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Saturday, January 12, 2008

Lebanon: General Aoun's betrayal

General Aoun in his new Iranian, Syrian, and Godly Attire
By: Elias Bejjani/LCCC Chairman
January 13/08
I am duty-bound to congratulate Lebanon's MP, General Michel Aoun on his tremendous successes and accomplishments in the area of domesticating and Lebanising the Syrian Baathist policies, especially after his official appointment recently by Syrian Foreign minister Walid Moallem as  representative for the Axis of Evil (Syria and Iran), its spokesman, and negotiator on behalf of its groupings in Lebanon. How blessed are we the Lebanese people in both Lebanon and Diaspora that the Syrian/Iranian oppressing conditions for allowing us to elect the president are now in the general's pocket. (Aoun stated that these conditions are in his pocket). How fortunate we are that Syria has recognized "Rabieh" , (Aoun's Residential city) instead of the Baabda palace (Lebanese official Presidential Palace). So what else do we want beyond this great victory that General Aoun spearheaded?
Those Lebanese citizens who unfortunately still blindly support the platform of this derailed and narcissist politician ought to carefully consider where his sickening delusions are dragging the country!! Must we also praise the fundamental change in the general Aoun's military and political precepts which have been transformed magically from academic, scientific, and factual, to Godly and Illusions? Must we at the same time praise the "herd-like" loyalty for those sovereign and free Lebanese who still support the general despite all the "Godly" reversals and changes that inflicted his policies, his speeches, practices, slogans, and approach in the nationalist, religious, and value domains?.
Congratulation to the allegedly stubborn Lebanese people that still blindly support this "errant" leader in his new attire, the self claimed political Christian Maronite patriarch that betrayed all the history, culture, civilization, and values of the Maronites. This newly crowned fundamentalist Christian extremist. This preacher of wooden slogans. The Godly general, and the self claimed Lebanese Napoleon!!
It astonishes me how this newly transformed general has deserted all that he learned in the military academies and now boasts of Hezbollah's godly victory in the July 2006 war, thus overturning all military principles and measures.
Follows is a verbatim declaration by the general on 12/31/2007 from the "Natinal News Agency":
General Michel Aoun speaking to a delegation from the city of Byblos: "We still live the conditions of the July/06 war. For the first time, Israel was defeated in a small country called Lebanon in front of a small fighting force as measured to the its size. And the Lebanese people by its solidarity and the proper execution of the resistance has broken Israel's power which scared the whole world. We must be punished for this great sin which we have committed. Haven't you felt that when Abrams and David Welch (Two high rang US officials visited Lebanon last month) came to Lebanon, their visit resembled the days of the war? They were visiting a portion of the Lebanese supporters of the war. The Lebanese people were resisting politically and morally while the military front was resisting in the south. We succeeded in maintain the unity of the country and did not let it splinter under the pressure of the air force (Israeli air raids in July/06 Israeli-Hezbollah war). The party that fought was the opposition (Hezbollah and the Syrian-Iranian mercenaries in Lebanon). While the other side has supported the aggression. Today the issue of moving the war from the southern border to the interior continues. They attempted to revive it when we started the strikes and sit-ins. They started roaming troubles, internal which we were able to contain. Today, if they fail to elect a president, it means the continuation of this war because they will not accept any president. I do not want to name which nations that are trying to reverse this wonderful picture of Lebanon after the year 2006. The Lebanese people triumphed. This small people that they wished to muddy and claim it has no coexistence and wish to strike at its union. They want us to confront each others in an escalating path so that we lose the immunity that we gained from openness and understanding".
Since it is so hard for any leader or politician regardless of his status to continue to mock the intelligence and memory of the Lebanese, we shall let General Aoun himself explain this great contradiction in his stands regarding  his newly acquired beliefs in Hezbollah's "resistance" and its godly victories, he who officially and publicly declared that the resistance of this party occurs in collusion with Israel and at the expense of our people in the South. General Aoun declared in the year 2000 after Israel's withdrawal from South Lebanon that, "Hezbollah did not liberate the south, rather it has delayed its liberation 14 years". He also said: "If actually Hezbollah has liberated the south, it has liberated it from its own people and sent them into exile in all nations of the world, and specially to Israel."
The general's self-reply was published in the "Lebanese Communiqué" (Al Nachra Al Lubnania) on Friday 8/15/1997 under the title "The April Understanding, a security agreement and co-agreed resistance ". We leave the judgment on the honesty of the general's newly adopted pro Syrian-Iranian evil stances to the Lebanese citizen themselves and definitely to their intelligence and knowledge.
We leave it to the reader to judge the content of the below article, that  the general himself wrote meticulously and with deep thought and scientific and logical analysis, a year after the singing of the "April Understanding" between Hezbollah and Israel with Arab, Iranian, and International mediation and sponsorship.
(see below)

The April Understanding and Resistance With Compliance
By: General Michel Aoun
(Translated from Arabic by: Elias Bejjani)
August 15/1997
( Resisting occupation is a legitimate right and a patriotic obligation for each and every citizen struggling to free both his occupied land and his confiscated freedom from the occupiers. Resistance based on these two golden principles is fully legitimate; but with the same token it loses this legitimacy if allowed to deviate from its aims and objectives. Resistance in its essence is the struggle of the weak against the strong, and the striving of man against machine. Resistance requires a great deal of sacrifices to pave the way for acceptable and balanced negotiations between any parties in conflict.
After the Israeli "Grapes of Wrath" campaign against Lebanon in April 1996, the United States, France, Lebanon, Syria, Israel and Iran, with the compliance of Hezbollah, reached a ceasefire agreement known as the "April Understanding." This agreement speaks about the safety of the Lebanese residents but does not provide any guarantees for those residents. This agreement has made the Lebanese soil an arena for military operations, thus endangering the lives of all Lebanese residents, whether in their homes or on the roads.
Lebanese men, women and children in South Lebanon leave their homes every morning heading to their fields, work places and schools. Many of them never succeed to make it back. These innocent victims are killed on the roads, their deaths a result of roadside bombs, explosions, rockets, and bullets. Arguments focusing on the "national identity" of these South Lebanese residents and whether they are nationalists, collaborators or resistant elements, is in fact a futile argument. It only escalates the levels of anxiety and confusion, and increases the emptiness in both domiciles and minds.
We do not care which countries or powers have participated in reaching the April Understanding. Why? Because it remains the sole concern of both the Lebanese and the Israelis. Accordingly, one urgent question jumps to our minds: Why has the resistance negotiated with the enemy and accepted his conditions rendering its resistance.... resistance with compliance, giving the occupier comprehensive peace and security on his soil, while turning its own into a killing field?
Northern Israel is progressing, growing and blooming, while South Lebanon is losing its original residents and becoming poorer and poorer! Who does the conspiracy target? Who are its heroes? And for whose interests does the war continue and flare?)

It is worth mentioning that the drastic changes in the General's platforms are merely motivated by his sickening and delusional lust with the presidency post. He dreams day and night to be Lebanon's president at any cost and by any means, even by selling himself to the Axis of evil scheme against his own country and people. The man  has betrayed all his 18 years patriotic stances,  backed on his own promises and licked his own words. What a waste, and What a shame. What good could be expected from this man who boldly declared few days ago that he is close to the Syrian Baathist regime than he is to the USA!!!.
CLHRF Website

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Bush radio address: A Jewish state and an Arab Palestinian state

The higlight of President Bush's radio address from the Middle East:

In plain language, the result must be the establishment of a free and democratic homeland for the Palestinian people, just as Israel is a free and democratic homeland for the Jewish people. For this to happen, the Israelis must have secure, recognized, and defensible borders. And the Palestinians must have a state that is viable, contiguous, sovereign, and independent. Achieving this vision will require tough decisions and painful concessions from both sides.

The entire address is below.
Ami Isseroff

THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. I'm speaking to you from the Middle East, where I have been meeting with friends and allies. We're discussing how we can work together to confront the extremists who threaten our future. And I have encouraged them to take advantage of the historic opportunity we have before us to advance peace, freedom, and security in this vital part of the world.

My first stop was Israel and the Palestinian Territories. I had good meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Olmert and Palestinian President Abbas. Both these men are committed to peace in the Holy Land. Both these men have been elected by their people. And both share a vision of two democratic states -- Israel and Palestine -- living side by side in peace and security.

I came away encouraged by my meetings with Israeli and Palestinian leaders. Each side understands that the key to achieving its own goals is helping the other side achieve its goals. For the Israelis, their main goal is ensuring the safety of their people and the security of their nation. For the Palestinians, the goal is a state of their own, where they can enjoy the dignity that comes with sovereignty and self-government.

In plain language, the result must be the establishment of a free and democratic homeland for the Palestinian people, just as Israel is a free and democratic homeland for the Jewish people. For this to happen, the Israelis must have secure, recognized, and defensible borders. And the Palestinians must have a state that is viable, contiguous, sovereign, and independent. Achieving this vision will require tough decisions and painful concessions from both sides.

I believe that a peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians that defines a Palestinian state is possible this year. Prime Minister Olmert made clear to me that he understands a democratic Palestinian state is in the long-term security interests of Israel. President Abbas is committed to achieving this Palestinian state through negotiation. The United States cannot impose an agreement on the Israelis and Palestinians -- that is something they must work out themselves. But with hard work and good will on both sides, they can make it happen. And both men are getting down to the serious work of negotiation to make sure it does happen.

The United States will do all we can to encourage these negotiations and promote reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians. But the international community has a responsibility to help as well. In particular, the Arab nations of the Gulf have a responsibility both to support President Abbas, Prime Minister Fayyad, and other Palestinian leaders as they work for peace, and to work for a larger reconciliation between Israel and the Arab world. And in my meetings with Arab leaders over the next few days, I will urge them to do their part.

A democratic Palestinian state is in the interests of the Palestinians. It is in the long-term security interests of Israel. And it is in the interests of a world at war with terrorists and extremists trying to impose their brutal vision on the Middle East. By helping the Israeli and Palestinian people lay the foundation for lasting peace, we will help build a more hopeful future for the Holy Land -- and a safer world for the American people.

Thank you for listening.

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An Iranian attempt at political humor

The theoretical base of our presence in the world arena as well as our foreign policy are based on honesty, friendship and maximizing relations.
we are seeking to provide nations with progress and welfare.
And Baztab adds:
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that honesty and maximizing relations with other countries underlie Tehran's foreign policy.
A veritable Friedensrede, worthy of the Fuehrer himself. Theory and practice do not match very well. Iran lied about its nuclear enrichment program, concealing it from the world. Likewise it lied about its reactor in Arak. Its idea of friendly relations is to supply terrorists to Iraq and rockets to the Hezbollah in order to terrorize Israel and subvert the government of Lebanon. It is good to know however, that the ruler of Iran has a sense of humor. The Lebanese, Iraqis and Israelis may be doubtful that what Iran is providing is "progress and welfare."

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Syria rebuilding site that Israel bombed

Syria Rebuilds on Site Destroyed by Israeli Bombs

Published: January 12, 2008

The puzzling site in Syria that Israeli jets bombed in September grew more curious on Friday with the release of a satellite photograph showing new construction there that resembles the site's former main building.


New construction at a disputed Syrian site that Israeli and American analysts judged to be a partially built nuclear reactor.

Israel's air attack was directed against what Israeli and American intelligence analysts had judged to be a partly constructed nuclear reactor. The Syrians vigorously denied the atomic claim.

Before the attack, satellite imagery showed a tall, square building there measuring about 150 feet long per side.

After the attack, the Syrians wiped the area clean, with some analysis calling the speed of the cleanup a tacit admission of guilt. The barren site is on the eastern bank of the Euphrates, 90 miles north of the Iraqi border.

The image released Friday came from a private company, DigitalGlobe, in Longmont, Colo. It shows a tall, square building under construction that appears to closely resemble the original structure, with the exception that the roof is vaulted instead of flat. The photo was taken from space on Wednesday.

Given the international uproar that unfolded after the bombing, "we can assume it's not a reactor," said David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security, a private group in Washington that has analyzed the Syrian site.

If international inspectors eventually get to the site, he added, they will have a more difficult time looking for nuclear evidence. "The new building," he noted, "covers whatever remained of the destroyed one."

Skeptics have criticized the nuclear accusation, saying the public evidence that has so far come to light was ambiguous at best. They noted, for instance, that at the time of the attack the site had no obvious barbed wire or air defenses that would normally ring a sensitive military facility.

The International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna recently became aware of the new construction, a European diplomat said Friday.

"Obviously, they're keeping an eye on the site," he said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the issue's diplomatic delicacy.

As a signer to an agreement with the atomic agency, Syria is obligated to report the construction of a nuclear reactor to international inspectors. Nuclear reactors can make plutonium for the core of atom bombs, and therefore secretive work on reactors is usually interpreted as military in nature.

Senior Syrian officials continue to deny that a nuclear reactor was under construction, insisting that what Israel destroyed was a largely empty military warehouse.

Mohamed ElBaradei, who directs the atomic agency, this week told Al-Hayat, an Arabic-language newspaper based in London, that his agency wanted to inspect the site.

"So far, we have not received any information about any nuclear programs in Syria," he said, according to a transcript posted on the newspaper's Web site. Dr. ElBaradei said he had asked for the Syrians' permission "to allow the agency to visit the facility and to verify that it was not nuclear."

He added: "The Syrian brothers did not allow us to visit and inspect the location."

While some analysts have suggested that the new building might slow down international inspectors, Dr. ElBaradei said in the interview that his agency had sensitive "technologies to assure that the location did not host a nuclear facility."

The satellite photographs, he added, led experts to doubt "that the targeted construction" was in fact a nuclear reactor.

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Friday, January 11, 2008

Bush: I'll be back

Last update - 14:52 11/01/2008    
Bush leaves Israel with hopes for 'chances of peace' 
By News Agencies 
President Bush said Friday that he would return to the Mideast in May to continue pressing the Israelis and Palestinians into reaching a peace agreement and celebrate Israel's 60th anniversary.
"There's a good chance for peace and I want to help you," Bush said, flanked by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and President Shimon Peres at the airport outside Tel Aviv, where he boarded Air Force One, ending his visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories.
"Mr. Prime Minister and Mr. President, thank you very much for your invitation to come back. I'm accepting it now," Bush said on the tarmac.
Bush wrapped up his first presidential visit to Israel on Friday, visiting Jerusalem's official Holocaust memorial, Yad Vashem, and Christian holy sites in the north before departing for Kuwait, the next stop on his Middle East tour.
Bush arrived in Israel on Wednesday for talks with Israeli and Palestinians leaders as part of ongoing U.S. efforts to push the two sides into a peace agreement, following on from the regional peace conference in Annapolis, Maryland last November.
The U.S. leader summed up his visit Thursday evening by urging Israel to end its "occupation" of the Palestinian territories. He also expressed his belief that a viable peace deal could be reached by the end of his presidential term in January 2009.
Accompanied by Olmert and Peres, Bush earlier Friday toured Jerusalem's Yad Vashem memorial to the six million Jews killed in the Nazi Holocaust of World War Two, a traditional stop for foreign dignitaries visiting Israel.
During his visit, Bush said that the instititution serves as a reminder of the existence of evil in the world that needs to be resisted.
"I would hope if many people in the world would come to this place, it would be a sobering reminder that evil exists and a call that when we find evil, we must resist it," Bush said while at the memorial.
Wearing a black skullcap, he walked sombrely past photographs of victims. At a ceremony in the stark Hall of Remembrance, Bush rekindled an eternal flame and laid a wreath next to the names of death camps etched on a grey marble floor.
"I guess I came away with this impression, that I was most impressed that people in the face of horror and evil would not forsake their God -- that in the face of unspeakable crimes against humanity, brave souls, young and old, stood strong for what they believe, he said.
The Yad Vashem memorial was closed to the public and under heavy guard Friday, with armed soldiers standing on top of some of the site's monuments and a police helicopter and surveillance blimp hovering in the air overhead.
It was Bush's second visit to the Holocaust memorial, a regular stop on the visits of foreign dignitaries. His first was in 1998, as governor of Texas. The last U.S. president to visit was Bill Clinton in 1994.
At the compound, overlooking a forest on Jerusalem's outskirts, Bush was to visit the Museum of Holocaust Art and the Children's Memorial, and lay a wreath in the Hall of Remembrance.
Yad Vashem's director, Avner Shalev, was to present Bush with illustrations of the Bible drawn by the Jewish artist Carol Deutsch, who perished in the Holocaust.
Deutsch created the works while in hiding from the Nazis in Belgium. He was informed upon, and died in 1944 in the Buchenwald camp. After the war, his daughter Ingrid discovered that the Nazis had confiscated their furniture and valuables but had left behind a single item: a meticulously crafted wooden box adorned with a Star of David and a seven-branched menorah, containing a collection of 99 of the artist's illustrations of biblical scenes.
The originals are on display at Yad Vashem. The memorial recently decided to produce a special series of 500 replicas, the first of which was to be presented to Bush.
Debbie Deutsch-Berman, a Yad Vashem employee whose grandfather was Deutch's brother, said she was proud that Bush would be given her relative's artwork.
"These are not just his paintings, they are his legacy, and the fact that they survived shows that as much as our enemies tried to destroy the ideas that these paintings embody, they failed," she said.
Later Friday, Bush visited the site where Jesus is believed to have intoned "blessed are the peacemakers".
Near the hilltop where Christian faithful believe Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount, two robed Franciscan friars, one of them reading to Bush from the gospels, escorted the president to a jetty on the Sea of Galilee.
Asked what it was like to be walking in Jesus's footsteps, Bush replied: "It's an amazing experience."
Holding the hands of two nuns, a beaming Bush entered the Franciscan chapel on the Mount of Beatitudes, overlooking the ruins of Capernaum where Christians believe Jesus performed miracles.
He also toured the ruins of an ancient synagogue at Capernaum, or Kfar Nahum in Hebrew, where tradition says Saint Peter lived.

