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Saturday, December 1, 2007

Ehud Barak: I am the head of the peace camp

Ehud Barak said:
"it's good and it's necessary to have arguments in the party, but only on principle rather than political considerations. I'm the head of the peace camp and I'm also responsible for the security of the residents of Israel."
Both Barak and internal Labor party opponent Ophir Pines-Paz agreed that there will not be peace in 2008. But Barak said:
 "it won't be because of [Israel]. In Israel, there's a silent majority of 80 percent that wants peace. The problem is on the other side."
Barak also said he would quit the coalition once he knows that Labor will the elections. Don't hold your breath.
Ami Isseroff
  Barak: I'll quit coalition once I know Labor will win elections 

Defense Minister and Labor Party Chairman Ehud Barak on Friday told faction members that he would pull Labor out of the government coalition only once he was certain the party could secure victory in the next election.
Barak said he would quit the government only "in the event I know the party will win [the election]," adding that leaving the government "just because of criticism from party members" would not be prudent.
"There were instances in which the Labor Party left governments at the wrong time and did not gain a thing from it," Barak said.
The Labor chairman's comments came in response to recent talk about the possibility of quitting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's government, of which it is the second largest part.
During Barak's campaign for Labor Party chairman, he pledged to leave the coalition once the final Winograd commission report critiquing the government's execution of the Second Lebanon War is published. The report is expected to include scathing criticism of the government.
This week, the High Court of Justice turned down appeals against the commission, paving the way for the report's publication possibly in the coming weeks.
"If we leave the coalition, we will die in justice," [a terrible translation - the Hebrew was "we will die and justifiably so"] Infrastructure Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer said. Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon echoed Ben-Eliezer's sentiments, adding, "If we leave the government during the peace process, the public will not forgive us for it."
Labor MK Ophir Pines-Paz replied that "nothing came [of the Annapolis conference], and there won't be peace in 2008."
Barak acknowledged Pines-Paz prediction, but added that should Israel and the PA fail to hammer out a peace deal, "it won't be because of [Israel]. In Israel, there's a silent majority of 80 percent that wants peace. The problem is on the other side."
Barak also commented on the internecine strife within the party, saying "it's good and it's necessary to have arguments in the party, but only on principle rather than political considerations. I'm the head of the peace camp and I'm also responsible for the security of the residents of Israel."

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Bad Arolsen Holocaust Archives - Justice Denied

According to this article:
The ITS in Germany has allowed in few outsiders over the last 60 years, except for the occasional class of schoolchildren. Now it is open to visitors, and while it prefers they make appointments, survivors and victims are always welcome, says the director, Reto Meister.
Prying open the archive took years of pressure, led by the U.S. Holocaust museum and the State Department, on the reluctant ITS and the 11-nation commission that governs it. Opponents argued that the files were subject to strict German privacy laws and that allowing free access by survivors and researchers would distract from the ITS's mission.
The May 2006 decision to amend the 1955 rules was met with repeated delays in implementation. The commission decided each nation must formally ratify the amendments, a process originally expected to take six months but dragged on for 18.
The Greek parliament approved the amendments Oct. 23 - the last of the 11 countries. The archive was officially pronounced open Wednesday after Athens filed its ratification documents in Berlin.
What is not stated, is that this secrecy was maintained because the records would have allowed the tracing of hundreds and thousands of war criminals who lived and prospered in the Federal Republic of Germany and elsewhere. The German government and the keepers of the archives are guilty of obstructing justice. They are, it would seem, accomplices after the fact in the crime of genocide.
They have denied justice to the victims of Nazism - Jewish and non-Jewish.
Ami Isseroff
Millions of names thought vanished added to Holocaust museum records 
 By The Associated Press 
When Bill Connelly heard that the heirs of a collector of Jewish memorial books were cleaning out his library, he rushed to New York and fished dozens of the Yiddish-language volumes out of a municipal trash bin.
With their lists of residents from long vanished European communities - sometimes recorded street by street - the books often are all that's left of entire villages or neighborhoods consumed in the Nazi Holocaust of World War II.
To rescue a name is to rescue a life from oblivion, Holocaust survivors believe.

The yizkor books, from the Hebrew word for remember, are now on the shelves, alongside hundreds of other volumes, at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum where Connelly works.
"It's a gesture to the centuries: It says, this is who we are, and we will not disappear," said Connelly, referring to the books he salvaged 10 years ago that formed the foundation of the museum's library.
Now, the museum is gaining access to millions more names, the largest registry of Holocaust victims existing anywhere.
For more than 60 years, they were locked in a secretive archive in Germany that houses records scooped up by Allied troops from concentration camps, Nazi SS offices and postwar displaced-persons compounds.
In August, the International Tracing Service of the International Committee of the Red Cross, which administers the archive, began transferring digital copies of its documents to the museum in Washington, to Yad Vashem, Israel's Holocaust memorial, and to the Institute of National Remembrance in Warsaw, Poland.
It will take the ITS two more years to finish copying onto hard drives the 16 linear miles (26 kilometers) of paper now filling a half-dozen buildings in the small German town of Bad Arolsen.
Sharing the files will allow survivors and victims' relatives to see true images of documents - transportation lists, Gestapo orders, camp registers, slave labor booklets, death books - that evince their tortures and that may have determined whether they lived or died.
With the legal barriers nearly cleared away, the museum will be ready by early next year to begin helping survivors track their history.
"Each day we are losing survivors," said museum director Sara J. Bloomfield, "and many go to their graves without knowing where or when their loved ones died."
At Bad Arolsen, names fill rooms.
Though now digitized and entered onto a database, the ITS retains all 50 million index cards bearing the names of victims, concentration camp inmates, slave laborers and displaced persons mentioned somewhere in the vast warehouse of papers.
Many are duplications, filed under different spellings, and the cards refer to about 17.5 million people, Jews and non-Jews. The cards alone occupy three cavernous rooms.
Survivors have been waiting for decades to rummage through the archive in search of names.
David Mermelstein, 78, now a Miami resident, will look for his brothers.
"My older brother was with me the whole time, from Auschwitz through two other camps. Then they were separated when Mermelstein suffered a work accident. About three months before we were liberated, that was the last time I saw him."
"Though the Holocaust and the Nazi reign must be among the most intensively studied 12 years in history, the files could still prove invaluable for new research. It won't change the big picture, but no scholars have ever had their hands on this material," said Bloomfield. "For historians, there are going to be some very exciting years ahead."
Joe White, a specialist on the earliest concentration camps created within weeks of Hitler's 1933 rise to power, hopes to tap the files for new data on privileged groups, like the inmates who acted as overseers known as kapos.
But White, who is with the museum's Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies, also is waiting for the chance to just explore. "Turning the pages, you find things you weren't expecting."
Scott H. O'Gara, a teacher of Holocaust studies at Suffolk County Community College in Riverhead, New York, said the ITS archive has a rich library of English-language testimony recorded by U.S. Army officers immediately after the war that could throw up new names of SS officers.
The reports were prepared contemporaneously with the liberation of the camps, and my hope would be that they would prove useful in tracking down some of the perpetrators, he said.
When complete, the arrival of the ITS archive will more than double the 40 million pages of records already compiled by the Washington museum, making it one of the world's largest repositories of Holocaust resource material along with Yad Vashem in Jerusalem.
The Israeli memorial already has a database of 3.3 million names of the 6 million Jews slaughtered in the Holocaust and has assembled a team to comb through the newly acquired ITS material for more.
But even with the ITS files, the names of millions of victims are lost forever. The Nazis destroyed much of the evidence of their crimes in the final months of the war, and millions more vanished without a trace in eastern Europe, where record-keeping was less meticulous.
The ITS archive was created to trace the fate of people who went missing during the war and in the chaotic aftermath of the German surrender on May 8, 1945, and to reunite families. Later, survivors turned to the ITS for evidence to support compensation claims for their persecution or property.
But survivors never had direct access to the records themselves. Inquirers submitted applications and often waited years to obtain bare-bones information in a form-letter response.
Missing was the context - the feel factor of seeing their names as inscribed by wartime German officials, or seeing the orders with perhaps a note by SS chief Heinrich Himmler scribbled in a margin in green ink.
Laymen will be able to browse the archive from computer terminals in the museum, but they still will need professional helpers to find specific information because of the arcane system the Red Cross archivists set up over the years.
"But at least they will walk away with copies of the documents on which their names appear so that they have something tangible to pass on to their children and grandchildren," said Bloomfield.
People hoping to discover the fate of relatives can submit inquiries by the Internet, mail or fax to the ITS, the Washington museum or Yad Vashem. Scholars will have to conduct their research on site.
The ITS in Germany has allowed in few outsiders over the last 60 years, except for the occasional class of schoolchildren. Now it is open to visitors, and while it prefers they make appointments, survivors and victims are always welcome, says the director, Reto Meister.
Prying open the archive took years of pressure, led by the U.S. Holocaust museum and the State Department, on the reluctant ITS and the 11-nation commission that governs it. Opponents argued that the files were subject to strict German privacy laws and that allowing free access by survivors and researchers would distract from the ITS's mission.
The May 2006 decision to amend the 1955 rules was met with repeated delays in implementation. The commission decided each nation must formally ratify the amendments, a process originally expected to take six months but dragged on for 18.
The Greek parliament approved the amendments Oct. 23 - the last of the 11 countries. The archive was officially pronounced open Wednesday after Athens filed its ratification documents in Berlin.
The commission members are the United States, Britain, Germany, Israel, Poland, France, Italy, Belgium, Greece, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.
The key to finding anything is the central name index. Though names are searchable by computer, the index gives a bare outline of personal information and vague indication of how to find the actual documents. No software exists to electronically search and read the documents.
But there will be a guide of sorts to the archive's contents. Over the years the ITS kept an inventory of new documents added to its storehouse. In a few lines, the inventory of more than 21,000 collections gives the date they were registered and a general description. The collections range from a few pages to many thousands.
For years, the ITS refused to say what was there in the archive, said Paul Shapiro, director of the museum's Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies. It was only once the inventory became available that outsiders had their first evidence of its vast scope.
"Investing months of work, the museum translated the index of all of the collections and created a search tool for the inventory in German and English and posted it on the Web," Shapiro said. "We have a responsibility to show the survivors what is there and to demonstrate the scholarly significance of the collection."

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Friday, November 30, 2007

What is anti-Semitism?

Harrison makes the point that a lot of criticism of Israel since 9-11 has been thinly disguised anti-Semitism. It is easy to diagnose this sort of criticism since it uses the same stereotypes as regular anti-Semitism, with minor changes: "Zionists control the press," replaces "Jews control the press," and when that is exposed, "Israel lobby controls the press" works just as well.
However it is not always so easy to make the call, especially when overenthusiastic Israel advocates label Jews as anti-Semites. Are Neturei Karteh Holocaust deniers anti-Semites? No doubt about it. Is Rabbi Lerner an "anti-Semite" because he has ill judged compassion for Palestinians? Hard to believe.
Ami Isseroff

Seamless denial of anti-Semitism must be confronted and attacked 

  By Bernard Harrison  Published: 11/28/2007 

EAST SUSSEX, England (JTA) -- French President Nicolas Sarkozy, during his recent visit to Washington, stated in widely reported remarks that the resurgence of anti-Semitic propaganda and associated violence around the world should not be minimized or explained away, but attacked head-on.
Addressing the American Jewish Committee, Sarkozy recalled being aghast to hear a Gaullist minister dismissing recent anti-Semitic violence in France with the throw-away line, "Yes, there are synagogues burning, but there are also cars burning."
Fighting anti-Semitism, Sarkozy said, involves agreement on what constitutes it.
"We cannot fight against what is denied," he said. "Unless you agree on a diagnosis, you cannot find the remedy."
Unfortunately, during the past six years, agreement on what counts as anti-Semitism has not proved easy to achieve. Since Sept. 11, 2001, a large body of opinion in Europe and America -- mainly, but not exclusively, in the universities, the media and the arts -- has been talking as if the existence of Israel represented the sole cause of conflict between Islamists and the West.
Such talk has two great attractions. On the one hand it appeals to those who in any conflict between an "us" and a "them" tend to take the side of "them." Israel is both a western-style democracy, profoundly liberal in its laws, economy and institutions, and the chief ally of the United States in the region. Representing Israel as the sole cause of the conflict offers a way of exonerating "them."
By seeing the conflict as primarily "our" fault, the fault becomes that of the West, the fault of America.
But the attraction of blaming Israel does not end there. It offers, at the very moment when its promoters feel themselves most burdened by the guilt of the West toward the Other, a way of freeing them from that very guilt. They simply load it on to the shoulders of a second Other -- namely, the Jews.
The Jews, after all, are the Other immemorially chosen for scapegoat status, if not by God then by western culture. Equally they are an Other far less terrifying than the Other we confront at the ruins of the Twin Towers. We need not worry that they will respond to gratuitous defamation with riots or explosions in public places. They never have and never will. But their main advantage is that by blaming them, we regain the ability to believe in our own purity of heart and motive.
Citizens of decadent western nations we may be, but that does not mean we need take any personal responsibility for the wicked ways of the West. That responsibility rests solely with the Jews and with George W. Bush, their puppet in the Oval Office.
Yes, I am being ironic. But in putting things this way I only marginally parody a certain line of talk increasingly heard since 9/11. It is worrying when it comes from the extreme right. Coming, as it tends to do at present, from large sections of the self-styled liberal elite it is terrifying, not merely to Jews but to democrats and anti-fascists of all religions and shades of opinion.
Plenty of Jews, and others, have protested against the current climate of demonization not merely of Israel, but also of the large majority of Jews and others who support Israel.
But furious denial is the usual response to any suggestion that there is anything anti-Semitic either about grotesquely hyperbolic defamation of Israel ("a Nazi state," "the apartheid wall"), or about attacks on the "Israel lobby" that patently revive and reanimate the hoary myth of Jewish conspiracy.
Denial is buttressed by the claim that these accusations of anti-Semitism are themselves evidence of a Jewish conspiracy to silence critics of Israel and close down debate on the Middle East. That charge, of course, reanimates another traditional anti-Semitic theme -- that of the Jew who whines about his sufferings less because he is really injured than because he hopes to draw some hidden advantage from complaining.
That, however, is beside the point. The point, as ever in the diagnosis of prejudice, concerns not disrespect but truth. How, in reality, could accusations of anti-Semitism hope to stem the tide of defamation now running so strongly, let alone "close down debate"?
What factual basis, if any, supports accusations that Israel is a "Nazi state" or that Israelis are planning -- or executing -- a Nazi-style genocide against Palestinians?
Anti-Semitism, like any other form of prejudice, cannot breathe the air of truth. It thrives on luridly colored falsehood. That is where we need to begin the diagnosis for which President Sarkozy has issued such a timely call.
(Bernard Harrison, emeritus E.E. Ericksen Professor of Philosophy at the University of Utah, is the author of "Israel, Anti-Semitism and Free Speech" published by the American Jewish Committee. He also has taught philosophy at the University of Sussex.)

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Israeli political survey - Likud 29, Kadima 12, Labor 22

Dahaf poll: Likud 29, Labor 22, Kadima 12
Dr. Aaron Lerner  30 November 2007

Telephone poll of a representative sample of 500 adult Israelis (including Arab Israelis) carried out by Dahaf for Yediot Ahronot the week of 30 November 2007 and published on 30 November.

If elections were held today how would you vote (expressed in mandates)
Actual Knesset today in [brackets]
29 [12] Likud
22 [19] Labor
12 [29] Kadima
10 [11] Shas
08 [11] Yisrael Beteinu
07 [09] Nat'l Union/NRP
06 [06] Yahadut Hatorah
05 [05] Meretz
03 [00] Green
00 [07] Retirees Party
10 [10] Arab parties
08 [00] Undecided

IMRA - Independent Media Review and Analysis

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Will Jones be bad for Israel?

