Israel News | Zionism Israel Center | Zionism History | Zionism Definitions | ZioNation | Forum | Zionism FAQ | Maps| Edit

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Palestinians mourn deaths of Israeli soldiers, arrest suspects

Yes, this really happened!
Fayyad: We mourn deaths of Israeli soldiers
Palestinian prime minister meets with Israeli President Peres, expresses
sorrow over deadly shooting attack near Hebron on Friday, says PA security
forces have apprehended men suspected of involved in the attack
Atilla Somfalvi YNET Published: 12.29.07, 20:00 / Israel News

"We mourn the deaths of the two soldiers. Every death is a senseless one," Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said on Saturday evening in a meeting with President Shimon Peres in Herzliya.

"We are working to end the bloodshed, to create a better future," said Fayyad and extended his condolences to the families of Cpl. Ahikam Amihai and Sgt. David Ruben, two off-duty soldiers on a hiking trip who were killed in a shooting attack south of Hebron.

Fayyad announced that Palestinian security forces have already apprehended several suspects in connection to the attack. "These are not just empty words, there are actions behind them. We are working in conjunction with the Israeli security forces and we will see this matter through till the end," said the prime minister.

Peres stressed the importance of Fayyad's statements and praised the work being done by PA forces to combat terror in the West Bank.

During a survey of the PA's deployment in Nablus earlier in the day, Fayyad acknowledge that the attack had occurred on Palestinian territory. He vowed that the government would fulfill its commitment to rein in armed groups attacking Israel.

"Security is what Israelis view as most important; it is difficult for the public to understand why we are still being attacked after the withdrawal from Gaza. They are concerned that this will be the situation in the West Bank," said Peres.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Shalahuddin Shoaib Choudhury, Proud to be a Zionist

By Seth Mandel
Nov. 9, 2007
Our readers may remember our front-page article on him back in August. As a quick refresher, Choudhury is a Bangladeshi journalist who was arrested in 2003 for attempting to fly to Tel Aviv. But instead of the minor fine that would normally come with a "passport violation" in Bangladesh, Choudhury was imprisoned, beaten, tortured, starved, and deprived of medical attention for his broken bones and glaucoma.
The reason: Choudhury writes pro-Israel and pro-Jewish columns for his newspaper, The Weekly Blitz, and he speaks out against Islamism, violence, and corruption.
He was put on trial for treason, sedition, espionage, and blasphemy -- essentially for being a "Zionist spy." With the help of Dr. Richard L. Benkin, a Chicago-area analyst for a workers' compensation administrator, Choudhury's cause became public, though the Bangladeshi government has yet to fulfill its promise to drop the charges, and they are proceeding with the trial.
In the hopes that Choudhury will accept political asylum in the United States or Canada (among others), Bangladeshi authorities are granting him occasional travel permits. He won't accept asylum, however, no matter how often they try to get rid of him. He wants to fight the battles where they are, even if it means giving his life to do so.
Choudhury was back in the states at the end of October, and has been speaking about the dangers of ignoring Islamists and appeasing terrorists, as well as the right of the state of Israel to be a Jewish state.
Sometimes you can tell the character of a person by the company he keeps. At a Hudson Institute-sponsored luncheon at Manhattan's Four Seasons restaurant on Oct. 30, Choudhury was seated next to Elie Wiesel. Benkin -- a hero himself -- and Naomi Ragen were at another table, and people such as Dr. Alex Grobman, the president of the Institute for Contemporary Jewish Life, were seated around the room as well.
Grobman is the author of "Nations United: How the United Nations Undermines Israel and the West", and Choudhury -- the man everyone came to see -- addressed that subject immediately.
"The United Nations is a diaper -- it is too dirty, we need to dispose of it," he told the audience. He said it without a laugh, because he wasn't joking. Choudhury is as honest as they come, and his disdain for Islamists, terrorist apologists, and anti-Semites was obvious.
The thousands of Bangladeshi madrassas, he told the audience, are "giving birth to thousands and thousands of jihadists, and nobody cares."
When he started speaking out against what he saw as a perversion of Islam and of justice, he said, people called him an idiot.
"I am proud to be an idiot," is his response.
That's because the Islamists, who are teaching Muslims to hate Jews, Christians, and especially Israel, are perpetrating more than hate speech. In 2005, a madrassa teacher raped a 9-year-old girl. During the investigation, the madrassa faculty explained to police that the girl's family was Jewish, and the charges would offend their "religious sensibilities."
Choudhury's response to them: "If raping a 9-year-old girl has something to do with your religious sensibilities, you are worshiping a perverted god."
Because he dared to be an "idiot", that madrassa teacher is now in prison.
In another of many incidents, an Indian woman, who was an employee of Saudi Arabian Airlines, was sexually harassed by her Saudi co-workers. The Saudi government's response was to open their arms and invite the woman to join their royal harem.
But Choudhury covered the story, which was then picked up by the Indian press, and the woman is now free and receiving compensation.
What an "idiot", huh?
But maybe his greatest attribute of "idiocy" is his insistence on being a Muslim Zionist. He is adamant in his belief that Israel is the rightful homeland of the Jewish people, and he understands the danger Israelis face everyday surrounded by their Islamist neighbors, sworn to Israel's destruction.
And so he chides those would support giving Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a platform to spread his hate. He admonishes those who would blame American meddling or Israeli actions for the anti-Semitic and anti-West hate that fills the hearts of Islamists, and he castigates those who would deny that Western civilization is in the terrorists' crosshairs.
"You are not angry," he told the audience at the Four Seasons. "My brothers and sisters here, please become angry."
What would we say to Choudhury if he would pick up Tikkun magazine or the Ha'aretz newspaper and read about how important it is for us to give our enemies land when they try to destroy ours, or give our enemies guns when they shoot at our children, or give our enemies transportation when they blow up our buses, or give our enemies recognition when they deny our right to exist?
What could we say? Who would be the idiot then?
Netta Kohn Dror-Shav authored a 1998 policy paper for the Ariel Center for Policy Research titled "The Ultimate Enemy -- Jews Against Jews". In it, she explores several defense mechanisms through which Jews drift toward their enemies. Denial, she wrote, "leads to avoidance of recognizing the actual inherent dangers, and causes a virtual cognitive distortion of reality."
Basic lack of security, she wrote, causes many Israelis to grasp at any offer for peace, disregarding the enemy's conduct in favor of its temporary rhetoric.
Anxiety, Dror-Shav wrote, propels Jews toward "a resolution -- any resolution -- that puts an end to the uncertainty and thus serves to relieve the anxiety in some way."
Lack of confidence, dependency, passivity, guilt, the "good child complex" (the need for approval from everyone), and Jewish self-hatred are also categories Dror-Shav includes in her report. But the most striking one, in my opinion, was this: identification with the aggressor.
Identification with the aggressor is "pernicious", she wrote, because it causes us to abandon our own sense of self and identity, and instead live vicariously through our enemy's struggle because we project the righteousness of our own struggle onto our foe.
And what comes with our enemy's righteousness is the sinister character of those who still cling to the original Jewish struggle, in this case Zionism. Anything that gets in the way of our enemy's acceptance (those darned settlers!) and the subsequent security (come on, it's not like there are that many rockets falling on our heads) is considered, as Dror-Shav called it, "the ultimate 'enemy'."
Choudhury may call himself, in the words of his detractors, an "idiot", but he is clearly no fool. He sees the situation in the crystallized beauty of truth, without an ounce of psychological projection.
He wants to remain a thorn in the side of the Islamists, and he insists that his suffering has been "minor" -- though he must wear special dark glasses because his glaucoma went untreated for so long, and when his mother passed away while he was in prison in Dhaka, instead of letting him attend the funeral and say goodbye, they tortured him some more, calling him a "son of a b---- Israeli agent".
Yet, he calls Jews his brothers and sisters, he displays a shofar and the text of the Torah in his house, he signs his emails "shalom uvracha", and he dreams of going to Israel.
In fact, in August, Choudhury told me that although his passport stated that he was allowed to travel to any country except Israel, he found the idea simply ridiculous that after not giving in to the Islamists he would surrender to a piece of paper.
"I will visit Israel," he told me. "The passport is not the last word. I will visit. That is my dream; that has to be accomplished."
For now, he travels back to face those who want him dead -- and have the power to make that happen. But he doesn't tone down his rhetoric; he believes that Islamist terrorism isn't only Israel's problem, it is the world's. But Israel, he insists, is on the front lines, and we owe it to the world we are trying to heal to stand foursquare behind the Jewish state.
It might serve us well to have moments of such "idiocy."
"I say Israel is for the Jews," Choudhury said. "People call me a Zionist, and I am proud to be. What is wrong with that?"

Continued (Permanent Link)

Humanitarian Assistance: Palestinians try to smuggle 6.5 tons of Potassium Nitrate as EU aid

Maybe it really was "aid" provided by the EU. Who knows?
December 29th, 2007

6.5 Tons of Potassium Nitrate Used for Terror Discovered in Sugar Bags
Marked as EU Assistance

Now released for publication: In a joint IDF and ISA operation several weeks ago, a truck was caught at one of the crossing points in Judea and Samaria carrying approximately 6.5 tons of Potassium Nitrate. The Potassium Nitrate was disguised in sugar bags, and was intended for use by terrorists in the Gaza Strip.

Potassium Nitrate is a banned substance in the Gaza Strip and the Judea and Samaria region due to its use by terrorists for the manufacturing of explosives and Qassam rockets.

The terror organizations disguised the Potassium Nitrate in sugar bags that were marked as being part of the humanitarian aid provided by the European Union. This is another example of how the terror organizations exploit the humanitarian aid that is delivered to the Palestinian population in the Gaza Strip with Israel's approval.

Continued (Permanent Link)

A Roadmap for Free Lebanon in 2008/part 1

A Roadmap for Free Lebanon in 2008 (1)
By: Charles Jalkh/Freedom Fighter

When a nation is faced with open rebellion by at least a third of its people it has three basic choices; reach a settlement, quell the rebellion, or let go of the rebel territory. You can do this in war, or in peace, then live one more day hoping that you may be able to reunite the nation in the future if the people are willing .

In Lebanon today, Hezbollah dominates the Shiites constituency, or one third of the Lebanese people. It has erected its own state within our Lebanese state. It possesses its own more powerful army -with 30,000 missiles- which Israel failed to defeat, and many may be aimed at us. It conducts its own foreign policy and launches wars for which we must incur the cost without asking our opinion. It provides its own social services including education, health care, and financial assistance to its selective constituency while collecting central subsidies (protection money), paid by us.

It receives billions of dollars in foreign aid (from Iran/Syria) directly bypassing the Lebanese State legal and financial system. It conducts its own economic policy, manages its own business zones/entities, and has a gigantic land purchase program underway massively funded by Iran's oil dollars. Hezbollah has even built a complete infrastructure and has connected the areas under its control with its own road and telecommunication network totally independent of the Lebanese state network system.

Since the world powers seem unwilling to deal firmly with Hezbollah's patrons Syria and Iran, then Mr. Walid Jumblatt, a hero of the second Lebanese independence, is correct in stating that President Bush's verbal support to the Cedars Revolution "is not a currency that can be spent on the land of reality". In other words, March 14 cannot fully rely on the US, and is unwilling and unable to confront Hezbollah with forceful methods.

So going back to the choices a nation in rebellion has; we must re-assess, and confirm that since we are unable to reach an agreement with Hezbollah, and since we are unable and unwilling to defeat it militarily, we are therefore logically left with the third alternative, which is to part with it through partition. This solution will make hundreds of thousands of Hezbollah supporters happy for they would have achieved their Islamic Republic, their life aspirations.

It would also make the rest of the Lebanese happy, for we could then move forward with our own identity and future, formally detached from the Axis of Evil and sheltered from Israel's massive retaliations which remain a very real danger.

The Lebanese must understand that insisting on the 10452 klm2 Lebanon means assuming responsibility for it. We cannot complain again if Hezbollah launches another war and Israel retaliates massively again, there will not be a Paris 4 to help us in such case. The world powers must help Lebanon achieve a peaceful transition into two states, just as it has done in former Yugoslavia. It is good to pacify a portion of the disputed land, if you cannot pacify the whole.

One third of the people equitably means, 1/3 of the land, 1/3 of the Foreign Currency reserves in the central bank, 1/3 of the National debt. All army individuals would have the freedom to join either states. The two states should then maintain friendly and civilized relations due to family and land ties that may overlap the new borders. In some cases disconnected areas may be joined to their respective states via underground tunnel highways or train systems, such cross points could be easily engineered, but it would be nicest if we could travel over ground in the county of Mountains.

We Lebanese are creative enough to find solutions but we must avoid bloodshed at all cost. We should never wage war ever again on our own soil. Let us disagree and part in peace and continue to cooperate even after saying good bye. Let us peacefully create two new states out of the old and defunct one. Each answering to the national aspirations of its people. A Shiite Islamic Lebanese Republic named as such, and a Secular Democratic and Multi-Ethnic Free Lebanon state, grouping the Independence-oriented constituencies; the Druze, Sunnis, and Christians.

