productive and is not constructive
and is not helpful in creating the necessary environment for an agreement
and the dialogue between Israel and the Palestinian government. That I said,
and I regret very much that Abu-Mazen was not more consistent on this issue.
But at the same time, as I said before, I know of no other person that has
any kind of authority amongst the Palestinians who is a better candidate for
a dialogue with me and therefore I want to continue to meet with Abu-Mazen.
I never said that this will be easy, nor did I say that it will be simple.
It will be difficult and it will be complex. It will require the utmost
patience by me and by him from his respective point of view, which I can
understand even if I disagree with, and we will have to work together and
meet and meet again and again and again. What we can't do, of course, is to.

End of first side of tape

PM: And of course, I don't accept the legitimacy of his position. But I
think it will be fair to say that he is more sincere than you. Why don't you
accept the fact that Khaled Mashal says openly, publicly and formally in
every platform in the world, that he doesn't want to negotiate with Israel
and he doesn't want to make peace with Israel? That's what he says. It's
regrettable. It's sad. The fact that the leader of more than 50% of the
Palestinian electorate openly says that he will do everything to destroy the
State of Israel is very sad. But why don't you accept that this is the
reality and why do you come to the Israeli side and blame the Israelis for
not wanting to sit with someone who is aiming a gun at your head and says:
if you come close, I'll kill you?

Q: NHK, Japanese Public TV. I'm very interested in your opinion about
Israeli Arabs. First of all, would you tell me what kind of significance do
you see of the appointment of Mr. Majadleh as a first Muslim Arab minister?
And second, what kind of role would you expect Israeli Arabs to play in the
context of a peace process between Israel and the Palestinians? Thank you.

PM: The fact is that Raleb Majadleh is the first Israeli Arab who was
appointed to be a member of the cabinet. So this in itself is an historic
turning point which no one can ignore or disregard. I think it's very
symbolic, it's very important. It's one more step in a long and painful
process that will have to take place between the Israeli citizens who are
Arabs, both Muslims and Christians but mostly Muslims, who are 90% of the
Israeli Arabs, and the other citizens of the State of Israel, mostly Jews.
The Israeli Arabs, I am sure, many of them, the majority of them, are torn
between their natural emotional identification with other Arabs and Muslims
in the neighboring countries and between their commitments to the State of
Israel, of which they are a part as equal citizens in our country. And this
is a source for a very painful emotional conflict which characterizes their
lives. Now, I think that what we need to do is to find the pattern that will
allow them to resolve this conflict without violating their commitment to
the State of which they are citizens and at the same time not to entirely
dissociate themselves of their emotional connections to the people that they
identify with, and this is something that we have to invest a lot of energy
in and a lot of effort in, and we are doing it. It's not simple. The fact
that we have reached a point that in spite of the complexity of this
conflict which characterizes the Israeli Arabs, there is an Israeli Arab
member of the cabinet, is a very significant step forward. It's not a
solution, it's not the only thing which has to be done in the build up of a
better understanding and tolerance between us and the Arabs living in
Israel, but I think that this is a step forward. The fact that we have 10
members, Arab members in the Knesset who can, almost on a continuous basis,
on a daily basis, speak out their heart and mind, which happens to be
completely, wholeheartedly against the consensus of the vast majority of
Israelis, I think is a testament to the strength of the Israeli democracy,
of which we are so proud.

Question not clear.

PM: I hope that the relations that will be built and will be improved all
the time between the Israeli Arabs and the Israeli Jews will help create the
appropriate environment that will encourage the upgrading of our dialogue
with the Palestinians.

Q: I would like to ask you about the hint you gave last week concerning the
release of Gilad Shalit, which could maybe change your attitude towards the
Palestinian unity government. Would you please clarify on that, and I would
like also to ask more in general, which place on the Israeli priority list
does the release of kidnapped soldiers still posses today?

PM: I don't remember any particular hint that I gave last week about Gilad
Shalit. Now, certainly, Abu-Mazen said all the time that the first
requirement, the pre-condition for the creation of a national unity
government, will be the release of Gilad Shalit. So if indeed such a
government is about to be formed and if Abu-Mazen is a part of this effort,
then I hope that the first condition that he set for such a government would
be fulfilled, which is the release of Gilad Shalit. But I never said that
the release of Gilad Shalit can come in exchange or instead of the
acceptance of the Quartet principles. There is no way that we can make a
trade-off here between the principles of the Quartet and the release of
Gilad Shalit. Gilad Shalit has to be released, unconditionally, immediately!
As, by the way, the two abducted soldiers in Lebanon ought to be released
immediately, because this was the first demand of the 1701 Resolution of the
United Nations Security Council. Now, the release of Gilad Shalit does not
mean that we then are going to ignore all the other basic principles, which
are the necessary foundation for any future negotiations between us and the

Q: Mr. Prime Ministers, Steven Erlanger from the New York Times. The other
day in parliament before a committee, army intelligence officer, Mr.
Baidatz, testified that he thought Hizballah was stronger today than it was
before the war, and your Defense Minister, Mr. Peretz, said: no, no, no,
that's not really true. Their potential is to be stronger, and that was an
unusual debate. I'm curious to ask you, as the head of the government,
whether Hizballah is stronger now than it was before the war, and if that is
true, is that a failure of Israel's campaign this summer?

Pm: Since the answer is no, I don't think I have to go into the second part.
I think that Hizballah is weaker, much weaker, than they were. It is true
that they are trying to smuggle arms into Lebanon. It is true that they are
making efforts in order to rearm themselves to the level that they had
before the war, but it is also true that the south of Lebanon now is filled
with 30,000 or 25,000 soldiers of the army of Lebanon and of the
international force, which make the life of Hizballah almost intolerable in
that part of the country, and the fact is that since August 14th, there was
not one case that a Hizballah soldier surfaced in uniform and with guns in
the south of Lebanon, and when it happened, by the way, then they were
killed by the Israeli army when they were present there. And when they try
to surface now, they are disarmed and arrested by the international force
and the Lebanese force. So I think the fact that all along the Israeli
border there are not any more bunkers of the Hizballah, that they don't have
the same freedom of movement that they had, that there is an international
force in the south of Lebanon together with the Lebanese force, has changed
dramatically the basic situation in the south of Lebanon and has definitely
weakened the options of Hizballah in comparison to what it was. Now, I can
only say to you that the newly appointed Chief of Staff, General Ashkenazi,
today said the same thing, that according to his assessment, the assessment
that was made by one of the officers of the intelligence, or what was
attributed to him because I never heard him so I have to be very careful,
what was attributed to him, I think was incorrect. The Hizballah is still a
major obstacle to an important change in Lebanon. They are the allies and
partners of Iran and of Syria. They are making every possible effort in
order to destabilize Lebanon and to continue to service the Iranians'
ambitions in this part of the world. And therefore, we have to have a very
close look at what they are doing and to make sure that they will not be
able to rebuild the same kind of fortresses which were in the south of
Lebanon under their command prior to the 12th of July. I don't think that
the situation today is what it was. I think it is much better. I'm not
certain that they have any appetite to fight with Israel again and I think
that there is still a lot to do so that the threat of Hizballah will be
removed entirely. It has not been removed entirely, but it has changed in a
very significant way, and I think that therefore the result of the war in
Lebanon, or the fighting in Lebanon, in this respect, was very important,
but we still have a way to go.

Q: Mr. Prime Minister, Joel Greenberg from the Chicago Tribune. A question
about Syria again. You've argued, and you argued again today, that the
problem with talking with Syria now despite their rhetoric is that they
actively support terrorist groups, Hizballah radical groups in Damascus. The
question is: isn't that the point of the negotiations? In other words,
wouldn't it be wise to check their intentions and through that, to get them
to stop their activities? Isn't that the logical way to proceed in order to
get them to stop the activities you say are blocking negotiations? Aren't
negotiations the key to stopping this activity?

PM: This is a very dangerous distinction that you have drawn, which must be
clarified.  The purpose of negotiations is to make peace, if they take
place, not to find out that the other side that you are negotiating with is
not interested in the main thing which is the driving force for you, which
is peace. So as I said, we are interested in peace, not in the "industry of
peace". We are interested in peace, not in the process of peace. We are
interested in peace with Syria, not in helping Syria pretend that it is now
a peace-loving country and therefore it has to be released of all the
efforts made by the international community to establish an international
tribunal to inquire the assassination of the former Prime Minister of
Lebanon and of the violent Syrian involvement with Hizballah in Lebanon. In
other words, if the Syrians are really interested in genuine peace with the
State of Israel, they can't at the same time be actively involved in making
the opposite against the State of Israel, and in order to find out what they
are doing on a daily basis, I don't have to negotiate with them. I can see
and you can see and everyone can see, they are assisting terror in Iraq,
they are assisting the Hamas in their terrorist attempts against the State
of Israel, they are assisting the Islamic Jihad. The attempt yesterday,
which, almost by an extraordinary chain of circumstances, was prevented, was
coordinated by the Islamic Jihad whose headquarters is in Damascus. So what
the Syrians are doing we know. If they want to make peace, at some point
they have to stop it. Then we will still have a long way to go in order to
accept the terms of peace.  But how can you try to make, sit and negotiate
with someone who at the same time is preparing your assassination from the

Thank you very much.