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CIA "discovered" the obvious - Israel had nuclear weapons in 1974

The CIA has released a report saying that they knew Israel has nuclear weapons in 1974. Was this politically motivated? Probably. But what is interesting, is that the CIA is anxious to fob off as secret intelligence what was common knowledge in 1974. Nuclear weapons systems were supposedly armed in the Yom Kippur war, and as this was one way to put pressure on the US to deliver arms, it is very likely Israel made sure that the US knew about it. 
Ami Isseroff

CIA: We said back in 1974 that Israel had nuclear weapons 
By Amir Oren, Haaretz Correspondent 

The Central Intelligence Agency, backed by bodies including the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research and the Defense Intelligence Agency, determined in August 1974 that Israel had nuclear "weapons in being," a "small number" of which it "produced and stockpiled."

Israel was also suspected of providing nuclear materials, equipment or technology to Iran, South Africa and other then-friendly countries.

This top secret document, consigned to the CIA's vaults for almost 32 years, was suddenly released to the public this week, during U.S. President George W. Bush's visit to Israel and on the eve of his trip to the Persian Gulf.

A small part of the document was released in early 2006 under a Freedom of Information Request placed by scholars Avner Cohen and William Burr, but only as an attachment to a 1975 State Department paper ostensibly disputing the the portrayal of Israel's nuclear weapons as a fact.

This served the Department of State's effort to avoid addressing Israel's nuclear status in response to a query by Congressman Alan Steelman.

The Department of State, led in this exercise by officials Joseph Sisco, Alfred (Roy) Atherton and Harold Saunders, tried to depict the 1974 Special National Intelligence Assesment, "Prospects for further proliferation of nuclear weapons," as a CIA project, while in fact it was an agency-wide effort that included its own intelligence chief, William Hyland, as a senior member of the board that agreed to the conclusions.

The CIA was asked Thursday via e-mail about the strange coincidence of the document's release a mere month after the publication of its awkwardly worded NIE on Iran's nuclear weapons program. It did not respond by deadline.

The issue of an American double standard regarding the nuclear activities of Israel and Iran often comes up when senior American officials visit the Gulf, as Secretary of Defense Robert Gates did last month.

In both the original 1974 document and the 1975 State Department paper (in which it was retyped), the entire intelligence community determined, "Israel already has produced nuclear weapons." This analysis was based on "Israeli acquisition of large quantities of uranium," in part covertly; on Israel's ambiguous efforts to enrich uranium; and on the huge investment in the "Jericho" surface-to-surface missile "designed to accommodate nuclear warheads." Short of a grave threat to the nation's existence, Israel was not expected to confirm its suspected capability "by nuclear testing or by threats of use."

While Israel's nuclear weapons "cannot be proven beyond a shadow of doubt," several bodies of information point strongly toward a program stretching back over a number of years, the document states.

The 1974 document describes the Jericho project, from its inception in France through its migration to Israel to the replacement of the original inertial guidance system by an Israeli design "based on components produced in Israel under licenses from U.S. companies."

Israel Aircraft Industries is responsible for the development of the missile and has constructed a number of facilities for production and testing north of Tel Aviv, near Haifa, at Ramle and nearby it "a missile assembly and checkout plant."

On Iran, the 1974 NIE said, "there is no doubt of the Shah's ambition to make Iran a power to reckon with. If he is alive in the mid-80's, if Iran has a full-fledged nuclear power industry and all the facilities necessary for nuclear weapons, and if other countries have proceeded with weapons development, we have no doubt that Iran will follow suit."

The Shah's ouster in 1979 (and death a year later) apparently slowed down Iran's nuclear project.

The authors of the NIE wrote that the U.S. helped France expedite its nuclear program, France in turn helped Israel, and much like France and India, Israel, "while unlikely to foster proliferation as a matter of national policy, probably will prove susceptible to the hue of economic and political advantages to be gained from exporting materials, technology and equipment relevant to nuclear weapons programs."

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Thursday, January 10, 2008

Bush: No Palestinian state without end to terror; No right of return to Israel

Last update - 20:24 10/01/2008    
 Bush: Palestinian statehood and compensation are solution to refugee issue 

 By Aluf Benn and Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondents, The Associated Press and Haaretz Service 
U.S. President George W. Bush on Thursday laid out his vision for resolving some of the most contentious issues dividing Israelis and Palestinians, including the matter of Palestinian refugees, which he said would be resolved by the creation of a Palestinian state and compensation.
"I believe we need to look to the establishment of a Palestinian state and new international mechanisms, including compensation, to resolve the refugee issue," said Bush, in a statement summing up two days of meetings with Israeli and Palestinian leaders. Bush arrived in Israel for a three-day on Wednesday.
"There should be an end to the occupation that began in 1967," continued Bush. "The agreement must establish Palestine as a homeland for the Palestinian people, just as Israel is a homeland for the Jewish people."
"These negotiations must ensure that Israel has secure, recognized, and defensible borders," he said. "And they must ensure that the state of Palestine is viable, contiguous, sovereign, and independent."
The U.S. president reiterated a previous commitment he gave to then prime minister Ariel Sharon, saying Israel should not be expected to withdraw fully from territory captured in the Six-Day War.
"While territory is an issue for both parties to decide, I believe that any peace agreement between them will require mutually agreed adjustments to the armistice lines of 1949 to reflect current realities and to ensure that the Palestinian state is viable and contiguous," he said.
He offered no specifics to resolve the conflicting claims to Jerusalem, but urged both sides to work toward a solution. "I know Jerusalem is a tough issue," Bush said. "Both sides have deeply felt political and religious concerns."
"I fully understand that finding a solution to this issue will be one of the most difficult challenges on the road to peace, but that is the road we have chosen to walk," he added.
The president said Israel and the Palestinians must both live up to their commitments under the long-dormant road map for peace.
"On the Israeli side that includes ending settlement expansion and removing unauthorized outposts," Bush said. On the Palestinian side that includes confronting terrorists and dismantling terrorist infrastructure ... no agreement and no Palestinian state will be born of terror."
Bush added that the sides should be able to reach an agreement by the end of 2008, as they agreed to do at the U.S.-hosted Middle East peace conference in Annapolis in November.
"A peace agreement should happen and can happen by the end of this year," said the American president. "I know both leaders share this important goal and I am committed to helping both sides achieve it."
Within minutes, Bush's national security adviser Stephen Hadley said the president would return to the Middle East at least once and maybe more over the next year. He wouldn't elaborate on possible destinations.
Bush also called on Arab states to reach out to Israel, saying this was "long overdue."
Bush names U.S. General as new road map monitor
Bush earlier named Lt. Gen. William Fraser to monitor the Israeli-Palestinian "road map" for peace, the White House said Thursday.
Fraser, who has served as assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will "help monitor road map commitments", White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said.
The U.S. president met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah earlier in the day, telling a press conference that he is confident that the Israelis and the Palestinians will reach a peace deal in 2008.
"In order for there to be lasting peace, President Abbas and Prime Minister Olmert have to come together and make tough choices," Bush said at a joint press conference with Abbas.
"And I'm convinced they will. And I believe it's possible - not only possible, I believe it's going to happen - that there be a signed peace treaty by the time I leave office [in January 2009]. That's what I believe."
Bush spent much of Thursday in the West Bank, including a pilgrimage to Jesus' traditional birth grotto in biblical Bethlehem.
The president arrived at Abbas' headquarters on Thursday for his first-ever visit to the Palestinian territories. Abbas greeted Bush as he emerged from his car in the walled compound. The two men walked side by side along a red carpet, flanked by Palestinian security in olive-and-gold uniforms.
He also accused terrorists of trying to ruin Palestinian hopes for statehood.
Abbas "knows that a handful of people want to dash the expectations of the Palestinian people," he said. "I appreciate your [Abbas'] understanding that the way to achieve peace is to offer an alternative vision of liberty."
The president said that the Americans are "very much engaged" in peace negotiations. "I am confident that with proper help, the state of Palestine will emerge... I am confident that the status quo is unacceptable, Mr. President," he said to Abbas.
Responding to a question about West Bank settlements, Bush said that "each side has got obligations under the road map... we have made our concerns about the expansion of settlements known."
Under the U.S.-backed road map for peace, Israel must halt the expansion of settlements in the first phase, and Palestinian security services must counter terrorism.
"I believe Palestinian security forces are improving... my message to the Israelis is that they ought to help, not hinder, the modernization of the Palestinian security forces," Bush said.
Abbas: Palestinians seek a state with Jerusalem as its capital
Abbas said that he and Bush agreed on the points they raised during the meeting. During the press conference, he spelled out Palestinian demands, saying that his people seek a state with "Jerusalem as its capital and an end to the refugee problem, in accordance with UN decisions."
"The Palestinian people, who are committed to peace, want to move freely in their country, with no roadblocks, [separation] fence or settlements... We want to see a different future, without thousands of prisoners in jail and innocent deaths. We want to stop the closure," Abbas continued.
In response to a question on Israel Defense Forces checkpoints in the West Bank, designed to prevent terror attacks on Israelis targets but which hinder Palestinian freedom of movement, Bush said he identified with both sides' positions.
He said that the Israelis "don't want a state on their border on which attacks can be launched. I can understand that... The checkpoints create security for Israel and they create frustrations for Palestinians."
On the Gaza Strip, which is under the control of the extremist Hamas movement since a bloody June takeover, Bush said that "there is a competing vision taking place in Gaza."
"Hamas... has delivered nothing but misery. I'm convinced his [Abbas'] government will yield a hopeful future."
Abbas echoed the sentiments, saying, "Hamas has to retreat from its coup, then we can talk."
Ahead of the visit, Palestinian police sealed off streets and erected checkpoints in large parts of the city, and residents in nearby buildings were told to stay away from windows and balconies. Palestinian security officials said U.S. snipers were being deployed in the area.

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Bush in Israel - better late than never!

Better late than never - Bush visits Middle East in the last year of his presidential term. Was this trip really necessary?

This is also, "better late than never:"

Army Radio quoted Ramon as saying that Israel and the Palestinians were somewhat belatedly beginning to discuss the most contentious subjects, and that he believed Bush's visit will help the sides reach an agreement.

"I am happy that we are beginning to talk on the subjects that perhaps we should have begun to talk about earlier," Ramon told Army Radio. "Both sides relate to his [Bush's] requests and his wishes and his visit will certainly accelerate the talks."
Shouldn't all of these issues have been discussed 15 years ago?

Ami Isseroff

Last update - 12:03 09/01/2008

President to meet Israel-PA leaders in bid to boost peace talks

Bush arrives in Israel for first presidential visit

By Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondent

Vice Premier Haim Ramon said Wednesday that U.S. President George W. Bush's visit to the region this week would "certainly" help accelerate peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

Bush is due to arrive in Israel on Wednesday for a visit aimed at advancing the peace process in the wake of the Annapolis Summit last November.

The visit, Bush's first time in Israel since he entered the White House seven years ago, comes a day after Israel agreed to hold talks with the Palestinians over the conflict's core issues.

Army Radio quoted Ramon as saying that Israel and the Palestinians were somewhat belatedly beginning to discuss the most contentious subjects, and that he believed Bush's visit will help the sides reach an agreement.

"I am happy that we are beginning to talk on the subjects that perhaps we should have begun to talk about earlier," Ramon told Army Radio. "Both sides relate to his [Bush's] requests and his wishes and his visit will certainly accelerate the talks."

Upon arrival, the U.S. president will be greeted at Ben-Gurion International Airport by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, President Shimon Peres, Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch, Israel's chief rabbis and other Israeli dignitaries.

After a ceremony featuring speeches by Bush, Olmert and Peres, the U.S. president will meet with Peres to discuss steps to improve the Palestinian economy and support regional financial initiatives.

Bush is then expected to meet with Olmert for a joint meeting with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Defense Minister Ehud Barak that will touch upon negotiations with the Palestinian Authority as well as Israel's security needs. "We want the visit to succeed and produce more progress in talks," a government source said Tuesday.

Israel will also present its stance regarding the U.S. military assessment that claimed Iran has abandoned its nuclear armament program. Olmert, Livni and Barak will stress the importance of continuing to put pressure on Tehran by using Security Council sanctions. They will also provide Israeli information on Iran's nuclear program.

The U.S. entourage includes hundreds of advisers, security agents and even cooks, who will supervise the food served to Bush at Jerusalem's King David Hotel.

About 1,000 rooms in three different hotels have been booked to lodge the massive delegation. In honor of Bush, Jerusalem's municipal council has decided to shut off the lights illuminating the Old City's walls to allow Bush to see it under the natural moonlight.

In a statement issued Tuesday, Olmert agreed to hold talks with the Palestinian Authority on the core issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict - a decision that could lead to Yisrael Beiteinu's departure from the coalition.

According to the deal, which was first reported in Haaretz earlier this week, all the core issues in the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians for a final-status agreement will be discussed in a special committee headed by Livni and Ahmed Qureia.

"Today the two leaders agreed to authorize the negotiating teams to conduct direct and ongoing negotiations on all the core issues," Olmert spokesman Mark Regev said after the prime minister met PA President Mahmoud Abbas in Jerusalem. "We expect that to start expeditiously."

The core issues are considered to be the three most daunting and controversial matters at the center of the conflict, and include the question of delineating borders, Palestinian refugees' right of return and sovereignty over Jerusalem.

The remaining issues such as security, trade, economics, law and civil issues will be dealt with in separate committees. Olmert and PA President Abbas will monitor the progress of the negotiations and will contribute to resolving deadlocks. Neither side gave a start date for the talks, although Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said the talks would begin immediately.

"We hope that the Israeli government ... would refrain from any act that may preempt ... the issues of permanent status negotiations and will stop the military attacks in the West Bank and Gaza," Erekat said.

Lieberman threat

The minister for strategic affairs and chairman of the hard-line Yisrael Beiteinu party, Avigdor Lieberman, said Tuesday that he does not intend to resign during Bush's visit, but does plan to hold a meeting with the prime minister for clarification on the core issues to be discussed.

"Lieberman doesn't intend to cause drama and crises and resign during a visit by the president of the United States," said sources close to the minister. "But with the direction that this government is taking, there will be no other option but to quit the government."

Olmert and Lieberman met Tuesday for talks on security preparations ahead of Bush's visit, but it is not clear whether they discussed Olmert's decision to engage the Palestinians with talks over core issues.

"We think the visit is an opportunity to energize the momentum of the post-Annapolis dialogue between us and the Palestinians," Regev said.


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Christians in the Middle East: Bombing Churches

Something to think about next time you see an article about supposed Israeli persecution of Christians in Bethlehem. I got a letter from CAIR asking me to help improve the image of Islam in the press. They could start by denouncing this.
Ami Isseroff

Car Bombings Target Churches In N Iraqi City Of Kirkuk - AFP

KIRKUK, Iraq (AFP)--Two car bombs exploded outside churches in quick succession in the northern Iraq city of Kirkuk Wednesday, in the latest in a wave of attacks on Christian buildings, police said.

The attacks, within two minutes of each other, caused damage to buildings, cars and surrounding houses but no injuries, said Brigadier General Burhan Habib Tayib, head of city police in Kirkuk.

The bombings come after similar attacks on churches and a monastery in the main northern Iraqi city of Mosul Sunday which wounded four people and damaged buildings.

Tayib told AFP the first car bomb exploded outside the Cathedral of Kirkuk, a Chaldean Christian building in the center of the city, at around 1640 local time. It was followed two minutes later by a car bomb blast outside the Assyrian Christian Maar Afram church, about one kilometer away.

"A lot of material damage was caused," said Tayib. "Cars and surrounding houses and the glass and walls of the churches all suffered damage."

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki Tuesday told the Vatican's ambassador to Iraq, Monsignor Francis Assisi Chullikatt, his government is committed to ensuring the safety of Christians following the attacks in Mosul.

"The Iraqi government is anxious to ensure the safety of Iraqi Christians," Maliki told the ambassador at a meeting in Baghdad, saying it isn't only Christians who are being targeted but all religious groups, including Muslims.

On Monday, Pope Benedict XVI expressed concern for Christians in Iraq in his annual speech to Vatican diplomats.


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How the UN works: Libya thwarts Security Council censure of Shlomi missile strike

So much for "international legitimacy."
 Last update - 09:47 10/01/2008       
Libya thwarts Security Council censure of Shlomi missile strike
By Shlomo Shamir and Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondents and Reuters
Libya, which last week took over the rotating presidency of the United Nations Security Council after decades as a pariah of the West, is hindering diplomatic efforts spearheaded by Israel to issue a resolution condemning Tuesday's Katyusha strike on the Galilee, Haaretz has learned.
Two Katyusha rockets struck the western Galilee town of Shlomi, causing no injuries early Tuesday morning. One of the rockets lightly damaged a house, and the second hit a street in the town.
The main bone of contention centers around an Israeli demand that the resolution include language that characterizes the rocket strike as a violation of UN Security Council 1701, which officially ended the Second Lebanon War.
The Libyan ambassador who assumed the council presidency, Giadalla Ettalhi, let it be known that his government rejects any reference to 1701, citing the UN position that there is no definitive proof that the rocket fire emanated from Lebanon.
Though Jerusalem has indicated a willingness to compromise on references to Lebanon in the document, it continues to insist that Resolution 1701 be cited in any censure.
For its part, Tripoli seeks to include language condemning the Israel Air Force flights over southern Lebanon in any resolution, a position which Israel rejects.
As president, Libya's ambassador to the UN is obliged to maintain contacts with all of the world body's member states, including Israel - with which it currently has no diplomatic relations. Diplomatic sources, however, doubted on Tuesday whether Libya would act so with reference to Israel.
The North African country was elected in October, as were Burkina Faso, Costa Rica, Croatia and Vietnam, to sit on the council in 2008-09 after the United States, which foiled two earlier bids by Tripoli, decided not to block it this time.
By an alphabetical accident, Libya becomes president of the 15-nation body from its very first day as a member, succeeding Italy. Each country is president for a month, the rotation going in English alphabetical order of names.
Libya and Burkina Faso had been unopposed after being endorsed by the African regional grouping for two African seats that fell vacant on Dec. 31.
The Security Council is the powerhouse of the United Nations, with the ability to send peacekeeping troops around the world and impose sanctions on specific countries.
Unlike the five permanent members - the United States, Russia, Britain, France and China - the nonpermanent members have no individual veto. But an alliance of seven of them can stop a resolution even if the big powers want it.
Libya has only recently rehabilitated itself in Western eyes from an accused sponsor of terrorism that organized the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Scotland, which killed 270 people.

