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Saturday, September 1, 2007

Are the Palestinian people against peace?

In Persuade the people, Danny Rubenstein argues that the latest polls show that the Palestinian people are extremists:
...some of the poll's findings cannot be doubted. The most striking one is that almost 94 percent of Palestinians object to any form of Israeli control over the Al-Aqsa compound - neither above nor below. Another interesting finding is that 82 percent of those polled are not willing to allow settlement blocs to remain under Israeli control. And most important of all: Close to 70 percent support the return of all refugees to their homeland (i.e., within the confines of the State of Israel), and they reject notions of compensation, a partial return of refugees, or the right to return only to a Palestinian state.
That is pretty amazing, especially since Khatib has been accused by Palestinian extremists of fabricating results that show Palestinians to be moderate.
Poll results depend on how you ask the questions. Here are the actual poll results for some of these questions:
4. Allowing Israel to keep control of major settlement blocs inside the West
Bank in exchange for equal Israeli land
Strongly support 3.8 Somewhat support 13.6
Somewhat oppose 25.0 Strongly oppose 56.9
No answer 0.7

5. Keeping Israel's authority in the area of Al- Aqsa Mosque
Strongly support 1.8 Somewhat support 3.9
Somewhat oppose 15.4 Strongly oppose 78.1
No answer 0.8
(See here)
Of course, if you were to ask Israelis if they "strongly support" giving one inch of land in the West bank, perhapd 4% would support it. What Palestinian Arab would "strongly support" keeping Israel's authority over the Haram as Sharif, the Temple Mount?  If you ask if they agree to it in return for peace, you would get a different response. In fact, Rubenstein's own paper, Ha'aretz, noted that the very same poll showed that Palestinians overwhelmingly support the Fatah government over the extremist Hamas! Yet Rubenstein, in article after article, continues to stubbornly insist that the Palestinians support the Hamas, and that the Palestinians are extremists.
Rubinstein endeared himself to supporters of Israel this week after he used a trip to Europe, ostensibly to attend the Zionist Federation meeting, in order to attend the UN/EU sponsored anti-Zionist meeting in Brussels, and deliver himself of the opinion that Israel is an Apartheid State. His appearance at the Zionist gathering was cancelled.
But Rubinstein is not content to demonize Zionists. He is also demonizing Palestinians. Why is Rubinstein, a supposed dove, demonizing the Palestinians? He wants to fabricate a case that the Fatah government has no legitimcacy and that Israel must appease Palestinian extremists. The same type of reasoning is offered in this article.
Here is his idea:
The conclusion is that the problem lies not with the Palestinian politicians, but with the general public. In other words, you can pressure Abu Mazen and his associates, and persuade them to make concessions and compromise, but it won't advance a thing. What you have to do is persuade the people, and that can only be done through the economy.
And how do you do this through the economy?
Osaily [mayor of Hebron] practically begs that more transit permits be granted for laborers to work in Israel. He says that if this is not done, Hebron will become a second Gaza. In other words, so long as Israel keeps raising the separation wall and the Palestinians keep getting poorer - all the debates about principles for a peace agreement are pretty worthless.
So let's understand this. Here is Ahmad, who is getting ready to die so that the Zionist sons of dogs and apes do not defile the holy sanctuary of the Haram as Sharif. He has sworn on the Quran and the eyes of his mother that he will not forget the refugees, that he will not give up the return, al-Awda, and that he will revenge the Nakba.  But Danny Rubinstein will give him a minimum wage menial job in Israel, and then Ahmad will forget all about the Haram as Sharaf and the Nakba and al-Awda.
Get real, Danny Rubinstein!
Ami Isseroff

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Being a fanatic for fun and profit: Hamas force abducts Fatah

Hamas' EF abducts eight Fatah members in Gaza
Date: 01 / 09 / 2007  Time:  10:29
Gaza - Ma'an - Hamas' Executive Force abducted eight members of Fatah, three of whom are from the Al Aqsa Brigades, in the Gaza Strip on Friday.

The military wing of Fatah, the Al Aqsa Brigades, issued a statement claiming that the EF abducted three of their members from the Sheikh Radwan neighbourhood of Gaza City and five other Fatah members from northern Gaza.

"The members were taken from their homes immediately after Friday prayer," said the brigades.

The brigades revealed that they will not remain mute and immobile in the face of EF violations against their members.

The Al Aqsa Brigades also alleged that the EF sends spies, disguised as journalists, to record Fatah events. "We have pictures to prove this," said the brigades.

The deposed ministry of the interior said that the arrests took place due to criminal behaviour, which took place after Friday prayer.

The ministry said "some outlaws began throwing stones at the police centre and others fired into the air."

On Saturday, the EF called upon the parents of those taken prisoner on Friday to pay 1,000 NIS (~$250 US) in order to secure the release of the detainees. The EF said that the money would be returned after six months.
Don't hold your breath until the money is returned. The "order" being imposed by the "democratic" Hamas is just centralization of gangsterism and better administration of it.
Ami Isseroff

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Israel: Self-Hating Jews strike again

Those self-hating Jews have struck again. No, not the Norman Finkelstein or Satmar types. The ones in the Israeli government, who are sabotaging aliyah:
The headline: Interior Minister accused of preventing converts from immigrating to Israel 

It is a tiny part of the folly that characterizes much of what we do.
What is wrong with this excuse for example?
Christian-born Yorkoi Kvarneti from Finland has been living as an observant Jew for over five years. He first came to Israel as a student some 8 years ago, became interested in Judaism and studied at a yeshiva.

Though his commitment to Judaism is unchallenged by the establishment, he has been unable to settle his resident status for over two years because of the committee's inaction.

The PMO, however, blamed the committee's failure to meet on the summer vacation.

There was a summer vacation for five years? Even Ehud Olmert can make up a better one than that.
Ami Isseroff

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Friday, August 31, 2007

History repeats itself? 'Russia caused tensions between Israel, Syria'

The Six day war was ignited by fake Russian reports that Israel was preparing to attack Syria. Though the Russian regime has changed, the thinking and the geopolitics have not. However, given that Bashar Assad promised a war this summer, it would be not be at all surprising if he delivered. It is the sort of promise that is often kept in the Middle East.  
Ami Isseroff
'Russia caused tensions between Israel, Syria' Staff , THE JERUSALEM POST Aug. 30, 2007

Russia was partly responsible for the heightened tension between Israel and Syria at the beginning of the summer, head of the Diplomatic-Security Bureau at the Defense Ministry, Gen. Amos Gilad (ret.) said on Thursday.

During an interview with Army Radio, the former general noted that recent messages sent by Israel to Moscow have caused the Russians to cease their activity, thus easing the tensions in the region.

"At a certain time, the Russians caused the Syrians to believe that Israel was preparing for war," Gilad said. "I think that they have stopped this.
Syria is not planning on attacking Israel, and Israel is definitely not planning on attacking Syria."

According to a report published in the Israeli daily Ma'ariv, diplomatic and security officials in the Kremlin purposely misled the Syrians in order to further maximize their profits from the sale of military equipment.

Russia is currently one of the main suppliers of military equipment to Syria.

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The peace dividend: Egyptian Actors' Union to probe movie star working with Israeli

Was it worth giving up all of Sinai for this? Remember, dear US taxpayer, that the US gives Egypt $2 billion a year in military aid.
Last update - 09:24 31/08/2007    
By The Associated Press

The chairman of Egypt's Actors' Union said Thursday that the group planned to investigate one of the country's brightest young movie stars for appearing in an upcoming miniseries with an Israeli actor.
The controversy began when the group discovered that Amr Waked, who starred in the Hollywood film Syriana, was in Tunisia filming a four part series on Saddam Hussein's life opposite Yigal Naor, an Israeli of Iraqi descent.
"We found out Amr Waked was participating in a movie with an Israeli artist and so when he returns from abroad he will be investigated," union chairman Ashraf Zaki said. "The Actors' Union here is against normalization with Israel."