In Part 2 of this article, we will presents policy proposals for the new Free Lebanon state in a variety of areas including foreign policy, defense, economic, political parties/state reform, social, cultural, and human resources care policies.

A Golden Age is within our reach! All people deserve reaching their Promised Land.

December 30/07


Continued (Permanent Link)

Barry Rubin: How The News Is Made

Bad as this is, the idea that Israeli media are doing the same thing is really appalling. See  Israeli law and the media

How The News Is Made
Barry Rubin
December 26, 2007

Ring, ring, goes the telephone. And of course I answer it.

The voice on the other end says that he is "Joseph" of Reuters. I get many calls from journalists and wire services but never has someone I don't know introduced himself by first name only. Since he has an obvious Arabic accent it is quite clear that he thinks I am either so biased as to care what his family name is or so stupid not to guess why he isn't giving it.

So the effect is to achieve the exact opposite of what he wants. It puts me on my guard.

Next he tells me that he is doing a story on how Israel is strangling the Palestinian economy. In such circumstances, I have taken to arguing back with correspondents. By framing the story that way, I explain, Reuters is building in a bias. After all, the story should be: What's wrong with the Palestinian economy, how to fix it, and will the massive infusion of aid--$7.4 billion just promised for three years by mostly Western donors--help?

Aren't wire services, and the media in general, supposed to be somewhat balanced? They ask an open question, collect viewpoints, and let the reader conclude what the factors are, or at least wait until they have gathered some evidence. This is supposed to be especially true of wire services, which supply newspapers and other media with the basic facts on which they can build their own stories.

What is going on here, then, is not reporting but propaganda.

Clearly unnerved, he promises to quote me accurately. And he does keep that promise fully, sort of. But the outcome is quite predictable. And here is the dramatic headline that went out in the resulting story: "Analysis-Aid can't save Palestinian economy in Israeli grip."

No doubt is to be left that it is Israel's fault that the Palestinian economy is in shambles. And so pervasive is this evil that even the whole world cannot save them. So after that $7.4 billion is all gone with no result everyone will know who to blame, right?

Before continuing let's note the problem with this analysis on two levels. First, Israeli closures and control on movement are the result of Palestinian terrorist attacks, coupled with the unwillingness and inability of the two Palestinian governments (Palestinian Authority-Fatah in the West Bank and Hamas in the Gaza Strip) to stop them. No attacks; no closures.  And this is absolutely clear. If attacks were to stop, so would Israeli restrictions. But if Israel removed all roadblocks and closures, the attacks would continue. This makes obvious the principal, fundamental cause of the problem and what needs to change in order to fix it.

In other words: if Palestinian terrorism stops, Israeli restrictive measures will end and the Palestinian economy has a chance to develop.

But if Israeli restrictive measures end, Palestinian terrorism would continue and thus the Palestinian economy would not develop because Israel would put back on the restrictions eventually and also, of course, no one will invest in the middle of a war.

Is that clear and logical? Obviously, not for Western leaders and much of the news media.

Second, even if all Israeli action were to disappear, the Palestinian economy would still be in trouble. There are a number of reasons for this which are all well-known and were vividly seen in the 1990s, at a time when there was massive aid and a low level of Israeli security operations. These factors include: huge corruption which siphons off money; the lack of a clear legal framework for investment and commerce; the incompetence of the Palestinian regime; internal anarchy and violence by gangs with political cover; and an ongoing war against Israel.

Naturally, if you pump $7.8 billion over three years into a society of under 1.5 million people on the West Bank--around $1,600 a year for every individual person there--it is going to have a positive economic effect. Since current Palestinian per capita income is $1,200 a year it would more than double it. In 1992, the figure was around $2,000. This represents, for all practical purposes, an increase of 400 percent over the aid being supplied two years ago.

But most of the money is merely budget support for the Palestinian Authority, meaning it will pay salaries for the bloated government bureaucracy. At the end of that time the funds will be gone with no effect.

Yet the December 20, 2007, story by Reuters and two similar articles by the Associated Press (for my detailed analysis of the latter see simply omit all this information and put all the blame for problems on Israel.

In this case, though, slanting is not enough, however, and the Reuters report must stoop to outright dishonesty. It states:

"The $7.4 billion pledged exceeds the sum [Palestinian Prime Minister Salam]] Fayyad had asked for in his three-year economic plan, but is less than the $8.4 billion that the World Bank reckons Israeli curbs on movement have cost Palestinians in lost income over the past five years."

This is a lie and clearly a deliberate one. In fact, the World Bank annual reports are entitled "Intifada, Closures and Palestinian Economic Crisis." They make the very simple point that the intifada--an armed Palestinian war on Israel--leads to closures and thus the combination brings on a crisis. The reports are quite careful in pointing out all the factors that led to the Palestinian economic decline. They do not say the losses were strictly due to Israeli curbs on movement. On the contrary, the 2003 report for example, written at the height of the violence, says the closures and movement restrictions are pretty insignificant. (see it at This specific example of dishonesty matters because the approach we see here--predetermining the story, ignoring most of the factors involved, blaming Israel--sets a pattern for a whole raft-full of stories:

  • Why is there no peace? Israel doesn't give enough concessions. Often there is no mention of Palestinian hardline positions, behavior in not keeping commitment, terrorism as a key element in the failure to achieve peace. Most important of all, there is endless talk about what Israel can or should give for peace but far less about what the Palestinians must give: end of conflict, full recognition of Israel, return of refugees to a Palestinian state, a real end to incitement and terrorism.
  • Why is there suffering in Gaza? Israel's restrictions. Far less mention of Hamas hard line, openly genocidal stance, constant aid to terrorist attacks and rocket firing, refusal to meet even minimal international requirements.
  • Why are Palestinians, to quote the Reuters story, "Deprived of dignity"? No mention of a corrupt government and gangs of gunmen who couldn't care less about their well-being, and a strategy that starts unwinnable wars. It's all Israel's fault.

It is bad enough that this kind of coverage is shaping the way that many in the West see the Middle East. What is really horrible is that these articles are being deliberately written to do so.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal . 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) .


Continued (Permanent Link)

No more Al Aqsa Brigades?

Maybe it's true and maybe they are now the Al Quds brigades, or the Black September or the Red October or the White Christmas brigades. Or the Martyrs for Peace brigades.
As for the Al Aqsa brigades, they claim, that reports of their death are greatly exaggerrated:
"We will pursue Jihad and resistance until we liberate Palestine from the Zionists," the statement said.
What a liberating experience!
Ami Isseroff
Last update - 14:36 29/12/2007    
 PA Min. says gov't dismantles Al-Aqsa and other militant groups 
By Reuters 
The top Palestinian security official said on Saturday his government was dismantling militant groups, including those connected to President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah faction.
"There is no Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades any more," Yahya told Voice of Palestine radio, referring to Fatah's largest armed group.
The pledge by Interior Minister Abdel-Razak al-Yahya came one day after Palestinian militants killed two Israelis who were hiking near the West Bank city of Hebron. Two of the militants were also killed in an ensuing gunbattle.

Abbas and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert agreed at a U.S.-sponsored peace conference last month in Annapolis, Maryland to launch negotiations with the goal of reaching a statehood agreement by the end of 2008.
But Israel has said it will not implement any agreement until the Palestinians meet their obligations under the long-stalled "road map" peace plan to rein in militants in the West Bank and the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.
Hamas Islamists seized control of Gaza in June after routing Abbas's secular Fatah forces there, but Fatah still holds sway in the West Bank.
The Palestinians assert that they are meeting their security obligations in the West Bank by launching a security clampdown in some of the largest cities.
After speaking of the dismantling of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, Yahya said: "We wish they [other groups] will respond positively and follow al-Aqsa's example."
He said Abbas's Western-backed government has started "working to dismantle" other militant groups, though he did not spell out how that would be accomplished.
He stopped short of threatening to deploy his forces against those who resist the security clampdown, but he said: "We will impose law and order".
Western diplomats say Abbas's forces have taken serious steps in parts of the West Bank to impose law and order, and to crack down on Hamas militants.
But the diplomats questioned the government's ability to disarm Fatah militants on a larger scale, noting al-Aqsa's decentralised command and control structure.
A unit of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades in the Gaza Strip issued a statement in the Gaza Strip accusing Yahya of being a "collaborator" who follows "American and Zionist masters".
"We will pursue Jihad and resistance until we liberate Palestine from the Zionists," the statement said.

Continued (Permanent Link)

PA vows to find killers of Israeli soldiers in West Bank

A welcome change.
Last update - 11:55 29/12/2007    
 PA: We'll act decisively against Friday's killers 
By Amos Harel, Haaretz Correspondent and The Associated Press 
Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki on Saturday condemned the killing of two Israelis on Friday in the south Hebron Hills, saying the PA would take decisive steps against those responsible, Israel Radio reported.
Al-Malki added that the group behind the killing wishes to damage peace talks and the PA program to increase security within its territory, according to Israel Radio.
The victims of the drive-by shooting attack, named as David Rubin and Ahikam Amihai, were hiking in the area of the West Bank settlements of Talam and Adura with a female resident of Kiryat Arba when a group of four Palestinian terrorists opened fire on them from a Jeep.

Rubin and Amihai, who were soldiers on leave from the Israel Defense Forces, managed to return fire and reportedly killed one of the terrorists.
They later died from their wounds, while the woman who accompanied them managed to hide and was not harmed.
Palestinian sources stated Friday that IDF troops raided a hospital in Hebron searching for a gunman believed to have been wounded in the attack. The IDF has not confirmed the report.
Israel sent a letter of protest over the attack to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and to the president of the Security Council, Israel Radio reported Saturday.
Both Islamic Jihad and the armed wing of Fatah claimed responsibility for the shooting. Israel has recently killed several of Islamic Jihad's militants in the Gaza Strip, including some senior commanders.
Israeli envoy to the United Nations Dan Gillerman emphasized that the Palestinian Authority has still not proven its desire to fight terror, and that Islamic Jihad receives finance and cover from UN member states.
Both Rubin and Amihai were in elite units of the IDF, with Rubin serving as a sergeant in the Israeli Naval commandos and Amihai as a corporal in the Israel Air Force's equivalent unit.
The terrorists then escaped and the woman called the emergency center in Kiryat Arba. However, the rescue team had trouble locating her because she did not know their whereabouts.
Israel Defense Forces and paramedics were called in to help with the search, and managed to reach the bodies of the two men. The woman, who suffered from shock, was taken to a Kiryat Arba clinic nearby.
The group had threatened to retaliate for the Gaza attacks, saying the Israeli actions would "not go unpunished".
An Israel police spokesman called Friday's shooting a "terrorist attack" and said police and the army had searched the area for the attackers.
The shooting attack came hours after IDF troops killed a bodyguard of the Palestinian Authority's chief negotiatator, Ahmed Qureia,in Ramallah.
Also Friday, Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip fired a Qassam rocket at the western Negev. No injuries or damages were reported.
Amihai and Reuben will be laid to rest on Saturday evening. Their funeral procession is set to pass from Kiryat Arba to the military cemetery of Mount Herzl in Jerusalem.
Rubin is the son of Rabbi Mishael Rubin of Hebron and his brother is the acting rabbi of "Shavei Hebron" yeshiva in Beit Romano.
Amihai, who served in the elite Shayetet 13 Naval commandos unit, is the son of Rabbi Yehuda Amihai, head of the Land and Torah center that was formerly based in Kfar Darom in Gush Katif and was moved to Ashkelon after the disengagement in 2005.
Ahikam's mother Esther is the daughter of Rabbi Moshe Tzvi Nariya, known to many as "the father of the kippot srugot," referring to the knit skullcaps popular with the settler movement.
The Kiryat Arba council severely criticized the government following the attack. Zvi Katzover, head of the local council, said in response that "whoever lets off terrorists and supplies them with guns does not have to push the trigger in order to become an accomplice."
MK Uri Ariel (National Union-National Religious Party) added that the murder is "further proof of intensified terrorist attacks by Arabs, who take advantage of Israel's weakness and lenience." He stressed that the prime minister's recent declarations regarding the release of Palestinian prisoners and the freezing of building permits in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, were a "tail wind for terrorism."
The Almagor Terror Victims Association requested this week that the cabinet cancel its planned discussion on the easing of criteria for the release of prisoners. Instead, the association said in response to the murder that the cabinet should schedule a security discussion on replacing removed roadblocks and restrictions for Palestinian vehicles on central routes.
The chairman of the association, Meir Indor, said that the proposed discussion would "send out a clear message to the terrorist organizations that renewing terrorist attacks comes with a heavy price: in refusing to release prisoners and in hardening Israel's line regarding the Palestinians."
Last month, an Israeli resident of the Shavei Shomron community in the West Bank was shot and killed while driving to a nearby settlement by three Palestinians, members of the PA's security force.
The Fatah-affiliated Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade took responsibility for that attack. A statement from the group said the shooting came in protest of the upcoming Annapolis peace summit and the "crimes of Israel against the Palestinians."
In a separate incident on Friday, a number of casualties were reported in clashes between Palestinian clans in the same area.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Irena Sendler: A Polish "Schindler" lady

October 15, 2007
Meet Irena Sendler

October 15, 2007 - Irena Sendler. Are you familiar with the name? Most people may not be. However, by the end of this article, you will see that this is a woman who personifies courage, strength, honor, fortitude and love--traits that most of us, including myself, claim to possess, yet rarely exhibit--to an extent that is simply unfathomable. She is a true warrior; an authentic champion.