IMRA - Independent Media Review and Analysis

Continued (Permanent Link)

Quartet 'divided' over Palestinians

Quartet 'divided' over Palestinians

The Quartet of Middle East mediators has made little progress during talks in Germany, amid differences towards its stance on the formation of a Palestinian unity government.

The group ended talks on Wednesday agreeing to meet again in the near future, possibly in an Arab country.

Officials said there were splits on how to respond to the deal between Hamas and the Fatah movement of Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president.

Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, said: "We are going to wait-and-see what happens when the unity government is formed."

She said: "It's not necessary to make decisions until there is something to make decisions about."

'Sense of paralysis'

Barnaby Phillips, reporting for Al Jazeera from Berlin, said:"There were differences.
"Off the record, the Europeans say the Mecca agreement is positive and something to work on, they see it as an opportunity. But Rice sees it as a 'complication'."

"The general point is there is a slight sense of paralysis until people can see the new unity government."

Russia had already called for the Quartet, comprising Russia, the US, EU and United Nations, to ease pressure on the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority.

Sergei Lavrov, Russia' foreign minister, said earlier in an interview with the Rossiskaya Gazeta newspaper: "I hope that the quartet will favour a lifting of the financial and economic sanctions which were imposed by Israel. That will be the position of Russia, the European Union and the UN general secretary."

Aid embargo

Russia has been reticent about maintaining an aid embargo imposed by Western governments after Hamas won elections last year and has urged a softening of the Quartet's stance.

But Washington has made clear it will only have contact with a unity government that meets the quartet conditions, agreed after Hamas won Palestinian elections last year, to renounce violence, recognise Israel and abide by past Israeli-Palestinian accords.

Javier Solana, the EU policy chief, said: "I hope very much that the national unity government will be part of the solution, not part of the problem."

The EU, like Russia, appears to favour a softer line, seeing the new Palestinian unity government as a solution to factional violence, although the EU has not pushed for a resumption of aid to the Palestinians.

The EU favours the continuation of a temporary financial mechanism which has permitted the delivery of $160m in humanitarian aid to certain Palestinian institutions, by-passing Hamas, since July last year.

'Possibility for change'

Ghazi Hamid, the Palestinian cabinet spokesman, told Al Jazeera, "The position of the European is more flexible and more positive."

Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, earlier said he was "encouraged" by the power-sharing deal agreed between Hamas and Mohammed Abbas, the Palestinian president and leader of Fatah, in Mecca on February 8.

Arab nations such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia, which helped broker the deal in Mecca, also say the unity government should be given a chance.

A meeting earlier this week in Jerusalem between Rice, Abbas and Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, made little progress in pushing the peace process forward except for a promise for Israeli and Palestinian leaders to meet again soon.

But Hamid, commenting on a press conference given by the Quartet, said "They didn't talk about sanctions or boycott. This gives us hope that there is now a possibility for change."

He said: "It is difficult for them to impose sanctions now ... We are unified now, under one umbrella."

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

Continued (Permanent Link)

Israel Ranked third in Scientific Papers

What about per capita, or in absolute terms?

If we get richer, do we get stupider by this measure?



Israel ranked 3 worldwide in publishing scientific papers,7340,L-3367945,00.html

Published:  02.21.07, 14:33 / Israel News

According to data published by the Knesset's Education Committee, Israel is ranked third in the number of scientific articles published in relation to gross national product. The data was determined by examining the articles published in the last 21 years. (Moran Zelikovich)

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Semitism, Zionism, Israel: Anti-What?

One opinion on anti-"Zionism."

World's latent anti-Semitism
There is no anti-Zionism, and no anti-Israel, just latent anti-Semitism,7340,L-3367480,00.html
Noah Klieger
02.20.07, 17:33 /
Israel Opinion

Last week I returned from a series of lectures in Switzerland where I spoke of the odyssey of the illegal immigrant ship Exodus in 1947. During my stay I was interviewed by several newspapers, including one of Europe's leading publications Neue Zürcher Zeitung.

The interviewee, a well known newspaper veteran, obviously asked me about Israel today and the conflict in the Middle East. He presented several articles (translated into English) that I had published in recent months, and asked me whether I was not exaggerating in declaring that anti-Semitism is on the rise worldwide.

"Perhaps you are mistaken?" he said. "Perhaps it's not anti-Semitism, but rather, anti-Zionism and opposition to the Israeli leadership's conduct towards the Palestinians."

And this is the root of the problem. For years anti-Semites have been hiding behind the argument of their opposition to Zionism and Israel's policies in regard to the Palestinian issue. "We have nothing against the Jews," they reiterate repeatedly," yet we do not agree with Israel's policies."

This is a blatant lie. Are the attacks on synagogues and community institutions, desecration of cemeteries and assault of orthodox Jews an expression of "anti-Zionism"?

Was the murder of a young Jew wearing a skullcap and the attempted "lynch" of another (both in France) carried out in "opposition to Israel's policies"? Last month, half of Ukraine's population announced that there are "too many Jews in their country" and that "their numbers should be minimized." Is this also anti-Zionism?

A few days ago a reputable German institute publicized a comprehensive survey pertaining to the Germans' attitude towards Israel. The results of the survey are worrying: It appears that 44 percent of the population has a negative opinion regarding Israel and that a sweeping majority of Germans (78 percent) believes that Germany should treat Israel as it does any other nation.

As if the grandparents or the parents of the respondents did not partake in the murder of six million Jews. As if there are no Jews still living, who miraculously survived the German style "final solution."

'No to the Jewish State'
That very same outspoken apathy by 78 percent of the new German population towards the Jewish State, which was founded on the ruins of European Jewry, is nothing but an expression of latent anti-Semitism.

Otherwise they would have responded by saying that although Germany is committed to the survivors and the inheritors of those who perished, they would express reservation towards the State of Israel's policies. But they simply said: "No" to Israel. "No" to the Jewish State.

When Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad repeatedly says outright that Israel should be wiped off the face of the earth, he is not saying that "the Zionists should be wiped out." He is demanding that the entire Jewish State be wiped out.

The fact that not a single state has demanded that Iran be ousted from the United Nations due to its wild incitement against another state - which is also a member of the organization - is the best indication of the world's attitude and stance towards the Jews. The absence of protest testifies that the madman from Teheran is not alone.

No, there is no anti-Zionism and there is no anti-Israel, there is only anti-Semitism, even if it is presented in a different guise.

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"Ethnic Cleansing" in Jerusalem?

Next time you read about the "ethnic cleansing" of Jerusalem by evil Zionists, remember this article. Also remember - from 1948 to 1967, Jerusalem was under Jordanian rule. The Jews of Jerusalem were no longer allowed to live there.

Last update - 10:06 21/02/2007

Study: 57 percent of East Jerusalem residents are Arab

By Nadav Shragai, Haaretz Correspondent

Forty-three percent of East Jerusalem residents - 184,300 people - are
Jewish, and 57 percent Arab, according to figures to be released Thursday by the
Jerusalem Center for Israel Studies.

The study was released to coincide with the start of a lecture series
marking the fortieth anniversary of the city's unification.

From 1967 to 2005, Jerusalem's Arab population has grown from 68,600 to
244,800 - an increase of 257 percent.

During the same period, the Jewish population grew by just 140 percent -
from 197,700 in 1967 to 475,000 in 2005.

The relatively slow growth rate among the Jewish population has led to a
decline in its share of the city's population. From 74 percent in 1967, this
figure was 66 percent in 2005.

The Arab population, meanwhile, rose from 26 to 34 percent.

Population forecasts in Jerusalem indicate that if demographic trends
continue, the capital's population will rise to 958,900 in 2020 - 60 percent
Jews and 40 percent Arabs.

An annual comparison of the growth rate of the two populations shows the
Jewish growth rate higher than the Arab only six times between 1967 and

The years of high growth occurred in the 1970s, as large-scale building
projects were carried out in Jewish neighborhoods, and in the 1990s during the
massive absorption of immigrants from the former Soviet Union.

The report indicated that the government targets for Jerusalem's Jewish
population have not been reached.

In the early 1970s, the government estimated that the Jewish population had
to grow by 3.7 percent a year to maintain the demographic majority.

In the past four decades, however, the Jewish population grew by an average
of only 2.7 percent annually.

The average rate of population growth among Arabs during the same period
was 3.4 percent.