There is a lot of needless and harmfull babble here. Israel accepted US supervision of road map performance. That was a mistake. The US chose James Jones to be the supervisor, and Israel will have to work with this man. What is the point of antagonizing him before he started his work?
Ami Isseroff.
'Envoy to press Israel to take risks'
Yaakov Katz , THE JERUSALEM POST Nov. 29, 2007

Predicting potentially grave security consequences for Israel, defense officials responded pessimistically Thursday to news that former NATO commander and retired US general James Jones had been tapped by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as the new special envoy to coordinate security between Israel and the Palestinians.

A senior defense official involved in talks with the Palestinians said that Jones was likely to invest most of his efforts in pressuring Israel to concede to the Palestinians and taking risks on issues of security.

"Another envoy is not what is needed now," the official said. "Both sides know what needs to be done, the problem is that due to everything else that is going on - including Hamas's control over Gaza and the current coalition in Israel - things are stuck."

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the job involves monitoring the development of Palestinian security services. One focus would be how those forces interact with neighboring security services, including Israeli authorities.

McCormack said that Jones would work together with Lt.-Gen. Keith Dayton who has for two years been working as the US security coordinator to the region. Israeli officials recently told The Jerusalem Post that they had been planning to ask the US to switch Dayton since a more "dominant figure" is needed in the position.

But officials warned Thursday that Jones's appointment could actually be detrimental for Israel since the general, whom they said is known for having a cold attitude towards Israel, would put pressure on the IDF to prematurely compromise on security issues at a time that the Palestinian security forces are not yet prepared to crack down on terror - as they are expected to under the Road Map.

The US-backed road map quickly foundered after it was presented in 2003 because the Palestinians did not rein in terror groups and Israel did not freeze construction in West Bank settlements, as they had both pledged to do. Bringing Jones in to closely follow the process is designed to assure that newly resumed peace talks don't languish because promises are broken.

The defense officials also pointed to the escalation in violence in the Gaza Strip, where the IDF killed over 20 Palestinian terrorists this past week, including 6 on Thursday, who were killed in two airstrikes in southern Gaza. During the past week, Palestinians fired over 70 mortar shells and over 25 Kassam rockets at Israeli communities in the Western Negev.

One of the airstrikes on Thursday was on a group of terrorists spotted laying an explosive device near the border fence. The other strike was on a Hamas position in Khan Younis and came in response to mortar fire against a nearby Israeli community the day before.

"There are growing chances for a large-scale operation in the Gaza Strip, and if that happens Jones's work will not be needed here," another official predicted.

Another defense official predicted that Jones will not be willing to "get his hands dirty" with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since he does not want to get burned and spoil has political aspirations back in the US.

Jones, who ended his 40-year career in the Marines last February, will remain in his current job as president of the US Chamber of Commerce's Institute for Energy. Last summer he headed a congressionally chartered
panel that studied the readiness of Iraq's army and police.

As disappointing as Israel was with Dayton, the official said that the general was at least willing to enter the fray and worked hard to come up with innovative ideas to rehabilitate the PA security forces.

"Even though he failed, Dayton at least tried," the official said. "It is not clear that Jones will make such an effort so as not to ruin his chances of making a political career in the future." AP contributed to the report.

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Will Fatah and Hamas reunite?

Note- Fatah in Gaza is not necessarily controlled by Fatah in West Bank any more.
Ami Isseroff
Exclusive: 'Fatah, Hamas may join ranks'
Khaled Abu Toameh , THE JERUSALEM POST Nov. 29, 2007

Fatah will fight alongside Hamas if and when the IDF launches a military operation in the Gaza Strip, a senior Fatah official in Gaza City said Thursday.

"Fatah won't remain idle in the face of an Israeli invasion of the Gaza Strip," the official said. "We will definitely fight together with Hamas against the Israeli army. It's our duty to defend our people against the occupiers."

The Fatah official said his faction would place political differences aside and form a joint front against Israel if the IDF enters the Gaza Strip. "The homeland is more important than all our differences," he said.

The statements came amid reports that some Arab countries were planning to resume mediation efforts between Fatah and Hamas to avoid further deterioration in the aftermath of the Annapolis peace conference.

According to the reports, Saudi Arabia and Egypt have decided to invite representatives of Fatah and Hamas for talks on ways of ending their power struggle.

A senior Palestinian official who visited Cairo this week said the Egyptians and Saudis have reached the conclusion that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas won't be able to move forward with the peace talks with Israel without solving his problems with Hamas.

The official said Abbas had given his blessing to Cairo and Riyadh to resume their efforts to end the crisis with Hamas.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak phoned Abbas Thursday and discussed with him the results of the Annapolis conference and the possibility of resuming negotiations between Fatah and Hamas. Abbas is currently on a visit to Tunisia, where he is expected to brief veteran PLO officials on the outcome of the conference.

Earlier this week, the Egyptian government gave permission to several pro-Palestinian organizations in Egypt to send truckloads of food and medicine to the Gaza Strip. The trucks are scheduled to arrive in the Gaza Strip on Friday through the Rafah border crossing, which remains closed to travelers.

Hamas, meanwhile, is bracing for a massive IDF operation to halt the firing of rockets from the Gaza Strip.

Sources in the Gaza Strip said Hamas's security forces have been placed on full alert and most of the movement's senior leaders have gone into hiding for fear of being targeted by Israel. In addition, Hamas has evacuated many of its security and civil institutions.

Hamas leaders on Thursday tried to establish a link between the Annapolis conference and a potential IDF attack on the Gaza Strip. They said the latest escalation, which claimed the lives of some 20 Hamas members over the past week, was directly linked to the conference.

Hamas spokesman Ismail Radwan said Israel was stepping up its military operations in the Gaza Strip to cover up for the "failure" of the Annapolis conference. He said the thousands of Palestinians who demonstrated against the conference over the past few days in the West Bank indicated that a majority of the public were opposed to Annapolis.

Hamas legislator Mushir al-Masri said the killing of six Hamas activists over the past 48 hours was one of the direct results of the Annapolis conference.

"The Annapolis conference has failed," he said. "This conference was nothing but an attempt to impose the American and Israeli agenda on the Palestinians. The conference also gave a green light to Israel to launch a big military operation in the Gaza Strip."

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Do it yourself Jewish worship - trend or phase?

Here's an article about Jewish religion without rabbis, as opposed to the Jewish secular humanists, who have rabbis without religion.
Article states:
The minyanim are noticing that some of their worshipers are getting older, and it is unclear how they might evolve as participants have children and move to the suburbs, said members and experts on the movement
Well OK, they'll get different young people, if any remain in the cities.
Article states:
Members of the minyanim are looking for "redemptive, transformative experiences that give rhythm to their days and weeks and give meaning to their lives," said Joelle Novey, 28, a founder of Tikkun Leil Shabbat, whose name alludes to the Jewish concept of tikkun olam, or repairing the world.
That's not exactly the meaning of Tikkun Shabbat. It is supposed to be a corection and improvement of the soul, by additional reading, singing and study. It is only vaguely related to Tikkun Olam. There is a danger of people inventing another religion that is close to Judaism. There are already two of those. They didn't work out too well for Judaism.
Article states:
"If we were to say, 'We are sticking to one institutional form or go away,' then we would die as a people,"
Why? Is Jewish peoplehood inextricably and irreversibly connected with religion?
Ami Isseroff  
November 28, 2007
Challenging Tradition, Young Jews Worship on Their Terms
WASHINGTON, Nov. 27 — There are no pews at Tikkun Leil Shabbat, no rabbis, no one with children or gray hair.
Instead, one rainy Friday night, the young worshipers sat in concentric circles in the basement of an office building, damp stragglers four deep against the walls. In the middle, Megan Brudney and Rob Levy played guitar, drums and sang, leading about 120 people through the full Shabbat liturgy in Hebrew.
Without a building and budget, Tikkun Leil Shabbat is one of the independent prayer groups, or minyanim, that Jews in their 20s and 30s have organized in the last five years in at least 27 cities around the country. They are challenging traditional Jewish notions of prayer, community and identity.
In places like Atlanta; Brookline, Mass.; Chico, Calif.; and Manhattan the minyanim have shrugged off what many participants see as the passive, rabbi-led worship of their parents' generation to join services led by their peers, with music sung by all, and where the full Hebrew liturgy and full inclusion of men and women, gay or straight, seem to be equal priorities.
Members of the minyanim are looking for "redemptive, transformative experiences that give rhythm to their days and weeks and give meaning to their lives," said Joelle Novey, 28, a founder of Tikkun Leil Shabbat, whose name alludes to the Jewish concept of tikkun olam, or repairing the world. It is an experience they are not finding in traditional Jewish institutions, she said.
Many synagogues feel threatened by the minyanim, and in some cases have tried to adopt their approach, but with only limited success.
"Established synagogues are worrying about how to attract and engage younger people, and younger people are looking for a sense of sacred community, and they are going elsewhere," said J. Shawn Landres, director of research at Synagogue 3000, an institute for congregational leadership and synagogue studies. "For a lot of people, it's like two ships passing in the night."
Younger Jews have spearheaded changes before in American Jewish life, including forming small fellowship groups in the 1960s and 1970s called havurot. Havurot were lay-led communities like the minyanim, but they were more countercultural, said Sherry Israel, chairwoman of the board of the National Havurah Committee. The minyanim are largely urban. They range from the 200 people who show up at the 9 a.m. Saturday service at Kehilat Hadar on the Upper West Side of Manhattan to the 30 or so who attend Na'aleh's Friday night worship in Denver. Kehilat Hadar's e-mail list, however, has about 2,800 addresses, a sign of the transience of the young Jewish population in the city and the high level of interest.
Couples have met at the minyanim, but their leaders say the worship services are not singles' socials. Music permeates the services, everyone is encouraged to sing and the melodies change frequently to keep things fresh.
"I felt it was hard for me to find a Jewish community that has the spiritual and communal things I was looking for," said Vicki Kaplan, 24, who was raised in a Conservative family in Los Angeles, explaining why she does not attend a synagogue. "There were no instruments, no young people. At Tikkun Leil Shabbat, there's a joyfulness to the singing, the community, the breaking of bread together."
Ms. Kaplan said seeing her peers lead worship made her faith seem more accessible. "My friends who I play football with and have beers with are leading service here. I feel like if I wanted to lead a service, I could, too."
The fact that women at the minyanim can lead prayers and read the Torah is central to their popularity, including among those raised in the Orthodox tradition, which limits women's participation in services.
"The primary reason I am here is because of gender equality," said Rebecca Israel, 25, who was raised in an Orthodox family. Ms. Israel attended D.C. Minyan and Tikkun Leil Shabbat, which she visited one recent Friday, until she moved a year ago to New York, where she goes to Kehilat Hadar. "If Judaism is central to my morality, then its practices needed to reflect the morality that I learned from it. In religious practices that limit women's participation, Orthodox shuls were not living up to that equality that is important to me."
The minyanim have attracted young people who are well schooled in Judaism. A flowering of Jewish day schools in the 1980s produced a generation with a strong Jewish education and "the cultural wherewithal to create their own institutions," said Steven M. Cohen, a professor of sociology at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.
Many realized they could lead their own services after doing so through their college Hillel programs. Tikkun Leil Shabbat draws Reconstructionist Jews, Orthodox Jews and everyone in between, so it, like other minyanim, developed practices that respect people's traditions.
For instance, its once-in-three-weeks services alternate between one with circular seating and a more traditional service, in which the chairs face east and the singing is a cappella.
The biggest challenge, minyanim leaders said, involves getting lots of people to participate, while ensuring that the liturgy is celebrated competently. Rabbi Elie Kaunfer, who co-founded Kehilat Hadar when he was a layman, started an intensive eight-week course this year in New York, Mechon Hadar, to train those who want to lead or better participate in minyanim. D.C. Minyan has undertaken a campaign to equip more people to be able to read the Torah at services. Many minyanim offer tutoring to those who want to learn to lead services.
The first time she led morning prayers at D.C. Minyan, Lilah Pomerance said, she shook like a leaf.
"There was this disbelief that I was actually doing this," Ms. Pomerance said of leading worship, "and the other piece was very spiritual, that I was leading the community in prayer and in communication with God."
A survey that Mr. Landres has undertaken with Mr. Cohen and Rabbi Kaunfer indicates that rather than taking young Jews out of the synagogue pews, they are taking them out of their beds on Saturday mornings.
Rabbi Edward Feinstein is one leader of a traditional synagogue who applauds the development of the minyanim.
"If we were to say, 'We are sticking to one institutional form or go away,' then we would die as a people," said Rabbi Feinstein, who is at Valley Beth Shalom in Encino, Calif., a Conservative synagogue. "Is it going to take young Jews that synagogues are counting on? Yes, unless you offer something better. Or better yet, invite the emergents in and make common cause."
Some synagogues have created programs to draw young people, but they are often poorly done, underfinanced and come across as big singles' mixers, Mr. Landres said.
The minyanim are noticing that some of their worshipers are getting older, and it is unclear how they might evolve as participants have children and move to the suburbs, said members and experts on the movement.
The answer may be found in the likes of Shabbat in the Hood, a minyan that draws 55 to 70 worshipers to peoples' homes once a month in Leawood, Kan., a suburb of Kansas City, Mo. Worshipers belong to local synagogues. This is "the soccer mom set," with lots of children around, many of them encouraged to lead prayers, said Marla Brockman, the lay coordinator of the minyan.
"It has been a spiritual hit for our families," Ms. Brockman said. "We were all looking to go back to Jewish summer camp — the ease of community, this feeling of 'go ahead and try it, try a reading' — and we found it."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Report on Israel-Diaspora relations sink to new low

Is Sheffer part of the problem, or part of the solution? He wants to create a super-ministry that will allow Diaspora Jews to control our lives here in Israel.
"The organization will have a charter that will define its mandate. Anything security related will not be included. But the council will have clout over education, finance, development. You name it."
We do not tell our relatives in America where and how to educate their children, and we do not want them telling us what to do either.
Ami Isseroff
Last update - 11:13 30/11/2007

 Report: Israel-Diaspora relations sink to new low 
By Cnaan Liphshiz 

Despite appearances to the contrary, Israel's relationship with Jewish communities abroad has in fact reached an all-time low, a policy paper finds.

The conclusion comes from the paper by a group of researchers from the Van Leer Institute, an advanced studies center in Jerusalem. The group proposes some urgent and unorthodox solutions before the issue becomes a major rift.

In their paper, which was published earlier this month, the researchers propose three alternatives aimed at giving Diaspora Jews more control over what's going on in Israel in an attempt to salvage the relationship.
A new approach

"The many institutions and organizations entrusted with keeping this bond alive suffer from an acute case of Israelo-centricity," said the man who assembled the team, Professor Gabriel Sheffer from the Hebrew University's political science department. Sheffer said the Jewish Agency and Minister Isaac Herzog's newly formed Ministry for Diaspora Affairs are relics of an antiquated world that need to be replaced.

"These organizations encourage immigration to Israel and advocate keeping Israel stronger. But Jews abroad are losing interest in Israel, so that's exactly the wrong strategy," Sheffer told Anglo File with regard to drumming up support overseas. "We need to appeal to the Diaspora on a common Jewish platform and give them more control to rekindle their interest."

Sheffer concedes that the leaders of many Jewish communities, especially in the U.S., are at present very committed to Israel. But it's the future that worries him. "It's the old guard's children and grandchildren that Israel needs to win over," he said.

In reaction to the policy paper, Herzog's office told Anglo File that the minister "is open to any original idea that can help bolster the bond with the Diaspora." Herzog added: "I see the Diaspora as a central and crucial element in Israel's character. We need to remain very attentive to shifts and changes in Jewish communities abroad."

But so far, Israel has failed to do that, according to a number of polls mentioned in the policy paper. A Jewish Agency poll from 2002 which surveyed Jews in the U.S., for example, shows only 31 percent of respondents as saying they feel "very connected to Israel."