Media and artistic circles in Egypt remain deeply opposed to improving cultural relations with Israel even though the country is one of only two Arab nations that has made peace with Israel.
Nearly a dozen articles have appeared over the past week condemning Waked for participating in the series, titled Between Two Rivers and backed by the British Broadcasting Corporation and Home Box Office.
"Who will hold Amr Waked accountable?" read a headline Monday in Egypt's opposition daily el-Wafd.
Zaki said Waked would be questioned by a committee made up of two members of the union's board and a senior judge from the country's Administrative Court.
Waked declined to comment on the upcoming investigation, but in earlier interviews with Egyptian media, the actor said he did not know the nationalities of every person involved in the project.
The Egyptian actor also indicated he has no intention of leaving the series, in which he plays the role of Saddam's son-in-law Hussein Kamel, who defected from Iraq to Jordan but eventually returned and was executed.
Naor, who played a Palestinian character in Steven Spielberg's film Munich, stars as Saddam in the series. Many in the Egyptian press found it disturbing that an Israeli was playing the former Iraqi leader, who is still lionized by many Arab nationalists.
Though Egypt was the first Arab nation to sign a peace treaty with Israel in 1979, professional and artistic associations have resisted opening up to Israel, citing the continued occupation of Palestinian lands.
Anti-Israeli sentiment flared in the country during the outbreak of the second Intifada in 2000, much of it led by left wing academics and artists who have long been Israel's fiercest critics in Egypt.
"The [film] industry is in general very left wing and stays away from normalization as a whole," said Richard Woffenden, the former cultural editor of the local Cairo Times weekly.
Woffenden, who hailed Waked's emergence onto the Egyptian film scene in 2001 as part of a new generation of Egyptian actors, noted that he was one of the few Egyptians in recent years to surmount the language barrier and cross over to Western films.
Egyptian actor Khaled el-Nabawy appeared briefly in Ridley Scott's crusader movie Kingdom of Heaven - for which he was also criticized by the Egyptian media.
The investigation could have serious ramifications for Waked's career in Egypt, where the majority of his films are still made.
When Egyptian actress Sawsan Badr appeared in the 1980 film Death of a Princess about Saudi Arabia, it caused a furor for allegedly being anti-Arab, and it was years before she appeared again in an Egyptian film.

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Temple Mount Waqf mayhem continues

The strange case of the Temple Mount tantrums of the Muslim Waqf continues. It is strange that the Israeli government does not either determine that no harm is being done by the Muslim Waqf, or else puts a stop to the Waqf activities, or at least protests to international bodies. The continuing silence of the international community is deafening, especially considering the ruckus that attended the Israeli construction of the ramp, which in fact was determined to be harmless by international authorities.
Archaeologists: Muslim dig damaged Temple wall
Etgar Lefkovits , THE JERUSALEM POST Aug. 31, 2007
A month-old Islamic dig on Jerusalem's Temple Mount to replace faulty electrical cables has damaged an ancient wall that is likely a remnant of the Second Temple, Israeli archaeologists said Thursday.

The work, which is being carried out with the approval of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and the state-run Antiquities Authority, has been repeatedly condemned by independent Israeli archaeologists, who are calling for its immediate halt.

"The Israeli Government is lending a hand to the destruction of one of the most important archaeological sites in the world," said Bar-Ilan University archaeologist Dr. Gabriel Barkai at a Jerusalem press conference.

Barkai said the dig, which involves tractors and other heavy construction equipment, has created a 400-meter-long and 1.5-meter-deep trench on the site, destroying layers of ancient remains.

Among the antiquities that have been damaged are a 7-meter-wide wall that apparently dates back to Second-Temple times and was likely part of the Temple courts, according to Israeli archaeologists from the nonpartisan Committee Against the Destruction of Antiquities on the Temple Mount.

"This is the first time in the history of archaeological excavation in Israel that we have remains that could have been part of the courts of the Temple itself," Barkai said.

He added that it was unfathomable that Israel's top archaeological body was turning a blind eye to archaeological destruction at Judaism's holiest site. "All civilized people should stand up and protest this barbaric act," he said.

The committee, which plans to appeal to the High Court of Justice next week to stop the dig, noted that the work was also being carried out at night, when proper archaeological inspection was impossible.

Antiquities Authority spokeswoman Dalit Menzin declined comment. Islamic officials have said the trench was necessary to replace decades-old electrical cables, and have denied any antiquities have been damaged.

The Israeli archaeologists said the Antiquities Authority has refused to discuss the issue with them, while both Olmert and Public Security Minister Avi Dichter have turned down requests for a meeting.

The Antiquities Authority's Jerusalem regional archaeologist Jon Seligman was at the site on Thursday, eyewitnesses said.

Seligman has long been accused by members of the committee, which was established seven years ago following massive destruction on the Temple Mount by Islamic officials, of failing to protest the damage done in the late 90s at an underground compound of the Temple Mount known as Solomon's Stables.

Hebrew University archaeologist Dr. Eilat Mazar said that the Temple Mount had become "one big construction site," and blasted the government for authorizing "rampant barbarism and vandalism" there.

According to decades-old regulations, Israel maintains overall security control at the site, while the Wakf, or Islamic Trust, is charged with day-to-day administration.

Wakf director Azzam Khatib said that the work followed an electrical shortage in Al-Aksa Mosque, and denied that any antiquities were being damaged.

The Islamic infrastructure work comes just months after an Israeli excavation outside the compound ahead of a now-nixed plan to build a new bridge to the Mughrabi Gate led to low-level Arab violence.

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Death of three kids in Gaza and how it happened

Playing with rocket launchers is a great pastime for children, but not recommended by Better Housekeeping. Probably they were playing "kill the Zionist" as they were taught on TV.
[Dr. Aaron Lerner - IMRA   31 August 2007

IMRA contacted the IDF Spokesperson's Office about Amos Harel's report and
the following is the response of the IDF Spokesman's Office:

"The results of our initial investigation are as follows:

1. At the time the order was taken to fire it was impossible to distinguish whether they were children or adults.

2. The people in question were in the area adjacent to the Qassam launchers and were touching the Qassam launchers.

The result of the investigation is that these were children and we that were able to determine this only at the very last second just before the explosion at which point it was too late to stop it.

They were children who were playing and the way that they were playing they were touching the launchers and it was impossible to determine whether it was someone who was actually at the time attempting to use them or dismantle them.  As it turns out it was kids who were playing with them.

Obviously we sorrow at the death of  any children but  it is the responsibility of the Hamas who places their launchers within civilian areas and the IDF is continually broadcasting the message to the local
population - and in particular to parents - not to let their children play next to launchers."


IDF: Three children killed in Gaza Tuesday were just playing tag
By Amos Harel, Haaretz Correspondent Last update - 07:36 31/08/2007

The three Palestinian children killed in Gaza on Tuesday were only playing near rocket launchers targeted by Israeli troops, and were not connected with the terrorists, an army probe determined Thursday.

Ten-year-old Mahmoud Ghazal and his 12-year-old cousin, Yehiya Ghazal, died immediately. Their 10-year-old cousin Sara Ghazal was critically injured and died later.

The Israel Defense Forces said the children were killed after an army ground unit fired on Qassam launchers in the area. The launchers, which were pointed at Israel, were deployed in fields just outside Beit Hanun, near the Ghazal family's home. According to the IDF, troops detected "unidentified movement and opened fire."

In the initial IDF statement after the incident on Tuesday, the army said it "wishes to express sorrow" for the "use of children in terror attacks," implying that the children had been sent by terrorists to collect the rocket
launchers. The military has frequently accused terrorist organizations of using teenagers and children in this fashion.

But the probe, which was launched immediately after the incident, determined that the children were playing tag near the launchers, as revealed by army footage recording the incident. The video reportedly shows the children - who appear as figures whose age cannot be determined - approaching the launchers and then moving back, in a way that could be seen as suggesting that they were loading the launchers with rockets.

The terrain did not allow for direct observation of the area, so the army had to rely on aerial photography. The unit that launched the missile at the children used this visual feed to direct their fire, army sources told

The video does show one of the figures to be a child, army sources said, but this happened so close to the moment of impact that the troops were unable to abort in time.