The large Jewish neighborhoods established in areas attached to the city in
1967 are Pisgat Ze'ev (population approximately 41,000), Ramot (40,000), Gilo
(27,000), Neve Yaakov (20,000), Ramat Shlomo (14,000), and East Talpiot

The largest Arab areas of East Jerusalem are Shuafat (34,000), the Muslim
Quarter of the Old City (26,000), Beit Hanina (24,000) and A-Tur-Aswana

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Suicide bombing mastermind killed

The Palestinians no doubt will write about the human rights violations of the Zionist war mongers... Without a real suicide bombing there is no "justification" for Israeli "incursions" it seems. Note the difference in Reuters reporting.

Last update - 10:28 21/02/2007
Israeli troops kill Jenin-area Islamic Jihad chief
By Haaretz Service and News Agencies
Israeli undercover troops killed an Islamic Jihad commander in the West Bank town of Jenin on Wednesday, one day after a bombing attempt he allegedly ordered was thwarted in Tel Aviv.
The slain man was identified as Mahmoud Abu Ubayed, commander of the Jihad in areas near Jenin. Witnesses said Abu Ubayed was driving his car near the Yihya Ayyash Square in Jenin when undercover troops surprised him and sprayed the vehicle with bullets. The square was named for a Hamas bombing mastermind killed in an Israeli-ordered attack in 1996.

The planned large-scale suicide bomb attack in the Tel Aviv area was prevented Tuesday when police and security forces arrested an Islamic Jihad militant and his partners at an apartment in Bat Yam.

The army had no immediate comment.

Army Radio said Abu Ubayed dispatched the suspected bomber, a resident of a village near Jenin. Islamic Jihad last carried out a suicide attack in Israel on January 29, when three people were killed in the Red Sea resort of Eilat.

The suspect told police where the explosive device he was supposed to use in the attack was located and the bomb squad found the large device in a garbage can in the center of Rishon Letzion.

The would-be bomber, 24, was identified in a statement the organization released to the Palestinian press.

On Tuesday morning, the militant left his village of Jiblun, which borders the Green Line east of Jenin, carrying a bag with a bomb. Close to midday the Shin Bet received a warning that a terrorist attack was in progress. This information triggered an extensive manhunt.

In the afternoon, police declared a state of high alert in the Tel Aviv-Jaffa area and set up several roadblocks, especially in the city's southern quarters. Police patrolled the streets, carried out spot-checks on vehicles and searched the yards of buildings. Helicopters carried out searches from the air.

The police activity resulted in heavy traffic delays in the broader Dan region.
The searches succeeded in locating the terrorist in a Bat Yam apartment housing Palestinians without legal permits to be in Israel.

The would-be suicide bomber was questioned by the security forces and a short while later, he led investigators to the center of Rishon Letzion where he had dropped off the bomb in a trash can.

Police demolitions experts carried out a controlled explosion of the device after evacuating dozens of nearby buildings.

The militant said he had been ordered to carry out the suicide bombing in southern Tel Aviv. It
appears the target was supposed to have been the area of the central bus station.

It is still unclear why the militant decided to hide the explosive device he was carrying in Rishon Letzion and then proceed to Bat Yam, and not go directly to the target area.

The three Palestinians living in the Bat Yam apartment were also arrested and the Shin Bet is trying to figure out whether they were in any way involved in the planning of the attack, or whether they thought the would-be bomber was a laborer like them.

Following the arrest the state of alert in the Tel Aviv area was lowered and most of the road blocks were lifted.

A senior security source told Haaretz that the Shin Bet and police activity are worthy of praise and that their resourcefulness has led to the prevention of a major terrorist attack.

"There is no doubt that a major disaster was prevented," Major General David Tzur, commander of the Tel Aviv police district said Tuesday.

Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility Tuesday night for the attempted attack in Tel Aviv. The organization has refused to participate in the hudna - the temporary cease-fire to which Hamas has signed up - and has continued its efforts to carry out suicide bomb attacks.

Jihad also announced recently that it would not participate in the Palestinian government of national unity, which Hamas and Fatah agreed upon in a Saudi-brokered accord earlier this month.

The United States has placed a bounty on the head of Islamic Jihad, Ramadan Shalah, based in Damascus, and the organization has warned that if its leader is harmed it will also target American interests.

Islamic Jihad is considered to be an organization that is supported and funded by Iran. The militant group participated in a suicide bombing in Eilat, in late January, that claimed the lives of three Israeli civilians.

The Islamic Jihad network in the northern West Bank is considered to be the most lethal in the territories. In 2006 its members were responsible for two suicide bombings in Tel Aviv, killing 11 Israeli civilians.

Shin Bet Chief Yuval Diskin said recently that during the past year more than 1,000 Islamic Jihad activists were arrested in the West Bank, of which the security services described 96 as "potential suicide bombers."

[Remainder of the article is irrelevant]

Israeli forces kill Islamic Jihad man, group says

21 Feb 2007 07:38:30 GMT21 Feb 2007 07:38:30 GMT

(Adds background)
JENIN, West Bank, Feb 21 (Reuters) - Israeli undercover forces killed an Islamic Jihad commander in the West Bank on Wednesday, the militant group said, a day after Israeli police announced they foiled a planned suicide bombing in Tel Aviv.
Islamic Jihad identified him as Mahmoud Abu al-Jahim, its commander in the northern West Bank.

An Israeli army spokeswoman in Tel Aviv had no immediate comment on the shooting in the city of Jenin, a Palestinian militant stronghold in the occupied West Bank..
Jahim was killed a day after Israeli police arrested a suspected Palestinian bomber and several accomplices hiding in an apartment near Tel Aviv. A police spokesman said they had planned to stage an attack in the city hours later.

Israel Army Radio said Jahim had dispatched the suspected bomber, a resident of a village near Jenin. Islamic Jihad last carried out a suicide attack in Israel on January 29, when three people were killed in the Red Sea resort of Eilat.
Witnesses said Jahim was driving his car when undercover troops surprised him and sprayed the vehicle with bullets.

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Monday, February 19, 2007

Peretz and Israeli Military Intelligence Disagree about Hezbullah

What can the following mean?
Head of the research division at the Military Intelligence Corps told the Knesset on Monday that the Hezbollah militant group has managed to rebuild its military wing to match its force prior to the war in Lebanon this summer.

Speaking at a meeting of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Brigadier General Yossi Baidatz said his report is based on fact, not on estimates. But Defense Minister Amir Peretz, who attended the meeting also, corrected Baidatz saying the report does not pertain to actual military force but to the potential for acquiring military capabilities.
The "potential for acquiring military capabilities" means what? Hezbollah has always had the "potential" for acquiring nuclear weapons for example. What could Peretz mean? How could Peretz know more about the report than the head of Military Intelligence?

Last update - 13:10 19/02/2007

Senior MI officer: Hezbollah has already rebuilt its force

By Gideon Alon, Haaretz Correspondent

Head of the research division at the Military Intelligence Corps told the Knesset on Monday that the Hezbollah militant group has managed to rebuild its military wing to match its force prior to the war in Lebanon this summer.

Speaking at a meeting of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Brigadier General Yossi Baidatz said his report is based on fact, not on estimates. But Defense Minister Amir Peretz, who attended the meeting also, corrected Baidatz saying the report does not pertain to actual military force but to the potential for acquiring military capabilities.

Some committee members expressed their beguilement at the contradiction between the intelligence officer and the defense minister.

Peretz also replied to questions from committee members on his work relations with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Peretz said he holds reasonable relations with the premier and that there is nothing in them to detract from decision making procedures and the operation of the Defense Ministry.

Peretz said that in the past month he has been on the phone to Olmert 20 times a day. "I wish I saw my family at this frequency," he said with a smile.

Last week Olmert spoke before the committee on the same subject, and told its members that he holds adequate work relations with the defense minister. "The prime minister and the defense minister aren't required to have an intimate relationship. No Basic Law or religious commandment says that we must have an intimate relationship," Olmert told to committee

Continued (Permanent Link)

RIce, Abbas, Olmert Summit Fizzles as expected

What was the point of this exercise, other than to humiliate the United States and make a public exhibition of the futility of the peace process?
Wouldn't it have been better to cancel the meeting, rather than end with an outcome like this one?

Rice summit ends with little sign of progress
19 Feb 2007 11:38:50 GMT
Source: Reuters

By Sue Pleming

JERUSALEM, Feb 19 (Reuters) - Israeli-Palestinian talks hosted by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice ended on Monday with a vague promise to meet again and little sign of progress on reviving peace moves.

The talks, attended by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, were overshadowed by a Palestinian unity deal that calmed factional fighting but cast a new cloud over prospects for peace with Israel.

"All three of us affirmed our commitment to a two-state solution, agreed that a Palestinian state cannot be born of violence and terror," Rice said after the meeting in a Jerusalem hotel, which lasted more than two hours.

She stood alone to deliver the brief statement in a hotel ballroom, and took no questions from reporters. Her two partners in the talks were not present.