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Jewish Opposition to dividing Jerusalem weakening

This assessment may be wishful thinking. Or it may be a result of focusing on the wrong issue. Har Homa is not mentioned in the Bible, and is not part of either the ancient Jewish heritage or the modern Israeli heritage. The question is, "what part of Jerusalem is important?" Before that, we must ask "What is Jerusalem?" Har Homa is not Jerusalem and never was.
Ami Isseroff
Dividing Jerusalem / Right-wing opposition to split is waning
By Nadav Shragai
The appeals of right-wing groups working to prevent the division of Jerusalem suggest that the prospect of a successful protest campaign against the move seems quite slim at the moment. Low protester turnout isn't helping matters.
Only 2,000 participants showed up to Monday's protest rally at Har Homa in the south-eastern part of the capital. The protesters seemed aware of their meager numbers.
Instead of making optimistic projections and warning of an electoral backlash, the organizers opted for a more pensive approach, urging the devoted few not to lose hope by quoting from the will of that great redeemer of land, Yehoshua Hankin, who died 63 years ago. Then the settlers drove several trucks laden with construction materials to nine outposts in the West Bank.
"I have always believed in the power of the individual to lay new paths before the crowds," the organizers read. "[Like] the battle between David and Goliath ... Where now there is only one man, dozens will follow tomorrow, and hundreds of thousands the day after."
MK Reuven Rivlin (Likud) drew on ancient history as well, when he spoke at the New York yeshiva, Beit Orot. Rivlin focused on the internal dispute within the Zionist Movement on the plan to establish the National Jewish home in Uganda.
Rivlin drew parallels between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's willingness to discuss giving up parts of the capital to the Palestinians, with the plan to set up shop in the East African nation, then a colony of the British Empire. Although he stopped short of explicitly calling the discussion on the possibility of concession immoral, Rivlin did speak words to that effect.
"Herzl shelved the Uganda plan when he realized it wasn't up to Zionism to decide on whether to set up a national home there," Rivlin said. "He realized that putting this option on the Zionist political agenda was practically and morally wrong. Olmert, by contrast, insists on bringing the people of the State of Israel to areas on which they had never before been called to decide."
There was another event. The human chain of demonstrators who arrived at the Old City on Monday to hold hands around the old wall may have been photogenic, but it comprised no more than 5,000 demonstrators. Compare that with the mass rally against the city's division in 2000 - which drew a crowd of over 300,000 people - and you realize something has changed.
The activists say the public will awaken when the division is imminent. Maybe they are right. Meanwhile, the main activity is behind the scenes, where religious leaders are pressuring the Shas movement to leave Olmert's coalition.

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Facing hurdles, Israel puts off a Gaza invasion

The oft-mentioned invasion of Gaza is not going to happen soon, but we knew that. In addition to what is below, we can note that Israeli analysts believe IDF is opposed to an operation at present because the army is not ready and because key weapons systems like Iron Dome are not ready.  
Facing hurdles, Israel puts off a Gaza invasion

By Roy Eitan  Published: 12/19/2007

[With video]: IDF Image released by the IDF showing Palestinian rocket crews firing mortars into Israel from an area near an elementary school in Beit Hanoun, in the northern Gaza Strip.
JERUSALEM (JTA) -- After weeks of threatening to invade the Gaza Strip, Israel appears to have decided to confront Palestinian rocket crews with a protracted but low-intensity air offensive.
This week, Israeli airstrikes in Gaza from helicopter gunships and unmanned aerial vehicles killed at least a dozen Palestinian terrorists, most of them from Islamic Jihad, which runs the rocket crews, but some also from Hamas. Palestinian shelling of Israeli towns near the Gaza border did not ease after the attacks.
"There is a war going on in the south," Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was quoted as telling colleagues in his centrist Kadima party. "This is not what is usually called a large-scale ground operation but a precise, pinpoint operation -- with impressive results."
Despite the stepped-up attacks from both sides, political developments and tactical challenges make a large-scale invasion of Gaza unlikely for the near future.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak had threatened to order a major ground invasion of Gaza by late November, before winter fully set in and made the warren-like Palestinian refugee camps populated by Hamas and Islamic Jihad members even more treacherous.
But last month's Annapolis peace conference, which stirred international hopes of reviving negotiations with the Palestinian Authority under President Mahmoud Abbas, put the brakes on a Gaza offensive.
Now U.S. President George W. Bush is set to visit Israel and the West Bank next month to push for peace before he leaves office. It will mark Bush's first trip to Israel since becoming president in 2001, and his first ever to the West Bank.
"You don't have to be a security Cabinet member to realize that if the State of Israel wants to see President Bush here early next month, this visit should not be accompanied by 200 to 300 Palestinians killed in an Israeli ground operation in the Gaza Strip," wrote Alex Fishman, the defense correspondent for Israel's daily Yediot Achronot.
"So the military echelon is cautiously raising the bar against the terror from Gaza," he wrote. "In the meantime, no problems are being solved; rather, the height of the flames is being played with. This is playing with fire -- while trying to buy time."
The other challenge to invading Gaza is tactical. Military planners anticipate a major ground offensive could leave as many as 50 to 100 Israeli soldiers dead, with little lasting results staunching terrorism in Gaza.
For now, Israel's strategy is pinpoint airstrikes.
After this week's strikes, Islamic Jihad, which lost its top Gaza field commander and several senior rocket crewmen in Israel's attacks, threatened escalation, hinting at renewed suicide bombings in Israel.
Hamas, however, opted for a different tack.
Ismail Haniyeh, who heads Hamas in Gaza and was the elected Palestinian Authority prime minister until he was deposed six months ago following Hamas' violent takeover of Gaza, told Israel's Channel 2 TV he would be willing to discuss a truce with Olmert's government -- "an end to both the barrages and the assassinations."
Olmert, who refuses to talk with Hamas, was unmoved. Israel's leadership has little desire to give Hamas or Islamic Jihad a hiatus in which to rearm and regroup.
But two Israeli Cabinet ministers broke with Olmert, saying the government should consider Haniyeh's overture.
Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz, a former defense minister, said he would favor truce talks with Hamas as long as they were conducted through an intermediary and Israel's attacks on Palestinian terrorists continued in parallel.
Ami Ayalon, a minister without portfolio and former Shin Bet security chief, said Israel must do more to bolster Abbas' standing among his people while looking into ways of stemming the Gaza threat without major bloodshed.
"I would intend to talk to anyone if the objective is stopping the Kassam rocket fire," Ayalon told Army Radio.
While Israel's airstrikes have been accurate thus far, an errant missile that kills a large number of civilians could cause international outcry and scuttle political progress with the Palestinians and the Arab world.
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad already has condemned Israel's strikes, which have caused minimal bystander casualties, as "criminal aggression."
On the flip side, should a Palestinian rocket cause many deaths, Olmert may be forced to order an invasion of Gaza.
Some Israeli officials voiced skepticism about the long-term efficacy of the strategy of airstrikes and commando raids in Gaza.
"I think it is clear that eventually we will have to enter in a big way," Tzachi Hanegbi, chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, told Israel Radio.
After this week's attacks, Hamas reportedly approached Islamic Jihad to get the group to halt its rocket fire into Israel.
Though Hamas remains dedicated to Israel's destruction, Hamas is interested in imposing order on the chaotic Gaza Strip and demonstrating that it can govern there.
Since routing Fatah from Gaza in June, Hamas has not sponsored rocket fire from the strip, at times saying it runs counter to Palestinian interests. But Hamas fighters have continued to attack Israeli border positions with mortars.
Meanwhile, in Paris, the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority managed to garner $7.4 billion in aid pledges from the international community.
Political analysts say Abbas hopes to bolster security and prosperity for Palestinians still under the sway of his relatively moderate Fatah faction, thereby stealing popular support from the isolated and cash-starved Hamas.

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Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Report: Syria now rules out military solution to conflict with Israel

This is a switch. What does it mean?  
Last update - 18:14 09/01/2008       
Report: Syria rules out military solution to conflict with Israel
Syria's foreign minister said his country was not seeking a military solution to its conflict with Israel and was prepared for negotiations, the Dubai-based Al-Arabiya TV reported Wednesday.
Walid Moallem told al-Arabiya TV that Syria was prepared to hold talks with Israel in line with its drive for peace.
"Syria is not looking for a military solution," he said.
The minister explained that his country had already accepted the principle of negotiations when it attended a peace conference in Madrid in 1991 and the U.S.-sponsored conference in Annapolis in November last year.
At the Madrid peace conference, which had been sponsored by the United States and the then Soviet Union, Israel entered for the first time into direct talks with Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and the Palestinians.
Moallem reiterated Syria's stance that any negotiations with Israel should go side by side with separate talks between Israel and the Palestinians and the Lebanese.
Traditionally, Syria has rejected any separate peace deal with Israel - similar to peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan - to restore the Golan Heights, Israel captured in the 1967 Six-Day War.

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Bush in Israel

 Last update - 19:37 09/01/2008       
George W. Bush in Israel on first presidential visit
Bush in Israel: West Bank outposts 'have got to go'

By Aluf Benn and Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondent, News Agencies and Haaretz Service
Tags: Israel, George Bush, Iran
U.S. President George W. Bush said after meeting with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Jerusalem on Wednesday evening that the unauthorized settlement outposts established in the West Bank had "to go."
Bush, on his first presidential visit to Israel, had said before his trip that the issue would be central during his talks with senior officials in Jerusalem.
Regarding the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, the president said that while the United States was willing to help the two sides reach an agreement, peace meant concessions from both.
He said that Arab states must support the Palestinians as they make tough choices, but was very hopeful he could achieve an agreement between the two sides.
Speaking first at the press conference that followed their two hour-meeting, Olmert said that both Israelis and Palestinians are very seriously trying to move forward to realize a vision of a two-state solution.
He said Israel was serious about implementing the road map peace plan for creation of a Palestinian state next to Israel.
"Both sides, I believe, are very seriously trying to move forward in order to realize the vision of two states living side by side in peace," Olmert said.
But, referring to a Qassam rocket barrage on southern Israel on Wednesday, the prime minister said there will be no peace unless Palestinians terror is stopped.
"Gaza is part of a package," he said. "There will be no peace unless terror is stopped - and stopped everywhere."
Bush said upon his arrival earlier in the day that he had come to the region with high hopes that a Middle East peace deal could be achieved before he leaves office at the end of the year.
"I come as an optimistic person and a realistic person - realistic in my
understanding that it's vital for the world to fight terrorists to confront those who would murder the innocent to achieve political objectives," Bush told President Shimon Peres during a meeting at Peres' Jerusalem residence.
"I come with high hopes, and the role of the United States will be to foster a vision of peace. The role of the Israeli leadership and the Palestinian leadership is going to do the hard work necessary to define a vision," Bush said.
Regarding Iran, which Israel and the United States accuse of developing a nuclear weapons program, Bush said that "the international community must understand with clarity the threat Iran poses to world peace."
While the U.S. National Intelligence Estimate released last month said that Iran halted its nuclear program in 2003, Bush said that that "the Iranians had a covert military program that was suspended... I interpreted the NIE to mean you should take Iran seriously."
Bush's visit seeks to advance peace talks, following on from the U.S.-hosted international peace summit in Annapolis, Maryland last November.
"We seek lasting peace. We see a new opportunity for peace here in the holy land and for freedom across the region," Bush said during the official reception for him at Ben-Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv.
"We will discuss our deep desire for security and freedom and for peace throughout the Middle East," he added.
"The alliance between our two nations helps guarantee Israel's security as a Jewish state," Bush added, bolstering Israel's bid to secure Palestinian recognition of Israel as Jewish in character.
Bush was greeted at the airport by Peres and Olmert, Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch, Israel's chief rabbis and other Israeli dignitaries.
Speaking at the reception, Olmert paid tribute to Bush, saying that his policies showed an "understanding" of the difficulties Israel faces.
"From the beginning, your policies have reflected a basic understanding of the challenges facing Israel in this troubled region, and a solid commitment to our national security," Olmert told Bush. "You're our strongest and most trusted ally."
In his welcoming speech, Peres referred to the two-state "vision" outlined by Bush in 2002, telling his American counterpart that this had become "the basis for negotiations" between Israelis and Palestinians.
"On your way here, you said that 2008 should be the pathway from words to action, from aspiration to reality," Peres said. "Indeed, the next 12 months will be a moment of truth. It must not yield just words."
"Destructive armament, belligerence, and terror will capture center stage," he said. "Wars are never too late. Peace is never too early. We have no right to miss this opportunity."
Peres also mentioned Iran, another issue set to take center stage during Bush's trip.
"We take your advice not to underestimate the Iranian threat," he said. But, he warned, "Iran should not underestimate Israel's resolve for self-defense."
Following the reception at the airport, Bush was transported by helicopter to Jerusalem, where he will stay until his departure Friday.
The U.S. president met with Peres to discuss steps to improve the Palestinian economy and support regional financial initiatives.
During his visit, the president was also scheduled to hold talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. He was to travel to Christian holy sites in northern Israel, as well as Bethlehem, and visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem.
From Israel, he will continue with a tour of the region, visiting Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt.
Ramon: Bush trip could help accelerate talks
Vice Premier Haim Ramon said ahead of Bush's arrival Wednesday that the presidential visit would "certainly" help accelerate peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
The visit, Bush's first time in Israel since he entered the White House seven years ago, comes a day after Olmert and Abbas agreed that the two sides would hold talks on the core issues of the conflict.
Ramon told Army Radio that Israel and the Palestinians were somewhat belatedly beginning to discuss the most contentious subjects, and that he believed Bush's visit will help the sides reach an agreement.
"I am happy that we are beginning to talk on the subjects that perhaps we should have begun to talk about earlier," Ramon said. "Both sides relate to his [Bush's] requests and his wishes and his visit will certainly accelerate the talks."
The U.S. entourage includes hundreds of advisers, security agents and even cooks, who will supervise the food served to Bush at Jerusalem's King David Hotel.
About 1,000 rooms in three different hotels have been booked to lodge the massive delegation. In honor of Bush, Jerusalem's municipal council has decided to shut off the lights illuminating the Old City's walls to allow Bush to see it under the natural moonlight.

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Report: Likud government was afraid to stop missiles to Syria

Imagine if a Labor government had failed to protect Israeli security for this reason...
Israel planned 1991 strike on NKorea-Syria ship: report
9 January 2008

TOKYO (AFP) - Israeli agents prepared to strike a ship suspected of smuggling missiles from North Korea to Syria in 1991 but cancelled it at the 11th hour under US pressure, a Japanese newspaper reported Wednesday.

Undercover agents of Israel's Mossad intelligence agency secretly attached a guidance system for an airstrike on a cargo vessel believed to be carrying 23 short-range Scud missiles to Syria, the Yomiuri Shimbun said.

The Yomiuri, reporting from Jerusalem, said it spoke to one of the agents involved in the operation, whose name was transliterated into Japanese as Michael Ross.

Ross said he and two colleagues disguised themselves as workers for shipping carriers and headed to Casablanca, Morocco.

In February 1991, they managed to get close to the ship, which was believed to be jointly owned by Syrian and Jordanian firms, and swam underneath it toset up equipment to guide an airstrike, the report said.

Israel had planned to destroy the vessel and missiles, which with a range of 500 kilometers (300 miles) would put the Jewish state at risk.

The incident came during the first Gulf War, during which the United States, managing a coalition with Arab states including Syria, pressured Israel not to respond to Scud missile attacks by Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

The Yomiuri said Israel's then prime minister Yitzhak Shamir called off the airstrike on the North Korean missiles at the last minute.

"Probably the prime minister gave up on the plan out of consideration to the United States," Ross was quoted as telling the Yomiuri.

"If we blew up the vessel, it would have been inevitable to have many Syrian casualties and it might have been taken as a declaration of war against Syria," he was quoted as saying.

Impoverished North Korea, one of the few non-Muslim states that has no relations with Israel, is believed to rely on weapons exports as one of its top money-makers.

In September Israel launched an air strike in Syria, which Western media reports said targeted a nuclear facility developed with North Korea.