IDF troops near the Gaza Strip are under orders to fire at rocket launchers only when terrorists approach them. The launchers themselves are easily replaceable and are of little value to the terrorist organizations, so the IDF prefers to target the terrorists who are directing the firing.

IMRA - Independent Media Review and Analysis

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Thursday, August 30, 2007

Death of a Zionist warmonger

The last (we hope) Israeli casualty of the Lebanese war died yesterday. One of those evil racist Zionist warmongers that the Hezbollah killed with its heroic rockets. The "Zionist warmonger" was Mohamed Salum, an Israeli Arab who lived in Haifa.
Salum was critically wounded when a Katyusha rocket hit his family's home on Caesarea Street in the mostly Arab neighborhood of Wadi Nisnas. Salum suffered serious burns all over his body. The doctors fought for his life from the moment he arrived at the Rambam Medical Center in Haifa, and he had been kept in the hospital's intensive care unit since.
 Munira, Salum's sister was by his bedside since the incident. "There were weeks when we felt that his condition may be improving and he was beginning to recover. My mother and I thought that he was coming back to us and we even made sure to modify the house in order to cater to his needs, removing staircases and enabling wheelchair access, but over the last week his condition worsened and we slowly felt that we were losing him," she said.
Human Rights Watch has condemned Hezbollah for deliberately targetting Israeli civilians with its rocket attacks.
Remember Mohamed Salum the next time you see people carrying posters that say "We are all Hizbollah." Are we all Hizbollah? Are you? If you are, you are an enemy of humanity and decency.
Ami Isseroff

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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Is the Syrian war scare over?

This is one of those decisions that may be proven to be foolish in retrospect:
IDF moves large-scale training from Golan Heights to south staff and AP , THE JERUSALEM POST Aug. 29, 2007

The IDF has decided that war with Syria is unlikely and was moving training forces out of the Golan Heights after months of cross-border tension, security officials said Wednesday.

The decision followed months of growing tensions along the frontier and concerns that the escalation could result in war. Over the summer, media reports of impending war alternated with announcements by Syrian and Israeli leaders that they had no interest in hostilities.

The officials said Syria's military has now reduced its war readiness, but offered no details because the exact steps taken by the Syrians are classified.

Israeli troops scheduled to hold training operations in the Golan Heights would now be moved away from the border to the country's south to further reduce friction, the officials said, and the army's war-readiness status on the Israel-Syria border is now considered over.

Speculation that Syria might initiate a war on the Golan was rooted in concerns Syria had been emboldened by Hizbullah's apparent success in the Second Lebanon War.
The article is not accurate. Speculation that Syria might initiate a war on the Golan was rooted in the fact that Bashar Assad said he would start a war. If he said it, he probably meant it. Presumably he would time it for the maximum effect in wrecking any peace process that might be underway, perhaps in September or October. The steps that Syria may or may not have taken are irrelevant. The war, if it comes, would be started by a series of border incidents perpetrated by Syrian army soldiers masquerading as a guerilla force. These would escalate until they forced a retaliation by Israel. Syria would then fire rockets at Israel as the Hezbollah did, and the rest of the scenario is known.
Ami Isseroff

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Israel warned US against Iraq attack - is this the end of the Jews started the Iraq war lie?

Anti-Israel "analysts" and media people in the United States and Europe have long insisted that the Iraq war was fought on the instigation of the "Zionists" or the "Israel Lobby" or more crudely, "the Jews."  Prominent proponents of this theory include professors Mearsheimer and Walt (whose article about the Jewish question is now coming out as a book and soon will be available as a major motion picture no doubt), the late Thomas Stauffer, Brian Whitaker of the Guardian, and Jason Vest of The Nation and Jim Lobe of IPS. Less sophisticated proponents of this view include an assortment of racists who are too uncouth to hide their views behind euphemisms like "neo-conservative" and "Israel lobby."
Vest fabricated a story based on selective quotes from a document prepared by an obscure right-wing Washington think tank, "A Clean Break" in 1996. That rather fatuous document was not in any case reflective of the policies of the Sharon government. It  had recommended that Israel pursue a policy of independent regional alliances in the Middle East, to break free of Israeli dependence on the United States and integrate Israel into the Middle East. Only by quoting out of context, could it be made to seem that instead of regional cooperation against Saddam, independent of the United States, the document was advocating Israeli pressure to get the United States to attack Iraq. To this was added the imaginative remarks of  Meyrav Wurmser and others, who explained how the fall of Saddam was supposed to catalyze democracy in the Middle East. Before Jason Vest had written his article in the nation, hardly anyone had ever heard of the unfortunately named "Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs "(JINSA) which soon became synonymous with the "International Jewish Conspiracy."  An example of the ignorant nonsense written about JINSA and Clean Break is at 
However, neither Wurmser nor anyone else quoted in these stories was every privy to Israeli policy decisions or represented the policy of the Israeli government.
Thomas Stauffer, less well known, insisted that that the Pentagon was riddled with agents of the Mossad. This McCarthyite view may have been shared by many others, who were wise enough not to go on record with it.  
The Israeli government itself mostly kept silent. Following the war, increasing evidence as emerged that points in the opposite direction: Israel strongly urged the Bush administration in private not to get involved in Iraq, certainly not on the account of Israel. A review of this evidence was presented by Martin Kramer, and not long after, Yossi Alpher reported in the Forward that Ariel Sharon had cautioned Bush against invading Iraq. Bob Woodward's book showed that Bush was determined to topple Saddam Hussein, and made the decision on his own.  Now, Gareth Porter provides further evidence that far from encouraging the US to invade Iraq, Israeli officials tried discretely to stop the impending invasion, according to  former administration official Lawrence Wilkerson, who asserts that Israel Warned US Not to Invade Iraq after 9/11 (full story below).

This is hardly surprising, since there was never any real evidence that Israel had favored the invasion. The evidence was created by innuendo and mistaken inference. Right wing American Jews are supposed to be "close to the Likud." The reader, and perhaps the writer, might be naive enough to believe that because someone in the United States has right wing opinions, they can sit in on Israeli security cabinet meetings and are privy to Israeli policy, just as the readers of the fantasies of Uzi Mahnaimi and others might believe that the Israeli Air Force will conveniently leak top secret plans to attack Iran using non-existent refeuling capabilities.
Without doubt, those who wish to continue to believe the "Jews caused the Iraq war" story will do so, regardless of evidence. There are still people who believe that Jews poison wells and prepare Matzot from the blood of slaughtered Chrisian children. However, the rest of us should understand that there just isn't any real evidence beyond the fabrications of such over-imaginative, ignorant or malicious "analysts." 
Ami Isseroff

WASHINGTON, Aug 28 (IPS) - Israeli officials warned the George W. Bush administration that an invasion of Iraq would be destabilising to the region and urged the United States to instead target Iran as the primary enemy, according to former administration official Lawrence Wilkerson.

Wilkerson, then a member of the State Department's Policy Planning Staff and later chief of staff for Secretary of State Colin Powell, recalled in an interview with IPS that the Israelis reacted immediately to indications that the Bush administration was thinking of war against Iraq. After the Israeli government picked up the first signs of that intention, Wilkerson says, "The Israelis were telling us Iraq is not the enemy -- Iran is the enemy."

Wilkerson describes the Israeli message to the Bush administration in early 2002 as being, "If you are going to destabilise the balance of power, do it against the main enemy."

The warning against an invasion of Iraq was "pervasive" in Israeli communications with the administration, Wilkerson recalls. It was conveyed to the administration by a wide range of Israeli sources, including political figures, intelligence and private citizens.

Wilkerson notes that the main point of their communications was not that the United States should immediately attack Iran, but that "it should not be distracted by Iraq and Saddam Hussein" from a focus on the threat from Iran.

The Israeli advice against using military force against Iraq was apparently triggered by reports reaching Israeli officials in December 2001 that the Bush administration was beginning serious planning for an attack on Iraq. Journalist Bob Woodward revealed in "Plan of Attack" that on Dec. 1, 2001, Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld had ordered the Central Command chief Gen. Tommy Franks to come up with the first formal briefing on a new war plan for Iraq on Dec. 4. That started a period of intense discussions of war planning between Rumsfeld and Franks.