Rice said Olmert and Abbas "reiterated their acceptance of previous agreements and obligations", including a U.S.-backed road map for peace charting reciprocal steps towards a Palestinian state, and the two leaders would meet again soon.

Rice gave no date, but said she expected to return to the region shortly.

Olmert and Abbas, she said, discussed the deal the Palestinian president signed with the Islamist movement Hamas to establish a unity government, an accord that fell short of international demands on policy towards Israel.


"The president and the prime minister discussed their views of the diplomatic and political horizon and how it might unfold towards the two-state vision of President Bush," Rice said.

Olmert said on Sunday that he and U.S. President George W. Bush agreed to boycott the unity government, which has yet to be formed, unless it renounced violence, recognised Israel and accepted existing interim peace accords.

Rice did not mention the issue in her brief remarks after the meeting, but noted it was the position of Middle East mediators known as the "Quartet" that the terms must be met.

The group comprises the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations.

The unity government deal, forged in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, earlier this month, helped curtail Palestinian factional warfare that caused 90 deaths in recent weeks.

A boycott by the United States could prevent a resumption of direct aid from Western donors to the Palestinian Authority, cut off after Hamas defeated Abbas's Fatah movement in an election a year ago.

Bogged down in Iraq, the United States has been seeking progress on stalled Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy.

It has said it would like both sides to start talking about the tough issues, such as the outlines of a new Palestinian state, refugees and the status of Jerusalem.

Rice: Olmert, Abbas to meet again, I will return soon
By Aluf Benn, Haaretz Correspondent, Haaretz Service and Agencies

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, speaking Monday after two-hour talks with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, said that both leaders agreed to meet again, and that she expected to return to the region soon.
She said that the two sides reiterated their commitment to the internationally brokered road map to Middle East peace and to "American participation" in negotiations.
"The president and prime minister agreed that they would meet together again soon. They reiterated their desire for American participation and leadership to overcome obstacles, rally regional and international support and move forward toward peace. In that vein, I expect to return to the region soon," she said.
"All three of us affirmed our commitment to a two-state solution, agreed that a Palestinian state cannot be born of violence and terror," she said.
Neither Abbas nor Olmert joined Rice as she delivered her
brief statement to reporters, and she exited the room without taking questions.
The three kicked off the summit with a working meeting shortly after 10:00 A.M. Monday at the David's Citadel Hotel in Jerusalem.
The talks were to be followed by a lunch meeting, in which Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Defense Minister Amir Peretz and Vice Premier Shimon Peres were to participate.
Rice and Olmert met Sunday for one-on-one discussions which continued for two and a half hours. The prime minister has made political headway with the new government to be formed in the Palestinian Authority conditional on the acceptance of the Quartet's principles.
Rice also met Sunday with Defense Minister Amir Peretz, who was accompanied by Chief of Military Intelligence Amos Yadlin. She met separately with the likely future Palestinian finance minister, Salam Fayyad, and U.S. Senator John McCain, who is also in the region.
According to Palestinian sources, the meeting was to cover three issues: implementation of the November 2005 crossings agreement, the transfer of collected taxes from Israel to Abu Mazen's cabinet and the future of the peace process.
The U.S. and Israel made no promises to the PA on the eve of the summit. According to participants, Abbas presented the considerations which led to his agreeing to the Mecca Agreement.
Rice, who did not hold a press conference as previously planned, clarified to Abbas that United States' policy toward the unity government would only be defined after it has been formed and has formulated its foreign policy. The secretary of state said the policies of the unity government would be evaluated on the basis of its adherence to the terms of the Quartet, i.e. recognition of Israel, recognition of signed agreements and rejection of all forms of terror.
Abbas asked Rice to consider the positive aspects of the Mecca Agreement, for instance Hamas' undertaking to honor the decisions of the Palestinian National Council, which include the Oslo Accords and mutual recognition with Israel.
Secretary of State Rice is expected to read a public statement during the summit in Jerusalem on Monday, but will not take questions from the press. Abu Mazen and Olmert will make no statements.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Palestinians and Abbas: USA is NOT getting the message

The message of the Palestinian unity deal is clear:
Abbas has had a simple message for U.S. diplomats unhappy with his planned coalition: Take it or leave it.
And yet, Condoleezza Rice says:
"I think that we can continue to work with Abu Mazen, continue to discuss with Abu Mazen, continue to explore with Abu Mazen,"
The Washington Post/AP article states about Israeli-Palestinian negotiations:
Negotiations broke down more than six years ago in an explosion of violence between the two sides.
That is like saying "Negotiations between Britain and Nazi Germany broke down  in an explosion of violence between the two sides." The negotiations broke down because the Palestinians initiated violence. The record is clear.

The Associated Press
Sunday, February 18, 2007; 3:19 PM

JERUSALEM -- Hoping to turn the page on six years of stalled Mideast negotiations, the U.S. instead found itself boxed in Sunday by a characteristically complex political impasse involving ally Israel and the Palestinians.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice came to the region intending to lead a symbolic peace summit. Her plans, however, have been eclipsed amid uncertainty and disagreement over how to handle last week's sudden announcement of a power-sharing deal to end internal Palestinian fighting.

Rice met for two hours with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, resolute in his position that he must govern hand-in-hand with Hamas militants who refuse to moderate anti-Israeli policies. The United States consider Hamas a terrorist group.

Later Sunday, the U.S. diplomat held a similarly long meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert over a similarly hard-line position.

Israel will not recognize a Palestinian government that refuses to renounce violence, honor past commitments and accept Israel's right to exist.

Olmert says Washington agrees and will shun the new government. U.S. officials, however, are not going that far _ yet.

The United States, still hoping Abbas will change Hamas or change his mind, says it will reserve judgment until the planned Palestinian government takes shape.

Rice acknowledged that the moment is awkward for discussions of peace. But she wanted to go ahead with Monday's summit with Abbas and Olmert.

"We could have decided not to meet during this time, but I actually think that when people have questions and want to explore issues that arise out of something like the agreement to form a national unity government that it's better that they be able to do it face to face," Rice told reporters.

The meeting was planned before Abbas made his pact with Hamas. The gathering was meant to offer weary Palestinians a brighter vision for their future by opening a discussion of the contours of an eventual Palestinian state.

It also was a way to strengthen Abbas in his power struggle with Hamas, which surprised the Bush administration by defeating Abbas' secular Fatah Party in elections 13 months ago.

Although U.S. officials brush off any suggestion the pact has tainted Abbas, diplomats have not hidden their displeasure with both the content and timing of the deal he made.

Neither the U.S. nor Israel has said it would boycott Abbas, who is widely known by his nickname, Abu Mazen. As head of the Palestine Liberation Organization, he would represent the Palestinians in any peace talks. Negotiations broke down more than six years ago in an explosion of violence between the two sides.

"I think that we can continue to work with Abu Mazen, continue to discuss with Abu Mazen, continue to explore with Abu Mazen," Rice said.

Rice was the latest U.S. official to lower expectations for Monday's meeting even as she described a deep commitment to the larger goal of peace.

"Nobody is at the point of talking about a deal," Rice said. "We're talking about ... what the destination might look like."

Many of the core questions that frame the hoped-for destination _ an independent Palestine alongside Israel _ apparently would not be on the table Monday. Those include the borders and the fate of disputed areas of Jerusalem.

Israeli leaders were lukewarm about the session even before Abbas' deal; some have been openly skeptical since.

The United States, United Nations, European Union and Russia have said jointly that a Palestinian government must renounce violence, abide by past agreements with Israel and others and accept Israel's right to exist.

The four-member group, known as the Quartet, is the steward of a mothballed 2003 peace plan. The group has taken no position yet on whether Abbas' pact with Hamas meets that test, but Rice said Palestinian statehood rests on it.

"I don't think that there's any doubt that ... an agreement to have a Palestinian state and then the actual standing of a Palestinian state is going to have to be on the basis of a government that accepts the right of Israel to exist," Rice said. "I can't imagine it any other way."

Abbas has had a simple message for U.S. diplomats unhappy with his planned coalition: Take it or leave it. On Sunday, he told Rice the deal with Hamas was the best he could get and asked her to give it a chance, his aides said.

Abbas had tried during months of coalition talks to press Hamas to agree to abide by existing peace accords _ something that would imply recognition of Israel. He yielded after many rounds of deadly Palestinian infighting.

More than 130 Palestinians have died in street clashes and other attacks that have alarmed both Palestinians and Israelis, sapped political momentum and threatened to erode Abbas' authority.

"The Americans told us that this agreement is not meeting (international) conditions," for diplomatic recognition and vital aid, said an Abbas aide, Yasser Abed Rabbo. "But we have an understanding with Rice that they will wait until we see this government declare its program."

Olmert said at the start of the weekly Cabinet meeting Sunday that he and President Bush had spoken by phone on Friday about the deal and agreed the Palestinians had to go further.