You see, Ms. Sendler, who celebrated her 97th birthday earlier this year, can lay claim to the primary role in a story that is as compelling as it is astonishing. As a young, Roman Catholic, Polish woman in 1942, Ms. Sendler defied torture and death at the hands of the Nazis in order to save the lives of 2,500 Jewish children in the Warsaw Ghetto. In so doing, she single-handedly rescued these children from death--a death that would have followed with 100% certainty--in the Nazi concentration camps of Europe.

In actuality, Ms. Sendler, at the time a social worker in Nazi-occupied Poland, began helping Jews prior to the establishment of the Warsaw Ghetto. As a member of the Zegota, an underground council facilitated to assist the Jews, Ms. Sendler took it upon herself to rescue children, since children, along with women, were almost certain to be put to death immediately upon entry into the Nazi death camps. Ms. Sendler, who is not Jewish, went as far as to don the "Star of David" whilst in the Warsaw Ghetto, so as to not draw attention to herself.

Faced with the reality of certain death if her mission became compromised, Ms. Sendler organized the smuggling of 2,500 Jewish children out of the Warsaw Ghetto and into the homes of sympathetic Polish families as well as Catholic convents and orphanages such as the Sisters of the Family of Mary and the Little Servant Sisters of the Immaculate Conception of Blessed Mary. In some cases, Ms. Sendler hand-carried children out of the ghetto herself. The children's identities were never lost. Ms. Sendler kept hidden lists in jars that tracked their original identities alongside their new identities.

Continued here: Meet Irena Sendler

Labels: ,

Continued (Permanent Link)

Friday, December 28, 2007

INSS: IAEA unreliable

INSS: No. 9 December 28, 2007

Can We Rely on the IAEA?

Ephraim Asculai

The November 15, 2007 International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report to its Board of Governors and to the Security Council produced two extreme reactions among those who are most concerned with Iran's nuclear project: dismay among those who foresee a possible Iranian nuclear weapon in the foreseeable future if nothing is done to block it, and joy among the Iranians who see themselves vindicated by this report. However, this report was not a surprise, since it continued a troublesome IAEA trend of diverting attention from the burning issues and concentrating on less relevant issues. By doing this, the IAEA gave Iran a chance to demonstrate cooperation without harming its progress on the central issue of uranium enrichment. Moreover, the report did not sound the alarm that should have brought a Security Council consensus on new international sanctions.

The report made its impact by almost totally ignoring the most important cause of concern – Iran's growing uranium enrichment capability – and choosing to concentrate on almost irrelevant past issues. It utilized these past issues to commend Iran on better transparency and cooperation than in the past. Only in the report's 40th paragraph (out of 44) did it mention that "contrary to the decisions of the Security Council, Iran has not suspended its enrichment related activities, having continued the operation of PFEP [Pilot Fuel (uranium) Enrichment Plant] and FEP [Fuel Enrichment Plant]. Iran has also continued the construction of the IR-40 [nuclear reactor] and operation of the Heavy Water Production Plant."

The purpose of the paper is to analyze the IAEA actions on the Iranian case that manifest the political bias of the organization's management as presented in its reports and in statements made by its Director General (DG). Five major problems are discussed, accompanied by suggestions on the possible means to counter this trend. The recent publication of the US NIE on Iran's nuclear intentions and capabilities does not change the validity of this analysis and recommendations. The "civil" Iranian uranium enrichment program continues unabated, according to both the IAEA and the NIE.

Problem I: Avoiding Indictment of Iran

a) As early as 2003, the IAEA safeguards activities uncovered many undeclared materials, facilities, and activities in Iran, but the determination of the degree of violation was left to the Board of Governors (BOG). This mode of operation was correct, since the IAEA Secretariat (headed by the DG) carries out only the technical work and leaves the political interpretation to the agency's Policy Making Organs, mainly the BOG. As time went on, the Secretariat uncovered more and more concealed activities and incriminating evidence until finally in November 2003 it reported to the BOG that Iran was in "breach" of its obligations under its safeguards agreement with the IAEA. Semantics played a role in the subsequent unfolding scene since the reports of the DG to his BOG refrained from indicting Iran for "non-compliance" with its safeguards obligations, a technical determination that would have mandated transferring the issue to the Security Council.

During the next two years and in spite of two suspension agreements, Iran went on with the construction of its enrichment facilities until, in the beginning of 2006, the issue was finally transferred by the BOG to the Security Council. Had this been done sooner, the IAEA could have been more effective in stopping the Iranian program.

b) In spite of much evidence that at least until 2003 pointed to the high probability (if not certainty) that Iran was bent on acquiring a military nuclear capability, and despite citing such evidence in his reports, the DG would not sound the alarm on this possibility. As late as November 2007, he said that he hasn't seen "any concrete evidence" of a secret Iranian weapons program. This is not strictly true. There are several such indicators reported by the IAEA: the documentation concerning the conversion of uranium hexafluoride into metal and then machining this into hemispheres – two of which constitute (if the uranium is of military grade enrichment) the core of a nuclear explosive device; the discovery of polonium and beryllium activities, which serve as a neutron initiator for a nuclear explosive device; high enriched uranium particles; and activities with explosives. These should have been enough at least to alarm the IAEA and prompt it to alarm others. Instead, it took a long time and much pressure for Iran to come up with some explanations that are probably false. If there were simple explanations of these facts, they should have been presented years ago. The combination of all indicators is sufficient cause for very deep concern.

Problem II: Misleading the International Community

a) This is a serious accusation, based on the fact that statements made by the IAEA led to unfounded optimism and avoidance of action. One example is a statement of the DG to the BOG in November 2007 that there was a "need to restore confidence in the peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear programme." How can one restore something that was never there?

b) However, there are even more serious issues than this example. One is the oft repeated statement that the IAEA can, under the Additional Protocol, provide assurances about "the absence of nuclear materials and activities." There is absolutely no way that such negative assurances can be provided. At most, the IAEA can state that it has not found any evidence to the contrary.

c) Beginning in 2005, the IAEA Secretariat began pursuing some "remaining" or "outstanding" issues, stating that unless they were cleared, "the Agency will remain unable to make further progress in its efforts to verify the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran…including through the implementation of the Additional Protocol." This implies that clearing them will verify the absence of undeclared material and activities, but these outstanding issues were mostly a diversion from the real issues.

Problem III: Misdirection – the Diversion of Attention

It is an acceptable tradition in international organizations to find something good to say about an inspected state even when it is not easy. In the case of Iran, the resolution of unimportant issues was the material to say that it cooperated. It was possible because the list of outstanding issues is a compendium of issues, some of which are historical and have little relevance to the present-day burning issues, and some of which are very important. By lumping them all together, it gives the opportunity to those who wish to commend Iran on its cooperation, which it certainly did on issues it deemed unimportant.

Actually, it is Iran who suggested this line of action by producing a document in August 2007 (which was distributed by the IAEA), according to which the work on resolving these issues was to be carried out. This document contained an apparent agreement between Iran and the IAEA. It is interesting to note the concluding general remarks of the document [emphases added]:

"1. These modalities cover all remaining issues and the Agency [IAEA] confirmed that there are no other remaining issues and ambiguities regarding Iran's past nuclear program and activities.

"2. The Agency agreed to provide Iran with all remaining questions according to the above work plan. This means that after receiving the questions, no other questions are left. Iran will provide the Agency with the required clarifications and information.

"3. The Agency's delegation is of the view that the agreement on the above issues shall further promote the efficiency of the implementation of safeguards in Iran and its ability to conclude the exclusive peaceful nature of the Iran's nuclear activities.

"4. The Agency has been able to verify the non-diversion of the declared nuclear materials at the enrichment facilities in Iran and has therefore concluded that it remains in peaceful use."

Since the IAEA has not published any corrections to this document, it has willingly put a lid on all possibly investigations of future findings. In accepting the wording of this document, the IAEA did in fact accept the prescription for "closing the Iran File."

The DG's November 2007 report to the BOG demonstrated the use to which this document was put. This report was written at the request of the Security Council and the BOG to verify the full suspension of the enrichment activities.

The IAEA answered the Security Council request to report on the suspension of activities not in the main body of the report but in a section relegated to the Summary, at the end of the report, in paragraph 40 (out of 44). It devoted the first and major part of the report to such items as chronology of answers to questions on enrichment machines and a long description of the history of fuel cycle facilities between 1972 and 1995. Then came a long history of the acquisition of P-1 centrifuge technology; then came the same history for P-2 technology. Only then, more than halfway down, came the more important issues that could be linked to nuclear weapons development. The very relevant report on the present situation in Iran came only after these, and this was the description of the progress of the enrichment program, from which the timeline for achieving the potential for nuclear weapons production could be deduced. A more reasonable editing would have put the present situation at the top, with the history relegated to an appendix.

As a matter of fact, the report does contain most of the important issues, such as the limitations on the inspections, several important issues that remain open, and the statement, in paragraph 43, that "Iran needs to continue to build confidence about the scope and nature of its present programme. Confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear programme requires that the Agency be able to provide assurances not only regarding declared nuclear material, but, equally important, regarding the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran." Once again, the IAEA cannot and will never be able to provide such assurances.

Problem IV: A Political Director General

One must commend the IAEA Department of Safeguards on its technical work, which is at present greatly hampered by the limitations of access imposed by Iran. As Iran progresses in its program, the inspectors will probably encounter more hardships and perhaps even be cut out if they get too close. The professionalism demonstrated by the technical staff is unfortunately diluted by the political considerations of the Agency's leadership.

The worst example of this is perhaps the DG's suggestion that Iran be permitted to develop a small scale enrichment capability, since it had already achieved the breakthrough it needed. One could hope that this utterance came out of ignorance. The suggested small scale could produce enough enriched uranium sufficient for one bomb a year. The Security Council realized this and demanded the complete suspension of all enrichment-related activities.

Notwithstanding the Security Council demands, this "small scale" program is proceeding unhindered. Is this not reason enough to sound a warning? It is not at all clear what prompted the DG to come out with a statement that Iran is still "at least a few years away'' from being able to build a nuclear bomb, implying there is no urgency. In fact, it is not clear what would be the evidence of a nuclear weapons development program that the DG is looking for, since the IAEA inspectors are only empowered to inspect the facilities declared by Iran that are related to the production of fissile materials.

In a public statement the DG also recommended that Iran should not be indicted for "technical" offenses (e.g., not declaring nuclear materials imports). Nowhere in the IAEA Statute and in the Safeguards Agreements is such behavior condoned. He also related the Iranian issue to other Middle East issues, which, as a political issue, is inappropriate for the head of a technical organization.

Problem V: The Integrity of the IAEA and the Future of the Non-proliferation Regime

The NPT and its safeguards regime are the mainstays of the nuclear non-proliferation regime. The collapse of this regime would have severe implications. Iran's acquisition of nuclear weapons could bring about such a collapse. The IAEA is commonly described in the media as the UN watchdog, but today this is somewhat of a misnomer. A watchdog barks at even a slight suspicion, which the Agency is reluctant to do. The IAEA failed in the past to detect and warn of nuclear weapons development programs in Iraq and Libya, to cite but two proven cases. The IAEA survived these cases. Yet given the amount of work invested in Iran, it is uncertain that it could survive another failure. The dissolution of trust in the safeguards regime could bring about the disintegration of the non-proliferation regime. The IAEA needs to be forceful; and it needs to enlist the support of the international community in forcing Iran to obey its requirements without giving it the option of sounding cooperative while proceeding undeterred in its nuclear program.


The timeline for Iran to achieve a potential for the production of a nuclear explosive device is getting short, and the current state of affairs cannot be permitted to go on. Once Iran started amassing a sufficient quantity of low enriched uranium (LEU), it would take a very short time, less than a year, after a decision was taken, to produce enough military-grade high enriched uranium (HEU) for a nuclear explosive device. Whether or not Iran is actually developing nuclear weapons at present is a secondary issue. The main issue today is its potential for doing so. Ignoring this potential is a prescription for failure.

As it seems the IAEA is unable to sound the warning that the time is running short, the Security Council should submit the issue to an independent international commission of technical experts who should conduct an independent investigation of the Iranian nuclear issue and come up with an estimate of the potential of Iran and the timeline for its potential development of nuclear weapons. The commission should be independent of the IAEA, but should be given all the technical data collected by that organization. It should present a reasonable worst case scenario with an estimate of the margins of error. It should then be empowered to continue its activities and publish bi-monthly reports on the progress of Iran. This commission should include experts on weapons development, a capability outside the IAEA terms of reference. The report must be devoid of any political judgments and inferences.

An additional task of this commission would be to oversee the inspectors' activities in Iran and to assist them in any possible way. The commission's report would then become the only one to be considered by the Security Council on the Iranian nuclear issue. There are precedents for the establishments of such commissions, UNSCOM and UNMOVIC, which were established to deal with the case of Iraq.