Soon after Israeli officials got wind of that planning, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon asked for a meeting with Bush primarily to discuss U.S. intentions to invade Iraq. In the weeks preceding Sharon's meeting with Bush on Feb. 7, 2002, a procession of Israeli officials conveyed the message to the Bush administration that Iran represented a greater threat, according to a Washington Post report on the eve of the meeting.

Israeli Defence Minister Fouad Ben-Eliezer, who was visiting Washington with Sharon, revealed the essence of the strategic differences between Tel Aviv and Washington over military force. He was quoted by the Post as saying, "Today, everybody is busy with Iraq. Iraq is a problem...But you should understand, if you ask me, today Iran is more dangerous than Iraq."

Sharon, who died of a stroke in early 2006, never revealed publicly what he said to Bush in the Feb. 7 meeting. But Yossi Alpher, a former adviser to Prime Minister Ehud Barak, wrote in an article in the Forward last January that Sharon advised Bush not to occupy Iraq, according to a knowledgeable source. Alpher wrote that Sharon also assured Bush that Israel would not "push one way or another" regarding his plan to take down Saddam Hussein.

Alpher noted that Washington did not want public support by Israel and in fact requested that Israel refrain from openly supporting the invasion in order to avoid an automatic negative reaction from Iraq's Arab neighbours.

After that meeting, the Sharon government generally remained silent on the issue of an invasion of Iraq. A notable exception, however, was a statement on Aug. 16, 2002 by Ranaan Gissin, an aide to Sharon. Ranaan declared, "Any postponement of an attack on Iraq at this stage will serve no purpose. It will only give [Hussein] more of an opportunity to accelerate his programme of weapons of mass destruction."

As late as October 2002, however, there were still signs of continuing Israeli grumbling about the Bush administration's obsession with taking over Iraq. Both the Israeli Defence Forces' chief of staff and its chief of military intelligence made public statements that month implicitly dismissing the Bush administration's position that Saddam Hussein's alleged quest for nuclear weapons made him the main threat. Both officials suggested that Israel's military advantage over Iraq had continued to increase over the decade since the Gulf War as Iraq had grown weaker.

The Israeli chief of military intelligence, Maj. Gen. Aharon Farkash, said Iraq had not deployed any missiles that could strike Israel directly and challenged the Bush administration's argument that Iraq could obtain nuclear weapons within a relatively short time. He gave an interview to Israeli television in which he said army intelligence had concluded that Iraq could not have nuclear weapons in less than four years. He insisted that Iran was as much of a nuclear threat as Iraq.

Israeli strategists generally believed that taking down the Hussein regime could further upset an Iran-Iraq power balance that had already tilted in favour of Iran after the U.S. defeat of Hussein's army in the 1991 Gulf War. By 1996, however, neoconservatives with ties to the Likud Party were beginning to argue for a more aggressive joint U.S.-Israeli strategy aimed at a "rollback" of all of Israel's enemies in the region, including Iran, but beginning by taking down Hussein and putting a pro-Israeli regime in power there.

That was the thrust of the 1996 report of a task force led by Richard Perle for the right-wing Israeli think tank, the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies and aimed at the Likud Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

But most strategists in the Israeli government and the Likud Party -- including Sharon himself -- did not share that viewpoint. Despite agreement between neoconservatives and Israeli officials on many issues, the dominant Israeli strategic judgment on the issue of invading Iraq diverged from that of U.S. neoconservatives because of differing political-military interests.

Israel was more concerned with the relative military threat posed by Iran and Iraq, whereas neoconservatives in the Bush administration were focused on regime change in Iraq as a low-cost way of leveraging more ambitious changes in the region. From the neoconservative perspective, the very military weakness of Hussein's Iraq made it the logical target for the use of U.S. military power.

*Gareth Porter is an historian and national security policy analyst. His latest book, "Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam", was published in June 2005.


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Comforting news about Iraq and Iran

Those who object to the US leaving Iraq because it would create a power vacuum apparently need have no fear. According to Reuters, Iran says it is ready to fill the vacuum left in Iraq by the US, so of course, everything will be fine, right?  
"The political power of the occupiers (of Iraq) is being destroyed rapidly and very soon we will be witnessing a great power vacuum in the region," Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said.

"We, with the help of regional friends and the Iraqi nation, are ready to fill this void." Saudi Arabia was one of the countries Iran was ready to work with, he said.

The U.S. military accuses the Islamic Republic of arming and training militias behind some of the violence in Iraq. Iran rejects the charge and blames the presence of U.S. forces, numbering about 162,000, for the violence.

In a two-hour news conference, Ahmadinejad also rejected reports Iran had slowed nuclear work, which the West fears is aimed at making atom bombs, and said it would respond if Washington branded its Revolutionary Guards a terrorist force.

Iran, which like Iraq is majority Shi'ite Muslim, has often called on fellow Gulf states to reach a regional security pact. But Gulf Arab states, most of which are predominantly Sunnis, are suspicious of Tehran's intentions in Iraq and the region.

With Shi'ite Muslims now in power in Baghdad, ties have strengthened between Iran and Iraq since 2003, when U.S.-led forces toppled Iraq's Sunni president, Saddam Hussein, who had waged an eight-year war against Iran in the 1980s.

The region did not need countries from "thousands of kilometers away" to provide security, Ahmadinejad said, and U.S. and other forces in Iraq and Afghanistan had run out of solutions.
And in case you were worried about Iran's nuclear program, you can rest easy on that score too:

...Ahmadinejad dismissed reports it was not making such fast nuclear progress. "These (reports) are not true," he said.

"I want to officially announce to you that from our viewpoint the issue of Iran's nuclear case has been closed. Today Iran is a nuclear Iran, meaning that it has the complete cycle for fuel production."

So don't you worry. Everything is going to be just fine. What could go wrong?  
Ami Isseroff

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Reality versus peace talks: Qassams versus dialogue

Are peace talks going to be conducted isolated from the reality of Qassam rockets and other unpleasant aspects of Israeli-Palestinian relations?

Ami Isseroff

Man wounded by Kassam shortly before Olmert-Abbas J'lem meeting

One person sustained moderate shrapnel wounds to his eye and leg and several bystanders suffered from shock when a Kassam rocket fired from the northern Gaza Strip hit a Sderot home on Tuesday.

According to Army Radio, the Kassam hit a bathroom shortly after it was vacated.

Eli Sabag told Army Radio that his family was narrowly missed by the rocket. "I just sat down to drink a cup of coffee when I heard the warning siren. My wife and my son and I went into the Mamad [protected area] and waited for the Kassam to hit. When we opened the door, we saw a smoke mushroom, and we understood that it fell in our house."

The attack came just before a meeting between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, who were meeting in Jerusalem midday Tuesday. While the two were accompanied by their respective entourages, Israel Radio reported that most of the meeting would take place between Olmert and Abbas alone.

Al Aksa Martyrs' Brigades, an armed group linked to Fatah, claimed responsibility for the attack, adding in its statement that the rocket was an Aksa-3, an improved model of the Kassam.

Upon entering the prime minister's house Abbas paused to write a brief comment in the prime minister's guest book. "I am honored to meet with you in your home. I hope and wish that peace between us will move forward, and the two people will witness the peace that we wish to arrive at," he wrote.

But Abbas warned that a planned international peace conference would be a "waste of time" if it failed to address the core issues of Palestinian statehood - borders, refugees and Jerusalem.

Abbas pressed Israel to be more specific on how it plans to approach peace talks, saying Olmert's proposed "declaration of principles" would not suffice. US President George W. Bush has called for a Mideast peace conference, expected to take place in November, to advance a final Israeli-Palestinian accord.

"If there is a clear framework including final status issues, we will welcome this and go to the conference," Abbas told Voice of Palestine radio.

Olmert began the meeting by congratulating Abbas on the work of Palestinian security forces in Jenin, Monday. The PA forces extracted an IDF officer who lost his way and strayed in his car into the hostile Palestinian town.