"A Palestinian government that won't accept the Quartet conditions won't receive recognition and cooperation," Olmert said. "The American and Israeli positions are totally identical on this issue."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Dangers of the Mecca Agreement

This article spells out the dangers of "Palestinian Unity:"

Made in Mecca: A roadmap for Europe,7340,L-3366395,00.html
Mecca agreement depicted as 'chance' for Europe to engage Hamas, give up Quartet's demands
Petra Marquardt-Bigman Published:  02.18.07, 11:26 / Israel Opinion
Last week, readers of the British Guardian received some good news regarding the Middle East: "The Mecca agreement gives the west the chance to break with its policy of blackmail and recognize Palestinian rights." The bearer of these happy tidings was none other than Hamas' very own Khaled Mashaal.
No doubt, Mashaal has his finger on the pulse of Europe's predicament. As one of the members of the Quartet, Europe - together with the US, Russia and the UN - has signed the demand that Hamas must recognize Israel, accept previous agreements and renounce violence before direct aid to the Palestinian government will be resumed.
It's not that the Palestinians have been subjected to any cut in aid - quite the contrary: As the United Nations under-secretary general for political affairs reported on the recent anniversary of Hamas' election victory, international aid to the Palestinians increased in 2006 by nearly 10 percent, amounting to a staggering $1.2 billion. Indeed, Palestinians are today the largest per capita recipients of foreign aid in the world.
'No solution to Palestinian problem except Jihad'
But that is not enough to soothe the conscience of those who feel that it is unfair to "punish" the Palestinians for electing a party whose charter asserts that there "is no solution to the Palestinian problem except by Jihad" and that peace negotiations are just "a waste of time, an exercise in futility (…), a vain game." (Hamas Charter, Article Thirteen). For a variety of reasons - racism possibly among them - many Europeans feel that, while Israelis are to blame if they vote for a government that proposed to withdraw from most of the West Bank, the Palestinian electorate should not be held responsible for voting into power a party that glorifies "jihad" in order to "liberate" all of historic Palestine.
So Khaled Mashaal had a point when he stated in the Guardian: "We know that many governments around the world are unhappy with these sanctions and want to see an end to them." To anybody who might fail to see any reason to be "unhappy" about the "sanctions", Mashaal offered some hints: He called on the West "to wake up and realize" that "(it) will not serve the best interests of the West to support Israel while it continues to terrorize our people, occupy our land, violate our basic human and national rights and encroach on Muslim and Christian holy places. Such blind support has proven to be very costly for the West and will increasingly damage its vital interests."
'Our unity can now pave way for peace and justice'
While Mashaal's article appeared under the title "Our unity can now pave the way for peace and justice", he made sure to point out that Palestinian unity could also pave the way for something else altogether: If the West persisted in its "blind support" for Israel, it would "risk alienating not only Hamas but also Fatah and all the other Palestinian factions", resulting in dire consequences, because then "the entire Middle East region would be driven towards another cycle of bloody escalation that may last for many years to come."
Mashaal had all the reasons to present Palestinian demands and threats with the utmost confidence. He knows all too well that in Europe, quite a few people would rather join a demonstration shouting "We are all Hizbullah" than be accused of "blind support" for Israel. Moreover, a Europe that has to contend with Islamic extremists in its midst has become quite receptive to the "linkage" theory that blames Muslim radicalization on the unsolved Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which, in turn, is often blamed on Israeli intransigence, made possible by US support.
Most importantly, however, Mashaal could be so confident because the Mecca agreement means that the Saudis are willing to back Hamas, and in the "new" Middle East, the Saudis are counted among the "moderates" whom nobody wants to alienate.
'Mecca opens the way for Europe'
It was thus no big surprise to read in the International Herald Tribune that "Mecca opens the way for Europe" - though it is perhaps a bit surprising that articles on the Mecca agreement tend to come with titles that invoke "paving" or "opening" ways... In any case, this article was authored by Henry Siegman, who is currently a visiting professor at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London and has a well deserved reputation as a critic of Israel and an advocate for the Palestinian cause.
 Siegman did nothing to tarnish his reputation when he described the Mecca agreement as a major achievement "for which Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah deserves great credit." He admonished the Europeans that "(in) the aftermath of Saudi Arabia's breaking of the taboo against support of a government that includes Hamas, it should not require all that much courage to follow in King Abdullah's footsteps." For those who would muster the courage to do just that, Siegman had a "roadmap" ready: "The Europeans should announce immediately the end of their boycott of Hamas and open a dialogue with a new unity government on conditions that would enable them to end sanctions imposed by the Quartet on the Palestinian Authority.
 These conditions should recognize that Hamas should not be asked to do that which the international community is not prepared to ask of Israel. Hamas should be asked to declare its willingness to recognize Israel if and when Israel declares its recognition of Palestinian rights within the pre-1967 border."
 Siegman suggested ever so tactfully that a Hamas government backed by Saudi money would be "less dependent" on any Euros, but he still flattered the Europeans that their economic assistance "remains a powerful inducement for Palestinian diplomacy". Whether this was meant as a stick or a carrot is hard to figure out, but in any case, Siegman clearly believed that the Mecca agreement offered Europe a chance to finally "disengage from its subservience to Washington (…) and undertake a constructive initiative of its own."
Perhaps it should be noted that "constructive" seems to have taken on a whole new meaning: apparently, it now means to court those who stick with their calls for "jihad", glorify terrorism and mock negotiations as "a waste of time". It may seem a rather peculiar interpretation of "constructive", but when you think about it, Europe's negotiations with Iran were actually similarly "constructive". So, we'd better learn fast and familiarize ourselves with the roadmap made in Mecca.

Continued (Permanent Link)

PA sources: Rice told Abbas U.S. will withhold judgment on unity gov'

Apparently, USA and Israel intend to do nothing about the Palestinian unity government, other than continue the boycott. It is obvious however, that the unity government will be doing something about USA and Israel, and therefore doing nothing is not an appropriate response.
The Palestinians, with the backing of the Arab world, are going to do an end run around the American boycott, in order to make the US irrelevant. They will get alternate financial aid from Arab countries, and untimately hope to bring USSR, France and others on board.
It seems that US and Israel have no place to meet this exigency.

Last update - 21:31 18/02/2007   

PA sources: Rice told Abbas U.S. will withhold judgment on unity gov't
By Aluf Benn, Haaretz Correspondent, and Agencies

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas during their Ramallah meeting Sunday that she'd withhold judgment on the new PA unity government until it has been formed, but suggested the U.S. would not budge from its demands, Abbas' aides said.
Later Sunday, Rice met privately with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for two and a half hours, and the two sides did not issue any statements nor make any comments following the meeting.
"The Americans told us that this agreement does not meet the Quartet conditions," Abbas aide Yasser Abed Rabbo said. "But we have an understanding with Rice that they will wait until we see this government declare its program."
Abbas, in turn, told Rice that his deal with Hamas was the best he could get, suggesting it's unlikely there will be a change in the government's program.
During the meeting, Rice said the U.S. position is unchanged, a senior American official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the talks were private.
He confirmed the U.S. would withhold judgment until the Palestinian government is formed. "We will reach our own conclusions," he said.
Rice sought explanations Sunday from Abbas about the new PA unity government that both Washington and Israel say they intend to shun, and Abbas on Sunday tried to persuade Rice to give the Hamas-Fatah coalition a chance, his aides said.
In his talks with Rice, Abbas portrayed the power-sharing deal as an achievement, saying it has helped moderate Hamas. Abbas also emphasized that he, not the government, would handle any negotiations with Israel, and Rice assured him the U.S. would continue dealing with him, his aides said.
In the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanun, Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas accused the U.S. and Israel on Sunday of trying to sabotage the unity deal.
"The American and Israeli interference today aim to destroy the basic principles and the basis of the Palestinian cause ... and to divert our cause, he told some 2,000 supporters, adding that he would go ahead with forming the coalition government.
Pledging to continue to "probe the diplomatic horizon," Rice traveled to the West Bank to meet the Palestinian leader hours after Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said that Israel and the U.S. were agreed that the new government must meet international demands.
The meeting ended after two hours, and Rice departed without commenting to reporters.
Abbas, Olmert and Rice are due to hold a trilateral summit in Jerusalem on Monday. Following her meeting with Abbas, Rice was to return to Jerusalem for talks with the prime minister.
"I hope that this meeting with the three of us will be an opportunity to understand the current situation and commit and recommit to existing peace agreements," Rice told reporters at the start of the meeting Sunday, with Abbas seated at her side.
Olmert told the cabinet earlier Sunday that the U.S. and Israel are in total accord on shunning any Palestinian government that doesn't meet international demands to recognize Israel, renounce violence and accept existing peace accords.
The prime minister said that he and U.S. President George W. Bush had spoken by phone Friday about the Palestinian power-sharing accord whose platform falls short of meeting those demands, posed by the Quartet of Middle East negotiators - the U.S., European Union, United Nations and Russia.
The ruling Hamas movement and its rival Fatah agreed earlier this month at a summit in Mecca on the formation of a new unity government, aimed at stemming months of factional violence and lifting a year-long international aid embargo.
"A Palestinian government that won't accept the Quartet conditions won't receive recognition and cooperation," Olmert told ministers. "The American and Israeli positions are totally identical on this issue."
But Interior Minister Roni Bar-On, who is close to Olmert, said Israel "would not boycott" Abbas because it needed to keep a channel of communications open with the Palestinians and snubbing him would "definitely thrust him towards Hamas."
The three-way summit will begin Monday morning at the David's Citadel Hotel in Jerusalem, where Rice and her entourage are staying, and last a few hours. No joint press conference is planned for afterward, in order to avoid a public comment on the anticipated differences of opinion.
Rice arrived in Jerusalem on Saturday, where she met with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. The two had also spoken several times by telephone before Rice's arrival. She also met with Defense Minister Amir Peretz.
Abbas' office said Sunday that the two had canceled the press conference scheduled for after their meeting.
During their phone conversation Saturday, Olmert and Bush discussed the ramifications of the Mecca Agreement, as well as the Iranian nuclear issue.
A source in Jerusalem said that Bush and Olmert "see eye to eye on the need for any future Palestinian government to meet the Quartet's demands."
Bush also spoke with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, under whose auspices the Mecca Agreement was drafted.
Olmert plans to tell Rice on Sunday that the Mecca Agreement and its implications should be the main topic of discussion at Monday's summit.
According to the government source, Israel will insist that any diplomatic progress be conditioned on the Palestinian unity government not only accepting the Quartet's conditions, but also acting on them. Olmert and Rice will discuss two scenarios - if the PA does accept the Quartet's demands and if it does not.
"We have to think about how to behave if Salam Fayyad, a moderate and acceptable figure, becomes finance minister in a Hamas-led government," the source said. "Israel will not be willing to recognize such a government, even if it includes some moderates."
Another Israeli source added, "In the worst-case scenario, we will boycott the Palestinian unity government, just as we boycotted the Hamas government until now."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Israeli Police Commissioner Moshe Karadi resigns over alleged misconduct