The team also points to an apparent change in the charity habits of Diaspora Jews when giving to Jewish groups. "Only 25 percent of all donations reach Israel, compared with 75 percent a couple of decades ago," Sheffer said. "It's not uncommon to hear Jews saying they would simply not care if Israel suffered a major catastrophe."

The first step to reversing that, Sheffer said, is to admit that Israel is not the definitive center of the Jewish People, as it has always presumed to be. Moreover, Sheffer says that even Israel's alleged status as the only Jewish safe haven in the world has been severely undermined.

"When tens of thousands of South African Jews emigrated after the fall of apartheid, most preferred Australia or Canada to Israel," Sheffer said. "And when the Argentina economy collapsed, most of the Jews who left headed for Spain and North America."

Sharing power

Some of the nine researchers who contributed to the paper said they believe that in order to solicit more involvement from the Diaspora, the state should pass a law - possibly a basic law - to cement Israel's ties with Jewish communities abroad.

Shmuel Shenhar, one of the paper's coauthors and former deputy chief of Nativ, the semi-covert governmental organization for encouraging immigration, advocates forming a new state authority headed by six Israeli representatives and six representatives from the Diaspora. That body, which would be sponsored by the state, would completely replace the Jewish Agency and other organizations.

Funding for Shenhar's new group - which would have a council of about 200 people - would come from Israel and the Diaspora. "If the Diaspora would feel that it is let in on crucial decisions and that its voice is heard here, then it will produce massive funding. I'm thinking about a budget of $4 billion," Shenhar told Anglo File.

But despite his desire to give Diaspora Jews more power at the helm, Shenhar - who used to be the absorption ministry's deputy director - is not prepared to allow them to openly influence security matters.

The question of Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem, for example, would not come up for discussion in Shenhar's theoretical council. "The organization will have a charter that will define its mandate. Anything security related will not be included. But the council will have clout over education, finance, development. You name it."

The heart of the problem

The growing indifference to Israel's fate on the part of Diaspora Jews stems, according to the paper, from globalization, assimilation, slow population growth and secularization. The absence of state-sponsored anti-Semitism in the West also seems connected.

But another crucial reason for the weakening bond is indifference in Israel to the fate of Jews abroad, the paper says. As evidence, the paper points to an opinion poll from 2001 in which only 48 percent of Israeli respondents said they felt they "belong to the Jewish people at large." Less than 30 years earlier, the figure was 66 percent.

"The solution to this indifference lies in education. Also abroad, but first of all here, in Israel," Sheffer said. "We need to teach our kids about the Diaspora. Most high-school students don't care about the Diaspora. No wonder then that their Jewish contemporaries abroad have little concern for Israel."

Both Sheffer and Shenhar say they are aware that focus on Israel's identity as a Jewish state, first and foremost, would likely invite more criticism from abroad in light of the country's commitments to its Arab minority. According to Sheffer, this shouldn't rule out the tactic.

"I don't know about you, but I wouldn't care much about that," Shenhar said.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Not serious about Syria

Apparently, the invitation of Syria to the Annapolis conference did not mean what many thought it did - many including me.
Last update - 10:42 30/11/2007

 Washington: There is no place yet for Syria in peace process 
By Shmuel Rosner, Haaretz Correspondent

WASHINGTON - U.S. National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley said Thursday it is difficult to see how Syria can fit into the renewed peace process.

"Syria is a state that supports terror, including Hezbollah and Hamas," Hadley told students in a speech at Johns Hopkins University's international studies school in Washington. He spoke just after Prime Minister Ehud Olmert headed home following the Middle East peace conference, held in Annapolis Tuesday.

Hadley said Syria's policy was not compatible with "what we've seen" at Annapolis.

He said Israel would be the one to decide whether to negotiate with Syria, but he left no room for doubt on the United States' position on this issue. Hadley said Syria must make a fundamental decision.

"There is a new spirit in the Middle East, a real chance for peace. Will Syria be left on the sidelines or give up its support for terror, leave Lebanon alone, support the Iraqi government and make a decision in favor of peace?"

If Syria takes this course it will have a chance for an agreement on the Golan Heights, but if it doesn't, "I don't see how it can be part of this process," he said.

Hadley implied that Syria's leaders had not shown the necessary fundamental change despite sending a representative to Annapolis. Syria sent its deputy foreign minister to the conference - a lower-ranking official than other countries sent.

President George W. Bush's opening statement reflected his dissatisfaction with Syria, whose invitation to the summit had raised a controversy in the administration. The only issue Bush addressed apart from relations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority was the situation in Lebanon.

Hadley said on Wednesday that "all those present, except one" - meaning the Syrian representative - had applauded after Olmert's speech at the conference.

However, Washington sources said that at the end of the conference Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice shook the Syrian official's hand and thanked him for his participation.

State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack said in his daily briefing that the Syrian representative's speech at the summit was "positive and constructive." But McCormack added that the Syrian channel was "a lot less ripe" than the Palestinian one, on which the administration was concentrating.

Hadley said that it was Bush's insistence on a policy of zero tolerance for terror that had created the opportunity for a renewed peace process in the Middle East. His speech defended Bush against critics who said he took too long before trying to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

He said the new opportunity was created for several reasons, including Bush's policies of the last six years. Hadley reminded his audience that the world had been "in shock" when Bush decided to sever ties with Yasser Arafat and that Bush had supported former prime minister Ariel Sharon's efforts "to protect the Israelis from terror."

Hadley said Bush was not interested in just any Palestinian state but in one that would adhere to standards of democracy, freedom and a lack of terror. He reiterated that Bush did not believe in "forcing an American solution" on the two sides, stating that only the Israelis and Palestinians could reach agreements that both nations would accept.

Hadley also spoke about the connection that the Bush administration saw between solving the Palestinian problem and the general agenda of "advancing freedom in the Middle East."

He said that if the Palestinians make the right choice, their historians will look back on the 2006 parliamentary elections, in which Hamas gained power, as a pyrrhic victory, more of a mishap than a failure of Palestinian democracy.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Temple Mount Promises - We saw this movie

Deja vu all over again - According to Dennis Ross, Ehud Barak agreed to give up the Temple Mount in 2000, but in newspaper articles at the time, Olmert stated that he insisted the Temple Mount would be under Israeli sovereignty.
Ami Isseroff
PA official: Olmert lying about Temple Mount
Israeli PM claims holy site not up for talks, but Palestinians say he has
already agreed to forfeiture
Aaron Klein, WND  - YNET Published: 11.29.07, 18:25 / Israel News

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's statements on Wednesday that Israel's sovereignty over the Temple Mount is not up for negotiation are "false," according to a chief Palestinian negotiator, who told WND the Israeli leader already agreed to forfeit Judaism's holiest site to a coalition of Arab countries.

"What Olmert said (regarding the Mount) is absolutely false. I think he's not yet ready to tell the Israeli public and is waiting for the right time and he fears his coalition with religious extremists will fall apart if he announces it now," said a senior Palestinian negotiator Thursady on condition his name be withheld.

The chief Palestinian negotiator said in months leading up to Annapolis the Palestinian team was "surprised" by Olmert's willingness to give up the Mount.

"We had intense debates on many topics, which remain open and unsettled, but the Harem Al-Sharif (Temple Mount) is not a sticking point. The Israelis didn't argue with us. We were pleasantly surprised Olmert didn't debate about giving the lower section of the Mount either, which was a sticking point in the past."

According to the chief Palestinian negotiator, Olmert agreed to evacuate the Mount but not to turn it over to the Palestinians alone. The negotiator said both sides agreed the Temple Mount would be given to joint Egypt, Jordan and Palestinian Authority control.

He said the Israeli government felt an umbrella group of several Arab countries controlling the holy site instead of only the PA would help ease Israeli domestic opposition to giving up the Temple Mount, since Egypt and Jordan are considered by Israeli policy to be moderate countries.

'Talks will address all issues'

The Palestinian negotiator pointed out Israeli prime ministers previously denied withdrawal plans only to later carry them out. Former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, elected on a platform against evacuating territory, denied for his first year in office he would retreat from the Gaza Strip but in 2005 he carried out a Gaza withdrawal.

In a briefing to reporters yesterday, Olmert claimed Israel's sovereignty over the Temple Mount is not up for discussion. He said negotiations started at this week's Annapolis summit had no bearing on the situation on the Temple Mount.

At the start of Tuesday's summit, President Bush read a joint declaration agreed to by Olmert and PA President Mahmoud Abbas committing the two to launch immediate negotiations aimed at "two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side."

The parties said they would aim to conclude an agreement before Bush leaves office next year, with Israel widely expected to evacuate large swaths of the West Bank and speculation about eastern sections of Jerusalem, handing Abbas the strategic territories. Israel recaptured the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem, including the Temple Mount, in 1967.

"The negotiations will address all of the issues which we have thus far avoided dealing with," said Olmert on Tuesday. "I am convinced that the reality that emerged in our region in 1967 will change significantly. I know this. Many of my people know this. We are prepared for it."


Continued (Permanent Link)

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Who said what at Annapolis and what does it mean?

Note - The author asserts:
"As major general (res.) Giora Eyland commented in his article in Yediot Ahronot: "Experience shows that negotiations can lead to worse situations", and concluded, "Israel has clearly given up the principle of refusing to discuss the permanent settlement before it sees a solution to the security problems … what have we received in exchange exactly?""
But Ehud Olmert said in an interview that this is not the case:
During an interview with Israeli journalists in Washington, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said: ''No concessions will be discussed until the conditions laid down by the road map are met. This was recalled very clearly in the joint statement signed last night. The Palestinians, ande the Americans, are aware of this''.  (Guysen.International.News)
Ami Isseroff

And thanks to Egypt!
The Arab states are concerned over fundamentalism at home—not when they are anywhere else, and especially not in Israel
Zalman Shoval (11/26/2007)

The writer is a former Knesset member and Israeli ambassador to Washington and is a member of the Likud movement.
The article was published in the press and appears here with the author's kind permission
Perhaps we should be grateful to Egypt for letting some 80 Hamas members and activists from other terrorist groups, including some trained in Iran, to cross the border (on Egyptian buses) into Gaza. Grateful for what?. For the fact that Cairo has given us a stark reminder of how things really are in the Middle East and what Israel's attitude to the terms "peace" and "agreements" with the Arab world should be.
One thing that this should teach us straight away concerns the idea that the fears of the "moderate" Arab states'—Egypt, Saudi Arabia, etc.—regarding Islamic fundamentalism makes them a natural ally of Israel. This is simply not true; although they are very worried about fundamentalism in their own back yard, they are not bothered when Islamic fundamentalists are in somebody else's country, especially if it is Israel. In other words, these countries only oppose Islamic fundamentalism (and isn't Saudi Wahabism fundamentalist?) if it threatens their own security and political rule. And what lies behind the latest deal between Egypt and Hamas? When Egypt wanted Hamas to hand over a wanted al-Qaeda operative it had no qualms about helping the Islamicist Palestinians wanted by Israel to return to the Gaza Strip.
This is no isolated incident and it was preceded by massive arms transfers from Egypt to Gaza with the purpose of arming and equipping the Hamas army that is taking shape there. Even without active cooperation between the Egyptian authorities and Hamas they are unquestionably treat these activities with calculated indifference.
But no less than these, the dirty business on the Gaza-Egypt border brings to mind the international summit at Annapolis and the offers Israel might be pushed to make. The government's "original sin" was deciding to be part of this circus that is about to take place in Annapolis. "We had no choice" they will say, "we couldn't ignore Secretary of State Rice's demands". Maybe. But even if that is so, Israeli diplomacy could have at least insisted as it did before the Madrid Summit, on being given a document of commitment or guarantees that would spare Jerusalem unpleasant surprises.
Foreign Ministry Livni was right on the button in her speech to the United Nations Assembly when she said that peace is made through direct bilateral negotiations—but how is that consistent with attending a forum in which Israel will find itself more or less isolated against all the members of the Arab League, the United Nations, the European Union, Russia…and America, one of whose motives for convening the summit is to lobby Saudi Arabia and the other Arab states to help save it from the Iraqi bog. Perhaps due to naiveté or inexperience the Secretary of Defense and her colleagues believed at first at least that involving the Arab states in the summit would not only link them in a practical way to the peace process but also help to moderate Palestinian demands.
Not surprisingly what has happened is the exact opposite: in their public statements and demands of Israel, the Arab leaders in fact have poured more oil on the fire of Palestinian extremism (which is why the American senate called on the State Department to pressure the Arab countries and chiefly the Saudis to assist in the peace effort—instead of sabotaging it).
And what about the Egypt-Hamas terrorist deal and the Annapolis summit? The first conclusion for anyone who does not wishes to appear blind is clear: apparently Israel and the rest of the world cannot trust the Arab states, including those that have signed or will in sign peace agreements with Israel, to fully and faithfully honor their commitments—with the exception perhaps of Jordan, which has a clear interest in enduring peace with Israel.
Another lesson: if anyone believes that some international force or another will guarantee our security they should ask themselves what happened to the European "monitors" supposedly monitoring the border crossings between Egypt and Gaza, which melted away as soon as Hamas took control of Gaza (the same way the UN soldiers disappeared from Sinai in 1967). Conclusion: only through its own strength and having defendable borders will Israel ensure a reasonable degree of security—and that of course applies to the Palestinian state that policy makers in Washington and Jerusalem talk about almost yearningly.
Apparently, the prime minister believes he can control the situation regardless of what is said and agreed at Annapolis. This is a dangerous delusion. As major general (res.) Giora Eyland commented in his article in Yediot Ahronot: "Experience shows that negotiations can lead to worse situations", and concluded, "Israel has clearly given up the principle of refusing to discuss the permanent settlement before it sees a solution to the security problems … what have we received in exchange exactly?"

Continued (Permanent Link)

What Annapolis might mean is anyone's guess

This sober analysis is as good as anyone's guess. The Annapolis summit is not a reason to become ecstatic, nor is it a reason for apocalyptic and Holocaustic predictions.
Ami Isseroff
INSS Bulletin

November 29, 2007 No. 37

Israelis and Palestinians after Annapolis

Mark A. Heller


According to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Israeli-Palestinian relations can be divided into two distinct historical phases: pre-Annapolis and post-Annapolis. The last few weeks of the pre-Annapolis period were marked by frenzy of speculation about what the meeting was intended to produce and what its chances of success were. Most of this speculation rested on a very weak foundation of fact, but analysts frustrated by the fog of pre-meeting uncertainty could at least console themselves with the hope that it would soon dissipate and be replaced by post-meeting clarity. That hope has been realized only to a very small degree.

A case can be made that Annapolis has launched a serious process of conflict management. Israel and the Palestinians have recommitted themselves to the Road Map, enunciated in 2003 and essentially ignored since then, and agreed to the establishment of an American-Israeli-Palestinian mechanism to monitor its implementation, thereby improving the chances that the obligations of the two sides will actually be carried out. Moreover, regional and international participation in Annapolis signifies broader support for efforts to help build Palestinian institutions, code words for money and other forms of assistance intended to strengthen Abbas in his competition with Hamas and to make him an authoritative and effective interlocutor for Israel. True, much ambiguity still attaches to these components of conflict management. For example, apart from the nomination of former NATO Commander General James Jones as American monitor and judge, there is no indication of precisely how the mechanism will function and what the consequences will be if Jones finds one side or the other delinquent in its undertakings. Moreover, there are not even clear-cut criteria for determining what constitutes failure to fulfill a commitment. Judgments about a halt in Israeli settlement construction can be based on empirical evidence (though there is considerable controversy about an exception for "natural growth" in existing settlements), but judgments about what constitutes good-faith Palestinian efforts to halt incitement and prevent terrorism are inevitably subjective and will be colored by political calculations, including those of the United States. Similarly, more funds may be raised at another donor conference and technical assistance and advice may be offered by Tony Blair on behalf of the Quartet, but Annapolis provides no new guidance on the most critical element in improving the performance of Palestinian government and security organs – the contribution of the Palestinian Authority itself. Notwithstanding these lacunae, however, the promise of more effective support structures for stabilization and institution-building is a noteworthy outcome of Annapolis, particularly against the backdrop of failure even to manage conflict over the past few years.