Olmert also thanked Abbas for freezing the bank accounts of approximately a hundred charities associated with Hamas.

Earlier Tuesday, an article in the Arab daily Al Quds reported that Hamas has given Abbas a proposal on how to end the enmity between the group and Fatah.

Hamas and Fatah have been staunch enemies since Hamas violently took over the Gaza Strip in June.

The report, quoted by Army Radio, said the offer was given to Hamas Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahar in Gaza, and he transferred it to Abbas.

Abbas has yet to respond to the proposal.

Abbas's position since June has been to eschew any dialogue with Hamas until the Islamist group apologizes for taking over Gaza and returns the control of the Strip to the Palestinian Authority.

But Fathi Hamad, a Hamas senior in Gaza, said only moments after Abbas and Olmert began their meeting in Olmert's official residence in Rehavia that Abbas was "behaving as if he is working for Olmert, and by this, bringing his own end nearer."

The PA's chairman, on his side, issued a "calming message" to his people ahead of the meeting, saying that he would only be willing to discuss a Palestinian state if Olmert will offer him a final agreement, and would reject any temporary solution.

Abbas also said that while he was willing to conduct secret negotiations, any agreement reached secretly would have to pass the test of a referendum among the Palestinians in the West Bank and be approved by the PLO's Legislative Council.


In other news, Tuesday marks kidnapped IDF Cpl. Gilad Schalit's 21st birthday, his second in captivity.



Continued (Permanent Link)

Monday, August 27, 2007

Shark doesn't bite man: IDF officer saved by PA officers

Palestinian police prevented the lynching of an incompetent Israeli army major. While it doesn't say much for the IDF that an officer could not tell the difference between Jenin and a settlement, this is still a glimpse of the possibility of better things. In the best of all possible worlds, of course, Israelis and Palestinians could walk around each others' cities without arousing any problems. We are a long way from that.
Ami Isseroff

PA police save IDF officer from lynch mob in Jenin

A major in the IDF's central command narrowly escaped lynching Monday after he accidentally entered the Palestinian town of Jenin, in northern Samaria.

The major, a staff officer in OC Central Command's headquarters, was traveling from Shavei Shomron to Mevo Dotan. The two West Bank settlements are linked by a road which has not been used by Israelis since the breakout of Palestinian-Israeli violence in October 2000.

Due to a navigational error, the officer lost his way and ended up in Jenin, a hostile Palestinian town. Although the officer was driving a car with yellow [civilian] license plate, a mob recognized him by his uniform and began pelting his car with stones.

Shortly after the disturbance began, Palestinian Authority police arrived on the scene. Although the officer was lightly wounded during the rescue, he was potentially saved from more serious injuries as his car was set on fire moments after he was evacuated to a nearby PA police headquarters.

During an IDF investigation which followed, the major said that he was unarmed, contradicting a Palestinian claim that he was carrying a handgun.

"We prevented a serious disaster," said Akid (Colonel) Suleiman Amran, chief of the Jenin District in the PA police.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Beirut Daily Star meets Middle East Reality

Here is a remarkable Beirut Daily Star editorial, quite different from their usual stuff.

It is common for people in the Middle East to look around their troubled region and despair when they see so many countries aflame, torn asunder, stressed to near breaking point, or mired in stubborn mediocrity and stalemate, with several power centers simultaneously claiming to be the legitimate government. Lebanon, Iraq, Palestine, Sudan and Somalia are only the most dramatic examples of distressed and often violent Arab lands, where death by war and politics is common, and a stable, prosperous life is an evasive dream for most citizens. Other Arab lands are sanctioned and pressured by the international community, and others yet suffer rising rates of criminality, corruption, illegal migration, drug use and trade, and other forms of devious and debilitating behavior by once normal and law-abiding citizens.

The tendency in many quarters of our societies is to blame others for all our troubles, to find foreign scapegoats who more often than not are nicely packaged within sinister and long-running conspiracies. The French, Americans, Israelis and British are favorite culprits, partly because of their actual record of generating troubles and sparking conflict in this region. They are not fictitious culprits, to be sure. Yet it is also difficult to believe that all the troubles of the Arab World are the fault of foreign conspiracies. The people and institutions of the Arab world need to work more rigorously to separate the wheat from the chaff of political history and current events, to recognize what is the occasional handiwork of foreign mischief-makers here and there, while acknowledging that the vast majority of our problems are the consequence of our own ineptitudes and mediocrities.

It is easy to point to the presence of the Americans and British in Iraq,  the French in Lebanon, or the Chinese in Sudan, and to conclude therefore that our disheveled state is a result of these recurring foreign engagements and their conspiratorial designs. But why do we find these same foreign countries involved in other lands - Singapore, India, Vietnam and Malaysia, say - without evidence of deep troubles and chronic violence? The mere presence of foreign countries in our societies in a sustained way is not necessarily a sign of sinister aims. More likely to blame for the bad times we suffer in this region are the various political systems that we have  generated more or less on our own over the past century or so, by our own hands.

Is it not possible for some honest leaders in the Arab world to stand up  and acknowledge local responsibility for our shortcomings and weaknesses, which have created our many vulnerabilities and pains? Many of our best young people are leaving the Arab world, finding jobs and personal fulfillment in foreign pastures, where taking responsibility for your own actions often is the starting point for success, and, consequently, a major reason for sustained national progress.


The question is, whether the editors of the Daily Star will now stick to their own plan or will the go back to being editors of the Daily Star? I mean all the editors, and not just Michael Young, who hits the target almost every time - an exception in the Middle East.  Will the publishers and columnists of the Daily Star finally tell the truth about the Hezbollah? It is not a partner in a unity government, but a scourge. That it doesn't protect against any Zionist aggression, because there is no Zionist aggression? Or will Rami Khouri's next column in that newspaper again feature the American imperialists and the Zionist warmongers, who are working overtime to deny the legitimate right of blowing people up to the Hezbollah and Sister?

Ami Isseroff




Continued (Permanent Link)

France to "open up" to Syria

I predicted that those who thought that France's new President would pursue a more intelligent and moral Middle East policy would be disappointed. Sorry to say that I was right.

Ami Isseroff
PARIS: France is ready to open up in a "spectacular way" to Syria if it stops meddling in Lebanon, Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said. Kouchner said he hoped that Syria would "not create obstacles to Lebanon's sovereignty" when it holds presidential elections next month.

"If Syria does not create obstacles to Lebanon's sovereignty then France will open up to Damascus in a spectacular way," Kouchner said, adding: "But for this to happen, we would need guarantees."

Kouchner did not rule out visiting Iran.

"Why not, if it can be useful to advance peace?" he asked.
But he added that France remained adamant in demanding that Tehran give up its nuclear ambitions saying a nuclear-armed Iran would pose "a great danger." - AFP

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Riddle of the Sphynx: Egypt and Hamas

Egypt's failure to prevent the smuggling of weapons from the Sinai Peninsula into the Gaza Strip is a message that the country wants Hamas to succeed, Public Security Minister Avi Dichter told Army Radio on Monday.

"Any rational person - Israel or Palestinian - who witnesses the Egyptians' failure to act against arms smuggling can see that it is in their interest to strengthen Hamas."

The deputy head of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Service) told the cabinet on Sunday that 40 tons of explosives had been smuggled into Gaza since Hamas seized control in June. 13 of the 40 tons were smuggled since the beginning of August.

Dichter claimed that although Egypt had the capability to prevent the continued smuggling of weapons, it had not done so for seven years. "I assess the steps taken by the Egyptians as well as their available
[intelligence] in the same way that I assess Israel's abilities....It is obvious that the Egyptians can make a more meaningful effort to put an end to this."