Israeli Police Commissioner Moshe Karadi resigns over alleged misconduct
One can hope that the current conduct of Karadi, as well as that of Matza, who resigned as head of the tax authority, will help set an example for others.
Unfortunately, Gannot, who has been appointed in place of Karadi, was also under suspicion of misconduct at one point.

Last update - 21:33 18/02/2007   

Police Commissioner Moshe Karadi resigns over alleged misconduct
By Jonathan Lis and Yuval Yoaz, Haaretz Correspondents

Police Commissioner Moshe Karadi resigned Sunday in the wake of damning findings by the Zeiler Commission, which investigated alleged police misconduct during a probe of a 1999 murder.
Shortly thereafter, Public Security Minister Avi Dichter held a press conference in Jerusaelm in which he announced his intention to appoint Prisons Service Commissioner Ya'akov Ganot as Karadi's replacement.
Dichter said he had reached the conclusion that the entire senior police command must be replaced, and therefore announced his decision to remove Police Deputy Commissioner Benny Kaniak, "despite the fact that he was not mentioned in the [commission's report]."
According to Dichter, the police representative in the United States, Mickey Levy, will replace Kaniak as police deputy commissioner. Dichter said he has offered Kaniak the position of Prisons Service commissioner.
Karadi said the government would determine the exact date on which he will hand over his position.
"This is a difficult hour for me and for the police," Karadi told a press conference in Jerusalem. "The Israel Police is in need of revolution and reform."
"He who wants to lead a revolution in the national priorities must double the [police] budget, dramatically increase police salaries, and integrate within the police the world's best technologies," he added.
According to Dichter, the commissions report "points to shortcomings in the organizational culture and police self-discipline."
"When I took over as public security minister, I determined the policy objectives, first and foremost of which was the instruction to increase security and the feeling of security among Israel's citizens," added Dichter. "The issue of the organizational culture was a cornerstone."
Dichter said the decision to replace Karadi was made for all intents and purposes prior to the Zeiler Commission issuing its report.
"During the past few months, and alongside the commission's work, I tried to set in motion organizational and structural changes in the police's work," said Dichter. "Things were not carried out in accordance with the policy I had set out. I reached the conclusion that in order to properly carry out the policy, and in order to improve the functioning of 28,000 police, I have to appoint a new senior command."
"Out of respect and appreciation for the commission, I decided to wait until the commission issued its report, but at the same time I prepared myself and the police for the day after, and that day has come," added Dichter.
Dichter said he personally informed Karadi several weeks ago that he has no intention of extending his term beyond August. Dichter said this was done with the knowledge of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Attorney General Menachem Mazuz.
"I am certain and confident that Karadi will do everything, and I mean everything, in order to transfer the position to his replacement in a manner that befits him and his character," added Dichter. "My great admiration for Karadi has not decreased. His efforts to lead police forward were genuine and emanated from a true sense of purpose."
"Even on this difficult day, perhaps especially on this difficult day, it is appropriate to emphasize that thousands of police officers are standing guard," said Dichter.
Zeiler Commission recommends curtailing Karadi's term
The panel's chairman, retired judge Vardi Zeiler, recommended in his report that Karadi's term as police commissioner be curtailed, rather than allowing his contract to expire in August.
The commission investigated the handling of the probe into the murder by a policeman of suspected crime boss Pinhas Buhbut, while he was under guard in hospital. The report found deficiencies in the performance of several senior police officers, including Karadi.
The police chief was surprised to learn of the commission's findings. Information relayed to him regarding the probe over recent days had suggested that there would be no recommendation for him to step down. Until the findings were released, Karadi had hoped his term would even have been extended.
Terminating Karadi's appointment would "set a clear standard - that someone who behaves like Karadi will be unable to complete his term as police commissioner," said Zeiler.
Zeiler urged Dichter to select a date to dismiss Karadi "taking into consideration the relatively short period until the end of his appointment."
Despite Zeiler's recommendation, the other members of the committee, attorney Nurit Shnit and former police major general Uzi Berger, said it would be sufficient to recommend that Karadi's term is not extended, rather than bringing it to a premature end.
Dichter received the report of the committee's findings just before noon Sunday.
The committee also recommended the immediate dismissal of Police Commander Yoram Levy and Superintendent Ruby Gilboa for their roles in the "battery affair."
Gilboa is suspected of accepting hundreds of thousands of shekels from an insurance investigator to transfer to murder suspect Oded Parinyan, in exchange for the return of thousands of military-issue batteries stolen from the Israel Defense Forces.
The committee ruled that Karadi, who headed the Israel Police Southern District at the time, was aware of the affair when it occurred.
The panel said, however, that Karadi "did not investigate its essence and did not concern himself with supervising or investigating this irregular expose."
On the appointment of Levy as commander of the Southern District Central Unit, despite suspicions of criminal connections between him and the criminal Parinyan family, the panel ruled that Karadi "ignored the basic rule of judgement that must be implemented in police appointment, ignored the danger of bringing someone suspected of inappropriate criminal connections into a central junction of police activities, and ignored the problematic behavior of Yoram Levy during a polygraph test."
The retired justice said that the police ignored the general rules designed "to prevent the transfer of people from one side of the barricade to the other."
Zeiler told reporters during a press conference Sunday that Yoram Levy met with criminals in his home over the course of years, "under family and social circumstances," in order to gather information in a manner inappropriate for his position.
He said that Levy had continued with the meetings even after instructed by Karadi to terminate them.
The panel also recommended opening criminal proceedings against Major General Aharon Zargarov over his decision to close the Buhbut case. Sargarov had decided to close the case because the "criminal was unknown," though in actuality, the criminal was known.
Dichter previously made but then retracted a proposal that former Labor prime ministerial candidate Amram Mitzna be named as the next police commissioner.
The report's main message is that the murder of Pinhas Buhbut in Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer was far more than just another murder: The fact that the murderer was a policeman in uniform, acting at the behest of an alleged crime family, made it unique.
As a result, the numerous senior police officers and prosecutors who failed to make the case a high priority were guilty of flawed judgment and serious professional lapses.
The 250-page report was made public at 11:30 A.M. Sunday, which is also when it was handed over to attorneys representing the 13 officials who were earlier warned that the commission's findings could harm them.
The Knesset Interior Committee plans to discuss the report Monday. Dichter and Attorney General Menachem Mazuz have been asked to attend.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Israel for Tourists: You don't have to be Jewish to enjoy Israel

You don't have to be Jewish to enjoy Israel as a tourist, though this little article might give a different impression.