The policy of the government of Israel is not to take the lead in the international campaign against Iran's nuclear project. This is a well justified position for many reasons. However, by initiating activity aimed at preserving the technical capabilities of the IAEA Secretariat while moving the misused political power away from it, Israel may make an important contribution to the cause of non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. It does not seem that by pursuing this line of action Israel would measurably aggravate its already negative relationship with Iran. This suggestion also does not relieve the international community of the burden of dealing with this problem and transfer it to Israel, but it provides the international community with better tools to meet the challenge posed defiantly by Iran.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Israelis kill Central Gaza Islamic Jihad leader

Isn't the name "Islamic Jihad" somewhat redundant? I mean - it's not as if there might be a Jewish Jihad or a Christian Jihad.
IAF missile strike kills central Gaza's Islamic Jihad leader staff, Itamar Sharon and AP , THE JERUSALEM POST Dec. 27, 2007

The IAF killed the head of the Islamic Jihad's armed wing in central Gaza in a missile strike on his car Thursday night.

An IDF spokesman confirmed the strike on Muhammad Abu Abdullah, who he said was a senior operative in charge of manufacturing Kassam rockets and explosives. The operation was carried out with the assistance of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), he added.

According to Palestinian sources, IAF aircraft fired several missiles toward the car in which Abdullah and other gunmen were traveling. The sources said that two other Palestinians were killed in the air strike and several others were wounded.

During earlier operations in Gaza Thursday, the IDF killed five members of Palestinian terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip in air strikes and fire exchanges.

Two Islamic Jihad men were killed in an IAF strike on their car in the early evening, Palestinian officials said. The military said it targeted a car filled with explosives on the way to an attack.

Earlier, the IDF killed three Palestinian gunmen in an exchange of fire and an air strike in the southern Gaza Strip, the army reported. Palestinians said the dead were members of Hamas.

Nine people were wounded, including four civilians, Palestinians reported, claiming that among the wounded was a 13-year-old boy. None of the injuries were life threatening, officials said.

An army spokesman said a cell of four gunmen had fired an RPG at an army bulldozer operating in the Gaza territory. Troops returned fire, killing three of the men, said the spokesman.

A subsequent air strike targeted the fourth cell member, the army said, but it was unclear if he had been hurt.

During the operations, Gaza gunmen fired a projectile at an IDF helicopter, just missing it, Channel 2 footage showed.

The footage showed a streak of light passing by the helicopter as it flew above the Strip. It was unclear if the weapon was a new type of anti-aircraft missile or a whether the attack was merely a case of gunmen improvising with a simple rocket.

The army said an initial inquiry had shown that the pilots were unaware of any anti-aircraft fire being directed toward them, but added that it was still looking into the incident.

Also on Thursday, an IDF elite unit Special and the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) arrested two Islamic Jihad commanders in the West Bank, Palestinian sources reported.

Muhammad a-Saida, both a member of the terrorist organization and a lecturer at Nablus's a-Najah University, was caught by security forces outside of the town. Saida was released from an Israeli prison three months ago, Army Radio reported.

The second operative, Samar a-Sa'adi, who was described by Palestinians as the group's commander in Jenin, was arrested in the city's refugee camp.Defense officials said that both men were involved in terror attacks. The IDF confirmed only the arrest in Nablus.

Meanwhile, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip fired two Kassam rockets and two mortar shells at the western Negev, while gunmen fired at IDF soldiers along the border with the central Gaza Strip.

There were no reports of casualties or damage.

In addition, according to Army Radio, a bullet was shot into the roof of a factory in Kibbutz Nir Oz. Defense officials were investigating the incident.

Also Thursday, Hamas's armed wing Izzadin Kassam announced that one of its members was killed in a training accident in Gaza.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Assad: Don't wait for a Democrat

Patrick Kennedy's loyalty to Israel is appreciated, but the big issue between the US and Syria is not Israel. The issues are Lebanon and Iraq.
 Last update - 14:12 27/12/2007       
U.S. Congressman: Syria wrong if it thinks Democrat would give if better deal
By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz Correspondent and Reuters
Syria is "mistaken" if it believes it should wait until Republican U.S. President George W. Bush leaves office to get a better deal if a Democrat is elected, U.S. Congressman Patrick Kennedy said on Wednesday.
On a joint visit to Israel with Republican Senator Arlen Specter, the Democrat from Rhode Island said a consensus existed in the U.S. over support for Israel.
Specter is due to meet with Syrian President Bashar Assad on Thursday.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert sent Assad a message Tuesday, saying Israel is still awaiting an answer from Damascus on the possibility of reviving peace talks.
Olmert met with United States Senator Arlen Specter and gave him the message, which will be delivered to Assad when Specter meets with the Syrian president on Thursday.
After meeting with Olmert in Jerusalem, Specter told reporters that talks with Syria were stalled. "It is the proverbial story of chicken and egg, what comes first?" Specter said.
Meanwhile, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Wednesday delivered a message to Defense Minister Ehud Barak from Assad, according to the Agence France-Presse. Mubarak and Barak met Wednesday in the Sinai resort town of Sharm al-Sheikh.
The Defense Ministry has refused to respond to the AFP's report.

Continued (Permanent Link)

PA: IDF troops arrest two Islamic Jihad commanders in W. Bank

 Despite negotiations, business as usual.
PA: IDF troops arrest two Islamic Jihad commanders in W. Bank
By Reuters
Israel Defense Forces troops on Thursday captured two top members of the Islamic Jihad militant group in raids in the West Bank, Palestinian security sources and witnesses said.
IDF troops arrested an Islamic Jihad leader, Mohammad Assayda, near the West Bank city of Nablus, the militant group said. Assayda, who was released from Israeli jail in September, is a lecturer at al-Najah University.
Islamic Jihad commander in the West Bank city of Jenin, Samer al-Saadi was captured in a separate raid in a refugee camp in the city, a Palestinian security officer told Reuters.
The IDF had no immediate comment.
Troops arrested 20 Palestinian militants overnight in West Bank raids.
Also Thursday, Palestinians in Gaza fired two mortar shells at IDF forces near the security fence on the Gaza border. There were no injuries or damages in either incident.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Demography: Palestinian census continuing

Everything has political significance in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and everything is an explosive issue. The resumption of the census in the Gaza strip means we will ultimately have fresh and more reliable data that can help to settle a dispute in Israel: Are the Palestinian Arabs in the territories a real demographic threat to a Jewish state?. That is what most Israeli analysts believe. Or are population figures inflated, as those who favor annexation of the territories insist?
The census data can also be used as evidence of whether or not Israel is committing "genocide" in the territories or there is a "humanitarian crisis." If the population is really growing by leaps and bounds, it is unlikely that there is any "humanitarian crisis." Starving populations under seige do not increase their numbers.
A note to Amira Hass and others: The word data is plural. "Data are" not "Data is."
Ami Isseroff
 Gaza census renewed after Hamas agrees to use of data
 By Amira Hass 

Employees of the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics began collecting data Monday for a population census in the Gaza Strip after a hiatus of several weeks. In August, the PCBS began a comprehensive survey of populations, economic enterprises, homes and other buildings in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
In late November, the Hamas government in Gaza established a committee to monitor the census-takers' activities in the strip and demanded that it receive all of the collected data in advance. 
PCBS director Dr. Louay Shabaneh refused the request, on the grounds that the PCBS is not a political organization and owes allegiance only to the Palestinian Authority government in Ramallah.
In response, the Hamas government closed the PCBS offices and halted work on the census. This week an agreement was reached that has allowed the census to continue, with the mediation of Dr. Mustafa Barghouti and two United Nations agencies.
On Monday, nine days after data collection in the West Bank was completed, 1,600 census takers began working in Gaza. The census is expected to take two weeks.
The agreement marks the first time since the Hamas takeover of Gaza last June, that the government has climbed down after flexing its muscles in the face of an important PA institution.
Barghouti, who in January 2006 was a PA presidential candidate, says the PCBS asked him to mediate in the dispute. Barghouti, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council and a minister in the former PA unity government, was joined by UNFPA, the UN Population Fund, and UNSCO, the Office of the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East.
The agreement stipulates that PCBS will collect and analyze the data and the results "will be submitted to everyone, including people in Gaza," Barghouti said.
The $8.6 million cost of the census is being underwritten by the PA, the UN, Saudi Arabia, Switzerland, the Netherlands and the OPEC states. Shabaneh said yesterday that the mediation effort succeeded after he and his fellow mediators explained that the PCBS is an independent, nonpolitical, nonpartisan institution that provides services to the entire Palestinian public.
The data that is collective is always available to everyone and is posted on the organization's Web site. Shabaneh said the census takers were welcomed warmly into the homes they have visited in Gaza during their first two days of work there.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Report: Turks using Israeli UAVs in N. Iraq with help of Israeli crews

 Last update - 20:15 26/12/2007       
Report: Turkey using UAVs in N. Iraq with help of Israeli crews
By Yossi Melman, Haaretz Correspondent
Turkey has begun activating Israeli-issued unmanned aircrafts in its military operation in northern Kurdish Iraq with the assistance of teams from Israel's Aviation Industry, Turkish sources were quoted as saying in a report to be published Thursday in the Turkish Daily News.
Ten days ago, Turkish television reported that Turkey had begun using the Heron Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), which Israel sold to an Ankara company in a 2004 deal. Thursday's report will be the first disclosure of participation of Israeli personnel in activating the UAVs for Turkish operations.
The Turkish News Daily quoted a Turkish army source saying that because of a shipment delay on the part of Israeli companies, the Turkish Air Force has been prevented from acquiring crucial intelligence abilities.

Turkey has accused the Israeli companies of not following through with their end of the deal regarding the sale of the UAVs. According to the report, the Israeli companies have decided to supply Turkey with the UAVs as a temporary solution under a $10 million lease.
In 2004, the Israeli Aviation Industry and Elbit Systems won a tender to supply Turkey with the Heron UAVs, a tactical drone that is already in operational use in the Israel Defense Forces, beating out competition from the United States and France.
According to the deal, the Aviation Industry was to supply the UAVs, while Elbit was to provide the ground stations and communications systems for the drone.
The first shipment was initially set for October 2007, but has been postponed until the spring of 2008.
A source in the Aviation Industry said in response to the report that the delay is not the fault of the Industry, and vowed that it would fulfill all obligations to which it signed.


Continued (Permanent Link)

Israeli Arabs: We want to be Israelis

This poll confirms the results of many others - Israeli Arabs want to remain in Israel. However, increasing numbers of them want to be known as "Palestinians" - they want to have their Israeli citizenship and destroy it at the same time, it seems.  
Ami Isseroff


Israeli Arabs prefer remaining Israeli citizens over PA citizenship 62%:14%
Dr. Aaron Lerner 26 December, 2007

Poll Methodology Representative sample 514 Israeli Arabs Over 18 years old
Phone calls: 3-5 Dec. 2007
+ - 4.5% margin of error. 
KEEVOON Research, Strategy & Communications.

1. "There has been a lot of talk lately about the formation of a new Palestinian State.  It has been suggested by some that Israeli Arabs could continue to live in Israel, but change their citizenship to the new Palestinian State.  Given the choice, and continuing to live where you presently live today, would you prefer to be a citizen of Israel or of a new Palestinian State?"

Remain Israeli citizens 62% Join a future Palestinian State 14%
No opinion or refused to answer 24%

The strongest support for remaining citizens of Israel was exhibited by members of the Druse community, 84% of whom would choose Israel.  Lower income households also showed strong support with 71% of them choosing Israel.  Men were more likely than women to choose to remain Israeli citizens (67% vs. 56%).  The strongest support for becoming citizens of a future Palestinian State was among students with 21% as opposed to the average of 14%.   The largest percentage of undecided citizens was among Christian Arab Israelis with 43% compared to the average of 24%.

2. Among Olmert, Barak or Netanyahu, who is more likely to make peace with the Palestinian Authority and Israel's neighbors?
Barak 18% Olmert 8% Netanyahu 7% None of them 36% no opinion or refused to answer 28%

Barak's greatest support is among the Druse with 29%.  Netanyahu's greatest support is among residents of the Negev (22%) and 45-55 year olds (19%). 47% of Christian Arabs and students didn't know or refused to answer this question.

IMRA - Independent Media Review and Analysis

Labels: , ,

Continued (Permanent Link)

BESA: The Middle East Axis of Destabilization

BESA: The Mideast Axis of Destabilization

Ely Karmon

Perspectives Paper No. 36, December 26, 2007

"[T]he only vital and effective axis in the region is that between Tehran and Damascus. They are the two capitals which enjoy a degree of strength and a measure of independence that allows them to remain unaffected by direct political pressure." Hizballah Voice of the Oppressed (radio station), 27 April 1991.

The "Axis of Destabilization" in the Middle East

The Iran-Syria-Hizballah-Hamas alliance has acted during the last 15 years as an "axis of destabilization" in the Middle East, achieving major strategic victories at the expense of moderate Arab states, and US, European, and Israeli interests.

The Damascus regime, weakened by the withdrawal of its army from Lebanon and international pressure after the assassination of Rafik Hariri, still maintains a firm grip on the Sunni majority population at home, plays a strong hand in Lebanon, and supports radical Palestinian groups.