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President Bush will meet Netanyahu

This little incident is of interest because of the persistent claim of certain people that "Neocon Likud supporters" in the United States govern US policy. If that were true, there would never have been a problem about Bush meeting Bibi Nethanyahu.
Bush to meet Netanyahu after all
Gil Hoffman , THE JERUSALEM POST  Jan. 9, 2008
US Ambassador to Israel Richard Jones called the office of opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu on Wednesday morning and invited him to meet with President George W. Bush on Thursday.
Jones said that initially they did not think there would not be enough time for such a meeting but have since decided to clear room in Bush's schedule.
Senior Likud sources said in response that it was important for Bush to hear Netanyahu's vision for Middle East peace. They said they did not apply pressure to receive the meeting, but the Jerusalem Post reported Monday that Netanyahu blamed Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for blocking such talks.
It is customary that when heads of state come to Israel, they meet with the head of the opposition to receive an alternative perspective.
"It would be right if the president would take the time to listen to someone who represents more than half the people in Israel, who oppose the Annapolis process," Netanyahu had said.
Senior Likud sources went further, saying that "given the extent to which the prime minister is willing to endanger the country to survive politically, it is not surprising that the Prime Minister's Office is going out of its way to prevent Bibi [Netanyahu] from meeting Bush."
Olmert's spokesman said he was not familiar with any effort to prevent a Bush-Netanyahu meeting. A Kadima source shifted the blame to the White House, hinting that officials in Washington were not interested in Bush meeting Netanyahu because of bad experiences they had with him in the past.
"At the White House they think he's a liar, because of his behavior when he was prime minister," the Kadima source said.
Likud officials called such allegations "ridiculous." They expressed outrage that the only person Bush will meet with on the trip who opposes the Annapolis diplomatic process is former prime minister Ariel Sharon's son, Gilad Sharon, who Bush requested to meet in order to discuss the agricultural expertise he has gained running the Sharon family ranch.

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Ir Amim group asks for halt to dig in Jerusalem's Muslim quarter

Ir amim is a leftist Jewish group. The dig is a project of the Zionist right. Once again it is proven that nothing can be done in Jerusalem that does not somehow involve politics and is not motivated by politics.
Last update - 10:49 09/01/2008    
 Jewish group asks AG to halt dig in Jerusalem's Muslim Quarter
 By Meron Rapoport, Haaretz Correspondent 

The Western Wall Heritage Foundation and the Israel Antiquities Authority have begun excavations dozens of meters from the Temple Mount, with the goal of creating an underground passage linking the Western Wall tunnels to an ancient synagogue in the Old City of Jerusalem's Muslim Quarter.
The move sparked opposition from the nonprofit organization Ir Amim, which wrote to Attorney General Menahem Mazuz Tuesday to ask him to order the tunnel construction halted. It also asked him to open a criminal investigation into alleged construction and trespassing offenses.
Ir Amim attorney Danny Zeidman argued in the letter that the tunnel project is illegal, as it lacks both the necessary permits and permission from the Palestinians beneath whose homes it is being dug. He also said the project contravenes a High Court of Justice ruling earmarking each quarter of the Old City for the ethnic group whose name it bears.

The antiquities authority denied that excavations have actually begun. It said that it - in conjunction with the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, a government organization responsible for physically maintaining and renovating the Western Wall area - is currently merely examining the feasibility of linking the two sites. A senior antiquities authority official said the project has religious, and not necessarily archaeological, significance.
But Zeidman said the antiquities authority has recently begun work to expand the Western Wall tunnels westward, in accordance with instructions from the heritage foundation. The foundation also instructed the authority - which is excavating the site of Ohel Yitzhak, an ancient synagogue in the Muslim Quarter located some 150 meters from the Temple Mount - to start clearing space to Ohel Yitzhak's east. Both the heritage foundation and the authority are aware, said Zeidman, that the excavations are aimed at creating a tunnel to link the two sites.
Zeidman argues that the excavation is illegal both because no zoning plan for the area has been approved and because the Archaeological Council has not issued a permit for the project.
The work is considered a salvage dig, but Zeidman maintains that such a description applies only to excavations that are part of an approved plan for above-ground construction, and that no such plan has been submitted in this case.
Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz said the owner of the Ohel Yitzhak site - American Jewish businessman Irving Moskowitz, a regular donor to right-wing groups in East Jerusalem - gave the Western Wall Heritage Foundation the right to manage the synagogue site and the excavations. He added that a decision on whether the synagogue can be linked to the Western Wall tunnels is expected in two weeks.
The goal of the excavation is "to reveal the Jewish people's past," said Rabinowitz. He said the heritage foundation has the right to operate throughout the Old City, and that he is unaware of a need to ask permission from Muslim Quarter residents who live over the excavation site.

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Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Israeli and Palestinian negotiators will discuss final settlement issues

It is all brand new, or is it?
Sources close to Olmert said that they didn't expect Lieberman to leave because the development wouldn't change anything, since the negotiating teams have been discussing core issues since the talks commenced.
If so, then what was this announcement about??

Negotiators to tackle core issues

gil hoffman, staff and ap , THE JERUSALEM POST  Jan. 8, 2008
Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams will be instructed to start talking about core issues such as Jerusalem, the refugees and the contours of a future Palestinian state, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas decided after a meeting in Jerusalem Tuesday.
"The two leaders decided to allow negotiating teams to conduct direct talks on all core issues," Olmert's spokesman Mark Regev said. "We expect that the process will begin shortly."
Strategic Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman announced earlier this week that he would quit the government and pull Israel Beiteinu out of the coalition if core issues were put on the negotiating table.
Lieberman views Tuesday's developments "gravely" and will request explanations from the PM but he understands that the negotiations are not going to begin until after President Bush, sources close to the minister of strategic affairs said. He will not cause a coalition crisis while Bush is in Israel, they said.
Sources close to Olmert said that they didn't expect Lieberman to leave because the development wouldn't change anything, since the negotiating teams have been discussing core issues since the talks commenced.
Main right-wing bloc party Likud called on Israel Beiteinu and Shas to quit the coalition following the new development.
The party's spokeswoman issued a statement saying "Shas sold Jerusalem in order to get the religious affairs ministry."
Olmert and Abbas met a day ahead of US President George W. Bush's arrival in the region, to try to wring progress out of talks that have barely advanced since the Annapolis peace conference.
At a previous meeting between the two leaders in Jerusalem on December 27, the Palestinians agreed to stop focusing negotiations on their demand that Israel halt plans to build hundreds of apartments in east Jerusalem.
But while negotiations are no longer being stalled by this particular affair, Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said settlements would be brought up in the Abbas-Olmert talks on Tuesday.
Olmert spokesman Mark Regev said Israel would raise security issues, and urge the Palestinian Authority to be more effective.
"Obviously the security issue is the Achilles heel of the process," Regev said. "And it is very important for the Palestinians to work effectively to deal with these challenges."
Palestinian Prime Minister Salaam Fayad is set to meet with Defense Minister Ehud Barak in Tel Aviv later Tuesday to discuss security issues.
Meanwhile, Hamas forces on shore exchanged fire with Israeli naval boats off Gaza's southern coast earlier Tuesday, and Hamas said an IAF missile landed in nearby Egyptian territory. There were no reports of casualties.
The IDF said the exchange of fire took place during a patrol of the coast meant to block weapons smuggling into Gaza. The IDF added that claims that a missile landed in Egyptian territory were being looked into.


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Columbia professors will apologize to Ahmadinejad

Columbia professors plan to visit Iran to apologize to Ahmadinejad


--- An academic delegation of Columbia University professors and deans of faculties plans to visit Tehran to officially apologize to Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad.

The delegation plans to express regret for the insulting remarks Columbia University President Lee Bollinger directed at Ahmadinejad on September 24 in his introductory speech, the Mehr News Agency correspondent in New York reported.

Since the incident, the deans and professors from the faculties of history, anthropology, Middle Eastern studies, philosophy, and Islamic studies have criticized Bollinger's behavior toward Ahmadinejad.

A member of the delegation, who requested anonymity, said the main goal of the visit is to meet the Iranian president and officially apologize to him.

"The delegation has also prepared its itinerary," he noted.

He went on to say that the delegation also plans to visit Iranian universities in various cities and to hold talks with professors and students, and may even sign memoranda of understanding with some universities. He also said the delegation is interested in visiting seminaries and the shrine city of Qom.

However, Bollinger has warned the delegation that their trip to Iran should be a private visit and should not be undertaken as an official visit endorsed by the university.

Bollinger has so far refused to meet the Mehr News Agency correspondent to explain his disrespectful behavior toward Ahmadinejad when introducing him to the students and professors at Columbia.


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Rockets from Lebanon!

"and the rockets red glare, gave proof through the night that the Hezbollah are still there."
It states:
It is not clear how many rockets were fired:
"We can confirm that a 122 mm Katyusha rocket was fired into the north of Israel from Lebanon last night," police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld said.

Army Radio reports said that two rockets struck Shlomi at approximately 2 A.M., one hitting a home and the second an electricity pole.
One or two?
Who fired them? Not clear either.
Where is UNIFIL? Where is the Lebanese army?
Ami Isseroff
Rocket hits house near border with Lebanon
By Jack Khoury, Haaretz Correspondent Last update - 09:47 08/01/2008

A rocket that was reportedly fired from Lebanon early Tuesday struck a home in the western Galilee town of Shlomi.

The rocket caused no injuries but light damage was caused to the house.

The head of the Shlomi local council, Gaby Na'aman, said that it appeared that part of the rocket exploded in the air before hitting the house on Hazan Street in the city.

The Israel Defense Forces initially said it was old ordnance that exploded in Shlomi, but then said it was investigating further after receiving conflicting accounts.

"We can confirm that a 122 mm Katyusha rocket was fired into the north of Israel from Lebanon last night," police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld said.

Army Radio reports said that two rockets struck Shlomi at approximately 2 A.M., one hitting a home and the second an electricity pole.

"Several residents said that they thought it was thunder," Na'aman told Army Radio. "This morning, we woke up and discovered they were Katyushas," he continued, referring to the rockets often fired by Hezbollah at northern Israel, which have a longer range and more explosive impact than the Qassam rockets fired by Palestinians from the Gaza Strip.

In June 2007, two Katyusha rockets were fired at Israel from Lebanon, the first rockets to hit Israel since the Second Lebanon War the year before.

One of the rockets struck a factory in the Kiryat Shmona industrial center, and the second one hit an open field. The rockets caused damage, but no injuries. Military sources believed the rockets were not fired by Hezbollah, but a Sunni group in Lebanon.

During the 2006 war, Hezbollah bombarded northern Israel with nearly 4,000 rockets.


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Barry Rubin's advice to Bush

There is not a chance that any of this will really happen, though Barry Rubin has the right idea. At this point, Iran controls Syria and Iranians have taken over many key positions in Syria. Separating them out would not be easy. As for Bush being ridiculed in 2009, he would hardly care, would he?
I think the following is rather optimistic and incorrect:
Whatever you do, don't sell out Lebanon. The Lebanese government and its supporters are the most courageous and moderate regime in the Arab world today. Lebanon's survival free of control by Iran, Syria, and Hizballah is one of the most vital U.S. interests. And Lebanon's fall is the worst defeat in the region you could suffer in the next year.
One fact must be brought constantly to the attention of those who have romantic delusions about the Lebanese government: The Lebanese government is an active and willing accomplice of the Hezbollah war criminal terrorists. The government did not disociate itself from the statement of President Lahoud, that Hezbollah has the backing of the government, and its actions have been consistent with that statement in every way.
The Hezbollah is part of that government, and those who agreed to serve in the same government as Hezbollah are all complicit both in the destruction of Lebanon and in the war crimes committed by Hezbollah. The Lebanese government was quite happy to use Hezbollah in order to strike at Israel and disociate itself from the strike. They could have their terror and be guilt free as well. The Lebanese government has cooperated with Hezbollah in the imprisonment of the Israeli soldiers and the proliferation of rockets and has not stood in their way. On the contrary, even the "opposition" often praises Hezbollah. The "democratic" Seniora was quick to complain about non-existent Israeli massacres during the war. The Lebanese army, far larger than the Hezbollah and equipped by the US with heavy weapons, is not used to disarm the Hezbollah. During the Second Lebanon war, Fouad Seniora and his government did everything possible to support the Hezbollah, to thwart US and Israeli efforts to fight Hezbollah. They certainly never lifted a finger to stop the rocket fire on Israeli civilians or to return the abducted soldiers.  
The "opposition" are not opposed to Hezbollah. They want "unity" with Hezbollah. They are only opposed to Syrian intervention in Lebanon. Moreover, since the famous March 14, the opposition has proven itself helpless. Supporting the Lebanese government may not be a realistic option.
Israel got burned in Lebanon a few times. There are good people there and I feel sorry for them. There are some politicians with integrity. Fouad Seniora is not one of them. Israelis must stop having delusions about the Lebanese.
Ami Isseroff

Bush's Last Year: The Best, One Hopes, Is Yet To Come
Barry Rubin
January 7, 2008
What should President George W. Bush, currently visiting the Middle East, expect to achieve during his last year in office, even as the American people begin to choose his successor?
The answer could not possibly objectively clearer and subjectively more obscure. The gap between the real Middle East and how it is perceived by all too many people in Washington and in the academic-journalistic elite is far too wide.
Three quick examples are useful to underline this point. First, the Annapolis summit was widely hailed throughout America and the West as a big success, even by Bush's biggest enemies. (That means, of course, it achieved the main goal, which was not primarily about the Middle East itself.) In the region, however, less than one-fifth of Israelis and Palestinians thought it had done any good. People in the region knew better.
Second, many in the United States have hailed what seems to be a de-escalation of U.S. pressure on Iran over the nuclear issue. The response by Gulf Arab states, though, has been to conclude America is weak and retreating, followed by their escalated efforts to make their own appeasement deal with Tehran.
Third, the same is true for Syria, where American efforts at conciliation have emboldened Damascus and demoralized the Lebanese moderates resisting Syrian domination.
One can only hope that Bush and his administration consider the effect of what it does on the Middle East. But the following points are also very much in the interests of both the United States and Bush personally:
Don't promise to resolve the AI conflict in 2008. It isn't going to happen and these words will be used to ridicule you in 2009. Remember over-promising doesn't build confidence but makes the radicals more eager to sabotage you and the moderates more passive, letting you do all the work.
Use the leverage you have with the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Fatah to press them toward changing their ways. Giving billions of dollars with no strings attached is a formula for not only wasting the money but ensuring that the PA is thrown out by Hamas. Demand that the PA do something about stopping terror and ending incitement to murder Israelis.

Keep the U.S.-Israel relationship not only strong but on a proper basis. Sacrificing Israel's proper defensive needs will not make anyone else in the region love you and will certainly not make the radicals less popular or aggressive.
Don't fool around with the nonsensical idea that Iran and Syria can be split. The alliance benefits both of them too much and, after all, they think they are winning.  And if you try and fail to manipulate those who are far better at manipulating the West, you will only persuade the next president to give up even more in exchange for nothing.

Before you leave office, precisely because you believe that the situation in Iraq is improving, begin a transition to the next step. Give your successor the basis for continuing that strategy. If you don't, the next president will probably be tempted to withdraw as proof of doing a better job than you did.

Remember that "Europe" is not the same as it was a year or two ago, especially given the election of President Francois Sarkozy in France, along with good cooperation with Britain and Germany. The United States can work with Europe on a tougher policy toward Syria, Iran, and Hamas in a way not possible in the past.
While of course your goal is to build an alliance with relatively moderate (relative to Syria at least) Arab states, don't ever forget that these regimes will do as little as possible to help you. And do keep in mind that it is their own survival, not the Arab-Israeli conflict, which motivates them, despite what they (or the State Department) might say.

Whatever you do, don't sell out Lebanon. The Lebanese government and its supporters are the most courageous and moderate regime in the Arab world today. Lebanon's survival free of control by Iran, Syria, and Hizballah is one of the most vital U.S. interests. And Lebanon's fall is the worst defeat in the region you could suffer in the next year.

Keep up your deep-seated moral conviction that it is both wrong and dangerous to whitewash terrorists driven by an aggressive ideology into misguided souls who must be won over by kindness and confidence-building measures.

Don't forget that Iran's possession of nuclear weapons is the most dangerous scenario in the Middle East for U.S. interests. Not only might Tehran use the bombs but a nuclear-armed Iran would lead the region just as Saddam Hussein would have done if he'd kept Kuwait back in 1991.

Finally, and ultimately most important, talk to your probable successors and be persuasive. One of the most disheartening aspects of U.S. foreign policy is the failure to transmit experience properly. Many people still don't understand that your failure to intervene energetically on Arab-Israeli issues in your first term was because you saw what happened to President Bill Clinton and remembered what he told you.

In the eyes of many or most of the American people, perhaps that is what the November 2008 election will show, the Iraq invasion was a big mistake. Far worse, everything learned from the Cold War's end, 1991 victory over Saddam Hussein, failed Arab-Israeli peace process, and September 11 is in danger of being forgotten.
Antagonism over Iraq should not be allowed to discredit the need for a strong policy that is willing to confront extremist and terrorist forces. For you, the best-case outcome would be having a legacy judged on that basis, as the president who stood up after September 11 to the challenge of a new anti-American threat. Adopting some of your foes' worst ideas will neither win their respect nor help the Middle East.
Barry Rubin is Director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, Interdisciplinary Center university. His latest book, The Truth about Syria was published by Palgrave-Macmillan in May 2007. Prof. Rubin's columns can be read online at:

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Monday, January 7, 2008

Mr. Bush: You are not in Kansas anymore

07.01. 2008
Original content copyright by the author
Zionism & Israel Center

Not much peace is likely to come out of President Bush's upcoming visit to the Middle East. As Hillel Halkin notes, nobody in the Middle East probably really wants peace anyhow.

Unlike Hillel Halkin, I do not think this is a Good Thing. But it certainly seems to be a fact. As I note elsewhere, if US diplomats ever grasp this truth, it may set US policy in the Middle East on a much firmer footing. Since sometime after the Six Day War, the U.S. has held to the same policy in the Middle East. It is based on these principles:
  • Arab-Israeli peace will stabilize the region and open the way to further progress.

  • The various actors in the Middle East really want peace, though they each want it on their terms.