It is, however, much less clear that Annapolis has also launched a genuine process of conflict resolution. Although the parties have agreed to begin sustained negotiations in mid-December, nothing that happened at the Annapolis gives any indication of how the substantive gaps on core issues – especially borders, refugees, and Jerusalem -- might be overcome. In fact, the joint statement of understanding failed even to specify those issues by name, presumably to avoid aggravating political sensitivities and threatening the survival of the ruling coalition in Israel. That fact points to the first major obstacle that hovered in the background of the conference: domestic politics on both sides. Even before he left for Annapolis, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert confronted threats of defection by coalition partners if he agreed to concessions on these issues (or even to discuss some of them), and that reality will continue to influence his negotiating posture. Abbas is, if anything, in an even more precarious position since he has already lost Gaza to Hamas and faces widespread opposition in the West Bank, as well, to any peace of any sort with Israel (opposition which is contained, in large part, by Israel's military presence). That opposition was given vivid expression in the mass demonstrations against his participation in the conference, which may well be merely a foretaste of the kinds of actions, including stepped-up terrorism, that Hamas and its foreign patrons are likely to attempt in order to ensure that the futility of Annapolis that they so confidently predicted is demonstrated beyond any doubt.

Perhaps this domestic political vulnerability also explains the failure of Annapolis to produce much in the way of conciliatory atmospherics. Although Olmert expressed his empathy for Palestinian suffering over the years, Abbas was unwilling or unable to reciprocate and confined himself to anodyne descriptions of the virtues of peace and the reiteration of long-standing Palestinian demands. The role of ambience in promoting the resolution of substantive conflicts may be exaggerated, but the nature of the exchange at Annapolis served as a reminder of how little atmospherics have contributed in previous negotiations and how much needs to change if they are to influence future negotiations differently.

Annapolis also served some other functions, including the reestablishment of American centrality in Middle Eastern diplomacy and the mobilization of a large grouping of states and organizations from which Iran was excluded and to which Syria tentatively adhered. In the context of ongoing efforts to organize a response to the Iranian-led challenge to regional and international order, these are not insignificant achievements, even if they prove to be transient. In fact, they may even be of greater strategic moment than progress on the Israeli-Palestinian track. But they are ancillary to what was ostensibly the focus of the conference: the promotion of a negotiated Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement. Unlike previous such efforts, this one did not even specify a deadline for the completion of negotiations, settling instead for a commitment to try to reach agreement by the end of 2008. That may reflect an acknowledgement of the logical absurdity of stipulating in advance how long negotiations will take. It certainly reflects a sober appreciation of how much still needs to be done and how little understanding there is of how to do it.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Why Israel needs peace

Ehud Olmert explains why Israel needs peace.
 PM to Haaretz: Talks will be tough, require patience
 Olmert: Two-state solution, or Israel is finished 
By Aluf Benn, David Landau, Barak Ravid and Shmuel Rosner,
Haaretz Correspondents and AP
WASHINGTON - "If the day comes when the two-state solution collapses, and we face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights (also for the Palestinians in the territories), then, as soon as that happens, the State of Israel is finished," Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told Haaretz Wednesday, the day the Annapolis conference ended in an agreement to try to reach a Mideast peace settlement by the end of 2008.
"The Jewish organizations, which were our power base in America, will be the first to come out against us," Olmert said, "because they will say they cannot support a state that does not support democracy and equal voting rights for all its residents."
Olmert pointed out that he had said similar things in an interview he gave four years ago, when he was deputy prime minister under Ariel Sharon, in which he revealed for the first time his proposal for a withdrawal from most of the occupied territories.

"Since then, I have systematically repeated those positions," he said, adding that people "will say I'm having problems and that's why I'm trying to do [a peace process], but the facts must be dealt with justly."
Olmert said the Annapolis conference "met more than we could have defined as the Israeli expectations, but that will not absolve us of the difficulties there will be in the negotiations, which will be difficult, complex, and will require a very great deal of patience and sophistication."
According to Olmert, "we now have a partner," in Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. "He is a weak partner, who is not capable, and, as Tony Blair says, has yet to formulate the tools and may not manage to do so. But it is my job to do everything so that he receives the tools, and to reach an understanding on the guidelines for an agreement. Annapolis is not a historic turning point, but it is a point that can be of assistance."
The prime minister said that Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni would continue to head up the Israeli negotiating team.
"There will also be people acting on my behalf, who will have a very significant role in this process, and the ones ultimately who will be in charge of this matter will be the leaders on both sides. That is why we announced that we will continue to meet regularly."
General James Jones, who was NATO Supreme Allied Commander in Europe until 2006, has been appointed the U.S.'s new security coordinator in the territories. According to a senior diplomatic source, Jones will determine whether Israel and the Palestinians have met their commitments in accordance with the "road map" plan, and will draw up security plans for transfering responsibility for additional Palestinian cities from the Israel Defense Forces to Abbas' forces.
On Wednesday, Olmert and Abbas met again separately with President George W. Bush, and later joined him, along with their chief negotiators, Livni and Ahmed Qurei, for a brief ceremony in the White House Rose Garden to inaugurate the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
"One thing I have assured both gentlemen is that the United States will be actively engaged in the process," Bush said. "We will use our power to help you as you come up with the necessary decisions to lay out a Palestinian state that will live side-by-side in peace with Israel." "Yesterday was an important day, and it was a hopeful beginning," Bush said with the leaders at his side. "No matter how important yesterday was, it's not nearly as important as tomorrow and the days beyond. I appreciate the commitment of these leaders, working hard to achieve peace. I wouldn't be standing here if I didn't believe that peace was possible, and they wouldn't be here either if they didn't think peace was possible." Unlike their three-way handshake on Tuesday, the leaders did not shake hands in the Rose Garden.
Olmert also met Wednesday with China's foreign minister, Yang Jiechi, and spoke by phone with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. He also briefed the cabinet members by phone.
Olmert departed the U.S. Wednesday night and will be arriving in Israel Thursday afternoon, in time for the Knesset's special session marking the 60th anniversary of the UN partition plan that called for the formation of a Jewish homeland.
Olmert's private conversation with Bush Wednesday centered on blocking the Iranian nuclear threat. Olmert told reporters Wednesday that "there is nowhere I encounter greater understanding for Israel's existential issues than in the Oval Office."
At a meeting earlier this week in Washington, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov informed Defense Minister Ehud Barak that Russia has decided to supply the nuclear fuel rods for Iran's Bushehr power plant.
The fuel will be sent to Iran in special packaging, in keeping with the instruction of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Lavrov told Barak, adding that "it is not so simple to open these packages without it being discovered."
Lavrov's announcement contradicts Russian President Vladimir Putin's promise, during his meeting with Olmert several weeks ago, not to supply the fuel for the reactor in Bushehr.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Peace is probably a mirage this time.

Oasis or Mirage? asks Tom Friedman. An old hand like him should not be carried away by wishful thinking. Saudis would not shake hands with Israelis, but that is just the tip of the iceberg. The Palestinians are still in the frame of mind where peace is victory and includes driving the Jews out of Jerusalem and allowing "refugees" to return. If Friedman can explain what is going to happen to Hamas though, he might start to convince me.

November 28, 2007
Op-Ed Columnist
Oasis or Mirage?

Annapolis, Md.
The Middle East is experiencing something we haven't seen in a long, long time: moderates getting their act together a little, taking tentative stands and pushing back on the bad guys. If all that sounds kind of, sort of, maybe, qualified, well ... it is. But in a region in which extremists go all the way and the moderates usually just go away, it's the first good news in years — an oasis in a desert of despair.
The only problem is that this tentative march of the moderates — which got a useful boost here with the Annapolis peace gathering — is driven largely by fear, not by any shared vision of a region where Sunni and Shiite, Arab and Jew, trade, interact, collaborate and compromise in the way that countries in Southeast Asia have learned to do for their mutual benefit.
So far, "this is the peace of the afraid," said Hisham Melhem, Washington bureau chief of Al Arabiya, a satellite news channel.
Fear can be a potent motivator. Fear of Al Qaeda running their lives finally got the Sunni tribes of Iraq to rise up against the pro-Al Qaeda Sunnis, even to the point of siding with the Americans. Fear of Shiite thugs in the Iranian-backed Mahdi Army has prompted many more Shiites in Iraq to side with the pro-U.S. Iraqi government and army. Fear of a Hamas takeover has driven Fatah into a tighter working relationship with Israel. And fear of spreading Iranian influence has all the Arab states — particularly Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan — working in even closer coordination with America and in tacit cooperation with Israel. Fear of Fatah collapsing, and of Israel inheriting responsibility for the West Bank's Palestinian population forever, has brought Israel back to Washington's negotiating table. Fear of isolation even brought Syria here.
But fear of predators can only take you so far. To build a durable peace, it takes a shared agenda, a willingness by moderates to work together to support one another and help each other beat back the extremists in each camp. It takes something that has been sorely lacking since the deaths of Anwar Sadat, Yitzhak Rabin and King Hussein: a certain moral courage to do something "surprising."
Since 2000, the only people who have surprised us are the bad guys. Each week they have surprised us with new ways and places to kill people. The moderates, by contrast, have been surprise-free — until the Sunni tribes in Iraq took on Al Qaeda. What I'll be looking for in the coming months is whether the moderates can surprise each other and surprise the extremists.
The Saudi foreign minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, announced even before he got to Annapolis that there would be no handshakes with any Israelis. Too bad. A handshake alone is not going to get Israel to give back the West Bank. But a surprising gesture of humanity, like a simple handshake from a Saudi leader to an Israeli leader, would actually go a long way toward convincing Israelis that there is something new here, that it's not just about the Arabs being afraid of Iran, but that they're actually willing to coexist with Israel. Ditto Israel. Why not surprise Palestinians with a generous gesture on prisoners or roadblocks? Has the stingy old way worked so well?
The Israeli-Palestinian peace process has been so starved of emotional content since the Rabin assassination that it has no connection to average people anymore. It's just words — a bunch of gobbledygook about "road maps." The Saudis are experts at telling America that it has to be more serious. Is it too much to ask the Saudis to make our job a little easier by shaking an Israeli leader's hand?
The other surprise we need to see is moderates going all the way. Moderates who are not willing to risk political suicide to achieve their ends are never going to defeat extremists who are willing to commit physical suicide.
The reason that Mr. Rabin and Mr. Sadat were so threatening to extremists is because they were moderates ready to go all the way — a rare breed. I understand that no leader today wants to stick his neck out. They have reason to be afraid, but they have no reason to believe they'll make history any other way.
President Bush said in opening the Annapolis conference that this was not the end of something, but a new beginning of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. You won't need a Middle East expert to explain to you whether it's working. If you just read the headlines in the coming months and your eyes glaze over, then, as the Israeli columnist Nahum Barnea put it to me, you'll know that Annapolis turned the ignition key "on a car with four flat tires."
But if you pick up the newspaper and see Arab and Israeli moderates doing things that surprise you, and you hear yourself exclaiming, "Wow, I've never seen that before!" you'll know we're going somewhere.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Catholic cardinal against Jewish self determination

 "Right of Return" would flood Israel with millions of Arabs.
Last update - 16:02 28/11/2007    
 Vatican cardinal: Palestinians have right to return to homeland
 By Reuters 
A senior Vatican cardinal said on Wednesday that all Palestinian refugees had a right to return to their homeland.
Cardinal Renato Martino, head of the Vatican department that formulates refugee policy, made the comment as U.S. President George W. Bush was set to revive long-stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks at a White House summit.
"Palestinian refugees, like all other refugees, have a right to right to return to their homeland," Martino said in response to a question about the 44-nation conference in Annapolis on Tuesday.
Martino did not make clear whether he meant refugees had a right to return to homes in what is now Israel or to an eventual Palestinian state.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas have
pledged to try to forge a peace treaty by the end of 2008 that would create a Palestinian state.
The issue of the return of Palestinian refugees, along with the status of Jerusalem, is one of the most sticky issues in a peace treaty.
There are some 4.5 million Palestinian refugees in camps in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Successive Israeli governments have made clear they will not accept the right of return of Palestinians who left homes in what is now Israel, saying it would threaten the country's existence.
Some ministers have said that some Palestinians might be allowed to settle in Israel on humanitarian grounds if a final peace settlement is reached.
The Vatican, which sent a delegation to Annapolis, supports a Palestinian homeland as well Israel's right to exist in security.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Off to a bad start, as usual

The Israeli-Palestinian peace process, take 2, is off to a bad start. There are different versions of how the joint Israeli-Palestinian statement was born, but this one seems right:
But the Israelis had a different version of what had happened: They said the Monday night talks with Erekat produced several agreements, but the next morning, the Palestinians changed their mind. That, said the Israelis, already had happened several times during talks on the declaration, but they were shocked that the Palestinians were doing it again at this late date and on such fundamental issues as a timetable for negotiations and reference to the road map peace plan. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who headed the Israeli team, lost her temper and told Qureia to "take it or get lost," the sources said.
The Palestinians did this many times before. Notably, in April 2000, they had agreed to a final status map, and then reneged on it a few days la
 Annapolis joint statement was completed with just minutes to spare
 By Avi Issacharoff and Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondents
The joint Israeli-Palestinian declaration issued at Annapolis on Tuesday was completed less than half an hour beforehand, Israeli and Palestinian sources told Haaretz.
According to the Palestinian sources, yet another round of Israeli-Palestinian talks on the document broke off at midnight on Monday with no results. At that point, Saeb Erekat replaced Ahmed Qureia, the head of the Palestinian negotiating team, and the talks resumed, but still no progress was made.
The next morning, after the parties already had landed in Annapolis, the talks continued. Finally, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice took Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas out of a three-way meeting with U.S. President George Bush and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and pressured him to approve the draft document, the sources said. Eventually, he did so, enabling Bush to read it to the conference.

The Israeli sources noted that Bush was clearly pushing for the document: At his three-way meeting with Abbas and Olmert Tuesday morning, they said, the first words out of his mouth were, "What's happening with the joint declaration?"
But the Israelis had a different version of what had happened: They said the Monday night talks with Erekat produced several agreements, but the next morning, the Palestinians changed their mind. That, said the Israelis, already had happened several times during talks on the declaration, but they were shocked that the Palestinians were doing it again at this late date and on such fundamental issues as a timetable for negotiations and reference to the road map peace plan. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who headed the Israeli team, lost her temper and told Qureia to "take it or get lost," the sources said.
As the difficulties mounted, there were also fierce arguments within the Israeli team: Livni very much wanted a joint declaration, but some members of the team said it was "a waste of time," and suggested she forget about it. Olmert, however, sided with Livni, and the Americans' determination tipped the scales.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Holocaust archives opened for the first time, a second time

Remember all those articles that claimed the Bad Arolsen archives were now open to the public? 60 years after the event, when none of the guilty parties can be punished, it was thought safe to allow everyone to know the truth, or so we thought. Now we learn that in fact, the treaty to allow access to the archives had not been ratified. For some strange reason, the Greek government had to give their opinion on the matter, and they have only now got around to doing it.
Don't hold your breath until these documents are made public - there are 50 million pages there. Someone has to do the research. Someone has to sort them all out.  
How about publishing at least the lists of names on the Web??
Ami Isseroff
 Last update - 13:02 28/11/2007       
States complete ratification of accord to open vast Nazi archive
By The Associated Press
The 11 countries that oversee a vast archive of Nazi documents and concentration camp records have completed the ratification of an accord to open its doors to the public, ending more than 60 years of secrecy, the Red Cross said Wednesday.
Greece was the last of the 11 to formally file its ratification papers with the German Foreign Ministry of the accord initialed in May 2006, clearing the most important hurdle for Holocaust survivors and researchers to access some 50 million pages of wartime documents.
The archive in Bad Arolsen, Germany, is administered by the International Tracing Service of the International Committee of the Red Cross and has been used exclusively to trace missing persons, reunite families and provide documentation to victims of Nazi persecution to support compensation claims.
The documents will give historians an intimate inside view of the Nazi machinery of oppression and death, and will let survivors and victims' families search for their own histories, as recorded by their tormentors.
"The ratification process is complete," Reto Meister, director of the Tracing Service, said by telephone from the Buchenwald concentration camp memorial.
Meister said a long list of academics and research organizations already have applied to begin work in the archive, which includes untapped documents of communications among Nazi officials, camp registrations, transportation lists, slave labor files and death lists that detail the mechanics of the Nazi torment.
"I am pleased that the archive of the International Tracing Service can now be opened for research," said Guenter Gloser, Germany's deputy foreign minister responsible for Europe. "I would like to invite all researchers to make use of this, and work through this dark chapter of German history."