With Syrian support, Hizballah (Tehran's closest ally) has become a state-within-a-state potentially able to become Lebanon's arbiter if not actual ruler. Syria is actively involved in the destabilization of the Palestinian arena and has a growing role in supporting the Shi'a anti-American forces in Iraq. Iran also flexes its muscle in the Iraq arena, as most of Iraq's territory and major oil resources are controlled by Shi'a movements with historic and ideological links to the Tehran regime.

The "Axis" significantly influences Israel's relations with its neighbors. The inconclusive results of the Second Lebanon War of July-August 2006 and the continuous bombing of Israeli cities and villages from Gaza have diminished Israel's deterrence versus Hizballah, Hamas, Iran and Syria. Similarly, the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, despite the Annapolis gathering, is essentially paralyzed. Hamas is in control of the Gaza Strip, threatens the Fatah-controlled West Bank, and is able to derail any negotiation in the peace process by terrorist attacks.

An Unnatural Alliance: What Makes it Work?

The alliance should hardly function due to Sunni-Shi'a historical rivalries:

1. Iran's Shi'a theocratic regime allied with Syria's Baathist secular "socialist" regime, a country where some 80 percent of the population is Sunni.
2. Syria's Baathist secular regime cooperated with a Shi'a radical Islamist movement, Hizballah, while the natural ally of Syria in Lebanon is the Shi'a Amal secular organization.
3. The Palestinian Hamas, a branch of the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood (MB) is allied with Iran's Shi'a theocratic regime.
4. The Palestinian Hamas is allied with Syria's Baathist secular regime, which killed some 20,000 Syrian MB members in 1982.
5. The Sunni Palestinian Hamas cooperated with the Shi'a Hizballah (in the Palestinian Authority and in Lebanon, where hundreds of thousands of Palestinians live) while in Iraq the Sunni and Shi'a radicals fight each other ferociously.

This alliance works because of the strong religious ideologies that shape the strategy of three of the actors: Iran, Hizballah and Hamas. The Tehran regime, based on the revolutionary doctrine of Ayatollah Khomeini, has implemented its creed through an aggressive strategy after silencing all internal dissent. The apocalyptical overtone of Mahdism in its leadership circles makes this ideology even more dangerous. Hizballah, as proven by its covenant and the open declarations and deeds of its leaders, closely follows the religious ideology and the strategy of export of the Khomeini revolution. Hamas, as a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, the oldest Sunni Islamist movement, sees jihad as a general duty of all Muslims and is the only MB group involved in systematic warfare against Israel and "world Zionism." Different from the other three, Syria is still driven by Pan-Arabism and the concept of Greater Syria.

The alliance has a strong determined leader: Iran. The country serves as the conductor of the "quartet." Iran, a major regional power, has a leadership with a regional hegemonic vision, a huge oil resource, a large army, and an advanced military industry. Most importantly, Iran is to acquire a nuclear arsenal.

The alliance has succeeded in obtaining most of its objectives because its members have no moral constraints in using terrorism and subversion against their adversaries, challenging the same major enemies: the United States as a global and regional power but also as epitome of Western liberal values; Europe as a democratic bloc; Israel; and Iraq until Saddam Hussein's removal from power. At the same time they have displayed tactical pragmatism and skills of manipulating leaders of great powers and heads of international organizations.

The US, Europe and Israel Didn't Challenge the Alliance

However, the victories of this alliance are not only the result of the robust and durable cooperation between its four members, but also in great measure the consequence of the US, European and Israeli leaderships' lack of strategic vision and political courage.

The United States and France (the major European country challenged by the axis) did not inflict any serious damage on Iran and its operational arm Hizballah, for the long series of terrorist attacks against their citizens, soldiers and interests. Nor has Syria paid a real price for the direct and indirect support to Iranian and Hizballah anti-Western terrorism. Not only has Iran not suffered any consequences for 20 years of lying about its nuclear program, but the West is still willing to offer ever-greater incentives, strengthening Iran's leaders' sense of self-confidence that they can achieve nuclear military capability.

The West has forced Bashar al-Asad to withdraw the Syrian army from Lebanon, but it has stopped short of endangering his regime at home or curtailing his influence in Lebanon. The continuous political killings there are designed to intimidate those working courageously to end Syria's interference in Lebanon's internal affairs.

Since 1982, Israel has permitted Syria to support Hizballah attacks and Palestinian proxy against its territory. Israeli leaders did not have the courage to challenge Damascus. Even during the July-August 2006 War, when Hamas leader Khaled Mashal was running the kidnapping of the Israeli soldier from Damascus and Syria continued to provide heavy military hardware and ammunition to Hizballah, the Israeli government sent the message that it had no intention to bother Syria.

By giving Hizballah the credit for the Israeli disgraceful withdrawal from southern Lebanon in 2000, by permitting its consolidation as a state-within-a-state and the building of a small modern guerrilla-army, the various Israeli governments have preferred tactical political gains at home to real strategic long-term interests. In the 2006 war in Lebanon, Israel paid a high price not only in human lives and material damage, but also in its regional standing and its deterrent power versus its enemies.

The Israeli leadership also failed to recognize the real long-term goals of Yasser Arafat when signing the Oslo agreements and did not challenge his double game, which led to the violent Second Intifada.

Moreover, the United States and the West permitted Hamas, a terrorist organization committed to the destruction of the Jewish state, to take over the government in the Palestinian Authority through democratic elections.

The Threat of a Nuclear Iran

The dangerous destabilizing effect of the Iran-Syria-Hizballah-Hamas alliance on the Middle East and beyond and the leadership role of the Tehran regime in this coalition place the prevention of the Iranian nuclear military program as first priority for the international community.

The US, the international community and Israel face a daunting challenge: how to prevent a nuclear Iran. After 20 years of futile diplomatic dialogue and a year of mild international sanctions, three options remain: severe economic sanctions, military operation against the Iranian nuclear facilities, or laissez faire tactics that allow the Iranians to achieve their goal and devise a deterrent strategy for the future.

As a global power, the Bush Administration needs to find a grand strategic compromise with Russia to display a common front against Iran and thus considerably enhance the success of the sanctions. Russia could have a crucial role in convincing the ayatollahs of the seriousness of their situation. Russia has redefined the limits of its nuclear cooperation with Iran: it has halted Russian work on the construction of the Bushehr nuclear reactor and is procrastinating in transferring the nuclear fuel required for its activation. However, in light of the growing tension between the US and Russia on important strategic issues, such as the building of the missile defense system in Poland and the radar station in the Czech Republic or the expansion of NATO into the old Eastern Bloc on Russia's western border, President Putin is less willing to cooperate on the Iranian file.

There is the possibility to isolate Tehran by breaking the alliance with Syria, which is key in isolating and disarming Hizballah and reducing the influence of radical Palestinians on the peace process with Israel. Israel cannot defeat Hizballah if it does not occupy most of Lebanon, which it is reluctant to do. Therefore, the best way to change the equation in Lebanon is to challenge Syria. The carrots the European leaders proposed President Bashar al-Asad have not convinced him to join the moderate Arab camp. These incentives should perhaps be improved, but the stick should be waved higher. Currently, there is no reasonable hope that negotiations or economic sanctions can turn Tehran's rulers away from the dream of great-power status and Islamic revolution.

Iran and the Alliances' Retaliation Capabilities

In the case of a US or Israeli strike on Iranian nuclear facilities, Iran and the alliance can retaliate in force. Iran could stage an immediate missile counterattack on Israel and on US bases in the Persian Gulf with its 500 Shihab ballistic missiles, with ranges varying from 300 to 2,000 kilometers and capable of carrying warheads of up to 1,000 kg.

Iran can also retaliate against energy targets in the Gulf and the flow of oil through the Strait of Hormuz. Ayatollah Khamenei warned the US that "if the Americans make a wrong move toward Iran, the shipment of energy will definitely be in danger, and the Americans will not be able to protect energy supplies in the region." Consequently, oil prices would increase dramatically.

One of the strongest cards against the United States is Iran's capacity for wreaking havoc in Iraq and provoking a confrontation between US troops and the Shi'a majority. Tehran has already activated this option; currently it is on a low burner. The regime is also preparing an army of suicide bombers to be sent to Iraq, on the model of the Basij suicide soldiers used in the Iraq-Iran war.

Hizballah will be the main tool to attack Israeli territory with rockets and guerrilla commandos. Iran and Syria have rearmed the organization and Nasrallah boasted that Hizballah has 20,000 rockets. Iran can target Israeli and Jewish targets abroad, as it did in 1992 and 1994 in Buenos Aires. As for the Palestinians, Khaled Mashal declared that "if Israel attacks Iran, then Hamas will widen and increase its confrontation of Israelis inside Palestine."

A US or Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear sites could enhance the appeal of extremism in the Muslim world, at the expense of the moderates. It would be perceived by Muslims worldwide as another assault on Islam, as was the case in Iraq and in Lebanon. The promised retaliation by Iran must be taken very seriously.

A Nuclear Iran?

There is also no doubt that a nuclear Iran would provoke nuclear proliferation throughout the Middle East, as already hinted at by Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

A recent collective study by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy investigating the challenges posed by deterring a nuclear Iran in the case diplomacy might not succeed suggests that deterring Iran might prove much more difficult than deterring Russia during the Cold War, because of the nature of the regime in Tehran, the regional security environment, and the challenges of coalition formation. Moreover, Iran's nuclear weapons could be controlled by some of the most radical elements in the regime and some of these weapons might find their way into the hands of terrorists.

A nuclear Iran will strengthen the radicalization/Islamization process. In Iraq, at least in Shi'a-controlled areas, the potential for radicalization/Islamization could quickly materialize and result in a more bloody sectarian war involving neighboring Sunni countries. This could be a major step in the formation of the dreaded Shi'a Crescent. In Lebanon, Hizballah would have an influence on accelerating a more radical population. The process of radicalization/Islamization in Palestine, which begun by the takeover of Gaza by Hamas, would also be accelerated, with immediate influence on the Muslim Brotherhood and other radical Islamist groups in Egypt and Jordan and even the Islamist movement in Israel.

A nuclear Iran, with Hizballah and Iraqi Shi'a radicals' support, could open a new front in the Gulf countries by inciting the Shi'as who live in the oil rich provinces in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, the UAE and Yemen, to revolt against their governments.

Similarly, a nuclear Tehran would be tempted to spread its revolutionary message towards the Muslim republics in Central Asia and in Turkey.

There is No Happy End in Sight!

President Bush said that the international community must keep pressuring Iran to give up its nuclear weapons program. To this end, the US is working with allies to send a consistent message to the Iranians. Bush has not ruled out the possible use of force against Iran, but believes it is still possible to resolve the dispute diplomatically. This is true even after the release of the recent US National Intelligence Estimate.

Israel's air raid on Syria on September 6, 2007 has broken the immunity of the Damascus regime without provoking a European or Arab outcry. Israel should decide on a more forceful Syrian strategy, based on the Turkish example of 1998 (and 2007), and seek US and European support for it. Israel's air raid also proved that if a country does act against a clear and present danger, the Muslim world will not erupt. Moreover, Iranian aspirations should be viewed in proper proportion. Iran is not an international superpower and it has its own domestic, economic and military vulnerabilities.

If the military option is the last resort, it is imperative to dissuade the Tehran regime from retaliation. Ex-French President Jacques Chirac gave the example when he said that France was prepared to launch a nuclear strike against any country that sponsors a terrorist attack against French interests. "The leaders of states who would use terrorist means against us, as well as those who would envision using . . . weapons of mass destruction, must understand that they would lay themselves open to a firm and fitting response on our part."

The US, the European Union and Israel have the duty to protect their citizens and interests, as well as those of their allies in the Middle East. They must stand firm against the "axis of destabilization" and the apocalyptic plans of the radicals in Tehran.