  • Peace can be obtained by using US leverage on Israel to extract territorial concessions from Israel. LI>

    By achieving peace and return of territories, the US can leverage Israeli return of territories into US influence with Arab states.

  • The US can maintain its leverage over Israel by making Israel dependent on US aid and weapons, and likewise, it can use the same mechanism to maintain leverage over other states in the region.

The model that is supposed to have validated the thesis is Egypt. Egypt made peace with Israel and got its territories back, and Egypt and Israel remain firm allies of the US, in part because of hefty foreign aid subsidies. But what if all the above assumptions are false? What if peace between the Arabs and Israelis would violate cultural taboos that have been in place in the Arab world for the last 100 years? What if it would destabilize all the regimes that signed peace treaties with Israel, by labeling them as "Jew lovers" and an easy target for extremists? What if the Israelis, once anxious for peace even in 1967 borders have in the interim gotten used to the "new" situation that has prevailed for 40 years, and are not anxious to trade real estate for flimsy peace agreements like the one with Egypt? What if instability in the Middle East, backward conditions and volatility are the cause of the Israel-Arab conflict rather than the effect?

Continued: Mr. Bush: You are not in Kansas anymore

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Is Iran testing the envelope?

Is this probing of the US and Britain going to be gradually ramped up?
 Last update - 17:45 07/01/2008       
U.S. Navy comes within seconds of opening fire on Iranian boats
By The Associated Press
In what is being called a serious provocation, Iranian Revolutionary Guard boats harassed and provoked three U.S. Navy ships in the strategic Strait of Hormuz, officials said Monday.
U.S. forces were on the verge of firing on the Iranian boats in the early Sunday incident, when the boats ended the incident and turned and moved away, said a Pentagon official.
"It is the most serious provocation of this sort that we've seen yet," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the record.
The incident occurred at about 5 a.m. local time Sunday as a U.S. Navy cruiser, destroyer and frigate were transiting the strait on their way into the Gulf.
"Five small boats were acting in a very aggressive way, charging the ships, dropping boxes in the water in front of the ships and causing our ships to take evasive maneuvers," the Pentagon official said.
"There were no injuries but there very well could have been," he said, adding that the Iranian boats turned away literally at the very moment that U.S. forces were preparing to open fire in self defense.
He said he did not have the precise transcript of communications that the two forces exchanged, but the Iranians radioed something to the effect that "we're coming at you and you'll explode in a couple minutes."
Historical tensions between the two nations have increased in recent years over Washington's charge that Tehran has been developing nuclear weapons and supplying and training Iraqi insurgents using roadside bombs - the number one killer of U.S. troops in Iraq.
In another incident off its coast, Iranian Revolutionary Guard sailors last March captured 15 British sailors and held them for nearly two weeks.
The 15 sailors from HMS Cornwall, including one woman, were captured on March 23. Iran claims the crew, operating in a small patrol craft, had intruded into Iranian waters - a claim denied by Britain.


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Why there are few terror incidents....

What is the correct term for "female suicide bomber?" "bomberess?"
 Last update - 18:38 07/01/2008       
Female suicide bomber among three militants killed by IDF in territories
By Yuval Azoulay, Haaretz Correspondent, and Reuters
Three Palestinian militants were killed Monday by Israel Defense Forces fire in two separate incidents in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Near the West Bank city of Jenin, an IDF reserves force that was manning a roadblock opened fire on a group of approaching militants, killing one of them.
According to the army, troops opened fire when the gunmen had reached a distance of only several dozens meters from the roadblock, and that weapons and ammunition were found on the militant's body.
The other militants fled after troops opened fire.
Earlier Monday, IDF troops shot and killed two armed Palestinians who approached the Erez Crossing in the northern Gaza.
Islamic Jihad said both of the militants were its members, adding that one of them was a female suicide bomber who detonated herself near the border fence.
Also Monday, a Qassam rocket hit the western Negev, landing in an open field in the Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Council. There were no injuries or damage in the incident.
On Sunday, five IDF soldiers were wounded, one of them moderately, and five Palestinians were killed, in a series of incidents in the Gaza Strip.
The soldiers were hurt by anti-tank missiles fired by militants in two separate incidents during an operation in Bureij. IDF infantry and armored corps troops entered the camp early Sunday morning, penetrating some 1.5-2 kilometers into Palestinian territory.
In the first incident, one soldier was moderately wounded and two others lightly hurt by shrapnel. A short while later, a second missile hit the troops, lightly wounding two soldiers. All five of the soldiers were evacuated by helicopter to Soroka Medical Center in Be'er Sheva.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Monday that Israel would not allow considerations in the peace process to deter it from taking military action against Palestinian militants in the West Bank and Gaza.
In the same vain, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni told IDF commanders during a West Bank visit that Israel would press ahead with the fight against terrorism during the period of negotiations with the Palestinians.

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The Chinese and the Jews

"We don't have Judeophobia, we have Judeophilia."

 A Portrait of the Jews Through Chinese Eyes
By Susan Fishman Orlins

It is one of those mornings in Beijing when you can't tell whether it's likely to pour or whether the sun is simply behind a blanket of smog. I stuff a rain jacket into the basket of my new $40 bicycle and, from my hotel, pedal west to the 10-level Wangfujing Bookstore on Wangfujing Street.

Along a cramped aisle of the business section, heads are bent over books whose cover art includes stars of David, the word "Talmud" in gilded letters and images of Moses embracing the Ten Commandments. I ask a small, fortyish woman if she can translate one title for me. It's the "Jewish People's Bible for Business and Managing the World," she replies, adding that the book is a bestseller. 

I pick up a book whose cover reads, in Chinese and English, The Wisdom of Judaic Trader, and flip through the pages, which are illustrated with big-nosed caricatures. Other tomes that people around me are reading offer morals via spiritual fables; some barely mention religion. In many, the content is simply fabricated, highlighting, for instance, the success of financier J.P. Morgan (who was Episcopalian, not Jewish). I walk upstairs to peruse the broad selection of child-rearing books and notice a Chinese man, a little boy by his side, engrossed in The Jewish Way of Raising Children. I ask why this title interests him. "Because the Jewish people are very clever," he answers.

In this land of 1.4 billion, the widespread perception of Jews as masters of commerce (and much more) has given rise to an entire genre of Jewish how-to literature. While few Chinese can articulate quite what a Jew is, many believe that if they could emulate, among other things, how Jewish parents raise their children—as though there were a prescription—it would boost their offspring's chances of growing up to own a bank or win Nobel Prizes. Here's how one thread goes: Einstein was Jewish, Einstein was smart; therefore, Jews are smart. 

These powerful impressions of Jewish accomplishments are common in the most developed regions of China, all of which are in the midst of an economic explosion; more skyscrapers will have been built across China this year than exist in all of Manhattan. But amid the bamboo scaffolding and the accompanying materialism and corruption, people have also begun to search for moral guidance—which some associate with the Jewish mystique—as they sprint down the path to prosperity.

Outside the bookstore I stroll through the old neighborhood where I lived for a year in 1980. Past the vendors hawking roasted corncobs on sticks and steaming sweet potatoes is the hospital where I picked up my adopted daughter more than 20 years ago. Back then my Chinese friends never mentioned Jews; school texts made scant, if any, reference to Jewish history. 

Then, as now, the only Chinese who called themselves Jewish—numbering in the hundreds—were the descendants of Persians who traveled the Silk Road a millennium ago. They had arrived with camels, bearing cottons to trade for silks, and many never left. Several thousand settled in Kaifeng, the capital of the Song Dynasty that hummed with teahouses and restaurants. Today the Kaifeng Jews know little about Judaism and look indistinguishable from their neighbors, though some—without understanding exactly why—follow dietary laws that resemble kashrut.

As for the Jewish expatriates I knew in Beijing in 1980, there were barely enough of us to form a minyan. On Yom Kippur, we gathered for makeshift services in our suite overlooking the glazed tile rooftops of the Forbidden City. Now, however, there are many Jewish expatriate communities in China, and some educated Chinese are even studying Hebrew, a practice which began in 1985, when Beijing University first offered a Hebrew language major. Simon Yu, a member of that class of eight, wanted to learn more than the little available in high school history books. "Friends thought it was strange that I was studying Hebrew," he acknowledges, "but now people think it's very charming and special." 

Simon Yu, an associate professor at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences' Center for Jewish Studies, can speak Hebrew, but he cannot attend Jewish services. Independent religion does not exist in China; even the five sanctioned religions—Buddhism, Islam, Protestantism, Roman Catholicism and Taoism—are controlled by the government. (The Vatican, for example, does not fully recognize Catholicism in China because, for one thing, China refuses to cede authority over selecting bishops.) It is hard to conceive of Judaism joining the ranks of government-approved religions, considering, for instance, that the government authorities do not allow Chinese citizens to attend religious services led by outsiders.

One night at a Shabbat dinner at the home of Rabbi Avraham Greenberg, his pregnant wife Nechama and their two toddlers, I ask the bearded 26-year-old Israeli rabbi whether Chinese ever show up at his services. "When I arrived, my brother was already a rabbi here," he says. "After a local Chinese attended his service, the authorities approached my brother, telling him to pack up and leave. But he calmed them down by promising to turn away any such `visitors' in the future. After that, a few tried, but my brother asked them to leave." 

After five days in Beijing, I board an overnight train bound for Shanghai. In my sleeping compartment, I open River Town, Peter Hessler's memoir about teaching in China from 1996 to 1998. I reach a passage in which Hessler is also on a train, engrossed in a book. A woman approaches and comments on how diligently he is working. "She peered at me," he writes, "and it was clear that she was thinking hard about something. `Are you Jewish?' she finally asked. `No,' I said, and something in her expression made me want to apologize…. I sensed her disappointment as she returned to her berth."

How, then, to reconcile this reverence for Jews with the appreciation for Adolf Hitler that Hessler mentions elsewhere in his book? Hessler writes that alongside "a deep respect for the Jewish people," Chinese appreciate the icon of Hitler mainly because of Charlie Chaplain's portrayal in The Great Dictator, which many have seen multiple times. How are they able to overlook that small matter of the Holocaust? For one thing, until recently, it simply hadn't been taught. For another, the politically controlled Chinese educational system valued rote learning and discouraged much independent thought. It similarly trained Chinese to revere the revolutionary Chinese leader Mao Zedong: At least a dozen educated Chinese I ask for their view of Mao, give an identical answer, that Mao was "70 percent good and 30 percent bad." Even though Mao had a major hand in substantially more deaths than Hitler in the excesses of the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution, this has been the Communist Party line since 1981. 

But this is changing: Fewer Chinese are ignorant of the dark fate of many Jews of the last century. In Shanghai, the port city to which many Jewish refugees fled the Nazis, I meet Yang Peiming, an avid historian and the proprietor of the Propaganda Poster Art Centre. He shows me his private collection of 70-year-old passports that he acquired at a local flea market. Each is stamped with swastikas and a large red "J," indicating it had belonged to a European Jew who had made it to Shanghai, one of the few shores open to these refugees. "Shanghai's history cannot be complete without Jewish history," he tells me. "We learn from Jewish people." 

Fudan Fuzhong, the school where my daughter Emily teaches English conversation, consists of low-rise dormitory and classroom buildings on a lush campus. Today I am teaching a Jewish culture lesson to five of Emily's 12 weekly classes. The seeming identicalness of these groups startles me: each a six-by-eight matrix of 10th-graders with shiny black hair, all wearing navy warm-up suits trimmed in orange. Teachers rather than students are the ones to move, so in every classroom 48 girls and boys—some of China's most promising—remain in the same tight rows from 7:50 a.m. until 3:55 p.m. with breaks only for physical education and lunch. Twice a day they do eye exercises in their seats, five minutes of impassively massaging around the eyes with fingertips per instructions from a sing-song voice on the public address system. In the evenings they return to their rows from 6:30 until 9:00 for enforced study hall.

Emily had alerted me to the students' reluctance to speak in class so, 15 minutes into the 40-minute session, I hand out paper and ask three questions that I hope will spark discussion: What are your impressions of Jewish people? Where did you get those impressions? What questions do you have for us? 

Throughout the week, I repeat this lesson, which yields 576 responses. Around 90 percent of the students write that Jews are clever, and approximately half of those add that Jewish people are good at business. Though the consensus is that Jews are rich, some who have seen the Holocaust movie The Pianist say that Jews are poor. A couple of perceptions of Jews as bullies come from government-controlled TV news, during which reporters often portray Palestinians as victims and refer to Israelis as Jews, as though the two are interchangeable.

Some students question how Jewish people feel about Germans today. A few want to know how you can tell whether someone is Jewish. Several ask how they can get "rich like the Jews," including a boy who writes, "Jews own 50 percent of the wealth in America. How do they do this?" There are numerous comments along the lines of: "Jews are friendly, because Emily and Susan are friendly." 

The four-hour train ride to Nanjing, a blur of browns and greens, is a welcome contrast to Shanghai's city skyline reconfigured daily by lofty, dangling cranes. I had emailed the founder of Nanjing University's Institute for Jewish Studies, Xu Xin (pronounced Shoo Shin), and asked what motivates Chinese students to pursue Jewish studies. He invited me to visit, suggesting a Friday so I could attend his undergraduate Jewish culture class as well as meet his graduate students. Xu Xin greets me in the hotel lobby. At approximately five feet five inches, he walks with a light step in brown leather Docksiders that seem more Nantucket than Nanjing. 

"As a scholar of American literature, I became interested in Jewish writers after Saul Bellow won the Nobel Prize," he explains in fluent English. In 1976, Xu began researching Jewish American history and culture, translating works of Norman Mailer, Clifford Odets and others into Chinese and publishing articles such as "Jewish Humor" and "The Image of the Schlemiel in Jewish Literature," in which he likens the schlemiel to the wise fool in Chinese literature. 

"In 1985 an American named James Friend arrived here to teach literature for six months," he explains as we enter the 105-year-old university's campus. "I had never known a Jew before." The two professors formed a bond, and Friend invited Xu to live with his family and teach at Chicago State University, where Friend was chairman of the English department. While in the United States Xu attended a bar mitzvah, seders and even Jewish funerals, including that of Professor Friend, whose untimely death from a heart attack occurred toward the end of Xu's stay.

"My time with the Friends provided me with a great opportunity to look at Jewish people," says Xu. He was impressed that Jews follow laws, rather than an individual or just a set of beliefs. "Their way of living and thinking made me aware that Jewish culture has many lessons Chinese people could learn on their way to becoming a responsible part of the international society."
To that end, with one room and a few books, he created a Jewish studies center at Nanjing University in 1992, shortly after China and Israel established diplomatic relations. Xu—who at age 18 was sent to the countryside during the Cultural Revolution—was a pioneer; today at least ten other academic institutions offer Judaic studies. 

Xu leads the way into a tall, new building and into an elevator which opens only a few steps from a brass wall plaque that says Institute for Jewish Studies in Chinese, English and Hebrew. "Each year we add two M.A. and two Ph.D. students. And we try to provide a scholarship for our Ph.D. candidates to study in Israel," explains Xu, motioning for me to follow him into the library. The students want to understand, he says, how Jewish culture has survived, indeed flourished, often in the face of adversity. With a sweep of his arm, Xu shows off more than 10,000 titles that range from Encyclopedia of Midrash to Jewish Wit for all Occasions. The stacks also hold volumes Xu has written or translated, including an abridged version of the Encyclopedia Judaica. 

Down a spotless hallway is a conference room where glass cabinets display assorted Judaica—a Kiddush cup, a tallit, a small Torah—evoking the quiet ambience of an upscale temple gift shop. Professor Song Lihong and six of the program's 12 graduate students are waiting for us.
After easing into a chair at the head of the long, rectangular table, Xu leans forward and folds his hands in front of him. "Once Western studies became part of the curriculum in Chinese universities," he says, "in literature, philosophy, science—inevitably you came across a Jewish name." He notes the disproportionate number of Jewish Nobel Prize recipients and adds, "You don't see that many Norwegians with Nobel Prizes." 

Xu seems to delight in the shared aspects of our two cultures, saying, "Both have had a great impact in the world, both have suffered and in both cases, parents do anything they could to give their children better education. Jewish and Chinese are the only major cultures to retain their traditions unbroken for thousands of years." 

We board a crowded bus that takes us across the Yangtze River to a satellite campus for Xu's freshman Jewish Culture class. He tells me that I will be the first Jew most of the undergraduates have ever met. 

In the spacious classroom, Xu introduces me and hands me the microphone and the 100 students applaud vigorously. They then become utterly silent, riveted before I say a word. In English, I tell them about my semi-secular style of Judaism, a slice of life unlikely to show up in their textbooks. They seem to follow, smiling appropriately when I mention my teenage struggle with my father, who forbade me to date a non-Jewish football player from my school. Their attention is so focused that I wonder if they are scrutinizing me to figure out what distinguishes my Jewishness. Forty-five minutes later, I invite them to ask questions.

A slender girl wearing glasses and a ponytail approaches and says, "The biggest difference between Chinese and Jewish culture is that you believe in religion." I ask about Confucius, and she answers, "He was an educator, not in your heart." Another adds, "For us, spirituality does not exist."

Later on, at a nearby restaurant. I sit beside Professor Song, a.k.a. Akiba, at the round table where Moshe, Yam, Gal, Omer and Alon, the graduate students I met earlier, have already gathered. Just as the Chinese infatuation with the West has led many to take English names, these students have assumed Hebrew names. 

The bespectacled Akiba, uses his chopsticks to place a mound of spicy pork with vegetables on my plate. "We don't have Judeophobia, we have Judeophilia," he says with a smile. It was the Roman historian and warrior, Flavius Josephus, who inspired his interest in Jewish studies. "There were many renegade Chinese; Josephus was the first renegade Jew I discovered," he explains. 