Continued (Permanent Link)

The question of Gaza

According to Khaled Abu Toameh,  Analysis: Abbas won't be able to impose any deal on Gaza. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that problem, which was studiously avoided in the Annapolis happening. But Abu Toameh also tells us:

The Annapolis conference may have improved relations between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators, but it has also deepened divisions among the Palestinians. The negotiations that are expected to take place after the Annapolis meeting will only aggravate the crisis on the Palestinian arena, making it harder for Abbas to even consider the possibility of returning to the Gaza Strip.

He claims that Israel expects any deal to hold for the Gaza strip as well as the West Bank, but the Palestinian Authority, obviously, doesn't control the Gaza strip and it can't. What Toameh forgot is that the Palestinians want a state, and they will want a state in BOTH Gaza and the West Bank. So the Palestinians ALSO expect that the deal will hold for both Gaza and the West Bank. Toameh asks:

How will Abbas be able to implement any agreement in the Gaza Strip when he hardly has control over the West Bank?

And he answers:

There are three ways for Abbas and his Fatah faction to regain control over the Gaza Strip.

One way is if the public there revolts against Hamas and overthrows the government of Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh. The second is if Hamas voluntarily relinquishes control over the Gaza Strip and invites Fatah back to power.

The third way is to remove Hamas from power by force - something that Abbas's security forces and Fatah loyalists don't seem to be capable of doing, at least not in the short term.


But there is a fourth way, at least in theory.  Every poll shows that Fatah would win elections in Gaza today. If the West Bank prospers because of the peace deal, and Hamas continues to be Hamas, this sentiment will grow even stronger. If a peace deal is reached, the pressure to hold such elections will be enormous.

The catch is that the peace deal would have to be so good that even the Hamas could not very well oppose it. That means that Abbas would have to get right of return and all of East Jerusalem,  and Israel is not going to give up on either issue. Perhaps Abbas can create a third issue which he can then show as an achievement, such as insistence on release of all prisoners.

Ami Isseroff


Continued (Permanent Link)

Speeches of Ehud Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas at the Annapolis summit

See also: Joint Israeli-Palestinian Declaration, and its meaning
The full text of Olmert, Abbas' speeches at the Annapolis summit 
By Assaf Uni, Haaretz Correspondent and Haaretz Service  

The honorable president of the United States, George Bush, my colleague, president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, heads of delegations, and distinguished guests, I came here today from Jerusalem, Mr. President, at your invitation, to extend, on behalf of the people of Israel and the state of Israel, to the Palestinian people and to our neighboring Arab states, to extend a hand in peace, a hand which marks the beginning of historic reconciliation between us and you, the Palestinians, and all of the Arab nations.
I had many good reasons not to come here to this meeting. Memory of failures in the near and distant past weighed heavy upon us. The dreadful terrorism perpetrated by Palestinian terrorist organizations has affected thousands of Israeli citizens, has destroyed families and has tried to disrupt the lives of the citizens of Israel.
I witnessed this when I served as mayor of Jerusalem in days of bombings at cafes, on buses, and in recreational centers in Jerusalem, as well as in other cities in the state of Israel.
The ongoing shooting of Qassam rockets against tens of thousands of residents in the south of Israel, particularly in the city of Sderot, serves as a warning sign, one which we cannot overlook.
The absence of governmental institutions and effective law enforcement mechanisms, the role of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, the ongoing activity of murderous organizations throughout all the territories of the Palestinian Authority, the absence of a legal system that meets the basic criteria of democratic government, all of these are factors which deter us from moving forward too hastily.
I am not overlooking any of these obstacles which are liable to emerge along the way. I see them.
But I came here, despite the concerns and the doubts and the hesitations to say to you, President Mahmoud Abbas, and through you to your people, and to the entire Arab world, the time has come.
We no longer and you no longer have the privilege of adhering to dreams which are disconnected from the sufferings of our peoples, the hardships that they experience daily, and the burden of living under ongoing uncertainty, which offers no hope of change or of a better future.
We want peace. We demand an end to terror, an end to incitement and to hatred.
We are prepared to make a painful compromise, rife with risks, in order to realize these aspirations.
I came here today not in order to settle historical accounts between us and you about what caused the confrontations and the hatred, and what for many years has prevented a compromise, a settlement of peace.
I want to tell you from the bottom of my heart that I acknowledge the fact I know that alongside the constant suffering that many in Israel have experienced, because of our history, because of the wars, the terrorism and the hatred toward us, a suffering that has always been part of our lives in our land, your people, too, have suffered for many years; and there are some who still suffer.
Many Palestinians have been living for decades in camps, disconnected from the environment in which they grew up, wallowing in poverty, in neglect, alienation, bitterness, and a deep, unrelenting sense of humiliation.
I know that this pain and this humiliation are the deepest foundations which fomented the ethos of hatred toward us. We are not indifferent to this suffering. We are not oblivious to the tragedies that you have experienced.
I believe that, in the course of negotiations between us, we will find the right way, as part of an international effort, in which we will participate, to assist these Palestinians in finding a proper framework for their future, in the Palestinian state that will be established in the territories agreed upon between us.
Israel will be part of an international mechanism that will assist in finding a solution to this problem.
The negotiations between us will not take place here in Annapolis but rather in our home and in your home. These negotiations will be bilateral, direct, ongoing, and continuous, in an effort to complete the process in the course of 2008.
The negotiations will address all of the issues which we have thus far avoided dealing with.
We will do this directly, openly and courageously. We will not avoid any subject. We will deal with all the core issues.
I am convinced that the reality that emerged in our region in 1967 will change significantly.
This will be an extremely difficult process for many of us, but it is nevertheless inevitable. I know this. Many of my people know this. We are prepared for it.
In the course of the negotiations, we will use previous agreements as a point of departure. U.N. Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, the road map, and the letter of President Bush to the prime minister of Israel dated April 14, 2004.
When the negotiations are concluded, I believe that we shall be able to arrive at an agreement that will fulfill the vision expressed by President Bush: two states for two peoples, a peace-seeking Palestinian state, a viable, strong, democratic and terror-free state for the Palestinian people; and the state of Israel, Jewish and democratic, living in security and free from the threat of terrorism, the national home of the Jewish people.
Clearly the implementation of the agreement will be subject to the implementation of all obligations in the road map with all of its phases and according to its complete sequence, as concluded between us from the very beginning.
We will abide by all of our obligations, and so will you.
The agreement with you and its gradual implementation, cautiously and responsibly, is part of a much wider whole which will lead us, I believe and hope, to peace, to a peace agreement with all of the Arab states.
There isn't a single Arab state in the north, in the east or in the south with which we do not seek peace. There isn't a single Muslim state with which we do not want to establish diplomatic relations.
Anyone who wants to make peace with us, we say to them, from the bottom of our hearts (SPEAKING IN ARABIC) welcome.
I am pleased to see here in this hall representatives of Arab countries. Most of them do not have diplomatic relations with Israel. The time has come for you as well.
We cannot continue to stand by indefinitely and to watch the -- watch you standing and watching from the sidelines, watching the peace train, as it were, going by. The time has come to end the boycott, the alienation and the obliviousness toward the state of Israel. It does not help you and it hurts us.
I am familiar with the Arab peace initiative, which was born in Riyadh, affirmed in Beirut and recently reaffirmed by you in Riyadh.
I value this initiative, I acknowledge its importance, and I highly appreciate its contribution. I have no doubt that we will continue to refer to it in the course of the negotiations between us and the Palestinian leadership.
The Arab world represented here by many countries is a vital component in creating a new reality in the Middle East. The peace signed between Israel and Egypt, and subsequently between Israel and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is a solid foundation of stability and hope in our region.
This peace is an example and a model of the relations that we can build with Arab states. My close relations with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and with His Majesty King Abdullah II of Jordan are extremely significant for the process of building trust and understanding with the Arab states.
However, these relations, important though they may be, are not enough. We aspire for normalization with those Arab states which eschew as much as we do radical and fanatical fundamentalism and which seek to grant their citizens a more moderate, tolerant and prosperous world.
This is an interest that all of us share.
There is quite a lot that separates us. There are memories, there is a heritage, that do not emanate from the same historical roots. We have different ways of living, different customs. And the spontaneous emotional identification that you feel with our neighboring Arab countries, which have been trapped for a long time in this age-old, bloody conflict between us.
Nevertheless, there is also a great deal that we share. Like us, you know that religious fanaticism and national extremism are a perfect recipe for domestic instability, for violence, for bitterness and, ultimately, for the disintegration of the very foundations of coexistence based on tolerance and mutual acceptance.
We are a small country with a small population, but rich in good will and with a significant ability to create a partnership that will lead to prosperity, to growth, to economic development, and to stability for the entire region.
From here, from Annapolis, we can come forth with a message of a new political horizon, renewed hope, not only for the Palestinians and the Israelis but also, together with you, for the entire region.
Mr. President of the United States, my colleague Mahmoud Abbas, distinguished guests, almost two years ago, under very sad circumstances, the prime minister of Israel, Ariel Sharon, was no longer able to carry the heavy responsibility of leading the state of Israel and this responsibility was passed on to me, first as a result of formal procedures and subsequently on the basis of an election in Israel's democratic system of government.
Prior to my election, I stated that my heart's desire and the desire of my people was to achieve a peace agreement, first and foremost with the Palestinian people. This is what I believed then, and this is what I continue to believe in now, with all my heart.
The past two years have been difficult for all of us.
The hardships have not been alleviated. The terrorist organizations have not been weakened. The enemies of peace have not disappeared. And we are still anxiously awaiting the return of our missing and captive sons who are being held by terrorist organizations.
I long for the day when I can see Gilad, Eldad and Udi back with their families. And I will continue relentlessly in my efforts to achieve their release.
I believe that there is no path other than the path of peace. I believe that there is no just solution other than the solution of two national states for two peoples. I believe that there is no path that does not involve painful compromise for you, the Palestinians, and for us, the Israelis.
I would like to thank you, President of United States George Bush, an ally in the path of peace, for your willingness, for the preparedness of your government, your administration, and for the assistance of the secretary of state, Ms. Rice, to assist us in the historical process of peace and reconciliation between us and our neighbors. I believe that the time has come. We are ready.
I invite you, my friend, Mahmoud Abbas, and your people to join us in this long and tormenting and complex path for which there is no substitute.
Together, we shall start. Together, we shall arrive.
Thank you very much.