Dr. Ely Karmon is a Senior Research Scholar at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) in Herzliya, Israel, and a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Policy and Strategy at IDC. He lectures at the Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya and at the National Security Seminar of the Galilee College. This article is a summary of a monograph under the title "Iran - Syria - Hizballah - Hamas: A Coalition against Nature. Why does it Work?" forthcoming in the Proteus Monograph Series Fellows Program, US War Academy, Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

Labels: , , ,

Continued (Permanent Link)

Barak and Mu-Barak to face off on Gaza Smuggling

Israel's actions are strange. Plainly if the Egyptians do not control smuggling, they are uninterested in doing so, and there is no point in confronting them with evidence. Of course, it should be shown to the American public and the American congress.
More to the point, Egypt has never kept any part of the peace treaty relating to incitement. Government controlled media are full of articles and movies claiming that Hitler's work of murdering the Jews must be continued, that there was no Holocaust, that there really is an "Elders of Zion," that Israel must be destroyed, and yet Israel has never complained.
Of course they allow smuggling of arms. What else did anyone expect?
Ami Isseroff
Barak to confront Mubarak with Gaza smuggling evidence
yaakov katz and herb keinon ,
Amid an unprecedented rise in the level of tension between Egypt and Israel, Defense Minister Ehud Barak will travel to Sharm e-Sheikh on Wednesday for talks with the Egyptian leadership during which he plans to present intelligence supporting Israel's assertion that Egypt could be doing much more to stop arms smuggling into Gaza.
Barak's visit, his first since becoming defense minister, comes at a time of increased tension in Israeli-Egyptian ties because of Israeli frustration and anger that arms smuggling along the Philadelphi Corridor into the Gaza Strip continues, under the Egyptians' watch, unabated. According to Israeli assessments, this smuggling is the engine behind Hamas's massive arms buildup.
The relations grew particularly tense after The Jerusalem Post reported last week that Israel had sent to Washington videotapes of Egyptian soldiers allegedly assisting Hamas in crossing illegally into Gaza, with the aim of convincing Congress to withhold hundreds of millions of dollars in US foreign aid to Egypt.
Defense officials told the Post on Tuesday that in his meetings with President Hosni Mubarak and Intelligence Minister Omar Suleiman, Barak will present documented evidence of Egyptian involvement in the Gaza smuggling activity.
Military sources said that, since the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2005, the IDF has accumulated "loads" of evidence against Egyptian border policemen from various intelligence sources.
The talks will also focus on a deal Egypt is trying to mediate between Israel and Hamas concerning the release of Cpl. Gilad Schalit. Barak will also discuss with Mubarak the Israeli conditions for a potential hudna, or cease-fire, with Hamas in Gaza.
Barak will be accompanied by Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilna'i.
"It will be a very tense and difficult meeting," a defense official said. "Barak will not go in there just to hear from Mubarak, but will demand that the Egyptians clamp down and stop the smuggling."
One senior defense official said that Israel needed to threaten to cut off relations with Egypt if it did not start to take action against the weapons smuggling.
The official said that Egypt's decision to unilaterally open the Rafah Crossing earlier this month and allow 2,000 Palestinians, including a number of terrorists en-route to Iran, to leave Gaza was "grounds for a diplomatic crisis."
A government source said that Israel wants good relations with Egypt and sees its relationship with Cairo as a key strategic interest. But, the source said, "there is frustration on the Israeli side about what goes on at the border. We understand that the Egyptians can't do everything, but they must do more. The strengthening of Hamas is not just a threat to Israel, but a threat to the Palestinian Authority and to regional stability."
Diplomatic officials said that Egyptian inaction on this matter stems from a number of different reasons, including:
• An economic interest, since the arms smuggling is a multi-million dollar "industry" for those involved on the Egyptian side.
• An interest in not exacerbating ties with Sinai Beduin, who are believed to be involved in the smuggling and who have a tense relationship with the central government in Cairo.
• An interest in letting the arms smuggling continue in order to place pressure on Israel to open up the Camp David Accords and let the Egyptians increase the number of soldiers on the border.
• General ineffectiveness of the Egyptian security forces, or an attempt to stop some of the smuggling, but an inability to do so.
• A belief that Hamas is now well ensconced in Gaza, and that it is not in Egypt's interest to push Hamas too hard, lest they push back and cause domestic problems in Egypt via the Muslim Brotherhood.
Egypt, meanwhile, rejected Israel's allegations of inactivity - particularly comments Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni made at the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee regarding Egypt's performance on the Gaza border, which she called "awful and problematic."
AFP reported that the Egyptian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Livni "would do better to concentrate on negotiation efforts with the Palestinians... instead of speaking without weighing her words about things she should not deal with without having enough information."
Perhaps as a reflection of the increased tension and an example of tit-for-tat diplomacy, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry issued an extremely harsh statement on Tuesday condemning Israel for settlement construction.
According to the statement, the Foreign Ministry spokesman "strongly criticized the recently uncovered plans to build more housing units in the settlements and surrounding the city of Jerusalem."
The spokesman said that Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit was holding "urgent contacts with a number of the significant international parties concerned, particularly the US" on the matter.
In harsh language, the spokesman said that "settlement activities and peace are non-reconcilable opposites" and that "Israel has to determine its choices."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Right of return: Palestine massacre victims return

78 years ago there was a real massacre in Palestine, part of a racist plot to ethnically cleanse Palestine. It was not done by Zionist racists, but by the Arabs of Palestine, led by Hajj Amin Al Husseini, Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, soon to be a Nazi collaborator. Read more about the Hebron Massacre here: Hebron Massacre
A descendant of people forced out of Hebron has bought land and a house there. Is it really a good idea?
Ami Isseroff
Last update - 12:30 26/12/2007    
 80 years on, massacre victims' kin reclaims Hebron house 
By Nadav Shragai 

Between stretching plastic sheets over the windows and placing buckets exactly under the leaks in the roof, settlers at a contested house between Kiryat Arba and Hebron are trying to maintain some sort of normal routine.
For humanitarian reasons, the Israel Defense Forces were willing to allow them to renovate the house so as to make it more livable. But Defense Minister Ehud Barak decided that the building will remain unchanged as long as it is occupied by the 20 settler families and their dozens of children.
Ten months have passed since the settlers entered the three-story building, which covers an area of over 3,000 square meters. The $700,000 to buy the house came from people in New York who originally wished to remain anonymous. But they are nurturing a grudge against Israeli bureaucracy, and this week, they decided to speak out: The buyer's son, a religious Jewish businessman from New York who agreed to be identified only as B., spoke with Haaretz about his plans for the house and his motives for buying it.
"My paternal great-grandfather lived in Hebron before the riots and the deportation of 1929," said B., referring to the murder of 67 Jews that summer by Arabs incited by false rumors of Jewish-orchestrated massacres of Arab Jerusalemites. "Part of my mother's family also lived there. They experienced the horrors of the massacre and knew many of the victims."
The carnage, 19 years before the creation of the state, had a deep effect on the Jewish community. The survivors were forced to flee Hebron, and their property was seized by local Arabs and occupied until after the Six-Day War of 1967.
"My family survived, and were deported to Jerusalem," said B. He noted that his mother and father, both born in Syria, still visit Hebron regularly.
The idea of buying the building, known as Beit Hashalom ("house of peace"), came up five years ago, he said.
"We were presented with several options for buying houses in Hebron," he explained. "We could have bought a house in Tel Rumeida, in the Avraham Avinu area. But eventually we opted for Beit Hashalom, because it's a bridge between Hebron and Kiryat Arba - which could have a dramatic and welcome effect."
B. said he never dealt with the former Arab owners who sold the house. "We had people working for us to handle that for us," he said. "But I have pictures and video footage that prove everything is legitimate. The Israeli authorities also have the material. They know it's all kosher."
According to B., the video footage shows the former owner receiving the money for the building, counting it and signing the papers to transfer the property.
"If the documents are false, as some have tried to argue, then how come the settlers have been allowed to stay there for the past 10 months?" he asked.
He also complained about the state's insistence on calling the settlers' presence in Beit Hashalom illegal squatting, despite the fact that a police investigation into the affair found that they did not break into the building.
B. said that he and his father are "not particularly wealthy" and that they had to break into their savings to pay for the real estate. "We decided to invest in the future of the people of Israel, because that future is everyone's future: the future of my children and of everyone's children."
B. said he plans to make the top floor of the dilapidated building into a festivities hall that will serve the families living in the lower stories - which he hopes will one day be brought up to standard.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Hamas controlked tunnel allow weapons, explosives and cigarettes - no drugs

Hamas controls tunnels: weapons, explosives and cigarettes allowed - not drugs
Dr. Aaron Lerner  26 December 2007

Israel Radio Arab Affairs Correspondent Gal Berger reported on the morning news magazine that Hamas now completely controls the smuggling tunnels running from the Egyptian Sinai to the Gaza Strip after closing down smugglers who refused to cooperate.

Hamas requires the smugglers to provide detailed reports of the smuggling activity and has imposed restrictions on the smuggling of drugs.

While weapons, ammunition and explosives are being "imported" via the tunnels, Berger notes that assault rifles are not currently being smuggled in since "there are so many of them in the Gaza Strip that they could be exported."

From IMRA - Independent Media Review and Analysis

Continued (Permanent Link)

Religious teen porn in Israel??

Priests do it, rabbis do it...
Girls who pressed charges against rabbi are ostracized
By Haaretz Staff and Channel 10 10 daily feature for December 25, 2007. 
For the past six years, two religious teenage sisters have been paying a hefty price for speaking out against a rabbi who was convicted of indecent acts.
The two girls were kicked out of their school two years after their family pressed charges against the Rabbi, and were only allowed to return following judicial intervention.
Nonetheless, this past summer their principal again decided to expel the two, with his official reason being that they are not suited for the school.
[If video is not visible below - go to above URL]

Continued (Permanent Link)

Who is holding up Syria-Israel peace?

From time to time we see complaints that Israel is at fault for stalled peace negotiations with Syria. Let's set the record straight. In any case the ball is in Syria's court.  
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert sent Syrian President Bashar Assad a message Tuesday, saying Israel is still awaiting an answer from Damascus on the possibility of reviving peace talks.
According to a Foreign Ministry intelligence assessment presented Monday, Syria is waiting out the Bush presidency, and only intends to enter a serious diplomatic process with Israel when the next United States administration takes over in 2009.
"Damascus is interested in an agreement with Israel, but only according to Syria's conditions and with American involvement," Nimrod Barkan, who heads the ministry's political research department, told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Monday.
In other words, the peace talks with Israel are only a way of forcing the United States to grant legitimacy to the odious and repressive Assad regime.
Ami Isseroff
Last update - 21:28 25/12/2007       
Olmert to Assad: Israel awaits your response on reviving talks
By Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondent
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert sent Syrian President Bashar Assad a message Tuesday, saying Israel is still awaiting an answer from Damascus on the possibility of reviving peace talks.
Olmert met with United States Senator Arlen Specter and gave him the message, which will be delivered to Assad when Specter meets with the Syrian president on Thursday.
Specter, a Jewish Republican from Pennsylvania, is considered one of his party's biggest supporters of reviving the dialogue with Syria. The senator told Olmert during their meeting that he intends to meet with senior officials in the Syrian regime, and asked whether the prime minister would be interested in advancing the diplomatic process with Damascus.
Olmert told Specter that he has been examining in recent months the possibility of restarting mediated negotiations with Syria. "I am still examining the Syrian track and Damascus' seriousness," said the prime minister. "I have not finished examining the issue, but I have yet to receive a clear answer [from Syria] and am therefore still waiting."
Jerusalem sources said that "despite the fact that Olmert did not explicitly request that the message be transferred to Assad, we assume that the issue will be raised in his [Specter's] talks in Damascus. It was obvious that this was his intention."
According to a Foreign Ministry intelligence assessment presented Monday, Syria is waiting out the Bush presidency, and only intends to enter a serious diplomatic process with Israel when the next United States administration takes over in 2009.
"Damascus is interested in an agreement with Israel, but only according to Syria's conditions and with American involvement," Nimrod Barkan, who heads the ministry's political research department, told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Monday.
Barkan added that the U.S. twice tried to "open a door for Syria" in 2007, but Damascus failed to meet the administration's demands regarding its continued involvement in Lebanon.
According to Barkan, Syria does not believe it can make progress in negotiations with Israel as long as Bush is in the White House, and therefore wants to wait until the end of his term, in hopes that the next administration will be willing to reengage Damascus and give the peace process its blessing.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

One way to deal with Gaza smuggling: Shut up the critics

 Egypt slams Livni criticism over 'awful job' of securing border 
Egypt on Tuesday strongly rejected criticism by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni that Cairo is doing an awful job of securing its porous border with the Gaza Strip against smugglers, saying she did not understand the issues and should have remained silent.
The diplomatic spat cast a cloud over an upcoming visit to Egypt by Defense Minister Ehud Barak. His talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak are expected to tackle a series of security matters, including cross-border weapons smuggling to Gaza militants.
Livni infuriated Egyptian officials on Monday by accusing Egypt of doing an awful job in securing the border, saying this stands in the way of Israel's negotiations with the Palestinians because it strengthens extremists in Gaza.
"It is better for the Israeli minister to concentrate on negotiation efforts with the Palestinians, instead of speaking randomly about issues she should not be dealing with if she is not fully aware of the situation," a statement from the ministry here said.
Palestinians smuggle everything from explosives to cigarettes to human beings from Egypt into Gaza. The smuggling - especially through an extensive underground tunnel network traversing the boundary - has picked up since Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005. Israeli officials believe Hamas has stepped up arms smuggling since it violently seized control of Gaza in June.
Egypt often acts as a mediator between Israel and Hamas. That mediation, as well as arms smuggling allegations and a recent Hamas offer for a truce are expected to be on the Mubarak-Barak talks agenda when the two meet Wednesday in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheik.
The Egyptian Foreign Ministry statement Tuesday said it rejected in both form and substance Livni's accusations, which both here and in Israel have been linked with an earlier U.S. House of Representatives proposed legislation to withhold US$200 million in military aid until Cairo takes steps to curb police abuse, reform its judicial system and stop arms smuggling into the neighboring Gaza Strip.
"Livni's remarks are not far from the U.S. Congress proposal to link the aid with Egypt's alleged lack of action toward the tunnels issue," the statement said.
In Jerusalem, an Israeli official said Tuesday that Livni's comments were an expression of the Israeli government's growing frustration with what it sees as weak Egyptian efforts to combat smuggling into Gaza, which are causing tension in relations between the two countries.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of Egypt-Israel ties.
"Unfortunately, we feel a certain level of unease with Egypt's treatment of the border area," Arye Mekel, a spokesman for the Israeli foreign ministry, said Tuesday.
Israel is concerned that Hamas is using the subterranean tunnels under the Egypt-Gaza border to amass ammunition and explosives as it braces for another round of fighting. The Israeli military believes hundreds of tons of explosives have been smuggled into Gaza through the tunnels.
"Further ratcheting up friction between the two countries, Israel gave U.S. officials a number of incriminating videotapes showing Egyptian police officers helping weapons smugglers along the border or standing by while smugglers went about their business," Israeli defense officials said Tuesday.
"The tapes were passed on through military channels," the officials said, in an attempt to convince the U.S. to prod Egypt to take action against the smugglers. They spoke on condition of anonymity because regulations forbid them from speaking to the media.
Mekel, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, said Israel did not pass on videotapes to anyone in Congress. He would not comment on whether the tapes existed, or whether they had been given to the U.S. military.
But an Egyptian security official in the border town of Rafah on Monday - when reports of the tape appeared first in Israeli media - said the tapes were a fabrication and that it was impossible to film any video of any border activity amid some 750 border guards patrolling the frontiers around the clock.
The same official on Tuesday dismissed other Israeli media claims, on Cairo allegedly getting high-tech equipment for detecting the underground passages.
Till now, the Egyptian security service have not received any tunnel detectors and there was no notification from authorities that we will get any, he said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Iranian Jews emigrating to Israel