The students join in, explaining the origins of their fascination. One student tells me that she "became interested because of a special year, 135 A.D., when most of the people left Palestine and began diaspora. In spite of anti-Semitism, the Jewish people survived and kept their traditions." Another is interested in the parallels between the Holocaust and the Nanjing massacre, during which Japanese troops killed as many as 300,000 Chinese, including thousands of women and children. Akiba adds, "The Japanese still have not pled guilty to this crime. In Germany the president knelt at Auschwitz; this is a sharp contrast."

As I survey the table, it's evident how comfortable these students are in sharing their passion for Judaism. And though each has a different focus, I am struck that I am witnessing such a deep appreciation of Jewish culture. 

I think of a remark Xu made earlier that although he is proud of the similarities that Chinese culture shares with Jewish culture, he believes Jews have exceeded the Chinese in one valuable quality: Morality. He cited the pirated DVDs sold openly on China's streets as an example of shamelessness that he finds all too prevalent in his country. I suggested that Xu's conception of Jews might be a tad idealistic, since I imagined that I myself would willingly buy such DVDs—though I admitted I would feel guilty. "When you buy, you feel guilty," Xu told me. "You have this moral sense; when Chinese buy it, they never feel guilty. That's the moral challenge." He grew solemn and, with the conviction of a rabbi, added, "We could learn to achieve a moral society from Jewish people." 

The day winds down and we emerge into the humid air. The aroma of fresh fruit wafts from the back of a faded green pickup truck where students have lined up to buy whole neatly peeled pineapples for around 30 cents apiece. Back at the main campus, I walk with Xu to his bicycle along a tree-lined path. It is the end of the workweek, and a teacher heading the other way nods and says, "Ni hao. Shabbat shalom." 


Continued (Permanent Link)

Bush visit in against the backdroup of the NIE

Israelis can draw some comforts from the fact that not they felt the National Intelligence Estimate torpedoed their policy - Arabs are just as upset about the NIE.

Jerusalem Issue Brief
Institute for Contemporary Affairs
founded jointly at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
with the Wechsler Family Foundation
Vol. 7, No. 27    7 January 2008
The Bush Visit and Tensions in the U.S.-Israel Relationship
Gerald M. Steinberg
·      The December "surprise" resulting from the publication of the U.S. National Intelligence Estimate disrupted fifteen years of Israeli policy based on working with the international coalition to pressure Iran to drop its nuclear weapons program through sanctions and the threat of military action, and has reminded Israelis of the limits of merican security guarantees and strategic cooperation. 
·      Within two weeks following publication of the NIE report, China signed a major contract on energy development and supply with Iran, and Russia quickly dispatched two shipments of nuclear fuel for the Bushehr nuclear reactor. Egypt moved to improve relations with Iran, and Saudi Arabia welcomed Iranian President Ahmadinejad to Mecca for the Haj.
·      Prime Minister Olmert had explained the logic of the "Annapolis process" in terms of the coalition to stop Iran, but two weeks after Annapolis, with the release of the NIE report, this rationale has lost much of its relevance.
·      Another source of stress comes from differences over renewed U.S. efforts to forge a quick agreement with the Palestinian Authority at a time of continued terrorism, the violent conflict between Fatah and Hamas, the failure to develop functioning Palestinian institutions, and the PA's ongoing incitement and rejection of the legitimacy of a Jewish state.
·      In addition, the overall decline of U.S. influence, as reflected in Iraq, the return of Russia as a world power, the chaos in Pakistan, and other developments, has highlighted the limits of Israeli reliance on American a ssistance, and the need for Israel to maintain an independent capability to act when necessary.
President Bush's first visit to Israel since taking office in 2001 comes at a time of strain in the usually cooperative relationship between Jerusalem and Washington. In particular, the December "surprise," resulting from the publication of the U.S. National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) summary report on Iran's nuclear weapons program,1 reminded Israelis of the limits of American security guarantees and strategic cooperation. Other sources of stress come from differences over renewed efforts to forge a quick ag reement with the Palestinian Authority headed by Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayad, in parallel to escalating attacks from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. In addition, the overall decline of U.S. influence, as reflected in Iraq, the return of Russia as a world power, the chaos in Pakistan, and other developments has highlighted the limits of Israeli reliance on American assistance, and the need for Israel to maintain an independent capability to act when necessary.
The Impact of the NIE Report on Israeli Security
For Israel, the Iranian nuclear weapons program is the most acute strategic threat, and December 2007 NIE report (of which only a short summary was declassified) was a major shock. The summary, and the subsequent headlines in the major media outlets, declared: "We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program."2 While a footnote and subsequent paragraphs explained that this assessment was limited to only one aspect of the Iranian program ("weaponization") and that the other more basic and important aspects, including uranium enrichment, were continuin g, the headline took the urgency and the justification out of the U.S.-led international coalition on Iran.
These developments disrupted fifteen years of Israeli policy based on working with the international coalition to pressure Iran to drop its nuclear weapons program through sanctions and the threat of military action, if necessary. Within two weeks following publication of the NIE report, the momentum of the sanctions regime to contain Iran, built up slowly over the past three years, was suddenly reversed. In short order, China and Malaysia signed major contracts on energy development and supply with Iran, and Russia, which had withheld the fuel rods for the large Bushehr nuclear reactor for at least one year, quickly dispatched two shipments. In parallel, the leaders of the Sunni Arab component of the coalition to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear weapons state also concluded that the U.S. had changed course. Unsure of the future course of U.S. policy on Iran, Sunni Arab states that attended Annapolis, including Egypt, have been scrambling to broaden their contacts with Iran, a nd Saudi Arabia welcomed Iranian President Ahmadinejad to Mecca for the Haj pilgrimage.
The headline of the NIE report asserting that Iran had "halted its nuclear weapons program" appeared to signal that a U.S.-led military attack on Iran's nuclear installations was extremely unlikely. This was perhaps the main objective of the officials who wrote the published summary - to make it all but impossible for President Bush to order an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities in the last year of his administration.
Despite the central importance of these issues, the years of strategic coordination meetings, and repeated American assurances, Israeli policy-makers were apparently not consulted on the decision to release the NIE report, its timing, or its very contentious wording. Israel could do nothing as the U.S. crippled the primary source of pressure which had contributed to the Iranian decision to close (or hide) the blatant aspects of its nuclear weapons development in 2003.
As a result, in his visit to the region - including Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and other Gulf states - President Bush will be pressed to find ways to reverse the damage from the NIE report. Beyond statements of continued concern about the dangers that will be created if the radical Iranian regime acquires nuclear weapons, the U.S. administration will be asked to consider measures that will revive the stalled sanctions regime, and to consider the possibility of military action, if all other means have been exhausted.
Differences Over the "Annapolis Peace Process" and Security Measures
While Israel is focusing primarily on Iran, President Bush, Secretary of State Rice, and others are emphasizing Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts and the declared goal of negotiating the terms of a peace agreement based on a Palestinian state by the end of 2008. The two issues are closely connected, however, and on his way to Annapolis at the end of November, Prime Minister Olmert explained the logic of the "Annapolis process" in terms of the coalition to stop Iran, and th e need to involve the Saudis and other Arab states by demonstrating movement and hope on the Palestinian track. But two weeks after Annapolis, with the release of the NIE report, this rationale has lost much of its relevance, as has the case for Israeli security risks related to negotiations with the Palestinians. The murder of two Israelis on December 28 by Fatah gunmen - connected with the same security forces that are armed and trained as part of the Annapolis framework promoting Palestinian statehood - is a stark reminder of these risks.

Public opinion polls show that while most Israelis support peace negotiations based on a "two-state solution," they are also realistic about the obstacles and failures of the Palestinian leadership to work towards this objective. Continued terrorism, the violent conflict between the Fatah and Hamas factions, the failure to develop functioning institutions, and the ongoing incitement and rejection of the legitimacy of a Jewish state reinforce these concerns. Palestinian negotiators have already rejected the Israeli requirement that any future Palestinian state be demilitarized. Furthermore, there is no indication of Palestinian readiness to revise what they refer to as "the right of return" for refugees, which is a euphemism for the destruction of Israel through entry of millions of Arabs.
Similarly, the failure of even moderate Palestinian and Arab leaders to accept Jewish rights in Jerusalem is a deal breaker. Over half of the Knesset's members, including more than a dozen members of Olmert's Kadima Party, signed a petition last year requiring a special majority of the Knesset to alter Jerusalem's municipal borders. There is also strong opposition to re-dividing Jerusalem in Olmert's own cabinet. Thus, serious negotiations on these "permanent status" issues have not started, and when they do begin, progress will be slow and difficult. And unti l the Palestinian Authority proves that it can deliver on pledges to advance political and security reform, the Bush Administration's determination to proceed increases the likelihood that the result will be the creation of a failed Palestinian state.
In addition, in Israel, President Bush will face widespread public protests over pressures for a unilateral halt to construction in communities built beyond the pre-1967 "green line" (the 1949 armistice line). This position is seen as incompatible with the April 14, 2004, letter from President Bush to then Prime Minister Sharon,3 and the repeated American pledges endorsing Israel's right to "secure and recognized borders." These pressures, and the resulting friction with Israel, also reflect the American determination to proceed quickly with the "momentum established at Annapolis," thereby ignoring the obstacles created by Palestinian failures.
In anticipation of pressure on Israel to ease movement for Palestinians as part of the massive economic development plan, and Secretary of State Rice's statements that echo traditional Arab and European emphasis on Palestinian victimization, Defense Minister Barak declared that Israel cannot and will not remove checkpoints that are vital to preventing ongoing terror. Israeli officials have emphasized that in negotiations during the peace process, freedom of military action in the West Bank must be maintained. They have also made the case for continued Israeli military presence in the Jordan Valley. While President Bush and other U.S. officials have backed Israel on these issues in the past, the American desire to obtain a quick agreement may lead to changes in these policies and more tension.
A U.S.-Israel Defense Treaty Will Not Resolve These Issues
America remains the only global superpower and Israel's main ally, as seen both in the extent of military cooperation and in the political dimension. However, in addition to the sources of friction over Iran and negotiations with the Palestinians, the relationship between the U.S. and Israel is also affected by the decline in U.S. influence, particularly in the Middle East. The ongoing conflict in Iraq, the return of Russia as a world power, the chaos in Pakistan, and other developments highlight the need for Israel to limit the degree of its dependence on Washington for insuring its vital security requirements.
For these reasons, any discussion of yet another effort to conclude a U.S.-Israel defense treaty is unrealistic, and further tensions may develop if Israel decides on the need for unilateral military action to disrupt Iran's nuclear weapons development efforts. While the military assistance provided by the U.S. since the 1973 Yom Kippur War may be unprecedented, it cannot substitute for an independent Israeli military capability when vital interests are at stake. The political maneuvering in Washington that apparently led to the wording of the NIE summary report on Iran, and the differences emerging over demands to relax Israeli security measures in the hope of achieving a breakthrough in negotiations with the Palestinians, are pointed reminders of the limits of even the closest of alliances between sovereign nations.
*     *     *
1. Gerald M. Steinberg, "Decoding the U.S. National Intelligence Estimate on Iran's Nuclear Weapons Program," Jerusalem Issue Brief, Vol. 7, No. 24, 5 December 2007.
2. "Iran: Nuclear Intentions and Capabilities," National Intelligence Estimate, National Intelligence Council, November 2007,
3. The April 2004 letter from President Bush to then Prime Minister Sharon:  "The United States reiterates its steadfast commitment to Israel's security, including secure, defensible borders, and to preserve and strengthen Israel's capability to deter and defend itself, by itself, against any threat or possible combination of threats....As part of a final peace settlement, Israel must have secure and recognized borders, which should emerge from negotiations between the parties in accordance with UNSC Resolutions 242 and 338. In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949, and all previous efforts to negotiate a two-state solution have reached the same conclusion. It is realistic to expect that any final status agreement will only be achieved on the basis of mutually agreed changes that reflect these realities."
 *     *     *
Prof. Gerald M. Steinberg is the head of the Political Studies Department at Bar-Ilan University, a Fellow of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, and Executive Director of NGO Monitor.
This Jerusalem Issue Brief is available online at:
Dore Gold, Publisher; Yaacov Amidror, ICA Chairman; Dan Diker, ICA Director; Mark Ami-El, Managing Editor. Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (Registered Amuta), 13 Tel-Hai St., Jerusalem, Israel; Tel. 972-2-561-9281, Fax. 972-2-561-9112, Email: In U.S.A.: Center for Jewish Community Studies, 5800 Park Heights Ave., Baltimore, MD 21215; Tel. 410-664-5222; Fax 410-664-1228. Website: © Copyright. The opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of the Board of Fellows of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
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Continued (Permanent Link)