In the name of God, the compassionate, with great hope, but it is accompanied with great worry that this new opportunity might be lost.
But the meanings of your message are well known and they carry your personal bridge and commitment by your great country and its determination to embrace the Palestinian and Israeli peace and the Arab-Israeli peace to be converted in the arena of negotiations to be the first and foremost arena for making peace.
And that this initiative would culminate your term of office is an outstanding achievement which would add a new shining star in the skies of the world, the world of the future free of violence, oppression and bigotry.
And also we would like to applaud you, Mr. President, for choosing this charming city, Annapolis, as a venue for convening this international conference.
In addition to its beauty and distinctive location, it bears the symbol of freedom; the most sublime value in our life.
"Freedom" is the single word that stands for the future of the Palestinians and captures the meanings of all their generations. It is their sunshine and it is the life that inspires their future. It is the last word voiced by the martyrs and victims, and it is the lyric (ph) of their prisoners.
I must also pay tribute to the role played by Dr. Condoleezza Rice and her aides. For without here relentless resolve and determination and her vision vis-a-vis all aspects of conflict in our region, we would not have been convening here.
Dr. Rice took important strides with us in order to affirm that the path of peace is the only choice and it is irreversible. And that the path to negotiations for peace and to achieve peace is the right path.
It is important for me to indicate here that this distinguished participation and large participation from sister Arab and Islamic countries, the quartet, and the group of great industrial countries, and the permanent members of the Security Council of the United Nations, and many prominent European and Asian countries, as well as non-aligned countries and African states and from South America, in a unique conference in the history of the conflicts would provide impetus and protection, in addition to the fact that it carries the meanings of encouragement to pursue the path of Palestinian-Israeli peace negotiations and move that forward and the need to reach the solution of two states, based on ending occupation and the establishment of the state of Palestine side by side to the state of Israel, and the resolution of all issues relating to the Palestinian- Israeli conflict, Arab-Israeli conflict in all their aspects, as an indispensable qualitative step, so that comprehensive and normal peace relations would be established in our region.
I am proud that this Arab and Islamic contribution and this broad international that this Arab and Islamic contribution and this broad international participation in the work of this conference is a testimony to the fact that sister and friendly states are standing by us, the people of Palestine, as a leadership, and for our efforts to achieve peace.
It is a support of our approach that calls for a balanced historical settlement that would ensure peace and security for our independent state and for Israel, as well as for all countries in the region.
This Arab and Islamic participation in today's meeting is also an affirmation that the Arab peace initiative was not a step without well-defined targets, but indeed it was a bold strategic plan that aims changing the nature of relations in the region and to usher in a new era there.
But to achieve that does not depend on the Arab and Islamic position by itself, but requires meeting this position by a reciprocal strategic willingness that would basically lead to ending the occupation of all Palestinian occupied territories in 1967, including East Jerusalem, as well as the Syrian Golan and what remains of occupied from Lebanese territories, and to resolve all other issues relating to the conflict, especially the Palestinian refugees question in all its political, humanitarian, individual and common aspects, consistent with Resolution 194, as emphasized by the Arab peace initiative and the participation of sister states that host refugees and carry huge burdens in this regard.
I am not making an overstatement, Mr. President, if I say that our region stands at a crossroad that separates two historical phases, pre-Annapolis phase and post-Annapolis phase.
In other words, this extraordinary huge opportunity provided today by the Arab, Islamic and international position, and the overwhelming support from the public opinion in both the Palestinian and Israeli societies for the need to exploit the occasion of this conference that would launch the negotiating process and not to do away with the potential that it carries, I say that this opportunity might not be repeated. And if it were to be repeated, it might not enjoy the same unanimity and impetus.
Mr. President, what we are facing today is not just the challenge of peace, but we are facing a test of our credibility as a whole: the United States, members of the quartet, and all members of the international community, Israel, the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Palestinian Authority, the Arab and Islamic group, as well.
It is a test that would leave its indelible impact on the future of the region and on the relationship among its peoples and the international powers that are entrusted in the peace, stability of our region on the other hand.
We came with this perspective to Annapolis today. And, therefore, we do recognize the volume of this possibility that we are bearing and the gravity of the burden that we must shoulder.
We do recognize, and I presume that you share me this view, that the absence of hope and overwhelming despair would feed extremism. Therefore, we have a common duty to spread genuine hope in order to achieve full transformation toward complete peace (inaudible) and long term during your term of office, Mr. President, thanks to your support and understanding.
Tomorrow, we have to start comprehensive and deep negotiations on all issues of final status, including Jerusalem, refugees, borders, settlements, water and security and others.
We have to support this negotiating process in concrete and direct steps on the ground that would prove that we are moving in an irreversible path toward negotiated, comprehensive and full peace, and to ensure ending all settlement activities, including natural growth, and reopening closed Jerusalem institutions, removal of settlement outposts, removal of road blocks, and freedom of prisoners, and to facilitate our mission in the authority to enforce law and the rule of law.
Here, I must defend in all sincerity and candor, and without wavering, the right of our people to see a new dawn, without occupation, without settlement, without separation walls, without prisons where thousands of prisoners are detained, without assassinations, without siege, without barriers around villages and (inaudible).
I look forward, Mr. President, to see that our prisoners have been set free and returned to exercise their role in supporting peace and to stand by us in our mission to build our statehood and our homeland.
It is my duty to say that, to have peace, we need the fate of the city of Jerusalem to be a critical component in any peace accord that we might reach.
We need East Jerusalem to be our capital and to establish open relations with western Jerusalem, and to ensure for all the faithful from all religions their right to exercise their rituals and to access holy shrines without any discrimination and on the basis of international and humanitarian goals.
In this regard, I wish to emphasize that we shall pursue our obligations under the road map, in order to combat chaos, violence, terrorism, and to ensure security, order and the rule of law.
The government of the Palestinian National Authority works tirelessly and without any wavering under extremely conditions to achieve this noble goal that represents, first and foremost, a Palestinian national interest before it becomes a political requirement that is imposed by signed accords or the road map.
Our people distinguish completely between emphasis on the danger of terrorism and using it as a pretext to maintain the status quo and to pursue the current practices that we suffer from every day.
There must be a chance given to us to build our civilian security and economic institutions.
And the international community must sponsor this opportunity so that our authority and our government would fully fulfill their mandates.
I must emphasize that our determination to end occupation emanates from our vision that we would remove the most important reasons for terrorism in our region and worldwide without underestimating the need to fight terrorism under all circumstances and from any source. Because it is a comprehensive threat that threatens the future of every people and imperils human civilization, its gains and achievements, and brings dire consequences on all of us.
Here, I must applaud the tireless efforts undertaken by Mr. Tony Blair, who continues to work in order to build and enhance building Palestinian institutions and to complete great projects at the economic level in order to improve the living conditions and the terms of peace. And in that endeavor, he continues to submit very constructive ideas.
And I wish to pay tribute to the role of the European Union, Japan and our Arab brothers who made commitments to support these economic projects and building the future Palestinian state institutions.
Mr. President, I would like to take this opportunity to address the mind and conscience of every citizen in Israel from this rostrum.
I'm speaking on the basis for our recognition that, despite the importance of international and regional support for the success of the peace process, but the most determining factor for the making peace and stability and its sustainability at the end of the day is the public opinion in Palestine, Israel and their legitimate leaders.
I start by saying that, despite our disagreements on critical issues, but Prime Minister Ehud Olmert showed desire for peace that I have perceived during our bilateral discussions, and that genuinely contributed to reach this important step for which we are meeting today in order to launch.
Mr. Prime Minister, I wish that we, together, continue and closely work in order to achieve a historical mission that we have waited for too long.
Each one of us must pitch in our weight and experience and sense of resolve in order to overcome the obstacles that we will face and to close the gaps between our positions in a bid to achieve a solution that would end occupation and the long years of suffering of the refugees and ensure good neighbor relations, economic cooperation, humanitarian openness so that all of them would ensure guarantees for peace that are stronger than any documents, commitments or pledges, despite the importance of these all.
I say to the citizens of Israel, in this extraordinary day, you, our neighbors on this small land, neither us nor you are begging for peace from each other. It is a common interest for us and for you.
Peace and freedom is a right to us, in as much as peace and security is a right for you and for us.
Time has come for the cycle of blood, violence and occupation to come to an end. Time has come that both of us should look at the future with confidence and hope, and that this long-suffering land, which was called the land of love and peace, would not be worth of its own name.
Peace is not impossible to achieve if there was will and good faith and every party got its legitimate right.
Those who say that peace-making between us is impossible, actually does not need except to perpetuate this conflict toward the unknown, but it is, we all know, in other words, that continuation of bloodshed for many decades to come. After that, we would not reach the solution proposed today, all of which we know, all its components and elements. Or the ideal of peace would be killed in the hearts and minds.
Indeed, peace is possible but it requires our common efforts so that we could make it and preserve it.
And on this day we stretch our hands to you as equal partners in peace. The whole world is our witness and the world as a whole is supporting us.
Therefore, we should not lose this opportunity which might not be available once again. Let us make a peace with a brave (ph) and protect that peace in the interest of the future of our children and your children.
To our friends across the globe, members of the international quartet, and all participants in this conference, powers and states outside this conference who have been and continue to lend support for us, I say to all of you that our people will never, ever forget your support for it under all circumstances and under our most difficult times.
We look forward that your political presence will continue to be with us after this conference, in order to support Palestinian-Israeli negotiations with a view to reach the desired results.
We all hope that the work of this conference would be supported by the success of the Paris economic conference to be held after a few weeks.
The continuation and success of negotiations would be the real key to change the face of the entire region.
Allah, the Lord, said in the Koran, in the name of God, the compassionate, the merciful, all you who believe, enter into peace, all of you, don't follow the steps of Satan.
Satan is your obvious enemy."
The Lord also said, "If they move toward peace, then you should move to peace and have faith in the Lord, because God, the Lord, will listen and support that effort."
And on this occasion, may I record here, as we are here in the United States of America, the words of former United States President John F. Kennedy, who said, quote, "Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate," end of quotation.
To our Palestinian people, to all Palestinians in Gaza, Jerusalem, the West Bank, and in refugee camps and the diaspora, may I address these words?
I do recognize that each one of you has his or her personal pain, personal tragedy as a result of this conflict and as a result of the years of tragedy and occupation. These are very bitter years.
Don't be depressed, Don't lose confidence and hope, For the whole world today now is stretching its hand toward us in order to help us put an end to our tragedy, to our holocaust that has been running for too long, and to lift the historical injustice that our people suffer.
And we shall be ready as individuals and as a people to overcome pain and the tragedy when we reach a settlement that would ensure our rights, that would make us equal with all other peoples in the whole world: the right to independence and self-determination.
To the Palestinian mothers who are awaiting the return of their children from prisons, to the Palestinian children who are dreaming of a new life, a better future - more prosperous, more safe future, to our brave prisoners - my sisters, brothers, children - wherever you are, have confidence in the future and tomorrow, because future Palestine is coming, because this is the promise of the whole world to you.
Be confident that the dawn is coming.
To my people and relatives in the Gaza Strip, you are at the core of my heart. The hours of darkness will end in the face of your resolve and determination. For your insistence on the unity of our people in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as one geographical political unit without any divergence, your suffering will end. Right and peace will prevail.
May I close by recalling some words of Abraham Lincoln in one of the darkest moments of American history? Quote, "Let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations," end of quotation.
We started with peace and I end on a note of peace and we hope that peace would prevail. Peace be upon all of you

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Syria at Annapolis - big mistake?

Many of us see Syria's attendance at Annapolis as a victory for the United States. It draws them out of the orbit of Iran and forces them to admit that Washington is still the center of the Middle East diplomatic world. The price may be Lebanon, but the Lebanese government seems to be unviable anyhow.
What would I do if my foreign policy had the objectives below? I would offer a carrot and a stick:
1- Stick - Get Israel or another country to do an air-strike on Syria that proved to them that they have no effective air defence and are vulnerable. Make it obvious by implication what could come next.
2- Invite them to talk peace, and perhaps offer them something they are going to get anyhow, like Lebanon.
Barry Rubin has a different opinion.
Ami Isseroff 
Drilling a Hole in the Lifeboat
Barry Rubin
November 25, 2007
What would you do if your foreign policy agenda had these priorities:
Get Arab and European support for solving the Iraq crisis.
Mobilize Arab and European forces against a threat led by Iran and its allies, Syria, Hamas, and Hizballah.

Get Iran to stop its campaign to get nuclear weapons.

Reestablish American credibility toward friends and deterrence toward enemies.

Reduce the level of Israel-Palestinian conflict.

That pretty much describes the U.S. framework for dealing with the Middle East nowadays. The Annapolis conference is not going to contribute to these goals. The most likely outcome is either failure or a non-event portrayed as a victory because it took place at all. No one is going to say: We are so grateful at the United States becoming more active on Arab-Israeli issues that we are going to back its policy on other issues.
On the contrary, the conference is more likely to show the inability of the United States to produce results, thus undermining belief in U.S. leverage in the region in general. It shines the spotlight on the most divisive issue, the great excuse for not doing more to help U.S. efforts, raising its prominence. What most of Washington simply fails to understand is that any real demand for Palestinian or Arab concessions will be fodder for radical groups and frighten Arab regimes, pushing the latter away from support for America rather than toward it. And any Israeli concessions obtained by this process will not satisfy their demands either.
Despite thousands of claims by lots of famous people, national leaders, and respected journals, solving the Arab-Israeli conflict will not make radical Islamism or terrorism go away. Would you like to know why? Because even if this issue could be solved—which isn't about to happen for reasons requiring a different article—to do so would necessitate a compromise including an end to the conflict, acceptance of Israel, and compromises by the Arab side. These steps would inflame the extremists and make any Arab rulers who accepted it vulnerable to being called traitors. It would increase instability in the Arab world, also by removing the conflict as splendid excuse and basis for mobilizing support for the current rulers. Arab politicians understand this reality; most people in the West don't.
Such considerations are accurate analytically but the conference will take place any way. It has been reinterpreted by the U.S. government as the opening of a long-term process rather than its culmination. The analogy is to the Madrid meeting of 1991—which started a nine-year-long failed peace process—rather than to the Camp David summit of 2000, which marked its breakdown.
Given the fact that the meeting is going to take place, and one would like to see as little damage result as possible, what is the worst mistake that could be made to ensure that an already difficult situation becomes worse? Answer: invite Syria.
Let's remember a few things. The meeting was called to deal with the Palestinian issue. Bringing in the Syrian question is going to destroy that focus. Palestinian leaders know this to be true and no doubt are horrified by Damascus getting equal time.
But that's just the start of the problem. Run your eye back up the page to the five points listed as priorities for U.S. policy.
Iraq? Syria is the main sponsor of the terrorist insurgency. It has a deep interest in ensuring that no moderate, stable, pro-Western regime takes root in Syria.
The radical alliance? Syria is a leading factor in the problem, a partner with Iran for twenty years. Anyone who believes that Damascus can be split from Tehran understands nothing about the mutual benefits Syria gets from the alliance, far greater than anything the West could possibly give to its dictator President Bashar al-Asad.
Iranian nuclear? When Iran gets atomic weapons it will be a great day for Syria, ensuring its strategic protection, damaging Western influence, and helping the radical Islamist cause that Syria backs.  
American credibility? It undermines years of U.S. efforts to pressure Bashar away from radical adventurism. Syria can now show that it can kill Americans soldiers in Iraq, murder democratic Lebanese politicians, foment Hamas's takeover of the Gaza Strip, and sponsor Hizballah's effort to seize power in Lebanon without incurring any serious risk or cost.
On the contrary, Syria is now making demands on the United States for concessions in order to entice it to show up. This is happening at the very moment when plans for an international trial of Syrian leaders for political assassinations in Lebanon is gathering momentum, as Syria's campaign to install a puppet government in Beirut has just been foiled.   
Is the conference's purpose, however ill-conceived, to make progress on Arab-Israeli peace and strengthen the Palestinian Authority? Having Syria present lets in  the main Arab sponsor of Hamas, a state working tirelessly to throw out the current Palestinian leadership and raise the level of Arab-Israeli violence.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (GLORIA) Center His latest books are The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan) and The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley).

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Will Bush be remembered as the president who won the Iraq war?

Americans have managed to convince themselves, and others that the Iraq war is being won. It might be true, despite continued terror attacks. If it is, it will be a remarkable turnaround, and certainly a credit to the Bush admistration.
If the Iraq war turns out to be a success story however, Condoleeza Rice must get part of the credit. Everyone has forgotten the frosty attitude to America among European allies that prevailed when she became Secretary of State - and the frosty attitude to Israel. Israelis have quickly forgotten the unprecedent support that she organized for Israel during the Lebanon war - despite a very raucous chorus of critics. Israel had the support of the world community for once -- and we blew it. In part, we are now paying the price.
Ami Isseroff
Observation: Anticipated Success in Iraq is Bush legacy - Not Arab-Israeli Conflict

Dr. Aaron Lerner                   Date: 27 November 2007

Recent developments indicate that President Bush can very well expect that he will be able to point to inconvertible evidence of a victory in Iraq that vindicates the broad strokes of the policy he pursued despite all his critics and low popularity ratings.

Already today the very same leading American papers that gleefully engaged in Bush bashing over Iraq have found themselves running glowing reports of progress on the ground.  Developments that only recently would have been considered by many critics of America's presence in Iraq as impossible are now commonplace.

All other things being equal, Mr. Bush can expect to find himself spending the weeks leading up to the November 2008 elections appearing across America at the behest of Republican candidates hoping that his endorsement will assure their victory at the ballot box.

Secretary of State Rice has invested herself greatly in tying herself to the Arab-Israeli conflict.  Be it an incredibly shallow-confused take on the conflict (she seems to think that the situation of the Palestinians is comparable to that of the nonviolent movement of American Blacks who struggled against Jim Crow) or a sense that the Israelis are, ultimately, easy prey for American pressure, Rice's place in history (or lack thereof) is very much a function of what she manages to pull off between the Jews and the Arabs before the end of the term.

The conclusion?

In a way, it depends more on the Israelis as it does on Washington.

It isn't pleasant profoundly disappointing an American secretary of State - but it is hardly the same thing as doing the same to an American president.

Dr. Aaron Lerner, Director IMRA (Independent Media Review & Analysis)

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Monday, November 26, 2007

Olmert asserts Israeli right to self-determination on Jerusalem

"No representation without taxation could be Ehud Olmert's motto. He may have been justified in his anger that Jews in the United States are adamantly opposing division of Jerusalem. But he may not have been wise to be quite as outspoken about the issue as he was.
Nonetheless, it was disconcerting to see the U.S. "experts" insist that Foreign Minister Tzippy Livni is "insane" and that division of Jerusalem is equivalent to the Holocaust.
Ami Isseroff
Last update - 23:54 26/11/2007    
 Olmert: Israel, not U.S. Jews, will decide the future of Jerusalem
 By Shmuel Rosner, Haaretz Correspondent

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Monday unequivocally rejected assertions by U.S. Jewish sources of the right of Jews worldwide, and not just Israel, to determine Jerusalem's future.
The sources, including leaders of Jewish groups who have formed a new umbrella organization on the issue of Jerusalem, have said the question of dividing capital is not just an "Israeli" one, but a "Jewish" one as well.
Olmert told reporters that this issue had "been settled long ago," and that "Israel is sovereign to decide on subjects relating to Israel." He also stated that at this stage the question of Jerusalem's future is only a theoretical one, and that the issue is still not part of negotiations with the Palestinian Authority.
A number of Jewish American sources have united in an attempt to present a hard line on the subject in the run up to the Annapolis Middle East peace conference, and in response to rumors about future compromises on the city.
Many of these figures and groups are from the Orthodox Jewish community in the U.S.
One such organization founded to pursue this goal is the Coordination Council on Jerusalem, which is identified with Jewish-Republican circles. The umbrella group for the Orthodox community, the Orthodox Union, has also created a website to enlist people in "defending Jerusalem against division."
Following Israel's 2005 pullout from the Gaza Strip, the Orthodox Union decided in principle to break with its tradition of non-interference in controversial political issues in Israel. It announced that it will no longer hesitate before declaring positions opposing those of Israeli governments, when they find the need to do so.
The Orthodox Union released a statement in response to Olmert's remarks Monday, announcing that its activities on Jerusalem are not intended to "dictate" to Israel, but to express the determined position that every Jew in the world has a stake in "the holy city of Jerusalem," and that its division is a step that the Israeli government does not need to agree to [that's all Ha'aretz wrote - it is not a dangling preposition, as there was no period.]