Israel for Tourists
Samuel G. Freedman
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
In the harsh light and dry wind of an August afternoon, I stepped ahead of my wife and children, crossing a field of pine needles to two cylinders of bronze rising 26 feet high. A taxi driver had brought us to this place, atop a ridge in the Judean Hills, along a twisting back road long ago supplanted by the main Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway. He had told me there was a monument here called Megillat Ha'esh, the Scroll of Fire, and it was a place few Israelis, much less tourists, had ever seen. Indeed, we had the site to ourselves, and the ground, undisturbed by rain for months, did not reveal any other footprints.
As I drew closer to the sculpture, I saw why its creator, Natan Rapoport, had chosen the name. The two columns represented the scrolls of Judaism's sacred texts, not only the Torah but also the saga of Esther, read on the holiday at Purim, and of Ruth, read on Shavuot. Instead of words, these metal scrolls bore bas-relief images that depicted Jewish history from biblical times through exile, shtetls, death camps, resistance in the Warsaw ghetto, and finally the creation of modern-day Zion in the 1948 war. 
The hillsides below were covered with millions of trees, many of them paid for with American donations to the Jewish National Fund. I vaguely remembered having received certificates for one or two trees as presents when I had my bar mitzvah. Even then, barely a year after Israel's victory in the Six-Day War, I somehow resisted the place, not because I opposed it, but because loyalty felt to me like an expectation, a requirement. When friends made the obligatory summer trip to Israel after high school, they returned with tales of crowds shoving their way onto buses and brash paratroopers seducing the sexiest American girls. "It's like a whole country of Sicilians," one friend explained to me, "except they're all Jews."
For much of my life, I hadn't thought Israel had much to do with me. So I chose other destinations--Greece, Spain, and England with my parents; Bali and Hong Kong for my honeymoon; Ghana, China, South Africa, and the Dominican Republic for journalistic assignments; New Zealand, Japan, and Egypt on my own. By the time I had entered my forties and begun to feel a curiosity (and tribal guilt) about never having gone to Israel, I didn't know how to undo the pattern.
In researching a book about the conflicts within American Jewry, though, it became apparent that I would need to conduct a number of interviews with Israelis. And so, in the spring of 1999, I made my first visit. I can still remember sitting in a jitney, sweaty and jet-lagged and cramped, as the road from the airport began climbing the limestone slopes heading east toward Jerusalem, and realizing these must be the Judean Hills, both an ancient artifact and a present reality. When I mentioned that moment to Yossi Klein Halevi, an American-born Israeli journalist whom I interviewed on the trip, he said, "When you get to Israel, you figure out pretty quickly if it's a love affair or not."
Yossi didn't mean an uncritical infatuation, which was exactly what I had refused for such a long time. He meant love with all its complexities, heartbreaks, and endurance. On that first trip, during the optimistic heyday of the Oslo Accords, I went with a mixed-gender congregation to the Western Wall on Shavuot and found our group bombarded with insults and plastic bottles by some ultra-Orthodox fanatics. A moment like that will disabuse you of romantic illusions mighty fast.
But the cool winds of a Jerusalem dusk, the afternoon light on the limestone buildings, the Bauhaus architecture of Tel Aviv, the breakfasts of feta cheese, olives, hummus, and the English-language edition of Haaretz--it all left me impatient to return. I felt that I had discovered a living country rather than a museum paying reflexive homage.
And when I came back the next two times, in June 2001 and May 2002, I found a country living in defiance of death as the possibilities of Oslo collapsed into the terrorism of the second intifada. I was at Newark airport awaiting my flight to Tel Aviv when I saw CNN's coverage of the suicide bombing at the Dolphin nightclub. A cabbie in Jerusalem, driving me from the Old City to the Mahane Yehuda market, remarked aridly, "I have the honor of driving the only tourist in all Israel." Absent tourists, Israel showed its resiliency all the more clearly, in the brave way people flocked to an outdoor book fair or the way the TV skits of comedian Erez Tal made satire out of omnipresent danger.
Still, I did not feel confident bringing my wife and children during those times. I had promised Aaron we would make a family trip as my bar mitzvah present to him; fortunately, by the time he celebrated that ritual in March 2005, enough calm had returned to Israel for me to make good on the promise. In my solo trips, I had never visited the major museums or archaeological sites, except for the Wall and the Old City, because I knew I wanted to encounter them with my family.
We packed all that we could into our 10 days during August 2005: the Holocaust museum Yad Vashem and the Shrine of the Book with the Dead Sea Scrolls; the fortress of Masada and the Roman ruins of Caesarea; the artists market of Nahalat Binyamin in Tel Aviv; and the collection of scale models at the Mini Israel park.
I hoped for more than the diversion and entertainment of an ordinary family vacation. I hoped to give my children the sense that Israel had something to do with them. Maybe that epiphany came for Aaron when he found a shard of pottery in the dusty soil of Caesarea, and maybe it came for my daughter when she selected the purple silk prayer shawl she would wear for her bat mitzvah.
Sarah marked that rite of passage in November 2006. And it turns out to have been fortunate that we bought her tallith so far ahead of time. We had planned to visit Israel last summer, for a more in-depth tour of Haifa and the north. Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah and Hezbollah put an end to those plans. But we are already making our reservations for this summer. And when we travel through the Galilee, my daughter will get to see one of her bat mitzvah presents, a donation from Yossi's family to the Jewish National Fund, which is devoted to replant-ing the forests scorched by Hezbollah's rockets. Whatever is green and growing, she will be able to consider some small bit of it hers.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Tourist view: Israel offers many surprises for its first-time visitors

Almost everyone who comes to Israel for the first time is pleasantly surprised.
Israel offers many surprises for its first-time visitors

As my family and I finalized plans for a long-awaited trip to Israel recently, many friends and other family members reacted with horror, fearing for our safety, as if we were planning to walk into an active war zone. Mention Israel, it seems, and thoughts reflexively turn to the Arab-Israeli conflict.
This attitude is a sad consequence of that conflict because our 11-day trip to Israel in December was an amazing and eye-opening experience for us, and would likely prove equally enjoyable for many, regardless of religion or ethnicity. Anyone interested in history, art and culture, or who wants to see evidence of the very best, and very worst, in human nature should make the trip.
It's also a land that will surprise you, no matter how well-informed you are regarding its history or its current events. Israel is a place that must be experienced with your own senses before you can begin to understand it.
For example, it's one thing to know, intellectually, that Jerusalem is sacred to the world's three major monotheistic religions. It's another thing to take a 20-minute walk that begins at the Western Wall -- the only remnant of the second great Jewish Temple, which lies literally in the shadows of the Dome of the Rock -- then continues through an Arab market, with calls to prayer booming over local mosques' loudspeakers, and ends at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where Jesus was buried.
It's one thing to read about the First Century Roman conquest of Jerusalem, when approximately 1 million people were killed and the city was practically burned to the ground. It's another to view the scorched stone walls of a 2,000-year-old home, to see the remnants of that horrific fire, and feel anger inside at that ancient, but all-too-familiar atrocity, the senseless destruction of Jews.
After walking out of those excavated ruins in Jerusalem's Old City, however, I felt fierce pride to view the Israeli flag flying from neighboring buildings, to see that Jews once again thrived within the city the Romans once demolished with such vigor.
But here, again, no doubt many of your thoughts are returning to today's Arab-Israeli conflict. My pride at witnessing Israel's flag in Jerusalem, after all, is not shared by the Arab inhabitants of that city, or of that country.
But traveling to Israel forces you to see the conflict differently.
And that leads to the biggest surprise of our trip.
After spending six days in Jerusalem, we were scheduled to drive to Tiberias, in the Galilee area. I assumed we'd travel on Israel's side of the pre-1967 borders, as a necessary safety precaution. Not so. Our guide packed us in our Ford van and drove east, through the middle of the West Bank, before turning north through the Jordan Valley area.
Before returning to pre-1967 Israel, we passed numerous small villages -- some Jewish, some Arab, as our guide matter-of-factly pointed out -- within easy walking distance of each other.
I was in Israel as a tourist, not as a journalist, so I couldn't investigate the villages further. I don't know their histories. I don't know much about their interactions, although our guide said the Jewish and Arab villagers generally engage in some commerce, but otherwise stay out of each others' areas.
Nevertheless, I know what I saw, and what I didn't see. There were no guards, military personnel or checkpoints between the villages. There were no large fences or other barriers. Arab villagers could walk unhindered to a neighboring Jewish village in minutes, and vice-versa.
In other words, Jews and Arabs were living on disputed territory, in peace.
Now, those Jews may believe the entire West Bank rightfully belongs to Israel, while their neighboring Arabs would likely rather live in an independent Palestine.
But at least they're not fighting about it.
So, based on my experience, anyone who's interested in visiting Israel but fears the violence, should make the trip. Unless there's an active shooting war going on, the most danger you're likely to face is on the roads -- Israelis tend to be very aggressive drivers.
As for the Arab-Israeli conflict? Unfortunately, there are no easy answers there. I just wish that today's version of the ancient Roman legions, i.e., those who call or work for Israel's destruction, would learn something from those West Bank villages I witnessed. Certainly, peace between nations is a more difficult and complex achievement than peace between villages. But peace between villages is a start.
Mike Rosenbaum is the sports editor of the Southfield and West Bloomfield Eccentrics. He can be reached at (248) 901-2589 or by e-mail at

Continued (Permanent Link)

Palestinian view: PA unity deal a disaster

Here is the straight goods, not "Zionist propaganda."