This welcome news cannot really compensate for the fact that 2007 has been the worst year for Aliya in some time. Less than 20,000 Jews came to Israel.
Last update - 19:14 25/12/2007    
 Israel welcomes largest group of Iran olim since Islamic Revolution 
By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz Correspondent A group of 40 new immigrants from Iran touched down at Ben-Gurion International Airport on Tuesday, the largest since the fall of the Shah and Iran's Islamic Revolution in 1979.
The immigrants, from Tehran, Shiraz, and Isfahan, each received a $10,000 grant from international Jewish organizations.
A total of 200 Iranian Jews have immigrated to Israel in 2007, compared to only 65 in 2006.

The immigrants who arrived Tuesday flew to Israel through a third country, although which country cannot be published at this time.
There are an estimated 25 to 28,000 Jews currently living in Iran. The Islamic government does grant them relative freedom of religion, although they are prevented from learning Hebrew and face certain emigration restrictions.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Huckleberry Hound Huckabee: Talk to Iran

The golden boy of the right-wing Zionists and the Evangelical Christians wants to make nice to Ahmadinejad.
 Last update - 19:31 25/12/2007       
Top Republican candidate says supports dialogue with Iran
By Shmuel Rosner, Washington
RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE: A new daily series by Washington correspondent Shmuel Rosner.
This article is part of the new assessment and ranking by The Israel Factor panel of Huckabee's views on Iran. Read the Panel's analysis here. Bottom line: The panel doesn't believe Huckabee's pledge to 'stand by Israel'.
Ten days before the start of the primaries, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee is a hot item. He is leading the polls among Republican candidates in Iowa - the first state to cast its votes - and is increasingly gaining in the state that will follow, New Hampshire. Moreover, he is neck and neck in national surveys with former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani.
Huckabee could be the next president. He is one of seven candidates with realistic chances: Huckabee, Giuliani, Senator John McCain, and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney for the Republicans; senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, and the former senator and vice presidential candidate, John Edwards, for the Democrats. That is how open this race has become.
Earlier this summer, Huckabee was a candidate who appeared to have no chance. Romney had a sound lead in Iowa, and Giuliani was confidently ahead in the national polls. McCain's campaign - he the backer of staying in Iraq - appears to be done. Fred Thompson was a candidate people believed would steal the votes of the Christian right. How fast the wheel has turned: Giuliani is in a free fall, and it is not clear what, if anything, will stop it; McCain, at least in New Hampshire, is on the rise, and Romney is falling. Thompson appears to have become a non-factor.
But Huckabee, with his friendly sense of humor, his compassionate conservatism - which at times reminds you of the promises of George Bush - and mostly his religious message makes him the hero of the moment.
On Christmas eve, Huckabee's message resonated among Iowan voters the most: "I know this is probably a very controversial thing, but may I say to you, Merry Christmas!" He was referring to the ire the politically correct greeting "happy holidays" has stirred among many Iowan voters. Huckabee wears his Christianity on his sleeve unapologetically. In his holiday broadcast - which upset not a few liberal commentators, but also some conservatives - he referred to "the celebration of the birth of Christ."
This is a catchy message in Iowa, where 37 percent of the Republican voters identify with the Christian right, compared with 16 percent in New Hampshire. But more significantly perhaps, is that the message is helping Huckabee - a Baptist minister - remind voters that Romney, his main rival in Iowa, is a Mormon.
"Many evangelicals won't vote for a Mormon for president of the United States for the same reason that almost all Jews would not vote for a candidate, for any office I expect, who is a member of Jews for Jesus," explained political analyst Stuart Rothenberg.
Regarding the conduct of Huckabee in the White House, there is a lot we do not know. Like another governor from the same state, Bill Clinton, Huckabee has little experience in foreign affairs. Nonetheless, last week he dropped a bomb in an article he published in Foreign Affairs, where all the other candidates have contributed articles. He wrote of "urgent concerns" regarding Iran's nuclear program and its support for militants, saying that he does not discard the military option. But he was critical of the Bush foreign policy, which he described as "arrogant bunker mentality."
In the Iranian context, his policy is being interpreted as a change, calling for bringing to the table non-military options as well. Huckabee is of the opinion that relations with Iran deteriorated following Bush's "axis of evil" speech. In many points his message on Iran is more akin to that of the Democrats: there is a need for dialogue with Iran, and more diplomacy is needed. He quoted the Chinese strategist Sun Tzu, who authored The Art of War 2,500 years ago: "Keep your friends close and your enemies closer."
Huckabee has vowed that "Iran will not acquire nuclear weapons on my watch," but that does not assuage Israeli observers who are not too pleased with his stance.
In regard to "the Israeli point of view," Huckabee's statements received a score of 2.75 on a scale of 1 to 5 from the "Israel Factor" panelists, and most were not absolutely convinced of his ability to ensure that Iran would not acquire nuclear weapons on his watch.
The panelists also expressed doubt in Huckabee's ability or willingness to stand by his promises, giving the candidate a score of only 1.87 out of 5 from panelists on the issue.
The Republican figures from Iowa, according to, show Huckabee at 32.6 percent, Romney 23.8 percent, Thompson 9 percent, Giuliani 8.7 percent, McCain 6.8 percent, and Ron Paul 5.8 percent.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Merry Chistmas from the Holy Land

(Communicated by the Prime Minister's Office)
Tuesday, 25 December, 2007

In the past month, the IDF and the ISA uncovered a terrorist cell whose members are connected to the Hamas terrorist infrastructure in Nablus.  The terrorists admitted that they perpetrated several shooting attacks against Israeli targets in Nablus and in the surrounding areas, including the 24.10.07 shooting attack at Ariel junction, in which an Israeli civilian was lightly wounded and an IDF soldier was seriously wounded.  In addition, they admitted responsibility for the 7.1.05 shooting attack near Migdalim in which two IDF soldiers were killed (see below).

During the investigation, the members of the terrorist cell disclosed their involvement in the 24.10.07 attack, in which they opened fire from a passing vehicle, targeting an Israeli civilian and an IDF soldier at Ariel junction in Samaria.  In addition, the men divulged that several days previously, they carried out advance reconnaissance and observation activities of the area in which they intended to perpetrate the attack.  The planning stages included the purchase of a GMC vehicle with Israeli license plates for use during the attack.

Abdallah Kuka, 19, who drove the vehicle; Amin Kuka, 32; and A'mar Tanbur, 23, were the three Nablus terrorists who perpetrated the attack.  Other members of the terrorist cell involved in the attack were Riad Arafat, 34, who functioned as the reconnaissance observer, and Suhil Kuka, 21, who aided the cell after the attack was carried out.  On 24.10.07, the terrorists arrived at the Ariel junction bus stop and opened fire from short range at the waiting people.  One Israeli civilian was lightly wounded and one Israeli soldier was seriously wounded.  After the attack, the vehicle continued driving eastward and continued shooting at the vehicles traveling nearby, lightly wounding one Israeli civilian and damaging several vehicles. The terrorists escaped towards Jamma'in village, south of Nablus, where they set fire to the vehicle and continued their escape in a taxi that had been ordered in advance.

The members of the terrorist cell also admitted responsibility for the 7.1.05 shooting attack near Migdalim.  Amin Kuka and Suhil Kuka, dressed in IDF uniforms, stopped a vehicle and opened fire at the Israeli passengers inside.  Two IDF soldiers were killed in the attack and two other soldiers were lightly wounded.  St.-Sgt. Yosef Atia ( ), the soldier who drove the car, was killed, as was 2nd Lt. Ariel Buda ( ), who was severely wounded and died of his wounds on 15.10.05.  Terrorists Abdallah Kuka, Riad Arafat and Ala'a A'num were also involved in planning the attack.

The exposure of the terrorist cell and the incriminating evidence uncovered against it, indicate that despite its pretensions to the contrary, Hamas operatives are - at present - intensively planning to perpetrate attacks against Israelis in Judea, Samaria, the Gaza Strip, as well as in Israel proper.  Hamas's actions are manifested in the planning of terrorist attacks, and the maintaining of attack capability and organizational strength, all of which are designed to strengthen Hamas as the leader of Palestinian terrorism.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Monday, December 24, 2007

Will Smith: Hitler just needed reprogramming

US actor Will Smith has stunned fans by reportedly declaring that Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler was essentially a "good" person.
The 39-year-old Hollywood superstar star told Scottish newspaper The Daily Record recently that he was convinced the German leader did not fully understand the extent of the pain and suffering his actions would cause during his time in power in the 1930s and '40s.
"Even Hitler didn't wake up going, 'Let me do the most evil thing I can do today," Smith said in an interview reported on by World Entertainment News.

"I think he woke up in the morning and using a twisted, backwards logic, he set out to do what he thought was 'good'. Stuff like that just needs reprogramming."
Hitler's totalitarian leadership as Germany's leader from 1934 until 1945 resulted in the deaths of an estimated six million Jews in the Holocaust and his invasion of Poland in 1939 led to the start of World War II.
Say what bro? I bet it just clean escaped Hitler's notice that killing about 20 or 30 million people was not nice. He wanted to do the right thing, but he just couldn't be bothered with details like that.
Ami Isseroff

Continued (Permanent Link)

Gaza's Christians keep low Christmas profile after activist slain

Last update - 21:19 23/12/2007

Gaza's Christians keep low Christmas profile after activist slain

By The Associated Press

Gaza's tiny Christian community is keeping a low profile during Christmas this year, traumatized by the killing of a prominent activist after Hamas' takeover of the coastal territory.

Few Christmas trees are on display, churches are holding austere services and hundreds of Christians hope to travel to the West Bank to celebrate the holiday in Bethlehem. Many say they don't plan on returning to Gaza.

"We have a very sad Christmas," said Essam Farah, acting pastor of Gaza's Baptist Church, which has canceled its annual children's party because of the grim atmosphere.

About 3,000 Christians live in Gaza, an overwhelmingly conservative Muslim society of 1.5 million people. The two religions have generally had cordial relations over the years.

That relationship has been shaken since Hamas seized control of Gaza last June and especially following the recent death of 32-year-old Rami Ayyad.

Ayyad, a member of the Baptist Church, managed Gaza's only Christian bookstore and was involved in many charitable activities. He was found shot in the head, his body thrown on a Gaza street in early October, 10 hours after he was kidnapped from the store.

He regularly received death threats from people angry about his perceived missionary work ? a rarity among Gaza's Christians ? and the store was firebombed six months before the kidnapping.

No group claimed responsibility for the killing, and no one has openly accused Hamas of persecution. But Christians fear that the Hamas takeover, along with the lack of progress in finding Ayyad's killers, has emboldened Islamic extremists.

Hamas has tried to calm jittery Christians with reassuring handshakes and official visits promising justice.

"Hamas will not spare any effort to find the culprits of this crime and bring them to justice," said spokesman Fawzi Barhoum. He insisted the killing was simply a crime and not religiously motivated.

At the Baptist Church on Sunday, just 10 people attended the regular weekly prayer service, down from an average of 70. There was no Christmas tree in sight.

Farah said the church's full-time pastor, along with his family and 12 employees of Ayyad's store relocated to the West Bank to wait out the tense atmosphere. Farah said he prayed for forgiveness and love among Muslims and Christians.

Community leaders say an unprecedented number of Christian families are already migrating from Gaza - rattled by the religious tensions and tough economic sanctions Israel imposed on the area after the Hamas takeover.

While no official statistics were available, signs of the flight are evident. Rev.
Manuel Musallem, head of Gaza's Roman Catholic Church, said he alone knows of seven families that sold their properties and left the area, and 15 more that are preparing to do the same.