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Hamas: Palestine is OURS all OURS

"The Land of Palestine ... is purely owned by the Palestinians," senior Hamas official Mahmoud Zahar said in a speech. "No person, group, government or generation has the right to give up one inch of it."
What sort of peace deal could Israel make with the Hamas??
Ami Isseroff
 Last update - 17:14 26/11/2007       
Hamas: Abbas has no right to give up one inch of Palestine
By News Agencies
Hours before the start of a U.S.-hosted Middle East peace conference, Gaza's Hamas rulers stepped up their attacks on Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, calling him a traitor and saying they would reject any decisions that come out of the international gathering.
"The Land of Palestine ... is purely owned by the Palestinians," senior Hamas official Mahmoud Zahar said in a speech. "No person, group, government or generation has the right to give up one inch of it."
"Anyone who stands in the face of resistance or fights it or cooperates with the occupation against it is a traitor," he added. He spoke at a conference, held in Gaza City, attended by some 2,000 activists from local militant groups opposed to the U.S. conference.
Hamas and other militant groups have been holding a series of protests this week against the U.S. peace conference, underscoring the challenges Abbas faces at home as he tries to make peace with Israel.
Hamas violently seized control of Gaza from Abbas' forces in June, leaving him in charge of a pro-Western government based in the West Bank. Abbas' lack of control over Gaza has raised questions about his ability to carry out any future peace deal.
While moving to bolster Abbas, Israel has stepped up pressure on Hamas since the Gaza takeover, carrying out numerous airstrikes and ground incursions to halt Palestinian militant attacks. On Monday, the Israel Defense Forces killed at least four Hamas militants in two separate incidents in the northern Gaza Strip.
Hamas' criticism of Abbas has grown increasingly heated - and personal - ahead of the Mideast conference. Ismail Haniyeh, prime minister of Gaza's Hamas government, was among a series of Hamas leaders to sign a document Monday stating that Abbas has no right to make concessions in peace talks.
"The people believe that this conference is fruitless and that any recommendations or commitments made in the conference that harm our rights will not be binding for our people," Haniyeh said. "It will be binding only for those who sign it."
A senior member of the militant movement Islamic Jihad, Mohammed al-Hindi, said at the gathering "we believe that with patience, we will change the rules of the game." ,
"Our jihad and sacrifice will bring us the great victory we are looking for," he added.
Al-Hindi said that the peace talks will promote "a false illusion of a Palestinian state" and that "such a state would be divided and surrounded by Israel and its task would be striking the resistance and protecting Israel."
"This conference is to announce the rise of the Palestinian people, who will not beg for their rights" from Bush, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, al-Hindi declared.
The U.S. summit was getting under way Monday in Washington, with U.S. President George W. Bush inviting the Israeli and Palestinian leaders to separate meetings at the White House before an opening dinner later in the day. The centerpiece of the gathering will be an all-day session Tuesday in Annapolis, Maryland, to be attended by representatives of 16 Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia and Syria.

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Ultra-Orthodox sex scandal

Haredi youth arrested for sexually assaulting siblings, neighbors 
By Jonathan Lis, Haaretz Correspondent 
Jerusalem police on Sunday arrested a Haredi youth on suspicion of sexually assaulting his sisters and his younger brother repeatedly over the past five years.
During his questioning, the youth admitted to assaulting a number of neighborhood youths in addition to his siblings. The assaults would typically consist of the suspect rubbing himself against his victims until he received sexual gratification.
Most of the assaults reportedly took place in the suspect's home and police made the arrest after they received an anonymous tip.
The suspect told police that he carried out the attacks because he was the victim of sexual assault at the hands of rabbis in the yeshivas where he studied.
Investigations are ongoing and police are looking for additional victims of the suspect who will be brought before a remand hearing in Jerusalem on Monday.

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Bernard Lewis on Annapolis

Have the Arabs finally decided to accept the existence of Israel? - 
On the Jewish Question
November 26, 2007  Wall Street Journal

Herewith some thoughts about tomorrow's Annapolis peace conference, and the larger problem of how to approach the Israel-Palestine conflict. The first question (one might think it is obvious but apparently not) is, "What is the conflict about?" There are basically two possibilities: that it is about the size of Israel, or about its existence.

If the issue is about the size of Israel, then we have a straightforward border problem, like Alsace-Lorraine or Texas. That is to say, not easy, but possible to solve in the long run, and to live with in the meantime.

If, on the other hand, the issue is the existence of Israel, then clearly it is insoluble by negotiation. There is no compromise position between existing and not existing, and no conceivable government of Israel is going to negotiate on whether that country should or should not exist.

PLO and other Palestinian spokesmen have, from time to time, given formal indications of recognition of Israel in their diplomatic discourse in foreign languages. But that's not the message delivered at home in Arabic, in everything from primary school textbooks to political speeches and religious sermons. Here the terms used in Arabic denote, not the end of hostilities, but an armistice or truce, until such time that the war against Israel can be resumed with better prospects for success. Without genuine acceptance of Israel's right to exist as a Jewish State, as the more than 20 members of the Arab League exist as Arab States, or the much larger number of members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference exist as Islamic states, peace cannot be negotiated.

A good example of how this problem affects negotiation is the much-discussed refugee question. During the fighting in 1947-1948, about three-fourths of a million Arabs fled or were driven (both are true in different places) from Israel and found refuge in the neighboring Arab countries. In the same period and after, a slightly greater number of Jews fled or were driven from Arab countries, first from the Arab-controlled part of mandatory Palestine (where not a single Jew was permitted to remain), then from the Arab countries where they and their ancestors had lived for centuries, or in some places for millennia. Most Jewish refugees found their way to Israel.

What happened was thus, in effect, an exchange of populations not unlike that which took place in the Indian subcontinent in the previous year, when British India was split into India and Pakistan. Millions of refugees fled or were driven both ways -- Hindus and others from Pakistan to India, Muslims from India to Pakistan. Another example was Eastern Europe at the end of World War II, when the Soviets annexed a large piece of eastern Poland and compensated the Poles with a slice of eastern Germany. This too led to a massive refugee movement -- Poles fled or were driven from the Soviet Union into Poland, Germans fled or were driven from Poland into Germany.

The Poles and the Germans, the Hindus and the Muslims, the Jewish refugees from Arab lands, all were resettled in their new homes and accorded the normal rights of citizenship. More remarkably, this was done without international aid. The one exception was the Palestinian Arabs in neighboring Arab countries.

The government of Jordan granted Palestinian Arabs a form of citizenship, but kept them in refugee camps. In the other Arab countries, they were and remained stateless aliens without rights or opportunities, maintained by U.N. funding. Paradoxically, if a Palestinian fled to Britain or America, he was eligible for naturalization after five years, and his locally-born children were citizens by birth. If he went to Syria, Lebanon or Iraq, he and his descendants remained stateless, now entering the fourth or fifth generation.

The reason for this has been stated by various Arab spokesmen. It is the need to preserve the Palestinians as a separate entity until the time when they will return and reclaim the whole of Palestine; that is to say, all of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and Israel. The demand for the "return" of the refugees, in other words, means the destruction of Israel. This is highly unlikely to be approved by any Israeli government.

There are signs of change in some Arab circles, of a willingness to accept Israel and even to see the possibility of a positive Israeli contribution to the public life of the region. But such opinions are only furtively expressed. Sometimes, those who dare to express them are jailed or worse. These opinions have as yet little or no impact on the leadership.

Which brings us back to the Annapolis summit. If the issue is not the size of Israel, but its existence, negotiations are foredoomed. And in light of the past record, it is clear that is and will remain the issue, until the Arab leadership either achieves or renounces its purpose -- to destroy Israel. Both seem equally unlikely for the time being.

Mr. Lewis, professor emeritus at Princeton, is the author, most recently, of "From Babel to Dragomans: Interpreting the Middle East" (Oxford University Press, 2004).

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A view of the Annapolis summit

I also agree that Syria must be watched. In Annapolis, the US is probably trading Lebanon for Iraq, and that is why the Syrians went to Annapolis. The Status quo cannot continue because the Hamas are getting stronger each day, and Israel does not have a way to eliminate them that would meet with the approval of the international community. The problem is not how many casualties will be incurred so much as the fact that these casualties will die for nothing - the result would not be permanent.
Ami Isseroff

Another view from the left

By Ted Belman

Shira Herzog talked to my social group tonight and I wanted to report what she had to say. Shira is the grand daughter of Chaim Herzog. She is exceptionally intelligent, knowledgeable and connected in Israel. She is a recognized pundit and journalist in Canada and Israel. She is also on the left.

1. The agenda for Annapolis kept changing and in the process got watered down almost to insignificance. It now heralds the beginning of negotiations only. [And here I thought that the parties had been negotiating for months.

4. For her, ending the occupation is a good thing. In addition Israel would get international recognition and would be able to trade with many Arab countries as a result. She said the Emirates are anxious to trade with Israel.

5. The Arabs can bluster all they like but she feels the end deal will be fence with exchanges of territory, demilitarization, and the division of Jerusalem. She is quite happy to have security in the hands of the international community.

6. About 60,000 Jews would have to be moved. [I fear the number would be much higher.]

7. The IDF is reluctant to tackle Gaza for fear of casualties.

8. She agrees with Olmert that the status quo for Israel cannot continue. No reasons were given. She also cited the so-called demographic problem and when I advised her of the new study, she was aware of it but rejected its findings. So for her there is no alternative.

9. The real significance of Annapolis was that the Arab Foreign Ministers were going to be in attendance even if they won't shake the hands of their Israeli counterparts.

10. Syria is the thing to watch and I agree.... A peace deal with Syria would involve a peace deal with Lebanon as well. But this is too much to hope for at this time I believe.

Source: (and full article) Israpundit



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Iranian Report: Saudis say they will never recognize Israel

Iran's IRNA news service reports that:

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah discussed the latest regional and international developments by telephone Sunday evening.


Ahmadinejad warned that the Arab states need to remain vigilant for the plots and machinations of the Zionist enemy.

The Saudi king in the telephone contact asserted that they will never recognize Israel. He remarked that his country defends the rights of the Palestinians.
Remember - this is what the Iranians say that the Saudis said.

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Saudis need more expatriate workers

This is fairly peculiar, given that the Saudis have a high unemployment rate. Apparently it results from inability to find trained engineering personnel in Saudi Arabia on the one hand, and on the other, unwillingness of Saudis to take poor paying menial jobs.

Saudi demand for expat workers soars

by Wael Mahdi, Arabian Business, 22 November 2007

The Saudi Minister of Labour said that Egyptians, Bangladeshis, and Indians were the dominant nationalities for the workers visas issued in Ramadan. 22% of the visas issued were for Egyptians, followed by Bangladeshis with 19% and Indians with 15%.

Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Labour has said that it has issued 878,737 working visas in the first nine months of 2007 showing a 57% increase from a year earlier, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Wednesday.
The ministry, which uses the Islamic calendar, said that number of visas issued in the month of Ramadan (which started on Sept.12) for this year was 90,619 visas, signaling a 104% increase over the same month a year earlier.

The ministry said that 50% of the working visas issued in Ramadan were for engineering professions. Services professions came next with 25% present and all other professions shared the remaining 25%.

The figures reflect the high demand for engineers and technical professionals by Saudi companies which are executing multi billion infrastructure projects. The number of visas issued for civil engineers went up 28% compared to a year earlier, according to the labor ministry.

Saudi Arabia and other Gulf oil-rich countries are spending heavily on developing their infrastructures; however, companies are facing difficulties executing most of the infrastructure projects due to the limited availability of skilled labour in the Gulf.

According to International Data Corporation (IDC) figures for 2006, demand for networking skills in Saudi will exceed supply by 33% in 2009 and there will be a shortage of more than 33,900 skilled professionals.
Saudi Arabia will account for one third of the shortage in the Middle East region in 2009. UAE and Egypt will account for another one third of this shortage with a demand shortage of 19,000 IT skilled workers in each country.

IDC data estimated that the Middle East will fall short of providing 114,800 IT professionals to execute the region's infrastructure projects.

The Saudi Minister of Labour said that Egyptians, Bangladeshis, and Indians were the dominant nationalities for the workers visas issued in Ramadan. 22% of the visas issued were for Egyptians, followed by Bangladeshis with 19% and Indians with 15%.

Source: CNPublications


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Rights of Refugees - for peace with justice


Rectifying a Sixty-Year Historical Injustice
Declaration to Annapolis Participants -Issued November 26, 2007
Whereas, during the 20th century, up to one million Jews were displaced from North Africa, the Middle East and the Gulf region, from communities in which they and their ancestors have lived for over 2,500 years;
Whereas, on the eve of the 60th anniversary of the United Nations Partition Resolution of November 29, 1947, and the Annapolis Peace Conference, the displacement of Jews from Arab and Muslim countries has, for the past 60 years, been expunged from the Middle East peace and justice narrative;
Whereas, the United Nations must bear express responsibility for the distorted Middle East narrative as, since 1947, there have been 126 resolutions on Palestinian refugees with never any reference to, nor any expression of concern for, the plight of the 850,000 Jews displaced from Arab countries;
Whereas, the massive violations of the human rights of Jews in Arab and Muslim countries were the result of state-sanctioned repression and persecution, including Nuremberg-like laws, that resulted in denationalization, forced expulsions, illegal sequestration of property, arbitrary arrest and detention, torture and the like, as documented in the recently released Report entitled 'Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries: The Case for Rights and Redress';
Whereas, this pattern of state-sanctioned repression of Jews in the Arab and Muslim countries was the result of collusion by the League of Arab States to persecute its own Jewish populations, as set forth in the Report;
Whereas, in the interests of justice and equity, the voice of Jews displaced from Arab and Muslim countries must be heard at the upcoming Annapolis Peace Conference;
Whereas, no just, comprehensive and lasting Middle East peace can be reached without "a just settlement of the refugee problem" which must include - along with the question of Palestinian refugees - recognition of, and redress for, the uprooting and displacement of Jewish communities from Arab and Muslim countries.
Wherefore, Justice for Jews from Arab Countries declares:
That the time has come to rectify this historical injustice by restoring the plight and truth and justice of Jewish refugees from Arab and Muslim countries to the Middle East narrative from which they have been expunged and eclipsed these 60 years;

  • That remembrance, truth, justice and redress for Jews displaced from Arab and Muslim countries be pursued, as mandated under human rights and humanitarian law;

  • That in the interests of truth, justice and reconciliation, individual Arab and Muslim states, and the Arab League, must acknowledge their role and responsibility in the persecution and displacement of their Jewish populations;
    That in the interests of justice and equity, UN General Assembly resolutions include reference to Jewish refugees as well as Palestinian refugees;

  • That the UN Human Rights Council - the repository of rights and redress under human rights and humanitarian law - address, as it never has, the issue of Jewish as well as Palestinian refugees;
  • That pursuant to the principle of 'equal voice', the annual Nov. 29th commemoration, by the United Nations, of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People should be transformed into an International Day of Solidarity with all refugees created by the Israeli-Arab conflict, including Arabs, Jews, Christians and others;
  • That during the upcoming Annapolis Peace Conference, and during any and all discussions on the Middle East by the Quartet and others, any explicit reference to Palestinian refugees should include also an explicit reference to Jewish, Christian and other refugees from Arab and Islamic countries.

The exclusion and denial of rights and redress to Jewish refugees from Arab and Muslim countries will prejudice authentic negotiations between the parties and undermine the justice and legitimacy of any agreement.
Let there be no mistake about it. Where there is no remembrance, there is no truth; where there is no truth, there will be no justice; where there is no justice, there will be no reconciliation; and where there is no reconciliation, there will be no peace.