PA unity deal a disaster

Secular Palestinians surrender to religious fanaticism in Mecca deal
Published:  02.15.07, 11:59 / Israel Opinion

The Palestinians will never be able to achieve national independence and statehood until they can first define themselves and speak as one voice. But if that voice is that of religious extremism, the Palestinian national identity will be consumed by the more demanding and less tolerant identity driven by religious extremism.
While Palestinians see themselves in a conflict with Israel, the real battle is among themselves. Will the Palestinian people be a democratic society based on tolerance and respect for all views and religions, or will it be dominated by a religious demagoguery that distorts religion into a self-serving political agenda?
This week, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas signed an "accord" with Hamas, the Islamicist organization whose entire existence has been based on violent rejection of compromise not just with Israel but with the larger and dominant secular Palestinian movement.
Although the accord is being touted as the symbol of the new "unity" between Hamas and the secular Palestinian movement led by the Fatah organization, the reality is that it could very well spell the end of the secular dream.
For years, the Palestinian struggle has been based on national unity seeking the goal of secular democratic Palestine where, in theory, Christians, Muslims and Jews could live together in peace and equality and with mutual respect.
No such idealistic state exists anywhere in the Middle East or the larger Muslim world, and it certainly does not exist in the West either. But the goal was one of powerful symbolism that placed the justice of the Palestinian cause above all others.
The dream of a secular democratic Palestine was once based on a single state that merged what is now Israel with what have been occupied territories since 1967. It was the fuel that powered the Palestinian Revolution, al-Thawra, since the day when Palestinians began to represent themselves.
1st Intifada challenged status quo
The strongest of the organizations was Fatah, which was not a political party but a national movement. Its leaders were the first to speak independently of Palestinian aspirations. Yasser Arafat was the leader of Fatah and the Palestine Liberation Organization, the only group given the international legal standing to represent Palestinian rights.
Arafat succeeded in forcing the world to recognize Palestinian rights and forced the Arab World to accept independence from Israel and from Jordan as the ultimate political goal.
The first Intifada challenged that status quo. And Palestinians living under the occupation began to stand up for themselves. Many embraced Fatah and the PLO as their political mentors, but others in the Gaza Strip, where religious fervor was more focused, turned to an alternative that got its start, ironically, from Israel's hardline government.
In the 1970s, as they watched the rise of Arafat from desert warrior to a powerful United Nations voice, Israel's extremist leadership under Menachem Begin sought to nurture a religious alternative to compete with and undermine Arafat and the PLO.
With the help of Israel's hardline anti-Palestinian government, Sheik Yassin was able to build the Village Leagues and the Islamic Association.
When the Intifada broke out a decade later, Yassin's group formed a militant arm called Hamas, a move that was a surprise for Israel's misguided strategy to divide Palestinians.
It was the rise of religious extremism under Hamas that prompted secular leaders like Edward Said, the conscience of Palestinian nationalism, to encourage Arafat and the PLO to seek to negotiate a compromise with Israel based on "land for peace."
That opened the door to the Oslo Peace accords and later the Camp David Accords which eventually collapsed.
The driving force undermining that secular peace was Hamas. Hamas not only rejected the peace agreements with Israel, it also rejected the secular leadership of the PLO. Hamas rejected even the efforts to allow for the establishment of democratic institutions, using violence at every turn to destroy the peace, undermine the secular Palestinian government and to provoke continued violence and conflict.
Hamas is as much to blame for the collapse of Oslo as is the insincerity of Israel's past governments to exchange the occupied territories for peace. Despite embracing peace and recognition with the Palestinians, even the moderate Israeli governments continued to solidify their hold on the occupied territories, expanding and reinforcing the illegal settlements.
Israel's refusal to engage the peace process honestly and sincerely made genuine peace impossible, although Israel continued to place the blame for the collapse of peace on the Palestinians.
Hamas has always understood that its ability to prevent peace through the use of violence and even acts of terrorism and suicide bombings against non-military Israeli targets would serve to prevent a genuine peace accord.
The Hamas campaign of violence also created a situation where continued violence tested and undermined every effort to achieve peace. The continuation of the violence and the occupation and the suffering and oppression eventually eroded the faith that the Palestinian and Israeli people had that a peace accord could be negotiated.
Hamas 'all or nothing' agenda
With that collapse of faith among the Palestinian population at its height, Hamas was able to step in and, for the first time, agree to test its leadership in a democratic election. Hamas won not with a majority of Palestinian votes, but with a majority of seats in a democratic system that was faulty at best.
Today, with no sign of a possible peace accord on the horizon, thanks to Hamas intransigence on compromise, Hamas has forced the secular Palestinian leadership to surrender to its will.
The decision by Abbas to meet with the real leadership of Hamas outside of Palestine is further evidence of the deterioration of secular Palestinian leadership.
In essence, Hamas has positioned itself to become the voice of the Palestinians. But rather than be a voice of reason, compromise and even tolerance of other views, Hamas will continue to pursue its "all or nothing" agenda.
Hamas wants all of Palestine or nothing, willing to sacrifice Palestinians for an endless conflict as Palestinian society is slowly erased by the Israeli occupation.
Hamas wants all of Palestine's leadership, and is willing to continue to fight until secular Palestinians surrender to the Hamas religious fanaticism.
Rather than moving towards a secular Palestinian state, either as one-state with Israel or two states side by side with Israel, Hamas is leading Palestinians towards extinction.

The real war was a terrible burden, but it required the secular Palestinians to defeat the Hamas fanatics. Despite the pain of an internal Palestinian civil war, the question of whether the future would be in the hands of Hamas or Fatah was too important to sign away in some pathetic deal in which Abbas has basically surrendered his leadership.
That Hamas is now the voice of Palestine is a tragedy that will mean only one thing, the continued destruction of the Palestinian Statehood dream, and the rise of a religious movement in which the real goal is not Palestinian independence, but the greater goal of political Islam and the Islamic World.
In signing the accord with Hamas, Abbas has basically signed the death certificate for the Palestinian State. Abbas has done what Arafat refused to do, sentencing the Palestinian people to a future of endless suffering with no chance of compromise, no chance of peace, and no hope for statehood.
 (Ray Hanania was named the Best Ethnic Columnist for 2006/2007 by the New America Media. He can be reached at .)

Continued (Permanent Link)

Al-Aqsa - Everyone wants a piece of the action.

As the Moghrabi gate construction crisis evolves, it seems to get more and more complex and dangerous.

Temple Mount dig / Ankara to the rescue
By Nadav Shragai

Since the Six-Day War, Israel has waged a religious-political dispute with Islam about the Temple Mount against two "local" players: Jordan and the Palestinians. The entry of an allegedly radical Islamic entity like Turkey into the Mugrabi ascent question signals to those two entities, who have not contributed to calming the crisis, that Israel has options.
Turkey, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and essentially the entire Muslim world protested when Israel, at different times, gave the Jordanians or the Palestinians status on the mount, arguing that the Temple Mount is a pan-Islamic issue.
When Israel negotiated about the Temple Mount with Yasser Arafat at Camp David, the Muslim world attacked him with unprecedented vehemence and asked him, "Who gave you the right?" When the Israel-Jordan peace treaty determined that Israel "grant high priority to the historic Jordanian role in the Islamic holy sites in Jerusalem," many Muslim countries protested.
In both those instances, the Muslim world sought to make Israel realize that the Temple Mount was not a private matter. Until now, Israel has ignored that: A Libyan delegation did visit the Al-Aqsa Mosque several years ago, Egyptian president Anwar Sadat visited the Temple Mount and carpets donated by the King of Morocco serve as prayer mats in the mosque. But the major "treats" were given to Jordan and the Palestinians according to Israeli interests.
Allowing the Turks a kind of "supervision" over the construction at the Mugrabi ascent, in order to ensure that they do not undermine the foundations of al Aqsa, is not really anything new. Anyone who installs Webcams, as Israel has done, has nothing to conceal.
Nonetheless, this opens the door to involvement on the part of additional Islamic countries in the permanent solution for the mount. In his days in the Foreign Ministry, Shimon Peres suggested a multi-national religious administration that would include representatives of Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, the Palestinian Authority, Israel and the Vatican to manage the Old City's holy sites. Turkey was not in the picture then but now Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is waving Ankara at the Palestinians and the Jordanians in an effort to calm the eruption.

Continued (Permanent Link)

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