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Anti-Semitism in Britain

How did it come to this?
Britain's Anti-Semitic Turn
By Melanie Phillips
Autumn 2007
In August 2006, as the war in Lebanon raged, a gang of teenage girls confronted 12-year-old Jasmine Kranat and a friend on a London bus. "Are you Jewish?" they demanded. They didn't hurt the friend, who was wearing a crucifix. But they subjected Jasmine, a Jew, to a brutal beating--stomping on her head and chest, fracturing her eye socket, and knocking her unconscious.
According to the Community Security Trust, the defense organization of Britain's 300,000-strong Jewish community, last year saw nearly 600 anti-Semitic assaults, incidents of vandalism, cases of abuse, and threats against Jewish individuals and institutions--double the 2001 number. According to the police, Jews are four times more likely to be attacked because of their religion than are Muslims. Every synagogue service and Jewish communal event now requires guards on the lookout for violence from both neo-Nazis and Muslim extremists. Orthodox Jews have become particular targets; some have begun wearing baseball caps instead of skullcaps and concealing their Star of David jewelry.
Anti-Semitism is rife within Britain's Muslim community. Islamic bookshops sell copies of Hitler's Mein Kampf and the notorious czarist forgery The Protocols of the Elders of Zion; as an undercover TV documentary revealed in January, imams routinely preach anti-Jewish sermons. Opinion polls show that nearly two-fifths of Britain's Muslims believe that the Jewish community in Britain is a legitimate target "as part of the ongoing struggle for justice in the Middle East"; that more than half believe that British Jews have "too much influence over the direction of UK foreign policy"; and that no fewer than 46 percent think that the Jewish community is "in league with Freemasons to control the media and politics."
But anti-Semitism has also become respectable in mainstream British society. "Anti-Jewish themes and remarks are gaining acceptability in some quarters in public and private discourse in Britain and there is a danger that this trend will become more and more mainstream," reported a Parliamentary inquiry last year. "It is this phenomenon that has contributed to an atmosphere where Jews have become more anxious and more vulnerable to abuse and attack than at any other time for a generation or longer."
At the heart of this ugly development is a new variety of anti-Semitism, aimed primarily not at the Jewish religion, and not at a purported Jewish race, but at the Jewish state. Zionism is now a dirty word in Britain, and opposition to Israel has become a fig leaf for a resurgence of the oldest hatred.
Anti-Semitism has continually changed its shape over the centuries. In the Greco-Roman world, it expressed itself in cultural hostility, resentment of the Jews' economic power, and disdain for the separate lives that Jews led as the result of their religious practices, such as dietary laws and refusal to marry outside the faith.
Adding fuel to these pagan prejudices, Christian theology accused Jews of deicide and held them responsible for all time for killing Christ, a position that effectively associated them with the devil and, crucially, laid the blame for their suffering on their own shoulders. Later, medieval Christianity attempted to usurp the Jewish heritage through "replacement theology," which claimed that Christians inherited all the promises that God had made to the Jews, who were to be eliminated through either conversion or death. These ideas underlay medieval Europe's regular anti-Jewish pogroms, which consisted of massacres, forced conversions, and torchings of synagogues.
Theological anti-Semitism's themes reemerged in the next mutation: racial anti-Semitism. This ideology held that, on account of their genetic inheritance, Jews were the enemies of humanity--a demonic conspiracy whose malign influence could be countered only by removing them from the face of the earth. Nazi Germany tried to do just that, killing 6 million Jews between 1933 and 1945.
And now, in Britain and elsewhere, anti-Semitism has mutated again, its target shifting from culture to creed to race to nation. What anti-Semitism once did to Jews as people, it now does to Jews as a people. First it wanted the Jewish religion, and then the Jews themselves, to disappear; now it wants the Jewish state to disappear. For the presentation of Israel in British public discourse does not consist of mere criticism. It has become a torrent of libels, distortions, and obsessional vilification, representing Israel not as a country under exterminatory attack by the Arabs for the 60 years of its existence but as a regional bully persecuting innocent Palestinians who want only a homeland.
Language straight out of the lexicon of medieval and Nazi Jew-hatred has become commonplace in acceptable British discourse, particularly in the media. Indeed, the most striking evidence that hatred of Israel is the latest mutation of anti-Semitism is that it resurrects the libel of the world Jewish conspiracy, a defining anti-Semitic motif that went underground after the Holocaust.
Take the much-abused term "neoconservatives," which has become code for the Jews who have supposedly suborned America in Israel's interests. In the Guardian, Geoffrey Wheatcroft lamented the fact that Conservative Party leader David Cameron had fallen under the spell of neoconservatives' "ardent support for the Iraq war, for the US and for Israel," and urged Cameron to ensure that British foreign policy was no longer based on the interest of "another country"--Israel. In the Times, Simon Jenkins supported the notion that "a small group of neo-conservatives contrived to take the greatest nation on Earth to war and kill thousands of people" and that these "traitors to the American conservative tradition," whose "first commitment was to the defence of Israel," had achieved a "seizure of Washington (and London) after 9/11." According to this familiar thesis, the Jews covertly exercise their extraordinary power to advance their own interests and harm the rest of mankind.
The New Statesman took a more straightforward approach in 2002, printing an investigation into the power of the "Zionist" lobby in Britain, which it dubbed the "Kosher Conspiracy" and illustrated on its cover with a gold Star of David piercing the Union Jack. The image conveyed at a glance the message that rich Jews were stabbing British interests through the national heart.
The British media accuse Israel of a host of crimes. The Guardian published a two-day special report painting Israel as an apartheid state, ignoring the fact that Israeli Arabs have full civil rights. Another Guardian article, by Patrick Seale, portrayed Israel's incursions into Gaza as a "destructive rampage." Dismissing or ignoring the rocket attacks, hostage-taking, and terrorism that those incursions were trying to stop, Seale concluded instead that Israel "deliberately inflicts inhumane hardships on the Palestinians in order to radicalise them and drive the moderates from the scene." When the National Union of Journalists, joining a number of other academic and professional groups, voted last April to boycott Israeli goods--a move that it has since reversed--one of its members, freelancer Pamela Hardyment, described Israel as "a wonderful Nazi-like killing machine backed by the world's richest Jews." Then she referred to the "so-called Holocaust" and concluded: "Sham! e on all Jews, may your lives be cursed."
The British media uncritically regurgitate Palestinian propaganda even when it is demonstrably false. In April 2002, many outlets labeled Israel's assault on the refugee camp in Jenin a "massacre" with thousands dead; in fact, some 52 Palestinian men had died (of whom the great majority were terrorists), along with 23 Israeli soldiers. In last year's Lebanon war, the media propagated manifestly false Hezbollah claims of Israeli massacres that later proved to have been staged.
During the same war, the Guardian published a cartoon depicting a huge fist, armed with brass knuckles shaped like Stars of David, hammering a bloody child while a wasp representing Hezbollah buzzed around ineffectually. The image suggested that Israel was a gigantic oppressor, slaughtering children in brutal overreaction to Hezbollah, a minor irritant. It was reminiscent of an earlier cartoon in the Independent that showed a monstrous Ariel Sharon biting the head off a Palestinian baby, which won first prize in the British Political Cartoon Society's annual competition for 2003. By showing Jews killing children, both cartoons employed the imagery of the blood libel--the medieval European calumny that sparked many massacres of Jews by claiming that they murdered Gentile children and used their blood for religious rituals.
The BBC, despite its claims of fairness and honesty, is just as marked by hatred of Israel, and much more influential. It reported the Lebanon war by focusing almost entirely on the Israeli assault upon Lebanon, with scarcely a nod at the Hezbollah rocket barrage against Israel. Its reporters blame Israel even for Palestinians' killing of other Palestinians. Last December, in a briefing for other BBC staff, Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen wrote of the incipient Palestinian civil war in Gaza: "The reason is the death of hope, caused by a cocktail of Israel's military activities, land expropriation and settlement building--and the financial sanctions imposed on the Hamas led government."
Some media websites publish readers' anti-Semitic comments. On the Guardian's Comment Is Free blog--which does try to remove some of the more offensive remarks--one reader wrote: "Because of their religious teachings whenever Jews have had power they have used it to persecute non-Jews--from the extermination of Amalek to the killing of Christian converts, to the oppression of medieval peasantry in Poland to the Palestinians today." A message board on BBC Radio Five Live's website published a reader's remark that "Zionism is a racist ideology where jews [sic] are given supremacy over all other races and faiths. This is found in the Talmud." Though the site reserves the right not to post messages that are "racist, sexist, homophobic, sexually explicit, abusive or otherwise objectionable," it refused to remove that posting, which apparently "did not contravene the house rules."
Another force propagating the new anti-Semitism is the institution at the heart of the old theological version: the Church, which has reverted to blaming Jews for their own suffering and accusing them once again of a diabolical conspiracy against the innocent. Although Britain is in many ways a postreligious society, it still sees the churches as custodians of high-minded conscience and truth. And those churches are viscerally prejudiced against Israel.
The Church of England is especially unfriendly; one might say that it is the Guardian at prayer. In a lecture in 2001, the archbishop of Canterbury's representative in the Middle East, Canon Andrew White, observed with concern that propaganda accusing Israel of ethnic cleansing and of systematically "Judaising" Jerusalem had assumed great authority within the Church of England. The Church, he said, was undergoing not just a spell of Israel-hatred but also a revival of theological anti-Semitism.
One major influence here is radical Palestinian Christian theology, such as that of Canon Naim Ateek, which revives the imagery of Christ-killing in order to claim that the Palestinians are the rightful inheritors of God's promise of the Land of Israel. Another is the prominent Reverend Stephen Sizer, who has said that Israel is fundamentally an apartheid state, that he hopes that it will be "brought to an end," and that Christianity has inherited God's promises to the Jews. Sizer agrees with another leading Anglican, Reverend Dr. John Stott, that the idea that Jews still have a special relationship with God is "biblically anathema." And Colin Chapman's book Whose Promised Land?--hugely influential within the Church--likewise says that God's promises to the Jews now pertain to the Christians, adding that violence has always been implicit in Zionism and that Jewish self-determination is somehow racist.
Small wonder, then, that Christian aid societies regularly represent Israel as a malevolent occupying power, distorting Jews' historical claims to the land and making scant reference to the sustained campaign of Arab terrorism against them. A 2005 report by the Anglican Peace and Justice Network--which underpinned a short-lived move to "divest" from companies supporting Israel--compared Israel's security barrier with "the barbed-wire fence of the Buchenwald camp." Jews were apparently like Nazis--and because of a measure aimed at preventing a second Jewish Holocaust. Last Christmas, several Anglican and Catholic churches replaced their traditional nativity tableaux with montages of Israel's security barrier, carrying the unmistakable message that the Palestinians were the modern version of the suffering Christ being crucified all over again by the Jews. And earlier this year, the Catholic weekly The Tablet revealed that almost 80 percent of British Christians polled did n! ot believe that Israel was fighting enemies that were pledged to destroy it.
Like the media and the churches, Britain's political and academic Left is making common cause with Islamist radicalism. The Islamists oppose the Left's most deeply held causes, such as gay rights and equality for women. Yet leftists and Islamists now march together under such slogans as "We are all Hezbollah now" during rallies protesting the Lebanon war, and even "Death to the Jews" outside a debate over whether Manchester University's Jewish Society should be banned.
In 2005, London's far-left mayor, Ken Livingstone, illustrated this unholy alliance by publicly embracing Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi, the cleric who endorses suicide bombings in Israel and Iraq. In the same year, he asked a Jewish reporter who approached him after a party, "What did you do before? Were you a German war criminal?" When the reporter said that he was Jewish and that the remark offended him, Livingstone likened him to a "concentration camp guard." After a government panel found that Livingstone had brought his office into disrepute, the mayor challenged the finding in court, where a judge ruled that his remarks were not anti-Semitic. But the Community Security Trust found that a number of perpetrators of anti-Semitic attacks mentioned those comments. And John Mann, chairman of the Parliamentary Committee Against Antisemitism, was in no doubt: "If you have people like the Mayor of London crossing the line . . . then it gives a message out to the rest of the communi! ty. That is why antisemitism is on the rise again--because it's become acceptable."
Livingstone is not the only leftist politician "crossing the line." In 2003, Labour backbencher Tam Dalyell claimed that Tony Blair was "being unduly influenced by a cabal of Jewish advisers." Liberal Democrat Jenny Tonge, whose party honored her with a peerage after she sympathized with suicide bombers and compared Arabs in Gaza with Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto, told her party conference in 2006: "The pro-Israel lobby has got its grips on the Western world. I think they've probably got a certain grip on our party."
Even a distinguished general told me, without a shred of evidence, that Rupert Murdoch had ordered the Times, which he owns, to limit its opposition to the Iraq War "on the instruction of the Jewish lobby in America." Furthermore, claimed the general, George Bush had invaded Iraq because "he had Ariel Sharon's hand up his back." Moreover, a number of institutions and professional groups have tried to launch boycotts of Israel: academics, journalists, architects, doctors, public-sector unions, and again the Church of England. Many of these have not succeeded, but they have served to remind the public that Israel is a pariah.
Given these views, widespread in the media and among political and intellectual elites, it's no surprise that many Britons believe that global Islamic terrorism is the result of Israel's behavior toward the Palestinians--or that hatred of both the Jewish state and Jews in general has become increasingly acceptable among the population. As a woman said to me conversationally at dinner one evening: "I hate the Jews because of what they do to the Palestinians." So acceptable has the new anti-Semitism become that many left-wing Jews promulgate the idea that Israel is a racist or apartheid state, demonize those Jews who seek to defend it against slander, and claim that because they are Jews themselves, their words cannot be anti-Semitic--despite the fact that throughout history there have been Jews who have turned on their coreligionists.
One of the most conspicuous features of British anti-Semitism is that the British deny its existence. The Parliamentary inquiry received only a muted response. Both Mann and Richard Littlejohn, a journalist whose TV program on the subject aired in July 2007, encountered people who, when discovering their concern about anti-Semitism, said: "Oh, I didn't know you were Jewish." But Mann and Littlejohn aren't Jewish. As Littlejohn noted, the implication was that no non-Jew would ever identify anti-Semitism, and therefore that anti-Semitism was generally a figment of the Jewish imagination. When I proposed to write a book about it, I was turned down by every mainstream publishing house. "No British publisher will touch this," one editorial director told me. "Claiming there is anti-Semitism in Britain is simply unsayable."
Many Britons deny the resurgence of anti-Semitism because they think of it as prejudice toward Jews as people and believe that it died with Hitler. The argument that attitudes toward Israel may be anti-Semitic strikes them as absurd. But consider the characteristics of anti-Semitism. It applies to the Jews expectations applied to no other people; it libels, vilifies, demonizes, and dehumanizes them; it scapegoats them not merely for crimes that they have not committed, but for crimes of which they are the victims; it holds them responsible for all the ills of the world. These characteristics remain precisely the same in today's hatred of the Jewish state. Israel is held to standards expected of no other nation; it is libeled and vilified; it is blamed both for crimes that it has not committed and for those of which it is the victim; and it is held responsible for all the world's misfortunes--most recently, Islamic terrorism.
So the Israel boycotts that have broken out in Britain are intrinsically anti-Semitic. The boycotters do not seek to cut ties with any other country, however tyrannical or murderous. They blame no other country for populations that have been displaced through war or other upheavals. And they expect no other nation that has held off its mortal enemies to defer to those aggressors and accede to their demands.
Britons also tend to suspect that Jews use the charge of anti-Semitism to divert attention from Israel's crimes. This is why, for so many in Britain, the suggestion that anti-Semitism is enjoying a renaissance seems not only false but sinister. Outraged to be accused of peddling bigotry, they begin to hate those who level that charge--who, they conclude, are part of a conspiracy against truth.
Thus Jews who seek to defend Israel find themselves in a trap. By complaining that attacks on Israel are anti-Semitic, they become examples of the supposed Jewish tendency to play the anti-Semitism card to suppress legitimate debate--and provoke yet more of the very prejudice that they are trying to combat. Such Jews find themselves in a situation that Kafka could have scripted. The Economist hosted a 2004 debate in London proposing that "the enemies of antisemitism are the new McCarthyites" because they were trying to suppress legitimate criticism of Israel. And at that debate, a former Conservative higher-education minister and a member of the Council for the Advancement of Arab-British Understanding stated that any British Jew who supported Israel's policies was guilty of "dual loyalty." I myself, on the BBC's Question Time in 2001, was accused of dual loyalty for the same reason.
Insofar as Britons are forced to acknowledge a rise in anti-Semitism, they assume that Jews have brought it on themselves because of Israel's behavior. There is certainly a link: whenever Middle East violence surges, as in the 2006 Lebanon war or at the height of the second intifada, physical attacks on British Jews surge, too. Since violence in the Middle East invariably consists of attacks on Israel to which it is forced to respond, the appalling conclusion is that the more Jews are murdered in Israel, the more Jews are attacked in Britain.
Not all Britons who oppose Israel are anti-Semites, of course. Many are decent people who hate prejudice. Indeed, that is why they hate Israel--because they have been taught that it is like apartheid-era South Africa. Profoundly ignorant of the history of the Jewish people and of the Middle East, they have been indoctrinated with one of the Big Lies of human history. And it is because of their very high-mindedness that the better educated and more socially progressive they are, the more likely they are to spew Jew-hatred.
But why has this poison seeped into the British bloodstream? Why has the country that was once the cradle of the Enlightenment values of tolerance, objectivity, and reason departed so precipitately from its own tradition?
For one thing, Britain has always had an ambivalent relationship with the Jews. Medieval England actually led the European charge against them. The blood libel is thought to have originated in twelfth-century England; and in 1290, after numerous pogroms against its Jewish citizens, it expelled them altogether. It was not until 1656 that, for a variety of economic and religious reasons, Oliver Cromwell allowed Jews to return to England. Though they subsequently flourished there, a measure of social anti-Semitism persisted until the Holocaust.
Britain's role in the creation of modern Israel is also a factor in British antagonism toward the Jewish state. In the early 1920s, the League of Nations entrusted Britain with the administration of Palestine, holding it responsible for "placing the country under such political, administrative and economic conditions as will secure the establishment of the Jewish national home." For almost three decades, the British tried to evade that obligation in order to appease the Arabs. The Jews of Palestine thus found themselves fighting the British as well as the Arabs, a fact that caused lasting resentment in Britain. Public opinion recalls with undimmed bitterness the Jewish terrorism of that period, such as the 1946 destruction of the British headquarters at Jerusalem's King David hotel. Arabism is still the default position at the Foreign Office, where sympathetic diplomats are dubbed "the camel corps."
But a subtler reason exists for Britain's embrace of the new anti-Semitism. After the Second World War, the radical Left set out to destroy the fundamentals of Western morality, but its campaign played out very differently in America and Britain. In America, it resulted in the culture wars, with conservatives, many churches, and sensible liberals launching a vigorous counterattack in defense of Western moral values--and, as it happened, Israel.
Exhausted by two world wars, shattered by the loss of empire, and hollowed out by the failure of the Church of England or a substantial body of intellectuals and elites to hold the line, Britain was uniquely vulnerable to the predations of the Left. The institutions that underpinned truth and morality--the traditional family and an education system that transmitted the national culture--collapsed. Britain's monolithic intelligentsia soon embraced postmodernism, multiculturalism, victim culture, and a morally inverted hegemony of ideas in which the values of marginalized or transgressive groups replaced the values of the purportedly racist, oppressive West.
Further, people across the political spectrum became increasingly unable to make moral distinctions based on behavior. This erasing of the line between right and wrong produced a tendency to equate, and then invert, the roles of terrorists and of their victims, and to regard self-defense as aggression and the original violence as understandable and even justified. That attitude is, of course, inherently antagonistic to Israel, which was founded on the determination never to allow another genocide of Jews, to defend itself when attacked, and to destroy those who would destroy it. But for the Left, powerlessness is virtue; better for Jews to die than to kill, because only as dead victims can they be moral.
And this general endorsement of surrender feeds straight into a subterranean but potent resentment simmering in Europe. For over 60 years, a major tendency in European thought has sought to distance itself from moral responsibility for the Holocaust. The only way to do so, however, was somehow to blame the Jews for their own destruction; and that monstrous reasoning was inconceivable while the dominant narrative was of Jews as victims.
Now, however, the Palestinians have handed Europe a rival narrative. The misrepresentation of Israeli self-defense as belligerence, suggesting that Jews are not victims but aggressors, implicitly provides Europeans with the means to blame the destruction of European Jewry on its own misdeeds. As one influential left-wing editor said to me: "The Holocaust meant that for decades the Jews were untouchable. It's such a relief that Israel means we don't have to worry about that any more."
It is no accident that Jews find themselves at the center of Britain's modern convulsion. Today's British prejudices rest on a repudiation of truth and a refusal to defend Western moral values. And it was the Jews who first gave the West those moral codes that underpin its civilization and that are now under siege.
If British politicians were to start speaking the truth about Israel's history and defending Jews publicly, they might help stem the new anti-Semitism. Likewise, British Jews--who, unlike their American counterparts, are almost totally silent for fear of making things worse--need to put their heads above the parapet and start telling the truth about Israel. But for Jews who had allowed themselves to believe that they were truly at home in Britain, the new anti-Semitism is the end of an idyll.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Moment of Truth: Winograd Lebanon war report out Jan. 30

We already know the Lebanon War was not a shining success. We also know whose fault it was. Will the Labor party leave the government? Will PM Olmert resign? Odds are nothing will happen.
If Olmert did resign, would it make a difference to Israel's military preparedness?? Probably not. But public officials who have failed their duty in so signal a way should pay the price.
Ami Isseroff

 Last update - 14:21 06/01/2008       
Lebanon war probe to be released on January 30
By Yuval Azoulay, Haaretz Correspondent
The Winograd Commission probing the conduct of the Second Lebanon War announced on Sunday that it would present its final conclusions on Wednesday, January 30.
The panel also said it would send the findings to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert prior to a final release to the public.
The committee, chaired by retired Justice Eliyahu Winograd, was formed to investigate the conduct of the Israel Defense Forces and the political echelon during the Second Lebanon War.
A preliminary report was issued by the committee in April and contained harsh criticism of Olmert, former defense minister Amir Peretz and former IDF chief of staff Dan Halutz.
It also outlined a series of failures on the part of the Home Front Command.
The commission does not have formal authority to fire anyone, but a damaging report could put pressure on Olmert and others to step down.
The report will cap a 17-month investigation into the war, which broke out July 12, 2006 when Hezbollah guerrillas killed three soldiers and captured two others in a cross-border raid.
In 34 days of fighting, Israel failed to secure the return of the captured soldiers or to prevent Hezbollah guerrillas from firing nearly 4,000 rockets into Israel.
Soldiers returning from the battle front complained of poor preparations, conflicting orders and shortages of food and supplies.
Between 1,035 and 1,191 Lebanese civilians and combatants were killed in the fighting, as were 119 Israeli soldiers and 40 civilians, according to official figures from the two sides.
Olmert managed to fend off calls for his resignation immediately after the war and after the release of the interim report. His critics have become more muted in recent months as Olmert steps up peace efforts with the Palestinians.
A week and a half ago, Olmert stated that he did not intend to resign regardless of what the committee's findings entail. He added that he would respond to the report's findings during the appropriate time and place.
In response to Olmert's statements, Moshe Muscal of the Forum of Bereaved Families said that if the prime minister, "does not resign after the release of the report, we, the bereaved families must force him to do so. We will mount a struggle to force him from office and bring elections."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Two IDF soldiers lightly hurt in Gaza; troops kill 3 Palestinians

 Last update - 14:13 06/01/2008       
Two IDF soldiers lightly hurt in Gaza; troops kill 3 Palestinians
By Yuval Azoulay and Avi Issacharoff ,Haaretz Correspondents and News Agencies

Two Israel Defense Forces soldiers were lightly wounded Sunday afternoon by an anti-tank missile during an operation in the Bureij refugee camp in central Gaza.
The two were evacuated by helicopter to the Soroka Medical Center in Be'er Sheva.