Musallem blamed Israeli sanctions and excessive violence in Gaza for the flight.

"In previous years we didn't see this rate of migration," Musallem said. "Now, exit is not on individual basis. Whole families are leaving, selling their cars, homes and all their properties."

The signs of despair are evident at Ayyad's home. Posters declaring him a martyr of Jesus hang on the walls. There is no Christmas tree this year.

Ayyad's older brother, 35-year old Ibrahim, said his 6-year old son, Khedr, was nagged in school about his uncle's murder. Muslim schoolmates call him infidel.

Ayyad's wife, Pauline, 29, left for Bethlehem a month ago with her two children. She said their 3-year-old son, George, has been shattered by his father's death.

"I tell him Papa Noel (Santa Claus) is coming to see you, and he tells me he wants Papa Rami," she said tearfully during a telephone interview.

Pauline, who is seven months pregnant, said she plans to come back to Gaza for the birth.

But many Christians privately said they would use their travel permits to leave Gaza for good, even if that means remaining in the West Bank as illegal residents. Israeli security officials said they were permitting 400 Gaza Christians to travel through Israel to Bethlehem for Christmas.

A family of four, refusing to be identified for fear their permits would be revoked, have sold their house and car and packed their bags. The wife has transferred her job to the West Bank and enrolled her son and daughter in school there. "We fear what is to come," said the husband.

A distant relative of Ayyad, Fouad, said he also is packing up. He said his father, a guard at a local church, was stopped recently by unknown bearded men who put a gun to his head before he was rescued by passers-by.

"We don't know why it happened," the 20-year-old police officer said. "We can't be sure how they (Muslims) think anymore."

Those who are staying are trying to limit the risks. Nazek Surri, a Roman Catholic, walked out from Sunday's service with a Muslim-style scarf covering her head.

"We have to respect the atmosphere we are living in. We have to go with the trend," she said.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Rabbi Yoffie objects to Jerusalem declaration

 U.S. Reform leader rails against 'political' Jerusalem declaration 
By Shlomo Shamir 
NEW YORK - Jewish American leaders have rebuked an umbrella group of U.S. Jewish organizations for the timing of Thursday's declaration that reiterated its support for Jerusalem as Israel's "undivided capital."
Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) head Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie said he objected to last week's decision by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations because it was politically motivated.
He said the vote was intended as a jab at Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's policy of holding talks with the Palestinian Authority, negotiations that some fear will eventually lead to dividing Jerusalem between Israel and the Palestinians as part of a long-term peace deal.
"The timing of the vote and its reiteration of the groups' well-known stance sends a wrong message stemming not from concern for Jerusalem, but to demonstrate displeasure with PM Olmert," Yoffie said.
The conference's former president, Seymour Reich, who attended the Jerusalem-held event, also voted against the motion. "I'm disappointed by the decision," Reich told Haaretz. "The vote's timing is a negative gesture, harmful to Prime Minister Olmert and at the same time damaging to the credibility of the conference of presidents."
The conference's current chairman, Malcolm Honline, explained that the vote was held following a request by a number of Jewish organizations. He said it was a symbolic decision that "reiterated our stance since the Six-Day War."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Arafat: What we all knew anyway is revealed as true

From a Palestinian source, confirmation of "Zionist propaganda" that had been repeatedly denied by Arafat. When Black September was doing all those horrible things, Arafat insisted that PLO had nothing to do with them.
Marwan Kanafani: Yasser Arafat was the leader of "Black September"
Date: 23 / 12 / 2007  Time:  14:25

Bethlehem - Ma'an - The Cairo-based Egyptian magazine Al-Ahram Al-Arabi revealed in its last issue on 15 December 2007 a 36-year- old secret; they quoted the Palestinian leader Marwan Kanafani as saying that late Palestinian president Yasser Arafat was the founder and cammander of the "Black September" organization which claimed responsibility in 1971 for assassinating the Jordanian Prime Minister then Wasfi At-Tal.

The magazine quoted parts of Kanafani's diaries entitled "years of hope" which will be published later, as referring to late Palestinian president Yasser Arafat as the real commander of "Black September."

These diaries and an interview with Kanafani will be published in episodes on the Al-Ahram Al-Arabi, and are expected to arouse controversy.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Sunday, December 23, 2007

The 19th Century Middle East game continues

Geopolitics doesn't change, so the great powers vie over Middle East hegemony as they did in the 19th century.
Russia seeks to play key role in Israeli-Syrian talks
Herb Keinon , THE JERUSALEM POST Dec. 22, 2007

Russia wants to "facilitate" talks between Israel and Syria and in the last few months has conveyed messages from Damascus to Jerusalem, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

According to senior diplomatic officials in Jerusalem, Moscow sees involvement in this track as a facilitator as one way of increasing its influence in the region.

Turkey has also played this role in recent months. But while the Turks are believed to have better personal contacts with the Syrians, the Russians - because of their arms sales to Syria and their overall status as a world power - are believed to have much more leverage with Damascus.

Israeli diplomatic officials said, for example, that Moscow was largely responsible for convincing Syria to attend last month's conference in Annapolis.

According to assessments in Jerusalem, the Russians are concerned about the Iran-Syrian-Hamas-Hizbullah axis that has created a common cause between Shi'ite and Sunni extremists and that could potentially create a serious problem in southern Russia.

As a result, Moscow has concluded that one way to deal with the situation is to lure Syria out of the Iranian orbit, something it feels could be possible were an agreement reached between Syria and Israel.

This explains a stepped-up Russian interest in facilitating dialogue between Jerusalem and Damascus.

At the same time, Russia has stepped back from reported plans to convene an international peace conference in Moscow that would not only deal with the Palestinian-Israeli issue, but also with the Syrian-Israeli track.

According to Israeli officials, the Russians are now talking about a much smaller-scale meeting some time in the spring.

Although Israel has not officially been informed by the Russians about what Moscow has in mind, the current assessment is that the Kremlin wants to convene a conference of "technical experts," meaning high-level Foreign Ministry officials or their equivalent, to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian

The general idea would be to invite Israel, the Palestinians and members of the Quartet - the US, EU, Russia and the UN - and possibly representatives from the Arab league.

Officials in Jerusalem said that for now everybody was waiting to see how things developed in the bilateral Israeli-Palestinian negotiations before taking a firm stand on the matter.

While Israel has made clear that it does not think there is a need for additional international meetings at this time, it has not formally rejected the Russian proposal because there is no formal Russian proposal to reject.

The Russians are waiting to gauge the likely response to such a meeting before formally proposing anything, and Israel - according to diplomatic officials - was waiting to see what the proposal consisted of, and what the US and European positions were, before accepting or rejecting.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said recently that the meeting still needed to be coordinated and would depend on progress in the Israeli-Palestinian talks.

The Russians, according to Israeli officials, see the conference as another way to increase their involvement in the region.

The officials also said that there had been no hints that Russia was linking US and Israeli acceptance to the conference to the issue of sanctions against Iran.

A third round of sanctions against Iran is expected to be taken up at the UN Security Council next month, with Russia expected to support only a small number of watered down steps. While Israel and the US are interested in stepping up sanctions, Russia continues to feel that such sanctions would be counterproductive.

From Jerusalem Post

Continued (Permanent Link)

Ayalon: Intelligence failure prevents Shalit rescue mission

Perhaps the "intelligence failure" is not knowing when to shut up?
Ayalon: IDF lacks intel' to launch Shalit rescue mission
Speaking at Kibbutz Moledet, former Shin Bet chief answers residents' questions regarding IDF operations in Gaza, efforts made to free Gilad Shalit and the inner workings of Labor. 'We have to be pragmatic,' he says
Attila Somfalvi YNET Published: 12.22.07, 15:47 / Israel News

Former Shin Bet head and Security Cabinet member Minister Ami Ayalon (Labor-Meimad) said Saturday that the IDF cannot launch a rescue operation to recover kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit at this time due to "intelligence failure."

Ayalon was the guest of Kibbutz Moledet, in northern Israel. He addressed the residents' questions regarding the efforts made on behalf of Shalit, saying "We simply do not have the sufficient intelligence at this time. that is the only thing preventing us from going ahead with a rescue right now."

Ayalon went on to criticize the government's policy regarding the release of Palestinian prisoners: "Shalit is the Palestinians' captive because we uphold certain moral codes. we have to be pragmatic and take another look at the prisoners released.

"Palestinian prisoners should no be held as bargaining chips, but we have to rethink the release criteria," he added.

As for IDF operations in Gaza, Ayalon said he is against going too far: Israel should be doing whatever it can to negotiate with Hamas and have them stop firing Qassams as Sderot.

"We are doing everything morally within our power to free Gilad Shalit and we have to so the same to make sure the shootings stop," he said.

Despite these efforts, he explained, Hamas will not be considered a negotiating partner until it recognizes Israel's right to exist and the two-state solution.

Ayalon further spoke of Ehud Barak's leadership of the Labor party, saying "we have a long way to go before we can win en election."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Moderate Fatah shows all Isreal as Palestine

In Fatah map all of Israel is Palestine
Khaled Abu Toameh , THE JERUSALEM POST Dec. 22, 2007

Fatah is planning to mark its 43rd anniversary this year with a new poster that presents all of Israel as Palestine.

Designed specifically for the occasion by Abdel Mun'em Ibrahim, the poster features a map of Israel that is entirely draped with a Palestinian keffiyeh scarf.

It also carries a drawing of a rifle as a symbol of the "armed struggle" against Israel.

The poster, which has been endorsed by the Fatah leadership, has already been posted on a number of Fatah-affiliated Web sites.

The underlying message of the poster is that Fatah, like Hamas, does not recognize Israel's existence.

The emblem is in violation of Fatah's declared policy, which envisions an independent Palestinian state alongside, and not instead of, Israel.

By including a rifle in the poster, Fatah is sending a message to the Palestinian public that it has not abandoned the option of "armed resistance," despite current peace talks with Israel.

Founded in 1965, Fatah has celebrated its anniversary over the past 14 years with major rallies in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. But it's not clear at this stage if Hamas would allow Fatah to hold a big rally in the Gaza Strip.

Last week, Fatah banned Hamas from holding rallies in the West Bank to mark the 20th anniversary of the Islamist movement. Hamas officials have threatened to retaliate by barring Fatah rallies in the Gaza Strip.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Subscribe to
email newsletter for this site and others

Powered by

Feedblitz subcription
To this Blog only

You can receive our articles by e-mail. For a free subscription, please enter your e-mail address:

Preview | Powered by FeedBlitz

Web Logs & Sites

This Site

Zionism & Israel
Zionation Web Log
IMO Web Log (Dutch)

ZI Group
Zionism-Israel Pages
Israël-Palestina.Info (Dutch & English)
Israël in de Media
MidEastWeb Middle East News and Views
MidEastWeb Middle East Web Log

Brave Zionism
Israel: Like this, as if
Israel & Palestijnen Nieuws Blog

Friends and Partners
EinNews Israel
Israel Facts
Israel Proud Adam Holland
Middle East Analysis
Irene Lancaster's Diary
Middle East Analysis
Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
Israel Facts (NL)
Cynthia's Israel Adventure
Jeff Weintraub Commentaries and controversies
Meretz USA Weblog
Pro-Israel Bay Bloggers
Simply Jews
Fresno Zionism
Anti-Racist Blog
Sharona's Week
Z-Word Blog
Jewish State
Take A Pen - Israel Advocacy
Zionism on the Web
ZOTW's Zionism and Israel News
Zionism On The Web News
ZOTW's Blogs
Christian Attitudes
Dr Ginosar Recalls
Questions: Zionism anti-Zionism Israel & Palestine
Southern Wolf
Peace With Realism
Sanda's Place
Liberal for Israel
Realistic Dove
Blue Truth
Point of no Return
Christians Standing With Israel
Christians Standing With Israel - Blog

Encylopedic Dictionary of Zionism and Israel
Middle East Encyclopedia
Zionism and its Impact
Zionism & the creation of Israel
Zionism - Issues & answers
Maps of Israel
Christian Zionism Resources
Christian Zionism
Albert Einstein
Gaza & the Qassam Victims of Sderot
Zionist Quotes
Six Day War
Jew Hatred
Learn Hebrew
Arab-Israeli Conflict
International Zionism

Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel
Israel Boycott
Boycott Israel?
Amnesty International Report on Gaza War
Boycott Israel?
Dutch Newspaper Reporting: A Study of NRC Handelsblad
Hamas (Dutch)
Dries van Agt (Dutch)
Isfake lobby

At Zionism On the Web
Articles on Zionism
Anti-Zionism Information Center
Academic boycott of Israel Resource Center
The anti-Israel Hackers
Antisemitism Information Center
Zionism Israel and Apartheid
Middle East, Peace and War
The Palestine state
ZOTW Expert Search
ZOTW Forum

Judaica & Israel Gifts
Jewish Gifts: Judaica:
Ahava Products

Elsewhere On the Web
Stop the Israel Boycott


Powered by Blogger

Subscribe to
Posts [Atom]

RSS V 1.0

International Affairs Blogs - BlogCatalog Blog Directory