The riddle:
Is Egypt failing to stop arms smuggling because of incompetence, internal subversion, or a desire to help Hamas? 
What is not a riddle, is why Israel doesn't do anything about it. Egypt is a top client state of You-Know-Who, and the Great White Father would not like it if Israel did not support its client state. 
As for:
"Any rational person - Israel or Palestinian - who witnesses the Egyptians' failure to act against arms smuggling can see that it is in their interest to strengthen Hamas."
Remember Lawrence? "I'm not any man Ali...?" "I'm not any rational person, I'm Moubarak, of Egypt."
Ami Isseroff 

Continued (Permanent Link)

Decisive Headlines about Iranian nuclear program

It's wonderful when we can get a really clear picture:
No, I am not kidding. The picture is clear. Sort of Iran is going ahead as fast as it can, but foreign diplomats are insisting that it is "slow to markedly expand" because it is not expedient to recognize the truth. Or else, Iran is having trouble expanding the program, but wants to pretend otherwise.
Take your choice.
Ami Isseroff  

Continued (Permanent Link)

Old Time Religion: Ovadia Yosef on why Israeli soldiers got killed

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef said Saturday that IDF soldiers were killed during the Second Lebanon War because they didn't observe mitzvot (commandments of the Jewish law), Yedioth Ahronoth reported.

In his weekly sermon, delivered just two weeks after Israel marked the war's first anniversary, Shas' spiritual leader said, "It is no wonder that soldiers are killed in war; they don't observe Shabbat, don't observe the Torah, don't pray every day, don't lay phylacteries on a daily basis - so is it any wonder that they are killed? No, it's not.

"God have mercy on them (soldiers) and make them become newly religious - then they will all live a good life in peace," Rabbi Ovadia said.

Rabbi Yosef is absolutely right. None of his Charedim got killed in the war, because none of them were in the army.  In the next war, I propose that we send all the Yeshiva students to the front, so we can test Ovadia Yosef's hypothesis. If he is right, all the observant ones will be saved. Am I cruel? No crueler than those who send our sons to defend them, and then lecture us about who is holier than whom.
Ovadia Yosef frequently makes embarrassing and racist remarks about Arabs. When he does, the foreign press picks them up as an example of "Zionist Racism." But Ovadia Yosef is not a Zionist, and his views on all subjects are equally eccentric. When I try to explain this to non-Zionists, they think I am making excuses. I can see their point of view. With a fellow like Ovadia Yosef on board, can we really blame Christiane Amanpour for equating all the different types of religious fanatics?  
Ami Isseroff

Continued (Permanent Link)

Sunday, August 26, 2007

An open letter to Christiane Amanpour

An open letter  to Christiane Amanpour From Maurice Ostroff

August 26, 2007

Dear Christiane Amanpour

God's Warriors

Your mammoth three-part documentary "God's Warriors" is certainly a magnum opus. And while I admire the sheer professionalism of your presentation, I do hope you will accept the following comments in the constructive manner intended.

Please correct me if I err, but the program creates the impression that you do not see Islamic fundamentalist violence as more serious a threat than enthusiastic, or even zealous devotion to Judaism or Christianity.

This impression is confirmed by your responses to comments posted on CNN web site. For example in response to Regina Bowling of Charleston, who said she believes we are watching the gathering up of energy worldwide in the form of religious intolerance for the "perfect storm" of global holy war, you replied that you don't see right now the potential for global holy war. This despite 9/11, the London bombings and attempted bombings and other glaring incidents including the world-wide violence that erupted in the Danish Cartoon episode

The program also creates the impression that you believe there is no difference between God's Jewish, Muslim and Christian Warriors and that the Moral Majority and Evangelists are as dangerous as Islamic Fundamentalists. This was confirmed when you replied to Ms. Bowling that as long as people believe that only their holy book [Koran, Torah or Bible] or only their holy word matters and is relevant, then there will be no solution. (Words in parenthesis are mine).

It was disappointing to find in a purportedly objective program that you injected your own views, demonstrating occasional lack of knowledge. For example when an Israeli settler said God says Jews must live in Hebron, you interjected that the West Bank was designated by the UN to be the largest part of an Arab state.  Not only is this statement factually incorrect, it is out of context. May I ask whether you are aware that all Arab states rejected UN partition resolution 181 and that the West Bank was included in the area designated for encouragement of Jewish settlement by the Balfour Declaration and even endorsed in article 6 of the British mandate.

In retrospect I hope you will agree that the use of the very few isolated incidents of Jewish terror attempts over the past 15 years, created the erroneous impression that a religious Jewish terror movement exists on a par with the violent worldwide jihadist phenomenon of indiscriminate death and destruction.  Objectivity would require that you draw attention to the enormous difference between Islamic states which encourage terror and Israel which acts vigorously against attempts to engage in terror and where those very few Jews who did make attempts have been severely punished.

The relevance of God's Warriors to the so-called Jewish lobby in the USA is flimsy indeed.  It is difficult to accept your objectivity when you allow Jimmy Carter and Professor Mearsheimer to promote their controversial books that have been criticized by experts for blatant inaccuracies, without offering a balanced viewpoint from someone like Alan Dershowitz.

Surely you, of all people know that the Jewish Lobby is but one of dozens of diverse influential lobbies, including the ACLU and the very powerful, well-funded Arab lobbies that are part of the Washington scene.

Your repeated references to settlements as illegal are open to valid criticism. Obviously the most reliable sources from whom to seek clarification are the persons who played key roles in drafting the relevant resolution 242, namely British Ambassador to the UN, Lord Caradon, American Ambassador, Arthur Goldberg and US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, Eugene Rostow. All have agreed that settlements are legal. In an interview in the Beirut Daily Star on June 12, 1974, Lord Caradon stated:  "It would have been wrong to demand that Israel return to its positions of June 4, 1967 because these positions were undesirable and artificial".

Professor Julius Stone, one of the twentieth century's leading authorities on the Law of Nations concurred that the Jewish right of settlement in the territories is equivalent in every way to the right of the existing Palestinian population to live there.

What must deeply concern everyone interested in maintaining Western democracy is the danger that this widely advertised documentary diverts attention from the real threat of Jihad, by equating it with non-violent religious movements.

Sorely missing from the entire series is any mention of the basic motivator of Islamic violence, the incitement to hatred emanating from state media as well as openly from mosques, not only in Arab countries but under the noses of European and British governments. As human beings, can we be unperturbed by the indoctrination of infants to become suicidal Warriors as shown in an interview with a three-and-a-half year old girl broadcast on Iqra? See video clip at

It is sad that in your documentary which could serve to create a genuine better understanding of the violence generated by religious zealotry, the authoritative voices of many experts in the field were omitted.

Among the many who would have added authoritative insight into the subject are Brigitte Gabriel, who lectures nationally and internationally about terrorism and who has issued an Urgent Warning to the West, Professor Salim Mansur the Muslim writer and Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Western Ontario, Steven Emerson the internationally recognized expert on militant Islamic terrorism and national security and Dr. Khaleel Mohammed, the Islamic law specialist and professor of Religion at San Diego State University.


Your considered response would be appreciated.

Maurice Ostroff

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Hamas Terror attack coming real soon?

This is precisely what we might expect to coincide with the peace summit.
'Hamas planning mega-terror attack in Israel'
Deputy Shin Bet chief tells cabinet organization instructed by headquarters
abroad to carry out mass casualty attack ; says arms smuggling, shootings
and rocket attacks have increased
Ronny Sofer YNET  Published: 08.26.07, 18:05 / Israel News

Hamas may carry out a mega-terror attack, the Deputy Shin Bet Chief, known
only as Y, told cabinet members Sunday. "There were clear orders from the
Hamas headquarters abroad to Hamas in Israel to carry out a mass casualty
attack in Israel," he said.

According to Y, the Hamas leadership in Gaza is experiencing "deep strategic
complications." They are having trouble running the government, gaining
legitimacy, controlling internal checkpoints and, in general, positively
impacting daily life.

This situation increases the likelihood that the organization's policy
regarding terror attacks with change, in Gaza, the West Bank and possibly
even outside of Israel, he said.

Arms smuggling has not only continued, it has increased, Y reported. In the
few months since Hamas' took over Gaza in June of this year, 40 tons of
weapons have been smuggled into the Strip - approximately one half of the
total amount of armaments smuggled into the area since Israel's July 2005

Since August, the defense establishment recorded five major incidents of
arms smuggling through Egypt, during which 13 tons of explosives and 150 RPG
(rocket-propelled grenade) carriers were brought in. Simultaneously, there
has been an observable decrease in Egypt's measures to combat the trend.