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Jerry Seinfeld in Israel

Jerry is a nice Jewish boy and one of ours. But apparently, his latest movie is a bit of a bomb. The TV series may have been one of a kind. It is the Damon Runyon of the Twenty First Century.
Last update - 09:16 26/11/2007       
Jerry Seinfeld banters with local reporters after meeting Olmert
By Ruta Kupfer and Nirit Anderman, Haaretz Correspondents
Politicians and comedians have a lot in common - they both want to be liked, comedian Jerry Seinfeld said to reporters of his meeting with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
Seinfeld, on a three-day visit to promote his new film, "Bee Movie," said he had visited many places in the world, but that people in Israel had a different look in their eye, and he liked it.
Nine years after his ground-breaking eponymous comedy series went off the air, he has created an animated film in which Seinfeld does the voice of a bee who does not want to come to terms with its fate. The movie is doing well at the box office, but has received mixed reviews.
Seinfeld looked at his audience of journalists with his typical smile, a little sarcastic, laughing with you and at you, his responses a bit biting.
When asked at the end of the press conference whether he liked honey, he shot back a question: Whether the journalist was sure he wanted that to be his last, meaningful question.
Seinfeld said his trip this time was different than when he was a volunteer on Kibbutz Sa'ar 37 years ago because then, nobody wanted to meet him.

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Settlers to evict settlers

This speaks for itself.
Last update - 11:05 26/11/2007    
 Ariel settler-city to evict Gaza settlement evacuees next year 

 By Haaretz Service 
The municipality of the settlement-city of Ariel plans to evict from temporary caravan homes a number of former residents of the evacuated Gaza settlement of Netzarim, Mayor Ron Nahman said Monday.
The eviction is slated to take place in five months, Nahman told Army Radio.

The former Netzarim settlers said they had only recently succeeded in purchasing land on which to build permanent homes in Ariel, but were then notified by the Defense Ministry that as a result of a sweeping freeze on settlement activity announced ahead of this week's Annapolis conference, they would be unable for the time being to begin construction.
The freeze was also to include Israel's declaration of willingness to dismantle illegal West Bank settlement outposts.
In recent weeks, the United States has been demanding that Israel make significant gestures on settlements and outposts prior to the conference, to compensate for its refusal to discuss the "core issues" of a final-status agreement until after the conference ends. These gestures are meant to make it clear that Israel does not intend to remain in the territories, and understands that its presence there is only temporary.
According to the Israeli government sources, the Americans asked Israel whether it preferred to announce a settlement freeze or outpost evacuations. "Of the two, a settlement freeze is easier than evacuating the outposts, because this only involves a declaration, not a confrontation with settlers in the field," explained one.

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Some reasons Annpolis may succeed

By now everyone is deriding the pundits who said Annapolis would fail. But it hasn't brought peace. Perhaps influenced by the visit of Jerry Seinfeld to Israel, Bradley Burston lists reasons why Annapolics will succeed, half in jest.
 Nine reasons Annapolis will succeed 
By Bradley Burston, Haaretz Correspondent 
Seldom in the annals of tinsel diplomacy has a show garnered such devastating reviews long before its opening curtain.
Dismissed and derided from every quarter, laughed off as a lukewarm sham, the Annapolis peace summit has confounded many Middle East analysts merely by the prospect of its actually taking place.
It may be a ludicrous what-if to even contemplate the notion, but if the Annapolis summit actually amounts to more than a passing footnote in the history of this region, at least we'll know some of the reasons why.
1. The settlers expect it to fail.
The settlers, the canaries in the coal mine of the Israeli right, have not taken Annapolis seriously. They have waved it away as a desperate attempt by Olmert to divert attention from the myriad graft investigations which threaten him.
They ought to know better by now.
The settlers made precisely the same statements when Ariel Sharon first announced his plan for removing settlers and settlements from what the Gaza Strip. At the outset, the right as a whole failed to take Sharon seriously. This allowed the then-prime minister the opportunity to build crucial momentum for one of the most radical operations in Israel's long history of unlikely missions.
By the time the right mounted its dramatic, monumental counterattack, it was too late.
Now as then, the right is asleep at the switch. The fact that Avigdor Lieberman of Yisrael Beiteinu and Shas' Eli Yishai still occupy chairs at Olmert's cabinet table is but one of the indications. Had they taken Annapolis seriously, they would have brought down the government long ago.
The right, spearheaded by the settlers, remains Israel's most potent force for scuttling government initiatives. They have been lulled into inaction, however, by their conviction that a post-disengagement Gaza of Qassams and Hamas rule has turned the Israeli public tide against all prospect of land-for-peace formulas. For their own sake, they might consider that one Sadat-like gesture on the part of Israel's enemies could send tens of thousands of settlers to new homes closer to the Green Line.
2. Hamas expects it to fail.
If Hamas had truly taken Annapolis seriously, it would have seen to it that the conference would not have taken place at all. Not only through violence, but through a high-power pressure campaign to persuade the Palestinian public that Annapolis is a betrayal of Palestinian interests.
As it stands, if Palestinians succeed in carrying out a terrorist attack during the summit, this will further cement Hamas' international pariah status as a sponsor and contractor of terror.
3. Ehud Barak expects it to fail.
Here is a man whose diplomatic instincts have proven as consistently ill-fated as his political ones. His inability to read other people -- and other peoples, such as the Palestinians -- is a true disability.
Alternate version: Benjamin Netanyahu and Yossi Beilin have both suggested that going to Annapolis was a mistake.
4. All experts expect it to fail.
When Middle East experts all seem to agree, let the reader beware.
For months this, there was across-the-board agreement that a war would break out this summer. It became something of a given that a war was inevitable, so much so that the only debates swirled around when it would begin, how long would it last, if Tel Aviv would be within rocket range, and who would join forces against Israel. Thank God for just that sort of human error.
5. The intifada was a failure.
The ideological sea change of the Second Intifada was the creation of a kamikaze messianism among many young Palestinian hardliners, who came to believe that a one-state solution was imminent, and that the single state would be a Islamist-oriented Palestine.
More than seven years on, however, the Palestinian national movement is a rudderless ship, taking on water. Hamas, which surprised itself with an election victory, has been unable to demonstrate decisive leadership, and is blamed by many for excesses of power, the most troubling of which was its brief civil war with Fatah.
The time that had always seemed to be on the Palestinians' side, is now fast running out. If Palestinians fail to act soon to take advantage of proposals like the Arab peace initiative, the one-state solution may turn out to be a sovereign Israel and no sovereign Palestine.
If, however, Fatah and Hamas can act with wisdom, the neglect that Annapolis symbolizes may be leveraged into a new momentum for statehood, and a search for creative solutions to agonizing problems.
6. The disengagement from Gaza was a failure.
It is not a stretch to suggest that most Israeli parents of army-age children and most families of IDF reservists are grateful that Israel pulled out of Gaza. Hence the original popularity of the disengagement concept.
But a central failure of the disengagement lay in its attempt to solve Israel's demographic problem without engaging the Palestinians. The unilateral nature of the plan, executed without a peace agreement with the Palestinians, granted a tacit victory to Hamas and, in subsequent Qassam attacks, undermined the entire land-for-peace concept.
Any further attempts to effectively and safely separate Israelis and Palestinians into two states will need to be made in the context of direct negotiations, backed by international guarantors and the support of the two peoples involved.

7. No one really likes Iran
Even Iran's allies can't bring themselves to fully trust the Islamic Republic. In the Muslim world, the bad blood between Iran and a host of brother states is oceanic in scale.
One of the best ways to fight Iran, would be to move toward solutions to Israel's remaining states of war with its neighbors, the Palestinians, the Lebanese, and the Syrians. A solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would be a step toward isolating Iran, the premier outside agitator in the long war over the Holy Land.
The Saudis know this, the Gulf states know this, and if they can bring themselves to put their spiritual and material influence to open and good use, peace light just stand a chance.
8. Syria is not convinced Annapolis will fail.
Damascus' decision to take part in the conference surprised a number of experienced Syria hands. Syrian declarations during the conference bear close study, as to the possibility that the Assad government received something from Washington in return for their attendance.
9. George Bush is desperate
If time is slipping away for the Palestinians, Bush's meter is running much faster. If his legacy is to be anything other than failure in Iraq and failure in Katrina, he will need to score a foreign policy coup - if not a finished achievement, then at least a change in direction that may reach fruition in the next administration.
Bush's speech at Annapolis may therefore be the key to the perceived success or failure of the conference. Should he break new ground - for example, if he becomes the first American president to openly declare support for a divided Jerusalem as the capitals of both Israel and an independent Palestine - he will be staking a claim to a quite different place in history.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Bangladesh group lauds Israeli relief offer

Bangladesh Minority Lawyer's Association [BMLA] in a meeting of its Executive Committee on Sunday expressed its gratitude to the government and people of Israel for sending relief offer to Bangladesh in helping the cyclone affected people in the country.
BMLA, which also made amendments in its title now shall be known as Bangladesh Non-Muslim Lawyer's Association [BMLA].
Advocate Cyril Sikder, President of BMLA and its Secretary General Advocate Samarendra Nath Goswami issued a press release stating that Bangladesh should not only accept the Israeli offer for relief but also should establish relations between Dhaka and Jerusalem in order to open the new vista of cooperation between the nations.
BMLA mentioned Israel's recognition of Bangladesh as one of the first four countries right after the independence in 1971.
It may be mentioned here that, Bangladesh Non-Muslim Lawyer's Association [BMLA] has been supporting establishment of Dhaka-Jerusalem diplomatic ties since 2005. It has made Dr. Richard L Benkin and Weekly Blitz editor Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury as advisors of the organization.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Nuclear Iran - Prepare for the worst

Israel preparing for nuclear Iran
Roy Eitan
With intelligence experts saying Iran could acquire a nuclear arsenal as soon as 2009, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert secretly has been developing a "day after" plan for living with the reality of a nuclear Iran.
Published: 11/15/2007

JERUSALEM (JTA) -- Israeli government contractors for years have been discreetly digging a bunker network under Jerusalem to allow the nation's leaders to survive a future nuclear strike.
It's a worst-case scenario, but with Israeli intelligence experts saying Iran could acquire a nuclear arsenal as soon as 2009, the unthinkable has edged closer to reality for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's administration.
Olmert aides reportedly are quietly compiling a memorandum on how to deal with an atomic Iran, according to a Reuters report Thursday that cited political and defense sources. A senior official in the Prime Minister's Office denied the report, according to Israel Radio.
The news comes as the International Atomic Energy Commission, a U.N. nuclear watchdog, has issued findings censuring Iran for its lack of cooperation. Iran maintains its nuclear ambitions are for peaceful purposes, but Israel and most Western governments believe otherwise.
Now even the IAEA, which Olmert and others have blasted for downplaying the Iranian threat, says it cannot be certain the Iranians do not have a secret nuclear arms program.
The Olmert government's secret "day after" study focuses on the need to preserve Israel's military edge in the face of an Iranian bomb and shoring up Israel's public morale and economy in the face of the Iranian menace, according to the Reuters report.
An Israeli official with knowledge of strategic planning told JTA that for now, the government's priority regarding Iran's nuclear program remains preventive rather than reactive.
"First, we must make clear that this is a threat not just to Israel but to the wider world," said Ami Ayalon, a minister in Olmert's security Cabinet. "Second, we must exhaustively consider all preventive options. And third, we must anticipate the possibility of those options not working."
When he was prime minister, Menachem Begin famously pledged never to allow an enemy of the Jewish state to develop the means to destroy it. Olmert has reiterated that promise, but a grim realism may be taking hold behind Israel's tough rhetoric on Iran.
The idea of Israel idly watching Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a Holocaust denier who wants Israel "wiped off the map,"as he builds his nuclear weapons may seem incongruous with the Zionist spirit.
Under Begin, Israel bombed Iraq's main nuclear reactor in 1981, driving underground Saddam Hussein's premier program for building weapons of mass destruction.
With Israel's mysterious Sept. 6 airstrike on Syria this year, many believe that Olmert also deprived another regional foe of a reactor.
But Iran is no Saddam-era Iraq, nor does Tehran invite comparisons to the febrile Syria of Bashar Assad. Iran's nuclear facilities are numerous, well defended and approximately 700 miles from the Mediterranean.
Simply, they may be too tough to destroy even for Israel's venerable air force.
That leaves only the possibility of U.S. President Bush ordering preemptive action against Iran before he leaves office in January 2009.
"We got a leader in Iran who has announced that he wants to destroy Israel," Bush said last month. "If you're interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon."
Tactically, it would be possible for the U.S. military to carry out a strike against Iran despite its existing commitments in the region -- U.S. ground forces, not strategic Air Force bombers, are the ones overextended in Iraq.
Nevertheless, given Bush's major setbacks in Iraq, and with little support at home or abroad for another conflict in the oil-producing Persian Gulf region, the American leader would have to think twice about a preemptive attack on Iran.
Both Bush and Olmert have endorsed international efforts to curb Iran's nuclear program through diplomatic pressure. There have been two rounds of U.N. Security Council sanctions, and the major powers are due to meet next week to discuss a third round.
But Iran so far has shrugged off the measures, insisting it will press ahead with a project its officials define as peaceful but which Tehran is happy to hint could one day threaten the "Zionist entity."
"We are not after military technology," Iran's ISNA news agency quoted former chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani as saying.
Larijani said Western nations should "make friends with a country that has made progress and has necessary capabilities rather than fight with it because those capabilities could be used against enemies."
Some experts say Iran's suspected nuclear weapons program may be aimed not so much at destroying Israel but at significantly broadening Iran's influence and power in the region. The anxiety alone over Iran's suspected program already has earned Tehran expanded influence and, in some cases, admiration.
Israel's secret plan considers both the possibilities of living under the threat of a nuclear strike and repelling an actual attack.
For a country as tiny as Israel, there is no question that even a single nuclear strike could not be absorbed. Last year's Lebanon war, during which Israel suffered approximately 4,000 Hezbollah rocket strikes, showed the home front's limitations even under conventional attack.
So Israel must look to its defensive and offensive capabilities for fending off an Iranian missile salvo.
Israel already has the Arrow II, a missile-killer system designed to shoot down incoming Iranian Shihabs or Syrian Scuds. But military analysts say the Arrow may not be up to the task of knocking down a deluge of missiles.
Faced with such arguments, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak announced last month that in partnership with the Pentagon, a more advanced version of the system, Arrow III, was being developed.
The initiative, Barak said, "can prevent war because a country that has this system cannot be threatened by missiles."
Then there is the "second strike" defense — a Cold War doctrine under which a country deters a nuclear strike by preserving the capability to destroy its enemy even after sustaining a catastrophic atomic attack.
Israel's second-strike platform is widely believed to be its fleet of German-supplied Dolphin submarines. If the Dolphins carry nuclear missiles, as is assumed, in theory they could fire them at Iran no matter what happens on land. Iran knows this.
Israel has three Dolphins in operation, with another two on order from Germany.
Signaling the importance of its strategic sea assets, Israel in August appointed a former navy chief, retired Adm. Shaul Horev, to head its Atomic Energy Commission.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Oh ye of little faith: Syria coming to Annapolis

Skeptical pundits are confounded again, as Syria has accepted the USA invitation to the Annapolis peace conference.
The Bible says:
Israeli PM Levi Eshkol used to tell the story of the great sensation at the Biblical Zoo in Jerusalem. They had an exhibit: The Lion lies down with the lamb. People came from near and far to see this wonder. The zookeeper was interviewed and asked how this wonder was accomplished. "No problem. Every day, a different lamb."
Wait and see.
Israel radio noted that the word "Golan" was conspicuous by its absence from the Syria News Agency annoucement, reproduced below.
Ami Isseroff  
Syria Accepts United States Invitation to Attend Annapolis Conference after
including the Syrian Track on its Agenda

Sunday, November 25, 2007 - 06:05 PM

Damascus, (SANA - Syrian news agency) - An official media source stated on Sunday that the Syrian Arab Republic received an invitation from the government of the United States of America to participate in the Annapolis Peace Conference after including the Syrian track on the conference agenda in accordance with decisions of international laws and the Arab Peace Initiative.

The source added that Syria has accepted the invitation and will send an official delegation headed by Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal al-Miqdad.

H.Sabbagh, Mazen

Continued (Permanent Link)

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