The IDF killed three Palestinians in separate incidents early Sunday and late Saturday, shortly after seven Qassam rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip at the town of Sderot.
On Sunday, a Palestinian civilian was killed as troops battled militants near Bureij, Palestinian officials said.
They also claimed the army shot a Palestinian ambulance in the area, damaging the vehicle but causing no casualties.
Soldiers had been operating in the area since morning in an effort to distance militants from the security fence with southern Israel, the ODF said.
Earlier in the day, an Israel Air Force aircraft targeted a rocket launch site in northern Gaza town of Beit Hanoun, killing one of two armed men spotted there, the IDF said.
Palestinian officials identified the dead man as a member of the Popular Resistance Committees, a militant group allied with Gaza's Islamic Hamas rulers.
The PRC is allied to Hamas and claimed responsibility for firing 26 mortar shells and seven Qassam rockets into Israel on Saturday.
Palestinian officials identified the dead man as PRC member Mohammed Abu Uda.
Meanwhile, a Hamas security official was killed late Saturday in an IAF strike in the same area and three others were critically wounded, said Dr. Moaiya Hassanain of the Gaza health ministry.
The IDF said its ground troops targeted and hit two armed men in Gaza but gave no additional details.
Six of the Qassams fired on Saturday struck open fields in the western Negev, qwhile one damaged several homes and cars in Sderot.
A man suffered from anxiety as a result of the Qassam warning alert, fell, injured his leg, and was taken to Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon for treatment.
A 76-year-old woman suffered chest pains resulting from anxiety and was also taken to the hospital.
Troops end 4-day sweep of Nablus
Israel Defense Forces troops on Sunday wound up a four-day sweep of wanted men and munitions caches in the West Bank town of Nablus, and residents confined at home since the operation began ventured outside to survey damage and resume their lives.
During the operation, IDF forces uncovered a rocket factory that security sources said belonged to Fatah's Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades. The operation began Wednesday night and was code-named Electric Cavern.
During the joint operation with the Shin Bet security services, about 20 Palestinian terror suspects were arrested. At least half are considered senior figures and were wanted for their role in suicide bombings and other attacks against Israelis. Most of those arrested are affiliated with Fatah. Advertisement
The operation was the most extensive sweep in Nablus in recent months. An IDF statement said it was aimed at destroying terror networks.
Israel has largely scaled back its operations in the West Bank, controlled by moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, with whom Israel is holding peace talks.
But Palestinian officials said more than 40 people were wounded in the Nablus operation, which together with ongoing Israeli-Palestinian clashes in Gaza, has cast a shadow on an upcoming visit by U.S. President George W. Bush.
A leading Palestinian militant was hiding under a house where the IDF detonated seized explosives on Saturday. But he was pulled out the rubble unharmed and paraded through the streets on the shoulders of cheering supporters.
The military confirmed that the raid had ended but would not say whether it had targeted the militant, Abu Ghazalah, whose Knights of the Night group is loosely affiliated with Abbas' Fatah movement.
"These are essential defensive measures being taken against an ever-growing terrorist infrastructure, one which continuously plans and perpetrates attacks against Israelis," government spokesman David Baker said Saturday.
Israel does not think the Palestinian security services are ready yet to quell militant groups and therefore conducts its own operations against West Bank extremists, but Palestinian officials complained Israel's tactics are heavy-handed.
The current Israeli operation aims to heat up the atmosphere before Bush's visit, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad told al-Najah Radio on Friday. They are trying to sabotage the Palestinian Authority's successes in the city.
Tear gas and concussion grenade canisters littered the streets of the Old City, where dozens of shops had been forced open by explosives or chopped open by troops.
Hundreds of soldiers patrolling on foot or in jeeps had barged into homes and shops since Wednesday night. As food supplies dwindled, some 30,000 people in Nablus' center and Old City were placed under curfew, but the streets of the city of 170,000 had been largely deserted throughout the operation because residents were fearful of the raiding troops.
Twenty militants were arrested by Saturday afternoon, and the military reported discovering a hidden store of weapons with rocket-making materials, an explosives laboratory, an explosives belt and ammunition.

Continued (Permanent Link)

PM: Katyusha strike on Ashkelon marks grave escalation in terror

 Last update - 13:51 06/01/2008       
PM: Katyusha strike on Ashkelon marks grave escalation in terror
By Barak Ravid and Amos Harel, Haaretz Correspondents
The Katyusha rocket strike on Ashkelon last week marks a grave escalation in terror activities from the Gaza Strip, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said on Sunday.
Olmert told ministers at the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem that Defense Minister Ehud Barak had ordered the Israel Defense Forces to step up its response to the firing of rockets.
"We will continue to respond, to initiate and to harm anyone who carries out launches from Gaza," he said. "We will continue to invest in reinforcing the towns in the Gaza envelope to help them deal with these terror threats.
Despite protests from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's government, Olmert also said Israel will continue to operate against militants in the West Bank, where Fatah holds sway.
Government sources said Sunday that the Katyusha, fired last Thursday, was not an Iranian-made model but rather a Russian-made GRAD-type model.
It was the farthest distance a rocket of this sort had reached.
The Katyusha was launched from the al-Attara region, near the northern edge of the Gaza Strip. The IDF estimates it traveled 17 kilometers, well within the rocket's known range of 18-20 kilometers.
Defense sources said the IDF was not planning a wide-scale military operation on Gaza, though it has stepped up its use of warplanes.
The sources said that IDF action in the last few months - in which close to 100 militants gace been killed - has proved itself.
Israel is planning to continue with its ground raids up to 3 km inside Gaza and with air strikes on senior militants.
Meanwhile, the IDF killed two Palestinians in two separate incidents overnight Saturday, shortly after seven Qassam rockets and 26 mortar shells were fired from the Gaza Strip at the town of Sderot.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Allegation: Israeli, Turkish nuclear spies in the State Department and Pentagon

 Last update - 10:11 06/01/2008       
Report: Israeli agents in U.S. gathering nuclear intelligence
By Yossi Melman, Haaretz Correspondent
Israeli agents are carrying out reconnaissance missions in the United States in an effort to acquire intelligence and technology on nuclear engineering, according to an article published Sunday in the The Sunday Times.
The article is based on information sent to the paper by a Turkish translator who was recruited into the FBI shortly after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
According to the translator, Sibil Edmonds, 37, Israel is operating intelligence sources within the U.S. State Department and the Pentagon for the sake of acquiring intelligence on nuclear engineering.
The report came to light after Edmonds, 37, reportedly become frustrated with her inability to convince her superiors in the FBI to take steps against foreign agents operating within the United States.
Edmonds assessments were based on material that she read and translated, as well as wiretapped conversations on Turkish agents in the U.S. Edmonds stated that the Turkish operatives aided Pakistani intelligence agents in the U.S. in the acquisition of intelligence, supplies, and technology relating to nuclear engineering.
The article states that on several occasions Turkish agents collaborated with Israeli agents, but outlined no details of when and where.
According to the article, one of the principle intelligence gathering methods of the Turkish and Israeli agents is to recruit Nuclear Engineering doctoral students and to later activate them as moles within sensitive nuclear engineering facilities in the United States.
Edmonds reportedly testified about the issue before a closed-door meeting of the U.S. Congress, but that no actions were carried out afterwards, leading her to disclose the issue to the public.
Edmonds further stated that she was aware of a senior official in the U.S. State Department who was paid thousands of dollars to pass intelligence to Turkish agents. The article stated that the identity of the official is known to the Sunday Times, and he has denied all claims that he helped foreign agents.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Incredible shrinking Jewish Diaspora??

Where have all the young Jews gone? Not to Israel everyone. Last year we had only 20,000 immigrants. Perhaps an equal number of emigrants. But the population of Diaspora Jews shrank by 100,000, if this study is to be believed. Of course, a different study will produce more Jews and show us that it is not really as bad as it seems. This study estimates that there are 13.2 million Jews.
But here is another report, from 2002, from Ha'aretz, which claims that the same institute found that there are 12.9 million Jews:
 World Jewish population drops by 300,000 to 12.9 million
By Yair Sheleg 
The number of Jews in the world is declining with a net loss of 300,000 American Jews in the last decade, according to a new study following a preliminary examination of the recent census of American Jewry, according to the Jewish Agency's Institute for Jewish People Policy Planning.
According to the institute, which convened an emergency session to deal with what it called the "demographic crisis," there are now some 12.9 million Jews in the world. Earlier this year, estimates put the number at 13.2 million. The main reason for the decline appears in the data from the census of Jewish communities in the U.S., which showed that there has been a decline of 300,000 in American Jewry, from 5.5 million in 1990 to 5.2 million in 2002. Experts say that some 300,000 Jews emigrated to the U.S. during the 1990s, but nonetheless, the community lost some 50,000 Jews a year, mostly to natural attrition.
We can date the article, because it is quoted in a number of places (see here for example)
If there were 12.9 million Jews then in 2002, and 12.9 million in 2006, why would the number grow by 200,000 in 2007? 
Most likely a different calculation was used. Someone should explain why the ever shrinking Jewish community seems to remain about the same size. It is peculiar that the Ha'aretz report doesn't give the separate figures for the United States. The Jewish People Planning Institute Web site is not updated and doesn't give the report.
Ami Isseroff

 Last update - 04:56 06/01/2008      
Percent of world Jewry living in Israel climbed to 41% in 2007
By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz Correspondent
The world Jewish population in 2007 is estimated at 13.2 million people, a rise of some 200,000 over 2006, according to a Jewish People Policy Planning Institute report published Sunday.
In the past year, the number of Diaspora Jews shrunk by 100,000, while Israel's Jewish population rose by 300,000. Israel is now the home of 41 percent of worldwide Jewry, the report said.
According to a poll conducted by the institute and included in its report, most American Jews fear for the safety of Israel in the wake of the Second Lebanon War and Iran's nuclear program.
Respondents from Jewish communities in Europe and Latin America said they were less inclined to feel an affinity with Israel and they believed radical Islam was being dealt with successfully in their countries.
According to the report, two tiers exist among Jewish communities abroad: A religious one, whose sense of affiliation to Israel is increasing, and another whose Jewish sense of association is weakening and among whom intermarriage is more commonplace.
Institute managing director Avinoam Bar Yosef said the state should allocate more funds to reaching out to the 'second tier' of Diaspora Jews.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Book Review: Seeds of Hate

Seeds of Hate
New York Times Sunday Book Review
Published: January 6, 2008
Islamism, Nazism and the Roots of 9/11.
By Matthias Küntzel.
Translated by Colin Meade.
180 pp. Telos Press Publishing. $29.95.

One day in Damascus not long ago, I visited the understocked gift shop of the Sheraton Hotel, looking for something to read. There wasn't much: pre-owned Grishams, a hagiography of Hafez al-Assad, an early Bill O'Reilly (go figure) and a paperback copy of "The International Jew," published in 2000 in Beirut. "The International Jew" is a collection of columns exposing the putative role of Jews in such fields as international finance, world governance and bootlegging. "Wherever the seat of power may be, thither they swarm obsequiously," the book states. These columns, which are based on the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" — they are a plagiary of a forgery, in other words — were first published in Henry Ford's Dearborn Independent more than 80 years ago.
Next to "The International Jew" was a copy of "The Bible Came From Arabia," a piece of twaddle that suggests the Jews are not Jews and Israel isn't Israel. And then there was a pamphlet called "Secrets of the Talmud." Not knowing these secrets (I was raised Reform), I started reading. The Talmud apparently teaches Jews how best to demolish the world economy and gives Jews the right to take non-Jewish women as slaves and rape them.
The anti-Semitic worldview, generally speaking, is fantastically stupid. If its propagandists actually understood the chosen people, they would know, for instance, that no one, not the chief of Mossad, not even the president of Hadassah, could persuade 4,000 Jews to stay home from the World Trade Center on Sept. 11. ("And why should I listen to you?" would have been the near-universal rebuttal to the call.) Anti-Semitic conspiracy literature not only posits crude and senseless ideas, but also tends to be riddled with typos, repetitions and gross errors of grammar, and for this and other reasons I occasionally have trouble taking it seriously.
The German scholar Matthias Küntzel tells us this is a mistake. He takes anti-Semitism, and in particular its most potent current strain, Muslim anti-Semitism, very seriously indeed. His bracing, even startling, book, "Jihad and Jew-Hatred" (translated by Colin Meade), reminds us that it is perilous to ignore idiotic ideas if these idiotic ideas are broadly, and fervently, believed. And across the Muslim world, the very worst ideas about Jews — intricate, outlandish conspiracy theories about their malevolent and absolute power over world affairs — have become scandalously ubiquitous. Hezbollah and Hamas, to name two prominent examples, understand the world largely through the prism of Jewish power. Hezbollah officials employ language that shamelessly echoes Nazi propaganda, describing Jews as parasites and tumors and prescribing the murder of Jews as a kind of chemotherapy.
The question is not only why, of course, but how: how did these ideas, especially those that portray Jews as all-powerful, work their way into modern-day Islamist discourse? The notion of the Jew as malevolently omnipotent is not a traditional Muslim notion. Jews do not come off well in the Koran — they connive and scheme and reject the message of the Prophet Muhammad — but they are shown to be, above all else, defeated. Muhammad, we read, conquered the Jews in battle and set them wandering. In subsequent centuries Jews lived among Muslims, and it is true that their experience was generally healthier than that of their brethren in Christendom, but only so long as they knew their place; they were ruled and taxed as second-class citizens and were often debased by statute. In the Jim Crow Middle East, no one believed the Jews were in control.
Obviously, then, these modern-day ideas about Jewish power were imported from Europe, and Küntzel makes a bold and consequential argument: the dissemination of European models of anti-Semitism among Muslims was not haphazard, but an actual project of the Nazi Party, meant to turn Muslims against Jews and Zionism. He says that in the years before World War II, two Muslim leaders in particular willingly and knowingly carried Nazi ideology directly to the Muslim masses. They were Haj Amin al-Husseini, the mufti of Jerusalem, and the Egyptian proto-Islamist Hassan al-Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood. The story of the mufti is a familiar one: he was the leader of the Arabs in Palestine, and Palestine's leading anti-Jewish agitator. He eventually embraced the Nazis and spent most of the war in Berlin, recruiting Bosnian Muslims for the SS and agitating for the harshest possible measures against Jews. Küntzel writes that the mufti became upset with Himmler in 1943, when he sought to trade 5,000 Jewish children for 20,000 German prisoners. Himmler came around to the mufti's thinking, and the children were gassed.
Hassan al-Banna did not embrace Nazism in the same uncomplicated manner, but through the 1930s, his movement, aided by the Germans, led the drive against not only political Zionism but Jews in general. "This burgeoning Islamist movement was subsidized with German funds," Küntzel writes. "These contributions enabled the Muslim Brotherhood to set up a printing plant with 24 employees and use the most up-to-date propaganda methods." The Muslim Brotherhood, Küntzel goes on, was a crucial distributor of Arabic translations of "Mein Kampf" and the "Protocols." Across the Arab world, he states, Nazi methods and ideology whipped up anti-Zionist fervor, and the effects of this concerted campaign are still being felt today.
Küntzel marshals impressive evidence to back his case, but he sometimes oversimplifies. One doesn't have to be soft on Germany to believe it was organic Muslim ideas as well as Nazi ideas that led to the spread of anti-Semitism in the Middle East. In his effort to blame Germany for Muslim anti-Semitism, he overreaches. "While Khomeini was certainly not an acolyte of Hitler, it is not unreasonable to suppose that his anti-Jewish outlook ... had been shaped during the 1930s," Küntzel says, citing, in a footnote, an article he himself wrote. He also oversimplifies the Israeli-Arab conflict. Jews today have actual power in the Middle East, and Israel is not innocent of excess and cruelty.
Still, Küntzel is right to state that we are witnessing a terrible explosion of anti-Jewish hatred in the Middle East, and he is right to be shocked. His invaluable contribution, in fact, is his capacity to be shocked, by the rhetoric of hate and by its consequences. The former Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Rantisi once told me that "the question is not what the Germans did to the Jews, but what the Jews did to the Germans." The Jews, he said, deserved their punishment. Küntzel argues that we should see men like Rantisi for what they are: heirs to the mufti, and heirs to the Nazis.
Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and the author of "Prisoners: A Muslim and a Jew Across the Middle East Divide."

Continued (Permanent Link)

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