Not surprisingly, the deputy chief stated that armed attacks against Israeli
communities and forces had increase.  There were 20 Qassam attacks last
week, a high number relative to the average of 70 rockets per month.

The number of shooting attacks from Gaza (gun or mortar fire towards the
border fence or into Israel) also increased in the past week - up to 56, in
comparison to 43 attacks the week before. The heightened mortar fire,
specifically, was a response to the IDF's operations within Gaza, Y

Continued (Permanent Link)

Is Israel about to do a prisoner swap?

Note that there is not much in this "leaked document" that we didn't know, but it is still interesting.
Leaked Kadima document implies Israel may agree to prisoners swap for Shalit
in order to obtain public confidence

Date: 26 / 08 / 2007  Time:  14:06

Bethlehem - Exclusive - Ma'an received a leaked document from the Israel PM Olmert's ruling Kadima party, which elucidates the possibilities of an Israeli-Palestinian prisoners' exchange.

The document, which is in Hebrew, said Israeli evaluations suggest there will be an opportunity for a prisoners swap in the near future.

This opportunity has resulted from internal Israeli conditions, which implies there is strong criticism of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's policies, especially with regards to social and economic projects, and because no remarkable security achievements have been accomplished.

The document also said that Olmert is aware that his government needs a great accomplishment at social and security levels in order to obtain public confidence.

As a result of this situation, the Israeli government, headed by Olmert, will agree to a prisoners swap in exchange for captured Corporal Gilad Shalit. Israel will agree to a list which includes Hamas members which Israel previously opposed for the exchange.

The document also revealed that the families, who never expected the release of their incarcerated relatives, should prepare to see them.

The date allocated for next Israeli elections, in 2008, is crucial, because the Olmert government may be toppled before that date. The document suggests elections could even be held at the end of this year.

It is believed that any future government will be led by the Kadima and Labour parties.

Some sources have claimed that a prisoners' swap and the release of prisoners allegedly with 'blood on their hands', will mark an Israeli submission to 'terror'.

The same sources said it would encourage Palestinians to 'abduct' more Israelis.

Continued (Permanent Link)

INSS on thr rise of radical Islamism in Pakistan

Pakistan is indeed a key ally in the fight against terror. It is also a nuclear power. What if the shaky Musharraf regime falls to radicals? Pakistani ministers are already saying that Jews are behind 9/11 and making disparaging remarks about the United States.   


August 26, 2007 No. 28

Radical Islamism in Pakistan

Yoram Evron

Since July 11, when the Pakistani Army took over the Red Mosque in Islamabad and released the hostages being held there, the violent confrontation between the regime and radical Islamists has only escalated. That confrontation, which claimed many lives in the 1980s, revived after September 11 due to enhanced cooperation between the Pakistani government and the United States. It now undermines the foundations of the political system in the country, at a moment when the regime seems particularly vulnerable. For several months, Pakistan has been shaken by a revitalized al-Qaeda movement operating in the northwestern tribal areas and, simultaneously, by growing liberal opposition to President Pervaiz Musharraf following his attempt to sack the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and his refusal to comply with the constitution and resign as army Chief of Staff.

Immediately after the attack on the Twin Towers, the United States asked Musharraf for support it in its war against the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. Notwithstanding his reservations, Musharraf felt obliged to comply, and since 2002, the Pakistani Army has been operating, with varying degrees of commitment and effectiveness, against Islamist groups in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border area. From the American perspective, Pakistan was a natural and important ally in the war in Afghanistan. It is one of the largest Muslim countries (about 165 million people), mostly Sunni with a Shi'ite minority. The regime, though defined constitutionally as Muslim, is fairly moderate, and the army plays a major role in it.

Pakistan's enlistment in the struggle against Islamist terrorist is of paramount importance. First of all, Pakistan borders on al-Qaeda refuges and constitutes a geographical barrier between Iran and Afghanistan, on the one hand, and India, on the other; the latter is itself struggling against militant Islamist groups in Kashmir. Secondly, given Pakistan's demonstrated nuclear capabilities, any takeover of the regime by radical Islamists would be an extremely grave matter. Given Pakistan's history of proliferating nuclear technologies and the ambitions of some Arab states to acquire nuclear capabilities, such a development could accelerate the nuclearization of the Middle East. Thirdly, the endemic political instability elsewhere in Central Asia, coupled with the relatively moderate regime in Pakistan and the long history of cooperation with the United States, mean that Pakistan is the only Muslim country in the region on which Washington can count.

From Musharraf's perspective, cooperation with the United States also provides some benefits. First of all, it enhances the international legitimacy of his regime, which had been burdened by a negative image since he seized power in 1999. Moreover, by lining up with the Americans against extremist Islamic terrorism, he can ease the confrontational relationship with India, which had deteriorated very badly following the 1998 nuclear tests by the two sides and the Pakistani attack on the Kargil region soon afterward.

At the same time, the alliance with the United States also poses some serious problems. While the regime has no ideological commitment to Islamism, almost all of the population is Muslim – in fact, Pakistan was explicitly founded as a Muslim state – and the country is tightly bound to the Muslim world. It adheres to Muslim political positions (to the extent that they exist), such as the refusal to maintain ties with Israel, and it takes an active part in Arab and Islamic organizations. Moreover, its economy is dependent on trade with, remittances from and investment by Muslim states (especially in the Persian Gulf). Consequently, its alignment with the United States against the Taliban provoked serious internal disagreements.

The totality of these circumstances and constraints explains the current developments in Pakistan. Musharraf is exposed to domestic pressures by both Islamist movements and liberal elements. The former are stepping up their confrontation with the army, and al-Qaeda elements are apparently consolidating their stronghold in the tribal areas of the northwest; the latter are outraged at Musharraf's actions against the Supreme Court and his defiance of the constitution. Musharraf is also being subjected to significant pressure by the United States, which is unhappy with the anti-democratic measures apparently taken to bolster his declining position (e.g., nationalization of the electronic media) and charges that his regime does too little to seek out al-Qaeda leaders hiding out in the areas bordering Afghanistan.

Pakistan poses a dilemma for the United States, which wants to support an ally in the war on terror while encouraging the emergence of a stable democracy. In a state in which the army has taken power several times and whose current ruler came to power in a military coup, there can be no certainty that the same thing will not happen again if the situation continues to deteriorate. Moreover, some analyses suggest that Islamist tendencies in army ranks have grown stronger in recent years and that the restraint in fighting al-Qaeda in the tribal areas stems from the army's dissatisfaction with a proactive policy imposed on Pakistan by the United States. In other words, the ability of the United States to secure Pakistani alignment with American policy depends on the existence of a regime that can impose its authority on the army.

Notwithstanding the challenges, several things suggest that this might continue to be the case. First of all, the Pakistani army is immeasurably larger and more powerful than the Islamist movements. Secondly, Islamist extremism -- a common threat to Pakistan, China and India – strengthens the interest of the latter two in supporting a semi-secular regime in Pakistan and damps down the ferocity of the Indo-Pakistani conflict. Thirdly, Musharraf is apparently making some progress on forging a coalition with the moderate opposition parties and he is reported to be negotiating with Benazir Bhutto, the former prime minister and now one of the liberal opposition leaders, on power sharing arrangements in advance of the forthcoming elections.

Pakistan's importance in the struggle against Islamist extremism is hard to exaggerate. The overthrow of the current regime by Islamist forces could give extremists access to nuclear weapons and seriously impair America's ability to combat al-Qaeda. For Israel, the implications could include the accelerated seepage of nuclear technology to hostile regimes and movements and upgraded capabilities for al-Qaeda and other extremist organizations. Preventing that depends on the ability of a moderate Pakistani regime to impose its authority on extremist elements, both in the army and in the broader society.


Continued (Permanent Link)

Peace conference? Wise and unwise words from Ephraim Sneh

The upcoming peace conference cannot succeed without preparation. Wise words from Ephraim Sneh:

Checklist for a peace pact


If the Middle East peace conference proposed by US President George W. Bush succeeds, it will be hailed as a milestone. If it fails, it will bring about increased despair and cynicism and constitute the gravestone of peace efforts. The key lies in preparation.

For this conference to become a stepping-stone to real progress, participants must come with well-defined ideas and clear objectives and leave with a genuine plan of action in which all players know the roles they have committed to. Good speeches are not enough.

The most critical parties, Israelis and the Palestinians, should come ready with an agreed-upon list of permanent-status principles that will outline the contours of an agreement. No details are needed at this stage.

Conventional wisdom suggests that both Israeli and Palestinian leaders are not strong enough to market such an agreement to their constituencies. That is simply not true. Both peoples are smarter and more pragmatic than even their leaders think, and both publics came to their own practical conclusions long ago.

And not wise words:

Most Israelis rarely visit the Palestinian parts of Jerusalem. They know that a "united Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty" is a slogan that has not reflected reality for years. (The security wall constructed in Jerusalem excludes a substantial part of the city's Palestinian citizens, leaving the city, and the people, effectively divided.)

Most Palestinians acknowledge that the refugees will not return to Haifa, Jaffa or any other towns or villages where they or their ancestors lived before 1948. The illusion of return has served as a pretext to neglect hundreds of thousands of Palestinians stuck in refugee camps.

The above may be true or not. Overwhelming majorities of Palestinians insist on right of return to Israel as part of any peace agreement. As for Israelis, while they don't go to "East Jerusalem," they certainly go to the Hebrew University on Mount Scopus, and Jews bring their kids to have bar-mizvah ceremonies at the West Wall. Abbas explicitly claimed that Palestinians must have those areas as their own. Where is Ephraim living?

Here are some wiser words however:

Both parties also should be required to bring with them interim reports on what has been accomplished regarding security arrangements in the West Bank. This is critical, and tough questions must be answered. For instance, how are the Aksa Martyrs Brigades fugitives complying with their commitments? How is law and order being imposed by the reformed Palestinian Authority security forces? How is the movement of Palestinians being eased on West Bank roads?

Donor states must arrive prepared to pledge concrete support to specific projects, or to finance key activities in PA Prime Minister Salaam Fayad's government. This includes Arab states, especially those enjoying high oil prices. Solidarity with the Palestinian people cannot be confined to speeches in international or Arab conferences. The price of solidarity is commitment and action.

THERE IS great expectation regarding Saudi Arabia's participation. But if the Saudis intend solely to promote reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas, it is better that their delegation stay in Riyadh. Hamas, with its terrorist-Islamist charter, cannot be among the builders of Middle East peace; it is one of its principal spoilers.

If, however, the Saudis intend to offer tangible support to PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and his government and to promote their own ideas for peace, their participation is paramount.


Neither the Bush administration nor the Israelis and the Palestinians can afford anything less than real progress. A conference that produces a good show but no tangible results will ultimately disappoint. In the past, in this volatile region, frustration has led to violence and destruction. Serious preparation, commitment and bold leadership are indispensable.

Unfortunately we can see that nobody is well prepared, and there won't be much real progress. The interim reports of both sides will be either blank or filled with empty verbiage. Hosni Mubarak was right to warn that the conference is ill-prepared: Mubarak: Mideast summit lacks structure, consensus on issues

Ami Isseroff

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Continued (Permanent Link)

CNN's "God's Warriors" Disappoints

"God's Warriors" Disappoints
 Maurice Ostroff

At the conclusion of the widely advertised CNN TV series "God's Warriors", dealing with the intersection between religion and politics Christiane Amanpour said she tried to explain the phenomenon of millions of people who know how to make the world right but feel ignored.
While she certainly deserves an A+ for her professionally conducted interviews in seven countries over eight months, the documentary barely earns a C- for its explanations. The six-hour program leaves serious viewers more confused than before.
Each of the three two-hour programs suffers from excess length, due mainly to irrelevancies. Former President Carter for example, enjoys the privilege of freely advertising his book in two of the series, but contributes nothing to the main subject,
Amanpour does not hesitate to inject her own views, demonstrating occasional lack of knowledge. For example when an Israeli settler said God says Jews must live in Hebron, Amanpour interjected that the West Bank was designated by the UN to be the largest part of an Arab state.  Not only is this statement factually incorrect, it is out of context. Amanpour is evidently unaware that all Arab states rejected UN partition resolution 181, to which she evidently referred and that the West Bank was included in the area designated for encouragement of Jewish settlement by the Balfour Declaration and even endorsed in article 6 of the British mandate.
One of the most misleading aspects of the program, was the use of the very few isolated incidents of Jewish terror attempts over the past 15 years, to create the false impression that a Jewish terror movement exists on a par with the violent worldwide jihadist phenomenon of indiscriminate death and destruction.  For example she interviewed Yehuda Etzion who was convicted and imprisoned for involvement in a foiled bomb plot  way back in 1984. Unlike some Islamic states, Israel acts vigorously against attempts to engage in terror and those very few Jews who did make attempts have been severely punished.
The relevance of religious extremism to the so-called Jewish lobby in the USA is flimsy indeed.  Nevertheless, Amanpour found time to allow Jimmy Carter as well as Professor Mearsheimer to expound their controversial views which have been criticized by experts.  In a six-hour program, there is no excuse to claim that lack of time prevented the presentation of these extremist views in their proper context by quoting authoritative contradictory opinions. Nor is there any excuse for attacking a Jewish lobby, without presenting the context as a natural part of the general lobbying scene in the USA like the ACLU and the very powerful, well-funded Arab lobbies.
The repeated references to settlements as illegal exposes a biased outlook. Obviously the most reliable sources from whom to seek clarification are the persons who played key roles in drafting the relevant resolution 242, namely British Ambassador to the UN, Lord Caradon, American Ambassador, Arthur Goldberg and US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, Eugene Rostow. All have agreed that settlements are legal. In an interview in the Beirut Daily Star on June 12, 1974, Lord Caradon stated:  "It would have been wrong to demand that Israel return to its positions of June 4, 1967 because these positions were undesirable and artificial".
Professor Julius Stone, one of the twentieth century's leading authorities on the Law of Nations concurred that the Jewish right of settlement in the territories is equivalent in every way to the right of the existing Palestinian population to live there.
What must deeply concern everyone interested in maintaining Western democracy is the danger that this widely advertised documentary diverts attention from the real threat of Jihad, by equating it with non-violent religious movements. A warning early in the program by Ed Husain who said he was brain-washed to believe in a religious duty to kill innocent people on the basis of religion is unfortunately diluted later in the program. As a former member of the radical group, Hiz Ut-Tahrir he describes it as a group of individuals across the world dedicated to overthrowing every single Arab government, every single Muslim government and setting up an expansionist global state in the Middle East and a launch pad for creating an Islamist empire.
They operate openly, in large numbers on university campuses to this day and openly admit they intend to establish an Islamic empire ruled by fundamentalist Islamic law, Sharia.
Sorely missing from the entire series is any mention of the basic motivator of Islamic violence, the  incitement to hatred emanating from state media as well as openly from mosques, not only in Arab countries but under the noses of European and British governments. As human beings, can we be unperturbed by the indoctrination of infants to become suicidal Warriors as shown in an interview with a three-and-a-half year old girl broadcast on Iqra? See video clip at"
It is unforgivable that in this documentary which could serve to create a genuine better understanding of the violence generated by religious zealotry, the authoritative voices of many experts in the field were omitted. The program would for example achieve greater credibility had Harvard Professor Alan Dershowitz been interviewed as a foil to Mearshheimer.
Among others who would have added authoritative insight into the subject are Brigitte Gabriel, who lectures nationally and internationally about terrorism and who has issued an Urgent Warning to the West, Professor Salim Mansur the Muslim writer and Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Western Ontario, Steven Emerson the internationally recognized expert on militant Islamic terrorism and national security and Dr. Khaleel Mohammed, the Islamic law specialist and professor of Religion at San Diego State University.

Continued (Permanent Link)

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